Monday, October 16, 2017

Be careful what you wish for: "The President Pence Delusion," including a pivotal cameo by a New Albanian we all know.


Absolutely vital reading in The New Yorker. It is impossible to summarize several thousand words with just one paragraph. I've chosen to highlight the essay's conclusion.

But you're curious aren't you?

Well, if you want to know which New Albanian was interviewed for the article, you'll just have to go look for yourself.

The President Pence Delusion, by Jane Mayer (The New Yorker)

Trump’s critics yearn for his exit. But Mike Pence, the corporate right’s inside man, poses his own dangers.

... Many Americans have debated whether the country would be better off with Pence as President. From a purely partisan viewpoint, Harold Ickes, a longtime Democratic operative, argues that—putting aside the fear that Trump might start a nuclear war—“Democrats should hope Trump stays in office,” because he makes a better foil, and because Pence might work more effectively with Congress and be more successful at advancing the far right’s agenda. Newt Gingrich predicts that Pence will probably get a chance to do so. “I think he’s the most likely Republican nominee in 2024,” he said. Ron Klain, who was chief of staff to the former Vice-President Joe Biden, is skeptical of this, given Trump’s accumulating baggage. “There is no success for Mike Pence unless Trump works—he cannot run far enough or fast enough to not get hit by the falling tree,” Klain said. “But he may think he can.” Evidently, the next chapter is on Pence’s mind. Over the fireplace in the Vice-President’s residence, he has hung a plaque with a passage from the Bible: “ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the lord, ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ”

Duggins is holding an NAHA meeting today - maybe at 4:00, or 5:30, or whenever the mechanic is finished with his bulldozer's tune-up.


See it here.

If you're a Democrat, and it's still difficult for you to imagine Donald Trump in the Oval Office, don't forget that your nominally democratic mayor placed David Duggins in charge of real living people in public housing.

It's like Homer Simpson in a nuclear plant, just without the laughs.

Is Duggins still being paid two salaries, one at NAHA and another at Redevelopment?

MUST LISTEN: This brilliant podcast exposes Jeff Gahan's public housing putsch for what it is, and that's sheer "Let's Pretend We're Democrats" class war brutality.

The guy's right; real journalism is the necessary antidote to our bullshitter in chief, whether his name is Trump or Gahan.




Forget party labels. As far as I'm concerned, they're interchangeable, and while the author's analysis of journalism's abdication of duty has more to do with television than print, it's easy to see how Jeff Gahan's ad expenditures in the News and Tribune have a magical way of shielding him from scrutiny.

Cutting to the chase ...

Truth and Lies in the Trump Era, by Charles Lewis (The Nation)

Real journalism is the necessary antidote to our bullshitter in chief.

... Yet Trump’s serial lying hasn’t brought him down—at least not yet. How is that possible? And what does that tell us about how to proceed?

The explanation begins with my own profession. If the press had been doing its job during the 2016 campaign rather than chasing revenues, Trump might well not be president today. Instead, a mutually beneficial symbiosis developed between candidate Trump and America’s media, especially television. The resulting news coverage—if one can call it “news”—obscured the fact that Trump had a habit of saying things that were spectacularly untrue. Perhaps the most egregious example was the media’s silence about Trump championing the slander that Barack Obama hadn’t been born in the United States and therefore wasn’t a legitimate president. Trump’s years of repeating that discredited, racist accusation was what attracted the initial core of hard-right voters whose support he later rode to victory in the Republican primaries. When Trump was shrewd enough to stop repeating it on the campaign trail, news organizations let him get away with the dodge instead of pressing him to explain himself.

Trump’s bravado undeniably attracted public attention, which in turn ignited the profit lust of TV networks. “It may not be good for America,” said CBS chief executive Leslie Moonves of the nonstop, uncritical coverage that his network gave Trump’s speeches, “but it’s damn good for CBS.” Candidate Trump received $5.6 billion in “free earned media…more than Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio combined,” according to a report by the data-tracking firm mediaQuant. That massive amount of free coverage—advertising, really—helped Trump gain an electoral momentum that proved unstoppable.

