Friday, January 31, 2020

A hilarious day of automobile supremacist anguish as Clarksville vows to put Brown's Station Way on a road diet.

Making the yokels SCREAM.

Better late than never.

This Brown's Station Way lane reduction project is going to have an excellent supporting effect on our ongoing efforts to keep pass-through drivers on the interstates where they belong, and off our city streets in New Albany.

Fine work, Clarksville. I don't recall meeting Mike Mustain, but in this first sentence he states the fact of the matter with uncommon clarity. This project can't begin soon enough for me, and the more roundabouts, the better.

"Ultimately, Brown Station Way is a town street, not an interstate, and as such should not be a dividing roadway which separates Clarksville."

Yep. As Bluegill noted elsewhere, it's a step in the right direction. Drivers needn't worry; they'll still be coddled like little babies, just a little bit less often than before.

Officials approve plan to redesign Brown's Station Way in Clarksville (WDRB)

Clarksville's Redevelopment Commission voted 3-2 in favor of the planned redesign Thursday, according to a news release. The revamp calls for narrowing the cut through between New Albany and Clarksville down from four lanes to two, according to previous reporting. It also calls for dropping the the speed limit from 45 mph to 35 mph and would also eliminate or change intersections at Emery Crossing, Leuthart Drive and Clark Boulevard.

GREEN MOUSE presents NAWBANY WEEK IN REVIEW for 31 January 2020.


Substitute Brown's Station Way for Eastern Parkway for Nawbany's two-way street project, and the anguished wailing of drivers is almost louder than the massed roar of their cars, but the thing that amazes me each time is the reluctance of the general populace to avail themselves of this "internet" thingy and EDUCATE THEMSELVES (egads) as to why, god, oh why would anyone try to slow me down?

My question is slightly different: Why oh why are people like me always expected to guide people like you by the hand like little children and explain these matters?

Now, where was I?

First, a reminder that only two days remain ... today and tomorrow ... to snatch a few bargains during the bookstore's winding down.

The final business day for Destinations Booksellers is Saturday, February 1. Go there and buy books.


It was a slow news week in New Albany, but the Green Mouse got nicely limbered up by week's end.

GREEN MOUSE SAYS: Not so fast on Form G's Centenary church PR vaporware.


GREEN MOUSE SAYS: It turns out the "G" in Form G stands for "Groper."


It comes down to this: When the local power elites begin self-deification and blatant propagandizing about a "done deal" about which no one has bothered to inform the property sellers, then there's more to the story than is being reported.

Too bad we don't have a newspaper.

For our "Photo of the Week," we find the mayor lecturing dejected captive scouts about his favorite topic.


This week's coveted Warren V. Nash Ineptitude in Agitprop Trophy goes to the city's Facebook feed and this wonderful gem from Tuesday.


"Place your order online or inside at one of the kiosks," reads the breathless blurb, as if it falls to the city to write blatant advertising copy for a chain restaurant.

Besides, as others quickly pointed out, these kiosks are designed expressly to remove the need for human beings as employees, thus rendering the "creating jobs" argument into just the same old economic dishevelment boilerplate.

Finally, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the city attorney's grip on bodacious bond bonuses, we're returning to weekly wordplay.

The return of SHANE'S EXCELLENT NEW WORDS: Sycophants and other brown-nosing spaniels.


We'll be back next week with another installment of Nawbany Week in Review as a new month begins in Year Nine of the Chronicles of New Gahania.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

The final business day for Destinations Booksellers is Saturday, February 1. Go there and buy books.


The store closing clearance has entered its final two days.

OK, folks. This is it. Ann and I will have the store open Friday and Saturday, and then that's it. We still have an ample collection of great books in all genres, fiction and non, children's and adult. Come say good-bye, bring your own bags, and haul off some great bargains. Classics, award-winners, Randy's favorites, etc. If you have a favorite author, come see what we have that you've missed (Wendell Berry, Stephen White, Tim Dorsey, Robert Caro, etc.). These books deserve a good home.

Destinations Booksellers opened in 2004.

Turn the page: Destinations Booksellers is closing after 15 years at 604 E. Spring St.


There'll be a new tenant in the building, but not a bookstore.

GREEN MOUSE SAYS: It turns out the "G" in Form G stands for "Groper."

Image credit: WAVE 3 News.

Earlier today the Green Mouse was roused from a raging three-week-long bender to consider Form G's "redevelopment" vaporware at the vacant Centenary church in downtown New Albany.

GREEN MOUSE SAYS: Not so fast on Form G's Centenary church PR vaporware.


But it gets even better. As the Mouse po(u)red over old notes, he found one of his own e-mail links from last September, which apparently got lost in the pre-election scrum.

Man in spotlight for TV kiss is local real estate executive, by Marty Finley (Louisville Business First)

Eric Goodman, founder and CEO of Form G Companies, has apologized for kissing a WAVE-TV news reporter on live television. The incident has made national headlines.

The man in the middle of controversy and facing criticism after he kissed a WAVE-TV reporter on the cheek on live television last weekend during the Bourbon & Beyond festival is a local real estate developer.

Eric Goodman, 42, of Jeffersonville, Ind., was charged with harassment, a misdemeanor, by the Jefferson County Attorney after he interrupted WAVE reporter Sara Rivest during a live broadcast on the music festival, which was held at the Kentucky Exposition Center.

Goodman is the founder and CEO of Jeffersonville’s Form G Cos. LLC, a full-service commercial real estate firm. He was profiled in Louisville Business First in March.

He has since apologized for the incident ...

You have to hand it to Team Gahan's choices for public-private parts partnerships.

ON THE AVENUES: Could that be David Duggins paddling across Jeff Gahan's putrid cesspool? On second thought, I'll take the blindfold.


The Green Mouse concludes: "I can't wait for the Mayor Jeff Gahan Presents the Lofts at Centenary Slap and Tickle."

Disclosure: This post complies with the parameters of Roger's sabbatical from local political involvement, having required fewer than 30 minutes to write.

GREEN MOUSE SAYS: Not so fast on Form G's Centenary church PR vaporware.


The Green Mouse enjoys learning new words.

va·por·ware
/ˈvāpərˌwer/
noun INFORMAL•COMPUTING
Software or hardware that has been advertised but is not yet available to buy, either because it is only a concept or because it is still being written or designed.

This morning there was a triumphant announcement at the Jeffersonville newspaper.

New residential project in the works at former New Albany church, by John Boyle (News&Bune)

NEW ALBANY — To join the several new amenities recently popping up in downtown, New Albany will soon become home to another major residential project.

The site is a familiar one in the city grid. For nearly two centuries, Centenary United Methodist Church played a role in the faiths of many in the area.

