Archive for July, 2008


This post on the 52nd City blog led me to this article in The New York Times about STLSTyLe. STL-STyLe sells clothing with local themes. I have seen the items for sale around town and laughed a little on the inside. A sense of humor about the city’s peculiarities and flaws is common here. I even wrote the owners with a design idea.

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Michael M. on July 31st 2008 in General


Today is the 39th anniversary, and this page linked from reddit is classic. This version of the same thing is even better. I linked it long ago. I hope I get to see people walk on the moon again.

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Michael M. on July 21st 2008 in General


After mentioning the movie Mongol, I decided to see it last night at the Landmark Tivoli. It is a Russian movie about Mongols, presumably in a Mongolian language, that was subtitled in English, and the star is Japanese. The story starts when Temudjin, who went on to become Genghis Khan, was a boy and follows his life through beginning of his rise to power.

The night before I went, a friend told me how good it is, and I have to agree. The movie succeeds in several respects. It is visually stunning. I have never seen steppes myself, but the filming captures them as vast and imposing. Big panoramic shots throughout the movie are impressive. The people are great, too. There are good costumes throughout, giving the impression of khans as both powerful with great finery, yet still close to the land wearing fur and leather. The battle scenes are fantastic. They are gory and fast.

The story, of course, ultimately determines whether any movie with worth watching, and it is a captivating one. I cannot imagine that much factual detail of Temudjin’s life has survived, but the script does incorporate many of the stories about him. It has love, loss and restoration. It has alliances formed and broken. Temudjin struggles valiantly from childhood onward, often losing and even becoming enslaved, but never resigning himself to a lesser fate. The interplay of justice, honor and treachery runs throughout the action.

I have to admit that at over two hours, the movie ran a little long. Knowing that Temudjin became a great leader, I found myself wondering how much longer it was going to take to get him there. I had a good 90 minutes before that thought kicked in, though, and I would not classify my attention span as great. For the most part, the movie is captivating. I definitely recommend seeing it.

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Michael M. on July 20th 2008 in General, Movies

Tuva or Bust!

This edition of On Point on KWMU covered the movie Mongol. I hope to see it soon. The show reminded me about previously blogged Genghis Blues. This review gives the story behind the movie. This discussion about the movie directed me to this MeFi comment. It mentions that The Quest for Tannu Tuva / Last Journey of a Genius that aired on PBSNOVA was on Google Video. Sure enough, here it is.

The Quest for Tannu Tuva is about Richard Feynman‘s last years including his interest in Tuva. The Wikipedia entry for Tuva mentions Feynman’s interest in the region. Ralph Leighton chronicled their attempts to visit it in Tuva or Bust! When they started studying Tannu Tuva, they had to check the library, and even then, very few of the books about central Asia had information about Tuva. It took me a few minutes to find more information. Their correspondence took weeks. It was a reminder of how rapid and easy communication has become. Leighton also founded and still runs Friends of Tuva, and he was an associate producer of Genghis Blues and a facilitator of Paul Pena‘s trip.

I have not had adventures as grand as a journey to Tuva. The spirit of curiousity, the wonder at things alien and the urge to discover propel my own life. Watching the documentary was reminder and a great view into the life of one highly successful faker.

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Michael M. on July 19th 2008 in General, Movies

Homemade Jamz

NPR‘s All Things Considered featured the Homemade Jamz Blues Band last week. They are a family group based out of Tupelo, Mississippi. The instruments are interesting in themselves. They made their out of recycled materials such as old mufflers. It reminded me of when I met Super Chikan last year. He, too, is a Mississippian playing blues on homemade instruments although a generation or two older than these kids. I wish that they were coming to my town or that I could slip away to the Howlin’ Wolf Memorial Blues Festival later this summer.

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Michael M. on July 16th 2008 in General, Music, Recorded

Take our fortune

For the 4th, I took a Mississippi journey. Coincidentally, I arrived in Oxford on the day The New York Times published “A College Town Where the Streets Are Paved in Magnolia,” which Barlow linked. I dropped off my belongings and headed to the North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic. As is common with Mississippi trips, I ran into a couple of people I knew. One was while I was talking to three times blogged Bobby Rush.

Rush was walking through the crowd shaking hands and swapping stories as he often does. I told him that I had enjoyed his show here and asked him whether he had his dancers with him. He said that they were with him, but they would not be dancing. He was going to play a more stripped-down show, stripped-down in terms of the music rather than in the usual terms of the dancers. Then I asked him what he had in the box under his arm. He was selling his own CDs. I bought a copy of Raw directly from the man himself, and he autographed it for me. The next person he talked to asked him about his dancers. I imagine that nearly everybody he talked to asked him about his dancers.

Then I went up toward the stage to experience TModel Ford up close. One approach to making great music is to lose the tune in service of the drive. Ford’s playing embodies it. He often sits on a single chord repeating the same rhythmic strumming. In a live setting, he can push it further than on a recording and stretch out the songs. He was entrancing.

Ford’s latest album is Jack Daniel Time. Being far less of a wild man, I went for a snowcone after he finished. When I was in line, Stud, Ford’s 10 year old grandson and his drummer, was in front of me. I and others in line complimented him on his playing. A little later, the lady behind me said that Ford had not started playing until he was 50. Because his music is more push than technical wizardry, I can believe it, but it is still amazing.

Snowcone in hand, I headed back up to the stage for Bobby Rush. DuWayne Burnside, son of previously mentioned R. L., accompanied him. As he had said, there were no dancers. I thought he might go all acoustic. Instead, he played a Stratocaster in a style close to acoustic playing. Although he did not have his dancers up there with him, he did put on a Bobby Rush show. There were jokes and sight gags. There were stories. He told us about his tastes and predilections. More than a concert, it was entertainment in a way Boby Rush can be counted on to deliver.

