Saturday, September 06, 2003

Oh Dear

Well, only been back a few days and I'm already posting too much! I can tell you just hate it, don't you? This way burnout lies, so I'm taking tomorrow off and will be back Monday. I need to read the newspaper stories on the No Child Left Behind report and also keep myself from spending hours at this blog. I have to keep this fun, dammit, fun! You hear me?!

Plus, I work tomorrow, the NFL starts its new season tomorrow, and I'll be busy all day. Then I'll come home tired. And "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" is on Fox tomorrow night. I'm not going to stay up to midnight blogging again. So much to do, so little me to do it with.

Next week, y'all.
Star Trek: Enterprise

I have been a Trekkie since I first saw the original series back in grade school. I even changed my hairstyle to match Spock's, as I strongly identified with his character. I also adopted his show-no-emotion demeanor, which proved to be a huge mistake as I worked to suppress all emotion and pretty much wrecked myself in the process. Much psychotherapy required there, I'll tell ya.

Anyway, I was as thrilled as any Trek fan when Star Trek: The Next Generation was announced. The new series was different but also reassuringly familiar. And as the Great Bird's (creator Gene Roddenberry) secular humanist, one-world utopianist influence waned, the show grew stronger. It became the gold standard of Star Trek.

Deep Space Nine was even better. In this series they explored the idea of how to make a Federation work, how to put into practice the principles of Star Trek, even with folks who mostly just want to conquer and enslave you. The show's characters weren't the perfect people of NextGen, but folks struggling to live up to its ideals. This series, for me, was the apotheosis of Star Trek and some of the best television ever created.

Unfortunately, they had to create another series to carry on the Trek franchise cash cow. Star Trek was now a billion dollar business for Paramount studios. And that was the root of the problem, among many roots and problems. The new show would star a FEMALE CAPTAIN! A Star Trek first. She would have a bunch of Federation-rebel dissidents to deal with. And they would be on the other side of the galaxy -- new territory with NEW ALIENS, NEWS THREATS, NEW EVERYTHING! It would be revolutionary.

It wasn't. From the get-go, they used the same old production team from the previous two series. Co-creator Jeri Taylor went on record as saying she had problems writing a "female" captain. A look at her prior Trek writing shows that she strongly disliked the idea of command staff dating each other, which meant that her new captain would be a celibate. But the whole idea that a "female" captain was somehow different from, say, a "black" captain, or a "male" captain, or a "Vulcan" captain as both repulsive and salutory. It didn't auger well and that was later proved when Captain Janeway and her First Officer, who had strong on-screen chemistry, were kept in some adolescent "best friend" limbo.

The problems mounted. Everyone attached to the show came from the same production team continuity that Paramount had employed for nearly a a decade. It made the NEW show drearily familiar. Same costumes, aliens, plot devices, ideas, themes, atmosphere, etc. Then they killed the whole "rebel crewmember friction" angle by solving it in the first handful of episodes. The show quickly became more of the same-old-same-old and rating began to drift.

Then they had a bright idea: shake up the show with a new character. So they brought in a stunningly attractive young woman, put her in a skin-tight suit, then made her both fearsomely intelligent and virginally innocent. It was an adolescent fantasy, and she was played out that way, though Jeri Ryan (the actress who played Seven of Nine) is to be lauded for rising above her material.

When Voyager began to wind down, fans cried out for the show to take a hiatus, to go fallow for a few years to renew itself. Instead, Paramount had to keep the cash machine ringing. So, the same old team with the same old writers and production crew, tried again.

The result was Enterprise. Note there was no "Star Trek" this time, as they hoped to shake off a lot of the Trek barnacles they thought were dragging down the franchise. But the new show was simple more of the same. Even worse, they ran roughshod of series continuity. They made the emotionless Vulcans emotional. They brought back the fucking Borg! They announced the new show would be more "adult" which translated into the two series females wearing very skimpy outfits occasionally, and some of the male characters going shirtless! Shades of Captain Kirk! The new show was supposed to be adventurers going where no man had gone before (sounds a bit like Voyager, too, doesn't it?), finding the new and exciting. Instead, it felt more like aimless wandering into familiar territory.

On Voyager, they waited until the fourth season to shake things up. This time, they didn't even wait until the end of the second season. That's not a good sign. What they chose, though, is the worst of all possible paths.

Older Trek fans have loved the shows' emphasis on talk and engagement as a way to get past differences. It's the Trek credo! Aliens are just friends we don't understand yet. The ones trying to kill you might be made into allies if you just learn to communicate. Newer fans, though, love the ships and the weapons. Weaned on videogames, they want shoot 'em ups, fights, battles. Frag 'em all!

And that's what Star Trek: Enterprise is going to offer. Note that the "Star Trek" is back in the name. Whatever it was they were trying to shake off they seem to want back. Maybe they want to get rid of some lingering confusion, but there's no doubt when you watch the program exactly what it is. It reeks of the prior three series.

So now we have marines. That's right, fighting men. Star Trek has long avoided the openly military in the Federation, though marines have been mentioned before. Enterprise is going to station a crew of marines on the ship, which will occasion NEW CONFLICTS and DRAMA! And they're going out to kick some alien ass. Seems a 9/11 type attack was sprung on Earth and we have to go pound some foreigners to protect outselves.

And we have a new look for T'Pol. Her skintight catsuit is now red and blue, instead of dark camo-like. And her hair is longer! Archer and Tucker are meaner, too, more "decisive." Ooooooooh! Watch out!

