Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Haunted Guitar

The resonator guitar, or Dobro as many musicians call it, might be the most haunting of all musical sounds. An eerie hollow twang that when played with a slide can easily lean on the blues or bluegrass.

Jerry Douglas from Warren, Ohio may be the most accomplished resonator guitar man who ever lived. Dubbed "Dobro's matchless contemporary master," by the New York Times, Jerry has been playing since the the age of eight, after his father—a steelworker who played bluegrass in his spare time—brought him to a Flatt and Scruggs concert, where he was entranced by the sound of Dobro player Josh Graves. After playing with his dad's group the West Virginia Travelers for several years, a 17-year-old Douglas joined the pioneering progressive-bluegrass band the Country Gentlemen in 1973. Two years later, he became a member of the seminal J.D. Crowe and the New South, which also included future solo stars Ricky Skaggs and Tony Rice.

The resonator guitar came about through a series of events which happened within the National String Instrument Company, which was formed in 1925 and co-owned by a Slovak immigrant family, the Dopyeras, along with several other investors.

The Dopyera brothers, of whom there were five—John, Robert, Rudolph (Rudy), Louis, and Emil (Ed)—were heavily involved in the National Company, both as inventors and
investors. Because of internal frictions with other parties within the company, John and his younger brother Rudy divested all their interest in National—including patents which they held for National instruments—and left the company in 1928. They had been working for some time outside the company on a new-style resonator assembly, which they were quick to patent upon their departure from National. The result of this new invention is the resonator guitar as we know it today.

The resonator is primarily played within two styles of music, blues and bluegrass. Both of which use a slide to create the sounds that are so haunting.

Bluegrass slide is played on top much like a steel guitar. The strings are raised to accommodate the weight of a heavier slide while the blues guitar is played much like a regular guitar with open tuning. I'm sure this all sounds musically technical so the best way to show you the music is to let you listen to it.

The first video is that of Jerry Douglas. I featured him in the third video as well due to his new album, Traveler, just being released which features Eric Clapton, Marc Cohn, Alison Krauss and Union Station, Keb Mo, Mumford & Sons and Paul Simon. The video features Mumford & Sons with their new release of The Boxer.

The second video is of my favorite blues man himself, Lucky Peterson. It's a grinding slide that will make you pull from a whisky bottle if you're not careful.

And I'm never careful so enjoy the music!


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

I Saw The Light

Telling this story has been an internal struggle for the last couple of months. I suppose the reason being is it's not my story and it was told to me in confidence so many years ago. However, due to the world today and what I see as a society of folks that have either misplaced or lost God all together, I thought it most appropriate.

Generally what I see in most instances are folks with a real lack of understanding and knowing. Given how fast everything is within this digital world we have all become so accustomed to, there is very little time spent just being still. And to know as well as understand God, you have to be still. Not to mention quiet.

With this in mind and given I have decided to let loose this story, some preliminary color for background is in order.

When I was little, probably around twelve or so, we lived with my grandmother. My mother, father and younger sister all lived in the same house my father was raised in along with my grandmother who lived on the other side of the house within her own quarters.

Attending Saint Luke's Methodist Church every Sunday, my grandmother met a man by the name of Lon T. Little. They fell in love and she decided to marry at what most would consider to be a very late age in life. I had never had a living grandfather before so I was excited with this prospect.

Lon, by all accounts, was a simple man and to appreciate this story you must understand this. He was kind, generous and one of the most loving people I have ever known. There was absolutely no presence of selfishness and if I had to label the man, he was truly a saint. And if you knew my grandmother, one would have to be just to live with her. I loved my grandmother but I can tell you it was all black and white. You colored outside her lines and all hell would break loose.

Lon and I became extremely close which I always thought was unusual given we weren't related nor did I have anything in common with the man. As mentioned, he was simple and could be quite child like at times. For instance, he was a Family Circle cartoon guy and I was more of a Far Side cartoon guy if that helps give some perspective.

Most of the time spent with Lon was under his direction in the yard. I helped build fences, shape his shrubs, plant flowers and tend to his garden. Later in my teens, I had become old enough to drive which meant lots of odd jobs under his strict direction.

I don't know why he shared this particular story with me. Possibly because he was getting older and felt that he needed to give it to someone. I've always kept the story to myself as I just never have felt like telling it. Not to mention it started out with and I quote, "You won't believe this but..." so you can just imagine what he was feeling when he let it loose.

So without further ado, here we go...

Lon was born and raised in the hills of Arkansas. He came from a very modest farming background raising everything that would wind up on the family's kitchen table. Other items grown or made were taken into town and sold for money which would pay for coffee beans, dry goods, materials, tools, clothes, shoes, etc...

If you were to classify his family at that time, I suppose you could say that he came from very poor conditions. I never got that from him though as to me, he was just a hard worker and always appreciative of what he had. He literally had two speeds which were work and rest which made for some interesting work experiences for me. He wasn't much on breaks or sitting around.

During harvest time in October of 1929, the world came to an end. Or at least America thought it did as the Great Depression swept a hand of poverty across our nation stripping money away from just about everyone. Our country became lost and drowning in hopelessness losing all direction and faith within our own economy as well as the elected leadership. Let me know if all of this sounds familiar but I always say there's no comparison when in a downed economy you still see people with Starbucks coffee.

With no where to turn for money, panic soon struck a young Lon Little and he became extremely concerned with the future of his family. As the thirties rolled around, nothing was getting any better. They could still farm but no one could afford to buy anything and without money, there were too many holes to fill when it came to running a farm.

Lost and afraid, Lon stumbled into his own barn and dropped to his knees. Trembling in fear, he quietly asked God what was to become of his family. This question was answered by what Lon described to me as a light. It began outside of the barn and streamed through the cracks of the wood until finally filling up the entire structure. In his words, the light was actually inside the room and prevented him from seeing due to how bright it was. This was followed by warmth throughout his entire body which he interpreted as inner peace. A peace in knowing that everything was going to work out and his own worries were pointless.

