Wednesday, December 31, 2008


(Note that NABC is closed December 31 and January 1. See you again on Friday, January 2)

Barring the unexpected, and not ruling out the possibility of cluttering bandwidth with reprints, I'll be kicking back for the next day or two and taking time off from the blog.

Translation: I'll get bored at some point on Thursday and post anyway.

NAC finishes the year with the odometer at just under 300,000 since 2004, and with a record number of posts. My goals as a writer who happens to blog have been to scratch an itch, to be a gadfly, to assist in the process of building a community of the like-minded, and to a body of work that reads as well ten years on as it does now. I'm happy with the results to date, and I appreciate all of those who stop here to read ... even the anonymous troglodytes.

For me, and quite apart from my private world, the coming year is going to be professionally demanding in terms of time. The brewery expansion project is teasingly close to fruition, there's an existing business to help run, and I've accepted another weekly writing challenge. It's a bear, but I know that somewhere there's a dusty clock ticking, with much to do and see and achieve before the big sleep.

I get by with a little help from my friends. You know who you are. Thanks for being who you are.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Music on DVD: "The Who at Kilburn: 1977."

To soothe the perpetual inner discord associated with the holiday season, I recently purchased a DVD – not as a gift, but for my own personal, medicinal use: “The Who at Kilburn: 1977.” Included is a second bonus disc that has archival footage from a 1969 gig at the London Coliseum.

Although separated by eight years, both performances are noteworthy, providing compelling evidence of the distance traveled by the bands at the time, and by the survivors in the decades since.

The Kilburn show originated as part of the filming of Jeff Stein’s documentary about the band, “The Kids Are Alright,” which was released in 1978. Although beautifully filmed, the band’s performance at Kilburn was deemed patchy and inferior, primarily because Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle and Keith Moon had not played together in over a year. Only a small bit of the show made it into the movie’s final cut, which featured another show at Shepperton in early 1978.

Having now had the chance to view the previously unreleased footage, it is clear to me that the verdict of posterity differs from that of the filmmaker at the time. While it remains indisputable that Moon was in decline during both film-inspired sessions, the deterioration is far less noticeable in the Kilburn historical record than in the later performance at Shepperton, which proved to be his last.

Yes, it takes some time for the monolith to shift into gear. Once it does, the results are edifying.

The film quality of the bonus segment from 1969 is crude, and the sound sometimes muddled, yet overall, it is simply remarkable. Here is the band at its very peak – young and brash, but honed to a razor’s edge of professionalism by continuous touring in support of “Tommy.” There is no stage adornment, merely four musicians roaring through staples of the band’s early catalog, and a few welcomed rarities seldom heard live subsequently.

During Sunday’s televised football games, there were numerous ads touting the Kennedy Center 31st anniversary fete to be aired tonight, at which surviving band members Townshend and Daltrey will be honored for their legacy. It takes only a passing knowledge of the band’s history to know that Townshend, perhaps the best interview in all of rock music, would have something to say about the tribute.

Kennedy Center Honorees Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend ...

To Townshend's amazement, the world's appetite for the music he wrote in his 20s and 30s has never gone away. If you had told him at 19 -- a sullen Ealing Art School dropout with a baronial nose -- that he'd be singing "I Can't Explain" in his twilight years, he would have guffawed. But that song and a few dozen others, like "Pinball Wizard," "My Generation" and "Baba O'Riley," are among the most beloved baubles in rock's permanent collection. Although the band has officially retired a few times, we keep demanding that the Who re-form, and with some ambivalence, Townshend keeps saying yes.

I’ve always shared the guitarist’s ambivalence, wondering whether the periodic high points of the contemporary version of the group justified the longevity, or whether it would have been better in an artistic sense to die young and stay pretty.

In the end, a world without The Who seems quite unimaginable to me, so rock on … but don’t expect me to be watching the Kennedy Center affair.

Cringing makes my face hurt.

Open thread: How do we cope with the theory and practice of New Albany?

Four years and 2,200 posts ago, we made an assertion and asked a question. The assertion remains unchallenged, and the question is unanswered, although we've certainly devoted much consideration to it:

New Albany is a state of mind – but whose?

Beginning on January 8, I’ll be taking a step into uncharted territory when my first Tribune guest column is published. The plan is to submit 900 words each week. No stipulations have been placed on the content of these columns, and while there is no denying that the blogging experience will come to bear on the finished products, I was an essayist before I was a blogger, and there is a certain style intrinsic to the print format that will take time for me to master.

That said, I’ve already informed my wife, closest friends and confidants that given the task at hand, I’ll need help – not in writing, but with ideas and creative prodding.

On Sunday, I obliquely referenced one possible angle for my approach in the columns of Jeffrey Bernard. Also, most of you know that HL Mencken is a vital and continuing influence. In their respective ways, both of these writers devoted their words to a catharsis of sorts, and I've always felt the same way.

Stated simply, it goes something like this: How does one cope in a place where one's own worldview is devalued in cultural, political and institutional senses?

And, what is theory and practice of New Albany, why does it prod me to catharsis in writing, and how do we (collectively, you and I) cope with it?

Your thoughts are appreciated.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Reminder: Pants Down Potluck Port Drinkers Circle, tonight.

Tonight is the occasion of the annual gathering of the Pants Down Potluck Port Drinkers Circle of New Albany, Southern Indiana, Oz and points afar.

Last year's gathering was especially memorable ... wasn't it? Come to think of it, I can't remember. I feel cheated somehow, even deprived ... but so it goes.

As before, we'll be imbibing in the Prost banquet and special events wing of Rich O's Public House/NABC. Specifically, we'll be in the "gallery" to the left of the main seating area. Starting time is 7:00 p.m.

Note that because we're "bringing our own," both in terms of alcohol and nibbles, one goal of the gathering is to be self-sufficient, and to permit the wait staff to garner vast profits from non-port-drinking customers. If you will be dining at the pub prior to the port tasting, please allow sufficient time and go through the usual drill. I will instruct the servers to expect that some people will be keeping their tabs open for drinks later in the evening.

Aside from that, as always, this year's tasting is open to all comers, with no cover or minimum, but with the only firm requirement being that participants bring a bottle of Port and a snack (cheese, salami, olives or other munchables) to the gathering.

Of course, in lieu of a contribution, it remains conceivable that a fine cigar for the hosting Publican might buy your way inside, although remember that Prost is smoke-free, and we'll have to retreat to the bar for the consolations of tobacco.

Coverage from stellar events the last three years can be viewed here:

2007: This year's gathering of the Pants Down Potluck Port Drinkers Circle will be Thursday, December 27.

2006: Pants Down Port Drinkers on December 28: A recap.

2005: Port wine is a holiday tradition.

Regrettably, traditional co-conspirator Tim Eads cannot be with us this evening.

Briefly googling in preparation, we find:

Into Wine: Enjoying Port

The Vintage Port Site (operated by the Symington Family Port Companies)

Prior to my only visit to Portugal in 2000, the Danish gonzo journalist Kim Wiesener, a longtime friend, recommended Richard Mayson's "Port and the Douro" as the finest overview of all things Port. Indeed, it is excellent, and if you're interested in Port, it's a must-have.

There's a newer edition available, and for future reference, I'm sure that Randy Smith at Destinations Booksellers would be able to track it down for those interested. Here's a capsule description:

Mayson recounts the history of this great fortified wine up to the present day, including an assessment of major vintages back to 1896. He examines the physical condition of the region, grape varieties and vineyards with an appraisal of each of the main quintas, providing a directory of individual producers and shippers.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Jeffrey Bernard was unwell, but I'm feeling fine, thank you.

I’ve spent the holiday season thinking about the late Jeffrey Bernard, but for reasons that may or may not become clearer with passing time, I’ve avoided reading my brittle photocopies of his "Low Life" solumns in the Spectator.

Jeffrey Bernard at Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

For almost two years during the receding mists of the 1980’s, I abstracted Bernard’s columns as part of my job at what used to be called UNI/Data-Courier. Serendipitously, it transpired that the members of my department were not enamored of the stylistic quirks native to writing in the British English sense, so I was informally permitted to assume the title of resident Anglophiliac.

From the perspective of an essayist and polemicist, there was much to learn from the British way of writing. More importantly, as a serial admirer of professional dissipation, Bernard’s weekly ruminations deeply impressed me, even if all that remains twenty years on is an overall impression gleaned from my Bernard readings. Specifics intentionally elude me, and yet certain themes explored in this book review by Kevin McGowin should clue you as to why two decades haven’t dimmed the sensation.

Reach for the Ground: The Downhill Struggle of Jeffrey Bernard, by Kevin McGowin.

