Thursday, April 29, 2010

Off Target

Civil rights and Hispanic groups are calling for a boycott of Arizona tourism and sports because of SB 1070, the illegal-immigrant crackdown law, but I'm concerned they're punishing the wrong people. Granted, a boycott -- and losing a Super Bowl -- put pressure on Arizona to adopt a Martin Luther King holiday after former Governor Evan Mecham's cancellation of it. MLK supported a boycott of a segregated Montgomery, Alabama bus system, and it became a turning point in the civil rights movement.

At the same time, I don't like the thought of hurting hundreds of thousands of workers in Arizona's tourism and sports industries. They have already weathered a recession and have nothing to do with the passage or enforcement of this law. You won't hear them asking for your papers. People who support a state boycott will likely tell you the goal is to bring about such heavy losses and grumbling from businesses that lawmakers will have no choice but reconsider. But they forget they're dealing with Arizona. Our lawmakers don't reconsider; they just cut more funding from education -- at least that's the perception. (UPDATE: Arizona lawmakers have been tweaking the law, but it's not changing minds.)

When MLK called for the bus company boycott, the action was tailored to only affect the entity he and thousands of people wanted changed. On a personal level, we carry out boycotts without calling them that: refusing to shop at certain big-box stores or buy certain products because we object to the practices of the companies behind them. However, it's tough to boycott a state government; we all have to follow the law. But we can go to court and challenge it, and indeed, several groups are either filing lawsuits or planning them. Regardless of whether you support SB 1070 or not, I would prefer opponents of the law use the courts and leave the people outside government out of the fray.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Reel To Reel: The Losers

If you're in trouble, and no one can help, and you don't need 11 people, maybe you can hire them.

Going Rate: Worth matinee price.
Starring: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana
Rated: PG-13
Red Flags: Lotsa shooting and explosions, mild cursing, one scene of sensuality

I saw a trailer for the upcoming A-Team remake spliced onto this movie, which is no coincidence. When I saw the trailer for The Losers, however, I thought of Ocean's 11 with a lot more firepower. Then I saw the feature attraction and wondered which movie it really wanted to be.

The Losers is adapted from a D.C/Vertigo comic book series, and the style follows from page to screen. It moves quickly and economically, giving its characters only enough words to get to the next shot. But it seems like it's dying to be smarter and breezier, like Oceans while still ripping a setup from The A-Team.

The title refers to a special-ops team sent to Bolivia led by Clay (Morgan) to carry out an easy mission: illuminate a drug lord's compound with a laser beam so air support can eliminate it with a bomb. Boom, boom. Let's go grab a Miller. But the mission goes sideways when some children unexpectedly enter the picture, and the team winds up being framed for a massacre by Max (Jason Patric), a ghostly CIA superspook who's calling the shots.

Presumed dead, the team ekes out a civilian existence in Bolivia until mystery woman Aisha (Saldana) enters the picture with an offer to get the team back into America if they'll help capture Max for her. Clay and Aisha end up in a hotel-room brawl that plays out like a self-destructive mating dance.

Max is one of those movie villains who have a large tab from the dry cleaners and a mind from the Dr. Evil Business School. He's an obnoxious sociopath and yet wimpy enough to require somebody to stand over him with a parasol during a walk on the beach. He has an injured hand from... something... I don't know. Usually you see these miscreants petting small animals like Blofeld from the 007 movies, but Max is too busy globetrotting and setting up dirty deals for super weapons. He wants to acquire what I would call the "clean bomb:" an ordinance so efficient, it dissolves small islands like Alka-Seltzer tablets with no debris or collateral damage. Better yet, the design of the bomb goes with his white suits.

I wanted Clay to be slicker, like Danny Ocean, and there's hints of it in his suits and scheming. He's in it for both revenge and the girl. At times, his crew reminds me like half of Ocean's crew with their throwaway banter. Then the movie tries to be The A-Team again. Using that metric, the film does a workable job of providing thrilling gunfights laced with cool gimmicks, like lifting an armored car out of downtown Miami using a gigantic magnet attached to a helicopter. Other than that, the film is simply okay in that it provides just enough entertainment and wit to live up to the promise of its trailer.

