Saturday, December 30, 2006

Edwards rally in Chapel Hill

As the moon rose over Southern Village, John Edwards gave a rousing stump speech. It's time we were patriotic about something besides the war, he said. Kirk Ross has details and a video clip.

More from Bora; see also Kirk's Daily Kos diary and the report at Blue NC.

Spin patrol

When Paul told me that a new study suggested I could cut my risk of breast cancer by vacuuming and doing the dishes, I said the research must have been done by a man. Turns out, maybe only the headline was.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Chicago: watchtowers and watchdogs

topsail solstice
Photo by Looper (Devin Caldwell)

Security cameras that were inartfully placed on top of Jaume Plensa's Crown Fountain in Chicago's Millennium Park were brought down by a couple of blogging "architecture enthusiasts." Photo-blogger Devyn Caldwell and his partner Mike Doyle happened to notice them on Sunday, December 17. "It looks like a Martian sitting there with a little antenna on his head," said Doyle. Caldwell got the attention of Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin; interviews, investigation, and more blogging followed; on Monday night, December 18, the cameras were felled.

More in today's Times, which reports that Plensa was not informed about the cameras but "was pleased to learn that they had been removed." (Local readers will remember that Plensa was the artist proposed for the recently failed public art project on Fayetteville Street in Raleigh.)

Even with cameras gone, there's something wrong with this picture. The objection was not to the cameras as such: it was the "Orwellian" conjunction of the serious surveillance camera and the playful faces of actual Chicagoans that rankled. The offense was not to the public: it was to art itself. Cameras are all over Chicago. Eight others keep watch over Millennium Park alone. Indeed we learn in the Times that "[t]he cameras were meant to stay atop the towers for only a few months until a permanent fixture could be built nearby." Presumably those fixtures will be built; the friendly faces will bear their "third eyes" more subtly and from oblique angles.

Doesn't it remind you of an old joke? The one about how we know what the lady is: now we are just establishing the price.

The year in planning

A round-up of some great moments in city planning from 2006. For example:

In July, a local council in Rockdale, a suburb of Sydney, Australia, started a six-month trial of playing at high-volumes hits by Barry Manilow and Doris Day to chase away car enthusiasts who were gathering on weekend nights at a local park. The council's deputy mayor reported that, four weeks after the effort, "Barry's our secret weapon. It seems to be working."

Edwards launch

When we got home yesterday evening, we had a robotic phone message from John Edwards inviting us to his rally at Southern Village this Saturday. An hour or so later, Paul and I dialed in to a conference call with a live John Edwards that had been set up for bloggers. By 10 p.m. I got the first of three email messages from John Edwards inviting me to watch a YouTube video of him in New Orleans at the site where he is planning to announce today.

Back in November, I'd had the privilege of having coffee with Elizabeth Edwards and a small group of power geeks and bloggers in Carrboro to talk about internetworking strategies.

The Edwards campaign is on its way to exploiting the resources of the internet in ways never yet seen in a presidential campaign. Political strategist Zack Exley, director of online organizing and communications for Kerry-Edwards in 2004 and, prior to that, one of the creators of, put it this way back in June:

. . . [Edwards] speaks explicitly to the members of his "online community" as though he knows them -- as though he genuinely appreciates them.

I could be cynical and wonder how hard Edwards, the most talented politician in America, has to try not to sound like a politician. But I know from the Kerry campaign that both he and Elizabeth Edwards take this online stuff seriously. I'm convinced that this is a simple case of John Edwards understanding that there is an enthusiastic base out there who supports him and his anti-poverty fight. He seems to genuinely want to reach out, thank them, and let them in on what he's up to.

A continuous stream of emails and YouTubes is not going to do it alone. There's the matter of his message, what he stands for, do we believe him. (Also the matter of reaching the millions not on the internet, as Zack has noted in another context.) I want to believe him. I want to believe he has the courage to stick to his principles when it comes to health care, serious approaches to ending poverty, the whole populist agenda he's promoting, in addition to Iraq and foreign policy. Will he?

On the conference call, previewing the announcement he will make this morning, he said,

This will be a campaign built from the ground up, which means all of you are critical getting this message out. . . . We don’t want this to be a situation where everybody is listening to candidates make promises for two years, [with the hope] that someone will be elected who will bring change. . . . There's everything wrong with that. We shouldn’t wait. That’s what we’ve done in the past and change has not occurred. I want to help lead this grassroots movement to accomplish things starting right now. The idea that some politician is going to come along and save all of us is nonsense to begin with. We have to take charge. I feel very strongly about this. This will be the core message tomorrow. I will of course talk about two Americas, . . . but I’ll go on to say that what I’ve learned from last campaign is that it’s one thing to identify problems but the way to identify change is to take action. "Hopeful" is about tomorrow. We’re about today. We’re about taking action today. You all are critical to that. I appreciate all of you taking time to hear from me directly about this. I’ll be doing it on TV nationwide tomorrow morning. The truth is the net is critical and I want it to be a principal component, not an afterthought.

My Town Council colleague Mark Kleinschmidt is blogging from New Orleans. I hope he'll weigh in with a live report from Edwards' official launch this morning.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Have a magical day.

mrs. houdini

(Though Mrs. Houdini was in Hollywood, her choice of typeface is Park Avenue, a tired choice by now but hot off the presses in 1935.)

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Dey House undone

A long sad story of the deterioration and of what was said to be one of Chapel Hill's 25 oldest structures has ended with the demolition of the Dey House. The Historic District Commission was able to postpone the demolition for one year, but after that it had no authority. Even the town's recently enacted demolition by neglect ordinance, which would have imposed substial fines for not repairing the property, was something the owner managed to work around.

The earliest owner of this house was Dr. William P. Mallette, who supervised the university infirmary. The date when he purchased the property is not known, but he sold the house in 1871 to Methodist minister Joseph Martin. Martin's wife, Clara, ran a boardinghouse here for students. In 1921 Professor William M. Dey, head of the romance languages department, and his wife, Alice, purchased it and made their home here for forty years. At Alice's death in 1965 it was purchased by the Delta Upsilon Fraternity.

The two-story, one-room-deep house has simple features that are characteristic of the mid-nineteenth century--weatherboarded walls, six-over-six pane sash windows, a gable-end brick chimney, and a boxed roof cornice. The front door with fanlight, sidelights, and an arched enrance porch are early-twentieth-century replacements. It is likely that the house originally had a wide porch.

From M. Ruth Little, The Town and Gown Architecture of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 1795-1975 (2006).

UPDATE: Chapel Hill News, "Requiem for Dey House": "There are only some two dozen 19th-century houses left in Chapel Hill. One by one they go. With each one that comes down, we lose another little bit of the heritage and character of the town in which we live."

Babes in Santaland

Has it really been 14 years since we woke up every morning to a new episode of David Sedaris' "Santaland Diaries"? It's been packaged into theater by now; in the Triangle area it's in two different performances. That's well and good, but I can't imagine it not in Sedaris' voice.

I was pregnant with Tucker when the "Santaland Diaries" first aired. If I ever put him on Santa's lap with innocent thoughts of a perfect Christmas, luckily by now neither of us remembers it. Sedaris puts his finger on what that's all about when he describes his experiences as Santa's "photo elf":

The parents had planned to send these pictures as cards or store them away till the child is grown and can lie, claiming to remember the experience . . . which supposedly means on paper that everything is exactly the way it is supposed to be, that everything is snowy and wonderful. It’s not about the child or Santa or Chirstmas or anything but the parents’ idea of a world they cannot make work for them.

