Tuesday, January 20, 2009

In D.C. on Inauguration Day

Posted on Tue, Jan 20, 2009 at 4:00 AM

Paul Gerald, a former Memphian and Flyer staffer was in Washington, D.C., to witness the inauguration.

So this is what it was like today, January 20, 2009, from the perspective of one little drop in the sea of humanity that was right where it wanted to be.

I was up at 6 a.m. and out the door at 7 a.m., the equivalent of a springlet on a hillside miles from the ocean. I found my way to the local Metro station, where I joined a larger flow, first a few others on the street, then a wall of people on the train. On a normal day, it would have been the fullest subway train you ever saw, and when I wedged my way into a person-sized hole near the door. there were a lot of jokes made about how in Japan they employ people to push more in, and how even if I lose my balance, I won't fall.

At each station along the way, there was another throng, and each time we on the train said we couldn't possibly make room for anybody on the platform. At one station, things were so packed on the train that it was getting nervous, and when we gasped at the mob on the platform, somebody cracked us all up by booming out "Yes We Can!"

I got off at Farragut North about 8 and immediately joined a river of people, flowing south and down the hill. We filled six-lane avenues, flowed down sidewalks, and whenever we rounded a corner and looked down the next stretch of road, we gasped at what we were becoming. Crossing the street was like swimming a river, and if you wanted to take a picture, or stop for any reason, you had to get in the leeway of a street sign or vendor truck.

The numbers, the scope, and the flow were amazing, but even more so was the energy! It was happy, joyful, confident, even giddy. We were doing the "Gimme an O ... gimme a B" and then all yelling together, OBAMA! We were waving flags, sporting glitter, taking pictures, strutting our collective stuff as we rounded the corner to the grounds around the great pillar. People were selling bumper stickers, shirts, buttons, posters, hot chocolate, and food. One group was giving away a truckload, quite literally, of free pretzels. Everybody was smiling.

I made for the hill at the base of the monument, to have a look, and the greatest gasp of them all was being let out by everyone who gained that crest. Between us and the Capital Building, which was a mile or more away, was nothing but people. It was a landscape of people. Our springs and creeks of humanity had flowed to the sea, and it was a beautiful sight to behold, with the sun coming up over the monuments and everyone reaching for cameras.

Still flowing, looking for the right place, I made for the south side of the mall, to see if I could get closer. Like water, I sought out the easiest place to go, with no particular thought of a destination. We backed up against tight spots and street crossings, eddied up behind buildings, streamed across the landscape ... and soon realized that nothing we weren't getting past 14th Street. It's hard to put this in perspective, but 14th Street to the Capital is a mile or so, and the mall in that distance is fully 200 yards wide -- and all of that was filled with people. By this point, the crowd felt like a single living thing, and it was saying "No more room up here."

So I made my way back to the Washington Monument, up on the hill. If you were watching on television, this meant I was off on the horizon, a little to your left, and by the time 11 a.m. rolled around, it was so crowded where I was that I couldn't have moved if I wanted to. And while I will probably slip into stereotype, the simple truth is that every sort of person was out there in that crowd. It was like everybody was there, young and old and every color and attitude. Whenever I looked around, or panned across with my camera, others were doing the same, and all of our faces wore the same expression of pure, happy awe. Two million people! All in one place for the same reason.

Up on the jumbotrons, as the ceremony got started, we began to see various political celebs, who got various responses. Clinton, Carter, Gore, and Kerry: big cheers. Cheney not so much, and I got some laughs by saying he was in a wheelchair because he doesn't usually expose himself to sunlight. Bush, of course, got the biggest boos, loud enough to be heard on TV I understand-- and it treats the fucker right, I say. How much damage did little prick do, anyway? Acting nice and showing respect is for the elected, back-scratching fools, but this was our last chance to give him our opinion straight. When he was officially introduced, the folks around me -- and many others, apparently --serenaded him with "Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, Goodbye!" A proud American moment, I say.

The ceremony itself is something of a blur, and I look forward to reliving it on TV. I was a long way from a jumbotron, and there was a delay of a couple seconds between the video and the audio. But I remember that Aretha was amazing, though the sound was poor. I remember that when Biden finished his oath, somebody yelled out "That's it for Cheney!"

