Friday, October 28, 2016

Start Halloween Weekend Right With a Tribute to Sivad and Fantastic Features

Posted By on Fri, Oct 28, 2016 at 6:14 PM

sivad-1.jpg

Every now and then Fly on the Wall likes to publish something "From the Morgue," which, in newspaper jargon, means an article we published some time in the past that's been filed away. But in this case the expression's especially fitting. It's late October — time to remember Memphis' original horror host Sivad. All links have been updated, so readers should be able to sample some of the movies that made Fantastic Features so fantastic. 

The horror first took control of Memphis television sets at 6 p.m. Saturday, September 29, 1962. It began with a grainy clip of black-and-white film showing an ornate horse-drawn hearse moving silently through a misty stretch of Overton Park. Weird music screeched and swelled, helping to set the scene. A fanged man in a top hat and cape dismounted. His skin was creased, corpse-like. He looked over his shoulder once, then dragged a crude, wooden coffin from the back of the hearse. His white-gloved hand opened the lid, releasing a plume of thick fog and revealing the bloody logo of Fantastic Features.

"Ah. Goooood eeeevening. I am Sivad, your monster of ceremonies," the caped figure drawled, in an accent that existed nowhere else on planet Earth. Think: redneck Romanian.

"Please try and pay attention," he continued, "as we present for your enjoyment and edification, a lively one from our monumental morgue of monstrous motion pictures."


In that moment, a Mid-South television legend was born. For the next decade, Sivad, the ghoulish character created by Watson Davis, made bad puns, told painfully bad jokes, and introduced Memphians to films like Gorgo...


The Brain That Wouldn't Die
...


and Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent.


Watson Davis' wisecracking monster wasn't unique. He was one of many comically inclined horror hosts who became popular regional TV personalities from the '50s through the '70s. According to John Hudgens, who directed American Scary, a documentary about the horror-host phenomenon, it all began with "Vampira," a pale-skinned gorgon immortalized by Ed Wood in his infamously incompetent film Plan 9 From Outer Space.


Although a Chicago-area host calling himself "The Swami" may have been the first costumed character regularly introducing scary movies on television, the big bang of horror hosting happened in 1954, when the wasp-wasted actress Maila Nurmi introduced her campy, Morticia Adams-inspired character on The Vampira Show, which aired in Los Angeles.

via GIPHY

In 1957, Screen Gems released a package of 52 classic horror films from Universal studios. The "Shock Theater" package, as it was called, created an opportunity for every market to have its own horror host. "Part of that package encouraged stations to use some kind of ghoulish host," Hudgens explains. "Local television was pretty much live or had some kind of host on everything back then."

Overnight, horror hosts such as New York's "Zacherly" and Cleveland's "Ghoulardi" developed huge cult followings. "TV was different in those days," Hudgens says. "There weren't a lot of channels to choose from, and the hosts could reach a lot more people quickly. Ghoulardi was so popular that the Cleveland police actually maintained that the crime rate went down when his show was on the air, and they asked him to do more shows."
Dr. Lucifer
  • Dr. Lucifer

Tennessee's first horror host was "Dr. Lucifer," a dapper, eyepatch-wearing man of mystery who hit the Nashville airwaves in 1957. Since Fantastic Features didn't air until the fall of 1962, Sivad was something of a latecomer to the creep-show party. But unlike most other horror hosts, Davis didn't have a background in broadcasting. He'd been a movie promoter, working for Memphis-based Malco theaters. His Sivad character existed before he appeared on television. At live events, he combined elements of the classic spook show with an over-the-top style of event-oriented marketing called ballyhoo. So Davis' vampire, while still nameless, was already well known to local audiences before Fantastic Features premiered.

"You've got to understand, things were very different back then," Elton Holland told the Memphis Flyer in a 2010 interview. "Downtown Memphis was a hub for shopping, and going out to the movies was an event. And back then, Malco was in competition with the other downtown theaters, so when you came to see a movie, we made it special.”

To make things special Holland, Davis, and Malco vice president Dick Lightman became masters of promotion and special events. Davis and Holland were neighbors who lived in Arkansas and car-pooled into Memphis every day. During those drives, Davis would float ideas for how to promote the films coming to town.

The studios only provided movie theaters with limited marketing materials. Theater businesses had in-house art departments that created everything else. What the art department couldn't make, Davis built himself in the theater's basement. When 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea came to town, he built a giant squid so large it had to be cut in half to get it up the stairs. He constructed a huge King Kong puppet that towered over the lower seats. For the film Dinosaurus, he built a Tyrannosaurus rex that was 20 feet tall and 45 feet long. It sat in the lobby, roaring and moving its tail.


