Monday, November 29, 2010

Phil Spector's 'A Christmas Gift for You' a dynamite holiday album

Long before music producer Phil Spector started shooting people, he was a musical genius.

Spector's legendary 'Wall of Sound' was a powerful force in the early 1960s, and he also produced albums by John Lennon and George Harrison in the aftermath of The Beatles collapse.

Obviously, Spector was a big deal.

In 1963, he produced a jewel of an album titled A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector. The roster of artists he used was Darlene Love, The Ronettes, The Crystals, and Bob B. Soxx and The Blue Jeans. While the song selection is pretty standard ('White Christmas,' 'Frosty the Snowman,' 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town' and others), his production approach elevated the album to classic heights.

The highlights of the album are likely the two Darlene Love performances. 'Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)' is pure joy about the anticipation of spending the holiday with a loved one.

For years, Love performed this on the David Letterman show, and it brought the house down. Also, U2 did a version of it that was clearly inspired by Love and Spector. Additionally, her singing on 'White Christmas' is fantastic. She does not lift the song to the heights Bing Crosby did, but she is in the neighborhood.

For me, the Christmas season officially begins the day after Thanksgiving. Because of this, I do not play this album until then. On Friday, I slipped it into the CD player in my car and spent the day driving around town with a smile on my face. I will keep doing this (for the most part) until December 26.

If a person has to spend time cooped up in a car, this album is a great way to spend the time.

This album will make you happy.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thankful for family, friends

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time of year. I hope everybody reading this had an opportunity to spend time with loved ones and enjoy the holiday.

Thanksgiving can mean different things to different people, but most of all, it should be about thanking God for the ways He has blessed our lives.

I know times are tough for many. It is difficult to see a silver lining in the dark clouds that sometime float in and out of our lives. However, if we will just pause for a moment we can see His hand at work.

The last few days I have been reflecting on how thankful I am for the family I have. 'Family'can be defined in many ways, and most of us think of our parents or siblings or spouses when it comes to our family.

Indeed, I am grateful for my immediate family. With so much isolation and loneliness in the world, it is nice to have people to which I can cling.

From a sociological point of view, isolation and loneliness may be the two greatest challenges our world faces. More and more people barricade themselves in their homes because we have all become so self-sufficient.

Then, we start experiencing emptiness in our hearts, and it is difficult to make it go away. Almost like a living organism, it grows, and it aches.

Unfortunately, some go down destructive paths to soothe this pain. Drug and alcohol abuse are all too common whether it happens in a big city or smaller communities like Manchester, Tullahoma, and Coffee County.

When confronted with this emptiness, the challenge is how to deal with it in a positive way. Perhaps the most positive way is to focus on the definition of 'family' stated at the beginning of this column.

The definition I provided earlier is incomplete. A family is not just people who share the same flesh and blood. A family can include a wide variety of people that share a common bond.

For example, I have been reflecting recently on my church family.

For many, going to church has been watered down to a ritualistic exercise that people go through because they feel they have to.

Because of this, the experience of going to church does not develop into what it could be. While the main purpose of attending church is to worship, it is also important because it gives people the opportunity to be with each other.

It allows people to develop relationships that can be life changing. Much like our immediate families, these relationships can carry us when we need to be carried. Conversely, these people can be an outlet for us when we want to share the joys of life.

These circumstances can be profound or sometimes just plain silly.

Earlier this month, about 50 people from my church family attended a Nashville Predators hockey game. The game was thrilling, but the joy of the night was all of us spending a night out on the town.

It was an experience we will all carry for a long time, and it will remain a source of funny stories.

Of course, none of these stories will include me because I was a perfect gentleman the entire time. Trust me, nobody got anything on me.

The bottom line is that we all need each other. As the holiday season unfolds, let’s all be sensitive to those around us who may need a little kindness in their life.

The holiday season has become commercialized almost to the breaking point in recent years. Maybe the best gift we can provide others is to let them know how we feel about them and that we care.

We were born to love one another.

So, why don't we do it?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving from 'The Nightly Daily'

The Nightly Daily is taking a break to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday. Expect new postings on or around Monday, November 29.

Thanksgiving is an important holiday. Though food and football are fun, make sure to spend time reflecting on how God has blessed your life on Thursday (or every day). Even in tough times, He is here.

As for this blog, I am thankful for those of you who spend time reading it. I enjoy doing this as a hobby, but I hope it adds something positive to your life.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Haiti needs a break

Though it is not quite Thanksgiving, it is not too early to start looking ahead to 2011. A new year is supposed to be a time of new beginnings, and I truly want this to be the case for Haiti.

