Happy Friday everyone. I hope you’re having a great week and that you’re looking forward to the weekend. Here are my random Friday thoughts.
GREETINGS FROM “MUSIC CITY USA”!
When we left the Quad Cities Wednesday, it was 47° and we drove seven hours to Grand Rivers, Kentucky, to check out the Christmas lights and have dinner at my favorite restaurant, Patti’s 1880′s and the temperature there was 72°.
That’s my dinner. It’s called “Ella Mae’s Chicken”: freshly grilled asparagus over grilled chicken breast topped with black forest ham and sautéed mushrooms covered in homemade cheese sauce. This was after appetizers of homemade cheese sticks and a blossoming onion and before we ate dessert!
On Thursday, we drove the final two hours to Nashville, Tennessee, dropping my sister off in Clarksville, about an hour northwest of Nashville, so she could spend the weekend with her kids and two granddaughters.
Our first stop in Nashville before checking into the Opryland Hotel was a visit to the Reba McEntire exhibit, “All The Women I Am”, at the Country Music Hall of Fame.
These are various “Fancy” performance dresses.
IT LOOKS LIKE CHRISTMAS AT OUR HOTEL
Last night, we saw the “Radio City Christmas Spectacular featuring the Rockettes”. The sets were incredible and the dancing was festive and fun. Sadly, no pictures were allowed!
REST OF THE WEEKEND PLANS
Tonight, in a major ice storm, we’ll see “Lorrie Morgan’s Enchanted Christmas & Dinner Show”. Tomorrow, it’s a lunch cruise on the Cumberland River on the General Jackson and tomorrow night, Opry at the Ryman, with Vince Gill, Kathy Mattea, Chris Carmack (who plays Will Lexington on ABC’s “Nashville”) and many others.
SINGER BECOMES BIG TIME SONG WRITER
25-year-old Texan Shane McAnally was signed to Curb Records and released his first single, “Say Anything” in 1999, which peaked at #41. The follow-up single, “Are Your Eyes Still Blue” was his only Top 40 country hit, peaking at #31.
I loved both of those songs and I was probably one of the few people who took a chance on the newcomer and bought his debut and only album. After that, Shane dropped off the radar and moved to West Hollywood, California, and started bartending and performing as “Shane Mack”.
In California, Shane was able to be openly gay. Since he started living his life openly, he married his partner of six years, Michael Baum, in September 2012, and the couple welcomed a daughter and a son in December of last year.
I was pleasantly surprised this fall to see “Entertainment Weekly” give Shane the much overdue recognition that he deserves.
Shane returned to Nashville in a big way in 2008 as a co-writer of LeAnn Womack’s Top 15 hit, “Last Call”. Since then, he has written #1 songs for Kenny Chesney, Jake Owens, The Band Perry, Lady Antebellum, and Miranda Lambert. He also penned three songs for Reba McEntire’s 2010 album, “All The Women I Am” album.
And, this year, he co-produced my favorite country album 0f 2013, the #1 “Same Trailer Different Park” by Kacey Musgraves.
Shane, I wish you, Michael, and your children much happiness in 2014 and here’s to continued success in country music. I hope to hear more of your singing in the future, too.
MEANWHILE, NOT SO GOOD TENNESSEE NEWS
While we’re having a good time in Nashville, a recent report from “24/7 Wall Street” doesn’t paint a rosy picture of Tennessee, ranking it as “the most dangerous state” in the United States.
It’s followed by Nevada, Alaska, New Mexico, South Carolina, Delaware, Louisiana, Florida, Maryland, and Oklahoma!
The site ranks Tennessee #1 for aggravated assaults and in the top ten for murders and robbery. In 2012, there were 388 murders, which is up for the second straight year.
Across the nation, Memphis ranks fifth and Nashville is at #18 for violent crimes.
Take this ranking and the information from “24/7 Wall Street” with a grain of salt, since the “Crime in Chicago” website reported 537 murders in the “Windy City” in 2012. (As of December 1st, the site reports there have been 422 murders in Chicago in 2013.)
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
ICE STORM SOUTH, SNOW IN THE QUAD CITIES
Two rounds of ice will be heavily glazing the Nashville, Tennessee, area tonight and, again, Saturday night. It’s going to get scary down here. Meanwhile, on Sunday, several inches of snow are expected in the Quad Cities. It looks like, at least, two inches are likely.
I’ll have more on this tomorrow to keep you ahead of the snow in Illinois and Iowa.
FRESH VENDING MACHINE SALAD
I know it’s easy to grab fast food or something out a vending machine when you’re working and eat it at your desk. However, if you had the option, would you choose a fresh salad from a vending machine for a healthy alternative?
