Jesse Gall

Posts Tagged ‘Reviews’

This Just In: Teenagers No Longer Worst Drivers

In Humor on July 3, 2011 at 2:20 pm

I’ve discovered there are only a few things you can do to entertain yourself on a four hour sojourn across the Tennessee landscape. You can watch as the billboards start to change from “GUNS” to “Luxury Condo’s from 120,000!” You can ruminate the rolling hills, green with élan vital. You can listen to your ipod on shuffle and amaze yourself at the strange eclectic nature of your musical library (Toni Braxton, James Taylor, Mariah Carey, Girl Talk, Steve Miller Band, CCR, Jason Mraz, Mars Volta, Eminem. Confused yet?).

I did all of these things. But nothing captured my attention more than the horrific driving that has become so typical of Tennessee. Maybe it’s not just in Tennessee. Maybe everyone drives like a Tourettes sufferer on the back end of a three day sleepless binge, but it seems that the poor drivers of the country have gathered, settling in Tennessee.

I careened out of danger and weaved through recklessness. I dodged texters and GPS fiddlers. I did it all. But I noticed something interesting as I navigated my way through the traffic minefield that can be I-40: the worst drivers I encountered were in their 40s or 50s. This doesn’t make any sense! People are supposed to drive slower as they get older. I should be passing these people, not running for my life.

Don’t call me Nostradamus, but I offer you a prediction. In the next twenty years, the roads will be littered with seriously aging Baby Boomers driving too fast for their declining vision. No longer will the elderly drive at a glacial pace. This generation is the first generation to live entirely in a world of instant communication, where speed is synonymous with living. They’ve never been adult in a world that success wasn’t equated with a flurry of activity and busied antics. These people have things to do and it’s always been way. They have Tom Toms and Starbucks and Blackberries and bluberries and Sirius and DVDs in their dashboard.

They might have a whole lot. But nothing is more terrifying than the realization that this generation is also the first set of drivers with an entire fleet of tank-cars at their finger tips. Hummers, Explorers, 4Runners, Xterra, and Denalis roam the streets, bossy like schoolyard fat kids. They drive SUVs and they don’t see the twenty five year old in his little red Lancer. Oh but, they’re sure that I’ll move out of the way. Ugh.

Drivers prepare! Watch your mirrors and use your blinkers, these things can only help your chance of avoiding the most likely wreck you will ever have. Remember the defensive driving school you went to as a teenager when you received your first speeding ticket. Do well to prepare because the Boom in Baby Boomers might soon be associated with the sound of crunching metal. But hey, if you’re an Insurance Agent, you should do just fine. What recession?

Until the end, the Mended Blend.

A Trip, A Break, A Narrative To Come

In Uncategorized on June 27, 2011 at 11:18 am

In the next few days, you might notice a marked decline in content for The Mended Blend. Never fear, we’re not breaking up. I’m just moving on to bigger and different cities: Brentwood, Franklin, and Nashville! I’m going out for a few days and when I come back, I hope you’re primed and prepped for a sprawling narrative of cultural differences.

I’m sure I will have a lot to say when I come back to you, my faithful readers, considering that I have a four hour drive to allow my brainstorming neurons to fire.

Until the end, the Mended Blend.

Local Attraction: Cirque Du Chine

In Local, Reviews on June 25, 2011 at 11:05 am

The circus is a place of intrigue, bewitching us as children with death defying feats of acrobatic mastery or reminding us as adults that awe can still be found. Last night, after months anticipation, I finally got to go see Pigeon Forge’s Cirque Du Chine chinese circus, and let me just say that I loved every minute of it. If you’re in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge or Sevierville for any reason, you should go. Kitschy  and corny at times, yet thrilling and unbelievable at others, Cirque Du Chine will take you around the emotional block.

The theater is magnificent, a monstrous stage dominating  the center of the building. Thirty some six-foot chinese lanterns pepper the ceiling and glow with a incandescent red that softens the intimidating expanse of the place. The theater can sit thousands of people, but there isn’t a bad seat in the house.

After finding our seats in the third row, I sat down giddy like a child, my leg suddenly developing Restless Leg Syndrome as I waited for the show to begin. The lights dropped and after a short message from the master of ceremonies, the show began. Coordinated dancers, jugglers, acrobatics, human statues, heart stopping balancing acts and more. There was just so much to watch and enjoy. The show is lengthy, but not too lengthy, providing just enough amazement.

