Friday, August 7, 2015

Staff Picks: Tom T. Hall, native languages, Mike Tyson's abandoned mansion and more

Posted By , , , and on Fri, Aug 7, 2015 at 3:08 PM

click to enlarge Mike Tyson's old mansion
  • Mike Tyson's old mansion

Arkansas Times Recommends is a weekly series in which Times staff members (or whoever happens to be around at the time) highlight things we've been enjoying this week.

This week I came across these lonesome photos of Mike Tyson's abandoned mansion outside of Southington, Ohio, which he was forced to sell in the late 90s, and I haven't stopped thinking about them. They are American ruins, profound and stately and eerie. At an appearance at the New York Public Library a few years ago, Tyson was asked to define himself in seven words, and he said, "Came, saw, conquered, got conquered, bounced back." These photos document the penultimate stage, in which he was conquered. They give you just enough information to infer the life he lived there — the steaks he grilled, the parties he threw, the tigers he raised. — Will Stephenson

For a little perspective, I recommend this diagram of who speaks what native language where on Earth, from the South China Morning Post

Some tongues correspond neatly to country. Nearly all of the world's 128 million native Japanese speakers live in Japan. About 7 out of every 8 native German speakers reside in Germany (with a smattering in Poland and Switzerland). Meanwhile, the Arabic-speaking and Spanish-speaking worlds are a Balkanized scramble of countries. Thanks to Britain's cheerfully brutal legacy of colonialism, English is the most geographically far-flung of the major languages, with major outposts in Africa, the Caribbean, Australasia and, of course, North America. Then there's India, with its tens of millions of speakers allotted apiece to languages most Americans have never heard of: Tamil, Marathi, Telegu, etc.

Native English speakers comprise only about 335 million of the 4.1 billion people included in this chart, but before you Anglophiles bemoan the death of the West, look at the bottom of the chart, which lists the most popular languages being learned around the world. English clocks in 1.5 billion learners, more than 15 times higher than the next most popular (French, with a measly 82 million learners). It's also spoken in 110 countries, far more than any other.

And by the way, if you're wondering why there are only 4.1 billion people included in this diagram when there are around 7 billion individuals breathing on this world? The chart only breaks down the 23 most widely spoken languages — those with at least 50 million native speakers. The other 3 billion humans speak one of the estimated 7,079 other living languages on the planet. For those of us who are pitifully monolingual, like myself, be ashamed all over again. — Benji Hardy

Today over at my regular gig across town, I endorsed a reissue of lost outlaw country–vintage recordings called "The Texas Album" by Jimmy Rabbitt & Renegade. One of Rabbitt's numbers is a cover of Tom T. Hall's classic "Homecoming" and after spinning that one a few times over, I went in search of a quick fix for Hall's original. And that's when I discovered this fascinating homemade fan-video of sorts titled simply "The Homecoming ( original version ) by Tom T. Hall" It was posted in March 2008 by a guy who looks equal parts Brad Pitt and Tennessee Williams, and wanted to send something home for his father to watch. There's not much more I can say about it by way of introduction, except to admit that I watched it 4 times straight before closing the window and moving on. This recommendation goes out to Matt White, who once told me he loves this song. The video's explanation is also worthy of quoting in toto here: "Hey Dad- Here's the video I made of me that you wanted to see with a few pictures. Yea, I'm still single and not married. Its been about 25 years - Can't wait to see you this summer." — Maxwell George

I may have recommended this before, maybe not. Regardless, I'm re-recommending Tiny Showcase today because the way I see it, when wonderful artists give of themselves for causes they believe in, that is a thing to celebrate repeatedly. This piece by Jen Corace caught my eye today. This particular print is $30. $250 of the sales will go to Hwange Sanyati Biodiversity Corridor (HSBC) project. While you're there, poke around. Most of the prints from previous years (dating back to 2005) are sold out. But there is still a tremendous amount of great work available. And all for a great prices. — Bryan Moats


I can't stand to see paper, plastic bottles and pieces of cardboard clumped up on the side of the road, floating in waterways and blocking drainage sewers instead of in recycling bins where they belong. But it's not just recyclable material that mars Little Rock's beauty, it's regular old trash too — littering is rampant and truly disgusting. I cringe every time I see a plastic bag floating down the highway, rolling across like a tumble weed, praying it doesn't smack me in the windshield and cause me to lose control at 70mph.

Arkansas has made some improvements with it's Keep Arkansas Beautiful Campaign and the Great Arkansas Cleanup, which is set for Sep.12- Oct. 31 this year, but maybe not enough. Our friends way up north in Toronto have taken on an advertising campaign that's calling people out for their bad habits. Check out some of the ads here. I'd like to think a campaign like that in Little Rock and more enforcement of the littering laws and fines would make more people reconsider leaving their trash out in the open. I recommend the city take some cues from the best PSA campaign of the year and provide more recycling bins while seriously enforcing the litter laws. — Kaya Herron

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