In case you were wondering, the reason why I generally abstain from dipping into my literary influences by frequent rereads is a subconscious propensity to imitate them in my own writing. That’s why I’m endeavoring to recall the influence of Bernard’s attitude on my writing style, but keeping my eyes averted from the columns themselves.

After all, I'll be trying to convey a New Albanian interpretation.

Photo credit (Bernard with Peter O'Toole):

Open thread: New Year's Eve activities and hours in downtown New Albany?

With New Year’s falling in the middle of the week, what hours will downtown New Albany's bars and restaurants be observing?

Note that owing to archaic Indiana state law, alcoholic beverages cannot be sold for carry-out on New Year's Day. So, drink to your heart's content and drive home ... but remember that you can't take your beer, wine or liquor home and drink there. Funny how Their Man Mitch's incredible reforms never quite extend to abject, inexplicable Hoosier stupidity like this.

Anyway, Connor's Place is having a reservation-only New Year's Eve party, with the doors opening at 7:00 p.m. and the Travelin' Mojos taking the stage at 8:00 p.m. Seating is limited to 80 persons, at a cost of $20 per couple or $10 single, and includes light appetizers and a midnight champagne toast. Connor's Place is located at 134 East Market Street, next to the Grand Theater. To reserve, call call 590-3377 and ask for Dave (The Codfather) or leave a message.

The Grand and its adjoining Windsor are doing New Year's Eve gigs, too. Isaac explains:

We've got some fun plans for the Windsor in New Albany. In conjunction with the Grand Convention Center next door, we're offering three ways to enjoy New Year's Eve. The Wilson Brothers Band (house band for 107.7 SFR) will be performing at the Grand. The Windsor Bar and Lounge area (now open!) will the scene of a murder mystery dinner theatre event. (Hmm.... Could that be a case of too many adjectives? Oh, well.) Regular tickets include heavy apps, champagne toast, and the band; VIP tickets include candlelit dinner at the Windsor and the band afterwards. The tickets are already starting to move, so call ahead to reserve some: 812-944-0688.

Like Isaac and Dave, Trish posted New Year's Eve plans for Studio's on the Louisville Restaurants Forum.

Studio's Grille & Pub will be open for New Year's Eve. We have great food and a great atmosphere and have been asked by the locals to be open till the wee morning hours. We have no cover charge and the music will be flowing with sounds from your favorite cd's or just on the telly. NO COVER -- just good people, good food and good drinks. We welcome all, so if you want to eat before partying or party while you eat, visit us at STUDIO'S GRILLE & PUB, located at 209 E. Main St. New Albany, IN (right around the corner from Connor's). Who knows what surprises may pop up!

It isn't located downtown, but for the record, NABC/Rich O's/Sportstime (3312 Plaza Drive) will be closed on New Year's Eve and Day (December 31, January 1). Normal business hours resume on Friday, January 2. In the interest of furthering the decision-making process, kindly note that both Connor's and the Windsor serve locally brewed NABC ales.

If you know the planned New Year's Eve (and day) hours of other establishments, downtown or otherwise, including shops and stores other than bars and restaurants, please post a comment in the usual fashion and let us know.

Don't beat 'em ... join 'em, and split the proceeds.

Boxing Day began in the company of four fellow Floyd County residents, providentially seated at the last remaining available booth space at the Irish Rover, which is located on Frankfort Avenue in Louisville -- the place where no one goes any longer because it's way too crowded.

We had convened for the pub’s annual Boxing Day celebration, and to get a sense of the ambience of the celebration, visit my beer blog and feel the faint tickle of thirst (and hunger) while viewing the photos.

Verily, there’s nothing like Guinness to lubricate the formulation and dissemination of ideas, a concept enshrined by the Rover’s reminder: “A pub is the poor man’s university.”

Accordingly, the conversation turned to Reclaim Our Culture Kentuckiana (ROCK) and its most recent heroic anti-pornography battle against St. Petersburg gangsters disguised as Theatair X, with the only real question being, “Florida or Russia?” as the ultimate destination of the revenue derived from a business so impervious and venerable that it would be receiving glowing commendations from 1SI if it were a “family” owned fruit and vegetable stand.

But leaving bananas out of it, I’ve asked another question of ROCK numerous times without receiving a coherent answer:

Exactly which culture are you so intent on reclaiming?

As we discussed over Boxing Day pints, a strong case can be made that Theatair X follows quite convincingly in the traditions of vice, gambling and prostitution that formerly thrived in Jeffersonville and Clarksville, communities profiting from the civic-mindedness of bookies and pimps just as surely as Louisville grew from the coerced labor of African-American slavery.

So, why not celebrate the past rather than rewrite it?

The Boxing Day gang proposes the establishment of a Museum of Sin and Wickedness adjacent to Theatair X, situated atop the hallowed (and soiled) ground once preferred by weary long distance truckers and acne-laden, peering adolescents. The entire history of local vice will be examined at the museum, with proceeds ostensibly devoted to putting the most notorious current practitioner out of business … although we suspect that the Clarksville town council understands the true nature of the game better than ROCK ever will.

And what of New Albany’s place in this historical pageant?

We reckon that the best explanation of our fair city’s impoverishment in both financial resources and culture stems from the fact that way back when, only those too poor to own slaves or too stupid to profit from sin came to live here. That's the open air museum ... and nobody does it better.

If you’ll excuse me, I have another Guinness to catch. It just might help be construct a theory of why Steve Price still suffers from frankfortavenueaphobia.

Sound "like a waste of time?" Welcome to New Albany, circa 2008.

It’s hard to argue with the year’s top five local stories, as selected today by the Tribune’s editorial team and recorded by Daniel Suddeath.

YMCA comes to New Albany

Battleground state

Mayor vetoes smoking ban

Wacky weather

Secret committee considers closing schools

Although we didn’t reach any firm conclusions at the time, NAC covered this ground a few weeks back: Open thread: What are the local stories of the year?

After deep thought and the helpful convergence of my usual holiday alcoholic binge, which is just the sort of cerebral scrambling necessary to make sense of New Albany, I’ve concluded that the top-ranking story of the year -- lost amid council president Jeff Gahan’s continuing urinary tract vendetta against the Constitution (redistricting) and his divisive and diversionary anti-smoking chimera -- was the city council’s decision to “ban” novelty lighters.

Nothing that occurred in New Albany last year touches so many rich veins of dysfunctional symbolism than G-08-04, as previewed in an April NAC posting: Wouldn't want one of those things going off near a meth lab, would you?

More recently, my colleague Bluegill provided a transcript that brutally summarizes why the novelty lighter ban was so significant. It deserves a marquee slot.

A recent hardware store conversation while standing in the checkout line:

Mrs. Bluegill: Hey, look, lighters made like fishing poles. Aren't those supposed to be illegal?

Cashier: I think they banned them in Kentucky or something.

Me: They banned them here, too. It has something to do with how they're displayed...

Mrs. that kids can't reach them until they get home.

Cashier: Really? No one told us anything.

Me: I don't remember the details. It seems like the law's oddly worded, so that selling them a certain way is illegal but that it's OK to buy them.

Guy behind us: I wouldn't worry about it. It's completely unenforceable. It's not like they enforce anything anyway.

Cashier: That sounds like a waste of time.

Guy: Yeah, they do that a lot. Kind of like the smoking ban.

Cashier: We have a smoking ban?

Guy: No, the Mayor vetoed it. It was unenforceable, too.

Cashier: Jeez.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Can you spot ...

... the illegal signage?

Remember this name: El Lissitzky.

And, remember this image.

Wikipedia provides the background:

Lazar Markovich Lissitzky, better known as El Lissitzky, was a Russian artist, designer, photographer, typographer, polemicist and architect. He was an important figure of the Russian avant garde, helping develop suprematism with his mentor, Kazimir Malevich, and designing numerous exhibition displays and propaganda works for the former Soviet Union. His work greatly influenced the Bauhaus and constructivist movements, and he experimented with production techniques and stylistic devices that would go on to dominate 20th century graphic design.
There'll be a quiz at a later date.

Friday, December 26, 2008

She probably won't follow the link to "No More Atheophobia."

It may have passed unnoticed, but NAC's essay on Tribune columnist Peggy DeKay's raging atheophobia generated an excellent link, courtesy of Tufty: "The 'No More Atheophobia' campaign might interest you."

Indeed, it does interest me. Here's an excerpt.


Atheophobia is an irrational fear or hatred of atheists that manifests as a strong prejudice against those who do not believe in a God. Put short, it leads to anti-atheist bigotry.

