Thursday, October 31, 2013

World Champs

The Boston Red Sox did something last night they haven't done since 1918.

They clinched a World Series at home.

Ninety-five years ago, Babe Ruth was a Boston pitcher. Woodrow Wilson was president. The Great War was coming to a close.

Above, you will see a photo of me at the Fens in 2009. Please note that I was sporting a Red Sox beard four years before the Red Sox did. You have me to thank (or blame) for that trend.

Goodnight, Beantown. Party hard.

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

This just in: Martians land in New Jersey (again!)

Martians landed at Grovers Mill, N.J., on this date in 1938.

They arrived again tonight at 8 p.m. (EDT) in celebration of the 75th anniversary of "War of the Worlds."

Of course, I refer to the most famous (or infamous) radio broadcast in American history, the Mercury Theater On The Air production of the H.G. Wells story spearheaded by the legendary Orson Welles.

Debate rages over just how many people panicked. It matters not. Welles became a household name overnight and was soon off to Hollywood, to RKO, to "Citizen Kane," to his own tragic American tale.

Radio stations around the country rebroadcast Welles' "War" tonight during a two-hour special hosted by George "Sulu" Takei. The original CBS drama was followed by a documentary called "War of the Welles." PBS aired an "American Experience" special on the broadcast last night.

We are more sophisticated in 2013 and could quickly spot the ruse. Nothing could have transpired so quickly as it does in the show, a point that probably occurred to anybody who didn't go running away from the radio. It's to Welles' and the Mercury Theater players' credit that they pulled it off so well and that the broadcast is still riveting.

I do know from eyewitness accounts that frightened folks ran into Central Baptist Church of Fountain City 75 years ago tonight, interrupting the prayer meeting to bring news of the extraterrestrial invasion.

Amazing, isn't it?

Radio remains a near perfect medium for this kind of thing. It isn't as passive as television. You have your pictures of what's being described and so do I.

I listened to Jack Benny's radio show for years before I ever saw his TV program, which isn't often repeated. The television incarnation was a letdown. Jack's pregnant pauses were even funnier when one couldn't see them.

Go here sometime and listen to them, or to "Gunsmoke" or to "The Great Gildersleeve" or to "The Green Hornet."

You'll see -- no, scratch that, you'll hear -- what I mean.

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

'Before Midnight'

One is reminded, when one finds diamonds amid dross, why one fell in love with cinema in childhood.

Oh, you go through phases. Kids' stuff. Action. Adventure. Comedy. Drama. Sci-fi. So on.

Money is precious. I don't waste it on pedestrian pictures. Just can't go there anymore.

The Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy Before/Before/Before trilogy is treasured. My friend Bridget introduced me to the first two films a decade or so ago. They hold a special place in my consciousness, cradled in the compartment in which you keep memories, moments, magic.

They are stage plays in the best sense, the conversation natural, the pace perfect. It feels real and how wonderful is it that we've aged, too, with Jesse and Celine, two decades removed from that train trip to Vienna.

I approached "Before Midnight" with trepidation, similar to returning to Gus and Call in "Streets of Laredo" or to Thalia in "Texasville." Would I be disappointed, depressed, distraught?

No, a little, somewhat.

Jesse and Celine have matured in a decade. Who hasn't? If you are crowding 40 and are still the same as you were 10 years ago, perhaps you need to pause.

As with "Before Sunrise" and "Before Sunset," I soon forgot I was seeing cinema. Instead, I felt like a fly on the wall, a voyeur in the best sense (if there is one), watching a real couple talk and walk together as summer sets in Greece.

Free of irritating explosions, silly special effects and crappy cliches, "Before Midnight" is refreshing, rejuvenating, real.

It reminds me that good cinema has survived a confederacy of clowns, that good stories are complicated and quiet, that good art is contemplative and complex.

"Before Midnight" is now available on DVD. It is rated R. 

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Monday, October 28, 2013

Suddenly, Schwartz, seven days a week

Jonathan Schwartz and I have been spending Sundays together for many moons now.

No, I've never met him. But, thanks to the intimacy of radio, Jonno feels like a friend.

