Monday, March 31, 2008

Numerous comings and goings for food and drink in downtown New Albany.

Finally baseball season has arrived, and with it the necessity of surveying major league rosters to account for the winter’s trades and free agent signings.

In like fashion, the assemblage of downtown New Albany eateries and watering holes has undergone a near complete overhaul in recent months. Here are a few of the changes, bearing in mind that as usual, my primary emphasis is on those businesses aiming to have good beer as part of their presentation, and consequently are of greater interest to me personally. I know that some are being omitted, and welcome their inclusion via comments.

First, a quick shout-out to Speakeasy Jazz on State Street, which has survived both the Bistro New Albany and Connor’s Place, and should benefit from the unexpected closing of the Jazz Factory in Louisville.

Many readers have asked about the abrupt departure of Connor’s Place, formerly located at 207 East Main Street, and now in storage and on hiatus. It is a circuitous story that begins with owner Dave Himmel’s inability to reach a lease agreement with his landlords, continues through his oft-stated desire to open a fish and seafood restaurant downtown, and hopefully will end when the aquatic project, slated to be called the Market Street Fish House, comes to fruition in mid-April at 133 East Market (location of the now defunct Treet’s Bakery Café).

Just across Market Street from the soon-to-open Fish House is an unused commercial building that will be remodeled to spec for Dave by its new owner, and in this space a revamped Connor’s Place hopefully will reopen by mid-summer.

Got all that? Might as well rename that stretch of Market as "Himmel Way" and get it over with. When Connor's Place returns, NABC will have beer there.

You may be wondering what is to become of the Main Street quarters formerly occupied by Connor’s, and the answer comes from an NAC informant:

A new restaurant will be opening where Connor’s Place was, and they are planning on having ongoing artist showcases. It is going to be called “Studios” and the owner’s name is Trish Meyer.

There is no further information on the sort of eatery Studios will be. Trish, if you're reading ... let us know what's up.

Back around the corner in the building that most natives still call the New Albany Inn, The Windsor Restaurant & Garden is open for business at 148 East Market, which in Louisville-area parlance is “where the late, lamented Bistro New Albany used to be.” Business First recently offered a preview of the establishment, which is observing lunchtime hours at present and will expand into evening dining when it’s warm enough to use the famous courtyard. NABC has been contacted about beer for the Windsor, and we’re cautiously optimistic that there’ll be a good beer program there, though perhaps not to the scale of bNA’s great list.

Meanwhile … in the historic Baer building at 321 Pearl Street, work continues on the River City Winery. A couple hundred yards northeast as the crow flies is the spot on Bank Street where NABC is continuing to plan its production brewery and taproom ... and don't ask me "when" this is going to happen unless you have a wheelbarrow full of money to invest.

Elsewhere, the Orchid Asian Cafe is located at 400 West Main, and is an intriguing addition to the downtown dining scene primarily because the menu includes Thai and Vietnamese offerings beyond the usual Chinese fare, and the décor is bright, modern and absent the kitsch generally associated with “Chinese” restaurants. It’s almost impossible to fathom that the venerable Kerstien’s tavern used to occupy the new home of the Orchid. No alcohol, but we’ve been impressed so far with the food.

What am I forgetting? Make a comment and let me know.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

If he had been the batter, it would have been a called third strike.

The ceremonial first pitch of the Washington Nationals home opener was just thrown by the worst president ever, George W. Bush.

It was high and well out of the strike zone, and never has imagery been more appropriate.

Hillary Clinton and the mystery cutlet.

It’s ironic that during the past week …

(a) I was supposed to be writing the next installment about my visit to Sarajevo in 1987, but didn’t have time.

(b) Hillary Clinton spoke about her dangerous visit to nearby Tuzla in 1996, but lied … er, I mean, “misspoke.”

(c) Sen. Clinton then came to New Albany and entertained her fans at the South Side Inn, but revealed nothing new.

(d) I contemplated protesting her visit to New Albany by holding a sign reading “No blood for kale,” but changed my mind.

Speaking personally, I’m an Obama man, though not for reason of sexism. As suggested by one of the bar patrons Saturday evening, I’m actually a virulent ageist, rejecting the older presidential candidates in favor of the one younger (46) than I am (47.

This means that Roger’s ageist trifecta is now complete: My doctor, my lawyer and my chosen candidate for the Oval Office are all younger than me, and all I can add is a heartfelt “Hallelujah.”

While readers can consult the mainstream local media for coverage of Sen. Clinton’s starchy South Side soiree, I’d like to pass along the single funniest thing I heard about yesterday’s epic clash between Clintonian liberalism and good ol’ country cooking. It comes from my friend Todd Antz, owner of Keg Liquors in Clarksville, which has the best selection of bottled craft beers in the area.

With regard to Mrs. Clinton’s stated preference for the delights of Southern cuisine, Todd wrote:

Do you really think she feels at home at the Southside Inn? Maybe she'll stop by the Keg for a six pack of Schlitz and a bag of pork rinds for the drive to the airport?

Bill would ... but that's a whole other story.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Small mention; potentially big deal.

A quick blurb in the Courier-Journal earlier in the week probably didn't garner much attention. I'd like to think that's only because it was tucked into a list of several other news bytes.

I'd also like to think it might represent an opportunity to begin a more serious discussion of fulfilling our duties to each other, as previously outlined at NAC in the New Albanian's "It's never too late for a renewed civic commitment to human rights".

Mayor Doug England will have a town hall meeting next month at Jones Memorial AME Zion Church.

The meeting, announced by the church and the New Albany branch of the NAACP, is set for noon April 5 at 258 Ealy St.

For more information, contact Pastor O. Lacy Evans at (502) 643-0996.

If being heard is a human right, it means someone has to listen. Please consider joining me in that endeavor next Saturday.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Hillary in New Albany: Steam tables for "change?"

Hillary Clinton will be in town Saturday to campaign. She will answer questions at the South Side Inn, circa 2:00 p.m.

I can't make it, but I have a question:

"Mrs. Clinton, can you describe the proper symbolism for 'change' truly befitting for a Democratic Party supposedly poised to regain power?"

And by the way, pass that plate o's starch 'n' carbs, will ya?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Drop the book slowly and show me your hands.

Local bookseller Randy Smith reports that Governor Mitch Daniels and the Indiana legislature recently passed into law H.B. 1042, a statute making it mandatory, under threat of arrest for a Class B misdemeanor and imprisonment for up to 180 days, for any person or business selling “sexually explicit materials, products, or services” to provide a complete list of such products and pay a $250 dollar registration fee to the Secretary of State who will then forward the information to local government officials.

As Randy explains:

Well, you might say, what's so wrong with that?

Let's just for a moment take a look at a few of the books that would qualify as "sexually explicit."

Hoosier Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy would top the list. The Holy Bible certainly contains sexually explicit material. Our Bodies, Ourselves is clearly sexually explicit as are any number of parenting guides that help people teach their children about their bodies.

NA Books Daily: Daniels, Legislature Besiege Booksellers...and Freedom

Email if you're interested in placing a group order for "You can have my book when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers" bumper stickers. A portion of the proceeds might go toward Randy's bail.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Film: "The Way I Spent the End of the World."

The Way I Spent the End of the World is director Catalin Mitulescu’s surprisingly quiet, nuanced view of Communist Romania’s waning months.

What makes the film quiet and nuanced is that my conscious use of "waning" is appropriate only in retrospect, and quite obviously none of the characters around whom the story revolves in the latter half of 1989 can read the future and foresee the December revolution and sudden fall of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, Romania’s long-serving, self-anointed Conducator, or leader.

Of all the Eastern European locales where such a coming of age story might conceivably be set, none is more appropriate than Ceausescu’s stunted and strangulated version of the North Korean hermetic kingdom that he had visited in the 1960’s, and subsequently spent decades of serial misrule in an ultimately doomed effort to graft the personality cult of Kim Il Sung onto the pathetically grandiose architecture of Benito Mussolini’s Milan train station, and to situate the result in one of the continent’s least equipped milieus.

As befitting a crazed leader dubbing himself "Genius of the Carpathians" in spite of a peasant background as a semi-literate cobbler, Ceausescu’s dubious praises, as well as those of his even less educated wife, Elena, literally were sung by Romanian schoolchildren prior to the commencement of their daily classes, and it is here that the film’s viewers drop into the lives of 17-year-old Eva (Dorotheea Petre) and her young brother, Lalalilu (Timotei Duma).

As the tale unwinds, the director Mitulescu contrasts the dark and leaden idiocy of the "official" culture of Communism in Romania, as exemplified by the country’s regimented educational apparatus, with the relative normalcy of family life at home, but critically, nostalgia, bathos and the false positives of the Pollyanna principle are mostly avoided.

