Thursday, April 17, 2008

Power brokers pow-wow on power usage

The vacuum in my schedule continues to suck in all sorts of ways to waste time. So what's one more?

From the Tennessean:

"Prominent activist Robert Kennedy Jr. spoke to music industry leaders at the home of Emmylou Harris on Tuesday night about the growing environmental crises....

He was part of the Natural Resources Defense Council's gathering that attracted Sheryl Crow, Kathy Mattea, Big Kenny and Christiev Alphin, Matraca Berg and Jeff Hanna, J.D. Souther and Mayor Karl Dean and Anne Davis. Warner Bros.' John Esposito and Bill Bennett attended, as well as power managers Gary Borman and Ken Levitan.

NRDC's Allen Hershkowitz, who also spoke, said the music industry is progressive and has historically aligned itself with meaningful causes such as civil rights, peace and gender equality. So we wanted to identify and inform these leaders in the music industry about the liability that they unknowingly may be imposing on future generations by buying power to record and market their records from utilities using mountaintop-mined coal."

On the positive side, it's nice to see the political power of music recognized, and harnessed for an apparently good cause. If you think about it, the top is the best part of the mountain! But obviously the real agenda of the meeting was to get the music industry to help spread the message, maybe by putting out songs to move providers to stop destroying mountains to get coal. Fair enough, although it would've been nice if they'd been a little more up front with their aims. Surely they don't expect the music industry to use less power...I can see the results now:

Comments heard in the studio:

• "OK, we've used up all our non-mountaintop coal power allotment. Everybody take five while we plug the equipment into the alternate source for this last song. Cooter, put down that fiddle and jump on the bike; at least we know you can PEDAL on key!"

• "Billy Bob, they I see that methane is one of the approved low-impact energy sources. I told you that third helping of beans at lunch was a good idear!"

• "I heard Big Kenny's next single is gonna be called "Save A Mountaintop, Record An EP."

• "And Natalie Maines is doing a new version of the classic 'I'm Just An Old Chunk of Coal.' It's called 'I'm Just A Big Bag Of Wind.'"

And from Music Row magazine: "Industry sources are flocking to release new product on a new, mountaintop-friendly media: mp3's are quickly being replaced by wax cylinders, recorded on a hand-cranked machine. They're a little bulky, but they're nearly impossible to download illegally. Many listeners prefer the new media over the polished digital sound, especially for the 'pitchy' effect on vocals. 'It's just like hearing them sing live!' said one fan."

I know I'm missing an obvious "Coal Miner's Daughter" joke. Anyone? Feel free to pile on the silly sarcasm train.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Why I'm a dog person

In case you needed a pep talk today

Coach McGuirk is my favorite character on what is possibly my favorite show on TV, "Home Movies" (4-6 times a week--this is cable, folks). Adult Swim on the Cartoon Network at night, has some really good stuff, some really strange stuff, some really offensive stuff, and some stuff that is a combination of all the above. "Home Movies" is one of the more normal shows, about an 8-yr-old aspiring filmmaker...sort of the Woody Allen of the sandbox set (yes, they're too old for sandboxes, but they're cool with it).

Here's the followup "twist" to the story (SPOILER it makes a difference).

And in case the pep talk hasn't worked and things don't go so well, you may need to apply the "Slaughter Rule" (something of which I'm sure all coaches are aware).

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Idiomatic Responses

The story that accompanied this list of “creative” approaches to time-worn phrases says that a first-grade schoolteacher presented each of her twenty-six students the first half of a well-known proverb, and asked them to come up with the remainder of the proverb. Whether you choose to believe that actually happened or not depends on how much faith you place in e-mail forwards. But it’s funny stuff, regardless.

1. Don't change horses...
until they stop running.
2. Strike while the...
bug is close.
3. It's always darkest before...
Daylight Saving Time.
4. Never underestimate the power of...
5. You can lead a horse to water but...
6. Don't bite the hand that...
looks dirty.
7. No news is...
8. A miss is as good as a...
9. You can't teach an old dog new...
10. If you lie down with dogs, you'll...
stink in the morning.
11. Love all, trust...
12. The pen is mightier than the...
13. An idle mind is...
the best way to relax.
14. Where there's smoke there's...
15. Happy the bride who...
gets all the presents.
16. A penny saved is...
not much.
17. Two's company, three's...
the Musketeers.
18. Don't put off till tomorrow what...
you put on to go to bed.
19. Laugh and the whole world laughs with you, cry and...
you have to blow your nose.
20. There are none so blind as...
Stevie Wonder.
21. Children should be seen and not...
spanked or grounded.
22. If at first you don't succeed...
get new batteries.
23. You get out of something only what you...
see in the picture on the box
24. When the blind lead the blind...
get out of the way.
25. A bird in the hand...
is going to poop on you.
26. Better late than...

Mike Roe & co. rock the house

...And by "house" I mean an actual house, where people live, eat, sleep, watch TV, etc.

This past Sunday saw a gathering of phenomenal talents and those of us who've enjoyed them for--in some cases--decades. This was a house concert featuring Mike Roe of the 77's, a band that has been around, in one configuration of the other, since the late 70's. Possibly since 1977? Just a guess. Their first album was one my earliest purchases of what was termed "Christian rock" and later "Christian alternative" and now, well, whatever you call it, they're not likely to have it at the Wal-Mart. The album was called Ping Pong Over the Abyss (an inside recording engineer's joke with apocalyptic connotations--again, a guess, but this time a better-educated one). It showed a number of influences including Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, and the punk bands of the time that I mostly ignored except when they were on Saturday Night Live. The 77's incorporated all those styles and more into their own and only improved from there.

