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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

Friday, July 29, 2016 - 17:23:00

The Voter Roll Screw-Up Edition

A screw-up that's disenfranchised untold numbers of eligible voters, a funding change proposed for higher education and Hillary Clinton and the wrap-up of the Democratic National Convention — all covered on this week's podcast.

Subscribe via iTunes.



Friday, July 29, 2016 - 17:17:00

Here's your Friday line and video

Have a good weekend.


Friday, July 29, 2016 - 14:33:00

Higher ed board approves governor's overhaul of college funding

As anticipated, the state's Higher Education Coordinating Board today approved Gov. Hutchinson's proposal to transform Arkansas's method of funding colleges and universities from a formula based largely on student enrollment to one based on student performance metrics (such as completion of degrees).

The legislature will take up the subject in the 2017 session.

Hutchinson wants schools to be held accountable for delivering results. That sounds great, especially when you consider the shockingly low graduation rates that are the norm in higher ed (especially two-year schools) and the debt often accrued by students that leave college without a degree. But as we noted earlier in the week, there's also concern an "outcomes-based" approach like the governor wants could create perverse incentives for schools to shy away from recruiting students who are a riskier gamble, so to speak — among low-income and nontraditional students, to name two groups. Hutchinson and Republicans in the state legislature refuse to boost overall funding for higher ed to keep pace with inflation, meanwhile.

The University of Arkansas is supporting the change. UA System President Donald R. Bobbitt and UA Fayetteville Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz both released statements the shift in funding. (Their full statements are at the bottom of this post.)

An editorial in the Democrat-Gazette today raised another legitimate area of concern about an "outcomes-based" funding model: standards.

"In college, grade inflation already is a problem, according to those in the know. If the state starts tying college funding to the number of degrees coming out of them, whats to keep those institutions from becoming diploma mills?
This is interesting, considering the D-G's editorial page is the state's top promoter of "school reform" at the K-12 level, including merit pay and standards-based accountability. As the paper notes, though, one big difference between K-12 and higher ed is standardized tests, which (theoretically) provide a common, quantitative metric used to gauge school performance. 

"Outside of Atlanta, Ga., the accuracy of the test scores isn't really debated," it says. 

Incidentally, that line is nonsense. The Atlanta scandal is the highest profile example, but cheating on K-12 standardized tests isn't unique to Georgia. It's hardly surprising that when you tie the survival of a school to a single make-or-break score, the desperate and the unscrupulous will sometimes manipulate the numbers.

Despite the blinders, the D-G still has a point. Within the logic of the school reform movement, accountability is everything. If there's no standardized testing, how can there be real accountability? And, once again, this could be an especially pronounced problem within colleges and universities that serve a population of students more likely to struggle in school. What incentive do those institutions have to keep their standards high if doing so might result in being slapped by the state for underperformance on graduation rates? 

Here's the full release from the governor's office, followed by the statement from UA leaders.



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Friday, July 29, 2016 - 17:42:00

New book documents the work of visionary instrument-maker Ed Stilley

click to enlarge Ed Stilley, in Acoustic Guitar
  • Ed Stilley, in Acoustic Guitar

Ed Stilley is one of those extraordinary people who though they aren't artists are driven to create. In Stilley's case, God was the driver and in 1979 He told Stilley, a farmer in Hogscald Hollow outside Eureka Springs,  to build acoustic  instruments for children. This month,
Acoustic Guitar has a great article about a new book about Stilley's visionary work by photographer Tim Hawley, who documents his guitars, mandolins, dulcimers and fiddles in "Gifted: The Instruments of Ed Stilley." The online magazine said the book has "some of the most extraordinary photographs of some of the most extraordinary stringed instruments you’ll ever see.

The Walton Arts Center exhibited Stilley's instruments in 2013 in a show called "True Faith, True Light: The Folk Instruments of Ed Stilley," in connection with Fayetteville's Roots Festival. Last year, the UA Press published Kelly Mulhollen's "True Faith, True Light: The Devotional Art of Ed Stilley." 

