Story. The Portland trip generated at least a few …

Story. The Portland trip generated at least a few worth telling. Here’s one.

Even though R.C. and I flew to Portland out of different airports, we ended up there at roughly the same time, and so he gave me a lift to our destination in his rental car. (My hotel was a five-minute walk from the suburban church where the Ligonier conference was being held, his posh digs were somewhere downtown.) On the way to the church, we talked about what sort of food might make for an appropriate lunch—a favorite topic. We settled on trying to find Thai, Japanese, or possibly Chinese, all of which are poorly represented in the Bristol area.

The church is huge, with receptionists sitting at an information desk in the lobby. So after scouting the conference bookstore, we asked one of the receptionists if she knew of any good places nearby to get decent Thai, Japanese, or Chinese food. She didn’t know, and didn’t much sound like she would care if she did, but she did flag down someone from the church who proceeded to tell us how lucky we were, since the best Chinese food he had ever eaten, prepared in a special way he was unable to explain, was available just two blocks away, next to my hotel. R.C. was a bit skeptical, pointing out that he had spent years eating at Chinatown restaurants in San Francisco; still, the man assured us that it would be the best we had ever eaten. So we decided to try it out.

It was mediocre. It excelled in its mediocrity. It was the kind of place where your option was to pick your meat—chicken, beef, or shrimp—and then have them apply a sauce—cherry red, light brown, or dark brown. Given the limitations I suppose it was OK, but we were dismayed to be expending valuable out-of-town calories on food that wouldn’t have passed muster at the strip shopping center back home. And of course when we returned to the church, the fellow had to track us down—”How did you like it?”—”It was good”—”Oh, you didn’t like it very much”—”Well, it was good”—”But it wasn’t the best you’d ever eaten”—”No, not that good”—”But was it the best you’ve ever eaten for under five dollars?”—”Well, no, not that good either.”

Later that afternoon I was walking from my hotel through the shopping center to the church. When I got to the place where we had parked, I looked up and saw that right behind where the car had been—literally—there was a Thai restaurant. A nice-looking Thai restaurant. When I saw R.C. next, I said “This will either make you laugh or make you mad”, and then told him about the Thai restaurant. He didn’t laugh.

Saturday after the conference we made a beeline for lunch at the Thai restaurant. On the way I told him, “You know, if this place is any good, we won’t be able to enjoy it, because we’ll spend the whole time thinking about how we could have had lunch there yesterday.” As he took his first few bites of food, he said “This may be the best Thai food I’ve ever eaten.” I had to agree; I’ve eaten at many Thai restaurants, and this tiny spot ranked right up there.

The cruelest irony? R.C. had no problem thoroughly enjoying his meal. It was me who spent all the time thinking about what could have been.

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Movies. I once made a pretentious friend nearly ap…

Movies. I once made a pretentious friend nearly apoplectic by claiming that the best possible movie could never have as much artistic value as a decent book. Now, the truth of that observation depends a lot on the definition of “decent” (and I didn’t bother clarifying, because it was too much fun watching him sputter), but I think it’s accurate. One of the reasons is the obvious one, namely that it is difficult, expensive, and time-consuming to create a visual image that comes anywhere close to what we are capable of imagining. Maybe this is why I prefer movies that go down strange and unexpected paths; since they portray things I never would have though to imagine, it is easy for them to astonish me.

I thought about this as we were watching the first part of The Godfather Part II last night. I think the first two Godfather movies are among the best ever made, although I’ve never bothered to work out why I think that; part of it is because I can watch them repeatedly and still find depth there. But as I was watching it, I kept thinking how incredibly expensive it must have been to get the visuals right. The first communion party at Lake Tahoe, the processing center at Ellis Island, the festival on a New York City street—each of these required having hundreds of paid actors hanging around for who knows how long, just for the purpose of being the background in a scene. And I heard an interview recently with Gordon Willis, who was the cinematographer for the movie, saying that it was incredibly difficult and time-consuming to decorate the NYC streets they were using so that they would look authentic.

