Wednesday, January 31, 2007

"Monty Python’s Spamalot" Comes to Memphis

Can the Ministry of Silly Walks be far behind?

Posted By on Wed, Jan 31, 2007 at 4:00 AM

The Tony Award-winning Best Musical of 2005, Monty Python's Spamalot, will open at The Orpheum Theatre on Tuesday, February 13.

Lovingly "ripped-off" from the infamous comedy team's most popular motion picture, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Spamalot won three 2005 Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Director (Mike Nichols), as well as the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards for Best Musical.

The original cast recording of the show recently won the 2006 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album.

Sold-out since it opened on March 17, 2005, Monty Python's Spamalot has remained the hottest ticket on Broadway, continuing to break box office records at The Shubert Theatre.

The show features a book by Eric Idle, based on the original screenplay by Monty Python creators Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin, with music and lyrics by the Grammy Award-winning team of Idle and John Du Prez.

Monty Python's Spamalot tells the legendary tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, and their quest for the Holy Grail. The show features a chorus line of dancing divas and knights, flatulent Frenchmen, killer rabbits, and one legless knight.

For ticket information visit The Orpheum website.

Jim Cooper on John Negroponte and Global, er, Warming.

Posted By on Wed, Jan 31, 2007 at 4:00 AM

"... let me mention a dinner party I attended about two months ago here in Washington. The honoree was John Negroponte. He was then the director of national intelligence. He was there to receive an environmental award.

"It was very interesting because in anticipation of his remarks, word slipped through the crowd he was not allowed to utter the words 'global warming,' at least not in the same sentence. Apparently, he was allowed to say the word 'global' in a separate sentence, and 'warming' in a separate sentence, but not together. So it became a little parlor game during his remarks, to see how closely he would fit the words 'global' and 'warming' and not incur the wrath of the White House."

The foregoing anecdote comes from Nashville Congressman Jim Cooper during a hearing for the House Committee for Oversight and Government Reform. Not much we can add to such madness, except to suggest you watch it on video.

Media Fight! Media Fight! Calkins vs. Tillery!

Posted By on Wed, Jan 31, 2007 at 4:00 AM

" ... But this piece from Tillery marks the first time one long-simmering bit of intramural squabbling has been made so plainly public. The competitiveness-bordering-on-hostility between Tillery and CA columnist Geoff Calkins (the “preferred media outlet” in question) has long been obvious to those who cover the Grizzlies and probably to astute listeners of the pair’s adjacent morning radio shows. But it was still a bit shocking to see one take a shot at the other so clearly in the pages of their own newspaper.

"One neutral party I talked to at the paper characterized the situation as 'getting out of hand' and suggested that higher ups needed to get it under control.

"But, from the outside at least, it's good theater."

Chris Herrington takes a look at the intramural squabble going on at the Commercial Appeal. And he writes about the Grizzlies, too. It's all at the Flyer's Griz blog, Beyond the Arc.

Columnist Molly Ivins Dies of Breast Cancer at 62

Posted By on Wed, Jan 31, 2007 at 4:00 AM

A Molly Ivins Tribute by Anthony Zurcher

Molly Ivins is gone, and her words will never grace these pages again — for this, we will mourn. But Molly wasn't the type of woman who would want us to grieve. More likely, she'd say something like, "Hang in there, keep fightin' for freedom, raise more hell, and don't forget to laugh, too."

If there was one thing Molly wanted us to understand, it's that the world of politics is absurd. Since we can't cry, we might as well laugh. And in case we ever forgot, Molly would remind us, several times a week, in her own unique style.

Shortly after becoming editor of Molly Ivins' syndicated column, I learned one of my most important jobs was to tell her newspaper clients that, yes, Molly meant to write it that way. We called her linguistic peculiarities "Molly-isms." Administration officials were "Bushies," government was in fact spelled "guvment," business was "bidness." And if someone was "madder than a peach orchard boar," well, he was quite mad indeed.

