Flyer editors and writers were each issued a new-fangled, high-tech research tool this week: a Magic 8-Ball. Their first assignment? Create a list of fail-safe predictions for the coming year. Here's what they came up with. You can't say we didn't warn you. — Bruce VanWyngarden, editor
Will COGIC's Holy Convocation come back to Memphis?
Presiding bishop Charles E. Blake, elected in November, has promised that the 100th anniversary Holy Convocation wouldn't be the last in Memphis, so the saints will return in 2008.
Even if the 6.5-million-member denomination decides to move the convocation to Atlanta or Los Angeles sometime in the future, they'll be back eventually. Memphis is the birthplace of COGIC, and there are few higher claims than that. Face it. Even after thousands of years, the Olympics returned to Athens. Magic 8-Ball says: Without A Doubt.
Will Broad Avenue become the new South Main?
Okay, so maybe Broad won't replace South Main as an arts district, but it may soon become just as relevant an art space with possibly hipper cred. The neighborhood just pulled off its second highly successful art walk, with works featured at Material, Metalcast, LRP Gallery, and other galleries. With the addition of the nautically themed Cove, featuring the décor formerly housed at Anderton's East, the place has the potential to come into its own. Signs Point To Yes.
If strippers are forced to wear pasties, will crime go down?
We agree with outgoing Councilman Tom Marshall: There is no evidence that pasties deter crime. Nor will banning beer sales in topless clubs do anything to alleviate the city's rampant gang problems. People will get buzzed one way or another. At least beer is legal. Legislating morality seldom works, says the 8-Ball. In other words: Don't Count On It.
Will Elvis-mania ever die?
With Elvis Presley Enterprises investing in an expansion at Graceland — and a cleanup for the area around it — don't expect Elvis-mania to wane anytime soon, even if his once-teenybopper fans require bifocals, walkers, and hip replacements. Ask Again Later.
Will the City Council have a productive year?
With a gazillion new members — some new to elected office, some not — the council will take this year to begin to understand what its job is, what its power is, and where its footing is (not to mention its office). And if there are more Main Street Sweeper-type indictments in the works, it will slow things down even more. Very Doubtful.
Will the Zippin Pippin's future be resolved this year?
If the Zippin Pippin weren't a roller coaster ride, it would be the perfect metaphor for one. Ever since Libertyland closed, the city has claimed the Grand Carousel but shunned the Pippin.
The cars were sold at auction, but the wooden structure was never removed from the former park. The ride and the cars were then donated to the Save Libertyland group and added to the National Historic Register. Then the city claimed ownership of the ride, because it wasn't removed from the property by a certain date.
In December, the City Council was presented with three options for the Fairgrounds area, but, well, see above. My Sources Say No.
Will hometown hotties Ginnifer Goodwin and Justin Timberlake ever hook up?
Though Goodwin reportedly broke up with Chris Klein earlier this year, Timberlake seems to be going strong with Jessica Biel. Besides, if the 2008 ball said "As I See It, Yes" or "It Is
Better Not Tell You Now.
Will Memphis and Shelby County consolidate their crime-fighting efforts?
To avoid a power struggle between county sheriff Mark Luttrell and Memphis police director Larry Godwin, maybe the Justice League will step in as the county's top crime fighters. But things this big move slowly, and the Magic 8-Ball is also slowly turning. Now it says: Very Doubtful.
Will blogger Paul Ryburn move to the suburbs?
The downtown blogger (paulryburn.com) doesn't just eat and drink downtown. He lives, works, and plays there, too. He helped found a community group against downtown panhandlers and the Residents for a Safer Downtown organization.
Will there be a compelling on-field reason to go to Redbirds games this season?
AutoZone Park is a great place to be in the summer — barbecue nachos in the bleachers, kids rolling around on the bluff, the satisfying crack of baseballs ricocheting off wooden bats.
But, if atmosphere is the primary selling point of minor-league baseball, then a chance to see tomorrow's stars today is the secondary one, and, in that respect, the St. Louis Cardinals' threadbare minor-league system hasn't treated Redbirds fans well of late.
That could change next year, when the Redbirds are likely to boast a real top prospect in the form of centerfielder Colby Rasmus. The 21-year-old, who broke Bo Jackson's prep home-run record in Alabama, was projected as a Top 50 prospect by both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus prior to last season and is sure to shoot up that list for 2008 after hitting 28 home runs and stealing 18 bases in only 128 Double-A games last season. Signs Point To Yes.
