Friday, February 15, 2008

Camera Obscura - Romero's New Dead; 'Jumper' Falls; Sly 'Eulogy'

Is there a scenario more unsettling than hordes of zombies shambling across the de-populated landscape? Perhaps, as in George Romero's new movie "Diary of the Dead", it is a media-saturated culture.

Notice the title is not "Diary of the Survivors of a Zombie Horde."

The low-budget, no-name cast is the latest in a career spanning 40 years of socio-zombie impact. The premise here is that a group of young people head out with armed with cameras to make their own horror movie and discover instead an apocalypse, which they attempt to document via the moving image. Our world today is home to cameras at intersections and attached to phones and generally stuffed into every nook and cranny imaginable. To paraphrase McLuhan, "The medium is the zombie."

And how does his new movie rate? Scott Weinberg wrote this review after seeing the movie in Toronto last fall:

This time around Mr. Romero seems most interested in the media, and the ways in which it shapes our reactions to life's unexpected tragedies. Icing on top: By using the 'fake movie within a movie' conceit, the zombie lord gives himself ample opportunity to poke fun at the "reality" of documentary filmmaking. And poke he does! The veteran craftsman also seems entirely fascinated by the ways in which information is instantly disseminated over the internet, so there's plenty of geek-friendly cleverness to be found here. To those who simply want a good old-fashioned chomp-fest, rest assured that there's gore galore -- plus a very healthy dose of in-joke horror references that nerds like me always enjoy. And no, the funny stuff does not overwhelm the splat-tastic mayhem. As is often the case, the humor offsets the scary / gross moments and all the components congeal into a full-course genre treat."

Also, you'll hear the voices of Quentin Tarantino, Stephen King, Wes Craven and more as "news-readers" in the movie.

Also recommended reading - a fine interview with Romero at the A.V. Club, where he says:

I was stunned by the effect of all this emerging media, and how everybody was getting sucked in not only as viewers, but as reporters. It says on CNN that if you see something outside your window, shoot it and they'll put it on the air. "


There has been heavy TV advertising for the new Doug Liman movie, "Jumper", based on a series of sci-fi books by writer Stephen Gould. The story concerns a young man who has the ability to defy time and space and transport himself to any location. Of course, he meets others with the same ability and even a kind of secret army who seek to thwart the Jumpers.

But here's the thing I most noticed about all the ads - not one mention of the two stars in the movie: Hayden Christiensen and Samuel L. Jackson. Where's the tag line: "Darth Vader and Mace Windu Meet Again!!!"

Oh yeah, that's right - Hayden was terrible in the Star Wars movies and no one knows who the heck Mace Windu is (was) outside of some fan convention.

Now if the duo teamed up for "Snakes On A Plane Part 2" .....

I am huge fan of the films of Doug Liman "Swingers", "Go", "The Bourne Identity", "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" - and even genre fave David Goyer ("Blade") aided with the story.

But reviews of "Jumper" usually end up with the movie splayed out on the concrete after, well, after a fateful jump. All the reviews too note the rather blatant There Will Be A Sequel ending. (Did I suggest "Snakes On A Plane Part 2"?) And hey, who cares what critics say? I'm sure all those folks who went to see "Fool's Gold" still tingle with good feelings.


A 2004 movie that screened at Sundance, "Eulogy", pretty much died on arrival and headed straight to DVD and remains a mostly and unjustly unknown movie. I suggest you seek out this funny comedy which is packed with hilarious performances by Ray Romano, Hank Azaria, Rip Torn, Zooey Deschanel, Debra Winger, Kelly Preston and Piper Laurie.

They are a family who reluctantly gather for the funeral of thier Dad, Rip Torn, whose habits included being unable to remember the names of his children. Deschanel plays Azaria's daughter, who is stuck with the task of writing the eulogy.

Tons of one-liners abound. I liked the one where the funeral home director describes a graveyard as "Sort of like an old folks home where you really don't need to go visit anyone."