The real stink of imminent death, though, comes from this story, from TrekToday, that producers contacted William Shatner, Captain James T. Kirk himself, to star on their show as his own character's grandfather. Stunt casting of the worst possible stripe. And this after Shatner had gone very public with his own dissatisfaction with the franchise's direction and style. He's even pushing his own series ideas!

It is the real end of Star Trek. Heck, I think they should just go ahead with one last movie, call it "Star Trek: Total War" and have it be an all-out slugfest with everyone in the galaxy. Wall-to-wall space battles and running ship battles for two hours. End it with the Captain standing tall on his smoking bridge, to wonder "My god, what have we done?" It'll be a smash.

One reason I got back to blogging was to restart my writing muscles. When I grew dissatisfied with Voyager in the second season, I took to writing my own Star Trek stories, what's called fanfiction. You can read those stories at the Trekiverse archives. This link takes you to the Search page; just enter my last name (Hollihan) in the search field and you'll be presented with the links. I'm mighy proud of some of those stories. Note that stories have "movie-style" ratings codes. These are a fanfiction adaptation and should be taken seriously. A couple of my stories are pretty dark and some have explicit sex. If these bother you, heed the ratings!

I developed my own ideas for my own Star Trek series -- Star Trek: USS Goddard. It's some familiar ground, yes, but I like the premise and the characters. But I hit writer's block a couple of years ago and haven't overcome it. I'd really like to go back to this series, as I think it has real promise. You be the judge.

Star Trek is dead; long live Star Trek. Sigh....
Discuss Amongst Yourselves

I post this link to a January 2001 article from Chronicles titled "The Litmus Test for American Conservatism" for discussion and enlightenment purposes only. It argues that any conservative today must disavow Abraham Lincoln. Link found on Free Republic, no surprise.

No fistfights please.
A Little Something for SouthKnoxBubba

No doubt this will make his day. According to an article in The Nation, and take it with a grain of salt as I haven't double-checked this one, George Bush II is the first president since Truman to see job shrinkage on his watch. Granted, a lot of this is driven by the dotcom bust. Couple this with his shrinking popularity and you get his father's re-election worries all over again.

Unless, of course, the Dems nominate Dean. Then Bush wins.
Drunk John Kerry Alert!!

My caption: Go ahead, pull my finger.
Oliver Kamm

I'll admit that I have no idea who Oliver is in the world of British politics and political literature, though it's obvious he's a very powerful intellect with a flair for easily read prose. I stumbled into his blog through following random links (always a fun thing to do) and have been reading him ever since. He's a self-described Classical Liberal, but he also supports the War in Iraq. Yeah, he writes mostly about British Liberal Democratic politics, but he also covers other topics, and it's all readable.

He recently posted twice (First post here and second post here.) on the idea of liberty, in the positive and negative senses. They're great, short reading, especially the second one.
Bonus Cool Points

The headers I use for these posts come from a variety of places. Mostly, they are either short, wry commentary on whatever the post is about or puns and cliches used ironically. Once in a while, I'll use a quote from music or literature. One post from yesterday and another from Thursday are from music. Bonus Cool Points** are awarded to whoever notes them and can identify the band and the song. Post in the comments for that entry. Have fun, and wagering is the individual's responsibility.

**BCPs can be redeemed with the nearest group of hip people in your area and socioeconomic/education/class group. Cool passport and a beginner's cool permit required. Do not use BCPs without knowing what you are doing, as they can be dangerous to your cool if used improperly. Always wear shades.
News Fast

During the "process of unbecoming" I've mentioned before, and which I'll explain one day, I went on a "news fast," though I didn't consciously name it that. I simply stopped watching television news, reading papers and only skimmed the Internet news sites I frequent. It made a world of difference to my temperament.

The following explains it better than I could, so here you go:
Tip: Mental Clarity: Taking a News Fast

Been feeling stressed out after watching or reading the news lately? A "news fast" - avoiding news on the television, newspaper or the Internet for a few days or even a week - may be in order. It is a good way to gauge how you react to and process news, and how the news affects you. If a news fast seems outlandish, consider the following:

* Both local and national network news have increased their emphasis on crime, even as U.S. crime rates continue to decline. This is particularly true of local news.

* Studies show that violence, death and other negative images can provoke changes in mood and aggravate anxiety, sadness and depression.

* Feelings of depression and sadness can lead to a negative view of your own life. Perceiving the world as violent, unsafe and hostile can have negative effects on your body, as well. By taking a news fast, you can develop a more conscious relationship with the media - and promote greater mental calm within yourself. When you spend more time in harmonious mental states, your body will function better, and anxiety and overstimulation may be minimized.
The above came from Wil Wheaton Dot Net, the official website of the actor best known for the Stephen King movie Stand By Me and for playing Wesley Crusher on "Star Trek: The Next Generation." It's an amazing website, and one I heartily recommend.

Wil handcodes the website himself and posts on a regular basis. He writes (quite well!) on issues like handling his famous past, his struggles as an actor today, the evil perfidies of the studios, being married and raising stepchildren, tech issues and daily life in the world. He's quite a decent young man.

Go check it out!

Friday, September 05, 2003

Violence, Violence, It's The Only Thing That'll Make You See Sense

Say Uncle has an interesting post on violence and confrontation, inspired by a post from Kim du Toit, Texas blogger, on the needed consequences of rude behavior. Basically, Kim argues that measured violence in response to exceptional rudeness is a necessary part of civil society. Unc gives some of his own examples of applying that principle.

