Thursday, December 18, 2014

ON THE AVENUES REWOUND: "Beware, yuletide oupistidophobes. I’m watching" … the original 2010 column, and what came after.

ON THE AVENUES REWOUND: "Beware, yuletide oupistidophobes. I’m watching" … the original 2010 column, and what came after.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

It’s a topic I cannot help revisiting on an annual basis – and in 2014, there’s an improbably fresh angle to what otherwise would be a very old story.

First, the essay.

On December 23, 2010, I used my pre-merger Tribune newspaper column's bully pulpit to mischievously bait prevailing community intolerance, and community intolerance was quick to bait right back -- pseudonymously, of course.

Therein lies the delicious twist.


Beware, yuletide oupistidophobes. I’m watching.

Phobias are among the most fundamental of psychological phenomena, and I feel for anyone who suffers from them.

I have a few phobias, including a mild fear of heights (acrophobia), and a bit of taphephobia, the fear of being buried alive, as in a grave. These lurk in the murky background of my subconscious, bubbling to the surface every so often to wreak discomfort.

As an atheist, I’m sometimes accused of hagiophobia, a fear of holy things, but the naysayers are the ones with the problem: They’re suffering from phronemophobia, a fear of thinking. Granted, unbelievers aren’t preferred dinner guests this time of year, so how is a fear of atheists and atheism described? One source suggests atheophobia as truest to the Greek origins of the idea, while another offers oupistidophobia, literally “no-faith-phobia.”

I mention oupistidophobia because Christmas truly never fails to inspire intemperate attacks on atheists and atheism. The closer we get to the biggest day on the Christian festival calendar, the more phobic frothing about an insidious, irreligious conspiracy of militant atheists, which although insignificant in numbers, remains intent on attacking the faith of vulnerable, pious Christians – themselves comprising more than three-quarters of America’s population.

My favorite recurring seasonal set piece is when Christians, easily the beneficiaries of the most pervasive and relentless propaganda machine in the history of mankind, express outrage whenever miniscule dollops of free thinking manage to elude the leaden grip of the mandated American theocracy, and suddenly pose an Ebola-like threat to the hegemony of Christianity’s indigenous edifice.

A couple years ago, the Freedom From Religion Foundation erected a sign on the capitol grounds in Washington state:

At this season of THE WINTER SOLSTICE, may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but a myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.

As an aside, the wording is largely superfluous past “prevail.” A theist believes in something, and bears the burden of proof, while those absent such belief cannot logically be expected to explain why something does NOT exist.

Assuming one accepts the desirability of an open, pluralistic society beyond the bare fundamentals required to freely make piles of money by buying and reselling Chinese plastic trinkets, what’s so bad about equal time for opposing viewpoints?

The lawn in question abuts a building constructed by adherents of a non-religious political system that purports to represent all the residents of a secular state, not just the believers therein.

Alas, simplicity seldom is a part of this discussion. Just this past weekend, a local contributor to the Tribune bemoaned the current state of “Christless Christmas,” closing with a typical dose of seasonal alarmism:

I feel strongly that we have lost much in our move to a Christless Christmas. It shows in our disregard for the value of human life. It shows in our fractured family relationships. It shows in our reluctance to form close ties with our neighbors as our grandparents did. Back then it was accepted, and rightly so, that this was a nation founded on Judeo-Christian values. Our laws are based on the Ten Commandments after all. No one was (and still are not) forced to attend church or worship anywhere. People were, and are, free to be of any or no religion. Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists were as free to practice their religions as Christians were theirs.


To me, what this viewpoint implies is that if Americans of differing creeds would grow up and cede the inevitability of Christian “truth”, choosing instead to play-act in public by embracing a beige uniformity that never once existed in reality … and if these non-Christians, including atheists, would meekly worship on the down low, without publicly challenging the purely Christian nature of the Republic … then this apologetic acknowledgement of Christianity’s pre-eminence would enable the constantly threatened Christian majority to grudgingly tolerate, as opposed to genuinely respect, otherwise errant theological convictions … and voila!

All our societal ills would magically disappear, just like that.

I repeat: Really?

It’s always the same historically inaccurate ruse: In spite of those inconvenient Constitutional quirks, the United States must be touted with flexed muscles as an overtly “Christian nation,” with requisite displays of piety for outward show, especially at Christmas, and yet, even as they stare malevolently at a winter solstice sign in Olympia, Washington, Christians also quickly remind us that Christmas “exists in our hearts,” a place utterly impervious to the alleged wickedness of the outside world, where faith cannot ever be dislodged.

If that’s true, what’s the point of appearances, anyway?

The mere presence of other viewpoints hardly stands to bring Christianity to its knees. I've never understood why those of religious orientation (another one of those “chosen” lifestyles, eh?) are so insecure when it comes to considerations of alternative worldviews.

Maybe it’s Satan, the same imaginary force for “evil” once held responsible for heretical notions of cell structure, gravity and interplanetary exploration, as well as other scientific findings that caused the heads of so many learned fellow Christians to roll down bloody cobblestoned streets, their death warrants signed by you know who.

