Friday, June 22, 2007

Camera Obscura - Guest Host Edition

A recent email discussion among some friends prompted me to ask them a question about movies, and then I thought I should bring the whole debate here for this regular Friday movie post.

Here's the set-up: along the lines of a guest-programmer on Turner Classic Movies, I asked my friends to submit a list of 5 movies they would pick for broadcast if they were the guest-host. I also said that more than one list of five was fine by me, so some of those who provided lists offer more than one -- I know the feeling!! It's impossible for me to select the 5 Best Movies, and just picking 5 movies to show on TV is also a tough call.

Choices could be just a list of favorites, a list of must-see-movies, movies that impacted you or the motion picture world forever, etc etc.

What follows are their choices, in the order I received them. Huge thanks to my friends for doing this, and it's something I plan to offer up again to other friends. My list is last because, well, I am always writing about movies so it's most polite to give preference to guests.

From T. Smasken:


  1. Sunset Boulevard—One of my favorites of all time! Billy Wilder’s creepy blend of noir and melodrama take you on the decrepit journey of a washed out silent-film actress and the cold indifference of a town that once worshipped her.
  2. Chinatown-–Polanski in pure form with a visual menagerie of the darker side of the movie business. Nicholson and Dunaway have never been better.
  3. Ed Wood—Burton’s child-like fable of the worst filmmaker ever and his brief stint in the annals of Hollywood history. Depp is charming as the transvestite-director and Landau is simply perfect as the washed-up, heroin addicted Bela Lugosi (of Dracula fame)—the unlikeliest of pairs.
  4. The Player—Robert Altman’s brilliant who’s-who murder mystery of the stars. Casting actors as themselves and an improvisational script create a believability factor that doubles the impact of the ironic ending.
  5. L.A. Confidential—a top-notch cast and dizzying script are pure gold in this gritty depiction of the seedy underbelly of 1950s Hollywood. One of the best films ever made.

No Future

  1. 12 Monkeys
  2. Fahrenheit 451 (1966)
  3. Children of Men
  4. Metropolis
  5. The Wall


  1. The Changeling
  2. The Haunting
  3. The Shining
  4. The Sixth Sense
  5. The Devil’s Backbone

Ultimate Chick Flicks

  1. Steel Magnolias
  2. Far From Heaven
  3. All That Heaven Allows
  4. The Hours
  5. Terms of Endearment

From Newscoma (I always seem to horn in on her movie posts, so I asked her to please provide her picks):

If I could host Turner Classic Movies, here are the ones that I would choose. I would also like to drink wine with Robert Osborne. Can we do that in my movie marathon? (Joe says oh yes to some wine and movies!!)

