Thursday, October 23, 2008

Once Upon a Time At City Hall

Posted on Thu, Oct 23, 2008 at 4:00 AM

This is my favorite quote from yesterday's joint City Council/County Commission meeting about the future of the Pyramid.

"Give us the building. Let us sign a deal with Bass Pro and live happily ever after," said Councilwoman Barbara Swearengen Ware.

Which I guess means Bass Pro is our Prince Charming.

To read more, visit Mary Cashiola's In the Bluff blog.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Janis and Amy

Posted on Wed, Oct 22, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Is Janis Fullilove our Amy Winehouse?

Mary Cashiola compares the City Council member and the British soul singer today on the In the Bluff blog.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bianca Knows Best … And Helps a Bad Influence

Posted on Tue, Oct 21, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Dear Bianca,

I think my friend might be an alcoholic. He always seems depressed or down when he's sober. But he cheers up when he starts sipping his whiskey cocktails each night.

Some particularly hard times fell on him recently, and the drinking got worse. I've stopped by his apartment on weekday mornings (we live a few blocks away from one another) and found him sitting on the patio with a cocktail in his hand. And this was right before he was supposed to going to work!

On weekend nights when we go out, he always drinks way too much and does something embarrassing. We've been kicked out of more than one bar together. I'd like to talk to him about it, but I'm a pretty heaver drinker too. I don't drink before nightfall or anything, but I've been known to get out of hand on a weekend binge.

How can I convince my friend that he needs help when I'm not the best influence? Should I use the "do as I say not as I do" line?

— The Hypocrite Friend

Dear Hypocrite,

Drinking is fun, but it shouldn't rule your life. When imbibing moves from a fun weekend game to a way to mask your problems, it's time to look into treatment.

As a weekend binge drinker, you may not have a problem but if you're drinking with your leaning-toward-alcoholic friend, you're making his problem worse. The first thing you have to do is stop drinking around him. It might seem lame, but if you truly care about his health and mental stability, you'll put him over your need for drunken debauchery.

Instead of going to bars, suggest alcohol-free weekend fun like movies or coffee shops. You might just find that you can have fun sans booze. Save your desire to drink for other occasions ... when the alcoholic isn't around.

Once you've stopped being a bad influence, then you can sit the friend down and give him the talk. Tell him you've noticed his mood changes and pre-work cocktails, and suggest he get some help. Make sure he knows you're concerned because you care and not because you're trying to act like a nagging mom.

Twelve step programs work for many people, but he really has to want help before any treatment will take. If he doesn't agree to Alcoholics Anonymous, you should step back and just try to remain a good influence by sticking to your goal of not drinking around him. In the end, you may find you'll feel healthier too.

Got a problem? Send your questions to Bianca at bphillips@memphisflyer.com.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Playhouse's "Menagerie" Proves Timely

Posted on Fri, Oct 17, 2008 at 4:00 AM

There are lines in The Glass Menagerie that sound like they might have been written yesterday as a deliberate anti-venom for the disorder reigning throughout America's politics and economy. The frequently produced play sounds brand-new, especially in its earliest moments when Tom Wingfield — a dramatic doppelganger for playwright, Tennessee Williams — summons up visions from a time when "the huge middle class of America was matriculating in a school for the blind."

"Their eyes had failed them or they had failed their eyes," Tom says. And, as a result of this colossal vision crisis, Americans were "having their fingers pressed forcibly down on the fiery Braille alphabet of a dissolving economy."

Elsewhere there was revolution, Tom says. Back home there was only shouting and confusion.

Williams' first hit premiered in Chicago in 1944 and has as much to say to audiences anticipating a Depression today as it did to WWII-era audiences revisiting "that quaint period of the 1930s."

Menagerie's director Miles Potter, a University of Memphis alum who now works and resides in Canada, has coaxed exceptional, energetic work from his actors. For the most part, he has delivered a glowing, emotionally honest, and painfully sympathetic vision of Williams' American grotesque that moves along at a comfortable pace without losing any of the play's dreamier qualities. But for all of its charm, this Glass Menagerie isn't everything it could be. ...

Read the rest of Chris Davis' review here.

Practice Nonviolence and Fashion Sense This Weekend

Posted on Fri, Oct 17, 2008 at 4:00 AM

During these scary economic, war-crazed times, take a deep breath and think, "What Would Gandhi Do?" He'd probably head over to Christian Brothers University for the annual Gandhi-King Conference on Peacemaking. This year’s event features lectures by Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman, hip-hop activist Lennox Yearwood, and more. The conference runs tonight through Saturday. To register, go to www.gandhikingconference.org.

