Thursday, November 29, 2012

Louisville numbers that prove shopping local benefits the neighborhood.

"Money spent at independent outlets is more likely to stay local than that spent at a chain."

I can hear the kitchen table dentures clucking, although in this instance, as oft times before, possessing actual facts has a way of soothing savage replies.

Speaking of local indie business, I have errands to occupy my Friday. If Jeff wants to post, cool, but I'll be taking the day off from blogging.

Shopping Local Benefits The Neighborhood: Here Are The Numbers That Prove It, by Ben Schiller (Co.EXIST)

Think about this the next time you go to the neighborhood CVS or Starbucks: You could do more for the local economy by visiting the small pharmacy or coffee place on the corner. How much more? According to a recent study for Louisville, Kentucky--which looks at the "local premium" of spending at local outlets instead of big chains--perhaps four times as much.

Civic Economics has been running the numbers for lots of towns and cities over the last 10 years. And the newest batch of studies--for Louisville, Milwaukee, Ogden, Utah, and the Six Corners area of Chicago--corroborate what at least eight similar ones have shown. Money spent at independent outlets is more likely to stay local than that spent at a chain. The study for Louisville found that independent stores recirculate 55.2% of revenues compared to 13.6% for big retailers, and that local restaurants recirculate 67%, while big chains do 30.4%.

Verily, I live for moments like this.


Oh, well; we all have our shticks, and some of us don't know why.

ON THE AVENUES: Hoosiers have the ideal brew waiting.

ON THE AVENUES: Hoosiers have the ideal brew waiting.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

In the book “Indiana Breweries,” published in 2010, John Holl and Nate Schweber describe craft breweries in our Hoosier homeland. It’s a worthy effort and a fine read, and yet only two years later, their comprehensive work has very nearly become obsolete. Breweries in the state have proliferated from 37 in 2010 to 53 or more today, with at least 18 on the way and others in the planning stages.

But John’s and Nate’s book has something that promises to stand the test of time: A foreward penned by yours truly. Obviously it is self-serving and egotistical to point to reprint it here, so I believe I'll do just that.

---

In a world driven by cutting edge technologies, I’ve managed to retain certain Luddite proclivities even while conceding ground to my iPhone and laptop.

When I get home after a long day of professional beer drinking, I empty my pockets of small change, smudged Sharpie and trusty cigar cutter. Customarily there are various scrawlings on little paper scraps, magazine subscription cards, package store sales receipts and crusty, beer-soaked coasters.

On a groggy, grumpy weekday morning some months back, a cursory examination of one of these reminders revealed this unintelligibility: “Jahnenollbeerbk.”

After a two espressos and some appropriate reflection, the translation finally took shape amid the haze. Yes, of course; that pleasant fellow from New Jersey, at the pub, asking me questions about the brewery as the empty pints snaked down the bar’s surface like so many glass dominoes waiting to fall and break my liver.

John Holl … right, and the book he was writing – with some guy named Nate. Check.

Wait: A book about Indiana beer. Imagine that!

Hailing from Indiana, otherwise known as the Hoosier State, means living as a stereotype. We’re supposed to be basketball-loving, soybean-growing, corn-shucking, devotees of the Indianapolis 500, inhabiting flat ground somewhere in the vicinity of Illinois, drinking oceans of ice-cold, low-calorie, light golden lager after putting up hay, or downing boilermakers before shifts at doomed rust belt factories, all of which are both true and false, just like all stereotypes.

Hoosiers may not fully understand the meaning of the word “Hoosier,” but one element of our Indiana experience appears to be stealth, at least as it pertains to beer and brewing. Almost unnoticed, three dozen breweries (and more on the way) have settled into their joyous daily routines in Indiana communities large and small, from Indianapolis to Nashville, and from Ft. Wayne to Aurora.

It didn’t seem possible two decades ago, when we’d lash steamer trunks to our hand-cranked, Indiana-made Studebaker and make the long muddy drive from New Albany, through waist-deep potholes and past extensive herds of free-range bison, all the way to Indianapolis, the state capital, eager to experience real beer at Broad Ripple Brewing Company.

It was the state’s very first brewpub, and members of the Brewers of Indiana Guild annually honor John Hill’s birthday by thanking him for his admirable prescience, not to mention patience.

We didn’t call it craft beer in those ancient times. We simply called it good beer, and I believe I knew the name, rank and serial number of every person in the state who shared my preference for it.

At times it was a lonely existence, just me and a few of my closest friends, like Fidel and Che camped in the Sierra Maestra mountains, sifting through the flotsam and jetsam of mass-produced, carbonated alco-pop in search of the stray hop, all the while watching the yokels flee in terror at the mere sight of “the dark stuff.”

Twenty years later, we’re still a minority, but good beer – craft beer – is accepted and available in Indiana as never before. In this book, John and Nate tell you where to find the Hoosier breweries and to drink the beer they brew, and also other prime locations to find craft and just plain good beer from America and all over the world. Never again will you be obliged to grudgingly accept the paltry selections at that familiar chain restaurant’s bar.

Instead, like the authors themselves, you’ll be meeting the regulars at the Heorot in Muncie, or drinking world-renowned ale at the Three Floyds taproom (Munster), or while in Evansville, choosing the perfect beer to accompany pizza at Turoni’s. John and Nate cannot magically render you into the most interesting man (or woman) in the world. However, they provide complete instructions on how to drink the most interesting beer in Indiana, thus lessening America’s dependence on foreign Dos Equis, and immeasurably enhancing the pleasure when the Colts once again defeat the Patriots.

This Hoosier journey in pursuit of better beer is noteworthy because it simultaneously validates Indiana’s historic and cultural 19th-century virtues – think of John Wooden, the late, iconic basketball legend who grew up in Martinsville – while pointing the way forward to 21st-century goals like artisanal integrity, local sourcing and environmental sustainability. Most small brewers were going back to the future, green and local, before the buzzwords started trending.

Just ask Clay Robinson, Sun King’s advocate of recyclable cans, or Jeff Mease, organic farmer, water buffalo rancher and owner of Bloomington Brewing Company, or the pioneering Abstons, who are building trellises and growing hops in the hilly Knobs that rise above the Ohio River in Floyd County.

My favorite single aspect of being in the brewing business in Indiana, and by extension, the reason why the brewing business is the best business in America, is that all of us are like family.

Greg Emig brewed for John Hill at Broad Ripple Brewing, and then moved on to found Lafayette Brewing Company. Chris Johnson brewed for Greg, and now is the owner/brewer at People’s Brewing. Ted Miller also brewed for John before leaving to sell and install brewing systems worldwide. Ted returned to Indianapolis to open Brugge Brasserie, and today Kevin Matalucci, Ted’s high school classmate, is two blocks away from Brugge up the Monon Trail, brewing beer for John at Broad Ripple Brewing, as he has done since Ted left.

Indiana craft brewing is community, not competitive. We cooperate, not connive. It’s family. On those mercifully rare occasions when a brewery goes out of business, we lament and console the survivors, while advising and assisting the next wave. It’s a tall order, but we’re working together to put Indiana-brewed beer in the hands of the many Hoosiers who’ve yet to experience it.

In this book, John Holl and Nate Schweber do more than document the Indiana beer and brewing scene. They convey an overall sense of our brewing community and its ethos. John and Nate came to our places, drank our pints (samples just don’t tell the tale), walked the walk, stumbled the stumble, and deciphered the cryptic notes next morning while searching for Advil in a hotel room on the wrong side of the Interstate.

Read, enjoy and start planning your trip to Indiana. We Hoosiers have the ideal brew waiting, whatever your taste.

Tomorrow: Tyler Allen on the benefits of the NBA in Kentucky, and an NBA2LOU Watch Party.


At Insider Louisville, we learn that none other than Tyler Allen, co-creator of 8684, is on the professional basketball side of the discussion.

IdeaMornings presenting 8664 founder Tyler Allen weighing in on NBA in Louisville

This promises to be extremely interesting.

Louisville-based businessman Tyler Allen, is scheduled to speak on bringing a National Basketball Association team to Louisville at the IdeaMornings meeting this Fri., Nov. 30 at the iHub.

From the IdeaMornings synopsis:

Tyler Allen is a Louisville businessman, owner of USA Image Technologies, Inc. and co-founder of the 8664 movement. Tyler will be talking about the benefits – intangible included – of bringing an NBA team to Kentucky. There has been a lot of recent discussion on this topic and we look forward to hosting this event and hearing more ideas from the community.