When it came for Obama, I would imagine something like 500,000 cameras were hoisted into the air. It seemed like there was a screw-up with the oath, but we didn't care. Eight years we waited for somebody else to take that oath, and since November 4th we've been even more excited that Obama would be that man, and we didn't care who said what.

We all were poised like a slingshot, waiting for the release of "So help me God," and when he said that, the cheer started down by the capital and came to us like a wave, and it swept us into pandemonium. It all happened so fast, but I remember hopping and clapping all around me, and trying to hold my camera steady, and I remember looking out towards the mall and seeing all those flags, all those thousands and thousands of little flags, whipping back and forth so fast that it looked like a red-white-and-blue sheen on a gigantic lake.

Somehow I feel, simultaneously, that I almost missed it and that I will always have it with me. I was there, with all these other people, in the precise moment when Barack Obama became the 44th president, and George Bush and his party were officially swept out of power. It felt for all the world like everybody's favorite team had just scored a touchdown.

What I remember of his speech was the rolling applause that would sweep through the crowd, which made us miss some of his big lines, but we didn't care. I remember a few time thinking that he had stopped just short of turning around to Bush and Cheney and giving both of them a whack on the head. He talked about putting childish things behind us, about not trading liberties for security, about our military might not giving us the right to do whatever we want. This felt like the second half of his convention speech. That night, he said "Enough!" and today he said, "Now, this is where we must go together." I actually gasped again, at some of the things he said. To stand there and hear an American president talking about building roads and bridges, about how we can no longer use energy without regard for the effect, and how we want to help farms prosper and fresh water flow made me remember all over again that this guy is actually going to be the president! He can, like, do stuff now. And I found myself thinking, Go get it, Barack.

When he was done, the crowded started dispersing, and the poor poet and closing prayer got lost -- except that the preacher got some cheers, and laughs from Obama, with the lines about the yellow man being mellow, the red man being the head man, and white doing what's right. He was good, and the other guy got a few mean yells and a bunch of laughs for sounding like a fool, not to mention a hypocrite.

The crowd broke up in all directions, and I started getting texts and calls from folks back home. "Wow" and "surreal" and "moving" were coming in, and "amen' and "we did it!" were going out. I joined the lines taking pictures from the top of the hill, looking toward the Capital, and then made my down there as far as I could. That means I spent an hour walking through the masses, finding room where I could, following others upstream, and got down as far as 4th Street, down the dusty, completely trashed Mall. I went past the MSNBC booth and saw Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow, which didn't impress me nearly as much as the native Alaskas I saw gearing up for the parade; they did a dance and chant for a couple dozen of us, and we all remarked at how comfortable they looked in the sunny, breezy, 28-degree weather.

From that point on, it was all about gathering souvenirs and getting home. I walked all the way back to the Washington Monument, then up into the neighborhoods, where stragglers were showing signs of fatigue, and the once mighty crowd was thinning back into streams. I got a latte in an overwhelmed coffee shop, sat at a sidewalk table for a bit, and a half hour later was on the Metro, headed back here to where I stayed last night. The TV idiots are out in full force, telling us what it all meant, and I can see that the parade crowd has thinned out considerably, with the temperature dropping into the low 20s. I'll be dining tonight with an inside-the-Beltway crowd which, I am sure, will go out of their way to show how above all this they are and how glad they weren't down there with the masses.

Well, I am damn glad I was down there. I was glad and proud to be among the million of Americans cheering the new and jeering the old. I felt a genuine national pride today, and I was part of one of the greatest gatherings in the history of our country. That doesn't make me special or accomplished, just lucky. And no matter what happens the next four years, at least we can all say we remember when Barack Obama gathered us all together and said, "Let's do better."

by Paul Gerald

Monday, January 19, 2009

Jeffrey Scott Found Guilty of Second-Degree Murder

Posted By on Mon, Jan 19, 2009 at 4:00 AM

Shelby County District Attorney Bill Gibbons announced Monday evening that a jury convicted Jeffrey Scott for the murder of his wife who was beaten to death on Thanksgiving Day in 2006.

After nearly seven hours of deliberation, the jury found Jeffrey Scott guilty of second degree murder for killing Ashley Scott, 28, on November 23, 2006.

Scott faces 15 to 25 years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for February 19.

