Tom Petty on greed and power

“Through these hypnotic eyes, we’re told we’re nothing if we don’t have a mansion and dress like a movie star,” Tom Petty says. “I’ve never seen so much jewelry advertised. It’s hard on a young person to not think that’s the game. When I was growing up, people didn’t expect to get a swimming pool.

“You can boil all the world’s problems down to one word: greed,” Petty says. “It’s not greed on the part of poor people. It’s these very wealthy people who make a lot of money and then live only to make more. The money starts to make them miserable because they’re worried about somebody getting it. Then the money’s not enough and they seek power. Very few people on this globe know how to responsibly handle power. It’s gone into the hands of really shaky people who don’t care who they hurt in their quest to have more money than they’ll ever need.”

To read Edna Gundersen’s entire article,  click HERE

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Jack White’s patron saints

Excerpt: “Jack Outside the Box” by Josh Eells, New York Times

White was brought up Catholic, and he still feels an affinity for the martyrs and saints. He likes their devotion, the purity of their sacrifice — especially St. Sebastian, the patron saint of endurance, and St. Rita, the patron saint of the impossible. He also admired Simeon Stylites, a Christian ascetic in fifth-century Syria who spent almost 40 years living atop a huge stone pillar, despite frequent entreaties to come down and not a few doubts about his motives.

White seemed to relate. “People were saying, ‘You’re just doing this for show, you’re not really devoted, you’re crazy, you’re self-indulgent,’ ” he said. “So he came down and stood on the ground and said: ‘I’m down here. Now what? Am I proving to you that this is not what it’s about?’ ” Then, White said, “he went right back up.”

White once said he has three dads: his biological father, God and Bob Dylan. Dylan was the first concert he ever saw — he says he had seat No. 666 — and he shares with his hero a love for manipulating and obscuring his own persona.

Some things we know. He was born John Anthony Gillis, the 10th of 10 children, and — in a rare instance of mythology dovetailing with reality — the seventh son. His father, Gorman, was a maintenance man at the archdiocese of Detroit; his mother, Teresa, was the cardinal’s secretary. They named him after John the Baptist.

To read Jason Eells’s full New York Times article, click HERE

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On the anniversary of Jimi Hendrix’s death

RIP Jimi Hendrix, who died in London on September 18, 1970. A year before his death, Dick Cavett asked Hendrix if music had meaning.

Jimi Hendrix: Oh, yeah, definitely, it’s getting to be more spiritual than anything now. Pretty soon I believe that they’re gonna … have to rely on music to … get some kind of peace of mind, or satisfaction – direction, actually – more so than politics, because like politics is really … a big fat ego scene – the art of words which mean nothing. Therefore, you have to rely on a more earthier substance, like music or the arts, theatre, you know, acting, painting, whatever.

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Lady Gaga praying rosary; explaining ailment

From Lady Gaga’s Instagram account: I have always been honest about my physical and mental health struggles. Searching for years to get to the bottom of them. It is complicated and difficult to explain, and we are trying to figure it out. As I get stronger and when I feel ready, I will tell my story in more depth, and plan to take this on strongly so I can not only raise awareness, but expand research for others who suffer as I do, so I can help make a difference. I use the word “suffer” not for pity, or attention, and have been disappointed to see people online suggest that I’m being dramatic, making this up, or playing the victim to get out of touring. If you knew me, you would know this couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m a fighter. I use the word suffer not only because trauma and chronic pain have changed my life, but because they are keeping me from living a normal life. They are also keeping me from what I love the most in the world: performing for my fans. I am looking forward to touring again soon, but I have to be with my doctors right now so I can be strong and perform for you all for the next 60 years or more. I love you so much.

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How a private meeting with Billy Graham changed actor Steve McQueen’s life

“Steve McQueen: American Icon” is a documentary feature film about the Hollywood actor’s spiritual journey, which included a meeting late in his life with evangelist Billy Graham.

By Tim Funk

Actor Steve McQueen, who personified cool during his nearly two decades as a Hollywood superstar, retreated from the glamor and excesses of the movie scene late in his short life and embraced Christianity. When he died at age 50, McQueen was clutching a Bible – one given to him by Billy Graham.

