Friday, August 31, 2007

Potpourri: Sandkerwa N.A. tonight; Downtown Saturday tomorrow; remembering beer writer Michael Jackson.

New Albany’s second in a monthly series of Downtown Saturdays runs tomorrow from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. More than two dozen merchants in the city’s historic business district will be open, and many are offering special sales and promotions for the occasion.

Among them are three featuring prominently in a Louisville Eccentric Observer “Eat ‘N’ Blog” article this past week: North of the river, things are looking bright.

Now, three more restaurant openings in the city’s historic district — Treet’s Bakery Café, Speakeasy and Connor’s Place — have brought the New Albany dining scene close to critical mass … and there’s more coming.

If you’re downtown tomorrow, be aware that Treet’s will be open for breakfast and the Speakeasy for standard lunch hours, with Connor’s Place unlocking the doors on Saturday circa 2:00 p.m.

For more on the Downtown Saturday concept and the people who are organizing it, consult the latest issue of Develop New Albany’s newsletter, “The Renaissance Chronicle.”

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The past week began fractiously. A disinformation campaign by discredited congenital obstructionists aimed at sliming the Carnegie Center was revealed here as bogus, and then, not to be outdone, a perpetually underachieving city council happily commenced suing itself.

A theocratic Indianapolis attorney came to town to stroke the inflamed libidos of trognonymous bloggers, ostensibly (and opportunistically) on the basis of property tax relief, although it bears noting that Eric Miller probably would be sending gays and atheists to Git-Mo if he were dictator.

The week ends with sadness as we note the death at 65 of renowned beer writer and journalist Michael Jackson, the colossus who was the founder of the good beer movement.

My thoughts are at the Potable Curmudgeon blog:

Grieving the Beer Hunter's passing: Michael Jackson, the Red Room and Louisville.

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Speaking of beer, NABC's the place to be for the next week or two as we present our first-ever draft appreciation of primarily Northern Bavarian beer styles:

Sandkerwa NA, an homage to Bamberg’s beers, begins Friday, August 31.

Sandkerwa NA approaches on Friday, August 31 (final list and pricing).

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Should I have taken issue with the fiscally conservative random rumor generator? Or is doing so merely enabling dysfunction?

The Carnegie Center for Art and History’s primary fundraiser next Friday (September 7) is a wine, cheese, beer and auction extravaganza that just might be the most noteworthy annual example of cultural appreciation witnessed in New Albany.

Accordingly, last week the museum and its yearly event became a handy target for the disaffected lunatic fringe, with breathtakingly inaccurate gossip and gullibly conspiratorial disinformation gleefully being peddled by a local blogger to a chorus of approbation on the part of generally anonymous and presumably embittered sycophants.

Ritz, Whiz and Ripple: Envious troglodytes point random disinformation generator at the Carnegie Center, demand full investigation of wine and cheese.

In turn, regular readers know that I swiftly and decisively took public issue with the fiscally conservative random rumor generator’s irresponsible innuendos.

But should I have done so?

If so, did I do it in the “best” or “right” way?

In short, is it worth pondering the extent to which we as responsible, thinking elements in the blogosphere – and, more importantly, in the community outside the electronic media – bear an obligation to answer malicious and embarrassing examples of the New Albany Syndrome such as those being perpetuated over the weekend?

NAC readers probably already know where I stand on the topic.

I believe that one of the chief aims on the part of those suffering from delusional dysfunction – remember, we’re speaking here of people willfully confusing an impeccably law-abiding museum’s perennial fundraiser with an entirely imaginary covert partisan political slush fund – quite simply is to grind down the energy of the capable, and to erode shared sensibilities and common decency by means of attrition and obfuscation.

In short, creating disinformation is far easier than battling it, and while I acknowledge the difficulties, I remain convinced that it is our responsibility to answer the fibbers and rebut their odious foolishness whenever and wherever it occurs.

At the same time, friends whom I trust see it a bit differently, and here are the comments offered by two of them.

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#1
Looking at this "sturm und drang" from up on the escarpment, I can't help but be reminded of the old saw: "Never argue with a pig; it'll just frustrate you and irritate the pig."

I am fond of all your spirit but concerned too much good energy is being wasted in argumentation with people who refuse to acknowledge a shared, just, and common good but only want to argue.

There's a feedback loop here that is a control freak's delight, especially for one grounded in contrariness (because it feels so good, because it's an easy way to feel powerful).

How many data points are needed? These people are not open to rational debate, they agree to nothing, they will never be allies. Yes, it is sick and built upon hundreds of subtle misinterpretations that feed only their game.

I suggest you let them use their energies to only torment themselves and not waste yours.

----

#2
… I do believe it's better to mostly ignore the cyber-snipers and slanderers here. Attention is what they seek, so attention is what I won't give. I think their worst fear is irrelevance.


----

What do you think? The board is open for discussion.

And, I hope to be seeing many of you next week, when I’ll be pouring Progressive samples at the Carnegie Center's fundraiser.

Appreciate the wake-up call, Con-Dem. I might have missed it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Don’t judge a book by its cover, especially if it is written by prominent Indiana taxpayer advocate (and homophobe) Eric I. Miller.

Over at Freedom to Screech (blechh), the forever masquerading Vicky Ann Denschak is audibly gloating.

Someone important has been paying attention to “them.”

Seems “they” received a congratulatory letter from a man named Eric I. Miller, founder of Advance America, which at casual first glance might appear to be just another in a chain of check cashing joints or, more topically, one in a series of Boston tea party lobbying groups embroiled in the current Indiana property tax debate.

In his innocuous note to our decidedly non-existent professor, Miller restricts his comments to the usual “keep fighting the good fight” triteness, and these brief remarks are followed with the expected semi-coherent ranting on the part of the trognonymous blogging duo.

Lest the easily duped in New Albany believe that Miller and Advance America are all about saving their “monies” and nothing else, it’s important to know who Miller really is, and what his organization really stands for, because in fact, Advance America somehow weaves the abolition of property taxes to a bizarro-world “family values” and Christian supremacy platform of gay bashing, anti-abortion rhetoric and jackbooted flag waving. While the current emphasis is on tax reform, it doesn’t mean the rest of the Miller’s planks have been discarded.

It turns out that a diligent Indianapolis blogger (Advance Indiana) named Gary Welsh has been acidly commenting for quite some time on the putrid phenomenon of Miller, a one-time failed gubernatorial candidate and gay-baiting fellow attorney. While I might cite dozens of Welsh’s entries as an introduction, we’ll start here with just three:

Frame this: Long accuses Miller of misleading voters

Miller schools candidates to be just like him

Miller Enriched by Self-Dealing at Advance America

It isn’t a pretty picture, but then again, the Denschaks have seldom been discerning in their choice of political bedfellows.

To favor property tax reform, must one also favor depriving fellow citizens of human rights?

Just curious.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

More on the “American Dream” of rental property exploitation.

It’s a mellow morning accented by espresso, kippers and a multi-disc listening of the “Complete Stax/Volt Singles, 1959-1968,” and I’m hesitant to dive back into the rancor sure to be engendered by the topic of tax relief for rental property owners.

However, to judge by curent readership, I'm on a roll, so what the hell.

Yesterday in a private e-mail, a longtime NAC reader expressed annoyance with the apparent emergence of yet another campaign to improve the desperate plight of starving rental property owners, whose dented and soiled tin cups are expected to become a recurring feature of local editorial pages:

This is a joke!

Indiana landlords to make plea for tax relief (Courier-Journal).

I think this needs a spot on your blog, and there should be a group called, “Citizens against the Slumlords.” Everyone needs to call Indianapolis and request that their representatives vote NO on tax breaks to slumlords until they bring their properties up to code. These are businesses and should be taxed as such! These are problems and eyesores that I’m very passionate about


After reading this note, I composed an e-mail to Pat Harrison:

Greetings,

I'm the senior editor of the
NA Confidential blog, and we share your concern with certain problems associated with rental property in New Albany and Floyd County, although our emphasis as long suffering residents -- i.e., single family homeowners – in New Albany's long neglected historic core centers on the absence of applicable code enforcement and the proliferation of "slumlords."

Having viewed your recent advocacy on behalf of rental property ownership, and likewise perusing statistics suggesting that a high rate of rentals runs hand in hand with overall societal decay, we'd like to ask you a couple of questions.

Now many rental units do you currently own?

Do you hold mortgages on these?

Do you support the enforcement of applicable codes for all citizens?

Thanks for helping us understand your side of this question. Rest assured that we will continue to publicly advocate meaningful codes and rental property inspections as a means of alleviating the problems that have been experienced with irresponsible rental property management, irrespective of the tax burden -- which is but one side of the coin.


Twenty-four hours later, we’ve not received a response, but the situation is being monitored.

Alms, anyone?

