Sunday, September 30, 2012

It's time for digital Soviet art.


My friend Allan Gamborg updates readers about his new web site. I just concluded twenty minutes lost among these visuals, and Allan is to be praised for providing this experience. Here's the text of his e-mail.

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Dear Friends,

I am happy to announce our new and improved website with more excellent art, and a much improved user experience, where we put more focus on your visual experience of the art.

Please visit the site here:

Also please note also the most recent web exhibitions:




Slava Zaitsev – Sketches for clothes designs  - famous Soviet haute couture

Tears of joy cascade like rain as the newspaper takes a position on "horrirfying" Pence.

Well, not exactly; it's just a "Cheers and Jeers" piece, but still, it's always encouraging to see evidence of a pulse. Given its oft-stated proclivities in opposition to progress in such matters, perhaps the New Albany news desk can issue some variety of counterpoint, or go on strike.

A boy can dream. Thanks to Amy Huffman-Branham for this welcomed dose of reality.

SOUTHERN INDIANA — CHEERS

... Triple cheers and a little jump for joy to columnist Brian Howey for his column, “Cat and mouse with Pence on his moral agenda,” which appeared in the Monday, Sept. 24 edition of The News and Tribune.

I have been wondering when someone — anyone — would remind voters who Republican Indiana gubernatorial candidate Mike Pence is.

I certainly don’t blame Pence and his handlers for keeping the focus of his campaign on the economy and jobs in an effort to keep quiet on the candidate’s stance on social issues. Hoosiers who didn’t pay attention to Pence before he announced his run for the Governor’s Office might just fall for it.

But those who have been paying attention for the last decade know the Pence’s trademark is his far right stance on social issues. We’re not just talking about him tiptoeing into conservatism here, we’re talking an all-out assault on people who believe [and prefer] they have a right to make decisions for themselves when it comes to marriage, children and religion.

As Howey wrote, “In his 2011 campaign kickoff speech in Columbus, Pence said, ‘To restore our economy we must reaffirm our respect for the institutions and traditions that nurture the character of our people. As your governor, I will stand for the sanctity of life, traditional marriage and the importance of organized religion in everyday life. To build an even better Indiana, we must recognize every day that our present crisis is not just economic, but moral.’

When pressed by the Times of Northwest Indiana’s Dan Carden, Pence would only say, ‘I am who I am and I hold the views I hold, but if I have the privilege of being governor of the state of Indiana, we’re going to make job creation job one.’”

While I certainly can’t argue with making job creation job one, the prospect of what job number two might be under a Pence governorship is horrifying.

Hopefully Hoosier voters will take the time to read up on Pence’s career as a lawmaker before they head to the polls in November to see what he’s really about.

The Annex remains a litmus test for local political Philistines.

From Chuck's historic "society" through Seabrook's "limbo," those of our elected officials who routinely treat creativity as though it were the latest incarnation of Ebola provide an illustration of the "leadership" vacuum in this county.

Floyd County's North Annex future in question; Building will be shuttered Oct. 15, by Chris Morris ('Bama Pop-Up Generator)

 ... “We have given the preservation group a lot of time and nothing has come to fruition. We have to decide if we want to keep it or demolish it,” said Commissioners’ President Steve Bush. “We’ve been talking about this since we were talking about building a new youth shelter. I do not think the county has any plans to put offices out there. I think we have done our due diligence.”

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Ian and his Exchange pub + kitchen, on Kickstarter.


From Ian Hall, owner of Exchange pub + kitchen, comes this message:

"Here is a link to our kickstarter page to generate some additional funding for our downtown project. Click to see how you can be a part."

All the way back in 2005, the decrepit Shrader Stables building was the subject of hope. With Feast BBQ already occupying the smaller, attached tavern building to the east, the dream is fast coming to fruition, and I'm very happy for everyone involved.

The Week That Was: Parks and highways we don't need, and a festival we need to evolve -- in 10,000 words or less.

It was a busy week at NAC. When Councilman CeeSaw showed up in a second-hand Paul Bunyan costume while chainsaws revved and Rent Boy Park began taking shape, social media drove the story.

Meanwhile, having intended the week to serve as Harvest Homecoming preview, column inches were devoted to speculation as to when, if ever, New Albany's signature event plans on changing with new times downtown.

Harvest Homecoming: Do the evolution, don't fear the competition.


Harvest Homecoming: Not what downtown is about.


Harvest Homecoming: When the tail wags the dog, we pause.


REWIND: Revisiting the Swill Walk (2007).


But there was another important story, perhaps trumping them all:

"Does Louisville Need More Highways?"


Ideas. Why is our vicinity of residence so opposed to them?

REWIND: Revisiting the Swill Walk (2007).

As the Bicentennial Junta parties like it’s 1913, and New Albania prepares to stroke its inner racist by voting for the leadership potential of Mitt Romney’s bank accounts, the city somehow continues to inch into the future. There are times when one questions how we manage forward progress, but we do.

Harvest Homecoming, our most reliable indicator of deeply ingrained civic conservatism, lies just ahead. Indeed, the carbohydrates are massing as I write. In 2011, the Sherman Minton Bridge’s early September closure may or may not have impacted attendance, but weather was ideal and crowds seemed as sizeable as always.

This year, amid the autumnal New Albany family tradition, Bank Street Brewhouse will continue its own alternative of Fringe Fest (volume five) during booth days, with beer, food, music and more, offering a calculated contrast to the prevailing bedlam. As always, we’ll be intently watching on Friday afternoon (October 12) to see how much of the sodden “beer walk” crowd spills over into our aerie of opposing yeast cultures. We will greet them with drams of Hoosier Daddy and a message:


The following essay originally was published at the conclusion of Harvest Homecoming, 2007. Half a decade later, how much has changed?

---

Harvest Homecoming's "swill walk" emblematic of clashing demographics.

New Albany’s annual Harvest Homecoming festival started life quite small and inconspicuously four decades ago, and it has since grown into what its organizers claim is the second largest gathering of its type in the state of Indiana, trailing only the Indianapolis 500 celebration.

