Saturday, July 26, 2014

Don't expect quick results at the peace talks

Here's another silly visual comparison to serve as a break anyone might need from the current batch of bad news (never in short supply, is it?). I figured it was just a tad too obvious for me to have been the only one to notice the resemblances between Treebeard and John Kerry, and I was right (see how I turned unoriginality into a boast? I got skills!).

This post from 2008 takes it farther than I would have been capable of, so hats off and a laurel wreath (with permission from the laurel, of course) to the wit only known as "Writer the Geeklette."

[The Geeklette's post is a tongue-in-cheek apology for making the comparison previously.]

John Kerry and Treebeard are, certainly, not alike. In fact, there are a few glaring differences between the two:
  • First, John Kerry is a tall, lanky human being. On the contrary, Treebeard is a tall, lanky member of the Ent clan of the Fangorn Forest, encased around the River Entwash.
  • John Kerry is a wounded Vietnam Veteran and a recipient of the Purple Heart after bravely enduring gunfire while captaining a Swift Boat. Treebeard, on the other hand, awakened the Huorns who decimated an entire army of orcs during the Battle of Helms Deep.
  • John Kerry has an intelligent, well-traveled wife. Treebeard, unfortunately, lost his wife along with the other Ent Wives after they crossed the River Anduin in search of better fruit pastures during the First Age of Middle Earth.
  • John Kerry is known as a nuanced speaker who parses his thoughts carefully. Treebeard, on the other hand, spoke Entish, and anything spoken in Entish is only worth spoken when one takes the time to speak it.
Seriously, I wish Kerry the best; he has a job in which victories are few and temporary.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Voices from the past

I ran across a college classmate on Facebook and reminded him (it was long ago) that he did an interview with music artist Billy Crockett in 1986 for the radio show I produced at the time on WUTK-FM. This mostly-student-operated station blasted music across campus and beyond (but not far beyond) at a blistering 128 watts. Our show, which I had inherited from previous hosts Lonnie Raper (manager of the local Logos Bookstore) and John Travis (then a student, now a math professor), was called "Music from the Heart." It featured, not romance music as the title (also inherited) may have implied, but rather progressive Christian rock (and some not so progressive, but still good).

Billy Crockett had recently released the album Surprises In Disguises, and I was captivated by the John Mellencamp-ish track "41 Lawnmowers." The other songs were good, too.

We arranged for Russ to interview him before a concert in the area, and I used portions of his comments to intro the songs during a show featuring the new album. It turned out really cool. I don't think I have a tape of the final show, but here's the raw 7-minute interview taken from the original cassette:

Billy Crockett interview by Russ Hollingsworth (mp3 6MB)

NOTE: This is not the same Russ Hollingsworth who had a career as a singer, in case you were a) fairly knowledgeable of 1980's CCM artists and b) curious.

Friday, January 03, 2014

The remarkable Nikki Mitchell

The world said goodbye to a remarkable lady in 2013.  Though I only chatted with her briefly, I feel privileged to have met her.

I was introduced to Nikki Mitchell in 2011 by phone.  A college buddy of mine, Norris Carden, called me and said he was visiting the River CafĂ© in tiny Normandy, Tennessee.  He had noticed the restaurant featured live music, and kindly thought to recommend me to fill an open date.  He had no doubt decided to pursue this idea in the middle of a conversation with Nikki, the owner, because after a brief introduction he put her on the phone with me to book the one open date they had.  Past experience with Norris indicated to me that he had probably not left her with the option to decline politely, which worked out fine!  Thanks again, Norris!

Anyway, I got to meet this sweet lady in person when I played the gig in November, and got to hear a little about her life, including her battle with cancer, her work with Waylon Jennings, and her adventures in flight in the former Soviet Union.  I still remember how her eyes lit up when I mentioned my own visit to Minsk, Belarus, to do mission work.  I think it was also this conversation when she mentioned her plans to spend a couple of weeks with a hunter-gatherer tribe in Mongolia…you know, “as one does!”

