Remember when James Agee told a reader to “F&^% Off?”…Yeah me neither

Some of you might have heard about Linda Tirado. She was the woman who wrote a moving piece about her personal experiences being poor in America. It first appeared on Gawker and because it was so poignant it became viral. I will not bore you with the details because, frankly, I am not well researched on her specific case or her background, but needless to say her words resonated throughout the “interwebs.”
You can read her story here.
Then a “journalist” from the Houston Press questioned the validity of this woman’s story and inferred, from how I understood her words, she was misrepresenting herself. To be fair the writer for the Houston Press, Angelica Leicht, was not the only writer who questioned the truth of Linda Tirado’s story. But this writer is the only one who decided to tell me to “F&^% Off.”
And that is really the substance of this blog.

Yes, an actual news reporter, or writer, or whatever title you chose to attach chose to lash out at a mere Tweet I made five days ago. And I did not even question her story. See Below:
Angelica Leicht EFF OFF 2

And really this is where I fall off the boat. This is the very reason our “news” these days is manufactured, mostly, by individuals who have no business publishing words for human consumption. Journalism is truly a lost art and so few actually practice it with any sense of professionalism.
Exhibit B:

Angelica Leicht EFF OFF 3

I also don’t remember a writer, from the era when journalism was considered a professional occupation, lashing out at one of their readers with ad hominem language. I am not going to question the writer’s product: her base examination of the validity of Linda Tirado’s story. They do a pretty good job of it here.
What I am going to point out is this: there is no wonder that the world is filled with misinformed people. We are being misinformed by people who have no business writing about heady subjects. These matters need to be left to professionals who know what writing is supposed to be and who are not simply hacking their way towards sensationalism. This writer seems more suited for TMZ type fodder, not real news. Examples of subjects she might approach could be: Adult Toys or the best bar to get smashed at in Houston,TX. She has already made her mark on these pressing social issues.

It is generally best for someone to stick with what they know and not get too far off the beaten path. This is the case with this writer. I do not care one whit if Linda Tirado was lying or not. Apparently she was not, from the backlash of articles I have read in the last few days defending her and presenting the timeline from Gawker which shows, clearly, she had to be pushed into publishing her original piece. It was that good.

Where I get confused and stymied is that a “journalist” would take the time to hurl an expletive at someone across the Twitter-verse who simply wondered, in a Tweet, if the writer had a twitter account. If I write something for the world to read I am going to stand by it and if someone disagrees with me so be it. They are my words, or at least the pattern of words I chose to string together. Have some confidence in what you put out there to the world or don’t write it at all. And for sure don’t hit publish or better yet, don’t tread in deep waters without your floatation device.

Much like Shakespeare’s Queen Gertrude “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”


Hard work Trumps Talent

Just picked up a book by Matthew Quick (of Silver Lining Playbook fame) called Boy 21. Skimmed the first few pages and the main character’s father threw this nugget out in the first 5 pages. “Hard work beats out talent in the last of the race.” I have read about that far and to be honest that quote stopped me cold in my tracks.

This is so often true and in the music industry, or any industry for that matter, the talented, the one who have been told they are great their whole lives jump out of the pond and into the river which ultimately leads to the sea and on into the ocean, provided they make it that far. Along this journey the talented start running into many things, namely, other talented people, some kind of talented people with no drive, and some people with a little talent and the will to move mountains a spoonful at a time. If I am a betting man and these three are my choices I take the latter every time.

Why? Because the world is filled with talented people but so few who are actually willing to put in the “sweat equity” to keep at it until the job is done. This is not to say that there are not immensely talented people out there with just as immense amount of work ethic. There are and these people are often called genius, and rightfully so. But sometimes having just the spark of want and culminating it with a go “with-it-ness ” makes all the difference.

I had a basketball coach in middle school who used to run us like dogs who owed him money. I mean beginning of practice you started running, practiced, and then at the end it was followed by a good half mile and more suicides than I thought I could take. He used to say “boys the difference at the end of the game is who is holding their shorts. If you look over and it is late in the fourth quarter and one team is holding their shorts most of the time they are going to lose.” It was all about conditioning, to be the ones with air for the last quarter, to be the guys not holding their shorts when go time arrived.

