Art and Culture

Art and culture

I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, Non-Fiction, and Poetry.

James Wood is a respected journalist and author.  He is an English literary critic, essayist, and novelist. The Book Against God is his first Novel.  Thomas Bunting is a charming but exasperating writer working on his PhD, which he seems unable to complete.  He has spent seven years on his degree. 


David and Art - Friday Night Lights

Sep 21, 2020

High school artists are also found beneath the famous Friday Night Lights

For better or worse, the pandemic version of the 2020 high school football season has begun.  Its kick-off sends an electric charge through a lot of people who’ve eagerly looked forward to Friday nights this fall.  The coaches and players, however, are just part of the excitement.  Friday nights also mean marching bands, one of the most visible art programs in the public schools.

Like the football teams that perform before and after halftime, all high school marching bands begin working on their craft in the heat of the summer, weeks before you get to watch them.  When I was in high school at Irving High, we started practicing on the first of August and began every day at dawn so we could

For more than 50 years, the Sweet Singing Cavaliers have been the most beloved gospel group in South Central Los Angeles.

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I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, Non-Fiction, and Poetry.

It is not often I see a new novel, open to the first page, and then buy and begin reading.  But it has happened now.  Furthermore, Charlotte McConaghy’s first novel Migrations, is by an unknown writer.  As I began to read, I gathered the subject of the novel revolved around the effects of climate change, overfishing in the oceans, and attempts to find the last flock of Arctic terns.  I was immediately overcome with the beauty of her prose.  She—and several other characters--also migrate.


David and Art - "Remembering Bird"

Sep 14, 2020

Remembering a sax player who changed the course of American music

Last month was the 100th anniversary of the birth of one of America’s most influential musicians.  Charlie Parker was born in Kansas City, Kansas on August 29, 1920 and began playing the saxophone when he was 11.  At age 15—which would’ve been 1935 and in the depths of the Great Depression—he dropped out of school to pursue music full time.  He once told another sax player that when he was young, he’d practice as much as 15 hours a day.  He joined the local chapter of the musician’s union and for four years played the very lively Kansas City jazz and blues circuit.  Soon he was touring with bands as far afield as Chicago and New York.

In 1939 he decided to stay in New York City and dive into its music scene.  He initially got by working as a dishwasher to make enough money to live on.  He was a 

The Roscoe Robinson-led New Heavenly Wonders recorded the Philadelphia soul-inspired "Ain't No Love (Like Jesus Love)" in the early 1970's.

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I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, Non-Fiction, and Poetry.

A couple of years ago, I read The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 and ¼ Years old.  I have recently retired, so I decided to explore the sequel, On the Bright Side: The New Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen.  It proved to be funny, with a measure of pathos.

The story begins on “Wednesday, December 31, 2014.  […] I shall do my best, but there is to be no whining if the diary I am starting tomorrow does not make it all the way through to the end of the year.  A one-in-five chance” (1).  Fortunately, he makes it.

David and Art - "Labor Day"

Sep 7, 2020

Musicians, like plumbers and electricians, often need an organization to stand up for them.

Labor Day is a result of political efforts undertaken by organized labor unions 130 years ago.  The American Federation of Labor pushed hard for Congress to declare a national holiday in honor of the working classes of the country. It finally did so in 1894.  Just two years later, the American Federation of Musicians was created to represent the interests of all those who made their living playing instruments.  Even before the age of recordings, there were live musicians who played everywhere, and thought of themselves as workers.  

I can imagine someone saying “Well, musicians are artists, not exactly workers—not like a teacher or an electrician or a teamster.”  But like all of us, musicians live in a world dominated by the attitudes and 

Danniebelle Hall's first solo LP while a member of Andrae Crouch and the Disciples is bright, effervescent gospel-pop. 

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I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, Non-Fiction, and Poetry.

In my distant past, I had an affair with archaeology.  I read of all the tombs and digs.  Recently, I came across The Golden Child by Penelope Fitzgerald.  According to the paperback cover, she is one of England’s most celebrated contemporary writers with scads of short novels.  She died in 2000.

The story begins when an ancient, gold-covered corpse of the African ruler of the Garamantia arrives at a London Museum. It “instantly becomes the sinister focus of a web of intrigue spun by all manner of museum personal” (Jacket).  Three characters are prominent: the archaeologist, a scruffy guard, and a junior office in the museum.  This is satire of the first order.

Historic Jazz Spots in New York City are scrambling to stay afloat as the effects of the pandemic keeps their doors shut.

Last week I mentioned the rush I got from going to a famous jazz club in New York just before the pandemic shut everything down in March, and all the consequent troubles music venues are having since they’re now unable, for the most part, to host performances.

I’ve written before about the energy that some particular places have in terms of art:  the room where Jackson Pollack painted Lavender Mist, for instance, with the swirls of paint still on the floor; the bar at which Roger Miller was sitting when he wrote the classic “Dang Me.”  Birdland is one of those places, and even though it isn’t in the same spot as it was in its heyday, when you’re there you still get the feeling that you’re someplace culturally important.

The original Birdland opened on Broadway in December 1949, as was known as the “Jazz Corner of the World.”  Almost any jazz player you could name from the 20th century played there repeatedly.  Many of them recorded live albums from its stage.  Over the course of the 1950s it developed a cultural cache all its 

Sister Emma Tucker's Soulful bluesy voice transforms "Cryin' Days Will be Over" into something truly special.

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On this month’s episode, host Kennedy Sam sits down with Samuel Thomas, a co-founder of the Deep in the Heart Film Festival, to hear a few updates on what to expect for this year’s at-home edition coming next month. In the second half of the episode, local artist Cade Kegerreis will be talking about his first solo exhibiton, Devolved, which is now open at Cultivate 7twelve.

I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, Non-Fiction, and Poetry.

According to the dust jacket, Elliot Ackerman served five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and is the recipient of the Silver Star, the Bronze Star for valor, and the Purple heart.  His essays and fiction have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The new Republic, and Ecotone, among other publications.  He currently lives in Istanbul, where he writes on the Syrian Civil War.  He is a true hero.


David and Art - "Save our Stages"

Aug 24, 2020

Saving our stages means keeping afloat places where people can hear the magic of live music.

On one of my last voyages out before the lockdown last spring, I went to New York City for a couple of days to give a talk.  New York is one of my favorite places and I had one night free, all to myself.  I wanted to hear some jazz and I wound up downstairs at Birdland, one of the most famous jazz clubs in the world, listening to a talented cabaret singer named Marissa Mulder.  She did a really nice set of Lennon and McCartney songs backed by guitar, bass, piano, and drums.  The crowd was knowledgeable, appreciative, and responded really well.

Just a few weeks later Birdland was closed.  I felt like I’d been on the last plane out of Casablanca.

In a grim cascade from coast to coast, all music venues great and small closed within a few days.  The group I play with here had a gig cancelled on March 12 and there’s been no place to play since.  I would like people to understand that places that host live music represent a crucial piece of the art scene in any town, from Waco to New York City; and, beginning last spring, the question quickly became how, and if,