Thursday, December 17, 2009

Makin' music at the Mudpie

Come by, have a bite and enjoy!

I’ll be sharing the stage with Charlsey Etheridge (bluesy acoustic pop, a la Sheryl Crow) and Brandon Maddox (clean-cut country, with a tip of the hat to George Strait). Like me, they're "ex-pats"--former Chatt-areans now living in Nashville. Come witness the homecoming!

BTW, the Mudpie is surrounded by shops full of those items women describe as "so cute" and men "thatsnicehowmuchisit."

Saturday, December 26, 2009
11:30 am - 1:30 pm*
(or later, depending on YOU, the audience)

Mudpie Restaurant
12 Frazier Ave., Chattanooga, TN 37405
Phone: 423-267-9043
FREE admission (but bring a couple bucks for tips; we're not poor, but we're not proud, either)

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

For the ladies: a Breath of Heaven

Here's one for the ladies...or for the guys who see no irony in Frasier Crane's affinity for bath salts and aromatherapy. Contact my friend Diane to purchase. (Click the pic for details).

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Give love, give time, GIVE5

I'll be playing this very cool event on Sunday Dec. 13. My half-hour (give or take) set starts at 6pm at Market St. Tavern. GIVE5 is a 4-venue, nearly-all-day fundraiser. Proceeds will help support a couple of families who are in transition out of homelessness. A mere $5 gets you in any or all venues you choose to go to, for the duration of the event (1pm to around 9pm).

I'll be following an electronic music outfit called Digital Butter. Can you say "palate cleanser"? Vive le diversité!

Here's the website; check out the video that describes the purpose and history of GIVE5.

Here's the list of venues:
Market Street Tavern
850 Market Street, Chattanooga, TN 37402

Tremont Tavern
1203 Hixson Pike, Chattanooga, TN 37405

Bessie Smith Performance Hall
at the Chattanooga African American Museum
200 E Martin Luther King Blvd., Chattanooga, TN 37403

J.J.'s Bohemia
231 East M L King Boulevard, Chattanooga, TN 37403

Saturday, December 05, 2009

"As We Forgive" on DVD

See this post for reasons why you should see this film. Trust me.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Catch me at the Celtic Cup

Come by, grab a cup of something warm, and sing along as the holiday mood strikes you! Assuming you recognize the songs. I’ll have Kathy Von along; she’s a very talented singer/songwriter with a mesmerizing voice. Happens to be from South Africa originally, so I was very glad to meet her when we ended up in a writers round a few weeks ago at the Commodore Grille. (Did I mention I've been to South Africa?).

AND we’ll have Dave Mohr on guitar as well. A veritable party unto ourselves! But you’re welcome, too.

Friday, Dec. 4
6:00 pm to closing at The Celtic Cup Coffee House
106 North Anderson Street, Tullahoma, Tennessee 37388

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

You can be an "angel" too

This promises to be a great night of music for a great cause.

November is National Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, and the $5 you donate at the door goes to PANCAN. As if it weren't already worth braving the chill and the sketchy parking choices, with these folks on the bill:

Angaleena Presley
Brent Anderson
The Honky Tonk Angels
and Heather Morgan (pictured here in a rare pensive moment).

Everyone is encouraged to wear purple. No matter how badly it clashes with everything else you own. Make it work. If you were a big fan of the Donny & Marie TV show and were the type to accessorize based on your adulation of the one who leaned toward being "a little bit rock 'n' roll," then you may just be able to find appropriate attire in your sock drawer. If not, then I apologize for this extremely obscure series of references. (For the record, I was in it for those close shots of Marie's angelic beauty; I don't think I'm quite over her, but I'm working on it).

Friday, Nov. 6, starting at or around 9pm
The 5 Spot
1006 Forrest Ave., Nashville, Tennessee 37206

Friday, October 02, 2009

Bring your bouzouki, we'll jam

As you can (possibly) see*, I'll be performing Thursday, October 15, at the 2nd Ave. Cafe, a restaurant in the historic railroad town of Cowan, TN, at the foot of Monteagle. I understand Chef John applies his considerable talents to a variety of dishes featuring (but not limited to) Greek cuisine. No cover, but bring an appetite! I won't be setting anything on fire (I prefer to leave that to the professionals), but yelling "opah!" at appropriate moments will be allowed.

The music starts around 7 pm and ends around 9 pm. I'll be offering an eclectic blend of acoustic folk/pop originals...and songs you already like. If you are handy with a conga, or can add some lead guitar, lemme know; I could use the company! The address is 204 Cumberland Street East, in case you like to use that nifty GPS. See and/or call (931) 962-8599 for info.

Caution: Jokes based on or ending with the phrase "it's all Greek to me" may result in the perpetrator(s) being ejected from the premises.

*(Click here for a larger, print-ready file. I realize this picture makes me seem like I take myself very seriously. Too seriously. Gotta get that smiling shot made.)

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Can you say no to this face?

I ran across this picture today and it was too cute not to share. Make sure and check out the slogan on her T-shirt.

And if this motivates you to put feet to your prayers for a cure for cancer, here's an event where you can do that literally: the 2009 Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event. In Nashville it will happen at LP Field at the stadium (at this point, most Nashvillians are glad to associate that place with something other than the Titans).

Friday, September 25, 2009

Sweetwater Rose

This oughta be good. Music, food...and a chance to stare at four beautiful women for an hour, and know they'll not only not be offended, they'll be grateful for the attention! I just don't understand the bias against female musicians I keep hearing about in Nashville. Just don't get it.

Check out Sweetwater Rose.

