Sunday, December 09, 2018

Liege leads to a rumination, or sometimes to Durbuy.

Photo credit.

Bluegill pointed the way to a photo essay/travelogue about Liege, Belgium.

Where the heck is Liege? by Kleesbutterfly

My first reaction was this: I haven't seen Liege, but at least I had a beer in the city's train station once -- the old one, because now there's a completely new train station (2009).

Then I remembered that our intrepid band of beercyclists had traversed Liege in 2004, approaching from the north along the Meuse, pausing to watch as the Tour de France got underway, then continuing to Durbuy.

Liege is a city that usually doesn’t make the top of a traveler’s bucket list. But Liege taught me to never underestimate an under-the-radar destination. It may not be as big or flashy as more renowned places, but discovering the hidden gems of a city can be a pleasure in itself.

This is so very true. The list of lesser renowned European cities we've visited in recent years includes Mechelen (Belgium), Porto (Portugal), Catania (Sicily), Tallinn (Estonia) and Gdansk (Poland). Each of these places yielded ample and at times incredible treasures sufficient to reward a short stay.

It's understandable for us to covet Paris, Rome and Prague. However, we shouldn't neglect Perpignan, Trieste and Brno.

Cubs fans, here's a good one for you: The Devil and Frank Chance.

Some amazing sleuthing by Baseball Researcher, and I'm glad Keith Olbermann mentioned it on Twitter. The topic is a photo of Frank "Tinker to Evers to" Chance chatting with none other than the Devil.

I first saw the photo around five years ago and my initial reaction was “What the hell?” And that has basically been my reaction every time I revisited the photo, as I tried to solve the mystery behind just what is going on. It has taken me a while to crack this nut, but here's what I've determined.

Get the full story right here: The Devil and Frank Chance.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Final thoughts on 41: "A Thousand Points of Shite."

And two dim bulbs.

It's a long read, but it touches all the bases.

A Thousand Points of Shite, by Branko Marcetic (Jacobin)

How George H. W. Bush paved the way for Trumpism.

 ... Mistrusted by the hard right wing of the GOP, Bush nonetheless enthusiastically adopted elements of their political program, including the aggressive expansion of American power overseas and the racist “law-and-order” policies of the modern carceral state. As such, Bush was a key generational link between pre- and post-Reagan conservatism, the latter of which was later advanced even more aggressively by his son, and which has culminated in today’s historically radical Republican Party.

Bush’s life and political career also reflect the severe limitations of the mythical “reasonable,” “moderate” politics of yesteryear now pined for by today’s media and political elite. While Bush had a pragmatist streak that produced some worthy outcomes, his willingness to play dirty to win, his law-breaking and subsequent covering up of his crimes, and his almost casual use of war as a political tool were ill omens of what was to come. That the modern Clintonite Democratic Party took many of its cues from Bush should make us thankful for its current, albeit painfully slow, transformation.

That bait 'n' switch in the 1990s.

 ... The 1992 election made Bush a one-term president, but his legacy lived on, as his watered down Reaganism essentially became the political program of the new Democratic Party. Bush’s “humanitarian” wars, and his threat to bypass congressional war authorization, became the foreign policy modus operandi of both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and continue to constitute the party’s approach, as evinced by Democrats’ steadfast support of Trump’s bombing of Syria early in his presidency. Clinton and the Democrats became even more ardent drug-and-crime warriors than Bush had been, gutting welfare and slashing social spending partly in pursuit of a balanced budget. Finally, Clinton and the Democrats finished off Bush’s work on NAFTA, finally ratifying it in 1993 and helping create the Rust Belt discontent that Trump would ride to power in 2016. That election was less a loss for Bush’s style of politics than a passing of the torch.

His legacy also lived on in the US establishment’s chummy ties with Saudi Arabia, which Bush had been instrumental in strengthening as both president and vice president, and which the same media outlets that mourn Bush’s death today have spent the past few weeks furiously denouncing now that Trump is their champion. Bush’s unusual and disconcerting closeness to the regime — as well as his decision to station troops in the country during the Gulf War — would haunt the country years later when thousands of Americans were killed by a group of well-financed Saudi terrorists on September 11, 2001. Bush’s close friend, Prince “Bandar Bush,” was later directly implicated in financing some of the terrorists.

Moving to the conclusion.

As with seemingly every non-Trump politician both living and dead, there is some insatiable need to rub out the rough edges of former political leaders and present a perfectly smooth, sterile, and misleading image of who they were. It’s half patriotic glorification, half myth-making-as-resistance.

But civility, decency, moderation — none of this accurately describe the record of George H. W. Bush. Bush brazenly flouted the law and lied throughout his career; he changed his beliefs when it suited him and engaged in scurrilous, sometimes racist, smearing of his opponents; he launched appalling wars for political gain and enthusiastically supported some of the world’s worst thugs; and his career was a microcosm of the worrying merger of business interests with public service and, quite possibly, the national security state. If Bush is a “moderate,” it’s because many of these practices have long been internalized as normal and routine for the political elite.

Rather, Bush’s presidency was a key bridge between the New Deal-era conservatism of Nixon and the more radical post-Reagan GOP, both of which were rooted in an unfettered, militaristic executive. Bush’s roots in the Eastern Republican establishment of the postwar era prevented him from fully advancing the Reagan program, a task that would fall to his son; paradoxically, and tragically, it was his liberal political opponents who adopted his agenda as their own, a fever dream from which the Democratic Party only now seems to be waking up.

But if nothing else, at least we’ll have that one Simpsons episode.

"Jim Morrison on Why Fat is Beautiful."

Jim Morrison would have been 75 today. Rather than a song, here's a reimagined, animated interview from Blank on Blank and PBS Digital Studios, as originally posted here back in 2013.

I want to go where it's WARM: From The Durrels in Corfu to Spirit of Place -- Lawrence Durrell's Greece.

The missus has been watching a series on public television.

The Durrells (also known as The Durrells in Corfu on American television) is a British comedy-drama series based on Gerald Durrell's three autobiographical books about his family's four years (1935–1939) on the Greek Island of Corfu, which began airing on 3 April 2016.

