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Eat Arkansas

In praise of Old Chicago

North Little Rock's Old Chicago pleases mightily with apps and pies.

Citadelle gin returns to Colonial Wines & Spirits

Colonial Wines & Spirits is bringing Citadelle gin back to Little Rock, and owner Clark Trim thinks you'll be as happy with the return of this flavorful spirit as he is.

Celebrate craft beer tomorrow in Hot Springs

Hot Springs hosts its second ever craft beer festival.

Dining Review

Turkish delights

May 28, 2015
Turkish delights
Istanbul hits all the right notes. /more/

Dining Search

A&E Feature

Pop life

May 28, 2015
Pop life
A double LP reissue highlights the cult classic Little Rock band Chinese Girls. /more/

To-Do List

Col. Bruce Hampton plays Stickyz

May 28, 2015
Col. Bruce Hampton plays Stickyz
Also, Charlie Wilson at Verizon, Adam Faucett at White Water Tavern, CALS Con at the Main Library and The Zoltars at Stickyz. /more/

Columnists

Max Brantley

Duggars meet their maker

The Jim Bob Duggar family experienced the downside of celebrity last week /more/

Ernest Dumas

'Freedom of conscience': Just say you're sorry

Now that the chorus of politicians invoking religious liberty against the president and local governments includes nearly every Republican presidential candidate, it is time to ask whether those who espouse religious liberty the most loudly believe in it least. /more/

Gene Lyons

Same story

Contrary to what Jeb Bush said, it wasn't actually too hard to see through the propaganda barrage that led the United States to invade Iraq in 2003. Key aspects of the Bush administration's case for war were transparently false, and would have been comically so if the consequences hadn't been so terrible. /more/

Movie Reviews

Like there's no 'Tomorrowland'

May 28, 2015
Like there's no 'Tomorrowland'
Looks cool, lacks substance. /more/

Pearls About Swine

Big on Benintendi

May 21, 2015
The spring has been, if nothing else, an unprecedented one for Arkansas Razorback individualism. Bobby Portis took his justly due hardware as SEC Player of the Year and now hopes to parlay that into a first-round selection by an NBA team that wants to develop his considerable skills for a couple of years. /more/

Blog Roll

Arkansas Blog

Hourly news and comment

Rock Candy

The guide to Arkansas entertainment

Eat Arkansas

For food lovers

Eye Candy

On art in Arkansas

Street Jazz

A view from Northwest Arkansas

Arkansas Blog

Monday, June 1, 2015 - 20:36:00

Rep. Nate Bell goes independent? Follows intraparty disagreement on primary

click to enlarge screen_shot_2015-06-01_at_8.20.35_pm.png

The state legislative webpage now lists Rep. Nate Bell of Mena, previously a Republican, as an independent.

I've sent a question to Bell about the change indicated, but he long ago stopped talking to the Arkanss Times.

I could speculate that Bell's switch, if it be for real, is an outgrowth of his unhappy and finally unsuccessful opposition to Gov. Asa Hutchinson-backed legislation to shift the 2016 primary elections from May to March. Bell was right. The change will create hardships for election officials and limit non-mainstream candidates, particularly for local offices. There's little in the way of proof the change will increase voter participation or make Arkansas a player in the Republican presidential primary. Also, March 1 could be a problem on account of weather. But major Republican figures wanted the change  and they got what they wanted, despite dogged, crafty and almost-successful opposition by Bell and a few Democrats.

Since the battle, Bell has posted quite a bit about the fight. His Facebook page includes a link to his floor speech against the bill and the likes of a quote saying it is better to walk alone than with a crowd going the wrong direction.

Bell has said he doesn't intend to run for election again in 2016, so he may only have a fiscal session in front of him — in May when he'll be a particularly lame duck if he doesn't run and a successor will have been nominated. His wife, Phyllis, was hired as a $50,000-a-year lobbyist for Gov. Hutchinson. I don't know if she's still in that position or not.