Meanwhile, there's a whole slate of NBA (and ABA) themed activities at Bearno's by the Bridge, as reported (again) by Insider Louisville.

NBA2Lou: Bring the NBA to Louisville Facebook group hosting panel panel discussion Friday at Bearno’s by the Bridge

Think there’s no mass enthusiasm/momentum for bringing pro sports to Louisville?

We know different.

Every time Insider Louisville has an NBA-related post, the IL web traffic disco ball always spins.

So here we go again.

Friday evening, the Bring the NBA to Louisville Facebook group is hosting an event.

The question is, will Metro Mayor Greg Fischer and Louisville businessman Junior Bridgeman, the two most crucial NBA-to-Louisville boosters, attend?

Find out at Bearno’s by the Bridge at 131 W. Main St., right next to the KFC Yum! Center at the corner of Second and Main Streets.

Pro vs. college sports: "Wherever fans are, give them a choice — they'll gravitate toward the best."

Louisville is located in Kentucky, and Kentucky recently rejected Barack Obama by one of the largest margins of any state. With this knowledge firmly in hand, let's consider pro and conservative views of college football.

College Football: Pro and Con(servative) Views, by Frank Deford (NPR)

... But a caveat. The sectional adoration for college sports may have no relationship whatsoever with either political or Chick-fil-A preference.

It may simply be that wherever honest grown-up professional sports abound, attention to second-rate, NCAA shamateur sports gets diminished. The Southeastern Conference, in particular, may be so popular primarily because Dixie possesses so many fewer pro teams compared with the East, West and Midwest ...

... Basically, sports is primarily a class thing, and the pros are simply a higher class than the colleges. It's a better product. Yes, yes, I know college games can be entertaining, and there's loyalty and tailgating. But wherever fans are, give them a choice — they'll gravitate toward the best.
To repeat Deford's central hook: "Basically, sports is primarily a class thing, and the pros are simply a higher class than the colleges. It's a better product."

Rather like Obama in the election.

Now, let's turn to the group of concerned parties currently engaged in lobbying against the very thought of the NBA in Louisville.

Media executives revealed as chairs of anti-NBA group, by Joe Arnold (WHAS-11)

The co-chairs of Home Court Advantage, a group aimed at discouraging Louisville from pursuing an NBA team to share the KFC Yum! Center with the University of Louisville, have revealed their involvement in a letter to business leaders.

Keith Hall, a former Insight Communications executive, and George Demaree, the General Sales Manager of Main Line Broadcasting, tout their media experience in the letter, saying, "our own personal pocketbooks have often been dependent on good investment decisions regarding athletics of all kinds on all levels."

Attached to the letter is a study commissioned by the group, revealed by WHAS11 earlier this month, which concludes that the costs associated with attracting and retaining a National Basketball Association franchise for Louisville outweigh the benefits.

Hall is a former member of the University of Louisville Board of Overseers. A U of L spokesman has said that the university was not involved in the study and, to his knowledge, had not requested it.
The argument here is that the interests of Louisville's public university (U of L) outweigh numerous other inter-related civic and business decisions aimed at bringing the NBA to Louisville. Okay, that's fine, except these university "interests" pertain solely to basketball (and a sliver of volleyball) tenancy in Yum's still under-utilized arena.

Now, if these media execs were interested in U of L as a SCHOOL, they might be credible witnesses. As it stands, the tail still wags the dog.

To paraphrase Rodney Dangerfield: "Who made U of L basketball pope of this dump?"

(discussion thread at Facebook)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Taxes, Norquist, GOP defectors and other joyful noises.

We've been here before: From Norquist to Torquemada to Brambleberry: Pathologies of tax "reform."

Reading this, I find myself wondering: Does our local Democratic Party possess some variety of opinion on this topic -- you know, something mildly principled, or perhaps even a platform plank?

(A hush descends. Ted Heavrin coughs ominously. Somewhere, a dog barks)

What was that?

Muffled gurgling sounds?

Um, well ... right. Carry on, Frank. Please, carry on.

Is Grover Finally Over?, by Frank Bruni (New York Times)

... Someday someone will write a dark history — a farce, really — of how (Norquist) managed to bring nearly all of the Republican Party to heel, compelling legislator upon legislator to lash themselves to his no-new-taxes pledge. Until then we’ll have to content ourselves with his misfortune over the last few days. No sooner had a nation digested its turkey than his goose began to be cooked. The spreading rebellion in the Republican ranks was manifest on the post-Thanksgiving Sunday talk shows.

Doom and gloom beneath the rotted kitchen formica as city, county agree to demolish the North Annex.



Actually, they didn't agree -- yet, but it's looking like a done deal. I'd much rather save the Annex and demolish Wal-Mart; after all, the 800-zillion pound gorilla's ten years probably is approaching, signalling a move to Edwardsville or Birdseye.

New Albany hopes to develop pool at Community Park; Floyd County to keep sports center in agreement reached Tuesday, by Daniel Suddeath (That 'Bama Show)

New Albany will be responsible for the costs of building, maintaining and operating the aquatic center if it comes to fruition. An important side note to the agreement is that the city and county would jointly split the costs to demolish any structures on the property necessary to construct the aquatic center.

Demolition could include the North Annex building, which has been vacant since the Floyd County Youth Shelter and solid waste office moved to the Pine View Government Center.

A plan and statement released by the city and county Tuesday didn’t include exact details for demolitions or construction of the aquatic center. The plan did specify the division of parks equipment and property.

There's an interesting addendum within Grace Schneider's C-J coverage:

 ... The deal also calls for the city to “provide support of the county’s proposed public plaza concept near the aquatic center on the existing annex property at Sam Peden.

Obviously, we can kiss the Annex goodbye. Too bad that somewhere, tacked on the pool and baseball field bonds, there isn't a spare million or so not otherwise allotted for maintenance of Bob Caesar's driveway up Silver Hills that we might use to complete a few streets.

Amanda Arnold's video for Jingle Walk 2012.


Notice how I push NABC's Tony Beard toward the camera. Shucks, I get enough attention already.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Keith Olbermann: Marvin Miller, RIP.

Next year, Marvin Miller again will be eligible for the Hall of Fame. I suspect he'll get the nod, because the very same detestable Seligites who kept Miller out while he was living will find it sufficiently sophomoric to give in to inevitable enshrinement following his death.

Marvin Miller, The Man Who Reinvented Baseball, by Keith Olbermann (Baseball Nerd)

... In that he utterly reshaped the way the game was played on the field, Babe Ruth probably reigns supreme on the list of those who changed baseball most. In that they reshaped its color (and our nation’s attitude – and laws), Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson probably share second place. But only they can even be considered above Marvin Miller as men who had greater influence on the history of baseball.

Late note: Only after posting this did I see Charles P. Pierce's piece about Marvin Miller at Esquire, and his sentiments parallel mine:

He is not in the Baseball Hall Of Fame because the voting process is completely corrupt and needs to be blown up and rebuilt from scratch. (My prediction is that they will vote him in posthumously, just to be nasty about it, because Miller already told them not to bother.)
Pierce gets the last word: "(Miller) had a positive genius for making all the right enemies."

Another day-late note: There's a great interview with Miller at The Nation.

From my PC blog: "Goose Island, Zombie Craft Beer and other Tales of the Unexpectorated."

One of my Potable Curmudgeon posts (published November 16) was picked up the other day by BeerPulse.com, and now is approaching 800 hits, a staggering number for material at my beer blog. For more of relevance to the topic, see Julia Herz's "Who Makes Your Beer?" Her poll therein currently shows almost 95% agreeing that it's important to know who makes your beer.

---

It starts here.

My column at Food and Dining: "Localism + Beer."

Then it goes here.

Brewers: Can you "justify calling beer local"? Are you being hypocritical when you do so?

Here's another comment posted to the original piece.

HB said...
Buying local just for the sake of it makes no sense if the quality isn't there. And now that the number of new small breweries is growing, it is inevitable that there will be plenty of 'weeds in the crop'. The concept of 'local' beer is nice, but only if the 'local' beer is good. The problem is that often it is not very good at all; and sometimes it is even shockingly overpriced to boot for what you're getting.