This bigotry includes claims that atheists:

- are morally inferior
- are a cause of evil
- have rejected God and embraced sin
- intend to destroy religion and religious holidays
- have meaningless or decadent lives
- should not be allowed to express their beliefs
- are unsuitable for positions of responsibility

While open debate about atheism is fair game, it is absolutely unnacceptable for religious persons to denigrate atheists for their beliefs. This site aims to put an end to atheophobia and anti-atheist bigotry once and for all.

Land of the free, banks of the Wabash ... home of the cranks.

So, if the baby emerges via C-section, is that really "natural born"?

Obama election challenged; Hoosiers file suit over citizenship, by Tim Evans (Indy Star).

As the nation prepares for the inauguration of Barack Obama as president, two Indiana men have filed a lawsuit asking a judge to throw out the election results. The suit, filed in Marion Superior Court, is among five loosely coordinated challenges that question Obama's status as a "natural born citizen."

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Time again for the annual ATC holiday downbuzz.

Adapted from an NAC posting of December 25, 2007: Annual ATC holiday downbuzz.

The Indiana Alcohol & Tobacco Commission poses a question and answers it:

Is it illegal to dispense alcoholic beverages on certain days?

Yes. It is unlawful to dispense alcoholic beverages on Christmas Day and on Primary, General, or Special Election Days while the polls are open. It is also unlawful to dispense alcoholic beverages for carryout on New Year's Day.

Surely principled ACLU intervention would be sufficient to remove the Christmas Day sales ban. If ever there were an obvious case of improper religious establishment, this is it.

What other reason could there be for specifying Christmas over any other day?

Other than that, I’m having a great holiday. I stocked up well before the deadline, thank you.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Exceptions to every rule.

"Ring Christmas Bells" just played on WUOL, and it prompted a smile and a shout-out, because it reminds me of Michael Neely, my high school choral director. Mick always warned us that later in life, we'd regret taking singing for granted, and we scoffed, but of course he was right.

Thirty years of beer and tobacco have rendered me into little more than an interpreter of songs, and rest assured, the interpreting occurs well out of human earshot. Our cats suffer the most.

Funny. The only Christmas songs I really enjoy are the same ones we sang back in the day. Holiday greetings to Mick. Your legacy makes the season tolerable for me.

The preceding might be classified as playing against type for maximum dramatic effect, but elsewhere today, I'm in customary form: Mug Shot: Smoke 'em on up, Santa (LEO).

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

NABC Bank Street Brewhouse progress report.

Although it is not to be confused with the Gang of Four, we now have a “Gang of Seven,” a term we’re using internally to describe the group working to get NABC’s Bank Street Brewhouse off the ground. Listed alphabetically by first name, they’re Gregg, Jared, Jesse, John, Josh, Kelsey and Roger, and as we get closer to the projected February taproom opening, I’ll tell you more about each of them.

In the meantime, we’ve been working on multiple fronts, and in different groupings of the gang’s members depending on the task at hand. Yesterday, Gregg, Jared and I were discussing aspects of the taproom’s daily operation. Specifically, we were considering how much waste we’ll be generating, and how (a) to reduce it from the start, and (b) to dispose of it responsibly. As an example, we’ve resolved to be Styrofoam-free. Will we use cloth napkins? If not, can we use recyclables in some fashion?

Much of it is old hat elsewhere, but we have more than one mandate because in this, as in other areas, once a new paradigm is in place and proved workable downtown at the new brewhouse, we’ll use the lessons learned to remake and revitalize aspects of operations at the original location.

Eventually, this question was asked: Do we need drinking straws?

To answer the question, we took a previous decision into consideration. The BSB taproom likely will forego both fountain soft drinks and iced tea-by-the-gallon. There will be an intelligent selection of craft sodas in recyclable bottles, and if necessary, pre-packaged tea (cans?), both priced by the unit, which is to say, no free refills, and pay as you go.

Because ... absent the liquids generally consumed through them, are drinking straws really necessary? The only conceivable affirmative response to this question pertains to the hygienic distaste felt by some when touching their lips to glass or plastic, but surely this reaction is confined to a small minority or potential patrons.

All of it points to a larger concern. To what extent must a business cater to popular taste as it is perceived, as opposed to serving a niche and undertaking to shape popular taste?

In answering, I must reference my experiences traveling in Europe, where generally speaking, fountain sodas remain rare outside of American fast food emporiums, tea is something consumed hot from a cup, and bottomless cups of weak coffee are for the morning spread at bed and breakfasts, if even then.

Cola comes in a bottle, and you pay for each one. The same goes for espresso. Most often in cafes, the difference between an espresso and a cup of coffee is the amount of hot water passing through the machine’s basket … and you pay for each one. This system certainly suits me, and we’ll probably buy a home-model Saeco espresso machine for the back bar of the taproom, and make single servings of espresso and black coffee. Period.

Give it a chance. You’ll be a convert in no time.

Overall, much of what I experienced in Europe during the early days was incomprehensible to me at first, and it constituted a challenge to a mind that had not been challenged often enough during high school and university here in Indiana. Looking back, I'm grateful to have been challenged.

While there are always exceptions, what I’ve taken away from it after all these years is the notion that trying to please everyone at a minimal level of achievement may be necessary to some extent, but it isn’t the game I want to play.

Rather, teaching's my gig. To teach is to provide learning and instruction. That’s always been my mission, and it will continue to be once we’ve opened downtown. The higher object is to satisfy the pre-existing demand, and to mold new demand ... to be a destination, and to be renowned for a unique reason.

The BSB taproom will have a short menu of good food conceived and prepared by a professional chef (Josh). I believe his menu is going to be a hit, but regardless, it will not include hamburgers, pizza or chicken tenders. NABC beers will be available, and I know they’re good. Other places downtown will be serving other craft beers and mass-market lagers, but we won’t. There’ll be a few bottles of quality spirits available for the discerning palate, but there will not be Jack and Coke. And so on, and so forth ... and more power to your business model. I want ours to be different.

Since drinking straws annoy the hell out of me, we’ll probably not have any on hand … but I guess you can bring your own.

Hitchens on the "moral and aesthetic nightmare of Christmas."

Excerpts only; follow the link to read the whole, glorious piece.

'Tis the Season To Be Incredulous: The moral and aesthetic nightmare of Christmas, by Christopher Hitchens (Slate).

... My own wish is more ambitious: to write an anti-Christmas column that becomes fiercer every year while remaining, in essence, the same. The core objection, which I restate every December at about this time, is that for almost a whole month, the United States—a country constitutionally based on a separation between church and state—turns itself into the cultural and commercial equivalent of a one-party state ...

... It takes a totalitarian mind-set to claim that only one Bronze Age Palestinian revelation or prophecy or text can be our guide through this labyrinth. If the totalitarians cannot bear to abandon their adoration of their various Dear Leaders, can they not at least arrange to hold their ceremonies in private? Either that or give up the tax-exempt status that must remind them so painfully of the things of this material world.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Open thread: Holiday hours for downtown New Albany bars and restaurants?

NABC’s company party was at Connor’s Place yesterday, and it was a strange sensation to be watching a football game, craft beer in hand and a plate of nibbles close by, on a Sunday afternoon in downtown New Albany, although to be fair, I believe that Pastime and Hugh Bir’s are usually open on Sundays, and of course Little Chef never closes.

When the Bank Street Brewhouse’s taproom opens (in February, we hope), we’re going to try Sunday hours in a yet-to-be-determined format. Overall, as in so many other areas of consideration, it’s a chicken and egg argument in that people don’t come downtown on Sunday … but, few businesses are open to attract them.

This brings us to the topic of holiday hours. With Christmas and New Year’s falling in the middle of the week this year, what hours will downtown bars and restaurants be observing?

Note that owing to the existence of an archaic Indiana state law that clearly violates the principle of church/state separation, alcoholic beverages cannot be sold on Christmas Day. ACLU, where are you when we need you most?

Yesterday Buddy Sandbach told me that the Codfather (a.k.a., Dave Himmel) has given him the okay to open Connor's Place at 2:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve and tend bar until early evening, or a bit later if business merits. Food will be limited to pizza and skins. Connor's Place is located at 134 East Market Street, next to the Grand Theater in downtown New Albany.

It isn't located downtown, but for the record, NABC/Rich O's/Sportstime (3312 Plaza Drive) will be closed on both holiday eves and days: Christmas Eve and Day (December 24 & 25) and New Year's Eve and Day (December 31, January 1). Otherwise, business hours as usual.

If you know the planned holiday hours of other establishments, downtown or otherwise, including shops and stores other than bars and restaurants, please post a comment in the usual fashion and let us know. It might help boost a small business during a tough time.