There are numerous themed events for two weeks preceding the yearly parade, then four “booth days” during which streets in the heart of New Albany’s historic business district are closed, yielding to what amounts to an enormous food court with games, information and music thrown in for good measure. At its best, the ideal of Harvest Homecoming is civic-minded and predominantly local in nature, with generations frequenting the same rolled oyster booth or chicken dinner emporium run by the same church or charity.

When Harvest Homecoming took its embryonic shape in the late 1960’s, and unbeknownst to most people living at the time, New Albany’s downtown was about to commence a long, painful and degrading descent into dormancy. As my ruminations today are not intended to constitute an essay about the familiar phenomenon of inner-city urban decay, I’ll leave it at that, and observe that Harvest Homecoming’s governing committee might plausibly say that for a long period of time, certainly by the 1990’s, the festival was about the only game going downtown.

Harvest Homecoming has been planned accordingly. Now, with stirrings of downtown revitalization far too strong to be ignored, the plan likely will have to be modified in coming years. Unfortunately, a case can be made that Harvest Homecoming’s demographic and the demographic spearheading downtown revitalization are heading in opposite directions, with potential difficulties that might as well be addressed now rather than later.

For those who have glimpsed a bit of the planet outside New Albany, and who have had the good fortune to be exposed to post-secondary education and its expansion of consciousness, there almost inevitably exists a measure of ambivalence about Harvest Homecoming as the institution has evolved – some would say “devolved – over the years. This ambivalence does not imply rejection of it, but simply a recognition that sometimes the closer one is to something, the harder it is to see how it really looks.

The festival’s stewards are “lifer” volunteers who work hard year-round, and while any fair critique of their performance might point to a deeply ingrained conservatism and a general reluctance to think outside the Bud, their fundamental aim of maintaining a family-oriented annual celebration is admirable.

Admirable, yes, but certainly not easy to ensure, and no single Harvest Homecoming “event” grandly compromises the committee’s goal of a family friendly festival like the Friday afternoon “beer walk,” which might be termed the “swill walk,” and so I think I will call it that.

From the outset, make no mistake: The official Harvest Homecoming committee is no friend of the swill walk, and bristles when people contact the organizers for information about it. Although in the past, I merely shrugged and considered the committee’s attitude toward the swill walk to be an extension of its customary stodginess on other matters, this year I made it a point to observe the swill walk in progress.

The committee is right on target. It isn’t a pretty picture. In fact, the swill walk is a civic embarrassment, and as part and parcel of a litigious society, it’s probably only a matter of time before something ugly occurs and the torts begin flying. Speaking personally, at a time when many in my sector of the beer business are trying to raise the bar when it comes to responsible beer consumption, the swill walk sadly reminds us that neo-Prohibitionists occasionally have something approximating a valid point, and that the activities of the nation’s mass-market swill merchants are as much of a daily threat to our ability to offer the populace a changed paradigm as those who would eliminate alcohol entirely on grounds of its intrinsic “evil.”

Like many other aspects of life, there surely are evils intrinsic to the consumption of beer. Most of us are devoted to the ideal of lessening these, so why encourage their exaltation?

The way it works is this. Every year on the Friday afternoon of Harvest Homecoming, a “style” show is held at the riverfront “beer tent” (“swill tent” is more like it) during lunchtime, and the show’s conclusion is the unofficial signal for hundreds of people to begin, or in many cases to continue, drinking while traversing a jagged route through the blocked-off and humanity-packed downtown streets where food and activity booths hold sway.

The ubiquity of gratis Anheuser-Busch advertising paraphernalia, which is generated in-house at the local wholesaler at a scale that would humble the propagandistic Communist and Fascist regimes of old, provides ample evidence as to the underlying grease that lubricates the phenomenon of the swill walk, namely, that the local A-B wholesaler has agreed not to cash the checks written to pay for two-story-tall stacks of Bud Light until the week following the festival’s conclusion, something that is of borderline legality in the state of Indiana.

Meanwhile, duly oiled, the denizens of the swill walk surge through the most congested harvest Homecoming area, participants stumbling from one bar to the next, slamming liquor shots and chugging beer from cans that are seldom recycled while screaming obscenities in proximity to children, then urinating in places that even someone like me – a veteran of Oktoberfest in Munich and Pamplona’s festival of San Fermin – is hard pressed to imagine.

Once I saw a port-a-can being nearly toppled by drunks. Around the corner, bikers clad in ominous black costumes queued a short block away from where this year’s “teen scene” stage was erected. How Pamplona manages to achieve a balance between its children and an invading wave of Euro trash is beyond me; perhaps we might ask, because the New Albany way doesn’t seem to be working.

The family-unfriendly effect of all this is hard to exaggerate in print, and when taken in the context of an overall festival that sadly has devolved over the decades into low, lower and lowest common denominators – a metaphor applicable to the city as a whole – it’s frustrating, indeed, to witness the chaos and know that I’m in the same business.

I’m neither naïve, nor out to bring the furies crashing down on the urine-stained drunks gracefully bellowing at each other during the swill walk. It is not my intention to frown on the profit motives of downtown bar owners, who probably reap several weeks of revenue in three days during Harvest Homecoming, and who are happy to accept largesse as offered by wholesalers eager to see the cash registers hum.

Of course, I well understand that my “good beer” segment of the marketplace is small, but I also maintain that this niche is upwardly mobile and in keeping with humanity’s constructive (as opposed to anarchic) instincts, and furthermore, that it is capable of sense and sensibility in addition to windfall weekend profits.

If NABC’s projected downtown brewing project comes to fruition, we hope to be able to illustrate that beer quality can be good, not bland, and that better beer can be consumed responsibly in a wholesome, entertaining and better atmosphere – which, after all, is the lesson any thinking human being takes away after sitting for a couple of hours drinking beer in a Bavarian beer garden, with playground equipment and young children generally in close proximity. Our future beer sales during Harvest Homecoming will be contained and controlled as far as humanly possible, and we’ll try to offer a higher common denominator. We may fail, but we’ll try.

Disclaimers aside, and in spite of my reluctance to tempt unfavorable karma by saying it aloud, the swill walk that takes place during Harvest Homecoming is aided and abetted by a blind eye to illegality, and while I can understand this coming from the local gendarmes, I find it curious that the state tolerates it.