Party affiliation or not, I wouldn't expect Bell to turn into a liberal when votes are counted. But he WILL break from orthodoxy now and then, and that's refreshing in days of a hyperpartisan Republican Party. Just this morning he commented on Twitter that Republican State Treasurer Dennis Milligan never should have been elected "after the Krispy Kreme caper."


 

Monday, June 1, 2015 - 17:09:22

Monday's open line and daily video; plus, legislative ethics watch


Off to a slow but cool start for June 1. Here's the open line for Monday, plus our daily video roundup of news and opinion.

And, on the ethics watch, the society of professional lobbyists was asked to circulate this invitation. I'm not sure I was supposed to get one, given that I've had plenty to say about how Jon Woods, in the name of "ethics reform" got legislators a fat pay raise, longer terms, daily free swill and, in the most recent session, a free pass under changes to the ethics law for erroneous campaign reports and campaign contributions. I'm guessing a few lobbyists will turn up at this event. If they know what's good for them. Woods is going to be around for a while.

click to enlarge woods.jpg

 

Monday, June 1, 2015 - 17:01:00

Judge Pierce refuses to reconsider ruling against city payments to chamber of commerce

click to enlarge JUDGE MACKIE PIERCE
  • JUDGE MACKIE PIERCE
Pulaski Circuit Judge Mackie Pierce has refused requests by the cities of Little Rock and North Little Rock that he reconsider his ruling that annual payments to chambers of commerce were unconstitutional.

Times columnist Ernest Dumas provides a report fron the courtoom:

Judge Pierce conducted a 35-minute hearing on the motion of the cities of Little Rock and North Little Rock that he reconsider his ruling that the cities’ annual appropriations to the chambers of commerce and their affiliated groups violated the Article 5, Section 12 of the state Constitution.

At the end, he denied the motion and reiterated his ruling that the appropriations to the chamber groups were unlawful and that the contracts the cities began preparing several years ago to cover the expenditures were not valid contracts.

Judge Pierce had issued a partial summary judgment Jan. 5 in the suit brought by the Arkansas Public Law Center [a nonprofit board on whose board both Dumas and I sit]. He said there were no material issues of fact to be decided. Tom Carpenter and John Wilkerson, the city attorneys, disputed that holding, saying it was based on the plaintiffs’ assertion that the chambers were doing the same things they were doing before the cities began appropriating the money and that the money had no material effect on what the chambers were doing. They said that the Metropolitan Alliance and the North Little Rock Economic Development Commission, the entities that received municipal subsidies, depended on the taxpayers’ subsidy. The Metropolitan Alliance is run by the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce with money from several other local governments.

The Little Rock Chamber gets $200,000 a year from the city and the Metropolitan Alliance $150,000, and North Little Rock sends the Economic Development Corporation $265,000 a year. Judge Pierce ordered the payments to cease.

Sonia Rios was the attorney for the APLC and the plaintiffs, Jim Lynch, Tony Orr and Glenn Miller.

Many other Arkansas cities have been subsidizing their local chambers, some of them since the mid-1990s.

A constitutional amendment placed on the 2016 ballot by the legislature in April would repeal the provision of the constitution that prohibits such appropriations

The judge directed the winning attorneys to prepare a claim for attorney fees.

Appeals are likely, though the decision, in addition to barring payments by Little Rock and North Little Rock, casts a pall over payments all over the state in the meanwhile. In Little Rock — and most other cities — the payments for economic development assistance merely pay all or part of salaries of private organizations that have long been doing that sort of work, without public accountability or access to their records. They often work on political agendas more in keeping with those of business special interests than voters at large.