Trump also benefited from what amounted to a 24/7 cheerleading squad at Fox News, by far the loudest media voice during the 2016 campaign. (According to a Pew Research survey, 19 percent of all voters named Fox News as their main source of campaign news—well ahead of other TV outlets and even Facebook.) Not even the Access Hollywood video in which Trump boasted about grabbing women’s genitals seemed to faze Fox. Thus, a sizable portion of the American electorate heard little negative about candidate Trump and was inoculated against the critical news reported elsewhere. In effect, these voters were making their presidential choice on the basis of inaccurate or woefully incomplete information.

Beyond political ideology, a lust for profit has led hundreds of media outlets to downplay political news in general. Local TV, which is where most Americans get their news, has increasingly ignored electoral campaigns. Why? To compel the candidates to appear in commercials instead if they want to reach voters, thus generating millions of dollars for the stations. The last nationwide study of this issue, conducted in 2002, found that more than half of local news broadcasts “carried no campaign coverage at all.” Would anyone suggest that this scandalous record has improved over the past 15 years?

The role of a free press in American democracy, as stipulated by the nation’s founders, is to inform the people and hold the powerful to account. But much of the media has abandoned these ideals in recent decades. News has become a form of entertainment, while too many journalists are adversarial only about relatively trivial matters such as sex scandals, ignoring fundamental abuses of the public purse and trust.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

All together now: "Life Returns to Normal" for eleven and a half months.


Now if we can just do something about Halloween.

"End of the Road"? Keep the drivers, just ditch the vehicles.


It makes me nostalgic for railroads.

End of the Road, by Dominic Rushe (The Guardian)

Will automation put an end to the American trucker?

Jeff Baxter’s sunflower-yellow Kenworth truck shines as bright and almost as big as the sun. Four men clean the glistening cab in the hangar-like truck wash at Iowa 80, the world’s largest truck stop.

Baxter has made a pitstop at Iowa 80 before picking up a 116ft-long wind turbine blade that he’s driving down to Texas, 900 miles away.

Baxter, 48, is one of the 1.8 million Americans, mainly men, who drive heavy trucks for a living, the single most common job in many US states. Driving is one of the biggest occupations in the world. Another 1.7 million people drive taxis, buses and delivery vehicles in the US alone. But for how long? Having “disrupted” industries including manufacturing, music, journalism and retail, Silicon Valley has its eyes on trucking.

Google, Uber, Tesla and the major truck manufacturers are looking to a future in which people like Baxter will be replaced – or at the very least downgraded to co-pilots – by automated vehicles that will save billions but will cost millions of jobs. It will be one of the biggest changes to the jobs market since the invention of the automated loom – challenging the livelihoods of millions across the world.

Curbside Solutions: NA may or may not have a "parking problem," but this looks like a "parking space" ordinance of some sort.


Up for consideration at next Thursday's city council meeting is G-17-09, An Ordinance Amending City Ordinance §72.01. 3rd district councilman Greg Phipps is introducing it.

The amended passage:

§72.01 OWNER'S RESPONSIBILITY FOR ILLEGAL PARKING

Amended Version to Include

No person shall knowingly allow, permit or suffer any vehicle registered in his or her name to stand or park or occupy more than one designated and marked parking space in any street in the city in violation of any ordinances of the city relating to the standing or parking of vehicles.

In the absence of information from my council member, and given that the amended version has added the words "designated and marked," I'm assuming this revision addresses the painting of curbside parking spaces along those streets included in the Downtown Grid Modernization Project.

And, as such, I'm guessing the measure is intended to provide grounds for enforcement against bad actors owners of vehicles like this one.




If so ... cool.

My letter to the chain newspaper about atheism.


A nice, tight, 250-word summary of what occurred to me when I was told that Christian advocacy in a newspaper makes sense because Christians read it. Obviously, by this logic, there should be columns for every sort of personal quirk, from fishing to vegetarians to bondage fetishism.  

