Blog Roll

Arkansas Blog

Hourly news and comment

Rock Candy

The guide to Arkansas entertainment

Dining Review

A diner that's the real deal

October 19, 2017
A diner that's the real deal
Littlefield's on JFK. /more/

Dining Search

A&E Feature

Comedy of bad manners

October 19, 2017
Comedy of bad manners
A sugary Moliere remix helps the medicine go down at The Rep. /more/

Columnists

Max Brantley

Caution: government at work

I have several government targets this week. /more/

Ernest Dumas

Tax tales

The easiest task in the world may be to persuade people that they are paying higher taxes than folks in other communities, states and countries, but there is never a shortage of people taking on the task. /more/

Gene Lyons

The casting couch

Long ago and far away, I had an academic superior who enjoyed sexually humiliating younger men. There was unwanted touching — always in social situations — but mainly it was about making suggestive remarks, hinting that being a "hunk" was how I'd got hired. /more/

Movie Reviews

American Made' is as swift as Seal's hustle

October 5, 2017
American Made' is as swift as Seal's hustle
It's a Reagan-era romp from director Doug Liman. /more/

Pearls About Swine

Thumped again

October 19, 2017
Seems like a bad prescription for beating the all-pro assemblage of talent that dons Alabama garb year in, year out, but the Arkansas Razorbacks started their third quarterback in three years against the Crimson Tide, and the end result was predictable. /more/

Blog Roll

Arkansas Blog

Hourly news and comment

Rock Candy

The guide to Arkansas entertainment

Arkansas Blog

Sunday, October 22, 2017 - 16:57:00

Sunday open line

No news here. You?

 

Sunday, October 22, 2017 - 08:25:00

Freeways are falling out of favor. In some places, if not Little Rock

click to enlarge NOW AND THEN: San Francisco today (left) is stripped of a monstrous freeway shown partially built at right. Is the city better off. Visit the zone where the freeway removed sometime.
  • NOW AND THEN: San Francisco today (left) is stripped of a monstrous freeway shown partially built at right. Is the city better off. Visit the zone where the freeway removed sometime.

The New York Times offers yet another story
on the new urbanism that holds that all those 1950s-era freeways are community destroyers. It recounts how cities from Buffalo to Milwaukee to San Francisco are moving to mitigate freeway damage and even remove them entirely.

Don't bother sending this article to the Arkansas Department of Highways (D'OH), the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce or the Little Rock Board of Directors. They know that the only thing better than the destruction and division already caused by the Mills Freeway and Interstate 30 is a still wider concrete ditch so that Little Rock cops and others can get home to white-flight suburbs far removed from our crime-ridden hellhole even faster.

I exaggerate a bit. But the refusal to consider alternatives to wider freeways on the part of the Arkansas business and highway establishment in the 30 Crossing Project to widen I-30 through Little Rock (with its induced and unplanned-for new stress on other roads and highways in addition to the $700 million disruption the main project will cause) is not much in line with evolving thinking around the country. But Arkansas has rarely been on the cutting edge.

From the Times article, focusing on a drive to remove a Buffalo expressway:

The Scajaquada is not just a local barrier but also a poster road for a growing movement being championed by progressives in the urban-planning community. They want to tear down some highways in cities and replace all that elevated-and-barricaded pavement with lower-speed streets that favor pedestrians and bicyclists and foster greater connectivity among neighborhoods and residents.

The change isn't easy. And it strikes many as radical.

But already, several cities have removed or decommissioned existing highways, including Paris; Seoul, South Korea; Boston; and Portland, Ore. Last year, Rochester buried a portion of a downtown expressway known as the Inner Loop, a stretch of sunken highway the city’s mayor likened to a “moat.” It is being replaced with a boulevard on the same grade as the rest of the streetscape.

And because of a confluence of factors, including the embrace of ride-hailing services like Uber and the rebirth of cities as places to live, work, raise families and retire to, advocates like Ms. Richards see an “incredible opportunity” to remove even more pavement. “When we put out a call last summer for freeways without a future, we got almost 75 recommendations,” she said. “This can kick-start a conversation about the best way to spend infrastructure dollars.”

