Sunday, December 30, 2007

Bright ideas

Thanks to the Carrboro Citizen for including Orange County's adoption of a 10-year plan to end chronic homelessness among its 10 "best ideas of 2007."

Meanwhile down in Dallas, an inspirational former corporate executive leads their efforts to end chronic homelessnes.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

For inquiring minds, a trusted source

Congrats to Paul and for ranking right up there with the CIA as a trusted internet authority! So says the Sunday Times of London.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Tackling chronic homelessness in L.A.

"Project 50" aims to take the 50 most vulnerable homeless off of Skid Row and put them into permanent supportive housing.

Surveyor Mack Garland pushes on, asking probing questions about health problems and drug use. The answers will be used to create a "vulnerability index," determining who gets housing and who doesn't. To put it bluntly, these questions are meant to identify those most likely to die on these streets in the next year.

Garland also snaps a picture so his group can later locate the 50 fortunate enough to have been determined the most unfortunate and get an apartment.

"You get stuck down here. We're here because we don't accept love and we don't give it," says a man who calls himself "Artist Woods." He's been on the streets for 28 years, he says, ever since he was honorably discharged from the Marines.

Law as magic

Via the Law & Humanities Blog (new to my blogroll, a great find), a fascinating article on the "magical" properties of law, an argument with the Legal Realists who tried to separate the two, to demystify the law, to expose its true roots in raw power. In this essay, Jessie Allen, who teaches law at NYU, draws on the work of anthropologists to argue that there are socially constructive, even socially constitutive ways in which the ritual of law functions like magic.

To anyone interested in law or magic or the rational or the irrational or the transformative power of words, I recommend it.

Modern chairs

As noted by the NYT's personal shopper: "A number of midcentury modern chairs that have long been out of production — some of them for decades — are being produced again, some by new manufacturers."

Not to be confused with Modern Skirts.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

R.I.P. Rick Sessions

A guest-post by Jonathan Riehl.

Every once in a blue moon we are lucky enough to encounter people in our lives who seem too good to be true; a combination of kindred spirit and mentor even when there is a difference in age. I learned last week that I’d lost such a friend, Rick Sessions, who ran the Soundhaus hi-fi shop in Durham for many decades. I recall first meeting him when, as a fellow esoteric fan of audio technology, I came to him with an 8-track player for my classic car that needed some repairs; typically, Rick outdid me: He not only fixed the problem but also knew the inventor of the 8-track, and owned a copy of its predecessor: an in-dash 45rpm record player. Who knew!

Over the past five years Rick became a friend and I know his generosity was not exclusive. Almost every time I’d stop in the shop on Broad St., another customer would saunter in with a busted CD player—or a multi-thousand-dollar HD unit—and in his low-key demeanor, he treated us all the same. Rick was a throwback to a bygone age, a general store proprietor out of a John Wayne Western who treated everyone with generosity . . . but would inevitably offer up a sarcastic remark when the previous customer left the shop!

I’m certain there were many others Rick extended his expertise and friendship to, beyond myself. I met many of them. To all the Sessions family, our condolences.

I teach rhetoric at N.C. State, and in Classical terms, we emphasize "ethos," the root idea from which we get our modern idea of "ethics." Rick had it, and the Triangle community has lost not only a community legend, but a good and decent man, a man of rich ethos. Not to mention, someone who kept our turntables turning, was always ready to spin a yarn, and, not least of all, served his nation honorably in wartime, as does his son today.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Marking civil rights history in Durham

Congratulations to the folks in Durham who succeeded the second time around in getting a state historical marker for the site of a civil rights sit-in in 1957.

"I think it's significant because it does illustrate the civil rights movement before Greensboro," said committee member Jeff Broadwater, a history professor at Barton College in Wilson. "Sometimes we think the civil rights movement started with Greensboro."

Durham activists have long argued that the Durham event, coming 2 1/2 years before the Greensboro sit-in, laid much of the groundwork for future civil rights protests.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Creeping up on Christmas

It's been an unusual December so far. Too warm to think about shopping, then finally the time is right for a tree. We find the perfect tree, maybe a bit too easily this year, and then look what happens.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

Eric Muller on "Book TV"

Eric Muller gave a talk about his new book, American Inquisition: The Hunt for Japanese American Disloyalty in World War II, at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles on December 1. It'll be broadcast tonight at 10 p.m. on C-SPAN2's "Book TV."

Luckily for those of us who are cable-deprived, it'll be available on the "Book TV" web site as well.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The rich get richer.