  1. “Harold and Maude” - There have been millions of words written about this 1971 dark comedy by Hal Ashby and rightfully so. The movie really was one of the first “black” comedies and it resonates well today. A searing commentary on the Vietnam war, classism, elitism, dysfunctional families and death, “Harold and Maude” set a tone that has rarely been repeated in the 36 years since it hit the movie screen. This is more than a love story between Harold (Bud Cort) and Maude (Ruth Gordon) which some viewers may find be a bit queasy about (I personally thought it was well done and quite passionate), it is more about the dynamic of growing up in a world that has already written your biography for you. And as Harold strains to break those confines while fighting unmitigated fears is sheer movie brilliance. Mixing slapstick with raw emotion, this movie was truly one of those coming of age movies that resonated with me and was life-altering. Cat Stevens soundtrack enhances the experience. I can’t recommend this movie enough.
  2. “Shattered Glass” – Stephen Glass was the hottest ticket back in the late nineties in the world of journalism. His work was revered and at the ripe old age of 26, he was the “IT” boy at the New Republic magazine. It appeared Glass was too good to be true, and that turned out to be the case. Glass just made stuff up. This movie eloquently tells a simple story of lies, deceit and a turning point of when the Internet displayed courageous journalistic skills as writer Adam Penenberg of Forbes Digital Tool figured out the “IT” boy was lying through his teeth. The movie is sympathetic to all of the characters involved which is not an easy thing to do, and although I’m not a fan of Hayden Christianson, I do think he nailed his portrayal of Glass well. Was Glass intentionally deceitful? Or was Glass’ continual deception the root of a psychological, inherent need to be something as naive as being liked by his peers, and the world? The inner struggle that Peter Saarsgard displays on his face with very little dialogue is worth the full price of admission. And you’ll never know how many times I’ve had to deal with writers like Chloe Sevigney’s character as Caitlin Avey. She nails the self-righteous young copyeditor that slowly realizes that truth is more important than protecting her friend. I work as an editor, and I must say, I recommend all my new hires see this film because it accurately shows the inner workings of a journalism staff and, more importantly, that everything they write must be backed up with facts because news is about truth. Or at least it should be.
  3. “Female Trouble” – Oh, John Waters. How does a movie that stretches the bounds of good taste made in 1974 so accurately depict the celebrity media frenzy of 2007? I first saw this movie in the mid-eighties and it never gets old. Don’t get me wrong, it’s cheerfully disgusting, will make you cringe and was literally prophetic in it’s commentary on America’s need for 15 minutes of fame. Starring the late Divine, the movie tells the story of Dawn Davenport who begins a life of crime because her parents didn’t buy her a pair of cha-cha shoes. Davenport is a selfish young woman who basically destroys everything she comes into contact with, but it’s funny if you like the gross out as I do. (The best scene of the movie is when Divine has sex with Divine. Beautiful.) The movie explores in hideous detail the world of being famous with tongue-in-cheek and does it brilliantly.
  4. “High Plains Drifter” – Another 70’s film that gets everything right. Clint Eastwood directed HPD in 1974 and it is part spaghetti western/homage to Sergio Leon/Akira Kurosawa and part ghost story. But the groovy thing is you get decide what you want it to be for yourself. Is the nameless anti-hero evil, is he the hand of retribution or is he just one ticked-off cowboy? Eastwood is lethal, taking whatever he wants whenever he wants it and took a bold chance of playing a character that wasn’t very likable during the beginning of his legendary popularity in celluloid. And the symbolic painting of the town red is downright inspirational. Seeing the leadership acting cowardly in the name of greed and for the “best for the town.” As I am a huge fan of horror movies, I tend to subscribe to the theory that it’s a ghost story and Eastwood is one mean revenge-seeking demon.
  5. “Crash” – Joe Powell says this movie is like watching a car wreck, although that’s what it’s about. He’s right, you can’t help but want to look away but when you are watching it, you just can’t take your eyes from the screen. This movie is more than the graphic sexuality displayed throughout the David Cronenberg directed film, it’s about the need to feel something, anything, and that’s why it works. The premise is hard to figure out, because the sex is so in-your-face that it almost desensitizes viewers (I think that’s what Cronenberg set out to do), but it’s also about the inner workings of the minds that are so bored that they need to feel something as it hinges on the danger of finding sexual pleasure in the shadow of death. The lead characters of Deborah Kara Unger and James Spader are obviously bored and carry on an open relationship where they tell each other about their carnal exploits. When Spader has a car wreck and sees Holly Hunter expose her breast to him (they are both injured), he begins a journey of being sexually titillated by car crashes and develops a passion for it, something that was missing in his life. But the story is much more layered than just sex for sex’s sake. It’s about unleashing emotion and explores a fine line between death and sexual release. I find it interesting that everyone I’ve ever spoken to about this film has a strong opinion about it, and its usually negative. I’ve often wondered if it’s because as much as that certain people don’t want to relate to the plot, they do and it scares them.
From Cinemonkey:

Cinemonkey writes that he (Cinemonkey) is providing two lists, because they are small, & he is greedy.

