Wednesday, December 29, 2010

year end thoughts (and how blogging helped me fall for Knoxville)

I'm getting sentimental in my old age.

Nothing makes it worse than when different seasons of life come to an end, so this being my last post of 2010, I'd like to reflect on living in Knoxville, especially in regard to being a writer for the Wigshop.

I've mentioned this in the past, but my first year after graduating from UT was a bittersweet one. Many of my friends moved away to figure out what to do with their lives as I struggled to figure out what to do with mine. I lived in a crappy yet quaint apartment in Maplehurst and watched as downtown Knoxville miraculously made leaps and bounds while the rest of the country seemed to be in shambles. I rode my bike everywhere because I couldn't afford to put gas in my car. I did, however, always seem to have enough money for lots of cheap beer*. Along the way, I was asked to write for the Wigshop. 

I admit that, at first, I used writing about Knoxville as a means to justify living here. I vindicated my decision to stay by trying to prove just how cool of a place it was becoming.

What I didn't foresee was how writing about this city would make living here not just bearable, but legitimate. It opened my eyes to what Knoxville had to offer, and the more I wrote, the more I realized there was to write about. In many ways, it made staying here just as exciting as traveling somewhere new.

Thankfully now I don't feel the need to defend Knoxville like I once did. I'm confident it's a great city in which to live, being a size and caliber that is both close-knit and full of new things to see and do. I'm very proud to call it my home.

So as this year comes to a close, and we ring in 2011, here's to Knoxville, Tennessee. Happy New Year!!**

* One of many things to be thankful for in Knoxville
** My top picks for places to be on New Year's: First Night, Pilot Light Party at Ironwood Studios, and the Public House. Cheers!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Big Ears Update

Hey Yall,
I hope that everyone is having a nice Christmas Eve morning. If you are traveling please stay safe. If you are staying in town, still, be safe. The sad news is that Big Ears 2011 is being postponed. The text released by AC following the rumors that were circulating:

Hello Big Ears fans –

Before too much more time passes, we want to end the suspense. Big Ears 2011 will not be taking place during the first half of 2011.

The reason is simple. While we have many exciting things in the works, they were not quite coming together on the timeline we had hoped. So, rather than force things and fall short of the festival that we’ve imagined for 2011, we’ve decided to push the pause button for a moment.

We’ll be making an announcement with more details early in 2011. We can’t wait to tell you about what’s in store.

In the meantime, we wish you a happy and peaceful Holiday season…and a bright, prosperous, and creative 2011!


The Big Ears Team

While this makes me sad, I just want Big Ears to be the best it can be. I have voiced my love for what Ashley Capps does with Big Ears before, and will continue to do so as details emerge. It is one of the best festivals in the country, and I still hope that (as per the rumors) Laurie Anderson or Nick Cave will be curating. The beautiful stormy spring opening will be missed. One of my favorite moments from last years festival was the Sam Amidon show that opened the festival at the KMA. The giant white balloons bouncing across the green lawn outside while Sam Amidon and Thomas Bartlett serenaded a silent audience was amazing. It was one of the live-show moments I want to live in, and was one of the most aesthetically pleasing moments that I can remember. While all of the blusteriness of spring will be absent from this years festival, I hope that AC Entertainment can book the bands to complement the (hopefully) fall line up. I have one selfish request to the beloved Mr. Capps... please give time to Big Ears, don't sacrifice Big Ears 2011 to work on Moogfest. It is a beautiful festival that has the most interesting lineup of any I know of, and it takes place all over my city. That would be the best Christmas present ever.

hopeful and lovingly yours,


Monday, December 20, 2010

lets get (graphically) classy, vols

I don't usually spend too much time thinking about the Vols- I watch their games and wish them well, but I don't fully immerse myself in Volunteer Mania. So it was strange that I was thinking about the image of Big Orange this weekend. What exactly are we? Back in college I mainly saw a big Disney Dog on the sidelines, but there was a real one too (usually with a little orange sweater) which was pretty cool. And every now and then I was a guy in a frontier garb.