Sometime last year at one of our Orange County homelessness round tables, I met a young single African American woman who was living at the women's shelter. She'd lost her job in the health care business and so she couldn't make rent any more. At the time I met her, she was working at Chick Fill-A, but that wasn't enough to pay for shelter. All she had was her car, and it needed repairs totaling a couple hundred dollars that she didn't have.

Can't your family help? I asked naively. After all, that's what I would do--ask for help. (Wouldn't you?) They sympathized but there wasn't any way they could help, she said.

I thought about her again when I read Henry Louis Gates' op-ed in the NYT last month. Looking for "clues about how to address an increasingly entrenched inequality," Gates writes,

I have been studying the family trees of 20 successful African-Americans, people in fields ranging from entertainment and sports (Oprah Winfrey, the track star Jackie Joyner-Kersee) to space travel and medicine (the astronaut Mae Jemison and Ben Carson, a pediatric neurosurgeon). And I’ve seen an astonishing pattern: 15 of the 20 descend from at least one line of former slaves who managed to obtain property by 1920 — a time when only 25 percent of all African-American families owned property.

And so, Gates concludes, "The telltale fact is that the biggest gap in black prosperity isn’t in income, but in wealth." Forty acres and a mule would would have made a difference. Is he right?

Comes now Melinda Miller, a Ph.D. student in economics at the University of Michigan, to test this proposition. She has studied the records of families of former slaves of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma who did receive property settlements because the treaty negotiations required it. Her conclusion:

I find the racial gap in land ownership, farm size, and investment in long-term capital projects is smaller in the Cherokee Nation than in the southern United States. The advantages Cherokee freedmen experience in these areas translate into smaller wealth and income gaps in the Cherokee Nation than in the South. Additionally, Cherokee freedmen had higher absolute levels of wealth and higher levels of income than southern freedmen. These results together suggest that access to free land had a considerable positive benefit on former slaves.

Via historian Ralph Luker, who can't help noticing that Miller is a student of economics, not history.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What's new in law and literature

A hearty helping of new books on law and literature. Via Legal History Blog.

Restaurant wrap-up

With the exception of the Flying Burrito, which has sadly entered into historical memory, Matt Barrett's review of local restaurants pretty much hits our own favorites.

Leave home for the holidays and enjoy a night out!

Monday, December 10, 2007

"Complete streets"

The term "complete street" is something I first heard from my colleague Ed Harrison. It means a street that accommodates more than cars and trucks. According to the New Urban News, Charlotte is more complete than most.

Green and affordable

From the Utne Reader, a profile of an affordable housing development where the residents have affordable utility bills.

Viking Terrace’s green upgrades, which were completed last summer, offer its melting pot of low-income and formerly homeless residents access to a world commonly reserved for companies and individuals with the financial means to go green. Affordable housing developments like this one are springing up across the country, showing that green homes can and should be built for everyone, not just because they’re good for the environment, but also because they’re healthier, more comfortable, and—yes—more affordable.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Debating: a legacy

Denzel Washington is starring in a movie set in 1935 about the great debating team at Wiley College, a black college, now a struggling HBC, in Marshall, Texas. I hope the movie lifts its fortunes. One of Wiley's founders was former slave and Reconstruction legislator Meshack Roberts.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Carrollton Massacre: One of many forgotten histories

At long last, sometime this summer my essay on Elizabeth Spencer's novel The Voice at the Back Door and the Carrollton Massacre of 1886 was published. It came out in the Winter/Spring 2005-06 issue of the Mississippi Quarterly (Vol. 59, Nos. 1-2), which was published this summer. I recently obtained a .pdf copy to share here with you.

A couple of years ago, I wrote about visiting Carrollton, where the scene of this tragic violence, the county courthouse, still stands. I gave a talk about it as a Hutchins Lecture at UNC last year. The reaction in the blogosphere has been very interesting. A couple of comments to that "field trip" post:

"I live in Carrollton and I don't appreciate you coming into our town and digging up racial history and trying to stir up racial tensions."

"I grew up in North Carrollton and I don't recall ever hearing about the incident at the courthouse that I just read about in the 'field trip' story. I must admit that I am intrigued."

And quite recently,

"As a greatX4 grandaughter of the Confederacy, born and raised in the South of the 1950's, brought up with mint juleps and sitting on the veranda... I just want to say thank you. For far too long the truth of the horrid things that happenned has been hidden or twisted so badly that it could hardly be called truth at all.

"I have my own wound that must be healed... the lynching of L.Q. Ivy in Union County, MS. My grandfather was there when it occurred along with a crowd of several hundred and told me the story when I was a child. I was horrified then and am disgusted now at man's inhumanity to his fellow man."

