Thursday, January 15, 2004

Harvey Johnson Interview (Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi)

I seemed to happier with this piece than most of our readers. I think this was because it was originally planned as one thing, but became another. There really is no one to blame for that; it just happened. I'd been doing a series of interviews on Jackson's Urban Redevelopment. I thought a nifty third part would be talking to the only mayor in history who'd taken an active role in trying to clean up the city. That was the plan. However, we also decided to use the interview to go along with the first issue of a new graphical look, and it was the beginnings of election season. As such, the series was faded into the background and it looked like more of a stand-alone interview. Because of that, I was accused of tossing softball questions at the mayor, which I can't deny. Worse yet, I was a Harvey Johnson supporter, which I won't deny. I wish the interview had come out more like I had originally planned, but I've always been personally pleased with it.

Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson has, in two terms, become one of the most visible mayors in the history of the city. He has elected to take an active role in public education and economic development of the city, pushing to make Jackson the Best of the New South – a city of excellence. Born in Vicksburg, Johnson received his first degree in political science from Tennessee State University and followed that up with a Masters’ Degree in political science from the University of Cincinnati. He has studied toward a doctorate in public administration at University of Southern California’s Washington Public Affairs Center in Washington, DC.
Johnson spent 25 years in the field of planning and community development, served as an assistant professor of political science at Jackson State University, and was a member of the Mississippi State Tax Commission and the Mississippi Gaming Commission. He also served his country as a Captain in the United States Air Force.

Thursday, January 1, 2004

Brian Fuente, Musician (Music Feature)

Brian Fuente is one of Jackson's most talented young musicians. I knew nothing about him before going to listen to him for a writing assignment. I liked him, then became a fan. I wish someone in the business would give him a fair shake. He's really, really good.

Brian Fuente is a happy man. On Friday, January 9th, Hal and Mal’s is hosting his CD release party. Fuente has released his first solo CD independently. The disc, entitled Sky Down Here, is a collection of pop songs that shows off his strong singer/songwriter chops. Backed by Don Morrison on guitar, Joe Partridge on drums, Gabriel Golden on bass, and with an appearance by Rufus Mapp on percussion, Fuente officially puts in a bid to join the recent musical scene dominated by John Mayer, Jason Mraz, and others of the same style.

Sky Down Here is a strong opening bid, with a few songs – “Temporary Sugar,” “Everyday,” “Against Me” – that would not be out of place on any mainstream pop radio station, and with several of a more melancholy, introspective nature – the kinds of songs appreciated both by critics and by fellow musicians. It was recorded at Terminal Recording Studio in Ridgeland and produced by both Fuente and by well-known producer Randy Everett.

Sky Down Here has already been released to the college radio stations in Mississippi. Clinton Kirby, the program manager at WUSM 88.5 in Hattiesburg, says that Fuente is receiving regular airplay on the station and requests for his music come in fairly frequently. He believes Fuente has a future in the business.

"The Politics of Death" (Column)

There are no punchlines with this one.

Death is one of only two things that all persons are guaranteed to experience once in their life, along with birth. Sex isn’t a given, love isn’t a given; pride, hope, joy, happiness, sadness, faith or friendship offer no guarantees that one will ever experience them. Only birth and death are promises always met.

Birth is the overture of life, full of the promise of what has yet come. But death, which comes at the very end, signifies the finality of years or decades of living, turning a once-vital person into memories shared by those around her. Death is the final note of life’s symphony and is, by nature, the more dramatic of the two. And as the most dramatic guarantee life has to offer, it has become arguably the most contentious subject in politics; capital punishment, assisted suicide, abortion, and euthanasia are discussed at every political level and numerous other subjects – stem cell research, disease, drunk-driving laws, and drug addiction all have the idea of death as part of the vast discussions that accompany them.

On very few of those issues do conservatives and liberals agree. Certainly no one in their right mind thinks that drunk driving is a good idea and most everyone supports the government and private industry’s work to eradicate diseases as best they can. But the hot-button issues continue to divide the country and sadly, both sides seem to be rooted in inconsistent thinking.