Eva’s and Lalalilu’s extended family is a loving one, and life is far from wretched, but the unfathomable pressures of existing in an increasingly impoverished and stressful atmosphere are duly illustrated. Random acts of violence punctuate the narrative, the presence next door of a Securitate (secret policemen) officer’s privileged and amorous son has tremendous consequences, and the oppressive political climate has a way of making an otherwise sane patriarch strip to his underwear in a tragicomic rooftop protest that results in his removal by ever-present government flunkies.

Forced by circumstance to make a series of momentous decisions for herself and her family, Eva is abruptly rescued by fate, as Ceausescu’s run of good fortune, which had been exacerbated on more than one occasion by Western nations willing to overlook human rights violations, finally is trumped by a groundswell of resentment. Eva's neighbors watch on television while the elements of the Conducator’s own party cronies, aided and abetted by the military as well as hundreds of thousands of ordinary Romanians, take to the streets. In the end, even all but the most culpable and compromised Securitate elements also melted away, to be rehabilitated in an early post-Communist government almost indistinguishable from the one preceding the Iron Curtain’s collapse.

If we were to locate Mitulescu’s fictional siblings now, they would be 36 and 26, respectively. More importantly, they would be carrying provisional European Union credentials, for the Romania of systematization, Communist party congresses and agro-industrial complexes is in the process of completing its belated switch of ideological sides. Ceausescu’s ever-present photo no longer glowers from classroom walls, but how many of the people from the generation of the sister’s and brother’s parents, aunts and uncles now sometimes look backward with rose-colored glasses?

More than we might think, even if.

The film is much recommended.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Random thoughts for a random Tuesday.

1. Why do we judge government and private action by such different standards? The private market let the Baptist Tabernacle languish for decades but, when the city bought it, some said they'd better hurry up and do something with it, lest the purchase be viewed as proof that private interests would've handled the property better.

Have these folks been exposed to a different history than I have? Or, by "hurry up" do they mean within the next 25 years or so? And, if there is sudden, significant interest, couldn't the city just sell it?

2. Why don't we just go ahead and provide free wireless Internet access downtown? Have we even examined how much it would cost? We have at least three networking companies downtown. Surely they can help earn their enterprise zone tax breaks.

3. Where are we supposed to sit downtown? I don't think I've ever been in a successful city center anywhere that didn't have ample seating.

4. How much is a small surface parking lot worth downtown? They're unquestionably one of the most unattractive, inefficient uses of urban space. If we're going to use public money to buy property, lets start buying them up. They're cheaper, as is planting grass and trees rather than rehabbing buildings. We'd have places to sit and connect with each other and the Internet, and buildings right next to parks are more attractive. They could also function as market and event space.

5. What's wrong with the industrial zone just east of Vincennes in the general vicinity of Main and Market? Isn't there a bunch of empty and/or underutilized property there? Who wouldn't want their high tech campus to overlook the river? Couldn't people walk or ride bikes to jobs there using preexisting infrastructure, including folks from Clarksville and Jeffersonville when the Greenway is complete and from across the river when the K&I bridge is opened back up?

6. Is it fair to ask new investors to spend $300-500K to purchase and do full building rehabs when long-time building and business owners- some of whom have probably paid off their buildings or have some serious equity to work with- aren't even expected to open their windows and paint every once in a while?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Pangea Day, May 10, New Albany.

What Is Pangea Day?

Pangea Day taps the power of film to strengthen tolerance and compassion while uniting millions of people to build a better future.

In a world where people are often divided by borders, difference, and conflict, it's easy to lose sight of what we all have in common. Pangea Day seeks to overcome that - to help people see themselves in others - through the power of film.

On May 10, 2008 - Pangea Day - sites in Cairo, Kigali, London, Los Angeles, Mumbai and Rio de Janeiro will be linked live to produce a program of powerful films, visionary speakers, and uplifting music.

The program will be broadcast live to the world through the Internet, television, digital cinemas, and mobile phones.

Of course, movies alone can't change the world. But the people who watch them can. So following May 10, 2008, Pangea Day organizers will facilitate community-building activities around the world by connecting inspired viewers with numerous organizations which are already doing groundbreaking work.

The first graphic says to sign up to host an event, so I did.

Details will be forthcoming, but know that NAC is on the case, making it possible to participate in Pangea Day activities somewhere in New Albany on May 10 beginning around 1:00 to 2:00 in the afternoon.

Pangea Day FAQ

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Heaven on their minds.

In his preface to “Bertrand Russell on God and Religion,” the book’s editor, Al Seckel, writes:

There is a marvelous anecdote from the occasion of Russell's ninetieth birthday that best serves to summarize his attitude toward God and religion. A London lady sat next to him at this party, and over the soup she suggested to him that he was not only the world's most famous atheist but, by this time, very probably the world's oldest atheist. "What will you do, Bertie, if it turns out you're wrong?" she asked. "I mean, what if -- uh -- when the time comes, you should meet Him? What will you say?" Russell was delighted with the question. His bright, birdlike eyes grew even brighter as he contemplated this possible future dialogue, and then he pointed a finger upward and cried, "Why, I should say, 'God, you gave us insufficient evidence.'"

Earlier in the week Barack Obama eloquently spoke of intolerance, and the predictable result was a backlash of … well, intolerance, with a sizeable proportion of the bile emanating from the very same people who see themselves as religious, and who embrace the mission of reminding us of it on a daily basis, and of course it is hypocrisy of this magnitude that lies as much at the heart of America as those noble ideals we prefer to enshrine as our national myth. Forgive me then for celebrating today’s decidedly non-secular holiday with H. L. Mencken:

The truth is that Christian theology, like every other theology, is not only opposed to the scientific spirit; it is also opposed to all other attempts at rational thinking. Not by accident does Genesis 3 make the father of knowledge a serpent -- slimy, sneaking and abominable. Since the earliest days the church, as an organization, has thrown itself violently against every effort to liberate the body and mind of man. It has been, at all times and everywhere, the habitual and incorrigible defender of bad governments, bad laws, bad social theories, bad institutions. It was, for centuries, an apologist for slavery, as it was the apologist for the divine right of kings.
-- From “Treatise on the Gods”

I’ve posted another essay elsewhere: Your own personal Easter.

From a purely psychological standpoint, even I can’t deny the efficacy of Easter’s promise of hope and comfort, both in the universal sense of human uncertainty when it comes to ultimate meanings, and specifically for those who are at a point of loneliness and despair. Bleak is not a place that lends itself to hope, but concepts like Easter hold out the promise of redemption.

If you’re a believer, I do sincerely hope you find solace, inspiration and comfort from Easter. As an unbeliever, I promise to make good use of the day, beginning with the overdue search for that long-lost bonnet.

Red Stars, Black Mountains: What’s Habsburg got to do with it? (Part 5).

A continuing Sunday series. See also:

Red Stars, Black Mountains: Raddy and what came after (Part 4)

Red Stars, Black Mountains: Mellow Ljubljana (Part 3)

Red Stars, Black Mountains: Welcome to Slovenia (Part 2)

Red Stars, Black Mountains: Roger in Yugoslavia ’87 (Part 1)

Red Stars, Black Mountains: Roger in Yugoslavia ’87 (Introduction)


In truth, the current Bosnian-Herzegovinian capital of Sarajevo, then just one of many provincial hubs in extinct Yugoslavia, always was the primary goal of my 1987 trip to the region, and to understand why, you have to learn a bit about my enduringly unfathomable Habsburg fixation. It certainly ranks among the more bizarre historical fetishes you'll encounter.

The Habsburgs were the long established ruling monarchs of the empire eventually to be termed the Austro-Hungarian empire, which in the years prior to the first world war occupied a substantial portion of what is now Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, the Balkans and parts of northern Italy (recall the port of Trieste in an earlier installment of this series).

In 1914, the reigning Emperor Franz Joseph was 84 years old and had sat on the throne for 66 years, since 1848. Whether tacit or explicit, obeisance to the emperor's many-titled royal personage served as the only generally accepted bond between the empire's multitudinous nationalities and their languages, customs, aspirations and diverse lives.

At the same time, virtually every strain of the 19th and 20th century European experience came to be woven into the complex fabric of Austria-Hungary's capital, Vienna, ranging from visual artists (Klimt, Schiele) to formal musicians (Brahms, Bruckner and Mahler); writers, academics and scholars (Sigmund Freud and his retinue); future world political figures (Adolf Hitler, Yugoslavia's own Josip "Tito" Broz) radical Zionists and hyperbolic anti-Semites, the pioneering lager brewer Anton Dreher, and later, unbelievably, Leon Askin, the actor who played General Burkhalter on the television series "Hogan's Heroes", and who was born in Vienna nine years before Franz Joseph died.

