Friday, January 18, 2008

Camera Obscura - The Film School On Your TV

Back in the mid-1980s media mogul Ted Turner was rightly roasted and grilled for unleashing a horde of classic movies which had been "colorized", an ugly act which truly defaced the movies and ruined their legacy. I was one of those who roasted and grilled him for such things. But now I come to praise him, not bury him in criticism.


Because of Turner Classic Movies, a bona fide treasure house of the art of cinema and the history of filmmaking.

For many years now this cable channel has been the most watched channel in my house. No colorization will be found as movies from the silent era to the modern are show uncut and commercial free 24/7. Long gone are the abusive marketing tactics of the past. TCM instead is simply the best movie channel to be found.

It's no exaggeration to say the channel is a master classroom both on filmmaking and film history. Viewers are offered a constant array of carefully preserved films, long and short, silent and sound, made in the U.S. and made abroad. In addition, there are documentaries old and new detailing the history and legacies of film directors, actors, actresses, writers, producers, studios, and the many technical innovators who have made movies what they are today.

Their recent documentary on director Val Lewton, produced by Martin Scorsese John is a good example of how the channel provides not just history but basic education on what goes into the creation of a movie. Other recent features on the channel include a selection of movies made prior to the Hayes Code censorship - movies which they also saw released onto DVD, and a series hosted by Pixar'sLassiter which featured the anime films of Hayao Miyazaki. And upcoming this month, on January 22nd, filmmaker John Sayles will host an evening of films he found greatly influential, from Sam Fuller's "Park Row" to Rossellini's "Paisan".

And once again, they offer viewers a chance to see films which have never been given much distribution by honoring the work of Charles Burnett on Monday, Jan. 21st. Burnett's most well-known movie is "To Sleep With Anger" starring Danny Glover. Burnett's movies are among the select few given the honor of being part of the National Film Registry as well.

One of his movies, which has just been released nationwide, will also air called "Killer of Sheep" from 1977 - a movie hailed not only as being great, but one of the greatest films ever made. He created the movie for his thesis at UCLA's film school, but some disputes over the music used in the movie effectively stopped it's release until 2007 when it arrived in theaters and DVD, long after it was named to the National Registry of Film. Burnett has also created a web site devoted to his first feature, which tells the story of a small family living and working in Watts in the early 1970s.

Roger Ebert writes in his review of Killer of Sheep:
You have to be prepared to see a film like this, or able to relax and allow it to unfold. It doesn't come, as most films do, with built-in instructions about how to view it. One scene follows another with no apparent pattern, reflecting how the lives of its family combine endless routine with the interruptions of random events. The day they all pile into a car to go to the races, for example, a lesser film would have had them winning or losing. In this film, they have a flat tire, and no spare. Thus does poverty become your companion on every journey.

The lives of the adults are intercut with shots of the children at play. One brilliant sequence shows a kid's head darting out from behind a plywood shield -- once, twice, six times. The camera pulls back to show that two groups of kids are playing at war in a rubbish-strewn wasteland, throwing rocks at one another from behind barriers. A boy gets hit and bleeds and cries. The others forget war and gather around. He's not too badly hurt, and so they idly drift over to railroad tracks and throw rocks at a passing train. All of the scenes of children at play were unrehearsed; Burnett just filmed them.

They have few toys. One child puts on a grotesque rubber Halloween mask and wears it all day, and gets roughed up because, somehow, the mask obscures the fact that a child is inside it. At home, Stan works on projects, complains to a friend he cannot sleep, projects deep discouragement. Sitting at the kitchen table, he presses a tea cup against his face and says it reminds him of a feeling just after sex. That kind of tender thought has little place in his world.

I'm eager to see this on Monday night.

And far from harming the legacy and the art of filmmaking, Ted Turner's movie channel celebrates cinema as art and as entertainment in ways no other media mogul has ever done. Three cheers, four stars, and thumbs way up for TCM.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Why Make It Illegal to Own A Dog??

