Friday, October 03, 2008

Camera Obscura: Doomed Movie Marathon; Pie Fights on Film; New Romero Zombie Movie

There are fans and then there are fanatics - fans seek and watch and talk about movies, fanatics force life to accommodate their movie addictions. In recent years, the rise of the DVD has made it easier to become a fanatic, true, but you can always tell the difference between a fan and a fanatic.

A true fanatic is Richard of Doomed Moviethon. For the past few years, he's been keeping careful catalogs of the horror and cult movies he views, and he also gives you the lowdown on what happens when you create a stack of movies with a theme and watch them for endless hours. Past efforts already featured on the website include horror movies from the year 1976, 13 of them in 42 hours, or the Argento project, where he watched 13 of Argento's movies in 34 hours.

I get queasy just thinking about it. One must carefully prepare for such mind-bending journeys. Selecting the films for a marathon viewing session is tough enough, but then you must likewise create a store of food and drink, prepare your furniture arrangements, clear your schedule of interruptions, and get your mind right to commit to a few days to nothing but watching movies.

He also keeps a blog of individual movies he views, and his selections are always fascinating and sometimes quite obscure. There are decades and decades of films from Grade Z to Grade A and only the strongest dare create a marathon of Grade Z movies because after a few hours, your brain starts playing tricks on you. That happens even if the movies are Grade A, it's a time thing.

I confess I am a marathon viewer too, have been since VHS first made it possible. It isn't too hard to find friends willing to watch 3 in a row, but only the most hearty souls will sign on for 10 or 15 movies in one gulp. I've never had much problem to commit to 20 hours of horror/cult movies, but there have also been some light marathons, like all the Pink Panther movies in one setting, and others I know have downed multiple seasons of The Sopranos or The Wire with much ease.

Make no mistake - this isn't escapism, it's work, people, brain-twisting and muscle-breaking work. Only the strong can survive.


Watching some of the political wrangling on the floor of Congress or out and about with the campaign trails this year, I've often wished and prayed a good pie fight would break out. Pie fights work best when they occur among folks dressed in fine clothes. A clown pie fight, for example, just is not funny. Cinematical offers a selection of great pie fits on film here, wisely including one from The Three Stooges. These guys are the indisputable kings of pie fights - the sound effects, the textures of the pie fillings, the crusts, and the well-heeled societies which quickly devolve into a pastry rage - these are their hallmarks. Here's one fine example:

The Cinematical link above also features a fine scene in the comedy "The Great Race", which becomes a technicolor blur of pie fillings which literally coat the walls of the kitchen. Tony Curtis, as the film's hero, seems to escape pie dangers ... for a while. And Natalie Wood just looks fantastic when covered in pies and whipped cream. (shut up, i know what that sounds like, so just shut up)

I've wanted to make a short film for a long time now which would incorporate the style of a John Woo Hong Kong shoot-em-up with a pie fight. There's this image in my head of someone leaping sideways in slo-mo hurling pies from each hand as the room around them is pock-marked by pie debris. Yes, I have strange ideas stuck in my head.



A new Moby Dick movie -- without a crazed Cap'n Ahab?? The Russian director of "Wanted" and "Nigh Watch/Day Watch", Timur Bekmambetov, is eyeing a version of the Melville novel that would be more "Orca on steroids" with lotsa CGI carnage and Ahab the hero who saves the seas from the beast.


Romero is back behind the camera for a new zombie movie, which does not have a title yet. No matter. Details here at the Port Dover, Ontario website and here at AICN.


With awards and praise piling up for the AMC channel for their series "Mad Men", the cable channel is developing several new mini-series, like the remake of the 60s sci-fi show "The Prisoner" and announced plans this week for an adaptation of the award-winning sci-fi novel "Red Mars" by Kim Stanley Robinson. That's a very good book about the first human colony on Mars, with heaps of political drama driving the tale.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

'I've Only Been At This For Five Weeks'

So says Alaska's Governor Sarah Palin in a vice-presidential debate. And yeah, we know, gosh-darnit. You betcha'. We know.

Does winking and nodding like a semi-flirty sorority girl at the homecoming dance provide charm, or is it evidence of the hubris of ambition? Her supporters coo delight and enthusiasm for not being god-awful on that stage. It's as close to confidence and leadership the Republican party can muster these days.

