Saturday, October 20, 2007

Ernest Withers Goes Home: "He Saw the World Through Our Eyes"

Posted By on Sat, Oct 20, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Mourners of Ernest Withers filled the Pentecostal Temple Institutional Church of God in Christ downtown Saturday afternoon to celebrate the home-going of the world-renowned photographer who died Monday at age 85.

A celebratory tone prevailed among the many friends, family members, and public officials who spoke at the funeral. Eulogists represented the many facets of Withers’ life.

Afro-centric spiritualist Ekpe Abioto assured the crowd that “death is a fulfillment of life.� Trumpeter Mickey Gregory, a former Stax Records session player and Beale Street club entertainer represented Withers’ rhythm and blues associates, though he performed the popular gospel composition “Take My Hand Precious Lord.�

Mayor Willie Herenton called Withers a “giant and a genius,� expressing his gratitude to God “that I Willie Herenton had the privilege of kneeling at [Withers’] feet.

“They don’t put just anybody’s obituary in the New York Times,� he reminded the audience.

Reverend Samuel “Billy� Kyles, said that like the drop of water that knocks holes in stone by oft-falling, Withers “camera knocked holes in the stones of ignorance one click at a time.�

Beale Street developer John Elkington promised “there will always be a Withers gallery on Beale.� He added that he once asked Withers if he’d been afraid photographing civil rights era riots and episodes of police brutality.

“No,� Withers told Elkington. “I was too busy working.�

Finally, a family member evoked tender personal memories of Withers playing on the floor and watching cartoons with his grandchildren. “He saw the world through our eyes,� Withers’ granddaughter Esi Sawyer recalled.

Those gathered would agree that we’re better for having seen the world through his.

A procession down Beale Street and interment at Elmwood Cemetery followed.


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Friday, October 19, 2007

Thaddeus-izing Content in State Government

Posted By on Fri, Oct 19, 2007 at 4:00 AM

This week's meeting in Nashville of the legislature’s Joint Study Committee on Open Government invoked a new standard for issues involving the new state ombudsman's office, which is charged with upholding the rights of citizens to access governmental data.

According to The Tennessee Journal, state Comptroller John Morgan, who will oversee the new ombudsman "said he didn't want the ombudsman to get involved in disputes involving the media, since these organizations usually have the resources to deal with recalcitrant public officials on their own."

That didn’t faze Lucien Pera, The Commercial Appeal's lawyer and a panel member representing the Tennessee Press Association. Pera "argued that small town papers might not be able to afford a legal fight and questioned how the office would deal with bloggers such as Thaddeus Matthews in Memphis."

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Fight Over Chickasaw Gardens Street-Closing to Go to Hearing

Posted By on Thu, Oct 18, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Last May, a highly publicized rape occurred on Goodwyn Street in Chickasaw Gardens. Since then, area residents have been pushing for more crime control, including closing the entrance of Goodwyn at Southern Avenue.

However, others who live in areas adjacent to Chickasaw Gardens are fighting the street closing. Gwen Lausterer, who lives in condos at Southern and Goodwyn, questions how the proposal will affect traffic on Haynes, Greer, and other side streets that run between Central and Southern, especially those that don't have a traffic light (as Goodwyn does) to control traffic. The intersection is near the entrance to Memphis Country Club.

Activists are urging residents to attend a hearing about the street closing. It's currently set for November 8th at 10 a.m. Says Lausterer: "I do firmly believe that if we start blocking streets we are not helping the situation on crime. Getting out and meeting our neighbors can help more than blocking ourselves off. Community spirit and knowledge is what will bind us together as a city."

She doubts claims by Goodwyn residents that drivers speed up to 75 mph on their street. "I drive Goodwyn [several] times a day and have never seen that," she says. "We have suggested they use speed bumps like most streets in this area."

For more information about the street closing and the hearing, contact Lausterer at or the city planner, Carlos McCloud, at 576-6619 or

--Marilyn Sadler

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Brooks Museum Names Interim Director

Posted By on Thu, Oct 18, 2007 at 4:00 AM

A lifelong Memphian is taking the reins, on an interim basis, of the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.

Effective January 1, 2008, Al Lyons will oversee the daily operations of the museum while the search continues for a permanent director. Kaywin Feldman leaves the post at the end of 2007 to take a position at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Feldman describes Lyons as a "passionate trustee of the Brooks for over three years [who] has served with dedication on a variety of committees. He and his wife, Jan, are immense arts supporters who will work hard to further the museum's mission in the community."

