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Eat Arkansas

kBird: Little Rock's gem of a Thai place

kBird feels like your friend's house in college, but with way better food.

Ceci's Chicken and Waffles relocates to Conway

Slightly odd ordering system aside, Ceci's serves mouth-watering food you'll want a regular date with

Sashimi offered good service but mediocre dishes

While there was nothing terribly wrong with this experience, there wasn't anything truly great, either.

Dining Review

Cheers!

June 22, 2017
Cheers!
A different approach to the Heights stalwart. /more/

Dining Search

A&E Feature

Hard edges

June 22, 2017
Hard edges
The 59th Delta provokes thoughts about why we love our unnatural lawns, and what is real, anyway? /more/

To-Do List

Joo Won Kang at Wildwood

June 21, 2017
Joo Won Kang at Wildwood
Also, Esme Patterson, Little Rock Vegan Festival, Crystal Mercer, Ben Lee, Opera in the Ozarks, Sammy Kershaw and more /more/

Columnists

Max Brantley

A tax for NLR

North Little Rock Mayor Joe Smith pitched me this week on a city sales tax increase. If still a resident, I'd be favorably inclined. /more/

Ernest Dumas

Obamascare

Republicans at long last may be about to see their most fervent wishes and wildest predictions materialize — millions of people losing their medical and hospital coverage, unaffordable insurance, lost jobs, a Medicare financial crisis, mushrooming federal budget deficits and fiscal crises across state governments. /more/

Gene Lyons

Megyn vs. Alex

As vigorously hyped broadcast events go, Megyn Kelly's televised confrontation with internet conspiracy cultist Alex Jones proved something of a dud. /more/

Movie Reviews

Vroom (again)

June 22, 2017
Vroom (again)
Pixar's 'Cars 3' gets a few things right. /more/

Pearls About Swine

Summer hopes

June 22, 2017
Bret Bielema is not, regardless of your possible venom toward him or the catastrophic way the 2016 season wrapped, going anywhere. /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, June 23, 2017 - 20:32:00

Little Rock to sell $90 million in bonds to build Southwest High School, do other work

click to enlarge JOHNNY KEY: Approves $90 million in Little Rock School District borrowing. - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • JOHNNY KEY: Approves $90 million in Little Rock School District borrowing.
State Education Commissioner Johnny Key told me this evening that, acting as the Little Rock School District school board, he'd approved a request by Superintendent Michael Poore to move forward to raise $90 million through second-lien bondsto build the proposed new high school in Southwest Little Rock. and pay for other facility improvements including roof and heat/air repairs.

Second-lien bonds are a type of financing to which tax revenues are not pledged by voters.

May 9, Little Rock School District voters overwhelmingly defeated a proposal to extend 12.4 mills in debt for 14 years to allow a $200 million bond sale to pay for various district improvements and build the high school.

Key said he'd consulted with state Board of Education member Jay Barth and "he agreed that we should move forward." He notified other state Board members this afternoon. Barth has been one of the few voices on the board seeking to encourage the board to find a way to end state control of the district and return it to local control with an elected school board. Since it was taken over two years ago by the state for low test scores at a handful of its 48 schools, Key has served as school board.

Key said he'd talked with Poore several times about the second lien bond option, both before and after the election. Indeed, Baker Kurrus, fired by Key as superintendent for his opposition to charter school growth in Little Rock, had said second-lien bonds and budget reductions were a means short of authorizing a new bond issue and tax extension to build the high school. Ir was Kurrus' position that not enough was known about the district's future size and condition to add millions more in debt when enrollment has been dropping from charter school erosion.

I learned of the action from Dr. Anika Whitfield, an outspoken advocate of a return to local control. She sees the decision to issue new debt as a repudiation of the vote by voters May 9. It is true, however, that officials said they were committed to building the Southwest high school (land has already been purchased) regardless of the election outcome.

Through Key, I learned of the meeting of the "Little Rock School Board" at 5:30 p.m. yesterday at which the action was approved by the "board" (Key). I'm not aware that a press notice was issued of the meeting.  The state Board of Education also must approve the borrowing . It would not be able to do so until August.

A legal notice of the bonds will be issued this weekend in the newspaper and if no objections are filed with the county clerk within 14 days, the clerk will issue a certificate to that effect.