Will more local politicians and their associates be indicted?
Local FBI agent-in-charge My Harrison and U.S. attorney David Kustoff have expanded the hunt for governmental crooks beyond the scripted theater-in-the-round of Tennessee Waltz videos into actual graft initiated by the felons themselves.
Two recent indictees are former MLGW head Joseph Lee and former county commissioner Bruce Thompson, each of whom is charged with offenses that in previous years would have been shrugged off as one-hand-washing-the-other politics. It Is Certain.
Will the Grizzlies get better?
The Grizzlies' slow start this season may seem like same-old, same-old to casual fans, but a closer look strongly suggests the team has played better than its record. In the NBA, point-differential (how many points a team has won or lost games by) has proven to be a better indicator of future performance than winning percentage.
Through mid-December, the Grizzlies boasted the point-differential of a near-.500 team, closer to the even mark than any other losing team in the league, something reflective of the bad luck and poor late-game execution that resulted in a league-worst 0-5 record in games decided by 3 or fewer points.
Also factor in that, because of injuries to center Darko Milicic and point guard Michael Conley, the team had yet to play a single game with its eventual projected rotation, and the Grizzlies are poised to be a team that improves over the course of the season. As I See It, Yes.
Will Grizzlies attendance come back?
After finishing last in NBA home attendance last season, the Grizzlies have crept up a little in the standings early this season, but that's more a result of other teams doing even worse than the Grizzlies doing better.
Barring a major event (like winning the draft lottery, drat!), NBA attendance is generally more a reflection of the previous season than the current one. So, winning back fans will be a slow process. The real test will be if the Grizzlies can improve this season and generate expectations for the 2008-2009 season.
So, we may start to get an answer to this question in 2008, but the answer won't be complete until the fall. Cannot Predict Now.
Will conditions at the Memphis Animal Shelter improve?
In recent months, grassroots activists, animal rescuers, and animal advocates have formed a group called Change Our Shelter. They claim adoptable animals are being euthanized for minor conditions like allergies or runny noses, and they want to see the shelter change its euthanasia policies to allow rescue groups to adopt sick animals. They're also fighting for longer adoption hours, a friendlier staff, and a new citizen-run shelter advisory board. Ask Again Later.
Will Nothing But the Truth be another Memphis-made prestige film?
Memphis has generally had pretty good luck with the quality of its recent made-in-Memphis flicks. The Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line garnered an Oscar for Reese Witherspoon. The still-unreleased Blueberry Nights brought one of the most celebrated filmmakers in the world, Wong Kar-Wai, to town. 21 Grams didn't quite work, but it paired an elite cast (Naomi Watts, Sean Penn, Benicio Del Toro) with a hot director (Alejandro Inarritu, who went on the make Babel). And that doesn't even factor in Craig Brewer's films.
Nothing But the Truth, the recently shot political/journalistic potboiler that's a thinly veiled roman à clef about New York Times reporter Judy Miller's role in the CIA leak case, doesn't boast quite the pedigree. Director Rod Lurie is best known for the overheated The Contender. The declarative title of Lurie's Memphis-made follow-up suggests a similar lack of nuance. Outlook Not So Good.
Will the Rhodes-Jennings Building come back to life this year?
The 19th-century cast-iron gem that is the former Lowenstein's Department Store and later Rhodes-Jennings Building on North Main downtown is being rehabbed — again. So, is 2008 the year someone actually moves into the place? With the bad luck this century-old building's had, the 8-Ball's staying on the safe side:
Ask Again Later.
Will 2008 be a better year for new Memphis music than 2007?
Amy LaVere broke out big-time and stalwart local artists such as Vending Machine and Harlan T. Bobo released fine records in 2007, but most of the heavyweights on the local music scene took the year off. In 2008, new records from the North Mississippi Allstars and Reigning Sound (based in North Carolina now, but recorded in Memphis) are already on tap, which should get the year off to a good start. Most Likely.
Will a major earthquake strike Memphis in 2008?
Ever since the great earthquake of 1811 shook this area with such force that the Mississippi River flowed backward — well, that's the story, anyway — Memphians have been nervously expecting "the big one."
Experts and pseudo-experts have given their opinions, and one year a scientist named Eben Browning even predicted the exact day the quake would strike (December 3, 1990). News flash: It didn't. We keep hearing that we are sitting directly on the New Madrid fault, so it's only a matter of time, but the fact is that we are not. The fault line is actually several hundred miles to the west, so even if a quake did run along that fault line, there's no way to say how much damage it would cause here — if any. Very Doubtful.