The series begins in 1935, when Louisa Durrell suddenly announces that she and her four children will move from Bournemouth to the Greek island of Corfu. Her husband has died some years earlier and the family is experiencing financial problems. A Homeric battle ensues as the family adapts to life on the island which, despite a lack of electricity, proves that Corfu is cheap and an earthly paradise.

A degree of artistic licence is employed: in the TV series, the family move to Corfu together, whereas in real life Lawrence Durrell, the eldest child (23 years of age in 1935), had already moved to the island earlier the same year with his wife.

At some point during the period of her viewing, I wandered into the room and was stunned by the scenery. Location shooting for the series takes place on the island of Corfu, where I haven't set foot -- although I've had glimpses of it by boat and from Albania, across the straits.

As is my habit, catching up meant finding a documentary (above) rather than binge-watching the series.

Spirit of Place Lawrence Durrell's Greece (1976)

Wonderful BBC Arts documentary from 1976 taking Lawrence Durrell back to Greece.

Both Lawrence and Gerald Durrell became noted writers ...

THE REAL DURRELLS Who were the real Durrell family, when did author Gerald Durrell die and when was the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust founded?

THE Durrells has returned to TV and with it comes a brand new batch of hilarious stories about the adorable family. But who were the real-life Durrells that inspired this wonderful show? We have the lowdown.

 ... and there are those who say the family's idyllic life on Corfu wasn't exactly as either of them depicted.

In My Family And Other Animals, the author Gerald Durrell gives the impression that his family went to Corfu in 1935 almost on a whim, selling their English house and sailing into the unknown to escape rainy summer days and stuffed-up noses. They laughed and wrote beautifully of their island idyll, but nobody in the family talked about what had really brought them to the island – the sudden death of their father in India, the devastating effect it had on their mother, and the yearning to restore something lost.

Gerald's career isn't as familiar to me, but I've been hearing Lawrence's name ever since I first resolved to travel.

The Real Life Lawrence Durrell

Lawrence “Larry”, the eldest of the Durrell siblings, is portrayed in MASTERPIECE’S The Durrell’s in Corfu, as a struggling writer, his every mood dictated, often hilariously so, by the associated highs and lows of his chosen trade. Self-important and more than a little pompous, he has an affinity for Bohemianism, as well as a budding friendship with Henry Miller.

The connection obviously is Miller, as the two became good friends.

One realizes immediately that theirs is much more than a literary friendship when watching the easiness with which the two men treat each other. There is the familiarity of shared assumptions and experiences. But still, Miller and Durrell are as distinct from each other as their writing. Miller's talk is unadorned, always quizzical and avoiding the subject of literature. His face is made more austere by the skullcap he wears at his writing desk; his age evident only in the way his tallness is equivocated by a stoop at the shoulders. Durrell seems all torso -- and one's first impression of him is a flow of bright, brittle language, an English accent laced with French words for emphasis.

All that's left for me now is to read one of Larry Durrell's books.

Ten years ago today, my guest columnist slot at the New Albany Tribune was just beginning.

Sept. 30, 2010. Dalby needed a thesaurus.

No sooner than I'd finished a tweet about the newspaper's unvarying roster of older white male guest columnists than I started laughing from the belly up, because once upon a time I was one of them.

In fact, today is the 10th anniversary of my announcement in this space, which is reprinted below. My first column in the now defunct New Albany Tribune appeared in January, 2009.

From the very beginning, I referred to it as "Beer Money," followed by the title of the specific piece. Regrettably, the newspaper never found the humor in these words. "Beer Money" was Bluegill's suggestion, one made after I griped about the pay scale, and he observed that it still was enough pocket change to buy beer.

My gig as a columnist lasted until early 2011. When I filed to run for city council at-large, the column was put on hiatus; Kozarovich made it clear that if I lost, the column would return, and I did, but it didn't.

In the interim, the Tribune's merger with the Evening News had occurred. Kozarovich departed, and the new management wasn't entirely honest with me in terms of future writing prospects, but that's an instance of water under the proverbial bridge. Still, while few in number, my grudges are carefully crafted to last decades.

What the declining newspaper needs at present is a more diverse roster of columnists. It doesn't need any more old white guys like me. We need black, Hispanic, LGBTQIA+ and youthful voices. I don't expect innovation to happen, because upper management at the newspaper is milquetoast, direly committed to the flavorless pablum of low common denominators.

They play a prevent defense when what's needed is a full-court press. Me thinks I'll stay right where I am, giving the pot an occasional stir and doing what the merged newspaper can't ... or won't.


New Tribune guest columnist in January. (December 8, 2008)

Last Friday afternoon I met with Steve Kozarovich, publisher of the New Albany Tribune, and agreed to write a 900-word column on a weekly basis, beginning Thursday, January 8, and running on Thursdays thereafter. It is a (modest) for-pay gig, joining paid columns I write biweekly for LEO and quarterly for Food and Dining magazine.

This announcement is provided as a courtesy to the publisher, who now has the opportunity to begin fielding complaints before the column actually appears.

The column will be of general interest, including beer, travel, local events, and plenty of atheistic, progressive, left-wing rabble rousing. It seems the advent of Barack Obama is the perfect time to torment the local yokels in such a fashion. If there aren't periodic letters of outrage emanating from Greenville and Dewey Heights, then I'll not have been doing my job.

I've been writing as much as possible lately, both here and at my other blogs. Part of the reason is the possibility of the column assignment. It's like going into training and building up seldom-used muscles for the task ahead, and similar to spending a year learning to communicate with bankers and others whose dialects are unfamiliar.

After all, there's still a brewery to build. More on that later in the week.

To know me well is to know that the art of communicating through the written word is dear to my heart, and throughout my life, the ability to write has constituted perhaps my most fundamental link to the world outside my consciousness.

There have been written successes and disappointments along the way, but the compulsion has become far clearer to me this past year, as I've actively engaged my upbringing and can see now that my commitment to education and knowledge was a reaction to a blue-collar father whose ability to express emotion was limited primarily to anger and annoyance. My way of rebelling was to become good at the things he wasn't (writing is one) while remaining true to the indignation.