Oupistidophobia or not, it seldom matters to me until religion crosses the line, and given the global history of persecution and mayhem administered from a religious perspective, I'll say just this: There's a much greater chance of an atheist being harmed by religion than the other way around.

Just remember the Inquisition as you fill your stockings this holiday season.


Not unexpectedly, those intolerant folks best resembling the chosen subjects of my column quickly descended on me in the days to follow, not unlike piranhas on a hunk of stray Boston butt, and a week later, I offered a recap.

Readers, you may even experience a sense of déjà vu all over again.


Beer Money fan mail pours in ... that's nice ... is it time for a beer yet? 

(December 29, 2010)

I've always found it amusing when advised not to discuss politics and religion at the dinner table.

The truth of the matter is this: As the political and religious topic comes closer to one's own home and neighborhood, silence steadily descends along with the gravy. In other words, politics and religion won't disturb anyone's meal any time soon if they're being argued in a local context, where deeds actually might mean something if ventured.

Rather, most folks would rather get worked up about things happening a thousand miles away or in a different astral dimension. Doing so spares them any chance of actual involvement.

In this spirit, having failed to elicit much in the way of discussion while warning of the tyranny of bridge tolls, I changed course last week and devoted my Thursday Tribune column to atheism. Predictably, the online comments area quickly filled.

Here are a few of the gems.

First up is Amy Adams. We've jousted before, haven't we? She's the Clere Channel groupie, right? I know it's her because she always addresses me in the same way. At any rate, Amy comes off sounding really grumpy about my column, although it didn't suppress her twitteristic voyeur instinct, did it?

Baylor, since you've made up your mind to be angry about Christianity, I'm not sure why I'm writing this because it won't make any difference. I saw that you wrote anti-Christmas stuff on your Twitter account too. You've been a grump, grump, GRUMP about the whole thing ... The only thing you're ever happy about is beer. What kind of sad statement is that! ... To the Tribune: Please stop publishing this rubbish. Several people I know refuse to read this column and now I'm joining their ranks. Please fill the space with something else.

Amy will be delighted to know that I've taken her advice. This week's column is quite happily about beer. And then there's Andrew, who cribs Amy's (those pesky "A" names) formatting. He couldn't help reading, either, accusing me of being angry before getting a tad miffed himself.

Takes a lot of nerve to put it in print that you don't believe in God. I'm not surprised. Goes along with all your anger ... To the Tribune: I agree with the commenter who asked that you stop publishing Baylor's columns. He doesn't write anything to help the people. This article doesn't make any more sense than anything else he writes. I don't read this and only checked this one out because someone sent me a link. It's just filling space. Make it your New Year's resolution to get rid of it.

If the columns are "just filling space," why do they take so damned long to write?

'Believe it or not' hasn't forgotten the Publican or Christopher Hitchens. He or she detects a group of followers trailing behind my robes, but what the hey -- I'm no tin pan prophet.

I pray for you (prayers that, I suspect, you do not wish for), and even today in church we collectively prayed for all non-believers ... Why not consider writing something to offer the public a wisdom to uplift rather than tear down, to come to a greater understanding of themselves rather than to criticize, and to speak to all the people rather than engage your group of supporters in strong (and angry) alliance with you?

Saving the best for last, even my personal physician, Dr. Oakengruber, weighs in:

With all of his big words and rhetoric, Mr. Baylor attempts to hide the fact he suffers from Theophobia (fear of Gods or Religion). You rarely find any Christian as outwardly intolerant as you repeatedly hear and read from Mr. Baylor. There are numerous examples of his utter disdain for people with a religious belief.

At least my sawbones, who is a diehard Republican, openly opposes bridge tolls. Recalling that holiest of dictums, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend," we might yet find grounds for common cause.


Ah, yes. Christmas, four years removed, in 2014 … and nothing has changed.

Well, almost nothing.

Now, 48 months later, we know that in all likelihood, those first three critical comments from 2010 quoted above came from the very same person.

At least Erik/Erika remains himself/herself at Freedom to Screech ... and bully (pulpit) for THAT.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Mayoral hopeful David White offers exciting plan to keep the Reisz Furniture building dilapidated in 2026.

Perhaps it is to be used as a landing pad for George Jetson's spacemobile.

(photo at White's carefully manicured web site)

"He was the first to admit that his job was utterly meaningless, contributed nothing to the world, and, in his own estimation, should not really exist."

More philosophy than hardcore economics, but since hardcore economics possesses its own voluminous imagination, I'd say we can call it even.

On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs, by David Graeber (Strike! Magazine)

... These are what I propose to call “bullshit jobs.”

It’s as if someone were out there making up pointless jobs just for the sake of keeping us all working. And here, precisely, lies the mystery. In capitalism, this is precisely what is not supposed to happen. Sure, in the old inefficient socialist states like the Soviet Union, where employment was considered both a right and a sacred duty, the system made up as many jobs as they had to (this is why in Soviet department stores it took three clerks to sell a piece of meat). But, of course, this is the very sort of problem market competition is supposed to fix. According to economic theory, at least, the last thing a profit-seeking firm is going to do is shell out money to workers they don’t really need to employ. Still, somehow, it happens.

