Friday, February 26, 2010

A fanboy's Oscar picks

Posted By on Fri, Feb 26, 2010 at 4:26 PM

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By Ralph Cerves

First, I'd like to thank Creative Loafing for giving me the opportunity to write on their blog as a guest contributor. (Even though they said they'd be calling me a fanboy in the headline. I'm definitely NOT.) I certainly have the experience to be doing this. I've seen TONS of movies, and I post all over the Internet on sites like IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes. Anyway, here's what I think about the films competing for Oscars this year.

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When worlds collide: Sue & the Muslims

Posted By on Fri, Feb 26, 2010 at 3:43 PM

News reports of yesterday’s “town hall meeting” with Rep. Sue Myrick and local Muslims refer to the longtime area politician “hoping to repair her relations with [the] Muslim community,” to “build bridges.” I guess you have to report things that way; after all, that *is what Myrick said. What’s left unsaid in such stenography journalism, however, is the obvious question:  How do you build bridges you’ve repeatedly burned?

Several speakers at the meeting criticized Myrick’s 2003 statement regarding Muslims running convenience stores. She tried to defend the statement, saying it had been taken out of context and that “I wasn’t off the wall.” OK, let’s do put her statement in context. After 9/11, many people were seeing Islamic terrorists behind every tree — anyone remember the guy arrested Uptown for taking videos of the Charlotte skyline? — and in 2003, some Muslims in Charlotte were arrested for helping Hezbollah in Lebanon by sending the group a portion of the money they’d made from smuggling cigarettes. It was within that context that Myrick talked repeatedly of her fear that Islamic terrorists were plotting against the U.S. everywhere within the country, and “explained” her view by saying, "Look at who runs all the convenience stores across the country." Even at that time — “within the context” — Myrick was roundly ridiculed for her xenophobia and fear-mongering. "I wasn't off the wall"? Since when?

Myrick says her relatively new position on the House Intelligence Committee has shown her, through intelligence reports, that the threat of a homegrown Islamic jihad is an immediate, huge threat to America that makes her want to yell, “Wake up, America!” That’s great, but one glaring fact stands out: Other members of the Intelligence Committee have seen the same documents Myrick saw, most of them for a longer time than she’s been there, and you don’t see those members jumping up and down, trying to scare the daylights out of the public. Myrick’s freak-out over these scary documents is all too reminiscent of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, who, in the build-up to the Iraq war, would cherry-pick specific intelligence reports that matched their inner panic levels,  even if the sources had been discredited (see The One-Percent Doctrine by Ron Suskind).

Yes, of course, there are some really angry Muslims in America who’d like to commit terrorist acts, guys like the pathetic Underwear Bomber. There are also some really angry Christians who’d like to commit terrorist acts, such as the abortion-doctor killer, and Austin, Texas’ anti-IRS airplane guy. If you listen to Myrick, however, it’s only Muslims who are interested in killing Americans, never mind Timothy McVeigh, Eric Rudolph, and the whole goofy militia movement. At least one speaker at last night’s meeting asked Myrick why she’s not as devoted to fighting that type of terrorist. After all, with the obvious, big exception of 9/11, right-wing nut terrorists have a far higher success rate than their Muslim counterparts — at least in the U.S.

Myrick, though, as she has done at various times in her career, is latching onto one specific issue and obsessively flogging it for all it’s worth. She's always riled up or panicky about something. If it’s not teenagers being ruined by heavy metal music, it’s the evil of traffic problems. If it’s not traffic, it's coffeepots talking to her. If it's not Mr. Coffee coming to life, it’s illegal immigrants wrecking American culture. And now, she’s jacked to the gills over some intelligence reports (which, it’s widely known, are very often all over the map in terms of believability — or has no one told her that yet?).

I give Charlotte area Muslims credit for showing up last night to exchange views with Myrick. After all the baloney she’s been spewing about Islam for years (and we haven’t even gone into her written introduction to a book by a confirmed anti-Muslim bigot who refers to Obama as a “crack-head” and “our Muslim leader”), I give them credit for their patience.

I am not saying that Myrick is cynical or insincere. That’s not part of her makeup, and I’m sure she thinks she was “reaching out” to local Muslims yesterday, and is no doubt dismayed today that some of them “just don’t get it.” Myrick has always been what philosopher Eric Hoffer called a “true believer.” She truly believes all the wacked out stuff she says, and always has. To my mind, that’s one of the best reasons to get her out of Congress.

