Friday, May 15, 2009

Camera Obscura: Star Trek Redux; 'The Road' Trailer; Hollywood at the KMA

Way back in the long-ago times known as my childhood, if you were to visit my home and enter the rooms of either my sister or myself, you'd likely think we were pop culture junkies. Both of us, even back in those long-ago times of television-by-antenna-only and three networks only, dug as deep as we could.

While I had Aurora models of Frankenstein and Creature From the Black Lagoon, my sis had a wall of glossy black and white photos from a wide range of television shows - but the ones I recall most were from a show then being broadcast regularly on NBC called "Star Trek". (I kinda think she had a crush on Chekov.) My somewhat scattered memories of those times include images of a copy of the script for an episode from the second season titled "Assignment: Earth" which she had as well -- I think she had gotten that via the TV studio as well, but my memory may be weak and it may have been sometime later she had that script. Still, she was the first "trekkie" I knew.

(I also have vague memories of a few posters in my room, giant black and white posters of Raquel Welch in that fur bikini from "1 Million Years B.C." and of Steve McQueen astride a motorcycle from "The Great Escape".)

And though I have been way to busy the last week to see the newest "Star Trek" movie/franchise reboot, I know that many friends have seen it and liked it and some have taken their kids to see the movie, which is a pleasant notion, sort of passing the fandom down a generation. But I ran across some behind-the-scenes photos of the original show via MetaFilter which I really like --

Spock and 1965 Buick Riviera

Kirk and a what the heck car is that??

Kirk, Spock and some Space Babes

While many decades and many shows and movies have followed the original show, it's good to know my sis and I were hip long before anyone new Star Trek was hip.


At long last, a trailer for the new movie "The Road", based on Cormac McCarthy's novel. (As noted on Cinematical - "
According to Esquire, John Hillcoat's film is (and other reviews have borne this out) as quiet, harrowing, and bleak as the novel is, and may just be "the most important film of the year". Unfortunately, the Weinsteins feel no one will see it unless there's an "explanation" and a hook of kick ass action, even if the film itself lacks the things the trailer sells. But at least you get a glimpse of the real film underneath, which is enough to cause you to choke up.")


Tonight on TCM, one of the very first ever Summer Blockbuster movies airs - "You Only Live Twice". This was the first James Bond movie to open in summer, back in 1967 and earned over $100 million at the box office. It's got spaceships, ninjas, a killer soundtrack and score, and it is also the only Bond scripted by creator Ian Fleming's longtime friend and fellow writer, Roald Dahl. There would never have been an Austin Powers or The Incredibles without this movie.

And stick around after the second Bond feature, "Diamonds Are Forever", to see the pairing of Sean Connery and a very young Christopher Walken in the very under-rated crime thriller "The Anderson Tapes". The story, told from a perspective of a society under surveillance long before such concepts were considered a daily reality. It's from director Sidney Lumet, with music by Quincy Jones and the film holds up very well today. (Trailer for the movie here.)


A touring exhibit of classic Hollywood photos is on display now at the Knoxville Museum of Art. Drawn from the archives of the John Kobal Collection, it includes works by George Hurrell, Sincalir Bull, William Mortensen and many many more. The KMA has the exhibit until October, more on the photos is here via John Kobal's site. Some samples?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Week In Review: Semi-Snarky Edition

There are numerous stories I've been pondering on this week and I am reluctant to just post a sentence or two so instead this is sort of a grab-bag of ideas and thoughts on items making news.

-- Here in East Tennessee, the EPA is now officially overseeing the cleanup of TVA's ash spill disaster in Roane County, using authority given the EPA via the Superfund Act. So, let me get this right: hazardous waste cleanup is needed, but all that coal ash isn't really hazardous waste in a legal sense. The dumping by TVA and the EPA on Roane County is blindingly awful and no end to it is in sight. TVA, and the federal and state officials of Tennessee, all earn a massive FAIL on this disaster response.

-- Also in Tennessee, it's about to get easier to take more guns into more places. Yeah, what a wonderful easing of a troublesome burden. Not enough folks toting guns wherever they go. Whew. (Used right, even a bowl of chili can protect your home and property.)

-- I posted a story this week about the astronaut Michael Massimino making use of the Twitter platform to publish short sentences while on the current NASA shuttle mission for repairs on the Hubble telescope. So far, it's just rather lame and pointless and for me further reduces any importance or value to our space program - a program which has been struggling to find funding and support by the nation and our government.

The shuttle has been mostly a mindless truck-for-hire for the military and the CIA, focused on minor tasks at huge operating costs, which allowed for endless delays in more useful projects in space and with greater scientific value. The Hubble has really been valuable for it's work, true. But the U.S. has really lost the initiative it once had in space exploration. This week, NOVA on PBS aired a special on the shuttle program and the Columbia disaster. I urge you to watch it rather than just read a few words typed onto Twitter.

