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Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Southern Weather Radar


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  • Writer Login


    Noel Holston

    Noel Holston
    Noel Holston, originally from Laurel, Miss., is a freelance journalist, songwriter, storyteller and actor who lives in Athens, Ga., with his wife, singer-songwriter Marty Winkler. In a previous life, he was the TV critic at Newsday in New York and, before that, a critic and feature writer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune and The Orlando Sentinel.
    Number of posts: 62
    Email address: email
    Subscribe to my RSS Feed: http://likethedew.com/author/Noel Holston/feed/

    By Noel Holston:


      that the best he's got

      Donny O’Trump and the Liddle People

      by | 3, Add your Comment | Oct 22, 2017
      Donny O'Trump and the Liddle People

      Randy Newman caused an uproar years ago when he released a catchy pop ditty in which he declared that “short people got no reason to live.” The singer-songwriter insisted “Short People”was a metaphorical, anti-bigotry joke, as was his bent, but that didn’t stop a lot of short people and their families and friends from wanting to cut him off at the knees. I wonder why we haven’t heard a similar outcry over Donald Trump’s fondness for belittling “liddle” people. He’s not joking, much less engaging in metaphor.

      a sooty middle finger

      What the truck! Should monster pickups be outlawed?

      by | 2, Add your Comment | Aug 30, 2017
      Big red monster truck

      I was stopped for a red light while on my way to the grocery store when it pulled up in the lane next to me. I heard its rumble and felt its shadow fall like a partial eclipse before I actually saw it. When I glanced left from the window of my medium-sized sedan, I was eye level with its underbelly – the pristine wheel wells, the giant tires, the gleaming chassis, a concentration of chrome like a buck-toothed teenager’s orthodontics. The reflections of my car and the car just ahead of me in its side panels didn’t even reach as high as its door handles…

      release your tax returns

      Protesting the President: Money (That’s What I Want)

      by | 1, Add your Comment | Apr 17, 2017
      Tax Protest March April 15, 2017 by Mike Licht

      Once again, President Tweety has claimed that Americans who march in protest of his policies or of him personally are doing so for pay. His latest accusation came in a tweet on Easter Sunday, one day after citizens in cities as far flung as New York and Birmingham hit the streets to demand that he release his tax returns.

      I am going to take him at his word that events like these are orchestrated and funded as part of a vast left-wing conspiracy. And I would like to ask a simple question: Where do I sign up?

      making america worse

      The PBS Armed Services Telethon

      by | 3, Add your Comment | Mar 17, 2017
      The PBS Armed Services Telethon

      The White House’s budget proposal includes a $54 billion increase in military spending that ostensibly will be offset by cuts to a variety of cabinet-level departments and lesser agencies, among the the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which provides funding that helps fuel the Public Broadcasting Service, National Public Radio, some170 public-TV stations, and 900-plus public radio stations.

      essentials of life

      A Climate of Denial

      by | 0, Add your Comment | Mar 6, 2017
      A Climate of Denial

      “Gee, Brain, what are we going to do tonight?”
      “The same thing we do every night, Pinky. Try to take over the world.”

      With apologies to the creators of Pinky and the Brain, the wickedly witty cartoon series about a super-smart laboratory mouse and his decidedly less cerebral sidekick, I imagine an exchange like that recurring nightly at the White House between President Donald Trump and senior adviser Steve Bannon – except…

      they deserve each other

      The Limbaugh Presidency

      by | 0, Add your Comment | Jan 18, 2017
      Rush Limbaugh - Caricature

      On Friday, we Americans will witness the inauguration of our 45th President, Rush Limbaugh. OK, not really Rush. Instead, what Hollywood casting agents would refer to as “a Rush Limbaugh type,” one Donald J. Trump. Limbaugh — the Big Daddy, the Jabba the Hut of right-wing radio talk — is not the inescapable presence he once was. He’s not quoted so much, and his name is not invoked as often. Though his audience is still the envy of the radio industry, he doesn’t have the influence he did at his peak in the 1990s….

      amazing grace

      Barack and the Beatitudes

      by | 1, Add your Comment | Dec 30, 2016
      President Obama’s mic drop at the White House Correspondence Dinner via WhiteHouse.gov

      Some years ago, when I was living and working in Central Florida, my family and I attended a Sunday service at a congregational church in Winter Park. In his sermon that morning, the minister envisioned Jesus’ long-prophesied return to our midst. In the preacher’s telling, the Prince of Peace so alarms some of the populace with his public denunciations of rampant materialism and his insistence on ideals such as humility, forgiveness, charity and non-violence that he is soon murdered all over again.

      finding your roots

      The genial genealogist

      by | 3, Add your Comment | Oct 30, 2015
      The genial genealogist

      Henry Louis Gates Jr. is a professor of African-American studies and English at Harvard University, a literary scholar who writes for The New Yorker, The New York Times and other A-list publications and has 14 books on his resume. But most people know him as an enthusiastic, almost evangelical proponent of genealogical research thanks to Finding Your Roots, a popular PBS series in which he and his team have traced the lineage of notables ranging from Samuel L. Jackson to Barbara Walters to Georgia Congressman John Lewis.