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The Crazies: Then and now

Reviewing both the 2010 remake and George Romero's 1973 original.

Posted By on Fri, Feb 26, 2010 at 3:07 PM

The Crazies (2010)
  • The Crazies (2010)

By Matt Brunson



DIRECTED BY George Romero

STARS Lane Carroll, Lloyd Hollar



DIRECTED BY Breck Eisner

STARS Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell

With the new version of The Crazies in wide release, should viewers head to the theater to check it out or mosey toward the DVD store with the intent to rent the original? Given the options, perhaps an alternate plan should be set in motion (maybe a museum, or a nightclub?), but between the pair, it's best to target the couch.

The Crazies (1973)
  • The Crazies (1973)

Subsequently re-released as Code Name: Trixie, writer-director George Romero's 1973 version of The Crazies feels like a cross between Michael Crichton's The Andromeda Strain and Romero's own Night of the Living Dead, with plenty of the auteur's sociopolitical observations to juice the proceedings. After a government-sanctioned virus is accidentally unleashed on a small Pennsylvania town and turns many of its inhabitants insane, the military arrives to quarantine the area and contain the threat. But it soon becomes clear that, to the unaffected humans, the incompetent, trigger-happy soldiers are as hazardous to their health as their crazed neighbors. While far from Romero's best, The Crazies is in one way his most frightening film. Being afraid of zombies is natural, but being afraid of our own government should be unimaginable as well as obscene. Yet that was the case during the film's original release — the era of Vietnam and Tricky Dick — and, with the country still struggling after eight years of abhorrent Bush-Cheney shenanigans, that's the case today, lending the film an uneasy topicality.

The Crazies (2010)
  • The Crazies (2010)

The new take on The Crazies moves the action from Romero's home state of Pennsylvania to a quiet burg in Iowa, although the basic plot remains the same. The leading characters are the town sheriff (Timothy Olyphant) and his doctor wife (Radha Mitchell), and they're the ones who eventually attempt to lead a small band of survivors out of the infected area, doing their best to sidestep both the local loonies and the marauding military. While this version is more smoothly realized than Romero's choppy original, it's also been streamlined for mass consumption, removing all thorny subtext, avoiding a cruelly ironic conclusion (arguably the high point of the '73 model), and throwing in far too many cheap scares. The use of lowbrow shock effects (i.e. when someone suddenly jumps into the frame, or a loud noise suddenly fills the soundtrack; see The Wolfman for more examples) is a real shame, since the more effective moments suggest that director Breck Eisner could have built genuine suspense had he been given the chance: The sheriff's encounter with an electric medical saw is both hair-raising and humorous, and an attack inside a car wash is effectively staged. More scenes like these would have truly goosed the proceedings, but as it stands, The Crazies is creatively too measured for its own good.

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Today's Top 5: Friday

Posted By on Fri, Feb 26, 2010 at 10:36 AM

Here are the five best events going down in Charlotte and the surrounding area today, Feb. 26, 2010 — as selected by the folks at Creative Loafing.

Monterey Jazz Festival at Knight Theater


Topdog/Underdog at UNC-Charlotte

Elephant Man at Neighborhood Theatre

The Chuckleheads at Beef O'Brady's

SlamCharlotte Poetry Slam at McGlohon Theatre

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Night time at the CIAA

Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2010 at 9:55 PM

Johnson C. Smith didn't look great in their effort to three-peat as CIAA champions against upstart Chowan University. But inside the arena, the bad ball by JCSU in the first half wasn't the only god-awful things seen at the Cable Box.

Here's a new CIAA rule that you should keep in mind when you're attending the games: Five inch heels are not your friend walking around the hard floors of the arena. Countless women slow-walked though the crowd trying to get to the concessions at half time with JCSU losing to Chowan 25 to 33.

In the second half,  Chowan proved that being the new kid didn't mean they were going to lose in their first CIAA tournament appearance. The two-time defending champions came out in the second half playing as if they'd been walking around all day in five-inch heels. With 2:53 left in the game, Chowan was up 63 to 44, making it painfully obvious that the Golden Bulls wouldn't be repeating as champions.

Final score: Chowan: 74 JCSU: 46

"Ray-Ray, where are you?" (Quote of the night.)

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Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2010 at 6:09 PM

Check out these events going down in Charlotte and the surrounding area this weekend— as selected by the folks at Creative Loafing.