-- Like a modern-day P.T. Barnum, Donald Trump has been able to make rather minor beauty pageants into a hot topic, thanks to the dim-witted comments of a Miss California winner. Also, I would imagine any career ideas she might have about being a model or actress will bring her into constant contact with gay people, the group of people she spoke so harshly about, so I doubt she'll receive much help from them to look and dress well. And really, this interest on a contest based on superficial looks -- useless.

Back in 1987 while working as a reporter for a local paper, I spent the day with that year's Miss America contest winner, Kellye Cash. I was more impressed she was a distant relative of Johnny Cash than with a Miss America title. But she was pretty and she certainly was a marked departure from the previous scandalized winner Vanessa Williams. But you know, Williams is the one working today as an actress and singer and in the spotlight. Kellye has been in regional theatre and has released a few CDs, but in terms of talent, Williams wins. I liked Kellye (but what is up with that extra E in her name?) and she seemed to be a nice person. But Trump knows, as did Barnum, that it is publicity and a whiff of danger that sells tickets and earns headlines.

As for what Miss California said and it being simply her usage of Freedom of Speech - well, yes, an American can speak their mind on any topic. But the speaker will still be held accountable for what they say.

-- In far more serious matters, the potential for a real U.S. disaster is growing thanks to ever-growing revelations about how torture was used to lead the nation into war in Iraq and how high up in the White House the orders originated, and an ever-growing reality that many in Congress knew what was happening. As I have written here many times before, this aspect of U.S. policy is doing and has done untold damage to the credibility of our country and beliefs. As of yet, we still lack the will and courage to face this horrible issue fully and punish those who made it happen.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tennessee Picked For Solar Deployment Study

Tennessee is one of six states picked to be in a national Solar Energy Analysis project, in conjunction with The Tennessee Regulatory Agency, the Dept. of Energy and the Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners.

The Tennessee Regulatory Agency says the project will:

bring together states that are at the beginning stages of establishing renewable energy policies and standards. State utility commissioners and staff will work with National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) analysts to identify and study technological, economic, and regulatory barriers facing solar energy.

"We are extremely happy to be one of the states selected for this very important research project on solar energy," said TRA Chairman Eddie Roberson. "Just as Tennessee was a leader in the development of hydro and nuclear power, our state can play an equally important role in the application of solar energy technologies."

The solar energy resource assessment project will include Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Missouri and Colorado and will be funded by the DOE. Tennessee was one of sixteen states to submit an application which was reviewed by a team of utility and renewable energy experts from around the country."

Kudos to the state for paying attention and applying for a fundamental energy program. Our selection is also likely due to the decision by Hemlock Semiconductor Corp. to invest $1.2 billion in Clarksville,TN building solar panel components. Also, given other recent efforts from the Bredesen administration, it seems one thing his legacy could include would be getting Tennessee heavily invested in alternative energy programs for the nation.

SEE ALSO: An editorial by Brandon Blevins who works in the wind energy programs for SACE; and his recent report on the potential for wind energy development in Tennessee.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Twitter In Space with Astro Mike

Astronaut and Mission Specialist Michael Massimino - aka Astro_Mike - is making Twitter updates as a part of the current shuttle mission (which you can read about right here via NASA).

I wonder how he can type messages out with those gloves on? Is it LOL to be without gravity?

I wonder too if he can resist the temptation to make tweets about Ground Control and Major Tom.

Situation Normal

I had a really fine weekend camp-out with friends, an annual event we all share which has always been one of the finer things in life each time we gather. Threats of severe storms all passed north of us and the weather was bright, the sun warm, and I talked and laughed with friends old and new who were all equally amazed to see me outside, in the daytime even.

As often as I read and learn about the American world today via giant corporate media outlets and spiky independent media outlets and wade into the cultural waters of meta-critics, it's likely far more valuable to me and to others to simply talk with people and spend time with them. Honest people who work hard, who raise their children well, who care about the world, who provide immense amounts of positive energy and support for each other -- all that makes me fortunate indeed to call such people friends.

The lives of folks from all walks of life who do the daily chores, who provide leadership and ideas all stand in stark contrast to the empty preening and pouting of elected officials and media products.

And as sure as the sun rises, when I return again this morning to the media-saturated worlds I again find there's a lot of whining and petty, meaningless howls of derision, apocalyptic moanings, idiocy ad infinitum. Situation normal.

In the real world we all know, for example, that some stunningly large groups of ultra-greedy people tanked our economy and the effects have hurt just about everyone and slurried the paths of working people with serious obstacles. We hope some will be punished, realize that most won't and we struggle to improve our own lives as best we can and hope such greed is gone for a while.

In the real world we all know the sore loser crowd in politics, the same crowd which loudly prophesize evils aplenty if they don't have political control, continue to dwindle away into the usual background hum of negative nonsense, the hateful and the vengeful who would smash all the world in order to make their piece of the world simply look shinier.

In the real world we all know that even on a Mother's Day, mom might have to change some pretty nasty diapers. And she does. And life goes on.