Tuesday, August 31, 2010

End of the Month Details

It has been an interesting month, with notable highs and lows, as well as surprises along the way. When I started writing I feared having no readers. Now I'm humbled to realize I have so many. This was the third month for the blog and daily average readers have grown from 37 in June, to 63 in July to about 104 for August. In three months, over 5,800 visitors tallied over 10,000 page views.

June's poll drew 13 voters. July's garnered 71 votes and this month 92 people weighed in on the issue of Nazi protesters. The results showed how split my readers - and I suspect Knoxvillians - are on the issue. Twenty-one people (23%) said we should deny them a permit. Twenty (22%) said do not provide police protection. Twenty-six (28%) said ignore them and twenty-five (27%) said confront them.

My blog on the neo-Nazi event yielded the most visitors for a single day at just over four hundred. It also presented a disturbing surprise: My blog was linked on two racist websites. Apparently, even Nazis like to see their pictures. In each case, I liked the notation to their readers: "Non-Racist Website." I'll take that as a compliment and hope some good might come from a visit to my blog.

There were also good surprises. My blog has been linked onto a feed-site in (I believe) Madrid, Spain. It's a wacky little site on which the author posts pictures of European soccer (football) players and waxes eloquent on the musical virtues of pop-band Hanson. Yes, I'm serious. The best surprise and a debt of gratitude goes out to Josh Flory of the Property Scope blog who gave me a great, and completely unexpected shout-out on his site, here. It resulted in a nice spike of viewers and I really appreciate it.

So, what have I learned this month? I've learned that I will have to stop being as compulsive. I've kept a list of every city that has accessed my blog (444) and I'm officially letting that go as of the end of this month. I will continue to follow states until I get all fifty (I can't completely reform - ten to go - does anyone know folks in Hawaii, Maine and North Dakota?), and I'll continue to monitor countries because I can't help it (26 so far). I'm also going to have to stop posting nearly every day (if I can), but I will continue to post regularly.

I greatly appreciate people who read regularly, some giving appreciated editing suggestions and some commenting frequently. Thank you to everyone who has become a follower or subscribed to the e-mail service on the right-hand side of the page. If you haven't done so, please do. If you have links posted on a web-page, Facebook page or blog, please include mine. If you are a member of an e-mail list-serv in which you think the members might be interested, please let them know about the blog.

So that's it. In simple terms, thank you for reading. Now we'll get back to talking about that city of ours.

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Monday, August 30, 2010

Unstoried Images from August

Saber-Toothed Tiger on Market Square
I called these "Homeless Images" last month, but later realized that could mean images of homeless people, which I sometimes include. To avoid confusion, I've changed the name this month. These are images that never found their way into a story, but I thought were worth posting. Sometimes my favorite pictures just don't offer a full story and sometimes, I have other pictures I choose when I write the story. So, there you are. I hope you enjoy them. As always, remember, you can enlarge the image on your screen by clicking it.
Who knew firemen rode bicycles? And why?
Riot Police on Market Square
Can you name this politician? And who is that with him?
Large, modestly creepy guy in camo on Market Square
Nothing creepy here. An angel and Drop Dead Gorgeous from Hard Knox Roller Girls
Market Square, Late Sunday Evening
Immaculate Conception at Sunset

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Knoxville Jazz Fest Blows into Town

It's been a couple of days since I posted. I'm trying to pace myself a bit better, but also, a major event hit Knoxville this weekend and some days I'm in the middle of doing and, so, can't be writing. Yesterday was one of those days. It was exhausting and fun.

I agreed to be a driver for the festival (you might want to read the post from a few days ago to get an idea of what the festival was about this year). Since I love music and am fascinated by musicians, I figured it would be an exciting and interesting day. It was. Some parts were more exciting and others more interesting. I arrived at the airport about ten minutes early, but parked at the wrong place. I figured that out and got to the pick-up point just in time as the band members walked out onto the sidewalk. Ready to be picked up were Vincent Herring, Buster Williams, Larry Willis and Eddie Henderson. All legends and none of them wanting to stand on the curb waiting for the other car, which we had to do for about five painful minutes due to an unavoidable delay. Some were more patient than others.