Whatever made Tennessee Senator Tommy Kilby (D) think that a state law banning ownership of one particular breed of dog, a pit bull, a good idea, I do not know.
[CORRECTION: The legislation would make ownership of a host of breed types illegal, saying:
(2) "Pit bull dog" means any pit bull terrier; and
(3) "Pit bull terrier" means any American pit bull terrier, Staffordshire bull
terrier, American bulldog or American Staffordshire terrier breed of dog or any
mixed breed of dog which contains as fifty percent (50%) of its breeding the
breed of American pit bull terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, American bulldog or
American Staffordshire terrier, so as to be identifiable as partially of the breed
American pit bull terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, American bulldog or American
Staffordshire terrier.]

What I do know is this - it's a lousy idea. Such ideas are often called BSLs, or Breed Specific Legislation. I say it is just BS Legislation, which does come from an animal, yes, but why would anyone want BS in their laws??

SB 2738
says even if the dog is only partially a pit bull, it would be illegal to own.

I'm happy to see several folks who blog already calling the bill out as a bad idea and a waste of time - Say Uncle, Aunt B., Michael Silence, and Newscoma just for starters (Add this list of folks opposing the bill from ACK at Volunteer Voters). It shouldn't be a crime to own any kind of dog. (Are you catching on yet, Sen. Kilby?)

What is a crime? Dogfighting - which is sadly too evident in Tennessee. As the National Sheriff's Association reported when urging Congress to toughen dogfighting laws:

There are an estimated 40,000 professional dogfighters who sell their fighting dogs nationwide and cockfighting is multi-million dollar business. The massive, criminal network of animal fighters impacts not only the thousands of animals who are subjected to the cruelties of animal fighting, but communities nationwide and law enforcement which must address, at great cost, the crimes associated with it including illegal gambling, drug dealing and even murder.

On average, there has been a murder related to animal fighting every month this year."

A dog does not volunteer to help humans gamble on their lives. Humans force dogs into those hellish competitions.

There are a whole list of reasonable and effective ways to address a reduction in dog bites/attacks right here which I am emailing Sen. Kilby.

Here's the contact info for Senator Kilby:

District Address
118 Henry Heidel Lane
Wartburg, TN 37887

Nashville Address
10A Legislative Plaza
Nashville, TN 37243-0212
Phone (615) 741-1449
Fax (615) 253-0237
Staff Contact: Nadine Korby, Jeremy Davis, Research Analyst


A Little Known Fact About The South

I'm willing to bet cash money there was a super-secret provision in the surrender agreement signed at the end of the Civil War.

What was it?

Any time a snowflake falls to the ground in any state south of the Mason-Dixon Line, any business or school or government office can declare a legal holiday.

Just one reason I like living in the South.

Jes' sayin'.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Superheroes Are Reals!!

Maybe it was that bad reality series on the Sci-Fi Channel with Stan Lee. Maybe it's because we live in the 21st Century.

Whatever the reason, They are here.

They are more than 200 people from around the world who adopt secret identities and become Superheroes. However, they call themselves Reals.

Soon the Jade Justice finds himself hip-deep in a supply closet, piling books into a red Radio Flyer wagon. He wheels it back to the lobby, entreating the children to select a text. But the kids seem more interested in peppering him with questions. "So are you a cowboy or something?" one boy asks.

Geist kneels down to reply with a camera-ready grin, "Maybe a super-secret, space-cowboy detective!"


Last October, an organization called Superheroes Anonymous issued an invitation to any and all real-life superheroes: Come to Times Square to meet other Reals face-to-face and discuss the future of the movement. The community roiled with discussion of the invitation—was it a trap by an as-yet-unknown real-life super villain? In the end, only a dozen Reals attended, but the gathering attracted the notice of the New York Times and the BBC, which gave the budding league of justice worldwide ink."

The article with the full story is here, complete with a Google map of worldwide locations of Reals, plus there is a photo gallery.

Cheesy spandex? Sure. But the one who calls himself Jade Justice just looks cheap horror movie scary.

Blogger Battles Sprint Again and Again

Imagine your identity has been stolen - not just once - but four times and every time the same company, Sprint, is involved and sends you huge bills for an account you did not create. That's what has happened to The Editor.

