Thursday, August 2, 2018

Shirtless Man Celebrates 20 Years of NGAF

Posted By on Thu, Aug 2, 2018 at 2:50 PM

Stay shirtless, my friends.
  • Stay shirtless, my friends.
What are you looking at? Never mind, I know. You're looking at me. And, with a lusciously lumpy dad-bod like this one, why wouldn't you be? Besides, that was the whole point of this Shirtless Man fiasco, wasn't it? To be seen? To make my pale flab stand out, establishing the lean, muscular soul beneath it all — the fearless manufacturer of creative nonfiction? Truth be told, I was scared to death. Twenty years later, photographic evidence of my skinful romp across the pages of the 1998 Memphis Flyer's "summer issue" still fills this considerable gut with butterflies.

Angry vampire butterflies zooming on meth.

What were we thinking? There was no real precedent for stunts like this. There was no Sacha Baron Cohen out on the road, erasing the boundaries between reality and satire. The Daily Show wouldn't launch for another year. But there I was, finally discovering an application for my weird Theatre & Media Arts degree, standing in the offices of The Commercial Appeal, applying for a writing job, as shirtless as the day I was born.

"Why?," you might ask. I certainly have, many times. After all these years the best answer I've come up with is also a question: "Why do people jump out of airplanes?"
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In 1998, I toiled most days in a windowless room in the Flyer's old offices on Tennessee St., cold-calling potential classified advertising customers. I'd only just begun to do a little freelance writing on the side and was certain that nobody would be interested in this cockamamie idea I'd cooked up with my friend and and fellow wannabe writer
Jim Hanas. I can still remember the confused look on Flyer editor Dennis Freeland's face as he repeated the original pitch back to me.

"So you just take your shirt off and go out and do things?" he asked, blinking doubtfully. Like his eyes might be undressing me against their will. "What kinds of things?"

"Oh, you know," I answered, making things up on the fly because I honestly hadn't thought that far ahead yet. "Test drive cars, apply for a loan, try to get a job, buy a shirt, go to a topless club." Next thing I knew, I was on assignment and negotiating with a security guard at the Peabody Rooftop Party.

"You need to put a shirt on, sir," [the guard] says, sidling up to me.

"But I thought this was a party."

"It is a party, sir, but you need to put a shirt on."

"What kind of party is that?"

"It's a private party open to the public for a $5 cover charge."

"And I have to wear a shirt?"

"We prefer it."

"So I don't have to wear a shirt if I don't want to?"

"You need to put a shirt on, sir."

"But look at this sunburn I have here. Terribly painful. OWWWWWWWW! Jesus that hurts to touch it."

"I know how painful that can be, but you need to wear a shirt."

"Do I have to button it?"

"No."

"Can I just wear a vest?"

"You can just wear a vest."

"Do I have to button that?"

"No."
It was really just one shirtless fat guy. Mother was so proud.
  • It was really just one shirtless fat guy. Mother was so proud.
The original shirtless package spawned two sequels. Because I don't know how to relax I turned my honeymoon into a working getaway, and wrote about the big boy's swinging European vacation for the Flyer. The whole original adventure was recreated in a multi-page spread for a popular women's magazine for men. Rose McGowan was Maxim's cover girl for March 1999, but I was the hot topless attraction inside.

A paraphrased but very close to accurate note from my Maxim editor: "Can you give us the same story but take out the philosophy?"
Real v Fake
  • Real v Fake
I couldn't. Which is to say I didn't really know what that meant. So wrote the thing and instructed them to cut anything deemed too philosophical, which they did. They also manufactured a fictional origin story — In the Maxim version I'd become shirtless because gas splashed on my shirt while filling up my car. Hated that part because this was always supposed to be a true story. Right down to the scotch and chocolate milk. But the check cashed.

I might describe "Shirtless Man" as my "Freebird," but, as it happens, I've also written exactly one song that people ask me to play over and over again.

I'm a two-hit wonder!