Of course, having grown up in Texas, all of this made sense to me. But to newspaper editors in Seattle, Chicago, Detroit and beyond — Yankee land, as Molly would say — her folksy language could be a mystery. "That's just Molly being Molly," I would explain and leave it at that.

But there was more to Molly Ivins than insightful political commentary packaged in an aw-shucks Southern charm. In the coming days, much will be made of Molly's contributions to the liberal cause, how important she was as an authentic female voice on opinion pages across the country, her passionate and eloquent defense of the poorest and the weakest among us against the corruption of the most powerful, and the joy she took in celebrating the uniqueness of American culture -- and all of this is true. But more than that, Molly Ivins was a woman who loved and cared deeply for the world around her. And her warm and generous spirit was apparent in all her words and deeds.

Molly's work was truly her passion. She would regularly turn down lucrative speaking engagements to give rally-the-troops speeches at liberalism's loneliest outposts. And when she did rub elbows with the highfalutin' well-to-do, the encounter would invariable end up as comedic grist in future columns.

For a woman who made a profession of offering her opinion to others, Molly was remarkably humble. She was known for hosting unforgettable parties at her Austin home, which would feature rollicking political discussions, and impromptu poetry recitals and satirical songs. At one such event, I noticed her dining table was littered with various awards and distinguished speaker plaques, put to use as trivets for steaming plates of tamales, chili and fajita meat. When I called this to her attention, Molly matter-of-factly replied, "Well, what else am I going to do with 'em?"

Perhaps the most astounding aspect of Molly's life is the love she engendered from her legions of fans. If Molly missed a column for any reason, her newspapers would hear about it the next day. As word of Molly's illness spread, the letters, cards, e-mails and gifts poured in.

Even as Molly fought her last battle with cancer, she continued to make public appearances. When she was too weak to write, she dictated her final two columns. Although her body was failing, she still had so much to say. Last fall, before an audience at the University of Texas, her voice began as barely a whisper. But as she went on, she drew strength from the standing-room-only crowd until, at the end of the hour, she was forcefully imploring the students to get involved and make a difference. As Molly once wrote, "Politics is not a picture on a wall or a television sitcom that you can decide you don't much care for."

For me, Molly's greatest words of wisdom came with three children's books she gave my son when he was born. In her inimitable way, she captured the spirit of each in one-sentence inscriptions. In "Alice in Wonderland," she offered, "Here's to six impossible things before breakfast." For "The Wind in the Willows," it was, "May you have Toad's zest for life." And in "The Little Prince," she wrote, "May your heart always see clearly."

Like the Little Prince, Molly Ivins has left us for a journey of her own. But while she was here, her heart never failed to see clear and true — and for that, we can all be grateful.

To find out more about Molly Ivins and read her past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at Read her AP obituary.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Elvis Will Never Amount to Much

Posted By on Tue, Jan 30, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Time magazine has now made its complete archives available online, and it’s interesting to see what that venerable publication first thought of some of the biggest stars of our day. It turns out: Not much.

Here, for example, is their April 2, 1956, mention of a young singer from Memphis by the name of Elvis Presley. Time was pretty certain he would never amount to much of nothin'.

Elvis Presley: "Heartbreak Hotel" (Elvis Presley, Victor Records). A new singer with a new twist: a double voice that alternates between a high, unpleasant quaver, reminiscent of Johnnie Ray at his fiercest, and a rich basso that might be smooth if it were not for its spasmodic delivery. "Heartbreak Hotel," yelps the high voice, is where he’s going to get away from it all. Answers the basso: "He’ll be sorry."

Meanwhile, that same music reviewer called Joyce Bradley (who?) "a voice of sanity in a live-for-tonight era," and a group called the Hi-Lo's "just about the most virtuoso vocal quartet on records."

Other reviews by Time in the same article cited Bill Haley as "primitive to the point of idiocy," and Pat Boone as a "virile but slack-jawed crooner."

Yep, Time magazine could sure pick 'em. More?