Fortunately, not all parents are so invested in perfection. Some are willing to share photos of their children's perfect horror at being forced to sit on a strange man's lap.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Changing technologies, timeless Seuss

One of my favorite records (remember LPs?) as a child was a jazzy version of Green Eggs and Ham. It was lost, as things go, by the time Tucker was within the target age. (We could not find it anywhere.) Other musical recordings of the book were out there, but once you've heard Sam's pointed protestations to the sultry pulse of bass fiddle and snare drum, no other version will do.

Finally, a number of years ago by now, I found a vintage copy online! (Thank you, thank you, thank you.) Tucker thinks it's cool, in the campy way that you would hear it if you were 13, but it was his friend Henry, his fellow DJ on the "Teen Spirit" radio show on WCOM, who was inspired to play it on the air.

You can hear a snippet of it here (scroll down).

A couple of the kids in the radio club claimed they'd never seen vinyl before--maybe an exaggeration, but they had a point: to them, it was practically a wax cylinder.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

When old Christmases were new

When a friend of mine was pregnant with child no. 2, she told child no. 1 she had a baby in her tummy. "Get it out!" he shrieked.


The Santa Claus "hiding" in this 1922 Edison wax cylinder recording seems anxious to get out. But his performance was a way of celebrating this amazing new technology, which brought Santa's voice (ever so mysteriously) into your own home.

Santa Claus Hides in Your Phonograph.


Another novelty: a moving picture of Theodore Roosevelt calling on neighbors, Oyster Bay, N.Y., Christmas 1917.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Inside Gertrude Stein

Right now as I am talking to you and as you are being talked
to, without letup, it is becoming clear that gertrude stein has
hijacked me and that this feeling that you are having now as
you read this, that this is what it feels like to be inside
gertrude stein. This is what it feels like to be a huge type--
writer in a dress. Yes, I feel we have gotten inside gertrude
stein, and of course it is dark inside the enormous gertrude, it
is like being locked up in a refrigerator lit only by a smiling
rind of cheese. Being inside gertrude is like being inside a
monument made of a cloud which is always moving across
the sky which is also always moving . . .


via wood s lot

Monday, December 18, 2006

Modern cartography

What do the Georgia towns of Poetry Tulip, Due West, Po Biddy Crossroads, Cloudland, and Roosterville have in common?

They all fell off the map.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Father's day out

Ed Cone beautifully describes the unexpected rewards of being a parent.

What she teaches me goes well beyond the upstreaming of pop-culture knowledge that every generation offers its predecessor, although my grasp of instant-messaging abbreviations is pretty impressive. It comes down to this: Sydney is making me a better person.

Albion Tourgée and Samuel Field Phillips

We learn via Kevin Levin's Civil War Memory blog that there's a biography of Albion Tourgée just out from Oxford. It's about time for an update on this important civil rights figure. Chief architect of the claims brought by Homer Plessy to the Supreme Court, he argued that the Constitution was "color-blind," a notion that Justice Harlan picked up in his vigorous dissent.

Tourgée's stint in Greensboro from 1865 to 1876 as a Union idealist (a/k/a/ "carpetbagger") who became a local judge and civic leader lends his story regional interest; even closer to home is his influence on a Chapel Hill man, Samuel Field Phillps. Phillips was one of Cornelia Phillips Spencer's brothers. Spencer, the woman who famously "rang the bell" in celebration of the reopening of UNC in 1875 after its closing during Reconstruction, is controversial for her part in supporting the Democratic establishment both throughout and after the Civil War. In 2004 a conference was held on the UNC campus to reconsider the Reconstruction period of UNC's history and, more particularly, to revisit the appropriateness of the "Bell Award" given annually in recent years to distinguished UNC women.

Chancellor Moeser subsequently discontinued the Bell Award (conversations with potential winners indicated more trouble ahead: a number of them said they would not accept it). But Spencer Residence Hall remains (so that we might "tell our story better," said the chancellor earlier this year), and Spencer's legacy remains mixed. As Harry Watson said in his remarks at that 2004 conference, "the antebellum University of North Carolina was part of a massively unjust society." It's a common defense of the defenders of the old South, Spencer among them, that they were products of their time, that their culture left them without resources for thinking around or against the racism that chained them so thoroughly.

But as Watson also notes, this defense fails in Spencer's case. It fails by way of her brother's example.

Samuel Phillips started out much like any Southern partisan. A Chapel Hill lawyer and a Whig legislator in the 1850s, he hoped a civil war could be avoided; when it was not, he was as enthusiastic as any for the war. He even supported the prospect of continued fighting after Gettysburg and Vicksburg. But by December 1864 he was aligned with other North Carolina legislators who favored suing for an immediate peace. Even this position, though, was one ultimately aimed to preserve the status quo: it was based in a "belief that negotiated peace would prevent immediate emancipation," writes Robert D. Miller in a 1981 article on Phillips. (A "delusional" belief, as it turned out.)*

At the 1866 constitutional convention Phillips, by then Speaker of the House, worked to enact a strict Black Code that allowed freedmen no political rights but did extend to them certain property rights. When the voters rejected this constitution as too liberal, Phillips, convinced that a less generous approach would invite military intervention, retired, for a time, from public life. (Indeed in 1868 "blacks, scalawags, and carpetbaggers--fulfilling Phillips's prophecy--wrote a remarkably democratic state constitution that included full political rights for blacks.")

By 1868, according to Miller, Phillips "had reassessed the state's relationship to the federal government and had accepted the legitimacy of Congressional Reconstruction." The South had lost; he "acquiesced to the constitutional reality of black suffrage."

Phillips was among North Carolina moderates who actually voted a Republican ticket in 1868 rather than endorse the Democrats' outrageous tactics to keep the black vote in check. But he still viewed black enfranchisement as a matter of expediency rather than justice. The credit for his final transformation belongs to Albion Tourgée, who by 1868 was a superior court judge in Guilford County. Writes Miller, "Tourgée's fine legal mind and his impartiality on the bench in the face of increased Klan hostility enhanced Phillips's admiration for the man and fostered a friendship that would culminate in collaboration on the Plessy case in 1896."

In 1870 Phillips ran as a Republican for state attorney general. He lost, of course, but from his new Republican loyalty "there would be no backsliding." In 1872 President Grant appointed him solicitor general of the United States. As advocate for the federal government's positions he "wrote consistnetly strong briefs . . . based on egalitarian principles."

Plessy v. Ferguson was not the first case in which Phillips' work got Justice Harlan's attention. In the Civil Rights Cases of 1883, his task was to defend the Civil Rights Act of 1875, a law that required equal access to privately owned "public accommodations." Taking the then logical but now inconceivable position that the 13th Amendment's prohibitions of "slavery [and] involuntary servitude" were to be read expansively, he argued that the legislation was protected by it as well as the 14th amendment. Writes Miller,

As Harlan was to do later in his [dissenting] opinion, the North Carolinian returned to Blackstone to argue that the power of locomotion [i.e., mobility] was an essential right of freedom. Slavery had violated that right, and the institution's abolition, therefore, ostensibly freed blacks from impositions on their freedom of movement. Locomotion, however, should not be defined merely as the absence of confinement, Phillips continued, but rather as an expansive right which included mobility on highways, common carriers, and freedom to use public inns. Racially motivated restrictions on such mobility were clear violations of the Thirteenth Amendment, constituting badges of servitude. If mobility were not equally accessible to all citizens, he warned, "the 'pursuit of happiness' will degenerate into a monopoly."

