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Friday, September 22, 2017
Southern Weather Radar


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    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: 61
    Email address: email
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    By Noel Holston:


      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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