Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Eve, 2009: "Silvester, but No Tweety."

It is of course customary to observe lines on the calendar and make various resolutions for the coming new year. The older one gets, the more appropriate our most basic of resolutions: To get through it alive.

Speaking more specifically, after a travel drought (see Get Back to Where I Once Belonged, at LouisvilleBeer.com), I'm hoping that 2013 brings a return to the concept of the Baylor Overseas Vacation, perhaps to the UK. The most recent one ended with New Year's Eve of 2009, and following is what I wrote about it.

---

Silvester, but No Tweety. (December 31, 2009)

Here in Germany, New Year's Eve is known as Silvester, and appears to be another handy excuse to close down the shop (whatever it is) and relax. Same goes to a lesser extent on January 1.

Previously, Christmas Eve counted as one such excuse, followed by Christmas Day I and II, the latter corresponding to Boxing Day for those Anglophiles reading, and although I've found two Irish pubs in downtown Bamberg, neither greeted me with the smell of black pudding or the flavor of black gold on the day after the day.

The only other time I spent New Year's Eve in Europe was during the transition from 1991 to 1992, in Kosice, Slovakia, where the most memorable tradition was proof that the warnings of my students not to stroll along the streets precisely at midnight were spot-on, because that's when people began throwing empty wine, champagne and beer bottles out of their windows. One needn't be a practitioner of nuclear physics to grasp the results, especially beneath the stories-high Communist era housing blocks.

Given that it is raining and most businesses are closed, we have not left the apartment today, having visited Spezial's handy bottled beer carry-out window Wednesday night upon returning from a fine session at Schlenkerla with Matthias Trum and his wife, Sandra.

During the course of roaming, we have met a pleasant young couple who run an espresso bar adjacent to the construction zone that marks the spot where a new replacement bridge for the vanished Kettenbrücke will soon rise. It's been open since November 1. We stopped there several times because it's on the direct route home from the Altstadt, and we bonded over professional basketball fandom, as they are fervent supporters of the Brose Baskets. They have invited us to coffee today even though the bar is closed for the holiday. We're told to knock conspiratorially on the door. If only Spezial offered the same option.

We seem to be winding down now as the end of the holiday draws near. The likelihood of time- consuming security checks at Nürnberg for the first leg of the outbound flight compelled us to shift gears and book a room at the airport hotel for tomorrow night. The flight is at 6:30 a.m., and would have required a 3:30 a.m., 85 Euro fixed-rate cab ride, but this way, we're only meters away from strip search after the early alarm sounds. There'll be a chance to spend the afternoon in Nürnberg, and perhaps eat some of the city's famous Wurst.

Excuse me ... I hear the sounds of pre-packing taking place. Is Fässla open today?

Woody Guthrie's "New Years Rulins" for 1943.


Thanks to Union Review and RDS.

Alma Mater ... and goodbye to 2012.



The inimitable Terry Kath closes the year with this song from Chcago V (1972).

Sunday, December 30, 2012

NABC Pizzeria (sans Public House) open 11 - 5 on New Year's Eve.


The NABC Pizzeria (sans Public House; pizza side only) will be open on Monday, December 31 (New Year's Eve), from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Last call and kitchen closing will be at 4:30 p.m., and all NABC drafts will be on special, including Hoosier Daddy, which is appropriate seeing that Indiana University opens Big 10 play on Monday afternoon.

Both the Pizzeria/Public House and Bank Street Brewhouse will be closed on January 1 (New Year's Day), reopening on Wednesday, January 2. Note that on Wednesday, Bank Street Brewhouse will open at 2:00 p.m.

Speaking personally: Thanks to all of you who make NABC possible. We appreciate it, and we're looking forward to a great 2013.

Bill Allen an early 2013 Pillar Award front runner with stunning Main Street paint job.

Before!



If we're really part owners, then can we abolish those annoying Hanson ads?


I muted the automatic audio, zapped an errant roll-over, and fought through the inevitable Hanson ad. It felt like an Alabama pensioner was eyeballing me, so I reached for my bug spray.

By that time, I'd entirely forgotten what it was I'd come to read. Ah, wait ... there it is: CHEERS AND JEERS — For Dec. 29-30.

CHEERS

... to our loyal customers and readers.

As we close out 2012, I wanted to thank our readers and advertisers for their loyalty and commitment at a time when there are many media and other outlets competing for your time and attention.

There are frustrations that come with any job, and working at a daily newspaper can be stressful. One reason for that is that people care so much about what goes in the paper. It’s important to them, and to us. The community often feels like part owners of the News and Tribune.

The good part of that is that people do care, and we strive every day to reward that loyalty with the best coverage around of Clark and Floyd counties.

Thank you and happy New Year.

— Editor Shea Van Hoy

Chinatown on Charlestown Road, and a "rewind" to "On the very nature of nay-saying."

In all sincerity, it's good that Earth Friends is relocating to Louisville, and the Exchange already is up and running at its new downtown New Albany location.

But the departures leave two vacancies in the commercial area just inside the beltway on Grant Line Road, near the original location of my own beer and food business. Granted, these could be filled soon, and the overall situation is by no means bad in my Northside neighborhood.

It also could be better, and there doesn't seem to be any firm public plan on the part of local, various economic "development" entities or business owners themselves to improve prospects therein, although getting the Grant Line Road construction project finished certainly helps. To me, the ultimate goal remains connecting IUS with Community Park, and maintaining a locally-owned economy as much as possible in between.

Arguably, matters are far less hopeful on Charlestown Road, roughly between Slate Run Road and Silver Street. There are quite a few commercial vacancies there, especially amid the zombie fast food row by McDonald’s. The ideal solution would be to raze all of it and replant trees, but American capitalism probably precludes such a reason-based course.

A long time ago – 2005, to be exact – when downtown was as yet moribund and revitalization meant anywhere else except here, we returned from a trip to Chicago and it struck me that metro Louisville needed an Asian community like the Windy City’s thriving Chinatown. I looked at the empty buildings downtown and thought, hmm, this looks like a fine place for it; if we can’t do it, I bet the Chinese could. China has the investment capital and the work ethic. Just let ‘em have the buildings, and get out of the way.

Perhaps now that the doughnut hole has moved to Charlestown Road, so has the ideal location of our Chinatown, with Indonesian where the Wendy’s used to be, and Filipino at the old KFC. Colonial Manor could function as NA’s Iroquois, with a grocery as good as ValuMarket. I’m not sure where this leaves Sonic, but we'll figure it out.

Here’s the article I wrote seven years ago. The pink spitwad blogyard has yielded to decaying tabletop linoleum, and while much has been accomplished, much more needs to be done. We might need a Russian oligarch for this.

---

Rog's rant: On the very nature of nay-saying (June 21, 2005)

We spent the weekend in Chicago, and as is the case every time I return home from a trip, it takes a few days to adjust to the state of mind.

The culture shock stands to be a bit greater this time.

Our hotel in Chicago, chosen because it was the cheapest in close proximity to downtown, was located in the heart of Chinatown, one hundred yards from the subway stop and several thousand miles away from just another place to stay.

By this I mean that Chicago’s Chinatown is just that – touristy to an expected degree, but filled to the brim with, well, people from China (and some from Vietnam, Malaysia and other Asian locales). Sometimes none of the voices to be heard are speaking English. It’s easy to catch yourself thinking that you’re somewhere else, not Illinois.

Stand at the right spot, and the aromas of cooking fill the street, emanating from ubiquitous restaurants with dining rooms often tucked away on upper floors, eateries relieving tourists like us of our cash while pulling extra duty as community centers.

Early Sunday morning we entered a bakery and were shooed into the almost hidden rear section, where the satellite television was entirely in Chinese. The staff spoke English, but the customers in the crowded room paid little heed to it. I checked off breakfast choices, including dim sum and doughy pastries, on a card and handed it to the waitress, who returned with tea and hot sauce.

