Thursday, July 31, 2008

Find Out What's in Store for the August 7th Election

Posted By on Thu, Jul 31, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Eeny, meanie, miney, moe: The candidates on the August 7th election ballot come in all shapes, sizes, and dispositions. As Jackson Baker notes in the Flyer’s election preview, several of the contests are as sizzling as the summer heat, and a number of races could have unforeseen outcomes.

Go here to check the political weather.

Ask Vance: West Memphis Edition

Posted By on Thu, Jul 31, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Vance Lauderdale has delved into the Lauderdale Library archives and pulled out a collection of 75-year-old photos of West Memphis that show long-lost businesses, horses and buggies on Broadway, and the town’s curious obsession with ... bananas. Yes, we said bananas. See more here.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

County Commission Pleased with Shelby Farms Plan

Posted By on Wed, Jul 30, 2008 at 4:00 AM

In a vote this morning, members of the Shelby County Commission Conservation Committee preliminarily approved a master plan for Shelby Farms designed by New York-based Field Operations firm.

The plan, which calls for one million trees and twelve park landscapes, will be voted on by the full commission on Monday, August 4th.

Highlights of the plan include improving park access with pedestrian and bike trails leading into the park, providing a Shelby Farms shuttle from the inner-city, and shielding the Walnut Grove from the park with a canopy of trees.

Patriot Lake will be expanded to allow for more boating and water activities. A small beach will be built on one end of the lake, and the park will allow swimming. A grassy, natural amphitheater will overlook Patriot Lake.

Much of the plan calls for enhancing existing structures without much construction, such as new playground and picnic equipment. The public gardens will be expanded, and the Agricenter will likely reserve some space for wind turbine and other alternative energy research in addition to the crop research already underway.

Commissioners Henri Brooks and Steve Mulroy expressed concerns about ensuring that inner-city kids have access to the park. Field Operations principal James Corner said church and school groups from across the city will be invited to assist in tree planting. Commissioner Sidney Chism said the beach area will also be a likely draw for inner-city kids who may not be able to afford to rent paddleboats or kayaks.

Commissioner James Harvey also suggested the plan include more lively entertainment programs.

"There’s not enough going on in Shelby Farms now to make a person want to drive twelve miles from downtown to look at a tree," said Harvey.

If approved by the full commission, the plan will be implemented in four phases with each phase taking about five years to complete. Phase one, which costs as estimated $80,000 to $1 million, includes expanding Patriot Lake, working out a MATA bus route into the park, tree planting, and enhancing existing trails. -- by Bianca Phillips

Best of Memphis: Your Vote Counts!

Posted on Wed, Jul 30, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Okay, folks, it's time again to make your voices heard on the places, the faces, and the goods that make up the very best of Memphis.

Vote in the Flyer's 2008 Best of Memphis Readers' Poll.

Talking Trash

Posted on Wed, Jul 30, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Memphians recycle just over a quarter of their residential garbage.

According to figures from trade publication Waste News, Memphis recycles 26 percent of its total waste. That figure puts the city almost smack-dab in the middle of the country's 30 largest cities. San Francisco, which recycles 69 percent of its total waste, leads the rankings, followed by Portland and Los Angeles.

Houston, Oklahoma City, and San Antonio bring up the rear.

Annually, Memphis collects almost 6,000 tons of paper, 552 tons of metal, 828 tons of plastic, 1,800 tons of glass, and about 94,000 tons of yard trimmings, all of which yields the city about $352,000 in recycling revenue each year.

To read more about all this garbage — pun intended — click here to revisit Flyer writer Preston Lauterbach's 2006 cover story on the subject or read today's In the Bluff.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

How to Talk to a Tranny

Posted By on Tue, Jul 29, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Before transgender inmate Duanna Johnson was beaten by a former Memphis Police officer inside the Shelby County Correction Center, she claims her aggressor referred to her as "he/she" and "faggot" before plunging his fist into her face.

While such slurs are obviously inappropriate, other terms commonly used to describe transgender men and women fall into a gray area.

Is it okay to call someone a transvestite? What about a "tranny"? How do you determine a transgender person's preferred pronoun without being offensive?

To read Bianca Phillips' report on what not to say to a transgender person, click here.

MySpace -- and a Nimrod -- Want Your Elvis Imitation

Posted By on Tue, Jul 29, 2008 at 4:00 AM

MySpace Karaoke has invited wannabe kings of rock-and-roll to upload videos of their best Elvis Presley imitations for a shot to perform at Graceland in his memory.

Elvis imitators have through August 4 to upload videos of themselves singing Presley songs.

A winning performer selected by judges from Elvis Presley Enterprises and MySpace, will get to strut their stuff on stage at Graceland during the annual Elvis Week, which begins August 9th.