P.S.: This is how they looked in action on Wednesday. And sounded just as good, as hard as that may be to believe.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Soundtrack for a love story

I got one the best e-mails EVER not long ago. The kind that reminds me why I write songs and why I should keep at it. The author gave me permission to share it, and I hope anyone reading this will apply the same "lesson" to their own passionate pursuits and labors of love. Sometimes you get a royalty check, and sometimes you get something really valuable (not that there's anything wrong with a check!).

To give some background: I was in picturesque Ashland, Oregon for two years (1990-92) as a volunteer under a missions program called US-2, loosely modeled after the Peace Corps. I was there to help local Southern Baptist churches to serve two "constituencies": the students & faculty at Southern Oregon State College (now S.O.U.), and the tourists & workers in local leisure-oriented activities such as the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and rafting on the Rogue River.

Since there was already a very active (non-Southern) Baptist student ministry on campus, I often offered my services in cooperation with them, and generally enjoyed their company. Toward the end of my time in Oregon, this group (called IMPACT) indulged me by allowing me to do a mini-concert at one of their meetings.

I had been doing what I could to get my songs on tape (cassettes...remember them?) and get them out to what I hoped was a clamoring public (or would be eventually). I had cobbled together some recordings into a custom cassette called "Songs About Us" (also creating the artwork, done in black & white for that abstract look...and to make it cheap to reproduce), made about 100 copies and offered them for sale.

Fast-forward to the present (whoo...dizzy...OK...). I got an e-mail asking if I was the Mark Hall who had put out the above-mentioned cassette. I had to admit to it, and made clear it was too late for a refund. Then the woman proceeded to bless me with this:

Well this story will involve us traveling back in our time machines… to a time of mullet hair cuts and poufy spiral perms…

I had been attending SOSC and had a roommate that was a Christian. During that time I was really searching to know the truth about God and to find out what it meant to have a personal relationship with Him. My friend, Cathy, invited me to a worship night there at the college. I remember learning to get to know God in a new way while attending there. I remember listening to some Rich Mullins songs for the first time, “Awesome God” and “Mighty Warrior” – really worshiping through song - was all new and exciting to me.

During this time frame, I had also attended an Athletes in Action basketball game, with my boyfriend, that our SOSC basketball players were playing against…During half time (while the SOSC players were trying to come up with a strategy that might work) the Athletes in Action took turns sharing their testimonies with the crowd. That was the day that I had answered the aching call that He had put on my heart and had been cultivating at those worship times at the college… that was the moment I made a commitment to follow Jesus as my Lord and Savior.

Some time passed and my boyfriend, who was already a Christian, had proposed to me and we had decided to put Christ first in our marriage …and we were both navigating in uncharted waters on how to do that… we had started attending a local church together… Sunday school classes… etc.. (First Baptist Church in Ashland).

… At one of those worship nights at the college you were there, probably at more than a few (my memory is a bit swiss cheesy at this point)… I remember hearing you play some of your songs from your cassette. I remember being especially moved by “In His Love” that you played. I remember longing to follow the Lord in our marriage the way the song described. I remember using what money I had to purchase your cassette, with great joy in my heart.

We wanted to have you sing it at our wedding but we couldn’t work it out (I think you had left at that point… Sept’92)… so we did the next best thing and we had played your tape at our wedding as we gazed into each other’s eyes. That song was somewhat part of the vows that we shared with each other in our hearts that day. Over the years, as we have listened to that song (I made a copy onto another cassette so we didn’t wear out the original)… it has brought us to that moment at our wedding when our hearts were fresh and newly focused on Jesus… God has used it as an encouragement, strengthener and guide. We have definitely had hard times (Chris is in the Army and has been deployed three times, I have had some close calls with my health.. to include cancer/chemo etc…) through out it all we have held on to the One who is faithful to us all and we have grown in His love.

As I look back and remember that our parents gave us the best of what they knew, they really couldn’t tell us the advice that we needed to hear as we started out on our journey of our lives together. I can see now, as I look back, that the Lord used you, and that song, to minister to us, it was our loving Father giving us all the advice we would need on our wedding day. That was the first time I ever heard, really heard, about how He really will grow Chris and my love into a love like no other, how He will provide us the dreams and their fulfillment, how we can face whatever trials lie ahead while clinging to Him, how I could know the blessings of His presence through the power of His Word, about His forever Love that can be forever trusted.

I have looked a number of times for you over the internet, always longing to tell you these words…

Thank you Mark for being such a faithful servant to our Lord. God truly used you in a mighty way in our lives. Thank you for putting to music the song of our hearts.

Chris and I are celebrating 17 years of marriage this September. We are still joy-filled newlyweds because we have His love.

Thank you.
In Jesus love,


To conclude this Casey Kasem-meets-Delilah moment...the name of the song is "In His Love." It was originally inspired by the then-impending nuptials of my college friends, Jeff & Alice (also still together). You can read the lyrics and listen to the song by clicking the links below...but please forgive the less-than-stellar recording and engineering skills involved in the recording. Apparently it was good enough for Chris & Donna to provide the soundtrack for what must have been a very romantic staring contest at their wedding, so that's something!

The funny part of this (to me) is that I've never been married, and yet these two learned about marriage from my song. Just goes to show how God can do astonishing things with our "loaves and fishes" (in my case, some keen observations and sappy idealism combined with solid scriptural principles and maybe a bit of James Dobson) on those rare occasions when we allow Him permission (and sometimes even when we don't).

By the way, I fully realize the very likely possibility that my motives for sharing this are completely self-serving. But I figure it's worth the risk; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 says it better than I could (for reasons I hope I don't have to explain, though I'll be glad to if necessary!).

Happy anniversary, y'all!