Back over thirty years ago, I saw a trucker administer something like that. He was tooling down a major thoroughfare (we were slightly behind him) and going up a hill. A junker car came from the merge lane, going very, very slow and pulled right in front of him. The trucker had to gear all the way down to a stop and then work back up the gears -- on a hill! We went for a mile or so down the road until we all hit the same light. The trucker leapt out of his cab and ran up to the open driver's-side window. He reached in and started punching the driver with everything he had; the driver's wife was screaming so loud we could hear her. After he was done, the trucker got back into his truck and drove away. I can still see the trucker's right arm pistoning down on the driver's face to this day.

Was that right? Did the driver even know who the guy pummeling him was? Was it a balanced response?

Unc (and Kim) make a good point about willingness to intervene. But Kim doesn't seem to recognise the risks as Unc does. He jokingly warns that it'll kill him one day. He's probably right.

I knew a woman, petite, wiry, mousy and only 4' 10". But she was black-belt karate and fully capable of self-defense or incapacitation. It goes to show that you just don't know what you're facing. The scariest thing is: what if they have a gun? I can't speak for Knoxville or where Kim lives, but here in Memphis you just don't know. Lots of folks own guns and carry, legally and illegally. Many more, as the newspapers attest, are willing to go home to retrieve their firearms and return to even the score. Very few folks here in Memphis are willing to do what Kim suggests because it quite likely can result in death.

I've been lucky to this point. I've lived in Midtown Memphis for fifteen years without incident. I don't own a car (by choice, not legal consequence) and have to walk or take the bus most places. Two guys once tried to cut me off on a main street, but I got past them to safety. I'm six foot even, and my weight has gone from 240 to nearly 300 pounds during that time. I'm told I have a hard, don't-fuck-with-me face when I'm out walking, and I walk with determination, all of which may play a part. More than once, I've been asked if I was in the military. Bearing, apparently, carries a message.

One thing I've noticed is that black folks will call me "Big Man," obviously due to my size and a common nickname for large men. I suspect this also carries some subconscious level of respect and lack of desire to mess with "the Big Man." I once went into a convenience store. There was the guy behind the counter, a cop on break, and a street wino begging the cop for change. The cop was laughing and then pointed to me. "I'm a cop. I could run you in. Why don't you ask that guy?" The wino flicked a glance at me, then said, "Nah, man. He's a narc."

I've been asked a few times to stand with someone having problems, and have made myself available to some who have expected trouble, to be the big intimidating guy, but I've never been in a situation where intervention was called for. I'm not sure I'd do it. In Memphis, the odds are pretty high I'd get killed, on the spot or in retaliation. It's also likely that both parties in the situation might tell me to "mind my own bidness." That happens alot, especially when color is a factor. It is, unfortunately, a serious factor to weigh in deciding whether or not to step in.

I agree in principle with Kim, but I think American society has crossed a line or two in the past twenty years that makes her proposition too great a risk for the individual. Because that's what it's likely to be, at least at first and if there's not a crowd. Getting a critical mass of people to be willing to do it is what's needed, but finding volunteers to face deadly injury or death as we approach that point will be hard. And of course, there are the lawyers; and the bureaucrats all too willing to step in.

I'm not quite sure where the answer lies. Kim's right that we've abdicated our responsibility to the police, but we've been encouraged to by liberal weenies, educrats and social engineers. It's put the wrong burden on the cops, who shouldn't be doing this. It's been a process and a gradual shift over time, with many other factors we've not discussed also playing a role. We may be too far along for less than revolutionary steps.
A Study In Contrasts

From Petrified Truth, via Instapundit comes this story of a Marine. Read the comments below for a contrasting story of a Congresswoman. All too common, but instructive none the less.
The Five Second Rule

Most of us have heard of the Five Second Rule: if you drop food on the floor and pick it up in less than five seconds, it's OK to eat. Well, maybe not, according to high schooler Jillian Clarke, working at the University of Illinois.
The next step was sterilizing the tiles and inoculating them with E. coli, then placing 25 grams of cookies or gummies on the tiles for 5 seconds. In all cases, E. coli was transferred from the tile to the food, demonstrating that microorganisms can be transferred from ceramic tile to food in 5 seconds or less. More E. coli were transferred to gummy bears from smooth tiles than from rough tiles.
Science marches on.

[Thanks to Fark for the link.]
Look Out! She's Gonna Blow!

News out of Yellowstone Park that the possibility of a volcanic eruption is a lot higher than we've thought. Previous large scale eruptions have had weather-altering effects on North America. Will the Department of Homeland Security issue a Threat Level Warning now? Fascinating, disturbing stuff.
Chasing Amy Addendum

I posted Wednesday about the movie Chasing Amy, the Kevin Smith film. Since, I've seen the movie again, with the director's commentary, and just had a couple more points to make. Warning again! *MASSIVE SPOILER WARNING* Skip to the next post if necessary.

First, is Alyssa's mutable sexuality. She makes a point in the scene after she and Holden first have sex that she decided early on not to limit herself to just one gender in her search for the one true love. But, in her earlier, first, argument with Holden, she explicitly says, "I'm gay." C'mon, Kevin, ya can't have it both ways! I think even more strongly that Alyssa was turned off by men at some point and went strictly with women in reaction. This is reinforced by the end of the movie, where we see post-Holden Alyssa with another female partner. But, again, if you see Alyssa as just one person, and not a symbol of all gays, this is less a problem than otherwise.