 

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Monday, June 1, 2015 - 17:09:00

Forever Charlie: Charlie Wilson live at Verizon Arena

click to enlarge Charlie Wilson
  • Charlie Wilson

Charlie Wilson, one of the greatest R&B artists of all time, came to Verizon Arena last Friday night and performed for a near-sold-out crowd as part of his Forever Charlie Tour with special guests Joe and Kem. Joe opened the show, Kem followed with a great set and Charlie rocked the house. If you missed it, you missed out on something wonderful.

As always, I was running late to meet up with my date. We arrived at Verizon Arena 10 minutes after 8 p.m. and it was a sight to see. People walking up and down the street, dressed to the nines. Men all dressed in colorful suits, with matching shoes and hats; ladies in jumpsuits, dresses, and classy jeans. It was some kind of amazing. There were black and brown people everywhere, candy-coated cars trying to find a place to park and a man on his Harley playing Uncle Charlie’s “Hey Lover” as the perfect background music to it all. After circling the block twice we found a spot and made a beeline for the arena.

Walking up the hill toward the entrance we passed a group of couples in their late 40s. One of them said, “Look at the babies” as we passed. That was the moment I knew we were likely going to be the youngest couple in attendance. But that didn’t matter to me one bit. I was here to see my Uncle Charlie, the man whose music has been played every day of my life, as the background to our summer cookouts, the slow jams in my cousin’s car, cleaning music on Saturday mornings, out on the boat at the lake and the music that grown folks always tell me “Y’all don’t know nothing about.”

As we made our way to our seats Joe was finishing up and asked the audience, “How you feeling, Little Rock?” The crowd responded with screams, hoops, hollers and whistles. The arena was still bustling with people coming in and out trying to find their seats and friends. Joe continued the show with a few of his hits including, ‘More” and “I Want to Know,” both of which had all the women in the audience out of their seats, hands raised in the air, belting out notes that we couldn’t forget if we tried. During the brief intermission after Joe’s performance everyone raced to the concession stands to buy margaritas, popcorn and hot dogs. My date and I settled on water. The air in the arena was thick from the afternoon heat and moist from that evening’s rain. The stage crew finished setting up, the house lights went back down, and the band began to play as Kem made his way to the stage.

The crowd went wild as the spotlight shone on him. He wore a gray and white snakeskin suit tailored to his slim frame, and white sneakers with a golden emblem on the front. He looked good. Kem moved and grooved to the music, shaking his hips in time with the bass and was just feeling the funk. It was hard for me to sit still; I had to get up and dance with him. He sang some of his hits, including “Love Calls,” “Nobody” and “Loving You,” which had all the couples hugged up and swaying back and forth to the sound of his voice and vibrations of the guitar.

After a few songs Kem took a moment to talk to the audience. He said, “In case you didn’t know, you’re listening to grown folks music right now.” The crowd cheered. “Do we have any grown folks in the house tonight?” The crowd roared, low hoops and hollers from the men, “woo woo woo,” and screams and cheers from the women with a few whistles. He showed off his outfit, saying, “Back in Detroit they called me high and tight,” in reference to his buttocks, which were on prominent display in his suit. He was cheeky. He straightened his pants legs so he could flash his shoes as well.

click to enlarge Kem
  • Kem

Kem said he was “all right in the Rock” and the crowd hooped and hollered. “Ladies, how y’all feel? Brothas, how y’all doing? How many brothas are here with the woman they love?” The men erupted into a booming chorus of yeas, woos and whistles. Kem said the show was for the women and he was trying to help the fellas out. “I’m singing for the ladies, but I’m working for the fellas.” He told the men to pull the women close to them and sing and repeat after him, “Oh ... oh ... oh girl ... baby ... I love you ... I need you ... I’m gon’ buy you that $6,500 Louis Vuitton handbag tomorrow, when I wake up in the morning, it’s the first thing I’m gonna do.” The crowd erupted into laughter (and cheers from the women). The band eased back into “Share My Life.” Kem went on to sing “Dreamer,” “Promise to Love,” “Into You” and “You’re On My Mind.”