What were the men talking about? I’ll never know what the men smoking by the no smoking sign were talking about, but their conversation was animated and filled with laughter.

------

We returned home today, and after checking e-mail, I perused the local blogs and other usual daily sites, thinking all the while that while it’s a clear case of apples and oranges to compare the range of options and attractions in an immense metropolitan area like Chicago to those in and around Louisville, at the same time, why must we perpetually insist that superstition and backwardness are our best friends?

I’m not speaking here about Scribner Place, Cannon Acres, the City Council, the Mayor, or any of the specific local political topics that have been discussed at NA Confidential since its inception last year.

Rather, with the memory of Chicago’s vibrant neighborhoods and can-do spirit fresh in my mind, I’m referring to the recurring phenomenon hereabouts that currently enjoys its most prominent, and saddest, manifestation in apoplectic opposition to progress in the city of New Albany, an opposition that unfortunately doesn’t confine itself to screaming that present circumstances stand in the way of progress, but that taken together, all past mistakes by any and all politicians and community leaders indicate that we simply can’t do anything right, and should never, ever try.

I am utterly sickened by this cancerous attitude.

Why, if not stemming from unadulterated envy, is it that people who lack the ability to understand insist that their incomprehension is sufficient reason to deny others the opportunity to learn?

Why, if not from simple self-loathing, is it that people take pride in their ignorance, rather than take the steps necessary to gain knowledge?

Why, if not from our own timidity and a respect for fair play that goes far beyond that accorded us in return, should people like these be allowed to use their own lack of imagination and creativity as veto power over varieties of progress that will benefit the remainder of the community?

Of course, these shrieking cyber-punks are not the truly downtrodden, genuinely poverty-stricken, disenfranchised "little people" they so fancifully imagine themselves to be, and since no one else will say it, I will: These "Concern Taxpayers" and "New Albany Residents" don't care one jot for those in this town who really do have it badly.

It's all about tearing down ideas and people that they wrongly perceive to be "above them," not lifting up those they're comfortably sure are below, and even though this is nonsensical at best and repugnant at worst, it's the way it is.

In defense of people like these, it was recently stated elsewhere that they:

“Are not stupid, ignorant, recessive thinking globs of people. (They) are people who happen to have a different opinion, or aren't quite convinced that this (progress) is a good idea.”

Fine.

Readers, if you haven't already done so, go to the pink spitwad blogyard and feel the hatred oozing between the angry words. Consider the anonymity that cloaks it. Remember that its readers support all-American concepts like censorship. Now, ask yourself: What is it that would make these people happy beyond the confines of their own four walls, and the knowledge that not one cent of their taxes went to fund a better community?

It isn't pretty, is it?

In fact, it's often vicious, and goes far beyond reasoned debate and benign disagreement.

Stupid? Ignorant? Recessive (spregressive, Laura)?

Their words. Not mine. And if the shoes fit ... then wear them to exit New Albany, like our best and brightest young people continually do, because always standing between them and the remaking of a city in the future tense are the nay-saying Brambleberries, prepared for no sacrifice or gainful efforts of their own beyond that necessary to brutally kneecap progress in any form and preserve their own fiefdoms of futility.

Or, as I've done, you can stay right here and join me in fighting the Luddites every step of the way. To those who have no plan of their own, and want to make sure that progressivism is not allowed to have one, either, because they hate the future just as much as they hate the capable and talented, I've got this to say: you cannot win. You cannot stop the globe from spinning, or the pages of the calendar from turning.

We'd prefer their cooperation in making this city a better place to live, but we're quite prepared to do it without them.

Heh heh. I feel much better now.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The 13th Annual Pants Down Potluck Port Drinkers Circle on Saturday, December 29, 2012.




Photo credit (bottom): RR

Obrigadíssimo, and thanks to all of the attendees at this year's Port and Madeira tasting. Big thanks to Mrs. Confidential for decorating the WCTU Reading Room.

These libations are the stuff of reflection and thoughtful contemplation. They're about time, temperature, wood and glass. They reward books, fires, cigars and Stilton. When do we leave for Portugal, and the further wonders of tripe stew and Super Bock?

The official program was as follows:

The 13th Annual Pants Down Potluck Port Drinkers Circle

Evening of December 29, 2012
The WCTU Reading Room at Bank Street Brewhouse
Dinner hours from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Guided tasting of Port and Madeira at 8:00 p.m.
“Port Luck” afterward

PORT

Ferreira White Port
Ferreira 10 Year Old Tawny Port
Dow’s 20 Year Old Tawny Port
Graham's 20 Year Old Tawny Port
Dow’s Vintage Port 1985

MADEIRA
(Rare Wine Company)

Boston Boal Special Reserve
Charleston Sercial Special Reserve

Thanks to: Glazer's Distributors of Indiana and Crossroad Vintners

The Who, Quadrophenia and "13 essential Keith Moon moments."



The Who is coming to Yum on February 16, playing the album Quadrophenia in its entirety. Tickets already are in my possession. Since this is my favorite work by the Who, there was no way I'd miss what might be the final chance to see Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey perform live as the Who.

Through the immediacy of YouTube, it is possible to view clever video tributes to drummer Keith Moon ("Bell Boy," above) and bassist John Entwistle (on "5:15). They're a nice touch, indeed.

Moonie remains a hero from my forgotten days of youth, and it is staggering to realize that he's been gone for 34 years. Here's a solid appreciation from 2008.

13 essential Keith Moon moments, by Ed Masley (The Arizona Republic)

He was the greatest drummer rock and roll will ever see, a madcap force of nature whose attention-grabbing antics rarely held him back from landing on the beat -- even when tumbling his way through any number of the most chaotic, most exuberant drum fills in the history of rock.

Keith Moon was 32 the day his self-destructive lifestyle got the better of him, 30 years ago this very weekend -- on Sept. 7.

Here's a look at some essential moments in the life a man whose proved, conclusively, that sometimes more is more.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Earth Friends Cafe & Coffee Bar will have an outlet in NuLu.


First, the good news (via Facebook, where the photo was seen):

"IT'S OFFICIAL! The lease is signed!!! Say "HELLO" to Earth Friends Cafe & Coffee Bar new home at 829 E Market in NuLu (the former Bodega at Felice space). Just wait until the good weather returns - we will have outdoor seating! We are psyched!"

Then there is a minor detail, implying "bad for the NA Northside" news:

We are re-locating the Grant Line location. We will still be in the library and hope to expand the seating area there. The library has an extensive menu, including hot sandwiches and soups.

I'm assuming this means the Grant Line location travels to NuLu, and the only Earth Friends outlet in NA will be the library. Good luck to them, but we'll miss 'em in the hood.

Ouch, indeed: ORBP makes the short list of "awful" transportation projects.

Here are the ones to watch: SunRail (Orlando); METROrail Expansion (Houston); New Little River Canyon Bridge (Alabama); and Bike Missoula (Montana).

The stinkers? That'd be the Jefferson Parkway (Denver); Trinity River Parkway (Dallas); I-269 (Memphis) ... and yes, right in our own backyard ...

4 Great Transportation Projects to Watch (and 4 Awful Ones), by Eric Jaffe (The Atlantic Cities -- Places Matter)

I-265 Bridge (Indiana and Kentucky)

"It is the epitome of a classic highway boondoggle," writes Sierra of the $2.6 billion Interstate 265 bridge that connects Indiana and Kentucky over the Ohio River. Earlier this year the federal government gave the green light to a part of the project that involves tunneling 2,000 feet below historic woodlands near Louisville. Tunnel critic Aaron Renn (via Streetsblog) points out that Indiana taxpayers will be backing a Kentucky road to the tune of $100,000 per foot. Ouch.

