Saturday, May 31, 2008

Next Develop New Albany "First Tuesday" networking event is this Tuesday, June 3.

Gee, wonder if it will be the same old Bud at the cash bar ... but seriously, the inaugural event in May was very well attended. Be sure and RSVP.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Dark ages, New Albany smoking ban back in the news.

In today's C-J, an article revives the smoking debate in NA:

New Albany businesses' air polluted, study finds; Anti-smoking group checks New Albany, by Rick Rojas.

New Albany restaurants and bars checked in a study released yesterday have air pollution that is 10 times higher than at similar Louisville businesses.

Unless the C-J's reporters have been boning up on irony, the last sentence is unintentionally hilarious in the context of New Albany as the enduringly quaint open air museum of superstition and ignorance. Local smoking cessation coordinator Felicia Essing notes that she believes "the health danger outweighs the economic arguments for allowing smoking, and ... New Albany could handle a ban."

"I think with education, the city would be ready," she said.

Whoa ... is that a campaign slogan, or an epitaph? Education?


Meanwhile, the Tribune published a letter from a local activist that reached much the same conclusion:

New Albany needs strict smoking ban ... by Greg Sanders, New Albany

My wife and I had a garage sale this past weekend and she had posted a sign asking folks to not smoke as our son has chronic asthma. You would not believe the rude comments and people who chose to ignore our request.

This is just further evidence of why our four year fight to make New Albany smoke free is a failure. New Albany will always remain in the dark ages unless, and until, our elected officials wake up and enact a comprehensive smoking ban.

I have spoken with my city councilman and have been told that there will never be a comprehensive ban in New Albany because of the social clubs and bar owners. However, it has been proven in numerous cities that revenue increases when smoking bans are enacted.

But the important issue to me is the health of my son. At the Harvest Homecoming last year, we had to put up a fight to have the ride operators and food handlers not smoke around the children and then, by Friday, they were back at it. There are Kid Safe Zones in parks but Harvest Homecoming is excluded.

Why can't the people of New Albany realize the health dangers that smoke causes children?

My son did not choose to have asthma. We are in the process of moving to Wisconsin which has a statewide ban on the agenda for this year.

New Albany, it's time to wake up and realize the danger you are creating with second hand smoke. Get out of the dark ages!

Dark ages?

Aren't they the reason why Barack Obama was defeated so handily here?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

NAFC schools consultant Phyllis L. Amick on "Resources for Results", tough choices and "emotion."

NAC received the following from parents involved with the effort to save Silver Street Elementary School from closure. The on-line article about contractor/consultant Phyllis Amick is revealing, especially in light of her citation of "community engagement." Whatever one's thoughts on the issue as it pertains to our own school corporation, it must sadly be acknowledged that "engagement" is being observed only in the breach during this process.

Our contributors note that there will be another community meeting tonight (Thursday, May 29) at 6:30 p.m. at Advent Christian Church, 2129 Shelby Street. On the agenda is "action items for informing and mobilizing the community."


From the parents:

"A list of the members of the "Resources for Results" committee came out today in the New Albany Floyd County School Corporation's website. It is interesting to note that some of those named are people closely related to Silver Street Elementary and are no longer invited to attend the current committee meetings. I also noticed that there is a contractor who plays a vital role in facilitating the meetings.

"The contractor's name is Dr. Phyllis Amick. I googled her and found this very telling article. Apparently Dr. Amick's specialty is in persuading school board members to close schools for the 'greater good.' Our school corporation has even borrowed the name of her previous school closure committee!

"Obviously, Dr. Amick was carefully chosen to facilitate this committee to steer them to the ultimate goal of closing Silver Street and/or Pine View Elementary Schools. I wonder if the committee members and the school board are aware of her past 'successes.' Dr. Amick appears to move around a lot, so she probably doesn't have much of a clue regarding what a sense of community really means."

From: The School Administrator, December 2002

Phyllis L. Amick: Modeling Personal and Organizational Change

By Jay P. Goldman

Much of Phyllis Amick’s life has been caught up in the swirl of changing circumstances. Growing up, she never lived for consecutive years in the same town until her final two years of high school. Her family bounced from town to town across Indiana owing to the fickle nature of her father’s work as a laborer on interstate highway construction.

As a school system leader, she’s done some moving too, rising through the ranks to work at the superintendent level in four Indiana districts since 1991. Her current perch is Richmond, Ind., where she has taken the first steps to reverse the fortunes of a downtrodden system.

Amick, appointed three years ago, is overseeing a major reconfiguration of the 6,200-student district located on the state’s eastern border with Ohio, about an hour northwest of Cincinnati. Her intent is to serve all students better in more inclusive environments. To fund the program she calls “Resources for Results,” the district this year closed three schools, freeing up about $1.5 million in the first year with additional savings expected in the next year once staffing adjustments are completed.

The major components include starting full-day kindergarten in all 11 of Richmond’s elementary schools, lengthening the instructional day, creating alternative programs for failing students within the schools, and ending segregated settings for students with disabilities and those considered gifted and talented. All 9th graders have been assigned to smaller learning units and 6th-grade classes were moved back into elementary buildings. She revamped reporting lines in the central office to ensure the building administrators receive the immediate response they deserved.

“Everyone understood that tough choices had to be made, but that didn’t make the emotional part any easier,” Amick admits, pointing particularly to the building closures. “The board heard eight hours of emotional pleas over three meetings. I don’t know there’s a way to take the emotion out of it. … People are beginning to see we can go through change and can be better for it.”

She is quick to explain this was not a case of a school board swallowing whole a set of major proposals from a pushy superintendent. Rather, Richmond’s reforms are the outcropping of a 35-member community group she appointed to study the state of the district’s school facilities in light of steadily declining enrollment (annual losses of about 250 a year), examine best practices for improving achievement and develop a sorely lacking vision statement.

Amick had realized upon landing in Richmond that extensive engagement would be a prerequisite to any major moves forward. She found a widely divided community that had only one year earlier shot down the school board’s intention to close a single underused elementary school. Four schools lingered on the state’s academic probation list. (A year later, none remained.)

“One person can have a vision,” she says, “but it takes many to bring it to reality.”

School board members found that Amick’s upfront yet disarming manner allowed them largely to overcome forces of the status quo, especially supporters of two small specialized instructional programs that had operated for years as the lone tenants of their own building. Says board member Marilyn Russo: “In every meeting, Phyllis isn’t one to push by herself. She lets everyone say what they need to. Then very quietly, very unassuming in a way, she starts talking, pregnant with facts and in a short time gets everyone focused back on track.”

Cheryl Stolle, an Indiana University professor who chaired Richmond’s superintendent search, believes Amick’s administrative know-how and dexterous people skills are enabling her to unify the district around initiatives that ought to improve student outcomes. Adds Suzanne Derengowski, a parent of two Richmond students: “She can say (to opponents), ‘I understand, but we have a bigger mission, and that’s student achievement.”

Amick has captured the attention of search consultants during each of her short superintendent stints in the Hoosier State communities of Edinburgh, North Vernon and Scottsburg. And in 2000-2001, she served as the first female president of the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents. But Amick prefers to trumpet a more significant role to model from her personal background: She was the first in her extended and transient family to graduate from college.

Jay Goldman is the editor of The School Administrator.

BIO STATS: Phyllis Amick


superintendent, Richmond Community Schools, Richmond, Ind.

superintendent in three smaller Indiana districts


Greatest Influence on Career:
The superintendent who hired me for my first central-office position, John Ellis, as he provided me with a role model of exceptional administrative practices and mentored me throughout my first years.

Best Professional Day:
The culmination of a two-year extensive community engagement process to restructure our school district in which the school board approved a plan of reorganization with tremendous public support.

Books at Bedside:
Turning to One Another by Margaret Wheatley; Lanterns by Marian Wright Edelman; and The New Meaning of Educational Change by Michael Fullan

Biggest Blooper:
While waiting for law enforcement to arrive to help search our high school following a bomb threat, I went to use the faculty restroom. Much to my horror, the door locked from the outside and I was stuck in the bathroom during the entire search. Worse, I don't think they missed me!

A Reason Why I'm an AASA Member:
As administrators, we have the responsibility to be aware and knowledgeable regarding the impact of state and federal accountability systems. AASA is a constant source of up-to-date information and provides thought-provoking analysis of current issues.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Straight from the Old News Dep't.