Add to the hoary chronological mix the tragedies of Franz Joseph's tumultuous personal life – his son infamously committed a murder/suicide with his youthful mistress, and his wife suffered from undiagnosed mental illness and was herself eventually murdered by an anarchist – then combine all this with various other socio-political and economic foreshadowing of imminent doom, and finally, consider that in 1914, Franz Joseph's closest remaining relative eligible for the succession was his profoundly unpopular nephew, and that uncle and nephew were quite different people with dissimilar views of the heavenly ordained family mission to rule … well, then you'll at least be aware of the many compelling threads in this narrative.

Readers of history already know the emperor's nephew, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, as the man whose 1914 assassination in Sarajevo lit the fuse for the Great War. As for me, since my very first visit to Europe in 1985, when I made a visit to Austria's national military museum for the sole purpose of viewing the Archduke's blood-splattered tunic and the automobile he and his wife were using to drive through Sarajevo when Gavrilo Princip's bullets ended their lives, visiting the various Central European locales on the Franz Ferdinand heritage trail has been a constant attraction.

The military museum was first, and also in 1985, I walked through the crypt of the Austrian emperors in Vienna precisely to see where Franz Ferdinand and his wife are not buried – and this absence is a very important part of the overall story.

The Archduke was a blunt, obnoxious, violent, unlikable and repressed human being who in his spare time enjoyed slaughtering wildlife under the guise of hunting.

He also did something decidedly uncommon among his brethren European royalty of the age: He fell madly in love, and remained just as madly in love, with a woman decreed by the royal court to be inadequately marriageable for an heir to the throne, and so he married her anyway, even though doing so forced him to renounce the path of succession for the children, and to acknowledge that Sophie could not participate in the normal trappings of royal life … or enjoy an eternal resting place alongside the properly accredited Habsburg family members.

Inexplicably, the otherwise indefensible Franz Ferdinand was transformed into the perfect family man at home in various estates and castles scattered throughout the realm … but, not unexpectedly, his perceived mistreatment at the hands of protocol rankled, and he nursed a smoldering grudge until the end of his life, which came in Sarajevo during a journey of largely unnecessary semi-official business that was undertaken because it geographically placed he and his wife outside the direct control of the court, inside a province that had been annexed only a short time before, and enabled him to provide his wife, albeit it briefly, with the "official" perks denied her otherwise.

All this meant less than nothing to a young group of nationalistic Bosnian revolutionary conspirators who detested the empire and were being trained and financed by a covert arm of the independent Serbian kingdom's military arm in Belgrade ("Black Hand"), and thus we are brought back to Sarajevo, where the motley crew of inflamed and malnourished terrorists plotted their tragicomic ambush of the Archduke.

To start, a bomb was inexpertly tossed. It bounced off the hood of Franz Ferdinand's car and ignited on the one following it, injuring a subaltern. The bomb thrower sought first to drown himself, jumping from an adjacent bridge into the two-foot-deep river, then, thwarted, tried to ingest poison that wasn't poison. He was quickly arrested and the group dissolved in panic, with Princip adjourning to coffee house to morosely consider the failures of the botched performance.

Meanwhile, in spite of the bomb attempt and further warnings that security could not be guaranteed, a supremely annoyed Archduke elected to finish the official visit to Sarajevo's town hall, resulting in one of the most incredible photos you'll ever see, with the bedecked Austrian royal visibly bursting veins while minor officials in vests and fezes offer tepid and embarrassed salutes. The fear in their eyes is palpable even in the ancient black and white photo. A bad moon is about to rise, and they know it.

But nothing can be done when it comes to fate, especially in the Balkans.

Sure enough, perhaps an hour later, the motorcade resumed without the Archduke's staff having communicated to the lead driver a slight change in route undertaken to make the return safer. Having missed the turn, the cars were halted on the street directly outside the coffee shop where Princip now emerged to find his original target stock still and seated only 20 feet away, posing for the crosshairs. Princip fired two shots, one each for Franz Ferdinand and Sophie, both inexplicably perfect in aim, and within moments, the heir and his wife were both dead.

Throughout my subsequent travels, I've visited the Archduke's "hunting lodge" in Benesov, outside Prague, consumed the beer brewed in his name nearby, returned to Vienna to tour the Belvedere Palace (his official residence), and finally in 2003, arduously climbed the steep side of the Danube valley on a bicycle for the privilege of seeing the ancestral castle at Artstetten, and being presented the key to the mausoleum by the lady on duty so that after twenty-two years, the couple's graves could at last be viewed and my respects offered.

But Sarajevo in 1987 remains the benchmark. The town hall, the bridge and the museum located where the coffee shop had been … the footprints in the concrete sidewalk to show where Princip stood when he struck his blows against the empire … and the ambience of this strange old town with minarets and church spires both Catholic and Eastern Orthodox, not to mention synagogues, nestled together on a hillside, with the sprawling newer town encompassing a winter Olympics complex.

How much of it remains today? I ask because I've not returned, and as you know, Sarajevo had a few big problems since my lone visit.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Jeff Main Street chili & beer bash rescheduled for Tuesday, April 1.

Jeff Main Street's first try at its 3rd annual chili and beer fundraiser was postponed by bad weather in early February, but they're set to give it another shot on April Fool's Day.

This is no joke! NABC, BBC and Upland will be there to pour beer samples, and if last year's event is any indication, there'll be an abundance of fine chili. I'm hoping to see a New Albanian contingent for this one.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Not quite weekend update

Mayor England delivered his State of the City address at last night's council meeting.

The Tribune provides the full text: 2008 State of the City Address - New Albany

Shadow5 provides additional coverage of the meeting and some commentary:

A Bright Night Follows a Rare Sunny Day

Friend and ranking NAC spiritual adviser John Manzo provides a more in-depth look at pastor Jeremiah Wright from a perspective of personal knowledge rather than relying on a three minute segment of a thirty-year career:

Different is not Deficient

Me? I'm content to leave all of the above open for discussion while I prepare to go see the first Louisville screenings of Sundance Film Festival selection FLOW, co-produced by Louisville locals Gill and Augusta Holland among others.

With an unflinching focus on politics, pollution and human rights, FLOW: For Love of Water ensures that the precarious relationship between humanity and water can no longer be ignored. While specifics of locality and issue may differ, the message is the same; water, and our future as a species, is quickly drying up. Armed with a thirst for survival, people around the world are fighting for their birthright; unless we instigate change, we face a world in which only those that can pay for their water will survive. FLOW: For Love of Water, is a catalyst for people everywhere: the time has come to turn the tide and we can't wait any longer.

Opens today for a week at the Baxter
Daily Showtimes 1:10, 3:15, 5:20, 7:30, 9:40

Q&A sessions will be held following screenings on the first two days. Director Irena Salina, who was tear gassed and had a death threat against her while filming, will participate on Friday while Gill and Augusta will be present on both Friday and Saturday.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Council takes on tax abatements

New Albany's City Council will hold a work session concerning tax abatements tonight at 6:00 p.m. prior to their regularly scheduled meeting with Thomas A. Pitman, a partner from the Indianapolis law firm of Baker and Daniels.

Council President Jeff Gahan says the Council has lacked consistency when dealing with the incentive and is attempting to be more fair. To that end, council members requested a training session to ensure evenhandedness.

Regular council meeting attendees might be surprised to learn that CM Dan Coffey has declared the Baker and Daniels firm "an acknowledged expert" on state taxes prior to the meeting. Given that Coffey once accused bond firm Ice Miller's Buddy Downs of not being as familiar as he was with some of the state finance rules that Downs himself helped to write, these guys must be the shit.

Other business, including the potential expansion of the Park East Industrial Park TIF district, will be handled during the regular 7:30 meeting. Both the work session and the meeting will be in the assembly room on the third floor of the City County Building.

New Albany examines tax policy by Dick Kaukas, Courier-Journal

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

“Creative types don't want bourgeois homogeneity.”

The current edition of The Economist includes a thought-provoking essay on the rivalry between London and Paris, and surveys the reasons why London seems to be “winning” the race. An extended excerpt is provided.

The rivals: Two great cities are about to hold mayoral elections. Which has the brighter future?

Perhaps most important, the city (London) has adopted a guiding creed that belongs neither to the political left nor the right: openness to change. “London has flourished not because it has sorted out its transport, or its city management, but because it opened its borders,” argues Tony Travers, director of the Greater London Group at the London School of Economics. These days, there is nothing particularly British about London, bar its tolerance of chaos. It has embraced globalisation to become an international city, while Paris has remained unapologetically French.

