Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Nobody's Banned "Gone With The Wind" in Memphis — Even if the Commercial Appeal Says So

Posted By on Tue, Aug 29, 2017 at 5:21 PM

Beefed up security at the Orpheum.
  • Beefed up security at the Orpheum.
Let's talk about the B-word. No. Let's talk about the C-word.

No.

Let's talk about the fact that there's an armed guard in front of the Orpheum protecting folks with families who spend their days booking Broadway shows, coordinating the High School Musical Awards, developing concert programs, planning summer camps and curating a popular film series. That's a dangerous job now, apparently, and media — local and otherwise — only add fuel to the fire by misrepresenting what happened there this week when it was announced that, after a good, 34-year run, the Downtown playhouse would drop Gone With the Wind from its popular Summer film series. No matter what you may have read at The Commercial Appeal's website this week, nothing has been banned in Memphis. Not Gone With the Wind or anything else. The word "banned" implies a kind of authority the good folks at the Orpheum just don't have over the distribution and screening of media in Memphis. Any mainstream media that uses that word chooses to pour fuel on a fire that, judging from the presence of the guard out front, may get somebody —probably not the author or editor — burned.
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The Orpheum did what every cultural institution in the country does every single day. The staff made a curatorial decision — a decision that would be valid even if Gone With the Wind wasn't controversial. Why should Gone With the Wind be a tradition and not Selma? Or Bambi or The Big Lebowski for that matter? Why should there always be room for Gone With the Wind and never room for Faulkner's Intruder in the Dust, which is more regionally appropriate, and tells a different and more vital story of the American South than the blazing, over-the-top romance of Gone With the Wind.

Never heard of Intruder in the Dust you say? This is why we curate. We also curate because culture shifts, what's relevant now may not be relevant 5-minutes from now. And relevant or not, a 4-hour film like GWTW is ultimately a less valuable  investment for theaters like the Orpheum than a 90-minute flick that also sells out. Mad Max: Fury Road, for example, would save the Orpheum two full hours-worth of overhead on everything from labor to utilities.


So many popular films have been made since 1939, and there are only so many slots on the Orpheum's Summer series. While there's nothing wrong with reviving  popular films, there are too many great films to choose from to guarantee any one a permanent spot on any lineup. Unless, of course, that film somehow speaks  to a community's identity and has a renewing effect for those who attend. If Gone With the Wind is that film, what does it say about our community?
What fresh bullshit is this?
  • What fresh bullshit is this?
Let's also take a minute to talk about propaganda like this article that begins with an admission by the author that, in 2014, he warned everybody that the Left would ban Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles — a paranoid fantasy that hasn't, and isn't likely to come to pass anytime soon. His proof: OMG Look what happened to Disney's Song of the South!

The stat, referenced by Alt-Right-friendly Breitbart, comes from a 75th-Anniversary survey by YouGov.com, a digital polling site described here as, "An online global community of people who like to share their views and opinions on life... marketed more towards individuals who wish to express their opinions about current events and controversial topics." It's an "opinions for prizes" shop so we're looking at a self-selecting sample in a celebratory context, and maybe not an accurate, contextualized example of community opinion.  The money quote:

"If there is one last bastion of racism still accepted in America, it is the racial condescension we always see from the left, this constant treating of minorities, especially blacks, as children who are unable to deal with a statue or a word or a movie."

The problem here is pretty basic — and ironic. Unlike the practically homogenous Right, fighting to uphold this film and its paternalistic race narratives — the Left is made of minorities as sure as Soylent Green (another slot-worthy film) is made of people.

There's an even bigger problem with this kind of hysterical, and historically unsupported crankmongering. Let's forget how easily this rhetoric comes apart by inserting nouns like Watermelon and Fried Chicken in place of Gone With the Wind in the headline, and for the sake of argument, let's accept Breitbart's highly questionable stats at face value. Let's allow that 73% of African-Americans do, in fact, love Gone With the Wind so much they want to marry it and have its babies, whether they know anything about birthing or not. So what? That stat doesn't mean the film's cultural value merits a guaranteed slot on any Summer film series any more than any other classic or popular film. It's a meaningless number used in the service of specious rhetoric.