---

Subtle bigotry against atheists is still discrimination

Figures vary, but nine of ten Americans might believe in God. At least that’s what they say when asked. Many of these believers are Christian.

If another recent study is accurate, 69% of view a belief in God as necessary to be a genuine American.

This is highly disconcerting. Throughout history, atheists have been subject to criticism, persecution and at times overt eradication at the hands of believers of all faiths.

At the very least, atheists often experience a more subtle form of bigotry. For instance, a survey showed more than 30% of respondents preferring atheists be banned from the teaching profession.

Insecurity, intolerance and outright humbuggery always have been regrettable components of human society, and while majoritarian disapproval of atheism isn’t (yet) comparable to racism, sexism and other forms of institutionalized violence, it represents a form of discrimination characterized by ignorance, and one deserving of periodic counterpoint.

The News and Tribune sees fit to publish not one, but two Christian advocacy columns on a weekly basis. When I made my dismay known in a social media comment, I was told by a reporter that this makes perfect sense because many readers are Christians.

Interestingly, research published in the archive of the Society for the Improvement of Psychological Science suggests that more Americans (and newspaper readers) are atheists than may seem apparent, perhaps as many as 25 – 30%.

That’s because the stigma of atheism, as perpetuated by believers, causes many atheists to pretend they’re pious.

How very sad, indeed.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Pleasant Ridge, meet Louisville City FC: "These people having their homes is more important than a soccer stadium."


First a protest by New Albany Housing Authority residents at last Saturday's Harvest Homecoming parade; now the targeted at Pleasant Ridge taking the consciousness-raising across the bridge.

These are interesting times, eh?

Last year John Neace donated to Trey Hollingsworth, a Republican, but the Louisville City FC stadium drive is Greg Fischer's gig, and he is a Democrat (?), as is Jeff Gahan, who idolizes Fischer, and who recently waged a hostile takeover of public housing in New Albany; now the Democrats opposed to Hollingsworth decry the mayor of Charlestown (a Republican) for hopping into bed with Neace, but Gahan gets a free pass for doing the same thing as Bob Hall, because ...

Because why, exactly?

Apart from unalloyed hypocrisy, that is? 

'Better ways to do business': Pleasant Ridge residents protest LouCity FC chairman at game, by Grace Schneider (Courier-Journal)

Nearly two dozen residents of Pleasant Ridge, a neighborhood in Charlestown, Indiana, picketed outside Louisville City FC's Saturday night game to highlight their opposition to the city of Louisville's involvement with team chairman John Neace.

Carrying signs and a banner, residents handed out pamphlets that said Neace "is trying to bulldoze our homes."

They shouted "Go FC" to fans headed into Slugger Field and told them they were there only to protest Neace, the team's biggest investor.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has proposed using a $30-million bond issue to buy property and improve infrastructure in the Butchertown neighborhood east of downtown to assist the stadium project. Metro Council members are scheduled to vote on a bond ordinance Oct. 26.

Maybe those NAHA resident children should consider finding a home in the Floyd County Democratic Party.


Although the costumes being worn on an everyday basis by adult Democratic party members are plenty entertaining, too.


MUST LISTEN: This brilliant podcast exposes Jeff Gahan's public housing putsch for what it is, and that's sheer "Let's Pretend We're Democrats" class war brutality.


NAHA and Pleasant Ridge? They're lookalikes, and it's only a matter of time until Jeff Gahan is exposed to the same scrutiny as Bob Hall.

That's just dandy: Newspaper paywall blocks explanation about paying to avoid newspaper paywall.


You simply can't make this stuff up.

The News and Tribune provides a link to a page breathlessly explaining the new fee 'Bama retiree-mandated corporate fee structure ...

You can now buy 24-hour passes to newsandtribune.com

 ... and predictably, you're not allowed to read the sales pitch without paying for the privilege.

Still, speaking only for myself, I'd consider subscribing to some sort of on-line-only access, but only if a couple of conditions are met.

