Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Hell of Nightclubs

Back in the ancient days of my twenties, I would often be a trooper and join some horde headed to a nightclub. It would not take long after being rubber-stamped or enduring other various entry rituals that I would begin mentally writing a story about how god-awful the place and the people were.

I do (did) enjoy dancing or drinking with friends, but these days if I dance, it's mostly a scene of comedic horror, though there is some joy to be taken in watching others audition for their own starring roles in similar movies. I have seen and taken part in karaoke clubbing too ... clubbing is indeed the active word for such things. The last time I was in such a gathering, I had been hoodwinked into "judging" a karaoke contest and for the most part, I imagine the event would be comparable to going to a dangerous intersection late at night and waiting for a brutal car crash.

Over the years, I have tried numerous times to actually finish a fictional take on the Hell that is a nightclub, with no success. However, I did happen to read a short and visceral take on clubbing from British pop culture critic Charlie Brooker which is a bona fide beauty of language and writing.

Some samples:

Clubs are despicable. Cramped, overpriced furnaces with sticky walls and the latest idiot theme tunes thumping through the humid air so loud you can't hold a conversation, just bellow inanities at megaphone-level. And since the smoking ban, the masking aroma of cigarette smoke has been replaced by the overbearing stench of crotch sweat and hair wax.

Clubs are such insufferable dungeons of misery, the inmates have to take mood-altering substances to make their ordeal seem halfway tolerable. This leads them to believe they "enjoy" clubbing. They don't. No one does. They just enjoy drugs."


"The second thing that struck me was frightening. They were all photographing themselves. In fact, that's all they seemed to be doing. Standing around in expensive clothes, snapping away with phones and cameras. One pose after another, as though they needed to prove their own existence, right there, in the moment. Crucially, this seemed to be the reason they were there in the first place. There was very little dancing. Just pouting and flashbulbs.

Surely this is a new development. Clubs have always been vapid and awful and boring and blah - but I can't remember clubbers documenting their every moment before. Not to this demented extent. It's not enough to pretend you're having fun in the club any more - you've got to pretend you're having fun in your Flickr gallery, and your friends' Flickr galleries. An unending exhibition in which a million terrified, try-too-hard imbeciles attempt to out-cool each other.

Read the whole thing here. (Also check out Brooker's properly disdainful sneering headshot image.)

Abuse of Power: The Bush-Palin Connection

There is a notable link between the Governor of Alaska and the Bush Administration - a core belief that if you hold the power, anything you do is justified and legal. Here are two elected officials who will strip someone of their job based on a personal vendetta.

As the national news is over-loaded on financial chaos, the illegal acts and scandals of Bush/Palin are likely to be lost. A scathing indictment of the unethical if not illegal acts of the Department of Justice over firing staffers for political cause arrived but was trumped by the Bailout Scandal.

Investigators from both the department's Office of Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility found that political pressure did indeed drive the dismissal action against at least three of the nine federal prosecutors abruptly fired. At the time, then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales insisted the individuals were all dismissed for inadequate performance, or failure to implement the President's law enforcement agenda.

But it appears the longtime pal and adviser to President Bush was lying through his teeth. Turns out the real reason some of the top federal lawyers were removed from the job, according to the Justice Department report, was that either the U.S. attorneys had the audacity to prosecute Republicans or because they failed to aggressively prosecute Democrats.

The impartial administration of justice in this nation, its very credibility, was nearly destroyed by the tyrannical ambitions of a few. (more here)

Now let's take a look at the just-issued report on Gov. Palin's similar 'abuse of power':

"This is, at bottom, a story about the rule of law, and the rules governing the exercise of political power. If you accept those rules, then you think that people should be hired or fired based on their job performance, not on whether or not you personally have it in for them. If they do something that actually merits firing, then they should be fired; if not, not.

If you don't accept the rule of law, you might think that taking political power allows you to take any kind of vengeance you want on anyone who crosses you. This includes not just your ex-brother-in-law, but perfectly good Public Safety Commissioners who do not do your bidding.