Now that the congregation has moved, the idle building will see new life as an apartment complex. Representatives of Form G, the development company behind the project, said the company has been trying to invest in downtown New Albany for “quite some time,” and is excited to finally have the opportunity to do so.

“This property came up, and it’d been sitting for a while on the market, about a year or so,” president and CEO Eric Goodman said. “Once we got into the details of the historical and preservation components of it, we realized that we could make it a project.”

But the Green Mouse has learned that it's probably all vaporware. He believes Form G's option to purchase Centenary expired in December (it may have been renewed as non-refundable payment toward the purchase price) with no offer having been made.


According to Elevate, the church property has not changed hands.

And what does Form G's "G" stand for, anyway? The Mouse says: "Gahan." As noted in this post from November 14, 2019, some of Form G's principals have been priming the mayoral pump for the inevitable municipal incentives.

Maybe they should buy the property first?

That's generally how it's done in capitalism, right?

Pay first, propagandize later?

---

GREEN MOUSE SAYS: Vacant Centenary United Methodist buildings to renovated into market rate apartments by a Gahan campaign donor.

The Green Mouse reports that the vacated Centenary United Methodist Church property at 309 E. Spring Street is slated for reuse as multi-family residential (specifically, market rate apartments).

The mouse was told the permitting process is underway but not yet completed.

Among the improvements slated for completion by the contractor, Form G Companies LLC (Jeffersonville):

  • Interior renovations to convert vacant space into apartments
  • Window replacement
  • Painting of exterior brick
  • Adding architectural details
  • Ingress/egress "improvements" 
  • Parking lot repair (recoating, restriping)

Interestingly available real estate records show no change in ownership of the property.



And now for the Jeopardy! answer in the popular category Pay to Play:

"Form G Companies became one in 2019."



Alex, what is a first-time Gahan campaign finance donor?


Does anyone know whether Form G still intends to purchase the property? And why hasn't the word "luxury" been attached to the project? It's Big Daddy G's favorite concept, after all.

---

Disclosure: This post complies with the parameters of Roger's sabbatical from local political involvement, having required fewer than 30 minutes to write.

ON THE AVENUES: Dear Holocaust deniers: If you don't like this post, unfriend me now.



"To ask why the Jews have been killed is a question that shows immediately its own obscenity."
-- Claude Lanzmann

Apart from it being unpronounceable by most Americans, the Polish city of Oświęcim (aws-ven-chim) seems innocuous enough until you realize it's known to the wider world by its German name, Auschwitz.

“The Auschwitz concentration camp (Konzentrationslager Auschwitz) was a complex of over 40 concentration and extermination camps operated by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during World War II and the Holocaust. It consisted of Auschwitz I, the main camp (Stammlager) in Oświęcim; Auschwitz II–Birkenau, a concentration and extermination camp built with several gas chambers; Auschwitz III–Monowitz, a labor camp created to staff a factory for the chemical conglomerate IG Farben; and dozens of subcamps. The camps became a major site of the Nazis' Final Solution to the Jewish Question.”


Auschwitz-Birkenau was one of many camps designed primarily for genocidal extermination: Chełmno, Bełżec, Sobibór, Treblinka, Majdanek and Jasenovac are some of the others. In numerical terms the Jews were killed in horrifically greater numbers, but the Nazis also murdered political opponents, Slavs, Roma (gypsies), homosexuals, Soviet POWs, and anyone else who objected to Hitler's new world order.

A Frenchman named Claude Lanzmann (1925 – 2018) somewhat serendipitously came to play an out-sized role in documenting these atrocities by combining the mediums of film and oral history.

Lanzmann was born into a secular Jewish family in Paris, and while they hid during the German occupation of France in World War II, Lanzmann joined the French resistance at 17, smuggling small arms for the fight against the invaders.


After liberation, Lanzmann went to university, studied philosophy, worked (and famously played) with Jean-Paul Sartre and Simon de Beauvoir, and eventually became a filmmaker. In 1973 he was contacted by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which offered financial backing for a documentary about the Holocaust (a term meaning “burnt offering” which Lanzmann found objectionable).

Nearing 50 years of age, Lanzmann agreed to the proposal and spent the next 11 years crafting the epochal nine-and-a-half-hour-long Shoah (or “catastrophe”). I believe the Israeli financing dried up very quickly, but he persevered. There have since been sequels using the many hours of interviews filmed for the original.

Shoah remains visceral and essential viewing for anyone wishing to understand what happened to Europe’s Jewish population at the hands of the Nazis. It is an unconventional and brutally effective documentary, describing factual historical events without the use of archival footage or tacky reenactments.


The hour is late, and what Lanzmann achieved probably could not be repeated today. The 75th anniversary of Auschwitz’s liberation was Monday, January 27, and obviously the number of people with active memories of the period has dwindled considerably. It is reckoned that fewer than 400,000 Holocaust survivors remain with us in 2020. The fact there are even this many given the number of deaths testifies to the sheer scale of their incarceration.

Naturally many more of them were alive in the 1970’s, and so were those ordinary people in places like Poland capable of bearing witness. Lanzmann filmed dignified Jewish survivors, serenely acquiescent Poles and even an entirely unrepentant SS officer, albeit the latter surreptitiously with a hidden camera. They all lived through cataclysmic and unspeakably horrible events that took place primarily in areas of dense pre-war Jewish population, which became saturated with planned centers of systematic slaughter during the Nazi occupation.

To record these memories and recollections, Lanzmann traveled to a dozen or more then-Communist locales in Poland and Eastern Europe. He also made side excursions to Israel, Germany and elsewhere in the world, reflecting the post-war diaspora of victims and perpetrators.

Lanzmann organized their recollections into stories woven together with consummate skill, and as the hours pass, there is an emotional crescendo guaranteed to leave the viewer both drained and fearing for the future of humanity. It’s true that we manage somehow to survive our own seemingly boundless stupidity. It’s unclear how we do it.

At the time Shoah was released, its director was fiercely criticized for including footage that unflinchingly exposed lingering anti-Semite tendencies on the part of ethnic Poles, this coming at a time when Poland -- through the activities of the Solidarity trade union movement and a sitting Pope -- was being lionized by anti-Communists throughout the world as the best extant hope to commence the toppling of the Bloc’s socialist dominoes.


And so they were, but to this very day the arguments about Poland and the Holocaust have not been resolved. They likely never will.

In 2018 the Poles overstepped, passing a law that would have criminalised stating that the Polish people had collaborated in the Holocaust. In fact, while some Christian Poles heroically saved Jews, most did nothing—and others helped kill them. Many Jews saw the law as whitewashing the long history of anti-Semitism in Poland and other European countries besides Germany. The Poles eventually scrapped the law, but Israel showed its own prejudices last year when its foreign minister claimed that Poles “imbibe anti-Semitism with their mothers’ milk”.