A passage from Hawley's books describes just how unusual Stilley's creations are:
Besides experimenting with different sizes and shapes, Stilley also invented a mostly unseen but intriguing instrument within the instrument. This interior metallic skeleton is made up of an odd assortment of hardware including screen door springs, saw blades, pot lids, and old medicine bottles. These unlikely combinations work collectively to create an unusual framework of oscillating tonality. The listener will recognize a distinct timbre with harmonic overtones, some dissonance, and a haunting sort of reverb.
You can't buy one of Stilley's instruments — they are not for sale — but if, like me, I am ashamed to say, you didn't know about Stilley, the books will allow you to catch up.


Friday, July 29, 2016 - 16:55:00

Arkansas Times Recommends: The Weather 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 michael_gordon_weather.jpg

The weather in Little Rock in December of 1997 was quotidian and averaged a temperature of 53°. It rained all of 4.38 inches that month, an unremarkable month weather-wise for Little Rock. At that time, I believe I was in the San Joaquin Valley preparing to head off to art school. It was likely dry and mildly cold with a fair bit of fog all month. Blah.
 Composer Michael Gordon was quite possibly up to his neck recording his stunning four part project called "Weather" with the Ensemble Resonanz, which would be toured and then released in November of 1998 on Nonesuch Records.

"Weather" has four lengthy pieces: "Weather One," "Weather Two," "Weather Three," and "Weather Four." It may be a matter of creative interpretation as to whether or not each is supposed to represent a season. However, each piece has moments that seem to emulate characteristics of particular seasons like the oppressive heat of summer, blustery winter snow, and most obviously the strings that mimic tornado sirens on "Weather Three." Gordon also complemented the ensemble with various natural sounds like thunder and wind, as well as some mild beats, like in "Weather Two," but not in a heavy-handed sort of way.
 Grab a copy or queue it up on Spotify. Best, of course, with headphones or good speakers and a quiet room. There are a lot of details to this music and plenty of quiet moments. It also has one of my favorite album covers in my collection.

-Bryan Moats

All I ever wanted was to grow up to be Hayley Mills. Remember her? As a little girl I could imagine no one more beautiful (that hair! that porcelain-doll face!), more clever (remember her pranks in The Parent Trap?), or more good-hearted (um, Polly-friggin-Anna) than Hayley Mills, and I hunted down all of her films and then read all of the books they were based on. 

The best, by far, was "In Search of the Castaways," based on a Jules Verne novel, in which Hayley and a motley crew go searching for her lost mariner father in the Andes and astoundingly shortly after, New Zealand. Along for the ride are her little brother, their professorial old French caretaker (one of those amazing characters who is totally hilarious to little kids but turns out to be kind of creepy when you’re a grown-up), a grumpy sea captain, and even a shiny-shoed young English gent as Hayley’s love interest. Most of their struggles result from extravagant acts of nature like earthquakes and floods, though at one point they are taken hostage by an indigenous tribe. Whether you’re an adult or a kid, "In Search of the Castaways" is lots of fun, if a little geographically and culturally sensitively suspect. Hayley will win you right over, just as she does her young paramour in this scene. 

-Megan Blankenship

When it is too hot to think, turn to another brain. So here’s my offering, from Ogden Nash:

Summer Serenade

When the thunder stalks the sky, 
When tickle-footed walks the fly, 
When shirt is wet and throat is dry, 
Look, my darling, that’s July.
Through the grassy lawn be leather, 
And prickly temper tug the tether, 
Shall we postpone our love for weather
If we must melt, let's melt together!

