Friday, May 31, 2019

Strong Towns and Wendell Berry: “Though many of our worst problems are big, they do not necessarily have big solutions."


At Strong Towns, our aim is to change the way that we talk about solutions for our communities. We want to change the way that built environment experts (architects, planners, engineers, etc.), elected officials, and engaged citizens think about and engage with their place. We believe that the only way to change a flawed cultural consensus is to build a movement of people pushing for change. Our work is aimed at building a broad coalition of people who reject the dominant patterns of development and financing and actively push for a different approach, both at the national scale and in their communities.

In New Albany? Unlikely, but a boy can dream.

After all, nowhere in the Strong Towns lexicon can one find a formula for campaign finance enhancement by special interest donors, now enshrined as daily reality in our town owing to Jeff Gahan's insatiable avarice.

But we can find definitions like this: "Growth Ponzi Scheme"

Most American cities find themselves caught in the Growth Ponzi Scheme. We experience a modest, short term illusion of wealth in exchange for enormous, long term liabilities. We deprive our communities of prosperity, overload our families with debt and become trapped in a spiral of decline. This cannot continue.

In New Albany, there is little hope of changing the conversation without changing the mayor and his chortling clique. November cannot come soon enough for me.

Changing the Conversation, Bo Wright (Strong Towns)

My role with Strong Towns involves sharing our message in small meetings with folks who have not previously been exposed to the Strong Towns message. There is a particular awkward moment that always occurs in these meetings. I walk through a short version of our signature Curbside Chat presentation and outline the Growth Ponzi Scheme, in order to describe “the problem” Strong Towns exists to solve. I’ve never finished showing the problem without the individuals leaning forward in anticipation of “the solution.”

I call the moment “awkward” because in the moment, the solutions I share seem so inadequate to the scale of the problem. We’re suggesting that cities and towns across North America are fundamentally insolvent and destined for standards of living well below what we’ve come to accept. The resulting social consequences are sobering, especially for the poor in our communities. And yet here I am, suggesting that we need to focus on the little things, make productive use of the infrastructure we’ve already built, and #DoTheMath when it comes to the long-term financial implications of development decisions. I don’t know what kind of solution would feel adequate for the predicament we’ve created across our towns and cities, but in the moment, “We need to begin by focusing on the little things” feels inadequate.

The mission of Strong Towns is to support a model of development that allows America’s cities, towns and neighborhoods to become financially strong and resilient. And we do this by seeking to change the cultural conversation about growth and development. As I’ve shared before, Strong Towns is not focused on directly changing public policy at any level of government, and we’re not consultants to cities. While these may seem like a natural leverage point for change—and a sexier solution—we believe that the root of the problem extends from faulty assumptions about how to create community prosperity and livable places.

American cities don’t struggle from a lack of a cultural consensus. They struggle because of one. Too many American citizens and decision makers believe that our current culture of unproductive growth, rapid development and intensive, debt-driven public investment is acceptable—or worse, they believe there is no alternative to it.

This consensus is based on a core, systematic misunderstanding of how communities create and destroy wealth. We lack a common understanding of why our places struggle, let alone what we might to do to help them thrive. We need to change the assumptions that our communities and their citizens have about how a community builds wealth. We need to change the conversation.

Wendell Berry on Counterproductive “Solutions”

Back to the idea I began with: that the solutions we offer do not feel adequate. I often come back to a quote by the agrarian author and poet, Wendell Berry. In “Local Economies to Save the Land and the People”, Berry writes, “Though many of our worst problems are big, they do not necessarily have big solutions. Many of the needed changes will have to be made in individual lives, in families and households, and in local communities. And so we must understand the importance of scale, and learn to determine the scale that is right for our places.”

The notion of solutions that are harmful if applied at the wrong scale is a recurring theme of Berry’s ...

Benedict points fingers. Ray Mouton points back. I'm with the writer, not the church hierarchy.

On several past occasions I've tipped my chapeau to writer Ray Mouton, author of the novel In God's House and a tireless crusader for institutional accountability amid the Catholic Church's seemingly endless pedophilia scandal.

Today I'll do it again, but first let's have a glance at the pope emeritus Benedict's diversionary tactics.

A former pope blames the swinging sixties for clerical crimes, by "Erasmus" (The Economist)

A jarring blast from the past

JUST AS Pope Francis struggles to stop his well-regarded papacy being overshadowed by charges of laxity over child abuse, his predecessor has emerged from retirement to make an unexpected intervention. Benedict, the pope emeritus who turns 92 next week, has blamed a surge of criminal acts against children by clerics on the sexual revolution of the 1960s.

He offered this diagnosis in an essay of nearly 6,000 words that was published in a German monthly, Klerusblatt, and rapidly retransmitted across the Catholic media. The stated purpose of this contentious piece of writing, which varies from personal reminiscence to dense theological argument, was to assist the deliberations of the current pontiff, who convened a global meeting on child abuse in February after reports of dreadful crimes and cover-ups in countries ranging from Ireland to the United States, and from Chile to Australia. But many supporters of Francis, as well as those who observe the church from outside, will find the older cleric’s analysis far from helpful. Benedict resigned unexpectedly in 2013, becoming the first pontiff to step down for 600 years, and he has lived quietly in Rome since then ...

The former attorney Mouton cross-examined at Facebook.

Though Pope Benedict was fully in charge of the cover-up from April 1981 when he was known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and was appointed to serve as Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith until he ascended to the papacy in 2005 upon the death of Pope John Paul II, a papacy he resigned from in disgrace, Benedict casts himself as one who can contribute to "a new beginning" regarding this issue.

Totally overlooking the facts as proven by Vatican documents that pedophilia in the priesthood has been prevalent in the priesthood since the fourth century, Pope Benedict blames society form the 1960's to the 1980's, absurdly claiming that in 1968 pedophilia was diagnosed as "allowed and appropriate." If anyone but a pope or former pope made such a statement they themselves would be diagnosed to be a madman.

Following is my 2015 overview, including a bit about how I came to know Mouton.

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Catching up with writer Ray Mouton, his novel, and the Catholic Church's pedophilia scandal.


“Hundreds of thousands of people have been deeply wounded and even destroyed. This plague of destruction would have continued unchecked had there been no Ray Mouton. In 1985-1986, Ray and I worked together daily when I was a canon lawyer in the Vatican Embassy. Ray fought fiercely to save children from the church. This is much more than a novel. It is an answer to the painful “why?” Why did this happen? Why did bishops put image above innocent children? I remember all Ray gave of himself, how he fearlessly spoke truth to power, and was never intimidated by the formidable opposition he encountered.”
-- ​Rev. Thomas P. Doyle, Leading Authority On Clergy Abuse

This morning while making coffee the face of Ray Mouton popped into my head. I'm highly honored to know this man. Two years ago around this time, I was reading Ray's novel, In God's House. My subsequent review of the novel is reprinted below.

In 1984, Ray was the lawyer chosen by the state of Louisiana's Catholic Church hierarchy to defend the first priest ever to be charged in secular court with child molestation. Looking back on the perspective of the present day, we obviously know what became of all this, and that Ray's appointment with destiny was the first tiny peek inside a truly massive (and ongoing) scandal.

I wasn't expecting to be moved to such an extent by Ray's book, but I was -- and remain so. For more background, go here: Church abuse case haunts lawyer who defended priest, by Evan Moore (Daily World in Opelousas LA)

 ... Mouton no longer attends services — not since the case of the Rev. Gilbert Gauthe, whose horrific crimes against children in the Diocese of Lafayette set off a wave of scandal in 1985 that reached across the USA all the way to the Vatican; not since Mouton defended Gauthe and almost ruined his life in the process.

Now, he enters churches only to light candles, candles for the children.

At Ray's page on Facebook, he still provides regular updates about a sad story seemingly without end, but his Thanksgiving message yesterday was decidedly upbeat.