A graduate of the University of Memphis with a BBA in accounting and a background in finance and psychology, Lyons has been president of the Bodine Company in Collierville for 12 years and will retire this year. He serves on the boards of Ballet Memphis, Memphis in May, RivertArtsFest, and the Collierville Chamber of Commerce, in addition to acting as vice president of the Brooks Board of Trustees.

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Oops! — The NYT Edition

Posted on Thu, Oct 18, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Tagged as's "Correction of the Day" is a little slip by The New York Times in its obituary of photographer Ernest Withers, who passed away on Monday.

The correction reads:

"Because of an editing error, an obituary yesterday about the photographer Ernest C. Withers, who documented life in the segregated South in the 1950s and '60s, from the civil rights movement to the Memphis blues scene, misidentified the person he photographed arm in arm with Elvis Presley at a Memphis club in 1956. It was B. B. King, not the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr."

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Cowboy Jack Clement at Brooks Museum Tonight

Posted By on Wed, Oct 17, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Tonight, the Brooks Museum of Art is screening a phenomenal documentary about one of Memphis music's most influential figures. And, unless you're a true music geek, you probably don't know very much about the man.

Sam Phillips may have all of the name recognition, but he wasn't the only eccentric genius working behind the scenes at Sun Studio at the dawn of the rock-and-roll era. Robert Gordon's entertaining documentary, Shakespeare Was a Big George Jones Fan gives long overdue props to Phillips' lesser-known Sun Studio partner, "Cowboy" Jack Clement, whose reputation looms somewhat larger in Nashville than it does in the Bluff City.

Clement, a zany English Literature major given to florid flights of verbal fancy, is responsible for launching the careers of certifiable icons such as Jerry Lee Lewis and Charley Pride. He contributed mightily to the artistic development of industry giants George Jones, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson.

Throughout his long, productive career, Cowboy Jack obsessively filmed everything going on around him. Gordon, who authored It Came From Memphis, as well as an exhaustive biography of Muddy Waters, has described Clement's disorderly film archive as a "goldmine."

Anyone interested in meeting Cowboy Jack, taking in Gordon's film, and watching some truly astonishing footage of a wild-eyed Johnny Cash having a cigarette on A.P. Carter's grave is advised to attend.

The Schedule: 6 pm - Cash Bar; 7 pm - Film; 8:30 pm - Music by Cowboy Jack.

$5 for members, $8 for nonmembers. For more information, call 544-6208

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Ernest Withers Dead at 85

Posted on Tue, Oct 16, 2007 at 4:00 AM

(AP) - Activist and photographer Ernest Withers, who helped record the civil rights struggle in the Mid-South, has died. He was 85.

His son, Joshua "Billy" Withers of Los Angeles, said his father died Monday night at the VA hospital in Memphis after suffering a stroke last month.

As a freelance photographer for black newspapers, Withers traveled with Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evers, and other figures in the civil rights movement, capturing on film the momentous events of the 1950s and 60s.

Withers also photographed jazz and blues musicians who frequented Memphis' famed Beale Street, such as Rufus Thomas, B.B. King, Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin. Withers' career spanned 60 years.

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EPA Should Coordinate State Efforts to Protect the Mississippi River

Posted By on Tue, Oct 16, 2007 at 4:00 AM

AP - States and the federal government need to coordinate their efforts to monitor and protect the water of the Mississippi River, a new analysis urges.

The study released Tuesday by the National Research Council calls on the Environmental Protection Agency to coordinate the efforts affecting the river and the northern Gulf of Mexico where its water is discharged.

"The limited attention being given to monitoring and managing the Mississippi's water quality does not match the river's significant economic, ecological and cultural importance," said David A. Dzombak, professor of environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

Dzombak, who was chairman of the committee that prepared the report, said that "in addressing water-quality problems in the river, EPA and the states should draw upon the useful experience in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, where for decades the agency has been working together with states surrounding the bay to reduce nutrient pollution and improve water quality."

Because it passes through or borders many states, the river's quality is not consistently monitored, the report said.

In the north, the Upper Mississippi River Basin Association has promoted many cooperative water-quality studies and other initiatives, the report said. That group includes Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin.

But there is no similar organization for the lower-river states -- Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana -- and they should strive to create one, the report said.

