U2 and the Rules of Rock

28 May

Last night, we saw U2 in concert. They are not our favorite group, but some friends had extra tickets that they wanted to sell. We took them because U2 is a legendary band that people should see if given the chance and because we thought it would be a good show. In fact, it was a good show. However, it could have been a great show.

We got to our seats and saw a big wall.

I immediately thought they were trying to copy Pink Floyd, and, as the concert progressed, it was apparent that this was their version of The Wall.

Songs took the crowd through Bono’s youth with odes to his mother and to his childhood neighborhood. Then, the story took a turn as a comic book version of U2 was formed and flew too close to the sun before being brought back down to earth. Finally, the concert turned to the current state of politics and how America is a nation that can still be a shining beacon for the world.

Through all of that, there were great visual effects and moments of acting from Bono. At one point, he went from being a demon to talking to someone at home while cleaning up in a mirror.

All of that was fine. U2 is successful enough to indulge themselves in a little Rock Opera, and they have money enough to put together a visual spectacle. They were also low-key in their political statements for a band that has always been known for its politics.

However, through all of that there was one vital missing ingredient.

U2 did not play many of their hit songs. There was new stuff. There were deep cuts. There were homages to other artists. There were only a few songs that the casual U2 listener would recognize.

Throughout the day, I have been thinking about this and have come up with some ideas about what long-established bands should do during a concert. I call these ideas The Rules of Rock. Of course, they could also be called The Rules of Country. The Rules of Pop or The Rules of Any Genre of Music.

  1. If you have a song that reached Number 1 on the charts, then you should play it in concert. This would include “With or Without You” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” They did not play either of these songs, and I believe they are the only two singles to reach Number 1 on the US charts.
  2. If you have a song to which everyone in the building knows the words, then you should play it in concert. This does not have to be a Number 1 song. It could be something that was popular and people remember. “Where the Streets Have No Name” fits this category, but they did not play it.
  3. If you have a song that was the first semi-hit that put you on the map, then you should play it in concert. For a lot of people, “New Year’s Day” was the first sound they heard from U2, and it made them want to hear more. They did not play this, but it would have been a good idea.

I am sure that a ton of people left the concert happy with what they heard. Many people around us were singing along to songs that I have never heard. They cheered at some early U2 music that true fans of the band have probably grown to love. Certainly, those in the audience who Bono called out from the stage had a good time. Oprah Winfrey, Al Gore, former Republican Tennessee Senator Bill Frist, Ashley Judd, T-Bone Burnett, Ava DuVerney, Dierks Bentley. The list goes on and on.

As for us, we are not super fans or personal friends. We are people who wanted to hear the hits, and we did not hear enough of them.

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Picture This – New Mexico

24 May

We just returned from our annual field trip to New Mexico. For those who may not know, every spring another professor and I take students on a journey through the land, art and cuisine of the Land of Enchantment. This was one of our best experiences with great students and great learning opportunities. Instead of chronicling the entire venture, I decided to post my favorite photograph from each day.

On the drive out, we stopped at Cadillac Ranch, one of the most famous examples of Pop Art, and we all added our own touch to the masterpiece. 

On the second day, we made our way closer to the final destination of Santa Fe. However, we stopped at the home of artist Peter de la Fuente along the way. He is the grandson of Henriette Wyeth and Peter Hurd and does everything he can to carry on the family tradition. Currently, he does it on an 80,000 acre ranch.

Once in Santa Fe, we went on daily excursions that included hikes and moments of historical instruction. However, the highlight of the next say was our meal at Horseman’s Haven. If you love breakfast burritos covered in green chili sauce, then that is the place you need to go.

By far, my favorite hike is at Tent Rocks. It is a stroll through a slot canyon before a climb to the top of a mesa. Its true name is Kasha-Katuwe.

Our most time-consuming excursion is the drive to Chaco Canyon, the home of the Anasazi. No one knows for sure what if the canyon was a religious center, a commercial center or the home to thousands. It could have been all of that. 

We also drove to Taos. However, we did not stop in town. We went straight to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge and walked across to get some great pictures and some great shakiness over the height.

Acoma Pueblo is always one of our favorite stops. It is the oldest inhabited community in North America. There are great views from the top of the mesa on which the pueblo sits. However, I am always amazed by the streets within the community. I expect Henry Fonda to ride up on a horse at any minute. In fact, he did ride up on a horse in My Name is Nobody.

We also visited the ruins at Bandelier National Monument. Climbing the 140 foot ladders is always a highlight. However, it best moment is when we convince the students to sniff a tree.