I laughed while writing that, by the way. Like my father before me, expressing irritation has never been a problem for me.

During what has amounted to a professional career in beer, I may have become infamous in other fields, yet writing remains the prime defense mechanisms of choice, and a means of articulating and explaining myself when the spoken word fails.

And, while there has been a love-hate relationship with myself and the newspaper these many years, I can state without hesitation that had the Tribune not improved recently, I wouldn't even consider doing this.

Wish me luck. More importantly, wish me improved work habits. I'm going to need them. When the columns begin flowing, I'll come up with a way to link or reprint them here or elsewhere. Also note that your ideas are appreciated. Ideas hatched here are fair game for exploration and improvisation at newspaper column length.

It's going to be fun.

Friday, December 07, 2018

"Belgium’s revamped Africa Museum is a magnificently bizarre hybrid."

“Colonialism as a system of governance is now considered immoral, authoritarian, racist, based on military occupation and exploitation.”
-- Guido Gryseels

I'm an unrepentant fan of most things Belgian, including beer, food, beercycling and the invention of the saxophone; in a pinch, you can even throw in Jean Claude Van Damme, who was born in Brussels in 1960, 70-odd days after me (in New Albany).

However, the story of Belgium's colonial experience is sad and instructive. It cannot be repeated often enough. King Leopold is one of those nasty historical figures best forgotten, except doing so would risk burying the complete story of his genocidal reign in the Congo.

King Leopold and "The Horrors of Belgium's Congo."

I was unaware that the Royal Museum for Central Africa had undergone an ideological refit. During two or three of my visits to Belgium, I was within range, but wasn't able to seek it out.

Next time, maybe it will be possible.

The struggle to tell the story of colonialism: Belgium’s revamped Africa Museum is a magnificently bizarre hybrid (The Economist)

It is a magnificently bizarre hybrid. Still officially called the Royal Museum for Central Africa, but better known as the Africa Museum, it cannot help but ooze colonial triumphalism, despite recent protestations of egalitarian diversity. Housed in a majestic purpose-built palace 20 minutes’ drive east of Brussels, it stands above a lake amid parkland. Immaculate gravel paths sweep around the site. However radically the interior may have been refashioned to reflect new attitudes to Africa, the grandeur of King Leopold II’s design and the fervour of his desire to promote his imperial venture into the continent’s heart still overwhelm the visitor. The monarch ruled Congo as a private estate nearly 80 times bigger than his European homeland from 1885 until a year before his death in 1909; his double-l motif is embossed on almost every wall and above many an alcove.

Short of knocking the entire edifice flat, the museum’s current regime, run since 2001 by Guido Gryseels, a 66-year-old agricultural expert, has spent the past five years behind closed doors seeking to put a modern imprint on an irredeemably archaic structure. It reopens on December 9th. “We’ll be criticised on both sides,” predicts Mr Gryseels, who, like many modern museum bosses, is perforce a canny diplomat. “For not going far enough and for being too politically correct” ...

One festive afternoon at HWC Engineering's holiday open house.

Lieber Führer visits NAHA, Eiffel Tower: "We're from the government and we're here to help."

Those words in the header are more terrifying than the Gauleiter's sweater, but when you're pulling down the big money, the sty's the limit.

Click this search link  for NA Confidential's observations about the public housing takeover and subsequent colonial administration, in reverse chronological order: New Albany Housing Authority.

Meanwhile, New Albany's corporeal attorney is examining a burning question: Is the city allowed to charge a shit load of pith helmets to its TIF One card, or must campaign donors foot the bill? 


BEER WITH A SOCIALIST: "Upscale microbrew pub franchise" comes to Jeffersonville.

Courtesy of Franchise Gator.

Long live the indies!

Whenever I hear the words "upscale microbrew pub franchise," I reach for Franchise Gator to learn how much it costs to buy into someone else's ideas.

It's not my preference in beer or life, and the older I get, the more often I shrug and yawn, BUT to each his or her own.

As an aside, when Growler USA's corporate HQ speaks of "certified brew specialists," are we to imagine they mean Cicerones? I googled the term, and the only hits I got were from Growler USA.

Growler USA opened in Jeffersonville on Dec. 6.

Craft beer bar and restaurant Growler USA officially opened Thursday, Dec. 6, at 3010 Gottbrath Parkway in Jeffersonville.

The restaurant features more than 100 beers on tap and menu items, including a fried chicken sandwich, skillet mac and cheese with bacon and the Bromance Burger, a burger topped with carnitas, barbecue sauce, bacon and crispy onion.

The Jeffersonville location of the Colorado-based franchise is owned and operated by couple Greg and Laura Brown.

Greg Brown told Insider previously that, despite being a franchise, the design of Growler USA will be customized to fit the region in look. It also will serve about a dozen specialty menu items not found at other stores.

The 4,000-square-foot restaurant seats 150 inside and another 60 on the patio around two fire pits. -- Caitlin Bowling

Rails, trails, holy grails: "That's why we're here," babbles Gahan about yet another once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to economically develop others at his own city's expense.

This one is bizarre even by News and Tribune standards: New Albany mayor, redevelopment official debate benefits of Rails to Trails project (see excerpt below).

The header suggests an actual debate between public officials, but it isn't really a debate, which as we know Jeff Gahan avoids like the proverbial plague, and seeing as Gahan and Scott Stewart weren't actually in the same room.

Can you even begin imagining how intimidated the small town huckster Gahan is by Stewart's career and life experience? The mayor probably keeps a voodoo doll of Stewart in his municipal-issue SUV.

Stewart patiently makes actual arguments about costs, benefits, wants and needs, while Gahan repeats his painstakingly memorized "gotta act fast right now" mantra, over and over, which reminds me of a story about Joe Stalin's parrot.

Stalin was so paranoid he suspected his pet parrot of deviant tendencies when it imitated his crude spitting; he purged it with a death blow from his pipe.