"All movies were sold through exploitation," Holland explained. "And horror movies were the best ones to exploit. ... I remember when Watson first told me he wanted to be a monster. He was thinking vaudeville. He wanted to put on a show."

Davis' plan to create a scary show wasn't original. The "spook show" was a sideshow con dating back to when 19th-century snake-oil vendors traveled the country hawking their wares. Slick-talking performers would hop from town to town promising entertainment-deprived audiences the chance to see a giant, man-eating monster, so terrible it had to be experienced to be believed. Once the tickets were sold, it was loudly announced that the monster had broken free and was on a bloody rampage. The idea was to cause panic and create a confusing cover for the performers to make off with the loot.
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In the early 20th century, the spook show evolved, and traveling magicians exploited the public's growing fascination with spiritualism by conjuring ghosts and spirits. By mid-century, they developed into semi-comical "monster shows" that were almost always held in theaters. Today's "hell houses" and haunted mansions are recent permutations of the spook show.

When England's Hammer Films started producing horror movies that were, as Holland says, "a cut above," he, Davis, and Lightman took the old spook-show concept and adapted it sell movie tickets. They went to Memphis State's drama department and to the Little Theatre [now Theatre Memphis] looking for actors so they could put a monster on a flatbed truck in front of the Malco.

Davis dressed as Dracula, Holland was the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and another Malco exec played Frankenstein. The company also included a wolfman and a mad doctor.

Davis sometimes joined Lightman on inspection tours of other Malco properties. On one of those tours, the men saw an antique horse-drawn hearse for sale on the side of the road. They bought the hearse that appears in the Fantastic Features title sequence for $500. It also appeared in various monster skits and was regularly parked in front of Malco theaters to promote horror movies.

"One time we had this actor made up like a wild man," Holland said, recalling a skit that was just a little too effective. "While Watson did his spiel about the horror that was going to happen, the chained wild man broke loose and pretended like he was attacking this girl. He was going to jerk her blouse and dress off, and she had on a swimsuit underneath." One 6'-3", 300-pound, ex-military Malco employee wasn't in on the joke and thought the actor had actually gone wild. He took the chain away, wrapped it around the wild man's neck, and choked him until the two were pulled apart.

Music to Sivad to...
  • Music to Sivad to...

The proliferation of television eventually killed ballyhoo promotions and all the wild antics used to promote movies. At about that time, the studios started "going wide" with film distribution, opening the same film in many theaters at one time instead of just one theater in every region. This practice made location-specific promotions obsolete. By then, the Shock Theater package had made regional stars out of horror hosts all across the country. WHBQ approached Davis and offered him the job of "monster of ceremonies" on its Fantastic Features show. The show found an audience instantly and became so popular that a second weekly show was eventually added. Memphis viewers apparently couldn't get enough of films like Teenage Caveman...


and Mutiny in Outer Space...


Joe Bob Briggs, cable TV's schlock theater aficionado who hosted TNT's Monster Vision from 1996 to 2000, says that "corny" humor was the key to any horror host's success or failure. "Comedy and horror have only rarely been successfully mixed in film — although we have great examples like Return of the Living Dead, Briggs says. "But comedy surrounding horror on television was a winning formula from day one. In fact, it's essential. If you try to do straight hosting on horror films, the audiences will hate you."

In 1958, Dick Clark invited New York horror host Zacherly to appear on American Bandstand. "This wasn't the year for the comedians, this was the year for the spooks and the goblins and the ghosts," Clark said, introducing "Dinner With Drac," the first hit novelty song about monsters. Four years later, Bobby "Boris" Puckett took "Monster Mash" to the top of the charts. In the summer of 1963, Memphis' favorite horror host hopped on the pop-song monster bandwagon by recording the "Sivad Buries Rock and Roll/Dicky Drackeller" single.

Novelty songs such as "What Made Wyatt Earp" became a staple on Fantastic Features, and Sivad began to book shows with the King Lears, a popular Memphis garage band that influenced contemporary musicians like Greg Cartwright, who played in the Oblivians and the Compulsive Gamblers before forming the Reigning Sound. Although "Sivad Buries Rock and Roll" never charted, Goldsmith's department store hosted a promotional record-signing event, and 2,000 fans showed up to buy a copy.

