Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Civic embarrassment: Bicentennial Commission goes mercenary, disses localism.

So much for localism.

Bicentennial commission continues fundraising push; Book celebrating 200 years of New Albany due out in September

NEW ALBANY — The New Albany Bicentennial Commission isn’t waiting until 2013 to roll out historic memorabilia.

As the city prepares for its 200th birthday in 2013, the commission has been finalizing plans for a limited-edition book that will detail New Albany’s past in a way that officials said will hardly be dry and boring.

“It’s going to be a fascinating book,” said Bob Caesar, who is a New Albany City Councilman and a member of the committee.

Noted history author James A. Crutchfield was hired to write the book, though the narratives are only slated to comprise about one-third of the work. Color photographs will occupy most of the remaining space.

Why on earth would the New Albany Bicentennial Commission select a hired-hack author from Tennessee to “write the book” on New Albany?

Crutchfield is presently working with Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Robin Hood in producing a collection of top quality, four-color, coffee table books. Crutchfield does the research and writes the historical treatises for the books. He and Hood have produced books on Nashville’s Opryland Hotel, the Tennessee Walking Horse, the University of the South at Sewanee, historic sites and buildings in Tennessee, and Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania. Works in progress are a book on the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

This decision runs counter to every imaginable precept of localism, but "respectable" elements approve, so ... this is what we get.

The very first name that comes to my mind is not James A. Crutchfield, but New Albany native Gregg Seidl. He’s a local historian and a published author, who leads tours of haunted and nefarious NA, and also writes “straight” when the occasion merits.

After I read the article linked here, I messaged Gregg and asked if anyone serving on the Commission had approached him about the book idea. He replied that no one had mentioned it to him, and he’d read about it in the newspaper just like the rest of us.

Jeff Gahan, are you or your advisors reading?

Yet again, the institutionalized banality of the departing England administration’s “same few people on all committees” results in divergent voices going unheard, and an opportunity utterly wasted, except this one quite literally is a once-in-a-lifetime chance. If the “official” bicentennial celebration is going to be the same old white-bread-and-Budweiser karaoke show, it’s time for the creative class to get to work on the underground version.

James A. Crutchfield?



ecology warrior said...

Seidell a historian and published author, really? Ok he has a BA in History, most would agree that a doctorate qualifies the historian designation and he has a book published of vintage New Albnay photographs with a bit of contrite explanation. Yep he would have been my first choice over a proven author of the kind of project this entails.

Local isnt always better Roger!

The New Albanian said...

The point being, why not be inclusive and invite numerous perspectives, rather than being insular? Might there have been a process by which Gregg (and others) could compete if desired? And why Crutchfield? As always, all these questions, and no transparency to answer them. Gee, EW, I thought you favored transparency?

ecology warrior said...

well I will grant you that point, an invitation to bid would have been the better way to go, still comparing Crutchfield to Seidell, nolo contendere!

Crutchfield an award winning author of over 50 books and a proven track record vs. what?

The New Albanian said...

Gregg isn't the only writer in town, and Crutchfield's isn't the only cash-for-hire program around. There are dozens of Crutchfields roaming America -- why him? Besides, this isn't about writing westerns. It's about producing a commemorative volume, lighter on text than illustrations, that might be written by anyone. Someone from here might just be able to produce a more balanced work. Instead, what we'll get is more hagiography of the Scribners, and a thorough glossing over of NA's historical inability to detect ideas outside the box -- with the author chosen by a closed commission absent any meaningful intent to be inclusive or transparent. In itself, it's the New Albany Syndrome at work to produce a book, the existence of which verifies the New Albany Syndrome's perennial hold.

NewAlbanianMan said...

In response to Ecology Warrior's post:

A "doctorate" does NOT make one an historian. No academic title makes one an historian. A passion for and love of history makes one an historian.

There are several local historians who do not hold a degree in the subject matter, and I'd put anyone of them up against Crutchfield when it comes to New Albany's history.

As for the "contrite" information contained in my photo history of New Albany? That information was gathered after hours upon hours of research on the subject in the photo. It was then edited down to fit within the publishers parameters for writing captions, i.e. between 40 and 50 words per double photo page, and between 60 and 80 for single page photos.

If the information seems contrite, you give it a shot and let's see how much better you do. "Images of America: New Albany," filled with contrite bits of New Albany's past, outsold Harry Potter here in Floyd County for a couple months, and continues to sell well five years after its release.