Bush loyalist says president relied on propaganda for Iraq war

Potpourri before work.

A few random thoughts for a lovely Wednesday morning in May ...

Why bother driving traffic toward another local blogger who posts in disguise and doesn't permit discourse? That would be tantamount to rewarding cowardice, wouldn't it? Nah. The already cheapened bait can just wiggle past. I have far bigger fish to fry (insert your own cliche here, Prof. Erika).


The Tribune has somehow uncovered a gem of a local Neanderthal columnist ... or maybe it's just a lump of coal. Read two of his recent cultural reinterpretations, in which is revealed a social orientation somewhat to the distant right of the John Birch Society ...

OLSON: Hillary should stay in the race
OLSON: Longing for historic measures

... and lament the fact that yesterday's strident denunciation of his own "Woodstock generation" hasn't been archived on-line by the newspaper.

Is it just me, or has the Weekly World News's legendary Ed Anger settled in Sellersburg? These columns are so over the top that they must be thinly veiled satire, right? If not ... oooooh. Fine writer, but very, very reactionary.


Speaking of the Tribune, has anyone seen this odd revelation at the newspaper's website?

PUBLISHER: Jim Grahn jim.grahn(at)

The last reference to John Tucker came in March, according to the search mechanism, and his name appears nowhere in the "contact us" section. There is no staff listing in yesterday's newspaper. Clues, anyone?


This from the C-J:

New Albany panel rejects road plan, by Dick Kaukas.

Turning down a request by Mayor Doug England's administration, the New Albany Redevelopment Commission refused yesterday to authorize the city's Board of Public Works and Safety to implement two road-construction projects.

Having done so, the Commission went on to approve the projects, which total $2.5 million for Spring Street Hill and Rainbow Drive. The former was okayed unanimously, but the latter passed 3-2, with city council reps Coffey and Benedetti voting against.

At least they attend the meetings ... but I won't go there. Yet.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

More on school resources: That sucking sound you hear is coming from a different kind of throat.

It seems the NA-FC School Corporation's Resources for Results committee, assembled by Superintendent Dennis Brooks and described on the corporation's web site as "broad based", isn't quite.

Another source close to the situation describes committee meetings as mostly attended by school board members, school employees, corporation retirees, and/or their spouses. As reported, there's little input from outside the school system and even less collective expertise in better positioning educational resources within the community at large.

To date, the committee hasn't made any recommendations and at least some of the committee's members, given the lack of qualified analysis, wonder if they should.

Much ado about nada then? Hardly.

While issues like community development, neighborhood outcomes, and concentrated poverty have been mentioned as part of the ongoing discussions, school system leaders haven't exactly attempted to build a coalition of experts to advise them on such matters.

If one reads through the abbreviated meeting notes only very recently made available on the corporation's web site, it becomes apparent that school corporation officials, rather than inviting diverse and credentialed input as part of a process to educate themselves, have gathered a less experienced group and largely dictated to them which factors are most important for consideration. Save for a few appearances by local government representatives, the committee has seemingly heard almost exclusively from the people to whom they're supposed to make recommendations.

That strikes me as serving a purpose very different than the one Brooks has insinuated for the Resources for Results committee. Like others with ties to the group, my source tells me it would've been preferable to spend money on savvy professionals to break down the potential options and consequences instead of spending two years' time on more parochial amateurs, no matter how well intentioned they may be.

As is, school corporation leadership isn't only asking for all thinking to occur inside their proverbial box. They're going so far as to define the parameters of that box and keep others from even looking in it.

It remains to be seen if such choices truly are a reflection of Brooks and crew's desire to insulate themselves from the repercussions of their eventual decision as suggested earlier by another NAC source. What's clear, though, is that, as the community becomes more aware of the goings on, 30 other people are currently on the hot seat for no particularly productive reason.

In conjunction with the lack of respect Brooks has shown the public thus far in barring any oversight of the process, it's unfortunately enough to make one wonder if his secrecy isn't so much to conceal what the thinking is but rather to camouflage who's doing it.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day as a universal concept.

Earlier today we viewed the DVD of Clint Eastwood's highly acclaimed "Letters from Iwo Jima." As you may recall, the film presents the bloody World War II battle from the viewpoint of the island's Japanese defenders. It is a perspective perhaps unexpected for those who remember Clint from his cinematic heyday as Inspector Harry Callaghan, but that helps to understand why the Hollywood legend has excelled behind the camera even more so than in front of it.

The film pulls no punches, and there are few, if any, heroes to be found. It is my habit to refrain from gratuitous violence, but not in war movies. After all, war is precisely that: Gratuitous. Memorial Day is a good time to remember that, and a bad time to watch John Wayne wartime flicks.

Although my contrarianism is legendary, I'll not be the one to differ, at least too loudly, with the prevailing view of Memorial Day as a time to pause momentarily from grilling artery-busting burgers and drinking extremely bad beer to remember the sacrifices of America's fighting men and women through the ages.

For me, it's a far more worthy holiday is it prompts introspection into the sacrifice made by all soldiers in all places and times, the vast majority of whom have been little more than cannon fodder and largely without any identifiably personal stake in the outcome of battles fought for reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with those doing the actual dying.

There's no better example that George W. Bush's war in Iraq to make this point, but I needn't stop there. I've visited the American cemeteries in and around the Normandy beaches, but I've also seen memorials in the former Soviet Union. For every Union grave there is a Confederate resting place. Near the French and English tombs scattered through the West Flanders countryside are similar ones for the German invaders from 1914-1918.

Last year we took advantage of the Memorial Day holiday to visit the Muhammad Ali Center in downtown Louisville. I did it again earlier today. In 2007, after I wrote about the day at my NA Confidential blog, I received several anonymous e-mails taking issue with my celebration of a draft dodger. Whatever the background and service record of these correspondents, it should be fairly obvious to most observers that this combination of a black man publicly opposing war and critics too cowardly to sign their names makes the point about Memorial Day's true significance better than further commentary from me.

Originally posted at MySpace under Life

Thinking about Muhammad Ali and the Democrats on Memorial Day.

A year ago this weekend, Mrs. Confidential and I visited the foremost destination for foreign tourists who come to Louisville, and I urged readers to do the same. We've been back for a repeat look, and enjoyed the experience just as much the second time.

C'mon, who could turn down an afternoon at Louisville's Muhammad Ali Center?

I wrote last year that, "It is difficult to imagine any self-declared Democrat – for that matter, any person, period – consciously turning down the opportunity to reflect on the universal human ideals considered therein." In the 12 months that have passed since then, the success of Barack Obama's presidential bid provides yet another opportunity to consider the nature and practice of these ideals.

Here is the Center's mission statement:

The Muhammad Ali Center serves as both a destination site and an international education and cultural center that is inspired by the ideals of its founder Muhammad Ali … Two-and-a-half levels of interactive exhibits and captivating multi-media presentations present Ali’s life story through the six core values of his life: respect, confidence, conviction, dedication, giving, and spirituality … Ultimately, the Ali Center strives to inspire you to pursue your potential and explore the greatness that lies within yourself.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sheryl Crow at Caesar’s: Wonderful music, creepy venue ... but at least it wasn’t Phoenix Hill.

Last evening was our first opportunity to view the setting for the summer's outdoor concert series at the casino soon to be formerly known as Caesar's. It seems to me that this year's slate of shows is being used to help re-brand the facility as the Horseshoe (Harrah's); be that as it may, it remains a non-essential edifice to this non-gambler's jaundiced eyes even if the music was pure excellence.

I'll never forget entering Caesar's Indiana for the first time in 2002. For me, it was (and remains) something almost unspeakably tacky, almost to the point of physically repellant. It's nothing against my many friends who have jobs there and profit from it … and nothing against the money that the casino has brought into the community under orders from the state as a precondition of doing business. Now as always, let the buyer beware, and the savvy divide the proceeds.

But watching the roving groups of the ill-dressed in their University of Kentucky jackets (hint: they didn't go to school there, if they can locate Lexington KY on a map at all) gawk and drool in amazement at the plasticized surface glitz designed to make it easier to part them from their cash made for a disquieting experience – and still does. Casinos may actually be just another entertainment option, yet there's something profoundly sad about the spectacle of people tithing scant wealth for even more elusive hope, when a standard certificate of deposit would yield greater dividends in the end.