      1865-2015

      Ken Burns talks stars, bars, civil wars

      by | 1, Add your Comment | Sep 4, 2015
      Ken Burns - The Civil War-PBS copy

      Almost 40 million people saw at least part of The Civil War when Ken Burns’ multipart documentary premiered in September 1990, making it the most-watched PBS broadcast ever. It’s still the record holder, and it’s coming back Monday, September 7, for a special anniversary encore on PBS.

      Two things will be different…

      pioneer of trash tv

      Morton Downey Jr.’s kinder, gentler twin

      by | 1, Add your Comment | Aug 24, 2015
      Morton Downey Jr.'s kinder, gentler twin

      Contrary to his fragmentation-grenade TV persona, the Morton Downey Jr. I knew was a pussycat. A pussycat o’ nine tails sometimes, but a pussycat all the same.

      I got to know Mort – the subject of a new documentary called “Evocateur” — when he was just beginning to develop the obstreperous, outrageous on-air shtick that a few years later would make him briefly notorious. All you “loudmouths” and “pablum-puking liberals” out there know what I’m talking about…

      hide the dang cannon

      Firecracker follies

      by | 3, Add your Comment | Jul 16, 2015
      One of three Illegal Fireworks Stands on the Skok reservation by Amy B. via Yelp.com (promotional use).

      With fireworks legal in Athens on the recent anniversary of our nation’s independence,  I saw more flashes and fiery cascades over the Classic City than I could ever remember. The rise of Old Epps Bridge Road was a perfect vantage point. Every few seconds, the sky lit up in a different direction. It got me thinking about my history with pyrotechnics. The word “fireworks” for me evokes memories of Christmas, not the 4th of July. I have no recollection of lighting firecrackers or shooting off Roman candles in the middle of summer. Maybe it was just too hot in July in south Mississippi. I don’t recall my hometown, Laurel, ever having a big fireworks-in-park event, either.

      tuesday, april 21

      Mr. Peabody’s Invaluable History of the Civil War

      by | 2, Add your Comment | Apr 14, 2015
      Mr. Peabody's Invaluable History of the Civil War

      To begin with, we’re not talking about that super-smart cartoon dog who had a pet boy, though someone named Sherman does figure prominently in the topic at hand. We’re talking about the other Mr. Peabody, George Foster, namesake of the media awards that the University of Georgia has been handing out since 1941.

      Submissions to the Peabody competition over the decades have piled up to embody a remarkable collection, some 90,000 kinescopes, 16 mm films, tapes and DVDs, all now stored in a huge, climate controlled grotto beneath the Richard B. Russell Special Collections Library on the UGA campus.

      sunday, june 1

      Pivot does Peabodys a good turn

      by | 0, Add your Comment | May 28, 2014
      Breaking Bad stars from the Peabody ceremony.

      A cable and online network called Pivot will be televising a condensed, impressionistic version of the May 19 Peabody Awards ceremony on Sunday, June 1, at 9 p.m. Less almost certainly will be more.

      The Peabodys, based at UGA’s Grady journalism school,  have been on TV before, broadcast by PBS and A&E respectively, most recently in 2003. But in those instances, what viewers saw on their home screens was the full event, a parade of previously announced winners making acceptance speeches.

      the peabody decades

      Revisiting Vietnam

      by | 1, Add your Comment | Jan 24, 2014
      Revisiting Vietnam

      The fighting in Vietnam was such an evening-news fixture by the mid-1960s that writer Michael J. Arlen dubbed it the “living room war.” On the entertainment side, the networks were skittish, unsure what stance to take.  Even with Korea standing in for Vietnam, M*A*S*H didn’t arrive on CBS until the fall of 1972. The weekly dramas Tour of Duty, about infantry soldiers, and China Beach, focused on Army nurses, didn’t appear until 1987 and 1988, respectively, more than a decade after Saigon had been abandoned.

      unrepentant spouse promotion

      Ornamental music

      by | 0, Add your Comment | Dec 13, 2013
      Ornamental music

      These are the ornaments I’m hanging on my tree
      The stories and the memories are what’s precious to me
      It’s a Christmas tradition to give of yourself
      It’s the time we spend together now
      That’s our greatest wealth

      guaranteed legal counsel

      Gideon’s Trumpet: A Brass Act

      by | 0, Add your Comment | Nov 13, 2013
      Gideon's Trumpet: A Brass Act

      The best television drama these days mostly comes in serialized form, with shows such as Breaking Bad, Masters of Sex and Mad Men vying for top industry honors and critical huzzahs. But there was a time – a stretch of 20 years or so, beginning around 1974 – when weekly series were mostly formulaic and unchallenging and the serious money and ideas went into original TV movies. The “made-fors” addressed historical events and social issues considered too complicated or controversial to be plot fodder for a Marcus Welby, M.D. or a Dallas.