All that talk of peace and love is wonderful, but if you don't have the right look, you're not doing the world a favor. People have to look at you whether you like it or not. Learn what’s hot this season at Urban Fashion Week's Fashionista Pre-Party tonight at the Balinese Ballroom. For more Urban Fashion Week events, go here: www.urbanfashionweekmemphis.com.

Ballet dancers, with their graceful style and poise, are definitely fashionable. And good food can bring inner-peace. The two come together at Ballet Memphis' Connections: Food, a culinary-inspired ballet paired with five courses prepared by regional chefs. The event will be held at Bridges on Saturday, October 18th at 8 p.m.

Rescue your old clothes from the Goodwill pile and bring them to the Memphis Botanic Garden for the Weaving for Recyclers Workshop, where you’ll learn to transform old jeans, tees, and bedsheets into reusable tote bags. The workshop will be held twice -- on Saturday, October 18th from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday, October 19th from 1 to 4 p.m.

Find inner peace and practice your downward dog for a good cause during the Workout for St. Jude, a Better Bodies Yoga class benefiting St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. The class begins at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, October 19th.

For more weekend fun, check out the Flyer's searchable online calendar.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Memphis Art Park?

Posted on Thu, Oct 16, 2008 at 4:00 AM

When it comes to promoting its brand, Memphis has been criticized for being something of a one-note town.

But Memphian John Kirkscey has an idea to change that. "Memphis is the arts Mecca of the South," Kirkscey says. "We need to start celebrating our present culture, not just our past."

Kirkscey is the "idea guy" behind the Memphis Art Park, a proposal to create a public park on the Front Street promenade that would "provide both locals and tourists with an attractive destination to enjoy a wide variety of local art while providing our city's emerging artists with vital arts facilities."

To read the rest of Mary Cashiola's In the Bluff column from this week, click here.

To visit the In the Bluff blog, click here.

Or to go to the Memphis Art Park website, click here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Bigger Isn't Always Better

Posted By on Wed, Oct 15, 2008 at 4:00 AM

What a strange time for banks to be bragging about how big they are.

Within the last week, Regions Bank proudly announced in a press release that it is the largest bank in Tennessee, with 300 branches, 15.5 percent of the market, and $16 billion in deposits "which surpassed its closest competitor by $1.2 billion."

A few days later, its "closest competitor," First Tennessee Bank, countered that boast with one of its own: It is the largest bank in Memphis with 36 percent of the market, compared to 15 percent for Regions.

Do the banks know something that customers don’t? The source of the rankings is the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation's (FDIC) quarterly report based on deposits as of June 30th.

That's three months before the stock market crash, the passage of the bailout bill, and the government’s latest plan to buy stakes in nine of the nation's largest banks -- not exactly a current snapshot. Bank stocks rallied Monday, but Regions is down 70 percent from one year ago, and First Horizon, parent of First Tennessee, is down 50 percent and has stopped paying cash dividends.

While the banks are spinning selective numbers in the FDIC quarterly report as good news, the report is actually full of bad news. The three-page summary, which can be viewed at fdic.gov by clicking on the "quarterly banking profile" link, includes these headlines:

"Second-quarter earnings are 87 percent below year-earlier level."

"Market-sensitive revenues remain weak."

"Net charge-off rate rises to highest level since 1991."

"Capital growth slows despite cutbacks in dividends."

And, most ominous of all: "Two more banks fail in second quarter" and "the number of institutions on the FDIC's 'Problem List' increased from 90 to 117 during the quarter."

In a speech last month, FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair said "more banks will come on the list as credit problems worsen," although 98 percent of FDIC-insured institutions are well-capitalized.

Are you, like me, feeling confused by all this? I understand why banks want to see the glass as half full. Their doors are open, and by all outward signs our deposits are safe. As a Memphian, I want Regions and First Tennessee and all of our banks to survive as employers, sponsors, lenders, and community builders. As a tiny stockholder, I hope the stock price moves up, not down.

The FDIC's "Problem List" is like a shark in the water because the problem banks are not identified, and that feeds the rumor mill. I don't blame banks for talking big if it makes them look like survivors or takeover candidates, although I would rather they simply issue a statement that says, "We are not on that list."

