Kenny Smith | blog

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Well someone is saying it, but will saying it ever be enough:
If you have a high character you don't wrestle people to the ground until they acknowledge it. You certainly don't announce it. If you are compassionate, you are compassionate; if others see it, fine. If you hold to principle it will become clear. You don't proclaim these things. You can't, for the same reason that to brag about your modesty is to undercut the truth of the claim.
It makes one long for the slow dusty days when the best stories people told were of others and not about themselves.

A thoroughly disinterested young man waited on my table at lunch today. That's fine, to a point, because it allowed me to take a huge chunk out of Morris. An aside: I love this book, one day I want to write in a blended style of Morris and Lileks.

He walked with a stoop and served with an anchor tied around his foot. Half-an-hour later my little meal came. I was one more full sweep of the second hand from leaving. Worst of all, his infrequent visits made me ration my tea, so there went the tip. Now, I'm not the person you meet for supper who critiques the wait staff, just keep me in tea, that's all I'm asking. The guy had lively eyes and a neat beard that gave the impression of intelligence. Ultimately, though, you can't tell everything from facial expressions.

Heading back to my car, past the well-spoken man with greasy hands begging for lunch money, past split-faced limestone walls on a venerable century-old church. Then into the baking refuge of the waiting car. Waiting to force me to sleep at red lights as I listened to some far away composition on the local NPR station.

Work went quickly, class did not, but this one is almost over for the semester. Just the paper to write and I'm on cruise control there right now.

Got my haircut by a pregnant woman who smelled of cigarettes. She wasn't happy until it was time for me to pay. Left me to my thoughts though, so that was nice, bouncing around Is black the absence of color, or is white? A big clump of hair landed on my knee, scooped it up and passed it through my fingers. The large clumps of silver stand out and surprise me still. One day they will not. And then I will be old.

Finished reading Morris in a barber's chair surrounded by a woman with a dour expression who couldn't lean in too far. Not exactly how I'd imagined that. But there's new adventures to plow through next week.

Watched Fantastic Four. A sneak peek. Security so tight I thought we were all boarding a plane. They wanded us. For Fantastic Four. Like someone is bootlegging this movie. Not bad, not nearly as bad as I'd feared. I wanted this to be good, always liked the Four. But the comic book movie felt like, well, a comic book, but with a less than satisfying ending.

Etc: History of "Bless you." Fake elevator buttons.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

In the brief time that I was a music jock -- before I realized how I sucked at it so and went over to talk which seemed a better fit -- I did have, on a few occasions, the chance to hear the ultimate cliché.

Uhh, yeah, I want to hear this song, I don't know the name of it, but it goes like this!

Suddenly your new biggest fan (What did I win?) is singing to you in a bad falsetto that should never make it out of the shower. And then along came American Idol, legitimizing all of this, but I digress.

Anyway, I did this today. Not this exact thing, but I did turn myself into a clich&3233;. Funnily enough, I knew it was happening. The actual cool part of my brain told me to stuff. The dorky part of my brain ran straight on through. Some people subscribe to the hemispheric dominance concept of the brain, but I know better. Some days my dork-side brain is just playing at a larger volume. My kingdom for a mute button.

So there I was, about to enjoy a little dinner, when this shadow crosses my silverware.

If I'd known you were here I'd have told them to let you pay for me.

Finally the hulking figure and the voice go together in the form of my mechanic.

"I'd just been thinking about you, Wes. How are you doing?"

Good, good. How about yourself?

"Doing great, but I need to come see you, probably next week when my schedule gets better. I think I have two separate problems with my car."

On my description of the first, he confirms my thought that my starter is going bad. There, I should have shut my mouth. Told myself to, internally, in fact. But no. Noooooooooooo.

"And this other thing, when I am accelerating it makes a noise kinda like this ..."

Maybe it isn't too late to join the Dignity Protection Program.

Blog plug: Don't forget to read Greg:
The sign, one of those permanent 25 footers that requires a long pole to place the letters, read "You missed Fred, don't miss Jesus!". You know, Fred must be one heck of a guy...
When he gets home from this trip, and his travelblog is completed, I'll try and talk him into starting a conventional blog.

Monday, June 27, 2005

I have a paper due in a week and change. I was a total bum this weekend. I stared at things: walls, ceilings, TV, blankets. I'm trying to think of a topic for this paper. I'm to that point where it is the all-being maw of my conscious existence.

Singular focus isn't all its cracked up to be.

I got a watermelon the other day. A seedless watermelon. In find print it says, "may contain occasional seeds." I can't get this sticker out of my mind. Should I be faux-miffed about the false advertising? Should I giggle hysterically at the time and place in the world that has gotten us to this point? Should I weep for geneticists that have yet to capture this most elusive of fruits?