But Shirtless Man's sordid tale of insecurity and sideboob, wrapped up in tragically fake machismo, has taken on a life of his own. A few years back he was reborn on social media when Memphis artist/photographer Jonathan Postal took a photo originally snapped in front of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, and photoshopped it Zelig-like into historical scenes, alongside Abraham Lincoln, Bob Dylan, and Martin Luther King. Twenty years after the eye-assaulting fact — after filling a wall with awards for investigative reporting, disaster coverage, consumer affairs reporting, beat reporting, feature writing, criticism, and blogging — it's a little weird that somebody always hollers out "Shirtless Man!" whenever I appear in any official capacity. Not that I'd prefer things any other way.
Traumatizing entire families since 1998. - DAN BALL
  • Dan Ball
  • Traumatizing entire families since 1998.
I hadn't realized it was my shirtless anniversary until primo photographer Dan Ball posted a previously unpublished photo from the original adventure to his Facebook page. It's a great shot, considering the subject matter. And much to my surprise, seeing in a public space didn't induce the usual wincing shudder. In fact, I wanted to share it right away.

Maybe, after 20 years, I'm actually a little bit proud of that guy. 
Also pictured, Workingman's Sideboob. - DAN BALL
  • Dan Ball
  • Also pictured, Workingman's Sideboob.




 

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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Memphis Isn't America's Sweatiest City

Posted By on Tue, Jul 31, 2018 at 10:31 AM

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Cold comfort seems like the wrong way to describe this latest news.

But the mercury is climbing again, as we head into August and as our pits and upper lips go dewey and our thighs turn into cheese factories, we can all be thankful that we live in Memphis, and not one of the nine American cities that, according to a new report, are even nastier.

Honeywell Fans partnered with consultants from Environmental Health & Engineering to create the definitive sweaty city list based on a set of criteria that includes "humidity levels, length of summer and access to shade." Shockingly, Memphis barely cracked the top ten.

As it happens, your Pesky Fly is a misery tourist who's visited every single furnace on Honeywell's top 10. So, instead of simply sharing the list, I've included some thoughts about each location.

1. Orlando, Florida — Anybody who's ever stood in line at Disney World knows that Orlando can be peeing-your-pants-while-drinking-coffee-in-hell miserable. But as hot and bug-infested as Orlando may seem, it's easy to maintain a smile and cheerful demeanor by reminding yourself that at least you're not in Tampa. 

2. New Orleans, Louisiana — Let's be honest. Regardless of Honeywell's methodology, fewer experiences produce more sweat for the least amount of effort, than standing roadside on Carrollton, waiting for an afternoon streetcar. NOLA is probably at least as sticky, buggy, and stultifying as Orlando most days, but everybody's having too good of a time to care.

3. Phoenix, Arizona — There is a place where dry heat meets the dry heaves. That place is Phoenix.

4. Dallas, Texas — Being in Dallas in the summer is like being in a prison movie where the sadistic warden punishes everybody by locking them in a boiler room and cranking the juice.

5. Las Vegas, Nevada — Like somebody covered Dallas in glitter and feathers.

6. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma — How this place clocks in at No. 5 is a mystery. The heat is like a blazing fist that reaches down your throat and rips out your tongue.

7. Kansas City, Missouri — I honestly don't remember KC being all that hot. But I was in a brisket coma.

8. Austin, Texas —  Cooler than Dallas in most regards.

9. Atlanta, Georgia — One of America's most miserable rush hours. Thankfully, there's a proper bar at every exit of the commute.

10. Memphis, Tennessee — There are nine places sweatier than Memphis. And besides, who's got time for weather talk when we have Bird Scooters to complain about?

Friday, July 13, 2018

Commercial Appeal Sees Blurry Future for Ivan Rabb: Dammit!

Posted By on Fri, Jul 13, 2018 at 10:51 AM

The Gannett owned Commercial Appeal has asked readers an important question: "Where will Ivan Rabb fit in?"
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Judging by the portrait of Dillon Brooks, Rabb will be the blurry power forward in the top-right background. Dammit. 
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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Body Double: Trump's Other Memphis Connection

Posted By on Wed, Jul 11, 2018 at 5:11 PM

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Of course, we all remember the time Donald Trump cost 2,500 Memphians their jobs. Don't we? You know, that time when the POTUS of today totally went after Holiday Inn like it was NATO? No? Well, it happened, and here's a link. That inglorious moment isn't Trump's only Memphis connection either. It's certainly not the weirdest. That distinction may belong to this little gem right here. It's not new information, but it's new to us and exactly the kind of thing we here at Fly on the Wall like to pass along.

