Neil Diamond – Done Too Soon

Mar 14, 2018 by

Neil Diamond – Done Too Soon

Neil Diamond canceled a planned world tour this year. He has Parkinson’s and in the words of one of his songs, is done too soon. The disease is so bad he can’t keep traveling. Honestly, I wasn’t surfing for tickets, but this is sad news. For the past 46-47 years of my life, Neil’s tunes have enriched the musical fabric of my life.

I first remember Neil Diamond when we moved to Derby, Kansas near McConnell AFB in late spring 1972. When Dad returned from his second tour in Nam, this one as a member of the elite USAF helicopter group, the Green Hornets, he brought with him a Sansui receiver, Teac reel-to-reel, and a Pioneer turntable that fed some high powered Sansui speakers.

One of the albums that filled two bedroom home on S. Post Oak was Neil Diamond’s Taproot Manuscript. Dad played it every Saturday morning as we waited for a place in base housing. To this day I can hum every note of side two of the album–from “Childsong” all the way to the frogs fading at the end–twenty minutes later.

Shilo

When I got older, I found the jazzed up version of “Shilo” on Neil Diamond’s 12 Greatest Hits album. There’s no telling how many times I’ve played and replayed this song. From grades four through… I won’t say how old, I played air drums along with him and the orchestra.

Something about the high-hat and the drums rolling across the set has always made me as happy as Neil singing about his imaginary childhood friend. There are a couple other versions of the song but they don’t come close to the one on this album.

Now I know some of my friends reading this will mock me and make fun of Neil. That’s okay. They’re not getting sung in seventh inning stretches either. He is. Bum bum bum…. (“Sweet Caroline”)

“Do It …” the 45 single sounded better than any album or CD ever has.

The Monkeys have Neil to thank for “I’m A Believer.” It was Number One on BillBoard Magazine for weeks.

Neil had tons of hits. “Cracklin’ Rosie,” “I am… I Said,” “Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon,” and on and on….

But now I wonder if he’s playing one self-fulfilling song in his head more often than the others.

Done Too Soon

I’ve been mindful of this song since dad brought home Taproot Manuscript, but never really understood it until I grew older. Neil goes through a litany of famous people and then remarks that all of them have something in common with all of us.

In 1970, he wrote himself a warning in “Done too Soon.” I hope he heeded it and enjoyed every minute along the way.

“And each one there
Has one thing shared
They have sweated beneath the same sun
Looked up in wonder at the same moon
And wept when it was all done
For being done too soon
For being done too soon.”

We all race through our lives seldom taking the time to enjoy each day as we live it. That was the message here. Not to do that. And even if we do, Neil postulated as a younger man, that it would still happen, that our lives are but a wisp of time and then we are gone, or we are old and our days of youth are swept away before we know it.

Neil Diamond, thank you for the music and the memories. They’ve been valuable in my lifetime.

Heed Neil’s words as you live out your days. Live every day as if your last. And enjoy every single moment as much as you may because one day you’re going to look back and wonder where the days went and remark that it was all done too soon.

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Gonna Write You A Letter….

Mar 8, 2018 by

Gonna Write You A Letter….

Not long ago, I bought resume paper and matching envelopes. Not to send out resumes but for something more special–letter writing.

Once I load the paper into my 1951-model Smith-Corona Silent, (taking care to ensure the letterhead is correct), I write someone I’ve not corresponded with in a while. Maybe someone I have never written before. 

My penmanship is better after months of hand-written Morning Pages. But how often these days does anyone receive the gift of a letter composed on a typewriter? Yeah, rarely.

My goal is a letter a day. One-page to let a special person know they were on my mind. This is so much better, not to mention cheaper than Hallmark. More original. More personal. More caring.

I don’t ask for a letter in return, though a typing pen pal would be nice. these days we dash emails and texts off with so little thought behind them. I enjoy my time at the typewriter taking the care to send genuine thoughts and to do my level best not to make any typos.

Dumping By Snapchat

A friend of mine had her son dumped by a girlfriend recently. She sent him a Snapchat message. He read the Dear John and it disappeared, forever. They’d been going steady for more than a year. They are 14, but still. This from a girl born in Alabama. She knows better and her mother taught her better, too. Emily Post is rolling in her grave.

