Saturday, February 27, 2010

No more apologies

We live in a society where famous people cannot make a move without the possibility of somebody catching them on video.

Cell phones are the primary weapon in the constant battle to get even the most banal and meaningless activities on record. Whether it is video messaging, text messaging, or voice mail, well-known people have to always be on their toes when living their daily lives.

If they do not, then they make themselves vulnerable to all sorts of embarrassing situations. When they do mess up, they inevitably wind up making a public apology that the vultures of the national media pick apart.

As these apologies are delivered, I always find myself thinking that this person does not owe me an apology even if they did something remarkably stupid.

The most recent example of this is the apology golfer Tiger Woods gave a little over a week ago. During Thanksgiving last year, he was involved in a car wreck that began a domino effect in which many women came forward claiming to be Woods' mistresses.

In a matter of a few days, Woods went from being one of the most respected athletes in the world to being a punch line for David Letterman (who himself has had plenty of problems involving women in the last few months).

Woods basically disappeared for a few weeks until it was reported that he was spending time at a clinic in Mississippi that specializes in helping people with sexual addiction. It was in this setting that he made his first public statement last week.

As Woods delivered his apology, he had a deer in the headlights look. His speech pattern sounded like a person suffering from a terminal case of cotton mouth. He appeared very nervous.

Of course, he has nobody but himself to blame for being in this situation. As a husband and father, he had been living a reckless lifestyle that finally caught up with him.

Still, I kept wondering why there was a need for him to make a public apology like this. Almost since his saga began, people speculated when he would make a public statement. Because of the way our culture is now, public figures apparently are now required to throw themselves on the mercy of the court of public opinion.

This is too bad. When dealing with a situation as intimate as the Woods' situation, should not this remain a private matter between Woods and his wife and family? We are a nation that is crazy about reality television, and it seems this mindset has leaked into what is considered news.

After all, Woods is not somebody who is running for president or any other high office. He is just a golfer. True, he is one of the greatest golfers of all time and a public figure, but there has to be a limit to all this.

In the meantime, I think we all need to do a little better job of not being obsessed with the lives of the rich and famous. This is not difficult to do. All a person has to do is turn the television off and stay away from the Internet. Spend more time with family and friends. Try getting a hobby.

In other words, get a life.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Byrds' 'Sweetheart of the Rodeo' brought country rock to the mainstream

The Byrds did not invent country rock, but their 1968 album Sweetheart of the Rodeo played a pivotal role in bringing the genre to a wider audience. This is the only album Gram Parsons played on during his brief stay in the group. The result was an album that sounded nothing like The Byrds previous work.

Known primarily for their 12-string guitar sound and hits like 'Mr. Tambourine Man' and 'Turn! Turn! Turn!,' the band had already carved out a distinctive sound. However, personnel changes that included the leaving of David Crosby from the band allowed Roger McGuinn and the others to pursue new sounds.

Though turning toward country, the band could not resist including a couple of Bob Dylan tunes on this album. 'You Ain't Going Nowhere' sets the tone for the album as its steel guitar makes the listener aware that this would not be a standard interpretation of a Dylan song. Dylan himself was in the process of turning toward country. His 1968 album John Wesley Harding offered hints of it, and his Nashville Skyline the following year sealed the deal. Dylan's 'Nothing Was Delivered' was also covered on this album.

Sweetheart includes well-known gospel songs such as 'I Am A Pilgrim' and 'The Christian Life.' Also, the band samples the work of Woody Guthrie with 'Pretty Boy Floyd' and Merle Haggard with 'Life in Prison.'

Unfortunately, Parsons stay with The Byrds lasted only four months. He soon left for The Flying Burrito Brothers. However, his work here and later greatly impacted rock and roll. His friendship with Rolling Stones' guitarist Keith Richards certainly brought some country flavor to them in the late 1960s and 70s. Remember that when listening to a Stones' song like 'Wild Horses' on their Sticky Fingers disc.

