Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Whippoorwill

One of the coolest birds out there, no doubt, what with their name sounding like their song and whatnot. I was reminded of the whippoorwill after a camping trip this weekend. I remember walking to our car as a family following trips to Lake Michigan, and my Dad would tell us to all shut up so we could listen to the whippoorwill. And those are the sort of random memories that stay with us into adulthood for some reason. Weird.

Below is the best video I could find of the whippoorwill's song.

Friday, June 26, 2009

June 24

Two people I love a great deal celebrated birthdays, again, on June 24. Here are their pseudo eulogies, even though they are alive and well. Thank god.

Janis was the biological daughter of an aspiring astronaut and a southern-fried Texas blonde, with a penchant for prescription painkillers.

She could have drifted off into the ethos liker her father, or spent her adulthood running side scams on local pharmacies like her mother, but she chose a different path. She decided to put family at the center of her life and to clench them tightly with hands that balled up into fists and never let go.

A natural mother, she never had to ask how to nurture those close to her or how to deliver the perfect piece of unsolicited advice. She carried a hearty laugh that proved contagious and made those around her join in, even when we didn't know what the joke was about. She was blessed with a scarily accurate memory and could recall, in some detail, both the timelessly hilarious and shockingly dysfunctional memories from our childhood.

She was the glue that kept us all together and the meticulous planner of family functions. In times of crisis or on the heels of great news, hers was the first number I ever dialed.

Even as an adult, she still oftentimes fixes my plate when I eat at her house, and still chides me for displays of poor manners, like hanging up the phone without saying goodbye. She never backed away from a fight and never let those close to her forget she loved them. She didn't always answer the phone on the first ring, but you always knew where she'd be when the time came to face the music: there for you. No mater what.


Jeremy was a case study in dichotomy. A natural stage performer, he came to prefer quiet game nights with close friends to overcrowded social settings, or parties with mostly strangers.

He learned to sing in a church, but had his favorite concert memories come inside places that served $3 whiskey (and with friends who partook, even though he never did). He could incorporate obscure Bible passages into intimate songs about love and loss.

He could fly through any life experience -- a trip to the grocery store, a run around the block, a drive down the interstate, a meatball sub. His feet were equipped with invisible rockets and his transmission always started in fifth gear.

He wore his emotions on his vintage t-shirt sleeves and rarely left those close to him wondering where he stood. When his friends needed help, he was there for anything -- moving day, birthday parties, even a figurative back-alley fight with an ex.

He would always be best described as a musician at heart, and gladly allowed that description to define him in every possible way. It was in this role that his two sides could be easily observed. Here was a singer who a vast majority of the audience appreciated for his sweet voice singing his perfect pieces of poetry. But only his family and friends sitting together in the first few rows knew what the songs were really about, and how much they truly meant.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Unsolicited advice

Because it's about eight minutes until 2 a.m. and because I feel compelled to fill an imaginary blog post quota, here are five films I've enjoyed in the last year or so and would recommend:

1. The Visitor -- Lonely guy has his life reinvigorated by a savant drummer, who suffers a major life setback, the fallout of which will have you questioning the term "illegal immigration."

2. Let the Right One In -- Creepy, but very edgy Swedish vampire movie. Missed a killer soundtrack, but child vampires should scare any normal minded person.

3. 2 Days in Paris -- Hilarious movie about an itchy American who must come to grips with his Parisian girlfriend's many sexual conquests and relationships.

4. King of Kong -- Probably the best storyline to a film I've seen in recent memory. A likable guy whose life has been a series of near-breakthroughs tries passionately to get the Donkey Kong arcade record. The reigning champ is an intensely unlikable guy with a well-groomed mullet and a personality for which the word "douche bag" falls way, way short. Oh, and it's a documentary, so there's the element of reality, although I got into the film the way I would a Packers playoff game. It's that intense.

5. Tell No One -- A relentlessly intense French film about a guy who was wrongly accused of killing his wife several years earlier. Or did he do it? That's kind of the point of the movie. Tell No One proves that a great plot still means more than special effects.

Finally, I would just like to point out that Will Ferrell's cold streak at the box office is very real and very disconcerting. Not only has he gone several films without a hit, the last few Ferrell movies that were successes he was pretty much a side character. Stranger than Fiction is one of my favorite movies, but the last time Ferrell's career came up my friend said the words "Chevy" and "Chase" and very little argument followed. Scary.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Monday, June 8, 2009

Goodbye MySpace

I canceled my account tonight. Basically it was time to move on from that long forgotten phase. And I found the act of canceling the account strangely liberating. I did save a few photos though, including one of me singing karaoke for all those who might doubt my capacity to humiliate myself.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

I want on Judge Judy

These guys had the chance and it slipped through their fingers. It's been almost a year since Matthew Williams and I covered this story. It was [choosing my adjective carefully] interesting. The best part was meeting famous local artists Sheppard Jones and Myles Maillie. I would have liked the same opportunity to meet Ms. Pinson, but alas, it was not to be.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Song of the Summer?

