Saturday, March 31, 2012

An unsolicited plug for Pacers & Racers.

As so many readers know, Pacers & Racers Running - Walking Store is located just around the corner from NABC's original Plaza Drive location; they're at 3602 Northgate Court #19, off Grant Line Road.

I've shopped there on and off for some time, but the past couple of years, it's all clicked for me, and now I regret my previous absence of focus when it comes to consistent patronage, because the Pacers & Racers staff surely must be in the top one percentile locally when it comes to training and knowledge. This morning I was given the lowdown on plantar fasciitis, which I've unfortunately developed in my left foot, as well as ailment management strategies, muscle stretching tips and loads of supporting information. I also bought two pairs of shoes.

You can't compare apples and oranges, and we have a wonderful supporting cast at NABC, too, and yet I quite sincerely view the folks at Pacers & Racers as the gold standard of service. It's a consistent level of quality that all independent businesses should seek to attain.


Tolls are NOT a "Done Deal."

With no further clarifications in route from Develop New Albany, we look instead to Paul Fetter (No 2 Bridge Tolls) for this update.


Many No Tolls supporters have recently contacted their legislative representatives to continue to urge "No Tolls." One supporter received a short response from a legislator that said basically, "Sorry, tolls are a done deal." It is unfortunate that we have uninformed elected officials (some not all) who believe the 'reality' that ORBP is spinning. They continue to use the tactic to further the perception that tolls are a 'done deal.'

However, that is not the case. The Federal Government has NOT approved tolling yet. The 2012 transportation bill has not passed, and it is not likely to before the deadline at the end of this month. Because of this, Federal Highways will revert to the old transportation bill, which includes language that says no tolling on existing interstates. They make a provision, allowing for 3 exemptions per year, and all 3 are used in 2012, (and NOT for the Ohio River Bridges Project). Of course 2013 and out is open, and no doubt the Bridges Authority are lobbying for a 4th exemption, but doubt the banks will loan this kind of money ($2 billion) on a promise for a future exemption with so many states and projects vying for these exemptions.

The power brokers in the ORBP continue to use "perception as reality" because they hope to create the illusion that it is a done deal and therefore the public will stop the resistance and this deal will fly. We must continue work on the FHWAA and our Congressmen and Senators, letting them know that "tolling" is not an acceptable solution for financing in our community, nor acceptable on existing highways per the transportation bill.

We are still working, we have a meeting with our Congressman Todd Young, Tuesday and will keep everyone informed of the truth.

In other recent news:

Lee Dulaney (granddaughter of River Fields founder Archibald Cochran) chastised River Fields and ORBP short-sighted planning in a letter which was published in the Courier-Journal on March 19, 2012:

Shortsighted planning

I am writing to express my dismay about the shortsighted planning of the Ohio River Bridges Project. As a Louisville native who has lived in other waterfront communities, Seattle and San Francisco, I find it utterly amazing that our city, county and state leaders would choose to further junk up our waterfront with more steel and concrete - this while the aforementioned cities are working to clear their waterfronts and make them more accessible to residents.

We have a great start with the current Waterfront Park. Why not add even more green space? Please build the East End Bridge first and come up with an alternative for downtown.

If our city continues on this current path, I believe that our children and grandchildren will pay the ultimate price, that price being a city that is unable to compete with more visionary cities in attracting businesses, brain power and families that want a vibrant community in which to raise future generations.

As the granddaughter of the founder of River Fields, Archibald Cochran, I believe that he would be disappointed by the tricks and stalls of the current organization and the path we now appear to be heading down. I don't believe this is what he had in mind for his grandchildren and great-grandchildren when he envisioned a great river city.

LEE DULANEY

Mandy Connell Interviews Denis Frankenberger

If you missed Mandy Connell's March 20th show where she called out the fact that there's a lot about the bridges situation that looks dirty and/or irresponsible, be sure and listen to her interview with Denis Frankberger who has made it a personal mission to expose the "stupidity" of the East End Tunnel. According to his research even two consultants hired by the Bridges Authority confirmed there is no historical authenticity to the Drummanard Estate. Stay tuned as he takes on this challenge, potentially in the courts on behalf of taxpayers.

Friday, March 30, 2012

It's time for a 6th Kingpin for a Week: 1Si's CEO for the next seven days is ...

The search for One Southern Indiana's latest temporary CEO continues in the aftermath of the Wassmer Error. NAC has volunteered its weekly headhunting assistance, because we're all civic-minded when not otherwise inTOXICated.

So, who'll be the next momentary occupant of the throne, he or she who will solemnly swear aloud 1Si's oath of office?

I would like to announce that I have accepted the post of CEO of One Southern Indiana. I regret that I have to step down on Monday. I treasure our time that we have worked together.

Last week's winner was Sean Payton, preceded by Jethro Bodine, Rush Limbaugh, Vaughan Scott and Benny Breeze. They've all earned the vacation that follows a whole week's vainglorious labor. Today’s choice as 1Si CEO for the week of March 31 - April 6, 2012 is ...


 ... a man long accustomed to playing the role of sidekick ...


 ... because after all, One Southern Indiana's eminence grise, Kerry Stemler, remains the top dog in all but title.

Who will 1Si's kingpin be next week? Tune in next Friday, and we'll tell you -- whether or not you want to know.

Steady progress at the Greenway.


The west side of the 18th Street portal to the Ohio River Greenway started being leveled this week.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The straight fulfillment excitement from the Clere Channel Network, as delivered the very next day by Amazon.

Sainthood surely cannot be far away ... but for whom?

Here's the press release, as submitted to NAC by the Indiana House Republicans.

Economic incentives draw Amazon.com, over 1,000 jobs

STATEHOUSE – Amazon.com, Inc. announced its plans to locate a new fulfillment center in Jeffersonville, Ind., creating up to 1,050 new jobs by 2015 and approximately $150 million in investment in the state.

“We’ve made Indiana one of the most taxpayer and business friendly states in the nation, and it’s paying off,” said Rep. Clere. “That climate combined with Southern Indiana’s ideal location for logistics and fulfillment operations makes it likely that Amazon’s exciting news will be followed by other similar announcements.”

Amazon.com expects to open the new facility at the River Ridge Commerce Center this fall – the fifth fulfillment center in Indiana. The Seattle-based company already has fulfillment centers in Indianapolis, Plainfield and Whitestown with operations covering more than 4 million square feet.

“As we continue to rebound from the recession, look for Indiana to lead the charge in job creation and economic development,” said Rep. Clere. “Indiana is positioned for unprecedented economic expansion and growth.”

According to the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC), they offered Amazon.com up to $2 million in conditional tax credits and up to $300,000 in training grants based on the company's job creation plans. These tax credits are performance-based, meaning until Hoosiers are hired, the company is not eligible to claim incentives.

Also, the IEDC and the Indiana Department of Transportation will allocate funds to improve Cox Road. River Ridge Development Authority has approved additional property tax abatement through the enterprise zone and will support infrastructure improvements.

This latest economic development announcement adds to the state’s growing transportation and logistics industry. Indiana is home to more than 4,700 miles of mainline rail track, three international airports and more than 11,000 total highway miles. Each year, more than 1.1 billion tons of freight travels through Indiana, making it the fifth busiest state for commercial freight traffic in the nation.

“The outlook for Southern Indiana is exciting as the prospects for new business and employment opportunities are very encouraging,” said Rep. Clere.

A sneak peek at Former Post Office Plaza.


A glimpse (courtesy of RR on Twitter) of the proposed design for a bicentennial park on the property bounded by Pearl and Spring Streets. I'm assuming the photo was taken at yesterday's Bicentennial Commission meeting, and guessing that the park still is to be called Legacy Square.

At this point in time, if there's to be any chance of repaying the committee's Crutchfield book debts and garnering the money to transform Gregory Brothers asphalt into parkland, perhaps selling naming rights would be a better idea.

How does CeeSaw Estates work for you? Is it too late to contact Wonder Bread? Or, might we cut out the middle man entirely and just call it Horseshoe Foundation Square?

Previously at NAC:

Legacy Square? Nah, pie are round, cornbread are square.


When the prime legacy is that of a demolished building, you need to think very carefully.


If the director of Community Housing Initiatives is involved, does it mean Legacy Square will have condos?