I've had others say they knew, or kind of knew, about terrible violence way back when in the southern towns where they grew up, things that it wasn't polite to talk about. A crucial part of the rhetoric of the Lost Cause was to ensure that those stories didn't see the light of day.

The story of what happened in Wilmington in 1898 is an important example of the revised understanding of this history that is going on today. What used to be called a "race riot" is now, thanks to a study initiated by the North Carolina legislature, understood as a coup--a violent overthrow of legitimate governmental authority by the conservative white establishment. Al Brophy's work on what happened in Tulsa a little later is another example.

There are lots of stories. Nicholas Lehmann's book Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War provides a larger context to what happened in Carrollton and across the South. From a recent review of the book,

Nearly one month after resigning as governor of Mississippi, Adelbert Ames told a New York Times reporter in April 1876 that he did not blame the northern public for dismissing reports of fraud and violence in southern elections. "Before I went South," the Maine-born, former Union general explained, " ... I do not think that any amount of human testimony could have induced me to believe in such a condition of society as exists in Mississippi." Ames knew that it was difficult for northerners to believe that heavily armed paramilitary organizations would scatter peaceful political gatherings, that ballot boxes were stolen and burned, that public officials could be gunned down in broad daylight in the center of town, and that battles erupted between white and black militias in response to local elections.

The electoral violence of the mid-1870s remains perplexing. Although historians have documented the violent counterrevolution that undermined Reconstruction, the general public knows little of these events and seems skeptical that white terrorists could have so brazenly subverted democratic governance in the United States. Nicholas Lemann's intention in Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War is to bring this forgotten story to a wider audience and explain why southern democracy and civil rights were snuffed out.

Stephen Cresswell's Rednecks, Redeemers, and Race: Mississippi After Reconstruction, 1877-1917 also contributes to this new understanding specifically as to Mississippi.

And so, history and memory continue to tussle each other about. Writes Ira Berlin in a recent essay,

Slavery lives--and will continue to live--in both history and memory. But the time has come to put the two together, to join history and memory, to embrace slavery's complex history, to accept the force of slavery's memory, and thereby elevate both. For only by testing memory against history can a sense of a collective past be sustained. Perhaps by incorporating slavery's memory into slavery's history--and vice versa--Americans, white and black, can have a past that is both memorable and--at last--past.

"American Slavery in History and Memory," in Slavery, Resistance, Freedom, ed. Gabor Boritt and Scott Hancock (Oxford 2006).

UPDATE 12/03: More on the lynching of L.Q. Ivy mentioned above. Warning: not for the faint.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Curbing the urge to purge

The campaign is over, the Ruffin symposium is over, Thanksgiving is over, it's December already. I'm in a maintenance mood; took a load of books to the PTA Thift Shop today to clear out space for the ones stacked on the floor. I rarely buy books for their long-term value; they're to be read, or at least read at, and available for research. Some, to be sure, I need to have around for unexplainable reasons--old grad school books mostly. But more often, when I feel pretty certain I'm not going to need a book again, it's no pain to give it away.

I almost gave away my Everyman's Library copy of Thomas Browne's Religio Medici and Other Writings. But as I landed on the last page, I decided I wasn't ready to part with it:

Think not thy time short in this World since the World itself is not long. The created World is but a small parenthesis in Eternity, and a short interposition for a time between such a state of duration as was before it and may be after it. And if we should allow of the old Tradition, that the World should last Six Thousand years, it could scarce have the name of old, since the first man lived near a sixth part thereof, and seven Methuselas would exceed its whole duration. However to palliate the shortness of our Lives, and somewhat to compensate our brief term in this World, it's good to know as much as we can of it, and also so far as possibly in us lieth to hold such a Theory of times past, as though we had seen the same. He who hath thus considered the World, as also how therein things long past have been answered by things present, how matters in one Age have been acted over in another, and how there is nothing new under the Sun may conceive himself in some manner to have lived from the beginning and be as old as the world; and if he should still live on, 'twould be but the same thing.

--"Christian Morals," sec. XXIX

Virginia Woolf in her own way suggests why I might want to hold on to old Thomas Browne.

Accustomed as we are to strip a whole page of its sentences and crush their meaning out in one grasp, the obstinate resistance which a page of Urn Burial offers at first trips and blinds us. . . . He is an amateur . . . has no call to conciliate his reader. . . . Here we approach the doubtful region--the region of beauty. . . . But why beauty should have the effect upon us that it does, the strange serene confidence that it inspires in us, none can say. Most people have tried and perhaps one of the invariable properties of beauty is that it leaves in the mind a desire to impart. Some offering one must make; some act we must dedicate, if only to move across the room and turn the rose in the jar, which, by the way, has dropped its petals.

