Thursday, July 30, 2009

'James and The Giant Peach' Opens Friday at Rose Center in Morristown

This weekend is the ONLY chance to see the 18th annual theatrical production from the Rose Center Summer Players program, with "James and the Giant Peach" at Rose Center in Morristown starting Friday. The cast of young actors and their parents and the RC staff and even humble me, as director, are eager for you to come see the show. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 pm at Rose Center and a Sunday matinee at 2 pm. Tickets are only Five Dollars (What A Bargain!!) and you can make reservations now by calling Rose Center at 423-581-4330. Seating is limited so reservations are very much suggested.

MJPhotography Online has three pages of photos of the cast and the show, like the one at the top of the page and one more for you below. You can look through all of them by clicking here. She sure does excellent work!!

Also, the Citizen Tribune of Morristown has a short video promoting the show, with some cast interviews, which you can see by clicking here. (I hope to have a video here on the blog very soon, so check back later today.

The story of the play is based on Roald Dahl's classic children's story, "James and The Giant Peach" and has many funny scenes, and some staging wonders including the Giant Peach itself and a host of giant insects who all become the new best friends of young James. His parents sadly are taken from him in a bizarre fatal accident involving a large rhinoceros which has escaped from the zoo. His two mean and very selfish Aunts - Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker - take young James into their home, but a chance magical encounter with a mysterious stranger allows for James to help create a Giant Peach, which he uses to escape from his evil Aunts and travel across the ocean and into America. The insects and the peach and James have to battle sharks and even a large and deadly giant octopus on their way to safety.

The young actors have worked very hard to create the costumes and help make the sets and even selling ads for the show's program, all a part of Rose Center's annual educational program. And it has been a real honor for me to help stage this production and a whole lot of fun putting this show together for all those who attend and we hope you can make time to see it. I know that the cast and myself have had a fantastic summer putting this show together.

We'll even make sure to have some fresh, hot and tasty peach cobbler and ice cream and other suitable snacks on sale at the concession stand for all who attend.

Hope to see you there this weekend!!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"Heads Will Roll" In TVA Toxic Spill?

From the very creation of the coal ash containment site in Kingston through decades of warnings about increasing risks of catastrophic failure and even through the days following the massive toxic flood of coal ash into the rivers and land in Kingston, TVA failed and support those failures with more flawed policy -- all this according to TVA's own inspector general's report on the disastrous spill in December of 2008. The Knoxville News Sentinel reports:

The Tennessee Valley Authority ignored warnings for more than two decades about the safety of the fly ash pond at its Kingston Fossil Plant and could have prevented its catastrophic collapse by addressing them, the TVA inspector general wrote in a scathing report issued Tuesday.

The utility's independent watchdog found TVA management has not accepted responsibility for decisions leading to the catastrophe. Instead, the report found, officials limited the scope of an investigation into the cause of the disaster in an apparent effort to shore up its legal defense in lawsuits.

The utility's actions, the report concluded, were fueled by a cultural resistance to change that looked at ash as insignificant.

And, he warned, a similar spill could occur at other power plants if TVA doesn't take action.

The report, issued by Inspector General Richard W. Moore, is the most comprehensive review to date of the spill, which dumped 5.4 million cubic yards of fly ash sludge into the Emory River and surrounding countryside on Dec. 22. No one died, but 26 houses were destroyed or damaged, and the tab for the cleanup could approach $1 billion.

"Any restoration for individual victims or the community of necessity involves an acknowledgement of TVA's role in what happened in the early morning hours of December 22, 2008," Moore wrote.

Moore and TVA President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Kilgore testified on the report and the environmental cleanup before the House Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment on Tuesday morning. Kilgore told members of the subcommittee, which oversees TVA, that the utility might have to clean house in light of the spill and its aftermath.

"We have to change," Kilgore said. "If that means heads have to roll, if people have to leave, so be it."

Moore hired the engineering firm Marshall Miller and Associates of Bluefield, Va., to assist in the investigation, and his conclusions are based on their review of documents and facilities, plus his office's interviews with key TVA personnel.

Moore found TVA could have prevented the spill if the utility had corrected problems raised by internal engineers and consultants beginning as early as 1985. That year, TVA's director of engineering projects noted in a memorandum that an earthen dike that held back the sludge wasn't built to design specifications and had a calculated safety factor below acceptable levels. The dike's rupture 23 years later released the flood of toxin-laden sludge.

A pair of contractors' reports, issued in 2004 after TVA temporarily closed the facility because of a blowout in one of the dredge cells, also should have raised red flags, Moore wrote. One, by Geosyntec Consultants, "should have served as a clear warning to TVA regarding the stability of the Kingston ash storage facilities," Moore wrote.

TVA didn't follow Geosyntec's recommendations to conduct more studies on the stability of the pond and install monitoring and drainage systems at the facility. Moore wrote that Kilgore "was unable to ascertain why" TVA didn't make the improvements.

