Archived entries for local

The writing has been on the wall for a while, but the hammer finally fell today. Projects that subsist entirely on goodwill and volunteer time, but with floundering audience numbers and lessening chances at material gain, are doomed to a slow death. This is something I know all too well.

I hadn’t realized that Live From Memphis had been around for twelve years. Which might mean that I’m officially old, since I can remember using it as a reference to keep track of which punk show I was going to on what night of the week, and I haven’t gone to shows like that in over a decade. But, the great thing about LFM was that it sandwiched those shows between the next Memphis Symphony Orchestra or Ballet Memphis performance. Beyond that, Live From Memphis acted as an early kind of blog aggregator for the area, pulling a lot of the best local bloggers in under one umbrella so they could talk about what was going on out there in the urban wilds.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that Life From Memphis was important and, for its time, utterly singular in its mission. As Craig Brewer just put it “You were there for Memphis when Memphis wasn’t there for you.”

…But, then there’s that last paragraph in the farewell note.

To Memphis, demand more from your leadership. Stop celebrating mediocrity. Stop funding crappy advocacy groups and meaningless brand campaigns. The creatives of Memphis need more than just cheerleaders. Filling out the check box is no way to make change.

One hell of a zinger to go out on, and if you understand what’s being said, one hell of a message.

Because, in this space that comes after, I don’t hear a clarion voice. I hear a cacophony of voices trying to shout over each other, and I can’t make out what any of them are saying.

This is most likely Not Safe For Work, unless you have headphones or work in a place where they are perfectly fine talking about oral sex, anal sex, sex toys, sexually transmitted infections, 50 Shades of Grey, and Robots From the Future Built to Fuck Your Face.

(Hello, Google Search results!)

I am truly amazed Launch Memphis still let me do these things. And thankful, as well.

“This is what you learn when you spend a year researching the crazy stuff in Memphis,” Whitten says of the research that went into Memphis Fast Fiction. “If this writing project has taught me anything, it’s that this one spot on the Mississippi has never not been kind of messed up and crazy, starting with the original settlement. Memphis was the most debauched place on the French frontier. Gambling, drinking: There was nothing else for people to do.”

You can pick it up in this week’s print version of the Flyer, or read it on their website here.

Big thanks to Leonard Gill for his support of the project.

I’m still amazed they let me get away with that yellow fever slide.

Still really want to turn this into a longer, less crammed together talk. Cut out a lot of good bits to get it down to 5 minutest, and was stumbling all over myself to keep up with the slides.

The first hundred days are done. More than done, actually. I think I’m about to be into the hundred-teens of it.

While I’ve got you, I’ll let you in on a little secret. I barely remember writing any of them. Like, if you talk to me and mention a key point, I’ll be able to tell you what it was about and what I was thinking, but I’ll be damned if I can name the story I wrote last night or what it was about.

And that’s probably the weirdest thing about the project. I’m learning tons about Memphis, especially the weird in-the-crack bits that fascinate me so much, and I’m learning to be a better writer , BUT, I’m not remembering the stories that I’m learning for and from. They’re like sketches in an artist’s notebook.

Oh, I did hear that the project came up at some kind of official Memphis cultural/business meeting thing. They talked about it as an example of how Memphis isn’t a standard city/market, and we find our own ways to do things.

Yes, I think I would agree that me absolutely losing my mind is my own way of doing things.

This weekend was the first 48 hour Memphis Music Launch, presented by the Memphis Music Foundation, EmergeMemphis and the Launchpad – basically a whole bunch of nonprofits dedicated to improving Memphis.

The concept was that people could pitch any kind of music or business music idea to the other participants. Then, 8 pitches would be picked to have groups work on that idea for 48 hours, presenting at the end of the weekend. From there only four groups would move forward to a showcase show at the New Daisy in July, with the winner getting a record deal and other awesome prizes.

Laurel did a lot of the collateral design work for the project at Archer, and thought that it might be something fun for us to do. You know, do some design work, maybe build a website for a band that needed work.

Like all of our Bad Ideas, this ballooned into something much bigger than we expected.

We ended up working with a group of 8 musicians who were strangers on Friday, and by Sunday were making music that I really feel represents the modern diversity of Memphis and America as a whole. We named them The Delta Collective, and ended up taking over all of their marketing/legal/business research while they got to the business of writing and recording.

And my God did they knock that part of it out of the park.

At then end of the weekend, we presented the band, their music and all of the planning we’d done. I took over the business end of the presentation, and from the audience feedback, we were the best of the bunch.

