Novelist Jessica Shattuck wrote a New York Times op-ed about the emotional quandary of loving her grandmother, an unrepentant Nazi. “I Loved My Grandmother. But She Was a Nazi” is a delicate lyrical piece about the complexities of human nature and the intersections of the ordinary, the commonplace, the heinous, the monstrous. She tries to approach the conundrum of loving someone complicit in horrid acts against others without denying the potency on either side of the equation.

But her piece, which I recommend, is not what got me thinking. I’ve heard so many reasons/excuses of white women for loving their…


Celebrating Underrated Soul Songstress Nikka Costa

Nikka Costa

You know that thing that TV stations do, when they turn up the volume on the commercials so they can still try to sell you stuff you don’t want when you’ve gotten up to check the clothes in the dryer? I usually resent that, but this time I didn’t. Before I’d taken “three steps toward the door” as Lynyrd Skynyrd used to wheedle, I was seriously grooving. A funky bass line played on the keyboards had me choreographing Soul Train moves all the way to the laundry room. (Trigger alert: This ad was filmed in pre-Covid days and shows mask-less…


American Dads Against “Outsiders”: What Would MLK Say?

June 2020

I’ve been deeply disturbed by two ads recently appearing on local television here in Middle Tennessee, home to Nashville. One promotes a local business; one promotes a candidate for public office. Both include a Fifties-style American family: working dad, pretty mom, healthy-looking children.

Ad 1’s Tennessee family features a brown-haired well-fed dad, blonde mom, and four adorable tow-headed children who seem to be of pre-school through elementary school ages. In this ad, the dad, a personal injury lawyer, and his family, including the children, mock law firms from out of state that do business in Tennessee. …


How the Moral Majority became (yet always was) the Immoral Minority

Charla McComic believes that her son’s health insurance premium decreased after he lost his job because of POTUS-45. As a result, she doesn’t believe she needs to worry about her granddaughter. She feels “safe” because of this president. She claims to be a Christian. The only other person for whom she would campaign as hard as she did was for “the Lord.” The Washington Post reported this from the campaign rally in Nashville, fifty miles from where I live, held two months after the 2016 campaign ended, before her candidate has passed anything at all.

I think I get it…


Louise Penny

An Exploration of Race in the Award-Winning Novels of Canada’s Queen of Mysteries

Canada’s Louise Penny is one of the finest writers of mysteries in the world today. Yes, this is a bold claim, an audacious assertion, but it’s nonetheless true. I don’t say this because nearly every book she has written has won some major award or acknowledgment in Canada, Great Britain, or the U.S. multiple times, with Agatha, Anthony, Macavity awards as standard fare for her books — not one is missing some significant honor. She is lauded across the spectrum by awards from aficionado readers (Anthony, Agatha, Barry), from writers in the UK, US, and Canada (Dagger, Edgar, and Ellis…


Mystery Music on American TV

It started with an iPhone ad — one of three ads, so far, that have led me on odysseys of discovery. I’m definitely on the same page with the folks selecting music for these ads. The choice of lesser-known artists and styles whets my musicology chops with unexpected surprises, expanding my listening repertoire with even more great stuff. Roll over, Beethoven. This ad, though, was startling, startling because I didn’t recognize the musical style at all. Having traveled, listened, and taught world music for years, it takes a lot to find music that is so alien to me. …


Early April 2020

Occasionally, I try to glam things up to lift my spirits during quasi-quarantine, as I muse on our society’s failings. I say “quasi” because my former (?) Confederate home state is not taking the pandemic seriously. Were it not for a mayor and school board with sense and the proximity of a military base where facts matter, I might be the only one masked and gloved. As it is, I’m one of fairly few. In fact, at a local halfway-decent liquor store (essential business here, of course, like gun stores), I was the ONLY protected person in…


I been had. I been took. I been hoodwinked! Bamboozled! Led astray! Yes, Malcolm X reportedly said it first, but it still applies. It started with a sexy little song I heard on a car ad. Every time it came on, my hips began to swivel, my shoulders began to undulate, my eyes began to drowse. A hypnotic guitar ostinato mated with a sensuous tempo. And that voice, that voice like a Robin Thicke who, in the vernacular, “might could dance”; that voice with the smooth falsetto of Eddie Kendricks; that voice with the lazy moves of Billie Holiday, just…


Well-Meaning White Person: You’ve hurt my feelings. Why do you hate all white people?

World-Weary Minority: I do not hate white people and I don’t even hate all White People. I try not to hate any people. Hate is a soul-corroding acid and I want no part of it. That said, your response, attempting to change the subject away from the topic to your feelings shows why some people might not be able to resist the urge to hate you.

***

Here’s the deal. More often than not, every time I think it’s time to press “publish” on one…


Coronavirus

Beginning of May 2020

There’s something in the news that’s not about Tr*mp acting a fool (like Voldemort, I think his name is hexed). What, I hear you thinking, could possibly supplant the morbidly unhealthy obsession the media has with his (or his mask-trashing culture warriors’) every outrage, from juvenile name-calling to promoting a medication in which it looks like he has a financial interest? Black people.

Black people — you know the ones he said should vote for him because, “what have you got to lose?” — are four times as likely to die from coronavirus than anyone else…

y kendall

A Stanford-trained musicologist who recently took a career swerve after 20 yrs in Texas. With a Columbia MFA in writing & translation she moved back home to TN.

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