Memphis Flyer said it best: "Sound and Furry"

It's Indie Memphis time! My favorite time of year. 

Sorry for being MIA but here's the reason. I've been doing the final edit for "Furry Lewis & the Bottleneck Guitar Story" which shows at Indie Memphis on Sunday 11/5 at 11:15AM. (PS, the film isn't finished yet for those who are attending. Color correction, audio mix and some additional edits.)

Furry Lewis & the Bottleneck Guitar Story

If you haven't had a chance to peruse all that's happening at the festival, here's a link to get you up to speed: Indie Memphis Festival 2017

Looking for more music films at the Festival? Check out this article in the Memphis Flyer by my friend and neighbor, Alex Greene. Music Films, Indie Memphis Festival 2017

See ya'll down there.

Furry & Lee Shell 042571 CA copy.jpeg

Memphis As Folk

About 4 years ago, I ran into a co-worker pal from the House of Blues days. He was responsible for gathering and curating Blues artifacts. He's a towering guy with a soft smile and a timid, southern accent; a trustworthy guy. I was happy to spot him in Memphis behind some magazines and t-shirts at one of the locally owned music stores. We exchanged contact info.

Sometime later, he reached out. "I'm working for 'xyz'. Do you shoot video? She's looking for some video to rear-project during her concerts. Here's the concept..." Cool though I hadn't shot much of my own footage since college other than home movies.

My husband and I went downtown to the train station. "Xyz" would like trains, right? I shot some footage using my Canon dslr camera with its kit lens. There was some beautiful neon in the station I hadn't seen before and a handful of people traveling the week before Christmas - though none looked super eager. Except maybe one guy.

After I edited a bit of the footage, 'xyz's' management and I exchanged emails. Trains? Perfect! I sent a 45 second clip. They liked the footage. It would be mashed up with other footage and layered, etc... so the quality wasn't super significant but the images were. Let's talk on the phone.

Days went by of trying to reach each other. Phone calls unanswered. Messages left. There were blizzards in New York, people stranded, a tour approaching, panic buttons pushed... and finally, management reached me. I answered the phone while pulled over on the side of an icy road.

"Hello? I'm driving to the DMV with my daughter to get her driver's license. Can I call back in 10 minutes?"

"Okay." Click.

Ahhhh... no.

I never talked to him again.

I understood. In the past, I would have never said I'm taking my daughter to the DMV instead of talking to 'xyz's' management. I might have at least not revealed the whole truth. But it didn't occur to me in that moment. The gentile, family life had settled into my bone marrow and I wasn't going to risk having to reschedule an appointment for my weepy-eyed 16 year old.  In Memphis, folks have a deep understanding of the DMV and what a driver's license means to a teen. In L.A. or NY, they sometimes can't afford to. There's ten people in line for their job. Maybe they'd have someone else taking care of their personal lives unless she's Gweneth Paltrow practicing Conscious Parenting.*

More than anything, I'd like to say, "Yes, 'xyz' used my footage during her concert. I'm cool." Instead, I get to look at the footage that might have been used on a mega stage behind a pretty mega bad ass. At least, that's my fantasy. Plus my daughter's memory of her driver's license is not heaped on a pile of teenage disappointments.

In conclusion, my area code may still be an out of town number, but I've determined, from this experience, that I'm officially Memphis as Folk.

*After reading this again, I have two thoughts: L.A. & NY folks, this is not a condemnation. It's a reflection on the crazy demands of the biz. Second, this could be a boiled down, microcosm of the feminist conundrum. Namaste.

Burning Love

Have you ever cooked a bologna sandwich?  I haven't in years, but if you're from the south, most likely you have. The most important part is to make sure you cut four slits equal distance around the slice before you put it in the pan. Otherwise it will puff up in the middle usually burning around the edges while the center is up gasping for air before it begins to sweat. Yes, bologna seems to sweat. I remember eating mine with mustard on white bread. I run across bologna sandwiches on menus from time to time. (Check out The Cozy Corner in Memphis. Don't forget to order the banana pudding.)

