Thursday, December 18, 2014

Sony, Korea and Millions of Shoes

Movies can be dangerous things. Comedy and satire too mingle with danger, tyrants and dictators aren't powerful due to their great sense of wit.

Yesterday, fearful of a promise of violent attack on movie theaters showing "The Interview", Sony Pictures pulled the movie from release. The movie's comic misadventures in a silly CIA plot to assassinate an actual, living human dictator in North Korea catapulted it from obscurity to infamy and history in record time.

Immediately too, cries that removal of the movie from distribution was giving terrorists control followed Sony's decision.

Sadly, caving in to demands of supposed terrorists seems more a rule than an exception.

Millions upon millions of shoes being removed at airports seems proof of that. Nation after nation has embraced a grim surveillance society since 2001. Haven't we already caved?

As for the movie -- did North Korean hackers acting on behalf of the state attack Sony? Some say no way:

"It's not possible. It would have taken months, maybe even years, to exfiltrate something like 100 terabytes of data without anyone noticing. ... Look at the bandwidth going into North Korea. I mean, the pipelines, the pipes going in, handling data, they only have one major ISP across their entire nation. That kind of information flowing at one time would have shut down North Korean Internet completely."

"Monsegur thinks it's also possible this was an inside job, that an employee or consultant downloaded all the information from Sony's servers and then sold it to someone else."

The potential of lawsuits against distributors and theater owners seems large, given they had been "warned" ahead of time of an attack on theaters.

The screenwriter of "The Interview" is beyond amazed by all this.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Annual Christmas Monkey Caption Contest

We are just days away - so it is time.

Here are some captions to get you started ....

"Hang on, I'm taking a 'selfie'."

"Yeah, there's a reason me and Santa only visit you once a year."

"It's my special eggnog recipe, made with scotch and ice."

Tennessee's 1st Communist Town? Plz Don't Tweet or Repost!

Bad ideas - and perhaps a few good ones - thrive on the Internet.

Officials in the local government of South Pittsburg, TN are learning the hard way.

Earlier this month, for reasons as yet unknown, the town's elected folks voted to "ban" negative comments on social media about the town, applicable to  "all city elected representatives, appointed board members, employees, volunteers, vendors, contractors and anyone associated with the town in an official capacity who uses social networks."

Cue the avalanche of negative (if hilarious) comments.

"Guess we need to change the welcome say the first Communist town in the south," wrote one resident."

Fake social media accounts for Mayor Jane Dawkins (@NotJaneDawkins) have been created by one Reddit user, and another for Commissioner Jeff Powers. Hilarity and parody flow.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Cranky Defenders of Torture Rise Again

Anyone strapped down will say anything, absolutely anything to get the torture to stop. Torture. Does. Not. Work." (Source)

Really? We're back to the topic of a systematic torture of prisoners?

Dick Cheney, former VP and longtime cheerleader for tactics from "the dark side", as he called it, makes no room for doubt - "I'd do it again in a minute!" -- "It" being torture.

Going back to Nov. 2007, a previous post shows Americans decry torture but reserve the right to use it, and such a contradiction carries a heavy price for Democracy ....

"I am pretty sure if the technique, often lumped into the phrase "enhanced interrogation techniques" (a grisly tortured used of language), if such an act were used on you, you would consider it torture. It has been a part of military training for some time, as reported by Malcolm Nance, former Master Instructor and Chief of Training at the U.S. Navy Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) school in San Diego. He writes extensively about the tactic in this essay, which makes compelling arguments on what it is - torture - and that torture is a useless way to get information, and that even watching such interrogations is beyond the ability of most people: 
"Most people can not stand to watch a high intensity kinetic interrogation. One has to overcome basic human decency to endure watching or causing the effects. The brutality would force you into a personal moral dilemma between humanity and hatred.
"It would leave you to question the meaning of what it is to be an American. We live at a time where Americans, completely uninformed by an incurious media and enthralled by vengeance-based fantasy television shows like “24”, are actually cheering and encouraging such torture as justifiable revenge for the September 11 attacks. Having been a rescuer in one of those incidents and personally affected by both attacks, I am bewildered at how casually we have thrown off the mantle of world-leader in justice and honor. Who we have become?"
The original post is here. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Oedipus Rex's Exes?

Early this Summer, I began a new job, as Artistic Director for the Morristown Theatre Guild. This is the 80th Season for the Guild, Tennessee's oldest community theatre, and I'm one of a very select few who have held the AD position.

The work has been quite constant and demanding of both my time and my creative efforts, thus the writing and posting here has been sporadic rather than daily. It is not my wish to allow this page to dwindle away to occasional mutterings - though in truth, my ponderings on aspects of live theatre and staging and plans and collaborations do often make me a distracted muttering fellow.