You’re free to disagree. On this call, I suspect many of you will.

The Crashers as viewed through a plastic cup of Hoosier Daddy.


It was last night's "Local Beer. Local Rock" concert at Showroom in Horseshoe Southern Indiana. NABC was the only beer on tap, the music was loud, and approximately 1,487 folks were queued at the Paula Deen Buffet for the Friday night seafood extravaganza.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Nash: "Trees here in New Albany have had a little harder time of it."

Matt offers the coda to this week's latest outbreak of the dreaded New Albany Syndrome, followed by links to NAC's coverage.

NASH: I think that I shall never see ..., by Matt Nash (News and Tribune)

... One of my friends stated that “only in New Albany do you cut down trees in order to build a park.” The sentiment may ring true but it is not entirely accurate. In 2010 the city of Jeffersonville cleared 15 acres of mature trees in order to build a park. With both the city of New Albany and Jeffersonville’s decisions to cut down trees in order to build parks, the question of transparency has been raised. New Albany has a tree board that should have been consulted, but from the reports I have heard this was not the case.

Is there room in there for a shuffleboard table?


ON THE AVENUES: Saw Through City, redux.


Breaking: In response to TimberGate ...


Acorns may be nuts, too, but at least they produce trees.


Caesaring trees to build a park: What (unfortunately) downtown IS about.


And so the Bicentennial begins at Spring and Pearl...

Is there room in there for a shuffleboard table?


Photo credits: M. Nash/Google Earth.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Live@5: Have a beer and buy a meal for someone who needs it.


Live@5's last show of the season starts on Friday at 5:00 p.m. with the band Wax Factory. The venue is the 400 block of Bank Street, and there'll be NABC craft beer for purchase until 8:00 p.m.

NABC appreciates being included in the Live@5 concept. Since the event's inception earlier this year, we've always said that a percentage of our summer's profits from beer sales at the event would be given to a worthy local cause. In the hope of ending with a bang and not a whimper, I'm pleased to announce that 100% of beer sales this Friday night will go to the general fund of the soup kitchen at St. Mark's United Church of Christ, Bank Street Brewhouse's neighbor across Spring Street.

If sales this Friday night do not reach my pre-assigned season's percentage, or if bad weather comes through and spoils the show, I'll just top off the night's total. It would be lots more fun if a good crowd comes down, enjoys Wax Factory, and contributes to the cause by having a beer. You needn't over-indulge to take part. I'd rather have 300 people drinking one beer each than the other way around.

ON THE AVENUES: Saw Through City, redux.

ON THE AVENUES: Saw Through City, redux.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

On Monday morning, we awoke to a familiar phenomenon in the annals of New Albany.

Without fanfare, a timbering operation suddenly began spewing sawdust downtown. In the absence of advance discussion as to why this was happening, it appeared that mature trees were being felled in order to build … a park? Among the victims: An evergreen tree once planted as a veteran's memorial, an early warning sign that hereabouts, institutional memory is a safeguard best erased, lest conscience intrude.

Unsurprisingly, an overdue public conversation began.

Was it true that what will amount to a pocket park the size of many back yards was going to cost $750,000 to construct, when all was said and spent?

Could it be that the city’s only recently re-animated Tree Board was entirely unaware of the logging, even though two of its members also sit on the Bicentennial Junta promoting the boondoggle park scheme?

Exactly why does councilman Bob Caesar persist in believing that three-quarter-million dollar pocket parks across from this business, $2 million dollar multiple road rebuilds leading to his house on Silver Hills, and $200 dollar bicentennial “fundraising” tomes that were his brainchild somehow constitute fiscal rectitude, even as he screams poverty in response to other more worthy aims, such as a complete streets program?

And: Did they really think we’re so eager for Harvest Homecoming’s elephant ear of a sugar buzz to begin that we’d refrain from asking these questions?

---

By Tuesday morning, city government was in full scattershot reactive mode, and the press releases began flying – except that none of these typically belated explanations landed where the clear-cutting story actually originated on blogs and in social media, because the impetus for the civic dialogue that our elected officials had imperially judged unnecessary clearly came first from the grassroots, and only afterward was picked up by traditional media.

By Wednesday, the saga was being reported in the main local newspapers, and the city was hastening to explain that the trees in question were diseased, or perhaps just unhealthy, or unsightly, something like that; oddly, the diagnosis apparently was proffered not by the city’s own arborist, but one in the employ of the engineers chosen to design the over-priced Caesar’s Folly park project.

As the criticism continued, yet another talking point emerged: The bad condition of the felled trees owed to chronic trimming butchery on the part of Duke Energy.

(We pause here for an announcement from the blog’s founder: NATIONALIZE THE UTILITIES NOW)

All the while, the city’s own social media outlets exuded a serene, oblivious and detached calm, sticking with their daily output of public service announcements and links.

Just like Pravda during Chernobyl.

---

In 2013, the city of New Albany will celebrate its 200th birthday, and it’s impossible to imagine a more symbolic bicentennial chapter than this week’s muddled events.

But one must begin the story in the 1960’s, as the presumed Greatest Generation stepped up to the task of remaking its downtown sandbox in its own triumphant image.

Accordingly, an architecturally magnificent post office building was destroyed to create a parking lot and drive-thru window for a bank, itself constructed where the architecturally magnificent court house building stood until it was bulldozed.

When the bank was able to level yet another aging marvel to bring its parking lot a few feet closer to the vault, the post office lot became a perennial afterthought, housing a cement block Harvest Homecoming reviewing stand used variously as skateboard ramp, graffiti easel and homeless shelter, before eventually being purchased by a slumlord intent on extracting parking rentals from nearby business employees.

The parking lot was chronically neglected, the scraps tossed to other slumlords, until finally the providential moment arrived for the last slumlord standing to deal his ilk out of the shell game by flipping the parking lot a final time, to the city, and of course for far more than it was worth, because by now the stated imperative had become the city’s birthday party – and golly, we need to move fast seeing as we’ve waited so long!.

