Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Air Supply

Posted By on Wed, Nov 30, 2005 at 10:42 PM

Some plucky Finns have created a program that allows you to "actually" play air guitar by donning brightly colored gloves and standing in front of a video camera that's attached to a computer that's attached to six full Marshall stacks (or "appropriately loud speakers," as the article states.

They've decided on the name Virtual Air Guitar, but here's hoping they'll change it to Ax Headroom instead. No word on when they might be adding the phrygian expansion pack. Anyway, you might try wearing some bionic trousers while you slash away. Or at least give some to your roadies.

Southern Pride

Posted By on Wed, Nov 30, 2005 at 2:04 PM

This New York Times article about Southern universities downplaying their cultural roots in order to appeal to a wider audience focuses mainly on Sewanee, but it includes quotes from both Chancellor Gee and Bruce Dobie. Also, it is a topic about which I am very interested, coming from the North but going to school in the South.

My entire family is from the South, but I grew up in Chicago and identify more with the urban Yankee culture than I do the Southern way of life. But at the same time, my ancestors fought on the side of the Confederacy and I have no problem with that. Depending on how I feel, I sometimes favor the removal of the word "Confederate" from Vanderbilt's Confederate Memorial Hall, and other times I think it's a stupid debate and the building should be left alone. I'm conflicted on the issue.

However, there is one thing on which I can comment:

Some alumni were also angered by a report commissioned by the university last year by a marketing firm from Chicago that said that the word "South" often had negative connotations for students around the country; the weaker the connection between the South and the university's name, the better, the consultants said.

This, sadly, is true. Since moving to Tennessee, I have been the butt of more jokes among my Northern friends than ever before. There are a lot of cousin-dating jokes, chewing tobacco jokes, even weird jokes about rodeo animals that I don't even understand. And I'm kind of clumsy and not very eloquent, so believe me, there are plenty of other options from which to choose when you want to make fun of me. I lose my car keys all the time. I can't parallel park. I know all of the words to Eminem's "The Real Slim Shady" and will gladly recite them whenever I hear the song. Yet despite these flaws in my personality, my Tennessee residency gets more laughs than anything else I do. It really irritates me, actually. I have been known to chide my more snooty friends when they make uneducated comments about the South. But people in Tennessee aren't any better than people in the North. I've heard many Nashvillians make fun of Mississippi and Alabama. Everyone belittles Texas. The belittlement just inspires more Southern pride, which inspires more belittlement. And I'm not sure how it's going to change.

So I do agree with the Chicago marketing firm's assessment of the word "South." What they say is true, no matter how much I wish that it weren't. In the end, it's up to the schools to decide their preferred balanced of cultural heritage and academic respect. It's a tricky situation, and one that leaves me without a clear opinion either way.

dante's inferno

Posted By on Wed, Nov 30, 2005 at 10:29 AM


Outside of documentaries, with a few exceptions, the strongest political content in movies this year has been hidden mostly in genre movies like Land of the Dead and War of the Worlds. But the capper has to be this bombshell airing Friday and Saturday on Showtime as part of the cool new Masters of Horror series, which turns horror legends like John Carpenter and Dario Argento loose on hour-long segments. This weekend's segment, "Homecoming," directed by the criminally underrated Joe Dante, makes Fahrenheit 9/11 sound like Reno 911.

Please, just read the synopsis and wonder how in hell this thing ever got past the gatekeepers.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Think Before You Speak

Posted By on Tue, Nov 29, 2005 at 11:27 AM

This week's object lesson in verbal circumspection comes from a Tom DeLay quote from last summer (dredged up by the good folks at Crooks and Liars) about disgraced now-ex-Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham:

"Duke Cunningham is a hero. He is an honorable man of high integrity."

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Human Touch

Posted By on Mon, Nov 28, 2005 at 11:41 AM

A guy named Paul English is getting a good bit of publicity for his IVR Cheat Sheet web site, which gives shortcuts for avoiding corporate Interactive Voice Response systems and getting a live human on the phone instead.

A firm describing itself as "the market leader for on-demand call center and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) solutions" tells you why wanting to speak to a live human is a bad idea in its critique of the site. English (whose day job is running a travel site) responds to that critique here.


Mergers and Acquisitions

Posted By on Mon, Nov 28, 2005 at 11:16 AM

This just in from Village Voice Media CEO and future online media boss David Schneiderman:


I am pleased to inform you that the Department Justice has approved
our merger with New Times. We expect to close in about a month or so. The
work on integrating the two companies will accelerate, but we will still be
functioning as separate entities until the closing.


