January 2012 Archives

AP111019031975.jpg An article on the website of the far-right John Birch Society's magazine The New American lays into Collierville Republican state Rep. Curry Todd over his October arrest on suspicion of drunken driving and possession of a handgun while intoxicated. Earlier in the year, Todd had sponsored in the Tennessee House a bill, which later became law, allow gun owners to carry in restaurants. Democrats and gun-control groups piled on in the weeks after the arrest, but writer Bob Adelmann argues in The New American that the pro-gun right must also hold Todd accountable -- for discrediting the cause. He links to a similar argument from firearms instructor and author Mark Walker:

The biggest challenge resulting from Curry's arrest was the response from responsible gun owners horrified by one of their own publicly stumbling so obviously over a law that he himself wrote and worked to get passed. Mark Walters, an NRA-certified instructor and co-author of Lessons From Armed America, wrote a difficult but thoughtful response to Curry's arrest:

Without a doubt, this is one of the hardest Ordinary Guy columns I have ever written. I like Curry Todd and applaud him for the gains he has made in Tennessee fighting for the rights of all law-abiding gun owners. He has been a guest on [my] Armed American Radio show and I stand by all of his efforts and his years of fighting for our rights....

Let's set the record straight. Rep. Todd has been charged, not convicted. Rep. Todd was accused of driving drunk. Rep. Todd is charged with being in possession of a handgun while intoxicated. Rep. Todd refused a breathalyzer test. Rep. Todd never had a hand on his gun, wasn't waving it around and shooting at street signs while hootin' and hollerin' and weaving down the road. Rep. Todd is innocent until proven guilty.

All of that is true, but none of it matters. Here's why. As law-abiding gun owners, we are and should be held to a higher standard. We have chosen to arm ourselves with deadly force and as a result we have a responsibility to behave accordingly. As not only a CCW [Carrying a Concealed Weapon] holder in Tennessee, but also the man who championed the right to carry in restaurants and bars by reminding the media of our law-abiding statistics, Mr. Todd must be held to an even stricter standard. Put mildly, Mr. Todd isn't allowed to make those human mistakes. Period....

Paul Hayward at The Telegraph recounts a globe-spanning ultra-marathon of sports journalism that he and a colleague undertook in 2002, when the England soccer side was competing in the World Cup in Japan at the same time heavyweight champion and Englishman Lennox Lewis was to fight Mike Tyson at The Pyramid in Memphis. Somehow, they made it, their itinerary a sort of time-travel adventure involving multiple crossings of the International Date Line. Hayward recounts some encounters with authentic Memphis color on a previous boxing trip to Memphis:

Memphis would revive anyone with a pulse. It is one of America's most underrated cities. On another boxing trip, a few of us ventured out to a blues club where the band stopped for a fist fight during the set and then resumed as if nothing had happened.

We all bought meat raffle tickets to be polite. You guessed it: one of us won. In a working-class black neighbourhood, the white journalists from England debated how to return the Sunday joint without a side order of ingratitude and condescension. It was a night of delirious pleasure.

On that same trip we called in at Sun Studios and listened to an early Elvis acetate down in that atmospheric basement, took a cab to Graceland and paid our respects to Martin Luther King at the Lorraine Motel, where he was assassinated. Beale Street was the regular evening hang-out once the daily task of reporting dire threats from boxers had been completed.

Sundance-Portrait---Kee(2).jpg When last we heard from Memphis-born filmmaker Ira Sachs, he was executive producing the 2011 film "Woman's Picture," the second feature from fellow Memphian Brian Pera. Sachs is in Park City, Utah, this week working the Sundance Film Festival. His latest movie, the gay romantic drama "Keep the Lights On," is his fifth entry in the festival. It turns out that Sachs and Park City go way back, to the filmmaker's teenage years in Memphis, according to a story on The Salt Lake Tribune's website:

At age 15, Sachs came from Memphis, where he grew up, to spend some time in Park City with his father -- a developer responsible for establishing one of this mountain town's landmark hotels, the Yarrow. That was back when "Park City was a little hippie ski town," he recalls now.

On that trip, young Sachs attended the United States Film Festival -- the precursor to the Sundance Film Festival -- in Salt Lake Ctiy's old Trolley Corners theater.

"I grew up thinking there was something called independent film, which I wouldn't necessarily have had access to if there wasn't Sundance," Sachs said in an interview.
FWillie-Brown.jpg lamboyant former San Francisco mayor and longtime California Democratic political giant Willie Brown had the right idea for his family's NFC Championship party last Sunday: barbecue ribs shipped from Corky's in Memphis.

