Friday, October 31, 2008

Divine Rags Moving

South Main's Divine Rags plans to move to a new location in Saddle Creek early next week. They'll be taking over the former Sharper Image space.

Owner Divine Mafa plans to keep renting the South Main space (COGIC owns the building), but may open a lounge there instead.

"We need to make sure businesses stay alive and the community stays alive," he says of the South Main area. "It cannot be a ghost town."

Divine Rags will be holding a up-to-80-percent-off moving on sale this weekend during RiverArtsFest. They're also working on a franchise deal and a location in Washington, D.C.

Mafa, an outspoken supporter of downtown revitalization, hopes people don't think he's abandoning the area.

"We just don't have the numbers to sustain us," he says.

After the Sugar Coma

Now, generally, on the weekends, I like to sit at home on my couch and watch Gossip Girl and Heroes on Netflix. But I may have to change my regular plans for this weekend, because there seems to be a lot going on. And that's not even counting all the Halloweenie revelry.

Memphis Rock-n-Romp's last show of the season is also happening Saturday at the National Ornamental Metal Museum. The line-up includes the Nellie Olesens (v. precious!), Harlan T. Bobo (even more precious!) and The Barbaras (also precious).

It goes from 2 - 6 p.m. Adults are $5; kids are free (but you need to have a kid with you to go!) Beer is provided, but you should bring a blanket and/or chairs and snacks to share.

UrbanArt's first "Show and Tell" will also be that night at The Cove from 6 - 8 p.m. Each presentation will be about seven minutes (20 slides at 20 seconds each) and though I don't know what kinds of things people will be showing and telling — it sounds like it could be anything! — it should be interesting. And sort of reminiscent of grade school, but with beer.

RiverArtsFest is also going on Saturday and Sunday on South Main. It's free and open to the public, with five stags of live entertainment, a juried artist market, and beer and wine sales.

Hmmm, seems like the common denominator here is beer.

For more (and there is definitely more, but my fingers are getting tired) visit the Flyer's website.

Oh, and happy halloween.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Addressing Police

(Getting a late start on things this morning ... erm, afternoon, whatever, sorry.)

Tuesday, while Memphis voters are deciding whether division directors, legal department employees, and chief administrative staff should reside within the city limits, the City Council's public safety committee will take up a resolution to allow police officers to reside within 20 miles of the Shelby County line.

Hiring a full complement of police officers has been both a mandate from and a challenge for "the new council." (Sorry, that's what I still call the bumper crop of new council members from the last municipal election.)

In May, I wrote about Councilman Harold Collins' idea to levy a $1,200 a year fee on police officers who lived outside the city. Collins decided on that amount because of the average property tax bill.

At the time, Collins had this to say:

"How hard is it to move to Memphis? The best idea is for everybody who wants to work for the city to move into the city and then we could be happily ever after. We're a long way from Camelot. This is the next best thing."

He also said that the pay difference between Memphis and its surrounding jurisdictions would more than make up for the fee.

If you're interested in reading the rest of that story, you can find it here, but the Memphis Police Association was not in favor of Collins' plan.

"I live in Memphis. If I call the fire department, I don't care where they live," said police association president James Sewell. "I just want them to come quickly and put out the fire."

The council's public safety committee will also discuss the recommendations from the police hiring task force Tuesday.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Early Voting — 2 Days Left

Seriously, if you can early vote, I would suggest it.

I went yesterday afternoon and the line wasn't too bad; there were probably 40 to 60 people waiting ahead of me. (And that's just early voting, stretched out over two weeks! Imagine what election day is going to be like.)

You might remember that I just recently changed my voter registration address.

After I handed the nice poll worker my ID, she clicked and clacked on her computer and then printed out a form.

"Please verify your address and sign here," she said, handing me a pen.

Unfortunately, I couldn't do that, because my address was incorrect.

"That's not your address?"


"Was it ever your address?" she asked and seemed slightly panicked, as if she was going to have to report possible voter fraud.

I explained that yes, at one time, that was my address, but I had recently filled out the election commission's change of address form. So she said, well, let's change it again. I handed her back my ID to get the correct address, and a few moments later, she handed me a new form and I happily verified that everything was right. (Thankfully I did early voting or I suspect this would have been a huge hassle.)

Five minutes later, I was done. Easy-peasy.

Early voting ends tomorrow so you have today and Thursday and then you'll have to wait until Election Day, November 4th.