ON THE AVENUES: Can’t stuff ‘em in a burlap sack, either.

ON THE AVENUES: Can’t stuff ‘em in a burlap sack, either.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

My forthcoming documentary is going to be called, “I Just Want to Know, Can I Park Here Somewhere?”

It will be filmed on location in downtown New Albany, with a large cast to include prominent living and deceased examples of: Ducking-and-covering elected officials, their overburdened economic development appointees, shrugging policemen, knowledgeable but bureaucratic planners, thinly stretched street department workers, officious board of works members, eternally fractious business and property owners, neighborhood busybodies and thoroughly confused out-of-town visitors.

At the end of this three-hour movie, there’ll emerge no single instance of agreement among any two of the respective parties mentioned above, and nothing even distantly approximating a quantifiable answer to the question asked in the title, but just to give the ending a nice, down-home New Albanian zeitgeist type of feel, I’ll have Develop New Albany on hand to claim complete credit for an outcome that doesn’t even exist.

In fact, they can call it Drive By City if they like.

For those who are struggling to keep score, please open your “Principles of Banana Republic Management” textbooks to page 105 … or just load the app on your smart phone. It’s called “Is It Even Possible To Do a Worse Job of This?”

---

Once upon a time, in the golden age lasting approximately 25 minutes following curtain calls at the conclusion of World War II, New Albany made vague gestures at enforcing its own traffic ordinances by using policemen to issue tickets. However, because the cops were needed to control rampant episodes of social disarray stemming from the city’s refusal to enforce its buildings and housing codes (see: The Slumlord Empowerment Act), ticketing went somewhat out of fashion.

At any rate, monies collected mostly reverted to the state of Indiana, where they were used to finance measures aimed at thwarting home rule while allowing the simultaneously disingenuous promulgation of the opposite, and when it came to parking tickets downtown, no one bothered to collect the fines incurred.

When city officials did try, certain prominent local citizens – often those veritable doyens of tottering local political party structures – refused to pay, promptly threatened to sue anyone within pellet scattering range, and as a sign of genuine civic solidarity, doused themselves with lighter fluid with Bics close at hand.

After all, there was hardly any activity downtown, so what did it matter to anyone?

---

Then, something completely nutzoid occurred. During the Garner Administration, the city council unanimously approved the creation of a riverfront development area. This was the pretext for a delineated zone in which modified three-way alcoholic beverage permits could be issued apart from the state’s self-defeating quota, and this single, elegant and inexpensive act immediately leveraged numerous independent small business investments in food and drink establishments within the historic downtown commercial district. The first stirrings of a revival began, and overnight, utter chaos descended.

As it turns out, there was nothing whatever – statutory, administrative or experiential – that foresaw the possibility of progress, as opposed to regress. All the rules and practices, and most of the people in charge of them, were jigged only to manage decay, and decay alone.

At this critical moment in the city’s history, Develop New Albany’s invisible cadres rushed in to take complete credit for the progress gained by entrepreneurial investments that had little if anything to do with DNA, and to contribute nothing to the resolution of problems stemming from improvements … rather like State Farm, but without the money to pay claims, which is where the Urban Enterprise Association comes in … but I digress.

---

During the epochal third England Administration, which ingloriously perished when the Democratic executive’s hand-picked Republican successor was crushed prior to his suffering a humiliating council race loss to a comparative non-entity, the mayor took precious time away from his lifelong hobby of dispensing politically-motivated favors with other people’s money to heroically sidestep any involvement with downtown parking issues.

Hizzonner simply decreed that downtown parking rules would not be enforced, so that revenue from fines in that particular locality of the city would be lost, but not in other localities, with there being no clear explanation to this very day of where one might park illegally and expect a ticket, or park illegally and not be ticketed, and if cited, whether there’d be any effort on the city’s part to collect the fine, other than a frayed, adapted Wheel of Fortune board game and a case-by-case heave-ho.

For a number of downtown merchants and their employees, non-enforcement has proven to be the best policy of all, seeing as it is their aim to park their vehicles as closely as possible to their own front doors. Other building owners zealously guard their surface parking lots lest someone dare make an offer to pay or use of the spaces. Still more surface lots are owned by the city, which spins the wheel yet another time so as to determine whether these spaces are to be free of charge or paid, and if paid, to guess aloud if the checks received will ever be endorsed.

And then there’s the proposed Riverview development, and a rare, once-in-a-lifetime chance for the city to pay $15 million for a parking garage and then give it away to private interests which may or may not let anyone else use it.

---

It doesn’t stop there. As I write my documentary prospectus for publishing over at Kickstarter, the price of gasoline has climbed above $4 per gallon, which means more of the city’s least thoughtful citizens will be riding their bicycles in all directions through streets and on sidewalks, without the slightest effort at internal control, or any degree of external regulation.

Automobile drivers impaired by their cell phones weave in and around these oblivious cyclists, as well as roaming packs of skateboarders, at ridiculous rates of speed, regarding all non-automotive presences as targets (if they ever see them in the first place).

Meanwhile, the sensible, oft-cited benefits of traffic calming, two-way street conversions, enforcement of bicycling rules, opportunities for pedestrians to walk safely and an overall elevation of a human-scaled city to primacy even if it means sacrificing a full two minutes of time traveled by car – well, these are routinely derided by those congenital obstructionists for whom New Albany remains a collection of distracting impediments to speeding through and exiting as quickly as possible out the other side.

And, no matter where one looks, the only clear presence on the local scene when it comes to resolving these many issues is a great big hole – not where the giveaway parking garage might go, but the obscure place where leadership is supposed to be, but never is.

Of course, if there was any such thing as public transportation in the Open Air Museum … no, never mind.

Hey, you – can I borrow your lighter? It’ll only take a minute.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Inaugural New Albany Bicentennial Writers' Project meeting on Thursday, 4 p.m., at BSB.

Back in December, after we learned that a prolific for-hire author from faraway Tennessee had been engaged by the New Albany Bicentennial Commission to “write the book” on New Albany, eyes rolled and streams of spittle were directed into nearby gutters.

Civic embarrassment: Bicentennial Commission goes mercenary, disses localism. (December 27, 2011)

 ... 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.

The workaday world invariably interferes with good ideas, but tomorrow afternoon (Thursday, March 29) at 4:00 p.m., we hope to get started on this task, which I think of as providing the people's corrective to the usual institutionalized banality. I'll be meeting Gregg Seidl at Bank Street Brewhouse to discuss the New Albany Bicentennial Writers' Project, which began percolating on December 30 with a posting at NAC, as reprinted below. I suspect we'll be looking at a very low cost model of an on-line format to begin gathering material. Where it goes after that is anyone's guess; all I promise is to refrain from burdening Southern Indiana's tourism authority by extending a tin cup in their general direction.

You are welcome to attend. Please do.

What we need: The New Albany Bicentennial Writers' Project.

Books don’t seem to matter as much as they used to, and so it was instructive to witness a generally annoyed reaction to the Bicentennial commission’s non-transparent decision (itself so indicative of the city’s generational tendencies) to ingloriously import a freelancer from Tennessee to “write the book” on New Albany.

Both here, at the newspaper and on Facebook, savvy readers immediately grasped the obvious: It makes no sense to employ a freelancer from afar when the writers we already have can do the job.

New Albany’s history reads like any other city’s record, in the sense that it boasts the sublime and the ridiculous in roughly equal measure. The commission’s aim in producing a coffee table book for fund-raising purposes undoubtedly is to render the standard, glowing and heroic account of numerous bearded white folks defying the odds to raise a city from the flood plain – when, of course, it would have been far more sensible of them to leave the bottomland be and place it on the non-tubercular hillside.

Respectable history is one thing, and daily life something else entirely. To me, the ideal Bicentennial book would be a written snapshot of New Albany at 200, looking back and ahead, inclusive of a number of perspectives, and unafraid both to celebrate the victories and to dissect the warts.

What is needed is a New Albany Bicentennial Writers' Project (BWP), with a goal of producing “The People’s History of New Albany”, nodding toward historians like the late Howard Zinn, and his life’s work of balancing the talking points of officialdom. New Albany is a place filled with numerous instructive and entertaining stories, most of which would have no place in the Babbitt History of New Albany (thank you, Sinclair Lewis). That’s all the more reason to pursue them.