Assembling the usual upstanding citizens, those habitually populating every known committee in town (remember the Howard Johnson scene in Mel Brooks’s “Blazing Saddles”?), a commission was formed, and soon it was solemnly decreed that we must celebrate the bicentennial in the “proper” white-bread way, or more succinctly, just as those community pillars from the 1960’s – the ones who demolished the post office in the first place – would themselves have enthusiastically endorsed:

By designing a tea and crumpets pocket park, sailing it through a disinterested, exurban-minded council eager for nothing more than to be left alone, leveraging the Horseshoe Foundation into tithing a few dollars to make the deal appear cooperative, felling the trees already there without any notice, and then reacting with dazed confusion when residents voiced their concerns.

Anyone else care to join me in wondering how much of this story appears in the mercenary Crutchfield’s “official” $200 coffee table book?

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It is not my aim today to savage or malign hard-working, well-intentioned, civic-minded people. After all, I’m one, too.

Rather, it is what they do when banded together as committees that I find worrisome.

Allow me to advance the notion that in this numbingly predictable bicentennial miasma – the absence of transparency, the indefensible expenditures, the clique-driven picking of favorites who “know best”, and their ensuing “official” party line about the city’s past – we’re once again perpetuating the dysfunctional aspect of our municipal history in the direst need of invasive, corrective therapy.

And, lastly: Well-intentioned or otherwise, none of them seem to be able to grasp the irony of it. What we really need most to mark our bicentennial is city-wide psychiatric help, and a new marketing slogan: City On The Couch.

Unfortunately, we can’t pay a shrink because the money’s all spent on a book, a park and the same old scene.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

"Does Louisville Need More Highways?"

A festival of ideas? Did Kerry Stemler attend?

The problem with encouraging thinking is that thinking produces thoughts and ideas, and the problem with both thought and ideas is that they do NOT lead to the Bridges Authority.


New York Times Calls Downtown Bridge Plan "Out of Step"

Louisville's annual IdeaFestival draws top thinkers to the city. Ideally, it gets people talking about the city as well. This year's festival did just that, but the most recent chatter isn't entirely flattering.
A piece in today's New York Times examines Louisville in the wake of the IdeaFestival. There's a lot of praise in the article, especially for the waterfront and the city's post-war architecture. But the kind words vanish when the writer turns to the downtown portion of the Ohio River Bridges Project, which would add more lanes of highway to the city's urban core. 

Breaking: In response to TimberGate ...


 ... we get another 600K design feature for Rent Boy Park.

Harvest Homecoming: When the tail wags the dog, we pause.

Tuesday: Harvest Homecoming: Not what downtown is about.
Monday: Harvest Homecoming: Do the evolution, don't fear the competition.

Wick’s Pizza on State Street is a popular year-round cornerstone of the independent business scene downtown, as well as a textbook example of the business model currently proving successful in revitalizing New Albany’s previously moribund downtown. Several weeks ago, Wick’s approached the New Albanian Brewing Company with the idea of staging an outdoor beer garden during Harvest Homecoming.

Because the proposed venue is the municipal parking lot adjacent to Wick’s, requiring approval from the Board of Public Works, restaurant management was careful to vet the idea with city hall in advance, and an encouraging response was given. Consequently, planning for the event began in earnest.

The plan called for music, food and beer. NABC’s role would be that of designated local craft vendor amid the customary mass-market beer, and as such, the brewery would share a small measure of the event's identity with Wick’s, including the debut of our Hoosier Daddy seasonal beer release.

I participated in two lengthy discussions with Wick’s management about procedures and legalities expected by the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission, because from the standpoint of the excise police, any time is a bad one to ignore alcoholic beverage laws – and Harvest Homecoming is an even worse time to do so.

All necessary insurance and security for the event was being procured. We decided that a portion of the event’s proceeds would be donated to Open Door Youth Services, the recently renamed Floyd County Youth Service Bureau. In my estimation, the plan looked solid. Apart from the weather, all the angles were being locked down.

---

Jarringly, the Wick’s beer garden proposal was tabled by the Board of Public Works upon its first hearing after Police Chief Sherri Knight voiced concerns about security and scheduling (i.e., the number of nights the beer garden would be in operation, and how long it would run into the evening).

Wick’s Pizza immediately began addressing these concerns, and yet approval still was not forthcoming.

In the absence of coherent explanations from city hall and the board of works, it fell to Chief Knight to explain the denial in an e-mail to Wick’s management. In my opinion, this explanation is unconvincing, amounting to this (paraphrased, and not her exact words):

We cannot allow your proposal to disrupt normal Harvest Homecoming procedures downtown, given that normal Harvest Homecoming procedures already disrupt everything else downtown.

---

I remain baffled. From whence stems this reluctance on the part of the powers that be to grant Wick’s Pizza's reasonable request to lawfully expand its business during Harvest Homecoming?

Granted, the Wick’s request is muddied owing to the city’s ownership of the parking lot, one that our officials value so very highly that it’s a persistent, ill-maintained eyesore (see it here).

In this day and age, liability always is a concern, but it is hard for me to believe that city hall’s early positive signals came to Wick’s without legal consultations occurring beforehand.

To be sure, prohibitionist sentiment might be a factor in this muddled response, although I hasten to point out that despite my personally favoring the thoughtful daily application of adult beverages, plenty of folks on the planet actually manage to enjoy pizza, rock ‘n’ roll and even (shudder) elephant ears without drinking, or while drinking lightly.

If there are neo-prohibitionists in government, the Wick’s denial becomes even more curious, as the most common reaction among city officials toward drinking is that there should be a wide variety of options for doing so responsibly; if not, how do we explain the reality of the aforementioned city-sanctioned, three-way riverfront development permits, which constitute a prime tool in the arsenal of any downtown economic development agent, even if Carrie Nation disapproves from beyond the grave?

In short, the city’s elected officials boarded this by-the-drink train quite some time ago, and have supported what amounts to a providential mechanism to attract investment in downtown – moreover, one that has jump-started revitalization all by itself. In 2006, at almost no expense to the city, three-way permits were made easier and less expensive to obtain, and entirely as predicted then, the investment quickly followed. Now, inarguably, downtown New Albany is on the regional map solely because of businesses just like Wick’s Pizza.