Better Mail

My friend Harold Duncan often tells his mail carrier he wishes the Postal Service would bring “better mail.” The other day Harold had his wish fulfilled with a one-page letter thanking him for many years of friendship and support.

Typing With a Butter Knife

Owning a typewriter is rare these days. I bought my first last fall–a Smith-Corona Super Sterling like my dad had when I was a boy. In the documentary California Typewriter, Tom Hanks turned me onto the Smith-Corona Silent model. Hanks says that of the 250 typewriters he has, the Silent is the one he could not do without. I concur. It’s like typing with a butter knife.

My typewriters have changed how I write. The rhythm of the intricate machine slows my thought process. Words form pictures in my mind as the letters flow to my fingertips, depress a key, activate a series of levers and springs before compressing the fibers of a black ribbon and leap onto the white canvas of the non-glowing, porous page.

I revised my novel “The Voodoo Hill Explorer Club” on my typewriters. Instead of cutting, they helped grow the story into something new and magical. Yesterday I started querying agents.

Times are crazy busy. I’ve enjoyed the responses from friends who’ve received my letters. Writing them was worth it. Every clickety-clack….

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Ólafur Arnalds’ Eulogy for Evolution 2017 1440 is musical symmetry

Aug 24, 2017 by

Ólafur Arnalds’ Eulogy for Evolution 2017 1440 is musical symmetry.

 

I am in Week Six of Julia Cameron’s Finding Water. Now 18 weeks into her writings, she professes somewhere along the way that we do not celebrate enough the work of other artists who are brave enough to be themselves. I must do that here with the work of Ólafur Arnalds and a piece called 1440.

The piece is sublime, intoxicating, and contrite, all in the course of it’s six-minute fifty-six-second life.

I breathe, I whisper, I cry, I dream, I remember, I pray, I hope, I long for what was and what still will be in this song’s life.

I know nothing of his intent in writing this piece, but the Piano Channel of Apple TV plays it once or twice daily of late and when I hear it, I stop what I’m doing and close my eyes and enter the world of the music.

This is what music is made for, to take us somewhere. To our own place. Not the one the composer designed, but to the place only we can share with God. And that’s what happens when I am enjoined with the sounds of this piece.

The song is available on iTunes.

Here’s one video interpretation. I’m not sure of the video’s point. I can’t determine the storyline but the work is good.

Regardless, a salute to Ólafur Arnalds for this fine song. It has a special place in my heart. Thank you.

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Zelda, Almost Home

Jun 27, 2017 by

My favorite shot in the short film, “Zelda, Almost Home.” The tunnel leading to Riverfront Park in Montgomery, Alabama.

The premise for the short film Zelda, Almost Home became quite simple: Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, born in Montgomery, Alabama in 1900, lived a wild and tumultuous life with the author of The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, whom she met in 1918. What if she came back today as a ghost?

The inspiration to shoot Zelda, Almost Home came from watching Vincent Laforet’s Reverie on YouTube. You’ll also notice there’s a hat tip to Damien Chazelle and his film La La Land— Zelda walks in front of a mural. Simon Cade from DSLR Guide has been a big influence and coach as well. (This is my first short film. I’m 51 years old.)

Come to find out, there are ample stories around Montgomery already to suggest the premise for this film is dead on. The halls of Baldwin Middle School are full of stories alleging apparitions of Zelda. As I talked with F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum Executive Director Sara Powell last Friday, she had two more accounts, recent ones, as the museum prepares to open upstairs rooms as a bed and breakfast.

So as you read and watch the film, please know, it is grounded in much less fantasy as you might first suspect.

The Making of Zelda, Almost Home

One of the first things any viewer will note is the music, Almost Home, composed by Moby and used with permission from his website, MobyGratis.com. He offers free use of his material provided it’s used for purposes like this—non-commercial and creative expression.

The film is shot entirely in Montgomery, Alabama, June 22-25, 2017. And that is part of my commentary for shooting this, there are almost no films about Montgomery that are actually SHOT in Montgomery.

It is all shot with a Canon D60, part with a Nifty Fifty lens and part with an 18-135 mm. The camera for the most part is mounted on a Neewer Image Stabilizer. Shots from the car the camera was mounted on a tripod.

Shot List

The intersection of Zelda and Fitzgerald, Montgomery

The street sign at the corner of Zelda and Fitzgerald in Montgomery, Alabama.