      50 years

      Overkilling Kennedy

      by | 0, Add your Comment | Nov 7, 2013
      Overkilling Kennedy

      Between the commemorative magazines at grocery checkouts evoking “Camelot” and the early-bird TV specials – JFK: The Smoking Gun,  Killing Kennedy and Capturing Oswald, to name just three – it’s hard to miss the fact that the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy is fast approaching. By midnight on November 22, there will have been more than 20 newly produced assassination specials, including a History Channel offering that promises to be “definitive.”

      peabody decades

      The 1960s: An assiduous flashback

      by | 0, Add your Comment | Oct 30, 2013
      The 1960s: An assiduous flashback

      If you remember the ’60s, you probably weren’t there.

      It’s an oft-quoted line, usually good for a laugh, that has been attributed to comedian-actor Robin Williams. But in reality (What a concept!), whoever coined that aphorism suffered from judgment that is, shall we say, clouded. The joke is supposed to be that real, honest-to-God veterans of the 1960s were so zonked out on one thing or another…

      the 1950s

      Requiem for a Golden Age

      by | 0, Add your Comment | Oct 21, 2013
      Requiem for a Golden Age

      A golden age of television is now blindingly aglitter if you agree with the critics and the fans who gush about Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Homeland and a still-expanding list of dark, intelligent, cinematic drama series developed in the wake of The Sopranos’ debut on HBO nearly 15 years ago. But what about the original “golden” age, the live-drama era that extended from the late 1940s to around 1960? Is its reputation truly deserved?

      the 1950s

      Nukes and nostalgia

      by | 0, Add your Comment | Sep 28, 2013
      Nukes and nostalgia

      We had nightmares about mushroom clouds, freaked over fallout. We worried about a Red Menace and the Domino Theory. Sputnik spooked us big time. We had plenty more to fear than fear itself. These and other unsettling aspects of the 1950s will be illuminated by the second edition of  The Peabody Decades, a series of screenings that mines the vast Peabody Awards Collection of vintage TV and radio programs at the University of Georgia.

      Decades

      Time traveling, Peabody-style

      by | 1, Add your Comment | Sep 8, 2013
      Time traveling, Peabody-style

      Mr. Peabody, the erudite dog in the Bullwinkle cartoons, had his WABAC (“way back”) machine for visiting the past. George Foster Peabody, no relation, has his own version of the WABAC, though it’s more time capsule than time machine. A very large time capsule.

      It’s called the Peabody Awards Collection. Just about every radio, TV and web entry in the University of Georgia’s Peabody Awards competition has been filed and preserved in the collection since the awards program was launched some 72 years ago.

      most popular art

      The Peabodys’ Peerless Prefect

      by | 0, Add your Comment | Jun 27, 2013
      The Peabodys' Peerless Prefect

      It won’t do to call retiring Peabody Awards director Horace Newcomb “Mr. Peabody.”  Deserved as it would be, that designation already attaches to the award’s namesake, philanthropist George Foster Peabody, not to mention a certain erudite canine who hung out in the same cartoon realm as Bullwinkle J. Moose and Dudley Do-Right.

      “Mr. Television” won’t do, either. Milton Berle acquired that nickname around the same time that young Horace Newcomb’s family was getting its first TV set.

      May 20th

      Peabody Awards: Eclectic excellence

      by | 0, Add your Comment | Apr 1, 2013
      Peabody Awards: Eclectic excellence

      What do Lorne Michaels, Lena Dunham, Sarah Palin and Vladimir Putin have in common?

      No,  not megalomania. Interesting guess, but wrong. Dead wrong. Each was in fact involved with a winner of the  University of Georgia’s 72nd annual George Foster Peabody Awards, either as subject or creative force. The list of 2012 programs picked for Peabody recognition on Wednesday, March 27…

      The Cry Goes Up

      Buck Biggers: Top Dog

      by | 0, Add your Comment | Feb 21, 2013
      Buck Biggers: Top Dog

      Observe a moment of respectful silence, if you will, for a Georgia boy who made good: William Watts “Buck” Biggers, who passed away Feb. 10 at the age of 85. And let’s follow that moment with a loud, rousing sing-along of the theme from his best-known contribution to our popular culture: Underdog.

      When criminals in this world appear
      And break the laws that they should fear
      And frighten all who see or hear
      The cry goes up both far and near
      For Underdog! Underdog! Underdog! Underdog!

      Save It For The Judges

      Lift every voice and …audition

      by | 0, Add your Comment | Jan 25, 2013
      Lift every voice and ...audition

      There were no high-backed, hide-a-coach swivel chairs in sight at the Atlanta auditions last Sunday for the 4th edition of NBC’s megahit The Voice, due to debut in late March. No fancy set. No Shakira, no Blake Shelton, no Adam Levine, no Usher. Just one anonymous talent scout, a primly fashionable woman tapping notes with long fingernails on her Mac, and a line. A long, long line.