Phillips was clearly arguing against the grain of the Court and public opinion, but his efforts did not go unnoticed by an old friend. In 1885, by which time he was a private attorney, Tourgée asked him to help with Homer Plessy's case. Again he argued both the 13th and the 14th Amendments as guarantors of the right to travel without discrimination. The combination of his legal theories and Tourgée's powerful rhetoric certainly worked on Justic Harlan, though not, unfortunately, on a majority of the Court.

Philips outlived two wives, living long enough to cheer Booker T. Washington's dinner in the White House with Theodore Roosevelt. He'd traveled a long way from Chapel Hill. It'll be interesting to see what else we can learn about him from the new biography of Albion Tourgée.

*"Samuel Field Phillips: The Odyssey of a Southern Dissenter," North Carolina Historical Review 43 (1981): 263-80, by Robert D. Miller, assistant professor of history, Bennett College, Greensboro, N.C.

Friday, December 15, 2006


I've mentioned before how taken I am with Lisa Scheer's angles on Greensboro. I asked her if she thought her photos were more in the nature of the aesthetic or the political. She replied that the political can't be ignored--"there's a documentary impulse at work"--but she also said she edits out context when a shape strikes her.

This recent one is titled "urban abstract." She's been shooting like crazy lately, and she seems to be challenging herself in the direction of abstraction. The results are riveting.

urban abstract

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Chronicling Shakespeare

Toward the end of her persuasive Manifesto for Literary Studies, as part of her argument for the distinctiveness of literature as literature, apart from (while deeply invested in) history and culture, Marjorie Garber turns to Shakespeare. For the proposition that it doesn't matter who he really was, she quotes Emerson, the great Romantic:

Can any biography shed light on the localities into which the Midsummer Night's Dream admits me? Did Shakespeare confide to any notary or parish recorder, sacristan, or surrogate, in Stratford, the genesis of that delicate creation? The forest of Arden, the noble air of Scone Castle, the moonlight of Portia's villa, "the antres vast and desarts idle" of Othello's captivity--where is the third cousin, or grand-nephew, the chancellor's file of accounts, or priavte letter, that has kept one word of those transcendent secrets?

To which Garber adds, "Not knowing Shakespeare's history is what gives Emerson his Shakespeare."

Not everyone is so quick to agree. There are those who think, for example, that Hamlet would be better understood, perhaps as Freudian drama, if we knew something about the author's relationship with his own father. In my experience, though, it's not the English professors who worry so much about who the man was: it's professionals of a more fact-based turn of mind, say lawyers.

Almost twenty years ago, in September 1987, a three-judge panel of the United States Supreme Court heard the case of de Vere v. Shakespeare--the challenger being Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, considered the most credible of the many contenders to the name. Successfully defending Shakespeare before Justices Brennan, Blackmun, and Stevens was a bright young law professor named James Boyle, whose talents I've recently noted.

Asked whether it had been a tough case, Justice Brennan said (as reported in the New York Times) it had been "an impossible one." But, he added, at least no one had declared "All's well that ends well."

Despite the unanimous ruling from the Court, Boyle has not been able to lay the question to rest in his own mind. He has written The Shakespeare Chronicles, a comic novel about an English professor possessed by the quest for the real Shakespeare. Like many a novel in the picaresque tradition, it is being published serially--on his web site. Or you can buy the whole thing in hardback or as an ebook.

In connection with the novel, Boyle has made a portion of his Supreme Court argument available on YouTube. The final exchange with Justice Stevens is easily worth five minutes of your time.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

In a Los Angeles garage, "a hoarder with a vision"

"[P]robably the finest collection of African American literature, manuscripts, film and ephemera in private hands" was amassed by a librarian in Los Angeles. Her son is in the process of finding a better home for it than a musty old garage.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Upcoming exhibit on student protest in Chapel Hill

UNC's Southern Historical Collection and University Archives are sponsoring an upcoming exhibit called "I Raised My Hand to Volunteer: Student Protests in 1960s Chapel Hill." The exhibit, which will be in the Manuscripts Department of Wilson Library, opens Tuesday, January 23, with a talk by history professor Peter Filene. On three subsequent Tuesday evenings, panel discussions are planned: on the desegregation sit-ins of 1963-64, the speaker ban controversy, and the foodworkers' strike of 1969.

When Tim West asked me to moderate the first of these panels, the one on the sit-ins, it was very clear to me why he should think of a Town Council member. In the tumultuous period before the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which banned discrimination in public accommodations, the demonstrators had the audacity to ask the Chapel Hill Board of Aldermen to pass a local public accommodations ordinance. At a crucial public meeting that followed much back-and-forth among members of the Board, alderman Adelaide Walters gave a passionate explanation of her intention to vote in favor of the ordinance:

The underlying idea of a Public Accommodations Law is so simple that it was expressed in one sentence by the President of the United States, Lyndon Johnson, in his State of the Union message on January 9 [1964]: "all members of the public should be given equal access to facilities open to the public." This statement seems reasonable to most people in Chapel Hill, since this is a university town where freedom flavors the spirit of a great university.

It is likewise not surprising that Chapel Hillians are concerned that our Negro citizens often suffer personal embarrassment and shame from treatment in some public places here.

We are aware that some 90 percent of our merchants subscribe to the principle of public accommodation. Indeed, the Merchants Association itself has gone on record in favor of open business for all citizens.

Why, then, is a Public Accommodations Law necessary? Why was the commandment "Thou shall not kill" ever put into law? It seems regrettable that we need legislation to enforce a plain truth. But because the bigotry of a few is poisoning the peace and harmony of community relationships, we are impelled to take action.

The Human Relations Committee set up by the Board of Aldermen and appointed by the Mayor, the Ministerial Association, as well as many individuals, have urged us to pass a Public Accommodations ordinance.

Some say that such an ordinance is an invasion of private property rights. Others point out that such rights have always been subject to the laws of the land--laws of ownership, sale, inheritance, zoning, sanitation, eminent domain.

For these reasons and many more, it is my hope that the Board of Aldermen will pass a Public Accommodations ordinance and thus in part restore the damaged public image of what I believe is an enlightened community.

The ordinance was not even voted upon. Rather, alderman Roland Giduz made a substitute motion to set up a group of community leaders "to serve as a mediation committee to resolve racial differences that currently beset this town and to which complaints of racial discrimination could be brought." That motion carried 6-2, with Hubert Robinson (Chapel Hill's first black alderman) joining Walters in opposing it. Mayor Sandy McClamroch, who had no vote under the system in place (except as a tie-breaker), went out of his way to express his opposition to the passing of an ordinance.*

The town's leaders, in other words, did not lead.

This exhibit will provide a welcome opportunity to revisit that period. It'll be my honor to moderate a panel that includes three people who were among the student activists--Quinton Baker, Karen Parker, Braxton Foushee--and a current UNC student political leader, Erika Stallings.

*All of this information comes from John Ehle's invaluable 1965 book The Free Men, a book that ought to be required reading in Chapel Hill public schools. It is out of print.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Bright ideas

We already knew that our neighbor Maeda's son Adam Galinsky was a bright guy, but it's nice to see it confirmed in today's New York Times Magazine.

Low Starting Prices Lead to High Auction Sales.

Why does this happen? For starters, as the researchers explained in the June 2006 issue of The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, low starting prices reduce barriers to entry, tempting even idle browsers to place bids. The increased traffic then generates higher final prices as more buyers bid against one another. Psychological forces play into it as well. Low starting prices entice bidders to invest time and energy in the auction, and while every M.B.A. student knows it’s dumb to base decisions on sunk costs, the eBay bidders did just that, escalating their commitments to their previous bids.