No chains, please.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Her oupistidophobia comes gift-wrapped, and just in time for the holiday season.

"Atheism is a non-prophet organization"
-- George Carlin

Phobias are perhaps the most fundamental of psychological phenomena, and I feel for anyone who suffers from them.

I have a few phobias, although their effects are relatively mild. There's a periodic fear of heights, and also a wee bit of taphephobia, which is the fear of being buried alive, as in a grave. These bubble up more often during dreams than in everyday life. They lurk in the murky background of my mind, ever vigilant for the opportunity to wreak havoc.

According to a brief search of the Internet, there would appear to be no general agreement as to the proper word to describe the alarming condition whereby a person suffers from an irrational fear of atheists and atheism. It appears nowhere on the Indexed Phobia List, but one source suggests atheophobia as true to the Greek origins of the idea, while another offers oupistidophobia, literally “no-faith-phobia.”

Whatever the best word, Tribune guest columnist Peggy DeKay is afflicted with it. In her column last week, and for the second time in six months, DeKay charts the dimension of an insidious and irreligious conspiracy composed of tiny number of militant atheists intent on prying pure faith from the hearts of vulnerable, pious Christians, who themselves comprise 76% of America’s population.

Her current instance of phobic frothing focuses on that most recurring of seasonal teapot-borne tempests, namely, the one where Christians – quite possibly the beneficiaries of the most pervasive and relentless propaganda machine in the history of mankind – become terrified that even the most miniscule dollops of free thinking grudgingly permitted to seep through somehow pose a mortal threat to the hegemony of their religious edifice.

DeKay points to a sign erected on the capitol grounds in Washington state:

“At this season of THE WINTER SOLSTICE
may reason prevail
There are no gods,
no devils, no angels,
no heaven or hell.
There is only our natural world
Religion is but a myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds”

Placed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation on behalf of its state members.

(It bears noting that from the perspective of a non-believer, the preceding text is largely superfluous past the word “prevail.” A theist believes in something and bears the burden of proving the positive belief, while the atheist is absent such belief. It certainly isn’t the atheist’s job to explain why something doesn’t exist.)

At any rate, read DeKay’s entire piece here: DeKAY: Christmas — for most of us. Her choice of opening quotation is noteworthy.

“Tolerance is the last virtue of a decadent society.”

Muhammad Ali famously eschews the word “tolerance” in preference for “respect,” and I understand his distinction, but given DeKay's overall gist, forgive me for assuming that she intends no such thoughtful examination when she blithely equates “tolerance” with “decadence” in this simplistic a fashion.

To deploy the word tolerance as an epithet in this manner can mean only one thing: The speaker believes she has a monopoly on "truth," and in this context, her “truth” embraces the notion that hereabouts, one’s personal Christian faith somehow cannot be truly validated without recourse to the tired “America as Christian nation” argument, and this in turn leads to DeKay’s most valuable, if unintended, insight.

What non-Christians never get is that Christmas is in our hearts, and there it will always remain.

Precisely. So, how does the argument proceed from the value of Christmas in “our hearts,” the one place that remains impervious to the wickedness of outside world, to the strongly implied compulsion that the remainder of non-Christians toe the ideological religious line in order for them to be acceptably American?

Christianity's beginnings as a shunned and hunted desert sect are enshrined in an institutional sense, and Christians have always found it highly useful in the evangelistic sense to portray themselves as a besieged minority. In some parts of the world, that’s both the lamentable case and one deserving of a discussion of its own, but it decidedly is not the case in the United States, and the persecution complex grows tiresome with passing time.

Christians in Saudi Arabia? My educated guess would be that DeKay supports their freedom from religious persecution and injury at the hands of the monolithic Muslim state, which looks at dissent differently from the United States.

But dissenting atheists in Seattle?

That's simply unspeakable ... and how dare they!

Don’t they know this is a monolithic Christian state?

Logic is taking a beating, but as downtown neighborhood pastor John Manzo observes in a recent blog post, historical facts can be downrighting irritating.

The Puritans did not really celebrate Christmas. It is not that they didn’t believe in the birth of Jesus or that they wanted to eliminate the infancy narratives from the Bible, but they did believe that a huge celebration of Christmas was paramount to missing the point about the coming of the Messiah.

Much of our celebration of Christmas comes from Germany. Gathering around a Christmas tree and singing carols comes from beloved German traditions that have become a part of our lives.

Christmas is not just for Germans any longer.

I'm an atheist, an identification shared by perhaps 4% of my fellow citizens. Roughly 14% claim no religious affiliation, and many of these probably are theists, since more than 80% of Americans still believe in the existence of God in some capacity.

I doubt it would be possible to find more than a few dozen atheists who share a viewpoint about Christmas, about what it means, and whether any of it really matters in the daily life of a non-believer.

But the mere presentation of an opposing viewpoint hardly stands to bring Christianity to its knees, and speaking personally, I've never understood why those of religious orientation (a chosen lifestyle, isn't it?) are so insecure when it comes to the consideration of alternative worldviews. I imagine it has to do with the influence of Satan, the same force for evil who was responsible for the notions of gravity and the sun as center of the galaxy, along with other theories that resulted in those espousing them watching as their heads rolled down bloody streets.

None of it matters to me until the insecurity compels religion to cross the line. Given the global history of persecution and mayhem administered from a religious perspective, I'll say this: There's a much greater chance of an atheist being harmed by religion than the other way around.

DeKay is on safe ground, but how many heretics have been burned? Perhaps she should consider the Inquisition this holiday season.

When it comes to ROCK, always read the theocratic fine print.

I can’t deny that Reclaim Our Culture Kentuckiana (ROCK) has been playing its public relations hand rather skillfully of late.

Granted, railing against the sinfulness of a wicked society is a guaranteed crowd pleaser here in the non-ironic wasteland of the Bible Belt, and yet you may have noticed the subtle shift of tactics, in that ROCK’s public position with reference to that most venerable of regional smut-peddling bogey men, Theatair X, has focused not on fire and brimstone, but on demanding that Clarksville’s town council merely enforce its own laws.

Gads -- where have you heard that one before?

Just imagine the results if ROCK's "soldiers" chose to extend their perimeter of code enforcement advocacy beyond largely imaginary and divisive “culture wars,” and instead work toward “building stronger communities and families” by bringing unaccountable slumlords to heel through existing ordinances?

Churches don’t own rental properties, do they? There has to be a catch. But I digress.

Addressing the topic of code enforcement and Theatair X, the Courier’s Dale Moss today extracts a priceless morsel of wisdom from town council president Paul Kraft, who responds to ROCK’s ordinance enforcement gambit by telling the columnist, “We are enforcing our laws as we see fit as a town."

Ouch – or, as in the case of New Albany, as they don’t see fit, and haven’t seen fit since long before many of us were born … if ever.

Here's the column: ROCK throws stones in fight for decency, by Dale Moss.

Alas, as Yogi Berra allegedly noted, “It’s déjà vu all over again,” because it’s been almost a year since NAC examined the implications of One Southern Indiana’s befuddled endorsement of a previous ROCK anti-Theatair X publicity set piece, which raised the important question of whether 1SI’s leadership understood that ROCK’s conceptual foundation ranges somewhat beyond its anti-pornography mission, into what 1SI’s Michael Dalby described as “corollary issues” in the statement he eventually released for publication.*

… Our role is business development and we must evaluate impediments to business growth in Clark and Floyd Counties …

… As to any other agenda pursued by ROCK, it is not One Southern Indiana’s role in the community to take stances on social issues. But I agree with your “slippery slope” statement – it is risky to take a step into a portion of an issue and not become immersed in all the corollary issues.

Unfortunately, columnist Moss makes precisely the same mistake as Kerry Stemler, Dalby and 1SI did last year, because he neglect to peer past ROCK’s latest front-page press release into the back pages of what the organization's fascination with creating "culture wars" straw men and bashing them into kindling with theocratic precepts. As clearly stated at ROCK's web site:

ROCK is a non-profit organization that exists to defend and sustain the Judeo-Christian principles upon which our country was founded.

Nothing about pornography in that passage, is there? Undeniably, the pervasive threat of sex businesses is a prime source of concern as one further peruses ROCK’s web site, although intriguingly, these multiple areas of concern have been pared by almost half since last year (see list below). Still, a significant leitmotif remains, as in ROCK's opposition to, "efforts to push expressions of faith out of the public arena," something that is both spurious and irrelevant to the existence of Theatair X.

As I asked during the ROCK/1SI imbroglio last year:

What does ROCK's theocratic advocacy have to do with economic development, and why is Stemler giving 1SI's imprimatur to a very specific and exclusionary Christian advocacy group?