Not accepting those rules is wrong in its own right. The state has enormous power, and one of the things that keeps it in check is that public officials are expected not to use it to advance personal vendettas. Sarah and Todd Palin obviously disagree. This fact alone should disqualify them from high office.

Twins of this mindset share a contempt for the law and a dangerous lust for using power to pursue petty desires. Truth for these twins is whatever they decide at the moment and woe to any who challenge their delusions.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Camera Obscura: Annual Halloween Contest

Tell me a story or two about what scares you and I'll do the same for you.

It's that time of year when scary and creepy movies crowd the television schedule, and I want to know which ones you'd recommend to send shivers up the spine.

Old or new doesn't matter, or you can pick a theme if you wish -- for example, if you want to get your zombie on, you can take a variety of approaches, like All Romero Zombies or Zombies By Decades, or Italian Zombies or even Spanish Zombies.

Of course, since the original "Evil Dead" was filmed close to my humble home, I had to include a picture of it and it's also just a nice, creepy Halloween-ish image too.

To help you get in the mood, writer/director David Goyer is about to present (in January) his latest take on creepiness -- The Unborn:

I know there are also some recent movies which could shatter your nerves this Halloween, like "The Descent", which quickly moves from claustrophobic caving to chaotic nightmare. I also think "30 Days Of Night" was a good one too.

For more inspiration, here's one writer's list of the 5 Scariest Films Ever -- is it a good list or a mediocre list or just a bad list? I do like some of the choices and the list sure makes me want to re-watch "Mullholland Drive." Of course, director David Lynch is the master of the weird-out.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Facts

An interesting paradox regarding beliefs - facts don't apply.

Cognitive dissonance won't help people make rational decisions, but it also suggests that there's little point in arguing with someone who holds an opposing belief. Could this response be why, despite being repeatedly refuted in the media, the percentage of Americans who believe Sen. Obama to be a Muslim continues to grow?

More on how Ideology trumps facts in this report.

Proof of the above thesis can be found among the wound-up fandom at a typical rally for Palin-McCain: (hat tip to Kleinheider)

I Know How To Do It

In an interview for a new job, you want to project confidence and exhibit your skills, and just land the job and figure out the details later. I suppose it is an endearing kind of ambitious flaw.

There were a few comments by Sen. McCain in the debate in Nashville that made me think of those interview moments, and perhaps that he was claiming far more than he could ever deliver.

Like this comment about Osama bin Laden:

I'll get Osama bin Laden, my friends. I'll get him. I know how to get him. I'll get him no matter what and I know how to do it."

Uh, sir, we have been seeking that man for six-plus years, don't you think you'd better clue the rest of us in here? And here's another suggestion for you if you'd like to win: launch you plan NOW and capture or kill the terrorist and I "betcha" you'd be elected in a landslide.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

1st District Debate In Review

Five candidates for congressional representative in the 1st District fielded questions in a Q and A forum last night in Greeneville, a forum which you can listen to here at The Detour online radio station. The candidates are: Joel Goodman, independent, T.K. Owens, independent, James W. Reeves, independent, Dr. Phil Roe, Republican and Rob Russell, Democrat.

The main questions focused on the current economic crisis, job creation and economic development and the nation's energy policies. On that issue alone, they all spoke of the need to seek alternatives, with several candidates promoting the development of a 'green economy' based on alternative fuel sources which are available in East Tennessee, such as switchgrass, soybeans and bio-diesel.

The crowd was rather small, according to reports, and it's doubtful that any sizable portion of the 1st District will ever hear any of the comments and views of the candidates, which is a sad state of affairs. Still, after listening and making notes on what was said, I've tried to offer a sample of their comments. The forum lasted about 117 minutes, and I hope you'll give it a listen.

I've got some details below on the questions and answers, but first, this morning I received an email from Democrat candidate Rob Russell about one of the questions from the forum, asking whether or not the candidates would support overturning Roe v. Wade. Rob writes:

His stated position and supporting examples are, at best, contradictory; at worst, they indicate a stance based more on political expediency than his experiences as a physician.