Friday, Feb. 26

Miles & Coltrane: Blue(.)

Duke Energy Theatre

You can expect to hear intimate stories and all that jazz, as special performances of On Q Productions' and Concrete Generation's Miles & Coltrane: Blue(.) kick off tonight. The play tells the story of popular jazz musicians Miles Davis and John Coltrane.

Art Two new exhibitions, Harold Shapinsky and The Charles White Sketchbook, open tonight with a reception, from 6 p.m.-8 p.m., at Jerald Melberg Gallery. Both artists, whose art has been featured in renowned galleries around the world, use different forms of illustration. Shapinsky’s works consist of colorful abstract paintings, while White’s works are drawings and paintings that capture figures and aspects of African-American culture. more...

Party Head to Prevue today for The Naked CIAA Sushi Day Party. Naked. Sushi. Nuff said, right? more...

Saturday, Feb. 27

George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic

Neighborhood Theatre

The legendary funk master George Clinton and his partners in crime, Parliament Funkadelic will bring a full night of soulful, funky, hip-hoppin' vibes to the stage of Neighborhood Theatre tonight. Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band opens.

Comedy Known for its “good humor by bad people,” the local sketch comedy troupe, Robot Johnson returns for a late night performance at Carolina Actors Studio Theatre.


Party The partying for CIAA continues tonight with a huge performance by the one and only, P. Diddy going down at Ramada Hotel Woodlawn. more...

Sunday, Feb. 28

Steve Hofstetter

Tremont Music Hall

Comedian Steve Hofstetter’s funny takes on topics like politics and religion have earned him appearances on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, E! True Hollywood Story, and upcoming episodes of Comics Unleashed and Comedy All-Stars. Currently on a stand-up comedy tour in support of his 2009 release, Steve Hofstetter's Day Off, he'll stop in the Q.C. for a performance at Tremont Music Hall tonight.

Party As CIAA winds down and the weekend comes to a close, visit Tempo for Jazzy Sundays Farewell Party, hosted by V101.9's Chirl Girl. more...

Benefit As Haiti relief continues, so do the benefit concerts. Tonight at McGlohon Theatre the In the Key of Love: A Youth Benefit Concert for Haiti event will feature performances by local student groups. Proceeds raised from the event will benefit Haiti earthquake victims and aid organizations. more...

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If you still think we don’t need health care reform ...

Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2010 at 5:37 PM

You may be spending a little time today checking out the big health care summit going on in Washington, and if so, good for you for caring about such a critical issue. But whether you’re watching the D.C. talkathon or not, take a little time out to read “Rising Blue Cross bills stun N.C. families” in today’s paper, picked up from Raleigh’s News & Observer. Unless you’re a right-wing zealot, or simply don’t give a rip about anyone else (often the same thing), you have to conclude that the hard slog of passing real, fundamental health care reform has to keep going forward.

The N&O story, by Alan Wolf, reports on Blue Cross Blue Shield raising premiums for a healthy 17-year-old Durham girl more than 50 percent. Why? Because she has two pre-existing conditions: 1. She’s female; and 2. She turned 17.

No one knows what the result of the health care debate in D.C. will be, but any final law should at least include regulations that would make the kind of predatory gouging that the 17-year-old’s family is going through a thing of the past. And, better yet, make it a crime. Two days ago, Robert Reich, former labor secretary for Clinton and present-day professor and writer, called for the elimination of health insurance companies’ exemption from anti-trust laws, which would make it easier to control these outlandish premium increases. It’s a well-reasoned and researched article, which you can read here.

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Don't Ask Don't Tell, Pt.2

Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2010 at 2:28 PM

I need to follow up on yesterday’s post about Democrats stalling on repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Some reactions to the DADT issue are – let’s be generous here — flawed, especially the argument that Obama needs to be sure he has the military honchos on his side before repealing DADT. That’s pure nonsense. In America and other advanced nations, the military answers to civilian authority, not the other way around. It's one of the reasons our system is better than some tinhorn oligarchy like Burma.

In 1948, when Pres. Truman integrated the armed forces, he faced opposition from famous World War 2 general Omar Bradley, who said Truman was wrong and that it wasn’t the business of the military to engage in “social experiments.” Truman, who, unlike Obama, was willing to use the power of the presidency, said he realized one day that “Since I’m the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, I could just deliver an executive order.” Which is what he did. Yep, that’s how the military was integrated: the President told them to do it. Period. No stroking of special interests, no kowtowing to bigots, just straight-ahead decisiveness.

