Saturday, March 08, 2008

Camera Obscura: War as Comedy in "Thunder Tropic'; Buffy Crosses Over

A new comedy from Ben Stiller aims satire at actors and warfare in "Tropic Thunder", out in late summer, but the photo out this week got all the buzz as it showed Robert Downey Jr playing a 'committed actor' who decides to dye his skin to play a black character.

The photo is here at and the movie set-up sounds very funny:

Downey plays one of a team of self-indulgent stars cast in the modern equivalent of Apocalypse Now. Stiller plays an action hero who has just adopted a baby from Asia but worries that ''all the good ones are gone.'' Black portrays a comedian known for performing multiple roles in a single film — his latest is called The Fatties: Fart 2. But when the film's director (Steve Coogan) and writer (Nick Nolte) get fed up with their prima donna cast, they drop them into the jungle to fend for themselves. The actors think they're doing some sort of full-immersion filmmaking, but the danger they're in is very real."

Also leaked from early screenings - Tom Cruise dons a fat suit to play a studio boss in the movie. And has it really taken some 29 years to lampoon "Apocalypse Now"??


In the ongoing 8th Season (in comic book form) of the TV show "Buffy The Vampire Slayer", the plucky vamp killer wakes up naked in bed next to a new girlfriend. Dating a Slayer has always been problematic and so when this issue of the comic "Wolves At The Gate" hit stores this week, even the NYTimes covered the story. Writer Drew Goddard says:

I guess the stakes are different in that we have more freedom in comics," said "Wolves" scribe Drew Goddard, who was a writer for "Buffy" on TV and more recently penned the movie "Cloverfield." "Even though we’ve still got a ways to go, we’ve made tremendous progress with regard to portrayals of human sexuality in pop culture over the last 10 years or so. So the stage just feels different now. I’m sure people can argue that Willow/Tara broke a lot of ground in that regard, but it’s not like we go into these things saying, ’How can we make a grand political statement here?’ We just try to do what feels right for the characters. The rest takes care of itself."

A new comic is also set to take up the TV series Angel where it left off, too, but I doubt we'll see him in a same sex romp. All the Whedon-Buffy-Angel news you can handle is here.


From iconic images to words now. The University Press of Kentucky has just released a new book of film history and the historical films of the 1930s called "Reconstructing American Historical Cinema" by J.E. Smyth. In the past, Hollywood's writers were seldom recognized as prime movers in cinema, that esteem being given to directors or producers instead. And over-arching film theory classes often invoke odd correlations between politics and filmmakers.

Smyth's book instead makes compelling arguments that it was the writers who retold American stories to American audiences in ways that forever shaped how we see ourselves and our myths. An excerpt from the book is here.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

More Details on Statewide Cable Franchise Plan

A new plan and a new agency to create rules and regulations for a proposed change in the laws regarding cable franchises has something of a compromise to it. The full bill can be read here.

The one large problem I have with this legislation is that it alters the existing laws so that AT&T would not have to participate in the current system of making agreements at the local level for franchise agreements. The fact remains that they could make such agreements now to start providing service, and creating a new agency and new laws still smack of fixing something that is not broken.

There are pluses to the proposed change in law - it does preserve the current Public, Education and Government (PEG) or at least states that new franchise agreements include provisions for PEG channels.

It also irks me that while every resident of the state could be impacted by the proposed changes to the state law, the state's media has devoted more coverage of useless, grandstanding legislation which had no chance of passage. With so much info available to news agencies and anyone else with access to the internet why is it that more info is typically available from bloggers?

No doubt the technology in telecommunications has been and is rapidly changing and perhaps changes to how such agencies are governed is needed. So shouldn't that be the priority for our elected officials?

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Best Of Your Cup of Joe

A random tag from Russ McBee asks for you humble host (me) to point out five posts here which I like best. However, I am going to monkey with the tag meme and include some samples from the posts which I think are some of the best so far.

