Yearly Archives: 2008

In new Bond film, Daniel Craig is superb as 007

Daniel Craig may be the best James Bond ever. He certainly qualifies as the actor who has most thoroughly confounded critics who thought a blond and blue-eyed fellow known previously for artsy films and stage acting could never pass muster as Ian Fleming’s edgy, hard-drinking and frequent smoking master spy.

Frequent smoking has left the series, but edgy and hard drinking remain. Craig’s performance in the 2006 film, “Casino Royale,” blew most away most critics.  With “Quantum of Solace,” a solid sequel story that begins just minutes after conclusion of the last film, Craig secures his place in the Bond pantheon alongside the original and still most popular 007, Sean Connery.

Speaking of Connery, there is a brief hotel lobby scene in “Quantum”where Craig’s character checks on a message, then retrieves a briefcase belonging to someone else, a crucial moment in the plot development.  Before and after an exchange between Craig’s character and a girl at the desk, the camera provides brief glimpses of a fellow reading in an easy chair near the front desk.

I was certain it was Sean Connery. A note posted on Tulsa Today, at the The City Sentinel’s MySpace page, and at Norman activist Bobby Cleveland’s blogsite brought a flurry of responses. Most agreed with me, but an impressive minority report it is Michael G. Wilson, producer of the film who has popped up (Hitchcock-like) in the last few installments. The latter group is no doubt correct, but see for yourself. The moment referenced is about 15 minutes into the film.

It would help, but is not essential, to have seen the last installment before going to this one.  The essentials of that story are: Bond falls in love.  The object of his affections dies in a way that makes him believe he was betrayed.  He was not, and thereby lies this tale.

This is a story about revenge, regret, sorrow, heartbreak and the call of duty in a world gone mad.  Evil men and their minions pose as caring environmental stewards, yet still have allies among world leaders and intelligence agents when all the duplicity and deceit of the group known as “Quantum” (long-time Bond fans, think: Spectre) is understood.  While certainly a brilliant action film with lots of explosives and several brutal fights, this is nonetheless a Bond story for those with literate tastes and an appreciation for compelling character portrayals.

A few critics have said this is the least subtle Bond ever filmed. I must have seen a different motion picture.  Craig pours spectacular and believable emotion into a glance, a stare, a gulp of liquor, a kiss for a woman he never beds, and a flurry of eloquence in tribute after learning of the death of a woman he did.

The supporting cast is uniformly superb, but special praise goes to Olga Kurylenko as the Bolivian agent who becomes Bond’s friend, Mathieu Amalric as retired agent Rene Mathis, whose departure from the series is masterfully handled, and Jeffrey Wright as American agent and Bond friend Felix Leiter. The bad guys might be the film’s relative weakness, but one that is not disabling.

For this reviewer, this excellent movie is not quite the equal of its immediate predecessor, but my wife liked it better for both the abundance of action and Bond’s believable vulnerability and understated grief.

The film includes a poignant exchange between Craig’s Bond and the incomparable Judi Dench’s M, director of the British secret service. Their emotional back story in the “Casino” and “Quantum” gives meaning to her words, like mother to son: “I want you back.” He replies, “I never left.”

That’s good news from Bond, James Bond. 

About the author:
Patrick B. McGuigan is a Contributing Editor for Tulsa Today, managing editor of The City Sentinel, an Oklahoma City weekly, and a lifelong fan of Ian Fleming’s books and the James Bond film series.

Why Tulsa Today went dark

Thursday, 27 November 2008
Monday morning Tulsa Today posted an analysis by veteran New York journalist and the recipient of seven Long Island Press Awards, Joan Swirsky, titled, “The Great Birth Certificate Scandal/Cover-Up of ‘08” questioning the missing Barack Obama birth certificate and his eligibility to serve as President of the United States.  ImageTwo hours and 10,000 page views later, our local Internet Service Provider and domain hosting service, Tulsa Connect locked us off the Internet.

This action was taken without warning or formal notice, but after several telephone conversations the picture became clear.  Our agreement with Tulsa Connect was for “shared hosting” service.  In that type of service, they load many domains on the same computer server.  We were told that of the 300 to 600 client domains on that one piece of equipment, Tulsa Today always experienced the highest levels of traffic, but the overwhelming interest in the Obama birth certificate story slowed service to the other clients and rather than consider that reader traffic a peak that would soon recede, Tulsa Connect discontinued Tulsa Today’s public access.  They contend that there was no way their equipment could handle such a high volume of traffic.

