An Evening with Lee Smith and Hal Crowther
Where: Lipscomb University
When: 7:30 p.m. Mon., Nov. 28
To those of you who perceive Lipscomb as a conservative Christian university ... well, not so fast, there, pigeon-holers. Yes, it’s affiliated with Churches of Christ — but the administration may be more open-minded than you give them credit for, as the Landiss Lecture Series makes clear. Case in point: the latest installment, featuring Lee Smith and Hal Crowther.
Smith, of course, is an immensely talented author whose perceptive and sometimes dark novels and short stories about life in the South have won a slew of major awards. But it’s Crowther who might raise brows. A former staff writer for Time and media critic for Newsweek, he’s a terrific journalist and essayist who makes no bones about where he stands on the cultural divide.
In a searing takedown of the Tea Party in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., alt-weekly The Independent Weekly last year, he wrote, “The Hard Right is wisdom-proof and lethally repetitious.” And in a piece titled “The Worst of the South,” published in 2007 in The Oxford American, he wrote, “When the South is safe for Darwin, maybe that’s when we can begin to boast.”
Take notice: This isn’t your father’s Lipscomb University. Free and open to the public.
UPDATE: Hal Crowther had to cancel at the last minute. Lee Smith will still appear.
Bigger Than Life
Where: The Belcourt
When: Nov. 26-27
“You want to be a man, don’t you?” snaps schoolteacher James Mason to his football-challenged little boy; the question lies at the heart of the scalding melodramas director Nicholas Ray made in the 1950s with actors who embodied the era’s macho ideal — Humphrey Bogart (In a Lonely Place), Robert Mitchum (The Lusty Men), John Wayne (Flying Leathernecks), Robert Ryan (On Dangerous Ground). This 1956 problem drama may be the most devastating of the bunch: Its then-controversial topic is experimental cortisone treatment, but the true subject is the stigma of not being husband, daddy or breadwinner enough to meet the imposed standards of success.
Facing a deadly ailment, Mason (whose odd casting as a suburbanite only heightens his fish-out-of-water quality) undergoes radical cortisone therapy. It brings relief but turns him into a grotesque caricature of can-do ’50s authoritarianism — a demagogue whose arrogance edges ever closer to fascism, while his wife (Barbara Rush) and adoring son can only look on in terror. With Ray using CinemaScope’s enormity for distorting effect, shooting the star from low angles that inflate his overconfidence, the movie builds to a berserk ending as Mason starts to consider himself a modern-day Abraham who must sacrifice his loved ones to purify them. Cautioned by his wife that God stayed Abraham’s hand, Mason delivers the movie’s chilling signature line: “God was wrong!” Co-starring a young Walter Matthau, the movie screens as part of The Belcourt’s ongoing Ray retrospective.
The Hippodrome vs. Intellectual Property Lawsuits: Why The Hippodrome?
Because, even though there were tons of Ian Ziering jokes available, Bill Simmons took Grantland, the obvious choice for a Nashville sports review. What's worse is that name was chosen in some sort of happy corporate accident. We also liked "Hang Up and Listen," but that was counterbalanced by our need to avoid a C&D from Slate.
Perhaps most famous as a roller rink, Nashville's Hippodrome was the city's first multi-use arena and in the pre-professional era of Music City sports, it was the tops. It was also a hangout and presumably the location of a number of grumbly snark-filled conversations about whether Kiki Cuyler could lead the Nashville Vols to the Southern Association title.
And the name itself is Greek (for "horse course"), fulfilling my weekly classical-language usage quota.
The Week Behind
It Rhymes With "Blame Bold Candy": This week's Scene sports column covers the improbable but totally inevitable series of events leading to UT's overtime defeat of Vanderbilt and by this point, it's obvious the SEC won't use its autocratic authority to force Tennessee to kick a field goal to make things right. Too bad, really, because seeing Michael Palardy kick the ball into his long snapper's rear again would be a pleasant distraction from Uncle Elmer's casual racism at the Thanksgiving table.
James Franklin talks a lot about how he's going to change the culture on West End. If post-game fan reaction is any indicator, he's well on his way. Through a half century of hard-luck defeats which have had Commodore fans mainlining Pepto, the post-game blankie has been that at least the Black and Gold were in it, moral victories better than no victories at all. Now, all that's been replaced by vitriol aimed at the errata-heavy officiating. After (at least) five wins, Vandy fans may no longer be satisfied with watching a plucky team almost win.
In a key scene in The Skin I Live In, Dr. Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas) enters his house, and through a monitor resembling a pane of one-way glass, he starts to ogle the body of Vera (Elena Anaya). He's fully clothed, she's nude. He can see her, she can't see him. On the surface, this appears to be a textbook example of male voyeurism and objectification of women — a perv serving as the audience's Peeping Tom surrogate.
Coming from Pedro Almodóvar, however, one of the world's most famous openly gay directors, it's a surprise. And there are more to come, as we find when Dr. Ledgard rushes into the shot. Vera isn't actually naked, she's wearing a body suit — an indication that Dr. Ledgard and Vera's relationship isn't what it initially seems to be. And neither is The Skin I Live In, which combines the kinkiness of Almodóvar's early work with the elegant style of his more recent films before striking off into transgressive new territory.
After his wife's death in a car crash, Dr. Ledgard has been less interested in his plastic-surgery franchise than creating a new skin substitute to replace burned flesh. After 12 years of research, he has created a real product: soft as genuine skin, yet impermeable by either blowtorches or mosquitoes. The only thing Dr. Ledgard needs is a human guinea pig. When his daughter succumbs to tragedy, he finds the perfect subject for his torturous research ... at which point we probably shouldn't say more.
