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actor/writer/curator of a good time
Grave Headstone of Alexander Kieth McClung, the Black Knight of the South

Tales of Gunpowder and Smoke – The Black Knight of the South

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Tales of Gun Powder and Smoke

So for the past several years, I have been researching this unique character, and the first time I heard his name, I knew that he must have a bizarre story. I was reading a book on famous duels, guns, not swords. Each chapter was divided into tales of various battles between two individuals. Some knife fights, but mostly it was iron and smoke. The chapter title that caught my attention was, “The Black Knight of the South.” I mean, come on, I gotta read that.

Alexander Kieth McClung was born in Virginia in 1811. He was classically educated, joined the service at a young age, resigning after nearly killing a superior officer in his first duel, and was later trained as a lawyer. The bloodshed begins after a move to Jackson, MS. in the 1830s where the young lawyer was attempting to build a practice.

Dueling was a regular practice in the country well into the early 1900s. The most famous duel was between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, and although it’s a great story (SPOILERS: Hamilton is not a good shot), I like the ones you find in the shadows. The Black Knight would earn his fame by systematically executing nearly a dozen men over ten years. I can only imagine what it must be like to be known as such a deadly killer. In fact, there is a story that later in life, after McClung had issued a superior tongue lashing, the offended party responded with a challenge, tossing his card at McClung’s face. McClung stood, offered his card in exchange, to which the challenger kindly asked for his to be returned, and graciously apologized for offending the infamous Black Knight.

His first recorded duel that ended in death was with a local lawyer and politician in Jackson, MS. The two men became foes shortly after McClung arrived in Jackson. Alexander was considered a terrible lawyer, but his uncle was the fourth Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Justice John Marshal. Therefore, he had quite a bit of clout in the legal realm. However, his opponent, Gen. Allen, broke the confidence of McClung by disclosing a private conversation. When McClung accused Gen. Allen of the offense, he struck back. Allen announced at the local bar in front of more than a hundred patrons that McClung was a liar and a scoundrel. McClung attempted to browbeat Gen. Allen in response. Allen receiving the opening that he was likely looking for from the onset of the quarrel, sent McClung a challenge, declaring the terms of the meeting.

The selection of weapons was usually the right of the one who is challenged, but Allen, secure and well known in his shooting ability with a pistol, was determined. The two men were to meet later that same evening in a grassy field next to the Pearl River. The men would be positioned eighty yards apart, given four pistols, and a bowie knife. Each gun would contain a single shot, and the blades were to finish one another off, should the firing weapons not serve that purpose.

Allen, knowing McClung was a hothead, assumed that he could win by preserving his shots while McClung rushed him in a bloodlust, firing his weapons dry. Unfortunately for Allen, he was incorrect. Later that evening as the two men began advancing on one another after the given signal, it was Allen who allowed his nerves to get the better of him. The Black Knight cooly walked towards his prey. When they were within thirty yards of one another, Allen shouted, “Now we will see who the coward is!” McClung responded, “Yes, we will.” While Allen was pulling out his knife, McClung placed a bullet in his brain.

Soon after that, the Black Knight went on a rampage of duels getting mixed up in an altercation with the Menifee family. He executed nearly a dozen of the Menifee men in a decade long feud. It is during this vendetta that we get the story of the most notable shot that the Black Knight ever made.

John Menifee, the first of many Menifee men to see the barrel of McClung’s gun pointing in their direction, was a crack shot with a short rifle. So, when the two men got into a tussle, and Alexander issued the challenge, Menifee accepted and selected his favorite weapon. McClung must have been concerned, as he was not a good shot with a rifle. They were to meet later the next day, near the same location along the Pearl River where he had finished off Gen. Allen.

The two men squared off at one hundred yards. At the signal, the two men raised their weapons and fired. It is reported that Menifee’s rifle went off first and McClung was shortly after. A moment of stillness as the rifle cracks echoed in the air, smoke rising from their barrels. Menifee slides to his knees and finally crumbles over, landing face-first in the dirt. The Black Knight had another victim.

It wasn’t just the distance that resulted in the notoriety of McClung after the duel, it was his aim. At first, Menifee’s second cried foul and issued his own challenge. Directly above John Menifee’s eyes were two holes, and the crowd thought Alexander had cheated. It took some time to quiet down the mob and judge precisely what happened. Upon further examination it was discovered that the Black Knight’s rifle ball had struck Menifee’s iron sights, causing the bullet to split in two, both entering his skull.

Stories go on through the years, exploring his exploits with women, becoming an officer in the war with Mexico against Santa Anna, and next to a Bolivian ambassador. As I continue to dig the thread just seems to get longer. I haven’t, however, been able to locate that very first book that I read about him so many years ago. I made copies of the chapter which I have carried around in a folder for nearly fifteen years, but unfortunately, there is no title or author information on the page. Just tales of the smell of gunpowder.

