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Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself. My name is . . .

April 19, 2011

I used to be up in Live Journal. I went back to look at my old musings. It was 2002. It seemed like big ‘tings a’ gwan back then. My first cover story dropped. New apartment downtown (before gentrification and the mad dash for condos). Living the life, kind of. I was free-er of course. I lived mostly by deadlines and start times. If I “had” to be anywhere it was because I put it on the schedule. Most of what I wrote was personal, and if not personal I made it so.

Two years later? Married. Child. Job (s). Living the life, kind of. I lived by having to be here and there “on time” all the time.

A few years later, the live journal-er formerly known as daikokubashira no longer existed. Most of what I wrote was circumscribed by having a professional life (again, the kind of you must have short hair life I lived before 1998) and a family life. I generally didn’t want to write unless there was a check in it.

But it was pretty obvious that I was enjoying every little word I typed out on LJ. I had a small audience, I didn’t know I was supposed to be thinking about things like hit counts and page views (one reason I abandoned it) when I started. Those kind of worries were only supposed to be for my paid writing.

Did all the joy vanish? Yeah, to a degree. So, like a superhero with a well worn origin story, I need a reboot. I’m preparing to end this place called Dork Nation. It never really lived up to its billing anyway. It was more LeftWing Tar Heel Nation than dork.

I’m not going to abandon a web presence. All writers must blog. That’s what we learned at the Editorial Writer’s Conference Seminar. Everyone is keyed into 1) the necessity for self-promotion 2) that all future battles will be digital (no televised revolutions, as Egypt showed us, it will be streamed and tweeted).

I will rename, revamp, and relocate this here blog. And I will blog more. I will borrow some things from that dude on Live Journal, being more personal/observational. I will get to the theater more, will review records more (rather than grouse silently to myself). I will just write.

I’ve been running the “sad circle” professionally (an old country ass football term for having to chase the quarterback when you failed to keep containment). I want to write as a profession, not that I haven’t been doing that but it’s always been secondary. In my way of thinking, I can do the real job thing and sort of pursue writing. That’s partially been of necessity, but it hasn’t put me closer to my actual goal, and one could argue that it’s taken me further away. Me done wit rass! I’m looking for a more direct route now. Old heads give me encouragement, tell me I have the skill, but don’t put me on (one other thing I’m borrowing from that Live Journal dude, logocentrism!)

That’s the other factor in this equation (that equaled “kill Dork Nation”); the new spot will be more of a showcase. Not sure how I’ll manage having a more personal, journal type blog that is also a professional showcase. I’ll figure it out.


Abolish the Death Penalty

April 18, 2011

United States Supreme Court Justice William Brennan wrote in the 1972 decision Furman v Georgia that a sentence that is degrading to human dignity, applied in an obviously arbitrary fashion and clearly rejected throughout society can be found to be cruel and unusual punishment. That describes capital punishment today.

Recent findings of prosecutorial misconduct and grave errors in death penalty cases confirm Brennan’s suggestion that capital punishment is indeed cruel and unusual. Tennessee should abolish the death penalty whether there’s a shortage of the key ingredient to the lethal injection chemical mix or not.

The Tennessee Committee to Study the Administration of the Death Penalty heard testimony that given the budget in 2009, the process is a luxury for the state. The Commission also heard testimony that there exist too many holes in the system that exposes the accused to significant horrible risks. The risk for society – indeed a real possibility – is that innocent people are being executed.

There are significant findings that point to this. Among them:

Mother Jones magazine reported on the distressing case of John Thompson, a former inmate on Louisiana’s death row. Thompson was exonerated after sitting on death row for 14 years. His lawyers uncovered evidence of prosecutorial misconduct from the office of former New Orleans District Attorney Harry Connick Sr., a man so enraptured with the death penalty that he kept a model of an electric chair on his desk. That morbid toy was decorated with the pictures of death row inmates, Thompson being one.

The Innocence Project, an organization created to exonerate those wrongly accused and incarcerated by the state, investigated Connick’s tenure. They found that one out of every four men sentenced to death were “convicted after evidence that would have cast doubt on their guilt was withheld at trial.” The organization has used DNA evidence to exonerate others – seventeen to date.