And as the story goes, the world would mend and Lon would travel through a very robust life with a wife, children, grandchildren and even a couple of step grandchildren he managed to inherit.

For many of us who never stop long enough to seek guidance or look for answers in the quiet of our own surroundings, we will never be relieved from the woes of this world. Using this story for guidance, how unbelievable it may be for some of you, I would advise finding a good barn to crawl into. You never know what kind of light may shine through the darkest of places.

In his memory and given he loved music more than anything...this one is for Lon. God bless you my friend and assuming where you are today, I hope you found some good sunglasses.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Invisible World

I had a conversation with a guy the other day about video games and his belief was that our youth today live in a fantasy world. They are spending so much time in an invisible world that they are helpless in the real world. They don't know how to change a tire. They don't know where the oil goes in the car. They very rarely leave the house as this would mean leaving their invisible world behind. A world where having enough ammunition is the only priority.

For me, my own home is war room central. In fact, one of the funniest moments I remember from our very own fraternity house environment was a day where all four boys were sitting on the couch watching their big brother wheel the controls of a new war game. It was during  the summer months a few years back and we had been on him about taking Drivers Ed but he had been putting it off and putting it off. It finally got to be a big joke around the house as most of his friends were driving but for some reason he just wasn't in that big of a hurry.

One of the challenges within the game is to drive an army jeep around which seemed to be a problem as he kept driving into a fence or the surrounding forest. I was watching along with all the other boys and said, "Man, you're having a time with that jeep." My youngest, who was only six years old at the time, slid the comment out of the corner of his mouth, "That's because he still doesn't have a driver's license." This of course resulted in loud laughter from all of us sitting on the couch while cutting big brother completely in half.

Growing up in the country, we didn't have anything like this. Video games didn't really surface until I was around thirteen or so but it meant hanging around the convenient store with a pocket full of quarters and that held our attention for about thirty minutes tops. Not like today where kids are playing three to four hour runs pausing only for bathroom breaks.

If you want my opinion, I think that if you let your kid play that long it only shows your disinterest in his or her life. It shows that the parent is willing to allow their child to spend time with a game rather than themselves. And I'm just as guilty with this as sometimes it's just easier. You're tired, you've been working all day and your thinking is as long as they aren't bothering you about whatever it is, then life is just fine.

Well let me tell you...it isn't. 

I'm faced with a kid leaving for college and in my mind, the time I spent with him will never be enough. This could be just the way it is even if you spent every waking moment with them but I can't believe I'm actually staring college in the face.

What I'm trying to say in this endless ramble is that your kid is yours to spend time with so don't let a game rob you of your own time. The time that God blessed you with that slips by so fast that one day you wake up and you're staring at size twelve shoes as they walk out the door.

Video games, like a lot of things, are fine in moderation. Too much of anything is not good. That is unless it's time with your own child and there can never be enough of that.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Anthony John Valentino

I had one of those days this week that managed to intertwine a remark with some lost memories and made me stop and think about things. About myself. About the folks I work for and what they may think of me. It was one of those instances where I had to sit down as my mind began to roam all the way back to my childhood. But that's getting ahead of the story.

I was on a shoot Wednesday and during an interview process with the subject, one of the questions led into customer service. My client made a remark that stuck with me all the way back to East Texas as it was one of those statements that required some deep reflecting.

His statement to the best of my recollection was, "If you know who you are doing business with and understand who they are as a person as well as hold their character to a higher standard then you really don't mind paying more for their services."

By the time I got home, I was tired. It had been a long day in Dallas and the Holiday Inn didn't offer a whole lot of comfort the night before. After a quick hello to the family, I went to the bathroom and began emptying out my pockets. Wallet, iPhone, keys and then some loose change which I offered to the small leather container my wife had gotten me to hold all of my crap. When I looked in the container, there was a small knife laying in the middle of all those nickels and dimes and I picked it up remembering where I had gotten it so many years ago. That knife would be the very last piece of hardware my dad purchased for me at Tony's Sporting Goods Store in Longview, Texas.

When I was really little, my dad would take me to Longview once a month to get our hair cut. I hated the lady that cut my hair as she brushed my head too hard and it hurt. But this was always made well again by a promising visit to the one and only Tony's Sporting Goods Store where dreams could come true and if you've been good, Tony might find something special to put in your pocket.

Born Anthony John Valentino on April 25th, 1923, he was known simply as Tony. An enormous "How are you doing today my fine Doctor?" when my dad and I would enter the store will be forever engrained within my mind. He was one of those characters that could literally light up the darkest of rooms with just his spirit and charm. He knew no stranger.

Tony was born in Chicago, Illinois to John and Frances Valentino and joined the military in 1942. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps until 1951 with the 2nd Brigade during World War II. Gunny Sgt. Valentino was an ordnance supply chief and lineman.

On October 21, 1943, he married the love of his life, Margery Hunt. They were married in Washington, D.C.

In 1953, he opened Tony's Sporting Goods on Mobberly Avenue where he served his community for more than 50 years. He was a local U.S. Marine chaplain in his later years transporting vets to appointments in Shreveport.

Tony passed away on February 4th, 2007.

Thinking back on that statement from earlier in the day, I began to think about Tony and my dad. My dad could have gone to a big chain store where he could have gotten things cheaper. In fact, we could have gone anywhere but we didn't as Dad always made it a point to buy from Tony. Not because he was the best deal in town but because of who he was and what he meant to the community.