Morris' piece comes off as a reluctant cut 'n' paste job, with the critical question yet again going unasked:

Why these pyrotechnics about a vague rails-to-trails pointed at Bedford when job one for New Albany should be connecting the Greenway to the North Side, which would be a project benefiting city residents and not outsiders?

Fortunately the article includes inadvertent hilarity.

Ever diligent when it comes to preserving his lifetime sinecure, John "Pinocchio" Rosenbarger falls over himself to effusively agree with the mayor, and yet it is Rosenbarger himself who has spent years making n excellent case for the potential usefulness of a link from downtown to IU Southeast using the CSX rail line -- which interests Dear Leader not one jot.

For Rosenbarger to be absolutely right about anything occurs once "every three or four lifetimes," and yet his long-term point about connecting downtown and the north side is spot on. Now he has abandoned it, tossed right down the toilet in his eagerness to bow in the general direction of whomever signs his paychecks.

We mustn't forget: Whenever the mayor opens his mouth, follow the money -- and, perhaps in this instance, his ambition. If we are to take the most optimistic scenario, Gahan's rails-to-trails fetish would leave the city of New Albany with 2-3 miles of a campaign talking point in the form of a pathway to elsewhere, with elsewhere and others paying most of the costs. 

Thus far, Gahan has expended more hyperbole on the rails-to-trail's benefit to the region than his own city, as if he is playing to a larger audience, seeking to be the Mayor of Southern Indiana.

Cash and ego? That's why he's here. We can do something about that.


New Albany mayor, redevelopment official debate benefits of Rails to Trails project
, by Chris Morris (Tom May Biblical Odyssey)

NEW ALBANY — Scott Stewart said the Rails to Trails proposal sounds intriguing, and admits the idea looks good on paper.

However, as a member of the New Albany Redevelopment Commission, Stewart voted no on hiring Indianapolis law firm Faegre Baker Daniels (FBD) to assist with advancing the Rails to Trails project. The measure passed 4-1 recently with FBD being paid $125,000 for its services.

The Rails to Trails initiative would replace abandoned CSX train tracks that run 63 miles — starting just north of the new Sazerac facility (at the former Pillsbury Plant) in New Albany and ending near Bedford.

Stewart said there are only so many redevelopment dollars available, and he would like to see the money used to benefit New Albany residents. He said connecting neighborhoods and making them more walkable is something he supports.

"When you look at New Albany, we have wonderful neighborhoods and downtown, there is the Greenway .... there is a lot to build on," he said. "I would like to see safe pathways for cyclists and walkers."

Stewart said developing Rails to Trails would cost millions and while FBD may help secure some state funding, those dollars will be capped leaving the city and other communities along the trail responsible to foot the bill.

"It faces immeasurable challenges. The financial commitment is significant," Stewart said of the idea. "It just didn't makes sense to me.

"Where does it go from here? There is a much bigger potential to distract scarce resources from our neighborhoods and business districts. I am interested in taking care of New Albany first. This is a discussion of a difference in priorities."

Thursday, December 06, 2018

ON THE AVENUES: Straight tickets, unsociable media and whether Democrats should rally around Gahan's gallows pole.


A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

The Kool-Aid vats have been emptied, and the only remaining trace of the homegrown Rice Krispies Treats is an oily patina of weedy redolence emanating from the unwashed Tupperware.

It must be time again to review ancient history, so let’s jump into the scrum to the accompaniment of dulcet tones.

All the way back on November 6 -- one whole month ago! -- the Floyd County Democratic Party absorbed its third consecutive electoral contraction. Mayor Jeff Gahan and an increasingly motley crew of four city council men (alas, no women allowed) are the party’s last line of defense in terms of elected officials.

Those sycophants and lickspittles appointed to populate boards and to staff municipal bailiwicks stand forlornly like so many dominoes, ready to be toppled if anyone from either party whose name isn’t “Gahan” becomes mayor in 2020.

It’s not unlike the Alamo, albeit a last-ditch bastion filled with bureaucratic functionaries and dull time-servers, rather than fabled action heroes like Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie.

But David Bowie had a song about heroes, and here’s another of his numbers, as channeled by Nirvana.

Who knows? Not me
We never lost control
You're face to face
With the man who sold the world

Or, in the case of New Albany, the mayor who sold the city – to special interests. More on that in a moment, but first, a new episode of “Why We Fight (on Social Media)”.


A few days ago I wandered sleepily into a real-life friend’s Facebook rant, wherein it was being asserted that local Democrats now are obliged to rally around Gahan and bolster our dear leader, assisting him in selflessly playing the part of flawless standard bearer.

I was reminded of statements read over the loudspeakers at mandatory public assembles, various loving paeans to Leonid Brezhnev, Benito Mussolini or Alfredo Stroessner: “Loyal drones, we must come together and vote straight Democratic Party tickets in the 2019 general election, because while it’s true that straight party tickets are pure and unmitigated evil, this isn’t the case when Democrats do it.”

In retrospect, a meme posted a few days earlier by this very same friend should have served as ample warning.

Gads! Seems the wayback machine had transported me all the way back to 1861. The Alamo or Fort Sumter; same difference.

With this rant kicking around in my cranium, I paused to brush my teeth and prepare an espresso, then got down to the task of a brief and gentle rebuttal, which I imagined would segue into a discussion.

The first problem is that simultaneously condemning and advocating straight ticket voting simply isn’t rational. It it’s bad, then it’s bad for both parties, not just one of them.

Furthermore, there is no such thing as straight ticket voting in a primary election, which will occur in May. David White is opposing Gahan for the nomination, and consequently, it is premature to jump to November when the next chronological step comes in May.

And, if White beats Gahan, wouldn’t Democrats just as readily rally around him?

Finally, seeing as my friend and I have spoken often about the importance of local elections as indicative of non-partisan grassroots issues, demanding competent individuals irrespective of party affiliations, I was compelled to make a more personal point.

Namely, hadn’t we both competed for local office as independents (one time each), and hadn’t we done so for the same reason, namely, our complete unalloyed disgust at the unctuous duplicity of Adam Dickey as Floyd County Democratic party chairman?