CSA (more locavore)

I should have included this yesterday, but it wasn't until someone e-mailed me that I thought about it.

I know of two local CSAs (community support agriculture). Subscribers prepay for a share of a farm's harvest at the beginning of the season and then get a box of produce once a week.

I don't think right now is the right time for this — what with winter coming and all — but if you're interested in doing something like this in the future, here are the websites:

Whitton Flower & Produce

Downing Hollow Farm

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Locavores and Grocery Stores

USAToday has a story in their Money section today on how "locally grown" food might mean two different things to retailers and consumers.

With "locally grown" foods becoming more of a draw for consumers (because it supports local farmers and helps the environment with shorter shipping distances), grocery stores are devoting more shelf space to it. But what is local?

From the story:

"Wal-Mart, the nation's biggest retailer, considers anything local if it's grown in the same state as it's sold, even if that's a state as big as Texas and the food comes from a farm half the size of Manhattan, as in the case of the 7,000-acre Ham Produce in North Carolina."

The article also mentioned the belief that local foods are more safe but said that wasn't necessarily the case:

"While consumers may think locally grown food is safer, food safety experts say that's not clear.

Most food-borne illnesses don't get noticed because not enough people get sick to alert officials that an outbreak is underway. Undetected outbreaks are more likely with 'local' products delivered in small quantities and sold in a small area, says Robert Brackett, senior vice president of the Grocery Manufacturers Association."

On the other hand, during the great tainted tomato scandal this summer, the CDC ruled out Tennessee tomatoes as the cause of the outbreak. It was good to be able to go to the grocery store and see the Ripley tomatoes and know they were okay to eat.

I also read something recently — maybe it was this open letter by Michael Pollan — about tainted food from China and how we have don't have much control over the safety of imported food.

And I guess I just think that buying or selling local food — even when using that term as loosely as the grocery stores — is a good start.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Monday morning odds and ends

USAToday has a piece on non-profits and the current economic environment. Charitable giving to Catholic Charities, Meals on Wheels, the Salvation Army, and Goodwill are all down, and worse are situations where fundraising is dependent on certain corporations.

From the story:

"Lehman Bros.' September filing for bankruptcy court protection could take a financial toll on non-profits as disparate as Doctors Without Borders, an international group that supplies emergency medical aid, and the Grand Street Settlement, an organization that provides education and social services on Manhattan's Lower East Side.

Since 2005, Lehman's charitable foundation gave more than $1.5 million to fund Doctors Without Borders' relief efforts for the Asian tsunami and other disasters. The foundation also gave thousands of dollars to Grand Street's College and Career Discovery Center, which carries the Lehman name.

Jennifer Tierney, development director for Doctors Without Borders, awaits word on whether Lehman's bankruptcy filing will affect a pending application for additional funding. 'We really don't know what the implications will be,' she says."

The Washington Post has a slideshow guide to understanding how we got to the current economic crisis. A quick breakdown: In the beginning (the 1990s), most people with good credit already had homes, so lenders enticed people with bad credit to buy homes. The loans were packaged together as investments and, after 2001, interest rates were low so investors wanted something with a higher rate of return. The credit bubble begat the housing bubble, which, with people taking equity out of their houses to buy other things, created another credit bubble. Definitely worth checking out.

— And here's a fun story from Reuters about income inequality in U.S. cities rivaling that of African cities. The data comes from a UN report published last week:

"'The authors (of the study) find that though the cities in the United States of America have relatively lower levels of poverty than many other cities in the developed world, their levels of income inequality are quite high,' the report said.

In the United States and Canada one of the key factors in determining levels of economic inequality is race, the report said."

Friday, October 24, 2008

Gourding Barack

(a little web-only feature from the Flyer)

Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said, “Yes, we can.” A locally launched website is saying, “Yes, we carve.”, a website started, in part, by Memphian Josh Horton and his wife Bethany, mixes politics and pumpkins.

“My wife and I were sitting in bed a few weeks ago and she said, ‘I think I’m going to carve a pumpkin with Barack Obama’s face on it,’” he says. “I said, ‘you want to do an Obumpkin?’ She said, ‘No, I want to do a Barack O’Lantern.’”

Horton, a 29-year-old with a habit of buying domain names, called a friend in New York and another in Chicago to help him take the idea to the web.

Launched earlier this month, YesWeCarve has pictures of Barack O’Lanterns from across the country, as well as easy-to-use Obama-themed carving stencils. A YesWeCarve video slideshow has garnered more than 67,000 hits on YouTube, and the site has been featured on the Huffington Post and DailyKos.