Coming from a another part of Applalachia with a similar mascot, I was intrigued. Who was this guy with a musket getting upstaged by Goofy's backwoods cousin? What exactly are we volunteering for?

Learning more about the history of my adopted state, I found out it basically was all about this guy:

And all of of the other cool Tennesseans who went to war (1812, Spanish-American, Civil) back in the day. Even though we didn't start applying it to our sports until 1905.

I remember seeing a cool old logo around campus-

But it was going extinct quickly. UT's strong point has never been graphics (or architecture or campus design either) but it's getting worse:

I mean, unless they officially change us to the "Tennessee Hound Dogs," let's get back to our roots and celebrate the bad ass dudes who gave our state it's nickname. It's time to get back to the real Volunteer symbol... not his hunting dog.

While nothing will probably supplant the ubiquitous

I respectfully submit a new design that embraces our heritage:

Graphic Designers: Have a better idea than that piece of crap above? Enter CK's Unofficial VOLS Logo Contest! Post links in the comments section. It'd be cool to see what we could come up with.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Why don't you make like a tree...

The Pol is not always the greenest fellow. I'll let you absorb the shock for a moment.

Recently though, I did go to a half day seminar on what may be a fascinating and illustrative portion of the green push that is coming to Knoxville: the Nissan Leaf. While past experiences with electric cars have all but been still-born, the Leaf and it's cousin the Volt are firing an opening volley across the bow of our automotive landscape.

Where others failed the developers of the Leaf, Volt, and soon a number of other true electrics or plug-in hybrids hope to succeed.

First some of the fascinating tidbits:

The triangle of Knoxville, Nashville, and Chattanooga is the only area in Tennessee that will have the Leaf. There are only five states in the country getting any of these cars -- Oregon, Washington, California, Texas, and Tennessee. We probably got it because of Nissan's vested interest in our state, but whatever.

The Leaf has a range of approximately 100 miles per charge and a charge can take anywhere between 30 minutes to 16 hours depending on the charger. (most home stations will charge in anywhere from 4-8 hours) The amount of power for charging is about the same as a clothes dryer.

Nissan is only producing about 50,000 this year and only about 1,000 are making it to our state so don't expect to see them everywhere and no Volts will make it to this market in 2011. The bulk of the people at this seminar were non-urban core district retail people who were looking at the charging stations as a way to offer a service to their customers and make a statement about their business practices. John Craig with the Market Square District Association was there, but that was it for the urbanites that I could see. All that said, I have some issues with the plan.

From what I could tell the plan is playing heavily to suburbia. The main focus of home charging lies on the assumption that people driver their cars into their garage and plug them in and don't think about them until the next morning. This glaring omission in distribution of a potentially large consumer block has me puzzled and concerned. Assuming everyone will park in a garage doesn't exactly challenge anyone's thinking on the relationship of man to car. Maybe I'm asking too much, but is replacing a fuel tank with a battery pack the most innovative change we could be offered?

Let's be honest, shall we. Hipsters, hippies, yuppies, and all shades in between who live in downtown are more concerned than the average American with the struggle between quantity and quality in life. We tend to live in smaller spaces and sacrifice isolation for the benefits that come with the community and increased efficiencies/ economies of scale of the urban life. We are also more likely to embrace alternative forms of transportation than the average person. So why is it we're not seeing a concerted push to make the electric car more of a reality for those who live a less cookie-cutter lifestyle.

I live in a condo, don't own the parking lot I use, and cannot just attach a charging station to the outside of my building. Is the city going to invest in 50 stations to install in all of the city garages? Will parking meters have plugs to supplement for visitors? Will Central Parking add stations to their lot as a service?

