Saturday, April 19, 2008

If Lincoln And Douglas Debated on ABC

The idiotic questioning, baiting and nonsense of the last debate hosted by ABC gets ripped apart in this post from Obsidian Wings. They present the transcript of a debate between Lincoln and Douglas if ABC had been in charge. The idiocy on display this week from ABC offered us a glimpse of a presidential campaign debate run by Ryan Seacrest and E!, a hard-hitting example of just how shallow and aimless television can be.

A Sample:

STEPHANOPOULOS: I’m sorry to interrupt, but do you think Mr. Douglas loves America as much you do?

LINCOLN: Sure I do.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But who loves America more?

LINCOLN: I’d prefer to get on with my opening statement George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: If your love for America were eight apples, how many apples would Senator Douglas’s love be?

Go read the whole thing.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Camera Obscura: "Tennesse" Opens; Coolest Movie Star Ever; Most Unwatchable Movies; and Sartre, Nebraska

Last Spring, independent filmmakers and music star Mariah Carey came to Tennessee to film a movie called, duh, "Tennessee." Scenes were shot in Nashville, McMinnville, and Dunlap. The movie premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival next weekend.

The story follows two brothers who travel from the Southwest to Tennessee in search of their estranged father and they are joined on the journey by Carey, who plays a waitress with dreams of a singing career in Nashville. Director Aaron Woodley says the film is a very personal and intimate story of the fleeting time we all inhabit, and found the script to be an excellent tale of the tentative nature of life.


The coolest person ever on film? Many think that person is Jean Gabin. Yeah, who??

He first found great success "The Grand Illusion" and then in "Pepe Le Moko" (which was also the source of inspiration for the Warner Bros. cartoon character Pepe Le Pew).

A two-volume(!!) biography of the actor has just been published, "World's Coolest Movie Star", and it contains exhaustive info on his 95 films, many which have never been made available in the U.S. I suppose you have to be French to be cool.

I like both of his most famous films, yes, but come on, as far as French cool goes it's Jean Paul Belmondo. American movie cool? Hard to beat James Dean and his three (and only three) movies. But cool is also the kingdom of Steve McQueen - jumping motorcycles over barb-wire fences while fleeing Nazis, digging the cool jazz sounds as a Mustang-driving policeman, or my favorite is when he keeps yelling "punch it baby!!" to his driver, Ali McGraw, while escaping the cops in "The Getaway".

I have to give props to Jack Nicholson for always wearing sunglasses in public, indoors or out, day or night. But his cool factor fell fast and hard with "The Bucket List". Then there's Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken, and honorable mention for Tim Matheson - the one and only Jonny Quest and Eric Stratton in "Animal House." Plus he was Van Wilder's dad.


What movie is the toughest to actually watch and endure to the end? (Yes, you might suggest any previous Mariah Carey movie.) In all my film-going experience the only movie which ever caused me to hurl a god-awful concession stand cheeseburger at the screen was "Xanadu".

A list of the Top Ten Difficult But Awesome movies is offered here, and there are some sound choices, like "The Isle", a Korean film about love and mutilation, and two films by Takashi Miike, "Audition" and "Ichi: The Killer". (Most people would say all of Miike's movies are nearly impossible to endure.)

Back in the day, some friends and I would frequently gather to watch movies and one game we played was Who Can Watch This Movie?

They weren't really meant to be "awesome" film experiences. One of my choices was "Bloodsucking Freaks", a movie I've yet to watch without hitting the fast forward button, a sign in my mind of good mental health. It's vile.

"A Clockwork Orange" would be on some lists, but it is an awesome piece of work and still able to disturb nearly 40 years after it was made. A more recent effort to catalog the awful nature of teenager-dom is on the above list, "Elephant" by Gus Van Zandt.

But after all is said and done .... the only movie that made be throw a cheeseburger at the screen - "Xanadu". I mean, just look at that image - it's as if she was asking me to throw it!

The most-watched and most talked about video of the week and the month is one-time playwright Tricia Walsh-Smith ranting about her divorce settlement. Go here to see it if you wish. She hauls out her Tarot deck and also grills her hubby's assistant over the phone about his Viagra. I had to hold back on the urge to throw a cheeseburger at the video.