One of the highlights in the show was when Kem sang, “Find Your Way.” He chose to do a call and response with a man in the audience. He first chose an older black man, and instructed him that he would sing “How did you find you way?” and the man was to sing “Back in my life.” The man was off key and mildly enthusiastic but though the crowd still cheered for him, he quickly returned to his seat. Kem said he was an “equal opportunity entertainer” and asked a middle-aged white man to come sing the same lyrics. The white man came to the edge of the stage, rocked and snapped to the beat of the song and sang with conviction, “Back in my life.” The crowd went wild. Kem had to take a second to regroup and then said, “You got soul brother; don’t think they were expecting that.” The crowd cheered them on as they continued to sing; the air was electric. Toward the end of his set Kem sat at the piano and sang “Why Would You Stay” and a few other songs. He finished by giving praise to God, thanking Little Rock and exiting the stage accompanied by a beautiful guitar solo.

The house lights came up and there was another intermission. The big screens showed footage from Charlie’s tour and promotionals for his new album. The crew set up quickly, the house lights dimmed, and the band came on stage. The emcee introduced Charlie Wilson to the beat of the Gap Band’s “Party Train.” Charlie had on a shimmering suit jacket that looked like a disco ball and his dancers were dressed in short sequined dresses in primary colors and fedoras to match. They rocked it out in a line dance formation and moved across the stage like a funky disco train. The crowd was ecstatic and cheered through the entire song. He followed up with “Charlie’s Jam,” and played a good portion of his “Forever Charlie” album, including “Somebody Loves You,” “Touched by an Angel,” “Goodnight Kisses,” “Unforgettable,” “My Favorite Part of You,” “Hey Lover” and “Birthday Dress.” He took it back for the “old schoolers” in the audience with “It’s Our Anniversary,” which prompted some touching and kissing by the couples in our section and across the arena. As far as they eye could see there were couples grooving to the beat and loving on each other, making me feel way too young to be there.

Charlie continued with some of his newer music, including, “Ooh Wee,” “Shawty Come Back” and “Can’t Live Without You.” He brought the youthful groove back as he sang a cover of “Beautiful” by Pharrell. The audience was up on their feet and swinging to the beat. Then the band transitioned into the opening notes of “There Goes My Baby” and the arena shook. There were shrieks and hollers coming from all around and an energy that was overwhelming. There were couples dancing in the aisles, swaying back and forth, Chicago stepping and kissing to the words of the song. The arrangement of the song was spot on for maximum crowd pleasure with a break in between the second chorus and the hook where Charlie got in line with the band and they “walked it out,” led by the bass guitarist and tailed by the saxophone. He broke out into the running man and followed with a soul train line with the dancers and the band. The song ended with a 3-minute guitar and sax solo that kept the crowd going while Charlie and the dancers changed outfits backstage. The dancers came back out in white suits and hats, for a teaser ode to Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” and quickly transitioned into Charlie’s version of “Uptown Funk.” Their suits lit up and flashed LED dots of neon oranges, yellow, green, blue, pink, and red. It was stunning.

Charlie changed into a sparkling black tuxedo and sang a few more Gap Band classics, including “Burn Rubber On Me (Why You Wanna Hurt Me),” “Outstanding” and “Yearning For Your Love.” He changed gears and played two of my favorites, “Magic” and “Charlie (Last Name Wilson)” to the delight of the crowd. He took a moment to catch his breath, sat down to wipe his face with a towel, and sang a tribute to Little Rock to the tune of Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me”: “Little Rock ... Can I hear you scream babyyy.” The crowd roared. “Darling you send me — you thrill me — honest you do, honest you do.” He said, “This is the best crowd I’ve had in a long time.” The audience cheered and hollered for over a minute while he looked on and smiled. He took a moment and asked the audience, “If you came to party with Uncle Charlie say yeah.” A resounding yeah rolled over the arena. “Well, go like me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and use #ForeverCharlie.” The crowd laughed and cheered. He mentioned his book, “I Am Charlie Wilson,” which goes on sale June 30, and asked everyone in the audience to support him and buy a copy.