I'm inclined toward using a vehicle like the Leaf on a daily basis, but without a viable option for keeping it charged it becomes a bug rather than a feature in my life. And cars should be and always are intended to be lifestyle features and enhancers.

Here's hoping that a plausible solution is found for this glaring problem with the system, otherwise this is all just another fad.

(sorry, will add pictures later)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tomorrow could be a grim day for Knox County: The controversy of Midway

Since deciding to stay in Knoxville and make it my home, I've realized that I frequent West Knoxville less and less. You can call me pretentious (do it, I really don't care) because it's not arrogance that keeps me away but something more. As I grow older, I consider the things that are most precious to me, and as a result, discover the things I disdain. I know I risk sounding melodramatic here, but I think I've developed a chemical aversion to sprawl. (Sidenote: As you read this, please do not mistake what I mean for sprawl as progress. I am pro-progress, anti-sprawl.)

I can assure you, it's not just West Knoxville. I feel it each time I go home to Memphis and stay at my parents' home in the suburb Cordova. Back roads that were once surrounded by farmland are now rows of desolate looking cookie cutter houses, stretching for miles along treeless streets. It breaks my heart and makes me lose faith in the creativity of mankind, to see people's greed at the expense of beauty and living in quality environments. I wonder how we got here, creating places that are cold and characterless, that all look the same, from city to city. Places you can't walk around by foot. Places that only accommodate vehicles. The lofty idea of development- bulldozing land, putting up buildings in hopes to lure tenants all in the name of "stimulating economy" - has made our cities and towns identity-less.


Tomorrow, Knox County Commissioners will vote on whether or not to approve the proposed business park off the Midway exit in East Knox County. This has been an ongoing battle, as outlined by Jesse Mayshark in this week's Metro Pulse. If you haven't been following this very controversial plan, in essence, the Development Corporation of Knox County wants to build a 300+ acre Industrial Park in East Knox County off of I-40 at the Midway Exit. Pam Strickland of the News Sentinel writes about the problems with the plan here.

This area of mostly farmland happens to be relatively untouched, a beautiful place unscathed by development. Many Knoxvillians don't want it to be developed, especially the people who have called it home for generations.

I decided to take a drive out there yesterday to take some photographs. I wanted a fresh reminder of what is at stake here for East Knox County. It's true, there is nothing there but farmland, rivers, and homes, farmhouses, and barns on stretches of land. There is nothing commercial or sprawling about it. Not yet.

So why put a business park here? Essentially, the Development Corporation bought the land for too much money in a supposedly shady business deal and are proposing this business park in order to make back the money to cover their asses. They say it will bring in thousands of jobs, but they don't even know what business will occupy the space much less how many jobs it will provide.

The Development Corporation masks their greed by promising that the business park will incorporate parks and natural spaces and that it won't result in a domino effect of sprawl, but everyone knows that within a few years, gas stations will pop up, fast food restaurants, and the subdivisions to "sustain" them. East Knox County will be on its way to looking like West Knoxville, and I cannot think of a sadder fate for such a beautiful area. It is a gem, the kind of place that makes East Tennessee East Tennessee- Seven Islands Wilderness, the French Broad River, and expanses of farmland as far as you can see are all there.

What is even more frustrating is that the Development Corporation has been sweeping their already failed industrial parks under the carpet and won't consider using locations in Knoxville that are already vacant and perfect for commercial use. They say they need the acreage on Midway or else their plans won't succeed.

Tomorrow, the Knox County Commission will vote on whether to pass the plan or not. If it passes, it will be a dark day for not only residents of East Knox County, but all of those who oppose the plan across Knox County. Either way, I hope it will motivate a call for bigger and more organized movements to sweep across our county to protect the precious and beautiful land that makes Knoxville special and unique and to think of better, more creative ways to stimulate our economy.