“I never realized the impact of this when we set out to do it,” says Horton, a church communications director. “We’ve posted more than 200 pumpkins and our inbox is filled every day. After this weekend, we got about 85 pumpkins.”

The five best pumpkins will be selected by the YesWeCarve team and posted to the site November 3rd. The pumpkin voted the best by the site’s visitors will win its carver an orange iPod nano.

Though the iPod was meant to give participants a little incentive, Horton says that most of the submissions never mention the contest. He doesn’t think the site’s popularity has much to do with pumpkin carving contest.

“I think there’s an optimism there that people haven’t had with many candidates,” he says. “I think it’s the man and the platform, what he’s bringing to the table.”

The site has generated some negative comments — more political than anti-pumpkin — but most of the response has been favorable. has a “No Attack Pumpkin” policy and even offers a Republicans for Obama stencil.

For locals wanting to get into the action, will host a BYOP — bring your own pumpkin — carving party Thursday, October 30th, at the local Obama campaign headquarters in the Eastgate shopping center.

And with compliments to the site, just remember: Every pumpkin counts.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

For $150K

Full disclosure: I like clothes. A lot.

And if I were in front of people every day, being photographed and videotaped, I would want to look well put-together. Flawless, even. Especially if I were engaged in a nationwide election.

(I would also argue that a man could wear the same suit more often than a woman and, as a unfortunate corollary, men own/buy fewer pairs of shoes.)

That said ... the median value of an owner-occupied home in the state of Tennessee is $123,100. In Shelby County, the median value of an owner-occupied home is $126,800.

The median household income in Shelby County in 2006 was $41,175.

For $150,000, roughly, you could send six students to the University of Memphis for four years.

And last night, I got a shirt at Old Navy for $1.99.

Just for a comparison.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Once Upon A Time ...

This is my favorite quote from today's joint City Council/County Commission meeting about the future of the Pyramid.

"Give us the building, let us sign a deal with Bass Pro and live happily ever after," said Councilwoman Barbara Swearengen Ware.

The County Commission recently rejected a proposal to sell its share of the Pyramid (along with the coliseum and land under the Liberty Bowl) to the city. For the Bass Pro development deal to move forward, both the City Council and County Commission have to approve it.

The development agreement gives the retailer a year to sign a lease on the Pyramid.

This quote from City Council member Shea Flinn, who advocated blowing up the Pyramid if the two elected bodies don't agree to the proposal, was a close second:

"We had the Big Dig. Let's have the Big Boom," he said.

Last Child in the Woods

Last night, author Richard Louv began his talk at the Germantown Performing Arts Centre by asking attendees if, as a kid, they had a special place outside.

"My special place was 'my woods.' They were mine. I owned those woods. I own them now; I go there now," he said. "The ultimate question to me is will future generations have that place to go to in their heart."

His 2006 book, Last Child in the Woods, documents evidence — both anecdotal and empirical — that there has been a steep decline in the amount of time children spend outdoors, especially outdoors in nature.

But instead of being an exercise in nostalgia, Louv argues that the generational disconnect with nature will have a profound impact on the health of people and also the health of the earth. (The last child in the woods is also, probably, the last environmentalist.)

Louv talked a lot about how time in nature helps kids with attention deficit disorder, how just having natural daylight in classrooms raises test scores, and how nature nurtures creativity. "Raising kids under house arrest," as he put it, also has an effect on obesity rates for a group of children that doctors predict won't live as long as their parents.

"Pediatricians don't see a lot of broken bones anymore," Louv said. "Now they see repetitive stress injuries and those last a lot longer than broken bones."

But the health question doesn't just to go to those people who lack nature or a background in nature, I don't think. One thing Louv mentioned in the book was that med schools were having a harder time teaching students how the heart pumps, simply because students don't have the natural background. (Even for the most creative of us, it's hard to imagine something you've never seen. People generally start off with a common point of reference, you know?)

Louv has a lot of suggestions how to get children outside: programs, family nature clubs, etc. and I think all of that is very good. But I was looking around at the crowd last night (like I do) and many of them were graying white folks. One of the women talked about how she raised her kids during the '70s and '80s and how it was completely different then and how she let her kids run wild.

And maybe it was because it was a school night, and maybe people are just having children older, but I wondered how many people who were there were actually in the position of making a difference.


