The Price of Advice

November 19, 2010

I got a call the other day from a perky and friendly woman in New York City asking for advice about Tennessee. This made everything else I was doing leap to the back burner–I was all ears. She told me that she had tracked me down through this blog–O Bliss–and needed help. Even better. She later sent me an email, so I’ll let her tale her tale in her own words: Read the rest of this entry »


To Kill a Mockingbird: time for a remake?

May 26, 2010

The 50th anniversary of the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird is upon us, according to an article in The New York Times. This book has to be on anyone’s top ten list of Southern novels, and the reclusiveness of its author, Harper Lee, and her Truman Capote connection make it all the more intriguing.

Then there’s the movie. Released in 1962, it is remembered for great performances by Gregory Peck, who defined the Atticus character forever, and a young Robert Duvall, who played Boo Radley. The late playwright Horton Foote wrote the screenplay, the film won three Oscars, and was ranked number 25 on the American Film Institute’s list of top 100 movies.

I watched To Kill a Mockingbird a while ago for the first time in decades and, while again impressed by Gregory Peck and Robert Duvall, I found myself cringing at the awful performances by the child actors. Compared to, say, the superb youthful role-playing in the Harry Potter movies, the parts of Scout, Jem, and Dill come up far short.

It’s time for a remake. I would cast Tom Hanks as Atticus and, for old time’s sake, Robert Duvall as the judge. The other roles should be parceled out among the talented young actors of our time. Maybe Harper Lee could be enticed into a cameo.

A new cinematic To Kill a Mockingbird would make this wonderful story more approachable to modern viewers, would reinterpret a classic Southern novel, and get more people thinking about the timeless themes in the book.


The governor and road striping

May 24, 2010

The New York Times reports that there is a shortage of the specialized yellow and white paint that adorns highways. A lack of methyl methacrylate, an evidently vital ingredient in the paint, is the culprit.

This brings to mind a story I’ve heard about Frank G. Clement, governor of Tennessee from 1953-1959 and 1963-1967. Seems that Governor Clement, who championed road-building, had a political crony who had bought too much of the costly road-striping paint and was whining about what to do with it. The governor, according to the tale, grew tired of the complaining and said something to the effect of “Hell, paint lines down the outer edge of the lanes!”

This was done all over the state, and soon Federal authorities noticed a sharp decline in single-vehicle accidents on Tennessee highways. This, according the story, is why most highways now have stripes on their outer edges.

Governor Clement is better remembered for a histrionic speech he gave at the 1956 Democratic Convention, which prompted a young Red Smith of the Times to write a wonderful lead: “The young governor of Tennessee, Frank G. Clement, slew the Republican party with the jawbone of an ass here last night . . . .”

But that’s another story.


Tammy Wynette and Shag Carpet

March 7, 2010

Allison Glock reviews the new bio of Tammy Wynette, the country singer and antithesis of feminism, in the NY Times Book Review. While working through the antebellum mansions of Middle Tennessee, I came across the following Tammy Wynette story. From Tennessee Guy:

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Photo of Sgt. York found in estate papers

December 6, 2009

Alert reader Mike sends in the above photo, which he says came from the papers of a deceased World War I veteran.


Did Walter Cronkite crash in the Smokies?

July 19, 2009

Walter Cronkite

In the late 1970s, U.S. 441, the highway that bisects the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, was being repaved. Given the high traffic on that road, the work was being done at night. I was there writing a story on that nocturnal paving operation, when one of the Park people mentioned that CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite had come down the Tennessee side of the road too fast and had wrecked his car. He suffered minor injuries in the accident.

I cannot find any references to that accident on the Web. Cronkite doesn’t mention it in his autobiography; the word “Tennessee” doesn’t appear once in the book.  The crash–if it happened–took place at a time when the foibles of the famous were not instantly trumpeted to a celebrity-crazed public.


Arrowmont: auctions or actions?

September 18, 2008

Arrowmont’s director, David Willard, is quoted in a Metro Pulse article about the situation facing the school. In any sort of ongoing negotiations, someone in his position always has to be circumspect in what he says in public, but I don’t see a great deal of vision displayed in his remarks. Here are a series of quotes from the article and my thoughts on them.

Arrowmont’s lease extends through 2011, and the school has engaged legal counsel to pursue possible options. But Willard says that process is not far enough along to offer encouragement.

The facts are simple. Pi Beta Phi owns the land and is going to sell the land, while Arrowmont has a lease through 2011. Arrowmont needs to leverage that lease to get Pi Beta Phi to offer more than the $9 million on the table right now. While legal advice is useful, Arrowmont needs to rally its friends, aggressively seek a new home, and push pressure on Pi Beta Phi to share its impending windfall and pay for the move.

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