      My wife, Marty Winkler – singer, songwriter, would-be national sensation – had been given a 2 p.m. check-in time…

      Southern Sounds

      Ray Stevens: 50 Years of Sonic Cartooning

      by | 2, Add your Comment | Dec 14, 2012
      Ray Stevens: 50 Years of Sonic Cartooning

      Two quintessentially American musicians named Ray released inspired 33-rpm albums in 1962. Ray Charles’ Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music is a consensus classic, an R&B giant’s “countrypolitan” crossover that smashed racial barriers as surely as Elvis Presley’s Sun sessions. Ray Stevens’ 1,837 Seconds of Humor is remembered mainly for a couple of hit singles it included, but I am here to testify that it has an audacity all its own.

      Ringo

      You Say It’s His Birthday!

      by | 4, Add your Comment | Jul 7, 2012
      Ringo Starr in concert with his All-Star Band at Caesars Palace in Atlantic City on June 23, 2012

      Once, when asked if Ringo Starr was the best drummer in rock ’n’ roll, John Lennon quipped with characteristic, cruel impudence that his band mate “wasn’t even the best drummer in the Beatles.”  Which of course is not true, as anyone who’s heard some of Paul McCartney’s clunky solo drum tracks can attest. What is true is that Ringo is sort of the Rodney Dangerfield of rock percussionists.  He hasn’t always gotten the respect he merits.

      Only in Syndication

      Two Faces of Andy Griffith

      by | 4, Add your Comment | Jul 6, 2012
      With Patricia Neal in A Face in the Crowd (1957)

      Andy Griffith played good-hearted, even-tempered men so well and so often that his occasional visits to the dark side were all the more electrifying. He  actually started his movie career on the nastiest of notes, starring in Elia Kazan’s 1957 masterpiece A Face in the Crowd as Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes, a drifter-turned-network TV star whose cracker-barrel homilies and jokes belie his caustic cynicism and monstrous ambition.

      Risky biscuits

      by | 2, Add your Comment | Jun 4, 2012
      Risky biscuits

      All the fuss surrounding History Channel’s scripted miniseries Hatfields & McCoys – first the kerfuffle over its accuracy, then the (not so surprising) big ratings — got me thinking about Pass the Biscuits Mirandy! The bloody Hatfield-McCoy has been an enduring inspiration to makers of popular entertainment. Its pop-culture legacy includes everything from an Abbot and Costello feature to a 1975 TV flick with big, bad Jack Palance, from Huckleberry Hound and Scooby Doo episodes to the game show Family Feud. History Channel’s new series may well be the best and most accurate take on the notorious rivalry, but Mirandy is surely the funniest.

      Keepin' Us Safe For Ads

      Self-appointed saviors

      by | 1, Add your Comment | May 4, 2012
      Zimmerman joins the Avengers

      Remember Ronny Zamora, the Miami teenager who shot and killed an elderly neighbor in 1977 and then ignited a national debate about television’s influence on behavior when he and his lawyer argued that he had been brainwashed by Kojak and other violent crime series?

      That case, a media sensation in its day, came to mind recently as I watched a TV-news update about the release on bail of another Floridian, George Zimmerman, the  neighborhood watch “captain” and police wannabe who was belatedly charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin in late February. If I were Zimmerman’s lawyer, I might consider a variation of Zamora’s TV-made-me-do-it defense.

      First Impressions

      A few words for Mike Wallace

      by | 6, Add your Comment | Apr 18, 2012
      A few words for Mike Wallace

      CBS’s 60 Minutes devoted its entire hour last Sunday night to remembering Mike Wallace, the grand inquistor of television news who had died the previous weekend at the age of 93. It was a fond farewell that did not soft-peddle the reality that Wallace could be both a pussycat and a bear.

      I have my own little piece of Wallace lore. On my first of what turned out to be many, many summer TV critics’ tours to Los Angeles, CBS flew Wallace  out to do meet-and-greets.

      Sexualizing Food

      Hot To Go

      by | 4, Add your Comment | Mar 9, 2012
      Hot To Go

      Welcome to Burger Kink. May I take your order?

      You can have it your way, or one of our hot and juicy sandwiches will have its way with you.

      Would you like fries with that? A shake? A condom?

      Okay, you got me. I’m faking it. These are slogans I made up, inspired by a current TV commercial for Hardee’s, the fast-food chain that was formerly best known for its hot, moist, mouthwatering biscuits, not its hooooott, mooiist, ooooh, mouthwatering cupcakes.

      Political Music

      The Campaign Boogie

      by | 2, Add your Comment | Feb 29, 2012
      campign music

      Bill Clinton famously used Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)” for his campaign theme song. Ross Perot, improbably but intentionally, chose Patsy Cline’s “Crazy.” Barack Obama went with Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours” the first time around. This year, the President has an entire, touch-all-the-bases Spotify playlist, including Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together,” the Impressions’ “Keep on Pushing,” Sugarland’s “Everyday America” and Bruce Springsteen’s “We Take Care of Our Own.”