I’ll never forget when the judges came back after their deliberations.

“Now, here are the winners in no particular order…
The Delta Collective…”

So, they’re moving on to the showcase in July, with L and I acting as publicists/shepherds/managers/enablers.

You can check out the final product at the website we built:

That’ll also lead you all of our social media stuff, too.

We’ve got 90 days to do as much as we can with these guys, who were, just 48 hours ago, total strangers.

No idea what’ll happen in that or beyond that, but at least for the weekend, those six people and the two of us had our lives changed for the better.

I just wish I could have a weekend after that weekend. Our yard needs to be cut badly, ha.

Today marks the completion of one month’s worth of Fast Fictions over at

The project’s been more or less what I’ve expected, so far. I can feel the edges of my brain starting to fray, but I don’t feel completely overwhelmed, which was a real concern of mine. I think I’ll actually be able to pull this off.

I was originally writing in chunks, where I’d sit down for four or five hours and bang out a half dozen pieces. I’d leave the final review for the day they were supposed to go up, so I felt like I was sticking to the “One-Story-A-Day” bit. But now I am doing the one-a-day from scratch method. Which is a lot riskier, but I feel more rewarding. This is all about me becoming a better writer, and cramming it all into one day then faffing about for the rest of the week wasn’t doing me any good.

So, what’ve I written about?

Well, there’s a good bit of historical stuff in there. Specific period references to people and places. The rest is stuff that takes places in the present, usually referencing things that I’ve experienced, or know about. Bizarrely for me, though, I’ve only written one piece set in the future. I have had a giant robot stomping on downtown, though.

I did get a letter from my Grandmother last week. She wanted to let me know that she was following the project, and that the stories overall were fairly dark. “You and you friends must not all be made out of rainbows and puppy dog tails,” she said.

I’ve tried to lighten things up since then.

From the Memphis Flyer:

6 Zachary Whitten, 28

Give Zachary Whitten one title and one word, and he’ll give you one story about Memphis — every day this year. This is the premise behind his latest endeavor, Memphis Fast Fiction.

There are other endeavors. There is the Great and Secret Thing, his collaborative website for all things artistic. “If people have the balls to stand up and say, ‘I’ve done this and I want to show it off,’ then we thought that we should give them the place to do that.” He’ll be showing off even more of his work in a graphic novel he’s working on with Lauren Rae Holtermann (also on the “20<30″ list). And this is all after hours from his job as an interactive designer for the local agency Combustion.

The native Memphian attended White Station High School, where he found an interest in theater before going to the Savannah College of Art and then farther away to Arizona to design video games.

He returned to Memphis in 2006, making a deal with himself: “You will live here until you feel like you’re in a rut.”

“I’ve been back four years … and I haven’t felt that way at all,” Whitten says. “No other place feels like Memphis.”

I want to thank the crew at the Flyer for thinking me worthy of this, and I hope that I end up being worthy of it.

From Kip’s Memphrapalooza Thanksgiving Bash 2010 Photobooth Epicness that happened this weekend.

Just wrote this in response to some one asking about Graceland Too on Reddit.

Here’s a short primer about Graceland Too.

1. This is deadly serious. You are visiting a man’s life’s work. Do not, FOR ANY REASON, think that this is some kind of esoteric joke. Show the same reverence for this as you would to visiting the Catacombs in Rome.

2. Tour takes anywhere from an hour to two hours. Price is $5 a head, and after you’ve been 3 times you become a lifetime member. Lifetime members get in free.

3. Do not go as a group of all men or all women. Paul’s sexual…proclivities…are becoming more pronounced as time goes on, and stacking the group one way or the other can lead to him either hitting on everyone constantly (all girls) or talking about how he splatter painted the walls with his semen (all men). You will be unable to escape him telling you that Coca Cola makes him horny, he drinks enough of it to inseminate all of China, and that his ejaculate is the equivalent of Southern-style biscuit gravy.

4. Do not go alone. Do not go with two people. Three is a minimum requirement. You go in groups of at least three because these comments are going to be directed at a single person. Three is the minimum number of people that will keep Paul distracted and give you time to recover.

Oh, I said “deadly serious” in Item 1 because Paul Macleod has a gun on him at all times. He once answered the door with a shotgun in his arms after blowing the brains out of a raccoon that had gotten into his house. My friends had to step around the carcass on the tour.

