Monday, January 31, 2011

Nashville's $60,000-a-Year Part-Time Job

Posted By on Mon, Jan 31, 2011 at 7:21 AM

There are only two things that come out late Friday afternoons — TNDP press releases and stories people don't want you to notice. Last Friday, Joey Garrison reported on a story so outrageous you can see why Mayor Dean's office might have hoped you wouldn't see it.

Jim Fyke, the former Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation commissioner, starts working this week for the Metro Finance Department. He'll be making $60,000 a year and working under 20 hours a week so that he doesn't lose his pension.

That alone — that someone could make $60,000 a year working part-time for the city is pretty amazing — but it might be worth it if he were going to be, oh, I don't know, a part-time heart surgeon or a part-time bomb-defuser. So what's Fyke going to be doing?

Garrison reports that Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling says, "We’ll assign him projects as they arise on a case basis," and, "The job will evolve over time."

In other words, he has no job description. They don't know what they're going to do with him, but apparently it's worth $60,000 a year to have him do it.

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Beaman Park: A Review

Posted By on Mon, Jan 31, 2011 at 6:09 AM

The walkway out back of the nature center.
  • The walkway out back of the nature center.
In Short:

Location: Northwest of town on Old Hickory Boulevard
Size of Park: Enormous
Crowds: Respectable
Approximate Age of Patrons: 20s and up
Topics of Conversation: Whether your dog should be on a leash
Stray Dogs Seen: None, but I'm sure there are some
Types of Vehicles in Parking Lots: Cars and cute little SUVs
Perceived Safety: Personally? Low Normal people? Fine
Number of Gunshots Heard: None, but that's unusual
Dog Friendliness: High
Number of pitbulls sighted: Just mine
Accessibility: The nature center is accessible. The trails are mostly not.
Incorporation of Local History: Excellent
Recommended Patrons: People who like to hike, ghosts of old moonshiners

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No TEA Party: Does This Make Glen Casada "Superman?"

Posted By on Mon, Jan 31, 2011 at 5:55 AM

Education reformers who accuse teachers' unions of impeding progress may have an ally in the Tennessee Republican Party. Jeff Woods reports that GOP legislators are hammering the Tennessee Education Association with proposed bills that would do everything from stripping the union's collective bargaining powers to banning labor organizations from contributing to political campaigns.

Could this be because the TEA contributed to losing Democrats across the state in last year's electoral Waterloo, Woods wonders? Didn't think so:

Rep. Glen Casada, R-College Grove, said his bill to end automatic paycheck withdrawals [for public-employee union dues] is intended only to save cities and counties the administrative costs. Regarding another of his bills, he said he wants to ban unions’ political contributions because state law already prohibits campaign giving by corporations.

“If the goal is to keep outside money out of politics, then it should apply to unions as well,” Casada said. “However we decide to do it, we should treat corporations and unions the same.”

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Pick of the Day: The Shop Around the Corner at Belcourt

Posted By on Mon, Jan 31, 2011 at 5:00 AM

The Shop Around the Corner
Where: The Belcourt
When: 7:05 p.m. Monday, Jan. 31

Romantic comedies that hinge upon some kind of secret-identity misunderstanding can get annoying fast — the movie would typically resolve in five minutes if two people actually had a conversation. Not Ernst Lubitsch’s near-perfect 1940 film about two clerks in a Budapest perfumerie who bicker and feud, unaware that they’re wooing each other secretly by letter. (If that sounds vaguely familiar, the movie’s been remade at least twice, most recently as the Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan vehicle You’ve Got Mail — but the wry, worldly romanticism and tender irony could only be Lubitsch’s.)

James Stewart, all gangly charm, and Margaret Sullavan, a radiant and underrated comedienne, play the unknowing lovebirds. Their boss, in an infidelity subplot that gives the film its lingering bittersweetness, is none other than Frank Morgan, the Wizard of Oz. Tonight's the last night for this at The Belcourt as part of its ongoing series of screen romances. Next week: one of our favorites, John Ford's The Quiet Man, with John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara.