Lanzmann’s Shoah documentary occupies a place in my consciousness utterly impossible to overstate. I first saw Shoah in its entirety several months after my mother videotaped the film from public television during the summer of 1987, precisely as I was traveling in Europe, including a passage through Poland and a visit to the Auschwitz memorial.

For ten straight days in 1988, I set the alarm an hour early each morning and gradually absorbed the film in bits, pieces and chunks before heading off to work. It may have been the culmination of my free-lance, post-graduate education, voraciously soaking up books and documentaries about European history, culture and any related matters in an effort to achieve greater understanding during my periods of continental travel.

In spite of everything I was sure I knew about life back then, these mornings in front of the tube in 1988 were profoundly uncomfortable. Shoah is about death, and in a manner we’re unaccustomed to considering. I’ll never forget it.

---

My visit to Auschwitz came on July 11, 1987.

I’d been in Krakow with my friend Barrie (who now teaches history at Scribner Middle School) and two fellow travelers from Florida. We’d taken an unscheduled detour from the Soviet/Baltic/Poland youth and student package tour, hopping a Friday afternoon train from Warsaw and learning the dubious (and embarrassing) value of handing the conductor $5 cash for our fare, then watching aghast as he evicted people from their rightful seats for us to sit.

The displaced made no objection whatever, and we rationalized: It was the awful Commie system to blame.

On a Saturday morning, after overnighting in Krakow for $2.50 per person amid aging furniture in a pensioner’s shabby flat, we rustled a few grams of greasy salami and bread, then found the dingy bus station in the city’s crumbling and neglected downtown, joining several dozen Polish weekend trippers on the bumpy, grinding, two-hour journey to Oświęcim.

There were no English speakers around to help, but we managed to guess the correct stop near the entrance to the Auschwitz museum. Once there, we paid our fees and wordlessly passed through the numbing exhibits inside the old brick pre-war Polish army barracks buildings of Auschwitz 1, a strangely bureaucratic and tidy introduction to the supreme horror a few hundred meters away at Birkenau, the epicenter of the assembly line death camp.


You’ve probably read or heard about the rooms filled with abandoned luggage, eye glasses, artificial limbs, shoes, children’s toys – all confiscated from prospective victims as they were paraded from cattle cars to perish within minutes of passing through gates that read, “Arbeit Macht Frei” … or, work will make you free.


Intense? Chilling? Insane? Yes, and so much worse than these or any other inadequate words we might choose, yet only pretending to encapsulate some measure of emotion about a crime scene possessing a degree of industrial aspiration to cold-blooded murder well beyond the imagination of a twenty-something Hoosier bumpkin.

Or the same bumpkin at 60.

After two hours, we’d had enough of it. To get back to Krakow for the return to Warsaw later that evening necessitated a short walk into the center of Oświęcim, where we boarded a train that ran roughly half the distance back to the Krakow before abruptly disgorging us at a rural rail crossing point to change trains.

The day had become hot and sultry, and activity at the station was ploddingly minimal. There was a simple buffet offering plates of mystery meat in gray sauce, but we weren’t so much hungry as thirsty, and not merely thirsty, but fairly desperate for an adult beverage or three to ease the transition from wartime Auschwitz back to dilapidated 1980’s-vintage Poland.

Pivo? Wodka? Vino?

Alas, there was no succor for the bibulous at the teetotal train station. Resigned to temperance, and waiting at the platform, we could see green fields and crops in the distance beyond the tracks. People wearing their best were walking in little groups toward the settlement; surely even in a Polish farming town there’d be something happening on a summertime Saturday night.

Right before the train finally limped to rest, a horse-drawn cart clattered across the weathered cobblestones nearby.

I’d been looking at the older folks among the crowd at the station. With memories of Auschwitz still raw, it’s obvious what I was thinking, and I kept those thoughts to myself. Later, watching Shoah, the parched rail platform reverie and the native Poles populating it came back to me with a vengeance, and wouldn’t let go as the film unspooled over those mornings of otherwise forgotten days, as Lanzmann meticulously peeled away the dusty layers of memory and forced the viewer to think.

What did it all mean?

This is by no means a denunciation of Poland and the Poles, or a doomed attempt at facile erudition with respect to their places in the historical record, only an observation that there are times when very little about anything makes sense, especially when one’s own senses are being burdened with the unsettling melancholy of time.

Or, of time passed.

It has been almost fifty years since Lanzmann’s film went into production, and certainly all the survivors he chronicled are dead. The people I saw in Poland in 1987 are thirty years older, and many of them have died, too.

There was a time when I felt reasonably confident that a majority of readers understand the Holocaust as empirical fact and don’t require daily reminders. Glancing each morning at the endless, repetitive and triumphant Twitter proclamations of American idiots with moth-like attention spans, I’m no longer quite as sure. Sadly, the revisionism extends to Europe, where anti-Semitism continues to poison minds today.

Nature or nurture – or both? We’re classified at birth as human by biological default, but mustn’t we actually learn how to be human? If no one is there to teach us what it means to be human, or if our purported mentors shirk their responsibility, aren’t we condemned to repeating these instances of man's inhumanity to man?

In 2006, a new translation of Elie Wiesel’s Night appeared on the paperback bestseller list (Wiesel died in 2016). How many Americans know anything at all about Wiesel, much less can say they’ve read this or other books written by him?

In Shoah, Lanzmann interviews Dr. Franz Grassler, one of the Nazis “administering” the Warsaw Ghetto. A mere quarter-century removed from his duties, Grassler’s memory repeatedly failed him.

Claude Lanzmann: You don't remember those days?

Franz Grassler: Not much. I recall more clearly my pre-war mountaineering trips than the entire war period and those days in Warsaw. All, in all, those were bad times. It's a fact we tend to forget, thank god, the bad times more easily than the good. The bad times are repressed.

Forgetfulness of history to this magnitude is something too many of us have become proud to seize as a birthright. I can't tell you why ignorance always seems to be in fashion. All I can do is promise to denounce it -- and to watch Shoah again in its entirety later this spring.

---

Recent columns:

January 23: ON THE AVENUES: Running over the same old ground.

January 16: ON THE AVENUES: I won’t belong to any Dry January that would have me as a member.

January 9: ON THE AVENUES: Elusive sounds of silence.

January 2: ON THE AVENUES: On patience, grieving, puzzles and a necessary sabbatical.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

The return of SHANE'S EXCELLENT NEW WORDS: Sycophants and other brown-nosing spaniels.

Following is an encore presentation of the SHANE'S EXCELLENT NEW WORDS column from June 8, 2016.