As some one who’s racked up a few lifetime membership’s I can say that Graceland Too is an experience I’ll never forget. However, I can’t say that it’s the sort of place I can recommend anymore. My friends and I used to be die-hard fans, but Paul’s slipping. You can tell the 24 hours a day, 365 days a year open door policy of drunken Ole Miss students is wearing on him.

And some day, he’s gonna snap and use that gun on some one who cracked one too many jokes behind his back. Or you’ll find the body of a broken old man, dead on the floor of a ramshackle building in Holly Springs.

Either way, I don’t want to be there when it happens.

I, as I am w0nt to do, have had a terrible idea.

You see, I’ve obligated myself to write a 200 word piece of short fiction every day, for all of 2011.

I call it Memphis Fast Fiction, and you can read more about it at the site:

And while you’re there, mind dropping a prompt submission into the form?

I’d appreciate it.

Here’s the video from the talk I gave last week about Nerd Rapture.

I wish they’d have inter-cut the slides so you could see what I was yelling about, but whatever.

I honestly have no memory of what happened once I started the talk. Muscle memory or something took over and I just ran through my paces until that last slide ticked over. Had a blast with it, though.

Let me know if you’ve got any questions. The talk is fast and without the slides, you’re probably missing a lot.

Wouldn’t kill me to lose a few pounds, would it?

Don’t answer that.

If you can’t make it out tonight to see me try to maintain sobriety before going on stage to give my talk, you can stream the whole thing here:

Here’s the skinny.

I’m the closer at the first Ignite Memphis this Tuesday, Oct 12th.

What’s Ignite, you’re asking? Honestly, I haven’t the foggiest. But here’s what the Ignite Memphis people are saying on their website.

Ignite is a fast-paced geek event started by Brady Forrest, Technology Evangelist for O’Reilly Media, and Bre Pettis of, formerly of MAKE Magazine. Speakers are given 20 slides, each shown for 15 seconds, giving each speaker 5 minutes of fame. The event has become an international phenomenon, with gatherings in Helsinki, Finland; Paris, France; New York, New York; and many other locations.

Yeah, I don’t know who or what any of those people are, either. I’m sure they are all very important and very skilled at making The Good.

What I do know is that some cool people here in Memphis have decided to do this cool thing, and they’ve foolishly generously decided to let me be apart of it.

My talk is going to be called “The Technological Singularity – Nerd Rapture”. And I’m basically going to take up 5 minutes of your life talking about what Nerd Rapture is, why people think it is going to happen, and then tell you why it probably isn’t but this is a good thing to think about.

I promise to do the whole thing with a twinkle in my eye, and mischief in my heart. (But still tell you what I aim to.)

The full list of people is as follows:

Ignite Speakers

1) Kerry Crawford — Mix Tape
2) Tyler White — Is Google Making Us Stupid
3) Gwyn Fisher — My Big Fat Failure
4) Cardell Orrin — Confessions of a Reformed Non-Voter
5) Michael Synk — The Three Most Important Pages in Business Literature from the Past 20 Years.
6) Brad Silver — Biomarkers and the Personalized Medicine Frontier
7) Dave Barger — Tribes
8) Mark Hakett — Crisis in Our Water


9) Matt Beickert — Can we talk?  The history of media and why it’s still so damn hard to communicate.
10) Joe Leibovich — Improv Comedy is Serious Business
11) Brian Stephens — Data on Consolidation in Other Cities
12) Rhonda Perciavalle — How your lifestyle can change your genetics.
13) Eric Robertson
14) Josh Bell
15) Jim Pohlman
16) Zachary Whitten- The Technology Singularity AKA The Nerd Rapture

I love how they put me last and Kerry first. It’s like they know everyone is going to come see her, and they’re crossing their fingers that everyone is gone before I get up there and start yelling about AI, nanotech and mutable future.

Anyway, time for full details.

Ignite Memphis
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
7pm – 9:30pm
Playhouse on the Square
Tickets are $15 and available online here, or at the door.

Or…here’s the thing…I can get you the hook up.

Leave me a comment on this post (using a valid email) saying that you’ll be at Ignite, and I’ll send you a coupon code for half off.

Even if you don’t give a shit about me or think that the Singularity is just another Internet craze (more or less correct), the rest of the presenters will rock out, too. Kerry, Joe and Dave are all awesome at what they do. I don’t know the rest, but I’m sure they are equally kick ass.

Hope to see you there.

22 of us, in custom-made action hero t-shirts, went to see The Expendables this weekend.