Unfortunately, Cirque Du Chine isn’t perfect. I am of the old theater tradition that staunchly hates seeing anything, hearing anything, or being distracted in anyway by the goings on in the backstage, and in this regard, Cirque Du Chine could stand to improve. On more than one occasion, I could look across the stage and see the next four people about to enter. I could see lights, I could see spinning plates, I could see motorcycles. It’s amateur theater. It ruins the illusion, and considering how important “the illusion” is the the circus, I would suggest that Cirque Du Chine pull its backstage black curtains a little tighter. Also, the magician wasn’t so spectacular. It wasn’t his fault, it was just that I was sitting to the side, which made his sleight of hand a little more obvious.

But, the show was fantastic when I wasn’t distracted. I was particularly impressed with the loose wire walker (think tightrope walker, but with more slack), who walked around and swung about with ease, demonstrating amazing strength and balance. Also, the motorcyclists (I won’t spoil it) and anything that involved a chair were just breathtaking.

Overall, I would say you should take your family if you get the chance. It’s fun and everybody should go to the circus once in a while. I was laughing for no reason and grinning for two hours; I felt like a child. And sometimes, we adults – who like to strut around so entitled and so grown up – could use a nice childlike experience. Good for the spirit.

Until the end, the Mended Blend.

Southern Artist Spotlight: Deborah Gall

In SAS on June 24, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Art Karma (Art Car – Muh)

Noun, Singular

1. A specific subset of karma that applies to the behaviors of those in the artistic community. Positive actions beget positive rewards, vice versa.

i.e. –  In an effort to better my Art Karma, I’ve decided to begin a new series called SAS, or Southern Artist Spotlight, in which I will provide a sampling of the some of the artistic gifts that are nestled here in Tennessee. This state is spirited and colorful, fostering an incredibly diverse collection of artistic talent. It is the aim of this series to expose and highlight the unique vision of southern artists. To begin, I offer a bit of nepotism. 

 

Check her out on facebook or at http://www.deborahgall.com

Until the end, the Mended Blend

Alec Baldwin Flashback: The Edge

In Reviews on June 23, 2011 at 7:44 pm

I find it a personal victory that I can now connect Alec Baldwin, Anthony Hopkins, that guy from Lost, and a man-eating Kodiak bear. It’s great trivia. The movie might have been a waste of time, but the trivia was worth it at least. 1997’s The Edge is one of the most triumphant creature flops you will ever see, but strangely it’s almost fun to watch it fail so miserably.

The staggeringly unoriginal plot goes a little like this. Billionaire (Hopkins) has young wife who cuckholds him with young photographer (Baldwin). The two crash in the Alaskan wilderness and must survive. Giant bear arrives. Hunts. Kills erroneous third character (dude from Lost). Baldwin cries. Hopkins stares off into the distance. Looks crazy. Bear comes back. Hopkins somehow bests a 2 ton bear because he reads a lot.

I’m not joking about any of that. Watching Alec Baldwin play adventure-man in the wilderness is like watching a 16 year-old overweight pug run up a hill. It wheezes and sputters, throwing so much effort into something it is clearly not meant to do. You want to pick it up and carry it up the hill, which is exactly what the other actors do in the film. Even Anthony Hopkins couldn’t save this ridiculous foray, spending the majority of his screen time muttering unintelligibly. His billionaire character is written to be brilliant but reclusive, his nose buried in books constantly absorbing completely arbitrary facts. Not a bad character on paper, but Hopkins goes for “mysterious” by donning a monotone voice and a lifeless face. The only thing mysterious here is how the famed actor could’ve made such a horribly boring choice.

My favorite character? The bear. I mean look at that thing! It’s like all the great directors say, show your monster looking like someone just stole his favorite toy and everyone will love it! Kudos to director Lee Tamahori for having the cajones to attempt a terrifying frown. Not everyday.

Until the end, the Mended Blend

The Longest Day Of Summer

In Holidays on June 21, 2011 at 9:26 pm

Thousands Celebrate The Summer Solstice

If today seemed like it would never end, like the sun was beating down on you in a particularly horrific fashion; if the toils of the day extended in front of you like a growing desert and the hours stretched and stretched, never fear! You don’t have heat stroke, the day was actually longer than normal. At 1:16 ET in the afternoon, the surface of the earth was titled 23.4 degrees toward the sun, the North pole facing the sun more today than any other day of the year.  Uh. Yeah. So the sun was out a lot today.

Some interesting facts about the summer solstice.

1. Because it’s summer solstice here, it’s winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere. Wow. Logic does tend to be the most accurate predictor of weather these days.

2. The moon during the summer solstice is called a “Honey Moon,” referring to the fermented honey mead that was traditionally served during weddings that were celebrated on the summer solstice. A Honey Moon? To celebrate a wedding? Wait, I don’t get it.

