Smart Blonde: Dolly Parton by Stephen Miller

Book cover for Smart BlondeWritten by Stephen Miller, who also penned biographical books about Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson, takes the reader through the steps taken by the “smart blonde” Dolly Parton as she climbed from her dirt poor “hillbilly” beginnings to become a music icon and idol of the gay community. Miller could not speak to the performer himself and found many doors closed when he attempted to speak to the “inner circle” of Dolly.

There were a few of Parton’s friends and colleagues who were happy to relate their experiences and at least two of Dolly’s sisters opened up about being the non-famous siblings of the musical performer. Stella, who painted the least flattering portrait of her iconic sister, does come across as one with “sour grape” syndrome but she insists that despite her less than flattering picture she loves her sister.

Regardless of the lack of participants in the writing of this biographical journey, published in 2007 with an updated, or appended final chapter, the story of Dolly’s beginnings and her determination to be the center of attention where ever she goes, is pretty inclusive. Her long and often tumultuous professional relationship with country legend Porter Wagoner, who gave her the start she needed at the beginning, and her “enigmatic” marriage to Carl are looked at in depth.

By the end of the book the reader has a pretty good idea of what makes Dolly tick. A combination of pure talent, vivaciousness, energy, generosity, and drive all give this performer the edge to stay on top of her game. Dolly also has an innate sense of what will or will not work. This combined with the ability to just be honest with herself and her fans has endeared the performer to many.

Miller gives as many sides of Dolly’s story as possible. From her Uncle Bill Owen, who used to sit her on his lap on the long trips at the beginning of her career as a captivating 11 year-old, to the bickering that went on behind the Trio I & II albums with Linda Ronstadt and Emmy Lou Harris.

It would be interesting to have a further update which compares Dolly with her young Goddaughter Miley Cyrus and to look at their relationship. Dolly supports the younger artist and has gone on record as stating that despite being shocked at some of the things Miley done, “it’s in a good way.”

It is easy to paint parallels between the two women, but it would be incorrect to do so. Dolly started out with all the odds against her. Pure talent and the need to be adored by everyone gave Ms. Parton her avenue of escape from grinding poverty. Cyrus was born into the business and while she seems to have molded some of her career path on the OTT Godmother’s journey, she does not have the finesse to walk that fine line.

Parton, as pointed out by the author, is a walking dichotomy in terms of her religious upbringing and her Christian beliefs. The singer/songwriter has fully supported gays and their right to marry, much to the chagrin of some family members and the church. While this could be seen as an attempt to appease her huge gay following, reading the book by Miller negates this possibility.

Stephen Miller has taken great pains to show many sides to Dolly Parton in Smart Blonde and by the end of the updated book it is hard to believe that the performer is anything but earnestly sincere in her ideas and life. Miller also includes a lot of information gleaned from Dolly’s many appearances on British television. Interviews with Michael Parkinson, Terry Wogan, Melvyn Bragg (She was the subject of The South Bank Show) and even BBC One’s The One Show are quoted quite a lot.

This is a real 4 out of 5 star read. The loss of one star is down to the fact that Dolly did not participate in the writing of the book.

27 May 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

Max Payne 3: Been There, Done That, Got The T-Shirt

Max Payne 3
Max Payne 3 (Photo credit: s3rioussam)

You know how sometimes you just get that feeling. You know the one I mean. The one where you just know that you’re not going to get too excited about something, despite all the hype? Well that’s how I felt about Max Payne 3.

So rather than rush down to the store and spend my hard earned dinero on buying a copy I went to BlockBuster and rented the game for a week. Wise choice.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate the game, I just don’t love it.

Rockstar Games obviously set this instalment of the Max Payne story to be a stand-alone experience. In other words you didn’t have to play the other two games to enjoy it. It seems to work fine under this premise but, the story has been done before.

Rockstar Games seem to specialize in ‘Game Noir’ at the moment. It was great when games first started using ‘Film Noir‘ as a starting point for their games. But now? Everybody seems to be doing it and that’s okay, but geeze guys change the story up a bit. The “world weary hero” having to watch over the vacuous, vain and spoiled rich has been done before…A lot of times before, time to give it a rest Amigos.

English: The Rockstar Lincoln logo, a division...

The game play is easy enough, I’ve only died a couple of times, but overall the gun toting bad guys are easy enough to dispatch. Which brings me to my other ‘gripe’ about the game. The “Bullet Time” feature. Come on guys! I know that this feature was revolutionised  in Max Payne 1. But the feature of slowing down time for gunplay has been used by everybody since then, even in ‘Gun’ for Pete’s sake. *Just a short side note, I loved that game, just having Kris Kristofferson voice one of the character’s made the game an instant winner for me* So streamlining it for 3 just isn’t enough.

And I know that Max is supposed to be a ‘rummy’ who’s hooked on pills as well, but the graphics meant to show us that fact are annoying as hell.

But, I do still like the game, like any third-person shooter it is easy for me to get caught up in the action and spend hours playing the game.  I guess that is my point. I do love third-person shooters. But I don’t love Max Payne 3. I’ve looked at my reasons listed above and I still can’t quite put my finger on why.

It has to do with story, I’m sure. I had no problem getting into Naughty Dog‘s Uncharted series, but to give credit where it is due, the writing for the Uncharted games is top–notch.

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception

I guess I’ll have to play it to the end. I should be able to accomplish this in the week I rented it for (you sure couldn’t have done that in the old days). In the mean time, I’ll ammo up and go out and kill some more bad hombres  and see where Max is going to take me next.