Dr. Roe was asked whether, if elected, he would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. He answered yes, saying that he was "pro-life."

He then went on to say how he'd "been with mothers when they've been ill, and [made] the decision … I've made those life and death decisions, and very few people have had to deal with that as I have."

First, I would like to ask Dr. Roe how he defines abortion?

By virtue of his profession Dr. Roe has surely been in many situations where forms of abortion such as D&E (dilation and evacuation) or D&C (dilation and curettage) were performed. Why they were performed is immaterial: these procedures are by definition forms of abortion – they end the life of the fetus – and thus are procedures that could be prohibited by law if Roe v. Wade were overturned.

Second, I would like to ask Dr. Roe if he's comfortable with the state making his "life and death decisions" for him?

There would be no decision to make if Roe v. Wade were overturned and the right to criminalize abortion was given back to the states. The state would set the guidelines for "life and death decisions," not Dr. Roe and his patients. Dr. Roe must certainly be aware of this fact.

I do not doubt for a second that Dr. Roe is as "dedicated to preserving life" as he says he is. His experience in situations where making "life and death" decisions is a necessity has most certainly brought him insight into aspects of morality and ethics that most of us would find difficult to comprehend. And I'm sure that he is heartbroken whenever a malady or circumstance requiring the termination of a pregnancy strikes a mother.

I'm merely asking whether his position on Roe v. Wade is what he really believes – because, as I see it, over-turning it could severely limit his ability to make decisions regarding the health and welfare of his patients – or if it is merely a case of saying what he thinks voters in this district want to hear?

FROM THE FORUM -- Some Comments I Noted:

Why Are You Seeking Office:
Russell - I decided to run because after looking at the field of candidates, I saw no one looked like me - works full time, has to pay close attention to paying the bills, raising a family, I'm one of you.

Roe - I'm a Korean vet, mayor of Johnson City, Johnson City has a revenue surplus now, and I look forward to serving you.

On Oil Exploration in ANWAR
Goodman - we don't need it at this point, and current leadership in Washington has a lack of attention to our needs.

Roe - energy is a national security issue, more supply at home means less foreign dependence.

Russell - it's a symbolic issue which can be a distraction, we have 3% of the worlds' oil but use 25%, a policy that looks to alternatives which brings jobs to ET, drilling in ANWAR won't help East Tennessee.

Candidates Respond to Individual Questions

on Voter IDs
Owens - -we need a fed standard, and a state standard;
Goodman -- better methods;
Reeves -- it's a state issue;
Roe -- a state issue;
Russell -- some ID laws provide too many hurdles for voters, need a fed standard

on Privatizing Social Security
Reeves -- Social Security privatization - won't work now, no new programs, cut more spending; Goodman -- we need less reliance on SS;
Roe -- SS is a solemn promise, i intend to keep it and Congress must stop raiding fund but it does need some privatization;
Russell -- preserve the program and make it work

views on the Current Economic Conditions
Roe - bad home loans were made, to fix it (cut out of recording);
Goodman - it's the federal reserve's fault;
Owens - i don't see a crisis, bailout is a sham;
Reeves - foxes are in charge of the henhouse, need a 'moral capitalism';
Russell - the walls of separation in finance were broken, stronger oversight needed, along with modern rules and regulations.

on Warrantless Wiretapping
Russell-- leadership in Washington has turned into Big Brother, we need to protect rights to privacy;
Goodman -- the majority must want it as they've re-elected those who support these policies; Owens - that's been the president's call, we've been profiling, and we can't do much to change it; Reeves - government not been helpful, those who forfeit liberty for safety deserve neither;
Roe -- absolutely oppose warrantless wiretaps

on Jobs and Economic Development in East TN
Goodman -- I've been promoting bio-fuel projects in E.T. using soy and other products for sustainable energy;
Reeves -- review trade agreements like NAFTA
Roe --balance the budget, keep taxes low and businesses and growth will help
Russell -- the job of a representative is to advocate for the best interest of this area; I will promote a green economy in this area, like switchgrass, bio-diesel; also we need a stronger education system.