Nearly 700,000 extra foreign-born people have made London their home since 1997, bringing the capital's total foreign-born population to over 30%. Not counting illegals, Paris has fewer foreigners (about 14%) and, crucially, it is the more educated ones, whether from India or Poland, who head for London. (In total, Britain has attracted more skilled and professional immigrants: 35% of them have a college education, according to a recent OECD study, against just 18% in France.) The energetic renovation of newly fashionable districts such as Hoxton and Shoreditch is not only spurred by sky-high property prices elsewhere; it also owes something to the friction and renewal of London's messy, cosmopolitan mix.

“Creative types don't want bourgeois homogeneity,” says Mr. Travers. “They want edginess, and space to grow.”

In the fashion typical of my favored news magazine, all sides of the coin are duly considered, and I’m not in lock-step agreement with every aspect of the story.

Also, it is worth conceding that analogies are treacherous, especially when considering two major world cities on the one hand and places like New Albany on the other.

Yet …

The last sentence in the preceding excerpt aptly summarizes the New Albany conundrum for me. Bourgeois homogeneity does not lend itself to creativity, which is what we need more than anything else, and in large measure this creativity must be pried from the cold, dead hand of bourgeois homogeneity, which has proven to be entirely unwilling or unable to offer solutions to problems beyond expressing eternal contempt for creativity and the necessary things that stem from it.

For me, there is nothing more indicative of bourgeois homogeneity than the recurring insistence that the sole value of a human being lies in his or her willingness to pay taxes.

Unfortunately, the past year’s public discourse in New Albany and in Indiana has been predicated on precisely this misreading of the social contract. New Albany’s bloc of Luddites will continue to babble phrases misappropriated from the likes of Ayn Rand, and I – quite possibly alone, which is fine by me – will continue to respond that the task of the local politician is to serve all the people, not just those whose participation in a civil society is defined solely by incessant threats to drown government in a bathtub if their narrow interests are not properly addressed.

Obama: Practiced ignorance isn't an answer

During the 2007 holiday season, I found myself in a discussion of presidential candidates with a good friend and mentor, a staunch Democrat who's opinion, born of years of often thankless public service, I give substantial weight.

She expressed concern about Senator Obama; that, if elected, his relative youth would lead to near immediate evisceration by the mindless, inhuman machine we've come to accept as politics. He'd get knocked down quickly and may not recover.

My response at the time or, rather, on the way home in the car after the prescient moment had passed, was that I didn't care if he got knocked down. I expected him to. What I cared about was whether he'd get back up, point to his black eye, and have the courage to risk another punch by reminding us of why he took the first one.

"This is why they hit me," he'd say. "This is what they're afraid of." And, at least in my imagination, everyone who'd ever taken (or thrown) a punch in fear would have to pay attention to not just the violent result but their own enabling of the circumstances that led to it. For people of conscience, the type of avoidance and oversimplification I see almost daily in dealing with local issues would at the very least no longer be an option justified by a national example.

Quite frankly, I wasn't sure if he'd do it when the time came. I just couldn't shake the feeling that he was the only candidate that might.

Yesterday, Obama reassured me in a way that no candidate for the presidency in my adult life has ever even attempted. Pundits and paid consultants will spend the next few days excerpting, spinning, and explaining what they think or we should think he meant and how that meaning could impact the polls.

Here, however, are the words themselves in their entirety, presented because they deserve a position in local discourse well beyond the confines of a single election.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Fire Museum to Baptist Tabernacle downtown?

The Green Mouse says that at today's Board of Public Works meeting, New Albany's deputy mayor announced a steering committee composed of private citizens has been formed to work toward the relocation of the Conway Fire Museum (currently located off Mt. Tabor Road) to the Baptist Tabernacle building on Fourth, which was acquired by the city a week ago.

The building would be restored and house the museum and a proposed public meeting space, thus becoming both a destination for visitors as well as a functional space.

Have you heard anything about this? If so, weigh in.

A Napoleon complex?

St. Louis real estate agent and community affairs blogger Steve Patterson used his Urban Review St. Louis blog to highlight one of his listed properties included in last years' Big BIG Tour of available urban homes hosted by ReVitalize St. Louis'

The March 07 tour is long over, but the photos reveal the interior of what used to be a typical four room shotgun home.

As Steve explained, "I think this home may change your perceptions about what a shotgun house can look like. The owner of this house (which is not me, btw) relocated the kitchen from the back to the second room. This creates a public space in the front two rooms with a private bedroom area at the back. At just over 900sf, this is larger than some new lofts."

Though expired, the MLS listing with more photos is still online.

You may be able to fire a shotgun through one around here but you can't fire and not hit one. Which one should we start with?

Monday, March 17, 2008

"The Ballad of Ronnie Drew."

It's St. Patrick’s Day, and with it those tasteless annual outbursts of shamrock-mounted hokum and green-colored beer that the genuine Irish themselves somehow manage to tolerate with good humor and grace, although the fact remains that the vast majority of American revelers on amateur’s (day and) night out never give a thought to the history and culture of the island.

(See ERIN GO BLAH, posted last year at my beer blog.)

If there’s a drop of Irish blood in me, I can’t prove it, and yet raw facts never stood in the way of a good story or a good song, and during the handful of times I've counted myself fortunate to visit Ireland, it was an absolute imperative to stop, smell the malt and learn. If you haven’t been there, try to go. Listen, and let the place grab you.

It seems that everyone in Ireland has a tale to tell or a tune to sing, and I suspect that the country's recent prosperity hasn’t changed the paradigm one single bit. To listen to our native tongue spoken like the Irish do is both magical and downright sensual, and it’s damned hard not to love a people with poetry running so vivdly through their veins.

And so I’ve tried to love the Irish while detesting the way that St. Patrick’s Day has come to symbolize the very worst about the American custom of distorting reality for the sake of commercialism, and it has seemed to me axiomatic that I’d not experience anything to melt my heart come March 17, but as so often is the case, a piece of music has gotten my attention and it won’t let go.

Specifically, it is a loving tribute to Dubliners founder Ronnie Drew, the grand old man of Irish folk music, who has been suffering from cancer. Participants include U2, the Dubliners, Shane McGowan and Sinead O’Connor. Yes, the sentimentality is way over the top, but it is accompanied by a sincerity that moves this cynic to the bar for another Guinness. Enjoy the video, and remember: Friends don’t let friends drink green beer.

Direct link:

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Red Stars, Black Mountains: Raddy and what came after (Part 4).

A continuing Sunday series. See also: Red Stars, Black Mountains: Mellow Ljubljana (Part 3). Red Stars, Black Mountains: Welcome to Slovenia (Part 2), Red Stars, Black Mountains: Roger in Yugoslavia ’87 (Part 1) and Red Stars, Black Mountains: Roger in Yugoslavia ’87 (Introduction).


In January, 2008, I searched the Internet for the name of Radojko Petkovski and was mildly surprised to see his name surface in a handful of listings, each attesting to his collaboration on fairly recent seismology studies, fully befitting an apparent post-Communist career advancement for a man whose 1987 business card identified him as an earthquake engineer from the city of Skopje, Macedonia.

A conservatively dressed (weren't they all in Communist countries?) and well-groomed man in his forties had been sitting quietly opposite me in a not too terribly crowded second class car on a Yugoslav "express" train from Ljubljana (Slovenia) to Zagreb (Croatia), and when the conductor passed through to check tickets, there was momentary linguistic confusion.

The man smiled and spoke to me in heavily accented English, and then answered the conductor, and as the door shut, enclosing us again in the claustrophobic old-fashioned compartment, I was handed a business card. An elemental conversation ensued, which is to say that Raddy spoke a bit of English, and of course, I spoke none of the local Yugoslav languages. There were to be future implications to the fractured dialogue, but for the moment, it was quite pleasant to engage the mind.

Soon we pulled into one of the intermediate stations, and on a siding adjacent to us was a train filled with dazed young soldiers looking out their windows. I tried to explain the scene at the station in Ljubljana, and Raddy nodded; he'd seen it, too, and proceeded to explain what I'd witnessed, noting that the specimens in question were now being shipped out for basic training, as were the soldiers outside our window.

Soon we had arrived in Zagreb, and Raddy made it a point to invite me to Skopje for a visit. I told him it might not be for a couple of weeks. His card was filed in my pouch, and we said goodbye.


At some juncture, discerning readers will ask a perfectly reasonable question:

Roger, seeing as you were in Yugoslavia in 1987, only four years before the tragic and murderous civil war began, can you tell us all about the rampant warning signs you noticed?

Actually, no. I can't. I was entirely oblivious.