Did I mention that there's an armed security guard in front of the Orpheum? Because there is. Because the folks over there made what should be the kind of uncontroversial curatorial decision that is 100% their's to make. Whether it's in light of the tragedy in Charlottesville, or just because it's Tuesday. Now people feel endangered because this vintage playhouse — a true Southern cultural treasure — wants to mix things up, expanding its offerings and its audience in the process. It's bad enough that propaganda organs like Breitbart have become so influential. But it's shameful when local media turns up the pressure by reenforcing false narratives with badly chosen language.



UPDATE: To be fair as I can be the CA's John Beifuss has done great work all around. The CA's issues stem from Gannett and a culture defined by consolidation not community.







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Monday, August 28, 2017

Real Gone: The Orpheum vs. Gone With the Wind, Social Media Roundup

Posted By on Mon, Aug 28, 2017 at 11:34 AM

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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Remember When Memphis Comment Trolls Wanted to Remove Public Art?

Posted By on Wed, Aug 23, 2017 at 11:31 PM

This art will be the end of us!
  • This art will be the end of us!
The year was 2002 and five little words had some of Memphis' most prominent white Conservatives frothing at the mouth: "Workers of the World Unite."

From a cover story I wrote at the time:

In 1934, the First All-Union Congress of Soviet Writers adopted the principle that art should promote only a rigid slate of political and social ideals established by the state. This movement was dubbed Soviet realism.
In November 2001, Memphis City Councilman Brent Taylor, and Shelby County Commissioners Marilyn Loeffel and Tommy Hart, took umbrage at one of nine public artworks sponsored by the UrbanArt Commission (UAC) for the new $70 million Central Library. Their aim was to have an offensive quotation removed from a public walkway because it expressed a sentiment which they deemed to be out of step with wholesome American values.

The irony grows sweeter considering that the offending "Workers of the world, unite!" is excerpted from The Communist Manifesto, which sparked the revolution that eventually birthed the school of Soviet realism whose precepts were unknowingly co-opted by Taylor, Loeffel, and Hart.

A pious group of Memphians led by one William W. Wood of the hastily organized Shelby County Coalition to Save the Memphis Library began a biweekly vigil to pray over the wicked artwork. The same group sent out scorching mass e-mails comparing the presumably elusive UAC with Osama bin Laden and labeling the board and administration of the Memphis/Shelby County Library "a special branch of the CIA."

Toss in the eccentric patriot in a red, white, and blue suit who makes regular protest pilgrimages to the site and you have all the ingredients for an old-fashioned dog-and-pony show. Even The New York Times got in on the action, noting that "The cold war may be over, but Marx and Engels have nevertheless managed to create a small political furor in this old river city."

The backlash came as a complete shock to Brad and Diana Goldberg, the Dallas-based husband-and-wife team responsible for designing the artwork. They intended that their piece function as "a metaphoric record of important events and knowledge that have shaped Memphis, the Mississippi River Valley Region, and the rest of our world" since the beginning of recorded history.

It was less of a shock to local political columnists who practically stumbled over one another to spank Taylor, Loeffel, and Hart for striking such a provincial pose. Susan Adler Thorp aptly observed in The Commercial Appeal that "Tearing down the Iron Curtain and destroying communism were simple tasks compared to accommodating [their] need for political opportunism, and logic."

CLICK HERE FOR THE REST OF THE STORY.

Why mention this vintage kerfuffle? Because debate over the removal of Confederate monuments rages on in comment sections across the World Wide Web. It's nasty, getting nastier, and even the President of the Comment Section himself, Donald J. Trump, weighed in on the side of White Supremacy. I'm revisiting it because there was a time, not so very long ago, when white Conservative Christians — spearheaded by elected officials — thought it was wrong to memorialize the enemies of America.

Thing is, the library sculpture aimed to reflect world-changing ideas generally, and wasn't political in nature. It certainly wasn't ideologically aligned with Communism, and guess what? Memphis didn't transform into a hotbed of socialism. The hullabaloo blew over. People mostly forgot it was a big deal and the piece just kind of blended into the landscape, as it was intended to — like concrete and granite shrubbery nobody ever had to water.
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But let's not kid ourselves. It wasn't JUST the Communist history upsetting the easily upsettable. In a right-to-work environment, it was also the out of context message of worker unity, divorced as it was, of its Marxist origin. Nothing's more terrifying to the unreconstructed set like the idea of a united working and underclass or any unified threat to the hegemony.  This has always been true.

Public response to public art is directly and proportionally-related to public values and the degree to which those values are reflected in the work. That's why modernism in the public sphere met with so much backlash at the end of the last century. As one heartland critic noted in the 1970's: "I think people are tired of New York Arty-art. You can keep it in museums where it won't bother anybody." Coming full circle, abstract work becomes attractive in the public sphere again for the exact same reason — people can't ascribe values, making it harmless. We tend to divorce the Confederate memorials from similar conversations about public art. Probably because it clears the fog of war and makes the question of values (or negative values) so apparent.

 All art speaks to the future, and public art speaks with authority. That's why this battle has been so bitter. It's not about the past, it's for the future. As the City of Memphis, spurred on by united activists, creeps forward with plans to execute this long-overdue removal (a process gummed by Tennessee's regressive and cowardly state legislature) I thought it might be interesting to remember when all those people down in the comments today screeching, "history," and "heritage," were out in the street chanting (okay, praying) "tear it down!"

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Remember The Time Andy Holt Said Nathan Bedford Forrest Was a Civil Rights Leader?

Posted By on Sat, Aug 19, 2017 at 1:18 AM

Nathan Bedford Forrest.  Civil Rights Hero. According to Andy Holt.
  • Nathan Bedford Forrest. Civil Rights Hero. According to Andy Holt.

Hey kids, sometimes current events make old news relevant again. So let's all hop in the way-back machine and chart a course for July, 2015 when Tennessee Rep. Andy Holt declared an abiding love for Confederate General and former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, Nathan Bedford Forrest. Holt encouraged people who really care about ending racial strife to get in touch with the gentle, loving Civil Rights leader he knows.
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Forrest made millions of dollars as a slave merchant before achieving the rank of General in a hostile army in open rebellion against the US government and fighting to preserve the institution of Southern slavery. But the Butcher of Fort Pillow did soften a bit near the end of his life and after white Southerners established political victory and supremacy the KKK he led was indeed disbanded. But Civil Rights Champion Nathan Bedford Forrest never needed anybody to speak for him. He knew exactly who he was and what he stood for.
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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Meet the Tennessee Lawmakers Who Think Running Over Protesters Should Be Protected

Matthew Hill and Bill Ketron foresaw tragedies like what happened in Charlottesville, VA and attempted to make the world a safer place -- for terrorists

Posted By on Wed, Aug 16, 2017 at 8:47 AM

Sen. Bill Ketron and Rep. Matthew Hill introduced legislation to make drivers who hit protesters immune from civil liability.
  • Sen. Bill Ketron and Rep. Matthew Hill introduced legislation to make drivers who hit protesters immune from civil liability.
On Saturday, August 12, 2017, a nazi sympathizer killed one person and injured many more when he drove his car into a group protesting the White Supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA. With that in mind, now seems like as good a time as any to take a look a pair of Tennessee politicians who were farsighted enough to imagine just such a scenario and introduced legislation to make drivers immune from civil liability for doing something similar.
MATTHEW HILL
  • Matthew Hill
Tennessee Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Chumpsville) is a "firebrand Southern conservative." Swipes right for tort reform, the Ten Commandments and good old-fashioned nullification; left for abortion and taxes. Hill's the owner of Right-Way marketing and the host of Bible Buddies Radio. He's super against child rape but favors fear-mongering legislation and thinks sometimes rolling over protesters in your SUV is totally justifiable. Hill has been a vocal proponent of birtherism, the racist conspiracy aimed at delegitimizing Barack Obama's presidency. (For fun, here's a recording of our Bible Buddy interviewing birther gadfly Orly Taitz.) In 2010 Hill introduced HB2685,[24] requiring employees to only speak English in Tennessee workplaces. Hill was called out by media for taking a "dangers of Islam"  fact-finding trip courtesy of the Tennessee Freedom Coalition, a designated hate group according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

HB0668 failed in Civil Justice committee.
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Bill "Muslim Mop Sink" Ketron
  • Bill "Muslim Mop Sink" Ketron
Bill Ketron (R-Suckertown) has sponsored many bills but, apart from making it okay to run over protesters if you're using due caution, the Senator from Murfreesboro is probably most famous as the national laughingstock who mistook a mop sink for Muslim prayer basin. And had a spell about it.

When he's not hard at work pushing legislation crafted by white supremacist David Yerushalmi to criminalize Sharia Law, Ketron has also made time to see the world courtesy of the Tennessee Freedom Coalition, a hate group that dines well, apparently.

Ketron wasn't the only Tennessee Senator who thought this idea had merit. SB0944 Passed on first and second consideration and was assigned to General Subcommittee of Senate Judiciary Committee.
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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Elvis Week: Deep Cuts Playlist

Posted By on Thu, Aug 10, 2017 at 8:30 AM

Hey, how about an Elvis playlist made entirely of songs that almost never show up near the top of other Elvis playlists? Except for maybe "Little Sister." But I just can't make an Elvis playlist without "Little Sister." That would be wrong.



Friday, August 4, 2017

Shelby Co. D.A. Has Twitter Meltdown, Internet Watches

Posted By on Fri, Aug 4, 2017 at 12:34 PM

Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich. - JUSTIN FOX BURKS
  • Justin Fox Burks
  • Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Commercial Appeal, Tennessean, Other Tennessee Papers to be Edited Outside of Tennessee

Gannett Announces Plans to Close Nashville Design Studio

Posted By on Tue, Aug 1, 2017 at 10:36 PM

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You know all those weird mistakes in the Commercial Appeal that make it seem like it's being edited somewhere else, because it's actually being edited someplace else? Well, as of October 1, 2017 the CA won't even be edited in Tennessee. Neither will The Tennessean, the Knoxville News Sentinel or any of the Volunteer State's Gannett-owned papers.


From The Tennessean:
Gannett and the USA TODAY NETWORK Tuesday announced plans to consolidate its Nashville Design Studio, with design work shifting to similar operations in Des Moines, Iowa, Louisville, Ky., and Phoenix, Ariz.

The closure will affect up to 88 jobs once the transition of work is complete on October 1. However, there will be some remote-work opportunities for Nashville employees aligned with the other studios. "The Nashville Design Studio team has been a valuable part of the USA TODAY NETWORK," said Mizell Stewart III, Vice President /News Operations at USA TODAY NETWORK. 

Also form The Tennessean — and note the use of the word continue:

"Readers will continue to enjoy beautifully designed print editions, while at the same time enjoying our outstanding news coverage on their smartphones, tablets and desktops. We are fully dedicated to providing the best and most engaging content possible — however our readers want to consume it."

Unless further changes are announced it appears all production work and editing for Gannett's 100+ daily newspaper properties will be done at one of the USA Today publisher's three remaining studios in Des Moines, IA, Louisville, KY, and Phoenix, AZ.

Gannett announced it would sell the Tennessean's offices in August, 2016. They announced the closing of their Asbury Park design studio in April. The Commercial Appeal's offices are also on the market and overnight employees have been advised to work from a coffee shop, home, or some other location that makes them "feel secure."


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NewsMax CEO Worries About Sinclair Broadcast's New Acquisitions, Media Consolidation

It's a Conservative-Propaganda-Organ-Eats-Conservative-Propaganda-Organ World Out There. Be Careful Where You Step.

Posted By on Tue, Aug 1, 2017 at 2:15 PM

Boris Epshteyn — Coming to WREG soon?
  • Boris Epshteyn — Coming to WREG soon?
Industry trade magazine AdAge reports that Christopher Ruddy has asked the FCC to take time and carefully weigh any decision allowing the Sinclair Broadcast Group to go through with a deal that would bring the media conglomerate a total of of 233 local TV-news stations, including Memphis’ WREG.

Via AdAge:

"I am calling for delay," Christopher Ruddy, CEO of Newsmax, a conservative outlet with a 24-hour cable news channel, said in an interview. "I think it needs more vetting."

Ruddy, a friend of President Donald Trump, adds a conservative voice to liberal critics of the deal who are wary of Sinclair building a network of local stations featuring the company's pro-Trump commentary.

If you don't know who the players are here NewsMax is a frankly conservative multi-platform media company where TV hosts comfortably compare unflattering news reports about President Trump to “lynchings.” That comparison's no anomaly at NewsMax, which recently dipped its toe in the cable news business. Though marketed as Fox-light it's been a reliably safe space for Right-Wing cranks and conspiracy theorists.

Sinclair's been collecting local news stations. Holdings currently include ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX affiliated properties in an environment where local TV news has more reach than all four major cable news stations combined with NewsMax tossed in like a set of Ginsu knives. Frankly conservative and unapologetically Trumpist, Sinclair requires local stations to air segments by former Trump staffer Boris Epshteyn, the sixth person interviewed in ongoing probes into Russia's impact on U.S. elections.


For pretty much everything you need to know about Sinclair and Boris, and what might happen to Memphis' WREG if the FCC approves Sinclair's latest takeovers click here.

So basically we've reached this weird patch of Spacetime where a company invested in a national cable news product promoting kooks and conspiracy theorists can run headlines like "Local Broadcast Wins as National Media Increasingly Distrusted" with a straight face.

Welcome to The New Fairness in a marketplace of ideas that's somehow even worse than it was when  irresponsible media narratives were seeded and tended by media organs with no agenda beyond basic profit motive.

For $399/Mo Nashville Gym Offers Workouts Inspired By Alt-Right Philosophy

Posted By on Tue, Aug 1, 2017 at 10:19 AM

Them guns tho.
  • Them guns tho.
Man, Nashville really does have boutique everything these days.

I mean, why would anybody join some weak-sounding gym like the Young Men's Christian Academy or the French Riviera Spa when, for only $399/Mo, you can get ripped from the inside out with strong-minded survivalist trainers at Nashville's Vengeance Strength Kvlt? (That's pronounced "Vengeance Strength Cult" for all you weak people who get rubber-legged at the thought of a little animal sacrifice and can't read ancient Norse).

From the Nashville Scene:

"This is probably not the gym for you," the gym's website states. "Our ideology is simple: Weakness is a sickness which rapidly degenerates the quality of body and mind. The dominant fitness culture is selling you a shallow concept of exercise, keeping you weak and misinformed. Taking the first step towards the eradication of this cancer is the most important thing which you may ever do. It means taking up the ritual of proper training. It means purging the willfully weak people out of your life. It means the burning away of everything and everyone which does not benefit you. Therefore, we at Vengeance, battle weakness here and at home, pledging to help you do the same."

But what about crushing your enemies? Seeing them driven before you? Or hearing the lamentations of their women? Do you suppose that requires a premium membership?

The Scene also published screenshots of the Kvlt's founder Sky Lemyng wearing t-shirts connecting him to Operation Werewolf, a collective that self-describes as, "equal parts fight club, strength regimen, motorcycle club and esoteric order." It was founded by Hate-Yoda Paul Waggener who also leads a "creepy white-power wolf cult" called The Wolves of Vineland.

Prayers and protests are ongoing.
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