While corporations may engage in ruthless downsizing, the layoffs and speed-ups invariably fall on that class of people who are actually making, moving, fixing and maintaining things; through some strange alchemy no one can quite explain, the number of salaried paper-pushers ultimately seems to expand, and more and more employees find themselves, not unlike Soviet workers actually, working 40 or even 50 hour weeks on paper, but effectively working 15 hours just as Keynes predicted, since the rest of their time is spent organising or attending motivational seminars, updating their facebook profiles or downloading TV box-sets.

Dunman: "Combating neighborhood divisions along racial lines."

On Monday, I started trying to come to grips with dissonance in my career choice -- and inside myself. If I knew where the effort was headed, I'd say so right now. Unexplored territories don't have maps.

The PC: If you tolerate this, then your children will be next.

 ... Note that this blanket condemnation, of which I’m sure there have been notable exceptions, includes my own “craft” brewery, so don’t assume I’m making an exception for my own inexcusable personal cowardice. I always thought I'd be the pro athlete, bass player or actor wearing the t-shirt nd standing up for the downtrodden, but right now, as a craft brewery owner, I'm being exposed as fraudulent. I've done done nothing, and at this precise moment, I hate myself for it.

Meanwhile, Joe Dunman keeps getting it right. If not for his commentaries and the food and drink team's advisories, all Insider Louisville would be is breathless business-fluff. I'm reprinting some of the meat below, but go there and read all of it.

Opinion: Combating neighborhood divisions along racial lines, by Joe Dunman (Insider Louisville)

 ... But as the Metropolitan Housing Coalition’s recently released 2014 State of Metropolitan Housing Report shows, the legacy of segregation persists today. African-Americans still are concentrated in the West End and the Newburg area, with minimal diversity elsewhere. The median wage in those areas remains suppressed, and educational achievement is low. Public housing is restricted (mostly by zoning laws) to four out of the 26 total Metro Council districts, with the rich and the poor kept far apart. The “de facto” segregation the busing plan was designed to alleviate still remains.

But make no mistake, as MHC director Cathy Hinko has pointed out, this is not some accident of history. It isn’t really “de facto” at all. Our divided city is the result of intentional policy decisions.

In the 60 years since Brown v. Board of Education, the 50 years since the Civil Rights Act, and the 40 years since Milliken v. Bradley, our country has made strides toward racial equality and integration. But the growing temporal distance between the tumultuous Civil Rights era and the present day has perhaps led us to let down our guard, to assume the battle has been won. It has not.

Roger's Year in Music 2014, No. 15: Now, by Chicago.

As practiced in my lifetime, pop/rock is a strange beast.

From "hope I die before I get old" (the Who) to "live forever" (Oasis), there exists a certain fundamental conceptual incongruity, perhaps most notably as it pertains to originality. It's only the beginning ... and things will never be the same.

As a counter example, to follow a pro sports team for any length of time is to concede that personnel constantly will change. The team may play in a new stadium. It may move to a different city. I've been an Oakland A's fan since roughly 1971, and I know from whence I speak. I'm no less of an A's supporter now that almost 40 years have passed since the infamous spring when Reggie Jackson was traded.

In music itself, to admire Beethoven or Brahms is to acknowledge that you'll not be seeing and hearing them conduct their own works, and yet generations of musicians provide pleasure by repeating their same notes, again and again, very far removed from the original time of their writing, and long since the writers have passed.

It's true that when Louis Armstrong died, he took his virtuoso technique with him. At the same time, he'd probably outlived substantial portions of his chops, anyway. He was a different player at 65 than 25. Life works that way, as people like Mick Jagger might be able to corroborate.

In rock and pop, we like to judge the authenticity of musical aggregations by the number of original performers. The passing of time complicates this function. Granted, Roger Waters and Pink Floyd split without death intervening ... but then Richard Wright died; so had Syd Barrett. Doesn't the very notion of evolution suggests that we should focus on the element most appealing to us, strap in, and enjoy the ride for what it is, and what it's becoming?

And so yes, for this guy, who's been a fan of Chicago since somewhere around Chicago II (the age of 10, or thereabouts), and is quite familiar with personnel changes and the litany of reasons why they're presumed to be bad via standard orthodoxy -- the band hasn't been the same since Kath died, Cetera's ballad era sucked, now it's just a covers band with the original horn section -- take my word for it: This 2014 release, which I didn't expect to see eight years after the previous collection of new material, isn't the group's best album ever. Far from it.

That's why this is "Roger's Year in Music." It's about what moved me.

Thus, in those occasional moments, as when the horns kick in on "Naked in the Garden of Allah," some life remains in the Chicago machine, and the result is an amalgamation of all those fun times in the past. Perhaps Robert Lamm is the true indispensable element, although some day when he's gone, there'll still be a body of work, and pleasure to be derived from its recreation.

Long live Chicago.