I’m sorry, moving going audience, we’re the reason you can’t have nice things.

In 1916 WC Handy’s Beale Street Blues was the first piece of blues music to be printed and distributed widely in the United States. It exposed the rest of the country, and the rest of the world, to the blues music that was coming up out of the Mississippi Delta, and to the song’s titular street.

If you’re familiar with the musical structure of the blues, you might have trouble hearing what ties Handy’s work to that of Son House or Robert Johnson, but listen to the phrasing. The traditional three bar blues is still there, just “whitified” for popular consumption. Because of Handy and his ability to turn poor, Southern folk music into something for everyone, blues would skyrocket in popularity, meld with jazz and ultimately give birth to rock and roll. Everyone from Cab Calloway to Buddy Holly to the Beatles to Public Enemy can look to Handy and say what they did started with him.

And all because of one short, dirty street in Memphis, Tennessee.

You’ll see pretty browns in beautiful gowns,
You’ll see tailor-mades and hand-me-downs,
You’ll meet honest men, and pick-pockets skilled,
You’ll find that business never ceases ’til somebody gets killed!

If Beale Street could talk, if Beale Street could talk,
Married men would have to take their beds and walk,
Except one or two who never drink booze,
And the blind man on the corner singing “Beale Street Blues!”

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This has been your Friday Frequency.

What happens when you invite people over to a pizza party, giving them the simple, but vague direction of “bring some toppings”?

Pure awesome, that’s what.

PS: Avocado on a pizza is better than it has any right to be. It is like plant foie gras. So good.

Posted via email from brainreleasevalve’s posterous

…then you are fucking asshole.

The politics of the statement aside, peel that shit off or cover it up. I mean, you didn’t seem to have a problem covering up your AMERICA: Love It or Leave It! bumper sticker. It shouldn’t pain you too much to cover this one up.

The ecological disaster of the century is going on in the Gulf, and your decal talking point is in bad taste.

Or better yet, take a drive down Interstate 10 between New Orleans and Pensacola. I’m sure the locals would love to express what they think of your bumper sticker.

Taken with my iPhone and then cropped as to not show off said asshole’s license plate. Excuse the crappy quality.

Memphis. I love you, you know I do. I love your foibles and your charms and I take the bad with the good.

But, I’ve gotten a bit bored with your ability to deliver raw fish wrapped in seaweed to my table. There is a shortage of quality sushi in this town.

Partially because a lower income town several hundred miles from the coast can’t really support a top of the line sushi bar, and partially because everyone has just gotten used to the Jimmy Ishii-style of copy/paste sushi. And by that I mean Ishii dominates the Memphis sushi scene, but in doing so, pulls in every other sushi place into his wake. Ishii deserves his credit, though, he wanted to bring good sushi to a larger Memphis audience, and did so with great success.

But, my god, every place makes the same shit because of it. Even places like Blue Fin end up just cribbing stuff from his menu to make the fussy Memphis eaters happy. Do is probably the most free of his influence, but their menu is far too limited to really be considered a competitor in the sushi field.

In this environment, who would’ve thought that the the most original sushi place in Memphis would share a block with a porn store/strip joint, the best Chinese market in town, and a crumbling movie theatre, all in a mostly Hispanic neighborhood. Not me. But I love being proved wrong.

I am, of course, talking about Ryu Sushi at the corner of Summer and White Station.

As the waitress described it to us their sushi combinations were the result of “The chefs hanging out after hours, putting stuff together.” If they came across something they liked, it went up as a special. If people liked it, it went on the menu. Which leads to things like spicy fried tofu rolls, seared steak and avocado rolls, spicy bits of delicious on fried rice wafer things, and this absolutely mind blowing combination of sweet and spicy sauce, tuna, cilantro and avocado. And the best part? You’re not paying out the ass for original, quality sushi. Two people cleared out, very full, for around $60.

Ryu Sushi impressed the crap out of me. It made me honestly excited about Memphis sushi for the first time in years. I think you all should go find out why.

*click for big

I’ve finally wrangled my pictures from the 2010 Memphis Zombie Massacre and put them up on here on Flickr. Give ‘em a once over and let me know what you think.

I was going to post a few of them here, but I’ll wait and pick out my favorites for a Project365 post.

I shot all of this with a Nikon D3000 and the kit 18-55mm VR lens. Sure, there’s a little bit of Photoshopery there at the end, but I was amazed at how versatile and exact that lens was for something so cheap.

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