Ring me, baby (we can't make these things up).


As I noted a short time back ...

New Albany’s bicentennial program template seems firmly established as we approach Year Zero, and that’s unfortunate.

Apart from the solitary tangible gain of a laughably over-priced, wrongly situated and generically designed public area, variously known as Somnolent Estates, Rent Boy Park and Caesar’s Folly, we’ll have a carpetbagger’s coffee table book to remember the rare old times, as well as a whole slate of events priced primarily to recoup the book’s lamentable costs, wherein the local Romney demographic wears period costumes, dances the minuet, and recites the enumerated hagiography of the historic preservation code.

It’s all safe, white-bread and conservative, and fully appropriate for the buck-a-day extras at yet another Lewis & Clark expedition commemorative film, but it remains that the problem with making our bicentennial entirely about the city’s past, and not at least in part about our future, is that doing so begs a rather embarrassing question.

Why were our urban forefathers adept at city building, but their modern-day ancestors able to muster little more in terms of achievement than decay management?

You might react defensively.

Haven’t we come a long way during the past few years?

(We have. But what about the three decades before that?)

Downtown is revitalizing, isn’t it?

(If eating and drinking’s your thing, yes it is. If retail gains, residential enhancement or complete streets interest you, then welcome to our default condition of stasis)

But Roger, don’t I look great dressed up as a Scribner?

(You needn’t ask me. I’ll be sober in the morning, but we’ll collectively experience this bicentennial hangover for the rest of our lives. You might inquire of that child over there, assuming he’ll relinquish his iPhone)

And so, the travesty wrought by the Coup d’Geriatrique is upon us. An empty liquor bottle meets pavement, and River View plans are recycled as Bazooka Joe bubble gum cartoons.

Somewhere in the city, a dog barks.

Now we get bells, too.

New Albany churches asked to ring their bells to welcome bicentennial year, by Daniel Suddeath (News and Tribune)

NEW ALBANY — New Albany will begin celebrating its 200th birthday on Tuesday, and the city’s Bicentennial Commission is looking for some help to literally ring-in the New Year.

Commission member David Barksdale recently sent out requests to city churches asking for their involvement. At the stroke of midnight Tuesday, the commission is asking churches to ring their bells, play their carillons or utilize any other sort of musical instrument they have to usher-in the bicentennial year.

Soon you'll be able to hit the Bob Evans on your way to Wal-Mart.


Boy, isn't New Albany lucky. Got that chain-think mojo going on, dogs.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

ON THE AVENUES: The musical year 2012 (part one).

ON THE AVENUES: The musical year 2012 (part one). 

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

A reader asks: “When will the annual “year in music” list be published?”

The answer: Right after the annual irrelevance disclaimer.

Verily, as cultural markers go, few are as personalized as one’s choice of music. As such, the inescapable verdict of 2011 is repeated in 2012: My musical awareness sell-by date has long since expired. Taking into account multiple “best of 2012” collections of music perused on-line, my familiarity has extended to as few as one (often none) of every ten selections cited. In terms of chronology, I’ve effectively pole vaulted the shark. I’m an old fogey, and while the kids may well be alright, their musical tastes utterly elude me.

So be it, for I remain a happy musical warrior, and shall proceed into the good tuneful night not so much gently as with shoulders shrugging, expounding the freedom to dial back my consciousness to Bix Beiderbecke, Bela Bartok and even the Beach Boys as the mood strikes me. Music of all eras and genres plays constantly inside my cranium, and has done so for as long as I remember. When it ceases, it will mean I’m dying, so let’s keep the music playing, and begin with album releases in 2012.

Creaky Aging Veterans Division

Leonard Cohen … Old Ideas
Dr. John … Locked Down
Bob Dylan … Tempest
John Hiatt … Mystic Pinball
Ian Hunter & the Rant Band … When I’m President
Van Morrison … Born to Sing: No Plan B
Rush … Clockwork Angels
Neil Young and Crazy Horse … Psychedelic Pill

Taken as a whole, 2012 was an excellent year for superannuated farts not dissimilar to me and mine.

The pleasure in listening to Bob and Van these days derives in large measure from their rich and encyclopedic musical references; the Irishman’s dyspeptic insolence and the Minnesotan’s bloody apocalyptic story-telling reveal additional nuances with each listen.

The same can be said of Dr. John’s return to swampy, dark and mystical funk. Meanwhile, the septuagenarians Hunter (late of Mott the Hoople) and a whispering Cohen get philosophical, while John Hiatt simply cannot write a bad song.

For the continued existence of the two actual long-term rock bands here, I am grateful as well as suitably deafened. The technical mastery of Rush always astounds, while the tipsy grinding clatter of Neil and the boys reassures. Rock ‘n’ roll is dead; long live rock ‘n’ roll.

Honorable Mention: Slightly More Contemporary Stuff.

Alabama Shakes … Boys & Girls
Adam Cohen … Like A Man
Cribs … In the Belly of the Brazen Bull
Neon Trees … Picture Show
Jack White … Blunderbuss

As one constantly lamenting the decline of the rock music I was raised on, I’m not happy with myself for taking so long to “get” the Alabama Shakes. That woman has her some mean pipes, and the instruments are straight and soulful. Adam Cohen, while comparable in intent with his old man, has his own unique twist on lounge poetry, and his set at the Rufus Wainwright show at Iroquois last summer was exemplary.

As for the Cribs, a very English band, it’s arguably the poor “shameless” pub-going man’s version of Oasis, the latter as yet defunct as we all await the inevitable reunion payday.

Neon Trees makes the grade for (a) being an actual band with folks who play instruments, (b) having an ex-New Albanian (Elaine Bradley) as drummer, and (c) displaying a talent for songs that remain songs even when stripped of production embellishments.

Finally, while never a huge fan of White’s previous work, I’m coming to appreciate the way he micro-targets his apparently endless creative reservoir of weirded-out musicality to anything he does.

Closer: Numbers 5, 4, 3 and 2.

Keane … Strangelands
Maroon 5 … Overexposed
Muse … The 2nd Law
Scars on 45 (eponymous)

In 2012, Keane happily awakened from recent experiments in over-produced, gimmick-driven excess, recalling those Keane-like attributes which first brought the band to prominence: Great singing and playing, clever song craft, and resulting tunes that one can sing in showers and then whistle while walking the dog. Good for them, good for me, even if I don’t own a dog.

Is it a band, or is it Memorex? Maroon 5 seems to have entered just such a period as Keane has only now exited. Overexposed features guest writers, warmth-draining production and an entirely extraneous rap couplet (on Pay Phone) that has the same approximate dampening effect on an otherwise superior pop song as a kazoo solo might if tacked to the middle of Stairway to Heaven. Still, there’s a certain charm, along with songs that easily become ear worms.

Then there’s Muse, and I piously thank the Gods of ridiculous prog-rock extravagance (and maybe the ghost of Freddie Mercury, too) for a band that knows no shame when it comes to ludicrous pretension. But sometimes overreach is exactly what we need to cope with the daily routine. Highlights might well be a deceptive, genre-shifting, damned-near-ballad called “Madness,” and two album closing sound collages serving as appropriate soundtracks to the world’s suicidal preference for unsustainability.

Coming in at number two is my biggest surprise of the year, an eponymous debut album by the band Scars on 45. The group is Brit, with both male and female lead singers, conjuring a mood not unlike the early Buckingham/Nicks era of Fleetwood Mac, except that the overall tone is far less of Lindsey’s classic quirky songs than Christine McVie’s doleful contemplations, with American roots shadings aplenty. This is highly accomplished work, and I’ll be watching for “next.”

