Friday, December 26, 2014

The Daily Links: The Digital Future, The Wire, and Buzz Aldrin

Posted By on Fri, Dec 26, 2014 at 3:00 PM

Every day we read a lot of stuff. If it's interesting, thought provoking, funny or being shared by everyone we know on the Internet, we share some of it with you. Happy reading.

From The New Yorker: Can AIDS Be Cured?: Researchers get closer to outwitting a killer.

From Vulture: In an All-Digital Future, It's the New Movies That Will Be in Trouble

From The Los Angeles Times: Finding Marlowe: Did This Man Inspire Two of Noir's Iconic Fictional Detectives?

From The Los Angeles Review of Books: California Split, 40 Years Later: An Interview with Elliott Gould, George Segal and Joseph Walsh in Three Parts

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Christmas in Nashville, From Space

Posted By on Fri, Dec 26, 2014 at 2:54 PM

  • Photo: NASA/Barry Wilmore

Last night, Mt. Juliet-raised astronaut Barry "Butch" Wilmore — last seen repping the Predators aboard the International Space Station — snapped the above shot, which was then posted on the official ISS Facebook page. That's Music City on Christmas night, as seen from about 250 miles up. Tag yourself!

Now seems as good a time as any to revisit the following quote about the view of Earth from space (well, technically from the moon, but the sentiment remains), which Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell gave People Magazine back in 1974:

You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics looks so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, "Look at that, you son of a bitch."

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Belcourt Thwarts North Korea, airs The Interview

Posted By on Fri, Dec 26, 2014 at 9:34 AM

The rare sight of security at a Belcourt screening.
Two hours before The Belcourt Theatre would openly thwart the wishes of the Supreme Leader of Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Brian Irwin had some thwarting of his own to do.

“It seems such a small thing, going to a movie theater,” Irwin said. “But it feels like this is a piece of history, and I wanted to be a part of it.”

Irwin was the first in line for the first of two sold-out Christmas-day showings of The Interview at the historic theater in Hillsboro Village. Since he didn’t have a ticket to either of the two screenings scheduled for The Belcourt Christmas day, he knew he might be limited whatever thwarting he could muster from the sidewalk.

“There’s no way North Korea did this,” he said. “They can’t even keep the lights on over there half the time. And all of seven people are connected to the Internet.”

Sony initially canceled the nationwide opening of the blue-humor movie starring James Franco and Seth Rogan out of security concerns raised after a cyberattack that has been widely attributed to the government of North Korea. However, cries of censorship led to the entertainment conglomorate to release the movie in willing independent theaters, as well as via online pay services including YouTube Movies and the Google Play.

Each of the two Christmas-Day screenings at The Belcourt sold out within hours of announcement Tuesday that the theater would screen the movie, according Cindy Wall, director of communications and marketing for the nonprofit theater.

“I didn’t want to buy tickets online because people are hacking systems, so I came down here,” said Leaitrice Medina, on the sidewalk prior to the Hillsboro Village theater opening its doors. “I don’t think there’s a security threat here, though. If [North Korea] were to do anything, it would probably to be electronic.”

The movie is scheduled to run at The Belcourt through New Year’s Day, with the possibility of adding more dates if the demand is there.

“[The Interview] went from being one of the most heralded Christmas releases in the country, to not being shown at all,” said Stephanie Silverman, executive director of The Belcourt. “So after that, independent movie theaters said to Sony, we’re here for you guys. You’re in a terrible position.”

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There Arose Such A #MayoralClatter! Candidate Holiday Cards

Posted By on Fri, Dec 26, 2014 at 8:00 AM

Nestled among the holiday cards we received this holiday season from friends, family, and public relations firms were cheery messages from some of Nashville's 2015 mayoral candidates.

No word yet on whether any mayoral hopefuls landed an advertising deal on Santa's sleigh, but here are the cards they send in case you missed them:

David Fox:


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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Front of the Book: In Memoriam

Posted By on Wed, Dec 24, 2014 at 10:41 AM

There's no City Limits this week as the book is taken up by the In Memoriam section, our annual look at some of the Nashvillians who left us this year.

But there's a couple of great pieces that Pith readers will enjoy, notably Pat Embry's appreciation of ex-Banner man Jack Gunter:

By the time I joined the Banner in 1979, Jack had clawed his way up the newsroom ranks, from 16-year-old East High School clerk to staff photographer to chief photographer. He later was promoted to vice president and general manager.

This kind of upward mobility doesn't happen unless your cache includes some intangibles. And Jack's kit bag included card-carrying, honorary badge-waving entree into Nashville's political power structure.

Local politicians and would-be politicians made the West Nashville home of Jack and his beloved wife of 60 years, Bettye, a must-stop long after he retired from the paper, as well as after later years as a court officer at the Metro Courthouse, until his death at age 85 on April 10.

Jack Gunter knew where the political bodies were buried. And the shovel in the car trunk may still have had dirt on it as proof.

And Tom Wood's piece on Cecil Branstetter is just outstanding:

The first time Branstetter defended the Highlander Folk School in Grundy County Circuit Court, a 1959 police raid probing claims of communist activism had turned up little more than a barrel with nasty liquid at the bottom, which the commander on scene ordered a highway patrolman to taste, seeking evidence of illegal hooch.

Civil rights pioneer Septima Clark had been caught up in the police action after taking part in a seminar on school desegregation at Highlander, where movement leaders including Rosa Parks and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. had refined the tactics of nonviolent protest — most memorably by adapting the spiritual "We Shall Overcome" as a marching song.

Highlander founder Myles Horton later checked the offending barrel and found it full of rodent droppings. "You know what you drank?" he asked the cop. "You drank mouse turd soup."