Will Target move into the Sears Crosstown building?
Midtowners have been begging for a "big-box" retailer for years, but with the not-in-my-backyard caveat (because of the huge parking lot these places normally demand). The majestic Sears building on North Cleveland has been vacant since 1983 and has changed hands countless times since then. It's about the only property in Memphis that already has the size, parking, and location necessary for a big-box retailer. But the 8-Ball is waffling: Cannot Predict Now.
Will Pau Gasol be traded?
Chicago newspaper columnists and a not-insignificant segment of the team's fan base would like to answer this question in the affirmative, but all signs so far from the team's new brain trust of general manager Chris Wallace and coach Marc Iavaroni point to no.
Gasol's presence allowed the Grizzlies to work out a deal this summer for Gasol's Barcelona buddy Juan Carlos Navarro, a crafty, deadeye shooter who already has become a fan favorite and is currently one of the league's biggest bargains. Navarro will be a restricted free agent this summer, however, so moving Gasol (without moving Navarro along with him) could make resigning Navarro more difficult.
Ultimately, the answer to this question could be dependent on whether Gasol can break out of his early-season slump and whether the current roster can gel. Ask Again Later.
Will John Daly say or do something embarrassing in 2008?
The fast-living hard-drinking sometime Memphian is way overdue for a blow-up. (We're hoping for a love connection between Daly and Tamara Mitchell-Ford, but that's probably too much to hope for.) It Is Decidedly So.
Will some perky food or travel channel host come to Memphis?
And, of course, while they're here they are contractually obligated to repeat the age-old nonsense about how the city is divided to the point of civil war over the wet or dry preparation of barbecue ribs. Most Likely.
Will Harold Ford Jr. come back home to stay?
Since he lost his Senate race to Bob Corker, Ford has taken so many high-profile jobs outside of Memphis, sometimes it seems like all the former congressman ever wanted was Shelby County in his rearview mirror.
Outlook Not So Good.
Will Scripps Howard sell The Commercial Appeal?
The CA's circulation is tanking hard, labor disputes are ongoing, and recent dunderheaded decisions to move the newspaper's ad layout department to India and seek paid sponsors for editorial content have resulted in harsh criticism. Scripps recently split the company into print and broadcast divisions, so they're already halfway there. Signs Point To Yes.
Will the "West Memphis Three" get a new trial in 2008?
Few crimes have caused as much controversy as the triple murder that took place in Crittenden County in 1993. Three boys tied up, mutilated, and strangled. Three boys arrested. One confession (perhaps). After a lengthy and complicated trial, two boys (now young men) are serving life sentences, one other is on death row.
But hold on. What are we to make of newly revealed DNA evidence that could link one of the victim's fathers to the crime or reports that the slain boys' horrific injuries — once thought to be part of a satanic ritual — were inflicted by wildlife after the boys were killed? The West Memphis Three have a hotshot legal team, high-profile public opinion, and, allegedly, DNA evidence to support them.
Even Dixie Chicks singer Natalie Maines has now joined the chorus of those clamoring for a new trial.
Signs Point To Yes.
Will Gus's Fried Chicken ever be able to get rid of the smell of David Gest?
Sure, he's been gone for a while, achieving stardom of a sort in Great Britain, but unwanted Gests have been known to linger where they're not wanted. Don't Count On It.
Will the new Music Commission make any difference to the music biz hereabouts?
Our civic leaders never seem to realize that the circumstances responsible for Memphis' glorious musical past were completely organic. They evolved without a business plan and therefore cannot be re-created with a business plan, especially not one that involves bringing in more business-minded businessmen from more business-minded cities. My Sources Say No.
Will the Tigers win the NCAA basketball championship?
The NCAA tournament may be known for its exciting upsets, but talent usually wins out in the end and that typically means NBA-level talent. The teams with the most (and best) future pros have proven to have a significant advantage over their competition in the drive for the college hoops title.
Tiger fans have taken to lauding the talent on this year's team, but how does it really match up with other recent title winners, as well as other teams competing for this year's title?
The University of Memphis currently has three players solidly on the NBA radar: Freshman point guard Derrick Rose is a consensus Top 5 pick. Junior swingman Chris Douglas-Roberts is projected to be anywhere from a mid-first-rounder to a second-rounder. Senior center Joey Dorsey is projected to be a second-rounder, if drafted at all.