These are the things to take with you in this world. You do business with a man because of who he is and what he stands for. He may not be the cheapest in town but what you buy from someone like Tony doesn't ever stop with just the purchased goods. It's an investment in your life and I've always found that a good investment will bring a great return.

God bless you Tony. Your memory lives on forever in these woods.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

New York - The Cultural Capital of America?

New York has long been considered the cultural capital of America. 
Is it still? If not, where?

This is a very vague question as it really doesn't define what kind of culture we're talking about so to help, I'm going to put my hands around some different topics as they pertain to what I consider to be culture as well as what effects the growth of fine arts.

Before I begin, I think it might be a good idea to define the word culture so here is what Wikipedia has to say about it.

Culture (Latin: cultura, lit. "cultivation")[1] is a term that has many different inter-related meanings. However, the word "culture" is most commonly used in three basic senses:
  1. Excellence of taste in fine arts and humanities, also known as high culture
  2. An integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for symbolic thought and social learning 
  3. The set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization, or group

Now I've got a real bee in my bonnet when it comes to favoring New York over the rest of the world. You can chalk it up to sheer Texas pride but I wear it on my sleeve like a Southern Baptist going to church. A few years back, the NASHER would open in Dallas and Ray Nasher went all the way to New York to get the logo and corporate branding developed as in his mind, the best always comes from New York. The account would come up for review some time after that and I was invited to the table where I sat with Mr. Nasher and pitched our services. And as much as it pained me at the time, they decided to go with another smaller firm. I was happy, however, to discover the smaller firm he selected was in Dallas which gave me some confort in knowing we've got folks down here that are just as creative or more so than what you might find in the Big Apple.

So why New York? What's so special about this place that it defines a belief of higher culture and continues to lead the world within this space? Well that's an easy question and it's better explained through an example.

When I graduated from college over twenty years ago, a cultural movement began in Dallas to restore Deep Ellum and create an arts district of sorts housing fine dining and music venues. In fact, my first real design job out of college was to design the logo for Trees which was an incredible music venue. Over time, Deep Ellum would lose it's luster and slowly die away leaving only a few places that might still feature music but the majority of the area is fairly well boarded up and they tell me it may be in some sort of transitional state to become more residential.

Meanwhile in Austin, 6th street thrives full throttle with great food and incredible music. A hub for real artistic expression with packed houses and busy bar keeps that can barely keep up the pace of set ups and beer taps while guitar slingers play on into the night.

So what's the difference?

Unlike Dallas, Austin has a set market that feeds the arts scene regularly, that being the University of Texas. You could consider this to be the meat and potatoes of cash flow while tourists provide the icing on the cake as UT has the fifth-largest single-campus enrollment in the nation and had the largest enrollment in the country from 1997 to 2003 with over 50,000 undergraduate and graduate students combined. That's a lot of kids with credit cards.

Dallas, on the other hand, is what I would define as a family city. Made up primarily of young people who are either single professionals or married with small children working 9 hour days. Southern Methodist University averages around 12,000 students which is hard to pull from consistently due to such a small number. A night out on the town is a hard sell when you're working so much or tending to the needs of your children.

So where does that leave us?

With the money flowing so well in support of the arts within Austin, artists flock to an environment where they can flourish and grow. And New York is really no exception to this as they have simply done a better job of pushing, promoting, nurturing and appreciating the arts over the years. That is not to say that they have better arts as they don't. I would put Jaap van Zweden, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra or the Nasher Sculpture Center up against any single one arts organization in the world and the Dallas Arts District, although still in development, will surely surpass expectations. Texas is full of top tier talent that continues to raise the bar of fine arts and culture and I will continue to beat the drum of my southern roots until they lay me in the ground. Boots and all.

In conclusion, does this rant or ramble actually answer the question above? Is New York still the culture capital of the world? If the question is based upon development, then I would say yes but only because of the money, the influence and passion that New York has always had towards building upon the arts and culture.

Do they have better artists or better culture? My answer is no they do not. Most creative people that live in New York are transplants that have moved there to further their career. It's the old, "If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere" that drives folks to the
North in search of growth and glorious careers.

But all that glory will never surpass our women, our music, our art, our barbecue and our rebellious nature to make a square peg fit through a round hole. That said, I'll keep the Texas dirt under my feet. You can send the Big Apple down here to me as I've got a real good cobbler recipe.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Julio's Corn Tortilla Chips

Let's face it, corn tortilla chips are boring. My wife has been buying Tostitos for years and only because we all need something to put the hot sauce on. I just can't imagine pulling out a bag of tortilla chips and eating them straight with nothing on them. That is until now.

FRESH had one of those sample people giving out free food and one of the items they were pushing was chips. Well you know how it is as you kind of feel sorry for those people out there all by themselves with their little table of food. It's kind of like a kid selling lemonade so you stop and try whatever it is their pushing as you don't want to look like a jackass. I can tell you with all the honesty left in my body that the chip given to me was the best tortilla chip I've ever had. And more importantly, it was great just by itself.

Julio's Corn Tortilla Chip is not only a great product but a great American story. And it's one of those stories that we should all take notice of when so many people have their hand out looking for a free ride.

Julio T. Garcia was born in Crystal City, Texas but raised on the other side of the border in Ciudad Acuña, Mexico. He worked as a cook at Del Rio Restaurant and had developed his own spices that he used on steaks. Del Rio closed down leaving Julio unemployed and in a sea of debt. He tried marketing his spices from home but his credit was so bad that no bank would give him the time of day.

And then a miracle happened.

One day, a woman came to his house asking about the chips they served at Del Rio and wanted them for a party. Julio cut up some tortillas, fried them up, applied his spices and the rest is history. From that day forward, people started showing up at his door wanting chips.

Now with eight employees in his garage, Julio is distributing his chips all over Texas. Wal-mart is even selling them now as 8 distributors pick up the chips and take them to San Angelo, Midland, Odessa and Abilene.