Shawn Mullins opened Sheryl Crow's performance on Saturday night, introducing his 1998 number one single "Rock-a-Bye" as, "A medley of my hit." Roughly half of Mullins's new album, "Honey Dew," was performed by the singer-songwriter and a crackerjack backing band, and to this casual listener, the songs sounded truer to his Southern roots than previous, more mainstream efforts.

Sheryl Crow, on the other hand, is almost gloriously mainstream, combining sassy pop rockers with the occasional countryish ballad designed to jerk the occasional tear from female eyes. Crow shares with Mullins a band that boasts fabulous musicianship, as well as a new release, "Detours," which was amply previewed, obviously is the work of a mature artist, and includes a couple of songs protesting the idiocy of America's sitting regime … words almost surely lost on the casino crowd.

Of course, an audience composed primarily by people my age or older, most of them seriously swizzled on bad beer and watery cocktails, wanted the hits -- damn it! -- and far too many of them hilariously attempted to sing along with Sheryl as she obligingly threw out the radio tunes. Keep it in the shower, guys. It was painful.

Both Mullins and Crow were superb, and we richly enjoyed the evening in spite of my venomous preconceived notions about the nature of the gambling industry and my (accompanying) contempt for the cultural incomprehension of my aging brethren.

In particular, I'm constantly thankful for the many advances in technology that have combined to make concerts more enjoyable. The music was loud enough for a mild buzz in my ears afterward, but remarkably clear and undistorted all in all.

By the way, the venue itself is composed of bleachers, rather smallish plastic chairs and seats, and an indoor clubhouse (luxury box?) in the rear that faces the stage. I'm assuming the indoor facility exists to air-condition the wealthy and assorted high rollers during summer's mosquito-laden heat and humidity, although last night was cool, crisp and joyful in this regard. Plastic seats on the ground, center stage, are the more expensive ones, many apparently taken by members of the casino's "we lose here regularly" cadres.

All of it is located between the indoor casino complex and the looming, Ceausescu-esque hotel, adjacent to the housing unit's car park, which might someday be dry-walled in, given HVAC, and used to house the homeless from both Indiana and Kentucky. I'm sure they have money to lose, too ... right?

Originally posted at MySpace under Music.

Anyone seen Pat Harrison lately?

Gee, where have I heard this one before?

(Hint: Right here ... for roughly the past three years).

JEFFERSONVILLE: Officials hear plan for rental properties, by David Mann (News and Tribune).

You know those movies with the intense action scenes at the very beginning, then all the boring stuff at the end.

“That’s what you’ve got to do with this program,” said Mel Plummer, chief inspector with the Los Angeles Housing Department.

Plummer was speaking to officials from Jeffersonville and other Indiana municipalities about how to package and present a program that his city uses to clean up blighted rental properties.

Lead with the fact that it can be beneficial to owners, tenants and the city, he said. Add in that it comes at no cost to taxpayers.

Under the program — which Jeffersonville officials got an overview of Thursday — a per-unit fee assessed to landlords would pay for code-enforcement officers. Those officers would, in turn, perform inspections on rental properties and making sure dwellings are kept up to code. The idea is merely being proposed now, but some city officials say it’s worth a look.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

LEO sold and editor Stemle released ... freelancer annoyed.

It's old news, but as a LEO "freelancer", i.e., I write the "Mug Shots" beer column every other week, I received an e-mail Thursday letting us know that the newspaper had been acquired by SouthComm Communications.

So what? More corporate shenanigans, to be sure, and what really hurts is that Cary Stemle, LEO's editor, was cut loose as part of the deal. My notification note phrased it like this:

To be frank, we're all a little shocked by the news, and obviously, we're all close to Cary and are upset that he's not here right now. We expect and understand the emotional reactions to this sort of news. However, we plan to keep our focus where it's always been: putting out quality work and making sure our freelancers are as well taken care of as possible.

In effect, Cary hired me (a fellow Hoosier -- that means something) to write the beer column, and it's annoying to watch something like this happen without the ability to tweak a bigwig or make a difference in the outcome. I suppose I'll just have to pound Anheuser-Busch by default in an upcoming column ... er, already had it planned prior to this week. Same difference.

Here's the "boilerplate" about the transaction:

LEO acquired by SouthComm Communications

Friday, May 23, 2008

NA-FC Supt. Brooks and his "You Tube" moment ... uncaptured, sadly.

Earlier in the week, I posted on the topic of religion, politics and libertarianism, the first two issues being familiar to most of us as the ones our parents always cautioned us against raising in public. The article generated a hefty 22 reponses.

Then, for three days running, we considered the equally important topics of education, neighborhood schools and the school corporation's unmerited secrecy in its decision-making processes ... and the yield has been 7 or 8 comments, total.

Now, I draw no conclusions from this, knowing that numerous factors are involved, but simply ask: Assuming that most readers perused the Tribune's coverage of the Resources for Results committee, am I the only one here that finds it an ominous trend when the superintendent himself intervenes to remove a newspaper reporter from a committee meeting -- whether the meeting is "public" and "legal" in the strictest sense or not?

Really, now: How abysmal is this sort of sensibility when it comes to public relations ?

My colleague Bluegill offered these thoughts in a comment appended to yesterday's NAC article. His words summarize it for me:

There's an abundance of good information out there explaining why maintaining and investing in walkable neighborhood schools is economically and socially the right thing to do.

The whole secrecy M.O. is disturbing on a lot of levels but, importantly, has kept the resources committee from hearing much of that reasoning for almost two years prior to making recommendations. Not only has the public trust been violated but the decision making process has been flipped backwards, weakening any real chance of fully informed discussion.

It's been mentioned among concerned citizens that talks with the school corporation should be handled as cooperatively and congenially as possible. It'd be nice if corporation leadership could at least show enough respect to return the favor.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Tribune on open doors and "Resources for Results."

Today the Tribune jumps in with both feet:

Committee considers New Albany-Floyd County school closures

Here's an extended excerpt from the beginning of the article, which I'm assuming was written by Tara Hettinger.


Resources for Results to give recommendations to NA-FC board in the fall

(NO ACCESS BEYOND THIS POINT ... The Evening News and Tribune attempted to go to the latest Resources for Results meeting Monday. However, New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp. Superintendent Dennis Brooks escorted a reporter out, saying the meeting was not open to the public. He said since the committee was created by him, the open-meetings law, which requires them to be open to the public, does not apply. When a reporter was escorted from the meeting, Brooks said that the minutes were public and available in his office. As of press time, the minutes had not been provided to the paper. Dave Rarick, director of communications for the corporation, said the minutes may soon become public. If so, they will be on the corporation’s Web site, which is An inquiry has been made by The Tribune to the Hoosier State Press Legal Association about access to future meetings.)

Secretive. Covert. Sneaky.Those three words have reverberated within many parents and residents living near Silver Street Elementary School — one of the schools being considered by a committee for closure.

That committee, Resources for Results, was started in May 2006 by Superintendent of New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp. Dennis Brooks. He said he asked school employees, current and retired, school board members, parents and other community members to dedicate their time for about two years to look into ways to better use the resources the school system has.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Silver Street school: Insulation?

You may recall my sometime informant, Even Deeper Throat.

Well, like the character in the horror movie ... he's baaack, and what he has to say about the Silver Street school scandal is quite revealing.

Take it away, EDT:


I last heard it would be Pine View closing. A friend is on the so-called committee -- which is really just a shield to insulate (Supt.) Brooks on the decision making process -- he explained the committee and what they do and it is all just insulation. There are about 30 people involved and my friend admits that he is ignorant in such matters. He feels they should have experts in the field study the situation, not some home grown committee of people who have no expertise in this area and who are being used as a rubber stamp for what the administration wants to do … (my friend) told me he believes that neither school should be closed. The savings would only be about 300,000 per year out of a $74 million dollar budget. Savings come from utilities, a principal and some staff. A lot of the staff would follow the students to the other schools, and you can only sell the building once.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Important information: "The potential closing of Silver Street School."

This evening at NAC, the emphasis shifts back to what may be the consummate neighborhood issue: Children and their schools.

I’m the first to admit that education issues often elude me, for the simple reason that I have no children. That’s no excuse, but there it is. One thing I understand is that when it comes to revitalizing an inner city, a sustainable future comes from many sources, but children and their education is first and foremost in the minds of families who choose to live there.

"Families form a loyalty to the city" … "It is primarily a school phenomenon.