Know from the very start that this is going to be hard, hard work. First, what are the major themes in the New Albany historical narrative worthy of examination? Who’ll be doing the writing, and when is the work due? How do we pay for it, with local government already stating its inexplicable preference for the “infallible fatherland version” of the past?

Well, I’m willing to put in the time, and as for the money ... we'll figure it out.

Let them have their “official” volume. Conversely, let’s aim to create a thought-provoking counterweight. Who knows? It might turn into a permanent feature of the New Albanian landscape.

HPC and NA vs. Bradford Realty: Yep. Ignorance of the law is no excuse.


Reporter Suddeath tackles the Indiana Court of Appeals ruling, and to me, it all goes back to childhood teachings: Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Krafty John thinks otherwise, but that's why we have lawyers for both sides.

Court sides with New Albany historic group; Bradford Realty should have sought approval for siding, according to ruling, by Daniel Suddeath (News and Tribune)

NEW ALBANY — The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a ruling that had backed Bradford Realty’s claims that the New Albany Historic Preservation Commission didn’t properly notify land owners of zoning restrictions.

With a little help from a friend, here's my take on the Court of Appeals ruling. It favors the Historic Preservation Commission in three ways:

First, Bradford Realty’s “ignorance of the law” defense goes down in flames, and not a moment too soon for me. The ordinance’s notification features are deemed sufficient, and there is no violation of due process.

Second, vinyl siding is affirmed as a “conspicuous change,” one necessitating a Certificate of Appropriateness from the HPC. It bears noting that the intent of a COA is to ensure the use of methods that don’t damage the structure or compromise the district’s character. According to the HPC’s own ordinance, even an “inappropriate” COA could be approved by vote, as in a circumstance where the use of vinyl (or synthetic) siding would protect a decayed building. These forms of siding are not universally disallowed by default; the COA process is intended to determine their potential suitability, on a case by case basis.

Third, the court did not find inverse condemnation; in other words, the ordinance stating the HPC’s requirements can not be considered so stringent that it constitutes the government seizing Bradfrod’s property without compensation.

Here's the ruling itself, in unbridled legalese.

“It’s becoming increasingly clear that ... Americans are developing a strong taste for high-quality, small-batch beer from independent brewers.”


With 95% of beer drinkers remaining to be converted, it is reasonable to believe that strong growth will continue.

BREWERS ASSOCIATION: CRAFT BREWING VOLUME HOPS 13 PERCENT

Total U.S. brewery count tops 2,000

Boulder, CO (March 26, 2012) — The Brewers Association, the trade association representing small and independent brewers, today released 2011 data on U.S. craft brewing. Craft brewers saw volume rise 13 percent, with a 15 percent increase in retail sales from 2010 to 2011, representing a total barrel increase of 1.3 million.

Look carefully. What isn't right about this photo?


Of course, by converting Spring Street to two-way traffic, the infraction pictured here would cease to be an issue, and then all we'd have to do is get the adult cyclists OFF THE SIDEWALKS.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"...it's necessary. And, in fact, anything less than that isn't even worth trying."

Sacred Economics traces the history of money from ancient gift economies to modern capitalism, revealing how the money system has contributed to alienation, competition, and scarcity, destroyed community, and necessitated endless growth. Today, these trends have reached their extreme - but in the wake of their collapse, we may find great opportunity to transition to a more connected, ecological, and sustainable way of being.



More information is here or read the full text of the book online for free.

"Patriotic Gore" revisited at Slate.

A book about the American Civil War that has eluded my attention all these years, and a controversial one at that; any defense of the South's role in the war tends to prompt disgust in me, but just the same, at a time when Dick Cheney gets a new heart and New Albany's committee for the perpetuation of its white bread Bicentennial plows forward, re-examinations always intrigue. I'll get to it, just as soon as I'm finished reading about Caravaggio. Thanks to Prof. V for this wonderful tip.

Patriotic Gore is Not Really Much Like Any Other Book by Anyone” ... Revisiting one of the most important and confounding books ever written about the Civil War, by David Blight (Slate)

 ... One reason so much attention was paid to Patriotic Gore, as one reviewer after another remarked, was that is was so “genuinely serious,” so startlingly unusual amid the “flapdoodle,” the “dressed up” “vulgarities and tomfooleries” of Centennial books, pamphlets, re-enactments, facile speeches, patriotic commissions, pursuits of minutia, and other Blue-Gray sentimentalism.

"'Rules' are laws, ordinances, and regulations that can strengthen your community."

The New Rules Project's goal is "Designing Rules As If Community Matters." Now that's just the sort of subversive concept for CeeSaw and his ilk to ignore.

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) proposes a set of new rules that builds community by supporting humanly scaled politics and economics. The rules call for:
  • Decisions made by those impacted
  • Communities accepting responsibility for the welfare of their members and the next generation
  • Households and communities possessing or owning sufficient productive capacity to generate real wealth
NewRules.org discusses the importance of rules and catalogs the best.  We make the rules and the rules make usMore

Monday, March 26, 2012

No, I will not shut up, but thanks for the hint. Now, for more on the necessity of independent business empowerment.

Most of us accept that when it comes to power, a vacuum is a condition waiting to be filled. It almost always is.

In New Albany, with local government barely a blip on the chart, both Develop New Albany and One Southern Indiana (the latter to a lesser extent) exist to fill the vacuum created by the inexplicable, ongoing refusal of independent local business owners to organize themselves, to advance their economic interests as a bloc, and to take seriously their potential power as such a purpose-built collective.

If business owners are content to outsource this clout to an organization, then shouldn’t it be an organization whose primary purpose is to advance the clout of business owners?

New Albany First might yet become this sort of organization, and make good on its  founding promise to be a true association of independent business owners, but NA 1st has had much difficulty getting started -- some of it organizational, and partly because of apathy and confusion on the part of those independent local business owners who should be its greatest supporters.

Also, there has been the impediment of predictable push-back from those who are threatened by the prospect of independent locally-owned businesses finally demanding an overdue seat at the table.

Verily, Develop New Albany cannot help us, and neither can One Southern Indiana. Both are driven by ideologies that are admittedly useful to specific constituencies, in certain circumstances, but which simply are not form-fitting to the needs of independent locally-owned businesses. They both have their places, as does the Urban Enterprise Association, although it currently is in a governmentally-induced vegetative state.

All one needs to know is that in this community, there is almost no disagreement: Independent locally-owned businesses have driven New Albany’s revitalization, and yet in terms of decision-making, the reins are nowhere close to our hands. Why do we acquiesce in this? Why do we not insist on input commensurate with our achievements?

Is it timidity, overwork, and under-education? Is it because we possess an inbred revulsion against cooperation for mutual benefit, or perhaps mistake it for unionization or some other ridiculous buzzword intended to frighten the uninformed into rejecting measures intended to redistribute local power more fairly? Whatever it is, it needs to stop.

As a case in point, think back to the tragi-comic, doomed “Come to City” marketing campaign almost foisted on the community by the compromised, England-endowed DNA cabal.

Ironically, at the discredited campaign’s heart was a generally truthful proposition: Independently owned local restaurants and bars represent the best known, and to date, most successful symbol of revitalization; therefore, these should comprise the gist of the marketing campaign.

Granted, the campaign was as ineptly maladroit as Dick Cheney is pure evil, but this isn’t the critical point in relating the story. The point is this: Independent locally-owned business was being told it was crucial to a marketing campaign presumably designed to advance the interests of the city as a whole, and this admission was tantamount to usurpers assigning the credit where it actually does belong. We should have seized the reins right then and there, and run the campaign ourselves; that way, at least we’d have been able to control how were to be marketed – a question DNA and its advertising man never even bothered to ask.

I’m suggesting today that there’s a far greater truth involved. As noted earlier today, “There truly is strength in numbers," and if we independent locally-owned businesses do not unite to assert our collective strength, there’ll be no one else to blame, and our credit will remain the sad debit it is today.

By insisting on going it alone, we’re at risk of blowing a huge opportunity to restore balance to the local conversation, and to establish a baseline for future reference. Maybe you can live with missing the chance ... but it really gripes my cookies that we remain oblivious to it.