Earlier this year, I wrote:

The group Chicago has a new album, and my guess is that whatever your opinion of the band, you weren't expecting a song like this to be on it.

I like the song. Robert Lamm still can do that.

Of course, clips like this one are the real deal: Chicago - Live at Tanglewood (07/21/1970) [Full Concert]. Thanks to Ed for the link.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

New Albany's new slogan: "Truck Through City" ... Part 60: It's Tuesday, and that means Ostrich Mating Time at the Board of Public Works & Chaos meeting.

Go to Google and search "truck routes city."

You'll find hundreds of links to cities with delineated truck routes, many of which explain the need for these routes in word similar to those used in Stockton, California:

Trucks and commercial vehicles are essential to the region, providing goods and services to the residents every day. The City's diverse mixture of land uses, dense urban environment and vast transportation infrastructure require a distinct set of rules and regulations to govern the operation of trucks and commercial vehicles on city streets. In order for this system to function efficiently, it is important that drivers observe these rules and regulations. The City of Stockton Truck Route Map is available to help truck and commercial vehicle operators.

In New Albany, Mayor Gahan's explanation of truck routes relies on a convenient pictogram.

Enjoy the remainder of today's "quality of life."

Delightful heresy: Urban values as accommodating automobiles in an environment dominated by people.

To rethink implies having the first thought, and as this pertains to New Albany's traditional ruling class, it's where the problems rend to start.

As you read, consider how the Gahan team already has commenced botching the rethink by refusing to THINK first: What sort of urban area do we want this to be? Here's the crux of it, and a ready-made mission statement for getting down to first principles.

We need to rethink our urban areas. They need to be redesigned around a new set of values, one that doesn’t seek to accommodate bikers and pedestrians within an auto-dominated environment but instead does the opposite: accommodates automobiles in an environment dominated by people. It is people that create value. It is people that build wealth. It is in prioritizing their needs – whether on foot, on a bike or in a wheelchair – that we will begin to change the financial health of our cities and truly make them strong towns.

By all means, read the whole essay.

BEST OF BLOG: FOLLOW THE RULES, BIKERS, by Charles Marohn (Strongtowns)

I spent much of the year working on the sequel to the Curbside Chat that has come to be known as Transportation in the Next American City. Where the Chat explains why our cities are going broke and how embracing an incremental approach to growth can put us on a path towards building productive places once more, Transportation in the Next American City explains why our auto-based approach to transportation is yielding negative returns and how our cities, to be prosperous again, need to be built for people, not cars. It is a radical rethink that I initially struggled with but have found a voice for as I've been forced to explain it to multiple audiences.

Roger's Year in Music 2014, No. 16: After the Disco, by Broken Bells.

The movers of Broken Bells are Brian "Danger Mouse" Burton and James Mercer of the Shins, and their album After the Disco was my officials ear worm for February. At the time, I noted that the Bee Gees vocal turn in "Holding On for Life" is both eerie and compelling. The album's resonance hasn't quite survived another long, grueling year, but it sure brightened the snowy parts.

After the Disco is the rare, superior sequel — think Toy Story 2 — to Mercer and Burton's seemingly one-off self-titled 2010 debut as Broken Bells. More committed this time — and sounding less like a side project overly obsessed with Beck's despondent Sea Changes — this enervated, rejuvenated follow-up feels like the best of both their worlds, no longer content with mere diversions or outtakes. Instead of trying to mask or distort Mercer's identity, the duo instead presents a clearer, more soulful rendering of the singer while strengthening his bond to Burton, who broadens the sonic palette while boosting the BPMs.

Monday, December 15, 2014

If protests reflect anger at inequality, then why isn't New Albany protesting?

As we take a look at Mark Bittman's superb essay, it seems like a question worth asking.

Have there been protests here in New Albany?

If so, did media cover them?

I believe there were protests in Louisville, and perhaps these drew from the surrounding region, although this points to a sad fact: Fairly soon, we'll have to pay a bridge toll to leave our own town for a protest in Louisville.

Unless we just speedily pass through NA on the way there, via the Sherman Minton. But that's another story.

Perhaps I'm overlooking NA's innate perfection; as in Soviet vassal states of old, there is no need to protest when one lives in the worker's paradise.

(drums fingers, whistles the Internationale)

No ... that isn't it, either.

Is It Bad Enough Yet?, by Mark Bittman (New York Times)

THE police killing unarmed civilians. Horrifying income inequality. Rotting infrastructure and an unsafe “safety net.” An inability to respond to climate, public health and environmental threats. A food system that causes disease. An occasionally dysfunctional and even cruel government. A sizable segment of the population excluded from work and subject to near-random incarceration.

You get it: This is the United States, which, with the incoming Congress, might actually get worse.

This in part explains why we’re seeing spontaneous protests nationwide, protests that, in their scale, racial diversity, anger and largely nonviolent nature, are unusual if not unique. I was in four cities recently — New York, Washington, Berkeley and Oakland — and there were actions every night in each of them. Meanwhile, workers walked off the job in 190 cities on Dec. 4.