In His Love lyrics

In His Love mp3

(Right-click each link and "Save target as..." to download each file directly)

Monday, August 31, 2009

Their casa was our casa

It was the best of times, it was...well, the best!

Had a great a trip to my college town of Knoxville this past weekend. But as much as I enjoyed the usual reminiscing and rekindling of friendships (Facebook can't replace a beaming smile and a handshake from an old friend--or fist-bump when that friend has swine flu), it was more about right now than remember when.

My first stop on Friday evening (not counting a couple of errands on the way out of town and a quick visit to at Wendy's off the highway) was the home of Bryan and Wanda Smith, hosts of Pine Ridge House Concerts. They open their home on a regular basis to high-caliber musicians and the folks who love to hear what they do, and their living room becomes a performance hall. Chris West and Keith Garrett of the country/bluegrass group Blue Moon Rising were the featured guests. I hope to return to Pine Ridge again, preferably as a performer as well as a music lover.

Afterward, on the 30-minute drive to my motel, my "check engine" light came on. Since I had checked to make sure the engine was there before I left, and had hard evidence it still was, and since the car wasn't exhibiting symptoms of sickness--and mainly since I doubted I could find a mechanic at midnight on a Friday--I could only keep driving and give up my plan to sleep late the next day so I could have someone check it.

Next morning I found a Firestone around the corner that was willing to take my money to turn off the light. In the process they told me I needed new oxygen sensors, and a few new light bulbs, and new wiper blades. Wiper blades? That computer diagnostic gizmo must be SMART. I made the assumption that 1) I should probably get the oxygen sensors in case they were actually needed; 2) I should probably go ahead and spend too much on lamps and bulbs to reduce the chance of getting pulled over (those really can be tough to get at, according to the other mechanics that charge me less to replace them); 3) I should draw the line at their offer to replace my wiper blades for over $30...gotta be tough or they'll run all over you; 4) they probably wished they had more customers like me. I chose to consider it a blessing (and close enough to a sign for a Baptist) that the Firestone was so close to the motel. Convenience can take on divine significance when you're on the road.

Then it was off to the campus of the University of Tennessee (my ties to UTK go way back) for the original reason I decided to make the trip. The Baptist Collegiate Ministries (formerly known as Baptist Student Union, before these young upstarts messed with tradition and renamed it) has expanded and renovated the historic house where the organization formerly known as BSU has been housed since the early 60's. So they were showing off the results of the work of thousands of volunteers, and the prayers of even more. Bob Hall (no relation) has been director since before I attended, and was there despite his flu, bumping fists in lieu of handshakes and no doubt thrilled to cut the ribbon on the "new old" structure. A mix of long-haired, gray-haired and no-haired students and alumni gathered in the new worship center upstairs for the program followed by tours of the building ("that's where I lived"..."that's where I stayed up typing my papers"..."that's where I was 'trapped' in my room while I overheard Jeff break up with Melissa, because our rooms had those open-slat doors that were designed to offer only partial privacy; awkward times").

Then it was on to what had by now become the Main Event for me. Got to Doug's house and relaxed a little. When our featured musician Pat Terry got there--and after the downpour allowed him to get out of his car--we started setting up in the basement for the concert (too wet outdoors--fine with me!). We couldn't get rid of a electrical buzz in my amp so we used Doug's sound system instead (oh, well, I needed that lugging exercise anyway).

Folks eventually trickled in and we all shared a potluck dinner; just sitting with someone with Pat's musical experience and sharing stories and commentary would've made the trip worth it for me. It went too fast.

Downstairs, flanked by walls full of books that gave an intellectual air to the proceedings, I opened the concert with my usual mix of mostly-lighthearted banter between imperfectly-presented songs; the folks squeezed into various chairs around the room were very receptive to both.

Then Pat Terry came up and proceeded to captivate the audience on a whole new level, alternately making us laugh and think (sometimes even simultaneously) with songs like "Jump On It" (Granny's on the front porch/Spittin' in a cup"), "The Gift of Mercy," and one of my favorites from his new CD, "If Jesus Was Like Me." He shared stories about meeting country luminaries such as Travis Tritt and Alan Jackson, having them say "I think you sang at my church once," and then eventually seeing them record his songs. Jackson had actually sung one of Pat's songs at his own wedding; that song was included in a CD insert in Denise Jackson's book about marriage. Wow.

And having been made acutely aware of how many fans of his old stuff there were in the room, he obliged by pulling out some gems from the 70's & 80's and delighted us all. "Common Bond," "Yard Sale," and "In My Dream" were among the songs that introduced me to Pat's talents in college, and I was privileged to play them on WUTK. Such a cool experience to see the "artist" side of hime shine on these songs.

After the concert, I shared in a short jam session with some guitar buddies, then had a late night sandwich and living room chat with my hosts. I finally went to bed, no doubt to the relief of Doug's patient and gracious wife Kelly.

On the way home, I attended church with my college roommate Dan, and had lunch with him along with his wife Kimberly, also a college friend (they say I introduced them, but I don't remember), and their two boys (who apparently share my taste in restaurants; good for them).

After an escort to the highway by the family (thanks, Dan...I didn't really need for you to go ALL the way to I-40; hope you were going anyway!), it was "on the road again." I made it to within 30 minutes of home before I made my first gas stop of the trip. That's why I didn't qualify for the Cash for Clunkers program; I was too responsible in my car choice to begin with. That's how I'm spinning it, anyway.

Can't wait to go back! What'cha doin' next week, Doug?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Be a DAD for South Africa

Bono did his part...G.W.Bush did his it's your turn to be a hero to the children of South Africa. For only a Dollar A Day, you can be a DAD. (Get it?).