Through thick and thin he's been there, playing the good, the gold, the Great American Songbook, while pop music has plummeted.

I was more than a bit bummed earlier this year when Schwartz said goodbye to his daily show on Sirius/XM.

"Well," I thought, "we'll always have Sundays."

And, now, suddenly, Schwartz, seven days a week, anytime I want. The fun begins Friday.

Christmas came early this year.

Jonno introduced me to Nancy LaMott, to Brian Stokes Mitchell, to Eva Cassidy, to others. He knows more about Sinatra than Sinatra did. He once made music with Mel Torme at Marty's in Manhattan. You can look it up.

His father was composer Arthur Schwartz, and he grew up among the greats. Read his memoir. It's a masterpiece.

And, above all else, listen. Listen to the music. Listen to a master play the masters.

But, by all means, listen. Listen seven days a week. Anytime you want.

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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Dialing up The Fall Classic

 Our national pastime is perfect for radio. Pitch perfect. A perfect announcer can paint word pictures that even HD can't capture.

Back in the Dark Ages, when one could only get "Monday Night Baseball" or maybe a Saturday game of the week, I'd fire up an AM radio not unlike the M&M Boys unit shown at left and could pick up games as far away as Chicago and Detroit.

This was long before cellphones and every other damn thing ruined radio's oldest bandwidth.

Television has its advantages, but baseball and radio go together like peas and carrots.

I was reminded of that fact this weekend. Driving home from my friend Shelton's house last night, I listened to the last couple of innings of the World Series on Sirius/XM, Joe Castiglione on WEEI. Tonight, I caught a couple of innings on KMOX -- Mike Shannon and John Rooney.

The best part? No Tim McCarver.

There is a caveat at work here, though. Baseball is terrible on the radio (or on TV for that matter) if the announcers are atrocious. I was spoiled for years by Pete Van Wieren, Skip Caray, Ernie Harwell, Marty Brennaman, Joe Nuxhall, and, after satellite surfaced, the peerless Vin Scully. I still have nightmares about Bob Rathbun and Ken "Hawk" Harrelson.

I'm not old enough to have heard the late, great Lindsey Nelson cover the New York Mets on the radio, but I certainly remember some of his later national TV broadcasts. ("Hello everybody, I'm Lindsey Nelson!") When he moved back to Knoxville, you could often spot him downtown sporting his trademark plaid sport coat. I think he lived at the Pembroke. Feel free to correct me on that. I'm going by memory.

Now, I'm kicked back on the couch, the Series playing on TV as I type. I like Joe Buck. I'm glad this is it for McCarver. But I'm biased. For years I had one of his Topps baseball cards taped to my toilet.

 TV announcers aside, this game is tailor-made for radio. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

More than a name on a wall

Last month, I told you about Lt. Stanley K. Smiley, whose name is on my POW/MIA bracelet.

Earlier this month, it was a distinct privilege to travel to Washington, D.C., in memory of the late, great Sam Hardman on the HonorAir Knoxville flight, which takes World War II and Korean War era veterans to see their monuments.

Because nobody in the Beltway has a brain, most things were closed due to the government shutdown.

Don't worry. That didn't stop the veterans.

But, it did stop me from making a rubbing of two names at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, known popularly as The Wall.

I wanted to make a rubbing of Bruce Blakely's name for my dad. Dad and Bruce were buddies. Bruce graduated from Halls High in 1969, joined the U.S. Marines and was killed by friendly fire in Vietnam on June 8, 1970.

I also wanted to sketch Stanley K. Smiley's name.

Enter Lisa Deason.

Lisa, a licensed tour guide in D.C., saw me at The Wall and asked me to write down information about both men and give her my address. She said she'd make the rubbings for me as soon as she could.

They arrived in the mail today. God bless ya, Lisa. Saying thank you for your kindness seems inadequate.

And to Bruce and Stanley and to all the 58,000-plus, please know that you are indeed more than a name on a wall.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

This month's guilty pleasure


"Col. Hogan, what's the meaning of this??!!" 

Yes, this month's guilty pleasure is "Hogan's Heroes." I loved the show as a kid. Used to watch it in daily and late-night reruns back in the day. It didn't dawn on me that nothing could possibly be amusing about a real-life German POW camp, but that doesn't enter into an adolescent's mind.