Julio T. Garcia serves as an example to all of us that if you are willing to work in this country, you can do great things. And speaking of great, these chips are the best damn tortilla chips I've ever had.

And you can bank on that statement.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Loss of Privacy

The other day, a great friend of mine who sells real estate in Tyler asked me how Facebook makes money as well as questioned their value. It's a great question as most people don't understand just how valuable they are individually when it comes to their habits, tastes, gender and all the other data that they have so effortlessly entered into a company they know very little about. Or more importantly, what these companies are doing with this information.

Most if not all of you have opened an account with Google, Facebook or some other on-line service. In doing so, you are asked to approve of their terms and conditions and all of us simply accept this agreement without reading any of it. However, if you had taken the time to review the document you so lackadaisically approved of, you would have read that you now have relinquished any and all of your rights to privacy by giving your information to the company that's taking it.

So what does this mean about the value of Facebook and how can they use this information once they have it tucked away so nice and neat within their database? This is the topic of Joseph Turow's new book entitled The Daily You which takes a hard look at how the new advertising industry is defining your identity and your worth.

Within the book, Mr. Turow explains how the internet is often hyped as a means to enhanced consumer power: a hypercustomized media world where individuals exercise unprecedented control over what they see and do. That is the scenario media guru Nicholas Negroponte predicted in the 1990s, with his hypothetical online newspaper The Daily Me—and it is one we experience now in daily ways. But, as media expert Joseph Turow shows, the customized media environment we inhabit today reflects diminished consumer power. Not only ads and discounts but even news and entertainment are being customized by newly powerful media agencies on the basis of data we don’t know they are collecting and individualized profiles we don’t know we have. Little is known about this new industry: how is this data being collected and analyzed? And how are our profiles created and used? How do you know if you have been identified as a “target” or “waste” or placed in one of the industry’s finer-grained marketing niches? Are you, for example, a Socially Liberal Organic Eater, a Diabetic Individual in the Household, or Single City Struggler? And, if so, how does that affect what you see and do online?

Now that's a whole lot of information so let me dress that down for you. By the way, I pulled that off of Amazon's overview so I can't claim to have written it but I didn't see a need in rewriting it either. But what it essentially means is that corporations can and are buying your information for digital stealth marketing. The Obama administration, for example, is one of the most progressive on-line marketers in political history to date. They are taking it, buying it and will do whatever they want with it in massive efforts to market themselves within all digital platforms. It may be the biggest digital marketing effort I've ever seen by any single one organization backed by what's expected to exceed one billion dollars in funding.

Still lost on all of this? Let's say you're interested in golf and you have a Google account. Every time you search for golfing topics or products, Google tracks it and files it within their data base. This information is stored and combed through for potential targeting. If I'm a company and I sell golf clubs, I can purchase this information and have Google target you specifically by generating dynamic digital banner ads where you might like to spend time. For instance, Youtube was purchased by Google so every video you watch is tracked and stored for future marketing efforts. Watching videos to work on your golf swing and bam I've got you. Notice if you search for certain things within this application that the banner ads that show up tie into your interests. The same goes for Facebook as all ads on your page are specific to your tastes and preferences.

Turning the pages through this first chapter of our digital history that we all seem to be clicking through is a cautious tale. It is one that we should approach with thoughtfulness and take heed if we enjoy our anonymity. Remember, you and your interests are worth a great deal.

Especially to guys like me.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Happy President's Day - by Jennifer Holt

It is late Sunday afternoon.  I unearth a piece of paper from a stack of bills.  President’s Day is on Wednesday, and my second grader has been assigned a project about the president Zachary Taylor.  I quickly skim over the project requirements. “Great,” I think,” a poster.  I can hand this one off to my husband.”

When it comes to homework, my husband and I have well-defined lines of responsibility.  Last week, my fifth grader thought it would be funny to ask my husband for some help with his math homework.   Normally, I help with all homework assignments that do not require artistic inspiration, but my husband could see that I was preoccupied helping our seventeen year-old with a government assignment.  I was in the middle of a rant concerning the terms “deficit spending” and “public debt” so he wisely decided to attempt the math on his own.  After ten minutes spent staring at the equation involving the addition and subtraction of fractions with different denominators, he caved and called me over with a concerned and puzzled look on his face.  As he began to express his confusion over the problem, I turned to glare at my fifth grader, who was struggling to keep a straight face.  We had just gone over the process for this type of equation and I knew that my son had it down pat.  Being the deviant and twisted child that he is, he just wanted to see my husband sweat.  I sighed in exasperation and returned to the Powers of Congress.

Projects, however, are my husband’s special area of expertise. Nothing makes Edwin more proud than watching one of the boys walk into school with a big smile as classmates and teachers “ooh” and “ah” over his (Edwin’s) latest masterpiece.  One year he built a model of a pioneer cabin complete with a shingled roof and stone chimney.  He claimed that if he had started sooner, he could have made the chimney produce smoke.  I didn’t doubt it.  On another occasion, he recreated a miniature model of Niagara Falls with a battery-operated pump that circulated water.  I knew he could handle the President’s Project.

I glance over the supplies needed for the project and begin gathering the materials for them.  I effortlessly produce some poster board, colored pencils, and a picture book about presidents.  “Easy peas-y,” I think.  Then I get to the last sentence on the project description, the dreaded words for mothers world-over.  “On President’s Day your child will come dressed up as their president.”  It adds (with an exclamation point), “This will be a fun way to learn about our presidents!”  “Oh, no,” I moan to my husband, “he has to dress up.”