This ensemble cast, though in a storyline seen in many other movies, provides very funny entertainment - before, during and at the funeral. Their work together clicks and hums with perfection. And there is this notion that their oddness and dysfunctions are not what seperates them, it's what connects them.

Again, this isn't some astonishing new take on an old story - just a chance to see some great actors having a great time.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Indiana Jones 4 Trailer Now Online

The news won't wait for the Friday movie post -

The new Indiana Jones 4 movie trailer is here at the official movie site.

Sure, a good chunk of it is shots from the first three movies, but so what?

My favorite part of this new teaser trailer - his hat gets some screen time.

Plus, this time out, I am now friends with the parents of Harrison Ford's girlfriend.

Ban The Cartoonists!

At least it didn't happen in Tennessee.

But in Kentucky, a legislator is pushing a bill to define an editorial cartoonist as a lobbyist and hence ban them from attending legislative sessions. State Rep. Jim Gooch is not amused by cartoons nor by opinions, as Sue Sturgis reports at Facing South.

They want to hurt your credibility. They do it by either trying to make you look stupid or corrupt."

Darn those people who use the evils of wit and pencils!!! And what about the children? A child might run with a pencil in hand and fall and put their eye out! And then, there's a paper cut threat!

Sturgis reminds readers Rep. Gooch has also held hearings on the topics of Global Warming but failed to invite anyone from the scientific community. One imagines a person could testify "Shoot, it looks purty nice outside to me!" and thus end the debate.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Scalia's Defense of Torture

In a maze of hypotheticals and imaginings, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (along with many in the highest level of government) sort of talks about why he thinks the use of torture to get information is an acceptable policy of American jurisprudence. I'm left with far more questions as the debate and discussion of the uses of torture contiues.

His views aside, questions now stand about whether evidence obtained using waterboarding would be allowed in the upcoming court cases against suspects in the 9-11 attacks.

Judge Scalia, Speaking with the BBC, saw this exchange took place:

Is it really so easy to determine that smacking someone in the face to find out where he has hidden the bomb that is about to blow up Los Angeles is prohibited under the Constitution? Because smacking someone in the face would violate the 8th amendment in a prison context. You can’t go around smacking people about. Is it obvious that what can’t be done for punishment can’t be done to exact information that is crucial to this society? It’s not at all an easy question, to tell you the truth.

BBC: It’s a question that’s been raised by Alan Derschowitz and other people — this idea of ticking bomb torture. It’s predicated on the basis that you got a plane with nuclear weapons flying toward the White House, you happen to have in your possession — hooray! — the person that has the key information to put everything right, and you stick a needle under his fingernail — you get the answer — and that should be allowed?

SCALIA: And you think it shouldn’t?

BBC: All I’m saying about it, is that it’s a bizarre scenario, because it’s very unlikely that you’re going to have the one person that can give you that information and so if you use that as an excuse to permit torture then perhaps that’s a dangerous thing.

SCALIA: Seems to me you have to say, as unlikely as that is, it would be absurd to say that you can’t stick something under the fingernails, smack them in the face. It would be absurd to say that you couldn’t do that. And once you acknowledge that, we’re into a different game. How close does the threat have to be and how severe can an infliction of pain be?

There are no easy answers involved, in either direction, but I certainly know you can’t come in smugly and with great self-satisfaction and say, “Oh, this is torture and therefore it’s no good.” You would not apply that in some real-life situations. It may not be a ticking bomb in Los Angeles, but it may be: “Where is this group that we know is plotting this painful action against the United States? Where are they? What are they currently planning?”

I've posted on this topic before, yes, and current events prompt me to point to this particular post again:

We live at a time where Americans, completely uninformed by an incurious media and enthralled by vengeance-based fantasy television shows like “24”, are actually cheering and encouraging such torture as justifiable revenge for the September 11 attacks. Having been a rescuer in one of those incidents and personally affected by both attacks, I am bewildered at how casually we have thrown off the mantle of world-leader in justice and honor. Who we have become?"


