Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Goodbye Colonel Tommy

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

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

Self portrait.
  • Self portrait.


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

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

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

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

Wedding packages were affordably priced starting at only $185.

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

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

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

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


 

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The CA Takes a P — Dammit Gannett!

Posted By on Tue, Jun 5, 2018 at 11:00 AM

Look, Gannett, it's not that I've got so much going on in my life that I don't have time for your nonsense. It's just that there's so much more interesting nonsense to think about. Like, "Can anybody else see that face in the leaves outside my writing window or have I finally gone starkers?"
I've started calling him Leaf Garrett
  • I've started calling him Leaf Garrett
But I can't think about that now. Now I have to think about this. 
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Is it a "P" that's missing or an apostrophe? Maybe the reader worries for "parents in decline." Maybe she worries for "aren'ts" in decline. That doesn't make any sense unless kids today are moving away from contractions. I suppose I could scan the syndicated advice column to discover the truth of the matter but if I'm honest with myself I probably wasn't gonna read this filler content anyway. 

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Zombies!

Posted By on Thu, May 31, 2018 at 10:07 AM

The 2018 Memphis Zombie Walk happened last Friday, when the undead hit Beale Street.

This annual walk benefits the Mid-South Food Bank.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Quest for Grocery Store Porn — Testing Diane Black's Theories About School Shootings

Posted By on Wed, May 30, 2018 at 4:05 PM

Bottom right. Easy access at Walgreens.
  • Bottom right. Easy access at Walgreens.
Diane Black, a U.S. Representative from Tennessee, has been getting a lot of media attention for her belief that grocery store porn is a "big part" of the "root cause" of why school shootings happen.

Or something like that. 

"It’s available on the shelf when you walk in the grocery store." she said. "Yeah, you have to reach up to get it, but there’s pornography there.

"All of this is available without parental guidance," the 67-year-old Republican candidate for governor added. 
Puzzle porn at Kroger.
  • Puzzle porn at Kroger.

I decided to see if there was anything to Black's claim. Saucy glossies are still in demand, if greatly diminished in number since the Internet made just about anything you can imagine in this arena free and available on our phones. But can you really get it in every grocery store easily and without adult supervision?

Not at my Kroger (Pop/Cleve 4-evvs). Unless you're talking about Cosmo.
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And whatever you think about the Cosmo is Porn campaign, we're pretty sure any smutty advice they may or may not have printed about "polishing your partner's assault rifle" was pure metaphor.

Newsweek had a really super-naked picture.
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There were Sudoku puzzles, sports rags, teen-crush mags, Little Golden Books and a Wonder Woman coloring book on the bottom shelf. I asked an employee where all the porn magazines were. She looked at me suspiciously (cant say that I blame her) and said these were the only magazines she knew about.

This one caught my eye though. 
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What kind of gun is that dude pig hunting with? It makes me feel all funny down there, if you know what I mean.
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So maybe Black misspoke. Maybe she meant corner stores or pharmacies. Some of them sell groceries too. So I went to the Walgreen's across the street.

You know, I do remember a time when porn seemed to be everywhere. I remember being eight or nine years old and looking at the dirty magazines on the bottom rack of a musty general store in Malakoff, Texas. I was a chubby kid and shirtless, wearing a big black cowboy hat with a big red and black feather band. It was the ’70s, man — even youngsters like me were letting it all hang out.
US Rep. Diane Black R-Tennessee
  • US Rep. Diane Black R-Tennessee
The pinch-faced prude behind the counter didn't tell me to put down the porn or say "This ain't a lending library," or anything like that. "Developing young ladies should cover themselves," is all she said to me. So, yeah, I was introduced to porn, and body/gender issues on the same sunny afternoon in Texas.

Porn magazines started losing "readers" in the ’80s — when video became cheap to manufacture.

At some point, magazine porn did get wrapped and placed on top shelves. And then it seemed to disappear from a lot of places where it used to be ubiquitous. I couldn't even find porn at convenience stores where you can buy homeopathic sex pills and bongs.

"Try Walgreen's at Poplar and Cleveland," one convenience store employee suggested. Clearly I live in a porn desert.

Walgreens was also a bust, with content similar to what I'd seen at Kroger. Stuff on the top shelf included news magazine special editions and Popular Science. A few titles did catch my eye though down on the bottom shelf, in more or less the same part of the magazine rack where 8-year-old me first encountered porn way back in the disco era.

Check out Sniper. So. Hot.
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And this Guns & Ammo AR-15 "pistol edition" with an assault pistol the cover. Or, whatever.
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Precision Rifle Shooter has yet another sexy rifle on the cover.
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And then there's all the 2018 Handgun Buyer's Guides right where little hands can reach them, free from parental guidance.
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Long story short: Black's weird claim just doesn't seem to be true. Can we please get back to the time-honored business of blaming society's ills on comic books, Atari, and satanic messages hidden on Black Oak Arkansas cassette tapes?


UPDATE: Similar porn deserts identified in Nashville.