Haiti is a small, poor country located in the Caribbean Sea. As we all know, the country has taken a battering this year.

Back in January, the country received a massive earthquake that killed 250,000 and left one million homeless. Almost a year later, thousands still live in tent cities and the conditions are difficult.

The basic necessities of life are a luxury there, and the effort to rebuild will last for years.

In October, disease was the big news coming out of the country. Because of the circumstances, an outbreak of cholera occurred that killed hundreds.

I won't be too graphic, but cholera is an acute, infectious disease characterized principally by serious intestinal disorders caused by bacterium. I am not a doctor so if any readers disagree with that definition take it up with Webster's Dictionary.

Then, earlier this month, Haiti got a visit from Hurricane Tomas, which dumped up to 15 inches of rain on some parts of the country.

I heard some experts refer to the storm as a 'minimal hurricane.' I do not know what to make of that term. How can a hurricane be minimal?

I know hurricanes can widely vary when it comes to intensity, but to call one minimal seems to be a slap in the face of the people suffering through it.

After all, if Tomas had dumped 15 inches of rain on my house, I do not think I would have described it as 'minimal.' I would have probably used a lot more graphic adjectives when talking about my plight. And some of those adjectives could not be printed in this column.

The personal impact these circumstances are having must be enormous. Though the United States has had its share of problems lately, we have not gone through anything like the people there have.

The culture there was already financially poor before the earthquake, and their meager way of life was smashed to smithereens in only a few minutes. Since then, many have spent months in those tent cities.

Imagine how the news of the hurricane must have impacted them. They had survived the earthquake and were still dealing with the cholera. Then, they got the message that a hurricane was coming.

I do not know when a person reaches a breaking point, but that had to have been one for a lot of the people there. The hurricane season ends on November 30 so let us hope that ends the threat of severe storms for a while.

As for the rest of us, what more can we do regarding Haiti? Tons of money has poured into the country. Missionaries have gone there to help minister to the country's spiritual needs. There is no quick fix when it comes to problems that run so deep.

If nothing else, we should make a pledge to not forget about these people.

When the earthquake happened in January, it was a front-page story for weeks. Then, as time passed, it faded into the background.

Poor people often get the shaft when it comes to focusing on their problems. As Haiti settles into the background again, we will soon be saturated with media reports about Lindsay Lohan and others like her.

I have nothing personal against Ms. Lohan. I hope she straightens out her life.

Still, it is frustrating to watch someone make a career out of mayhem while so many other people suffer in darkness.

What are our priorities? We can either continue to focus on the frivolous or dedicate our lives to issues that really matter.

The choice is up to you.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Quotes of the day

"I don't claim that God doesn't exist. God is the name people give to the reason we are here. But I think that reason is the laws of physics rather than someone with whom one can have a personal relationship. An impersonal God." -- Physicist Stephen Hawking in the November 15 issue of Time magazine.

"Me carrying a briefcase is like a hot dog wearing earrings." -- Former Detroit Tigers and Cincinnati Reds manager Sparky Anderson. Anderson died earlier this month.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Returning to reality: Politics, Christianity, and the world

When absorbed in an intense election campaign, it is easy to forget about important topics that have little to do with politics (on the surface, anyway).

After all, politics is politics. While voters were focused on whether or not Delaware senate candidate Christine O'Donnell was a witch, more atrocities unfolded in the Middle East.

Earlier this month, a militant group with links to al Qaeda announced that it is turning up the heat on people of faith in Iraq. It announced that all Christians in the Middle East are now "legitimate targets" because of unresolved conflicts with some members of that community.

I can only speak for myself when I state that I thought all Christians were already targets for al Qaeda. Their radical interpretation of Islam denounces just about everybody who supports Israel. Since many Christians do that, I think it is safe to say many of that faith have been walking around with a big red target on them for quite a while.

In this current situation, al Qaeda in Iraq believes that Coptic Christian churches in Egypt are detaining women attempting to convert to Islam. Both the Egyptian Interior Ministry and the Coptic Church of Cairo have declined to comment on the matter, according to

Because of this, the militant group is ramping up the rhetoric and has already taken deadly actions against some. For example, terrorists recently attacked a church in Baghdad as it began its evening worship service.

Initially, 120 were held hostage, but after security forces raided the church, 58 were killed and many wounded.

Unfortunately, this gruesome event likely will not be the last one. The group continues to apply pressure.

During the recent election, the need to emphasize human rights to the international community was barely mentioned. Of course, this is understandable.

With our economy in a mess and a war that continues, circumstances like the one just described gets brushed to the side. This is unfortunate, but it is a fact of life. Maybe it would have been different if some rich people had been killed.

