Thursday, November 30, 2017

ON THE AVENUES: The 29 most influential books in my life.

ON THE AVENUES: The 29 most influential books in my life.

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

I'm told that on average, Americans spend five hours each day watching television. It's harder to guess at the number of movies we consume in a year, but adding another hour to the daily TV calculation probably covers it.

These numbers completely baffle me. It's just incomprehensible, and if I dwell on it for too long, I'm afraid to leave the house. No wonder zombies are venerated.

I watch almost no television, and possibly as few as a dozen movies a year. Documentaries and educational programming are my weakness, and if they're lumped in with musical performances, the combined total might account for an hour a day per annum.

To me, the vast majority of programs designated as "entertainment" are either violent or stupid, and sometimes both. Naturally there are exceptions, but since we Americans are surrounded by violence and stupidity on a daily basis, why waste all that time proving what I already know?

That's not entertaining at all.

What about sports? As a collective entity, they're a tail wagging the dog. I'll catch a game here and there, and stay abreast by glancing at the standings and reading the sports pages on-line.

The same goes for news. Having come to detest marketing, advertising and the insulting dumbing-down of topics that genuinely matter to me, any exposure to television news is like taking a bath in poison ivy, so I have to be careful and place limits on the pain.

During those five or six daily hours when everyone else is watching television or movies, I'm writing, reading, listening to music or indulging in conversation. There's nothing elitist or condescending about these habits. They're who I am and what I do. Self-actualization means marching to your own rhythm section, so long as it isn't hurtful to others.

Consequently, one of the most important lessons I’ve absorbed during my first half-century-plus on Planet Earth is this: I reserve the right not to answer the question you ask me, but to respond in perfect candor to the one I’d rather hear.

When challenged on social media back in the summer of 2014 to name my top ten most influential books, I immediately decided to select 25 … well, maybe 29 … and to post them here at the blog.

I've since revised and updated the list a time or two, and remain cognizant that it isn't easy to maintain a sense of perspective when so much about the notion of "influential" is dependent on time and distance. The novels 2666 (Roberto Bolano) and Jerusalem (Alan Moore) might be deemed suitable for inclusion in the future, though not just yet.

The books are arranged alphabetically, not by magnitude of influence, which is a judgment I couldn’t possibly make. Oddly, there aren’t any books about music. Perhaps I’ve been too busy listening to remember them.



Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand
Not because of the mentally unbalanced author, her bizarre message or the self-indulgent politics it spawned, but because my high school senior literature teacher ordered me to read it in two weeks flat after I joked that Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations wasn’t sufficiently challenging. Point taken, Bob Youngblood (R.I.P.).

Point very much taken. It won’t happen again.

A Book of Memories, by Péter Nádas.
An intricate novel that tells three love stories, with an undercurrent of Communism’s effect on human relationships. To this day, I can’t explain this book’s hold on me. It's just one of those inexplicable grips.

Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell
Interwoven stories illustrating universality, masterfully executed, and barely nudging out the same writer’s more recent novel, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet.

A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole
This hands-down classic New Orleans comic novel never gets old. More than 30 years later, I laugh aloud whenever passing a hot dog cart, glimpsing a pirate or reading the name Boethius.

Dracula, by Bram Stoker
Traditions of Transylvanian folklore meet straitlaced Anglo conventions, as explained through letters, diaries and logs combining to define the vampire genre as we know it today.

Foucault’s Pendulum, by Umberto Eco
What happens when the imaginary occult conspiracy proves to be all too real? This novel ties it all together.

Gravity’s Rainbow, by Thomas Pynchon
Ostensibly a novel about rockets, although that doesn’t come anywhere close to describing the quirkiness of the ride.

The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway
Beautifully rendered story, and perhaps the ultimate expression of Papa’s lean prose style, written as darkness neared.

The Pope's Rhinoceros, by Lawrence Norfolk
In the early 1500s, a scheme is hatched to influence the Pope with the gift of a rhinoceros. The author's descriptions of daily life in Rome are classic reminders of why we shouldn't trust epic historical films casting actors with nice white teeth.

Under the Volcano, by Malcolm Lowry
The doomed, self-destructive Consul, Geoffrey Firmin, stumbles drunkenly through his last day on earth, amid the Day of the Dead, in the shadow of two Mexican volcanoes.


And the Band Played On, by Randy Shilts
Profoundly moving journalistic account of the onset of AIDS, but moreover, a book that helped me to understand lots of issues we weren't taught in school.

Annals of the Former World, by John McPhee
For me to both read AND be enamored by a book about geology is unfathomable. But there it is. Tectonic plates, anyone?

Atheism: The Case Against God, by George H. Smith
The Bible insofar as my introduction to atheism was concerned; an otherwise unknown and forgotten book that I fortuitously spotted at the NA-FC public library in 1979, reinforcing what I already knew was true.

Ball Four, by Jim Bouton
Groundbreaking, ribald baseball expose, which I’ve been joyfully quoting from for more than 40 years.

Betty Crocker’s International Cookbook (1980 edition)
Once I’d been to Europe, there was a problem; Louisville didn’t have as many ethnic eateries then as now, and I was enamored of certain European menu items. The solution was here.

The Civil War: A Narrative, by Shelby Foote
I’ve read perhaps 200 books about the American Civil War, and at one time, Bruce Catton’s Army of the Potomac trilogy would have been the most influential, but Foote currently wins out. Factual storytelling at its finest.

Dino: Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams, by Nick Tosches
Yes, it is possible to chart the entire 20th-century history of American pop culture, and a good deal of non-pop culture history, through an examination of the life of entertainer Dean Martin.

A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century, by Barbara Tuchman
A chronicle of the late Middle Ages (plague, crusades and schism), woven around the tumultuous life of a French nobleman.

Europe on $25-A-Day, by Arthur Frommer (1985 edition)
The Bible insofar as my introduction to budget travel was concerned. Armed with the plausible theories contained therein, I swapped a seven-day jaunt for a three-month baptism, and still had a C-note left over upon returning home.

The Fall of the Dynasties: The Collapse of the Old Order, 1905-1922, by Edmond Taylor
Written in 1963, I discovered the book in 1979, and it contributed immeasurably to my fascination with the European empires that collapsed during and after the Great War.

Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ‘72, by Hunter S. Thompson
In which the author suffers a nervous breakdown, but somehow manages to enduringly explain the ways modern American electoral politics work.

The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History, by John Barry
I originally read this account of the deadly influenza outbreak at the end of World War I while laid up with pneumonia, which is not a course I recommend.

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, by Michael Lewis
The only sports team of any kind possessing my allegiance is the Oakland Athletics, and while Lewis’s book ostensibly is about a Billy Beane’s (A’s general manager) winning strategies, it’s really about the art of winning any unfair game, baseball or otherwise.

Prejudices: The Complete Series, by H.L. Mencken
The Bible insofar as my introduction to polemics was concerned. For my money, Mencken is the greatest expository writer America has produced.

Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945, by Tony Judt
It’s no more than a history of the whole continent since WWII, both west and east, and while this might not seem significant, try to find another like it.