I bought (for a steal) the complete series Kommandant's Kollection, which costs about what my friend Dean paid for one season during the  original release. One thing I've learned about buying TV series on DVD: if you are patient, you will eventually find a complete series release, cheaper than the single-season releases, that also contains extras. I got burned on both "M*A*S*H" and "The Fugitive" and vowed I'd never do it again. This time, patience paid off.

Where to begin? Bob Crane as the charming and cool Col. Hogan, leader of the Allies "trapped" (which really means anything but trapped) in Stalag 13. Werner Klemperer as the kooky Col. Klink. John Banner as the buffoonish Sgt. Schultz ("I know nothing!"). The amusing cast of secondary characters: Robert Clary, Richard Dawson, Ivan Dixon and Larry Hovis.

Intellectual it's not. Silly? Sure. But keep in mind that "Hogan's Heroes" aired in the same decade that gave us flying nuns, "My Mother The Car," a pig named Arnold who was smarter than everyone on "Green Acres," and other gentle insanity.

It's very much a product of its time, but "Hogan's Heroes" is leaps and bounds better than, oh, say, "Two Broke Girls."

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Monday, October 21, 2013

A little light reading...

...while continuing to bask in the glow of a Big Orange Saturday sunset.

P.S. For those in the Knoxville area who still need a copy, "Football As A War Game," the late Dr. Andy Kozar's annotated collection of Gen. Robert Reese Neyland's journals, is available for $49.95 at Long's Drug Store.

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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Reflections from the road

Macon, Ga. -- Yes they can. And yes they did. And, yes, it was wonderful.

Five years of frustration. Five years of near misses, almost wases and what might have beens. Coach Lifetime, Coach No Time and Coach Half Time.

Now -- dare I say it? -- we've got Coach This Time.

A wild week ended with a bright orange glow.

Tennessee beat South Carolina. Yes. Yes. Yes.

Being five hours from Rocky Top gives one perspective. Time to breathe. Time to think. Time to reflect.

Yes, I cried. Can you believe it?

Haven't done that after a football game since Jan. 4, 1999, in Tempe, Ariz. Holy cow.

All the hubbub, all the hyperbole, all the craziness, all the cacophony (some of the latter from this writer) ... none now. No, sir. Not tonight.

The family comes together. It's a Tennessee thing.

After the game, Dewayne, Bridget, Jacob and I drove downtown. Light rain began to fall as we listened to live jazz. It would normally be ironic that the band was jamming to "Blue Skies" in the rain, but the precipitation here meant nothing. To the long-suffering Vol fan, the sky was blue no matter one's latitude/longitude.

I got so excited that I drank a High Life. And why not? Saturday called for champagne of any sort. (Plus, it was all they had.)

After dinner, we went to Mercer. I leaned against the goalpost like Bear Bryant used to do and watched the light fade on a perfect day. (Well, almost perfect, but we won't get into that now.)

Tennessee beat Steve Superior and all is right with the world.

I'm halfway tempted to sing "Rocky Top." :)

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

'Bless you boys!'

Bless you boys!

The Detroit Tigers have evened the ALCS at 2 games apiece. Man, this is shaping up to be a classic.

Yes, your humble servant is somewhat divided. Detroit and the BoSox are two of my three favorite MLB teams. (The third -- the ATL -- has already been eliminated.)

But, I'm pulling for the Tigers in this series. One, I've loved them longer. Two, the BoSox won it all in 2004 and 2007. The last time the Tigers won the Series was 29 years ago. (By the way, I've got that entire Series on DVD to watch in winter.)

So, I'll be for the AL in the World Series regardless.

No doubt, my buddies Thomas, David, Dave, Ed, Jim, Robbie, Mike (no, not Hermann) and Jed (and, somewhere, Sam Malone) are boosting the BoSox.

Over in the NL, buddies Drew and Nick are cheering on the Cards, and Spencer, Ken and Roy (and maybe Bob) are dreaming for Dodger domination.

