Saturday, November 10, 2007


I've been thinking a lot about this word recently.

Persistence is a common trait between a lot of my favorite artists, musicians, authors. And I've had the honor of hearing 2 of them speak in person this week in New York.

Chuck Close is an artist that paints 9 foot tall portraits. The amazing part is he breaks the canvas up into a grid and paints each small square individually. When viewers are in close proximity to the canvas they see only squares of patterns, but once viewers stand back, an image of a person's face appears. He said it takes about 4 months to do a black and white painting and over a year to do a color one. It was pretty darn inspirational to hear him speak in person about his technique and how he sometimes goes over and over the same square 100's of times. His art work has always impressed me in museums and he was equally impressive speaking about his art in person and hearing how involved he gets in each portrait.

I also has the pleasure of hearing Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon speak on the 100 mile diet that they started and the book named Plenty which details this local eating adventure. I've blogged about them before. They chose to eat within a 100 mile radius of their home in Vancouver, Canada for 1 year. Which sounds cool, but involves a lot of potatoes and a lot of time and effort in preparing and gathering their food. They've been touring and promoting their book across the continent and along the way they've stopped at supermarkets and noticed that the food is almost the same from store to store. You can find similar foods on the shelf at a supermarket in San Diego, California and in Toronto, Canada. They've also stopped at many Farmers' Markets along the way and they said that's where they see the big difference. The regional markets sell what grows best in that area and each market is abundant in different things. I, personally, have visited Farmer's Markets this past year in Michigan, Tennessee, and New York and they're quite right. There was a frost that killed all the apples in Tennessee, but beans were bountiful. Michigan has loads of asparagus in the spring, and New York City is often overflowing with interesting varieties of things like purple potatoes and baby sunflower greens. Another observation they made was that before starting this diet, Alisa didn't like carrots. Now she knows she doesn't like 90% of carrots, but there are actually several varieties of carrots out there that she enjoys quite a bit.

It's really impressive to hear how these successful people have decided what's important to them and they devote their time and energy to that cause. They come out with a very simple and clear message, allowing people to see something in a different way.

I can't talk about persistence without mentioning another favorite of mine which is Johnny Cash and his song One Piece at a Time. The song is about a worker on an auto assembly line who decides to make an entire car by taking pieces off the line one at a time. He takes the pieces home in his lunchbox. Over the course of 20+ years he finally has enough to build his dream car. It doesn't exactly go together as he planned, but with some modification he has a drivable car - all for free (or sort of anyway).

I think persistence is about deciding what's important to you and working for that, diving into it, no matter who you are or what you do - artist, author, songwriter, mother, father, friend, designer, garbage collector... auto worker.


shannon said...

kudos on your persistence tiffany tomato!

leila said...

For Immediate Release…


Cash Drummer WS Holland to Lead Band in Free Concert for Folsom Inmates

HOLLYWOOD: On January 13, 2008, forty years to the day, longtime Johnny Cash drummer, W.S. “Fluke” Holland will lead his band in a return to Folsom State Prison in Northern California to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the recording of "Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison," widely considered to be the best live album ever made.

Johnny Cash's performance on January 13, 1968, was a seminal moment in music and pop culture history. Released by Columbia records in the summer of 1968, "Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison" made a 90-week assault on the country music charts, peaking at Number 1 for three weeks in July and August.

The story was the same on the pop charts, where the album spent an incredible 122 weeks in the Top 200. In 2003, the National Recording Preservation Board chose “Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison” for its select list of recordings to be preserved for posterity in the Library of Congress.

At the 1968 Grammy Awards, Johnny Cash was named Best Male Country Music Vocalist for "Folsom Prison Blues." In 1969, he won an unprecedented five Country Music Awards, setting a record that remains unbroken to this day. But Cash's success surprised everyone. Just two months before he recorded at Folsom prison, Johnny Cash was, for all intents and purposes "finished" in the music business.