Monday, August 27, 2007

It was a productive weekend, so let the anonymous hate mail begin!

The past weekend was busy, with numerous festivals, picnics and events, and for some unknown reason, my muse wouldn’t let me be.

Redistricting: Grudgingly coming soon to a laggard city near you.

Council obstructionists, now burdened with the responsibility of fulfilling the redistricting mandate publicly, and with transparence, can now be counted upon to mobilize the misdirected malice of downtrodden ratepayers and (what else?) strenuously object to being forced to pay the legal costs accrued solely by reason of the council’s own vacuous indolence.

Ritz, Whiz and Ripple: Envious troglodytes point random disinformation generator at the Carnegie Center, demand full investigation of wine and cheese.

Seeing as incomprehension and disinformation are veritable birthrights of New Albany’s “little people,” it’s safe to assume that for at least some of them, neither an educational evening spent at the Carnegie Center for Art and History, nor the Center’s annual habit of pairing one such evening with a fundraising wine and cheese tasting, is quite enough to quell the pain and anger dwelling within the breasts of those for whom the existence of well-adjusted, rational people is an insufferable daily affront.

Randy Hubbard and the headlong flight from ideas.

Apparently Plan A is the hope is that (Doug) England will commit an unforced error capable of being exploited for electoral gain. There seems to be no Plan B. In the interim, Hubbard’s attempted gravitas seems increasingly less plausible than what is almost certainly the non-spinnable reality: A comprehensive absence of platform content, grasp and ideas on the part of a reluctant candidate desperately recruited by his own party for the sole reason of warding off an expected insurgency emanating from the upstart outsider residing at the Admiral Bicknell.

----

Turning to the national page, I haven’t seen yesterday’s New York Times, but last Sunday the inimitable Frank Rich offered another of his devastatingly accurate indictments of the lamentable “Reign of Error” otherwise known as the presidency of George W. Bush. It came at the end of a requiem for Karl Rove:

Last weekend's Iowa straw poll was a more somber but equally anachronistic spectacle. Again, it's a young conservative commentator, Ryan Sager, writing in The New York Sun, who put it best: “The face of the Republican Party in Iowa is the face of a losing party, full of hatred toward immigrants, lust for government subsidies, and the demand that any Republican seeking the office of the presidency acknowledge that he's little more than Jesus Christ's running mate.” That face, at once contemptuous and greedy and self-righteous, is Karl Rove's face. Unless someone in his party rolls out a revolutionary new product, it is indelible enough to serve as the Republican brand for a generation.

Speaking of entertaining collapses on the part of the GOP, the Tribune’s fine young guest columnist took the Republicans to task yesterday for abandoning one of their own in his time of need:

Where’s the loyalty?, by Daniel Robison.

Another local resident has made it to the big-time spotlight. Lately, he was all over the Internet, radio, newspapers — you name it. He was at the center of national debate; talking heads and bloggers yakked and spun prose, respectively, about his personal and professional life. Even Jay Leno made a joke at his expense — a tried and true indication that a person has hit the big time.

But this local is not famous; he is infamous. Fingered in a police report as committing a sex act on a sleeping man, president of the Young Republican National Federation and Clark County resident Glenn Murphy Jr., is now a poster child for what happens when one’s personal, professional and political lives meet at an unfortunate impasse.


Daniel exhibits praiseworthy compassion at Murphy’s personal plight:

But that is no excuse for how the GOP has hung him out to dry. If he’s eventually charged and convicted, fine, that’s grounds for cutting ties. But right now it seems that Murphy’s Republican friends and colleagues have abandoned him, and that’s no way to treat one of their own.

Fortunately, Murphy lives in kinder, gentler times, and he'll not be forced into the solution presented to Colonel Alfred Redl by the Austrian high command.

Not that Rove wouldn't have offered it ...

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Redistricting: Grudgingly coming soon to a laggard city near you.

For more than a year, the single most hypocritical game in a city widely known for its jaw-dropping talent at self-deception has been the irony-free ability of its tub-thumping “law and order” advocates to be magically transformed into defenders of flagrant illegality when the topic turned to the city council’s abysmal failure to heed pertinent statutes and to redistrict.

In other words, the failure of the council to simply do its job.

The same people shrilly demanding audits, full investigations and ritualistic scourgings have been capable of mind-bending, 180-degree turnabouts at the mere suggestion that a council charged with the task of maintaining fair representation might actually pause briefly from the task of masturbatory game-playing and do the type of work job it was elected to do.

Instead, any mention of “redistricting” has revealingly prompted a collective Pavlovian response of epic dimensions, wherein politically-charged partisans would drop everything they were doing to quickly circle the wagons around the since defeated councilman Bill Schmidt, whose 2nd District just happens to be “home to 42 percent more people than Dan Coffey’s District 1, the second-most-populous district.”

Obviously, such a discrepancy is Exhibit A in the case for redistricting, and yet in the end, it was never about the fading Schmidt, or the perpetually scheming Larry Kochert, or an obviously frightened Dan Coffey, who rightly or wrongly looks up at Silver Hills and spies the apocalyptic end to his petty, ward-heeling career.

It was, however, about the letter of the law, and as expected, U.S. Magistrate Judge William Hussman has agreed:

Deal near for new districts in New Albany, by Eric Scott Campbell (News & Tribune).

A tentative settlement hammered out in federal court Friday evening directs the New Albany City Council to redraw the boundaries of its six voting districts by Nov. 22.

The accord cancels a Dec. 3 trial in the lawsuit brought by 20 city residents in May 2006, alleging unequal representation. It hinges on the council paying undisclosed court costs, something that would need to be approved at an upcoming meeting …

… The redistricting plan defeated in 2002 was conceived jointly by political party chairmen, Kochert said. (Plaintiff Jeff) Gillenwater stressed that that wouldn’t be acceptable this time.

“It’s important to me that it’s done correctly and done in such a way that the public has the opportunity to monitor this,” Gillenwater said.

Council obstructionists, now burdened with the responsibility of fulfilling the redistricting mandate publicly, and with transparence, can now be counted upon to mobilize the misdirected malice of downtrodden ratepayers and (what else?) strenuously object to being forced to pay the legal costs accrued solely by reason of the council’s own vacuous indolence.

Indeed, it will be grandstanding hypocrisy of a high order, and in the rich tradition of New Albanian consent decrees, another sad reminder of the persistent failure of a local political class that possesses too many scofflaw heels to drag, and not enough fresh ideas to harness.

Ritz, Whiz and Ripple: Envious troglodytes point random disinformation generator at the Carnegie Center, demand full investigation of wine and cheese.

The most costly of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true. It is the chief occupation of mankind.
--H. L. Mencken

Just for the fun of it, I empowered Google to search the Internet for these terms:

wine and cheese
museum
fundraiser


The result was 19,300 hits, encompassing museums both public and private, and ones located all over America and the world.

In fact, the tradition of the “wine and cheese” tasting as a fundraising mechanism and charitable benefit almost exactly parallels the centuries-long human preference for rendering grapes and milk into potable and edible finished agricultural commodities, which in turn, provide pleasure.

The “wine and cheese” gathering in this context is such a venerable institution that for some, it serves as a sort of shorthand for pomposity and indulgence. As proof, add “effete” to the “wine and cheese” search term and peruse the results; they might have been lifted directly from a Steve Price campaign speech.

Seeing as incomprehension and disinformation are veritable birthrights of New Albany’s “little people,” it’s safe to assume that for at least some of them, neither an educational evening spent at the Carnegie Center for Art and History, nor the Center’s annual habit of pairing one such evening with a fundraising wine and cheese tasting, is quite enough to quell the pain and anger dwelling within the breasts of those for whom the existence of well-adjusted, rational people is an insufferable daily affront.

----

The sprawling, chaotic and poorly reasoned screed – “bizarre” might be the best word – that prompts these observations can be found here, as scrawled on the toilet paper that dangles by coat-hanger and bent ten-penny nail within the confines of the Luddite Bar & Grill:

FUNDRAISING FOR WHAT? AND, FOR WHO'S BENEFIT?, written by Yvonne Kersey and published at her A Fiscally Conservative Floyd Cty Democrat blog.

You’ll have to read it on your own, and you should, because I won’t dignify the scattershot lunacy by quoting portions of it here. The intemperate gist seems to be that Yvonne received an anonymous letter from a temperance fanatic, and both the unknown writer and Yvonne herself are appalled that people who can afford $60 for wine and cheese, with all proceeds devoted to the museum’s operation, have not yet been put to death, or disenfranchised, or made to eat Spam on Bunny Bread as punishment for their temerity.

As fictional detective Nero Wolfe was known to observe, “pfui.”