But, since my blood runs orange in so many ways, I am pulling for the Old English D this week. So, too, are pals David and Jen, Cortney, Danny, Grant, Matthew (no, not Shelton) and Mike (no, not Hermann).

"Bless you boys!"

Bonus points to anyone who knows who uttered the above phrase. (And it isn't who you think.)

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

You can't make up this stuff...

During a week in which I didn't think it was possible for the University of Tennessee to perpetuate another PR disaster comes this news.

What, Deana Carter wasn't available?

You can't make up this stuff...

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Who was that masked man?

Yes, my friends.

This Bear Family CD box set arrived in the mail today.

I will review it tomorrow when I'm not brain dead.


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Monday, October 14, 2013

Inmates running the asylum

Thus it continues.

The news hit today that University of Tennessee Pride of the Southland Marching Band director Gary Sousa has been placed on administrative leave for insubordination, inability to work with others and misrepresentation of facts.

My, oh my.

I told you my take on a lot of things in this post. I won't repeat them.

Truth be told, I could see this coming. It's the way Tennessee rolls in UT (BS).

I am not privy to everything regarding Sousa's job performance or his interaction with university personnel.

I do know that UT isn't the military and "insubordination" is an interesting term for employees at a land-grant university.

Sources who know tell me that Chancellor Jimmy Cheek is a few cards short of a full deck. Maybe so. UTK hasn't had chancellors with a clue since Jack Reese and Bill Snyder.

Tom Mattingly says it better than I, and, as usual, with his good-hearted fairness and sportsmanship.

Whatever Cheek's case, I say that athletic director Dave Hart and president Joe DiPietro are ultimately responsible. The buck stops there, or at least it did in Harry Truman's day.

"The inmates are running the asylum (at UT)," says a super source.

Tom has a different take:

"Never thought it would happen, but the band’s performance the last few days has done the impossible: make the campus administration look almost reasonable. That’s a tall order, but they’ve come close."

His are points to ponder.

My $1.98 take is that Tennessee has become a national joke and I'm not just talking about the gridiron. (In fact, Butch Jones is a bright spot in a bleak cesspool.)

Academic rank, prestige and prowess have dipped. But, hey, at least we don't top the Playboy party school list anymore.

The jury is still out on Sousa's supposed sins, but this is just sickening.

Strike up the band and play "Send In the Clowns."

Don't bother. They're here.

UPDATE Tuesday, Oct. 15, 11 a.m.: Here is Tuesday's story from the Knoxville News Sentinel (paywall). According to the story by Kristi L. Nelson, band alums are split on Sousa.

Looks like Provost Susan Martin, whom Tony Basilio on his AM talk show just called "the biggest troublemaker on campus," had to mop up for the Chancellor.

Basilio says he doesn't want to see stories like this in the press and isn't taking sides.

Whatever the case, the kids are the losers.

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Sunday, October 13, 2013

'I'm a peaceable man'

Super Saturday.

Fantastic football. Better baseball. Scrumptious homemade spaghetti. My wife's is wonderful.

Well, as usual, I couldn't sleep last night. So, I flipped on the TV and dialed the DVR to an old favorite, "Riders of the Silver Screen."

Sure enough, Marshal Andy Smalls and Deadwood Don Calhoun didn't disappoint.

Yesterday's show (and next week's!) celebrates Wild Bill Elliott, whose birth date is Wednesday. The first installment was dedicated to the Wild Bill Hickok portion of Elliott's career and even included an appearance by Bill Elliott biographer John W. Leonard. Have you read his book?

Duke Wayne is my favorite rider of the silver screen. Roy Rogers is my sentimental choice for No. 1 B-movie cowboy.

But Bill Elliott is my favorite so-called "B." He's cool, he wears his guns backwards (neat reason why), and he was the best Red Ryder by far.

If you like this sort of thing and live in East Tennessee, don't miss "Riders of the Silver Screen" at 10:30 a.m. (EDT) Saturday, Oct. 19, on East Tennessee PBS (Channels 2 or 15 locally) for part two of the Bill Elliott birthday bash.

And don't forget: "I'm a peaceable man."

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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Power T doesn't stand for tradition

Things are rocky on Rocky Top.

Don't get me wrong. Butch Jones is building his bricks. These things take time. Georgia game was great.