Thompson avoided paying the ultimate price only through the intercession of the Innocence Project. Cameron Todd Willingham wasn’t so lucky. The state of Texas sentenced Willingham to death for the murder of his three daughters in a fire he was accused to have set himself. Later, however, the Texas Forensic Science Commission reviewed the case and found that the evidence could not support the charge of arson against Willingham. There exists the possibility, beyond a reasonable shadow of a doubt, that Texas executed an innocent man.

We are certain that Tennessee’s law enforcement agents and prosecutors mostly act in good faith. But it’s reasonable to conclude that such incidents could happen here. In spite of the evidence, in spite of the nationwide trend toward death penalty repeal, Tennessee’s legislators are considering bills that actually reduce the ability of death row inmates to obtain adequate legal aid.

Given the dire economic circumstances, where we can’t afford to sustain a proper teaching force, given circumstances where there is evidence substantial numbers of men are jailed on faulty evidence, given the fact we can’t even obtain the basic amounts of chemicals for lethal injections. Tennessee should simply abolish the death penalty.

Are They Back on This Again? Really?

March 23, 2011

Well, now, in a very old post regarding live action transcoding of “anime” (in which I wondered why we even care) I reposted gossip about the death of the live action version of AKIRA that ‘Hollywoof’ is planning. It has been, in the couple of years since that piece went live, the AKIRA remake has been an on again, off again, mostly off again project.

Now it seems that someone’s agent thought the project needed some publicity and they decided to leak the names of those actors in running for the two leads. Of course, none of those actors are Japanese, or even “Asian.”

This is racism on the same level as that obnoxious UCLA student who was so annoyed at all the Asians on “our” campus.( Seriously lady, have you looked around California lately? Is it really “yours?”) And at that level, rather than retweeted ad infinitum and so on, it should be ignored.

Yes, ignored. No, I’m not really ignoring it, but I have to address it to implore you all to ignore it. Here’s why:

1) See the old post.
2) Yes, the battle for better representation for Asian actors in Hollywood must be fought. It must not be fought with this movie.
a) the movie is likely to suck.
b) even with an all Asian cast, there will be nothing of the original. Oh, all the plot points and nice explosions will be there. But how will a bunch of 30 and 40 yr old dudes express the teen rebellion against the zaibatsu controlled Japanese society kicking at the walls of the original (film and manga)? It isn’t being “white washed” as much as it is being “Hollywood washed.”
c) The film will probably end up in development Hell anyway.

As with other situations like this, The Last Airbender, for example, this is not as much an argument over things like culture as it is about working actors, Asian American actors specifically, getting jobs. We think that is a worth while thing to argue about. Rather than have Asian American actors available to participate in the thorough trashing of a fine piece of work, let’s argue for them having more appearances in romcoms, sitcoms, dramas, and the like.

Instead of Morgan Freeman being the POTUS the next time an asteroid is headed for Earth in a movie, what about B.D. Wong?

Killing In the Name Of

January 17, 2011

Every winter, the days leading up to the MLK celebration I get a (decreasingly large) hit count bump, owing to this page about the conservative usurpation of MLK’s “Dream” speech. Maybe “usurpation” isn’t the best word choice given that King never really declared an ideology linked to any political persuasion. Yet we can suss, from his speeches that he: was at least vigorously anti-imperialist and anti-war, interested in the power of the federal government to help the disadvantaged, believed that unregulated markets breeds unparalleled greed. That’s not the stuff of Tea Party legend.

Yet and still, every January, someone, usually King’s niece Alveda King, will trot out the idea that if King were alive today he’d be (GASP!) a conservative!

That kind of silly season speculation should be ignored as I might ignore my son’s comedy farts just after he’s been chastised. See, he only wants to attempt to divert my attention away from the important matter of giving him a time-out. But you know sometimes you can’t help laugh.

Possibly funnier to some is the notion that King would be a Democrat. While we liberals and leftists strive to have the kind of Democracy our children would be proud of, we are indeed supporting a President who has signed off on a bombing campaign that is killing children. Our stimulus package and attempts at reversing the damage lax regulation did to the economy by giving banks more freedom (and their very own reserve of funds should they screw up again), not spending on public works projects to give people job opportunities. If you’ve ever a chance to actually read or hear anything King said, you’d think he ain’t supporting that bunch of Torries either.

So, where would he stand today, if he were alive (the reporter asks earnestly)? Oh, I don’t know, a man apart, with the people, perhaps.