Selected Essays, by Samuel Johnson
The late Dr. Richard Brengle introduced me to Samuel Johnson in an expository writing class at IU Southeast, and it was the exact moment I knew I’d never be a novelist or a poet. I’m an essayist, period.

Tastes of Paradise: A Social History of Spices, Stimulants and Intoxicants, by Wolfgang Schivelbusch
In essence, the pursuit of pleasure through trendy substances, beginning with the spice trade, irrevocably modified the social order in Europe.

The Uses of the Past, by Herbert J. Muller
Beautifully written essays on the lessons of history, offered by an Indiana University professor (1905-1980). In 1985, I made a special effort to travel to Istanbul for the express purpose of visiting the Hagia Sophia, precisely because of Muller’s description of the church.

The World Guide to Beer/The New World Guide to Beer, by Michael Jackson
The Bible insofar as my introduction to better beer was concerned. Jackson invented contemporary beer writing, and since his death, there have been no challengers to his pre-eminence.


Recent columns:

November 23: ON THE AVENUES: A few thanks to give before we return to our regular resistance programming.

November 16: ON THE AVENUES: Harvest Homecoming chairman of the board David White replies to Cisa Kubley's column of November 2.

November 9: ON THE AVENUES: When it comes to beer, less might yet be more.

November 2: ON THE AVENUES: A downtown business owner's open letter to Harvest Homecoming.

Public housing putsch: "New Albany’s government is being reckless and disorganized. Gahan’s power grabs are not much different from those of Governor Selfie in Kentucky."

Opposed to Mad Gahan's socioeconomic cleansing? Please register your point of view by signing the petition at We Are New Albany.

Meanwhile, Erica Rucker called City Hall, and she's waiting for a reply. If there is any one thing we've learned during the Anals of New Gahania, it's that Team Gahan will not rush to make a decision on the finalization of any and all requests for information and dialogue; instead, the city will take its time and be methodical.*

Don't hold your breath, Erica. What you'll be getting, if anything at all is proffered, goes like this: "The City does not possess the above referenced items."

New Albany’s plan gets personal, by Erica Rucker (LEO Weekly)

New Albany, let’s talk.

I’m a Louisvillian by birth, and my heart still lives in the River City, but I sleep in New Albany because I married a Hoosier. I love much about this hamlet; and I am excited to see it growing and changing.

What doesn’t excite me is a questionable plan coming out of Mayor Jeff Gahan’s office over a housing project proposal that will affect 1,500 or more New Albany residents, including one of my oldest and dearest friends, Gloria Nelly, 46. We’ve been friends for over 30 years.

You see, Gloria, lives in Parkview Terrace with her sons. It is important to me that she and her family have a place to sleep, be warm and celebrate their holidays.

In March 2017, the News and Tribune reported that the Housing Authority of New Albany, under the thumb of Gahan, plans to destroy 635 of its 1,100 public housing units. Gahan’s idea is to reduce the number of public dwellings held by the city. The problem is — there is no plan for rebuilding or relocating residents. They claim there will be plans, but nothing solid has been made available. At least not one I can easily locate.

I did call the city, and I’m waiting for a response ...

* Let it be known that Pat McLaughlin's never going to live down that "methodical" street grid quote ... ever.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

For the record, my letter to the city controller v.v. payroll claims.

I e-mailed this letter at 12:00 p.m. on Wednesday, November 29, 2017. Like sand in the hourglass, so are the days of our lives ... in the absence of a newspaper.


To: Linda Moeller, city controller


On November 7, 2017, the Board of Public Works and Safety approved claims presented to the body by your office. My request concerns a specific claim, as follows:

Payroll Claims: 1,058,603.61
(Bank 2)

Can you please provide me with an itemized listing of these claims? If these are not accessible to members of the public according to the stipulations of Indiana’s Public Access Laws, can you point me to the section explaining this?



A chorus of methodical yawns as KIPDA gives Gahan a KITE award. Lest we forget, Milli Vanilli got a Grammy, too.

What could go wrong?

After all, Gahan's been lip-synching his fidelity to complete, walkable streets since ... say, what time is it, anyway?

Amid the boilerplate back-slapping, there are two interesting passages. First, this.

“I want to highlight and emphasize that the city did not rush to make a decision on the finalization of the conversion project. Instead, the city took its time and was methodical. The City also was not afraid to compromise and modify the plan as needed, especially when it came to changes prompted by the feedback received from residents. This project exemplifies how local government, community members, and contractors can come together to design the best plan for their city,” stated City Council President Patrick McLaughlin.

Yep. After 13 years of resistance, words like "glacial" and "tortoise-like" are better choices than "methodical," though KIPDA probably didn't take the sloth into consideration -- and who cares whether Rob and Fab actually sang, as long as the show looked good?

Then there's this.

“I was a supporter for the two-way conversion from the beginning. The traffic has slowed and our building is more visible now. I believe it will help all downtown merchants,” stated Terry Middleton, owner of Terry Middleton’s Karate/Kickboxing/Boxing on Market Street.

To repeat, "from the beginning" means roughly 2004, not the exact moment last autumn when BOW finally approved the street grid change, and at long last it became safe to board the Snail Express. That's when McLaughlin jumped on.

Interestingly, in a News and Tribune article from June 11, 2016, reporter Danielle Grady found Middleton nowhere near as enthused.

Terry Middleton has operated a kickboxing school on Market Street for 44 years. He said he is for whatever is best for downtown New Albany, which could be switching some streets, but not others.

If you'll excuse me, I'm off to pretend to croon some pop songs -- just like Gahan will continue to pretend he scored a perfect 100 on New Albany's street grid reform. In actuality, it was a 67, which comes out to a C only because most Democrats are content to grade him on the curve.

Not me.

SHANE'S EXCELLENT NEW WORDS: From cutpurse to fizgig, or an entertaining list of archaic words.

A word that only recently came into existence is new, but so is a word with which you were previously unfamiliar.

For instance, archaic words. Once they were known, but their groove was lost.

I love lists like this. So many wonderful potential names for a Northeastern IPA are herein.

These words are no longer in everyday use or have lost a particular meaning in current usage but are sometimes used to impart an old-fashioned flavour to historical novels, for example, or in standard conversation or writing just for a humorous effect. Some, such as bedlam, reveal the origin of their current meaning, while others reveal the origin of a different modern word, as with gentle, the sense of which is preserved in gentleman. Some, such as learn and let, now mean the opposite of their former use.

Following are 12 archaic words, with dozens and dozens more at the web site. Lovers of vintage literature probably will recognize more than a few.

bibliopole ... a dealer in books

caducity ... the infirmity of old age; senility

cicisbeo ... a married woman's male companion or lover

dandiprat ... a young or insignificant person

embouchure ... the mouth of a river

gudgeon ... a credulous person

jakes ... an outdoor toilet

kickshaw ... a fancy but insubstantial cooked dish

peregrinate ... travel or wander from place to place

quidnunc ... an inquisitive, gossipy person

scaramouch ... a boastful but cowardly person

yclept ... by the name of

Zirin: "Sports Tax Scams Laid the Groundwork for Amazon Bidding Madness."

Try to imagine another major American sports writer saying this:

Our love of sports laid the groundwork for the madness of "lotteryism." We’re the frog in the slowly boiling water. And they are not content merely to cook us. We’re also their dinner.