I suppose there’s a case to be made that all this is just fine, that it is a good thing that we have people who can use the mass market to produce incredibly expensive, yet even more lucrative, objects of art. But somehow I wonder if things like movies are so large and complex that they have simply moved out of the realm of art, in the sense that there is an artist behind them. When I write an article for Every Thought Captive (and, to a lesser extent, when I write an entry for this weblog), as time permits I try to approach the task as an artist—or at least an artisan. In word choice, turn of phrase, clarity of expression, even small victories are costly and time-consuming. And control over the final product is still lost when others enter into the process, whether it be a typesetter who bobbles the punctuation or a web browser that lays out the text in an unexpected way. Can even Francis Ford Coppola, who must work through thousands of others to realize his artistic vision, really be said to have created a work of art on the order of a sculpture or a painting or a novel, each largely the work of a single person?

Dinner. Last night we enjoyed the company of the e…

Dinner. Last night we enjoyed the company of the extended Daugherty clan, all the usual Daughertys plus Katie’s sister Sarah. Burgers were grilled and eaten, Pete’s Wicked Ale was poured and drunk. Fiddle and dujo made an appearance later in the evening, and tunes were played while Eilidh showed us a few steps. At one point Jonathan indicated that it was time to be getting on home, and then he and I spent close to another hour looking at some music software and talking about the role of music in the church in general and St. Peter in particular. Only then were they allowed to leave, and that only because we knew that we’d be doing it all again soon.

Continued apologies … for not meeting my goal of…

Continued apologies … for not meeting my goal of posting something here every weekday. This is a slightly more disrupted time than usual, and the days have been slightly less newsworthy than usual. But there’s a long stretch ahead of time at home and work to do, so let me walk the electronic sawdust trail again and rededicate myself to that goal.

Hiatus. Apologies for being out of action for so l…

Hiatus. Apologies for being out of action for so long. The trip to Portland was the first in a long time where I’ve had to fly, and in the end I decided not to take my laptop computer along with me. Airport security turned out not to be the hassle that I was expecting, but I was still carting enough extra stuff for the information table that I was glad not to have the laptop to keep up with.

Draught Horse Press is a long way yet from corporate luxuries, and so travel arrangements are very sensitive to price. Which meant that I had to fly from Nashville, about a 4 1/2 hour drive from Bristol. Going out I stayed in a Nashville motel, then caught a very early flight; coming back I arrived at the airport about midnight, and arrived home at 6:30am due to a couple of naps along the way.

Portland weather was mostly gorgeous, and we managed to find an excellent Thai restaurant near the church where the conference was held. Our appearance at the Ligonier conference was successful, not only for R.C. but for HSC and DHP, as we gave away many free newsletters and Basement Tapes samplers; subscription requests and orders have already begun to trickle in. And it was good to meet up with some old friends, and to make some new ones.

Class. This afternoon Chris and I attended the ope…

Class. This afternoon Chris and I attended the opening day of fall classes at the Highlands Academy. Unfortunately, it was also the last day of fall classes. We’re disappointed about that, but it’s also an opportunity to think about how to spend the Wednesday afternoons we had set aside for the classes. One intriguing possibility is to do the same classes—one on freedom, one on music appreciation—on our own, with the two of us reading and discussing the material. This is attractive, since it is the heart of the When You Rise Up approach that we will be recommending to the world at large soon enough.

During Jonathan’s music appreciation class we did get to listen to and talk about some pieces of music from a wide variety of genres. I think I made him mad when I guessed from the opening notes that Bach’s St. John’s Passion (which he reveres) was a choral piece by Philip Glass (whom he, uh, does not revere). I happen to like Philip Glass; I don’t revere him, but I enjoy his music at about the level I enjoy a good movie soundtrack (in fact, I love his soundtracks for the movies Koyaanisqatsi and Powaqqatsi). And he can compose some lovely musical phrases, which occasionally blossom into entire melodies. AndI still think it was a fair guess—Philip Glass may produce minimalized pastiches, but his sources are impeccable.

Music. Draught Horse Press is now carrying the Ree…

Music. Draught Horse Press is now carrying the Reeltime Travelers’ second CD, Livin’ Reeltime, Thinkin’ Old-time. On the info page for the CD you’ll find links to live recordings of some of the songs from the CD. Also, there is an annotations page that includes detailed comments from me on each song; if anyone reads through them, I’d appreciate hearing whether they found the comments useful.