We had another chance to consider King’s legacy a bit earlier this time around, though, after the a fore alluded to events in Tuscon, AZ. The villainous Jared Lee Loughner (we love to know our assassin’s middle names, don’t we) was painted as an example of Everything That is Wrong With the Right, then, meekly and ignorantly as a Commie hit man, that is until the Consoler-in-chief told us to stop with the blame game. Besides being a great speech and a nice mushy sentiment, it was a great political move. The mantle of victimhood the Right has cloaked itself in was ripped away – at least in the eyes of the press – leaving an increasingly inconsequential Sarah Palin there stammering alone (oh, wait, she’s got Hannity).

There may have been no direct link between Jared Lee’s rampage and the Tea Party, like a membership card or copy of “America By Heart” on his Amazon wishlist. Most have taken great care to present him as the Lone Nutbag (as the press is always in a great hurry to do when there is an assassination). That does not, I’m afraid, exonerate, that lot completely. We really didn’t need to bother linking Tuscon to the Tea Party’s worst case nutbags, there is enough evidence floating about of their interest in the use of “2nd Amendment remedies” to “take their country back (from the Kenyan interloper who stole it).”

We expect this sort of madness from the outliers. We also, rightly expect the level heads in the conservative movement to condemn that kind of crap. They might say well we abhor violence, as Mrs Palin and others did. I’m sure they don’t like being shot at or being hit over the head. That’s about as far as the leadership would go. I know they feared political costs of of speaking out against the Birthers and other assorted nutbags.

Or perhaps the fear was much simpler and more sympathetic; the conservative leadership would prefer that the guns were not aimed at them. I mean, who wants to be featured in the cross hairs of the Palin-ites? The leadership on the Right may know, more than the press and pundits, more than us rubes in the general populace, just how seriously dangerous these folks are.

They could, of course, just speak out anyway. Ah, but that would take political courage and leadership. So here’s the MLK quote: “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. ”

I Went to the Music City Bowl and All I Got Was a Lousy Victory

December 31, 2010

I took Little Dork to the Music City Bowl.

First off, about “the call;” I know the Vol fans are raging about the way the game ended. It was confusing and nearly impossible to tell what was going on, but after observing what happened on replays, it was clear the referee made the proper call. Yates did indeed spike the ball with one second left on the clock. It was near disastrous clock management on Coach Davis’ part that just happened to work out for the Heels. The illegal substitution penalty was really irrelevant because even without the confusion with 18 players on the field, the fact remains that Yates did spike the ball in time, and spiked the ball with one second on the clock. The umpire didn’t see it because of the focus on the substitutions.

Second, the Vol fans at the game were mostly assholes. Yeah, I would have been pissed if I thought the refs took a win away from us but I don’t think I would have been cursing fans from the opposing team, especially if they had a 6 year old boy in tow. I’ve been to Neyland enough times to know what to expect from them. And yeah, most Vol football fans aren’t actually alumni. I certainly hope that dude who wanted to fight me wasn’t an alumni – his blatant stupidity would not reflect well on UT’s admissions committee.

That said, we sat next to a very nice couple from Jefferson City, the Hensleys (?), who were so nice I let them have my UT Media Guide. Hey, maybe that’s why they were so nice . . .

But consider this, college ball fans and UT fans especially, we won that game essentially playing a third string defense and a second string offense (owing to injuries, suspensions, etc).

So, the game itself wasn’t that awesome if you ask me. Double overtimes are always exciting, but I saw a lot of mistakes during the run of play. Mistakes can come from guys trying too hard, like Burney fumbling the interception that came after Carolina’s first score, an interception that would likely have put a dagger through UT’s heart early. I didn’t see many fabulous drives. UT scored on long passes on blown coverages (a problem we faced after Denuta Williams broke his leg). There were a ton of penalties, too.

The biggest mistake of course was the bad hold that lead to Paige-Moss’ block of the UT extra point late in the 4th Quarter. Penalty or no, 1 second left or 10 seconds left, if UT had made the extra point the outcome of the game would likely have been completely different.

During the 2009 season, I was one of T.J. Yates biggest critics. I thought he was horrible. His numbers tended to back me up. However I have to take back every word. He put it all together this year, without having access to two potential All-ACC targets, Little and Pianalto. We won’t likely see Yates playing on Sunday, but at least now I think he’ll get a shot.

