Tuesday, March 27, 2007

With a little help from Danielle Peck and friends

Saw a "stellar lineup" of artists last night, at a benefit for Safe Haven hosted by Danielle Peck. Ms. Peck gives the words "lovely and talented" new meaning, and it's always encouraging to see "the beautiful people" (ditto on the giving new meaning line) doing worthy things with their share of public platform. She was obviously taken aback by the packed-house turnout, and confessed that she was nervous for the first time in a long time. But we all got over it, as she introduced Blue County, Carolyn Dawn Johnson (recorded "Complicated," wrote "Single White Female"), Deana Carter ("Strawberry Wine"), and others. Danielle also introduced the mother of eight children (some more shy than others) who had benefited from Safe Haven's help; this woman had the most difficult job of all, given the situation and her presumable lack of stage experience. But she apparently had some church in her background, and used her story to do a little preaching to the relatively attentive crowd. Even got an "Amen."

Danielle made it clear she was genuinely interested in the cause of Safe Haven, and more than just a famous face for hire. This is consistent with what I know of her. She's a friend of a friend, and both she and her mom are very nice in person, even discounting the "Nashville nice" that is a professional necessity--you never know whether or when the scruffy looking person you're sitting next to might hold the reigns of your music career.

Of course, it's difficult for anyone to do anything from a 100% pure motive, given our fallen nature and the moral gravity of the world in which we live. Phoebe explores this idea on a particularly thought-provoking episode of "Friends" (not a phrase you hear every day, right?). And benefits featuring celebrities are especially prone to ego-tripping. Ricky Gervais of the orginal British "Office" sitcom makes this point in his typically uncomfortably funny way in this video, featuring some suprisingly familiar faces (and voices):
Saving Africa Made Easy and Profitable

This is a link to the video in a blog by a friend of mine (I echo his caution about the not-so-family-friendly word here and there, and with his brief commentary on it).

I'm at the top of the Tin Pan South slide, looking down on a week's worth of shows to attend, people to see, pictures and notes to take, cards to hand out, and the songcrafting to be enjoyed. Save me a seat, willya?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Sports, men...and the women who love them

A friend of mine posted a blog about her family’s enthusiasm for that basketball phenomenon known as March Madness and how she and her sister—even though they’re women—fully participate, keeping up with the tournaments, cheering favorite teams, making up brackets, etc. She made a remark that got me thinking, and writing too much for just a comment. She said:

“I know I'm the oddball girl who actually gives a rip about sports, but I can't help but wonder what's wrong with all these men who know nothing about them!”

This isn't technically a question, much less one that demands a response, but for the sake of her (and anyone else’s) further education in the World of Men, I decided to respond anyway. [I started out using a professorial tone as a joke, but it kind of fell apart at some point, I realize. Oh well. Not like I'm being graded on this, right?].

Easy answer: nothing. Meaning, not caring about sports that much does not indicate a deficiency (in testosterone levels or anything else). The expression of manliness takes many forms, some more obvious than others, some more productive, some more alien to the feminine mind (and some even men find pretty gross). Not caring about sports does indicate an availability of resources (time, money, emotional energy, etc.) that can be put toward other activities, such as model shipbuilding, woodworking, auto mechanics, home remodeling, taking trips to Home Depot, and other productive and creative endeavors. In extreme cases and when necessary, for some men it also may leave more time for speaking to their wives or girlfriends, children, extended family members, pets and neighbors. I would think this would be a reason for celebration for any woman, rather than doubt. But there are exceptions to every stereotype.

More in-depth answer: An equally valid, and more compelling, question is "why does anyone care about sports to begin with, especially to the manic level some do, if they're not playing or betting or potentially deriving a direct benefit (financial or otherwise) on the games?"

From what I've seen, for many folks (and especially for females) it's a device for bonding with the father or father figure, whose relational avenues are typically relatively limited due to the inherent quality of men to prefer relating via indirect & external vs. direct & internal means (i.e., they'd rather say stuff like "hand me that wrench" or "how 'bout them Vols" than "I feel like you're upset with me; let's talk it out over an espresso"). For some family members it's their only channel to relationship with that father figure; for others (happily) it's one of many, but a cherished one nonetheless, and the positive associations between sports and "daddy love" can last a lifetime as a normal and very healthy thing.