Robert Mitchum Night -- Because he is my favorite actor, ever. He's fantastic at whatever role he takes on - hero, villain, drunk, priest - he makes them all real, multi-shaded, & multi-dimensional. A very abbreviated list of 5 Mitchum movies would include:

The Big Sleep - doing the best version of Phillip Marlowe automatically makes you the best film P.I.

Night of the Hunter - one scary-ass SOB.

Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison - one of Bob's (I call him Bob.....) plethora of war pictures, this one stands out because of Deborah Kerr's wonderful portrayal of a nurse trying diligently not to fall in love with Mitchum's character as he singlehandedly takes on a squadron of Japanese who have taken over the island they were stranded on.

The Enemy Below - another war picture, this featuring a cat-&-mouse game between Mitchum's weary destroyer captain & Curt Jurgen's noble sub commander.

El Dorado - Mayyy-be my favorite western. Not exactly an official remake of Rio Bravo, but close enough, & to me, a superior version of the story. Much as I like Dean Martin, Robert Mitchum is more able to go toe-to-toe with the Duke.

Oh, Those Wacky '60's! Night
Bikinis ! Spies ! Drugs ! H-Bombs ! What fun the '60's were ! During my formative years, there were some pretty weirded-out flicks. May be why I'm such a toon.
Our Man Flint - Derek Flint was the coolest spy whose initials weren't JB. And if I ever finish my time machine, I'm producing a live action Jonny Quest movie with James Coburn as Race Bannon.

The Pink Panther - The beginning of my Peter Sellers trilogy. I love heist movies. And I love slapstick. And Robert Wagner's role as Sir Charles Lytton's nephew, George probably led to "It Takes a Thief", which gains the movie points right there.

Casino Royale - David Niven again. And Peter Sellers. And Woody Allen. All as James Bond. Did I mention they did a lot of drugs in the '60's?

Dr. Strangelove - The ultimate spoof of just about everything, especially power.

Beach Blanket Bingo - Make fun of Frankie & Annette all you want (I won't stop you), because the reall star of this movie was the wonderful Bob Cummings. And not only did this movie spawn an entire genre, it also gave us one of the best comic villains of all time, the hapless Eric Von Zipper!

From the Sultan of Cinema:


The Godfather - Possibly the best movie ever made and one I never tire of watching. Coppolla's best work. Excellent characters and performances, stunning cinematography, memorable lines and scenes, and great music. The final "hit" sequence is classic. Michael slow descent into the "family business" is so well played by Pacino. And that final shot, after looking his wife in the eyes and lying, when the body-guard slowly closes the door, locking Kaye out of the business.....

Alien - One of the greatest science fiction movies ever made. A haunted house in space. Incredible production design and pacing. From the opening birth scene to Ripley's hibernation we are drawn into a story that terrifies and fascinates at the same time. Great characters and performances.

Citizen Kane - Tops Godfather for best American film just because of the innovations to the media. Orson Welles' magnum opus of corruption and ambition. He later went on to do a version of Macbeth and I thought "Why, you already did it". The high contrast photography is so memorable in the viewing room and Kane's mansion. Every single aspect of the film-making industry is done to perfection.

Sunset Boulevard - William Holden's best role until Network. A classic look at old Hollywood. Nora Desmond is such a tragic figure. In fact, every person in the film is a tragic character. And the opening v.o. with the pool hooks you from the very start.
Silence of the Lambs - A much deserved Oscar for a film that returned the horror genre to what it should be. A movie that far out-shines the book with great performances and truly terrifying scenes. Demme's choice of intense close-ups is so unsettling and only a cast of this caliber could have pulled it off.

The Comedy List

Animal House - Although I dislike John Landis this is still one of the funniest movies ever made. A farce that perfectly captures the Lampoon and all of its comic style. The characters and lines are so memorable - from Blutto to Neidermeyer to the Dean. A movie that everyone is still trying to imitate.