I'm sorry sir, there are more seeds in this batch. Our calculations indicate that there are an average of three of those tiny white ones per melon.

Blast! Johnson, order more stickers!

It rained. An uninvolved Southern rain. A few tentatively indifferent drops at first, meant to speculate on our reaction. Then the clouds of gray were pushed out by block-long cotton balls hanging in the sky. In the time it takes to have the "to umbrella or not to umbrella" debate the sky unleased its fusillade, lasting a few mere moments.

Like so many of the things here that make us proud or give us relief -- a spate of rain on a warm June day -- only adds to our later chagrin -- morale deflating humidity in this case.

Downtown the rain isn't refreshing. It smells like bad steel, an uttered sin in an old steel town. The mind drifts to pollutants and particulates in our lungs, an irony in a medical services town.

Rain can tramp down all the other nearby sound. Unnecessary here. Today, again, I'm struck by how quiet downtown can be. Sirens or horns might occasionally poke through the low-slung buildings that would make a most dimunitive skyline. A young oak tree, planted as an afterthought and now eagerly approaching its own hardwood adolescence, seems somehow uneffected.

(I was slightly bored in between classes when I wrote most of that. Sorry.)

Got a link from a friend today. Greg is writing a travelblog. He's a great storyteller and this should be an interesting read. Give it a try.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Honestly there just hasn't been much to talk about. Work, class, work, class. That's all the news. Of the type that's been fit to print anyway.

I went to two or three libraries one day this week, if that's any indication.

Actually one of those trips was for movies. I escaped with a stack of DVDs. But otherwise, I've been reading or in class or trying to figure out what to write a paper on or staring at the ceiling. Lots of that going on. I am, however, proud of myself; last night I was asleep before 10:30.

And now, a dozen words on For Love of the Game: Baseball and romance; unrealistic last out. Costner has three better sports movies.

Someone asked about this the last time I used it. It's simple, the "dozen words" format allows me to share my thoughts on a movie without sounding like a pretentious windy blowhard on the subject. It also reads like a badly formed haiku, and there's nothing wrong with that. Look for it more in the future.

Sitting with a friend the other day, playing hangman. Her game was a song, four words. I guessed it after the first letter, an S. S _ _ _ _ _ _ 's   _ _ _   _ _ _ S   _ _ _ _ _ . She was way too impressed.

School's out for Summer.

I inadvertantly impressed Rick the other day as well. He was telling me about this submarine book he'd been reading. About two sentences into his description I blurted out "Blind Man's Bluff!" I'd read it four or five years ago in the Caymans.

It's the preeminent book on submarine espionage, stuff so good and so capable of making your skin crawl that you'd swear it was fiction. Perhaps bad fiction. But these things happened; this stuff is true. There's a tremendous amount of courage in those sailors. If you're interested in that sort of thing, and haven't read it yet, pick it up today.

I say all of that to mention that, in talking to Rick once again last night it occurred to me that I have this wonderful and great step-dad. We talked about movies and literature and historical figures. He told me about being on his grandparent's farm as a child in Atlanta. We have many little talks like this when we catch up to one another.

Lately the idea has been settling in, getting cozy and secure in the sand of my consciousness, how valuable these talks are. Not just with him, but with everyone. Certain important concepts of life that we all must face ... I'm still in denial about them.

This one little realization, though, is such a kind gift that we should all have it from the very beginning. Perhaps we do and it is forgotten or we manage to devolve this social and familial programming. Perhaps we don't; maybe it's learned and we do a poor job of teaching one another. At any rate, I'm extremely grateful to have learned the value of valuable things.

Cheesy as it sounds, I blame this commercial. Though, the version of it I recall was slightly different. The text read, simply and profoundly, "The things we remember most aren't things."

Monday, June 20, 2005

Monday off. This is the day of days. The comp day for working Saturday. Altogether not a bad deal. And timed very well.

The repairman rang the bell bright and early this morning. "Hello," he said. "Howdy," I replied. "Is it Friday yet?" he asked. Amen brother.

"Pay no attention to me" he said, grunting himself to the floor. He goes on to talk about how busy they've been with dishwasher recalls. Kenmore cheaped out on a subcontractor, it seems, who cheaped out on a heating element. One meant for metal tubs, which means I had a problem. But, he said, in all these he's worked on, he's only seen one that actually fouled. They'd been busy, though. Working way too hard.

I know what you mean, sir, I had to book this four weeks out just so I could be here to open the door for you.

So, you see, the comp day for a Saturday of work was very fortunate.