Three reasons I am considering watching "Zombie Strippers" ---- the title, the fact the script is an adaptation of Eugene Ionesco's surreal comedy "Rhinoceros" and that it is set in a town called Sartre, Nebraska.

Truckers Plan More Strike Action

Independent truckers are continuing to voice concerns about high fuel prices and are planning new strategies to express them.

A convoy of truckers it headed to Philadelphia today - wonder if it gets the attention of the presidential campaigners? Reports say more convoys and shutdowns of work are ahead, including a rally in Washington.

And some are trying again to organize a nationwide strike effort, for May 1st, and now they are seeking the involvement of non-truckers who are likewise being squeezed by the ever-increasing price for fuel. The American Driver blog is aiming for more attention via the internet.

We all know the high costs now, and expect it to reach higher during the summer. Will any protest, national or local, have an effect? The more fuel station/convenience store owners I talk to, the more they say the same - as fuel prices go higher, all their other sales fall in a ripple effect. Energy makers and providers seldom feel a moment of discomfort.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Bristol School Bans Cancer Relay T-Shirts & Newspapers

Some Bristol Middle School students found out that wearing t-shirts in support of the Relay For Life cancer awareness program is not suitable - their shirts were taken from students. And copies of the Bristol Herald Courier newspaper which reported the problem were also banned from the school as well.


On Wednesday, Matt Smith wore to school the controversial purple Relay For Life cancer awareness T-shirt that Vance Middle School administrators banned Friday, claiming the shirt was disruptive to the school environment.

"[A faculty member] made me take it off. But I put it right back on," the defiant 12-year-old said.

Matt said he was one of several students wearing the shirt, or other purple-colored clothing, in protest on the fourth day of a controversy that began when administrators said students wearing the shirt banded together and caused a disruption in the school’s hallways.

He said his T-shirt wasn’t the only thing confiscated in school hallways on Wednesday. Copies of the Bristol Herald Courier were, too.

"No kids were allowed to read the newspaper today," Matt said. "The teachers usually get stacks, but [faculty] took them all away."

So what's the disruption? Here's more details from the report above, but it all seems fairly muddled to me.

The Herald Courier ran a story in Tuesday’s edition about the T-shirt controversy, which outlined circumstances surrounding the dispute.

In the article, some students claimed the shirts – and all purple clothing – were banned because faculty said they had become symbols of a developing gang; allegations Vance Middle Principal Rigby Kind and Vice Principal Scott Latham said were untrue.

Both administrators said the shirts were banned under dress code guidelines that dictate any clothing that causes a disruption or draws undue attention to the student is counter to school policy.

Latham and Kind did not immediately return phone calls to the Herald Courier on Wednesday for this story.


Tuesday’s story prompted a flurry of phone calls and e-mails from parents and citizens who took different sides of the issue.

Sheila Moore, whose son is also in the seventh grade at Vance Middle and who was asked to take off his shirt on Friday, said the students’ behavior isn’t what disturbs her about the controversy, but rather the administrators who were quoted in Tuesday’s article, saying the issue was not gang-related and that Latham had received no phone calls from parents.

"I’m not saying that the kids did nothing wrong. I mean, kids will be kids," she said. "... But for [Latham] to say no one contacted him, that bothered me, and when he said no one was alleging it was a gang, well, that isn’t true."

Moore said she had a telephone conversation with Latham on Tuesday afternoon, about two hours before he told the Herald Courier that no parents had contacted him. She said he told her the shirts had been banned because "he said the children have passed out these T-shirts to form a gang."

Latham could not be contacted to respond directly to Moore’s contention."

See Also: Tri-Cities blogs.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Internet Destroying Democracy, Episode 4,012

At the ongoing national association of broadcasters convention, many are flummoxed and fearful about the new-fangled media monster called The Internet. With more choices in consumers hands, how can the media masters of today ever hope to keep up?

So I am hopeful that director Barry Sonnenfeld was being ironic and speaking with some tongue in cheek when he told the convention this:

The really scary part is how hypnotic it is. The 'Net is so pervasive that kids are on it all day."

Sonnenfeld fears that children today will grow up with "no concept of the right to privacy and in fact not understand the need for it. Because the Facebook generation is not concerned with what people know about them . . . they will have no problem with additional governmental supervision, spying and intervention. They will be thrilled that the Internet will be able to follow their every move.