Addendum added 12/13/2010: The vote by County Commission that was scheduled for today has been postponed due to inclement weather. It has been rescheduled for December 17, 2010 at 4pm. IF YOU ARE AGAINST THE PROPOSED INDUSTRIAL PARK AT MIDWAY The French Broad Preservation Association asks you to show up at 4pm at the City County Building to show your County Commissioners you don't want your tax money to be spent on it. See you there. -B

Friday, December 10, 2010

Change in the old city

Greetings internet friends!

I wanted to let you know about a change in the Old City that has been developing for a while. LOX Salon has moved to a much larger space on the corner of Jackson - next to Urban Bar. You may remember the previous tenant in their spot (I can't recall the name) but they also were a salon, and unfortunately, had to close up shop.

While its always a bummer to see businesses fade into the distance (J's Mega Mart ... you were a part of our city and we will miss you), LOX's move into this incredible space is truly something to celebrate.

Brynn started LOX a while ago, and has been occupying the humble spot on North Central between the law firm and Crown & Goose ever since her doors opened--a place that fit the understated salon. A place to seek out. From the beginning, Brynn had a vision of creating community in the Old City. LOX sold clothes and whatnot (jewelry, stationary and a little bit of everything), and they were always a destination spot for First Fridays. The LOX art scene was always inspired and the atmosphere there on a Friday night was always genuine.

In moving to the new location, I think LOX is more formally becoming a larger part of the Old City. The new location, with its huge windows and expansive storefront commands presence, and its great to think of LOX occupying this spot.

At their grand opening this past First Friday, LOX was packed (See B's earlier post and pics). Patrons and friends crowded the salon to celebrate their host in her new space, and to recognize the enormous journey she and the rest of the LOX girls have made since their initial opening.

The new space expands on themes present since the beginning, only now there's plenty of room to do it. The apparel offering is much larger, and will only continue to grow as Brynn sources more locally made/ found pieces, and with all the extra room, LOX can now more formally play host to events in the future. There already is a consignment fashion show in the works for January.

So, the next time you're in the area drop by and say hello. If you're not already familiar, now is the perfect time to meet Brynn and her talented stylists, grab a PBR and see what all LOX has to offer our fair city.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Cultivating my cookie skills at Magpies

A favorite childhood holiday tradition of mine was making and decorating Christmas sugar cookies with my mom. I loved combing through our collection of cookie cutters and colored sprinkles. Sadly I've never made any Christmas sugar cookies since leaving home 10 years ago. So when I saw that Magpies, my absolute most favorite bakery of all time, was offering cookie-decorating classes, I sprung for it to both relive the tradition AND take it to the next level -- the Magpies level.

Well, maybe not quite to the Magpies level, but our lovely hostess Maren did everything she could to coach u. First she explained how royal icing is made and how the consistency affects your icing skills. Then we practiced on designs we drew on parchment paper. Finally we took some time to ice and decorate the dozen cookies we were given. And we did it all while munching on snacks, sipping sodas and listening to Christmas music.

The lovely Maren shows us how it's done

Practicing on parchment paper

There's ONE MORE class on Tuesday, and if you hurry you may be able to get a spot. This is fun for all ages too -- my class' youngest student was a seven-year-old boy there with his mother and his grandmother. YOU HAVE TO CALL AND MAKE A RESERVATION, or else they won't have enough supplies for you. Call Ryan at Magpies at 673-0471 to make your reservation. The class costs $25 for one person or $40 for an adult/kid duo.

Finished product: some got smushed in transit, some I snagged from Maren's stash, others are already in my belly

P.S. Hey Peggy, I'm totally ready for my cookie-decorating gig!

Monday, December 06, 2010

An intimate chat with B

My friend Jamie interviewed me for this post. Thanks, Jamie!

J: You have an event coming up this week. Can you tell us a little about it?

B: Yes, I am co-hosting the first ever Open Studio Night at 17th Street Studios this Thursday night, December 9 from 7-9pm.

J: 17th Street Studios? Please explain.