By telephone we pleaded for an option.  As Tulsa’s original (est. 1996) local live Internet news service, “off-line” is never acceptable.  There was no immediate solution or “work-around” offered by Tulsa Connect.  The only option they suggested was to move our site to a separate server for a cost increase of about 600 percent.  There was no guarantee from Tulsa Connect of when they would be able to return functionality to Tulsa Today.

Fortunately, Tulsa Today found another service and within 8 hours, the site was moved and is available for readers worldwide.  Evolution Studios now provides hosting for Tulsa Today at a lower cost than shared service from Tulsa Connect and with no limitation on reader traffic.  They are customer service orientated, responsive and pulled Herculean duty to accomplish this task as fast as computers could load our admittedly huge site.  Evolution Studios provides 24-hour technical support and they used some of those after-hours to get this transfer done.  As a web developer, I have worked with them on other projects in the past and their consistent focus on clear communication with and quality service for their clients has been a blessing in a niche field oddly populated by pinhead techno-bully-nerds with limited interpersonal skills.

There is no indication that Tulsa Connect limited options or blocked public access to Tulsa Today because of the political content of the story.  Any conspiracy theory suggested by anyone at this time is without credible justification.  Tulsa is the heartland; we believe in the Constitution of the United States of America and the free speech promised to both the press and to the people.  Tulsans of all races, creeds, and both genders have and will fight to defend it.

However, we are rethinking our “buy local” business procedure.  Evolution Studios is not based in Tulsa.  Come to think about it, we might help them open an office here.  They are a national provider of Internet based services apparently and significantly more attentive to client need than many other providers.

Tulsa Connect was provided advance notice of this story and invited to make a statement explaining their actions.  None was forthcoming as of this writing.  We understand their equipment dilemma, but it was not our responsibility to monitor their server traffic or anticipate and provision for their company’s growth.  Apparently they prefer clients with small web sites few visit.  There is some personal sadness in this change as I began Tulsa Today with the Tulsa Connect folks in 1996 when they were called WebZone.

“The Great Birth Certificate Scandal/Cover-Up of ‘08” continues to see huge readership as it has been linked to major national and international web sites including: World Net Daily (which features an entire page of Obama birth certificate stories), Right Side News, Lucianne and others.  One reader wrote most concisely, “Obama has spent over $800,000 and several months fighting to avoid presenting a $10 copy of a long-form birth certificate” begging the ultimate question, why?

Critics have assailed the work both to Tulsa Today and author Joan Swirsky.  The piece posited just one speculative idea and the angry Left calls it “packing so many conspiracy theories …” Ya got to love the angry Looney Left, allergic to facts and satisfied to refute them with gratuitous personal insults.  We can do that.

Additionally, the “blogosphere is ablaze with stories about it, pro and con,” according to Oklahoma’s own Mike McCarville who notes an e-mail from Bunny Chambers of Oklahoma City, a Republican elector this year saying, “There must be something to hide if BHO won’t release proof, if he has it, that he is a natural born US citizen.  He isn’t officially elected until the Electoral College meets on December 15th.  I am a member of the 2008 Electoral College.  I can’t believe that this is actually happening right before our eyes.  We must do something!  I’ve worked over 30 years to protect our US Constitution and now it seems that it will have been all for naught."

No Bunny, as long as we have life there is hope.  Hope that citizens will continue to demand honest transparent government, hope that all government service will be conducted at the highest moral and ethical standards, hope that the courts will act according to the Constitution, and hope that media will be the guardians they proclaim … is not dead.  Hope thrives as we live.  We give hope every day around the kitchen table.  I have taught my daughter and she is teaching her children – stand for what is true, just, and right in honor of those before you that have fought and died to guarantee that precious freedom.

“We will granddad,” the kids answer.  Thus freedom flourishes despite whatever crisis of the day may come – technical or political – from dark to dawn.

About the author:
David Arnett began his career in professional journalism in 1985 and has published Tulsa Today since 1996 – years before Al Gore invented the Internet and "blogs" began.  He has won two national awards as a First Amendment Publisher.  Arnett is an idea guy, a Constitutional Republican, a Conservative Media Critic and a proud pain in the political derriere of the disingenuous.