It should have told me something about Yugoslavia that in the 1980's, Rebecca West's "Black Lamb and Grey Falcon," a survey of travel and history in the region published in 1941, was still considered essential pre-trip reading. I'd read it, and came away from the 1,000+ pages with an image of the Balkans as territory not dissimilar from Appalachia, Hatfields and McCoys.

So, on the one hand, I didn't arrive in Yugoslavia without a passing knowledge of the country's history as a Great War afterthought, a jumble of multi-syllabic Balkan peoples, religions and languages cast together into a "kingdom of South Slavs," and poverty-stricken, turbulent and rent with divisions from the moment of conception.

On the other, apart from the stock hellos, goodbyes and how much, I came utterly without communication skills … and, apart from people like Raddy and a handful of other closer to my age, Yugoslavia in 1987 was not the exact patch of Europe where one could find great numbers of English speakers.

Consequently, although it was always possible to get by, and sometimes even deeper insights could be gleaned, conversations of greater depth with natives were seldom possible. I met other tourists, but when one communicates with another tourist, especially an English speaker, there is a natural tendency to reinforce what already is known, rather than to ask questions and learn the score … and most of us had read from the same elementary tour guide playbook.

Accordingly, we'd all been taught that Marshall Tito had put an end to the bickering, and in many respects he genuinely had, partly through an instinctive understanding of the human terrain in a difficult neighborhood (the Balkans), partly through an aptitude for vicious totalitarian methodology, and partly through the common Communist trick of keeping ordinary people so relentlessly busy in pursuit of the tiniest details of reasonable life that they were too tired to rebel.

But, yes, Tito kept things together for so long as his heart was beating. When it stopped, in the early 80's, the genies began creeping from their prison bottles. Those few short years later, when the country went up in flames, and an unbelievable stream of abuses and horrors unseen since World War II took a crumbling Yugoslavia back to medieval times, I asked myself the question dozens of times: What happened to make these seemingly ordinary people leave their homes and go berserk?

There are hundreds of answers, but the point to me is that when I was there, the question wasn't being asked, and if it was, I didn't hear it.

Shame on me.


The youth hostel in Zagreb had a bunk bed for one night only, after which a school group was coming to fill all the spaces. I recall having a few mugs of cheap lager beer on the patio outside the train station, and watching the commuters at day's end. There was time for a walkabout.

Next morning, I was aboard the train into the interior, out of Croatia and into the rugged mountains of Bosnia. My destination was Sarajevo, and a date with Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Fast times for slow food.

As part of it's Sustainable City Series, the Urban Design Studio is offering an event focused on local food initiatives.


Tuesday, March 25, 6:00 pm
Glassworks, 815 West Market, Louisville, KY

Whether you are a foodie, farmer, health nut, sustainability advocate or all of the above, you will find the upcoming forum a "must attend" event. Learn about Louisville Metro's local food initiatives, community farms, food access, the slow food movement, farmer's markets and much more. Please join us on March 25th for an engaging discussion on local food and agriculture.

Susan Hamilton, Louisville Metro Economic Development Department

Ivor Chodkowski, Community Farm Alliance and Grasshoppers Distribution LLC

Bill Huston, Urban Fresh

Chef Mark Williams, Slow Food Bluegrass

It's a free event but space and time are limited. You can reserve a spot here.

Friday, March 14, 2008

City acquires historic Baptist Tabernacle building on East Fourth.

It was revealed at yesterday's Develop New Albany board meeting that one of the two historic properties up for grabs at yesterday's sheriff's sale was purchased by the city of New Albany. The sale was previewed last week by Bluegill: A couple of doozies on the (auction) block.

Baptist Tabernacle
318 East Fourth Street

When their new edifice was completed in 1879, the merged First Baptist Church and the Bank Street Baptist Church changed their name to the Baptist Tabernacle Church. Building in the Neoclassical style, the Louisville, Kentucky, contractor Watkins & Co. used New Albany laborers and materials, and New Albany's John Crawford did the brickwork. The building was begun in July 1878, and wasn't occupied until January 4, 1880. The congregation did not rush construction. They built slowly and did not propose to have the work done any faster than they could pay for it.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

"We already get taxed different rates depending on where we choose to live..."

Earlier in the week, NAC post Distance Education led to a lively discussion of school transportation methodology and who should bear the brunt of financing it.

Regular reader Brandon W. Smith offered an astute question in the comments section:

We already get taxed different rates depending on where we choose to live (well, at least where we choose to own property). If it turns out that county folks are having a disproportionate impact on school resources, then why shouldn’t the school corporation tax rates be able to reflect that?

The "who should pay" or "why should we pay" question is one we seem to ask quite often, but usually in regard to services for low income populations for whom choices are limited. That makes it all the more intriguing then, that the same type of question never seems to come up in the context of services for those who generally can afford to pay but choose more expensive outcomes.

Indeed, if distance is a major contributor to the cost of government service delivery, why then is it not calculated in the price of those services?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Ribbon cutting at Linden Meadows coming on March 20.

To all friends of New Albany Community Housing from John Miller (Executive Director) and Pat Yense-Woosley (Deputy Director) comes this exciting pressrelease about the forthcoming ribbon cutting at Linden Meadows.


Although we are still working on the last details of closing, we have scheduled the ribbon cutting and open house for 800 Linden Meadows Court on Thursday, March 20 at 2:oo p.m. 9th District Congressman Baron Hill has accepted our invitation to join New Albany Mayor Doug England and help us cut the ribbon. Other officials have been invited as well.

We will also open up our office next door (for sale!) as well as another house across the street for walk-throughs. We have a long way to go to finish the subdivision, but we would like to take a moment to thank everyone who has played such an important part in getting us this far!

Hope you can make it!!

(Please feel free to contact us at the numbers below if you have any questions. Directions to the site are below.)

John Miller ... New Albany Community Housing



From downtown New Albany: Take State Street northish to Adams St (at the hospital, watch for the big bump) and turn left. Adams jogs and becomes Linden at West Street after 1 long block. Continue 3 blocks until Linden turns right and becomes Linden Meadows Court. 802 is second house on the right.

From the other way: Take West Street south from the State/West/Green Valley intersection and go 3 blocks. Turn right on Linden and continue 3 blocks until Linden turns right and becomes Linden Meadows Court. 802 is second house on the right.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Distance Education

Our school corporation consumes 66% off all property taxes in Floyd County.

A significant portion of those taxes go toward transportation. We've budgeted $1.3 million for bus replacement in 2008 alone, with an additional $1.3 million earmarked for future purchases. $1.3 million buys 15 buses. The school system operates 130 of them.

According to the NA/FC Consolidated School System web site, those buses travel about 1 million miles a year. With mileage at 10 miles per gallon and diesel fuel prices at $3.50 per gallon, that's $350,000 per year in fuel costs.

That doesn't include driver contracts or salaries, insurance, and maintenance. It also doesn't take into account the school system's penchant for closing schools in walkable neighborhoods and expanding them in far flung, sparsely populated areas, requiring more, not less, driving.

No one pays a direct fare to ride the buses. People who would pay fares are restricted from them, even though 17% of all households and 24% of rental households in six of New Albany's inner city census tracts have no vehicle access and we could all save money and fossil fuels with adequate public transportation.

I'll be the first to defend investment in public education as beneficial to the common good but, having purposely decided to live within walking distance of public schools, I'm confused as to how spending inordinate sums of money to set a bad example of unsustainable practice for our children as a part of their educational experience is beneficial or defensible.

Anyone care to educate me?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Urban Enterprise Zone deductions and incentives listing and filing deadlines.

Reprinted in its entirety from UEA/UEZ releases and the NA Shadow Council blog.

Among the strongest tools for targeted reinvestment in the community are those wielded by the Urban Enterprise Association. The UEA administers the incentives attached to businesses within the Urban Enterprise Zone. All downtown businesses and many commercial properties along Spring, Market, and Vincennes streets are within the Zone.

It's important for you to know if you are in the Zone. Check out the Zone boundaries at to see if your business can directly benefit from its tax deductions and incentives.

If you have, within the past year (2007) purchased a building, land, or machinery, or had any renovation work at a property within the zone, you should apply for 2007 Zone Investment Deductions and Incentives.

The investment must be a "qualified investment," according to UEA Executive Director Mike Ladd. There is a specific list of qualifying expenditures related to an enterprise zone location where a taxpayer's business is located.

A “qualified investment” includes:

(1) The purchase of a building.

(2) The purchase of new manufacturing or production equipment.

(3) Costs associated with the repair, rehabilitation, or modernization of an existing building andrelated improvements.

(4) Onsite infrastructure improvements.

(5) The construction of a new building.

(6) Costs associated with retooling existing machinery.

