Friday, July 25, 2008

Camera Obscura: Alien Politics In The Human World

Swimming naked and chasing a dollar bill on a fish hook is one way to fame. NPR covered the story of the wee lad on the cover of Nirvana's album Nevermind this week. "Quite a few people in the world have seen my penis," he says from his home in Los Angeles. "So that's kinda cool. I'm just a normal kid living it up and doing the best I can while I'm here."


Robert E, Howard's heroine Red Sonja is set to return to film via director Robert Rodriguez, with his girlfriend, Rose McGowan in the title role and the villainous Howard character of Thulsa Doom (played by James Earl Jones in "Conan The Barbarian") is set to get his own movie too, played this time by actor Djimon Hounsou. Thulsa Doom is one of the coolest names ever for a villain.


Speaking of pulp fictions and comics, what for many many years had been The Comic Book Convention in the nation is now much more a Hollywood festival, akin to the Sundance Festival or Cannes -- The San Diego Comic Con is jammed pack with movie stars. Extensive coverage of the event is here at Cinematical. Read about "Tron 2", a "Robocop" remake, the new "Day The Earth Stood Still" starring Kenau Reeves as Klaatu and much, much more.

Check out the trailer for "The Day The Earth Stood Still" here.

The 1951 movie which has such amazing iconic imagery and added some intellectual heft to Hollywood's breezy take on science fiction will be tough to improve. That movie was based on the short story "Farewell To The Master" by Harry Bates, published in 1940 by Astounding Magazine and you can read it online here.

The movie (and the story) tackle a simple, profound and common human experience - meeting someone who Is Not From Around Here. The movie script added global warfare and atomic attacks to the mix, like many other 50s-era sci-fi, but focused on the human concepts of warfare and society rather than bug-eyed atomic monsters.

Politics was the key theme in the movie - a massive UFO lands in Washington D.C., and since America is the world's superpower nation, the alien is there to talk to everyone through us. So much film and television in the the post-WW2 America was wrestling with the after-effects of the battle, the morality (or lack of it) in all types of human interaction and conflict.

It's no surprise that these stories are returning today. Back then children and adults were constantly drilled to respond to nuclear attacks, and today we live in the age of the Terror Alert status.

Another profoundly influential science-fiction tale is returning too: "The Twilight Zone", now being assembled by Leonardo DiCaprio and Warner Brothers. Like "The Day The Earth Stood Still", Rod Serling's long-running TV series focused on political and moral conflicts in sharply defined episodes. Personal identity, politics, and often purely philosophical dramas formed the basis of this unique show which fueled political debates in the 50s and 60s and which echoes today in our deeply divided political climate.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Neighborhood In Lockdown

A neighborhood is in lockdown, no one is allowed to enter without police checking their IDs and all seeking entry must prove they either live in the neighborhood or have some legitimate business. The neighborhood is in Washington, D.C. - where enormous attention was riveted back in March when the Supreme Court invalidated the voter-approved law regulating gun ownership.

The community, Trinidad, had previously enacted a previous lockdown in early June, following a spree of shootings that left 7 dead. The checkpoint system was halted, but has been enacted again following another spree in the same community this past weekend, two were killed this time, including a 13-year-old boy in the area who was visiting relatives.

Officials have also installed ShotSpotter sensors around the city, which alerts police when gunfire occurs. Of course, once a shot is made, it cannot be unmade, only responded to by police.

A Washington Post columnist, Courtland Milloy, spoke to some of the young kids living in this world, and their best advice is not to be outside once it's dark. The current lockdown is set to end tomorrow and few can say with optimism that the shootings won't start all over again.

Sadly ironic is that the city's gun laws, the one overturned by the Supreme Court, remains in effect. The city is trying to re-write the law and in the meantime, it certainly appears to make zero difference if handguns are banned or not. Or perhaps it might - once a shooting spree starts, more shots might be fired back.

The earnest and devoted attention and discussion which the D.C. v Heller case created is noticeably absent in the nightmarish world in Trinidad, just blocks away from the U.S. Capitol. For those residents, the real questions are how to survive for now and how to create a neighborhood controlled by something more than rage and random violence.

UPDATE: The "military-style checkpoints" will continue for another five days according to law enforcement officers in D.C.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

If Food Is Dangerous, Why Do We Have Buffets?

I'll confess it right here and now. I am an addict. My addiction is food. I started eating at a very early age and have continued to eat every day since, often several times a day. I'm hardly alone in my addiction. Everyone I know is an addict too.

My tastes include most anything edible. Except for a few things, like this stuff they call "potted meat". The ingredients listed and the way it tastes and even the name curdle my insides. I really love sushi, but that does not mean when I go fishing and I catch a bass, I'm going to bite a chunk out of it. (And I never keep what I might catch anyway, I always unhook the poor critter and put it back in the water.) I also will not eat pork rinds. I tend to seldom desire to consume something called "rind".