Jurors whom Nashville author John Egerton tracked down decades after the raid and subsequent prosecution would call Branstetter "the smartest lawyer I ever saw" and "the man I'd want to represent me if I ever got in trouble."

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The Daily Links: Marissa Mayer, Nicki Minaj, and Thomas Pynchon

Posted By on Wed, Dec 24, 2014 at 7:52 AM

Every day we read a lot of stuff. If it's interesting, thought provoking, funny or being shared by everyone we know on the Internet, we share some of it with you. Happy reading.

From Columbia Journalism Review: Guess what? People lie to reporters

From The New Yorker: The Best Books of 2014

From The New York Times Magazine: What Happened When Marissa Mayer Tried to Be Steve Jobs

From The Dissolve: The Best Films Of 2014

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Take That, Cyber Terrorists! The Interview Shows Christmas Day at Belcourt

Posted By on Tue, Dec 23, 2014 at 1:51 PM


Looks like Sony Pictures just fired a counterstrike at the cyber terrorists. The embattled studio will allow independent theaters across the country to screen the James Franco-Seth Rogen comedy The Interview starting Christmas Day — and the Belcourt in Hillsboro Village will be one of them.

Tickets for an indefinite run are expected to go on sale later today on the theater's website. (UPDATE: The Franklin Theatre in Franklin will be showing it also.)

The move comes after Sony withdrew the film from its scheduled Dec. 25 release last week in the wake of a massive cyberhack. That prompted not only a public rebuke from President Obama but a petition last weekend by participating theaters in Sundance's Art House Convergence, a national coalition of indie arthouses of which The Belcourt is a founding member.

In a show of solidarity with the studio, the undersigned theaters (including The Belcourt) offered to screen The Interview — and to accept all the liabilities associated with a movie that, among other things, has triggered threats of further retaliation.

Belcourt executive director Stephanie Silverman says there has been "no sense of threat." Nevertheless, she says the theater will have security personnel on hand, and she has spoken to the Metro nashville Police Department about precautionary measures.

The sudden booking has forced the theater to bump the Studio Ghibli doc The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, probably to a January date, and shift around some of this weekend's Frank Capra retrospective. Check the theater's website for schedule info — though we suspect that website is about to get rather busy.

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Memories of Teddy Bart's Round Table

Posted By on Tue, Dec 23, 2014 at 9:00 AM

The first Round Table cast: Bart, Dave Nichols, Boyce Hawkins, John Bibb and Wayne Oldham
  • Teddy Bart
  • The first Round Table cast: Bart, Dave Nichols, Boyce Hawkins, John Bibb and Wayne Oldham
For nearly twenty years, beginning on WLAC-AM in 1986 and ending in 2005 at 1160 AM, Teddy Bart’s Round Table was Nashville’s version of Meet the Press. Every weekday, from 7 to 9 am, politicians and journalists sparred politely among themselves and with co-hosts, Teddy Bart and Karlen Evins.

Bart passed away over the weekend at 78. Pith reached out to a number of former Round Table contributors for their memories of the show and Bart.

Punching above its weight

By Henry Walker

The radio audience was small. We never knew how small because Teddy didn’t pay to subscribe to a ratings service. He also didn’t pay his guests, but they came anyway, whenever he called, because it was an opportunity to influence public opinion outside the local newspapers, a chance to talk in more than sound bites.

The audience was small but it mattered. If you were driving to work to lobby a bill at Capitol Hill or the Metro Council, if you were promoting a candidate or a cause, or if you were just a political or journalism junkie, you didn’t want to miss hearing the Round Table that morning. Campaigns were launched — and sometimes crashed — during those discussions. If you wanted to play in the game, you listened to the show.

Teddy was never rude or loud. He didn’t talk over his guests. He let the guests talk. The show was about them, not about the hosts. That was the difference between the Round Table and everyone else.

The show went off the air, abruptly, after board members Ted Welch, Orrin Ingram, Ned Ray McWherter, Jim Ayers and Mark Tipps decided the red ink was too deep. Occasionally people talked about bringing it — or something like it — back to the air. But it wouldn’t be the same without Teddy. He is greatly missed by those of us who were lucky enough occasionally to share his microphone.

Walker formerly wrote “Desperately Seeking The News” for the Scene and is an attorney.

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Does Bill Freeman's Trash Truck Ad Deal Stink?

Posted By on Tue, Dec 23, 2014 at 7:00 AM

Bill Freeman started throwing elbows weeks before he officially announced his plans to run for mayor. But was he violating campaign finance laws in the process?

As Pith first reported last week, Freeman secured ad space on Gray's Disposal Co. garbage trucks by offering the company three times more than Charles Robert Bone had agreed to pay and committing to cover any legal costs that might arise from breaking the contract with Bone. Freeman told The Tennessean that he paid Gray's with a personal check and "would disclose the expenditure on campaign finance disclosures at the appropriate time." The Freeman campaign also disputes how much more they offered to pay Gray's.

But Freeman had not — and still has not — filed an appointment of treasurer form with the Davidson County Election Commission. Which raised questions here at Pith about whether the campaign had run afoul of Tennessee's campaign finance laws.

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Monday, December 22, 2014

The Daily Links: Pizza Barons, Dive Bars, and Late Shows

Posted By on Mon, Dec 22, 2014 at 5:25 PM

Every day we read a lot of stuff. If it's interesting, thought provoking, funny or being shared by everyone we know on the Internet, we share some of it with you. Happy reading.

From Bloomberg Businessweek: Twilight of the Pizza Barons

From Punch: Diary of a 24-hour dive bar

From The Atlantic: Blue Lives Matter

From Chicago Tribune: Red light cameras put into low-crash areas, did nothing for safety, study finds

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