‘Forgotten’ Horseshoe Bend is a lesson for New Orleans’ Civil War monuments

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The park welcomed me with a grand sign typical of the National Park Service’s careful attention to detail and rustic aesthetics. The next sign I read changed my perspective on the battle.

Third-grade Alabama history is the gift that keeps on giving, even 45 years on. (Thanks Mrs. Virginia Harless Cook!)

This time it was the inspiration for this opinion piece in The News & Observer of Raleigh, North Carolina in which I apply the lessons I learned about the horror of an Andrew Jackson-led Indian massacre to what’s going on new in New Orleans and other places debating Civil War memorials.

Let me know what you think.

To learn from the past, keep its monuments

 

 

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No wave? No way. Pretty sure Michael Stipe called B-52’s new wave

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Moogfest: Michael Stipe moves on from pop music

So trumpeted (or should that be synthesized) the Durham Herald-Sun in a headline for a story about Mr. Stipe at Moogfest.

Moogfest is a weekend art, music and technology festival happening this very weekend in Durham.

I’m not sure anybody really classifies the R.E.M frontman’s music as pop, but the headline writer and the story’s reporter might be forgiven for that since Stipe calls himself a pop star later in the story — although probably facetiously.

(Side note: The word “pop” shows up eight times in the story. “Rock” once. “Alternative” none. But who’s counting?)

The writer does take a step over the line of credibility when she calls R.E.M. itself a “pop band.” Do popular hits make a band with 15 mostly rocking studio albums pop? Not in my book. But if you’ve only heard “Everybody Hurts” and “Shiny Happy People,” then you might not know any better.

So, while the story unsteadily tiptoes on the edge of understanding its subject, it still manages to do a decent job of explaining what Stipe has created for Moogfest: a video portrait of an influential friend accompanied by an original Stipe composition.

But the story comes crashing down that ridge it was warily treading when it reports, “Stipe also talked about others he knew in Athens — the B-52s, who left for New York at a time ‘punk rock wound down to no wave.'”

I know it happens, but papers are usually careful not to send someone who doesn’t know much about the legal system to cover a court case or someone who only eats chicken fingers to review a five-star restaurant. Alas, here’s a story that makes reference to the glory days of the no wave movement. Since there was no wave, no wonder I don’t remember it well.

Also, it’s B-52’s (not B-52s). Clearly, I wish I’d covered it myself.

But since that isn’t going to happen, the better solution is just to enjoy the artwork itself, thanks to WRAL.

Jeremy Dance by Michael Stipe

 

 

 

You might think of this as my letter never sent to Michael Stipe, R.E.M.

“I am tired of second guessing.” — R.E.M.

In the news business, you sometimes get the opportunity to interview famous folks. By my third or fourth time doing it, my insides would start to pitch and tumble like wet clothes in a dryer as interview time approached.

I had learned by then celebrities sometimes react to interviews like they’re uncooperative witnesses being asked by a judge, “Where were you when the prostitute’s body was found?”

Over the years, I developed some strategies for getting them to engage. Sometimes I upped the dosage of Southern in my accent or dropped in some “y’alls” or “yes sirs”/”yes ma’ams” — or if things were going really poorly, all of those things.

I’m not sure why they work, but they do sometimes.

Also, a little flattery can do it. And some big names will perk up if you show you actually know something about their music or their TV show or some member of their band.

Another approach that takes some creative thought and strategic planning is to say something attention-grabbing they haven’t heard before — a funny line, a unique observation or an oddball personal anecdote.

Not just any oddball anecdote, though; it has to involve them somehow. It once worked with Ira Glass at a public radio fundraising reception. I put my arm around Jennifer and told him his first movie was our second date.

He raised his eyebrows, looked me straight in the eyes and didn’t say a word for a couple of seconds. “Really?” he finally said, his voice shooting up. “That movie usually has the opposite affect on couples.”

I’m pretty sure it was his most memorable conversation of the night.

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Our waiter said Michael Stipe came to the restaurant somewhat regularly, but I didn’t think to ask the waiter if Mr. Stipe minded interruptions.

I’m not quite so sure any of those things work if you sidle up to a table and make uninvited conversation, which is one of the reasons I didn’t try that on Michael Stipe the night we found ourselves sitting a few tables away from him in Manhattan.

But if I had, I would have told him this in my best Southern accent: R.E.M. came to Tuscaloosa in 1984. I was a big fan. But one afternoon, propped up on my dorm room loft bed, I had given it some thought and told my roommate, Chip, I thought $10 was too much to pay for a concert ticket. I guess he agreed because we didn’t go.

I might have added that I regret it to this day. I’d like to go back to 1984 and slap some sense into my 21-year-old self. Since I can’t do that, I make it a point to go to the concerts of everybody I like so Tuscaloosa, 1984, never happens again.

P.S. I sat on the edge of my seat the entire night, so close to jumping off and walking over. Do you think my story of Tuscaloosa 1984 would have engaged him? Tell me what you think.

Concerts I did see in Tuscaloosa between 1983 and 1986*

  1. Oingo Boingo
  2. X
  3. The Go-Go’s
  4. Jason and the Scorchers
  5. Cheap Trick

 

*All were free. I guess I was just a cheapskate.