They Should Have Listened to Jeff Bridges a Long Time Ago

2 Sep

This afternoon, my stepdaughter and I saw The Giver, a movie that portrays a bleak future of government control. As the scenes rolled by, a couple of things went through my mind.

First, I am a huge fan of dystopian movies, and, some time back, I wrote a post about some of my favorites. Certainly, there are essays that examine these movies and their popularity. I am sure someone has written about how they are born from the times in which they are made. Many of them are adapted from books, and those books have a message hidden between the lines. They are critiques of society placed in a future environment.

I am not going to write anything that deep about The Giver. Instead, I am going to write about the second thing I thought about as the scenes rolled by. Some of those scenes brought laughter from a few of the people in the theater, and, honestly, there were few scenes meant to be funny. They were laughing because the movie was made too late.The Giver

I felt that they were laughing for a couple of reasons. One was that they thought the movie was a copy of recent dystopian films. The Hungers Games, famously adapted from books, has ushered in a ton of copycats, and, on the surface, this looks like one of them. There is the semblance of a love triangle among a teenage girl and two teenage boys. There is a young person who takes on the role of savior for the beaten down society. The list can be lengthy.

However, there is a catch. The Giver was written 13 years before The Hunger Games. That is why this movie was filmed too late. For those who have not taken the time to read the book, The Giver looks like a copycat. In reality, it may be the other way around.

I read that Jeff Bridges has been working for 20 years to bring The Giver to the screen. It is funny that he was finally able to do it after the success of The Hunger Games. Apparently, Hollywood did not want to take a chance on this story without knowing if there was an audience for it. That decision did a disservice to a great story.

That brings me to the other reason that I felt people were laughing. They had never read the book. The Giver is a story about a boy who has the ability and the drive to break out of an oppressive society. To set the stage, the movie and the book show just how oppressive that society can be. The book and the movie take these elements seriously, but some in the audience saw the behavior on the screen as dumb. Either they did not understand, or they were comparing the movie to The Hunger Games.

My stepdaughter, who loves The Hunger Games, liked this movie, as well. She asked if they were going to make another one. Like The Hunger Games series, there are three books about the world of The Giver. Obviously, The Hunger Games empire is at full force, and the movies are being cranked out. Unfortunately, I do not think the same will happen with The Giver. This is unfortunate because I think the books are better.

I am glad that I read the book before seeing the movie and suggest to everyone that they do the same. Heck, the book should be read whether you see the movie or not.

My iPod Has Issues – The Semester Begins

30 Aug

Another semester has begun, and it is time to get into the swing of things. As usual, the first few days was all about going over the syllabi and explaining to the students the plan for the next couple of months. That means talking about assignments, class rules and all sorts of things.

This time I am teaching a couple of survey classes, which students have to take as part of the General Education Core. I am also teaching a class on Middle Eastern history. However, I am really looking forward to the new class on the History of American Music. With that kind of title, the course could go in many directions, but I am focusing on the 20th Century. There are some performers that college students need to know about.Rock

In honor of that class and because I need to be working on classes instead of blogging, we are going into my iPod to see what is happening. The music class is going to hear a lot of stuff that is crammed in there. Let us warm it up and get it ready for the semester.

“I’m a Man” by Bo Diddley

“Silver Wings” by Merle Haggard

“Fanfare for the Common Man” by Aaron Copland

“Cover of the Rolling Stone” by Dr. Hook

“The Lonely Man” by Tennessee Ernie Ford

“Rocky Top” by The Osborne Brothers

“Outlands” by Daft Punk

“Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley

“Comin’ Home Baby” by Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis

“Passing Zone Blues” by Coleman Wilson

“Voyager” by The Alan Parsons Project

“We Gotta Get Out Of This Place” by The Animals

“The Wanderer” by Dion

“My Heavy Load” by Big Mama Thornton

“Opening Mandelbrot” by Blue Man Group

“Volare” by Gipsy Kings

“All I Have to Do is Dream” by The Everly Brothers

“If You Don’t Know Me By Now” by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes

“Look What You’ve Done to Me” by Boz Scaggs

“L&N Special” by Christine Kittrell

In a few days, I will be introducing students to some great artists. Hopefully, it will lead them to like some good music.