You've also obviously not read "Wicked New Albany," my second release.

But, Roger's post is NOT about me writing the book. It's about all the local talent that was overlooked. This should have been a collaborative effort by New Albanians, with or without my contributions.

The book written for the bicentennial was just such a joint effort by the citizens of New Albany.

The sesquicentennial was written by a local author and historian, Betty Lou Amster. Please note she was NOT "Dr. Amster," and as far as I know she held no academic title related to history.

It's a damned shame this book celebrating a major milestone in our city's history isn't a local effort, like the previous ones.

Buy local? I guess not.

RememberCharlemagne said...

"The point being, why not be inclusive and invite numerous perspectives, rather than being insular?"

Roger's right, but too bad it took him 4 years to finally get it. Think if he and Nash directed their criticism at the England Administration instead of wasting Tib space attacking Price and Coffey, two people who had very little impact on anything.
Instead, New Albany lost four years of any real progress under the England Administration.

The New Albanian said...

Roger's right, but too bad it took him 4 years to finally get it.

That's odd. All I ever hear is that no one pays attention to what I say, and now it is alleged that if Matt and I had only directed our words against the proper target, the city wouldn't have lost four years. I think it's a compliment, although I'm not completely sure.

G Coyle said...

There are so many good targets here, everyone can have one. I agree with RemCha though. When I came out early in the England Admin and called it corrupt and self-serving, I got slammed by you guys. You did waste precious time playing gutter ball with Price and Coffey (no power) while England and Maylsz filled up their goodie bags and the oligarchs laughed at yet another downtown bar-fight that would suck up people's energy and good-will, serving their purpose to stay hidden. (The real power)

Iamhoosier said...

I don't think it took 4 years but 2 years would probably hit it. I believe(at least as for as this blog is concerned)NAC was trying to give the mayor time to do what he promised. Roger got busy with opening BSB and didn't catch on quite as quick as some others that the administration was floundering and/or plundering. There's no real substitute for being able to attend meetings on a regular basis.

I would agree that Price had little power but I would disagree about Coffey. He knows how to manipulate.

Would it have made any difference? We'll never no.

ecology warrior said...

to Newalbanian man, a passion for and love of history does not make one an historian, it is generally accepted that a professional historian has a graduate degree in the discipline to be considered a bon fide, credentialed historian, or is a recognized expert ,in your case one could consider you an amateur, so why would the Bicentennial commission go with an amateur?

Crutchfield has a proven track record for the kind of writing project the Bicentennial Commission has in mind and Crutchfield has twice received commendation awards from the american association for state and local history.

Buy Local, in this case hardly!

SBAvanti63 said...

I'm sure there will be some vitriol in response to this, but I hope EW spends at least as much time worrying about where he does live as he does getting in the business of where he does not. I know, free speech and all that, but no one else can be so tiresome, so quickly. Take your shot, EW. Sticks and stones ...

mvfdgroupie said...

To ecology warrior, it would be very nice if you would use the correct spelling of the gentleman you are dissing!! It is Seidl, not Seidell. Also, I would like to ask you a question, do you have a BA in anything literary or just in BS? Mr. Seidl is indeed a published author and historian, jealous? Have you ever heard him speak about New Albany's history? I have and I can tell you that not only does it make me interested to learn more, I actually ENJOY listening to someone talk about history in general. I have never been a history buff or even liked history but Mr. Seidl makes it fun (and no, I am not one of his students, I am a grown woman of above average intelligence). BTW (by the way for you), are you a published author of anything except the trash you talk on here?

RememberCharlemagne said...

Never said that I didn't listen or read your comments, maybe others have.

Compliment? Not really.
Just making a statement.

If a compliment were to be construed it would be for my respect of print media's influence and how important the editorial section is.

I'm not shorting you Roger I think anyone who takes an active interest in their community is a community leader in one way or another. I just question some people’s intentions.

RememberCharlemagne said...

Mark, it took four years.

You're forgetting the election year.
England ran on two-way traffic. This was not a policy he thought up, but pandered to by those who supported him, like Roger.

It was a poor policy to begin with and easily stopped. It will continue to be easily stopped until the intent is in the best interest of the entire city.

And Gina, you've been consistent in your criticism throughout these few years, I noticed.

NewAlbanianMan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
NewAlbanianMan said...

My mentor at IUS, (a gentleman with the credentials EC seems to think are required of an historian), and a man who knows the subject matter inside and out, is the one who instructed me that a degree does not an historian make. According to him, only fools believe one needs a degree to research and write.

pugnacious said...

