Saturday, November 22, 2008

Camera Obscura: "Twilight" Heat and Other Hot Vampire Tales

There are several great things about the movie "Twilight" opening to massive, adoring crowds this weekend. It's making vamp tales hot again and I love vamp tales; it is based on already best-selling books which kids are snarfing down like Hot-Pockets and anything that gets someone hot for reading is a fine thing; and it also is bringing more attention to HBO's excellent vamp series, "True Blood", also based on a series of novels, and which has it's series finale on Sunday night.

Naturally, as East Tennessee's Finest Film Critic, I told you back this summer how hot and fantastically popular both "Twilight" and "True Blood" would become after the huge frenzy for both were unveiled at the San Diego Comic Con. Trust me to always be On Point and Always Right. Especially when it comes to horror movies.

Now where was I?

If you wish to be hip, call the fans of "Twilight" Twihards. 'Cause that's what they are calling themselves (though I am fond of the term Twerds myself). I told Newscoma I was not going to see the movie this weekend, as being an old man in a theatre full of squeally girls could likely get me arrested or something. I'll wait a bit. What strikes me a bit odd about the movie plot is that the tempestuous love story between high school gal Bella (is her last name Lugosi?) and her new 107-year-old vamp teen boyfriend Edward is -- they don't give in to their carnal temptations. Abstinence is a kind of foreplay, and Abstinence is more easily sold if it's hot and once you give in to temptation, well, the heat... dissipates ... and then gets all hot again.

Let's face it America: Teens is tempted in today's modern now-a-go-go-world. But nothing, not even Capital S Sex, teases them like the chance to spend money - on books, t-shirts, movies, hand-held devices (!!), or anything they desire and angst about. Been that was for a while, actually. And it's good for the Economy.

Angst about Sex, Aging, Adulthood, Childhood, Love, Death and What It All Means can make any Teen say, like, OMG!

And such concerns have always been at the heart of the Vampire Lore. From the pre-Dracula days to the Movie-Age Vampire and the Anne Rice Vampire Romantics to the Buffy The Vamp Slayer days - the Big Issue is whether or not anyone can contain or control the raging storms of Life and Death. And is it more fun to finally give in to the steaming heat of passion or to enter a stage of Eternal Teasing, forever on the edge of Gratification?

(That's also a sort of Economic question, too ... or am I the only one who finds words like "Lay-Away" and "Interest Payment" slightly erotic? I am? Then never mind.)

Let's explore the Giving Into vs Holding Off Gratification a bit here. For instance, "True Blood", running now on HBO (and they are working on season 2 already, yay!!). Once I got hooked on the story in the first episode, I encountered many folks who said they would wait until the series comes out on DVD and watch them all in one, guilty, heady rush. But for me, I love a TV show which hooks me and then I have to wait before I get the next fix.

I start yearning for the next episode in the waning minutes of the one I'm watching, and I start pondering on what will happen next, what turns and events await. I know there is a massive trend to grab a couple of seasons of some TV show on DVD and watch them all at once, but what makes me happy is a show I have to wait for, which arrives is brief packages and is gone and I am back to waiting again. I have not read any of the 7 "True Blood" books, and I won't as long as the series is on. I don't want to know it all in one go, I like waiting for it. (Oh my that sounds kinky. And "True Blood" is pretty kinky, so just roll with the metaphors people, we are talking fiction here.)

While you can have much fun getting that TV show in one gulp, it is not the same as being part of the audience who has been captivated slowly over time and then all arriving together at that shared moment of the Series Finale.

If you are worried about all this Twihard Heat and the Teen Frenzy, relax. The young lovers don't give into temptation in the first movie, or book .... that may arrive later, so maybe they'll be older when It Happens.

Next up on the Vampire Hot Movie will be "Jennifer's Body", from "Juno" writer Diablo Cody. She says her teen girl tale, starring the "Transformers" hotty Megan Fox, is a sort of horror/vampire/sci-fi/comedy/cultural metaphor:

I am directly influenced by girls I have known.Girls who treated life as a race, and if there was someone or something they wanted, they would stab you in the back. It's a movie about hunger. A lot of teenage girls are starving themselves and a lot of them are psychologically hungry, because they are so misunderstood."