 

Tropical Nights in Old Nashville

28 Aug

The other day, my wife and I were driving on White Bridge Road, and it brought to mind a nightspot that used to be in that area. Rainbow Key was everything you would want in a beach side bar, except it was a parking lot side bar in a strip mall. It had the bamboo walls and wicker chairs. There were fruity drinks and coconut shells. Simply, it was the most tropical place in Nashville, and it was a place where my friends and I liked to go.Rainbow Key

I cannot recall one specific night of memorable events, but I can string some things together.

There was always live music, but our favorite was Tall Paul, a poor man’s Jimmy Buffett.Tall Paul

Tall Paul made the college circuit, and we had been listening to him for years. In our experience, Tall Paul and Mel and the Party Hats were the greatest performers on the college circuit. Some people in the years behind me think that some guy named Super T is cool. He has nothing on Paul or Mel.

Anyway, Tall Paul always put on a good show, and it was always made better by fried shrimp chased with some kind of tropical elixir. However, music was not the only thing great about Rainbow Key. My friend Robert and I have thrown a lot of darts in that place.

One night, we were throwing a few darts and not hitting much when a couple of guys challenged us to a game. When we agreed, they promptly brought out the darts that they brought with them. We played the game. We won. They asked if we wanted to play another game for money. We said that we were going back to our table.

There are a few simple rules in the world. One is that when you beat someone who brings their own darts, then you do not play another game for money. It is like one of my former students learned in Clovis, New Mexico. Do not play pool against someone who brings their own stick and is wearing a huge knife on their belt.

It just is not done in polite quarters.

Anyway, Rainbow Key was always a great place to have a good time, but that is not all that the strip mall had to offer. A few doors down was Caesar’s, Nashville’s best Italian restaurant. Many a great meal has been consumed there. It still exists but has moved to a new location. I have not been, but it cannot be the same.

A laser tag place sat on the other side of Rainbow Key. Many times, we wandered over there and shot laser guns at each other. One night, a big group of us traveled to the little strip mall on White Bridge Road and spent some time in the laser tag room. As I eased around trying to find people to shoot, my buzzer kept going off. I could not get anything done because I kept getting shot. It turned out that one girl kept shooting me over and over. I was hoping that it was some kind of flirtation ritual. Nope, she just wanted me dead.

We had many nights of great fun in that corner of the strip mall. It was a place where we could get good food, get good drink, listen to good music and shoot up the joint.

A Tale of Four Quarterbacks

26 Aug

This week marks the beginning of college football season, which means that I will be driving to Knoxville for another opening game for the University of Tennessee. This made me think about past seasons and other opening games. Then, I realized that it was 20 years ago that the Volunteers had one of their most interesting starts.

In 1994, Larry and I flew to Pasadena, California to watch the Big Orange play UCLA at the Rose Bowl. A few things about that trip stand out.

Our room overlooked Colorado Boulevard, the main route of the Rose Bowl Parade. It is too bad that we were there in September.

The temperature was super hot. It felt more like Tennessee temperatures than what you would find in southern California.

A man and his son brought their luggage to the game. Apparently, they did not have time to go to the hotel. They came to the stadium straight from the airport. Can you imagine someone trying to bring suitcases into a stadium during these times?

Larry upset one of the concession stand workers. We tried to get a cup of ice, and the guy said that it would be $10 or some other outrageous amount. That is when Larry said, “Damn, Jesse James carried a gun when he robbed people.” Apparently, the guy did not like the Jesse James reference.

There is something else I remember. Those were good times to be a fan of the University of Tennessee. Although we had lost Heath Shuler, who had finished second for the Heisman Trophy, we had a senior quarterback ready to take the helm. Jerry Colquitt had patiently waited his turn, and it was his time to shine.

Another upper classman, Todd Helton, was the backup. Everyone knew he would be drafted into the Major Leagues and had a bright future in baseball. He did not expect to play that often, but the team needed someone with experience because the other two quarterbacks were freshmen. They were also highly recruited.

One was Branndon Stewart, a son of Texas who came from the Heath Shuler mold. He could make things happen with his arm and his legs. The other was Peyton Manning, the son of a southern legend who played more traditionally. Everyone knew that there would be a quarterback battle in the future, but that was a year away.Quarterbacks

At least, everyone assumed it would be a year away. On the seventh play of the game, Colquitt injured his knee and was out for the season. Suddenly, Tennessee was down to a baseball player and two talented freshmen. Before the game was over, all of the quarterbacks would take snaps, and Tennessee would lose 25-23.