We all miss the mark and get discouraged in this life, regardless of our passions and the task we chose to pursue but I have noticed, looking in retrospect, and doing that big evaluation we all probably do I see those hurdles don’t seem so cumbersome and the mistakes I made in the past I don’t make any more. Why? Because I have conditioned myself not to make them. And man I made them but in the now, going forward, I learned and I would not have if I had quit or given up.

It is the struggle in these days which defines us. Or better yet how we respond in the struggle. If you have talent use it wisely and stick to it when things don’t go your way. Keep a journal and look back from time to time at those patches that were not so smooth and then look how you made it through. The same goes for the person who does not quit and has just a bit of the old spark of talent.

Yet at the end of the day, when I am at the ticket window placing my bet, I will put it right on the nose of that rough horse whose coat might not be as shiny and may even have some scars on it. Heck that horse might finish the race dead last but I know it will be back the next time to pay off eventually.

Hambone Willie: The West Tennessee Connection to the American Song

Here we have an interesting point in American music history:


Hambone Willie Newbern and his version of Roll and Tumble Blues

I have been doing some reading on West TN Blues and have known this but am just know realizing how seminal many artists from West TN were on the blues at large. Exhibit number one: Roll and Tumble Blues. Though not the first to record this tune (Gus Cannon Jug Stompers whose Noah Lewis was from Henning, TN) his arrangement was used by Robert Johnson for his “Possession Over Judgement Day” and Muddy Waters’ version by a similar title. So here is where I am right now. Are the Delta Blues really just West TN Blues morphed into something else due to the artist’s own take on the originals?

Obviously there were songs floating about all over America’s South, specifically along the areas on the East and West of the Mississippi River. What I find particularly interesting is the attention paid to the more “noted” performers (Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, etc.) and the assumption that they were the seminal influence on the music’s coming of age. When in reality they were an early link in the chain with other links preceding them, if not simply in a historical context. Of course the tunes played by Hambone Willie Newbern and Gus Cannon’s Jug Stompers had to have come from somewhere also. Yet is it possible that West Tennesse can lay as much a claim to being grandfather’s of “the Blues” as anyone else?


More about Hambone Willie Newbern Below.

Little is known about blues songster Hambone Willie Newbern; a mere half-dozen sides comprise the sum of his recorded legacy, but among those six is the first-ever rendition of the immortal Delta classic “Roll and Tumble Blues.” Reportedly born in 1899, he first began to make a name for himself in the Brownsville, TN area, where he played country dances and fish fries in the company of Yank Rachell; later, on the Mississippi medicine show circuit, he mentored Sleepy John Estes (from whom most of the known information about Newbern originated). While in Atlanta in 1929, Newbern cut his lone session; in addition to “Roll and Tumble,” which became an oft-covered standard, he recorded songs like “She Could Toodle-Oo” and “Hambone Willie’s Dreamy-Eyed Woman’s Blues,” which suggest an old-fashioned rag influence. By all reports an extremely ill-tempered man, Newbern’s behavior eventually led him to prison, where a brutal beating is said to have brought his life to an end around 1947. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi

Read more:


Poor John’s Mind

Sleepy John Estes

I pontificate on this man for more than one reason. Here lately I have been reading Sweet Showers of Rain by Samuel Charters who documented a great amount of blues culture and in an eloquent fashion I might add. I was enamored with John Estes upon first hearing his mournful cry of a voice. He had me in the first few lines and then to realize he was only a few miles from my childhood home even made it a bonus. It helped me realize the fertile ground from which I come was a literal hotbed of American music.
Guaranteed if you hear some hipster band aping the blues in some way it was originally inspired by some black sharecropper or field hand or roustabout lurking within a hundred mile radius of where I type this from. I go back and forth with the blues as a musical form and do not want to get into any arguments about what does or does not constitute blues or if there even really such a thing. Not my purpose. It is more leaned towards the reasons why.
The “blues” in some respects, and definitely in the case of John Estes and others (Yank Rachell and Hammie Nixon), was the only option for some men. And when you hear their mournful cry it is not for dramatic effect, often it all they usually possessed, the will to make a noise in the dark bleakness of this life. I am not trying to wax poetic. Don’t mis-take me on this essential point. The music they created is great for lack of so much else. When you hear them they are truly giving you all they had. And we are blessed for it. There is something very deep in that, that inside the struggle, where many men or women simply give up there is that spark of human spirit which allows a person to balm their misery with song.
If you get the chance I suggest you try some out for yourself.