And, as the ever-masterful Zirin notes in this essay, "lotteryism (is) little more than corporate theft, in collusion with often Democratic Party–led governments."

Earlier this morning, Zirin tweeted this closing thought.

You think it's possible that Trump is turning up the vile racism at precisely this moment to push through a tax bill that benefits the 1% so we fight each other while he robs us blind?

Think so? It seems to be working, isn't it?

Sports Tax Scams Laid the Groundwork for Amazon Bidding Madness, by Dave Zirin (The Nation)

Cities that have been most shameless in their stadium spending are now groveling for Amazon’s largess

The terrific podcast Citations Needed, hosted by Nima Shirazi and Adam Johnson, call it “lotteryism”—the grotesque process where local and state governments bid for Fortune 500 companies by offering billions of dollars in tax breaks in the hopes that they will relocate to their cities. The most high-profile example of this right now is, of course, Amazon. Politicians across the country are offering absurd packages to attract the new “Amazon HQ2” headquarters. These enticements will gut services for those who depend on public schools, hospitals, public transportation, and basic infrastructure. This is not to say that Amazon won’t bring jobs to these cities. It is making promises of thousands of permanent hires. But the pound of flesh being offered for these jobs is frightening.

Chicago has said Amazon could keep employees’ income tax, a total estimated at $1.32 billion, according to the Seattle publication The Stranger. New Jersey has offered a staggering $7 billion dollars in tax breaks. Boston has offered to have city employees be privatized workers when doing work under the auspices of Jeff Bezos’s empire: his own army of the underclass. Southern California is offering $100 million in free land. Fresno is offering to “place 85 percent of every tax dollar generated by Amazon into a so-called ‘Amazon Community Fund.’” This would give Amazon control over where our taxes flow, which undoubtedly would be in the direction of its own well-compensated employees—think parks, bike lanes, condo development—creating a new model of gentrification, directly subsidized by the traffic tickets and meters and regressive taxation of the poor.

Fresno’s economic development director Larry Westerlund told the Los Angeles Times, “Rather than the money disappearing into a civic black hole, Amazon would have a say on where it will go. Not for the fire department on the fringe of town, but to enhance their own investment in Fresno.” Sure would suck to have your home on fire if you live on the “fringe of town.”

This is little more than corporate theft, in collusion with often Democratic Party–led governments. And publicly funded sports stadium scams and Olympic bidding wars laid the groundwork for it. They have normalized the idea that our tax dollars exist to fund the projects of the wealthy, with benefits trickling down in ways that only produce more thirst ...

For the record, my letter to redevelopment officials v.v. Dan Coffey's for-pay parking lot on city property during Harvest Homecoming.

I e-mailed this letter at 8:36 a.m. on Wednesday, November 29, 2017. For previous articles on the topic, go here: The Redevelopment Commission's meeting calendar has been scrubbed from the city's web site, but somehow, somewhere, they'll be asked about Coffey's pocket-lining parking project.

Like sand in the hourglass, so are the days of our lives ... in the absence of a newspaper.


To: Shane Gibson, interim Redevelopment director
To: Adam Dickey, Redevelopment Commission secretary

Good morning, gentlemen.

As has become widely known, during Harvest Homecoming the city-owned property at the foot of Bank Street was being used by the formerly Democratic councilman Dan Coffey to sell parking, supposedly on behalf of the Knights of Columbus (although the exact accounting of this remains unknown).

I’ve been trying to determine who granted Coffey permission to use city property for this purpose. Developer Matt Chalfant told me he had no contact with Coffey, and in any event, didn’t take possession of the property (presumably for his projected future construction) until after the festival.

The Board of Public Works and Safety publicly told me it was not approached and knows nothing. President Warren Nash suggested I ask Redevelopment.

Councilman David Barksdale told me he can’t remember it coming up at a Redevelopment Commission meeting, and observed that interim director Gibson might know.

I looked at posted minutes on redevelopment’s web site, and saw no mention. However, minutes for October have yet to be published (?), and I can find no calendar for the commission’s meeting dates, which (perhaps) have been changed from twice to once monthly?

I’m hoping one of you can shed some light on this. If the K of C actually received the bulk of the money for the cars being parked during Harvest Homecoming, that’s fine insofar as it goes, except there was no publicly stated process for determining which other worthy entities might undertake the effort. Not to mention the potential liability …

My question: Did the Redevelopment Commission, or someone on the city’s redevelopment staff, or one of you, or the mayor himself, issue explicit permission for Coffey to use public property for parking cars during Harvest Homecoming?

If yes, is there a record?

If no, then doesn’t this mean it was illegal, and if so, what does the city propose to do about it?

Thanks for your cooperation,


Dan Canon: "If you're ready for change, I'm ready to fight for it." Meanwhile, Gahan's public housing putsch proceeds apace.

New Albany's public housing residents are among the city most vulnerable. To borrow candidate Canon's words, they're getting screwed by a government that doesn't listen, and they need someone to fight for them.

This poses a vexing problem for local Democrats, seeing as the perpetrator of this outrage isn't a Republican.

Jeff Gahan is a Democrat, or at least he plays one at ribbon cuttings, and not only is Gahan's attitude toward these folks just as callous, unresponsive and condescending as any stereotypical and villainous Republican's might be, because in addition, Gahan is the apple of the local party's eye, a gleaming fertilizer of patronage in human form. 

If the term "great white hope" didn't already exist, we'd need to invent it to describe the emerging cult of personality of Gahanism. No one has swallowed more of the abundant Kool-Aid than party chairman Adam Dickey, and whichever of the mayor's family members currently occupy positions of party authority.

As progressive Democrats nationwide follow candidate Canon's lead and follow the money, Gahan has only one default setting for pretend-governance: "Show me even more money."

Candidate Canon's video is stirring. It pushes all the right buttons. Unfortunately for local Democrats, the cognitive dissonance can only worsen, because these criticisms comprise an index finger pointing right at Gahan.

Or maybe it's a middle finger. Sometimes I can't tell them apart.

We're fast approaching a year since Gahan's public housing putsch was launched. In all this time, not a single local Democratic elected official apart from the mayor himself has bothered to comment for attribution on this situation.

As for the local Democratic candidates contesting state elections in 2018, only Anna Murray has responded with hopes for a good outcome, but little in the way of specifics.

Let's hope the Democratic silence dissipates. As it stands, the hypocrisy is a tad constricting, even by Dickey's world-class standards -- and I'd dearly love to have someone to vote for next year.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

For a second consecutive day, City Hall ineffectually defends its abysmal record of tree abuse.

It's worth remembering the project's grandiloquent official title: Mt. Tabor Road Restoration and Pedestrian Safety Project.

Except that in today's City Hall spoon-feeding, nothing much is written about "safety." There's a small bit about "restoration," then the tired blurb flies off the rails with another rote defense of Jeff Gahan's amazing, quasi-Biblical record of inerrancy.

This time it's Krisjans Streips' turn to reveal that City Hall is developing an escalating sensitivity about Gahan's horrid deforestation habit.

