By Hannah Cather
Photography courtesy of Dale's Fried Pies
November 21, 2014
One day, Dale Mackey decided to make 800 pies.
"That's my record of pies fried in one day, and I actually did personally fry all of them," she said.
A fried pie champion, Dale and her independent efforts have stapled her into Knoxville’s food scene. For the past two years, Dale has taken her wooden stand and hand pies to different markets and venues, sharing pastry joy with customers.
These fried pies are to be enjoyed sans silverware: The stand offers no forks or knives. Pie eaters nibble through the top point of the semicircle's crust to reveal either a sweet or savory filling. Dale's menu ranges from apple and peach to macaroni and cheese to green chili chicken. Local college student, Maddie Smolko tried an apple pie at Remedy Coffee once, and the taste hasn't left her since. "I loved the flaky pastry, and the apples were fresh and savory," Smolko said.
While there are both classic and experimental flavors, one has yet to make the cut. “I’ve been trying to do a banana pudding pie, but because of the consistency of the pudding once you fry it, it’s really drippy. I can’t crack that code, but I really want to.”
Dale claims it is a dirty secret, but her preference for savory pies is perfectly acceptable.
“I love the more kind of weird, savory flavors. I’m a really big fan of the curry sweet potato [pie], and I have a sausage or pepperoni pizza pie – I eat way too many of those,” Dale explains with a chuckle. “Left to my own devices, I tend to the more savory ones.”
So, why is Dale making fried pies in Knoxville? Dale relocated to Knoxville in 2008 to be with her now-husband with intentions to return to her hometown, Chicago, within a year or two. After six months, she decided she was in love with this city, so here she stays, in Knoxville, TN, running her outstanding fried pie business.
Dale's pie preoccupation, however, can be traced back to her childhood days. She regularly used her mother's pie dough scraps to make miniature jam-filled versions.
"The BuzzFeed thing, I didn't even know I was going to be on it until someone posted it on my Facebook," Dale said. "I was like 'Oh, cool!'"
Her following includes regulars such as a woman who purchases ten pies every Wednesday and a gentleman who orders a peach pie and an apple pie every Saturday morning. Dale estimates half of her customers are returning customers.
"I wouldn't be able to tell you their names, but I can tell you what they'll order," Dale said. "I'm really bad with names, and I feel like I have a little bit of a disadvantage because people remember my name because I'm literally wearing it on my shirt … There's only so much you can fit in your brain, man."
Despite fluctuations in sales that vary based on factors, such as weather, Dale's Fried Pies is expanding. A food truck should be coming soon this fall, which means warm pies in the winter, and a permanent, private kitchen in the works.
So far, the little pie stand has seen cities like Nashville and Atlanta, but Dale wants to take them further. "It would be fun to bring [my pies] to where I'm from because I have a lot of friends and family who want to try them," Dale said. "That would be a long drive hauling that stand all the way to Chicago. I don't know if it'll ever happen, but it's a dream."
Learn more about Dale's Fried Pies at dalesfriedpies.com.
By Bekki Vaden Ottinger
Photography by Hugh Hamrick and courtesy of David Sedaris management
October 24, 2016
If there is a god, she had surely looked down on me because even though I participate in idle gossip and often forget to refill my cat's water bowl, she decided to reward me for all of my remaining good deeds. I was assigned press coverage of David Sedaris' visit to Knoxville this year.
The day of the show arrived. The spouse and I took our seats and the lights dimmed over a packed house. David Sedaris walked out on stage wearing what I can only describe as the most garish pair of culottes I had ever seen. He stepped from behind his podium and showed them off with a bit of a curtsy. "Do you like them? They're made out of the same fabric as blackout curtains in hotels."
Even as he greeted his audience, he had already managed to make us laugh. He jumped right into reading some new material he was working on for a BBC Christmas special. Before he began, he told the audience that he couldn't think of a better holiday topic than death. He launched into what he had titled "Death Knows No Season," a dark-humored piece written as a seven-year-old boy's letter to Santa. In his usual fashion, he marked things out on his paper, editing his own story as he spoke while never skipping a beat: That's one of the best parts of his live performance — you see him in action as he crafts his living, still breathing story and based on the audience's reaction — this letter to Santa is going to be a holiday hit.
After the chortling died down, he began reading a piece he had written about a recent Thanksgiving he had spent with his family at his vacation home (which he calls "The Sea Section") in Emerald Isle, NC. His family members, both individually and collectively, are recurring characters in most of his essays, and all of our favorites were in attendance: his sober sister Lisa, the always charming Amy, his diminutive 93-year-old father Lou and his foul-mouthed brother Paul, affectionately known as "The Rooster." The conversations that take place at these family gatherings make you wish you were a privileged member of their club.
With all the guffawing filling the theatre, his tone soon took on a more serious note as he began telling us of the last time he saw his sister Tiffany, who committed suicide in 2013. I won't tell you the details of that last meeting, lest it appears in his next book, and I spoil it. All I can say is that it was difficult for me to stop the tears.
Sedaris then raised our spirits again, this time, talking about his hobby of picking up roadside trash near his home in West Sussex, Great Britain. In fact, he does this so often, he is known around town as "Pig Pen" and the locals even named a garbage truck in his honor. We practically rolled in the aisles as he recalled a time when he had found a strap-on sex toy on the side of the highway. He thought he might put it in his knapsack to mail to one of his sisters back in the States. He quickly changed his mind. "I knew as soon as I put it in my bag, I would be hit and killed by a car. I imagined what Hugh might think of me upon receiving the last personal effects they took off of my body. I couldn't bear the thought."
Sedaris touched briefly on his thoughts about gay marriage (he and his partner, Hugh have decided not to marry but remain happily coupled outside of the government's blessing). He has been known to say, "We're not really the kind of couple that gets married."
On tour, he always recommends a book to his fans and suggested that we all do ourselves a favor and pick up a copy of "Eileen" by first-time novelist, Ottessa Moshfegh. He described her writing as ugly and creepy – a modern day cross between Shirley Jackson and Patricia Highsmith.
He wrapped up by sharing several of his riotous diary entries from 1982-2016 and holding a brief Q & A, thereafter. Of course someone questioned him about his opinion on the upcoming presidential election. He kept his vote a private matter but conceded that "You can't say pussy on television and become the president. You can either say pussy on tape or you can be President but never both."
When one audience member asked what kind of impression he had of Knoxville, he recalled a time when he had visited, and there was a zookeeper convention taking place in the same hotel he had booked. "I couldn't get enough of these female zookeepers," he laughed. "They were just fascinating, and they were everywhere! If I were attracted to women, I'd definitely want to be with a lady zookeeper."
In fact, he seemed so enamored by his run-in with the zookeeper convention that he didn't really reveal his final interpretation of our little city. But that seems to be his way of doing things; Sedaris doesn't spend too much time opining, rather his talent lies in connecting people and places with his experiences and that is what makes him one of the most beloved and engaging storytellers of our time.
Modern American writer, David Sedaris' stories bring me great joy, and he is the very reason I write today. I always kept journals as a teenager and a young adult, but after having my privacy repeatedly invaded, I trashed all of my journals and stopped writing altogether. For eight long years.
Soon after I ended my 10-year marriage, I spent many lonely evenings with my self. I would put the kids to bed and sit with my thoughts, often with a glass of gin in one hand and a cigarette in the other. My hands had forgotten what they used to do when I sat in the darkness. I was dealing with all the complicated emotions that are served along with divorce papers, and although I was writing furiously, I had no stomach for my imagination. My writing came off as self-important, timid and dishonest: three words that I hope no one would ever use to describe me.
