Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Good Place for Filmmakers

Moviemaker Magazine has listed Memphis among the top places to live, work and make movies*.

Memphis' inclusion honors the work of folks like Craig Brewer, Live From Memphis, the Media Co-Op, John Michael McCarthy, the University of Memphis Film Department, Keenon Nikita, Kentucker Audley, Morgan Fox and a gazillion others who make and help others make movies.

* A big caveat emptor for the man-made devices called rankings. Inclusion in the good rankings is no cause for complacency; in the bad, for resignation.

Can't stop moving towards the Memphis we want to become.

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

After the Fair, Will There Be a Fairview?

frieze at the front of Fairview Junior High with poem by William Blake, MemphisIt was supposed to be settled -- the City Schools System was going to renovate and keep using Fairview Junior High. However, every time I read about the Fairgrounds Redevelopment project, everybody's still talking about this beautiful gem.

Still talking about == Fate undecided.

On tonight's Mayor's Citizen Line show on WYPL, Mayor Herenton even mentioned that he would be announcing plans for Liberty Bowl and Fairview at tuesday's Rotary Luncheon.

My gut feeling is that it's still safe, but we will see.

Anyone who would harm such a beautiful building is not a builder, but a destroyer of cities.

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Memphis Warehouse Revival Version 2.0 Tonight!

Tonight is the Memphis Warehouse Revival v2.0. This will be a huge event. We are expecting somewhere in the range of 300-500 attendees. We've put up floor-to-ceiling heat-trapping construction sheeting, built a 30-ft entrance tunnel, and a 16-ft bar. Our friend and new affiliate Michael Andrews has aided us in constructing 2 wood-burning stoves, so the party should be warm no matter how cold it gets outside. As always, we'll have a bonfire going in the courtyard, $5 & a signed waiver gets you in the door, and $5 more gets you a bottomless keg cup. We also will have a limited number of special edition Rozelle Artists Guild t-shirts available for $10 each, screen printed by Michael, in S, M, L, & XL.
A map.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

More Blight Near Highland

The Helmsman reported a few days ago that the University of Memphis had begun demolition on the Prescott Memorial Baptist Church on Mynders.

So what looked like this for 75 years

now looks like this.

The University and its partners have been in the news a lot lately talking about how they can improve the surrounding areas and make a better, more attractive community.

So what are their plans for the space? The Helmsman says
The University has not decided what will be built where Prescott Memorial Baptist Church once stood.

Maybe a parking lot, maybe an educational building, almost certainly a construction staging area.

Either way, what had been a simple and charming part of their local built environment for 75 years has been destroyed without a plan.

Speculative demolition.

This is not New Urbanism. This is not Sustainable.

This is Same Old Shit Suburbanism. This is Waste.

For 3, 5, 10 years, maybe forever, the community will have to look at an empty space, probably with cars or construction equipment on it.

This is Blight. Same Old Blight.

Clarifications: The demolished church above is not part of the Poag & McEwen development on Highland. Prescott (demolished) is here; the Highland Street Church of Christ (Poag & McEwen's recent purchase) is here. The latter will be demolished eventually too, but with a plan at the ready. In fact, the P&M development will infill several lots that once had mansions on them -- themselves speculatively demolished by someone (not P&M) sometime in the last 20 years.

Also, the construction staging is for University of Memphis construction, presumably the dorms being built across Patterson, not the Poag & McEwen development.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Global Warming Solutions at Rhodes

the late world champion Shumard Oak, Overton Park, Memphis; death by natural causesFrom Greening Greater Memphis:
Focus the Nation has organized a national teach-in Webcast to help educate America about solutions for global warming. The 2% Solution is a national, interactive Webcast featuring Stanford climate scientist Stephen Schneider, sustainability expert Hunter Lovins, and green jobs pioneer Van Jones. Their goal is to have over 10,000 screenings including one here in Memphis. Participation is encouraged with cell phone voting.

Rhodes College is hosting a screening of the Webcast on Wednesday, January 30th at 7pm located in the Frazier Jelke Science Center- Room B. There will be refreshments and green-related Door Prizes.

For more information about the event, please visit their website: Focus the Nation.

A solution I'd like to see is an international boycott of clear cutters. Take a day, January 30, 2008 for instance, and declare it Day Zero for clear cuts. Start geotagging clear cuts. Boycott any corporation, any organization, that creates or uses a clear cut space. Clear cut real-estate will become economically tainted and lose value as corporations avoid those spots. To prevent abuse, we could use before and after satellite images from apps like Google Earth.