"The murder of Ashley Scott is one of the most tragic, horrible examples of domestic violence we have seen in our community. While we feel the evidence supported a finding of first degree murder, the jury has held Jeffrey Scott accountable, and we hope this verdict brings some closure to Ashley’s family and many friends," said Gibbons.

In D.C. on Inauguration Eve

Posted on Mon, Jan 19, 2009 at 4:00 AM

I'm writing tonight in the home of my sister's friend. She’s letting me, and several others, crash here tonight because she lives a few miles closer to the middle of DC than the other places we could have been. There are little scenes like this all over the city: people sleeping in offices, people crashing with friends, people staying in bars -- which are allowed to be open 24 hours tonight only -- and people sleeping in their cars at suburban Metro stations.

All over town, there's been a vibe today like Christmas Eve for grownups. Tuesday is a day we've all been waiting for, and now it's actually here. When we wake up tomorrow, George Bush will still be President, and when we go back to bed, Barack Obama will be. Today's date brings that fully into reality, and being in Washington tonight makes it a very personal thing.

I couldn't begin to tell you everything going on, but some moments have certainly stood out. Yesterday I was on the mall, between the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial, with about 500,000 other people for the big concert. It was a long list of stars and moments, and being among that many people is a powerful thing unto itself, but two moments are stuck in my head.

One was when Herbie Hancock, Sheryl Crowe and will.i.am were singing Marley's "One Love." I mean, stop for a moment and consider that. At a gala public concert for our next President, a jazz player, rock star, and rap star were doing a Marley song, singing about one love. Has anything like that ever happened before? People were bobbing and weaving around, smiling, and then we looked up at the jumbotrons and saw, for just a moment, the Obamas, and Barack was bobbing his head and smiling, too. A wave giggle went through the crowd, and right there it hit me: change has come to America. Tomorrow noon we're going to have a president who digs Bob Marley and will even consider a phrase like "One Love." Hell, the name of the concert was 'We Are One"! Would W have even tolerated such a song, much less rocked out to it in public?

The other was at the end of the show, when they brought out Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen to lead everybody in "This Land is Your Land." Again, a song written by a communist alcoholic hobo as an anthem to fighting the power of the wealthy few, with a folk icon of the ’60s and a rock monster of the ’70s and ’80s leading half a million people in words that, among other things, challenge the notion of private property. Pete and Bruce were both smiling like kids, too. That was the first time this weekend I realized that, at age 42 and about as cynical as they come, I can't really sing a song like that, with that many people, black and white and brown all together, without choking up.

There have been a few moments like that since I got here, along with some only-in-DC images. Like when I was walking down Pennsylvania the other night, and it was about 16 degrees and windy, but there was a crowd of people in front of the White House snapping cell phone pictures, and the vibe was a lot like a Dead show, which I once heard compared to a championship team playing a home game. This also felt like a conquering army entering the city to take back what is theirs, starting with -- and symbolically all wrapped up in -- that house.

Walking along some more, I realized cops were blocking off all the streets, and word quickly spread along the sidewalks that the Obama motorcade was coming. He had just arrived by train from Philly and was spending the night in Blair House on the grounds of the White House. Sure enough, a few minutes later there were helicopters in the sky, black SUVs racing around, and then up Pennsylvania came several cop motorcycles, with sidecars inhabited by dudes with rifles, and then a couple cop cars, all of them busting along about 60 mph, and then two more SUVs with a big limo in the middle, then an ambulance, a few more cars, and a couple more motorcycles -- all a blur of speed and lights and impressiveness, and somewhere in there was the conquering hero himself.

To the folks who live here, that's all commonplace. To them, this is just another inauguration, only a bigger pain in the ass than usual. The whole central part of the city is closed to traffic for about 30 hours, offices are closed, it really feels like a city with a gigantic storm on the way. The Beltway Crowd either isn't easily impressed or feels the need to act unimpressed. Either way, they seem more concerned with acting aloof ("Inaugural balls are such a nightmare!") or playing the court watcher ("I hear Obama has worked something out to keep using his BlackBerry") rather than accepting the fact that something is about to happen in their hometown about which the entire world gives a very large damn.