Oh and these are the "rules":

** Post about the meme and link back to the person that tagged you.

** Go back to your archives and link to your five favorite posts.

Link One: must be about family
Link Two: must be about friends
Link Three: must be about yourself
Link Four: must be about something you love
Link Five: can be anything you choose

** Tag five other people (at least two must be new acquaintances so that you can get to know them better).

First, this post comes from my first month of blogging and is an essay by my sister-in-law as she urged college students to create really good stories - but there is much more here. Her example focused on her cousin Gisele, who disappeared into the horrifying world of concentration camps during World War 2. By sheer chance, a commenter on that post prompted another search for information about Gisele and something astonishing happened. Please read the post here and be sure to read the comments to learn what happened. Here's a sample from that post:

In fact, I’ve since learned, no one knows how or where or even if she died. The last thing we know about Gisele is that she resided for a while at Theresienstadt, a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia that was for most of the people who passed through there, the last stop before the Auschwitz.

I said the best stories are complex, but it’s not always easy to live with complexity. A cautionary tale about a girl who got bitten by a monkey is a lot easier to live with than a complicated narrative about a girl who disappeared in the crucible of World War II and whose fate will probably never be known. But just because you carry a story around in your head for years and years, doesn’t mean it’s right. And I’d rather have the complex story because even with its incomplete ending, it tells the truth. We like simple stories because they are easy to understand and their lessons are clear and easy to follow. Complex stories make us work to discover their meanings, if there are any, and their implications for our own lives can make us uncomfortable."

After this turn of events, any doubts I had back in 2005 about what good might possibly come from blogging immediately vanished and I have never had second thoughts again.

Second choice - a post about friends. For a few days last summer, I was in a panic when the sweet and lovable Sophie, The Editor's dog, somehow escaped the house and was missing for several days. What I learned from that experience was large - both Sophie, The Editor and I learned how fantastic our friends could be and dozens of other bloggers across Tennessee became new friends to us all. The full post in which I express both my sadness and joy is here and much happiness about her return and my thanks to many folks here. It was a drama and half, folks, maybe even two.

Third choice - a post about myself. There is no doubt my most revealing post (in many ways) was presented here. How revealing? Here's a sample:

Have I ever told you about the time I went fishing and lost my pants and had to run naked to my truck? It is a true story.

Oddly, that post has been kinda popular. You'd be amazed at the number of folks who Google the phrase "naked fishing."

Fourth choice - a post about something I love. Well, dang. I post often on the topic of movies, and I loves both watching them and writing about them. But love for living things, that's what this next post is about. It's about an absent friend and my celebration of her life. WARNING: The post may elicit some tears. A sample:

When I got to the animal hospital with her this afternoon, she waited in the truck while I spoke to the vet. An assistant asked me what color of fur she had (I have no idea why that was important) Before I could even think to answer, the words "She's golden" came out of my mouth. She is and always will be.

I have one more post to offer, just my own choice of a post I like. I am not sure which if any you dear reader might like. So I pick this one here, called Martian. One reader thought I must have been stoned-to-the-bejesus to write that. No, just me pondering the galaxy and the past and the future. Plus, the little NASA movie link in the post is still active. And I remain impressed with what I see.

Maybe the best way to think of it is as development property -- a slow development, true. But I can almost see it all as part of the view of Our backyard. I have to use my imagination, to consider time and distance and what Life requires or how Life must adapt. I have to be willing to consider so many theories, and if I dismiss the possibilities, then I limit my view and I might as well stay in the caves."

OK, that's some of the ones I have liked best. I hope you have enjoyed these pages one-tenth as much as I enjoy making them.

Here's my choices for other bloggers to try out this meme -- the always thoughtful Alice, along with Valley Grrrl, The Editor, Tennessee Jed and Cathy at Domestic Psychology.

AT&T Cable Franchise Bill Advances in House

Last year when Rep. Charles Curtiss proposed changes to the law to allow AT&T to by-pass locally controlled franchises for cable service, the giant telecom decided to abandon efforts to change the law. This year, they may not be happy with the bill, which passed a committee vote yesterday, but they may take what they can get.

A key element to Curtiss' bill -
HB3959, which you can read here - is the creation of a new state agency made up of local state officials to oversee any new agreements. Though the agency would only exist until 2011 unless the state legislature renews it.

Since the state and AT&T have begun doing more business together, will this guarantee the bill's passage?