Friday, May 25, 2018

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

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

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


This weird and probably misplaced act of heroism seems to have adversely affected the timeline, devolving Gannett’s copyediting staff to the point they can’t spell the name of their own damn newspaper. 
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And, perhaps most alarmingly of all, the CA has begun to insert random photos of Burt Reynolds into its content. And not the good ones, either.
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Thursday, May 3, 2018

Memphis comic book creators launch Rise of the Golden Dragon

Posted By on Thu, May 3, 2018 at 4:52 PM

I was biking around South Main a few Sundays back when I spied some nifty-looking Afrofuturist art at Art Village Gallery. So I popped in to discover that wasn't the only thing going on. Artists/comic creators John Cooley and Erwin Prasetya were also giving away copies of a new, locally produced comic book titled Rise of the Golden Dragon.
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Who says you can't judge a book by its cover? This issue is cool.

The spreads are generous, thoughtfully broken down and nicely drawn. 
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The action's great. 
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And the details are nice.
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The story, which has a light tone and never takes itself too seriously, is focused around a pair of warrior "dragons" who are rooting out ancient supernatural evil wherever they find it. Think Deadly Hands of Kung Fu, and tracksuit Iron Fist meets John Constantine in an Enter the Dragon remake.

The lightly worn pop-culture references don't stop there. Issue 1/12 was action-packed and full of gags, but still managed to lay the foundations of a sprawling story and establish a compelling set of personalities. And c'mon— Ninja exorcists? That's got all kinds of potential.

The self-published Rise of the Golden Dragon is slated to come out once a month. Find out more about that and other titles at Fanboycomics.com


Friday, April 27, 2018

Dammit Gannett: Fabulous Prizes Edition

Posted By on Fri, Apr 27, 2018 at 9:27 AM

Picking on the Commercial Appeal used to be its own reward, back in the day when they were the big corporate Goliath and we were the little dude with a slingshot. As the paper has continued to decline, it's become a weekly, though not entirely joyless, chore. Still, it's good to feel appreciated. So thanks, Jim Palmer, for this cartoon inspired by Fly on the Wall's regular "Dammit Gannett" feature.
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Jim's a first generation Memphis Flyer vet who contributed illustrations for columns by Lydel Sims. He's the creator of Memphis' own Li'l E and your Pesky Fly's very favorite cartoon about the journalist's life. 
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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Wikipedia edit trolls the Tennessee House of Representatives

Posted By on Wed, Apr 18, 2018 at 2:40 PM

Klandy Holt
  • Klandy Holt
It's not hard to troll ol' Klandy Holt and a Tennessee legislature that can't quite bring itself to denounce white supremacy, but can always rise to the occasion of punishing a majority African-American city for removing the public statue of a slave trader, Grand Wizard, and Confederate general. How can it be so richly satisfying?

Hats off to the author of this edit. Though Wikipedia has removed your fine work, let it always be remembered. 
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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Will WREG dodge the Sinclair bullet? FCC commissioner criticizes policy decisions.

Posted By on Wed, Apr 4, 2018 at 11:19 AM

Race to the Bottom
  • Race to the Bottom
A recent tweet by FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel argues against policy rulings custom built to enable the Sinclair Broadcast group's $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune media. The move she criticizes would transfer ownership of WREG Memphis and push the overtly Conservative company's local market reach well past what's previously been allowed.  Rosenworcel's comments were inspired, in part, by President Donald Trump's apparent endorsement of Sinclair over "fake news" media like "CNN, NBC, ABC & CBS."
What makes Trump's endorsement especially troublesome — even for him — is the fact that Sinclair's stations operate unbranded and so, by way of affiliation, these Sinclair stations the President endorses often are the same NBC, ABC, CBS stations he also criticizes. And sometimes Fox stations as well.

Welcome to the media ownership funhouse.

Sinclair has been collecting network affiliated stations in an environment where cable news gets all the attention even though local TV news has more reach than all four major cable news stations combined

Via Common Dreams:
"Critics, including Rosenworcel, are concerned that under Chairman Ajit Pai, who Trump appointed last year, the FCC is moving deliberately to allow the Sinclair-Tribune merger to go through. Known for pushing right-wing viewpoints within the stations it already owns, the broadcaster drew ire this week after a viral video showed how local anchors nationwide are forced to read the same pre-packaged scripts."

When the FCC cleared a path for Sinclair's acquisition in May it was widely assumed that the deal would go through quickly, but that hasn't been the case. Delays have resulted from ongoing wrangling with antitrust officials in the Justice Department and the FCC's internal investigation into decisions made by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, and "whether there had been [FCC] coordination with [Sinclair]."






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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Great National Pancake Day Robbery + A Thirsty Burglar

Posted By on Tue, Feb 27, 2018 at 11:55 AM

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Fly on the Wall's always looking to spot new trends in TV reporting and WMC's recent marriage of food and crime news looks promising.
From this list of headlines we discover two things: It's national pancake day (who knew?). Also, the International House of Pancakes in Midtown was robbed.