The opening shot is designed to give homage to Montgomery for honoring Scott and Zelda, while also having our Zelda set the scene that she was full of life when she lived here. It is not hard to imagine the real Zelda spinning around her street sign with glee.

Five minutes after we left the scene, I drove back through and someone had called Montgomery Police to investigate what we were doing. A patrol car was sitting where I’d been parked and was using the lights of the car to light up the street sign.

Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum, Felder Avenue

The house on Felder is now a museum. They have a fascinating collection of Fitzgerald memorabilia and are open very day of the week except Monday for tours. And they are in the process of opening an upstairs suite as a bed and breakfast so those seeking inspiration for their writing or filmmaking can soon stay in the same rooms as the Fitzgeralds for nine months back in the 1920s. This is said to be the longest the two lived anywhere together. And it was the last place they ever lived as a family.

Winter Place, Goldthwaite and Mildred

It is often said that Scott and Zelda met at the Montgomery Country Club. But lore now suggests in fact that they met at Winter Place on Goldthwaite. Part of the tale goes is that Zelda’s daddy, Judge Anthony D. Sayre, who lived four blocks away, would not have approved of her being at Winter Place so saying they met at the country club was much more proper.

The McBryde-Screws-Tyson House, Mildred

Christian Lowry, the owner of the house, tells the tale that Zelda was friends with the girls who lived there at the time. He says Zelda used a ring she’d been given by Scott to carve their initials in a second story window. Mr. Winter, who owned Winter Place across the street, is said to have had a thing for Ms. Zelda when she was younger and so as an admirer, when McBryde-Screws-Tyson lie vacant, he sent men into the home to extract with window pane Zelda carved initials into.

The McBride-Screws-Tyson House in Montgomery, Alabama.

It is hoped, that since Mr. Winter was something of a pack rat, that as Winter Place goes through renovation, the original piece of glass will be found and hopefully returned to its rightful window.

But this is the sentimental importance of this shot in the film.

*I have been spelling McBryde with an I instead of Y. That’s now corrected on June 30, 2017 though I can’t change it in the YouTube post.

The Train Shed

There are stories about Zelda and the train shed in Montgomery. It was the prime way in and out of town for Zelda and Scott. But it is also said that she dressed down one day and walked around with a tin can seeking donations. News of this, of course, stirred Judge Sayre. Which is probably what it was meant to do.

The Riverfront Tunnel 

The Riverfront Tunnel has changed over the years. Only recent efforts by the city to bring night life back downtown have led to the amazing lighting in the tunnel. The colored lights and the depth of the shot make this one of my favorite scenes in the film. I thought about going back and having Zelda walk perfectly framed up the lighted tunnel but then it’d be too staged and too fashioned, something the true Zelda would not allow.

Tallapoosa Street

This is one of the apex locations in downtown Montgomery, connecting with Commerce Street, critical to the city’s past and present.

The Alley

Over the past 15 years, the Alley has really come to life as an attraction in Montgomery, and wherever there was a party in this town, well, it’d attract Zelda.

Tallapoosa and Commerce Statue of Hank Williams

The Hank Williams Statue is now the gateway into the Riverfront Park area of the downtown area.

RSA Tower Fountain on Dexter Avenue

David Bronner has built a series of buildings throughout Montgomery over the past 40 years. The fountain this Zelda is playing along wasn’t here when Zelda was, but like the real Zelda, my character couldn’t resist the temptation to play. And she really wanted to get into the water like the real one would have done, too.

Catoma Street view of Troy State

Troy State wasn’t located here back in the day, but is an important part of the downtown scene, connected to the Davis Theatre and across the street from the Jefferson Hotel where Scott and Zelda are said to have stayed, as well as being near the Rosa Parks Museum, which I believe back in the day was also the Empire Theatre, one of the first air conditioned places in the hot of the South.

Sunny Paulk Civil Rights Mural, Lee and Montgomery Streets

Hat tip to La La Land and having Emma Stone walk past the You Are The Star Mural. Montgomery has a beautiful Civil Rights Mural here and we just had to include it. Zelda was gone before all of that came to be and so it was fitting for her to just walk past.