My Album of the Year for 2012: Bruce Springsteen … Wrecking Ball

In retrospect, after the Boss went out on the road stumping for Barack Obama during the waning days of the incumbent’s wonderfully successful re-election campaign, he must have intended all along that his release be remembered as the soundtrack for Obama’s crusade, at least among those white folks of a certain age, like me, who don’t habitually inhabit the wrong side of history.

That’s ironic, because as politically militant as I tend to be, the album took quite some time to bore its way into my consciousness. The songs and sentiments are simple and strong, and the mood is anthemic. It was a slow start, but by the time Labor Day rolled around, Wrecking Ball’s songs were constant companions: “Rocky Ground,” “Land of Hope and Dreams,” “Death to My Home Town,” and many others, taking their turns in heavy rotation.

In the end, the best music is what comes to define times in our lives, good or bad. When I think about a place I visited in 1985, or a night at the bar ten years later, music begins playing, unprompted, because the connections are indelible. In the future, it will be impossible for me to separate the sheer joy of watching the white-power theocratic fascists lose states (and face) in the 2012 election without these songs of Bruce’s on Wrecking Ball starting to play.

Next Thursday in part two, I’ll write about other personal musical trends during the past year.

Worth remembering: "Top 10 Reasons to Support Locally Owned Businesses."


We've been there before, so let's go there again.

Institute for Local Self Reliance

1. Local Character and Prosperity
In an increasingly homogenized world, communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive character have an economic advantage.

2. Community Well-Being
Locally owned businesses build strong communities by sustaining vibrant town centers, linking neighbors in a web of economic and social relationships, and contributing to local causes.

3. Local Decision-Making
Local ownership ensures that important decisions are made locally by people who live in the community and who will feel the impacts of those decisions.

4. Keeping Dollars in the Local Economy
Compared to chain stores, locally owned businesses recycle a much larger share of their revenue back into the local economy, enriching the whole community.

5. Job and Wages
Locally owned businesses create more jobs locally and, in some sectors, provide better wages and benefits than chains do.

6. Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurship fuels America’s economic innovation and prosperity, and serves as a key means for families to move out of low-wage jobs and into the middle class.

7. Public Benefits and Costs
Local stores in town centers require comparatively little infrastructure and make more efficient use of public services relative to big box stores and strip shopping malls.

8. Environmental Sustainability
Local stores help to sustain vibrant, compact, walkable town centers-which in turn are essential to reducing sprawl, automobile use, habitat loss, and air and water pollution.

9. Competition
A marketplace of tens of thousands of small businesses is the best way to ensure innovation and low prices over the long-term.

10. Product Diversity
A multitude of small businesses, each selecting products based, not on a national sales plan, but on their own interests and the needs of their local customers, guarantees a much broader range of product choices.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Two vicious Commie left wing news items for Boxing Day.

What a wonderful election year it turned out to be.

Tagg, You're It, by Charles P. Pierce (Esquire Politics Blog)

... So, when his son comes out now and tells us that Willard didn't "want" to be president, he says more than he planned on saying. He subtly reinforces that foundation of the basic problem that his father had as a political candidate -- namely, that the more you were exposed to Willard Romney, the less you wound up liking him.

On a more somber note, another little bit of history that tends to get ignored.

Largest Mass Execution in US History: 150 Years Ago Today, by Jon Wiener (The Nation)

December 26, 1862: thirty-eight Dakota Indians were hung in Mankato, Minnesota, in the largest mass execution in US history–on orders of President Abraham Lincoln. Their crime: killing 490 white settlers, including women and children, in the Santee Sioux uprising the previous August.

Kentucky Bourbon(s), from softball to basketball?


There was a professional slow pitch softball league from 1977 through 1982, and Louisville had a franchise. The team was called the Kentucky Bourbons, and featured slugger Bill Gatti. I don't remember Terry Davis, and yet there he is, pictured on the magazine cover (photo credit).

The reason why this popped into my mind was eavesdropping on a Twitter conversation with WDRB's Eric Crawford, who observed that any future NBA team in Louisville almost certainly would be called the Kentucky Colonels, not so much because of any historical symmetry with the city's long departed ABA team, but owing to Yum Brands! as a corporate sponsor.

(Colonel Sanders, don't you know. At least we were spared The Bucket as formal arena name, although I digress.)

Catbirds was the name of Louisville's short-lived CBA team in the mid-1980s, and a few years later, there was the Shooters of the forgotten Global Basketball Association.

While I like Colonels just fine, Bourbon (without the "s," in the fashion of Heat and Thunder) strikes me as a better choice. It's quintessentially Kentucky, with an appreciation for corn liquor uniting the disparate collegiate sports programs.

Forget the Cats and Cards. Have some Bourbon. Or something like that.

Really, is Hell for real?


The cover story for The Economist's year-end double issue is Hell (see illustration above).

Hell: Into everlasting fire

For hundreds of years, Hell has been the most fearful place in the human imagination. It is also the most absurd

TO MANY in the West, Hell is just a medieval relic. It went out with ducking stools and witchcraft ... Hell hardly hurts any more. In everyday parlance (“What the hell are you doing?”), it is merely a bark, not a place ... The devils and pitchforks, the brimstone clouds and wailing souls, have been cleared away, rather as a mad aunt might be shut up in the attic.

But hold on. For many people in the world, Hell still exists; not just as a concept, but as a place on the map. “Hell is Real,” declare the billboards across the American South: as real as the next town. To make it an abstraction is comforting and tidy, but doesn’t work. Religion thrives on fear, as well as hope: without fear, bad behaviour has no sanction and clerical authority wins scant respect.

Having surveyed the conceptual history of this unprovable notion, the newspaper offers a lighthearted tourist brochure.

Hell: A very rough guide

Hell is steadily losing adherents. The Infernal Tourist Board (chief field-researchers Dante Alighieri and John Milton) has therefore produced a promotional flyer

... Time stands still here, as the ocean boils and the great abyss yawns before you. Feel the hot sand under your feet, watch the chimeras and gorgons frolic, take a trip on a demon’s back, smell the brimstone on the breeze! You know how you always hope holidays will never end? This one never will.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

On meanings of Boxing Day, which is tomorrow (December 26).

At the Rover, 2011

First and foremost, Boxing Day is a longstanding Louisville tradition for the day following Christmas Day, and the Irish Rover always does it right. In the old country, Boxing Day these days might signify shopping and sports.

Boxing Day sales expected to draw millions of Britons despite recession (Guardian)

Boxing Day: Busy Premier League and Football League schedule (BBC)

Here's an impartial explanation for Boxing Day. Maybe next year, we'll get around to a Boxing Day brewhouse brunch at BSB. Until then, there's the Rover, and I hope we're able to make it this year.

What is Boxing Day? Why is it Called Boxing Day, by Elaine Lemm (britishfood.about.com)

What is Boxing Day?

How many times am I asked - What is Boxing Day? Or, Why is it called Boxing Day?

Here in Britain and Ireland we are greedy, it’s not enough for us to have Christmas Day celebrations we have added on another day called Boxing Day. Boxing Day is a national holiday and another day to spend with family and friends and eating up the leftovers but its origins are steeped in history and tradition.

As a coda of sorts, consider these photos from Boxing Day at the Irish Rover, 2008, as previously posted at Potable Curmudgeon.

Excellent breakfast, including black pudding ... and Guinness.

There was music and a festive ambience on the day after Christmas.

Jon illustrates a story as the pints look on.

Tim, Jeff and Graham.

Jeff and the introductory smoked salmon.

Only one of those pints belongs to Graham.

It's a wonderful (and delightful) life in New Albany.


Monday, December 24, 2012

REWIND HOLIDAZE EDITION 3: Of beer and the pissoir.