But let's look at what has transpired since Athletic Director Dave Hart arrived from Alabama.

Former associate athletic director for media relations Harris D. "Bud" Ford -- the very definition of a Vol For Life (VFL) long before it became a marketing tool -- was denied the opportunity to complete a comprehensive stat book that could help scribes and some others, especially marketing majors who think Tennessee football began with Phillip and Peyton.

In UT B.H. (Before Hart), calling the sports information department at 974-1212 would often mean you'd get Ford himself. Now, in UT B.S. (no translation needed), you get a recording. Sometimes you get a call returned. Maybe.

I declined to renew my season tickets to two sports after the Ford fiasco. The three football games I have attended in UT B.S. happened because somebody either bought or reimbursed me for the tickets.

The athletic department violated its own policy on uniform colors by allowing the team to wear the so-called "Smokey gray" jerseys for the Georgia game. They make the 1963 Halloween jerseys look quaint by comparison.

Wait, wait, you say. Lane Kiffin had his black jerseys. John Majors' teams put on orange pants and shined up orange shoes for awhile. Bill Battle splashed orange shoulders on away uniforms in the '70s.

Don't care. Let's do the cheer for those who just got here.


At both the South Alabama and Georgia games, I noticed that the band didn't perform at halftime as long as in years past.

Then I stumbled onto the story, summarized here quite well (both sides) on KnoxViews.

News also hit this week that Tennessee and Virginia Tech will play in 2016 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Sheer stunt. Money-grabbing marketing maneuver. Moronic.

Good luck seeing a handoff without binoculars or a big screen.

 The only way you'd get me there is if NASCAR holds a race during the game.

The idea that the Pride of the Southland Band has been given the Big Orange Screw is the last straw. I admit that a big part of this is my bias against rap music and my fondness for real, live musicians. (I also like to fast-forward through commercials.)

In a sense, maybe this is part of a longstanding tradition, some of which started in UT B.H.

 This is the same program that misspelled Doug Atkins' name when his jersey was retired, gave George Cafego a used van as a thank you gift, had its own Ides of March on Friday, Nov. 13, 1992, denied Ray Mears access to the Ray Mears Room, and stopped playing Alabama on the third Saturday in October.

What's next? Hiring Oliver Stone as official athletic historian? Asking Kanye West to perform the alma mater to impress recruits? Playing a home game on the moon? Renaming the big house Pilot Oil Stadium?

Seems to me Tennessee would be better served by hiring a VFL to run the athletic department, or at least someone who leads more like Omar Nelson Bradley and less like George Tecumseh Sherman.

But what do I know? I'm just a UT graduate with small pockets and a sharp memory.

Here's one thing I think:

The Power T sure doesn't stand for tradition. Not anymore.

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Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Talese on Sinatra (annotated)

How about this for Hump Day?

Gay Talese has annotated his famous Esquire magazine Frank Sinatra profile for Nieman Storyboard, a project of The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard.


I had a chance to meet Talese once. Jury duty got in the way. I'll tell you that tale another time.

Have a good day and don't forget Francis Albert's quote, especially all you Tennessee Volunteers:

"Orange is the happiest color."

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Tuesday, October 08, 2013

'Waimanalo Blues'

I will spare you the details, my friends, but tonight (technically, this morning) has been tough.

Here's hoping you are having a wonderful week. I'm OK. Putting one foot in front of the other.

But, as I type at 3 a.m. because I can't sleep, this song fits my state of mind.

You know how badly I want to head to Hawaii. But, no, I won't stand on that soapbox. Not now.

My favorite spot on Oahu is Waimanalo Beach. The reasons are personal, sentimental, spiritual and pure. I will not share them now.

But when I watched the sun set at the spot pictured on this page, I had come home to a place I'd never been before, to coin a phrase.

Yes, I am a haole. Waimanalo can never be my home in the truest sense of the word.

But, yes, I revere the people of Hawaii. I don't blame them one bit if they tire of tourists. "Waimanalo Blues" tells you why. It is poignant. It is perfect.

