Saturday, June 05, 2004

My Superhero Power

I'd only rate as the Legion of Auxiliary Superheroes, though, since the power isn't guaranteed to work every time. And it is pretty dumb. I have the amazing ability to stop comment and discussion threads cold. It seems that whenever I add to a thread in Usenet, or to a comment thread on websites, it stops the discussion cold. No more posts.

Alternatively, I'm completely ignored. It doesn't matter how cogent or definitive I may be, it's as though I said nothing.

Ah least I can't rob banks with it or anything.
Still No Media Bias. Nope. Nuh-uh

This New Statesman column by Brit Nick Cohen is remarkable in one very important regard. It's an admission by a reporter about his fellow reporters and their editors.

Cohen writes about how the British media, specifically the BBC, knew that the group organising the large anti-war marches of 2003 was a Marxist front. But that news, spilled all across the Internet by bloggers, was never presented to the viewing public. Why?
Just before the war against Iraq I began to receive strange calls from BBC journalists. Would I like information on how the leadership of the anti-war movement had been taken over by the Socialist Workers Party? Maybe, I replied. It was depressing that a totalitarian party was in the saddle, but that's where the SWP always tries to get. Why get excited?

Oh there are lots of reasons, said the BBC hacks. The anti-war movement wasn't a simple repetition of the old story of the politically naive being led by the nose by sly operators. The far left was becoming the far right. It had gone as close to supporting Ba'athist fascism as it dared and had formed a working alliance with the Muslim Association of Britain, which, along with the usual misogyny and homophobia of such organisations, also believed that Muslims who decided that there was no God deserved to die for the crime of free thought. In a few weeks hundreds of thousands of people, maybe millions, would allow themselves to be organised by the opponents of democracy and modernity and would march through the streets of London without a flicker of self-doubt. Wasn't this a story?

It's a great story, I cried. But why don't you broadcast it?

We can't, said the bitter hacks. Our editors won't let us.
Nope, no bias here.
Clinton + Spotlight = Watch Out!

From Blogcritics, where I am a contributor, comes a pointed look at the upcoming Bill Clinton ass-covering, self-blow-job, historical rewrite, via Yahoo News.
Bill Clinton, once a president and now an author, offered a characteristic performance Thursday night for the country's publishing community: late, long, but ultimately satisfying to the crowd.

The keynote speaker at BookExpo America, publishing's annual national convention, Clinton was here to promote his memoir, "My Life," which comes out June 22 with a first printing of 1.5 million.

It was not the most efficient of promotional events. Clinton began 30 minutes behind schedule and spoke for 45 minutes, 25 minutes longer than expected. But he left to the same noisy approval as when he arrived ? a standing ovation. And he showed the knack for summing up a 950-page book in a couple of sentences.

"When I was a young man, getting out of law school, I said one of the goals I had in life was to write a great book," he explained. "I have no earthly idea if it's a great book. But it's a pretty good story."

Clinton's speech, covering everything from 18th century politics to 21st century genetics, mirrored what he said the memoir itself would comprise: personal memories, general history, political analysis.
Some people think Clinton's just spotlight grabbing from Kerry and the Democratic convention. I think there's a measure of truth in that, but I also think the Dems understand that their convention is liable to be a dullfest with only minimal coverage by the networks. Having Clinton around promises to up the news-story quotient and starpower. It's not that he'll steal Kerry's spotlight as that he'll give the underwhelming Kerry some much needed shine.
Leftist Eschatology

The Reverend Donald Sensing, who blogs as One Hand Clapping, has a marvellous distillation of some thinking about the way the anti-war Left is happily associating with Stalinist types and what it indicates.
Non-religious westerners are just as liable to eschatological fervor as religious people anywhere. Marxism is an eschatological ideology (a godless religion in its own right, really). The ideal time is when "the workers control the means of production" after the capitalists have been violently overthrown. Lee Harris explained the basic tenets of Marxism, and its fundamental flaws, in his excellent essay, "The Intellectual Origins of America-Bashing." Suffice it to say here that Marx considered revolution by the oppressed both essential and inevitable for true socialism to be established. This was a political version of Judgment Day, when the wicked capitalists would be judged and destroyed so that the pure in heart (the heavily romanticized working classes) could attain the Ideal Time.

This appealing but basically foolish ideology held power in the USSR for 70 years, abandoned long before its end by almost all the working classes themselves and most of the ruling class. Soviet communism became a shell game in which commissars and higher ranks lived large and the masses merely lived. Its Ideal Time, however, was hammered home by the propagandists as just around the corner. True Communism was always coming soon, a state in which material production was so great that all human needs were met without shortage. Greed would therefore disappear and the inherent but capitalist-suppressed natural nobility of men and women would emerge. They would be transformed into true communists - altruists who worked each day for the good of the people, not for crass, selfish profit.
A definite Must Read. There are also a few links at the end that reward follow-through.
Memphis Television Market News

I blogged middle of last week about the changes coming to the local television stations. Scroll down to see that. More changes are coming.

Joey Sulipeck will be the new chief forecaster at FOX13. He has already done a "Backyard Weather" promo, seen Saturday morning. I'll be watching the Monday news to see if he's starting then. Southern television market website SouthTVNews has this to say about the Sulipeck hiring:
Yesterday, we reported on the hiring of WREG freelancer Joey Sulipeck as chief forecaster at FOX Memphis (WHBQ-TV), and opined a bit on why he would've been chosen. Today, we found out some scattered details on the hiring (and would welcome any additional information or details that people might wish to send).

Insiders tell STN via the rumor mill that Sulipeck's hiring was an inside job of sorts, a direct hire of the station's GM...not via the news director, and that the news director's top choices were not considered. We also hear Sulipeck has already appeared on WHBQ, though he had not yet formally signed a contract....

Sulipeck previously worked at Sector Capital Management as Director of Communications (and for all we know, still will be?) while freelancing at WREG. Sulipeck's hiring is still being viewed with scratching heads.
They also have a couple of new folks on the Saturday evening newscast. Ernie Freedman is the new co-anchor (with Tanya St. Romain tonight) and Ed Echols has been the weekend weather forecaster for a couple of weeks now.

SouthTVNews is also reporting that WREG's Jamie Turner, who used to be the weekend anchor, is leaving, possibly to return to Alabama. He was a former reporter and anchor at WHNT in my hometown of Huntsville.

And completing the cribbing from SouthTVNews, he has an excellent survey (dated 6/5) of the Memphis market's stations and personalities. A must read!

I would only add these observations to his. I think that WPTY, ABC24, can do the best hard-news coverage when they want to. For some reason, they lurch between excellent and penetrating work on government and schools, to silliness like Jeni DiPrizio asking to get run over in traffic, if not maced or shot. If you remember the Dyersburg hostage situation, they were the only station on top of the story from beginning to end, with regular break-ins and updates until the end, when they went live to cover the grisly finale. It's almost schizophrenic, watching their newscast. I wish they'd commit to hard news reporting and just nail it. Which they could do easily.

Oh, and they need to have their reporters prep better for the live bits on broadcasts. I can't count the number of times when Cameron or Dee will ask a reporter an obvious question about their story, and the reporter doesn't have a clue. ("...and twenty-two complaints have been filed. Cameron?" "How many of those complaints have been resolved, Betty?" "Uhhhh, I don't know. I'm sure many of them haven't, though.") Think about the next logical question your story raises and be ready to answer it, alright y'all?

WREG and WMC both waste too much time with flashy graphics and portentous music in their broadcasts. I know that some audience researchers have found that people will stick around if you bombard them with that kind of stuff, and if you relentlessly "tease" the coming stories instead of just giving it away. ("Will change be coming to our weather? I'll tell") Too much handing off and bouncing around. Just report the news, OK?

Frankly, I don't watch FOX13 news. No disrespect to Steve Dawson, but he initially gave me the sense of a person with a drinking problem on the way downmarket. He just makes too many basic presentation errors for someone of his age and experience. And ever since I saw Allyson Finch waving a realistic-looking .45 caliber fake gun around, with her finger on the trigger for a live report, it's been hard to take them seriously.

Before they dumped their anchor team, WPTY's 9:00PM weekday newscast for WLMT was some solid "urban" newscasting. I enjoyed it as a newscast, but I know a whole lot of black Memphians who really enjoyed the Afro-centric appearance and perceived focus of the 'cast. For this market, it was ground-breaking and appealing. Too bad to see it disappear.

Now for the sexism! By far, WMC has the best-looking on-air team. Both Carries, Donna, Ursula, Anne-Marie, Joyce, Janice, Renee. Wow, did I forget anyone? Sunrise to sunset to dark, eye-candy for everyone.

I don't watch WREG, but I've got to say that Amy and Jennifer are both top drawer in the looks department, as is Pam. Woot!

WPTY has changed so much in the past year, I've lost track. Where is Ellen, she of the dark looks and hair? Some of the new women are attractive, but don't stand out yet.

But my definite broadcast crush has to be FOX13's weather-babe extra-ordinaire Holly Hancock. She has this fresh-faced, cute quality that endears me, I must admit. That she's a competent professional just means I can justify staring at her...uh, watching her weather forecasts.

