Category - Digest

Exit 2016, Enter 2017, Exit…

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Well, here’s something good that happened in 2016 that bodes well for 2017…

For the past several years, I have been a regular contributor to the publication Alive Now – a bimonthly publication of the Upper Room Ministries which “speaks to the opportunities and challenges of following Christ in the modern world.”

Anybody who knows me and my lack of (organized) religious conviction will appreciate the irony in that mission statement.

Nevertheless, over the years Alive Now has featured many of my photos from my wanderings amid the medieval ruins of the U.K.  I am endlessly grateful for the patronage of the magazine’s art director, Nancy Terzian and its editor, Beth Richardson – who also selected one of my photos from Scotland to serve as the cover of her book, Christ Beside Me, Christ Within Me: Celtic Blessings.

Alive Now has published enough of my photos – and actually paid for them! – that I’ve probably earned enough over the years to reimburse the trips I made to England and Scotland to shoot the photos of medieval ruins that they used (OK, not ALL of the photos were from the UK, but who’s counting?).

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Now, the capstone of that fruitful relationship is in place.  After however many years, I finally secured the cover of March/April 2017 edition of Alive Now.  I know it’s a sin, but I’ve coveted a cover for as long as I have been submitting photos, and I finally have one.

Unfortunately, in what feels like a hangover from the annus horribilis known as 2016 (trust me, you want to follow that ‘2016’ link…), the cover comes with its own sad tidings: this will be the final print edition of Alive Now.  The publication will continue, but as has befallen so many print publications in the past decade, all future editions will be online/digital only. Once again, The Medium Is The Message (#TMITM).

The photo on the cover was taken at a monastic ruin in Yorkshire, England called Jervaulx Abbey. I stumbled on Jervaulx while touring the UK in the fall of 2014 looking for more “Portals of Stone.”

Unlike the neatly manicured ruins that are maintained by well-endowed institutions like English Heritage, Jervaulx sits on a private estate. Its owners have gone to considerable effort and expense over the past decade to rehabilitate the ruin, but it still lingers in a state that is more reflective of how these ruins must have stood before their preservation became pet projects for the British aristocracy starting in the 18th century.  That made spending an afternoon at Jervaulx an exercise in time travel that stopped in at least two different centuries at the same time.

And here is the ‘Portals of Stone’ version:

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Playing The Hand We’ve Been Dealt

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Friday October 28, 2016

I’ll finish my second cup of coffee
then toast a bagel
so that I’m not hungry
when I fire up
the old red truck
(which rolled off the assembly line
while Harry Truman was President)
and head down
to Pegram City Hall
to vote.

Yes,
I’m going to vote
for Hillary.

Surprised?

Despite all my reservations
despite my concerns
that the a vote for Her
is a vote for Corporate Oligarchy
is a vote for a status quo
that is clearly not serving
some significant portion of the populace
– white, rural (my peeps!)
– urban under-educated (we love the under-educated!)
those “salt of the earth” types
for whom Donald-fucking-Trump
seems like a viable alternative
when what he really represents
is …
(was it Michael Moore who said this?)
… a Molotov Cocktail
that the proles can throw
into the Palace of the Establishment.

As in:
Here, take THIS
you game-rigging
East Coast
Ivy Leaguers.
Suck on this
flaming bottle of rage.
#Her2016?
#Guillotines2020.

But when it comes down to
actually pulling a lever
as much as I would like to
#CrushTheDuopoly
it ain’t gonna happen.
At least, not this year.

This year, we have to
hold our nose
swallow our idealistic pride
just do what we can
to keep (what’s left of?)
a once bold experiment
together.

Or do what Bernie says we should do.
Or as Andrew Sullivan said
just grow-the-fuck-up
and do what has to be done.

It’s unfortunate for Hillary, I guess
that the climate around her ascension
is so toxic.

It’s unfortunate, too,
that her life and career
have unfolded as they have
although had it been any different,

had she not entered the public arena
at the side of her charismatic husband
[compelling human interest story in the NYTimes this morning]
and then she had to pretty much stand by
while he self destructed
and then saddle herself
with all of that wreckage.

So you wonder
what it might have been like
if she’d emerged through some corridor
other than as Bill’s spouse
but that’s pointless speculation.

We’re all here to play
the hand that we’ve been dealt.