On the final day, we did something completely different and new to our trip. A few of us went to Meow Wolf, an interactive art experience supported by Santa Fe resident George R.R. Martin. It was a weird and awesome thing to do.

After that, we made the long drive back to Tennessee. Hopefully, this trip to New Mexico was a learning experience for everyone.

On the Road with the Phoenix

24 Apr

This weekend, I traveled to Williamsburg, Kentucky to watch the Cumberland University Phoenix play baseball against the University of the Cumberlands Patriots. For most of you, it is probably weird to see two universities with almost identical names. In fact, they used to have the same name until the one in Kentucky changed theirs. I guess we are older and got dibs on the naming rights.

This post is not about the names of universities. It is about spending time at the ballpark watching a baseball series. It is also about watching a legend at work.

Woody Hunt has been our head coach for thirty-seven seasons and has over 1,500 wins. That makes him the winningest active coach in NAIA baseball. He also has three national championships. Yes, baseball is our sport, and Coach Hunt is the reason.

Like a lot of people in this area, I have followed Cumberland baseball for years and have always wanted to sit in the dugout to see the action up close. This weekend, I got to do more than that. I spent the first game as the color commentator on the radio broadcast. When the computer malfunctioned, I had to do play-by-play for a while. To be honest, that kind of freaked me out.

During Saturday’s first game, I stayed glued to Coach Hunt. His pre-game speech fired me up. I was ready to go out there and play.

Watching him in the dugout was a great experience. He did not say much, but, when he did, it meant something. He talked strategy with his assistants and spoke sternly to the players when they needed it.

It has been a long time since I spent a weekend at the ballpark. I have written about my days growing up around professional softball – my dad’s team; the ballparks; and the players.

There is something about the smell of the grass and the dirt and of hamburgers being grilled.

There is something about the sound of cleats on concrete and the sound of bat hitting ball during batting practice.

There is something about the music of a prerecorded national anthem coming through the speakers.

There is a feeling in the air as a crisp morning turns into a hot day. Then, that hot day turns into a cool evening.

There is that special time when the lights come on as the sun is going down.

There is also the feeling of being around a team, a group of people who are going through the wins and losses together. When the game is over, they talk about the game at the nearest fast food restaurant and continue talking about it as they head to the hotel.

No, there is nothing quite like being at a ballpark and being part of a team. It is something that I spent a lot of years doing, and, this weekend, it felt good to be part of that atmosphere once again. Even if was just for a few days.

Listening to Art Bell from East of the Rockies

16 Apr

I opened up Twitter and saw a message from a friend. He wanted my thoughts on the passing of Art Bell. At some point, we had discussed how both of us had listened to Coast to Coast AM into the wee hours of the night. Now, the host of that show was gone.

I first heard of Art Bell on another radio show. I was driving through the night, and a local talk host was discussing Bell’s sudden and mysterious retirement. This was sometime in the 1990s before we had instant access to everything. I had to do some searching to find out the scoop and to find out if he would ever return to the airwaves.

He made a triumphant return, and, although I had joined the party late, Bell became a late night staple for me. Despite the show’s name, he was on the FM dial in Nashville. At midnight, I would put in my headphones and listen for the theme music to start. It was “The Chase” by Giorgio Moroder, and I cannot listen to that song without thinking that an interview about UFOs is coming up next.

My favorite segments were with Richard C. Hoagland talking about NASA and the face on Mars. For months, they talked about the secret messages in the movie Mission to Mars. I went to see it just because they talked about it.

Zecharia Sitchin was also a great guest. His specialty was ancient astronauts and their influence on humanity.

Bell also took calls from listeners, and they always had stories of conspiracies or the paranormal. They would call in from East of the Rockies and West of the Rockies.

I would stay up too late listening to those shows, but I always fell asleep at some point. I wonder how many dreams were influenced by the voices coming through the headphones with words of weird stuff.

At some point, I stopped listening to Coast to Coast AM, but I always wondered about everyone who listened to it. Did they listen for entertainment? Did they believe what they were hearing? Was it a little of both?

I have also wondered about me. I listened for the entertainment value. However, some of it started seeping into my brain. How did it affect my ideas?

One of my colleagues at work teaches a class on conspiracy theories in American history. Maybe I should ask him.

In My Life

1 Apr

The record player is spinning one of my favorite artists, and one of my favorite songs just came through the speakers.

“In My Life” has always spoken to me. The Beatles originally recorded the song, but that is not the version that I like. It is Jose Feliciano and his guitar that strike a chord with me. There is something haunting about his rendition.

