Monday, June 28, 2010

Is this the bus to the civic center?

The Nightly Daily will be taking a temporary break in order to continue its quest for the perfect omelet. Expect new postings on or around July 5.

As always, thanks for reading.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Oh, the humility...

Well, we are more than two months into the BP debacle in the Gulf of Mexico, and this mess looks like it will not be resolved anytime in the near future.

Oil continues to saturate the Gulf. BP tried the most modern advancements in science and technology to make the problem stop. Despite some very minor success, the oil continues to make life difficult for those living down in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.

There are lots of lessons to be learned from this disaster. Perhaps one of the most important ones is that there are limits to what science and technology can do for us.

In the last 50 years or so, we have seen successes in those fields that have impacted each of us in our every day lives. The technology that delivered man to the moon in the late 1960s seems primitive by today's standard, but it got the job done.

Since then, people dedicated to those fields have come to rely on them to explain just about every aspect of life. It does not matter whether the questions surround the creation of the universe or how to more effectively cook chicken in a microwave oven. Science and technology have been presented to us as the answer to almost everything.

But now, we have to face the very sobering reality of what is happening in the Gulf. Even if the problem is resolved tomorrow, the environmental impact is going to last for years and years.

When it comes to disasters, people often turn toward spirituality after science and technology have let them down. I have heard the calls for people to pray about the situation down there, and I believe that is crucial when it comes to the resolution of this.

Human nature being what it is, people want to rely on their own abilities to solve a problem. When they fail, it is at that point that they become humbled enough to start asking for help. This is often where God enters the picture.

Obviously, I can not speak for God, but sometimes I wonder what He must think when events like this unfold. Those who believe in God understand that He can resolve this issue with the blink of an eye. However, this situation continues to horribly continue.

Maybe a disaster of this magnitude should remind us that we are not quite as advanced as we believe we are. When we were children and we acted like we knew it all, our parents would comment that we were getting 'too big for our britches.'

So, could this be an example of suffering being caused because we got 'too big for our britches?' The very fact that BP would search for oil in such a dangerous way without an effective emergency response plan would indicate that.

All too often, we are willing to push the envelope without thinking through the consequences if we fail. Company e-mails that have recently come to light indicate that there were grave concerns within BP that too many corners were being cut.

However, BP kept pushing and pushing. All the successes the company has enjoyed over the years probably made them numb to the possibility of disaster. After all, BP was one of the most successful companies in the world.

Well, even the biggest fall on their faces at some time. It does not matter whether it is a large corporation or individuals like you and me.

Nobody likes to be humbled, but it might be the one thing that protects us from bigger calamity somewhere down the road.

So, let's learn now.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Simon and Garfunkel's 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' a beautiful pop album

The Simon and Garfunkel song 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' is one of the most beautiful and best-known pop songs of all time. Propelled by Paul Simon's concise songwriting and Art Garfunkel's angelic voice, the song was a massive hit that topped the singles chart for six weeks.

The enormity of the song's success somewhat overshadowed the brilliance of the album on which it appeared. The album of the same title was also a huge success, hitting the top spot on the Billboard album chart. The album does not contain a dud on it. The duo was on the cusp of breaking up, and this album is probably the best example of an act quitting while at the top.

The success of the song 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' may be the product of good timing as well as being a great song. It is important to remember the context in which it was released. In the late 1960s, the Vietnam War had caused unrest. Violence and assassinations had played a prominent role on the American landscape. The country was tired and divided. By 1970, when this song was released, it was the perfect time for a song about friendship and reconciliation to appear on the radio.

The album, as a whole, is beautiful. 'El Conder Pasa (If I Could)' was an adaptation of a Peruvian folk song played with instruments associated with the musical culture of the Andes Mountains. Lyrics and music combined to deliver atmospheric beauty rarely heard on a pop song.

'Cecilia' was also a big hit that dealt with the ups and downs of a romantic relationship in a humorous way. 'The Boxer' showcased Simon's lyrics and singing about an anonymous athlete trying to hang on. 'Keep the Customer Satisfied' is a fairly standard song about the demands of serving the public, but chewy horns take the song to another level.

'So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright' is a song that confused me for a while. A song about an architect did not seem to fit the tone of the album, so its inclusion was perplexing. Later I learned that Garfunkel was once an architecture student, and the song is actually Simon dealing with their impending break up in a veiled way. The song is clever and interesting.

The album is filled with choice pop songs. Because of its success, it is almost a greatest hits album without being a greatest hits album.

It represents the best of its genre.