Read the aptly title post here.

It's remarkable to me that this happened a fourth time, since after the third time, The Editor explicitly told Sprint to never create an account in her name without a specific response to some key questions for verification. But they did it anyway.

Sprint's response - The Editor has to prove she is once again the victim of identity theft.

The Editor writes: "
The fraud packet is set up under the assumption that you, the victim, must prove your innocence. It asks more from me than it did of the criminal who stole my identity."

(Also posted at MCB)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Rat Hearts and Monkeys

I've been seeing lots of very deceptive - or at least misleading - news coverage about a science experiment where claims are made that a rat heart was 'brought back to life and began beating'. That's sort of what happened. Here's the skinny on it which explains it a bit better:

First, healthy rats were killed and their hearts quickly harvested and attached to a perfusion system that leached away all of the normal contracting cardiac cells, leaving behind the scaffolding of the rat's heart: the vascular tree, the valves, the shape of the heart, and the fibrous infrastructure that could help orient new cells in a direction to develop contraction. It was like having a clear crystalline shell-like structure as a growth platform - a fibrous skeleton of sorts.

Next, some baby rat hearts were processed, "pureed," and the cardiac cells reintroduced into the dead rat's scaffolding. The introduced cells, when carefully nurtured with a friendly growth environment and a bit of pacing, started to beat.

But the beat, so far anyway, was hardly the stuff of a myocardial assist device. The researchers admit that the ejection fraction (the percentage of blood ejected from the heart's pumping chamber with each heart beat) for a human heart would be about 2%. (Recall that a normal human heart's normal ejection fraction exceeds 50%). While real, I have never seen a patient, must less a rat, survive with an ejection fraction of 2%. Still, the fact that the organ beat at all was pretty cool.

The experiment certainly has some indications of progress in organ regeneration and transplants, but 'indications of progress' is not a catchy news headline. So we get the Dr. FrankenRatHeart version instead.

Seems that TV news especially offers up a lot of "chopped up" and "pureed" versions of news stories and I'm left to seek facts out on my own.

I've been seeing some of the images and reading some of the reports about President Bush's trip to Saudi Arabia, where he offered the Saudis some 'smart bombs' as part of a $20 billion arms package to Middle East countries and asked them to make more oil available. Reports indicated the President has been getting a good look at how the royalty live - receiving a "
a giant necklace set with hundreds of rubies, emeralds and other precious stones, holding a medallion that included a hand-painted enamel American flag and staying one night in a $3 billion hotel.

White House press secretary Dana Perino was quoted as saying "the president had a really nice time".

Well, that is nice. Nice way to play up the bling and downplay a lot of details too. Bling makes better headlines.

Other recent headlines have been about a 'dangerous threat' from boats buzzing the Navy in the Persian Gulf. As they story began to slowly come to life, it came with numerous references to something called The Filipino Monkey. Turns out the crank radio chatter has been around for 25 years, and is something of a joke, according to the Navy Times. (SEE ALSO: Knoxville Talks)

Who knew there were Filipino Monkeys in the Persian Gulf?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Salute to the Stewman and Those Who Care For Him

Today and for the last few weeks I've been awed by the powerful friendships and the compassion evident as folks from all over work fiercely to assist with The Stewman, who is battling cancer without the aid of health insurance.

Newscoma got it all started and tonite she and other friends held an auction to raise funds for his benefit. You can read about the success - and how you can help - here.

I am truly in awe of such devotion and caring and hope you can find a way to lend your support too.

Newscoma wrote today:

Do we feel powerless about the cancer that our friend is fighting?


Are we trying to do what we CAN to help him, things that we have a bit of control over. That’s also a yes.

We can’t make the cancer go away, but we can help him. Cancer treatment is not cheap. He is not working now because every moment is spent getting better. The cancer, my friends, is that bad.

So we are doing what the chairman of our little committee said quite eloquently last month that we “have” to do because it all we can do. And because he would do it for us.

Throughout the day, we will be putting updates about the benefit here. We want to help just a little. Are we fighting our own demons? Probably.