To the rest of us -- Obama Nation, if you will -- there is a sense in town of it being Our Moment. I can't tell you how many African-Americans I have seen on the streets, dressed to the nines, heading out onto the town, and looking very happy. Or how many people are flying the Obama colors, which by the way is every style and every color on the wheel, from glitter to red and blue to orange to school letterjacket to beads to flags to stickers and buttons everywhere. And there seems to be a vendor selling all of those, plus hand warmers, on every corner. Yep, a championship team playing a home game.

Today, after taking most of the day to rest at my sister's house, I went into town to attend a gathering honoring Dr. King at a local church. My sister was going to some glittery party hosted by a TV tycoon, and she was all excited about meeting various broadcast personalities. When I told her which neighborhood I was headed for, she said to be sure I get out of there by dark. She didn't have to say why. But the thing is, Columbia Heights is, based on a few hours of being there, filled with blacks and whites and Christians and Muslims and yuppies and college kids and working-class folks ... kind of like America, you know? How many neighborhoods, or parts of states, are dismissed in their entirety because of the color of the folks living there? Or the income level? Or education?

The event was a gathering of many religious traditions -- Jew, Muslim, Evangelical, Unitarian, Buddhist -- to honor Dr. King in words and song, and to talk about racism, materialism, violence and religious intolerance. The crowd in that church, in addition to being charged with anticipation -- not just for tomorrow's events on the mall, but for the whole direction things seem to be going in -- was every stripe of humanity, every race and color and religion and income level. I saw old black women sitting next to young hipsters and old hippies sitting next to women in veils. The first thing the crowd did, other than pack the whole place and grin at each other, was sing. And I found out that I also can't get through "We Shall Overcome" or "This Little Light of Mine" without tearing up, either. But by then I didn't care, I just let it out all over the place, and a several things occurred to me, all at once:

That this kind of multi-racial, multi-faith, community spiritual gathering is something the Republican Party is not capable of, and that's why they are in the minority. That this is probably where Dr. King would have been tonight, had he still been with us. That maybe, just maybe, a new generation of progressives is starting to get some grip on the power in this country. That when you get people together who believe in something and want it to happen, you've just gotten closer to it happening.

And most of all, that tomorrow is going to be a wonderful day.

by Paul Gerald

Friday, January 16, 2009

Celebrate Dr. King and Local Food This Weekend

Posted on Fri, Jan 16, 2009 at 4:00 AM

Though the Martin Luther King holiday doesn't start until Monday, kids are celebrating early at the MLK Youth Day at the National Civil Rights Museum. Children will learn about King's legacy through art, music, and a mini-performance by the folks at Hattiloo Theatre. They'll even decorate birthday cakes for Dr. King. The event starts at 10 a.m. on Saturday.

Escape your economic woes at The Drowsy Chaperone, an over-the-top Broadway musical tribute to over-the-top Broadway musicals. The show, about a Hollywood starlet's wedding set in the 1920s jazz era, features campy costumes, elaborate production numbers, and laugh-a-minute physical comedy. The show runs through Sunday at the Orpheum.

It's a little frigid outside to be thinking about landscape design, but apparently gardening folks get started early. Browse booths from more than 1,500 exhibitors in landscaping, home design, and remodeling at the Southern Home & Garden Expo this weekend at the Agricenter. The show runs Friday through Sunday.

The opening of the Memphis Farmers Market is still months away (oh, how we miss you "Arugula Guy"!). But you can help support downtown's only market for locally-grown produce and meat by dining at the Inn at Hunt-Phelen's Memphis Farmers Market Winter Dinner Tour. The event will be held on Sunday at 6 p.m.

If you've got the King holiday off from work, head to the National Civil Rights Museum on Monday for speeches, a gospel performance by the Sunset Travelers, and a dramatic show by actors from Hattiloo Theatre. Festivities run from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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

Herenton and Justin Timberlake: Together Again?

Posted By on Fri, Jan 16, 2009 at 4:00 AM

One of the lowest moments of Willie Herenton's career as mayor came on a September morning in 2006, when he appeared on the nationally televised "Good Morning America" program with Memphis singer Justin Timberlake.

The program was televised live from Beale Street, and a young, mostly white crowd booed the mayor. Herenton, who graciously introduced Timberlake, was stung. So much so that he talked about the incident in 2007 at his victory celebration, after winning an unprecedented fifth term, mentioning both the rude spectators and the subsequent lack of outrage in the white community.