Monday, June 21, 2010

It's summer, and it's hot

Summer has begun, and it has started with a torching bang. Today, highs of 98 degrees were common across Middle Tennessee. The heat index reached nearly 103 degrees in some places. It is expected to be hot throughout the week.

Not much can be done in a situation like this. However, to remind us of colder times, here are some photos of snow and ice taken last winter.

Maybe this can help. Maybe.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A world in flux

People tend to fall into three categories. We are either optimists, pessimists, or we fall into a group somewhere in between those two.

We are told to be optimists because those types of people generally are happier. They are the ones who look at a partially filled glass of water and prefer to think of it as being half full.

For people having that type of attitude, they should feel grateful. It is not always easy to look on the bright side of situations.

At one point, I considered myself an optimist. Despite all that raged around me, I did a pretty good job of maintaining my optimism. I was younger when I went through this phase, but as I have gotten older, this state of mind has changed.

Pessimism is the opposite of optimism. These unfortunate folks tend to expect the worst or look at life in a hardened, cynical way. Pessimism touches all ages. Just because a person is young does not necessarily mean they will be optimistic about life. It is too easy for people of all ages to look at life's events and let the negativity overwhelm them.

I have talked to people who openly consider themselves to be pessimists. In most cases, they believe their viewpoint is the most honest way of looking at life. Too often, these people have said to me that optimists live their lives with their head stuck in the sand.

A few of the pessimists have told me that they envy the optimists. They genuinely wish they could look at life as their opposites do. They just can not seem to do it.

Of course, there is also that third group of people I mentioned: the people who fall somewhere in between optimism and pessimism.

I believe that is the category in which most people can be classified, including myself. I am generalizing here, but I believe the optimism that most enjoy in their youth is basically naiveté. We begin our lives that way and stay in that state until we begin experiencing the ups and downs of life.

Then, at some point, it is almost as if a veil has been removed from in front of our eyes. We begin to see the complexity of life. We see the justices and injustices, and we often wonder how other people can not understand issues that are seemingly so simple.

At this point, it is very difficult because we are fighting hard to maintain our optimism. However, that silent voice inside us all begins to point us in another direction. It does not point us toward pessimism, but people often mistakenly go down that path.

The still, silent voice educates us. It tells us that optimism is nice, but there are simply too many issues and events in which we can not see the bright side of life.

When actor Gary Coleman recently died, pictures of him laying on his deathbed were taken and sold for thousands of dollars to the tabloids. It is hard to look at the exploitation of a dying man and see optimism in that.

As Bob Dylan once sang: "Money doesn't talk, it swears." That is a pessimistic comment, but it sure applies to the Coleman situation.

Additionally, it is difficult to look at the BP oil spill and not feel pessimistic. A huge corporation cut corners on safety, and the result has been chaos. However, all is not lost.

BP is actually going to salvage as much of the spilled oil as possible and sell it.

A profit off a disaster? That's life.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Farther Along

Tempted and tried, we're oft made to wonder
Why it should be thus all the day long
While there are others living about us
Never molested tho' in the wrong

Farther along we'll know all about it
Farther along we'll understand why
Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine
We'll understand it all by and by

When death has come and taken our loved ones
It leaves our home so lonely and drear
Then do we wonder why others prosper
Living so wicked year after year

Farther along we'll know all about it
Farther along we'll understand why
Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine
We'll understand it all by and by

"Faithful to death" said our loving Master
A few more days to labor and wait
Toils of the road will then seem as nothing
As we sweep the beautiful gate

Farther along we'll know all about it
Farther along we'll understand why
Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine
We'll understand it all by and by

When we see Jesus coming in glory
When He comes from His home in the sky
Then we shall meet Him in that bright mansion
We'll understand it all by and by

Farther along we'll know all about it
Farther along we'll understand why
Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine
We'll understand it all by and by

Copyright 1937 by The Stamps-Baxter Music & Ptg. Co.
W.B. Stevens
Arr. J.R. Baxter

Monday, June 14, 2010

Tennessee Volunteers might be fortunate to win six games this year

It is still almost three months until Tennessee's first game, but it does not hurt to look ahead a little. Obviously, more will be written on this as the season approaches, but a quick look at this year's schedule shows us the Volunteers face a stiff challenge.

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. Mississippi
Nov. 20 -- at Vanderbilt
Nov. 27 -- vs. Kentucky

Tennessee will be breaking in a new quarterback as well as having to find five new starters on the offensive line. In many cases, this spells disaster for a team playing in the Southeastern Conference.

The Vols might have to sweat it out just to get the six wins necessary to become bowl eligible.

