Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Is the RedBall a Veiled Comment on Mass Surveillance? (Probably Not)

Posted By on Wed, Mar 23, 2016 at 1:26 PM

  • Kurt Pershke, RedBall Project in Paris
  • The RedBall in Paris

The Brooks Museum of Art announced this week that as a part of its centennial celebration, it is bringing artist Kurt Perschke’s “RedBall Project” to Memphis. The “RedBall Project” is a temporary and site-specific installation piece that involves the placement of a giant, inflatable red ball at various significant points around town. The locations where the Ball will be placed are determined by Perschke, who spends time biking, walking and otherwise exploring the city in the months before the Ball is placed.

The Ball’s placement in other cities has looked loosely to be the work of some toddler-like deity: balanced at the edge of bridges, inflated in doorways, shoved beneath underpasses. It’s funny and unsettling without being too unsettling. It says, “Hello, this is an international city where inexplicable art stuff happens.” It’s the kind of thing Memphians will remember years out: “Ah yes,” we’ll murmur to our cyborg grandchildren, “2016… the year that we were visited by the Ball.” Here are some pictures of the “RedBall” in other cities, so you can get the idea.

In short: the Ball will be fun. The Ball will be different. The Ball should (but will probably not be) placed directly on top of the statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest, like a bloated clown nose. The Ball will introduce temporary and site-specific art to Memphis, and it will do it with cosmopolitan style. We are good with the Ball. But will the Ball be a veiled comment on mass surveillance? Let’s discuss.

A hypothetical situation: It’s a sunny midsummer day in Memphis. You’re walking down the street, drinking an iced latte, when you notice that your favorite intersection has been visited by a massive red ball. You stop drinking your latte, mid-sip. You feel suddenly more aware of yourself, of your puny human size, of how zoned-out and unquestioning you were moments before. The RedBall has seized your attention, changed your relationship to the corner and how your body feels as you approach the corner.
You move closer. The RedBall stays in its position. Maybe you put a hand out and feel its rubbery redness. But you can’t move it. It’s really heavy. So you circumnavigate. Your latte-infused commute has been effectively changed, forever. Meanwhile, the Ball is mute, unchanging, super-bright in its super-occupation of public space.


This is a weird experience, huh? Or maybe it is not so weird, because it triggers something in your brain. It triggers the memory of the other thing that was recently installed on your favorite corner: that blinking, blue camera box that provides the Memphis Police Department with 360-degree surveillance of your block. Operation Blue CRUSH, as the camera boxes are called, also made you check yourself in public space. The camera established a ball-shaped zone of spherical surveillance that, while invisible, is very much palpable.

Before you come at me with accusations like, “Oh, what, are chemtrails real too?”, ask yourself: What is the point in a big, red, ball? Our public art could conceivably be anything. It need not be static or silent. It need not be immobile or durable. It could ask things of us. It could tell a story. But a red ball does none of those things. A red ball is just a silent presence — an elephant in the proverbial “room” of the commons.

Is the “RedBall” a comment on the normalization of mass surveillance? Probably not. But will the way we meet it be more normal because Memphians are used to large and inexplicable presences in our neighborhoods?? It’s possible. Whether or not it is intended (and, let’s be real, it’s not), the fact is that in its red and spherical reticence, the Ball is like surveillance: whether or not it watches us is beside the point. The point is that it makes us watch ourselves more closely. Now excuse me while I go get a latte.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Questions Raised By Billy Joel's "Piano Man"

Posted By on Tue, Mar 22, 2016 at 1:43 PM

What is Billy Joel pointing at?
  • What is Billy Joel pointing at?
Billy Joel is making a rare Memphis appearance next week. And, as Memphis prepares for the wave of Billymania sure to sweep through the ranks of parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents who are really into him, we take time to reflect on Joel’s signature song, Piano Man. The iconic tune is filled with enigmas and mysteries. And perhaps riddles. The point is, we have the questions. Perhaps you have the answers.

1. How does one make love to a tonic and gin? Or any other beverage?

2. Who has ever used the phrase “I knew it complete.”

3. When the old man says he knew the song when he wore a younger man’s clothes, does he simply mean he knew it when he was younger, or did he murder some guy, steal his clothes, and sing a sad and sweet song? Why does the old man talk in this affected manner?

4.Is John a good bartender? He doles out free drinks, which can’t be good for business, right?