Is Janis Fullilove our Amy Winehouse?

They both have a strong sense of personal style. (And for a time, similar hair.)

They both have rather husky voices.

And then there's the incriminating paparazzi shots ...

At least Fullilove has reportedly checked into a rehab program. I wish her the best. Now if only we could get Winehouse there.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Wal-Mart Didn't Win

It's interesting that a proposed Wal-Mart was defeated by the County Commission yesterday.

We'll have a full story in the print version of the Flyer tomorrow and up on the web Friday. But I got this email from reader Kerry Hayes, so I thought I'd go ahead and post it:

"Hi Mary,

Longtime reader of your column and blog, first-time writer-in. Really hope that you or someone else at the Flyer can give some coverage to the recent battle against Wal-Mart that has been raging in Cordova. Things culminated last night with a 10-3 victory in favor of the Citizens for a Sustainable Growth group — they went up against the largest retailer in the world, one of the most notoriously oppressive corporate entities in America, and thanks to the simple principles of grassroots organizing and holding their ground, WON. This is huge. This is the kind of thing that reflects really well, not just on Cordova, but on our entire city."

Frankly, I was pretty surprised that the neighbors won. Even though I agreed with their arguments — that the roads wouldn't support Wal-Mart traffic and that they already have two Wal-Marts in the area — I wasn't sure which way the County Commission would go. Tax dollars can be kind of a big deal.

Actually, now that I mention tax dollars, maybe that's why they went the way they did.

I just keep thinking about that one Wal-Mart at Germantown Parkway and Wolf River Boulevard that closed after they opened up the other store down the street. I'm not a big fan of treating buildings like tissues (even if you build them that way).

And I don't think an abandoned big box store — with weeds growing through the parking lot, an old shopping cart here or there — would be great for property values. I'm fairly sure that land is an empty lot now (I haven't driven past it in a while, so I could be wrong) but I'm also pretty sure that many people would still consider it an eyesore.

I like that we seem to be thinking more long-term now.

Tonight's The Night

One of them, anyway.

Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, speaks tonight at the Germantown Performing Arts Centre as part of ArtsMemphis' Conservation Through Art. The event is free and begins at 7 p.m.

I've been reading Last Child (but haven't quiiite finished yet). Nonetheless, it's a pretty interesting read. I never think of myself as playing outside that much as a child — especially after I got my library card — but in relationship to children today, I think it would be an inordinate amount.

(Of course, a few factors contributed to that:

1. I lived in a close-knit suburban neighborhood where there were tons of kids my age to play with.

2. There were plenty of things to explore, too: a small creek running through the back part of the neighborhood, wooded backgrounds where the older boys created dirt bike trails, a green metal electric box at the end of my street that someone had written a bad word (!) — although spelled incorrectly — in some sort of permanent putty.

3. I had a strange love of Four Square. We played in the street every evening after dinner.

4. I was the oldest of four children and my mother chased us outside at every opportunity. And really, who can blame her?)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Economically Speaking

Perhaps we should have paid more attention to the Economist.

Here's a cover from December 2004:

Here's one from September 2006:

And here's a cover from November 2007:

To view the complete slideshow of similar Economist covers, organized by Roberto de Carvalho Rodrigues, click here.

Friday, October 17, 2008

From Newark to Memphis

Through a fluke, I got to hear Newark mayor Cory Booker speak at the Leadership Academy luncheon today.

Booker is the young (and he says sexy) mayor of Newark, New Jersey, who has made national news by voluntarily living in housing projects, by having a goal of Newark becoming the national standard for urban transformation, and because his first run for mayor was the subject of "Street Fight," an Academy Award-nominated documentary.

In an interesting Memphis connection, his older brother is Soulsville Charter School Chancellor and Stax Music Academy Executive Director Cary Booker.

In preparation for the luncheon (yes, sometimes flukes give you enough time to prepare), I listened to an interview Booker did a few years ago with David Remnick of The New Yorker.

For anyone not lucky enough to attend the luncheon, I'll write more about it later, but I'll also leave you with a link to the Remnick interview.

I remember the interview being fairly long (probably too long to watch at work unless you're me) but not so long that if you're at your house you won't be able to watch it comfortably in one sitting.

Update on TERRA

Went by U of M's TERRA house yesterday ... now that ground has broken, it's supposed to go up fairly quickly.

I've written about it a few times ... most recently for our Green issue. But also before that.

Here are some pics of what it looks like right now.