City Lights - Chaplin's second best film. A comedy that transformed the silent movie from slap-stick comedy to character humor that had a heart. Chaplin's genius is captured so well in the final scene.

Raising Arizona - The Coen Brothers re-invent the comedy and bring "redneck humor" to life long before the Blue Collar boys. Almost every line is quotable and the filmmaking style of the brothers keeps the story barreling ahead down that Texas highway. Great characters like Nathan Arizona and the Warthog from hell!
Austin Powers - International Man of Mystery - An excellent example of true parody writing. Michael Myers captures every nuance of the Bond films and elevates them to grand farce. The names are great, the pacing is strong, and in-jokes are spot on. Yeah, baby!

Arthur - Just a favorite of mine. I loved Dudley Moore and Sir John Gielgud. The lines are hilarious and the humor is very well played - despite Liza Minnelli.

The Fantasy/Fun List - (I had to do one of these.)

Excalibur - Even though Boorman took great liberties with the Arthurian legend this is a great cinematic work. I like the armor and all of the performances by the RSC. Merlin was wonderfully played as was Arthur. I still quote the Charm of Making!

Star Wars - Nothing will top the feeling of sitting in that theatre when I was fifteen years old and having my mind blown away. It may be just a simple heroic space opera - but it was just magical. Lucas set the bar for special effects and showed that science fiction is still a great genre. Despite franchises, sequels, and retro-active history this is a classic film.

Hunt for Red October - Not a fantasy - but a film I could watch once a month. I simply, simply love it. It's got big submarines, nice intrigue, solid plotting and is just a fun ride.
Star Trek - The Wrath of Khan - Undoubtedly the BEST of the Trek movies. The classic show elevated to the motion picture realm in a great way. Every element is here including Shatner's over-acting "Khan!", and the ending I had wanted to see for years.

The Exorcist - Still the scariest movie I have ever seen. I saw it at a 9:00 in a completely deserted theater. I still shiver thinking about those slow tracking shots down the hall to the closed bedroom door. I just knew something bad was going to happen in the next scene. Watching it in years since I even like the extraordinary slow pace at the beginning. It lulls you almost to a stupor and then grabs you.

I had to do a Theatre List -

Camelot - Great music, great story, great Arthur.

All That Jazz - Bob Fosse in all of his glory - from story, to choreography, to to cinematography. By far the BEST look at a Theater director - the good, the bad, and the ugly. Does talent require ego. Bob says yes!

Oliver - A excellent adaptation of the stage play and one of the few musicals that I can say I like EVERY song in the work. Great period costume design and scenic work as well.
Sleuth - Another great adaptation and just a fun ride all the way through. A two-character piece that never lets up. And a very rousing theme song as well.

Lion in Winter - Goldman did an amazing job in adapting his own work and the cast is simply fantastic. Of course, Peter O'Toole is brilliant, but the interplay between him and Katherine Hepburn - the wit and parry that goes on is stunning.

Cup of Joe Picks:

I had a tough time with this experiment as I had to whittle down a list of 25 to 5. After much wrangling and such, I picked 5 movies that made me a movie fan, movies that made me want to be a movie-maker, movies that still entertain me and also educated me about making movies.

"It's A Gift" -- A masterpiece of comedy from W.C. Fields, which also pokes fun at America and the family life while also giving them a warm hug. Fields' script, physical comedy, casting choices are flawless and also capture the time it was made though it is a timeless story. Fields and family are about to sell their grocery store and head to California to run an orange grove, though little goes as planned. This scene from the grocery store is one of my favorites.

"The Maltese Falcon" - This 1941 movie from director John Huston and writer Dashiell Hammett invented the modern detective movie and gave America one of Humphrey Bogart's best performances. You never know for sure who is telling the truth here and Bogart works that angle like a pro. A lean and tight script under the hands of Huston has more layers than an onion.