When filing Indiana Schedule EZ

Parts 1A through 3 are due at the time the Indian State Tax Return is filed.

If, for some reason, the April 15 deadline is missed, file the EZB-E form, requesting a 30-day filing extension. That must be filed by May 15, 2008.

“The Investment Deduction really is the crown jewel the Zone has among the several economic development incentives available to Zone businesses and residents,” says Ladd.

According to Ladd, “The Enterprise Zone Investment Deduction Application (Form EZ-2) must be filed with the County Auditor between March 1st and May 10th of each year.” Once the form is filed, the County Auditor must notify the applicant of their determination by August 15th of the assessment year. Ladd tells us that “if the applicant is in disagreement of the Auditor’s determination, a complaint must be filed within forty-five (45 days) of the notification in the office of the clerk of the circuit or superior court.”

Ladd also notes that “If the form includes a deduction claim for personal property, a copy of the current assessment year Business Tangible Personal Property Assessment return (Form 102 or 103) must be attached.” This form and a personal property tax return are confidential pursuant to IC 6-1.1-35-9.

“This form is required to be filed each year a deduction is claimed even if no new equipment is acquired in that assessment year,” Mike reports.

Questions can be addressed to the Department of Local Government Finance at (317) 232-3777 or

To find out if you are in the Enterprise Zone, go to and view the map, or call 812.944.3454.

The Enterprise Association board of directors is made up of Daniel Meyer, Brenda Scharlow, Ron McKulick, Larry Brumley, Robert Norwood, Roger Baylor, Carl Malysz, Steve Price, Al Goodman and Robert Norrington. The Executive Director is Michael C. Ladd.

Important filing deadlines follow:



April 15 - Indiana Schedule EZ Parts 1A through 3 for Year 2007 are due with your State return. The Indiana Department of Revenue in cooperation with the IRS approves extensions.

May 9 - Deadline for filing Form EZ-2, accompanied by a copy of the current year Business Tangible Personal Property Assessment Return (Form 102 or 103). File in duplicate with the Floyd County Auditor for new personal and real property investments taxable as of March 1, 2008.

May 15 - Deadline to request an extension of up to 30 days to file Year 2008 Business Tangible Personal Property Assessment Return (Form 102 or 103) from the Township Assessor.

June 1 - Latest postmark date for the mailing of the completed calendar year 2007 EZB-R to the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.

June 1 - Latest postmark date to file the up to 45-day registration extension form, EZB-E, with the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.

June 13 - With a copy of the approved extension from the Township Assessor, Form 102 or 103 due to the Floyd County Auditor.

July 15 - With a copy of the approved extension letter, Form EZB-R is due to the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Red Stars, Black Mountains: Mellow Ljubljana (Part 3).

A continuing Sunday series. See also: Red Star, Black Mountain: Welcome to Slovenia (Part 2), Red Stars, Black Mountains: Roger in Yugoslavia ’87 (Part 1) and Red Stars, Black Mountains: Roger in Yugoslavia ’87 (Introduction).


As throngs of thoroughly inebriated future Yugoslav soldiers milled through Ljubljana's otherwise deserted train station, I found myself an object of curiosity and attention, although it must be said that none of the scrutiny was threatening, and the general mood remained one of fraternity party revelry. Perhaps I was the only backpacker on the scene.

Picking my way gingerly through the ranks of the fallen, and avoiding numerous evil smelling puddles, I scanned the strange directional signs in an effort to locate the path into the station's nerve center. Two stood out: "Informacija," which I judged to be "information," and a pictogram of bank notes and coins.

I'd passed from Italy to Yugoslavia, and also from lira to dinars. In pre-Euro times, every border crossing required exchanging money into new currencies. In 1987, there were few if any ATMs in Western Europe, certainly none in the East Bloc, and the credit card in my neck pouch would prove to be almost useless in the East outside of special "hard currency" shops. Instead, one changed money the old fashioned way, with actual dollars or American Express traveler's checks. I needed to save my small denomination American banknotes for use as wheel-greasers in tight spots, so if the station exchange couldn't or wouldn't trade dinars for Am-Ex, I'd be looking at a cashless night crashing with the crazy recruits.

The man behind the only populated window miraculously spoke a bare minimum of English and was able to answer my questions. Yes, he would cash a traveler's check. No, he could not help me find accommodations. No (gesturing at the cacophony), the baggage check room was quite full. He began slapping down one hundred dinar notes, one after the other, until the pile was an inch high. Not a bad rate: $100 per inch.

It was late, but I had a guidebook, and the search for lodgings commenced on foot. Public transportation had shut down, and there was a scarcity of streetlights, but I managed to navigate a half-mile to the first university-affiliated youth hostel. There were padlocks on the door. The second hostel listed defied all efforts to locate it, there was no one on the street to ask even if I'd been inclined to do so, and it was well after midnight, so I reversed course and got back to the train station area, where I remembered there being a hotel of the more conventional variety.

A desk clerk finally responded to my repeated buzzing and offered the non-negotiable terms: Roughly a quarter-inch of my hard-earned dinar wad, or more than twice the rate I had been expecting to pay for a bed, but notions of a shower and bed were strong, and I agreed, though only for one night. On Saturday morning, I'd visit the youth & student travel desk and inquire after cheaper digs.

I did, and found a $10 bunk in three-bed room. The weekend was now free for exploring Ljubljana -- a sister city of Cleveland, Ohio – by foot. Then as now, Slovenia seemed out of place, tied to Yugoslavia but far more Central European than Balkan. The hilly setting in Ljubljana reminded me of Salzburg, in Austria, and the red tiled roofs were a Mediterranean flourish resting atop imperial-era Habsburg buildings. There were stone dragons lining the old downtown bridge and a market in the square; tarnished copper stains and chipped columns; the widespread occurrence of public spitting; and a curious aroma in the air that eventually registered as coal smoke.

In the old town, there was a pizzeria by the river, and I splurged on a small pie accompanied by draft Union Pivo, the hometown brewery, which I managed to locate on one of my walks. However, it was more cost effective to drink from the bottle. On Sunday, in despair that none of the stores would be open, I strolled past a line of people waiting to enter one that was doing business, later emerging with three half-liters of Union to be consumed while sitting on a park bench gazing at the hilltop castle.

Where the suburbs began, so did the lines of unpainted gray housing blocks that were Yugoslavia's solution to warehousing its postwar population. In these neighborhoods there were more examples of commerce than might be imagined, mostly products being vended from wooden kiosks: Cosmetics, street food and newspapers. Each neighborhood of housing blocks had a section built in for ground-level shopping, drinking and dining, with variable selections of goods.

On Monday, I returned to the station, bustling not with drunkards but daily commuters, and bought a train ticket for Zagreb, Croatia … and a fateful meeting.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

String music?

The great March blizzard of 2008 forced the postponement of today's IHSAA boys' high school basketball regional tournament at Seymour. New Albany's undefeated Bulldogs must now wait until Monday to resume their pursuit of a championship, albeit one largely rendered moot by the continued existence of class basketball, which put an end to whatever merits the sport of high school basketball still had prior to the institution of egalitarian mediocrity a decade or more ago.

Today marks the 30th anniversary of my final regional basketball appearance as a member of the Floyd Central varsity in 1978. Another reminder of this long-forgotten (and forgettable) occurrence came earlier this week, when the New Albany Tribune profiled former FCHS head coach Joe Hinton, who won a sectional title with Paoli last weekend. Joe's pushing 70, but still in the thick of it, and doing what he knows and loves. More power to him, even if we didn't always see eye to eye back in the day.

One such tumultuous time when we were on entirely different pages was late in the basketball season my senior year, as a decidedly non-illustrious career was fast approaching a merciful conclusion. At a practice session just prior to the 1978 sectional, the coaching staff revealed the official tournament roster, and the list didn't include my name.

Granted, the omission was fully deserved based on pure performance, and yet I was annoyed at the slight, responding with a two-hour concentrated display of faux "go team" enthusiasm and contrived, entirely mock rah-rah, which somehow was mistaken for genuine depth of feeling, resulting in my reinstatement to the roster the following day.

Happily, or so it seemed, I'd neglected reporting this turn of events to my father. Unhappily, his friend and my coach had already done so, which may have been the intent from the beginning, and the whole off-and-on scenario did little to improve matters on the home front. As Gomer Pyle said often at the time, "surprise, surprise, surprise."

Thinking back on it from the vantage point of three decades, I can't attribute truly coherent motives to my teenaged ambivalence about sports, these games being about the only form of communication between a father and his son. The father was an ex-Marine who had traded athletic opportunities for three years as a gunner on a Navy ship in World War II and was keen – perhaps overly so – to see his son succeed at basketball and baseball.