Of course, it should be a relatively simple matter to ask for evidence of all these tree replantings. Surely the Tree Board and all of Gahan's overstuffed contractor buddies have retained records, correct?

Which reminds me: I did ask, 18 months ago.

2016 council budget hearing: Money for the Tree Board to cut trees, or plant them?

Back in May I attended a Tree Board meeting in search of information about its meetings, which I requested from the board's staff person, Krisjans Streips. This particular ray of sunshine has yet to break through Team Gahan's patented Transparency Prevention Modulator, but I digress.

You already know the answer: zilch; nada; ничего ... crickets chirping, pins dropping, and somewhere a lonesome mutt wailing.

Thanks for reading NA Confidential, dudes. The more you ignore us, the closer we get.

Mt. Tabor Road Project to Begin in Summer 2018

 ... In preparation of the project and to accommodate utility relocation, a contractor will be trimming and removing certain trees within the right-of-way along Mt. Tabor Road. By performing the utility relocation in advance of the full project, the city hopes to reduce the construction time of the overall project. These trees will be marked in advance. All property owners were compensated for trees that will be removed as part of the project, and the city will make efforts, similar to other areas and projects around New Albany, to repopulate the tree canopy.

“The City is making it a priority to improve the tree canopy,” stated stated Krisjans Streips, Chief City Planner and Tree Board Administrator. “Hundreds of trees have been planted in parks and on the Greenway, and trees will be replaced along the public right of way at a 3:1 ratio. This is a great safety, drainage, and road reconstruction project all rolled into one.”

Grid Control, Vol. 30: These weird, useless "enhanced" crosswalk gizmos remind us that HWC's and Deaf Gahan's "complete roads" downtown are not "complete streets."

They've been called "enhanced" crosswalks and "high visibility" crosswalks. They're a prominent feature of downtown New Albany's new two-way street (or is it "road"?) grid.

In the following announcement from the University of Virginia, crosswalk safety remains entirely about the pedestrian, who must "use" these mechanisms correctly in the faith-driven hope that drivers might understand their own responsibilities to share the patch.

Not everyone pushes the button.

But how many drivers are paying attention?

How many know what this means?

Rapid Flashing Beacons Enhance Crosswalk Safety at the Push of a Button

... “Rapid Flashing Beacons allow the University to put more lights in more locations across Grounds in ways that are less invasive, easier to maintain, and less disruptive to traffic. Most importantly, RFBs are very reliable. All of this points to increased pedestrian safety if used correctly,” said Director of Safety and Emergency Preparedness Marge Sidebottom.

Because these lights are above ground at approximately eye level, it’s easy for pedestrians to check that lights are flashing before entering the crosswalk. Drivers should be aware that flashing lights means that a pedestrian is near. Unfortunately, though, not everyone pushes the button.

“The key to safety is that pedestrians must activate the lights,” Sidebottom said. “Studies have shown that the rapid flashing lights are effective in getting drivers' attention, but pedestrians need to push the button. Then, they need make sure that cars have stopped before entering the road. Pedestrians always face the greatest danger in a run-in with a car, regardless of who has the legal right-of-way.”

This passage might have been written by HWC Engineering, hence the sad reality of the imperfect implementation of two-way roads (are they streets?) in New Albany.

That's because as a non-automotive user of the city streets, I've found these credit-card-sized flashing beacons to be complete and utter jokes.

People walking still will find it far safer to look both ways and cross in the middle of a block; in spite of claims that traffic is moving more slowly since the reversion, the fact is that far too few calming measures were built into the rebooted grid. Team Gahan bet the farm that "friction" alone would calm traffic sufficiently for the myriad other two-way benefits to emerge.

Maybe, though these streets are still straightaways, just like before. They're still built to promote speed and indifference, just like before, though now with "enhanced" crosswalk beacons intended not as a legitimate means of rectifying a root problem, but as a "hey, we did something" gesture, another bright, shiny paste-over symbol, this one pointing to how the fundamental mobility issues downtown have not been addressed at all by a "modernization" program that preserved (certainly on purpose) the downtown grid as composed of "complete roads" rather than altered into "complete streets."

Charles Marohn nails the explanation of this difference in a six-year-old post from Strong Towns. It is published here in its entirety. Jeff Gahan made sausage out of Jeff Speck's prime proposals by handing them to HWC Engineering, and HWC Engineering co-opted it in precisely the fashion described by Marohn.

Speck understood the transformative nature of a genuine complete street. Gahan feared it.

Cowardice won.



The idea of a Complete Street is compelling in almost every way, but when the engineering profession begins to adopt it wholesale, we need to pause and look at the outcomes. Are we getting Complete Streets, or are we getting Complete Roads. The difference is tremendous and will impact the financial viability of an approach to building places that is long overdue.

The Complete Streets concept is one that is long overdue. We've spent two generations transforming a public realm once comprised of walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods into auto-only zones. These are places where the kids used to play ball in the street. Today a kid can't even play safely in their own front yard.

At Strong Towns, we've worked to illuminate the fact that this transformation has been done at tremendous financial cost. This is not only because the construction of wider, flatter and straighter streets has been expensive, but because the auto-centric nature of the transformed public realm drives private-sector investment out of traditional neighborhoods, dislocating it to places that provide more buffering to the car.

Not only that, but the redevelopment that has happened in these neighborhoods has largely been on a suburban framework, using the parking ratios, setbacks and coverage restrictions of modern zoning to reduce density (and the rate of return). Financially, these places are largely insolvent, lacking the tax base to maintain their basic infrastructure.

Enter the concept of a Complete Street. To me, the fundamental contribution of Complete Streets to the discourse surrounding the future of our towns and neighborhoods is the recognition that our streets must serve more than just cars and that the public realm can no longer be an auto-only zone. The fact that the Complete Streets model has broken the stranglehold that the auto-only design mentality has had on our streets should be the cause of unending rejoice.

In March I was able to have dinner with Kaid Benfield. During the course of our conversation, he enlightened me on how the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards were tweaked with Neighborhood Design principles. The result, LEED-ND, takes a great concept -- buildings that are energy efficient and environmentally friendly -- and overlays it on a development framework that reinforces these principles. In other words, no more "green" buildings in the middle of a greenfield, with 30 mile commutes each way.

In a similar vein, we're going to now, humbly, suggest a way in which the Complete Streets concept can evolve to achieve what I believe is its principle intent, that being Complete Neighborhoods.

I've now seen two projects where engineers promoted the use of "complete streets". In each I see the engineering profession co-opting the Complete Streets moniker without any thought to a Complete Neighborhood. For the engineers on these projects, the approach remains the same. I'll quote from our piece, Confessions of a Recovering Engineer:

An engineer designing a street or road prioritizes the world in this way, no matter how they are instructed:

Traffic speed
Traffic volume

The rest of the world generally would prioritize things differently, as follows:

Traffic volume
Traffic speed

In other words, the engineer first assumes that all traffic must travel at speed. Given that speed, all roads and streets are then designed to handle a projected volume. Once those parameters are set, only then does an engineer look at mitigating for safety and, finally, how to reduce the overall cost (which at that point is nearly always ridiculously expensive).