Around the same time, I had picked up several copies of Sedaris' books. I had heard him on NPR, and I wanted more. I suppose I was a little late to the game, but I bought the books and devoured them – my favorite collection of short stories being "When You Are Engulfed in Flames," twenty-two beautifully crafted stories (often pulled from his real-life experiences) that either forced tears to run down my face or elicited the ugliest laughter. I was caught. Hook, line and sinker.
Shortly after, I stumbled upon an interview with Sedaris where he described his process and how he became a serious writer. He too, kept journals and wrote letters, starting only with his hilarious observations. Those peculiar observations turned into funny little vignettes, which eventually gave way to fully developed stories. He was originally discovered reading entries from his diaries in a small New York City club by Ira Glass, host of NPR's "This American Life." He became a regular contributor and the groundwork was laid for his very successful career.
And at this point, for me, I found myself inspired to keep writing more than ever, as a way of life.
After the show, Sedaris made his way to the gallery and generously invited his fans to get their books signed. I had not-so-secretly hoped for this moment, and I came prepared with my copy of "When You Are Engulfed in Flames." He chatted with one fan after another as he ate his dinner. When my turn arrived, I was nervous, but that feeling quickly escaped me because he is comfortable with strangers. You get the feeling that the real David Sedaris probably isn't so different from the persona he presents to the public. My editor had informed me that he wasn’t doing scheduled press interviews because he was in the middle of 40 shows in 40 days, so I have no idea if it’s always easy to be as good of a sport when you’re that busy. But as I’ve read about and experienced him, first-hand to be, he was warmly endearing, and that’s about the nicest thing you could ask for as a die-hard fan of someone’s work.
Thank you, David Sedaris.
Learn more about David Sedaris by visiting davidsedarisbooks.com.
Humour by Forrest Ferguson
Image courtesy of Parlophone
June 1, 2017
It was 50 years ago today that John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr released "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," their groundbreaking testament to the efficacy of laissez-faire economics. Widely considered to be The Beatles' masterpiece: the living embodiment of free-market supremacy was voted the greatest album of all time by "Rolling Stone" magazine in 2012. The celebrated historical document is a veritable cornucopia of 'First's.' It was the first album to have printed lyrics; the first album to have a gatefold cover; the first album to win a Grammy for Album of the Year; and, 191 years after Adam Smith theorized that an economic system will regulate itself when given substantial freedom, the first thing to prove that capitalism works.
Coming from impoverished beginnings in the slums of Liverpool, The Beatles' own natural talents, diligent hard work and organic competitive spirit propelled them into unprecedented levels of fame and fortune. Five years after they recorded their first economic treatise "Love Me Do," the band's eighth studio album proved once and for all that they were exalted living gods of capitalist might and majesty and helped usher in the most productive, creative era in human history by inspiring and challenging the likes of Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, Brian Wilson, Jimi Hendrix and numerous other capitalist icons.
In honor of its 50th birthday, the actual no-shit-plain-as-day proof that capitalism is a viable economic system has received an exhaustive, commemorative deluxe reissue — definitively reasserting its dominance over all other economic systems. Remixed, repackaged and retailing at $127.99, the unambiguous sound of Marxism being decimated into oblivion is crisper, clearer and more glorious than ever.
Click here to purchase your own copy of the reissue.
Interview by Jeffrey Chastain
Photography by Ray Coco Smith and courtesy of Ray Ray Sunshine Films
March 23, 2016
Jeffrey Chastain, SINE staff writer and host of WUTK's (90.3 FM, Knoxville) "Focus on Film" radio show, sat down with Tim K. Smith, director of "Sex and Broadcasting," to talk about his experiences in process, contrast and development.
SINE: What attracted you to the story of WFMU?
Tim K. Smith: I started out as a fan of WFMU and their unique programming. There was truly nothing like it on the air when I first started listening in the late 80’s, in terms of their wiliness to challenge the listener and experiment with the format of radio. Over time, I became intrigued by their resilience. Challenging non-commercial cultural institution tends to flame out, or they “mature” and morph to survive. WFMU didn’t. So, the story of WFMU is an underdog story, and how it has survived became the big question of the film.
S: How does WFMU differ from commercial radio stations?
TKS: As one of the DJs says in the film, “Comparing WFMU to commercial radio is like comparing ‘People’ magazine to ‘National Geographic.’” That’s pretty accurate, although it’s more like a National Geographic where R. Crumb has gone through and drawn on all the pages.
It should also be noted that WFMU differs greatly from most non-commercial radio stations. They are not an NPR station. They are not a part of a college or some other parent organization. They refuse all underwriting (a nice way of saying commercials on noncommercial radio stations) to help pay the bills like virtually all public radio stations do and they receive no strings-attached money. They mainly rely on listeners for their funding. So this makes them very vulnerable every year, but it also makes them very free, and you can hear it.
S: What do you think of the current state of radio programming?
TKS: Ninety percent of commercial radio sucks. There is some great programming coming out of a handful of powerful NPR stations that have used the podcast format to massively broaden their reach. And the internet, in general, has blurred the lines of what is radio. WFMU has certainly been at the forefront of much of that, with their massive show archives going back almost 20 years.
What is disappointing about most radio is that it has lost the sense of place. It used to be, you could get in a car and drive across the country, and as you lose and gain stations … you would hear what America sounds like, regionally. Now, that is much harder. It all sounds the same, both on the commercial and noncommercial side. With most NPR stations, big chunks of their programming are just rebroadcasting what comes out of New York, Washington or Chicago.
S: WFMU station manager Ken Freedman is responsible for the station's signature, eclectic programming. What was it like documenting Freedman, and what did you take away from experience?
TKS: Just to correct your questions a little – Ken has two influential shows on the air, and he is responsible for keeping the stations signature and eclectic programming alive, but there was a long tradition of freeform radio that came before him at WFMU. He is the keeper of the flame.
I was honored that Ken and the station let me into their world. As a filmmaker, I walked away from the experience inspired. It’s hard to make documentaries, but it is a whole other kind of persistence and drive that is required to keep something as unique as WFMU alive.
S: “Sex and Broadcasting” is your directorial debut. What challenges, if any, did you encounter during the film's production?
TKS: I shot most of this film by myself, doing both sound and camera, so the biggest challenge was keeping myself on track. For the first four years, I was funding it out of pocket and shooting in between work. There were many days when I asked myself, “Why am I doing this?” Then there were other times when the sense of responsibility to other people’s stories became paralyzing. I wanted to tell an entertaining story, but I also wanted to get it right. So, after many personal crises, the film was completed. (Haha.)
S: The Big Ears festival, in collaboration with The Public Cinema, is presenting “Sex and Broadcasting” as part of a retrospective of Matt Grady's Factory 25. What are your thoughts on Grady's distribution model?
TKS: I can’t speak to his “model” per se, because I don’t think that it’s a business model that shapes Factory 25. Factory 25 is extension of Matt Grady’s good taste. In that way, it is very similar to WFMU. If there is a model, it is simply the hope that others will love and care about the films that Matt has taken under his care as much as he does. I am just grateful that “Sex and Broadcasting” is one of those films.
Poem by R.B. Morris
Overview by Pratishtha Singh
Photograph by Bill Foster
March 10, 2016
R.B. Morris shared this selection, "Fort Sanders," with SINE in our 2016 Big Ears festival booklets. He was also a featured performer at the festival, highlighting the region's rich history in the arts, as Morris is Knoxville's official Poet Laureate, a legendary singer-songwriter and playwright, unofficial James Agee historian, among endless other descriptors. East Tennessee's footprint is several parts R.B.