Our last visit to Bavaria was during Christmas, 2009, and in the purest of anthropological senses, it was a revelation to witness the holiday observed with a manner of dignity and traditional restraint, at least by prevailing and manic American consumer standards. 

Genuine wintry weather provided ample opportunity to drink beer and eat pork indoors, in proximity to grandly tiled stoves fairly pumping heat, with an inevitable chilly contrast when it came time to use the restrooms. The observations that followed were briefly summarized in a LEO beer column (remember them?), and then in 2011, refashioned into a better piece for LouisvilleBeer.com

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Baylor on Beer: Of beer and the pissoir.

Any farm boy can tell you what happens in winter, when hot liquid hits frozen ground and steam rises, and so my youthful reveries tending our livestock came back to me after I made my way from the toasty upholstered interior of the beer café, through the entry door, across a corridor, through a second door, and outside to where the restrooms were located just off the snowy, arched passageway leading from the street.

They were unheated, with a predictable temperature differential. I was in and out in a flash, returning to cool smoked lager in a far warmer room.

At least there was plumbing, albeit frigid fixtures.

In 1999, while drinking draft Baltika in Moscow at a tiny bar located in the concrete bowels of a towering modern concrete housing block, my fumbling water closet query in wholly deficient Russian was met with a shrug. The bar man gestured in the direction of what proved to be a slippery collection of muddy shrubs around the darkened corner.

It may have been Archie Bunker who observed, “You don’t buy beer, you rent it,” and your humble columnist has gleaned a fair amount of experience in such matters in his career as professional beer drinker, especially when imbibing in Europe. Many aspects of the continent’s beer and brewing cultures have changed since 1985, but none more so than a steady escalation in cleanliness and comfort of the facilities at a typical watering hole.

Good, bad or indifferent, my personal theory is that such improvements owe more to the course of the women’s liberation movement than the interest of most males in facets of basic hygiene. In all likelihood, publicans continued pointing to the bushes out back until modernity brought changes in migratory patterns, in the form of female patronage. Only then were modern plumbing solutions contemplated.

Beer and Bamberg (Germany) are gloriously intertwined, which is why I became a regular visitor so long ago. During the 2009 Christmas trip, it suddenly dawned on me that the pleasant modern urinals in the men’s room of Brauerei Spezial (founded in 1536) weren’t there until the late 1990’s. Before that, men urinated into tiled trenches running along the floor. These trenches presumably emptied into the sewer system, although sometimes it’s best to take nothing for granted.

While I hardly can attest to how it was done during the Middle Ages, or even as recently as the 1970’s, my impression is that the process of waste disposal always has differed little from my experience in Moscow, or this one in Albania, circa 1994: A lovely, contemporary wood-lined room with a spotless, modern stainless steel urinal … connected to PVC pipe, which led outside to termination just shy of the town’s riverbank.

Unscientifically speaking, you can look at the many centuries-old brewery taps and public houses in places like Bamberg and see that restrooms weren’t included in the original architectural designs. They were added later, away from the seating areas, often tacked onto the interior courtyards that are a familiar feature of these older buildings.

Modernity has deprived us of the European waste disposal mechanism I miss the least: The fearsome female restroom attendant. Sometimes she was ensconced behind sliding glass windows, but more often she remained seated at a rickety wooden table in front of the battery of stained tiles, guarding her ceramic plate, which was intended for loudly smacking coins into, indicating you’d paid the required tariff and qualified for a square of toilet paper (if really necessary).

In theory, the women were there to keep the area clean, and surprisingly, they often did just that, sometimes while you were otherwise engaged in your business. It made for initial embarrassment, but after all, they were skilled and highly professionals, only doing their jobs.

Male toilet attendants were permitted, but invariably they were less reliable than the elderly ladies, especially as the geography passed eastward from capitalism to communism. When I was teaching English in Slovakia, I was a frequent customer of a venerable drinking establishment where the restrooms were in the basement (not uncommon).

My preferred brand of beer also was the nightly preferred beverage of the subterranean lavatory commandant. Whenever his plate contained the requisite number of coins, he would climb the stairs for another pint of pay package, and by closing time, he could be found unconscious at his post, snoring in the sour, fetid air.

Now THAT’S motion-activated, folks.

REWIND HOLIDAZE EDITION 2: Phobic yuletide oupistidophobes and Clere Channel comebacks.

In 2010, I used my newspaper bully pulpit, now defunct thanks to humorless Alabama pensioners and their registered local agents, to mischievously bait prevailing intolerance in the community. The column below appeared on December 23, and predictably, the Clere Channel groupies immediately descended upon me not unlike piranhas on a stray Boston butt, resulting in this blog wrap-up: "Beer Money" fan mail pours in ... that's nice ... is it time for a beer yet? 

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Beware, yuletide oupistidophobes. I’m watching.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Really?

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

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

I repeat: Really?

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

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

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

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

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

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

REWIND HOLIDAZE EDITION 1: Slovaks and troglodytes.

I've always enjoyed keeping 'em guessing, and so a Beer Money column entitled "Long ago in Slovakia" was published in the pre-merger 'Bune on December 3, 2009. The full text hasn't appeared here until now.

There was an entertaining aftermath, in the form of comments amid a maze of Bledsottian irrelevancies at the blog still called The Voice of the People, which Shirley Baird seems no longer to actively steward (last posting in May, 2012). Back in 2009, I answered the troglodyte's critique here: My visit to PassiveAggressiveLand.

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Long ago in Slovakia.

My family traces its ethnic roots to Germany, but to this day, I’m unclear as to whether the Christian preferences of my ancestors ran toward Catholic or Protestant. Perhaps there were even unbelievers like me slipping their genes into the mix. If so, they were probably quiet about it.

It used to be that German Catholic immigrants to America celebrated December 6, St. Nicholas Day, as the day for giving gifts. Without a religious upbringing to speak of, St. Nicholas Day made no impression on me until December, 1991. I was living in the city of Kosice, Slovakia, and working as an English teacher. It was my first holiday season spent abroad, and a compelling experience.

Here’s something I wrote at the time.

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A Christmas Dispatch from Slovakia December, 1991.

There's a good chance of a White Christmas in Slovakia.

The winter's first snow has come and gone, and although we didn't get very much, it was enough to add a cheerful hazard for pedestrians in the forms of sleds, multitudes of them, some of old fashioned wood construction, others of molded plastic. More sleds than I've ever seen have appeared as if by magic from closets and storage rooms, to be pulled by their brightly outfitted young owners and steered at breakneck speed down any and all available slopes, inhabited or otherwise.

They had been charging down the wide sidewalk that leads from Festival Square and ascends the low ridge to the hospital complex where I teach, and the snow on the walkway had been firmly packed into an icy surface that defied sure footing, and the reason I know this is because I was trying to walk up the hill – and failing miserably.

You can't blame the children for failing to understand (or to care about) the consequences of their fun. After all, children don't have as far to fall.

It was a good day for a walk. The snow was fresh and powdery, and it crunched loudly beneath my boots. The white dusting on the cupolas and steeples of the old city brightened the sooty, aging facades. Even the look-alike gray rows of block housing were softened by the white.

The sunshine was bright and surface temperatures no lower than freezing, but a sharp, gusting wind from the north kicked up miniature snow squalls and blew the clothes on the ubiquitous clotheslines into frozen, horizontal positions.

The chill made me think of Russia. The Soviet Union used to be close to Kosice, but now the line on the obsolete map is the border of the infant Ukrainian republic, and who knows the procedure for crossing that border?

Probably a bottle of Scotch and a smile.

The cold flowing into Kosice from Siberia will be as close as I get to Russia this trip, yet I can still see our fur clad, vodka wielding, erstwhile enemies waiting in line for brown bread. It makes me think of the cruel toll of forty years of Cold War: Hunger, homelessness, environmental degradation, social upheaval, rampant violence, the decay of the family, impending economic catastrophe and these are America's spoils of "victory."