The view of the front of the house

Side view

A look at the insulating blocks on the back of the house. You can see them in the other pictures, too, but not as close up.

One of the things I love about this project is not only its physical greenness, but the greenness of its location.

For starters, it's on a reclaimed brownfield site. Secondly, the school thought about transportation when they chose the site — it's also only a few blocks from the end of the Main Street trolley line and MATA's North End terminal.

Oh, and here's a link to the live webcam for up-to-the-minute info.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Feed Lot

The NYTimes Magazine was all about food this week, including the cover story: an open letter from Michael Pollan to the next president of the United States, telling him why it will be critical to make reform of the food system one of the new administration's highest priorities.

"Unless you do," Pollan writes, " you will not be able to make significant progress on the health care crisis, energy independence or climate change."

A little more on why he says that:

"After cars, the food system uses more fossil fuel than any other sector of the economy — 19 percent. And while the experts disagree about the exact amount, the way we feed ourselves contributes more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than anything else we do — as much as 37 percent, according to one study. ... [A] system that in 1940 produced 2.3 calories of food energy for every calorie of fossil-fuel energy it used into one that now takes 10 calories of fossil-fuel energy to produce a single calorie of modern supermarket food."

Pollan is the author of The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals and more recently, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto.

His proposed solution for the next president is simple in theory: "We need to wean the American food system off its heavy 20th-century diet of fossil fuel and put it back on a diet of contemporary sunshine."

(Of course, he seems to favor simplicity. In his latest book — which I thought very good, by the way — his proposed solution was: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.")

Pollan argues commodity farmers ought to be encouraged to grow as many different types of crops as possible, the country must train a new generation of farmers and help put them on the land, and the country should regionalize the food system.

On a related note, this is making me very ready for lunch.

Happy Birthday, Bianca!

Bianca Phillips, my friend from over-the-cubicle-wall, turns 28 today! (I don't think she'll mind me listing her age since she doesn't look a day over 19. See for yourself.)

She's worked at the Flyer since 2002, starting as one of our illustrious interns. Now she's our calendar editor and one of our most prolific writers.

To see an archive of her stuff, go here.

Or you can check our her blog, Vegan Crunk.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Annie Hall on Architecture

I know many people think actors and celebrities should stick to entertainment rather than opinion, but I do not happen to be one of them.

Which is why I feel fine pointing you to an LATimes opinion piece by Diane Keaton, in which she laments the destruction of Los Angeles' Ambassador Hotel and says that demolishing iconic buildings destroys history and wastes resources.

From the piece: "Preservation has always been a hard sell in Los Angeles. But maybe in the years ahead it won't be as hard as it used to be, considering several new facts. No. 1, as my Dad would have said, a building represents an enormous investment of energy -- much bigger than we thought when we were fighting to save the Ambassador. No. 2, we now know that construction of new structures alone consumes 40% of the raw materials that enter our economy every year."

But she also makes an interesting point about architecture and the way we view it:

"I'll never understand why architecture is considered a second cousin to painting and film. We've never been married to our romance with architecture. A building, unlike a canvas or a DVD, is a massive work of art with many diverse uses. We watch movies in buildings. We look at paintings on their walls. We pray in cathedrals."

How We Live, Boomer-Style

The Memphis branch of the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank is sponsoring an interesting symposium on October 28th entitled, "What Now? Baby Boomers and Communities Face New Realties." (To register — it's free — go here.)

From the brochure: "This symposium will focus on the current economic crisis and how it has changed the future for boomers. It will look at the implication for community development — such as housing, transportation, land use, and health care — in general and for the Memphis are in particular."

Sandy Timmerman, assistant vice president of the Retirement Strategies Group for MetLife; Sandy Markwood, president of the national Association of Area Agencies on Aging; Ken Reardon, director of U of M's graduate program in city and regional planning; and Kathryn Coulter, chief development officer of the Aging Commission of the Mid-South, will speak.

Event organizers encourage housing officials, transportion planners, park and recreation officials, real estate developers and professionals, and civic leaders to attend.

In other (more personal) news, my office is extremely loud today. What's up, folks? Where are all the indoor voices?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Early voting Wednesday

Early voting starts tomorrow!

Generally, I don't use exclamation points (I prefer semi-colons, elegant dashes, the tried and true period), but that's how much I think of early voting. You can go when it's convenient for you; if you forget one day or it's raining, you can go the next; and the lines are nonexistent. Usually.