Currently, the Guild is presenting the second weekend of a comedy called "Rex;s Exes" in Morristown at Prater Hall in Rose Center, Nov. 21, 22 and 23.

And while this show may not be considered a classical work of theatre art (though if it was called "Oedipus Rex's Exes" maybe? ....)

The sheer farce and fun of the show is the reason it captivates actors and audiences - meaning, everyone laughs and laughs hard at the show. And that is a primary and vital value to the show - laughter is a powerful and healing force in the world.

"Rex's Exes" is the second in a series of comedies by Jones, Hope and Wooten, a trio who creates a massive collision of the slightly odd family named Verdeen with their own plans and desires - and still in this mix of mad comedy the writers gently poke fun a gender roles, marriage, life and death, politics, fame and the tedious challenge of getting older.

But mainly, fun is the goal here.

As the Guild makes plans for their 81st Season, I'm focusing our efforts on education programs, on celebrating the many people whose prodigious careers in theatre began on the Guild stage, and on the effort to renovate the Guild's playhouse on Hill Street, a building dating back to the late 1880s.

Theatre isn't simply a jazz-handing, song-and-dance spectacle of flying Spidermen or French peasants in revolt, it isn't simply the verbal pyrotechnics of Shakespeare, or the bare bones of tragedy splayed out for all to wallow in and despair. It is a true collaboration of word and sight and sound whose final sum is far more than any of it's parts. A good show is the result of hard work by many the audience may not even see - costumers and designers and volunteers. And the collaboration is not complete until the actors and audience meet in the ancient rite of communal experience.

So perhaps you'll tolerate my occasional absences here as I work on the tasks now before the Guild. And expect more posts about the work I'm undertaking, about the nature of art and theatre and more. I promise, it won't be dull.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Frightmare Manor Makes Top List of Scariest Haunted Houses in America

There's only a few days of scares left at Frightmare Manor - but you may want to double your efforts to attend as the ScreamPark has been ranked #6 in the nation for the must-see scariest haunted house attractions.

"This is an incredibly elite honor,” said Chris Wooden, of Frightmare Manor. “We work year-round to provide Fall entertainment that East Tennessee can be proud of. It’s very exciting to have people from around the United States now making Frightmare Manor, right here in
East Tennessee, a destination for their Haunted Experience!"

Boasting 5 terrifying attractions, Frightmare Manor is nationally recognized as THE Money Back Haunt, and has been repeatedly chosen as one of “America’s Best Haunted Attractions” by, and voted Tennessee’s “Must-See” Haunted House by

Frightmare Manor is located at 7588 W. Andrew Johnson Hwy (Hwy 11-E) in Talbott, between Jefferson City and Morristown and has ONLY THREE NIGHTS remaining in the 2014 season! They are open Thursday the 30th, Friday the 31st and Saturday, November 1st beginning at 7 pm each night.

For more information, visit their website

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Monday, October 27, 2014

The False Political Rants of East TN

Talking politics, this is what I hear it constantly here in East Tennessee - "throw all the bums out!" and "replace everyone in Congress!"

That's such a load, especially here in District 1 where only one party has held the seat in Congress since 1881 ... 133 years of single party rule. So those rants against Congress are deeply false, meaningless chatter instead of actual debate and thought. In fact, current Rep. Phil Roe, on his way to his fourth term, says he only wants to control the District for 12 years (6 terms). Looks like he will surely get his wish.

Fakery is key to politics, it seems. One of Rep. Roe's biggest PAC contributors is the "Healthcare Freedom Fund", which says it isn't authorized by any candidate, even though Rep. Roe's signature on the fund's website indicates heaps of approval and authorization.

As noted by R. Neal at Knoxviews, the current election is a strange creature indeed:

"Obama must be the most powerful president ever and is apparently a formidable opponent. Every Republican candidate in the U.S. is running against him and he isn't even on the ballot.

"Because of Obama's superpowers, this is the most expensive mid-term election in U.S. history. Spending is approaching $4 billion so far, including nearly $900 million in outside (PAC, 527) spending."

All this points not only to the hollow rhetoric of residents but also that the rock-solid gridlock in Congress is gaining strength.

.... next time, though, yeah, we're gonna throw them bums out!!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Knox News Sentinel Kills Best Knoxville Newspaper

The news business seems more business than news.

Cable, network and local news devote most of their time to being entertaining. Showbiz ain't news.

Newspapers are dwarfed by online media, despite their efforts to evolve into online media. Somehow the concepts of paid writers and editors have lost all appeal to publishers. Case in point: the Knoxville News Sentinel just killed their own publication, Metro Pulse due to .... well, publisher Patrick Birmingham, aka President of Knoxville's Chamber of Commerce. Metro Pulse folks were gagged as soon as the closure was announced under penalty of loss of severance packages. Classy.