--"Reading" (1919)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Another Ocracoke Thanksgiving

Ten years ago, Paul started a family tradition that he'd enjoyed as a child himself: Thanksgiving on Ocracoke. This year's trip was especially memorable--a bear crossing the road in front of us on the way to the Swan Quarter ferry, a baby harbor seal in apparent distress (or possibly not) on the south point of the island, another great benefit concert for the Ocrafolk Festival. This year we also had the treat of being the house guests of Peter, Mary, and Michael Vankevich, who are transitioning to becoming full-time O'cokers.

We all had a lot to be thankful for.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Remembering Thomas Ruffin

As a prologue to the symposium "The Perils of Public Homage: State v. Mann and Thomas Ruffin in History and Memory," which takes place tomorrow, Sanford Levinson, Eric Muller, and I were on WUNC's "The State of Things" today.

The symposium runs all day tomorrow.

Friday, November 09, 2007

A useable past

Dateline Edenton, N.C.:

Michael Montaro, who owns the Taylor Theatre on Broad Street, has appealed the Edenton Town Council's decision on the Southern Bank's expansion project at the corner of Queen and Broad, next to his property. "Montaro specifically objects to the demolition of the Furlough building that would in turn demolish the Taylor Theatre's rear 5' by 20' structure, used during segregation as the 'historic black bathrooms.'"

Thursday, November 08, 2007

To the courthouse--finally

After a painstaking restoration project that took an awfully long time, the Chowan County Courthouse reopened in October 2004. I said at the time that I wished I had been there for the reopening. Today, finally, I got there. They leave it open during the day. You can walk in and imagine what it was like to be in court there in the nineteenth century, or eighteenth (the building was built in 1767). Upstairs was a grand ballroom where President Monroe was lavishly entertained in 1819. They partied so hard then and on other occasions that by the latter 19th century it became prudent to add columns to the courtroom below.

This is the courtroom where, in the fall of 1829, John Mann was found guilty of assault upon a hired slave named Lydia, an opinion that Thomas Ruffin for the North Carolina Supreme Court overturned.

Thank you, Chapel Hill!

When I won my seat on the Chapel Hill Town Council four years ago, I felt buoyed, uplifted, carried forward on waves of support of so many folks who believed in me, had confidence that I could do the job. That was a great feeling.

This Tuesday's win was even more gratifying and humbling. My reelection--with would not have happened without the help of so many--says that the voters believe I've been true to my campaign pledges and have worked hard to make them a reality. And more: that my continued work on the Council is valuable and important. I am overwhelmed and honored to have earned the confidence of the voters of Chapel Hill again.

I will indeed continue to work on homelessness, affordable housing, neighborhood protection, historic preservation, environmental preservation, sustainable development, and issues of social justice. I will continue to count on you all to let me know what's important to you as we all work together to keep Chapel Hill the progressive, inclusive place that it has been for generations, even as it has changed and grown.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

1957, fifty years later

Although the 1960s bore the brunt of the civil rights movement, with bombings in Birmingham, violent protests in Selma, and on and on, the 1950s were not all sock hops and saddle loafers. Fifty years later, scholars are convening at Binghamton University to discuss "Black Liberation and the Spirit of '57." The major papers are online.

David Garrow's treatment of Little Rock exposes President Eisenhower's utter lack of commitment to the cause of civil rights. I recommend it.

But if you can only find the time for one of these essays, I highly recommend Robert Darden's “Sam Cooke, ‘You Send Me,’ and the American Highway." Darden deftly links the infiltration of black music into white popular culture to a dramatic rise in black mobility thanks to a combination of the new interstate highways (authorized by Eisenhower from his sickbed in 1956) and the public accommodations provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

When Cooke created his own record label following the success of "You Send Me," one of his first projects was with the Pilgrim Travelers. But long before that day, their first hit back in 1948 had been "Standing on the Highway," which included the mournful line,

She left me standing out on the highway
Left me wondering
Which way to go.

The promise of the Federal Aid Highway Act, which ultimately would be fulfilled in a way that not Eisenhower . . . and not even Sam Cooke could imagine, would provide the answer to the Travelers' question. Which way to go? It was another small stap on the road towards an America someday that lives up to the considerable promise of its own origins, where all men and women are free.

[Peter] Guralnik calls his biography of Cooke, Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke, and the title is taken from the Langston Hughes poem of the same name:

Good morning, daddy!
Ain't you heard
The boogie-woogie rumble
Of a dream deferred. --Langston Hughes, "Dream Boogie"

In this, at least, the intersection of the on-going struggle for civil rights for all people and a relatively obscure piece of federal legislation, worked together to see that the dream would not be forever deferred.

