Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Dammit Gannett: "Where's Elvis" Edition

Posted By on Tue, Jul 25, 2017 at 3:07 PM

Maybe it's time to change Fly On the Wall's long-running "Neverending Elvis" tab to "Disappearing Elvis." This is from Saturday's Commercial Appeal. And it's starting to feel personal. 
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When Boy Scouts are Political Props

Posted By on Tue, Jul 25, 2017 at 11:43 AM

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There's no real point in recounting a story that's been all over social media since yesterday. We all know the President told a lurid story to to the Boy Scouts of America who were gathered at their annual Jamboree, turning his opportunity to inspire young America into a deeply weird political rally. Regardless of one's political leanings, nobody needs an opinion columnist to tell them that's uncommonly bad form, even for this Chief Exec. But there's another question we already know the answer to that may be worth asking: Why didn't somebody cut Trump's mic?

I know — "You don't cut the mic on the leader of the free world, it's just not done, ever." Undeniably true.  Then again, a lot of things just aren't done, ever. Like using the fine young men of the BSA as political props. Only, that IS done, I suppose, and maybe more often than folks realize. I can share at least one example in the form of this video from Memphis' first Tea Party where conservative Mid-Southerners sporting anti-immigrant signs and pictures of former President Obama with bullet holes in his face, got themselves good and radicalized.

4/15/09

I'm not offering this as any kind of evidence that the BSA is overtly political — I know too many Lefty Eagle Scouts who've kept themselves physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight. But for anybody wondering why the scouts cheered Trump's political message, there's plenty of not-so-ancient history to consider.

Scouting of all kinds took a membership nosedive during the 1970's. Girl Scouts USA reversed that trend, while the BSA continued to lope forward, declining all the while. Why? University of British Columbia political science professor Barbara Arneil may be on to something:

"A younger civil rights generation, informed by a new set of post-materialist values, did not join traditional organizations like the BSA and GSUSA because their values were deemed to be outdated. The challenge for traditional organizations therefore was how to respond. Using path dependency theory, I argue that BSA and GSUSA—shaped by their own unique origins and identities—responded very differently to the critical juncture of the civil rights generation, which in turn explains the subsequent divergence in membership patterns from the 1980s onward. While the BSA rejects such changes in order to defend traditional values, the GSUSA, which established a commitment to challenging gender norms from its birth, embraces the new values and adapts virtually every aspect of its organizational identity to this new generation."

In spite of its melting-pot image, the BSA's history of racial justice has ranged from spotty to poor. The organization only reversed policies allowing discrimination/segregation in the middle-1970's, and only because they found themselves on the losing end of legal action. Signs of progress appeared in 2015 when the BSA appointed its first Chief Diversity officer and just this year the BSA reversed a century-long ban of transgendered scouts. That doesn't add up to welcoming, and one has to believe that, all real exceptions and exceptional leaders considered, the organization's dug heels, and hard fought battles against acceptance and diversity, have shaped membership and culture.

#notallscouts, of course. And #notallscoutleaders, obviously. But there's a reason why the kids cheered the immoral President, and nobody cut his mic that has nothing at all to do with decorum.  This moment wasn't an anomaly as the BSA's subsequent press release suggests. It was a culmination.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Artist Renderings for RDC Riverfront Seen as a Comic Book...

Posted By on Fri, Jul 21, 2017 at 3:52 PM

First this happened. Then...

This happened...
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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

RDC Announces Plan to Raise Atlantis

Posted By on Wed, Jul 19, 2017 at 4:12 PM

Original Graceland?
  • Original Graceland?
At a press conference in their Front Street headquarters on Tuesday, the Riverfront Development Corporation (RDC) told an assembly of reporters and city officials of plans to raise Atlantis from the bottom of the Mississippi River.