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

We Always Lose the Good Ones Too Soon: RIP, JR Minkel

Posted By on Sat, Jan 29, 2011 at 1:36 PM

JR Minkel
  • JR Minkel
In major bummerino metropolis news, we hear via social networking channels that Nashville hyper-smart science writer, Vandy grad and all-around brilliant guy JR Minkel has passed away at age 31.

He studied zebrafish genetics, molecular biology and wrote for Scientific American. You should have seen his writing in the pages of this paper, though — he could take science and make it sound totally gettable, like it was just bad writing that might have kept you from really thinking about future applications for graphene all these years. (This past year, I'd mentioned to my editor the idea of asking him to contribute to the paper, or as a possible candidate for our People Issue last year.) He'd written a book called the Instant Egghead's Guide to the Universe, and his blog was called Fistful of Science. He would also leave comments on stories in town about, say, global warming, and dash off in a matter-of-fact paragraph what it took other people whole books to explain.

I never met the guy, but I'd always wanted to. People who knew him reflect here and here. The latter link mentions that, he'd asked a colleague recently to recommend him for a doctoral program, and had written out some of his future goals, further proof of what a thoughtful thinker he was:

My overarching interests are social change in general and climate activism in particular. I believe that deliberate social change has to emerge from individual change, in the sense that individual minds have to come to view the world in new ways. I want to understand how individuals make the cognitive switch from being politically inactive or unaware to politically active and engaged. [...] My idea is to conduct a series of case studies of individuals who have made the cognitive switch I’m talking about. My goal would be to publish these stories and/or use them to develop more effective ways of reaching out to those who are politically undecided.

[Via Chris Wage.]

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Conservative Christian Coalition Revs Up Again in Fight Over CANDO

Posted By on Fri, Jan 28, 2011 at 11:56 AM

This week in the Scene, I wrote about Mayor Karl Dean's uncomfortable quietude on a polarizing bill that's fate will say a lot, one way or the other, about whether Nashville has come to be a place of welcoming or intolerance.

The bill, shorthanded CANDO (Contract Accountability Nondiscrimination Ordinance), has already provoked an outsize response from the Christian-right and some like-minded business people who fear that requiring those contracting with Metro government to include gays and lesbians in their protections against discrimination might lead to an outright government takeover of the private sector. A couple weeks back, about 40 of them held a closed-door strategy session where they tossed about anti-gay rhetoric and salivated over businessman arguments so mighty they may well win the day.

And now, the group's de facto leader, David Fowler (former Hamilton County state senator and current honcho of the Family Action Council of Tennessee), has unleashed his latest strategy email, which was obtained by the Scene and sister City Paper.

According to this morning's story from CP's Joey Garrison, in which he reveals that Fowler's agenda includes targeting five council members whom he believes are persuadable:

Anticipating that a vote before Feb. 15 —— the subsequent council meeting —— is unlikely, Fowler points specifically to five council members whom he seems to believe could play a pivotal role in deciding the fate of the ordinance. He provides reasons why he believes three of them may oppose the pending bill and posts their phone numbers.

• Coleman —— “He was a ‘no’ on the 2009 ordinance and probably cast a courtesy ‘yes’ vote on Tuesday.”

• Hunt —— “Initially opposed/expressed concern about ordinance in 2009 in committee but then switched”

• Evans —— “She represents part of Bellevue and could be open to pro-business argument”

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Campfield and Hardaway: Tennessee's Own Daddy Daycare from Hell

Posted By on Fri, Jan 28, 2011 at 10:18 AM

Some days I really wonder if we aren't all extras in state Sen. Stacey Campfield and Rep. G.A. Hardaway's private buddy movie, where they're working together to work out their issues with marriage and kids. If you look at all of their legislation revolving around domestic violence and child custody and support as a whole, a couple of things become clear.