Second, the Banky (sorry I misspelled it below) question: is he gay? On rewatching the scene where Holden lays out his plan, when Banky agrees it is after much soul-searching. But when the deal's off, he's very visibly relieved. In the commentary, everyone with Smith immediately says, "Gay!" But Smith demurs on answering. I think it's because he's not sure, and as the scriptwriter/director he would be most intimate with his characters. I lean strongly to thinking Banky's a self-loathing gay, but it's also possible that Smith saw Banky as so dedicated to his friend (fraternitas, as it were; a frequent Kevin Smith theme) that he was willing to do the most repulsive thing he could imagine, to keep his friendship and keep his friend happy. Maybe. But it's more likely Banky's just gay, horrified to face it, and not admitting it. It's a better explanation for the complete rupture of their friendship.

Last, I did a Google and found copies of the script on line. You can find one here. Note that the site is even more poorly designed than mine! You may have to go to the URL line and manually change the page number to navigate to the next page. I would recommend that fans look at this longer, original script as it contains a lot of material that didn't survive to the final, edited film.

I wanted to share the climactic scene where Alyssa explains herself and lets Holden know just what he is to her and what her choosing him means. It's powerful, beautiful stuff. And, of course, Holden's too damned dense to understand just what she's saying. Picture Ben Affleck as Holden, very cool, restraining his anger and wanting to hurt Alyssa as he thinks she's hurt him. Now picture Joey Lauren Adams as Alyssa, raw, trying hard not to cry but failing, angry and unapologetic. She's very, very pissed. Warning: graphic language ahead.

[NOTE: This is long. If you just want to skip on ahead, click here.}

So it’s true?!

Yes Holden! In fact, everything you
heard or dug up on me was probably
true! Yeah, I took on two guys at
once! You want to hear some gems you
might not have unearthed? I took a
twenty six year old guy to my senior
prom, and then left halfway through to
have sex with him and Gwen Turner in
the back of a limo! And the girl who
got caught in the shower with Miss
Moffit, the gym teacher? That was me!
Or how about in college, when I let
Shannon Hamilton videotape us having
sex - only to find out the next day
that he broadcast it on the campus
cable station?! They’re all true -
those and so many more! Didn’t you
know? I’m the queen of urban legend!

How the hell could you do those

Easily! Some of it I did out of
stupidity, some of it I did out of
what I thought was love, but - good or
bad - they were my choices, and I’m
not making apologies for them now -
not to you or anyone! And how dare
you try to lay a guilt trip on me
about it - in public, no less! Who
the fuck do you think you are, you
judgmental prick?!

How am I supposed to feel about all of

How are you supposed to feel about it?
Feel what ever the fuck you want about
it! The only thing that really
matters is how you feel about me.

I don’t know how I feel about you now.

Why? Because I had some sex?

Some sex?

Yes, Holden - that’s all it was: some
sex! Most of it stupid high school
sex, for Christ’s sake! Like you
never had sex in high school!

There’s a world of fucking difference
between typical high school sex and
two guys at once! They fucking used

I used them! You don’t think I
would’ve let it happen if I hadn’t
wanted it to, do you?! I was an
experimental girl, for Christ’s sake!
Maybe you knew early on that your
track was from point ‘a’ to ‘b’ - but
unlike you I wasn’t given a fucking
map at birth, so I tried it all! That
is until we - that’s you and I - got
together, and suddenly, I was sated.
Can’t you take some fucking comfort in
that? You turned out to be all I was
ever looking for - the missing piece
in the big fucking puzzle!
(tries to calm down)
Look I’m sorry I let you believe that
you were the only guy I’d ever been
with. I should’ve been more honest.
But it seemed to make you feel special
in a way that me telling you over and
over again how incredible you are
would never get across.

She touches his face. He pulls back. She stares at him,
hurt and pissed.

Do you mean to tell me that - while
you have zero problem with me sleeping
with half the women in New York City -
you have some sort of half-assed,
mealy-mouthed objection to pubescent
antics, that took place almost ten
years ago? What the fuck is your

Holden’s eyes are downcast. Alyssa waits for a response.

I want us to be something that we

And what’s that?

A normal couple.

Holden skulks off. Alyssa stares after him, and then
starts kicking and punching a car beside her, finally
slumping to the ground. She cries.

Man, that's powerful. It's why I love this movie so much. I identify with Holden. I also feel inadequate and have made the same stupid mistake he did, though to lesser degrees and much more often. She says the most amazing things to him and he can't hear past his own inadequacies. Poor guy, he pays for it.

Go rent the movie.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Previews Of Coming Attractions

Don't hold me to any of these, but stuff I'm planning to post soon includes:
  • Why I'm watching less television than ever and how good it is.
  • My first time firing handguns and how good that was.
  • The scorecard results on the Memphis City Schools were released late today and the news is really bad, as expected. Already there's talk of state takeover, but don't count on it. Standards are already being adjusted to protect against that.
  • Reviews of the movies Cube and Cube II. One hit, one miss. Guess which!