There's no giving this devil his due here. The Donald in Chief says "fake news," when he means, "news I don't like." But way out there on the fringes of this textbook B.S. there is — as there always is with presidents and other public figures — plenty of grotesque caricature, propaganda, and general misrepresentation; all magnified in a politically polarized, social media environment.The modern myth-busters at Snopes.com have compiled a list of photo-manipulations that have been widely shared on the W.W. web. Some of them impossibly flattering, some not so flattering. In the latter category, among the most recognizable is an image that's been used to make the golf and fast food-loving POTUS appear even more bloated and slovenly than he is in real life. Turns out, in this instance, Trump's nearly crimson face has been pasted onto the body of Memphis' infamous bad-boy pro golfer, John Daly. And yeah, in the original Big John's teeing off while puffing on a cigarette. Like you do. If you're John Fucking Daly.
John Fucking Daly
  • John Fucking Daly
This isn't the first time internet artists have recognized Daly's viral potential. It all began when somebody unearthed this photo, which is basically a Renaissance painting.
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Friday, June 29, 2018

Forcing Cards — How to Identify Divisive Internet Propaganda Before Sharing

Posted By on Fri, Jun 29, 2018 at 3:58 PM

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We’ve all seen magicians manipulate cards in ways that make them appear to have astonishing gifts and the power to know things no ordinary mortal could possibly know. But all they really know is how to force a card — to present you with a choice that's no real choice at all, all the while letting you believe you’re the clever little monkey queering the illusionist's game via the exertion of  free will. Our sense of self-determination is what gives the trick its tension and makes it fun. But there's also usually cautionary lesson or two embedded in the trickster's marvels.

Good propaganda is like a card trick. It appeals to the vanities of self-awareness and control. Good propaganda campaigns are like a Vegas act, replete with sexy assistants, ordinary misdirection, and lots of good old fashioned bait and switch. Great campaigns play all sides to the user’s advantage.

Internet memes create a spectacular opportunity for card forcing, and for injecting divisive, peer-to-peer-spreading viruses into our daily political dialogues. These memes won't look like propaganda, what would be the point? The worst will look like every right-thinking person’s heart’s desire or some piece of apparently unassailable conventional wisdom. It will also be framed in a way that ensures a healthy mix of reflexive consensus and bitter rejection. I noticed an elegant and completely insidious meme making its way around Facebook this week and thought it would make a great study example. I thought I'd share it with the aim of developing better conversations, and maybe a good set of questions for determining whether or not the content we’re sharing online will have a positive or negative impact.

Here's the meme:

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While making a number of valid-seeming points, the ultimate message here is one of uncritical surrender to... well... whatever. There's also a healthy serving of Trumpian, “Get over it,” tacked on at the end. But to what or whom exactly are we all supposed to be surrendering and submitting? What kinds of imperfections are we supposed to start getting over in advance of discovery? Who’s going to have to wait (again!) for a place at the table? Which children will we open our hearts to and which ones will our drones open up on? Does the former hinge on a corrupt bargain requiring the latter? The decisions we make at the polls aren’t light ones. They should never be myopic, reactionary, or strictly self-serving. And whether you’re a Hill shill or a Bernie bro, finger-wagging at voters charged with the confusing task of group self-determination is always a poor community-building strategy.

I’m sure a lot of Trump-fatigued people can’t see a thing wrong with this meme — That’s what makes it genius. Whether it was developed by a Russian troll farm, or by a DNC troll farm doing the Russian troll farms' work for them, or by some doof on the internet doing work the DNC might otherwise do for the Russians, whoever created this black and white text-only marvel deserves all the rubles. With almost zero actual content, it has the magical ability to start fights and make people who agree about current POTUS being a nightmare, yell mean things at one another before they even have a candidate to back. That’s a tell if I’ve ever seen one.

Here’s a list of questions that might help us  separate constructive content from memes that make ol' Vlad Putin dance the merengue. I'm not a propaganda expert, so I know this is not a perfect list. Corrections, suggestions, and contributions are all welcome. My objective here isn't to be right — I'm not invested in that at all. Instead of competing for that distinction, how about we start some critical thinking about critical thinking, and how the content we share actually functions on the internet versus how we feel about it? 

1. Can any part of the meme’s overall content be reasonably interpreted, “fall in line or else”?

If so — and that’s completely evident in our sample — chances are good that the message you are about to share is divisive propaganda using fear and longstanding grudges to motivate. It’s the kind of meme that results in people who need to be in active negotiation with one another typing, “PIGFUCKER,” in all caps at 2 a.m. instead.
Of course, there’s truth at the core of this message: When people don’t unite they tend to lose. That attractive and real fact is like a wad of top shelf peanut butter in the mousetrap of political discourse.