Given this reality, isn’t it completely understandable that vanguard businesses just like Wick’s would seek to schedule special promotions and events during Harvest Homecoming?

After all, some are far better placed than others to straddle the otherwise unfavorable target demographic line; if Harvest Homecoming’s annual china shop bull is disastrous for a boutique on Pearl, at least there’s a chance that a pizza place on State can find a way to participate by promoting a crowd-pleasing shindig.

How is this unreasonable?

If it is not reasonable, why does the city first approve criteria for enabling a business like Wick’s to prosper, and then quibble over a perfectly legitimate (and legal) request to enhance its activities during Harvest Homecoming, at the same time as other businesses are doing precisely the same?

There can be only one logical answer. Harvest Homecoming’s organizers evidently do not care for these newfound, multiple and diverse points of market competition for the dollars of drinking festival attendees, because multiple points of consumer happiness threaten Harvest Homecoming’s traditionally mass-market riverfront music tent hegemony ... and the lifeblood profit it garners there. To be succinct, the more year-round options exist downtown, the less attractive Harvest Homecoming’s glacial resistance to reinvent seems.

As I’ve been writing this essay, the ironies have proliferated. The Exchange pub and eatery, soon to open on Main Street a mere stone’s throw from Wick’s Pizza, now will run its own outdoor beer garden during Harvest Homecoming. Because the event will be staged on private property, the Board of Public Works does not have jurisdiction over it, other than to warn about adherence to New Albany’s noise ordinance, which was last enforced at some point during the peak of grunge.

It’s good to know that. Maybe the police officers currently engaged in speed traps on Spring Street will start ticketing boom cars, too.

---

Yes, of course it is within the city’s powers to refuse the event request from Wick’s, and for reasons of liability alone, even if the city’s initial feedback was supportive of the beer garden idea. I must conclude that if the mayor’s own appointees in the police department and the works board rule against such a request, there wasn’t much support at the top in the first place.

Ah, but I’m far from unbiased, right?

After all, NABC is losing a chance to make a few bucks by selling locally brewed craft beer over on Main Street -- the “other” side of the Harvest Homecoming epicenter.

Except that we’ll still have our beer inside at Wick’s, just like always, and now there’ll probably be some on tap at Exchange’s temporary beer garden, too, seeing as these are business relationships we nurture year-round, and not only at Harvest Homecoming time. They see value in us, and we see value in them. That’s called reciprocity.

Indeed, I regret losing the chance to raise significant money for Open Door, although we’ll still do our best for them at Fringe Fest.

As for the “traditional” Harvest Homecoming tent set-up down by the riverside, it should suffice to observe that regional happenings ranging from Madison's RiverRoots to Lanesville’s Heritage Weekend now grasp the utility and plain good business sense of offering locally brewed craft beer to consumers in the present day and age.

Others? They have not.

It is my belief that this story illustrates an ever-widening disconnect between the understandable self-identity (not to mention preservation instinct) of the part-time Harvest Homecoming, and the re-emergence of a full-time downtown business district with objectives, needs and identities of its own.

Why is Harvest Homecoming still allowed to throw its weight around in this manner for a mere four days a year, when the best strategy of potential benefit for all the city’s residents is to nurture and build a downtown capable of throwing its weight around, and accruing dividends, every single day of the year?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Acorns may be nuts, too, but at least they produce trees.


How heartened I was to learn that, due to "irrevocable damage", the numerous Pin Oak trees at the corner of Spring and Pearl (which, unlike other city property, in just the past few years survived a hurricane and a tornado) would be replaced with "regionally appropriate" trees, say, like... Pin Oaks.
 
"Pin oak is among the most widely planted native oaks in the urban landscape and the third most common street tree in New York City. It tolerates drought, poor soils and is easy to transplant. The tree is naturally found throughout the Ohio River Basin..." - Steve Nix, professional forester, Society of American Foresters
"Pin oak (Quercus palustris), also called swamp oak, water oak, and swamp Spanish oak, is a fast-growing, moderately large tree found on bottom lands or moist uplands, often on poorly drained clay soils. Best development is in the Ohio Valley. The wood is hard and heavy and is used in general construction and for firewood. Pin oak transplants well and is tolerant of the many stresses of the urban environment, so has become a favored tree for streets and landscapes."  - Robert A. McQuilkin, USDA Forest Service

Or are we to believe that native hardwood trees of the sort specifically selected across the country for their urban durability are not the "proper species" for our overpriced, under produced, and now permanently damaged little city pocket park (which just happens to be located in an urban area in the Ohio Valley)?

 

"Having sex before marriage is the best choice for nearly everyone."

I've tried everything imaginable to lure Healthblogger back to the comments section. If this one doesn't do it, nothing will.

The moral case for sex before marriage, by Jill Filipovic (guardian.co.uk)

Condemning premarital sex and promoting abstinence are not working. Lasting, loving relationships are made through intimacy

... Our state and federal tax dollars have long been spent promoting "chastity". While conservative commentators are happy to assert that waiting until marriage is the best choice for everyone and people who don't wait aren't doing marriage "the right way", sex-positive liberals hesitate to say that having sex before marriage is an equally valid – if not better – choice for nearly everyone.

So here it goes: having sex before marriage is the best choice for nearly everyone.

Caesaring trees to build a park: What (unfortunately) downtown IS about.


The pillage has resumed at the future site of Rent Boy Park/Caesar's Folly. Trees are being felled ... during a thunderstorm. Another year, another tone deaf administration. As Bluegill wrote on Facebook:

We overpaid a slumlord for the lot, overpaid for the design, and for the projected cost of what is essentially a backyard-sized project, we could've had a restored bicentennial hall. The whole thing stinks of England era payouts and favoritism. Hooray us, 200 years worth of the same Tammany Hall crap.

That summarizes it. Thanks to K for the photo.

Harvest Homecoming: Not what downtown is about.

Yesterday: Harvest Homecoming: Do the evolution, don't fear the competition.

It is undoubtedly true that Harvest Homecoming draws large numbers of visitors to “booth days” downtown.

This fact alone will strike many readers as sufficient reason to let time-tested matters rest; after all, throngs for any event are a good thing no matter what, right, and if it ain’t broke, why fix it?