Anyway, this study was recently released ranking Tennessee in 3rd place for "obese population" and the South in general as the Land of the Fatest. I have to agree that I see many folks whose width exceeds their height. I do try and eat things that are healthy for me, but, sometimes I don't
. . Let's all remember this simple rule: Red meat is not bad for you. Now blue-green meat, that’s bad for you! ~Tommy Smothers

And before the nation Organizes A Formal Committee to Explore The Problem and Create A Law About Eating Stuff, it's best to consider (and read) this post from DeMarCaTionVille, who says:

"And at such time the US Government requires me to jog or do any activity which could be described as “bouncy,” or when they try to place restrictions on or prohibit in any way my rights to enjoy Southern Foods, such as fried green tomatoes, okra, chicken, gumbo and beer-battered catfish, AND/OR they even attempt to limit how much sugar I can put in my tea, I do hereby declare the South will rise again.

I, personally, will lead a band of freedom fighters on the march to DC with the intention of **overthrowing the federal government. And the Revolution will not be televised… mostly because we’re fat and out-of-shape down here. This means many of us will have heart attacks, strokes and/or die of heat exhaustion before we make it to DC, therefore our numbers will be depleted. Plus, the rest of us will so tired from doin’ all that marching that a 63-year old unarmed DC tour guide could kick our ass, so you might not hear about our Revolution unless you read the Reuters’ Oddly Enough Section.

But that’s not the point. It’s the principle of the matter.

You know how they say: freedom ain’t free - well, this means a lot of different things. One of them being if you expect the government to pay for your poor choices, you’re going to see those choices eliminated. It’s that simple. And if I had my druthers - I’d druther live fat, free and Southern Fried than extend my life expectancy by five years and live to see the day Mama’s cooking is outlawed and I’m required by law to bounce."

High Security At City Council Meetings

For reasons unexplained in news accounts, high level security measures have been adopted during city council meetings in Morristown.
"The heightened security measures employed Tuesday were largely procedural and probably went unnoticed by those who attended the meeting.

Increasing safety further will cost from several hundred to several thousand dollars, according to Morristown Police Chief Roger Overholt.

The possibilities include a metal detector or hand-held wand at the public entrance of Council Chambers, a video monitoring system and enhanced communications equipment, according to Overholt."
Plans also include possibly blocking off parts of surrounding streets on meeting dates.

Have some credible threats been made towards the council? I surely hope not, and fortunately the city's police department is but a few yards away from council chambers. Some years back, at least one police officer has been stationed inside council chambers during meetings, which seems like a sound idea.

I do find it odd that while the city has so far not been willing to record and broadcast their mid-day meetings on local cable TV outlets, they are considering aiming cameras at those who attend meetings and requiring security checks to enter the council chambers. The pessimist in me wonders if some residents will decide these measures will make them reluctant to attend meetings

Monday, July 21, 2008

Hey Up There - Good Job

It's just a year shy of the 40th anniversary, but as each July rolls past I still marvel at what some bold and brave and ingenious folks did back in the summer of 1969.

Their actions were not swaddled in safety, they took risks beyond imagining.

I recall most vividly watching the blurry black and white images flickering on television, feeling the tension of all who were with me (my family and some friends), tension which engulfed us one and all.

After I had watched their amazing and tentative steps for some several minutes, I went outside and looked up into the sky. It was a very humid night and I recall wondering how many other people all across our own planet were also looking up as well.. I did not know then, as I do know, that the two men landing on the Moon for the first time touched down on the surface with bare seconds of fuel left, or that Commander Neil Armstrong had taken manual control of his craft and steered his frail ship with steel-strong courage to complete his mission.

I stared upwards for a long time and then, being just a wee child, I decided to wave up at the sky and say "Hey up there. Good job." And I was pretty sure that even if they could not hear me, I liked thinking that much of the world was doing the same thing. The footprints I made that night in the thick grass of the backyard disappeared moments after I made them. The footprints they made did not.

I continue to admire Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin and the handful of other explorers who also made the journey there and back again. And for some odd reason, I am proud that one of those first two explorers was named "Buzz". It was as if it somehow brought outer space closer to home, and took home out into space.

So cheers to these men, and to all those who helped achieve that moment in history. Thanks for your courage.

UPDATE: I was reminded by this recent post from the one and only Squirrel Queen that you can add your name to a giant list of names which NASA is sending to the moon. No, really. Add your name by July 25 at this link. I added mine gladly.

SQ writes on her post on this topic: "
NASA is now allowing folks to submit their John Hancock to a database which will be placed on a microchip and put on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, spacecraft. The LRO will be in orbit around the big green cheese in the sky for many years."