Joe Cooper Pleads Guilty

Posted By on Tue, Jan 30, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Joe Cooper, who secretly taped meetings last year where he passed money to City Council members Rickey Peete and Edmund Ford, has pleaded guilty to money laundering.

The plea mirrors the information in a federal criminal complaint against Cooper that was unveiled last November.

Cooper, a perennial political candidate and hanger-on for several years, helped drug dealers acquire expensive cars from Bud Davis Cadillac to launder money. One of the drug dealers, Korreco Green, secretly worked with the FBI to snag Cooper, who in turned helped the government develop their case against Peete and Ford, who have been indicted and are awaiting trial. Both have pleaded not guilty.

Cooper, who has a previous felony conviction, will likely testify against Peete and Ford if they go to trial. Cooper faces a maximum prison term of 20 years and a $500,000 fine.

-- John Branston

Jesus or Tiger Woods?

What's the diff?, asks local church

Posted on Tue, Jan 30, 2007 at 4:00 AM

In recognition of black history month in February, Fellowship Memphis Church is holding a series of sermons comparing Jesus to notable African Americans, including Booker T. Washington, Malcolm X, and Tiger Woods.

This is not the first time Tiger Woods has been compared to Jesus. We've got this groan-inducing joke and here's a lengthy list of all the similarities between Tiger and Jesus.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Overton Park Shell Saved?

Posted on Mon, Jan 29, 2007 at 4:00 AM

According to a release sent today, an announcement regarding the Overton Park Shell, which closed in 2004, will be made in late February regarding a partnership between a group of local activists and the Mortimer Levitt Foundation.

The Mortimer Levitt Foundation has provided grants for art causes across the country, including funds to refurbish an outdoor arena in Pasedena, California.

Read about the Shell's struggles in this Flyer viewpoint from 2004.

Air America Avoids Bankruptcy; "Senator" Al Franken To Leave

Posted By on Mon, Jan 29, 2007 at 4:00 AM

AP - Air America Radio, in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings since October, will be rescued at the 11th hour by Manhattan real estate developer Stephen L. Green.

Al Franken, the best-known host of the liberal network, announced his departure from his show today, in order to explore a run for the U.S. Senate from Minnesota.

Green is the brother of Mark Green, the New York Democrat who served as the city's public advocate in the 90s and ran for mayor against Michael Bloomberg in 2001.

He has already signed a letter of intent, and plans to finalize a purchase agreement within the week.

Air America CEO Scott Elberg confirmed the sale. "This is a great thing, for our affiliates, the company, the audience and every employee in our organization."

Green is chairman of SL Green Realty Corp, a real estate investment trust specializing in office buildings with a market cap of $12 billion.

Brother Mark is a frequent guest on Air America, and sat in for David Bender, the host of the Air America show Politically Direct, for a couple of weeks earlier this month.

When Franken leaves the network in a few weeks, he'll be replaced by Thom Hartmann, who already has a syndicated show on the network's lineup.

In Memphis, Air America can be heard on WWTQ AM-680.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

A "Wild Party" in Memphis

Posted By on Sun, Jan 28, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Flyer theater critic Chris Davis has been known to call 'em as he sees 'em when it comes to local theatrical productions. And when it comes to Circuit Theatre's production of The Wild Party, Davis isn't holding back:

"Circuit Playhouse’s wild production of The Wild Party surpasses even the wildest of expectations. With a hot, jazz-inspired score, Andrew Lippa’s pop opera, inspired by a racy 1928 poem of the same name, overflows with eroticism, and bathtub gin. Carla McDonald’s magnificent physical and vocal performance as Queenie, a libidinous Vaudeville singer whose relationship with a famously abusive comedian is headed south, is eye-popping, jaw-dropping, and wild, wild, wild."

You can read Davis' complete review in next week's Flyer. Until then, you can visit Circuit's Website to check out The Wild Party.

A British Take on Tunica and Gambling American-Style

Posted By on Sun, Jan 28, 2007 at 4:00 AM

The British government is about to license that nation's first "supercasino." To commemorate the occasion, UK newspaper The Independent sent a reporter to Tunica, Mississippi to see how gambling "has transformed 'America's Ethiopia' in just 15 years."