All this incomprehensible commotion about absolutely nothing –nothing – pertains to something that the Carnegie Museum has been doing for at least five years, perhaps ten (understand that cultural years are accounted differently in certain quarters): An annual wine, beer and cheese soiree that in a substantive, enjoyable manner results in a fattening of the museum’s coffers. It is neither a fleecing of insensate ratepayers nor an enticement to drive drunk.

For the public record, and conceding that minor details vary from place to place, permit me to unravel the apparently unfathomable mystery of the wine and cheese fundraising process, which probably originated in ancient Greece, such is its longevity.

First, food and drink are donated to the event by civic minded businesses. Next, civic minded people pay an admission fee to sample them, and then these same civic minded people pay a second time to purchase other donated items at a silent auction. When all is finished, the museum has money to pursue its mission, and people are happy.

What? You were expecting something along the lines of the secret initiation rites of the illuminati? Sorry to disappoint, but the wine and cheese fundraiser is a very simple, time-honored and entirely non-controversial activity, one grasped by diverse populations that include Andean copper miners, Kalahari bushmen and ex-Soviet apparatchiks.

But this is New Albany, isn’t it?

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Ultimately, disinformation like Yvonne’s serves more than one purpose. Even if intentionally misleading statements derive from ignorance and belie a comprehensive lack of comprehension, those who are interested in real-world truth must expend their time and effort explaining how reality differs from the shady nether regions of innuendo and conspiratorial rumor-mongering.

Disinformation is intended to pin down and exhaust the capable. It is attempted attrition, and we have no choice except to recite the facts for the approbation of those hereabouts who are capable of discernment.

Yvonne, you should be ashamed at foisting this delusional idiocy on the blogosphere. As in the past, I imagine at some point you’ll admit somewhere far down the page, and in the smallest possible print, that you were mistaken – that it’s just your opinion, right, even if you pass it off as fact? – but, of course, you’ll never bother pulling the flagrant disinformation from the marquee of your blog, where it will enjoy a long life of misleading readers.

Given that this is New Albany, that’s the whole point, isn’t it?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Randy Hubbard and the headlong flight from ideas.

Hello.
Is there anybody in there?
Just nod if you can hear me.
Is there anyone home?

-- Roger Waters/Pink Floyd

We’ll forgive you for thinking that it has been hot this August, because on the local political front, matters finally seem to be heading toward the anticipated pre-election autumn boil.

Hubbard’s refusal scuttles IUS debate, by Eric Scott Campbell (News and Tribune).

IU Southeast’s proposed mid-October debate between New Albany mayoral candidates Doug England and Randy Hubbard is off the table after Hubbard declined the invitation.

You’d be more surprised at the “unexpected” outcome of a professional wrestling match than with Hubbard’s debate duck ‘n’ cover, and in today’s Tribune, a letter to the editor by Todd Bailey (a self-professed supporter of Democratic candidate England) offers a response:

Late in the game” and scheduling conflicts do not wash with me, nor will it with other voters. If Mr. Hubbard wants to be viewed as a credible candidate he should not hide behind such empty excuses …

… I support Doug England for mayor as I believe that Mr. England has the interest of the community and its citizens at heart. Mr. England supports progress, fiscal responsibility and an overall better New Albany. Mr. England has made this clear by outlining his agenda and stance on the issues at hand to the citizens of this community. To my knowledge Mr. Hubbard has made no such attempt which is unfortunately consistent with his refusal to debate.


Almost from the moment that Hubbard, a former Floyd County Sheriff, was nominated by the Republican Party to run for mayor, he has been curiously unwilling to display visible enthusiasm for his campaign. Rather, he has struck a pose of lofty detachment, suggesting that his candidacy owed not to any burning commitment to principle or eagerness to serve, but instead came about because concerned citizens scaled the imposing peak of his disinterest and earnestly petitioned him to make a bid.

Maddeningly, Hubbard has offered virtually nothing of substance with respect to issues or a platform, and when asked for specifics, he has deferred to outdated platitudes or asked for more time to seek from others the answers to questions that he apparently hasn’t yet considered.

Granted, it can be theorized that when one’s opponent spends most waking hours talking – Doug England’s garrulousness is legendary, entertaining and also substantive – a comparative reticence might prove quite useful in positioning oneself as the strong, silent type, and yet Hubbard seems to have strayed from opportunistic caution into verbally uncommunicative territories formerly occupied by Harpo Marx, Marcel Marceau and Rigor Mortis.

Apparently Plan A is the hope is that England will commit an unforced error capable of being exploited for electoral gain. There seems to be no Plan B. In the interim, Hubbard’s attempted gravitas seems increasingly less plausible than what is almost certainly the non-spinnable reality: A comprehensive absence of platform content, grasp and ideas on the part of a reluctant candidate desperately recruited by his own party for the sole reason of warding off an expected insurgency emanating from the upstart outsider residing at the Admiral Bicknell.

Casting aside what may or may not have been in political terms prior to the present day, it is at present virtually impossible for me to imagine a scenario in which Hubbard would make a better choice for mayor than England. All of us know that England has baggage carried over from two previous terms, and furthermore, we know that at some point, he’ll utter something that is politically incorrect. He will ally with people we find odious. If elected mayor, he’ll make mistakes, just as he did before.

But it is just as obvious that England possesses in abundance a character trait that the city of New Albany needs desperately, and needs right now: He will do something, as opposed to doing nothing.

Until Randy Hubbard, currently stuck at “cipher” and plunging, identifies his own something, his candidacy for City Hall simply cannot be taken seriously.

Friday, August 24, 2007

You can't always get what you want ...

... but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.

Apologies to Mick and the lads. I'm in a good mood tonight, and it's not because of the 4th annual Brew at the Zoo tomorrow afternoon, at which NABC will be dispensing Progressive samples.

Unfortunately, there's no time to elaborate. I'm off to bone up on my geography.

You're never too old to learn, right?

Even the wee ones.

(Archival note: I'd intended to attach as a label "come out, come out, whereverika you are," but it's too long for Blogger to process)

Council aims to please: Joyfully short meeting permits not one but two Progressive Pints at Connor’s Place afterwards.

Clocking in at 40 minutes flat, last evening’s council soiree was among the shortest in recent memory, with only a few instances of gladitorial wariness and the faintest glint of the long knives yet to come.

Having sent away the tigers much earlier in the day, there is little this correspondent can say about the meeting, and so we’ll rely on the Tribune’s Eric Scott Campbell for a report.

I do seem to recall a random outburst of childlike glee on the part of 1st district councilman Dan Coffey whilst musing aloud at the demise of a stormwater drainage troika whose meetings he never attended in his capacity as council liaison; an effort (later withdrawn after advice by counsel) by the 5th district’s Bev Crump to appoint a new drainage board member; and a bittersweet coda by soon-to-be-retired 2nd district councilman Bill Schmidt, who in the fashion of meandering and self-indulgent prog-rock drum solos from the thankfully passed 1970s, offered a poignant yet gritty soliloquy on one of his favorite topics, the funding of the parking garage at State and Market.

In recognition of this two-hankie moment, CM Schmidt is awarded the “NA Confidential Quote of the Night” trophy, which entitles the bearer to a free six-pack of Coffey’s Bazooka Joe U. engineering certificates:

“There’s not gonna be any slush fund,” barked Schmidt.

As the late, lamented political analyst Madeline Kahn once observed, “it’s twoo … it’s twoo.”

Thursday, August 23, 2007

High Noon in the Romper Room as “Even Deeper Throat” tells all.

Readers, please know that while the following might be filed under satire, Even Deeper Throat is in fact a real person, not a fictional creation; his comments have been incorporated here in an effort to provoke discussion, and are not necessarily those of the author. What do you think? New Albany's city council meets this evening ... and here's the sparse agenda. Bring sunscreen (for repelling the harmful glow cast by the Glimmer Twins), a seat cushion and your sedative of choice.

----

There are times when New Albany’s perpetual sewage follies seem to surpass daily human understanding in a manner that invites immediate, involuntary psychotherapy. Consider this relevant passage in a 1993 Art Journal commentary; it's not for the squeamish:

Freud argued that feces, as matter that comes from within oneself and then becomes matter outside and thus independent of oneself, is recognized by the child as his "creation." In this recognition, the child frequently uses feces for love, offering it up as a gift to those for whom he cares. As something which he makes and which becomes his own (and is not bestowed on him externally), the child perceives of feces as personal property that defines independence. The child also recognizes that this substance, often problematically received by the world, can be used aggressively, as a weapon. Thus a child's sense of mastery, power, and defiance derives initially from manipulation of excrement.

The last sentence deserves an encore:

Thus a child's sense of mastery, power, and defiance derives initially from manipulation of excrement.

