Thursday, May 18, 2017

Bartender Turns Off TV During Band Set, World Ends

Posted By on Thu, May 18, 2017 at 2:35 PM

  • Kablooie
The world ended Wed, May 17, 2017 when Ima Moran, a part time bartender at Shenanigans, accidentally turned off the TV while attempting to change channels.

“I knew better,” Moran was quoted as saying as she fell deeper and deeper into the endless abyss. “Even though it seems like a distraction and a terrible discourtesy, you’re never, ever, ever supposed to turn the TV off while the band is playing. But I never dreamed something like this could happen.”

Ike Anteven, a regular at the Cordova watering hole, blames himself. “You know, I’m not all that into music,” he explained just before he froze to death. “I thought maybe Ima could see if there was a good game on or something. If I’d just been content reading the FOX news crawler, everything would be normal now and not, AAAARRRRRRGGGHHHH!”

Edianna Crusier, vocalist for the popular Dark Side Band had a more positive spin on the situation: “I always said, just one time — just one goddamn time before I die — I wish they’d turn the TV off while we’re playing.”

Physics professor Barnaby Jones says nobody’s sure what kept the Earth from exploding when bands played in taverns and dance halls prior to the invention of the TV. “It’s a mystery,” he said as his head was sliced off in a sudden debris storm.

Jesus it's getting cold. I...

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

That's What She Said: Why did Kay Robilio's colorful language cause a stir?

Posted By on Wed, May 10, 2017 at 2:51 PM

Berlin Boyd
  • Berlin Boyd
My first role at Theatre Memphis was that of an Egyptian warrior named Bel Affris in a production of George Bernard Shaw's Caesar & Cleopatra. Accepting the small, but showy part came at an itchy cost: I had to shave all my body hair. Why? So the carpet growing on my chest arms and legs wouldn't mat when I was painted brown, and thus transformed into a convincing Egyptian. My richly detailed costumes, photographed for a spread in the Commercial Appeal, included a couple of wicked swords... and an afro wig. Behind the scenes it wasn't uncommon to hear comparisons to Othello and Aunt Jemima back to back. To me, what's most shocking about this story in 2017, is how not remotely shocking it was in 1987.

I mention all of that to  illustrate a point that should be, but is seldom obvious. What was normal and fine only yesterday— particularly in regard to things like race and gender identity — may be archaic or offensive today.  On the lighter side of the ongoing struggle, an entire situation comedy trope has been built around the fact that, as a culture, we're so pathetically fragmented and behind in some areas that we exist in a constant state of catching up. Everybody will be familiar with scenes from TV, film, and real life where some older "out of touch" character makes a racially insensitive comment unaware that s/he's said something wrong. This sets up the real joke when a younger "with it" character corrects the elder using hipper language that's either ironic, or (recognized by  savvy viewers as  being) similarly out of date. To borrow a line from Anthropology professor Yolanda Moses, "at this cultural moment in the U.S., we still live in a racialized social and cultural hierarchy, and our language continues to reflect our ongoing attempts to grapple with that reality." The key word there is "ongoing." The dustup and debate following City Court Clerk Kay Robilio's setback-inducing use of the term "man of color," during a city council meeting is part of that ongoing struggle.

There was some initial confusion as to what Robilio had actually said. Was it "colored" or was it "person of color?" It was, of course, neither, but this is how news spread across social media platforms and people attempted to interpret the former judge's meanings, and debate the legitimacy of "of color." Here's the thing: these conversations always devolve into fights over intention and decorum. These are rabbit holes, and entirely beside the point. What is the point? Well, I think this bit's pretty good. William Safire wrote it in 1988, only a year after I allowed myself to be painted brown: "When used by whites, people of color usually carries a friendly and respectful connotation, but should not be used as a synonym for black; it refers to all racial groups that are not white."

Think about every piece of that, including "friendly and respectful," then proceed.