"I suspect," he said, "we are probably looking at the last generation of Americans that exist in a democracy. Totalitarianism is not far in our future, and the next generation will go down that road happily.

"My only hope is the Bush administration has screwed things up so profoundly -- socially, economically and environmentally -- that perhaps they will be angered by how our generation has selfishly destroyed their future and will put down that computer," he said.

Film at 11.

Bitter and Proud Of It

This knock-down-drag-out presidential race hit the national media with a news flash last weekend via some comments from Barack Obama: there's a heap of unhappy, frustrated and old-fashioned Bitter Americans.

A web site was quickly made (Bitter Americans) and they have a t-shirt for you.

And one writer for the Huffington Post proudly claims the Bitter landscape and says:

Are we bitter? Hell, yes. We've been hung out to dry for so long we've come to feel like somebody's ragged, abandoned laundry. All those election year promises? We're worse off now than we were eight years ago-- and we didn't do all that well during the Clinton years. We thought we had a chance then, but attention to poverty-detail was diverted to extra-marital Scandalgate. Even a president with self-control and honesty issues has to survive, ya know. In the heat of the GOP/Ken Starr/Clinton Impeachment wars, we were left hanging on the line.

So we're easily led to acting out. To acting out in rage. And, since we've figured out we can't win the battle to improve our lot in American life, we latch on to any Gotcha! War we feel we can win. The GOP has been masterful at identifying that need of ours and feeding it. If they can redirect our rage (Don't pay any attention to that poverty behind the curtain!), make us focus on pseudo-morality wars, we'll direct all that rage against the candidate they tell us is the root of all evil. We vote for the guy who tells us "All Muslims are evil terrorists and we gotta fight 'em there so we don't have to fight 'em here!", "Homosexual unions will destroy the American Family!", "They're going to take away all your guns!", "God wants you to vote for me--He loathes liberals (and, by the way, they've even declared war on Christmas)!", "Women who want reproductive rights left to themselves, their partners, their doctors and their God are all baby killers!", and "Illegal immigrants are getting all those (factory and tech?) jobs you used to have--and some of them are terrorists!" If we don't vote the Right way, the "other guy", that anti-American, troop-hatin', anti-Christian liberal, will take away what little we've got left. Damned if we'll lose that battle.

We're desperate. We need to believe we can win something. If we can't hope for even a small version of the American Dream, then we'll buy into any fight that makes us feel we have some power left."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Looking at Square America

For the past few weeks I've been returning again and again to a great web site called "Square America" which provides hundreds and hundreds of photos of daily life, some on special occasions, some on the spur of the moment, all from the early use of cameras and the candid moments of American life. As the site's creator Nicholas Osborn says: "Square America is a site dedicated to preserving and displaying vintage snapshots from the first 3/4s of the 20th Century. Not only do these photographs contain a wealth of primary source information on how life was lived they also constitute a shadow history of photography, one too often ignored by museums and art galleries."

It's almost like time travel. If you've never had the experience of sifting through an old shoebox of family photos, where the pictures wait on little squares of paper, some with those funky scalloped edges, some streaked with nearly illegible writing to identify the time and place and people, then Square America is the next best thing.

Images of lives and events are presented with startling simplicity and yet evoke complexity too. For decades, this kind of photo record was the cutting edge in family history. Some years back I received a few boxes of photos from my own family and have found them to be a source of endless imaginings and a vivid documentation of where I came from.

Many categories are offered - for examples, I picked just a few of the huge amount of images offered. This site is one I'll return to often.

From the section called "The Neighbors":"

From a section called "The Pleasures and Terrors of Youth":

Monday, April 14, 2008

A "Palace Revolt" In An American Town?

I seldom take on the local city issues on this page - I live in Hamblen County and the city of Morristown is not under any representative form of government. A hired administrator calls the shots, the mayor and council members usually tackle only one duty: hiring/recruiting the administrator. For years and years I've heard many city residents clamor and complain, but taking action is seldom a priority.

Decisions are made by administrative staff and the mayor and council simply approve items via routine votes in meetings which are never broadcast on the public airwaves (even though the city has it's own cable television service).