5. Is John a good actor? Could he, indeed, be a movie star? Has he tried acting? Or does he just think that, on the strength of his ability to quickly light cigarettes and tell jokes he could be a movie star? Even if he can’t get out of that place (for whatever reason, perhaps this is an indictment of the nation’s refusal to adopt a country-wide rail system), he could try acting at some level, don’t you think? Maybe take a class.

6. What kind of politics is the waitress practicing? Is she Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, or perhaps Tea Party? Should she be getting political in a bar? It seems a dangerous tactic as she shouldn’t want to offend a potential tipper.

7. Why are the businessmen getting stoned in the bar? Drunk, sure. But stoned? This seems legally ill advised, unless the bar is in Amsterdam. Or Colorado.

Who is sharing a drink called loneliness. Is it just the businessmen? Or is the waitress also somehow involved? Is that wise? And is it actually better than drinking alone? Depends on the other businessmen, I suppose.

9. What the hell is a real estate novelist? Does real estate novelling actually eat up so much time that you can’t find a wife? I think Paul just didn’t really want one and uses that as an excuse.

10. Which would explain why he’s talking to Davy, who conveniently for rhyming purposes, is in the Navy.

11. I understand why the microphone smells like a beer. As we’ve established, John gives Bill free beers, so it’s no wonder that the mic smells of free beer. But how does a piano sound like a carnival? Is he just playing that clown song over and over again? You know the one. They always play it at circuses. If that’s the case, I do not understand why the bar retains Bill. Unless it is a clown bar. Which would be awesome, but unlikely, as real estate novelists hate clowns.

12. Is it appropriate to tip musicians with bread? Maybe it is in a clown bar.

13. When the crowd asks Bill “Man, what are you doing here?” is it because he keeps playing that carnival song, and is not actually hired by the bar? If so, John really shouldn’t give him free drinks.

Joey Hack is a member of the Wiseguys Improv troupe and a kind of regular contributor to Fly on the Wall.

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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Memphis Heat Soundtrack is Hot Stuff

Posted By on Tue, Mar 8, 2016 at 5:33 PM


I suppose the Flyer's other Chrises — film editor McCoy and music editor Shaw — will be writing about this in the days and weeks to come. But since FOTW works the local wrestling beat, it seemed appropriate to break the news here. The creative team behind Memphis Heat: The True Story of Memphis Wrasslin' is celebrating the documentary's 5-year anniversary with a March 24th screening at MALCO's Cinema Paradiso that doubles as an official release party for the film's previously unavailable soundtrack. Serious vinyl nerds will want to know that the handsome blood red platter was the first disc cut on Phillips Recording's newly refurbished record lathe. But that's just trivia. The Doug Easley-produced tracks — often introduced with sound bytes from the movie — are all pretty fantastic too.

The record opens with a clip of Superstar Bill Dundee explaining the meaning of heat: "Heat is when they don't like ya." The Superstar's definition transitions perfectly into "Black Knight," a full throttle scorcher by River City Tanlines. It's an excellent start to a disc as offbeat and entertaining as the film that inspired it.  

"Black Knight," is also the only track on the entire record that wasn't created expressly for Memphis Heat. What follows is a series of punchy instrumentals that will do the same thing for your ass they do for the film: Make it move. 


This is probably my favorite (mostly) original Memphis movie soundtrack since Impala scored Mike McCarthy's Teenage Tupelo. The tracks, recorded by a clutch of Memphis' finest players, have a vintage feel and walk such a fine line between joyous and sleazy they may remind some listeners of the Las Vegas Grind series. 


Good stuff. 

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Meme the Malco Bootlegging Hoodie Guy, Please

Posted By on Tue, Mar 8, 2016 at 1:18 PM

You may not know that you know him, but if you have ever arrived at a Malco movie early enough to watch the pre-show trivia and ads for local dentists, you probably also have met Bootlegging Hoodie Guy.


See? Bootlegging Hoodie Guy — let's call him Malco Jedi — is a local hero. He's a friendly face that reminds us that, while recording films in theaters is illegal, it is also done by cool and weirdly handsome dudes in street wear. In Malco Jedi's evil-but-slightly-amused expression, we have a memorable anti-hero, a small potatoes local villain who reminds you of that n'ere-do-well guy you dated in college. You know, the one with the contraband. 