I like to head down to the Election Commission — might as well go straight to the source — but then again, I work downtown so it's very convenient.

Need a list of early voting sites? Click here.

Horsin' Around

Recently, I was in Saddle Creek shopping center (what recession? Just kidding ... I was there for work) and noticed people standing around, taking pictures of Germantown's painted horses.

The horses — which are in honor of the Germantown Charity Horse Show's 60th Anniversary — will be auctioned off Sunday, October 19th. Artists competed to win the chance to decorate the life-sized horses, and now they are all corralled (the horses, not the artists, sorry) in Saddle Creek.

At any rate, being a complete lemming, I decided to take a few pictures myself. At the very least, I thought some of you Midtowners out there might appreciate it.

There were quite a few decorated with flowers.

This one I call Disco Horsie.

A close-up. See those two bodies behind the head? Yep, they're taking pictures, too.

My fave: Trick-or-treat horsie. (They do have real names; I just didn't write them down.)

The chocolate close-up

My second fave. Recession horsie — decorated all in pennies. (Actually, I did notice this one was called "Horse Sense.")

If you're interested in bidding for the horses online, you can go here.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Charter Changes?

Yesterday, I learned one thing very clearly: You do not mess with older women voters.

Or maybe just women, in general.

I went to a forum on the proposed amendments to the Memphis City and Shelby County charters (and sponsored by the League of Women Voters, Hadassah, and The Public Issues Forum). If you're interested in the proposals or, I don't know, going to be voting anytime soon, you should go to Change Memphis and read the explanations of each proposed change.

(I know that Flyer senior editor Jackson Baker has also written about some of the charter proposals, but I can't seem to unearth them on our website.)

The city charter amendments have to do with the sale of MLGW, instant run-offs, city residency requirements, and possible ethics violations by elected or appointed officials. Important stuff.

And the crowd at the forum was, for the most part, very respectful during the event. (There were a few people passing notes back and forth, which I take to be the exception.) But most people wrote their questions on index cards, passed them to the front, and listened quietly as forum organizers read them aloud and tried to answer them.

But then, when organizers tried to end the forum, all Hades started to break loose. Apparently, the index cards — once they made it to the front — were being sorted to weed out any duplication.

And one woman, not hearing her question asked, wanted it read and answered. Now. She was told she could come up to the front and ask it privately, but I guess she wanted all of us to hear the answer.

There was quite the hubbub. It was like the Picadilly had run out of lima beans during early bird hour.

Council AND Charter Commission Chair Myron Lowery, being a veteran of listening to the public, suggested her question be taken ... which, luckily, it was.

And then another woman spoke up to say that her question hadn't been read aloud or answered.

Finally, they decided to extend the forum to take any other questions. I'm not faulting these women: They had questions; the event was designed to answer questions; and dangit, their questions were going to be answered.

But I, for one, am not going to look at public forums the same way ever again.

Friday, October 10, 2008

CFL Giveaway

Almost forgot about the blog today. I had an interview this morning and the blog just slipped my mind.

Annnnyway. This afternoon I happened to be at the Exxon at McLean and Poplar — $3.24, I think, if you're interested — and there was a nice woman giving out energy saver kits from MLGW and the TVA that included a CFL bulb and an outlet insulating gasket (if you got a kit, it's the thing that looks like a piece of styrofoam).

I guess MLGW employees are out at 38 Exxon On the Run stations today giving out the energy saver kits.

From MLGW's Bird on a Wire blog:

"With TVA’s recent electric rate increase, it is becoming even more important for all of us to practice energy conservation in our homes,” said MLGW President and CEO Jerry Collins Jr. “There are a lot of little things that we can do each day that together add up to big savings. We want to encourage our customers how to think about energy conservation.”

At any rate, it's a free CFL, and you can't go wrong with that.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Spotlight Suspension

I haven't been a journalist all that long — certainly not compared to some of my colleagues — but the fairly recent addition of internet analytics and user comments makes it very easy to tell what kind of stories have traction with readers.

Case in point, Bianca Phillips Q&A with former "First 48" detective Caroline Mason in April 2007.

Fans of the true-crime show loved Caroline Mason (before the MPD decided to cease working with A&E on the show). Even though we ran that story more than a year ago, it seems that every few months someone would find it and comment on how much they liked Caroline Mason. (And I'm using the word "like," but the feelings seemed a lot stronger than that.)