But I almost spewed coffee when I read this sentence today about a push in city council to remove the current administrator:

City Council members Rick Trent and Claude Jinks are trying to stage a palace revolt to depose Morristown City Administrator Jim Crumley, but right now, they're on their own."

A Palace Revolt? What an elitist view! If the local government is palacial, doesn't that make those who live in the city peasants, serfs, or even less?

Perhaps, it sadly is too true a metaphor- unknown machinations of the self-anointed battle while residents have no democratic representation, no voice, no input into the political world of their own community.

Much of the current rancor comes from the fact the city is pushing a local tax increase to offset years of bad spending policies which have left a $40 million (Correction: make that $70 million!!!) pile of debt, due mostly to long-needed $20 million sewer system repairs (which residents are now paying for with giant fee increases) and to the $20 million-plus in debt for building the city's cable television service.

The council created this mess, led knowingly or not over the financial edge, but the total burden of debt will strike hard on the backs of residents and businesses via ever-rising taxation or loss of services.

Will residents ever take control of their own community? It all makes me most thankful I live in the county instead.

Weekly Best of Tennessee Bloggers

Keeping tabs on Tennessee from many angles, it's the weekly roundup of the state's best blogging, via TennViews:

• 10,000 Monkeys and a Camera: Add my voice to the "Bredesen Blew It" Chorus: Disappointing is becoming a real habit for you.

• 55-40 Memphis: Scary: In fact, some days I'm not absolutely certain he's black, but I'll take Obama's word for it.

• Aunt B.: Why Does Nashville Have Such a High Incarceration Rate?: So, why is our jail a quarter full of illegal immigrants and Memphis’s jail not?

• BlountViews (yellowdog): TDOT Still Backwards After All These Years: The TDOT people and the consultants they hire are stuck in old and irrelevant system of transportation planning rules, and it will take public outcry and active engagement at the level of the regional transportation planning organizations (TPOs) to change it.

• Carole Borges: Mandated health insurance causing problems in MA: One thing we certainly don't need in America is another law that involves the government making choices for citizens. The crisis in MA should make people stop and think before they jump on the mandated health insurance bandwagon. It just might be going nowhere.

• The Crone Speaks: Uninsurance Third Leading Cause of Death for Near-Elderly: How many people should die because they don't have health insurance, before we recognize the need for a Medicare for All program?

• Cup of Joe Powell: Devilish Details In TN Cable Franchise Legislation: But it's rather obvious the state legislature has crafted a plan to serve the needs of business first and residents second. Given the solemn claim by Tennessee House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh to push this plan through, your voice and the voices of other Tennessee residents has little impact, and this proposal will likely become the law in Tennessee.

• Don Williams: As KnoxVoice reinvents herself, so am I: I’m optimistic or naive enough to believe our old world and country are headed for a gentler blooming. Springtime is the season for hope, renewal, for celebrating touchstones and anniversaries.

• The Donkey's Mouth: One more reason why Lincoln looks strong in ‘08: It does seem fishy that Lankford lives outside of the district and will probably be self-financed. A New York Times article, "Short of Funds, GOP recruits rich to run," talks about the significant dearth of fundraising and legitimate recruits at the RNC.

• Enclave: Senate's Foreclosure Prevention Act Forecloses on Families: Once again, in a crisis the U.S. Senate is going to come down on the side of the people who are hurting least in the housing industry. And as Republicans, the Senators of Tennessee can do no other.

• Fletch: Lackluster and Luster

• KnoxViews: State funded luxury hunting lodge audit findings: Apparently, most of the funds have gone to build a luxury hunting lodge and payment of Bittle's salary. (Bittle sponsored the bill that created the specialty license plate and directed the proceeds to his foundation while he was a member of the Tennessee House.) The state audit recommends changes to state law to require better accounting of how such funds are spent.

• Lean Left: Lean Left: They have violated laws and common decency with impunity. They will probably get away with it -- our press refuses to cover it and our Democratic leadership refuses to act. Plus: Petraeus and Crocker: Iraq Wrong War with No Way Out

• Left of the Dial: No Thanks: I received an offer to interview either Sean Astin or John Grisham tomorrow about their support of Hillary Clinton. I passed. I'm all for Hillary but, sorry, no free ad time.