Living Hope is an organization made up of some really amazing people in Cape Town who've seen what can only be described as miracles as a result of their faithfulness. This group is losing a huge chunk of its budget formerly supplied by PEPFAR funds (supplied by you and me, my fellow taxpayer, thanks in large part to the leadership of the former administration and the exhortation of the U2 frontman; an odd marriage of interests if ever there was one). This means their work, essential in preventing the continued destruction of life and hope in their nation by AIDS, is facing a crisis of its own.

Can we help? Answer: YES WE CAN! (Get the ironic reference? Good, just checking). See the 2-minute video for info on how.

And here's the 6-minute version with more details.

For info on my own involvement with this group of great folks, scroll down and see the links on the right side of this page.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pat Terry house concert August 29!

Really looking forward to this gig! One of my songwriting heroes, Pat Terry, has agreed to share a carport stage with me at a house concert (well, after me, actually). Between his fans and my friends (new and old), and thanks to the generosity of host Doug Floyd in Louisville, Tennessee, it should be a good time for all. That's Saturday evening, August 29.

Louisville is near my alma mater, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and I'm hoping I'll get to see some college friends. (My friend Bob, who puts the "fanatic" in "UT sports fan," was quick to note this event is a week before the first football game of the we're safe. Thanks, Bob).

Coincidentally, ancestors of mine via both my maternal grandparents, the Kelly's and the Vaughts, lived & worked in the area c. 1800 before moving further south. It seems likely they knew each other, given that Alexander Kelly owned a mill and represented the county in the new state legislature. So this concert will be a reunion on many levels (if some are only in my imagination).

Y'all come (and bring a chair)!

Download the press release here
Download a print-ready picture of Pat Terry here
...and share the jpeg flyer below (click to see the full-size image).

Hit songwriter and veteran music artist Pat Terry will be the featured artist at a house concert at the home of Doug Floyd in Louisville, Tennessee, on Saturday, August 29.

Following an optional potluck dinner at 6 p.m., Nashville songwriter Mark Kelly Hall will open the concert at 7:30 p.m. Both will perform songs written mostly for grownups but fit for the whole family, celebrating life, love, faith and trampolines.

Pat Terry is well known to many from his days in the Pat Terry Group, part of the first wave of contemporary Christian music, a.k.a. "Jesus Music," in the 70's.

By the 80's Terry had gone solo as an artist. Feeling the need to reach beyond the mold of the CCM market, Terry penned lyrics that were more introspective and less overtly "religious" in some cases but still spiritually sound, and with greater artistic depth. His talents continued to find an outlet in the Nashville country market; his songwriting credits include "National Working Woman's Holiday" (Sammy Kershaw), "It's a Little Too Late" (Tanya Tucker) and Travis Tritt’s first #1 single, "Help Me Hold On."

On Terry’s new independent release, “Laugh For a Million Years,” this been-there-done-that artist offers songs that offer not only the wisdom of experience but also enough passion, hope and humor to inspire much younger souls. Declaring that it’s a “Brand New Day,” dreaming of “Someplace Green,” and pondering what it would be like “If Jesus Was Like Me,” Terry’s songs touch all the bases of his storied career, and head for home.

Mark Kelly Hall's songs reflect the spiritual heritage of the Bible-belt South, combined with a lifelong fascination with American pop culture. Since his years as a student at the University of Tennessee, church-related volunteer work has taken him and his guitar to Puerto Rico, Harlem, Hawaii, the Pacific Northwest, Minsk and, most recently, South Africa.

Hall offers a disclaimer:
“I’m not famous—I don’t even know many famous people, including that other Mark Hall who has all those Dove awards—I don’t have what most people consider success in the music industry, I don’t do any great guitar licks, and I’m not bad-looking but I’m no model. But I do have something to say, and I’ve been told I’m a pretty good writer and a decent performer, and I get a laugh now and then—usually on purpose—so I do what I can to make my time on stage better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. And I hope the audience enjoys it, too.”

“Whosoever will” may attend. Reservations are suggested, but not required. A suggested donation will be requested at the door (or near it). Attendees should bring a lawn chair (bean bags also welcome). Early arrivals (6 p.m.) may bring dinner or a potluck dish to share. For more info, including address and directions, contact host Doug Floyd at or 865-983-9015.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

I can relate

Lifted from Facebook:

United Airlines luggage handlers broke this guy's guitar and passengers in the plane witnessed it getting tossed around. After a year of trying to get United to pay, this guy wrote a song about it.

Click here for more details.

I had something similar happen on a Spring Break mission trip to Puerto Rico in 1985. When we landed, I was dismayed to find my guitar looking like this coming off the belt, with all the socks, T-shirts I had stuffed in it (I used all the space I had available!) spilling out:

I used to have a picture of what it looked like inside the case. I carried the picture on a trip or two after that to help convince the flight crew they needed to let me carry the guitar on. I lost it at some point. Painful memory, anyway.

The good news was that I had recently been given a new guitar (after telling my dad I put it on layaway already, and would never ask for another Christmas present again!) and planned to sell this one cheap when I got back. And Delta apologized and paid me all I requested.

Plus I got a laugh when I told everyone it looked like they used it to stop the plane. Hopefully they have other techniques by now.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

June Jaunt; or Down Yonder and Back Again

No time to add more details than the captions of these pics, but suffice it say my trip south this past weekend was a good one. What a great country, and what a great part of the country to live in. Among many things I'm all the more thankful for: reliable cars, smooth highways and Google Maps. Not to mention the Eagles, Jackson Browne, the Allman Bros. and Atlanta Rhythm Section. Who would've thought ten years ago I'd be old school now for using printed maps and a CD player? Whatever.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Chonda & friends bring the funny

The Christian Comedy Association presents a showcase performance on Sunday, May 31, at 6:00 p.m. at World Outreach Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Chonda Pierce will host the event, and compete for laughs with—er, graciously introduce—some of her fellow CCA members, including pro comics Thor Ramsey, Ken Davis and Michael Joiner. These folks are living proof that God truly does have a sense of humor. Take that any way you want.