It's depressing just how much turnover there is in this market, as far as television news reporters go. It means we lose out on reporters knowing the history and meaning of what they cover, knowing the players and their relationships and antagonisms, and knowing the subtleties of the community. Few know the special places, but seem to always end up back at the same old tourist brochure traps.
Nope, Still No Media Bias. Move Along

The piece from the Village Voice begins like this:
No U.S. president, I expect, will ever appoint a Secretary of the Imagination. But if such a cabinet post ever were created, and Richard Foreman weren't immediately appointed to it, you'd know that the Republicans were in power. Republicans don't believe in the imagination, partly because so few of them have one, but mostly because it gets in the way of their chosen work, which is to destroy the human race and the planet. Human beings, who have imaginations, can see a recipe for disaster in the making; Republicans, whose goal in life is to profit from disaster and who don't give a hoot about human beings, either can't or won't. Which is why I personally think they should be exterminated before they cause any more harm.

This opinion is presumably not shared by Foreman; you can gauge the breadth of his imaginative compassion from his willingness to extend it even toward George W. Bush, idiot scion of a genetically criminal family that should have been sterilized three generations ago.
A blistering opinion piece, right?

Nope, it's a theater review.
Cool Science Photo

Via Slashdot comes a truly stunning illustration of a black hole, one of the most realistic I've seen. Check it out. It has the heavy dust disk obscuring the central anomaly and very ultraviolet jets of plasma and x-rays coming from the polar regions. Really cool.

Yeah, my geekery is showing....
It's a Chupacabra

A man in Asheboro, North Carolina, kept telling people he had seen a strange animal unlike anything he'd seen before roaming around his yard. Folks pooh-poohed him until he produced a photo. Now, they agree: No one knows what it is.

It has the head and ears of a fox, but the body of a large dog or a small deer. And it has a long black-striped tail. I haven't got a clue what it could be. Check out the picture and offer your thoughts.
What's a Girl To Do?

I cruise by Australian portal site ZGeek about once a week. [Warning: site not work safe.] You can count on some crazy links and some good 'Strain humor. I swear, if for some reason I couldn't live in America, I'd go to Australia in a heartbeat. They are the Anglosphere country most like America in attitude. Great people.

Anyway, ZGeek had a link to a British school for special children that had posted a "Sex Education Resource" for young girls titled, "What's a girl to do?"

It takes a while to download, and don't watch this right after eating. Guys invariably will find this gross. Women, not so much. Make sure the volume is turned down too, or you'll be sorry.
AC Ups the Ante

The Commercial Appeal is reporting today that County Mayor AC Wharton nixed the release of a letter to County employees warning them of a coming mass layoff.

This came after some flurries of activity on Thursday. One of his department chiefs sent a letter to the County Commissioners warning them of the upcoming letter. Commission head Cleo Kirk immediately fired back a warning letter about premature action before Commission hearings had even begun! That's when Wharton pulled his letter.

AC is upping the ante here, adding to the pressure on the Commission to accept his original budget proposal, the one with the 23 cent property tax hike. Judging by their actions and words so far, the Commissioners seem to be reacting to Wharton, and not leading or directing him. It's not a good sign for those of us who oppose governmental growth in general.

This afternoon, I managed to get through on the Andrew Clark, Sr. radio show on WREC AM600 and talk with him. Clark seems to be of the opinion that Wharton is sincere and not using some kind of fakery or plotting. We had a longish conversation on it, but he seems unmoved.

I'm still saying it. The County Commission will eventually buckle and give in to a tax increase, maybe only 20 cents instead of the requested 23. There will be only cosmetic "cuts" if there are any at all. Everyone will end up pointing fingers at everyone else, but the stark fact of a tax increase will remain. And no other media source in Memphis will tell you the truth of this.
The Non-Story Story

I was cruising Tom Walter's Saaturday television column, looking for any news of the goings-on in local television stations, and found nothing. Hah! Beaten by a little Memphis blog and some guy in Alabama.

What Walters did have was a non-story story. His headline was "FCC doesn't prompt change in local news." His story begins:
How do local news directors respond to the current hysteria about "indecency on the airwaves?" Very carefully. But not, they say, any more carefully than in the past.
And it ends like this:
Broadcasters are aware and wary of the FCC's change of direction, but all news directors here say they have not and will not change what they cover or how they cover it.
In between, he talks about the standard care that news producers and directors take with their broadcasts, irrespective of any new FCC scrutiny.

"Local news directors continue to remain careful?" So, what was the point of the story? Reassurance? Filling space?

Phoning it in?

Don't they call these "dog bites man" stories?

He could have told you about the turmoil in the local television news environment. Instead, you got this.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Kerry/? in 2004

Once again, the photoshoppers at Fark have made with teh funney. This time the challenge was "unlikely vice-presidential running mates for John Kerry." Once again, the results will split your sides. [Warning: dial-up users are in for a long, long wait. But it's worth it.]
Fun With Numbers: Environmentalism

Some scientists have released a study that finds that an enormous eruption of deep-earth gasses for a mass exinction event about 55 million years ago.

Unfortunately, they have to make their discovery "relevant" by linking it to today's global warming by greenhouse gasses. The relevant passage:
Scientists say the pre-historic release from the deep could prove a dramatic analogue for what might happen if humans keep pumping massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the air.

"The case is getting stronger that global warming is associated with large hydrocarbon releases, and here's an example where it seems to have happened in the past," says Dr. Roy Hyndman, a senior scientist at the Pacific Geoscience Centre of the Geological Survey of Canada.

"If you put a lot of methane or other hydrocarbon into the atmosphere you can get abrupt and very large global warming and that's what we're doing now," says Hyndman. "The amount we are putting in now is huge in the geological context, very large."

Scientists estimate at least 1,500 gigatonnes of carbon was pumped into the atmosphere at the time of the prehistoric warming, less than the estimated 3,000 to 4,000 gigatonnes humans are expected to release over coming centuries. Man-made emissions of carbon are now released into the atmosphere at a rate of close to 6.5 gigatonnes a year.
For starters, there's the "estimated 3,000 to 4,000 gigatonnes humans are expected to release over coming centuries" hypothesis. Where did this number come from and how was it derived? Does it take into account possible changes in the future, when we might derive our power from fusion or some unforeseen power source? Remember, just a few centuries back, it wasn't even conceivable to have nuclear power, much less combustion engines small enough for automobiles.

But the fun bit is the 6.5 gigatonnes. It would take 231 years to equal the single event from prehistory, which was likely done in just a few years at most.

Always go armed into articles written by scientific illiterates. That way you don't get injured by stupidity.

[Note: Link fixed from posting on Friday.]
Whoda Thunk It?

The principal at this school bans soft drinks and overhauls the school cafeteria menu, making it healthy. The parents rebel, but the principal stands her ground.

The result?
Within a year though, not only had many students lost weight, but:

* visits to the school nurse were down 30 percent
* disciplinary problems dropped 20 percent.
* And test scores improved 10 percent to 15 percent.

And that's not all that has changed.

"They are taking responsibility for their health and their lifestyle," Butler said. "This is something that they learn at this school but they will take with them for the rest of their lives."
Common sense. That's all, just common sense. So why do schools seem in such short supply?
The More We Change

I'm a firm believer that humans don't change. If you went back two thousand years, the folks then wouldn't be much different from the folks you know now. Same stupidity, same jealousies, same dumb stunts ("Hey, Eldred, hold muh mead!"), same emotions, etc. It's only the technology we surround ourselves with that alters some of how we interact, but not the basic human drives that underlie those interactions.

In other words, if in the past you found your girlfriend had cheated on you with your best friend, you had to stomp all the way down the road to his farm, find him, then kick his ass. Today, you can call or beep him, get a GPS location on him, jump into your car, have him paged, point your gun at him, and then kick his ass. Same ass kicking, same anger, different tools.

As proof, I offer this story from the Discovery Channel, about ancient Egyptian humor.
For satire, Noegel explained that commoners would make fun of leaders by showing pharaohs in an unflattering manner. For example, some leaders were depicted unshaven or "especially effeminate."

Drawings of defecating hyenas and drunken, vomiting party guests are among the existing examples of scatological humor, while the sex-based jokes consisted of "innuendoes and outright erotica," he said.

Slapstick comedy included drawings that showed people suffering unfortunate accidents, such as hammers falling on heads, or passengers tipping out of boats.

The ancient Egyptians had a special fondness for animal humor, given the many examples of sketches on papyrus, paintings, and other drawings, according to Noegel.

He said, "(The images show) ducks pecking at someone's buttocks, baboons and cats out of control, animals riding on top of other unlikely animals, baboons playing instruments, and animals drinking and dining."
Maybe some day I'll show you all the erotica and pornography of the ancient Greeks and Pompeiians.
More Nader

A good essay with analysis on the importance of the "Nader factor" in polling, some suggestions, and some surprising speculation. Read it here.
Science is Fun!

Just aimlessly surfing and found a site on How to fake a UFO! It's very kid oriented, and from the folks at Skeptic magazine, but it's still fun.
More New Blogs

I've been discovering new (to me) blogs left and right the past few days. Here we go:

Rodent Regatta is a Memphis blog by a guy who describes himself as a classical liberal. Not sure what that means? Then check him out. He also writes about web design issues, including the Movable Type / Word Press / Textpattern imbroglio. Steve has a co-blogger (or permanent guest blogger?), Craig J. Cantoni of Arizona, who is the founder of Honest Americans Against Legal Theft (HAALT). Craig is also a great read.

Then there's Arkieblog overtaken~by~events from Matt in Fayetteville. I've only skimmed this one, but he's another right-winger who does funny graphics and blogs about life in the home turf of Wal-Mart. He's funny and personable.

Via Rachel comes herman.beans. Nathan is just getting started, so give him some encouragement, OK?

Speaking of WMC (were we?), that station seems to spawn bloggers like nothing else. He doesn't post regularly, but his stuff is always interesting and revealing at Wally's World. He's a videographer at WMC.