For others, the reaction will be even more visceral: Why would these ungrateful businesses downtown complain when they have such a wonderful opportunity to market themselves to big crowds?

Because it’s not that simple.

For the type of businesses now calling downtown New Albany home, certain crowds are better than others. It isn’t as much about the crowd’s size as its composition.

Naturally, there are mercantile possibilities inherent in Harvest Homecoming's invading legions, and commerce is not only possible, but likely, and yet there are considerable differences between target clienteles. Our new downtown businesses tend to be specialized, offering goods and services tailored to particular modes of thought, and while Harvest Homecoming’s vibe tries to be egalitarian, the festival also is understandably narcissistic. It is about itself, drawing attention to itself, not its surroundings.

What makes a revitalizing downtown like ours increasingly vibrant isn’t necessarily what makes an exurban Wal-Mart packed, or a stadium filled with college football fans exuberant. It all depends on the composition of the crowd. An opera house may or may not be a good place to sell fried chicken, or a ballpark Gucci, although lately, in places other than white-bread Louisville Slugger Field, enlightened minds have started to see the virtue of offering sushi and craft beer to baseball fans.

The old axiom about “location, location, location” grows ever less relevant. It applies to some businesses, not necessarily to all. Niche businesses can survive and thrive by choosing specialized product lines, and catering to consumers who know the difference. They do not necessarily need high traffic volumes such as those we were raised from childhood to insist are essential.

Especially in an evolving downtown setting like New Albany’s, numerous niche businesses must be viewed as a collective entity, with their ideal location not being an interstate ramp’s indiscriminate spewing of speeding autos, but a distinct sense of place itself as a destination for those making a calculated decision of where they’ll spend both time and money.

In effect, Harvest Homecoming arrives once yearly to remake and remodel downtown to suit its own purposes, and with passing time, the overlay bears less and less resemblance to daily reality. In truth, this can hurt local businesses in the long term even if there is a short-term boost in trade.

---

In New Albany, primarily because of the mechanism known as the riverfront development three-way permit for alcohol sales, revitalization has been led by restaurants and bars. A second wave of galleries and shops slowly follows. More downtown residential opportunities via existing lofts and upstairs spaces hopefully will come next.

Virtually all of these improvements are dedicated to a demographic proposition intended to be practiced 365 days of the year, so how do the crowds convening downtown during Harvest Homecoming booth days fit into the intended future demographic, especially given that an increasing number of the street vendors do not hail from this area?

In all probability they don’t fit, but at the very least, even if we are to concede the utility of the festival as currently operated, should businesses already in existence downtown, year-round, be forced to cower for four days behind the reeking facades of food purveyors from Keokuk? We tout downtown as a foodie paradise, then hide restaurant entrances behind elephant ear stands.

Conversely, if they so desire, shouldn’t those businesses already in existence downtown have the same chance as Harvest Homecoming’s paying vendors to profit from the hordes, if they choose to try reaching them?

Moreover, shouldn’t they have the very first chance?

---

And so it transpired that several weeks back, Wick’s Pizza – a year-round cornerstone of the independent business scene downtown – approached NABC with an idea to stage an outdoor beer garden during Harvest Homecoming, and to share a measure of the branding with us.

As of today, this bid has been rejected. Tomorrow, I'll explain why.

This Friday night (September 28): Horseshoe Presents: "Local Beer, Local Rock."


I'm appreciative for the opportunity to pair local beer and music at Horseshoe. It's a fine and progressive idea, and I'll be on hand Friday night to take in the scene. The four NABC beers on tap will be: Black & Blue Grass, Community Dark, Hoosier Daddy and Tafel Bier.

Monday, September 24, 2012

And so the Bicentennial begins at Spring and Pearl...

a supposed celebration of 200 years of achievement, with senseless destruction and public disgust. If this community has any sense, the next thing to get cut off will be the Bicentennial Commission.









Harvest Homecoming: Do the evolution, don't fear the competition.

My personal position on Harvest Homecoming has remained fairly consistent, and so at the risk of offending the swill walk’s perennial night crawlers, let’s recap the argument.

First and foremost, no offense is intended toward Harvest Homecoming’s many volunteers. They're lifers. They believe. They work hard year-round, and their fundamental aim of maintaining a family-oriented annual celebration is admirable.

None of us want Harvest Homecoming to go away. We merely want it to begin marching in step with the times, so as to better incorporate today's changing New Albany into their plan.

Harvest Homecoming has gone as far as it can go by retaining an operational model built for the 1980’s, when downtown was utterly deserted, and no one much cared either way. Back then, downtown wasn’t being used, but now it is, and the yearly clash of demographic priorities can only become more starkly evident as years pass.

Today’s Harvest Homecoming must be persuaded, cajoled, prodded and/or threatened into commencing a reinvention of itself and a subsequent evolution into the sort of annual civic event better representing where and what the city is now, and in conceptual terms, a civic event that both passively mirrors and actively enhances the ongoing revitalization of downtown New Albany. Currently, it does neither.

The festival no longer should be permitted to be the short-term tail wagging an entire city’s 7/24/365 dog by advocating restrictive terms of downtown engagement, and in pursuing a plan of operation that routinely scuffles downtown’s  fragile seedlings, whether planted in the dirt, or located behind those previously unoccupied storefronts.

Yes, it is true that progress has been made on this score, but not quickly enough. For so long as those downtown businesses located on Harvest Homecoming’s core street grid – businesses investing in the city and operating in the city year-round – must continue to fight for the simple right to have access to their own front doors during the festival’s booth days, and furthermore, be compelled to pay Harvest Homecoming a rental fee for a clear pathway to their own place of business, then something’s still awry in Come Pay City.

This begs the first of many questions:

How can the Board of Public Works countenance this pay-to-stay-open scheme?

Which precedent allows a four-day-yearly festival unattached to the city to charge for frontage on the city’s own streets and sidewalks?

Aren’t these businesses already paying taxes for this access?

And so on.

