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Eat Arkansas

Eat My Catfish surfaces in Little Rock

Eat My Catfish, which has locations in Benton and Conway, held its grand opening Tuesday in a jazzy new spot at 10301 N. Rodney Parham Road.

Pickled! Preservation Libations fundraiser is Friday

Drinks of the roaring ’20s will be bottoms up as Preserve Arkansas hosts its second annual Preservation Libations Master Mix-Off starting at 6 p.m. Friday, July 22, in the Albert Pike Masonic Temple. Set in the auditorium of the grand 1924 structure, guests will imbibe and vote on competing bartenders’ twists on historic cocktails, all of them delightfully quirky and plenty stiff.

The British are coming to Big Orange: Midtown, and they're bringing rum

Like sailors? Like 'em liquored up? Boy, have we got a holiday for you. And Big Orange: Midtown is the place to be.

Dining Review

More meat, less dough

July 28, 2016
More meat, less dough
Taco Beer Burrito shows promise, but needs to be tweaked. /more/

Dining Search

A&E Feature

The return of Ben Dickey

July 28, 2016
The return of Ben Dickey
The Little Rock native comes to White Water behind his excellent solo debut. /more/

To-Do List

Brent Best comes to The Undercroft

July 28, 2016
Brent Best comes to The Undercroft
Also, Sumokem at Vino's, Animation Show of Shows at Ron Robinson, 'Passing of the Key: A Fundraiser for Lucie's Place' at Revolution, Block on the Rock at and near Stone's Throw Brewing and Charles Portis Weekend. /more/


Max Brantley

1957 all over again

At historic Central High School, two former presidents and a former British prime minister /more/

Ernest Dumas

Trump-Putin 2016

Among the thousand bizarre aspects of the presidential campaign has been the Donald Trump-Vladimir Putin /more/

Gene Lyons

Hillary hit jobs

It's always been my conviction that if Hillary Clinton could be appointed president, she'd do /more/

Pearls About Swine

These Hogs won't be thin

July 28, 2016
This may be the strongest returning receiving corps that the Razorbacks have fielded in the post-Petrino days. /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

Wednesday, July 27, 2016 - 17:24:00

7th Zika virus case in Arkansas

click to enlarge 13737601_1361263913890833_1133258236156095869_o.png

 The state Department of Health reported today Arkansas's 7th case of Zika virus, the mosquito-borne infection that has been linked to microcephaly in infants of infected mothers. The person infected had been traveling in the Pacific Islands, where the virus was reported prior to 2015 and before infections were reported in Brazil. 

The department does not release gender information or if a pregnant woman was infected. Meg Mirivel, department spokesperson, said release of that information would violate HIPAA. "Once we have a few more cases, we will release aggregate data on all cases," Mirivel said. That might be when 10 cases have been reported, she said.


Wednesday, July 27, 2016 - 17:21:00

Governor pushes sea change in higher education funding

click to enlarge SQUEEZED: State support for higher education has stagnated in recent years, despite rising student enrollment. - UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS - FAYETTEVILLE
  • SQUEEZED: State support for higher education has stagnated in recent years, despite rising student enrollment.

In today's Democrat-Gazette, Michael Wickline reports on Gov. Hutchinson's endorsement of a proposed overhaul of funding for colleges and universities in Arkansas. The Higher Education Coordinating Board will consider the plan at its meeting this Friday, although a change of this magnitude will also require legislative approval and could not be implemented for some time.

The governor wants the state to shift to a 100 percent "outcomes-based funding formula" for higher education, meaning colleges and universities would receive state support based on metrics, such as the percentage of students completing a degree on time. The change could be a positive one — but only if it is implemented in the right way. As with K-12 education, making funding contingent on performance is potentially fraught.