That's what pitchfork called it. Not sure about that, but pretty cool.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Coming to a Nashville park near you?

Council trying to outlaw guns in parks after the state legislature legalized them.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Michael Moore's letter on the day after GM's death

I know Michael Moore is gimmicky. I know he ignores contradictory facts and comes across oftentimes like an ideologue. Despite all this, I've always been a fan of his work. He takes on issues without sugarcoating the truth and speaks in an Everyman way born out of his Flint, Michigan upbringing. His most meaningful work, along with Bowling for Columbine, is still Roger & Me.

Below I posted Moore's letter he sent out the day after General Motors went into federal takeover and filed for bankruptcy. There's one idea I'd like to highlight.

On the campaign trail, Barack Obama consistently talked about a national call to service on scale with traveling to the moon. He said creating green jobs and improving Detroit would be at the center of this call. I hope Obama follows through on that idea. I believe Americans can invent new automobile technology and new green fuel systems that will employ millions and save Detroit/GM.


Goodbye, GM
by Michael Moore

June 1, 2009

I write this on the morning of the end of the once-mighty General Motors. By high noon, the President of the United States will have made it official: General Motors, as we know it, has been totaled.

As I sit here in GM's birthplace, Flint, Michigan, I am surrounded by friends and family who are filled with anxiety about what will happen to them and to the town. Forty percent of the homes and businesses in the city have been abandoned. Imagine what it would be like if you lived in a city where almost every other house is empty. What would be your state of mind?

It is with sad irony that the company which invented "planned obsolescence" -- the decision to build cars that would fall apart after a few years so that the customer would then have to buy a new one -- has now made itself obsolete. It refused to build automobiles that the public wanted, cars that got great gas mileage, were as safe as they could be, and were exceedingly comfortable to drive. Oh -- and that wouldn't start falling apart after two years. GM stubbornly fought environmental and safety regulations. Its executives arrogantly ignored the "inferior" Japanese and German cars, cars which would become the gold standard for automobile buyers. And it was hell-bent on punishing its unionized workforce, lopping off thousands of workers for no good reason other than to "improve" the short-term bottom line of the corporation. Beginning in the 1980s, when GM was posting record profits, it moved countless jobs to Mexico and elsewhere, thus destroying the lives of tens of thousands of hard-working Americans. The glaring stupidity of this policy was that, when they eliminated the income of so many middle class families, who did they think was going to be able to afford to buy their cars? History will record this blunder in the same way it now writes about the French building the Maginot Line or how the Romans cluelessly poisoned their own water system with lethal lead in its pipes.

So here we are at the deathbed of General Motors. The company's body not yet cold, and I find myself filled with -- dare I say it -- joy. It is not the joy of revenge against a corporation that ruined my hometown and brought misery, divorce, alcoholism, homelessness, physical and mental debilitation, and drug addiction to the people I grew up with. Nor do I, obviously, claim any joy in knowing that 21,000 more GM workers will be told that they, too, are without a job.

But you and I and the rest of America now own a car company! I know, I know -- who on earth wants to run a car company? Who among us wants $50 billion of our tax dollars thrown down the rat hole of still trying to save GM? Let's be clear about this: The only way to save GM is to kill GM. Saving our precious industrial infrastructure, though, is another matter and must be a top priority. If we allow the shutting down and tearing down of our auto plants, we will sorely wish we still had them when we realize that those factories could have built the alternative energy systems we now desperately need. And when we realize that the best way to transport ourselves is on light rail and bullet trains and cleaner buses, how will we do this if we've allowed our industrial capacity and its skilled workforce to disappear?

Thus, as GM is "reorganized" by the federal government and the bankruptcy court, here is the plan I am asking President Obama to implement for the good of the workers, the GM communities, and the nation as a whole. Twenty years ago when I made "Roger & Me," I tried to warn people about what was ahead for General Motors. Had the power structure and the punditocracy listened, maybe much of this could have been avoided. Based on my track record, I request an honest and sincere consideration of the following suggestions:

1. Just as President Roosevelt did after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the President must tell the nation that we are at war and we must immediately convert our auto factories to factories that build mass transit vehicles and alternative energy devices. Within months in Flint in 1942, GM halted all car production and immediately used the assembly lines to build planes, tanks and machine guns. The conversion took no time at all. Everyone pitched in. The fascists were defeated.