I can't remember how I found a geek in the Bluff City, who writes about "life in the Bluff City from a geek's eyes." Duh! I think it was probably in someone's comments. It's a very chatty, personal blog with lots of "local color," as they say. He also photoblogs and is another newbie blogger. Drop by and say "hey!"

Eric Janssen, who was at the first Blogger's Bash, has added a third blog to his resume with Plug In, yet another of the Commercial Appeal's forays (eight and counting) into news-blogging. Eric will cover technology and tech for them. Eric's daily blog (er, sorta....) is webraw, which is a regular read for me.

And the Rocky Top Brigade has expanded this week! I'm going to turn this over the Grand Poobah and let his words do the introductions:
It's been more than a month since our last irregularly scheduled induction ceremony, so I reckon it's time to update the Rocky Top Brigade membership rolls.

First up is Big Orange Michael. Michael blogs out of New Smyrna, Tennessee and was nominated by his college pal Barry at the Last Home.

Next up is Zoot, nominated by Busy Mom. Busy Mom, says Zoot is a Knoxville native exile stuck in Alabama with her Bama fan husband.

Helping balance out the politics of the RTB blogroll, next we have Jay at the Tennessee Liberal, who says "Yes, Virginia, there ARE some liberals in Tennessee."

Next up is Betsy at Pizza Soup. Betsy blogs out of Black Mountain, NC, just over the hill from Knoxville. Her connection to Tennessee and the RTB is that she is the mother of Knoxville troublemaker and RTB blogger Doug McDaniel. Doug says that she has trademarked "Pizza Soup" and hopes to develop a line of nutritional soups and a lifestyle site for 50-something women. As far as I know, this makes Doug and his Mom the first mother and son blogging team in the RTB.

Finally, we have Jeff at the Bacculum King. Jeff says he operates the only known ice cream boat on the Tennessee River. How cool is that?

So, absent any objection and without further ado, please join me in welcoming these outstanding Tennessee (and Tennessee related) blogs to the Rocky Top Brigade, as they join us in the battle for Truth, Justice, and a good single-malt Scotch whisky for around $20.
There you go! Lots of good new reading to keep you enthralled. Just don't forget to stop by here once in a while, too.

Ah, me. Much work to do this weekend getting the template updated now.
The Emperor's New Clothes

It continues to amaze me that the local news programs and the two main papers are still taking seriously County Mayor AC Wharton's "doomsday" budget. How anyone can think he'd honestly propose cutting the sheriff's budget by seventeen percent, eliminate the Metro Drug squad and other anti-crime programs, and cut back on mosquito and rat control is beyond me.

Step back a moment. Look at what he's doing. Wouldn't that, under any other circumstance be considered bizarre political suicide? Wouldn't the public boggle and the news have a field day questioning the sanity of anyone in elected office who proposed it? If the papers printed a story from some other community where this was happening, wouldn't we wonder what kind of idiots they were?

So why isn't that happening here? The Memphis Flyer stepped up with an editorial that seems almost credulous.
Just now, Shelby County government is the test case. Budget deliberations by that body in the next several weeks will determine whether draconian cuts will need to be made in most, if not all, county agencies. Sheriff Mark Luttrell, whose public style is refreshingly open, recently embarked on a public-relations mission of sorts in which he made the case to various media outlets, including the Flyer, that the law enforcement arm of his department would be endangered if he were forced to enact cuts of the magnitude that have been suggested.

Mayor A C Wharton, whose trial balloon for a significant property tax increase (most of it merely to pay for debt service) was shot down in mid-air some weeks back, has responded to the county commission's reluctance by proposing a moratorium on new home construction. At first blush, this appears to be a negotiating tactic. But maybe not.

Maybe the mayor is merely enunciating what the sheriff and other department heads will soon, for better or for worse, have to reckon with. In the vernacular: You get what you pay for.
The Commercial Appeal, perhaps smelling the rat, hasn't weighed in yet. Or maybe they're waiting for Sunday? We'll soon see.

The television news programs, of course, are having a field day. Last night, WMC breathlessly ran a story about rats, and how County budget cuts will mean rats overrunning the city. They even had lots of video of rats! EEEE!

[Digression: Speaking of rats, Councillor Carol Chumney was part of that video report. She's been making herself really, really available to the local news and so is showing up on television a lot. Of course, this makes her look "involved" and "concerned" and gives folks the impression that she's "doing something about the problem." Sigh.... Do we really want someone so nakedly and desperately ambitious as Mayor? Or as District Five's representative?]

Anyway, no one yet is calling this spade a spade. Wharton threw a challenge back to the County Commission. His "doomsday" budget is a sham. Rather than do the politically difficult work of crafting real cuts in the County's budget, they'll cave in a couple of weeks and simply revert back to Wharton's original budget. And they'll cravenly blame Wharton, saying they "couldn't" vote for his "doomsday" budget. And we'll get stuck with the 23 cent property tax increase absent any meaningful spending changes by the County.

You watch.
And on the Gripping Hand....

(Bonus Cool Points if you know where that header came from.)

Yesterday's Commercial Appeal editorial about pedestrians makes some good points, but fails to see the other, larger, part of the problem with folks trying to cross streets in Memphis.

While I don't diminish the problems with idiots who walk boldly into traffic and just stand out there, let's not take any responsibility off the drivers. I've been walking the streets of Memphis for fifteen years now and the stories I could tell you....

The editors propose traffic crackdowns by the cops, but I'm sure that's not gonna happen. It would help though, if local police were serious about speed limit and traffic light enforcement. Memphis drivers are some of the worst I've ever known. Truly, mind-bogglingly, dangerously bad. The number of times I've tried to cross an intersection with a stop sign, only to have the driver slide through the sign, up to the cross street, then crowd into traffic, all while ignoring me standing right by their window, I can't count. I once had a woman who missed me by literally inches just raise her hands, shrug her shoulders and look at me with a "What can you do?" look.

I've also noticed that suburban drivers are the worst of the worst, after blacks on crack and drunk drivers in general (which Memphis has a lot of). Since walking in the suburbs isn't a normal part of getting around out there, but an "exercise activity," they never consider that Midtown is loaded with pedestrians. Some of the worst of them, oddly enough, are petite women in monster SUVs. I don't know what's going on there. Womb eversion giving them a false sense of security and invincibility?

Speed limits in general seem to be used as baselines, not limits. On my residential street, with small children outside all the time, we still get folks in a hurry to get between Union and Madison, or down to Sekisui, who blast through at up to forty miles an hour! Union traffic regularly hits fifty-five. Try driving the speed limit on the Interstate. You'll be regarded as a dangerous freak by the folks zipping along at 70 and 80, eager to exercise their inalienable right to travel across the county unimpeded in ten minutes or less.

Our obliviously auto-centric culture here in the Bluff City, and the sterile slabs and ribbons on concrete that surround it like the spaghetti-wire bundle behind the television / stereo / computer nexus in our homes, simply considers the pedestrian a danger to auto drivers, not the other way around.

The City has a project to put up speed bumps and "go slows" in neighborhoods everywhere. I support that and hope one day we get some on my street. And maybe a few on Union.

The other side of this discussion of course is the placement of crosswalks and stop lights. For example, the stretch of Union near me is roughly one-quarter mile between lights, from Barksdale to Kimbrough. We could really use a pedestrian-activated light at Avalon. Will the City spend that kind of money? Of course not, unless there was a Beale Street or FedExForum next to it.

Same out at UniMem (University of Memphis). Did the designers actually stand out there and watch the ways people cross the streets, the patterns and flows of usage already in place? Or did they just draw up maps and say, "This looks like a good spot?" How many greens spaces have you seen where some designer laid out concrete walks no one uses, but you see the worn brown paths that people have dug for themselves? That's a failure of designers to account for real human behavior. Is that part of the problem out at UniMem? I suspect so, to some extent.

Last gripe. It would be nice if the City would make sure the pedestrian crosswalk light switches worked! I can't count the number of intersections in Midtown where they don't, so I have to cross with the intersection light, but against the pedestrian light. I get honked at by innocent (and sometimes stupid) people who don't know or care that my light doesn't work.

That's part of a larger discussion about infrastructure repair, though. We're spending a lot of money on stuff we don't especially need, or need to be spending on, but are ignoring the quality of the streets, sewers, etc. that are a City's fundamental responsibility. That certainly needs to change.
Local News, by the Numbers

Tom Walters of the Commercial Appeal runs some of the numbers for local news shows. I just had some observations about them.

Notice that the most watched time period still only reaches one-quarter of all Memphis and surrounding counties. (For Nielsen purposes, I think it's still Shelby, Fayette, Tipton, DeSoto and Crittenden Counties, though the Federal government and some other measuring entities now include Tate, Marshall and Tunica in our "statistical metropolitan area.")

Most news shows only reach one fifth or less! In some cases, the local news stations are fighting over literally just a few thousand people.

Of course, the Commercial Appeal doesn't even discuss their numbers. You can dig around and learn that the CA reaches a maximum (on Sundays) of 225,000 people, or about one-third to one-quarter of the area. (The paper advertises that it reaches "500,000" people, but the formula that gives that number is full of fudge factors.)

Sheesh! It means a lot of uninformed folks, doesn't it? Even the people who do watch or read these news sources are still misinformed. Only you, dear Half-Bakered reader, can consider yourself truly informed. You're welcome.
Beautiful Day

It's June already and for Memphis that would normally mean temps near 90 with humidity like a sweaty embrace from your fat aunt. But today it's closer to 80, breezy and partly cloudy. Heaven.