I have many good friends in the NA-FC school corporation, and many other good friends in the neighborhood that feeds the Silver Street Elementary School, and the latter group currently feels that an unsavory surprise is about to be sprung on them by the former with respect to the school’s immediate future.

From this perspective, it doesn’t seem that there has been much communication between the school administration and the neighborhood leaders … and this is regrettable. NAC has been sent notes from a Resources and Results Committee meeting in April; these apparently have not been published at the school corporation’s website, but they can be read here:

Resources and Results Meeting Notes - April 22, 2008

Also, please read the announcement of an organizational meeting planned for Thursday, May 22. I’m told that reporters for both the Tribune and Courier-Journal will be running stories later this week.



Please feel free to forward this to everyone you think needs to be in-the-know about the potential closing of Silver Street School. This is a very serious issue and not to be taken lightly – the meetings have been happening behind closed doors and we weren’t invited!

I am planning a meeting to brain storm together and come-up with a plan(s) of action. The meeting will be:

Thursday, May 22nd at 6:30 PM at Advent Christian Church (in the basement) - 2129 Shelby Street (Enter from the Indiana Avenue side.)
Yesterday, I talked with someone who was one of the key players in working to keep the school open back in the ‘90’s. I’m going to be meeting with her soon to talk more. Until then, there are a couple of things she told me that are imperative:

First is to hit the pavement and be sure and let every home owner in the area know that the school’s closure could bring property values down. Not everyone will think the school’s closure is their concern. Their property value, however, is. Start spreading the word.

Secondly, and she really stressed this, we must have school representation at every school board meeting. She says that they will give various issues names like “164-27” and then vote on them. Without going to every meeting, we have no way of knowing what these issues are. I know everyone’s schedule is packed, especially at this time of year. But I really need a few committed folks to attend with me! Please let me know if I can count you in. We can carpool to save gas!

Here are the dates/times of the next few meetings:

Monday, May 12, 2008
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Monday, June 16, 2008
Monday, June 30, 2008

All meetings begin at 7:00 p.m. (unless otherwise noted). All Board of School Trustees Meetings will be held in the Board Room of the School Administrative Services Center, 2801 Grant Line Road, New Albany, IN.

Finally, I’m working to revive my neighborhood association (Glenwood Place) which spans south from Spring Street just past Market (to Willow) and east from Silver to Beharrell. I’m already working closely with Silver Grove and I need to get in contact with the person in charge of Uptown. We need to join together to strengthen our voice!

If you would like to be on the email-list for the Silver Grove newsletter, please contact Jim Munford at munfish(at) You don’t have to live in the Silver Grove neighborhood to be included on their mailing list and all of their emails are sent anonymously, so no one sees your email address. The newsletters are full of great information: Silver Street School news, upcoming local events, local history, and even crime sprees in the area.

Thanks so much. I look forward to hearing from you.

~Kathy Ayres (812) 989-8204 – moondansyr(at)

Saving The Academic Resource Society

More on religion, libertarianism ... and candidate Schansberg.

Baron Hill and Mike Sodrel aren’t the only repeat candidates in this fall’s Indiana 9th district congressional race. Just as in 2006, university professor Eric Schansberg will be running for the seat under the Libertarian banner.

A few days ago, I received a Schansberg e-mailing setting forth the themes for his campaign. It is repeated here verbatim, with my thoughts to follow.


In case you hadn't heard already, I've decided to run for U.S. Congress again -- in Indiana's 9th District, opposing Baron Hill and Mike Sodrel in their fourth race against each other.

We'll emphasize similar themes in this campaign:

-fiscal conservatism (I'm
the only fiscal conservative in the race)
-bring our troops home (the other two support the status quo in
-no taxpayer money for corporations or
Planned Parenthood (the other two have voted for both)
-attention to over-looked issues like
payroll/FICA taxes and Social Security
-increase the supply of oil to reduce the price of gasoline

We started much earlier this time and already had a lot of stuff done -- so we're much further along this time. For example:

the website is up-and-running
-we have our printed materials in hand
-I've been in the newspapers and on TV and radio
-I've started to walk the business districts; and
-we have more cash-on-hand than we raised from individuals from the entire 2006 campaign.

If you're getting this email, you're probably a friend or acquaintance who didn't help explicitly in the last campaign.

-We'd love to have your help this time-- to
donate (even $5 will buy ads) or volunteer or just to spread the word (if you know people in the district).

-If so, drop me a line or work through the website.
-If not, I won't bother you anymore with this!

Grace to you, Eric

p.s. If you haven't checked out my personal blog,
SchansBlog, you might get a kick out of it!


If you follow the links above, you’ll find literally hundreds of words written by Schansberg about each of the highlighted platform points, and whether the reader agrees or disagrees, it must be readily conceded that there is a tangible effort throughout to deploy logic and reasoned argumentation. Speaking personally, it’s the very least I’d expect from a highly educated man, a teacher, an economist and a thinker. Surely a good many of Schansberg’s criticisms of the two major party candidates ring true.

And yet, again speaking personally, there’s a profound deal breaker in it for me, just one sentence among the many, but one that makes this longtime heretic cringe. The topic is Planned Parenthood, and Schanberg’s credo is, “Pro-life, Pro-adoption, and no taxpayer money for Planned Parenthood.” He writes:

“Given 21st-century science and my religious views, I am unabashedly pro-life.”

I find this reference fascinating even if it ensures that I’ll not vote for Schansberg this fall, because nowhere else in the candidate’s lengthy policy explications does he feel the need to cite his personal religious belief as justification for a position. However, when it comes to the “pro-life” argument, evidently Schansberg finds insufficient certitude that 21st-century science provide enough “evidence” to rule on the issue … and an appeal to his personal religious perspective is offered as something approximating insurance.

It strikes me that either this is intentional pandering to those for whom science is by far the least compelling reason to render an opinion on abortion (these being the same voters who visit the creationism museum in the northern Kentucky intellectual desert, Schansberg’s opinion of which may or may not be on record), or Schansberg himself explicitly recognizes that the same proof-based worldview used to make his other cases isn’t enough to make the pro-life one.

I’ve always liked the candidate personally and will continue to like him, and (not “but”) he is a rather extreme fundamentalist, albeit of an uncommonly erudite variety. Given this fact, shouldn’t we be asking him to explain the implications of his personal religious (read: apocalyptic) beliefs on those other issues that he has reserved the calculatedly public coolness of logic to expound?

I’ll readily confess to a measure of personal confusion here. How does the conceptual basis of the Libertarian position lend itself to this blatant appeal to religious authority v.v. Planned Parenthood and the “sanctity” of life? Does candidate Schansberg offer specific religious testimony that might clarify Libertarian planks on broader issues of fairness as they apply to health care, immigration and the war in Iraq … or is human reason sufficient to help us understand those policy conundrums? Why one and not the other?

I’m just curious.

Libertarians oppose the notion that government is the most efficient way to solve problems, while I tend to feel that the same shoe better fits religion. Then again, I’m an atheist who sees in the Libertarian’s presumed disestablishment the seeds of future persecution on religious grounds … a state of affairs that has been the norm throughout the history of Christianity. Perhaps I can be persuaded not to be concerned. Can Schansberg make his “pro-life” case without recourse to religious belief?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Five random questions on a catch-up Monday.

Is libertarianism compatible with religious fundamentalism?

Why is it that so many people are afraid of even trying?

Even if Mike Huckabee is John McCain’s running mate, could I possibly vote against the Republican candidate any faster?

Given the ongoing poverty of CM Steve’s Price’s worldview, do you think my new movement, 3LF (3rd district Liberation Front) might successfully petition for foreign intervention in our council district?

If a so-called Democrat won’t vote for Barack Obama because Obama is black, then why doesn’t the racist Democrat simply register as a Republican and dispense with the hypocrisy?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Odds and ends: Weekend update, and sad tidings from abroad.

The weekend seemed to last a year, but now it's over. The reward? Another Monday. Here's a quick update on the weekend NABC beer schedule.


Regular readers will recall that during the course of my recent storytelling about Yugoslavia in 1987, I described how I made the acquaintance of Radojko Petkovski, a self-described "earthquake engineer."

We were both riding the train from Ljubljana to Zagreb, and chatted while sharing a compartment. Some day soon, when I get around to concluding the tale, you'll learn of how I came eventually to visit him in Skopje, Macedonia, and of his bottomless hospitality and grace during my stay.