More eBay advice from Adam: look for misspellings, and don't assume you have to see a photo.

Saturday, December 09, 2006


Jeralyn Merrit, the brains behind the ever useful TalkLeft blog, has a son who turns 26 today. She writes about how closely linked the son's birth was to the death of John Lennon--and how Lennon's spirit presides over them still.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Uncommon Carrboro

December 4 marked the debut of the Carrboro Commons, an online newspaper blog for the town to the left of Chapel Hill. Writes journalism professor and adviser Jock Lauterer,

[T]he Carrboro Commons will be a bi-weekly, interactive “e-zine” or Web newspaper, a “lab newspaper,” if you will, (meaning that this news and information site is an experiential learning project and an integral part of the required classwork for JOMC 459 Community Journalism.) What you are looking at today is our prototype edition — the result of a flash of inspiration in class earlier this fall, days of brainstorming, many sleepless nights, more of what the Buddhists call “auspicious coincidences,” and a nearly vertical learning curve for all of us — plus a lot just plain old-fashioned journalism shoe-leather.

I particularly like the in-depth story on Bruce Thomas and the Weaver Street lawn controversy; it details his experience with the Human Kindness Foundation, run by Bo Lozoff and his wife Stia. If you don't know about what goes on out there in rural Orange County, it's worth asking for a tour. It's no wonder Mr. Rogers called Bo one of his "personal heros."

Congratulations and best wishes to the staff of the Carrboro Commons. No doubt about it: It's Carrboro.

RELATED: Kirk Ross' Carrboro blog The Mill.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Barbie conundrum

Anne Fernald, a Virginia Woolf friend and, long ago, a contributor to my book, is facing the holiday season with a daughter entering an impressionable age: the Barbie years.

Barbie, a doll that used to be for eight- and nine-year-olds, is mostly for three- to six-year-olds now. My older daughter will be four in two weeks. Christmas is in three. All she wants is Barbie.

I almost caved.

Hold your ground, Anne. Take it from Barbie herself:

"Go climb trees," she said. "You don't want to be like me, pinched and pointed and curled."

"Don't envy me my ornaments, Barbie said. Forget matching luggage, the sports car, and Ken. Travel light, little sister, why gild a lily? Try white ankle socks and some sensible shoes."

"Don't you mention my martyred hair. I denounce this lacquered, preternatural lid. Wear goofy bangs, get a crewcut, devolve."

"And spread out, Barbie said. Why go through life shaped like a railroad spike? Use your elbows, make shade, take up space."

"I'm sad, Barbie said, sad and smiling, smiling and sad. I'm a mental-health squeeze play, don't try this at home."

"It's too late for me, but you, you're still young, play Hamlet, bet the farm, tell the truth."

From Laura Costas, "Experience," in Mondo Barbie.

Around town

In a discussion on Orange Politics of the Lot 5 proposal etc., Laura Shmania posted a link to her photographs of East and West Franklin Street. Is this where I live? came the thought more than once. These remarkable pictures are collected in a gallery she calls "A Sense of Place." See her "Southern Part of Heaven" for two more equally beautiful tours of Chapel Hill.

The question she raises is a fair one: now that downtown Chapel Hill is growing up, as the Daily Tar Heel aptly noted, is it in danger of losing its character? The surest answer is that time will tell. The best way to make certain that doesn't happen is to be conscious of the question as we work to shape the development proposals that are already upon us.

I don't think height in downtown Chapel Hill has to be inconsistent with "character" or good design. Rather, I think increased density is a responsible and logical next step in a town that is steadly growing while it is also committed to an urban services boundary and to other principles of sustainablity. Last night I watched the Planning Board's first hearing of the Greenbridge proposal, a high-density mixed-use project that, perhaps even more than Lot 5, raises difficult questions not just of scale but of equity: the project, while so admirably green--with William McDonough himself at the helm, they're aiming for a LEED gold certification--is going to be very high-end, right there in the face of Northside. Without a doubt, it will change the neighborhood dramatically. But as my colleague Cam Hill has said, unless we take drastic measures to keep people from wanting to move to Chapel Hill, it's not a question of whether to grow but how.

Here's what Sen. Ellie Kinnaird said about the Greenbridge proposal in the Chapel Hill News:

As a newcomer in 1964, I was amazed to see the unified colonial style of commercial buildings. I was amused to see colonial gas stations, bus stations and grocery stores in the 20th century. Eventually the style became the semi-official vocabulary of the town.
But just as historic is the expression of each generation's aspirations reflected in their architecture. We are fortunate to have an expression today that reflects our great love for and stewardship of our environment.
Our goal of preservation now is our planet's preservation. What could better epitomize this than a completely green building, and one of magnificent architectural design? Even if one were concerned over mimicking late 20th century architectural design, Rosemary Street has never had distinctive buildings. Greenbridge is a rare opportunity to show the world we are serious about our leadership in carbon reduction through building and living our ideals.

There will be lots of questions asked about Greenbridge, ultimately by the Council. A particular concern I will have will be their plans to include affordable housing. In principle, though, Sen. Kinnaird has it right: "preservation," to our generation, has to have a new meaning.

But back to the present moment, and the past: Much of Chapel Hill's historic "character" is to be discovered in the new book The Town and Gown Architecture of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 1795-1975, by Ruth Little, published by UNC Press for the Preservation Society of Chapel Hill. One of the neat things about the book is the amount of attention the town's distinctive mid-century modern architecture gets. Chapel Hill experienced a major growth spurt after World War II, part of which involved the founding of the four-year medical school. The homes these newcomers built reflected some of the best architecture of the period.

Among the buildings featured is the old Chapel Hill Library building, now the Chapel Hill Museum. Here's an update on where the town is in the effort, which I initiated, to give an easement on that property to Preservation North Carolina: tentative dates, public hearing February 12, consideration of approval March 5.

The old library building is one of the stops on the Preservation Society's 2006 "Holiday House Tour" coming up this weekend.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Lot 5 development agreement

Last night the Town Council took a bold step in authorizing negotiation of a development agreement with Ram Corp. for the Lot 5 project. I'm grateful to everyone who has participated in the public discourse about it, even my dissenting colleague Jim Ward. As a member of the negotiating team, I continue to believe that this project is going to bring great, positive changes to downtown Chapel Hill, and that the town's investment is reasonable in light of the return. I believe we've worked hard and carefully in the public's interest to leverage significant public benefits out of this project. I'm looking forward to seeing the agreement finalized and brought back to the Council on February 12.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Brick (by golly!) by brick

I suppose every community has a right to self-determination, but this decision by the town of Lawrenceville, Georgia, near Atlanta, to limit virtually all development to brick structures seems a bit much. It sets up barricades against all manner of things, like the Katrina Cottage and Modular Lifestyles' affordable units and Ikea's new kit house.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


The EPA argues that it doesn't have the authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. Yet on another subject (as a result of a court order) it is extending its jurisdiction a million years into the future: planning and warning, for whoever might be hanging around by then, about the danger of the nuclear waste storage site at Yucca Mountain.

A winning design in the Desert Space Foundation's competition for warning signs at Yucca Mountain. How do we think Earthlings in a future we cannot imagine would interpret this image?

Closer in time, a 2,000-year-old computer is discovered fathoms deep in the ocean. "One of the remaining mysteries is why the Greek technology invented for the machine seemed to disappear. No other civilisation is believed to have created anything as complex for another 1,000 years."