Independent locally-owned businesses are revitalizing New Albany. Period.


AMIBA's annual conference begins later this week in Louisville. It is instructive to note that in the context of downtown New Albany's revitalization these past few years, the effort has been led almost entirely by independent locally-owned businesses. Concurrently, the local landscape is littered with groups seeking to take credit for this or that or another, and yet it has been independent locally-owned businesses in New Albany which have taken the risks, invested here, and made New Albany into something to talk about apart from its legendary deficiencies.

It is far, far past the time that we, as independent locally-owned business owners, should put our mouths where our damned money is and heed the advice of AMIBA: "There truly is strength in numbers." We have power, and yet we refuse to use it. We have only ourselves to blame if we continue thinking that a politician or a non-profit is going to do the work for us absent our active participation as business owners. Credit? It goes first to our customers, and then to us. The remainder can queue for whatever is left. Meanwhile, the following constitutes AMIBA's characterization of the situation. If you own a business or know someone who does, read it and share it. Thanks.

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Think of your favorite shop, restaurant, farm or service provider. We'll bet it's a homegrown business. Independent locally-owned businesses are essential to a vital local economy and community character. They're where the locals go. They're owned by our friends and neighbors, or maybe even by you. Community-serving businesses are the backbone of local economies, civic life, local charities, and wealth creation for millions of citizens, as well as a training ground for future generations of entrepreneurs.
Problem: Today, independent businesses face unprecedented competition from larger chain competitors, internet merchants and franchises that enjoy national or international branding power and major economies of scale. As a result, community-based businesses comprise a smaller portion of our economy than ever before. We’ll lose much more than places to shop, dine or do business if we allow current trends to continue.
A Proven Solution: Many cities and towns have discovered a model, pioneered by the staff of the American Independent Business Alliance, to counter these trends successfully and help local entrepreneurs thrive. More than 80 communities in North America now boast Independent Business Alliances* to unite independent businesses across all sectors, along with concerned citizens to build vibrant, durable local economies.
AMIBA can help you use our models to implement an effective buy local campaign or IBA, pass pro-local policies, and more. There truly is strength in numbers. Learn more about benefits of AMIBA affiliation or the three realms of IBA work. You'll love what an IBA can do for your  business or community!
The American Independent Business Alliance is a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational organization. Learn more. *Independent Business Alliance is a registered mark of the AMIBA and is reserved for exclusive use by  affiliates.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Your Sunday evening's Ian Hunter.

A Grand Pairing, Part Two.

A Grand Pairing, Part Two.

By guest columnist Shane Campbell

Part One appeared yesterday. 

Shane is an Indiana native (from Pekin) who returned to the area a few years back after a career in the Air Force. We came to each other’s attention via the Louisville Restaurants Forum, and I’m happy to provide a venue for Shane's account of the Louis Le Fran├žais beer dinner on Thursday, March 1. 

---

We now had bread and water and it was time for the first course.

“Real men don't eat quiche,” they say. Right; more for me, then. I can't be sure I've actually eaten quiche before. I can be sure that this was the best quiche I've ever eaten. It was warm and not surprisingly tasted like a rich fluffy omelet, but with a pleasing casserole-like texture. The beer paired with it was golden, bubbly, and mildly sweet. It reminded me of a Shandy, which is a lager with lemonade (soda). It was 7% abv but tasted much tamer. It complemented the Quiche Lorraine like orange juice does ham and eggs at breakfast. I would happily drink this beer all afternoon while sitting in the sunroom gazing lazily out at the garden.

Oy, I forgot. Sometime between my Hestian vision and the quiche, the party arrived to fill in the empty places at the table behind. I resent those people who always come in late. They do this at movies, plays, sporting events, and obviously scheduled dinners. These people missed all of Roger's and Tim's talk, but I doubt they minded. To such people, the world isn't really happening unless they are there to witness it. Therefore, they missed nothing. I shifted my seat to allow a couple of them to pass. I forgot them as soon as Tim came by to tell us about the Erwann Blonde (the beer, not the girl – she was noir). Tim moved off and Steve remarked that he recognized the nearest couple. He called out to the man who was sitting at my back, addressing him by name. The man looked surprised and seemed only to pretend to recognize Steve, but his wife did remember even asking about Steve's daughter. I leaned to the side as they caught up across the table. They quickly left off when the seafood course arrived.

An overlarge bowl of smooth white porcelain was set before me and I began to visually survey the contents of the mixed seafood stew in beer sauce (Tafel reduction). The seafood consisted of maybe a dozen denuded shellfish scattered about the bowl, including pinkish veined shrimp, glistening pearl scallops, and plumpish red mussels peaking out from a thin layer of yellowish viscous sauce. The table behind us suddenly launched into a loud discussion about -- pap smears. I don't know about you, but I never engage in gynecological anecdotes while eating shellfish! Poor form, I say.

“Do they have to speak about health issues while we're eating?” I complained a bit too loudly. The guy at the end of the table looked up sharply. “Well, most of them are doctors,” Steve shrugged and tucked in with gusto.

The seafood course was served with NABC's Tafel Bier. I've had Tafel a few times and found it to be a session strength beer with a malt forward character. I do prefer weak beers, I just prefer them to be bitter. When taken with this seafood, however the taste of this beer seemed enhanced. It now had more taste than I remembered and that taste went with the stew like sweet tea goes with cornmeal battered catfish. This pairing thing really works! Now I'm not saying for a minute that I wouldn't like this stew with a nice pint of bitter ale; I know I would. But it seemed I liked the Tafel with the right kind of food a lot more than I otherwise would!

This was borne out again with the main course. The previous Sunday I had watched the basketball game while sitting at the Bank Street bar. My favorite bitter was unavailable so I had a couple of pints of Runkel Dunkel dark lager. It was fine but it was not my preferred beer and I would only choose it when my preferred beer was not available. The Dunkel too seemed amped up and was the perfect accompaniment to the charcuterie course. This was the largest of the five courses and with it we were given an additional Biere de Garde by Tim. I found the Page 24 Biere de Printemps to be one of the most balanced beers in recent memory. It was sweet and bitter at the same time. It was my favorite beer of the evening. I don't really trust that opinion though as I had so little of it and that taken with food. This beer warrants further investigation.

The main course consisted of four pieces of pork arrayed on a plate of braised sauerkraut. Poking up from the middle of the kraut at a jaunty angle was half of a thumb-thick sausage link in a bright red casing. Scattered around the edges of the kraut was a slice of pale smoked ham, a large pork shank, and a thick slab of bacon.

The sausage filling was of a fine consistency (think knockwurst) and had a mild flavor. Its natural casing provided a satisfying snap when bitten. The ham was as good as any smoked ham I've had and was thankfully not as salty as most. It went wonderfully with the bright yellow mustard from the saucer on our table. While tender, the pork shank was not fall-off-the-bone and, well, tasted much like the ham to me. The bacon was something I had not previously experienced.

Steve and I had carried on a constant conversation of an entirely appropriate nature throughout the meal. Mostly, hmmmm … this is good … have you tried that yet? ... put some of that mustard on it … oh yes! … etc.

Then Steve said something quite discordant with the previous commentary. He said, “Is this rancid?”

What? I was sure I misunderstood. “I think it's rancid,” he said again and I saw he was pointing at the thick slab of bacon. I knew it was the bacon not because it looked like bacon; on the contrary, it did not look like bacon. Everything else however, looked like something on the menu. Therefore, this two inch thick slab, pale gray in color and looking like it had been left out in the rain to be chewed on by the dog for a couple of days must be the bacon.

“Smell it,” Steve said. Yeah, that smelled bad alright. It tasted off as well. I liken the smell to that of pork scraps in the garbage bin after a few days in the hot garage. Whew! Fortunately the smell was weak and only noticeable as you tasted it. The taste was not as offensive but had I not been in a fancy French restaurant with an economics professor for a dining companion I would have spat it back out. As it was, I chewed up a couple of tiny pieces and chased it down with expensive French beer. “I'm not eating that,” I said. “I'm not eating it either,” said Steve.

Just then Roger came up to our table.

He leaned back against the wall and smiled down at us. “So what did you think of the pork belly?” he asked.

“You mean the bacon,” I responded, pointing with my fork.