First, a simple thank you from management for 13 whole years of directing traffic from this blog to the newspaper's web site. I may be critical of the newspaper at widely scattered intervals, but I signpost the route for readers to decide for themselves.

I adhere to the rules of the game. Management diddles. So it goes.

Second, simple courtesy when it comes to crediting NA Confidential when the blog breaks a story. It's not every day, but it happens. When reporters ask me about something they've seen on the blog, I'm never coy and always answer them straight.

It'd be nice to experience some reciprocity now and again. Breath duly held, I now go forth and proceed ... to avoid Harvest Homecoming.

Only one more day, people.

Just one more day.

This one's dedicated to Deaf Gahan and his merry band of local Democratic Party sycophants: "America Can't Fix Poverty Until It Stops Hating Poor People."


Pay no attention to what Jeff Gahan and Adam Dickey's local Democrats say.

Rather, take note of what they don't/won't say ... and moreover, what they're doing (public housing hostile takeover) and not doing (adhering to their presumed political party's own platform).

It's world class hypocrisy, right here in Anchor City. They can pray in the Church of Pretend Disney all day long, but the stench remains. 

America Can't Fix Poverty Until It Stops Hating Poor People, by John A. Powell and Arthur Brooks (CityLab)

A bipartisan plea to stop “othering” those living on the economic margins.

“Hell is other people,” famously wrote the French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre at the close of his 1943 play No Exit. While for Sartre this was a philosophically sophisticated point, in America today it has become simply the way we increasingly treat people at the margins of our society. We see whole groups of people as unlike ourselves—as the undesirable “other.”

Many different kinds of people have been harmfully “othered” throughout our country’s history, and the plights of these groups have received well-deserved attention and focus. But there is one group that we systematically other today—with hugely damaging consequences—while hardly even realizing that we are doing it. Those people are Americans living in poverty.

Research consistently finds that Americans exhibit a disturbing level of antipathy towards those on the economic margins. In a 2001 word-association study, researchers from Kansas State and Rice Universities asked subjects to rate how well a variety of words described different social groups. Compared to their ratings of middle-class people, and given no information except economic status, the average subject described poor people as 39 percent more “unpleasant,” 95 percent more “unmotivated,” and twice as “dirty.”

In another 2002 study, researchers from Princeton, UCLA, and Lawrence University asked students and adults to gauge society’s views toward several often-stereotyped groups. Other out-groups were demeaned as either incompetent but personally warm, or unfriendly but competent; only the poor were consistently classified as both unfriendly and incompetent. Americans, it seems, have a uniquely low opinion of poor people: We offer them neither our empathy nor our respect.

This antipathy is not the result of comfortable Americans having to endure constant exposure to the poor. On the contrary, a sharp uptick in socioeconomic stratification and segregation has been widely documented across the right and left, from Charles Murray to Robert Putnam. For growing percentages of middle- and upper-class Americans, interactions with poor and working-class people are very rare. Well-to-do Americans have almost no meaningful cultural contact with anyone from economically marginalized communities—from struggling inner cities to decaying suburbs to depressed rural counties.

One might surmise this separation is the result of the widespread negative attitudes about people in poverty. But there is good reason to believe the causality also runs in the other direction. Psychologists have long studied a phenomenon called the “Ben Franklin effect,” named for the Founding Father’s observation that our appraisals of other people can actually follow our behavior towards them, rather than just the other way around. Specifically, Franklin noted, we tend to like people more after we have granted them a favor ...

Friday, October 13, 2017

Louisville Orchestra at the Ogle Center on November 11, performing music of Rimsky-Korsakov.

On November 11, the Louisville Orchestra will be at the Ogle Center on the campus of Indiana University Southeast, performing two works by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.

Before I turn to the press release, here's a snippet from something previously written about a period in my life when music like this first resonated deeply.

---

In my early twenties, I was gripped by an interest in all things Russian. Significantly, this evolving infatuation was primarily bookish, not to be directly linked to the usual cultural suspects, like potent vodka, Slavic women, winter sports or taboo Communism.