Robilio fumbled the whole exchange referring to an individual as a, "man of color." This elicited surprise in
 the room, and a correction from Councilman Berlin Boyd. But even if she'd gotten it right the first time, it seems likely the use of an idiom aggregating non-whites to describe one person would still raise eyebrows in 2017, particularly in a majority African-American city with a majority not-African-American leadership. This isn't about Robilio, of course. Her awkward attempt to be correct — because that's what she was fumbling to do — is more indicative of systemic cultural issues, than personal ones. It's symptomatic of where we live now, as language slowly and uncertainly evolves away from identities determined by their relationship to whiteness. But, until the two are uncoupled we'll continue to see "acceptable" descriptors eliciting side-eye, and unease. As is to be expected when you define folks by what they aren't.

In this case the speaker was imprecise and mangled language that would have been technically incorrect even if she'd gotten it right. But she wasn't out of line and neither were critics.  In the situation comedy we call Memphis, Robilio's playing her part as the "out of touch" grandma — A trope perfectly essayed in this vintage cartoon. She's not on trial here. And we'd all know that if things weren't so suddenly personalized on social media, or if rhetoric was still a part of a basic education. It's language that's in the hot seat, and here's my hot take on it. While "people of color," is an old expression, it's only been a popular one for the last 30-years or so. It emerged as a status quo alternative to "non-white,"  making a monolith of many groups, while continuing to define against whiteness. It's been adopted by multi-racial groups, and is perfectly mainstream today. So was  "colored" when it was enshrined by the NAACP, and there's no compelling reason to be protective of the expression in circumstances when there's pushback from people it's used to describe. In the meantime, "People of color," or "Communities of color" is best used for describing diverse ranges of people who aren't white. When describing an individual  it's sound practice to be considerate and specific.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

CA Follies: Get It Together Gannett

Posted By on Tue, May 9, 2017 at 9:48 AM

The Commercial Appeal's lost its editor to St. Jude, name brand staff to layoffs, and its ability to prevent tiny, tragic errors. You know, like when you run an above the fold A-1 headline about a woman from "Columbia," who runs a Colombian diner, right next to a picture of the smiling subject wearing a correctly spelled Colombia t-shirt.

Seems like somebody was sipping too much juice down by the Bug Light Stage this past weekend.

And here's a classic case of "don't know if they're coming or going" from Saturday's edition. Read the sub-headline, then read the opening paragraph. Then go ahead and cry in your cubicle a little. It's okay, really it is.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Commercial Appeal Reports Unfortunate Festival Sponsorship

Posted By on Mon, May 8, 2017 at 3:39 PM

Memphis in May's Beale Street Music Festival can be a gorgeous weekend on the river. It can also be a crowded, muddy, buggy mess, and turning one of the festivals concert stages into an enormous Bug Light is a terrible, terrible, terrible idea. That's why FOTW is happy to report this is only a typo.

WREG to Be Acquired by Conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group

What does that mean for Memphis?

Posted By on Mon, May 8, 2017 at 2:59 PM


With their overemphasis on crime and safety in the urban core, Memphis' TV-news stations already affect a potent, subtle, and effective right-wing bias. Today's media news suggest things are about to get less subtle. On Monday, May 8, Tribune Media Co. announced its 42 television news properties, including Memphis' WREG-TV, would be acquired by Sinclair Broadcast Group for somewhere in the neighborhood of $3.9 billion.

If approved by the FCC Sinclair, will operate 233 stations in 72-percent of America's broadcast markets. The company will additionally assume $2.7 billion in debt.

Sinclair has a long, unapologetic (though occasionally denied) history of aligning itself with conservative politics and making local news less local. There's no point in repeating the origin story when this Memphis Flyer Viewpoint from 2003 does such a fine job of condensing things.