I felt like I was watching an episode of Gilligan's Island as the Professor and Ginger were debating who should be President of the island.

If you're looking for someone to run a small town or a local PTA, Palin is a sound choice. Otherwise, she's a cult celebrity on a canceled TV show.

Smackdown On Public Records Is Public Loss

A new fee schedule means a sliding scale will be used to charge you to view and/or copy public records, thanks to a decision from the state. It's a leap backward, away from open government and a tactic of sheer intimidation which is an embarrassment for the state.

The KNS reports:

The hourly rate will depend on the salary of the person doing the search. For example, a search would cost $20 per hour if the government worker processing the request earns $39,000 a year.

The decision may surprise members of an advisory committee that met to discuss fees for records searches. Open government advocates had called for at least three hours of search time before labor costs kicked in, while Chad Jenkins of the Tennessee Municipal League had indicated he would settle for two hours."

So in addition to paying the salaries of public officials, you'll pay even more by requiring them to perform their duties and provide access to records if it takes them more than an hour to fill your request. Bets on what the minimum time will be now to search records and/or make copies?

A problem some officials claim exists is that occasionally, a person will constantly demand more and more information and records requests, which officials see as a way to harass some office or agency. So, the idea, apparently, is to charge EVERY CITIZEN more money. Brilliant.

A far more common sense approach might have been to set fees on making copies/searching records based on the number of requests or copies being made on a person-by-person basis. But no - this is just digging deeper into your pockets if you seek information. We charge you more if you ask questions now.

An office can waive all fees if they wish. And pigs might fly if you throw one hard enough.

Flawed But Necessary Bailout For Wooden Arrows

Just a few weeks ago, one of the people most likely to be on the news was Senator Hillary Clinton. Not many in media ask or seek her views these days. I think she's probably smiling and laughing some with her husband, relieved she's out of the firefight now. She offered these comments Wednesday night as the Senate approved of a $700 billion bailout plan (whoops, they call it a rescue now, my bad.)

Tonight we will vote on legislation none of us wish we were considering and none of us can afford to see fail. ... We must act, even as we do so with regret and reservations, because we have little choice."

"We must pursue broader reforms. That is one of the lessons of this turmoil. We cannot continue to shuttle from crisis to crisis."

I like the use of the word "shuttle" - the Bush White House has performed a mash-up of stop-and-go management that has not only become increasingly pathetic to watch but continues to endanger our times.

The 400-plus pages legislation the Senate approved includes funding to the film industry in Puerto Rico and a tax break for makers of "certain wooden arrows designed for use by children".

Economy fixed!

Up next, another episode of the wacky adventures of Sarah Palin and Joe Biden.

Yeesh. Time for some music - Jazz is neither flawed nor unnecessary.

UPDATE: I'm not sure but the Wired article above may have made an error on the Puerto Rican claim, as all I have found so far indicates a tax break for P.R. rum production and other breaks for film production in general. The NY Post offers these other tidbits of additions to the bill:

* Puerto Rican and Virgin Islands rum producers - $192 million.

* Wool research.

* Auto-racing tracks - $128 million.

* Corporations operating in American Samoa - $33 million.

* Small- to medium-budget film and television productions - $10 million.

Another measure inserted into the bill appears to be a bald-faced bid aimed at winning the support of Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), who voted against the original version when it went down in flames in the House on Monday.

That provision - a $223 million package of tax benefits for fishermen and others whose livelihoods suffered as a result of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill - has been the subject of fervent lobbying by Alaska's congressional delegation.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

I Solve The Financial Crisis

Examining the $700 billion proposal to prop up failing/failed businesses and investments is a rugged task, and is Congress capable of making the right decision?

Getting the views of the average person on the proposal seems futile. I could look at the specs and test results for a faulty nuclear reactor, but don't expect me to have a worthwhile opinion on how to fix a coolant leak.

I saw where incumbent 1st District Congressman David Davis issued a statement on why he voted down the proposal on Monday and his ideas for alternatives. It's a lengthy piece, which offers such ideas as:

* Net operating losses: Allow companies to carry-back losses arising in tax years ending in 2007, 2008, or 2009 back 5 years, generating a tax refund and immediate capital. Despite the presence of willing buyers, many firms with MBS are not willing to sell at such a huge loss. Such a carry-back provides a cushion for any such loss, making firms more willing sellers."