An excerpt: "Driving down Highway 61 from Memphis, Tennessee, to Tunica, Mississippi, the fields are flat, with occasional bursts of swampland, and cotton balls blowing on the tar. As you edge south, the billboards grow more insistent, offering endless variations on the notion of chance: 'Best cash back!', 'Best dealers', '$10k Fridays'.

"Follow your luck, and you end up riding towards Mississippi's tallest building, the Gold Strike, and into the parking lot in front of the old Vegas frontage of the Horseshoe. A vintage car is marooned between red ropes and the foyer echoes to the sound of '96 Tears'. ..."

Despite the "occasional bursts of swampland" and the mythical "cotton balls blowing on the tar," it's a pretty good read. Get the rest of the Independent story here.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Black Snake Moan: It's Hard Out Here For a Nymph

Posted By on Sat, Jan 27, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Memphis director Craig Brewers' Black Snake Moan is getting mixed reviews from those who've seen it at the Sundance Film Festival.

But one thing is sure: Brewer knows how to write a movie tagline and he knows how to come up with the best schwag evah! Check out the hat.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Memphis Music Commission Joins MySpace

Posted By on Fri, Jan 26, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Now you can be BFF with the Memphis & Shelby County Music Commission. The organization has launched a page.

Log on and join the ranks of friends Al Kapone, Charlie Wood, Massacre Machine, and other Memphis musicians. The site also features a cool visual of Memphis music history, Memphis music videos, song downloads from local artists, and more. It's actually pretty spiffy. Check it out. Make friends.

American Idol Lightning Strikes Second Time for the University of Memphis

Posted By on Fri, Jan 26, 2007 at 4:00 AM

For the second time, a member of the University of Memphis pop group Sound Fuzion is in the running to be the next American Idol. Cheryl Humphrey, a music major at the University’s Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music, made it to the "Hollywood Round," which will be broadcast on the Fox Network February 13 and 14. On the February 14th program, the 12 female finalists will be announced.

Humphrey is a native of Little Rock, and is pursuing degrees in recording technology and jazz performance. She joins former Sound Fuzion member Lashundra “Trenyce” Cobbins who was an Idol finalist in 2003.

Sound Fuzion director Lawrence Edwards says, “I’m not at all surprised that we have our second American Idol singer. Cheryl is extremely talented both as a singer and as a composer. She’s versatile and committed to her art.”

Sound Fuzion is an ensemble of vocalists and instrumentalists that represents the university at many functions, performs as part of the School of Music’s annual concert season, and even toured China last year.

Tennessean Wins Gold Strike World Poker Open

Posted By on Fri, Jan 26, 2007 at 4:00 AM

It was a record-breaking night at the Gold Strike Casino World Poker Open, and it ended with a new champion who was not on anyone’s top six players list.

After 121 hands and more than four hours of play, Tennessean Bryan Sumner was crowned the 2007 Gold Strike World Poker Open champion. For his first-ever tournament win, Sumner took home $913,986, a diamond-encrusted championship bracelet valued at $5,000, and a much sought-after $25,000 seat in the WPT World Championship set for April at Gold Strike’s sister property, Bellagio, in Las Vegas.

At the onset of Final Table action, there were six players: Young Cho, who was playing in his first $10K buy-in seat, started the evening with the highest chip count (2,571,000). Cho was followed by Daniel Negreanu (1,296,000), who had earlier in the tournament become WPT’s all-time money leader and was certainly a tournament favorite. Behind Negreanu, was Kido Pham (731,000), followed by Sumner (596,000), who makes his living playing poker online and earned his first-ever seat at the big table after winning a one-table $1,000 satellite. Pulling up the final two seats were Gary Krainer (514,000), J.C. Tran (181,000).

Sumner took out Negreanu in three hands of heads-up action. Negreanu took home a half-million dollars for his second-place finish.

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