One of the places I've seen Complete Streets applied is My Hometown's Last Great Old Economy Project (also known as the College Drive project). In this instance, the design starts with a minimum design speed and a projected traffic volume, the latter being the stated impetus for the project. This analysis provides us with four lanes of fast-moving traffic. The engineers then move on to the "safety" criteria and the mandate that -- if we can afford it -- we accommodate bikes and pedestrians. This is done, of course, at tremendous cost - estimated at over $7 million for a mile of road.

Now notice that I called this route a "road" and not a "street". Understanding the difference between a road and a street is critical to understanding the problem we have with engineers misusing the Complete Streets approach. From our Placemaking Principles for a Strong Town:

To build an affordable transportation system, a Strong Town utilizes roads to move traffic safely at high speeds outside of neighborhoods and urban areas. Within neighborhoods and urban areas, a Strong Town uses complex streets to equally accommodate the full range of transportation options available to residents.

Roads move cars at high speeds. Streets move cars at very slow speeds. We should build roads outside of neighborhoods, connecting communities across distances. We should build streets within neighborhoods where there are homes, businesses and other destinations. The auto-road is a post-WW II replacement of the rail-road. The street should be what it has always been; the street.

The fundamental design flaw of the post WW II development pattern -- the false premise upon which every other design tragedy has been committed -- is the transformation of our streets into roads.

High speed auto travel has no place in urban areas where the cost of development demands a complex neighborhood pattern with a mixing of uses, multiple modes of travel and a public realm that enhances the value of the adjacent properties. High speed traffic destroys value in our neighborhoods. It drives out investment. There is no amount of pedestrian enhancement that we can build to offset the negative response people have to being in the close proximity of speeding traffic.

Without aggressive traffic calming -- which is part of the Complete Streets playbook -- we will simply be building Complete Roads. A Complete Road will not transform the public realm, no matter how much money we put into accommodating pedestrians and bikers with bridges and tunnels. A Complete Road will not attract significant private-sector investment in the key neighborhoods where we have so much existing infrastructure liability. And a Complete Road will cost a fortune, without changing the insolvency problem facing our cities.

If there is one thing our current financial situation should teach us about the engineering profession it is this: engineers will bankrupt us if given the chance to build our cities and towns the way they envision them. It is predictable that the engineering profession will embrace the concept of a Complete Road -- which is nothing more than a bad design made PC by throwing an expensive bone to bikers and pedestrians -- because it fits with their hierarchy of values (speed, volume, safety and then cost). Insidiously, promoting Complete Roads will ensure them more funding than they would otherwise receive. You can call them "streets" all you want - unchecked, they are going to build "roads". (For example, check out the 14-foot highway lane widths on the Complete "Street" cross section on My Hometown's Last Great Old Economy Project).

We love Complete Streets. They are essential to a Strong Town. Let's get out there and build them, but make sure the engineers don't con you into a Complete Road. Demand slow cars and a Complete Neighborhood to go along with your Complete Street.


For previous Grid Control series links, go here.

Monday, November 27, 2017

ASK THE BORED: It's Mt. Tabor Road's turn to be pillaged as our lumberjack fetishist mayor readies another round of clear-cutting -- for the sake of the cars, of course.

See, it's right there on the agenda for tomorrow morning's meeting.

But there's more.

Today at Gahanskaya Pravda there occurred what I believe is the auto-erotic (in more ways than one) City Hall rag's first ever reprint.

It's been four months since the mayor triumphantly announced what amounts to a survey of previously sawed stumps; having felled hundreds and perhaps thousands of trees during the course of his Ceausescu-esque TIF and Green(!)way projects, he'd now prove there was the beginning of the precursor to an embryonic "master" plan to reforest the city by 2065 or so.

Okay, okay. We already knew there'd been an anti-climactic midsummer's announcement about a flaccid urban canopy inventory grant that does nothing to dull Gahan's overworked chain saws.

Question: So, why repeat the story four months later?

Answer: Minions at City Hall, who refuse to concede they read NA Confidential, know via telepathy, osmosis or maybe just their surreptitious reading of NA Confidential that NA Confidential dutifully reads the weekly Board of Public Works and Safety packet.

In short, today's rerun was pre-emptive, and all we can say in response is this most heartfelt of sentiments:

Thanks for reading NA Confidential

When's the last time they had to work this cleverly in order to upstage, pre-empt or even show the vaguest awareness of the local chain newspaper?



BIG LEAK! The Green Mouse has obtained an advance copy of Deaf Gahan's "Long Term Urban Canopy Inventory and Management."

The simple fact is we've all become numb to Jeff Gahan's signature Shade Eradication Program.

Pusillanimous prioritization? Nickels and dimes later, it remains that we need HUNDREDS of trees planted yearly, not a few dozen.

Team Gahan has clear-cut virtually the entire city, so it's the perfect time to begin pretending the junta cares about trees.

Chainsaws are the soundtrack to our anchors: "How Should We Pay for Street Trees?"

La Tiendita on Market evolves; more of a restaurant, less of a grocery, and with plans to stay put -- and that's good.

I'm pulling for this independent family-owned business.

Previously on January 31, 2017:
A hearty welcome to La Tiendita ("the little shop") on Market, at 111 W. Market, where Aladdin used to be.

It's the real deal, and highly recommended by the Confidential household.

The lunch crowd loves this New Albany Mexican restaurant, by Danielle Grady (Jeffersonville Noise and Tribunal)

NEW ALBANY — La Tiendita on Market wasn’t supposed to be a restaurant.

Daniel Martinez, 22, opened the New Albany business as a Hispanic grocery store in January, something he thought the area needed.

But the small space, previously home to Aladdin’s Cafe, is situated neatly next to several large downtown places-of-work: the City-County Building, the Lee H. Hamilton Federal Building/U.S. Courthouse and more.

Soon, Martinez was bombarded by requests from walk-ins for food.

Great Unanswered Questions, Volume 1: How many Bicentennial books were sold, and who paid for the ones that didn't sell?

Throughout history, mankind has grappled with vexing existential questions.

Does God exist?
What's the meaning of life?
Why are we here?

Conversely, NA Confidential's questions are far more down to earth, even if answers to them tend to be just as infuriatingly elusive as the those queries pertaining to the wider cosmos.

From time to time, I'll be recalling some of these questions. Today, another look at New Albany's “official” (and Caesar-approved) Bicentennial book, “Historic New Albany, Indiana: By the River’s Edge.”

  • How many of the books were sold?
  • Was the Redevelopment Commission loan ever paid back?
  • Why are the Bicentennial Commission financial records not in possession of the city?

Why should the answers to questions like these depend on the identity of the person asking them?



January 7, 2014
On the Bicentennial's Crutchfield seat cushions: How many were sold? Was the loan paid back?

All we really want to know is how well those hired-gun Bicentennial books sold, how many of the 5,000 (!) remain to be sold, and whether Redevelopment's loan was paid back. We're fairly gripped with mercenary gala nostalgia just thinking about it.



January 5, 2017
Bob Caesar and City Hall still won't divulge the bicentennial book details, but at least my letter to the newspaper was published, and I've got THAT going for me.