Larry, who I came to really enjoy through the day told me a pointed story about being late. He said that when he was young he was always late for gigs. A band leader took him aside and told him there were four reasons this was a bad thing. First, the late musician is uptight and rushing to get in place and so he will not play as well. Second, the other musicians are uptight wondering if the person will show and they won't play as well. Third, the audience expected the show to start on time and they will be harder to win over. Fourth, and perhaps most significantly to a young, hungry artist, being late violates the contract and you might not get paid. He was never late again. As he finished the story about breached contracts and being late, I'm sure the beads of sweat on my forehead were obvious to passengers in the descending planes overhead.

Soon enough, the other car arrived. They all piled inside the Mercedes until it was full, leaving Vincent to climb into my Prius. I enjoyed talking to him on the trip to Knoxville, as well as through the course of the day. He seemed struck by my 50+ miles per gallon. We talked a bit about Knoxville and he remembered bits about being here before.

The next pick-up was at 2:30 for sound-check. At that point we learned that our group of four was now a group of seven. Javon Jackson had arrived the previous night, as had Jimmy Cobb. Also added to the group was Tony Wheelock, the group's road manager, who turned out to be a fun, interesting addition to the mix. Javon told everyone he had seen Donald Brown the night before. Several of the others said they wished they had known he was in Knoxville because they would have come early (from New York City) to hear him. It reminded me all over again, what a treasure we have in Donald. I've mentioned it before and will soon post about him, again, along with a nice video I found. Javon later told me that he considers Donald a real mensch. He said it was Donald who gave him him first big break by introducing him to Art Blakey.

Tony talks to Buster with Eddie in the background.
Jimmy adds his cymbals and gets the drums ready.
Eddie tests his sound with Jimmy in the background.
Jimmy playing drums at sound-check.
Eddie and Jimmy.
Jimmy and Javon at sound-check.
With cars full we drove them to the Bijou. Exacting and all-business, the sound-check would be enough for the casual observer to understand that the musicians were exceptional. Precise instructions on placements of drums and piano, including angles and proximity to other musicians followed lengthy instructions regarding volume, tone, reverb, highs and lows on every microphone and both the house and monitor volumes. Pieces of various songs were played, but the opening bars of "So What," the lead track from  "Kind of Blue," seemed to often surface.

Once everyone was satisfied with the sound, a large debate ensued over whether to eat lunch/supper. By then it was around 4:00. Eddie wanted Asian food, not many other people were hungry, so they made the obvious choice: Calhoun's on the River for ribs. I took a couple of the guys back to the hotel.

Jimmy graciously poses with anyone who asks.
The reception started at 5:30 and a small crowd gathered to greet Jimmy Cobb, who was very gracious. All these guys are stars in the jazz universe and I wondered how they felt back at the hotel while Jimmy was honored. If you follow the links above you see that they have each have very established and often stellar careers. If there was dissatisfaction on this day, I couldn't tell it.

The concert began around 8:00 with opening remarks by Donald Brown, followed by a short film and then the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra. I'm embarrassed to admit this is the first time I've heard them, but I'll say the musicianship was excellent, all around. New local resident, Greg Tardy joined in for a portion of the set and got a great response from the crowd of about 500.

I left early to pick up the guys at the hotel and found Tony already seated in the lobby. It was another chance to talk with a person who has had a very interesting career in the music business. I enjoyed several such conversations with him during the day, and enjoyed connecting on the various forms of music and musicians we both enjoyed. He's a laid-back, easy guy to work with and I'm glad he came along.
Tony and Larry share a laugh before the show.
Jimmy and Vincent in the hotel lobby before the show.
Jimmy gets assistance with his drum set-up before the show.