The idea for a column about words and ideas dates to late 2015, when city attorney Shane Gibson took to social media to mockingly disparage the subversive notion of a healthy vocabulary, and to pillory those daring to use it, seeing as anyone with a broad working knowledge of the English language surely poses a mortal threat to the sportsball watchers at City Hall.

My sabbatical is the perfect time to resuscitate SHANE'S EXCELLENT NEW WORDS, and so I'll seek to get back into the habit of posting on Wednesday. 

---

Welcome to another installment of GREG's SHANE'S EXCELLENT NEW WORDS, a regular Wednesday feature at NA Confidential.

But why all these new words?

Why not the old, familiar, comforting words, like the ones you're sure to hear at the golf course when brothers-in-law casually chat about their millions in epochal development plans for an unstable hillside?

It's because a healthy vocabulary isn't about intimidation through erudition. Rather, it's about selecting the right word and using it correctly, whatever one's pay grade or station in life.

Even remuneration-engorged municipal corporate attorneys are eligible for this enlightening expansion of personal horizons, and really, as we contemplate what they knew and when they knew it, all we have left is plenty of time -- and the opportunity to learn something, if we're so inclined.

Today's word is sycophant, one of my personal favorites. Note the preferred pronunciation: SICK-uh-funt, or thereabouts. At the same time, you'll occasionally encounter a PSYCHO-funt, but usually only at Democratic Party costume balls.

sycophant

[sik-uh-fuh nt, -fant, sahy-kuh-]

noun

1. a self-seeking, servile flatterer; fawning parasite.

Origin of sycophant 

1530-40; < Latin sȳcophanta < Greek sȳkophántēs informer, equivalent to sŷko (n) fig + phan- (stem of phaínein to show) + -tēs agentive suffix

Related forms
sycophantic, sycophantical, sycophantish, adjective
sycophantically, sycophantishly, adverb
sycophantism, noun

The list of synonyms for sycophant is especially entertaining and colorful: Yes-man, bootlicker, brown-noser, toady, lickspittle, flatterer, flunky, lackey, spaniel, doormat, stooge, cringer, suck, suck-up.

There's even an academic article: "Grovelling And Other Vices: The Sociology Of Sycophancy." Here is a sample sentence:

When the sycophants start calling you a malcontent, there is a sense of pure vindication.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

"We see a growing movement in cities throughout the world to stem the usage of cars and close streets to unmitigated traffic."


At the Modacity page at Facebook.

"My country is too big and spread out for bikes.”

A THIRD of all trips in America are one mile or less. HALF are three miles or less. The large majority are driven.

The potential for transformation is huge. But only if we stop making excuses and start making space for cycling.

We could be doing so much more in New Albany. But we're far too stupid and cowardly for that.

Why Car-Free Streets Will Soon Be the Norm, by Brooks Rainwater (CityLab)

In cities like New York, Paris, Rotterdam, and soon San Francisco, car-free streets are emerging amid a growing movement.

When asked what they like most about a city they have visited, almost no one answers: “The cars whizzing by on the streets.” Cultural attractions, the people we meet, walking through the city and gazing at plazas, buildings, and places—these are the things that make a city unique.

What if there was a way to get more of what we all like and less of the noise and congestion we don’t? Many cities are working towards that goal, by closing major streets to traffic and opening them up to people.

Cities have limited space, and how it is allocated is tremendously important for people. The denser a place, the dearer each square foot is. Yet all over the world, cities were retrofitted to accommodate cars, giving them an outsized portion of urban space and limiting the area in which people could walk, sit at cafes, or play games with friends.

Many cities in America are newer than those in other parts of the world; most were born before cars but expanded tremendously afterwards. This wasn’t the case in Europe, where centuries of settlement made it difficult for the continent to fully succumb to the automobile. In the postwar era, European cities could have followed America’s lead in designing around cars. Most, however, made very different choices.

The geometry of space shouldn’t favor one very large mode of transportation over others that need room to grow and flourish ...

Remembering Howard Zinn, as we must.


Howard Zinn died on January 27, 2010. He wrote “A People’s History of the United States,” a must-read if ever there was one.

RIP, Howard Zinn: A true giant of truthfulness is gone.


Zinn assessed nationalism as "a set of beliefs taught to each generation in which the Motherland or the Fatherland is an object of veneration and becomes a burning cause for which one becomes willing to kill the children of other Motherlands or Fatherlands."

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


Howard Zinn: "Let us not be disconsolate over the increasing control of the court system by the right wing. The courts have never been on the side of justice."


Howard Zinn, Mitch Daniels and "the role of history in education, politics and scholarship."


Learn about Howard Zinn and “What the Classroom Didn’t Teach Me About the American Empire.”


"Howard Zinn’s July 4 Wisdom Stands the Test of Time."

Monday, January 27, 2020

BOOKS: What makes a dictator, anyway?


Maybe I've been mistaken, and Jeff Gahan really isn't a tinhorn small-pond dictator after all.

As analyst Adam Gopnik plausibly suggests:

What if language is exactly what the ogres have mastered, and bad people tend to have a better command of language than good ones, who are often tongue-tied in the face of the world’s complexities? What if the tragedies of tyranny were, in the first instance, tragedies of eloquence misapplied—of language used for evil ends, but used well? ... (after all) the worst dictators tend to be the most enthusiastic readers and writers.

So much for my previous theories, seeing as Gahan won't ever be confused with a reader or a writer. Perhaps "mob boss" works better.

Meanwhile Gopnik reviews Frank Dikötter’s new book, How to Be a Dictator: The Cult of Personality in the Twentieth Century, also discussing The Infernal Library: On Dictators, the Books They Wrote, and Other Catastrophes of Literacy, a recent book by Daniel Kalder.

THE FIELD GUIDE TO TYRANNY, by Adam Gopnik (New Yorker)

Dictators tend to share the same ugly manner because all seek the same effect: not charm but intimidation.

... Each dictator’s life is offered with neat, mordant compression. Dikötter’s originality is that he counts crimes against civilization alongside crimes against humanity. Stalin is indicted for having more than 1.5 million people interrogated, tortured, and, in many cases, executed. (“At the campaign’s height in 1937 and 1938 the execution rate was roughly a thousand per day,” Dikötter writes.) But Stalin is also held responsible for a nightmarish cultural degradation that occurred at the same time—the insistence on replacing art with political instruction, and with the cult of the Leader, whose name was stamped on every possible surface. As one German historian notes, you could praise Stalin “during a meeting in the Stalin House of Culture of the Stalin Factory on Stalin Square in the city of Stalinsk.” This black comedy of egotism could be found even among neo-Stalinist dictators of far later date. In 1985, Nicolae Ceauşescu, Romania’s Communist leader, ordered up such television programs as “The Nicolae Ceauşescu Era” and “Science During the Nicolae Ceauşescu Epoch.” By law, his portrait was featured at the beginning of every textbook.

