Friday, March 14, 2008

Camera Obscura: My Zombie Brother; Obama Auteurs; Hulu; Giant Bunnies

My brother's zombie movie premiered at the SXSW festival in Austin and the reviews have been just fantastic. Okay, so my brother is only a zombie in the movie "Dance of the Dead", so it isn't really his movie ... but it is in my mind - and his.

The point is the movie, about a zombie horde attacking a high school prom (such fun to write that!!) is a hit with audiences and critics, like Scott Weinberg, and raves from Ain't It Cool News, and here's a choice write-up from Cinematical:

The zombies rocket-launched out of their graves are only the beginning. That's part of an early, truly impressive sequence where the dead begin rising to life in a graveyard lying in the shadow of a nuclear power plant. It looks like dozens, if not hundreds of zombies start bursting forth, shambling around, crying out for "Brains!" (only one of many, many movie shout-outs). It's an iconic sequence, a turning point in the narrative, and a test for the filmmakers. If they failed to execute it properly, it would derail the entire movie. Director Bishop and his talented team hit the bull's eye with funny, horrific variations on what you might expect, and from there the game is on."

No, they did not mention my brother by name, but they did give a massive approval for the movie and it's zombies and that's close enough. As soon as I get word of the distributor for the flick, I'll post it here.


It really isn't to far to travel from zombie movies to politics.

Courtesy of this announcement from Knoxville Films blog (and you can try your skills out as a would-be filmmaker by cutting a 30-second promo commercial for the Obama For President campaign.

Folks like Oliver Stone, Matt Damon, Eddie Vedder and Naomi Wolf will decide the winner, whose spot will then go on national TV. Entries are due by April 1. Of course, if Obama loses the nomination or the election then you could be the one to blame ... just sayin'.


The online video service Hulu has just launched so you can view a vast assortment for TV shows and specials, from "Airwolf" to "Buffy", "Ironside" to the "Simpsons" and "Cleopatra 2525" to "Friday Night Lights". They even had one called "My Bare Lady", an awful reality show that ran for 4 episodes on FOX. Also football and the Westminster Kennel shows are available too.

They've also got a big assortment of movies to view too, with promises of much more to come.


Cinema history indicates there is only one Giant Killer Bunnies movie - "Night of the Lepus" - which airs on Turner Classic Movies at 2:15 a.m. tonite (or is that tomorrow??). I admit, there is a goofy joy to watching this movie. And it offers the tagline "...
now from behind the shroud of night they come, a scuttling, shambling horde of creatures destroying all in their path." Ooooohh, scary boys and girls!! Well, not that scary.

Far more scary is another offering from cinema history on Sunday on TCM, the 1943 film "Titanic", a Nazi-propaganda version of the story with a very tragic history. TCM notes:

In fact, Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels grew so disgruntled with original director Herbert Selpin's political opinions, he had him arrested and murdered during filming ...

"Even the ship that was used during the filming of Titanic ended up in a hellish tragedy. Called the Cap Arcona, the vessel was commissioned to transport liberated prisoners from the brutal Nazi camp, Neuengamme. During what should have been a voyage to freedom, Allied forces accidentally fired at the Cap Arcona and sank it. The vast majority of the prisoners who didn't die as it went under were shot and killed by nearby Nazi forces. Such horror casts a sinister shadow across what little dramatic impact the film itself generates."

Strange cinema history awaits on Sunday.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Here are some thoughts and insights worth your time:

From Aunt B. --

One black man attaining the presidency when half of the prisoners in the U.S. prison system are black men, when one in ten black men between the ages of 20 and 35 are in prison, and when one in three black men in their thirties has a prison record (which means that one in three black men of prime voting age cannot vote) is not going to fix the problems in the black community. But it does suggest possibilities.

One white woman attaining the presidency when thirty percent of female murder victims are killed by a husband or boyfriend, when one in four hundred of us is a victim of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault every year, and when almost thirty percent of single moms live in poverty is not going to fix the problems of women. But it does suggest possibilities.

Patriarchy as usual is never about suggesting possibilities to people who don’t have power."

From White's Creek --

The danger from Terrorism is essentially a myth. I have heard it described as being somewhere between the danger from Killer Bees, which everyone seems to be afraid of but have actually killed no one in the USA, and Drunk Drivers, which few folks react in fear regarding but which kill about 17,000 people a year in the USA."

From Cory Doctorow --

"[During World War 2, England's]
message to the people wasn't "Take your shoes off" or "place your liquids in this bag". Instead, King George's printer stuck up millions of royal red posters bearing the legend "KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON."