That is the option for people living or working near the Loop in Chicago near Clark and Lake.
Farmer’s Fridge has installed its first vending machine salad, fruits, and vegetables prepared fresh daily and packaged in recyclable plastic jar.
The $8 salads are available at 10 a.m. and come in seven varieties including North Napa, Mediterranean, Crunchy Thai, The Cheater, and three other flavors. The dressings include lemon tahini, spicy soy peanut, red wine vinaigrette, and four other flavors.
ISRAELIS TAKE A STAND AGAINST RUSSIA
As you know from reading my blog, I’ve been very outspoken against Russia’s homophobic laws and the 2014 Sochi Olympics, which are two months away. There’s now a new Israeli campaign speaking out about the bloodshed and violence against the LGBT community in Russia.
“Red Flag”, similar to the American NOH8 campaign, was started by David and Jonathan, the publisher of the international lifestyle magazine, “F.O.D.”, for the Tel-Aviv gay man community.
Actors, singers, activists, drag queens, and the LGBT community were encouraged to take part in the photo shoot wearing Russian army uniforms with blood coming out of their mouths to bring attention to the violence brought against Russian and Ukrainian LGBT people.
Organizers say, “Russia 2013 is a death trap for the LGBT community. This discriminating law is backed up with aggressive enforcement by the army and the police. Arresting activists in the LGBT community or any person suspected of being involved in “propaganda” has become a normal routine. This law refers to tourists from out-of-state and even athletes participating in the winter Olympics.”
Earlier in the blog, I profiled Shane McAnally and mentioned that he co-produced Kacey Musgraves’ debut album.
He also co-wrote nine of the album’s twelve songs, including the first three singles: “Merry Go Round” (#14), “Blowin’ Smoke” (#31 peak), and her current single, “Follow Your Arrow”,which is at #28.
“Follow Your Arrow” is witty and poignant. Here’s a sample of the lyrics: “You’re damned if you do/and you’re damned if you don’t/so you might as well do whatever you want, so make lots of noise/kiss lots of boys/kiss lots of girls/if that’s something you’re into”
Cheers, Kacey & Shane!
DALLAS BUYER’S CLUB
“And, the Academy Award for Best Actor Matthew McConaughey for “Dallas Buyers Club”.
The movie is based on a true story. Ron Woodruff was a homophobic, hard-living, good ol’ Texas boy who loved his liquor, drugs, and women. In 1986, he was diagnosed with AIDS and told that he had 30 days to live.
He tried to get on the AZT trials that were being rushed onto the market to fight the AIDS pandemic. Since he was denied that opportunity, Woodruff started buying it on the black market. When he almost died, he came up with a plan to smuggle medications out of Mexico to try to stay alive. Since Ron couldn’t sell the drugs, he started a membership only “buyers club” to distribute the Food & Drug Administration-unapproved medication.
McConaughey, who plays Woodruff, lost about 50 pounds for the role and his co-star, Jared Leto, who plays transgender AIDS patient, Rayon, who befriends Woodruff, lost about 40 pounds for the role.
Both actors were electrifying and sold the story. After initially gasping at McConaughey’s first appearance in the movie, I was sold for the next two hours that both actors were HIV-positive people fighting for their lives, while the government dragged its feet.
If you lived through the 1980s and saw friends getting sick and dying, you saw those friends in Ron and Rayon. If you know people who have become HIV-positive in the past decade, where with medication, healthier living, diet, and exercise, it’s become a manageable disease, there’s a sense of relief that AIDS is no longer a certain death sentence.
CHRISTMAS PICK HIT
I just added “A Mary Christmas” by Mary J. Blige and “Christmas, With Love” by British singer Leona Lewis to my holiday collection this week.
Leona’s fourth album and her first Christmas colelction featured seven classics and three new songs, including the first single, “One More Sleep”.
Many of you probably remember Leona from her debut #1 single in 2008, “Bleeding Love” and its followup, “Better In Time”.
While I love “Dexter”, “The Walking Dead” and “American Horror Story”, love stories are at the top of my list, too. “Pretty Woman” (1990), “Latter Days” (2003), “Shelter” (2007), “Weekend” (2011), and “Out in the Dark” (2012) are the ones that I can watch over and over and over.
Shane Mack (Shane McAnally) performed five songs on the “Shelter” soundtrack and since I’m in Nashville and I’m a strong advocate for being out and proud, here’s another one from Shane.
ENJOY YOUR WEEKEND
Have a fantastic weekend and I appreciate you checking out my random thoughts this week. Let me know what you think.
Bundle up if you live across the eastern part of the country. It’s going to be cold.