Friday, February 22, 2008

Camera Obscura - Oscar Weekend; Return of Akira and Repo Man

I read an article recently where some film critic was bemoaning the hideous-ugly depressing nature of movies nominated this year for an Oscar award. As if, for instance, last year's winner "The Departed" was a slapstick comedy of errors. Which, okay, it sort of was.

Best-picture Oscars seldom if ever go to light-hearted fare. Praise for Art from a Business point of view is going to take itself Seriously. So it goes. I usually find the show itself interesting from various technical perspectives - the staging, the lighting, the attempt to make a somewhat dull awards ceremony into a visual event.

I do hope to see the Coen brothers take home many prizes for "No Country For Old Men". Since their first film, "Blood Simple" and onward they have created an impressive body of work as director and writers. Their scripts are truly astonishing prose on their own and their visual style seldom over-indulges so the viewer says "ahhhh, nice" - instead there is a tremendous subtle and understated brilliance. It's part of the reason their films are so easy to watch again and again.

Plus, the source for their film is Cormac McCarthy's novel, and McCarthy is far overdue for recognition as one of the best living American authors.

There is a madness to movie-making. You have to be a little crazy to leap into the ill-suited collision of Art and Business. And yet anyone armed with a camera and some creativity can make a movie. That's pretty much the storyline in the new movie opening this weekend from Michel Gondry, "Be Kind, Rewind". After accidentally destroying their stock of movies for rent, the guys who run the store start remaking every movie they can and offer those for rent instead.

Gondry's odd visual and verbal style, such as "The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind", is deeply self-referential. He makes movies about how we as individuals create a narrative, a movie, of our own lives.

That's why it doesn't matter what film wins an award - we have our own favorites, movies we made into Best Pictures, because for some reason we connect to them and they become expressions of ourselves.


First, a big shout out and thanks to Newscoma who pointed out a great movie blog, Cinebeats. It is ultra-groovy as it digs thru stacks and stacks of seldom-seen classic movies from the '60s and '70s. Their 4-part list of the Best DVD releases of 2007 is an excellent guide to must-have movies.


After 20 years of cult fame, the Japanese anime classic "Akira" will turn into a live-action film, produced by and starring Leonardo DiCaprio. He'll play the role of Kaneda and actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt gets the juicy role of Tetsuo. The sci-fi storyline has elements ranging from "Rebel Without A Cause" to "Carrie" and much more.

The anime movie is forever entrenched as a groundbreaking and jaw-dropping animated film, which has had a huge influence on American films since it's release. If you have never seen it, you have missed one of the most impressive pictures of the last 40 years. So see it.

Now I don't think making it live-action will improve it one bit. Some stronger acting, yes, but there is no way the original could ever be topped.


"World War Z", an "oral history of the zombie war" is getting a script from J. Michael Straczynski and is being produced by Brad Pitt's film company. The Max Brooks novel of a zombie apocalypse (noting worse than that!) is sort of like what would happen if Ken Burns did a documentary take on a George Romero-style war. Wonder if the movie will have that sad fiddle music?


More proof of my geeky, nerdy love of odd films - I was happy to read that the great '80s punkish sic-fi movie "Repo Man" is getting a sequel. Director/writer Alex Cox, however, has made the sequel as a graphic novel (that's fancy talk for big ol' comic book).

Our hero Otto, who disappeared with the aliens at the end of the movie, now uses the name of Waldo and returns to Earth after spending some ten years on Mars.

The title to look for: "Waldo's Hawaiian Holiday".


Good-bye and fond farewell to the Gill-Man.

Ben Chapman, who was the man in the monster suit in "The Creature From The Black Lagoon" died yesterday. I'll never forget when my family went to Florida one summer and we stopped at a place called Silver Springs. Once our guide told us this was the location for the Black Lagoon movie I was totally terrified and happy all at once. I could see and understand just how a camera angle and a good location can make movie magic.