"We can't wait to see the talent that comes from this contest," said MySpace Karaoke general manager Nimrod Lev ..."

Wait... NIMROD? His name is Nimrod? Okay. Just checking. Now, get to work on your killer version of "American Trilogy."

Monday, July 28, 2008

In the Bluff: the Wal-Mart Stripper?

Posted on Mon, Jul 28, 2008 at 4:00 AM

The Consumerist is one of my favorite blogs (though, for the life of me, I can't figure out why) and today they have a little bit about a Wal-Mart shopper who wasn't allowed to bring her $600 bike into the store ...

and decided to take her clothes off in protest.

Because there were no bike racks at that particular location, the cyclist thought she'd just take the bicycle with her into the store, something she'd done in the past. But a Wal-Mart manager argued that she couldn't bring it into the store because the store sold bicycles.

To read more, visit In the Bluff.

On a related but unrelated note, writer Shara Clark has a story in the upcoming issue of the Flyer about a proposed Wal-mart at the corner of Houston Levee and Macon, and the Cordova residents who oppose it.

You can read more about that at In the Bluff, too.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Ask Vance: The Beginning of Roller Derby

Posted By on Fri, Jul 25, 2008 at 4:00 AM

When Roller Derby came to Memphis in 2006 — organized into teams with such catchy names as the Legion of Zoom and the PrissKilla Prezleys — lots of fans thought it was a reincarnation of the matches they watched on television back in the 1960s.

But it turns out the sport is actually much older than that, and the Lauderdale Library has recently acquired a souvenir program for a 1939 event with the long-winded title of Leo A. Seltzer’s Trans-Continental ROLLER DERBY or Coast-to-Coast Roller Skating Race.

Now I have no idea how this race could take place "coast-to-coast" since the participants, then as now, raced around in a circle. But that’s how they promoted it, anyway. And this entertainment spectacular took place here in Memphis every night from 7 to 11 p.m. for two entire months — January and February 1939 — at the Municipal — better known to Memphians as Ellis — Auditorium.

The program is interesting because it lists the members of the two competing teams. Forget names like "Legion of Zoom." These teams were simply called the Reds and the Whites, and though most of the racers came from all across America, one of them was a Memphian: a woman named Honey Thomas. As you can see, she raced on the White team. What also distinguishes the 1939 version of roller derby from today’s matches is that the 10-member teams also included men, which must have made for some especially bruising matches. In fact, the program itself proclaims, "We use Norwich products exclusively — makers of Unguentine," which (for those youngsters out there) was a popular rub-on pain reliever.

Then as now, nobody can make sense of roller derby rules. But here, I’ll let you decide for yourself. Here’s how the old program tries to explain the game:

To read more, visit Vance's blog.

Or, if you're interested in seeing the rules (and skaters) in action for yourself, Memphis Roller Derby's Hustlin' Rollers take on the River Valley Roller Girls this Saturday, July 26th, at the Mid-South Fairgrounds.

Flunking ADA Compliance, with Few Exceptions

Posted By on Fri, Jul 25, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Randy Alexander got on a MATA bus to ride downtown to Court Square Friday morning. The handicap ramp lowered the way it is supposed to in order to accommodate his wheelchair. But when Alexander got to Court Square to get out, the ramp got stuck for several minutes.

Little wonder that Alexander and the Memphis Center for Independent Living, in conjunction with Paralyzed Veterans of America, gave MATA a grade of C+ on their Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Report Card.

Actually, MATA did pretty well. The disability community gave the city of Memphis a grade of F for employment, education, and citizenship, a D+ for construction, and a C for curb cuts and ramps. Shelby County government got Fs in employment, education, and transportation, Cs in curb cuts and construction, and a D+ in citizenship.

About 50 representatives of the disability community met at Court Square on the 18th anniversary of the signing of the ADA by President George H. Bush, Sr.

"The ADA set forth more than technical requirements for accessibility," the groups said in a prepared statement. "It promised the ideals of equality and freedom. That is why we mark the 18th anniversary with updated report cards."

In an interview with the Flyer, Alexander commented on each of the grades. A grade of C means the government is doing "just enough to avoid lawsuits," and a D means "trying to comply with the ADA only after being sued."

"A government entity should lead the way," Alexander said about the uniformly harsh grades.

Employment (F in 2008 and in 2006): Both governments lack a program to recruit, hire, and retain people with disabilities. The unemployment rate in the disability community is "astronomical," Alexander said. "Mayor Herenton's Advisory Council for Citizens with Disabilities was supposed to restart, but after the election that kind of disappeared. I think one of the city attorneys uses a wheelchair, but there's no system for a larger number."

