Saturday, August 08, 2009

Late Summer Night Music

When it is a hot summer August night, like this one, and tomorrow looks to be even hotter, I often spend far too many hours searching for music to enjoy and to post here on this humble but lovable blog.

In the past few days, I've been listening a lot to Donald Fagen's "Morph The Cat", which is rich and thick with some seriously irresistible grooves and laid back funkiness. So I picked out two of my favorites from the album -- and a couple of other older favorites which somehow all melt together in this summer heat around the midnight hour.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Camera Obscura: John Hughes, King of Comedy; 'Perfect Getaway'; 'Lovely Bones'; Vampire's Assistant

I was talking just this week with a friend about writer/director John Hughes, who died suddenly on Thursday at age 59. Hughes made some of the most-loved movies through the 1980s, capturing the lives and loves and comic errors of American teens (and the idiocy of adults). He didn't write schlock or pander to fearful parents. His characters became companions and icons to millions of movie fans.

In the 1990s, he walked away from Hollywood and film-making and returned to Chicago, content to avoid the press and the ever-growing cult of fans who praised his movies. At the time, he had the power to make any film he wanted, and he, apparently, decided to just take a break. I cannot blame him - by 1989 he had cranked out a massive amount of work in a single decade.

He was still working as a writer through the last few years, using the name Edmond Dantes as screenwriter on movies like "Flubber" and "Maid In Manhattan".

I first heard of Hughes through his writing for National Lampoon, where he and writer P.J. O'Rourke created the brilliant parody of a Sunday newspaper in the fictional town of Dacron, Ohio. You can still buy copies of the "Ohio Republican-Democrat", first published in 1978. His writing and skill soon led him to be the editor of National Lampoon in 1979 - they have posted a short remembrance of Hughes and promise to reprint online some of his best tales. The story he wrote in for them in 1982, called "Vacation '58" was soon turned into a hit movie, "National Lampoon's Vacation". And even back then, he had an eye and an ear for life in America which was somehow both hilarious satirical and still fond and gentle.

Hughes had a great skill for writing about American teens, and how there were some adults who had retained a vivid ability to be young in heart and mind. He knew the ways teens moved into groups of the popular and the unpopular, and through most of his movies, he urged them to forget about conformity and instead to be true to self. And he did that with such comic ease. He celebrated life, embraced it, and made all of us laugh at ourselves and each other.

Hughes had another skill which makes his movies so memorable - his use of music. The music he used covered rock and roll from the 50s through the 90s, and it always worked to build a scene or a laugh or capture a more solemn moment. He never talked down to the audience, he talked with us and sang with us, and made movies that were just fun and we have watched them over and over.

That kind of legacy has worth beyond measure.

And a clip from one of my favorite Hughes' movies - 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off" - complete with the most famous high school home room roll call ever made:


Writer/Director David Twohy has a new movie in theaters today, "Perfect Getaway", a thriller starring Steve Zahn, Milla Jovovich, and Timothy Olyphant about a vacation trip to Hawaii which goes from fun to fear in pure pulp style.

Twohy has been steadily making some excellent genre films for years, all of them great Grade-B suspense tales. Other movies from Twohy include "Pitch Black," "Warlock", the vastly underrated alien invasion movie "The Arrival", a haunted submarine movie called "Below" and a real gem of a time travel movie which has had several titles - "Disaster In Time" or "Timescape". It is a sci-fi film that casually draws you in to a very strange and terrifying series of events whose meaning is a real jaw-dropper.

Although he is no A-lister, I've always been greatly entertained by Twohy's movies - summer popcorn fare with plenty of adventure and plot twists.


A new preview trailer hit the web this week from the new movie by director Peter Jackson, "The Lovely Bones", based on the novel by Anne Sebold and featuring a soundtrack by Brian Eno. Check it out here at the official website. The movie is set for a December release.