"* Suspend "mark to market" accounting: Direct the SEC to suspend the mark-to-market regulatory rules until the agency can issue new guidelines that will allow firms to mark these assets to their true economic value. The current rules contribute to a downward spiral as firms have to evaluate their assets not on the basis of their long-term investment but rather on a short-term mania."

Yep, that might just fix that coolant leak.

Since Rep. Davis showed much anger at his loss for a bid for re-election, can I honestly expect him to do much beyond hurling wrenches into the gears?

I've heard numerous references to the phrase "mark-to-market", which sounds like a kid's book title. Investopedia defines it like this:

1. The act of recording the price or value of a security, portfolio or account to reflect its current market value rather than its book value.

2. In terms of mutual funds, a MTM is when the net asset value (NAV) of the fund is valued upon the most current market values.

1. This is done most often in futures accounts to make sure that margin requirements are being met. If the current market value causes the margin account to fall below its required level, the trader will be faced with a margin call.

2. Mutual funds are marked to market on a daily basis at the market close so that investors have an idea of the fund's NAV. "

Hoo-boy. So am I now supposed to have the wisdom to crack the Da Vinci Code of Financial Miracles? Should those who squeezed finance rules to the breaking point be jailed at Gitmo?

A massive hurdle for any proposal from the Bush White House is their own track record for howling cries of "Emergency!!!!" and their feeble responses.

If we assume the crisis is real, then what to do?

Here's a survey which sort of shows off how snarled up this truly is:

A Pew Research Center poll released Wednesday found that 43 percent of all voters admitted that they feel "confused" by the proposed plan to stabilize the financial markets. At the same time, voters grasp that something important is happening -- 54 percent say, in response to another question, that they are paying "a lot" of attention to the bailout debate in Washington. Pollster Andy Kohut, the director of the Pew Research Center, said that it was virtually "unparalleled" to have this simultaneous level of interest and confusion in a policy debate. "It's a tough one to get into the nitty-gritty of," said Kohut. "It is not like gay marriage that is easy to grasp no matter what your point of view is."

Great. Now people figure out that whirling in a circle makes you dizzy.

Old jokes boil it down: A man walks into a doctor's office and tells the doc, "Hey. my arm hurts when I do this (wiggles arm)! What should I do?" The Doctor replies, "Don't do that."

Problem solved. Next patient.

POSTSCRIPT: All of the above can be also filed under "We are in a rushing river composed of fecal material and have no oars."

POSTSCRIPT II: It's going to get a little worse, then a little better. (Maybe this is just another diagnosis from the doctor mentioned above.)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sarah Palin as The Evil Gidget

A scorching rip into the Palin selection as V.P. and her splashy arrival onto the political scene is presented by writer Matt Taibbi and wreaks a verbal apocalypse on her and on American politics. Referring to her Big Moment at the GOP convention, Tiaabi writes:

"It was like watching Gidget address the Reichstag."

Here's another shot:

She totally reminds me of my cousin!" the delegate screeched. "She's a real woman! The real thing!"

I stared at her open-mouthed. In that moment, the rank cynicism of the whole sorry deal was laid bare. Here's the thing about Americans. You can send their kids off by the thousands to get their balls blown off in foreign lands for no reason at all, saddle them with billions in debt year after congressional year while they spend their winters cheerfully watching game shows and football, pull the rug out from under their mortgages, and leave them living off their credit cards and their Wal-Mart salaries while you move their jobs to China and Bangalore.

And none of it matters, so long as you remember a few months before Election Day to offer them a two-bit caricature culled from some cutting-room-floor episode of Roseanne as part of your presidential ticket. And if she's a good enough likeness of a loudmouthed middle-American archetype, as Sarah Palin is, John Q. Public will drop his giant-size bag of Doritos in gratitude, wipe the Sizzlin' Picante dust from his lips and rush to the booth to vote for her. Not because it makes sense, or because it has a chance of improving his life or anyone else's, but simply because it appeals to the low-humming narcissism that substitutes for his personality, because the image on TV reminds him of the mean, brainless slob he sees in the mirror every morning."

The full essay is here.