on Affordable Healthcare
Goodman -- reduce cost of medical procedures, drug availabilities, reform litigation;
Owens -- set a cap on medical costs; remove stigma of homeopathic medicine;
Reeves -- costs are far too high;
Roe -- future problems of costs and medical professionals will be a challenge;
Russell -- we have an unfair system of access, and we should fully fund SCHIP.

on Support For Nuclear Power
Goodman -- depends on what process we use to provide it and handle waste;
Owens - we need to maintain current projects, renewable fuels make more sense,
Reeves -- yes but not in my backyard, most common response;
Roe - no real way to say yes or no to it, I say yes, can be safe, as other countries do;
Russell -- yes

On Plans for Phasing Out Finite Energy Resources
Russell - we need a new, publicly reviewed energy policy, address options of alternative and renewable resources, tax breaks for green development;
Roe - conservation of fossil fuels, use hybrids, seek alternative sources;
Reeves - technology can offer the best help, stop now shipping money overseas;
Goodman - stop seeking oil overseas.

Would You Have Voted For The Bailout?
Goodman - nothing but crooks in DC, who even understands it? no approval;
Owens - no; failed to help americans, gave money to those who manipulate market;
Reeves - no;
Roe - it's a serious crisis, I have no idea how I would have voted, I don't know what was in the 400-plus pages;
Russell - it is a gamble that may not pay off, it's a worldwide crisis, and we have critical issues to take care of such as the infrastructure improvements needed, America should be priority not Wall Street.

Do You Support 'Basic' Rights for Same Sex Couples
Russell - yes. do unto others;
Roe - marriage is between one man and one woman, but I oppose discrimination based on sexual behavior;
Reeves - federal government's job is not to force beliefs on others;
Owens - ??;
Goodman - it is not American to be a theocracy.

Should Roe v Wade Be Overturned

Russell - no, it should stand;
Roe - i think it should be overturned, i am pro-life, i've made those life and death decisions, so i'd vote yes;
Reeves - yes, it should be a state issue;
Owens - its a state issue;
Goodman - i have ex-girlfriends and a sis who had abortions, it is a woman's choice not the governments.

UPDATE: Local newspapers report on the Forum:
Hank Hayes' Coverage in the Times-News
Corey Shoun in the JC Press
Tom Yancey in the Greeneville Sun

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Listen To 1st District Debate

The online radio station in east Tennessee, The Detour, has announced they will have the debate between candidates for the 1st District Congressional seat being held right now available later this evening. Their website reports:

We will be recording and making available for public download the Russell vs. Roe debate of the 1st TN District U.S. House sometime this evening. We would like to broadcast it live, but will probably be unable to do that due to internet restrictions.

As soon as they have a link, I'll post it in this notice.

UPDATE: The Detour has the live recording here.

Monkey Waiters

How can the US claim to be a superpower if we don't have monkey waiters??

Twelve-year-old Yat-chan is the crowd-pleaser as he moves quickly between tables taking customer drink orders.

"The younger of the two, Fuku-chan is quick to give the diners a hot towel to help them clean their hands before they order their drinks, as is the custom in Japan.

Yat-chan and Fuku-chan, who are both certified by the local authorities to work in the tavern are well appreciated by customers, who tip them with soya beans."

Belmont Says Alcohol OK For Debate

Belmont University has had a ban on alcoholic drinks on campus since the 1950s, but the arrival of the press and the pressures of campaigning have apparently altered their previous stance on no-drinking-allowed.

I think there's an older rule in play too - drink with your eyes closed and that way you will not see anyone tossing back some libations and no one will see you doing the same.