The root of the anger is inequality, about which statistics are mind-boggling: From 2009 to 2012 (that’s the most recent data), some 95 percent of new income has gone to the top 1 percent; the Walton family (owners of Walmart) have as much wealth as the bottom 42 percent of the country’s people combined; and “income mobility” now describes how the rich get richer while the poor ... actually get poorer.

Roger's Year in Music 2014, No. 17: Pop Psychology, by Neon Trees.

Once Upon A Time's Josh Dallas isn't the only artist with a background in New Albany. Elaine Bradley is the drummer for Neon Trees, a band I've come to enjoy quite a lot since Richard Atnip introduced me to the music a couple of years back. Richard, you used to work for NABC and now represents New Holland Brewing Company, went to school at NAHS with both of them. 

As should be obvious from the audio selection, on which Bradley steps out from behind the drums to take a vocal turn, Neon Trees is a pop-rock group boasting tunes, hooks and a familiar verse-chorus-verse. As has been pointed out by numerous reviewers, it isn't a bad formula when you have the chops to pull it off ... and the band does. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

ON THE AVENUES SUNDAY SPECIAL: How many businesses already have died because of City Hall’s street grid procrastination?

ON THE AVENUES: How many businesses already have died because of City Hall’s street grid procrastination?

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

Oh where oh where, can our Speck study be?
(There’s no hope if Duggins is the addressee)
Speck’s gone to Portsmouth, so we’ve got to be good
So we can see the study before we’re dead

Let's go all the way back, a full 200+ entirely wasted, squandered and lost civic days ago – not to mention the 730 ones ticking past before these – to April 18, 2014, and what should be required reading for owners and employees of each and every independent small business located in downtown New Albany.

Grace Schneider’s article in the Courier-Journal on that day was about Jeff Speck's then-ongoing (and since forever-impending) streets study.

The streets study was supposed to have been finished in September, but now it's almost Christmas, and if the city of New Albany actually possesses a copy of the study, not one of its supposed "proponents" at City Hall is saying a single word about it. “Coy” hardly does the silence justice. “Gag order” comes closer.

I’m holding out for “sheer primal terror.”

In fact, when the topic of Speck’s streets study is publicly raised, the muzzles come out faster than Wyatt Earp’s six-shooter, with those who claim that Speck’s recommendations are their first priority are transformed into inward and outward censors, seeking only to suppress discussion of what they purport to support.

Luckily, a Third Floor insider explained it to me last week in plainer English:

Two way streets? You won't get them from Jeff Gahan. He doesn’t think there’s a problem, and if there is, he thinks it will just go away and solve itself. He’s scared to death – and he’s getting most of his information from Duggins. All the trust is gone.

Strong words … but so far, amply buttressed by observable reality and the administration’s own bizarrely frank admissions. For the benefit of those readers who own and operate businesses downtown, only one brief pull from Schneider’s article is necessary.

Walkability advocate studying New Albany street grid
(Speck) said he expects to recommend removing all one-way streets and converting them to two-way because "the data shows very clearly (one-way streets) hurt businesses."

Granted (and ranted), we’ve known since the Reagan administration that mayoral teams in New Albany simply do not have economic development plans for downtown, although it is striking that in the past, “lifer” luminaries like the since-deposed Carl Malysz would at least offer periodically creative lies to the contrary: “That’s DNA’s job,” or “Mainland Properties should do the trick for a mere $15 million.”

In today’s Down Low New Albany, various functionaries can do little better than make limp excuses, assuming they can be roused to so much as even try. In fact, they seldom do.

The polar Inuit have fewer words to describe "snow" than Mr. Duggins possesses excuses as to why a downtown economic development plan isn’t only implausible on his watch, but impossible.

But please, read Schneider’s paragraph again.

If one-way streets hurt businesses, then removing them helps businesses.

And, by readily logical extension, if helping businesses is a function of economic development – and this seems both reasonable and widely accepted – then simply removing one-way streets and retrofitting them into two-way streets is a function of economic development.

Are you still with me, Mr. Duggins? I know, I know ... books, reading and all that shit.

Two-way streets are economic development tools of the precise sort this administration persistently denies it can manage to conceive.

Two-way streets stand to lift all boats, pro-actively, without the need for selective interpretation and random political awards.

In short, the Gahan administration need only calm and retrofit the city’s streets to rightly lay claim as steward of the only discernible downtown economic development plan in recent memory.

And yet, not only does it obfuscate and delay consideration of Speck's streets study, owing almost surely to the coming election cycle, it also refuses to speak aloud about any of it, seemingly terrified of its own shadow ... or, perhaps, more pathetically, of its own Luddite supporters among locally unreconstructed Dixiecrats.

But there’s even more.

Walkability is a key component of any rational definition of “quality of life,” providing “better access” to all users and enhancing “public safety” in the process.

The ripple effects of any and all measures promoting walkability, as forcefully advocated by Speck (traffic calming, complete streets, two-way traffic and other measures to support increased levels of walking and bicycling) would extend into the neighborhoods nearest the city center. Walkability actively supports other revitalization efforts, not negates them in the fashion of the defeatism inherent in one-way arterial streets.