Education (F in 2008 and 2006): Memphis has segregated schools and classes for the disabled as well as some mainstreaming. "Shriners is a segregated school. It only gives you a certificate of attendance, not a diploma." Students with hearing impairments go to one high school, White Station.

Transportation (C+ in 2008, C in 2006): "MATA has worked on some issues. Drivers are calling out bus stops and stopping for people. But just today, the very bus I got on, the lift broke." In the bigger picture, Alexander said MATA should give incentives to people on its board and on the city council to ride the bus so they know first-hand what the issues are.

Construction (D+ in 2008 and D- in 2006 for city; C for county in 2008, D- in 2006): Alexander noted that the Court Square gazebo where the event was supposed to take place does not have a handicapped ramp although great pains were taken to make it compliant with historic guidelines. He said there have been no changes to accessibility in LibertyBowl Stadium since a Flyer cover story featuring Alexander and others was published last year. But he said the Shelby County Compliance Office "is beginning to take access seriously."

Curb Cuts and Ramps (C in 2008, D- in 2006): "They are putting in a ton of curb cuts, but if the average citizen calls in to ask a question it can be hard to get connected unless you know who to call." But after 18 years the program is still behind schedule.

Citizenship (F in 2008 to city, D+ to county; F to both in 2006): "There has begun to be a difference in administrations. The city's administration not only lags behind but continues to be disingenuous in its attempts to address the issues of disabled Memphians.”

Both governments were notified of the rally and invited to send representatives. An hour after the event began, neither had.

Main Street Recommendation Due Mid-August

Posted By on Fri, Jul 25, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Even if vehicular traffic doesn't return to the Main Street Mall, Center City Commission president Jeff Sanford says the controversial idea might result in some improvements to the mall.

"We've been saying for several years that the maintenance on the mall has been lacking. In fact, we determined that the metal infrastructure hasn't been painted in 15 years ... and the trolleys are 15 years old," Sanford says.

The Center City Commission (CCC) held a meeting earlier this week to solicit public input for its controversial idea of returning vehicular traffic to the north end of Main Street. CCC staff members are expected to present a recommendation to the CCC's traffic and transportation committee in mid-August. That committee will then take a recommendation to the CCC's main board.

But even then, nothing would be a done deal.

"If the CCC board agrees that any kind of change on Main Street would be good for downtown, they would communicate that to the city," says CCC president Jeff Sanford. "It's the city of Memphis that has the authority to make any and all decisions about the public right-of-way."

In addition to the public meeting, the CCC has met with representatives from the fire department, the police department, MATA, and the city engineer's office to discuss the idea. The CCC also held a separate meeting with Main Street property owners.

To read more, visit In The Bluff.

Or, to read an earlier Flyer story about one consultant's 12 ideas to make Memphis better, including putting cars back on Main Street, click here.

Brian Teigland, Veteran TV Weathercaster, Dies Unexpectedly

Posted By on Fri, Jul 25, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Brian Teigland, a veteran meteorologist/weather reporter for 24/30 Eyewitness News, died unexpectedly Friday morning of natural, but as yet undetermined, causes. Teigland, a popular figure both with viewers and with his colleagues in the media, had worked for WPTY-TV and its sister station WLMT-TV since December 1994, In a previous stint on Memphis television, he had been the main weather reporter for WREG-TV, News Channel 3.

As friends and colleagues knew, Teigland, 53, had suffered from a variety of health problems over the years. That these never interfered with his TV presence, both jovial and informative, is a tribute to his professionalism as a broadcaster.

A news release sent out b Eyewitness News Everywhere news director Jim Turpin had this to say:

”Brian has been a favorite Mid-South weatherman and TV personality for more than 2 decades, and has been a member of the Eyewitness News Everywhere team since December 1994. He was very active in our community working with students of all ages and countless civic and church groups.

”Brian was one of a rare breed in our industry. He cared more about others than himself. He was a loved and respected father to his children, a loving and loved husband, and a caring and compassionate friend to all those about whom he cared. It is hard to describe the incredible feeling of loss we have inside our newsroom today, because it isn’t just about losing a co-worker. It’s about losing someone we loved who was in the prime of his life.

”To say that we will miss Brian, more for what he did off the air than what he did on it, does not do justice to the grief and pain we all feel right now. There will be a huge void on our newscasts when it’s time for weather. There is an even bigger void in our hearts. The thoughts and prayers of the entire Eyewitness News Everywhere family go out to Brian’s loving wife Cindy, their children, and his extended family. We hope the entire Memphis area will offer the same.

”Brian is survived by his wife and 3 children, two daughters and a son.”

What to Do This Weekend

Posted on Fri, Jul 25, 2008 at 4:00 AM

From kid-friendly theater to vicious boxing matches, there's a little somethin' for everyone in Memphis to do this weekend.