So I don't care how big Goose Island (or any brewery) gets or who owns it...if they (or any brewery) continue to make a good beer, it stays on my list. Growing numbers of 'good beer' lovers are beginning to feel the same way.

Following is my reply, which I've refashioned a bit in light of subsequent events.To begin, a quote from my piece:

"If my shift to locally brewed beer implied being compelled to drink an inferior product, obviously I would think differently."

That's fairly clear, isn't it? We do not disagree, and no one is asking you to drink local beer that tastes like ass. You appear to be taking issue with the next sentence I wrote:

"Fortunately, it does not."

So, we do not disagree that quality is paramount. Local beer quality seldom is an issue where I live (metro Louisville), and in fact, I'm hard-pressed to recall the last time I experienced an undrinkable beer hereabouts. But I have no idea where you live, and perhaps it's a different situation there.

Moreover, your opening swipe implying an ideological compulsion to buy local "for the sake of it" plainly is gratuitous. It also is unmerited by my Food and Dining argument, which explains (in admittedly cursory fashion; that annoying word count thing) the economic aspects of localism that might matter to craft drinkers, too. Of course, these aspects extend beyond craft beer. They do not exempt them. Both principles and palates have their places.

I understand the panicked, ongoing rush to defend Goose Island, which in fact is dead. Yesterday, it became even more dead, if that's possible: Goose Island CEO, John Hall, stepping down, A-B InBev exec taking over. Hall now "will be part of a newly-formed 'craft advisory board' at A-B InBev," meaning that he'll be the rough equivalent of an affirmative action appointment to an entity which is the GREATEST ENEMY OF CRAFT BEER IN THE HISTORY OF THIS PLANET.

Now more than ever, Goose Island no longer exists in any relevant fashion compared to what brought craft beer to where it is today, or to what craft beer stands for. I lament the loss, because Goose Island was the first American brewpub I ever visited back in 1992,  but nowadays there's good beer everywhere, and it isn't necessary for us to directly subsidize A-B InBev to produce a GOOSE ISLAND ZOMBIE CRAFT BEER UNIT that means absolutely nothing to A-B InBev save for its unquestioned utility as a tactical chess piece to keep genuine craft beers off store shelves and draft lines.

Finally, I think your conclusion is utterly mistaken. Growing numbers of beer lovers are coming to our segment with a keen local orientation, looking to learn exactly how what we do (and who we are) jibes with their expanded consciousness in other areas of human experience. They're interested in community connections, because it seems to them that craft beer is a neighborhood not unlike the places they're examining closely before living there. They're connecting dots, collecting information, and then deciding for themselves. I intend to help them do so, whether they drink my beer or not.

I'll stop here. Thanks for your comment.

"4 Reasons Retailers Don't Need Free Parking to Thrive."

Okay, I won't pretend that studies conducted in European cities are an exact fit with our everyday experiences here in the land of the ubiquitous auto, but still there are nuggets here worth chewing, as in point number four: "A mix of retailers is more important than parking supply."


4 Reasons Retailers Don't Need Free Parking to Thrive, by Eric Jaffe (The Atlantic Cities)

A major rationale for the supply of parking spaces in city shopping centers is that customers won't come without them. The anecdotal argument makes sense — retailers believe that most consumers arrive by car and believe free or cheap parking plays a major role in choosing a destination — but the actual evidence is scant at best. A new review of commercial centers in Greater London, released late last month (via David King), concludes that retailers vastly overestimate the role free parking plays in their success.

Monday, November 26, 2012

It's some kinda Ass-Plunder, all right ...

... assuming your ass is a tree.



I'm not sure why we go to the time and expense to plant trees just so substantial portions of them can be chopped down by the utility monopoly's non-lubricating contractor. Think the Tree Board might know, or is it still in hiding after the Rent Boy park fiasco? Never mind. Let's just eliminate the middle board and ask New Albany Clean and Green.

Nice. At least he's painting the plywood window coverings.


Mike Kopp posted this on Twitter earlier today. Do we commend the building's owner for doing something/anything after these many years, or do we ask inconvenient questions about facades vs. structural soundness? Or do we just keep drinking?

Caption contest.


I'm not sure why we bother ... SBAvanti63 always wins, and I never pay the prize (how many pints do I owe him by now? I swear I'm good for them), but here goes another one.

Fill in the white spots from left to right, with your theme being: Da Newspaper.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Our Civic Duty Department: "New Albany's Leaf Removal Service is Underway."

I've pasted the following from the city's web site. My interpretation as a downtown neighborhood dweller is to shift leaves onto the street where cars normally park (but not blocking the bike lane on Spring), so as to block cars from parking there, thus encouraging the city to suck up the leaves. 

---

New Albany's Leaf Removal Service is Underway

This year, Mother Nature has given Southern Indiana quite a spectacle of fall colors popping up among the trees. While the colors are a feast for the eye, the leaves do not have the same appeal on the ground.

The City of New Albany will help clean up the leaf mess between now and December 10 with its annual leaf removal service, sending its leaf removal equipment to the streets. Not only is this a convenience to homeowners, it’s beneficial to the city. Joe Ham, the city’s Storm Water Director, pointed out that leaf debris leads to slippery roads and localized flooding.

"It has the same impact as trash. It washes to the lowest point and causes the flooding," said Ham. If not removed, leaves become clogged in inlet pipes, culverts and catch basins, and cause a big - and sometimes dangerous - mess.

It's up to the homeowner to prepare the leaves for pickup because the city will not rake the yards or sweep driveways. However, the city will pick up bagged or loose leaves during this two month period.

"It is important to pick it up. The most important part is the homeowner to be aware that during this two month period we need them to get the leaves out," said Ham.

The leaf pickup will occur within the city limits, and that includes Silver Hills, the Green Valley Road area and the Charlestown Road Corridor. The city's goal is to reach each neighborhood twice during the five weeks, or more in areas that are densely populated by trees. Ham explained that the leaf equipment will follow the street cleaner routes and after October 31, the street cleaners will follow the leaf equipment in order to assist with the cleanup. However, there will not be parking restrictions after October 31.

"If you want us to get to the leaves, please allow some type of access," said Ham. He explained that if the homeowner has loose leaves, they must park their cars away from the leaf piles to allow the equipment to pick up the debris.

Ham said that the leaf cleaners will attempt to follow the garbage collection schedule, depending on the weather. For example, there will not be pick up following a heavy rain, but after a slight drizzle of rain pick up will likely occur.

For more information call 945-1989.

Saturday's festivities a great success to all save the embittered outlier.


Yesterday's weather was nippy, but the sun was shining, and by most measurements the Holiday Fest Jingle Walk should be judged a success. I was joined at the Keg by the inimitable Tony Beard, and we dispensed eleven growlers of NABC samples to the jingle walkers.

There were glitches (tree light-up timing being one), which generally occur when people are trying to accomplish something. It looked to me like Courtney, Jala and the other DNA volunteers were busting their buns to keep their show on the road, and they're to be commended for the effort.

When the Jingle Walk finished, the Holly Jolly Beer Trolley began circulating downtown. The trolley itself is owned by the city of Jeffersonville, which evidently acquired two and maybe more of them in an abortive effort to shuttle people from the Indiana shore to Yum Center for ballgames. Matt McMahan, owner of Irish Exit, Warehouse and Dillinger's, did the legwork, and the participating bars and restaurants pitched in on the cost of the trolley.

There were some glitches ... and these generally occur when people are trying to accomplish something.

Taken as a whole, Friday and Saturday were good days for downtown New Albany. Plaid Friday (which I favor) and Small Business Saturday (less so, owing to the AmEx connection) both provided opportunities to educate consumers about the importance of independent small business and the burgeoning Buy Local movement. Holiday Fest, Jungle Walk and the Holly Jolly Beer Trolley brought people downtown, and the pubs and eateries benefited.

In fact, negativity was confined almost entirely to a solitary newspaper reporter. But why permit one man's disgruntlement to spoil the party? After all, when people are trying to accomplish something, someone's always on the outside looking in.

No one reads NA Confidential.

A good friend forwarded this to me earlier in the year. Rather flattering, actually. Unfortunately, my Klout score falls somewhat shy of Justin Bieber's, but I have my moments.

Perhaps I should begin selling advertising?

Nah; that'd be all capitalist and s**t.