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Gobbledygook (in Durham, one of a series)

From an ad in this week's Independent Weekly:


The above-referenced project is subject to compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended, and implemented by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation's regulations for compliance codified as 36 CFR Part 800. Section 106 requires Federal Agencies to take into account the effects of their undertakings on historic properties. The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) conducted a survey of the historic architecture within the project area and concluded that the Golden Belt Historic District was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. After consultation with the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office (HPO), it was determined that the proposed project would have an adverse effect on the historic property present. In discussions between NCDOT and HPO, both parties agreed that as a part of the project planning, NCDOT will develop stipulations to mitigate the adverse effects of the transportation improvement project on the historic property.

What can this be understood to mean? That a road widening is scheduled to happen that will have some effect on one of Durham's national historic districts. That the effects will be "mitigated." Will the buildings stand or fall? Will all but one come down? Will they all be preserved? What choices remain at this point?

Sounds like so much else that has happened to endangered Durham.

The word "gobbledygook," however, was coined by a maverick Texan.

Congratulations, Tim

Congratulations to Chapel Hill's own Tim Tyson, author of Blood Done Sign My Name, for winning the 2007 Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion, a prestigious award that went last year to Marilynne Robinson for Gilead (a novel I found to be just beautiful).

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Superheros young and old

In Durham, a four-year-old "snuck into his bedroom, dressed himself in a Power Ranger costume and armed himself with a plastic sword," police said. "The child then exited his room and approached the armed suspect, in an attempt to protect his family." He succeeded. "He fully believed he morphed," said his aunt.

Meanwhile in Columbia, S.C., a 63-year-old comic book illustrator died wearing Superman pajamas.


One hundred percent pure delight. (Via Paul.)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Go take a hike.

Researchers say (as if we didn't know), "Our bodies are not designed to be so sedentary." But if you must sit for 10 hours a day, through lunch and all, lean back.

Of course for some, standing isn't such a great option either.

The $1.95 death sentence, and other neglected stories

Via Eric Muller: new Legal History Blog by Mary Dudziak, author of the great book Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy. She's posted a link to her own recent essay "The Case of 'Death for a Dollar Ninety-Five': Finding America in American Injustice," which is beautifully written and worth reading.

This is a story about a case long forgotten. It was a case that needed to be forgotten, to safeguard the meaning of American justice. The case of "Death for a Dollar Ninety-Five" began one July night in Marion, Alabama, in 1957, and soon captured the attention of the world. It involved an African American man, a white woman, and the robbery of a small amount of change late in the evening. The conviction was swift and the penalty was death. International criticism soon rained down on the Alabama Governor and the American Secretary of State, leading to clemency and a life sentence. For $1.95. And the case was forgotten. This story helps us to see the way narratives of American justice and injustice are managed. The United States identifies itself with the rule of law, and so miscarriages of justice are often perceived as breaches in that identity, violations of the nation's own core principles. Resolutions of miscarriages of injustice, this paper will argue, are often about repairing a breach in American identity, making America whole again. What happens to the person at the center of the story is, at best, secondary. For the story to turn out right, the nation is restored, and the person is forgotten.

Sounds a little like John Grisham's new book, a nonfiction story that came out of a New York Times obit he read of a man who faced a combination of negligent prosecution and incompetent defense counsel, then thanks to better lawyers and DNA evidence was spared the death penalty and walked out of prison a free man. After that, he drank himself to death.

Related, as Dudziak notes: the Triangle Legal History Seminar. Eric is speaking this Friday.

Monday, November 27, 2006

A test of trust

Would you trust your fellow drivers to obey the rules of the road with nary a sign or a signpost?

European traffic planners are dreaming of streets free of rules and directives. They want drivers and pedestrians to interact in a free and humane way, as brethren -- by means of friendly gestures, nods of the head and eye contact, without the harassment of prohibitions, restrictions and warning signs.

. . .

Psychologists have long revealed the senselessness of such exaggerated regulation. About 70 percent of traffic signs are ignored by drivers. What's more, the glut of prohibitions is tantamount to treating the driver like a child and it also foments resentment. He may stop in front of the crosswalk, but that only makes him feel justified in preventing pedestrians from crossing the street on every other occasion. Every traffic light baits him with the promise of making it over the crossing while the light is still yellow.

. . .

The new traffic model's advocates believe the only way out of this vicious circle is to give drivers more liberty and encourage them to take responsibility for themselves. They demand streets like those during the Middle Ages, when horse-drawn chariots, handcarts and people scurried about in a completely unregulated fashion. The new model's proponents envision today's drivers and pedestrians blending into a colorful and peaceful traffic stream.

Airport to MLK: one for the books

Back during the long deliberations over the change of the name of Airport Road to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, I found the work of cultural geographer Derek Alderman, who has made a scholarly specialty out of studying MLK road name changes, useful in putting the request into a larger context. Latest on his list of publications now is an essay (.pdf) in the collection Landscape and Race in the United States, edited by Richard Schein. In the essay, "Naming Streets for Martin Luther King Jr.: No Easy Road," he discusses the Chapel Hill process:

In representing the street-naming issue as divisive, some whites have suggested that King--because of his legacy as a peacemaker--would not have wanted his commemoration characterized by racial conflict. For example, street-naming opponents in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, argued this point when they called on black leaders to rename a park, library, or school for King rather than the controversial Airport Road. Black supporters such as Michele Laws countered with King's own words: "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy." These attempts by some whites to represent the civil rights leader's image as nonconfrontational is, according to Michael Eric Dyson, part of a larger national amnesia about King's true legacy. According to Dyson, most of America chooses to remember King as the "moral guardian of racial harmony" rather than as a radical challenger of the racial and economic order. In this respect, the politics of street naming are not just about black Americans establishing the legitimacy and resonancy of King's achievements but also about wrestling away control of his historical legacy from conservative whites, who have appropriated his image to maintain the status quo rather than redefine it.

Later in discussing specifically why the King commemoration has come to focus on roads, and not, say, libraries or parks or schools, Alderman quotes yours truly:

Under Jim Crow laws, blacks had a hard time just making a road trip. They had to pack their own food, even their own toilet paper, for they didn't know if they would find a restaurant that would serve them or even a gas station where they could use the bathroom. . . . Mobility, the freedom to travel the public roads without fear and with assurance that you got what you needed--these were the basic goals for King. Thus I can't think of a better way to honor Dr. King than with a road naming.

It's been a year and a half since we dedicated our own Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. It's going to be longer than that before we see his values thoroughly reflected in Chapel Hill. But it was a significant step with more than token meaning.

Speaking of King, the sixth volume of his collected papers will be out this spring. Writes Ralph Luker, "This volume is of special interest because it includes material – many sermons and speeches, some letters -- that Coretta Scott King long delayed making available to the King Project. It is a large part of what was recently purchased for $32 million by an Atlanta trust. . . . Until now, much of the material in this volume has never been closely read by King scholars."

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

On this day

When we think of him, he is without a hat, standing in the wind and the weather. He was impatient of topcoats and hats, preferring to be exposed, and he was young enough and tough enough to confront and to enjoy the cold and the wind of these times, whether the winds of nature or the winds of political circumstance and national danger. He died of exposure, but in a way that he would have settled for--in the line of duty, and with his friends and enemies all around, supporting him and shooting at him. It can be said of him, as of few men in a like position, that he did not fear the weather, and did not trim his sails, but instead challenged the wind itself, to improve its direction and to cause it to blow more softly and more kindly over the world and its people.