In my recollection, Raddy was divorced or separated, and had a young son who didn't always stay with him. I can't recall whether or not his son and I met. It's all too hazy after all these years.

The memories come back to me now because of this note, which I received a few days ago as appended (as a comment) to my reprinting of the Yugoslavia story:

I googled the internet for the same reason as you did, and I found your text. My father was Radojko Petkovski, Prof D-r. seismologist, who maybe you met in the train, probably returning from his visit to his brothers in Slovenia. It gives me a smile to see that he made an impression on you during yours short trip together.

Sadly, he passed away on 1st of June 2007.

Best regards,

His son, Milan

P.S. I can write you what happened after, since most of my youth has gone through that bloody period, but it will just ruin my smile.

In the larger scheme of things, I've no idea whether Raddy was a "good man." At the advanced age of 47, I'm no longer certain how we measure such things, or whether we even can. But, for those few springtime days in Skopje, and in that far-off time, he was extremely nice to this fumbling and disorganized budget traveler ... and I'll never forget the hospitality. Thanks, and rest in peace.

Milan, if you're still reading ... there wasn't an e-mail address for me to write to you. Please send it to me at my e-mail adress (see the profile to find it).

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Day 2: Music, beer and food today in Madison.

Last night was the opening of this year's folk festival in Madison, IN, and it was dynamite. The senior editor currently is undergoing various forms of recuperative therapy that include intravenous caffeine and cortisone shots, and will be returning to open the taps by 11:30 a.m. If you're planning on driving up today, be aware that there's a detour on State 62 at Charlestown, and it will add perhaps 15 minutes to the commute.

Ohio River Valley Folk Festival in Madison this weekend, May 16 & 17, and NABC will be there.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Shadow sez: "Last night's meeting proved, irrevocably, that the honeymoon is over."

It may at last be time to rearm the Sharpies, steal another legal pad from work and limber up for city council follies and more dysfunctional antics from the city of New Albany’s ranking civic embarrassments, Dan Coffey and Steve Price.

As usual, Shadow has the story, and here’s the teaser.

But last night's showdown was the worst possible occasion to assert the council's power. It was a frivolous gesture that may well be noted as this council's lowest moment. In a puerile attempt to embarrass Mr. Malysz, and by extension, Mr. England, Sir Dan may have forfeited hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal largesse.

It's been a nice break, but now it's time to rejoin Shadow, and remind New Albany that ...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Coffey pot calls kettle Coffey … or, obstructionists still say the darndest things.

There’s a city council meeting tonight, and many of you have asked when I intend to return to the peanut gallery. It’s a hard question to answer, primarily because my therapist continues to insist that I focus on positives, and try to exclude depressing spectacles from my weekly diet of events. I reminded her that I've not watched a single episode of the Sopranos -- ever!

Granted, the current council aggregation is far less of a furrow on the brow of educated New Albanians than was the case during the previous four years, but there’s still the 3rd district’s isolated rogue CM Steve Price to view … and I may be the exception to the rule that folks can’t take their eyes off train wrecks. I can, and have been.

With luck, once we’re finished in Iraq, we can bring representative democracy to the vicinity of the third. I’ll be the first in line to pull that particular statue down.

And then, of course, there’s still Dan Coffey for tragic-comic relief.

The following quote, which specifically refers to a recently minted Main Street development project that the 1st district councilman has taken a conspicuous (and accordingly highly suspicious) interest in touting, comes from the same inveterate west-ending Luddite who once publicly praised Birdseye, Indiana as the type of locale that could serve as a model for New Albany:

“We keep playing around and nobody is going to come to this town,” Coffey said.

Wow … it just goes to show that in spite of the many good things happening here, New Albany remains an Irony Free Zone. Verily, having Dan Coffey on the Redevelopment Commission is like having me on the board of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Great if you’re a diehard surrealist. Otherwise, those dogs won’t hunt.

The quote’s from the Tribune: New Albany City Councilman won’t go for several expansions to TIF districts, and here’s what once had Cappuccino looking for investment opportunities to the West: Mass exodus to Birdseye; little people evacuate New Albany in search of cleanliness, lower educational standards.

SAVOR in DC this weekend, and NABC will be there.

Brewers Jesse Williams and Jared Williamson of the New Albanian Brewing Company will be traveling to Washington, D.C., this weekend to man the NABC booth at SAVOR (see details below), which is a big-ticket effort on the part of the craft brewing industry to lay claim to turf previously thought to be the exclusive domain of wine – namely, pairing good food with good beer, and not pretending that America’s biggest-selling megabrews even matter at all when it comes to such considerations.

And hoppy ale’s still better with hot wings than mass-market beer.

But I digress.

Given the prestigious nature of this inaugural event (we’re one of only 48 breweries participating), it’s quite exciting to have another local craft producer, Capriole Farms, included under the auspices of SAVOR. We were asked to make pairing recommendations, and suggested Capriole’s heavenly Mont St. Francis goat cheese to accompany our Hoptimus double IPA. Our wish was SAVOR's command.

I would have like to attend SAVOR, not so much to schmooze, but to tickle the taste buds, but we’d already committed to the annual Ohio River Valley Folk Festival in Madison (IN) this weekend. Rest assured that Jesse and Jared will do just fine without me along for the ride. Meanwhile, John Campbell and I are free to beervangelize in Madison on Friday and Saturday, then motor to Greenville on Sunday for Capriole’s annual Spring Farm Day. DC or no DC, it isn’t looking like a weight-loss weekend for the Publican.

Here’s the full press release from the organizers of SAVOR.


SAVOR: An American Craft Beer & Food Experience Comes to Nation's Capital in May

Independent Craft Brewers Harmonize Beer and Food Showcasing Why Craft Beer is So Sought After

Boulder, CO – March 7, 2008 - Four dozen independent craft brewers have been selected to showcase the pleasures of fine food enjoyed with world-class beer in Washington, D.C., May 16-17. SAVOR: An American Craft Beer & Food Experience will highlight the culinary delights of beer as part of the Brewers Association's annual American Craft Beer Week

“SAVOR offers a truly unique opportunity to be personally served by many of America’s most innovative and famous brewery owners and brewers," said Julia Herz, a spokesperson for the association. "Meeting the makers, access to the educational salons, and the pairing menu are why SAVOR is a must attend event.

Today, American beers are judged to be among the world’s best and have earned a respected place at the table alongside wine. In fact, two-thirds of today’s wine drinkers also consume beer. In the summer of 2007, National Public Radio observed, "Beer has gone from the House of Commons to the House of the Lords.” Additionally, in July 2007, Gallup Poll confirmed beer is still the most popular adult beverage in the U.S. ¹

SAVOR tickets are available to the public for three different tasting sessions scheduled May 16th and 17th at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington D.C. Tickets are $85 each and will include a wide variety of sweet and savory appetizers crafted to match the taste profiles of craft beers. Federal City Caterers, who have catered many State Department functions and Congressional receptions, will orchestrate the food menu.

In addition to the main attraction of sampling in the great hall, SAVOR will also feature educational salons, which will offer live presentations by brewers, journalists and chefs who have helped advance the American craft beer revolution.

Scheduled speakers include: Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery; Jim Koch of Boston Beer; Dave Lieberman of Here’s To Beer; Randy Mosher author of “Radical Brewing”; Marnie Old, Assistant Dean of Wine Studies at the French Culinary Institute; Garrett Oliver, Brewmaster of The Brooklyn Brewery; Hugh Sisson of Clipper City; and several savvy cross drinkers including Lauren Buzzeo of Wine Enthusiast magazine; Ray Isle of Food & Wine magazine; and Ken Wells of Conde’ Nast Portfolio.

Jimmy Reyes of Reyes Beverage Group, Supporting Partner of the event, said, "This is going to be a tremendous celebration. Everyone from true beer aficionados to those who simply enjoy flavorful food and drink will take pleasure in a day of rubbing shoulders and sharing craft beer with acclaimed American brewers in Washington D.C., a beer-loving city since its inception."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Wanted: New Albanian art show, May 15, 16 & 17.

Kevin and the gang have another art show for the coming weekend. Check out the art in Prost, NABC's special events wing.

Pawn 'em if you got 'em, bottom feeders.

After five long years, 3rd district uncouncilman Steve Price finally has taken a stand in favor of economic development.

He's come out for pawn shops.

Wow. Now that's downmarket ... and in an industrial park, no less.

Read about this and more council business in the Tribune: McCartin says New Albany development good for tax base, residents raise traffic concerns.