But in New Albany, sewage isn’t so much a weapon as it is the ultimate excuse. When it comes to the sewer utility, successive generations of local elected officials are like the Welsh and Scottish sin-eaters of olden times, absorbing the procrastination, sloth and expedience of their predecessors, and then being ritually absolved in turn by the next wave of unimaginative caretakers, and so we find ourselves as a city always in the position of fighting previous battles, and always using the urgency of unfurnished previous business to explain why we can’t look into the future or plan for anything beyond the shortfall to come.

And that’s because when it is least expected, the Grim Reaper, otherwise known as the wielder of the dictates of the court-ordered consent degree, summarily demands a huge pile of money, and amid much wailing and gnashing of teeth, a check for the interest is cut, the principle remains untouched, Band-Aids are applied, and having spared the citizenry the unfathomable burden of another couple bucks a month, another election cycle makes its merry way through their craniums, much cheap beer is consumed, BBQ bologna is tossed merrily from second-floor windows, and God is thanked yet again for overlooking us.

Doesn't "He" ever.

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Sewers and storm water, budgets and no-bid contracts, grandstanding and stand-up commedy, resolutions and overturned vetoes, chaos and rancor, marriages of convenience and battlefield divorces … and right up front, the Odd Couple holds sway.

Verily, it is next to impossible to attribute purity of motive to an inveterate, self-serving ward heeler like 1st district councilman Dan Coffey, so how to explain the scruffy and vainglorious Wizard’s current agenda-sharing partnership with the 6th district’s affable Jeff Gahan?

After all, during three years of council service together, the two routinely have been at odds. Moreover, CM Gahan is everything his amok counterpart is not: He’s educated, polite, reasonable, and as close to progressive-minded as any single person presently serving in local government at any level.

How to explain the cognitive dissonance engendered by this seemingly irreconcilable tableau?

One interpretation of the situation comes to us from the lips of Even Deeper Throat, an apparent insider, who last week agreed to a surreptitious meeting at the rear of the buggy whip factory located atop the parking garage at State and Market.

Dodging distracted commuters, Even Deeper Throat explained it this way:

There has been some criticism of the council due to personalities and boy, do I understand it. I do not think that many realize how important the vote was (last) Saturday. I think it was the most important vote of the past four years. This was the council starting to take back control of the city finances from the sewer board. Next year we will have a much better council. Getting the sewers under the council control is very important. I have looked at all of the figures of their monies (believe me it is not a budget), except for their "special projects" which are mostly expansion of sewer lines into the fringe and the county, they operate about 2.5 million in the black each year.

Peering over the guardrail, I could see Pat Harrison's picket line. Her sign read, "HOW ABOUT WELFARE FOR SLUMLORDS -- FOR A CHANGE." I lamented the death of irony in America as Even Deeper Throat continued:

Once they are under control, the council will have the money to do great things for this city. Once they solve the sewer issue there will be money to fix all of the streets, which are in the worst condition I have ever seen), hire more inspectors (I doubt twenty though), and make room for special lanes for those that enjoy two wheeled transportation. I am of the opinion that the sewer board has been holding this city back (and up) for a long time and if things work out the way I am hoping there could be a very bright future for the city during the next ten years.

We continued to chat while walking to a handy park bench across from the sewage treatment plant, which smelled of lilacs and brand new automotive interiors on a brutally hot day. What about that cognitive dissonance? Giving the benefit of the doubt to Gahan, could it be possible that Coffey, too, is somehow sincere, and if so, how do we go about detecting trustworthiness behind the numerous chips of acrimony resting on the Wizard’s slumped shoulders? Do they make Geiger counters that strong? Are hazmat suits recommended? If we come into contact with the unadulterated bile, will it leave an unsightly blemish on our favorite Kochertian leotards?

Deep Throat thoughtfully drew from his Gauloise, and paused before answering:

It is just that the issue cuts across all lines, which makes for an odd alliance. Kochert and Zurschmiede are sewer board members first and council members second. Messer wants to be chief. Coffey needs an audience. Blevins needs to learn to read the ordinances before he votes on them. Crump needs development. Price needs to get rid of cell phones and Schmidt needs his medicine.

As Even Deeper Throat connected the dots, I saw a huge, carcass-engorged groundhog slithering across the grounds of the treatment plant across Main Street. Upon further examination, I was surprised to see that it was two women in conjoined full camouflage, crawling in the underbrush with an infrared camera in tow and a Big Chief tablet in hand.

Meanwhile, my chain-smoking informant was by no means finished. I needed to understand how the Friday afternoon massacre and the veto override went hand in hand to explain the “strange coalition” between Coffey and Gahan.

The stormwater board went too far. Even Messer said so at the last meeting and was willing to vote for court action against them but not the sewer board. When the sanitation department was eliminated there were months of public debate in the papers and at council meetings. The storm water board did the same with no warning at all and it took everyone by surprise. The reaction should have been obvious but it was not to inexperienced board members.

Was that Donald Sutherland and Kevin Costner speeding past on the way to uncounted riches at Caesar’s? And if the city council refuses jurisdiction over the fringe area to forestall sewer construction, does that mean that enterprising businessmen are free to erect high-dollar “gentlemen’s clubs” there so long as they’re connected to septic tanks? Even Deeper Throat concluded:

Gahan had to let Coffey take the lead on these issues, in fact he told him he had to. Gahan understands that it is better to let Coffey take the lead from that side of the table in order to gain the support that is needed to make the necessary changes. I believe it was Churchill who said that he would jump into bed with the devil himself (Stalin) to rid the world of Hitler. There has to be some postering and odd alliances to do, in the end, what is right for the city.

As the ghost of LBJ descended in the odiferous gloaming, we parted ways. It was late, and the hop juice was calling.

Sorry to say ... told ya so.

NA-FC Parks leader Bill Koehler resigns position (Tribune).

This is a huge loss to the community, if for no other reason (although there are many others) than the ex-Marine Koehler's ability to walk purposefully into the council chamber, and deploying nothing more than a natural commanding presence, reduce Councilman Cappuccino to respectful silence.

We need much, much more of that around here.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Endangered Slumlord Protection Act? Local rental property mogul and realtor cites a “pitiful” absence of tax breaks.

Back on August 12, the Tribune’s Chris Morris heeded the squeaky realtor’s wheel and considered the outer limits of the “American dream” (unlimited-horizon-free, New Albany-style):

Rental property owners in Clark, Floyd counties say enough is enough.

The idea sounds like a winner. You buy property, fix it up, find someone to rent it, and then sit back and collect the monthly check.

However, it’s not quite that simple, according to local Realtor Pat Harrison. In fact, she said what used to be the American dream of owning property has turned into a nightmare for many. The reason, she said, is property owners are being taxed to death.

“This state is not giving any kind of tax break on commercial and investment property. It’s pitiful,” Harrison said.


Chris didn't intend to be insightful, but his line, "sit back and collect the monthly check," is a classic.

Why do we get the sneaking suspicion that the next grinding trench warfare phase of trying to bring New Albany’s enduring “slumlord protection program” into line with the dictates of the 21st century will inevitably revolve around fanatical opposition (vigilance with Bics in hand, just itching to flick) to absolutely necessary rental inspection reform, on the spurious grounds that extreme poverty caused by Harrison’s “pitiful” absence of tax breaks should absolve owners of adhering to community standards?

We can hear the tune already, and it is discordant -- and dysfunctional -- as ever.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

On the merits of Boblessness: Inject entrepreneurialism into New Albany’s Riverfront Amphitheater, and restore value to a mismanaged community asset.

It is often the case that seemingly unconnected occurrences, when permitted to ferment in the subconscious for a period of time, coalesce to produce thematic unity. Unfortunately, for those of us choosing to reside in New Albany, these moments of lucidity tend to be the impetus for numbing depression and hurried solace within the closest available bottle.

Then again, perhaps I’m confusing my own Pavlovian reactions with those of the populace in general, but I can explain.

----

On Saturday afternoon, the trial run of a festival dubbed Worlds of Flavor Bar-B-Q and Music Festival commenced at New Albany’s Riverfront Amphitheater and four designated eateries downtown.

As all those involved with the festival, myself included, will openly acknowledge, Worlds of Flavor was inadequately marketed and poorly publicized; furthermore, like many inaugural events, the first time out of the gate is about learning new skills, synthesizing experiences and modifying presentations to improve the odds of success in coming years.

Make no mistake: Chief organizer Mike Kopp deserves substantial kudos for getting the ball rolling, and speaking only for myself, I’m perfectly willing to make a public pledge of more time personally expended and some of my company's money to expand and improve upon a good idea in 2008.

“Nothing ventured, nothing gained” is an axiom with supreme relevance in this instance, if for no other reason that an absence of like-minded chutzpah has been the prime contributing factor to New Albany’s enduring malaise. I’m supremely confident that we’ll do the Worlds of Flavor fest again, and we’ll do it better each time we try.