The really weird this week is for a movie called "Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant". It features actor John C. Reilly as a vampire in a traveling circus of the bizarre who decides to take on a young teenage vampire apprentice. I think the trailer sort of says it all --

Thursday, August 06, 2009

How To Improve Television - Drop Glenn Beck

MediaMatters reports today that the jabbering madness of Glenn Beck is losing major advertisers.

"Three companies who run ads during Glenn Beck -- NexisLexis-owned, Proctor & Gamble and Progressive Insurance -- today distanced themselves from Beck. LexisNexis has pulled its advertising from Beck and says it has no plans to advertise on the program in the future. Both Proctor & Gamble and Progressive Insurance called the Beck advertising placements an error that they would correct.

The decision by the three companies comes as over 45,000 members call on advertisers to pull their ads from Glenn Beck after the controversial news host called President Obama a "racist" who "has a deep-seated hatred for white people" on "Fox & Friends" last week.

"Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention," said John Michaels, Senior Communications Manager at LexisNexis in an email to "We have suspended further advertising during Mr. Beck's program."

Yes, Glenn, in America, we all have the right to free speech - however, each of us will still be held accountable for what we choose to say. Your account is way overdue, so even though I'm sure you'll drama-queen this loss as proof of the downfall of America, instead it is proof that most of us do not want to hear anything you say and that free speech does not mean free from responsibility for what is said.

(HT to KnoxViews)

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Secret Deals Between Jefferson County Government and The Railroad

Several citizens groups have formed to halt the plan to construct a Norfolk-Southern rail and truck facility, though the reporting via today's Knoxville News Sentinel pretty much implies the residents are out of luck and their county's landscape will be forever changed.

So far, the Powers That Be have excluded local residents from having any voice in this project, a tactic which serves only to alienate and anger residents -- isn't it time these kind of secret government-business deals end once and for all??

The KNS report by Ed Marcum says:

"Upset that local officials have signed confidentiality agreements with the railroad company and that the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce has excluded them from a meeting with Norfolk Southern, about 10-12 people have formed Jefferson County Tomorrow to take action.

They have set up a Web site, are arranging to get help from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, are talking with the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, distributing letters to property owners, collecting names on a petition and looking into legal options - all toward stopping a Norfolk Southern facility they say would take out a three-mile swath of farmland along Highway 11E in New Market.

"The point is this thing is growing," Alex Miller, a Jefferson County Tomorrow organizer, said of the group. "It is not going away, we are going to fight this to the very last minute. We will take this all the way, and Norfolk Southern and the county and the state need to understand that this is our homes we are protecting."

Summing up the group's concerns, Miller said it made no sense to put a huge industrial facility in the middle of prime farmland adjacent to an elementary school and next to railroad tracks but about 10 miles from Interstate 40 and in a county that already is in air pollution non-attainment from vehicle emissions.

Norfolk Southern proposes to build a $60 million intermodal facility on 280 acres along Highway 11E next to New Market Elementary School. Such a facility would allow trucks to bring in trailers or cargo containers that could be loaded onto flatbed railroad cars for shipment across great distances. The proposed facility would handle about 180 trailers or containers a day, plus about 67 additional trucks without separate trailers. Studies have projected it could be an economic engine for Jefferson County and East Tennessee, generating 1,801 jobs in New Market by 2020 and 2,600 to 2,700 jobs in Jefferson County by 2025.

But the way officials have handled the issue rankles many people, members of the group say.

Harvey Young said about a week ago Jefferson County's Chamber of Commerce held an informational meeting with Norfolk Southern officials. About seven members of Jefferson County Tomorrow tried to attend but were turned away by a law enforcement officer, Young said.

"They told us this meeting was by invitation only," he said.

Another issue is the confidentiality agreements some officials signed with Norfolk Southern, stirring concern about government secrecy. One of the public officials who signed a confidentiality agreement was Phil Kindred, Jefferson County Commission chairman and a commissioner in the district where the proposed facility would be built.