Tickets are $10 if purchased at the church, or (for those who are less easily taken in by this blatant attempt at proselytizing) $11.50 if purchased online from a safe distance. For more info or tech support call the church at (615) 896-4515.

*(Tickets may also be available at the door, but bring cash; those American Express commercials don’t always tell the whole story).

This event kicks off the annual CCA conference, which runs through Tuesday, June 2, also held at the church. The conference will encourage, instruct and challenge those interested in pursuing comedy for a living (psychological evaluations encouraged, but not required). The event will include seminars and critiques by professional comics, worship music by Clay Crosse, and a special presentation from financial advisor/author/radio host Dave Ramsey (a man who has gotten his share of laughs in his time by advising people to save money and avoid using credit cards…but who’s laughing now, right, Dave?).

Monday, May 18, 2009

"As We Forgive"--worth a look

It's hard to imagine the kind of horror that went on during the tragic slaughter in Rwanda in 1994. Bad enough to lose a family member; worse to see them killed. But to have former friends and neighbors taking an active--even gleeful--part in the killing, and knowing you might be next, while talk radio eggs on the perpetrators...unimaginable.

This film looks at the alternative to revenge and lifelong hatred. Sometimes it takes the worst-case scenario to show us that the principles of forgiveness and reconciliation are not just lofty ideals we hear about at church, but vital tools of spiritual survival.

From the website of "As We Forgive," playing at the Belcourt in Nashville this Thursday at 8pm:


Could you forgive a person who murdered your family? This is the question faced by the subjects of As We Forgive, a documentary about Rosaria and Chantal—two Rwandan women coming face-to-face with the men who slaughtered their families during the 1994 genocide. The subjects of As We Forgive speak for a nation still wracked by the grief of a genocide that killed one in eight Rwandans in 1994. Overwhelmed by an enormous backlog of court cases, the government has returned over 50,000 genocide perpetrators back to the very communities they helped to destroy. Without the hope of full justice, Rwanda has turned to a new solution: Reconciliation.

But can it be done? Can survivors truly forgive the killers who destroyed their families? Can the government expect this from its people? And can the church, which failed at moral leadership during the genocide, fit into the process of reconciliation today? In As We Forgive, director Laura Waters Hinson and narrator Mia Farrow explore these topics through the lives of four neighbors once caught in opposite tides of a genocidal bloodbath, and their extraordinary journey from death to life through forgiveness.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Playing the Commodore Saturday May 16

Looking forward to the writers round I've assembled for this Saturday at the Commodore Grille, an upscale establishment that even you can afford. Especially since parking and admission are both free.

Julie Gibb has a warmth in her voice and a gentle delivery that will draw you into her world before you realize it, but you'll be glad to have surrendered to her musical charms. Resistance is not only futile, it's downright irrational behavior in this case.

Joni Bishop knows her way around a guitar and a lyric (not to mention a dulcimer), and her blend of folk, country and gospel will have you tapping your toes and nodding your head in new appreciation for the familiar truth.

And then there's my dog-and-pony show (NOTE: no animals will be present on stage due to code restrictions).

We'll be on stage from 7-ish to 8-ish. This is songwriter time; science tells us that the longest-living people in the world are not slaves to the clock. I plan to be around awhile.

The Commodore Grille is on the first floor of the Holiday Inn Select, 2613 West End Avenue. Call 615-327-4707 for directions, room rates and pool temperature (if that's important info for you).

Come early, come hungry and enjoy!

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Everybody Loves Her

If you don't believe me, just ask'll see.

This video is a tribute to my mother in song and pictures. I surprised her with the song at Christmas, and sang it for her church a couple of weeks ago. And just in time for Mother's Day, I have a recording of it (rough, but audible).* So I put some pictures to it for you to enjoy. Nice to put that Communications degree and all that time watching TV to use.

In case you haven't guessed, I'm a little bit of a mama's boy, like most Southern men are on one level or another. Some of us are just man enough to admit it.

Click to see the video

P.S.: Here's another admirer of the kind of volunteer "work" my mom has done as part of the music therapy program of Memorial Hospital, Chattanooga. Don't know if he's seen her specifically, but it's close enough to a tribute for me!

*P.P.S.: I had James Gardner enhance the music with this talents, so this is the new & improved version. MKH, November 22, 2009

Sunday, May 03, 2009

They're coming to my parents' church

Forgive the Neil Diamond reference (yes, that's what it was), but this event is one worth mangling a pseudo-classic song. The African Children's Choir, known far and wide for their talents, their remarkable stories of joy in the face of hardship, and those irresistible smiles, will be performing at my parents little ol' church--Big Springs Baptist Church in Cleveland, TN, to be exact. This would be a good time for Clevelanders and Chattanoogans to break a habit for a week and go to a different church (or to church, period) on Sunday, May 17. Service starts at 10:45 a.m. I advise you to get there early.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

You'll laugh, you'll weep, you'll do some good

Here's a great event to check out, if you've been wondering what good thing you can do with that $20 bill you found in your spring jacket:~ CHONDA PIERCE and RICHIE McDONALD in CONCERT ~
April 16th at 7pm
New Vision Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, TN
For Tickets Call: 615.904.7170

Saturday, March 28, 2009

You can build on the basics, but you can't go beyond them

I don't claim to know a great deal about economic or political matters. From what I've seen, this makes me a perfect candidate for political office. But I digress.