Just a thought: people dumped on Avatar because of perceived anti-Americanism and anti-militarism, and this film has one of the evilest CIA characters I have seen in films of late, one who doesn't even bother to use the War on Terror as a catch-all justification. Yet I doubt we will see the same outcry unless this movie makes gobs of money.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Your Vote Is Your Voice, But You Gotta Speak

An article on Politico mirrored through The Arizona Republic asks why people are asking "What's the matter with Arizona?"

And near the bottom, we get the answer:
"Because of low turnout in the primaries and the fact that defections of independents from both parties have left registered Republicans and Democrats more ideological, Arizona has had for many years a legislature that is very conservative compared to the population of registered voters," said Bruce Merrill, a political scientist at Arizona State University who runs the ASU/KAET poll – the gold-standard political survey in the state. "This particular legislature is led by Russell Pearce who is way more conservative than even the conservative Republicans in the legislature."
And that sums it up. If your representatives don't represent you, where was your vote during the primaries? We know a lot of you can't stand either Republicans or Democrats. But independents aren't running for office, leaving the partisans and fringe elements to run the show.

That being said, even though we voted for the people now in office, it wasn't as if we had a choice between Yugos and Cadillacs on the ballot. I would put the choice more at Pintos and Hummers, but your mileage will vary. As I have lamented before, the best candidates aren't running for office. They know better. They are disgusted with the political process and don't want to be a part of it, even if they might have an opportunity to be the wise and principled leaders we keep wishing we could have. Or worse, they don't "party." I don't either.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Grumpy Old Arizona

If the Grand Canyon State weren't mired in a budget deficit, if lawmakers weren't having to slash funding from schools and parks and health care, if the economy wasn't struggling to recover, and if a Cochise County rancher hadn't been shot and killed by some guy who ran back into Mexico, I wouldn't be talking to you about a pair of state bills making us collectively distressed and disappointed: SB 1070 [PDF], which gives local police new powers to arrest people who can't produce paperwork to prove they're here legally, and SB 1074 [PDF], which asks President Obama to prove he's a citizen if he runs for re-election. (Notice I used the word if. Come November, if the GOP clobbers Democrats in the mid-terms, what's to say he won't pull a Lyndon Johnson? Then again, that's another "if.")

I started pondering this after reading Nick Smith on Tucson Weekly's blog, who observes: "Tomorrow the House will vote on HB2791, otherwise known as the Get Off My Lawn Act, which would require a gigantic dome to be built over the state to keep everyone out."

When the going gets tough, the tough turn bitter. It's easier for me to see our lawmakers acting less like crazed zealots and more like grumpy old men who want to be left alone. Never mind it's not immigrants who got us into the recession, or that waves of them have already been heading back to Mexico because of the hard times. We're broke, we're ticked, and we need to point a bony finger somewhere.

You can't deny we have a serious problem. I just read about all those illegal workers fired from the supermarkets in Phoenix. I produced newscasts with stories on the shuttle bus company raids in Arizona. Yet we already have an employer sanctions law on the books, which attacks the problem from the supply side and forces employers to do eligibility checks... on everyone... even on Barack Obama, if he applies for a job in Arizona. (I hear the crack lines now: "He may have to!")

Arizona is not a state of sun-baked curmudgeons, even if we voted for the guys now running the place. I don't agree with Congressman Raul Grijalva, who's calling for an economic boycott of the state if SB 1070 passes. He's adding to the codgerly mentality -- just keep out. In a state known for abundant sunshine, we're going through the political monsoon now. Maybe after November, the kids can come over and play in the yard again.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Struggle Within

I forgot how expensive it is to go to the Pima County Fair: Five bucks for parking. Seven bucks for admission. Twenty bucks for ride tickets –- and that gets you four, maybe five rides. But the most interesting part was the hypnotism show.

I wanted to see if a stage hypnotist could put me under. I've worked out the implications: hypnotism is focused attention, not psychological enslavement. A hypnotist can not force you to do anything that conflicts with your value system or religious beliefs. And no, this one does not make you bark like a dog or cluck like a chicken. You can see people doing that in full consciousness anyway, over at the livestock exhibits.

