Tuesday, November 23, 2010

David Nolan 1943 - 2010


I had the pleasure of meeting David Nolan and watching him debate during the 2006 AZ CD-8 election where he sparred with Arizona Senator Gabrielle Giffords and former Arizona Rep. Randy Graf. Nolan was a delight to both see and hear, and I learned when we were young we shared very similar sentiments.

We were both avid science fiction fans during high school, in particular enjoying the works of Robert Heinlein, agreeing that Heinlein's best was, no, not the best selling Stranger in Strange Land (1961), but in fact Time Enough for Love (1973), which features the Notebooks of Lazarus Long, "Anyone who cannot cope with mathematics is not fully human. At best he is a tolerable subhuman who has learned to wear shoes, bathe, and not make messes in the house."

In high school we were Ayn Rand devotees (he more or less remained one). He chose what is generally considered the preferable sequence, The Fountainhead (1943) first and then Atlas Shrugged (1957). I started with Atlas Shrugged, which renders The Fountainhead rather unclimactic. Religion never came up, so only today did I learn that Nolan was also a Unitarian Universalist.

The growth of the Tea Party, the Nolan chart, and the comments in the video above all point to the need for more illuminating angles and perspectives regarding our political discourse. His frustration with the Libertarian Party sounds eerily familiar with what Tea has expressed about the GOP. Without question David Nolan was a truly free thinker committed to what he considered best for humanity and not focused on what was best for himself and his friends at the expense of others. He will be missed.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Piece and a Poem

The Star's Josh Brodesky continues to enhance the work of fellow reporter Rob O'Dell regarding the Rio Nuevo component of Tucson's Cloth machine. Like his earlier piece interviewing former Tucson Mayor George Miller, Brodesky's latest article builds upon O'Dell's efforts by presenting the events from another angle, helping readers distinguish the forest amongst the trees.

I'll say little since readers can just click over and read it themselves, but will note that it rather eloquently captures the deafening absence of accountability in the entire Rio Nuevo conversation. I should also mention its coverage of the jaw dropping effort of Humberto Lopez who (stepping in Garfield Traub blood that is still warm) is now proposing HIS downtown hotel project using city money. Great timing, dude.

Worth mentioning in particular and posted at the Tucson Choices blog in its entirety is a late night poem written by Michael Lane and submitted as a comment at Brodesky's article. The poem is titled:

Rio Nuevo – Who Knows Where the Money Goes

The answer? The same person accountable for the project.

No one.

If you listen carefully, you can hear the footsteps of those running away with their share of the $230M No one spent.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Medical Horror

A thankfully rare type of horror film features sadistic medical professionals who find creative ways to inflict medical atrocities on helpless victims. By medical atrocity I mean something distinct from the gore of torture or just hacking people apart. I refer to the deliberate production of horrific medical circumstances. In real life, consider the experiments conducted by the Nazis such as Josef Mengele. In fiction, we have Mary Shelley's respectable Dr. Frankenstein, or Joseph Green's The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1962), which presents the creepy notion of a dismembered head lying in a dish and kept alive by machines. Based on the HP Lovecraft novel, Stuart Gordon's Re-Animator (1985) features a scene where a body starts tending to its own severed head which it carries in one arm. Ingmar Bergman's deeply disturbing Serpent's Egg (1977) provides the psychological equivalent, where a nurse is imprisoned in a room with an infant who (unknown to her) has a fatal brain disorder where it can't stop crying. They time how long she lasts before smothering the baby. The general idea is to break the proper components and boundaries and reassemble them into the horrific.

Birth defects give us nature's example of this nightmare, babies born with their hearts outside their chest, or brains with no protecting skull. If modern medicine cannot fix them, death is an act of mercy. Some fairly disturbing films have addressed the deeply unsettling implications of the perverse connection of Siamese twins, for example, two people with separate mouths sharing the same intestines. The genre I am discussing is the one where an evil villain deliberately produces such situations.

Such content can become some of the most repulsive and disturbing cinema ever produced. Dutch film director Tom Six just couldn't resist sharing his scatological fetish by producing a thoroughly revolting movie, The Human Centipede – The First Sequence. A mad physician surgically attaches three people from mouth to ass. Person one gets to eat food. The second person must eat the excrement of the first person. The third eats the excrement of the second and excretes the results for all three. Lovely.

Normally, Chicago Sun Times film critic Roger Ebert has to assign a star rating to every film he reviews. In this case, he would not assign the film any stars, even zero stars, "I refuse to do it. The star rating system is unsuited to this film. Is the movie good? Is it bad? Does it matter? It is what it is and occupies a world where the stars don't shine."