Like we said yesterday, Dick Cheney — Dick Cheney! — is for repealing DADT. How far into la-la land do you have to be to place yourself to the right of *that guy? The fact of the matter today is that untold (literally) numbers of gays and lesbians are currently serving in the military, and, overall, the present generation of soldiers simply isn’t as biased against gays as the most vocal opponents of DADT repeal. In a very real sense, repealing DADT is basically a matter of the government catching up to the country’s changing views. In times like these, let those with archaic, bigoted views have their say, then let them know they need to get out of the way.

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Our suffocating oceans

Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2010 at 12:03 PM

Hydrogen + Hydrogen + Oxygen = H2O = Water.

What happens when there's no Oxygen? Hint: It's not good.

A plague of oxygen-deprived waters from the deep ocean is creeping up over the continental shelves off the Pacific Northwest and forcing marine species there to relocate or die. Since 2002 tongues of hypoxic, or low-oxygen, waters from deeper areas offshore have slipped into shallower near-shore environments off the Oregon coast, although not close enough to be oxygenated by the waves. The problem stems from oxygen reduction in deep water, a phenomenon that some scientists are observing in oceans worldwide, and that may be related to climate change.

The hypoxic seawater is distinct from the well-known "dead zones" that form at the mouths of the Mississippi and other rivers around the world. Those areas result from agricultural runoff, which lead to algae blooms that consume oxygen. Rather, the Pacific Northwest problem is broader and more mysterious.

Lothar Stramma, a physical oceanographer at the Christian Albrechts University of Kiel in Germany and his associates describe the hypoxic problem as global in a paper accepted for publication in Deep-Sea Research , stating that tropical low-oxygen zones have expanded horizontally and vertically around the world, and that subsurface oxygen has decreased adjacent to most continental shelves. Low-oxygen zones where large ocean species cannot live have increased by close to 5.2 million square kilometers since the 1960s, the team found. Where this expansion intersects with the coastal shelf, oxygen-deprived waters are slipping up and over shelf floors, killing off creatures such as crabs, mussels and scallops. Such bottom-dwellers normally have a lot to eat in such rich ecosystems, but these species are sensitive to oxygen loss. Similarly, the anoxic ocean at the end of the Permian period (around 250 million years ago) was associated with elevated carbon dioxide and massive terrestrial and oceanic extinctions.

Read the rest of this Scientific American article, by Michael Tennesen, here.

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6 more cases of coal-ash contaminated water in N.C.

Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2010 at 11:48 AM

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was expected to rule on coal ash — re: is it a hazardous waste, or not — in December. However, the coal lobby and waste management lobby is pushing back, delaying that ruling as long as they can. (Current rumor: Ruling will come in April.)

The EPA has only been trying to determine whether or not coal ash is a hazardous waste now for, oh, about 30 years. Meanwhile, coal ash ponds soak in the groundwater table for decades, barely regulated.

Gosh. What does this sound like? The banking industry? Health care? When will we learn that we can't count on giant corporations to regulate themselves?

Environmental groups have identified serious water contamination problems caused by coal ash dumps at 31 locations in 14 states, bringing to over 100 the number of U.S. sites where damages from coal ash have been confirmed -- and strengthening the case for the release of delayed federal regulations.

The latest coal ash damage cases are documented in a new report by Earthjustice and the Environmental Integrity Project titled "Out of Control: Mounting Damages From Coal Ash Waste Sites." North Carolina has six, tying with Pennsylvania for the state with the most sites in the report. The other states where new damage cases were found are Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia, with a majority of them in the South.

At 15 of the 31 sites, arsenic and other toxic contaminants have already moved off the dump-site property at levels harmful to human health -- and 25 of the problem dumps are still actively taking coal ash today. The report notes that the contamination is concentrated in communities with family poverty rates above the national median, raising environmental justice concerns.

"These unregulated sites present a clear and present danger to public health and the environment," said Earthjustice attorney Lisa Evans. "If law and science are to guide our most important environmental decisions, as EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has promised, we need to regulate these hazards before they get much worse."

Read the rest of this article from the Institute for Southern Studies, by Sue Sturgis, here.

Read more about the two high-hazard coal ash ponds on the edge of Charlotte's drinking water reservoir, and the person fighting to protect that water, here.

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