So I volunteered along with about 10 other people to get the treatment in front of the crowd. So did it work? Kinda.

The process of going under involves the hypnotist asking everyone to relax in their chairs and focus their attention on a spot on the ground while he gently commands us to relax and let our eyes close, repeating words and phrases over again: “As you continue to focus at the spot on the ground, your eyes are growing heavier, and as I count backwards they will grow heavier still, and still heavier after that as you continue to focus on the spot.”

I focused on the spot and gradually, the area around that spot blurred like a camera going out of focus and my eyes did indeed close. And then our leader counted backwards from ten, working to relax every part of our body as we sat, nine, working down from our heads, eight, to our shoulders, seven, asking us to feel looser and looser, six, looser still while relaxing, five, every muscle in our midsection and lower bodies relaxing, four, our legs and knees relaxing, three, our lower legs and feet relaxing, two, our feet and our toes loosening and relaxing, one, until we ended up slouching on the shoulder of the person next to us.

Here's the interesting part: during the induction process where we're supposed to become more and more relaxed, I started sweating profusely and breathing faster. I felt a bit nauseated. Nobody noticed anything, not even the hypnotist, and I went on with the show.

Myself and my stage partners were put through a series of suggestions and displays: asked to imagine the person next to us smelling bad, asked to imagine we were back in school and taunting our 3rd Grade teacher, asked to model like we were Mr. Universe. I went through the motions and fell asleep on command, but never felt like I was fully into any of these suggestions, that I was only faking it to avoid spoiling things. I noticed a lady to my right didn't seem to respond to any of the prompts, either. I was completely aware of my surroundings at all times, and never asleep, but I wasn't embarrassed.

I have Googled around looking for an explanation of what happened during the induction process, but I haven't come up with anything. My own theory is that my allegiance to GOD was battling with the hypnotist's suggestions, leading to the labored breathing and sweat. My mind and my body were refusing to submit to a third party's control. The Bible, in II Corinthians 10:3-5, tells us to take thoughts captive. Perhaps that's exactly what happened.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

King Of Splitsville

Larry King is divorcing his eighth wife, adding to a matrimonial turnover that has already surpassed those of King Henry VIII and Elizabeth Taylor. In addition, King also married and broke up with the same wife twice.

I was musing about this in the newsroom yesterday, wondering how some people can end up in eight marriages and still not get a clue about how to build a lasting relationship. A co-worker hinted I was being too idealistic: "It's because she's got a hot body," she said.

Unfortunately, she may be right. I wonder if Larry King even paid attention to the vows the last seven times he went through them. It wouldn't surprise me if the master of ceremonies stifled a laugh when he got to the "till death do you part" stanza. The pledge was a legal incantation recited for display purposes.

I wonder if we need a three-strikes law for marriages -- three divorces and you don't get another license. We have a movement to ban same-sex unions in the name of protecting the sanctity of marriage. Why not do something to control the number of divorces, if we feel a legal solution is necessary to protect that sanctity?

I have a friend who tells me part of the problem is that we're living longer and tiring of each other. For me, that's a reason to seek counseling, not a divorce.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"We Will Protect This Town!"

A letter surfaces from Private Christopher of the 1st Virginia Volunteer Infantry to his family and friends in the Old Dominion recounting the Battle Of Payson and his experience behind enemy lines. It would later be reprinted in The Williamsburg Star, published by his brother.

April 10, 1862

To My Dearest Family,

I do hope this letter finds you in comfort. It warms me to tell you our regiment is once again victorious in the face of aggression, despite a siege upon a mountain community which forced us to regroup and counterattack with speed and aggression to fulfill our word to the people whom we pledged to defend.

In the bright daylight of the morning, we marched into the town of Payson with orders to protect the citizens from any Yankee encroachment. Having heard of the terrible and vicious arson of Prescott days ago filled us with both fear and determination, and a deep desire manifested within us to reassure the citizens of their safety. Our commanders established pickets on the edges of the community to spot any signs of trouble while we ventured among the townsfolk to gauge their feelings and be of service to them.