The version I submit to you here is performed by the late Billy Kaui and Country Comfort, circa the early 1970s. If you like the song, surf to YouTube. You will find interpretations by the late Iz and friends, and Makaha Sons of Ni'ihau.

Mahalo and aloha ahiahi ia oukou.

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Monday, October 07, 2013

Last night I had the strangest dream...

With apologies to the late Ed McCurdy, last night I had the strangest dream.

No, it wasn't peace on earth, but it was peculiar. The scary part is it is a recurring dream. Happens about once every six or eight months.

I am sitting in a concert venue -- last night, it was Stokely Athletics Center -- waiting for an Elvis Presley concert to begin.

The TCB Band and the Joe Guercio Orchestra launch into "Also Sprach Zarathustra." The climax varies, but it usually ends with Elvis not showing up or someone appearing on stage who isn't him. Last night was the latter.

I can remember saying in my dream, "Please, Elvis. Please show up this time." 

Now, look. Y'all know I am an Elvis Presley fanatic. But I don't get this one. I have never, for example, dreamed anything similar about Frank Sinatra, my other favorite singer, or Grace Kelly, no explanation needed.

Part of last night's dream makes sense. I saw my first concert (The Oak Ridge Boys) at Stokely. In the dream, I was eating cotton candy, which I think I did at the Oaks show and know I did at the circus 30-some years ago, which here is held at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum. This meshes with the fact that, in a departure from usual, I was around five- or six-years old in the dream last night.

Maybe the dream is exactly as it appears -- that I wish I could have seen Elvis in concert. Maybe it is because Elvis' music has gotten me through tough times, including my grandmother's death this summer.

Maybe it means I fear something is not all it appears. Maybe I ate something I shouldn't have before bed.

Maybe I'm just nuts.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

A story you will never forget

This story in microcosm is why I choose to work at a weekly newspaper job with long hours and low pay, wear a POW/MIA bracelet, and have dedicated a sizable portion of my life to studying the Vietnam War, honoring U.S. veterans by telling their tales and researching the veterans' experience readjusting to life after military service.

Bravo, Mr. Richardson. Thank you.

And here's to you, Billy, and to all the Billys of the world.

By Lynn Richardson, president, Tennessee Press Association

As a publisher of a weekly newspaper, you find yourself doing a lot of different things. Both news and advertising become part of the daily routine. One day you’re crunching numbers for the budget, the next day you’re calling on a new business that has just opened in the area.

In a lot of cases, the publisher also writes – news, features, editorials – the whole gamut. Whatever it takes.

It’s a way to stay connected to the community in a personal way and it can remind us when and why we decided to make newspapers our life’s work.