Godspeed to the Gill-Man.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Defeating Outrage-Fatigue

You say you can't believe it? That it's time to take to the internets and pour out your blog-a-licious timely and vital response to the issue which has become the Talk of the Day?

Writing about "that darn so-and-so" will mark you as a leftover from the 1950s - and unless you're writing a retro-blog, it lacks the cutting edge of today's now-a-modern-go-go girl and guy.

So how to say it, since there is so much outrage today (on any topic) that a newish syndrome had to be invented "outrage-fatigue"? (Some symptoms of it here.)

I'm happy to help, providing a Punditry Lexicon so that you can properly and captivatingly provide the right word to express your displeasure with the issue/person/social ill of your choice.

Forget saying "Outrage" - just look at the many variations offered:

abuse, affront, atrocity, barbarism, damage, desecration, enormity, evildoing, harm, hurt, indignity, inhumanity, injury, insult, mischief, misdoing, offense, profanation, rape, rapine, ravishing, ruin, shock*, violation, violence, wrongdoing

blowup, boiling point, cat fit, conniption, conniption fit, flare-up*, fury, huff*, hurt, indignation, mad, resentment, ruckus*, shock*, stew*, storm*, wrath

aggrieve, boil over*, burn up*, defile, deflower, desecrate, fire up*, force, ill-treat, incense, infuriate, injure, insult, jar*, madden, maltreat, mistreat, misuse, oppress, persecute, raise cain, raise hell, rape, ravage, ravish, scandalize, shock*, spoil, violate, whip up*, wrong

acrimony, animosity, annoyance, antagonism, blood of a bitch, blow up*, cat fit*, chagrin, choler, conniption, dander*, disapprobation, displeasure, distemper, enmity, exasperation, fury, gall, hatred, huff, ill humor, ill temper, impatience, indignation, infuriation, irascibility, ire, irritability, irritation, mad, miff, outrage, passion, peevishness, pet, petulance, pique, rage, rankling, resentment, slow burn*, sore, stew, storm, tantrum, temper, tiff, umbrage, vexation

abomination, antisocial behavior, atrocity, breach, break, caper, case, corruption, criminality, delict, delictum, delinquency, depravity, dereliction, enormity, evil, evil behavior, fault, felony, hit, illegality, immorality, infraction, infringement, iniquity, job, lawlessness, malefaction, malfeasance, misconduct, misdeed, misdemeanor, mortal sin, quickie, racket, scandal, sneak, tort, transgression, trespass, unlawful act, vice, villainy, violation, wickedness, wrong, wrongdoing

But wait! There's more! If none of the above seems to emote your particular irritation, there are six - count them!! - six pages of replacement words available to you via

Me, I think my new favorite is "Malefaction" - sounds like a good biblical-style of outrage.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Law Would Demand Mandatory DNA Testing and Other Fun Current Events

Rachel points out another proposed Tennessee law which has massive implications for all:

Under a bill sponsored in the Senate by Tate (SB3717) and in the House by Hardaway (HB2964), a genetic test will be required to confirm paternity in order for the father to be listed on the birth certificate, regardless of the relationship between the parents. So, happily married and faithful husbands and wives, you’re suspect until proven otherwise by a state-ordered DNA test, regardless of whether you ever have a legal need to confirm suspect paternity. Single mothers? Well, it’s just assumed that you’re liars and out to cheat some man at such a rate that state-mandated DNA testing is warranted. [How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?]

I understand that this legislation is likely proposed in order to prevent men who are not truly the biological father from being liable for child support. However, I don’t understand why paternity tests couldn’t be required at the time of a paternity or child support dispute, rather than requiring the test for everyone. Why can’t my husband freely and voluntarily assert paternity, and leave mandatory DNA testing for the situation in which it is necessary to have confirmed, accurate information for legal proceedings? Birth certificates can already be amended via a court order if the wrong biological father was previously listed.


I have some advice for state news-writers. Just prep the headline reading "Rep. Campfield's Proposed Bill Dies In Committee". Could just save some time.


