Friday, October 30, 2015

Staff Picks: Walmart, the Smell of Death, Streetcar Parties and more

Posted By , , , and on Fri, Oct 30, 2015 at 3:57 PM

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

So here's a Halloween thing to do: Listen to an Arkansas Tech University professor of psychology talk about the smell of death! Ilan Shrira was a guest on NPR's "Science Friday" today, talking about putrescine, a compound found in decaying corpses. You know you want to hear it, so go to their website and hear him talk about his experiments on campus. (Guess what he discovered! People run from the smell of death of rotting corpses!) — Leslie Newell Peacock

I generally hate Walmarts. But the Walmart Neighborhood Market in Riverdale is growing on me. Nobody much shops there. You can park close to the door. Produce and meat and prepared food suck, but inventory of everything else is comprehensive. Need a weird hot sauce? An odd floor cleaning solution? Can't wait for Amazon to deliver it? This Walmart probably has it. It is essentially a super-sized convenience store. Edwards is my top choice for my weekly grocery shopping. But, yeah, I'll send the Waltons a few of my dimes for an occasional time saving. — Max Brantley

Last summer John Kirk wrote a story for the Arkansas Times called "The roots of Little Rock's segregated neighborhoods." It's a direct, straightforward piece of writing, undramatic even. But it's also horrifying and fascinating and resonant. This is the city we live in, and it's this way for a reason. We should all talk about it sometime, maybe. 

The story doesn't seem particularly controversial — Little Rock is the result of a series of decisions, and Kirk is just documenting some of them — but you can tell from the comment section that some readers managed to take issue with it anyway. "The article makes it sound like there is a conspiracy plot going on," one of the (critical) commentors wrote, and well yeah: That's exactly what he's saying. On the other hand, there are things like this:

B. Finley Vinson, head of the Little Rock Housing Authority (LRHA) and its slum clearance and urban redevelopment director, freely admitted that, "the city of Little Rock through its various agencies including the housing authority systematically worked to continue segregation" through its slum clearance and public housing projects.

The word 'conspiracy' would at least imply some subtle evasiveness, wouldn't it? — Will Stephenson

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You can rent the downtown streetcar for private parties, which is what some friends and I did for my roommate's birthday last month. It's not cheap, but the trolley comfortably holds several dozen people, and if you get a large enough crowd to chip in $10 or $15 apiece, it's doable. You can bring food and drinks and coolers on board, happily, and the extraordinarily helpful staff at Rock Region Metro even keep an ice machine at the trolley barn in Argenta. You're also invited to decorate the interior beforehand with lights, streamers, baubles, taxidermy, whatever. Music is allowed; we had a karaoke machine, which was almost (but not quite) too much. Our driver was possessed of that special saintly kindness acquired by people whose jobs require them to stay sober and focused in the presence of drunk idiots. Yes, the trolley makes bathroom stops along the route. Yes, you can pick up people as you go, but only at the designated stops. No, you're not allowed to take the wheel.

There's something singularly disorienting about a party in a moving vehicle, and not just because of the lurching stops and starts coupled with alcohol. It creates a bubble outside of time and space, inflated with a manic, compressed social energy. The shifting scenes outside recede into pure window dressing; the real world is right here, on the intoxicated inside. Stay in that frame of mind too long and you'd go insane, or at least throw up, but it's a hell of a lot of fun for a couple hours. From time to time, you'll glimpse River Market pedestrians drifting by like ghosts. They point and occasionally wave. They all want to be on board. — Benji Hardy

I recommend watching Anthony Davis play basketball for the New Orleans Pelicans while listening to Moomin's album "The Story About You." You might wonder what an NBA superstar has to do with minimal German techno, but the answer becomes obvious. The capacity to surprise and the capacity to deliver the expected note are in harmony, after all. There is nothing more mind-bending than arriving at the inevitable. — David Ramsey

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