See ya later!
History Saved

Today's Commercial Appeal has a story about a photo archivist at the Memphis office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineeers who has made over 600 images of Memphis and Mississippi River history digitally available to the public, free and unlicensed. There are still over 59,000 more images to archive! The images being released are mostly of Riverside Drive in the early part of the century. It's a good article and the pictures included are impressive. It doesn't seem that any pictures are online yet, except those on the CA website, but they are available from the Corps office downtown for a very small fee.

I just tried to Google the Corps website, but couldn't get a DNS for Google! Very weird. I'll try later and post the links then, so check back tomorrow.
The Small And The Prepared

Great article today in ComputerWorld magazine about a small Tennessee ISP, Aeneas. If you have Internet friends in the Jackson-Milan-Mackenzie area it's likely you've seen the name before. It seems that when the F4 tornado plowed through downtown Jackson back in May they were prepared for just such a contingency! Within a mere 72 hours they were back up and running. It's a great story with lots of good information.
Midtown Books

This is just a bit of plugola for a neighborhood used bookstore. Midtown Books used to be Bonnie's Books when it opened last year. It was named for the owner's dog, an ugly black pug who was really friendly. She'd check out everyone who came through the door, then you could hear the constant click, click, clikc of her nails as she patrolled the store.

The former owner did a great job of running the place, helped out by the eclectic reading tastes of her Midtown customers. The selection is always great; I can find a couple or three books to buy nearly every time I go in there. She's been able to avoid being dominated by the usual sci-fi and romance readers who recycle their used paperbacks religiously and dump massive amounts of unsellable crap on unsuspecting stores. Instead, you'll find lots of "serious lit," classics, politics and history, and plenty of lesser categories. They even have a large section of architectural and urban planning books! Go figure.

Anyway, she sold for reasons unknown to a former work colleague of mine, Hugh, and his wife. They've been running it for a few weeks now, making only minor changes. Biggest has been a push to make the coffee shop part of the store, *Sip, more successful. They've also continued renting space to an artist's co-op who market local art.

It's a great store. If you're in the Overton Square area, give 'em a visit. It'll be worth it, I can almost guarantee.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

"Hah!" I Cry, Crying "Hah!"

You may all bow down before me and tremble. I took an IQ test that Alpha Patriot had a link to on his blog. I came back with a

126 !!

Feel free to tell your friends you know me.

According to the Emode folks, I'm a "Word Warrior."
"This means you have exceptional verbal skills. You can easily make sense of complex issues and take an unusually creative approach to solving problems. Your strengths also make you a visionary. Even without trying you're able to come up with lots of new and creative ideas."
Readers of this blog, when it's being kept up with, can no doubt attest to this.

Seriously, I think I've lost a few IQ points from my youth. I was reading on a first-year college level in the fifth grade and routinely scored in the 99th percentile on school performance tests (as did my best friend). I got a 30 on the ACT (as did my best friend), taken in the junior year, too. I was fearsomely smart, but fatally shy. It all went to hell in my senior year when I discovered the three D's: drinking, drugs and dissolution. Then I went from straight-A student to getting my first F, in mere months.

I was still able to get into Auburn University as an architecture student. I started out in math with Differential Calculus. Unfortunately, I was on my own for the first time and totally unprepared for it. I ended the school year on academic probation with a .1 GPA. I kid you not. It took me seventeen years and three schools to complete college, but I did.

Hey, what am I telling you all this for? Bow down, unworthies!! Quit trying to look behind the curtain or I'll smack you. And your little dog, too!
See, I Told You

In a post yesterday about Walter Kulash's favorable report on roads in Shelby Farms, I made some hay about the wishy-washiness of their current reporting on the man. Well, today's CA is out and sure enough it's a non-supporting editorial.

It has to have been another Kushma marshmallow because all it does is list the latest options and the possible paths to resolutions, then call on everyone to compromise. No endorsements or taking sides, just careful avoidance of an articulated position. And, once again, it doesn't mention developers at all.

As I said, I think they're waiting to hear from the Big Guys in the Smoke-Filled Room before they choose sides. Which tells you which side they've already chosen, doesnt it?
Stupid, Stupid, Stupid

Up until now, I've tried to avoid talking about the Commercial Appeal's "Faith & Values" writer, David Waters. He's a sermonising, hectoring, Far Left dolt with a serious case of moral superiority. Why he's a "religion" writer for the CA when he loathes the very churches and denominations he's supposedly covering is beyond me. But in today's column he uses a poor dead girl to advance a truly moronic idea. He calls it "A case for curtailing rights" but his column is nothing but rampant emotionalism, short on facts and long on luridness.

Let his own words speak for him:
Police searched Tyra's Frayser neighborhood for nearly two days. They used a police helicopter. They used all-terrain vehicles. They used bloodhounds. About 100 neighborhood volunteers joined the search.

Just about everyone was looking for Tyra. But no one searched the house right across the street....

Officers knocked on the door, got no answer and left.

"These police cannot walk up to a house and search a house just because they think it's a good idea," state prosecutor Jerry Harris explained.

How about if a child disappears right in front of it?

But when a child disappears on her own street police ought to be able to search each and every house, shed, garage, car and trash can on that street as soon as possible, with or without permission.

If the law doesn't allow it the law should be changed....

When a child disappears we need to give police the authority to search every reasonable location nearby.
Yep, that's right. We should suspend the Fourth Amendment and all its guarantees. After all, it's for the chillllllldren!

What if the girl isn't missing, but just wandered off, to be found safe later? Well, hey, no harm no foul, right? Sorry about that. These things happen.