Parents of tweens likely know all the words to the songs of Disney's High School Musical, so you might as well sit through it one more time. The Circuit Playhouse presents the stage adaptation of the popular Disney's moviein multiple shows throughout the weekend.

Learn to make your own jewelry (or just buy some pre-made pieces by local jewelry artisans) at the Jewelry in July Artist's Market at Mo's Coffehouse. The market runs throughout the shop’s business hours on Saturday.

Got the blues? The Daddy Mack Blues Band can relate. Check out their lives blues and preview Plain Man Blues, a new documentary about the band, at the Center for Southern Folklore. The screening and show take place on Saturday at 8 p.m.

Anybody named "Swamp Donkey" probably deserves to be punched in the face (not that we’re encouraging violence or anything). Watch Adam "Swamp Donkey" Richards battle Charles Davis at the Fight at the Fitz boxing match at the Fitz Casino in Tunica. The Richards/Davis match is one several. The fight starts at 7 p.m. on Saturday.

Don't let those crazy creationists invade your kid's school. Learn all about their tactics in a lecture about the Intelligent Design movement by Barbara Forrest. Forrest served as an expert witness in the 2005 Dover, Pennsylvania, trial that found Intelligent Design to be unconstitutional for a public school science class. Forrest's lecture will last from 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library. The lecture is sponsored by the Memphis Freethought Alliance. For more, read the Flyer's interview with Forrest.

For more weekend listings, check out the Flyer's searchable online calendar.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Fish, the Lord, N/A? Take the Pyramid Poll

Posted on Thu, Jul 24, 2008 at 4:00 AM

More Corporations, State Government Report Falling Revenue

Posted By on Thu, Jul 24, 2008 at 4:00 AM

A fresh batch of reports this week on the Tennessee economy and from corporations that do business in Memphis spells problems for state and local government and enterprises as varied as newspapers, reuse of The Pyramid, and shopping malls.

Corporations filing quarterly reports Wednesday and Thursday include E.W. Scripps, the parent of the The Commercial Appeal; Northwest Airlines; and Costco, which has a store on Germantown Parkway.

Also, the National Conference of State Legislatures issued its annual report Wednesday on the financial state of the states, and Tennessee is headed for a budget shortfall of 4.7 percent, or $468 million.

Tennessee has no broad-based personal income tax and relies heavily on the sales tax, which is running $167 million below estimates. Business taxes are $137 million below estimates, and tobacco and privilege taxes are lagging a combined $100.6 million, according to the report. State government hopes to trim 2,700 jobs by offering buyouts to employees.

City of Memphis and Shelby County governments, including the school systems, can expect minimal help from state government in the remainder of 2008 and in 2009. State officials have already been talking tough about making city taxpayers pay more for city schools or risk losing their state appropriation.

Meanwhile, corporate quarterly financial reports were equally gloomy in these areas:

Newspapers: Scripps reported that second-quarter revenue at its newspapers was down 13 percent year over year to $144 million. But the newspaper segment made a $16.3 million profit thanks to cutting employees and other costs.

"Lower local and classified advertising sales, including particularly weak real estate, employment, and automotive advertising, contributed to the decline," the company said. Local was down 13 percent, classified down 21 percent, national down 20 percent, and online down 8 percent.

Scripps is spinning off its newspapers and television stations as a separate company from its lifestyle television networks and interactive service businesses which are much more profitable.

Air Travel: Northwest, which plans to merge with Delta but keep its Memphis hub, announced a second-quarter loss of $377 million and said it spent 41 percent more on fuel than a year ago. The company plans to cut 2,500 jobs, but has not said where.

Retail: Costco, a discount chain that sells to bargain hunters, announced that higher merchandise costs will cut its profits this year. The surprise announcement drove the stock price down 12 percent Wednesday. Starbucks is closing nine stores in the Greater Memphis area among 600 closings nationwide announced this week.

The Pyramid: The price of gasoline makes buying a new bass boat with a big outboard motor a very expensive -- and expendable -- purchase. Bass Pro Shops is privately held, but competitors Cabela's and Gander Mountain are public companies. Gander Mountain, with stores in Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and 20 other states, lost $1.59 a share in its most recent quarter -- and that was before the price of gasoline surged past $4 a gallon. Its stock has fallen from $11 to under $3 in the last year. Cabela's, which is a mail-order specialist, has fallen from $28 to under $13 but is still profitable.

Robert Lipscomb, the city's point man for talks with Bass Pro, said Thursday, "We're still talking and we’re talking every day." He said he sees "no economic benefit" in a renewed proposal from a local church to buy The Pyramid, and he questioned whether the church -- Cummings Street Missionary Baptist -- could even pay the utilities in the building.

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