In the former U.S.S.R., the situation is even worse.

But Christmas is coming, and somewhere in a valley near Kosice, in the backyard of a quaint farm, a goose is getting fat. Barrels are being inspected to gauge the progress of the cured cabbage that will form the base of the traditional holiday soup. A trip to a nearby town is being planned. There will be shopping for gifts and a visit to the fish market for carp, another holiday staple or perhaps the fish will be vended from oversized plastic tubs, to be weighed and wrapped right on the street.

For an American, there's an eerie quality to the Christmas season in Slovakia. For starters, decorations didn't begin to appear until the first week of December; then again, what can you expect of such an unenlightened country where there's no contrived holiday like Halloween to mark the beginning of the shopping season?

Only a few tasteful, understated window displays are to be seen in the stores, and high ¬pressure, guilt laced sales tactics aren't in evidence at all. Slovakia obviously has much to learn about economics before its people can begin to see the wisdom of centering all hopes on wild overspending at Christmas to keep the economy afloat.

In Slovakia, Santa Claus makes his rounds on the eve of St. Nicholas Day (December 6). Children scrub and polish their shoes and place them on the windowsill to be filled with candy and chocolate, but only if they've been good. If not, they're supposed to receive a bundle of twigs bound together and intended for use to swat their you know what. On Christmas Eve, rumor has it that gifts are not delivered by Santa, but by Jesus himself.

In Communist times the regime attempted to persuade the populace that a chap named Grandfather Frost brought the goodies, presumably on behalf of the benevolent leadership.

There are Christmas trees and caroling in the streets by children, one of whom might carry a representation of the manger, and maybe the singers will be rewarded for their efforts with fruit and cookies.

In short, despite tight economic times and a full list of daunting problems to be solved, the holiday season in Slovakia is proceeding according to schedule and tradition. I've been given a bottle of homemade peach brandy for St. Nicholas Day; the doctor who gave it to me instructed me to make a Christmas Eve toast to peace, health and a good harvest. On a cold day, with steaming sauerkraut soup just around the comer, the toast strikes me as a true and noble thought.

Let's all take a Crappo -- please, take him.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

2012: My year of books and reading.

It is a profound relief that cooler weather has brought with it heightened opportunities to read. The year’s completed book list is offered here, beginning with the most recent one (albeit an ermine still in progress), and including links to reviews and comments I’ve written about particular books at the blog during the preceding year. Works of fiction are marked with *.

*An Ermine in Czernopol, by Gregor von Rezzori

*Radetzky March, by Joseph Roth

*The Man Without Qualities (in two volumes), by Robert Musil

*Mirage, by Naguib Mahfouz

Trotsky, by Robert Service

Polish Cold War Neon: Cold War Typography and Design, by Ilona Karwińska

The Colossus of Maroussi, by Henry Miller

Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World, by Michael Lewis

The Dynamite Club: How a Bombing in Fin-de-Siecle Paris Ignited the Age of Modern Terror, by John Merriman

*The Tiger's Wife, by Téa Obreht

*Simple Stories, by Ingo Schulze

*Cosmos, by Witold Gombrowicz

In Search of Lost Meaning: The New Eastern Europe, by Adam Michnik

*The Accident, by Ismail Kadare

Manufacturing a Socialist Modernity: Housing in Czechoslovakia, 1945-1960, by Kimberly Elman Zarecor

Eight of the fifteen books are works of fiction, and Miller’s travelogue might as well be. This is an abnormally high percentage for me, although they surely do reflect my traditional Euro-bias. Seeing as it was an election year, much reading time was devoted to non-fiction magazine and newspaper pieces. Nate Silver’s prescient blog was a regular, and also Charles Pierce’s hilarious ruminations at Esquire.

The staples of my daily news absorption remain the New York Times; The Economist; NPR and BBC radio; and The Guardian. One salutary effect of the election campaign was to push me further to the left, during the course of which I rediscovered The Nation. During 2012, I selectively perused what little bits of sports writing are tolerable, such as blogs by Billy Reed, essays by various writers at Grantland, and Keith Olbermann’s periodic baseball coverage.

But we really need Olbermann back on the air, doing politics for the rest of us white guys who aren't fascists.

Apart from the physical books, and traditional paper subscriptions to the Sunday NYT and The Economist, what all these sources have in common is electronic access. On a couple of occasions this year, I visited the public library and sat, with an espresso, watching with fascination as the world morphs into something entirely new. There is considerable nostalgia therein, but also excitement in witnessing the transformation of a public space, one that will continue being public, and yet in altered form.

Here are some others books occupying space on a crowded bench, just beyond the on deck circle. They managed to elude my grasp in 2012, but there's always next year.

Better Off Without ‘Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession, by Chuck Thompson

Memoirs of an Anti-Semite. A Novel in Five Stories, by Gregor von Rezzori
Red Plenty, by Francis Spufford

Goodbye, Darkness, by William Manchester

The Pursuit of Italy: A History of a Land, its Regions and their Peoples, by David Gilmour

Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane, by Andrew Graham-Dixon

Arguably: Essays, by Christopher Hitchens

Adam and Evelyn, by Ingo Schulze

Jerusalem: The Biography, by Simon Sebag Montefiore

Laura Warholic or, The Sexual Intellectual, by Alexander Theroux

Branding and not branding a city park.

From Malmo, Sweden ...


... to New Albany, Indiana.


For the sequel, "How Not to Brand A City Park," we're trying to hire James Crutchfield. Surely the Foundation can foot us some money for that. Until then: Design: How To Brand A City Park, by Jeroen Beekmans (Pop Up City)

File under "men and women, then and now."

Emaciated waifs weren't always the norm. Thanks to DH for the tip.

Photo: 1912's Perfect Woman Was From Brooklyn, Weighed 171 Lbs, Had Pear-Shaped Body, by Jen Carlson (Gothamist)

In 1912 Miss Elsie Scheel of Brooklyn was deemed the “most nearly perfect specimen of womanhood” out of 400 other coeds at Cornell that year. The 24-year-old Scheel had come to Cornell from Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn Heights—she enjoyed horticulture, outdoor sports, and was an ardent suffragette.

Less than 20 years before Elsie made the newspaper, grizzled Union war veterans were coming to Louisville in search of understanding and reconciliation.

1895 catalog of Louisville bordellos, by Cory Doctorow (boingboing)

The Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of union civil war veterans, held its annual encampment in Louisville in 1895. This 'Sporting Guide' advertises the various houses of ill repute wishing to "entertain" the visitors coming to town for the event.

Josh at Flat12 Brewing Company forwarded this link, and both of us noticed the same, seemingly odd aside: Mary Edwards boasted of wine and beer, but not bourbon. Then as now, evidently the hard stuff impedes successful transactions. Nowadays, those scarred, battle-tested veterans would be at 4th Street Live.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Eleven progressives we lost in 2012.

And an eleventh, as noted in The Economist: Oscar Niemeyer.

The rich and famous gave him work, so he refused to be embarrassed by his palace-and-casino-building. But he was prouder of the 300 schools he designed in Brazil, all different, to surprise and inspire the poor with beauty.

The Nation's ten remembrances share a unifying theme of progressivism.

Remembering Ten We Lost in 2012, by Peter Rothberg (The Nation)

Lived History is designed to honor, remember and pay tribute to the dearly departed who have made significant contributions to bettering our world. Each week we feature a remembrance of a member of the progressive community, either prominent or obscure, whose remarkable accomplishments demand recognition. In the process, we hope to highlight and recover some of the more important but often un-noted periods of our history that demonstrate the progressive tradition in American life. Here are a few of the notable individuals we lost in 2012.