The windows are open, the fan's going, the cat's taking a nap, the stereo's playing some Guadalcanal Diary.

[slow, smoky blues with a hint of country]

You start messin' with me,
You're in T-R-O-U-B-L-E,
Cause I'm gonna tell Mama.

She's big and mean...
And I'm gonna yell "Mama!"

Mama don't listen to a thing I say,
But I keep tellin' her anyway.
Does me good to not do it right.
Come and get your whippiiiiin'
Murray Attaway is one of the great unsung lyricists of rock, although this is an example from his silly, naughty side (like "Watusi Rodeo" and "Cattle Prod"). He's obviously been steeped in the literature of Flannery O'Connor, Eudora Welty and William Faulkner. And the band could kick some very serious ass.

Thanks to John at DVD Freaks I have the Japanese import DVD of "Volcano High" to watch tonight. Haagen Dasz is on sale at Schnuck's.

I am as happy a man as I get, this afternoon.
Spam Poetry

The following words, exactly as printed, came in a spam email today. I only added some formatting and capitalisation.
Wrought, cast.
A regal tenderfoot,
The programme announcer:
Cherub,in the basement;
Appellate,in the person.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

The Prince of Memphis

This week's cover story in the Knoxville Metro Pulse weekly is about Memphis' own Harold Ford, Jr. The Instapundit provides a link, a short quote and an approving remark. If the article seems familiar it's because it already ran over two months ago in the Nashville Scene This is the famous article that the local media made so much hay of because it had a dis on Memphis.
The second complication is Ford's own hometown of Memphis, which has a reputation among many Tennesseans as a sprawling, urban, dysfunctional mess that, by historical accident, the rest of the state is stuck having to deal with. These Tennesseans think that while Memphis has its charms, those charms should stay right there in Memphis where they belong. They're going to be skeptical about any politician from that city, especially one whose controversial family is so closely connected to it.
Never mind that Abramson is right! We may not think that way about ourselves, but I assure you the rest of Tennessee does. You can argue truth, but the perception is definitely there.

It never helps that we love to pretend we are the capital of some mythic "Mid-South" region. We may be the biggest city between Nashville and Little Rock, St. Louis and New Orleans, but the region doesn't so much look to us as begrudge that we're there. The city puts on airs its behavior doesn't always merit.

The Metro Pulse version does appear to have been lightly rewritten or edited, but it's the same story. They even use a similar headline. So why did they run it? Summer recycling? Sweet deal for Abramson? Relevance with the Kerry campaign? Saw a good story in another market and wanted to run it in theirs?

I'm guessing Instapundit saw the big color cover of Ford and read the article, not knowing it had run in Nashville already. Ford is exactly the kind of Democratic that Instapundit would support -- a DLC "centrist" who can temper his worst liberal impulses to fool voters into thinking he's moderate. Read the article and you'll see that his voting record supports that. And Ford came out for the war early on, which is an issue so important to Instapundit that it can be a deal breaker with him.

So, there you go. Indeed. Heh.
Thought for the Day

From Chris, at Signifying Nothing:
Last, I think this entire exchange solidifies my long-standing impression that those who promulgate the fraudulent philosophy known as post-modernism—to a person—reject the ideals of absolute truth and empirical research simply because those methods of inquiry clearly show reality to be at odds with their normative beliefs about what that reality is.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004


I'm sitting here blogging and have the television on in the background (Law and Order), when I hear an old favorite song, "Uncontrollable Urge," by Devo. Zippy, riffy robot-rock. My ears perked right up.

Got an urge
Gonna surge
And it's out of control, yeah

Got an urge
Gotta purge
'Cause I'm losing control, yeah

Uncontrollable urge
I wanna tell ya all about it
Uncontrollable urge
Make me scream and shout it

It was in a car commercial. Sigh....
The Diebold Variations

Via Thomas of Newsrack blog (see RTB blogroll on the right) and a tip from Say Uncle (same), comes this page of hilarious fake ads for Diebold, the company in all kinds of hot water for their tamper-prone voting machines. Gotta love freedom of expression and cultural appropriation.
The Truth, After the Spotlight

Remember the Army's assault on a rural spot about a week ago that the locals tried to claim was a wedding party? They even had video to back up their story the next morning? Well, from Citizen Smash comes some insider info about that alleged "wedding party."
- Only permanent dwelling at the site held large stocks of food, bedding, medical supplies (lots of these - was the wedding going to be a cage match of some sort or were the caterers just bad cooks?), ammunition and weapons, as well as an apparent document forging set up. Meat was still frozen solid

- not prepared for a wedding feast and there were no stocks of dishes, plates, etc.

- Contrary to media reports, no "Nuptial Tent" was found and a 1KM area around the site was searched - any further away than that would be just too far for the catering staff to walk carrying all those huge platters of food - against union rules.

- No evidence of any means of support for the house (like sheep farming which is most common in that area). All evidence pointed to a smuggler way station - fit perfectly the description of several other found in the past.

- "Wedding guests" (deceased of course) were almost all men of military age, only a couple of women, no elders at all and only one child (wounded) noted. All dressed as city dwellers, not bedouins who would hold a wedding at such a location. All of the deceased were sterilized, as in none had any form of ID on them at all. Only ID's found were in nice neat stack inside the house - and then quite a few less of those than there were people at the site.

- Weapons were varied and included RPG's (they really suck when you fire them up in the air for celebration), there were also military binoculars (when they separate the men and women they have to look at each other with bino's I guess), and IED making material (party favors?).

- Lots of clothing prepackaged in pants and shirt sets (guerranimals for guerrillas).

- There were also no gifts, no decorations, no food set out or left over, and the good bit of money recovered was all in the pockets of the "guests" (maybe they were just cheap guests).
There's more, but since the media has the story locked into a narrative and the heat has faded, don't look for this to make much news.
Nader: The Stealth Threat; Badnarik: Not So Much

At The Daily Standard, Mark Continelli makes a persuasive case that independent candidate Ralph Nader, shibboleth of the "Anyone but Bush" crowd, is doing pretty darn well. I would remind readers that Nader is still polling a pretty steady 6% -- well above his pace in 2000. And that's with the Dems and their friends in the media working against him!

Over on the Libertarian side, it's not looking so good. The party chose Mike Badnarik in a surprise over the two leading candidates. Badnarik isn't looking like an especially strong or appealing candidate. Chris over at Signifying Nothing weighs in with some insights and links.

On Neal Boortz yesterday, he mentioned that during a lull in the convention proceedings on C-SPAN over the weekend, the LP used the opportunity to speak directly with America about who we are and what we offer, to present a film about an American who moved to Canada to grow medical marijuana! Real good PR job, nutwads. I really wish someone would take over the remains of the Reform Party, which may be hijacked by Nader to bolster his ballot access, and infuse it with libertarian values without the purist / absolutist nonsense. Stress individual rights, property rights, reduced government and market it to the voters. Let the Libertarians have the purism and in a few years the relaunched Reform can absorb them the same way the Democrats did with the Socialists some decades ago.

Lastly, things still don't go well for Kerry, despite what the press and media make you think. Look at this poll and this one. You'll see that while GW Bush's numbers move up and down, Kerry's have yet to rise above the mid-40's. He is in a quagmire! No matter Kerry's speeches or Bush's "failures" in Iraq, Kerry is treading water and still not gaining traction. Iraq just successfully installed their provisional government. Bill Clinton's book is coming out soon and will overshadow Kerry, sucking air from his candidacy's mediasphere. Then comes the handover of power in Iraq. Then the conventions, which may get the least amount of network coverage yet from the Big Four.

Reason to hope, for conservative types.
It's a Ploy

Yesterday afternoon, the truly execrable Mike Phlegming had County Sheriff Mark Luttrell on his radio show to discuss County Mayor AC Wharton's "doomsday" budget. Luttrell was remarkably calm about it, and really gave the sense (though not the admission) that he's in on the bluff. He deferred politely to the Mayor's decision and kept telling listeners that it was to be expected when there would be no tax increase.

It only reinforces my belief that this is nothing but a lawyer's tactic to get the County Commission to acquiesce to the Mayor's original budget with the 23 cent tax increase. You keep watching.

As for Phlegming, he was his typical annoying self. At one point, Mike asked Luttrell a question about something "his sources" had told him about: a two page memo about some internal County decisions leading up to the budget. (I'm going from memory, so I may have that a bit wrong.) You could tell that Mike was trying to trap Luttrell into something without spilling beans over the air. Nothing was revealed except that Fleming knows things you don't and wants you to know it. Yet more of Fleming's grandstanding and using his radio show to do the business of (unknown) others for unknown reasons.

All the more reason to listen to Andrew Clark, Sr., on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, or WDIA several times a day!
Elective Courses

The challenge over at Fark: "Photoshop a college textbook for a course you wish was offered." The results? Hilarious, but not real work-safe. [WARNING: Insanely long download at dial-up speeds.]
Sustainable Oil?

It turn out that the cries of environmentalists that we're running out of oil may be wrong. Of course, I've long thought that, remembering the wailing back in the Seventies that we'd be out of oil by now.

Anyway, according to World Net Daily:
Even more intriguing is evidence that several oil reservoirs around the globe are refilling themselves, such as the Eugene Island reservoir – not from the sides, as would be expected from cocurrent organic reservoirs, but from the bottom up.