Sure, she’s got a lot of baggage
Who has lived on this planet
for nearly seven decades
and not accumulated
their share of shit?

(Certainly not
Donald-fucking-Trump
who has taken every day
of his 70 years to evolve
into a steaming sack
of human excrement)

But underneath it all
one occasionally gets a glimpse
of a genuinely exceptional
if equally flawed
flesh blood and bone
woman.

It’s hard to separate
the actual person
from all the mediated data points.
Who really knows
what she is really like?
I mean, who,
outside of her tight inner circle
if even them?

We’re certainly not going to get
any sense of that
from television, or – especially – the Internet
– that digital echo chamber
that does such a great job
of re-telling us what we already know.

We just have to play
the hand we’ve been dealt
and take some solace
in knowing that voices we respect
like Bernie
like Andrew
like Elizabeth Warren
are all in the same boat.

So I will dip my oar
in the swirling ocean of crazy
pull my solitary stroke
in Her direction,
hope she can steer us
to some shore of (relative) sanity,
and then pray that the polls
are reasonably accurate.

Otherwise….
Kool-Aide, anyone?

 

What Did He Just Say???

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So here’s what all the fuss is about...

This is 17 month old Juniper Rae, Ann’s first and quite possibly her only-ever grandchild.  She is the primary reason why Ann decided to pull up stakes and move to Portland back in July.

Sunday night, we all – Ann and I, eldest son James, younger son Robert, Rob’s wife Melissa and Juniper – all tuned into the professional verbal wrestling match aka “The Presidential Debate” btw Hillary and Drumpf.

Her parents don’t let Juniper have a lot of screen time, and she doesn’t see much TeeVee, so this was an exception.  But as you can tell from her expression, even a 1-year-old can look at Trump and wonder whatthefuck just came out of his incoherent noise hole.

Oh, and I have to put a dollar in the “swear jar” for saying “fuck.”  Actually, I put in two dollars.  Figured I may as well pay in advance for the next one…

Guess Where?

Guess where

So, I spent a few days up in Portland, Oregon over this past weekend.  It was a bit of a “guerrilla strike” – one day of travel, three days there, another day of travel back to Nashville.

The weather was mostly… like this.  Which, according to rumor and/or legend, is fairly typical of Portland (and the Pacific Northwest in general) for most of the fall, winter, and spring.

Those of you familiar with my… ummm… unique domestic situation will know why the visit – which is about as much as I’ll say about it here.

RIP “Rags”

RIP "Rags"

She was 17 years old and was fading fast… last time I took her to the vet they told me there was a 70% likelihood she was suffering from liver cancer.  It was pretty much downhill from there, and I finally put her down about two weeks ago.

And no, I did not put it all over Facebook etc., but this is my personal space on the web so I’m mentioning it here.

Ann found her at the gas station down the street not long after we moved into our house in 1999.  Seems oddly apropos that she’d leave us about the same time as my wife (who moved to Portland, Oregon back in July).

I’m a ‘cat person,’ and Rags was ‘my’ cat.  I named her for ‘Rags The Tiger,’ a character in the first animated cartoon series on television, “Crusader Rabbit” – which was created by Jay Ward and was something of a prototype for “Rocky and Bullwinkle.” You have to be old (i.e. my age, 65) to remember “Crusader Rabbit.”

Rags was a cranky, whiny cat.  She’d cry for some attention, but when I picked her up to pet her, she’d lie in my arms for about 30 seconds and then start whining again.   Hissing was a pretty regular part of her repertoire, too.

I took some photos of her about a year ago… I guess I knew then that she wasn’t going to be with us much longer.  It wasn’t until I looked at these photos, just before I took her to the vet, that I realized what a beautiful cat she was.

Just more evidence that everything is permanent only so long as it lasts.

The Beatles: Eight Days A Week

The Beatles at Shea Stadium - August 15, 1966

This past Thursday night I attended the sold-out opening screening of “Eight Days A Week” – director Ron Howard’s ode to The Beatles that focuses primarily on their touring years, from 1962-1966.

It is hard now not to think of The Beatles as anything other than a phenomenon – Beatlemania! – and an iconic force of musical nature.  They were all of those things, but what this movie so effectively reminds us – as John Lennon famously said somewhere in the “Beatles Anthology” – is that they were “just a band.”