It took me a little while to realize that I know Bob Darden. He was a master's student in journalism at the University of North Texas when I was an undergraduate journalism minor. We often worked the rim together. I believe Doug Starr was usually in the slot.

(Via Cliopatria.)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Joe Herzenberg

I don't know if Joe recognized me this afternoon in his hospital bed as I held his hand and told him to rest peacefully, his friends were there with him. I was there with Kathie Young as well as Mark Chilton, Mike Nelson, Mark Kleinschmidt, Lenny Rogoff, a few others I didn't know, as we all held hands as rabbi Jennifer Feldman offered prayers for the dying in Hebrew and in English. Joe died at about 6:15 this evening.

Joe was such a friend and was so inspirational to so many of us. The last time I talked to him, it was about the marker for Peace and Justice Plaza. I asked him what he thought a good date would be to celebrate the installation of the marker. He thought that Easter Week would be as good as any. During Easter Week 1964, some civil rights protesters, trying to persuade the town council to pass a public accommodations ordinance, staged a fast there at the base of the flagpole.

I hope we can have that celebration next year in Joe's memory.

UPDATE 10/29: Thanks to Mark Chilton for posting this obituary.

UPDATE 10/30: N&O's obituary.

UPDATE 10/31: A moving tribute from historian and blogger Ralph Luker.

Friday, October 26, 2007

"It Takes a Candidate."

Last night the Carolina Women's Center sponsored a great talk by Jennifer Lawless, professor of political science at Brown and a recent candidate in a Democratic primary for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives from Rhode Island. Mixing reports from her own unsuccessful (but energetic!) run for office with conclusions gained from researching some 4,000 men and women eligible for public office around the country, she argued persuasively that although women candidates do not face substantial barriers in terms of fundraising and support once they make the decision to run for office, the thinking patterns behind the decision to run are very different for women than they are for men. Given a man and a woman of equal qualifications, the woman is likely to say she is not qualified--or not yet--whereas the man is ready to jump in. Even men with much lesser qualifications are likely to downplay the importance prior experience, claiming that "vision" and "passion" are more important.

I had the privilege of introducing Dr. Lawless as she spoke from her book It Takes A Candidate: Why Women Don't Run for Public Office.

Project Homeless Connect was a great success.

Thanks, thanks to everybody, especially organizer Jamie Rohe, who worked so hard to make yesterday's first Orange County Project Homeless Connect a great success! By the end of the day, 100 people had received services. There were about 150 volunteers. Clearly this community has the will and the energy to commit its resources to ending and preventing homelessness.

We were honored to have Philip Mangano, the inspirational head of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, lead us off with encouraging words. Martha Are of the state Department of Health and Human Services, homelessness coordinator for the state, was also on hand.

But the truly honored guests were the folks we had the privilege to serve.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Dry as dust

Droughts sneak up on you. It's hard to describe how it makes you feel to go for so long without rain. You might never think about it, but it can't be denied or avoided. With every bit as disastrous a potential as a hurricane, still as long as you aren't paying attention to the dead dogwoods and the parched and withering shrubs you can pretty much ignore it. That is, as long as you have water in the faucet.

As of now, according to the update Ed Kirwin of OWASA gave the Town Council last night, our water supply is 50 percent full, or 50 percent empty. Kirwin prefers to think of it as 50 percent full. He shared some very interesting charts. He is certain we will "manage" this drought the way we did in 2002. Still there is cause for grave concern.

We're into Stage 2 restrictions on water use. We're talking about ways to fit or retrofit our homes with systems to recapture waste water, rain water, rigging things up every which way to keep from draining our lakes of precious drinking water.

The third world has been dealing with water management issues for awhile now. What's happening in our part of the world is, by comparison, a wake-up call. It's not like the fires in southern California, but it's just as alarming.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Hard landing for Flying Burrito

Paul noticed it said "closed for renovations" yet there didn't look like any activity was going on. He was worried. He was right. Phil Campbell--the man who was the Flying Burrito--has sold the restaurant.

What will our lives be like without the Flying Burrito? The story says it will come back under new ownership. But it won't be the same. Phil had recently opened another restaurant up in Hillsborough, the Flying Fish. It was trademark Phil, excellent seafood prepared in his unique style. Last time we went there, it was the same restaurant . . . only new ownership and a different name! It was not the same at all.

