This new ABC show about Music City may be a mixed bag, but in its first two episodes it also has hooked me in. There are few more ripe milieus – and one I have personal and professional experience with – than Nashville’s music industry. And the dramatic fulcrum on which this show balances, the tension and dynamic between old-school country music artists and the styles of yore versus the new young country music and its stars driven by image, marketing and demographics, is a potent reality that the show at first glance rather effectively addresses. Its merits are star and producer Connie Britton, who shone as Tammy Taylor in the landmark series “Friday Night Lights” and does here as well, plus the presence of the almost ubiquitous T Bone Burnett as its music supervisor, bringing some taste and quality to the music in the show. On the other hand, it too often verges into afternoon soap opera territory and comes off like the cheesy “Dynasty” with a country soundtrack. The reality of the true-life soap opera along Music Row is far tackier and in some ways more nasty. Plus the show has yet to bring in a major aspect of Nashville’s music business culture – the social and industry politics of membership in conservative Christian churches. If this show finds the right sea legs, it could grow into a winner. I will keep following it for now in the hope that it does.
Whether Mitt Romney wins (God forbid) or loses (I pray) the presidential election, this examination of Mormonism through the candidate’s prism is still essential viewing. More so if he is elected, yet also as an insightful look inside a faith that is growing in membership, political and cultural influence and power, the last of which the Mormon Church has long aspired to achieve. It makes plain and obvious why Romney’s religion is a very good reason not to vote for him and to be gravely concerned if he occupies the land’s highest office, spotlighting its questionable practices that make Mormonism more like a cult than a genuine religion, given the specious circumstances of its founding.
This documentary provides a very telling and compelling insight into an aspect of American religious life that both true persons of faith as well as atheists and agnostics alike should become aware of and heed if not fear its influence on national life.
As a companion to my opinion column on TV documentaries about war in this issue, I must tout Vietnam veteran O’Brien’s novels, short stories and non-fiction essays. I came across his superb 1973 autobiographical book about his experiences in that war, If I Die in a Combat Zone: Box Me Up and Ship Me Home, which led me back to rereading his 1978 National Book Award winning novel, Going After Cacciato that I first enjoyed in the early 1980s. It is even more impressive the second time around in its evocative, absorbing and vividly written story that I would characterize as American magical realism. I feel it’s the best war novel ever written, and that is up against such literary landmarks as War and Peace, The Red Badge of Courage and All Quiet on the Western Front. Next up on my reading queue is his book of Vietnam short stories, The Things They Carried. The case can be made that O’Brien is the greatest living American writer. He was recently honored with the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and this underscores the point of my column that one must first understand the full dimensions of war in order to prevent it and maybe achieve the noble — if at times seemingly hopelessly naïve — goal of true world peace. No writer offers better insight into war that might help mankind aspire to and maybe even achieve the evolution to that higher plane of human existence on this troubled and threatened planet.
Rob Patterson is a music and entertainment writer in Austin, Texas. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
From The Progressive Populist, November 15, 2012
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