Duke’s mixture

One of the interesting things about last night’s concert was the spectrum of people in attendance. This was the first concert of the Nashville Symphony’s new season, and there had been a black tie gala earlier in the evening. So there were some people wearing black tie, others dressed in suits and ties, and then a third group who were casually dressed. Some of that third group fit the popular stereotype for science fiction fans, and it was easy to speculate (rightly or wrongly) that many in this third group were only in attendance to see Leonard Nimoy. Please note that I’m not accusing all science fiction or “Star Trek” fans of falling into that stereotype.

At least no one showed up in Starfleet uniform or Klingon battle dress.

The final frontier

Tonight’s Nashville Symphony concert with Leonard Nimoy was terrific.

The first half, before the intermission, was just the orchestra, playing Mozart’s “Jupiter” symphony, and it was worth the price of admission on its own. The Nashville Symphony is still seeking a successor to the late Maestro Kenneth Schermerhorn, and so this season it’s using a variety of guest conductors. Giancarlo Guerrero, born in Nicaragua, raised in Costa Rica, educated at Baylor and Northwestern, is one of those conductors who’s as much fun to watch as to listen to. He obviously enjoys his work, and his movements were enthusiastic, but never seemed stagy or too-showy.

Then, after intermission, the symphony performed Holst’s “The Planets” with Nimoy narrating and a video presentation with NASA photographic imagery and computer animation of the planets and their moons. I’m not sure what I expected Nimoy’s narration to be; he actually just introduced each segment by talking about what features or phenomena would be seen on the video. He never talked during the music, and there was nothing particularly dramatic or poetic about it, which I guess is what I had imagined. But it actually worked quite well, and it kept the programming out of the way of the music. “The Planets” is as dramatic and evocative as the Mozart piece was beautiful and intricate. The orchestra sounded great, doing a phenomenal job with both halves of the program.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening, and I was really grateful to my parents for bringing me along. I think they enjoyed it too, and are looking forward to the other dates in their package of symphony tickets.

Layspeaking class

As a certified United Methodist layspeaker, I am supposed to take an advanced course at least once every three years. It’s been two years since my last class, and I like taking the course at two-year intervals just in case.

But the Murfreesboro District courses started at 9 a.m. on the same day I got back from Kenya at 2:30 a.m. I knew better than to try that.

Instead, I’m taking the class this Friday and Saturday in Columbia, under the auspices of the Columbia District. I’m looking forward to it; the instructor is Jim Hughes, a United Methodist pastor who worked in the Tennessee Conference office at a time when I regularly attended the conference singles retreats. I was really inspired by him at a time when I was starting to lose faith in myself, and there’s one message he delivered at a retreat which sticks in my mind as one of my four or five all-time favorite sermons.

It was Jim Hughes who started my tradition of reading Letterman-style “Top Ten” lists at singles retreats and then later at Mountain T.O.P. and LEAMIS events. I had been canoeing with one of the other campers at a singles retreat, and we got rained on. Jim and I had been conversing at lunch about our similar senses of humor, and as Jim helped us put up our canoes he suggested I write a Top Ten list about canoeing with Mary Jane.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Anyway, I have no idea if Jim remembers me, but I can’t wait to learn from him this weekend.

Unfortunately, my text and instructions for the course arrived in the mail today. I suspect that they were supposed to arrive right before the holiday weekend — and probably did, in the Columbia District. I, on the other hand, have to rush through things — and I have a pretty busy week this week to boot.

All in all, it’s probably a good preparation for layspeaking, in which you sometimes have to prepare a sermon on short notice.

My Kind of Town

ABC’s newest reality show is actually a game show: “My Kind of Town,” which I watched for the first time tonight. It’s from Michael Davies, the executive producer of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?”

The premise of the show is that 200 residents of a particular small town are brought to a TV studio in New York. Various people from the audience are selected to play tongue-in-cheek games or stunts.

Some of the games involved pre-taped segments from the small town itself, and in some cases friends or relatives of the contestants have set them up ahead of time. Tonight, the host (Johnny Vaughn) asked the studio audience which resident of this week’s town, Ellenville, N.Y., had slept with a supermodel. When he approached one man and asked if he was the one, the man straightforwardly denied it — but Vaughn had photographic proof. The man’s wife had allowed the producers to put a hidden camera in their bedroom. In the middle of the night, she had gotten up, and the supermodel tiptoed in and reclined for a few seconds on the bed, with the dozing husband none the wiser!