Based on various web analytics I could find, NA Confidential generally gets about 20-25% the amount of traffic that the News and Tribune site gets-- one guy, no budget, free blog tool, usually covering less than half the geographic territory as compared to their "professional", two-county news operation with multiple full time writers, photographers, editors, and a publisher. And that doesn't include the other places where Roger appears online and in print.

In terms of social media: On a personal level, people are more than 6 times as likely to follow Roger than reporter Suddeath, for instance, despite Suddeath's account being advertised in the paper and its web site for months. Likewise, NABC nearly doubles the number of Facebook page "likes" compared to the N & T.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Holiday Fest and Jingle Walk and Holly Jolly Trolley on a day that finally feels like winter.


The Trolley is somewhat self-explanatory, and will be running through downtown New Albany following the Jingle Walk today (Saturday, November 24).

As for the Jingle Walk itself, it is the entirely worthwhile, ambling/sampling component of the Holiday Fest, New Albany's quasi-official civic Christmas kickoff, which relies heavily on  municipal employee and fire department work hours, so enabling the otherwise stone busted Develop New Albany to take credit for all of it.

Start the Holiday Season in Downtown New Albany for the 2012 Jingle Walk! The Jingle Walk will be held on Saturday, November 24th from 1pm - 6 pm. Tickets are $15 in advance ($20 day of the event) and will include commemorative wine glass to be filled at designated stops in Downtown New Albany for wine samplings.

Keg Liquors New Albany will be a stop again on this year's jingle walk, and we'll be offering both beer and wine samples. We are partnering up with our friends from New Albanian Brewing Company as they do their launch of Naughty Claus, available for the first time in bottles. We'll also be sampling other great beers from them. We'll also have Luke from InVie wine on hand pouring wine samples as well.

I will join NABC graphics wizard Tony Beard in manning the sampling table at Keg Liquors from 1 - 6 p.m. today. In addition to Naughty Claus, we'll have samples of Black & Blue Grass and Hoosier Daddy.

Oppressors are not entitled to their own language.

“Language is power, life and the instrument of culture, the instrument of domination and liberation”
-- Angela Carter, novelist

Plaid Friday went swimmingly, don't you think?

It's all about educating consumers, but this year more than ever before, it occurred to me that independent small business owners themselves also are prime beneficiaries of an ongoing educational component of any Buy Local campaign.

We can begin by rejecting alien terminology. Words actually matter. If you are a small indie business owner, or if you support the panoply of indie business concepts, you must recognize that "Black Friday" is adverse terminology. It is degrading materialist Big Box Speak, intended to inculcate a sense of mega-chain empowerment. Consider refraining from its usage next year, and train your employees to think and speak in like fashion.

Eventually, we'll retrain the nation, but we have to start somewhere: With ourselves. Language is a good start for revolution, don't you think?

Not Enough Time, rewound: The final words belong to Bono and the Edge.



To my readers: Thanks for indulging my Thanksgiving week bout of nostalgia. To close it, here are a few subjective observations.

My personal favorite INXS album is "Welcome to Wherever You Are," released in 1993. It strikes me as the perfect synthesis of a band at the crossroads.

"Never Tear Us Apart" is my favorite INXS song, primarily because the older I get, the more I realize what this entire saga of singer, publican and city really is about: Prague circa 1989 and the Publican are forever inseparable. It's my personal myth, and that's that.

My favorite song ABOUT Michael Hutchence? It's a very easy call; see above.

Here are the series links.

REWIND: Not Enough Time, Part One.


REWIND: Not Enough Time, Part Two.


REWIND: Not Enough Time, Part Three.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Plaid Friday 4: Thunder Wrane at Bank Street Brewhouse tonight.


Andy Hunter, aka Thunder Wrane, will be performing this evening in the WCTU Reading Room at Bank Street Brewhouse. The show begins at 6:30 p.m. and is free of charge, although we'd encourage you to enjoy a libation.



Plaid Friday 3: "Americans have chosen cheap ... (and) it's led to a cycle of impoverishment."

Something to consider while you're standing in line.

Who's Really to Blame for the Wal-Mart Strikes? The American Consumer, by Jordan Weissmann (The Atlantic)

... It would be a mistake, however, to think of this simply as a clash over one company. Rather, it's symptomatic of forces Wal-Mart helped set in motion and now shape our economy in fundamental way. It's about big box retail's refusal to pay a decent wage. It's about the way we've stacked the deck against unions. And it's about the choices we make as consumers.

Plaid Friday 2: "Holidays test Indiana woman's 'buy local' strategy."

Seems like we were here just yesterday. We wuz ... we wuz here yesterday: "Buy thoughtfully and support our entrepreneurs and community businesses."

There's thoughtful, and then there's ...


But let's go back to thoughtful. Kate's in the newspaper.

Holidays test Indiana woman's 'buy local' strategy, by Jere Downs (Courier-Journal)

In June, Kate Caufield traded her routine of shopping at Kohl’s, Target and Kroger with meals at Subway or McDonald’s for a “buy local” habit. Christmas shopping, however, has tested that mission while she strives to find gifts first from homegrown sources in and around New Albany.

Locally owned food sources include Rainbow Blossom. Clothing has been purchased from Mariposa Fine Consignments on Pearl Street, while coffee comes from Quills on Market Street. Salon Strandz is nearby on Vincennes Street for hair care and makeup.

Then the holidays arrived, which has been an extra challenge with two children, ages 6 and 9, and family members not invested in the idea of meeting all their needs via local merchants.

Plaid Friday 1: Speaking of localism, remember when that paving guy launched his boycott of toll opponents?

Last week, an unexpected e-mail landed in my box.


Alas, when I followed the link, the request had disappeared. To be honest, it had been a very long time since I thought about Mr. Coe and his boycott. Let's revisit it. It was July, 2011, and the text of the original posting at NA Confidential appears in its entirety. There was a follow-up with Coe's reply: "If you’re going to argue 'no tolls' be fair and honest."

---

At long last, an oligarch's toady who is honest in his vituperation.


All the digging credit goes to Curt Morrison and his Louisville Courant blog for uncovering these delicious gems of wisdom from Spencer Coe, Vice President at Gohmann "We Fought the Guvmint, and the Guvmint Won" Asphalt, which of course stands to reap vast and mind-boggling profits from various components of the bridges boondoggle.

Indiana businesses boycotted by VP of crooked contractor

Spencer B. Coe, the Vice President of Gohmann Asphalt, through comments on a Business First poll on the Bridges Project, has launched a boycott against toll opponents. Specifically, he's named businesses like Buckhead's, Rocky's, Clark County Auto Auction, that he believes he can do without.
Here's a Coe defense of his kneejerk boycott notion, which appeared as a comment at Louisville Courant.

I stand by my position, those who support the ORBP should not support the businesses of those who do not. I can choose where to spend my money and it will not be with businesses that actively oppose investment in the future of our region, I suggest the same for all ORBP supporters.
In the same comment thread, NA Confidential's Jeff Gillenwater answered.

If that's how Coe wants to play, then play.

What that means, of course, is that an overwhelming majority of people in the region would not do business with Gohmann Asphalt, including hundreds of area businesses and all the local governments who have issued statements, signed petitions, and/or passed resolutions against current ORBP plans.

Gohmann competes for local contracts worth hundreds of thousands in New Albany alone. Removing them from the bid list, though, is no problem if that's how their VP wants to handle it.
In an earlier comment at Facebook, Coe widened the geographic scope to include our own charming New Albany.

Please someone tell me how this will adversely affect Southern Indiana? Smooth flowing traffic on I 65 will adversely impact downtown New Albany and Grant Line Road businesses? The inability of some in Southern Indiana to see outside their "back yard" is frightening!
Impact? I'm glad he brought up that word, which has become a favorite of mine. I took a slightly softer approach in answering.

Spencer, what you might do is stand in my shoes for just a moment. As operator of a small independent retail business that does not derive governmental income for massive construction projects, but rather must convince diners/drinkers/shoppers to come to Indiana from Louisville to spend their discretionary income, I know how very hard it is to do just that. They don't have to come here; I must convince them. Charge them a fee to do it, and for many, game over. Until you and other toll proponents truly GET this reality, we'll continue being at odds.
Which reminds me, it is now 205 days since Jerry Finn of the Bridges Authority, in a conversation with me at the Muhammad Ali Center, conceded that no economic impact study on the effects of tolling on Southern Indiana small businesses had been done or even contemplated, but that he would henceforth urge such a study: Tolling Authority "input" session utterly without the redeeming presence of strong liquor.