Monday, September 29, 2008

On The Financial Confusion In Washington


Copyright Position on Cabinet Gets Senate OK

A new Cabinet-level postion focusing on copyright infringement sailed thru the Senate last week --

U.S. lawmakers approved the creation of a cabinet-level position of copyright czar as part of sweeping intellectual property enforcement legislation that sailed through the Senate on Friday.

"The executive and its office would be charged with creating a nationwide plan to combat piracy and "report directly to the president and Congress regarding domestic international intellectual property enforcement programs."

"The new copyright czar will oversee government anti-piracy crackdowns and, among other things, train other countries about IP enforcement. The legislation also creates an FBI piracy unit and allows for the forfeiture of equipment used in large pirating operations."

Isn't it strange how often the label of 'czar' gets easy application in Washington?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Local Paper Cheers Fiery Demise?

I saw a story on WATE about the destruction of the old cafeteria building and on the site of the former Morristown College. But check out this opening line from the coverage of the Morristown's newspaper, a line written by the paper's managing editor, John Guillion. It's an odd read for the destruction of a local landmark by fire:

Fire accomplished Saturday night what years of political negotiations couldn’t: The renovation of the Morristown College campus"

(Sorry, no linkage, as stories aren't online very long - they are a pay-to-read news site. And the story wasn't even online until sometime after 11:30 Sunday morning, as a friend had asked me about that time to go and read another story from their website. NOTE: In the comments for this post, a web tech for the CT says the story was up Saturday night. My mistake.)

I've only talked to John once, and very briefly, and he seemed like a nice fellow. But that opening needs a serious re-write. Here's a Newsflash: A fire of unknown origins which destroys historic landmarks does not equal 'renovation'.

Best of the Week In TN Blogs

Via TennViews:

The "toxic debate derivatives" edition of the weekly Tennessee progressive blog roundup with a look at what the state's best bloggers are talking about...

10,000 Monkeys and a Camera: Senator Drama Queen: does a man go, in just a few days, from claiming that the economy is fundamentally sound to marching all over Washington, DC like Chicken Little, hitting new levels of scenery munching, derailing the negotiations Congress had gotten through before his arrival politicized the whole process -- swooping in, wearing his home-made cape and superhero pajamas -- pretending to be the man who’s saving the day, when he couldn't even be bothered to read the 3-page document that is central to the process?

55-40 Memphis: I ask again, is this the best way to use the ammo? Besides, the five biggest Wall Street losers have already rolled over. We need to protect cash deposits, homes, jobs. That's where Main Street lives.

Aunt B: I start by saying two things that I have observed about Southerners -- one, a lot of them are Southern Baptist, which means, when they don't like how something’s going, they have no compunction about breaking off and doing something different while still considering themselves to be the true carriers of the proper torch and two, they don't like to be played for fools.

Carole Borges: If you've been following the economic terrorist attack from within, you probably feel confused. Who wouldn't. It's obvious no one in Washington has a clue what is happening. How could ANYONE in their right mind even consider for one micro-second supporting anything that says "...the whole thing is up to Paulson's "discretion," and "may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency."

The Crone Speaks: Now, onto why I felt Obama dominated the foreign policy segment. As I wrote quickly last night, he was authoritative, his answers came easily, he did not rely on anecdotes or generals, or the old guard. As I also mentioned last night, McCain tired quickly. He looked, to me, to be extremely tired.

Joe Powell: I do know that for the first time in my life, this important office isn't being handed off to the next local insider, another pre-selected candidate from the Republican party which has held total control of [Tennessee's 1st Congressional District] for over 100 years.

Don Williams: Welcome to full-blown oligarchy -- government that socializes the losses of big business while privatizing the profits and promoting corporate welfare through good-old-boy contracts for military build-ups, outdated energy plans and tax breaks for the wealthy.

TNDP: In spite of the unprecedented economic crisis created by Bush-McCain policies that freed the banking and lending industry from vital protections for the American people, John McCain wants to put Americans’ health care at the mercy of Wall Street.

Enclave: Given Barack Obama's strong, comfortable, steady performance in tonight's debate on John McCain's turf of foreign policy, I would say that the Republican attempts for the last four weeks to raise expectations on Sarah Palin by comparing her to Barack Obama may have been a deadly mistake. Also, see ongoing series re. racial tensions fueled by suspect Tennesseean reporting.