“Yes,” he said. “Louis purchased the pork belly and dry aged it himself. I really enjoyed it.”

We both looked up at him to see if he was kidding us. He appeared to be serious. I shook my head and said, “Yes, well I'm not eating it.” I believe Steve used the rancid word again.

Roger chortled with pleasure enjoying our discomfiture. After a minute, he went off to visit some other tables. I was sure he'd begin each conversation with “So, what did you think of the pork belly?”

We had two more courses. A green salad paired with a Jolly Pumpkin Witbier, which we surmised was to act as a palate cleanser. We were no sooner cleansed when dessert came.

It was a glazed apple tart. I didn't get much tart from this pastry but instead lots of custard in a delicate flaky crust . As I very much like custard, this was quite alright. The L'Hermitiere sparkling cider provided some tartness, and I was quite satisfied with this finale.

Our parting beer was a very nice espresso stout. Quite a strong one as stouts go at 7.5% abv, and very tasty. It turned out that this was not our last chance to imbibe the great miracle that is beer. Tim came around and refilled our glasses with what was left over from the service. I had as much of the Page 24 as he would give me. Then Creedence began to sing “Who'll stop the rain,” indicating that my phone was ringing and Donna had arrived to collect me.

Steve and I professed our enjoyment of one another's company and promised to see each other again (they always say they'll call, don't they?) Then I made for the door. Even with all of the courses and extra beer that Tim had given me, I felt no effects from the alcohol. It was nearly ten but the evening seemed young and while I was not overfull, I was sated for sure. Standing in the doorway waiting to bid me adieu was the fair skinned, dark-haired beauty -- La belle femme, half of our striking service combo for the evening. She asked me if I enjoyed my meal and I can't remember how I answered her. I felt a strong urge to hug her. As this would be most inappropriate, I think I must have been a little drunk after all. Sensing my hesitation, she held out her delicate hand. I shook it gently and then I was opening the car door with no recollection of exiting the restaurant or traversing the sidewalk to the car. “What was it like?” Donna asked.

To say that the Frenchman's Beer Dinner was simply like any one thing would be to describe Hamlet, Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No 2, and March Madness as an interesting story, a catchy tune, and a good game. Certainly true, but wholly inadequate.

Was this the best food I'd ever eaten? No. Was this the best beer I'd ever quaffed? Please!

What was it like then? A simple question it seems, but I've too much respect for the questioner and the experience to diminish either with such a simple answer. Some simple pairings however, might do.

To start with, it was like salted nuts and warm caramel, sizzling bacon and fresh brewed coffee, melting butter on sweet corn bread. Mix in a little beauty and beast, and add some savage-meets-savant. Wrap it up with husband and wife of 30 years giggling at each other all the way home in the car that night.

Yeah, it was like that.

I found this weird tool in the truck ...


 ... but can anyone remember what it's used for? Not sure I touched it all "winter".

Them hens, well, they sure is cackling.


I reckon that 'cuz it's in their DNA, or sumthin'.

(Thanks to Bluegill for posting this video as a comment yesterday. It is much to funny not to raise to the marquee)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

DNA releases statement on Ladd firing, UEA absorption into city.

A Grand Pairing, Part One.

A Grand Pairing, Part One.

By guest columnist Shane Campbell

Shane is an Indiana native (from Pekin) who returned to the area a few years back after a career in the Air Force. We came to each other’s attention via the Louisville Restaurants Forum, and I’m happy to provide a venue for Shane's account of the Louis Le Fran├žais beer dinner on Thursday, March 1. Part Two will appear tomorrow.

---

The flyer said:

Door opens at 5:00 PM … Dinner at 7:00 PM

What does that mean, I wondered?

Will there be a two-hour social period where we will drink and talk excitedly about what we are about to experience? Never having been to Louis Le Francais or any other French restaurant for that matter, I was unsure of what to expect. My only certainty was that I would be going alone. Try as I might, I had been unable to find anyone willing to accompany me on this food and beer adventure.

I wouldn't be sitting alone though. When I'd called the day before the dinner (half hoping they would be booked) I admitted that I would be by myself. The woman asked if I would mind being seated with someone else who had also made a single reservation. Of course - I would save the poor wretch (me) from the ignominy of eating alone. Be glad to do it!

At six I drove slowly past the restaurant, my wife in the passenger seat. Sure enough, the door was open but I could not see inside from the road. “Do you want to pull up and just wait in the car?” Donna asked. Donna had half heartedly offered to go with me to the dinner. Donna doesn't like beer or unfamiliar foods of any kind. I declined. She would pick me up later, though.

As I turned left from Market onto Bank, I peered far down the street trying to spot that red circle emblem painted on the side of my favorite brew pub. I had to go another block and cross over Spring Street before I saw the familiar facade of the Bank Street Brewhouse with its sidewalk seating area in front. Inside the main dining area of the BSB, I find a comfortable mix of muted orange and green walls, gray concrete, and sturdy wood furniture. The ceilings are higher than you'd think and the mechanicals are exposed. I like this neo-industrial meets post-modern speakeasy.

No sooner had I walked up to the bar and asked the bartender for a pint of bitter when I see a tallish fellow with a clean scalp, dressed in a sport coat, marching purposefully past the garage doors and enter the pub. He too walked straight up to the bar. The bartender recognized him and asked if he was eating tonight: “No I'm going to the beer thing down the street.”

Ah, my date.

My dinner companion was Steve. We introduce ourselves and establish our particulars. Steve said he was an economics professor at U of L. I said that I had driven past U of L many times to restaurants, working to bolster the economy. Steve revealed that he had recently traveled to Belgium to attend an international econ conference and while there visited several abbeys famous for brewing beer to research the paper he was writing on the economics of beer production.

I countered that I had seen the movie “In Brugge” multiple times and correctly identified that Brugge is, in fact, in Belgium. Steve's wife, also an economics professor, could not attend the evening’s festivities, as she too was researching a paper. My wife also could not attend as she had that “thing” that she had to do. It was apparent Steve and I had much in common; down right eerie really!

A short time later as we strolled companionably down the sidewalk towards a date at the Frenchman's our commonalities continued to manifest. We both liked to drink beer. What are the odds? Comrades with a purpose, we passed over the threshold into the Frenchman's and took it all in. Painted in soft pastels and much larger than I first thought, the Frenchman's restaurant seemed just right. It had old hardwood floors polished so much the grain appeared worn and soft. Along the wall on the left side was a long bar, and sitting in the middle surrounded by a crowd was Roger and his vivacious, red headed wife, Diana. They greeted us with verve and I sort of wished I had come straight in. Then I reminded myself that I might never have discovered my new twin's similarities had our company been diluted by this boisterous crowd. I gave Steve a wink and saw by the strange look on his face that he too was thinking the same. Hell, we'd probably be finishing each other’s sentences by the time the evening was over. The group made room for us and said we still had time for a glass of wine.

We had a glass of red or white wine - I think. I really can't remember which. I was disconcerted by the appearance of our bartender. I tried not to stare at this movie extra from central casting with his hair, mustache, and beard, carefully coiffured in contrasting black with gray streaks. His formal mien radiated dapper and diabolical, simultaneously. Medium tall he wore his dark suit with impeccable grace, yet imposing in an Eastern European mafia sort of way. French? I doubt it. Those dark stormy brows over raptor's beak said Andre or Dimitri or maybe even Vlad to me. When he asked me for my drink order, I stammered “Whatever Steve is having,” while pointing to my companion. Yes, I had white or red wine, I'm sure of it! It was time to take our seats.

At last, Steve and I moved away from the bar to our four top wedged into a small alcove just to the left of the front door. The restaurant, split nearly in two by a wall down the middle was three quarters full. We were on the bar side and there was a long table set up for eight directly behind us. This table was now occupied by a single couple only and I wondered if there would be some no-shows. Later I would wish there had been. Then, Roger Baylor stood up near the back of the restaurant by the kitchen and began to tell us about his involvement and the beer we would be sampling.

