Wednesday, March 31, 2010
I have really missed writing lately. The NCAA tourney had put everything on hold... reading, writing, movies, the interviews, you name it, it stopped. It is so good to be back at the computer and sharing stories with you. I was a bit down in the dumps this week when I came home Thursday night to find a couple e-mails from Turn Row Books and Murder by the Book. Both e-mails were a heads up for the same event, the Delta Blues Book Launch, to be held on Saturday in Clarksdale,Ms. at Morgan Freeman's, "Ground Zero Blues Club". "Delta Blues" is a collection of short stories by 20 different authors, (12 of whom were in attendance.) The books forward was written by the wonderful actor Morgan Freeman, and it was edited by Carolyn Haines. The short story collection includes shorts from Ace Atkins, John Grisham, Tom Franklin, Michael Lister,James Lee Burke, Beth Ann Fennelly, Charlaine Harriss, and Dean James amongst others.
If you know me very well, then you already know this next fact...I LOVE MISSISSIPPI !! And, you don't have to ask me twice to go there. You throw in books & music and that's a slice of heaven on earth as far as I'm concerned. We left from Carmi, Il. on Saturday morning at 8 a.m. under clear skies, with my wife & mother ready for the 6 hour drive to Clarksdale,Ms. It was smooth driving with Guy Clark, Lucinda Williams, Tom Russell, and Granny's Intentions pounding out some road trip music.
We soon caught our first bit of luck when we called the Downtown Oxford Inn & found they had just had some cancellations minutes ago. We had tried to find something prior to leaving ( The Lofts & The ShackUp Inn in Clarksdale, Ms., The Alluvian in Greenwood,Ms., and The Downtown Oxford Inn, in Oxford,Ms.) but to no avail. With the hotel now out of the way we were free to stop in Blytheville, Ark, at the "Bookstore in Blytheville", for a bit before heading on to Clarksdale.
We hit Clarksdale,Ms. about 3:30 p.m. and found out there was an event already underway at the old Greyhound Station a couple blocks away. When we walked in there was a press conference under way & they were introducing the authors when we were shocked to find out that Morgan Freeman was there. This hadn't been advertised and was a welcome surprise. Mr. Freeman told the crowd he didn't do autographs but he certainly did pictures. He was patient, kind and gracious to all in attendance. I think my mother however, may have been the most excited person in the place.
The book launch moved over to Mr. Freeman's, "Ground Zero Blues Club" and offered up some wonderful food and the promise of good music & good times for all. The evening got going about 6 pm when the authors took the stage and offered up some pretty good blues music. Nathan Singer sang lead vocals on most of the tunes & hit a home run on a couple of Robert Johnson tunes. My favorite song of the evening was the Robert Johnson tune, "Come on in my kitchen". Singer was backed up by an impressive group of ladies & including Sookie Stackhouse, vampire author Charlaine Harris, Carolyn Haines, Alice Jackson, Lynne Barrett,Suzann Ellingsworth. The authors had fun & the crowd had fun. About 8 o'clock the authors all assembled in the back to sign copies of "Delta Blues" and Tyrus Books donated one dollar from the sale of each book to the Delta Literacy program. Jamie & Ben of Turn Row Books provided books for sale. I had the pleasure of sitting with a delightful couple from England, Roger & Kass who were vacationing in New Orleans and just happen to stumble on this event. Between the conversation at our table and the one I had with author Michael Lister and his lovely friend, I almost didn't mind that my UK Wildcats were getting beat by West Virginia (almost). We headed back to Oxford around 9 p.m. ( a 60 mile drive ).
It was a gorgeous evening in Oxford and we took a leisurely stroll through downtown and stopped in at the always satisfying "Square Pizza" to cap off the evening.
We started our morning on Sunday at the best coffee shop in Oxford ( don't take my word for it, it's won that honor 5 years in a row) and it was a beautiful day. The tulip trees & azaleas were in full bloom...some 2 or 3 weeks ahead of us. We hit my favorite book store "Square Books" around 11 a.m. and the first person I run into is Michael Lister and the second is Roger & Kass our friends from the evening before. We had a grand time talking with them both. After a couple of hours of searching the shelves for treasures ( there are many ) we sat down in the upstairs patio area for tea when Oxfords own humorist Jack Pendarvis walks in. If you've never met Jack, I'll just say that he's a super nice guy, a gentleman, and one of those people who can be funny without even trying. Ask him about a chicken on a stick the next time your in Oxford. Upon hearing we had just read his story in the Oxford American, he offered his apologies. On our way out, it was great to run into Cody Morrison, who helps keep Square Books running tip top. Cody & his wife Katie are expecting a daughter in May and we know this child will be very fortunate to have these two as parents. They don't come any nicer than this couple. The only bad thing I can say about Cody is he's a Cubs fans..but no ones perfect. Running into Cody made our trip seem complete. We made one final stop at Abners, the famous home of the best chicken tenders in Oxford. Then it was time to leave.
It happens every time I go there, I get all melancholy towards the end because I know its time to go, and I don't want to go. I love this place, its people, its way of life. When I get to heaven ..I hope its like Oxford,Ms.
Posted by Rod Norman at 7:04 PM
I have a challenge for all those who read this page. My favorite read of 2009 was Michael Lister's, "DOUBLE EXPOSURE".
I told everyone who would listen back then to pick up a copy and give it a read. I got alot of thanks from those who did.
