Saturday, June 07, 2008

Camera Obscura: Fear Itself and NBC's Horror Contest; Vampire Hamlet

The makers of the award-winning "Masters of Horror" series on Showtime have now moved to NBC on Thursday nights this summer. Mick Garris and his team have again gathered some top names in the genre - Stuart Gordon, John Landis, Darren Bousman (director of the "Saw" movie series), Mary Harron ("American Psycho") and some top acting talent too. Showtime's loss is NBC's gain.

The first episode, "Sacrifice", by director Brick Eisner, aired this week and you can watch it online at NBC right here. The story about vampires and gun-runners was quite grisly and well done, I thought. Future episodes of the 13-episode series are Thursday nights at 10 pm. I am delighted to see Garris and his team still crafting shows which are envelope-pushing horror tales for the small screen, bringing a much-needed jolt to original anthology programming.

Also, NBC's Chiller TV, their online all-horror channel has just launched their new short horror film contest, Dare To Direct - details are here on how to enter - and $5,000 goes to best films, best monsters and other categories too. The link also includes the work of last year's winners. You could be "America's Next Top Monster"!!!!!


A new movie blending Shakespeare, hipsters and vampires called "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead" looks like a perfect little indie horror comedy. There's a trailer (see below) but no word yet on a release date. The official website is here.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Tropical Night

It's 7 pm and the temperature is just over 92 degrees here in this part of the lush Tennessee Valley, but this feels more like a tropical heatwave. So why not gather some friends and some tiki torches and ease into the weekend with some style?

Here's something to help. First, a nice tropical kinda painting suitable for an indoor or outdoor tiki lounge setting.

Now a list of 53 excellent tropical drink recipes.

And now the music:

SeeqPod - Playable Search

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Fact-Checking Rep. David Davis on Energy

In a speech to Greene County Republicans, the incumbent 1st District Congressman David Davis made some claims which capture the imagination, but blur the facts.

He says "There is more oil in Colorado than in the entire nation of Saudi Arabia".

Well - Saudi Arabia has crude oil aplenty, yes. Colorado and other western states have huge shale oil deposits, which could create trillions of barrels of oil. Emphasis is on "could". In the 1980s, the Exxon corporation spent some $8 billion on the Colony Oil Shale Project, which ultimately failed. The cost of production plus the then-low price of oil per barrel made it a losing game.

" ... t
he plan to develop synthetic fuels was to be another Manhattan Project, a dramatic, accelerated national effort to meet energy needs from American resources and help make the U.S. less dependent on foreign crude."

Ah, the well-worn "Manhattan Metaphor" sure has been around for a long time. And experts agree the oil from shale does not make gasoline quality products. But the hopes remain that it could ... one day .. be viable.

Many patents exist to try and make it a more worthwhile project - but we aren't there yet.

The current pricing for crude oil may change that, and a 2006 federal program called for development of such technologies, but again, we're just not there yet. A 2006 Congressional report on the shale oil deposits in the western U.S. says:

"However, because oil shales have not proved to be economically recoverable, they are considered a contingent resource and not true reserves. It remains to be demonstrated whether an economically significant oil volume can be extracted under existing operating conditions."

But saying all of that is not nearly anywhere as catchy or as quotable as what Rep. Davis says, is it? (He's also on record saying OPEC sets oil prices, when they do not.)

Rep. Davis goes on to say "China is 90 miles off the coast of the U.S. drilling for oil, and the (Democratic-led) U.S. Congress won't let us drill there ourselves".

Well, again, that's not a factual statement.

China has partnered with Cuba's national oil company to allow Cuba to use Chinese-made equipment to explore and drill, and they (along with Spain and Canada) are drilling off of the coast of Cuba. Last time I checked, that would make it a Cuban coast and not a U.S. coast. True, though, that getting to Cuba from the U.S. is a 90-mile trip.

Once again, the facts just don't make the same snappy campaign talking points as Rep. Davis makes.

Oh, and it's the state of Florida which has prevented more oil exploration and drilling off of their coasts and Congress has agreed with them.

Alternatives to imported oil, alternatives in all areas of energy creation, are absolutely needed. But fudging the facts to score campaign-trail points serves only to keep the public ill-informed.

A Progressive Turn In America?

One thing I've noticed here in the South during the presidential campaigns for Senator Obama and Senator Clinton: the fairly quick withering worldview regarding non-whites and women. The good thing here is that the comments I've heard quickly ID the speakers as having some serious prejudices -- good to know who they are and that their days of power are dissolving. Clinging to past prejudices in light of change is a sure sign of extinction.