Read. Watched TV. Didn't get the grass cut. Sorry Kelly, no updates today. I left my headphones at the office (I need two pair) and that was enough excuse for me. Made my way to class, which was all backwards tonight. The one that is generally interesting, the one that isn't supposed to be was. The guest speaker, another professor, talked for an hour and a half about fake advertising campaigns. I kept getting ahead of him. He now either thinks I'm brilliant or really annoying.

"You're fast," the actual professor said, "it took them a full semester to come up with that."

What can I say? I'm creative in four word bursts. Deadly over short distances. Maybe I should be writing ad copy.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

City Stages acts I caught:
Deputy 5
Michael Tolcher
Irma Thomas & The Professionals
Promise the Ghost
The Lucky Playboys
Graham Colton Band
Chris Ardoin & NuStep
The Black Crowes
The Black Crowes were easily the biggest band I saw and they've never disappointed me on stage, though this time they played a lot of newer material. Come on Chris, its a festival show. Start with your new single, play your hits, mixed through four or five new things. Then encore with Hard to Handle. Or at least encore.

Everyone was good: Deputy 5 and The Lucky Playboys were fun; Chris Ardoin is high energy; Graham Colton Band was a pleasant surprise and Caddle, who I heard maybe one song of sounded great.

Friday, June 17, 2005

The only thing funnier than swapping impressions with the waiter is swapping bad impressions with the waiter. My Arnold, apparently, is badly unrecognizable.

But everything he did sounded vaguely like Jon Lovitz.

Fell asleep reading Wednesday night. Put the book down, but in my slumber I neglected to set my glass of tea down. So about an hour later I wake up to the cold chill of liquid on my arm. Yes; I tead my bed. Sleepily I blotted the mattress, changed the sheets and went back to sleep. Still not sure how that chapter of the book ended.

While Morris is my catch-all backpack book right now (good for restaurants, lazy lunch breaks, waiting for meetings and appointments to begin) I am reading Bob Schieffer's This Just In at night. I've always admired Schieffer's work and looked forward to taking on his behind-the-scenes tales. Three chapters in it hasn't disappointed.

Meanwhile, somehow, I've got to get back to reading Churchill as well. Maybe in a couple of weeks, when this short semester is over.

Of which, I finally got the book. The day before the midterm -- which doesn't count for the grad students. So naturally I read that cover-to-cover right away. OK, I thumbed it and put it in my bag.

Now, though, I have a paper to write in that class. Should probably look into that.

I like that class. It has to be good; the professor is an Auburn man. Though he is from Georgia and has also studied and taught at Mississippi State. He is geographically confused. Funny guy. He toes the line on the politically incorrect material and then call new college students "freshpersons." He is a study in scrutiny. Rarely readable and always a mystery to the class. Being a professor of nonverbal, and a proponent that there are no hard and fast rules in the subject, he has gone to great pains to mask all of his own nonverbals. It is an interesting case of deception. I've only pinned him on two tells so far.

City Stages this weekend. Promise the Ghost. The Lucky Playboys. Chiara Civello. Graham Colton Band. Greasy, hot, sweaty, smelly, pushy and more tonight. I get to take pictures.

Site of the day: Savage Chickens. These are my three favorites.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Do not, dear reader, go down the cereal aisle humming along as the PA plays Revolution. The nice man stocking the Raisin Bran will launch into a discussion, however unwanted, about the socio-political conditions of the 1960s.

Followed by a conversation about the lasting power of the music of his father's (World War II) generation.

Followed by a conversation about file sharing and how Fleetwood Mac hates it, but younger artists prefer it as a means to be heard.

Can I have some Froot Loops please?

He was probably just bored and lonely. But here he was, at 9:30 at night, hitting me up for a conversation I've been bored with for some time. And, also, he had the whole point behind Revolution wrong. Nice guy though. Once again, I wished for my camera. His gap toothed smile amid all the colorful boxes while discussing such a serious subject would have been a keeper.

Arlene, the storm that wasn't. We threw this storm back like a grizzled man old beyond his young years trolling for girls at the pier. Good smile or no, Arlene just wasn't worth it. The Mobile Register has gamely posted stories about her: five sewage spills and economic losses at the mall. Nothing too irascible about Arlene, and that's fine too.

The Register, though, they always try. Take this correction from 100 years ago today as an example:
"'Dr. Rhett Borde' appeared in this column yesterday, a physician unknown to the county medical society. How does it happen that a name so well known as Dr. Goode's should be thus misspelled by his home paper? The explanation is that, as far as the mechanical part of printing a newspaper is concerned there is little or no knowledge of local names and events. The printers are somewhat as the baseball players -- they are in the town but not of it. They are birds of passage. Often there is not an old hand on any of the machines. These new men do the best they can with 'copy,' but if it is at all obscure they have to guess. Proofreaders, too are as often as not new to the town, and in such cases all names look alike to them. As for the editors, the time has gone by when they can read or revise all proofs for the detection of errors. They do what they can, but their capacity is limited."
Their capacity, even a century ago, was already limited. What should we expect of those of us practicing the crude art of journalism today?