Readers, please think about these and other issues, and I’ll be back at various points this week to expand upon the conversation, and to ask other questions, like this one:

When Wick’s Pizza, a full-time, year-round centerpiece of downtown business, asks to be allowed to assume all the expense, risk and liability entailed by the operation of a temporary beer garden during Harvest Homecoming, and with a proportion of its profits (if any) being earmarked for a very good cause, then how can it interfere with Harvest Homecoming ... and why is the Wick's offer being rejected?

"Death and the Civil War."


The trailer aptly summarizes the narrative, but the documentary's two-hour length seemingly detracts from the initial utility of viewer shock at the war's appalling carnage and the public's sorrow, anger and confusion over its toll. The repetition becomes numbing, but in the end, perhaps this is the central point. Translated into a present day five-year increment, the Civil War's mortality curve would suggest over seven million deaths -- so many that perhaps even political campaigns suddenly might become relevant.





Sunday, September 23, 2012

"Femen's topless warriors start boot camp for global feminism."

NAC continues to watch this story, and to try desperately to imagine it unfolding here in New Albany.

Nope. Just can't do it.

Femen's topless warriors start boot camp for global feminism; Ukrainian activists set up an international training centre in Paris to teach women the art of naked protest, by Kim Willsher (Guardian's Observer)

Was it not also inconsistent, another asked, that the new feminists were using nakedness to rail against female exploitation? In a week that had seen the banning of photographs of a topless Duchess of Cambridge, it was certainly topical.

Previously at NAC: Insert New Albany Bicentennial protest joke here. (May 26, 2012)

New Albany's inaugural Indie Fest was a blast with a message about localism.


Big thanks to PC Home Center, which performed a last-minute chair delivery for Lloyd's Landing. It was our first occasion to use the new and evolving outdoor area, and early returns look positive.


Brendan Zubrowski of Crossroad Vintners offered samples from the Willett line of bourbon and rye. He went non-stop from 2 - 5 p.m., after which Chef Matt executed a stupendous Willett Bourbon Dinner.


Weather was ideal, and a very small number of volunteers pulled off a first-year event with the minimum of support from the city. Pardon me for editorializing, but it would have been nice for a few elected officials to observe the principles of localism put into practice in an event like this one, but in the end, New Albany's indie businesses will continue to walk the walk even if the CM CeeSaws of our city can't grasp that it applies to them, too.

I'm proud to be associated with NA First, and if you are an indie businessperson in New Albany, it is time to get with the localism program, so that just maybe we can progress through the exercise of collective action in a manner seldom possible through supposedly rugged individualism.

Folks, that's not socialism. If you're an independent small business owner, it's just plain common sense.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Fringe Fest 2012 preview.


Among the special beer releases will be Wet Knobs Hop Harvest Ale and Hoosier Daddy Crimson & Cream Ale. There'll also be the customary fest food menu.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Beer list for the Southern Indiana Craft Beer Showcase on Saturday, September 22.

The list is up.
Beer list for the Southern Indiana Craft Beer Showcase on Saturday, September 22.



Live at Five (Live@5) today at ... well, 5.


Live@5's next-to-last show starts this afternoon at 5:00 p.m. with the band Field of Kings. This week and next, the venue is the 400 block of Bank Street. The city's press release explains the music.

Following the release of their first self-published album in April 2012, Field of Kings does not cease in pushing themselves forward. Performing every opportunity possible, producing new material daily, and constantly striving to strengthen their entity has earned Field of Kings local and national recognition. "Soiree" can now be found on Pandora, iTunes, Spotify and many other online distributors. The group is extremely appreciative for all the support from family and fans alike through this past year and is expecting to release an Ep, previewing their new direction, this coming spring.

More information about Field of Kings can be found on their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/fieldofkings

Thursday, September 20, 2012

ON THE AVENUES: No country for principled men.

ON THE AVENUES: No country for principled men.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

Stagecraft is an essential component of the craft brewing business. If not, Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione would be on the couch watching television, not gleefully hawking his wares on a television series like a modern day PT Barnum, and Jim “Sam Adams” Koch might finally retire that hoary, Horatio Alger shtick about vending cases from the trunk of his car.

I acknowledge the theatrical in my daily role as carnival barker for the New Albanian Brewing Company, and to vary the routine, I’ve found it quite useful lately to play against type – with one major exception, because my deep-seated aversion to mass-market lager in the form of world’s Buds, Coors and Millers remains wholly intact.

Even more so for their low-calorie, light-this-and-that bastardizations. How many times have perpetually timid palates begged and pleaded with me?

Roger, can’t you be realistic and compromise? C’mon, Rog, can’t you just agree that even if “real” craft beer is preferable, there are times when these nice, light, ice-cold barley pops really fill the bill?

Actually no, I still cannot sanction these detestable liquids, even if they started me down the path so many years ago. I cannot accept mass market swill, and I cannot condone what the planet’s monolithic brewing companies have done to the essence of beer and brewing. I have little interest in accepting the light, lighter and lightest beers they’ve devised as their chosen means of decimating beer’s diversity. My position is clear.

But what if my long encroaching cynicism at last compelled me to do exactly that, and issue an apologetic for the indefensible?

What if, while watching this week’s episode of Project Runway, a paper cup of white zinfandel in hand and a Rally’s dollar combo meal a mere arm’s length away, I suddenly elect to dispense with my pride, and climb aboard the Silver Bullet Express to Tasteless City?

A clue lies in use of the word “pride” itself, suggesting a possible course of rhetorical capitulation, because many of us recall pride being mentioned during certain Sunday sermons of remotest youth – the last time I ever went to church for any reason other than softball eligibility, organ concerts or weddings was prior to the age of ten – and pride long has been considered one of the 7 Deadly Sins.

It’s true that in the hands of a trained professional (pick me), this septet of intemperate emotions provides essential lessons for a life of sustained debauchery, but it takes experience of an entirely higher order to render them into theoretical, nudging, winking, facetious counterpoints.

Accordingly, I’ve managed the remarkable feat of staying awake while culling through the self-indulgent dross printed in dusty back issues of “Advertising Age” and “Beverage Dynamics,” and have identified 7 Deadly Reasons why a craft brewery actually SHOULD sell venal, industrial swill, as voiced by entirely fictitious owners and customers.