As I make a mental checklist of our costume inventory, I recall that Mac once dressed up as George Washington.  My mother-in-law made the costume, and naturally it was a work of art.  I don’t exactly know when Zachary Taylor was president, but I’m thinking that presidential attire from any era works. “What sort of demonic person thinks that dressing up like a president is fun?” my husband asks.   “The project should just say, ‘Intended to create more work for parents.’  We should just send him to school dressed like a pirate.  What are they going to do, give him an F?”  And then he completes his tirade with, “I’m President Zachary Taylor, yo.  Walk the plank.”

 I shake my head and send Solon to the computer to look for information.  He enters the president’s name into the Internet search engine, and I hear my husband mutter under his breath in a pseudo-announcer voice, “Zachary Taylor, Porn Star.”  I roll my eyes.  My son prints out a picture of his president, and after the much exhausting process of pressing the print icon on the computer, he sighs and asks, “Can I take a break now?”  I grab a box of Milk Duds and say, “Yo matey, be my guest.”

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

God in the Ghetto

I'm not a huge Phil Collins fan even though he was extremely popular during my high-school years. I actually liked In the Air Tonight but only because Risky Business was one of my all time favorite movies.

In 1989, Phil would record Another Day in Paradise which I believe strikes a shameful chord within all of us. The specific lyrics that pertain to how uncomfortable we feel around homeless people are:

He walks on, doesn't look back
He pretends he can't hear her
Starts to whistle as he crosses the street
Seems embarrassed to be there
 

I decided to dive into this uncomfortable space in 2007 when I would turn forty years of age. My wife asked me what I wanted for this monumental birthday and I told her I would be most obliged if we were to do something together as a couple but to leave me to my vices for one day out in Dallas.

Now this is a story that I've never told anyone before simply because it's an uncomfortable story and it's one of those tales that's quite personal. And until now has been between me and God as I mentioned before, the stories from the ghettos I have romped around in are my stories and they are extremely close to my heart. However, this is one time I feel compelled to share of myself so listen carefully.

To look for God in this world is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. And given most of us live in fairly nice conditions, I would say you're probably not going to find God at the Gap which leads me to the most memorable birthday celebration of my life.

On a Saturday in January of 2007, I hitched my barbecue pit to my truck and headed to the corner of Meadow and Grand in Sunny South Dallas. It is the roughest corner in the city as described by the Dallas Police Department. On this corner is a blues club while across the street is a liquor store that sits on what is known as The Used to Have Corner. Meaning, I used to have money. I used to have a house. I used to have a Cadillac, etc. Teaming with winos and crack addicts, The Used to Have Corner serves as headquarters for those homeless people in search of loose change or a buck here and there to catch their next fix.

My theme party for the day would be to simply set up on this corner and cook 40 lbs of ribs and drink bottles of 40 oz malt liquor with the winos all day in celebration of my now forty years of age. I got there at 7 a.m. and as crazy as it sounds, the corner was full. I guess a wino gets to rolling pretty early in the morning.

I had told a number of blues musicians that I was coming and they began showing up around ten or so to check on me. Most of them would stop and visit, swig back a forty and smoke a cigar while we laughed about old times watching the smoke pour out of my barbecue pit. It was a beautiful winter day and the warmth of the pit was enough for us to huddle around and not get too cold.

Now I'm going to have to give you some education on black culture as I'm sure most of you reading this are white. On your birthday, it's customary to pin dollar bills on one's clothes to recognize this special day. At this time in the morning, no one had pinned any money on me as of yet.

We were all sitting around and I got up to baste the ribs while noticing a homeless man about a block away. He was dressed in a one piece camouflage jump suit with a weightlifters belt around his middle and white worn out high top tennis shoes. He was shuffling around in a hypnotic dance like state that had an air of insanity mixed with it. Sort of a Michael Jackson does miming thing if you can imagine that. One of the guys looked up and said, "Look at the damn fool over there. You think he's had his weekly bath?"

I didn't say anything and kept to my ribs as they were getting a bit dry on the top. As I closed the lid, I looked up and saw the homeless man coming straight for me. Now he was a good 50 yards away but he was bee-lining right in my direction and moving really quickly. The guys that were with me watched him cross the parking lot as he headed straight for me and as he did, a couple of them stood up just to hold my back in case something might be going down.

It's important to note that I have never seen this man in my life. Yes it's true I go down to South Dallas a lot but this was not someone I had ever met or even seen before.

Walking straight up to me, he stopped short and looked me dead in the eyes. He reached deep in his jumpsuit pocket and pulled out a dollar. Pinning it on my shirt he said, "Happy Birthday Edwin." Then without any hint of recognition as if he found himself to be suddenly lost, the man did an about face and walked away. 

I suppose some of you will chalk this up to some strange coincidence but since you weren't there, I can tell you it was beyond any experience I've ever had. He put a hole right through me with those eyes and the whisper of his voice seemed to cut through the sounds that resonate within the ghettos of South Dallas. You could have heard a pin drop when he fastened that dollar on my shirt.

As I mentioned before, folks don't see God because they don't know where to look. I don't think God hangs around with the saints as much as he does with the sinners and since I'm a sinner, I'm in pretty good company.

Keep your eyes open my friends. You never know when God might be wearing a camouflage jumpsuit with a weightlifters belt. He's pretty sneaky sometimes.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Down Home Poke Salad

I was down in South Dallas once for New Years. I must have been around nineteen or twenty years old and was of course the only white boy in a night club of about four hundred black people.

For the big night out, they had catered the evening with the biggest buffet of Southern Soul Food you have ever seen in your life. I got through with my second set and joined another band member, Rick Caldwell, to run through the buffet.

The line to get fried chicken was too long so I opted for the chitlins instead. Only problem was I didn't know what a chitlin was but I was so hungry I had lost patience and just grabbed what I could off the line.