2. Is the message specific or vague? Also, is it active or reactive?

So you’re thinking about sharing a message you agree with. But is it addressing actual candidates, policy proposals, and goals, or is it making vague but nevertheless scary boogie-men? As we move closer to the midterm elections and to 2020, propaganda will personalize and get more specific, honing in on a handful of broad hot-button issues designed to provoke emotional and tribal response rather than critical analysis. But the most corrosive messages are sometimes the ones that keep us agitated, prevent old fissures from healing, and keep us squabbling over the past instead of plotting a course for the future. Our sample meme is exactly that kind of meme. When I shared it on Facebook with a cautionary message, people were arguing Bernie versus Hillary in a matter of seconds while trying to defend against my one and only point that this is purely divisive rhetoric with no tangible social value. Ralph Nader’s name made an appearance within the first hour, along with a few of the the usual odes to compromise and pragmatism that might also be reasonably translated, “Give up.” Absent any real objectives that might be debated or fine tuned, or named candidates with records and platforms to be parsed, vague memes create a perfect black mirror and purely reactionary environment. The latter of which is essential to herding.

3. Does the meme appeal to emotion or intellect?

We’ve all been exposed to some emotionally charged imagery lately. Mass shootings, children being separated from their families — it’s served up daily alongside a sampler platter of daily outrages. Emotional appeals aren’t intrinsically bad, but when a stated aim is to subvert rather than answer or engage critical analysis, chances are you might want to step back and take a second look.

4. Inclusive or alienating?

If your awesome meme’s goal is to recruit voters who must stand together to defeat a monstrously evil candidate that a good third of the country will enthusiastically support based entirely on racism and pissing off liberals, you probably want to build a big, strong coalition that includes a lot of the folks who didn’t, and still probably wouldn’t, vote for [insert your favorite 2016 here], regardless of your feelings for said candidate, their feelings about Trump, or any number of grievances regarding dirty politics, rigged systems, Russian trolls, or any other extenuating circumstance. Re-fighting this long lost campaign or even thinking about recreating it actually or by proxy in 2020, is insane by definition.

Our sample meme truthfully addresses the fact that no candidate will be perfect or pure, which is an obvious statement but with no evident value — like the attractive verities Shakespeare wrote about when he noted that, “Oftentimes, the instruments of darkness tell us truths, win us with honest trifles, to betray us in deepest consequence.”

It’s been said that folks who don’t learn history are doomed to repeat it, and it sounds really good. But maybe that old axiom's not complete. Folks who don’t let go of history get stuck fighting the same battles with the same eventual results. But the topsy-turvy looking glass result of 2016 presidential election is drifting further into the past and and there are real opportunities to learn from past mistakes and not fall for the same tricks. When you're up against homogeneity, the most inclusive messaging is always going to be the most desirable. If the message demands unity but offers no unifying principle beyond "or else," beware.

That's all I've got. Now it's your turn. 

Friday, June 15, 2018

The "T" Word: A Memphis Collective Looks at Black Masculinity, Nomenclature

Posted By on Fri, Jun 15, 2018 at 4:34 PM

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In the time honored spirit of the answer song, the mixed-media art exhibition "Thug" was organized to converse with a past exhibit called "Fiber,"  a deep dive into black femininity. "Thug" organizers wanted to give black male artists from diverse backgrounds an opportunity explore the range and role of masculinity in black culture. Curator and photographer Ziggy Mack says The Collective's exhibit showcases experience.

"It looks at black masculinity and how society views it," Mack says. "And it also looks at sexuality within black masculinity.

"In black culture you see this kind of appropriation happen multiple times," Mack says, setting up context for the show's title. "Post-slavery as a people we'd taken the word boy and turned it on its head substituting the word man. Like, 'Hey man! How you doing my man!' That was a response to black men being called boy. And there's the N-word, a more controversial word. But another word we appropriated like taking lemons and making lemonade."

Thug, a similar appropriation, was re-appropriated in white culture where it's become a deracialized stand in for less socially permissible slurs. 

"The collective and I used it because we thought it would make people ask, 'What's this about?" Mack says. "And we used it to turn it on its head again. To turn it into something else. To build a body of art around the word and black masculinity."

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Commercial Appeal Mistakes Memphis Band Lucero for Mexican Entertainer — DAMMIT

Posted By on Thu, Jun 14, 2018 at 12:39 PM

Whoa! It's totally like we're seeing double.
  • Whoa! It's totally like we're seeing double.
Everybody makes mistakes, even your pesky Fly on the Wall. But the particular mistake I'm highlighting here makes me think it's time to abandon any faint shreds of almost certainly false hope we may have harbored that whatever's wrong at the Gannett-owned Commercial Appeal will work itself out.

