Sides sets a high bar as the first guest of the immensely promising Salon @ 615 series, which offers high-profile author appearances throughout the summer, free and open to the public. (Upcoming authors include Erik Larson, Roy Blount Jr. and a pair of high-powered locals, Ann Patchett and Adam Ross.) He appears 2 p.m. Saturday at the downtown Nashville Public Library, and everyone who's worried about the fate of such events — given Nashville's recent spate of bookstore closings — should rally 'round.
You should also check out the long version of Risen's interview with Sides, who has great memories of the late, revered Civil War historian Shelby Foote:
Chapter 16: Second, as you talk about in the beginning of the book, you spent part of your childhood hanging out at Shelby Foote’s house, some of it (most of it? all?) while he was working on the Civil War trilogy. First of all, what was it like playing at the foot (no pun intended) of the master, and were you aware at the time of what he was doing? And, second, how did his work inform your own career, and in particular this book?
Sides: Shelby’s son Huger Foote (now a fine-art photographer) and I were in a rock band together. We’d be over at Shelby’s house, cranking up the Hendrix and Pink Floyd as loud as possible—doing everything we could to prevent Shelby from finishing his great Civil War trilogy. Shelby would rap on the door and, in a great cloud of pipe smoke, he’d shout, “Huggy, shut up with that racket, I’m workin’ on Appomattox!” And we’d be like, “Appomattox?”
That's what Darden Copeland, the man behind the fury over the fairgrounds, told me when I asked him — during a recent and wide-ranging interview — what he thought of being Public Enemy No. 1 of Mayor Karl Dean's office. It's hard to argue that he didn't knock said hat off. But handing it back to them?
It's difficult to tell a complex and contentious story like the fairgrounds debacle in full relief while it's happening. You can follow the players and the votes, but the whole picture rarely emerges until both sides have had some time to step off.
That's what we did with this piece, which provides a new context in which to consider what happened with the fairgrounds: Who wanted what, why did it explode the way it did, and who was getting paid to make it so?
As you'll read, one of the major lessons from the fairgrounds — both for elected officials and the public in general — is that we seem to be in a new era of public relations (some would say manipulation) where "grassroots" support and/or opposition is not the pure imposed will of the citizenry but a highly advanced and calculated political movement arranged for a specific purpose and — perhaps this is the kicker — paid for by a single, powerful and monied interest. Here's Copeland's take:
“I think the days of hiring the lobbyist to go meet with the mayor and the city council, while it can be effective, it sometimes doesn’t carry the day. I think you need to add an additional layer there to engage the local citizens. Same thing with PR: There’s always going to be a place for the PR firm that writes the press release about the new bank opening, and the mayor’s going to be there for the ribbon-cutting, and that’s helpful. But typical PR, just straight PR, doesn’t work on an issue like the fairgrounds issue. You’ve got to have active citizen engagement.”
And here's how we characterize the counter-argument in today's story:
But the power of social media is supposed to be with the user, not someone who is paid to manipulate the user. Regardless of whether a user would naturally find himself sympathetic to Copeland's client, the fact remains that Copeland has created a channel for that user's opinion — perhaps with a simple follow-up request to attend a community meeting, say, or to show up at the Courthouse for the final vote on the future of the fairgrounds property. It's like labeling chickens "free range" after you've herded them onto a farm, kept them in a warehouse of small cages and then run them down a chute.
At most, the story is a weird Robert Ludlum kind of mystery tour through the backchannels of a local campaign nobody fully understood until now. At least, maybe it's a conversation starter for what it really means to be an active citizen.
Two Bright Nights for Human Rights: A Benefit for the National Health Care for the Homeless Council
Where: The Belcourt
When: 8 p.m. Thu., March 31
This is the second bright night benefiting the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, the Nashville-based organization attacking the health crises that are often a root cause of homelessness. And in this case, “bright” seems as inadequate to describe the legendary Cowboy Jack Clement as it does to describe a magnesium flare. At Sun Records with Sam Phillips in the mid-1950s, Clement was essentially an obstetrician at the birth of rock ‘n’ roll, and he presided over career boosts to Jerry Lee Lewis, George Jones, Johnny Cash and Charley Pride, among others — including U2, who sought him out during the Rattle & Hum project.
He’s also one of the great showbiz raconteurs, which means the $40 ticket covering both the pre-show meet-and-greet wine tasting at Sunset Grill and the subsequent concert amounts to theft more than charity. Especially since the concert lineup includes Chuck Mead (who just attended the London opening of the musical Million Dollar Quartet, for which he served as musical director), the evergreen Riders in the Sky, J.J. Johnson and the Belmont University Bluegrass Ensemble. Tickets to see the concert only are $20.
Who controls art? This rather confrontational video poses that question, along with some possible answers, among them government and capitalism. (Did you know light-colored paintings sell better than dark-colored ones?) In addition, this pugilistic piece of streaming provocation beseeches us to check out a new exhibit at Blend Studio, featuring works by Andee Rudloff, Lindsay Bailey and Allie Sultan, and vote for our choice during this months' Art Crawl. That would mean we control art, then? Go deeper this Saturday.
Early-music pioneer Trevor Pinnock gives a harpsichord recital at Christ Church Cathedral, in one of just four U.S. appearances this year. Pinnock is probably best known as founder and longtime director of The English Concert, whose compelling period-instrument recordings of Bach and Handel in the 1970s and ’80s became staples of classical public radio and helped bring once-controversial “historically informed” performance practices into the mainstream. Pinnock's program will range widely through the harpsichord repertoire — Elizabethan works from the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, high Baroque masterpieces by Bach and Handel, and music of Johann Froberger, François Couperin, Jean-Philippe Rameau, and Domenico Scarlatti. Sure, you could head up to the Library of Congress to hear this early-music icon, but parking should be easier on Broadway. Pinnock's concert is presented as part of Christ Church's performing arts series “Sacred Space for the City.”