In 1972, Fantastic Features was canceled. And though Davis was frequently asked to bring the character back, he never did. Horror movies were changing, becoming bloodier and more sexually explicit in a way that made them a poor fit for Sivad's family-friendly fright-fest. In 1978, Commercial Appeal reporter Joseph Shapiro unsuccessfully tried to interview Davis. He received a letter containing what he called a cryptic message: "Sivad is gone forever" is all it said.

Davis, who borrowed his name-reversing trick from Dracula, Bram Stoker's blood-sucking fiend who introduced himself as Count Alucard, died of cancer in March 2005. He was 92 years old.
sivad.jpg

* A version of this article appeared in the Memphis Flyer in 2010 —- but with out all the nifty links and embeds. 


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Really, Today Show? Graceland? In Nashville?

Posted By on Thu, Oct 27, 2016 at 12:27 PM

First, they came for our STAX logo. Then, this happened...
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Monday, October 24, 2016

Really, Austin?

Posted By on Mon, Oct 24, 2016 at 3:01 PM

Oh, SNAP! This is so wrong. And, apparently available in the airport. You know, that perfect last minute memory of Austin. 
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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Bob Corker Has Tiny Feet And It's Funny When He Stamps Them

Posted By on Thu, Oct 20, 2016 at 1:05 PM

Sitting in a tree.
  • Sitting in a tree.

Last night Senator Bob Corker took to Twitter — like so many brave keyboard commandos — saying it was "imperative" for Trump to accept election results, even if the outcome is unfavorable. It was the yappy lap-dog definition of "all bark," since Corker's endorsement stands. Like so many Republicans this cycle Mr. Corker, a smallish man, and adorable in his junior-sized suits and cute little shoes,  has been rendered almost entirely ridiculous by a candidate he's clearly embarrassed by, but upholds as America's only hope for a brighter tomorrow.
Enough of that. I'm not here to bash Corker — silly as he is — or to criticize Trump either. If anything, I want to express some sympathy for a poor devil, so deep into his own narcissism he couldn't think beyond who was wronging him and who was crediting him long long enough to realize the debate moderator, Chris Wallace, was tossing him softballs made out of pure red meat. Guns? Abortion? Grand bargains— the ultimate Republican Viagra? A reasonably versed Conservative could have grabbed hold of all these opportunities and owned the night. But, unfortunately for both the GOP and America, that candidate didn't show up.

What happened last night wasn't a debate, it was an informercial for Hillary Clinton. When a candidate — in this case Trump — opens with "Nobody has more respect for women than me," then hisses, "Such a nasty woman,"  in the drama's falling action, this is what we in the storytelling business call a narrative arc. Over the course of that arc Clinton was able to talk about policy using clear, connecting language. She was able to make powerful statements directly to women, all of whom know what it's like to be dismissed and belittled by a man. And she was able to get away with a lot of stuff that needed challenge and critique. The new border technologies she was talking about? Probably drones, not forcefields. And can we have more particulars about "no fly zones" that bring us into close quarters with the Russian army? Instead of thoughtful comment pushing his opponent into deeper conversation, the best we got from Trump was, "wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong." Sniff. 
There's no real point in parsing the details of last night's debate — though I could go on for pages about Trump's inner city comments, with all the blacks, and the Latinos, where you can't walk to the store without getting shot. But at this point in the race particulars aren't all that relevant. Trump's trailing. Worse, his downward trend suggests he had to do more than just show improved discipline. He had high benchmarks to hit in terms of clarity and temperament. He never got close, undermining all improvement with his refusal to accept an unfavorable election outcome. That's the thing Corker took him to task for. On Twitter. In his little suit and shoes. While still endorsing the man. While still supporting the man. While, presumably, still voting for the man. 

"Imperative." Ha!

Maybe it's not fair using Corker as the stand in for a Republican party that's failed America by standing steadfastly behind a lazy-minded candidate who doesn't know the difference between a challenge and a threat. But somebody needs to tell him, and all the rest of these little boys using big boy words and playing big boy games, that fake tough is the weakest hand you can play.

I wish I could say America deserves better, but to borrow a line from the comparatively competent Romney campaign, we built this. So stamp away little Bobby. Stamp away. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

George Perez: Cool Things About Memphis Comic Expo Part II

Posted By on Wed, Oct 19, 2016 at 5:14 PM

George Perez, Wonder Woman
  • George Perez, Wonder Woman
Man, when it comes to George Perez, where do you start? Avengers? New Teen Titans? JLA? Crisis on Infinite Earths? Wonder Woman? The Infinity Gauntlet? His entirely reasonable reasons for wanting to put the New 52 Superman in his rearview mirror?