Cash's addiction to amphetamines, barbiturates and alcohol, which began in the late 1950s, had overtaken the singer by the mid-1960s. While Cash was never incarcerated in prison (a popular misconception), he was jailed several times on "drunk and disorderly" charges. In October 1965, Cash was famously arrested in El Paso, Texas, for smuggling pills across the border from Mexico.

By 1967, Johnny Cash was missing more shows than he played. The Johnny Cash Show, as his traveling act was called, was then being referred to by music insiders as "Johnny 'No Show' Cash." In October 1967, contemplating suicide, Cash claimed to have crawled inside Nickajack Cave near Chattanooga, Tennessee, only to hear God telling him to go on.

After spending the month of November 1967 undergoing rehab at his home in Hendersonville, Tennessee, the singer emerged clean and sober and recommitted to God and to his career. Less than two months later, Johnny Cash recorded at Folsom prison. And the rest, as they say, is history.

The "40th Anniversary of 'Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison'" is replete with history and coincidence. The free concert will feature several members of Cash's original group. Most notable is drummer W.S. "Fluke" Holland [a special guest vocalist will be introduced at the show!].

Mr. Holland, who joined the Cash group in 1960, kept the beat for the 1968 concert at Folsom. Mr. Holland worked behind Cash for nearly 40 years and was the only member of the band never to have been fired by “The Man In Black.”

"I'm just tickled pink about goin' back to Folsom after all these years and doin' it all over again," said Mr. Holland from his home in Jackson, Tennessee. "I think John would be tickled pink too," he added.

Coincidentally, Jonathan Holiff, son of the late Saul Holiff, Johnny Cash’s personal manager from 1960 to 1973, will produce the 40th anniversary event. Saul Holiff, a Canadian entrepreneur, started promoting Johnny Cash and The Tennessee Two in 1958. After becoming Cash's manager, it was Holiff who put his client together with June Carter on December 7, 1961.

In an interview he gave to WHN Radio's Ed Salamon in 1980, Cash recalled how the two started working together. “In late '61 we played the Big D in Dallas, Texas, and my manager, Saul Holiff, said, 'We need a girl singer on the show tonight. They want more than just you and your band.' And I said, 'Well, get one.'

He said, 'What do you think about June Carter?' I said, 'I've always been a fan of hers' and I had, you know. I loved her work. I said, 'Get her if you can.' So we booked June Carter on the Big D in Dallas and then that night my manager asked if she would work the next tour with us. So she did,” Cash said.

"I'm a big fan of the movie 'Walk The Line,' said the younger Holiff. "But the average person who goes to see a biopic, believes what they see is fact. 'Walk The Line' was a great love story, but those scenes with Johnny and June riding in the same car with Jerry Lee Lewis, traveling from gig to gig in the late 1950s, for example, never happened," Jonathan said.

The 40th anniversary event was a happy accident. After Saul Holiff's suicide in 2005, Jonathan discovered his father's secret storage locker. "My father had kept everything from his years with Johnny," said Jonathan. "In addition to hundreds of letters, photographs and Cash memorabilia of all kinds, I was shocked to discover he also kept an audio diary from 1966 right up until the time he died. Not only had he shared his most private thoughts, he recounted his experiences with Cash - as they happened. I had stumbled upon the 'inside story' of Johnny Cash," added Jonathan.

Having been estranged from his father for 20 years, Jonathan started writing about the experience. "I needed closure. My father and I never got along. And when he took his own life, he didn't leave me a note." The product of that writing is a first-person, feature-length documentary - currently in production - called "My Father and The Man In Black." It was that documentary that brought Jonathan and his film crew to Folsom prison in September of last year.

"The people at Folsom couldn't have been nicer," said Jonathan. "I was there to get footage for my documentary and, having become friends with Fluke, I just threw out the idea to the Warden about having the band come back to play for the inmates. At the time, neither one of us had any idea the 40th anniversary was just around the corner," added Jonathan.