I once had a horrible nightmare where a summer camp for toddlers, once the parents were gone, forced the young and vulnerable to cut into themselves and artfully expose their internal organs on the surface of their bodies, livers, kidneys, stomachs, inflating and deflating lungs, beating hearts. At the end of the camp, the children displayed their mutilated selves on stage before their parents. One can imagine what the children went through as authority figures told them this was how to please their parents and made them do it. Then consider what the parents experienced when they saw their butchered children on stage, and the cackling of the camp directors as they watched the parents realize what had happened to their children.

That's all I'll say about that (no book or film).

Tom Six, however, has the green light to produce the sequel: The Human Centipede II: The Full Sequence, where 12 people will be surgically connected in the same fashion. Don't watch either picture. This is no courageous artist producing value by exploring a new frontier. These two films are nothing more than the result of a sicko with a thing for making people eat poop.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Vacancy

Star reporter Dale Quinn has a piece calling our attention to the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing by Transwest Resort Properties Inc., the company that owns Tucson's Westin La Paloma as well as the Westin Hilton Head in South Carolina. The move was made to stave off imminent foreclosure due to failure to make mortgage payments for over three months.

According to the piece, Bill Petrella, the resort’s general manager, stated that room rates average around $300, but a simple inquiry at its web page shows many rooms available for well under $200. Those familiar with statistics know how one can play with means. Whatever the rates, the bottom line isn't sufficient to pay the mortgage. The ship is taking on water.

This follows up on a Quinn 9/26 article about the J.W. Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa, which is delinquent on $165 million in mortgages and also teetering on the brink.

Perhaps if we built a $1/4 billion dollar hotel downtown, so many people would flock into town that it would be overwhelmed. People who couldn't get rooms at the downtown jewel would have to settle for the La Paloma in the foothills or the Starr Pass resort. The extraordinary energy would produce a critical mass and word about Tucson would go viral across the globe. Gay bohemians from Sweden and avant garde artists of the Parisian creative class would ride the trolley car and marvel at the pretty tile on S. 4th and 6th Ave.

Juanito's 12 Ave. taco truck couldn't make tacos fast enough.

UPDATE: Quinn 11/19 Follow Up Piece

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bread and Butter

When a DVD comes with a boatload of previews, almost every time I am annoyed and hit the skip button to pass over the lot of trailers as quickly as possible. I knew something was up when I found the previews to the Winter's Bone DVD so compelling as to make the disc worth watching for the previews alone without watching the film itself.

If the trailers preceding a film on its DVD are extraordinary, odds are high the film is as well, and in the case of Winter's Bone, that's a yes.

Gender equality continues to ooze into the human psyche, lagging and leading in various areas. In a lot of cinema, and without question in Winter's Bone, it has arrived. Played by virtual unknown Jennifer Lawrence, protagonist Ree Dolly, for the sake of her younger siblings who clearly cannot survive without her, seeks to find her father, who has put up the family's home and land as bond for bail after being caught cooking banned concoctions. Well, he's dead, and everyone knows he's dead, but without evidence of his demise, the family's home and land are toast.

"He didn't show up for court because he's lying dead somewhere."
"And you know this how?"
"I'm a Dolly, bread and butter, and that's how I know dad is dead."

The night ride in the boat, and what happens at the end of that ride, is truly unforgettable cinema. Winter's Bone is a serious film about family ties and bonds when things go bad in the part of America you don't see on CNN.

Winter's Bone is a fantastic motion picture worthy of Academy Awards.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cloth Distilled

Star reporter Rob O’Dell has a telling piece today noting Tucson Finance Director Kelly Gottschalk’s list of objections to the blistering Rio Nuevo audit recently released that found what everyone already knew, the project blew $230 million dollars on consultants and Clothmeisters.

The "Yeah, but" list contained nothing of significance, items like, "You got the boundaries wrong."

The line in the article that has evoked the greatest response in the reader comments is Cloth distilled, "She said the $900,000 that Rio Nuevo paid to demolish buildings on the property doesn’t count as spending since the project wasn’t built."

Doesn’t that just say it?

In the Clothiverse, the millions paid to MTCVB don’t count. The millions paid to TREO don’t count. Nothing was done, so the spending doesn’t count.

Regarding MTCVB, at a meeting this week Supervisor Ann Day referred to information about its results as "superficial and vague."

CLOTH.

Regarding TREO, word is that Snell is now asserting the city should provide funds for workforce development training. I imagine PCC would get this funding, but the spending wouldn’t count since no one would be trained.

The city once did provide workforce development funding. Money went to an institute that trained over 10,000 workers annually from over 100 companies. Since it generated much of its own revenue, the taxpayer cost was less than $25 per trained worker. Money went to Goodwill for a program that provided customized workforce training for youth that led to entry level but promising jobs. The program found employment for everyone it trained. Money went to the Microbusiness Advancement Center for training small business start ups.