In 2013, New Albany city councilman Bob Caesar was chairman of New Albany’s Bicentennial Commission. 800-odd days ago, I asked Caesar for financial records detailing the committee’s activities.

I specifically sought details about the “official” Bicentennial book, “Historic New Albany, Indiana: By the River’s Edge.” How was it contracted, published and sold? What is the status of the Redevelopment Commission’s loan, without which the book wouldn’t have been published at all?

Supposedly 5,000 Bicentennial books were published at a cost of $144,000, or $28 per book; to this day, they’re routinely gifted by Mayor Jeff Gahan at ribbon cuttings and public ceremonies. If books remain unsold, how many are there, and where are they being stored? Who paid for them?

At various points, Caesar confirmed publicly that he would make available this information, and in a 2015 e-mail, he conceded the records were in his possession. I’ve been stonewalled ever since.

Earlier in 2016, when I reminded Caesar of his obligation to taxpayers, he told me to file an open records request with City Hall. I did, and was stalled by city attorney Shane Gibson for five months before this answer arrived: “The city does not possess the above referenced items.” Sadly, this isn’t the first time our mayor, his team and his political allies have seen to it that information like this is withheld.

If they’ll willing to go to these lengths to cover up dated Bicentennial financial records, what else is being hidden?



March 30, 2017
ON THE AVENUES: Our great and noble leader is here to stay, so let's break out the țuică and make a joyful noise.

... Consider one of Gahan’s chief acolytes, self-important councilman Bob Caesar, who formerly served as nominal Ceaușescu of the Bicentennial Commission.

Most readers are aware of my two-year-long struggle to wrest public Bicentennial Commission financial records, first from Caesar and then the city itself, only to be dismissed with supreme condescension by both.

To repeat: The celebration of New Albany’s two-hundred-year birthday cost several hundred thousand dollars, and was funded in part with taxpayer funds. I’m a citizen of New Albany. Caesar refused to show me the records, and the city attorney Gibson said the city doesn’t have the records to show.

In short: Go peddle your papers, insufferable peasant.

This is amazing, and it should be unacceptable; absolute power corrupts absolutely, and any mayor who takes seriously his obligation to enforce the law shouldn’t allow it.

However, I’m happy to announce that the Green Mouse has obtained these Bicentennial records. Fascinating revelations lie within, and copies currently are in my possession, illustrating plainly that while Caesar and Gibson may not have lied outright, they certainly have acquiesced in a cover-up, and are guilty of consciously subverting the intent of state laws governing freedom of information and public access to records.

This should disturb all of us, and both should be cashiered. If they’ll resort to evasions and subterfuge to obscure Caesar’s handling of relatively paltry Bicentennial funds, just think what they’ll do to obscure the leakage from the many yearly millions going toward feel-good, beautification projects.

And yet … you’re bothered, but only a bit, and not enough to rock the boat, right?

The newspaper doesn’t ask these questions, does it?

In more candid moments, it may seem like smoke and mirrors, but just enough of that magic pixie dust is being spread around to encourage acceptance.

Isn’t it?

And you’re fine with it, aren’t you?

The fact is, if I were to spend 40 more hours of my own time, gratis, to sifting through the records the Politburo has denied exist, in order to show that lots of Bicentennial bucks were hemorrhaged this way and that, often straight to community pillars and/or political party stalwarts who nuzzled up to wet their beaks – as I'm completely confident I could – nothing at all would happen, would it?

They wouldn’t concede error or apologize, would they?

You wouldn’t expect it, would you?

And this is a slight problem, isn’t it?

I’m not ruling anything out, or in. I might take the time to sort through those records, or maybe use those precious hours to drink beer and watch documentaries about tin horn dictatorships the world has known.

But there isn’t much one person alone can do to prevent Jeff Gahan from redesigning New Albany in his own beige image, and as the sainted Bob Knight once implied, if tacky Disney totalitarianism is inevitable, then we might as well escalate plans for a new barroom in order to have somewhere to seek refuge from the sheer indignity of it.

That's exactly what I'm working to achieve, and when it finally comes to pass, I promise to place portraits of Ceaușescu and Gahan right where they belong, at the entrance to the toilets.

Or better yet, inside them.

"American cities are getting a little loosey-goosey with curb control, experimenting with policies that just might make the places more livable, for everyone."

Blocking handicapped parking
to light the Christmas tree.
Quintessential New Albany.

As it pertains to HWC Engineering's ham-fisted hatchet job on Jeff Speck's grid proposals, it would be interesting to know if any of the curbside issues discussed by Aarian Marshall in this article ever were allowed to intrude upon the "modernization" conversation.

If the conversation was initiated with Jeff Gahan, then the mayor's likely answer takes the form of another question:

"Uber? What's that?"

In New Albany, "modernization" means catching up to the year you graduated high school, just prior to trundling off to the 35th class reunion.


... The battleground is ubiquitous but rarely merits a second look. In some places, it occupies mere inches of space. But the territory is now fertile soil, its coveters many. We are talking, of course, about the curb.

The curbside has always been a a place for walking and loitering. But in just the past decade, smartphone technology has enabled new transportation services, all of them looking for their own bit of the terrain. The curb is home to bike share programs and the cycling lanes that help their users get around safely. It’s a spot to pick up and drop off passengers (Uber, Lyft, Chariot, Via, public buses and streetcars, paratransit) and things (UPS, FedEx, Instacart, Postmates). Some cities have set aside space for carshare services (Zipcar, Maven), or scooter-shares (Scoot). Others have found new and creative ways to charge for parking spots, experimenting with tech that adjusts prices based on demand.

“Cities have started to rethink how their streets are designed from curb from curb,” says Matthew Roe, who directs street design initiatives for the National Association of City Transportation Officials and authored a new curbside management white paper released this week. “They’ve started to realize they need more tools to manage that valuable curbside space. It’s the most valuable space that a city owns and one of the most underutilized.”

What you do with the curb sets the tone for your whole city. And through this grey chunk of concrete, local governments are starting to communicate how they'll handle their entire transportation systems. Favor a system that asks citizens to share resources, by making room for, say a bikeshare program, and you say one thing. Favor private parking for residents, and you declare war: “When I think about curb, the first thing that comes to mind is how people react when you take away parking,” said Sarah Jones, the planning director for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. She was speaking at a surprisingly lively event about curbs, hosted by the San Francisco Bay Area research and advocacy organization SPUR this month. Residents complain, Jones said, of private interests taking over the space, but they don't seem to get that this is exactly what's been happening all along. “I’m not sure what is privatizing public space more than storing your vehicle in it," she said.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Redevelopment Commission's meeting calendar has been scrubbed from the city's web site, but somehow, somewhere, they'll be asked about Coffey's pocket-lining parking project.

So, exactly who granted councilman Dan Coffey permission to operate a for-pay parking scam for four days during Harvest Homecoming on city-owned property?

Another question, this being whether Coffey dealt squarely with the Knights of Columbus when it came time to donate proceeds to the mother (father?) ship ... well, that's for the organization's management to answer. Until then, merely consider the public relations value of D. Coffey, restaurateur.

At any rate, we've ruled out both the Board of Public Works and Safety and developer Matt Chalfant. One member of the Redevelopment Commission says it never came up there, but as with BOW, it's best to broach the topic at a meeting to ensure it appears on the public record, and so I went to the city's web site to see when the next meeting will be held.

