Thursday, February 22, 2007

Blues at the Brewery

Kat and I spent the evening out at the New Knoxville Brewing Company, playing a few songs at Karen Reynolds' Writers Night. I need to get back in the habit, especially before some upcoming shows I'm to play.

Someone asked me the other day why I get so frustrated with folks like Taylor Corum and Brad Passons. As one who pretends to be a performing songwriter, once I sort through all the bias and the impressions, I feel like I'm frustrated by the fact that they are the best self-promoters I know. Nobody I know drives harder at promoting than these two fellows, and few people succeed better. If Taylor or Brad came up to me and offered to be my manager for a 75% take, I'd sign on that line in a heartbeat. I've begun to learn the professional side of this deal, and maybe one day I'll feel like I'm not just playing charades. I just can't embrace self-promotion on that level without feeling dirty in some right. Maybe my level of attachment to it is less than professional. I don't really know.

But, I've convinced myself that I've got to start writing again - and like a beast at that. No album is ever going to happen while I sit back with these few songs and wait to be able to afford it, unless of course you'd like to send me a quick $3000 dollars in the mail. Perhaps I could persuade Andy Osenga to help me out, but my writing is not where I want it to be. Neither is my playing. Listening to guys like Sam Bush and The Bills, I remember that my clout as an instrumentalist would outweigh the nearest 90-lbs wuss, soaking wet. And put that together with writers like Malcolm Holcombe, Daniel Lanois, and the whole Square Peg Alliance, and I realize that I've got so much work and patience ahead of me. And patience is not something I'm great at when it comes to growing. I was always one to see if the Flintstone vitamins really worked. At 5' 8", they didn't.

I don't know if I'll ever feel like I'm at a point where I can say, "Yep, this is where I've always wanted to get to, now let's go from here." It's humbling and joyous though, to see people you idolize having to scratch it out on paper, having to make sure every detail is at least near-perfect. At least, then, if writers and musicians with the real talent have to do that, folks like me may have a chance. I always appreciate your support when you come out to shows. All those comments on musicians' websites and MySpaces that people leave, those actually mean something to us. Unless you have an entourage and thousands of fans, comments and advice really do help encourage. Nothing means more than someone telling you how a particular song struck them.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

411, What's Your Emergency?

I watched the end of some episode of a badly-plotted CBS lawyer show this evening, riveted to the television by the entrancing ADD of a habitual daydreamer. Let's revisit that moment for a better understanding of the following communal faux pas...

After the blessed credits begin to roll, we, the viewers, are launched onto the highspeed causeway of 11:00 local news. Today's topic? Peanut butter. That's right, sports fans. Beloved Peter Pan Peanut Butter jars are being recalled by the hundreds. Captain Hook and Mr. Smee put salmonella in all the batches marked 2011 at the beginning of the serial number. But, what's this?! Not all of the grocers are in the know! The IGA in Tazwell didn't receive a notice in their morning post. Consumers are at risk! Thankfully, the news team went undercover, complete with hidden cameras, to unearth this cage-rattling conspiracy. The public is safe once more. WVLT reporters read Lyle, Lyle Crocodile to Captain Hook and did all the voices. Luckily, he is a coward when it comes to crocodiles, and he took his salmonella-laden peanut butter scam and fled to the hills. And now, back to our regularly scheduled program...

I turned off the boob tube in disgust, and marveled aloud (aloud enough to make Kat look up from her Nicholas Sparks book) at the failure of local news to actually report anything worth discovering in the first place. Why is it that Knox County is now internationally famous for clandestine county politics, and no one bothers to present the unabashed facts for the viewer's jurisprudence? Why is it that Mark Saroff cannot be hunted down by someone with a microphone and asked about the entire history of the McClung Warehouse scandal where he folded his cards at the table with KCDC and the City Planning Comission? Where are the telltale stories about why Knoxville has distinct neighborhoods? Why are people in Farragut-borne Cadillacs fearful to hear the lullaby of Jackson Street's brick-paved descent from the viaduct under their tires? What are the real murder and other violent crime statistics from the Old City and Mechanicsville? How do they stack up against South Knoxville or Powell or Halls? Why is mile after mile of land stripped of all natural resources to be replaced with nearly identical homes and pathetic saplings that will only grow twenty feet into perfectly sculpted Bradford Pears? How are the plans for a central bus depot coming? What about an intercity rail transit system?