First, should any Tennessee woman get pregnant if she's involved with even a remotely sketchy man, it's practically in her best interest to break it off with him, have the baby without his knowledge, and leave his name off the birth certificate. (For instance, the piece of legislation we talked about the other day? Would also give the father the right to decide the last name of a child if there's a dispute between parents about whose last name the kid should have. Rapists should enjoy that.)

And, whoa boy, if you're a man who's married and had some kids with a sketchy woman? You are screwed in your abilities to protect those kids from your wife as you try to extricate her from your lives. If the Dynamic Duo get their way, she'll be able to harass you on the phone for an hour before you can get a restraining order, while the courts have to assume that she should get joint custody. And if she stalks you, maybe threatens your new girlfriend, and you have to get a restraining order to protect you from her increasingly nutty behavior? The courts wouldn't be able to use the restraining order as evidence of a need to change the custody arrangement.

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Woods: Conservatives Push for Judges to Face Judgment — At the Polls

Posted By on Fri, Jan 28, 2011 at 8:30 AM

Should judges in Tennessee's highest courts face contested elections, instead of the thumbs-up-or-down votes currently in place? As Jeff Woods reports in this week's Scene, a conservative faction says yes, hoping to clamp down on jurists whose rulings on death-penalty cases and abortion rights aren't sufficiently severe. Curiously, this puts them at odds with pro-business factions, who live in fear, Woods says, of a statewide bombardment of Bart Durham-style TV ads rousing the ambulance-chasing rabble.

If the contested-elections drumbeat leads to battle and victory, Woods offers a taste of what Tennesseans can expect:

Twenty-two states now force their Supreme Court justices to run in competitive elections. That has led to an explosion in spending on judicial elections — from $83 million in 1990-99 to $206 million in 2000-09, according to a report by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University's School of Law.

Judicial elections have become costly wars pitting plaintiffs' lawyers and unions against businesses and conservatives. Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul Pfeifer was quoted as saying he felt "like a hooker down by the bus station" during his campaign.

Special-interest super-spenders are dominating many contests. In 29 elections, the top five spenders gave an average of $473,000. In a notorious West Virginia case, a coal executive spent $3 million to elect a justice who later ruled in favor of his benefactor's company in his appeal of a $50 million jury verdict.


Pick of the Day: Charlie Chaplin Films with Organ Accompaniment

Posted By on Fri, Jan 28, 2011 at 5:18 AM

Dorothy Papadakos: Charlie Chaplin Films feat. Live Pipe Organ Accompaniment
Where: Christ Church Cathedral, 900 Broadway
When: Fri., Jan. 28, 6 & 8 p.m.
$10; $5 for students

To be such a massive beast — it encompasses some 3,370 pipes — the Lively-Fulcher pipe organ at Christ Church Cathedral is an instrument capable of great delicacy and playfulness. That should make it a fine vehicle for acclaimed organist Dorothy Papadakos’ improvised accompaniment to three silent Charlie Chaplin classics dating back to 1917: ”The Cure,” “The Immigrant” and “The Adventurer."

Papadakos, a member of the Grammy-winning Paul Winter Consort and the organist for 13 years at the world’s largest Gothic cathedral, New York’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine, has performed this program at venues ranging from the Moscow International Arts Festival to San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral; her first appearance here since 2004 makes this even more of an event. Call 255-7729 for more information.

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Gone Fishin': Titans Buy Giant Tent, Prepare for Circus

Posted By on Thu, Jan 27, 2011 at 5:50 PM


Sports Illustrated reported it. The Titans confirmed it via Twitter. And now, it's all out there. It caught Jason Babin, Ryan Mouton and Derrick Morgan off guard. For what it's worth, our erstwhile quarterback has been silent so far (although, apparently, "Say I Won't" by ProPain is a good song).

The Tennessee Titans and Coach Jeff Fisher are "parting ways." After 16-ish years helming the Oilers/Titans, racking up a 142-120 record, and leading the squad to a Super Bowl appearance, Nashville's Second-Greatest Mustache is leaving (Bob Mueller outlasts another lip-tickler).

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