With the oppressive Gulf of Mexico humidity, Memphis receives the balance of the cooling and beautiful forest. To destroy and replace it with an asphalt desert, whose shacks must then be cooled by massive always-on air-conditioners, is idiocratic.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

The Beauties of Memphis

These Memphis photos by MRC-T (hat tip to fearlessvk) point to a Memphis aesthetic much broader than that sanctioned by official Memphis.

Sometimes it's high, but often it's low. There is the showmanship of the commercial, sacred and even the civic. There is a natural beauty, and man-made (either as built and as neglected).

Mostly there is an imagination that cuts through the obstacles -- the poverty, the banality, the neglect, the bottom-line. A street-level imagination -- and breadth of imagination -- that Memphis should always embrace and nurture, preserve and defend.

A good companion piece to MRC-T's photos is Chris Davis' Memphis Flyer article about James "Brick" Brigance, mural artist. He is the painter, I believe, of several of MRC-T's subjects.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Little Context for the Crosstown Development

Here's a a Google Maps version of the Crosstown development (aka "Midtown Memphis") overlays, as seen in the Memphis Flyer.

Practically everything I've heard and seen about the development looks, sounds positive. I wonder about the northern approach, the Poplar/Watkins gateway, however. It appears to be a entire block of street exposed parking. They've talked about rooftop parking, so hopefully that's what going on here. A building flush with the sidewalk at that corner would
  1. provide an architectural advertisement for their work, on one of Memphis' busiest thoroughfares. We zoom past parking lots all the time. A building on that corner would be a unique herald of the changes inside. An exciting invitation inside for both cars coming up and down Poplar, and walkers coming from Vollintine and Evergreen. Parking lots do not invite.

  2. help restore physical, visual and even social continuity between Evergreen and the development in the Washington Bottoms.

  3. increase not only the area's walkability, but also its walk-to-ability and walk-from-ability.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Art Listen and Act

John Weeden should be having another Weeden Arts Radio tomorrow at 10 a.m. You can call in at 347-205-9201.

In case your schedule can't sync up, you can async it via podcast. Last week's premiere was up almost immediately.

Also, check out the Helmsman article about a creative teaching experiment pulled off by University of Memphis art professors Richard Lou and Cedar Nordbye.

trompe l'oeil rug, Otherlands, Memphis

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Jacobs v. Moses v. Memphis

I've just finished listening to a podcast from the Architectural League of New York. It's from their 2006 forum, "Jane Jacobs vs. Robert Moses: How Stands the Debate Today".

Neither a bashing of Robert Moses nor deification of Jane Jacobs, there's a lot of relevance in it and the Jacobs/Moses dialectic to modern-day (and olden-day) Memphis.

For instance this quote from panelist Richard Kahan:
I have always viewed development in New York as a balance or imbalance of 3 basic forces: the public sector, the private sector and and the civic sector, within which I include neighborhood organizations, groups like the Municipal Arts Society, regional planning association, environmental groups, etc. And certainly Jane Jacobs was among the first, if not the first, to be organizing those kinds of forces. So the battle was no longer just about the public sector and the private sector.

In Memphis' case it appears that the public sector has rarely been the primary force (great exceptions: the laying out of Memphis with the Promenade and the 4 Squares; the creation of the Parkways, Overton Park and Riverside Park; possibly the reimagining of the LeMoyne Gardens and Dixie Courts housing projects). Mainly it's been a rubber stamp for the designs of the private sector and provider of commodity infrastructure for those designs.

And in the civic sector there's been great work, stretching from the fight to keep Interstate 40 out of Overton Park, through the battle for the Bluff Walk, and now to save Libertyland and to preserve the Riverfront. But it doesn't appear, yet, that we have a large and sustained civic movement that spans the time between the major struggles and the space between all our neighborhoods.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Notes from Race and Politics Forum

Race Relations in Politics panel, National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis
Some notes from memory of the excellent forum last Saturday at the National Civil Rights Museum. This is by no means a summary of what was said, only what stuck with me.

Marcus Pohlmann: 3 watersheds in Memphis' racial progress in politics: the Freedmen's Bureaus, the Yellow Fever, and rulings by the Federal Courts in the 1970s. Memphis has made progress since 1991 but has recently plateaued.

Randolph Meade Walker: The Crump machine is still in place, including an oligarchy. Education, discouraged by Memphis and Southern leaders until very recently, is key to change. Also we must deal with institutional racism -- lack of banks, restaurants, etc., in African-American majority communities.