• Left Wing Cracker: Stunning news from the Election Commission: This changes everything, folks, stay tuned...

• Liberadio: This week's Liberadio(!) podcast You know what else John McCain’s not so strong on? Giving Martin Luther King his props., plus more.

• Loose TN Canon: Colin Powell supports Iraq withdrawal and praises Obama

• NewsComa: Meeting Mike Padgett: an extensive report

• Progressive Nashville: Closed-minded legislators: The Tennessee legislature, which has spent an inordinate amount of time this session trying to close records and operate in secret, is at it again with a plan to make it more difficult to obtain public records. Plus: Thompson floated as veep

• Resonance: "Success" In Iraq: Here's my definition...

• RoaneViews: A Letter to Tommy Kilby, and His response: Don't exclude "limited resource waters" from "waters" of the state

• Russ McBee: On the Olympic torch protests: Although the Olympics are supposed to be beyond politics and are supposed to rise above international disputes, the Chinese government itself is assuring that this cannot happen.

• Sean Braisted: Alexander and "Big Oil": Bob Tuke, in an appeal for contributions, takes Sen. Lamar Alexander to task for being in the pockets of "big oil". Plus: DSCC Forgets Tennessee

• Sharon Cobb: Hey Tennessee, Jon Stewart is coming To Nashville, plus: Total Bullsh*t That Hillary Calls On Boycott Of Olympic Games Now: While I am in total agreement that the entire planet should boycott the Olympics in China, why didn't Hillary Clinton call for a boycott before this week?

• Silence Isn't Golden: Silence Isn't Golden: The Bitter Irony: Of all of the faux outrage over Obama's statement, this has got to be the most ironic. Plus: Define "Women's Issues"

• Southern Beale: Gus Puryear: Still A CCA Crony: Why is Democrat Thurgood Marshall Jr. endorsing Gus Puryear, Bush’s controversial pick for the federal bench in Middle Tennessee? Plus: Energy Saved Is Energy Found

• Tennessee Guerilla Women: Governor Rendell (D-PA): Obama Should Pay Keith Olbermann, plus: Photos of NYC Protest Against Hillary-Hating Media Bias

• TennViews: TN Senate 08 wrinkle: Questions arise whether Overbey is qualified to be on the ballot v. Sen. Raymond Finney. Plus: Republicans defeat Rural Health Act.

• Vibinc: Free Ride: The Tennessee Bush Dogs are on their way to re-election, some with less opposition than others.

• Whites Creek Journal: George W. Bush Should Stay Away from the Olympics!: No, I'm not proposing a boycott... I just don't want George W. Bush representing America any more. Plus: Stoopid Human Tricks: A close second behind coal burning in the stupid human tricks department is damming rivers.

• Women's Health News: 1) Think About Sex. 2) Design Undies. 3) Win!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

New Monument for Space Dog Laika

Officials unveiled a monument Friday to Laika, the first dog (and first earthling) to travel into space. The announcement was timed to coincide with the April 12th anniversary of the flight of the first human into space, Yuri Gagarin, whose short journey took place in 1961.

Scientists collected a number of stray dogs for the test-flight in 1957 hoping to learn if a living creature could stand a roaring blast into orbit. Many details of the flight of Laika remained secret for decades, but the wee pup had to wait until this century for the entire story to be told. Due to some technical problems, she had to wait inside her small capsule for three days on the launch pad before blast off. While early reports said she lived for four or five days of orbit, we know now she died within a few hours when the cabin overheated. The capsule itself continued to orbit for 162 days before falling in a ball of fire through the atmosphere.

It's doubtful much was learned to benefit research from her trip into space. Over the years, her fame and her story have and continue to be memorialized. It's as if we all feel a little guilty about hurling the pup on a suicide mission.

Now while I would prefer having the companionship of a friendly lady astronaut were I to be selected for some space travel, a dog would be my second choice. (Some might choose a monkey, and the wee space monkey named Able is a mummified museum display these days.)

One of the dogs successfully sent into orbit and returned safely was named Strelka, and after her return she had a liter of pups, one of which was sent to President Kennedy as a gift for his kids.

I just like the fact that in a thousand years, the statue of Laika may still be here on Earth, a stray who found a home in the history of the world.