And why stop there? What if the police suspect someone isn't being honest? Time is important, as Waters says, and so why not just let the police rough the suspect up a bit, instead of going through the long and tedious interview process? After all, it's for the chillllllldren!

Waters seem to think, if you read the rest of the article, that the police have a comprehensive database, easily searchable, of every person and every crime committed, searachable by addresses and by places that former criminals have lived. He seems to think that all police have to do is punch up an address and they'll learn every person who's lived there, then they only need search all the names for crimes committed. I'm pretty sure they don't. And I'm pretty sure they couldn't.

I'm no huge fan of the MPD, and I didn't follow this tragedy closely, but it seems that the police did pretty much everything they could, in the right fashion. They did find a suspect who led them to the body in only two days, but he admitted that Tyra died within minutes of his abducting her. Visions of MPD busting into houses, crying "Everyone on the floor! Everyone on the floor!", waving guns and abusing completely baffled residents sounds far too much like the many false invasions the police already conduct in the name of the War on Drugs. You'll excuse me if I find no appetite to widen their scope.

This also brings up something that Alpha Patriot has blogged on a bit, the Amber's Army rabble-rousing that the CA is engaged in. Amber's Army is their first, big move into crossing the line between covering the news and effecting public policy. It's a dubious proposition at best, because we cannot expect the CA to cover itself when they become the story.

So, what if poor Tyra Banks' ghost comes to David Waters asking for him to use the CA's Amber's Army to help her and future children who will die from child predators? Does Waters and the CA do the right thing by her, using the "Army" to get a public discussion going that leads to civic and political and legal reform that saves children's lives? Or do they turn her away, telling her that Amber's Army is only for children who die in day care? What is their reasoning and what distinction do they make?

I'd bet he can find one, too. But your Constitutional rights? Nah, that's a different matter. After all, it's for the chillllllldren!
And Give Them A Weapon While You're At It

A rumor has been the big news the past few weeks. Supposedly, Ringo Starr is moving into a house in Germantown. Well, the Commercial Appeal investigated and found the rumor false. Too bad, I guess.

But in the reporting we find yet another example of the CA doing something very, very harmful for no discernable reason. Reporting about people having to deal with sightseers, trespassers and the curious all coming to see "Ringo's house" the CA publishes the poor couple's street address, a map to their home and a photo of the house! Now everyone knows exactly where to go.

The CA did the same thing with a man who, earlier this year, shot a home intruder to death. The man was one of the few remaining white people in a majority-black neighborhood. Most all his neighbors agreed that the victim was completely at fault in his own death. But the CA did the same thing, publishing his full name, address, printing a map and publishing photos of his neighborhood. Not only that, but a reporter even described how to get into the neighborhood, avoiding a false entrance! It was abominable, and likely contributed to his house being shot at one night.

Why the CA does things like this is beyond me. They've published the County Mayor's street and a photo of his home, but not City Mayor Herenton's. In a story about Pat Kerr Tigrett being robbed, they published similar info as above about the restaurant she was dining at, but avoided any mention of her home or address. It varies, apparently, with who you are and how you stand with the CA.

Idiots with no accountability. And dangerous to boot.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Aaand We're Back

So here I am again. Like Phoenix, risen again from the ashes. Yeah, I'm back in the fray. But don't sneeze too hard or I might bug out again. I like the idea of blogging, and the writing outlet, but I'm a loner by nature and shy, given to withholding my thoughts in public, so I tend to lapse in keeping up with these things. As a therapist once told me, I'm the worst kind of depressive to treat, because my impulse is always to disconnect and withdraw. Plus, I'm in a process of unbecoming, of turning into a different person, and wanting to blast my opinions at others is somewhat less appealing now than before.

Not only that, but the Rocky Top Brigade [Yo Bubba! Can I come off inactive status now?] has grown so large that it has attracted a few wingnuts, as anything successful will sooner or later. We were blessed for quite a while there though, weren't we? I don't see blogging and discussion as a full-time, full-contact, no-holds-barred sport like some of the wingnuts do, especially the political types. It hasn't encouraged me to come back to this.

But the voice inside me must speak, and I've always been humbly honored that some out there seem to want to read what I have to say. Y'all gonna make me all big-headed if y'all ain't careful.

No guarantees on output or regularity, OK? I'm also going to take some action I've been planning for a while, namely to alter the content of the blog yet again by widening the topics of discourse into the personal, the daily minutiae, the oddities of interest, the things I run across or do that I want to share. You get the idea. I'll plan to fold this blog off blogspot and into my domain -- Mr. Mike's Rumpus Room O' Science -- changing the name to match. I'll get around to this eventually, and give notice before I make The Big Move.

Don't worry, I'll still do lots of political and sociocultural posting, as that's something I find endlessly fascinating. But don't be surprised if I let comments or a good fight, er... discussion pass me by. Ain't too interested in that any more. It's part of the "unbecoming" I wrote about up above and something I'll blog about some time later.

So, good to see ya again! Stop back in any ol' time.
Chasing Amy

Movie review time! If you haven't seen this movie yet and might want to see it be warned that there are *MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD! You have been warned.

Chasing Amy is one of my all-time favorite movies, on the list with Young Frankenstein, 2001:A Space Odyssey, The Elephant Man, Monty Python and the Holy Grail and some others. It is at once frank, funny, profane, traditional, and thought-provoking.