Helton became the reluctant starter and led the Volunteers to a big win over Georgia. However, he was injured in another game, and no one wanted to ruin his chances at baseball. He stayed on the team, but the freshman quarterback battle was at full force.

Stewart and Manning split playing time, and the fans were split, as well. Remembering Shuler, some fans wanted Stewart. Seeing a pro typical quarterback, other fans wanted Manning. Eventually, the coaches settle on Manning.

Stewart, seeing the writing on the wall, transferred to Texas A&M and led them to the 1998 Big 12 championship. In the title game, they beat Kansas State, which insured that Tennessee would go to the first BCS Title Game. The Vols won the National Championship, and, ironically, Stewart helped them do that.

Helton was drafted by the Colorado Rockies and recently retired after playing for them his entire career. Not long ago, they also retired his number.

Despite his injury, Colquitt by drafted into the NFL, but his playing career did not last long. He got into coaching and made it onto the staff of the Seattle Seahawks.

Manning is, well, Peyton Manning and is considered to be one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. Like Shuler before him, he finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting, which is one of the greatest travesties in that award’s history. Then, he was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts. Now, he plays for the Denver Broncos.

Thinking about the opening game of 1994 made me wonder about how lives were changed by one injury on one play. What would have happened if that injury had not taken place? Would Colquitt have gone on to a more promising NFL career? Would Helton have come in during a later game and gotten hurt more seriously? Would another year allowed Stewart to beat out Manning for the starting job? Would Manning have transferred? Would Tennessee have won the National Championship in 1998?

I have no idea, but I know what we were thinking when that injury took place. Holy crap, what are we going to do now?

Finding Bobby Doyle

25 Aug

A few years ago, I saw a documentary about Hugh Hefner and was stunned by a man singing the best rendition of “Blowin’ in the Wind” that I have ever heard. Immediately, I went searching for that song to download on my iPod. I could not find the song, but, more strikingly, I could not find anything about the man, Bobby Doyle.

This sent me on an Internet search to find all I could about him. I wrote about it in a post called “Searching for Bobby Doyle” and hoped that some day his music would become available. Apparently, I was not the only one because comments began to appear from people who were also searching for him. They had also seen the documentary and were trying to find out about the man with the haunting voice.

It was good to know that other people were interested in Bobby’s music, but I was stunned when an old friend and band mate of his left a comment. Through emails, he has told me about Bobby and his life singing in the bars of Austin, Texas. He has told me stories about the struggles of being a musician who was good enough to make it big but never got that big chance. Through his emails, I have learned more about Bobby than I could ever imagine. I have learned a lot, but there is one thing that I know for sure. I wish I could have sat in an Austin bar and listened to Bobby perform. If I was lucky, then he would come over after his set and tell stories about his life and times.

Through Bobby’s friend, I found out that a writer was doing a story on Bobby. When the story was published, the writer sent a link to me, and it is exactly what I was looking for from the beginning. It is a great story that chronicles to life of a man who I wish I could have met. I urge you to read it.

Bobby’s friend also told me about something that was happening close to my home. The Country Music Hall of Fame inducted Kenny Rogers in its latest class and planned an exhibit in his honor. I knew from my early research that Kenny Rogers got his start in the Bobby Doyle Three. Apparently, his time with the trio would be part of the exhibit.

This morning, my wife and I had brunch in Nashville and went to the exhibit. As soon as we entered the room, there was a wall dedicated to the Bobby Doyle Three.image

As I read the information and looked at the pictures, a knot formed in my throat. It may sound strange, but I was getting emotional. A man who played in bars throughout Austin and never made it big was being introduced to people at the Country Music Hall of Fame.image-6

As we went through the rest of the exhibit, I kept looking to see if people were reading about Bobby. They were doing more than that. They were checking out his pictures and his album covers.image-4 Hopefully, some of them will walk out and look for his music.

Unfortunately, Bobby’s music remains a rare find. A couple of songs are on iTunes, but most of it cannot be easily found. Today, I am more convinced than ever that his music needs to be out there for people to hear. If nothing else, then his version of “Blowin’ in the Wind” should be available. I promise that it is the best rendition that you will ever hear.

As we walked out of the exhibit, I glanced one more time at Bobby’s wall and thought, “Bobby, you finally made it.” I wish I had known him. I wish that I had heard him live. I wish he was still here to know that people are finding him.