Fort Sanders is a historic neighborhood in Knoxville that has been home to some of the area's most renowned artists, receiving both local and international acclaim. It is also where Morris spent his childhood, and later, several years of his adulthood. He recounts place holding prominence throughout a lifetime of memories:
Look! Here's the old neighborhood
of my second childhood
Even then I was dreaming
my days and singing my nights
and talking in my sleep
Even then I sat on old walls
in nostalgic airs of reverie
my body like a tree
rooted in the hillside
Even then I was climbing stairs
to knock on doors
where voices called to me
as I wandered absently
down alleys and lanes
reading the stone walkways
like pages folded out
and fastened to the earth
It is place that founds me
It is hill and river
It is the water under the bridge
The grass that's greener
It is the view of the mountains beyond
and the memory of the sea
Regardless of which medium he is channeling, R.B. Morris communicates with the heavy, heartfelt rhythm of East Tennessee. Some of his acclaimed books of poetry include “The Mockingbird Poems” and “Early Fires,” alongside releasing breathtaking records such as “Rich Mountain Bound” and “Spies Lies and Burning Eyes.” It is even more profound that the Big Ears festival features performances from brilliant Knoxville artists such as R.B. Morris, Black Atticus, the Ampient Music collective, Yasameen Hoffman-Shahin, and many other artists from the vibrant local arts community in which the event is set. In addition to international performers of all sorts, the festival also spotlights local wonder and charm by showcasing and nurturing the city’s rich arts community with featured performances throughout the weekend. It is quite fitting that Big Ears happens right here in Knoxville … where “it is the view of the mountains beyond” that stirs our minds and whispers into our hearts. This place will never leave you.
Learn more about R.B. Morris by visiting rbmorris.com.
By Jeffrey Chastain
Video stills courtesy of The Public Cinema
March 24, 2016
Jeffrey Chastain, SINE staff writer and host of WUTK's (90.3 FM, Knoxville) "Focus on Film" radio show, sat down with filmmaker, Paul Harrill, who is also a founder of Knoxville's microcinema, The Public Cinema.
The story behind The Public Cinema: Conceptualized and billed as Knoxville’s “microcinema,” The Public Cinema is Knoxville’s progressive, community-oriented film series founded by Paul Harrill and Darren Hughes.
“Our guiding principles basically are to bring the best of contemporary, international, experimental, and American independent cinema that wouldn’t play in Knoxville otherwise,” Hughes said.
Harrill is a filmmaker and University of Tennessee professor, and Hughes is a film critic and communications professional. The two collectively oversee operations of The Public Cinema, including curation of the film program.
Harrill and Hughes have known one another for twelve years, and Hughes says that, while his and Harrill’s taste in film don’t “overlap perfectly,” the two share a “certain sensibility” regarding film.
Since The Public Cinema’s inaugural spring 2015 film program, Harrill’s and Hughes’s shared sensibility has introduced Knoxville audiences to ambitious, and by Hughes’s own admission, often challenging films.
“We’re very intentional about straddling that line between what we think audiences would want to see and what we think they should see,” Hughes said. “We’re proud, so far, of the balance we’ve struck between those two desires.”
Highlights of the The Public Cinema’s film program have included Sean Baker’s innovatively film “Tangerine,” Portuguese filmmaker Pedro Costa’s dreamlike “Horse Money” and Guy Maddin’s equally bizarre and enchanting “The Forbidden Room.”
While several of the films presented by The Public Cinema may challenge audiences, Harrill and Hughes have ensured that all of the films – which are presented at partnering venues Scruffy City Hall, the Knoxville Museum of Art, and the Pilot Light -- are free and open to the public. The two have also managed to ensure that filmmakers receive proper compensation for their work.
“We’ve worked with a sponsor and a local arts donor so that we can keep all the screenings free, while at the same time paying the artists, paying the distributors, and doing everything above board,” Hughes said. “To do it legally and to pay the artist with the money that they deserve requires a little bit of funding, which we’ve been fighting for.”
By keeping the films accessible to audiences, Harrill and Hughes hope to strengthen Knoxville’s film community.
“We see (The Public Cinema) as a service to a community that we really love. We’re both tried-and-true Knoxville people, and we see a great opportunity for this kind of programming.”
Developing a Partnership With Big Ears: Big Ears’ collaboration with The Public Cinema this year will bring festival-goers a diverse, expansive lineup of films curated by Harrill and Hughes.
The partnership between Big Ears and The Public Cinema first developed as Paul Harrill was making early arrangements to secure a screening of “Heart of a Dog” for The Public Cinema. After Big Ears Festival producer AC Entertainment announced Laurie Anderson would be returning to this year’s festival, Harrill and Hughes contacted AC Entertainment founder Ashley Capps.
“This (announcement) gave us a real incentive to collaborate (with Big Ears) because we said (to Capps) ‘Hey, we’re already talking about showing “Heart of a Dog”. Do you think there’s any chance you can ask Laurie about doing a Q&A with us?” Hughes said.
Capps agreed, and a partnership was soon established between Big Ears Festival and The Public Cinema.
“Ashley invited us in and we started basically pitching ideas and figuring out how to pay for it and how to make it happen.”
The resulting lineup includes over 30 hours of programming, including a screening of the critically-acclaimed “Heart of a Dog”, followed by a Q&A with director Laurie Anderson, a retrospective of Matt Grady’s film distribution company Factory 25, and a 35mm screening of Sun Ra and his Arkestra’s “kaleidoscopic” 1972 film, “Space is the Place.”
Additional film programming includes the premiere of Indian-born filmmaker Shambhavi Kaul’s installation “Modes of Faltering” at The University of Tennessee’s downtown art gallery (Gallery 1010), as well as avant-garde filmmaker Jodie Mack’s presentation and performance of “Let Your Light Shine,” a collection of five textural, visually striking short films.
Learn more about The Public Cinema by visiting publiccinema.org.
By Sam Day
Photograph courtesy of Rob Delaney Management
September 3, 2014
When I found out Rob Delaney would be performing at The International in Knoxville in September, I figured I would check out the Twitter superstar live on stage.
Somewhere during Delaney’s set, in between the childhood quest for pornography and getting his penis inspected for AIDS, the Louis C.K. comparisons begin to make a lot of sense. As a part of the new wave of confessional comedians supercharged by the internet, Delaney rattles off about jizz, buttholes and everything else on the borderline of respectability to print. But while peers like Louis or a Marc Maron went viral by asking tough questions about our politics, society and existence itself, Delaney became more well-known for threatening to sue Kim Kardashian for her wedding to Kris Humphries for being a sham and tweets like “Which Mumford is the dad?”
In that sense, it should have been a little less surprising in how ordinary and relatable his standup was. Awkward doctor visits, ill-fitting bras, patronizing tour guides – the ironic hashtag he has coined, #ChristianDadsWhoVape, is a description that is as fitting as though his set was littered with words and orifices you might not be comfortable sharing with your extended family. The rest of it revolved around awkward coming-of-age encounters and the struggles of being a good father and husband. It was edgy, sure, but in a world where Jay-Z is 44 and everyone is naked on reality dating shows, a few loose words about genitalia just will not cut it.
That is probably what made Delaney worth it at the end of the night – the heart behind it all. Though “Slate” (eye-roll) once proclaimed, “Has there ever been a comedian more obsessed with the human body?” his new material is pushing away from that, with some of the biggest laughs coming as his material turned more suburban. He loves his wife, he loves his kids, and as it turns out, someone with a million followers on Twitter is confused about people’s allegiance to chunky peanut butter. There was little politicizing and moralizing around broader issues like gay marriage, but I highly doubt anyone is becoming a revolutionary off Delaney’s words.