The Florida public school system which has decided it is acceptable to teach Science in Science classes, as long as they say the phrase "theory of evolution".

Yeah, theory (which does not mean a "wild guess") is a fairly important in Science. Here's the Top 10 Myths many believe about Evolution.


Not sure if it's related, but a church in Florida is urging its married members to have sex every day for 30 days. Single folk, however, are to be excluded from the ... ah, the ... um ... drive.

Some In Lynchburg Spread Lies About Obama

I don't know what's wrong with saying of a particular candidate for public office "I just don't like them" and then moving on.

Instead, armed with every mass-emailed lie about Barack Obama, these church folk in Lynchburg have at him and call instead for an American theocracy. After all, as one gal says, "It says In God We Trust on our money!!" (via Rocketboom)

At least the videographer received a fine looking lunch.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Connected Tennessee Backers A Front for AT&T?

A recent examination of a program to expand internet access, which began in Kentucky and then moved into Tennessee and now goes under the name Connected Nation raises some concerns that the entire project is basically a PR machine for AT&T.

Media analyst Art Brodsky provides a look at how the project is advancing and who is advancing it:

Their judgment, broadly stated, is that Connect Kentucky is nothing more than a sales force and front group for AT&T paid for by the telecommunications industry and by state and federal governments that has achieved far more in publicity than it has in actual accomplishment. Connect helps to promote AT&T services, while lobbying at the state capitol for the deregulation legislation the telephone company wants.


"Connect v 2.0, the version we have today, emerged in 2004 under the new governor, Ernie Fletcher (R). From the start, there were two elements that drove it – the presence of BellSouth and of Fletcher staff and supporters. The man described as the one who came up with today’s program is Joe Mefford, who spent more than 30 years in the old AT&T and BellSouth before retiring and moving to the Kentucky League of Cities. He was the head of BellSouth’s Kentucky political action committee. Joe Mefford conducted the initial meetings on the new Connect Kentucky plan, according to one close observer of the process. This source, like many in Kentucky, asked not to be identified because of the continuing power of BellSouth.

Today, Joe Mefford is the state broadband director for Connect Kentucky. Fletcher announced his new “Prescription for Innovation” on Oct. 8, 2004, at the 75th annual Kentucky League of Cities convention. (The relationship with the League continues today, through a $130,000 contract awarded by Connect in 2006 for project management.) Commerce Cabinet Secretary Jim Host was one of those in charge of the new program.

While the Fletcher connection came first from Joe Mefford, who served on Fletcher’s transition team after his election it then expanded to Joe Mefford’s son, Brian, who came to Connect’s parent organization as CEO in June 2004 after working in Fletcher’s gubernatorial campaign and then for six months for Host in Fletcher’s Commerce Cabinet – the equivalent of the state Commerce Department. Through the transformation, Brian Mefford became head of Connect Kentucky. He has since graduated to president and chief executive officer of Connected Nation, with a salary of $150,000 in 2006, according to Connect’s tax form."


"Newspapers, AARP, rural telephone companies and the state attorney general opposed the bill. The Louisville Courier-Journal said in a March 22, 2006 editorial: “There’s no reason the Kentucky Senate should rush to judgment on House Bill 337, which would deregulate some telephone services in Kentucky at the expense of those who live outside the major metropolitan areas. It may seem strange that such a measure would find so much support in a rural-dominated body like the General Assembly, but lobbyists for the big telecommunication companies (BellSouth, AT&T and Alltel) seem to have had more sway with lawmakers than the folks back home in rural and small-town Kentucky.”

Recently, mapping of KY and TN internet access was offered via Conneted Nation, but Brodsky notes this disclaimer:

"The last word on the mapping goes to the more general disclaimer on the Connect Web site: “The information provided herein by Connect Kentucky and is partners is believed to be accurate but is not warranted and is for informational purposes only. While all efforts are made to ensure the correctness and accuracy of this information, and to make corrections and change errors brought to our attention, no representation, express or implied, is made as to the accuracy of the data presented. Connect Kentucky and its partners assume no liability for the accuracy of the data.”