Setting aside the specific reason why I was standing atop the levee on a relatively seasonable August afternoon listening to a jazzy musical performance, consider for a moment the favorable impression made by the grandeur of the setting: Stage, band and sloping grass in front of me, barges and pleasure craft plying the waters of the Ohio just behind the stage , the city's signature Sherman Minton bridge humming with weekend traffic, and the Louisville skyline peaking demurely over the trees on the opposite shore.

Now think of the chicken and the egg, and tell me: Do we chronically underutilize this amphitheater because there is little demand, or is there a perception of little demand because we chronically underutilize this facility?

Later Saturday night, following aperitifs at Connor’s Place, a few of us adjourned to the courtyard at Bistro New Albany, enjoying a splendid meal and the temperate evening temperatures, and indulging in relaxed conversation. Then, on Sunday morning, I prepared a double espresso, fetched the Tribune from the front steps, dipped into a breakfast of cantaloupe and poached farm-fresh eggs (as acquired from Saturday’s farmers market, preparation courtesy of Mrs. Confidential) and turned straight to the opinion page for recent college graduate and guest columnist Daniel Robison’s latest submission, “Why New Albany is losing its young people”:

One recent visitor to the region remarked that New Albany is “historic.” Well, that's true: our city’s past has some nice highlights, but emphasizing this fact to define the city's identity is exactly symptomatic of the problem: our city is stuck, not in the past per se, but in its ways, attitudes and most importantly, opportunities.

In short, it was another in a series of provocative pieces by Daniel, a talented young New Albanian who’ll probably never live here, with his spot among the ranks of locals soon to be taken by yet another itinerant tenant of our city’s unregulated rental properties, which for decades have been the chief form of “economic development” pursued by our cluelessly caretaking political and governing classes.

While Daniel and his friends could not be expected to have memorized the lengthy list of excuses for failure that older New Albanians regularly cite when pressed to explain their own generation’s apathy, it is almost certain that if any one of Daniel’s coterie were handed the keys to the Riverfront Amphitheater’s restroom along with a brief checklist explaining the venue’s rules and regulations, he would immediately commence running the facility more efficiently than the current riverfront “director,” Bob Trinkle.

It is also certain that the entertainment and activities duly booked by the Young Turks would be precisely the sort that musically and culturally are veritable light years beyond Trinkle’s strictly stodgy and past-dated tastes – and that’s the best conceivable thing that could ever happen to the city’s amphitheater at this point in time.

Trinkle’s breathtakingly underachieving tenure has produced creative energy on a par with somnalent euchre tournaments at the Mark Elrod Towers, few tangible ideas beyond those gleaned from the manual for Baptist church socials, even fewer actual events, and nothing whatsoever to indicate any enthusiasm for substantive change or any abilities or willingness to implement it. Any remuneration to the current “director” totaling more than a buck fifty is far too high, although I suspect it is much more than that, and if so, it is a pay scale that by all rights should be the stuff of pure scandal.

Meanwhile, even in New Albany there are entrepreneurs of all generations who are willing and able to transform the amphitheater into a profitable, multi-cultural and diverse undertaking, one certainly capable of shifting income to the city rather than draining from it by being forced to subsist on a barely justifiable salary paid to one person who is completely out of touch with the demographic most sorely needed.

That'd be youth.

A better case for a public-private partnership is difficult to imagine; merely state the criteria, accept bids, award a contract, specify the percentage to be returned to the city, and permit private enterprise and a profit motive to inject life into a moribund and neglected area.

Recognizing that the terms for elected members of the current mayoral administration are running down, I therefore address this question, with all due sincerity, to City Hall hopefuls Doug England and Randy Hubbard:

Can you please – please – make a pledge of action with regard to New Albany’s Riverfront Amphitheater, arguably downtown’s single most neglected and mismanaged asset, and permit an injection of private enterprise that might reasonably be expected to dispel the do-nothing legacy of the current management?

After all, nothing ventured, nothing gained – and haven’t we all had enough of the latter?

Addendum: We’ve received an unverified report this morning that Bill Koehler, superintendent of the NA-FC Parks & Recreation Department, will submit (or has already submitted) his resignation. To repeat, this report is as yet unverified, but the source is reliable. If true, the supremely capable Koehler will be sorely missed.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Tonight: Stone Brewing co-founder and CEO Greg Koch (and his beers) at Rich O's.

From the Stone Brewing website's calendar of events:

arrogantbastard.com

Greg Koch's Midwest Tour Continues At Rich O's

Monday, August 20th --- 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm

Rich O's Public House at the New Albanian Brewing Co. has been supporting Stone Brewing for years. Now it is time for Stone to show our appreciation...and how are we going to do that? With an amazing lineup of Stone Special Releases and a visit from Stone CEO Greg Koch, of course!
Join Greg, Aaron, and the gang at Rich O's on Monday the 20th for an array of Stone beers the likes of which has never been seen in the Hoosier State.

[Warning: You may want to sit down before reading further!].

07.07.07 Vertical Epic Ale, Arrogant Bastard Ale, Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale, Double Bastard Ale 2005, Double Bastard Ale 2006, Imperial Russian Stout, India Pale Ale, Old Guardian Barley Wine, Ruination IPA, Smoked Porter, Stone 10th Anniversary Ale IPA

Needless to say...pencil this one on your calendar, grab a designated driver, and get ready for a night you'll never forget ... or maybe you just might!

Rich O's / New Albanian Brewing Co., 3312 Plaza Drive, New Albany, IN, 812.949.2804

Friday afternoon massacre claims entire stormwater drainage board; Putsch leader Dan “Agent Zero” Coffey reassures traumatized city: “I’m in charge.”

Isn't he always?

But seriously, there is a recurring element of tragicomic pathos to the Wizard of Westside’s scheming machinations, of which the current Drainage Gate civic black eye is but one of many in the past, and many more to come, in which he has been complicit.

As ringmaster of the politics of semi-carnal envy that characterizes so much of small town life, CM Coffey certainly craves the office of mayor to such a noticeable degree that, presumably, he would gladly park his posterior on the gilded throne without accepting so much as a dime in remuneration.

Such is the vow of subservient poverty that Coffey has regularly demanded of other public servants, but it’s a moot point, because he knows that reliable support outside the hermetically sealed electoral comfort of his own fiefdom of Westendia is, shall we say, lacking; his prospects citywide aren’t worth a warm bucket of spit, and he’d be crushed in any such race like a fat and lazy late summer fly who has ingested one too many slices of fresh cow pie before trying to airlift home a bit too close to the waiting swatter.

----

Now that the stormwater drainage board has resigned en masse – quite the parliamentary thing to do under increasingly daunting circumstances, and the purport of which is as certain to elude the comprehension of the clueless poseur Erika as the dusty and long dormant instructions for programming her obsolete VCR – all parties involved in the city’s latest embarrassing example of its inability to govern itself are cowering behind temporary barricades constructed of tattered legal pads and BBQ bologna-stained Bazooka Joe vocational diplomas, courageously lobbing desultory volleys of accusation and counter-charge at one another.

Fascinatingly, New Albany’s sewage system, a meandering labyrinth to which now can added a newly Coffey-tized and eviscerated stormwater drainage compliance mechanism, creates strange bedfellows the way that Bill Gates prints money. As an example, sewer board member and city council president Larry Kochert, who shockingly finds himself for once in the mayor’s corner, believes that certain “overzealous” councilmen should be volunteered for unpaid duty on the now vacant drainage committee.

The pot, the kettle … the King.

Perhaps dazed at CM Kochert’s presumptuousness toward an erstwhile ally in obstructionist mayhem, the Wizard somehow hasn’t yet grabbed this gracious offer of unpaid labor even though time and time again he has lectured a howling gallery as to the alleged superiority of his grasp when it comes to environmental engineering, Kosher dietary restrictions, nuclear physics, quilting, and his central interpretive role in a soon to be released, bold new updated translation of Thomas Aquinas’s “Summa Theologica.”

With sidesplitting laughter escalating to Comedy Caravan proportions, let’s step gingerly around the corner and cast furtive glances at the campfires burning within the confines of the open air museum. I hear artillery in the distance, but it might be thunder. Are the stormwater drainage Gods chuckling, too?

And these bizarre partnerships; what to make of them? More on that later ... assuming the creek don't rise.

Tribune coverage here
Courier coverage here
Bucket brigade and lots of sawdust here

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Saturday, August 18, 2007

A bit much for the sake of a steam table, isn't it?

Tribune reports: Bitter legal fight for cafe partners in New Albany.

Geez, how depressing. I'd like a decent side of mushy peas right about now -- and a pint of bitter.

As we argue the merits of mashed potatoes and mystery meat, does anyone out there know cooks from Ethiopia, India, Jamaica, Myanmar, Thailand, Hungary, the Maldive Islands or Peru who would like to come to New Albany and open a restaurant?

We now return you to another episode of "chicken & dumplings" in New Albany.