I must tell you the citizens are a curious and proud people, rooted like the pines that grow all around them. They are not prone to fear, much less to worry, and they welcomed us with a friendly and yet cautious trust. Private Cooper and I spent much time among them, giving our personal assurance, "We will protect this town." Yet many had heard of the Prescott conflagration which reduced it to ashes, and the winds of rumor buffeted them in spite of our repeated efforts to contain the propaganda. They mentioned what they had heard of Northern spies even as they asked us to stand and pose in front of tiny silver boxes they held in their hands which produced the most stunning daguerreotypes I have ever seen.

I recall one gentleman asking where he should displace himself should things come to a fight. I told him we hoped things would not come to that, but if he insisted, he best stay away from the streets. Another gentleman sat upon a porch with his wife, and I shall never forget the tall stovepipe hat atop his head, one at least twice the height of even the tallest hats I had seen in St. Louis many months ago. All the while, a lady of the town saw fit to entertain us with a rendition of "The Bonnie Blue Flag" on her dulcimer, with two other young ladies joining in on fiddles. That seemed to calm many a frayed nerve, as we saw many townsfolk content to sit in the noonday sunshine and forget any talk of war.

Just as Private Cooper and I were convincing a few more citizens of our dedication, we heard the voluminous explosion of artillery fire in the distance. Our commanders formed us up and dispatched us to the source of the disturbance, where we soon observed a detachment of Northern skirmishers running away from us. At once we returned to the town, where I gleefully noted the would-be aggressors' departure to many a concerned citizen: "You see how fast those Yankees ran?" I bellowed. "They know not to mess with us!" Private Cooper echoed my observations but cautioned me as to the possibility of Federal spies amongst the citizens.

I doubt with certainty I had given away any secrets, but to our fear, the skirmishers sent for reinforcements, and within a half hour I was standing across the field from a line of 1st Minnesota troops who sought to invade the town. Our cannons failed to stop them, and they pushed us back into a defensive position along the western edge. Our Colonel ordered us to hold the line, and we hit them back with a series of volleys as they advanced. At once I felt the sting of a ball to my face and my chest, and I regret to tell you I crumpled before my brothers in arms, who continued to stand firm. I struggled to get to my feet, determined to give the enemy at least one more taste of powder from my Springfield, but the Colonel directed me away limping to the camp nurse, judging my injuries too severe.

As she tended to my wounds, I could hear the Yankees storming into the town despite our best efforts. A few moments later, as the Colonel was assisting me, I saw three Federals confront us, catching us effectively unarmed. They took the Colonel, Private Cooper and I prisoner without deference to my injured state. "Look at what you did to his face!" the Colonel shouted to them as I lay sputtering on the ground. "Three holes in his face!" Private Cooper shared in my suffering, grieving the loss of my countenance.

However, the ladies of the town had formulated their own contingency plan. To our great astonishment, they gathered what rifles they could find and formed up against the Federals along the main street, threatening to shoot if the aggressors should lay flame to the buildings as they did in Prescott. I must tell you they were well disciplined and versed in the manual of arms from where I could observe them. One could tell from their stiff faces and piercing glances with the muskets in their hands, they would fall to their deaths to keep a single match from striking. Only the expedient intervention of the mayor halted the stalemate, with the Yankee Colonel pledging not to burn the town if the ladies kindly dispersed. His bargain greatly displeased the more radical soldiers among them.

One of their commanders had at least the decency to offer chairs for us, even as the young privates among them taunted. A sharpshooter in a balcony above kept threatening to burn the town. Even through the pain of my throbbing head, I taunted back: "You couldn't even stand up to those ladies! Your uniform ought to be yellow!"

The Colonel calmed me several times, urging me to conserve my strength in the loss of much blood. "Look what they did to his face!" he cried again to all within his booming voice. "He was once the most famed dancer in the ballroom of Richmond! Who will dance with him now?"

Another nurse tended to my head before the Federal commander determined he had tolerated enough of us, with our incessant complaints and aggravations, along with a round of "The Bonnie Blue Flag." He ordered us moved to a holding area greatly displaced from his troops. There we found respite, and I succumbed to rest, although I continued to hear my fellow prisoners discuss the roots of the great conflict. A lady approached me and generously offered me homemade bread and butter, which I accepted thankfully. It has been long since I tasted such fine foods, and I am confident I will do so again when I return to you.