EPA also should support better coordination among states, and among its four regional offices along the river corridor, the report says.

Greater effort is needed to ensure that the river is monitored and evaluated as a single system, said the report.

While the 10 states along the river conduct their own programs to monitor water quality, state resources vary widely and there is no single program that oversees the entire river.

In recent years, actions have reduced much point-source pollution, such as direct discharges from factories and wastewater treatment plants.

But the report notes that many of the river's remaining pollution problems stem from nonpoint sources, such as nutrients and sediments that enter the river and its tributaries through runoff.

Nutrients from fertilizers create water-quality problems in the river itself and contribute to an oxygen-deficient "dead zone" in the northern Gulf of Mexico.

The National Research Council is an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, an independent organization chartered by Congress to advise the government on scientific matters. — Randolph E. Schmid

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E.W. Scripps to Split Company

Posted By on Tue, Oct 16, 2007 at 4:00 AM

The following is a press release from E.W. Scripps, the parent company of the Memphis Commercial Appeal:

The E. W. Scripps Company's board of directors has unanimously authorized management to pursue a plan to separate Scripps into two publicly traded companies, one focused on creating national lifestyle media brands and the other on building market-leading local media franchises.

The two companies that would exist after the separation would be:

-- Scripps Networks Interactive, which would consist of the national lifestyle media brands and associated enterprises that operate collectively as Scripps Networks, including television's HGTV, Food Network, DIY Network, the Fine Living Television Network and Great American Country and their category-leading Internet businesses. The new company also would include online comparison shopping services Shopzilla and uSwitch and their associated Web sites. These businesses have combined annual revenue of approximately $1.4 billion and 2,100 employees.

-- The E. W. Scripps Company, which would include daily and community newspapers in 17 U.S. markets; 10 broadcast television stations clustered among the nation's largest 50 markets, including six ABC affiliates, three NBC affiliates and one independent station; the character licensing and feature syndication businesses operated by United Media; and Scripps Media Center in Washington D.C, which includes the Scripps Howard News Service. These businesses have combined annual revenue of about $1.1 billion and employ about 7,100 people.

"This is an important and logical next step for our shareholders, employees and all other stakeholders who have a direct interest in the success of our media businesses," said Kenneth W. Lowe, president and chief executive officer for Scripps. "It's our intention to create two publicly traded companies, each with a sharpened strategic focus that would foster continued growth, solid operating performance and a clear vision on how best to build on the specific strengths of our national and local media franchises."

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Puddle of Mudd in Graceland Pool

Posted By on Mon, Oct 15, 2007 at 4:00 AM

How the hell did we miss THIS? Seems a couple a weeks back the group Puddle of Mudd took a tour of Graceland and lead singer Wes Scantlin took that opportunity to go for a dip in The King's pool.

Scantlin got himself banned from Graceland for life for executing this picture-perfect cannon ball. (Yes, we know the picture's tiny, but what do you expect, CNN?)

"I just wanted to go for a swim," said the offender, matter-of-factly.

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Advice for Thompson

Posted on Mon, Oct 15, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Wonkette has some important campaign advice for Tennessee's Fred Thompson.

After gossip gal Cindy Adams reported that Thompson's favorite comedian was Jackie Mason (and that Thompson visits backstage when Mason's on Broadway), Wonkette pointed out that may be political poison.

"Now, Fred, do you remember 1989? No? You were probably too busy laying down your Southern Mojo on Dana Delany on the set of China Beach. And, hey, we don't blame you. She's hot! … But that was the year Jackie and Rudy were banging around New York together. The two were totally BFFs until Mason called then-New York Mayor Dinkins 'a fancy schvartze with a mustache.' Not cool."

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Memphian Katori Hall's Play to Open in New York

Posted By on Sun, Oct 14, 2007 at 4:00 AM

The New York Times has a nice story today on young Memphis playwright Katori Hall. An excerpt:

KATORI HALL'S earliest plays were a smash, keeping the audience rapt for hours. They were staged in a Fisher-Price dollhouse in Ms. Hall's Memphis living room, and she was author, director, doll handler and the entire audience.

"That's all I did was make up little plays and perform them for myself," she said in a recent interview. "When I lost the Fisher-Price people, I snuck into my dad's toolbox and got batteries to make into people, and I'd roll lint from under the couch into balls and make them the dogs."

