Saturday, August 18, 2007

Is Morristown Talking?

Noodling about on the internets, I've been searching for other bloggers and blog-keepers in Hamblen County and haven't really found anyone. I thought that was most curious. There are many, many folks connected via Charter Communications (like me) but where are they talking/writing/commenting about the world around them?

There are some MySpacers, to be sure, but that wasn't what I was looking for.

Then I ran across the many forums for Morristown and Hamblen County at

Not a pretty thing, I'm sad to say.

It's a free-wheeling, wild west, guns a'blazin, anything goes, nothing held back host of discussions and debates. And while that appears to be fairly normal on the necessarily open internet, some of the comments and debates can be pretty intense or wildly ridiculous.

Having overseen some public discussion via my old talk radio show, I do consider the open public discussions are still a new and developing habit locally. While the locals (on Topix) are willing to share info and argue, I do hope the discourse improves with time.

Some intense debates currently are about local problems with dogfighting, concerns about the Sheriff's Dept. and the Humane Association, concerns about immigrants (legal and not) and more happy talk on the news about the Morristown Girl's Softball World Championship.

So on one hand, I am delighted to see/read all the online activity. On the other, I hope some of those involved find a higher degree of civility -- but that will arrive with more use and practice.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Camera Obscura - Boll Madness, Directors as Actors, and DVD Super-Collections

ABC has a new show, "iCaught", which spends an hour playing videos from YouTube. Lame, lame, lame. It is just short of an admission that the entertainment available on the internets is far better than what is on television. Oh sure, there have been "reports" asking "How do you make a video which will get millions of hits?" but let's be honest ABC. The reason the show is on is that it costs almost nothing to make, needs little writing, and is little more than filler infomercial for YouTube. I wonder who this appeals to? Other than people who never go on the internets. What's next? The LOLcats Adventures Hour? (Please note that idea is mine and if a TV station uses it, I'm suing.)

The Ed Wood of the 21st Century, director Uwe Boll, fresh from fighting (no really fighting) in the ring with his critics, held a preview for his latest ... um ... "masterpiece", called "Postal." Wired magazine sent a writer to the show and he offers a hilarious take on the event: (via Cinematical)

" ... Chris Kohler describes the film's story as being about "a guy shooting a bunch of people in order to stop Al Qaeda and a religious cult let by Dave Foley from unleashing on the world a batch of avian bird flu hidden in a shipment of penis-shaped children's toys voiced by Verne Troyer (pull the string and it says 'only my father and my priest can touch me there!')"

Cinematical also features a report
this week on famous film directors who performed as actors in movies, and notes, of course, Orson Welles in "The Third Man" and John Huston in "Chinatown." (Huston as Noah in his version of "The Bible" is a true comedy gem, by the way.) I would add a few to their list, like Martin Scorcese's terrifying turn as an angry boyfriend spying on his girlfriend from the back of Robert De Niro's cab in "Taxi Driver" and David Cronenberg as the only good part of the Clive Barker movie "Nightbreed", where he plays a nasty serial killer. And though brief, Croneberg does have some fun in "Jason X". Do you know some other director-as-actor movies worth noting?

As of this weekend, we now have four versions of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers", the newest is a bona fide disaster-behind-the-camera starring Nicole Kidman called simply "Invasion." And while the 1970s version from Phillip Kauffman is an eerie and creepy Nixonian nightmare, the 1950s original take on Jack Finney's novel just can't be beat. It follows Finney's story the best and has a slowly building sense of terror which is most impressive. Even the tacked on 'studio ending' does not harm the movie.

The original version also has a short performance by Sam Peckinpah as a plumber. So there's that. But the acting, the music and the careful build of paranoia as pod-created aliens take over everyone is simply so well done, that there is no need to re-invent it.

And since I'm talking about multiple versions of one movie, director Ridley Scott wins that award, hands down, as he releases a massive 5-disc ultimate collection of his movie "Blade Runner," which comes with it's own shiny, futuristic briefcase. The movie(s) in this collection will give you a headache as you try and keep up with new version after new version. The set includes the 'brand new' cut of the movie, for which Scott actually filmed new scenes and dialog last year, the original theatrical cut, the international cut, the first Director's Cut from Scott and even a working cut which has even more changes.

Ridley, dude -- stop. Just stop. Put the movie down and walk away.

Remaking a movie might perhaps be left to Jack Black and Mos Def, who play video store owners who decide, after accidentally erasing their entire stock of movies, to go ahead and remake some famous films themselves and rent the new versions to their customers. Based on this preview of Michel Gondry's "Be Kind, Rewind", out early next year, I will make every effort to see this:

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Revealing the Inner Oatney?

Kat has noticed it. So have I.

It refers to some apparent blind spots in the vision of certain GOP supporters/bloggers, namely Dave Oatney.