I DO know that sometimes things don't SEEM to make sense because they DON'T make sense. In complex matters, we tend to assume the people who are involved in leadership know what they're talking about, and if we only knew as much as them, we'd agree.

But the current state of the world is proof that, generally speaking, the same basic principles of economics apply on a large scale as well as a small scale. If you don't have money, it's not wise to spend it on non-essentials and assume you'll be able to afford it eventually. If someone can't afford to buy a house, it's not wise to sell them one. If you make a bet, be sure you have the valuables to back it up (or at least a clear path to the back door).

So since it's not possible to elect Jim Rockford to office (what with his being a fictional character and all), maybe we could at least draft Dave Ramsey into an advisory position. Too bad more people haven't listened to him all the years he's been teaching financial principles that make sense. I'm including myself in this.

Here's an article that demonstrates my point. It's hard to say at this point that one political group or the other is to blame for the economy, because 1) no one really understands the economy and 2) too many people on both sides of the aisle were making bad decisions or failing to make good ones. But this article may be enlightening "for those who have ears to hear." (Hint: if you're a big fan of Barney Frank and/or the Democrats, you may not enjoy this).

Monday, March 23, 2009

Too bad we couldn't vote for this guy last November

I don't remember at what point I started watching "The Rockford Files," the crime drama with a touch of comedy that aired for six seasons in the 70's. Since it started when I was ten (in 1974), I doubt I was on board from the beginning. But by my high school years, Friday nights were "The Rockford Files" and Oreos fresh from the snacking bonanza that was grocery night. May not sound like much (don't worry, I'm making up the social losses now vicariously, through "Friday Night Lights"), but it was enjoyable and intellectually stimulating and a heck of a lot better than some of the stuff my peers and siblings were into.

I thought it was a cool show. Cool car, cool music, and a cool guy. His appeal was that, in a town that emphasized trendy fashions and outward appearances, he was a regular guy with a taste for cheap food and with flaws he readily admitted, but who made the best of his talents and did a lot for justice. The theme music said it all; cool L.A. rock accented by a bluesy harmonica that said "I'm me, take it or leave it." He was John Wayne in a Trans-Am.

And while he preferred not to get into more trouble than necessary, and despite his often-mentioned aversion to guns, he didn't run from a fight when it came to him (and fights did come, at the rate of at least one per episode). OK, sometimes he did run...and when he didn't, it was often because he was tied up or being held by a couple of big goons.... But he was prudent, is what I'm saying. This made him good at his job, regularly saved his life and, of course, brought much appreciation from the ladies. The latter was at approximately the same per-episode rate, including a character played by Lindsay Wagner, later to be known as Jamie Sommers, the original Bionic Woman. No wonder we admired him. And like "Richie Brockelman, Private Eye" (remember Richie?), we aspired to be like him.

And thanks to Netflix and the DVD nostalgia market, I've been gratified to see how right I was about this show; despite (or because of) the dial phones, primitive keyboard incidental music and the occasional shot of an AMC Gremlin or Chevy Nova, it still holds up. Or maybe I'm the same guy, with the same aspirations to be cool, drive a cool car, live an adventurous life...and date Jamie Sommers.

Wonder where I can get myself a dial phone?

Thursday, March 05, 2009

T-shirt slogans for people who don't like T-shirt slogans

I ran across an ad while wasting time on Facebook, and was glad I broke my usual policy of ignoring online ads. So I figured I'd waste more time by blogging about the funny stuff this company sells. (There, that intro adds about another 3 minutes wasted. At this rate, I won't have to go to bed at ALL).

Call them the anti-shirt...the meta-design...or simple old-fashioned parody, in the tradition of MAD Magazine. But some youngish folks have come up with some funny wearable ideas and made them available to purchase...or in my case ("in these tough economic times"--obligatory phrase out of the way), look at and laugh often. I can't endorse all the content of these designs, but I have to say, at least SOME of these kids today do know something about concept humor. And they're genuinely nostalgic and often truthful, all at the same time.

Some of my favorites are shown here. Go to the Busted Tees site to see the rest. Some are more subtle than others, and some aren't really trying to be funny. If you can't tell which, you're probably even older than me.

Again, I don't necessarily recommend ALL the designs...but "in these troubled economic--" wait, I already used that, never mind. Anyway, if you need a laugh, click away.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Reception is everything

The folks at my local PBS affiliate really know something about customer service. Or they reallllly need those pledges. Probably both. Here's proof.

Last year I sent an e-mail to Nashville Public Television (NPT) to request that they show my friend Elvis Wilson's great documentary about Lincoln presenters. Although I did get a response, unfortunately they missed the boat on that one, even though some of the presenters showed up in another Lincoln documentary the network aired. Maybe NEXT Lincoln bicentennial, eh guys?

Recently I noticed a problem with the picture I was getting from NPT. I assumed it had to do with the advent of the new digital broadcasting format (which I can only imagine has created a plethora of scam opportunities for those so inclined).

I took a gamble that someone was still actually reading viewer e-mails...and a further gamble that they would not be looking for a nominee for the "deluded viewer of the week" contest...and the following exchange ensued:

Sunday, February 01, 2009

I watch TV via Comcast cable in Nashville on a 4:3 TV. The picture I get from you is cut off on one or both sides, although the NPT logo is usually fully visible on the lower right. I miss vital info, captions, etc. because of this problem.

Is there something that can be done about this other than my buying a new TV? Seems the other stations allow letterboxing when the signal is in wider format. I'm thinking this is either your shortcoming or that of Comcast; at least one of you apparently doesn't care about those of us with 4:3 format TV's, maybe?