However, we must never forget just how powerful a force for good America can be when it comes to this. Despite our nation's spiritual apathy, religious freedom is one of the rights that makes our nation so unique.

As Iraq continues to develop itself in the post-Saddam Hussein era, it will need constant guidance regarding what is truly important when building a nation. It is in our nation's best interest if Iraq does not become a fundamentalist state that oversimplifies what western culture is all about.

If Iraq develops in a good way, it can have a tremendous impact on spiritual freedom. All right-thinking people understand that religion cannot be crammed down a person's throat. Any time we hear of a government telling its people what its religion will be, we should realize a lot of people will be persecuted.

This is because a person's faith is the most intimate aspect of his life. At least, it should be. When we hear of a government trying to force people into a specific faith, many people openly rebel.

We hear of this all over the word. As much as people try to sugarcoat what China is, it is not a friend to Christianity.

The bottom line is people of faith all over the world need our help. On a personal level, we can all help.

But our government can, too. With all the election rhetoric dying down, hopefully, politicians will see there is work to do when it comes to human rights.

There is a lot of self-righteousness in Washington. The time has come to truly practice what we preach on this matter.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tiger Woods vs. Mickey Mantle: Why the double standard regarding their personal lives?

Recently, a new book was released that studies the life and times of baseball great Mickey Mantle. The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America's Childhood by Jane Leavy is an exhaustive analysis of Mantle's life on and off the field. I have only read excerpts of the book, but based on the reviews I have read, it appears to be an excellent book.

There is no question that Mantle is a baseball legend, and a compelling argument can be made that he is one of the top five players of all time. However, the topic of this posting deals with his personal life. His personal life has been scrutinized many times going all the way back to the book Ball Four in 1970. His alcoholism, womanizing, and other inappropriate behavior have been thoroughly examined.

When comparing his personal life to golfer Tiger Woods, I cannot find much difference except in one major area. The big difference is how the behavior of the two has been presented to the public. Mantle's escapades have been presented to us with a wink. Sure, it has been reported to us, but often with a disclaimer that Mantle's shenanigans took place in a different era. The media did not report about player's personal lives then, and it was not much of a public issue. After all, boys will be boys.

Even when the scrutiny on his personal life intensified after his retirement from baseball, the criticism bounced off Mantle like he was wearing Teflon. People did not seem to care because he was 'The Mick.' He was their childhood hero, and it was a lot easier to embrace the legend instead of the truth.

When it comes to professional prowess, Tiger Woods is a lot like Mantle in that they were both prodigies. Still in the prime of his career, Woods is already considered one of the two greatest golfers of all time.

The similarities between the two carried into their personal lives. Woods repeatedly cheated on his wife. He behaved like a cad just like Mantle. He had access to the privileges of making the big time and exploited just about all of it.

For Woods, his treatment when his transgressions were made known was quite different compared to Mantle. The media that had winked at Mantle's decisions attacked Woods like a bull attacks a red cape. The media has hid behind the tired argument that times have changed, and that Woods is fair game.

Of course, that is a load of baloney. The primary reason Mantle was protected (and still continues to be) was because he was a New York player. Back in the 1950s and 60s, the New York print media ruled when it came to covering sports. Mickey was their boy, and nobody was going to lay a hand on him.

Woods, on the other hand, was ground into raw meat by many of the same publications that had protected Mantle. The hypocrisy here is thick and fair-minded people should understand the abuses that have happened here.

Please do not misunderstand. The point of this posting is not to defend Tiger Woods in any way. He made his mistakes and has paid dearly for them. Also, the point here was not to exploit Mantle's mistakes.

It is that we all need to be very careful when we get served stories like the one involving Tiger Woods. The media outlets that sanctimoniously criticize the behavior of some people often protect people who do the same thing simply because they like them.

This has been a cynical posting. I plead guilty to that.

However, Woods remains a pariah, and Mantle a golden boy.

And that does not seem right.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Rolling Stones 'Let It Bleed' remarkable in some ways, confusing in others

The Rolling Stones album Let It Bleed was another tremendous work released during their truly great period from 1968-72. During this period, they produced their four greatest albums (Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, and Exile on Main Street) and their best live album, Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! (released in 1970 though recorded in 1969).

The opening cut on Let It Bleed is 'Gimmie Shelter,' and it is one of the great songs of their career. As many have written, the song effectively reflects the time in which it was conceived. The hippie movement had tried and failed to make 'flower power' the defining characteristic of this generation. It was the Stones' job to tell the truth.

