Friday, February 27, 2009

Camera Obscura: 'F.T.A' Returns to America; 4th Futurama Flick; Killing Tyler Perry's Medea

Hip-deep in the main streams of mainstream movies, there are oddities and obscurities which reveal the eerie underbelly of motion pictures. As you read, you may enjoy this Grammy-winning song from 1973, which blends the theme from "2001: A Space Odyssey" with some jazzy Brazilian riffs by Deodato.

Now then ...

Last week's box office winner, Tyler Perry's "Medea Goes To Jail", is irritating even to Tyler Perry. He's quoted now as saying he wants to kill the character which has made him famous. And not just kill her -- "I would love to see Medea die a slow death in the next film." Why not? His movies bored me to death after one partial viewing, and so her demise seems fair.

This week, the box office may see the Teen Triumvirate of The Jonas Brothers nab the top spot with their 3-D "concert" movie. Carefully crafted in the Teen Labs section of Disney, the trio's music is quickly headed into fame for being part of the CDs-Too-Embarrassing-To-Admit-You-Own. But what will stun the parents in the audiences (and the more perceptive 'tweens) are the rather constant thrusts of microphone stands, guitar necks and hot dogs into the 3-D screens, culminating in a ... a "climatic moment" where the boys each haul out hoses which squirt this white goo over the crowd. Yeah. Subtle. Boys will be boys.


For the first time since it's very limited one-week-long release in 1972, the subversive anti-Vietnam War documentary "F.T.A." is back. Released this week on DVD and airing as well on the Sundance Channel, the movie is an account of the road show into the Pacific Rim protesting the war via skits and songs by a troupe of actors and singers led by Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland, Dalton Trumbo and others. Yes, it's that Jane Fonda, the one who still angers people today.

While watching it the other night, it was startling to see how vocal and angry members of the military were about the war. Fueled by the protests from the then constantly rising off-base military press of the previous year or two, this anti-USO tour is a full-throttle rebellion by troops, aided by a few Hollywood outsiders. The troop response is scathing, giving voice to an utterly demoralized military. The jokes and songs of the F.T.A. show are not nearly as provocative in comparison. I did enjoy one skit as Sutherland gave a sports announcer rapid-fire on-the-scene play by play of a military strike which goes horribly wrong.

Perhaps this movie would make a nice gift for your aging hippie friends or something to give heart attacks to your conservative pals. Mostly, it plays out for what it is -- an odd sample from a forgotten time capsule, one forgotten on purpose.


The fourth and final (??) installment of the Futurama DVDs hit stores this week, "Into The Wild Green Yonder". Reviews are good, and I surely hope we get more. Here's the trailer.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

In Celebration of Philip Jose Farmer

One of the most imaginative American writers of science fiction, Philip Jose Farmer, passed away yesterday at the age of 91 and I gladly write today to celebrate his life and his work.

Sly and witty, dangerous and ambitious, fearless and playful, he was a most notable influence on the genre and was certainly a major influence for me as well. He might be best known to many readers as the author of the Riverworld series, but he was quite prolific, penning novels, short stories, essays, fictional biographies and much more. He won several Hugo awards and earned Lifetime Achievement awards too.

He could concoct astonishing worlds and galaxies, such as in the World of Tiers series of novels, or quirky futures, as in his award-winning short story "Riders of the Purple Wage", which surely forecast many of the elements and issues our society experiences today -- as WikiPedia notes of that story, it is:

... an extrapolation of today's tendency towards state supervision and consumer-oriented economic planning. In the story, all citizens receive a salary (the purple wage) from the government, to which everyone is entitled just by being born. The population is self-segregated into relatively small communities, with a controlled environment, and keeps in contact with the rest of the world through the Fido, a combination television and videophone."

Sounds like our economically lost and internet-addicted world today.

His characters were often participants in unbridled sexual behavior, and he also wrote numerous books about famous fictional heroes which proclaimed they were all real - Tarzan, Doc Savage, Phineas Fogg, the Shadow, Sherlock Holmes and many more. He gained some infamy for publishing a book under the name of Kilgore Trout, the

fictional science-fiction scribe featured in several books by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. The book, "Venus on the Half-Shell", was rude and raunchy and hilarious, much as Vonnegut described that author, though Vonnegut did indeed tell Farmer to not create any more books by Trout. Too real perhaps?

In his Riverworld series, he brought out famous and infamous figures from throughout human history, from Mark Twain to Jack London and Tom Mix, together for a raucous adventure in the afterlife.

Another element of his storytelling I always enjoyed was how he placed himself in his stories. In the World of Tiers series, for example, he included the character of Paul Janus Finnegan (initials are PJF), aka Kickaha.

(Also see this novel for more.)

While his work was always immensely detailed and creative, he made sure his work also created a tremendously fun time for the reader.

Thanks for all the fine times, Phil. You made the journey fun and stoked the fires of imagination for many of us. Rest In Peace -- or better perhaps to say, "Hope the next adventure never ends."