E.B. White, The New Yorker, November 30, 1963

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Going nowhere

First it was the Hatteras to Ocracoke ferry that was cancelled, after 8 a.m. today, then later all of them. No ferries to Ocracoke till probably Thursday morning. We were planning to head out tomorrow morning for our annual pilgrimage. But the rain is pretty steady here too, so we might as well make a fire in the fireplace and settle in.

UPDATE 11/23: Landfall at noon today. Happy Thanksgiving.


In February 2005, I saw, and blogged about, a most amazing performance given by members of the North Carolina Women's Prison Repertory Company. One of them was Regina Walters. She has completed her prison sentence, and her story is the subject of a new performance, set for December 1, at the ArtsCenter in Carrboro.

Hindsight beyond 20/20. "Rewind" traces the steps and missteps that led an enthusiastic cheerleader and talented ballerina to life as North Carolina prison inmate #0423358. Recently released from prison, this former member of the N.C. Women's Prison Repertory Ensemble was incarcerated for 12 years. Now Regina looks frankly at the personal traumas and choices that landed her at 17 in an alley beside a man with a gun and at the challenges and uncertainties of her new life outside.

The question that the 2005 performance raised for me was this: what are prisons for, punishment or rehabilitation? It seemed that the state was not so interested in rehabilitation. Yet these women, dreadfully sorry for dreadful things they had done, were searching desperately for a way back: to wholeness, to some promise of life after they had paid their proverbial dues. The state was not offering that; but at least this program was. Still I wonder what the state has to offer to Regina Walters and others on their return to society. One of the issues that keeps surfacing in our discussions about homelessness in Orange County is the critical lack of planning and transitional services available to people discharged from prison. (Ex-cons aren't exactly welcomed by employers either.)

Regina Walters will be at the performance for discussion afterward. I hope to be there too.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The march of the mantises

Praying mantises are on the march. Check the "best shot" in today's Chapel Hill News against this picture taken last weekend. (Zoom in for close-ups!)


Since this one was hanging out in the North Carolina Botanical Garden, we assume it was a Carolina mantid.

AE caught a cool one earlier in the season.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

:-) / :-(

Is your glass half full or half empty?

Stumbling on Happiness, by Harvard psychology professor Daniel Gilbert (son of Larry Gilbert of Chapel Hill), explores the phenomenon of happiness, with results that promise to be surprising. From the excerpt at Amazon:

Yours [your brain] is nexting right now. For example, at this moment you may be consciously thinking about the sentence you just read, or about the key ring in your pocket that is jammed uncomfortably against your thigh, or about whether the War of 1812 really deserves its own overture. Whatever you are thinking, your thoughts are surely about something other than the word with which this sentence will end. But even as you hear these very words echoing in your very head, and think whatever thoughts they inspire, your brain is using the word it is reading right now and the words it read just before to make a reasonable guess about the identity of the word it will read next, which is what allows you to read so fluently. Any brain that has been raised on a steady diet of film noir and cheap detective novels fully expects the word night to follow the phrase It was a dark and stormy, and thus when it does encounter the word night, it is especially well prepared to digest it. As long as your brain’s guess about the next word turns out to be right, you cruise along happily, left to right, left to right, turning black squiggles into ideas, scenes, characters, and concepts, blissfully unaware that your nexting brain is predicting the future of the sentence at a fantastic rate. It is only when your brain predicts badly that you suddenly feel avocado.

So happiness and optimism are more complicated than we might think. Turns out, so is pessimism, we learn in Scott McLemee's review of Pessimism: Philsophy, Ethic, Spirit, by Joshua Foa Dienstag.

"Optimism," writes Dienstag, "makes us perpetual enemies of those future moments that do not meet our expectations, which means all future moments. It is when we expect nothing from the future that we are free to experience it as it will be, rather than as a disappointment.

Related: Paul comes down in favor of happiness, while Kristina in the comments demonstrates that a good gripe can help you get a grip.

Friday, November 17, 2006

"The ghosts of 1898"

The report of the 1898 Wilmington Race Riot Commission, produced at the direction of the North Carolina General Assembly, is a milstone in the state's history, as I wrote at the time it was published last December. Following the report, in late May, the Commission submitted to the General Assembly a set of recommended compensatory actions. Among them:

The commission recommended that several newspapers - including the Star-News - which reported on the event as it happened, to work with the North Carolina black press association to prepare a summary of the commission report, study the effects of 1898 and impact of Jim Crow on the state's black press and endow scholarships for black journalists.

The Star-News itself pledged to "work with other state media to address the commission's recommendations."

The special section published today jointly by the Raleigh News & Observer and the Charlotte Observer, and included in today's Wilmington Star-News, responds to this recommendation by bringing the highlights of the report to a broad audience. Wisely, the two papers chose Tim Tyson to write the narrative--not only because he's a great writer and ideally qualified, but also because, as editor Melanie Sill points out, the Raleigh and Charlotte papers were active participants in this sorry history.

UPDATE 11/19: Today's N&O includes interviews with four descendants of players in the event, two white and two black: George Rountree III, Anne Russell, Lewin Manly, and Faye Chaplin. These are important contributions to the story.

Lot 5 plans go public

After long negotiations, the Town Council is ready to present the proposed contract with Ram Development Corp. for the public's consideration. A public forum will be held at our regular meeting this coming Monday. As a member of the negotiating team, I'm very happy about where we are. We've remained true to our core principles: we are seeking through a private partner to make the downtown a great place to live--in turn enlivening the Franklin Street corridor for everyone's benefit. The proposal includes significant public space, as we've insisted on, as well as commercial space; Ram will contribute $200,000 toward programming that space. The project's design has been molded into an attractive "soft modernism" through peer review sessions with Marvin Malecha, dean of the College of Design at North Carolina State. Ram promises to invest $671,000 in public art, engaging distinguished artist Mikyoung Kim to lead that effort. The construction will be LEED-certified. Twenty-one of the 137 condo units, or 15 percent, will be permanently affordable, controlled by the Orange Community Housing and Land Trust.

The scope and terms of the proposal have changed over the course of the negotiations--largely due to rising costs to the developer, a real concern not unique to this developer. We are disappointed that the Wallace Deck component is no longer part of the proposal (though we hope that the addition of residential units above the deck can happen someday). We are also disappointed that the Town's initial proposed outlay of $500,000 to pay for underground parking for the affordable condos has grown to a maximum of $7.2 million to buy one entire level--the public level--of the two-level underground parking garage. This money would not be due until the certificate of occupancy for the garage is issued; in other words it would not be advanced with risk that the facility would somehow not be built. Within the context of a development totalling some $75 million, we believe this is a justifiable public investment in a public good.

The redevelopment of this town-owned property (which will continue to be town-owned) in a way that will contribute substantially to the revitalization of the downtown business district has been a Council priority for a number of years. We've been actively working on it for the three years that I've been on the Council. It's an accomplishment to be able to bring the project this far, and all of us look forward to hearing the public's response.

Not unrelated: Also on Monday night the Council will receive the final report of the Inclusionary Zoning Task Force, which I have chaired for the past year, with help from colleagues Cam Hill and Mark Kleinschmidt.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The onetime future of flight

A 1960s-era commercial for the Braniff SST . . . plus promos with two colorful fellows (Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali).

Commentary from Boing Boing.

High Fashion Quick Change
"Braniff International airline hostesses are outfitted in a couture collection by Emilio Pucci. They can make four changes in a single flight." (From the Greene collection of vintage post cards.)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Jefferson's slaves

A data base documenting over six hundred people owned, at one time or another, by Thomas Jefferson.

Chapel Hill's own Charles Irons contributed to this project.