Friday, August 17, 2007

On thinking vertically in the open air museum.

Yes, it's true that I had planned on attending the public redevelopment meeting Tuesday evening.

How was I to know how supremely discouraging it would be to return to New Albany from a weekend in clean, progressive and coherently organized Madison, Wisconsin?

As it turned out, making the transition from blue state paradise to slum lord empowerment district required voluminous local anesthesia in the form of chilled hop juice administered pint by Progressive pint until the pain was dulled. Self-medication is not to be recommended, and yet it works for me.

Fortunately, since Tribune’s Eric Scott Campbell was there:

New Albany’s $6 million plan; Build parking garage as base to attract business, consultants tell city.

Erect a parking garage downtown beside the flood levee to attract “vertical development” — most likely a hotel or office complex — that would have a view of the Ohio River, say Dennis Dye and Kim Reeves of Indianapolis-based Browning Investments Inc.

And here I was thinking that "vertical development" is when Prof. Erika rises from the divan for another microwaved toadstool sandwich and shot of arsenic schnapps.

It’s certainly a measure of how hot it has been in August that the Tribune story did not result in a “taxpayer advocacy” protest march downtown and an attempted mass-immolation by the half-dozen or so Bic-flicking troglodyte obstructionists who’ve made a screeching career out of denigrating the State Street parking garage (the one that’s full just about every weekday) and insisting that no investment is necessary for downtown, or for that matter, for anything at all.

How they imagine the modern world was ever built in the first place is beyond me, and that’s okay, because it’s beyond them, too.

(Psst ... hey, you – over there ... need a match?)

Indeed, there’s a fine line somewhere in all this, one that delineates the need for vehicular parking in a rapidly renewing urban area and still provides human-friendly walking and bicycling access to the same area.

Not to belabor the experience in Madison, which I acknowledge as an imperfect analogy owing to differences in size and status as state capital, but there are numerous reasonably priced parking garages downtown, and they most certainly are used. The mass of humanity spilling out from the nearest downtown Madison parking garage to walk a short block to the farmers’ market last Saturday morning, then coming back to their cars heavily laden with cheese curds and ostrich sausage (actually, that was me) was a sight to behold. There’s another garage on the opposite side adjacent to the pivotal Great Dane brewpub.

I’d best stop lest recourse to the hop juice beckons yet again.

Readers who attended the redevelopment presentation and can provide enlightenment as to the dimensions of the redevelopment dialogue Tuesday, please post a comment or e-mail the senior editor.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Coming to downtown this Saturday (August 18): Worlds of Flavor Bar-B-Q and Music Festival.

Click on the image for a bigger version.

I'd have let readers know about this sooner, but for a variety of reasons advance notice wasn't possible. My own busy schedule, coupled with the annual "Beer and Sweat" homebrewing party in Cincinnati on the same day, served to dissuade me from organizing a "World of Flavor" beer segment as a portion of the proceedings, but at least NABC beers will be on tap at three of the four downtown estaurants, and there's always next year to make the fest grow.

It looks like cooler temperatures for Saturday, so I'll be out and about. Hope to see you there.

Here are a few other calendar dates to consider if you’re a beer aficionado:

Monday, August 20
The co-founder and CEO of Stone Brewing is coming, and you can Meet Greg Koch at Stone Brewing Night: Monday, August 20, at the Public House.

Fri., Sat. & Sun., August 24, 25 & 26
Peak Summit Groove and Dance Festival in and near the Rustic Frog, just inches outside downtown New Albany.

Saturday, August 25
The 4th annual Brew at the Zoo takes place at the Louisville Zoo.

Friday, August 31
It’ll be a pre-Oktoberfest German beer gala when Sandkerwa NA, an homage to Bamberg’s beers, begins.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Street vendors here and there.

SUSHI ON CAPITOL SQUARE
IN MADISON, WISCONSIN.

PROCESSED LUNCHMEAT ON THE CITY-COUNTY
BUILDING STEPS IN NEW ALBANY, INDIANA.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Play ball: Madison Mallards take the Louisville Bats to school -- and Bats ingloriously flunk out.

Before I make the mistake of sweeping generalizations, there’s a disclaimer: Chain-infected mass-market monoculture infects the city of Madison, Wisconsin (population 208,000) just as it does the remainder of an increasingly sterile exurban America.

Familiar generic entities like Wal-Mart, McDonald’s and Anheuser-Busch are as entrenched in Wisconsin’s capital city as anywhere, especially in the predictably cookie-cutter outer districts surrounding the historically progressive city center.

But, now for the good news, at least from the point of view of one who vows death to chains.

You simply can’t help but notice that in Madison, some of the most abrasive and insulting aspects of suburban and exurban sprawl are at least softened and made more tolerably human by virtue of vigilant planning and aggressive code enforcement. To cite just one example, commercial signage is discrete and typically hugs the ground, and mandated trees and landscaping provide a soothing alternative to the pervasive concrete of the oft-repeated American look-alike tableau.

Furthermore, worker-owned companies (including a prominent taxi service) and cooperatives abound, green consciousness is widespread, bicycles are everywhere, and the Saturday morning farmers market that surrounds the majestic capitol building on all four sides is one of the oldest, largest and best-attended in the country.

We ended our stay with baseball and beer, and found in these bookends of summertime Americana even more evidence that in some locales, things are just better than in others.

The Madison Mallards are the city’s baseball team. It is an amateur team in the short-season Northwoods League, one composed entirely by unpaid collegiate players who are housed with local families and work in the community when they’re not playing ball. On the field, they use wooden bats, not aluminum, in preparation for the future employment a precious few of them will enjoy within the ranks of paid, professional baseball.

The Mallards play at the Duck Pond, a charmingly human-scale park on the north side that holds a bit more than 7,000 people, 210,000 of whom viewed the 32 home games played during the recently concluded 2007 season. We were part of a sell-out crowd on the final game of the season, which doubled as fan appreciation night, and as bearers of $25 tickets, we were admitted to the riotous seating area within the Great Dane Brewing Company’s Duck Blind, in turn entitling us to unlimited ballpark food, draft beer and soft drinks in addition to the game itself.


Note that in a testament to the ready availability of public transport, reasonably priced taxis and bicycles, beer is served until the last out is recorded. Are there no attorneys in Wisconsin?

The Duck Blind is a funky, sprawling wooden warren of picnic tables, bleacher seats and elevated platforms that might have been designed by the Swiss Family Robinson, all nestled in the park’s right-field corner. The all-you-can-eat park/pub grub unfortunately does not include the sushi that can be purchased elsewhere on the grounds, but instead is the sort you’d expect straight from the coals of the backyard grill – burgers, brats and the like.

The open-minded diversity of the beer selection is noteworthy, for while ample quantities of fizzy yellow swill are available for the enjoyment of the unwashed and flavor impaired, the selection is balanced by a half-dozen local microbrews, most of them drawn from the sponsoring Great Dane brewery, but also including two from the German-inspired Capital Brewing in nearby Middleton.

Understand that no one, not even the ever radicalized author, denies that a ballpark is a business proposition even if the team is spared the burden of salaries, and as with other major and minor league venues, including Louisville Slugger Field, the Great Dane Brewing Company must “pay to play” at the Duck Pond’s Duck Blind.

Accordingly, I inquired of a friend in Madison’s beer community about the probable price of sponsorship, and while I’ll not quote it publicly, it should suffice to say that (a) the cost to the brewery is reasonable, (b) the cost is a sum that does not preclude the smallish brewery from making a profit on keg sales, and (c) the cost is part and parcel of an agreement that graciously permits mass-market swill also to be sold alongside local craft beer in an area primarily sponsored by the local craft brewery – something that is seldom the case in reverse, when multinational mega-breweries pay the big bucks for beer placement with the express intent and expectation of excluding competition, enforcing a de facto carbonated dishwater monopoly, and denying any measure of genuine choice for the consumer.

In short – let’s come right out and say it – a Madison Mallards game offers the consumer an experience the polar opposite of that regularly (and tepidly) teed up by the Louisville Bats, who offer a brand of baseball on the field that is at least four levels better than Madison’s, but whose management routinely succumbs to a colorless, chain-think, pocket-stuffing Philistinism that deprives discerning fans of the best aspects of locally-based cultural diversity in beer, in food, and by extension, in life itself.

As I’ve noted so many times before, here and elsewhere, the lowest-common-denominator bottom line practiced by the Bats is hypocrisy of a high and galling order, for it violently contradicts the stated aim of the team in providing Louisville fans with a locally-based baseball and entertainment alternative to the higher-priced major leagues.

On the other hand, Madison’s Mallards obviously get it. Why does Madison’s ball club have a far better grasp of the philosophy involved? Why does it offer a far better overall package than Louisville’s?