According to Richard Florida, just last week:

Walkability is no longer just an ideal. The evidence from a growing body of research shows that walkable neighborhoods not only raise housing prices but reduce crime, improve health, spur creativity, and encourage more civic engagement in our communities.

(Kindly note an instance of supreme irony: In their zeal to defend the Main Street Improvement Project beautification boondoggle, some friends among home owners living on the street have taken to contesting my assertion that they’ve been the prime beneficiaries of selective largesse, in the sense that any street changes benefitting walkability, even those botched as thoroughly as John Rosenbarger’s use of state money to butcher theirs, still will have the effect of raising property values. If not, the “improvement” project is more indefensible than we reckoned, correct?)

The opportunity cost of Jeff Gahan’s neglect is irrefutable, and the evidence to support my position is overwhelming. 

When cornered periodically into stating a position, Gahan’s team insists it believes the evidence, and intends to implement every last one of Speck’s recommendations – when, and if, the study ever materializes to provide them with requisite political cover.

However, it is precisely this interminable wait for political cover, and damningly, this element of wasted time, that should be at the forefront of each downtown business person’s and surrounding neighborhood resident’s mind, because contrary to the administration’s feeble protests, there most certainly is something it can do in terms of economic development downtown: Remove one-way streets.

At a time when times are tough, can there be any excuse for a doctor waving a prescription before an ill person’s eyes, all the while saying, “I’ve got just what you need to help you feel better, but you can’t have any just yet, and we’d rather not talk about it, so don't ask. Maybe later. Try to stay alive, okay?”

One month ago, David Duggins told me that if City Hall publicly touted the benefits of two-way streets for independent small businesses, the mayor’s team would be blamed for the failure of just one business.

But if City Hall already knows the answer and perpetually procrastinates, then how many businesses has it already caused to die?

Tell us, Mr. Duggins.

How do you defend such abject and purposeful neglect of the “economic development” brief you pretend to carry?

Not to be giggled away like a hung over frat boy over a recuperative Miller Lite longneck, but for attribution?

Not privately, but aloud.

To the very business owners you’re so poorly serving.

"The moral and aesthetic nightmare of Christmas," by the late, great Christopher Hitchens.

How I miss Christopher Hitchens.

Introductory excerpts from Hitchens' timeless essay are reprinted below, so be sure to follow the link to read the whole, glorious piece, first noted here at NAC in 2008. I reread this every year on or before Christmas Eve. In 2013, there was added gravity, which also deserves another look.

In 2013, as Christmas approached, I'd just finished reading Ray Mouton's novel, In God's House. In 1984, Ray was the lawyer chosen by the state of Louisiana's Catholic Church hierarchy to defend the first priest ever to be charged in secular court with child molestation. Looking back on the perspective of the present day, we obviously know what became of all this, and that Ray's appointment with destiny was the first tiny peek inside a truly massive scandal. I wasn't expecting to be moved to such an extent by Ray's book, but I was -- and remain.

Carrying these thoughts into my annual date with Hitchens, I find the atheist's cynicism to be vastly enhanced.

'Tis the Season To Be Incredulous: The moral and aesthetic nightmare of Christmas, by Christopher Hitchens (Slate; Dec. 15, 2008)

… My own wish is more ambitious: to write an anti-Christmas column that becomes fiercer every year while remaining, in essence, the same. The core objection, which I restate every December at about this time, is that for almost a whole month, the United States—a country constitutionally based on a separation between church and state—turns itself into the cultural and commercial equivalent of a one-party state.

As in such dismal banana republics, the dreary, sinister thing is that the official propaganda is inescapable. You go to a train station or an airport, and the image and the music of the Dear Leader are everywhere. You go to a more private place, such as a doctor's office or a store or a restaurant, and the identical tinny, maddening, repetitive ululations are to be heard. So, unless you are fortunate, are the same cheap and mass-produced images and pictures, from snowmen to cribs to reindeer. It becomes more than usually odious to switch on the radio and the television, because certain officially determined "themes" have been programmed into the system. Most objectionable of all, the fanatics force your children to observe the Dear Leader's birthday, and so (this being the especial hallmark of the totalitarian state) you cannot bar your own private door to the hectoring, incessant noise, but must have it literally brought home to you by your offspring. Time that is supposed to be devoted to education is devoted instead to the celebration of mythical events ...

Roger's Year in Music 2014, No. 18: Dizzy Heights, by Neil Finn.

Neil Finn is a great and enduring personal favorite, from far-off days of Split Enz, through Crowded House and work with his brother Tim, through this latest solo effort.

Travel Music 2: Drunk in a crowded house, 1987.

Of special reverence to me is 7 Worlds Collide, circa 2002 (and a second group effort eight years later). In a great many ways, Finn has contributed heavily to the soundtrack of my life, and gratifyingly -- given that the best is always yet to come -- he is by no means standing still. File Dizzy Heights under "rewards repeated listenings."

