Month: January 2010

Willie Mays and America’s Oldest Professional Baseball Park

Growing up, I was such a Willie Mays fan that my friends called me “Say Hey” in honor of the Say Hey Kid.  In those pre-Internet days it was tough to live in Tennessee and keep up with late-night baseball in San Francisco.  However, many was the summer morning I called the sports department of the Daily News Journal to ask for the previous evening’s scores off the wire.  This was serious business.  Many years and games later, I still believe Mays was the best, most complete ballplayer to play the game. So I was thrilled recently to see the new book Willie’s Boys:  The 1948 Birmingham Black Barons, the Last Negro League World Series, and the Making of a Baseball Legend by John Klima.  The title tells what’s in store.  This is a book about the difficult period when major league baseball was undergoing integration and Birmingham – that hotbed of both baseball and racial segregation – was at the center of the story.  In 1948, Mays was a 16-year-old rookie on the Black …

Patty Griffin and Downtown Presbyterian: A Match Made in Heaven

I’m glad I was standing in my local Barnes & Nobel a few years ago when Patty Griffin’s 1000 Kisses came on over the store’s speakers.  Mesmerized by the voice, I wandered through the music section until I had listened to a majority of the album.  Needless to say, I took it home and have been a fan ever since. Griffin has a new album out entitled Downtown Church, and it is a winner in so many ways.  Beginning with the wonderful old tune House of Gold all the way through to the beautiful hymn All Creatures of Our God and King, there isn’t a false note here.  Wade in the Water with Regina McCrary – the daughter of the founder of the Fairfield Four and “gospel royalty” to quote Griffin – really rocks.  Never Grow Old with Buddy Miller is beautiful, simple and meditative.  Griffin sang both songs and more on a terrific live stream tonight on her Facebook home page and you can catch the latter in a video below.  Every song on …

Miami Landmarks Past (and the More Recent Past)

I’m wrapping up a visit to Miami and Miami Beach for work (I know – I love my job) that ended with a spectacular tour of two landmarks of Miami’s past…and the more recent past. Recently the National Trust for Historic Preservation has listed three properties in Miami on the annual list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.  We visited two of those sites yesterday and they gave first-hand evidence to the wide range of places that make up the American experience. First up was the 1963 Miami Marine Stadium.  Arriving by boat while listening to the architect – Cuban born Hilario Candela who at age 27 designed this aquatic marvel with its zigzag concourse floating over the stands – was an incredible experience.  It is threatened because the city sees the site as much more valuable for development, even though it doesn’t take a great deal of imagination to understand how this wonderful place could thrive again as a civic center for all South Florida.  Watch the video at the end of the …

Not So Fast, My Friend

The next time you hear someone say, “I understand preserving truly historic buildings, but I don’t think we should try and save this structure from the 1950s (or 60s, or 70s)” remind them that the Art Deco architecture of the 1920s and 30s use to be similarly dismissed. Reporting from the South Beach Art Deco Historic District in Miami Beach… More to come… DJB

Old Time Zen

A friend from Philadelphia recently sent the following quote to me via email: “A year or so ago on the bluegrass mailing list, one of the bluegrassers was comparing their custom of playing a tune until all the verses had been sung with the old-time custom of playing the same tune ad infinitum. He remarked that the object of old-time music was to bore people. I explained that the object of an old-time jam session is enlightenment (satori, if you will)—boredom is only a means to that end.”  Charlie Bowen This led to a search online (shouldn’t all posts about zen include some reference to a search?) and took me to the original source: an information sheet about a Hillbilly Zen workshop at the 2006 Solfest.  Other bits of wisdom from the workshop: The violin music is important because we play it. Repetition of the tune in the groove leads people to an absorption, a place of clarity which most old-time musicians like. And my favorite: Respect for tradition is a kind of filter. People …

Support Earthquake Relief in Haiti

I had planned to write about something else tonight, but everything seemed to pale in comparison to the need to simply encourage your support for earthquake relief in Haiti. Partners in Health is the organization where I chose to send my support for relief work in Haiti.  Why?  I have seldom been as moved by a book as I was two years ago when I read Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains:  The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World. Farmer – one of the founders of Partners in Health – has dedicated his life to curing infectious diseases and to bringing modern medical care to the world’s poorest citizens.  As the book jacket notes, Tracy Kidder’s magnificent account shows how one person can make a difference in solving global health problems through a clear-eyed understanding of the interaction of politics, wealth, social systems, and disease….Farmer changes people’s minds through his dedication to the philosophy that “the only real nation is humanity.” Today, you can do something quickly to help ease …

Eighth of January

For all who love great old-time fiddle tunes, here’s a little luncheon treat. One of my favorites among the old-time tunes is the Eighth of January, which many will remember from the old Johnny Horton country hit The Battle of New Orleans. (The date of the battle was January 8, 1815, and Jimmy Driftwood, an Arkansas school principal who wrote the words to the song to interest children in history, used the fiddle tune for the music.)  The Eighth of January is a sweet little melody that’s relatively easy to play but has lots of possibilities for variations. I found this video by Roland White with a nice short mandolin version.  I wrote about Roland and his brother Clarence back in March 2009 when they were featured in the Fretboard Journal. So, on January 8, 2010, enjoy the Eighth of January in a more timeless mode. More to come… DJB