Albums like this are why The Byrds are an important band in rock and roll history.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Evil is a mighty foe but don't choose it

The forces of good and evil swirl around us every day. If a person doubts that, all he has to do is read the newspaper or surf the Internet.

Horrible stories are easy to find, and some events make us shake our heads and wonder why God allows it.

We often see this in the way leaders treat the people of their countries. We take for granted the freedom we have and that is too bad.

In a more general sense, when we look back through history, it is often easier to remember people who dedicated themselves to tearing people down instead of those who contributed positively to our culture.

For example, here is a list of eight people and the time period they lived. Let us see how many names are recognizable: Albrecht Durer (1471-1528), Johann Bullinger (1504-1575), Reginald Heber (1783-1826), Peter Parker (1804-1888), Karl Marx (1818-1883), Fanny Crosby (1820-1915), George Williams (1821-1905), and Adolf Hitler (1889-1945).

If we are honest, the first name that is easily recognizable is the last name on the list. Hitler was the leader of Germany in the first half of the 20th century. He was the catalyst for World War II and was responsible for the Holocaust among other things.

The second most recognizable person is likely Marx. No, he was not Groucho, Harpo, and Chico's brother. He was the founder of Marxism and the spread of communism over the last 150 years or so is a direct result of his philosophy. Since the heart of communism is based on atheism and the repression of people, Marx's impact on society is approximately the same as Hitler's.

What about the rest of the people on the list? Even though most of those people are largely unknown, they each contributed in a much more positive way to society than the previous two men.

The following synopsis of these people comes courtesy of the David C. Cooke Ministries. For example, Crosby was a blind woman who wrote the lyrics to approximately six thousand hymns. Her most well-known hymn is 'Blessed Assurance.'

Heber was a missionary to India and wrote the hymn 'Holy, Holy, Holy' among others. Williams was founder of the YMCA. Parker was a missionary to China. Bullinger wrote the most widely used confession of faith to come out of the Protestant Reformation. Durer was an artist and left a legacy of religious artwork.

So, what can we say about the legacy left by all the people mentioned here? When we read history books, it is pretty easy to find information about Hitler and Marx. They are certainly the most famous people listed here.

However, the other six people left much more lasting legacies than their famous counterparts. If we were to pick up a generic history book, these people would likely not be found. Sure, if we did some digging, we could find information on them, but there would be vastly more information on Hitler and Marx.

The big question we must ask ourselves is: What type of legacy do we want to leave? Mankind's vainglorious nature tends to crave fame by any means necessary. After all, people compromise their integrity every day on reality television programs. For the love of a lousy buck, people will do almost everything.

The bottom line is the biggest legacy we can all leave is to simply wake up each morning and just do the right thing. It may not be glamorous. It may not be sexy. It may not land a person on the cover of People magazine.

However, it will impact other people in ways that yield lasting, positive results.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

'When the Game Was Ours' by Larry Bird and 'Magic' Johnson well worth reading

If you are looking for a good book to read I suggest When the Game Was Ours by Larry Bird and Earvin 'Magic' Johnson with Jackie MacMullan. The book chronicles the long rivalry between the two basketball legends as well as how the rivalry helped the two create a lasting friendship.

A few thoughts:

Bird had a lot of success in the NBA, winning three titles as well as multiple Most Valuable Player awards. However, I think his greatest achievement was leading Indiana State to the NCAA championship game where it lost to Magic's Michigan State team. Indiana State was a blip on the basketball radar before Bird got there and has not accomplished much since he left. Those of us old enough to remember that season can remember it as magical, and it is well chronicled in this book.

Magic is the greatest Los Angeles Lakers' player ever. For a long time, I thought that honor should go to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but Magic's overall versatility now gives him the nod in my book. If you disagree, check out Magic's performance in Game 6 of the NBA finals in 1980. As a rookie, the 6'9" Johnson filled in for the injured Abdul-Jabbar and scored 42 points with 15 rebounds and seven assists. Not bad at all.