Sidney Chism: we must learn to appreciate cultural differences. We had several good candidates for Mayor during the last election, but the media made it into a racial thing.

David Cocke: politicians will use race if it benefits them. We must encourage more cross-over politicians to help neutralize this.

Desi Franklin: we have an oligarcy. We must reach out as individuals to people of different cultures. A book that's influenced her. Also quoted dire statistics (and hopeful goals) about African-American economic wealth and power from the MemphisED report.

Again, from memory.

Thanks and congratulations to the Memphis Urban League and New Path and moderator Darryl Tukufu for an interesting, honest and possibly historic conversation. They are planning on having more forums on "Race and ..." and are also planning citywide study circles to continue the conversation.

Lorraine Motel, National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Adding to the City Seal of Memphis

Long time ago I suggested that Memphis needs to have a symbol of Creativity added to its Seal.

Well I've gone ahead and done it.

You might think it lame to use a guitar, and you might be right, but it's a simple symbol to match the other simple but powerful symbols already present in the Seal.

By the way, I believe the guitar is a Fender Stratocaster. If I knew what Willie Kizart was playing in Rocket 88, I would use that instead. Couldn't have been a Stratocaster because they weren't created until 1954. In lieu of that information, I used this picture of Ike Turner to choose the guitar.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Pyramid Interlude

I want at least 2 things from any Pyramid development:
  1. that we preserve it.

  2. that we build no more surface parking lots around it.

    Better would be the restoration of the empty spaces with real buildings and businesses and residences.
Ericson's plan hasn't excited me, but I don't see anything destructive in it so it hasn't really bothered me either.

I do have a few concerns:
  1. they want to buy the Pyramid.

    What protection will we have that, if the money runs out halfway through construction, if the business fails 10 years from now, that they won't plead poverty and try to tear it down, or sell it to someone who will?

    We should give them a free easement with the proviso that should they fail, or tire of the business, the building returns to the City and County. If they're planning on making money from the businesses they've proposed rather than the underlying real estate, then I don't see why this would be a problem.

  2. They want to call (rename?) Mud Island "Harbor Island." Not a good sign. Boring.

    Mud sounds good, looks good. Harbor Island sounds like a condo development in Destin. Really boring.

    Embrace the River.

    On the other hand, the name's bland, but not destructive. I can still call it Mud Island if I want to.

    Or...we could call it Ile de Boue, and split the difference.

  3. Ericson wants to build an amphitheatre at the southern tip of Ile de Boue. That tip is also Skatepark Memphis' preferred location. The skatepark is the one major RDC project that has few detractors and many vocal supporters. And we already have an amphitheatre, a 100 yards away. So it risks pushing aside a great idea for an idea that already exists, a 100 yards away.

While it doesn't look optimal, Ericson's use could be a placeholder for a more visionary time.

For a glimpse of that time, check out Fearlessvk's Museo de Southern Gothic, or Carol Coletta's article on Smart City (very similar to my take, which came later) or Del Gill's Mausoleum for a King.

Or forget everything I've said and watch an early version of the riverfront I'm building (incomplete with unfinished Tennessee Brewery to the right).

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Urban Art in Overton Park

Opening Reception January 11, 6-8:00 PM
Gallery Talk January 23, 6:00 PM
Exhibit January 2-30

Memphis College of Art
1930 Poplar Avenue Overton Park

Please join the UrbanArt Commission this Friday night, January 11, from 6-8:00 PM, to begin the celebration of the UrbanArt Commission's 10th Anniversary. Viewers will get to see the behind-the-scenes work of public art, including models, plans, photographs, DVD's, projections and working drawings by some of the 56 artists the UAC has worked with to create close to 70 public art projects.


Guitar Man Tree Sculpture, Overton Park, Memphis
I found the image at this site (a German visitor's 1999 travelogue of Memphis) while looking for some vintage photos of the Shell. It's the Guitar Man tree sculpture that used to be on the west side of the Overton Park Shell. I don't know who created it, but it appeared to have been carved with a chainsaw into the standing trunk of a fallen oak tree. I assumed the tree man was Elvis, but it doesn't matter. I loved it, but now it's gone.

Anyone know what happened to it?

