Ah, Sweet Music

How's Your Neck, Frank?

I’m listening to Sinatra while I write this. “It’s Nice to Go Trav’ling” off the “Come Fly With Me” album. I read once that he had some concerns about the cover, worrying that using a TWA jet in the background was pretty much an ad for the airline. I’d have been a little more concerned that the artist made it look like Frank’s neck was broken.

Still, for a concept album, it’s a good cover, strongly connecting to the subject matter. Of course, not all artists have the resources, judgement or plain old luck to get the cover thing working for them every time. I was reminded of that the other day while working on this site. The WordPress folks have a listing their busiest blog sites, including FAIL blog, which is ALWAYS entertaining.


One of the items a few days ago was an album cover FAIL. They took rapper Lawrence Thomas to task for the cover of an album released by in 1992. You’d think there’d be a statute of limitations on bad judgement, but “Pooh-Man,” or “MC Pooh,” as he was calling himself, released his sophomore effort on Jive Records, “Funky As I Wanna Be” with a cover that probably hasn’t done anything to attract listeners to his work.

What He Felt Like Doing After That Last Cover!

By itself, it’s a pretty silly picture, unless you’re a rap OB/GYN (or a Shaq impersonator), and even then I can’t defend it. I can almost hear the photographer… “no, keep your shoes on… that makes it more… something.”

The album was Pooh’s biggest chart hit.  He used his follow up to slam some of the rappers who guested on “Funky.” No love in the rap game.

Just a Pinch…

Ready to Go

I see where the City of Memphis plans to spend all $70 million in federal recovery act bonds the city has to clean up the Pinch District in advance of Bass Pro Shops moving in to the abandoned  Pyramid.

Pyramid Power-believer (and director of Housing and Community Development) Robert Lipscomb also believes that putting money in the area will protect the thousands of jobs at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

I’ve been around long enough to remember how the Pyramid itself was supposed to revitalize the Pinch (which has been having problems since the city’s demographics began shifting after World War II). Of course, while Mud Island and Uptown have grown, the ‘Mid itself was never all that it was supposed to be and ended up being one of downtown’s more obvious abandoned buildings.

I don’t hunt or fish, but I know a lotta folks who do. I hope a big honkin’ Bass Pro Shop draws people from throughout the region. I’m still not 100% sure how a giant sporting goods store supports housing, dining and other amenities, but I’m sure Mr. Lipscomb can explain.

In the Pink?

And while he’s at it, maybe he can add some details on why it’s necessary to protect jobs at St. Jude. He mentions the facility’s “$3 billion expansion” in the CA piece. I’m a big fan of St. Jude, which has got to be the leading childhood cancer research and treatment facility in the world. I also remember when it took up a lot less real estate in that part of town. At this point, could a not-for-profit organization afford to abandon (there’s that word again) the massive physical plant it’s built up in Memphis, rising like a huge pile of Pepto-Bismol tablets just north of downtown? By the way, how much of the responsibility of revitalizing an area belongs to the largest business in that area? Just asking.


Tweaking the Look

The Hostess with the Most-est

The Guest of Honor

This isn’t a full post. Sort of a post-ette. I was at Carey Hoffman’s downtown Memphis home the other day for a going-away party. Jillian Reese, a 14-year veteran of FedEx One, is leaving her job as a producer/editor to attend nursing school. Dale Pearce, one of the production guys in the department (lighting expert), is also trying his hand at photography.

The Happy Couple

He took a bunch of shots at the party, including several of me and the gal pal, Pam Roberson. The clarity and definition of the shots is so good, you can tell I needed a shave. Anyway, she dropped off a CD of all the pictures he got of us. There was an extra, a shot of the Mississippi looking toward the old bridge at sunset. It looked good enough for me to replace the old picture I was using of the Hernando DeSoto bridge at sunset.

So, I’ve updated the updated look.

Old Enough to Know Better

After a brief flurry of activity, my blogging once again slowed to a crawl. The muse was keeping her distance, for whatever reason. But, if you wait long enough, inspiration will present itself. Often in the form of an angry, 70-year-old man.

From the Commercial Appeal

After voters pretty much slept through the non-event that the recent county primary turned out to be, former Memphis mayor Willie Herenton storms back into the collective consciousness, spouting opinions that make a lot of people scratch their heads and wonder what’s wrong.

Hizzoner has declined to appear at a debate sponsored by WREG-TV (full disclosure: I worked at Channel 3 for 8 years). Dr. Herenton believes that the regular panelists who pose the questions at 3’s debates, Norm Brewer and Otis Sanford, are in some way biased towards him. He made the point to a reporter that this bias stretches back years. It’s possible that he’s confusing detached, non-partisan coverage and commentary with bias, but I certainly don’t want to speak for him. I don’t know Sanford, except for his commentaries at the CA, which always seem well-informed. I do know Brewer, since our time at 3 overlapped. In my view, he’s a fair man.

Which One?

Perhaps the voters in the Greater Memphis area are familiar enough with the Herenton record (a dozen years as superintendent of schools, elected to 5 terms as mayor, etc.) that they wouldn’t necessarily gain anything from hearing additional discourse during his attempt to win the 9th District Congressional seat from incumbent Steve Cohen. By the way, in case you don’t remember, this piece in the Memphis Flyer should serve to remind you that he doesn’t think much of Rep. Cohen either.