So now I am a bit closer the surface than I have ever been. And what a fine way to observe the anniversary for the first lunar landing by humans.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Weekly Best Of Tennessee Blogs

Here's the latest roundup via TennViews of the best in blogging from Tennessee writers/readers/bloggers.

10,000 Monkeys and a Camera: Fahrvergn├╝gen! (a comprehensive roundup of VW Chattanooga news)

Andy Axel: Bait and Switch

Tiny Cat Pants: As we all know, Bill Hobbs is on his great crusade to defund Planned Parenthood and instead move all that money into government-run services, because the TNGOP loves government-run healthcare, except when it’s proposed by Democrats.

BlountViews: Finney or Overbey? Who does a progressive support? PLUS: Lazy election coverage

Carole Borges: New Yorker loses its sense of humor

The Crone Speaks: It seems that when doctors themselves stop accepting insurance, their patients get better care at a more reasonable cost.

Cup Of Joe Powell: A blistering editorial on 1st District Congressman David Davis by the Editorial Board of the Bristol Herald Courier is out today and makes some excellent points: BONUS: Coffee War AND: Camera Obscura: Batmania (and more)

Don Williams: Al Gore’s daring challenge -- an ‘Apollo program’ to save the Earth

Tennessee Democratic Party Blog: The Associated Press released an article today explaining how a 30% increase in voter turnout for Obama in the black community could swing the South, including Tennessee, into the blue column.

Enclave: It's clear to me from this research that if you want a stronger economy that includes job creation, you have to run with Democratic Presidents. All of the conservative campaign rhetoric that moderate-leaning-left administrations will destroy American jobs is unsubstantiated in this research.

Fletch: Seagull Contrail PLUS: Still Life

KnoxViews: You can look up your bank or credit union at the following links to a) make sure they are insured, and b) check their financial statements and ratio reports, which are a quick snapshot of their performance. PLUS: John McCain posting on his blog. AND: Clinton (and Edwards) should be on the ballot in Denver

Lean Left: Massachusetts is now in the process of repealing the racist and obsolete law that Mitt Romney invoked to continue to limit marriage rights for gays after the state legislature removed the overt bar to marriage in the law.

Left Wing Cracker: Endorsements

Liberadio(!): Leave Robin Smith Alone!

NewsComa: Stewart Byars

The Pesky Fly: Atrios wonders why the image of the burning twin towers is seen by Republicans as a powerful image of their strength and resolve.

Progressive Nashville: Tennessee could save nearly six dollars in health care costs for every dollar spent on prevention according to a new study by the Trust for American Health. PLUS: Glass Houses AND: TNGOP Declares Victory in Iraq

Resonance:: What will it take to instill in our elected leaders a sufficient sense of urgency to act? $160/barrel oil? $180? $200? Whatever it is, it will come too late.

RoaneViews: Lincoln's Republican opponent, Whatshisname, doesn't live in our district and won't be our next Congressman.

Russ McBee: Not surprisingly, the EPA intends to stonewall the issue long enough to avoid taking any action until after Bush leaves office; nevertheless, it's astonishing that the EPA has finally dropped its hostility to nearly universal scientific consensus. PLUS: The phantom promise of offshore drilling

Nashville for the 21st Century: Congress-stakes: If A) Obama wins, and B) he offers Cooper a cabinet position, and C) he accepts...who would run for the open seat? I'll throw out some potential candidates, and follow with a poll. PLUS: Will Pelosi and Dean Block Hillary at Convention?: The DNC can't and won't change the rules so that only Barack Obama's name can be thrown out there.

Sharoncobb: Oh. You Have To See/Hear What Larry Craig Just Said: Oh Dear Lord. No one could make this stuff up. Here's what Larry Craig just said, and it's captured on tape:

• Silence Isn't Golden Netroots Nation dispatches here, here, here, and here. BONUS: You are so Nashville if...

Southern Beale: Okay, kids, it’s time for that wacky new game: Elitist: Yes or No? PLUS: Memory Holes

Tennessee Guerilla Women: Sounds good. Except for the fact that for weeks now the media has been reporting that Hillary's name on the ballot is not assured, rather the question will be determined by negotiations between the Clinton and Obama camps. PLUS: Breaking MSNBC Political News: Hillary Clinton Has a New Hairdo!

TennViews: Voters say more focus needed on children's issues PLUS: Tennessee Senate 8th

WhitesCreek Journal: Republican Chair Robin Smith is a symptom of what is so wrong with our political process. There is a deep dishonesty in her half of the process and a willingness to let it slide on the part of most news media, and a massive double standard that examines Democratic candidates in minute detail but lets republican candidates get by with slanderous conduct. PLUS: Species Count for Whites Creek

Women’s Health News: HHS Attempts to Define Contraception as Abortion PLUS: Open letter to Obama:: I’d also like a pledge to not put anti-science, anti-woman yahoos in charge of, you know, science and women.