The 2011 Express is soon to wheeze into the station, so it's time once again for our annual Best and Worst issue, the Arkansas Times' roundup of all the news that was fit to print (and some that probably wasn't) in the Sovereign Asylum of Arkansas this year. On the menu this go-round: dying blackbirds, tax breaks on rubber pants, justice from above (twice), home circumcision and coach Bobby Petrino's sideline meltdown in the wake of the loss to LSU. It was a full year, folks. As my dear old Dad used to say: Thank the Lord we made it, and thank Him twice that it's almost over.
Best signs of the impending Apocalypse
On the night of New Year's Eve, Beebe residents heard the pitter-patter of carcasses on their rooftops as over 5,000 blackbirds mysteriously dropped dead mid-flight and fell to earth. This was followed soon after by a spontaneous die-off of over 60,000 drum fish on the Arkansas River. Tinfoil hat sales skyrocketed as conspiracy theorists scrambled to pin the smitings on everything from aliens to double-secret testing at the Pine Bluff Arsenal.
In January, Miss Arkansas Alyse Eady came in first runner-up for the Miss America crown, which we believe to be a blatant, unmitigated theft after watching her talent: ventriloquist yodeling, featuring Eady and two wooden-headed friends belting out fellow Arkansan Patsy Montana's "I Want To Be A Cowboy's Sweetheart." Her spunk got Eady and her dummies a guest spot on David Letterman a week later.
The Harps grocery store up in Mountain Home caused a nationwide furor back in January after a manager blocked the covers of Us Weekly magazine showing the singer Elton John and his new baby with an obscene material placard — a rectangle of gray plastic imprinted with "Family Shield. To protect young Harps shoppers." A customer snapped a photo of the blocked magazine and uploaded it to Twitter. After being deluged with angry e-mails and calls, Harps had the shield taken down.
Citing fear for the safety of his customers and employees, the owner of Jim's Razorback Pizza on Stagecoach Road in Little Rock closed down in January after the place was robbed seven times in five years — including twice when the joint was full of customers. Little Rock Police Chief Stuart Thomas told reporters that in his 30-plus years on the force, it was the first time he could remember a business shutting down solely because of crime.
The mayor of Marshall decided to honor the birthday of Gen. Robert E. Lee in January by flying the Confederate flag over city hall through the long MLK Day weekend, including on the holiday devoted to King.
A week after the mayor's dubious decision, the Marshall City Council convened an emergency session and voted that henceforth only the Arkansas flag and Old Glory can be flown on city property.
In February, a taxidermy shop in Romance that specializes in freeze-drying dead pets so they can keep their owners company forever announced they were in talks to get their own reality TV show on Animal Planet. "American Stuffers" debuts Jan. 5.
Snowlocaust, Snomageddon, Snowpocalypse — whatever you called it, the snow storm that blanketed the state from border to border in early February was bad, especially in the Northwest corner of the state, which saw snow totals of up to two feet and a real, non-wind-chill-assisted temperature of 20 degrees below zero in some areas. Brrrrrrr.
Best evidence that teachers might need a raise
A math teacher at Little Rock's McClellan High was put on administrative leave in February after the district learned she was one of those swept up in a 2010 prostitution sting. The teacher said she had been working as an escort to help make ends meet after falling on hard times.
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