He changed again into a crisp all-white suit and took a moment to praise God. He gave his testimony about being delivered from addiction and how good God has been to him and the blessings he has received in his life. He gave a shout out to Broadway Joe for helping make his Little Rock show happen and supporting him, and then asked the audience if they wanted to hear the song that stayed at No. 1 for 16 weeks. The crowd responded with cheers as the opening notes of “You Are” began to play. Two dancers came out in white trefoil shimmering butterfly wings and danced around him and across the stage. He followed up with “I Wanna Be Your Man,” gave glory to God once again, and said goodnight to Little Rock.

The line of people trying to exit the arena was long and jumbled with the rain making it more difficult to navigate but we eventually made our way outside and back to our car. We reveled in the magic of the evening, the fantastic performances and the overwhelming feeling of love that was present that night.

Charlie Wilson proved how great he is Friday night. The crowd was on its feet the entire performance with hands and voices raised. There was kissing and hugging — entirely too much PDA for my tastes. But it was a beautiful sight to see: There was an energy that just could not be ignored. The entire show was wonderfully choreographed with Charlie running, jumping, stepping, sliding and dancing across the stage with more enthusiasm and energy than most of today’s R&B crooners. He is a true performer, an awesome talent, with a stage presence that is electrifying. You better put it on your bucket list: Charlie Wilson live is spectacular.

 

Friday, May 29, 2015 - 17:04:00

Staff Picks: Sims Bar-B-Q, Korean soap operas, Van Morrison and more

click to enlarge SHERON RUPP
  • Sheron Rupp

Arkansas Times Recommends is a weekly series in which Times staff members (or whoever happens to be around at the time) highlight things we've been enjoying this week.

Sims Bar-B-Q — Why had I gone so many years without a visit? How could I forget that spare ribs are richer than back ribs and infinitely better when they have a good bark-like finish and Sims' nonpareil mustard-based sauce, augmented by a healthy squirt of the incendiary house hot sauce (you have to ask). The slaw is fresh. The potato salad, too. And don't forget greens unless you are a vegetarian. Yes, I said unless you are a vegetarian. The pigmeat quotient is high. Don't forget the 40's. Budweiser. None of that craft crapola here. Dinner and plenty of beer for six ran $75. Recommended. — Max Brantley

In the course of my day-to-day reporting, it’s become an almost unconscious part of the process to Google any significant proper noun I come across: Places, people, events, organizations, etc. The scariness of that slow creep towards Singularity aside — the casual reflexiveness with which I cast out those search queries as part of the everyday learning process indicates the Internet has already essentially become a mental prosthetic — it means I spend a lot of time wandering through the dusty halls of city websites and Topix pages. But then, there are the unexpected gems.

A couple weeks ago, I heard an interesting story about a health care provider in Elkins, Arkansas, a town of about 2,200 in the vicinity of Fayetteville. Do a Google image search for "Elkins Arkansas” — go ahead, try it — and amidst the dross of high school sports and decontextualized map fragments, a couple of startling pictures jump out. Turns out they’re by a photographer named Sheron Rupp, now in her 70s, who traveled in the Ozarks, Appalachia, Montana and Ohio throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, driving randomly down rural roads and striking up conversations with people on their porches and in their gardens. Elkins is among the places she visited. They’re beautiful images, simultaneously a melancholic keyhole glimpse into the almost-history of three decades past, and simple family photographs so evocative of the casual intimacy of a summertime front yard that I was sure for a second that I saw my aunt in one of them. (Nope, it wasn’t her.)