Dr. Gold strongly believes that oil is a "renewable, primordial soup continually manufactured by the Earth under ultrahot conditions and tremendous pressures. As this substance migrates toward the surface, it is attacked by bacteria, making it appear to have an organic origin dating back to the dinosaurs."
Good news for the rapidly growing oil-dependent economies of Southeast Asia and for American drivers. Bad news for the professional doom mongers.
Memphis Weather News

From Peg comes the word that former FOX13 chief meteorologist Jim Jaggers will be joining...wait for it...WREG, NewsChannel 3! I can't imagine how a local uber-personality like Jaggers will integrate with the lower-key team of Simpson and Onek, but we'll see. Will this mean the hook for weekend forecaster Wendy Nations, she of the lovely red hair and high-wattage smile?

Peg also says that former WMC anchor Mearl Purvis will take Claudia Barr's chair. Purvis is before my time in Memphis, so no comment.

The still-open slot at FOX13 for chief metereologist? It's a swap. Joey Sulipeck, who has been filling in weekends at NewsChannel 3, will be taking that spot, formerly Jaggers', according to SouthTVNews.

Musical chairs in the Memphis market.

One passage that caught my eye in Peg's post was this:
Finally, today, Newsblues published what I've known (and most of my newsroom has known) for days and in some cases, weeks.
The folks who regularly demand transparency and access from those they cover are famously opaque and tight-lipped about themselves. This has always bothered me. Qui custodiet custodians: who watches the watchmen?

I've had this discussion with some media folks before and it never goes anywhere. Naturally, they can't run with stories they can't confirm, even if "everyone knows." And even though the other media outlets are their competition, ones they are loathe to even acknowledge most of the time, they still proffer a gentleman's agreement about each others' internal affairs.

So, how are we the public supposed to know what's going on with the folks who decide what we'll see and hear? You can subscribe to media news sources like the ones above, if you have the money. You can make friends with a media person and they'll sometimes share the dirt with you. But if you don't have that, you're stuck!

There used to be a Memphis media web source, but that closed not long after it opened a couple of years or so ago, and the archives were pulled, too.

I've been hoping to get Half-Bakered into that area some day. Not to dish dirt so much as to give the public access to the behind-the-scenes actions and decisions and personalities that determine what you see. But for an anti-social misanthrope like me, that's not easy.

I understand the corporate and professional pressures that keep a lot of media folks from talking about their jobs on blogs. The very folks who most value, and traffic in, the free flow of information are often the most tight-fisted about it. One local news producer once told me that s/he wouldn't post stories on their station website because s/he was afraid those stories would be stolen from them. (I'm not naming them because it was in an email on a different topic. Fair warning before disclosure is my rule. You can tell I'm not a professional reporter?) It's hypocritical, but understandable. That's why I treasure someone like Peg, who is not only remarkably open in her blog but also a very nice person. If only there were more like her.
Why We Fight

The graphics bug hit me again, and so we have the Why We Fight page, a collection of graphics to remind us in the starkest of terms why we are in the War on Terror. Some of the images are not for the squeamish.

UPDATE: There was a typo in the HTML that caused some image problems. I think they're fixed now. If you are having java problems with the pop-up large images, let me know in the comments. There should be a narrow equal-width border around the image inside pop-up box. Plus, I added another image, bringing the total to six.
Mr. Mike Gets His Silly On

Just a reminder that the Al Gore's Dean Moment page is still up. If you haven't been yet, it's good for about five seconds of fun before it becomes totally annoying.

Also, I've added two new images to the Kerry Mockery & Other Shenanigans page. The one of Kerry as Barney Fife with the "Nip it in the bud!" tagline is my favorite.

Two more images to come up tomorrow, one of which is in my patented reduce the subject to its starkest possible terms and turn up the contrast style. It's a bit shocking and meant that way. Part of a new, occasioanl, series "Why We Fight." More of those as the mood strikes, though I already have one idea bubbling away.

Please feel free to spread the word on that page and those images. If you use one, please give me credit and let me know, so I can check out your site or blog! And if you are so moved, please hit the tip jar up on the left and help me pay for the bandwidth and hosting for all that stuff. It's appreciated.
Word for the Day

From those wacky folks at my new favorite blog Thursday Night Fever comes this neologism:


Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!

The Memphis unemployment rate may be a laggardly 5.5% -- down three-tenths of a point, though! -- but there's jobs out there in the Memphis television market, especially if you are a photojournalist.

* WPTY 24/30

* WHBQ 13 (Click on "Inside FOX13") -- They're looking for an Executive Producer. No mention of a main evening anchor, though. According to SouthTVNews they will announce their chief meteorologist this week.

* WMC 5 They need a News Producer for the overnight shift. Hey, you'd get to work with Peggy!

* WREG 3

Thanks to SouthTVNews for the pointers.

UPDATE: The NewsBlues website has an article titled "Head scratching hires at Memphis FOX O&O." Unfortunately, it's behind a subscription wall. Does anyone have the news? Has FOX13 officially announced anything yet?
Blogger Bash

Now that everyone's back from the holiday weekend, let's talk Bloggers Bash. I've only heard from a very few people so far, but I suspect quite a few more will be attending.

Let's start planning. How's June 16th, Wednesday, at 6:30PM? Slightly earlier start because more folks will be there and we still ran out of time last Bash. I need suggestions for a place that can handle up to two dozen people. I'm guessing less of a restaurant and more of a bar this time? Any thoughts on Blue Monkey? Could they do it? Or are there other favorites? Can we stay in Midtown or should we move elsewhere this time?

Some enterprising types want to suggest their own space?
Found Another One!

Memphis blogs just pop out of the oddest places and cover the oddest subjects. Take, for example, this latest discovery: Thursday Night Fever.

Any description I give will be inadequate, believe me. They go to the hot spots of Memphis night life and live to report it.

Think of it as a complement to Rachel's and Marc's nightlife reporting. Kinda....

UPDATE: Captain T nicely points out that they "are more than just night-life reporters. We like to think of ourselves as Cultural Resources." Duly noted! Can't have too many Cultural Resources here in the Bluff City.
The Story You Don't Hear

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette comes a great story about the differences between the experiences of soldiers on the ground in Iraq and what gets reported by the national media and press over here:
What really happened in Fallujah was a great deal different from what was portrayed in the news media, said Robert Kaplan of The Atlantic Monthly, the only reporter embedded with the Marine company (Bravo, 1st Battalion of the 5th Regiment) that led the advance into the heart of the city in the pre-dawn darkness of April 6.

The Marines won the battle in the streets, only to lose it in the news accounts, Kaplan said in an op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal May 27.
Shades of the Tet Offensive!
"I have never been anywhere else in the world where the people were so happy to see an American," said Todd (last name withheld), an airman stationed in Nasiriyah, in an e-mail. "The media never tells that side of the story."

"Almost everybody loves [the Americans]," Maj. Bob Broody, an Army reservist who spent a year in Iraq, told his hometown Rotary Club in the Philadelphia suburb of Coatesville. "The news media doesn't want to tell us about the good side."
It should make you wonder, and hopefully ask questions.
Media Bias? What Media Bias?

Yet another report from the trenches, this time from San Francisco.
In many instances, according to the poll, the general public is more conservative than conservative journalists are. For example, one of the questions asked in the survey was whether a "belief in God was necessary to be moral." Among Americans in general, 58 percent agreed, whereas only 26 percent of conservative journalists concurred -- but more startling is that a mere 3 percent of liberal journalists accepted the statement.

Gaps were even greater in the hot social issues of our day: Among the general public, 42 percent believe homosexuality should be discouraged, but just 8 percent of the moderate journalists and only 2 percents of the liberal journalists thought so.
Air America's Continued Turbulence

Great story from the New York Times about the continued troubles of Air America.
In early March, the network's chief executive, Mark Walsh, said that the company had raised more than $20 million, enough to keep it broadcasting for months, if not years, before making a profit. At the time, Mr. Walsh said that the network's primary backers included Evan M. Cohen, a venture capitalist who was the network's chairman, and Rex Sorensen, a business partner of Mr. Cohen's who was the chairman of Progress Media, the parent company of Air America.

But in an interview on Friday, Mr. Walsh said: "I was misled about that number.'' Mr. Walsh refused to say who had misled him, but he said that he had resigned in April because "the company wasn't transparent'' and "I was unable to decipher how it was being operated.''

Less than a month later, Mr. Cohen and Mr. Sorensen, who had previously operated radio stations together in Guam and Saipan, resigned under pressure from the company's other investors. David Goodfriend, who served as general counsel and later as acting chief operating officer of Air America, resigned about a week ago, having done his best, he said, to hold the company together in the wake of the departures of Mr. Cohen, Mr. Sorensen and Mr. Walsh. (Separately, Dave Logan, executive vice president for programming, also left, in late April.)
In fact, they claimed to have raised $30 million. And the source of new funding is still murky and shadowy.

Still, there is good news. Their ratings in at least one market are near the top. But it's also worth remembering that this is for the launch of the network, when the curiosity factor was at a high and their mere existence was a lure to check them out. As time goes on, their ratings may change. Give it a few more months for the novelty to wear off and then report the numbers. That'll really tell the story.

I also noted that the story didn't mention the abrupt resignation of evening flame-thrower Randi Rhodes, she of the famous "take Bush to the center of a lake like in The Godfather and put a bullet in his head" remark. Did she not quit?
Memphis Redblogs

Yeah, still continuing the plugola for Memphis Redblogs, "red state bloggers in the Home of the Blues." If you haven't, head on over and check it out. We're off and running now.

Here's the pitch: Have you wanted to blog yourself, but loathed the idea of fooling around with all that programming? MRB may be your answer. Mick is handling all the setup and maintenance, all contributers have to do is log in, click on "Create post," write up what they want to say (or cut'n'paste what they wrote off line), and then click "Publish." That's it! I think MRB can even be set up so that posts can be sent in and published from email. Check with Mick to see if I'm right.