Singularity: Piercing the veil of Rock Stars and Beyond

Ok first Check out this on FB: Awkward Band and Musician Photos
It is burst a gut funny. But beyond the humor it leads to an interesting aspect of the coming singularity. The page itself is a spoof page meant to be funny and illicit humorous comments and LULZ. I can see several thousand Memes sprouting from the volume of this page alone and it has just gotten started. But what is really interesting to me as an observer is the exchange I found below:

It is the FB fan site of one of the bands who are awkwardly portrayed on the FB site. They are getting flack from people on their own site which 20 years ago, first would have been unheard of, and second not possible due to the lack of media resources. Now one can simply create a FB site and the entire world can join in on the tomfoolery. My point is not to make fun of anyone’s awkward photos. I probably have a few hundred of them myself. The point is the access people have to share these sort of experiences which, 20-30 years ago, would have been limited to “yeah those guys suck” or “that one guy looks sort of odd” and never left a person to person or group conversation. Now the whole world is privy to the conversation and it surely pierces the veil of being a ROCK STAR. Perhaps that is just what it has always been: a veil. Granted some bands are just better than the other 4000 gabillion others but that is not the point either. This band King Kobra, who apparently were somewhat noteworthy, have had to delete comments from people who are just after LULZ or are being honest. Rock Stars never had to contend with that sort of nonsense back in the day.
Which leads me to wonder this: if Rock Stars are susceptible to this type of shenanigans who is really safe from this type of public scrutiny? Again I might be making a mountain out of a mole hill or a dung heap but seriously are we not moving towards something? People’s ability to shred a conception of FAME at will in a few keystrokes has to be downright horrifying for those running the smoke machines and the guys holding up all the mirrors and even more so for the guys paying them.

Bring in the Clowns

I have had time to absorb both the RNC and DNC. Fact checkers can run amok about how close either side hit at least middle on the needle of truth. To be honest, from where I sit, both sides lauded some pretty large zingers which might have some possibility to fire up their respective bases yet fall flat on their face when the flash light of fact shows the smoke and reflects back in the many mirrors propping the whole thing up. It’s what they do and it is to be expected, from both sides.
President Clinton obviously carried both conventions by giving perhaps one of the greatest speeches I have ever personally witnessed. It was that darn good and probably pretty close to spot on with its obvious leanings into hyperbole, which too is to be expected.
Yet what is becoming more and more obvious is the rift which keeps heading towards chasm level within the GOP. I am not, by any means, lamenting this because frankly I think they have lost touch with reality for the common person. The Reagan mythology which so many of them love to cling too, were the man alive and attempting to steward the GOP, would fall flat on his face in the climate so many fringe lunatics, who now divide the party, have created and refuse to pull away from.
Interesting to me is how they have lulled the Tea Party into their demise. I could see it coming even back in 2009 when they were pulling the party too far off messages which relate to the common man. Mike Lofgren saw and sees this too. And just by chance you are not familiar with the man let me simply put it like this: this fellow is no lightweight in GOP circles. If he were a football icon Vince Lombardi would not be an unrealistic analogy.
Yet they persist on and will persist on until common sense prevails within their ranks. President Clinton very clearly pointed this out and spoke to one of the main reasons that the Obama administration has been stalemated and cut off at the pass so many times. Their unwillingness to compromise, on any issue, has lead us to where we are. President Clinton was able to reach across to the common sense leaders of the GOP in his days because statesmanship requires this of both sides in order to work effectively. This is not even in the game plan and it has hurt the GOP much more than they are willing to admit.
Can Romney win? I don’t think so. Will it be close? Yes.
Yet in the end it will be up to the coming leadership, Jeb Bush, and those yet only piercing the horizon, to Shepherd the party back to an “everyman’s Party” and not the fringe it has become.