Christopher Blank

News Director

It started with ghost stories, of a sort. The wood floors creaking at night, dad assured me, confirmed the presence of spirits in our home. Years of night terrors followed. Then years of transference. Thank you for attending my slumber party. Let me tell you about the noises, friends... 

Eventually, the joy a child finds in manipulating other children's emotions matures into a high school theater career. In that regard, my teen years were of the traditional, unpopular variety.

One day, a few years after college, an editor at the St. Petersburg Times pulled me aside from my part-time job sorting mail and delivering faxes. "Why is your hair orange?" she asked. "And did I see you unicycling in front of that theater across the street?" Few things a person does in the services of "Art" translate into being taken seriously as a human being. To my surprise -- to my eternal, immeasurable surprise --  this was the start of a career as an arts reporter and critic, first at the Times, then at the Memphis Commercial Appeal and for many magazines, journals and newspapers in between. 

In some ways, radio journalism is a back-to-basics medium; people tell stories, share insights, opinions, beliefs and experiences of the verbal kind. And for all the Tweets and Facebook posts and clickbait headlines that parade so stridently upon our psyches day-to-day, the surest way to convince someone that their house is haunted is simply to turn off the lights and let their ears confirm it.

 

Ways to Connect

In what is now the South Main Arts District of Memphis, civil rights' history has been written in blood on more than one occasion. The balcony of the Lorraine Motel (now the National Civil Rights Museum) commemorates Dr. Martin Luther King’s death. But no memorials existed for another horrific act of racial violence that erupted here in 1866 – until now.


Christopher Blank/WKNO-FM

Ruma Kumar spent six months researching how Shelby County Schools used $90 million in funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Mostly, it paid for teacher training, evaluations, a streamlined hiring process and crucial data. Results have been varied, but overall promising. A 1-year extension on the grant will preserve this expensive training model for now. But with Shelby County Schools facing a major deficit, the district may have to reconsider the costs of training a better teaching staff.

Thanks to computers and synthesizers, today’s musicians have countless ways to create instrumental sounds. Two Memphis musicians are now planning a concert using one of the first electronic keyboards to replicate real instruments – the Mellotron. Take a listen to this technological marvel of early modern music.


It might be hard to imagine a time when ice was a luxury item. But for such times were made silver bowls like this one, found in the permanent collection of the Brooks Museum of Art. On this week's Culture Desk, curator Stanton Thomas describes this serving dish's unique significance in a Southern home. 


Christopher Blank

Will the General Assembly fund a $90 million new home for more than 200 years of state records? Or will librarians and archivists have to find another way to manage an impending overflow?


Christopher Blank

Leaders of Tennessee’s Freemasons voted Thursday to uphold a ban on gay men. Meeting in Nashville, the Grand Lodge of Tennessee held firm in the belief that homosexuality is un-Masonic, a view also shared by the Grand Lodge of Georgia.


When the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide last June, a couple of farmers in rural Somerville, Tenn., tied the knot.

The couple — Mark Henderson and Dennis Clark — say their neighbors responded within hours.

"We came home and there was a bottle of champagne in a potato salad bucket on the front porch," Henderson says.

But the response from another community, one that they've been actively involved in for years, wasn't as welcoming.

Simon Mott

One of Memphis' great producers and engineers is back in Memphis this week, revisiting old haunts, showcasing his photography and even performing at the Hard Rock Cafe. Terry Manning talks to WKNO about sound, imagery and his latest instrumental album.


Jim Eikner, whose courtly charm and debonair zest for life loomed large in Memphis' media sphere, died Wednesday at age 82. He had been the voice and face of WKNO-TV for nearly three decades.


Memphis Brooks Museum of Art

On this week's Culture Desk, Brooks Museum curator Marina Pacini offers the inside story on a colorful artwork called "The Family" that still raises eyebrows -- a Pop Art Nativity by the famed sculptor Marisol. The box-like figures, complete with neon halos, have been a conversation-generating part of the permanent collection since 1969.


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