Many in-city highways were built during the post-World War II boom years with easy money from the 1956 Federal-Aid Highway Act. They hail from an age when the automobile was ascendant and were built to quickly move commuters in and out of urban centers; many of these highways were used by white suburbanites and built in low-income minority neighborhoods (“white men’s roads through black men’s homes,” went a saying in Washington).

Perhaps the greatest argument that removal advocates have is that so much of this infrastructure is nearing the end of its life span. In this era of tight budgets and political gridlock, it may be cheaper for local and state governments to remove a freeway rather than repair or build a new one.
Catch that last sentence? It might fit in the current debate about highway construction money. Republican politicians and many taxpayers want more construction without paying more taxes. How about just reducing expenditures?

The chamber of commerce publicity stunt last week to blow off Little Rock as an Amazon expansion site bragged about our livable downtown at the same time it bragged about 22-minute average commutes at the same time it is advocating for more concrete and other steps to encourage commuters. Anybody else sense a disconnect?

For your reading pleasure: Major cities that are reimagining freeway gashes.

 

Sunday, October 22, 2017 - 08:02:00

Hog football: The lawyers take over

click to enlarge CHECKING THE FINE PRINT: If fans are any guide, the exact meaning of Razorback coach Bret Bielema's employment contract soon will be a matter for lawyers to decide.
  • CHECKING THE FINE PRINT: If fans are any guide, the exact meaning of Razorback coach Bret Bielema's employment contract soon will be a matter for lawyers to decide.
If you believe social media, it's all over but the post-season buyout for Razorback football coach Bret Bielema. Athletic Director Jeff Long has been noticeably silent about football on Twitter, preferring to tout a winning volleyball team and a coming track meet.

No insight on the coach's employment security here. But, should Bielema be done after five years, then comes the question of what his contract buyout is really worth. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette recently put his original contract and subsequent amendments to its own lawyers and they concluded the buyout would be a paltry $5 million or so, not the $15 million often quoted, less any money he might earn in a new job.  Here's what the most recent official letter about the contract says, apart from the issue of whether obligations might still apply from the original contract (which you can read here) that alter the amount.

click to enlarge screen_shot_2017-10-22_at_7.47.15_am.png

You can read the full agreement here. It includes the news release explaining the 2015 contract extension and the success Bielema was building at Fayetteville.

Be sure that whatever the payout, some lawyers will get a payday. They may be at work now.

But, hey. The Hogs could win their final five games (Coastal Carolina for sure) and go to a bowl game. Right?




 

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Sunday, October 22, 2017 - 09:22:00

Arkansas Symphony Orchestra's "French Connection" tackles Milhaud, Weill, Ravel and Debussy

click to enlarge cool_wide_shot.jpg


Okay, so the Brazilian rhythms in Milhaud's "Le boeuf sur le toit" ("The Bull on the Roof") didn't always line up, and perhaps the composer himself pushed what could have been a cute five minutes of dissonant flute and oboe vignettes into a protracted fifteen. Still, Saturday night's concert from the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra was an absolute delight. To see the ASO flexing a somewhat auxiliary muscle was fun and refreshing, and I hope people get out this afternoon to hear the raucous program which, in part, recalls the timeframe when early 20th century French composers had major musical crushes on Gershwin, et al.

"Le boeuf," Milhaud's "surrealist ballet," as ASO Associate Conductor Geoffrey Robson called it —- was worlds away from the seat-filling safe bets that make up the Greatest Hits of Classical Music and, despite wearing its jazz influences on its sleeve, was simultaneously worlds away from any pops/Broadway repertoire. The composer, perhaps thumbing his nose as Brahms, as Robson said, fashioned a dance that was alternately voluptuous, sublime and goofy, with the aforementioned dissonance working as musical cartoon, like the impressionistic landscapes painted by Oliver Wallace's score for Disney's "Alice in Wonderland." Except, maybe, a "Wonderland" in which the scenery changed every eight or sixteen bars.

