Every time there’s any sort of Tennessee or Southern-based humor, any laughter on my part is always followed by an unsettling thought: does this make us look bad?
President John Petersen and several other UT officials flew in the University’s jet to Tri-Cities Airport to attend a NASCAR race at the Bristol Speedway. Following all manner of negative publicity, a UT VP, Hank Dye, wrote a personal check to cover half of the flight and, one suspects, his gluteus maximus.
UT spokeswoman Karen Collins says Dye is covering part of the expense “out of an abundance of caution and accountability to the taxpayers.” Uh, yeah.
This blog is part of a much larger website, also entitled Tennessee Guy, that contains travel and cultural information about Tennessee. Visit it here.
Bible Park USA, the proposed Middle Tennessee version of Dollywood according to the Good Book, has just launched its website. Verily, verily, much is the hilarity therein. You just cannot make this stuff up. The backers of this scheme want tax dollars to develop the park, which they propose to locate in Rutherford County, much to the opposition of locals.
Due to popular demand, Knoxville’s East Tennessee Historical Society will show This is Cas Walker, a film about East Tennessee’s most famous–and most notorious–grocer and public figure. The film will be shown on June 22 as a part of Treasures From the Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound: A Film Series.
As described in the publicity, “Scenes and outtakes from his popular television show, The Cas Walker Farm and Home Show, as well as vintage commercials and rare early performances by local performers such as Dolly Parton will be included, along with newly discovered footage that was not part of the original screening.”
Having a slow day down at the film development office? Here’s a formula that never fails: pick some backwoods Southern town, hint that outsiders aren’t welcome there–“you ain’t from around here, are ye?”–and send some outsider in to check things out.
The latest version of this tiresome stuff is Iron City Blues, a documentary that depicts–well, let’s go to the press release, along with a little commentary:
After years of hearing
urbanrural legends about a lawless old mining town with a sky-high murder rate, (uh, when your population is only 368, all it takes is one killing to game the stats) blues musician Big Mike Griffin rides to Iron City to learn the truth for himself. Unlike nearby McNairy County which was home to Sheriff Buford Pusser in “Walking Tall,” Iron City has remained lawless and untamed. To Big Mike, it was the perfect subject for a blues song.
Along with a former Marine as a guide, Big Mike rides through Tennessee’s backroads to the heart of Iron City. (Blink and you’ll miss this “heart.”) There, surrounded by buildings ravaged by fire and years of decay (we couldn’t afford to film in Detroit), he interviews a fascinating collection of locals who seem to actually enjoy living their lives on the edge of anarchy. (As do most residents of peckerwood towns from coast to coast.) The resulting song, a high-energy blues anthem infused with southern rock (invoke Lynyrd Skynyrd here), is as much a celebration of Iron City as it is an ominous warning to outsiders.
Cue the banjo music, folks, it’s Deliverance 23!
The Nashville Metro Council has passed an ordinance making English the official language of that fair city. The mayor is asking the city attorneys to see how legal this anti-furriner measure is–and probably testing the political winds–before deciding whether to sign it, veto it, or let it become law without his approval.
This fuss reminds me of the tale of an Alabama legislator who, upon being asked his opinion of “English only” laws, replied by saying “If the Kings James English was good enough for our Lord and Savior, it’s good enough for me.”
The Los Angeles Times reports that marijuana is now the number one cash crop in America, a $35 billion dollar market. According to the story,”A report released today by a marijuana public policy analyst contends that the market value of pot produced in the U.S. exceeds $35 billion — far more than the crop value of such heartland staples as corn, soybeans and hay, which are the top three legal cash crops.”
California is the number one source, growing $13.8 billion worth of weed, and Tennessee comes in at number two with an estimated $4.7-billion cannabis harvest.
It happened to me when Harold Ford lost his Senate race in Tennessee. I was among some Democrats, and I was called upon to explain why Ford’s loss happened. Tennesseans and other Southerners who no longer live in the South are familiar with the phenomenon of, without any warning, being appointed the Spokesman for Tennessee or Spokesman for the South. I have never in my life heard anyone single out someone from New England or the Pacific Northwest and say, “Tell me, what do New Englanders think about (insert favorite topic here).”
Of all the Southern states, Mississippi has the worst reputation. It is the poorest. During the Civil Rights movement, it had some of the reddest necks. Even now, people like Senator Trent Lott, who ought to know better, make comments like the one he did at the retirement party for Senator Strom Thurmond. (At least that embarrassment was not from Mississippi.) People from Tennessee and other states often make some variation of this comment to each other: Thank God for Mississippi. By this we mean, “Well, it could be worse–we’re not as bad off as Mississippi.”
This week’s Metro Pulse has a sickening cover story on the practice of abusing Tennessee Walking Horses in order to achieve the crowd-pleasing “big lick” gait.
Writer Leslie Wylie gives the best explanation I have seen so far on how and why trainers abuse these horses. She quotes a marketing consultant as saying that the National Walking Horse Celebration, which takes place every August in Shelbyville, has $38 million annual economic impact on the region. That sounds high to me, but there is no question that the Celebration pulls in large numbers of people and dollars.
The repeated accounts of soring, reported this year in The New York Times and other publications, make Tennessee look terrible. What other state hosts such a large event centered on abusing animals? The Walking Horse industry, controlled by the very people who benefit from soring, will never, so to speak, take the right steps.
It is time for Tennessee state government, working with the feds, to bring soring to an end. Increase the fines, put some people in jail–whatever it takes. This practice has to stop.