Oakwood Cemetery, Plot 28, graves of Minnie and Judge Anthony D Sayre

The Oakwood Cemetery in Montgomery, Alabama where the parents of Zelda Fitzgerald rest in peace.

There is a memorial plaque for Scott and Zelda, their daughter Scottie Smith, and Zelda’s parents, Minnie and Anthony D. Sayre in Oakwood Cemetery. When we arrived for shooting, the sunset was alive with color and emotion.

The first shot is Zelda mourning over the plaque. She then runs her hands over the stone above her father’s tomb. Out of love and emotion, the Zelda character in the film lies down on the stone above Minnie and puts her hand on Minnie’s name. By then it was too late to see, but the poignancy of should not be lost. Zelda would dearly miss her Momma for many reasons all of us would.

Old Alabama Supreme Court Building, Dexter Avenue

Justice Sayre served on the Alabama Supreme Court from 1909 to 1931. Zelda would visit this place and miss her daddy.

Zelda visiting the Old Alabama Supreme Court Building on Dexter Avenue, Montgomery, Alabama.

The Alabama Capitol

The Capitol is just a stone’s throw from the Old Supreme Court Building.

Chris’ Hotdogs, Dexter Avenue

Chris’s Hotdogs is 100 years old this year. I don’t know if Zelda ever went there to eat before she left town, but the odds are pretty good that she would have. They have served every sitting Alabama governor since they opened. It makes sense the lead Flapper Girl would have been a customer, too.

Court Street Fountain

Many a girl like Zelda has climbed the fence at the fountain to wade into its waters looking down Commerce Street toward the Alabama Riverfront and up Dexter Avenue toward the Capitol.

Sunroom window, The Fitzgerald Museum

The sunroom at the museum would hold special value to Zelda. Scottie, their daughter, wrote about its importance during the Christmas the family spent in the home. As a ghost looking back, she would totally take time to look into this room and remember the gem of joy they experienced there as a family for one of the few times ever.

The Museum at night, Felder Avenue

Day or night, the museum is a treasure of Montgomery.

My Own Zelda Ghost Story

So, the night before we began shooting, while walking up the drive to the museum, a white and tan cat came running out of nowhere and up to me. I am allergic to cats and don’t care for them. This one, as I was standing in the drive looking at shots, avoided my Zelda actor, (Angie Tatum Weed) and began curling around my legs. I finally said, “Hey Zelda!” and the cat stopped.

 

 

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The Haley Buggin’ Guitar Riff Ditty

Jun 9, 2017 by

The Haley Buggin’ Guitar Riff Ditty

Guitar riffs. We hear them and they earworm their way into our consciousness and then burrow in for a long stay.

Last night about 8 p.m. I downloaded an app to tune my guitars and one for my mandolin. I never got to the mandolin.

Haley Buggin’, a little ditty I made thanks to The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. https://youtu.be/7zgmMeP-coE

I tuned the guitar and then started a progression of the chords E A D, but thumping them and muting them like U2’s Edge would do, and then hammering the neck notes like Eddie Van Halen or Pete Townsend would do.

The result, I thumbed out a progression that I then recorded and sent to my daughter Haley calling it “Haley Buggin’.” You see, over the past couple of years, Haley has from time-to-time sent me tracks she’s recorded seeking input and support. I’ve been encouraging but probably not nearly enough. This was the first time I’ve ever sent her one. I sent her a track about 40 seconds long. Then I recorded a second one. These are the only two times in my life I’ve ever played this progression in this manner and almost 12 hours later, I’m not sure if I picked up the guitar I’d find it again without the aid of the audio recordings. If I’d not taped them, they’d be lost.

After finishing the second version, I liked it at playback and immediately came to the iMac and opened Garageband.

After a few tests, I found some backing drums and maracas to add. I also played with the reverb setting for the guitar track and violla, I had something that sounds like it was recorded in a studio. After moving it over to iTunes, I then fired up Premiere Pro, pulled the audio into Audition to make a .wav file, and then copied the twins’ graduation video. I created a new sequence, called it Haley Buggin, and began to cut individual pics of Reagan out.

Now it’s important to explain that I have nothing against Reagan. It’s just that the first thing that came to mind when I named this piece of music is Haley Buggin’. Since she was born, I’ve called her Haley Bug, and juking on a guitar, well, it just SCREAMED the obvious title. I love Reagan and Chandler, my two other daughters equally.