Just this Sunday I got a text from a friend in Nashville, who said "Double Exposure"..what a good book!"
So my challenge to you is this,( if you've read it and loved it, pass the word on to one other friend who hasn't.)
And if you haven't read it, go pick it up & read it right away and I am so certain that you'll enjoy it, I'll make you a deal.
If your not satisfied, you can send me your copy of "Double Exposure" and I'll send you another book of your liking in return.
The books author, Michael Lister is an amazing man and has a new book coming out in April entitled "Thunder Beach".
Please... help me spread the word on this incredible book, " DOUBLE EXPOSURE".
Check back from time to time as I'll have an interview with Michael posted here in the months to come.
Posted by Rod Norman at 6:46 PM
A friend of mine, Dave Gergeni, brought a NewsBusters story to my attention that he had ran across on this film. I had told Dave that I was troubled by watching this film. The story itself was very interesting and quite disturbing, all at the same time. The movie is set in an Iranian village in 1986 and is based on true events. A beautiful, innocent women is betrayed by her husband & he falsely accuses her of adultery, so that he will be free to take a young child as his new wife. The penalty for adultery in Iran for women, is death by stoning. The village is ran by the male power structure that hides behind it's religion. The poor woman has only one friend who can help, a wise older women, played by Shohreh Aghdashloo, ( who was wonderful in "HOUSE OF SAND and FOG") and is equally outstanding here. Her friend first tries to plead with the city powers to be, and then after losing that fight, risks her own life, by telling her story to a journalist who has stopped in town due to car trouble. The journalist, (Jim Caviezel, of "The Passion of Christ") smuggles her story out of Iran and tells the world. It sounds like a great story right? I normally would have given this film a 4 out of 5. The reason I didn't, was it's pretty hard to stomach much of the film. I was furious at the towns leaders and the husband was just pure evil. He gloats at the way he is able to manipulate their laws which are pretty archiac. Women are truly nothing but property to do with as they wish and may dispose of them on a whim. Animals are truly treated better in our country. However, the part I couldn't stomach was the actual scene were the poor girl is stoned to death. It seems to last forever ! Her father, her sons, her husband, her neighbors all join in throwing stones at her. The scene literally turned my stomach and all I could think of was that NO ONE deserves to die this way, it's barbaric. If you don't hate the husband as much as you've ever hated anyone after this event.... then I worry about you and us all. Now, having said this, I plead with you, to rent it and watch it one time. If you didnt like "The Passion of The Christ" because of the flogging scene, then you won't like this either. But, this film as hard as it is to watch at times, its story deserves to be told and discussed. In a quote from the article my friend handed me, it says "It addresses misogyny, injustice, human rights abuses and narrow religiosity. It is anti-violence and deeply pro-life, in the broadest sense of the term".In short, Stephen F. Hayes wrote "it is an important film" and it should have recieved attention from the people who like to think of films as important. But the people who control Hollywood's most presigious awards ignored it.The film ran afoul of some elite sensiblities. Hollywood reviewers & human rights activist both condemded the film for its "crude story telling" and its stark delineation of good and evil. One of those same reviewers who criticizes both this film & Passion, praises Quentin Tarantino's bloody, "Reservoir Dogs" as a "critic's choice". The film was screened at several film festivals to enthusiastic audiences. The film won the "Justice" award at the Berlin Film Festival, the "Critics Choice Award" from the Broadcast Critics Film Association, was runner-up as the "Audience Favorite" at the Toronto Film Festival, and won the "Audience Choice Award" at the L.A. Film Festival. The USA Today called it "emotionally explosive" and The Wall Street Journal praised it as well. Peter Brunette of The Hollywood Reporter, says "It's a powerful piece, "and the denunciation of a system in which an accused woman has to prove her own innocence ( while in the case of a man, his guilt has to be proven by others), is strong and clear and unforgettable." So...with all that critical acclaim it surely won some major awards right, WRONG ! The article states that some have responded with "we can't judge other cultures" and says "the film portrays all men as villanous". Say what ? These people "Whomever they may be" don't seem to want you to see this picture. I would love to hear from you what you thought of this film. Please, encourage others to gut it out and then pass on their comments.
Posted by Rod Norman at 5:16 PM
I promised everyone that I would keep you posted on this one. If you missed my original post on 2/4/10, go back and check it out so that this one makes sense to you. The Missouri House and Senate have given their approval of legislation that will ban the sale and use of K2, which will make it a controlled substance. The bill has not yet landed on the desk of Missouri governor Jay Nixon as the House & Senate are still working out some minor differences. K2 as you may remember is a synthetic chemical that resembles marijuana & imitates its affect on the brain. Lawmakers have likened K2's spread to a epidemic and have said they must act quickly to eliminate it, and that "K2 is more dangerous than the description of "fake pot" implies". If the House & Senates bills do pass it would make K2 a level 1 controlled substance. Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, says "They're selling out of this stuff as fast as they can put it on the shelves". The bill once signed into law would make K2 illegal in all of Missouri, however some counties including St. Charles county have already banned the substance. Kansas was the first state to ban K2 and soon Missouri will become the second. Currently, K2, for now, remains on the shelves locally in St. Louis, Mo. and Ill. However, Illinois lawmakers have also passed a bill in recent days, in the House and it is on its way to the Senate. It looks like K2's days are numbered!
Posted by Rod Norman at 4:47 PM