Underneath the aural lava lamp, Finn is taking compositional risks, too: the title track is underpinned with smooth soul, "Divebomber" unfurls into an ominous march, and "White Lies and Alibis" has a tension within its structure in addition to its skittering, skeletal production. Finn still turns out strong pop songs as expected -- "Flying in the Face of Love," "Pony Ride," and "Recluse" -- but the Fridmann production keeps them lively and surprising, which is the key to Dizzy Heights: it is a seamless blend of Finn's longstanding popcraft and latter-day adventure, and it satisfies on both counts -- more at Allmusic.

"Carnegie Center gets national grant for public art."

Great news for the Carnegie Center.

Carnegie Center gets national grant for public art, by Daniel Suddeath (N and T)
NEW ALBANY — The Carnegie Center for Art and History has garnered three significant grants over the past month, and has reached its 2015 funding goal for its public arts project.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The only thing worse than a petty vandal ...

 ... is an incompetent petty vandal.

For the third time, our "Two-Way Streets Now" sign disappeared overnight. As with the previous instances, I found it a short distance away in the middle of 10th between Spring and Elm. It was in the company of two neighbors' signs. It's easy to tell which one is ours, as it is torn, frayed, and has been driven over. I returned the other two, and found the metal bracket on the sidewalk.

I've no special attachment to the sign; after all, two-way street grid veracity hardly depends on it. At the same time, I enjoy thwarting morons.

Hmm ... were any city officials cruising around town on a Miller Lite jag last evening?

Louisville bicycling progress: "While we are painting bike lanes and sharrows, other cities are doing much more."

Note that in New Albany, the current regime intends to do precisely that: Chart cycling progress by gallons of paint purchased to inscribe meaningless sharrows symbols on otherwise unaltered city streets.

Opinion: Louisville needs more than bike lanes to achieve real cycling progress, by Chris Glasser (Insider Louisville)

... Yes, it is true that in the last two years Louisville has invested more in its on-street bike infrastructure than ever before. But it is also true that while we are painting bike lanes and sharrows, other cities are doing much more.

Fundamental traffic calming and a willingness of political leaders to take ownership of the project? Two more aspects we shan't be seeing in New Albany any time soon.

1) We need to stop thinking simply in terms of bike lane miles and start building infrastructure that vastly improves safety and convenience. We should be implementing cycletracks like those in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati (and lots of other places), providing fully-separated, on-street pathways for bikers. And we should be investing in traffic-calming measures like they have in Seattle and Portland — speed humps, traffic diverters, or simply just more four-way stop signs on residential streets.

2) Since it’s not really about money, we need local political leaders (from neighborhood associations to Metro Council members to Mayor Fischer) to really go to bat for this idea. Mayor Bill Peduto in Pittsburgh has done it for his city, while Seattle neighborhood associations have spearheaded massive change there. There will always be bikelash, but the argument for biking is sound and easy to make: it’s good for the health of citizens, good for their pocketbooks, good for the local economy, and good for urban revitalization. Louisville needs a voice that will simply say this as many times as it needs to be said.

New Albanian concepts expanding to Louisville? Well, "Feast BBQ to open in NuLu on Dec. 18."

The question is this: When's the last time a concept originating in New Albany successfully migrated across the river to Louisville?

Preston Arts? If I'm not mistaken, it originated in New Albany, expanded into Louisville, and then only later vacated New Albany, leaving us an empty building to look at seemingly forever.

As restaurants go, Habana Blues and La Rosita tried to replicate in Louisville, but neither effort lasted. Earth Friends Cafe is another current example. It originated in the Grant Line Road corridor, and after many fits and starts, is operating in downtown Louisville.

I'm inevitably missing something or someone.

Feast BBQ to open in NuLu on Dec. 18, by Steve Coomes (Insider Louisville)

Early Merry Christmas, smoked pork lovers!

Come Dec. 18, barbecue will be added to the eclectic range of foods served along NuLu’s ever-evolving restaurant row.

Following a successful two-year run in New Albany, Feast BBQ will open a second location, whose extreme updating has led owner Ryan Rogers to spend beyond “our budget by a tremendous amount.”

Yet he’s not complaining. Investing in a NuLu spot is well worth it, he said.

Roger's Year in Music 2014, No. 19: Sonic Highways, by Foo Fighters.

By now, we've all heard the story, as recapped by Eric Harvey at Wondering Sound:

It’s a cliché, but it’s true: being in a band is like being married. Egos have to be managed, credit shared, mutual creativity encouraged. This simple fact has driven some of the best and most famous music documentaries: The Beatles‘ frigid making-of Let it Be, Wilco‘s tumultuous I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, and Metallica‘s psychoanalytic Some Kind of Monster derive their narrative force and dramatic tension from bands unable to perform the basic function of being in a band: writing and recording songs together. From this perspective, then, the Foo Fighters‘ 20th-anniversary HBO series Sonic Highways is a small miracle. The series focuses on Dave Grohl and his band traveling to various music-centric cities around the country, writing songs based on them, and recording those songs in legendary local studios.