Thanks for any help you can offer.


Monday, February 02, 2009

Mr. Hall-

As you probably know, all local broadcasters are turning off their analog transmitters on February 17. It was this analog signal that Comcast previously aired on their cable system. In December, in preparation for this shutoff, Comcast switched to receiving NPT’s digital signal, which is broadcast in widescreen (16:9). They must set their receiver to either letterbox everything or crop everything; there is no option to change settings depending on the program. They chose to crop the 16:9 image so that every program fills the frame. Unfortunately, for native 16:9 programs, some of the image is missing.

We can request that Comcast set their receiver to letterbox, but that means that native 4:3 programs will be smaller in your screen, and have black bars all the way around the image. We’ve been discussing the pros and cons of this change internally, and have not made such a request to Comcast yet.

Given the choice between a full screen image with parts cropped off and letterboxing with a smaller image for 4:3 programs, which do you prefer? Your input will be helpful in deciding which choice is best for our viewers.

Thanks for your help in this matter.

Kevin Crane
V.P. Content & Technology
Nashville Public TV

Monday, February 02, 2009

Mr. Crane,

I see your dilemma.

Well, until/unless I get a new TV (or get a job selling them) my personal preference would be for the option where the whole picture is there, even if I have black around 4:3 programs.

I realize there are some people who think they're being cheated if every pixel isn't lit up. And since you tend to draw the kind of viewers who can afford new & multiple TV's, I also realize I may be in the minority in having one that still works despite its age (one of the reasons I like it; reminds me of me).

But then viewers in the first group are probably going to stretch to the max regardless; if they don't care about distorting the picture I wouldn't think they cared about a little extra black in the frame, if they noticed. And those in the second group are probably watching on satellite, where I assume it's not an issue. I know that if I had made a film, picked out fonts, etc., I would want my captions to be readable, as much as I want to be able to read them as a viewer.

So that's my opinion.

Thanks for your time and indulgence,


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Mr. Hall-

NPT recently started feeding Comcast a slightly cropped, slightly letterboxed image in an attempt to split the difference between these two unsatisfactory solutions. I hope this makes the NPT image look much better on your set.

Thanks for your input on this issue.

Kevin Crane
V.P. Content & Technology
Nashville Public TV

And I looked, and he was right. Now I have that bit of black on the top and bottom of my "retro" screen. And I assume I won't have to guess the first half of the names of people on Nova and Frontline. Pretty cool. Hopefully NPT won't be deluged by complaints from those people (especially with new TV's) who feel like they're being cheated if any space in a given format is not filled with stuff (the same people who don't see the value of white space on a printed page, especially if they're paying for the printing).

See? We CAN make a difference. A lesson for the kids out there. Heck, I might even VOTE in the next election.

(Kidding. I'm not THAT naive).

(Kidding again. I did vote. For what it was worth, which, from an individual numerical stance, was not much).

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Reminders of Africa

I've complained a bit about my new temp-to-permanent job I started on Jan. 8. I work for IKON Document Services, and our office handles printing for the Metro Government of Nashville and Davidson County (my former coworkers are giggling to read this; yes, I handle secret government files. Sort of. I did have to be fingerprinted). But despite the complaints, it's not bad, all things considered.

I'm definitely thankful to have a job at all these days, especially having been without work for a while. I'm downtown, so I feel like I'm in the middle of civic life, though it can have its disadvantages, such as the 5-10 minutes waiting outside for the short (often yellow) bus that transports Metro employees and vendors such as myself back to the parking lot across the river in the afternoons. I am in a basement with blue carpet...but I'm indoors (an important point given the freezing weather) working in graphics, and learning a few new things along the way (in the relational areas as well as technical). My art/design associates and former co-workers would probably either laugh or wince at the fact that I work on a pc, dealing mostly with Microsoft files, including Word and Publisher. A predecessor did pretty much everything in PhotoShop, including typesetting forms. "When your only tool is a hammer...." Thank God for the pdf file; kudos to Acrobat. And to Illustrator. Those Adobe folks rule.

I like making graphic documents look right, though I'm no genius at it. And one perk is the occasional personal high-quality print; filling my home with framed pictures of my life is one of those things that I can envision but have a hard time getting around to doing.

But I finally came up with something to put in this frame, handmade from wire by a South African (you knew I'd make the connection eventually). I didn't take the picture, but I was on the flight, and it does a lot to enhance my decorative nod to my South African experience (see the column full of info on the lower right of this page). This is the top of my CD shelf in my living room, next to my TV, so it's never far from my view at home. Along with the carved animals, also bought in Africa, it reminds me of the friends I've made through my experience with Living Hope in Cape Town. And maybe I'll even go back.

I was teasing a friend recently that her beloved collection of rubber duckies just might constitute a mild form of idolatry, as might another friend's collection of Star Wars figurines (not dolls--figurines. That's important), and many other cases where people own things to have them instead of to use them for their intended purpose (Toy Story 2, anyone?). This photo may not help my case; but of course the difference here is these things are intended to be decoration. And the CD's are to listen to, which I do. So take your best shot, Jennifer. (And yes, I see the irony, or whatever you'd call it, of the fact I'm offering idolatry topic when I'm a Baptist and work for a company called IKON).

* * *
P.S.: Even as I was writing this post, there was a Living Hope Partners Conference going on at my church, and several of my friends from South Africa were in town...I had forgotten about it! I couldn't have gone during the day, but I at least meant to drop by for the evening sessions, post-session coffee, etc. But it wasn't in my Outlook calendar, therefore it wasn't happening in my world. To quote the eloquent Homer Simpson...DOH!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Lights are back on

While we're taking care of relatively trivial matters (see intro to previous post) weekends are a little brighter since "Friday Night Lights" has come back for its third season, after I had assumed it had gone the way of other well-done, entertaining shows that are at once thought-provoking and emotionally satisfying...i.e. cancellation. I've seldom been happier to be wrong. OK, that's not saying much (see previous post).