      What either GOP hopeful would choose for himself is anybody’s guess. Perhaps “Money Makes the World Go Round” from Cabaret for Romney and “Onward, Christian Soldiers” for Santorum. But here are some suggestions that actually fit their primary performances.

      Southern Divide

      Loggerheads

      by | 5, Add your Comment | Feb 25, 2012
      obama

      Ever been in a Facebook free-for-all? It’s what happens when somebody posts an article or political cartoon and one of his or her friends shares it and so on and so on until, all of a sudden,  you and people you actually know are trading information and insults with people you’ve never personally met.

      I stumbled into one of these fracases the other day. It started with a Facebook “friend” I sort of know posting something  supportive of President Obama in his dust-up with Catholic bishops over birth-control coverage. By the fourth or fifth comment,  Obama bashers had jumped in …

      Southern Books

      A Time To Heal

      by | 3, Add your Comment | Feb 21, 2012
      A Time To Heal

      Two-word review of Jonathan Odell’s new novel The Healing: What audacity.

      It takes some nerve for a writer who is white and male to attempt serious historical fiction in which life on a pre-Civil War cotton plantation is experienced and recalled by slave women. This is literary territory associated with African-American writers such as Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker and Toni Morrison. But speaking as someone who has read all three of them and more, I believe Odell pulls it off with honesty, modesty and grace.

      Southern People-like

      The Sound and the Fury and The Simpsons

      by | 0, Add your Comment | Feb 10, 2012
      From left: Homer, Santa's Little Helper (dog), Marge, Lisa, Snowball II (cat), Maggie and Bart Simpson.

      The Simpsons’ landmark 500th episode is coming up Sunday, February 19, and I’ve been trying to justify writing about the animated comedy on a website devoted to Southern politics and culture. I would like to believe I have found two rationales.

      For starters, I would suggest that Homer Simpson, with his abiding fondness for beer, deep-fried everything and lassitude, is only a coon dog and a 12-gauge away from being prototypical of a certain sort of Southern man (and maybe not even a coon dog if you count Santa’s Little Helper).

      Second, I would argue that Springfield, the Simpson family’s fictional home town, located in coyly nonspecific “middle” America,  is the closest that TV has ever come to a realm of characters and themes as diverse and rich as William Faulkner’s  “apocryphal” Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi.

      Comic Contenders

      The Marvelous GOP Contenders

      by | 1, Add your Comment | Jan 13, 2012
      The Marvelous GOP Contenders

      Not to confer anything like super-hero status on the GOP frontrunner, but wow, that Mitt Romney, with his square jaw and graying-at-the-temples pompadour, bears a striking resemblance to Reed Richards, the Fantastic Four’s Mr. Fantastic, whose super power just happens to be a prodigious plasticity, the ability to contort himself into almost any shape a situation requires.

      Depression Art

      Hard Times Come Again No More

      by | 4, Add your Comment | Jan 11, 2012
      Hard Times Come Again No More

      The Georgia Museum of Art on the UGA campus in Athens is presenting a panel discussion this Friday night at 6 about art created during – and in response to — the Depression. And to be perfectly clear, I mean the economic catastrophe that began with the stock market crash of 1929 and sucked at our nation’s lifeblood throughout the 1930s, not the current “Great Recession” from which we appear to be emerging.

      It should be a thought-provoking evening. The moderator, Dr. Paul Manoguerra, the museum’s chief curator, is well-schooled in Depression-era art.

      'tis the Season

      Twelve Days & True Love Ways

      by | 4, Add your Comment | Dec 20, 2011
      Twelve Days & True Love Ways

      On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me . . . a partridge. In a pear tree. Seriously.

      This was several years back, when we were still courting. But I’m reminded of her generosity and creativity every year about this time because some newspaper or wire service or blogger invariably runs a feature article about how, if someone really were to give all the presents on that celebrated 12-day checklist now, the tab, price-adjusted for inflation, would be $10,000 or more.

      Well, I can tell you from experience that it ain’t necessarily so.

      Time for Reruns

      Trying time, again

      by | 2, Add your Comment | Nov 21, 2011
      Trying time, again

      If it please the court, I’d like to argue a brief on behalf of The Advocates.

      It’s a series whose time has come. Again.

      The Advocates was a weekly public-TV presentation from 1969 through 1974 and was revived as a bi-weekly for most of 1978 and ’79. Co-produced by Boston’s WGBH and Los Angeles’ KCET, it came to be known as the “PBS Fight of the Week,” and while the pugilism was all verbal, serious blows were landed. More than one partisan hotshot left the arena with his or her ego bruised.