In fact, it was Graham’s personal Bible, the one he preached from at crusades. The Charlotte-born evangelist had handed it to the actor, then gravely ill with cancer, during a private meeting Nov. 3, 1980 – just four days before McQueen died after surgery in Mexico.

Nearly 37 years later, the story of Steve McQueen’s faith journey is finally about to be told on the big screen – the medium that made him internationally famous as the action hero in hits such as “Bullitt” and “The Great Escape.” …

Viewers are told that McQueen took along the Graham Bible – with a prayerful note from the evangelist on an inside page – when he traveled to Juarez, Mexico, for the operation to remove a tumor.

The actor died of a heart attack shortly afterward, on Nov. 7, 1980. And when Grady Ragsdale, the manager of McQueen’s ranch in California, went to retrieve the body, he pulled the sheet back and found that McQueen had died clutching the Bible to his chest. …

In an 1980 interview with the Asheville Citizen not long after McQueen’s death, Graham called his meeting with the actor “one of the most heartwarming stories of my ministry. I think it illustrates how lonely most well-known people are, how guarded they must live and how they really are searching for something. Steve McQueen found what he was searching for.”…

Steve McQueen became a movie star in the 1960s, establishing his image as the King of Cool in the roles of the motorcycle-riding POW in “The Great Escape” and the Ford Mustang-driving police detective in “Bullitt.” Other McQueen hits in that decade and in the 1970s included: “The Magnificent Seven,” “The Cincinnati Kid,” “The Sand Pebbles,” “The Thomas Crown Affair,” “Towering Inferno,” “The Reivers,” “Le Mans,” “The Getaway” and “Junior Bonner.”

To read Tim Funk’s Charlotte Observer full article, click HERE.

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The Man Came Around: Remembering Johnny Cash

Art by Zela Lobb

In memory of Johnny Cash who died on this date in 2003, this is the obituary that I wrote for National Review after his death.

By Steve Beard

“We’ve seen the secret things revealed by God/ And we heard what the angels had to say/ Should you go first, or if you follow me/ Will you meet me in Heaven someday?”

Johnny Cash wrote those lyrics many years ago for his wife, June Carter. The song is entitled “Meet Me In Heaven” and it testifies to the irreplaceable bond of love, trust, and devotion that was shared by the couple throughout their 35-year marriage.

On Friday, September 12, Johnny Cash died at age 71 of complications from his longstanding bout with diabetes. Nearly four months after the passing of his beloved wife June Carter, the legendary Man In Black discovered the answer to his lyrical question.

It is strangely fitting that his last album, “The Man Comes Around,” will epitomize his legacy. It deftly embodied the gritty and brooding sound that marked his remarkable career.

Although Cash justifiably received numerous accolades for his rendition of Trent Reznor’s song “Hurt” and its accompanying video, the title track of the album has been widely heralded as one of Cash’s greatest songs.

“The Man Comes Around” is about the Day of Reckoning and the notion that there will be an accounting for the way in which we live on earth. It is described by Cash collaborator Marty Stuart as “the most strangely marvelous, wonderful, gothic, mysterious, Christian thing that only God and Johnny Cash could create together” – perhaps the finest tribute that can be paid to a songwriter.

“Everybody won’t be treated the same,” Cash wrote, “There’ll be a golden ladder reaching down when the Man comes around.” The swinging ladder from above never was an unfamiliar sight to Cash — dodging death numerous times from drug-related addictions earlier in his career to health-related maladies in his later years.

If American music had a Mount Rushmore, Cash’s distinctive profile would be prominently chiseled into the rock. He is most widely known for hits such as “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Ring of Fire,” and “I Walk the Line,” selling more than 50 million records throughout his career. He is the only person to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Country Music Hall of Fame, and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. His audiences have included presidents, prisoners, and everyone in between.

Throughout his illustrative life, Cash wrote books, hosted a popular television show, starred in and produced movies, and recorded 1,500 songs that can be found on 500 albums. His appeal is recognized by everyone from rappers to roughneck steel workers because of his charismatic magnetism that has spanned five decades of popular culture.

“Locust and honey…not since John the Baptist has there been a voice like that crying in the wilderness,” is how U2′s Bono described him. “The most male voice in Christendom. Every man knows he is a sissy compared to Johnny Cash.”

