The Cumberland Post

The Cumberland Post
My Backyard, Six Miles from the Cumberland River

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

R. I. P. Doc Watson

There's no mystery in my mind as to who was the greatest country and traditional guitarist over the past fifty years. He died yesterday at the age of 89.

Doc Watson made the wooden box with strings sound like no other before him. He could do it all.

He first received recognition as a traditionalist with his phenomenal flat picking renditions of mountain fiddle tunes like "Black Mountain Rag." This video is from 1991 (that's Jack Lawrence with him) but Doc explains that it was back in the late '50s that he first learned to pick the tune. Interesting to note that he learned it first on a Les Paul electric when he was playing in a rock and roll band!

Doc also recorded some of the contemporary "folk" singers' material from the '60s; this one is "I Can't But Wonder Where I'm Bound" by Tom Paxton.

And here's Doc doing his version of Jimmy Rodgers' "Peach Pickin' Time in Georgia." That's Jack Lawrence on the first run and Doc saves his magic until the second.

Finally, here's Doc with his grandson Richard as they perform the song that seems to get rediscovered with every generation, "House of the Rising Sun."

Rest in peace, Doc Watson. 1923 - 2012.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Remembering Those Who Serve

For most of us these days, Memorial Day is a holiday for family and friends together for food and fellowship. Sometimes as we enjoy the cookouts and the fun, we forget what the day is all about.

Memorial Day is a day set aside to remember those who died while serving in our armed forces.

It's also a time for remembering heroes. For the last two years on Memorial Day I posted the same essay, one which honors America's most decorated soldier in World War II, Texas born Audie Murphy.

But I think others should be remembered on this day too. Not only the recognized heroes and those who died. But the ordinary service men and women who've done and still do their jobs without much recognition. In a way, they're heroes too. They're the seamen, the petty officers, the privates, the corporals, the sergeants, the warrant officers, the airmen, and senior airmen. They've carried the water, cooked the meals, drove the trucks, typed the letters, repaired the machinery, sent the messages, pumped the fuel, and kept the whole operation that provides our defense functioning smoothly.

This is my grandson, Erich, who's in the Navy. He's one of those ordinary heroes I'm talking about. There are thousands and thousands of others like him.

When I was an adolescent, I remember becoming aware of the various branches of service, the Army, the Navy, the Coast Guard, the Air Force, and the Marines, and what their roles are in protecting our country. I remember seeing those movies during the late '40s and early '50s that featured a story about a particular service. One important facet of all those movies was the prominent use of the song that we associate with that service. Sometimes the song would be used throughout the movie. In other movies, the song would provide background at the climactic moment. Always, those songs evoked a sense of pride in our country and our people.

Many people today, especially the elite, think such overt patriotism is out of fashion and only for the uneducated. They think such displays are mawkish and inappropriate because America in their view is not really a special country.

Some even question whether using the word "hero" is appropriate when applied to soldiers who die in service because using the word is supportive of or justifies war.

This is America, so they have a right to think that and to say that. I just hope they don't totally forget that those who serve guarantee them that right. That's why on Memorial Day I like to remember all of those who have served and who still serve today as well as the fallen. And it's also why I still enjoy listening to the "old fashioned" service songs. These songs remind me of all the ordinary Janes and Joes and Erichs who keep us safe. I believe they're heroes too.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Ashley Judd and the Reactionary Democrats

Kentucky basketball fan and motion picture actor Ashley Judd was in the national and local news a few weeks ago. She was very upset because some critics had noticed her "bloated" face (she explained it was caused by medication she was taking for a sinus infection), and a few of her critics even implied that she may have had plastic surgery.

Judd hit back with a piece in the Daily Beast in which she said her critics' responses illustrated that we still live in a patriarchal society. Since most of the people who criticized her physical appearance were women, she of necessity had to define such a patriarchal society as "a system in which both women and men participate." She also condemned the media for its "all knowing" stance on issues like this.

Ms. Judd, a graduate of the University of Kentucky and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, also went on NBC's Nightly News and said the criticism was really about "hatred of women." I didn't view the newscast so I don't know if she offered an explanation as to how or why her female critics would be expressing such hatred of their own gender.

In related news, Ms.Judd was recently selected as a delegate to the Democratic convention from Williamson County in Tennessee. (BTW, Williamson, just south of Nashville, is, according to Forbes in 2010, the 17th richest county in the U.S.) The Williamson Democrats also selected a Hispanic to be a member of their delegation, Vilma Cueva. From the NewsChannel5 story,

Todd Sharp, a county Democrat, said the selection of these delegates represents the party's respect for women and Hispanics.

I wish Ms. Judd well in her role as delegate, and I suspect she probably has other future political aspirations as well.

But, I wonder. Are the Democrats in Williamson County not part of that patriarchal system she says we're still operating under? Just wonderin'.

I wonder also if Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, Governor Nikki Haley and the five other female state governors, as well as Supreme Court Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayer, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg would agree that our system is still "patriarchal."