Any talk about Hot Vampires has to include the ever-popular Vampirella, so
a link and a picture of this 1960s-era sex symbol.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Evil Doll Reported In East TN

A Mattel-made doll "praises Islam" and even hails Satan - according to some parents in East Tennessee.

The "Little Mommy Cuddle & Coo" doll is shown in a video from the Greeneville Sun uttering gibberish, which, to some ears, sounds like it is saying "Islam is the light." Creepy video link with a cameraman roaming the aisles of a Wal-Mart and making the dolls "talk" is right here. NOTE: My good friend Sande noted this morning the Sun had taken down their video and I wonder if they were threatened with a loss of Wal-Mart advertising? Maybe Satan stole the video!!! Anyway, there are about 20 videos, more every day, of the evil doll on YouTube - link here.

The story in the newspaper adds other parental fears and Mattel's response that the only scripted word on the doll's sound file is "mama" and that all else is just nonsensical syllables.

Maybe Mattel just recorded some audio from playing an old Led Zeppelin album backwards and loaded it into the doll. Or maybe they have a nefarious plot to destroy the world.

Tuition Increase Up 24% or More

A follow-up to yesterday's post on the ripoff hitting Tennessee colleges from the RIAA -- costing taxpayers millions in college funds and making the multi-billion dollar earnings of the RIAA go ever-higher.

Higher education costs, which have seen increases every year for most of the last ten years, is set to go even higher. Two scenarios are being offered:

When the Tennessee Higher Education Commission meets today in anticipation of next week's budget hearing with Gov. Phil Bredesen, administrators will see models of university tuition increases for 2009-10 ranging from 10 percent with no state funding change to 24 percent with a 15 percent cut.

Community college tuition increases would range between 10 percent and 29 percent.

Those increases would bring schools level with the current year's budget, taking into account inflation and enrollment changes. They would not reflect any other cuts made by schools to offset state funding decreases.

The clue phone is ringing for the state legislature and the governor and no one is bothering to answer.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

RIAA's Ripoff Of Tennessee

The state's colleges and universities just got burned, forced by a new state law to shell out millions of dollars to police computer networks to make sure someone isn't downloading a song illegally. The state estimates the cost of this sweetheart deal for the RIAA at nearly $13 million initially and then another $1.9 million each year thereafter.

Gov. Bredesen, signing the law, on the eve of the CMA Awards says:

The illegal downloading of music has a profoundly negative effect on the music industry. As home to so many record companies, music publishers, writers and artists, I am proud that Tennessee is taking action to prevent it."

But the truth is not one penny of this massive payout will go to any artists or record labels the RIAA represents.

Wired Threat Level notes that some 21 people, earning some $75,000 a year, will work this new software and hardware to monitor schools -- and the state says tough luck to those schools in need of teachers and students who face ever increasing tuition costs.

The students may have more time to pilfer copyrighted works because their classes might be canceled for lack of funding. Using conservative estimates, the piracy measure is equal to the price of about 100 Tennessee professors' wages and benefits."

In the current fiscal year, the higher education system has had to cope with $100 million in budget cuts and more cuts are expected in the next budget.

But the RIAA got what it wanted - your money.

RIAA's CEO Mitch Bainwol makes it sound like this law will lend some benefit to musicians and store owners. But that is a load of crap.

"It's fitting that on the day the world focuses on Nashville and country music that Tennessee would take the lead in protecting the creativity that this state so uniquely inspires,” said Bainwol. “We have all seen the effects illegal downloading has had on Music Row – too many record stores have been shuttered and too many songwriters are out of the business of writing songs. This bill, the first of its kind in the nation, addresses the issue of campus music theft in a state where the impact is felt more harshly than most.”

It's sickening to hear Bainwol blame illegal file-sharing for the shuttering or record stores when it was in fact record labels that hastened their demise by cutting deals with big-box retailers like Wal-Mart that allowed them to undercut competitors with lower "loss leader" prices.

He also doesn't acknowledge that music has gone digital and that you don't need a Tower Records store for distribution. [Nashville's Tower Records closed two years ago.]

"We commend Governor Bredesen, Senator Tim Burchett, Rep. Rinks and all the cosponsors of the legislation for their leadership on this important issue, which will not only benefit those who care about music but American creativity and jobs," said Bainwol.