This analysis may be reproduced without charge with proper attribution and links to the original source.  Arnett is available for interview by recognized media.
Last Updated ( Saturday, 29 November 2008 )

Metallica returns to Tulsa

Anyone who reads my stuff regularly knows that I usually find it hard to look at heavy metal with anything other than amusement. That a style of music can be so obsessed with death and yet survive for so many decades is, at the very least, ironic (and probably even kind of funny). And I don’t think it’s a secret that t-shirts covered in skulls with band names in jagged fonts ran out of shock value sometime in 1984. It would be fine if it were a joke, but for every hip metal act that’s being ironic about it, there are always ten bands who think said hip acts are serious and adopt the pose with a completely straight face.
When I entered the BOk Center arena to see those titans of the genre Metallica play, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes just a little bit. The stage lights were mounted in coffins. Yes, coffins (intended, of course, to go along with the motif of the band’s latest album, Death Magnetic). Giant, brushed-steel, coffin-shaped apparatuses, no doubt forged in the pits of hell by Lucifer himself. (Actually—and I’m just guessing here—they were probably built by some union steelworker named Larry, who probably then went home to his wife and kids, where they no doubt spent the remainder of the evening in quiet meditation on the sublimity of man’s mortality. That would make sense.) When the madmen of Metallica took the stage, however, it was clear: they were in on the joke.

Of course, there’s no reason for them not to be. To have existed so long and remain so successful, they’d have to be. When the band formed in 1981, they picked what just might be the most generic name in history for a metal band, thus (consciously or otherwise) setting themselves up as the go-to group for all things, erm, metallic. Fortunately, they have the chops to back this up. Metallica is, in many ways, the quintessential veteran act, having weathered the onslaught of death metal, thrash metal, speed metal, alt-metal, nu metal, rap metal, and all other manner of trends—including grunge and alternative, once hailed as a metal killer (ha!)—and come out on top, with their thundering drums, thudding bass, and shredding guitars still pounding out anthems of awesomeness.
I shouldn’t need to tell any long-time Metallica fans that they put on an incredible show, that every single note, drumbeat and vocal growl was as technically proficient as it was menacing, that there was hardly an empty seat in the house (with a crowd that ran the gamut from long-haired metalheads to middle-aged audiophiles to baseball-cap-wearing frat boys), or that the crowd was on their feet, demanding encore after encore, and refusing to let them leave the stage. The real surprise of the night was that, despite piling on the skull imagery like it was 1983, Metallica came off as genuinely nice guys who were just there to play their music and have a good time.
I probably shouldn’t have been surprised by this, but after being burned by the world of metal twice within a month (having subjected myself to both the adolescent whining of Papa Roach and the more-badass-than-thou posturing of Mudvayne), it was a pleasant surprise. When singer James Hetfield asked all the first-time Metallica concertgoers (guilty as charged) to raise their hands so he could welcome them, it felt good. It was like being part of a family—a family with a thing for skulls and coffins perhaps, but a family nonetheless.
Yes, the light-filled coffins eventually dropped from the ceiling and spun around. Yes, the show was accompanied by a flashy display of lasers. Yes, the very fires of hell eventually burst forth from the stage in time with the music. And yes, it was really, really cool (particularly when combined with awesome hits like “Enter Sandman” and great new stuff like “Cyanide”). But what I’ll really remember about the evening was when the band reentered the stage for their encore and Hetfield asked the crew to turn on the houselights so he could thank the crowd for coming. (“Are you all still with me?” he asked the crowd. “Raise your hand if you’re still here. Now raise your hand if you’re not here. Ha! Gets ‘em every time.”) The band played its final songs, rocking as hard as ever, but with every light turned on and every fan on their feet (while giant, black beachballs inscribed with the words “Metallica” and “Death Magnetic” fell from the ceiling).
It says something about a heavy metal song—a genre so frequently self-conscious in its own obsession with darkness—when it still holds up in the light. And I think it said even more that every member of the stage crew rushed guitarist Kirk Hammett to cover him in cream pies and silly string during the final song. As it turns out, it was his birthday—and instead of closing with yet another face-melting thrash anthem, Hetfield led the entire sold-out crowd in a rendition of “Happy Birthday to You”—complete with four-part harmony, of course.
When the crowd finally agreed to let Metallica stop playing, Hetfield remarked, “Y’know, it’s been sixteen years since we played Tulsa. We have to make sure to come back again—sooner rather than later.”
We can only hope.

About the author:
A graduate of the University of Nebraska, Luke Harrington currently resides in Tulsa and works in the aerospace industry–but, at any given moment, would probably rather be reviewing movies and music.  In his spare time, he’s off playing blues piano, pretending to be Assistant Editor for, or reviewing the many musical events in Northeastern Oklahoma for Tulsa Today.