In a previously unreported angle on the proposed convention center and Beale Street stories, city officials secretly worked to bring Timberlake back to Beale Street as part of a management makeover and expansion. Correspondence obtained by the Flyer shows that Robert Lipscomb, Herenton's right-hand man for big developments, talked with Timberlake's father and with the Cordish Companies, a Baltimore development firm specializing in big urban entertainment projects such as Baltimore's Inner Harbor and a proposed Ballpark Village in St. Louis. Also included was a financing firm, Guggenheim Partners.

One of the people trying to bring the parties together was Rey Flemings, former head of the Memphis Music Commission and now working with Timberlake.

The dealings with Cordish and Guggenheim were going on at the same time that the city was giving Beale Street merchants the impression that they were close to reaching an agreement to replacing John Elkington and Performa with a new oversight committee of merchants and city representatives.

City inspectors measured the square footage in buildings and noted everything from faulty lighting fixtures and loose toilet seats. They also gathered sensitive financial information under a protective court order.

Merchants believed they were close to reaching a mediation agreement to remove Elkington and set up a new management panel. In fact, the city was courting more than one prospective partner and possibly sharing secrets.

Herenton himself had an option to buy the Greyhound Bus terminal on Union Avenue, a block from Beale Street. That was first reported by The Commercial Appeal last week. He sold the option and made $91,000, the newspaper reported.

In response to the story, Herenton said he is trying to promote minority economic development and did not do anything improper. But he did not address the investment specifically or say anything about trying to interest Cordish and Guggenheim.

In November, a delegation of Memphians went to Baltimore to visit with Cordish and see the Inner Harbor development.

"How much of the information below can you get us and how soon can we get it?" Flemings wrote to Beale Street Merchants Association leader Onzie Horne in an e-mail. Flemings included a forwarded message from Chase Martin of Cordish to Flemings and his partners seeking information about Beale Street leases, profit and loss statements, rents, and "any other similar information we can get from the city would be extremely helpful."

In another e-mail in July, 2008, Barry Klarberg of Guggenheim asks Flemings and Chase Martin of Cordish for more information about Performa and its leases.

"Have we been able to get any more information on the nature of the relationship between the city and the Proformas (sic)? What are those leases? Have we seen a P&L?"

Beale Street's sales taxes help fund the bonds that built FedExForum for the Memphis Grizzlies, who are last in attendance in the NBA. Its visitors also help support $80 million AutoZone Park and The Peabody hotel and Peabody Place retail. In the recession, if Beale Street founders, the repercussions will be felt all over downtown's sports and entertainment district.

The Flyer will publish more details on this story in its print edition next week.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Cindy Sheehan Speaking at Peace Event Thursday Night

Posted on Thu, Jan 15, 2009 at 4:00 AM

After Cindy Sheehan's 24-year-old son Casey was killed in Iraq in 2004, she didn't stand idly by. Instead she started a nationwide peace movement in late 2005 with a protest encampment outside President George W. Bush's Crawford, Texas, ranch.

This past November, Sheehan lost a Congressional race against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but Sheehan isn't giving up hope for an end to the war. She will be speaking on the need for U.S. fundamental change at the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center's 27th Anniversary Party at Bridges tonight. Sheehan took a moment to speak to the Flyer by phone

Flyer: What inspired you to start Camp Casey outside Bush's Ranch back in 2005?

Sheehan: I was very frustrated because there wasn't a [large] anti-war movement in the U.S. in August 2005. Public opinion was starting to turn against the war, but corporate media was very hesitant in covering the anti-war movement.

I knew that the war was based on lies. Bush said that my son died for a noble cause but none of the media asked him what the noble cause was. So I decided that I would go to Crawford from Dallas and try to ask myself.

During the Camp Casey days, did you expect this war would still be going on in 2009?

At the time we were in Crawford, I was very optimistic that the peace movement would have been able to make a difference. But when 2007 rolled around and the Democrats were in the majority, [they didn't] stop funding the war so our troops could come home.

I also thought that George Bush would be impeached, but that didn't happen either. He'll be leaving office in a few days without being held accountable for his or Dick [Cheney] crimes.