Afterward, when the violin section departed to allow for the Steinway grand to be wheeled out for rock star pianist Ji to play Ravel's Piano Concerto in G Major, it felt like ritual. Like a magician who arranges things before your very eyes to show you he hasn't rigged anything up to deceive you. Ji arrived on stage in a snug, crisp white button-up shirt, impeccable shoes and white pants with a mid-calf hem length and a loud print. Enough of a hotshot to quell any sartorial objections from more conservative patrons, Ji's fingers flew as they do on the Android commercial "Monotune," and the ratio of notes played to time on stage was dizzying.

Ravel was tight with Gershwin, musically, as the second movement's simple but "scintillating engaging melody" (Robson's words) demonstrated. It was given a reverent treatment by Ji, and the unity of the violin section behind him was perfect in this and other moments, like a perfectly attuned hive of bees, humming vibrantly at the same frequency.

Then, as my listening companion described it, a giant vacuum came and sucked every ounce of jazz out of the room. Kurt Weill's "Berliner Symphonie," seven movements played as one 20-or-so minute continuous brooding statement, was utterly serious and desperately inquisitive, fists raised to the sky, a la Jerry Goldsmith's score for "Planet of the Apes."

And then came Claude Debussy's "Petit Suite," otherwise known as dessert. The sweet collection of four vignettes from the man Robson called "the father of modern music" was so festive and sparkly it made me fantasize about a brilliant feat of Christmastide computer hacking, wherein every satellite radio instance of that tired old rendition of "Sleigh Bells" were replaced with this confection from Debussy; I think we'd all enjoy the holiday a little more.





 

Friday, October 20, 2017 - 14:02:00

Guest Playlist: Alex Flanders of KABF-FM 88.3's "GIRLS!" gives a primer in advance of tonight's benefit show

click to enlarge Alex Flanders
  • Alex Flanders

A while back, we asked Alex Flanders, host of "GIRLS!" on KABF-FM 88.3 and entrepreneur behind Crying Weasel Vintage, to put together a playlist for us, showcasing some favorite rockers from her Thursday night radio show. What we got was a 27-track certified tutorial in rock, pop and punk made by women, not to mention further proof that women are behind some of the most inventive rock and roll being made today.

Tonight, GIRLS! hosts a benefit for the community radio station at the White Water Tavern, 9 p.m., featuring sets from DOT, Squelch, and Junkbomb, as well as comedy sets from Brittany Birrer and Cortney Warner and a costume contest celebrating historic iconic women, "musicians, scientists, artists, activists, authors," or others.

We thought we'd share some crucial tracks from the GIRLS! archives ahead of the show. If you like what you hear, listen in on Thursday nights at 9 p.m. 8:30 p.m, and join the host, et al. tonight and dress up as your favorite historic woman.


 

Thursday, October 19, 2017 - 10:10:00

Fountain Fest sculpture reveal tonight at the Arts Center

click to enlarge fountain_fest.png

You'll have to go to the Arkansas Arts Center's Fountain Fest tonight to see how Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects' winning sketch (above) for the temporary sculpture in the Carrie Remmel Dickinson fountain in front of the building was carried out. The party, with food, drink and music, gets going at 5:30 p.m.

Fountain Fest, now in its fifth year, is a fundraiser sponsored by the Contemporaries group of young Arts Center members. Besides the ticket price of $25, proceeds from raffle tickets go to the purchase of artworks for the AAC Collection. Raffle items include a Louis Vuitton purse valued at $1,000 and a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle 23-year-old Bourbon.

AAC's Canvas restaurant will serve heavy hors d'oeuvres, Lost Forty Brewing and Stone's Throw Brewing are supplying the beer and Roxor Gin is making the cocktails. Guitar-vocal duo Luke Johnson and Brian Nahlen will provide the music; museum school instructors will make art and Children's Theatre actors will entertain with a shadow puppet photo booth. And, of course, there's the sculpture to enjoy.

The event runs until 8:30 p.m. Get your tickets at arkansasartscenter.org/fountain-fest or by calling 396-0337.

 

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Toast of the Town 2017

October 19, 2017
Toast of the Town 2017
The best of bars, beers and booze in Central Arkansas and beyond. /more/

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What's in a name? Plenty, Mosaic Templars supporters say

October 19, 2017
What's in a name? Plenty, Mosaic Templars supporters say
Little Rock museum considering changing its name. /more/

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