As this program is being touted in Washington now as the model for expanding access, a careful examination of it's claims, government funding and successes and failures is warranted. One Kentucky official referred to this rapidly accepted model as an example of "... putting the fox in charge of the henhouse to take a BellSouth executive and his son in charge of expanding broadband when they are supposed to be neutral."

Will Connect Tennessee have a major influence on how the current legislature decides the debate on franchise laws in Tennessee?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Rep. Davis Calls Homeland Security to Hamblen County Over Immigrant Concerns

Hamblen County residents are in dire straits, they say, because of the rise in Hispanic immigrants, legal and illegal. This past Saturday Congressman David Davis and State Senator Steve Southerland gathered for a fundraising pancake breakfast held at a local VFW in conjunction with a group called T-FIRE to add their voices and promises to the discussion. Congressman Davis has vowed to call in Homeland Security and other federal agencies to address what some see as a critical state of affairs.

WATE-TV filed this report on Saturday's event, quoting some local residents:

"You go to the post office and they don't even know what slot to put their mail in," says Charles Cook.

But many illegal immigrants who have come from Mexico say life in Morristown is good and they have made life better.

"I think it is very good for the United States because we make jobs and pay taxes and help this country," an illegal immigrant told 6 News.

Of course, many inside and outside of Hamblen County disagree and want tougher immigration laws.

"I want to see the borders closed and if you are not an American citizen, then you go back home," says Cook.

Rep. Davis says illegal immigrants and their children in Morristown are overcrowding schools, creating long lines at emergency rooms, and some are even participating in gang activity.

Davis is now calling on federal and state immigration and Homeland Security agents to meet with local police in early March to work out a plan.

"Local law enforcement deals with this issue every day," Davis says. "They feel like it is a federal problem, not a local problem. The federal government needs to step up to the plate."

WVLT-TV noted that just over 100 people attended the event and filed this report and video:

"You know it's costing us an arm and a leg for hospitals, health care, schools,” said Bob McFarling, a Morristown resident. “We have to have special teachers."

"This is America and this county has more Mexican Flags flying in it than any place besides Mexico, I believe” said Teddy Ray Mitchell, another resident."

T-FIRE, an "immigration reform" group founded in Hamblen County, says the problem is that business knowingly hires illegal residents.

In a related story, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports Hamblen County Sheriff Esco Jarnigan says there is a local problem with bootlegging, citing an incident from September of last year:

"In September, Jarnagin and deputies raided a mobile home where the Hispanic residents were selling beer by the can without a permit. Inside they found a stock of beer — nearly three dozen 12-packs, three 30-packs and numerous loose cans.

The two caught running the operation pleaded guilty, getting $100 fines and probation.

"This guy did not have an inflated price. They were just furnishing a service," the sheriff said.


Nashville police say it isn't apparent that bootleggers are operating in the city. Spokeswoman Kristin Mumford said the department has not arrested anyone for bootlegging since the carding law took effect.

Other Tennessee sheriffs in counties with large immigrant populations also haven't noticed a bootlegging boom.

"We haven't heard of any cases whatsoever," Bedford County Sheriff Randall Boyce said.

He laughed and added, "They haven't thought of it here, probably — and they will soon, I bet."

The 2006 census shows the Hispanic population at 10%, and my own observations and discussions with a wide range of city, county and local leaders have revealed the largest number of Hispanics are from Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras. Still, many locals have begun calling Morristown "Little Mexico." So there is a lumping together of many issues, often under one idea and usually painted with a very broad and inaccurate brush.

And by far the most common complaint I hear is that "hearing people speaking another language in my town" is a terrible thing. Yet, some of the largest employers in the county are firms based in Japan, Germany, France, Italy, the U.K. and Canada.

For more background on the current status of attitudes related to immigrants both legal and illegal, I featured several reports from the Houston Chronicle which did a series of articles on Hamblen County in fall of 2006.