A young gentleman of the town was overhearing our conversations, and we asked which side he was favoring. “Neither,” he told us, for his Faith opposed warfare. He must be a Mennonite, we observed, or a Quaker. “Let's see you quake!” someone chuckled. Yet we were respectful to his beliefs and his neutrality.

I had little additional time to rest as the Yankees grew alarmed. In the distance we saw our 1st Virginia brethren reformed and marching towards us. As the bluebellies hustled to reform, our Colonel saw an opportunity to slip away, and he motioned for us to follow him. We quickly escaped and ran for our lives. After a frantic sprint, we were back in the ranks of our fellow soldiers, who taunted them with a few volleys more before falling back to plan our next advance. Back at camp, the Colonel soon devised a counterattack, and we received our orders to retake the town.

His strategy dared flank the town around the rear and then hit the Federals directly. We marched in and made quick work of their ineffective defense, splitting our companies to rout them. As we circled around the rear, the ladies cheered us on to victory as we approached the town square. We announced our arrival with a ferocious series of volleys. Burning wads of musket cartridges flew into the wind, the lightning for our thunder of rifle fire which echoed through the town. It was a joyful noise if I ever heard one. We saw the Federals fall to their deaths one by one and litter the square until they could no longer stand and fight. Now it was their turn to hold up their hands and surrender, and I took great delight in seeing them do it where I once was taken prisoner.

The townspeople were grateful to us, having honored our word and kept the torches away from their homes and shops. They surrounded us and heaped praise upon us, and I am certain that many questions of their allegiance have been resolved. We shall continue to guard the town until our orders take us onward. I do not know how much longer this war shall last, but I shall never forget the kindness and hospitality shown to us by the good and strong people of Payson.

May GOD continue to watch over you, my loved ones and friends, until I return.

With Warmest Regards,
Pvt. Christopher Francis
1st Virginia Volunteer Infantry

See more from the fray here.

A big Thank You -- and a bow -- to the people of Payson for once again showing us their hospitality and support. We shall continue to defend your town!

FLASHBACK! Read Pvt. Christopher's original Dispatch from Payson.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Southern Discomfort

When I'm reenacting with the 1st Virginia Volunteer Infantry, and somebody asks me -- or rather, my historic persona -- what I do, I tell them I'm the brother of a newspaper publisher in Williamsburg who joined the Confederate cause to defend my property and my family and send letters back about what the war is really like. Notice I don't mention anything about owning slaves.

I'm trying to bust a stereotype, the false image people have of Confederate soldiers (and unfortunately, Confederate reenactors) as racist, slavery-loving rednecks who wouldn't know civil rights from last rites. Ask a Confederate private what he was fighting for, and he'll likely give you a dozen other answers before mentioning slavery. Think about it rationally: if hostile soldiers started overrunning your town, what would be the one thing you wanted to protect above all others? Family, of course.

Popular history pins the cause of the Civil War solely on slavery, ignoring other issues such as states' rights afforded by the Constitution, the balance of power in Congress, speculation and distrust, and the clash of the North's Puritan-inspired work ethic with the more leisurely culture of the South. The inadequate explanation has gone unchecked and unchallenged for so long that any attempt to view this sad chapter in our nation's history from a different yet accurate perspective is attacked like General Hooker's troops at Chancellorsville.

Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell thought he was paying tribute to the sacrifice of Confederate veterans and recognizing Virginia's history by dubbing April as Confederate History Month. He issued this proclamation:
WHEREAS, April is the month in which the people of Virginia joined the Confederate States of America in a four year war between the states for independence that concluded at Appomattox Courthouse; and

WHEREAS, Virginia has long recognized her Confederate history, the numerous civil war battlefields that mark every region of the state, the leaders and individuals in the Army, Navy and at home who fought for their homes and communities and Commonwealth in a time very different than ours today; and