It is with great gratitude that I reflect on the support all of you who follow this page have for the victims, the truth, and justice.

This has been a good year for the cause for all who stand on the side of people who were victimized as children and stand on the side of truth.

Thirty-one years ago when this journey began for me, Fr. Tom Doyle, and Fr. Michael Peterson, there were less than a handful of people on the right side of history.

Today, millions of people are on the right side of history, and progress has been made and will continue to be made.

Each of you should embrace yourself on this day and be grateful for the courage God has given you to confront the most powerful institution on earth on behalf of those who once believed they were powerless.

A lot remains to be done. A lot will be done. Justice will be done.

My review was published on January 30, 2014.

---

ON THE AVENUES: Ray Mouton and his novel, In God's House.


By virtually anyone’s reckoning, Ray Mouton’s non-fictionalized life story would have been noteworthy, even without The Case.

A native Louisianan with deep and colorful roots in the state, he lived the All-American dream and became a highly proficient, well-paid lawyer with all the trappings of success. Then, one day in 1984, Mouton was asked by the Catholic Church to defend an ordinary parish priest who’d gotten himself into a bit of a fix.

It proved to be more of a problem than anyone knew at the time – that is, anyone except the Catholic Church itself, because Ray’s appointment with destiny turned out to be with a wayward cleric named Gilbert Gauthe, who was a serial sexual abuser of young boys, and whose trail of tears had been repeatedly covered up by his superiors.

Now, for the very first time, the family of a victimized boy was refusing the usual hush money and insisting on their day in court, and the ecclesiastical higher-ups grudgingly realized they had no choice but to hire a mouthpiece.

Ray Mouton was that lawyer, and the rest is history.

In initially studying the case, Ray brought along his own prejudices. He’d been brought up solidly Catholic, and at the start he assumed that Gauthe was the exception to the rule, and a lone bad apple. Obviously, the priest needed professional psychological help (a concept barely registering with the Church at the time), and the best way forward seemed to Ray an insanity plea for his client, with time served in therapeutic custody, allowing for the children to become adults before Gauthe was again seen on the street.

But as Ray peeled back the dusty layers, the shape of things began changing. The Church hierarchy knew all about Gauthe, and had moved him from parish to parish to stay one step ahead of his irredeemable proclivities.

What’s more, there were numerous other pedophile priests in Louisiana alone, and it began to dawn on the lawyer that his own back yard was the metaphorical tip of an iceberg, one that we have since seen stretching to the horizon, as far as the eye could see … and the official policy of the Roman Catholic Church, whether written or whispered, was to deny the extent of the problem, to bury it, and to seek to preserve wherever possible its own autonomous sacred position beyond the arm of the secular.

---

Shortly thereafter, amid a pea soup fog of legal warfare, Ray joined forces with two reforming priests, and they conducted their own investigation of the molestation scandal, presumably with the blessing of the Church. Predictably, their findings were suppressed, and it is likely that their chief opponent at the Vatican was none other than Cardinal Ratzinger, who subsequently became Pope Benedict XVI.

Ray’s personal life became a casualty of these escalating revelations. It’s true that as a bayou Icarus, he might have crashed to earth in any event, but when he arrived at this intersection with history, the narrative current swept him along with it. He lost family, possessions and career. Significantly, he reclaimed his own life over a period of years living abroad, and then later took back the pedophile priest story in the form of a novel, In God’s House.

In God’s House, while a fictionalized version of real-life events, contains more than mere germs of overall truth. European reviewers (currently there is no American publisher) have called it a page-turner, and compared the novel’s tone to that of John Grisham’s legal thrillers, and these descriptions are apt. Perhaps more importantly, the novel is a Hollywood screenplay waiting to happen.

Destinations Booksellers might be able to score you a copy of In God’s House, and if not, it can be ordered on-line. I recommend it highly.

---

I’ve referred to the author as Ray because I know him, albeit casually.

In 1998, I checked off a personal bucket list entry by arriving in Pamplona, Spain, a day before the annual commencement of the Festival of San Fermin, and then remaining all the way through the revelry, until it was over -- eight days of hard partying even if one refrains from running with the bulls.

I probably wouldn't have gone to Pamplona -- wouldn't have tripped over the comatose bodies of Eurotrash, wouldn't have eaten Pyrenees trout stuffed with ham, wouldn't have drained bottles of anise-like Pacheran -- if not for my cousin Beak's trailblazing.

When Don landed his tenured position in Florida and started attending the festival on a yearly basis in the early 1990s, he immediately fell in with the anglophile expatriate coterie and met numerous and memorable aficionados, including a fellow American, Ray Mouton, author of a very well-regarded book about San Fermin.

That's why I have the pleasure of counting Ray among my acquaintances, and although I have not been to Pamplona for a while, and Ol' Paco still lives abroad, he's every bit as interesting as his press clippings suggest.

In 1998, on the festival's final night, with the week-long lunacy gradually settling into a post-coital reverie, the three of us had a quiet dinner for the first time in eight days, and then went for a cool, breezy walk at sundown atop the old wall that protects the old town from incursions from the valley below. Ray's arm was in a sling, because during the encierro, he'd been trampled -- not by a bull, but by another human being. The tales of his life's adventures were vastly entertaining, and it was an unforgettable end to an all-in.

I trust the novel helped exorcise a demon or two, assuming any still remained; Ray’s a tough hombre. Nowadays, you can follow him at Facebook and receive regular updates on pedophile cases, sadly as yet unfolding. He is a pitiless commentator as it pertains to the complicity of adults, and a tireless advocate for youthful victims.

One of the key passages in Ray’s novel comes when the fictional attorney is asked to describe his analysis of the situation. He replies simply: There are criminals, and there are children. As long as this continues to be the case, it is a case that Ray will continue fighting. I hope our paths cross again, some day.

---

(to conclude, a 2016 follow-up

NA Confidential's inaugural Pillage Awards are coming soon to a vacant lot near you.


There are so many vacant lots to choose from. Anyway, here are the categories.

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Pillage Depreciation Award
The Pillage Depreciation Award is intended to recognize an individual, business or organization that has significant disinvested in physical improvements to the downtown and uptown areas.

One to three awards will be granted in any one year, depending on the number of press releases set to local media outlets.

The disinvestment might be in the neglect of historic structures, skinflinting a new structure, or torching just about any structure, and should have been substantially completed (or burned) in the previous year ending May 31st. The number of awards granted will be determined by the staff of NA Confidential based upon nominations received, and after we consume enough gin to steady our voting hands.

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Pillage Nearsighted Horizon Award
The Pillage Nearsighted Horizon Award recognizes a new or emerging political luminary. Nominees should have been cognizant of downtown or uptown areas for five years or less, having leaped belatedly into the fray out of sheer opportunism.

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Pillage Potemkin Facade Award
The Pillage Potemkin Facade Award recognizes a politician, business or organization that has best presented a bright, shiny exterior in the downtown or uptown areas, without meaningful substance.

Nominees must have been in the business of deception for 10 years or more

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Pillage Unfulfillment Award
The Pillage Unfulfillment Award recognizes an individual who has made a significant devaluation to the downtown or uptown areas. The devaluation may be through one significant act of vandalism or through years of ongoing erosion.

Examples Include:​

  • An individual in public service who has demonstrated commitment to political patronage at the expense of business districts.
  • An individual affiliated with a business or non-profit organization who has personally compiled the most brownie points via membership on appointed boards.
  • An individual who has been responsible for a specific public subsidy to out-of-town corporate development companies -- note that the pre-calculated mayoral campaign finance donation must have cleared the bank before this trophy can be claimed.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Sense and sensibility: "Free public transport in Estonia."


Estonia is mentioned fairly often in these pages. Our trip there in 2016 was a profound experience, and there'll be a return visit some day. We found Tallinn's trams and buses exemplary. Next time, I hope we make it into the countryside. As tourists, we'll be paying to ride, but the advantages of Estonians having free transit options are clear, and discussed herein.