The main argument for outcomes-based funding is that colleges and universities lose vast numbers of students between enrollment and graduation. Data from the Arkansas Department of Higher Education show that only 40 percent of a given cohort of students attending a four-year institution in Arkansas will graduate within six years. Only 20 percent of students at two-year schools complete within three years. Not only do many students leave college without a degree, they may be saddled with debt as a result —  and it will come as no surprise that lower-income students and other disadvantaged students are more likely to leave college without a degree than their better-off peers.

The Lumina Foundation, which supports outcomes-based funding, makes the case for outcome-based funding in this FAQ: "When public money flows to colleges and universities based primarily — or solely — on the numbers of students enrolled, institutions understandably focus on recruiting new students rather than on adequately supporting the students they have."

At the moment, 90 percent of state funding for higher education in Arkansas is based on enrollment: The more students enrolled at an institution, the more money the school receives. The other 10 percent of state support is theoretically performance-based: If a school fails to meet certain performance thresholds for two years running, it loses this funding. However, Tara Smith, ADHE's Senior Associate Director for Institutional Finance, told me that performance funding has never been cut off for an institution. 

The proposal that will be presented on Friday does away with the enrollment-based funding system entirely and trades it for a 100 percent outcomes-based model. All funding will be tied to metrics (such as degree completion rate) not enrollment. Smith provided the "framework" derived by an ADHE working group, but the crucial details will come later. If the Higher Education Coordinating Board endorses the proposal, legislation will have to be prepared for the 2017 session in order to make the change. (However, because of the timeline involved in the appropriations process, Smith said, the earliest the shift would go into effect is the 2018-19 school year.)

Dismal college completion rates need to rise, undoubtedly. But there are two reasons for skepticism about what the governor is proposing.

The first is the fact that Arkansas's funding for higher education in general is too low. It hasn't kept pace with inflation, even as the state's flagship public university has been enrolling record numbers of students. When we spoke to UA-Fayetteville Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz this spring, he said the number one problem facing the school was its inability to provide adequate compensation for faculty and staff, leading to nascent retention problems. ADHE's current funding formula determines what colleges and universities theoretically should be appropriated, but unlike with K-12 schools, the legislature is not required to actually fund schools at that level. The state provides UA-Fayetteville just 49 percent of what the formula says it should. That equates to higher tuition for students, which affects lower-income students disproportionately.

Hutchinson told reporters yesterday that he'd be looking into whether the outcomes-based model might require more money. But given his determination to seek yet another tax cut in 2017 — on top of regressive tax cuts in 2015 — it's fair to think a big increase in overall higher ed funding is unlikely. Certainly, the incentive structure for colleges may be skewed — but an equally big part of the problem might be the state's unwillingness to fund higher education adequately.

The second reason for skepticism is outlined in this blog post from the American Council on Education, titled "Will Performance-Based Funding Further Disadvantage Disadvantaged Students?" (I'm considering "performance-based" and "outcomes-based" synonymous.) The authors, who are both professors of education, write:
One of the most commonly cited unintended consequences of PBF [performance-based funding] is that resource-dependent colleges may have an incentive to “cream” admissions by enrolling students who are more likely to graduate, while curtailing admission of disadvantaged groups that are less likely to complete. Moreover, there are concerns that PBF could disproportionally penalize colleges that predominately serve students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
In other words, such a funding model may create a different set of perverse incentives, in which colleges have little interest in recruiting students that are more likely to negatively affect its "outcomes." If schools are funded according to results, then schools might focus on attracting the sort of students more likely to deliver results — and, therefore, come to see low-income students, minority students, non-traditional students and others as a greater liability.

"Reports from the Community College Research Center explain that the colleges can minimize recruitment efforts at area high schools with large numbers of disadvantaged students, and reduce the number of developmental education or adult basic education course offerings," the authors write, although they caution that "such undesirable institutional behaviors may be more of an impending threat than a reality at present."