A documentary, "Morristown The Movie", which showed recently at UT in Knoxville also provides a look at the immigration issue, which I mentioned previously.

Ironically, some with groups like T-FIRE complain that schools are occupied with teaching English to immigrants -- as if not teaching them were somehow a better idea. Resolving the often irate and angry concerns of residents will be a major task for Rep. Davis' proposal. Will other counties and cites follow his lead?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Weekly Best of Tennessee Blogs

The regular weekly roundup of the best in Tennessee bloggers (viaTennViews) tackles topics about the elections, the fading privacy protections in America, racial attacks on Congressman Cohen, and much much more.

• 10,000 Monkeys and a Camera: Roger Clemens: It's baseball. Not foreign policy. Not the world economy. Not health care reform. Plus: Chesapeake Primary live blogging

• 55-40 Memphis: Do you believe in magic (reprise)?: Instead of campaigning to his base during the primaries, he played to the general election audience. Why? I'm making a list of theories.

• Ablogination: Voter Considerations: Privacy, is it important to you?: ATT, Verizon, Blue Cross, Homeland Security -- all of them and many more have, are, and will again violate your privacy.

• Aunt B.: Way to Miss the Point: It’s not about who Henry thinks it’s okay, hypothetically, to rape. It’s about who he’s actually willing to screw over in order to advance the Democratic cause.

• BlountViews: Stop using drive-thru windows: Do you realize how much gas you use? Do you realize how much money you waste? Do you realize how much pollution is released in the air when you spend the 5-10 minutes at the drive-thru? Plus: The private property vs. Ridgetop Protection Dance

• The Crone Speaks: Bush Respects the Law?: Human rights and human dignity -- tell that to the millions of people that cannot afford health insurance. Tell that to the millions of people that go to bed hungry each night. Tell that to the growing number of people that are now living below the poverty level. I dare say these millions of people would disagree. Plus: Energy Vampires

• Cup of Joe Powell: Sen. Kilby Reconsiders Dog Laws: He wrote about withdrawing his original bill, and filing a new one, though there are still some issues to resolve... Plus: Will State OK Verifiable Votes?: The new process, however, will not improve your choices nor negate any regrets you might have for the choices you made.

• Don Williams: Are Democrats developing some spine at last in opposing Bush?

• The Donkey's Mouth: Right-Wing Publication Admits Fault in Defamation Suit: Seven years later, the tactics of the right in 2000 are becoming clearer. Plus: A Lose-Lose Position: Tennessee’s senior Senator concedes his own party’s ineffective way of grappling with issues. Bonus: Props to Wade Munday (Warning: HobbsLink)

• Enclave: The One Where I Define "Corporate Money" Against the Rotation of Campaign Spin: Rarely do I find myself in a position where I have to correct flagrant misinformation from fellow supporters of the candidate for whom I voted, but one of those moments is here. Plus: A Relatively Short Primary Did Nothing for Dems in 2004: I might not be anywhere close to panicking about dire predictions of long, divisive primary seasons in 2008. And, a good question: Is there a certain pragmatism among Dems that trumps liberal litmus tests?

• Fletch: Fletch for Congress! Plus: Go Fish, and: Boat and Breakfast

• KnoxViews: Contempt of Congress, Perspective, Clinton's Texas firewall not so protective, and Ethics crusader Frank Buck retiring from the state House

• Lean Left: Big win: This is an important win, because it shows that incumbents can be beaten, that if they stray too far form what it means to be a Democrat, they can be removed from office. Plus: How Clinton’s Actions On FISA Undermine Her Campaign

• Left of the Dial: Interesting media/workplace development plays out on Frank's blog here, here, and here.

• Left Wing Cracker: That's what I get for sending the email out!: This reminds me of something Steve Cohen once said about Phil Bredesen: He's a manager, not a leader. Plus: How do I get this Iraq War charge off my bill?