Grave Headstone of Alexander Kieth McClung, the Black Knight of the SouthIt took some time, and a good deal of patience on the part of my family as we drove around an ancient cemetery in Vicksburg, MS. last year. However, after a good deal of searching, we found his grave. At the young age of forty-four, he bit down on his service revolver from his days as an officer and shot himself. Rumors are he had a unique chair constructed with a split in the back, allowing his open skull to fall backward and avoid the bloody mess spoiling his favorite suit … black, of course.

A Whole New Mind – by Daniel H. Pink

1663 1176 Austin Barrow

A Whole New Mind - by Daniel H. Pink

ISBN: 9781594481710
Date read: 2019-3-30
How strongly I recommend it: 8/10

Check out Amazon Link for details and reviews.

Pink makes a case for right brain thinkers in the coming Conceptual Age. The book was published in 2005, so I can only assume that we currently find ourselves in that time now. His predictions for what will come in the future, for the most part, ring right of today’s creative culture and the overabundance of content. We are a consumer culture. Most specifically, what is interesting in the book is his outlay of what he refers to as the six senses important for creators. These senses: design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning are defined with examples of how it has worked for others and methods you can use to broaden your personal understanding of each. If you are a left-brained thinker, this book is a useful guide for both understanding how right-brain thinkers process thoughts and how you might expand your capabilities, should you find yourself in a creative position.

Notes from the text:

The future belongs to creators, empathizers, pattern recognizers, and meaning makers. These are the artists, inventors, designers, storytellers caregivers, consolers, big-picture thinkers. In our current overflow of content creation, this rings true. Most of us are consumers, not makers.
We are moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age. It’s not about what we can discover but how we interpret it.
What is important now is “high concept” and “high touch.”
High concept involves the ability to detect and recognize patterns and ideas.
High touch involves the ability to emphasize with others. I’m not sure this has really caught on in mass. Its importance is high, but the ability of others to truly empathize with their fellow man is rare, although I see more of it in the creative community.
The “left brain” capabilities of reason are necessary for today’s society but no longer sufficient to succeed.

James Watson described the human brain as “the most complex thing we have yet discovered in our universe.” Woody Allen called it his “second favorite organ.”
Roger W. Sperry was the first to write about the brain split into a major and minor hemisphere.
Betty Edwards book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, was also instrumental in discovering this idea of two hemispheres, and I remember being handed this while in college. It completely changed the way I drew. Something I used to do often, but less so now.
The right brain is seen as both savior and saboteur.
Reasoning ability is the thing that separates humans from other animals.
The left hemisphere handles what is said, and the right handles how it is said.
There are two types of people in the world, those that believe that everything can be divided into two categories — and the rest of you.

Peter Drucker coined the term “knowledge workers,” meaning people who get paid for putting to work what one learns in school rather than for their physical strength or Manuel skill.
There are toll-booths that one must pass through to enter middle-class life, (i.e., PSAT, SAT, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, etc.) However, they only measure left-brain thinking.
Virginia Postrel uses the term “aesthetic imperative” to describe that something extra required in business today.
Transcendence in action can be found in prosperous communities lined with a multitude of shopping opportunities.
According to the London Financial Times, any job that is English-based in markets such as the U.S., the U.K., and Australia can be done in India.
Tom Peters calls software a “forklift for the mind,” for white-collar workers.

In this new conceptual age, the leading players will be creators and empathizers that have mastered right-brain thinking.
Affluence, technology, and globalization are the three forces that have propelled us into new eras (Agricultural Age, Industrial Age, Information Age, Conceptual Age).
If what you are doing for a living can be done cheaper by someone overseas or can be done faster by a computer, chances are you will not be in demand very long.
High concept involves the ability to create artistic and emotional beauty, detect patterns and opportunities. You should be able to bring unrelated ideas together in a novel way.
High touch involves a sincere ability to empathize.
Effective leaders are funny. They can make people laugh, bring enjoyment and positive energy to the workplace.
An alternative SAT being developed by Robert Sternberg called The Rainbow Project, where students get five blank New Yorker cartoons and must craft captions for them.
According to David Wolfe, as people mature, their cognitive patterns become less abstract and more concrete which results in a sharpened sense of reality, increased capacity for emotion and enhancement of their sense of connectedness.

In the information age, the ability to tell stories, demonstrate empathy, and design innovations have eroded, giving it more emphasis in the Conceptional Age.
John Heskett describes design as the human nature to shape and make our environment in ways without precedent in nature, to serve our needs and give meaning to our lives.
Frank Nuovo calls design in its purest form the activity of creating solutions.
Research from the London Business School shows that for every percent of sales invested in product design, a company’s sales and profits rise by an average of 3 to 4 percent.

Some highlights in the world of creation are to never say that you could have done something, because you didn’t, and the exchange of ideas and human contact is all life really is. Two essential lessons that work across all fields of work.