3. Pagans used to hold bonfires to celebrate the summer solstice, couples jumping through the fire together. They believed that the height of their jump through the flames would be directly related to the height of their crops for that year. You know that makes sense. I have always heard that the world’s first basketball players were Pagan corn farmers.

Whether you are Pagan or not, the power of the sun is undeniable. It’s absence and presence plays a notable role in our emotional processes and it brings an energy that is unparalleled and unsurpassed. Beating with life and warmth, the sun is the heart of organic life and everything we know. Take stock in the holiday if you want, call it nonsense and see if I care. But if nothing else, take this opportunity to be thankful. Thank your creator, thank nature, thank whatever you believe in. Just be thankful and blessed. The sun is shining.

Until the end, the Mended Blend.

I Checked Again, I’m Definitely Still In The South

In Humor, The South, Uncategorized on June 20, 2011 at 4:30 pm

Due to popular demand and a never ending supply of material, I have decided to continue the “Definitely In The South” series on an irregular yet consistent basis, diligently cataloguing the southern lifestyle in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville . Basically, I’m gunna write ya’ll when I find some thingie er place that makes me hoot and holler like I just sat my behind down on a pile of those firey ants, tell you what. Bless your heart if you can’t read that.

So here are some more southern quirks that make this place what it is.

The Phrase “Bless Your Heart” Now as any good southerner knows, this phrase gets used as much as butter in these parts. At its best, it can make you feel like you’ve bested some moiling and herculean task: “Oh look at that, he’s carrying all those groceries for his momma, bless his heart.” Strangely though, if attached to the end of an insult and complimented with a big smile-and-nod, the blow of the insult is significantly softened. “You are so ugly, bless your heart!” What? Southerners are just nicer!

Life Stories There is no filter of waspish proportions in this part of the country. No, no. The best filter you’ll find between the brain and mouth of most people from East Tennessee is single ply toilet paper. You might get a coffee filter if it’s really early in the morning, but that’s just because the hangover hasn’t been shaken off yet. I sat down at Olive Garden last night and met four people while eating dinner! Now, when I say “met” I don’t mean that I remember their names, I mean that I remember their children’s names, from their first marriage (which lasted 22 years) with Harold, the balding emotional idiot/insurance agent who never properly communicated his feelings.

Southerns have a long tradition of talking your ear off, which I think might be the direct result of one factor: Porches. It goes like this: God, Family, Dog, Porch Time. Look at the facts, the weather here is nicer for longer, southerners actually own land they can look out over, and this is a group of people that historically loves nothing more than being outside.  So, since only a few people put TVs on their porches, southerners just get a lot of practice talking. It makes sense in a cultural evolutionary kind of way. The nice backhand side to this characteristic? They have just as much practice listening.

Well that’s it for now. But never fear, there might be more material here than calories in Dollywood’s cinnamon bread. You haven’t had any?! Oh, bless your heart.

Until the end, the Mended Blend.

Sigourney Weaver Flashback – Working Girl (1988)

In Reviews on June 18, 2011 at 5:02 pm

I knew that Sigourney Weaver could do ghosts and aliens, but I didn’t know she could make me hate her. That’s an incredibly impressive acting job since I love her so much. It’s an injustice, but I had never seen Working Girl, and when I saw it for the first time last night I couldn’t help but regret all the years I lived without seeing it.

Constantly hilarious and eternally thought provoking, Working Girl is an expose of business life in a patriarchal world. Granted, the business world this film exposed was the 1988 business world, but I’d venture to say that not much has changed. At its core, Working Girl is a jaunting prod at corporate America and the values that seem intrinsically bound to success. But inside its many layers, Mike Nichols crafts a subtle commentary of sexism and disloyalty that run rampant in this Cutthroat America

Melanie Griffith is soft and courageous, displaying a strong character and significant change as the film goes on. Nothing more can be asked of a lead actress.

Harrison Ford looks incredibly young, though he was only 46 when he shot this film. He’s got all the sincerity and kindness you could ask from a debonair well-meaning leading man, and his big brown eyes seep with the intensity that is so typical to Harrison Ford.

Sigourney Weaver’a Katherine Parker is the female version of Michael Douglas’ Gordan Gecko. She flits through scenes with a grace and charm so typical to her performances, chewing through dialogue and stealing every scene. By the end of the film, there is no doubt what Meryl Streep’s inspiration for Miranda Priestley might have been. In fact, Sigourney is better if I dare say. There is no compassion or consideration for her character, no divorce or any other tragedy, just plain villainy. The scariest thing about her though has to be her realism. There are Katherine Parkers in the world, a truth that is truly terrifying. Working Girl is fun and provocative, and if that doesn’t do it for you, go see it for the hair.              