Instead, this was more of an alt-pop than alt-comedy show. For someone who rose to fame through a mastery of Twitter, it was hard to not be a little disappointed by his conventionality, but for a couple beers and a couple hours, there were not a lot of better ways to spend a Wednesday night, a steep cover aside.
Learn more about Rob Delaney at robdelaney.com.
By Adrienne Weist
Photography and video courtesy of Marc Nelson Denim
January 8, 2015
The blue jean. Developed by Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss in 1873, jeans were initially worn by cowboys, farmers and miners for their durability and are now loved by all for their endless possibilities ranging from functionality to fashion. Jeans are one of the most classic examples of American innovation and culture. It has been just over 25 years since Levi Strauss closed its factory and moved it to Mexico in 1989. Marcus Hall, founder and CEO of Marc Nelson Denim, had watched most of his family including his grandfather, L.C. Nelson go to work at the Knoxville factory everyday and personally witnessed how the closing of the factory had disabled his community. This has inspired Marcus to keep Marc Nelson Denim American-made and as local to Knoxville and Tennessee as possible.
I had the opportunity to sit down and speak with Andy Jones, head of public relations at Marc Nelson Denim. I immediately noticed his bright personality and ease. Andy has an enthusiasm for the company and its mission that seems boundless. MND's commitment to Knoxville business-growth and its community is well-represented as soon as you walk through their beautiful red door made by Ironwood Studios. From the bricks salvaged from the McClung warehouses, to the local art from Pioneer House, to the repurposed old Manhattan’s bar chalk board, one can see that MND celebrates Knoxville culture in their store. One piece I found interesting was an old grand piano being used as a display table for some of their whiskey-stained jeans. The piano had been left behind in the old Dick Wright hardware store building, now the home of MND. They decided to keep it, wrapped it up and moved it all over the store while renovating. The piano represents MND’s ability to embrace their environment and recognize its potential. Andy seemed to know where every piece of wood, tile, iron and glass came from that made their store. He said, “I hope when people come here they will see how much we care about Knoxville.”
Marc Nelson Denim’s dedication to the community continues through many avenues. They volunteer at our beloved Love Kitchen, have helped provide work space for a few local businesses, and love to collaborate with other local and regional business for products and services. They paired up with Ironwood Studios to manufacture their belts and belt buckles made from recycled NASCAR lug bolts and recently joined forces with Smooth Ambler Spirits in Greenbrier, WV to manufacture their whiskey stained jeans. Their next partnership will be with Bonlife Coffee Company out of Cleveland, TN to make coffee dyed barista aprons and possibly some coffee dyed jeans. MND has participated in benefits to aid such organizations as the historical Tennessee Theatre and the Child and Family Tennessee Runaway Shelter. Whenever I see MND at a function, even if its at the cut throat, elbow jabbing biannual Boutique Blowout Sales, they show up with enthusiasm.
If you have already heard of Marc Nelson Denim you have probably heard of the “365’s,” now appropriately named “ The Andy.” Andy Jones actually ended up wearing the jeans for 367 days. When he started sporting his brand new Marc Nelson’s it was not with the intent to wear them for a year. He just put them on the next day and then the next. Each day they were comfortable, looked good and worked well for whatever endeavours he was to encounter while running his multiple businesses. It then came to him to wear them for a year. A year without washing, soaking, freezing or drying them. For most people that is about five to six years of wear. To look at these jeans you never would have believed they were not laundered. They do not smell ... at all! They are worn but in the best kind of way. There is a minuscule fraying above the top button where his belt buckle was, and if you look closely, you can see the faint outline of a phone in his left front pocket. In the right front pocket there is some slight fading where he carried his keys ... everyday ... for a year ... and there are no holes! Along the inside of the left front pocket Andy marked with a pen the days he wore his 365’s. The inked days of wear have given the pocket an ombre effect leaving the beginning days almost indiscernible. All the seams and stitching are intact and the rest just looks authentically lived in. Simply, they look awesome. So much so, that one man offered to buy them for $1,000. Andy would not do it. “They meant more to me than that.” Andy had never considered himself a particularly sentimental person, but he felt nostalgic about the story these jeans told of a year in his life.
They also meant a lot to the company. These jeans were, and still are, a physical representation of how hard everyone at Marc Nelson Denim had worked. Marcus and Andy had thought about framing them with some kind of little plaque or something telling people about the story. But then, Marcus thought,” That is the dumbest thing we could do.” Andy could not have agreed more. If they did that no one would be able to touch them, hold them and see all the details. They want customers to not only see the story these jeans told, but also see the quality of construction that Marc Nelson Denim offers.
Marc Nelson Denim wants to create classic pieces that you can buy today and still wear five, 10 and 15 years from now. As Andy put it, “Everyone wears denim. Everyone can wear Marc Nelson Denim.” Whatever your profession or lifestyle, MND makes investment pieces that are intended to endure the everyday life of the people who wear them. I am looking forward to shopping more at MND and watching them grow and continue the history of Industrial Knoxville ... particularly in the form of some coffee stained skinnies and their chambray shirtdress.
Learn more about Marc Nelson Denim at marcnelsondenim.com.
Book review by Nick Kivi
Image courtesy of Simon & Schuster Publishing
September 30, 2014
"Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive, Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78 rpm Records” by Amanda Petrusich
At what point do our purchases become us? When do our materialistic tendencies transform us into bastardized versions of what we buy? As much we would like it to be, how consumerism defines us is not a tightrope bisecting two hemispheres. It gets complicated. It is both. It is neither. It is gray. The hobby (read: obsession) of collecting itself is taking materialism to the absolute extreme. Buying a Skip James collection on iTunes might not identify you, but when you find yourself hitched up to a scuba tank scuttling around the depths of the Milwaukee River looking for discarded Skip James records, people might start to wonder.
"Collecting anything requires a singularity of focus, but 78 collecting demands an almost-inhuman level of concentration. There is a violence to the search, a dysfunctional aggression that vacillates between repellent and endearingly quirky. It’s intimidating to outsiders, and it feeds on sacrifice.” -Amanda Petrusich
Enter Amanda Petrusich, author of the wonderful 2014 book, “Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive, Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78 rpm Records.” From the sweaty mountain flea markets of Hillsville, Virginia to the previously noted Milwaukee River depths, Petrusich follows around a motley crew of eccentrics hell-bent on finding each and every last pre-war record in existence. It also takes a look at the history of American music and how the works of these influential early musical troubadours were saved from the ravages of time.
About a decade before the British Invasion crested the American horizon, a scraggly American anthropologist named Harry Smith was weaving together a tapestry of all-but-forgotten folk music 78's. In what proved to be the holy grail of mixtapes, Folkways Records’ “The Anthology of American Folk Music” had a slow burning yet exponentially influential grasp on 20th century music. A young kid by the name of Robert Zimmerman became enthralled with the collection and was majorly influenced by it way when he began performing as Bob Dylan. It is fair to say that without “Anthology,” you might never have seen the Dylan we know today, in turn never seeing Springsteen, and so on and so forth. “The Anthology” became the torch upon which a generation of young music lovers gazed on for guidance and direction. It also helped spur on the search for similar records. Petrusich dedicates a large portion to Smith and his creation, trying to pick and prod through the knee-deep muck of mythology that now surrounds it.
So as the mid-60’s came and The Stones, The Yardbirds and The Who began to quickly permeate into the American conscious, interest towards their influences grew further. These bands were clearly influenced by early rock n’ roll from the good-ol-USA, but there was a deeper knowledge of American music that even many Americans had not yet picked up on. The Brits had discovered the blues and distilled it until became something new yet clearly indebted to the past. Artists like Leadbelly, Skip James and Son House, amongst others, were found again decades after their legendary recordings. People began hunting zealously to find all the records that these legends stomped out that had been thought were lost to time.
