Thursday, August 30, 2007

Dave Barry's take on American Idol

As silly and flippant as Dave Barry can be, he often gives a more truthful and enlightened view of things than you'll get anywhere else. In fact, for so many things we are supposed to be so excited about according to our instructors in the media (like the Beckhams...could anyone care as much as they seem to think we do?), his approach is the only sane one.

Here's Dave's glimpse of the cattle call to stardom that "American Idol" has become. You can't work in the music industry long before you have at least one story about the people for whom the phrase "chasing the dream" is said with rolling eyes.

I'm one of those people that enjoys the first few shows for the freak-show appeal and the psychological box of chocolates ("you never know what you're gonna get") that the auditions can be. Of course, as a music-lover and a music-doer, I also get interested in comparing my opinions to those of the judges, and like to see the diamonds in the rough succeed. I lose interest after those first few, though.

On last year's first show the comments seemed especially nasty and the "reality" unnecessarily brutal, especially for the girl who was a Jewel fan and had attempted a Jewel song and was clearly devastated by the actual confrontation with Jewel's inability to respond as a human to her performance or to herself. It seemed a line had been crossed, and the balance had tipped past the point of no return, toward corporately sponsored exploitation and downright cruelty. The show that raised money for charity was an excellent thing, and God bless the winners and the losers. But the shine is off for me.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Some Southern hospitality for the man behind "Hotel Rwanda"

I ran across two separate references to this man and his book today, one right after another, on nearly-unrelated sites. The first was posted on July 28th on a blog I just discovered the other day and have never really read until today...and the second in the entertainment column in the today's newspaper (see the blurb below). I try to avoid excessive mysticism or what my friend calls "God-superstition" but the remarkable coincidence got my attention and the talk on the 26th sounds interesting, so I'm going to try to go.

Although I've seen the movie "Hotel Rwanda" I have yet to read the book . Maybe this will be incentive to turn off the TV for a few hours...the additional cable channels that came with my new-to-me apt. are getting a little old anyway.

Blogger and fellow former student minister (not to compare my handful of years to his 30) Ircel Harrison had this to say:

The book is not only Rusesabagina’s life story, it is a brief history of the country of Rwanda, a discourse on good in the face of evil, and a political critique of those who allowed it to happen—Rwandans, the United Nations, the United States, and various European countries. This is a chilling and ultimately frustrating story, but it is a book that is hard to put down. We are left asking, “How could this have happened?’ We are also left with the message that it could happen again.

And from the Tennessean today:

Author and activist Paul Rusesabagina, who inspired the movie Hotel Rwanda, will speak to MTSU students on Aug. 26 at 2 p.m. in Murphy Center. He saved 1,268 people during a 100-day genocidal siege that claimed 1 million lives in 1994. His talk is free and open to the public. Info: 898-2919.

His autobiography, An Ordinary Man, was MTSU's 2007 Summer Reading Selection. He will sign copies of the book in Murfreesboro's Linebaugh Public Library, 105 W. Vine St., on Aug. 25 at 7 p.m. Tickets: $10; info: 893-4131.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Groovy music--without the actual grooves.

I finally did it. I made my first iTunes music purchase. And my second and third, and now my fourth (as I type this--oops, it's done).

So I've made one more step into the world where "digital," "virtual," "online" and "download" represent concepts so commonplace that the original nomenclature is already approaching obsolescence, like "radiotelephone," "automobile" and "jet airliner." Like Mr. Burns on "The Simpsons"...or Austin Powers' nemesis Dr. Evil ("laaay-serrrr")...people will soon show their age by how they use (or misuse) these terms.

And if anything on the above list makes you think of the Steve Miller Band instead of a type of "aeroplane," it still doesn't mean you're not old.

On the other hand, some terms are still useful and current even in this brave new paradigm. That first purchase I made, Bob Bennett's collection called "Matters of the Heart," is called an "album" even on the iTunes store. My understanding is it originally referred to the "book" that contained a set of records (made of vinyl or something similar)--a set because the higher rotation speeds (78 rpm) necessitated more discs. That package resembled a photo album and so the term came to mean a collection of songs released as a set, with a specific identity, cover art, etc., even though it may be on a single disc in a sleeve as most records came to be. The term survived the advent of cassettes and CD's and is now unrelated to the actual medium, at least for most of us.

But the important thing is the music, not the medium...and Bob Bennett's "Matters of the Heart" album is a classic that has aged well in the decades since its release. It was named "Album Of The Year" by CCM Magazine in 1982, and was later named one of the "Top 20 Christian Albums Of All Time." Bob hasn't had the fame (or notoriety) of more widely-known artists (even in the small pond of CCM) but then that's seldom an indication of enduring quality or relevance (usually the opposite). He's one of my top songwriting heroes, and his music has nourished my soul and spirit more than that of anyone else I can think of.

I also bought his subsequent release, "Non-Fiction." Both fit nicely on a single 80 MB CD so I burned them onto one disc--I haven't turned my back on the past THAT much; I have no iPod and the only time I listen to music on a computer is on the job via my Mac workstation, mostly playing CD's through iTunes (a transitional approach, I suppose). Instead of printing the cover art directly from iTunes (nice feature!), I saved it as pdf's so I could combine the covers into one, then print it. A significant upgrade from cassettes (one recorded from the LP) I'd been using up to now for these works.

More good news is that Bob's first album "First Things First" by ordering directly from him. This stuff is just too good to leave behind.

I'm just a man in a world full of men just like me
With a heart full of questions and answers
That seem to be somewhat connected
And a head full of preconceived notions
That manage to get in the way

And I find myself longing to return
Back to the place where I started
Back when I knew next to nothing
Back to the heart
Back to the heart of the matter
To the heart of the matter

Bob Bennett, "Heart of the Matter" from "Matters of the Heart" (available on iTunes)

P.S.: My other two online purchases were a Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 greatest hits album and Pat Metheny's "Still Life (Talking)." My mom had Brasil '66, Herb Alpert...stuff I thought was completely boring then (other than the cover art for "Whipped Cream"), but now I think they're the coolest (daddy-o). For me it brings to mind images of Peter Sellers and tiny Italian cars and women in sunglasses and scarves, with dialogue ever-so-slightly out of synch with the visuals, in all those films I was vaguely aware of but only saw much later on TV or on video (how many Pink Panther movies were there, anyway?).

I may be tempted to decorate my apartment in earthtones, sit around in a Nehru jacket and spout poetry now...but I'll take my chances. You're only young once, you know.

Monday, August 06, 2007

I suppose Dopey does their p.r.?

Everyone who paid attention in English class when the teacher was talking about misplaced modifiers 'n' such (I know I'm not the only nerd in the room) will get a kick out of this:

"Closed since 2002, Grumpy's is what Polk County night life is all about."

This is from a website blurb about a nightclub located on the banks of the Ocoee River in East Tennessee, explaining the history of the club and how it has "been reborn"...but the sentence above throws the whole pitch off-track a mite.

This would be especially funny to anyone who, like me, grew up in nearby Bradley County, since the folks from Polk County were the ones we tended to pick on for being backward, ignorant, etc. for whatever reason, justified or not. Even the most casual sociologist would tell you that every group has someone to look down on, regardless of how similar they are. For us, the term "Polk County" said with a smirk was the understood joke that no one ever explained or felt a need to explain. I'm over that prejudice now...but I still think this is funny.