(No snide comments here about The Gary's latest exurban cookie-cutter)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Ohio River Valley Folk Festival in Madison this weekend, May 16 & 17, and NABC will be there.

The coming weekend (Friday & Saturday, May 16 & 17) is the 3rd Annual Ohio River Valley Folk Festival, held along the Ohio River in Madison, Indiana. NABC poured beer in 2006 and 2007, and will be doing so again along with friends from Upland Brewing Company (Bloomington, IN).

This year, with our brewers Jesse and Jared off in Washington D.C. to represent NABC at the prestigious inaugural SAVOR beer and food pairing, it looks like John Campbell and the Publican are doing the pouring both days. If readers are interested in helping and have a valid Indiana server permit, let me know, ASAP.

Last year I wrote about the folk festival’s conceptual basis in my Louisville Eccentric Observer (LEO) column, Mug Shots - Folk Fest celebrates handcrafted brews, and included within my account was this explanation from the festival’s organizers:

In keeping with the Ohio River Valley’s artisan tradition, we proudly offer handcrafted beer and wine from the people who make it. Like the folks who select their wood for a fine musical instrument, these small-production, high-quality vintners and brewers are engaged in the entire process, from the selection of the grain and fruit, to pouring your glass!

Bravo for that. Recaps from previous years can be found here at the PC blog:

2006: Another good reason to run upriver.

2007: Ohio River Valley Folk Festival recap: Great weather, and beer and music to match.

As of Monday morning, weekend temperatures are expected to be in the 60s, with clouds but no rain. I’m hoping to see many readers at the festival, so stop by the beer tent and say hello.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Au revoir, Monsieur Ponticelli, et votre génération.

France’s last remaining infantry veteran of World War I died earlier this year. Lazare Ponticelli, who was born in Italy and moved to France before he war began, lived to be 110. Millions of men his age died very young, and it took Europe fifty years and another horrific conflagration to recover from the first. Ponticelli saw it all, from disintegrating royal houses to integrating European states. That’s a lot of changes for one man's life.

The Economist magazine excels in the art of the elegiac obituary, with one appearing in each weekly issue. These remembrances are by no means limited to the rich and famous, and they are written in classical sense of the genre, comprising mini-essays on life and important lessons that range beyond the mere chronology of the deceased. Ponticelli’s obituary in The Economist is available on-line alongside death notices for Ian Smith, Charlton Heston and Benazir Bhutto, but also Marie Smith (the last remaining speaker of the Eyak language) and Ollie Johnson, Walt Disney’s key animator.

Back in the early 1960’s, there was a black and white documentary series about World War I shown on network television. It may have been a summer replacement series. The episodes were a half-hour in length, and were narrated by the actor Robert Ryan. Years later these were rerun on cable, and studiously videotaped by my history buff friend Barrie, who currently teaches at Scribner.

The grainy, ghostly black and white film clips told the story of the conflict from start to finish, but the episode we always returned to watch again and again was "Tipperary and All that Jazz," which was quite innovative for the time. In effect, it was a music video of World War I, with archival film footage as the backdrop to song snippets, all popular ditties of the day. Some were recorded, but most performed live in parlors or at public gatherings -- remember, radio didn’t exist until after the war had concluded.

One of the songs was “There's a Long, Long Trail A-Winding,” much later used as a poignant ending for an episode of M*A*S*H – the television series that told the story of war’s tragic futility in a different time and a different place than the Somme and Argonne … through the imagined experiences of Col. Sherman Potter, a fictional character, and without Lazare Ponticelli and his real-life comrades staring back into the moving picture’s lens.

So very many of them died before their time, and now only a handful remain, and the long trail keeps a-winding.

There's a Long, Long Trail A-Winding

Nights are growing very lonely,
Days are very long;
I'm a-growing weary only
List'ning for your song.
Old remembrances are thronging
Thro' my memory.
Till it seems the world is full of dreams
Just to call you back to me.

There's a long, long trail a-winding
Into the land of my dreams,
Where the nightingales are singing
And a white moon beams:
There's a long, long night of waiting
Until my dreams all come true;
Till the day when I'll be going down
That long, long trail with you.

All night long I hear you calling,
Calling sweet and low;
Seem to hear your footsteps falling,
Ev'ry where I go.
Tho' the road between us stretches
Many a weary mile.
I forget that you're not with me yet,
When I think I see you smile.

There's a long, long trail a-winding
Into the land of my dreams,
Where the nightingales are singing
And a white moon beams:
There's a long, long night of waiting
Until my dreams all come true;
Till the day when I'll be going down
That long, long trail with you.

Publican's rant: Restaurant operators, know thy market!

My wife is a vegetarian by philosophical principle, and she cannot consume dairy products owing to lactose intolerance. Consequently, she reckons herself a vegan, but one who’ll still eat eggs and the occasional fish.

Meanwhile, I’m an omnivore, and a meat and cheese lover of long standing who has learned that it is both easy and tasty to prepare suitable meals at home that satisfy both of us. It’s simply amazing how little effort it takes to adapt recipes and menus so as to accommodate vegetarians and vegans.

We live in New Albany, a city that is placing a great deal of revitalization hope in its steadily expanding downtown dining and entertainment zone. At the same time, ours is a city apparently inhabited by a gene pool that by all rights should be the topic of a major university’s study into the thinking habits of natives never exposed to thinking. The absence of empathy here is a startling and disturbing feature of daily life.

Not that we aren't used to it by now. When the time comes to eat out at restaurants, it takes little in the way of forethought for us to conclude that places like steakhouses might not be the best bet for vegetarian fare. Accordingly, we seldom dine together at such places. I simply eat my meat at other times.

Apart from the sort of traditional places that we know to avoid, it remains that in today’s diverse and multicultural world, it’s hard to imagine any eatery seeking status as “up-market” or “upscale” or just plain “in tune with society” not having a slight notion of purpose-made vegetarian/vegan options, ones that exceed the incredibly tired cop-out of “just put a few of our vegetable side dishes together and make a meal.” That’s the sort of thing you’d expect from the VFW or Elks lodge kitchen some time during the Ford administration.

In fairness, I’m aware that the friendlier (and more professional) of chefs will often prepare something to suit upon request – where have you gone, Dave Clancy? – but why place this onus on the customer at a time when all aspects of the dining scene point to greater choice?

Granted, a typical restaurant can’t be all things to all people, and yet if you’re already doing pasta and have olive oil close by, a good veggie stir fry is only moments away. Why not keep the comparatively few ingredients required to make such a stir-fry from scratch, prep the presentation, and list it as an everyday option right there on the menu? Why discomfit an increasingly growing segment of the population by constructing bills of fare still built almost exclusively around meat?

Haven’t we gotten past chicken fried steak as the star menu dish? For heavens sake, even today’s truck stops do better than that – and they don’t pretend to be anything other than what they are.

The reason why this is starting to annoy me so greatly is because it reminds me far too much of what I’ve gone through for so long in my life as a beer lover, and particularly, of the typical tavern owner’s clueless, and perhaps even gutless, refusal to cater even slightly to that segment of the population wishing to drink something other than a mass-market swill.

Because: Not only is ignorance of a constantly changing marketplace an insult to customers who’ve already done their homework and know what they want, it’s also damaging to the bottom line. Vegetarians and vegans want to spend their money just like anyone else, and they are sadly accustomed to accepting less than their due – eating wretched iceberg lettuce salads stripped of all things “chef” and making do with French fries (and not thinking about how the fries were prepared).

Why not accommodate these potentially loyal customers up front, rather than force them to ask for something special … especially when the scant knowledge required to pro-actively anticipate such conditions is something we have a right to expect from operators who’ve been around long enough to know better, and who remind us of their vast experience at every turn?

The preceding rant stems directly from an experience with a recently minted restaurant located in New Albany, as well as with the situation at another local establishment, where a special musical event included a meal, and the options for the meal were two choices of meat, but nothing vegetarian or vegan – and, where apparently no one present ever considered that such a question might arise. I simply find it inexcusable that the former restaurant bills itself as “upscale,” but doesn’t have a single vegetarian/vegan menu item on the menu except hummus – which wasn’t in stock when I visited.

In the latter case, it required a great deal of effort on my part, as well as the welcomed assistance of a veteran waiter (you know who you are, and thanks) who went well beyond the norm, both in advance and on the day of the show, to ensure that Diana would be able to dine at what, in the end, was a rather expensive event.