There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I’ve loved them all

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more

Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more

In my life I love you more

It is an awesome song, and Jose does it well. You should give it a listen.

Talking About Acting in a University Cafeteria

15 Mar

Today, I had lunch in our campus cafeteria. The big crowds had yet to arrive, and I saw our Theater Director eating alone. I loaded up with my grilled cheese sandwich and french fries and sat at his table. We have had many conversations through the years, but I had never asked what everyone should ask a Theater Director.

Who, in your opinion, is the greatest actor of all time?

His immediate answer was Laurence Olivier. He also thinks that James Dean was a natural and that Marlon Brando tried too hard. When I asked about current actors, he said that Denzel Washington is at the top of the list along with Meryl Streep. Although, Streep probably gets nominated for awards when she should not because of who she is.

It was an interesting conversation that delved into acting styles, acting teachers and the mistakes that he feels people have made with each. However, it got really interesting when he asked this question.

Have I ever told you about my older brother?

This is the story that followed.

His older brother dropped out of college and went to Hollywood. He was a handsome guy with dark hair, green eyes and a great smile. In short, he fit the mold. Like most people, he struggled for work and was constantly being turned down at auditions. However, there was a time when everything clicked.

He auditioned for a new television series and got the call. He had a role in the show.

Unfortunately, he received another call from a friend with news that he did not want to hear. His name had come up, and he was going to receive his draft letter. The friend said that there was no way to stop it. If he wanted to get out of being drafted, then he had to immediately sign up for the National Guard. That meant giving up the role in the new television series.

The decision was made. He turned down the role and went into training with the National Guard. The producers of the show replaced him with a slightly older actor who was beyond draft age.

The television show was Rawhide. The role was Rowdy Yates. The replacement actor was Clint Eastwood.

Our Theater Director’s brother returned home to Nashville, fell in love and got married.

Clint went on to a modicum of fame.

The Oddity of Appetizers

5 Mar

We dine out quite a bit. Nashville has developed a vibrant restaurant scene, and we try out as many trendy places as we can. The menus are always filled with choices that all sound delicious, and we cannot help but try a variety of items. That usually means getting an appetizer before our main course.

At most places, the appetizers bother me.

It is not the taste. In fact, I have found few appetizers that I did not like. Rather, it is the number. I have noticed that many restaurants serve their appetizers in odd numbers.

We order the cheese fritters at Amerigo, and they bring out five. This is us after eating five fritters.

We order deviled eggs at Bricktop’s, and they bring out five. For those who are not familiar with deviled eggs, they cuts eggs in half and take out the yolk. They then mix the yolk up with other great stuff and put that mixture back in the egg white. When I see five deviled eggs, I see two and a half eggs and wonder what happened to the other half. Why not bring out six?

The odd number of appetizers bothers me because they cannot be divided evenly among the diners. Just take the five fritters. If there are two dinners, which is often the case, then there may be a fight over the fifth one. That may definitely happen because the fritters are awesome.

Think about what happens if there are three diners. For example, there could be parents with a child. Then, you have one each and two left over. How do you divide that?

A lot of times, couples dine out together. Do you divide the fifth fritter into quarters?

The only way this works is if five people are dining, and I am certain that does not happen very often.

In my opinion, restaurants should tackle this issue because it is definitely a misstep within the industry that leaves diners in a quandary. Luckily for them, I have a few suggestions.

First, count the number of diners at the table and serve that many portions of the appetizer.

Two people equal two portions. This would also prevent them from stuffing themselves before the main course.

Three people equal three portions.

You get the point.

If it is a large table, then we understand that restaurants cannot financially do this. Those people can order more than one appetizer.

Second, serve an amount of portions that is easily divided amongst everyone. I have thought about this a lot and determined that six is the best number.

Two people get three portions each. They may not be hungry when the main course arrives, but the fritters or deviled eggs were definitely divisible.

Three people get two portions each. See, you have taken care of two amounts of diners that are probably common.

Four people gets trickier, but it is not insurmountable. Each person gets one, and the other two are split between each couple.

Five diners make six portions impossible to deal with. My suggestion is to leave the fifth wheel at home.

I have been thinking about this problem for a while, but I finally decided to write about it after dinner on Friday night. We went to the Yellow Porch and ordered appetizers. They were awesome, and, lo and behold, they were served in an even number. It was not the optimum six, but it was an easily handled four.

Finally, a restaurant is close to figuring out the oddity of appetizers.