In myriad ways, America subsidizes cars. It doesn't have to be this way.

In the fast lane: Free public transport in Estonia, at The Economist

Expensive, but worth it

The buses are on time, the trams are shiny and new, and passengers usually get a seat. In many cities that would be remarkable enough. But in Tallinn locals are also not required to buy a ticket. In 2013 it became the world’s first capital city to offer residents free public transport. Estonia as a whole has been following suit, and last year set the ambition of becoming the first country with free public transport nationwide. Buses are now free of charge in 11 of its 15 counties.

If the objective is curtailing ultimately unsustainable car-centrism, then a few eggs are required to be broken.

Free public transport on its own is not enough to stop people driving, though the evidence is that it helps. In Tallinn higher parking fees and reduced space for cars also played a part in cutting city-centre traffic: on-street parking now costs €6 an hour, and some parking spaces and car lanes have been replaced by bus lanes. Officials say providing a free alternative allowed them to avoid a backlash when driving in the capital was made more expensive and less convenient.

The old becomes new: Boomtown Kitchen will replace Cox's -- and a glimpse of Floyd County Brewing's new beer garden.



ON THE AVENUES: Challenges are forever, but downtown New Albany's food and drink purveyors keep on keeping on.


Floyd County Brewing Company's owner Brian Hampton offers a video tour of his establishment's new beer garden (above). The alcohol license for NA Standard (in the former Gospel Bird space) should be in place after next Tuesday's hearing. And, as described below, the outcome at Cox's took a whole week to be announced.

The New Albany branch of Cox's Hot Chicken is no more.


Boomtown Kitchen is the very same "juicy" rumor I heard from the start, but hell, let's let the newspaper have this one. It's a "new concept" from people with restaurant experience; not to nitpick, but the former name of the Barrelhouse in Jeffersonville was Levee, not Levy.

By the way: Levy Pants was Ignatius' sadsack employer in the comic novel A Confederacy of Dunces.

I'll be monitoring the impending comments from social media food and drink experts as they explain how all this activity somehow denotes the end of NA's food and drink community.

New concept to replace Cox's Hot Chicken in New Albany, by Jason Thomas (Christianity on Sunday)

Boomtown Kitchen to focus on affordability, customer service

NEW ALBANY — For the second time in less than a year a new restaurant concept will occupy a revered spot in downtown New Albany's dining scene ...

 ... Now Boomtown Kitchen enters the scene, as owners Andrew and Michelle Collins, who revived the former The Levy bar in Jeffersonville with The Barrelhouse on Market, try their luck in New Albany.

Boomtown, which aims to open June 15, seeks to offer affordable dining options in an elegant setting, with customer service a top priority.

"I love New Albany. I love all the diverse cuisine, and I love the creativity," said Andrew Collins, who has extensive restaurant management experience with Outback Steakhouse and Texas Roadhouse. "However, I feel like everyone does a spin on classic dishes. I want to bring you that classic dish.

"I feel like everything is so expensive and so extravagant. I want the good ole salt and pepper, perfectly seasoned, perfectly seared steak. That's kind of our thing" ...

Hunter S. Thompson eulogizes Richard M. Nixon (1994): "He Was a Crook."

(Wikipedia)

Arguably, the finest political obituary in American history. A Facebook friend linked to it yesterday, remarking that he rereads the piece every few months. It's a sign that I should, too -- and now it's your turn.

It is impossible to read Dr. Thompson's masterwork without laughing aloud. It is equally impossible to pull one representative passage. One simply must read the whole piece.

On occasion it will occur to me that I've borrowed a phrase from Thompson while writing. This is the reason why I limit my reading of his essays, because doing so influences my own style. Unconsciously, I try to emulate it. The same applies to H.L. Mencken.

My heroes are the polemicists. Ah, yes; always and forever.

He Was a Crook

By Hunter S. Thompson (The Atlantic; originally published in Rolling Stone on June 16, 1994)

DATE: MAY 1, 1994
FROM: DR. HUNTER S. THOMPSON
SUBJECT: THE DEATH OF RICHARD NIXON: NOTES ON THE PASSING OF AN AMERICAN MONSTER.... HE WAS A LIAR AND A QUITTER, AND HE SHOULD HAVE BEEN BURIED AT SEA.... BUT HE WAS, AFTER ALL, THE PRESIDENT.

... It was Richard Nixon who got me into politics, and now that he's gone, I feel lonely. He was a giant in his way. As long as Nixon was politically alive -- and he was, all the way to the end -- we could always be sure of finding the enemy on the Low Road. There was no need to look anywhere else for the evil bastard. He had the fighting instincts of a badger trapped by hounds. The badger will roll over on its back and emit a smell of death, which confuses the dogs and lures them in for the traditional ripping and tearing action. But it is usually the badger who does the ripping and tearing. It is a beast that fights best on its back: rolling under the throat of the enemy and seizing it by the head with all four claws.

That was Nixon's style -- and if you forgot, he would kill you as a lesson to the others. Badgers don't fight fair, bubba. That's why God made dachshunds ...

... It is fitting that Richard Nixon's final gesture to the American people was a clearly illegal series of 21 105-mm howitzer blasts that shattered the peace of a residential neighborhood and permanently disturbed many children. Neighbors also complained about another unsanctioned burial in the yard at the old Nixon place, which was brazenly illegal. "It makes the whole neighborhood like a graveyard," said one. "And it fucks up my children's sense of values" ...

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Chaska MN has settled Noah McCourt's lawsuit for blocking access to its social media accounts.


From January 6, 2019:

Damn straight I'm paying close attention to Chaska MN, where disability rights activist Noah McCourt has filed suit over a social media ban.


Let's allow the news article to speak for itself. Congratulations to Noah; keep giving the stuffed shirts hell, my friend.

Chaska ordered to allow Waconia man to access its social media accounts, by Katy Read (Star Tribune)

His critical comments about city's police, its chief led to his being blocked.

A Waconia man has settled a suit with the city of Chaska for blocking his access to the city’s public social media accounts.

Noah McCourt received a $1,005 settlement, and the city was ordered to unblock his access, revise its social media policies and train its staffers on First Amendment applications to social media accounts.

McCourt also will have his legal fees reimbursed. He is policy director of the Minnesota Autism Council and a member of the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities.

McCourt was blocked from the Chaska Police Department’s Twitter account for comments he posted about the department and from posting comments on the police Facebook page. Police Chief Scott Knight and Lt. Chris George were defendants in the suit.

McCourt said he criticized the Chaska police for “unnecessary roughness and aggression” when dealing with people with disabilities. He said he had also posted that Knight had “a very large ego.”

The city and McCourt agreed on an offer of judgment, under which the city agreed to the payment and policy changes in order to avoid lengthy litigation, said Hannah Felix, a lawyer with the League of Minnesota Cities who represented Chaska.

“For me it was never really about the money,” McCourt said. “It’s more like people just deserve to be treated equitably.”

McCourt has been unblocked from the Chaska accounts, and city officials are reviewing the “terms of use” policies on those accounts, said Kevin Wright, the city’s communications manager.

“There’ll still be a policy in place, and you’re going to have to abide by these guidelines in order to participate,” he said ... 

In the UK, it's not Brexit: "It’s a much deeper crisis. An existential crisis.”


"What Brexit has shown again is our inability to think anew about what the state and the economy are for, to sketch out what a different future might look like."

It's no great stretch to suggest that Americans resemble these remarks, and best not be chortling with more of the same tired exceptionalism. I'm reminded of the recent quip to the effect that the Democratic National Committee is 100% in favor of reform, so long as nothing changes.