The approaches are markedly different - eternal (even fearful) vigilance, versus a reassured, Zen-like calm. Which one makes us more secure?"

From Russ McBee --

Half the world -- nearly three billion people -- live on less than two dollars a day."

The Mediocre Is The Message

Heck of a week, America.

The endless news cycle offered via television can't be a good thing to consume in any quantity. I do limit myself for sake of my own dubious sanity. Perhaps the burnout factor was linked to my viewing for the first time some (I could not stomach all) of the 30-minute gossip-fest called TMZ. Some clueless chuckleheads standing in a faux newsroom talking about which celebrity was seen doing something mundane in their private life. Fame and information all tumble together into a rather nasty slurry and pointless non-event.

But I did sense some ugly parallels to the TV news biz, where the screeching, endless hours of pundits-in-the-pulpits define themselves by defaming and defending personalities whose names and minute activities make up the "news". If you don't notice such common themes, then my explanations of them will not offer you illumination.

For me, what I sense most is this lack of depth, a lack of useful investigative coverage. We are proffered slabs of scandal instead, with just enough time for a breakaway report to a separate potential scandal, then back to a panel discussion of chattering nonsense about the scandal of the moment.

This week has been a feeding frenzy about former Governor Spitzer and former congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro. Hookers and racism make for hefty ratings. I do feel for the folks in the TV news biz - their income depends on being ratings winners not on in-depth reporting. So much advertising revenue from drug companies, insurance companies, banking and finance companies, car makers, and a host of others who these days are in dismal shape in a blooper-reel of failures and corruption, so I'm sure they prefer the focus be on anything except them.

Fame and the deconstruction of Fame is so much more camera-cuddly.

If the old adage "The medium is the message" remains valid, then the message isn't a good one. It's a continued state of self-absorption which may well cause many folks to actually disappear into an individual gravitational collapse leaving only a black hole where once a person existed and now only a dark place which sucks in any flickering light remains.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Clean, Well-Written Argument

Simplicity is praised and inner thoughts revealed by the nation's Supreme Court Justices in a series of video interviews which have been made available on the internet.

The growing popularity of those videos and the comments made on them were featured in a recent article from (click here for their story). Some samples:

Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., for example, thinks lengthy citations to Web sites that are now common in briefs are an "obscene" distraction "with all those letters strung together," though he does not offer an alternative. Another bias: Roberts thinks the word "which" should be avoided almost every time. "It slows me down; it starts to sound like one of those old 19th century contracts -- ‘which' and ‘wherefore.'"

Justice Stephen Breyer seconds that emotion. "If I see [a brief that is] 50 pages, it can be 50 pages, but I'm already going to groan." On the other hand, he says, "If I see 30, I think, well, he thinks he has really got the law on his side because he only took up 30."

Justice Anthony Kennedy, it turns out, hates when lawyers turn nouns into verbs by tacking on "-ize" at the end, as in "incentivize." Such showy, made-up words, he sniffs, are "like wearing a very ugly cravat."

And Justice Antonin Scalia can't stand it when briefs refer to a precedent "and its progeny." He growls, "I think it was wonderful the first time it was used. It is trite now. Terribly trite. Get some other expression."

Typographical errors are a credibility killer, Scalia adds. "My goodness, if you can't even proofread your brief, how careful can I assume you are" in citing relevant cases?

Scalia also thinks that lawyers are wasting their time when they write a summary of their argument at the beginning of a brief. "I mean, why would I read the summary if I'm going to read the brief? Can you tell me why I should read it?"

But if you skip the summary to please Scalia, you risk annoying Justice Clarence Thomas. He tells Garner the summary section is the most important part, acting as a preview "like giving you, you know, what's going to be on TV next week."

Monday, March 10, 2008

Rep. Davis Feeds Fear, Tells A Whopper

"There are more illegals in Hamblen County than anywhere else in the world, not just Tennessee or America.”

That's what Congressman David Davis told local, state and federal officials who met in Morristown's City Hall on Friday. But does anyone other than Rep. Davis really believe what he says?

I'm not sure what point Rep. Davis was trying to make, but the truth is, his statement is totally false.

The population of Hamblen County is about 61,000. Statewide, statistics show that the illegal immigrant population is less than 50,000. The number one state for illegal immigrants is California, with an estimated 2.6 million illegal immigrants. Here's a reality check for the congressman: even if every illegal immigrant in Tennessee lived in Hamblen County, it would not make what Rep. Davis said true.