However, on the bright side, Tennessee will have a better shot at the national championship than Lane Kiffin's USC Trojans. As I am sure most of you know, the NCAA threw the book at USC, giving them four years' probation that includes no bowl games for the next two years.

That's a shame.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Bonnaroo has brought remarkable list of artists to my doorstep

Well, if the weather is hot, then it must be time for Bonnaroo. Each year, the music festival transforms Manchester and Coffee County into the center of the popular music universe.

While opinions vary about whether this event is good for our community, I must admit there is part of me that enjoys being at the center of the universe. When it comes to notoriety, there are worse things for which to be known.

While many towns in our area appear to be shriveling up, this event (for better or worse) really juices up our community. After all, what is McMinnville known for? How about Winchester? What about Sparta?

All three of those towns are fine places to visit, and I am sure if I lived there I would be somewhat offended by the tone of this column. Still, the next time a person finds himself driving through one of our sister towns, spend some time examining how they are making it these days.

Times are tough all over. I guess what I am trying to express is that it is nice to experience some prosperity during a time in which it is difficult to be prosperous.

Hopefully, some of our visitors attending Bonnaroo will stop at some of the towns I just mentioned and eat a meal or fill up their gas tank there. Every dollar counts these days.

As for the festival itself, it is still a little hard to believe an event like this takes place here. Being born and raised in Manchester, I would have never believed when I was younger that our town could support and survive an event this big.

When I was in high school in the early 1980s, I would have scoffed at anybody who suggested that artists like Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen would someday perform about three miles from my house. I probably would have advised that person to stop smoking what many of our guests at Bonnaroo are likely smoking this weekend.

During my high school days, popular music was as bland as eating a napkin. Bands like Journey, Styx, and Foreigner led the charge when it came to migraine-inducing music. It really was not a good time for people who like meaningful music.

A band my friends and I gravitated toward was Creedence Clearwater Revival. CCR is likely the greatest American rock and roll band. Listen to the radio all day, and a person will likely hear their songs many times.

This year, John Fogerty is scheduled to perform at Bonnaroo. Fogerty, of course, was the driving force behind CCR. He arranged and produced their albums as well as writing remarkable songs like 'Proud Mary,' 'Bad Moon Rising,' 'Green River,' 'Down on the Corner,' 'Fortunate Son,' 'Up Around the Bend,' and others.

I have been fortunate to see him perform several times, most notably at the Ryman Auditorium in the late 90s. It was a great show at a great venue.

I guess I can add Fogerty to the list of great artists to perform near my house. I guess my house is a happening place. Who would have guessed?

As for this year, the best way local citizens can assist with the influx of guests we are experiencing is to just be nice to them. 'Doing unto others' can also apply to music festivals and the challenges that come along with them.

In a couple of days, it will all be over, and our lives will return to normal.

Of course, normal can be defined in different ways. By Monday, I think I will define normal as just wanting peace and quiet.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Otis Redding is the best singer I have ever heard

As regular readers of this blog know, I write a lot about music. I don't really know why other than I enjoy doing it.

I have listened to a lot of music in my life. When a person listens to that much music, it is easy for it to blend together into one big jumble. Because of this, it takes something or somebody really special to stand out above everything else.

When it comes to singing, soul singer Otis Redding is the best I have ever heard. He conveyed emotion better than any other singer. It does not matter whether it was joy or pain; Otis brought it forward with purity. And not many other singers have done that.

Beginning in 1963, when he released the single 'These Arms of Mine,' it became clear that he was somebody special. Of course, his career would not last long. He died in a plane crash in December 1967. Fortunately he left us with a lifetime's worth of music.

For anybody looking for an introduction to his music, I recommend The Best of Otis Redding that was originally released in 1972. It is fairly comprehensive. It includes his most well-known songs as well as other essential songs.

Redding's songs found success on the rhythm and blues chart almost from the beginning, but it took a while for him to dent the mainstream pop chart. However, by 1965, he started seeing some success.

'I've Been Loving You Too Long (to Stop Now)' and 'Respect' both made the top 40 on the pop chart that year. Of course, Aretha Franklin would have much more success with 'Respect' two years later. However, at this point, Redding seemed on his way.

In 1966, 'Try a Little Tenderness,' 'Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song),' and his version of The Rolling Stones 'Satisfaction' all made the top 40. Not huge hits, but good enough to keep the momentum going.

As a lifelong Tennessean, it is cool that most of his record making took place in Memphis. Backed many times by Booker T. and the MG's and the Mar-Keys on horns, his music represented the voice of soul music in the South. Though 'black' music at that time was being dominated commercially by Motown in Detroit, soul music from the South was making strong in-roads on the charts.