However, the son just wasn't wired for that kind of pressure, at least during those hormonally-charged years, and surely it is indicative of the fundamental disconnect that while I always enjoyed the games themselves and still do, as a precocious reader, my favorite book about sports was Jim Bouton's "Ball Four," which celebrated baseball while exposing the vacuous and inane nature of jock culture.

Bouton spoke to me, fervently and personally. I fancied myself a thinker, not a sweathog. I'd have gladly settled for "lover, not a fighter," except that I hadn't been able to convince the girls of my credentials in the former, and in truth, doubted whether any such talent existed, and so it came back to my brain and I against the world. Suffice to say that according to the flavor of the time, locker rooms were mind-free zones, and brains in sports were the object of suspicion unless one happened to be an otherwise illiterate point guard who could remember the plays and run the offense.

There I was, off the senior-dominated basketball team and then back on it, contemplating yet again how it came to be that we were such underachievers, utterly failing to capitalize on the potential predicated by all observers, including my still simmering dad … and understanding, as I always had, that it all owed to a lack of cohesion. In other words, too few of us liked each other, and this distaste had a way of being glaringly obvious on the court, to Joe Hinton's fuming dismay.

Our sectional draw was a breeze. We were lumped into a bracket with smaller rural schools as a result of one or the other cynical maneuverings common to the political byways of the purportedly pristine Indiana state sport of basketball, which naturally had much more to do with smoky hotel rooms at the national party conventions of the 1920's than the farmyard ideal preferred by so many fans. They probably knew better, but worshipped just the same.

We won the sectional and advanced to play Scottsburg in the Saturday morning game at the Seymour Regional the following week. The Warriors, from a school far smaller than ours, had nonetheless soundly thrashed us at home a few weeks earlier. In today's parlance, Floyd Central had "match-up" problems with Scottsburg, which is to say that they had one of their finest teams ever, and was better than we were at almost every position. I knew there would be little playing time for me, and at that point, it really no longer mattered. Amid much hoopla and a special pep rally, we boarded the bus on Friday afternoon for the 40-minute drive, an early evening shoot-around, a buffet meal and an overnight stay at the Days Inn.

At this juncture, two worlds were about to collide. While some of my best high school friends were athletes, only a couple of them were on the basketball team. I ran in different circles, and at various times, there was beer involved, though seldom if ever during the basketball season; ambivalence aside, I tried to play it straight as often as possible. But for the Saturday regional festivities, a few of my heartier partying friends had reserved a room at the very same hotel where the team was staying – only my buddies called it the Daze Inn, and planned to treat it accordingly.

Unsurprisingly, Floyd Central exited the tournament in the morning session, and Scottsburg advanced to meet Clarksville in the evening finale. I'd like to remember that in defeat, the team came together and grasped an eternal truth or three, but from my perspective, all I felt was relief that it was over. There was a post-game chat and showers, and we returned to the hotel to eat and waste an afternoon before riding back to the gym on the bus and watching the championship game, which was to be our last obligation as a dysfunctional unit.

By the time the bus exited the Daze Inn parking lot several hours later, I was blissfully smashed. The bathtub in the party room was filled with canned beer and ice, and the story already was making the rounds as to how the designated underage beer buyer had run into a few of our teachers at the exact same package store and exchanged pleasantries with them. I was just happy to shed the weight of expectations, though clueless as to how the future would play out.

Eventually one of the assistant coaches dressed me down outside in the courtyard when he saw that I had a smoldering Swisher Sweet in my hand.

Did I really want to be kicked off the bus and suspended for smoking?

No, not at all, because I'd already decided that my final act of courageous defiance against The Man would be to drink a beer on the team bus in route to the evening game, and this I proceeded to do, crazily intoxicated, strategically seated all the way in back, a Schlitz Malt Liquor Bull artfully hidden in my gym bag, top popped discretely, and chugged quickly before being hidden again for the ride home with my parents afterward.

I'm neither ashamed nor proud of these recollections. I did what I could with what I had at the time, and if I had to do it over, I'd have worked harder at sports than I did -- not for anyone else, but for me. Seems that the work ethic came later in life, and so be it. In truth, the thing I miss most about high school is singing in choir, not playing ball. I didn't know it then, but I know it now.

I'm hoping that in the cosmic scheme of things, that's all that matters. If it isn't, I may be in trouble. Good luck to all the players in this year's tournament.

If you're lucky, you'll forget all about it very, very soon.

A couple of doozies on the (auction) block.

A 10:00 a.m. sheriff's sale on Thursday, March 13, will include the following two commercial gems:

Elias Laib Building
624 Vincennes Street

To be sold at Sheriff’s Sale Thursday, 13 March 2008 at 10:00 AM in the Office of the Sheriff of Floyd County (first floor of the City-County Building, 311 Hauss Square, New Albany). Judgment number: 22C01-0308-MF-419.

Built 1889. Italianate. The Elias Laib Building. This structure was built in 1889 by the Honorable Franklin C. Johnson, a New Albany capitalist. Mr. Johnson sold this new building to Elias Laib in June 1889 for $1,450. The property would remain in the Laib family through June 1966. Mr. Laib had his grocery and residence next door at 622 Vincennes Street. By the time of the printing of the 1892 New Albany City Directory, Frank R. Hardy had established his hardware and tin shop at this busy corner in the Uptown area of New Albany. Mr. Hardy would continue his business here until around 1910.

Baptist Tabernacle
318 East Fourth Street

To be sold at Sheriff’s Sale Thursday, 13 March 2008 at 10:00 AM in the Office of the Sheriff of Floyd County (first floor of the City-County Building, 311 Hauss Square, New Albany). Judgment number: 22C01-0612-MF-801.

When their new edifice was completed in 1879, the merged First Baptist Church and the Bank Street Baptist Church changed their name to the Baptist Tabernacle Church. Building in the Neoclassical style, the Louisville, Kentucky, contractor Watkins & Co. used New Albany laborers and materials, and New Albany's John Crawford did the brickwork. The building was begun in July 1878, and wasn't occupied until January 4, 1880. The congregation did not rush construction. They built slowly and did not propose to have the work done any faster than they could pay for it.

Readers can contact Joyce Banet in the Floyd County Sheriff's office at (812)948-5408 for more information about purchasing property through sheriff's sales.

More complete building descriptions and histories, instructions for sheriff's sale bidding, and other historic property listings can be found at the Historic New Albany web site, whence the above photos and abbreviated histories were procured.

Tribune seeks candidate questions

(E-mail release from The New Albany Tribune)

We are currently preparing our candidate questionnaire’s for the Primary Election and would like to offer the community a chance to submit questions for the county, judge and school board candidates.

If you have something you’d like all candidates to answer for voters, please e-mail your question to this address by Monday evening. If your question is selected, we can include your name or not, if you choose that option. (I apologize for the short notice. The flu got in the way of this being sent earlier this week.)

As always, we appreciate you reading The Tribune!


Steve Kozarovich
Executive Editor

Questions should be emailed to Steve.Kozarovich (at)

Friday, March 07, 2008

"...the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world."


In James Howard Kunstler's view, public spaces should be inspired centers of civic life -- the physical manifestation of the common good. Instead, he argues, what we have in America is a nation of places not worth caring about. Reengineering our cities will involve more radical change than we are prepared for, he believes, but our hand will be forced by earth crises stemming from our overconsuming lifestyle. "Life in the mid-21st century," Kunstler says, "is going to be about living locally." Passionate, profane and funny, this talk will make you think about the place where you live.

From bluegill:

Did someone mention an interest in breaking the cycle of poverty and creating pride in the community? Funny, then, that we would design our infrastructure to put workers in one place and educational opportunities, jobs, and childcare in another. A rational person might conclude that's divisive and inefficient, unless they sell petroleum products and plywood window coverings for a living. Or just want to pay more taxes for no particularly good reason.

Kunstler's Clusterfuck Nation Chronicle, published each Monday, is archived here, as referenced
by NAC's My guess? "The Gary” probably doesn't subscribe to this one.

Are you from Ireland?