Britain is in the grip of an existential crisis that reaches far beyond Brexit, by Aditya Chakrabortty (The Guardian)

Nearly three years after the referendum, Westminster has still not come to terms with the grievances that drove the result

The person who is best qualified to hold up a mirror to British politics today is neither a minister nor an academic. He is not even British. No: he is, of course, Michel Barnier, the French-born servant of Brussels. In his 1,036 days as the EU’s chief negotiator, he has sat for numbing hours opposite Theresa May, haggled with David Davis and Dominic Raab and their junior ministers and faced down countless Whitehall officials. He is the outsider who knows our system inside out. So when he popped up right at the end of the BBC’s fly on the wall Storyville documentaries on the Brexit negotiations, I leaned in to listen.

Filmed in March, as it became clear that Britain would not be leaving Europe any time soon, Barnier is shown briefing senior European parliamentarians. This latest breakdown is “more than weariness”, he tells them. “There is a very serious crisis in the UK which … isn’t linked to the text of Brexit and even less to the Irish backstop. It’s a much deeper crisis. An existential crisis.”

Barnier doesn’t do florid, so his words leapt out. After almost three years with his eye pressed to a microscope trained on the British elite, here was one of the EU’s finest declaring that the real failure wasn’t this clause or that loophole. It wasn’t even Brexit at all. The UK is in a crisis as big as the country itself.

There are times when some politicians and pundits remember this, when they jerk awake to the reality that the country stands at a moment of reckoning more profound than Suez – one in which our institutions, our economy and our system of representation are all being shown up as simply not up to the job. This week is plainly not one of those times. I watched Barnier’s remarks on Sunday night, as the first UK results from the European elections began to roll in, showing a far-right party as the clear winner. I woke up to a righteous hailstorm of commentary about What Jeremy Must Say Now and Who Replaces Theresa. Such debates can satisfactorily steam up the sash windows of central London, but set in any context they seem almost recklessly marginal ...

A good deal at Mirin New Albany THIS WEEK.


Mirin New Albany is located at 145 E Main, directly opposite 410 Bakery.

  • Read Griffin Paulin's words below
  • Go to Mirin, and mention his Fb post (the original is here)
  • Pick a dish that's normally more than $10 -- and get it for only $10

Thanks for supporting New Albany's food and drink community.


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We’re still learning about Indiana. Few things!

1. We’re trying to get involved in different organizations, events, meet more people, etc.. So! If you have an event, please tell us how we can get involved. If we can, we *will*. You can stop by and chat in person, call us, or send a message to this page.

2. Our menu is changing next week. We’re still figuring out what does and does not work for the New Albany community. We aren’t getting rid of everything, just altering some stuff, trying some new things out, etc.

3. It’s not been a sweltering start business wise, and we’re at a bit of a crossroads. None of us, not me, not my chefs, not my FOH staff are built to throw in the towel, so we aren’t. We decided we’re investing back in to the restaurant, and, for that reason, and the reasons listed above, I would like to inform you all that, when you mention this post, everything on the menu that is over $10 will cost $10 this week. Spicy Double- $10. Tonkotsu- $10. Burger- $10. Chicken Fourplay- $10. You name it. If it costs more than $10, it is now TEN DOLLARS. If you haven’t tried our food yet, this is the week to do it! If you have and you want a good deal- this is the week to do it! If you hate us and hope we die sad, alone, and full of regrets- come rip us off this week, because we are literally going to make zero dollars on menu items regularly priced over ten dollars (all of which, I will remind you, are TEN DOLLARS THIS WEEK). That’s 100 dimes. 1000 pennies. 200 nickels. 191.3 pesos.

Thanks for reading!

-Griffin, Owner/Operator

Jeff Gahan's slick newspaper ad claims the city profits from River Run waterpark. If so, why won't he show us the financials so we can see for ourselves?


There Gahan goes again, taking credit for restaurants and stores. Is he planning Grand Closing ribbon-cuttings ...


 ... for the ones that don't make it? If Gahan birthed them, shouldn't he bury them, too?

Or is this too much to ask of Wile E. Gahan, Genius?

I've no idea how many taxpayer dollars are required to purchase ads like this in the increasingly irrelevant News and Tribune, although as we've pointed out in the past, they're a fantastic investment for Gahan, who uses YOUR money to buy HIS de facto campaign ads, all the while making boasts he has no intention of proving.

They're also not unlike a form of protection money, in the sense that the newspaper typically treats follow-up questions as a strain of Ebola, refraining from the sort of invasive journalism that might result in an embarrassing question like this:

Mr. Gahan, can you PROVE the assertions in this ad? After all, we make sure Roger's claims in a letter to the editor are utterly factual before printing it -- and shouldn't the same rules apply to everyone, even the mayor?

HA HA HA. Can you even imagine it? Gahan would respond by threatening to pull the taxpayer-financed ads -- and that would be the end of it.

Here's the text of the ad. Note that during the River Run waterpark's four previous years of operation, financials have yet to be released in spite of numerous requests to view them. These would address profit-and-loss realities. Wouldn't YOU like to know how much money the fire department transfers monthly to the parks department as "rent" for its station on Daisy Lane, such to (maybe) balance the books?

THE CITY OF NEW ALBANY, INDIANA

We replaced problems and potholes with pipes, paving, parks and pools.

Like any city, New Albany has had its share of issues. Unlike most cities, New Albany is focused on fixing them. That's why we pour resources into things you may not see. Like reducing the number of sewers that flood when it rains from 90 to zero. Fixing potholes. Updating and enhancing parks. And creating a popular public waterpark that provides family fun and a profit for the city. All this, plus new restaurants, stores and more that add up to a great quality of life. New Albany...it's where you should be!
cityofnewalbany.com

THE CITY OF NEW ALBANY, INDIANA

New Albany Mayor Jeff Gahan

But here's the funny part. On-line, the photo and text are followed by this:

Check availability with the advertiser as the information and offers in this ad may be time-sensitive.

And where might we conduct this check?


Nothing, not even Mike Hall.

Crickets chirp, pins drop. Somewhere a dog barks ... and Gahan tells lies.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

I'd rather read Elton John's autobiography than watch the biopic.


To repeat, in my world musical biopics are bunk.

Give me a gifted documentarian, archival footage and original songs and I'm in. Having said this, the reviews I've seen for Rocketman suggest it might be an exception.

Might.

But you see, here's the thing. Elton's autobiography is coming this fall, and if the following is any indication of his skill with the written word, I'd prefer reading the book. They're usually better than the film adaptation, anyway.

My chosen excerpt addresses the chance nature of Elton's acquaintance with Bernie Taupin. For 50 years the pianist has written music to Taupin's words, and the their catalog of songs is astounding. Without that, would we even be having this chat?

Elton John: 'They wanted to tone down the sex and drugs. But I haven’t led a PG-13 life', by Elton John (The Guardian)

In this exclusive article, Elton John writes about his extraordinary life and why he finally decided to give the Rocketman biopic the green light

... Jamie and Taron have even managed to capture my relationship with Bernie, which is frankly a miracle, because I really have no idea how that works. We were thrown together at random. I had failed an audition for Liberty Records in 1967, and a guy from the label gave me an envelope with his lyrics in it as an afterthought, like a consolation prize. I’m not sure he had even opened the envelope and read the lyrics himself before he did it: I think he just felt sorry for me and didn’t want me to go away empty handed.

We were very close right at the start of our career together, but we’re completely different people. He comes from the wilds of Lincolnshire, I come from the suburbs of London. He lives in Santa Barbara and he’s literally won competitions for roping cattle. I collect antique porcelain and the only way you’d get me on the back of a horse is at gunpoint. Neither of us can write if the other is in the room. But there’s a weird bond between us that I felt the minute I opened the envelope – I could just write music to his words straight away, without even thinking about it – and it’s lasted over 50 years.

ON THE AVENUES: Challenges are forever, but downtown New Albany's food and drink purveyors keep on keeping on.


Last week Cox’s Hot Chicken in downtown New Albany disappeared overnight. A few days later, NABC’s Bank Street Brewhouse wound down after ten years, just as its owners had announced earlier.