Petrusich keeps up with all walks of vinyl-philiacs. She finds Joe Bussard, who has been out collecting some 25,000 78's for over half a century. Some are younger, who were not around forty years ago before anyone had yet gobbled up all the remaining Mississippi John Hurt singles – people who still have the bug but fewer blues records left to find. Others like Chris King have ventured off into other genres, finding 90-year-old Cajun barn-stompers by Blind Uncle Gaspard or the haunting solos of violinist, Alexis Zoumbas. Some of the most well-known blues and folk music known today is recounted as being saved from dumpsters next to the homes of deceased hoarders.
A long time writer for “Pitchfork” and “Oxford American,” Petrusich knows music better than just about anyone. Equal parts Tom Wolfe and Alan Lomax, she slides right into the world of 78's collecting and contextualizing all of 20th century music so even the most ignorant of music aficionados could understand. American music history is a rather intimidating subject, but Petrusich makes it accessible and interesting. With many of these records being the only remaining in existence, these faithful and fortuitous adventurers are doing something that is invaluable to an unmatched musical culture – helping save it.
Article and photograph by William Wright
August 19, 2014
Nestled into an aging cluster of red brick businesses on the east end of the Oak Ridge turnpike is a tiny red building that has simultaneously been a culinary institution and a treasured secret in the Atomic City for over two decades. On the outside of the building, two words appear in white: MAGIC WOK.
This Chinese lunch counter has only two employees, Jim and Betty Wong. They are also husband and wife.
Magic Wok has overflow seating in the next building, but the actual diner has only five seats at the counter and three small booths, which are generally full during lunch and dinner hours.
The magic in what Jim and Betty deliver is simplicity. And no greater illustration of the brilliant minimalism of the restaurant is more vivid than in their dish selection. That is because there is really only one dish on Betty's menu: “Chicken Cashew.” She can make anything you want. She most frequently recommends Sweet And Sour Chicken for the high schoolers. But the vast majority of the Wok's large and loyal group of regulars walk through the door with only one of two words with which to place their order: "regular" or "spicy." The food is served within seconds in plain unmarked Styrofoam boxes.
The dish itself is a deceptively modest blend of soy-marinated, bite-sized pieces of chicken stewed together in a wok in a blend of caramelized onions, bamboo chutes, shredded carrots and a rotating cast of (depending on what day you go) broccoli, crunchy water chestnuts and other vegetables. The final touch is a few hand-scooped portions of fresh cashews. If this is too simple for you to consider it a very special dish, that is understandable. Even to the eyes, it looks like the Chinese fare you have eaten a million times. But the flavors that Betty summons from such basic ingredients can only be described as magical. The dish is dense (but not too far) and very hearty. At the same time, however, there is an elegance and familiarity to it. If you like your food on the spicy side, they have crucibles where you can hand-blend your own peppers, or they will happily add their own blend of ground pepper (grown just outside the place) and chili oil. You will need a nap, but it is worth it.
Many people order the food to go, but dining-in is highly recommended. Experiencing Betty and Jim is just as rewarding as eating their subtle and spectacular Chicken Cashew. The simplicity of the dish yields exceptional satisfaction. Try it for yourself. It is truly magic.
By Pratishtha Singh
Photography by Bill Foster and Nick Kivi
January 11, 2015
President Barack Obama visits Knoxville, Tennessee (USA) to introduce a proposal – a plan to expand and improve the middle class in America: America’s College Promise proposal, which is modeled after the Tennessee Promise scholarship program.
(Scroll down to sections in bold to go straight to political coverage.)
While SINE does not normally cover politics, sometimes there are extraordinary circumstances that encourage us to broaden our normal scope of coverage. For example, the president of the United States was visiting our hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee.
We decided to focus on live-tweeting to cover the president’s visit. We came at you live from Twitter @SINE_media with coverage of #ObamaInTN on Friday, January 9, 2015.
"Today #Obama visits #Knoxville to discuss #highereducation, and we will be live-tweeting from the event. #TeamAmerica #TeamSINE #TWMTDW" -@SINE_media
As Editor, I held down my team: photographers (one for arrival at the base and one for his speech on the campus) and another writer and myself live-tweeting from where the president would be delivering his remarks, the Clayton Performing Arts Center auditorium on the Pellissippi State Technical Community College campus. We were eager to learn and have some fun while hearing the president deliver new initiatives.
But first, setting up for and capturing the arrival of Air Force One.
OBAMA #ONSIGHT: FREEZUS SEASON APPROACHIN’.
It was really cold.
The morning of Friday, January 9, 2015, SINE staff writer, Nick Kivi headed out to the McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base to get set up for capturing arrival photos of Air Force One. SINE’s team was spread out to get photographs for both the arrival of the president and for photographs during his remarks.
“What's up gang? @Kivinotkiwi here coming to you from Alcoa covering the #AirForce1 landing!” -@SINE_media
While some of us didn't wear the cold so well, Nick exclaimed that it was a beautiful day at the McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base. Meanwhile, at the PSTCC campus, where the president would be arriving thereafter, I found a warm building nearby to sit inside until the doors opened up for press to be cleared and enter. Until then, Nick kept us posted from the base via Twitter with updates of both the president’s and vice president’s travel progress and landings. It was a clear and sunny Friday morning. Our photos reflected a gorgeous setting for the grand arrival welcoming the president.
“We're all through security and waiting to be brought down to the tarmac. The sun came out, should be quite a sight. #AF1Landing” –@SINE_media
Shortly after, Nick filled us in on arrival details, including a slight delay, due to the fact that the president was getting briefed on updates surrounding the #JeSuisCharlie tragedy in France. From there, the rest of our coverage continued steadily as we tweeted online.
NEXT: #WADING FOR THE #TRAVELPOOLPARTY
Over at the PSTCC campus, the rest of us with Team SINE were waiting for the president to enter the auditorium and deliver his new higher education proposal. We remained highly amused by the music selection they chose to welcome the president with while everybody was seated and waiting for his arrival:
“Probably just the anticipation, but the silence between banjo jams seems to be getting longer and longer. Obama is like ‘...let em sweat’" -@SINE_media
President Barack Obama visited Tennessee to unveil America’s College Promise proposal and a new American Technical Training Fund, as well as announce a new manufacturing innovation hub in Clinton, TN. SINE zoomed in on the higher education proposal because it was most specific to his visit to Tennessee (namely, Knoxville) due to the origin of the proposal – it was inspired by the Tennessee Promise program, backed by Governor Haslam (R).
Since the president’s visit a couple days ago, many of you may be well aware of what America’s College Promise Proposal is: offering two free years of community college for students that maintain a GPA of 2.5 or higher and are enrolled at least part-time. The idea behind this proposal is that opening the doors to welcoming more Americans into the world of higher education would be an opportunity to allow more Americans to enter the middle class. According to the president, the middle class is a nation’s powerhouse and allows it to be able to compete fiercely in the global economy, especially when technological advancements are persistent worldwide. “Any country that out-educates us will out-compete us,” stated Vice President Joe Biden, before the president took the podium.
After taking the stage, the president told us that in our country's history, America has been at the forefront of education – suggesting that is why we thrived as a nation in the twentieth century. He proceeded to talk about how we were the first ones to institute a mandated twelve-year education (through high school), but he stressed that in today’s day and age, it is becoming a point of urgency to extend that government-funded schooling to college. “… we dedicated ourselves to cultivating the most educated workforce in the world and invested in one of the crown jewels of this country, the higher education system … Eventually the world caught on and caught up. That is why we have to lead the world in education again,” stated President Obama.