Why is enlightenment so elusive in this benighted locale?

Here's a promise. We don't plan on having an extensive menu at the NABC Bank Street Brewhouse, but there'll be more than one thing there on a daily basis for vegetarians and vegans. These will be there, on the menu card, available for ordering without feeling self-conscious asking for them. I predict that whatever these items turn out to be, there'll be a demand, because I already know the demand is there.

So there.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Tommy Dorsey and the meaning of life.

I remember being awake on a windy evening in spring, listening to the new leaves rustle through the open windows, and hearing the song “Manhattan Serenade” in my head, as performed by Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra. It’s a forgettable pop tune by almost any standard, but for whatever reason, in the mind of a ten-year-old, it prompted thoughts of life and death and ultimate meanings. I’ve no idea why. It just did.

Which is to say that it isn’t necessary for me to Google the name of Tommy Dorsey to know who he was.

More than fifty years after Dorsey’s death, a big band stocked with younger musicians bearing his name still tours the country, playing tunes that the famous bandleader made famous during his heyday in the 1930’s and 1940’s. The band is playing two Mother’s Day shows this evening at the Speakeasy, and my wife and I will be escorting my mother to the first of these.

Back in the day, Tommy Dorsey’s orchestra was in the upper tier in terms of visibility and record (78 rpm) sales. Before and after the period of his greatest success, he worked alongside his brother Jimmy, and these were volatile working arrangements not unlike those of the Robinson (Black Crowes) and Gallagher (Oasis) brothers of the current age.

It’s often forgotten that Elvis Presley’s first network television exposure came on a show hosted by the Dorsey Brothers.

Tommy Dorsey played in the studio with Bix Beiderbecke, did credible Dixieland with his Clambake Seven side project, hired some of the period’s finest sidemen (Bunny Berigan, Ziggy Elman, Buddy Rich and arranger Sy Oliver), and provided Frank Sinatra with the model for the young singer’s breathing technique by virtue of his own approach on the trombone. Dorsey was acclaimed for his “sweet” ballads, but the “swing” numbers rock hard, even today, seventy years after some were rcorded.

My exposure to the big band phenomenon came very early in life, at the behest of a father who had no musical skills whatsoever, but forever associated the music with his youth, and more importantly, the period of his wartime experience in the Pacific theater. My dad’s favorite was Glenn Miller, but I came to prefer Dorsey, Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw among the famous white bandleaders, reserving my ultimate accolades for Duke Ellington -- genius not so much as performer as a songwriter.

Miller always was a bit too calculated and commercial for my tastes, and his legacy as synonymous with the “Great Band Era” primarily owes to an untimely death while serving with the military in Europe. The other bandleaders mentioned here were jazzier from the start, and also lived to preside somehow over changing tastes and the decline of the genre, which has survived, albeit at the fringe of the listening public’s imagination.

No matter. Big bands remain embedded in my consciousness, even if genetics doomed me to as little musical comprehension as preceding generations of the family. Tonight at the Speakeasy there’ll be food, wine and merriment, and I hope my mother enjoys it. However, I’ll be thinking about Tommy Dorsey, the long forgotten “Manhattan Serenade,” life, death and ultimate meanings.

After all, it’s a long tradition inside melancholics like me.

Another reason to believe that New Albany is behind the times.

We were returning from a suburban Louisville graduation party last evening and, as usual, descended the I-64 ramp to the intersection of Elm and State Streets.

The first two things you see are the old Nicholson Maytag building on the northeast corner, now mercifully purchased and under renovation, and Planet Telecom just opposite. Now, I've come generally to ignore Planet Telecom's prominent LED moving message sign, which I view as egregious, and yet as we sat at the intersection waiting for the light to change, there was a sense of unease that I couldn't quantify. Finally I read the words scrolling from right to left.

It was the same message that apparently had first run 17 days ago on the morning of April 23, the day after the Pennsylvania primary; the message was about how the race had changed, and what Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama would do next.

17 days. What's up with that?

If Jeff and I can update this blog every day ...

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Pangea Day event canceled.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, the Fish House won't be able to open today and the Pangea Day event is canceled.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

Maybe he'll buy a building.

Speakeasy owner Brad Tharp greets Ted Danson and his wife Mary Steenburgen, who dropped by on Friday, May 2 following the Oaks. Photo submitted by Mike Kopp.

Don't forget:

Downtown Saturday & a sneak peak at the Pearl Street Gems: Saturday, May 10.

Pangea Day and worldwide live broadcast at the Market Street Fish House: Saturday, May 10.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Open thread: The May 6 primary election.

I'll be in Cincinnati today to see the Reds and Cubs, and hoist a few at the Hofbrauhaus in Newport. In in the absence of time to write (all my votes were for losing candidates, anyway), let's open the floor for a discussion of yesterday's political events.

Shadow has a few things to say about it: Hammered for Hil.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Post-mortem: Today’s election and how the senior editor voted.

Forty minutes ago we walked over to S. Ellen Jones School, navigated the unannounced change in location for precinct #5 (teeth gritting), and did our civic duty.

I’m not speaking for Diana, but I voted Democrat in spite of the fact that I don't consider myself to be one, especially with respect to the gutlessly non-ideological manner that local Democrats conduct their business.

Actually, as a non-naturalized European dropped mistakenly into America at birth by a tragically confused (and probably drunken) stork, I'm politically disenfranchised by the two-party system. However, seeing as Republicans are typically the far greater threat to the common good, I’m happy to participate in the primary and keep my reflexes sharp to vote against John McCain and Mike Sodrel (among others) come autumn.

I did not cast a vote in unopposed races. Here is the list of my preferences:

Barack Obama
Gretchen Clearwater
Mike McDaniel
Stan Robison

I believe that’s all. The Democratic slate for county council was so depressingly colorless that I left it entirely blank, although in truth, I really wanted to vote for Randy Stumler, because I know that deep down inside, he gets it.

He gets it, but he refuses to say it aloud, and he did not answer NAC’s semi-annual request to elucidate the Democratic Party platform … and that refusal isn’t the first … and so I’ve resolved to cease being politically co-dependent. Sorry. It hurts me to write that.

Furthermore, by virtue of the simple fact that Republican chairman Dave Matthews did respond to our platform request – even if certain planks within it bear much further discussion – I consider myself honor bound to give the local GOP a fairer shake come November. That’s a promise, Dave.

Here are a few reminders before you head to the polls.

If you are registered and will be 18 or older by November 4th, 2008, you can vote in the May 6th Primary.

Polls will only be open for 12 hours -- 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. -- and we're anticipating high turnout, so try to vote early in the day. Go before work if you can, or plan to take time to vote on your lunch break.

When you vote, you must bring with you a Photo ID issued by the state of Indiana or the U.S. Government that has your name and an expiration date after November 7th, 2006.

Acceptable ID includes an Indiana driver's license, Indiana state photo ID card, a U.S. Passport, U.S. Military ID or Student ID from an Indiana state school, so long as it includes a photo and an expiration date.

And if this is your first time voting, make sure you bring an acceptable document that shows your current address, such as an Indiana driver's license, current utility bill, bank statement, or paycheck.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Steinert's is no more.

As most New Albanians already know, a fire early Monday morning claimed the historic Steinert's Grill and Pub, which in its earlier and more respectable incarnations was a local landmark, having been established in the latter part of the 19th century.

The Tribune misses the scoop because of its Monday off day, but the newspaper has a brief on-line story and a few photos that were submitted by regular NAC reader and blogger John Alton.

The Courier-Journal offers this quickie:

Fire damages popular New Albany restaurant

Fire swept through Steinert's Grill & Pub in New Albany, Ind., around 4 a.m., causing heavy smoke and structural damage and taking 15 firefighters from the New Albany Fire Department an hour and a half to contain, according to New Albany police and fire communications.

There were no reported injuries, and the cause of the blaze was undetermined. The popular restaurant is in a two-story frame building at 2239 Charlestown Road.

All the reports coming in today indicate that the building is a total loss, and will be razed as soon as practicable.

Me? I hadn't been there in years and won't pretend that it was my kind of place since, I dunno, some time around 1983, but it was a slice of New Albany history … que sera sera, and all that. Hats off to a bit of history now passed.

But it just goes to show that bad karma really does last forever, and that estrogen-crazed bartender never should have kicked me out that night back in 1984 for playing with the salt shaker.