1SI at least made an effort to recognize the existence of the "slippery slope," and perhaps that is part of the reason for the new, legalistic bent of ROCK's strategy. But it remains a specific and exclusionary Christian advocacy group, and I will continue to bait the theocrats among us by pointing to the conduciveness of keeping church and state separate. Theatair X has been in business for 40 years and survived all manner of challenges based on wickedness as defined by Christianity, and perhaps there’s a reason for that, one that is of more importance than the store’s intrinsic tastelessness.

In America, tastelessness is in the eye of the credit card holder; more significantly, our freedoms of speech and expression trump the desire of theocrats to escort me to the religious standpoint of their choice.

Neither the media nor government should give theocrats a free pass.



* extensive Dalby/1SI/ROCK bibliography here


In December, 2007, ROCK’s “Areas of Concern” as listed on its website were these:

The moral decline in our culture
Growth of sexually oriented businesses
Pornography and obscenity
Efforts to push expressions of faith out of the public arena
Attacks on marriage
Culture of death (abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, etc.)
Humanism and relativism

As of December, 2008, the last three have been omitted, although the “culture war” reference below remains intact.

Potential for "Marxist" public art?

I've been trying for weeks to explain the vision that keeps coming to me when I look across the parking lot from the future Bank Street Brewhouse to the newly remodeled and admirably re-humanized building that now houses the Schad, Palmer & Schad law firm. It's those two new windows on the side facing west that do it to me every time. Here's an effort to convey the vision of public art dancing in my head:

Yeah -- the one-way sign is right in the cigar's flight path.

No disrespect intended to my friends at the law office!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Fan mail for the most wonderful time of the year.

Why keep the unsigned, unidentified gems to myself? The following e-mail arrived "no subject" ... and the breathing is heavy, indeed.

Who the hell are you? A classic example of narcisistic males that are watering down values in our culture.

Used to live in New Albany, nice town, good people. You aren’t one of them. Scary and so sad that people like you have got a hold on the politics there.

Bill Schmidt was my father in law. Good people, he and Anna... as good as they come.

I don’t like you. I am a psychiatric nurse and I see right through you; what you are and what you are not.

You are evil and ugly. You spread hate. Yuck, gives me the shivers to even think about your type of character.

I think the Diagnostic Manual should add to the definition of narcissist “usually has his own blog site”.

I feel sorry for your wife, on the other hand, maybe not. Any woman who would marry and stick with a narcissist usually has problems of her own.
Now that I am through vomiting, I would like to say to you, sir “May God Bless you and your family. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year” and I will say several Our Fathers and Hail Mary's for your good intentions.

I chuckled and thought about IAmHoosier's recent experiences while responding.

Dear Anonymous

You wrote: "Scary and so sad that people like you have got a hold on the politics there."

If you believe we're the ones who have "a hold" of politics here, then I believe you're the delusional one.

Happy holidaze,


Survey sez: "Women hate beards."

"Long whiskers cannot take the place of brains"
-- Russian proverb

As reprinted below, a recent poll in Britain indicates that in the vast majority of cases, women would have us believe that they abhor male facial hair.

Ironically, or so the report suggests, contrarian males – presumably influenced subliminally by Geico caveman commercials – insist on believing that facial hair attracts females, this in opposition to all available evidence that sporting prowess, choice of light beer, penis size and maximum credit card limits are the true determining factors in the eternal game of attraction.

Perhaps the trick is for men to get married while clean shaven. Then, lured into our deceitful web of discarded razors, women won't have a choice in the matter.

As for the unattached gals out there, randomized exceptionalism still carries most days, and I've helpfully highlighted the single most truthful point made in the article, with the key word being "contradictory," in that if you're lucky enough to be Brad Pitt or David Beckham, you can cultivate Fu Manchus, spin the tallest of tales, wear women's underwear and even emit chronic flatulence … and still get her at the snap of a finger.

I concur with Mark Twain – there are lies, damned lies and statistics. The missus happens to like my recently cultivated Che Guevera beard … and I had a mustache before we were married. That's just good taste on her part, don't you think?

And, conversely, even better taste on mine.


Women hate beards - survey

Beards, moustaches and goatees are a huge turn-off for women, with nine out of 10 saying they prefer a clean-shaven man.

But men seem to labour under the delusion that facial hair will get them the girl of their dreams, with two-thirds saying they believe that a beard makes them seem more masculine and appealing.

The survey of more than 2,000 men and women for aftershave manufacturer Lynx will revive the debate over the appeal of beards.

Women displayed a contradictory streak, with 72% saying actor Brad Pitt's designer stubble actually made him more appealing, and 66% admiring Manchester United star David Beckham's hint of hair.

The poll found that 92% of women preferred a clean-shaven man, with 95% complaining that facial stubble made a romantic kiss an unpleasant experience and a turn-off.

Seven out of 10 women dismissed moustaches as "out of date", two thirds condemned trendy goatees as "sloppy", and a massive 86% said they found beards unattractive.

But 63% of men believed facial hair made them more manly and attractive.

Failure in the hair stakes can lead to feelings of inadequacy - one in five men admitted they were not capable of growing a full beard and felt ashamed as a result.

But in the battle of the beards and the sexes, women seem to win - as just 8% of men aged between 17 and 74 have beards.

A third sport occasional stubble, 15% have a moustache and 12% have a goatee.

Just remember, they’re “products,” not “properties.”

File under "symbolic gestures."

Floyd County resident shows resentment to tax rates by paying bill in coins, by Daniel Suddeath (News and Tribune).

Alford’s payment totaled $21,333.09. He paid in a similar fashion last year, except instead of coins, he used dollar bills to account for a $9,553.46 installment on a $19,106.92 tab.

Alford said he doesn’t want to do the same next year, but he won’t hesitate if rental property taxes continue to remain high in his estimation.

“To me, it’s ridiculous,” he said. “We don’t get any deductions on rental properties.”

The property tax increases for rental properties don’t just impact the landowner, Alford said. The bill will have to eventually be passed down to tenants if Alford is to stay in business.

Alford said he’s put in over 800 hours of work into his rentals this year, and will likely only claim a profit of around $10,000. Only one of the 14 rentals has a mortgage on it, according to Alford.

He calculated that nearly 29 percent of every rental dollar he receives goes directly to property taxes.

By my calculation, these numbers suggest an average monthly rental price of $400 for Alford’s 14 rental units, assuming the houses have not been subdivided. In turn, this suggests a gross of around $67,000 each year before property taxes and expenses.

We don’t know the cost of repairs and refurbishments, but “800 hours of work” comes out to 15 hours of labor per week, spread among 14 properties. Assuming the yards are small, that’s about enough time to mow the grass. And, remember, only one of the properties has a mortgage.

Interesting. Do the numbers add up?

Friday, December 19, 2008


Open thread: City council meeting of Thursday, December 18.

I'll plug in the media links as time permits. Meanwhile, if you attended Thursday's meeting, let us know what happened.


Here's the 8:45 a.m. update from Grace Schneider of the Courier-Journal.

New Albany will tighten adult-club regulations

With about 40 members of an anti-pornography group looking on last night, New Albany City Attorney Shane Gibson told the city council that he has enlisted a legal expert to help draft a new ordinance to help tighten regulation of adult-entertainment businesses.

It strikes me that as is the case with Cleopatra's Adult Bookstore, the II Horseshoes now will benefit from the city's inadequacies with respect to (a) writing coherent ordinances, and (b) enforcing them. I

n effect, both establishments are grandfathered in, with future competitors precluded, and enforceable rules coming into effect after the businesses have staked their market niches.

They may be guilty of flagrant bad taste ... but they ain't stoopid.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Peggy DeKay would disapprove, but NABC's Saturnalia Winter Solstice draft festival continues.

The second weekend of Saturnalia MMVIII will be underway tomorrow.

Current Saturnalia draft lineup (subject to updating).

Friday's cask-conditioned firkin will be Harvey’s Christmas Ale.

As was the case last weekend, NABC’s new Beer Manager, Mike Bauman, has sifted through the vintage beer cellar as well as uncovering some bottled overstocks, glassware, and other items. He’s set up a Beer Cellar Christmas Shoppe in the rear of Prost (entrance from Rich O’s) and will be offering the merchandise at these times:

Friday, December 19 from 3 to 8 p.m.
Saturday, December 20 from 3 to 8 p.m.

I'd prefer more wholesome entertainment, say, "Mr. Smith Goes to the Rustic Frog."

Just my luck.

A previously scheduled obligation precludes my attendance at tonight's city council, and wouldn't you know it: ROCK's planning a floor show, although the master of ceremonies is wary of grandstanding in the center ring.