These are the issues which concern people, and yet our local news stations "are committed to bringing us the very latest" in horrors that are too late for concern and advice which is alarmist at best and nonsensical at worst. A convenience store was robbed by a black man in Seymour - white folks, look over your shoulder while at the gas pump. A man broke his leg slipping on some ice in Tyson Park - better keep the walking about to a minimum in these icy times. A woman three counties away was brutally murdered - hold your loved ones close and share some gossip at the water cooler tomorrow. These are the types of stories (with their convenient translations into Consumerese) that come at one minute intervals across the melodramatic medium of local news. And don't even start on the meteorologists and the snow forecasts. Ithaca, NY laughs at your fear of inches on the roads.

What happened to real news that dealt with actual issues and intelligently questioned the methods and means of the local society (and did it all with an eye for ethics)? Is there a station manager that will stake a reputation and a career on getting to the truth? Is there a weatherman willing to say, "Your guess is as good as mine"? Is there a reporter that isn't the modicum of perfect hair? These are questions we'll answer on our special report, tonight at seven.

Local News Stations

-WATE, Channel 6

-WVLT, Channel 8

-WBIR, Channel 10

...and now the news.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

...And Who Might You Be?

In the short one and a half years Kat and I have been married, we've been blessed to have (or at least feel like we have) a lot of un-tilled ground behind us that we never had to cross. I've never woken up next to her in horror. A friend and I were talking about that the other night as my wife was down at her family's house with our nephew (who is the sleepinest baby I ever seen!) on the wintery flatland scrub of the Florida panhandle. I love that country, and this one as well. My friend and I talked about what we called the "King of Queens" phenomenon. It's been long in creeping its cold grey fingers into the world, and even into the church. We laugh, when we turn on the TV and see the man full of stupid fancy and ridiculous vices. We laugh, when his wife berates him as a buffoon and his children and neighbors quip scathing sarcasm to his face. I grieve for that man and woman whose lives are nearing the blinding threshold of divorce (something of which, according to Rosanne Barr, "there's not enough... in this country") because he doesn't lead, and she finds fault. He becomes defensive and passive-aggressive; she becomes hurt and lost. They both get lonely. It hurts to think about what they would go through if they weren't sitcom characters, with all the world turning in thirty minutes. I wonder if their marriage is built on and compatability, or on a promise, on a vow.

And yet, in lieu of company, I feel more like solitude these days - seeking the lonely places along everlasting fencerows and under darkling sky. I've grown to love the smiling sound of the car heater (for more reasons than one) and the dull glow of the dash lights - like the populations of a small mechanical world lain out in numbers. It's become one of those comfort sounds, and I've become the cat that sleeps on top of the clothes dryer. But those places where there are no TVs and no phones, and the night sky rumbles with that faint Delacroix indigo-orange against the low stratus clouds, bleeding light from distant cities and billboards, while the pastures around are dark and whispering with the breathing of cattle and the hiss of wind - those are becoming more of a treasure to me. Not to say that I am so great as to don a cowel and stay there. As you can see, I'm on the World Wide Web. But, ever so slightly, I think more that the Gethsemanes are where - like the word says - the soul is crushed, and precious things flow outward from its crushing.

These are where I might see a little more of my face, by seeing a little more of His Face. These places are where the "why?" and the "how?" become a "who?" and the answer is reverberating next to me as it always has, since Adam, and now, to Adam. And the marriage is built on a promise, on a vow.