The bonds would be repaid with surplus debt millage. That's currently some $27 million in excess of the amount necessary for current bond payments, but it would come at the expense of operational funds, which likely means some budget cuts somewhere. I've been unable to reach Poore to discuss these details. I also want to ask him about why this option wasn't pursued originally, rather than a bond extension by which voters would have been approving in advance hundreds of millions in taxes that otherwise would expire.

Stephens Inc. would be the financial adviser in return for a percentage of the bond issue and the Friday law firm would be legal counsel. The bond issue would also cost $2 million as a fee for the underwriter.

The resolution adopted Thursday anticipates a 16-year payout of the bonds at an anticipated interest of 2.89 percent. The bonds could be called — or bondholders repaid in full — after five years. The district carries $178 million in debt currently with revenue of about $378 million.


 

Friday, June 23, 2017 - 17:45:00

The Silence of Tom Cotton Edition


The Senate health care bill, Judge Wendell Griffen's ruling on a new juvenile sentencing law, the revival of the bathroom bill and more — all covered on this week's podcast, sponsored by 42 at the Clinton Center and "Drive sober or get pulled over," a message from the Arkansas State Police Highway Safety office.

Subscribe via iTunes.

Download.

 

Friday, June 23, 2017 - 15:07:00

Details in Senate health bill worse than House bill

click to enlarge NO COUNTRY FOR DISABLED PROTESTER: A disability group's Capitol protest over the health bill put some of them in handcuffs. - TWITTER
  • Twitter
  • NO COUNTRY FOR DISABLED PROTESTER: A disability group's Capitol protest over the health bill put some of them in handcuffs.
You want mean? The Senate health bill is mean. The damage is done in the way states may be granted waivers. Talking Points Memo has a good rundown, including this:

Allowing states to opt-out of Essential Health Benefits not only means a trend towards skimpier insurance plans (which is a de facto version of pre-existing conditions discrimination, if a plan is not available for you that covers the services needed for your pre-existing conditions). It introduces the return of annual and lifetime caps, since those bans under the ACA are based on what’s required to be covered under a fully functional Essential Health Benefits package. If a state, for instance, chooses to exclude prescription drug coverage under its EHB requirements, insurers can impose limits on those services.

And this potential effect goes beyond the individual market. Due to some quirks in the regulatory language surrounding the Affordable Care Act, if just one state anywhere scales back their EHBs, employer plans everywhere will be at risk for the return of lifetime and annual caps, and higher cost-sharing.
Loss of pre-existing condition coverage and renewal of caps on coverage are, effectively, death sentences from some chronically ill people.

PS: Obama steps out and up: The Senate bill is based on "fundamental meanness," he says.

PPS: Axios reports here that a bipartisan report from the association of state Medicaid directors opposes the health bill. The Association represents ALL Medicaid directors, including here in Trumpansas.

The spending growth rates for the proposed Medicaid per capita caps are "insufficient and unworkable," the directors wrote in a statement to be released Monday. While they say they support some elements included in the bill, "no amount of administrative or regulatory flexibility can compensate for the federal spending reductions that would occur as a result of this bill."

At last a recognition of the big rub. This bill reduces Medicaid spending. And block granting Medicaid with equal amounts per person will inflict disproportionate damage on Arkansas, which has benefitted richly from the Obamacare Medicaid expansion.

PS: A reduction over time in Medicaid will be devastating to the 400,000 Arkansas children covered by the program and some major facilities that service children, particularly Arkansas Children's Hospital, whose lifeline is Medicaid.


 

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Rock Candy

Friday, June 23, 2017 - 09:15:00

Guns 'N' Roses launches SiriusXM channel

unnamed.jpg
Looking to brush up on your Guns 'N' Roses repertoire before Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan descend on War Memorial Stadium August 5th?

From Rolling Stone comes news of a GNR-focused SiriusXM channel devoted to the Los Angeles rockers.
Guns N' Roses Radio will air from July 13th to July 22nd on SiriusXM's channel 41, with the station playing GNR tracks alongside live performances, rarities and songs by artists that inspired Axl Rose and company.