Northwest Trek: Heading Home and Looking Back

22 Aug

We came to the end of our trip, which meant a long flight back home. It was nothing like the return trip of Lewis and Clark, but it still took a while. We had a layover in Los Angeles that brought to mind the old Susan Raye song, “L.A. International Airport.” Unfortunately, that was the only thing pleasant about the experience.

One would think that the second largest city in the United States would have a decent airport. One would be wrong. We landed in one terminal and were told that our connecting flight in another terminal. No big deal. We could just catch the tram to the other building. That is when we found out that the Los Angeles International Airport does not have a tram, or a train, or a monorail. It has a bus that takes you on the tarmac. That is the same tarmac where planes taxi to the runway. In short, the airport is a disaster.

Despite the airport craziness, we made our connection and got back to Tennessee. In the days following, I looked back upon the trip and thought about everything that we did and saw. Overall, it was a good trip. We spent time cutting up and laughing and having fun. We also saw some things that we had never seen before.

Although we had been to Oregon and Washington, it was only long enough to say that we had been there. This time, we saw some stuff.

Looking back, I think we should have spent more time in Washington and driven into the eastern part of that state. Oregon has some great things, but there was not enough in between to justify the drive. Washington is a smaller state and, looking at the map, may have a few more places to see.

Despite that bit of hindsight, I am glad that we made the journey into the Northwest. It gave us the opportunity to spend time together, and it allowed us to explore some territory that we knew little about.

With that being said, I will end this series with a picture of my dad and my brother. I hope you can make them out.IMG_2691

I hope everyone enjoyed reading about our trip. The next post will be about the regular goofy stuff.

Northwest Trek – The Fate of a Man and a Mountain

21 Aug

Before the trip began, my brother said over and over that Mount St. Helens was the one thing he definitely wanted to see. It did not matter where else we went as long as we went there. He remembered watching the weeks of television coverage as the volcano built towards a massive eruption. Although I am younger, I also remember the images of the mudslides and ash. After visiting the mountain, I know that television did not portray the impact and destruction.

There is only one road to Mount St Helens, but there are a few places to stop along the way. The Mount St. Helens Visitor Center sits a few miles off the interstate and provides a good introduction into the events of 1980. My nephews did not know much about what happened, but they knew a little more after watching a movie about it. Obviously, the film was about the volcano, but it was also about the people who were affected by it. This included a man who I still remember seeing on television.

Harry Truman was in his 80s and had lived in the shadows of Mt. St. Helens for 50 years. As law enforcement evacuated people who lived in the area, Harry was determined that he was not going anywhere. He became a celebrity as reporters flocked to interview him. He was full of quips and quotes and became the face of the people of the area. Harry disappeared in the eruption. It is assumed that he was buried under the boiling mud that slid off the mountain.

As we walked out of the movie, I made the comment that I would have never stayed around to die in a volcano. However, my nephew had another view. Here was a man who had lived his life, and he did not want to leave his home. By staying near the mountain, he lives on in memory rather than fading from our minds.

I am not sure I agree with that, but it is true that Harry has not been forgotten.

We drove to the end of the road and the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. There sits the Johnston Ridge Observatory, named after a scientist who was also killed in the eruption. It is an impressive building that provides an excellent view of the north side of Mount St. Helens. In other words, it is in the blast zone.

There a televisions in one part of the observatory that show news footage from the time. There are interviews with a lot of people, and there are interviews with Harry saying that he will never leave the mountain. When the televisions go dark, doors open into a theater where we learn about the explosion. The cause. The destruction. The environmental impact. When the movie ends, the screen rises and a huge window appears. Outside sits Mount St. Helens. It is an awesome thing to see.IMG_2917

On the observation deck, park rangers explain the event in detail. The mudslide was the largest in recorded history and traveled at 150 miles per hour. What impressed me the most? The entrance to the Columbia River went from a depth of 40 feet to a depth of 9 feet.

The ash cloud traveled at a speed of 300 miles per hour and circled the globe in two weeks. There is no way to describe the destruction in a blog post, but it was total and absolute. The national park service has preserved the land in its ruined state and is studying the environment as it recovers.

Driving back to the interstate, we stopped at a restaurant called Patty’s Place at 19 Mile House. It was a good meal, but it is not the food that stood out. As we walked out, there was a picture hanging of Harry Truman. He was right when he said that he would never leave the mountain, and my nephew was right when he said that Harry is still remembered. Mount St. Helens and Harry Truman are intertwined.

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