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Race Relations in Memphis Politics

Race Relations in Memphis Politics

Open Forum Looks at Past, Present & Future

Saturday, January 12, 2008, New Path in partnership with the Memphis Urban League, will host Race Relations in Memphis Politics- an open forum that will analyze current and past trends in race relations in local political activities. The forum will also address ways that local community, civic and political leaders may work to better improve these efforts in the future.

The event, which is being held at the National Civil Rights Museum, will take place from 1:00pm – 3:00pm in the main floor Gallery. Confirmed panelists include County Commissioner Sidney Chism; David Cocke, Attorney and Former Chairman of the Shelby County Democratic Party; Marcus Pohlmann, Rhodes College Political Science Professor; Dr. Randolph Meade Walker, Professor and Historian; and Desi Franklin, Attorney and First Vice Chair of the Shelby County Democratic Party . Dr. Darryl Tukufu, Vice President of Academic Affairs at Crichton College will moderate the forum.

Panelists will provide an overview of the political environment in terms of race relations from their viewpoint and discuss their political experiences in Memphis. The forum will also include discussion on trends in race relations relating to participation in political activities, opportunities to serve and voting practices.

New Path and the Memphis Urban League are hosting this event with the goal of initiating a dialogue that will carry over to the Memphis community at large. Both organizations believe that in order for the city of Memphis to move forward, Race Relations in Memphis Politics is an issue that needs to be addressed.

Update: the event may have been canceled -- see Harvey's comment. I'm checking with New Path about this right now.

The event is still on!

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

What's To Like About the Crosstown Development?

  1. Multi-Use with residential: "'the design intent is to provide a pedestrian friendly center that permits apartments/condominiums and office above retail shops and on mass transit lines.'" Seeding the market and place with residents and a 24 hour life will increase the chances for real success.

  2. An Urban design: "parking on top of retail or office buildings and buildings that are built very close to the street. The plan also features parking buildings and on-street parking, which minimizes the need to build large surface parking lots, the bane of urban planners everywhere." And bloggers here.

  3. An Attack on Real Blight: Tax Increment Financing finds a worthy target.

  4. A Crossroads Location: In between Evergreen to the North and East, Central Gardens to the South and the diverse Medical Center neighborhoods to the west.

  5. The Possibility: a chance to visually, physically, socially connect a long fractured part of the city.
As laid out in the Memphis Daily News and the Commercial Appeal.

Update: in this Goner thread, the site is called the Washington Bottoms. Also in that thread, elle says " i hate the term "lifestyle center". it makes me wanna throw up in my mouth a little." I concur, then throw up. "Lifestyle center" sounds like a re-branded nursing home.

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Friday, January 04, 2008

Memphis Warehouse Revival Version 2.0

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Save Us Whit Bissell!

Sometimes, when our civic rulers lay out their plans to make Memphis a world-class impero-authoritarian uglytown, I think about changing my avatar.

I'm not crazy.  Make them listen to me before it's too late!

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Early Warning on Union

A recent Memphis Daily News article states
Chick-Fil-A Inc. has filed a building permit application for a new restaurant at 61 S. Rembert St. in Midtown, according to The Daily News Online.

The $1 million permit was filed with the city-county Department of Construction Code Enforcement last week. The South Rembert address is just north of Union Avenue east of South McLean Boulevard and west of East Parkway.
Problem is, I can't find that address, as the postman delivers. The last address on the west (odd) side of the street is 45 S. Rembert. The next structure going south is WMC headquarters.

However, just across Rembert from the missing 61 S. Rembert is the Cumberland Presbyterian Center/Bookstore, which has been up for sale for the last year.

Could Chik-Fil-A be sharpening their axe for the building that housed the bookstore? The brief Daily News article adds,
The restaurant chain is scheduled to open a Chick-Fil-A on Union Avenue in August, according to a Chick-Fil-A representative. No street number was on file, she added.
Note: I don't care if Chick-Fil-A comes to Midtown, but anything that does come should, at the absolute least, make it not worse. Better would be better. We have fast-food -- we are civilized like that -- so that won't make us better. But we don't have much beauty of on our major commercial corridor. The bookstore adds a simple but nice beauty. I have yet to see a Chick-Fil-A that adds beauty. Now if they build in an already butt-uglified spot -- Union still has aplenty -- then we're not worse.

Lest you think I'm just oppositional, and would rather have a building sit empty forever, then let me propose an alternative use, one well-suited to the bookstore's present configuration -- the Midtown library. When the new Central Library went in, replacing the library at Peabody and McLean, the City discussed a branch library to take its place. We never got it. This could be our chance.

We'll see.

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