I was reminded of all this because Mason was in the CA again yesterday. It seems she received a one-day suspension for participating in the paper's "Spotlight on Mom" section without getting proper authorization from the police department to do so.

I'm not going to second guess the MPD, but it seems that they'd want someone like Mason — someone who people feel so positively about — out in front of the department.

For instance, after Phillips wrote about MPD suspending filming with "The First 48," one of the Flyer's commenters said this:

"Caroline Mason, along with all the other officers, have made Memphis proud, and regardless if the MPD decides to resign a contract with 'The First 48,' the MPD will always have my respect."


Looks like there is a EcoBuild Home Tour in Uptown this afternoon where you can learn about built-in energy and environmental features that can lower your utility bills by an average of 30 percent per month.

And who doesn't like lower utility bills?

The tours start at 4 p.m. from the Uptown Sales Office at 534 North Second St. (at Mill).

I did a story on Uptown last winter and one of the families said that they thought the 30 percent figure was actually a little low. Of course, they had moved from an older house in Cooper-Young, so that might have been part of it, but they thought they were saving more than 30 percent on their utility bills. (For what it's worth.)

Also, the River City Writers Series is hosting "The Story of Sushi: An Unlikely Saga of Raw Fish and Rice" author Trevor Corson tonight at the Pink Palace. The event begins with a sushi (and sake) reception at 6 p.m., followed by a reading at 7 p.m.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Fall Fashion, Flyer Style

True to my word — if you want to see the movie posters that inspired the Flyer's (my) fall fashion issue, side-to-side with our homages, of course, click here.

Under Water

A story in today's Wall Street Journal says that the slide in home prices have left one in six American homeowners owing more on their mortgage than what their home is worth. The news especially bad for those homeowners who have bought in the last five years or so.

With the overall mortgage crisis, prices are back to 2004 levels in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Fort Lauderdale, and Minneapolis.

From the story:

"Stephanie and Jason Kirschenman thought they were being prudent when they agreed in late 2004 to buy a new four-bedroom home in Lodi, Calif., for $458,000. They put a substantial 20% down and chose a loan with a fixed interest rate for the first 10 years. Two years later, they took out a second mortgage to pay off some bills.

At the time, the home was appraised for about $550,000. But a mortgage broker recently estimated its value at well below the $380,000 the family owes on it, says Ms. Kirschenman."

The story included a handy-dandy map, on which you might notice Memphis is a nice shade of rose, meaning that between 20 to 40 percent of people who bought their homes in the past five years now owe more than the estimated value. (That's if I decoded the color correctly, which I think I did. Judge for yourself.)

From the Wall Street Journal.

But at least it's not magenta.

And in a separate note, if I made this map, I might have used completely different colors to avoid confusion, but I guess this way you can easily see the hot spots.

Silver Screen Style

The Flyer's Fall Fashion Issue hits the stands today. If you haven't seen it, well, A — you should make a point to, and B — we took inspiration for our photos from classic (mostly) movie posters.

Fittingly, we shot the whole thing on the South Main sound-stage that MGM used to use for screen tests (it's now Flyer favorite photographer Justin Fox Burks' studio). It is a rad building, tho I don't think the renovations are completely done.

A behind the scenes shot with our Marilyn. (I do wear other things besides black shirts and jeans,
but not, apparently, in photos that make it to this blog.)

Also, if you're interested in seeing a little animation of the Marilyn shoot or the original movie posters (along with our images), please visit the Flyer's website.

TEENY, TINY CORRECTION: It appears the web-only fashion features aren't quite up on the website yet, so don't click there yet. But I'll let you know when. Promise.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

City's Hickory Ridge Plans Delayed Again

A joint City Council public works and CIP budget committee decided today to postpone taking action on the proposed Hickory Ridge Mall sale.

The city administration wants to buy the concourse of the Hickory Ridge Mall — damaged in a tornado last February — for the new fire and police dispatch center. The facility could also house other municipal services and community groups, as well as pre-tornado mall vendors.

The purchase price would be $1.25 million, and the administration is asking for an additional $4.23 million this year for engineering and architecture.

Like two weeks ago, the committee was still troubled that it didn't know the true, total price of the project. City CAO Keith McGee estimates it somewhere between $60 million and $64 million in all.

Council members Reid Hedgepeth and Shea Flinn were also concerned about the city renting space out to mall vendors. Before the tornado, the mall had 33 vendors — 13 of those have expressed an interest in returning. The mall's Sears store is still open.