Like many a media empire, Sinclair grew through a combination of acquisitions, clever manipulations of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules, and considerable lobbying campaigns. Starting out as a single UHF station in Baltimore in 1971, the company started its frenzied expansion in 1991 when it began using "local marketing agreements" as a way to circumvent FCC rules that bar a company from controlling two stations in a single market. These "LMAs" allow Sinclair to buy one station outright and control another by acquiring not its license but its assets. Today, Sinclair touts itself as "the nation's largest commercial television broadcasting company not owned by a network." You've probably never heard of them because the stations they run fly the flags of the networks they broadcast: ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, and the WB.

The new deal, which also gives Sinclair part ownership in the Food Network, still requires FCC approval, but, as noted by CNN, the Trump administration has shown nothing but interest in approving these kinds of mergers. Once approved Sinclair plans to swiftly liquidate all real estate connected to Tribune Media's print holdings. That makes sense since, as noted by The Baltimore Sun, Sinclair Broadcast Group does two things very well: "It knows how to run local stations lean and mean. And it makes some of the most visually engaging local news in the country."

The Sun also notes Sinclair's history of "compromising its news operations with right-wing politics."

Of course Sinclair's only putting its mouth where its money is.  Last month Trump’s FCC reinstated a something called the UHF Discount allowing media conglomerates to blow through congressionally set ownership limits. The UHF Discount is an obscure rule from 1985 before the transition to digital eliminated the UHF/VHF signal gap. It allowed owners of UHF properties to declare half the coverage area reach compared to a VHF station.

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Friday, May 5, 2017

Sign Fail of the Day — "Love" on the Rocks

Posted By on Fri, May 5, 2017 at 4:17 PM

Well, at least they tried. 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

US Military to Weaponize Alligators Trump Announces

Posted By on Tue, May 2, 2017 at 11:38 AM

Artist's rendering by POTUS
  • Artist's rendering by POTUS
"It's just a tremendous thing you can do with these animals," President Donald Trump told a hastily assembled group of top military officials. "They're like living dinosaurs, it's just the most amazing thing you've ever seen."

Inspired by a half-remembered song about former president Andrew Jackson's victory at the Battle of New Orleans, Trump laid out a plan to expand the American military by rounding up alligators and turning them into rocket launchers.

"It's an incredible natural resource," the President said of the threatened species. "What Jackson did with them — amazing really — is he'd fill their head with cannon balls. Such a good idea. One of the best I've ever heard. Then he'd take the gunpowder and — well, I'm sure everybody can guess where that went. Little fire. Bam! Japanese never knew what hit them."

Trump asked an aide to lower the room lights then asked the assembled group to close their eyes and imagine with him. "Imagine you're North Korea," he said. "And one day you look up and all you can see is alligators falling from the sky shooting rockets out of their mouths.

"That's Jackson for you," the President concluded, admiringly. "Ahead of his time. Fine looking head of hair too." 

Friday, April 28, 2017

Gannett Stalls Severance Payments to Former Commercial Appeal Employees

Posted By on Fri, Apr 28, 2017 at 8:10 PM

Posted to Social Media by Commercial Appeal reporter/MemphisNewspaper Guild representative Daniel Connolly.

Gannett deliberately stalls severance payments to former Commercial Appeal employees
***Please share this with your friends. This is important.***
I'm the head of the Memphis Newspaper Guild labor union, which represents some workers at The Commercial Appeal.
***I'm sorry to inform you that the newspaper's new parent company, Gannett, is deliberately stalling severance payments to 12 former newsroom employees.***
These former employees have not received a dime of severance since they lost jobs effective April 11.
Because Gannett is currently finishing up a brutal "fight-for-your job" contest in the advertising department. The company broke a ton of rules in the process. They're afraid of the legal consequences for their rule-breaking in advertising.
So they're stalling the payments to the former newsroom employees in the hopes of forcing the union to sign an amnesty that forgives the company for its rule-breaking.
I've seen plenty of bad corporate behavior in my life. ***Gannett's calculated decision to inflict harm on people who have lost jobs is among the worst corporate behavior I have ever seen.***