November: focus on homelessness

For the National City Network, November's turn toward winter weather prompts a focus on homelessness.

Photo by Lisa Scheer of a homeless woman's camp in Greensboro.

At a downtown safety forum yesterday morning, sponsored by the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership, I gave an overview of the Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness. I cited data from the National City Network indicating the broad diversity of the estimated 600,000 people who are homeless in the richest country on the planet:

34 percent of homeless service users are members of homeless families
28 percent of homeless persons state that they sometimes or often do not get enough to eat
66 percent of homeless report indicators of alcohol, drug abuse and mental health problems
44 percent of homeless individuals did paid work in the last month
49 percent of homeless individuals are in their first episode of homelessness

As I always try to do, I encouraged folks at the forum to think about homelessness from the point of view of being homeless--for I myself find it really a challenge to imagine. When you don't have a home, you essentially don't have a position from which to be heard in the civic sphere, I pointed out, citing, as I have before, the philosopher David Schrader. For Aristotle, the state was made up of households (not roving individuals). The home affords privacy, which is essential to autonomy: "autonomy against the authority of society." The homeless have no defenses and few advocates.

But what people wanted to talk about was not homelessness but its near cousin, panhandling, and the blight it contributes to downtown. Can't we outlaw it even further? some asked. Legally we probably could was my reponse, but that would not make it right. Glad to see the that downtown outreach committee agrees and is choosing instead to work on education and . . . outreach.

UPDATE 11/21: Editorials in the Chapel Hill Herald and the Daily Tar Heel register concern about overregulation of panhandling.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Shearon Harris: NRC hearing

Carrboro alderman Dan Coleman has a brief report of the NRC meeting in Washington yesterday in which NC WARN, SURGE, et al. were allowed to make the case why their petition under sec. 2.206 of the applicable federal regs should be heard. He and I and others were there via conference call. I think what we heard from the NRC hearing board was at least a tacit (if not more) admission that the Shearon Harris facility is out of compliance with the regulations, but that the agency is giving them a pass, for essentially as long as they need, on the promise that they will come into compliance eventually. When the petitioners' attorney John Runkle pointedly accused the NRC of letting Progress Energy call the shots, there was no response. Throughout, Progress had very little to say. "In all, it was not a reassuring hearing," concluded Pete McDowell of NC WARN. It will be interesting to review the transcript (promised by Thanksgiving) in order to follow all the subtle leaps of logic that the board engaged in.

The only encouraging moment was when they said they would consider holding an information meeting here in the Triangle.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Kelo backlash and the poor

Back in January, while writing about the devastating effects of the so-called "urban renewal" program on Durham's Hayti neighborhood, it occurred to me that the outrage that we already were witnessing (culminating in last week's elections) in response to the Kelo decision was conspicuously missing in the aftermath of Kelo's key precedent: Berman v. Parker, the 1954 Supreme Court decision that authorized cities to enter into wholesale displacement and destruction for the sake of cleaning up "blighted" neighborhoods. (Pointedly, this decision said that non-"blighted" buildings could justifiably be torn down if they were within a "blighted" area. In Durham, this analysis played out in the demolition of a fine old church where Martin Luther King Jr. had spoken.) The ultimate outcome of the "urban renewal" projects that followed this decision was supposed to be improved housing options for the people who were displaced. But as Fitz Brundage writes in his narrative of Hayti, that wasn't what happened in Durham--a story that was repeated many times in other places. Where was the outrage then? I asked in January.

In a new online legal journal/weblog, Northwestern Colloquy (noticed via Balkinization), I find an article that addresses this question in very smart ways:

This Essay provides a review of the changes in state law following Kelo v. City of New London, and in particular focuses on the dominant reform: the prohibition of economic development condemnations in non-poor areas (which Kelo allows, as a matter of federal constitutional law) coupled with continued allowance for blight condemnations in poor areas. This dominant reform, the Essay argues, privileges the stability of middle-class households over the stability of poor ones, and thus expressively devalues poor people and poor communities in legal and political discourse.

Clyde Jonescoming

unc critters

On UNC Homecoming weekend, evidence that Clyde Jones was here.

Many more examples of Jones' art. Still more.

The Jonesfest continues at Crook's Corner, where for the month of November his one-dimensional art is on display (along with the few critters that remain in the restaurant's permanent collection).

Last night Paul, Tucker, and I took Dan Gillmor to Crook's. Director of the Center for Citizen Media and author of We the Media, he's in town to speak tomorrow on citizen journalism (sponsored by ibiblio).

Dan and I snagged the last two helpings of Bill Smith's Green Tabasco Chicken, which is included in Food & Wine magazine's 2006 Best of the Best: The Best Recipes from the Best 25 Cookbooks of the Year. (From Smith's Seasoned in the South.) Topped it off with persimmon pudding.

Friday, November 10, 2006

FEMA: "temporary" insanity

The Katrina Cottage was an inspired idea, "a more dignified version of the FEMA trailer." Recently it won a People's Design Award from the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. This month, Lowe's is set to begin selling Katrina kits.

But its original mission was foiled. According to FEMA, it's "semi-permanent" housing, and they'll only pay for "temporary" shelter.

Wasn't it also FEMA's position that they wouldn't pay for "temporary" hotel/motel stays because they wanted to transition folks to more stable, indeed "permanent," housing?

UPDATE: Tucker, while doing webmaster duty, noted that this is my 1,000th blog post! Oh dear.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

James Boyle unplugged

Jamie Boyle is a brilliant academic, the kind that can take a tedious subject and make it intelligible, interesting, and fun for a popular audience while not sacrificing a whit of rigor. It's all there, worn as lightly as an Elizabethan courtier's sprezzatura performance.

But the truth is that he's missed his calling. He's simply a brilliant satirist. Others will note his use of Lulu and the Creative Commons license as a way to practice what he teaches--but that's not the real news. Skip straight to chapter one of his novel-in-progress, The Shakespeare Chronicles, and meet Professor Stanley Quandary.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Good bridges make good neighbors.

On a nice night last January, while taking a healthful walk toward the Dean Smith Center for a UNC basketball game, our friend and neighbor David Galinsky was killed as he tried to cross Fordham Boulevard, an unlighted, un-crosswalked, six-lane barrier between our neighborhood and the campus. His widow, Maeda, in her grief, channeled her energy into demanding that improvements be made to this important intersection so that such a thing need never happen again.

Hence the Fordham Boulevard Safety Committee, which made its final report to the Town Council last night. These folks deserve a lot of thanks for such a thoughtful and thorough set of recommendations. I don't have a copy of Nancy Tripoli's collection of images of beautiful pedestrian bridges in university towns across the country, but if you take a peek here you'll get a sense of what is possible. Not easy, especially not when the road in question is controlled by the state DOT, but: not impossible. Says Nancy: "The bridge is for pedestrians. Nothing else about it needs to be pedestrian."

UPDATE: Nancy's presentation.

Civil war memory

Congratulations to high school history teacher Kevin Levin, whose Civil War Memory site celebrated its first blogiversary yesterday. How lucky his students are to have a teacher who's so engaged with the complex contemporary understandings, academic and popular, of the Civil War era. For example, he recently asked his students to take the WPA slave narratives and compare two interviews with the same person conducted by different interviewers. Today before breakfast he has already weighed in on the Confederate flag as fashion statement. Levin is teaching history as critical thinking, and the rest of us are fortunate to get to tag along.

Related: You are there at an interdisciplinary conference on October 13 at Arizona State University, captured on video: "Slavery and Antislavery: A New Research and Teaching Workshop." Aren't the internets great? (Useful quote from Timothy McCarthy: "To be interdisciplinary is to be thorough.")