Six months versus ten years; a self-described sports bar that never jelled, as opposed to an eatery/brewery/taproom unable to solve the daunting mathematics of an oversized brewing system.

In slightly differing ways both these stories were viral for NA Confidential, which is highly appreciated by the editor (that’s me). Lots of new readers came to the page, and I hope they remain.

Concurrently a bizarrely detached News and Tribune didn’t help much in clarifying these events, with most staffers apparently diverted to serve as hucksters for Abbey Road on the River occurring right behind their office in Jeffersonville (it was a fine event, by the way).

I felt bad for one of the newspaper’s newest reporters, who was forced to cite Facebook posts as sources because the business owners involved weren’t answering calls. However, at Insider Louisville old pro Kevin Gibson went deeper on the Cox’s situation.

The building is owned by Bertrand Properties LLC, and the lease is held by Matt McMahan, who opened the now-defunct Big Four Burgers restaurants. Cox’s Hot Chicken is owned by Andrew Cox.

McMahan confirmed there is another restaurant working on opening in the building, but declined to say who they are or what the concept will be.

Asked why Cox’s closed so suddenly, McMahan said only, “partnership issues.”

Or, purely typical.

The heavy metal commentator Eddie Trunk is fond of saying that somewhere around 95% of music-related disputes are about money, and this percentage probably reflects reality in the food and drink sector.

Not enough money = not much of a future.

At the same time, each of these cases is entirely unique. It’s all about location -- except when it isn’t. Prices were too high, or not high enough. Bad service and noisy ambiance, too-hard barstools, unclean bathrooms, filthy smoking areas, awful on-line ratings; the list goes on and on, with enough variables to prompt doctoral dissertations.

Concurrently an overview of social media comments, taken in aggregate, suggest that very few of us know how the restaurant business actually works or understand the multi-dimensional dynamic of a (presumably) free market.

But let’s not blame the Internet for this one. Do you think it’s a coincidence that Richard Nixon resigned at roughly the same time Burger King started saying this?

Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce. Special orders, don't upset us. All we ask is that you let us serve it your way.

Seriously?

Their way?

You want these people, barely capable of matching their own socks and who can’t bear the thought of using Arabic numerals, to believe they deserve to have “it” their way?

Egads. The decline of civilization began in 1974. The arrival of Yelp only made it worse.

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What I’ve enjoyed most these past few days are the on-line experts debating what these two recent business closings say about downtown New Albany.

They say quite a lot, although not in the way many observers intend. While not absolving our City Hall from culpability (more about that in a moment), let’s survey the food, drink and dining scene over the past year and a half.

Spoiler alert: a free-fall it ain't.

Match Cigar Bar's branch on Main Street closed, and quickly was replaced by Double Barrel. Roadrunner Kitchen came to life adjacent to Double Barrel, where Urban Bread and others used to be, then moved to Underground Station near the estimable Aladdin. Mirin subsequently replaced Roadrunner Kitchen.

Feast BBQ closed and the space was purchased by The Exchange. Comfy Cow on Market ceased to exist and was remodeled as a bar called The Earl.

Following a fire, Hitching Post underwent a complete (and notably shrewd) rebuild. Nearby, Dragon King’s Daughter’s occupied another renovated former supermarket building. La Tiendita got bigger, sank, and was replaced by El Sinaloa.

Pints&union and Longboard’s Taco & Tiki both came into being, and Quill’s vacated one space for occupancy of another. La Catrina occupied the former DKD slot facing Elm Street. Gospel Bird perished, but NA Standard will be opening there soon.

The Elks Lodge and the Red Men both continue to serve food and drink. Meanwhile no establishment downtown is using its indoor and outdoor square footage more wisely than Floyd County Brewing Company, which has come into its own as a beer and brewing destination.

The huge old department store building where La Rosita once lived, which everyone (including me) thought would be impossible to repurpose, soon will become RecBar, an entertainment venue with a kitchen of its own. At the Breakwater, Bliss Artisan recently began serving pizza and ice cream.

Then there’s Toast, Café 157, 410 Bakery and Adrienne’s; Daisy's, Lady Tron, Hugh Bir's and Brooklyn & the Butcher; Seeds & Greens, Brownie’s, Habana Blues, Hull & High Water and Bella Roma. Pride and Pastime. All of them keep regular business hours sans palpable drama.

Yes, Cox’s Hot Chicken and Bank Street Brewhouse are gone. As Gibson informs us, the former will become something else soon enough, all but assured by McMahan’s continued involvement.

Bank Street Brewhouse is available for purchase as a turnkey operation, admittedly complicated by the brewing system’s size. Judging from the calls I’ve rerouted as an ex-owner, interest definitely is there. Be reminded that Steve Resch still owns the building, and it should be obvious that he gets things done. There’ll be a new occupant.

River City Winery is a special case. Successful for nine years, it hit the skids in late 2018 – neither for lack of patronage nor the quality of the food and wine, which were excellent, but because of an ownership dispute. This one's murky.

Lastly, the Green Mouse says there may soon be a tenant for the kitchen incubator space in the rear of Destinations Booksellers -- and the long moribund Vincennes Street corridor is showing signs of revival.

Does any of this sound like a death knell?

---

Agreed: there are reasons to be concerned ... but downtown is not in catastrophic retreat. Independent food service operators, whose job it is to do the math, keep filling the spaces left when a previous operator departs. Would they be doing this in the expectation of failure?

Turnover isn’t the sign of a ghost town. It’s indication of relative health in the grassroots, where capitalism occasionally remains capitalistic. Why must a socialist like me be the one to inform you that market corrections are constant and ongoing. They're happening all the time. It helps to remember that grassroots entrepreneurial capitalism tends to lack a net. It’s unforgiving, and casualties are a constant.

For local independent business owners and managers, life stays complicated. Decision-making involves numerous moving parts, deriving from the input of hundreds of key players, including workers, farmers, bankers, media, middle men, lawmakers, and of course, customers.

As such, pertaining to lifting all the downtown food and dining boats, together and as a unified growth sector of the economy, previously I’ve reiterated the need for greater cooperation between these entities in the form of a completed restaurant association.

Rather than repeat these arguments, you can read the post here: ON THE AVENUES: Necessity was the mother of NARBA, a food and drink invention in need of re-animation.

Wait – what was that?

"NEVER MIND, DOWNTOWN IS IMPOSSIBLE BECAUSE OMIGOD THE PARKING IS HORRIBLE."

That’s plain stupid, but obviously certain preconditions have quantifiable influence, including wharehousing one's car, the economic climate as a whole, today’s snow storm, tomorrow’s heat wave, who we are as a city, and where we want to be.

By the way, we’re having an election in November.

Of course, the state of infrastructure matters much: sewers, the power grid, water, garbage, policing and ordinance enforcement. Transportation concerns exist beyond coddling your ride: shall we remain 100% car-centric, or are there multi-modal mobility options?

Jeff Speck thought so, but Jeff Gahan apparently doesn’t. Consequently a huge opportunity was squandered in 2017.

To me, job one is encouraging density in downtown residency, not by bribing huge developers to pursue one or two showpiece projects, but by providing fair incentives for two-dozen smaller ones.

The more people living within walking and biking distance of historic downtown business district, the better the business climate, and the speedier the shift to balanced offerings; as Bluegill has been asking forever, how far must one walk from his or her home NOT to drink craft-brewed pastry stouts or eat Peruvian street food, but just buy a damn roll of toilet paper?

Still, my conclusion is that one good way to assure a future for your favorite downtown eatery or watering hole is to encourage residential infill. Several acres of downtown real estate have been scraped clean of buildings and now sit, coated with rain-deflecting asphalt, to be used only on widely scattered occasions as special event parking lots.

Until people are living downtown in bricks and mortar rising from the current unproductive barrenness, we’ll continue chasing our tails.

