Saturday, January 31, 2009

Cats Invented The Internet

After years of studying the Internet, I have decided the only reason humans invented it was because the cats made us. Cat videos and cat pictures dominate the world wide web. I do not have a problem with that.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Camera Obscura: Star Trek Perfume; Jane Austen vs Zombies; The Fabulous Stains

A new year brings new joys in the explorations of the obscure, the forgotten and the just plain weird cinema. Massive amounts of new cinematic oddities are as much a part of the new year as income tax forms just way more pleasurable. Makes my old heart thump with youthful vigor.

One new blog from 2008 continues to impress me with a vast amount of pop cultural debris and effluvium, Topless Robot. (yes, it is now on the blogroll here at yer Cup of Joe) Here are some choice samples of what you can read there:

-- 'Who Wants To Smell Like A Rutting Vulcan?' features a report on the Star Trek-based perfume lines being pushed in marketing for the new movie out this year. There's "Tiberius" if you want to smell like Kirk, "Pon Far" if you want to smell like a Vulcan in heat, and my favorite, "Red Shirt", if you want to smell like the most-likely-to-die crew member out on a mission.

-- 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies' is a new book which commingles the witty romantic writings of Jane Austen with, yes, zombies. "
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies features the original text of Jane Austen's beloved novel with all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie action. As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton--and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she's soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers--and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield as Elizabeth wages war against hordes of flesh-eating undead." Use this version for that dull book report and it will be dull no more!!

-- Or maybe you'll enjoy the new sequel to French filmmaker Luc Besson's "District B13", which is a sort of sci-fi tale from the future but is really about the growing popularity of 'parkour', a sort of urban sport where folks run and jump onto and off of all kinds of things. The new trailer shows that the jumping continues with mad glee in the next movie. And don't worry about the dialog in French. You are here for the jumping, people!!

Banlieu 13: Ultimatum trailer

Here in East TN, by the way, you can join up with the Knoxville branch of parkour enthusiasts via this website.


Back in 1982 a hilarious TV comedy hit the airwaves and sadly ran for only six episodes. Yet, fortune smiled on the show and it eventually spawned three feature films and set the mark for movie parodies ever since. The show was the brilliant satire "Police Squad" (In Color!!) and you can watch three of the episodes here online, though the DVD set is available pretty cheap. But the half-hour episodes are sheer genius as is the star, Leslie Nielsen as Lt. Frank Drebin, moves thru a universe of visual jokes and TV madness. One of the best shows ever on the tube.


And for tonight -- well, actually around 2:30 a.m. - Turner Classic Movies will feature a cult classic from the early 1980s, "Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains". The movie follows an all girl punk rock band led by then 15-year-old actress Diane Lane and an even younger Laura Dern playing the bass for the band. Here's the trailer:

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Secret Sorrow of the ShamWow Salesman

You may well like the product itself but as for me, I just love the word ShamWow.

Pitched endlessly in TV spots as the most amazing clean-up towel ever, I simply take great delight in saying "ShamWow" at any opportunity. I'm sure it may annoy some people. Ah well, ShamWow, say I.

It's a little like "Shazam", or maybe a "Kapow" (another comic book word). It's the "um" sound with a "wow" on it and that makes me smile for reasons far beyond the ken of mortal men.

Of course, the product is heralded by Vince Offer as he wears his headset microphone and works the magic which is the ShamWow towel.

Turns out poor Vince got blistered by the Church of Scientology because of a cheap movie he made called "Underground Comedy Movie" which the CoS just did not like (and to be honest not many others like the movie either). So they charged him with some 23 "crimes against the Church of Scientology" and pretty much ruined his fledgling movie career. The sordid and shocking details about the incident are all here at a blog called Skepchick:

He appealed his conviction, and CoS overturned it. They admitted that the entire case against him was nothing more than a smear campaign and that it was unfair he was never informed of the charges against him. But it was too late. The damage was done, and while the conviction was overturned, he never received an apology or reparations. In other words, they said, “Oh that conviction shouldn’t have happened. We totally lied about everything, used fake evidence against you and generally ran the proceedings in a manner that was the complete opposite of ethical. But we didn’t do anything wrong. We’re not sorry. And it’s not up to us to make amends to you."

I had no idea. But now I like the word ShamWow a little more.

And if you'd like to help out Vince, check out his movie and order his stuff.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Rep. Roe Fails On Economic Issues, Votes No For Stimulus

It is rather sad but not very surprising that 1st District Congressman Phil Roe is relying on hardline Republican opposition to plans for an economic stimulus rather than any of his own fact-finding or decision making.

He voiced his decision to oppose the proposal being voted on today and cited some false but headline-grabbing details to bolster his views.