NYT: "Mr. LaPierre looked wild-eyed at times."

I've been thinking about this, and it occurs to me that the real culprit is bullets. Without bullets, guns merely are glorified clubs, and I can outrun them, not unlike wildlife fleeing cave men of old. And if cars are what makes us drunkards dangerous, I'm cool with banning them, and operating trams and buses, instead.

But what I do know is this. If I spray Bibles around the room, folks get deluded. Spray beer, and they get sticky. Paint, all multi-colored.

Gunfire? Well, you know the rest of it.

The N.R.A. Crawls From Its Hidey Hole (New York Times editorial)

No one seriously believed the N.R.A. when it said it would contribute something “meaningful” to the discussion about gun violence. The organization’s very existence is predicated on the nation being torn in half over guns. Still, we were stunned by Mr. LaPierre’s mendacious, delusional, almost deranged rant.

Mr. LaPierre looked wild-eyed at times as he said the killing was the fault of the media, songwriters and singers and the people who listen to them, movie and TV scriptwriters and the people who watch their work, advocates of gun control, video game makers and video game players.

The N.R.A., which devotes itself to destroying compromise on guns, is blameless.

On the Exchange Pub + Kitchen's new location downtown.

The Exchange pub + kitchen opened this week for dinner service only (5:00 p.m.) at the new location is 118 W. Main, across from the YMCA, and adjacent to Feast BBQ.

Yesterday I stopped by to check it out, and was told that lunch hours probably will start after the holidays. However, in this instance, as with all question, get the answers straight from the Exchange itself by calling (812) 948-6501.

What I've heard so far about the food and drink has been uniformly excellent, and a word must be said about the build-out and ambiance: Arguably, this is Steve Resch's greatest rehab/design work. The Exchange's classy new digs take a back seat to none on metro Louisville, and in addition, there's a great view of the modernist Y and Sherman Minton Bridge on the other side of Main. In this space, both Steve's and Ian Hall's vision comes to fruition.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Random 2013 Platform Goals 4: Incentivize diverse grassroots design, not top-down beige-think.


Roughly a thousand years ago at NAC, we started talking about measures aimed at making New Albany a more appealing place to live, both for those already residing here, and for others who might choose to relocate.

Of course, the very first task required of us was to disregard the nattering nabobs of naysaying, those lifelong local residents convinced that since they, themselves, have been congenitally incapable of accomplishment and unable to articulate substantive differences, no one else should be permitted to try to do so, either.

Ideas we’ve floated have ranged from a political culture capable of grasping basic scientific principles, to taking seriously the city’s own rules that pertain to human habitation. They’ve included notions like complete streets and clear structural support for bikes and walkers, public art and the insanely simple suggestion that having garbage cans available to receive trash just might keep some of it off the street.

What I’ve come back to repeating over and over during recent years is whether any active measures pertaining to a contemporary aesthetic, i.e., the nature or art, or designs for public spaces, can be entrusted to anyone who already is convinced that he or she is a community pillar.

Quite clearly, the answer has been no, because from the discredited plan for River View to Caesar’s Folly (Rent Boy Park, et al), we’ve seen a stunning absence of creativity among those with post-war childhoods. White bread might be ideal to construct a PBJ for a five-year-old, but it has no place in community space.

For instance, consider New Albany Clean & Green’s plan to place identical planters on multiple downtown street corners, and then, having imposed a specific design blueprint like this on the varied downtown streetscape, turn next to business owners and mercilessly hector them to help maintain placements they had no say in designing.

As we’ve asked again and again: Why must things like this always be applied top-down by folks who otherwise claim to support individual initiative?

Wouldn’t it make more sense to consider a proven and successful idea like the Urban Enterprise Association’s façade grant program and apply its 50/50 principle to beautification?

Why not let businesses come up with their own plan for flowers, trees, planters or other “green” applications, and have Clean and Green coordinate a bundle of grants to help with costs? Wouldn’t this allow for more individualized design flair, and also provide the businesses with an incentive to maintain their own placements?

Arguably the most successful act of downtown revitalization to date was the city council’s enactment in 2006 of the riverfront development area, enabling a less restrictive regime of state alcoholic beverage permits, and resulting in a diverse downtown “food and drink court” of international flair, which in turn has provided impetus for building restorations and hundreds of visitors more than before.

Note that this measure appealed to entrepreneurial self-interest and provided a solid reason to invest without once stipulating which beers were to be poured or the type fish destined for frying. The same principle might be leveraged to promote more retail, loft housing, public art and … yes … even beautification.

The key? It’s prying design considerations from the leaden hand of the “father knows best,” beige-rules crowd.

Anyone with ideas about how to do that? Let us know. It’s actually rather important.

"I think she was on her back when it happened but I was not paying attention because we were rolling around."

Australia grasps the obvious: It's a motel room, mate.

Woman injured while having sex on overnight work trip can sue employer; Australian court rules that woman, who was hurt when light fitting fell on her during sex in a motel, is entitled to compensation, by Alison Rourke in Sydney (Guardian)

 ... "This is not the 1920s, after all," (lawyer Leo) Grey told the court. Grey argued that sex was "an ordinary incident of life" commonly undertaken in a motel room at night, like sleeping or showering.

Lawyers for ComCare, the insurer of the woman's workplace, argued that while people needed to sleep, eat and attend to their personal hygiene, they did not "need to have sex".

"NHTSA reports record-low level of drunk-driving deaths."

Although the source is a typically self-serving Beer Institute press release, the news therein is welcomed, nonetheless. Perhaps some day it will appear in the 'Bamaggregator.

NHTSA reports record-low level of drunk-driving deaths (at BeerPulse)

(Washington, DC) – Drunk-driving deaths fell to a record-low level in 2011, according to recent data released by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Fatalities in crashes involving drunk drivers declined to a record-low level in 2011, down 2.5 percent since 2010 and down 53 percent since first measured in 1982.

In 2011, the overall number of highway fatalities fell 1.9 percent from the previous year, to the lowest level in more than six decades ...

 ... While Americans drove fewer miles in 2011 than in 2010, the nearly 2 percent drop in roadway fatalities significantly outpaced the corresponding 1.2 percent decrease in vehicle miles traveled. In addition, updated Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) information released shows 2011 also saw the lowest fatality rate ever recorded, with 1.10 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2011, down from 1.11 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2010.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

ON THE AVENUES: The best beer ever.

ON THE AVENUES: The best beer ever. 

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

Last week I found myself in the highly peculiar position of agreeing with Charlie Papazian, founder of the Brewers Association, in reference to the great "craft versus crafty" controversy of 2012.

Given my rhetorical history with Charlie, which began in 1994 with (shall we say) differing opinions of the longstanding brand name dispute between the two Budweisers, Czech and American, this occurrence left me a wee bit disoriented.

As if on cue, the Internet promptly disgorged evidence that the Bud War rages on, eighteen years after Charlie refused to discuss it with me.

Talks collapse in fight over Budweiser name (USA Today)

CESKE BUDEJOVICE, Czech Republic (AP) — They've been arguing about a name for 106 years. A small brewer in the Czech Republic and the world's biggest beer maker have been suing each other over the right to put the word Budweiser on their bottles.

The dispute appears likely to continue a while longer now, because settlement talks between state-owned Budejovicky Budvar and Anheuser-Busch, a U.S. company now part of AB InBev, have collapsed, according to Budvar's director general, Jiri Bocek.

I was compelled to unearth "Anheuser-Busch, Gone Home," an essay from 1997, to illustrate that I'd been right all along, and Charlie wrong, which got me thinking about Ceske Budejovice and the great times I've had there, which in turn reminded me that those three lagers from Kout na Šumavě that we're pouring at the Public House now are quite good ... and boy, could I use some good, old-fashioned Boemian pork and dumplings with a side of head cheese, vinegar and onion.

