Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Future Cira 1982: Knoxville Sunsphere

A relic from the 1982 World's Fair and a fine example of "1980s gold-everything design." The sphere gained international attention once again in March of 1996 when The Simpsons episode 148, "Bart on the Road" featured Knoxville's Sunsphere as the Wigsphere. It was that Sunday night in the mid-nineties that I vowed to one day experience the sphere for myself.
Sadly I have forgotten about the Sunsphere from April, 1996 until today while crossing the Southeastern US I saw a second bright gold ball in the sky. Upon closer inspection I learned that in the years since the World's Fair I wasn't the only one who forgot about the sphere. Over the nearly three decades of towering over Knoxville's riverfront the sphere's had some ups and downs. Low points being the several years it had been closed to the public during the 1990's and the painting below with an artists depiction of a naked President Obama atop a Sunsphere Unicorn.
The reopened observation room gives a 360° view of downtown Knoxville. Be sure to hit floor 5 because the others are all offices that enjoy the occasional stream of wayward tourists and the uncomfortable heat that goes along with working in a glass ball in the sky.
The Sunsphere comes equipped with an organ that I'm assuming has seen very little use. Not much of a market for weddings located in a room built around an elevator shaft.
Knoxville actually has more going for it than I had previously expected. It's a college town with a riverfront, a very low cost of living and several museums downtown. Cities the size of Knoxville (around 190,000) are an ideal size in some ways. Small enough to avoid the congestion of a large city while large enough not to be that boring. Knoxville's proximity to nothing in particular means it is responsible for creating its own attractions. It's own concerts, museums and awkward local TV news. It makes for an island of decency in the middle of the nothing that is Eastern Tennessee.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tax Day 2010: teabaggers on their best behavior?

While passing through Raleigh I ran into my old friend the Tea Party. It had been weeks since our paths had crossed in Charlotte, I wondered if they had anything new to say.
In Charlotte there was more mayhem and crazy signs due to President Obama visiting. With the majority of tax day's speakers running for office they attempted to keep the fringe lunatic levels at a minimum. While the signs were slightly less offensive this time around their arguments and reasoning was as erratic as ever. Anger was directed towards taxes, health care, gun rights, the Federal Reserve, politicians not being Christian enough and Obama not being American enough.
A counter protest group accused the Tea Party of being a corporately funded movement, protested for workers rights and was a group as left from the center as the teabaggers were right. Being a smaller group they had to implement a more guerrilla approach to getting their message across.
Forced hugging, effective in both immobilizing the teabagger. Adding insult to injury the young Conservative will smell of Patchouli oil and stale pot for the rest of the day. Pictured below is the point where a camera in the face results in a sweaty embrace.
Speeches dominated the Capital lawn and Morgan Street became the front lines for shouting at the other side. Neither side could understand the majority of what was being said. The hippie just about put the Tea Party folks over the edge. As they shouted and waved signs this guy stayed with his message that he loved them. This put them over the edge, while I won't go so far as to suggest unconditional love helps sell health reform it does stir up tea party members rather effectively.
If a stoned college student offering his unconditional love wasn't enough to rattle the teabaggers they would be beside themselves if they knew taxes were actually lower this year. They would have known if the group had spent as much effort on covering issues as it does on political arts and crafts.
While the right to free speech and protest is not being criticized, protesting as the true Americans vs. an illegitimate regime is a gross misrepresentation of an administration elected by a solid majority of the people. I take issue with the argument over who is more American, but in my experience using overly emotional fear is easier for them than to get down to the issues.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

I found the high point of High Point, NC

World's Largest Chest of Drawers
It's been a slow week in the deep South, this is the best I could do.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Fighting Socialism with Irrational Fear

On the intersection of S. Tryon and Carowinds Drive a crowd gathered to show the result of partisan political views, misinformation, fear and entirely too much free time. Using hyperbole as a crutch the Tea Party lined the street during President Obama's trip to Charlotte on Friday. I covered the event attempting to blend in as a member of the media. I fooled some but was still received with suspicion.
They arrived with the standard issue Tea Party gear. Dated looking American Flag shirts, windbreaker like pants and blue blockers and spoke of the next American revolution. Apparently reforming health care will destroy Americans work ethic and will destroy our freedoms. It was argued that under the nanny state of Socialism there would be no incentive to work at all. Tea Party members shouted "freeloaders" to a group of black folks who stood across the street supporting the president. Officially the focus of the protest was "anti-Obama care" and the demonstrators feared our health care turning into a system like that of France, Germany or Cuba... all countries with a higher life expectancy than the US.
I have seen plenty of anti-Bush protests while in college, but there's anger and hysteria with the Tea Party group I've never experienced. It could also just be that historically the far right has struggled with humor and satire without appearing angry or bat shit crazy. While I champion free speech I take issue with groups accusing any opposing view as "Anti-American". As if they define the United States and have got the monopoly on morality. Call me old fashioned but I also like to limit the amount children used as pawns for political agendas.
I find it frustrating how children are used as a talking point. The classic "won't anyone think of the children" appeal followed by a smug mention of the heath care bills protection of children with preexisting conditions not taking effect for several more years. A problem that the Conservatives had not even begun to address. Somehow because the Democrats bill results aren't instantaneous the policy is even more of a failure than not doing anything at all. The "free market" wouldn't have solved it any faster. Like somehow the health of a child is almost as important as landing your political cheap shot.
A disagreement that is allegedly over a health care bill evolves and creates a life of it's own. Before too long the commander and chief of our country is a enemy of our country? He is a Socialist out to take your guns, freedoms and money. A foreign born commie who wants huge government and a dictatorship. What they need is a Hot Tub Time Machine or the next Ronald Regan... whatever comes first.
The issue with such a loosely organized, highly visible protest is that their main focus is lost. A few people had legitimate concerns with the national debt, others weren't sure Obama was actually a natural born US citizen. While some didn't want government controlling health care others wanted 2nd Amendment rights above anything else. One man wanted everyone to be saved by Christ and assumed that would pretty much be a comprehensive approach. Some at the protest were well informed and mainstream, most seemed to be classified as "the lunatic fringe." It's unfortunate for the Conservatives that the more radical of the right seem to be constantly in the spotlight.
The notion that a Beck/Palin administration is the kind of fix we need is beyond lunatic fringe. A man who weeps on camera, scribbles on a chalkboard and sees Socialism in the darnedest of places teaming up with what amounts to a blogger who can't finish what she starts. Fridays gathering of tea baggers ended up focusing on how angry they were, but misery loves company so they'll be doing it again on April 15th.