I could tell the story of my 20 years in Chapel Hill through Burrito meals: hot dates over hot food; watching the first Gulf War unfold on TV in the bar; meals with a toddler knowing it was a place where screaming is OK; graduate school get-togethers; hot food eating contests with Paul's more macho crowd; the place where a mother could explain to her daughter how to root for "our Tar Heels"; the place where father hands down to son the lore of rock and roll; the reliable alternative for dinner when you're too busy to cook (thinking you'll get the cheap burrito but splurging for the seafood special). And beyond that, conversations with Phil, who cares about food and cares even more about people.

What a shock and a loss for Chapel Hill. Not even a chance for a last meal and a farewell toast! Whatever you're doing next, Phil, we wish you well.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

On choosing not to know

Listen as our friend (and senior producer of WUNC's "The State of Things") Susan Davis explains her choice not to undergo a certain genetic test. Do you think she made the right decision?

Monday, October 15, 2007

American Inquisition

Congratulations to Eric Muller on the publication of his new book on the subject of the Japanese American internment.

Leaded lips

How astonishing to learn that some lipsticks contain lead!

I'm sticking with Burt's Bees.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Thomas Ruffin: eyewitness to history

While searching in the Southern Historical Collection for something else, I came across a fascinating letter from Supreme Court Judge Thomas Ruffin to his family, an eyewitness account of the fire that destroyed the North Carolina Capitol building in 1831. So urgent was the occasion that he didn't date the letter with the date, but with the time of day (9 a.m.). Realizing that the building was going to be completely destroyed, happy that by valiant efforts the public records were removed before it was too late, he was most distressed about the certain loss of the marble statue of George Washington: "There is no man alive, who can replace it!"

The state of North Carolina had commissioned this impressive statue by the Italian sculptor Antonio Canova in 1815. It was not replaced until 1970, when a duplicate was placed in the rotunda of the rebuilt Capitol. Meanwhile in 1857, a bronze statue of Washington, from a mold of the statue by Jean-Antione Houdon that stands in the rotunda of Virginia's capitol, was erected on Union Square. It was the first statue placed on the grounds of the North Carolina capitol.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

History, not in black and white.

Charles B. Aycock, venerated as North Carolina's "education governor," was among the state leaders who engineered the Wilmington coup of 1898, ushering in white supremacy for a new century.

Over at ProfsLawBlog, guest blogger Eric Muller has some interesting thoughts about how ("if at all") we ought to honor such a "complex" historical figure.

UPDATE: Responses to the News & Observer article to which Eric was responding.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Fallingwater in 3-D

Via Greenespace reader Justin Watt, a most amazing computer-animated video, etc. of the construction of Fallingwater from the ground up.


Friday, October 05, 2007

Seeking volunteers for Project Homeless Connect

On Thursday, October 25, Project Homeless Connect will take place at the Hargraves Center. This exciting event is sponsored by the Project to End Homelessness in Orange County. Similar events in Wake and Durham County will take place the same day.

Project Homeless Connect is not an "information fair." It is a time and a place where people who are homeless or at risk of being homeless can get "connected"--right then and there--to services they need: housing and employment assistance; health and dental care; counseling for mental health, developmental disabilities, and substance abuse; Social Security assistance; and more.

The event is supported by grants from the Triangle United Way and the Stroud Roses Foundation, as well as by the Town of Chapel Hill, which, in addition to donating the Hargraves space, is allowing town employees to take paid time off to volunteer on the 25th. My hope is that its success will be a model for new ways in which we can serve the homeless year-round.

Jamie Rohe is heading up the project, bringing to it tremendous energy and dedication. Now is the time when she needs folks to volunteer. I'm passing on the following from Jamie:

Volunteers Needed to Assist Homeless

Volunteers are needed at Project Homeless Connect Orange County, a one-day, one-stop center to be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25, to provide homeless people with a broad range of services including housing, employment, health, dental and mental health care, social service benefits, disability and veterans’ benefits, legal services, meals, and personal care (haircuts and foot care).

Organizers anticipate serving more than 150 homeless people at the Orange County event, with the help of hundreds of volunteers. The event will be held at the Hargraves Community Center, 216 N. Roberson St.

Volunteers are needed to escort homeless guests through the event, serve as greeters, conduct intake and exit interviews, serve as parking attendants, direct foot traffic, and set up before and clean up after the event.

If you are interested in participating or would like to learn more about the event, please contact Meredith Costa, or (919) 923-2559.

Please consider donating an hour or two of your time to this worthy event.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Sad anniversary

Two years ago today, a young Chapel Hill woman took her own life not far from our house, over in Jones Park.

Her family is inviting people to drop by the park any time today. Here is their invitation.