      Southern People

      Walking the Fence

      by | 23, Add your Comment | Jun 16, 2011
      Walking the Fence

      Walking the fence, Daddy fell on the ant bed
      Tim yelled out my name and I came running
      We dragged Daddy away and brushed him off
      When I picked him up
      He put his arms around my neck and clung to me
      Like a worn-out child at bedtime

      My father, Simpson Wesley Holston Jr., was born in 1917 in Buckatunna, Mississippi, the son of a horse trader. To the best of my knowledge, Simpson Wesley Sr. never did a hard day’s work in his life if he could help it. Daddy, on the other hand, did not have the guile or the glad hand to be a horse trader …

      Southern Fashion

      Fashion plate

      by | 3, Add your Comment | Jun 13, 2011
      Charlotte Payne - Magazine Covers and Etc.

      Off and on for years I had heard my relatives talk about what a big-time New York model their childhood friend Charlotte Payne had been. I tended to take such effusions with a grain of salt. They also went on about how my Uncle Vernon played some ball for the Washington Senators, but I’ve never been able to find a trace of him in the major league record books.

      But while I was in Laurel, Mississippi, my hometown, for Christmas in 2009, my Aunt Nell took me and my wife with her to visit an old family friend, a relative of Charlotte Payne’s. When prompted, the lady opened a closet and hauled out two big cardboard boxes bursting with photographs, clippings and tear sheets and set them on her dining room table.

      Southern Scenes

      The thing about the Peabodys

      by | 1, Add your Comment | May 17, 2011
      Peabody Award medallion

      And then there was that time George Foster Peabody made Jon Stewart cry. Well, sort of.  It was in 2006. Mr. Peabody by then had been gone from this world for about 68 years. Stewart, irreverent host of The Daily Show, was hosting the presentation of the awards that bear the Georgia-born philanthropist’s name.

      Twice a Peabody recipient himself, Stewart was working the Waldorf-Astoria’s cavernous, chandeliered grand ballroom like a comedy club. He was dancing up and down the fine line between impish and rude, messing with even big-name winners like Martin Scorsese. But close to the end of the ceremony, after presiding over clips from winning entries that ranged from Hurricane Katrina coverage to Battlestar Galactica to a TV-movie about a South African mom with AIDS, Stewart got choked up. He had to pause, clear his throat and compose himself before he could go on.

      Onward, Christian Constables

      by | 5, Add your Comment | Dec 25, 2010
      Onward, Christian Constables

      Haley Barbour’s gaffe and subsequent backtracking were all over the newspapers and TV newscasts while I was home visiting relatives earlier this week. But the story that really caught my eye  was on the front-page of my hometown paper, the Laurel Leader-Call.

      The article detailed plans by the Jones County Sheriff’s Department for a fund-raising gospel concert in January.

      Father, Christmas

      by | 4, Add your Comment | Dec 16, 2010
      Father, Christmas

      At least once during the Christmas season, I pull out a pair of pleated, wool pants, a old tweed sports jacket, a starched dress shirt and Rooster  knit tie. I take an old fedora out of its hat box, and I shine up the only pair of dress shoes that reside in my closet cluttered of sneakers in varying states of cleanliness and deterioration. I get dressed – dressed like my father, circa 1960 – and I go out to see what’s going on around town.

      My father worked most of his post-World War II life at a foundry in Laurel, Mississippi. But on Christmas Eve day, he would treat himself to dressing like the natty man about town that he would have preferred to be.

      Life and Limbs

      by | 14, Add your Comment | Nov 30, 2010
      Life and Limbs

      On a Sunday drive not long ago in the countryside near Laurel, my Mississippi hometown, my octogenarian Aunt Nell pointed out the burned ruins of a house and told me about a hideous crime.  “They think it was about drugs,” she said. “They chained this poor man to the kitchen stove and set the house on fire.” She shook her head. “What is the world coming to?”

      My instant reaction was, “What indeed.” But after a moment’s reflection, I remembered that grisly episodes – in Laurel and throughout the South – are anything but a new phenomenon. And I was reminded anew of that exchange with my aunt when I got a copy of The Legs Murder Scandal.

      The Free State of Athens

      by | 4, Add your Comment | Nov 11, 2010
      The Free State of Athens

      About halfway through the Civil War of Northern Aggression Between the States, the Mississippi county where I would be born some  90 years later seceded from the Confederacy. A rebel Rebel by the name of Newton “Newt”  Knight declared Jones County the “Free State of Jones” and said, in effect, “We don’t want no part of this nasty conflict, so no matter whether you’re wearing grey or blue, you enter at your peril.” I have been feeling kind of Newtonian since the election on Nov. 2.

      Of Mascots and Men, or, Rebel Yelp

      by | 6, Add your Comment | Nov 7, 2010
      Of Mascots and Men, or, Rebel Yelp

      Up and down the great state of Mississippi, from Biloxi to Holly Springs, there’s been much wailing and gnashing of teeth of late about the ouster of the longtime Ole Miss mascot, Colonel Rebel, a moustache-sporting old Confederate with a string tie, cane and planter’s hat.