His songwriting orbited around the universal human condition of sin and redemption, murder and grace, darkness and light. His recent three-album collection is titled “Love God Murder.” What you see is what you get with Cash. There was never a manufactured feeling to his art. When he sang, you could almost taste the hillbilly moonshine, smell the gunpowder of a smoking revolver, and feel the drops of blood off the thorny crown of a crucified Christ.

In 1968, he recorded his now famous album “Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison” and produced “Live At San Quentin” the following year. The prison albums were some of his most expressive and impressive work. “I was in the prison band in San Quentin when I first saw Johnny Cash,” remembered country singer Merle Haggard. “I was impressed with his ability to take five thousand convicts and steal the show away from a bunch of strippers. That’s pretty hard to do.”

“My biggest selling albums have always been the prison albums,” Cash once told Rolling Stone. “I think there’s a little bit of criminal in all of us. Everybody’s done something they don’t want anybody to know about. Maybe that’s where it comes from.” Cash had a special affinity for the outlaws and down-and-outers. He recalled the inspiring moment when an inmate at the Tennessee State Prison told him, “I believe I can make it another five years. I know somebody out there cares, cares enough to come in here and sing for us.”

Of course, Cash spent his fair share of time behind bars for incidents surrounding his alcohol and drug use — mostly overnights in holding cells. He turned to drugs as his career began to take off in 1958. At first, he looked upon them as a divine favor from above. He once told Larry King, “I honestly thought it was a blessing — a gift from God.” But it did not take him long to realize that he was deceiving himself and that the drugs were trinkets of the Devil, luring him deeper into retreat mode from unresolved issues in his life.

“Drugs were an escape for me, a crutch — a substitute for what I now feel. I was looking for a spiritual high to put myself above my problems,” he recalled, “and I guess I was running from a lot of things. I was running from family, I was running from God, and from everything I knew I should be doing but wasn’t.”

Throughout this entire time, he never stopped singing gospel songs. He was stoned on amphetamines while he sang “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord,” one of his most beloved songs. “I used to sing all those gospel songs, but I really never felt them,” he recalls. “And maybe I was a little bit ashamed of myself at the time because of the hypocrisy of it all: there I was, singing the praises of the Lord and singing about the beauty and the peace you can find in Him — and I was stoned.” He was in a drug-addled hell but these old gospel songs were etched deeply in his DNA. “They were the first songs I ever heard — and I know this sounds corny, but they’re the songs my mother sang to me.”

Cash’s freedom from long-term drug addiction came through of the power of prayer and the stern hand of his wife who walked by his side through the dark night of the soul. Looking back on the difficult years, Cash says that the drugs “devastated me physically and emotionally — and spiritually. That last one hurt so much: to put myself in such a low state that I couldn’t communicate with God. There’s no lonelier place to be. I was separated from God, and I wasn’t even trying to call on Him. I knew that there was no line of communication. But He came back. And I came back.”

Back in the 1970s when he became more serious about his faith, Cash says it was Billy Graham who advised him to “keep singing ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ and ‘A Boy Named Sue,’ and all those other outlaw songs if that’s what people wanted to hear – and then, when it came time to do a gospel song, give it everything I had. Put my heart and soul into all my music, in fact; never compromise; take no prisoners.” Cash subsequently sang in the sold-out honky-tonks of the world and the jam-packed arenas of the Billy Graham crusades — never allowing himself to be too easily pigeonholed by the holy or the heathens.

Johnny Cash was an irreplaceable American original who will be remembered as a cross between Jesse James and Moses – an enigmatic man in black, with a heart of gold, and a voice that could raise the dead. Now that the Man has come around for him, one imagines he’s met his June in Heaven.

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Cuba took a direct hit from Hurricane Irma — and may have spared Florida from worse damage

Cubans recover belongings in Havana after the passage of Hurricane Irma. (Yamil Lage / AFP/Getty Images)

Hurricane Irma killed at least 10 people during the 72 hours that it battered Cuba, damaging nearly every region of the island nation and leaving parts of Havana’s picturesque historic district still underwater Monday, authorities said.

Its collision with Cuba and other Caribbean islands sapped some of its energy, possibly saving Florida from worse damage. By the time Irma made landfall on Marco Island, on the Florida peninsula, its winds had dropped from 185 mph to 130 mph. While still a massive storm — it was about 400 miles wide — Irma ended up causing less than the catastrophic damage that many had feared.