If you have a half-hour to listen (and can access The Economist), this podcast is worth your time.

The Economist Asks: What makes a dictator?

This week we speak to Frank Dikötter, a professor at the university of Hong Kong and author of “How to be a dictator”

THE 20TH CENTURY has become known as the “age of dictatorship”, for the horrors perpetrated by Hitler, Stalin, Mao and other despots from Chile to Cambodia. Anne McElvoy asks Frank Dikötter, a historian and professor at the university of Hong Kong, how these men rose to power and why some survived while others were brought down. They debate the limits of authoritarian power today, including China’s ability to act in Hong Kong. And what makes a true dictator—or is there something a bit dictatorial in everyone?

To conclude, my attention was directed to Dikötter by virtue of reading one of his books earlier this month. It was valuable to do so, although not necessarily a pleasurable experience.

BOOKS: The Tragedy of Liberation, an account of China's revolutionary insanity, by Frank Dikötter.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Gary Indiana's Depraved Indifference: “I love America, but you have to admit it’s a country full of morons, we really owe it to ourselves to make some money off them.”

"The fact that we don’t consider grift central to our identity is just baleful amnesia."

In case you weren't aware, here's an introduction to Gary Indiana, who was born Gary Hoisington in New Hampshire.

In 2015 Indiana released an "anti-memoir" called I Can Give You Anything But Love, the title of which mimics the 1928 pop standard by Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields ("I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby").

Forgotten Authors No.46: Gary Indiana, by Christopher Fowler (The Independent)

Some authors are less forgotten than ignored. Gary Indiana is an author whom it is more convenient to overlook. He belongs to a special breed of American urban writers who take cool pleasure in dissecting the lives of the rich and ugly, and is possibly the most jaded chronicler of them all. On a good day, he makes Bret Easton Ellis look like Enid Blyton, yet many, myself included, think he might already have written the Great American Novel(s).

Indiana was an actor before working at New York's influential Village Voice as an art critic. He became an essayist and journalist, and wrote non-fiction on cultural phenomena from Pasolini to Warhol to Schwarzenegger. However, his first love is the satirical novel. A loose trilogy lightly fictionalised criminal cases and their accompanying media frenzies: Three Month Fever (1999) follows the disintegrating personality of Gianni Versace's murderer in Miami and the grotesque sensationalism of its press coverage; Resentment (1997) is a work of angry genius based on the circus which followed the trial of the Menendez brothers, wealthy Californians who killed their parents and left a screenplay version of events on their computer; Depraved Indifference (2002) explores more charismatic sociopathy, as a pathetic heiress is killed by mother-and-son confidence tricksters. Indiana's language is precise, literate, painfully honest and shockingly funny. He views these end-times with a reptilian eye, watching who gets to eat and who is eaten. His characters are disappointed with their share of the American dream, and become slowly poisoned by it.

The Bookseller referred me to this piece by Peter Goldeberg in The Baffler: All-American Amnesia. In America, most years are the "year of the grifter," since con games are a long-term pillar of exploitative capitalism.

The year 2019 (and 2018, and 2017, and likely 2020 to come) was supposedly the year of the grifter. Newly reissued by Semiotext(e), Depraved Indifference reemerges ready for the trend. Given the timing, encomiums of “prescience” don’t feel inaccurate.Indiana would probably counter that most years in America have been years of the grifter. In his essay “No Such Thing as Paranoia” on the history of conspiracy theories and the actually conspiratorial mode of American power, collected in 2008’s Utopia’s Debris, Indiana looked back toward the Bush family and didn’t stop until he hit the Robber Barons. Citing a train crash staged in the nineteenth century to manipulate stock prices, the history of the fourteenth amendment’s usage to protect corporations, as well as more familiar sights of modern conspiracism like the Kennedy assassination and Bohemian Grove, he mounts his argument: scams, at least in the upper echelons of our society, are foundational to the United States. The fact that we don’t consider grift central to our identity is just baleful amnesia. While lamenting the American tendency to forget the import of such aspects of our society is a hobby horse for writers on the left, part of what makes Depraved Indifference enthralling is how it turns this symptom into a condition, enlivening it with a certain literality. This is a nasty, satirical, and often hysterical book, chronicling the fate of tremulous selfhood in the face of heedless, all-American hustle.

Con artists, grifters ... they're close enough for musical theater.

An informative profile of Robert Massey, the Louisville Orchestra's CEO.

Robert Massey is the topic of Business First's profile, and it's an opportune moment to raise a glass to the Louisville Orchestra's comeback these past few years.

Naturally having Teddy Abrams as music director is a proverbial game-changer, and it remains true that no one ever pays good money to watch a conductor and CEO sit alone on stage in folding chairs without an orchestra playing behind them.

The overarching point is having a quality front office guy, which Massey seems to be, because I'll hazard a guess that finding new audiences for an orchestra in today's climate of abject stupidity has to be one of the more difficult tasks in the world of music -- maybe in the world, period.

But the LO is doing it. In full realization of my contrarian tendencies, it matters more to have a smaller-market symphony orchestra nipping at the heels of the big-city category leaders than U of L winning basketball games. I suppose they're not mutually exclusive.

Allow me to repeat: if you're over here in SoIn, consider a season ticket for the LO's four annual shows at the Indiana University Southeast's Ogle Center. Ticket costs are reasonable, and it's a short drive for most of us. I believe this is our fourth year as subscribers, and we both look forward to these dates.

ECONOMY OF SCALES: How Louisville Orchestra's CEO is molding 'the most interesting orchestra on the planet', by Sarah Shadburne (Louisville Business First)

... A lot of the work for Massey — and others trying to serve the arts community — lies in the way organizations like the orchestra are perceived.

“If people don’t see the orchestra being for them, they’re not going to engage. That holds true for audiences of different ages, ethnicities, even different socioeconomic statuses,” Massey said. “We want to come to this conversation with listening, rather than saying ‘this is what we need from you.’ We flipped the tables to say, ‘what do you need from us?’”

R.I.P. John Bierly.


Two decades ago John Bierly was a Public House regular, hanging out with late afternoon coffee drinking students. The exact circumstances elude me, but this is how I met him. 

A few years later, we bought the house adjacent to the Stemm dental office, where John worked for two decades. Consequently for the past 16 years, I've seen him coming and going almost every day.

John always waved, and occasionally in nice weather we'd have a chat standing in the driveway.