Like I said, this book is worth it. It should be coming out in paperback soon.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Presidents' Day or......Ted Williams

Happy Presidents' Day everybody. Because I don't have a lot to say about the holiday, please enjoy this photo of Boston Red Sox great and baseball Hall of Famer Ted Williams.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Need a good Allman Brothers Band overview? Start with 'A Decade of Hits (1969-79)'

It is not often that a band ushers in an entire genre of music, but that is what happened when the Allman Brothers Band began releasing albums in the late 1960s.

Known as "Southern Rock," it was an outgrowth of musicians attempting to bring rock and roll back to its geographical roots. At a time when country music had drifted toward pop and soul music dominated in Memphis and Muscle Shoals, rock and roll had become something of an afterthought in the South.

That changed when the Allman Brothers released their first album in 1969. Then, as they found commercial success in the early 70s, they opened the door for acts like Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Marshall Tucker Band, and the Charlie Daniels Band. Though they are the genre's undisputed godfathers, death cut short their success.

In the late 60s, Duane Allman had a sizeable reputation as a session musician, working with people like Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett. Most mainstream rock and roll fans knew him only for his slide guitar work on Eric Clapton's song "Layla." As his band emerged, however, he put his lucrative session work on the back burner while reinvigorating rock and roll in an entire region of the country.

Propelled by the soulful vocals of his brother Gregg, the Allmans' approach was unique. The group had two remarkable guitarists (Duane and Dickey Betts) and the dueling of the two was uncommon for its time. This is especially obvious on the group's At Fillmore East album. The Fillmore album is easily one of the 10 greatest live albums ever recorded.

However, just as the band was establishing itself as one of the country's best, tragedy stopped them cold. In late 1971, Duane died in a motorcycle wreck. A little more than one year later bassist Berry Oakley died in a similar way. The band continued to produce commercially successful music for a few years, but the creative spark slowly died out.

For anybody looking for an introduction to the band's music check out A Decade of Hits (1969-79). It contains all the obvious songs: "Statesboro Blues," "One Way Out," "Whipping Post," "Jessica," "Southbound," "Dreams," "Ramblin’ Man," and more.

Duane's vicious slide guitar work on "Statesboro Blues" and toward the end of "One Way Out" by themselves justify this album’s purchase. However, there is much more. Gregg’s vocals on "Whipping Post" are harrowing, especially the way he spits out the song's words in the verses following the first guitar solos.

"Ramblin’ Man" is as nice and breezy as ever. It is the type of song that reminds the listener of driving down the highway on a sunny day with the windows rolled down. However, even a casual fan can immediately recognize that this was recorded after Duane’s death. As good as the song is, it lacks the snap, crackle, and bite that Duane brought to the band. It is a laid back, feel good song that could have been made by any other southern band.

However, that is a small criticism. This album is rock solid. Even though southern rock is not what it used to be, this album is a nice reminder of what it was. Looking back can sometimes be a good thing.

Resource material: The Rolling Stone Album Guide, The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Bonnaroo 2010 set June 10-13; Jay-Z, Dave Matthews Band, John Fogerty, John Prine among those to perform

Well, the time is approaching for this year's Bonnaroo music festival in Manchester, Tenn. This year, the festival is slated for June 10-13. The artists to perform were announced today, and those scheduled are Jay-Z, Weezer, John Fogerty, and the Dave Matthews Band. For a complete list of those performing, click here.

It is the one time of year when my small town sees its population grow from around 10,000 to 100,000. It's a happening scene...

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Who delivered a good performance as part of the Super Bowl halftime show

I became a fan of The Who when I was a teenager growing up in the late 1970s. Like most things from our youth, they retain a special place in my heart. However, I was nervous when I heard they would be the main entertainment during the Super Bowl halftime show.

Let's face it; the remaining original members of the band are in the latter stages of their careers. Plus, they don't play together that often, and being British, would they take the venue they were playing at that seriously? I wondered whether they would phone it in like The Rolling Stones did a few years ago.