What inspired you to run against Nancy Pelosi? After [Congress] approved so many war funding bills and refused to hold Bush accountable, that's when I decided to run against Pelosi. I got 50,000 votes, about 17 percent of vote.

It was the first time since Nancy Pelosi ran in the Democratic primary in 1987 that she got less than 85 percent of the vote. This time, she only got 71 percent of the vote. That seems like I really got creamed by her, but when you look at a first-time Congressional campaign, we raised over $600,000.

It was a historic occasion when we got on the ballot. We needed over 10,000 signatures to get on the ballot. We were only the sixth campaign in California history to do that.

I'm going to run again in 2010. If I can get 50,000 votes a year like I did in 2008, then I'm going to beat her and really bring the fundamental change to this country that's so desperately needed.

What was your platform?

Since my son was killed and I started to be an activist against the war in Iraq, I've wanted true and profound change. You have to look at economic inequality. You have to look at poverty, the economy, the environment, and how all these things are so intimately connected. We really have to solve all these huge problems if we're ever going to have peace.

Don't you have your own radio show now?

It's Cindy Sheehan’s Soap Box, and our website is cindysheehanssoapbox.com. We're on the air on Green 960 in San Francisco, but it's also available streaming on the web. Our first show was January 4th, and we're on every Sunday from 2 to 3 p.m.

What will you be speaking about at the anniversary party?

I'm going to talk about the need for us to still be committed to this work, even though many people are pinning all their hopes on Barack Obama and that's the wrong thing to do. I'll probably be talking about how it's up to us if we really want to get the fundamental change that we need.

-- Bianca Phillips

Mid-South Peace and Justice Center 27th Anniversary Party, Thursday, January 15th, 6:30-9 p.m., $35, Bridges, 477 N. Fifth St. (725-4990, MidSouthPeace.org).

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Shovel Ready?

Posted on Wed, Jan 14, 2009 at 4:00 AM

Local groups are currently compiling a list of "shovel ready" projects for Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton to include in the city's request for federal economic stimulus funding.

Much of president-elect Barack Obama's focus has been on infrastructure projects that will be ready to go within three to four months of being funded. The stimulus plan is being touted as the largest public works program since the interstate system.

So far, some local projects that might be submitted include sidewalk improvements and trees on portions of Madison and Cooper, and a greenway connecting Overton Park with Overton Square.

To read more, visit Mary Cashiola's In the Bluff blog and scroll down.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

"Playback" Creates Audience Scenarios on the Fly

Posted By on Sun, Jan 11, 2009 at 4:00 AM

One minute, a member of the audience volunteers to tell a personal story. The next minute, the audience is watching that story enacted onstage. No script. No rehearsal. Just a story and a group of actors ...

More about Memphis' Playback group here.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Cheap Art, Monster Trucks, and Tough Guys On Tap This Weekend

Posted By on Fri, Jan 9, 2009 at 4:00 AM

If you've resolved to be more artistic this year, this weekend has plenty in store to inspire your muse. Start tonight at Artists on Central's "Everything's Under a Grand" show.

Work by local artists will be priced under $1,000, and though that's not exactly a minor investment, it's a bargain for a quality artwork. Besides, helping feed an artist will provide you with good art karma in making your own creations. The opening reception runs from 5 to 8 p.m.

If art isn't your thing, perhaps you might light to learn how to be a blacksmith at the National Ornamental Metal Museum's Basic Blacksmithing Workshop. The class teaches fundamentals, as well as how to use tools and striking techniques. The class costs $210, and that price covers tools and materials. Basic Blacksmithing runs Saturday and Sunday. Space is limited, so call the museum (774-6380) for more information.

For those who've resolved to get in touch with their masculine sides in 2009, don't miss the testosterone-fest otherwise known as Monster Jam. The big-wheeled, truck-smashin', ear-splittin' action at the FedExForum begins at 7:30 p.m. tonight and repeats tomorrow at the same time.

Manly men and brawlin' broads will throw down at the Toughman Contest on Saturday night at Sam's Town. Don't miss the known-down, drag-out action beginning at 7 p.m.