"The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" - In my mind, the modern template on which other action movies are drawn. Your hero choice is often simply the less bad among a group of bad men. The narrative is staggered into stages, and the musical score among the best ever.

"The Last Picture Show" - Melancholy tale of a dying small town and the arid emptiness inside those who live there. Trying to leave town is nearly impossible. This is one of many movies which made me want to make movies. It outwardly visualizes what is inside, but never really dips into impressionism. A great novel by Larry McMurtry, exceptional performances by the entire cast, and beautiful photography.

"The Red Shoes" - This 1948 musical is one of my favorite movies for many reasons (and I hate musicals).The movie had me both spellbound and terrified when I watched it when I was a kid, and it does the same today. It's a movie about the artistic process, about stage productions, fame and dreams, and it's also about the price the artist, or those who aspire to art, pay for their freedoms. The jaw-dropping photography includes an 18-minute dance sequence that is a phantasmagorical masterpeice.

Huge thanks to these fine movie fans and friends for offering their views. If you have a list of 5 movies you would like to offer, just post them in the comments!!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Bonnaroo 2007 Re-Visited and New Beastie Boys

Take an inside look at Bonnaroo 2007, courtesy of an ongoing re-cap from Atomic Tumor. Based in Camp Lando Calrissian, wavin' the AT Flag. It's the next best thing to being there. And no dust!

The Thursday write-up is here, and Friday's is here. More to come! Woot!!

Music-wise, I am most looking forward to next month's new release from the Beastie Boys. "The Mix-Up", an all instrumental album. They've released a few videos so far and much more details of their ongoing tour and the madness of the Boys can be found at their official site. It's like wandering into the garage of a garage band. Here's one of the new tunes, "Off The Grid", which starts out with some groovy funk and then just rocks and rocks some more.

Useless Rant Number 407

I know enough to realize that incompetence is as natural a human byproduct as carbon dioxide (that means exhaling, for all the anti-scientists out there). But there is a true difference between making mistakes and a consistently incompetent response to the world around you.

And (paranoid me) I'm sensing the rising level of sheer failure, and the dangerously disconnected worldview from the current Bush administration is indeed making things much, much worse. And the future is not bright.

No investigative reporters today can cover the White House as well as The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Because no deep digging is needed. The information detailing the Incompetence rolls out for all the world to see and the general public knows stupid when they see it. It's right there. Example: let's say the Leader of the Nation, the Emperor, if you will, steps out butt naked in public heaping praise on his tailor for his new invisible clothes, the public says "Hey! The Emperor has no clothes!" while the major news outlets on TV would cover the story like this - "How will the Emperor's new approach to clothing affect the garment industry and fashion trends and how can your family benefit?"

Over the last week or so, I've been hearing from the White House press folks and spin doctors that no matter what the President does regarding the war in Iraq now, it will be the next President who really has the job of resolving the mess in the middle east. Since when do we give such unfettered power to a sitting president? Just go ahead and do whatever you want and we'll figure it out later??

Even when the president's own party controlled Congress, they could not muster the consensus needed to improve and update the Social Security system or the immigration system. When a natural disaster occurred, Hurricane Katrina, both the president and those he chose to lead the response provided another natural disaster on top of it. As a result, one of our major port cities remains in shambles. While attempting to create a new bajillion dollar federal agency to provide 'homeland security', the debate gets mired in how pay raises and salary negotiations will be handled. Likewise troubling is that nearly six years after the destruction in NYC, a gaping hole remains in that city - unlike say, the damage at the Pentagon, which was addressed with lightning speed.

Circumventing the laws -- whether it's the record-keeping process of e-mails, the appointment of officers in the Justice Department, the nearly 1,000 'signing statements' wherein the president says he will not uphold the laws passed in Congress, or any of losses of liberty enforced by the administration with secret prisons, secret wiretaps, torture of suspects who have not been charged, and on and on -- has been this administration's style. Challenge it, and you are a treasonous, scandalous, immoral, whiny quitter.