Next: we consummate the relationship.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The State of Education

Posted By on Sat, Nov 26, 2005 at 4:41 PM

The NY Times points to Tennessee as exhibit A in a front page story Saturday about states where public school students show high levels of proficiency on state tests (the TCAPs here) but far lower proficiency on the national NAEP test used to benchmark state performance. As reported in a Scene piece earlier this month, state and local education officials offer a number of fanciful theories on why the gap exists and how it might be seen as something other than evidence that states are using weak standards to game federal No-Child-Left-Behind progress requirements. NCLB compels states to participate in NAEP, but invites the discrepancy by letting each state create its own standards and tests for tracking NCLB performance. Showing off her extra coursework in understatement at PR school, Tennessee Department of Education spokeswomen Kim Karesh is quoted in today's Times story: "Now whether Tennessee's test is stringent enough is something that we're reviewing constantly. Nobody here would say we have a perfect test."

Friday, November 25, 2005

Get a Grip, Van

Posted By on Fri, Nov 25, 2005 at 10:04 AM

The Tennessean today picks up an AP story (based on a Van Hilleary senate campaign news release last Sunday) about Hilleary's criticism of GOP senate opponent Bob Corker for supposedly supporting and raising money for the Tennessee Black Caucus's 2004 legislative retreat. From the Hilleary news release:

Republican voters deserve to know how much money Bob Corker raised for the liberal Caucus and why in the world he would raise money for a group of Democrat legislators who are completely at odds with the conservative agenda that Republican legislators are trying to enact.

Corker, as mayor of Chattanooga, encouraged the caucus's retreat and training conference to convene in his city and urged some local corporate financial support for the meeting. Earth to Van: This is what mayors are elected and paid to do. Does Hilleary believe that a mayor should apply a litmus test of political ideology to a city's cultivation of investment and tourism opportunities?

Hilleary feels understandably compelled to take pot shots at the better financed Corker whenever possible, but attacks that shed more light on your own dimness than your opponent's foibles are not the stuff of winning campaigns. As campaign assaults go, this one is lame, revealing yet again Hilleary's own shallowness and desperation.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

TennCare Reform: Time for Some Creative Citizen Action

Posted By on Tue, Nov 22, 2005 at 1:14 PM

In our editorial this week, Scene Editor (and boss extraordinaire) Liz Garrigan calls for creative new solutions to the painful TennCare problem -- humane responses from average (and well-heeled) Tennesseans, not the pointless probing and posturing that comes from Capitol Hill. She writes:

Screw candlelight vigils and letters to elected officials. We envision something more aggressive, and that doesn't require anyone's actions but our own: milk bottles with the pictures of former TennCare enrollees placed beside cash registers across the state, billboards asking those traveling our interstates why we can fund tax breaks for Nissan but not heart medication for Mrs. Smith, a high-profile public relations firm -- or a coalition of them -- unafraid to piss off state officials and willing to offer its services pro bono to such a campaign, and mailings asking potential donors to send money to agencies trying to meet the growing demand of Tennessee's sick and poor.

And you know what? She has a point. Government has failed to protect the poor, sick and elderly -- huge drug companies, whatever their reasons, have shown more compassion than state officials -- so perhaps it's time to give up on waiting for the bureaucrats and instead put forth new solutions to the state health care crisis.

Liz has started the debate. Now let's take it statewide. Let's get all kinds of folks involved: fundraisers, preachers, PR flacks looking to reclaim their souls (hey, it's a big tent), unions, Republicans, Democrats, kids. Let's send some emails, make some phone calls, get together in a room, lock the doors and figure out some solutions. It will take a group of engaged citizens willing to think outside the box. And if one person suffers a little less because of these efforts, they will have been worth the cost.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Pot Calling the Revisionist Black

Posted By on Mon, Nov 21, 2005 at 3:11 PM

Dick Cheney today in another of his oratorical growlfests at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington:

The flaws in the intelligence are plain enough in hindsight. But any suggestion that prewar information was distorted, hyped or fabricated by the leader of the nation is utterly false.

Washington Post, March 18, 2003:

In his appearance Sunday...the vice president argued that "we believe [Hussein] has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons." But Cheney contradicted that assertion moments later, saying it was "only a matter of time before he acquires nuclear weapons." Both assertions were contradicted earlier by Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who reported that "there is no indication of resumed nuclear activities." ElBaradei also contradicted Bush and other officials who argued that Iraq had tried to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes to use in centrifuges for uranium enrichment. The IAEA determined that Iraq did not plan to use imported aluminum tubes for enriching uranium and generating nuclear weapons. ElBaradei argued that the tubes were for conventional weapons and "it was highly unlikely" that the tubes could have been used to produce nuclear material. Cheney on Sunday said ElBaradei was "wrong" about Iraq's nuclear program and questioned the IAEA's credibility.

Cheney today called doubts about administration handling of pre-war intelligence "revisionism of the most corrupt and shameless variety." The only revisionism going on here is the claim that there was no basis for skepticism about the administration's WMD claims at the time. If Cheney's baseless and dismissive rejection in March 2003 of a credible, contrary IAEA opinion in favor of the rush to war doesn't qualify as distortion or hype, then it's hard to imagine what would.


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