If art and macho arena exhibitions aren't your thing, you'll surely find something to love at the Elvis Birthday Breakfast Sunday morning. After all, who doesn't love breakfast? And Elvis for that matter? Fans will nosh while Elvis films play on the drive-in screen at the Elvis Presley Automobile Museum. Breakfast begins at 8:30 a.m. and costs $27.

--Bianca Phillips

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

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Some Like It Hot

Posted on Wed, Jan 7, 2009 at 4:00 AM

Are you a hottie? Know someone who is?

The Flyer is currently soliciting nominations for our annual Hotties issue.

Nominating someone -- or yourself, if you prefer -- is easy.

Just email hottienoms@memphisflyer.com with your nominee's name, a little bit about them, a way to get in touch with them such as their phone number and email address, as well as, and this is very important, a picture. Of them.

We're not trying to be all superficial, but the issue is called The Hottie Issue after all.

At right, Eyewitness News anchor (and one of last year's hotties) Dee Griffin.

Herenton Tells Kiwanis Club Memphis is Fiscally Sound

Posted By on Wed, Jan 7, 2009 at 4:00 AM

It's all relative, according to Mayor Willie Herenton, in remarks to the Memphis Kiwanis Club Wednesday.

The fiscal health of the city of Memphis, which has $88 million in reserve funds, is relatively better than the federal government, which is looking at a $1.2 trillion deficit, according to President-elect Barack Obama.

Fiscal year 2009, the mayor said, will be better than fiscal year 2010, when the effects of the recession and property reappraisal will be felt.

Herenton and his advisers are preparing a wish list of stimulus projects to present to the Obama administration.

The Memphis property tax rate, by far the highest in Tennessee, is relatively low compared to some Midwestern cities, Herenton said, promising not to raise taxes in 2009.

City services for police, fire, and sanitation are relatively more important than services such as libraries and community centers, which face cutbacks. Other unspecified city departments will also undergo layoffs and buyouts for the first time in 17 years, Herenton said. He added that he is still committed to hiring 500 more police officers and, contrary to some members of the Memphis City Council, "I don't care where they live."

Finally, consolidated city and county government is relatively more efficient than separate governments, even if it would not immediately result in any savings. And for Herenton, consolidation means schools and law enforcement.

"We'll get there," the mayor said.

There were no surprises in Herenton's speech, the first of the new year. He made no references to a federal investigation, and the audience didn't ask him about it.

Herenton will speak to the Memphis Rotary Club next week and said he will have some new information.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Driving Change

Posted on Tue, Jan 6, 2009 at 4:00 AM

If the nation's 51 largest metro areas could change rates of education, poverty and driving -- even marginally -- how much of a difference could it make?

A study by Portland economist Joe Cortright says even a small change could mean $166 billion in economic gain.

CityDividends, a study by Cortright and CEOs for Cities, says the Memphis metropolitan area could see dividends of $1.3 billion annually if it could:

1. Increase the four-year college attainment rate by 1 percentage point

2. Reduce the vehicle miles traveled by one mile per day per person

3. Reduce the poverty rate on 1 percentage point

To read more, visit Mary Cashiola's In the Bluff blog.

Eight is Enough: The Best Media Moments in Memphis in 2008

Posted By on Tue, Jan 6, 2009 at 4:00 AM

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. But for Memphis media, 2008 was mostly the worst of times. Layoffs, lawsuits, and declining ad revenues thrust Memphis' news providers into the headlines, while local bloggers explored the tasteless outer limits of tabloid journalism. Here's a list of eight memorable Memphis media moments from 2008.

1. Talk About Foreshadowing: On January 10, 2008, employees at The Commercial Appeal followed in the somber but fashionable footsteps of Johnny Cash, Hamlet, and the desk clerk at the Heartbreak Hotel by dressing from head to toe in black. Officially, the mourning garb was to protest business practices at the CA and to commemorate the fact that Newspaper Guild members had gone five years without a contract.

Today, as the Guild approaches its sixth year without a contract, last January's "Black Day at the CA" looks like good times. By the end of 2008, Memphis' daily newspaper's pages had been shrunk by an inch; its staff had been shrunk by 9 percent (57 employees); its parent company split into two separate divisions, which both lost value; stockholder dividends were suspended; and in a money-saving measure, home deliveries were stopped for nearly 10,000 households in areas that had been served by the CA for years. Perhaps this year the paper's employees will get with the spirit of the new Depression and wear barrels?