Same principle, different arena: I know two young women that really liked an alternative Christian rock band called the 77's, though both leaned more toward the style of Amy Grant and Point of Grace. Turns out both liked/loved guys who listened to the 77's. "Fanatics" by association are everywhere.

As for why men like sports, my theory (cobbled together from sources of varying credibility, including John Eldredge, Dr. Phil and my own experience) is that it has to do with the need to belong to a "tribe", and the need for a champion--someone to struggle to victory on behalf of the tribe. The more invested a man is in the tribe (emotionally, temporally, statistically), the more empowered he feels by his inclusion, and the greater the feeling of accomplishment at victory, even if all he did was sit in his easy chair for 3 hours and shout at the TV. And even the "agony of defeat" is tempered by the knowledge that at least he is not facing it alone. Sports is a safe place for a man to express his emotions, his aspiration to greatness, and even his affection for his fellow men (hence the butt-patting that would be completely unacceptable off the field--at least among the men I'd want to associate with).

"Man is never so manly as when he feels deeply, acts boldly, and expresses himself with frankness and with fervor.”
Benjamin Disraeli

Personally, though all the above motivations apply somewhat, and I do like watching football for the game itself, my interests in sports are mostly secondhand. I take a fair amount of interest in Tennessee football, but mostly because I live in Tennessee, I'm a UT grad and I attended games at Neyland Stadium, so that's a direct association to my own experience. I graduated in the then-new basketball arena, and shook Lamar Alexander’s hand (curiously, he didn’t seem to remember this when I met him again not long ago). And I also watch from a professional broadcaster's point of view. During an internship at a local TV station I followed the plays with a camera, up and down the field, for a high school football highlights show. It was long ago, and only for two games, but I've watched the game differently ever since.

But then, as I realized years ago, I had other ways to make sure I was within my dad's viewing range; those included our shared interests in religion and humor, and an enthusiasm for TV. I remember one time how, after I had gone to bed, the irresistible sound of the audience laughing at a comedian on the Tonight Show brought me back to the living room to check it out. My dad started to resist, but gave in pretty quickly when I told him I was just there to hear the jokes, then I'd be off to bed again. He probably sensed I was there not only for my own enjoyment, but also to continue my self-guided course in the art of comedy. And no doubt he could relate. He wasn’t exactly the class clown, but he does enjoy creating a laugh. This is a man who made a “sponge cake” using actual sponges and took it to a church social. I’ve seldom been more proud of him. So who needs to memorize meaningless sports statistics? Or has time? There are important comedic principles to master.

The world of sports has a lot in common with music. They both have their fans who range from the casual to the truly obsessive/compulsive. Each has been elevated to having its own place among "legitimate news" (especially sports) and some even speak as if the related events are "history"...as if the Normandy and British invasions of 1944 and 1964 (respectively) had an equal impact on the world (OK, that's not completely implausible). Ultimately, in the absence of some compelling motivator such as the bonding I've referred to, both music and sports have their useful metaphorical applications to life, but really only matter as much as a person chooses for them to matter. It doesn't affect my life one way or the other (any more than anything else in the world of cause & effect) who wins any national championship, but of course I'd rather Tennessee win. Otherwise, to paraphrase the Preacher, it's all vanity (of course, the Preacher could’ve been the ancient equivalent to the Vandy football fan, I don’t know).

So…how ‘bout them Vols?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Whose leg is being pulled now?

I stepped into my time machine and went back 40 years (I'll save you the math: that's 1967). I found myself in London where--not surprisingly-- I met a Beatles fan, who was fortunately also a science fiction reader. He seemed to have no serious problem accepting, pending further questioning, that I was from the future. He was naturally curious about, among other things, what the Beatles are up to in 2007.

After I gave him the bad news about the breakup, the passing of John and George, and of course, Yoko, I came around to current events. I told him that Paul, after losing his first wife to cancer (after a surprisingly long marriage, for a celebrity), is now in the process of divorcing his second wife, Heather Mills (not related to Hayley, as I clarified). "Too bad, but not a shock, I suppose," he said.