Good news/Bad news
  • Good news/Bad news

WMC has also alerted Mid-southerners to the activities of a very thirsty burglar who'll break into your house and steal all your Capri Sun. We bet this fiend would grab your SunnyD too, given half a chance. 
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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Ameripolitan Awards, 2018: Winners and Music Clips

Posted By on Wed, Feb 14, 2018 at 5:41 PM

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Everybody who's a fan of honky tonk, western swing and rockabilly wins at Dale Watson's international Ameripolitan Music Awards. Sadly, only a few folks go home with trophies. The Tuesday night awards followed four days of showcases at venues like Loflin Yard, Blues City Cafe and the Guest House at Graceland and performances by dozens of artists like Whitney Rose, The Greenline Travelers, and Watson himself.

In addition to honoring the best new makers of old sounds the 2018 Awards paid tribute to Stray Cat Brian Setzer and, pedal steel wizard Lloyd Green who played on records by Johnny Paycheck, Charley Pride, and other Nashville hit makers. The night's top honoree was Sun studio founder Sam Phillips whose memory was honored with performances by contemporary artists backed by Sun drummers W.S. "Fluke" Holland and James Van Eaton. "She Thinks I Sill Care" songwriter Dickey Lee made an appearance as did the Blackwood Brothers.
And the winners were...

Honky Tonk Female: Brennen Leigh

Honky Tonk Male: Luke Bell
Honky Tonk Group: The Reeves Brothers

Western Swing Female: Sophia Johnson

Western Swing Male: Billy Mata

Western Swing Group: The Carolyn Sills Combo
Rockabilly Female: Bailey Dee

Rockabilly Male: Al Dual
Rockabilly Group: The Go Getters

Outlaw Female: Nikki Lane

Outlaw Male: Cody Jinks

Outlaw Group: Whitey Morgan and the 78’s
Ameripolitan DJ: W.B. Walkers

Ameripolitan Venue: Sportsmen’s Tavern
Ameripolitan Festival: The New England Shakeup-Up

Ameripolitan Musician: Chris Scruggs

Keeper of the Key: Reverend Horton Heat

Founder of the Sound: Lloyd Green

The Master Award: Brian Setzer

The Legend Award: Sam Phillips 

Friday, February 9, 2018

City Accidentally Erases Wrong Murals

Posted By on Fri, Feb 9, 2018 at 2:26 PM

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The big, gray, sorta-kinda controversial zombie painting by Dustin Spagnola still haunts Lamar Ave. but some really nice murals created by 15 other artists have been accidentally removed from S. Willett.  The Commercial Appeal's Ryan Poe reports:

In a statement Friday, Public Works Director Robert Knecht said there was a "miscommunication" that led to crews painting over too many murals.

"This was not intentional," Knecht said.

A recent Flyer cover story about Satanic panic on the City Council and the midtown mural project chronicled the history leading up to what Paint Memphis founder Karen Golightly describes as a violation of the city's written agreement with her organization.

If you want a comprehensive look at what the project was like before the repainting here's a slideshow. 

"Elvis Used to Live Here" - Honest Tourism Commercials, Memphis Style

Posted By on Fri, Feb 9, 2018 at 10:53 AM

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If you haven't seen this short parody of Memphis tourism courtesy of Ryan Hailey take a peek.

You can find out more about Ryan's Shorts by clicking here.

Happy Friday!


Thursday, February 8, 2018

RATS! Public Art that Doesn't Give a Rodent's Rump

Posted By on Thu, Feb 8, 2018 at 3:41 PM

A new art installation called “Barrier Free” now stands in the Hall of Mayors at Memphis City Hall. 
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It’s beautiful. It’s big…real big. The main piece has larger-than-life photos of families from across the city.
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That part of the piece represents “our beautiful diverse tapestry,” reads the artist’s statement from Yancy Villa-Calvo, hired to create the installation by Latino Memphis.
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Graphic shirts at the end caught my eye. What did they say? 
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The delightful little girl’s shirt reads “Follow Your Heart” and I hope she follows hers.
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The man standing behind her followed his heart when it came to choose his wardrobe. His shirt reads “I don’t give a….” Below the words, a cartoon rat leads a cartoon donkey.
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Reading between those twisty lines of high comedy, you know this shirt implies: “I don’t give a rat’s ass.”
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Then, you look up at the man wearing the shirt and you realize he really doesn’t. At. All.
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Good for you Rat’s Ass Shirt in a Big Public Art Display Guy. Much respect for you playing by your own rules.

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Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Local 24 Reports Violent Crime from the Distant Future

Posted By on Wed, Feb 7, 2018 at 12:51 PM

If we're reading Local 24's tweet correctly, a shooting occurred 17,999 years in the future, on a thoroughfare that doesn't exist in this timeline: Avenue Ave.
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This tweet raises a number of questions but I'm mostly interested in the deterioration markers CSI officers use to develop a forensic profile of victims that won't be murdered for thousands of years. 

I guess we'll just have to read the whole story to find out.


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