Has he?

Have they?

Has anyone?

As for Spencer Coe, I'm sure he well understands the potential economic impact on Gohmann Asphalt if the company were to be frozen out of the bidding process for those huge infrastructure projects that constitute its bottom-line bread and butter. Alas, his boycott threat is hollow; Coe suggests "the same for all ORBP supporters," but since statistically, there are a few dozen such supporters at most scattered throughout the metro area, I'm not exactly set aquiver at the prospect of self-immolation on the Public House lawn.

Sadly and predictably, what Coe and other Ohio River Bridges Project proponents cannot seem to fathom, dazzled as they are by Ayn Rand's erotic attraction to steel, concrete, asphalt, and moreover, the velvety feel of crisp green slices paper pressed into one's hand in a One Southern Indiana conference room toilet stall, is that those of us down here in muddy bottom lands, rooting around for stray trickle-backs from the oligarchs, clearly see the economic impact of tolling because we live it, every single day.

We know that an economic impact study would amply illustrate tolling's obvious harm to small business in Southern Indiana, to our working commuters who must travel to Louisville and back, and to those Hoosiers least able to afford tolls, period.

At the same December meeting as my chat with Finn, David Nicklies wagged his finger at me and said that everyone must sacrifice to make possible the saving grace of the ORBP. What I asked him, and what I've continued to ask, is this: Why must residents of Southern Indiana sacrifice far more for less benefit?

It is a question that remains unanswered by Hoosier bridges fetishists, Spencer Coe now prominent among them.

REWIND: Not Enough Time, Part Three.



Part Two, yesterday

PART THREE ... NOT ENOUGH TIME

Among my vague, alcohol-soaked recollections of 1987 is one in which Barrie and I were walking through a vast square with a statue in the middle. Virtually every building in the square, including at least two churches and the town hall, was entirely cloaked by impenetrable scaffolding.

Old Town Square. According to remarks on the map, it was considered one of the most beautiful in Czechoslovakia, and perhaps in all of Europe, but it was impossible to make a judgment given the area’s bandaged and mummified appearance.

Besides, owing to the sloth of Communism, the square probably had been under repair for decades, and would be for decades to come. We forgot about it, and went off in search of another pub – itself perhaps the best in all Europe; who would know until it was visited?

Shortly we came to the venerable Charles Bridge across the Vltava River, and all I could think about was the majestic Vltava section of “Ma Vlast,” the Czech national tone poem written by the beloved 19th century composer Smetana, who is buried on a nearby hilltop overlooking the river.

We left town and resumed our journey westward. Time passed, and eventually I found myself in Europe for the third time.

Very little about Prague had changed when I returned in 1989; the city still seemed to be a time capsule in a myriad of senses, both good and bad, but when I returned first thing to the bridge and set my sights on the incomparable skyline of spires along the river, and the looming presence of the Prague Castle perched atop the opposite bank, the familiar soundtrack recording of Smetana’s Vltava refused to play.

Instead of the expected soft rippling of orchestral strings imitating the flow of the river itself, I heard a snappy synthesized cadence, and the words and music of a light pop ballad that might not have attracted my attention if not for the visual content of the accompanying video, which had played on MTV for months prior to my trip, and that always compelled me to lecture bystanders about the beauty of Prague.

“There, look!” I would scream, pointing at the television, and everyone in the room would melt away in search of phone books to read.

“It’s Prague!”



The song was “Never Tear Us Apart” by INXS, the band’s only #1 hit in the United States. The video had been filmed in Prague some time during 1988, and it featured Hutchence and his band mates in dark and serious poses that were meant to convey at least part of the city’s very real, dark and nervous Cold War feeling, beginning on the Charles Bridge, then down the street from the Jewish Cemetery, and finally ending with the camera at the corner of the glockenspiel on the Old Town Hall for an incredible closing pan of the fully renovated and stunningly beautiful Old Town Square, with nary a scaffold in sight.

Viewing the video today, it strikes me in much the same way as my old passport photo does: Youthful, pretentious, and innocent (at least in relative terms) in roughly equal measure. There was no deeply philosophical significance to any of it, and yet I could not extricate the sound and the sight of INXS’s creation from my mind as I walked the streets of Prague in the summer of 1989 – and I haven’t been able to avoid thinking about it since, although now Smetana’s tone poem has returned to its rightful place in the canon, and can again be summoned on demand.

----

Where has all of it gone?

Prague is free. The city’s store shelves now are brimming over with international brands of toothpaste, the beer dispensed in its taverns grows colder and dumber each year, and once again the buildings on the Old Town Square are hidden, this time not by scaffolding, but by crowds of tourists who make it impossible to walk over the Charles Bridge in midday, and who have no memory of the cheap eats at the Automat Koruna, long deceased, to be replaced by a trendy boutique entirely without sausages, dumplings and draft beer.

Just overpriced clothes, handbags and hip-hop blaring from the sound system.

Hutchence is dead, and with him INXS. His scandal plagued final years, coupled with his band's decline in popularity, have ensured a healthy degree of post mortem savagery on the part of the media and those whose lives are defined by the mass mailing of e mail jokes. What did this drug and sex crazed has been do for anyone lately, except provide Britain's tabloids with headlines? Not a lot, I guess, but in spite of it all and most importantly, in spite of my cynicism he gave me a pleasant memory of a vanished time, and I still enjoy much of his music. That's enough for me. It's more than most ever get.

As for myself ...

That's the hardest part. The young kid trying to bore holes through the camera with his eyes has ceased to exist in every bit as much a way as Czechoslovakia's socialist system and the chances for an INXS reunion tour date at the Phoenix Hill Tavern, but I don't really know how to gauge the distance or decide whether his disappearance is good or bad, worth recapturing, or best for¬gotten.

When I'm depressed, over worked, exhausted and painfully aware of my shortcomings, I want desperately to take back a piece of that time, to pull the covers up over my head and to live again out of my backpack. When things are going well, I'm thankful for the experience without wishing to relive it, knowing that the years since have given me so much more knowledge, so many more friends and loved ones, and so many reasons for wanting to live in the present, to seek the future with confidence, and not to dwell in the past.

One desire has remained constant throughout the years that have passed and the changes that have occurred, and that's the desire to travel and to willingly undergo the process of self examination that is inexorably linked to it.

We return, then, to the notion of travel.

You might choose to return to the place where you started, but if the path of the voyage is followed with diligence and commitment and with a bit of luck you'll find that you're not the same person you were when you set out, and that sometimes you even end up with a song, or a city, to prove it.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

"Buy thoughtfully and support our entrepreneurs and community businesses."


Black Friday's a hard habit to break, I imagine. Not unlike smoking cigarettes, although for me, it's a bad habit I never began. "Cold turkey" may be an appropriate Thanksgiving analogy, but it isn't the most apt. Shift happens. Begin thinking about your expenditures by devoting a percentage of them to small independent businesses. Shift as you can, and shift where you can. Gradual shifting is just fine. Plaid Friday, not black. And so on.


That Day After Thanksgiving,by Kate Caufield (New Albany 365)

... But part of understanding ourselves and our role in the local and national economy is realizing the impact of our buying habits. Where we spend our money determines much about how the country moves forward, and how we treat our workforce- as well as which political and moral causes get funded by the corporations where we shop. I don't want to create a political divide by assigning attributes to either side, but there are some really strong cases for bipartisan support of indie and small businesses. If we buy cheaply made items from another country at a mass discount at a mega chain, then that's what we'll continue to get. If we buy thoughtfully and support our entrepreneurs and community businesses, that's what will begin to thrive.

Rare John Coltrane and diverse cultural experiences are things to be thankful for.

I followed this great link from the Twitter feed of New Albany native and rising young actor Josh "Once Upon A Time" Dallas, who many readers last saw serving as grand marshal during the 2012 Harvest Homecoming parade.

Listen to Coltrane today ...

John Coltrane Plays Only Live Performance of A Love Supreme

... but return to Open Culture's media collection again and again.

300 Cultural Icons: Great Artists, Writers & Thinkers in Their Own Words

Many thanks to Josh for alerting his thousands of followers to this treasure trove of  free cultural artifacts.