Calling all Memphis and Mid-South conservatives, libertarians and Republicans! If you have good powers of observation, analysis, persuasion or rhetoric, if you have access to information not otherwise available, if you can write a readable sentence properly punctuated, if you have a burning desire to say something but nowhere to say it, MRB may be your answer. Look at the blogs of the MRB contributors, look at the Rocky Top Brigade blogs; see if you can write like that (or better!). MRB might could use you.

We have all summer long to get our game together so that by Fall we can deploy ourselves and maybe make a difference in local politics, or national politics as it plays on the local scale. MRB can fill an important role as an information clearinghouse. Real-time news reporting is another possibility. Think of that: no one else in town is set up for sharing news and information, in detail, on the spot. It gives us tactical advantages.

There are no limits on how often your post, so far as I know, nor on how much. It's up to you! Contribute what you can. It's more about quality and sharing, communicating and influencing. The subject of anonymous blogging hasn't been broached yet, but I'm sure we'd consider it. After all, Alpha Patriot is psuedonymous, but he's been at it a while and is a known quanitity. Newbies may need references. But if your work or position or color or politics keep you silent against your will, MRB can become your outlet.

So, if you've teetered on the edge of blogging, take the leap. Give it a try.

You have nothing to lose but the chains of oppressive government. You will gain freedom.

Monday, May 31, 2004

DVD Review: The Office

The Office is a British sitcom that casts an unflinching eye on the mishaps and horrors of corporate office life for the employees who work at Wernham-Hogg's Slough (rhymes with cow) division. The second series DVD has just been released over here and if anything, I think the second season may be funnier than the first.

In typical Britcom fashion, the main character, office manager David Brent, is a horrid, self-obsessed weasel who is wildly insecure. He constantly craves attention, even to the point of stealing it back from those he thinks are taking it from him. He can also take the most PC phrases or ideals and torture them into horribly un-PC situations. This year, Brent must try to please his new boss -- his former peer in management -- while deflecting all attempts to change anything.

The main cast consists of newly-promoted senior sales manager Tim, who is now nine years into a career he insists is simply a diversion from his university schooling. There's Dawn, who is strongly attracted to Tim and flirts with him all the time. But don't try to take her up on it. She'll shut you down immediately. Then she'll restart the flirting. Gareth is also back, and just as insensitive and "laddish" as ever.

The show has a great cast of secondary characters, though only Keith and Finchie survive from the first season. Keith is the enigmatic, Buddha-like, passive-aggressive one. He rarely says anything or acknowledges someone when they speak to him. When he does speak, it is to offer opinions of a deeply personal, and unwanted, nature. Finchie is the same vulgar, lower-class roughy we loved last season. New this season is a host of people from the just-merged Swindon office. Chief among them is Rachel, the office hottie who takes a fancy to Tim, causing jealousy and confusion for Dawn. We also meet Gareth's mates The Ogg Monster and Jimmy the Perv.

The creation of Steven Merchant and Ricky Gervais, The Office gets its humor from just watching things happen. David Brent alone is a walking disaster. The series continues its style of faux documentary: hand-held cameras, long takes, long shots that feel like eavesdropping and rambling scenes that seem to always go on just a bit too long.

That is the vehicle of the humor. Whenever Brent says something that no one should say on camera, you always see someone acknowledge that camera, and us, by flicking a glance as though to say, "Can you believe he said that?" The scenes are never cut, but kept going, held, for delicious anticipation of Brent's recognising his stupidity and then trying to cover it up, which is always worse. It's this squirming discomfort we stew in. There are no punchlines to release us, only Brent's efforts to rescue himself or to slink away with his image unscathed.

The engine is the hilariously blunt and non-politically correct talk of the staff, and Brent's stupefyingly unbelievable efforts to appear cool, knowledgable and capable. He is a jerk, a buffoon, an attention hog, and every kind of "ist" there is: rascist, sexist, genderist, handicappist, etc.

The Office is an acquired taste, and not just for its "no laugh track," fake documentary style. Much to most British humor is based on the class distinctions of their society. Those barriers and markers between classes are real and clear. England is a class-based society and consequently most English chafe under the rule of someone who is their superior only by luck of birth. Anger and resentment at bosses is endemic.

So, their humor reflects that. The main character will be someone who is an object of scorn and ridicule. Examples abound: Keeping Up Appearances, Fawlty Towers, One Foot in the Grave, Waiting For God, Brittas Empire and more. Then there are the shows which focus on the ensemble, but put them under an unlikeable boss: Are You Being Served?, Blackadder, Red Dwarf, etc.

American comedies just don't do this. We demand likeable characters that we can embrace. Even our villains and bad guys get softened up over time into plush toy versions of themselves, one whose badness we "understand" because it has a "motivation." For example: Archie Bunker, Frank Burns, George Jefferson, Lou Grant.

The Office is a comedy of uncomfortability. It is fantastic at letting its characters take all the rope they need to hang themselves, giving them some more, then letting them twist slowly in front of the camera for our delectation.

Highly recommended!

Combined First & second season DVD
Office 1 scripts
Office 2 scripts
The World of Ricky Gervais
Fred and Bart Go Deep, Drown; Part One

The past two Sundays have featured articles by Frederic Koeppel and Bartholomew Sullivan which try to make parallels between the Iraqi War and the Vietnam War, Koeppel through photographs and Sullivan through similarities. Both tell more about the writers than they instruct the reader. Both strive for a profundity of tone that will impress the reader into buying their point. Let's take a look.

Koeppel's piece, "History in focus: Photographs capture unyielding images", compares "iconic" photos from Vietnam and Iraq. His choice of photos is a mixed bag. Nearly everyone would agree the Vietnam pic of the naked young girl running down the dirt path, covered in napalm and screaming, is immediately recognisable with profound associations attached to it. Same for the photo of John Kennedy, Jr. saluting as his father's casket passed by, the photo of Ruby killing Oswald, and the photo of the South Vietnamese offical executing a peasant for the camera. They are clear distillations of a moment (amplified into a cultural moment) that still carry impact and meaning today.

But his choice of armored vehicles passing "I Am A Man" protestors during the sanitation strikes of 1968 in Memphis isn't. That period has other photos that are more culturally embedded with deeper resonance. I suspect it was the presence of military vehicles and troops in an American city that motivated the choice, to bolster Koeppel's thesis, and his equating of Iraq and Vietnam.

Same for a picture in the print edition not online of the evacuation of Saigon. Their photo is a poor substitute for the famous shot of a line of people crossing the roof of the US embassy to board a floating chopper.
But the image that will stay in the consciousness of the world for years to come displays Pfc. Lynndie England, 21, a petite woman in army fatigues, her face somber under a cap of dark hair, holding one end of a leash the other end of which is fastened around the neck of a naked Iraqi man cowering on the floor of the prison at Abu Ghraib in Baghdad.

It's a horrible perversion of "Beauty and the Beast," of all our notions of decency and sovereignty.

Such a photograph can pierce hearts and change minds, lodge in memories. Such a photograph can bring consternation and conflict to an entire country and its government, as the images of physical and sexual humiliation and abuse from Abu Ghraib have done recently in America.
I think it's the "change minds" remark that is foremost on Koeppel's mind.

And then there is the Lynndie England picture of her holding a leash on an Abu Ghraib prisoner. I've seen this one, but the one I've seen more is the picture of England looking two sheets to the wind, cigarette dangling from her mouth, pointing to a naked Iraqi's digitised genitals and laughing for the camera. That is the iconic photo of that incident.

But is this picture emblematic of something important in the Iraq war? It is if you buy in to leftist beliefs that everything to do with the war is illegitimate. It says to them, "This is what America's all about: abusive master leading their dog around." Is the issue of prisoner mistreatment a prism of wider wrongs in Iraq?

Again, if you already think America has and continues to screw up, it is. But it's only some of the people, and those mostly in the media and the Democratic left, who do. What you see over and over from Iraq is pictures of failure and destruction. What I can find online but rarely see in papers or on the news is pictures of grateful Iraqis and happy soldiers rebuilding a nation. Lots of those pictures out there if you look, just not on the media menu.

Which is the point. The Abu Ghraib pictures needed to come out and be seen, but they point out the self-correcting processes and open nature of American democratic-republic law. Unlike the government of Saddam, we showed the pictures, recognised and condemned the wrong, arrested and tried the perpetrators and will punish them. We will try to make amends to the prisoners. Did Saddam do anything like that?
"The icons," said David McCarthy, associate professor of art history and director of the American Studies program at Rhodes College, "are the images of people in moments of the most intense vulnerability and frailty. They're the images that reveal humanity's anger and resentment, shame and humiliation and a very powerful response to another human being's moment of suffering and revelation. It's the image that says, irrevocably, for good or ill, 'This is real.'"
Another, and I think truly iconic, picture came out about the same time, of an Islamofascist terrorist holding the decapitated head of Nick Berg up for the camera. If Abu Ghraib shocked, then this stunned. It gave us a clear image of what we were fighting, of the beliefs and tactics of those who would see our nation-building fail. It sickened because it reminded. So I wonder why we don't see it any more, though we still see the Abu Ghraib pictures often.

Weeks after the beheading, I still get regular visitors to the site looking for the Nick Berg video. I cannot recall ever seeing searches for "Abu Ghraib" in my referrer logs.