Please join us for a celebration of Chelsea Huff's life on Tuesday, October 2nd, the second anniversary of Chelsea's death.

We are not planning a group celebration because it is so difficult to find a time when we can all come together. So, we will set up a small memorial for Chelsea by Morgan Creek in Jones Park. You can visit anytime during the day or evening.

Chelsea was very proud of her Native American heritage so we are honoring her Cherokee spirit this year. Native Americans believe that baskets serve as a link between the material and the spirit world, a passageway by which the two worlds become one. We are creating a basket for Chelsea this year, weaving in some of her favorite things as well as photographs of her. Similar to the Day of the Dead ceremonies in Mexico, we hope she will be lured to the park and join us in the celebration. We will have slips of paper if you would like to write something to Chelsea's spirit to be placed in the basket. If you cannot come to the park, you could email your thoughts and we will place them in the basket.

We understand if you are not able to visit the park on Tuesday. We ask that, instead, you light a candle for Chelsea to honor her wonderful life.

Thank you,

Tim, Hjordis, Whitney, Matt and Booda

Directions to Jones Park:

If you are on South Columbia Street, leaving UNC, turn left at Merritt's Grill, onto Purefoy. If you are on South Columbia Street, going to UNC, after you go over Hwy 54, turn right at Merritt's Grill onto Purefoy. Once on Purefoy, take a left then take a right at the entrance of Jones Park. If you walk into the park, you will come to a clearing. Originally there was an observation deck, which is where Chelsea died. That deck has been removed so we will set up a small memorial where it used to stand by Morgan Creek.


Saturday, September 29, 2007

Carrboro in Norfolk

UNC's own Jock Lauderer of the journalism school was the star of the NNA session yesterday called "Filling the gap--a new kind of community 'paper.'" He and his colleague Andy Bechtel talked about their experience creating and editing the Carrboro Commons. He talked about the rush the students experienced as they realized that their class was not dealing in hypothetical news stories--they were actually, really and truly, going online! Jock is running the show alone this semester, but in the spring once again he and Andy will turn their reporting and editing classes loose in and upon Carrboro.

They and others in this session stressed to these mostly non-daily newspaper editors and publishers the need to have an online presence that does more than just "shovel" the content of the print edition onto the web. Use the strength of the web--its immediacy--to your advantage, they urged. Break the news as it happens. Follow up later, but be the first to get it out there. You are not "scooping yourselves" when you do that, these presenters said. Rather you're bolstering your own audience.

Presenter Elizabeth K. Hansen of Eastern Kentucky University illustrated the point with a photo by Jack Delano taken in 1940 in Brockton, Mass. It's of a newspaper office posting headlines of news that had broken since the last edition.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Off to Norfolk

I'm heading out today to Norfolk, with my mother, for the annual convention of the National Newspaper Association. Three years ago I joined her in Denver, where she won a lifetime achievement award. This year, we are just hanging out.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Endangered: Paschal House, mid-century treasure

"I personally think this is, flat out, the greatest modern house in North Carolina," says Raleigh architect Frank Harmon about the house built in 1950, designed by James Fitzgibbon for George and Beth Paschal.

It happens to sit on seven developable parcels in inside-the-beltline Raleigh.

The family recognizes the importance of the house, which is on the National Register; but they are asking $5.6 million. Preservation North Carolina is on a rescue mission--would be willing to sell off parts of the property if the house could be preserved.

See photo gallery for an idea of what could be lost.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Queen Anne's lace

Queen Anne's lace is an exotic invasive, a cousin of the carrot that shouldn't be here. But in August, when everything but the crape myrtle is wilting, it is lovely in its sturdiness. Here it is going on October, but we've had such a protracted, dry summer that it made perfect sense to receive this beautiful little poem in my inbox today, published in the Christian Science Monitor, sent to me by the author.

Queen Anne's Lace

Terri Erickson teaches at Salem College. She's the niece of Stephen White, of Stephen White Graphics in Carr Mill Mall. He did the cover art for her book.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Fair Trial Initiative

What a pleasure to be there tonight for Mark Kleinschmidt and the Fair Trial Initiative as they launch a tradition. At tonight's fundraiser at the George Watts Hill Alumni Center, they gave the first annual Kirk Osborne award, to honor a great advocate, sadly taken from us. The award went to Buddy Connor. I didn't know Kirk and don't know Buddy, but the passion with which both of them, and all of these people, approach their difficult jobs is inspiring.

Then we heard a talk by Stuart Taylor Jr., who knew Kirk well, most recently as Reade Seligmann's lawyer. With Robert KC Johnson he has just published a book on the Duke case.