My friend is a lifelong Democrat, albeit probably perched on the conservative Donnelly wing, but there actually had been a time when he caught a fleeting glimpse of Dickey’s malice-littered reign of error, and the curious fact of him achieving more gains on behalf of Republicans than Democrats.

Consequently I replied to my friend’s Facebook rant with what I naively viewed as a conversation starter, only to be “unfriended” within minutes. I waited a few hours, logged into a seldom-used former work account, and confirmed it. He had deleted the original post, and then cancelled me.

It’s sad, although as with any manifestation of increasingly unsocial media, it would be a mistake to draw too many conclusions from this single incident. People lose their minds over politics on a daily basis, and maybe he was having a bad day. Probably once each week for the past 35 years I’ve reacted to an event by muttering to myself, “so much for logic,” and this summarizes it for me.

However, it surely suggests the outline of what we’ll see in next year’s general election, as municipal Democrats are urged to combat unholy Republican non-persons who unthinkingly vote straight ticket by morphing into their own android army and unthinkingly voting … that’s right, straight ticket Democratic.

In terms of making New Albany a better place for people who live here, as opposed to special interests located elsewhere, I find this attitude singularly unhelpful, particularly since my friend lives out in the county.


Regular readers already know I’m supporting White in the May primary. Those management-level Democrats currently benefiting from Gahan’s greedy patronage machine will insist that their exalted poo-bah alone is capable of staving off electoral disaster, but of course this is hokum.

For them, disaster is the prospect of losing their cozy billets, and small wonder they’re terrified. There aren’t many available flood control jobs for guys with college degrees in marketing.

Granted, White will be competing against two opponents at once: Gahan as well as Dickey’s upper echelon of management-level Democrats, augmented by the special interest/donor class eager to purchase their next contracts.

But the rank and file cannot vote a straight Gahan/Dickey ticket in the primary. Rather, they must make a choice in a contested race and darken a circle, either Gahan or White. As previously noted, if White wins, shouldn’t the party rally around HIM to stave off those dastardly Republicans?

Merely as an academic exercise, permit me to indulge a brief thought about kitchen cabinets (or, a circle of advisors), which occurred to me in the aftermath of this most recent intemperate Facebook unfriending.

For the sake of the argument, let’s pretend for a moment that next November, voters will be choosing between the Democratic incumbent Gahan and Republican nominee Mark Seabrook.

Who are the people we might expect to advise the next mayor?

In Seabrook’s case, they’d be capable, experienced and intellectually curious people like Ed Clere, Al Knable and Scott Stewart. Diversity would improve this assemblage; still, quite frankly, I can live with this idea.

In Gahan’s case, they’d be … well ... before you say Warren, Shane and the power broker from the HVAC company, consider that the mayor’s kitchen cabinet already isn't as you might think. Yes, surely the usual Democratic Party officials are occasionally consulted, along with the Monetizer Bunny’s current appointees-for-life.

However, given Gahan’s perpetual zeal to self-lubricate in the cash cave, with tens of thousands of dollars pouring in year-round from contractors, engineers, vendors and PACs headquartered elsewhere, haven't we already arrived at a juncture where special interests are calling the shots?

After all, HWC Engineering already functions as deputy mayor. Can a street department worker so much as use the toilet without HWC having a say -- or performing another study?

Only recently Gahan handed HWC money to act as de facto voyeurs; they'll be watching to insure the companies already subsidized to build the Reisz Mahal perform their duties.

Who's watching HWC?

There you have it. My friend believes local Democrats should rally around Gahan, but if greed, corruption and malevolence are the objectives, shouldn’t they be declaring for Donald Trump?


Recent columns:

November 29: ON THE AVENUES: "That's why I voted no," explains Scott Stewart, pausing to duck rocks feebly lobbed by Team Gahan's propaganda pygmies.

November 22: ON THE AVENUES: A few thanks to give before we return to our regular anti-anchor resistance programming.

November 15: ON THE AVENUES: Notes on Solidarity after a visit to the European Solidarity Centre in Gdansk.

November 1: ON THE AVENUES: Three books by Polish writers.

Speed Thought Control: Board of Works, city engineer still unable to grasp reality when it comes to speedway street grid dangers, so they spout meaningless drivel.

Team Gahan can be like a pile of wet rags. It can also be like a cat.

There are a number of reasons cats arch their backs, but here are the three main ones ... first is that of the fear aggressor. In this classic Halloween pose, a cat arches his back and shows piloerection (i.e., his hair stands straight up) as a way of making himself look bigger when confronted with danger. When a cat looks like this, he is basically saying, “I’m scared of you but I’m ready to defend myself if you come any closer.” The cat may also make it clear that he’s ready to defend himself by doing things like growling, hissing, spitting and showing his teeth. If you encounter a cat giving this display, the best response is to slowly back away and give the cat his space.

Just like at this week's Bored with Public Works and Safety meeting, from which we learn that one whole year after erecting completely useless, HWC Engineering-inspired crosswalk signals-to-drivers-to-maim-pedestrians, the city now proposes to make a helpful instructional video. Let's hope drivers watch it BEFORE hopping into their speeding cars.

Does HWC get the contract for the video, too?

It's awesome the way the city's expert functionaries are questioned, and ZOOM -- up go their backs. Meanwhile, the stenographer Chris Morris still refuses to question the bilge spewed at him from all directions.

Please, Bill, may we have a reporter who possesses a minuscule iota of intellectual curiosity about the planet?

Seriously, can it get any dumber than this?

I'm not sure whose eyeballs city engineers Larry Summers is using when he surveys supposedly obvious "reduction in speed" on Spring Street, but isn't it inadvertently hilarious that in the immediate aftermath of the story related here ...

GREEN MOUSE SAYS: The curious case of the speeding ticket, the honest cop, his fuming chief and the city's abject failure to calm downtown traffic.

... we now have "evidence" in the form of droll claims that fewer speeding tickets have been issued, when in fact the police department vastly curtailed its usual downtown speed traps after two-way streets were implemented -- and rightly so, this being one objective of proper design to reduce speed, which we largely failed to put into place out of political squeamishness, if not stupidity.