When the bot and/or out-of-towner editing Memphis' daily paper can't distinguish between Lucero the Mexican entertainer and Lucero the enormously popular Memphis band, there's a problem. When said bot and/or out-of-towner turns to a general image search instead of scanning the local paper's own archives, it's really bad.

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The error was made announcing the lineup for the Mempho Music Festival

Tom Lee Park Redesign 'Totally Unrelated To Atlantis' New Riverfront Chief Says

Posted By on Thu, Jun 14, 2018 at 9:31 AM

Definitely not an irradiated Gill Man.
  • Definitely not an irradiated Gill Man.
At a press conference in their Front Street headquarters on Tuesday, Carol Coletta, head of the Memphis River Parks Partnership (MRPP), previously called the Riverfront Development Corporation (RDC), told reporters that her organization’s plans to dramatically alter the landscape of Tom Lee Park have nothing to do with her predecessor’s ambitious project to raise the lost, subaquatic city-state of Atlantis from the depths of the Mississippi River.

“Our plan will activate the park space for all Memphians, and make it more attractive to Memphis In May festival goers,” said Coletta. “It’s totally unrelated to the RDC’s plans to raise Atlantis.”

Coletta joined the RDC in March, replacing Benny Lendermon, who had announced the public-private partnership's multimillion dollar plan to spend millions of dollars on targeted nuclear explosives that would trigger powerful earthquakes bringing the long hidden city/state of Atlantis back to the Above World, presumably to rule over a golden age of peace and prosperity for Memphis and the Mid-South region.

“Now some people will say that the new undulating hills we’re building in the flood zone of one of the most powerful rivers in the solar system would be an ideal spot for burying the thousands of horribly burned gill-men cadavers that have been washing up on the banks of the Big Muddy, but you would be wrong,” said Coletta.
“We acknowledge mutation is an ongoing problem in this area of the river,” she added. “But we prefer to focus on making the riverfront great for everybody.”

Similarly, a rebranding effort that changed the name of a corporation devoted to riverfront development (RDC) to Memphis River Parks Partnership (MRPP), was in no way caused by news reports associating the RDC with the effort to raise Atlantis.

“Having a new name that doesn’t come up in Google searches next to the words ‘raise Atlantis’ and ‘nuclear weapons’ was in no way a factor in our decision to rebrand,” said Coletta. “Look, the truth is, there wasn’t much to the Atlantis thing. It was really overblown by the media, right from the beginning.

"When Benny's crew of nuclear demolition engineers got to where they thought Atlantis was going to be, there wasn’t anything there. So, they left. That’s what happened.

"Those earthquakes you want to ask me about, we had nothing to do with those. Completely natural phenomenon.

"We’re just laser-focused on making the riverfront better by cleaning up all the radioactive material from the shoreline and disposing of it somewhere that’s not Tom Lee Park.”

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Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Commercial Appeal Names Harding Academy Volleyball "Volleyball of the Year"

Posted By on Wed, Jun 6, 2018 at 8:25 PM

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In the photograph to the right you can see an unnamed woman* holding onto a very special volleyball named Lauren Deaton. For those who don't already know her, Lauren is a Harding Academy volleyball. Go Lions! She was very recently named "Volleyball of the Year"  by The Commercial Appeal, Memphis' once proud, now Gannett-owned daily newspaper.

Lauren's father Wilson, the sports equipment whose life was famously celebrated in the Tom Hanks movie Cast Away, had nothing to say about his daughter's achievement. He just sat there in silence, his crimson smudge of a face an infuriating enigma.  It was almost like he was saying, "Why wouldn't she be Volleyball of the Year?" So I got defensive and said, "What's your point?" But he just kept his silence while somehow also asking, clear as day, "Are you saying my daughter Lauren's not good enough to be Volleyball of the 
Wilson Deaton
  • Wilson Deaton
Year?" And I said "no" and we went on like that for some time before Wilson finally thanked me and bounced down the sidewalk. I watched him roll to his Mini Cooper where Lauren had been patiently waiting, also not saying a thing.

As the pair drove off I couldn't help but think I'd get better interviews if the CA would give awards to people instead of stupid balls. Maybe that's racist of me. I just don't know anymore.
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*Congratulations to the actual Lauren. Awesome job! We're sorry the CA makes it sound like you're gear. 

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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


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