In the auditorium, seated to my right was SINE's Head Staff Writer, Wil Wright. I was focused on tweeting the president’s remarks while Wil tied in the cultural happenings of the event. I would venture to say that our coverage was balanced very nicely – Wil kept us awake with traces of humour throughout the event:
“If anybody has a vibe you'd like delivered to the PSTCC event, we are happy to try. #ObamaInTN” –@SINE_media
“Obama with the inevitable gas-prices flex.” -@SINE_media
"‘Here in America we don't guarantee equal options ... But we do expect everybody gets an equal shot.’ -President @BarackObama #ObamaInTN” -@SINE_media
While these types of programs do change lives on a case-by-case basis, Obama’s point of concern is that America is lagging behind other technically advanced countries, as a whole. He suggests that due to our lower education standards we have lower graduation rates, which means fewer of our citizens have college degrees to take on jobs to enter the middle class, which is what he suggests that we need to power this nation and keep us competitive globally. “That (education) is the key, not just for individual Americans, but this whole country’s ability to compete in the global economy. Jobs and businesses will go where the most skilled and educated workforce resides … Technology means they can locate anywhere … I want them to look no further than America,” said President Obama.
But is a larger middle class what we need to compete in the global market? It's not a preposterous proposition.
I left wondering what the financial impact of America’s College Promise would be. How much like the Tennessee Promise is it modeled after – is it also a “last dollar” scholarship? Are we doing anything to increase the amount of Pell Grants? The president intends to fund three-quarters of this proposal federally, leaving the remaining quarter up to the states, but he didn't mention that during his delivery. This proposal may not receive full support from Congress due to potential disapproval from Republicans regarding funding and allocation, but it has sparked the headline discussion in our nation surrounding our current education standards. At the very least, dialogue is moving in the right direction.
President Obama also noted that he and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) wanted to work together more to make financial aid forms easier to fill out. As they are right now, financial aid forms are discouraging because of their lengthiness and complexity. In the spirit of this proposal, simplifying those forms would be a good start to making the process for entering higher education more welcoming. Hopefully with more time we will have more details to better analyze the various impacts of America’s College Promise proposal.
Regardless of my inquiries regarding this proposal, President Barack Obama was undoubtedly a great speaker -- I witnessed this in person. In fact, he still projects that sense of presidential “hope,” (for better or for worse), and he gracefully walked across the stage to own the moment and speak to The American People. I was sitting right there for it. In that moment, it felt nuts to me to be in the same room as the Leader of the Free World. He looked younger in person to me than he looks on television and online for some reason. But he did not seem as enthusiastic as I expected him to be. He seem weathered by the nearing of the end of his two terms, but there it was: a classic presidential speech.
Twitter was SINE’s major platform for coverage of the president’s visit to Knoxville; I wrote this review to inform readers about the proposal, as well as share my experience with you all from the perspective of an arts and culture magazine. You can check us out @SINE_media to see, in full, for yourself. Thanks for checking out SINE’s coverage of President Obama in Knoxville, TN, and thank you to Nick, Wil and Bill for joining me on this largely-nonsensical adventure.
“’We can make of our lives what we will ... We don't give up ... We fight back.’ -President @BarackObama” –@SINE_media
“Obama exits to some triumphant bro-rock. Can't make this stuff up. #ObamaInTN” -@SINE_media
By Jeff Blank
Film still courtesy of PolyGram Filmed Entertainment and Working Title Films
June 9, 2014
This article was initially about a Daniel Kitson, a brilliant Scottish comedian that has embraced the DIY mentality that so many early pioneers of punk rock music made famous. It was about the way that he has intertwined music, absurdness and a general “either like what I do, or fuck off” sensibility into his stage shows. That is what this article was SUPPOSED to be about.
Then, Rik Mayall passed away at age 56.
If you’re not familiar, you should be. He was known here in the states as the slender ginger in the titular role in "Drop Dead Fred," where he played an endearing, ill-mannered imaginary friend that was a walking fart gag with a heart of gold. I saw that movie when I was just a young lad, and I still think about a booger joke from the movie on a regular basis — and I’m 35 now. (It was a really good booger joke.) Mayall was perhaps best known as one of the creators and stars of BBC Two’s "The Young Ones," an offbeat sitcom about four roommates in a rundown flat that set the stage for the irreverent, buck-the-system kind of comedy that you can find in comics like Kitson. What truly set the show apart was the insanely violent, silly writing that seemed to be more for the players in the show than the audience itself — a concept that worked out for the best. The show also had the mark of being the only show to feature bands such as Motörhead, Madness and The Damned in almost every episode (a result of a BBC budgetary loophole that allowed the show to be made). The introduction to "The Young Ones" was a huge influence for me — like a punk rock version of fellow Brits' Monty Python, it taught me that silly can not only be smart, but it can highlight the problems that society chooses to turn a blind eye to — a concept that carries through into my own standup and writing.
To say that he was influential would be an understatement. There’s something about someone using anarchy as a rule for their art form that should inform us all. Art is expression, regardless of the medium, and to see someone present it with such an unfiltered, unabashed crudeness is truly remarkable. From the punk rock of the 70’s and 80’s to the modern street art of artists like Banksy to the cutting rants of late comedian Bill Hicks, art in any form is supposed to have the freedom and fire to point the finger at society’s wrongs. Rik Mayall succeeded in doing so, armed with talent, arrogance and toilet humor. When a comedian forces an audience to think about things from an alternate perspective, things that they normally try to ignore, it creates a spark in society that’s hard to extinguish. Even when that spark is a booger joke. A really, really awesome booger joke.
Again, this was supposed to be about Daniel Kitson … about the way he disdains the assumed practical rules of standup comedy ... about the way he makes audiences think about things without them even noticing that he’s doing it ... about the way he is able to sell out virtually every performance, relying on the body of work he has created as both the primary promotional tool and the middle finger to “the system.” In a way, it still is. There is always a need for someone like that. The kid with moxie — the thorn in the establishment’s side. The torch must be passed for every generation, and Rik Mayall was surely one of those bearers, and I’m sure Kitson will be, as well. The fire that great artists start burns for a long time…
...and it takes more than a fire truck to stop Drop Dead Fred.
All of these photos are unedited and taken by locals in the East Tennessee area. They have been published from submissions. Please enjoy seeing this beautiful part of the country through the eyes of the people that live here. #LocalEyesIt
From top to bottom:
1. "Buttercup, the Horse"
Photograph from Knoxville, TN by Miranda Klein
2. "The Up-Close Beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains"
Photograph from Gatlinburg, TN by Katherine Vermillion
3. "Mount LeConte (The Summit)"
Photograph from Sevier County, TN by Taylar Cieslukowski
4. "Between Venues"
Photograph from downtown Knoxville, TN by Pete Eby trekking during Big Ears Festival 2016
5. "There's So Mushroom to Grow in Knoxville"
Photograph from Knoxville, TN by Dan DeRidder
By Nathan Smith
February 28, 2015
"Smash Cut" is an online magazine "disagreeing with you about pop culture and entertainment since 2012." Nathan Smith is the editor and head writer for "Smash Cut." As collaborators on former projects, SINE's editor reached out to Nathan to share a slice of his brain over here, too:
I think it is a bit of an understatement that a lot of movies come out every year. Like, a lot. In 2014, I saw 65 movies released that year, and I still have not seen everything worth seeing. Most folks do not have that much time on their hands to tune in and veg out, so here is a brief guide to some of the films from 2015 we are looking forward to the most.