As for the idea of 'regime change' in Iraq, what we have is 'regime absence'. Even T.E. Lawrence back in the 1910s warned it would be impossible to pacify and reconstruct that territory (terror-tory?) with less than an army of half a million.

And the future? Well, not bright either. It's no wonder the latest polls in the first of next year's primary battles, in Iowa, released yesterday show that None of the Above (or Undecided) have the majority of votes.

I suppose my rant is over, allowing for the 25 to 28 percent of those who think we're doing jes' fine to vent on my evil ill-informed tirade. Go back to the coverage of Paris Hilton and those outrageous gals in Hollywood, go back to pondering if everyone from American Idol is doing well, go buy an iPod or an iPhone and carry on with your iSelves. Worry about foreigners, about fat content in double-cheeseburgers, about smoking and the official language of America.

We can deal with it all later, when someone takes an elected office in 2009 and we can blame them for not fixing the mess we are in now.

UPDATE: After I wrote this and pondered on it some, weighing its uselessness, I happened upon this post at KnoxViews, which takes you to a post featuring the video and transcript of a speech yesterdday from the blogger known as Digby. I've never read Digby, but sure seems we share some common thoughts on the problems of this administration and the attention that bloggers in general bring to the political debate. In fact, I seldom read the blogs she mentions, other than Crooks and Liars, as I daaily tread through both news and opinions on the Web. I was just sort of amazed that my comments above sort of followed the train of thought from Digby. Still, I think I am far more pessimistic than Digby. And I don't like being pessimistic.

From Digby's speech:

We may argue about tactics and strategy, or the extent to which we are partisans versus ideologues (and believe me, we do), but there is no disagreement among us that the modern conservative movement of Newt and Grover and Karl and Rush has proven to be a dangerous cultural and political cancer on the body politic. You will not find anyone amongst us who believes that the Bush Administration’s executive power grab and flagrant partisan use of the federal government is anything less than an assault on the Constitution. We stand together against the dissolution of habeas corpus and the atrocities of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, and we all agree that Islamic terrorism is a threat, but one which we cannot meet with military power alone. And yes, a vast majority of us were against this mindless invasion of Iraq from the beginning, or at least saw the writing on the wall long before Peggy Noonan discovered that George W. Bush wasn’t the second coming of Winston Churchill."

UPDATE II: Or, as it has been put before:

"So, what are we, helpless? Puppets? No. The big moments are gonna come, can't help that. It's what you do afterwards that count. That's when you find out who you are."

From a previous post.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Monkey In The Heart of Memphis

The pic above is from Elvis' TV room in Graceland and is from a collection of pics made by Tits McGee, who was in Memphis last weekend to see her sister get married. Her photos of her trip to Graceland are jes' beautiful. Check them all out.

NOTE: Walking Elvispedia, aka Valley Grrrl points out in the comments on this post that the monkey in the picture is also the source of inspiration for Warren Zevon.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

NCAA Bans Bloggers

Both reporters or anyone else who dares to write and blog about a sporting event while it is taking place are crooks, says the NCAA.

Mike Silence has been writing about the confrontation between the NCAA and the press and public at his page. Much of this was prompted by a reporter tossed from a game for live-blogging what the game status was.

Here's the NCAA stand, according to the Oregonian:

The NCAA claims ownership rights to any during-the-game information and that it can be distributed only through those outlets to which it has granted rights. That means ESPN, in the case of the super-regionals. Lawyers quoted in press accounts seem to believe the NCAA is within its rights.

But it is perplexing as to how a newspaper blogging half inning by half inning -- posting information that has been on live TV many minutes before -- somehow threatens the NCAA or ESPN's revenue stream. One could also argue that once broadcast the information is public.