Redding's most well-known appearance happened about six months before his death at the Monterey International Pop Festival in California. When comparing his performance there with other live performances, there was an urgency that seemingly was never there previously.

Of course, Redding was a masterful performer his entire career, but there was something about the Monterey performance that was mesmerizing. He and the band performed in a frenzy. He seemed determined to wring out every last drop of his talent.

Redding was playing in front of a huge audience that demographically was different from his usual audience. He had to have known that this performance could propel his career to places it had never been. Whatever the case, he delivered a remarkable performance, and his music was brought to a new audience.

By January of the following year, he would have his only number one hit on the pop chart with '(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay.' Redding was dead by then, but at least his music made it to the large audience that his talent deserved.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Ticket prices for McCartney concert are laughably high

I was excited when I first heard that Sir Paul McCartney will play at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on July 26. I have never seen him perform in person, and with him pushing 70 years of age, this likely will be the last time folks around here will have a chance to seem him.

I was excited until I saw the ticket prices for the concert. I am sure McCartney will put on a first-class show, but the prices for the tickets are a joke. There is no way I will pay those prices to see him play.

For example, single tickets in the upper deck are approximately $72 each (the price includes fees and taxes). Various package deals range from $400 to $1900.

Those prices are just too high. I know McCartney lost tens of millions of dollars in his divorce a few years ago, but his estimated fortune is in the hundreds of millions. I guess he is determined to make one last devastating cash grab before he retires.

He has every right to charge whatever he wants for tickets. I am just disappointed the prices are so high.

It's funny; it was John Lennon who got in trouble in 1966 for saying The Beatles were 'bigger than Jesus.' Based on what McCartney expects people to pay for tickets, Sir Paulie must think he is pretty big, too.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

BP, President Obama, and the oil spill disaster blues

The weeks grind on and the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico continues to emerge as one of the largest catastrophes in recent memory.

The events of the last month or so have really been unbelievable. The credibility of BP will begin rivaling Enron if substantially better news about the situation does not emerge soon.

Comparing BP to Enron may be a stretch, but they are both examples of corporate incompetence that will impact our nation for years to come. Enron ripped people off for financial gain. In a sense, BP has as well because the company clearly overreached in its bid for bigger profits.

BP rolled the dice by drilling for oil without an acceptable emergency response plan, and now the company may never recover from a financial and public relations perspective.

I have given a lot of thought regarding what word best describes BP, and the one that fits best is 'stupid.' I know that is not a fancy word, but my goodness, BP has to be the stupidest corporation on the planet.

What in God's name was BP thinking? The company chose to push the envelope when drilling while crossing its fingers that a worst case scenario would never take place.

Like an acrobat who tries to thrill a crowd without a net, BP was hoping that the law of averages would not catch up with it. After all, what were the chances that there would be an explosion killing many while producing an oil spill roughly the size of South Carolina?

It is easy to take those risks when the person making those decisions is tucked away in an office building far away from the workers who have to deal with the peril. I do not know if any of these decisions were criminal, but if they were, it is another example of how the worst crimes in our society are often committed by people who wear suits and ties to work every day.

Of course, there has been plenty of political fallout from this. President Obama has been roasted for the federal government's perceived slow response to this situation. The howls from Louisiana have been long and loud.

When a Democratic die hard like James Carville publicly criticizes the president, it shows that politically loyalty can only be pushed so far. I have always found Carville to be an odd but fascinating fellow, and I commend him for speaking his mind.

As for Obama, it is hard to explain why he chose to approach the situation as he did. True, federal agencies were providing assistance early on and letting BP take the lead in fixing the well was probably the right decision.

However, Obama badly bungled this from a public relations standpoint. This is a misstep for a man whose strength is communicating with people. Days dragged into weeks before he made any meaty statements about the situation.

By that time, he was coming across as passive and ineffective when it came to his leadership. For critics looking for any opportunity to pounce on him, Obama gave them plenty of ammunition.

The criticism of him hit a point of critical mass when people began comparing his handling of the situation to the way the Bush administration handled Hurricane Katrina.

As much as the left wing hated Bush, these comparisons had to have stung.

These problems will not go away anytime soon. The mid-term elections are approaching, and Democrats were already beginning to sweat regarding their ability to maintain firm majorities in the House and Senate.

This disaster may have given Republicans a gift that may keep giving until November.