“In a Valley of Violence”
Release date: TBA
A western thriller starring Ethan Hawke and John Travolta, “In a Valley of Violence” is the latest film from acclaimed horror director Ti West, the first outside-the-genre he made his name in. With such independently-produced horror films as “The House of the Devil” and “The Innkeepers,” West proved that he is a master stylist who possesses incredible control over the detail and pacing of his films – slowly drawing out tension before he goes in for the kill. It might not be a “horror film,” per say, but “In a Valley of Violence” is likely to be just as suspenseful – and bloody – as what West has given us before.
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
May 15, 2015
Sequels made several decades after their originals never leave much room for hope, and “Mad Max: Fury Road” leaves even less, but, in perhaps, the best way possible.
“Fury Road” takes place in the same rust-covered outback as director George Miler’s other “Mad Max” films – a world in which God has opened up the heavens and pissed down straight fire. Our lonely protagonist, the eponymous Max (this time played by Tom Hardy instead of Mel Gibson), continues to outrun both his past and the gas-guzzling freaks out to get his ride and his flesh. “Fury Road” is rumored to be one entire movie-long car chase, which should more than satisfy both fans of the series and gear fetishists alike. Call it “Pimp My Ride,” post-apocalypse style.
Release date: TBA
The latest film from controversial filmmaker Abel Ferrara (“Bad Lieutenant,” “King of New York”) stars Willem Dafoe as equally controversial filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini (“Salo,” or the “120 Days of Sodom; The Gospel According to St. Matthew”). As an artist, Ferrara has largely been cast aside, but his unceasing work ethic and uncompromising artistic vision prove he truly does deserve a place in the annals of American cinema. Ferrara’s last film, “Welcome to New York,” a brutal masterpiece based on the crimes of ultimate French fuckboy Dominique Strauss-Kahn, remains unfortunately undistributed in the United States, and it seems that “Pasolini” may face the same fate. But we can hope, right?
“She’s Funny That Way”
May 1, 2015
The first feature film by acclaimed critic-cum-director Peter Bogdanovich (“The Last Picture Show,” “Paper Moon”) in over a decade, “She’s Funny That Way” stars some of our finest comic acting talents (Owen Wilson, Kathryn Hahn, Will Forte) in a tale of theatrical intrigue. Although many might be unfamiliar with Bogdanovich, as his talents have mostly been relegated to television films, concert documentaries and acting over the past several years, he is one of America’s greatest living filmmakers and it will be a pleasure to see him back in the directing chair. The project was also shepherded to the screen by beloved filmmakers Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach, so there is always that, too.
Release date: TBA
Since I have not seen them, I do not know quite what to expect from most of these films, so they can be a little difficult to write about. But if there is one film I really do not know what to expect from – it is quite possibly the Ukrainian drama, “The Tribe.” Although it is technically what we English-speaking folk would call a “foreign-language film,” “The Tribe” does not actually have any spoken words in it. The story of a boy trying to find his place in a boarding school for the deaf, “The Tribe”’s only dialogue is told through sign language – with no dialogue. I think it is safe to say that this alone makes “The Tribe” a cinematic feat worth watching.
Read more from Nathan Smith at smashcutmag.com.
Book by Jonathan Tropper
Review by Hannah Gardner
September 9, 2014
Summer is really over. Boomsday has come to pass, football season is in full swing and the leisurely beach read you meant to read is still sitting on your bedside table. And now, Jonathan Tropper's 2009 novel, “This Is Where I Leave You” has been adapted by the big screen. This book review is intended to encourage you to read it for yourself then go check it out in theatres.
Centered on the Foxman family, the main character, Jud, the middle adult son of four fairly self-centered siblings, must deal with both the death of his cancer-stricken father, but also with his cheating wife who discovers she is pregnant with what may or may not be his child. On top of that, his father's one final wish requested that all of the Foxman children sit Shiva for a week – a practice where all of the immediate family members live under one roof and grieve while various relatives, friends, neighbors and mothers with single daughters (looking to set up their offspring with the now suddenly single Jud) come by to visit.
The story makes for the typical dysfunctional family tale, complete with plenty of sex, fights and exploring the perils of true adulthood. As the highly anticipated film adaptation has arrived, it was difficult to read this story and not picture the characters as the actors who play them. Jason Batemen plays Jud, while Tina Fey, Corey Stoll and Adam Driver make up the rest of the Foxman family. Jane Fonda plays the Foxman matriarch, Hillary. This is a wonderfully ironic casting choice, as Tropper compares Hillary to Jane Fonda in one of the chapters. In the end, I found that picturing these actors as the characters only aided in lifting Tropper's words off of the page and bringing life to the Foxman family. Death is never an easy story, but it is one we all share. Tropper succeeds in sharing this family's story by understanding that death does not have to mean the end. Sometimes, it can lead to new beginnings.
Play review by Jemi P.
September 9, 2014
“The Irish Curse” begs the question, “Is comparison the thief of joy?” When Theodore Roosevelt said this famous quote, he may or may not have been referring to a man’s most private of areas, but if the pants fit…
“The Irish Curse,” which appeared at Theatre Knoxville Downtown August 29-September 14 is a play written by Martin Casella. It was originally performed at the New York International Fringe Festival in 2005. “The Irish Curse” takes a satirical, raw and, at many moments uncomfortable, look at male sexuality and body image as the characters, Stephen, Rick and Joseph attend their weekly support group.
The men’s support group is held at a local Catholic Church and lead by Father Shaunessy. The meeting is for men of Irish descent who struggle with, as the play’s poster states, “one little problem.” As the production unfolds, a new member, Keiran arrives. The men begin their weekly jaunt as each one shares his story, struggles, fears and hopes.
Does "it" matter? As the play delves deep into the male psyche, the characters candidly debate the importance of size. One goes so far as to say that all wars have been caused by men making up for what they lack elsewhere. The language is jaw-droppingly coarse. The dialogue is quick and unflinching. The actors at Theatre Knoxville Downtown performed the tongue twisting, hard-hitting dialogue with fineness, sincerity and waggish wit.
It has become almost cliché for women to discuss body issues and their relation to sexuality, confidence and adequacy both in and outside of the bedroom. We live in a culture where the bedroom is far more transparent than it once was with celebrities openly discussing their lives between the sheets on talk shows by sharing tips and taboos. As a play, “The Irish Curse” responds in such an earnest and naked manner to the issues plaguing many in our comparison-rich society.
If you get the opportunity to see “The Irish Curse” and can stomach the adult content, it is more than worth your time. The issues and questions raised by this play extend to the very fiber of each of us. These concerns extend beyond body image to self-worth, relationship stability and even one’s will to continue living. “The Irish Curse” stealthily offers some solutions to all of these concerns. Do not alienate yourself. Make communication a priority. Comparison is the thief of joy.
Interview by Jacqueline Gibert
Photography by Robert Berlin
April 29, 2016
White’s involvement with 2016’s Knoxville Fashion Week began as a referral after he produced an avant-garde runway show for Knoxville in April 2014. Once Gage owner, Jaymee Hemsley heard about White’s show from her director, Michelle Bailey, then helping out with facilitating models for it, she reached out to work with White again for Knoxville Fashion Week this year, as it had expanded since previous years’ shows. Hemsley’s vision included an entire day of the week (Thursday) dedicated to just hair and makeup. “And she was just, like, come up with a concept, and create a creative team for hair and make-up for yourself -- we will supply you with all the models that you need!” explained (and exclaimed) White. Anna Elizabeth Campbell, "Isla," oversaw makeup for this segment.
Jacqueline Gibert: With Knoxville Fashion Week, it seemed like it was more fashion forward with clothing than it has been in prior years -- was this the first step toward how you envisioned the hair and makeup for this year?