Sleep has also been limited, but over the weekend I did manage to earn a few extra hours. A Monday and Tuesday night encore would have been nice, but take what you can get in the sleep business. Might try some more of that this evening.

Oh, summer is here. First tomato sandwich of the season last night. The heat index today: 101.

Friday, June 10, 2005

I've been sick off and on for a week, hence the not writing anything. I'm getting better, though.

Went to sleep last night before 10. First time in almost two weeks. I don't even remember going to bed. And if you call me old I'll call your house every morning at 4:30 to tell you that you're sleeping the day away.

Despite the coughs and the sniffles and the distinct sounds of emphysema-like congestion it has been a productive couple of days in a few senses. I've changed the look on the website again. You've probably noticed this by now, but if not, look around. The picture and color schemes are new again. The picture behind all these words is also new. Taken from the air somewhere over Tennessee I think. Speaking of pictures, all of May is now up on the picture page. There are 41 in all. Enjoy.

Also, Rick loaned me a book about a year ago. Finally got around to reading it. Flyboys, chronicling fighter pilots in the Pacific Theater of World War II. The book goes to great pains to make the reader understand Japanese culture. In fact, the first 118 pages discuss little else. It was fascinating to see how a nation-state took itself beyond sanity in just two generations. And then it details the lives, and sometimes deaths, of these pilots. At some points this book becomes almost two dark to read, despite the delivery, which is light enough. It is, however, one of those periods from which its hard to keep another but the most grim expressions.

So maybe I chose well in follwing that up with To America. Its something of a love story much celebrated -- and sometimes reviled -- historian Stephen Ambrose. He writes about the things he has taught, the things he has re-learned and then taught differently and how that has nurtured his love for the place he lived. If 20th Century America had a narrator, Ambrose would be on the short list of applicants.

From there I've reached into the readings of one of the prominent essayists of our time. Willie Morris' compilation book Terrains of the Heart and Other Essays on Home. I read things like this in the hope that some of the style will get wiped off the pages and onto my sleeve. I've finished the introduction so far and Morris doesn't look to disappoint.

But, there is one disappointment: I was going to the beach to rest this weekend, but Arlene disagreed. I don't like Arlene that much.

Friday, June 3, 2005

May drizzled, dripped and drowned when June came along. Summer in the South. Lots of rain in the past several days. Five inches before a friend's home flooded. He and his wife were having one of those weeks.

But, all is well. Justin and Radonna had initially feared they had a lot of damage. As we dug through their spare room (used for storage of boxes while in their apartment) we found that it could be a lot worse.

On the downside, they are moving away. Justin got a great job offer from the Gadsden Times It is a terrific opportunity and the last thing they needed, while in the middle of the inspection on their new house, was to get a phone call about a flood. So back down to Birmingham they drove. At the end of the evening, after many fears and tears and worries about losses, they had one significant thing damaged. And even that, a traumatic experience, is not completely lost.

At the end of the night they were thanking the handful of us that came to help. "I just couldn't have better friends," he said. His wife agreed, "Anything we can do for you -- " I cut her off Stay here! We'd all just gotten to know each other! But no, I'll miss them like a pain.

So, to change the subject to something slightly more fun on a Friday evening: Picture time! Little behind for this month -- been busy -- but here's the first half of May. The rest will go up next week, these 27 will have to hold you over. I'll let you know when to check the picture page for more.

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

There is a big mark on my elbow, I know not why.

First day of class today. Nonverbal is the subject. This class only runs a month, so two hours a day Monday through Thursday. This also marks the first time that the professor has been the author of the text. He, too, feigned surprise when people started discussing the price. Come on Dr. Hickson, you get royalties don't you?

He's an Auburn man, so that's good. This is a class with both undergraduate and graduate students. There are tests in this class. And a paper. The tests don't count for graduate students. "But I want you to take them anyway, for practice." I got enough practice in undergrad, thanks. Went to the library. Sometimes you just have to rush back in to being studious.

Speaking of Auburn, I got tickets for the Ball State game and am looking forward to calling Matt as his school gets pummeled on the Plains.

Another stop to pick up photographs. Also picked up Three Amigos for $4.50. Heck of a deal.

Then went home and watched The Insider. Good movie, filled with the small amount of journalistic gung ho that All the President's Men neglected to use. It is funny, though, to hear them wave the name of 60 Minutes around as though it were still a bastion of credibility. But then, it was funny when this movie was released too, some jokes just improve with age.