In all this time I can't recall John having anything bad to say about anyone; he always was polite, pleasant, and friendly. While I can't claim to have known John very well -- I readily concede to being oblivious to John's national recognition as a writer and reviewer of Batman (see below), Star Wars and other such creative genres -- it's not hard at all to see why he inspired love and devotion on the part of his friends.

It's going to be very strange not seeing John bounding from his car at lunchtime carrying bags of food for the folks at Stemm's. I don't know what else to say except to wish peace and love to his family and friends.

In Memoriam, John Bierly (1975-2020), by By Bill "Jett" Ramey (Batman on Film)

Yes, John Bierly was the best damn writer BOF has ever had, and I don’t think anyone who has written for me — including yours truly — would disagree. But most importantly, John was an awesome human being.

Whenever I had some bad times with BOF for various reasons, John always reached out to make sure I was OK and to tell me he was there for me and had my back.

He was — as we say in Texas — “good people.”

John Roger Bierly Jr. 1975 - 2020

Sunday school, or "The Tao of Lemmy: 18 Great Quotes From the Motörhead frontman."


“Apparently people don’t like the truth, but I do like it; I like it because it upsets a lot of people. If you show them enough times that their arguments are bullshit, then maybe just once, one of them will say, ‘Oh! Wait a minute — I was wrong.’ I live for that happening. Rare, I assure you.”
-- Lemmy

A friend posted this quote, and I went searching for more.

The Tao of Lemmy: 18 Great Quotes From the Motorhead Frontman (Rolling Stone)

Lemmy was rock and roll music personified, and I'll always remember 2019 as the year when I finally "got" Motörhead's music. It can take a while for music, art or literature to sink in, even when you're familiar with it.

I'd like to call a moratorium on the various other discussions about the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame -- all except the one confirming without a shadow of a doubt that any such institution without Lemmy and Motörhead in it fails to fathom what rock and roll means.

Here's a piece from 2016.

---

January 2, 2016

I approach the sad topic of Lemmy's recent death as one of his many admirers, if not an outright fan.

Motörhead isn't my daily musical taste, and yet as someone immersed for decades in the variant of "Englishness" when it comes to rock and roll, the band's importance is something fixed and beyond denial.

Of course, Lemmy was the band. As for Ian Kilmister, one preview sentence says it all.

Lemmy: the contrarian hell-raiser who rejected adoration, by Alexis Petridis (The Guardian)

Motörhead’s inimitable frontman, who disowned his genre and disregarded his band’s totemic status, will remain loved for his articulate grit and realism.

As it happens, "hope I die before I get old" was a lame cop-out. Lemmy merely lived his art until he died, which probably was the point all along. In 2009, Dave Grohl summarized: "Lemmy's a living, breathing, drinking and snorting fucking legend. No one else comes close."

Obviously, Lemmy is gone, but his legend remains fully intact in a temporal world now lacking his presence.

Long live rock and roll.

Lemmy may have resided in Los Angeles for the past 25 years, but he remains a distinctly English cultural icon. This partly owes to rock and roll's special place in the British Isles, and not only England itself; the same is true in Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

These were stratified and regimented societies prior to World War II, and after the war came a prolonged era of privation and austerity. American rock and roll was a liberating tsunami for the baby boomers there, with the added benefit of being spoken in a shared language. Lemmy came of age in this milieu, though I believe his iconic stature reflects more than music alone.

While it may have faded a bit during more recent multi-cultural times, there always has been a specifically English love of eccentrics, of those who refuse to conform to the societal molds binding the citizenry. In some ways, America was founded on non-conformity; not so much in Stoke-on-Trent, Brighton or Sheffield.

As early as 1866, entire books were devoted to English eccentricity. The comedian Dave Allen mounted a search for the great English eccentric, and a man named Henry Hemming authored a newer book devoted to the same quest.

Call it eccentricity or simple human dignity; Lemmy resolutely lived his own life and pursued his own muse. Like Keith Moon, Viv Stanshall or Oliver Reed before him, Lemmy's middle finger remained stubbornly held aloft.

And this probably was the point all along -- for Lemmy, and for us.

In our own time of suburban New Gahanian social decline, it's an ideal worth remembering, and perhaps even emulating -- with or without a Rickenbacker bass.

I'm guessing Lemmy would approve if we switched to spray paint.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

For any such place one might miss, there are dozens awaiting discovery.

Haarlem.

The cities profiled below, each of which has had issues with over-tourism, are Amsterdam, Barcelona, Florence and Prague. I've never been to Barcelona. It's been 14 years since my last visit to Prague, and 33 for Florence.

Amsterdam is an interesting case for me. We've been through Schiphol airport so many times I've lost count, but it's been at least 15 years since I've set foot in the city itself. The primary reason for this is the sheer serendipity of having friends in Haarlem, which is a lovely city of 232,000 people just 15 miles from Amsterdam.

Apart from the contents of certain famous museums, there's really nothing to be missed in Amsterdam by someone choosing to spend time instead in Haarlem. A day trip to Amsterdam to visit those museums can be facilitated by frequent and inexpensive public transportation. In addition, these trains and buses run the opposite direction to the North Sea beaches at Zandvoort.

I'll always adore Prague, but if an opportunity comes to return to Czech Republic, there are smaller cities I'd rather explore, like Brno or Olomouc. In recent years, we've enjoyed wonderful stays in Trieste and Catania (Sicily), Italian cities having nowhere the tourist traffic of Florence. Someday, Spain once more; however, having learned from our fine time in Porto (neighboring Portugal) rather than Lisbon, I doubt Barcelona would be on the itinerary.

For any such place one might miss, there are dozens awaiting discovery.

Overtourism in Europe's historic cities sparks backlash, by Jon Henley and Guardian correspondents

Angry protests from residents in popular areas force city hall officials to take action

Across Europe, historic cities are buckling. Mass tourism, encouraged by cash-hungry councils after the 2008 crash and fuelled by the explosion of cheap flights and online room rentals, has become a monster. The backlash, however, has begun ...

Friday, January 24, 2020

GREEN MOUSE presents NAWBANY WEEK IN REVIEW for 24 January 2020.


As the topic of New Agony City Hall's first web site post in over a month, Team Gahan chose to exalt pure politics to the exclusion of numerous topics of relevance on the part of the majority of the populace, those not occupying seats on the Floyd County Democratic Party's fix-stays-in central committee.

City of New Albany Appeals to Indiana Supreme Court to Resolve Former Floyd County Commissioners’ Breach of Longstanding Property Agreement

Jeff Gahan's epitaph? It will be "He Kept Us Apart" -- from half our government, and I'm not talking about Republicans ... although Gahan is.

Speaking of the GOP, we have a winner in the contest to replace Billy Stewart as county commissioner.