ROCK to protest II Horseshoes at New Albany City Council meeting; Agenda lacking any measure concerning strip club, by Daniel Suddeath (News and Tribune).

A group opposing a new strip club in New Albany promises to plead its case before the City Council Thursday.

Reclaim our Culture Kentuckiana, the Louisville-based organization known as ROCK, sent out an e-mail last week encouraging its members to pack the assembly room of the City/County Building in opposition to II Horseshoes, an adult entertainment business located at 1720 Old River Rd.

While the e-mail states the council will address the club during the meeting, Council President Jeff Gahan said that’s not the case.

“That item is not on our agenda for Thursday,” he said. “I don’t anticipate any presentation or any discussion at this point.”

It looks as if the members of ROCK will be forced to wait until non-agenda public speaking time at meeting's end. After sitting through the usual antics of the conjoined councilmen, they may decide to broaden their definition of "a total disregard for our common goal of decent and wholesome communities where we can live, work and raise a family."

Meanwhile, also on the council's plate:

Former councilman Bill Schmidt has been recommended for appointment to the Building Authority Commission, which requires a vote of approval from the council.

The recommendation probably came from Professor Erika, who has selected Schmidt to father her love child ... wait; got that one wrong. Sorry. Rather, she has chosen him as one of her "outstanding men" of 2008 in New Albany, based on a list of vaguely defined criteria that includes this:

They work hard and play by the rules. And most of all they look out for their neighbors, co-workers, and the many needs of the "little people" of New Albany.

As a humorous side note, Prof. Erika cautions that "names are listed in alphabetical order only," and accordingly, she has Larry Kochert coming before Maurice King.


See what a Bazooka Joe university degree can do?

Here is tonight's meeting agenda.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Crushed butt of New Albany smoking ban in LEO's Loserville 2008.

There's a marvelous year-end wrap in today's edition of LEO, most of which is devoted to news and personalities in Louisville and Kentucky.

Loserville 2008

Yes, but New Albany scored a point, too. Gee, wonder who wrote this one?

New Albany smoking ban

Even before the global financial meltdown, New Albany was looking forward to a year of tough choices, ranging from rental inspections to sewage rates, and from street repairs to downtown revitalization. Predictably, the city council prepared for the very worst by ignoring it, instead squandering time by enacting an unenforceable smoking ordinance that was immediately vetoed by Mayor Douglas England. New Albany’s summertime smoking debate careened off the scientific
rails, divided the city, fulfilled its reputation as an open air museum of political dysfunction, and in the end, all of the city’s important issues remain, orphaned, unaddressed, and ignored … just like always.

Penance: Bum a smoke?

Gonder: "Assessing the Council's performance from home, I'd leave my shoes on, at least for now."

It is the year 2008.

There are nine members of New Albany's city council.

According to the city clerk's web site, two council members (Steve Price & Diane Benedetti) either have no e-mail address or won't divulge it.

Then there's John Gonder.

Whatever else we might say about the current edition of the council, it is indisputable that CM Gonder is the only member therein willing and able to cyberspeak with regularity. In essence, this means that he is bilingual, and I for one appreciate his efforts.

After all, it is 2008 ... and soon, it will be 2009.

Yesterday, Gonder was the second of two local Democrats to post a blog, and I hope I'm not violating protocol by providing brief excerpts here and recommending that readers follow the link and peruse the entire document. I'm guessing that's what he wants, although I've been wrong before.

What do you make of Gonder's assessment of the council in 2008?

You Can Leave Your Shoes On

... The present incarnation of the City Council, while not departing, is winding down its first year. This seems a good time to reflect on its progress to date.

The first significant decision of the Council was to choose Jeff Gahan as its president. That decision carried two major ramifications which unfolded over the course of the year.

First was the shelving of the redistricting plan. A newly drawn Council District map would have had no effect on the current representation on the council, but could have yielded a different roster going into the elections of 2011. Although this issue appears dead, its reappearance should shock no one.

The second major plot point owing to Gahan's position was the smoking ordinance. That ordinance represented a principled stand on on issue about which there should be no debate. That there was debate can not be denied. The outcome of this issue was determined by a Mayoral veto. That decision could have proven an insurmountable obstacle to the necessary cooperation between any Mayor and any Council. It did not, and I am grateful for that. I will not make a categorical statement on future smoking legislation, but I'd be disinclined to revisit the issue in any form, any time, for any reason.

The issue which I feel is central to so many of our problems can be wrapped up in a package called code enforcement. The city, any city, can not sustain itself when housing stock deteriorates to the point it discourages people and families from seriously considering living in it ...

Gonder's assessment of the council's performance in 2008 is comprehensive, so don't forget to follow the link and read all of it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Upon closer examination, it's business as usual.

Let me tell all of you something that's important to me.

When I post a blog that is available for viewing by anyone on Planet Earth with access to an Internet connection, I've done so for a reason. Actually, for two reasons.

First, I hope someone reads it. Moreover, I hope many people read it. I don't publish for any other reason, and I can't fathom why anyone would.

Second, my name's right there. It's my writing, and no one else's. You may agree or disagree, and that's fine. But they're my words, and I intend to take ownership of them, thank you.

Until today, I never thought that what I do in terms of writing is particularly noteworthy, precisely because it seemed to me the very nature of minimum default. Today, for reasons that I'm asked not to reveal, suddenly it looks like my minimum default constitutes incredible courage and genuine principle.

And that's a sad, sad thing, for all the wrong reasons. I'd love to tell you why, but I can't. So be it.

There for a fleeting moment I thought there was light at the end of the tunnel.

Instead ... well, just take it from Kurt Cobain: "Whatever, never mind."

Open thread: Public hearing on proposed Silvercrest development is tonight.

Interesting, although I must confess to a chuckle in that the same developer whose Silvercrest plan is termed a "neat concept" also is giving us a Chick-fil-A on State Street.

That's not a neat concept, but I digress. The important question: Is the Silvercrest plan being minted a good one?

New Albany to review 'aging-in-place' project, by Grace Schneider (C-J).

Nearly six months ago, the New Albany City Council threw its support behind developer Matt Chalfant's proposal to transform the 40-acre former Silvercrest property into a large residential development.

The city Plan Commission is expected to hold a brief public hearing tonight on a related request from Chalfant to subdivide the redevelopment area -- known as a planned unit development district -- into three tracts and to take action.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Them's fightin' shoes ... we oughta invade EYE-rack ... wait -- been there, done that ...

From LEO's blog, Fat Lip, comes an appreciation of metaphor.
Shoe toss: In case you were under a rock (Iraq?) this weekend, below is the video of Iraqi TV reporter Muntader al-Zaidi winging his shoes at President Bush. It’s a terrible insult in Iraqi culture to throw your shoes at someone — the person on the receiving end is thought to be lower than shoes, or in the dirt, and so on. Just as fascinating as the toss (and Bush’s expert ducking, which is metaphorically significant if nothing else) is the reaction in Iraq: Most people are referring to the shoe toss as an act of heroic defiance.

(Link to video)

A reign of error that began with a stolen election now ends with long overdue metaphor, though not from a member of America's journalistic cadre, which spared the symbolic shoes for far too long as W enthusiastically cheapened the country's global brand for the sake of Falangist ideology.

Barack Obama wins the presidency, and W ducks Iraqi footwear.

Closure ... but jeez, what's it going to be like playing the role of happy drunk?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Bank Street Brewhouse status report: Cross your fingers for February.

It has been a wee bit stressful these past few weeks, and some days I’m a wreck.

Beer, cigars and visits to the YMCA comprise useful therapies, and yet sometimes it seems that I'm getting way too old for this. However, it now appears that things are firmly back on track with respect to NABC’s new downtown location, the Bank Street Brewhouse.

Get ready for the world’s lengthiest soft opening. I'll try to explain.

First and foremost, the financial game plan is far clearer than before, and we believe that these negotiations should be concluded by early January, at which time we can begin spending like drunken sailors.

In the interim, the final stages of the taproom build-out at 415 Bank Street will proceed: The bar, seating, HV-AC, restrooms and kitchen. There’ll be sufficient time for the requisite inspections.

There is a definitive Indiana ATC hearing date fore the retail Riverfront Development 3-way license during the first week of February, which means that barring the unexpected, the taproom can open immediately after the last rubber stamp falls silent.

In the beginning, the beer will continue to be brewed at the original Grant Line Road location, because the DME brewing system can’t be purchased until the money’s in the bank to make a down payment, after which approximately four months are required for construction, delivery, installation and the production cycle of the first few batches.