Or do you know someone who is from Ireland? We're looking for someone from Ireland who lives in Southern Indiana. If you are, or if you know, then drop the senior editor a line.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

CGT for OVCE at 21c

(E-mail release from Ohio Valley Creative Energy)

Please join OVCE and 21c for an evening with:

California Guitar Trio Makes a Special Appearance at the 21c Museum in Louisville, KY.
Portion of the proceeds to benefit 21c Museum Foundation and Ohio Valley Creative Energy

Tuesday, March 11, 2008
8pm, doors at 7:30pm
Atrium Gallery
$10 in advance and $12 at the door
Cash bar
Tickets are available at Ear-X-Tacy and the 21c Hotel Front Desk

The internationally acclaimed California Guitar Trio comes to the 21c Museum for a special performance of stunning guitar talent. Fusing styles of classical, rock, blues, jazz, world music, progressive, as well as the quintessential California musical genre surf music, the eclectic Trio has toured extensively both nationally and internationally. The members of the Trio first met in England at one of Robert Fripp's Guitar Craft Courses in 1987 and toured together with Fripp's League of Crafty Guitarists. Not wishing to disband after the League had run its course, the CGT officially formed in Los Angeles in 1991, honing their intricate original compositions and classical re-workings. To date, the CGT has shared the stage with musicians such as King Crimson, Jon Anderson, Rick Wakeman, John McLaughlin, John Scofield, Tito Puente, Taj Mahal among many others and has been featured at every Olympic Games from 1998 to 2004. More information, as well as streaming audio, is available at the California Guitar Trio's website.

Please join us for a wonderful evening of music and visual art! OVCE has made some tremendous progress, and we are very close to kicking-off our $5 million dollar capital campaign. You can grab a sneak peak of the OVCE Art Center architectural design, created by (fer) studios, and funded by grants recieved from the National Endowment for the Arts and The Caesar's Foundation of Floyd County.

Warmest Regards,

Lori Beck
OVCE Director

If you've yet to check out OVCE or 21c, you ain't been living right.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

It's elementary, so why can't we learn?

In response to the video taped code enforcement discussion posted yesterday, NAC friend and local activist Lloyd "Highwayman" Wimp said:

"All that was proposed sounded like the beginnings of a solution to the problem. Now let's see some action!!

We as taxpaying property owners would much prefer that the rental industry in our city police itself.

Likewise, we'd like to see New Albany's government actually govern in the area of code enforcement as well as many other areas.

Having said that, let me assure all parties that platitudes alone will not suffice as success.

You have some time to bring in some results, but the clock is running!!"

While I agree with Lloyd as I often do, I'd further remind everyone involved, myself included, which clock is actually running and to whom the timing is directed.

As part of the new administration's much appreciated attempts to meet and communicate with neighborhood groups, I had occasion to sit in on a meeting involving several neighborhood association officers and members along with S. Ellen Jones Principal Susie Reis. It was Ms. Reis, to her credit, who reminded me what was actually at stake.

After several meeting attendees related stories of deplorable rental housing and their experiences with those who own or live in such units, Ms. Reis simply stated, "You have no idea how many times I've heard these stories from parents."

I'll be the first to admit that I very much view code enforcement and rental property improvement as a necessary part of a larger economic strategy. Better housing attracts new renters and buyers and strenuous code enforcement provides security for those who invest themselves and their money in our neighborhoods. In essence, though, that's a polite way of saying we need better people in New Albany.

The "better people" process starts with education, and our neighborhood-anchoring, publicly funded institution for providing it, S. Ellen Jones Elementary, is hampered more by irresponsible landlords than is any other plank of revitalization.

Simply put, we cannot expect to prepare children for a productive life and civic involvement when returning home from their lessons each day means facing mold, vermin, lack of heat, and faulty wiring egregious enough to kill their families on any given day. We cannot expect them to be excited about opportunities while proving to them, day in and day out, that life is about suffering and being an adult is about turning away from it unmoved and unmotivated.

Perhaps it's maudlin to say so, but code enforcement and its mechanisms aren't about property values or property taxes or having to live with decreases or increases in either. They're about children, what we as citizens are willing to let them endure in the name of business, and which excuse for doing so we'll come up with next.

There are no good ones and no good people make them.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Patience is a version.

There was a council meeting last night but quite frankly, the Building Commission, who met a little earlier, had the more intriguing agenda.

Local Realtor and landlord Pat Harrison addressed the commission regarding code enforcement and rental property inspection. Deputy Mayor Carl Malysz did the same, and Commission Chair Steve LaDuke added some comments.

I won't, letting readers or, in this case, watchers make their own.

Realtor Pat Harrison namedrops "Gestapo," seeks monopoly on disingenuousness.

Following is an excerpt from Wikipedia’s definition of Gestapo, an acronym for Geheime Staatspolizei, the “secret state police” in Nazi Germany. Any reader who can locate any conceivable correlation between the Gestapo as defined and a program of mandatory rental property inspections in the city of New Albany, as suggested twice last evening by local realtor Pat Harrison during blatantly disingenuous and self-serving remarks before the Building Commission, is encouraged to report these to us.

The video is here: Patience is a version.


The role of the Gestapo was to investigate and combat “all tendencies dangerous to the state.”

It had the authority to investigate treason, espionage and sabotage cases, and cases of criminal attacks on the Nazi Party and Germany.

Laws passed in 1935 effectively gave the Gestapo carte blanche to operate without judicial oversight. Nazi jurist Dr. Werner Best stated that “[a]s long as the Gestapo ... carries out the will of the leadership, it is acting legally.” The Gestapo was specifically exempted from responsibility to administrative courts, where citizens normally could sue the state to conform to laws.

A further law passed later in the year gave the Gestapo responsibility for setting up and administering concentration camps. Also in 1935, Reinhard Heydrich became head of the Gestapo and Heinrich Müller, chief of operations; Müller would later assume overall command of the Gestapo after Heydrich's assassination in 1942 and Ernst Kaltenbrunner would take over as overall head of the RSHA and SD. Adolf Eichmann was Müller's direct subordinate and head of department IV, section B5, which dealt with Jews.

The power of the Gestapo most open to misuse was called Schutzhaft—“protective custody,” a euphemism for the power to imprison people without judicial proceedings, typically in concentration camps. The person imprisoned even had to sign his or her own Schutzhaftbefehl, an order declaring that the person had requested imprisonment (ostensibly out of fear of personal harm). Normally this signature was forced by beatings and torture.

During World War II, the Gestapo was expanded to around 46,000 members.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Will not think for food.

A recent discussion with friends concerning local food production and distribution-- or, more specifically, the lack thereof-- got me wondering about the economic impact of non-local food sales.

To wit, I was able to reference a 2005 study completed by IU Southeast faculty members Jon Bingham, M.A. and Dagney Faulk, Ph.D. and published in the Indiana Business Review, for information about local food expenditures.

By using the low-cost plan from Official USDA Food Plans: Cost of Food at Home at Four Levels, U.S. Average, December 2004 and adjusting it to Midwest pricing, Bingham and Faulk were able to determine that average monthly food costs for variously configured families of two or more in our region range from $353 to $599.

The 2000 census shows 21,057 households in Floyd County with two or more people. Obviously, there are 12 months in a year.

$353 x 21,057 x 12 = $89,197,452

$599 X 21,057 X 12 = $151,357,716

Assuming that all food is prepared in-house, our annual county expenditure on home cooked meals is between $89.2 million and $151.4 million, not including the over 6,000 single person households.

In fairness, some of the money spent undoubtedly goes toward local wages to the extent our mostly chain grocery stores provide employment. The trouble is that those typically low-paying jobs are one of the few mechanisms we have for local food dollar retention.

I admittedly know very little about the food retail business but, if profit from such operations in Floyd County is calculated using the study numbers and the 6% net profit rate reported by large grocery chains a few years ago, it amounts to between $5.4 million and $9.1 million annually, the large majority of which is removed from our local economy and transferred to out-of-state corporate entities along with the jobs and tax revenues those dollars generate.

According to the Louisville Independent Business Alliance, independent local businesses do a much better job of keeping our dollars in the community via a multiplier effect, that is, by hiring other local firms to provide services like accounting, construction, signage, legal representation, and insurance. For every $100 spent at a community-based business, $45 goes back into the local economy. A typical corporate chain only returns $13 per $100.

On the low end of our annual food expenditures, $89.2 million spent with local food merchants would return approximately $40.1 million to our local economy. The same amount spent at a chain would retain only $11.6 million. If we purchase from out-of-state corporations, our grocery buying habits cost the local and state economy $28.5 million per year in Floyd County alone and it's only one of 92 counties in the state.

Not satisfied with that self-flagellation, we sometimes compound our losses by offering tax abatements to non-local grocery chains as an enticement to locate here. Doing so not only makes our economy and tax base less sustainable, but also encourages significant additional shipping with associated cost increases in traffic congestion, infrastructure maintenance, and negative environmental impact. Moreover, it ties food costs more closely to fuel costs. When we demand more fuel to ship all of our food, we ultimately pay more for both.

As our food purchasing model is replicated from county to county and state to state, those costs increase exponentially, leaving us holding the bag- a grocery bag in this case, with much less in it.

There are lots of ways to starve ourselves. It's unfortunate that we've figured out how to make buying food one of them.