No results found.

Conversely, I might ask Redevelopment's secretary or the commission's interim director.

That's Democratic Party muzzler-in-chief Adam Dickey and City Hall's top-paid attorney Shane Gibson, respectively.

I'll reconnoiter the third floor on the second Tuesday in December, just in case -- and in spite of the probable non-cooperative reception, Dickey and Gibson also will be asked.

Here's the chronology to date.

SHANE'S EXCELLENT NEW WORDS: Coffey is unabashed, and so the embarrassment belongs to the city -- again.

Unless the Redevelopment Commission or City Hall granted permission, Dan Coffey illegally parked cars on city property during Harvest Homecoming. Period. Censure, anyone?

ASK THE BORED: Maserati, Mussolini, Missoula -- whatever, so the Green Mouse is off to learn more about Dan Coffey's HH parking profits at the infamous grassy knoll.

UPDATE: BOW suggests it wasn't informed about councilman Dan Coffey's Harvest Homecoming parking profits at 32 Bank Street.

GREEN MOUSE SAYS: Did BOW give Dan Coffey permission to leverage city-owned ground during the Orange Occupation?

"Walking While Black": If you think car-centrism sucks, welcome to pedestrian racial profiling.

We've been here before.

Walking is not a crime: Dunman and others on the scourges of jaywalking in auto-erotic America.

But this one's a whole different twist on the prevailing inanity.

Walking While Black, by Topher Sanders and Kate Rabinowitz, ProPublica, and Benjamin Conarck, Florida Times-Union

Jacksonville’s enforcement of pedestrian violations raises concerns that it’s another example of racial profiling.

THE JACKSONVILLE SHERIFF’S OFFICE issues hundreds of pedestrian citations a year, drawing on an array of 28 separate statutes governing how people get around on foot in Florida’s most populous city. There is, of course, the straightforward jaywalking statute, barring people from crossing against a red light. But in Jacksonville, pedestrians can also be ticketed for crossing against a yellow light, for “failing to cross a street at a right angle,” for not walking on the left side of a road when there are no sidewalks, or alternatively for not walking on a sidewalk when one is available.

The sheriff’s office says the enforcement of the full variety of pedestrian statutes is essential to keeping people alive in a city with one of the highest pedestrian fatality rates in the nation. The office also says the tickets are a useful crime-fighting tool, allowing officers to stop suspicious people and question them for guns and or drugs.

However, a ProPublica/Florida Times-Union analysis of five years of pedestrian tickets shows there is no strong relationship between where tickets are being issued and where people are being killed. The number of fatal crashes involving pedestrians, in fact, climbed every year from 2012 to 2016, the most recent years for which complete data is available.

What the analysis does show is that the pedestrian tickets — typically costing $65, but carrying the power to damage one’s credit or suspend a driver’s license if unpaid — were disproportionately issued to blacks, almost all of them in the city’s poorest neighborhoods. In the last five years, blacks received 55 percent of all pedestrian tickets in Jacksonville, while only accounting for 29 percent of the population. Blacks account for a higher percentage of tickets in Duval County than any other large county in Florida.

Blacks, then, were nearly three times as likely as whites to be ticketed for a pedestrian violation. Residents of the city’s three poorest zip codes were about six times as likely to receive a pedestrian citation as those living in the city’s other, more affluent 34 zip codes.

Tickets for some of the less familiar statutes were issued even more disproportionately to blacks. Seventy-eight percent of all tickets written for “walking in the roadway where sidewalks are provided” were issued to blacks. As well, blacks accounted for 68 percent of all recipients of tickets issued for “failing to cross the road at a right angle or shortest route” ...

Your NFL Sunday: "As Iceberg Slim might put it, the players and public alike have been sold a series of air castles."

It's gaslighting all over again in this essay, which connects the autobiography of a pimp (spoiler: not a pretty story at all) to big-time football, health problems and brain damage suffered by players, thoroughbred horse racing, and the plantation-president.

As usual for a longer essay, I've included only one excerpt, and highlighted a single passage from it. You're encouraged to read all of the essay.

American Pimps, by Shawn Hamilton (The Baffler)

The NFL, Donald Trump, and Iceberg Slim

Retirement by Gaslight

The thoroughbred horse has reached what Richard C. Francis, author of Domesticated, calls an “evolutionary dead end.” Breeders have not produced a faster thoroughbred for decades.

Thoroughbreds have evolved “inordinately large hearts and lungs” to increase their aerobic capacity. They have evolved a huge chest cavity to make room for those larger organs, which then crowd the stomach and intestines, causing them to “shift around in hazardous ways.” The bodies of the thoroughbreds are “too large” relative to the legs and feet, making the animal “extremely top heavy.” And this, Francis writes, “goes a long way toward explaining the high frequency of leg injuries, often catastrophic.”

This is not the face of racing that the public sees. The early years of a racing horse’s career are glorious. As the horses get older, drugs are often used to keep them going. And when the thoroughbred comes to its end, quietly—away from the cameras, seersucker suits and sun hats —it is put down and perhaps later immortalized in statues, photos, or crappy movies.

The NFL player who sees a connection between himself and a poor kid in the ghetto appears nuts to many fans. But the working-class fan who thinks his interests align with those of billionaire owners is perfectly sane in their view.

In Pimp, Glass Top recommended retiring his obsolete thoroughbreds to mental asylums. He used a combination of ruses and drugs to convince them that they had gone insane. “I got a thousand ways to drive ’em goofy,” said Glass Top, “That last broad I flipped, I hung her out a fifth floor window. I had given her a jolt of pure cocaine so she’d wake up outside that window. I was holding her by both wrists. Her feet were dangling in the air. She opened her eyes. When she looked down she screamed like a scared baby.”

“She was screaming when they came to get her.”

Some have attributed NFL protests to a similar kind of insanity, stoked by the fervid imaginings of the players themselves. They are rebranded as “spoiled,” “entitled,” or just not that bright. The fan, meanwhile, is the paragon of reason and logical consistency.

This is the same fan who believes that paid patriotism is okay, but peaceful protest is not. This is the same fan who is eager to subsidize billionaire team owners, while labeling a dissenting player “spoiled” or “privileged.” And this is the same fan who is willing to watch the game despite scandals ranging from domestic violence, to prescription drug abuse, to the conspiracy of official silence surrounding the head-injury scandal. This fan is willing to accept all these contradictions and lies as just part of the game or as an unspecified price of doing business. And when the owner refuses to really “own” his players and put them in check, this fan is ready to boycott.

The NFL player who sees a connection between himself and a poor kid in the ghetto appears nuts to many fans. But the working-class fan who thinks his interests align with those of billionaire owners is perfectly sane in their view.

However, none of this wishful thinking will alter the fundamental shifts in the rules of engagement: the players can no longer “just play the game” the way the fans want them to. They know too much. The stadiums remain, but the air castles are gone. And this is probably just the beginning.

THE BEER BEAT: One excellent afternoon spent pub crawling with beer on the periphery of the wine walk.

Not a single photo
was taken yesterday.
Like I was saying just the other day ...