Both hard liquor and girls were intimidating, and what’s more, they could be a dangerous temptation for an overly shy guy perpetually in search of liquid courage. This is something I'd learned the hard way. As for ice, snow, and frozen tundra, moderation is key; once in a while suffices, not six solid months. Small wonder the Russians drank so much.

To be fair, Communism was a demonstrable aspect of the attraction, albeit in a strictly voyeuristic sense, best assayed from afar, and not to be confused with any desire to live it. The Scandinavian socialist model struck me as a viable alternative. Just the same, I wanted to be able to say that I’d been there and seen the other kind. Professor Thackeray’s lectures on history had found a sweet spot, indeed. I was hooked.

What was it about the Tsarist Russia that managed to produce Lenin, Stalin and seven decades of so-called dialectical materialism, when even the Marxist revolutionaries themselves had been schooled to reject the possibility of it happening in such a backward place?

Yet, for all the poverty and reactionary tendencies, Tsarist times also gave the world Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Tchaikovsky and Borodin; many were the nights I struggled drunkenly through passages of obscure Russian literature (in translation) while playing and replaying Rimsky-Korsakov’s Russian Easter Overture.

Then came the biggest question of all: After Russia’s catastrophe in the Great War – society’s meltdown, the Tsar’s murder, the bloody creation of the USSR – how did the country survive Stalin’s famines, purges and gulags, and still rally to bludgeon the Nazi dragon?

This was my father’s constant fascination, and I came to share it.

 -- From Euro ’85, Part 30 … Or, as it was called at the time, Leningrad.

---

During the period immediately after college, I had albums but no home audio system apart from a radio. My car stereo also had the standard AM-FM radio of the time, as well as a cassette player. The money I earned from working two jobs was divided into day-to-day support and savings for the Euro '85 trip.

In short, unwilling to spend money on consumer goods, I mostly borrowed books from the public library and listened to the radio -- and occasionally took cassettes to the library at IU Southeast to copy the classical albums there, because by this time I'd become enamored of the classical/formal repertoire coming to me from WUOL, the University of Louisville classical station.

In retrospect, surely I was aware of the time squandered partying while earning my undergraduate degree; once resolved to go to Europe, I began compensating by jamming as much literature, art and culture into my noggin as waking hours would permit -- while still working and maintaining proper drinking form.

All of which is to say that Russian Easter Overture and Scheherazade were as much a part of my soundtrack back then as the songs spilling from MTV while camped at the bar, trying to bluff my way past last call.

I can't wait to hear the orchestra perform them at the Ogle Center on November 11.

---

The Louisville Orchestra Presents Scheherazade in Three Locations

Teddy Abrams Leads the LG+E Music Without Borders Series and the
Neighborhood Series at the Ogle Center

Louisville, KY (10.11.2017)… On November 9, 10, & 11, the Louisville Orchestra travels Louisville, Jeffersontown and Indiana performing the music of Rimsky-Korsakov. Scheherazade and the Russian Easter Overture; exotic, beautiful and exceptionally brilliant orchestral works, come alive under the direction of Teddy Abrams. This concert offers adventure and excitement as you experience the exotic One Thousand and One Arabian Nights and the spectacle of the Russian Easter celebrations.

The LG+E Music Without Borders Series and the Neighborhood concerts at the Paul W. Ogle Cultural + Community Center are an ideal way to engage with the community through a shared musical adventure. The Louisville Orchestra brings short, thematic concerts to venues throughout the city, and into YOUR neighborhood.

Tickets for Scheherazade are $20. Student tickets with a valid I.D. are $10.

LG+E Music Without Borders performance of Scheherazade opens at The Temple (5101 US HWY 42, Louisville, KY 40241) on Thursday, November 9 at 7:30PM and returns to The Jeffersonian (formerly the Jeffersontown Community Center), 10617 Taylorsville Rd., Jeffersontown, Kentucky 40229) on Friday, November 10 at 7:30PM. Tickets are available by calling 502.584.7777 or visiting LouisvilleOrchestra.org.