And we won't even get into the notion that the NCAA can threaten newspapers and their reporters, but also claims that no one anywhere in a stadium can blog during the game. Do they really think they will stop some fan with a PDA from blogging out of the left-field bleachers at the CWS, even if it is just to a few buddies back in the dorm in Corvallis?"

Mike has more info here and here. And he pretty much lays down the facts in the NCAA claims:

If we sit back and take this, we have only ourselves to blame."

Monday, June 18, 2007

Strange Tech Gadgets

I think the idea of making an object which is meant to perform one function look like something utterly and totally different has been with humans a long time. I know there have been many such instances in my wee lifetime, often the weird mish-mash of objects is the selling point of the item. Such as telephones that look like ducks or footballs, a cigarette lighter that looks like an alien-head or a pistol, or even those odd household items you see like a candy dish shaped like a leaf. Why is it that people feel compelled to make a jittery plate of jello look like a Pilgrim or an art-deco ziggurat?

Techies today have been having some fun with the idea too, and a fine example is this flash-drive designed to look like, well, just what you see here: a headless teddy bear. Other items like this include little dogs that look like they are humping the computer. There is of course at least one list of the Top 10 Weirdest USB connectors, and the teddy bear isn't even on the list.

All these items were found at a blog I've been perusing for laughs, called Shallow and Tacky.

One item the blog mentioned over the weekend was the strange case in New Jersey where folks were getting liposuction done in some chick's garage. Yeah, smart idea. Just be careful when they start using that sand-blaster on yer hips.

Designers also offer a mouse for your computer which will monitor your vital health stats as you waste, I mean spend, time at your computer.

Banning Science and Mr. Coffee

Are science education in our schools and scientific curiosity in general being sacrificed in service to Fearful America?

As a result of state laws attempting to squash the home-made production of methamphetamine, once commonly obtained items like beakers and vials, as well as science programs in schools, are now part of an ever-growing list of banned items. Wired magazine talks about the issue here, noting:

In the meantime, more than 30 states have passed laws to restrict sales of chemicals and lab equipment associated with meth production, which has resulted in a decline in domestic meth labs, but makes things daunting for an amateur chemist shopping for supplies. It is illegal in Texas, for example, to buy such basic labware as Erlenmeyer flasks or three-necked beakers without first registering with the state’s Department of Public Safety to declare that they will not be used to make drugs. Among the chemicals the Portland, Oregon, police department lists online as “commonly associated with meth labs” are such scientifically useful compounds as liquid iodine, isopropyl alcohol, sulfuric acid, and hydrogen peroxide, along with chemistry glassware and pH strips. Similar lists appear on hundreds of Web sites.

“To criminalize the necessary materials of discovery is one of the worst things you can do in a free society,” says Shawn Carlson, a 1999 MacArthur fellow and founder of the Society for Amateur Scientists. “The Mr. Coffee machine that every Texas legislator has near his desk has three violations of the law built into it: a filter funnel, a Pyrex beaker, and a heating element. The laws against meth should be the deterrent to making it – not criminalizing activities that train young people to appreciate science.”

Or making coffee. Yeah, I wonder if lawmakers considered banning, say Mason jars, too.

Couple that story with others, such as this one, which questions whether any of the recent alleged terrorist plots were even possible:

I don't think these nut jobs, with their movie-plot threats, even deserve the moniker "terrorist." But in this country, while you have to be competent to pull off a terrorist attack, you don't have to be competent to cause terror. All you need to do is start plotting an attack and -- regardless of whether or not you have a viable plan, weapons or even the faintest clue -- the media will aid you in terrorizing the entire population."

An ever-confusing alarmist mindset will not serve anyone except those who use terrorism as political tactic.

Demonizing science can only dumb down the country. Replacing science with superstition isn't moving forward, it's racing backwards in time and abandoning rational thought.

Is this perhaps why we have a growing culture which is embracing ideas such as the one being offered in a 'museum' in Kentucky, where claims are made that the reason the T. Rex had long sharp teeth was so it could eat coconuts.