It's entirely possible to begin a Saturday afternoon at Floyd County Brewing Company with a couple of locally brewed beers and a burger, then stroll over to Big Four Burgers + Beer for another local beer, before walking eastbound to Hull & High Water and having ... one more "craft" beer, prior to an end-of-pub-crawl night(afternoon)cap -- well, two -- at Gospel Bird, with the added bonus of a restorative dose of Fernet Angelico.

On the market for the last two years, Fernet Angelico is based on an old Italian recipe (purchased in 1930 from a defunct Italian distillery) that involves aloe, saffron, quinquina, gentian, anise, angelica, mint, and myrrh. This spicy, smokey, woodsy Fernet smells of citrus on the nose, and channels a unique savory flavor reminiscent of burning incense and wood. It's naturally-hued (some Fernets have added artificial color) and well-balanced between bitter and sweet.

Fernet is my new favorite beverage, at least until tomorrow. The uniformly excellent beers were Amber; Wit; Gose; Coffee Stout; Saison; and Lager. The participants were me, the missus, Scott and Joe.

What was my point?

It is this.

Nowadays there are so many options for dissipation in downtown New Albany that one can spend six hours roaming and visiting pubs, and still remain only barely cognizant of jingling walks, plasticized Christmas tree lightings and jolly elfesque visitations occurring a short distance away.

And, proceeding from this tableau of a glass half-full, such a state of affairs is a good thing indeed, leaving us with a dissonance-free path toward draining the receptacle's remaining drams. I was so enriched that heckling DNA's cadres didn't occur to me even once.

Big thanks to my co-drinkers, the hard-working folks who served us, and a suitable topography allowing differing points of view to co-exist without the necessity of building some sort of wall.

It will be even better in two years, when my city will revert from New Gahania to New Albania, but this is a story for another day -- right, Mr. Mugabe?

Saturday, November 25, 2017

GREEN MOUSE SAYS: Beach blanket bunker 17/5001, or Gahan's cribbing of Honecker's Cold War nuclear refuge.

It's always been clear that Jeff Gahan couldn't have conceived of the down-low bunker entirely on his own.

Well, now we know.

More on the Honecker Bunker at Atlas Obscura.

BURIED UNDER SAND AND RUBBLE in a nondescript forest north of Berlin lies a massive Cold War treasure with its secrets sealed shut, locked up and destined to stay hidden forevermore.

Bunker 17/5001 was the most sophisticated facility of its kind among members of the Warsaw Pact outside the Soviet Union. It was built some 24 meters (79 feet) underground to harbor East German leaders and top military staff even in the event of nuclear annihilation.

These handy visuals illustrate "The Ripple Effect When You Shop Local."

Business owners, it's a big, unanswered question.

Downtown business owners: Would you rather Jeff Gahan "brand" you with his cult of personality, or "brand" yourselves with your own collective identity?

If the latter, then ...

ON THE AVENUES: There has never been a better time for an Independent Business Alliance in New Albany.

Now for a few facts for business owners and holiday shoppers alike.

The Ripple Effect When You Shop Local (Infographic)

Advocates for Independent Business

When you choose locally owned businesses for your shopping, you create a ripple effect. It starts with your own experience, and the benefits that you get from shopping at independent stores, like getting to rely on local retailers’ expertise.

But then, the effects keep going. By shopping at local stores, you connect with your community. You strengthen your local economy. And finally, as the circle of ripples extends out, you cast a vote for the American dream.

Here’s what happens when you shop with a locally owned business — starting with you.

"Male bumblers are an epidemic," and gaslighting's only a small piece of it.

Until Friday evening, I'd never seen the 1944 film Gaslight. Consequently, my grasp of "gaslighting" has been rather feeble, but no more.

At Vox, Alissa Wilkinson explains: "What is gaslighting? The 1944 film Gaslight is the best explainer."

 ... The term “gaslighting” comes from the movie, and so its definition is rather specific: when a person lies for their own gain to another person so repeatedly and with so much confidence that the victim begins to doubt her own sanity. And, as the film puts it, a bit of Stockholm Syndrome develops as well: The victim, now uncertain that she can perceive reality correctly, becomes dependent on the gaslighter, more attached to him than ever.

The trope has been repeated throughout film history (The Girl on the Train is a great example), but Gaslight still holds up — especially in a week where people are throwing around terms like “gaslighter-in-chief” to describe the newly inaugurated president. And if you can stomach watching Gaslight, it’s a useful reminder that just because you feel like you’re going crazy doesn’t mean you are.

As with the baseball player who retires the other side with a circus catch, then homers on the first pitch in the bottom of the inning, the first article to cross my eyes this morning contains a Gaslight reference (thanks to JS for sharing the piece on Facebook).

For decades now, the very idea of a duplicitous, calculating man has been so exceptional as to be almost monstrous; this is the domain of cult leaders, of con artists, of evil men like the husband in Gaslight. And while folks provisionally accept that there are men who "groom" children and "gaslight" women, the reluctance to attach that behavior to any real, flesh-and-blood man we know is extreme. Many people don't actually believe that normal men are capable of it.

Here's the introduction. It is highly recommended reading.

The myth of the male bumbler, by Lili Loofbourow (The Week)

Male bumblers are an epidemic.

These men are, should you not recognize the type, wide-eyed and perennially confused. What's the difference, the male bumbler wonders, between a friendly conversation with a coworker and rubbing one's penis in front of one? Between grooming a 14-year-old at her custody hearing and asking her out?

The world baffles the bumbler. He's astonished to discover that he had power over anyone at all, let alone that he was perceived as using it. What power? he says. Who, me?

The bumbler is the first to confess that he's bad at his job. Take Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who testified Tuesday of the Trump campaign's foreign policy team, which he ran and which is now understood to have been in contact with Russian agents: "We were not a very effective group." Or consider Dave Becky, the manager of disgraced comedian Louis C.K. (who confessed last week to sexual misconduct). Becky avers that "never once, in all of these years, did anyone mention any of the other incidents that were reported recently." One might argue that no one should have needed to mention them; surely, as Louis C.K.'s manager, it was Becky's job to keep tabs on open secrets about his client? Becky's defense? He's a bumbler! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The bumbler doesn't know things, even things about which he was directly informed. Jon Stewart was "stunned" by the Louis C.K. revelations, even though we watched someone ask him about them last year. Vice President Mike Pence maintains he had no idea former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was lobbying for a foreign power — despite the fact that Flynn himself informed the transition team back in January, and even though Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) had written Pence — who was head of the transition team — to that effect as far back as Nov. 18, 2016. Wait, what? said Pence in March. Surely not! Really?

There's a reason for this plague of know-nothings: The bumbler's perpetual amazement exonerates him. Incompetence is less damaging than malice. And men — particularly powerful men — use that loophole like corporations use off-shore accounts. The bumbler takes one of our culture's most muscular myths — that men are clueless — and weaponizes it into an alibi.

Allow me to make a controversial proposition: Men are every bit as sneaky and calculating and venomous as women are widely suspected to be. And the bumbler — the very figure that shelters them from this ugly truth — is the best and hardest proof.

Breaking that alibi means dissecting that myth ...