So after playing solo to a small crowd (it was post-Thanksgiving weekend, she explained) with much encouragement from the staff, all the while feeling I had stepped through a special portal into a saloon in the middle of Texas, I resolved to return if at all possible, and bring friends.  I did that the following July, bringing Charlsey Etheridge, Kim McLean and Devon O’Day to do a fun show.
Nikki is the one on the far right, in the funky apron.
Though Nikki is gone, the restaurant is still in operation, and more importantly, through the Nikki Mitchell Foundation (actively pursuing early detection and cure of pancreatic cancer), her visionary life continues to have its impact, especially on all those who were as fortunate as I was to cross paths with her.

Below is a tribute to her from the December 26 issue of the Nashville Scene


1954 -2013
Waylon Jennings' business manager; pilot; adventurer
By Kim Green

Nikki Mitchell fell in love with things. A lot. First, it was horses; then drawing and painting; then flying.

In 1991, Russia ensorcelled her. She learned that three regiments of Soviet airwomen had fought in World War II. Knowing no one, Mitchell visited the USSR to hear the women veterans' stories and find a way to honor them.

In 1998, Mitchell, a private pilot, and Rhonda Miles, flight instructor, corporate pilot and confidante, flew Mitchell's hardy little single-engine Maule to Russia. They traversed Siberia with a team of Russian airwomen and airplanes to commemorate a famous 1938 flight by pioneering Soviet aviatrices. Many things went wrong. One day, a Siberian fog clung so low that a controller guided Miles (without radar) to land by listening to the sound of her engine. "I drank a bottle of Champagne that night," recalls Miles.

While president of country artists Waylon Jennings' and Jessi Colter's enterprise for 20-plus years, she co-founded a women's fly-fishing club and annual fishing retreat for breast cancer survivors, and bought a historic building in Normandy, Tenn., opening her dream restaurant, the River Cafe. All while plotting her next journey — to Mongolia.

The Mongolia adventure was not to be. Last summer, Mitchell called her friends to the cafe to say goodbye. After 31 months of treatment for pancreatic cancer, she told Miles — her caregiver those last months — that she wanted to disconnect her feeding tube. "Are you doing this so I don't have to decide?" Miles asked her. Mitchell just smiled.

The day before Mitchell's memorial service, Miles quit her flying job to pilot the Nikki Mitchell Foundation, which supports research into early detection of pancreatic cancer.

"She left me a notebook full of stuff to do," Miles says. "She was my adventure soul sister."

Thursday, September 19, 2013

We laugh...because it's true

Jimmy Kimmel says & does a few things that I can't endorse.  However he does us a GREAT service in the segment where he shows how some people will say anything they think they're supposed to when a camera is in their face, in those fake "man-on-the-street" interviews. It's a little disheartening how many will lie through their teeth, but it demonstrates why we should be skeptical of what we see on TV, even (or especially) when it's presented as "real."  I also love the "Why Is This News" feature, and the one where he shows how a phrase from a press release will echo around the world among the parrot-like TV commentators we watch daily. Kudos, JK!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Window with view for sale

Once I finished it, I decided this rustic window was not quite right for my apt.  Was going to hang it up at work.  Now, I'm taking bids! I think it's worth at least a hundred bucks, but will consider lesser offers.  It's 28" x 47.5" x 1.5".  Original glass included.  Poster also included but can easily be removed.  I can even help replace it with a picture of your own, if you want. (Reply with a comment and I'll be notified by e-mail.  Make sure to include your contact info).

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The People vs. George Lucas, or Revenge of the Fans