 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017 - 10:50:00

Kirsten Johnson's documentary memoir screens at Riverdale tonight

click to enlarge SAMIRA BOUAOU
  • Samira Bouaou
Kirsten Johnson — the cinematographer behind "Citizenfour," "Fahrenheit 9/11," "Darfur Now" and "The Invisible War" — delved into her personal connections with the subjects of her lens in "Cameraperson," released last September. She talked with Variety in January about the catalyst for the film.

I had the idea of making “Cameraperson” after working on a documentary which fell apart because its protagonist, a young Afghan girl who had initially accepted to be filmed, changed her mind after three years when she saw the almost-completed film and she feared it would put her life in danger.

The extent of the ethical conflict that we face as filmmakers at this moment in history, now that the Internet exists, really dawned on me in that moment. In this new territory we’re in, we can’t control where images go. This has an impact on people being filmed and the people making images as well: we can all be traced. It used to be that when you filmed someone in a foreign country who needed protection, you could tell people that footage would never be seen in their country. Today we can’t. In many ways, “Cameraperson” is about representation and misrepresentation, about political, ethical questions, as much as it is about trauma, love and tenderness.

Those questions came home to roost for Johnson, who interspersed scenes of massacre and desperation with scenes of her own mother's mental decline, as the symptoms of Alzheimer's set in. As Arkansas Times Film Series curator Omaya Jones wrote in this week's To-Do List, Johnson says she is is "not in the film, yet [she's] everywhere in the film."

Tonight's screening begins at 7 p.m. at Riverdale 10 Cinema, and tickets are $8.50. RSVP here.


 

Monday, June 19, 2017 - 11:31:00

'Here in Body': Birdcloud subverts and transcends convention

click to enlarge birdcloud_batch-79.jpg


If Charles Bukowski was the “poet laureate of skid row,” Nashville’s Birdcloud could be its house band. Singers Jasmin Kaset and Makenzie Green, who also play guitar and mandolin, respectively, are currently on tour promoting their 2016 vinyl release “Singles Only,” a comprehensive compilation of their previous four EPs alongside a few new songs.

Despite explicitly labeling themselves as “ultra-modern country music,” Birdcloud could just as easily be described as simply postmodern, owing particularly to their irreverence and broad yet nuanced delivery that defies genre. Their country influences are omnipresent, but so is their great love of Bob Dylan. Green’s vocals, especially, have a potent punk rock swagger about them, which is really driven home by the fact that she will straight up knock your ass out if you disrespect her. (Just ask the guy on YouTube who tried to grab her during their Christmas show last year.) Kaset’s voice has a tenderness and vulnerability to it reminiscent of “Live Through This”-era Courtney Love. This dynamic is somewhat reversed in their instrumentation. Kaset, who used to be a drummer, has a muscular power and precision to her guitar playing, while Green’s mandolin gives the songs idyllic texture, although her playing can also regularly be as angular as her singing. They also share Cormac McCarthy’s knack for making base descriptions of ordinary situations feel haunting and hypnotic.

Birdcloud initially came to public attention through their YouTube videos, which generally feature the duo facing each other while performing. Their live show is a greatly intensified version of this, with the group’s sexually charged party anthems taking on a performance art quality. Women’s issues are important to Birdcloud: last year’s second annual “Cool Christmas with Birdcloud” show served as a drive to collect tampons and pads for Nashville’s women’s and homeless shelters, and the duo's stage banter often serves to lampoon the kind of sexist behavior they are subjected to.


Although they are always very quick to point out that they aren’t a comedy act, Birdcloud regularly mixes with a plethora of comedians for interviews and performances, the most notable instances probably being their close association with Doug Stanhope and their tour last year with Wheeler Walker, Jr. The Smiths aren’t considered a comedy act just because Morrissey frequently wrote funny lyrics, though, and by that same token it’s not fair to write off Birdcloud as comedy just because some of their songs are really funny and they hang out with funny people. Still, humor is a crucial element to their career and often what initially draws fans to the band.

During his seminal 1987 stand-up special “Raw” Eddie Murphy quipped that he “couldn’t give no curse show.” Birdcloud doesn’t give no curse show, either. While the cursing and vulgarity is an undeniably crucial feature, more important than the profanity is the incendiary wit and sociological commentary found in Birdcloud’s lyrics, however subdued and subversive it might be. Doubtless many of these songs are personal and specific, but they all still possess a magnetic relatability for anyone who likes to have a good time and doesn’t like living their lives by outdated, outmoded conservative conventions. Dismiss them as sensationalists at your own peril and miss out on some of the most singular observations about everyday life in 2017.