Part of the answer involves the presence in Madison of sufficient numbers of progressive, thinking baseball fans who demand a better product, but another crucial aspect of it – not coincidentally, the shading that consistently eludes Louisville’s primeval team management – has to do with Madison’s brain trust being progressive itself, responding not only to the dully predictable profit imperatives of the lowest common denominator in the traditionally underachieving fashion of the Bats, but also actively participating in shaping its market, not just pandering to it.

To me, it’s another manifestation of the Louisville metropolitan area’s congenital refusal to admit that knowledge really matters when it comes to the advancement of the human species … and that will have to await another day’s rumination.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Self-described “mouthpiece” for right-wing dogma crashes and burns. Can the Christian re-education camp be far behind?

Up until recently, I was sure that the following description of life in America was the official slogan of the excremental George W. Bush reign of error, although I’ll readily concede that it might be better used as an epitaph for the most futile presidency in our nation's history*:

The beatings will continue until morale improves.

But now, given hilarious breaking local developments, I’m leaning toward another statement of bedrock-solid, right-wing principle:

Young Republicans: Their members interact, jack ...

There’ll be no trashing the messenger, because I’m not making this up. Visit the website of the Young Republican National Federation and read the text for yourself:

While the YRs are best known for political activism and service to our communities, YR events also provide a great opportunity for interaction amongst membership. This interaction allows for the exchange of ideas, networking, and friendships that will last a lifetime.

Ah, the good old summertime.

The deliveries are floating toward the plate as big as beach balls, and the bat feels as light as the ideological content of Mike Sodrel’s briefcase.

WHACK … sure got all of that one, and there goes another Republican hypocrite slamming face first into the outfield wall, but to be perfectly honest, it’s just no challenge when it’s this easy.

No steroids - honest. Viagra's another matter.

It would be positively joyful for me to mock the fallen wunderkind’s best available plea of consensual fellatio, and yet there is precious little happiness to be derived from any of it, and I greeted the news with equal measures of resignation and sadness. As the scandal broke, Murphy’s own political peer group managed to erase his name from the Young Republican website faster than Uber-Mensch-Super-Man’s speeding bullet. That’s positively Orwellian, isn’t it?

But seriously.

It is vital to understand that whatever Glenn Murphy Jr. or any other American does on their own time in the company of like minded and consenting adults matters not one jot, but of course it all goes out the window when politics comes into play. Ludicrously, Murphy and others of his expediently ideological “values” ilk have forged careers cynically parlaying baseless fears and prejudices into ready-made political platforms for persecution of people who, as the remarkable irony turns, are actually just like themselves.

For proof that the hypocrisy is a nationwide epidemic, here’s another recent case: Operation Yellow Elephant.

It is neither pretty to look on as unchecked hubris claims another victim, nor enriching to observe the flailing and disassembling that accompanies the ritualistic public lashings to follow, as we scream, howl, and learn absolutely nothing from the experience, our attention spans having been reduced to the length of 30-second television blurbs, the grammatical brilliance of Steve Price’s collected fireside chats or the velvet case for a microchip -- whichever's smaller.

Sadly, I suppose the endlessly repeated spectacle remains necessary in some pitifully human way, perhaps reflecting a desperate hope that someone, somewhere might seize upon equilibrium, compassion, understanding and respect as hopeful ways of making sense of our fellow human beings and co-existing in a community with them.

I’ll not be holding my breath. People hereabouts are plainly too willing to embrace nonsense for me or anyone else to be optimistic any time soon.

----

* That's right, Millard Fillmore. You're officially off the hook.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Yo, Toto: We're not in New Albany any more.


An apogee of narcissism.

"It sure looks like to us ~ you did your homework Valla Ann!"

Farmers market in Madison, Wisconsin.

The Saturday morning Madison, Wisconsin farmers market completely surrounds the capital square.

From guaranteed squeaky fresh cheese curds to ostrich summer sausage, and including information stands for all known liberal causes, busking street musicians and good coffee, it is the weekend place to be in downtown Madison. I stocked up on snacks for the beer festival later in the afternoon.



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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Stupid is as stupid does, at least when it comes to our "legislative" non-body.

New Albany City Council vote leaves zoning gap, by Eric Scott Campbell, (News and Tribune):

In opposing a multifaceted development proposal for an untamed parcel of the city’s fringe area, the New Albany City Council may have unintentionally loosened restrictions on what can be built there.

It's the Steve Price dictum: Underachievement through ignorance.

Think it will ever change, and New Albany might value intelligence rather than the discount grocer's mantra?

I'm not holding my breath.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Greetings from the People's Republic of Madison.

By way of explaining my whereabouts, here's the text of my LEO column this week.

----

Mug Shots: Abreast of a great beer fest

I’ve never been to Madison, the capital of Wisconsin, but that will change this weekend when I embark on an overdue visit to a city that has often been accused of being “The People’s Republic of Madison.” That’s encouragement enough to elicit warm and fuzzy pre-trip vibrations from me, but moreover, Saturday also is the occasion for the annual Great Taste of the Midwest beer festival.

The GTMW is the ideal craft brew dictatorship that purges dissent by offering hundreds of microbrewed treats available for scientific 2-ounce sampling, ranging across the spectrum of styles, and with nary an ounce of insipid light mass-market beer in sight.

It’s one of the top three beer celebrations in the great brewing nation that America has somehow become almost in spite of itself, standing alongside the Oregon Brewers Festival (Portland) and the Great American Beer Festival (Denver). Each year, GTMW tickets sell out months in advance, and thousands wait joyfully in line to enter the grounds adjacent to beautiful Lake Olin and revel in flavor, diversity and ingenuity.

More often than not, the breweries proudly displaying their wares at the GTMW have come about as the result of an all-American dream to do it yourself, and to do it better. “We brew beer, we drink beer, and we sell what’s left” is a common motto. I get goose pimples just thinking about it.

Big beer events like Madison’s have spawned a subculture of fest fanatics who attend numerous such tastings. An abnormally large number of these die-hards are attracted to the “extreme” end of the flavor spectrum, with its high-octane styles like Double India Pale Ale, Imperial Stout and Barley Wine — libations of complexity and octane, suitable for all weather conditions, and worth traveling long distances to seek out.

----

Debarking in Milwaukee yesterday morning, the temperature was 72 degrees. The first thing I saw upon emerging from the jetway in Madison was the word "Wurst," German for sausage, advertising the presence of a German-themed, well, "Imbiss." Most of the streets have bicycle lanes, and people use them. I saw ordinance enforcement vehicles with OEOs at work in a neighborhood driving through.

Vacationing in a blue state paradise? Sweet relief. By the way, are there any Young Republican slumber parties planned back at the Sunny Side?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Press release: Historic Home Tour Back for Second Year ... Organizers Expect 500 Visitors.


The New Albany Historic Home Tour, September 8, 2007, takes you behind the scenes as the doors of ten properties in the city’s four historic districts are opened to visitors. Discover the rich architectural heritage of New Albany as you explore private residences, gardens, and commercial buildings. On this tour, sponsored by Develop New Albany, you are invited inside for a glimpse of what it is like to live, work, and worship in these unique structures.

Floyd County Historian David Barksdale commented, “With the tour, we can involve the community first-hand in New Albany’s historic experience. The architectural diversity and walkable neighborhoods of our city are a well kept secret and we enjoy having the opportunity to show them off to the Metro area. An estimated 500 visitors will see New Albany from a different perspective as we open the doors to our past, present, and future.”

New Albany’s four historic districts contain over 800 buildings. A highlight of this year’s event is St. Mary of the Annunciation Catholic Church. An outstanding example of Romanesque Revival architecture, it was built in 1858 for the German Catholic community. Also on tour this year is the Reibel House, used as a hotel in the 1800s and the Zinsmeister house, a Second Empire gem, sometimes known locally as the Little Culbertson for its similarity to the Culbertson Mansion State Historic Site.

The tour starts at 10:00 a.m. at the New Albany Farmers Market at the corner of Bank and Market Streets where you will purchase tickets and pick up your tour booklet and driving map. You can set your own pace and visit the stops in any order you wish through the close of the tour at 5:00 p.m.

Ticket costs are $15 for an adult. Children under 15 are $5. Visit
www.newalbanypreservation.com for information about purchasing
advance tickets. Or purchase them at any one of the following New Albany locations: AAA Plumbing Doctor, 302B Market Street; Martha’s Attic, 222 Pearl Street; Treet’s Bakery & Café, 133 E Market; or Downtown Farmers Market, Bank and Market Streets, Saturdays starting August 4.

All proceeds fund historic preservation activities in New Albany.

Questions: HomeTourNA@msn.com

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

High noon: Resolutions, vetoes and the New Albany tradition of conflict enhancement.