Once the Bank Street brewing system is operational, we’ll use it for the brewing of beers primarily designed for distribution in Kentucky and Indiana, with the smaller existing Grant Line Road kit slated to make small batch specialties and seasonal beers. Jesse Williams and Jared Williamson remain the brewers of record, with a third brewer to be hired in 2009.

John Campbell will be the brand manager and outside sales director. Louisville distribution is through River City, and we’ll retain self-distribution in New Albany itself. The wholesaler for the remainder of Indiana has yet to be determined, so stay tuned. There are no plans to distribute outside hese two states for at least the first year.

We have a chef on board, Josh Lehman, and very soon, we’ll be able to begin buying kitchen equipment for him. Josh is a culinary arts graduate of Sullivan University, and until recently was the sous chef at Louisville’s prestigious Le Relais. His menu at the Bank Street Brewhouse will incorporate as many local ingredients as possible in what might be called an adaptation of fare found in Belgian café and French brasserie settings.

There will also be a full-time bar manager for the front of the house. When the biographical details arrive, I'll tell you more about her.

Note that the Bank Street Brewhouse will be serving neither the traditional pizza menu nor the guest beers as is the case at Grant Line, where things will remain as they are. The idea all along has been a different approach for growing NABC’s brewing operation in a downtown setting. We're interested both in preserving old traditions and creating new ones.

Eventually there will be micro-canning capability at Bank Street (750 ml "oil cans"), as well as a sizeable outdoor beer garden and a green roof on the top of the building.

With the taproom interior largely finished by January 17, we’re planning a special one-day indoor event in honor of Benjamin Franklin’s birthday and our annual release of NABC Old Lightning Rod, a Colonial-style dark ale brewed with grain, corn and molasses. Look for more information on this event in early January.

I’m expecting that the next six weeks are going to be frenetic. I’m glad, because almost imperceptibly, we’ve been shedding ballast and achieving goals. There was a rough patch in September and October, but the cumulative effect has been to push ever closer toward fruition, even if we haven’t always been able to see the gains until the past few weeks. Happily, the hard work’s not been in vain.

The real heavy lifting is about to start. I’m confident that in spite of the stressors, it’s going to be much more fun.

The ordinance against "no-brainers" is subject to multiple interpretations.

There's good coverage of common sense in the morning newspaper, with our own Bluegill in an advisory capacity.

A code of safety: Some feel crime and code enforcement are linked in New Albany, by Daniel Suddeath (News and Tribune)

Lax code enforcement welcomes a criminal element into New Albany, according to Jeff Gillenwater.

Gillenwater, a New Albany resident who has lobbied for tougher rules through his work with several neighborhood associations, said deteriorating houses and rentals impact more than merely property values.

“Make it look like nobody cares and potential residents will believe you, including relocating criminals,” he said.

Mayor Doug England promised to lay out his code enforcement plan to the City Council when he returns from back surgery and rehabilitation, which will likely be the first week of January.

Alas, another year has passed during which New Albany's city council has acted boldly on trivial pursuits, such as the currently unenforced (duh) ban on novelty lighters, but proposed nothing of substance to curb the city's empowerment of slumlords, a situation that derives not from ordinance, but from generations of outright political cowardice.

To be sure, there have been fact-finding meetings, and CM John Gonder waxes optimistic, telling the Tribune's Suddeath, "I am very hopeful. I have no reason to think that they will pull out a toothless tiger."

Gonder gets it, and yet toothlessness is such a part of New Albany's heritage of unresponsiveness that it surely must be written into the city's genetic code. According to our political DNA, measures to combat the unchecked reign of the slumlord are DOA. It's going to take more than words. Think: Deeds ... irespective of the political fallout.

Uncouncilman Steve Price, who by his own testimony yearns to be regarded as a "hobbyist" rental property owner who makes nothing from it (and they call me a socialist), said it best back in August after the initial rental property registration committee meeting: "This is all a bunch of fucking bullshit."

It is, but as usual, not in the way that Price unimagines.

None of us currently know the dimension of the mayor's plan to address the reality of New Albany's default state of non-enforcement. I remain hopeful, although we are well advised to refrain from holding our breaths.

Council invocation reform? Too good to be true?

Just in time for Christmas, Freedom to Screech is reporting a miraculous occurrence.

(No, Erika's not going to start using her real name. Some things are simply beyond the scope of providence.)

Rather, in her usual syntax-challenged manner, the nutty transgendered professor says that "some City Council members plan to remove saying the Lords Prayer before council meetings."


The New Albany City Council said the Lords Prayer and Pledge of Allegiance for over 25 years. We have heard some City Council members plan to remove saying the Lords Prayer before council meetings.

President Gahan has stated he feels uncomfortable standing there saying the prayer. Has he told his Catholic Priest about this problem with the Lords Prayer?

We have been told that Councilman Bob Caesar also stated that the Lords Prayer should be removed. Where does Bob Caesar attend church?

We have also been told Councilman Dan Coffey agrees that the Lord's Prayer should be removed. Where does Dan Coffey attend church?

Freedom Of Speech would like to ask, "Why are these Councilmen listening to the Atheist?"

Will their next move be to remove the "Pledge of Allegiance" from council meetings? ...

... Freedom of Speech feels that we need to say "GOD BLESS AMERICA" and pray for God's help more so now... than ever!

I can't believe it, either. "The Atheist" is utterly flabbergasted if, in fact, this long overdue step is even being contemplated, much less slated for timely implementation. Naturally, we should be wary, because Erika's red herrings are the stuff of local legend. As ever, she's surely entitled to her opinions, but not to facts that have been conjured from thin air, and the facts in this case are simple.

Nothing in the city's code of ordinances specifically mandates the rote recital of the Lord's Prayer as a prequisite for listening to Steve Price drone endlessly about grammaw's cookie jar, Pandora's Box and the importance of nickels and dimes in the lives of the unambitious.

Ear plugs and blindfolds would be helpful, though. Here is the relevant ordinance snippet.


The following order of business shall be observed by the Common Council at its meetings:

(A) Invocation. To be given by ministers, if present of different faiths.
(B) Pledge of allegiance.

Clearly, there is no mention of the Lord’s Prayer. Just as clearly, the Pledge of Allegiance is required. Whether the Pledge of Allegiance in a broader sense is coherent or even necessary, or whether it should encourage the veneration of brightly colored cloth and include the words "under God," are subjects for earnest discussion on another day.

Even the otherwise clueless ex-councilman Kochert understood that to properly observe the ordinance is to ask if a minister is present before saying the Lord's Prayer. If this appreciation for the rules had extended elsewhere, Kochert might possess a legacy. But I digress.

It has long been my view that the "invocation" clause in our fat volume of typically neglected ordinances is best construed as an opportunity to bring cultural diversity within eyesight of our elected officials, who haven't always shown a recognition of such matters.

Locally profuse Protestant denominations alone certainly would be sufficient to provide personnel for 24 invocations each year, but more significantly, numerous non-Christian perspectives are available for thoughtful consideration, from Muslim to Native American, from Jewish to Wiccan, and everywhere outside and in between.

As for the "Atheist's" invocation, I have a brief passage from H.L. Mencken that would do quite nicely.

If Erika's rumor is true, kudos to councilmen Gahan, Caesar and Coffey for being, er, progressive about something.

Man ... that was really tough.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

REWIND: "The ACLU is committed to preserving the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom for all."

Every year around this time, a jingle-bell drumbeat of drollery sounds as the demographic we now identify as the Palin Paleolithics begins its annual assault on the American Civil Liberties Union, which is accused of trying somehow to deprive America of its favored shopping season.

As a preemptive measure, here’s a reposting of an ACLU response from 2005. For original context, travel down memory lane:

'Tis the season for ... ACLU bashing?


How The ACLU Didn't Steal Christmas (12/7/2005), by Fran Quigley.

When the angry phone calls and emails started arriving at the office, I knew the holiday season was upon us. A typical message shouted that we at the American Civil Liberties Union are "horrible" and "we should be ashamed of ourselves," and then concluded with an incongruous and agitated "Merry Christmas."

We get this type of correspondence a lot, mostly in reaction to a well-organized attempt by extremist groups to demonize the ACLU, crush religious diversity, and make a few bucks in the process. Sadly, this self-interested effort is being promoted in the guise of defending Christmas.

For example, the Alliance Defense Fund celebrates the season with an "It's OK to say Merry Christmas" campaign, implying that the ACLU has challenged such holiday greetings. (As part of the effort, you can get a pamphlet and two Christmas pins for $29.)