Who will complain about the new world-wide embrace of torture? America has justified it legally at the highest levels of government. Even worse, the administration has selectively leaked supposed successes of the water board such as the alleged Khalid Sheik Mohammed confessions. However, in the same breath the CIA sources for the Washington Post noted that in Mohammed’s case they got information but "not all of it reliable." Of course, when you waterboard you get all the magic answers you want -because remember, the subject will talk. They all talk! Anyone strapped down will say anything, absolutely anything to get the torture to stop. Torture. Does. Not. Work."

Is it worth noting the previous legal approach to the use of waterboarding?

In 1901 in the United States, the military court-martialed and sentenced to 10 years hard labor a US major who had waterboarded a prisoner in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War. The United States officially outlawed the practice after World War II, when the Germans and Japanese had both used it against Allied troops. The Allies executed eight Japanese officers for waterboarding British prisoners and sentenced another to 15 years hard labor for waterboarding a US civilian, among other crimes."

Will State OK Verifiable Votes?

The state's legislature is moving forward (at last) to insure verifiable results for the ballots cast in an election, as noted in today's KNS story.

(previously mentioned here and R. Neal has more at TennViews)

The proposal is meant to create a paper trail for votes cast, and though it may be another two years before the new process (if approved) could be installed.

Bernie Ellis, an organizer for Gather to Save Our Democracy, said Tennessee has been rated as one of the eight states in the nation most vulnerable to vote-counting abuse because of its heavy reliance on the touch-screen system. Only two of 95 Tennessee counties, Hamilton and Pickett, now have the precinct-based optical scan machines.

With the current system, a voter makes his or her choices on a computer screen that disappears when the vote is cast with no paper record. The optical scan system will require the voter to mark a paper ballot, look it over to verify the choices are correct, then run the paper ballot through a scanner that records the vote."

The new process, however, will not improve your choices nor negate any regrets you might have for the choices you made. Still, accuracy and reliability of results is a laudable goal.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Senate Approves of Telecom Immunity

It's dismal how far the current congress has gone to allow and accept lawless governmental policy. When news first broke of the warrantless wiretap programs, there was much loud derision - but the congress has reversed course in no uncertain terms. What were once vices are now habits.

Reviewing the Senate's actions, Glenn Greenwald makes a crucial point:

Analogously, in 1973, The Washington Post won the Pulitzer Prize for its work in uncovering the Watergate abuses, and that led to what would have been the imminent bipartisan impeachment of the President until he was forced to resign in disgrace. By stark and depressing contrast, in 2006, Jim Risen, Eric Lichtblau and the NYT won Pulitzer Prizes for their work in uncovering illegal spying on Americans at the highest levels of the Government, and that led to bipartisan legislation to legalize the illegal spying programs and provide full-scale retroactive amnesty for the lawbreakers. That's the difference between a country operating under the rule of law and one that is governed by lawlessness and lawbreaking license for the politically powerful and well-connected."

The legislation now moves to the House for approval and their version of the bill currently does not include immunity. Hopefully the debate will more focused on laws and not lawlessness.

Sen. Kilby Reconsiders Dog Laws

I received an email from 12th District Senator Tommy Kilby yesterday in response to my complaints over a bill he introduced to make it a crime to own a certain type of dog in Tennessee. The online and offline furor that bill prompted was mentioned previously and in this post too.

He wrote about withdrawing his original bill, and filing a new one, though there are still some issues to resolve:

Here is an update on my proposed legislation. I withdrew the original proposed legislation, Senate Bill 2738 and filed a caption bill, Senate Bill 3827. Unfortunately, due to the bill filing deadline, the second bill's wording mirrors the first, which has caused some confusion. Take heart though, the caption bill will be amended so as not to be breed specific."

Here's to hoping any new laws are based in more realistic concepts.

First and foremost for me is specific and significant legal avenues to place accountability on those people who fail to contain any animal they own and allow an attack on a human. It would make no sense to arrest and destroy a gun used in a killing - punishing the owner/user is the typical approach. Likewise, one could do a survey and find a particular model of a car as the most commonly involved in a fatal crash, but arresting the car and banning ownership of that model isn't the right concept either.