AW: Right. She wanted to give some of the local artists more of an opportunity to brand and market themselves through doing [their own] hair and makeup. She hadn't seen a whole lot of shows specifically dedicated to just hair and makeup, and that’s why she wanted to do that all on Thursday night for all of us so we could showcase some of our talents and [most notably] creative ideas.
JG: Who all was there that night? For example, I know Christian McNally was there, as Founder of War Paint Academy. How did you feel with him “opening up,” so to speak?
AW: Well, at first it was kind of intimidating, [but] he's a really personable kind of guy. He's super friendly ... He's not intimidating when you meet him. [I mean] you've got all these issues that are popping up [during the show] that you weren't expecting, [so] you totally forget about all that other stuff, and you’re just like, “OK. How am I going to fix this? How am I going to get this all done in, like, eight hours?”
JG: Who were some of the makeup artists and some of the stylists that you collaborated with?
AW: Let’s see ... There was you (Jacqueline Gibert) and me ... I mean, we were all from different salons, but we weren't there to necessarily market and brand our own salon. We were there to market and brand ourselves as individuals and stylists. There was Elizabeth Campbell, and she goes by “Isla” at the salon that I work at. There was Sarah, “Beux,” Amber Locke … There was Jewely Patteno, Jon Simpson -- all these people come from different salons. We had a girl there to help out to do whatever she could possibly do, and her name was Lolita Smith.
JG: And she brought in someone, too!
AW: Yeah, she brought in a girl who was great with doing braids -- [she] could braid really, really fast. And then a friend of mine, Robert Berlin, is a photojournalist [who handled a lot of our photography]. He’s done stuff all over the world, but he wants to get more into shooting for fashion, so he asked if he could come and do behind-the-scenes photos of everything. [H]e donated his time and his creative process ... and it turned out really, really cool. [And] there was Thomas Eubanks, who's a barber, and he's based out of T’s Barber Shop in Knox Center Mall. He did the tribal designs because after we talked about it, we ended up going with a tribal concept, so he came in in and did tribal-inspired hair tattoos, remaining culturally aware and sensitive to the roots of said inspiration, of course!
JG: About how many models did we all style?
AW: [Well], I hadn't realized that at one point we’d only selected, like, five guys to be our models … all the rest were all women! Overall, we ended up doing about forty-five to fifty models. Originally, we narrowed it down and brought it to about thirty-eight. But there were models that we didn't select. She (Claire) was like, “They’re either with Paul Mitchell, or Christian McNalley. Just send the ones you don't want away.” But some of them kind of snuck in.
JG: So you said you picked the tribal theme. Where did you find that inspiration?
AW: I had gone to go see Madonna’s concert, “Rebel Heart” in Nashville, I think it was the 19th of January, earlier this year. We had toyed around with some other ideas, and it just wasn't really coming together. But in the very beginning of her tour, there were these big screens, and that was the opening act for the concert. [At] one point, she turns around [bellowing] this speech, and she's got this ring in her nose, and she has this cape on ... and she's got this staff, and she's standing on top of this cliff … and there’s a thousand warrior-like dressed guys down there. [Then] we came back to Knoxville. [That’s when] I talked to you and Anna Elizabeth Campbell and said, “Why don't we just focus on [tribes for inspiration]?” And it went in that direction.
JG: How far in advance do you have to plan for a show like Knoxville Fashion Week? What all do you have to prepare for just one day?
AW: The more time the better! We were all working full time jobs in the salons. Isla also does the Knoxville Opera makeup, so her schedule is really crazy, anyway. [Every]body was doing anything outside of their job, whether it was photoshoots or wedding hair, or makeup or something like that. [Y]ou are just cramming as much time as you can possibly can get into all that.
JG: Can you talk about process -- in terms of our models, what we did when we were working late those nights at Gage in preparation for Knoxville Fashion Week?
AW: [A]t the beginning of our process, we went and selected models. We were selecting models more on height, I think, versus just about anything else. I think you want to look as fluid as possible while not excluding and remaining true to the individuality of each model. So, after that, then just getting them grouped up as far as what hair they were going to wear, with what makeup they were going to wear it, what the outfit was going to look like, to have it -- just trying to have a nice, natural flow to the entire show. And that was the majority of those visits, really.
JG: How do you view fashion in Knoxville?
AW: I see the backwards baseball hat, khaki shirts, flip-flops and polos. Then, the hipsters are really in right now, so you see them, too. Some also have … [a] kind of grunge look, you know? I work in the salons … [so there] you see all black, probably a little bit of crazy color somewhere in their hair, their makeup is always on point … Everybody -- we all look like ... I feel like we all look like we are going on a runway show in our daily lives, ourselves.
JG: I mean, we try to embody higher fashion in everyday wear -- as members of the salon community -- to set a fashion forward example for everyone.
AW: Exactly! I did a demo of an avant-garde up-do: [The model] had on an all-black jumpsuit, and it was very low-cut -- very dramatic -- very pretty and stuff. It went really well with the hair and the overall look that we were trying to create for her. But then again, here I am in all black, and even though it’s a baseball cap, it says “VOGUE” on the back of it, so I'm allowing myself to get away with that one. (Ha.)
JG: So what else are you working on these days?
AW: So, the project I'm [launching] started just before Knoxville Fashion Week. We entered a competition. Our boss is Frank Gambuzza, and he is president of Intercoiffure. Basically he does the high end salons regarding hairdressing for North America, [as well as internationally]. We entered this competition, and they went all out for it. Brian Allen came in as photographer for this project, which was wonderful. My next big thing that’s coming up stems from placing top ten in all of North America, with respect to hair, so I’m going to do this specialized haircut on stage in front of like ... 1,500 people. [It’s] in Boca Raton, in Florida.
JG: What’s the name of this competition?
AW: The competition is called Big Bang. The concept and the idea was brought up by Van Michael Salon and the creative director for Frank Gambuzza [and Intercoiffure], which is based in Atlanta, Georgia.
JG: How did you get into this aspect of the hair industry? Because, you know, cosmetology is such a widespread career, and you're kind of leaning more toward the high fashion aspect of it in Knoxville. What would you say were some milestones?
AW: Definitely the first runway show that I did that you were a part of was a milestone. I think that was the first really big step. Well, I guess like, in school I was nominated for Beacon, which is affiliated with NAHA, the North American Hair Association. [T]hat’s a huge event they hold every year in Vegas, but as a student you can enter the competition and it’s for Beacon, which is basically some kind of affiliation with NAHA. Originally what happened was, and this is, I’ve always loved editorial, runway, and stuff. I worked for Regal for ten years as a promotional coordinator, but even then, you know, I really loved all that sort of stuff. I got into, well, let me back up again: I had gone out to San Fransisco to go to school for fashion design, and I got accepted to the University of Art in San Francisco and went out in the spring, and I was going to move out there in the fall. Just before that happened though, about three weeks before I was going to move out there, I was in a car accident. This woman ran a red light and it messed up my neck and my back. I had to do physical therapy and took some time off work, as a result. I was downtown walking around one day. I had about a week before I had to return to work, and I was just bored walking around downtown. I saw the Aveda Institute, and I didn't know it was a school. I thought it was a salon. I was like, 'Oh I’m going to walk in here and look at the product.' I had never heard of Aveda -- never used Aveda. Cosmetology had never been a big thing to me. I don't know why I had never associated runway with cosmetologists. So I come back and do a tour like two days later, and I'm walking around. They're showing me everything, the school … Two days later, [I enrolled]. So … that was the inspiration -- the basis of it!
Thank you for the inside-look, Jacqueline and Aaron!