Absent the amplifying and distorted repetitions of the media, the paticular Lynndie England photo Koeppel picks out will not impress itself into history the way the other England picture will. And I suspect years from now people will be able to clearly recall the Berg video images with a sharp emotional stab that no Abu Ghraib picture will similarly have.
Of course the brutal images emanating from Abu Ghraib (or from the gruesome death chamber of the anonymous beheaders of Nicholas Berg) weren't taken by objective photojournalists who happened upon the scene; they were taken by the participants.
This is a bit specious, since even "objective" photographers will still try to massage their shots. Did the guy who took the John-John shot just happen to be there, or did he position himself across from the family for maximum advantage? Did the photographer who took the sanitation strike picture just happen to be up above the street, or did he spot the parallelism of the pacing protestors and the line of armored vehicles? It's not widely known, but in fact the Viet execution photo was partially staged for the benefit of the photographer. Of Koeppel's examples, only the Ruby pic was truly spontaneous.

I think Koeppel's true point is where his article wanders into examining the psychology of the soldiers at Abu Ghraib. It's only those folks as "photojournalists" he wonders about, not any of the others. He ends up with some paragraphs about "power." Everything that came before seems only to have been a setup for accusing the soldiers at Abu Ghraib of abusing power and control.

In other words, Koeppel set up an argument for the "iconic" power of photographs, using photographs from the anti-war, protesting, Vietnam era as his sole selection pool, conveniently skipping over Iraq I, Kosovo, and Afghanistan. He then falsely equates the Abu Ghraib photos with them. Then he makes arguments about the circumstances of the taking of the pictures he doesn't apply to the Vietnam pictures. He whips up some stuff about the photographer "controlling" his subject and doing so out of some misguided "power" issue. Yet he doesn't apply that dialectic to the Vietnam pictures. Is it because he would have to implicate the photographers of the napalmed child and murdered peasant with their killers?

It's all about the Vietnam-era nostalgia so much of the media and press seem consumed with, and not an honest analysis.

Sorry, Fred. Bad argument.

Fred and Bart Go Deep, Drown; Part Two

Now we take a look at Bartholomew Sullivan's article from this Sunday, titled "Vietnam, Iraq: How alike are they?" Pretty much states the thesis right there. Unsurprisingly, Bart answers "Yes." But then, Sullivan is an unreconstructed Great Society liberal.

Put on your waders, as this one gets mighty deep:
Whether it's the murky rationale for the war, international opposition to America's unilateral approach, initial public support followed by disillusionment, the suggestion of profiteering or the shame caused by high-profile misbehavior toward civilians, many Americans see clear parallels between the country's experiences in Vietnam and Iraq.
And right away we see Sullivan's agenda. "Many" Americans? No, only those with a particular political agenda. There was nothing "murky" in how the war in Iraq got started. Most American's aren't "disillusioned," as polls still show. He's using language vague enough to support his point without having to back it up.

His next paragraph supposedly shows the "other" side:
For others, though, the scope, duration, context and purpose of intervention in Iraq - and the goals of a "war on terrorism" - have no legitimate comparison with any past conflicts. They say the ventures abroad that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were an immediate response to real threats, unlike the gradual buildup in Southeast Asia to thwart an ideological menace. To them, the nature - and reality - of the threats are different.
Notice the language of these two paragraphs. Supporters of the analogy are "Americans." Those who don't support it are "others," "they," and "them." Pretty clear isn't it?
Politicians, especially, say they see no comparison between America's lost cause in Vietnam and the rough going depicted on television screens and front pages today.
"[R]ough going depicted..." made me laugh. Sure, if you only follow the papers and the news! Thankfully, we now have the Internet to see what the agenda-setters at those gate-keepers don't show. Try Winds of Change, the Command Post, Citizen Smash or these Iraqi bloggers for a view of the Iraqi War that may surprise you, since it has success, progress, happiness, gratitude, selflessness and humility.

The folks that Sullivan talks with are an oddly selected bunch: politicians first, and then academics and military historians. He doesn't talk with soldiers at all. Pretty much all of them, especially the military historians, flatly refute what Sullivan tries to argue!

The real fun is toward the end.:
Twinned images in popular culture suggest other Vietnam-Iraq links:

Walter Cronkite telling us "that's the way it was" and Ted Koppel reading the names of the dead; napalmed children and bombed wedding parties; B52s raining terror on Hanoi and precision bunker busters hammering empty palaces in Baghdad; Vietnamization and Iraqization - the gradual transfer of American obligations to local troops; My Lai and Abu Ghraib.

And then there are Lyndon Johnson's and Dick Cheney's connections to a big construction company responsible for massive military projects: Once called Brown & Root, when it built facilities in South Vietnam, it's now Kellogg, Brown & Root, a Halliburton subsidiary.
No! And don't forget that the women who exposed the coverup of military coffins at Dover were also Halliburton! The Presidents who got us deeper into the wars were Democrats and the ones who determined to put an end to the mess were Republican. It's conspiracy everywhere, I tell you.

That Cronkite/Koppel paragraph is a howler. Random things plucked from the mediasphere are contrasted as though there is equivalence. "Iraqization?" Did he make that up? Directly comparing My Lai and Abu Ghraib? Jeez....
Crawford noted two other similarities. The fighting and dying is still largely relegated to soldiers from the lowest socioeconomic strata, he said.
This is demonstrably untrue. Today's armed forces are majority white and professional. Read these comments from Lance from another post down below:
The leftist meme that the US military is predominantly comprised of minorities and working class folks is bull. In my NG unit (headed to Iraq this fall), we have physician's assistants and doctors that can't wait to go. We also have 2 lawyers - one is an armored ambulance driver, the other does administrative stuff, but neither do JAG work - who can't wait to deploy. Today's soldiers like the fact that WE ALL VOLUNTEERED. It makes discipline and unit cohesiveness much easier. Nobody wants conscripts.
That Sullivan repeats a disproven stereotype with total assurance that it's true should tell the reader volumes about Sullivan's prejudices.

He ends with this:
Pohlmann found a last parallel that today's political leaders may hope they can forestall.

The Iraqi people who side with the United States may find their roles untenable in the long run, he said, like the crowds of Vietnamese refugees news photographers captured in April 1975 seeking a place on the last helicopters departing from the U.S. Embassy in Saigon.

"I think you're going to see somewhat the same ending," he said.
This isn't a parallel because one side is a supposition, not a fact or event! Sullivan is reduced to making up an ending to the Iraqi War (and once again, notice how he ends it) to make his argument.

It's a shame to see the Commercial Appeal waste so much space on such limp and flaccidly buttressed articles. I have no problem with opinion pieces, only with ones which set out a thesis and then cheat like hell, in a brazen way, to make it.

Shame on the Commercial Appeal.
Thought For the Day

Next time someone talks about the "$250 million" FedEx Forum, kindly correct them for me. At this time, the actual cost of the FEF to Memphis is $300 million!

Forum itself: $250 million
"Improvements" to surrounding streets and parks: $15 million
Debt on useless Pyramid: $35 million

The Pyramid was killed completely with this deal, so it is only fair to include remaining debt costs (and maintenance on the closed building) in the costs of the FEF. If they hadn't built it, the Pyramid would be a going concern, not a dying duck.

Just so you know.
Change of Tack?

Monday's lead editorial in the Commercial Appeal is an interesting change of direction for the paper, if I'm reading it right, and a seeming recognition of something that warms my little libertarian heart.

About the sale of a county-owned retirement facility, the paper's editors write:
ASSURANCES THAT current patients will be taken care of have cleared the way for the sale of the county-owned Oakville Health Care Center, which appears to be in the best interests of Shelby County taxpayers....

In fact, Wharton said, the sale will improve patient care by supplanting county operation of the facility with a private company that has the resources to improve the facility and make sure the staff is well-trained, competent and efficient....

On balance, the sale and the planned additions to Oakville should solve a problem that county government, with its limited resources, seems no longer equipped to confront. The plan should easily win approval at the county commission and state levels.
Of course, the usual weasel words are there, but they seem to be saying that there are some things County government shouldn't do and can't do well. They also advocate for private-run health care.

Not only that, but the whole tone of the thing is an acceptance of the limits of government, in effectiveness, reach and taxes! Wonderful to see the paper get the religion. Too bad they didn't feel this way when the Memphis City Council voted to fund an ambiguous plan with no costs attached to "train" day care employees.

Read it carefully and the primary reason they endorse this, to judge by the focus on costs and operations with little mention of patients' needs and fears except as they will mitigate against the deal, is the money it returns to the County.

This sentence is the shiner:
...what has emerged as the guiding principle of county government operations: taking on only those responsibilities mandated by law.
The way they use it, it seems to be cover for them to endorse this while keeping blame and responsibility on others, ie. AC Wharton.

Let's see how long the Commercial Appeal keeps this up. I'm guessing with a new mayor or flush economic times they'll revert to their old ways.
Good Morning

It's Memorial Day. Do not forget to thank all those you know who served their country. Their blood and sweat bought all the freedoms and comforts we take for granted!

A reminder to check out Memphis Redblogs, "Red state bloggers in the Home of the Blues." So far we have five bloggers and plenty of room for more. We're looking for conservative, Republican and Libertarian voices from the blogosphere. If you've wanted to blog, but don't want the fuss of maintaining your own site, this may be the way for you to go. Click over and see!

The Al Gore's Dean Moment page did pretty well over the weekend, drawing well over one thousand visitors, and sending a couple of hundred here. I've also added four more images to the Kerry Mockery & Other Political Shenanigans page. One more to come later today.

Sometime this evening, I'll have some Commercial Appeal blogging, and a couple more DVD reviews. I hope. And, of course, the usual hooha you all love and expect.