When it comes to the people asking questions during debates, I think all the local stations that have aired debates have done a good job of choosing fair panelists (my ex-wife was a panelist during a gubernatorial debate on Channel 3 several years ago, and did a fine job).

The Choices

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that either of the current questioners are in fact, biased against the candidate. If that bias were to show up in the form of the questions posed, wouldn’t it be pretty obvious? And wouldn’t that also reflect positively on the candidate who recognized that? ‘See, I told you they were biased…’ And isn’t there a chance that something like that could actually engender some sympathy (and votes) for the maligned candidate? I mean, if you keep your cool under fire and calmly present the salient details of your 30 years of public service and plans for your work in Congress, would it really matter how biased the questioners were?

The former mayor didn’t deign to debate any of the other candidates in his last campaign either. Of course, if you’ve got four terms behind you and solid electoral support, it’s really quite feasible to skip a joint TV appearance with several lesser knowns. On the other hand, if you’ve been out of office (and the public eye) for months and are running against someone who has as much success at the ballot box – and is the incumbent – you’d do yourself well to showcase the differences between yourself and your opponent as publicly as possible. Depending on the good will of your traditional support without doing anything to shore up that support (anything except personal attacks), might be short-sighted.

I did think it was interesting that Dr. Herenton made the point to a television interviewer that he did not dodge tough questions, asking the reporter himself for confirmation. Of course, some of the best Memphis TV over the last decade-and-a-half has been the former mayor walking away from news cameras (which he did again during this interview after a particularly inflammatory comment).

The Trilla’ from Wasilla!

While I’m happy that we have such interesting political figures, it worries me that many of them are capable of getting voted into office.

The Governor & the Comedian

The former governor of Alaska (and vice presidential candidate) was in Illinois for a fund-raising event this week. Personally, I don’t have a problem with Sarah Palin expressing her views. Those views obviously strike a chord with many Americans, but it seems the more distance a politician puts between him or herself and the middle, the more they’re open to mocking. Tina Fey had a pretty good career going, but she should be sending regular payments to Gov. Palin.

There was another event in the Chicagoland area, timed to coincide with the governor’s appearance. Chicago’s Admiral Theatre didn’t just hold a Sarah Palin look-alike contest – the entrants were all strippers. After all, the Admiral is a “gentleman’s club.”

From the Chicago Tribune

A Brazillian woman named Eloah Rocha won the $2,500 first prize (you know a prize is a big deal when it comes on a big cardboard check). Well, maybe she’s going to use the money for college tuition (Irony or sarcasm? I’m not sure).

I just feel lucky that I’m not good-looking enough to be the target of parody.

Call Me Crazy…

I don’t know whether this line has ever actually been used in a movie, but I know a lot of people think it has… when somebody has a far-fetched idea and they say “it’s so crazy it just might work!”?

Occasional Greatness

I had one of those on Sunday on my way to breakfast at the Arcade (took forever to get seated and waited on, but the food came quickly once we did order). Anyway, I’m a downtowner. In the eleven years I’ve live in Memphis, I’ve spent 6 of them downtown (including the last two). There’s good and bad about living downtown. Low crime rate (about the lowest in town). No supermarket (although Midtown’s not that far away). I can see and hear the Fourth of July fireworks from my bedroom window (and yes, I’m already sorry I put the words “fireworks” and “my bedroom” in the same sentence).

Park Here!

Pack Up Your Trash!

I don’t even mind the Memphis in May crowds. I used to have to cover some of the events when I was working at Channel 3, so I don’t go much anymore, but I know a lot of people who do go, and it’s usually so quiet downtown that it’s nice to see bunches of folks wandering the streets. Even when they’re too loud late at night and leave their empties everywhere (including in the 2 square feet of my front yard).

This Way In

View From the Top (of my house)

One thing that I know is a drag for the folks coming down town is finding a place to park. For the Beale Street Music Festival (and probably every other Tom Lee Park event), there’s the empty lot right at Riverside and Carolina, about a block away from where Riverside is blocked off, but spaces there go for $20. Head up Carolina, prices drop to $15 and down to $10. There’s an empty lot across the street from my house, between Mid-South Casters and Delta Irrigation. It’s one of the $10 lots and it’s always full.

Lined Up on Tennessee

And of course, every inch of legal street parking south of Union Avenue and west of Second is bumper to bumper. People will circle for what seems like hours to find a good space. I feel a little guilty. I dropped a friend off at the airport, so her car is sitting in my garage until she gets back, so I couldn’t offer it to any friends heading downtown for the mud and music.

An Empty Horizon

Here’s my crazy notion. I was chatting with Joe Larkins on Saturday. Pam Roberson and I were accompanying Joe and his lovely bride Bethany Smith to the Finn’s home for their annual Kentucky Derby soiree (Curtis and Alice live in a wonderful neighborhood, by the way). We were talking about problems in Memphis and the conversation turned to the empty building at the end of my block. As I’ve mentioned before, the Horizon was planned as the first building of a 2-building high-rise luxury condo community. Unfortunately, the builder was a victim of the housing crash and the building, which had been slated to open this year, remains unfinished. It’s really a shame.