The Floyd County Republican Party has selected the newest member of the Floyd County Commissioners. On Thursday, a caucus was held at the Calumet Club in New Albany to hear from potential appointees. Out of the six who tossed their hats into the ring for the District 3 seat, the caucus ultimately landed on Tim Kamer. Kamer will take the place of Billy Stewart, who resigned from his post as president of the commissioners in December to expand his role at Hofmann USA.

Meanwhile the NewsBune awakened Chris Morris to perform a professional eulogy for Susan Orth, who is retiring as a judge. Predictably, Morris sought the viewpoint of Democratic party chairman Adam Dickey, who is at least as familiar with the concept of "jurisprudence" as Mitch McConnell.

Is this vacancy the one Matt Lorch has endured abuse from his own political party for the past five years in order to be anointed for? Only the shadow knows, but so far, Shane isn't talking.

There were all kinds of local sporting events this week. Those don't matter at all, so we'll ignore them. Of greater relevance is the Board of Works picking favorites when it comes to downtown street closures.

ASK THE BORED: Is consistency among BOW's mandates when it debates street closings?


On Monday there was a merchant meeting.

The meeting lasted an hour, during which there was no mention whatever of the impending (2021) Sherman Minton Bridge repair-mandated adjustments -- lane and ramp closures and the like -- that stand to have a disruptive impact on downtown specifically, and in more general terms the city as a whole. Does Team Gahan have the latest in a long series of top secret plans reserved for the 11th Hour? If not, or even if so, shouldn't this coping strategy be something we're openly planning for? Or is participatory "infrastructure" of this sort simply not a priority in Nawbany, lest real people become involved?

We've said it before, so to repeat: The only bridge repair disruption "plan" Team Gahan possesses at present involves amassing propaganda in order to blame Republicans for it.

Finally, a tip of the hat to restaurateur Ian Hall. Until you've poured yourself into birthing an independent local business, done all you can to nurture it, then be compelled to face reality and euthanize your own creation, you simply cannot grasp how hard it was for Ian to make this video. There is much to be learned from any such decision. That doesn't mean it's easy

VIDEO: Longboard's Taco & Tiki has closed, but Ian Hall has good news, too.



Monty Python skit or real life? Church of England says "Sex is for married heterosexual couples only."



You are all the same
Gilded and absurd
Regal, fast to blame
Rulers by lost word
Men above men, or prats
With your high hats
You priest, you mullah so high
You pope, you wise rabbi
You're invisible to me
Like vapour from the sea

Arguably the best comment I've seen about this story.


Men in purple dresses dispensing directives about how and when to have sex.

Whatever.

Sex is for married heterosexual couples only, says Church of England, by Harriet Sherwood (The Guardian)

Pastoral guidance also calls for Christians in gay or straight civil unions to be abstinent

The Church of England has stated that sex belongs only within heterosexual marriage, and that sex in gay or straight civil partnerships “falls short of God’s purpose for human beings”.

Bishops have issued pastoral guidance in response to the recent introduction to mixed-sex civil partnerships, which says: “For Christians, marriage – that is, the lifelong union between a man and a woman, contracted with the making of vows – remains the proper context for sexual activity.”

The church “seeks to uphold that standard” in its approach to civil partnerships, and “to affirm the value of committed, sexually abstinent friendships” within such partnerships.

It adds: “Sexual relationships outside heterosexual marriage are regarded as falling short of God’s purpose for human beings” ...

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Learning from Megxit: Our device-driven "bread and circuses (while we remain) supine in the face of the social and democratic collapses."


Amid this analysis of the British royal family's latest effort to confirm its own senselessness, there's a very valuable point that I wish I'd found the words to describe.

First, the pitch.

The Real Megxit Deal, by John Davis (CounterPunch)

In a move that reflects the time-worn pathologies of powerful aristocratic families, the House of Windsor has agreed to allow the Queen’s grandson, Harry, currently sixth in line to the throne, and his California-born wife, Meghan, to leave the family business (The Firm) and attempt to establish independent lives in Canada, a former colony which remains a member of the British Commonwealth. This represents their exile from the territorial, ceremonial, financial, and emotional heart of the royal family.

The gimcrack contrivance of the constitutionally constrained modern royal family was immediately apparent upon its founding in the late seventeenth century.

Now, the section with universality quite apart from the United Kingdom.

Enthralled by freshets of free entertainment enabled by personal electronic devices, and the increasing availability of cheap consumer goods brought directly to one’s attention by those self-same devices, we exist in a perfect storm of twenty-first century bread and circuses – supine in the face of the social and democratic collapses that fester under such conditions of popular disinterest, inattention and apathy.

Royalty, heads of state, captains of industry, sports and entertainment stars offer up their lives in service to the insatiable maw of those who trade information for the privilege of exposing consumers to targeted advertising. They are but the tip of the pyramid, the base of which consists of all those who contribute cat videos, personal vignettes and the like to social media. Goods routed to consumers, along global supply routes and hub and spoke distribution networks, do so only upon the initial capture of their consumers’ attention on, most often, the tiny screens of their devices. (The actual production of those goods remains largely hidden from their consumers eyes, spread across the planet, most often in areas of poverty-wages, pollution and environmental vulnerability).

ON THE AVENUES: Running over the same old ground.


Islands in the stream of consciousness …

For those first ten years after college, my life was relatively simple. Armed with my handy, all-purpose degree in philosophy, I’d stand behind a counter selling something, sit behind a desk pretending to teach something, go to Europe for a while and do many varied somethings, come back completely busted, and start the process of "somethinging" anew.

My liver managed to survive frequent punishment, and so another decade commenced. The routine was changed up just a bit. The counter morphed into a bar, for serving and teaching alike. The trips to Europe got shorter and occurred more often. Bicycling was added to the short list of obsessions. I became a radical beer revolutionary, and we actually won the war, although eventually the revolution devoured its own just like it always does.

But this hardly counts as news, and the analysis can be deferred until another time.

As with any other human, there were highs and lows, joy and pain, periods in which I thought life made sense, and other times when it didn’t come anywhere close. Through it all, the only constant was lingering self-doubt.

I never felt as if I knew ENOUGH, and whatever role I happened to be playing at the time, it invariably seemed transitory, just a bit part perpetually up for audition. Had I bothered to notice that role-playing was a way of hiding, maybe I’d have had a better idea of who I really was.

“Can you see the real me, can you – can you?”

Those are the words of Jimmy, Quadrophenia’s teenaged protagonist, as written by Pete Townshend for The Who’s 1973 rock opera. Townshend’s songs began speaking directly to me six years later, when I was at a low ebb.