According to James Cannon who grew up and played music with Elvis Presley at the Lauderdale Courts, bologna sandwiches and Cokes were served to the musician kids from Mrs. Black's apartment kitchen. Mrs. Black was Bill Black's mother. Bill eventually played bass on the Sun records with Elvis. As story goes, James, Bill, Elvis and a handful of other kids at the Courts played and practiced the songs they heard on the radio pretty much everyday. And it was Mrs. Black who encouraged and supported them. The teens mostly stayed out of trouble because they had a mission, a pick and somebody's guitar. Sometimes the boys would learn new guitar licks (and vice versa) from young Riley King later known as B.B. 

If you're interested in the early life of Elvis, check out this short film I helped produce with Robert Gordon and many talented Memphis filmmakers, musicians and producers. Thanks to Sony Legacy, all the Elvis Sun recordings are available in one beautifully mastered and assembled box set. This isn't a promo by the way, this is a fact. I just happened to work on it.  

click here: Elvis Presley, A Boy From Tupelo

Just like the French...

...I took a month of summer off. But unlike the French, I'm not very good at it. I worked some and fretted about not working more. Que sera? C'est la vie? Mehhh...

Though part of it was heaven. I spent four days in New Orleans with my husband of 20 years soaking up a culture that I took for granted growing up there.  

When you grow up somewhere, the culture becomes your own, like a thumbprint. It's easy to forget it's there until someone identifies you by it. Or, like last week, you see it objectively from across the room, staring at you. "Wow, I left that there???"  

Two of my three sisters and I moved to New Orleans in 1973 from Boone, NC. My mother was dating a Jazz drummer. They had visited New Orleans a year earlier, spent a weekend at the Jazz and Heritage Festival and proclaimed, "Pack your bags and your Doc Watson records, we're moving here." Like many before and after, they came to New Orleans, fell in love with its island mentality and never looked back. Magic happens there and situations manifest like the time British born Jon Cleary moved a couple of blocks away from the Maple Leaf bar in 1980. James Booker didn't show up for his gig. Jon infamously sat in on Booker's piano and the rest is history. (For a fascinating look into James Booker's life, check out the film, Bayou Maharajah)

As a kid, the transition was head-scratchingly odd - like Alice's. We took a slow tumble (down? up? sideways?) from our two-parent, church-going family in the Carolina's to a life communing with the Mad Hatter and the Cheshire Cat. When we first moved there, we lived in an apartment complex on high ground (Metairie). Our neighbor was a nice enough man with three kids and a wife. At dusk, he'd dress in women's clothes and ride off on his bike to work. (I'll stop before using another cliche about Kansas but I imagine you get the point.) There was more:  late night bars, loose clothes and marijuanna. Fortunately, I forgot about God's daily book for calculating sins. If I hadn't, I would have been confused because there was no inferno there, just people living their lives... Again, the island mentality.

Really though, what stands out the most and rises to the top like fat is the music.  

It's the back drop to everything there.

"The rhythm of the street"  I'm not sure if this is from Anderson's K&B series but it could be.  I remember seeing the K&B sketches years ago but I can't remember where.

"The rhythm of the street"  I'm not sure if this is from Anderson's K&B series but it could be.  I remember seeing the K&B sketches years ago but I can't remember where.

I think about the sketches of Walter Anderson's from his countertop view at K & B Drugs on Canal Street. The shapes are melodic and the seemingly syncopated foot steps on the pavement could be the backbeat on any of those New Orleans records. Seriously. Listen to a James Booker recording and look at one of Anderson's sketches or paintings. You'll see what I mean.  

Unfortunately, The music and culture of New Orleans can sometimes be cliche or a caricature of itself now. I remember when the Mardi Gras Indians were a true secret society. They belonged to New Orleans and more importantly, to black culture. Same with second line funeral processions. Sure the cameras and recorders would roll a couple a ten years ago but more like Alan Lomax's did on Beale Street in Memphis. It was for preservation and not a show for HBO.  

Bitter? Possibly. Or maybe just nostalgic.

Back to my month off, around the corner from where we stayed in the Tremé, I saw a woman walking in the street with a second line parasol. The street was bright hot and treeless. I was jealous of the shade but I also felt a twinge sad... I wondered if she was using it for real or if she was using it because someone would be looking.  

Well, I was.

My dawlin' New Orleans...

"Biloxi Beach Boy Cycling" This is a bit more representative of Anderson's work and I'd like to think he finished the K&B sketches in the same way.  If anyone knows where to see them, please let me know.