Malco Jedi is a meme waiting to happen. He is the defender of the people. He doesn't need the law because he makes his own rules. He hates authority but has a strong sense of interior justice. This is why Malco Jedi is the rightful defender of the good parts of Memphis. He's anti-corporate, a skeptic with a cause, a guy you can call when you need someone who won't tell the cops. 


Meme him. He deserves a meme. We deserve him to be meme-ed. Go forth, download the meme-making app on your smartphone, and put some text on this pic. Do it for the kids. Here are some (not as funny as they could be) examples. 



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Thursday, March 3, 2016

WMC's "Demonic Weave" Story Believed to be Root of Ignorance in Memphis

Posted By on Thu, Mar 3, 2016 at 1:36 PM

A bad omen came on top of her head.
  • A bad omen came on top of her head.

According to WMC Action News 5, thieves have murdered four people while attempting to steal hair weaves, "and now many Memphians say demonic spirits could be to blame." That's right folks, WMC has scooped the rest of Memphis media on this important story about vanity, greed, consumer hair products, and secret doorways to realms infernal, where ancient evil lurks, waiting to swoop down and snatch a wig right off your damn head.  

"Whose-ever hair I was wearing on my head, that heifer had a bad omen"

Even anchors Joe Birch and Kontji Anthony, who've introduced so many ridiculous segments by now you'd think they'd be used to it, looked to be passing kidney stones as they tossed the story to WMC's Senior Satanic Hair Correspondent Jerica Phillips, who, in turn, implored viewers to perform a Google search for "cursed hair."

"The prophesies are plenty," she said before sharing a YouTube video of an unidentified woman claiming, "Whose-ever hair I was wearing on my head, that heifer had a bad omen and that bad omen followed her from India and came on top of my head, and I took on her spirit." 

An image from WMC's report shows the terrifying face of hair that's cursed as hell.
  • An image from WMC's report shows the terrifying face of hair that's cursed as hell.

One woman Phillips quoted asked, "Do you know the history of the hair's original owner? What type of spirit did that person have? You may be buying a person's hair and their demonic spirit." Another suggested that people are doing "ungodly things" because, "many of the [hair] purchases are made in other countries that worship false gods."

"It may sound bizarre," Phillips said with the serious tone of a veteran broadcaster, "but some people believe virgin hair from India may be possessed during a ritual called tonsuring, the cutting of hair for religious reasons, or sacrifices to idol Gods."

Memphians Phillips interviewed, like  Dr. Bill Adkins, the pastor at Greater Imani Cathedral of Faith, were skeptical, though the material was consistently framed as a subject for legitimate debate.

At least Phillips reached a conclusion upon which we can all agree: "Whatever the root cause of a beauty trend turned crime trend, we can all agree the war spawned by weave must stop."

Demonic weaves believed to be root of hair crimes

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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Donald Trump Jr. Grants 20-Minute Radio Interview to Memphis' White Nationalist Radio Host James Edwards

Posted By on Wed, Mar 2, 2016 at 6:08 PM

The original Donald Trump?
  • The original Donald Trump?

VIP parking? Grab-your-buddy photos with Katy Tur? An exclusive interview with Trump Jr? Dang, white separatist radio host James Edwards, your big-time media game is on fleek.

In a lively blog post Edwards, the pro-slavery host of the Political Cesspool, bragged a bit about time spent backstage at Donald Trump's campaign stop in Memphis, and announced a 20-minute interview with Donald Trump Jr. airing March 5th.  
James and Katy. Just a couple of colleagues hanging out, doin' stuff.
  • James and Katy. Just a couple of colleagues hanging out, doin' stuff.

Edwards usually doesn't like being so close to members of the mainstream press who describe him as a hate-monger instead of a "pro-white" anti-gay skinhead who "stands for the Dispossessed Majority,” but seemed to enjoy the view anyway:

"Trump himself took over the mic just minutes before 6:00 PM Central Time and gave his patented stump speech. The crowd roared when he asked them who was going to pay for the wall and nearly made the ground shake when he told them the wall was going to get ten feet taller if Mexican officials continue to use foul language."

Of course Donald Trump wasn't the only yuuuuuuge celebrity in the house. Edwards graciously "autographed" a campaign sign for an unidentified Southern Baptist woman who shared his worldview, then "encouraged her to pray that Trump becomes our next Charlemagne.

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