He cited a Congressional Budget Office Report which really did not exist and has ignored the full report from the CBO which supports the stimulus released on Monday. Yes, even though I am not in Washington or have a full-time congressional staff working for me, I was able to discover critical differences between the two reports while Congressman Roe just repeated what he was told to say.

The actual report on the full proposal found that it would have a noticeable impact on economic growth and that:

Specifically, they estimate that in the spending portion of the bill, $477 billion out of $604 billion would be disbursed either this fiscal year or in the next two fiscal years. That's 79% of the total.

I guess opinions can vary on this, but that strikes me as pretty good. What's more, most of the spending that comes in FY2012 or later is either for projects that simply take more than two years to complete (highways, school repairs) or infrastructure improvements that have long-term paybacks (renewable energy programs). There are a few other items in the out years that are more arguable, but they add up to a pretty small portion of the bill.

Overall, then, it looks like the spending part of the bill is maybe 90% clean as short-term stimulus. And on the supply side, nearly 100% of the tax cuts are allocated during the next 18 months. Given the realities of the appropriations process, I'm not sure the White House could have done much better than this. Looks like pretty good work from the economics team."

For a nifty and catch-phrase worthy speech, Rep. Roe also shot a derisive blast at the National Endowment for the Arts and a proposal (now removed from the bill) which would have supplied funds for birth control. He hit all the hot-button talking points and ignored any actual work he might have to perform to examine the spending plan.

Look, I have serious concerns about the way the federal government has been shelling out hundreds of billions of dollars to address our failing economy. That's why I think it's so important for my elected representative to actually do some work to examine and measure carefully how to proceed, to be vigilant but not just obstinate. Relying on partisan attacks serves no one but party bosses.

Rep. Roe might have bothered to check with - for instance - the local Hamblen County government, which has already created a special committee to determine what projects the county needs to have funded from a stimulus package, such as a building program for our schools and road and infrastructure projects which the county has had to place on hold.

Instead, he relies on a memo of talking points and ignores the needs of his own district.

Or he might even want to consider what the CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf actually told Congress about the proposal:

The bill, Elmendorf said, "would provide a substantial boost to economic activity over the next several years relative to what would occur without any legislation."

With the bill, CBO figured economic output would be between 1.3 percent and 3.6 percent higher at the end of this year, higher by a similar amount at the end of 2010 and even higher in 2011.

The help is needed to reverse a downturn that CBO estimates will easily surpass the 1981-82 and 1973-75 recessions, each of which last 16 months, by mid-year.

"It could also be the deepest recession during the postwar period in terms of the difference between actual and potential output," Elmendorf said. By his estimates, output over the next two years will average 6.8 percent below normal."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Fear-Obama Machine Marches On

Despite a massive public approval of President Obama - from before election day and into tomorrow as well - the right-wing 'fear-of-everything-Obama' marches on, as noted in two recent articles.

One from the CJP says:

In the weeks following the election, the debate over the issue of media bias, and of whether the press was overly kind to Barack Obama, has continued to swirl. Much less attention has been paid to another, more troubling aspect of the coverage, and that’s the relentless and malevolent campaign that the right-wing media waged against the Democratic candidate. Few people who did not regularly tune in to the vast, churning combine of bellowing radio hosts, yapping bloggers, obnoxious Web sites, malicious columnists, and the slashingly partisan Fox News have any idea of just how vile and venomous were the attacks leveled at Obama. Day after day, week after week, these outlets worked determinedly to discredit and degrade Obama, accusing him of being a Muslim, a Marxist, a radical, a revolutionary, a socialist, a communist, a thug, a mobster, a racist, an agent of voter fraud, a black-power advocate, a madrasah graduate, an anti-Semite, an enemy of Israel, an associate of terrorists—even the Antichrist. Supplemented by a flood of viral e-mails, slanderous robocalls, and Internet-based smear campaigns, these media outlets worked to stoke firestorms of manufactured rage against Obama and the Democrats in what was perhaps the most concerted campaign of vilification ever directed at an American politician.


"In the end, no institution devoted more energy to assailing Barack Obama than Fox News. Any pretense that the network is anything other than an arm of the most rigid reaches of the Republican Party was dispelled by its relentless campaign against the Democrats. ... Appearing regularly on the network were a series of professional Democrat detractors, including architect-of-the-most-unpopular-presidency-in-American-history Karl Rove, onetime-Bill-Clinton-adviser-disgraced-after-having-been-found-consorting-with-a-prostitute Dick Morris, and the always-welcome-on-Fox-no-matter-how-foul-her-views Ann Coulter. “I feel,” she said on one show, “like we are talking to the Germans after Hitler comes to power, saying, ‘Oh, well, I didn’t know. I had no idea he was going to be like this.’ ”

Limbaugh and others of his kind know they are in an ever-decreasing spiral of defeat, yet their voices still make headlines and hurl horror stories about imagined armageddons. Like the recent FOX News bombast about the closing of Gitmo:

Despite Fox’s suggestion that detainees could be pitching a tent in your backyard, Guantanamo detainees transferred to the U.S. for trials would be housed in federal prisons — where dozens of dangerous terrorists are already held. In fact, the United States has already successfully prosecuted 145 terrorism cases in federal court, a sharp contrast to the series of debacles in Guantanamo prosecutions.