Tickets for the Neighborhood concerts at the Ogle Center are available by calling 812.941.2525 or visiting LouisvilleOrchestra.org. The Neighborhood Concert at the Ogle Center (4201 Grant Line Rd, New Albany, IN 47150) is on Saturday, November 11 at 7:30PM.

Jeffersonville newspaper says Harvest Homecoming is a local treasure of ad revenue. I'd rather study those economic impacts a bit more closely.


Back on August 27, 2014 there was an excellent blog discussion about Harvest Homecoming and economic impacts.

Fear the gorilla: After all, Harvest Homecoming's business plan has never been designed for inclusivity.

When citizens, businesses, or other groups go to the City to ask about using public space and are told they have to get permission from a private, non-elected, non-accountable, third-party, there are obviously issues. Eventually, someone is going to have to push the conversation along via civil disobedience. It would be helpful if the business/property owners most directly impacted would do it en masse. If HH doesn't have to go before the Board of Works to secure the space in front of your building for that time period, then neither do you, right?

The year before that (October 13, 2013), there was this.

Amid the garbage, we contemplate Groundhog Day in New Albany.

The festival takes place because the city allows it to take place, always under Harvest Homecoming's terms of engagement, and with what amounts to infrastructure subsidies for the festival that are not consistently applied throughout the remainder of the year (street department work , police and fire overtime, etc.)

And yet nowhere, neither in an ordinance nor on a granite tablet, is there a law that states Harvest Homecoming must occur in the fashion it does.

Retreating whole decade into the mists of time, to October 14, 2007,  a Tribune guest columnist (no, not me) considered Harvest Homecoming's downtown context.

While thousands from the area descend on downtown New Albany, the location of the event could hardly be any less relevant to most attendees. Sure, Harvest Homecoming is in downtown New Albany, but it’s not of downtown New Albany. People stay in the streets, booths cover the businesses — little attention is paid to the locale. Since Harvest Homecoming fails to effectively tie-in to New Albany’s struggling downtown, why even hold it there at all? Tradition, sure. But the parking is better elsewhere ...

I'm struck by one word in Daniel Robison's 2007 piece, and that's "struggling." Most of us would say this is no longer the case. To be sure, much has been accomplished, but much more remains to be done, and complacency is something to be avoided just as fanatically as Pome-Granate-Rita.

However, one of Robison's observations remains true. Harvest Homecoming is not about downtown, and it cannot be about downtown for so long as the festival's "booth days" business model remains unaltered.

In fact, for all the generally exaggerated numbers quoted to the effect of Harvest Homecoming's economic impact, my guess is that we'll soon reach the tipping point on the graph, although we might be there already.

In short, this is the juncture where Harvest Homecoming's traditional booth model suppresses more overall economic activity downtown than it generates.

At present, the festival and existing businesses must co-exist according to a grid, within a finite amount of space, as designed for one or the other to maximize, but not both. Progress has indeed been made in forging an uneasy compromise, but the overall dynamic remains one of tension.

Up to a point, in perfect weather, the compromises hold (ignoring the plain fact that the board it still tilted toward the primacy of Harvest Homecoming's booth model, not the needs of year-round downtown stakeholders).

But spread this grid over a larger geographical area, so that fest and locals are not in direct competition, and wouldn't the returns be greater for both?

This is exactly why the News and Tribune's mention of 1,000,000 visitors is so mind-numbingly ludicrous. I expect very little from the newspaper's editorial board, which strives always to achieve a certain acme of milquetoast, but in this instance there's an obvious imperative to reward business-as-usual Harvest Homecoming-related advertisers at the slight expense of keeping creative long-term thinking safely sedated and boxed, never to escape the newspaper's beige reality.

There are so many ways the Harvest Homecoming experience could be improved. None are likely to be considered, because it's how we've always done it. As long as the newspaper profits from the status quo, so it will constrain.