Smith, at ADHE, acknowledged that "that is a challenge ... you do not want to have institutions begin raising standards [in order] to not admit students." One of ADHE's main goals, she said, is to close attainment gaps based on socioeconomics and race. But, she added, "there are ways to weight those very students and take that into account in those metrics, so it will incentivize the institutions to serve those students and maintain access." But how those students will be weighted are among the many details that have yet to be determined.


Wednesday, July 27, 2016 - 17:18:00

The Wednesday line and video round-up

Have at it.


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Wednesday, July 27, 2016 - 16:14:00

Amman Abbasi named among "25 New Faces of Independent Film"

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Filmmaker Magazine named Little Rock's Amman Abbasi, the son of Pakistani immigrants living in Arkansas, among "25 New Faces of Independent Film," noting the visual strength of Abbasi's debut feature film, "Dayveon," which tells the story of a 13-year-old boy who becomes involved with a local gang in rural Arkansas. "Dayveon" was conceived during Abbasi's time in Chicago with brothers Craig and Brent Renaud, who were filming a documentary on gang violence, and Abbasi brought those ideas home to Arkansas. 
“I had written a placeholder script just with archetypical characters and concepts of stuff that I‘d gathered in Chicago,” he explains. “Then, I workshopped the script with at-risk youth at the local boot camp here. I got their opinions on it, and slowly I realized a lot of it doesn't hold up and some of it does. Then I put their words on the page as to how their story should really be told.” 
In the rehearsal process, the film began to garner the attention of several production companies, Rough House, Symbolic Exchange and Muskat Filmed Properties, who eventually backed the film in collaboration. The film is expected to screen at festivals in 2017.

Abbasi could once be spotted working with his parents, Zahid and Shabnam, at Masala Grill + Teahouse, formerly in the River Market. He's a musician, too; he and his brother Yousef, as The Abbasi Brothers, scored two films, "Warrior Champions" and "The Wall," and recorded an album in 2008, "Something Like Nostalgia." 

Check out Abbasi's 2013 interview with the now-defunct Little Rock Film Festival below.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016 - 13:37:00

Trans activist Miss Major Griffin-Gracy to attend Kaleidoscope Film Festival

click to enlarge Miss Major being honored at "inside Out," the Toronto LGBT Film Festival.
  • Miss Major being honored at "inside Out," the Toronto LGBT Film Festival.

Little Rock Film Society’s Kaleidoscope Film Festival scored another notable guest of honor this week: Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, a civil rights and trans activist who was at Stonewall the evening of the infamous raid, a survivor of the 1971 riots at Attica Prison, a chief organizer of medical care and funerals for Bay Area victims of the AIDS epidemic and longtime advocate for trans women of color, and for women of color who have been victims of police violence.

click to enlarge feature1-2-c472cceb7b1e99df.jpg

Major is the subject of Annalise Ophelian and StormMiguel Florez's documentary "Major!," all three of whom will be in attendance at the screening. "Major!" screens at 6 p.m. to close the festival, and will be followed by a "Champagne Goodbye" at The Joint. For more details on Kaleidoscope, or to purchase tickets, visit


Friday, July 22, 2016 - 16:02:00

Arkansas Times Recommends: The Food Edition

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

click to enlarge Brandon McManus, kicker for the Denver Broncos and fan of TAG Restaurant's flash-seared hamachi. - BRONCOS WIRE
  • Broncos Wire
  • Brandon McManus, kicker for the Denver Broncos and fan of TAG Restaurant's flash-seared hamachi.

Check out this story from The Ringer on Denver Broncos kicker Brandon McManus, who’s taken up a side job as a food blogger. Here’s an excerpt:

“After some discussions with local outlets and magazines, which he turned down because he wanted to write about food more than once a month, he decided to publish on Denver’s team website. Like everyone else who writes for the site, his job title is listed after his byline: ‘Brandon McManus, kicker.’ He read food blogs not to study the reviews, but to search for inspiration for a good name for his own blog. He ultimately settled on McManus’ Mile High Menu, and readers ate it up: He said that his first post, about Guard and Grace (try the Bangs Island mussels, the best he’s ever had), netted 40,000 page views in short order.”