Even if you're optimistic about the pro prospects of Rose, Douglas-Roberts, and Dorsey, the Tigers would be only the second title winner this decade — and third in the past 13 seasons — without at least four players drafted to the NBA.
If the Tigers win the NCAA title, it will mean one of two things: that Dorsey and Douglas-Roberts have enhanced their status as pro prospects or the team itself has bucked a very strong trend.
Don't Count On It.
Will The Pyramid ever become a Bass Pro Shop — or anything other than an empty, pointy building?
Is it possible for The Pyramid to ever succeed as a giant tackle shop, an aquarium, a museum, or an amusement park? Doubtful. Assuming it legal to sell beer and spirits inside a sexually oriented business, could The Pyramid succeed as the world's biggest strip club? You May Rely On It.
Will Craig Brewer leave Memphis?
It's hard to imagine the existence of Memphis' growing film community without the success of Craig Brewer, the blues-obsessed writer and director whose films have revolved around strippers, pimps, and drunken nymphomaniacs. If local government continues to crack down on beer sales in sexually oriented businesses, will Brewer be forced to move his base of operations to nearby Holiday, Tennessee, where, in spite of the area's rural Bible Beltness, the booze still flows and the strippers take it off? Better Not Tell You Now.
Will the Huey Burger be named "best burger"?
After a jillion years of being voted the best burger in town by some local media outlet, possibly the Flyer, the odds of this happening again are pretty good.
As I See It Yes.
Will Democrats retake control of the state Senate?
Encouraged by the special election victory of Democrat Andy Berke to capture the vacated seat of disgraced Tennessee-Waltzer Ward Crutchfield in Chattanooga, Tennessee Democrats are suddenly optimistic about their chances to regain control of the state Senate in the 2008 elections.
But, given the fact that a fresh Republican (state representative Dolores Gresham) is challenging octogenarian John Wilder, the deposed former Democratic speaker, in Fayette, the Magic 8-Ball says: Don't Count On It.
Will Fred Thompson win the Republican presidential nomination?
Way back in the spring and summer, actor/pol/lobbyist Fred Thompson was all the rage in Republican circles as a potential savior in the presidential race. But since then he has shown up on the debate stage and the campaign trail, and even on TV, a medium which should have favored him, as looking wan, uncertain about his message, and less than resolute.
Worse for Thompson has been the rapid rise of another Southerner, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who seems actually to know what he believes, right or wrong, and whom many are now touting as a more than possible GOP nominee. Very Doubtful.
Does Nikki Tinker have a chance to unseat Steve Cohen?
Tinker, the former Democratic primary congressional candidate against eventual winner Steve Cohen in 2006, is running against him again, and evidently with the same philosophy — that actually taking positions on issues (or even speaking of them) is either bad manners or bad politics.
Meanwhile, Tinker has swapped Amen choruses. Instead of Emily's List, which went after Cohen in 2006 despite his long-term support of women's issues, she now has LaSimba Gray and other prominent members of the Baptist Ministerial Association, who hate hate-crimes legislation (except as a club to beat white devil Cohen with).
Does corporate lawyer Tinker have a chance against the incumbent? Ask Again Later.
Is there such a thing as a "good" political action committee?
New Path is a PAC, but it isn't bound by party affiliation nor is it divided along racial lines. New Path's aim is to see to it that the best candidates the city has to offer become the officeholders Memphians can be proud of — a real fresh idea. The bywords for those candidates: ability and accountability — something new on the local political scene and something maybe to think about nationally this presidential election year. Signs Point To Yes.
Can I get published?
The 20th annual "Southern Festival of Books: A Celebration of the Written Word" is to be celebrated in Memphis in October. If you're a writer and would like to be considered as a participating author, send two copies of your manuscript or galley by June 1st to Humanities Tennessee, Attn: Program Committee, 306 Gay St., Nashville TN 37201. Include in that submission a press kit and author bio, then wait to hear. What's the worst you could hear? My Reply Is No.
Will we ever get to drink beer and watch strippers at the same time again?
The outgoing Memphis City Council voted to table the strip club issue until March, when the new council and its nine freshmen will apparently be forced to decide whether or not gentlemen's clubs can serve alcoholic beverages and permit consenting adult females to dance au naturel from the waist up. Will the new City Council vote to bring beer and boobs back to our sacred beer and boobs bars? Outlook Not So Good.
Will the rift over control of the National Civil Rights Museum be resolved?