I recently overheard a county constable, who has been on the county payroll since sometime before Eisenhower I think, tell a most nasty joke about these two major contenders for the presidency. And no, I'm not going to repeat it. The joke, if you want to call it that, fell flat among the listeners, and none rebuked him. Was it mercy for the old geezer whose views and his days of power are fading fast? It was most generous if it was mercy, then.

Publius at Obsidian Wings made some noteworthy comments on the very historic event of Senator Obama's rise to prominence:

And all of this was accomplished by a black man named Barack Hussein Obama, in a nation of former slaveholders in a post-9/11 world.

I pride myself on being fairly cynical. Like any good child of the 90s, I’ve watched more than my share of Larry David. And I understand the frustrations that Clinton supporters and more hardened, cynical Obama supporters feel when they hear all the naive gushing praise for him — particularly from young people.

But they need to understand that many of us have never had a moment like this. We’ve never really been inspired — we’ve never “looked up” at candidates in a Paul Fussell “Romantic” sense. Candidates have never been bigger than us — we look down on them, we criticize, we tell dry jokes, we watch the Daily Show. We’re just not that inspired.

But for the first time, a lot of people are inspired. I don’t really remember 1992, and I didn’t exist in 1960. So I don’t know what this feels like. But I’m excited — I’m not in cult-like worship mode, but for the first time in my political life, I’m genuinely excited about the opportunities ahead. Maybe that will prove silly — maybe the proverbial 1968 lies just ahead. For now, though, I’m excited.

But even if 1968 lies ahead, who cares. When you see your teenage children experiencing crushes for the first time, you hopefully don’t call them over and say “these emotions you’re feeling now, they will soon be crushed.” You pat them on the back and wish their doomed enterprise well, and maybe savor a few youthful memories of your own.

And who knows, maybe this time, the good guys will win. Maybe in this version, there is no Nixon -- no 1968. Maybe Mercutio survives. It’s a historic and exciting time — progressivism appears to be in an intellectual revival. The Democrats — having shed its Dixiecrat wing — are poised to command the most progressive majority in American history."

I on the other hand remain a cynic. I do recall watching the '68 convention and the aftermath, I've seen the continued evidence of endless corruption and abuse of federal powers, I've seen great ideas rise, flourish and fall to the wayside when needs get a new focus. (Isn't it appropriate here to also say "I've seen the best minds of my generation ...."??)

I do see much optimism with an Obama presidency, but I also know that change is seldom legislated. It can happen, up to a point, and then the non-elected Americans will have to continue the job.

Few Vote, Sales Tax Hike Approved

With little to no news coverage of the event, city officials won approval of a sales tax increase in Morristown on Tuesday. A of 1,504 voted in the special election. Some 979 voted yes on the measure with 525 voting no. The referendum wins approval, but could not get even 15% of city voters to come to the polls.

Does one vote matter? A few hundred certainly does.

The vote means property taxes will drop 15 cents from a recent 40 cent increase. How long until that amount increases? With ever-rising city government costs and an a community unconcerned with voting, I'd say the increase will happen as soon as possible with no fear of repercussion.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Defending Congressman David Davis

Blogger David Oatney says 1st District Congressional Congressman David Davis has done a stellar job in his first term, simply a man who represents his constituents:

In the case of the First District Primary, it isn't so much that Phil Roe is a poor choice, but that an effective case against Davis from a conservative perspective can't be made-David Davis is a conservative, and his views on issues such as taxes, immigration, abortion (and other social issues), national defense, and unfunded federal mandates are similar those of most of his constituents.
David Oatney's post takes on this post from DeMarCaTionVille on Rep. Davis and the 1st District:
"I do think the area is changing, but it’s changing at about the same rate as the climate. Therefore, I don’t expect see any significant breaks in district voting patterns - at least not over the next five years or so.

Two reasons: (1) the Republicans have all the money and (2) political party is a family tradition.

I know it sounds crazy but it’s true. People in this district pass down their “Conservative Republicanism” like its heirloom silver. Some, who have inherited the party, embrace the values with which they grew up. Others have no clue what the Republican party stood for, how it’s changed or what it means nowadays - but they cling to it nonetheless. It belongs to them as much as their family name or their Grandpappy’s pocketwatch. For the most part admitting to this crowd, you prefer a Democratic candidate is akin to wearing a Mexican Flag shirt and singing “Big Ole Butt” to the preacher’s wife at the Baptist Homecoming.

It’s not gonna make you popular."

Blogger Rob Huddleston writes today:
"I think the dogfighting vote acknowledged by Oatney - the vote where Davis appeared to take the untenable position of being pro-dogfighting - could be bigger than the other votes that Davis has cast in the last two years. In the wake of Michael Vick, public sentiment was on the side of those who wanted to come out stronger against interstate dogfighting. To be the only Tennessean voting against the dogfighting bill could be portrayed as being out-of-touch with Tennessee voters.