Of course, the accumulated tracks form the new album, Sonic Highways. None of the songs have thus far become ear worms, but they're solid, and the Foo Fighters sound remains vital in a time when rock and roll is receding on all fronts. It's very hard not to like Grohl in the curmudgeonly persona of classic rock-via-punk defender (and he also played in that other band, too), and I don't begrudge his efforts to establish linkage to the musical greats in the cities he's visited to make the series and album.

We make our own legacies and construct our own shticks. I have some experience with that, myself.

Friday, December 12, 2014

She left out something ... can't put my finger on it ...

Reprinted below is my correspondence yesterday and today with Tonya Fischer, whose official municipal job title is City of New Albany Economic Development Business Coordinator.

Previously, I'd asked her for the minutes of the Urban Enterprise Association meeting in November, to which she replied that she could send them only after their approval at the December meeting (3rd Wednesday of each month at 5:30 p.m. up on the Third Floor of Horrors).

I thought a friendly reminder was merited, along with a helpful point about Thursday Top-Down Meeting notifications ...


A reminder that I'd like to get those UEA minutes after next week's meeting, thanks.

Also, I didn't get a meeting notification for today's shindig at The Exchange.



 As you can see, she promptly replied ...


I do remember you would like the minutes and I'll hopefully have approval after next
Wednesday meeting. I'll email them to you then.


... to one of the two points.

Then again, batting .500 is better than her immediate superior has managed lately.

The Green Mouse and tales of the rumorama: Mark Seabrook for mayor?

The Green Mouse says that rumors of a mayoral bid by Mark Seabrook are coming into his cluttered, bottle-strewn nd befouled nest fast and furious, and from multiple directions.

Having served multiple terms both as city councilman and (incumbent) county commissioner, Seabrook simply is the most powerful Republican hereabouts apart from State Representative Ed Clere, and he was re-elected as commissioner in November, 2014 in a 61-39 landslide over Dan Coffey.

What would a Seabrook candidacy mean for the 2015 contest? Back in May, I glanced at the city numbers since 1971.

ON THE AVENUES: Three’s company, two. Or four? Maybe more.

In eleven mayoral races since 1971, three of which included independent and/or libertarian candidacies of more than 2% showing, the average Republican percentage has been 48%. It's been as high as 66% (Bob Real) and as low as 20% (Dale Bagshaw).

However, the two lowest Republican percentages during this period (Bagshaw in 2011 and Ken Keilman in 1991) both occurred when an independent candidacy split the GOP.

I'm no oddsmaker, but Seabrook's presumed presence on the ballot almost surely makes the 2015 election a toss-up, going into it. Seabrook might even be the favorite.

In 2011, Jeff Gahan took advantage of Jack Messer's quixotic independent run and a non-existent GOP presence to amass a 64% winning tally, but since 1971, including two occasions when the person seeking re-election actually did better his second time out (and acknowledging two other cases when an incumbent didn't escape the primary), a mayor running for re-election in New Albany has lost 9% of the vote. This takes Gahan down to 55% -- still powerful, but all things considered, and seasoning the broth with the historical precedent of percentages, it surely brings Seabrook and Gahan neck-and-neck. Charitably, it's 51-49 -- still Gahan, but in all respects a humdinger.

But what if it isn’t a two-party race?

What happens if there is an independent candidacy on the left flank of the hegemonic local Democrats, finally offering a positive, principled, grassroots alternative to their dull, insipid, steadfast march toward the Republicans on the right?

You know, a choice.

A genuine, unprecedented, serious choice for those of us sick to death of holding our noses, rushing to kick the DemoDixiecrats' football, and winding up on our backs in the slime, yet again.

Offhand, I'd say it would make things very, very interesting, but before making a formal declaration of this insurgent candidacy, which will come soon enough, my thought today is that the only prospect more entertaining than a Seabrook candidacy itself is watching as the Gahan/Dickey team assembles morosely at the Roadhouse, longnecks and abacuses in hand, determined at long last to do the math.

Roger's Year in Music 2014, No. 20: V, by Maroon 5.

I was introduced to Maroon 5 six years ago by a pub customer. At first, I was enamored. As time passes, I find myself becoming ever more conflicted. For one, frontman/singer Adam Levine's voice simply doesn't strike me as the versatile instrument so often praised, although that's primarily a consequence of an absence of institutional memory on the part of listeners.

He and the band remain at their best as practitioners of the venerable "blue-eyed soul" category, as made abundantly clear by tracks like "Sugar." Maroon 5 tends these days toward hook-laden pop songs sans the charming innocence of former times, and these usually are terribly over-produced in the custom of the present age, though still catchy beneath the surface sheen.

The catchiness keeps me coming back, but the problem I have is the misogyny now creeping into so many of the songs. It's been widely remarked upon for a while, and the objection is plausible. Musically, bubble gum hooks suit me fine with, and they always have, and yet the video for "Animals" gives me pause. Symbolism really matters, and I don't like it in the context of human beings as meat.

Instead, listen to "Sugar" for a better taste.