(Note: The photo with this posting was taken by the Associated Press.)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

'Quadrophenia' is The Who's forgotten rock opera

The Who produced a lot of great music over the years, but one of their best selling albums seems to have been forgotten as time as passed. Quadrophenia was a follow-up of sorts to the hugely successful rock opera Tommy. After Tommy, main songwriter and guitarist Pete Townshend felt the need to deliver a second rock opera, and Quadrophenia was the result.

However, it was not easy. The initial follow-up was called Lifehouse, but the project eventually collapsed. The bulk of the music from that project appeared on Who's Next in 1971, as well as on singles released in 1972. Heading into 1973, Quadrophenia took shape and when released, it reached the highest a Who album would ever reach in America, topping out at number two on the album chart (five years later, the Who Are You album would also reach the number two spot).

Despite the sales, the album was never embraced in America like the Tommy album. There are several reasons. For starters, the plot was threadbare. If Tommy's storyline had gaps then Quadrophenia's was like steam disappearing into the air. It is very difficult to follow a progression of events despite having some great individual songs.

Secondly, the setting of the album was in the Mod culture of mid-1960s England. This was the setting in which The Who began, and it was obviously very dear to them. However, most Americans had no idea how to connect with that culture.

Thirdly, as the album title states, the story's main character, Jimmy, did not just suffer from schizophrenia. He suffered from 'quadrophenia,' and the album's efforts to show the four sides of his personality lacked any real depth. Each of the four personalities was meant to represent a member of the band. 'Love, Reign O'er Me' was Townshend's theme. Singer Roger Daltrey's was 'Helpless Dancer.' Bassist John Entwistle's was the 'Is It Me?' portion of 'Dr. Jimmy.' Drummer Keith Moon's was 'Bell Boy.'

Each of those songs is excellent when taken singularly, but as part of a storyline, it is confusing how these fit in with the overall album.

Because of these issues, Quadrophenia seemingly has not had the staying power of Tommy. The two singles from the album ('Love, Reign O'er Me' and 'The Real Me') both failed to crack the top 70 of the singles chart. Tommy, on the other hand, had three singles reach the top 40 ('Pinball Wizard,' 'See Me, Feel Me' and 'I'm Free').

That said, Quadrophenia has several things going for it. From a production standpoint, it is a much better sounding album compared to Tommy. The Who was finally able to harness its live sound in the studio on Who's Next and it carried over to this album.

Additionally, there are some tremendous songs on Quadrophenia. All the previously mentioned songs are first rate, as well as several others like 'I'm One,' 'Drowned' and '5:15.'

If all these songs are accepted as just individual tracks on an album, then Quadrophenia can be viewed as a triumph. Unfortunately, the band had much higher ambitions, and those ambitions were not met.

Because of this, an album that almost topped the American charts has almost none of its songs played with regularity on the radio. That is a real shame because there is some great music to be heard.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tom Petty showed he could solo on 'Full Moon Fever'

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers was one of the most important bands to emerge from the 1970s. Playing clean and simple rock and roll influenced by The Byrds, the band was the antithesis of what the genre was becoming in that decade. Rock and roll was becoming bland and corporate, and those are two adjectives that could never be applied to the band.

In 1989, Petty released his first solo album Full Moon Fever. Though it was not totally a solo album (Heartbreaker guitarist Mike Campbell was a co-producer of it), most of the album was unlike his previous work. The two most familiar tracks 'Free Fallin' and 'I Won't Back Down' sound like they could have been done by the Heartbreakers. After that, there were surprises.

The Electric Light Orchestra's Jeff Lynne was also a co-producer of the album. He brought his patented airtight production that he had also applied to albums by George Harrison and Roy Orbison around this time. Lynne was going through a period in which he seemed to have developed a Midas touch when producing other people's work. Petty benefited from that.

'Running Down a Dream' is a beautiful rocker that contains stinging guitar so sharp that it could draw blood. 'The Apartment Song' is almost Buddy Holly-ish in its sound. 'A Mind with a Heart of its Own' has absurdist lyrics that are laugh out loud funny.

However, the best song may be 'Zombie Zoo,' which closes the album. The song has whimsical lyrics that bring back warm memories for me. The album was released while I was in college, and this song's lyrics remind me of the group of people that were referred to as 'Goths' or 'Gothic' during that period. They may still be referred to as that for all I know. They typically wore black and had chalk-like complexions. Girls often wore lipstick and makeup that were black.

That whole group of people seemed to be so pretentious and self-aggrandizing that I could not help but find them funny. I liked to refer to them as The Undead. For me, 'Zombie Zoo’' does a nice job of lampooning those folks.

It is hard to believe it has been more than 20 years since this album was released. It sounds as vibrant as it did then. If it is not part of your collection, consider getting it.