      The Colonel got the boot a few weeks ago because a faction of students, administrators and alumni decided that, like the use of “Dixie” as a fight song, a practice already discontinued, an old Rebel soldier was at best an awkward symbol for a school looking to national standing as a serious haven of…

      Deaf Be Not Proud, Part 3: God Is Rube

      by | 2, Add your Comment | Sep 23, 2010
      Deaf Be Not Proud, Part 3: God Is Rube

      Looking closely at diagrams of the human ear — an activity that going deaf tends to encourage — has given me a new understanding of God.  I think God is Rube Goldberg, or at least, as the casting agents out on the West Coast would say, a Rube Goldberg type.

      For those possibly unfamiliar with his name and genius, Goldberg (1883-1970) was an author, an engineer, a sculptor, an inventor and, most notably, a cartoonist who envisioned and drew comically complex devices that perform simple tasks in indirect, convoluted ways.

      Keep Goldberg’s work in mind as I briefly refresh your memory as to the construction and mechanics of the intricate, delicate, sensitive, goofy apparatus we call the ear.

      Tea and sympathy

      by | 4, Add your Comment | Sep 7, 2010
      Tea and sympathy

      After months of ruminating on the thoughts of various pundits, partisans and political scientists about what motivates the Tea Party movement – Is it political or spiritual, racist or classist, inspirationally patriotic or childishly petulant, xenophobic or just Barack-naphobic? – I may have stumbled onto an overlooked, or at least neglected, factor: It’s nostalgic.

      This flash of insight, if that’s what it is, came by way of an unexpected source, a forwarded email of the sort I get every month or so from an acquaintance who’s my age.  It wasn’t political, not overtly anyway, and it was as innocuous in intent as a vanilla milk shake at the Frosty Treat.

      Deaf be not proud, Part 2: Radio head

      by | 2, Add your Comment | Aug 27, 2010
      Deaf be not proud, Part 2: Radio head

      Since my ears stopped working about six months ago, I’ve heard a ton of music. But I don’t mean that I’ve been summoning up old favorite recordings from memory, although I am fortunate enough to be able to do that.  I’m talking about music that my brain and my sickly inner ears generate entirely on their own. Electro-chemically. Spontaneously. Unstoppably. For the past couple of weeks, pretty much every minute I was awake, I heard a tune strongly reminiscent of “Telstar,” the instrumental by the Tornados that became a chart-topper in 1962 thanks to its “weird” space-age sound.

      Bolo contendere

      by | 6, Add your Comment | Aug 18, 2010
      Bolo contendere

      What made airport security in Minneapolis search me last week when I was trying to fly back to Atlanta, I still can’t figure. Maybe they were picking passengers at random. Maybe they thought I was a particularly wily terrorist who had mastered the art of disguising himself as a sleep-deprived, middle-aged, white bozo in cargo shorts who’d partied too hard at his son’s wedding. Maybe  they thought the big red “C” on my Colbert Report baseball cap stood for Communist. Whatever the cause, it didn’t help that I am nearly deaf these days.

      Deaf Be Not Proud, Part 1: Ear full

      by | 13, Add your Comment | Aug 12, 2010
      Deaf Be Not Proud, Part 1: Ear full

      I am the scratchy old Victrola at my grandmother’s house

      I am a transistor radio shaped like a little rocket ship

      I am a tan & white portable phonograph that spins 45s and 33s

      I am a frayed blue Methodist hymnal at a Wednesday night sing

      I am the blinking Wurlitzer jukebox at the Choo Choo Grill

      Full up with Marty Robbins and James Brown

      Sam the Sham and Brenda Lee

      Booboo, Boney, Shorty and Fats

      by | 17, Add your Comment | Apr 16, 2010
      Booboo, Boney, Shorty and Fats

      Met anybody with a colorful nickname lately? And no, Georgia’s esteemed governor doesn’t count. I’m not talking about public figures, and I’m interested in nicknames a little more exotic than Sonny or Bubba.

      A while back, I posted a piece about the great, ongoing Southern tradition of family-name first names. I talked about growing up in south Mississippi among men and boys whose names sounded like law firms or brokerages, fellows like Houston Graves, Partlow Tyler and Lampkin Butts. But I also grew up alongside men – and a few women – whose given names had long since been eclipsed by sobriquets bestowed upon them by family or friends.

      Playground bully

      by | 6, Add your Comment | Apr 13, 2010
      Playground bully

      Appearing on Sean Hannity’s Fox News Channel program recently, Sarah Palin mocked President Obama for signing a new strategic-arms treaty with the Russians.

      “It’s kinda like getting out there on a playground, a bunch of kids, getting ready to fight, and one of the kids saying, ‘Go ahead, punch me in the face and I’m not going to retaliate. Go ahead and do what you want to with me,’ ” Palin said.