There’s nothing at all inappropriate about the timing. On the hottest day of the year, certain politically temperamental thermostats at the City-County Building are set for certain intemperate global warming:

New Albany mayor vetoes sewer ruling; Panel planned suit in contract dispute, by Dick Kaukas (The Courier-Journal).

Less than 24 hours after the New Albany City Council voted to file lawsuits to challenge the validity of two no-bid contracts, Mayor James Garner vetoed the resolution.

What the future holds for New Albany’s leading index of governmental dysfunction is by no means clear, but the C-J’s reporter Kaukas has earned our eternal gratitude for revealing an all-time, bar-none, classic King Larry Kochert moment:

Kochert yesterday accused some council members who object to the contracts of engaging in "political grandstanding" before the November election.

"They had been acting like lapdogs, and now they want to look like watchdogs," Kochert said.

That’s breathtaking. No single pot ever accused an accompanying kettle of blackness to such a sweeping degree. Thanks, Dick, for catching that one. You made our year.

A special meeting of the Redevelopment Commission on Tuesday, July 14.

The following edited version of a piece previously published late last night when my consumption of restorative, progressive pints precluded fact checking, comes to you in altered form thanks to an alert reader, who graciously informed me of a factual error. I have nothing to say in my defense, save that when it comes to distinguishing between conjoined Luddite councilmen, I sometimes find myself utterly unable to discern, and question whether it really matters.

To be more specific, and as it pertains to the city of New Albany, if the Redevelopment Commission must include two council representatives, is there any difference between the 1st district’s Dan Coffey and the 3rd’s Steve Price occupying one of the two obstructionist chairs?

The press release below is about Scribner Place Phase II feasibility. Throughout the process of initiating the current phase, which includes a YMCA and swimming facility, CM Coffey continually vowed to self-immolate on the steps of the City-County Building rather than permit local government to improve prospects for the Wizard of Westside’s own fiefdom – then, lacking modern spark-making technology, failed to follow through with the projected fireball owing to the time required to rub two sticks together.

(There – found a way to include that section, anyway. Hah.)


Phase II presumably will stretch eastward, into CM Price’s realm, and he can be expected to oppose any potential council district upgrade just as vociferously as Coffey. I say that either of them being associated with any manifestation of “redevelopment” is the sort of ironic, cosmic and cataclysmic guffaw that the master of the universe routinely issues to residents of the city of New Albany to incite (as opposed to insight) the consumption of more Big Bufords.

Oh, well. Not to intentionally mimic the random legal document generator pioneered by the fraudulent Erika over at Freedom to Screech (Yellow), here’s the official notice as provided by the Redevelopment Commission:

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN for the following New Albany Redevelopment Commission Special Meeting to be held on:

Tuesday, August 14, 2007
5:30 - 7:00 p.m.
New Albany Floyd-County Public Library Auditorium

RE: Scribner Phase II Feasibility Study Findings Presentation

The meeting will include a presentation by Browning Investments, Inc. regarding the Scribner Place Phase II feasibility study.

Dated this 24th Day of July 2007.

New Albany Redevelopment Commission

John Rosenbarger, Director

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

What did you do in the war, daddy?

I would have preferred a Tribune link, but ... the C-J is first past the post.

New Albany to investigate validity of no-bid contracts, by Dick Kaukas (The Courier-Journal).

The New Albany City Council last night authorized legal action to determine if two no-bid contracts, one for $3.3 million a year to run the sewer system and the other for $507,000 annually for storm drainage operations, are valid ...

... The resolution passed last night authorized a suit to be filed in Floyd Circuit Court, asking a judge to give a "declaratory judgment" and determine the validity of the contracts.

The vote was 5-3 with one abstention.

Those in favor were Dan Coffey, Steve Price, Beverly Crump, Jeff Gahan and Donnie Blevins.

Opposed were Jack Messer, Kevin Zurschmiede and Larry Kochert. Zurschmiede and Kochert also are on the five-member sewer board that voted without dissent to award the contract to EMC on July 3.

Bill Schmidt, the council's ninth member, abstained from voting after saying that many people had told him EMC was "doing a good job."

That's another in a long series of strange abstentions, and one issued for precisely the same muddled reasons that impelled the council president Kochert to defend the body’s chronic failure to redistrict on grounds that so long as the blessedly lame duck Schmidt continues to do a “good job” in his indefensibly bloated district, overarching legalities need not be observed.

It seems to me that whatever one’s position on the efficiency with which EMC is doing its job, the legal issue at hand has nothing to do with the strength of the company’s performance. Rather, it has to do with whether such a no-bid contract as that awarded EMC is in fact permissible.

And what better way to fritter away more time that we can’t afford to waste than by assigning teams of lawyers the task of cleaning up after public servants on all sides who’ve consistently avoided communicating with each other?

Indeed, now more than ever, New Albany is a state of mind.

But why?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Must reads, strange bedfellows and the continuing saga of city council Monday.

Required reading of a non-political nature, all of which surfaced during a sultry high summer’s weekend:

Downtown Saturday: Everything’s waiting for you in New Albany (Harold J. Adams; Courier-Journal)


Thirty New Albany merchants joined yesterday in the launch of an effort to bring weekend crowds back to the city's downtown area with the first monthly "Downtown Saturday."

“Downtown Saturdays” organizers Curt and Pam Peters had this to say about the inaugural effort in a Sunday e-mail:

Thanks to everyone for your work on the first Downtown Saturday. Many good things happened, and it will only get better. We stopped by at over half of the Downtown Saturday merchants, and almost all said that they had increased traffic. We had 72 visitors at the Gallery on Pearl - by far the best Saturday we have had since we opened. We can meet Tuesday, August 14, between 4:30 and 5:30 p.m. at the Speakeasy on State Street (in their large room) to share comments and suggestions. Our next Downtown Saturday will be Sept. 1. Please invite additional merchants to participate and to come on August 14 if possible. Best wishes to all and thanks to everyone.

Meanwhile, it is axiomatic that New Albany must be smarter to succeed. Here’s one way that the city will defy the Luddite limitations imposed by its no-progress-at-any-Steve-Price faction:

Students, staff await Purdue campus in New Albany (Dale Moss; Courier-Journal)


Purdue is building on one of the best corners in New Albany. But the project is not what you might figure. It won't be Purdue University Southeast, like nearby Indiana University Southeast.

Following is another stellar contribution from a youthful local “guest columnist,” whose essays have been so good that it makes us wonder why our local newspaper doesn’t have its own regular columnist:

ROBISON: A better New Albany (Daniel Robison; Tribune)


With some time off before school beckons again, I decided to take a backseat spot in a car headed to Colorado last week. Not only did I welcome spending some time away from New Albany, I particularly wanted to compare how our community measures up with others I encountered along the way.

But regrettably, now it is time for NAC’s twice monthly John Entwistle Memorial “Fiddle About” city council meeting preview, today prefaced by these local press hors d’oeuvres:

No-bid contracts split council; New Albany debates 2 agreements’ validity (Dick Kaukas; Courier-Journal)

Members of the New Albany City Council will be asked … to authorize litigation to determine if a $3.3 million, no-bid contract awarded by the sewer board and another for $507,000 awarded by the storm water board are valid.

Both contracts went to Environmental Management Corp., the company that has operated the New Albany sewers since 2001.

The issue of whether bids should have been sought for the contracts has split the council.

And, closer to home …

Court challenge faces New Albany City Council vote (Eric Scott Campbell; Tribune)

Quite frankly, we’re at a loss to explain why the council’s factions have lately realigned in such an inexplicable manner, with progressive stalwarts like Jeff Gahan combining with arch-reactionaries like Dan Coffey to make us scratch our heads in ever-escalating wonderment, but such is the climate as the fall campaign season approaches.

A few days ago, at-large Republican councilman Kevin Zurschmiede circulated the following statement via e-mail to neighborhood associations, constituents and others on his contacts list:

Hello,

As your City Council Representative I am asking that all concerned citizens of New Albany come to the next City Council meeting.


It will be Monday August 6th at 7:30.

Some members of the Council are bringing forth a resolution that will essentially become the initial steps for an increase to our Sewer Bills.

The resolution calls for spending unlimited tax payers dollars towards hiring an attorney to determine the validity of two recently signed contracts between the city's Storm Water Board and the city's Sewer Utility.

I am tired of our citizens finding out after the fact that their tax dollars have gone to waste on frivolous law suits and attorney expenses.

I would like to see as many folks turn out at this meeting as possible.
Please pass this information on to your friends, neighbors, and families and please come to the meeting and voice your concerns to the City Council.

I am thanking you in advance for passing along this information and attending the meeting.

Sincerely,

KEVIN W ZURSCHMIEDE


NAC’s senior editor has a prior obligation to entertain an out-of-town guest and will be unable to attend the melee, err, meeting, but it is hoped that we’ll have someone in attendance to provide coverage of the session.

Good luck, good luck … whomever you are.