The "continent" of Atlantis, home to an advanced civilization of peaceful citizen-philosophers, was described by Plato in 360 BC as lying “beyond the pillars of Heracleas" and for centuries, that was interpreted to mean the missing landmass was located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. But RDC researchers discovered that Plato’s words were mistranslated. “He really said that Atlantis was just west of Mud Island,” RDC President Benny Lendermon explains. “We were as surprised as anyone.”

Dressed in what he called “full regalia of Atlantean royalty,” Lendermon said the RDC's bold plan was developed after years of careful research by archeologists, engineers, and shamans. Using evidence from geological surveys, satellite imagery, crystal skull phrenology, and dusty tomes of uncertain origin found in the Memphis Room of the Public Library, Lendermon believes the RDC has finally pinpointed the legendary island's exact location in the deepest channel of the Mississippi River.
After determining Atlantis’ location, RDC members made psychic contact with the Atlanteans while in an ayahuasca-induced trance state. “They want to bring peace and prosperity to the Above World,” Lendermon says. “We think this is a great opportunity to connect Memphians and tourists to the riverfront.”

The plans, unveiled today in a polished Keynote pitch deck, require the use of “probably no more than five” small nuclear explosives in and around the area of the river where this astonishing race of enlightened supermen have been living in secret tranquility for thousands of years.

“We ran our plan past the Atlantean Council of Wisdom, and they’re totally cool with it,” says Lindermon, who expects the disruption to be minimal

Once the glistening jade spires of legend and lore are restored to their rightful place high above the Chickasaw Bluff, the RDC plan calls for a boardwalk with interpretive signs to be built along the riverfront next to a submarine taxi-stand and a rock climbing wall. So far the RDC has offered no response to further requests for clarification regarding a pentagonal section of the architectural rendering marked “Sacrificial Altar Complex."

Mayor Jim Strickland praised the plan, saying the city’s investment in the RDC was finally paying off. “You don’t really think we’ve shoveling money at these people for all these years just for a boat dock and a restaurant, do you?”

At press time, efforts to contact the Atlantean Council of Wisdom had not been successful.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Memphis Billboard Contains Porn

Posted By on Tue, Jul 18, 2017 at 2:19 PM

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Well, it contains the word, anyway.

A Memphis billboard off I-40 near Whitten Rd. has a strong message for glossy women's mag readers: "Cosmopolitan  Magazine Contains Porn." Which seems a little extreme, if you ask me. Unhealthy body standards, sure. And maybe a peculiar strain of neurosis-inducing content obsessed with the male gaze. But — and I haven't consulted with Mae Beavers for the definitive ruling — to call it porn sounds like a stretch.
Your mama does.
  • Your mama does.
This isn't a new complaint. One of the loudest "Cosmo = porn" voices is a Hearst heir. She's been at it a while.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Commercial Appeal Editor To Staff: "Work From a Coffee Shop."

Posted By on Mon, Jul 17, 2017 at 5:51 PM

Are you lonesome tonight?
  • Are you lonesome tonight?
Before cracking the latest, darkest chapter in a seemingly endless series of dark chapters, about the last dark days of the Commercial Appeal, it might be helpful to remind readers why the CA's parent company Gannett is exactly like one of the voracious, many-tentacled gods inhabiting the nightmare world of horror maestro H.P. Lovecraft.

Lovecraft's deities are terrifying because they aren't supernatural. On the contrary, like sprawling media companies in possession of properties in distant, disconnected markets, they follow a system of natural laws far beyond the scope of human understanding. They are essentially materialist, trans-dimensional beings originating somewhere else in the multiverse and, as such, they are indifferent to any  suffering or destruction caused by self-interested incursion into the human realm. So too, enormous media conglomerates pursue agendas that are so far removed from the basic needs of Jane and Joe Subscriber from Anytown USA, it becomes impossible to accuse executive leadership of malice, no matter the resulting chaos. The madness is evident in everything from Gannett's gutting of local news staff, to its reliance on unknown editors from far away places who can't be expected to know the landscape.

As bad as it all sounds, the worst was only prelude to unspeakable terrors lurking just beyond the horizon. See, The Commercial Appeal's a ghost these days — a ghost running on a skeleton crew. Its longtime home at 495 Union is for sale, and even when the enormous structure is occupied during much-reduced business hours, vast expanses lie empty, unused and unknown. Who knows what fell creatures lurk in the cold gloom of the parking lot, let alone the ragged wastes between circulation and the morgue? If I worked in a building possessed by some outside entity with interests so utterly unconcerned with my own, I know I'd probably dock my laptop at the neighborhood coffee shop instead of my cubicle. And judging by this actual, sad, verbatim memo from the CA's newly installed Executive Editor Mark Russell, that's what management suggests as well: Get Out!!!

"A few updates:

*Starting today (Monday), building security in The CA’s 495 building has been reduced to 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For this week, if you work after 5, and need an escort to your car, please ask a colleague to accompany you. If you are worried about working in your department alone after, say, 6 or 7 p.m., please consider leaving at 5 to work from a coffee shop, home or some other location that has what you need and where you feel secure. And the same thing goes for someone starting at 6 a.m. Please work from a coffee shop or home if you are worried about being safe coming in at 5:45 before security starts this week. Later this week, I will update you on the security plans going forward when I know more."
But does he really want to know more? Is it worth the madness to come?

(Click the vid to hear the memo read aloud in the style of Welcome to Night Vale)

Friday, July 14, 2017

Is a Trump Surrogate Coming to WREG?

Sinclair Media triples order for "must air" installments of "Bottom Line" with Boris Epshteyn

Posted By on Fri, Jul 14, 2017 at 4:57 PM

Race to the Bottom
  • Race to the Bottom
"Bottom Line With Boris," doesn't even sound like a real news segment. It sounds like something made up by the Onion News Network. But it's real — at least in the sense it exists. And if the FCC approves Sinclair media's rule-fudging acquisition of WREG, former special assistant to President Donald Trump, Boris Epshteyn will be popping up on Memphis TV screens several times a week.

For whatever it's worth, Mr. Bottom Line is also the sixth person questioned by the House Intelligence Committee in its ongoing Russia probe. Throughout the campaign Epshteyn was pro-Putin and his financially  conflicted commentary mirrored Russian propaganda on the Ukraine. He parted ways with Trump in March, but continues to stand by his man in his private sector editorials.

This week Politico broke news that Sinclair tripled its weekly order for must-air "Bottom Line with Boris" segments.

Memphis won't be alone. If/when the Sinclair deal goes down — and there's no reason to believe it won't —  72-percent of all Americans will live in a Sinclair market.   It's a big deal, to borrow from Vox, "Because local news programs are some of the most-watched shows in America."

"Most watched" translates to 4-times the combined audience of the top three cable news stations — CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC.

While national news outlets like CNN become targets in political info-wars, local news delivers the eyes and ears of the nation, and Trump-entangled Sinclair is on the verge of acquiring Memphis' top-rated station.

Right now WREG's still a Tribune Media property.  Should that change prepare yourself for commentary like this.
This.

This.

And, ironically, this.


Fancy Art Critic "Knocked Out" by Memphis Pedestrian Crossings

Posted By on Fri, Jul 14, 2017 at 2:23 PM

Modern Masterpiece.
  • Modern Masterpiece.
Dolly Salvador says nobody could have prepared her for the raw, terrifying beauty of Memphis' colorful pedestrian crossings.

"It's an incredible play on the whole concept of street art," says Salvador, the longtime critic for Over the Couch Quarterly and founding editor of Fancy Art magazine. "The fact that it was created by "the Man," as they say, only makes it that much more subversive and so right now.'"

Salvador came to Memphis because she'd seen pictures of the crosswalks posted online and knew she had to see them in person. 
"They're even more magnificent than I expected," she says. "You can tell that there's rigid order here if you're looking down on it from above — that it was imagined as part of some real improvement. Then you drive up on it in your car and BAM, perspective transforms it into something disorienting, and a little chaotic. It creates this instant sense of paranoia, like all the nice, modern things invented to make life simpler are driving us mad. Such a perfect summation of our current techno-political malaise."

Memphis is hardly the first city to experiment with color coded intersections. "But it's so visually brutal," Salvador purrs. "I don't know how they did that using basic green and white strokes and those variously shaped patches of blue in the corners, but I love it so, so much."


Thursday, July 6, 2017

All Buttholes Considered: The Imagine Cafe Story in Tweets

Posted By on Thu, Jul 6, 2017 at 4:00 PM

Lifted from Imagine Butthole Cafe
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All Hail the Voice of Welcome to Night Vale, Cecil Baldwin

Posted By on Thu, Jul 6, 2017 at 11:00 AM

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What in the world is going on in the sky high above the Arby's sign? Who are the mysterious hooded figures milling around in the town dog park? What's the real deal with Carlos, the beautiful — maybe too beautiful — new scientist in town, with his teeth so white and perfect like the gravestones in a military cemetery? And what's up with that glowing cloud moving in from the west? You know, the whistling, glowing, color-shifting cloud that may change in appearance from observer to observer. Perhaps some of these questions will be answered when Welcome to Night Vale, the enormously successful podcast and long-running experiment in dread, brings its touring show "All Hail" to Germantown Performing Arts Center. But probably not.
Welcome to Night Vale is a dark, listener-supported satire of community radio broadcast from a fictional desert town where ghosts, aliens, and all manner of odd characters and conspiracies are just a common part of everyday life. It's a surreal kind of place where math and English might switch names. It's a friendly spot where old woman Josie, who lives out by the car lot, might sell you a burned-out light bulb that was changed by an angel. She'll give you a real good price, too.

The format for "All Hail" is similar to that of a typical Welcome episode. Cecil Baldwin, the dulcet voice of Night Vale community radio reads news and PSAs while tense music builds in the background — hypnotic, terrifying, hilarious. Live shows also feature musical performances, special guest appearances and audience participation, if you dare.

And now, an interview with the voice of Welcome to Night Vale, Cecil Baldwin.

Cecil AKA Cecil.
  • Cecil AKA Cecil.

Fly on the Wall:
I know, for a while, you were doing Welcome to Night Vale and still performing with one of my favorite theater companies, the Neo-Futurists. Now that Night Vale has blown up with all these different components, do you still do both?

Cecil Baldwin: I do. I'm no longer a full-time [Neo-Futurist) company member. The traveling involved with Welcome to Night Vale is too intense to do both jobs simultaneously. But I try to go back whenever I can. I'm actually going back and doing a few shows with them later this summer, but it's more of an informal capacity kind of a drop in drop out thing.

That's such a creative and collaborative group. I know with Night Vale you work primarily as talent. I was wondering what you did these days when you had the urge to write or make something.

The Neo-Futurists is always a great place because you're kind of a writer. performer, and director. I try and do that whenever I can. When I'm back in New York I'm try to work on web series or other podcasts. One of the things I've fallen into doing Night Vale, I started guest hosting on NPR's Ask Me Another which is a lot of fun.

Everything about Night Vale started small. And now it's enormously successful with tours and publishing. Can you just maybe talk a little about the show's evolution?

 Joseph Fink had an idea. He was trying to make it as a writer and he was having a hard time getting published. Then he realized, "well I love podcasts." The threshold for entry is low. And it's low financially. It's like self-publishing you just put it out there. So he needed a narrator and he knew me from the net Neo-Futurists. And he really just started making a show. I think when you're used to working in sort of an off-off-Broadway mentality you just want to do the work. You hope people show up and you just continue to make things hoping something will be seen, some of it will be entertaining, and some of it will—  knock on wood — make you some money eventually. But mostly you just kind of keep plugging away at it and do it for the love of it. We may have gone for a good year-and-a-half before anyone, I think, outside of our friends and family started listening to it. And then it got more popular. And then, one summer, it just snowballed and became this overnight success, even though overnight took a year-and-a-half.
That's actually pretty fast for an overnight success. And so much of the success comes from having these really engaged fans making all this fan art and sharing it. Have you guys found ways to engage and encourage more of that or does it really just continue to happen on its own?

In the beginning it just happened on its own. It's one of those things. The kind of people who really discovered Night Vale were in the Tumblr,and  Reddit online communities, and a lot of those people spend a lot of time online finding things on the Internet and sharing  with their friends. When you're sharing a TV show or a movie or something like that there's a visual component to it already. With Night Vale there's not. So people would share quotes from the Twitter page but with nothing to give visual reference to these weird funny scary things. So people started putting visual components along with it and the best way to do that was to create it themselves. All of a sudden fan art became a thing.  Part of the popularity of the show was related to listening and deciding for yourself what you think of these characters. From there is got bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger until, by the end of that summer, we were the most downloaded podcast in the world — knocked This American Life off their number one spot for a few weeks, you know.

When you're making something and people express their appreciation by taking all your ideas and making their own responsive art or fiction — and there's so much of it — it seems like it would be really hard for it to not influence the original.

Joseph and Jeffrey specifically don't read fan theories. They don't read fan fiction. I think their point is that's for the fans, it's not for the creators to approve of their fan theories or to go, "Yes that could potentially happen in the world of Night Vale." I love looking at the fan art and I find it very inspiring to know that something I've helped make has inspired other people to, in turn, create their own kinds of art. That's interesting. I feel kind of the same about cosplay. Whenever people send me photos, or I see photos online of people dressing up as Cecil or Carlos going to Comic-Con. That's a kind of an inspiration. You've inspired someone to take a better part of their day to lovingly craft an Eternal Scout uniform from scratch and then go out and share it with the world. I find it very inspiring. 
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With its slow-burning narrative, and relentlessly dreadful, but also often whimsical tone I think Night Vale is kind of a Rorschach blot. People are going to see a lot of different things in it. And lie the glow cloud, it will change from observer to observer. What do you think fans are finding?

There's a lot of different elements at play. I think part of it is the fact that Night Vale is this very dangerous place. It's sort of filled with existential dread — a place where normal things are terrifying and big terrifying things are considered normal. It's almost like Gilbert and Sullivan. In its topsy-turvy kind of way it has its own twisted dream logic. And it's presented with such hope. This is a world where ancient gods are out to kill everyone and where tiny civilizations that live under bowling alleys  attack people. Yet at the same time the people that live in Night Vale have such love for each other, and for their community, and their town. I think in a lot of ways it's very inspiring to people. Especially people who feel disenfranchised — people of color, or people that are gay or transgender etc. etc. etc. People who feel like they're somehow on the outside in the real world. They're like, "Wow, this world I live in is sort of topsy-turvy. We don't always have the best values or our own best interests at heart. But, at the end of the day, I still love the world I live in, and I love my neighbors. It's very inspiring.

We've talked about everything but the show. Which may be different from other shows fans might have seen.

We try to do a unique live show every year we take it as many places as we can and then we put in the vault afterwards. So every time we come back to your town it's a different show every time. This show is "All Hail." It centers around the Glow Cloud. It's one of our more fun shows and we're going to tour it through 2017 and into 2018 and then it will be locked away in the vault never to be seen again.

Which brings us back to the Neo-Futurists who are all about impermanence, and retiring work.

It's very much inspired by the fact that these are live shows. We acknowledge the fact we're in the room performing something live in front of you that cannot be repeated. Even if you do the show 75 times, each one of the shows is going to be different every single time. And I think it's that sort of commitment to the live experience that's very similar to the Neo-Futurists.

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