In advertising, Gannett fired everyone and made them reapply for new jobs. We call this process The Hunger Games.
Desperate to hold on to her job, advertising employee Marianne Sheridan competed in The Hunger Games and walked into a job interview with three Gannett employees she'd never met before. She was nervous at first. And then she felt worse.
*** "Frankly, at one point my head felt like it was going to explode," she told me. ***
She left the interview, sweat pouring off her body. Someone called an ambulance and she was taken to a hospital. She's out now, but still undergoing medical tests. It's not clear what happened to her.
"I think it was a huge anxiety attack," she said. "Since the beginning of April, we've been under this stress of having to reapply for our jobs."
She found out Thursday that she doesn't have a job anymore.
Six advertising employees applied in The Hunger Games and didn't get jobs. Around six others refused to participate in The Hunger Games and will also lose jobs. The last day for these 12 or so employees is May 1.
The Hunger Games isn't just stressful.
Our union contract lays out a detailed process for job cuts. The Hunger Games process - firing everyone and making them apply for jobs - is not allowed under our union contract. The company knows this and did it anyway.
Some of the people who "won" The Hunger Games competition will be paid thousands of dollars less than they were paid before. That's also not allowed under our union contract.
We're already hearing disturbing reports of sales staffers not being paid for commissions they rightfully earned.
And somehow, magically, the six people who participated in The Hunger Games and lost their jobs are all women. Several are African-American.
We're concerned about that, too.
**** Due to Gannett's willful, blatant violations of the rules, we filed a federal complaint to the National Labor Relations Board on April 21. ***
The federal agency will now investigate the complaint and take appropriate action. We also have another complaint pending through what's known as the grievance / arbitration process.
On Thursday, the company lawyer once again demanded we sign an amnesty deal that withdraws all our complaints.
Otherwise, he says the 12 former employees in the newsroom plus The Hunger Games victims in advertising will have to wait months or years for severance until an arbitrator decides.
If you ask the company lawyer, he'll say the delay is the union's fault. That because we won't sign the amnesty, we're the ones who are stopping these workers from getting their severance.
But think about that for a minute.
*** Gannett breaks multiple rules in firing people.
We complain about it to the feds.
And then Gannett says it will refuse to pay severance until we drop our complaints about its rule-breaking.***
I know I'm coming across as angry.
That's because I _am_ angry.
*** I'm watching good people suffer. I'm furious to see how Gannett fires people, then works very hard to hurt them some more. ***
We, the labor union, are going to pursue legal challenges hard. In the meantime, you can make a difference!
*** Call our interim publisher and tell him to pay a fair severance to the former workers. ***
His name is Mike Jung, he's based in Florida and temporarily working here.
His phone number is 239-335-0277 and his email address is
I've met him, and he seems like a good guy. But he needs to hear from you.
*** And you can reach out to help our former workers. Our former employees are great people who had the misfortune of losing jobs to cost-cutting. Why not hire them? Send job leads to Guild office manager Amy Olmstead: or 901-726-6857. ***

How Much News is on the News: A Guns & Bunnies Web Extra

Posted By on Fri, Apr 28, 2017 at 1:52 PM

This week's cover story measuring violence and fluff on local TV news has generated a lot of questions. One more frequently asked: How many news stories make it into the evening broadcast, and how much time is allotted to each story?

This may not be a perfect answer, but it should at least point curious folks in the right direction.

I went back to the Flyer staff's original viewing diaries but only looked at Tuesday night's broadcast. Every night is a little different, obviously, so one night isn't a good data sample. Still, the formula is more or less the same broadcast to broadcast, so Tuesday, being a fairly normal news night, provides a reasonable snapshot.

Not counting weather, sports, and headline teasers, Memphis stations averaged 18 news stories on Tuesday night.  If all of Memphis stations were rolled into one big happy news team 42-percent — or 13-minutes —of their roughly half-hour weeknight (10 p.m.) broadcasts would be devoted to news content.