Then it was Burnside time. DuWayne Burnside came back out with his band and played a great set. Burnside Exploration was scheduled. The actual lineup was Cedric Burnside with Luther and Cody Dickinson of the blogged North Mississippi Allstars and their twice blogged father James LutherJimDickinson. R. L. Burnside’s progeny continue fueling the flames.

Then the night closed with an all-star jam. Along with many of the people mentioned, Kenny Brown and many guitarists I did not recognized rotated through the jam. Not ready to go home, I wandered a little through the campground looking for more jamming. Finding only a few small ones here and there, I headed back to Oxford to sleep before another big music day.

I made a great find among the older shows of the Mississippi Arts Hour podcast (mp3), a production of the Mississippi Arts Commission, while searching for favorite Mississippi John Hurt on the web. The program features two musical passions of mine, fiddle tunes and Mississippi John Hurt. I put it on my iPod in preparation for the day ahead.

I took a stroll around the square, popped into Square Books and had the snack plate at Abner’s before heading to Avalon, listening to the podcast on the way down Highway 7. The show was hosted by native St. Louisan Larry Morrisey. I mentioned him previously when trying to track down the collection of Mississippi fiddle music Great Big Yam Potatoes, blogged once more. I guess we traded places in a way. He interviewed “Lost Jim” Ohlschmidt about Hurt and USM professor Chris Goetzen about Mississippi fiddling. Lost Jim presented a program at Hill Fire later on the day of the interview. I wish I could have gone. The show put me in the right mind for the Mississippi John Hurt Festival.

I arrived at the festival to find attendees moving from the stage into the museum, Hurt’s old house, to escape the rain. Familiar faces from last year included “Lost Jim” Ohlschmidt and Andy Cohen along with Mary Frances Hurt Wright, John Hurt’s granddaughter and leader of the Mississippi John Hurt Foundation and Art Browning, curator of the museum. We sat in Hurt’s front room with the tunes flowing as the rain beat down outside. Local journalist and historian Susie James, another attendee I met last year, wrote a story for the Greenwood Commonwealth. I wish it were available on the web. She did email me a copy along with photographs, including the ones in this post.

Some fellow kept asking me to move out of his way for camera shots. They were a crew from the BBC. Mississippi John Hurt will be featured in a series on American folk music next February. Maybe I will make it into the background of some scenes. I hope the attention helps promote the music.

Here is the BBC crew in action later in the day after the rain. Art Browning is playing on the left. Ed Levine is behind him. Tamara Grigsby and Andy Burke of Willie Mae are on the porch.

Then my new fiddle got its proper blessing. We were talking about Willie Narmour, a fiddler who was a contemporary and occasional partner of Hurt’s. Andy Cohen lit into “Carroll County Blues,” Narmour and Smith’s biggest hit, on his guitar. I rushed to grab my fiddle from the front porch. Standing in the doorway, I joined in. It was a delight. After we finished, a fellow there named Jim Minyard said that he had played with Narmour. With a little convincing, he agreed to play for us. I backed him up on guitar while he fiddled “Fraulein” in the parlor on my new fiddle.

Image yeah

Here I am, apparently a bit absorbed with something, keeping time while Ed Levine plays and Tamara Grigsby of Willie Mae looks on. The two people cut off on the right edge are Andy Cohen and Lost Jim Ohlschmidt. I bought my t-shirt from favorite hometown pianist Bobby Lounge.

The rain abated, and the picking moved to the front porch. Willie Mae played music while Andy Cohen told me some great stories as we lingered in the parlor. I decided to go outside and listen for a while. I talked to Lost Jim about the Mississippi Arts Hour that he had been on, yet had not heard. I met some new folks, too. Pete Robinson from Chattanooga and Ed Levine from New York are fine fingerpickers. Levine and Willie Mae made it to the marker dedication back in February. I sat next to Mose Allison‘s brother.

Art Browning has many great stories, too. He told us about McCain reunion that includes both black and white McCains. Many of the McCains return to Teoc for it, but John McCain has not been. As I have mentioned before, Mississippi John Hurt’s mother’s maiden name was Mary Jane McCain. He said that many of the ones who attend are successful and talented people, that there is something special about them. Later after the festival, we headed over to St. James cemetery were Hurt is buried. Along the way, he pointed to the original sites of the houses of Hurt, Willie Narmour and Shellie Smith all within walking distance of each other and the Valley store. We talked about another visit in the future when he will show me more of the sites. I had to admit that it might be a while before I have the time, but I am ready now.

My pilgrimage was a good one. It was a celebration of independence. I told a friend that I sometimes worry about following my bliss that way. I know few of my contemporary friends undertaking similar vacations of their own. The people who travel to Valley are certainly friends, but they are not my contemporaries. The trip was plain fun, and it enriched my musical interests. I do not understand how it adds up although I have little desire to subtract anything. I doubt I would even if I knew the sum.

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Michael M. on July 16th 2008 in General, Live, Music, Recorded

Grayson Capps

I went to the Grayson Capps show at BB’s. He is from south Alabama and settled in New Orleans. Having ties to both places, I wanted to find out what he did. I enjoyed what I heard. Unfortunately, it was a weeknight show that started at 9 PM, later than I can handle. I am a person who rarely leaves anything early, but I had to go against my tendencies. There was one spoken word piece that caught me off guard as out of place. I still do not know whether it was about the sphere of fear or what. Otherwise, he delivered strong singer-songwriter material. His song “Arrowhead” was the real winner. He also cracked some good jokes. Many of his songs are quite funny. It made for a good night out.

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Michael M. on July 12th 2008 in Live, Music

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.