All photos by Kevin Pyle

Wild Oklahoma adds Tulsa

WILD Oklahoma television has added Cox television to the broadcast lineup.  Cox Channel 3 in Tulsa, Oklahoma is the latest station to pick up one of the fastest growing outdoor programs in the Southeast.  WILD Oklahoma television airs on Cox Channel 3 at 6:30am Sunday mornings.

"To think just a little over a year ago, WILD Oklahoma was hardly known at all," said Ron Black, founder of WILD Oklahoma Media, Inc.  "Today, we are virtually statewide and ours is the only outdoor programming that focuses on Oklahoma exclusively  – at least the only program that is not taxpayer subsidized." 

WILD Oklahoma television, radio and Internet airs programming that highlights the strengths and excitement of Oklahoma outdoors.  Black says the opportunity to film in other states has presented itself numerous times, but has turned them down in favor of staying in Oklahoma

"Oklahoma has the best hunting, fishing, shooting sports and camping in the nation.  Our goal is to highlight Oklahoma, not other states."

WILD Oklahoma airs in Oklahoma City on Cox Channel 7, 6:30am Sunday mornings.

WILD Oklahoma airs in Tulsa on Cox Channel 3, 6:30am Sunday mornings.

WILD Oklahoma airs in Lawton on KSWX, 10:30am Sunday mornings.

WILD Oklahoma radio airs on News Radio 1000 KTOK in Oklahoma City, KUSH AM1600 in Cushing.

Thinking clearly about Oklahoma taxes

In an OCPA study of Oklahoma tax and budget issues, economists at the firm Arduin, Laffer & Moore Econometrics looked at the various tax categories in Oklahoma and analyzed how our state compares regionally and nationally in each of the selected categories.

One of the things economics examines is the effect of tax policy upon productivity. Good tax policy does not put a direct tax on production; rather it tends to tax consumption instead. States that directly tax productivity are at a competitive disadvantage to those states that tax consumption.

In an OCPA study of Oklahoma tax and budget issues earlier this year, economists at the firm Arduin, Laffer & Moore Econometrics looked at the various tax categories in Oklahoma and analyzed how our state compares regionally and nationally in each of the selected categories.

As the graph shows, Oklahoma does not have a competitive advantage in capital gains taxes, personal income taxes or corporate income taxes. We look to be on par with other states in our region. Texas has a marked advantage over the other states, and over many decades the Texas economy has grown at a faster rate than its neighbors. Through the years, businesses and industry have gravitated to more favorable tax environments.

Oklahoma does have very low property taxes—lower than most surrounding states. When combined, this makes Oklahoma seem like a low-tax state, ranking us somewhere in the bottom 10 in overall tax burden. But we must remember that Oklahoma is also a low-income state, so even though our overall tax burden seems low, it is high compared to our ability to pay, our ability to bear the tax burden.

These facts merely reinforce our premise: the amount we are taxed is very important, but equally important is how we are taxed.

Taxes range from those on productivity (such as the personal income tax) to those on consumption (such as sales taxes). In a static view of economics, the assumption is that higher taxes will raise more government revenue, but that assumption is not always correct. Economics are dynamic; they affect human behavior and human choices in the economy.

High taxes on production tend to punish productivity. If a state wants to attract greater productivity, it should tax productivity less. It should change to a tax structure that does not directly impact productivity. Rather than higher taxes, we contend that our state should reduce the tax burden on productivity, so the private economy can grow. A steadily growing economy provides more money for all citizens.

Businesses everywhere will respond to economic rewards and punishments. Since 1998, Oklahoma has been reducing its personal income tax. Unsurprisingly, for several years personal income growth in Oklahoma has been exceeding the national average. So has our state revenue from sales taxes and income taxes. The reason for all of this is that a robust economy offsets tax cuts. Policymakers should work to continue this trend.

The late President John F. Kennedy understood that “tax reduction … sets off a process that can bring gains for everyone, gains won by marshaling resources that would otherwise stand idle—workers without jobs and farm and factory capacity without markets.”

In 2009, Oklahoma tax reforms should seek to continue the momentum of recent years, concentrating on reforms which will increase savings, investment, work effort, and demand for work (which will raise wages). The state should retain its existing low-property-tax advantage over our neighbors, and continue to reduce taxes that punish productivity, such as personal income taxes, corporate income taxes, and capital gains taxes.