RIP Anthony Bourdain

Nothing like waking up to heartbreak on a Friday morning. Brewing the coffee and rubbing my eyes as they announce that Anthony Bourdain has taken his own life in Paris. Crushing. Bourdain was the greatest punk rockish storyteller on television — his prose was dagger sharp, his disposition was brooding and snarky, and yet he took great joy in exploring the world through sharing a savory meal with smart and interesting people. Television anchors are a dime a dozen. Blah! But, Bourdain was part Keith Richards, part James Beard, part Hunter S. Thompson. He had a unique gift of transporting us to locations around the globe where he was really the only suitable tour guide. May he find rest for his troubled soul.

Bourdain: “Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.”

RIP Anthony Bourdain

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On Eating Alone in Paris

Rue Montorgueil, a pedestrian thoroughfare lined with specialty food shops, gives the solo traveler an opportunity to pick up picnic provisions, or a sweet treat. CreditJoann Pai for The New York Times

By Stephanie Rosenbloom, New York Times

France has its share of fast-food chains. Still, the French have historically spent more time eating than the people of other nations — more than two hours a day, according to a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. As the writer Alice B. Toklas wrote, the French bring to the table “the same appreciation, respect, intelligence and lively interest that they have for the other arts, for painting, for literature and for the theatre.”

Eating alone, however, in Paris and beyond, has soured plenty of appetites. Nathaniel Hawthorne cherished his solitude (“It is so sweet to be alone,” he wrote to his wife in 1844), but not at mealtime. “I am ashamed to eat alone,” he noted in his diary. “It becomes the mere gratification of animal appetite … these solitary meals are the dismallest part of my present experience.”

Solo dining even prompted the Pope to look for company. Vatican tradition had called for the pontiff to eat by himself. But in 1959, during Pope John XXIII’s first year as the spiritual ruler, the Daily Boston Globe published the headline: “He Shatters Tradition, Refuses to Dine Alone.” “I tried it for one week, and I was not comfortable,” the pontiff explained. “Then I searched through sacred scripture for something saying I had to eat alone. I found nothing, so I gave it up, and it’s much better now.”

To read the entire article, click HERE

 

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Clarence Fountain, Leader And Founding Member Of Blind Boys Of Alabama, Dies At 88

Clarence Fountain, founding member and longtime leader of The Blind Boys of Alabama. The singer died June 3, 2018 in Baton Rouge, La. (Photo by J. Shearer/WireImage)

By Andrew Flanagan, NPR

Blind Boys of Alabama, originally called the Happyland Jubilee Singers when the group was founded in 1944, played a large role in shepherding gospel music into mainstream popularity. Largely due to Fountain’s holy dedication, the band forever resisted calls to transition into the more commercial genres it helped birth: R&B and rock and roll. “There was no way we were going to go pop or rock,” Fountain is quoted in a press release confirming his death. “Who needed it? Our bellies were full, we had no headaches, we were happy. At least I was happy, singing real gospel.”

To read entire NPR article, click HERE

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Huelo Lookout, Road to Hana, Maui

Huelo Lookout. Steve Beard.

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Haleakalā National Park, Road to Hana, Maui

Haleakalā National Park. Steve Beard

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The Father of Gospel Music Wanted to Be a Secular Star

By Kathryn Kemp

Thomas Dorsey was 33 years old and had a flourishing career in secular music. In the previous 15 years, the Georgia native had moved to Chicago, completed his musical studies while picking up an endless number of side jobs, and eventually found a way to support himself and his expectant wife as a full-time musician. But it wasn’t to last. In the next months, Dorsey would lose his spouse and newborn son, a tragedy which spurred him to heed the advice of those closest to him. He would leave the secular music scene behind and fully dedicate his musical gifts to the church.

Over the next 60 years, Dorsey became known as the “Father of Gospel Music,” penning hundreds of songs and redefining the genre in beat, rhythm, and tempo. As The Voice reported, the Chicago musician dubbed his work “songs with a message.”
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A prolific songwriter throughout his 93 years of life—Dorsey died in 1993—he nevertheless kept a soft spot for the hymn that catapulted his gospel career, calling it “the greatest song I have written out of near four hundred gospel songs.”

“The price exacted for ‘Precious Lord’ was very high,” he said at the age of 70, alluding to the loss of his first wife and son. “The grief, the sorrow, the loneliness, the loss, the uncertainty of the future, but I was requited or repaid with double dividends and compound interest.”

Read entire article HERE

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U2’s Songs of Experience: A Liturgy for Existentialists

By Tim Neufeld, @U2

It’s been a long time since a U2 album has had this kind of staying power in my soul. Songs Of Experience taps something primal in me. While I appreciate it as a great collection of singable, feel-good lyrics and tunes, it’s the depth of the album as a concept project, and the collective synergy of its songs about fear, doubt, insecurity, death, life and love, that entices me.