"Biloxi Beach Boy Cycling" This is a bit more representative of Anderson's work and I'd like to think he finished the K&B sketches in the same way.  If anyone knows where to see them, please let me know.

Soap Box Full of Debt

Did you know that perfectly formed beings are born everyday?  Flawed, unflawed, struggling, breathing, living, seeking... everyday. I'm also talking about work, what you do and create (which can include human form).  If in life you're able to create what is good for your soul, it's like the lottery.  If not, it's like prison.  Zen masters might find peace in prison but for normal folk out there, it can be drudgery. When I'm not contributing to work I love to do, I'm not happy.  What about you?

I'm the mom of two creative and bright daughters (of course I am!  Ask any mom if their kids are creative and bright.)  One is in college, one is college bound.  I've tried to prepare them for the realities of today's college system.

A. College tuition is highway robbery.

B. Competing for scholarship and financial aid is childhood robbery. 

C. Taking out massive student loans sets you up for a sort of spiritual prison, aka, my point in the first paragraph (AND, isn't it ironic our children go to spiritual prison for robberies committed by someone else.)  

You've heard this story before.  I'm not adding anything new.  But it's worth saying again:  how many students graduate from college with debt? How many of those take uninspiring jobs to pay back that debt?  How many consequently get solid training in work they really don't want to do that sets them up to continue in good paying, unfulfilling jobs?  As Sonny once sang, "And the beat goes on, la dee da dee da...."  While I know it's not always the case, there are many, many stories like this.

I don't know what the answer is beside reform and regulation.  I'm also not suggesting we push our kids to consider tripping daisies but I do believe we'd be a happier lot if we're able to find some satisfaction in what we do in life.   There are many things that need reform in our inflated economic system.  The current administration, like it or not, has opened our eyes to a lot of it.  

Enjoy some Sonny and Cher.  As you were.

Sound Advice

My friend, Justin Fisher is a recording engineer in St. Louis.  He hears and manipulates sound all day, everyday.  Today he said the best sound to him is the sound of his child in full belly laugh while playing.  

I was just in New Orleans finalizing some unfinished business and I recorded the sounds from my sister's back patio.  New Orleans is known for sound.  The sound I like best there is in the quiet, solitary moment - no Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, dinner party gathering, ice cubes tinkling but the heart beat of the city, what's beneath it.  I recorded that sound. I can't get enough of it.  

The blog will be short today.  I'm going for a walk before the sun goes down.  I plan to listen.

La, La, La-La-La, La

La La Land was okay, just okay.

Many of us already know about Jazz, about artistic struggle, about sacrificing a career and then not sacrificing a career.  La La Land was a fun, whimsical and reminiscent film about those things.  It was a magical musical colored with circus acts, creative angst and soul mates reaching across the void.  BUT in the last 10 minutes of the film, a main character has a head-scratching transformation.  I want to imagine this is why it didn't win.  

Three things about Oscar night 2017:

  1. When Warren hesitated the announcement for Best Picture, I wondered if he was thinking the same thing.
  2. When Ryan Gosling got on stage and stood away from the group, I wondered if he was thinking the same thing (or if he was thinking, everyone won but me).
  3. Little did I know, this showdown was the final in the land of 3’s:  Cubs. Reality TV megalomaniac wins world leader seat. BIG Oscar snafu.  

(As you were.)

What I couldn’t stop thinking - this dark-comedic moment trumped the win for the creators of Moonlight, a difficult film about race and sexuality.  In recent years, this snafu may have been politicized. BUT, please, not right now -  I don’t want a sociologist studying Oscar envelope distribution and the likelihood of making more mistakes with black films than with white. I really don’t, even though I could go there.

 

This suspiciously seems like something our political leaders had their hands in.  Guess what we’re NOT talking about today?  Meryl Streep, donuts, Mel Gibson's baby-mama, and the fact that a lot of talented black people won.

A final thought, I am a product of lookism. I felt embarrassed for the La La Land producers and their beautiful passion speeches.  I asked my 17 year old, do you think they’re embarrassed?  She said no, probably confused.  Being in the business of filmmaking takes hubris and conceding in the moment of victory takes humility I’m not sure I’d have.  I’d struggle.  I think I’d blame - but maybe that’s why they’re at the top of their game. They didn’t.  