We sat down in a corner and Rick kept watching me out of the corner of his eye, almost sly like as I began to eat my plate of food. As I chewed the chitlins, they began to expand in my mouth and didn't seem to be breaking down like regular food. The taste was horrible and it just kept getting bigger and bigger as I kept on chewing.

I got it down to what I thought might pass through my throat and swallowed as hard as I could insuring a tremendous slam to my stomach and as I did, Rick started laughing.

"Say man...how you like them chitlins?"

I replied, "What the hell is a chitlin anyway?"

"Hog intestines white boy...hog intestines. Eatem' up before they get cold on you."

I've thought about that night for years as the idea that a human being could actually develop a taste for chitlins just floors me. You've got to be one hungry person to eat chitlins and assuming that's the only thing you've got to eat, I suppose one could develop a taste for it. I would pay top dollar, however, just to see what Kent Rathbun or Dean Fearing could do with a plate of chitlins.

The Old South can be a tough road to go down and within our current society, there are obviously fragments of this road in dishes like chitlins and what some folks call Poke Salad.

The actual name of this plant is Poke Sallet. I suppose the Sallet turned into salad as we Southerners tend to just round things off in our mouths sometimes. The plant was used in folk medicines and prepared as food when folks didn't have too much else to select from. A perennial plant, it grows wild in disturbed soil so you can find it around fences surrounding a pen or corral.

You'll want to pick the plant when it's young and tender. After it has bloomed and has berries, it's too late as the plant will contain toxins that can make you sick.

Wash the greens thoroughly and put them in a large pot with enough water to cover. Boil them for five minutes or so and then drain and replace with hot boiling water. Boil them again for an additional five minutes. Drain them again and then put them in a good cast iron skillet with about six Tablespoons of bacon drippings. Add one finely chopped onion, cover and let it simmer until the onions are tender. Beat five eggs until foamy and scramble them with the greens and onions all together.

Salt and pepper to taste and get you some Southern soul my brothers and sisters.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Creative Juvenile

I don't know what it is about the dark seeded soul that exists deep down in all of us. All I know is that it's what makes The Three Stooges funny as well as a bunch of other idiotic juvenile behavior so much fun.

One of our very early escapades occurred when my modest little company office'd in the White Swan Building before they transformed it into The House of Blues. We might as well have been five guys living in a barn with computers. It was always hot in the summer, cold in the winter and every time it rained, water would splash out of an old drain pipe onto one of our desks. It was still a very cool building and even though it was a bit rustic, we had some of the best times of our lives working there.

One of the guys that office'd with us was a film and video editor by the name of James Jeter. James had ordered a bicycle rack for his car and we were told that it would be delivered to the office so we were to watch out for it in case he wasn't there to sign for it.

It was a large box that arrived and when the delivery man dropped it off from the dolly, you could hear the parts rattle around inside. I quickly signed for it and we all came out of our offices to stare at the large brown box now sitting in the middle of our work space.

Funny thing about creative people as we have all kinds of tools that normal office folk don't have lying about. I quickly grabbed an X-ACTO blade, which we used back then for cutting out paste up and mounting comps, and carefully sliced the tape apart like a surgeon so as not to see any damage. With that, we all removed the parts and put them on the floor. "Here's my idea," I said. "I'll go down to the basement and pick up some old pipes I saw down there and we'll put those in the box. You guys remove a few parts and hide them away where James will never find them."

We carefully placed the old pipes in the box as well as some of the original parts and then sealed up the box using packing tape cutting carefully so as to align with the original tape.  And now the waiting would begin.

The next day, James bounced in the office extremely excited about his brand new purchase. So much so, that he immediately tore it open and began trying to put it together. All of us kept quiet while pretending to work.

"What the hell? This doesn't even look like the same kind of metal." (Sounds of rustling directions heard while grumbling continues in the common area.) "This doesn't fit together. This is all wrong."

Phone Call: "Yea, this is James Jeter and I ordered a bike rack from you guys and there
are pieces in this box that don't even look like they're supposed to be in here. They don't fit and one of the pipes is really old and rusty."

At this point none of us could take it anymore and with one grand burst, laughter exploded from every corner of the office.

"Oh you guys. Very funny. Ha ha ha."

Over the years while officing with many creative people, I have found that I'm not the only one who has a problem with this kind of behavior. In fact, I believe the more creative you are, the more sinister you can be.

Which leads me to one of my favorite people in the whole world. His name is David Thorne and I think he just may be a creative genius. Dark...yes but a genius just the same.

Even though David is a senior level art director and designer from Australia, he has made quite a name for himself on the internet surrounding his numerous antics. With a best selling book on The New York Times List titled, The Internet is a Playground, my bicycle rack stunt is but a mere drop in his great bucket of quality shenanigans. I highly recommend the purchase but only if you read it while not drinking any type of beverages as they are likely to end up spewing from your mouth.

The below email chain is one of my favorite creations by David Thorne. It's a back and forth dialogue between he and and co-worker who has lost her cat.

Enjoy!

Missing Missy
By David Thorne 
Copyright © David Thorne 2008-2012 All rights reserved.
______________________________________________________________________

From: Shannon Walkley
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 9.15am
To: David Thorne
Subject: Poster

Hi
I opened the screen door yesterday and my cat got out and has been missing since then so I was wondering if you are not to busy you could make a poster for me. It has to be A4 and I will photocopy it and put it around my suburb this afternoon.



This is the only photo of her I have she answers to the name Missy and is black and white and about 8 months old. missing on Harper street and my phone number.
Thanks Shan.
______________________________________________________________________

From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 9.26am
To: Shannon Walkley
Subject: Re: Poster

Dear Shannon,

That is shocking news. Luckily I was sitting down when I read your email and not half way up a ladder or tree. How are you holding up? I am surprised you managed to attend work at all what with thinking about Missy out there cold, frightened and alone... possibly lying on the side of the road, her back legs squashed by a vehicle, calling out "Shannon, where are you?" Although I have two clients expecting completed work this afternoon, I will, of course, drop everything and do whatever it takes to facilitate the speedy return of Missy.

