September 2010 Archives

USA Today visits Memphis family 'doubling up' in dismal economy

USA Today links to Memphis in a trend story about families doubling up amid the slow economy and persistent unemployment. The newspaper has some numbers to back up the anecdotes, including that almost 20 percent more households include extended family than in 2005. The data are taken from the recent U.S. Census:

From 2005 to 2009, family households added about 3.8 million extended family members, from adult siblings and in-laws to cousins and nephews. Extended family members now make up 8.2% of family households, up from 6.9% in 2005, according to Census data out this week.

The Grundy family of Memphis is among households interviewed for the story. Their daughter was unable to find work in Jonesboro after graduating from Arkansas State University.

"She has been a really big help and it's nice to have her back," says Vel Grundy, 52, a sales assistant for Clear Channel Radio. "It's affected her more than me because she's used to being by herself."

Vel and husband, Arthur Grundy Jr., are bracing for their other daughter, a senior at Arkansas State, to move back, too. And if Vel Grundy hadn't found a job after being laid off last December, they might have all had to move in with Vel Grundy's mother, who has taken a part-time job to supplement her retirement income.

"We'll be like Dynasty-- everybody living in the same house," Grundy says.

War hero who promoted Elvis Presley to sergeant dies at 95

Talk about a full life! Col. Thomas S. Jones, war hero, scholar, officer and gentleman, died Tuesday at age 95 in Pinellas County, Fla.

While defending the Philippines from the invading Japanese in World War II, Jones' unit took part in the last mounted cavalry charge in U.S. history. He and a handful of comrades held out in the jungles for 20 months before they were captured. After 18 months in a prison camp, Jones weighed just 80 pounds, and his captors considered him to weak to be beheaded, a fate suffered by a number of his fellows.

After the war, Jones studied classics at Oxford University, moved up to colonel and later served in Vietnam as a civilian official. He married his Vietnamese teacher, with whom he spoke French, their only common language.

The most interesting man in the world? It gets better. While Jones was serving a command in Germany, he awarded a promotion to his jeep driver. The name of the enlisted man who earned his sergeant's stripes? Elvis Presley.

"I don't know how good a musician Elvis was," Mr. Jones wrote in a published letter to the St. Petersburg Times in 1977, a week after Presley died, "but as his battalion commander I can testify that he was a top-notch soldier, a credit to his parents, to his outfit, to his country."
Cooper-Young's Black Lodge Video figures prominently in a Christian Science Monitor story about how some independent video shops are thriving in an industry environment in which Blockbuster just filed for bankruptcy protection.

"Blockbuster employees literally laughed in our faces when we opened our doors in 2000," said Matt Martin, co-owner of Black Lodge Video in Memphis, Tenn.

But, 10 years and 30,000 movies later, Black Lodge is one of the biggest video stores in the Eastern United States and its business continues to grow.

The secrets to their success? The quality of their selection (lots of out-of-print titles and VHS tapes), the trust they have built up with their customers (no late fees), and, of course, passion for their business and a contagious love of film.

You can't miss the recent explosion of interest in local and sustainable food practices among Memphians. The proliferation of farmers markets is one result of that interest: Shelby Farms, Cooper-Young, South Memphis, Memphis Botanic Garden and Downtown, among others. Most of us are proud of the sense of community and the more healthful lifestyles that the farmers markets help promote, but in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the emergence of a competitor to the city's beloved farmers market actually caused a rift in the community.

Don't fret, and work together, University of Memphis professor Carol Silkes said Tuesday at the Culinary Tourism Summit in Halifax. Silkes, an assistant professor in the Kemmons Wilson School who specializes in hot areas like culinary tourism and farmers markets, said the markets can be as much of a boon to tourism as they are for the communities they serve.

"I think its culinary exploration," she said of a visit to a farmers market.

"If you want to see what the locals eat, go where they shop, and when you're in a metropolitan area it's kind of hard to go where they shop. Grocery stores just aren't down the street from the hotels, but the farmers market is something . . . you can investigate yourself. I don't think it's viewed as an attraction all the time . . . but it can help enhance somebody's appreciation of your city."

Silkes also offered a plug for the model used by the Memphis Farmers Market that takes place Saturday mornings in the South Main district.

The farmers market in Memphis only permits products that have been grown within 160 kilometres of the city, and each vendor must be someone who actually works on the farm that owns the booth.

"That's in place specifically for people who are interested in the quality of their food, how it was prepared, or so they can answer organics-versus-pesticides questions," Silkes explained.

"It's a credible source that the food is from where they say it is and that they're knowledgeable about the product."

Memphis native Bishop J. Peter Sartain was appointed today as archbishop of western Washington. He'll lead 600,000 Catholics in cities like Seattle and Tacoma, becoming, at age 58, the youngest archbishop in the United States.

Sartain has been most recently bishop of Joliet, Ill., and before that was bishop of Little Rock and pastor of St. Louis Catholic Church in East Memphis.

In an excellent column, Joel Connelly of comments on the challenges that Sartain will face in the Pacific Northwest, "one of America's least 'churched' regions."