And to wash it down, Pilsner Urquell -- the way I remember it. The story of why I remember it like I do is one of my fondest travel memories.

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The times of one’s life, the places, and the people. To be as precise as possible, the best beer I’d ever tasted (at the time) was consumed at two o’clock in the afternoon on Monday, July 13, 1987. The beer was draft Pilsner Urquell, known in its native Czech as Plzensky Prazdroj, and the setting was an old tavern in that great brewing nation’s lovely capital, Prague.

In June, 1987, I joined my good friend and longtime drinking companion Barrie Ottersbach for a group tour of the Soviet Union that began in Moscow, passed through Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), Latvia and Lithuania, and ended in Warsaw, Poland. As evening approached on July 12, Barrie and I stood alone in the shadow of the monstrous Stalinist Gothic Palace of Culture in downtown Warsaw, having concluded the tour in appropriate fashion with a session at the hard currency bar of a nearby hotel. We bowed to the edifice, and set off by foot for the central train station to hop the sole overnight non-express to Czechoslovakia.

We’d been dazed by an afternoon of inexpensive Bulgarian cabernet, amazed at having uncovered a few bottles of Austrian-brewed Kaiser Bier at the Hotel Forum’s foreign currency bar, and largely felt unfazed at the prospect of the trip ahead.

Of course, these being the days of waning Communism, our jovial mood couldn’t have lasted very long. Although our essential documents – passports, train tickets and couchette reservations – were in order, we had neglected to pack food and drink for the journey. It was Sunday. All stores were closed, and mini-marts were in short supply in Communist Poland in 1987; in fact, so short that they had yet to be written into the five-year plan.

Our backpacks bulged with Soviet black market booty, and we strained to lug them along while desperately foraging for victuals in the vicinity of the rail station’s platforms. Even with handfuls of colorful Zloty, there was nothing to purchase except grainy licensed Swiss chocolate and returnable bottles of imitation cola. The final whistle blew. We boarded hungry, and did the best we could to sleep in the stifling summer heat.

Twelve hours later the marathon rail crawl finally ground to a halt, and we stumbled into Prague’s Hlavni nadrazi station looking like bedraggled refugees from a war zone. Stomachs audibly growling, poorly rested, filthy and quite thirsty, the sodas having long since been drained, we dragged our belongings to the baggage storage check and lightened the load.

Departing the station, we were treated to our first glimpses of Prague’s timeless majesty and the city’s then-current reality: Standing in front of the museum at the top of the long, gentle rise of Wenceslas Square, against a backdrop of the old city sparkling in a bright morning sun, a taxi driver sidled over and asked us if we’d like to change money.

Several minutes later, one of the three official room finding agencies placed us for three nights in an athletic club dormitory on the outskirts of the city. It would be several hours before we could check into the room. Starving and parched, we were cast into the mysterious, gorgeous, crumbling city to fend for ourselves.

Exhilaration temporarily overcame fatigue as we ventured into the winding streets, over cobbled roadways and through strange arches. Soon, to our growing excitement, we found that the city boasted more than spires, spies, stucco and scaffolding – beer was all around us, and pubs were in abundance!

After two weeks in the Polish and Soviet lands, where vodka reigned supreme, we were at long last in Bohemia, the Euphrates of European lager brewing tradition, and the home of the original Pilsner beer. We resolved to walk a bit more before finding a good place to enjoy a draft beer – preferably Pilsner Urquell or Staropramen, or another Prague brand if necessary.

Armed only with an inadequate tourist map, Barrie and I crossed the Vltava River on the famed Charles Bridge, ascended Castle Hill, wandered down the other side, crossed the river again at a second bridge, and finally were devoured by the twisting alleyways that we knew eventually led back to Wenceslas Square. At length, having paused briefly two hours before for a sausage dispensed from a tiny streetside window, we glimpsed the familiar green script of Pilsner Urquell adorning the façade of a faded, orange-painted building.

The final steps were the hardest. We passed through the stout wooden doors of U Dvou Kocek, where Pilsner Urquell indeed was the house beer, the daily beer, and in fact the only beer available.

Blissfully unaware of protocol, we slumped heavily into wooden benches in an interior hallway. Unconsciously drooling, our beleaguered senses slowly were revived by the cozy, smoky, conspiratorial warmth of the main room, where clusters of Czech workers, students, soldiers and officials sat conversing.

Huge platters of pork and dumplings sat before many of the customers, but to man, each and every patron cradled an indescribably lovely mug of beer – and make no mistake: They were glass mugs, not the more stylish half-liter glasses that supplanted them not long afterward. It seemed too good to be true … and almost was.

Alarmingly, the waiters completely ignored us.

We opted for direct action. I limped to the long, imposing counter where a brawny, mustachioed man stood next to a pair of matching taps, both pouring the exact same nectar, and with a wheeled cart filled with clean mugs. Mustering my courage, I flashed four fingers and muttered, “Pivo, prosim,” having miraculously recalled the proper words without stealing a glance at the guidebook buried somewhere in my day pack.

He looked at me quite seriously, then smiled and complied, relieving me of roughly $2.00 while pushing four half-liter drafts across the slick countertop.

The brilliant golden liquid was cool, not ice-cold; frozen beer only numbs the palate, and though appropriate for Pabst, it certainly isn’t necessary for anything as grand as Urquell. The noble hop aroma was evident and enticing, fighting through the billowing white head to reach my nose even at arm’s length. Everything about the beer itself and the venue in which it was about to be consumed spoke of quality, respect, tradition, and the sheer, unbridled joy that one feels to be an adult and to think, feel and understand what is good about life.

When Barrie saw me approach, he bolted from the wooden bench and fell to his knees in a spontaneous demonstration of faith and appreciation that I’ve seldom witnessed in any church – such was the genuine, heartfelt intensity prefacing his gesture of supplication. Seconds later I spotted his eyes, wet with unrestrained tears, his cheeks flecked with beer foam, all visible through the thick base of an empty upturned mug.

Needless to say, my reaction was comparable. I’ll never forget this moment of triumph and revelation, of this sense of beer ecstasy that will never be understood or truly appreciated by anyone who defines beer by the number of calories it contains or the volume of advertising revenue it commands.

Cherish. That's the word I use.

Much ado about almost nothing as 18-year era sprouts hyperbole, then ends.

In other anti-climactic news, Roger Jeffers is likely to become the county parks superintendent. Irv Stumler gets to serve on another board, and somewhere, a dog barks plaintively as the sun sets on the Heavrin-less county council.

A depression suddenly seizes me. What's the city to do now? After this combined parks era, one comprising a full 9% of New Albany's 199-year history, how on earth can we go it alone, without the mature, adult hand of fiscally accountable exurbia to guide us past the rough patches and inevitably spray-painted park bench vandalism?

Woe is us.

Pfui.
An era comes to an end in Floyd County; Parks board holds final meeting ahead of Jan. 1 split, by Daniel Suddeath ('Bama Ad Aggregator)

“I know we fought the good fight — we did everything we could for this community,” (Scott) Klink said.

Coomes: "The Yum! Center seems unlikely to succeed without offering a basketball product that appeals to more than U of L fans. That product is spelled N-B-A."

At Insider Louisville, Mark Coomes does the impossible, discussing the insolvency of the KFC Yum Brands Arena, well, like an adult, and even asking adult-style questions.

Mark Coomes: The pink elephant in the NBA-to-Louisville debate is the white elephant downtown

The pink elephant in our room is the white elephant downtown.
We need to take off the blindfolds and the rose-colored glasses.
This is no time for backbiting or catfighting. We need to talk about this like adults.