Maybe it's just that he sees his fave political party as incapable of error. Like excusing Rep. David Davis for protecting criminals engaging in dogfighiting 'cause the good old boys like it and seeing Biblical justification for Rep. John Duncan's legislation regarding credit.

This isn't just a knock against Oatney for it's own sake - rather that, to me and Kat, it seems he wants to eat his cake and have it too.

Thompson Still Ducking the Law

The Coy Candidate, aka actor Fred Thompson, is raking in campaign contributions while avoiding campaign finance laws, thanks to the help of a lot of familiar folks in Tennessee.

The Knoxville News-Sentinel
breaks down the dominant players, and includes this quote from Thompson made on talk radio:

compared his current efforts to “an old duck on a pond — calm on the surface, but paddling like the dickens underneath.”

Sure sounds like he's doing more 'ducking' than duck. Maybe he'll formally announce a campaign in September, maybe he won't. The money is flowing in, the accountability is avoided. This end-run on the legal edges indicates the precise kind of problem the country does not need, as R Neal pointed out last week at Facing South:

" ...
what does it tell you about Fred Thompson, the candidate? One would have to wonder about all the secrecy, the working around the margins, and the off-the-books financing through a shadow campaign finance organization. One might also wonder, haven't we had enough of that?"

The Souring Rove

Don Williams offers a letter to the soon-to-depart hatchet man from the Bush administration, urging him to seek redemption.

The self-serving praise you heaped on George W. Bush as you announced you'd be leaving him--praise for putting the country on a military footing, for making history, for winning those stolen elections and so on--will sour the longer you utter such things."

I doubt he's ready for a confession, Don. More likely he has plans for more string-pulling and nefarious plots in his hopes of making America a nation ruled by a tarted-up fantasy.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Five Question Method

Interviews are seldom dull, though they sure can be. Happily, Newscoma came up with 5 questions which I thought were most interesting. Also, I cannot help but monkey with the meme and instead offer any readers here the same chance I have. So, if you are reading this and you would like to answer these same 5 questions in the comments or on your own blog, then please feel most welcome to do so!

1.What was the thing/time in your life that set you on a path of being politically aware? Hmmm. Well, I've often thought about this and the fact that I was always paying too much attention to the world of adults when I was a wee boy. Adults and their world perplexed and fascinated me. But I think it was, more than any other time, the summer of 1968, when I was 7, that I got engaged with politics. It was impossible to escape politics then - riots and protests and assassinations were everywhere you looked. I saw the impact the murders of Martin Luther King Jr and Bobby Kennedy had on just about everyone. And then the Chicago Democrat Convention showed me images of troops and police beating the crud out of Americans. That was, I thought, not the way America was meant to be. And it showed me that a person has to take courage and speak their mind on politics, local and national, or one day I would lose my rights. Yeah, I'm a hippie. But that also means I'm hip.

2. What is something about yourself that you would not change and why? Odd but this is connected to the previous question. One thing I would not change is that I still have a child's sense of curiosity and wonder. Some say I am childish. No, no. Not true. I was old when I was younger so it makes sense to me to be younger in my thinking as I get older. Now if I only knew what I was doing, I'd be in tall cotton.

3. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have one book, one movie and one song to play during your time there, what would those three things be? Why? Yeesh. Almost impossible to answer. The book is easy - Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon. I find new things each time I read it and it is immensely entertaining to me. One movie? Urg. If anything would make be batty it would be to lose access to endless movies. I'm addicted to them. But having only one to watch might just be worse than having none. Could I take two books?? One song? Oh that too would likely drive me bonkers, having only one song to listen to. The best I could do would be to pick just one album and that is Miles Davis Kind of Blue.

4. What is your favorite guilty pleasure? Maybe it was the Baptist upbringing I had - aren't all pleasures guilty ones? My fave? It's my movie addiction. I can't help myself.

5. If you could go back in time, what would you tell your 18 year old self now that you are an adult? Why? I would tell me several things. Perhaps it could proceed as follows: "Joe! Start drinking coffee!! You'll love it, trust me. You can actually make it to your 8 a.m. classes. And since I have your attention, Joe, stop signing up for 8 a.m. classes. Never take a class that starts before 10 a.m. I also know you are thinking about going to work for the Peace Corps. Do it. You'll get to travel and more important in the big picture, helping people to build a clean source for water or teaching them to read and write are some of the best things anyone could accomplish. And here's some shocking info for ya, bucko -- you are going to get old. Plan accordingly. And that girl you like? She's gonna be rich one day and living in Manhattan and she would like for you to be there as the years tick past, so don't be a chickenshit. It may not last forever, but maybe it will. And you are spot on about writing, so hammer away at it even harder. What's that, Joe? You don't need or want advice from old farts like me? Well, you're an old fart now, bucko!. But, yes, the journey is more fun than either of us can know. Now then, fix me a drink and tell me what we're doing tonight."