In the past I’ve been titling my posts about Carolina football “The Season of Suckage.” Given all the suspensions and controversy surrounding the program, this year wouldn’t have been any different. But yet, it was.

Floodbath: Continued

December 31, 2010

After the rain, I passed out in the plush cushions of the leather recliner in my parent’s den, a stuffy, fussy Little Psychick lying on my lap (see Illustration 1a2, coming).

When I awoke, all the nagging thoughts I’d let slip during our escape and rescue of my parent’s basement returned. Thoughts like, I should have taken time to unplug all the appliances and expensive electronics in our place, or like all my newspaper clippings from the past ten years were likely a sticky mash of newsprint.

I really just wanted to know what happened to our stuff.

Confident of the traveling conditions I drove back over to our place with the wife and son. When we arrived we saw the street next to the condo complex lined with cars. In the distance we could see the infamous yellow tape of law enforcement. I imagined that a few feet beyond that marker would be the edge of the flood waters.

The homes I’d seen earlier along our escape route were untouched by the brown soup of sewage the flood had created. I hadn’t recognized it before but we lived on a large sized pitcher’s mound. Some houses sat at the apex and others, facing home plate, on the deep side. Those places on first and third base were nearly under water.

I had to walk from the side of the road deep into the complex to get to our house. The land was muddy and of wet grass and each step soaked my sneakers. I looked down at my shoes to see they were covered with a grey cloud film, and on the sides of my soles that film remains still.

I could tell that others had observed my escape and followed. The landscaping around that point was shredded. As I was looking over that bit of destruction and across the newly formed moat under our carport, I turned to see a friend.

This guy is an odd sort, the kind of guy who would put his son in a truck and drive out in the mess just to see if we were okay. That sort. My wife and son had joined him in the trek across the mud, and the two boys frolicked in the gunk.

Still, I had to see what happened to our stuff. I didn’t want to walk through the flood waters, I knew I’d be walking through feces of human and animal, remains of old food, earthworms and plain old dirt. Yet it was getting dark, now or never.

I kicked off my already wet sneakers and dipped into the void. By the time I was in the carport I was in butt deep. Dirt had demarked the high water point about two feet above the cement, which wasn’t too terrifying until I got to the back door and noticed that the ground was lower at that point, so there was about two and a half to three feet of water in the house.

Toys, clothes and shoes floated about in the utility room. The computer was covered up to the DVD drive bay. I didn’t try to count or catalogue items after the first ten casualties, the last of which in that area was the imported rice cooker. In the next room, game consoles and DVD players and the 5.1 receiver all soaked, and while the plasma was dry, I knew it would be dead given that I’d left it plugged in.

Anything stored below two feet was gone. Anything between three and four were wet and covered in a film of gunk.
We just hoped for a quick recession of the flood waters so that we could pick out what could be salvaged. Looked to me like an impossible task at that point, and I didn’t much feel like trying. Given that we were going to be depending upon the federal government for some assistance I figured we’d need to salavage as much as possible. The saving grace of that moment was the thought that many of the anti-tax, anti-government fake Federalists in our neighborhood were going to be holding out their tin cans to FEMA like the rest of us, asking President Obama if he could spare a dime.

I grabbed my video camera and left, not stopping to capture the moment on film.

Outside, the boys were still playing. Psychick was crying. No one else was around.

The next day we planned to go back. The sun was beaming that morning but an investigation of the home’s status would have to wait. Little Psychick, approaching her second birthday, was sweltering under the heat of a 101 degree fever.

Floodbath: The Beginning

June 7, 2010

In where I talk about what happened the first week of May.

It was about 9:30 when the power went out. Wasn’t my first clue as to what was about to transpire later on that dank grey morning. The first clue came much earlier. Weekends — early — gave me my only unfettered access to the plasma, before the kids were awake to monopolize the TV with Nickelodeon and Sprout. I usually spend that time replaying glory days in the form of NCAA Football on the Playstation.

The wind was howling and the sun had not yet risen. I hadn’t noticed, though, too busy calling audibles and switching pixellated defenses. I could only think I better save the game at some point before the power went out.

At nine, I got my usual early morning guest, the Little Dork, waiting for his turn to play some Lego Batman with me, his weekend fiesta of video game joy. It would be his last chance. The power outage cut short his fun.