OPINION: It's been a great 50 years, Harvest Homecoming

 ... Last year more than 700,000 visitors converged on the downtown during the four booth days, which this year began yesterday.

And with good weather in the forecast for this weekend, that number could grow. Maybe this is the year it tops 1 million visitors.

Harvest Homecoming is truly a local treasure. It’s all about community ...

Cashlessness: “Young people use cash relatively little. They use it to buy marijuana.”


I suppose Gahan and Duggins can rig up some sort of Square.

STEINBERG: A bakery that wants your dollars but not your dough, by Neil Steinberg (Chicago Sun-Times)

 ... I would feel naked without money, wouldn’t leave home without some. The fear being that I would encounter places that don’t take credit cards. When exactly the opposite is increasingly true: businesses are beginning to no longer accept hard money.

“THE GODDESS IS GOING CASHLESS ON AUGUST 1st” read signs on the revolving door of the Goddess and the Baker at LaSalle and Wacker, an upscale coffee bar and sandwich shop that on Tuesday stopped accepting dough for its products (completely legal — no laws require a business accept cash).

“We’ve had theft, and we’ve had robbery,” she said. “There’s an increase in counterfeit dollars. The time supervisors take to count money, between shifts, after shifts, getting money to the bank, paying for an armored car service. Then there are hygiene reasons. Our cashiers touching money and then touching baked goods.”

You already know the conclusion.

 ... technology wins, and expect cash to vanish along with the internal combustion engine. In a sense, this is a dream come true for me. I always resented that we as a society couldn’t get rid of the penny. Now we can, though we have to also scrap all coinage and currency while we’re at it.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

THE BEER BEAT: Beaumont's list of top-notch airport bars somehow prompts a Super Bock memory.


For some unknown reason, Stephen missed the Super Bock Lounge at Francisco Sa Carneiro International Airport in Porto, Portugal. Seeing as it will be the next "airport of call" for the Confidentials come February, I may have to heed the call of duty and investigate.

As for the port wine ... we'll get to it. Madeira, too. More later.

Just remember: Super Bock is neither "super" nor "bock," but the last time I visited Portugal -- 17 years and a whole different life ago -- it was a golden lager that worked just fine served cold. There are several varieties these days, including a Stout and a Pilsener, but still no Bock.

In 2014, when NABC needed a beer for modeling our special one-off World Cup Series USA vs. Portugal brew, Super Bock yet again volunteered for duty.


By the way, there'll be no special World Cup Series brewed at NABC in 2018, unless Josh and Ben adopt a different nation.

Meanwhile, it's intriguing to have the new bourbon bar at Louisville International listed here, although as you can imagine, the airport brewery in Munich is a must-see for me at some point in the future.

Airport bars you want to get stuck in, by Stephen Beaumont (The Globe and Mail)

You can drink in the atmosphere as well as top-notch libations at these delightfully out-of-the-ordinary travellers' oases, from Spinnakers on the Fly in Victoria to Book & Bourbon Southern Kitchen in Louisville to Wine & View in Helsinki

It's a sadly familiar scene: Waiting patiently at the gate for your approaching departure, absorbed reading the newspaper or scanning social media, you become vaguely aware of a slightly garbled announcement coming over the PA system, until the mention of your destination city and flight number snaps you to full attention. Flight delay. Of at least an hour and maybe – probably! – longer.

We've all been there, although that knowledge does little to mitigate the soul-sapping effect of lengthy and involuntary airport inhabitation. Fortunately, at a growing number of terminals around the globe, delays are becoming a little less irritating thanks to the arrival of a new generation of bars that are not only a cut above the airport norm, but good enough to rate as destinations in their own rights.

Out there in the fields, or a visit to De Plukker Hop Farm Brewery outside Poperinge.


Previously: Time for remembrance at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery outside Poperinge.

It was Tuesday, our final day in Poperinge, where we had remained following the end of the hop festival in order to have some quality time with Luc.

There was a provisional plan to meet Luc at his house and borrow bicycles for a short mid-afternoon ride into the countryside around Poperinge, but with sporadic rain occurring throughout the morning, we recalibrated, and in the end, Luc drove us.