Seeing the movie cold is just fine, but there's a back story to it all that makes for such resonance as to give you chills. The core of the movie is actually spelled out about three-fourths of the way through, by a character played by the director, Kevin Smith. In this scene, the character, Silent Bob, breaks the muteness that gave him his name through two previous pictures (Clerks and Mallrats) to tell a story about how his own sexual insecurity had led him to sabotage a relationship that he later saw was his "one true love." He regretted it with all his heart now and that regret he named "Chasing Amy" as it still dogged him to that day.

What fans of the movie learned from Kevin Smith's production company website, ViewAskew, is that the movie was actually loosely based his own relationship with the movie's co-star, Joey Lauren Adams! She plays a character, Alyssa, generally modelled on her own self, and Ben Affleck stars as Smith's alter-ego, Holden. Jason Scott Lee is Affleck's character's best friend, Bankey. It took enormous strength for JLA to take on the role, but she makes it worthwhile. Adams is a petite woman, with a high, slightly nasal voice, but when it comes time for her to be angry she really lets loose!

Forgive me as I give a summary of the movie, which is needed for the later discussion. You can skip the next six paragraphs if you want to avoid the plot but want the analysis.

Holden and Bankey are successful writers of a comic book. At a comic convention they meet Alyssa, a fellow writer. Holden is immediately smitten. When Alyssa contacts him through friends to invite him to a club, he thinks she's interested too. But as Holden is getting his groove ready at the club, thinking all her actions are meant for him, he is shocked when Alyssa's girlfriend enters the picture. Holden is angry at himself and writes her off.

But Alyssa shows up one day, still wanting to be friends. After some discussion, Holden agrees and the movie spends some time showing them becoming good friends. There's much discussion of homosexuality by several characters, some quite profane but very, very funny.

One night, Holden confesses his love to Alyssa and it angers her, deeply. There is a HUGE fight, as she shows how Holden isn't asking much of himself, but asking everything of her, expecting her to reject a lifetime spent as a lesbian. They break during a rain storm, only for her to come flying back into his arms and kiss him passionately.

But Bankey is jealous, of her and the time she takes from Holden. The movie makes a lot of Bankey's supposed repressed homosexuality, mostly joking and pointed comments. I'll come back to this. Bankey finds out that Alyssa used to have a notorious past as a heterosexual slut and shares this with Holden, seemingly as a friend but you can see the anger, too.

Holden confronts Alyssa, only to find it's all true, and much more besides. He's been a good Catholic boy up to this point and, though he loves Alyssa, he can't handle her past. It's not the sin, but the comprehensiveness of it that leaves him feeling inadequate. She simultaneously gives him a great compliment and totally rejects him. In a meeting later with Silent Bob and his friend Jay, Holden finally realises his great error and tries to make things right again.

Holden's solution is both hilarious and disastrous. He brings Bankey and Alyssa together to lay it out and in so doing completely and utterly destroys both relationships with no hope of bringing them back. His motives are well-intended and good, but he has failed completely to understand what's going on. He leaves Bankey with a terrible secret exposed and Alyssa bitter at his own confirmation of her worst fears about men.

OK, summary over. This movie is, as I've said already, profanely funny. A lot of adolescent "dick and fart jokes," as Kevin Smith himself says. But within this movie he has crafted a touching story of three memorable characters and of one's great mistake.

And yet, Keven Smith is a traditionalist, practicing Catholic, and it shows throughout the movie, mostly in Holden's character but also in how he constructs Alyssa's character. Although he never, ever gives any details of his own experiences, we see Holden as a one-woman, man-on-top-sex kind of guy, very traditional. His own worldview is limited by this and an (implied) limited experience with sex and women. Alyssa, however, has seen and done it all. Literally. At several points in the movie she lists some of what she's done. She is, as every guy but Holden says, a slut. But in a late scene in the movie she touchingly says (in paraphrase): "You got a map from A to B. You never had to wonder. I didn't get the map. I had to try everything first, just in case. But when I met you, I found what I was looking for. I was sated." Yeah, she really says "sated;" quite well. In the moment, it's beautiful and the most stunning compliment any guy could ask for. That's when Holden begins to realise just how far out of his depth he is, and what he's in danger of losing. He starts to understand Alyssa, or so he thinks.

It's interesting that she's a heterosexual slut in high school, then exclusively homosexual from college onwards. It's implied in the movie that an incident in high school that gave her an infamous nickname may have been responsible. Again, the implication is that she's not lesbian by nature but by choice. She nearly says as much when she falls for Holden, telling him that he's the person she's been waiting and looking for. This view is certainly controversial, but in line with Smith's Catholicism. It colors the film in a way that I suspect many homosexuals might find offensive and enjoyment-killing. I wouldn't blame anyone who did.

But if you see Alyssa as a person, not a lifestyle-choice or avatar of all gays, then this premise is buyable. That's how I get there. I have known some women in real life who have made this choice. Their experiences with men were just so traumatic and awful that they decided to turn their back on them, learning to seek love and physical intimacy from women. [Kissing Jessica Stein is another film that explores similar territory, though not quite as successfully.] It's just controversial to bring this up if you're not a lesbian yourself. Ownership issues and homophobia and all that.