"It's certainly not a good time to be getting into retail," Flinn said. "I have reservations about the government competing with private developers in this market. That is a cause for great concern."

Councilman Jim Strickland also wanted to know why the city did not partner with the 911 board and tap into $18 million in phone fees the board has earmarked for a dispatch building.

"That money can only be used to construct a building and, obviously, the $18 million would increase as we keep paying those charges," he said. "The 911 board said, lets put the dispatch offices together. The county was going to give up some land out by the penal farm and they were going to construct this building for $35 to $40 million. The 911 board cannot issue bonds themselves."

But after the county balked at issuing more bonds, the city pulled out of the partnership, as well.

"My thought is, that's not the smartest use of money. There's $18 million sitting there," Strickland said. "Instead of issuing bonds for the difference between $40 million and $18 million and use this revenue stream, we're going to issue bonds for $60 million and have to pay for it out of our own pocket."

"I must be missing something," he said.

The committee is expected to review the proposal at its next meeting.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Good News

Looks like the TSA will relax airport-liquid restrictions sometime next year.

The head of the TSA told the WSJ's Middle Seat Terminal blog that the TSA is "within a year of having the ability to differentiate threat liquids through the screening process."

Apparently, X-ray software that can detect liquid materials used in bomb-making is almost ready for wide-spread use.

And that means that the TSA's most ridiculous rule — because, seriously, how does putting all your liquids into a ziplock sandwich bag make anyone any safer? — is on the way out.

This fits what? Toothpaste, shampoo, a teeny deoderant, moisturizer, and a lipstick?

[Side story: last month, one of my family members (who will go unnamed here) was traveling to my sister's wedding and, because she was running late, decided not to check her luggage. Now, this luggage contained hair spray and, though the TSA does not catch all liquids, they did catch hers.

She had to go back to ticketing and try to check her baggage, but by that time, her plane (which her kids and other family members she was traveling with were already on) was leaving. I think she ended up taking a flight later that evening and prolly checking her baggage.]

At any rate, as someone else who likes to use beauty products (and, yes, more than fit inside the sandwich baggie. I didn't even bring shampoo and conditioner with me because I didn't have any of those little bottles) and paid more than $3 for 12 oz. of juice last month, this is good news.

Consolidation Talk

Looks like members of the County Commission and the City Council will meet tomorrow at 1:45 p.m. in City Hall to hear what Memphis mayor Willie Herenton has to say about consolidation.

County mayor A C Wharton was initially scheduled to attend, but he will be in Nashville instead.

From an e-mail from Myron Lowery: "County Commission Chairman Deirdre Malone and City Council Chairman Myron Lowery both agreed to schedule this meeting and to invite all elected officials in Shelby County to attend. While we realize this is a short notice, this is the beginning of many conversations on this issue."

I'll be interested to hear what Herenton has to say this time around. I'm just reciting from memory, but he's already made the argument for functional consolidation and a consolidated school system in previous conversations and neither of those went anywhere ... Will he have a new take or fall back on old arguments?

And, not to get ahead of ourselves, but if the city surrenders its charter and Wharton has already reached his term-limit as county mayor, that would put local leadership (in which its wildly assumed that Wharton will run for city mayor and win) back in play.

Here are some of my previous takes on consolidation, as well, here and here.

I'm also expecting the suburban mayors to be out in full force, so it should be interesting.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Going to Shell

Went to the Shell Wednesday night for the Askew Nixon Ferguson architects party and took a little tour backstage.

Now I never went backstage before the Shell's renovation, so I don't really have anything to compare it to, but I hear it was pretty awful.

But now backstage is very nice. If you're ever asked to perform there, you should do it. Just to go back there.

I took this awful camera picture of the bathroom signage because I thought it was very cute.
It reminds me of the signage at the FedExForum, but I think — think — this is a little different (and much cuter).

(And yes, I looked for an image of the FedExForum bathrooms on google so I could compare the two, but nothing came up. Darn.)

ps. Sorry to anyone who missed me yesterday. I spent most of it at the old MGM studio downtown with my good pal, the chubby vegetarian. Unfortunately, he didn't cook, but he did enlighten me to Boscos' downtown brewery, so I guess that makes up for it.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Last Minute Reminder

It was brought to my attention recently that my current address might not be the address of my voter registry.

I decided to double check it and it was, indeed, wrong.

If this is the case with you, or maybe you just aren't registered but want to be, you can register — mostly online — here.