This is one of my take aways - lookism.  How we look, appear, present…  How we accept failure and if we get up again or we slink back to a cave.  Wounds certainly need time for repair.  And licking might not be bad (Did you hear Radiolab's repeat broadcast this week? Click up top to listen about saving face, licking and inheritance.).  

Let’s hope Moonlight really, truly rose over La La Land and cast it's moon shadow on a moment of grace.  Because (*exhausted, slump shouldered and shaking my head), we could use some.   

H'Art of the Ad

Remember the last episode of "Mad Men?" For those who didn't tune in, Don Draper, a destitute ad exec, sits lotus style on the ocean front of California. Bereft of pretty much everything, he finds the inspiration to create the Coca-cola ad campaign, "It's the Real Thing."  For the youngsters, this is a fictionalized version of a real ad campaign that came out in 1971. The campaign catapulted Coke's image issuing a message of hope to a country in political turmoil. However you feel about advertising, Coca-cola, America's largest grossing product, made a political statement.   From the same sofas where we watched news from Vietnam we also watched Coke's message about peace and humanity (I know, kumbaya... Not to bum you out, It's kinda sad that we laugh at our naivety.). Almost 50 years later, it's still considered the most popular ad campaign.  (To find out the real story behind the ad, click here.)

During this year's Superbowl,  Audi, Budweiser, 84 Lumber and "It's a 10" Haircare made statements about equal pay, immigration and pre-apocalyptic hair styles.  Of course, first and foremost, the advertisers hope to get viewers to buy more product.  It's their job.  (FYI, Budweiser would have to do a lot more to get me to drink it.). But also these miniature stories are meant to pluck the hardened heart strings of the everyday Superbowl fan in another way for a minute or two.

The people who make these spots get to put their hearts into them even though on some days, they feel like they've sold those hearts to the devil. Filmmaking peers in NOLA

 

 

 

This is a restored version of the famous "I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke" ad from 1971 (called the "Hilltop"). The commercial was part of Coke's 1971 "It's the Real Thing" campaign.

have talked about the privilege and experience of working on the pro-immigration Budweiser ad.  These folks are production crew, story tellers and artists who are tasked to build something around a commodity. On other days, they probably go home and groan just like us.  Becker, the real creator of the 1971 Coke ad campaign believed "it was the customer, not the client, who mattered most."  He and other creatives prove that In times like these, it's not who's the loudest or shiniest that we listen to but who's listening to us.  (FYI, I'll admit, I cried a couple of times last night not because of football but because of the ads that talked about daughters and featured friends. Go L'il Buck!)

Namaste y'all.  

A Moment ago...

Are you scratching your head?  The Hell's Angels are teaching anti-bullying classes, half our nation isn't voting and we've decided virtual is WAY better than real.  I'm going back to what I know.  What about you?  

For Christmas, I gave small art journals to my daughters. One daughter is a computer scientist/social activist/photographer in her first year of college, the other a ballet dancer/fine artist/Bernie mascot in high school. One of them also got a photo printer (you can guess which one). My hope:  they'll record their world through words, photos and drawings. For me, these notebook musings have been an extension, a world view, a way to look at myself like a fly on the wall... When confusion creeps in, I get to rewind the tape and look back.  Sometimes that's all it takes, a glimpse back and the turbulence settles, the course corrects.  

For many of the 36 years I've kept journals, along with work to-do lists, they've been filled with grocery lists, packing & unpacking lists, what-to do-in-a-new-city lists, people-I-need-to-reach-out-to lists so-I-won't-feel-so-isolated-with-two-little-kids lists.  Poems, screenplay ideas, bits of screenplays, rantings of a bad parent, rantings of a frustrated professional, rantings about ranters. And eventually more poetry, more words about life, better parenting, kindness and sorrow.  Letters to my mother.  Letters to Congressmen, to my husband, my children.  More beauty but basically, a record of moments.

 

Moments are all we have.  Many of them strung together can be powerful and make rivers flow in opposite directions (literally, it took lots of moments to re-route the Chicago River.).  

Sometimes my moments are captured in video like the farewell Obama king cake delivery I strung together using my new lens (Thanks Nan and Bob). 

News flash:  Moments can fail, horribly. The failed ones hold the best information especially if I take the next moments to look at them and then the next to do them again differently.  So, cheers moments! Here's to living them, here's to documenting them!  

You got me here, head scratching and all.