I just got through watching an absolutely riveting, edge-of-your-seat documentary on PBS’s series “American Experience.” “Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst” tells the story of how an underground radical group, the Symbionese Liberation Army, kidnapped the newspaper heiress, who for a while claimed she had joined the SLA and taken the name “Tania.” A security camera photo of her holding an automatic weapon during a bank robbery became an iconic image of the 1970s.

Later, Hearst was successfully able to convince authorities that she was a victim of fear and “Stockholm syndrome,” not a true accomplice; her prison sentence was commuted by Jimmy Carter and she received a pardon from Bill Clinton. The documentary concludes with a glamorous-looking Hearst as a celebrity guest on a British talk show.

I was 12 and 13 when the Patty Hearst saga was taking place; I remember a vague outline of it but none of the gripping detail which was brought out in this documentary. Several key SLA members, who had been released after serving their jail terms for kidnapping Hearst, were arrested again and tried in 1999 for a murder committed during a bank robbery of that period.

As I watched, I kept wondering why Spike Lee hasn’t done anything with this story; it really seems like his milieu.

Bloglet update

I realized tonight that my Bloglet feed hasn’t been working — not sure for how long. The most infuriating thing about the Bloglet service is that when it fails to read your feed correctly (for any reason, apparently) it assumes that the blog’s settings are somehow incorrect and temporarily deactivates that blog’s account — without notifying the blog’s owner! You have to find out that it’s not working, go to the site, and manually reacitvate the account.

Back to normal

I upgraded from WordPress 1.5.1 to yesterday, and in the process I apparently wrecked the permalink pages which allow people to comment. It’s fixed now.

The e-mail links in the right-hand column were apparently broken as well; not sure if that happened yesterday or previously. They work now, too.

Thanks to Georganna for the “heads up.”

Schermerhorn Symphony Center

Tour group outside Schemerhorn Symphony Center

I enjoyed a great privilege this afternoon: a hard-hat tour of what, when it opens in fall 2006, will be one of the most acoustically-perfect and visually striking classical music venues on the planet.

Officials of the Nashville Symphony had invited members of the steering committee for the annual Shelbyville concert to tour the facility. Dawn Holley, Nancy June Brandon, Linda Yockey and I attended, and Linda invited her fellow teacher (and one of my favorite high school teachers) Jan Hall to come as well.

The building is remarkable in its design and execution. Did I say “building”? It’s actually two buildings — one nested inside the other. A two-inch gap separates the rectangular concert hall from the lobbies, offices and support facilities which surround it on all sides. The inner and outer “buildings” even have their own separate foundations.

The building’s acoustics will be so finely-tuned that visitors will be asked to check their winter coats, which would collectively have a deadening effect on the sound.

For classical and many other performances, the building will have a sloping main floor with theater seats. But those seats, and the sloping floor beneath them, are mounted on special carts — three or four complete rows of seats to each cart. The motorized carts can be lowered into the basement and wheeled into their place in a storage room, converting the entire concert hall to a level, ballroom-like setting in just two hours. (By comparison, we were told, it takes days and $16,000 to make the same conversion at the big symphony hall in Boston.)

It’s a remarkable facility, located right across from the new Country Music Hall of Fame in downtown Nashville, and just a stone’s throw from the Gaylord Entertainment Center.

I lost my utmost

First, a note for our Middle Tennessee readers: I will be layspeaking at Mt. Olivet UMC (my father’s church) on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. Come hear me, and you own pastor will sound that much better the following week by comparison. 🙂

Speaking of layspeaking, I posted here back in December about running into C. Don Ladd at the district layspeaker dinner, and being moved when he used my mission trips as part of his talk. Well, I got two nice reactions to that post this week. One was from Emily Austin, the wife of our district layleader, who had stumbled across this site by mistake. She then tipped off Don Ladd, who also sent me a nice note.

I really needed the encouragement this week. It’s been a busy and stressful week, and I’m not completely certain why. We’re working on a special section at the newspaper which has required a lot of busy work, and a lot of rushing around. I’ve been worried about finances — both my own and for the Kenya trip (although there’s good news on the latter front below). I’ve just been in one of my moods.

My Utmost for His Highest: An Updated Edition in Today's LanguageI’ve been reading “My Utmost For His Highest” every night at bedtime, and good ol’ Oswald said the other night that I need to get off my self-pity and focus on God. I’m trying.

Yesterday, I guess I had too much caffeine or something. I stayed up a few minutes later than normal to see something on television, but when I finally hit the bed I just laid there, sleepless, for about an hour.

Today, of course, I had an hour ( an hour and a half, counting the TV time) less sleep, and that only exascerbated the angst and stress I’d been feeling all week.

There have been some bright spots, though. I found out today that I placed (not first, but I placed) in one category in some state journalism awards; I can’t give you the specifics until the award luncheon in July. I got a generous mission trip donation from a local business today, and someone else asked me about how much I had left to raise in a way that makes me think this person has something up his sleeve.

Your next American Idol

Two seasons ago, my then-co-worker Chris Oakes talked me into watching “American Idol” near the end of the season, which was the classic Ruben-vs.-Clay battle. I actually enjoyed it, much to my surprise, but when I started watching the 2004 season I didn’t become a regular viewer. I actually got turned off at about the point last year when the judges started lecturing the viewers for voting off the wrong people — why ask for our opinion and then tell us we were wrong? To make matters worse, some of the blame for our “wrong” voting was heaped on the back of one of the youngest competitors — a young boy still in high school. In disgust, I stopped watching.

By this year, some of my resentment had worn off and I watched an episode or two. But it never really piqued my interest.

Lately, of course, my viewing options are a lot more limited. I ended up watching tonight to see the final three contestants (which was about where I had joined the Clay-vs.-Ruben battle two years earlier).

The two ladies were fine, but Bo Bice hit a home run. Each contestant got to sing three songs — one selected by record mogul Clive Davis, one self-selected and one selected by one of the three regular judges. Bice’s self-chosen song was sung a cappella — the first time anyone’s tried that in the serious portion of the competition before. I forget the title of the song, but it was great. And Bice also did a terrific job with Elton John’s “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me.” His “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” was inoffensive — a fatal flaw when performing a Rolling Stones song — but even so, he really did a terrific job tonight.

Lake Neuron Lite — all the blither, none of the meaning

I saw an ad for Edy’s Grand Light ice cream last night which claimed it tastes just as good as full-fat ice cream.

No disrespect to Edy’s — they make a fine product — but I’m always a little flabbergasted when a TV ad claims that the low-fat or low-cal version tastes just like the original. If that were really true, why would you need to keep making the original version? You could simply reformulate your flagship brand rather than making a “light” version of it.

It would be more accurate to say that the light version tastes “almost like” the original. But that doesn’t make as compelling a commercial.

Another take on Trek

My brother Michael pointed me to this fine fine essay by James Lileks about the end of “Star Trek: Enterprise.” Lileks, in his screamingly funny book “Fresh Lies” (sadly, out of print), has a piece poking fun at the reverence some fans have for The Original Series over its successors. He runs counter to fan consensus here, as well, expressing his admiration for “Enterprise” and saying that the romance between Trip and T’Pol is the only such believable romantic relationship in any of the Star Trek series.

I don’t agree with every single point, but Lileks is always worth reading.