I had heard Roger speak before and now, as then, he spoke confidently, without notes in a smoothly timbered orator's voice that plainly hid an edge of steel. Roger told us that the beer we would be drinking would be French or otherwise inspired by beers from the French Alsace region. While France is nearly synonymous with wine, this region on the Rhine is bordered by Germany and is known for beers informed by both German and Belgium influences. The French beer was being sourced from Starlight Distribution, owned by Tim and Stacy Eads. Tim was also on hand and spoke briefly after Roger. He later provided information at table-side as he came around and poured some of the beers himself. Two of the beers came from the nearby NABC brewery and were of the style. As Roger and Tim finished their opening comments a vision came to me at my table and I took no further notice.

“Would you like bread?” she asked. Her halting English made heartbreakingly beautiful by her accent and musical tone. Such a creature with her pure sweet voice, either angel or siren, could inspire strong men to do terrible things, defy fearsome gods, and abandon all reason without question or regret. In the presence of such feminine perfection, men such as I, melt in abject hopelessness and wish we were better men. Yes please! I would gladly eat bread and only bread if it meant I could linger in the gentle warmth of her presence all evening.

Both she and the Slav bartender provided service at our table several times throughout the evening. There may be blank spots in my recollection which no doubt coincide with her visits. I'm sure my own responses to her gentle queries were given in no less broken English than hers, yet she only smiled sweetly each time. It never occurred to me to ask her name but the dulcet tones of her voice conveyed rhythm to the evening, which I now recall more as a feeling than memory. Merci.

Carnegie Center announces 2012 New Albany Public Art Project: Bicentennial Series Artists.

(submitted)

The Carnegie Center announces the 2012 New Albany Public Art Project: Bicentennial Series Artists

Nathan Smith
Jacob Stanley
R. Michael Wimmer

Art Walk Saturday June 23, 2012 (Rain date June 30)

Artist Nathan Smith of Louisville, KY, will create an art installation on the historic theme of Parks and Recreation on a section of brick sidewalk next to MainSource Bank, located at the corner of State and Market Streets in downtown New Albany.

Jacob Stanley, an artist living and working in Greencastle, IN, will install his artwork on the theme of Neighborhoods and Architecture in the garden at St Marks Church, located at the corner of Spring and Bank Streets, directly across the street from the Carnegie Center.

New Albany artist R. Michael Wimmer’s art installation will interpret the theme of Education in front of the City-County Building, located at 311 Hauss Square, also in downtown New Albany.

Nathan Smith's wooden “MicroPark” will take its form from the Ohio River and will provide a gathering space for the community with seating and plants. Smith writes, “The MicroPark proposal is conceived as an interactive work that applies aspects of sculpture and landscape urbanism in an attempt to create new social interactions on the sidewalk site. Reclaimed lumber will be sourced locally to recreate the form of the Ohio River at the pedestrian scale. Islands and shores, at this scale, become places to sit or grow plants while the river itself is translated into a wood ‘boardwalk’ that ramps slightly upward to make a new space on the sidewalk… Ultimately, the goal is to create a beautiful representation of New Albany’s link to the natural world while prompting a productive interaction on the sidewalk.”

Jacob Stanley's sculpture will begin with a grid on the ground, representing city streets and neighborhoods. This grid then metaphorically and literally turns upward to become posts that support a sculpture of a house, which will incorporate architectural details from well-known local homes. The artist writes, “The supports represent the many hardworking people, contractors and institutions that have fought to save historic and architecturally significant homes in New Albany. The built environment profoundly influences our lives and requires a critical understanding of this influence and its history. In particular, I am excited by the site-specific nature of the project. It allows for an in-depth investigation into the history of New Albany. ”

R. Michael Wimmer's metal sculpture will grow out of the earth as a plant form, flowering into objects that symbolize education in our city. About his artwork, Wimmer writes, “The education system in New Albany has a rich history in this country. In 1853 New Albany High School was the first public school in Indiana. NAHS also started WNAS-FM in 1949, which is the oldest continuously operating high school radio station in the nation… Growth of Education represents not only what is learned in books and the classroom but what is learned outside the school in nature and life experiences.”

The New Albany Public Art Project: Bicentennial Series is a 4-year program featuring a rotating schedule of outdoor artworks that will be installed each year in the downtown area, beginning in 2010 and leading up to New Albany's bicentennial commemoration in 2013. Each work interprets a different theme from New Albany's history. The jurors for the 2012 Public Art Project were Jim Clark of LexArts in Lexington, KY; Martha Slaughter of Bernheim Arboretum in Clermont, KY; and Alice Stites, of 21C Museum in Louisville, KY. The New Albany Public Art Project: Bicentennial Series originated from a partnership between the Carnegie Center for Art and History and the New Albany Urban Enterprise Association.

For additional information visit the Public Art Project website and Facebook page.

Thank you,
Laura Wilkins, Director of Marketing and Outreach

Friday, March 23, 2012

Deposed UEA chief Mike Ladd: "I also kept the officers informed of the financial situation monthly."

The plot continues to thicken. I can only speak to my personal experience while serving on the UEA board from 2008-2010, and attending all but two or perhaps three meetings during that span of time (someone ask new president Bob Norwood how often he bothered attending concurrently): Our packets always had the financial information included.

Ladd responds to UEZ dismissal; Former executive director says board was kept aware of all claims, by Daniel Suddeath (News and Tribune)

NEW ALBANY — Former New Albany Urban Enterprise Association Executive Director Michael Ladd stated in a news release Friday that he had wished to remain silent until a course of action was decided by himself and his attorney regarding his recent firing.

“But I have decided that by remaining silent I am not only allowing my integrity and honesty to be questioned, but that of my former directors also,” said Ladd, who was relieved of his duties by the UEZ board on March 16.

Kevin Hammersmith's richly deserved amphitheater plaque.

 

(Photo credit: Tyra Creamer)

The fifth Kingpin for a Week: 1Si's CEO for the next seven days is ...

One Southern Indiana still searches for new temporary help, and as always, NAC is thrilled to offer weekly headhunting assistance. We're just inTOXICated that way. So, who'll be the next momentary hot seat occupant, who will solemnly swear to 1Si's oath of office?

I would like to announce that I have accepted the post of CEO of One Southern Indiana. I regret that I have to step down on Monday. I treasure our time that we have worked together.

Last week's winner was Jethro Bodine, preceded by Rush Limbaugh, Vaughan Scott and Benny Breeze. They've all earned the rest that follows a whole week's laborious toil. Today’s choice as 1Si CEO for the week of March 23 - March 30, 2012 is ...


Sean Payton, suspended head coach of the New Orleans Saints. Payton has spare time on his hands, because ...

The NFL imposed some of the most severe penalties in pro football history Wednesday when Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended two New Orleans Saints coaches as well as the team’s general manager and a former coach for operating and tolerating a bounty system that paid players for hits that injured opponents.

When One Southern Indiana's eminence grise, Kerry Stemler, learned that Payton was available during his unintended absence from football coaching, all Stemler could hear was the sound of anti-tolls activists having their kneecaps dislocated. It was sweet music, indeed, but the bounties need to start immediately. Payton only has seven days. Who will 1Si's kingpin be next week? Tune in next Friday, and we'll tell you.

Nick Cortolillo on "politically motivated interference" with the UEA.

In a letter to the newspaper, former UEA director Nick Cortolillo opts for straight, no chaser:

"The city of New Albany wanted unlimited access to the enterprise association’s revenue and (Mike) Ladd was in the way."

The complete letter to the editor follows.

---

UEA leader’s removal a bad sign


Let there be no mistake about the purpose of the special meeting of the New Albany Urban Enterprise Association board Friday morning. It was to terminate Executive Director Mike Ladd and allow the city of New Albany unrestricted access to the revenue of the not-for-profit organization.


The Saturday News and Tribune article about the termination of Ladd cited several comments from enterprise association board member David Duggins. It should be noted that in addition to being a newly appointed (last two months) member of the board, he is also the newly appointed (by Mayor Jeff Gahan) director of economic development for the city. Duggins was also a previous director of the Jeffersonville Urban Enterprise Association, which was, and still is, administered by the city of Jeffersonville.


Can you start to see a connection? How much time do you think it will take for the enterprise association to go from an independent not-for-profit organization to a city of New Albany administered and managed entity?