Yes: the cops can't write tickets when they're not monitoring speed, can they?

The police presence became noticeable only AFTER neighborhood residents complained to BOW, only to be told smugly that city officials who never walk the streets are a far better judge of such matters than people who live astride them.

Anyone seen my pitchfork?

It's been an utter fiasco, and City Hall remains in a Orwellian state of institutional denial and serial tone deafness. The only sensible thought uttered by any of the officials quoted in the article below is this, from Al Knable:

"I am for whatever works to slow traffic.

Exactly. Shouldn't each of them, mayor and minions, begin any instance of commenting about speed and safety with an affirmation of this simple, single objective?

Shouldn't they be fighting to implement safety measures, rather than making the sort of "we can't do nuthin' at all" excuses, just like this oldie but still goodie:

Summers said he does not think a stop sign or signal can be installed at Fourth and Spring because a traffic count would not warrant one. He said there is not enough traffic on any of the side streets, off of Spring, that would require a stop sign.

Jeeebus, Larry: then conduct the fucking traffic count as a prelude, and if the state's cars-first standards aren't serving the cause of walkable street grid safety, can't we fight against THEM, to do what's right for US, rather than dismissing safety because enhancing safety is too much trouble?

Ah, but wait. 

We'd have to consult with Republicans like Ed Clere to do that, wouldn't we?

And that's why we don't bother fighting for safe streets, isn't it?

Our New Gahanian milieu may be comprised of counter-productive anti-intellectual squalor, but it's our DEMOCRATIC PARTY's counter-productive anti-intellectual squalor. If New Albany can only be as bright as its leading elements, then literally, we're a place where the sun don't shine.


Speed Control: New Albany collecting Spring Street speed, by Chris Morris (Tom May's Summa Theologica)

NEW ALBANY — One of the reasons the city of New Albany converted Spring Street to two-way traffic last year was to control speed. And for the most part, it has worked.

Instead of three lanes of traffic heading in one direction, Spring Street was cut down to two lanes going east and west. It's obvious traffic moves at a slower pace from Vincennes to State Street.

"I know from talking to the police chief that traffic tickets along there are down significantly. People are not going as fast as they used to," Larry Summers, New Albany city engineer, said. "If you just eyeball it you can see a marked reduction in speed."

But there are still issues with speed along that stretch of Spring, and following the death of skateboarder Matthew Brewer, who was struck by a minivan at Spring and Ninth streets in August, residents came before the New Albany Board of Public Works & Safety pleading that something be done to make the street safer.

The city decided to collect speed data to see if more needs to be done.

This week, crews will begin setting up six radar detector signs, three in each direction. Data will be collected for a month and motorists will be able to see how fast they are traveling once the signs are turned on. Summers hopes it's a wakeup call for some motorists who drive down Spring without paying attention to speed limit signs. Once the data is analyzed, the city will decide its next move.

"When we did the two-way conversion project we said we wanted to do further analysis on the grid," Summers said. "This is a continuation of that in some regards. Speed reduction is very important. We want to make this more of a walkable community."

The radar detector signs will be similar to the ones along McDonald Lane. Paul Lincks, with HWC Engineering, said signs will be placed eastbound near Fourth and Ninth streets, and between 11th and 13th streets. Westbound, signs also will go up between 11th and 13th streets, beyond Ninth Street and before Fifth Street.

Lincks said the radar detector signs should produce results city officials are hoping to achieve when it comes to analyzing speed.

"Let's get the data, look at it, and go from there," he said. "We will be able to compare the speeds cars are traveling to the speed limit to see what is going on."

New Albany City Councilman Al Knable said converting Spring Street to two-way traffic was done to make it less of a thoroughfare, and more of a neighborhood street.

"At times people are still treating it like a thoroughfare," Knable said. "I am for whatever works to slow traffic. I hope this will give us meaningful data to see what the next step might be."

Summers, who lives along Spring Street, believes motorists will pay attention to the speed signs.

"People drive distracted. I hope this is something that gets their attention," he said.


Ron Howard knows exactly how to make Spring Street safer, he said. For starters, he would place a four-way stop at Fourth and Spring, at the New Albany Fire Headquarters and Sweet Stuff Bakery. He said motorists on Fourth, looking to cross Spring Street, can not see traffic in either direction when cars are parked along the street. He said they have to cover the crosswalk and almost get out into Spring Street to see if it's safe to cross.

"Your direct line of sight is blocked when cars are parked along the street," he said. "You would have to do away with parking there. It would take a minimum of four spaces and I don't think the bakery would like that. I don't see any other way but to put a stop sign there unless you put up a traffic signal."

Howard said making Fourth and Spring a four-way stop would cost "next to nothing."

"The only way to get out there [on Spring] is to ignore the crosswalk," he said. "You are blind in both directions. It seems to me the safest thing to do."

Others have also suggested putting in a four-way stop and 13th and Elm streets to slow traffic.

Summers said he does not think a stop sign or signal can be installed at Fourth and Spring because a traffic count would not warrant one. He said there is not enough traffic on any of the side streets, off of Spring, that would require a stop sign.


Summers said the city plans to release a video on its website to educate the public on the new crosswalk signals that were put in when Spring Street was converted to two-way.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

NA Confidential's Top Ten list of most-viewed November 2018 posts -- with an asterisk.

Top story when it came, and also when it went.

Thanks for reading NA Confidential, where we enjoy reconnoitering the neglected periphery for uniquely local perspectives on life in New Albany. November's list of most-viewed posts requires an explanation.

At the end of October, users of the Blogger platform started reporting a sudden drop in blog traffic. Blogger emitted its usual "we're investigating" noises, but perhaps the best explanation I've seen follows.

The reason why I know it's the best? Because I don't understand a single word. If you do, can you provide a translation?

The recent change to "HTTPS" has affected a few blogs. With your blog being accessed using "HTTPS", it has to be re indexed by the search engines.

While it's being re indexed, its search reputation is lower, and you see less search related traffic. You're not the only person experiencing the pain. I check my blog daily - and see disappointment 6 days out of 7 / week.

