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.

 

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Leanne McConnell

A wedding photo on Facebook leads to the suspension of two Tennessee Freemasons, sparking debate within one of the country’s oldest secret societies.


Memphis Brooks Museum of Art

This week's Culture Desk explores a 1958 photograph from the Brooks Museum's permanent collection.

Taken by renowned Memphis photojournalist Ernest Withers, it captures just one of the many small but collectively important moments in the struggle for civil rights. Museum curator Marina Pacini reveals the photo's history, but also its surprising provenance.


whitehouse.gov

Vice President Joe Biden visited Memphis today, commemorating the 7th Anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. His whistle stop at Memphis’ Crescent Corridor Intermodal Freight Rail Project highlighted a $105 million federal grant designed to create jobs and reduce pollution and highway congestion by increasing railroad volume.


A new television series based on the early days of rock and roll will be filmed in Memphis this spring. "Million Dollar Quartet" follows Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis as they begin their careers at the famed Sun Studio. As Linn Sitler of the Memphis and Shelby County Film and Television Commission tells us, Memphis required more than authentic scenery to attract producers. 

  

Many paintings in the Brooks Museum have a story to tell. This week, WKNO's Culture Desk presents this "Portrait of Queen Henrietta Maria 1638" by Anthony van Dyck. The former wife of England's deposed Charles I has an important connection to early America. One of our states is named after her. Can you guess which one? Curator Stanton Thomas has the answer.


Christoper Blank

For 44-years, Father Nicholas Vieron has been teaching an introductory Greek class at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church. The 90-year-old Pastor Emeritus just started a new session. There's still room left to pick up some phrases and ancient history, but mostly to relax with a man that some have called a Memphis "treasure."


Christopher Blank

The Mississippi River is expected to reach its high water mark today. For the Mid-South, the unusual winter flood has provided more spectacle than threat.


Christopher Blank

It takes a special combination of skills to run the Orpheum Theatre. Raising more than a million dollars every year is one of them. Being a risk-taker is another. For 35 years, Pat Halloran made an enormous impact on the institution. Along with restoring and expanding the building, he helped turn regional theaters like the Orpheum into New York producers, giving them leverage in an industry once dominated by a small coterie of Broadway investors. When Halloran steps down next week, he will leave both a proud legacy and a formidable challenge.

  

In his new memoir, Memphis Man: Living High, Laying Low, musician and producer Don Nix opens up about his life, his A-list friends and his music. 


One ballet in particular speaks right to the hearts of children. For many young dancers, Tchaikovsky’s "Nutcracker” is as synonymous with the holiday spirit as Santa Claus, sleigh rides and caroling. 


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