Finn and Caesar get all irate as Southern Indiana (minus compliant NA) continues the struggle against tolling.

As we await the study of the Ohio River Bridges Project's local small business economic impact, promised on that long-ago day by ORBP authority member Jerry Finn (yes, I can have the memory of an elephant when it suits me), with the two-year anniversary of his unfulfilled vow due on December 13 of this very year, it becomes increasingly evident that Clark County has picked up the anti-tolling torch once presciently lit by New Albany's city council during Steve Price's final term, and since dropped by our purportedly more progressive legislative body at the urging of Bob "CeeSaw" Caesar, who remains forever eager to sell more costume jewelry to the delusional minions at One Southern Indiana, where the the equation never changes: If Kerry Stemler + Ed Clere = transportation boondoggle, then let's party like it's 1959, and by the way, if tolling rape is inevitable, can someone please pass the Astroglide?

As usual, expecting consistency of thought from New Albany's city council is tantamount to believing the Cubs will win the World Series, or that Lucy won't yank back the football at the last second, leaving Charlie Brown (and the city) in the mud.

First, the Clarksville Town Council got themselves some lawyers, and now the tourism board has followed suit. Jeffersonville's council just might join them. Shouldn't New Albany get in on the fun?

Tourism board joins Clarksville in suit to stop I-65 bridge tolls (Courier-Journal)

Board members of the Clark-Floyd Counties Convention and Tourism Bureau on Wednesday voted to join Clarksville in a new lawsuit seeking to block the tolling of the Kennedy Bridge and a new Interstate 65 span that is to be built next to it.

Tourism bureau spokesman John Gilkey, who also is president of the Clarksville Town Council, said the board voted to allocate $10,000 — the same amount the town pledged on Monday — for an Indianapolis law firm to take the case.

The Jeffersonville City Council will decide whether the city will join the lawsuit at its next meeting, Dec. 3.

REWIND: Not Enough Time, Part Two.

PART TWO ... NOT ENOUGH TIME

Part one, yesterday.

All this cynicism … and yet … damned if it didn’t affect me when I began to think about Michael Hutchence dying, because in the end, he WAS different for me than all the rest of the fallen celebrities. For one, Hutchence was 37 when he died. He was born in 1960, just a few months before I was born.

In short, the same age as me. Before Hutchence, the dead celebrities always were older than me, and now they’re often younger, but he was my age.

But I wasn’t suicidal – people my age have so much to live for, don’t they? Or, had it escaped me that 25-year-old men do indeed kill themselves … and even if they don’t, I was no longer 25?

No, not 25 at all.

Furthermore, it slowly dawned on me that although we never came close to meeting, the Aussie and the Hick, our paths somehow managed to cross in a place far away from both our homes, and in a way that left an indelible impression on me, first on an old bridge spanning a famous river, then by the gray and nondescript wall of an ancient cemetery, and finally in a colorfully festooned square, all within the boundaries of a pristine, crumbling, captive city known as Prague, Czechoslovakia, circa 1989.

Actually, we may have missed each other in the city by as much as a year, but is doesn’t matter, because Hutchence left me with musical and visual calling cards that persist in the memory, and now that he’s dead, I’ve been denied the possibility of tracking him down ten years from now in the alley behind Jim Porter’s, where he just appeared with INXS during their 30th anniversary tour of the only small venues that would still book them, and interrupting his quick getaway to thank him for providing me with an integral memory of a vanished place, and by extension of someone – me – whose past unfortunately is about as dead as the prospects for a revival of the May Day celebration in Prague’s Strahov stadium, where the memory of U2’s 1997 Pop Mart appearance takes precedence over the legacy of the droning speeches of bumbling old men like Gustav Husak.



In retrospect, it didn’t require the far-off death of some chronological classmate I never had to plunge me into a state of morose self-examination, although his messy end provided an appropriate exclamation mark to a sentence previously written and barely understood.

At some point in mid-November, with rehearsals for the INXS “Lose Your Head” tour underway in Australia to hopeful reviews, I began rummaging through a pile of papers on my desk. At the bottom, lonely and hidden, yet oddly expectant, was my first passport.

The passport was issued in 1984, a full year before I embarked on my first trip abroad, and it expired in 1994, just prior to my sixth journey to Europe. Since this first passport was renewed, and my government has seen fit to award me with a new document to ease my entry into countries that agree to harbor an American for a specified period, there have been six more European excursions.

It has taken this many trips to remove some of the surface sheen of the little blue booklet, so that it begins to show the desired wear and tear intended to set its experienced bearer apart from the newbie travelers.

It’s a matter of prestige, baby.

After flinging away the file folders, business cards and meaningless scraps of paper to await filing on a different corner of the desk, the old passport was free to resurrect distant memories by means of faded rubber stamps that had been thoughtlessly inflicted on the once virgin pages by supremely bored border guards, who since have been made redundant by geopolitical decisions that whisked them from grim, cold comfortably bureaucratic postings on fortified Warsaw Pact borders and dropped them, headfirst, into telemarketing positions in cubicles wedged precariously between a rock and a hard place.

Unfortunately, before any of these thoughts were able to take shape, I opened the passport and looked at the photo laminated inside the front cover.

I was shocked. It wasn’t me. Couldn’t have been me. To be share, a pair of brown eyes stared back at me, gravely, with solemnity, perhaps even arrogantly.

They looked to be attached to someone who was very full of himself, and at the painfully inexperienced age of 23. The eyes were deliberately ignoring the photographer’s pleas to smile for the camera, and something within me stirred in remembrance: Smile? Hell, it’s a passport picture, not a family reunion snapshot; do you want the Europeans to look at me like I’m some kind of bleeding idiot?

Mr. Chase, the photographer, was momentarily taken aback.

The brown hair was short and unkempt, and the visible cowlicks had defied the best efforts of the comb, if indeed such efforts had even been made. Incongruously, the scowling face sported an absurdly silly wisp of a mustache that would have benefited from a sturdy coat of Groucho Marx’s vaudeville greasepaint.

This was no one I knew – or was it?

----

In 1989, during my third Europhile’s pilgrimage, I was in Prague. It was my second visit to the Czech capital, which to all appearances at the time was irrevocably Communist, and to have suggested to anyone that a largely bloodless revolution would occur by the end of the year as part of the monolithic Soviet Bloc dominoes crashing to earth all along the non-Cuban international landscape would have marked the speaker as an enemy of the state – both in Czechoslovakia, and also in America, where the military/industrial complex hummed merrily along at the behest of the Cold War mentality that I so desperately sought to disprove by visiting places like Prague.

I’d been there before, but only briefly. My friend Barrie and I had spent three days in Prague in 1987, fresh from the Soviet Union and Poland, and these hours were a whirlwind of beer consumption and subsequent forced marches to our assigned youth hostel barracks in an unfinished sports club seemingly halfway to Plzen, leaving us little time to learn anything of substance.

However, it was a valid introduction to a city where vast tracts of the urban landscape still had the appearance of the 18th and 19th centuries, where small, winding streets led to dank basement pubs populated by working men conducting conversations in low voices, their remarks spices by clinking half-liter mugs of traditional draft pilsners, and where a storefront on Wenceslas Square that would have been occupied by a trendy designer shop anywhere else in the world – and is today – was filled instead by the Automat Koruna, a stand-up eatery, dirty and dirt cheap, where half-liter mugs of local beer went four to a dollar, unless the money had been changed on the black market, which was dutifully manned by virtually every waiter in the city.

Then you got six, maybe seven.

Part three, tomorrow

ON THE AVENUES: Faux thanks and reveries, remixed.

ON THE AVENUES: Faux thanks and reveries, remixed.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

New Albany’s bicentennial program template seems firmly established as we approach Year Zero, and that’s unfortunate.

Apart from the solitary tangible gain of a laughably over-priced, wrongly situated and generically designed public area, variously known as Somnolent Estates, Rent Boy Park and Caesar’s Folly, we’ll have a carpetbagger’s coffee table book to remember the rare old times, as well as a whole slate of events priced primarily to recoup the book’s lamentable costs, wherein the local Romney demographic wears period costumes, dances the minuet, and recites the enumerated hagiography of the historic preservation code.