When the TV shut off abruptly my first thought was about breakfast. My parents didn’t live far from us, and would provide, with their giant kitchen with it’s multiple ovens, a nice place to make my massive fruit pancake/bacon feast. I roused everyone out of their slumber and went outside to take a look around.

Their were already others outside walking around, taking stock of the weather. The water was rushing from everyone’s roofs in the condominium complex, creating a swishing stream of water at the edge of the perfectly lined carports. The water seemed a bit high, but nothing to worry about.

Perhaps if I’d gone to the back yard I might have been worried.

I was only out looking for the source of the power outage, perhaps a downed wire or blown transformer. I thought I’d heard a boom in the distance, but I wasn’t sure. I did see pools of water building up, but still nothing to worry about, yet.

I went back inside our place. We took our time getting ready. Since the power was out, the previous night’s round of grocery shopping was in danger of succumbing to the stresses of room temperature. We packed meat in our environmentally friendly shopping bags (insulated) while Little Dork dilly dallied and Little Psychick begged for attention. Little Dork was always excited to eat breakfast out of the home on the weekends and so did not need the usual rounds of begging and cajoling him to put on his shoes. Little Psychick, not being of age to handle such tasks on her own, and suffering an ear infection we would later discover, needed assistance, and so I was searching through the week’s laundry for her socks.

Our next door neighbor knocked on our door, frantically. She was wearing a shower cap and pajamas, this women who was never seen without designer jeans and full make up, freshly done hair, had come out in the pouring rain without and umbrella and was clearly upset.

“They’re coming in boats!” she said. “We’re trapped, it’s flooding!” She invited us to wait upstairs in her place (since we only had one floor). She told us she was worried about the kids. Which was nice, but I didn’t believe her about one thing.

I didn’t disbelieve her about the flooding. We’d had to take several detours the day before on the way to a kid’s birthday party. Sure enough, the water had risen rapidly. To our left, at one end of our row of condos, a car was half way submerged. To our right, I couldn’t see.

I didn’t believe her about being trapped. I didn’t want to, I suppose. Perhaps I had, playing in the back of my mind, visions of people in New Orleans standing on top of their submerged house shaking impotent fists at the sky. That was not going to be me.

My fifth step outside was into a sinkhole, maybe it was an open sewage drain. I dropped right down and was soaked to the waist. As I crawled out a woman walked by with her dog, strangely smiling. To the north of our place was a grassy area that doubled as a playground. Just big enough for an SUV to drive through. Though people had started to move their cars out of the water’s way, they hadn’t completely blocked off the path to the next parking lot. The next parking lot would take us to an area not yet submerged.

As I walked back to our place I could finally see the right side, muddy brown water had swallowed cars and half of homes and signposts and bushes. People were standing outside their homes on the patches of grass that had not been consumed just watching the water rise and muttering to each other. They all had a look of disbelief — panic had not set in — or fear or anticipation. Perhaps they were already waiting for rescue.

Back at our place Psychick was packing the car with groceries. Fear had clearly set in here. She was talking to our neighbor but all I could say was “get in the car” more loudly each time someone hesitated or thought about questioning what we were about to do. What were we about to do? Get the fuck out. The kids were rapidly becoming aware that this trip to grandma’s house would not be without some peril.

Oh, the plan was not foolproof. I could have underestimated the speed of the flooding. The exit street could have been just as bad. We could have gotten stuck in the mud in the grassy knoll leading to the next parking lot. Some fool could have blocked off my planned path to escape.

I dropped the shift column into all wheel drive and squeezed through the small maze of vehicles in the guest parking area, where others had ended their quest for safety. Mud and grass spewed where the ground was already soaked, but eventually we reached more solid footing. One right onto pavement and two lefts and we were gone.

Fortunately there was no problems getting to grandma’s house. No one in their quiet neighborhood was scurrying or peeping out the window. Home free, of sorts. But trouble followed me that day.

My father had informed me over the cell phone that their basement was flooding. The aged home had cracks in the masonry through which water had found its path of least resistance. My father was outside dressed like a cross between Shaft and Crocodile Dundee, bearing a shovel. His plan to save his man cave from total destruction was to dig a trench around the front of the house to drain water into the mud below. So that meant I would be digging a trench around the front of the house.

And dig I did, already drenched, as if I was going to save the farm.

I never did get breakfast.