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

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.


The Replacements may not have risen to such heights as Wilco, R.E.M., Nirvana or any of the numerous alt-rock bands they influenced, but their music remains a critical favorite in the 1980s' canon. Bob Mehr, music writer at the Commercial Appeal recently penned the band's authoritative biography. Trouble Boys: The True Story of The Replacements lays out in gritty detail the band's most legendary episodes, including getting banned from Saturday Night Live and making a career-highlight album at Memphis' Ardent Studios with producer Jim Dickinson. 


Memphis Brooks Museum of Art

On this week’s Culture Desk, Brooks Museum curator Stanton Thomas asks: Was she worth it?

It’s the question that, in retrospect, seems to justify a $25,000 purchase of art work made by the City of Memphis under Mayor Walter Chandler in 1943. At the time, a huge civic debate erupted over the use of public money on fine art. The purchase from a St. Louis art collector included 38 paintings total; among them were works by Winslow Homer, George Inness and the oil on wood panel pictured here by Renaissance master Sofonisba Anguissola.


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. 

  

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