People go online to get windows, doors and all kinds of exotic things; I go online at Corky's to ship barbecued ribs and barbecued pork. Corky's sends you slabs of ribs on dry ice and they send along sauce, the salt and the pepper, and if you want, they send other things. You're better off just sticking to the meat. All you need to do is heat them.

This batch of ribs was a gift from a guy from Tennessee expressly for the Browns to enjoy them during a 49ers playoff run. Even though the Niners fell short of winning a berth in the Super Bowl, they did at least get far enough for the Brown party to enjoy the ribs, which didn't disappoint:

I assume the ribs would have had to have been frozen to wait for next year if we had not made the playoffs. There were 15 or so people and we ate everything.

PICTURED: Then-San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown holds up his World Series tickets during a press conference on Oct. 22, 2002. Behind him is then-California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. (By Paul Sakuma/Associated Press files)

Remembering the Memphis Miracle of Pentecostal racial reconciliation

Huffington Post today republished an interview with theologian Estrelda Y. Alexander, author of "Black Fire: 100 Years of African American Pentecostalism," that was originally posted on UrbanFaith.com. We in Memphis, home of the Church of God in Christ, a large black Pentecostal denomination, are familiar with the black roots of the Pentecostal movement that Alexander's book covers. In more recent memory, a meeting of black and white Pentecostal and charismatic churches in 1994 here in Memphis sought to overcome decades of racial division in a movement that began as integrated in the early 20th century:

Christine A. Scheller: Is there still more racial integration in Pentecostal churches than in the wider of body of churches?

Estrelda Y. Alexander: There has been an attempt to recapture the racial openness with certain movements. There's what we call the Memphis Miracle, an episode where the divided denominations came together and consciously made an effort to tear down some of those barriers. It's been more or less successful. There's still quite a bit of division. It's not on paper. On paper, there's this idea that we've all come together, but the practicality of it doesn't always get worked out.

Black-Farmers-Rally-Memphis.jpg A column posted on the website Politic365.com, which covers "Political News and Opinion from a Multicultural Point of View," picks up on Martin Luther King Jr. Day appearance by members of the Black Farmers Association at the site of the Occupy Memphis protests on Civic Center Plaza. While acknowledging the significance of the demonstration on the national holiday -- "a symbolic show of force between two organizations (both loosely organized) fighting for similar rights with different approaches" -- writer Matt E. Stevens is not sold yet on the Occupy movement being able to enlist black America on a significant scale:

The larger issue still remains about the Occupy movement as a whole and its effectiveness. When the weather was much warmer, Americans saw a strong show of force in some cities in favor of Occupy. However, as soon as the temperature dropped, so did the outdoor activity in many cities. With a mission that has not been clearly defined at times, it seems that people have not stuck by some of the protests as planned.

When you drill down into the Black community, we honestly don't see many people occupying a local protest site and sleeping outdoors for economic equality. Occupy as a whole will need to show how they are affecting change for everyday people.  Camping out in a tent won't translate into anything meaningful.

PICTURED: Thomas Burrell, far right, leads a rally against a proposed $1.2 billion settlement over discrimination toward black farmers near the Occupy Memphis camp. Walter Daugherty, left, handles horses Buck and Pat during the rally. (Photo by Alan Spearman/The Commercial Appeal)

Palm Beach 'extra-excited' to hose 'astounding' Ballet Memphis

Ballet Memphis' reputation for quality precedes it, as this piece showed today on The Palm Beach Post's PBPulse.com:

The athleticism of the performers in the Ballet Memphis is so astounding the Duncan Theatre's director, Mark Alexander, jokes, "Don't try this at home."

"I am extra-excited about the appearance of the Ballet Memphis," Alexander said. "We hang our hat on our dance program and we're off the beaten path in the acts we choose. We like to introduce new companies, and remind people of our Southern roots, so bringing a company from Tennessee just fit."

The Memphis company is among several dance groups booked to celebrate the Duncan's 25th anniversary. More praise for Ballet Memphis:

For more than 20 years, Ballet Memphis has been competing with companies from larger cities with larger budgets. Two dancers in 1986 has grown into more than 20 dancers and trainees, and its $75,000 budget to $3.4 million. And they keep it fresh with fresh faces, fresh ideas, and bringing more fresh works to the stage each season than other national ballet companies.

The Washington Post called the company "fresh and forward-thinking." The Ford Foundation named it a "national treasure."

asopen2.jpg Memphis filmmaker and actor Kentucker Audley stars in a new Memphis-based film being released online for free by director and Audley collaborator Joe Swanberg, according to an item posted today on the Los Angeles Times' website:

Joe Swanberg --best known as one of the pioneers in the independent filmmaking movement known as mumblecore -- is releasing a new film online for free next week. It's called "Marriage Material." The film is about a young couple living in Memphis who agree to babysit their friend's 6-month-old for a day. The experience causes them to examine their own relationship and their feelings about marriage and children.