Monday, November 06, 2006

I met Jacy Farrow.

No, not Cybill Shepherd--not the blonde "teen queen" straight out of the Last Picture Show, but the real woman McMurtry modeled her on: Ceil Cleveland. I loved Cleveland's own memoir, Whatever Happened to Jacy Farrow?, the first-person story of growing up smart and pretty in a time and place when pretty seemed to trump all--but using her smarts to make her way in the world as university profesor and writer. From the prologue:

My mother played the patriarchal game, as did the girls of Jacy's era, because it was the only game in town. Some of us are still playing it. I finally got fed up with it after a few decades, caused pain and angst to everyone who loved me, and turned my life around.

How ghastly that was; how sweet it is.

Perhaps it is, as author and scholar Carolyn Heilbrun has suggested, that only women who played the men's game and won a self anyway have the courage to face the pain bought by telling their own stories straight. And maybe only women of a certain age, say, in their fifties, can stop being what she calls "female impersonators" and can now do what they might have done much earlier had they not been born hostages to their gender.

In 1997 when the book was published she was vice president for university affairs at SUNY Stony Brook.

It was a thrill to meet her at a book reading at the Regulator in Durham yesterday, not to mention a surprise. We both were there to hear journalist Maya McPherson talk about her book All Governments Lie: The Life and Times of Rebel Journalist I.F. Stone, which was fascinating. But I would have driven at least to Durham to meet Ceil Cleveland. She and her husband moved to Durham a couple of years ago.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Lawn order

On the scale of plantmanship, I am somewhere between Jessica and Kelly: I do know what zone I'm in. My newly tilled beds are like blank pages to fill. My fantasies are of trips to Niche Gardens and UPS persons delivering orders from Woodlanders. In reality, the Lady in Red hydrangea is wilting, the heirloom azaleas that the contractors mistakenly pulled up might not survive, and the cover of leaves in just the past couple of days has obscured the new beds almost completely. The first killing frost will not entirely disappoint: in winter come nursery catalogues.

inland sea
"Inland Sea," by Virginia Gibbons, North Carolina Botanical Garden, Sculpture Show 2006

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Jeff Sharlet: Haggard reconsidered

I learned a great deal about Ted Haggard from Jeff Sharlet's excellent piece in Harper's describing his "free-market theology," which I blogged about. In the wake of recent events, Sharlet has done some interesting rethinking:

If [Mike Jones'] story is true, Ted is a hypocrite of the worst kind; then again, he's also another victim of the very closet over which he publicly stands guard, as are all the New Life church members he's led into it. That story may not make the mainstream media. Indeed, it seems unlikely that Ted's downfall will be reported with any more nuance than that of Mark Foley's political collapse. Sex, it seems, blinds the press to politics.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Sound the alarums

The latest from NC WARN on the continuing Shearon Harris/Progress Energy story:

Tough Week for Progress Nuclear Plants

Monday: Sirens at Shearon Harris: All 81 emergency sirens in the Harris 10-mile emergency zone were reported to NRC as being inoperable for at least two hours. Progress Energy says the cause was failure of a device that signals the sirens via a communications tower. Progress said that in an emergency, operators could manually override the device and activate the sirens.

Tuesday: Harris siren system fails again – all sirens were inoperable for several hours due to the same equipment failure. The tower, located on the Owner Controlled Area, is apparently the same one that an intruder hung a large flag on a year ago, when Progress downplayed the tower's importance.

Wednesday: Emergency declared at Brunswick Unit II due to an “unusual event” caused by a transformer failure that caused loss of offsite power and primary cooling to the reactor, located south of Wilmington. Most safety systems responded correctly (two required operator help), including the emergency diesel generators.

Thursday: Brunswick Unit I powers down. When one of the emergency generators malfunctioned, the Unit I reactor was required by regulations to be powered down for 12 hours until another generator was connected to the backup cooling system.

NOTE: Although this week’s siren malfunctions apparently happened for a different reason, Harris and Brunswick have suffered multiple siren failures in recent years due to loss of power associated with severe weather – higher risk occasions when sirens could be needed. Sometimes a large number of sirens have been inoperable for many hours. Since mid-2005, Progress has been saying it plans to install backup power for the sirens. After a quarter of the Harris sirens failed in June, the company said it will be late 2007 before backup power is installed at the plant.

Homefront: quantifying the obvious

From Ecomagazine:

According to the National Association of Home Builders, the average new single-family home was 983 square feet in 1950, 1,500 square feet in 1970, and 2,434 square feet in 2005. This occurred even as the average household shrunk from 3.4 to 2.6 people.

The Energy Information Administration reports that "households with 3,000 or more square feet use 40 percent more energy than those with 2,000 to 2,400 square feet."

A McMansion with an Energy Star rating is still a McMansion.

Rosie the Riveter: Isaiah, with lipstick

Norman Rockwell's cover for the Memorial Day 1943 issue of the Saturday Evening Post is rarely seen because it is vigilantly copyright-protected (but you can see it here, with a story about the auction of the original for almost $5 million). More familiar is the 1942 "We Can Do It!" poster created by J. Howard Miller for the War Production Co-Ordinating Committee and therefore in the public domain.

For the Library of Congress, Sheridan Harvey examines the myth of Rose the Riveter as it played out across various media and in real life. By the time Rockwell got around to his task, she notes, "Rosie" had been popularized in song:

All the day long,
Whether rain or shine,
She's a part of the assembly line.
She's making history,
Working for victory,
Rosie the Riveter.
Keeps a sharp lookout for sabotage,
Sitting up there on the fuselage.
That little girl will do more than a male will do.

Interpreting Rockwell's image, Harvey writes,

I was first struck by the fact that she is big and dirty. She's oversized, with working-class brawn. She wears goggles and a shield. In reality, it's unlikely that she would have worn both.
The leather arm-band provides protection on the job.
She has no wedding ring.
On her lapel you can see various pins--for blood donation, victory, her security badge.
She's wearing overalls. Women didn't wear pants in public much before World War II; but during the war it became common to see women on the way to and from work in overalls or trousers.
She's wearing loafers. Only after July 1943 were safety shoes with metal toes produced for women. There had been no need to manufacture these shoes in women's sizes before because women didn't customarily work in dangerous jobs where such shoes were needed. Most women wore their own shoes.
She cradles a very large riveting gun in her lap, and it links visually to Adolf Hitler's book, Mein Kampf, beneath her feet. The implication is clear: through her defense job, she will help to crush Hitler.
The American flag background, red, white, and blue, adds to the patriotism of the cover.
Rosie is powerful, competent, and womanly.

Womanly and manly, Harvey continues: Rosie has huge arms, a heavy gun, and she's wearing overalls. But she's also wearing makeup, which was "essential to women's mental health, according to some articles of the time."

At the time, Harvey notes, people caught the resemblance of this Rosie to Michaelangelo's Isaiah in the Sistine Chapel. She applauds the way Rockwell gives this this Isaiah a ham sandwich. Read more about Rosie in myth and reality at the Library of Congress site. What a different time it was.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

William Styron


Sophie ceased looking at the pictures - all became a blur - and her eyes sought instead the window flung open against the October sky where the evening star hung, astonishingly, as bright as a blob of crystal. An agitation in the air, a sudden thickening of the light around the planet, heralded the onset of smoke, borne earthward by the circulation of cool night wind. For the first time since the morning Sophie smelled, ineluctable as a smotherer's hand, the odor of burning human beings.

--Sophie's Choice (1979)