One constant writer with MP, Mike Gibson shared his take on the demise via comments at KnoxViews:

"And I want to say this: Patrick Birmingham is a spineless, half-bright corporate weasel. He never knew what the hell Metro Pulse was, or what to do with it. He and Scripps' team of pencil-necked corporate bean counters were always harassing the editors for not meeting some imaginary profit projections, goals conceived in an airless vacuum chamber on the planet Venus by drug-addled baboons. He was also prone to making veiled innuendoes these last three-four years or so that he wanted to somehow merge and MP, or else combine parts of the staffs, or some other damned idiot thing. Last year, after MP had just finished turning a fairly reasonable profit, he rewarded the staff by threatening to break the paper's lease at 602 S. Gay Street and move the entire operation into the Sentinel building, thus destroying any hope for maintaining editorial independence.

"My observation is that Birmingham is the idiot who is most responsible for this atrocity. Metro Pulse was indeed turning a profit (although its projections for the coming year were only break-even, that still means it was a very viable concern in the context of print media. At the very least, it was a property that one should have reasonably been able to shop to another interested party.) The lion's share of blame should be cast at Birmingham's weasel feet."

"I struggle to find a comparison between a publication that has been with Knoxville for over 20 years and an absolutely horrid excuse for journalism that has nothing to do with its namesake. Perhaps it would be in the interest of those operating the Facebook to consider posts about Knoxville and those who make up its populace before posts wishing Usher a happy birthday. In a land of steak, Scripps took away all knives and forks but assures us that the spoons provided should be able to handle our eating needs.

This is more than “just an arts and culture paper”. Be it out of lack of knowledge or lack of concern, Scripps (and the KNS by proxy) are responsible for a magnitude of damage to Knoxville. Small niche businesses are impacted because their demographic is not the KNS. Local non-commercial stations like WUTK are impacted as one of the station’s tags, “Winner of the Metro Pulse ‘Best of Knoxville’ award (x) years in a row” is no longer a relevant statement — not to mention the mountain of cross-promotion that both medias provided one another. I fail to have even the slightest trust in the culinary opinions of a media outlet that has covered everything /but/ Metro Pulse today. Your parent publication created this issue — have a sense of ownership. Open a dialog. That’s what social media is for versus “McDonalds invites icky questions about its food”.

The real sad thing is that the Scripps Co., owners of the KNS, are clueless as to what to do with a newspaper so they are abandoning the ones they own and are trying to get into tv or radio or ... something:

"The E.W. Scripps Co. will say goodbye to newspapers, including the Knoxville News Sentinel and the Memphis Commercial Appeal, and hello to radio in a merger and spinoff transaction with the parent company of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper."

Farewell news of Knoxville. Those of us who live in East TN and write about it all on our on will soldier on.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Hancock County Turns Sinister

Sinister Darkness, Hancock County's 2nd Annual Halloween attraction, is a non-profit event hosted by the Sneedville/Hancock Chamber and Community Partners, Inc. The attraction is designed, created, and staffed by community volunteers.

Dates of performances October 17,18, 24, 25, 30, 31 and November 1.

Times: 7PM till 10PM

Prices: Adults $10.00 Children 12 and under $5.00

Location: The Hancock County Farmers Market at the heart of Down Town Sneedville, TN.


Located at the Hancock County Farmer's Market site, Sinister Darkness encompasses approximately 6,000 square feet of dark and winding corridors that integrate both 3-D and traditional haunt styling to provide you with a truly disorienting and terrifying experience. All proceeds from this event are donated to participating local fire departments and other non-profit community organizations.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sunday Sermonette: Big Science

Today's text comes to us from the album Big Science as written by Laurie Anderson, titled "From The Air."

Good evening. This is your Captain. 
We are about to attempt a crash landing. 
Please extinuish all cigarettes. 
Place your tray tables in their 
upright, locked position. 
Your Captain says: Put your head on your knees. 
Your Captain says: Put your head on your hands. 
Captain says: Put your hands on your head. 
Put your hands on your hips. Heh heh.
This is your Captain-and we are going down. 
We are all going down, together. 
And I said: Uh oh. This is gonna be some day. 
Standby. This is the time.  And this is the record of the time. 
This is the time.  And this is the record of the time. 

Uh-this is your Captain again. 
You know, I've got a funny feeling I've seen this all before. 
Why? 'Cause I'm a caveman. 
Why? 'Cause I've got eyes in the back of my head. 
Why? It's the heat. Standby. 
This is the time.  And this is the record of the time. 
This is the time.  And this is the record of the time. 

Put your hands over your eyes.