I’ve also come to realize that in spite of the advantages of having a combined Clark and Floyd County tourism bureau, which include a fine staff and useful economies of scale, the city of New Albany needs to devote time and resources to itself, for itself – and by this I’m NOT talking about the blind man’s bluff approach of billboards and advertisements currently emitted by the city, which generally serve as mayoral campaign blurbs more than “Come to Squalidity City” enticements.

To put it bluntly, outsiders contemplating where to spend their money simply don’t give a flying fug who currently serves as mayor, whether it's Gahan, Real or the ghost of Erni. Rather, they’re looking for reasons to come check out the city.

Can we please begin providing them with these reasons, and not settling for North Korean-sized images of our own Dear Leader?

Our combined tourist bureau would be even more conducive to us with a visitor center presence in Floyd County, preferably downtown New Albany. I’m told this is something that has been considered by SoIn. Which candidate for mayor will work with them to make this happen?

Finally, we need to be doing whatever we can to promote local independent businesses.

When it comes to the city’s typical economic development expenditures and abatements, it cannot be denied that the bigger the subsidy, the more likely it is being deployed to support chains and far flung corporate empires that drain cash from the local economy every single day.

Summit Springs is the most purely grotesque current example, an inexcusable and atrocious 100% car-centric environmental blotch, set to be stacked with national franchises offering low-income jobs to workers who can’t find affordable housing amid Gahan’s mantra of luxury-first.

Will the people staying in those hotel rooms even know there’s a classic downtown setting less than a mile away, or will they hop back into their cars and head to Louisville -- or Veteran's Parkway?

Yes, we have issues like these, and they need to be addressed.

No, the sky’s not falling because two independent small businesses closed.

And: Death to Burger King and all the rest of the chains.

---

Recent columns:

May 21: ON THE AVENUES: "Pints&union, where the classic beer hits keep right on pouring."

May 14: ON THE AVENUES: Where do we go from here?

May 6: ON THE AVENUES REWOUND: Ghosts within these stones, defiance in these bones (2018).

May 5: ON THE AVENUES REWOUND: Our great and noble leader soon will be going away, so let's break out the țuică and make a joyful noise.

Yeah, well, I liked Van Hagar, and I like Sammy's new album with The Circle. Fight me.



Leave poor Gary Cherone out of it. Van Halen and Van Hagar were two completely different bands, and I liked each of them for different reasons. Obviously at this juncture our chances of Eddie Van Halen creating new music are slim, and almost no one under the age of 50 gives a damn about any of these people, anyway.

This leaves us with Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony, band mates in Sammy's latest vehicle, The Circle. Jason Bonham plays drums, and former Waborita Vic Johnson is on guitar. I bought Space Between, the new album, just for the hell of it. In spite of never being much of a solo Hagar kind of guy, Van Hagar was very much to my liking.

The lyrics on this release are not heavyweight. The music very much is, in the classic rock manner, and as the late Cub "Smokin' in the Boys Room" Koda is my witness, there's nothing wrong with that. Given the advancing age of the participants -- Sammy will be 72 soon, and the others are in their fifties -- there's a pleasingly hard edge to the proceedings.

If you enjoy old-school rock, check it out.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Vision Zero (not applicable in Nawbany): "Why San Francisco Is Putting Pedestrians First on Its Main Thoroughfare."

 

Gahan, Rosenbarger set to go full frontal Pinocchio about their urbanism credentials when the Congress for the New Urbanism 27 meets in Louisville June 11-15.


Car-centrism is the last socially acceptable form of imperialism in America. Debate among yourselves ... and thanks, B.

Why San Francisco Is Putting Pedestrians First on Its Main Thoroughfare, by Supriya Sridhar (Politico Magazine)

San Francisco plans to shut out cars on one of its major streets.

Legend has it that the young civil engineer who laid down the route for San Francisco’s Market Street in the 1800s so enraged people with the street’s unusual width that a mob chased him out of town. More than a century later, Market Street is one of the city’s key arteries, a wide boulevard on which the city’s historic streetcars jostle with buses, taxicabs, private passenger cars, Uber and Lyft rides, delivery vehicles and thousands of people biking every day. During peak hours, there are 100 buses running in either direction.

But Market Street is also the center of something traffic officials somewhat ominously refer to as the “High-Injury Network,” a collection of about 13 percent of the city’s streets that accounts for three-quarters of the serious and fatal traffic injuries. From January through April, 11 people have died in the area.

“Market street is the spine of San Francisco,” Brian Wiedenmeier, the executive director San Francisco Bicycle Coalition said. “There’s a lot going on already. The last thing we need is more vehicles.”

Next year, the car traffic that has made Market Street so clogged for decades—and also hazardous—should be gone.

Better Market Street, a project organized by six San Francisco city agencies, will transform 2.2 miles of the famous corridor, between Steuart Street and Octavia Boulevard, into a pedestrian oasis. The renovations will feature sidewalk level bikeways, wider public transportation boarding islands and improved sidewalks.

Cities have been wrestling with what to do about traffic since the moment cars first careened onto the scene. And pedestrians often paid the price as planners devised street systems that made it easier for more and more cars to get around and shunted the people to the margins. Reversing this trend at a moment when younger, less car-dependent workers are flocking to cities has been a challenge. Other cities around the country have experimented with pedestrian-first planning. The Lincoln Road Mall in Miami Beach has existed since 1960, for example; and while it’s popular, it’s just eight blocks long. Boston pedestrianized short stretches of two downtown streets years ago, and Charlotte, N.C., is implementing a comprehensive downtown plan that will turn regular streets in pedestrian-only zones on the weekend. San Francisco’s Market Street makeover, though, is far more ambitious.

It was proposed nine years ago — “Unfortunately, San Francisco has a history of these kinds of big projects taking an incredibly long time to come to fruition,” said Wiedenmeier, who has been working on this for the past decade — and things picked up speed in 2014, when the city embraced an initiative called "Vision Zero," aimed at eliminating car-related fatalities by 2024. In 2015, the city established turn restrictions on Market Street, dissuading cars from using the thoroughfare.

Better Market Street is scheduled to break ground in the summer of 2020. The project still has some final administrative hurdles to overcome, making some supporters impatient. Earlier this month, nearly 100 protesters showed up on Market Street to support the initiative. Wearing bright-yellow T-shirts with bicycles , they demanded speeding up the project’s approval process.

“There is a desire from, I think, everyone to start construction as soon as possible,” Cristina Olea, project manager for Better Market Street, said. “We want a safer street. We want to reduce crashes. We also want people to feel comfortable walking or biking along Market Street.”

Upcoming events at ArtSeed: Member's Exhibit, Artists Creating, S. Timothy Glasscock Book Signing, and more.


2nd Annual Member's Exhibit


June 7, 2019 ... 5:30 - 9:00 p.m.

Music by Third Street Garage Band, Waitin for Dave, and Jacob McDaniel
Uptown NA Scavenger Hunt

As part of our dedication to supporting and promoting local artists, ArtSeed has a yearly exhibition where our member artists display their work. Featuring sculpture, paintings, prints and more from our talented local and regional artists!

Participating Artists:
Ellen Lucille Allen, Donna Ayers, Chad Balster, David Becker, Larry Beisler, Carl DeGraaf, Bruce Frank, Evelyn Fried, Keith Hampton, Kimberly Dawn Handy, Kenneth Hayden, Bob Hubbuch, David Imbrogno, Brian H. Jones, Shawna Khalily, Trish Korte, David Modica, Sarah Nasr, Lynne Oakes, Dru Pilmer, Paul Schreck, Kevin Rose Schulz, Linda Shoults, Wendi Smith, Donna Stallard, Kimara Wilhite, Kok Chow Yeoh

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Artists Creating Launch Party


June 7, 2019 ... 5:30 - 9:00 p.m.