FROM DOGS TO DUCKS UPDATE: Worth noting that Kilby is not seeking re-election, so this is really a lame duck term for him. A prime contender for his replacement is Becky Ruppe, Morgan County's first female elected County Executive, and as R. Neal notes, she has launched her election campaign website.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Weekly Best of Tennessee Blogs

The roundup of the best in Tennessee blogs (via TennViews). Also please note the Tennessee Election News group blog posts on the right hand side of this page is being updated often.

The Sunday "Goodbye Super Tuesday, catch your dreams before they slip away" edition of the TennViews weekly blog roundup showcasing the best and brightest bloggers in Tennessee and what they are talking about...

• 10,000 Monkeys and a Camera: Caucuses in Florida and Michigan?: The big failure here is with the state and national parties, who betrayed their voters by failing to properly negotiate over the timing of the primaries., plus: Bottom Line: There's one fundamental problem with a McCain/Huckabee ticket: McCain is really old, and Huckabee is really crazy.

• 55-40 Memphis: Electability: I believe that it is much harder to get a woman elected president today than a person of color, all else being equal. As widespread as racism is, sexism runs even deeper and affects a larger proportion of the electorate. Compounding the problem: We are much more attuned to racism, and quicker to call it out, than we are to even blatant sexism. I'd like to see a woman as president as much as anybody would. In any other circumstances, I'd say let's go for it. But Hillary isn't just any woman, she's a Clinton. ... Those polls just confirm what I already know in my heart. 2008 is not the time, nor is Hillary Clinton the candidate, to make the presidential election a feminist cause.

• Ablogination: Death to the Right Wing Fringe: You will no longer find personal gain wrapped in swaddling clothes. You will no longer benefit from dragging Jesus through the political mud, boxing, bagging, buying and selling Him for your personal wealth and power trips. It’s over. You’ve been Left Behind.

• Andy Axel (at KnoxViews): Super Fat Tuesday Clinton Count: This is the rural/urban divide showing up again, and depending on the demographics of the state involved, this can really cut against your candidate. Plus: Tennessee Hearts Huckabee: The evangelicals turn out for the Reverend, throwing a stick in the spokes of the McCain juggernaut.

• Aunt B.: Bill Hobbs Wins ‘Act Like Bill Hobbs Day’ Hands Down!: Bill Hobbs is going to try to pass the Tennessee Democratic Party off as the racist party in our state? The mind boggles. Plus: An Open Letter to the Tennessean: Seriously, if people want to show the world pictures of their dogs, they can get a blog like the rest of us. You, Sirs and Madams, should be a place where I can find out news.

• BlountViews: Blount election day early afternoon report, plus: Finney really REALLY wants to be your state senator

• The Crone Speaks: Here’s An Idea, The Journalists/Reporters Should Fact-Check Themselves Before They Speak/Write: Candidates have to spend hundred’s of thousands of dollars to counter the lies and half-truths with the truth, if they can successfully get out the truth. So, we have these giant media outlets, driving the spending by candidates, another way that media owners have dictated elections.

• Cup of Joe Powell: Election Aftermath: Are Republicans so unhappy over the concept of "conservative purity" that they will sit home this fall and not vote in the actual election? Plus some election live blogging: Hamblen County Election Returns, and an update on the cable cuts: Sea Monster Attacks Internet UPDATE!

• Don Williams (a new addition to the blogroll and roundup): Hillary, Obama, McCain all strengthen their claims to presidency: I’m the first to admit that true substance is scarce in these campaigns. Still, the tone’s changed. Subjects have changed.

• The Donkey's Mouth: Democrats Top Republican Turnout, and: Charmed, I’m Sure: ...who will Rep. Marsha Blackburn support after making three different endorsements already in this race?