Kung Fu Fatty and DJ Saddam

As surreal as the last 18 months of presidential campaigning in the U.S. have been, the trophy for Weirdest Election goes to Brazil. Candidates are allowed to invent names which they can place on the ballot. There were numerous "Barack Obama" candidates (who lost) along with other losers, like "Father Christmas". Other names on ballots included:

Other candidates called themselves Cattle Ana, Jeep Johnny, Big Charlie Knives, Jorge Bushi, Chico Bin Laden, DJ Saddam, King of the Cuckolds, and Kung Fu Fatty."

I confess, I might just vote for someone who could become "Governor Kung Fu Fatty".

The Delusional Economic View

There's a joke about a fellow falling off the roof of enormous skyscraper and on his way down, a person jams his head out of a 21st story window and yells out a question to the falling man "Are you all right?"

The man replies "So far, so good!!"

Such intense disregard for reality is likely termed cheerful optimism by the Tennessee Republican Party. For proof, check out the happy take on the plunging U.S. economy promoted by the TNGOP:

Bill Hobbs, Feb. 2008: "The "mortgage crisis" is really just a shakeout of some bad deals in one very small corner of the overall mortgage market. A tax credit would make those homes more attractive to buyers. But, then, so will their falling prices. That's the way it always works."

Bill Hobbs, March 2008: "But the overall economy is still growing, a fact not reflected in the news coverage of the economy."

Bill Hobbs, May 2008: "The economic expansion launched by the Bush tax cuts continues uninterrupted so far. Has the pace of economic growth slowed? Yes. But the economy is still growing. Remember that the next time you here [sic] some Democrat candidate whining about the "recession," and talking about how bad the economy is."

Bill Hobbs, June 2008: "When it comes to the economy, the good news is the news isn't all bad. The bad news is the news media tends to cover the bad news more than the good."

Via R. Neal at TennViews
, who adds "
Voters in Tennessee and across the nation, please ask yourself: Do we need four more years of delusional government like this?

Monday, October 06, 2008

1st District Debate on Tuesday

Before the presidential debate on Tuesday at Belmont, the Niswonger Performing Arts Center in Greeneville will host an equally historic debate for the 1st Congressional District in Tennessee between Democrat candidate Rob Russell, Republican Candidate Phil Roe and several Independent candidates. The debate is set to begin at 7 p.m.

(NOTE: The most recent info I have indicates that so far only Russell and Roe have confirmed their attendance at the debate.)

WETS-FM's Wayne Winkler is moderator for the debate, which is sponsored by the League of Women Voters.

This year's campaign also marks the first time in more than 4 decades an incumbent is not on the ballot seeking re-election.

Also noteworthy, the complete absence of local media reporting on the plans for this event and for few stories on the candidates seeking election and the congressional race in general, which earns them a big fat F on their grade cards when it comes to covering local politics.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Vote Palin or Go To Hell

The writers for comedy shows across the nation are in heaven as the current political season has made their jobs incredibly easy. All they need to do is quote the players verbatim to strike comedy gold. Unfortunately, this farce has real consequences as it muffles and denigrates reality.

This status is not a new-born trend. Both The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report with Stephen Colbert have been honestly assessing the America we all live in. That isn't a statement of national pride.

And the recent arrival of the clownish distraction of Gov. Sarah Palin has hurled the decades-old standard "Saturday Night Live" skits into prominence again. Tina Fey is the modern Chevy Chase, who expertly satirized the inability of then-president Gerald Ford to stand or walk. Like Ford, Palin is the most-ripe, lowest apple on the lowest branch, so easy to knock off that the lightest breeze will send it tumbling. SNL's parody last night had me both howling with laughter and stunned our political scene is on the same level as an ancient vaudeville routine.

Palin is stoking the fires of farce so high and so hard one can hardly keep up with it, and her supporters are helping out with furious abandon and "starbursts" of pubescent joy.

Here she is yesterday, misquoting a line she read on a Starbucks coffee cup and warning folks that if you don't support her, you'll go to Capital-H Hell:

Maybe she is serious - after all, she has high praise for Pastor Thomas Muthee, a "Witch Hunter" who came to America to exorcise demons and cast protective prayers over her.

Who's writing this American Comedy anyway??