Existentialists ask the kind of big questions about our existence that are addressed on U2’s latest. Questions such as, “Why am I here?” “What is the meaning of life?” and “What is my place in the universe?” The architects of existentialism, including Kierkegaard, Dostoyevsky, Sartre and Nietzsche, were dissatisfied with rationalism and reacted against a “science will save us” attitude that dominated the Age of Enlightenment. Rationalists ask, “How does this work?” In contrast, existentialists ask, “Why do we exist?”

Bono has quoted Nietzsche numerous times over the years. On the Vertigo tour we heard a paraphrase of the philosopher’s famous aphorism, “He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster.” Nietzsche also said, “To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering,” and “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”

Victor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor who suffered in Auschwitz and Dachau, wrote his famous book, Man’s Search For Meaning, after he was rescued. He concluded that people are capable of finding meaning even in the most horrendous conditions of death, despair and darkness. He wrote, “What is to give light must endure burning.” Existentialists argue that meaning can only be found by authentically experiencing life itself, especially in the darkest of hours.

Songs Of Experience could have easily been titled Songs Of Existence. The search for purpose is seen throughout. Undoubtedly, Bono’s “brush with mortality” colored his own experience. In the liner notes for SOE, he says it left him “clinging on to my own life like a raft.” He continues, “…it would feel dishonest not to admit the turbulence I was feeling at the time of writing.” This kind of here-and-now honesty about mortality is paramount for existentialists.

The flow of U2’s latest album is rhythmic chaos, like a liturgy exploring existence, moving through experiences of doubt, anger, confession and ultimately resolving in hope. Here’s a look at SOE through the lens of existentialism.

Read Dr. Neufeld’s entire analysis HERE.

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Robert Williams Lives the Dream as Big Sandy

Photo by John Gilhooley

By Taylor Hamby, OC Weekly

“I never imagined in a million years where the music would take me to or the places it did,” confides Robert Williams, dressed to the nines in a crisp, black, 1950s suit with a subtly rainbow-flecked vintage shirt he picked up from Elsewhere Vintage in the Orange Circle. His hair is neatly combed and slicked-back, and the sharp lines of his attire and hairdo contrast with his soft face and gentle smile. “But man, what a ride.”

We’re tucked into the far-right corner booth of the Fling, the legendary old-school lounge, not unlike how the dive bar itself is tucked into the far corner of a blue-collar strip mall in a working-class neighborhood of Santa Ana. A few shots of Patron tequila in, and Williams is getting sentimental. He can’t help it—he was practically born nostalgic. And he’s a romantic at heart. As much as hopeless romantics are compelled to put on a good show, it always comes back to matters of the heart in the end.

“The band has been my romance,” Williams confides. “And it’s cost me a few romances, too.”

Read Taylor Hamby’s complete article, HERE

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Gospel Americana and That Old-Time Religion

By Easy Ed, No Depression

It’s hard to escape the influence that gospel music has had on almost every form of American roots and popular music. It’s always fascinated me that some of the greatest spirituals have been performed by pill-poppin’ and bottle drinkin’ fornicators and sinners, and there is a long list of those who have easily crossed that highway. Little Richard and Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Sam Cooke quickly come to mind.

Which brings me back to the aforementioned Jimmy Lee Swaggart.

In February 1988 Swaggart admitted to his audience that he had sinned, and was suspended by the Assemblies of God for sexual immorality. Because they felt he wasn’t repentant enough, he was defrocked. Two years later, now an independent Pentacostal preacher, he was found in the company of a prostitute for the second time. Instead of offering yet another public apology, he stood on the pulpit and declared “The Lord told me it’s flat none of your business.”

On my own spiritual path, somewhere along the way I’ve moved from atheism to becoming a reluctant agnostic. Ceremonial trappings, century-old traditions, preachers on television with toll-free numbers on the screen, and the hypocrisy of those who espouse family values yet embrace politicians who ritually lie, cheat, and steal will not cause me to repent nor accept a savior. But to each their own. Nature, emotion, art, and music in all its glorious forms are my higher power. And I say amen to that.

Read entire column HERE

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Lava in Paradise

USGS

More than awestruck with the Kilauea volcano on the Big Island. Anyone who has been to the Big Island knows that volcanos are part of the living arrangement with your surroundings. Nevertheless, the recent earthquakes, lava flow, and toxic gas erupting out of fissures are still both magnetically fascinating and traumatic. According to the US Geological Society, lava was shooting 230 feet in the air out of some of these fissures. While the risks were known, it remains heartbreaking for families to lose their homes to waves of molten lava in paradise.

USGS

“During a volcanic eruption, we are reminded that our planet is an ever-changing environment whose basic processes are beyond human control,” wisely states the National Park Service. “As much as we have altered the face of the Earth to suit our needs, we can only stand in awe before the power of an eruption.” All you have to do is clean up after a hurricane, typhoon, blizzard, earthquake, or flood, and you learn to respect the power of the forces in our natural world and zeal of Mother Nature. The Hawaiians show deference to Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess said to live inside Kilauea, when asked about the fate of their homes. “What can you do? You have no control over it,” one man told the AP while at an evacuation shelter. “Pele’s the boss, you know.”

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