As a voter, investor, and reporter, I feel like this whole bailout bill (or "rescue bill" as some were calling it) and financial crisis is a huge mismatch, and I"m scrambling but not catching up.

If you remain glued to CNN and read three national newspapers a day, you will get a diet of dueling economists. Each one sounds persuasive until you hear the next one, who sounds equally persuasive from exactly the opposite point of view. The Nobel Prize in economics was awarded this week to Paul Krugman, a liberal columnist critical of the bailout that is also the bane of many conservatives.

A "blame the super-rich" response may satisfy some people, but a close look at the proxy statements of First Tennessee and Regions and other financial firms shows that the super-rich have taken it on the chin along with the rest of us.

Neither of our presidential candidates has offered much clear thinking on this crisis in the first two debates. Barack Obama talks more about tax cuts than recovery, and John McCain seemed patronizing when he suggested to that guy in Nashville that he had probably never heard of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, even though those institutions are quite familiar to anyone with a mortgage or a student loan.

We're left with opening our 401(k) and IRA statements and deciding whether to be in the stock market or stay on the sidelines as the market swings up or down 5 to10 percent in one day. I just hope the big talkers are right.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Germantown Horse Show

Posted on Tue, Oct 14, 2008 at 4:00 AM

One urban legend has it that there used to be more horses in Germantown than people.

We don't know if that's true, but we do know there are a lot of horses in Saddle Creek these days. Fiberglass horses, but still.

To view a sampling of the horses -- created in honor of the Germantown Charity Horse Show's 60th Anniversary -- visit the In the Bluff blog.

Bianca Knows Best ... And Helps a Potential Stripper

Posted By on Tue, Oct 14, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Dear Bianca,

Times are tough with the economy on the downswing, and I've got to pay my bills. I've got a toddler to feed and a husband who'd like me to contribute to my half of the rent, electricity, and phone bills.

Unfortunately, I've been out of work for a few months, and though I have a degree, I can't seem to find a decent-paying job. Like any rational and well-endowed girl, I've started dreaming up ways to make quick money off my looks. Porn is out of the question (I'm totally monogamous), but I've considered nude modeling.

However, my husband doesn't like the idea one bit. I told him I need to take advantage of the fact that I'm still hot. I'll be 30 soon, and I'm sure everything is going to go downhill after that.

How can I convince my hubby to let me bare it all to pay the rent?

-- Ready to Strip

Dear Ready to Strip,

Damn, can't you just work at Taco Bell until you find something better? Nude modeling isn't the only way to pay the bills. There are other options, you know.

If you insist on doing some kind of sexy modeling though, perhaps you should look into alternative/goth modeling companies that allow models to pose in pleather or latex fetish gear. At least you'll still be covered that way. Try SuicideGirls.com or WickedTalent.com if that sounds like an option for you.

If you're not a goth girl and insist on giving nude modeling a shot, talk to your husband about why he doesn't want you to ditch the drawers. Is it a trust issue? Is he afraid you'll get it on with the photographer? Or does he feel weird about other dudes seeing his wife in her birthday suit?

Even if the hubby gives in, don't forget that you have a toddler. I'm all for nude models (so long as they're attractive), but do you really want your kid to stumble on pics of his bare-breasted mom on the Internet later in life?

Once something goes on the web, it's there until someone else takes it down. And unless you're working for yourself, you won't have control over when that image is removed.

Conclusion: Go for it if you and your husband can come to an agreement, but make an informed decision before showing the world your va-jay-jay.

Got a problem? Send your questions to Bianca at bphillips@memphisflyer.com.

Monday, October 13, 2008

"Ask Vance" Investigates Shelby Farms

Posted By on Mon, Oct 13, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Several weeks ago, one of my colleagues asked if anyone had ever "ask-vanced" me about the headstone in the woods at Shelby Farms that marks the grave of Robert and Mary Mann, who died in the 1890s. It was, she said, along a trail that runs close to an old barn that is falling to pieces and -- another surprise -- a couple of abandoned cars from the 1950s. The truth is that in recent months, I have actually received several inquiries about this mysterious tombstone ...

Vance Lauderdale, Memphis magazine's own historic anomaly, has more, here.

JT Hearts BO

Posted By on Mon, Oct 13, 2008 at 4:00 AM

From Hello Magazine: After enjoying a romantic holiday together in Rome, sweethearts Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel were back hard at work this week for a cause close to their hearts, supporting Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama.