(I suppose I could start with he's coming to the Memphis Comic Expo, but that's a little too easy)

As an artist and writer working in the majors, few individuals have done more to refine and redefine the two big superhero universes. He's been doing it for 40-years too, so, even when you think about his greatest hits, there's a lot to choose from. But for me, I think this is a story best told from the beginning. Or, the very near beginning when Perez became a regular artist working on Marvel's Deadly Hands of Kung Fu

I don't know how to rank all the various sub-elements in the SuperOmniVerse. Obviously heroes are on top of the food chain. Then comes magic and monsters, maybe. Then a mix of mainstays that fall in and out of fashion — martial arts, western, war, romance etc. None of it's pure anymore, it's all mixed up. But there have been periods when Marvel Kung Fu was more or less its own thing and some of the coolest pulp around. Hopefully Netflix Iron Fist — an often tertiary hero also getting some play in Marvel animated properties aimed at younger audiences — will show some love for a super comics tradition, diluted in the bigger universe of powers. This a long way of saying, I loved this stuff as a kid, and was a particular fan of a character called White Tiger. He's the first Puerto Rican superhero, with all sorts of crisis and conflict, and his story was forged in a white hot crucible of magic and martial arts. Perez co-created the Tiger with Bill Mantlo.

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The female White Tiger — the best part about the cloying Ultimate Spider-Man animated series (if it has a best part) — is the original Tiger's daughter. But now I'm way off track and far away from the point I originally wanted to make, which is this: The man can draw figures in action like few others. And, to the degree the comics reflected Kung Fu cinema, you can see its influence throughout Perez's work. Particularly in quick, intimate, funny moments in the midst of all out brawls. 
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I don't even know if I could recognize Perez if he wasn't wearing one of his trademark wife-made Hawaiian-style shirts covered in pictures of superheroes or robots or — it's always something. It's so evident that before anything else, he's a big, big geek (in the best way), and a big, big fan. And while I was just praising his smaller moments, he may be best known for arranging a lot of characters in a single frame. If you want the Avengers going toe to toe with the Squadron Supreme: Perez. If you want to write a series that includes every major and minor character in the DC Universe: Perez. 

It's probably worth mentioning his co-invention of the New Teen Titans with marvelous Marv Wolfman. If only because the series was able to do for DC what the X-Men were doing for Marvel. And because it's awesome. 

You can't blame a master for those who came after him. I can hardly bear the animated Teen Titans Go series that just won't go away. But I could probably watch Perez draw Cyborg all day.

All that and I haven't even gotten around to the writing. If you know you know. If you don't, he's well worth your Google search. 

Fun interview with Perez here. And just in case you can watch him draw Cyborg all day too, here you go... 


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Love & Rockets: Cool Things at Memphis Comic Expo Part I

Posted By on Tue, Oct 18, 2016 at 3:05 PM

Love. Rockets. Etc.
  • Love. Rockets. Etc.

Ladies and gentlemen, you are now leaving Riverdale... 

You won't be seeing Betty or Veronica or Archie or Moose on any of the clean cut  white bread youngsters once so associated with comic books for readers more interested in ordinary (and not so ordinary) life than superheroes, high adventure, and daring do.

We're on our way to Southern California, and uncharted points beyond America's Southern border. 
Life in Riverdale
  • Life in Riverdale

It's hard to say that the seminal 80's/90's-era alt comic Love & Rockets is unprecedented. As suggested above, in some regards, it's not as big a leap from Archie comics as one might think — although it is a big one. And over time, as characters have come, gone, grown, and diminished, a more direct line might be drawn to one of America's longest running newspaper strips — Gasoline Alley. But with it's punk rock ethos,  a multiethnic, variously sexual, heavily Latino cast of characters, and an odd, sometimes unsettling mix of real life and science fiction, it's also fair to say that Love & Rockets is one of the most groundbreaking  and influential serialized comics in the history of the medium. 

It's only tangentially related, but probably worth mentioning, that the title was also lifted by former members of the pioneering goth band Bauhaus. Sure, they only had one hot 100 hit, but moving out of the punk/goth milieu, Love & Rockets pretty much set at least one of the goal posts for what would become "alt" or "college rock." That's a simplification, of course, but this is a quick hit blog post and I'm okay with that. 


One of the most interesting things about Love & Rockets is how it toys with reader bias and challenges ideas about race and gender. Characters drawn nearly in the style of hyper-sexualized superheroes (but in normal clothes) may elicit eye rolls — until you spend time with the characters' stories, and come to grips with the meaning of these exaggerations. It's complicated, nuanced storytelling that takes place in a fictional America (and not America) where the rules of reality are just a little off — and so right on. Great art, great characters, great storytelling. And the story of the comic is very nearly as compelling as the stories the comic tells. 