Irrelevant Elephants

There was talk last fall as the Republican party fractured and fumbled their political ideas, heading straight into election defeat, that they needed to re-discover themselves, to meditate and ponder in the wilderness in hopes of emerging new and fresh.

Not happening:

it's obvious that faced with the new Obama presidency, the Republican Noise Machine has already lost all perspective -- has gone totally loco -- and it's only February, a mere month into Obama's first four years in office. Who dares to even imagine where the right-wing "conversation" goes from here?"

Entertainer Rush Limbaugh, the King-in-Exile of their party, wants America to be a failed nation. He also hauls up Louisiana Governor Jindal as the 'new Reagan'. Both men continue to emphasize how irrelevant the Elephant has become, continuing to rely on sloganeering based on half and non truths.

And leaving aside the chutzpah of casting the failure of his own party’s governance as proof that government can’t work, does he really think that the response to natural disasters like Katrina is best undertaken by uncoordinated private action? Hey, why bother having an army? Let’s just rely on self-defense by armed citizens.

The intellectual incoherence is stunning. Basically, the political philosophy of the GOP right now seems to consist of snickering at stuff that they think sounds funny. The party of ideas has become the party of Beavis and Butthead.
" (Via Krugman)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Senator Southerland Making Water Pollution Easier, Legal

I hope you'll join myself and other telling our state legislators that their consideration of new laws regarding Tennessee streams and waterways is just plain wrong. Sen. Southerland has submitted SB0634, which prevents the public from helping to identify violations in the existing law. That's a bad idea, and one of many which are being considered by the legislature.

30,000 miles of waterways in Tennessee are in danger of losing protection, thanks to one bill, and the overall approach appears to be that no effort will be given to cleaning up pollution, but adding to it.

The Tennessee Clean Water Network has details on the 14 bills now filed:

These Bills:

  • Don't do anything to clarify existing laws or processes – they change the law.
  • Blatantly strip protection away from our waters.
  • Grant permission to pollute our waters without justification.

SB0631/HB1616 Prevents polluted waters from being classified as Exceptional Tennessee waters and removes the burden of proving an economic and social need for projects which impact Exceptional waters when the project is publicly funded.

  • Don't give up on our waters. Just because they're dirty now doesn't mean we stop protecting them.
  • The bill is in violation of the Clean Water Act. 40 CFR 131.12 clearly places the burden on the applicant to show social and economic necessity. The legislature can not shift the burden and stay consistent with federal law.
  • Denies the public its right to participation in the process: Spending our money, polluting our water and we have no voice in the matter.

SB0632/HB1615 - 1) States "support" as used in the definition of wet weather conveyance means meeting the classification of fish and aquatic life even during low flow, 2) Excludes wet weather conveyances from "waters," 3) Requires TDEC to develop a waters determination training, 4) Allows for stream determinations to be made by an expert outside of TDEC.

  • First half is an attempt to narrow the types of waterbodies protected under our laws. Since the changes are based upon water flow this would specifically lift protection from smaller streams during times of drought, when water protection is of the utmost importance.
  • Developing a stream determination process is a good idea and one TDEC is currently working on.
  • TDEC, as the public agency, should be the final decision maker on stream determinations.

SB0633/HB1617 Creates definition of "limited resource waters" as those not attaining their designated uses due to natural occurrences or modifications and exempts them and wet weather conveyances from the definition of "waters."

  • Strips protection away from our waters – could destroy approximately 30,000 miles of streams in Tennessee.
  • Gives up on protecting those impaired from previous activities.
  • Critical threat to smaller waterbodies.

SB0634/HB0973 Prevents the prompting of enforcement inspections from anonymous communication and requires stream determination when a complaint is based upon discharging without a permit into an unnamed stream .

  • Takes protection away from whistle blowers.
  • Prevents the public from voicing their concerns and being protected at the same time.
  • Increases burden on TDEC.

SB0198/HB0425 Requires legislature to approve all rules and prevents the creation of emergency or public necessity rules.

  • Create serious delays in the rule-making process.
  • Grants too much power to the Legislative Branch – infringes on separation of powers.
  • Neglects protection of state health and environment if emergency and public need actions can not be taken during times the Legislature is not meeting.

SB1738 - Provides those with permits allowing for a water withdrawal do not have to re-apply when there is a modification to their hours of withdrawal in their permit, but only request the modification form TDEC with an explanation of why the revision is necessary.

  • More hours for them, less water for us.
  • Provides private companies the opportunity to remove more water from our streams without public involvement. Often that withdrawal is a permanent water loss to our state.

SB1331/HB1204 - 1) Eliminates selenate when including selenium in those permits with a toxic effluent limitation 2) requires selenite to be the basis should water quality criterion be developed for selenium 3) Prevents impaired waters from being ETWs 4) For the purpose of anti-deg any alteration in waters which improves the condition or complies with naturally occurring conditions is de minimis.