“Johnny Cash believed in redemption and reached out to those behind bars through his music and his actions,” said Warden Matthew C. Kramer. “We are thrilled that we can honor his legacy through this concert, and invited inmates to attend as a reward for good behavior and for participation in in-prison programs to better themselves. These types of events are part of the state’s broader commitment to rehabilitation, and the belief that by preparing inmates to successfully return to society as law-abiding citizens we improve public safety.”

The event is a labor of love for all concerned. Not a single dollar of taxpayer money is being used to mount the show. Most of the production requirements are being donated or supplied "at cost" by nearly a dozen different vendors, including: the Folsom Tourism Bureau and Prison Fellowship Ministries.

Significantly, much of the staging and lighting costs are being underwritten by Prison Fellowship Ministries. PFM is the world’s largest outreach to prisoners, ex-prisoners, and their families. It has programs in correctional facilities in all 50 U.S. states and 110 countries worldwide.

According to PFM's Joe Avila, Executive Director for Northern California and Nevada, "We see the Johnny Cash story as a story of redemption. Johnny Cash overcame great obstacles and dedicated his life to working for his fellow man. His faith in God kept him with us long enough to make a difference in this world. And he was one of this country's strongest advocates for prison inmates."

Redemption plays a leading role in the story of this anniversary event as well as in the original recording.'s Stephen Thomas Erlewine described it this way: "Part of the appeal of the record is the way Cash plays to the audience, selecting a set of songs that are all about prison, crime, murder, regret, loss, mother, God and loneliness." Knowing now what was happening in Cash's personal life right before the 1968 show, one can imagine how the singer was able to connect so effectively with the inmates that day.

The "40th Anniversary of 'Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison,'” will be filmed "live-to-tape," and "streamed" worldwide over the Internet at on Sunday, January 13, 2008. For security reasons, the show will not be broadcast live. Please visit the website for the official start time of the broadcast.

The Internet broadcast will be produced by Nate Pariente of iClips Network, L.L.C. based in St. Louis, Missouri, and Jonathan Holiff of The Hollywood-Madison Group, based in Los Angeles. The show will be directed by Jay Blakesberg, a television director and highly regarded photographer based in San Francisco.

The producers will be shooting interviews with the band, and with at least one inmate and one retired correctional officer, who were at the show in 1968. Later, those interviews will be edited into the recording of the live show and offered for sale to television and DVD.

Twenty per cent of all net proceeds will be donated to four participating non-profit organizations, including the California Inmate Welfare Fund and VOCAL Foundation/Justice for Murder Victims.

For more information about the concert, please contact Associate Producer, Mary Langford, at (310) 956-1098.

A satellite media tour will be held on Monday, January 14th, between the hours of 6:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. [EST]. To book a live interview, or to downlink B-roll from the event, please contact Alison Welz at MultiVu, (800) 653-5313 Ext 3.

For more information about Folsom State Prison and/or the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, please contact Terry Thornton, Information Officer, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (916) 445-4950.

Important Links:

Prison Fellowship Ministries

VOCAL Foundation/Justice for Murder Victims

The Hollywood-Madison Group

iClips Network, L.L.C.

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

Folsom Tourism Bureau

Available Photographs:

W.S. "Fluke" Holland [playing drums]
Special Guest Vocalist [to be introduced at show]
Jonathan Holiff and Warden Kramer [exchanging a gift of Cash/Folsom memorabilia]
Jonathan Holiff [today]
Jonathan Holiff [age 8] with Johnny Cash [1973]
Saul Holiff and Johnny Cash [1962]
Johnny, Saul and June [1968]
Meal Room #2 @ Folsom Prison [today]
Exterior Folsom Prison [today]

Press [Attached]

“Growing up with Johnny Cash, and the father he barely knew”
Victoria Times-Colonist, September 30, 2007