But oh my, what a band…

With vintage photos and film clips from the late 1950s and early 60s, “Eight Days A Week” shows us  four guys who grew up together (OK, maybe not so much Ringo, who joined The Beatles just as they started their recording career, but he shared their scrappy Liverpool origins).  It was essentially John’s band from the beginning, but part of his gift was his ability to recognize in Paul and George talent and ambition equal to his own.

The mission of the documentary is to trace the full arc of their years as a touring band:  from the clubs of Hamburg were their sound was forged, to the Cavern Club in Liverpool where they found their audience, and eventually around the world, where their concerts were drowned out by screaming fans.  Throughout the arc we are watch as the role “pop music” in the cultural firmament is transformed in front of our eyes and ears.

But the full power and sheer artistry of The Beatles is more fully conveyed in the 30 minutes of concert footage that follows the documentary.

Here are The Beatles in a truly epic setting: Shea Stadium in New York – the first performance of their final tour in 1966.  They dash out on the field and climb atop a stage that looks like a boxing ring erected over second base, in the middle of the vast expanse of a baseball field, 50 yards away from the nearest fan, some 56,000 of whom are screaming their heads off through the entire show.

Still,  you can’t help but be impressed with the quality of the performance.  The set includes both covers and originals, opening with “Twist and Shout” and ending with “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Help.” Showing the complete concert after the documentary is its own tour-de-force; it reminds us what the phenomenon was really about: the sheer power of skilled musicianship, the intensity of accomplished artistry.

The documentary is a 90 minute setup; the concert footage is a 30 minutes payoff – the undeniable proof of everything postulated in the film.

Ron Howard’s film also reminds us just how much “Beatlemania” was a reflection of the times.  In America especially, The Beatles arrival in February 1964 was the medicine a grieving nation needed after the shock of the Kennedy assassination.  Their appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show carved the opening cracks in what would eventually become the “Generation Gap.”  We are reminded of the tumultuous history that The Beatles were part of, from the conflagration in Vietnam to the Civil Rights movement.

One detail in the documentary that surprised me addressed the matter of race as it is uniquely experienced in America: The Beatles had a clause in their contracts that declared that they would not play for segregated audiences.  A voice over from Paul McCartney explains how foreign the whole idea of segregation and Jim Crow was to their experience in England.

Howard deftly gives all four Beatles nearly equal screen time for retrospective commentaries.   The surviving Beatles, Paul and Ringo, appear on screen several times in their current incarnations; There are equal amounts of archival footage of John and George looking back on their years as Beatles.  Their commentaries lend a “Rashomon” like perspective to the whole experience.

The Beatles 1966 tour ushered in the era of the stadium concert – despite technology woefully suited for the purpose; George explains how Vox built amplifiers especially for this tour: “I think they were a hundred watts…” – and much of the audio was piped through the crackly stadium PA system: “Now playing at second base… The Beatles!”

I think it was Ringo who described the aftermath of what would history would record as The Beatles final live performance, the last concert of the 1966 tour at Candlestick Park in San Francisco:  After the show the band was raced out of the stadium grounds in what Ringo describes as “a meat wagon” – a bare metal armored police wagon, the kind that ferries convicts to prisons.  It was pretty much within those lurching steel confines that all four Beatles decided “we’re not going to do this any more…”

Freed from the demands of a touring schedule, The Beatles dedicate themselves to the studio.  There is footage from the EMI studio at Abbey Road of audio tape loops strung between tape machines… and then there is “Sergeant Pepper.”

From there the documentary quickly traces the remainder of The Beatles recording career: 5 albums in three years, from “Magical Mystery Tour” to the “White Album,” “Abbey Road” and the “posthumously” released “Let It Be” (which was released after the band announced its demise early in 1970).

The movie ends with  the most footage I have ever seen from The Beatles last-ever ‘concert’ – that day in January 1969 when they set up on the roof of the Apple Corps headquarters in London and played to the people on the street below.  It’s more than three years since the last time they performed “live” together, and the footage proves, once and for all that The Beatles were still, and always were, a great fucking band.

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“Eight Days A Week Is” playing at The Belcourt.  Info and tickets here.  It will also be released to streaming video via Hulu next week. A subscription will be required. So go see it in a theater with good surround sound.