The concert was a preview of the forthcoming 77's album, featuring some very old songs in the gospel blues vein, given a respectful rock 'n' roll treatment without losing the dignity or power of the original message. It also featured our hosts, still in cultural transition from their former home of Chicago, performing as The Wayside as opening act.

As a bonus, some of the key figures from other bands that shared the small but intense spotlight with the 77's during the 80's shared the--uh, dining room with Mike: Jimmy A of Vector, Steve Hindalong of the Choir, Phil Madeira of--well, lots of things--and Matt Slocum of Sixpence None the Richer (Matt actually bowed his cello in the kitchen due to space restrictions). Really a cool day.

Mike joked that whenever he finds himself in the "throes of despair" on any given Sunday afternoon at home in Southern California, he cheers himself up by imagining that folks in Nashville are getting together to play the old songs, just like he was doing that day. It doesn't happen as often as I'd like (as far as I know). But at least this day the fantasy was a reality.

Go to the 77's myspace for some samples of past glory, and the official 77's site for everything else. And don't forget to wipe your feet; you weren't raised in a barn.

Monday, April 14, 2008

What is reality, after all?

In today's Tennessean celebrity column, Beverly Keel posed a question:

This is interesting: I was forwarded an e-mail from a casting agency that's holding an urgent casting call for an unsigned male country singer between 16 and 23 with teen heartthrob good looks. 'Think a country music Zac Ephron or young Brad Pitt.'

The e-mail says it's for immediate inclusion in the cast of NBC's Nashville Star. Didn't they find enough talent in their national search that attracted more than 25,000? Is it fair to bring in a "ringer"?

I thought it worth a response, reprinted here for your reading pleasure (or whatever):

In the contestant's application, it says:
"Contestants will be selected by Producer from the events, videotape submissions and other ways as Producer may determine in its sole discretion."

That means "Nashville Star" producers can pick contestants any way they want to, and can ignore any or all of the people discovered in the audition process. Not saying they will, just that they could.

But for what it's worth, at least one reality show does not draw its talent from the undiscovered masses as one would assume. Those who audition for "Last Comic Standing" watch comics being ushered past the line into the clubs, while they compete for attention with overworked production assistants. Most or all the contestants who make the show are professionals and many or all have pre-existing management deals with the producers. The other comics in the audition clips--all those wannabes who are not funny or downright delusional (my favorite part of any of these shows)--never have a chance. This is all within the rules of the show. Some may remember when Drew Carey stalked out after the guest judges' decision was overruled by the producers' because he had thought his vote mattered.

"American Idol" has been accused of doing the same thing, based on the previous industry experience (incl. record deals, common songwriters for past material, etc.) of many of the recent contestants, but I've never seen proof that they didn't have to pass the open-call auditions. As far as I know, the only advantage they have is the talent and knowledge an inexperienced amateur wouldn't have. As far as I know.

"Gone Country" would be an example of even the final results being at the total discretion of the producers. John Rich ticked off a lot of viewers by choosing Julio Iglesias, Jr. over Diana DeGarmo, because the assumption was that he was looking for someone who would be likely to be successful in the current U.S. country music market. Our mistake. Oh well.

Bottom line: The "reality" in reality TV contest shows is that they're entertainment, not the electoral process. The resemblance to real life is coincidental. Whether it's many things, I guess it depends on which side of the velvet rope you find yourself.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Have mercy

(BEFORE YOU CLICK: Be aware that the website takes time to load, then music comes on automatically)

I'm looking forward to taking part in some of the 25th anniversary celebration of Mercy Ministries next weekend. I've been moderately aware of this organization for a while, but was touched when I heard its founder and president, Nancy Alcorn, on the radio the other day. I was already considering attending the men's breakfast, and now it's a plan.

One of the points Nancy made was that without any spiritual element, rehab is useless and temporary, as she learned in her years of working in government programs, and seeing girls return to their old ways not long after finishing their time with her. Sometimes you just gotta preach if you want the message to stick. I can think of a few people in Hollywood that could stand to hear it.

Here's a link to a pdf flyer so you can download, print & share:


Thursday, April 17th:
Gala reception and dinner at Titans Stadium
Masters of Ceremonies include Kevin Mawae of the Tennessee Titans and Shelly Breen of Point of Grace. Special guest appearance by Niki Taylor, international supermodel. Special music by CeCe Winans. Special message from Nancy Alcorn, Founder and President of Mercy Ministries.

Friday, April 18th:
Concert at Belmont University
Featuring Mandisa, CeCe Winans, BarlowGirl, Israel Houghton and New Breed, Natalie Grant, and Point of Grace.

Saturday, April 19th:
Men's Breakfast
9 a.m., Loews Vanderbilt, West End Ave.
Featuring author and speaker Ken Mansfield, former manager of the Beatles' Apple Records and best-selling author of The White Book: The Beatles, the Bands, the Biz: An Insider's Look at an Era. Ken will be showing an exclusive behind-the-scene film of himself and the Beatles. For more on Ken, check out Special Music: Performances by CCM "pioneer" Randy Stonehill and virtuoso guitarist, Phil Keaggy.

Also Saturday, April 19:
"Celebrate Mercy" Women's Conference
9:30 a.m. - 9:30 p.m., Belmont University
Featured speakers include Mercy Ministries international founder, Nancy Alcorn, speaker and author Charlotte Scanlon-Gambill, former actress and best-selling author, Holly Wagner, internationally known speaker and author, Christine Caine, and motivational speaker, Priscilla Shirer. Worship will be led by Israel Houghton and New Breed and special music provided by Natalie Grant.