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


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





The New York Times joins those reporting extreme conservatism isn’t ‘the North Carolina Way’


Moral Monday protestor in Raleigh on June 17 of this year. (Photo by Yashmori via Flickr Creative Commons.)

The New York Times has taken an in-depth look at the political turmoil in North Carolina.

North Carolinians Fear the End of a Middle Way

Splashed on page one today, it’s a thorough overview that attempts to show that even moderate and some conservative people are taken aback by the string of ideological legislation that’s been passed in just one legislative session.

As is often the case when a national news organization swoops in and takes a big-picture look at an issue, there’s not a lot there that hasn’t been reported in bits and pieces by local and regional newspapers.

But, fresh perspectives include voices like that of David French of rural Rockingham County who laments extremism in government, and the observation that, while signing all of these divisive bills, the governor never got around to passing his signature economic development initiative, an overhaul of job recruiting.

The idea that the legislature’s extreme agenda is contrary to the moderate political history of the state was also made notably in this News & Observer essay. (Note the similar headlines.):

The North Carolina Way takes a sharp right turn

For essayist, Huntsville is the new town that became a hometown


When a new town becomes a hometown by Beth Thames

A lovely and thoughtful essay on the slow, steady process of adapting to the place you’ve moved to. It’s what I’m in the midst of trying to do in Chapel Hill, and all the more poignant since the place the essayist now calls home is the place I’ll never quite get over leaving. 

Waving goodbye to a Southern tradition: Waving at passing cars


Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

I’m trying to revive a Southern tradition one finger at a time.

When I was a boy and two oncoming cars met each other on most roads, the drivers waved. Not usually a big wave. Maybe a hand off the steering wheel, or one or two fingers up while the palm stayed put, but you almost never passed a car without a wave of some kind.

Where I lived, this applied to city and country driving, and if you were in the country, you also turned your head and gave a heartier wave to people sitting on their front porches.

It happens fast, especially when you and the car you’re meeting are going 55 mph or faster. You have to look into the windshield of every oncoming car, have your hand on top of the steering wheel ready to go up, and respond before the car has passed you. If someone waves and you don’t get at least a finger up until you’ve already passed, it’s like a snub. Very bad form.

By the time I learned to drive, the waving ritual was on the wane. Yet it still was a somewhat regular occurrence even in my fairly progressive hometown of Huntsville, Ala. (common retort: As a matter of fact, I am a rocket scientist).

My first post-college job was in Scottsboro, Ala. (common retort: Please don’t bring up the Scottsboro Boys) and not only did you wave at every passing vehicle, four-way stops were negotiated by waves of mutual agreement. (This actually drove me nuts. Just follow the rules, people. We’ll get through a lot faster.) After leaving Scottsboro, waving happened less and less.

These days waving at passing cars rarely happens — probably less here in Chapel Hill, N.C., (common retort: Go Heels) where I meet more people from California and New York than from the South. I’m sure there are lots of other reasons for the decline: Ever-widening roads, the interstate system and higher speed limits come to mind. Native Southern drivers who might be inclined to wave here probably don’t, assuming every oncoming car is driven by a transplanted Yankee who wouldn’t know what to make of being waved at anyway.

A few years ago I decided to put my graduate education to use and do a quantitative study of road waving. At the time, I drove a Ford Explorer which was helpful because drivers of trucks and truck-like vehicles seem to be the last keepers of the waving ritual. Here’s how the study went:

Method: I drove in three Southern states: Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky. On uninterrupted stretches of two-lane highway, I checked my odometer and waved at every oncoming car I passed for 10 miles in each state, documenting how many waves were returned.

Limitations: It’s possible I might have missed some waves that happened after our cars had passed. (Folks open to but not expecting a wave sometimes don’t have their hands in position and can’t get a wave off fast enough, try as they might. )

Results: A 12-15 percent response rate in each state. (The differences between states weren’t statistically significant.)


• Of that 12-15 percent, about 80 percent of returned waves were from drivers of trucks of all kinds (pickups and semis).

• Seventy-five percent of waving drivers of trucks were white males and almost 25 percent were black males.

• Of the drivers of cars, the percentage of returned waves was about 20 percent.

• About 90 percent of car drivers who waved were men.

• The most common vehicles passed were cars driven by women, and very few women car drivers waved.

Anecdotal anomaly: I did get one wave from a black woman driving a pickup truck.

Clearly it’s going to be an uphill drive to bring this tradition back, but I’m going to give it a try. Just don’t wave at me at a four-way stop. You may get another finger for that.