Jimmy makes sure everything is in place before the curtain rises.
The guys looked much prettier than they had earlier and we made the drive, yet another time, to the Bijou. After the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra finished their set, I watched the set up back stage and was impressed at how efficiently the guys working behind the scene got everything broken down and replaced everything from instruments to sound-levels back to the specifications requested at the sound check.
The guys take final bows.
The show, for me, while excellent, seemed more a continuation of the day than a real climax to the day. The guys were smooth, professional and seemed to be in good spirits, often seen laughing about some private joke or mistake. No one addressed the crowd until Jimmy said a few words at the conclusion. Most of the audience stayed until the conclusion, but some wandered out - a behavior that has always mystified me at concerts. What if the magic moment is after you get into your car? Those who stayed seemed to have a great time.

After the show, the guys were in no hurry to leave, but finally assembled to travel to the S and W for a late-night jam session. I took several there, came back to the Bijou and took Tony to the hotel and returned to the S and W around midnight for the start of the jam session. It was fun, but if ever there were too many musicians in the house, this might have been the night. Jimmy and his band mostly stayed at their tables while local favorites in various alignments, including many from the KJO entertained the crowd.

Ben Maney plays an inspired set at the S and W.
One highlight was the piano work of Ben Maney who most of us know best from the Tennessee Shines house band.
Larry closes down the night.
My favorite performance of a day filled with great performances came at just after 1:30AM. Larry took the grand piano and played a beautiful, soft and plaintive version of  an old Duke Ellington song. I missed the name of the song, but it was a gorgeous, elegant ending to a great day of music. All that remained was one final trip to the Holiday Inn and falling into bed at 2:00AM, exhausted and happy at the conclusion of another great chapter of the city.
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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Downtown Sculptures: Keep it or Lose it, Part Two

While considering today's post I realized how lucky I am to be able to see these sculptures everyday for months. There aren't many places where such a thing would happen and most certainly all of them are in a city of some size. Even the fun of talking with friends about the ones we don't care for is worth something.

The previous post covered sculptures I felt we could lose. Today I will focus on the ones I'd like to see the city buy and keep. I realize that some of them may already be sold, but I'll give the top seven I'd like to see us keep, building up to my number one sculpture I'd most like to see stay in the park or on the street. Remember, I'd like us to keep them all - and there are a few more that I didn't get to discuss here that would be worth considering. So here is my top seven:

Coming in at number seven is a sculpture that I can't explain in objective or subjective terms. What does it have to do with remembering? Maybe an artist could tell us. Why does it move me? I can't remember. Seriously, I don't know why it moves and engages me, but it does. I've probably spent more time looking at this one than any but my top two. I'd love to see it stay.

Already I'm feeling squeamish about the low placement of the bottom two on my list. This is one of the most photographed of the sculptures and it is easy to see why. It's fun, it's functional and it has a book!

This is another one that engages me, but I couldn't tell you why, exactly. I can say that I enjoy the mix of materials and the idea that the world is balanced so precariously at the top is provocative. I'm not sure I understand the bar, but it makes the entire balancing act seem all the more tenuous. The more I write about it the more I like it and we're only up to number five.

If this was a list of the sculptures I simply like the best, this one wouldn't make the top four. Numbers five and seven would be more my style. Major bonus points go to this one because of all the kids, including some that aren't so young, who have crawled all over it. I think this one is the most photographed and laughs and smiles filled every frame.

Now were really getting serious. I think this one is beautiful and sleek, but I think it avoids sterility. What does it mean? I think that will, perhaps in the same sense as "Remembering," be in the eye and experience of the beholder. I can see my life in it, can you see something about yours?

I hate putting this one at number two. I love photographing it, particularly when the fountains are reaching upward, the light is shining just right through the park illuminating the delightful row of buildings across Gay Street and a soft breeze is spinning the top. This is the only moving sculpture that I've seen and I absolutely love the name. Mojo is Swahili for "magic," I believe. This sculpture makes a great introduction to the Krutch Park extension.