What's This? It's a Parking Garage!

But we’re talking about the challenges of finding good parking during Memphis in May. What if the bank that bought the Horizon back from the builder (but hasn’t found a new buyer or chosen to complete the project themselves) wanted to make a little money while waiting for things to turn around enough to sell the property? While the condo isn’t finished, the parking garage is – and it’s just a block or so away from where everybody enters on the south side of Tom Lee Park!

OMG! It's Right There!

Add pavement leading up to the garage. Stick a ticket booth and an automatic arm at the entrance. Charge $10 for daily parking. Sell 3-day passes for $25. People would have a quick, easy, fairly secure place to park on their way to Music Fest, the Barbecue contest and the Sunset Symphony. The bank makes a little money until they can unload the property. The police would have an easier time of keeping track of several hundred people going to and from the events. Okay, the empty lot people lose their yearly windfall, but if it cuts down on the foot traffic in front of my door, I’m cool with it.

Don’t Mind the Ice…

I used to work with a guy at CNN. He’s a journalism professor now, shaping the young minds of the next generation of newsgatherers. The way things are going, he could probably give them a FlipCam and a blog site and they’d be ready.

Get me rewrite!

Journalism has often seemed, at the rank-and-file level anyway, a craft that doesn’t always require a lot of training or skill. Just look at some of the stuff that passes for “journalism” and try telling me I’m wrong. Still, there’s a lot of money in the MSM (mainstream media), so publications, stations and networks are going to do whatever they can to build and retain audiences.

The concept of gathering information can be considering a proud and lofty tradition. As mentioned in Ed Bark’s blog, the new news director at the CBS station in Dallas puts it like this: “We need people who are advocates for the voiceless, for the downtrodden. That is what being a journalist means; to give voice to the voiceless; to fight for what’s right; to be an advocate for the people. This all may sound corny. But it’s what I believe, and what I live every day.”

Yes, but the primary purpose of news is for companies to sell advertising. Entertainment and information are swell, but people usually won’t pay enough for them alone. It’s necessary to make up the different with words from our sponsors.

That’s why there’s so much effort to affect the packaging of news. If it’s not something that draws viewers, or doesn’t draw as many as it used to, expect it to change. In some cases, it seems like nothing some organizations do can turn around a decline in fortunes. Just ask the folks who used to make buggy whips. When everybody had a horse and wagon, those guys were in clover. Now? Not so much.

Changing landscape

That’s the way it feels when I read about my old employer. For a long time, CNN was the end-all and be-all in cable news. Hour after hour of straight news reporting, occasionally interrupted by serial marrier Larry King, talking to a faded celeb (although he would occasionally make a little news with his interviews). That hasn’t been the case for a while. I read yesterday that the Fox News Channel has been #1 in cable news for 100 months now. That’s over 8 years.

CNN has tried a lot of different things, talent, good looks, odd behavior, the tabloid approach, huge honkin’ wrap-around TV screens… but nothing seems to be able to turn the tide. Just ask Aaron Brown, Paula Zahn, Lou Dobbs or Connie Chung. The current crop of folks who are still there, including Anderson Cooper, John King and Campbell Brown… and serial marrier Larry King, aren’t doing much better.

Let's move these around

That brings me back to my friend the college professor. Every time they rolled out a new graphic or style note or made an anchor change at CNN, he’d always trot out a comment about how the execs were “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.” He didn’t see the point to trying to spruce up a rapidly sinking ship, even if one of those efforts might be the one thing that could turn everything around.

7 years of my life

I read several months ago that CNN was undergoing a major rebuild in Atlanta, getting rid of the old set that overlooked the newsroom on the 5th floor of CNN Center. I remember how awed I was when was walking around the newsroom when I went in for an interview back in May of 2000. The bloom came off that rose pretty quickly once I started working there and realized how incredibly dirty some news people are. The mice didn’t seem to mind. Anyway, the newsroom design was a few years old by that time, and here it is, 10 years later, and they’re still using it. Oh, they’ve rolled in some flat screen TVs, but it’s the same old room.

NEW look (same old news?)

When Ted Turner started CNN, he was content to staff the production of most of the programs in Atlanta. After all, that’s where he was, and labor and space costs were less there than in New York. Time Warner has spent a lot on their Columbus Circle location and seem to want their flagship CNN programs produced there. But, it seems that daytime and weekends aren’t high-profile enough to shut Atlanta down. Which is good, because I’ve got a lot of friends who need the work.

Welcome to the bridge of the Enterprise...

(EDIT: Because I’m all about breaking in when news breaks out) I do have updated art at this point, courtesy of the All Things CNN blog. Looks like my old pal Kyra Phillips got to take the first ride on the HD set. I haven’t had the chance to see it in action, but I’m hoping it went better than I heard the rehearsals went. As I mentioned in the first edition of this blog; if you still know where CNN is on your cable system, take a look. I still don’t know that updated graphics translates into viewership. If it did, news directors would never get fired.