      I stand corrected. For months now,

      Let’s hear it for taxes

      by | 13, Add your Comment | Feb 22, 2010
      Let's hear it for taxes

      Goodness me, that new Massachusetts senator, Scott Brown, sure knows how to articulate the popular rage. On Neil Cavuto’s show on Fox News Channel last week, he was asked about the Texas kamikaze who crashed his small plane into a building in Austin that houses IRS offices, killing himself and one other person and doing easily a million dollars property damage.  Brown was not about to rush to judgment. The pilot may have had issues, he said, and besides, “No one likes paying taxes, obviously.”

      I sure don’t like paying taxes. I don’t like paying for groceries, either. In an ideal world, they’d be free. But they’re not, and that’s the way it is,

      Artful Dodgers

      by | 6, Add your Comment | Sep 18, 2009
      Artful Dodgers

      The video clip of Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., shouting “You lie!” at President Barack Obama during his recent health-care speech before a joint session of Congress has now been replayed on various TV outlets a combined total of  5,237 times. This is admittedly an extrapolation on my part, based on my personally having seen the clip 353 times despite diligent rationing of my news-viewing hours, but I think the guesstimate is about right. It was during my 344th or 345th exposure to the questionably spontaneous outburst  and the President’s reaction – the surprise and then either rueful or wry amusement that crossed his face briefly  before he refocused – that a name came to mind: Jackie Robinson. Robinson was, of course, the infield whiz from Cairo, Georgia, who broke Major League Baseball’s “color barrier.” Branch Rickey, who was running the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1940s, knew well what amazing talent […]

      Mr. Hart’s 9/11 Memorial

      by | 5, Add your Comment | Sep 10, 2009
      Mr. Hart's 9/11 Memorial



      All in the Family Name

      by | 4, Add your Comment | Jun 18, 2009
      All in the Family Name

      Up the hill from my house in Athens, looking out on Atlanta Highway, there’s a brick building that houses the Foy Horne law office. Foy and Horne are not partners. They’re one in the same. Foy is the attorney’s first name, Horne is his last. He’s a fine example of one of my favorite Southern traditions: family name first names. Southerners are not the only cultural group that goes in for this sort of familial nomenclature, but we do seem to do an outsized share of it. Why this is, I’m not entirely sure. It probably has something to do with Scots being so heavily represented among the early white settlers of the southern regions. Scots were big on signifying lineage —  honoring a father or respected uncle, or keeping a mother’s family name alive. So were the English and the Irish, for that matter. What I do know for […]

      The Bus Body

      by | 0, Add your Comment | Jun 1, 2009
       The Bus Body

      Almost any old lean-to would do if you were a boy in the rural South in the early 1960s — a treehouse, a hideout, a fort — just so long as you had some place where you could have some privacy.  Where you could put some space between yourself and the world of homework and chores and, if you were really lucky, imagine yourself living the kind of daring adventures you saw played out on a big screen on Saturday afternoons at popcorn-littered movie emporiums like the Strand or the Ritz. I was luckier than most. I had the Bus Body. The Bus Body wasn’t actually mine. It was Frankie Mixon’s. I just got free use of it because he was my nearest neighbor and my best friend.  Frankie’s daddy made his living back then driving a rolling store. In the rural south back then, there were still country folks […]

      The Rubber Road

      by | 8, Add your Comment | May 16, 2009
      The Rubber Road

      My best friend when I was growing up in rural Mississippi in the early 1960s was a boy named Frankie Mixon. Frankie was what we would now call an alpha male. He could out-run, out-’rassle, out-climb, out-shoot, out-just about anything all the rest of us boys. I had better penmanship, but that didn’t count for a whole lot. Frankie made my childhood interesting. He was forever leading me into more mischief than I would ever have gotten into by myself. Like tree rodeo. I don’t know if Frankie dreamed it up himself or learned it from his older brother, Charles, but we would ride pine trees for sport. A bunch of us boys would get a rope and make a lasso and throw it up to the top of a young pine, a 20-25 footer, and bow it down toward the ground. One of us would climb on the trunk […]

      The People v. Leo Frank

      by | 4, Add your Comment | May 2, 2009
      The People v. Leo Frank

      I was a graveside mourner at Mary Phagan’s funeral. I was on the jury that convicted Leo Frank of her murder. I was one of the good citizens of Marietta who gawked at Frank’s lifeless body dangling from a tree. I was all these people and a couple more – in different coats and hats. I was a background player, an extra, in “The People v. Leo Frank,” a historical docudrama that got a special hometown premiere Thursday night at Cobb Energy Center. Filmmaker Ben Loeterman previously has made documentaries about the Golden Gate Bridge and John Dillinger for PBS’s “American Experience.” He shot his Leo Frank film at various locations around Atlanta area last summer. The film, which supplements archival photographs and news clippings with dramatic re-enactments, will eventually air nationwide on PBS, probably late this year. Thursday night, however, “The People v. Leo Frank” was the centerpiece of […]

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