Ms. Hall, 26, is about to find a wider audience. Her first major production, "Hoodoo Love," begins previews on Tuesday at the Cherry Lane Theater in the West Village and opens Nov. 1.

Read the Times story.

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Security Tight for Bush Visit to Memphis on Monday

Posted By on Sun, Oct 14, 2007 at 4:00 AM

More than a day early, Memphis police -- augmented, no doubt, by the Secret Service -- were stationed at approaches to the Midtown residence of entrepreneur Brad Martin, who will play host to President Bush for a Monday afternoon fund-raiser on behalf of Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander.

Alexander will also appear at East High School earlier Monday morning.

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Gore Wins Share of Nobel Peace Prize

Posted By on Fri, Oct 12, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Former Vice President Al Gore Jr. has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his service in informing the world about the perils of global warming. The Norwegian Nobel Committee announced Friday that the Tennessee native will share the award with a United Nations panel that monitors climate change.

In its announcement, the committee characterized Gore, whose film documentary An Inconvenient Truth had previously won an Academy Award, as "the single individual who has done most" to alert the world to the reality of climate change caused by global warming and to the imminent threat it poses worldwide.

Gore indicated he would donate his half Nobel prize money -- about $750,000 -- to the Alliance for Climate Protection, a nonprofit environmental group whose board he chairs. He issued this statement: "The climate crisis is not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity, It is also our greatest opportunity to lift global consciousness to a higher level."

The text of the Nobel committee's announcement is as follows:

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007 is to be shared, in two equal parts, between the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Albert Arnold (Al) Gore Jr. for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change


Indications of changes in the earth's future climate must be treated with the utmost seriousness, and with the precautionary principle uppermost in our minds. Extensive climate changes may alter and threaten the living conditions of much of mankind. They may induce large-scale migration and lead to greater competition for the earth's resources. Such changes will place particularly heavy burdens on the world's most vulnerable countries. There may be increased danger of violent conflicts and wars, within and between states.

Through the scientific reports it has issued over the past two decades, the IPCC has created an ever-broader informed consensus about the connection between human activities and global warming. Thousands of scientists and officials from over one hundred countries have collaborated to achieve greater certainty as to the scale of the warming. Whereas in the 1980s global warming seemed to be merely an interesting hypothesis, the 1990s produced firmer evidence in its support. In the last few years, the connections have become even clearer and the consequences still more apparent.

Al Gore has for a long time been one of the world's leading environmentalist politicians. He became aware at an early stage of the climatic challenges the world is facing. His strong commitment, reflected in political activity, lectures, films and books, has strengthened the struggle against climate change. He is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted.

By awarding the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007 to the IPCC and Al Gore, the Norwegian Nobel Committee is seeking to contribute to a sharper focus on the processes and decisions that appear to be necessary to protect the world's future climate, and thereby to reduce the threat to the security of mankind. Action is necessary now, before climate change moves beyond man's control.

Oslo, 12 October 2007

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Coulter Wants to FedEx Jews to Perfection-ville

Posted By on Fri, Oct 12, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Professional right-wing provocateur and attention-whore Ann Coulter has a new book out, which can only mean one thing: She'll go on television and say something mind-bogglingly outrageous.

This time, however, she's outdone herself, and in the process has dragged the name of Memphis' biggest employer into her self-serving slimelight.

A sample of Coulter's rhetoric from MSNBC's Donny Deutsch show, "The Big Idea":

DEUTSCH (who is Jewish): We should all be Christian?

COULTER: Yes. Would you like to come to church with me, Donny?

DEUTSCH: So I should not be a Jew, I should be a Christian, and this would be a better place? We should just throw Judaism away and we should all be Christians, then, or --


DEUTSCH: Really?

COULTER: Do you know what Christianity is? We believe your religion, but you have to obey.

DEUTSCH: No, no, no, but I mean --

COULTER: We have the fast-track program.

COULTER: No, we think -- we just want Jews to be perfected, as they say.

DEUTSCH: Wow, you didn't really say that, did you?

COULTER: Yes. That is what Christianity is. We believe the Old Testament, but ours is more like Federal Express. You have to obey laws. We know we're all sinners --

And there you have it, the Christian Gospel according to Ann Coulter, who is no doubt acting just like Jesus (a Jew, by the way) would have wanted her to.

We'd tell you the name of Coulter's new book, but we forgot what it was. Guess we're not perfected yet, either.

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