NOTE: In response to some queries, the header on the post is a variation on The 13 Question Method.

A Computer Re-Imagined

I am likely to take a ballpeen hammer to my computer today. Fix it real good.

I'm just sayin'.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Civil War Soldiers vs Dinosaurs

Not far from this corner of East Tennessee, folks can find some sights that are simply not among those you can find anywhere else. Like what, you ask?

Well, first there is Foamhenge. Yes, it is indeed Foamhenge. I saw this and immediately wondered if the guys from Spinal Tap had ever seen it.

And as an added bonus, another unique location. Dinosaur Kingdom -- the only place in the world where Civil War soldiers are attacked by the giant prehistoric reptiles. Take that, Creation Musuem! Pictures and info on both Foamhenge and Dinosaur Kingdom are here at Hillbilly Savants.

They also had another post which gave me pause, about the mysterious herbal delight called ginseng. A chunk of it just sold for $400,000!!

I do recall growing up when someone asked me if I wanted to go Ginseng Hunting. I admit I thought to myself, "what did he just say? and what word was he trying to say which has been filtered through mountain-speak?" Foolish me. It brought good money way back then and who knew one day it would be a key ingredient in a host of energy drinks and vitamins?

And that, for some reason, brings to mind the three warehouses which bear the name Elizabethton Metal and Herb Company.

Who is this Rove?

While dominating political debates and policies for years, when the history of American politics is written, Karl Rove will be a footnote, a thesis paper topic, and an example of 'what could have been'.

I'd wager that about as many average folks know Rove's name as know the legacy of President McKinley, the man Rove used as template for political ambition.

Rove's resignation from the White House staff might have made news headlines today, but most in America can tell you more about Lindsay Lohan.

What does his departure mean? I think Eugene Robinson is probably right:

Rove's new job will be to put lipstick on Bush's hideous legacy -- and, in the process, freshen up his own."

"But let's give the man his due. Karl Rove managed to get George Walker Bush elected president of the United States, not once but twice. Okay, you're right, the first time he needed big assists from Katherine Harris (speaking of lipstick) and the U.S. Supreme Court, but still. Honesty requires the acknowledgment that Rove was very good at what he did.

"The problem, of course, is that what Rove did and how he did it were awful for the nation."

Even a dubious legacy is still a legacy.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Forum from T-FIRE Draws Concerns

State Rep. Stacey Campfield (R) spoke to a gathering of folks who see many threats to America from illegal immigrants which was held in Morristown over the weekend. The group, says one blogger, dips into some dangerously racist worldviews:

I think allowing white supremacist concerns to slip into the immigration debate is ridiculous. Why are respected Tennesseans granting validity to this nonsense? "

The entire post from Aunt B. can be read here.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Music For A Hot Summer Night

John Coltrane, Stan Getz, Oscar Peterson, Paul Chambers, Jimmy Cobb

Guide To Webspeak

The ever-expanding online world, where topics and talks change moment by moment, can be a daunting and confusing world for those who want to jump into the often wild and wooly debates and discussions.

And the language itself changes just as fast, and as texting messages grows in popularity, slang becomes an even deeper and more bizarre swirling eddy of information.

I have a friend who often visits various forums and message boards about television who says the manipulation of language (or the failure of understanding what language really is) is enough to give him a brain aneurysm.

That's why the Urban Dictionary can be your friend. And whether new to the internets or a longtime player, that site is just mighty fun to read.

Some samples:

The feeling of regretting something you're about to do anyway.

Caffeinate the day.

(NOTE: I like the definition of "seize the coffee" better and have submitted as much to the Urban Dictionary folks.

The media hype which surrounds the release of new Apple products.

The best advice I can offer newbies for such rapid language changes - this is a media which is being created anew every nanosecond. Someone is always going to be ahead of you, and many more will be trailing after. Relax. If it doesn't make sense to you now, it might eventually. Maybe.

Aide to Rep. Davis Caught Altering Online Bio

The online world seems to be troublesome for ET Congressman David Davis. Following the online media and traditional media criticisms for a vote he made against tougher laws on dogfighting, Davis' press secretary Tim Hill, was caught trying to eliminate info on the WikiPedia website showing King Pharmaceuticals contributions to Davis and to Tennessee State Representative Matthew Hill, Tim's brother.

Oddly, Hill says he was just trying to make information about those connections disappear because it was "hurtful" to Davis. Which is not to say the information was not accurate. It was. But Hill seems to think the facts could be damaging. The very tech savvy administrators at WikiPedia caught the meddling effort and corrected it.

The online world is not very kind to Rep. Hill. This site, which is heavily linked to Democrat causes, has tracked his legislative record extensively.

SEE ALSO: Additional information reported in the Kingsport Times-News.