Joe Snell stole ALL of that funding, shutting down the first two programs and crippling the third.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cloth Maestro Irritating Pima BOS

Furthering the notion that the AZ Star's clarity on Cloth is growing, Star Reporter Andrea Kelly has an article regarding the Pima County board's frustration with Cloth Aficionado Jonathon Walker, the ridiculously overpaid head of the Metro Tucson Convention and Visitor's Bureau. The MTCVB is one of the key hubs of the Tucson Cloth apparatus, siphoning millions of local taxpayers dollars into the coffers of a handful of those near the top of the Cloth hierarchy. Walker's gig pays about $1/4M a year, and his right hand dude makes nearly $200K.

To do what? You know the answer to that.

Even TREO's Joe Snell has to pretend to report to a board (some of whom have real jobs where they do this thing called work) and attend a few meetings now and then. Walker enjoys a board as cloth infested as that of the Downtown Tucson Partnership. Word is that sometime back around 2003 or 2004, Walker considered doing something one week that could be loosely interpreted as work.

Staff talked him out of it.

When I first started talking about the Cloth, many scratched their heads and couldn't believe something so absurd could actually be legit and true. People are starting to get it.

The Pima County Board is upset with Walker because they find themselves unable to get him to attend a meeting.

I swear I'm not making this up.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sarah Palin Blasts Academic Elitists

Sarah Palin has extended her war of words from those with the Wall Street Journal and other economists regarding US monetary policy to blasting university professors "in all fields" for practicing academic elitism and misleading Americans away from common sense values and understanding.

The condemnation left few areas untouched. Palin asserted that mutating bacteria strains and the frequent use of fruit flies in scientific experiments implied nothing about evolution and that the good people of America accept Jesus Christ and the fact that God created the heaven and the earth as described in the Bible.

Fossils, according to Palin, are simply interesting rock shapes and have nothing to do with the remains of former life on earth, and NASA is an atheist conspiracy to continue the fallacy of space, which does not exist, "The sky is just a pretty picture God gave us to admire."

Palin condemned mathematicians and physicists for deliberately confusing students with material that "never gets used" such as trigonometry, which has no practical application, claiming that "math people" seeking job security deliberately complicated the number pi with lots of extra digits, "Common sense people know that those digits don’t make any difference."

On Modern Languages and Cultural Studies, she declared that "speaking a language other than English is un-American, and everyone knows that Cultural Studies professors teach their students to hate America."

Palin’s financial advisors have suggested she run for president as it would provide lucrative speaking engagements and television gigs for herself and everyone in her family. Robin Leach, known for his television show, "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous," notes that a POTUS gig for Palin would easily generate tens of millions of dollars.

Palin is running in 2012, and if elected, she promises to make everything great for America by canceling all education after the eighth grade, "All that elitist stuff contributes nothing to the common sense values of God, guns, and country."

Friday, November 05, 2010

Bizarre Development

MSNBC has suspended Countdown host Keith Olbermann for making political contributions to candidates seeking federal elected office. That Olbermann would not be aware of MSNBC policy prohibiting individuals in positions such as his from making such contributions is simply not credible. That Olbermann would not be aware that individual donations exceeding $200 must be reported BY NAME AND OCCUPATION to the Federal Elections Commission, and that this is then posted in searchable databases online, is simply not credible.

WTF?!

Olbermann donated the maximum individual contribution of $2400 to three campaigns. Here is where it's a bit weird. The three are Congressman Grijalva, Congresswoman Giffords, and get this, Kentucky's Jack Conway, who ran against Rand Paul.

Perhaps I should buy a lottery ticket. Either that, or stay in the house and not venture anywhere outside this weekend.

Monday, November 01, 2010

AZ Star's Clarity on Cloth Grows

In addition to excellent work by Josh Brodesky, and in particular Rob O'Dell, regarding Tucson's economic and downtown development circus, the Star's Andrea Kelly and Rhonda Bodfield appear to be grasping certain concepts. Their Sunday political potpourri notes the following about Tuesday's hearing on the Tucson downtown hotel:

Two men dressed in dog suits were selling hot dogs for $25 apiece. Their sign, a reference to the $230 million spent on Rio Nuevo with little to show for it, noted that the snacks had no meat, no mustard, and no relish, but proceeds would be funneled to consultants.


Anyone driving past Valencia and Country Club can look to the southwest corner and see an empty parking lot with an "Available" sign. A few years ago, cars belonging to employees of local companies filled that lot to capacity so they could enter a state of the art training facility to upgrade their skills to compete in the 21st century economy.

Training employees of Tucson companies to compete in the 21st century economy? A TREO trip to Sweden is clearly the superior use of city tax dollars. Grab a few hot dogs to eat on the plane.


SOMETHING ELSE