Mark Turner, in his book The Literary Mind, says that narrative imagining — story — is the fundamental instrument of thought.
When facts become more available, they become less valuable. What matters is the ability to put them in context and deliver them with emotional impact.
The hero’s journey (compelling storytelling) involves departure, initiation, and return.
Recommendation to read Robert McKee’s book Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting
Advertising, counseling, consulting, etc. account for 25% of the U.S. gross domestic product.

When the left brain doesn’t know what the right brain is doing, the mind is free to see relationships and to integrate those relationships into a whole.
The ability to make big leaps of thought is a common denominator among the originators of breakthrough ideas.
Boundary crossers reject either/or choices and seek multiple options and blended solutions. When something is being created, the walls of creation are mobile and not set. It is the setting of these walls which, although required, restricts what can come into being.
Trevor Baylis said that convention is the enemy of progress.
The difference between the computer mind and the human brain is the ability to think metaphorically and see relationships that computers could never detect. This is where job security lies.
Being able to find unusual patterns and tell stories of these discoveries in empathic ways is the keys to success in the next age.

When you are working on a new creation, it’s a good idea to start by creating the space as an inspiration for the journey you are about to embark on.
Good brainstorming, according to Tom Kelly, involves going for quantity, wild ideas, visual ideas, deferring judgment, and having one conversation at a time. That last one is difficult in large groups at times. Should work on building upon discussions instead of tangental responses.

Sympathy is often confused as empathy, but they are quite different in their execution.
Empathic responses do not necessarily mean a deviation from intelligence nor a route towards it.

Henry Ford feared mixing work and play, which is very still much evident in much of the corporate world, although less so than a decade ago. Work and play are much more commonly combined today and creates better working environments.
Video games can enhance right brain activity around pattern recognition.
People who laugh together can work together.

According to Viktor Frankl man’s primary concern is not to gain pleasure or to avoid pain but rather to see a meaning in his life.
Technology is not necessarily helping make things easier because it is moving to fast. It is instead choking us with choices.
Happiness can be found in gratitude, forgiveness, and optimism.

Say thank you often.
If you knew you had at most ten years to live, would you stick with your current job? WOW. This question changed the direction of my life drastically because what happens if the answer is no?

Words I had to look up:

Quotidian: ordinary or commonplace

Contralateralization: Property of the brain such that one side of the body is controlled by the opposite hemisphere of the brain: the left hemisphere controls the right side of the body, and the right hemisphere connects the left side of the body.

Prosody: the rhythm, stress, and intonation of speech — provides important information beyond a sentence’s literal word meaning.

Gestalt (I use this word often, but wanted to make sure that I was using it properly!): the whole are not deducible from analysis of the parts in isolation.

Amygdalas: is one of two almond-shaped clusters of nuclei located deep and medially within the temporal lobes of the brain in complex vertebrates, including humans.

Neurotheology: refers to the multidisciplinary field of scholarship that seeks to understand the relationship between the human brain and religion.

Jake Hertzog – Guitarist, Composer, Educator

2500 1915 Austin Barrow

Creatively Episode 006 - Jake Hertzog: Guitarist, Composer, Educator

Jake Hertzog is a critically acclaimed guitarist, composer, educator, and writer based in Fayetteville, AR. where he teaches at the University of Arkansas. He has toured throughout the U.S., Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and India and performed and recorded with a diverse cadre of artists including Randy Brecker, Ivan Neville, Mike Clarke, Blondie Chaplin, Anton Fig and many others.

In 2016 Jake joined the music faculty at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. In 2018 Jake authored his first book, Guitar Sound Effects, a deep dive into the world of contemporary guitar sounds and techniques. Under the alias Hey Jazz Guy, Jake has contributed over 30 articles to Guitar Player magazine which coined him the “Jazz ambassador to the non-jazz world.” 

Hertzog’s classical recording include “Well Lit Shadow” (2016) a suite for solo electric guitar celebrating themes and images in particle physics. His latest project, a guitar duo with classical virtuoso Yishai Fisher called “Stringscapes: A Portrait of the World in Nylon and Steel” (2018, Fretmonkey) is a unique combination of nylon string and steel string guitars and is inspired by the landscapes of planet earth. He was awarded a fellowship from the Arkansas Arts Council in 2018 for music composition for this project.

Jake was co-leader and co-songwriter of the rock band The Young Presidents from 2009-2016. For three years, Jake stood as musical director and lead guitarist for Nickelodeon’s The Naked Brothers Band. They concluded two national tours and have performed on national television shows including Good Morning AmericaThe ViewNickelodeon’s Kids Choice Awards and The Today Show.

Hertzog is a grand prize winner of the Montreux Jazz Guitar Competition, holds a performance degree from Berklee College of Music and a master’s degree from The Manhattan School of Music in New York.

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