And guess what? Both brothers behind this fantastic Eisner-winning title will be at the Memphis Cook Convention Center this weekend for the Memphis Comic Expo: Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez.
Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez
  • Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez
"They have been producing their Love & Rockets comics since 1982 and they were way ahead of the curve," says Expo founder Don Juengling, in an emailed conversation abut the up and coming event. "Gilbert's stories featured a huge cast of characters set in the fictional village of Palomar. Jaime's tended to be set in Los Angeles. The stories featured a diversity of characters previously unseen in comics. These are stories that feature a large Latino cast and they even had gay characters. And often blend magical realism into their dramas. And remember this is an independent comic that started in the early 80's and has managed to survive to this day."

Not only has it stuck around (following some breaks here and there). Love & Rockets, which has mostly been published in the form of graphic novels and collections in recent years, is returning to its original comic book format this week. That's a cool thing if there ever was one. 

For a fantastic interview with both brothers, click here. 
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Friday, October 7, 2016

WREG Reveals the Future of the Commercial Appeal

Posted By on Fri, Oct 7, 2016 at 3:12 PM

via GIPHY

Do you want to hear a SCARY bedtime story? Do you want to know what the Commercial Appeal will read like in the near apocalyptic future when everything is outsourced and copy is translated into a variety of Chinese dialects (for editing and fact check purposes) then translated back into English for print?  Read this story courtesy of WREG.  A sample...

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — In the case involving Elixabeth Blackwood were she was driving and left a motorcyclist on the road.

Her father Felix Blackwood has been arrested after Blackwood came clean to the investigators that her father was the one who did the hit and run.

Also too...
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Memphis Facing Severe Unpainted Rock Crisis

Posted By on Fri, Oct 7, 2016 at 11:31 AM

Graffiti artist and all purpose vandal Ashlyn Brax pulls his hoodie up and looks both ways before exiting his dorm room. "Shit's not right," he mutters straddling a rickety cruiser and turning its front wheel towards a derelict industrial neighborhood. "The whole point of a rock is it's an anonymous message," he complains. "It's Fist-sized and perfect for knocking out windows in buildings that need to be fixed or knocked down. But it's so much easier to identify the thrower if the rocks have Yodas and shit painted all over them."

Brax's complaint doesn't yield much in the way of public sympathy. Most sources interviewed agreed that curtailing the destruction of property is a good thing, but his is only one of numerous problems Memphians face resulting from a recent mania for painting cute, colorful, family-friendly images on rocks and hiding them in plain sight like so many tooth-breaking easter eggs. The craze has resulted in what some experts are describing as a, "severe unpainted rock crisis."

It's 10 a.m. on a Saturday morning and 87-year-old Tony Lancilunghi would normally be roaming the city with his rolling shopping cart in search of the city's flattest, roundest stones. Lancilunghi is a competitive stone skipper, who hadn't missed a day's practice since he was seven years old. Until last week, anyway, when the old timer says he took up whittling. 

"I didn't know there was some rule about taking more than one," he spits defiantly. "I saw some of them were painted up to look like the California Raisins, but I don't give two hoots about any of that hippity-hop mess." So Lancilunghi, who's won several regional titles, and is ranked in the top 500 stone skippers worldwide took a bucket of painted stones to the lake at Shelby Farms where he swears they "skipped even better than an unpainted rock." Shortly thereafter the internet shaming campaign began.

"People shouldn't take more than one painted rock per person," one commenter said while someone else complained, "That old man drowned my babies," and another responded, "#rocklivesmatter."

A rock painter using the handle Thanksy is furious: "It's bad enough that artists are expected to practically give our work away for free as it is, now we put so much time and effort into making common gravel look like the live action cast of Scooby Doo and some jackass just comes along and dumps them in the river? Sad."

Noted regional geologist Bif Berman says he's all about civic pride, unity, and getting outside and looking at rocks, but he's not a fan of the latest fad. "To paint the rock suggests there was something wrong or incomplete about this beautiful piece of sculpture Mother Nature made without spending a dime at Hobby Lobby.

"Imagine the public outcry," Berman concludes, "If some group started painting Sponge Bob on stray dogs or shaving the local squirrel population. Rocks have dignity too. Only they express it over eons, in a language most Americans don't speak." 