Another NA (non-alcoholic) election day tomorrow.

Longtime readers have seen this one before, but it's appropriate to repeat these sentiments before each election. The text below is my latest reworking as published last week as a "Mug Shot" article for LEO (it appeared on Wednesday, April 30).

Needless to say: The Public House will not be open until 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 6. Sportstime Pizza will observe regular hours beginning at 11:00 a.m., for what is destined to be an excruciatingly dry lunch. There'll be open seating at Prost from 6:00 p.m. to watch election returns on the big screen.


In 2008, Indiana's primary election takes place on May 6, and Kentucky's follows two Tuesdays later on May 20.

In both states, Election Day brings with it roughly eleven hours of state-mandated prohibition against the sale of demon rum, and consequently the bars can't open until the polls close. Of course, one might drink continuously until 3:30 or 4:00 a.m. election morning, and then nurse a carry-out six-pack or a bottle of single malt Scotch during the comparatively brief time it takes to watch an Adam Sandler DVD before crawling off in a stupor to vote when the polls open at six.

Presumably, this unwelcome vestige of an otherwise discredited social policy serves as a bulwark against the horrific possibility that unscrupulous politicos or their conniving agents might swap half-pints of Kessler (or a similarly valued slopping spree at the community's on-premise watering holes) in exchange for a poor wretch's vote.

As there exists no commensurate prohibition against the sale of strong black coffee, chocolate-covered Krispy Kremes and hickory-smoked bacon, apparently the veiled but very real threat of breakfast-induced bribery is not worthy of the same scrutiny as that posed by the insidious grape and the grain.

If you're hopelessly intoxicated after ingesting that half-pint of Kessler, are you really any more destructive to democracy than the perfectly sober voter who is following instructions provided by a fundamentalist preacher, who in turn has promised not temporal inebriation, but a favorable reference when the time comes to take up residence in heaven?

I think not, and hope you had the foresight to visit your favorite package store on Monday night. Otherwise, remember that the taps open at 6:00 p.m., and to quote Groucho Marx, then there'll be "dancing in the streets, drinking in the saloons, and necking in the parlor."

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Preservation Month kicks off with a focus on shotguns.

Thanks to Ted F. for sharing the following press release:

Don't miss these upcoming Preservation Month Events. For more information visit

Monday, May 5th - 7pm - 8:30pm
Preservation Conversation #1 - A Shotgun Approach: The History, Contributions, and Future of an Underappreciated House Style:
Cornerstone Evangelical Methodist Church, 418 East Spring Street, New Albany

Patricia Gay, Executive Director, Preservation Resource Center, New Orleans, presents stories of her experiences with shotguns in New Orleans and the results of efforts to increase awareness of their value to the New Orleans culture. Since many southern Indiana neighborhoods feature shotgun style houses, (approximately 500 in New Albany) what value is their cultural contribution to the area? Participants can expect to have increased knowledge of the history and a strengthened appreciation of these architectural gems. They will learn ideas for adapting the interior of the shotgun for modern living and gain understanding of the viability and opportunity for investing in shotgun neighborhoods.

Event co-sponsored by New Albany Historic Preservation Commission, Develop New Albany, and Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana. Reception underwritten by Ed Clere, candidate for state representative. Paid for by, David Barksdale, Chairman, Eric Oakley, Treasurer.

Indiana University's Cornelius O'Brien Lecture Series on Historic Preservation supplied funding for the speaker. Free and open to the public.

Tuesday, May 6th - 6:15 - 8:30pm
Pizza and Preservation: Reinventing the Shotgun House for Contemporary Living
, shotgun house of Ron Stiller, architect and presenter, 2112 Elm Street, New Albany, 6:15 PM – 8:30 PM.

Local architect and shotgun house owner Ron Stiller explains how to adapt the shotgun house for modern living and demonstrates how room additions can sensitively accommodate without sacrificing original interior and exterior architectural character.

Reservations required by calling Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana – 812 284- 4534

Saturday, May 03, 2008

The car itself is smart. As for the other drivers ...

(A reworked MySpace blog post)

Automobiles? They're the American birthright, or so I'm told, but when it comes to cars I'm an aesthetic dyslexic, and damned proud of it.

Gaze upon the machine in as loving a fashion as you wish: Stylish, sleek, sexy, and reminiscent of a throbbing penis … whatever ... and pardon me while I suppress a yawn.

Cars are nothing more than a necessary evil, a conveyance I'm forced to utilize when the weather or my schedule precludes riding the bicycle to work, or during those sadly numerous times when I must reconcile myself to the sad fact that my fellow Americans have chosen to forego public transportation so they can live "free" (and die broke) fifty miles from the places they need to go each day.

And while I'm at it, stop making the remark, "Gee, Rog, you're lucky that you live so close to work and can ride your bike." Luck has nothing to do with it. Planning does, but listen, I know how much you need that exurban acreage to feel whole and be near your megachurch.


Having said all that, my wife needs transportation both to and for her job, and so just for the fun of it we test-drove a Smart Car on Wednesday evening. Speaking from the vantage point of 6' 4" and 250 lbs, it's a small car, indeed, but sufficiently roomy to accommodate me with space left over. Verily, the doors are the single largest part, and it really is a front without a back.

The drive went swimmingly until we were merging onto I-64 and came abreast of a predictably swinish semi rig that had ample space in the center lane to yield, and of course would not, and as we traversed the shoulder I was reminded of my friend Tim's observation: If you're in a Smart Car and involved in a high speed wreck, don't worry; modern forensics can be relied upon to make a positive identification of your remains.

I was also reminded of my hands-down favorite automobile of all time: East Germany's infamous and long deceased Trabant, that cuddly cute bundle of rough-hewn metal and socialist asbestos powered by the equivalent of a lawn mower engine, for which creative types could fashion replacement parts from discarded tin foil and baling twine.

The Trabant did far more to undermine the Iron Curtain than Ronald Reagan ever mustered. Lest we forget, Reagan asked Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall, but it was opportunistic Ossies piloting their Trabants across the porous Hungarian border in the summer of 1989 that finally did the trick.


It was decided that there'll be no Smart Cars in the household, at least not yet; other expenditures are more vital. Still, for an aesthetic dyslexic, the Euro-styling strikes a definitive chord. If only our rapidly disappearing American currency could make the same claim.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Open thread: Baron Hill's endorsement of Barack Obama - yea or nay?

Late bulletin: The Green Mouse is reporting that former city council powerbroker (powerbooter?) Larry "King Larry" Kochert has informed Baron Hill's staff that the congressman's endorsement of Barack Obama has cost Hill the support of Kochert, and furthermore, the retired grimace will seek to bring his powerful political legions to bear against Hill. Wise move on Hill's part after all, wouldn't you say?

As we count the hours until the merciful conclusion of yet another Derby season, next week's primary draws ever closer, and to my mind, the most surprising thing that happened this week on the Indiana political front was 9th district congressman (and Democratic superdelegate) Baron Hill's endorsement of Barack Obama for president.

While I'm content to see our representative take a stand, it strikes me as somehow odd that the perpetually cuatious Hill didn't wait out the process, and I'm also afraid that the endorsement might hurt him in his fall re-election campaign against Mike "Hot Wheels" Sodrel.


Thursday, May 01, 2008

Open thread: Races for judge, Floyd Superior 1 & 3.

Wednesday’s Tribune offered brief analysis of the judicial races on next Tuesday’s electoral card:

Floyd County Superior Court 3: Three Dems vie for new judgeship, by Stephanie Mojica.

The new court, which takes effect in 2009, is being created to reduce the caseloads of the existing Floyd County Court, Floyd Superior Court and Floyd Circuit Court. The three Democrats vying for the nomination are Richard Bolin, Maria Granger and Stan Robison.

Floyd County Superior Court 1: Longtime lawyer challenging Orth, by Stephanie Mojica.

Defense attorney Michael McDaniel is running against incumbent Judge Susan L. Orth for a spot on the ballot for November’s Floyd County Superior Court No. 1 race.

Speaking only for myself, Stan Robison’s extensive non-sectarian legal experience speaks volumes, and he gets my vote in Superior 3.

As for Superior 1, it’s a tougher call, but to be perfectly honest, the skilled and curmudgeonly Michael J. is one of my foremost local heroes ... and it's not a bad idea to have at least one safecracker on the police force.

Readers, you may well feel differently. Let ‘er rip.