She's also got a great gift for the written word, as evidenced by this very frank, touching and heartfelt story she wrote for Huffington Post about what it's like to learn that your child is transgendered.
Here's an excerpt:
I wrote, and wrote, and wrote. I thought about my struggle to own my identity as an artist in the world. I thought about my son's struggle to stand up and be seen for who he is. So many people prefer you to assume a role that makes them comfortable. But life is not about making other people comfortable. This idea seeped into the songs that were coming out of me — the old adage, "Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." I wanted to say what seemed unsayable. That life is tough, heartbreaking, unfair — and short. And that there is unspeakable beauty to be found. My son unknowingly gave me a tremendous gift last year when he bravely shared his truth with me. He gave me the courage to share mine.
In a fundraising email, state Democratic Party chairman Chip Forrester ridicules Corker for going to Spring Hill and tosses in Gov. Bill Haslam and Congressman Scott DesJarlais for good measure. President Obama and Democrats in Congress are responsible for the loan to the auto industry, Forrester says.
So who was on hand Monday to soak up credit for the Democratic jobs bump? Republicans.
Sen. Bob Corker, who fought tooth and nail to derail the automaker rescue package, Governor Bill Haslam, whose good friend Mitt Romney would have allowed Spring Hill's plant to shut down forever, and Rep. Scott DesJarlais, who has led the assault on Medicare and common sense investments that create jobs and opportunity for the middle class.
Can you believe these guys?! Taking credit for successful Democratic initiatives — that they clearly oppose — is the worst kind of political posturing.
It's upsetting that some politicians said Spring Hill auto workers weren't worth the time and fixing the American auto industry wasn't worth the money. If politicians like Sen. Corker, Rep. DesJarlais and Gov. Haslam had been in charge, there would be no American auto industry and Spring Hill would be a ghost town.
Autoworkers booed and heckled Corker in Spring Hill. According to the AP, retired autoworker Don Lockhart confronted Corker after the ceremony about the senator's stance on organized labor. "You don't know what you're talking about," Corker told him.
If you appreciate how important it is to nourish the imaginations of our future generations, and you cringe every time you hear about arts funding getting slashed from school budgets, here's a chance to make a little difference.
Local installation and performance artist Lindsey Bailey has dreamed up Deliciously Happy, a collaborative art project with three different age groups at three Nashville area schools: University School of Nashville, Bordeaux Elementary and Lead Academy. She's lead workshops to develop art projects for each school, and the students' work will be featured in a gallery show at Belmont in March. I could tell you a lot more about Deliciously Happy, but Lindsey's video above does a much better job than I could do.
Bailey has self-funded the project so far, but she needs help to bring it to fruition, so she's started a Kickstarter campaign. She's raised about $2,300 of her $4,000 goal so far, so she needs at least $1,700 more in pledges by 11 a.m. Central Time on Sunday, Nov. 27, to get Deliciously Happy funded. So you've got four days left to become a patron of the arts. Don't wait till it's too late!
So, when I heard that the library was extending this deal to Nashville area teens through the Limitless Library program? I have to tell you, I cheered in delight. What an excellent idea! Middle and high schoolers aren't limited to the books in their individual schools' libraries but can have access to all of the books in the Nashville library system. They just get on the computer and request it and it's delivered to their school.
From the Tennessean:
“We are seeing overwhelming successes,” said Tricia Bengel, interim director at Nashville Public Library. “Kids are borrowing more books than they have ever borrowed, and they have access to different types of materials than they have even had before. It’s a good problem to have, but we are struggling a little bit to keep up with the increase in circulation.
“It benefits the library because we’ve added 15,000 patrons that we didn’t have before. We are building our patrons of tomorrow.”
The inspector said protesters can't serve meals to the public without first attending safety classes, which won't be offered until January. According to Occupy Nashville:
The state laws concerning food preparation are not well-adapted to outdoor settings, and it is curious that the city government has chosen to single out Occupy Nashville for enforcing its rules in such an arbitrary way. Food operations at Occupy Nashville are little different from an outdoor picnic or potluck, where volunteers in the community bring in prepared dishes to serve.
Requiring our volunteer members to effectively become bouncers who determine who can and cannot be served food—itself a human right—is little more than a thinly veiled attempt—either by the Metro government alone or in concert with the state of Tennessee and Gov. Bill Haslam—to suffocate the expression of our First Amendment rights.
On Friday, Occupy Nashville posted this video, with the somewhat ominous title "Covert surveillance at Occupy Nashville?" It was taken outside the dinner that activists interrupted briefly in order to hurl "war criminal" charges at former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld. In the video, a white van — with magnets that say "NES" affixed to its sides and what appears to be a camera of some sort mounted on its roof — sits idling on the side of the street. Occupy types start heckling whoever's inside the van for being parked illegally, and there look to be computer monitors and other electronic equipment inside.
After the video was posted, speculation spread fast and furious about who was in the van and what they might have been doing: Was it TBI? Homeland Security? Blackwater? Today, Metro Police spokeswoman Kristin Mumford told the Scene that it was actually undercover Nashville cops:
The van was a Metro Police Department undercover vehicle that was part of the dignitary protection plan for Donald Rumsfeld. Given his obviously controversial status, and the police department hearing talk of possible disruptions to his visit, officers were assigned to proactively work to ensure everyone's safety.
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