Only time will tell if this becomes the race I think it could. However, Davis should not rest on his laurels, because 78% of Republican voters in 2006 didn't pick him in the primary."
I have taken issue several times with Rep. Davis' public comments (more illegal immigrants in Hamblen County than anywhere in the world!!) and voting record (what dogfighting??). He takes the party line most of the time. He sends me bulk mail telling me how to battle the high cost of gasoline, but won't vote to reduce tax breaks for oil companies.

Some other votes:

No on increasing the minimum wage.

No on allowing the government to negotiate with drugmakers for lower prices for those on Medicare.

No on the Children's Health Care expansion.

No on a resolution (HR 1591, which the president did veto) which would set benchmarks for the war in Iraq and set a timetable for withdrawal, as well as provide funding for improving health care for returning veterans, address needs for recovery relief due to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, increase funding for vehicles and armor used in Iraq to withstand roadside bombs.

Yes on expanding eavesdropping authority without court order.

More on the bills above and the votes are listed here. Also, plenty of info is here on his voting record on a host of social and political scales - some with very high ratings, some very low.

And honestly, most of the grumbling from the GOP in East Tennessee about Rep. Davis comes from the Tri-Cities area. And truly, Rep. Davis has been making appearances for just about any grant program or announcement he can.

I know my views are not in the mainstream of East Tennessee voters - but I will vote for change in this district and right now the candidate I like is Rob Russell, a Morristown native. I don't agree with his views 100% -- but after 100-plus years of a single party, the republicans, in charge of this district, our area isn't all it could be, in my opinion. Low wages are a key concern - or should be - for the residents.

From Russell's web page:

"Make access to affordable healthcare and freedom from medical bankruptcy a reality for all Americans.

Enforce fair trade policies that will protect East Tennessee jobs.

Reduce energy costs and end our dependence on foreign oil through investing in renewable energy technologies.

End the war in Iraq and repair the damage it has done to our diplomatic standing, military strength, and domestic economy.

Provide our children with the world’s best education and improve educational opportunities for hard-working college students and adults re-training for 21st-century jobs.

Put an end to corporate welfare and tax loopholes that allow foreign and US-owned corporations to avoid paying their fair share.

Guarantee a living wage for full-time workers– “working poor” is a shameful phrase that should never have to be used to describe hard-working Americans!

Monday, June 02, 2008

Buried In A Pringles Can

Well, if you have the patent on the Pringles can, why not be buried in one? R.I.P Fredric J. Baur.

And some other news stories to which I can say "I did not know that!"

-- Your high school graduation speech was stolen (and your principal stole one too).

-- Riots between gangs of Emos and Punks are making the news in Mexico.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

No Debate On Morristown Sales Tax Referendum

City residents in Morristown have a sales tax increase referendum on the ballot for their vote on Tuesday, but there is pretty much zero information about the ballot. A county-wide vote was defeated earlier this year, despite much huffing and puffing to promote it in the local press. Most in the public just won't vote to increase taxes. All those temporary measure taxes, like for a wheel tax, voted for in county after county were really votes for a permanent tax. Voters learn quickly from such experiences.

For Tuesday - not even the city's web site has one word about the upcoming vote. The only listed event for Tuesday June 3rd is a city council meeting. Is the measure more likely to pass if fewer people vote? Until the vote is counted Tuesday, we won't know. It sure seems like a low turnout is being hoped for.

Blogger Linda Noe has reported on the mass mailed letters to "property owners" asking them to support the tax increase, an effort paid for by tax dollars. Has the city decided the less said about the sales tax increase the better?

Part of the push from City Hall is that their recent massive 40-cent property tax increase would be rolled back some 15 cents if this vote passes. But given the budget mess they have on their hands, how long before that 15 cents gets added back in again? Or 25 cents? Or more? The sales tax increase is permanent.

Ben Cunningham at Taxing Tennessee writes about the city's registering itself as a committee to promote the proposed increase:

I wish I could find words to describe the arrogance of these Morristown officials."

I am not a city resident and will have no vote on Tuesday. However, I can and do vote by deciding where I go to spend money, as do so many others in the area. Knowing I could travel into the city limits to make a purchase at a higher price or travel about the same distance to Jefferson County and Jefferson City ... well, with everything costing more and more, I look for savings wherever I can. Some folks can't afford to pay for the extra cost of gas to travel outside the city for a small savings on sales tax, but I wonder how many non-city residents will decide to not make a purchase while in Morristown?

Whether or not the city needs an increase in sales taxes, needs to cut spending, needs to reconfigure their operations - all that is a topic for debate, certainly.

But I hear no debate at all.