Concurrent with our member's exhibit, we are delighted to host the launch party for Artists Creating Magazine! This new bi-monthly publication is dedicated to connecting and promoting local artists.

Created by artist Keith Hampton to serve the Southern Indiana art community, Artists Creating aims to promote a sense of community and mutual aid among local artists.

Check out Artists Creating at: www.artistscreating.org

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S. Timothy Glasscock Book Signing


"A Trump Diary"

June 7, 2019 ... 5:30 - 9:00 p.m.

Part self-help, part political commentary, S. Timothy Glasscock's book attempts to answer the question "What does a good person do when confronting behavior that can only be described as evil?" Musician, university professor, and Kentuckiana native S. Timothy Glasscock will be signing books at ArtSeed on June 7.

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June 8-9, 2019 ... St Paul's Episcopal Church 1015 E Main Street, New Albany

After our big day on Friday starts your weekend off, keep it going strong at St. Paul's Episcopalian Church June 8-9th! Art on the Parish Green brings together the best in handmade arts and crafts from Kentuckiana artists. This year over 90 artists will have been juried into this premier regional art festival.

https://artontheparishgreen.org/

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Donna Stallard and Jodie Furbee


Opening reception July 12, 5:30-7:30

Art Seed is proud to present the innovative mixed media work of Donna Stallard, and the beautiful paintings of Jodie Furbee. Opening reception free and open to the public, refreshments provided.

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Contact Julie Schweitzer
www.artseed.art

Address:
1931 East Spring Street
New Albany, IN, 47150

Hours:
Wednesday - Friday
10:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Also by Appointment

Memorial Day 2019 (4 of 4): History matters, especially on Memorial Day.


There are long, long trails a-winding ...



... through places like France.

Aisne-Marne American Cemetery

With headstones lying in a sweeping curve, the 42.5-acre Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial in France, sits at the foot of Belleau Wood. The cemetery contains the graves of 2,289 war dead, most of whom fought in the vicinity and in the Marne Valley in the summer of 1918. The memorial chapel sits on a hillside, decorated with sculptured and stained-glass details of wartime personnel, equipment and insignia. Inscribed on its interior wall are 1,060 names of the missing. Rosettes mark the names of those since recovered and identified. During World War II the chapel was damaged slightly by an enemy shell.

Belleau Wood adjoins the cemetery and contains many vestiges of World War I. A monument at the flagpole commemorates the valor of the U.S. Marines who captured much of this ground in 1918.

Respecting the memory of American soldiers who died while in the service of their country is a task perhaps best undertaken with respect for history.

Speaking only for myself, I take it very seriously. It's a habit of thought almost certainly springing from my father's fascination with far-off events that conspired to transport a hick from bucolic Georgetown, Indiana to the Pacific Theater of Operations -- and in his case, back home again.

Others weren't as lucky, and every year on Memorial Day, I pause to reflect on the serendipity of it all.

As a prelude to Memorial Day, there tend to be scolding social media reminders to the effect that Americans fixated on holiday feasting, partying and recreation somehow dishonor the nation's military heritage. To be sure, I contribute my fair share of rants about the general populace and its chronic ignorance of history.

However, I don't think honor and bacchanalia are mutually exclusive concepts. After all, the venerable institution of the wake combines them very effectively, and what's more, the human condition is incapable of sustaining a permanent state of mourning. Life does go on.

Like the vast majority of topics pertaining to human beings, the notion of dying for one's country is inordinately complex. John Gonder once touched on it during a conversation, when he mentioned the notorious escape clause during the American Civil War, where men drafted into the Union Army could buy their way out of service by paying $300 or providing a substitute to serve (and sometimes die) in their place.

During the Vietnam War, songwriter John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival noticed it, too: Exactly how is it determined who risks dying for his or her country, and who subsequently profits from their deaths?

Dick Cheney might know the answer.

Preferably, respecting the memory of American soldiers who died while in the service of their country is a task best undertaken with a respect for history on the part of those still living, along with sadness and regret that human civilization seems not to have evolved to a point of no longer requiring violence to settle issues. War is a ridiculous concept, although humans seem enamored of it.

It's also a holiday weekend, and I suspect you are enjoying it.

Carry on, then.

Memorial Day (Snopes)

Claim: Former slaves reburied dead Union prisoners of war in May 1865, thus creating the modern observance of Memorial Day.

MIXTURE:

TRUE: In May 1865, free blacks in Charleston reburied dead Union prisoners of war and held a cemetery dedication ceremony.

UNDETERMINED: The event referenced above is the origin of the modern Memorial Day observance.

Wikipedia's article goes into greater detail.


Memorial Day 2019 (1 of 4): Howard Zinn asks, "Whom Will We Honor Memorial Day?"

Memorial Day 2019 (2 of 4): Charles Ives, from Decoration Day to Memorial Day.

Memorial Day 2019 (3 of 4): "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream."

Memorial Day 2019 (4 of 4): History matters, especially on Memorial Day.

Memorial Day 2019 (3 of 4): "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream."



I've forgotten the context, but thanks to RG for the idea; in essence, the best way to honor the departed is to live in peace, even if humans seem incapable of doing it and unwilling to try.

As I'm fond of saying, a boy can dream.

Ed McCurdy (January 11, 1919 – March 23, 2000) was an American folk singer, songwriter, and television actor. His most well-known song was the anti-war "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream", written in 1950.

Last night I had the strangest dream
I ever dreamed before
I dreamed the world had all agreed
To put an end to war
I dreamed I saw a mighty room
Filled with women and men
And the paper they were signing said
They'd never fight again

And when the papers all were signed
And a million copies made
They all joined hands and bowed their heads
And grateful prayers were prayed
And the people in the streets below
Were dancing round and round
And guns and swords and uniforms
Were scattered on the ground

Last night I had the strangest dream
I ever dreamed before
I dreamed the world had all agreed
To put an end to war

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Memorial Day 2019 (1 of 4): Howard Zinn asks, "Whom Will We Honor Memorial Day?"

Memorial Day 2019 (2 of 4): Charles Ives, from Decoration Day to Memorial Day.

Memorial Day 2019 (3 of 4): "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream."

Memorial Day 2019 (4 of 4): History matters, especially on Memorial Day.

Memorial Day 2019 (2 of 4): Charles Ives, from Decoration Day to Memorial Day.


All traditions must begin somewhere.

May 30, 1868: Civil War dead honored on Decoration Day (History)

By proclamation of General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, the first major Memorial Day observance is held to honor those who died “in defense of their country during the late rebellion.” Known to some as “Decoration Day,” mourners honored the Civil War dead by decorating their graves with flowers. On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, after which 5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery. The 1868 celebration was inspired by local observances that had taken place in various locations in the three years since the end of the Civil War.

(In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday to be celebrated the last Monday in May.)

The composer Charles Ives' father served in the Union Army as a bandmaster.

Decoration Day According to Charles Ives (Prufrock's Dilemma)

Charles Ives wrote of his piece Decoration Day, the second of the four pieces included in his A Symphony: New England Holidays, that it “started as a brass band overture, but never got very far that way.”

Both musical and written remembrances conjure a time long past.

Ives' postface to Decoration Day reads:

In the early morning the gardens and woods around the village are the meeting places of those who, with tender memories and devoted hands, gather the flowers for the Day's Memorial.** During the forenoon as the people join each other on the Green there is felt, at times, a fervency and intensity--a shadow perhaps of the fanatical harshness--reflecting old Abolitionist days. It is a day as Thoreau suggests, when there is a pervading consciousness of "Nature's kinship with the lower order-man."