• Liberadio: Podcast: Super Fat Tornado Tuesday, Media Matters for America Smackdown with Elbert Ventura, and lots more.

• NewsComa: "Oswald Still Dead", and I can’t believe that crap like this still exists but every time I think we have moved forward I’m reminded that we haven’t.

• Pesky Fly: Branston on Matthews: Comparing what Thaddeus Matthews does on his blog (and, indeed what most bloggers -- even the brilliant ones assembled here) to established professional journalists is like comparing Dolly Parton to a male Dolly Parton impersonator singing "Jolene" at the karaoke bar.

• Progressive Nashville: The Obama sugar rush: Change takes more than a powerful speech by one person. Tennessee gets props for education: This report, like others before, demonstrates that our real work in improving education must come in improving the family lives of children.

• Resonance (at KnoxViews): Weather Closings (not what you think)

• RoaneViews: Tommy can you Hear me?: Tommy Kilby is a crucial vote to preserve Tennessee's mountains. Plus: Water we gonna do about it?: 157,000,000 gallons of drinking water leaked out of Oliver Springs waterlines in 2007. That's an astounding figure.

• Russ McBee: The continuing crisis: The charges, the torture-derived evidence, the trials, the rules of procedure, the judge, the jury, the sentences, and the executions will all be carried out conveniently beyond the reach of American civilian courts, the UCMJ, an international body like the ICC, or anything else resembling the rule of law or democratic values... Plus: McCain's hypocrisy on torture

• Sean Braisted: Damn Pledges: Obama seems to find himself in a bit of a pickle. While he is on track to be the most well financed, both by big and small donors, candidate in US History; there is a bit of a snag. Plus: Top 5 bad-ass Presidents of all time

• Sharon Cobb: JEWS HATE Jesus: I call on Nikki Tinker to denounce antisemitism in all forms, especially against her main opponent, Congressman Steve Cohen. Plus: He's Black. She's A Female. Just In Case You Failed To Notice...: How ironic is it that the Democrats have an African American man or a woman who is going to be their nominee, and their main focus is they have an African American man or a woman who is going to be their nominee?

• Silence Isn't Golden: Thoughts On Steve Cohen: Steve Cohen has become the victim of a disgusting anti-Semitic attack. The only difference was that I figured it would come from the far-right white evangelicals, rather than from where it did. Plus: Nikki Tinker's "Denouncement": I'm not buying it. Bonus: Can I Just Say...: You know you're a Vanderbilt fan when you see they're up by 41-11 at the half, and your first thought is, "How are they going to blow it this time?"

• Southern Beale: Why I Hate Insurance Companies: Asking doctors to snitch on their patients kinda drives a wedge in the doctor-patient relationship, doesn’t it? I don’t know too many doctors who went to medical school so they could serve the needs of for-profit insurance companies, not people seeking healthcare.

• Tennessee Guerilla Women: Obama Media Blitz:: Is Obama a long overdue charismatic leader? Is he the star of a cult of personality? Or is Obama the Messiah? Plus: Obama Attacks: Suggests Hillary Has Mood Swings: Hillary launches attacks when she's feeling down? Periodically? Okay, I get it.

• TennViews: Tennessee Voter Confidence Act advances, and: TN Senate Republicans out of step on Pre-K

• Vibinc: Opines from the road on a variety of happenings this week.

• Whites Creek Journal: Clinton V Obama?: I'm one of those rare voters who thinks about what will happen if this candidate or that candidate gets elected. Plus: With Us...Or Against Us?: Have you made a call to customer service? Any customer service? About your television, computer, washing machine, or your Verizon or AT&T telephone service? All of these companies have off shore call centers. Congratulations! You've made the list. We all have. This is a travesty and an orgy of Constitutional crime.

• Women's Health News: Raising Women’s Voices: A Health Care Reform Conference I’d Love to Attend: The MergerWatch website is well worth a look if you’re interested in how religious health restrictions affect not just reproductive health, but end-of-life decisions, HIV/AIDS care, LGBT care, medical research, and other issues.