It’s all safe, white-bread and conservative, and fully appropriate for the buck-a-day extras at yet another Lewis & Clark expedition commemorative film, but it remains that the problem with making our bicentennial entirely about the city’s past, and not at least in part about our future, is that doing so begs a rather embarrassing question.

Why were our urban forefathers adept at city building, but their modern-day ancestors able to muster little more in terms of achievement than decay management?

You might react defensively.

Haven’t we come a long way during the past few years?

(We have. But what about the three decades before that?)

Downtown is revitalizing, isn’t it?

(If eating and drinking’s your thing, yes it is. If retail gains, residential enhancement or complete streets interest you, then welcome to our default condition of stasis)

But Roger, don’t I look great dressed up as a Scribner?

(You needn’t ask me. I’ll be sober in the morning, but we’ll collectively experience this bicentennial hangover for the rest of our lives. You might inquire of that child over there, assuming he’ll relinquish his iPhone)

And so, the travesty wrought by the Coup d’Geriatrique is upon us. An empty liquor bottle meets pavement, and River View plans are recycled as Bazooka Joe bubble gum cartoons.

Somewhere in the city, a dog barks.

---

Enough about tragedies we can’t avoid, but only resolve to withhold our financial support from the general direction of. The hallowed committee will get the money it needs, anyway, from a city council determined never to ask the same questions of self-identified movers and shakers as it would routinely demand of a homeless shelter or copier paper requisition request.

After all, it’s Thanksgiving!

A couple of years ago, before those lowly field hands laboring on behalf of humorless Alabama retirees demanded my newspaper platform be dismembered as punishment for the audacity to seek local office, I made an observation: There’s never any better time than Thanksgiving for an iconoclast’s thoughts to be made public.

(As a side note, it remains somewhat futile to expect anyone to read my outpouring of words on Thursday, the holiday itself. Given the inability of many New Albanian readers to wade through my pages without scratching their heads in vocabularic confusion, it strikes me as impolite to expect them to waste valuable football viewing time in what surely would become a frustrating, household-wide search for seldom-used dictionaries and thesauruses. But alas, I am nothing if not stubborn. It’s why they pay me the big money, after all)

Let’s revisit the notion of “iconoclast”:

1. A breaker or destroyer of images, esp. those set up for religious veneration (like the bicentennial junta’s year-long fixation on the year 1872).

2. A person who attacks cherished beliefs, traditional institutions, etc., as being based on error or superstition … rather like your humble correspondent.

While others grew up idolizing athletes and rock stars, my own heroes have always been iconoclasts. From Socrates through Tom Paine, and not exempting 20th-century polemicists like H. L. Mencken, there’s nothing quite like an iconoclast taking a headlong swipe at unexamined assumptions to make me take notice.

Consequently, it is my duty to remind you that Thanksgiving, while perfectly enjoyable from a hedonist’s standpoint, and wholly conducive to this bibulous trencherman’s standards, actually stands for something more than gluttony and sports.

But that certain “something” isn’t the prevailing viewpoint that the Puritans and Natives once merrily gathered for a quaint New England picnic, pausing only occasionally from the consumption of corn chowder and non-alcoholic cranberry wine to pray to their respective deities for continued prosperity and happiness.

Rather, it is this:

The need for Christian apologetics aside, and whether or not Squanto miraculously facilitated a peaceful first Thanksgiving at Plymouth Rock, the subsequent history of the white man on the North American continent boasted the unabated slaughter of Native Americans, incessant pillaging of the environment, and an exculpatory doctrine of “manifest destiny” interwoven with prevailing Christianity, as intended to ease the consciences (if any) of those pulling the triggers.

We’ll leave the approval of African-American slavery emanating for many generations from Southern pulpits for another day of faux “thanks.”

In the context of genuine American history, and to the exclusion of mythology and wishful thinking, the holiday we term “Thanksgiving” is ironic, to say the very least. I prefer reflections on all human history to be in accordance with the record, and as events actually occurred, without the tidying impulse to obscure and sanitize them.

I accept that people in all places and times do what they can with what they have, and believe that the best we can hope for is to learn from the past in the hope of learning worthwhile lessons and avoiding mistakes. In my opinion, the worst error of all is to misrepresent the historical record to justify theological needs. Or, conversely, those of a bicentennial committee.

Yes, I observe Thanksgiving, too. It’s just that I do it realistically.

•••

America’s Christmas shopping season now commences on Labor Day, and it will reach a crescendo tomorrow, on November 23, which frenzied pop culture vultures have dubbed Black Friday. Pavlov’s overworked and fever-ridden mutt can be expected to salivate continuously as university economics school analysts seek to determine if holiday season retail sales will be sufficient to keep Wal-Mart, Best Buy and their many splendored suppliers in China solvent for another year.

At least there’s food on Thanksgiving. As oft times before, this means a short drive across the as yet untolled Sherman Minton Bridge to Louisville’s South End and transformative dining at the venerable Vietnam Kitchen. Iconoclasm aside, I enjoy the traditional Norman Rockwell spread as much as anyone, but cooking it at home simply isn’t an option for us, and this year, it’s already been deconstructed for me at Bank Street Brewhouse by Chef Matt Weirich.

Our Thanksgiving preference is to indulge in crisp spring rolls, exotic peppery noodle dishes and the occasional clay pot catfish, with French coffee for dessert. After all, to each his own “tradition” – and may yours not be harmful to others.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

"Stand with Striking Wal-Mart Workers."



At The Nation: Josh Eidelson: The True Power of Walmart Workers

As shoppers battle for discounted flat-screen TVs this Black Friday, Walmart workers will be fighting for a living wage. Employees at 1,000 Walmart stores across the country are planning to strike on one of the megastore’s most profitable days. “There’s the potential to cut into Walmart’s brand in a permanent way,” says Nation writer Josh Eidelson, who has been covering the Walmart strikes since the beginning. He stopped by MSNBC’s The Ed Show to discuss the potential power of the worker walkout, and Walmart’s illegal efforts to stop it.

REWIND: Not Enough Time, Part One.



2012 Introduction

The links were not at the top of the news feed, but my eye caught them, anyway.

INXS finished

INXS sudden retirement

Whenever I’ve mentioned INXS just now disbanding in the days since, friends have replied with variations on the same basic question: “But didn’t INXS call it quits after that singer – you know, what’s his name – died?

The singer was Michael Hutchence, who died on November 22, 1997, and obviously the band indeed carried on after his death, although this isn’t really the central point of this week’s reprint series entry.

“Not Enough Time” will be “rewound” in three parts beginning today. My essay originally appeared in the FOSSILS newsletter way back in the winter of 1997/98, and went up electronically at NA Confidential in 2005 – just months before INXS embarked on the reality TV audition carousel that resulted in a Canadian named JD Fortune becoming the band’s (then) most recent replacement for Hutchence. In short, my fears of farce were fulfilled.

Absent critical mass, the unfortunately named Fortune eventually relinquished his microphone to an Irishman named Ciaran Gribbin, and now, 35 years after INXS began Down Under, there remain individual members of a great band, equipped with a fine back catalog of songs … and nary a front man alive capable of singing them.

Today: The introduction from 2005, followed by Part One of “Not Enough Time,” a remembrance of things past. The second and third parts will appear on Thursday and Friday. I've changed nothing, which is unusual for me.

2005 Introduction

Sometimes while writing, you must follow your muse’s orders to the letter, and when the piece is finished, you’d like to know what she could have been thinking.

Accordingly, what do a Central European city, an Australian rock singer and Southern Indiana pub owner have in common?

It has been almost eight years since this article was written in 1997, and a decade and a half since the Czechs and Slovaks embarked on a post-Communist experiment that has led them, as separate and independent countries, into European Union membership.

For the surviving members of INXS, perhaps the world’s biggest rock band for a brief period in the 1980’s, the eight years since singer and front man Michael Hutchence’s 1997 death by suicide have been lackluster, to put it charitably.

With no new projects, and without a permanent replacement for Hutchence, the group completely disappeared from the transitory world of pop culture, and this absence had the odd but not unwelcome effect of burnishing its earlier achievements, to the point that critical perspective seemed at long last ready to go in INXS’s direction.

Alas, the band, now desirous of a comeback and a fresh round of fame, has chosen the unfortunate vehicle of a “reality television” show to select a new lead singer, who will record a new album and go on tour. Needless to say, I’m expecting the worse.