Are we trying to raise a bit of money for a person who has been our mentor, our friend and has lifted us when we could not do the heavy lifting for ourselves?


BadBadIvy has committed to buy a T-shirt. If anyone in the Nashville blogosphere is interested in buying a T-shirt designed by Squirrel Queen, I will bring it to you personally within the next couple of weeks to The Sportsman’s Grill in Nashville. They are $20 a piece and they are pretty groovy. (A picture of Mabel and a Newscoma emblem is on the back of them as a sponsor.)


Information about the day’s events will be posted at the official Friends of the Stewman blog. I’ll keep you updated all day about how things are going, and if Holly and Scout are interested, will get them to live blog some of the event over there as well this evening at the FofS blog.

We are doing what we have a bit of control over because we can’t cure the cancer. But we can make it a little more comfortable for him.

So if you can, visit the site, buy a T-shirt, leave a nice sentiment for him as that blog will archive the event.


Weekly Best of TN Blogs, Plus Some Personal Commentary; Or, Go Ahead and Call Me A Liberal Then

Time again for a roundup of Tennessee blogs, via TennViews, but first a few notes on this regular weekly feature. And don't expect to see any more personal commentary on this weekly link. It just seemed appropriate this week. But I prefer to offer this roundup without comment and let you read and ponder on what's written for yourself.

First, my thanks to R. Neal at TennViews for compiling and sharing these links. Also, I was rather happy to see two posts from my blog and one I added to TennViews last week were featured. The post at TennViews on the Real ID Act found much agreement across the political spectrum, from the Right and the Left.

Also last week I noticed that my blog was added to the blogroll at the Tennessee Democrat Party blog, The Donkey's Mouth. I am happy to be included, though I also think the Tennessee Republican Party (if they have a blog) should also link here. I'm an equal opportunity kinda guy. All kinds of blogs should link here, just as I try and link to all kinds of blogs. So I added Donkey's Mouth to my links too.

And on a side note, NO ONE asked me from the TN Dems what I might think of their blog name, Donkey"s Mouth. 'Cause I really think that's not such a good name. Too ripe for parody. Just look at how the Communications Director of the Tennessee Republican Party Bill Hobbs wrote about the Democrat Party blog:

I Always Thought The Noise Was Coming From The Other End
Welcome to the fray. That's the last nice thing I'll say about you."

At least he admits he isn't going to say anything 'nice'. Of course, that's also a reason I dropped his link in my blogroll back in the early days of this blog - a preponderance of not-niceness.

I have never been a member of either party, and have cast votes for both Democrat and Republican candidates, and even have friends in both parties and even more friends who are also not members. I have found Democrats, in my experience, to be more open-minded and tolerant and open to discussion on just about all kinds of issues, unlike Republicans who seem to have a pre-made mold which they say I either fit or I don't. So my viewpoints, and the fact that I am a starving artist type o' guy, must mean I am a demonic liberal as well. At least for those people who rely on labels to simplify their own perspectives.

Like I say, I just tend to be open minded, and I've had links to the local GOP, Democrat and Libertarian party sites since I started this blog. I had one for the TN Green Party, but it went sour about a year ago so I fixed that today. (Makes me a member of the Procrastinator Party maybe?)

I've always liked the episode of "Futurama" where the characters go to a gathering of all kinds of political parties and Fry sees a booth for the Voter Apathy Party and this conversation ensues:

Fry: "Now here's a party I can get excited about. Sign me up!"
Apathy Party Guy: "Sorry, not with that attitude."
Fry: "Ok, then screw it."
Apathy Party Guy: "Welcome aboard, brother!"
Fry: "Alright!"
Apathy Party Guy: "You're out."

Before I get into anymore trouble with me just running on and on, let me just offer this week's roundup of Tennessee's best bloggers:

The "things are heating up and it's not just Global Warming" edition of the TennViews weekly liberal blog roundup and what the best and brightest bloggers in Tennessee are talking about...

• 10,000 Monkeys and a Camera: US Elections in Crisis: "We are supposed to be the greatest nation on earth and yet we appear to be incapable of holding an election and then having confidence in our returns."