Cuba, however, was not so lucky.

The storm first hit there at 9 p.m. Friday, slamming the island’s northern coast and becoming the first Category 5 hurricane to make landfall in Cuba in more than 80 years. Irma did not leave the country until Sunday afternoon.

Given the storm’s immense girth, few parts of the island were spared. Even Havana, hundreds of miles from where the hurricane first struck, suffered severe flooding and wind damage, with waves up to 30 feet lashing the seaside boardwalk known as the Malecon.

Read Kate Linthicum’s entire Los Angeles Times piece HERE.

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Texans don’t trust government, so they rescued each other

Ken Jacobs carries 5-year-old Astrid Galperin from a rescue boat on Thursday. Jacobs, who is operations director for a kayak tour/rental business in Houston, was one of many everyday residents who played a role in rescue efforts. John Taggart For The Washington Post

Kevin Sullivan and Peter Holley describe an “unprecedented do-it-yourself relief effort that came to define Hurricane Harvey. After the storm blew into Houston, a remarkable network of boat owners with smartphones, worried neighbors with laptops and digital wizards with mapping software popped up to summon and support an army of good Samaritans who motored, rowed and waded into dangerous waters to save family, friends and total strangers.”

“The ‘We the People’ response seemed distinctly Texan, an outgrowth of the state’s almost genetic disinclination to rely on the government for anything – and in some cases, resolute willingness to defy it. Just as some Texans defied mandatory evacuation orders ahead of the storm, many rescuers ignored repeated official warnings to stay off streets flooded with treacherous and fast-flowing waters.”

To read entire Star-Telegram story, click HERE.


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High-End Steakhouse Meals for Houston’s Heroes

First responders sit down for an extraordinary free meal at B&B Butchers and Restaurant.

Ben Berg’s house flooded waist-high last Sunday. After settling his family with friends, Berg’s next order of business was to open his popular steakhouse, B&B Butcher and Restaurant, as a feeding station for first responders.

He opened B&B Butchers with a special three-course menu with generous selections offered free to Houston’s heroes. The tableside service was offered throughout the weekend during which he had fed steak and salmon dinners to more than 200 police officers as of Saturday afternoon.

For the first responders who could not make it to the restaurant, Berg and his staff have continued to prepare and deliver hot meals — more than 2,000 through Saturday — to the sheriff’s department and the neighboring fire and police stations.

“Although I am exhausted trying to move forward after my own family’s losses, I am dedicated to feeding these brave men and women who have risked their lives for Houstonians, including myself, over the past several days,” Berg said in a statement. “I created this menu because I wanted the first responders who could get away to come in, sit down, be waited on, and just feel really appreciated.”

To read Shelby Hodge’s complete Paper City Mag story, click HERE.

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Joy as an act of defiance

Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr., Bono and the Edge. Photo by Sam Jones, New York Times

It appears at a moment when popular culture is gathering its spirit of righteousness and resistance — a moment that could well be suited to U2, whose pealing guitars and martial beats have, through the years, become rock’s sonic signature of idealism. “Songs of Experience” merges personal reflections with tidings from the wider world, and it calls for compassion, empathy and rectitude. “The wickedness in the world, we just let it perforate the album,” Bono said. “But it still had to be a very personal album, not a polemic.”


“You’re putting out a song about your girlfriend when the world is on fire?,” Bono asked, anticipating one reaction. “Yes. Joy is an act of defiance.”


Many of the songs, Bono said, are like letters addressed to specific recipients: his family, his friends, the audience, America. Above all, the new album posits “joy as an act of defiance,” Bono said. “That’s the heart of rock ’n’ roll, that’s its life force.”


“What’s the difference between ‘Innocence’ and “Experience’?” Bono said. “The core of ‘Innocence’ to me is a lyric from our second album, which says, ‘I can’t change the world, but I can change the world in me.’ The core of ‘Experience’ is — and this is cheeky! — ‘I can change the world, but I can’t change the world in me.’ And so you realize that the biggest obstacle in the way is yourself. There are things to rail against, and there are things that deserve your rage, and you must plot and conspire to overthrow them. But the most wily and fearsome of your enemies is going to turn out to be yourself. And that’s experience.”

To read an entire New York Times article, click HERE

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