Friday, September 30, 2016

Marsha Blackburn Tries Out New Supervillain Catchphrase

Posted By on Fri, Sep 30, 2016 at 11:11 AM

"It is not in a warming trend!"
  • "It is not in a warming trend!"
Recent comments by U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) have been taken out of context by a mainstream media that refuses to acknowledge that Blackburn — long dismissed as an intellectual lightweight — is an evil genius hellbent on destroying the solar system with her new, improved weather gun.

"Is climate change manmade?" Blackburn asked rhetorically in a short phone interview. "No! For I am WOMAN!!! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!" And then she hung up.

For years Blackburn's anti-science positions have functioned as cover for her own abominable experiments and an opportunity to divert funds away from potential evil rivals and NASA.
Blackburn has been criticized for recent comments to Huffington Post. Although "I think the Earth is in a cooling trend," was spoken in response to questions about Donald Trump's debate performance, it was essentially the Tennessee Legislator trying out the line she plans to shout when she finally zaps President Obama with her blizzard ray.

Comic book nerds agree it's bad science and worse policy but, as a catchphrase, it's kitschy and kind of delicious. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Scent of a Woman President

Donald Trump Sniffs His Way to Irrelevance

Posted By on Tue, Sep 27, 2016 at 9:35 PM

Kinda seemed real.
  • Kinda seemed real.
A moment of silence for Donald Trump. The “blue collar billionaire,” brought a knife to a shootout, and we all know how that sort of thing turns out, according to the NRA. It was a small knife too, and not very sharp, and yet somehow the poor fellow cut himself with it repeatedly.

The first debate was a self-inflicted bloodbath for the TV-freakshow turned presidential contender, and you can bet good money we’ll see all the best auto-carnage in commercials through November. The Don bragged about not paying taxes. In an aside that calls to mind a classic SNL skit about caveman politics (and a notorious tax cheat), he said not paying a fair share, “makes me smart.” Ogre-like, he equated good “business” with inflicting human misery, in regard to the housing crisis. He may have even violated Federal law by revealing classified information about a shadowy, bedridden hacker with a terrible eating disorder. 

The man lied a lot, but of course he did. It's what he does. That’s beside the point, which is, he lied about deeply silly things only a genuine moron loser would lie about because none of it’s complicated and Google’s a thing. Now, if you sincerely love Donald J. Trump none of this matters because read what I just typed: “You sincerely love Donald J. Trump.” Unfortunately for you (and Donald J.), the decideds don't matter so much anymore.

This home stretch is all about the Undies, who can’t make up their mind, Indies not fully committed, and an enormous group of white men and women (but mostly dudes), who know Trump’s terrible, and are embarrassed by him, but have invested so much of their political identity in a hodgepodge of “Hillary Clinton is evil” narratives, even vindictive attempts to damn the bitch with faint praise stick in their throats.
I’m not enough of a crank (yet) to say all this tight race polling we’re seeing right now is wrong. But I’m just crank enough to believe this year’s contest between two purportedly unpopular candidates creates unique weather conditions — a kind of Bermuda triangle where perfectly good instruments malfunction. I’m calling it the Shame Vortex, and it’s why I think there’s a real chance for Clinton to outperform her numbers everywhere.

“Crooked Hillary,” isn't just Trump's mantra, it's a cottage industry. It’s been a cottage industry for the better part of three decades. She’s a murderer, and real estate sleaze with fat thighs, two tiny breasts, and a pair of left wings. How can a bro tell his best bros, or even a disembodied robot voice on the phone he’s, “with Her,” when he called out all his Libtard cousins last Thanksgiving, and the previous Thanksgiving, and maybe the Thanksgiving before that, and everybody at the office Christmas party LOVED the Hillary-themed nutcracker he brought for the Dirty Santa game. And man, you know...

Right between the thighs. (Somebody thought this was a good idea).
  • Right between the thighs. (Somebody thought this was a good idea).
The social internet’s full of all kinds of “Trump’s awful, but I just can’t vote for Her” threads, but with cover provided by high profile Republicans coming out for the Democratic candidate, purity will be tested in the booth. Private life, as we all know, and as the Clintons have demonstrated repeatedly, sometimes awkwardly and not as honestly as they might, is a complicated place. But in a debate that turned more on style than substance, a different, expectation-defying Clinton emerged. And this Clinton, in addition to being competent and thorough, was unusually relatable as she countered rude interruption, shouting, fabrications, and crazy accusations with calm, candor, confidence and something that looked like joy.