The other central character in “Not Enough Time” is yours truly – brewery and pub owner, dedicated European traveler, and recently reinvented blogger, who seems to have survived well enough after a decade of much joy and occasional madness. I’ve still not forgiven Hutchence for choosing the route he did …but that’s life, and I’m enjoying mine.

----

PART ONE ... NOT ENOUGH TIME

To the discerning wanderer, the act of traveling serves to reveal many variations of reality, existing both inside and outside the individual.

Perhaps the least interesting of these expressions, which embody moments floating nebulously somewhere in time, are those manifested by scribbled notes on the back of snapshots, simple expository comments like “Here we are in front of the Eiffel Tower.”

The most challenging and enduring of these expressions are those offered in long, often drunken and chaotic conversations with friends, at first when safely back “home,” and then later, long after the fact.

It’s when one tries to explain what it feels like to be standing atop the Acropolis, feeling the heat of the Greek sun, and hearing the echoes of 25 centuries drifting up through the pollution and traffic noise, or seeking to communicate with someone who doesn’t speak the same language, and making do by using beer coasters and scraps of bus fare tickets to construct multi-lingual metaphysical systems.

It is unfortunate that those who travel solely to achieve fleeting leisure and recreation of the sort typified by the balmy beachside jaunt stand a fine chance of missing the whole point of travel (although not of recreation, a quite different topic), which is to alter one’s consciousness by comparing and contrasting differences, both internal and external, and placing one’s own life into another context.

The process never ends so long as the individual continues to evolve; you’re different than the last time you went there, and your responses will vary according to how you’ve changed during the interim. Sitting on a deck chair on Carnival cruise lines and sipping a frozen rum drink is relaxing, but it is unlikely to conjure an epiphany, and as with the potential for an orgasm during the act of sex, for one to lack from the very outset the slightest chance of experiencing an epiphany during a particular travel encounter is to reduce it to a merely physical exercise.

It is to deny the chance for transcendence, and why go to the trouble if there’s no chance for transcendence?

Certainly, experiences that raise one’s consciousness cannot be forced into being; an element of luck is involved, and one must be in the right place at the right time. Some times it happens, and some times it doesn’t, but if it does, it can be like an epileptic burst of brute gale force that drills into your skull and sends you sprawling, and after you’ve gotten up and brushed the dust from your trousers, you’re obliged to spend a few moments reflecting on the impact.

For me, traveling in Eastern Europe during the Communist era was like that, and there are times, even eight years or more later, when I’m not sure any of it ever really happened. Some things that I’m sure actually did happen have, in retrospect, turned out to have less to do with the geography or history of the area than with some aspect of myself at the time, some part of me, some specific way that I was thinking and reacting during the moment.

Eastern Europe has changed quite a lot since the 1980’s. To my surprise, so have I, but like some programmed response, it doesn’t take much to trip a wire and have the whole experience come back to me, demanding attention.

----

So it was that in late November of 1997, I reacted with a mild and disinterested shrug upon learning that Michael Hutchence, the charismatic lead singer for the Australian rock band INXS, had died, but after a few pints of reflection over a period of days, his death began to disturb me.

I didn’t understand why.

Certainly, I shouldn’t have been bothered. Like many others, I’ve grown jaded and weary with regard to the rituals of grief that follow the passing of public figures, people none of us ever really knew while they were alive, especially rock stars and similar icons of disposable pop culture.

Granted, I understand that in our society of rootless ephemera, where none of us really believe in anything except money, USA Today’s trend of the nanosecond might as well be celebrated as an eternal truth. Pamela’s and Tommy’s “stolen” sex video is as good as anything else we have to hold aloft as an 11th Commandment; with nothing better to do, we might as well pretend that we personally knew the celebrities who died before their time, who overdosed on heroin, crashed their toys, and hanged themselves in hotel rooms halfway across the planet.

We might as well join the queue for the teary tributes to these abstract entities, who we insist in some way enriched our lives, as though they may have been the only real friends and siblings that we ever tricked ourselves into believing existed.

An earlier generation remembers the day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I remember the day John Lennon was murdered. Now, our lonely nation turns its eyes to Elton John and remembers the day, the month, and the calendar year, that Princess Diana died.

I’m cognizant of an obvious cheapening, and it is a form of non-participatory sport that I’d prefer to avoid.

The less meaning in our lives that we’re permitted to have apart from the patriotic imperative to support the national economy by buying things we don’t need, the more that we look for something to believe in: Celebrities, rock stars, the prattle that passes for dialogue on television talk shows, the insipid and scarcely alchemized liquid posing as beer behind prophylactic sheets of aluminum.

To wail and moan for fallen icons makes it possible for consumers to feel – and to feel around in their pockets for the credit card to buy the commemorative video, the pay-per-view, the Franklin Mint’s numbered and registered plate.



Part Two, tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Papa's crooning: "Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood."


Papa's back in the house. Spinning. I'm tossing, though not pizzas.

The Real Scoop on Papa John's and Obamacare, by John Schnatter (Huffington Post)

 ... Many in the media reported that I said Papa John's is going to close stores and cut jobs because of Obamacare. I never said that.

Specifically, a wine dinner. Generally, about local and regional wines.


Over at my Potable Curmudgeon blog, I've posted a review by Shane Campbell of last week's wine dinner at Bank Street Brewhouse, which we staged along with our friends at the Huber Winery.

Shane Campbell reviews the Huber Winery/Bank Street Brewhouse dinner on November 13.


Yes, I'm the beer guy around here, and yet in recent years, I've become re-acquainted with the joys of the fermented grape -- not by means of vineyards in California, Chile or France, but through visiting Starlight, Bloomington, Madison and downtown New Albany, and asking questions, listening and sampling. Our regional wineries are crafting wines for all tastes, and stereotypical sweet fruit wines no longer are the norm (they're still available if that's your gig).

Maybe it's ironic to use the craft brewhouse to make this point, although if so, the conclusion is no less valid. There are a couple dozen wineries or more within an easy drive of New Albany and environs. They're fun places. Visit with open minds and palates, and enjoy. End of sermon.

Fetter, Clarksville council remain on the right side of anti-tolling history.


Paul Fetter keeps rocking, and all I can do is thank him. It was my intention to ask our Councilman Bob Caesar what he thinks about principles such as those espoused by Fetter, but CeeSaw was busy fluffing oligarchs and thus unavailable for comment. The designer knee pads are a nice touch, though.

Clarksville establishes fund to fight tolls, by Matt Koesters (N and T)

CLARKSVILLE — The Clarksville Town Council unanimously voted to contribute $10,000 to a legal fund to fight proposed tolls on the new downtown bridge and the Kennedy Bridge at its meeting Monday meeting.

The tolls will have a huge negative impact on the businesses and residents of Clarksville, said Councilman Paul Fetter, who brought the motion to establish the defense fund before the council. Fetter said that a study conducted by the Indiana Finance Authority predicted that over a 30-year period, bridge tolls would create a negative impact of $7.5 billion along the Interstate 65 corridor.

Monday, November 19, 2012

"Father Douthat Explains It All," and Charles Pierce begs to differ.

I, too, read Douthat's piece in the Sunday NYT. Unlike me, Charlie Pierce is willing to deconstruct Douthat's bilge clause by clause. That's why Pierce gets paid the big money to blog, I guess.



I would dearly love it if people who weren't alive in The Sixties would drop some brown acid, listen to the first Quicksilver album, or at least read more than two books before they start telling the rest of us how everything they would have loved about America, had they been alive then, went to hell in a handbasket the first time Ken Kesey sat down at a typewriter. Case in point is young Ross Douthat, a conservative affirmative-action hire at The New York Times who yesterday favored us with yet another rendition about how unauthorized sexytime is draining our precious national body fluids away from the Republic the way that the blood ran in rivulets down the slopes of Golgotha. Or something.

(The usual Douthat Disclaimer — Douthat is a convert to Holy Mother Church. Take it from a cradle Catholic, converts can be the absolute worst. They are dogmatic drones who believe that the Church was founded expressly to take the knots out of their own personal ropes. This all started with St. Paul, the original sanctified convert pain in the balls, and has only gotten worse through the millennia.)

People who fk without Ross Douthat's permission have been expressing happiness over the results of the recent political election, and Ross Douthat is simply not going to stand for that sort of thing much longer.