Until the end, the Mended Blend      

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exit Waiting and The Escape Code

In Humor, thoughts on June 18, 2011 at 11:52 am

There is one thing you can count on when you come to Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge: you will wait in lines. Like sheep being herded off a mountain, people spend a majority of their time here just waiting. We wait with excitement for a roller coaster. We wait with wonder before the circus. We wait with frustration for the person in front of us at the buffet to step away from the macaroni and cheese we’ve been thinking about for four days. We wait and we accept that we wait. It is a part of life.

The tourism and attractions in Gatlinburg provide a main stage for the dance of waiting, putting it on display like a show. It’s unavoidable, seeing just how much we wait when you live in a town with filled with queue rails, riddled with traffic. But Jesse, what’s the big deal with lines? And haven’t we all read this column before? In about five hundred other places? What’s that you’re beating, Jesse? Is that a dead horse?

It might be, if I hadn’t gotten stuck in line for an hour and a half trying to get a trolley home from seeing the Elkmont fireflies. Fireflies are great and all, but, seriously, tectonic plates have moved faster than that line. Irritated at the Never Ending Line Of Glacial Speeds, I let my mind wander a little bit. Why was I so mad at this line? I just spent seven hours waiting in line to see the fireflies, and now I feel like I’d rather mulch in the rain than wait another hour. The logic didn’t make sense.

Could it be that the only thing we pursue with more vigilance than our own amusement, is a quick way to leave that amusement. Fans leave football games early to beat the traffic, despite waiting in line outside in the parking lot for hours. Throngs of people all pour out of venues, pushing each other rudely, all the time getting grumpier and grumpier, in the hopes to leave before everyone else. Valet was practically invented to fulfill this need.

Am I missing something? Does the person who leaves the earliest get a trophy or something? I don’t think so, otherwise I’d have at least two for the times I tried to go see Paul Haggis movies. Blech. But why, then, do we leave so rapidly and get so frazzled when we are forced into Exit Waiting.

Perhaps it’s in our human nature, to escape. Perhaps there is a code nestled in our cranial folds that forces us to flee as soon as we have satiated whatever particular thirst was tickling us in that moment. The Escape Code. We run from stadiums or blinking fireflies, and we do so with such vigor that any impetus results in flares of frustrations and rage. Unfortunately, the catch 22 is that the entertainment that draws that largest crowds also draws the largest exits.

There is only one way to avoid the horror of Exit Waiting. Be that guy who is always last to leave. People will think you’re annoying as gnats, but at least you’ll be happier.

Until the end, the Mended Blend

It’s Been A Month, I’m Definitely In The South

In Humor, The South on June 17, 2011 at 2:34 pm

So I’ve been here for about a month now and as is customary with all milestones, I’ve begun to look back at my time here. Before moving, my thoughts were centered around the differences that would exist between my current cities Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg and my old cities Bowling Green and Nashville. Do I even need a joke here?

I would say the regions are apples and oranges but that doesn’t really reflect the spirit of the South. So, I’ll say that the regions are like okra and pickles! They’re completely different things, with different colors, tastes, smells, and appearances, but when you get down to it they’re both green veggies that taste delicious when fried.

Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg are among the most southern places I have ever encountered. It might be the fact that the tourist industry advertises “The South!”so all of the other industry here plays into that role too, but it’s hilarious all the same. How is this place more southern than Bowling Green and Nashville? Here’s a quick list.

Nascar Has A Theme Park – Yup, it’s got about ten different tracks with varying karts and cars. If you’re not shocked by that then be shocked by the fact that I’m  secretly dying to go.

Moonshine – Gatlinburg officially made itself the most country city in Tennessee when it allowed the first legal moonshine distillery to be built and opened in 2010. They claim to want change the stereotype surrounding moonshine, that it’s made in the hills by rednecks. Ironically, I got my first taste of moonshine from a redneck who made it in the hills.

“Hello!” – It’s a phrase that some parts of the country have completely forgotten, but you it’s nigh impossible to walk by someone on a path without getting a smile and a greeting. Strangers here feel like friends in New York.

The Food – You get a lot and it’s freaking delicious. Dinner shows offer entire chickens, you can fry anything, and the popcorn/candy stores have about 150 different types of popcorn. Have you ever tried Dr. Pepper popcorn? What about the 20 -spiced Slap Yo Momma popcorn? I bet you haven’t. Do you like cane sugar Coca-Cola? I did.

Paper Fires – I don’t know if this is a mountain thing, a southern thing, or a southern mountain thing, but people love to burn their paper waste in a fire pit while sitting in a lawn chair in their back yard. And here I thought paper fires were strictly a homeless thing. Yeesh.

I have a feeling this might be an ongoing series. More southern specific columns to come.

Until the end, the Mended Blend.