After a breakfast of bread with butter and delicious onion jam ...


... we dodged the patchy rain and walked around town. Honestly, I wasn't expecting to see a thatched roof.


It must have been a Brit who stayed behind after the Great War.

Poperinge has more than a few examples of public art. To me, this piece is one of the finest public art installations anywhere on the planet, because where else can you find a steroidal hop cone in the middle of the roundabout?



It's hard to say which would offend ordinary Americans the most, the traffic circle or the bitter flower of the hop plant.


Of course, it might be an aroma hop.

At lunchtime, a misty drizzle continued falling. Just as on Monday, we found quite a few eateries were closed, but the Oud Vlaenderen restaurant on the Grote Markt was open.

Perhaps on previous visits I may have enjoyed a beer outside on the terrace, but I can't recall ever going inside.




Oud Vlaenderen proved to be a solid, traditional pub eatery with a few good beers. What struck me was the interior — neither ancient nor plastic, just warm and inviting. Notice that behind the bar are glasses, not bottles of liquor (they’re off to the side). The beer list wasn't huge, and yet the custom in Belgium is to use the signature glass.

Just once in my life, I’d like to do business in a comfortable place like this. Maybe it isn't too late.

By the time we were nearing the time of our rendezvous with Luc, the sun had finally broken through.

(The) Statue Ghybe, which satirises Poperinge's long-standing 'cloth wars' with Ypres, Ghent and Brugge (Bruges). Those three adversarial cities are represented by a donkey, with the mythical fool – Meester Ghybe – riding it back-to-front, in an obviously fruitless attempt to crush the stubborn Poperinge spirit. There are more statuesque references to that ancient feud too (maybe the Poperingians are still a little bitter about it .. pun fully intended).




Nearby, recycling bins were tastefully arranged below a World War I remembrance. If I'm not mistaken, it commemorates townspeople killed during the time 1914-1918.


This one is the primary memorial to the troops.


I enjoy these old/new photographic mashups. 



The nearby Hotel Recour has a statue of its own facing the Paardenmarkt. Is it a horse?


Often we find ourselves surveying real estate listings abroad. It's a quirk capable of bringing one's dreams down to earth very quickly.



Luc had decided that with the weather as yet variable, he'd use the car, and so off we went for an inspection of De Plukker, an organic hop farm and brewery.










The harvest almost had finished, with the mechanized picking of remaining trellised rows delayed by the rains. I believe some of these were to be used for the De Plukker brewery's annual "green" or "wet" hopped beer, which was slated for brewing a day or two following our departure.

Although I didn't photograph them, we saw two tractors parked at the edge of a trellis zone, with cables leading to the poles. Luc explained that there had been high winds earlier in September; these naturally can be devastating near the end of the growing season when the trellises are packed with vines acting as sails.

Read more about De Plukker here.




The previous link also tells the story of the regulatory hassles experienced in trying to operate both an organic hop farm and a brewery. The current De Plukker brewing system is located inside a former hop shed, and I was impressed that when we found the door locked, former tourism impresario Luc produced a key and let us inside.

Needless to say, everyone knows and trusts him.






Luc looks right at home behind the bar.




It means a lot to me for De Plukker to exist.

Given Poperinge's well-deserved reputation for all things beer, it was slightly odd all those years to be using the city as a base for the many nearby beer-related attractions when there wasn't a brewery in Poperinge itself.

And what better place for a brewery than a hop yard or a barley field? In truth, we could have easily walked the distance from the center to De Plukker had the weather not been so quirky.

Bicycles surely remain the best option. I look forward to returning to Poperinge one year in summer and reprising some of the finest cycling times I ever had.

Meanwhile, a necessary closing culinary note, because our final day in Poperinge ended with a meal at a previously unknown spot called Markt 38. It is located on the Grote Markt, with outstanding meals (stew, frites and seafood-topped salad) and service.


Next: Back to Haarlem and a meeting with old friends.