You're going to have to do this some time - as will every other blog owner. Everybody will experience this pain - either now, or later. Don't look for the option to publish "HTTP" much longer. Sometime soon, "HTTPS" won't be optional.

The November most-viewed list begins with ten "honorable mention" posts, before concluding with the Top Ten, escalating to No. 1. This month, the statistics are derived from an informal survey of Facebook numbers, which roughly correlate with the skewed Google readings. In short, this looks about right, and this time I'm ranking them by number.




Following the money: HWC Engineering made city streets even safer for speeding cars. Now the company will oversee the Reisz Mahal. Can campaign donations be far behind?

It appears that municipal corporate attorney and chief sluice greaser Gibson was misquoted.

WAS: "They (HWC) will make sure what we bought is what we will get."

CORRECTED: "They (HWC) will make sure a percentage of what the city bought lands in the mayor's campaign finance account."



Junk? Big Wally makes it go away, just like David Copperfield. The result is angioplasty for our garage.

Accept no substitutes: Big Wally is THE MAN. Two years of collected junk from basement, home and garage, all gone in an hour. All I did is blow out the dust.



"Meet the Fatbergs: Digging into the science of three cities’ sewer-clogging blobs."



Come what may, I gotta be me.

During our time in Gdansk, the Confidentials spent much time talking about current events, whether they pertain to the planet, our country, this city or ourselves. Our inescapable conclusion is one of transition. Old realities always yield to new ones, but it seems the process is particularly acute at the moment. Maybe it's always been.

I've spent much time lately agonizing publicly about where this blog has been, and where it's going. There's no need to revisit these ruminations, apart from saying there's a tightrope I've been walking; where it leads is anyone's guess, and all I know for sure is I can't go backward.



Flight documentaries: An indispensable documentary about Mick Ronson, the under-appreciated guitarist and arranger for David Bowie.

I readily concede to being only a lukewarm aficionado of David Bowie, but an addiction to music magazines during the early 1970s has assured my lasting familiarity (and belated listening) with Bowie, Mick Ronson, the Spiders from Mars, Mott the Hoople, T. Rex, and the other "glam" period British acts that so influenced personal fave, Def Leppard.



GREEN MOUSE SAYS: The curious case of the speeding ticket, the honest cop, his fuming chief and the city's abject failure to calm downtown traffic.

Let's hope the officer in question, whose inadvertent honesty is appreciated in dissident circles, isn't cashiered. We're already short on police man (and woman) staffing, aren't we? It's a shame available officers are used at speed traps when properly implemented street design might have turned the trick.



What's a Parking Benefits District? DNA needs to pay more attention to matters that pertain to merchants.

"Several cities across the country have begun implementing alternative parking management strategies to ensure more convenient curbside on-street parking through better pricing. A Parking Benefit District (PBD) is an emerging strategy that uses better pricing to reduce the negative effects of parking and reinvests the increased revenue into improving the area streets and sidewalks."



ON THE AVENUES: A few thanks to give before we return to our regular anti-anchor resistance programming.

Legacies needn’t depend on wealth. They’re about doing what you can, while you can, as best you can, and producing a body of work impervious to calculations of interest, percentages and historical revisionism. Twenty years on, if someone smiles because they recall good times at the pub, then it’s the best return on my time and investment.



It's the design, stupid: Months too late, but now the city will deploy speed radar detector signs on Spring Street, so as to collect information fundamentally flawed by the mere presence of the detectors.

Back down here in the flood plain, City Hall's two-way grid design changed nothing apart from direction; the new street design continues to produce traffic speeds that are unsafe -- people actually die from it and not a soul employed by the city will address this fact -- and now we erect speed radar detector signs as some sort of compensation, presumably in the hope that the sight of these detectors will itself reduce speeds enough to declare victory ... or give another contract to HWC.

I'll repeat again: every bit of this is perfectly obvious to anyone who spends 15 minutes on foot or riding a bicycle in the vicinity of Spring Street. And yet something this simple continues to elude the professional monetization class in this city.



Facade improvement: New windows coming to 102 E. Market (Todd Coleman's Classic Home Furnishings).



New Albany has a pro basketball player right now: Braydon Hobbs, playing in Germany for FC Bayern München.

As it turns out, one of FC Bayern's players is 29-year-old Braydon Hobbs, a New Albanian basketballer made good, who enjoyed outstanding careers at New Albany High School and Bellarmine University before heading overseas in 2012 to begin playing pro ball.



No blue wave, but white flags aplenty as the GOP dominates Floyd County in mid-term elections. Time yet for heads to roll?

Dickey has presided over an escalating series of electoral disasters, and no human should be automatically gifted with ongoing tenure based on failure. Undoubtedly Dickey's resignation would be refused, because the party seems to believe it possesses no other subalterns capable of stepping into his shoes. However, we all might be surprised. They're actually there, just overshadowed by Dickey's staggering ineptitude.



The Urbanophile nails it: "Louisville Bridges Project Is the Biggest Transportation Boondoggle of the 21st Century."

"The end result was even worse than I anticipated. The project has proven to be a money waster of the highest order, and in fact by far the biggest American transportation boondoggle I can identify in the 21st century so far."



Anna Murray's amazing post-election statement.

"People are actively suppressing their ability to feel compassion- making fun of it by calling us snowflakes. Responding to expressions of genuine concern with hateful name-calling. Well what some perceive as our greatest weakness is actually our greatest strength. It's that thing that makes us human and differentiates us from machines. The ability to care and love and spread joy and to be able to acknowledge the suffering of others is what makes life worth living. We are more than consumers and there is more to life than just hoarding your wealth and buying new things. We are people and it's time for us to start living with respect for each other and respect for the planet."



Centenary adaptive reuse: "What about a homeless shelter?"

We must remember that City Hall as presently occupied will not publicly acknowledge the existence of unsightliness, whether homelessness, hunger or opioid addiction. The mayor believe irrefutable truth reflects badly on his hermetic "special interests first" kingdom, and so he stares resolutely in the opposite direction. Take the proposition to the city's top leaders, and boutique hotel wins in a landslide.