This has got to be number one. It is substantial enough to anchor the main entrance to Krutch Park for years to come. In fact, it is substantial enough that I could imagine there is someone or some group out there who would love to not move it. This massive piece has been the object of many photographs and discussions. Does it mean "trinity" in the normal Christian sense? Is it a different triad? What triad are you living in your life? This is both my favorite of the downtown sculptures as well as the one I think most deserves to remain in place.

What do you think? How did I miss it? Are there others that are better? Would you rank them differently?
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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Great Music Coming At You

I don't usually use this space to promote upcoming events. Typically I report on the events I've happened upon or attended on purpose. Usually it's more of the former. I'm going to use this space today to give you a heads-up on something special coming to Knoxville this weekend. Jimmy Cobb is the only surviving member of the Miles Davis classic recording session for Kind of Blue. This recording is considered one of the most important in the history of jazz. He will perform at the Bijou Theater as a part of the fifth annual Knoxville Jazz Festival. The opening act will be the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra and the night promises to be magical. Combining the excellent accoustics of the Bijou with some of the best jazzmen in the world should make for a combustable late August night downtown. Why would you miss such a thing? Full disclosure: I'm driving the car for some of the musicians to get from the airport to the soundcheck. I'm honored to be the driver! Click the link for the Knoxville Jazz Festival, above, and join us. See Jimmy Cobb and meet KnoxvilleUrbanGuy! What a deal!

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Here's a short, eight minute video that tells about the album, the session and Miles Davis, along with some commentary by several people, including Jimmy Cobb and some samples of the music:

Here's a sample of recent Jimmy Cobb music celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the recording. This is the current band's rendition of "Blue in Green" from the album:

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Downtown Sculptures - Keep it or Lose it, Part One

I haven't taken the time to talk about one of the most conspicuous installations downtown. These are the several dozen sculptures displayed in various places around the area, but concentrated downtown, that were placed as part of the Arts in Public Spaces effort of the Dogwood Arts Festival.  I believe I mentioned them in the blog I wrote about permanent downtown sculptures, but I thought it would be fun to show some of them to everyone and give my opinion. I picked eleven that I happened to run into on this particular outing. This is only a small portion of the sculptures available.

My opinion on this topic is pretty worthless in some respects: I'm not artistically trained or inclined. I have no special gift of discernment on such matters, but I do have the experience of seeing these sculptures everyday for the last few months. I've seen people respond to them in one way or another, and I've responded to them, as well. I have no idea if it is possible for the city to purchase some of these for permanent exhibit, but I hope so, and that is the premise of this piece. Also, these sculptures are for sale, so some of them may already be headed into private hands.

Given all those caveats, here are the photos of four that I hope we lose:

Andrew Brewster - "Snowflake" - Welded Steel - 6x1x4 - $700

This one I'm cheating on. I don't dislike it, actually. Like many of the others, once I read the name given by the artist, I understand it a little better. I kind of get that it represents a deconstructed snow flake. The cheating part is that I know we are losing this one: a friend of mine purchased it to plant on the front lawn of his suburban home. I hope the neighbors don't mind. At a cost of $700, it is the least expensive of all the sculptures placed. The most expensive, which is not located downtown, costs $35,000.

Taylor Wallace - "Morgan County" - Steel - 7x4x10 - $12,500

This needs to be gone, yesterday. I'll acknowledge that it is interesting in the way that antique jail cells can be, but does that make it art? Called, "Morgan County," I presume because that is where it came from or because of the connection between that place and correctional institutions, I suppose the attempt is to make a statement. Does an object qualify as art simply because it is presented that way? I'm probably missing something. I just find it disturbing and not in an artistic sort of way, more of an inhumane correctional sort of way. Even if that was the intent of the artist, I still don't understand how it is art. If I put an electric chair on display it will be disturbing to some and interesting to others, but it doesn't mean that I created an artistic work. Maybe some of you can enlighten me.