-Leslie Peacock

Leslie picked a poem, so I'll pick a poem too. We're a long ways away from both fall and the coast, I realize, but my mood is better summed up by this buzzkill from Robert Frost:


Where had I heard this wind before
Change like this to a deeper roar? 
What would it take my standing there for,
Holding open a restive door,
Looking down hill to a frothy shore?
Summer was past and the day was past.
Sombre clouds in the west were massed.
Out on the porch's sagging floor,
Leaves got up in a coil and hissed,
Blindly struck at my knee and missed.
Something sinister in the tone
Told me my secret must be known:
Word I was in the house alone
Somehow must have gotten abroad,
Word I was in my life alone,
Word I had no one left but God. 

-Benjamin Hardy

In May 1984, a slightly out-of-control version of myself and a much less adventurous friend split the cost of a pair of Clash tickets at Kiel Auditorium in St. Louis. The seats were in the balcony at the rail, and if there was any air-conditioning on in the auditorium, it was completely isolated to the lower levels. (My friend found himself sitting next to a self-proclaimed pimp and several of his…, a fact he complained endlessly about at the time and brags about to this day.)

The only Clash song he was familiar with was “Rock the Casbah,” which was probably the only song this newer version of the Clash (minus Mick Jones and Topper Headon) did not play in an evening filled with much of their older work. He would later describe as “one long song.”  But, in a sweat-filled smoky room (smoking was not yet prohibited at concert halls) in what is still—for me—one of the peaks of my exploration beyond anthem rock, Strummer croaked in a thick London accent, “and now we’re in the pouring, pouring mother fucking rain, you fucking assholes.”

-Brian Chilson

click to enlarge tristen.jpg

Here is "Lightning Will Find You," one of eight home recordings from Tristen Gaspadarek's first album, "Teardrops and Lollipops," which she created on a $200 Mbox Mini, posted to MySpace, packed up in handsewn sleeves, and distributed around Nashville before she went on to make some of the most biting pop in the Gulf Coastal Plains. Viva lo-fi! 

Tristen's glossier and much more lavishly orchestrated "Caves" is worth your attention too, and she's broken away from her gig playing synth and singing backup for Jenny Lewis long enough to come visit us here in Little Rock next Sunday. Take heed. 

-Stephanie Smittle


Thursday, July 28, 2016 - 15:31:00

Power out at the Arts Center

click to enlarge Aerial view of MacArthur Park.
  • Aerial view of MacArthur Park.
The Arkansas Arts Center was closed today, due to a power outage in MacArthur Park, and the MacArthur Museum of Military History was likely closed as well. Phones at the latter were being answered by machines.

It's a good thing it was today and not next Thursday, Aug. 4,  when the Arts Center is holding an open house for architectural firms interested in applying for the planned renovation and expansion will be held. The Arts Center announced in June its Request For Qualifications for a design architect was ready for interested parties.

The RFQ puts the budget for "hard construction" at around $46 million (this figure is not set in stone, the Arts Center says). Taxes on hotel rooms will provide the revenues to issue bonds for the project, and private funding has been promised, though not announced. The RFQ also says the project includes 90,000 square feet in renovations and new construction of $40,000 for new construction and $35,000 for landscaping. The RFQ says that the renovation and expansion, which includes more exhibition space to display the Arts Center's collection and added curation space to take care of it, outreach to the community, more programming and promoting tourism, is crucial to the Arts Center's mission and necessitated by competition from Bentonville:
Through strategic planning initiatives, staff and board retreats, and community sessions with stakeholders and the public, it became clear that the state of the current facility was an obstacle to the AAC’s ability to fulfill its mission and vision and prepare for the future. It was also recognized that the opening of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas in 2011 raised the bar for museum architecture in the state and increased awareness of the transformative possibilities of inspiring architecture.
Gallery space, according to the preliminaries put forth in the RFQ, would expand by 3,200 square feet, educational space by 9,053 square feet; the Chilldren's Theatre by 5,700 square feet; collections management by 10,555 square feet and administrative offices by 5,053 square feet.
(You can read the RFQ here.)


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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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