Regards, David.
______________________________________________________________________
 
From: Shannon Walkley
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 9.37am
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Poster

yeah ok thanks. I know you dont like cats but I am really worried about mine. I have to leave at 1pm today.
______________________________________________________________________

From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 10.17am
To: Shannon Walkley
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Poster

Dear Shannon,

I never said I don't like cats. Once, having been invited to a party, I went clothes shopping beforehand and bought a pair of expensive G-Star boots. They were two sizes too small but I wanted them so badly I figured I could just wear them without socks and cut my toenails very short. As the party was only a few blocks from my place, I decided to walk. After the first block, I lost all feeling in my feet. Arriving at the party, I stumbled into a guy named Steven, spilling Malibu & coke onto his white Wham 'Choose Life' t-shirt, and he punched me. An hour or so after the incident, Steven sat down in a chair already occupied by a cat. The surprised cat clawed and snarled causing Steven to leap out of the chair, slip on a rug and strike his forehead onto the corner of a speaker; resulting in a two inch open gash. In its shock, the cat also defecated, leaving Steven with a wet brown stain down the back of his beige cargo pants. I liked that cat.

Attached poster as requested.

Regards, David.



______________________________________________________________________

From: Shannon Walkley
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 10.24am
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster

yeah thats not what I was looking for at all. it looks like a movie and how come the photo of Missy is so small?
______________________________________________________________________

From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 10.28am
To: Shannon Walkley
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster

Dear Shannon,

It's a design thing. The cat is lost in the negative space.

Regards, David.
______________________________________________________________________

From: Shannon Walkley
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 10.33am
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster

Thats just stupid. Can you do it properly please? I am extremely emotional over this and was up all night in tears. you seem to think it is funny. Can you make the photo bigger please and fix the text and do it in colour please. Thanks.
______________________________________________________________________

From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 10.46am
To: Shannon Walkley
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster

Dear Shannon,

Having worked with designers for a few years now, I would have assumed you understood, despite our vague suggestions otherwise, we do not welcome constructive criticism. I don't come downstairs and tell you how to send text messages, log onto Facebook and look out of the window. I am willing to overlook this faux pas due to you no doubt being preoccupied with thoughts of Missy attempting to make her way home across busy intersections or being trapped in a drain as it slowly fills with water. I spent three days down a well once but that was just for fun.

I have amended and attached the poster as per your instructions.

Regards, David.


______________________________________________________________________

From: Shannon Walkley
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 10.59am
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster

This is worse than the other one. can you make it so it shows the whole photo of Missy and delete the stupid text that says missing missy off it? I just want it to say lost.
______________________________________________________________________

From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 11.14am
To: Shannon Walkley
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster

 
______________________________________________________________________

From: Shannon Walkley
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 11.21am
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster

yeah can you do the poster or not? I just want a photo and the word lost and the telephone number and when and where she was lost and her name. Not like a movie poster or anything stupid. I have to leave early today. If it was your cat I would help you. Thanks. 
______________________________________________________________________

From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 11.32am
To: Shannon Walkley
Subject: Awww

Dear Shannon,

I don't have a cat. I once agreed to look after a friend's cat for a week but after he dropped it off at my apartment and explained the concept of kitty litter, I kept the cat in a closed cardboard box in the shed and forgot about it. If I wanted to feed something and clean faeces, I wouldn't have put my mother in that home after her stroke. A week later, when my friend came to collect his cat, I pretended that I was not home and mailed the box to him. Apparently I failed to put enough stamps on the package and he had to collect it from the post office and pay eighteen dollars. He still goes on about that sometimes, people need to learn to let go.

I have attached the amended version of your poster as per your detailed instructions.

Regards, David.


______________________________________________________________________

From: Shannon Walkley
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 11.47am
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Awww

Thats not my cat. where did you get that picture from? That cat is orange. I gave you a photo of my cat.
______________________________________________________________________

From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 11.58am
To: Shannon Walkley
Subject: Re: Re: Awww

I know, but that one is cute. As Missy has quite possibly met any one of several violent ends, it is possible you might get a better cat out of this. If anybody calls and says "I haven't seen your orange cat but I did find a black and white one with its hind legs run over by a car, do you want it?" you can politely decline and save yourself a costly veterinarian bill.

I knew someone who had a basset hound that had its hind legs removed after an accident and it had to walk around with one of those little buggies with wheels. If it had been my dog I would have asked for all its legs to be removed and replaced with wheels and had a remote control installed. I could charge neighbourhood kids for rides and enter it in races. If I did the same with a horse I could drive it to work. I would call it Steven.

Regards, David. 
______________________________________________________________________

From: Shannon Walkley
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 12.07pm
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Awww

Please just use the photo I gave you.
______________________________________________________________________

From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 12.22pm
To: Shannon Walkley
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Awww



______________________________________________________________________

From: Shannon Walkley
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 12.34pm
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Awww

I didnt say there was a reward. I dont have $2000 dollars. What did you even put that there for? Apart from that it is perfect can you please remove the reward bit. Thanks Shan.
______________________________________________________________________

From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 12.42pm
To: Shannon Walkley
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Awww

 

______________________________________________________________________

From: Shannon Walkley
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 12.51pm
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Awww

Can you just please take the reward bit off altogether? I have to leave in ten minutes and I still have to make photocopies of it.
______________________________________________________________________
 
From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 12.56pm
To: Shannon Walkley
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Awww




______________________________________________________________________

From: Shannon Walkley
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 1.03pm
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Awww

Fine. That will have to do.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Here Dad...Listen to This

Back in December of 2011, a creative brief flew across my desk for a concert the Dallas Symphony Orchestra would be performing on the 10th of January. The image was not your typical concert musician shot nor did it resonate any sort of idea that this would be a symphony concert. In fact, the only reason I knew what the image was is simply because I have four boys who play video games. And The Legend of Zelda, a popular Nintendo video game series, would be the feature for this musical presentation.