WHEREAS, it is important for all Virginians to reflect upon our Commonwealth's shared history, to understand the sacrifices of the Confederate leaders, soldiers and citizens during the period of the Civil War, and to recognize how our history has led to our present; and

WHEREAS, Confederate historical sites such as the White House of the Confederacy are open for people to visit in Richmond today; and

WHEREAS, all Virginians can appreciate the fact that when ultimately overwhelmed by the insurmountable numbers and resources of the Union Army, the surviving, imprisoned and injured Confederate soldiers gave their word and allegiance to the United States of America, and returned to their homes and families to rebuild their communities in peace, following the instruction of General Robert E. Lee of Virginia, who wrote that, "...all should unite in honest efforts to obliterate the effects of war and to restore the blessings of peace."; and

WHEREAS, this defining chapter in Virginia's history should not be forgotten, but instead should be studied, understood and remembered by all Virginians, both in the context of the time in which it took place, but also in the context of the time in which we live, and this study and remembrance takes on particular importance as the Commonwealth prepares to welcome the nation and the world to visit Virginia for the Sesquicentennial Anniversary of the Civil War, a four-year period in which the exploration of our history can benefit all;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Robert McDonnell, do hereby recognize April 2010 as CONFEDERATE HISTORY MONTH in our COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, and I call this observance to the attention of all our citizens.
Guess what Governor McDonnell left out?

Critics immediately pounced, and he quickly added this paragraph:
WHEREAS, it is important for all Virginians to understand that the institution of slavery led to this war and was an evil and inhumane practice that deprived people of their God-given inalienable rights and all Virginians are thankful for its permanent eradication from our borders, and the study of this time period should reflect upon and learn from this painful part of our history;
Before I go any further, let me get something on the record: Slavery is wrong. I don't approve of it, and I never will. It's not a Christian value, and shame on those Christians who support it. Also, I will not deny the debate over slavery played a major role in the cause of the Civil War. But the truth gets complicated, and the reality is that the mindsets of soldiers and politicians don't always match up.

Governor McDonnell thought he could pay tribute to Virginia's Civil War heritage without mentioning slavery. Almost instantly, he found out he made a big mistake. If he truly wants "all Virginians to reflect upon our Commonwealth's shared history" and "recognize how our history has led to our present," they have to reflect on all of it, slavery and soldiers, forced servitude and brave sacrifice, the call for states' rights and the rights denied to slaves. That's a fair balance: neither rubbing noses in the dirt, nor glorifying "an evil and inhumane practice."

I know a lot of you probably think we shouldn't do anything to honor Confederate veterans. You may think of them as traitors, as racists, as slave-owning scum, unworthy of even a dandelion on their graves... or even a headstone. I know somebody who would disagree with you. He said, "With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as GOD gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." Those are the words of Abraham Lincoln, considered by many to be this nation's greatest president. He could forgive the South. Why can't we?

Americans didn't create slavery. It's mentioned in the Bible. It was around before the Bible. Early Americans adopted it as their ancestors had. But we grew wiser and learned from our mistakes. That's what studying and understanding history is supposed to do. Holding decades of grudges, refusing to outgrow our prejudices, and resisting JESUS' call to treat others as we would want to be treated won't help anybody heal. Nearly 150 years after the Civil War began, we're still struggling to find Mr. Lincoln's lasting peace.

See living history done right! Head to the Battle Of Payson this Saturday, April 10!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Reel To Reel: Clash Of The Titans

Release the Kraken, but leave that owl behind!

Going Rate: Worth matinee price. 3D adds little.
Starring: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes
Rated: PG-13
Red Flags: Greek Mythological Violence, mostly bloodless but still gross at times

I never saw the original Clash Of The Titans all the way through-- wait, I just dug it up on YouTube. All right. Please forgive a rushed analysis, but the opening moments of both films make it clear they measure up to each other in the same way There Will Be Blood compares to an old episode of Dallas. The original is low-tech and full of elevated cheese, but it's in love with its cheese. Expect a lot of die-hard fans of the original to cling to it for that reason, or because it's a classic 1980's movie that reminds us more of our youth than anything we learned during the mythology unit of literature class.