Fletch: Lighthouse Light

KnoxViews (Sven): The author, like all the other purveyors of this and other similar dumbass notions, fails to explain the mechanism by which the GSEs ruined America. He harps on poor and corrupt management, accounting scandals and skeezy congressional ties - all of which existed. But zero evidence is provided for the core implication that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac stampeded Wall Street into making bad loans to the shiftless underclass. That's because no such evidence exists. And: R. Neal: Just like investors who have been duped, the federal government will have no idea what they are buying or what to do with it. Even on a straight up equity sale of shares nobody knows what they are buying any more. Quarterly reports are works of fiction and earnings conference calls are performance art. With derivatives they don't even have to lie -- they can just hide mistakes and corruption under impenetrable layers of bullshit. Corporate America's stock in trade is now deception.

Lean Left: So the GOP plan is to insure the bad debts, putting the taxpayers on the hook for possibly much more than the 700billion dollar Paulson came up with without giving the taxpayers anyway to ever get compensation if the government is required to pay off on that insurance. And then, just to rub salt in the wounds of the average tax payer, they are going to give the class of people who are most responsible for getting us into this mess a huge tax break for two years.

Left of the Dial: The only time George W. Bush has spoken to us with "any sense of conviction, control, sincerity and grasp of the situation" was atop the rubble of the World Trade Center holding a megaphone. And even that turned out to be a bunch of crap. Plus: No Bailout For You!

LeftWingCracker: Here's how to help Obama in Memphis

Liberadio(!): One of the most important questions that could be asked by Jim Lehrer is not being asked: "What exactly is victory in Iraq?" Plus: Yee of Much Faith

Newscoma: "George Bush is no different than Herbert Hoover," he said. "I was a kid during the depression and I want you to know, we are heading down this path again."

The Pesky Fly: What bothers me is that this dog whistle has so permeated the conversation that it has filtered down to second graders. That, dear children, is some effective marketing.

Resonance: Financial Crisis Reveals Bush's "Political Capital" Is Now An Illiquid Asset

RoaneViews: We do not support government bailouts of private institutions. Government interference in the markets exacerbates problems in the marketplace and causes the free market to take longer to correct itself. Republican Party Platform adopted September 2008

Russ McBee: Both Fulmer and McCain are decrepit, counter-productive shadows of their former selves, and both have far exceeded their sell-by dates. Plus: Trillion dollar life preserver: I don't know about you, but I'm awfully tired of being trickled on.

Sean Braisted: Ultimately, while this bailout deal might be in the best interest for our country, the language being used by the administration is fairly reminiscent of language used to push through the ill-conceived Patriot Act, and the War on Terror in general.

Sharon Cobb: I'm giving away two tickets for you to see and meet my favorite rednecks, Jackie and Dunlap from Red State Update. They are appearing in a town hall meeting in Nashville on October 6, and all you have to do is drop me an email telling me why you love these two lunatics, and I'll forward your entry to Jackie and Dunlap to choose the winner. (No way I was going to choose the winner!) Please get all entries in by Friday, October 3 at midnight to me at:

Silence Isn't Golden: But the Republicans aren't going to touch this thing with a ten-foot pole. Why would they? Bush has no coattails anymore, there's no need for them to fall in line with him. They can vote against it, and they will, and then go back to their districts and put all the blame for the fact that we're wasting billions of taxpayer dollars to bail out irresponsible corporations...on the Democratic leadership in Congress!

Southern Beale: Yesterday blog trolls started touting the expected line that our mortgage crisis is the fault of a) Bill Clinton, and b) black people. Gee, what took them so long?

vibinc » Blog Archive » The Coming Financial Disaster: Remember, just because you don't understand it, doesn't mean it doesn't affect you.

WhitesCreek Journal: I don't know that much about this stuff, but according to one Democratic Congressman calls to Congress are running about 50-50 on the bailout... 50% No! And 50% HELL NO! Plus: Did You See the Debate?: I saw something else on John McCain's face as he turned it away from Barack Obama. I saw one hell of a pancake makeup job hiding the purple rage. That $5000 was money well spent.

Women’s Health News: McCain just said something to the effect that healthcare should be between the patient and the physician, not the federal government. Can I hold him to that on reproductive health and "conscience?"