It’s the kind of oddball story that’s been typical of The Ringer since its launch in June. Here are a few personal favorites from the site: the unimpeachable perfection of Mark Wahlberg, an oral history of Tim Duncan told by his clothes, and the search for a Republican celebrity.

-Tom Coulter

click to enlarge EVAN AMOS
  • Evan Amos

Did you know that William Carlos Williams wrote more than one plum poem? These are not the plums filched from the icebox ("so sweet/ and so cold"). These are lesser known plums (unjustly, it seems to me). I am captive to this delicious moment, which Williams describes without flourish. The precision of Williams' diction and the "munching" movement of the meter make my mouth water. Can you taste the plums? Do you see the poor old woman? We are voyeurs to her joy—a joy amplified, it seems, by her distress: her poverty, her hunger for this sweet solace. 

To a Poor Old Woman

munching a plum on   
the street a paper bag
of them in her hand
They taste good to her
They taste good   
to her. They taste
good to her

You can see it by
the way she gives herself
to the one half
sucked out in her hand

a solace of ripe plums
seeming to fill the air
They taste good to her

You can hear the poet read it here, if you're into that sort of thing. 

-Ashley Gill

click to enlarge weird_al.jpg

No artist has done more than "Weird" Al Yankovic to make music delicious. And never forget, it was Al who created the Twinkie-Wiener Sandwich. 

So here is the ultimate food playlist, courtesy of the man himself:

I Love Rocky Road
Eat It
My Bologna
Addicted to Spuds
Girls Just Want to Have Lunch
Grapefruit Diet
Livin' in the Fridge
Taco Grande
Waffle King
Trapped in the Drive-Thru
The White Stuff

-Michael Roberts

click to enlarge tomatoes-1.jpg

Once, when it was so blisteringly hot that eating anything warmer than room temperature seemed risky at best, a mentor of mine served me a wide, shallow bowl of chilled cantaloupe soup with some mint on top. Having grown up on a chicken farm in the Ozarks where we take our soup hot or we take no soup at all, the coral orb of cold fruit and cucumber in front of me seemed rather exotic. In fact, it might have been the very first chilled soup I ever had. Even if it wasn't, that day marks for me the beginning of a long, slow dissolution of my mental association of soup with winter. 

So, here's to food you can sip when it's so hot that eating seems unthinkable. Here's to not turning on the oven during the month of July. Here's to having grown wiser about chilled soups, at least enough to have landed myself squarely in the "smooth and silky" camp when it comes to opinions on how gazpacho should go. (If you fall elsewhere, I wish you and your spoon salsa all the best.) And here's to.....well, here's my recipe for gazpacho. 

a cucumber, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, and de-seeded (unless you're bankrollin' with those seedless mini-cukes, you Daddy Warbucks, you)
four or five of the best tomatoes you can muster, cut in half
a red or yellow pepper, also de-seeded
a palmful of almonds
a small onion, chopped (or 1/2 a bigger one) 
a mild pepper, like an Anaheim or a shishito, also de-seeded
a clove of garlic
two tablespoons of white wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
two tablespoons of the nicest olive oil you have in your kitchen
cracked pepper

Put everything expect the salt and pepper into a blender and puree until smooth. Add salt and cracked pepper until it tastes right. If more than one adjective precedes the words "olive oil" on your bottle of olive oil, drizzle some on top. 

-Stephanie Smittle


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Best of Arkansas 2016

July 28, 2016
Best of Arkansas 2016
Readers elect their favorites. /more/


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Arkansas Reporter

School's out forever

July 28, 2016
School's out forever
When the last school building in Altheimer closed in 2013, resources and student records were left to rot — despite the state Education Department being in control. /more/

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