Anyway, what I love so very much about this movie is its willingness to stay true to the characters it introduced. A big budget Hollywood film would have had a "cute" ending where everything is nicely wrapped up for you and everyone's happy. Chasing Amy posits that Holden can't understand what he's facing, and won't handle it well. That's exactly what happens. Holden uses his narrow and oblivious desire to try to "solve" everything, even though it is ridiculous on its face and destroys everything around him. The movie ends sadly and that's its glory. Holden learns a life-changing lesson, but at a great price. Any other ending would have cheapened the lesson. It is also to Ben Affleck's credit that he didn't try to force a script change, as most stars would in order to protect their image. It took courage for him to follow this character's arc all the way. Good on him.

There are also a lot of discussions about sex, to be expected in a movie about men and women in their twenties. They are all raunchy and frank, but illuminating as well. Bankey's claim that "it's all about the dick" is funny, but it shows his own character clearly, as does Holden's inability to see sex as anything but penis in vagina.

If you can accept the premise behind Alyssa's character, which might be tough for some, this movie leaves you heart-broken and sadly wiser. I can't recommend it enough.

Back in July, the Commercial Appeal ran a story announcing that Walter Kulash had been selected by the Friends of Shelby Farms as a consultant to the stalled highway project in Shelby Farms. The initial story was pretty positive, citing Kulash favorably as a consultant and results-getter.
He's a traffic engineer with a national reputation for designing roads that are smaller and slower, and thus kinder and gentler to neighborhoods, parks and business districts....

Kulash, a 61-year-old native of North Carolina, also carries some credibility with transportation officials and developers because of his engineering background.

"I would consider him a solid professional," said Bob Dunphy of the Urban Land Institute, a 20,000-member organization of people in the development industry.
The story also went into some length about a charette, a do-or-die type of brainstorming session intended to produce results under deadline that Kulash is famous for using in difficult negotiations, which the Shelby Farms highway project most certainly is. [Note: Yours truly is a supporter of Friends of Shelby Farms and a supporter of the No Way to The Highway campaign.]

The CA followed up with an editorial three days later that played up the positive notes in the earlier story. The editorial seems to have been written by the squishy Dave Kushma, as it is full of weasely wiggly words: considerable merit, considerable care, credible case, modest new route. You get the idea.

Today's CA reports that Kulash has come back with six proposals, two of which seem quite viable and one of them is the variant of the "Alternative F" idea which drew wide support. The link to the story also leads to a map showing what's being discussed. But the story, by the same writer as the first article, is a bit less gushing:
Walter Kulash, a Florida-based traffic engineer with a national reputation, champions smaller roads that blend better with parks, neighborhoods and businesses.
Still, the story seems to make clear that some good ideas, palatable to most, are now on the table.

The only killer in this is the developers. Mostly, they want big wide highways with lots of intersections to develop, feeding lots of folks to the newest subdivisions out east. There are also some who want to clip and nip at the edges of Shelby Farms to use the land for their own agendas. The new Memphis Animal Shelter is one such. Others are now jumping on this first example to make claims for their own projects. It's the ol' slippery slope.

I'm opposed to anything that makes precedent of carving at Shelby Farms. The 4500 acres need to be kept as sacrosanct and whole as possible. Huge highways funneling the mindless hordes from the suburbs this way and that need to be shunted around the park. I have no sympathy whatsoever for them. The roads were small and bad when they moved out there, and were only going to get worse as the crowds milled out their way. There is no right to have a straight, smooth, minimum-time commute to any corner of the county for those folks. Hard cheese to them, I say.

So, it's good to see some plans making forward progress with sympathy and respect from the TDOT and from local government. Hopefully, we'll see real results soon. But the slightly shifted tone of the CA's reporting probably portends that they haven't heard from the developers yet and are awaiting their verdict before locking down their own opinion. I'll be keeping an eye on this.

Monday, September 01, 2003

Labor Day

A holiday was declared for the working man, the little guys and gals who labor hard, long hours, day after day after day. One day a year to honor them, to give them a break. It seemed like a good idea.

So why is it that so many of these little people are working today? Every mall store, strip mall store, big-box store, restaurant, fast food place, gas station and convenience store is open today. Many shopping places have big sales today, meaning they need everyone to work. Lots of bar-b-queing today, so grocery stores need everyone this morning. The self-employed are almost all working (unless their business is connected to one that is closed, but not always even then), because every day means money and the margins are small for the self-employed. All these working folks -- the new bottom of the labor pyramid with the movement of so much manufacturing to cheaper nations that don't celebrate Labor Day -- having to work on their day.

So, who gets today off? Well, anyone who is in a union, of course. Government, of course. After all, this is "their" day and they've got the contracts to prove it! Those folks who feed at the government trough, like lawyers, are off. Upper management, taking advantage of the government-mandated day off, also took off early on Friday, making a three-and-a-half day weekend. Sweet! Pretty much anyone connected to the folks who made today a required holiday and the folks who fall in the penumbra, who work in companies afraid to take away a "federal holiday."

As always, someone had a "good idea." They had the best intentions and just wanted to do good. But as time went on, things changed, the folks who started the good idea left and new folks, not as beholden nor as idealistic, came along. People got used to the good idea and then the regular issues of daily life (or corporate profits) came crowding back in. Things changed a little here and there; we made accomodations and got used to them. The good idea was lost, pushed aside a bit, forgotten, and only the empty symbol remained. Like any empty symbol, it's ignored, and we get on with things. We now have this weird bump on the daily road, but there are more important things to worry about today, and so our life is deformed slightly, but we carry on. Gotta work if you wanna get paid.

There's a very important lesson here, for those who can stop to discern it and learn from it. Happy Labor Day.