“Do you have a favorite story about one of your photographs?” an interviewer asked Rupp not long ago for Ahorn, an online photography magazine. “I prefer not to tell ‘favorite stories’ about my photographs, as that tends to fictionalize the lives of real people whom I do not really know,” she replied. “I was never interested in making something a spectacle.” — Benji Hardy

Because it's summer I recommend this specific song by Van Morrison, and also a strange personal essay by Nicholson Baker called "One Summer," published in the Washington Post Magazine ten years ago. It's a series of brief memories united by the fact that they occurred one summer in Baker's life. Like, for instance:

"One summer I lived in a house that was being renovated, in a bright yellow room, with a mattress on the floor. I woke up late and tried to type in bed. I was working on a story about a man who by chance runs into his brain on the street. His brain is wearing a jaunty hat and is in a hurry. It has some kind of a sales job. At night I walked to a restaurant called Gitsis Texas Hots and ordered two hot dogs and a cup of coffee and reviewed the day's work on "My Brain." The story was never finished."

"One summer I was on the verge of making a bologna sandwich. I had the tomato in my hand, and I'd opened the door of the refrigerator, and I was looking down at the jar of mayonnaise on the bottom shelf, and then I thought, No, no bologna right now. And I closed the refrigerator door. I was able to resist that bologna and put it out of my mind."

"One summer I sat at a table with Donald Barthelme, the short-story writer, while he drank a bloody Mary. He said he was planning to buy a new stereo system. I recommended that he go with Infinity loudspeakers." — Will Stephenson

If you've got Amazon Prime (and if you don't, I'm making a second recommend here that you get it ... $100 bucks per year for most of the stuff streaming on Netflix and them some, plus free shipping on most Amazon items), I'd like to recommend the stellar four-part documentary series "Witness," streaming now, which features the real-life stories of photographers who venture into the world's most dangerous places in search of the perfect image. Originally an HBO series, the series is a labor of love by the excellent action director Michael Mann ("Heat," Collateral") and the documentary filmmaker David Frankham. Current episodes on Amazon.com cover photographers working in Juarez, Libya, Rio and South Sudan. I've only made it through Juarez so far, but what I have seen is moving stuff: the story of young photographer Eros Hoagland, who risks his life on a daily basis to capture the horror of the Mexican cartel wars, all the while dealing with his own internal struggle over the death of his father, himself a photographer who was killed while taking combat photos in Central America when Hoagland was a boy. More than just another reality TV show, "Witness: Juarez" is a testament to the power a photograph can hold, and a hymn to those who put their lives on the line to bring back the images that move our souls. Highly recommended. — David Koon   

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Friday, May 29, 2015 - 11:18:00

New music from Teenagers, DMP, Liquid Skulls, Yuni Wa and more

click to enlarge Teenagers
  • Teenagers

1. Teenagers - "We Were Young Once"
Here's something new from Fayetteville band Teenagers' new EP "Wheezin' The Juice." I'd love to say something sharp and coherent about it, but nothing comes to mind. To free associate instead: San Diego, Rickenbacker, The Strokes, Capri Sun, longboards, mezcal.

2. DMP - "Cash In My Bag"
As angular and minimal as I've ever known DMP to be — an anthem designed for driving or for dancing subtly in kitchens. Just take Kari Faux's word for it.

3. Liquid Skulls - "CHLV8"
I don't know how Little Rock's Liquid Skulls turned up on the new compilation from French label Anywave Records (titled "Wavecore 4" and accurately described by the label as "a summer collection of deviant mental landscapes and strangely populated dance floors"), but I'm glad it happened. Listen at Bandcamp — or the CD can be yours for 12 euros. 

4. LRG ft. Kingsly & Glady - "Our Song"
A stand-out from the very confusing and occasionally off-putting "Best of LRG" compilation released by Fayetteville art-rock label Let's Talk Figures. If you know what LRG is (a band? a person? a place?) you know more about them than I do, but this is kinda inspiring in spite of itself. 

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Arkansas Reporter

Testing the discrimination law

May 28, 2015
Testing the discrimination law
Where we go next on the state's LGBT fairness ordinances. /more/
 

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