"But wait," I said. Then I shared the highlights of the £1 billion (yes, billion with a "b") divorce battle in which she has accused him of all manner of vices and cruelties, and has portrayed him as being a "vindictive" man who once tried to choke her and even attacked her while she was pregnant.

"Hard to believe it of Paul," he said. "Seems like such a nice young man. But you never know what a man is capable of, and you can't always believe celebrity p.r., good or bad, can you?"

"No," I agreed. "I do have my doubts about her. One of her claims is that she was forced to crawl on her hands and knees up the steps of a plane because they were not wide enough for her wheelchair and Sir Paul had not made other arrangements. Oh, by the way, she has only one leg. And, yes," I responded to his widened eyes, "McCartney was knighted in 1997."

At this point my 1967 friend got a faraway look in his eyes, and forced a friendly but weak smile, as if he had just realized he'd mistaken me for someone else.

"What's really odd," I continued, ignoring his furtive glances all around us, "is that Ms. Mills is slated to be in a dance competition on TV this season."

"Dance?" he said with raised eyebrows. "With one leg?"

"Yes," I replied, "they've made wonderful advances in prosthetics these days."

"Oh, of course," he said, nodding.

I mentioned that I saw her on an entertainment news program (ignoring him when he interrupted with "A whole program about entertainment?") where she said that her main concern was that her leg wouldn't fall off during the dances.

"Well, surely not many will be watching," he reasoned, amused.

"Actually it's one of the highest-rated reality shows on TV, where famous and semi-famous actors, singers and athletes pair up with expert dancers to compete before judges, including the viewing audience. " After I explained what reality TV is and assured him that some of the programs are pretty good, he seemed somewhat less skeptical.

"Well, I suppose teenagers like to watch these shows to learn the latest moves so they can impress the ladies at the clubs," he offered.

"Wellll, maybe," I responded. "But it's actually ballroom dancing; the kind no one generally does without intensive training and only in a limited number of places."

"Hmm," he mused, "very interesting." Then he burst out laughing. "Bub, I must admit you almost had me, but you went just a tad too far with that last bit about a one-legged soon-to-be-ex of 'Sir' Paul McCartney competing in a 'popular' ballroom-dancing telly program!" He shook his head slowly. "Sir, I was born at night, but it wasn't last night! Besides, I can't believe that even in 2007 the BBC would ever air such rot."

"BBC?" I said. "This is American television, not the BBC."

A wide smile spread across his face. "America? Oh, I see. Well, then, it all makes sense now!" He slapped me on the back like an old friend and looked at me with renewed interest. "So, what year do you think you might be visiting next?"

And then I woke up.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

When life hands you lemons...

...you make lemonade. These folks must've had such a whopping big batch, they started a festival so they could share it with their neighbors. It was a pretty big lemon, after all. Not like you ever really need a reason to have a party in Hawaii (you're in HAWAII!).

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Takes a tumble, doesn't stumble

I had a "DOH!!" moment this morning when I realized I'd left my SanDisk jump drive in my jeans pocket. The jeans were in the dryer at the time (I've found a dry is as good as a wash for jeans, at least after one wear, especially if you add a dryer sheet). This exact potential hazard had crossed my mind the other day when I realized I the jump drive wasn't in its usual possible places, and must be in the pocket of the jeans on my floor (awaiting aforementioned drying).

The good news is when I stuck the drive into my Mac at work this morning, it worked perfectly. Technology can be surprisingly reliable; gotta be thankful for that. And toasty-warm jeans in the morning, can't forget those.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Have fun, do good

The Belmont Coalition Against Genocide
presents a
Benefit for Darfur, Sudan
Friday, March 16th

Edgehill Studios Cafe
1201 Villa Place, Nashville, TN
one block off of Music Row)

$5 donation toward humanitarian aid and refugee assistance

Leslie McClure and band
Andrew Palamara
Blue-Eyed Grass

Special Guest Speaker:
Gatluak Thack
Executive Director of Nashville's Sudanese Refugee Center

For more info:
call Edgehill Studios Cafe at 615-301-8539
or e-mail Ali Baldwin at baldwina@pop.belmont.edu