"Had corrective measures been taken in a timely fashion, it is possible that TVA could have potentially prevented the occurrence of the failure," the report stated.

One TVA engineer told investigators that "TVA had a cheap solution to ash storage by stacking higher, so that is what they did."

A video of the hearing is here at the subcomittee's web site.

Previous posts from this blog - many tracking the constantly changing "facts" provided by TVA - are here.

Blogger R. Neal points out testimony in the hearing mentioned above where Congressman John Duncan ridiculed those investigating and demanding corrective action:

It's interesting that U.S. Representatives from Texas and Minnesota are strong advocates for the residents of Roane County and other areas affected by TVA coal-fired power plants, while Tennessee's Rep. Jimmy Duncan (R-TN2) refers to disaster victims and cleanup advocates as "extremists" and "kooks."

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Rep. Lincoln Davis (D-TN4) take a different view. Sen. Alexander says the IG report "raises major concerns which must be taken seriously." Rep. Davis says that TVA "has a long road ahead to regain the trust of Tennessee families."

Rep. Duncan's remarks are disgraceful and an insult to the residents of Roane County."

RoaneViews has local reactions from residents to this report and many more stories on the ongoing problems with TVA.

"Heads will roll" says Kilgore -- really? When? Who? The future safety of so many, and the future operations of TVA demand a heavy price today and will for many years to come.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Morristown Near 20% Unemployment

The figures for months have shown a steady march upward on unemployment here in East Tennessee, and June's report shows Morristown near 20% and Hamblen County above 13%.

The numbers:

The state's four most populous combined statistical areas (CSAs) in May reported:

* Chattanooga, 10.3 percent, up from from 9.7 percent in May;

* Knoxville, 10.1 percent, up from 9.6 percent in May;

* Nashville, 10.3 percent, up from 9.4 percent in May;

* Memphis, 10.3 percent, up from 9.6 percent in May.


The May unemployment rates in nearby smaller cities were:

* Bristol, 11.6 percent, up from 10.6 percent in May;

* Johnson City, 9.1 percent, up from 8.4 percent in May;

* Kingsport, 12.7 percent, up from 12.6 percent in May;

* Morristown, 19.4 percent, up from 18.5 percent in May;

* Oak Ridge, 8.9 percent, up from 8.4 percent in May.


* Cocke County, 13.2 percent;

* Hamblen, 13.3 percent;

* Hawkins, 12.9 percent;

* Sullivan, 9.6 percent;

* Unicoi, 12.6 percent;

* Washington, 9.2 percent.


If, as usual, the end of summer brings an end to some temporary and part time employment, this Fall's unemployment rate might be even higher.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Camera Obscura: Comic-Con News; Miyazaki's 'Ponyo'; Scorsese's 'Shutter Island'

Filmmakers and fans and media reps from all corners have been busy at the Annual San Diego Comic-Con this week. When first held in 1970, a few hundred fans and comic creators attended and the event was barely noticed - except among fans and creators. And it grew quickly.

In the last few years, all major movie studios, every news agency, agents, actors, writers, artists, fans and fans and more fans swirl about the convention center in the must-see and must-be-seen event.

From Time magazine, writer Lev Grossman spoke with legendary animators Hayao Miyazaki and John Lassiter - though the newsman can barely contain his fan-boy appreciation for Miyazaki, whose newest animated feature (as always a hand-drawn movie) "Ponyo" is set to hit American theaters in a few weeks, boasting a cast of top name Hollywood talent:

Grossman writes:

"I find it doesn't help to get fanboyish in situations like this -- it just freaks famous people out -- so I keep it together, helped by Miyazaki's translator -- she's a calming presence. I'm not going to run through the whole interview, which I have to save for the print magazine for now. But we talked about where Ponyo came from -- she was a frog before she was a goldfish, and her story to some extent parallels that of the Little Mermaid, a story Miyazaki loved as a child, though he didn't like the ending. ... We talked about the cartoons Miyazaki loved as a little kid.

At the very end I broke character and thanked him for everything he's done, and how
Totoro is the first movie my daughter and I really loved together. I am not a stone."

Fans get more than a chance to learn the latest news about projects they like, such as the long anticipated "Avatar" from director James Cameron, another long-in-planning production for a sequel to "Tron", the new movie "District 9" from producer Peter Jackson and they can get into a Q and A with some very famous directors (Sam Raimi, Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez) on breaking into the business:

Cinematical and IGN have very complete coverage on just about all topics, panels and news from the Comic-Con.


Director Martin Scorsese works once again with his favorite actor in recent years, Leonardo DiCaprio for "Shutter Island", based on a novel by Dennis Lehane and set in a grim (what else for Scorsese??) asylum for the criminally insane located on a island. The preview for the movie follows: