Memphisness

Monday, March 4, 2019

Memphis In May Scientist Warns Against Dinosaurs In Tom Lee Park

Posted By on Mon, Mar 4, 2019 at 3:08 PM

"Artistic" rendering of proposed changes to Tom Lee Park.
  • "Artistic" rendering of proposed changes to Tom Lee Park.
Dr. Ian Malcolm, Senior Chaos Theorist for Memphis In May, warned of grave danger to the public if a plan devised by the Memphis Riverfront Public Partnership (MRPP), to exhibit genetically engineered dinosaurs in a newly revamped Tom Lee Park, is allowed to go forward.

“Life will find a way,” the dashingly handsome, black-clad scientist told an enraptured crowd at a recent public forum on the proposed revamp of the city’s premiere riverfront acreage. 
MRPP was represented by Dr. Perceval Petrodopolos, a paleo-genetic engineer who said new advances in CRISPR technology has enabled him to reconstruct the genomes of dinosaur species that have been extinct for millions of years. The dinosaur DNA material was recovered from blood found in the stomachs of mosquitoes trapped in amber and spliced with that of dinosaur descendants such as frogs and birds. Plans and renderings unveiled by MRPP showed brontosaurus, tyrannosaurus rex, and velociraptors playing whimsically with school children among the rolling hills of Tom Lee Park.

“The lack of humility before nature that’s being displayed here staggers me,” said Dr. Malcolm, pounding the table. “Don’t you see the danger in what you’re doing here? Genetic power is the most awesome force mankind has ever seen, but you wield it like a kid who has found his dad’s gun!”

“I don’t think you’re giving us our due credit,” said Dr. Petrodopolos. “I have done something that has never been done before!”

“But you were so preoccupied with whether they could, you didn’t stop to think whether you should,” replied Malcolm. “Isn’t that right, Dr. P.P.?”

Dr. Malcolm described the prospect of revived, probably carnivorous thunder lizards  sharing a park with some of the top musical acts in the country and tens of thousands of revelers during the Beale Street Music Festival as “chilling. I simply cannot guarantee the safety of the food trucks and merchandise vendors in such a situation.”

Dr. P.P. was incredulous at what he called “Luddism from a scientist” and questioned why Memphis In May even needed a chaos theorist on staff.
Dr. Ian Malcolm
  • Dr. Ian Malcolm

“Have you ever been to Music Fest?” replied Dr. Malcolm.

City officials are expected to rapidly approve the Jurassic improvements to Tom Lee Park, which will include pterodactyl roosts on the heavily populated bluff overlooking the riverfront.
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YES! This article is a parody. We said so in the tab up top!

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Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Memphis TV News Has a Dateline Issue

Posted By on Tue, Jan 29, 2019 at 3:24 PM

TV 5
  • TV 5
I almost didn't post this because I worry about sounding like a broken record on this topic. But a recent WMC Facebook post stands out as a special example of how our broadcast media has abandoned any responsibility to the idea of "first do no harm."

For years Fly on the Wall has observed local news teams over-reporting crime and padding their broadcasts and social media feeds with crime reporting from other markets. Most out of town stories aren't introduced with a dateline, giving the initial impression that these scandals and abominations might be local. This dislocation is amplified by headline driven "scroll and share" consumer habits. I'm hardly the first critic of this cheap, media economy approach to news delivery, nor am I the only journalist to suggest that an over-saturation of fear-based reporting coupled to endless stream of brown faces builds stereotypes and cements misleading cultural narratives while triggering racist anxiety and public policy crafted in response to racist anxiety.

The post in question:

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On one hand, the link attached to WMC's post does eventually identify Houston a the location of the event. Many, similar posts don't even do that and one has to be clicked in order to see a dateline pegging the story to Florida, California, or somewhere else in the heartland. Only, people don't read news in blocks, taking in all the content at once. We read top to bottom, left to right. So the first information consumers get from WMC's post is the station's logo followed by news that five officers have been shot and are being transported to the hospital. At this point in reading, anybody with a husband, wife, son, daughter, or friend on the local force experiences a little heart failure. It may be allayed if they read on, but the messenger has already failed by not providing key information up front while appealing to raw emotion and cravenly picking at the scabs of discontent.

As if on cue one of the first commenters emerges from the disinformed fever swamp to pin this mass shooting of police officers on an imagined "race war" ginned up by President Barack Obama.

So why would the commenter think this drug raid-related shooting was somehow related to younger generations and Obama's secret race war? Although the linked story doesn't include the usual mug shot and one has to Google a bit to get the details, these perps were 50-ish and white. 
Rhogena Nicholas and Dennis Tuttle
  • Rhogena Nicholas and Dennis Tuttle

But an endless news stream showing crime after crime — brown face after brown face — creates a misleading narrative that lends itself to irrational conclusion. Per the old programmer's maxim: Garbage in, garbage out.

None of this is accidental. It almost feels trite to remind consumers that content is a market run by enormous financial interests who use trusted, appropriately coiffed personalities to anchor their brands and make you think they care about anything besides where the next dollar's coming from. That's glib, but it's neither incorrect or an understatement to say that news content is determined by market, not the public good. 

For newsrooms, police blotter crime reporting with no context and no followup stories requires very little investment and no investment at all if you're sharing from an affiliate market. This stuff is as close to free as news content gets. Meanwhile, to borrow from media critic James T. Hamilton, useful and informative but more costly and potentially less clickable stories are left undone due to the "difficulties of translating the public benefits from excellent news coverage into private incentives for [media] owners."

If TV news is our window on the world, the view is constantly grim and brown is the color of mayhem. The market has spoken and the second comment to the post is the kind of dividend it pays. 

All WMC's social media person had to do to make this post not abhorrent was include the word "Texas" somewhere in the first sentence. That's it. So, at this point it may be fair to assume that showing a jot of responsibility really would kill our TV news folks, and someone would no doubt interpret their tragic death as yet another victim of Obama's fantasy race war.

In other words, we're doomed: Scene at 11. Thanks WMC. 

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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

MLK50 Tapped to Join ProPublica's Local Reporting Network

Posted By on Wed, Dec 12, 2018 at 10:15 AM

Wendi Thomas
  • Wendi Thomas
A rare bit of good news for Memphis-area media consumers, especially those with a taste for investigative work.

ProPublica
, the Pulitzer-winning digital newsroom focused on investigative journalism in the public interest, has selected Wendi Thomas and her MLK50 Justice Through Journalism project, to participate in year two of ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network. Thomas describes the announcement as a, “vote of confidence in the importance of this work.”

ProPublica’s Local News Network supports regional and local investigative journalism and MLK50 is one of 14 selected organizations.

From the ProPublica announcement:

"Through the program, participating reporters collaborate with ProPublica senior editors Charles Ornstein and Marilyn W. Thompson as they embark on investigative journalism within their communities. Two of the projects, based in Illinois, also will work with the staff of ProPublica Illinois. ProPublica reimburses one year’s salary and benefits for each of the participating reporters and also supports projects with its expertise in data, research and engagement elements of the work… Topics will include racial segregation, correctional facilities, emergency response, environmental regulation, profiteering and higher education." 

MLK50 is taking part in the general, local reporting category.

“While the past year has seen yet more cutbacks at local news organizations, the ProPublica Local Reporting Network has been a bright spot nationally,”  Ornstein said, in a written statement. “We couldn’t be happier with the accountability journalism produced by our inaugural class and are excited to pursue another year of investigative projects with moral force.”

ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom and nearly 11 years old. It has been honored with four Pulitzer Prizes, three Peabody Awards, two Emmy Awards, and five George Polk Awards.

For more details about the partnership you can read MLK50's announcement here

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Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Consultants Plan Monument To Consultants On Memphis Riverfront

Posted By on Wed, Nov 21, 2018 at 11:49 AM

Sign greeting visitors to Consultants Park.
  • Sign greeting visitors to Consultants Park.
Claiming they have “bridged the gap between perception and reality,” a group of consultants has proposed Consultants’ Park, which will be dedicated to the many consultants hired to determine what Memphis should do with its riverfront.

“Since 1924, the city of Memphis has been trying to figure out what to do with this unique space, which overlooks one of the largest, brownest bodies of water in the world, and also Arkansas,” says the Preamble to the Executive Summary of the 2,667-page report issued by the Memphis Riverfront Consultants’ Coalition (MRCC). “Like the hundreds of consultants who came before us, we puzzled about how to polish Mud Island into a Mud Diamond. Then, three days into our recent ayahuasca trance charette, it suddenly hit us. What is more dependable and integral to the Memphis Riverfront experience than the Big Muddy? For the last century, the answer has been, consultants. That’s why we are executing Consultants’ Park, a reminder to all Memphis and the world that consultants matter, and that they must be paid.”
“That’s ‘Consultants’, plural,” says the first of the document’s 1,300 footnotes. “Because consultants love company.”

According to the design documents, Consultants’ Park will stretch the entire 2,348 mile length of the eastern bank of the Mississippi. It will include a specially designed “Consultants’ Safe Space Play Area”, where businesses can bring their consultants to frolic in the fresh, humid river air and socialize with other consultants. There will also be a Consultant’s Corner, where citizens can interact with and ask questions of a real live consultant, and then pay them directly in cash for their advice. “We see this as a way to get people off the streets and into cushy consulting gigs,” says the MRCC.

The centerpiece of the park will be a 1,923-foot tall statue of a consultant riding triumphant on a rearing steed. “It’s 1,923 feet tall, because 1923 was the year our consultant forefathers first discovered the Mississippi riverfront,” says the MRCC.
As for the rest of the 2,000+ mile park, the MRCC says “We’ll get food trucks or something.” 
Signage directing visitors to Consultants Park
  • Signage directing visitors to Consultants Park

The project is estimated to cost $1.2 billion. The MRCC points out that only $1 billion of the budget is allotted to consultant’s fees. “It’s a bargain for the taxpayers!”
As of press time, no city officials were available for comment.
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Yes, this is a PARODY. Didn't you see the black and yellow tab at the top.

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Roll Local with Memphis Made Comic, Stoned Ninja

Posted By on Wed, Nov 21, 2018 at 11:43 AM

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Gabriel DeRanzo and Greg Cravens seem like unlikely partners. Cravens is a veteran illustrator, cartoonist, and comic strip creator. DeRanzo has a sterling reputation as a bartender, but when he and Cravens met at 901 Comics in a networking session for artists interested in contributing to Bad Dog comics first Memphis-made anthology of graphic fiction, he had no idea what he was doing. What did the inexperienced DeRanzo possess that nobody else had? A completed script. According to Cravens, who's been around the block a time or two, that made all the difference.

“Other people may have had ideas,” Cravens says, explaining why he gravitated toward DeRanzo. “But he had a completed 5-page script.” According to all involved, it wasn’t a very good 5-page script, but it was a spark — a beginning. There were plots to be hammered out and characters to develop. There was also an ethos to explore: The weed should be freed — and it would be too if not for those meddling, “Pharmaceutical companies, the alcohol industry, and organized crime," and money spent on “politicians to keep it illegal.”

Enter the Stoned Ninja. 

The meet-up where DeRanzo and Cravens first teamed up is part of the origin story for 901’s house brand, Bad Dog Comics, which published its second anthology earlier this month. Bad Dog will soon publish the second installment of DeRanzo and Cravens’ Stoned Ninja, which is currently receiving its finishing touches. Meanwhile, the creators continue to produce t-shirts and other fun, useful merchandise that, if things go according to plan, may ultimately position Stoned Ninja for wider distribution than most indie comics ever see. What has Stoned Ninja got that other indie comics don't? Its own brand of ninja-approved, 100 percent hemp rolling papers, that's what. 
Samples from 901 Comics Anthology Vol. 2
  • Samples from 901 Comics Anthology Vol. 2

“When I was a kid, comics were in every grocery store and quickie mart in the country, and they aren’t anymore,” Cravens says explaining the potential for head shops to expand comic distribution. “The market has narrowed down to where you have to go hard target search for a comic shop to go get comics,” he says. “What we’ve got is something we can sell in another store to another targeted audience. So, that’s the pitch when we approach larger publishers. There are potentially 25,000 more shops you can put your comic into, if you’ll just pay attention.”

“Given the content of the comic I figured there was no reason to go less than 100% pure hemp,” DeRanzo says of Stoned Ninja rolling papers. “So it’s as good a quality paper as anything out there and we’re offering fun packaging. On the inside flap there’s a comic and we’re going to change that flap every time we put in a new order. So Stoned Ninja will be like Bazooka Joe Bubble gum.”
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Stoned Ninja was originally inspired by the classic Kung Fu comedy Drunken Master, and developed as a means to explore pot culture beyond the usual burnout stereotypes.

“So I asked myself, if there can be a Drunken Master, why can’t there be a Stoned Ninja?” DeRanzo says.


Don’t anticipate kung fu Cheech and Chong, or Jackie Chan-inspired antics, even. Stoned Ninja is packed with fun stuff. Pizza boxes (featuring DeRanzo’s face) make cameos. The hero, Japanese American college student Kazunori Takagi, appears and disappears in clouds of dank smelling smoke. But, for being the story of a young man granted ninja superpowers by toking on a special strain of marijuana, the narrative content is fairly straight-faced.

For 10-years DeRanzo daydreamed about Stoned Ninja while he tended bar. “I had this insane amount of story content for movie ideas,” he says says. Comics weren’t in the plan so when Shannon Merritt from 901 said he wanted to start making comics DeRanzu said, “That’s great, I will buy your comics!”

“No,” Merritt answered. “I want you to help me make these comics.”

One problem: DeRanzo couldn’t draw. Okay, two problems: He had no experience writing either. But the characters were there. And after a decade of thinking about it, the stories were there too. So DeRanzo leaned on Cravens’ experience in graphic storytelling, and Cravens trusted DeRanzo’s vision. Inker Josh Lindsey has since joined the team.

“I drew the knives all wrong,” Cravens says, admitting a learning curve of his own. DeRanzo gave his illustrator some sharp examples as a gift. “I nearly cut my toe off twice,” Cravens says of his sample cutlery experience. But now his knives are proper.
Samples from Stoned Ninja
  • Samples from Stoned Ninja


"Right now we're trying to build the first six issue story arc at a pace that lets us be normal people. Once it's done we plan to release it on a monthly schedule. Ideally going mass distribution," DeRanzo says.

For the completely appropriate price of $4.20, comics are available locally at 901 Comics, Whatever stores, The Wild Hare smoke shop, Tobacco Zone, and Memphis Made Brewery. Stoned Ninja starter packs, which include a comic book, a t-shirt, and a pack of Stoned Ninja rolling papers are available online at stonedninjacomics.com.
DeRanzo, Cravens, Lindsey
  • DeRanzo, Cravens, Lindsey

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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Happy Halloween: A Tribute to Sivad and Fantastic Features

Posted By on Wed, Oct 31, 2018 at 12:02 PM

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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.

via GIPHY


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.


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. 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 fro m 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.
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* A version of this article appeared in the Memphis Flyer in 2010 —- but without all the nifty links and embeds. 

Friday, October 19, 2018

Great Works of Literature as Written by the Shelby Co. Election Commission

With Help from The Memphis City Council

Posted By on Fri, Oct 19, 2018 at 12:22 PM

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Emboldened by national attention resulting from the careful and creative wording of current ballot amendments, the Shelby County Election Commission has committed considerable time and evident talent to improving the greatest works of world literature. While Fly on the Wall has yet to see a completed text, 5 first line samples were leaked this morning, revealing the epic scope of the Commission's City Council-aided writing project.

via GIPHY

Moby- Dick
Herman Melville with the Shelby Co. Election Commission

“Shall Ishmael serve as a common spoken or chirographic signifier not expressly for greeting, but sometimes for gaining the narrator’s attention?”

via GIPHY

Gravity's Rainbow
Thomas Pynchon with the Shelby Co. Election Commission

“Shall the sky elect to not to retain its natural silence, in favor of free expression, horizon to horizon?”

via GIPHY

Fahrenheit 451
Ray Bradbury with the Shelby Co. Election Commission

“Shall the combustibility of literature, as it stands with all officers and offices engaging in the combustion procedure, be any reason to limit terms of pleasure?”

via GIPHY

A Tale of Two Cities
Charles Dickens with the Shelby Co. Election Commission

“Shall we claim, of the times between 1770 and 1794, that each individual year, and the age collectively, was both better and worse than any other age pursuant to its wisdom, foolishness, belief, incredulity, lightness, darkness, hope, despair, and to the various seasons to which these qualities may be poetically associated?

via GIPHY

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream
Hunter S. Thompson with the Shelby Co. Election Commission

“Shall we agree that when the drugs took hold, all persons who had selected drugs, were in San Bernardino, east of Apple Valley but west of Needles and not so far north as to constitute the municipal boundaries of the city of Barstow?”
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Yes, this is a parody. Didn't you see the orange tab at the top of the page?

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Tumbleweave Returns

Posted By on Wed, Oct 3, 2018 at 12:57 PM

Not the "baby" in question, but ain't she sweet?
  • Not the "baby" in question, but ain't she sweet?
It's been a while since your Pesky Fly reported on Memphis' rolling tumbleweave crisis. Then again, it's been a while since the city has seen a Nextdoor exchange like this one.

Under the topic "Dead Animal," someome writes "There is a dead animal in the middle of McLean before Central just wonder if this baby is anyone's pet."

Nah. Just somebody's good hair having a bad day. 
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Via: 

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Friday, September 14, 2018

Trader Joe's Opens West Nashville Location in Germantown

Posted By on Fri, Sep 14, 2018 at 1:56 PM

It's no mistake that the bags handed out on opening day at the new Trader Joe's say "Nashville," and "Music City." After all, it's a new day for Germantown — Trader Joe's has arrived. And while the city will remain in Shelby County, the addition of Trader Joe's to a market that already included Whole Foods and Sprouts, means the Memphis suburb can officially describe itself as being Westest Nashville.
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Via:

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Friday, August 10, 2018

"Memphis Most" Promotion Showcases Parking Lot Under Interstate

Posted By on Fri, Aug 10, 2018 at 2:16 PM

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You know what? I'm not going to complain. It could have been worse. It could have been.  Given the Gannett-owned Commercial Appeal's batting average on stuff like this lately, we should all be thankful that the background photograph for this self-promoting ad was taken in Memphis. You can even see a little skyline in the upper left.
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But mostly, it's just a shot of Bass Pro's southern parking lot.
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Under the interstate.
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This isn't a recent issue. The ad's from July. But, like they say, if you haven't read it, it's still a parking lot under the interstate.

That's so Memphis. To somebody. 

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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Memphis Isn't America's Sweatiest City

Posted By on Tue, Jul 31, 2018 at 10:31 AM

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Cold comfort seems like the wrong way to describe this latest news.

But the mercury is climbing again, as we head into August and as our pits and upper lips go dewey and our thighs turn into cheese factories, we can all be thankful that we live in Memphis, and not one of the nine American cities that, according to a new report, are even nastier.

Honeywell Fans partnered with consultants from Environmental Health & Engineering to create the definitive sweaty city list based on a set of criteria that includes "humidity levels, length of summer and access to shade." Shockingly, Memphis barely cracked the top ten.

As it happens, your Pesky Fly is a misery tourist who's visited every single furnace on Honeywell's top 10. So, instead of simply sharing the list, I've included some thoughts about each location.

1. Orlando, Florida — Anybody who's ever stood in line at Disney World knows that Orlando can be peeing-your-pants-while-drinking-coffee-in-hell miserable. But as hot and bug-infested as Orlando may seem, it's easy to maintain a smile and cheerful demeanor by reminding yourself that at least you're not in Tampa. 

2. New Orleans, Louisiana — Let's be honest. Regardless of Honeywell's methodology, fewer experiences produce more sweat for the least amount of effort, than standing roadside on Carrollton, waiting for an afternoon streetcar. NOLA is probably at least as sticky, buggy, and stultifying as Orlando most days, but everybody's having too good of a time to care.

3. Phoenix, Arizona — There is a place where dry heat meets the dry heaves. That place is Phoenix.

4. Dallas, Texas — Being in Dallas in the summer is like being in a prison movie where the sadistic warden punishes everybody by locking them in a boiler room and cranking the juice.

5. Las Vegas, Nevada — Like somebody covered Dallas in glitter and feathers.

6. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma — How this place clocks in at No. 5 is a mystery. The heat is like a blazing fist that reaches down your throat and rips out your tongue.

7. Kansas City, Missouri — I honestly don't remember KC being all that hot. But I was in a brisket coma.

8. Austin, Texas —  Cooler than Dallas in most regards.

9. Atlanta, Georgia — One of America's most miserable rush hours. Thankfully, there's a proper bar at every exit of the commute.

10. Memphis, Tennessee — There are nine places sweatier than Memphis. And besides, who's got time for weather talk when we have Bird Scooters to complain about?

Friday, June 15, 2018

The "T" Word: A Memphis Collective Looks at Black Masculinity, Nomenclature

Posted By on Fri, Jun 15, 2018 at 4:34 PM

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In the time honored spirit of the answer song, the mixed-media art exhibition "Thug" was organized to converse with a past exhibit called "Fiber,"  a deep dive into black femininity. "Thug" organizers wanted to give black male artists from diverse backgrounds an opportunity explore the range and role of masculinity in black culture. Curator and photographer Ziggy Mack says The Collective's exhibit showcases experience.

"It looks at black masculinity and how society views it," Mack says. "And it also looks at sexuality within black masculinity.

"In black culture you see this kind of appropriation happen multiple times," Mack says, setting up context for the show's title. "Post-slavery as a people we'd taken the word boy and turned it on its head substituting the word man. Like, 'Hey man! How you doing my man!' That was a response to black men being called boy. And there's the N-word, a more controversial word. But another word we appropriated like taking lemons and making lemonade."

Thug, a similar appropriation, was re-appropriated in white culture where it's become a deracialized stand in for less socially permissible slurs. 

"The collective and I used it because we thought it would make people ask, 'What's this about?" Mack says. "And we used it to turn it on its head again. To turn it into something else. To build a body of art around the word and black masculinity."

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Tom Lee Park Redesign 'Totally Unrelated To Atlantis' New Riverfront Chief Says

Posted By on Thu, Jun 14, 2018 at 9:31 AM

Definitely not an irradiated Gill Man.
  • Definitely not an irradiated Gill Man.
At a press conference in their Front Street headquarters on Tuesday, Carol Coletta, head of the Memphis River Parks Partnership (MRPP), previously called the Riverfront Development Corporation (RDC), told reporters that her organization’s plans to dramatically alter the landscape of Tom Lee Park have nothing to do with her predecessor’s ambitious project to raise the lost, subaquatic city-state of Atlantis from the depths of the Mississippi River.

“Our plan will activate the park space for all Memphians, and make it more attractive to Memphis In May festival goers,” said Coletta. “It’s totally unrelated to the RDC’s plans to raise Atlantis.”

Coletta joined the RDC in March, replacing Benny Lendermon, who had announced the public-private partnership's multimillion dollar plan to spend millions of dollars on targeted nuclear explosives that would trigger powerful earthquakes bringing the long hidden city/state of Atlantis back to the Above World, presumably to rule over a golden age of peace and prosperity for Memphis and the Mid-South region.

“Now some people will say that the new undulating hills we’re building in the flood zone of one of the most powerful rivers in the solar system would be an ideal spot for burying the thousands of horribly burned gill-men cadavers that have been washing up on the banks of the Big Muddy, but you would be wrong,” said Coletta.
“We acknowledge mutation is an ongoing problem in this area of the river,” she added. “But we prefer to focus on making the riverfront great for everybody.”

Similarly, a rebranding effort that changed the name of a corporation devoted to riverfront development (RDC) to Memphis River Parks Partnership (MRPP), was in no way caused by news reports associating the RDC with the effort to raise Atlantis.

“Having a new name that doesn’t come up in Google searches next to the words ‘raise Atlantis’ and ‘nuclear weapons’ was in no way a factor in our decision to rebrand,” said Coletta. “Look, the truth is, there wasn’t much to the Atlantis thing. It was really overblown by the media, right from the beginning.

"When Benny's crew of nuclear demolition engineers got to where they thought Atlantis was going to be, there wasn’t anything there. So, they left. That’s what happened.

"Those earthquakes you want to ask me about, we had nothing to do with those. Completely natural phenomenon.

"We’re just laser-focused on making the riverfront better by cleaning up all the radioactive material from the shoreline and disposing of it somewhere that’s not Tom Lee Park.”

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Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Goodbye Colonel Tommy

Memphis Artist and entrepreneur Tommy Foster has died. He was 64.

Posted By on Wed, Jun 6, 2018 at 11:52 AM

Self portrait.
  • Self portrait.


Tommy Foster was the epitome of Memphis cool. Every day of his     too-short life, this artist and enabler of alternative culture in Memphis made the city where he grew up a more colorful place to live in and explore. In addition to building his own outsider-styled constructions, contraptions, and curios, the self-taught sculptor and painter founded spaces for other artists to display and sell their work. He operated a storied venue that hosted some of the best bands of the day while doubling as an incubator for a host of local players. He made safe, visually inspired and inspiring spaces where writers, poets, and would-be filmmakers felt comfortable working and sharing their words in a noncompetitive  environment.

In later years, Foster took pictures at parties. It was a gig, but also an extension of his art. As usual, this fanboy and trendsetter was showing Memphis its best, fanciest, and funnest self.

Foster, who sometimes signed his artwork "Colonel Tommy," lost a long, hard-fought battle with cancer this week. Even if you never met the man, if you've lived in Memphis in the past 40 years,  you've encountered some aspect of his marvelous, multivarious legacy.

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The first mention of Foster I could locate in The Memphis Flyer's digital archives is dated April 2, 1998 (and now reprinted here on the right, where you can click to expand it). It certainly wasn't his first appearance in our pages, nor would it be his last. But it's an appropriately colorful yarn and, in describing this life well-lived, it seems as good a place to start as any. On that date, the original Fly on the Wall column reported that the Java Cabana founder, who sometimes moonlighted as non-denominational minister, had sold his funky Cooper-Young coffee shop and would no longer perform Elvis-themed weddings in its Viva Memphis Wedding Chapel. He was packing up his decorated box of sideburns, wigs, and chunky gold sunglasses and taking his kingly matrimony business to the Center for Southern Folklore, which was then located on Beale Street.

Wedding packages were affordably priced starting at only $185.

Memphis is a  city of marvels and curiosities and Tommy Foster did his part to keep it weird and real. In the 1980s, he founded the Pyramid Club, an upstairs rock-and-roll bar on a stretch of Madison Ave. where all the buildings were leveled to make room for AutoZone Park and surrounding apartment buildings. Musicians who played there may remember the seemingly endless, narrow stairway as the "worst load-in in history" but it attracted players like Alex Chilton and personalities like musician/journalist Bob Palmer and it hosted performances by bands like Flat Duo Jets, Human Radio, The Grifters, and The Scam.

Foster almost singlehandedly launched coffee culture in Memphis  and laid a cornerstone for Memphis’ funky coffeehouse scene. He opened Java Cabana in the Cooper-Young neighborhood in 1992, at the dawn of the C/Y comeback.

Foster turned Java's back room into his Viva Wedding Chapel, so Elvis-loving couples wouldn't have to go to Vegas to get married by the King. It could happen in the birthplace of rock-and-roll in a funky little room where the walls were hung with folk art depictions of rock-and-soul saints. Foster's wonderful coin operated Elvis impersonator shrine— originally a window display for Java  Cabana— was replicated and placed in House of Blues venues across the country.
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Foster ran the quirky Viva Memphis photo booth, oversaw the creation of A. Schwab's fantastic soda fountain, and did so many other things I'm sure I'm leaving out. He'll be missed, but his spirit will be with us for some time to come.

A memorial service is planned for later this summer. Details to come.


 

Friday, May 25, 2018

Dammit Gannett and other Media Follies — Long Weekend Roundup!!!

Posted By on Fri, May 25, 2018 at 3:52 PM

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I planned to write a whole column goofing on WMC’s time machine. See, the well-intentioned tweet above notes that the City of Memphis was created 199 years ago (in 1819) and goes on to note that WMC has been “in love ever since” even though the 70-year-old media company was founded in 1948. Maybe you can be in love with Memphis retroactively, and find some kind of familial agape love to get you through the years of slave trading and civil strife. But who has time to dwell on that while Memphis still still has a dying daily newspaper to kick around? Especially when that newspaper has a time machine of its own. And instead of going back in time and not completely screwing itself up, the Gannett-owned sadness chose instead to bring back Houston High’s 2015 soccer team to win the state championship.
"Stop, you're BREAKING THE TIMELINE!!!"
  • "Stop, you're BREAKING THE TIMELINE!!!"


This weird and probably misplaced act of heroism seems to have adversely affected the timeline, devolving Gannett’s copyediting staff to the point they can’t spell the name of their own damn newspaper. 
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And, perhaps most alarmingly of all, the CA has begun to insert random photos of Burt Reynolds into its content. And not the good ones, either.
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