Ran across this doc in the library.  An excellent and lighthearted exploration of the Star Wars phenomenon, specifically the fans' love-hate relationship with its creator, George Lucas.  More than just a “those crazy fans” kind of story, this film touches on enough cultural and even spiritual issues to fuel many long discussions.
The central theme is how Lucas’ brainchild grew to be such an important presence in so many people’s lives that it came to dominate his own.  The film covers how Lucas has dealt with the backlash of his own success.  How an artist’s work can be embraced so completely by the public that it becomes questionable who owns it.  How his subsequent decisions about storylines, characters (Jar-Jar Binks!) and alterations to the original work (Han shot first!) have created controversy, stirred passionate debate and even inspired resentment toward the creator.
Musicians deal with the same issues of ownership and revision when it comes to their recordings.  Some professional songwriters never feel their work is finished, even after it’s a radio hit.  Some music artists feel the need to put out remaster after remix after re-recording.  In some cases, it’s simply a means to capitalize on previous success, but sometimes it’s because the typical artist is never quite satisfied with his own work.  Someone in the film quotes the old saying, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.”  The question the doc pursues is “at what point is an artist allowed to change his work, when it means so much to his audience?”
Another point the film brings up is how Star Wars is so much more than an artistic and marketing triumph; it has endowed countless viewers with a vital underlying philosophy by which to live.  It has become their religion.  This is not an understatement (at least for some), and it is not altogether accidental.  Lucas stated early on that one of his intentions was to create a new myth; one that replaces the religions that had been discarded (to a great extent) by modern man.
I am a Christian believer, a creative person, and though I’m nowhere close to being one of THOSE fans, I did enjoy the films (the original three, anyway; the prequels were prime examples of the law of diminishing returns).  So I feel I understand the need for a guiding myth, and I can see how a film series could provide one.  I have to admire the effectiveness of Star War in this aim, even as I shudder to think how it replaces genuine faith in some people’s hearts and minds.
The word “myth,” by the way, does not necessarily mean “fantastic” or “made up.”  Stories, metaphors, and parables, which fill the Bible, are kinds of myth. As C.S. Lewis pointed out, Christianity is based on a myth, but it’s a myth that is true—the story that explains the meaning of our lives.
The Star Wars mythology does contain much truth that is part of my Christian worldview, as any good story does: the ongoing struggle of good vs. evil, how personal sacrifice is often necessary to achieve a larger goal, how “evil people” are fallen good people, how we can have a legacy and a destiny that define the path we are on even as we labor in our current mundane situation, how we can benefit from listening to those who have gone before us…the list is quite long.  I can affirm these truths even as I recognize that what is missing is the notion that a Person, not a faceless Force, is the central crucial element in the universe. Having (as I believe) the Key to the truth of life itself, I can unlock that truth to be found in everything around me, even (or especially) in other mythological attempts to explain the world. So as long as I view with discernment, I, too, can be enriched spiritually by these films.
Many people featured in the documentary, including Lucas himself, acknowledge the irony that Lucas, who started out as a rebel of sorts against the powerful industry types that would limit his creative output, has in fact become a bigwig himself (and not necessarily a popular one at that), and exerts a notable amount of control over the Star Wars legacy (the Expanded Universe).  Like Anakin became Vader, the very thing he would have resisted.  For this reason, some point out that the films have become semi-autographical.
Fans (including Francis Ford Coppola) who lament that Lucas has yet to get beyond the Star Wars world to make other films may take comfort in where the storyline leaves off in The Return of the Jedi.  Vader joins his son Luke in battling the evil emperor, and it ends in reconciliation and redemption.  There is a sequel in the works (Episode VII), but with Disney at the helm and Lucas serving as creative consultant, and given the astonishing level of financial and legal obligations at stake, I have my doubts that life will imitate art further in this case.  But by the time it comes out, I doubt there'll be many superfans left to care; at least, not as much as they did in the beginning, in a galaxy far, far away.

Friday, May 24, 2013

I appreciate your appreciation

Nice to get a thank-you from a customer.  This one especially made me smile.  I did some editing on a new version of the late Bob Babbitt's Awareness Guide for Bass Players and All Fellow Musicians.  It's a self-published book, and in a literary sense it's rough around the edges (as well as in the center), even after my contributions (i.e., corrections and clarifications). Babbitt's genius was playing bass, not grammar and punctuation.  But it's a fun read, because his personality really shines through, and his stories and tips are fascinating to the music fan.  And he has some pretty impressive fans.

Babbitt was involved in some legendary recordings (I'm too lazy to summarize; get the gist here).  He passed away last year, and his widow (Ann) and daughter have continued to preserve his legacy, partly through the book.

Ann's choice of card art was so over-the-top cute, I had to laugh...especially because she wrote my name under one puppy and my boss's name under the other.  I mean, I like him and all, but we're not THAT close.  Although we are both known to be pretty adorable.

In what I found to be an interesting coincidence, I realized that a film called Standing In the Shadows of Motown, about the group Bob was part of, the Funk Brothers, was in my Netflix queue as I worked on the book!  I look forward to seeing it more than ever now.