• Andy Axel (at KnoxViews): Fred Thompson is losing to this guy?: "It speaks volumes that the hapless Thompson can't put up even a one-point victory on this lunatic..."

• BlountViews: Why they come here: "Immigrants from Mexico do not come to Tennessee to live out their lives. They come to work."

• The Crone Speaks: Economic downturn?: "So, it’s no wonder I’m looking at these reports and saying "what the f*** took you economists so long to realize the reality?"

• Cup of Joe Powell: The spelling disqualification: "Question: What's the first sign of the return of the TN State Legislature? Answer: A flurry of goofy, useless and grandstanding bills from Teh Rep, aka Stacey Campfield of Knoxville." ALSO: The good, the bad, the primaries: "...good news is that how a person votes matters more than the opinions of the bobble heads."

• The Donkey's Mouth: Tennessee Republican Party Advocating Legislator Pay Raises: "From the keystrokes of TNGOP communications director Bill Hobbs, comes perhaps a new GOP initiative -- legislative salary increases."

• Enclave: The Monster Tennessee Media Could Become : "...if his numbers and prominence start to rise, we should be as vigilant of the closing distance between media noses and Mr. Thompson's own bum." ALSO: Extensive coverage of the Davidson Co. election office break-in and identity theft.

• Fletch: Long-haired Middle-Aged Dude and the Sea: "This outing was my first on a small sailboat on the open ocean..."

• KnoxViews (Bill Young): The Democrats in Michigan: "We got a battle in Michigan - Uncommitted vs Clinton", ALSO (metulj): Obama on My Block: "I asked her if hope was important right now. She said that the last 7 years was like being held captive by aliens."

• Lean Left: ACLU: Close Gitmo Now: "The prison camp at Gitmo is a symbol to the world of our leader’s cowardice and viciousness and it is the single most effective propaganda tool the terrorists have." ALSO: New Hampshire: Beating the Press: "With its focus on trivia and personalities, with its mistaking high-school level jealousies and phobias for insight, with its insistence on substituting story lines for reporting, the political press in this country is an enormous threat to the health of our democracy."

• Left of the Dial: Meth Seizures In East Tennessee: "While the number of meth labs seized in Tennessee decreased in 2007, the numbers are still staggering especially in east Tennessee."

• Left Wing Cracker: Jim Kyle, you da man!: "Look, something has to be done here; as I have noted previously, the citizens of District 29 have no representation, and the Senate, even though tied at 16-16-1, could be run roughshod by the Republicans, and that is NEVER a good thing."

• NewsComa: Don McLeary, Convictions and Not So Smart Politics: "Trust is important in politics because it’s hard to discern. And in partisan politics, loyalty is everything."

• Pesky Fly: Two Feathers Short of a Full Chicken : "There's an openly racist anti-Obama email making its way around the internets." (Ed. Note: I got it, too.) ALSO: Power Blackout : "I believe that Barack Obama is much smarter and more shrewd than anyone is giving him credit for. I would make the case that Obama is first and foremost a student of power, and that his conciliatory approach is intended to disarm his opposition rather than wave a white flag of surrender."

• Progressive Nashville: Bush becoming a dangerous joke: "Nearly a year is left in the Bush administration and like a cornered, wounded animal, it is at its most dangerous."

• Resonance: Another Electoral Compass Quiz: "One notable aspect of the grid is how closely the candidates within each of the two parties are clustered together. In other words, primary voters aren't being offered substantive choices on the issues."

• RoaneViews: Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival: "Patagonia is cosponsoring the event with the Tennessee Clean Water Network..."

• Russ McBee: The topsy-turvy state of human rights: "Today, a mere sixteen years after the Soviet Union collapsed, the US is the country building gulags, and the former Soviet republics are abolishing the death penalty because it's barbaric." ALSO: FBI wiretaps canceled for not paying the phone bill: "Neither Congress nor the courts seem willing to stop warrantless wiretapping, but apparently the phone company will."