In a July newsletter to constituents, Kindred said that in October 2007, Norfolk Southern asked him and others on a county task force to sign a "confidentiality letter" about the project. Other officials included Jefferson County Mayor Alan Palmieri, Appalachian Electric Cooperative representatives Bill Underwood and Greg Williams, Industrial Development Board representative Ed Stiner, Chamber of Commerce President Eli Matijevich and Chamber Executive Director Don Cason.

Kindred said other residents also have signed agreements, bringing the total number to about 17.

The letter prohibited signers from sharing information until a decision was made to release a public announcement, Kindred said. Initially he was reluctant to sign, but he felt he would be able to learn more about a project that could have a huge impact on the county, he said.

Task force members believed a public statement would be forthcoming, releasing them from their pledge of silence, but the slowing economy caused the process to drag on, Kindred said.

"Although the local task force members felt an urgent need to inform the community and our Industrial Board, the process never seemed to reach that point and ultimately some of the information was 'leaked' to New Market residents," he wrote.

Leaked information prompted a July 2 public meeting at Jefferson Middle School. There, Palmieri confirmed he had signed the agreement and said he had also signed agreements for a NASCAR speed park complex, an amusement park and other proposals that never became public issues because they fell through. To jeers from the crowd at the public meeting, Palmieri said he has not withheld any information from the public.

Jefferson County Tomorrow members John Kramer and Jennifer Nicely wrote the mayor for copies of the confidentiality agreement, but received letters from Jefferson County's attorney, S. Douglas Drinnon, saying they were not available.

"I understand that the document you requested is not in the possession or custody of the Jefferson County mayor or any governmental agency of Jefferson County," Drinnon wrote. He did not return a call Tuesday for comment.

Miller said the group has been told that Norfolk Southern has all copies of the agreement. The group contacted Norfolk Southern but the company would not release any of those copies, he said."

You can contact the Jefferson County government offices via their web page.
You can contact the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce via their web page.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Post-Peach; Or The Other News in the News

After many Summer months working with some fantastic actors, this weekend saw the first and last appearance of "James and the Giant Peach" - a live stage show for Rose Center's Summer Players. I confess some sadness to see The Peach fade into memory - but what fine memories for the actors, their hard-working parents, the staff at Rose Center, the sponsors and the audiences, who all cheered the good work of the cast.

Those memories are beyond price and my complete joy in working with such talented folk are likewise priceless.

The rest of the world, of course, slowly turned and turned, so I thought it best to ease back into the regular blogging world with a few items which show, if nothing else, that being a part of the family of our Giant Peach could have improved more lives than one might imagine. Long live The Peach!!

In politico news:

Morristown City Government gave the heave-ho to their City Administrator, Jim Crumley (heck of a Golden Parachute for him!!)

State election commissions across the state of Tennessee have filed a class action suit over the apparent political hijinks of naming new bosses.

In other news:

Law enforcement officers in Chattanooga stopped a man threatening suicide by firing some 59 shots at him, striking him 43 times "
The autopsy report, which is not yet final, details gunshot wounds on nearly every part of Mr. Heyward's 5-foot-9-inch, 180-pound body. Bullet holes were present from his chin to his ankle, but Lt. Noorbergen said it's not clear which of those were entry or exit wounds.". This story is almost too tragic and awful to be believed.

The constant mis-information about a plan to revamp the nation's health care system has been so steady and constant that the malformed remnants of the legislation also falls into the realm of tragedy.

In other News o' The Web:

I've been catching up on the year-long interview project from producer/director David Lynch. A recent sample is below -- for so many of these interviews done with people from across the country, people who seldom make the news or even creep into our daily awareness - I learn something most memorable about the lives us of us all: we struggle through good times and hard times and if we are fortunate, we learn to embrace the good times and simply learn to accept the bad.
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Sunday, August 02, 2009

Last Chance Today to See James and The Giant Peach

The final performance of "James and the Giant Peach" at Rose Center in Morristown is today with curtain time at 2 pm -- come early, tickets are going fast and will be available at the door!!

Directing this show for the Rose Center Summer Players has been one of the best events I have ever had the pleasure of working on - and the cast of actors are absolutely top-notch. Here's a preview from rehearsals: