Don't Screw It Up For Me

I haven't slept well this week and I'm feeling punchy. So let's get it on.

Yesterday Brittney obviously thought things where too quiet, and decided to start a little war by highlighting conflicting posts on The Incident At Gallatin High's Graduation. And of course a war started in the comments section. Since I didn't read the post until a day later and no one is paying attention anymore, I'm commenting here.

He wasn't supposed to speak at the graduation. He had the highest grades? Big frickin' deal. What the hell does that have to do with speaking at graduation? The school decides who does that. Most of them decide for the kid with the highest grades, but they don't have to. There's no obligation to do so. You want to get hung up on definitions? Good point, the dictionary does have the force of law.

It's not like not getting to speak at the graduation invalidates his grades and four years of hard work. That's still the same. Colleges and potential future employers don't really care whether he gave the speech or not. Apparently this is a long standing custom at Gallatin High. So the kid didn't set out four years ago to work hard and get perfect grades so he could speak at his graduation. He knew perfectly well the valedictorian didn't speak.

I really truly don't understand Barbieux's comment either.

Requiring people to be polite is often used as a way to squelch descent. We wouldn't be living in the good ol' USofA if our forefathers/mothers put manners ahead of everything else. Neither would our country have developed the high state of freedoms we enjoy today if it were not for brave people willing to put it on the line with acts of civil disobedience. Sometimes you just have to do whatever it takes to make yourself heard.
So a lot of people died for my freedom means I don't have to respect laws, traditions, or other peoples freedoms? The commute home is going to be great today. Screw those red lights. Civil disobedience is supposed to mean something. Not be a finger in the face of a high school administrator who this guy thinks can't punish him anymore. They died so we could collectively make our own rules rather than having someone who won the birth lottery dictate them to us. Not so we could individually flaunt the rules.

Sure the principal is just as bad. You'd think he'd consider letting the valedictorian speak at graduation if he asked. It would be the decent thing to do. And he over reacted obviously. The punishment he wanted (arrest and no diploma) didn't really fit the crime. But maybe he just wanted to scare the kid. Whether it was a scare tactic or not, cooler heads prevailed and the kid got what he deserved. A good ole fashioned scare and then his diploma.

To be fair though, I doubt most of the graduations had their celebrations 'disturbed'. They were probably entertained during an otherwise boring ceremony and pumped the keg for Linzey at the after party.

This kind of crap is pretty common at graduations these days apparently. The Lady Friend attended graduation at the school she works at. She said most of the kids names couldn't even be heard as they crossed the stage due to all the hooting and shouting. I 've said it before. The Asshole Factor goes up exponentially as population density increases.

Celebration is fine, and understood. But why the hell does your celebration have to fuck up mine?


The Scene Entertains Me

Well, it does. I find their nasty, sarcastic take on things teetering between hilarious and irritating , depends on what sort of mood I’m in on any given day. In my personal opinion, Sarcastro proves you can do nasty and sarcastic without also being infuriating. (At least so far.)

One part I never find funny about our beloved weekly rag though…. they like to print reader letters with pithy little headers above each. The editors add their tag on the reader comments making their own opinion clear. Now granted, whoever does these is very good at it. It takes a lot of skill to completely disarm another person’s argument/tirade and insinuate they have the intelligence of a box of dirt in five words or less. But it’s like a smug little inside joke where they’re inviting everyone to laugh along with them at this poor sap who thought he could challenge something the Scene put out there. I would think you should encourage rather than insult people who read your paper and are engaged enough to write in, but I guess when you publish for free it’s a lot harder to drive your readers away.

They’ve always billed themselves as opposition to every other media outlet in town. The Tennessean (and the weekly publication All The Rage) bears the brunt of their criticism, but I’ve seen The City Paper, various local television stations, and even the occasional radio show take hits from them. Now I don’t have any problem with that. But when I saw the newest shot in this little media war, in the form of this weeks tagline on the cover, I just couldn’t resist.

How arrogant corporate tools like E.J. Mitchell are destroying your newspaper – and why Gannett is laughing all the way to the bank
That’s pretty much a fastball at the head of the Tennessean. That’s not where the problem comes in though. I just find it amusing that a publication with a role in the Nashville media world defined by criticism of the competition, can’t take criticism itself. I’m referring to the whole blogworld dustup over Bill Hobbs. I’m not going to recap it, but it started as another blogs criticism of Bill Hobbs. During a slow news week one of the Scene’s political columnists picked it up and a blogger got fired from his day job for it. The predictable result was a lot of irate bloggers, and nasty comments on the Scene’s own blog and various other area blogs. (They blame those on other bloggers, but I think they either don’t realize, or are avoiding, the fact that not that many of their readers are bloggers, but most of them have web access.)

I don’t even hold it against them that they got a blogger fired. To quote Roger Abrams, “it’s like firing a bazooka at a housefly”. But it’s their bazooka, so go for it. What I do criticize them for, is their reaction to the storm of criticism that came out of the local blog world after Hobbs was fired.

Did they just ignore the blathering of the blogging rabble? They are respected journalists, after all. Hell no they didn’t ignore it. (Like the Tennessean seems to ignore their criticism.) The editor and the writer who did the blogger take down story circled the wagons and pulled out their machine guns. They used their well read (at least compared to most local blogs) platform to take pot shots at bloggers and insinuate that we’re all living in our mother’s basements because we don’t have day jobs and typing one handed. The kicker line was when the editor, on page 2, smugly mentions getting a man fired and at the same time insults bloggers everywhere.

How many bloggers actually have job? We don’t know, except to say one fewer now than before.

I have to say, it was nice to see some media acknowledgement of blogs, but the whole thing smacked of hyper defensiveness and over reaction. The appropriate response would have either been to ignore it as beneath their notice. Or, since they obviously felt the need to defend themselves, a rational explanation of why the story was done. Resulting to the role of playground bully really does nothing for their credibility..

Sarcasm and name calling is a lot more typical of the Scene than rational explanations, but people that make their living criticizing others really should be able to take a little criticism as well.

When it’s all said and done, I read the Scene much more often than the Tennessean. And that’s only partly because it’s free. But today I’m irritated.


Water Everywhere - A Movie Review

After working an extra four hours on Sunday (thanks Uncle Phil), I was ready for some mindless fun so I decided to try out Poseidon. I have seen the original, but it has been a very long time, and I remember very little. All in all, this version is a good movie, but you need realistic expectations or it will just be a disappointment.

(Spoiler warning, they’re definitely in here.)

This movie is an action flick through and through and the pacing is very tight. There’s not much set-up at the beginning and the disasters start hitting immediately. I found myself a little on the edge of my seat just trying to anticipate what was going to happen next.

The special effects work well with all the action. Everything was a little too contrived somehow, so it was obvious it was CGI. But the action opens with a great panoramic shot and seamlessly pans to follow a jogger so we get a great view of the boat in all its glory. My favorite though was the last scene of the movie. The survivors are on a lifeboat and the ship has just gone under. The camera pans out and we see a gorgeous shot of the night sky over the ocean with two rescue helicopters.

One thing that’s definitely missing, any sort of character development at all. The writer works in a lot of tantalizing hints about the backgrounds of the various characters (former mayor of New York City who quit when the going got rough, professional gambler who spent too much time in the navy, stowaway claustrophobic going to visit her brother, etc..). I think they could have done a lot with the story by exploring the potentially fascinating backgrounds.

Richard Dreyfuss shows up as a gratuitously gay architect. We meet him in the lobby of the hotel on his cell phone (who gets cell service in the middle of the ocean?) imploring the love of his life to call him at midnight since it is New Year’s Eve. Later on in the ballroom as midnight approaches he lets slip that the love of his life is a man. There’s one other instance where he refers to a waiter as ‘gorgeous’, while they’re climbing through an elevator shaft on a wobbly platform with death above and below them. Other than these two instances there’s no mention of his sexuality. It seems like a blatant, and cheap, attempt to shock the audience that the director abandoned when he realized it wouldn’t work. But forgot to edit out.

Lack of decent plot and character development is the big shortfall of the movie. It could have been made a lot more compelling with a little work. It’s obvious why the director chose not to do that though. All that extra script would have added hours to the film, and the world doesn’t need another Titanic.

My other criticism? I missed the Christmas tree. In the original, all the survivors used it to climb out of the ballroom and escape into the rest of the ship. Trying to convince the others to follow them the entire way.

You can read all about it on RottonTomatoes.com. It only got a 30% rating, but all the good reviews seemed to focus on the action sequences as I did. I hear


The Obligatory DaVinci Post

I like Leonardo. He was a true renaissance man who dabbled in everything, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the term was originally defined using him as an example. His early helicopter and tank ideas were pretty cool. Apparently he had a lot of ideas that were too far beyond the manufacturers of the day. So I don’t really hold it against the man that he’s the root of all this controversy.

The Lady Friend is a big fan of The Davinci Code by Dan Brown. So with the movie coming out this week, I finally got around to reading the book. The verdict? Meh. It was okay, but a little on the dull side. It’s an interesting topic to speculate on, but then apparently Brown got that from someone else. The intellectual convolutions they had to go through were mildly interesting to read. It reminded me a bit of Indiana Jones, but without Nazis, snakes, and giant boulders. So essentially, without the fun parts.

I was discussing it with a friend after I finished reading it, and I commented that I didn’t see how they could make it into a good movie. Most of the book is about the characters reasoning their way through a puzzle. That can make for interesting reading if handled properly, but on screen it could get pretty dull. So we reasoned that they’ll add some action sequences and car chases to make it more interesting. Apparently they didn’t.

At this point, any post on The Davinci Code would be incomplete without some comment on the controversy by Christian groups. So let’s just say it. It’s fiction folks, get over it. Sure there’s a fact page, and the fact page is correct. All the descriptions of artwork, rituals, etc… probably are true. That doesn’t mean he’s claiming the interpretations of them are true.

Think of it as historical fiction. Gone With The Wind didn’t really happen either.

The Mystery of the Green Bags

It's been an annual tradition as long as I’ve been working downtown. Ever year in mid and late May the sidewalks of Charlotte Avenue are swarmed with college age kids carrying green bags. Now, I’m not talking about a shopping bag. I’m talking about luggage for a long weekend. Judging from the way they’re all bent over the bags are heavy too.

It’s quite a sight every morning as I walk up from the parking lot to the office. Dozens of them running up the hill at high speed with heavy loads on their back. This happens daily for 2-3 weeks and there’s always a lot of speculation in the office about it. The most credible rumor is that they are college kids training to sell books door to door over the summer while on summer break. They apparently work for a publisher downtown who has them come here to train, and tells them to always run. This explains why they're always bent over. The bag is full of books. My guess is Lifeway.

It’s also funny that I call them college kids now. When I started working downtown ten years ago they were peers that weren’t lucky enough to have graduated yet, now they’re just annoying kids. Knucklehead isn't the only one feeling old. (But I'm not as old as he is.)


How A Village Was Born

The Lady Friend lives in Old Hickory Village. It’s a nice little area with a real neighborhood feel, and the occasional adventure. I like wandering around the area because it has some great older houses, about 300 of which are on the National Register of Historic Places. This Saturday (May 20) is their annual tour of homes. I can’t find anything on the homes featured this year, but I did discover 2002 and 2003.

This year’s tour will feature not only some of the historic homes, but some of the newer and recently remodeled ones as well. Among the homes on this year’s tour you will find The Village’s resident 2600 pound water buffalo, a putting green, a “bottle tree” to keep away evil spirits and a bidet. Bidets are more
popular in Europe than the United States, but for whatever reason one has found its way to The Village. Another home has recently been increased by 2600 square feet—more than many homes in The Village and includes a 300 square foot bathroom.

It’s really a trip to walk through the neighborhoods because there are only a few basic floorplans. So the basic structure of the houses look the same, but with all the little additions and changes that have been made by each individual owner since then. And the house sizes noticeably increase as you get closer to the river.

The history of the area makes it all the more fascinating. It turns out that in January of 1918 the United States government realized if they were going to fight the Kaiser, they were going to need gunpowder in massive amounts for the doughboy’s guns. There were no large scale plants in the country at the time, so they went looking for places to build one.

They settled on Old Hickory. It was near Nashville, but since it was set back in Hadley Bend of the Cumberland River it was fairly secluded. With only one way in unless you have a boat. Great for protecting from German spies and accidental explosions which tend to happen in gunpowder plants. These days access is worse in a way now that the river is a lake. The area is surrounded on three sides by river. Most of the access is from Lebanon Road on the south end, and the north end bottlenecks down to only one bridge at Old Hickory Boulevard.

With a location chosen, they contracted with DuPont to build and operate the plant. Since it was so remote Dupont was also going to have to build an entire city with roads, municipal buildings, housing for thousands, recreation, sewer, electric, and water supply. All of this starting from nothing but a few farms and dirt paths traveled by tractors and horses. They were understandably proud of this engineering and organizational feat.

The accomplishment turned out to be a little anticlimactic. It was begun in January of 1918, and n November 11 of 1918 it was almost done. November 11 was also the day the armistice that ended WW1 was signed, so the plant was no longer needed. So all the construction workers were shipped back to their homes and the new town was given over to the bureaucrats.

In 1923 DuPont bought the town, refurbished everything, and built what is now known as Rayon City on the site. They rented the homes to their employees, with the distance your house was from the river (and directly commensurate house size) being a measure of how far up the corporate ladder you were. In 1946 they started selling off the houses to their owners and now all of the houses are individually owned.

About the time DuPont started selling the houses, they also destroyed a lot of ‘temporary’ buildings (that had been part of the original construction 20 years ago) and new ranch and cottage style houses were built.

So that’s how Old Hickory Village ended up as a melting pot of houses built in styles popular from the 1920’s through the 1960’s. It’s an eclectic mix, and walking through the neighborhood you can quickly tell when you get to the newer parts. I like the neighborhood feel of the place. The homes and lots are very small which adds to the neighborhood feel I enjoy, but also makes it a little cramped.

If you stayed with me through all that, go see the home tour. And don’t speed on your way through Lakewood.


Master of All I Survey

Well the deed is done. After six months of picking colors and flooring, and an hour and a half of signing documents, I’m debt up to my neck. But it’s the good kind of debt. I own a house.

It’s my first one, and the whole process has been surreal. I got a little nervous when I got my car loan, and that was about 10% of what I just signed away for my new bachelor pad. But it’s so cool. The furniture isn’t in yet, but I had to wander through and survey my new kingdom. I’m really looking forward to yelling at kids and dogs to get off my lawn.

So big housewarming party at W’s in June. It's fun to be master of all I survey (if the blinds are closed). I’m just hoping somebody will insult me so I can exercise the age old privilege of landowners and kick them out.


May Sucks

The month of May has this great reputation for flowers and being the start of spring and all, but I see through all that crap. I really despise May. May has been unkind to me for my entire adult life. (It may have always been that way, but I didn’t start to pay attention until my early 20s.)

So, what’s happened to sour me on this month of clear blue sky, temperate weather, and brand new greenery? Past Mays have been the source of personal illnesses, car accidents, living room flooding, broken hearts, and deaths in the family, to name a few.

Want to hear my problem with this May? My grandfather was diagnosed with cancer. The bad news? It’s exceedingly rare and nasty. He lives in Oak Ridge, and the doctors think this was caused by his exposure to all the weird things they have out there because he worked in the weapons plants. The good news? It’s only in his leg so the prognosis is good that they can get rid of it. Only thing is, the whole leg has to go.

Amputation is such an ugly word. I went to visit him the night before the surgery. It was mostly cheerful small talk about my job and my new house. As I was getting ready to leave, he told me to have a good day the next day. Fortunately, I managed to suppress my usual response when someone says something like that to me. Telling him to do the same just didn’t seem appropriate somehow. How do you respond to something like that? “I hope it doesn’t hurt too much” just didn’t seem appropriate. After an awkward pause I ended with a thanks and an invitation for him to visit my new house after I move in.

Bring on June.


Fruedian Anyone?

I work in a high-rise (for Nashville) office building that also houses an agency who promotes the arts. So we always have some sort of unusual art in the lobby. Right now there's a sculpture on the wall that looks like a big zipper opening (and the name of the piece is Zipper). And right next to it is the security desk where all the guards are wearing a latex glove on their right hand.

Anyone want to take a stab at what management is trying to tell us? I'm getting all kinds of cringeworthy Fruedian messages.


Fun With Words

The book I’m currently reading* made an interesting comment that got me started thinking about words. It implied a connection or common root between the words patriotism and patriarchy.

The connection seems to stem from the ‘fatherland’ concept. I’ve read or seen Germans refer to their country as ‘the fatherland’ and Russians refer to their homeland as ‘mother Russia’. I’ve never heard an actual person do this, only read about it and seen it on tv or the movies, so I could be mistaken. German usage of the term has apparently fallen off since World War 2 because this was a common Nazi practice.

Merriam Webster defines patriarchy as essentially, a organization dominated by males. And of course patriotism is love of one’s country. Since historically most countries have been ruled by men, then I’m going to conclude the two are related. But the whole thing got me started wondering….. If one of our biggest national symbols is female, should we start calling ourselves matriots instead? We do have obvious patriarchal symbols as well though, so I guess everyone gets to make their own choice.

Now, to take this in a less gender important direction…. The words ‘patron’ and ‘patronize’ also came up in the course of researching this post. Patron used to be a term used to refer to a person’s social and/or financial betters, who were taking an active interest in a person. For instance, a painter or musican may have had a duke or prince as a patron who supplied him with room and board so he could paint all day instead of working the fields. So it had basically good, if potentially snobbish overtones. Somehow it evolved into something a business may call their regular customers. So you could say that I patronize the local bookstore. I’m not sure how we got form one to the other, but I suspect it has to do with the financial relationship between patron and client. On top of those, it has an additional meaning. The most common usage of patronize seems to be used to mean an attitude of condescension, or assuming that you are better than others. (See the Nashville Scene’s treatement of bloggers recently for a good example.)

For any Potter fans, this also seems to be the root of the patronus spell used to ward off Dementors as patronus is the Medeval Latin form of patron.

* The book in question is a novel (and sequel to Ender’s Game) by Orson Scott Card. If his most recent novels are any indication, the man doesn’t much like Islam. That’s a post for another time, but you can seem some interesting opinion pieces by him at The Ornery American.


The Immigrants Were Still Here

Unless you live under a rock, you know yesterday was supposed to be a ‘day without immigrants’. The day that immigrants were supposed to stay home from work, school, and shopping just to show the rest of us ingrates how important they are. And they did.

They blunted both the impact and the backlash by organizing things so early. Word has been getting around for awhile now, so employers had time to adjust work schedules. In doing so they most definitely lessened the impact on the rest of us. Now obviously, the greater the inconvenience for the rest of us, the bigger the point made. But I suspect they were afraid of the backlash if there was too much trouble caused.

Honestly, I’m not sure what this proves. I think the main fact that came to light, at least so far, is that their employers are pretty generous. I haven’t read any accounts of rampant firing yet (though it is admittedly too early to tell). The Tennessean mostly reports that everyone who wanted was allowed to take a day off. I think mostly it just proves that it’s easier to give in than to try and find a one day replacement.

In the interests of satisfying my curiosity, I did a little research about the day without immigrants yesterday. I went looking to see the effect on our own office. The Chinese guy in the cubicle next to me… he was at work. As was the Chinese lady down the hall, both the Iraqi and the Iranian guys on the other side of the building, the Nigerian fellow downstairs, the British lady upstairs, my Swedish friend across town, and the Egyptian guy in the building across the street. I think immigrant solidarity isn’t that monolithic on this topic once you get outside the Hispanic community. I haven't once read anything mentioning the reaction of the non-Hispanic immigrant population to all this.

Also, the distinction between illegal and legal immigration seems to be getting greyer and greyer in the media, and in every day use.

I guess I did read one account of an employer willing to fire employees for skipping out on work yesterday. For some commentary Sarcastro style (i.e. mean and funny as hell) take a look here.

Let me also just add this.... a counter protest is just stupid. Phil Valentine has been reportedly urging his listeners to not patronize businesses that closed for the 'day without immigrants' going so far as to keep a list of businesses that closed for the day. That's bad enough, but Marsha Blackburn has apparently decided to use the list as a cheat sheet to figure out who is employing illegals. Both of them are penalizing legal immigrants who understandably sympathize with the plight of their illegal former countrymen, and businesses who had no choice in the matter.


Again With The Cynicism

I've posted before on my dissapointments with Tennessee's athletic teams, both professional and college level. Today I'm seriously considering adding the Predators to the list.

In their playoff series with the San Jose Sharks they totally succumed to what I'm going to start calling the Tennessee Syndrome. I greatly admire how well they did during the regular season. They made us proud. But they essentially just choked in the playoffs.

They started off with a bang, winning the first game, but then they gave it up. I give them credit for all their skill, but it looked like they just gave up at the end. That was some seriously lackluster playing in every game in this series except the first. I've seen them play with fire, and the fire went out in Game 2. I think they used it all up in that last game with the Red Wings.