Saturday, September 08, 2007

A Gas Planned In Bean Station

It is no joke - although suppressing them may be impossible.

The town of Bean Station is seeking help so they can set a Guinness world record for cooking up the largest pot of beans ever. Nearby Bush Brothers - they of much bean fame and fortune - has donated 1200 pounds of pinto beans to be cooked. But building a 600 gallon pot is no easy effort and the town is seeking sponsors to make their bean dreams a reality.

The city hopes the event at their 11th Annual Harvest Pride Days Festival on Oct. 11-12 breaks the old record set in 2002 in Horace, North Dakota.

And yes, why shouldn't Bean Station have the record for Biggest Pot o' Beans? Snuggled into the bends and curves along the lakes and highways, Bean Station is a most friendly place. More info on the festival is here.

Over the many years here in East TN, I have had many a fine friend from Bean Station. And heard more jokes about the wee town than you can imagine.

So don't be deadly silent. Help them if you can. The freshly-made beans will be sold by the bowl, along with some cornbread, with proceeds going to charity. I bet it will all be a gas!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Camera Obscura - Romero's New Dead; Cronenberg's Crimes; Torchwood

Two filmmakers have consistently offered mind-breaking, visually stunning and unforgettable tales of humanity's darkest and strangest days and do so to this day.

First, George Romero provides another terrifying satirical poke at the living and the living dead as his new zombie movie, "Diary of the Dead", gets high profile praise and placement in the Toronto Film Festival. All other would-be pretenders to the Zombie Mythos fall on their splintered bony knees before Romero. From his first zombie film to the present one, the movies are cinematic poems to the best and worst in all of us.

In "Diary", when the movie poster says "shoot to kill", the shooting referred to is done by camera, from the constant filming in modern culture via cell phones to surveillance cameras. USA Today has more on the new movie:

The action centers on a group of students filming an old-fashioned horror movie for school. The scares turn real when they see shocking TV footage of corpses feasting on the living. The class assignment evolves into a documentary, obsessively shot by Jason (Joshua Close), who is driven to record every terrifying moment of their frantic escape in a Winnebago.

Though the movie might sound Blair Witch Project-inspired, the handheld camera doesn't shake and the background blares with news reports (some of it actual coverage of Katrina and 9/11), radio broadcasts and amateur Web accounts.

"During the shootings at Virginia Tech, people were filming out of the windows," Romero says. "CNN was asking flood victims to send in pictures. We have all this information now, but it's not being managed."

Though Diary is a departure, it also retains much of the lore and the gore from the director's original four-part Dead saga, but with a few tasty twists. Instead of halting zombies by just shooting them in the head, one stalker gets his brains eaten by chemicals. The slow vs. swift zombie debate continues, with Romero making a humorous case for his shambling brand.

And there are cameos. Those who pay attention might recognize voice-overs by Stephen King, Quentin Tarantino, Simon Pegg, Wes Craven and Guillermo Del Toro."

I am more than eager to see this one.

The other filmmaker whose movies have been powerfully unforgettable - David Cronenberg. He may have at long last found one actor to be his protagonist who is as twisted as he is, Viggo Mortgensen. Viggo was both riveting and funny and scary in "A History of Violence" and he takes his ragged intensity to the old Soviet nations in "Eastern Promises" with actress Naomi Watts.

Cronenberg stirs together such disturbing images and stories in all his films, and never fails to create a film which embeds itself in your brain. This interview with Cronenberg has all the details about his newest project.

Sci-fi/fantasy fans from all over are eagerly waiting for the premiere of "Torchwood" which arrives this Saturday night on the BBC channel. It's a spinoff from the makers of the current "Dr. Who" series. And yes, the title is is sly play on the words Doctor Who.

Reviews are sketchy, as they usually are when it comes to a spin-off series. This one follows a Time-traveling Captain Jack (not Sparrow) who was in last season's "Who", and who finds a Buffy-inspired Hellmouth in Cardiff, where all things extra-terrestial seem to be congregating. The Cap'n then gathers his goofy but lovable misfit gang of pals to combat the unending parade of the unearthly.

As I said, the reviews range from bad to tolerable to ... well, here's one from the UK and another from the US, and the reviewers at IMDB are about 8 to 2 against it. You can decide for yourself if you have BBC on your cable/dish provider.

Now for the strangest movie story of the week:

I recall reading some years back that one of the Wachowski Brothers, they of "The Matrix" fame, was having some .... ah, um ... well there's no other way to say it - brother Larry was undergoing a sex change. I had thought it might be just weird internet rumors. And this week FOX said it was all untrue.

The oddly black leather androgyny of "The Matrix" aside, this rumor has had legs for two years. Why the sudden attention on it now? Perhaps because the G-rated "Speed Racer" movie from the brothers needs some press attention and internet buzz?

Next Friday, right here on this page, I'll have some freebies to give away from the very funny TV series on FX, "It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia," which kicks off it's third season next week. Stay tuned for details!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Maybe Baby News

Have you noticed the trend in the news to waffle and wiggle away, to dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge?