April 4, 2008, marks the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis. The site of that assassination, now the National Civil Rights Museum, stands for King's legacy to the thousands of visitors who come from around the world each year. Locally, though, the museum is the crux of a continuing struggle between factions wrestling about who should be allowed to influence the way the civil rights story is told and who should be represented on the museum's board of directors.
In this year of special remembrance of King's impact on our country and reflection on how far we've come in the 40 years since his death, will the parties involved with the museum flap bury their differences to commemorate King? Cannot Predict Now.
Will there be peace between Mayor Willie Herenton and the new City Council?
Herenton broke bread with members of his newly elected City Council at the Rendezvous restaurant in November, and, while there were smiles all around, His Honor warned about a "gray line" beyond which lay "certain areas where either branch [could decide] to get into the other branch's domain."
Given the mayor's alpha-male propensities and the heavy Young Turk concentration on the new council, 8-Ball says: Better Not Tell You Now.
Do It Yourself Quiz
by John Branston
Elsewhere in this issue, Flyer writers and editors have made some predictions with the help of their trusty Magic 8-Balls. Here's where you, the reader, get to make yours.
1) The current buzz phrase most likely to be forgotten a year from now will be (a) aerotropolis (b) political consultant (c) Blue Crush (d) monetize.
2) The next big deal for Memphis that will show tangible progress in 2008 will be (a) biotech zone on the site of the old Baptist Hospital (b) makeover of Sears Crosstown building (c) Fairgrounds (d) Shelby Farms.
3) The Memphis sports surprise of 2008 will be (a) highly rated Tiger basketball team falls short of Final Four once again (b) a new hunting and fishing alliance (c) University of Memphis football team wins eight games (d) the Grizzlies playoff run.
4) The Memphis attraction that will suffer the biggest attendance drop in 2008 will be (a) Graceland (b) Tiger football (c) Memphis Redbirds (d) Memphis Grizzlies.
5) The 2007 news headliner most likely to be forgotten one year from today will be (a) indicted former commissioner Bruce Thompson (b) "sex-plot" diva Gwendolyn Smith (c) strip club owner Ralph Lunati (d) indicted former MLGW CEO Joseph Lee.
6) Which of the following people is most likely to have another 15 minutes of fame in 2008? (a) Mary Winkler (b) Rickey Peete (c) Roscoe Dixon (d) John Ford.
7) The share price of FedEx, which hit a 52-week low of $94 in December, will be how much a year from now? (a) $85 or less (b) $95 (c) $105 (d) $115 or more.
8) Local governments will make ends meet by (a) raising property taxes (b) implementing a payroll tax on commuters (c) cutting services (d) layoffs.
9) The downtown "big deal" that will go away in 2008 will be (a) Beale Street Landing boat dock (b) Gene Carlisle's high-rise hotel and condos (c) Bass Pro in The Pyramid (d) the COGIC convention.
10) The thing people will be talking about after Mayor Herenton's New Year's Day speech will be (a) a surprise proposal (b) the angry tone (c) the conciliatory tone (d) another local news story that will overshadow it.
11) The government-by-referendum idea that will pass in 2008 will be (a) term limits for city politicians (b) no property-tax increase without a referendum (c) both (d) neither one.
12) The next superintendent for Memphis City Schools will have a background in (a) education and Teach for America (b) the military (c) big business (d) Memphis or Tennessee politics and government.
13) Facing public loss of confidence and financial pressure, Memphis City Schools will close or schedule the closing of how many schools in 2008? (a) none (b) five or less (c) five to 10 (d) more than 10.
14) A final decision will be made in 2008 to put the football stadium for the University of Memphis (a) on the main campus (b) on the South Campus (c) build a new stadium at the Fairgrounds (d) renovate the existing stadium at the Fairgrounds.
15) The big news out of the federal building in 2008 will be (a) major new indictments of public figures related to political corruption (b) no major new indictments of public figures related to political corruption (c) a courtroom defeat for prosecutors (d) reversal of Judge Bernice Donald's desegregation order for county schools.
16) The news with the biggest negative impact on Memphians in 2008 will be (a) sky-high MLGW bills (b) rising violent-crime rate (c) $4-a-gallon gasoline (d) massive foreclosures and falling housing values.
17) Who is most likely to leave their job in 2008 for whatever reason? (a) Tommy West (b) My Harrison (c) John Calipari (d) Willie Herenton.
Answers: 1) b; 2) a; 3) a; 4) d; 5) b; 6) a; 7) d; 8) d; 9) d; 10) c; 11) d; 12) a; 13) b; 14) d; 15) a and d; 16) c; 17) b