“As soon as he travels to 112 countries and negotiates a peace deal, a cease-fire, a release of dissidents, an opening of new opportunities in nations around the world, or even spends 11-hours testifying in front of a congressional committee, he can talk to me about stamina,” Clinton said of her famously orange opponent who was, by that point in the game, a wheezing, dry-mouthed blob of unprepared stress and flop sweat. Everybody saw it. Everybody heard the schlurpy sniffing. Nobody honest with his/herself thought he "did great." 

There are two more debates, obviously. A Texas-sized asteroid might hit Earth any day. All kinds of Trump redemption narratives (sure to be forthcoming) might actually pan out. Heck, the same "shame vortex" I mentioned above might front a silent Trump constituency poised to give him keys to the White House. But all that weird, loud inhalation sounded like a death rattle — a raspy, indignant echo of the Dean scream. It sounded like a lot of undecided voters deciding all at once, and a lot of Hillary haters grabbing hold of their own noses with both hands.


Monday, September 26, 2016

Former TN Legislator Jeremy Durham Kicked Out of UT Game for Hitting

Posted By on Mon, Sep 26, 2016 at 4:21 PM

Jeremy, in happier times.
  • Jeremy, in happier times.
Notorious sleeze Jeremy Durham (R-Loserville) can't stop getting kicked out of things. Once hailed as a rising star in the Tennessee Republican party, Durham's office was moved out of the State House in April, amid accusations of sexual harassment. He was defeated at the polls and finally expelled from the state's General Assembly by a vote of 70-2. Now the man Full Frontal host Samantha Bee called the worst person in Tennessee has been thrown out of the UT/Florida game for hitting a Gator fan in the face.


So far this is all dog bites man because, obviously, a jackass with impulse control issues is going to do stupid stuff. But what about the guy who's hanging out with the guy with impulse issues? Sen. Brian Kelsey, the pride of Germantown, was sitting with his pal Jeremy when the boisterous Florida fan got his glasses knocked off, but didn't witness anything unusual.
Brian Kelsey's selfie.
  • Brian Kelsey's selfie.
"I didn’t witness anything unusual," Kelsey was quoted as saying. "But it was obvious the officer had asked questions of a Florida fan behind us."

According to The Tennessean Kelsey sent a clarifying text: "If that behavior did occur, it's totally unacceptable and it's unbecoming of a Vol fan."

Totally. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Mural Project Brings Hope to Affluent Neighborhood

Posted By on Fri, Sep 23, 2016 at 11:20 AM

Donna Justis - S. MANN
  • S. Mann
  • Donna Justis
Donna Justis wants to change the world, one colorful wall at a time.

“You know, I grew up in an affluent neighborhood,” the 34-year-old artist and media relations specialist says. “I still live in one. So I understand how scared people are out there, especially in the really nice parts of town.”

With funding from an Urban Embetterment grant Justis and six other artists will create a dozen cheerful murals with the same comforting message: “You Are Safe.”

“It’s not that there’s nothing to be afraid of,” Justis explains. “But statistically speaking people who live in nicer neighborhoods shoulder a disproportionate amount of fear, worry, and concern about things like crime, brutal mayhem, drug dealers they didn’t meet in college, and things like that. It's not right, and nobody's out there doing anything about it.”

With her large scale mural project the artist wants to remind people in nice homes, who’ve lost hope and become shut ins, glued to police scanners and American Family Radio, that they don’t have the 5-0 rolling down the street shining spotlights at all hours, and are far less likely to come to a bad, criminally violent end than pretty much anybody.

“Is anybody ever really safe?” Justis ponders. “Well, yes. Yes, they are. I mean, not 100% of course, because bad things happen. Scary things. Crazy things happen. But if you’re living anywhere near one of these murals the odds are so in your favor you should stop freaking out and live a little.”

Anna Lingus, president of the Association of Neighborhood Associations is outraged by Justis’ proposal. “None of this meets AOA standards,” she wrote in an e-mail to members. “I don’t know who these people think they  are coming in here with their awful colors and silly patronizing messages, but nobody wants this tacky mess and it’s not going to happen.”
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Justis isn't deterred by criticism. "It's a shame," she says. "We have all these perfectly wealthy people and they're too afraid to even dream."

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Listen to Joe Birch Pronounce "Epitome."

Posted By on Thu, Sep 22, 2016 at 11:29 AM

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Not to make light of the serious piece Joe Birch was introducing, but this video of the WMC anchor  phonetically pronouncing a word on the teleprompter is addictive. 