Upon digging into the brief, I discovered that the music from The Legend of Zelda had been composed for a symphony concert which really had me a bit baffled. This was not the norm within my world as I've been helping promote classical concerts for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra for the last ten years of my life and throwing a video game concept into the mix was just...well...weird.

Come to find out, this is not a new concept. Back in 2008, composer Nobuo Uematsu joined up with the Los Angeles Philharmonic for a one night only performance of Final Fantasy. According to an article in NPR, the show sold out in three days. As I mentioned previously, I've been doing this for a long time and the idea that a classical concert would sell out in three days is unheard of.

This particular concert with the DSO, The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses, is being produced for Nintendo by Jason Michael Paul Productions, Inc. by producer/director Jeron Moore and music director/lead arranger Chad Seiter, the guys responsible for bringing The Legend of Zelda 25th Anniversary Symphony Concert to London and Los Angeles back in October 2011. Working closely with Nintendo's Koji Kondo, JMP Productions, Inc. was able to bring the evidently iconic music behind the game to the symphony hall. 

When telling my own children of this, they were already two steps ahead of me with purchased Zelda music in hand all loaded up on their iPods. "Here Dad, listen to this. It's really cool."

"Here Dad, listen to this. It's really cool."

Let me tell you why this is probably one of the most important statements I've ever heard. It's true that this is a successful show and symphony orchestras everywhere will revel in the success of selling tickets out at record speeds. Sold out is a phrase that's hard to come by these days on any venue and I don't care if you're John Mayer or Maroon Five. But the mere idea that thousands of children are listening to such wonderful music is something I don't think even Nintendo could have imagined.

As a developer or creative person, an agenda is the last thing on your mind. You just want to produce a great piece of work, whatever it is that you're creating. The innovation behind using classical music to engage animation and action is the result of an extremely driven creative brain. And the result of great creative is what we're seeing now with The Legend of Zelda. Success.

Appreciation for classical music within young people has always been a challenge. You don't ever hear of anyone giving their children classical piano lessons anymore. My wife is a bit of an endangered species as she took classical piano resulting in recitals as a young lady. She loves classical piano and still plays on occasion but gets really aggravated when I come in and listen. Apparently that makes her nervous but what I'm getting at here is a real loss of culture within our own society. Without classical music being taught to our children, where will classical music end up?

My hats off to Nintendo as well as producer Jeron Moore, executive producer Jason Michael Paul, music director Chad Seiter and all of the great musicians, composers and orchestrators that made this happen. I'll bet they had no idea that just by creating something so incredible, they would spark a classical fire within the heart of a child. 

Here's to Zelda...pointy ears and all.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Coloring Thank You for 2012

I would very much like to express my appreciation to all of you that have supported the Coloring Box. Now in it's third year, I never thought that it would have this kind of readership with almost two thousand readers per month. And the most incredible thing is that you are from all over the world which is a bit overwhelming when you think about it. I guess I'm just happy to know that someone other than my mother reads my ramblings.

I hope that you have enjoyed my musings and have left the blog with a bit more color in your heart and soul. Maybe even a little more hope. By the way, hope really does exist contrary to it being a word in a political campaign and these days, we'll need all of it we can get.

Thanks so much for an incredible 2011 and we'll keep on hitting the keys for an interesting and well read 2012.

To all Coloring Box followers in:

United States
United Kingdom
Germany
Netherlands
Norway
India
Japan
Singapore
Tanzania
Russia
Poland
Latvia
Ukraine
Australia
Belarus
Denmark
Egypt
Italy
Kenya
Latvia
Canada
Ireland
Slovenia
Brazil
France
Chile
Spain
Puerto Rico

and...Mexico

Regards and Best Wishes – 

Edwin S. Holt
Principal

Holt Creative Group
5307 E. Mockingbird Lane, 5th Floor
Dallas, Texas 75206

Sunday, January 1, 2012

One King and Queen Left on the Chess Board


Pop music has gotten so bad these days that I absolutely can't stand it. Am I alone? Who is listening to this crap and what is wrong with you? I'm really sorry but Katy Perry is not a musician nor has she any talent whatsoever and it makes me want to throw chairs across the room whenever I hear Last Friday Night. There is nothing real about this music other than the revenue I'm sure it's bringing in for Capital Records. A label that used to actually produce real music.

Over Christmas, Etta James was hospitalized and placed on a breathing machine due to her failing health. She is 73 years old and although not a lot of white people would know her by name, they would recognize her music. She crossed over with one record titled At Last but most of her other recordings were primarily popular with the black market.

Etta James was with Chess Records when Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, and Chuck Berry were inventing what was called the Chicago sound and the base for what would become rock and roll and soul music. (If you haven't seen the movie Cadillac Records, I highly recommend it.)

Etta James and Chuck Berry are the last of the main five that had such an enormous influence in creating America's music and after Etta is gone, there will obviously be only one left. And Chuck just turned 85 last October.

With Etta James in such poor health, I would like to take a moment to pay tribute to the men and women that invented America's music. They were slaves, sharecroppers, cotton farmers, Gandy dancers, ice men, butchers, meat packers, gamblers, alcoholics, drug addicts, womanizers, preachers, sinners and saints. 

They were real people and so was the music they played. Music that was created from a troubled man and last time I checked, we've been in trouble ever since Adam and Eve bit that apple.

Play on brothers and sisters.