Most liberals would agree that Ms. Judd is on solid ground by continuing to make these arguments. But how '70s can you get? It's like, Here, hold my joint while I check my mood ring to see how much Watergate has upset me. I'm afraid that kind of thinking doesn't cut it with me any more. It just seems so uncool, so unhip, so old fashioned. Reverends Jackson and Sharpton, for example, seem to enjoy playing '70s politics and thus are still tiresomely beating the same old dead racist horse, even though we've got a black President, a black Supreme Court Justice, a black Attorney General, two black governors, numerous black congress persons, black mayors, black police chiefs, etc. Come on guys, give it a rest.

I respect Judd as an actress and she certainly has a right to speak her mind on any issue, but it seems to me her old fashioned "patriarchy" argument, which assumes that patriarchy is a "social construction," dates back to the early '70s and Kate Millett's book Sexual Politics. I'm guessing Judd must have read that book at some point during her time at UK or at Harvard. In my mind, the Millet argument was pretty much refuted back in the day when Steven Goldberg made the case that patriarchy (1) is more a result of inherent biology and genetics than social conditioning, and (2) patriarchy is a "universal feature of human culture."

As Wiki points out, Goldberg has his critics. But my real point is that these issues were relevant forty years ago, and resulting positive changes occurred. All you have to do is open your eyes and look around you. Women have had growing successes in all fields over the past four decades and are today an ongoing and essential force in business, government, and society in general. The patriarchy has been modified and that's good.

But it's apparently not good enough for Ms. Judd. She apparently wants to keep beating the old patriarchal horse in the same way Jackson and Sharpton continually whack away at the old issue of "racism" that liberals now conveniently define as only applicable to whites.

What does she want, a matriarchal society? One where women call all the shots and men make the coffee? What do Jackson and Sharpton want, a racist society where blacks can impugn whites continuously with no moral consequences? One where the entire federal budget is devoted to payback for injustices suffered by their ancestors and perceived injustices still permeating American society today?

This whole continuation of '70s issues tells me where Democrats are really at today. Conventional wisdom says Republicans are mired in the past, don't like change, etc. while Democrats are progressive, forward thinking people. But I'm sorry guys, it just ain't so any more. The world has turned. Time has passed. Truth is, the "progressives" are the ones whose ideas are looking tired and worn out these days.

While Democrats and most journalists and Ms. Judd are stuck in the past with their arguments against patriarchal societies and the need for more massive government spending (which goes back to at least Johnson's Great Society and some would say all the way to FDR's New Deal), today's Republicans are looking to the future and the consequences of all that accumulated national debt on our children and their children.

Progressives (and journalists) of today liked the '70s. That's when they were young and the fire of idealistic change burned in their hearts. Today they think that wild and crazy time would be nice to return to. But that's really a kind of escapism. What they see in the future is frightening because it's a consequence of their failed polices. So they either resort to denial or escapism. The deniers ignore the monster coming into the room and keep talking the same old line about a bigger government solving our problems. The escape artists turn away from the monster and talk about the things that made them feel good in the past. To me, either approach is REACTIONARY.

Conservatives are not afraid to look at the future, especially our financial future, even though it looks pretty bleak right now. They have proposals on the table to deal with this problem. The Democrats, however, prefer to talk about redistributing the wealth, class warfare, and patriarchal societies while ignoring the National DEBT.

I don't know about you, but I think Ms. Judd is a member of the wrong party if she wants the kind of change that will have a real impact on our future.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Back Again

It's been a good while since I last posted. I thank the small number of you who check in here from time to time and hope you haven't given up on me yet.

We've been busy with several spring time projects around the house and in the yard, and I've put a lot of time into getting a new mystery novel ready for publication.

We're about to finish our household projects and Dream Country has just been published in e book form on Smashwords. You can buy it there in several e-formats, and it's available on Kindle now as well (click on the link to the right); Smashwords is distributing it and it will soon be available on the Barnes and Noble Nook, Apple and other devices. The novel will also be published later this spring in paperback by Word Clay.

Dream Country is a mystery but it goes in a slightly different direction than Blood Country which was more in the traditional private eye category. The new novel, which I label a "psychic mystery," has already been reviewed and received 5 stars from Terri Tumlin from Readers Favorite website. Here's Ms. Tumlin's review which also provides some basic plot and character information.

"Dilly Renfro is an interesting woman. She is a lesbian and one of a pair of twin daughters of rich country singer Doyle Renfro. Dilly has had dreams that predict the future ever since she was shot in the head a year ago. Now she has a new illegitimate black half-sister, Pearl, and in a dream sees her murdered. The dream is true and around the murder swirl a fascinating cast of characters--some suspects, some striving to find out the truth. Preacher and Cowboy are a couple of street people who were near Pearl's building when she was murdered. Tyrell, Pearl's ex-boyfriend, was actually in her apartment. And then there are the Renfros--Dilly's siblings, who have financial as well as personal motives for perhaps wanting Pearl dead. Harry Hardin, the alcoholic but sober lawyer, tries to help Dilly, but doesn't know what to make of her dreams.

"Dan Jewell has written a jewel of a book. The plot is fascinating. The characters are complex and well-drawn. The psychological element of the story line adds, but doesn't overwhelm the other elements of the plot. It is the kind of book that pulls the reader to care for the characters and it is surely a page turner."