Gannett Columnist/UT Professor to NC Motorists: Run Down Protesters

Posted By on Thu, Sep 22, 2016 at 10:48 AM

Gannett columnist and University of Tennessee Law professor Glenn Reynolds (AKA Instapundit) tweeted a message to motorists inconvenienced by Black Lives Matter protesters in North Carolina: "Run them down."
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That's correct, the esteemed professor, widely circulated opinion journalist, and foot soldier in the war on political correctness responded to protests about the low value placed on African-American lives by encouraging drivers to plow through crowds of humans in heavy, gas powered death machines. 

Twitter suspended Reynolds, who's been horrible since his right wing views drew enormous audiences in the early days of blogging. But in case you're wondering if this is just a misunderstanding — something said a bit too "pithily" as it were, here's what Reynolds told radio talker Hugh Hewitt.  

GR: Well, you know, I actually tried to figure it out. I woke up and just found out my account was suspended, and didn’t know why and couldn’t find an email from them. It’s apparently a tweet I put up last night. They had a thing about how protestors were stopping traffic and surrounding vehicles on the interstate, and I said, perhaps a little too pithily, but it is Twitter, run them down. And apparently, that’s why, I don’t actually know that’s why they did it. but I assume that’s why they did it, because that’s what everybody’s talking about. I’ve heard nothing from Twitter.

HH: Now let me do what I did with Donald Trump last week, ask you to expand. I think I know what you meant. If you are threatened, you can defend yourself. Is that what you meant, Glenn Reynolds?

GR: Yeah, I’ve blogged about that before where we’ve had other interstates blocked and people surrounded by mobs. I’ve always said I would just keep driving.

With Hewitt's help the Tweet's reframed as "stand your ground" and Reynolds is prepared to go all Mad Max if necessary. 

UT is currently investigating the tweet. Maybe Gannett, where, to nobody's surprise, Reynolds has been a cheerleader for Donald Trump, might also consider whether or not there's room in the national conversation for inciting mass homicide. 

Gannett owns USA Today and six newspapers in Tennessee including Memphis' Commercial Appeal. 

UPDATE: Dean of UT College of Law weighs in. 

UPDATE 2: Twitter's lifted its suspension and Prof's returned to the pool. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Everything Terrible About TV News in One Bullet Point

Posted By on Thu, Sep 15, 2016 at 12:45 PM

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WREG is hiring an assistant news director to...

• Supervise
• Set the tone of the station's content
• Put the SHIZZLE into breaking news.


And no, although the bolding and scare caps are all mine, I'm not paraphrasing for humorous effect. As this screenshot from WREG's  job listing shows, "schizzle" is expected. A made up word. That they misspelled
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Not meaning. Not context. Not even value. But "schizzle." In "Breaking News," which — unless there's a Better Call Saul prequel in the works I don't know about — isn't even a proper noun. 

Apart from racial coding and awkward stabs at millennial-speak, what can it even mean? Because, if we're working with the strict OED definition, putting "shit" into breaking news sounds unethical, at least. So I'm going to work under the hypothesis that "schizzle" is some 2016-ized version of an Elmer Wheeler classic: "Sell the Sizzle, not the steak." Which is also unethical, but with a longer, prouder tradition

"It's the tang in the cheese, the crunch in the cracker, the whiff in the coffee and the pucker in the pickle."

Wheeler wasn't a journalist, he was a salesman. In fact, he was, "America's greatest salesman," and a marketing pioneer whose techniques for influencing consumers remain ubiquitous. When you're in the fast food line and the first amplified words you hear are, "Would you like to try a hot pie today," or similar, you are (as this wonderful vintage slice from the New Yorker shows) under Wheeler's "subtle influence." 

Better still, watch this video where the salesman's salesman rolls out the idea of "selling the sizzle" and other principals designed to make sales, "foolproof and faster." It's the "sizzle that sells the steak, and not the cow," the maestro proclaims. "Hidden in everything you sell in life is a sizzle — the tang in the cheese, the crunch in the cracker, the whiff in the coffee and the pucker in the pickle."

Ahead of Twitter by 70-years, Wheeler had another mantra: "Don't write — telegraph!" Because, "Your first ten words are more important than your next 10,000."

Wheeler's right on both accounts, but unless WREG is hiring an assistant marketing director, the context is jacked. Journalists need help telling stories better, not selling them better. Nobody can survive on "schizzle" alone, and after a long steady diet of nothing but, I bet there's a lot of folks out there in consumer-land ready to prove Wheeler wrong and pounce at the mere mention of a thick, juicy schteak. 
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