I then found some video of Haley jukin with her guitar and she starts talking and moving her head in time to the accents of the music. I added a music credit across the black, and then I dropped in the “This is Sick” video clip of her netting potting. Loaded that to YouTube and then on to FB.

Haley says she wants the tune as a ringtone. I can do that.

The amazing part is that in 1.75 hours I took something that didn’t exist before and loaded it to YouTube as a semi-finished, finished product for all the world to use as an earworm.

My guitars haven’t been out of their cases in years. And when they come out, they play a riff I’ve never heard before and in a way I’ve not ever really played, either.

THE ARTIST’S WAY WEEK 7

I am presently in Week 7 of 13 of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. This book is transforming my life in measured and magical ways. Godly ways.

Pulli out the guitar and the first thing my fingers do is knock out a catchy, bouncy riff. That’s magical and wonderful and that’s The Artist’s Way.

God and Julia Cameron helped get my mind to a place where it could free that song into existence. There is no other way to describe it.

So here’s the video of Haley Buggin’. I hope you like it. I hope the tune infects you and you’re stuck walking around with it. Dance in your car with it. Add it to your walking track. (I did 9,000 steps yesterday.) Make it a ringtone.

And if you don’t like it, well, that’s okay, too. I freed it from non-existence to make my soul happy and to release it as an artist seeking to make a contribution to the world of music, sound and video. And I made the piece the way I did out of love for one of my children. That’s the happiest, most healthy part of all of this. This one paragraph.

The point is, share this wonderful creation that God has given us. Serendipity-style.

And then pick up your own copy of The Artist’s Way and see what God does in your world.

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Go See War Room Movie

Aug 30, 2015 by

Go See War Room Movie

Friday I read some of the professional critics’ review of the latest Kendrick Brother’s movie, War RoomWar Room Prayer Closet

They didn’t like it. They said it was too contrived, wouldn’t reach non-believers and wouldn’t do much for the home Jesus crowd either.

I almost listened to them. I’m glad I didn’t.

Plot Structure

Technically speaking, there are elements of the film that probably could have been written better, maybe acted better, but War Room isn’t meant to be immaculate. It’s a story about the broken lives of broken men, broken women and broken families.

It’s a story about all of us.

One of the critics I read said the movie wouldn’t do well for non-believers and it wasn’t going to fire up believers.

I don’t agree. That’d be like saying churches around the world shouldn’t do Nativity scenes at Christmas because they aren’t going to convert anyone.

What I Liked About War Room

The elderly lady in the film, though some of what she says might seem over the top, it isn’t. She’s speaking with power, emotion and truth and if it bothers you, then maybe you need to go back and hear what she has to say again. I would suspect if you tuned her out, you need to spend some time on your knees before you see the film again so that your heart will soften enough so you can hear what’s being said. And even if you heard her, my guess is you will be even closer to the spirit if you go see it again.

The married couple in the film struggling and fighting to be saved from ruin is admirable. I thought it was great that the Kendrick’s chose to make the leads in the movie all African American. As racially divided as America has become, whites going to see the movie needed to see African Americans struggling with some of the same problems so they could get a lightning bolt to the brain revelation when they adopt the characters in the movie and begin to see the characters as themselves.

Only a hard-hearted person is going to walk in and then walk out of this movie and not have an understanding that their life is portrayed in one way or the other in this film. It’s that simple. The only thing that can keep a person from seeing that is a hard heart, selfishness or foolish pride.

War Room

We all need to step up our prayer life. All of us. I have no problem saying that I do. Even people who can pray well and pray for hours can always become better, closer to God.

This movie will inspire you to take the first step toward refocusing your life on Christ. It’s a message we all need to see, hear and experience no matter where we are in our walk with the Lord.

Go see the film. Maybe you should go see it alone the first time, then take your spouse, girlfriend, son or daughter the second time. Maybe you should let them see it alone, too, then you both go.

Afterward, I encourage a healthy conversation about how you want to step up your prayer life and change your relationship with your Lord. Trust me, you’ll be glad you do.

Don’t listen to the New York and LA critics who are saying don’t go see this film. They’re not the only ones who will be glad you skip this film if you do. The other one is roaming this world like a lion and is doing all he can to tear your life apart. Here’s your chance to take it back…..

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