• Enclave: "Obama Girl" Didn't Vote for Obama: We can count on younger voters as long as everything stays eye-popping and entertainment-oriented (or there is sex-appeal; cue G4 TV). But I don't seem them turning out in November--regardless of who the nominee is--as strongly as they are in February. The novelty will have worn off of voting by then. Plus: Another Partisan Who Cannot See Beyond Republican Campaign Strategy: It should be perfectly clear to those of us who are not saddled by partisan wishful thinking why Evangelicals would not vote for a Mormon candidate (Mitt Romney). Begging "common cause" assumes that both sides see a cause in common. Evangelicals don't. Also: Happy Anniversary!

• Fletch: The Shacks: It's like a taking a road trip back in time to the 60s before corporate fast food and motels became the norm. Maybe the grass is always greener on the other side, but selling hot dogs by the seashore seems to be an idyllic life.

• KnoxViews (JustJohnny): FL Dems to caucus?: I have been contacted by more than one grassroots organizer seeking support for a push for caucuses here. If FL delegates are to be seated, the DNC appears to be signaling that caucuses are the only way. Plus: An interesting poll on Social Security. And: Super Tuesday Photo Report (by Brian A.), plus: Hung over, exhausted, but the headlines say: Obama, Clinton all tied up after Super Tuesday (Carole Borges)

• Lean Left: A Tie: Last night settled nothing, and its likely that the rest of this month and March 4th will settle nothing as well. It looks as if we are in this for the long haul. Plus: Clinton or Obama?: the end of the day they are just politicians. They are forced to navigate an electorate with diverse and conflicting views and that means compromise and occasionally the failure of policies I hold dear. Also: GOP Losing Evangelicals? (by tgirsh):’s never really a victory when people give up on democracy, and lose faith in the process. And that’s clearly what seems to be happening here.

• Left of the Dial: Super Scary Tuesday: Boy, politics sure took a backseat to Mother Nature last night and this morning for many Tennesseans.

• Left Wing Cracker: Its the Narrative, stupid: Get ready, we are going for a brokered convention. (Jon Carrol) Plus: If Mitt Romney had run this ad, he'd be the Republican nominee! And: A call for help for Tennessee tornado victims.

• Liberadio: Tornado Tuesday Observations, plus: What a tool: There’s simply no other way to react to Mitt Romney’s "suspending my campaign" speech in which he accuses at least half the country of wanting to surrender to terror, having no morals, perpetrating attacks on religion, encouraging sexual promiscuity and pornography, and enjoying an occasional stroll on the Champs-Elysées.

• Loose TN Canon: Can you imagine this guy's finger on the button?: John McCain, who jokes about bombing Iran, is characterized by his fellow Republicans as a "hothead."

• NewsComa: At The End Of Another Political Day: No one never knows in the world of politics. Deals are made. Deals are broken. And the American people don’t know because God forbid we need to know what Britney Spears did today. Plus: The Wind In The Willows: It’s weird covering weather and even weirder when you are covering a primary and weather and a trial with a defendant with a less than stellar personality who was a bit growly. Don’t you love rural media? Tomorrow, I get to go to a car wash that has a pet wash attached to it. I’m not lying.

• Pesky Fly: The White Racist Vote (Jeff): When I look at the Obama campaign, I am most bothered by three things: the apparent encouragement of cultish behavior among volunteers and supporters; the willingness of his campaign and supporters to recycle right-wing Hillary Hate talking points; and his level of support from a media we learned long ago never to trust. This last point should alarm anyone with a brain. Never trust the media or Republicans who offer advice about what the Democratic party should do. Plus: Stupid Democrats: Any Dem (of any stripe) or left-leaning so-and-so who says they'd vote for McCain over Hillary in the General should really consider the state of the U.S. Supreme Court and the fact that the next President will probably get to appoint three new Supremes.

• Progressive Nashville: How Clinton won: Hillary's success so far shows that the tried and true methods of hard work and asking people for votes is still effective at winning campaigns, but it is still vulnerable to a competitor that hits on the right message and has the charisma to sell it. Plus: More voting problems around the country, and: Bob Tuke for Senate?