Roger Halligan - "O.K. Bouy" - Steel, Concrete, Paint - 116"x25"x20" - $19,000 

Definitely needs to be gone. The word I hear most often around this one is "Doctor," as in Seuss. At first I thought it was stone, which would make it an interesting stone formation, but then I learned it is concrete. I guess it took some skill to shape the concrete in that manner, but to what artistic end? And the black and white stripes? I have no idea. I do suspect that I could have painted them, though perhaps the art is in imagining the black and white stripes on the concrete in the first place. I just don't know. Are there seriously people who will pay $19,000 for this?

Hanna Jubron - "Rising Sun" - Stainless Steel/Bronze - 8'x20"x16" - $13,500

The last piece I'll put in the "please get it out of here" category. It does not evoke a sunrise or any form of sunniness in my soul whatsoever. It is monotoned, jagged and harsh. Maybe it's supposed to be the opposite of a rising sun. I just don't think we'll be needing that one. It looks like a $13,500 torture device (notice the spikes on the top) to me.

If any of the artists or people who bought these sculptures happen to be reading this post, I'm sure you are all very great and talented people. Just consider this my ignorant analysis, or better yet, write a comment and explain my ignorance. I'd love to hear from you. For the rest of you, what do you think? Am I all wrong, or do you agree?

I'll follow up, soon, with a blog about some I really like and hope we keep.

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Monday, August 23, 2010

50 Ways to Spend a Weekend (or at least three)

Of course, given my penchant for anything cheap and musical, the Indie Grrls Fest was a perfect way to spend my weekend, but one of the things I love about the city is that everybody is finding their own groove. At any given time, dozens of events are happening and everyone is following their own taste or life-script blissfully unaware of everyone around them who are just as tuned into their own world.

The biggest event downtown, except for maybe the Indie Grrls event, was the Irish Festival. Who knew that was happening? Several hundred people, apparently. I continue to stumble, baffled into one thing or another. I particularly seem oblivious to all things Irish. I missed the St. Patrick's Day Parade and I couldn't go to a party I was invited to that night because of another committment. I've got to be a better Irishman.

The coolest event I saw was a birthday party on Market Square. I'm guessing the birthday girl was somewhere from 12 to 14, judging by all the giggly friends. They were given a list of things they had to complete all around downtown. The winning team got prizes from Mast General Store. The girls were hoping for candy. What a great idea for a simple, cheap, fun birthday. There should be more of that kind of thing.

But the best thing I watched was a bride and wedding party getting pictures made all over the World's Fair Park. I mean, what better thing to do on a hot August day in Knoxville than to dress in twenty different layers of lace and satin and trudge all over a park in the direct sunlight getting your picture made?

I assume everybody had fun in their own way, delightedly oblivious of each other. That's a pretty good weekend in the city.
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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Quick! Before you read! Where could I find an owl downtown?

Former YMCA: Crown Court Condos

Here is another of those little things that are easy to pass by without tuning in. Several things make this little oddity easy to miss: It's on Locust Street, which isn't the most heavily traveled street downtown. It's also four stories in the air, so if you are watching the sidewalk for loose change you don't have a chance of catching it.

The old YMCA building has been subdivided into an excellent fitness center in the form of the Lindsey-Young Downtown YMCA located on the backside of the building and Crown Court Condos located on the front. It was updated in the last few years and is an excellent, modern facility.

The top floor of the Crown Court portion features a balcony on the east and south sides. I'm not sure if it is a balcony that is accessible from the condos. I've never seen anyone on them. Apparently, however, there must be a problem with the ease of access for pigeons or other winged pests because there are two very large owls located in one of the balconies. They don't look friendly. One is facing out, while one is facing the other owl. I wonder if it works? Then again, I'm making some assumptions, here. Maybe the residents just like owls. Next time you pass by you may want to take a look. I took these photographs from the Locust Street Garage looking directly across the street at the YMCA Building.

After you check this one out, look for another one downtown. There is at least one. Can you be the first to find it?

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