Far more background here.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Puppy Killing and Imminent Doom

Is it optimistic to say that pessimism always springs anew?

Wait, let me back up and explain a little here. On Monday, as I did some of the reading of news and such which had stacked up over the weekend, I ran across a couple of stories which seemed about as dark and gloomy as could be. A grim start to the week, thought I.

One story currently raging on websites doesn't seem to have anything good about it. It's a dark deed, done cheerfully in a dire time and all on video. Some debate remains as to whether it is a real event or some viral prank. I'm not posting this video but you can link to it via this Digg site and the name of the video is US Soldier Throws Puppy Off Cliff.

Grim stuff from some soldiers deployed in the Middle East. Online rabid response is large -- reports claim a Marine from Hawaii is the culprit and that the events are under investigation.

As a person who holds animals and dogs in high esteem, I can't imagine what might make some people think killing a wee puppy is funny or anything short of sociopathic. But let's be honest - we've been at war in the Middle East for years now - children, women, men and soldiers from around the world have died. Were we to see individual video accounts of each and every death, hosted on some online video service then I'd think the grim nastiness of death would choke us all.

For some time the nation has conditionally accepted the idea of a clean and concise war with concepts like "surgical strikes" and precise attacks -- but the bottom line is very clear - people die in and around war zones in ways which overwhelm the senses. Currently we don't even see images of flag-draped coffins of soldiers, so a video of killing a puppy seems enormously heinous. As much as the idea of that video bothers me - what we don't see and don't know about is far more troubling. There's no way a video like this can somehow reverse or revise our nation's military action.

Stumbling across that video sure made Monday a grim day. And it just kept getting worse.

A scientist in England was featured in a report on climactic upheaval and apocalypse in which he cheerily and ominously advised: "Enjoy life while you can."

The report on the views of James Lovelock declares any and all attempts to halt a climactic doomsday are all useless.

There have been seven disasters since humans came on the earth, very similar to the one that's just about to happen. I think these events keep separating the wheat from the chaff. And eventually we'll have a human on the planet that really does understand it and can live with it properly. That's the source of my optimism."

Finding an expert to predict imminent doom and human helplessness is not that tough.

- Unreturned books and fines at the library prompt arrest and jail-time.

-- Your coffee thermos could explode at any time.

Having a positive outlook after a Monday with these reports, that is far more difficult.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Congressman Davis Says Gasoline Price High Due To Democrats

1st District Congressman David Davis provides his views on the causes of the skyrocketing cost of gasoline and oil - he blames Nancy Pelosi and them mean ol' Democrats. Yessir, that's all there is to it. If only blame could be converted to energy .....

Davis said he voted against the latest energy proposal to come before the House because it contained billions of dollars in tax increases on American oil companies.

“I’ve never known a business to actually pay a tax. Businesses take taxes and fees and pass them on to their customer. ... The same thing is going to happen to energy,” he said.

Davis reiterated his contention that America needs energy legislation to reward those who partake in alternative energy practices and allows the United States to drill for oil on American soil.

“(Pelosi) has blocked energy drilling in (the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge), basically doing away with clean coal technology and basically doing away with the advance of nuclear energy,” he said. “Those are the things that make us competitive globally. ... Heritage (Foundation) said the current energy bill would move gas from $3 a gallon to $5 a gallon. ... (Democrats) believe you can tax and spend yourself into prosperity, and it can’t be done. ... China is going from bicycles to cars, and America is going from cars to bicycles if you follow the logic that is coming out of the leadership in Washington, and that’s not where we need to go.”

When asked how he has worked with House Democrats on a bipartisan basis, Davis cited the recently passed economic stimulus package as an example.

“That had some good leadership in it from Speaker Pelosi and President Bush,” he said of the package. “When people get those (tax rebates from the package), I hope they go out and buy some American products.”

Davis also pledged to compete hard for his re-election against his primary opponent, Johnson City Mayor Phil Roe.

“I won Washington County last time (in 2006),” Davis said. “My opponent is from Washington County, and I think I will win Washington County again. ... I think I will win the election again. I will do the things it takes to win.”

Even if whatever it takes is blaming others.