But for those of you who followed the story down its strange, sordid trail, it isn't without a recent bend. Clete's stepdaughters, Delora Woods and Gina Sherrer, pleaded guilty last week to aggravated criminal trespassing for breaking into Haegert's home days before he was found dead of multiple gunshot wounds. You may remember that shortly after his body was discovered by his stepson, James Harris, on Dec. 17, 2009, Woods, Sherrer, and Woods' son Robert Ingram were arrested for the break-in. The women told police they ransacked the place to find a prenuptial agreement he'd signed before he married their mother, the late Marjorie Harris Haegert. At the time, Haegert was at a Tennessee Titans game with James Harris.
A battle over his late wife's sizable estate — potentially worth up to $3 million — was brewing. Haegert's relationship with Woods and Sherrer had become acidic. So far, no one has been able to determine whether the break-in and Clete's murder are related. No charges have been filed by the district attorney, and the investigation is ongoing some 15 months later. Sherrer and Woods will be sentenced in June for the trespassing charge. Ingram, who was charged on suspicion of criminal responsibility for the break-in, will be tried this summer. The district attorney's office is not alleging that Ingram actually entered the home, but declined to elaborate further.
The Tennessean has a good story about, in part, how the police department's habit of classifying things as "matters of record" affects not just reports of rapes, but also has implications for domestic violence.
As you recall, the whole "classifying rapes as 'matters of record' " strategy was pretty straightforward. Rapes that women reported to the police were mysteriously classified as "matters of record" instead of reported crimes, thus having the effect (the jury's still out on whether this effect was intentional or not) of making it look like the city's rape stats were declining when they were not.
This story is more complicated, but no less disturbing. In this case, we learn that things we would want there to be a written report of — like a son reports that his father is threatening to kill his mother, but the mother and father refuse to cooperate — were not being reported by the responding officer at all. You could make your kid so afraid that you were going to kill his mother that he'd call the police on you and there'd be no record of it when you finally, oops, did kill your wife.
Spurred by Pascal Gahungu's murder of Yoranda Ntahomvukiye — mere days after their son reported that Gahungu was threatening to kill Ntahomvukiye, and the police came, interacted with the couple and left no written record — the police now regularly report instances that don't rise to crimes as matters of record.
This is an improvement over where we were.
Location: On West End just the other side of 440
Size of Park: Large
Approximate Age of Patrons: All ages
Topics of Conversation: How to make a sword suitable for LARPing
Stray Dogs Seen: None
Types of Vehicles in Parking Lots: All kinds
Perceived Safety: High
Number of Gunshots Heard: None
Dog Friendliness: Good
Number of pitbulls sighted: None
Incorporation of Local History: Some
Recommended Patrons: Apparently everyone and their uncle
This year's Tin Pan South may not reveal the mysteries of songwriting that aspiring tunesmiths seek to decode, but it promises to give both fans and students an idea of the sheer range of talent Nashville possesses. The Nashville Songwriters Association International's annual trade show looks to be one of their best ever, kicking off tonight with in-the-rounds featuring the likes of Brennen Leigh (pictured here), the Austin, Tex. tunesmith whose 2010 full-length The Box skillfully combines bluegrass and straight country songwriting. At her 6 p.m. Belcourt Taps & Tapas show, she's flanked by the first-class lineup of Dave Olney, Tom Littlefield and Chris Scruggs.
There are plenty of big names scattered throughout the club scene, such as Elizabeth Cook, Lori McKenna, Steve Wariner and Phil Vassar. Also performing tonight will be such well-regarded writers as Brandon Rickman and Ben Hayslip. Students, take notes; fans, rejoice. For a full schedule of the week's activities, click here.
Margaret Renkl of Chapter16.org has a great piece in today's City Paper, arguing that the demise of big-box booksellers with little or no connection to their communities creates an opportunity, not a void:
In a bookstore, scale matters. Educated staff matter. Community matters. A bookstore is not simply a place to buy books; it’s also a place to find kindred souls. If you already know what you want to read, Amazon is almost impossible to resist. Buying a book online is easy, it’s fast, and it’s usually cheaper than the book in the store. But it’s also a lonesome experience. You run into none of those passionate readers who can be counted on to press a much-loved book into the hands of that stranger standing before the shelf, wavering. At Amazon, you gain nothing from the experience of veteran booksellers, who can tell you with confidence, “Michiko totally blew this one.” Buying a book online is effortless, but if you need a book that will change your life, Amazon can’t help you. No search field is built to answer the question, “What book will articulate these inchoate fears keeping me awake at 3 a.m.?”
In fact, there are plenty of independent bookstores around the country that are thriving, even in this publishing climate. And it’s worth pointing out that in Nashville, even the big-box stores had their customers, disgruntled though such readers might have been. Davis-Kidd was, by corporate admission, still profitable when it closed as part of a bankruptcy reorganization, and all signs suggest that the West End Borders is profitable still: It survived the first huge round of cuts only to be sacrificed now because its lease is not open to negotiation, as the terms of the corporate bankruptcy require.
Come May, there will no longer be a bookstore of significant size and seriousness in all of Davidson County, but that sad reality is not a commentary on the literary life of Nashville. The Athens of the South can absolutely support a community bookstore. It’s only a matter of finding the right scale, staff and location. If someone will simply build it, we will come.
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