Small wonder that I still listen to Quadrophenia regularly. The music addresses, if not resolves, feelings of melancholy, uncertainty and confusion. These feelings are not as intense as before, but they never entirely go away.

My guess is these emotions are to be expected when we’re young, although I’d have hoped to given them the slip by now. Still, by the time a pirate looks at forty or more, the urgency of these functions has lessened, thankfully.

---

It seems nature requires of us only a handful of preordained outcomes, including birth, sustaining life long enough to reproduce, and then death. We’ve managed to subvert the original intent, which is for procreation to take place early -- and then die as you please.

At the age of 21, you needn’t know who you are or where you’re going in order to make babies. One merely must grasp certain how-to basics from the procedures manual. The chapter on all-purpose troubleshooting becomes available (if not readily comprehensible) only later, when we’re well past our sell-by dates. After all, throughout much of human history our moments of expiration came around the age of fifty, if not sooner.

“Thanks so much for your service to the species, and now your children will care for you – or otherwise. If your marbles remain roughly in place, there is time at last to ponder the imponderables. Congratulations, and goodbye. NEXT.”

It remains that to be male and childless, whether by choice or circumstance, thrusts one into the realm of the avuncular. That’s fine by me, so listen to Uncle Roger, because the paybacks are coming due.

By which I mean that so often during my 25 years behind the bar, folks offered to buy me a beer, which I politely refused on the basis that my company’s profits already were being consumed quite handily by its chief officers.

Instead I asked that you hold on to your kind thought, deposit the money, draw some interest, and buy both of us tall, cellar-temperature treats -- but only when I gave the signal.

(By the way, it you’re intent on describing beer with a word like "frosty" or a term like "ice-cold", I hope you're also referring to the top-shelf bourbon as "rotgut" and Robert Parker's fave Wine Down Wednesday recommendation as "plonk." I hate seeing beer degraded, even degraded mass market swill. Questions? Good, because the topic is tiresome).

Please be informed that I’ll be 60 years of age come August. The time for those beers draws ever nearer, albeit not to be redeemed all at once, please.

Thank you for your consideration.

---

My wife has family in Plymouth, England, where her mother was born and raised. Twice during the past decade we’ve spent time in Plymouth for visits with her extended family.

Famous for its nearly perfect natural port, and for being the centuries-long home of the Royal Navy (supposedly Sir Francis Drake engaged in the serenity of lawn bowling as the Spanish Armada approached), Plymouth also was a launching point for disgruntled Old World escapes bound for America.

The city lies on the left bank of the River Tamar in the county of Devon, with Cornwall beginning on the opposite bank. In its wider expanse the English counties of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset are referred to as the West Country.

The reason I’m explaining all this is because I’ve taken to following the fortunes of Plymouth’s football club, Argyle. You needn’t be bored with the details, as Argyle competes in League 2, which actually is the fourth league (of four) in terms of rank, or “Single A” for those of you who know baseball.

As with other sports, I devote little precious time to watching games and matches, but I read about the results and keep an eye on the league table (the standings). Plymouth won its match last Saturday, and so I visited the Plymouth Herald web site to catch up.

And down the rabbit hole I went a-plunging.

It took a few minutes to read the account, then an hour to glance at other articles while feeling my imagination start running rampant.

Recalling our previous stays, I began looking at maps of the West Country, while in my mind tasting Cornish pasties and pints of cask-conditioned ale, imagining an entire summer to do nothing except wander these territories by foot, bicycle, bus and train -- anything but a car, because they’re the problem, not the solution, damn it.

The phone rang and the bubble burst. Back in New Agony, the ache of unrequited longing enveloped me. Granted, it’s easy enough to view traveling as synonymous with escape, to leave behind the humdrum of everyday life and see other sides and different places. In addition it’s probably true that for the most part, they’re just as humdrum as we are.

However, a boy can dream. So can an adult.

All things being equal, and lottery winnings in pocket, I’d be perfectly content to spend the remainder of my life wandering the West Country, then Bavaria, and Italy -- maybe Chile or Canada’s eastern seaboard.

Maybe escape really is the real me, after all.

---

Recent columns:

January 16: ON THE AVENUES: I won’t belong to any Dry January that would have me as a member.

January 9: ON THE AVENUES: Elusive sounds of silence.

January 2: ON THE AVENUES: On patience, grieving, puzzles and a necessary sabbatical.

December 26: ON THE AVENUES: Four more years? Heaven help us all, but there are five reasons to be optimistic.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

A survey of America's mayors finds that many "aren’t eager to challenge the status quo."

"If they don’t adjust their priorities to match the urgency of the crises they’ve identified, mayors might have no one to blame for stalled progress but themselves."

I attended yesterday's DNA-sponsored merchant meeting, the first such gathering of 2020.

The meeting lasted an hour, during which there was no mention whatever of the impending (2021) Sherman Minton Bridge repair-mandated adjustments -- lane and ramp closures and the like -- that stand to have a disruptive impact on downtown specifically, and in more general terms the city as a whole.

Does Team Gahan have a secret plan for the 11th Hour?

If not, or even if so, shouldn't this be something we're planning for? Or is participatory "infrastructure" of this sort simply not a priority in Nawbany?

U.S. Mayors Say Infrastructure Is a Priority. But What Kind?

The Menino Survey of Mayors identifies priorities like infrastructure, traffic safety, and climate change. But many mayors aren’t eager to challenge the status quo.

... Generally, pedestrian and cyclist safety was prioritized by many mayors—a reflection, perhaps, of the limited progress most U.S. cities are making on their efforts to reduce traffic-related injuries. New research shows that even as being a car passenger is getting safer, being a pedestrian is becoming more dangerous. Still, “majorities of mayors rate travel in their city as safe for all of the groups we asked about,” and only 22 percent of mayors ranked “pedestrian friendliness” as a top infrastructure priority, while 66 percent listed “roads.” Democratic mayors did full-throatedly commit to sacrificing car lanes and parking spaces to bike lanes, with 92 percent on board compared to Republicans’ 34 percent—a partisan divide that’s ballooned 30 points since the survey’s 2015 edition.

Vision Zero, the global movement to dramatically reduce pedestrian fatalities, may be a hot topic in transportation circles but it’s not exactly a national priority in America’s city halls: It’s tied for seventh place (with “lighting”) on a list of what’s been most important for pedestrian safety improvements. Based on CityLab research showing that Vision Zero efforts aren’t paying off fast enough in some of the U.S.’s largest participants, perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising. As for other traffic safety measures, most mayors think their cities are doing enough. Despite global efforts to drop vehicle speeds inside cities, nearly three-quarters of mayors surveyed thought their speed limits were set at the “right level,” while only 15 percent thought they were set too high.