I highly doubt that singling out poor 18-22yo college students will do much to protect "American creativity or jobs." If anything, the only American creativity will see is from these individuals devising new means of sharing content with family and friends. The only jobs it will protect are those of the empty suits running the RIAA's legal offensive.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Your New GOP-Run Legislature Running From Disaster

The newly elected Republican majority in the Tennessee legislature is far more interested in playing Moral Guidance Counselor than in actually addressing critical issues which will affect the state's economic crisis.

As unemployment numbers soar in the state (and across the entire Southern U.S.), as funds for offering unemployment insurance earnings bottoms out, with job losses climbing - the top priority for the GOP is a push to create a state constitutional amendment opposing abortion.

As former state senator now Family Action Council of Tennessee lobbyist David Fowler says - we can always deal with our real problems, like the economy, education and the budget deficit later. Such problems are minor:

And lastly, those who say the Republicans need to concentrate on the budget, education, and jobs correctly note that these need to be priorities…. too. But to assume that the legislature is only limited to dealing with two or three issues is nonsense. Values voters just won’t buy that should the Republicans ignore their issues and concerns. In fact, Republicans should move SJR 127 and some of the other issues early in the next session in order to be able to concentrate fully on economic issues once the revenue numbers come out in late April."

Joining his efforts are GOP leader Ramsey and speaker-in-waiting Mumpower, who both want the abortion debate to be the top priority. Hamblen County's senator Steve Southerland landed a front page story in the local paper, saying:

... one of the legislative initiatives that Republicans plan to push is a constitutional amendment further defining abortion rights in Tennessee, a move that would ultimately require a referendum during a gubernatorial race."

The state's Republicans are hoping to get such a vote on their constitutional amendment on the ballot for the next governor's race, one in which they hope to draw more GOP voters to the poll - in other words, using the hot-button issue of abortion to help them elect a GOP governor. It's a deeply cynical ploy which they plan to use for their own political gain. How sad to view voters as emotional pawns in their push for power.

Time for a reality check for Republicans - we've got priorities you have not been able to see yet as you celebrate a political moment:

- Currently 19 states have between 3 and 11 months worth of funds for Unemployment Insurance. In Tennessee, the solvency is in dire straits and could run out within less than a year, something that happened back in 1983 when the state had to borrow money from the federal government forcing business owners to pay a 5% surcharge for the loan. Anyone think 2009 will see the fed more eager to loan money or less eager?

- State unemployment is at a 20-year high and projections are for it to grow in 2009.

- While some job sectors have had growth over the last year, the state's Dept. of Labor and Workforce Development says the past year has been one of losses overall: "From September 2007 to September 2008, educational and health services added 6,100 jobs. Local government educational services employment increased by 1,900. From 2007 manufacturing was down by 10,000. Professional and business services lost 6,800 jobs; leisure and hospitality lost 5,700"

- With state tax revenues on the decline, how much funding will be cut for education? How much higher will college tuition continue to increase?

- Living costs - thanks to massive increases in fuel over the year, rising food costs, mortgage woes - have meant more state residents are seeking assistance to fight off hunger. A Knoxville News Sentinel story reports that "
This September more people got food stamps in each of Tennessee's 95 counties compared with last year.

Here's a graph from that same KNS story which paints a picture of how widespread the struggle to stay above the poverty line has become:

ET Blogger Oatney Says Obama is 'Greatest Evil'

According to one East Tennessee blogger, God will call us all to judgement and tops on his list will be whether or not you voted for Obama for president.

At least, that's about all I can discern from his most recent post:

There is little doubt that Mr. Obama's election is the greatest singular evil that has ever befallen this country-but the die is cast."

He must have missed out that whole terrorist attack on 9/11. Who knew that American History began sometime around November 2008?

There's more to his post, as he talks about The End Times and his Catholic faith, and the Rapture and various other of his religious thoughts.

Another blog, by writer David Waters, tells of a Catholic priest in South Carolina, Rev. Jay Scott Newman, who refuses to offer communion to anyone who voted for Obama - and notes the odd hypocrisy:

Newman is denying communion not to those who have conducted or received an abortion, and not to those who enact laws that allow for abortion, but to those who cast a vote for a candidate who supports abortion rights. In effect, he's saying that thinking is now mortal sin. He's saying that having an opinion is a mortal sin. He's saying that freedom of speech and thought is a mortal sin."

Is it now a church-goers duty to report on who they voted for or against in order to qualify for membership?