2. Biggest Head on Union Avenue: Will Andy Wise's two-story head still greet eastbound travelers on Union Avenue now that his no-compete clause with former employer, WREG Channel 3, has expired and he can appear on camera at WMC? More important, is the self-styled consumer advocate still on a mission from God (as he claimed to be in 2005, following a report on Mayor Herenton's illegitimate child).

3. Naming Rights: Speaking of illegitimate children, former Commercial Appeal reporter and gadfly "mediaverse" blogger Richard Thompson nailed it when he christened the CA's weekly front chronicling of estimates of Memphis children born to unwed mothers "The Bastard Meter." The BM, which was created and compiled by a substantially-funded, not-for-profit organization called the the Urban Child Institute, estimates that 15,500 babies were born to single parents hereabouts in 2008. Editor Chris Peck recently penned a head-shaking column about the poor bastards, concluding, "Their lives will be tough on them."

4. The Thaddeus Matthews Award for General Ickiness: Unsurprisingly, this year's award goes to blogger and radio provocateur Thaddeus Matthews himself, who used his website to post graphic photographs of a nude victim of the brutal Lester Street slayings. Matthews snapped his candids while touring N.J. Ford and Sons Mortuary. It was just another day on the job for Matthews, who also works as a repo man and operates the social networking site "Sista Big Bone Needs Love Too."

5. Reno 911 Award: This year's Nine-Eleveny goes to the blogger known as Dirk Diggler, and his hilarious foil, Police Director Larry Godwin, for their joint adventures in scurrilous rumor-mongering and expensive overreaction. Sure, Diggler said some scandalous things about Godwin on his blog, but was it really worth an $88,000 lawsuit? "Smart City Memphis" blogger Tom Jones snarkily described Godwin's pursuit of the anonymous blogger as an "obsession with Moby Dick." And that's about the size of it.

6. Merry Christmas, You're Fired: December was a tough month for WMC-TV. The station laid off some of its name-brand talent, including weeknight co-anchor Donna Davis, midday anchor Bill Lunn, and 13 others. WMC's parent company Raycom Media blamed advertising-sales woes.

7. Excellence in Desperate Memo Writing: This note to Commercial Appeal employees from the desk of circulation director Karl Wurzbach speaks for itself: "Subject: HELP!!! Due to the carrier delivery rate revision project we are currently involved with, we are experiencing a significant but not unexpected number of down routes. WE NEED YOUR HELP! We will accept help from any salaried employee that wants to volunteer to help out by throwing routes (one day, many days, WHATEVER!) Also, we will pay friends or family members a "substitute" delivery fee of $10 to deliver the affected routes. Must have a valid driver's license, auto insurance, and a reliable vehicle. We have work available in all towns."

8. Man Against Unnatural Nature: To demonstrate the effects of hurricane-force winds on the human body, WREG weatherman Jim Jaggers threw caution to the wind, put on some chunky looking goggles, and climbed into a Maryland wind tunnel. What followed could have been a satirical segment for The Daily Show if it hadn't been actual reporting. A sample of the dialogue as shouted against the roaring fake elements: "This is pure wind ... It's like I'm hanging outside of my car on the interstate. My pants are flapping against my leg!" One for the ages.

-- Chris Davis

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Nonagenarian Francis Neill (Father of Flyer Publisher) Dances into 2009

Posted on Sun, Jan 4, 2009 at 4:00 AM

On New Year's Day visiting Bostonian Neill showed how it's done, celebrating both his 90th birthday and the New Year at the Midtown home of son Kenneth Neill, publisher of the Flyer. The senior Neill's partner was Memphis schoolteacher Chrissie Allen.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Hot Stuff?

Posted on Fri, Jan 2, 2009 at 4:00 AM

Just a reminder ... We're currently soliciting nominations for our annual Hotties issue, beginning now and running until mid- to late-January.

Nominating someone -- or yourself, if you prefer -- is easy.

Just email hottienoms@memphisflyer.com with your nominee's name, a little bit about them, a way to get in touch with them such as their phone number and email address, as well as, and this is very important, a picture. Of them.

We're not trying to be all superficial, but the issue is called The Hottie Issue after all.

At right, musician (and one of last year's hotties) Grace Askew.

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