I've read both of Mr. Siedl's books and found them a wonderfully entertaining and informative history of the average citizen of the city, a history much more interesting than the same old boring crap about the Scribners. Culbertson, etc.

It appears to me that Mr. Siedl intended his book, (a photo history of the city...isn't that what this guy is going to produce?), to represent these same citizens.

Shouldn't a bicentennial book also be about the average Jane and Joe who made New Albany what it is?

I like Mr. Siedl's attitude regarding what is and what is not a historian. I have never met him, but he doesn't seem like the typical educated snob who thinks just because he has some paper he's somehow better than the average person. I agree with him that its a love of history that makes a person a historian and not some degree that can be bought online.

I also have to wonder how good of a history Crutchfield is going to write considering he obviously has so much on his plate.

BTW...Crutchfield did not win the Pulitzer Prize for history, and yes...they do give a Pulitzer for history.

Jeff Gillenwater said...

For what it's worth:

I consider myself to be have been roughly a year to 1.5 years late in accurately analyzing and offering criticism of the England administration. As Mark accurately mentioned, I indeed tried to give them adequate time and opportunity to implement what they said was coming-- something that with hindsight never was going to come. My fault. My bad. I was wrong. I've said and apologized for such in this space previously.

That said, it bares noting a couple of things:

1. Gina's early criticism was typically accompanied by accusations that anyone who agreed or defended any England admin positions did so as a result of some smoky, self-serving, back room deal. Those accusations were bullshit from start to finish. The one and only time the England admin offered me anything (which came much later than G's accusations), I rebuffed them. In fact, I forwarded documentation of said offer to others for safe keeping in the event of any attempted retribution related to my rejection of it. That didn't happen, either.

2. It cracks me up how Jameson (RememberCharlemagne) has revised his tune. He originally insisted via the Tribune editorial page that England and a small cadre of business owners, unbeknownst to the public, had hatched the two-way plan with no public input, a claim that was as erroneous. Now he says England only said it as a matter of pandering to the crowd, a complete 180 from his previous stance.. LOL.

Be honest folks. It's the only way.

Iamhoosier said...

Just saw where I wrote "no" for "know". Freudian, perhaps, for all my negative thoughts? Jeez!!

The New Albanian said...

It was a poor policy to begin with and easily stopped. It will continue to be easily stopped until the intent is in the best interest of the entire city.

Until we convert city streets to fairways, it'll have to do.

The New Albanian said...

Crutchfield has a proven track record for the kind of writing project the Bicentennial Commission has in mind and Crutchfield has twice received commendation awards from the american association for state and local history.

My guess is that EW himself knows how absurd such an argument is at root. Insisting upon academic credentials would have excluded a great many of the world's thinkers and doers from participation.

Just one example should suffice: HL Mencken. The man considered "one of the most influential American writers and prose stylists of the first half of the 20th century" graduated high school, but never went to college.

But, to be sure, Crutchfield is The Man for the CM CeeSaws of the world, those modern day Babbitts who crave white bread and respectability above all else.

Iamhoosier said...

I've never understood why a "freeway" through town(especially residential)was considered a good idea.

jessica knable said...

May I add my wonderful father James St.Clair, who has authored many books including the biography of Sherman Minton with Linda Gugin also would have been an obvious choice. To me, anyway.

RememberCharlemagne said...

If anything can be taken from Roger's post is that the England Administration's policy of cronyism is at an end and a positive change. Even if some on here benefited from it. It should be our hope that Gahan doesn't continue the same cronyism policy.

His track record is promising. The multiple public meetings he held in regards to River View comes to mind, as do others.

Initially, I think Gahan will be busy undoing a lot of the England Administration’s wasteful projects that have done and will do little for the city.

And Jeff, even the city’s own 07 study pointed out how little public input was given to such a large and important issue.

“A total of 25 attendees signed in. A questionnaire was provided to provide a formal opportunity for citizens to provide input into issues relevant to the study. A total of 24 completed questionnaires were received. The following sections discuss the findings from the questionnaires. Because of the number of responses, the results do not fully represent the opinions of the citizens who utilize the study area’s current transportation network.”

Erroneous, Jeff? Facts are facts.

Iamhoosier said...


The New Albanian said...

You can't benefit if he won't give you the promised car -- and that was Garner, not England.

Jeff Gillenwater said...

Rod Serling was sort of boring, comparatively.