Dumping in alleys is another reason why we can't have nice things.

We've been open at Pints&union since August, and I've lost count of the number of times garbage has been dumped in the alley to the left of our front door. Kudos to the city's ordinance enforcement guys, who were there bright and early this morning to take a look. I'm no fan of surveillance cameras from a civil liberties perspective, but this ongoing issue suggests an exception might be due.



ON THE AVENUES: "That's why I voted no," explains Scott Stewart, pausing to duck rocks feebly lobbed by Team Gahan's propaganda pygmies.

Isn't shaming the Republican Stewart the sort of thing for the Floyd County Democratic Party's disinformation outlets, as opposed to the city's? Party chairman Dickey's already doing it regularly for the Democrats, isn't he -- even if it didn't avert a third consecutive electoral meltdown earlier this month?

Surely it's a coincidence that Dickey enjoys a lifetime sinecure at the Redevelopment Commission.



Centenary United Methodist Church, downtown -- it's half a city block, now up for sale.



Shawn and Ann Carruthers "foster unity and cohesiveness in Southern Indiana."

We get too few feel-good stories amid the local political scene. This is one of them.



Gospel Bird will close: "I've begun the process of an exit plan to start winding down Gospel Bird and set an exact closing date."

"I've decided it's in the best interest of my family in time of need, my children, my mental health, quality of life, and my staff, to simplify some things in my life. I've begun the process of an exit plan to start winding down Gospel Bird and set an exact closing date."

Big thanks to the New Albany Street Department for cleaning the P&u alley.

To repeat: Hearty thanks to the New Albany Street Department for giving the P&u alley a good cleaning.

Regular readers will recall that we had an unsightly dumping issue in this alley just before the Thanksgiving holiday.

Dumping in alleys is another reason why we can't have nice things.

The garbage, furniture and all-purpose mess that had been piled up against Stephen Beardsley's properties on the east side of the alley stayed right there, moldering, until the high-traffic holiday weekend was over, a period that included the Saturday of Jingle Walk.

The timing couldn't have been worse. Only after the Thanksgiving weekend had concluded, very early on the following Monday morning, did much (though not all) of the trash get hauled away. We're not sure who to thank for this.

However, before it was collected, I put on a pair of work gloves and sifted through the debris, sleuthing. It will suffice to say that the origins of the nastiness were obvious.

That's all I'll say -- for now.

Gradually the falling leaves and waste materials started piling up again. Joe called the Street Department, and workers policed the area today before lunch. It looks great, and kudos to the crew. We really appreciate their efforts.

As noted earlier in the week, changes are being made in the vicinity.

The Root coworking space begins as a previously neglected half-block emerges.

Things are different now, and I'm hoping that past behaviors are subject to modification. We're doing what we can to keep the alley tidy, and we have our own dedicated dumpster.

That's a hint.

Spongebuild Squareparts: "I think accountants are designing these buildings.”

It is a recurring question.

Why do all new apartment buildings look the same? by Patrick Sisson (Curbed)

The bland, boxy apartment boom is a design issue, and a housing policy problem

A wave of sameness has washed over new residential architecture. U.S. cities are filled with apartment buildings sporting boxy designs and somewhat bland facades, often made with colored panels and flat windows.

Due to an Amazon-fueled apartment construction boom over the last decade, Seattle has been an epicenter of this new school of structural simulacra. But Seattle is not alone. Nearly every city, from Charlotte to Minneapolis, has seen a proliferation of homogenous apartments as construction has increased again in the wake of the financial recession.

This is hilarious.

A Twitter query seeking to name this ubiquitous style was a goldmine. Some suggestions seemed inspired by the uniformity of design in computer programs and games: Simcityism, SketchUp contemporary, Minecraftsman, or Revittecture. Some took potshots at the way these buildings looked value-engineered to maximize profit: Developer modern, McUrbanism, or fast-casual architecture. Then there are the aesthetic judgement calls: contemporary contempt, blandmarks, LoMo (low modern), and Spongebuild Squareparts.

Getting down to the particle board of the matter:

Good architecture should always respond to the local context. In the case of these buildings, the local economic context just happens to be the same in just about every major U.S. city.

“Critics don’t understand what we’re working with, the parameters and the financial constraints,” says Black. “It’s like any other business: If you’re selling autos or selling widgets, there are certain costs, and a certain profit you need to make to do business in the future.”

Mike Moore is running up the score on our hapless City Hall team.

From 2016.

In one week's time, the mayors of Jeffersonville and New Albany each made a marquee announcement. These bookends are tremendously revealing in terms of fundamental political differences in the two communities.

Mayor Mike Moore aimed high with his "Jeffersonville’s Promise," described by the newspaper as "a program that will offer qualified Jeff High students a full-tuition scholarship to attend Ivy Tech in Sellersburg."

Indeed, the devil lurks in dozens of details, and yet Moore's program is revolutionary by Southern Indiana standards. Instead of producing bright, shiny objects for the adoration of a demographic just like his, Moore seeks to use economic development funds for the purpose of developing PEOPLE -- economically.

As Bluegill observed: "Investing TIF dollars in people. What a concept." For the newspaper's positive assessment of Moore's vision, go here: Promise will improve lives and workforce.

Meanwhile, New Albany mayor Jeff Gahan busily touted a redevelopment department expenditure to fund an Indianapolis law firm's (and frequent campaign donor's) participation in another recreational project -- in essence, hundreds of thousands of dollars to build a two-mile path straight out of the city, all the while refusing to discuss the utility of connecting this next greatest panacea to the existing Greenway.

Last week's ON THE AVENUES column has the story: "That's why I voted no," explains Scott Stewart, pausing to duck rocks feebly lobbed by Team Gahan's propaganda pygmies.

As Bluegill again correctly noted:

In which Scott Stewart starts thinking publicly and is immediately singled out and ostracized. For those of you still insisting on silly party-based scorekeeping, that’s two days in a row that a Southern Indiana Republican has made New Albany Mayor Gahan and mostly Democratic minions look like the mouth-breathers they are.

How very true ... and how very, very sad.