Wrath
I’m so goddamned tired of listening to Roger Baylor tell me what to drink, I could explode. He thinks he’s so smart for having a Lite Free Zone since 1994. I hate his guts, and that’s why I come to this brewpub here in Louisville, where I can look at the shiny brewery tanks while sipping on a triple-hopped Miller Lite, just to spite that bastard over in Indiana.

Greed
Our group of venture capitalists selected craft beer as a vehicle for the expansion of our investment portfolio precisely because the growth rate is so hopeful in these uncertain times. However, to ignore the huge segment of the marketplace occupied by light, low-calorie lager makes no sense from the perspective of our blushing, bottomed lines.

Sloth
Look, we could take time to educate the clientele about the beers we’re paying these crazy hippies to make, and probably win a few medals while we’re at it, but why waste the effort? Customers want the lowest common denominator: Light beer, some box wine and lots of diet coke – and they all get advertised in the media everywhere, all the time. After all, we’re a restaurant. We can’t turn anyone away, right?

Pride
My girlfriend heard about this brewery place from her brother’s wife, you know, she’s an architect and all uppity trendy and %^$, and now I’m sitting here looking at this beer list, and what the %$@* does any of it even mean – but I can’t possibly let her know that I’m a absolute, stereotypical dullard, seeing that’s no way to get a piece of ass … hey … wait, they have Miller Lite in cold-activated bottles! Hot damn. Whew. That was an awfully close call.

Lust
The red hot college chicks all hang out at trendy Bud Light bars, and without them for eye candy, we’ll lose all the male customers trying to escape the grim reality of their married, child-filled, workaday lives – and how can we expect them to find consolation in geeky concoctions like oyster stout and Belgian IPA? We need some buckets for those boobs – I mean, those longnecks.

Envy
Yes, I know: What we’re doing here is unique, and we’re a niche business with a promising growth curve and all that, but just once, wouldn’t you like to be Cheeseburger in Paradise, with all those nice fake trees and a gift card in every Wal-Mart from here to the Keys?

Gluttony
These barley pale hoppy black bock beers are so heavy. If I had me a good ol’ light beer right about now – well, they taste great AND they’re less filling, so there’s always room for that extra portion of gnarled goat gnocchi.

In 2012, thanks again to LEO Readers' Choice voters for thinking of NABC.

I don't personally encourage anyone to vote in various reader polls, and NABC refrains from asking its customers and fans to cast dozens of ballots for the sake of the cause. Some times we are mentioned in such polls, some times not … and some times, as an underdog from underrated New Albany, it just feels fine to be vindicated as a business by readers of a Louisville-oriented publication.

That’s why once again this year I’m thanking the academy and happily contradicting my usual shtick by posting the following results in the LEO annual Readers’ Choice poll.

Allow me to offer kudos to all of our employees, and also to the many folks who took the time to pick NABC. We thank you.

Best Restaurant (Southern Indiana)
1) New Albanian Bank Street Brewhouse
2) Sam's Food and Spirits
3) Buckhead Mountain Grill
Second year running, and we're very appreciative.

Best Beer List
1) Sergio’s World of Beers
2) Tony BoomBozz
3) New Albanian Brewing Company (Pizzeria & Public House)

Best Bloody Mary
1) Outlook Inn
2) New Albanian Bank Street Brewhouse
3) Against the Grain
Listed under the Nightlife heading, although the Bloody Mary bar runs only on Sunday morning. I suppose it's always nighttime somewhere.

Best Local Beer (replacing last year's "Best Local Brewery")
1) Bluegrass Brewing Co.
2) Cumberland Brews
3) New Albanian Brewing Co.

A busy fest day in downtown New Albany on Saturday, September 22. Here's the overview with links.

On Saturday, September 22, there will be quite a lot happening on, or near, the 400 block of Bank Street in downtown New Albany. It's part Louisville Craft Beer Week event, and part civic. With bourbon, too.

Indie craft consciousness downtown on Saturday, September 22.


Let's tackle these events in approximate chronological order.


Updated plan for the Southern Indiana Craft Beer Showcase on Saturday, September 22.



New Albany First's 1st Annual Indie Fest is Saturday, September 22.



Menu and details for the Willett Bourbon Dinner at Bank Street Brewhouse on Saturday, September 22.

An uncommonly interesting letters page.

There's an uncommonly interesting letters page at the News and Tribune site. In addition to the marquee "right traffic path" (below), there is the amusing spectacle of GOP chairman Dave Matthews getting very shrill in opposing anti-GOP shrillness, and another gripping subplot in which District 72 House challenger Sharon Grabowski is endorsed at the expense of incumbent Ed Clere ("In fact, it would appear that Clere has little regard for the public schools in general"), prompting whichever Clere Channel media monitoring operative whose beeper happened to go off to parachute to Clere's rescue by misspelling Grabowski's name and tittering, rather like Steve Price used to do.

Turns out Grandpa Jones was right, and truth really is stranger than fact.

News and Tribune letters: Sept. 19, 2012

SOUTHERN INDIANA — Reader: Gahan on the right path

I am writing in response to Randy Smith’s letter published Sept. 12 in the News and Tribune.

I very much agree with his position about traffic calming in New Albany and the need for something to change before the Sherman Minton Bridge becomes the only nontolled interstate bridge in the area. I also agree that more two-way streets might be a better alternative to our current maze of one-ways that seems to only take residents and visitors away from our historic downtown.

Where I disagree is Mr. Smith’s comments about our mayor, Jeff Gahan ...

And the Bookseller answers:

Mr. Bonsall, my disappointment in Mr. Gahan continues based first on his 8 years on the city council, where he, among others, opposed the common-sense reversion of our downtown streets to 2-way traffic. Mr. Gahan knows precisely the 3 issues where we disagreed that prevented him from accepting my offer of support in 2011.

Unfortunately, nothing has changed in the 8 months he has been mayor. All 3 of those issues of contention remain between us and you can add his inaction on traffic-calming to that. It is not mud-slinging to point out that issues that need to be addressed. Mr. Gahan earned the bully pulpit and the executive pen fairly. Now I'd like to see him do the right thing. That is all.