Grill 'em if ya got 'em!
AC Wharton Plays the County Commission

So, last week County Mayor AC Wharton unveiled his "doomsday budget" to the County Commission. It purports to use draconian cuts in the Sheriff's office, the Health Department and other areas to balance revenues without a property tax increase. Everyone is shocked, shocked! It's a horrible, unthinkable option.

It's hogwash.

Wharton proposed a budget with a 23 cent property tax increase that otherwise held the line. Seventeen cents of that increase went solely to retiring County debt. He's got $1.6 billion in debt to pay and not enough money coming in to meet the payments. Commission head Cleo Kirk shot that budget down on final approach. Reason? None of the County Commissioners want back-to-back tax increases on their heads when they go to face the voters.

So, in retaliation Wharton thumps them with this budget, his variant of the same "Armageddon" budget that State House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh and former Governor Don Sundquist tried to frighten voters with. Just as Naifeh & Sundquist knew their budget stood no chance of passage, Wharton knows no sane Commissioner will vote for his.

It's a tactic to bully the Commission into accepting his first budget. That's all. He's just stirring folks up to get the Commissioners to yield.

Watching television and newspapers taking this seriously is hilarious. They really should know better! It's all a ploy, a show, a low-stakes gamble.

Remember, AC Wharton is a lawyer by training and profession. This kind of brinksmanship is what they do. Someone will blink and the previous budget, or something remarkably like it, will magically appear and pass with much talk from everyone -- Commissioners, Mayor, newspapers, etc. -- that is was the right thing to do, that they avoided the horrible, horrible possibility of Armageddon.
Libertarians Have a Candidate

The Libertarian Party concluded their convention in Atlanta this weekend with the surprise victory of Mike Badnarik, who now becomes our Presidential candidate. Front-runners Aaron Russo and Gary Nolan essentially cancelled each other out. You can read more, and find more links, on Blogcritics.
DVD Review: The Eye

[WARNING: This discussion contains spoilers. While I do not reveal the movie's final act, nor much of the second act, I do examine a lot of the rest of the movie. It will take away some of your enjoyment, so reconsider reading this if you already think you might see the movie. It's best seen completely cold. If you're not sure, then this review will not ruin the movie's final surprises for you, but it will give away some really great stuff from the first half.]

It's impossible to guess how this movie will end from the way it begins. And it's not because the directors cheat. (Danny and Oxide Pang; wouldn't you love to be named "Oxide Pang?") The script unrolls just slightly ahead of you until the fateful conclusion.

The Eye, made in Hong Kong in 2001 and released to DVD in America earlier this year is a superior horror movie. It is atmospheric and tense, constantly playing with the audience's identification with the main character point of view and her state of confusion. We watch as she sees things we know aren't real, waiting for her to understand. Watching her innocently interact with death and ghosts keeps us on the edge of our seats. The tension is exquisite. It is a ghost movie with an Asian and Buddhist tint that makes it different without being dislocating.

A young woman, Mun, has been blind since she was two. Now grown, she is given a cornea transplant that restores her sight. At first, she experiences the confusion of someone who has not seen. As her doctor notes, she doesn't know she's looking at a stapler until she touches it, until she uses a familiar sense. Everything for her is new.

She slowly begins to realise that what she's seeing is wrong -- frightfully, terribly wrong. People she meets behave in ways even a blind woman knows are bizarre. Then she begins to experience hallucinations of her room morphing into someone else's room. She slowly grows more and more terrified as her world grows stranger. Mun fears she is going mad and wants it all to stop.

The film's script, cinematography and editing are the equal of anything you'll see in Hollywood film-making. The look and feel of this Hong Kong is not like your standard-issue HK gun ballet or chop-socky action film, but a bit grittier and worn looking. The acting, too, is great, especially Angelica Lee as Mun and Lawrence Chou as Dr. Lo. Even the supporting cast is outstanding.

Probably the biggest obstacle to American viewing is that there is no dubbed soundtrack, only a well-done subtitling. Which is a problem. You really can't afford to take your eyes off the screen at all, but the dialogue is a necessary part of the movie. It's a bit wearying, I'll admit, to have to constantly jump from one to the other. I can only strongly hope you'll give this movie a chance, as the rewards are substantial.

Since this is a movie about ghosts, sprituality is an important ingredient. As I noted above, that spirituality is Buddhist; but that won't be an obstacle, as the film's dialogue explains what Westerners will need to know. What we learn is that if death is sudden or the deceased has an unresolved problem in life, their spirit will stay on Earth instead of going to heaven. These are the people that Mun sees, who in their mindless way distract and harrass her.

They are some spectacular ghosts, too. We meet the first one almost right away, in a brief throwaway moment that portends what is to come. As the movie progresses, we encounter more and nastier ghosts. Some we don't even realise are ghosts! Jealous ghosts, confused ghosts, children who don't understand they are dead.... It just gets creepier and more disturbing as we go along. I really want to highlight this aspect, talk about the many manifestations and shocks, but I'm restraining myself to give you the thrill.

The ghost effects are subtly handled -- often just a hint of makeup and some some good acting. Some are heavily done up so as to frighten when they appear. Some you don't even know, until their "guides" or angels show up for them.

This is one of the movie's strongest choices. The angels are never seen clearly. Often they seem little more than black smoke or heat haze. Long, attenuated forms with slicked-back hair in black, long-sleeve unitards that also cover the neck, with heavy white makeup that removes all their features except for their cavernous eyes. They never speak or gesture or seem to react to the living. They are truly unworldly.

The first half of the movie, its first act, is one long exercise in building tension and apprehension. Mun slowly grows more frantic until she snaps and retreats into pretend blindness, isolating herself from the rest of the world as she never did when she was truly blind. After Dr. Lo's intervention leads to catharsis, she seems to accept that she now sees a very different world than others and grows more calm.

The movie's second act is almost a different film. Moving from her metropolitan urban world, Mun and Dr. Lo take off for Thailand's tropical jungle to find out the identity of the woman who donated her corneas. A more confident Mun asserts herself, takes charge and drives the story. Here the movie changes tone with the changed setting, resembling the first two Evil Dead movies or the earliest "slasher in the camp in the woods" films. The collapse into madness and despair of the first part is traded in for a more standard problem-solving, ghost hunting narrative.

There is a brief flashback sequence that utilises black-and-white, choppy editing, echoey sound, and hand-held camera quite well to shoehorn in some information and atmosphere without feeling like an infodump. Clues left in the beginning, more information learned in Thailand, and through Mun's actions, all lead to a seemingly satisfying resolution -- or so we think!

The film's final act slips up on you and simply cannot be foreseen, but once we get there it's a stunning and inevitable epiphany! The moment we learn what's about to happen is like a cold, lead lump in the gut. As we learn the scope of the horror to come, the dread of the first act comes rushing back full bore. The return of the angels is chilling. The climax is perfect and complete. Suddenly, everything makes sense.

The movie's real end is a type I particularly love: a circular ending that leaves our heroine right where she started, but wiser and sadder.

The Eye's central theme can be seen in several ways. On the purely Buddhist spiritual level, the unfinished business of a spirit must be resolved. Mun is just the vehicle and once done, is left behind. On a different level, her new eyes have given her new sight: she now sees the world completely, without blinders, but that knowledge is more than she can handle. Mun cannot handle enlightenment. She cannot bear up under the pressure. There is also the superhero angle: with great power comes great responsibility. Having discharged her responsibility poorly, though not entirely through her own fault, she has that power taken away. And there's the more mundane level: chance gave her both a gift and a curse, but chance also took it away from her.

I've stayed away from describing too much of the movie's ghost encounters because many are truly memorable, but I have to mention a couple of things. First is the now legendary elevator sequence. It will have you squirming in your seat! That's all I can say. Well, and it will also make you think the next time you get on one. Also, watch the edges of the frame, the background, and the crowds for the appearance of ghosts, especially in train windows! That's all I'll say.

One final note. The soundtrack to this movie is wonderful. The opening/closing theme is a throbbing, pulsing track rooted in industrial, but expressed orchestrally. Synth strings recall the Bernard Hermann score to Psycho's famous scenes. It perfectly serves the movie. The sound design also reinforces the many shocks and dislocations of the narrative. Spare and effective.

The DVD only comes with one worthwhile extra: a making-of featurette that discloses the surprising level of special effects in the film's latter act. Don't watch it until after the movie, as it spoils pretty much everything.

I cannot recommend this movie highly enough. For non-fans of foreign films, the subtitles will be off-putting and distracting more than many foreign movies. You simply have to keep your eyes on the screen. But if stylish horror unlike anything you've seen in American films intrigues you, then you have to see one of the best films to come out of Asia in years. Some of the movie's images will stay with you for quite some time to come.

Unfortunately, Tom Cruise bought the rights to remake this movie for American audiences. He will ruin it, especially if he casts himself as Dr. Lo. Look at the dumbed down Americanised The Ring versus the more subtle Japanese original, Ringu. There are other great Asian horror movies being redone right now. Ju-On's original director is filming a nearly shot-for-shot American cast version, but with his usual Japanese crew working in Japan. The director of Dark Water, now starring Jennifer Connoly, is literally refilming his movie in America with American actors. It's good to see such interest, but sad to know that American studios don't trust American audiences to work with good subtitles or high-quality dubbing.

If you are interested in learning more about Japanese and Korean horror, go to Snowblood Apple, an English fan site. They have detailed synopses and reviews of a couple of dozen movies, including everything mentioned above. They also have a lot of screencaps, so you can get a clear sense of the movies. And there are tons and tons of links to explore.