He'll need to adapt to our way of doing business here: Everybody gets consulted about everything. Barriers get bypassed. St. James Cathedral has hosted burial services for an Episcopalian congresswoman (Jennifer Dunn) and a gay state senator (Cal Anderson).

With suspicious, hostile secularists -- a notable media presence here -- Sartain will find he has no room for clerical error.

Initial reaction in Washington and in the local church seems positive so far, Connelly adds:

The welcoming mass at St. James on Thursday saw palpable relief that the Vatican has not sent a hard-line "enforcer" visit. Private clerical reactions to the Sartain appointment ranged from "cautiously hopeful" to "a great guy."

Goner Records one of best record stores in country, Rolling Stone says

Via the Memphis Business Journal: Memphis' own Goner Records makes Rolling Stone magazine's list of The Best Record Stores in the USA. Among the 25 honorees, the Cooper-Young shop gets praise for both its wide-open selection and its affiliated record label, which has issued titles by the late Jay Reatard, Magic Kids and many others.

Stop in and do some digging Saturday at Cooper-Young Festival. And don't forget one great thing that Goner does that Rolling Stone does not mention: next week's Gonerfest.

Memphis Mob figure sentenced to 16 years for murder in New Mexico

It's time for an update on the Memphis Mob, the reputed drug-trafficking network that allegedly funneled cocaine from New Mexico to Tennessee, and has been connected to murders and robberies in Albuquerque.

KOB-TV in Albuquerque reports that Memphian Terry Johnson was sentenced today to 16 years, the maximum sentence, for the murder of Lemarrus Washington in 2008. Police believed the slaying was gang related.

Here's the Situation: 'Jersey Shore' bro's moniker already trademarked

Trash-TV icon Mike Sorrentino, aka "The Situation," has been denied in his effort to trademark his nickname, made famous on MTV's "Jersey Shore." It turns out that "Situation" is already trademarked -- it's the name of couple of fashion boutiques here in Memphis. Apparently, the government didn't think that adding the article "The" was enough to differentiate the guido from the mall store.
Thumbnail image for Italy-Venice-Film-Festival2.jpg Since we're talking about Jerry Lee Lewis this week, I'll pass along a hot piece of Hollywood scuttlebutt making the rounds today. Way down at the bottom of a piece about Natalie Portman's pending involvement in upcoming sci-fi thriller "Gravity," Hollywood Reporter says director Terrence Malick wants Portman for Killer-related project he is working on with Brad Pitt. Would Pitt play the Ferriday Fireball? Would Portman play one of his many wives? No one seems to know, but let the speculation begin. Of course, I will keep my users posted as I find out more.

Praise, attention for Jerry Lee Lewis' new album, 'Mean Old Man'

Jerry Lee Lewis' new album, Mean Old Man, came out today, and interviews with the 74-year-old Killer have been all over the newspapers and websites. The album -- available in 10- or 18-track editions -- includes collaborations with everyone from Sheryl Crow to Mick Jagger to Tim McGraw, and covers of classic songs such as "Bad Moon Rising" (with John Fogerty) and "Roll Over Beethoven" (with Ringo Starr and John Mayer).

USA Today has a particularly interesting profile of Lewis, along with his ever-present daughter and handler, Phoebe. The daughter considers what will become of her father's legacy when he passes on to the great gig in the sky.

"When he's gone, I'll go ahead and die, too," she jokes. "I want to get as far away from the music business as I can. But I will guard his legacy. I will not let him become an Elvis with silly, tacky junk. I'm mortified when I see that merchandise all over Memphis. It's become laughable. Elvis doesn't deserve that."

Kris Kristofferson, a longtime disciple, friend and collaborator, chimes in with sweeping praise for The Killer:

"He's one of the best American voices ever, and I'm not sure people recognize what a great singer he is. It was always his rambunctious activities that made the headlines. The fact that he's singing as strong as ever is incredible. We're the lucky ones, because he could have quit a long time ago."

The Wall Street Journal features Lewis recounting some anecdotes of his days at Sun with Elvis. Lewis is to jam Friday with the cast members of Broadway musical "Million Dollar Quartet," which is based on the impromptu 1956 jam session at Sun Studio involving Lewis, Elvis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash.

Mr. Lewis and Presley were close friends and ambitious rivals. "One day in the early '60s, I was driving to Sun in my Cadillac Eldorado and Elvis was coming the other way in his," Mr. Lewis said. "Suddenly he swings in front of me, screeching us to a stop. Out he jumps, laughing and pointing, 'I'm going to sue you!' He loved what I had done with his 'Mean Woman Blues.'"

The two rockers spoke constantly by phone over the years, talking about music and the pressures of the business. "Elvis always asked me to come up to Graceland and play piano for him," Mr. Lewis said. "His favorite of mine was 'You Win Again,' which he wanted me to play over and over again."

Elsewhere, the Los Angeles Times' "Pop & Hiss" music blog offers a positive review of Mean Old Man, saying most of the superstar collaborations come off well.

It's a similar route to the one he took in 2006 with "Last Man Standing," that one focusing on his stature as one of the founding fathers of rock 'n' roll, this one emphasizing his second career in the late-'60s and '70s as a master of country music.

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