Take this guy. First he hid his arrest, then said he was sorry but not gay, then he was resigning and now, maybe not.

Or here - he was sort of in, he plans to announce his announcement, and another lackluster leader steps forth. Case in point: the ducking and dodging of campaign fundraising laws.

It's a music player, it's a web surfer, it's a phone, it's a web surfer, it's $599, it's $399. It's iNconsistent.

It's a slam dunk. It's a quagmire. It's a battle for the Future. It's a parade of surrender monkeys. It's a work in progress. It's winnable. It's a quagmire again.

It's microwave popcorn. It's a delivery system for lung disease.

It's a child's toy. It's a deadly toxin.

It's a non-nuclear transport. It's an accidental transport of nuclear weapons. Five of them. No, six.

It combats angina. It fights strokes. It treats MS and jet lag. It gives hours of stiffness. Heck, maybe it is a wonder drug.

Is it any wonder this song is stuck in my head?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Golden Record

30 years ago today, the efforts of a collection of humans sent something fantastic into space, which continues to travel through the stars.
Voyager and it's Golden Record stand as a marvel of human achievement.
"The record represented the idea that science and technology could come together with art,” said Ann Druyan, who also designed the sound essay.. “It’s one of the few totally great stories that we have about humans. It cost the taxpayers virtually nothing, nobody got killed. It was a way to celebrate the glory of being alive on this tiny blue dot in 1977."

“This was the most romantic and beautiful project ever attempted by NASA. It had the sounds of a kiss, a mother saying hello to her newborn baby for the first time, all that glorious music. Remember, this was during the Cold War. Everyone was living with the knowledge that 50,000 nuclear weapons could go off at any time, and there was a lot of angst about the future. This was something positive -- a way to represent Earth and put our best foot forward. That was irresistible.”

Carl Sagan’s son Nick was six years old in 1977 when the Voyager records were being assembled. The records feature a recording of him as a child saying, “Hello from the children of planet Earth.”

“I had no sense of the magnitude of it at the time,” said Nick Sagan, who partially followed in his late father’s footsteps by pursuing a career as a science fiction writer. “Literally it was my parents putting me in front of a microphone and saying, ‘What would you say to extraterrestrials?’”

Sagan said he began to realize what the record meant as he got older, and as a teen he started to realize what a “strange but wonderful honor” it was.

“It’s been a challenge for the rest of my life to live up to that honor. It’s always there in my subconscious,” he said. “My dad inspired so many people to do so many great things -- to not take things at face value and to look at evidence to search for the truth. It’s something that I look to as a beacon.”

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

'Twas TN Jed Made Boomsday Boom

Who was it who made the 20th Anniversary Boomsday special?? Tennessee Jed:

"He did a count down over the Nextel and when I flipped the switch I heard the roar of a sea of humans reflect off the Tennessee River. It gave me chills and made my face blush to think I did that, hell yea!"

Monday, September 03, 2007

No ID, No Freedoms?

A writer/blogger details an event that led to his arrest outside a Circuit City in Ohio for refusing to show a rather rude employee his receipt and for refusing to show a policeman an ID. The post was featured here at Boing Boing and both the post and the many comments which follow it are fascinating reads and raise many questions. (Yes, Boing Boing has updated and is allowing comments on posts.) The story has been also featured on Digg, Fark and other sites also with much debate.

In the blogger's version of events his rights and liberties were trashed by business and government alike - if the events follow his account. He was asked to show a receipt on the way out of the store and refused and continued on to his car. When store manager Joe stood so the car door could not be closed, here's what was said:

"Me: “Is there a problem?”

Joe: “I need to examine your bag and receipt before letting you leave this parking lot.”

Me: “I paid for the contents in this bag. Are you accusing me of stealing?”

Joe: “I’m not accusing you of anything, but I’m allowed by law to look through your bag when you leave.”

Me: “Which law states that? Name the law that gives you the right to examine my bag when I leave a Circuit City.”

Then, says, the blogger:

"I twice asked Joe to back away from the car so that I could close the door. Joe refused. On three occasions I tried to pull the door closed but Joe pushed back on the door with his hip and hands. I then gave Joe three options:

“Accuse me of shoplifting and call the police. I will gladly wait for them to arrive.”
“Back away from the car so that I can close the door and drive away.”
“If you refuse to let me leave I will be forced to call the police.”

However, after he did call the police, the officer then challenged him and demanded to see his driver's license - even though he was not driving a vehicle and was instead standing on the sidewalk. When he refused, he was arrested, even though the store officials examined his belongings and admitted he had a receipt for all purchases.

Some will say the blogger, Michael Righi, invited trouble for refusing to comply with the store employee. And more trouble was invited by not showing the policeman an ID. The comments on Boing Boing alone bring up central and related issues that are worthy of debate.

And as I said, since I think Righi is telling the truth, I also agree his freedoms were needlessly challenged and curtailed. The events also highlight the problematic issue that corporations, like Circuit City, are identified as having the same rights as an individual. That fact most often means the rights of the corporation will trump the honest-to-God human's rights every time.

