Ear to the Ground

Tim vs. Tim?

State Sen. Tim Burchett is being encouraged to run for county mayor in 2010 after the term limited Mike Ragsdale leaves office. Burchett has told friends he is thinking about it. The popular state senator is considered one of the few people with the following to win in what may be a crowded field.

Complicating the picture, however, is the possibility that the 800-pound gorilla of local politics may decide to run for county mayor now that he has been term-limited out of the sheriff's office. That's the other popular Timâ"as in Tim Hutchison . While the former sheriff has been a power in local politics, he has accumulated enemies after 16 years in office, and he is still viewed as the puppet master for a majority of the Knox County Commission.

Should they both decide to run it would be a battle royal. Usually two such savvy officeholders would figure out a way not to run against each other, so stay tuned.

Complicating the equation is whether the scandal-plagued Ragsdale will finish his term in office, and if he doesn't, who would the Knox County Commission appoint? Most observers think Hutchison would be too smart to accept an appointment from his rubber stamp Commission, as it would create a furious public outcry.

Meanwhile, Hutchison has had to change his bank accounts after his personnel file containing his bank records and Social Security number was turned over to attorney Herb Moncier by Ragsdale Chief of Staff Mike Arms . Such information is supposed to be redacted before the release of a record. Speculation is rife about what Hutchison will do about the record release.

Lumpy Fishbait

Greg â“Lumpyâ” Lambert , the irrepressible Knox County commissioner and gun fancier, is fishing in the Bahamas, as those who followed his well publicized â“vacationâ” plans may have suspected. He proves it in videos he's posted on his YouTube site. In one, he's wearing a planter's hat and T-shirt and showing off his villa by the sea. In another, he's sporting a doo-rag and has a parrot perched on his shoulder, before heading out to fish, which is also recorded. You can see him in all his tanned and portly splendor, babbling away, at www.youtube.com/greglumpylambert .

Don't complain to us if you don't like what you see.

Popcorn, Get Yer Popcorn

Is that new downtown movie theater ever going to open or what? Glad you asked. On Tuesday, the Regal Cinemas Riviera Stadium 8, located on Gay Street, announced its plans to open for real on Friday, Aug. 31. Pre-grand opening festivities include a VIP party on Monday, Aug. 27; preview nights Tuesday, Aug. 28 through Thursday, Aug. 30, featuring $1 movies, popcorn and soft drinks; and a â“Salute to Cinema Fireworks Showâ” on Thursday, Aug. 30. According to the press release, Regal's managed to smoosh eight auditoriums, with about 2,000 seats, into the place, and a new walkway connecting the State Street Garage to the theater and Gay Street will be completed by the end of the month. (Moviegoers can park free in the garage anytime with ticket validation.)

There was nothing in the press release about whose idea it was to cover the cinema's Turkey Creek-meets-Wireless Kitchen façade with pink stucco.

Idle Money

Call it a Fantasy Football League for investors.

Idleaire, a local company that manages to lose more money than IPIX, is portraying itself as the next big thing. It's been selling stock to locals in $50,000 blocks. Five-man groups, consisting of officeholders and various business insiders, have formed, with each member putting in $10,000 to buy a block of stock.

Idleaire is a company that sets up docks at truck stops where truckers hook up and get all sorts of services without running their diesel enginesâ"things like Internet porn, cable TV, air conditioning, heat and everything that makes life worthwhile. It all comes through a $10 adapter in the window. The company has announced it is going public. It expects to raise enough money to build out the rest of the infrastructure across the country and will soon be rolling in dough.

No Longer Needed

Local blogger Brian Hornback is denying that his friend Hubert Smith was the source of his item questioning Commissioner Sharon Cawood 's attendance at her job in the Juvenile Court Clerk's office. After the item ran, Smith's position in the Clerk's office was â“eliminated from the budgetâ” according to his termination letter.

Smith appeared before Knox County Commission to question whether it might have been a clerical error that they eliminated his position. His appearance has been posted on YouTube, and Commissioners told him they fully funded the budget request and suggested he take it up with Clerk Cathy Quist .

Hornback, a former Knox County Republican Party chair, writes Brian's Blog, and his friend Smith is a former board member of the Knox County Democratic Party.

Hornback views Smith's termination as retaliation for his blog post.

Sweeping Away

NPR member station WUOT, the UTâ"licensed station, swept the awards for small newsrooms in the Public Radio News Directors annual contest. News and features produced by WUOT's news director, Matt Shafer Powell , won first and second place honors in four news and writing categories. Powell's work has been honored by the association before, but the four awards for 2006 work is a record for the station. Work produced by Powell, Ann Lloyd and Chrissy Keuper at WUOT has also been recognized this year by the AP Broadcasters Association, the Society of Professional Journalists and the Radio-Television News Directors Association. All of the station's news and feature stories are available on the website, www.wuot.org .

Free TV

The widely reported Fourth of July announcement of Fred Thompson 's presidential campaign has come and gone and the national press continues to wonder when Big Fred will make his move. The best prediction now is sometime around Labor Day.

We would point out that Thompson is presently being seen in his role as DA Arthur Branch on the Law & Order television series in reruns all summer long, which essentially boil down to hour-long free commercials in which Thompson gets paid for appearing. If he announces he is a candidate, the feds will require the shows be pulled from the airwaves. When the new season starts, around Labor Day, Thompson will no longer be on the show and it will no longer matter.

FCC regulations only cover broadcast television. He will still be able to appear on three different cable channels every night in reruns throughout the campaign.

Our Barry Bonds?

Novelist Cormac McCarthy , who turned 74 last month, has been astonishingly prolific. A movie based on McCarthy's novel, No Country For Old Men , the second major motion picture to be based on his work, is due for release in November. Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen , it starts Josh Brolin , Tommy Lee Jones , and Woody Harrelson .

Some thought his 2006 novel, The Road , which won the Pulitzer Prize and has sold more than a million copies in hardback and paperback (partly fueled by an Oprah book-club nod) might be the novelist's swan song, but publisher Knopf announced last month he'd signed a deal, no terms mentioned, to write two more novels for them.  

And a cartoon in the July 26 Village Voice made the e-rounds last week. Called â“Toy Story 3,â” it seems to combine the blockbuster children's movie with McCarthy's ultraviolent Westerns like Blood Meridian , and it depicts Woody and Buzz Lightyear as they dismember a bedroomful of toys. At one point in the carnage, a grim Woody asks, â“I wonder what in the name of Andy we're supposed to do?â” A grimmer Buzz responds, â“There ain't no Andy. And if there is, he's a son of a bitch.â”

McCarthy is known for his expansive vocabulary, which has convinced some readers, apparently unjustly, that he makes words up. A team of McCarthyites including UT psychology professor Wes Morgan and Illinois scholars John Sepich and Chris Forbis , with the assistance of a resourceful computer, have counted the number of individual words used in McCarthy's 11-novel oeuvre. They came up with 30,069, an expectedly impressive achievement. Shakespeare's lifetime total is 31,941. McCarthy, being alive and apparently still a contender with at least two more novels in him, seems to have the advantage. Those who prefer Shakespeare may view McCarthy as the Barry Bonds of literature.

McCarthy, who now lives in Santa Fe, spent more than half of his life in the Knoxville area; the reclusive author tends to be spotted visiting family in downtown Knoxville restaurants at least once or twice a year. We always get there about 15 minutes too late.

Bug in Our Ear

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