The show features characters that are realistically drawn but have interesting lives (a tender balance). Admittedly they are statistically more attractive than the average sampling of the population, but then this is a show mostly about jocks, jocks' girlfriends, cheerleaders (the latter two often being the same), and former jocks and former jocks' wives. And yes, there's a stripper or two, but they're not the heroes. In fact, that aspect (the wrong-side-of-the-tracks girl trying to better herself) is one of the many good v. evil stories that make this show interesting. Not just us v. them, Bad Guy v. Good Guy, but the inner struggles to make the BEST choices as well as the RIGHT ones, and sometimes the consequences of making bad ones. There's not much glamour even for the jocks; the photography captures the grit and ordinary nature of life in a small Texas town, far from L.A. polish. The storylines do more to bring reality to the myths of the sports hero and the "cool crowd" than the other way around. The high school football game, as looming backdrop or as center stage, is the perfect metaphor for these dramas: the lofty dreams and distant goals of life, the angst of youth as well as the hardships of adulthood, and the victories that make it all worthwhile.

Something for everyone here. Sports, romance, family, adults who care about young people as a profession and as a personal passion...not to mention morality, the pursuit of excellence, self-sacrifice for the good of the community. Some actual religion--not very well portrayed up-close, and now the girl who found change through faith has become a fallen woman--easier to write, I suppose...but I give them credit for trying.

Plus, the Southern qualities are very genuine for network TV, even the accents! Someone in Hollywood finally realized not every Southerner talks like Scarlett O'Hara, and told some actors. Or maybe some of them are actual Southerners, too. Either way, I approve!

For me it's only occasionally reminiscent of my high school days, such as when the characters who are below the upper crust are on screen. Contrary to what I'll assume you would guess (don't correct me), I was not a jock, not part of the popular crowd, and didn't do much after school hours, including attending ball games, because I lived in the sticks and rode the bus until graduation. I was not an outcast either; one friend put me in the "intelligentsia" crowd. I could talk to girls as long as I wasn't asking them out, and I did go to pep rallies when they were during school hours.

I guess it's sheer vicarious in my mind through other people's experiences, for an hour, once a week. That's what TV is good for, and this is good TV.

Surreality TV

Here's a completely trivial reason to break the lull in the more-or-less one-way conversation that this blog is...and challenge the credibility of my blog title (see above)...but then it's not supposed to be a doctoral thesis, either, so here goes:

I saw a friend on American Idol tonight! OK, not a close friend, but more than just a myspace "friend" at least...someone I've met, talked with, shared a table with and hugged a few times (reciprocally). But I've never been to her home or helped her move or anything like that, and this was a surprise, so we'll say she's a very friendly acquaintance. She is QUITE friendly, actually; one of her star qualities. But I was impressed the first time I saw her sing at a local writers night.

Both the pics below are linked to the video clip of Ann Marie's audition. Click to watch:

It's always fun to see people you know on TV. Unless maybe you had been in negotiation with a governor from Illinois for a certain government position...or you invested in what you swore to all your friends was NOT a pyramid scheme ("So, you trusted a guy named "Madoff" with your money...and he made off with your money? Hmmm.")...OK, it's not always fun. But this time it was, because millions of people got to see my opinion being confirmed by experts (not that I didn't know I was right): that Ann Marie has a great potential to be a successful music artist. May not seem like the kind of thing that would be a big deal to some, but then, well, maybe my need to be right is greater than most.

Not that I take all things "AI" at face value. I know it's heavily manipulated, including the freak show aspect...and I know it's not a typical open call for amateurs with no industry experience, etc. But that's entertainment. Including the emphasis, such as it is, on looks; but that's the "real" world of entertainment too, so why not?

During her audition, after a few moments of conversation and declaring her admiration for Kara DioGuardi and singing a few lines from one of Kara's songs, the judges asked her to come back later in the day and show them the star she was auditioning to be (rather than the "gushing fan" she was the first time, maybe? Not sure).

Cameras followed her outside as she consulted with her mom about shoes, hair, the jacket (on or off?) and found someone to help spruce up her makeup (due to these troubled economic times, apparently makeup artists are wandering the streets of Florida...or maybe an AI employee volunteered?).

The "instant makeover" seemed unnecessary and a little contrived, one, because Ann Marie is a gorgeous young (see, I know she's young) woman, regardless...and two, it wasn't exactly a Cinderella metamorphosis (compare the pics; the "before" look is above, and "after" is below).

Granted, the judges said they were looking for attitude to match her other assets, so maybe that came through better in the second part of the audition. Regardless, the process gave her a chance to display her willingness to cooperate and take direction...more necessary for success (in every profession) than most people realize. And, listening to your mother--nearly always a good idea, and a good example for the kids (and some adults). And it got her more camera time. So good on her.

Here's her myspace site...but you won't find her songs there, apparently due to AI rules.

If you want to hear a couple of her own songs, before they're yanked as well, go to the site she shares with her friends collectively known as "The Amateur Hour." A name they picked for themselves. Listen to "My Blue Sky" and my pick for any good "girl embraces womanhood as she enters the big world, and affirms her core identity in the process" film, "Flip Flop Girl." I thought about recommending to her that she work in a reference to a woman's prerogative to change her mind (get it? flip-flop?), but offering unsolicited song critique is pretty obnoxious even when you're right. Even I know that.