There were several comments attributed to Duggins in the article that suggest that Ladd mismanaged the association. I don’t believe any of them. I know for a fact that Ladd has been working hard in expanding the revenue of the organization and working with state legislators and officials to keep the association and the Indiana Urban Enterprise Programs in place and flourishing.


I also know that he has done this in the face of politically motivated interference that has plagued him and the UEA board for the last three years and apparently will continue with the Gahan administration.


Back to my original point. The city of New Albany wanted unlimited access to the enterprise association’s revenue and Ladd was in the way.


— Nick Cortolillo, retired executive director, New Albany Urban Enterprise Association

Thursday, March 22, 2012

ON THE AVENUES: Two books by Polish writers.

ON THE AVENUES: Two books by Polish writers.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

Dyngus Day is almost upon us, so here are my book reports. Is it Spring Break yet?

"Cosmos", by Witold Gombrowicz

Most often, the act of writing is purely vocational, although conveying coherent thoughts in memos, reports, post-it notes and tweets is a certifiable skill, one not always as simple as it seems.

Instruction manuals are a prime example. Most of them are illustrated with drawings, lest mere words fail in their intended purpose – or in case the product’s purchaser is unable to read the directions, whether owing to illiteracy in a native language or speaking a different tongue altogether.

Obviously, writing can be a forum for artistic expression and experimentation. This is the genre of writing as art, which human societies tend to value just enough to keep the idea alive amid the everyday vulgarisms of popular cultures everywhere.

As an example, there is Witold Gombrowicz’s “Cosmos.” It was the exiled Polish writer’s penultimate novel, published in 1965, and although not every reader takes the time to peruse introductions and forwards, the new edition’s comments by translator Danuta Borchardt are very much worth reading.

Borchardt’s translation was prepared directly from the original Polish language edition (not subsequent French and German translations used for the original release of “Cosmos” in English), and this is especially important for a novel that above all else explores nuances of language, perception and expression – hence its experimental nature, and an overall theme paralleling that of the old Seinfeld television series: In the end, it’s about nothing.

“Cosmos” has been described as utterly plotless, and while there is one, it is quite sparse. At an indeterminate time (probably the pre-war 1930’s), two students from Warsaw arrive in the southern Tatra Mountains to spend their summer holiday. They randomly board with a local family, and quickly are drawn into the household’s daily life. Eventually they accompany their hosts for a weekend outing in the woods, and abruptly, the story comes to an end.

As recounted by the narrator, who is one of the two students, the novel’s progression is resoundingly interior and solipsistic, occurring within his own increasingly meandering consciousness, as opposed to taking place in any setting approximating the world outside. Far fewer real-life interactions are recounted than episodes of brooding and imagined ruminations. It is almost as though a dazed victim of malnutrition or high fever is describing the altered state of reality as it seems to him, which may or may not jibe with actuality.

Philosophically, it makes perfect sense: Is there a reality outside our minds, and can we ever know anything about it?

In “Cosmos”, this search is by turns comic and tragic. The city-dwelling students react to their own ennui and the relative boredom of their bucolic interlude by concluding quite early in the narrative that a vague conspiracy is taking shape around them, and they become tantamount to bumbling detectives, self-assigned to track obvious clues to their source.

These clues include a dead bird, literally hanged by wire from a tree branch (who would do such a thing?), suggestive patterns of water stains on a ceiling, a scar that has shaped the mouth of the plain housekeeper into something suggestive, the way her altered mouth is suggestively linked to the mouth of the young married daughter’s, and a pile of haphazardly jumbled garbage in the shed. Their conclusions lead to minor, awkward mishaps (and one more serious), but little of consequence comes from it.

The only true jolt comes at the end, has nothing whatever to do with the expanding conspiracy inside their heads, and is barely mentioned.

The novel’s characters occupy perfectly normal spaces in a mundane world, and do their best to define themselves accordingly. They fail – and life goes on. For those properly respecting the value of melancholy in daily life, “Cosmos” is an unsettling read. It left me contemplating vignettes from my own past, times of irresolution and disgruntlement, especially when exhaustion or weakness had convinced me to invest more psychic energy into imagining an outcome than might possibly justify a conceivable result, even if it were to happen (and never did).

In “Cosmos”, no one is saved. Then again, we seldom are.

---

"In Search of Lost Meaning: The New Eastern Europe", by Adam Michnik

While the Communist-era career paths of Adam Michnik in Poland and the late Vaclav Havel in Czechoslovakia were not precise mirror images, both played epochal roles in their respective countries as the Iron Curtain wound inexorably down. As indicated by Havel’s forward to this collection of essays, there always existed considerable mutual professional admiration between the two noted revolutionaries, even if Michnik did not become head of state, or found himself cast in the position of rock star, like Havel.

Instead, Michnik was the supreme revolutionary multi-tasker, performing a series of invaluable jobs for the Solidarity-led opposition to Poland’s Communist regime, generally in a subordinate position. He served as journalist, jouster, jester, rabble rouser, intellectual, organizer, virtual poet laureate and all-purpose public figure, eventually assuming a role approximating that of being his country’s conscience, and appropriately, these essays are primarily concerned with the conscience (and consciousness) of Poland’s history both before and since socialism’s collapse in 1989.

Clannish fractiousness in Poland is the stuff of European legend, and Michnik confronts it head-on, tracing the origins of “gutter” (or “septic tank”) politics from the inception of modern Poland in the aftermath of the First World War to the institutionalized abuses of Communism, and recurring during the past twenty years. Irrespective of ideologies and governmental forms, Michnik sees his country as a place where a pathological need do settle past scores too often usurps all future considerations.

He would feel right at home in New Albany, wouldn’t he?

The Crutchfield tome isn't "appropriate use" of New Albany funds, either -- and it's our bicentennial.


Perhaps if we'd mentioned on Doug England's amphitheater plaque that the tourism board paid the biggest share toward achieving what the former mayor says he did all by himself, perhaps they'd have been in a better mood when asked to help fund Bob Caesar's Import An Author for the Bicentennial coffee table book.

Tourism officials talk marketing traffic; Executive director calls open bridge campaign a success, by Braden Lammers (That Alabama Newspaper)

OTHER BUSINESS

The tourism bureau board denied a request made at its last meeting by Bob Caesar, a member of the New Albany Bicentennial Commission, to help fund the publishing of a book of short stories and archival photos commemorating New Albany’s history for its bicentennial celebration. The request was for $36,000, and despite being denied, the board did designate $15,000 to go toward the bicentennial celebration.

“I think the feeling was the book was not an appropriate [use] of funds,” (Mike) Kampfhammer said.

Amy Gesenhues signs off.

Amy's columns have been fine weekly reads, and every time the newspaper loses an erudite columnist like her, the pop-up ads and sports fixations win. It is unclear why she's leaving. Politics, perhaps? Lemme tell you, running for office can be death for the future placement of your column (unless you're Ed Clere), but at any rate, we hope to hear from her again. You can read Amy's blog here: Amy Wrote It.

GESENHUES: It’s time to sign off

... I’d hate for anyone to believe that I think so highly of myself (or, my words) that I need to devote an entire column to saying goodbye. But, so it goes; this is my farewell column to all the readers who have taken moments of their days to read something I have written.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The time is now to decide which parking laws are enforced ...


... and which ones are not.

Former Mayor Doug England decreed a non-enforcement regime as pertains to parking laws "downtown", and meanwhile, if last year's experience is any indication, the boundaries of non-enforcement will remain largely unknown, and anyone living on the opposite side of the invisible line will be ticketed for infractions, as with the street sweeper warning above.

According to the News and Tribune's Daniel Suddeath, the city is in the process of reviewing the situation. That's good, as far as it goes, and the main point remains this: There needs to be clarity. Where are the parking laws enforced? Where are they not? Why is there a difference? Is it a good thing for there to be differences?

And, when there's time: How much good does street sweeping actually do?

Modern times: Cleanliness is next to non-governmental in filthy NA.

Keep New Albany Clean and Green's weekly appearance before the Board of Works is recounted.

The next step in clean: Group calls for New Albany, organizations to refurbish their signs, by Daniel Suddeath (Pop Ups 'R' Us)

NEW ALBANY — Keep New Albany Clean and Green organizer Irv Stumler congratulated the city for removing illegal signage from right-of-ways last week, but added it’s time to take beautification a step further.