Later in the segment, the Fox hosts repeated some of the right wing’s favorite myths about Guantanamo. They endorsed the “great idea” conservatives have been pushing of sending detainees to Alcatraz or a “haunted” prison in West Virginia:

CLAYTON MORRIS: We’ve got Alcatraz that exists. We give tours out there. Put them out on an island on Alcatraz, which is under our jurisdiction. What about Moundsville State Penitentiary? Someone from West Virginia wrote me and said it’s a haunted prison. It’s vacant.

In other words, Fox News and the right wing would prefer to send Guantanamo detainees to theme parks rather than to maximum-security federal prisons."

So far, the majority of Americans have rejected all these hysterical claims. But as they continue to lose influence, Conservative hysteria continues to rise. Their worst nightmare would be an America which thrives and achieves much during the next four years. They hope not only that Obama fails - they want you to fail too.

Violent Attack Over Pizza

While it might be tempting to blame a horrible economy for the robbery of a pizza deliveryman in upper East Tennessee, the incident seems more spurred on by stupidity. But it is still frightening to think that the whole deal turned so violent over so little.

The Kingsport Times News reports that the poor deliveryman was beaten with a stick of firewood which broke three times as the assault continued, and the suspect eventually was cornered in his kitchen and attempted "suicide by cop" as described in the account here.

"The husband allegedly fled the scene with pizza, hot wings and cheese bread but no cash."

"MCPD Assistant Chief Mike Campbell said Mr. Bond apparently attempted “suicide by cop” as he reached into a cutlery drawer to grab a knife in the presence of officers with their guns drawn. Mr. Bond was unable to find a knife, however, and was tackled and taken into custody, Campbell said.

Police later learned that Mr. Bond was wanted in Carter County and Virginia, although the specific charges weren’t available.

Mr. Bond reportedly told police he hatched the robbery scheme to raise enough money to get away to New Jersey to avoid the arrest warrants. Mr. Bond also reportedly told police he was willing to die because he “was tired of running.”

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Ox Arrives

The above pic is from a host of 35 colorful images in China as the nation celebrates the new year, a Year of The Ox, the start of year 4707 on their calendar.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Did God Abandon The State Republicans?

I know much of what is spoken on the floors of legislatures state and national and even local tend to be preening and meaningless loads of nothingness. Mostly such speeches are are self-aggrandizement or perhaps the demonization of some person or policy. In short, little that is said is worth the time taken to state it.

I was reading thru the prepared speech by State Representative Jason Mumpower - a speech he had prepped as he awaited being elected the Speaker of the House in Tennessee - but he did not win said election. And most if not all the comments flowing from Mumpower and his supporters has been a rather sad whining and endless rounds of blamethrower games, since, apparently it wasn't their fault they lost a bid for power.

However, Mumpower's speech-not-given reveals some glaring hypocrisy from the Right, like their victories are ordained by God Almighty (their loss, apparently, is the work of Evil Itself, which somehow subverted the Will of the Creator).

As the Apostle Paul describes in the book of Corinthians, the body is made of many parts, but together they form one unit.

“God has brought each member of this body together in His service and each, though different, is an important member of the whole. This body — this House — wouldn’t be the same without each part.

“Our calling to this place is foremost a calling of service. And we must be vigilant to remember daily our purpose to serve, lest we confuse it with the mirage of power."

Mumpower might also want to recall from his speech his oft-stated belief that:

As I quoted when I addressed this body two years ago as minority leader, I’ve heard it said that ‘great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss things. (And) small minds discuss people.’

“In serving Tennessee and her people, we are here to discuss ideas and find solutions to the problems Tennesseans face. That’s our job, and that’s what we are going to do."

Now, Rep. Kent Williams - also a Republican - won the vote for Speaker. But rather than accept a loss, Mumpower and his Republican backers obviously feel none of that is true. By their own argument, God ordained it so that Williams would be Speaker. Why challenge the Will of the Almighty? Are they angry with God?

Wonder when they'll see the best option is to stop whining, take up the business of government, and seek solutions to the issues of the day?