And as we continue on the current legal path where National IDs, under provisions of the Real ID Act, are going to be mandatory each of us will likely be faced with demands that we provide papers to engage in a host of routine activities.

Such requirements are more than lunacy. It's a perversion of our basic freedoms to be required to have papers to simply exist. Righi was not engaged in some unique activity which requires a license - such as fishing or hunting or operating a business.

More and more we have become a society where each of us is perceived as guilty, each of us is a criminal-in-waiting, each of us is forced to agree our rights are subservient to that of our own government and to the needs of business. Dismissing this story and it's implications is perilous for all.
(image from the Hartford Courant, Oct. 30, 2001)

UPDATE (9/5/07): R. Neal at KnoxViews featured this post and thoughtfully added in the comments the law in TN regarding what a merchant has legal rights to do if they think a person might have taken something without paying.

Also worth noting is that Righi was charged with obstructing a police officer, even though Righi is the one who called the police.

Glad to see this story is getting some discussion and thoughtful review in numerous blogs. The willingness to abandon individual rights is a repulsive trend which endangers us all.

Final Words

An obituary notice can be far more than just announcement, as it aims to encapsulate the essence of a life snuffed out by the wisdom of God's time management. Here in the Southern lands, notices and accompanying rituals can certainly make metaphorical mountains.

I have always been amazed by some of the floral monuments friends or family have devised, such as my favorite: a colorific collection of flowers surrounding a gigantic foam desk phone and the foam-carved legend "Jesus Called."

Will we see in the future a giant foam-cell phone with a simple text-message emblazoned upon a foam screen: "U R L8, Home Now -- Jesus"?

I have now in my possession a collection of laminated plastic rectangles which contain copies of the obituaries of friend and family past. I'm not sure what to do with these - using them as bookmarks or dangling them in a tenuous mobile just doesn't seem right. So they reside in a plain brown envelope.

The poet Robert Burns penned an epitaph for his friend William Muir which reads:

"If there’s another world,
he lives in bliss.
If there is none,
he made the best of this."

And there are some who take the time to carve into stone a Final Witticism:

"Beneath these stones do lie,
back to back, my wife and I.
When the last trumpet the air fill,
if she gets up, I will just lie still."

The somewhat unique Southern style obituary gets a jolt from Angie at DeMarCaTionVille, who says the following should be published upon her demise:

"Angie isn’t with us anymore. Last year, after her seventh nervous breakdown, a dark-skinned Jesus pulled up in a red convertible and carted her swiftly off into Heaven with the radio playing loud and her hair blowing in the breeze. And on the back bumper, there was a sticker, which read, “Honk if you love Jesus, Jorge, Isabella and all the other Immigrants!"

Yeah, I like that. Jesus motorvating upon the human plain in a shiny red convertible, maybe with Elvis working the MapQuest of Souls.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Stats on Blogging American-Style

Finding a survey about blogs is as easy as finding a blog, and new surveys, like blogs, arrive almost daily. A new study does indicate that more Americans know what the term blog means, and that bloggers are more likely to be female.

Certainly, I would say that women write or administrate many of the blogs I frequent. I like that they use them as platforms for writing, for offering strongly-held beliefs, and as community touchstones. (Men utilize the media much the same, however.)

WebPro writes about the survey and some findings include:

"Loyalty to specific blogs is relatively strong with 46 percent of blog readers reporting that they visit the same blogs regularly compared to 54 percent who search for new or different blogs.

Awareness and usage of blogs, along with people writing their own correlates to age, with younger people being more active. Close to 90 percent of people ages 25 to 34 know what a blog is, compared to 65 percent of those 65 and over. Seventy-eight percent of those ages 18 to 24 who are aware of blogs have visited a blog, compared to 45 percent of older Americans.

The survey found that there are more women bloggers than men, with 20 percent of American women who have visited blogs have their own versus 14 percent of men.

When it comes to reading blogs 39 percent read them less than once a month, another 28 percent visit them monthly, 15 percent visit them daily and 5 percent read them several times a day.

While blog usage continues to grow, so does its potential as a marketing tool. Forty-three percent of blog visitors said they had noticed advertising on blog sites, increasing to 61 percent among those ages 18 to 24. Around one-third of readers have clicked on an ad while reading a blog.

Even though people are spending more time with blogs they are not replacing other media. Only 13 percent of blog readers said they spend less time with other forms of media (newspapers, television, radio) since they started following blogs.

When questioned about the kind of information they get from blogs, 65 percent said they get opinions, 39 percent get news and 38 percent get entertainment.On the main reason people read blogs, close to half said they find blogs entertaining, and another 26 percent read them to learn about hobbies or other areas they are interested in."

I too tend to visit sites I like often, but also search daily for new sites to visit. As for how often each day I visit and re-visit sites, I am in that smallest percentage. Which means I either have too much free time or am nearly obsessed with creating and reading online content.