Shrouded in a guitar intro that is both spooky and unnerving, the song deals with the turmoil of the time. Rebellion was flowing through the streets of America and Europe. People were tired and scared. Shelter was very much on people's minds, and the song provided it. The greatness of this song is not only that it spoke to the fear of the time, but that it also provided a solution. As Mick Jagger sang: "Love, sister, is just a kiss away."

We live in a cynical age, and the idea that love can carry the weight toward solving our problems seems naïve. However, it is far from naïve. It was not then, and it is not now. 'Gimmie Shelter' is a timeless song because its fear and brutality remains, but the solution does, too. Hopefully, people will look more toward the solution.

The second song is the band's cover of the Robert Johnson classic 'Love in Vain.' Obviously, Robert Johnson was one of the most influential blues artists on the early wave of British rock and roll bands. The Stones and especially Eric Clapton are stamped with his influence. The Stones do the song justice. The song drips with despair, which is the appropriate emotion when we love somebody, but it's not going to work out.

The next is 'Country Honk,' and I have never understood its inclusion on this album. It is the country version of the Stones' 'Honky Tonk Women,' which hit the top of the singles' chart in the summer of 1969. This was five months before Let It Bleed was released. However, both songs were recorded at approximately the same time.

Why include this song? 'Country Honk' is not in the same league as 'Honky Tonk Women.' It comes across like it was the result of an impromptu jam session in which people were a little drunk. Because of this, it clouded their judgment regarding its quality.

Whatever the reason for the inclusion, it was a definite misstep. The fact that it was released so soon after 'Honky Tonk Women' makes it worse.

The title cut is a strong song, but it gets lost in the shuffle on this album. 'Let It Bleed' is a universal song about friendship. It is about helping each other when we are down and just need somebody to cling to ("We all need someone we can lean on").

However, the lyrics rely on overt references to drugs and sex, especially toward the end of the song. Many speculate this is why it was never released as a single. Additionally, I believe this is why it does not get played on the radio as much as it should. In some respects, this makes the song a missed opportunity because it deserves a larger audience.

'You Got the Silver' is a song of firsts and lasts. It is the first song that guitarist Keith Richards sang lead on from start to finish. He had previously sang lead on a few lines of songs (for example, 'Salt of the Earth' on Beggars Banquet), but this was the first time he went all the way. Also, this was the last song Brian Jones took part in, playing the autoharp. He had left the band earlier in the year and died soon after.

The finale is the well-known 'You Can't Always Get What You Want.' A radio staple, it is one of the few successful examples of using a children's choir on a rock and roll song. Other attempts to use this technique have yielded disastrous results (Bob Dylan's 'They Killed Him,' for example).

Lyrically, each verse presents scenarios that lead back to the theme of not getting what we want. This is not a particularly sophisticated theme, but it is performed with conviction. The long fade out is reminiscent of Creedence Clearwater Revival's 'Effigy' and The Beatles 'Hey Jude' that were out around the same time.

Simply put, this is a great album. Even casual fans of The Rolling Stones should have this in their collection. It represents some of the greatest rock and roll of all time.

Resource material: 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die; The Rolling Stone Album Guide; The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll; ‘Knocked Out Loaded’ by Bob Dylan; The Essentials (Unpublished)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Turning a political page

We can all come out of hiding now because our latest political election is finished. The assault on our senses will ease up for a while.

There will be no more automated phone calls that interrupt us during dinner (at least for a while).

When we return home in the evening, our mailboxes will not be stuffed with items in which political candidates deal dirt about the people they are running against. Study after study has shown that negative campaigning turns voters off, but it seems most of the candidates this time around did not get the memo on that.

We will be able to read our favorite newspapers and watch the evening news without hearing about the results of the latest polls. I get sick of polls. Polls can be useful, but they are overemphasized in elections. I think 68 percent of us understand that.

Of course, the analysis of what transpired Tuesday will be endlessly re-hashed for the next few weeks. In Washington, the new representatives and senators will not take office until January so there will be plenty of time to speculate.

In general, voters said they wanted change and that is what they got. The U.S. House of Representatives now has a Republican majority, while the Democratic majority in the Senate got smaller.

Wanting change is a common refrain from voters but sometimes voters do not know what kind of change they want. In 2008, President Barack Obama earned the White House by promising change, and after trying to do that for two years, voters sent the president a message by sending more Republicans to Washington.

Voters are in a difficult spot when it comes to wanting change. I believe voters genuinely want that, but they do not trust either major party enough to give them total control.

Two years ago, when Obama was elected, voters sent strong Democratic majorities to Congress. However, that has all changed now.

As much as voters want change, they seem to find more security in gridlock. Mark these words, within three months after the new politicians take office in January, there will be disparaging remarks from both Democrats and Republicans about the inability to make progress.