The website WorldNetDaily touts a book claiming "a thorough and virulent anti-Christmas campaign is being waged today by liberal activists and ACLU fanatics." The site's magazine has suggested there will be ACLU efforts to remove "In God We Trust" from U.S. currency, fire military chaplains, and expunge all references to God in America's founding documents. (Learn more for just $19.95 . . . )

Of course, there is no "Merry Christmas" lawsuit, nor is there any ACLU litigation about U.S. currency, military chaplains, etc. But the facts are not important to these groups, because their real message is this: By protecting the freedom of Muslims, Jews, and other non-Christians through preventing government entanglement with religion, the ACLU is somehow infringing on the rights of those with majority religious beliefs.

In truth, it is these website Christians who are taking the Christ out of the season. Nowhere in the Sermon on the Mount did Jesus Christ ask that we celebrate His birth with narrow-mindedness and intolerance, especially for those who are already marginalized and persecuted. Instead, the New Testament—like the Torah and the Koran and countless other sacred texts—commands us to love our neighbor, and to comfort the sick and the imprisoned.

That's what the ACLU does. We live in a country filled with people who are sick and disabled, people who are imprisoned, and people who hunger and thirst for justice. Those people come to our Indiana offices for help, at a rate of several hundred a week, usually because they have nowhere else to turn. The least of our brothers and sisters sure aren't getting any help from the Alliance Defense Fund or WorldNet Daily. So, as often as we can, ACLU secures justice for those folks who Jesus worried for the most.

As part of our justice mission, we work hard to protect the rights of free religious expression for all people, including Christians. For example, we recently defended the First Amendment rights of a Baptist minister to preach his message on public streets in southern Indiana. The ACLU intervened on behalf of a Christian valedictorian in a Michigan high school, which agreed to stop censoring religious yearbook entries, and supported the rights of Iowa students to distribute Christian literature at their school.

There are many more examples, because the ACLU is committed to preserving the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom for all. We agree with the U.S. Supreme Court's firm rulings that this freedom means that children who grow up in non-Christian homes should not be made to feel like outsiders in their own community's courthouse, legislature or public schoolhouse.

To our "Merry Christmas" correspondents and all other Hoosiers, we wish you happy holidays.

Refusing insurance as the salve for a poverty-stricken consciousness?

Excellent observations from the blogging pastor, John Manzo.

Colin Powell's Comments

Colin Powell made a recent observation that he believed that Sarah Palin is a person who is one of the more polarizing figures on the political stage and exemplifies the growing polarization of and in the Republican Party. Interesting to note, in recent polling data, her approval rating across the nation is in the 30's and amongst the Republican base is in the 70's.

Closer to home, many readers may have missed a comment contributed by Rev. Manzo early last week when we considered the top stories of 2008.

The biggest local story is a story that is being played out elsewhere as well. In this past year the poverty level in downtown has grown exponentially. If our Soup Kitchen is a barometer we have pretty much
doubled the number of people we serve each week. There are also significantly more children at this. This is the untold story of our fair city, I'm afraid.

Has anyone noticed that people like my uncouncilman, Steve Price, are perpetually willing to exploit poverty as the reason why nothing should be done to help expand the economic pie, while finding no justification for providing assistance (i.e., Haven House funding) to those stricken by poverty, and completing the trifecta, remaining utterly bereft of any plan or strategy to address the situation in such a manner that might suggest a modicum of comprehension?

I thought Republicans were the ones attributing poverty to the inadequacies of the poor. Perhaps my councilman should consider switching parties.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Saturnalia is out of the gate, with a Beer Cellar Christmas Shoppe today and tomorrow.

Saturnalia MMVIII is under way.

The Saturnalia MMVIII starting lineup is revealed.

Also of note, NABC’s new Beer Manager, Mike Bauman, has sifted through the vintage beer cellar as well as uncovering some bottled overstocks, glassware, and other items. He’s set up a Beer Cellar Christmas Shoppe in the rear of Prost (entrance from Rich O’s) and will be offering the merchandise at these times:

Friday, December 12 from 3 to 8 p.m.

Saturday, December 13 from 3 to 6:30 p.m.

Shoppe hours on the weekend of Dec. 19 & 20 will be announced next week after we see what's left to sell.

Review: Michael McDonald at the Horseshoe Casino, December 11, 2008.

It comes as no surprise that pop-rock veterans structure their live performances around a calculated celebration of their memorable back catalogs.

It does come as a surprise when the pandering quotient is low, the standards are subtly updated, covers are enthusiastically rendered, and the drummer is an African-American female from Memphis who not only has a love affair with crash cymbals, but also sings backing vocals.

These qualities are rare, indeed.

Last night at the Horseshoe Casino, Michael McDonald also managed to throw a half-dozen urbane and mostly seldom heard Christmas numbers into the mix, while sly dedicating “Takin’ It to the Streets” to change (read: Obama) in America, eliciting a healthy ovation from an occasionally rude (read: drunken redneck) crowd.


I’m one of the few people you’ll ever meet who will actually admit to being lukewarm about the Doobie Brothers before McDonald joined them, and becoming a real fan of the group only when the St. Louis-born keyboardist brought a healthy dose of sophisticated blue-eyed to soul to the group, contributing a half-dozen classic pop staples from 1976-1981, songs like “It Keeps You Running,“ What a Fool Believes,” “Minute by Minute,” and the only one of these songs neglected during a 75-minute show last evening, “Real Love.”

When the zenith crested, McDonald went solo, scoring a handful of hits during the 1980’s (“I Keep Forgetting (We’re Not in Love Any More)” and “Sweet Freedom,” among others), and eventually crafting a solid second career in the new millennium as an interpreter of Motown and soul. The Doobies took time off and later reformed around the nexus of its leathery biker roots, reverting to the populist simplicity desired by its hardcore supporters.

Back at the Horseshoe, the set list was well crafted, the stage show mature, and the backing musicians superb. Concerts these days are shorter and ticket prices higher, but in terms of value, I believe they’re better in the main. Audio and sound technology is light years ahead of the selectively recalled good old days, and few if any performers of McDonald’s caliber appear without an upper echelon of skilled players behind them.

Over coffee this morning, Mrs. Confidential observed that she thinks McDonald looks better in “old” age, with his hair completely white and the former Bohemian beard, also white, now closely cropped. To me, he looks like an entirely different person from the one I remember, although the voice has never changed.

Taken together, these thoughts prompted a random reflection about the song “Real Love” and something written about it at the time in Rolling Stone magazine. It turns out that the source of my recollection is a 1980 review of “One Step Closer,” the final Doobie Brothers album with McDonald, written by Don Shewey. I found it on line. Not only is it a fine piece of writing, but it’s also a snapshot of another age. I'll close with the first half of it.


When television's 20/20 profiled the Doobie Brothers last summer, the segment's highlight was a brief glimpse of the band laying down the vocal tracks to "Real Love," the first single from One Step Closer. Clustered around a mike, several Doobies exhaled ethereal backup harmonies. Standing dramatically in front of another microphone was the group's lead singer, Michael McDonald, who cowrote the tune. The camera moved in on McDonald in midsong: eyes closed, his voice intense, his dark beard gently but urgently nuzzling the foam rubber that covered the mike. I was startled by this intimate picture. It reminded me of seeing Billie Holiday on film for the first time and discovering that she wasn't a fancy, heavy-lidded crooner but a fragile creature with wide eyes and a musician's alertness. Instead of a jaunty pop star exploiting a sensually gruff baritone, McDonald suddenly seemed like a seasoned stage actor, a passionate Romeo pouring out his heart to a Juliet conjured from thin air. He was caught up in his imagination and oblivious to the world.

"Real Love" is not only one of the great pop songs of the year but probably the best record the Doobie Brothers have ever made. Every time I hear it, I can't help thinking about that indelible image of McDonald's furry face cozying up to the microphone. The terse drumbeats, delicate guitar notes and electric keyboard chords that start the track cast a spell, while–in suspended time, like that moment when sex begins and clocks stop–Michael McDonald spins out a tale of romantic pathos: the struggle to recapture one's first dream of love, the inevitable series of unfulfilling encounters "grindin' down a secret part of you," the willing self-deceit ("Let me hear you lie just a little/Tell me I'm the only man/That you ever really loved"). It's an old story, yet McDonald's emotional reading makes it immediate. He projects the kind of heart-rending vulnerability stereotypically ascribed to women. "When you say comfort me/To anyone who approaches," he sings, with enough feeling in "comfort me" to suggest he's said it plenty of times himself. And the way he limns "Well we've both lived/Long enough to know/That we'd trade it all right now/For just one minute of real love" unexpectedly conveys the romantic's conviction that in the instant when love is most real, it's already fading.

Not surprisingly, "Real Love" overwhelms everything else on One Step Closer.