Swanberg worked as cinematographer on Audley's 2009 film "Open Five," and Swanberg tapped Audley's unconventional marketing tactics as one of the reasons he is releasing "Marriage Material" at no cost:

4. Kentucker Audley, the star of "Marriage Material,"  has posted several of his films on Vimeo for free and runs a website, No Budge, that "showcases the new class of no-budget films," so it seemed appropriate to premiere the film this way.

PICTURED: Kentucker Audley (left) and Joe Swanberg film a scene for "Open Five" on Aug. 13, 2009, at DejaVu Creole restaurant.
Some readers of The Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle have been e-mailing the newspaper their ideas for what to name the institution created from the merger of Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities. A onetime Memphian offered his idea based on our own local state university's most recent name change:

The excitement and consternation over a new name for the merged Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities reminds Robert Hamrin of the old Memphis State University when he lived in Memphis. The school was in an athletic conference with schools like the University of Louisville and University of Cincinnati.

"Many members of the University and community felt that 'Memphis State' sounded like hicksville compared to having a name like 'University of Memphis,'" Hamrin wrote, and that's just what the school became, to much satisfaction. So his suggestion: "How about 'The University of Augusta?'" 
Michael Stern, founding music director of the Germantown-based IRIS Orchestra, was among victims of an unscrupulous accountant who was sentenced Tuesday to 2 1/2 to 7 1/2 years in prison for embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from clients. From today's Associated Press story:

(Joseph) Cilibrasi acknowledged in his guilty plea that he stole $75,000 from Stern by pocketing checks he told Stern to write to cover some federal and Missouri state taxes. Stern was hit with tax penalties because the money never got to authorities, Cilibrasi said.

... Stern said in a letter to the court that he'd endured years of tax trouble because of Cilibrasi, whom he'd trusted as a friend but now considers "a con man through and through and a born liar."

Perhaps the hardest-hit Cilibrasi client was Tamara Tunie, the actress who plays the medical examiner on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit." Tunie told the court that Cilibrasi, who admitted to stealing more than $1.4 million from the actress, is a "menace to society."

The restoration of famed World War II B-17 bomber the Memphis Belle is well under way at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, according to an item on Cleveland.com (scroll down to fourth item):

The Memphis Belle, famed Flying Fortress of World War II, is undergoing complete restoration at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton.

... Restoration of the aircraft -- named for the pilot's wartime girlfriend in Memphis -- started in late 2005. When that work is finished in 2014, the aircraft will be displayed in the museum's World War II Gallery.

Visitors can view the restoration in the museum's Behind the Scenes Tours offered on Fridays. For details, visit the museum web site at www.nationalmuseum.af.mil, or call 937-255-4652.

For more details, here is a recent report from the Air Force museum:

Both wings were mated and the landing gear was extended on the Memphis Belle, a Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress that in May 1943 became the first U.S. Army Air Forces heavy bomber to complete 25 missions over Europe and return to the United States.

"The museum's restoration crews have been working long and hard to see that the Memphis Belle is restored to its rightful position as a national icon," said Roger Deere, chief of the Restoration Division. "With these major milestones, the public is that much closer to seeing the aircraft on display once again."

Memphis crime tracking part of cities' information revolution

Washington Post columnist Neal Peirce looks today at a revolution in information systems in which high-tech giants like IBM and Cisco are helping the world's cities address some of their most vexing problems. Memphis, of course, already has experience with this movement: Recall IBM helped implement the real-time crime-tracking approach used by the city police's Blue CRUSH initiative:

IBM already reports over 2,000 "Smarter Cities" programs worldwide. A leading example is Memphis. The city faced the dilemma of shrinking budgets even while crime -- especially violent crime -- was rising. Though 2,000 officers were responding to more than 1 million calls a year, there was scant time to "connect dots" of incidents and develop strategies.

IBM's solution (working with the University of Memphis' Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice) was to apply "predictive analytics" software to compile volumes of crime records by type, time of day, victim/offender characteristics and more.

Now Memphis has a new Real Time Crime Center that's able to pinpoint and relate crime incidents in seconds, and to predict hot spots and redeploy police officers with high efficiency. Robberies, burglaries and forcible rapes have fallen to their lowest rates in a quarter-century. Several million dollars in savings are being reported. And IBM has sharpened crime tracking and control software it can offer to cities elsewhere.

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