How much time was devoted to each story? I suppose I could go back and count it all up, but don't really see the point. 18 stories in 13-minutes? obviously not very much. A casual, anecdotal observation: There was more time burned hanging around in neighborhoods fishing for comments about children left home alone (and unharmed) than, say, comparing Memphis parking meter rates to other, similar markets.


Thursday, April 27, 2017

You Look Like Money: Craig Brewer Teams up with the Memphis Comedy Community

Posted By on Thu, Apr 27, 2017 at 3:54 PM

I can't remember when I've been in a happier, busier room. Everybody was grinning wide, and laughing, except for the writers — a who's who of local comedy talent — who looked grave and anxiety-ridden, which is how you could tell they were in the zone and having a blast. Memphis' man in Hollywood, Craig Brewer, has a plan. He wants to transform Katrina Coleman and Tommy Oler's You Look Like comedy show/podcast, into digital content for streaming providers. The popular game of competitive comic put-downs has fantastic web-sharing potential. It's exactly the kind of thing the internet was made for.

On stage the comedy is vicious. Things change after the loser makes a filmed "walk of shame."

"You got robbed," the winner of one round says, chasing down his not terribly disgraced opponent. "I know, I totally beat you," he answers. Nobody's mad. Love is thick. They're all in this together.

"I'm not drunk enough to cry," Coleman says, as the camera crew prepares to shoot the last five episodes of a ten episode trial season. "But set your watches."
Katrina Coleman, Morgan Jon Fox
  • Katrina Coleman, Morgan Jon Fox
Coleman, who looks like the person most responsible for assembling the big tent of modern Memphis comedy, gestures to a ridiculous crown spinning on a turntable just offstage. That's the winner's prize. "It's still the You Look Like show," she assures the "studio audience," acknowledging her shoestring budgeted show's many physical upgrades. "I made that motherfucker in my living room," she says, with a catch in her throat. A machine pumps fog into the room, standing in for the P&H's famously thick cloud of cigarette smoke. Local writer/director Morgan Fox orders the cameras to roll and the games begin in earnest.

The rules couldn't be more simple. Two comics stand face to face trading appearance-based insults like, "You look like heroin might improve your life." That's mild. Comics being comics, and built the way they are, the meaner it gets the more respect you can feel radiating from the combatants. When a roughing session ends the audience chooses a winner and the loser has to gaze into a mirror of shame and play the game all over again with his/herself. Simple. Perfect. And Memphis insult hero Tutweezy makes for an affable master of ceremonies.
Comic Amanda Walker and Craig Brewer.
  • Comic Amanda Walker and Craig Brewer.
Brewer discovered the You Look Like Show by way of the Memphis Comedy Festival. He had no idea that such a mature comedy scene had grown up in the tavern at the center of his own origin story. "I felt like grandpa," he says of the revelation. 
Memphis Flyer cover art by Memphis comic/artist Mitchell Dunnam.
  • Memphis Flyer cover art by Memphis comic/artist Mitchell Dunnam.
It's epic deja vous seeing Brewer at work in the P&H Cafe. That's where I met him. He was working on his first feature film, The Poor & Hungry and had had come into the bar to screen "rushes" of  footage he'd recently shot. Seemed like would be filmmakers were everywhere, back then, but Brewer was different. He was devoid of pretension, and radiated so much excitement for the work he was doing there was no way to inoculate against the infection. When The Poor & Hungry was accepted into the Hollywood Film Festival, I followed him and the P&H Cafe's late great proprietress Wanda Wilson to LaLa Land to watch an emerging local talent be reborn as a hot commodity. And there he was, big as life, back at the old smoke-stained bar — the place where it all began — doing the kind of thing he fantasized about as a penniless beginner, driving around L.A. looking for a strip joint that might run his credit card and give him enough cash for dinner and parking.  
In the "writer's room" with Richard Douglas Jones and Hunter Sandlin
  • In the "writer's room" with Richard Douglas Jones and Hunter Sandlin
Brewer has always looked for opportunities to export Memphis talent and weirdness. In the 90's he shot the city's bourgeoning burlesque scene. His team-up with MTV on $5 Cover brought a semi-fictionalized version of the Memphis music scene to the masses. In some ways Brewer's plan to turn You Look Like, into a streaming success is enhanced by a largely united comedy scene that's already accustomed to collaboration. As soon as a comic advances to the next round he or she is in the back room working with a solid team of local comics including Hunter Sandlin, and Richard Douglas Jones.