The host then offered the prank victim a choice — a week with the supermodel in an exotic island resort, or a night with his wife at a low-budget camp near where they spent their honeymoon. The husband, wisely, chose the latter, and (as he must surely have suspected) the producers ended up sending him and his wife to the island resort instead.

Various amateur musicians, young and old, from the town got the chance to sit in with the studio band.

One resident was picked at the beginning of tonight’s show to be the town’s “champion.” His job was to try to remember the names of the townspeople singled out during the program, and if he could do it, every person in the studio audience would win a laptop computer at the end of the show!

It reminds me a great deal of “Truth Or Consequences.” I’m much too young to remember the original radio version, with Ralph Edwards, but I remember Bob Barker hosting the syndicated TV version before moving to “The Price Is Right.”

The emphasis on small towns also reminds me of “Almost Anything Goes,” a mid-70s show which pitted small-town teams against each other in goofy sporting events. (Regis Philbin was the sideline reporter.)

“Masterpiece Theatre” it ain’t, but “My Kind of Town” seems like good, goofy fun.

A blog with a sharp point

Ian’s Messy Desk alerted me to the existence of Timberlines, a blog about pencils. Since I live and work in the “Pencil City,” I had to check it out. In fact, I had to respond to a post about the Guinness Book of World Records entry for the “world’s longest pencil.” A company here in Shelbyville produced a much longer pencil years earlier but could not get it listed because it was made with what was, at least at the time, a proprietary process.

The only logical choice

Regular readers of this blog know that I’m active in promoting an annual concert in Shelbyville by The Nashville Symphony. The symphony, of course, hopes that events like this will draw people to their classical and pops concerts in Nashville.

That strategy worked with my parents, who this year have bought a package of symphony tickets. They are taking me along to the first concert of the season, which will feature a performance of Holst’s “The Planets” complete with projected images from the Hubble space telescope.

There will also be a narrator. Originally, the narrator was scheduled to be Patrick Stewart, but movie commitments forced him out, and so the symphony has made an extremely logical choice for his replacement.

Bonehead editing

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (Special Edition)I found myself watching the first few minutes of “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension” on UPN just now, before heading out to the Celebration grounds. I don’t know why; I have it on DVD and can watch it any time I choose.

Anyway, some moron at UPN decided that the movie needed introductory narration to explain a couple of plot points. Now, I realize that “Buckaroo Banzai” is a somewhat esoteric movie and that some people have trouble figuring out exactly what’s going on in the beginning. I don’t necessarily approve of tinkering with the movie to explain things, but I understand why someone would want to do so.

No, my problem is not with the tinkering per se, but with the way the tinkering was done. The introductory narration was delivered, in part, at the same time as the introductory crawl that appeared with the movie in theatres. So you have an announcer giving you one explanation about who Buckaroo is and what is going on while another, entirely different explanation is scrolling up the screen. Then, for the very last sentence, the announcer and the printed crawl synch up.

This is supposed to clear things up? You’d have to be a member of Team Banzai to be able to read one synopsis while listening to another synopsis at the same time.

It’s one of the single most boneheaded cases of network editing I’ve ever seen on a motion picture.

Kerry Livgren

The Best Of Kerry LivgrenWhen I was a teenager, I didn’t buy a lot of rock albums — I mostly listened to the radio. But I loved the band Kansas and their songs “Dust In The Wind,” “Point Of No Return” and “Carry On, Wayward Son.” They were moving and anthemic, but they displayed a sense of spiritual searching and longing.

About the same time I was in college, Kerry Livgren — the band’s guitarist and songwriter — found what he had been searching for, becoming a Christian. He began writing songs with a Christian subtext, which led to the breakup of the band. The band’s lead singer wasn’t really interested in the new direction, nor were some of the band’s traditional fans. The lead singer left; a new, Christian, lead singer was recruited but they couldn’t get lightning to strike again in the same place.

Livgren’s next project was an overtly Christian band called AD. I had two of their cassettes and loved them.

“Dust In The Wind” is being used in some sort of car commercial right now, and that made me think of Kerry Livgren for the first time in quite a while. I Googled him, as is my wont. He now owns a record label, and from its web site I was able to download a free MP3 of “All Creation Sings,” which was probably my favorite AD song.

I may have to order his best-of collection after I get back from the mission trip.