Fortunately, they delivered a fun performance. Even though they may have lost a step or two, it was great hearing songs like 'Baba O'Riley' and 'Won't Get Fooled Again.'

Well done.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Stop the hype and Super Bowl pick

Tomorrow, we finally reach the end of two weeks of relentless hype. It is the type of hype that makes Donald Trump seem humble and modest. Of course, I am writing about the Super Bowl.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I am a big football fan. It does not matter whether it is high school, college or professional football. If I get the chance to watch a game, I usually do.

For example, a few years ago I had to attend a wedding on a Saturday afternoon in October. Just after the ceremony ended and right before the reception was to begin, I slipped out a side door so I could get an update on the Tennessee/Alabama game that was being played that day.

After I heard the score, I slipped back into the reception without anybody noticing.

It was the perfect crime.

However, as much as I enjoy football, all the hype leading up to the Super Bowl is a big turn off. I have tried to avoid ESPN and CBS as much as possible this week. ESPN usually takes high-profile sporting events and re-hashes the same information until a person gets a splitting headache.

CBS has fallen into the same category with this year's game because it is their turn to televise the event. Then again, who can blame them? Each year, the Super Bowl is one of the most highly rated programs. Therefore, CBS can charge advertisers large amounts of money for commercials that they cannot any other time.

Additionally, commercials are often the 'story inside the story' when it comes to the Super Bowl. Many companies leak the content of their commercials in order to drive up interest, causing viewers not to leave their televisions during a timeout.

In many ways, the game is a perfect storm for advertisers. How often do viewers avoid bathroom breaks just to see what the content of a commercial may be? Not often, but this is what will happen tomorrow.

As for the National Football League, the game is an exercise in public relations that is rarely seen. The Winter Olympics later this month will not get the positive publicity that the NFL has received over the last couple of weeks.

The NFL's ability to spin and control its image makes the league the envy of all other large corporations. This is because many of the negative aspects of the sport will hardly be discussed this weekend.

I have always wondered why the media has been so willing to drink the 'NFL Kool-Aid' when covering the Super Bowl. If anything else, this should be the perfect time to press the league on important issues because the whole world is watching. There are many questions the league needs to publicly address.

For example, how much progress has the league made in determining the long-term health consequences players deal with because of repeated concussions? What is being done to assist former players who must have hip and knee replacement surgeries based on injuries they received while playing pro football?

Additionally, the league's collective bargaining agreement is set to expire soon, and there have been rumors that team owners may lock-out the players prior to the 2011 season. If the most successful sports league in the world is on the edge of a work stoppage, one would think that is pretty big news.

Then again, this is just a game and maybe that is where the focus should be.

So, like with any Super Bowl column you have read this week, here is my prediction.

Colts 31 Saints 24...please, no wagering.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Tennessee's 2010 football schedule offers many challenges

Now that recruiting season is finished and Tennessee did reasonably well, it is time to look at the 2010 schedule. Here it is:

Sept. 4 – vs. UT-Martin
Sept. 11 – vs. Oregon
Sept. 18 – vs. Florida
Sept. 25 – vs. Alabama-Birmingham
Oct. 2 – at LSU
Oct. 9 – at Georgia
Oct. 23 – vs. Alabama
Oct. 30 – at South Carolina
Nov. 6 – at Memphis
Nov. 13 – vs. Ole Miss
Nov. 20 – at Vanderbilt
Nov. 27 – vs. Kentucky

The good news is Tennessee plays its first four games at home. The bad news is two of those games are against Oregon and Florida. And then, after that, we play five of our next seven games on the road.

LSU comes on the schedule in place of Auburn, and we play them at Baton Rouge. I've never liked playing at Memphis but we do on Nov. 6. One silver lining is that we have a bye week before we play Alabama.

This is a tough schedule, and most of our playmakers from last year are gone.

Good luck Coach Dooley.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Quote of the day

"Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow." -- ancient Swedish proverb.

I don't really have anything to add. It just sounded like a good thought.