• Resonance: Promises, Promises (Resonance): It seems we've got some fuzzy math here. $410 billion is 50% of $412.7 billion? I'm no math major, but that just doesn't compute. Plus: Workplace Religious Freedom Act of 2007

• RoaneViews: Help a Neighbor: Let's be there for these people. One day it might be our turn, but that doesn't matter right now.

• Russ McBee: Two short notes on Super Tuesday: This is hypnotic and addictive. Google Maps + Twitter + Twittervision + Super Tuesday = a very cool way to watch what people are saying about today's primaries. Plus: Bush's hypocrisy on earmarks: It took George Bush seven years in the White House to notice that the federal budget contains pork-barrel spending. Purely by coincidence I'm sure, it was not until after the Democrats had gained control of Congress that the president decided to focus his attention on budget items of questionable validity.

• Sean Braisted: Are You A Sexist Pig?: ...its best to give people the benefit of the doubt and assume their support or opposition is in good faith, and not the result of prejudices against a race or gender. Plus: Obama Wins?: While Obama wasn't able to pick up some of the Democratic strongholds on the East and West coast, it appears as if, on a delegate basis, he was victorious. ... Yesterday I stood on the corner of Rosa and Jefferson doing visibility, and it sunk in that while I think Obama could win the general election...he ain't likely to carry much of the Southeast. To be sure, I don't think Hillary will either (except perhaps Arkansas), but some of the reactions from the white drivers really disgusted me to my core.

• Sharon Cobb: Not Every Person Who Doesn't Vote For Hillary Is A Misogynist, And Not Every Person Who Doesn't Vote For Barack Is A Racist, plus: So I'm In My Bathtub With No Water In It: I've got my laptop, cell phone, video camera, battery television and xanax in the tub with me. If you're in middle Tennessee and tornadoes are touching down around you, go to the lowest floor in your home, or if you're like me and don't have a basement, go to your tub and stay away from windows. The severe weather started here in Nashville when Hillary Clinton was announced the winner of Tennessee.

• Silence Isn't Golden: So, In Conclusion (Part 2): Obama won last night because he proved that he can make the Democratic Party competitive in places where it hasn't been lately (especially in the Midwest and Rocky Mountain states), while hanging on to Democratic strongholds. Hillary merely proved that she can hold the base. Also: Vote for GoldnI!

• Southern Beale: It’s Always Good For Republicans: Have you seen the latest storyline about Democrats working its way through the media? Apparently, because we have two excellent candidates to choose from in the presidential primary, "Democrats are in disarray"!

• Tennessee Guerilla Women: Disenfranchising Hillary's Base: The Undemocratic Caucus: The caucus system is undemocratic. It disenfranchises working class voters who simply do not have the flexible schedules held by the elite class. Unlike the primary, the caucus system does not make voting available all day long to accommodate people with all types of schedules. To make matters worse, most state caucuses do not permit absentee ballot provisions. Plus: NBC Suspends Shuster for Misogynistic Attack on Chelsea

• TennViews: Factchecking the TNGOP: Is it possible to fact check fiction? Plus: Abusive nursing home protection act And: Lieberman no longer a super delegate!

• Vibinc: Super Tornado Tuesday - Live Blog, now from Home!: In weather news the sirens just turned off again, but that doesn't mean anything if there's a tornado like 5 feet from my house...which there isn't yet. Ok, between the polling and reach Haley Barbour is showing his metro-sexual side.

• Whites Creek Journal: Saturday Lazies: John McCain has emerged as the front runner in the Republican campaign to keep the entire Bush administration out of jail.

• Women's Health News: Lipitor Ad Used Stunt Double?: Seriously. Don’t ever rely on advertising to give you accurate medical information or drug advice.

Science of Happiness

Perhaps you are not happy. Perhaps you are like Dr. Mrs. Instapundit and you jes' don't trust happiness.

So let's exile those demons of introspection and apply some Science to Happiness!

How To Be Happy