In Las Vegas to host a charity golf tournament, the SexyBack singer and his actress love looked happy and relaxed as they chatted with fans and posed for photographs at the low-key public rally on Saturday.

Cue snark on 3, 2, 1 ...

More here.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Elvis Is Alive! We Told You So.

Posted By on Sat, Oct 11, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Sure, the world's economy is going into the tank, but hey, Elvis is alive! At least, that's what a woman claiming to be Elvis' half sister says. And she says she has the DNA to prove it.

We say, big deal. We told you all about it last year in the Flyer.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Mercy Killing

Neil LaBute's The Mercy Seat closes at Theatre Memphis this weekend.

Posted By on Thu, Oct 9, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Some reviews are hard to write.

The Mercy Seat, Neil LaBute's sardonic post 9-11 one-act isn't finding an audience at Theater Memphis' Next Stage. And I seriously doubt that this article will result in many advance reservations for the closing weekend.

Jerry Chipman is a smart director. John Moore (Ben) and Christina Welford Scott (Abby) are gifted actors. But TM's production generates no sexual heat and misses all the comedy and absurdist flourishes at the core of LaBute's limp morality play.

Abby Prescott's swank Manhattan crib on the wrongish side of town is supposed to be covered in layer of dust. Abby is also described in the play as being covered in dust from the storm created when two commercial aircraft smashed into the World Trade Center. She and her married boyfriend Ben Harcourt are fools for love in a disastrous circumstance Sam Shepard might have written about in some futuristic sex farce from 30 years ago.

LaBute wants his audience to experience 9/11 and his dueling narcissists at their most tragic and their most ridiculous. Everything at TM is clean but the language.

Ben's a New York executive and family man. And he should be dead. If he'd been at work on time he'd have died in the big fireball he's been watching over and over again on TV. But he wasn't at work on time because Abby, who is also his boss, was tooting his horn when the terrorist's planes ripped their infamous hole in the sky.

Like perverse subjects in a Roy Lichtenstein painting both characters see a great big "Wham," and it smells like opportunity. Ben is entirely unsympathetic. He says he wants to let his family think he's dead and go on the lam. He says wants to spare his children the horrors of a messy divorce and a protracted custody battle.

Abby is a dozen years older than dickish beau and gets a thrill out of being a younger stud's hot piece of doggy-style tail. She also finds rear entry depersonalizing and absurd and for some reason the awfulness of 9-11 makes her want to monologue about that. She wants to be the boss and the other woman and the wife -- and she wants to monologue about all of that too. It's at least an opportunity for Scott to get her Blanche Dubois on and that's never a bad thing. But that's about the most positive thing that can be said about this tedious time waster.

The Mercy Seat doesn't work without a sense that if Abby ever stops talking and Ben ever looks at her the lights will come down and the drama will switch to porn in an eye-blink. LaBute gives the audience no other reason to believe that his couple could ever really be a couple, and TM's production is coolly pristine and sexless.

The only one thing that could ever compel anybody to spend an hour and a half with these people: no intermission.

Oh well. With George Dudley and Kim Justice Eikner topping the cast list, Sweeney Todd sounds promising. Maybe it can get Theatre Memphis back on track.

--by Chris Davis

Cybill Is Not Impressed With Palin

Posted By on Thu, Oct 9, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Memphis actress Cybill Shepherd isn't impressed with Veep candidate Sarah Palin.

Check it out.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

City's Hickory Ridge Plans Delayed Again

Posted on Tue, Oct 7, 2008 at 4:00 AM

A joint City Council public works and CIP budget committee decided today to postpone taking action on the proposed Hickory Ridge Mall sale.

The city administration wants to buy the concourse of the Hickory Ridge Mall -- damaged in a tornado last February -- for the new fire and police dispatch center. The facility could also house other municipal services and community groups, as well as pre-tornado mall vendors.

The purchase price would be $1.25 million, and the administration is asking for an additional $4.23 million this year for engineering and architecture.

Like two weeks ago, the committee was still troubled that it didn't know the true, total price of the project. City CAO Keith McGee estimates it somewhere between $60 million and $64 million in all.

Council members Reid Hedgepeth and Shea Flinn were also concerned about the city renting space out to mall vendors. Before the tornado, the mall had 33 vendors -- 13 of those have expressed an interest in returning. The mall's Sears store is still open.

To read more, visit In the Bluff.

Mary Cashiola

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