  • First half is an attempt by the coal industry to pollute our waters with selenium (selenate is the selenium by-product of coal mining).
  • Gives up on protecting our waters.
  • No project can be assumed to have a minimal impact unless fully evaluated. Example: Applicants have claimed they are improving the condition of a stream by culverting it, which is never an improvement.
  • This allows anyone to impact our waters without justification.

SB1112/HB1622 Requires air and water quality rules be consistent with and not exceed the requirements of federal statutes. Provides if there are no federal statutes the state can create those regulations if necessary to protect health, welfare, or the environment. Prevents any permit from having requirements which are not the direct basis of existing rule.

  • Prevents Tennessee from protecting its unique resources when the federal government doesn't.
  • States' rights: Why let the federal government determine what is best for our state?
  • Limits Tennesseans from making its own choices.

SB1207/HB1205 - 1) Requires WQCB to hear and decide on permit appeal hearings within 90 days of receipt of petition; 2) provides the WQCB can deem an appeal frivolous and award fees and expenses incurred as a result of the appeal to the applicant; 3) states if a declaratory order is not heard by the WQCB within 90 days it is a refusal to hear the case.

  • Denies the opportunity for hearings to be held in front of the WQCB if delayed.
  • Bias towards permit applicants as the only partly eligible for incurring costs.
  • Worded to assume applicant is not also appellant.

SB1312/HB1619 - Defines “CAFO” in accordance with federal law for the purpose of NPDES.

  • Locks Tennessee into federal definition.
  • States' rights: Why let the federal government determine what is best for our state?

Sen. Steve Southerland of Morristown is chair of the Senate Environment, Conservation and Tourism Committee, and Sen. Mike Faulk represents Claiborne, Grainger, Hancock, Hawkins and Jefferson County and sits on that committee.

You can contact Sen. Southerland via this page, Sen. Faulk here.

Far more immediate and important right now, the state needs to create new and better rules regarding coal waste ash ponds like the catastrophe in Kingston, where TVA's failure has devastated hundreds of acres and unknown miles of Tennessee rivers, streams and waterways.

R. Neal at KnoxViews has contact info on all related committees and their members.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Glenn Beck's Apocalypse for Republican Boys and Girls

You pretty much have to run through the entire Lexicon of Loony to describe the bizarre ravings of talk show host Glenn Beck's week-long Paranoid Doom Scenarios Showcase.

His game plan is clear - make the most insane and apocalyptic claims about the Evil World Being Created by Democrats and Obama in a lusty grab for ratings on the FOX News channel.

At the rate he's going, he'll proclaim he has Proof!! that Communist Extraterrestrials have secretly moved a Nefarious Wormhole to Hell from the Bermuda Triangle and hidden it inside the Washington Monument which is beaming pro-Hispanic thought-lessons into every pre-school brain in America.

Green Greenwald marvels at the paranoia and inept mangling of reality Beck drools onto the airwaves. Beck and his witless followers don't just accept a certain level of hypocrisy, they embrace it like a soul-mate:

But this Rush-Limbaugh/Fox-News/nationalistic movement isn't driven by anything noble or principled or even really anything political. If it were, they would have been extra angry and threatening and rebellious during the Bush years instead of complicit and meek and supportive to the point of cult-like adoration. Instead, they're just basically Republican dead-enders (at least what remains of the regional/extremist GOP), grounded in tribal allegiances that are fueled by their cultural, ethnic and religious identities and by perceived threats to past prerogatives -- now spiced with legitimate economic anxiety and an African-American President who, they were continuously warned for the last two years, is a Marxist, Terrorist-sympathizing black nationalist radical who wants to re-distribute their hard-earned money to welfare queens and illegal immigrants (and is now doing exactly that)."

As an old friend of mine likes to say, Beck is "higher than boat dock gas". However, since Fear is selling faster than bread and milk in Tennessee when snow is predicted, many impotent minds will fall into a trap constructed only for self-aggrandizement and high ratings.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Trademark Battle Over 'American Fart Culture'?

A copyright dispute about farts has landed in federal court. You could say attorneys are raising quite a stink about it.

The dispute is over competing iPhone applications which both want to have the sole copyright to the phrase "pull my finger" in promoting their business of adding fart sounds to your iPhone.

Depending on how this all plays out, in the future, when your uncle, odd neighbor, or invasive co-worker says "pull my finger" prior to farting, then said individual could be charged with a copyright violation.

Yeah. This is now an issue for federal courts to decide??

The lawsuit is reported in Wired:

The brouhaha concerns Air-O-Matic of Florida, the maker of the popular "Pull My Finger" app, which claims the maker of rival "iFart Mobile" is misappropriating the phrase "pull my finger" in its advertisements. Such an assertion, according to iFart Mobile maker InfoMedia of Colorado, reeks of an misunderstanding of American fart culture."

Really? Really???


Hell, who doesn't? And I do it without any technological assistance. Just pull my finger.