After the Town Hall is filled with the Spring's harvest of lilacs, daisies, and peonies, the parade is slowly formed on Main Street. First come the three Marshals on plough horses (going sideways), then the Warden and Burgesses in carriages, the Village Cornet Band, the G.A.R., two by two, the Militia (Company G), while the volunteer Fire Brigade, drawing a decorated hose-cart, with its jangling bells, brings up the rear-the inevitable swarm of small boys following. The march to Wooster Cemetery is a thing a boy never forgets. The roll of the muffled drums and "Adestes Fideles" answer for the dirge. A little girl on a fencepost waves to her father and wonders if he looked like that at Gettysburg.

After the last grave is decorated, Taps sounds out through the pines and hickories, while a last hymn is sung. The ranks are formed again, and "we all march to town" to a Yankee stimulant-Reeves inspiring Second Regiment Quickstep-though, to many a soldier, the sombre thoughts of the day underlie the tunes of the band. The march stops-and in the silence of the shadow of the early morning flower-song rises over the Town, and the sunset behind the West Mountain breathes its benediction upon the Day [Memos, 101-102].

** Decoration Day corresponds to the Memorial Day holiday that we currently celebrate in the United States to honor war veterans.

Memorial Day 2019 (1 of 4): Howard Zinn asks, "Whom Will We Honor Memorial Day?"

Memorial Day 2019 (2 of 4): Charles Ives, from Decoration Day to Memorial Day.

Memorial Day 2019 (3 of 4): "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream."

Memorial Day 2019 (4 of 4): History matters, especially on Memorial Day.

Memorial Day 2019 (1 of 4): Howard Zinn asks, "Whom Will We Honor Memorial Day?"


"No politician who voted funds for war, no business contractor for the military, no general who ordered young men into battle, no FBI man who spied on anti-war activities, should be invited to public ceremonies on this sacred day. Let the dead of past wars be honored. Let those who live pledge themselves never to embark on mass slaughter again."
-- Howard Zinn

To me, the most disrespectful act that might be directed against the fallen from past wars, or the veterans still among us, is to accept self-censorship as it pertains to discussing the honest, real-world reasons why these conflicts occurred. There's no "either-or" fallacy stipulating that we all fall into line, or else be considered traitors.

Memorialize, and never stop asking questions, even when the answers are unpleasant. Some day we might learn. If we tolerate silence, then our children obviously will be next. If we tolerate war, pestilence and mayhem, then a little Zinn is good for whatever remains of our souls

Whom Will We Honor Memorial Day?, by Howard Zinn

Published on June 2, 1976 in the Boston Globe and republished in The Zinn Reader with the brief introduction below.

Memorial Day will be celebrated … by the usual betrayal of the dead, by the hypocritical patriotism of the politicians and contractors preparing for more wars, more graves to receive more flowers on future Memorial Days. The memory of the dead deserves a different dedication. To peace, to defiance of governments.

In 1974, I was invited by Tom Winship, the editor of the Boston Globe, who had been bold enough in 1971 to print part of the top secret Pentagon Papers on the history of the Vietnam War, to write a bi-weekly column for the op-ed page of the newspaper. I did that for about a year and a half. The column below appeared June 2, 1976, in connection with that year’s Memorial Day. After it appeared, my column was cancelled.

* * * * *

Memorial Day will be celebrated as usual, by high-speed collisions of automobiles and bodies strewn on highways and the sound of ambulance sirens throughout the land.

It will also be celebrated by the display of flags, the sound of bugles and drums, by parades and speeches and unthinking applause.

It will be celebrated by giant corporations, which make guns, bombs, fighter planes, aircraft carriers and an endless assortment of military junk and which await the $100 billion in contracts to be approved soon by Congress and the President.

There was a young woman in New Hampshire who refused to allow her husband, killed in Vietnam, to be given a military burial. She rejected the hollow ceremony ordered by those who sent him and 50,000 others to their deaths. Her courage should be cherished on Memorial Day. There were the B52 pilots who refused to fly those last vicious raids of Nixon’s and Kissinger’s war. Have any of the great universities, so quick to give honorary degrees to God-knows-whom, thought to honor those men at this Commencement time, on this Memorial Day?

No politician who voted funds for war, no business contractor for the military, no general who ordered young men into battle, no FBI man who spied on anti-war activities, should be invited to public ceremonies on this sacred day. Let the dead of past wars be honored. Let those who live pledge themselves never to embark on mass slaughter again.

“The shell had his number on it. The blood ran into the ground…Where his chest ought to have been they pinned the Congressional Medal, the DSC, the Medaille Militaire, the Belgian Croix de Guerre, the Italian gold medal, The Vitutea Militara sent by Queen Marie of Rumania. All the Washingtonians brought flowers .. Woodrow Wilson brought a bouquet of poppies.”

Those are the concluding lines of John Dos Passos angry novel 1919. Let us honor him on Memorial Day.

And also Thoreau, who went to jail to protest the Mexican War.

And Mark Twain, who denounced our war against the Filipinos at the turn of the century.

And I.F. Stone, who virtually alone among newspaper editors exposed the fraud and brutality of the Korean War.

Let us honor Martin Luther King, who refused the enticements of the White House, and the cautions of associates, and thundered against the war in Vietnam.

Memorial Day should be a day for putting flowers on graves and planting trees. Also, for destroying the weapons of death that endanger us more than they protect us, that waste our resources and threaten our children and grandchildren.

On Memorial Day we should take note that, in the name of “defense,” our taxes have been used to spend a quarter of a billion dollars on a helicopter assault ship called “the biggest floating lemon,” which was accepted by the Navy although it had over 2,000 major defects at the time of its trial cruise.

Meanwhile, there is such a shortage of housing that millions live in dilapidated sections of our cities and millions more are forced to pay high rents or high interest rates on their mortgages. There’s 90 billion for the B1 bomber, but people don’t have money to pay hospital bills.

We must be practical, say those whose practicality has consisted of a war every generation. We mustn’t deplete our defenses. Say those who have depleted our youth, stolen our resources. In the end, it is living people, not corpses, creative energy, not destructive rage, which are our only real defense, not just against other governments trying to kill us, but against our own, also trying to kill us.

Let us not set out, this Memorial Day, on the same old drunken ride to death.

And as an epilogue of sorts.

Berrigan, Ellsberg and Memorial Day, by Doug Noble (CounterPunch)

Memorial Day is a day noted for its parades honoring veterans by ennobling, glorifying (and thereby perpetuating) US war and militarism. The peace community in Rochester observes instead a solemn riverside service memorializing the thousands of victims of current US war and aggression, with each victim symbolized by a single rose tossed lovingly into the river’s flow.

Victims memorialized include the casualties of US sanctioned war and aggression, from Afghanistan and Iraq to Syria to Yemen to Somalia to South Sudan to Palestine. Also the many innocent victims of drone attacks, inhumane US immigration and incarceration policies, militarization of the police, and preventable gun violence. And the worldwide victims of catastrophic climate change, fed by US policies of denial and consumption. And an entire global population victimized by the threat of nuclear Armageddon triggered by senseless US provocations of Iran, North Korea, Russia, China.

There would not be enough roses to identify and honor even the tiniest sample of the the thousands of innocent victims lost to aggressive US policies. Such roses could easily choke the Genesee River in sorrow. Yet remembrance, however heartfelt, is still insufficient. After all, in his Gettysburg memorial address, Abraham Lincoln noted the futility of consecrating the war dead without rectifying the war’s cause: “It is for us the living to be dedicated to the unfinished work … so that these dead shall not have died in vain.” What, then, might move us toward peace, a peace threatened, most of all, by our own government’s unrelenting appetite for war?

I turn to the book of Daniel – that is, the book of Daniel Berrigan and Daniel Ellsberg, two icons whose monumental contribution to peace cannot be misconstrued ...

Memorial Day 2019 (1 of 4): Howard Zinn asks, "Whom Will We Honor Memorial Day?"

Memorial Day 2019 (2 of 4): Charles Ives, from Decoration Day to Memorial Day.

Memorial Day 2019 (3 of 4): "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream."

Memorial Day 2019 (4 of 4): History matters, especially on Memorial Day.