Appearing before the New Albany Board of Public Works and Safety on Tuesday, Stumler said several organizational and municipal signs are in need of refurbishing.

“How can we expect private property owners to take care of their property if we don’t practice what we preach?” Stumler said ...

... Adding mulch, trimming weeds and other landscaping improvements will be made during the event. For more information, email Jerry Finn at jfinn@horseshoefoundation.org.

Three decades on: Life in the Falklands.

Ronald Reagan's America had its epochal triumph against the St. Mary's of the Woods-caliber opposition, as provided by the ragtag Grenadans, but to me, I have sharper memories of the controversies attendant to Maggie Thatcher's Falklands (Malvinas, dog) war. After all, the UK and Argentina were middleweights. It really should have been a better match, shouldn't it?

The Falklands: life on the islands – audio slideshow (Guardian)
The Falklands war, which began 30 years ago, has not been consigned to history on the islands. Falklanders maintain a proud link to Britain and memories of the conflict are dotted everywhere. Martin Argles captures the sights and sounds of life on the islands

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Hoosier Daddy and Vessel, Friday night at NABC's Bank Street Brewhouse.



Friday's always a big day at Bank Street Brewhouse. This Friday (March 23), we have two added attractions, later in the evening.

"JUST ANOTHER BASKETBALL GAME"

Right. Indiana plays Kentucky in the NCAA tournament at 9:45 p.m. Bank Street Brewhouse will stay open for the game; NABC's official Cream and Crimson Ale, Hoosier Daddy, will be flowing; there'll be very limited food menu after the usual kitchen closing time; and what's more ...




A SPECIAL MUSICAL PERFORMANCE

On the north (side) patio, Vessel. Members from the band played during the recent Saturday afternoon "Welcome Back Sherman Minton" celebration in downtown New Albany.

About Vessel: The Vessel has been around for 5 years, playing a swath of major festivals and clubs, delivering a unique sound that blends blues, bluegrass, funk, rock, electronic, and jazz. Our goal is to get in the zone, and make everyone around us happy and inspired. We love playing, thinking, and encouraging positive vibes in all those around us.

The music will begin after the normal dinner hours, but before the game, and last until 11:00 p.m. - midnight. The band will be charging a cover for this performance, probably $5. It's something we haven't tried in the past, but there's a first time for everything, so please be patient as we work out the kinks.

A different kind of search for Shakespeare.


This video provides perspective as the Confidential household continues its watching of Michael Wood's 2003 series, In Search of Shakespeare.

“Residential is a great use for older buildings as opposed to office uses”.

Doesn't this idea apply to the Elsby Building?

Downtown Cincinnati poised for surge of residential conversions, by Randy Simes (UrbanCincy)

Developers are in the process of transforming the 85-year-old Federal Reserve Tower at Fourth and Race into 88 apartments after serving as an office structure for its entire life. The process is one being undertaken in old cities all across the United States – transforming old office buildings into unique residences.


Monday, March 19, 2012

Quite a haul of street spam.


Photo courtesy of the city of New Albany; the signs pictured were collected during last Friday's sign cleanup "blitz".

From Foxwoods to Horseshoe, and following the money.

Setting aside for a moment the ethical implications inherent in government taxing the addictions of its citizenry, which after all has been occurring since the dawn of human history, what happens when a government that is unwilling (or is not permitted) to tax its citizens directly becomes reliant on the revenue produced by indirect taxation such as that produced by legalized gambling – or gaming, as preferred by America’s casino industry?

Precedents in other areas of purported sinfulness are many. As Ken Burns’s “Prohibition” documentary series observes, prior to the introduction of the income tax, excise taxes on beverage alcohol constituted a huge portion of federal revenue.

Obviously, this is a form of addiction in itself, whether an indispensable fix for those state governments issuing the restricted permits, or local authorities seeking funding for governmental agencies as well as their outsourcing of educational and social services to extra-governmental agencies and non-profits, all of which queue accordingly for grants from entities like the Horseshoe Foundation here in Southern Indiana.

Thus, these functions are off-loaded, and subsequently rely only on the continued popularity of gaming (see the article linked below) and whatever mechanisms exist to divide the proceeds among applicants.

At the Horseshoe Foundation, a Board of Directors manages the foundation and allocates disbursements with the assistance of grant and investment committees, under the overall direction of an executive director. Elected officials occupy some seats on the board and committees, while others are occupied by people representing a cross-section of the community.

It’s interesting to contemplate the ever increasing extent to which the Horseshoe Foundation’s very existence helps governmental ends meet. It’s also fitting and proper to monitor the ulterior motives of whomsoever has his or her hand on the spigot, and to advocate maximum transparency, seeing as the lines separating political and non-political can get somewhat blurred at the local level.

As Ronald Reagan himself was fond of saying, “Trust, but verifiy”. He was a Republican, you know.

Foxwoods Is Fighting for Its Life, by Michael Sokolove (New York Times)

 ... It would be easy to look at what has occurred at Foxwoods and think, Here are people who fell into money and didn’t know how to handle it. Which happens to be true. But how the casino reached this point, and the challenges its owners and operators now confront, is part of a much larger story — one involving the gradual relaxation of moral prohibitions against gambling, a desperate search for new revenue by state governments and the proliferation of new casinos across America. Casino gambling has become a commodity, available within a day’s drive to the vast majority of U.S. residents. Some in the industry talk of there being an oversupply, as if their product were lumber or soybeans.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

"Secrets of Louisville Chefs" taping by BSB's Matt Weirich yesterday.


Yesterday our chef at Bank Street Brewhouse, Matt Weirich, taped an appearance  for the television show "Secrets of Louisville Chefs". He's in white, with BSB general manager Mark Prince assisting to the right. The episode will air in a few weeks, and I'll let you know when and where it can be seen. We're very proud of Chef and his staff, and I'd like to thank them, the brewery crew, servers and all our customers for helping to prove that downtown New Albany can succeed.

Nash: "It is amazing how much garbage you will see on the ground."

The city's first government-sanctioned street spam sign sharking campaign in recent memory, perhaps ever, was supposed to have started on Friday, March 16. Did any readers actually witness city workers uprooting yard signs in rights-of-way? If so, were they including utility poles as part of the rights-of-way directive?  They should have, but this was not made clear in previous releases and news reports.

Meanwhile, over at the local pop-up generator, Matt Nash correctly assesses the dismal state of the city's cleanliness, but take heart: An early spring means more greenery (and weeds), which always help to obscure the unsightliest bits.

NASH: Keeping our city clean

... I don’t remember my parents ever sitting me down and teaching me not to litter. I don’t remember an instance where they specifically said not to do it. I guess the reason I don’t litter today is because I never saw them do it. It looks like a lot of people around our city didn’t have good parents like I did.

If you travel around New Albany by any mode of transportation other than an automobile, it is amazing how much garbage you will see on the ground. With all of the nice weather that we have had this winter, I have been able to walk or ride my bike around our city and it looks terrible. Piles of garbage are collecting along our roadways and creating an unsightly mess in several locations.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

And another final thought from me.

Dear every board and commission member and elected and appointed official in the city:

If you repeatedly witness abuse and say nothing out loud to try to stop it, you're acting in service to the abuser, helping to perpetuate the abuse. Time and personnel changes won't change that. Your voice, however, can.

Had a newspaper reporter been at the special UEA meeting on Friday, they would have heard a remaining board member (other than Dan Coffey and former board member Roger Baylor) confirm that the England administration used highly politicized, high pressure tactics to influence UEA funding decisions on behalf of Develop New Albany and Indiana Landmarks. And they would have heard it far too late. Another former board member was described as having recently resigned as he was "tired of all the crap". And, yet, as a resident of the zone directly impacted by his decision, I can't recall a single instance in which said crap was brought to light by him.

How would this story have read differently if a majority of the UEA board at the time would have publicly stood with what they knew to be true? How many other stories would read differently as well, if members of other boards did the same?

It's a shame that so many of our ongoing community building difficulties can be traced back to the unwillingness of those in positions of leadership to simply acknowledge the truth as they know it during times of duress.

Money changes hands, people get hired and fired, and we roll on through the darkness acting as though we just don't know what to do. Unburden yourselves, people. Please.

A final thought for the deposed.