"I get paid the same if I win or lose," keystone comic Josh McLane says, praising a spirit of collaboration that brings competitors together to come up with the best worst things they could possibly say to each other. It doesn't matter who wears the crown. All that matters: Is it funny? To that end the whole atmosphere feels a little like old-school Memphis wrasslin'. The outcomes aren't predetermined, but everybody's working together to bring serious pain from the top-rope.
Tommy Oler looks like a very handsome comedian. Hunter Sandlin looks like he shouldn't have coveted the lost Ark.
  • Tommy Oler looks like a very handsome comedian. Hunter Sandlin looks like he shouldn't have coveted the lost Ark.
For financing Brewer turned to past collaborator David Harris, an executive for Gunpowder & Sky, an LA based digital first studio  Harris had previously worked with Brewer on "Savage County," a horror web-series. BR2, the "digiflick" company originally founded to market The Poor & Hungry is producing, as evidenced by a pair of director's chairs printed with the company's classic logo.

"We didn't have chairs the first time," Brewer quips as a Memphis media super team including co-producers Fox and Erin Freeman, Editor Edward Valibus, and Director of Photography Sarah Fleming all work the room.

I wish I had an appropriate insult to end this post. But all I can say is, You Look Like looks like it was a lot of fun to make. It's bound to be a lot of fun to watch. Now it's all about putting the pieces together, and taking it to market.
Fake smoke, real comedy.
  • Fake smoke, real comedy.

Memphis is Ugly. Cleveland Still Uglier, According to BS List

Posted By on Thu, Apr 27, 2017 at 1:28 PM

Hey look, another bullshit list for people to click on and argue about. This time Memphis has been named the 9th ugliest city in America. Based on what criteria?

Jesus, do you really care?


Reading the CA: This Column by I. Dunno

Posted By on Thu, Apr 27, 2017 at 12:54 PM

Because I live in a glass house and everybody screws up sometimes and blogging without a copy editor is scary, I try not to get too hung up on the little things. But Goddammit, Gannett.

When Local News Isn't Local: A "Guns & Bunnies" Slideshow

Posted By on Thu, Apr 27, 2017 at 8:00 AM

The Memphis Flyer's "Guns & Bunnies" issue measuring violence and fluff in TV news is on stands (and online) now. We didn't undertake a proper survey in this area, but it seems like most of the news content local stations pick up from other markets can be described as a Gun (violence, crime, disaster), or a Bunny (soft news, celebrity, trivia, novelty cute stuff). Here's a taste of what's out there. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Dogs and People Get Along Well in Mississippi, Commercial Appeal Reports

Posted By on Wed, Apr 19, 2017 at 11:10 AM

Good news out of Mississippi. People and dogs get along well. There's still a lot of work to be done in both the feline, and hamster, communities, and Mississippi's Gov. Phil Bryant recently signed off on Confederate History Month as a reasonable addition to "Black History Month and Native American History Month," suggesting the state's still home to a truly fucking astonishing level of institutional racism. But... Awwww.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Happy Easter from Fly on the Wall

Posted By on Fri, Apr 14, 2017 at 3:08 PM

It's good Friday, and your Pesky Fly's got nothing to make you laugh. So I thought I'd share this Memphis church sign from Easter, 2009 (I think). It's a such a classic it deserves to be trotted out year after year like a Rankin & Bass holiday special: "Jesus Said Bring Me That Ass."

Please help your irreverent Fly keep an eye out for great church signs this holiday weekend. It's like an egg hunt for heathen grownups.

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