B: 17th Street Studios is an artist workspace in Fort Sanders. Currently there are ten artists with spaces there. Thursday night, we invite anyone to come check it out.

 17th Studios, under construction

J: That sounds really incredible. How and when did these studios start?

B: I guess it was sometime last year when I was given a tour of an unused floor located at Redeemer Church to see if I had any ideas for it. I immediately thought, "Artist studios," because the idea had been on my mind for a few years prior. The space was also well-suited for it. It was perfect timing, too, since two of my friends who are artists, Carri and Brian Jobe, had recently moved back to Knoxville. I told them my idea, we pitched it to Redeemer, and about six months ago, the three of us moved in.

J: How did you find the other seven artists?

B: By word of mouth. We talked about it to friends, and they told friends. Recently the Arts and Culture Alliance found out about us and have been sending artists to us looking for spaces. We weren't quite sure how it would all work out, but we knew if this was something we really wanted (a community of artists to work alongside in an affordable space), there were other artists out there in Knoxville that wanted the same thing.

J: So what kind of work are people making there?

B: We have painters, sculptors, photographers/ 3-Dimensional workers, drawers, ceramicists, illustrators, filmmakers, and an architect-to-be.

J: So what can we expect Thursday night?

B: Only the best night of your life. Not really, but it might be one of mine. We just want people to come hang out with us and talk about art with us, or not art. There will be snacks and beverages, too.

J: Thanks, B.

B: No, thank you.

Open Studio Night
1642 Highland Avenue
Contact:,,  for more information

Friday, December 03, 2010

holiday kickoff!

Even though they lit the trees and opened the ice rink last week, starting the official city sanctioned Christmas season, I always need a buffer zone between Thanksgiving and Christmas muzak thats longer than one hour. So now that I've had a week to prepare myself, I'm ready to dive in. And this month's First Friday is a really great way for a Knoxvillian to get into the holiday spirit. Here, for your viewing pleasure, are the not to miss things going on this weekend:

If you've ever had the desire to see every children's dancing troupe in the metro area this is your golden opportunity. At first it may seem a little cheesy, but standing along Gay Street with thousands of genuinely excited people is enough to melt the most cynical heart. It's long, it's random, but it's awesome. See you there tonight!

Getting together to sing all the old carols is something Knoxvillians have been doing almost as long as there's been a Knoxville. But most kids today probably only recognize them as the elevator music they hear in Best Buy while they shop. In the old tradition you can get together with your neighbors and, you know, actually sing about peace on earth together. This concert is particularly Knoxville-ish: described as "earthy and folksy" with "more flannel, less traditional choir and more like a hymn-sing"... and this is your opportunity to sing carols with Matt Morelock on banjo! It all goes down this Sunday at Redeemer Church (17th and Highland in Fort Sanders) at 5 and 7.

Speaking of Mr. Morelock, he'll be hosting Blind Boy Chocolate and the Milk Sheiks at his shop on Gay Street tonight. If you haven't been there, Morelock Music has become in my mind one of Knoxville's unexpected gems (on the magnitude of Yee Haw or Magpie's) and this may be the best way to see it- with good live music and lots of beer.

OK, so I don't like the way we mix consumerism and Christmas, but you have to buy gifts sometime, right? Instead of heading to the mall and giving your money to huge corporations, how about buying some local arts and crafts? You have two opportunities this weekend: the always interesting Handmade Holiday Trunk Show at Abode's former space on Market Square and at the Emporium on the 100 Block of Gay Street. Support local artists and artisans and get gifts that are like no other!

Finally, what's Christmas without decorations? Now you have a chance to walk through one of Knoxville's most beautiful neighborhoods and actually go up and into it's beautiful houses and see them in all their holiday splendor- by candlelight! What is more old skool Christmas than that?

Basically, this is a great city to spend the Christmas season in. Go check some of this stuff out, stay warm, and we hope you have a Merry Christmas!