Gridlock will be back with a capital 'G.'

After all, by splitting the party in charge in Congress, the process in which matters will be addressed will be slowed down.

However, the public does want gridlock in some ways. I think people feel if there is gridlock then all that is going to take place in Washington is a bunch of talking. Since they do not trust either party, talking becomes an acceptable substitute for passing legislation.

Though this phenomenon may seem confusing, it really is not. As much as people say they want change, actually changing can be very scary. Change brings uncertainty. It is the opposite of security.

We may have been able to get away with this in previous decades, but we can not now. The challenges we face are too daunting. Gridlock can no longer help bring security.

At some point, we are going to have to hold our noses and make difficult choices. Each generation says it wants to leave our country better than they found it. We say we want to leave our country better so today’s children can have a better life than we had.

If nothing else, we need to make this our country's rallying cry now. The national debt is $13 trillion and getting bigger. We can’t spend our way out of the problems we currently have.

If we do not change our current path, our nation’s best years may have already passed.

The United States may have entered the autumn of its life.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Tennessee loss to Memphis would put football program at lowest point ever

Heading into this season, most Tennessee football fans had a realistic expectation about what was to come. Because of the flip-flopping of coaches and the attrition of players, the Volunteers were likely looking at a losing season.

Despite having this understanding, the winless October the team experienced was still hard to swallow. Blowout losses to Alabama and Georgia were the cherries on top of a wretched hot fudge sundae. The team, fans, and media all talked about making it to November because the schedule would get lighter and wins would be waiting.

Now that we have reached November, a very serious question must be addressed: Are more wins really waiting for the team? What have we seen in the last month that would indicate this team has improved to the point that it can play 60 good minutes?

In the aftermath of the South Carolina game, many have pointed to more productivity from the quarterback position and better defensive play as signs of improvement. However, we have to remember that the Vols still lost the game by two touchdowns. Is this the standard now being applied to Tennessee football? It seems fans are grasping for moral victories, which is something I thought I would never see in Knoxville. This team still has big problems.

The Volunteers stand 2-6 and are on the brink of their worst record since 1977's team went 4-7. This year's team has things in common with the 1977 squad. Both teams began the year 2-2. The 1977 team then went on an October losing streak that saw its record drop to 2-5. That team avoided dropping to 2-6 by beating Memphis State 27-14.

Coincidentally, the Vols play the same school this Saturday, and the Vols must win. Simply put, Memphis is awful. The Tigers are 1-7 and have lost their last five games by a combined score of 217 to 56. The only SEC team they have played is Mississippi State, and the Tigers got pasted 49-7. This score is in the neighborhood of some of Tennessee's SEC losses.

Given the terrible state of Tennessee's football team, a loss to an even worse Memphis team could be a body blow that propels the Volunteers to a 2-10 season. I do not see how the Vols could recover from a loss.

A loss would put the program at the lowest point in its history. Let's face it; the team is already on the borderline when it comes to being the worst in school history. A loss to Memphis would make it that much worse.

So, if somebody tells you that Tennessee has nothing to play for this week, tell them they are wrong. The team needs a win in the worst possible way. A one-point win would be good enough.

The big concern is that the team will not be emotionally pumped up. After four straight conference games, the Memphis Tigers are not a sexy opponent. In recent years, Tennessee has had trouble getting up for this team, and playing in a half-empty Liberty Bowl will not help any.

The stakes are high Saturday night, and a season hangs in the balance.

Perhaps there will be enough magic in the moonlight for the Volunteers to win.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Three powerhouses, a mystery, and a policy change

I was going through some old photos the other day when I stumbled upon this jewel. I'll pause for a moment because I know most of you crumpled to the floor when first fixing your eyes on this.

If I remember correctly, this photo was taken on a steamy June afternoon following graduation from Motlow State Community College. There is enough testosterone in this image to float a battleship. Three powerhouses dominating adulthood.

Still, a mystery remains. Why is there so much open space on the right side of the photo? It is as if we were expecting a fourth person. Or did we just want to give that planter some face time? Or that volleyball pole in the background?

Like Stonehenge, this will have to remain a mystery.

That said, there has been a policy change regarding The Nightly Daily. Effective immediately, readers can post comments again. I know we are not a big comment posting bunch, but I thought it was time.

I originally dropped this feature because I got tired of receiving spams. Spam offering discount Viagra as a response to a posting about Jesus was inappropriate. Now, if a reader posts a message, he will have to type a brief code that will be provided after pressing the 'Comments' link. After that, simply type your message and submit. I will try to post the comment as soon as possible.

As always, thanks for reading.