Birdcloud plays Stickyz Rock 'n' Roll Chicken Shack Tuesday, June 20 with fellow Nashville band Thelma and the Sleaze, 8 p.m., $10-$12. Jasmin and Makenzie were kind enough to answer some questions for us from the road ahead of that performance.

I know y’all plan to spend part of this year creating and releasing a new full-length album. Can you tell us a little bit the direction of the songs? Does it have a title yet?


Kaset: Our next record is called “Bolth.” It’s got road songs, party anthems, and more satanic stuff. We are using our time on tour performing the fuck out of the new songs to figure out how we might want to arrange them when we get home.

You’ve done a lot of tours as a support act for Vanessa Carlton, Reverend Horton Heat, Unknown Hinson, etc. This year you’re focused firmly on doing headlining shows. Any chance your live show will morph with that transition, i.e. doing performances with a full band as you gain more and more attention?

Kaset: Playing with a full band is always a treat, but what sets our sound apart isn’t the instrumentation, it’s the vocals and lyrics, so the most power is found in our set as a duo.

Green: We play with a full band a couple times a year. It really sets off the songs.


We live in perilous political times, particularly for women. What’s your opinion of the Trump Administration?

Kaset: I hate Donald Trump. I think he is really fucking scary and a huge asshole. I think it’s an important time in America to create art and nurture the creative and good in each other.

Jasmin has a solo career concurrent with Birdcloud and has released a few really great albums. Do either of you have any other outside projects going on right now or any cool collaborations and such planned for the future?

Kaset: I’m recording two solo records right now; one of them in my home studio, the Hymen Auditorium. A collaboration record I made with Makeup and Vanity Set is coming out this fall. The project is called "You Drive."

You’ve performed with one of Arkansas’s biggest musical legends, Jim Dandy from Black Oak Arkansas, as well as one or Arkansas’s strongest current artists, Adam Faucett. Are there any other Arkansas acts you admire?

Kaset: Yeah, Jim Dandy is an absolute legend. It was so cool to share the stage with him. Adam Faucett is very cool too. We have played with Mountain Sprout. Those guys are on another planet, man!

You’re extremely active on social media, especially Twitter. What role do you believe this plays in your career?

Green: Twitter has linked us up with most of the comics we’ve worked with. It’s probably the coolest internet for show promo.

You were recently blocked by Joel Osteen on Twitter and your music strikes a defiant tone against religion to say the least. Why don’t you like ol’ baby Jesus?

Green: Jesus is great. The people ruined it for us.

Damian Echols is well known just about anywhere at this point, but naturally he’s a particularly noteworthy figure here in Arkansas and you’ve made mention of him before. Got anything you’d like to say about him and the West Memphis 3?

Green: He talked to us on Twitter once. We just like to talk about and celebrate his (release) to piss off pro-life death penalty people.


Having fun and partying are obviously important features to your songs, but you are also clearly making social commentary in them. Do you purposefully try to balance that out, or are you just making observations?

Kaset: Nuance is one of the first casualties of political conflict or social unrest. Our lyrics are nuanced, so there are multiple levels of partying to it. We have strong feelings about the hypocrisy and backwards thinking in the South, all the hatred in America, being a woman in this or any sphere, all kinds of stuff. But we’re not gonna hit you over the head with it. You have to arrive at it through our fucked up performance. You may leave a show with an impression of it. Or you may leave with a hangover and a dumb smile on your face. By making lyrics dumb and party and the music style country, we are able to reach a lot of people other bands can’t. Like playing an anti-capital punishment song in front of a state senator and for him to stop tapping his foot halfway through, that’s a rare and important opportunity and it’s one we get because our music is nuanced. And that’s not saying a lot of our fans aren’t geniuses, ‘cause they fuckin’ are. And I can say with confidence none of our fans are Republican state senators.


 

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Two suits challenge new abortion laws

June 22, 2017
Two suits challenge new abortion laws
Arkansas legislators "matched cruelty with creativity" this year with the passage of new laws to block women from getting legal abortions, the deputy director of the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project said Tuesday in announcing the filing of two suits in federal court challenging new laws. /more/
 

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