We are now in a different kind of war -- a war that we have conducted against the ecosystem and has been conducted by our very own corporate leaders. This current war has two fronts. One is headquartered in Detroit. The products built in the factories of GM, Ford and Chrysler are some of the greatest weapons of mass destruction responsible for global warming and the melting of our polar icecaps. The things we call "cars" may have been fun to drive, but they are like a million daggers into the heart of Mother Nature. To continue to build them would only lead to the ruin of our species and much of the planet.

The other front in this war is being waged by the oil companies against you and me. They are committed to fleecing us whenever they can, and they have been reckless stewards of the finite amount of oil that is located under the surface of the earth. They know they are sucking it bone dry. And like the lumber tycoons of the early 20th century who didn't give a damn about future generations as they tore down every forest they could get their hands on, these oil barons are not telling the public what they know to be true -- that there are only a few more decades of useable oil on this planet. And as the end days of oil approach us, get ready for some very desperate people willing to kill and be killed just to get their hands on a gallon can of gasoline.

President Obama, now that he has taken control of GM, needs to convert the factories to new and needed uses immediately.

2. Don't put another $30 billion into the coffers of GM to build cars. Instead, use that money to keep the current workforce -- and most of those who have been laid off -- employed so that they can build the new modes of 21st century transportation. Let them start the conversion work now.

3. Announce that we will have bullet trains criss-crossing this country in the next five years. Japan is celebrating the 45th anniversary of its first bullet train this year. Now they have dozens of them. Average speed: 165 mph. Average time a train is late: under 30 seconds. They have had these high speed trains for nearly five decades -- and we don't even have one! The fact that the technology already exists for us to go from New York to L.A. in 17 hours by train, and that we haven't used it, is criminal. Let's hire the unemployed to build the new high speed lines all over the country. Chicago to Detroit in less than two hours. Miami to DC in under 7 hours. Denver to Dallas in five and a half. This can be done and done now.

4. Initiate a program to put light rail mass transit lines in all our large and medium-sized cities. Build those trains in the GM factories. And hire local people everywhere to install and run this system.

5. For people in rural areas not served by the train lines, have the GM plants produce energy efficient clean buses.

6. For the time being, have some factories build hybrid or all-electric cars (and batteries). It will take a few years for people to get used to the new ways to transport ourselves, so if we're going to have automobiles, let's have kinder, gentler ones. We can be building these next month (do not believe anyone who tells you it will take years to retool the factories -- that simply isn't true).

7. Transform some of the empty GM factories to facilities that build windmills, solar panels and other means of alternate forms of energy. We need tens of millions of solar panels right now. And there is an eager and skilled workforce who can build them.

8. Provide tax incentives for those who travel by hybrid car or bus or train. Also, credits for those who convert their home to alternative energy.

9. To help pay for this, impose a two-dollar tax on every gallon of gasoline. This will get people to switch to more energy saving cars or to use the new rail lines and rail cars the former autoworkers have built for them.

Well, that's a start. Please, please, please don't save GM so that a smaller version of it will simply do nothing more than build Chevys or Cadillacs. This is not a long-term solution. Don't throw bad money into a company whose tailpipe is malfunctioning, causing a strange odor to fill the car.

100 years ago this year, the founders of General Motors convinced the world to give up their horses and saddles and buggy whips to try a new form of transportation. Now it is time for us to say goodbye to the internal combustion engine. It seemed to serve us well for so long. We enjoyed the car hops at the A&W. We made out in the front -- and the back -- seat. We watched movies on large outdoor screens, went to the races at NASCAR tracks across the country, and saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time through the window down Hwy. 1. And now it's over. It's a new day and a new century. The President -- and the UAW -- must seize this moment and create a big batch of lemonade from this very sour and sad lemon.

Yesterday, the last surviving person from the Titanic disaster passed away. She escaped certain death that night and went on to live another 97 years.

So can we survive our own Titanic in all the Flint Michigans of this country. 60% of GM is ours. I think we can do a better job.

Michael Moore

Monday, June 1, 2009

A song, a book, a beer, a baller

a song

a book

a beer

a baller

I recommend all these things, especially the book, which is my favorite read in a long time. The Ricky Rubio YouTube video is worth watching for basketball fans, but find your mute button because there's a weird Spanish song playing in the background.

Nashville News

Charter Schools: what the death rattle sounded like

Music City Center: putting the cart before the horse, creating a massive thing called a TDZ that the general public has no idea about, and then debating the project awkwardly along the way

May Town Center: developer paid study says development is awesome and won't hurt downtown in any way. Not found anywhere in the study? The word 'sprawl.'

A few days work... It's a living.