The new Titans is darker and digital, the two qualifying factors for a remake nowadays. On its own merits, it's economical and action packed. Perseus (Worthington) is a demigod on a mission, caught in the middle of a showdown between the two toughest guys on Mt. Olympus: Zeus (Neeson) and Hades (Fiennes). The people of Argos are rebelling against the gods, and Hades wants to punish them as part of a scheme to overthrow Zeus. His lethal weapon is the dreaded Kraken, a monster so big and so deadly we don't see it until late in the picture -- instead of the first ten minutes, as in the original. Nothing can kill it, save for one thing, which Perseus needs to find out from three blind witches who share a single eye. Getting to them is a quest in itself, but it helps when you're a demigod, even if you don't have a mechanical owl to help you in this version. ("Bubo," by the way, gets a cameo and a backhanded tribute during the film.)

Although I realize I'm dealing with mythology here, Titans also presents a few grains of theological truth: sin does indeed have consequences, turning away from GOD comes with a price, and GOD did not simply create the world and step back from it. We are also in the middle of a spiritual battle between good and evil, one that's been going on much longer than any two-hour action flick. Those are about the only things that translate from mythology to Christianity, although I'm sure somebody's seeing this film and debating whether GOD needs us around to make HIM stronger, or whether love makes us weak. A few existential inquiries and secular humanist points are bound to come up somewhere along the lines. Just throw out that extra nonsense and remember you're dealing with Greek myths.

But what you really want to know is whether it's a good movie or not. Yes, it is. It's not a good primer on classical mythology, but it is a good fantasy actioner. It's got beefcake and swordplay and Greeks speaking with British accents. It's got ugly beasts and beautiful ladies wearing tunics. But it doesn't have the cheese factor.

The film's release date was pushed back a little to accommodate an up-convert to 3D, Hollywood's new cash cow, but the third dimension adds little except during the opening scenes tracing a gut-twisting flight. Be assured these rush jobs aren't about enhancing the cinematic experience as much as bulking up the studios' bottom lines with the realization they can provide something not yet available on DVD.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Goodbye, Mr. Arnold... And Thank You

In a shock to us at KOLD, Jim Arnold, our vice-president and general manager, is leaving to deal with personal issues.

As he told Tucson Weekly:
"I have a son who's been battling a brain tumor most of his life," Arnold explained. "He's lost most of his vision. He does a wonderful job working at the UA Athletic Department. He's a remarkable young man. He's been with us now for the past eight years, and when your kid is sick, it's just a natural layer of stress, no matter how well they're doing.

"Over the last year, that stress has taken a toll on my wife and myself. I can't eliminate the family stress. That is something we deal with on a daily basis. ... I can rid myself of the stress of day-to-day work. For the past year, I've been very tired. It's a grind. I don't need to be told it's a grind every day. I know it's a grind. I finally said, 'Timeout, enough, I'm going to take some family time and Jim time.'"
Jim has been with us for the past decade, piloting KOLD News 13 to a number one station from the back of the pack.

I started at the station on December 31, 1999, six months before Jim took the reins. When I came in, we were in the rebuilding mode. Bad management had left us hovering between second and third in the news ratings, although on some days you could say we were in fourth. KVOA was the number one station, and it dominated. I knew our folks wanted to win, but we just weren't pulling it off.

Enter Mr. Arnold. He tells this story about his first day on the job, when an executive with our parent company, Raycom Media, called to give him an official welcome.

"Have you seen the ratings book?" he asked.

"Yes, I have," Jim answered.

"Are you coming back tomorrow?"

Yes, he did. One of Jim's first moves was to start finding people who could lead and fix the problems. He found the right people to get our news department out of first gear. He found the right people for marketing and sales. He stressed community service. CBS also helped with a little show called CSI. Mr. Arnold told us that if you had one big hit show, it could work wonders to promote the rest of your station.

The needle moved in our direction. A KVOA reporter told one of our reporters, "We just had a meeting about your ratings." Within a few years, we hit the top and stayed there. It's been a load of work getting there, but none of us would want to be where we started.

The journey continues, and I know Jim would like to be with us. In spirit, he always will. Thanks, Mr. Arnold. Be Blessed.