• Sean Braisted: Custer's Last Stand: "As his aides most elegantly put it, South Carolina's is Thompson's "Custer's last stand." The place where Custer went to die." ALSO: Republican Circus: "The predictable fare of "taxes bad" and "me kill terrorists" was on full display, with the occasional interjections of Ron Paul calling for a return to a 19th century economic system."

• Sharon Cobb: CNN Poll: Clinton or Obama would beat any Republican, ALSO: Watching The Republican Debate Last Night Reminded Me Of The Importance Of Getting A Democrat Elected In 08 For President: "All and all, it was a huge, macho hate fest."

• Silence Isn't Golden: Will he or won't he?: "Allowing someone to run unopposed shows weakness, complacency. The Republicans know this--they knew damn well that they couldn't beat Phil Bredesen in 2006, yet they still ran someone anyway." ALSO: Candidate lightbulb jokes: "How many McCain supporters does it take? We don't know. They're still in shock over the fact that the lightbulb didn't go out in New Hampshire."

• Southern Beale: No one could have anticipated this!: "And now this privatization trend has trickled down to state and local governments--surprise surprise--so has the fraud, abuse and waste."

• Tennessee Guerilla Women: Without Writers, Bill Maher is Still a Sexist Pig: "And there you go, when you have a lefty comic who behaves like the Rush Limbaugh of the Left, even Tony Snow gets to have rational moments." ALSO: Hillary's Victory -- Women Vote Against Misogyny: The Tweety Effect: "...there can be no doubt that the misogyny oozing from media pundits like Chris Matthews got New Hampshire women good and mad and they showed it with their votes."

• TennViews (Joe Powell): Real ID Redux - Still A Bad Idea: "While DHS now says it will reduce the cost of implementation, a cheaper bad idea is still a bad idea." ALSO (in case you missed it): New Hampshire reaction from Tennessee liberal bloggers, BONUS: Middle class help: "John Edwards has done a pretty good job identifying the problems facing the middle class. But what does he propose to do about them? The mainstream media is all over that question, hot damn!"

• Vibinc: What I Want in a President: "What we want, as Democrats, is more important than who we want as the nominee."

• Whites Creek Journal: Not again...: "Does [Kucinich] think he'll pick up 120,000 votes and win it? Hell no! he sees this as a perfect opportunity to test the reliability of electronic voting machines against a paper ballot." ALSO: Iranian Speedboat incident "Probably Faked": "The only conclusion I can come to is that our Country's International Policy is in the hands of amateurs. Stupid ones."

• Women's Health News: Education of the Pregnant Teen: "One advocate for the change was told, 'You can’t have maternity leave. If you have your baby on Wednesday, you better be back on Thursday.'"

Sunday, January 13, 2008

A Seriously Unscientific Survey

Time for you to speak up, dear and patient readers via this Seriously Unscientific Survey. I constantly provide my thoughts here and now I am seeking yours. Answer all or some, as you see fit. Nations and peoples across the globe await your answers:

1 -- Do you have a preference for any one candidate in the current race for President of the U.S.? Please give a reason for your choice (or lack of one).

2 -- The state of Tennessee is one of 24 states holding a primary this year on Feb. 5th. Will you be voting in this primary and do you think it wise to hold that many on the same day? Is it time to end the massive one day primary battles?

3 -- How would you describe your views on immigration policies in the U.S.?

4 -- Where do you seek news and information the most and do you talk about the news with those you work with, with friends and with family?

5 -- How many hours a day (or week) would you say you spend online and what type of sites do you visit the most?

6 -- On a scale of one to ten, with one being lowest and ten the highest, what score would you give for the success of your local school system? What score for your local school board?

7 -- What's the most recent movie/ TV show/ or book you enjoyed?

That's all for now, but I am adding a bonus question if you wish to answer, I would appreciate the input. Ready?

BONUS - Say you have a $25 gift coupon from the store Best Buy. What would you purchase with it? (Yes, this means I have such a coupon and I have been utterly unable to make a choice, so how's about a little help here in how I can use it??)

There, that wasn't too time consuming I hope and thanks for taking part ... if you did.