Bogged down with day-to-day demands, sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of why we do what we do and why we love it.
There are some things, however, you just can’t forget.
Such is the story of a man named Billy Wolfe.
Billy grew up on the rough edge of a small town in southern West Virginia. When he was about 14, his dad decided he'd had enough of parenthood and he lit out for parts unknown, leaving Billy's mom to take care of him and his brothers and sisters by herself.
Through sheer determination, he managed to get through high school. But once he had his diploma, Billy went where most young men did in the late 60s – he got shipped off to a place called Vietnam.
I don't know what all happened to him there. He never really wanted to talk about it, but by the time I met Billy, his life had changed forever.
He had left both his legs in Nam.
I remember the first time I saw him. He looked a lot older than he was. He was, of course, in a wheelchair and had a hard time getting around.
But there was a great spirit about Billy. He had a great sense of humor and he loved people.
Above all, he was thankful - thankful for friends who had given him a place to stay when he returned to his hometown after his service to his country.
His friends, a local electrician and his wife, knew Billy really didn’t have any place to go, so they remodeled their detached garage into an apartment for him, making it fully handicapped-accessible.
It was Billy’s haven. He felt safe there.
Unfortunately for Billy, his benefactors had some neighbors who didn't like them very much and when they found out that the two were providing someone with an apartment  - a detached dwelling - in a neighborhood not zoned for such places, they jumped on it.
They took their complaint to the zoning board. Not getting the immediate results they wanted, they showed up at the town's next city council meeting and threw a fit.
It was simple, they said. It was against the law and Billy would have to go.
I was a 20-year-old college student who just worked part-time at the local paper to get myself through college. That day, I drew the short straw and ended up with the evening’s city council meeting as my assignment.
I really hadn’t covered many meetings and I sure wasn’t ready for this one.
It was an ugly scene. Neighbors stood up in defense of Billy, saying they would be fine with the council passing some sort of variance, but the opposing side persisted, demanding that the council uphold the zoning regulations.
Of course the law was on their side and so the majority of the councilmen voted to oust Billy. By the time that meeting was over, there was also another casualty. Our mayor – a veteran himself  - resigned, saying he wouldn't lead a town where such an atrocity could take place.
And I sat there, taking notes as hard and fast as a very green, very young reporter possibly could, trying desperately to capture every cruel word that was uttered.
It didn’t take long, after the story came out in the next morning’s edition of the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, for Billy to become a household name. The TV and radio folks picked it up and ran with it. People in the community were outraged.
Our newspaper stayed on top of the story and didn’t let go. They kept the issue in front of the public, covering it from every possible angle.
The story had a happy ending. A local attorney and a contractor contacted Billy’s friends and together, they forged a plan that would satisfy the town’s zoning regulations. Volunteers went to work to remodel the house and garage, putting it all under one roof.
The day I learned that Billy’s home was saved was a day that truly changed my life.
That was the first time I really understood just what a difference a newspaper could make and I knew I wanted to be part of that. 
Thinking back to Billy and his story reminded me why I've been in the newspaper business for so many years and why I feel it is such an honor to be part of something so powerful and so meaningful.
We all walk this earth for a reason, and we all enjoy many different powers. Each of us has the power to influence others, and in turn, each of us is influenced by those who cross our life’s path.
Every day, in the newspaper industry, we operate a power tool – a tool that should be handled with care.
"With great power comes great responsibility," Spiderman’s Uncle Ben said to him.
While we certainly aren’t superheroes, I can think of no other industry where that phrase can better be applied.
It is our awesome responsibility – and our privilege – to stand up and speak out, with integrity, truth and determination, with every word we print.

Mr. Richardson wrote this column for National Newspaper Week. Source: It also appears in today's Knoxville News Sentinel.

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Friday, October 04, 2013

A favorite scene from my favorite show

Happy Friday, y'all.

To get the weekend started, I'd like to share with you a favorite scene from my favorite TV show, "Magnum, p.i."

Here's hoping it brightens your evening, makes you laugh, or confirms your suspicion that I am nuts.

"Higgins! I'm going to kill you..."

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Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Because I feel like it...

My back hurts, I can't sleep and, all things considered, I'd rather be in Hawaii.

When I get in moods like this, I turn to music, one artist in particular. You know where this is headed.

Elvis Aron Presley.

Don't ask me why. You have your favorites. I have mine.

All I know is that whenever I hear the man sing -- particularly his gospel music and his '70s ballads -- an H-bomb could obliterate Halls and I wouldn't even blink.

Above is a photo of King Elvis the Presley arriving at Stokely Athletics Center in Knoxville for his 2:30 p.m. concert on April 8, 1972. (Look closely and you can see this clip in the documentary "Elvis on Tour.") Elvis would perform again at 8:30 that night. He was brought to town as the star attraction of the Dogwood Arts Festival that year.

I miss the ol' boy. I wish he were still here to make his music. As it is, I'm thankful for the 23 years of recordings that remain, most movie soundtracks excepted.

And do me a favor. Please -- pretty please -- look beyond "Hound Dog" and "Jailhouse Rock" and some of the schlock. There's a lot of good stuff there. The man could sing from his soul or rock his ass off, depending on his mood.

Here, in fact, is a fantastic review of the new box set "Elvis At Stax" written by Matthew Everett in Metro Pulse.

Carrying on, living on songs... that my friends wrote for me to sing...

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Tuesday, October 01, 2013

This week's sign of the Apocalypse

Americans read 12 times more Web articles about Miley Cyrus' "twerking" incident (I love the fact that spellcheck red-flags a word I wish I'd never heard) than they did about the use of chemical weapons on human beings in Syria.

Priorities, perhaps? (Or lack thereof...)

Source: CBS News