Now go buy something American, you slackers!!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Weekly Best of Tennessee Blogs

Time for the first ever Leap Year edition of your weekly roundup of Tennessee bloggers via TennViews.

• 55-40 Memphis: Second biggest fear, plus: Beale Street tribute hits a sour note.

• Andy Axel (at KnoxViews): TNGOP playing politics with the State Constitution,

• Aunt B.: On the TNGOP attempt to establish guilt by association, plus leave Bill Hobbs alone!

• BlountViews: How embarrassing would it be to be a member of the TNGOP right now?

• Carole Borges: Obama's formula for success: radical centrism.

• The Crone Speaks: On the failure of the abortion amendment, plus the TNGOP apparently never got the Karl Rove memo, and, notes to Clinton and Obama from candidates who dropped out.

• Cup of Joe Powell: On the Bill Hobbs implosion, plus cheers for the TNGOP, bonus: Vampires!

• Don Williams: Help fight mountaintop removal.

• The Donkey's Mouth: TNGOP: Gutter politics, McCain denounces, scolded by RNC.

• Enclave: Gathering the NAFTA pitchforks, plus TNGOP: Leave Obama's momma out of it, part 1 and part 2.

• Fletch: Cute by any other name, what do you see, and barking at the moon is a full time job.

• KnoxViews: Where in the world is Smokey? Plus: respect for Hillary, and who will answer the call?

• Lean Left: KTK: Obama comes out for gay rights and a weight is lifted

• Left of the Dial: Money fuels the debate over XM/SIRIUS merger

• Left Wing Cracker: RIP Rep. Gary Rowe, plus Hobbs has outdone himself.

• Liberadio: 2008 election results leaked, plus a little desensitizing.

• Loose TN Canon: Hobbs deleted my comments!

• NewsComa: Hobbs wins the Tennessee Wanker award and it's only February!

• Pesky Fly: Obama brings out the knives.

• Progressive Nashville: Something in the Arizona water? Plus: TNGOP thinks cheap stunts are acceptable behavior.

• Resonance: Superdelegates jumping between bandwagons, plus slacker Silent Clarence.

• RoaneViews: Chris Lugo: Nuclear free Tennessee, plus: When a potential business recruit comes to Roane County, does Leslie show them the new Jail?

• Russ McBee: Bernake predicts bank failures, plus a note to Bill Hobbs.

• Sean Braisted: Celebrity endorsements. Plus: Save Bill Hobbs!

• Sharon Cobb: Tennessee medical hero Stan Brock on 60 Minutes tonight, here's a backgrounder. Plus: Elect Hussein Obama!

• Silence Isn't Golden: Bigots for McCain, Republicans should show the same support for Tennessee that they do for Israel, natural allies in the fight against discrimination and justice. Bonus: Fulmer for Sheriff!

• Southern Beale: Prison Nation, fun with FISA.

• Tennessee Guerilla Women: Hillary tag teamed on SNL, plus some interesting quotes from Obama re. the Iraq war vote.

• TennViews: TNGOP playing politics with long-term care for seniors , plus TNGOP: There is such a thing as bad publicity, Gutterball, as it unfolded.

• Vibinc: Motivational waterboarding? Seriously, he's not making this up!

• Whites Creek Journal: Surviving Leap Day, plus: Obama fathered TWO black babies!

• Women's Health News: Workplace lactation, plus the Nipple Project.

TN GOP Excited By Publicity Smear

Tennessee Republicans cheered and gave a standing ovation to the leadership of Robin Smith, and to her Communications Director Bill Hobbs and passed a resolution of solid support for their work this week to smear the Barack Obama campagin.

Funny - I wonder do they know Obama was not the victor in the Tennessee Democrat Primary?

And no wonder they don't promote their own national party line for their own candidate John McCain. The TN GOP solidly back the far-distant second place vote-getter, Mike Huckabee.

So, what was the standing ovation for? Perhaps for making the TN GOP feel important for a moment?

Smith says:

The issue is over. There are no consequences. … There was no hammer that fell. Bill Hobbs’ job, my job, no one’s job has ever been in jeopardy.

"I don’t know who is churning the story. But what I can tell you is that it has energized our party.”