He said one of Osborne's memorable sayings was that luck was the combination of preparation and opportunity. I like that. It's kind of like the saying attributed to Thomas Jefferson: The harder I work, the luckier I get.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Extreme weather

This afternoon's rain is such a surprise it's almost like snow! Today I was doing some historical research that led me (as it has many times lately) into genealogical sites. I found this item reposted from a 1995 genealogical society newsletter from Jefferson, Tennessee:

As we wander in the archives and wonder about our ancestors, here is another item of interest about our past. It is another aspect of the our ancestor quest. I am going to pass on a tidbit of Info 1816: The year without a summer.

As a result of the eruption of Mt. Tambour Volcano in Java 1815, 12,000 island residents lost their lives. The Volcano is also to blame for an unusual weather pattern the following year in North America, resulting in mass migrations of people trying to avoid the ensuing climatic changes.

The summer of 1816 was unusually cold, with killing frosts and even snowfall destroying crops throughout the United States. June and July were the coldest months, 19 states had snowfall in June! There were no fall harvests; animals and people starved; wild animals ravaged the frontier. Not understanding the meteorological causes, people blamed the wrath of God for their hardships. Some, destitute and despondent, committed suicide.

By 1817 the climate had returned to normal. However, many had moved to warmer parts of the country and numerous farmers left for the cities to go into industrial work.

If you have no explanation for why your ancestor may have migrated or you can not determine exactly when it happened just sometime around 1815-1820 consider that this event may have been the cause.

So I did a little more investigating and found out more about "The Year There Was No Summer."

I've also learned that there was an earthquake in Edenton in December-January 1811-12.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The long civil rights movement

For several years, UNC history professor Jacquelyn Dowd Hall has been arguing that the received version of what constituted the "civil rights movement" is impoverished:

The civil rights movement circulates through American memory in forms and through channels that are at once powerful, dangerous, and hotly contested. Civil rights memorials jostle with the South's ubiquitous monuments to its Confederate past. Exemplary scholarship and documentaries abound, and participants have produced wave after wave of autobiographical accounts, at least two hundred to date. Images of the movement appear and reappear each year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and during Black History Month. Yet remembrance is always a form of forgetting, and the dominant narrative of the civil rights movement—distilled from history and memory, twisted by ideology and political contestation, and embedded in heritage tours, museums, public rituals, textbooks, and various artifacts of mass culture—distorts and suppresses as much as it reveals.

Centering on what Bayard Rustin in 1965 called the "classical" phase of the struggle, the dominant narrative chronicles a short civil rights movement that begins with the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, proceeds through public protests, and culminates with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Then comes the decline. After a season of moral clarity, the country is beset by the Vietnam War, urban riots, and reaction against the excesses of the late 1960s and the 1970s, understood variously as student rebellion, black militancy, feminism, busing, affirmative action, or an overweening welfare state. A so-called white backlash sets the stage for the conservative interregnum that, for good or ill, depending on one's ideological persuasion, marks the beginning of another story, the story that surrounds us now.

Martin Luther King Jr. is this narrative's defining figure—frozen in 1963, proclaiming "I have a dream" during the march on the Mall. Endlessly reproduced and selectively quoted, his speeches retain their majesty yet lose their political bite. We hear little of the King who believed that "the racial issue that we confront in America is not a sectional but a national problem" and who attacked segregation in the urban North. Erased altogether is the King who opposed the Vietnam War and linked racism at home to militarism and imperialism abroad. Gone is King the democratic socialist who advocated unionization, planned the Poor People's Campaign, and was assassinated in 1968 while supporting a sanitation workers' strike.

By confining the civil rights struggle to the South, to bowdlerized heroes, to a single halcyon decade, and to limited, noneconomic objectives, the master narrative simultaneously elevates and diminishes the movement. It ensures the status of the classical phase as a triumphal moment in a larger American progress narrative, yet it undermines its gravitas. It prevents one of the most remarkable mass movements in American history from speaking effectively to the challenges of our time.

It's nice to see that Hall's project has found serious traction. Harvard's Charles Warren Center is sponsoring a workshop on "Race-Making and Law-Making in 'the Long Civil Rights Movement.'"

A local footnote: At Monday night's town council meeting, we approved plans for a granite paver to be placed in front of the Old Post Office on Franklin Street to mark the space with the name Peace and Justice Plaza. Three long-time social activists, Joe and Lucy Straley and Charlotte Adams, will be honored by having their names carved on the paver. There is plenty of room for other names in the future. These three people were exceptional in their devotion to social justice, in the sheer number of hours they spent in active protest.

But of course, they were not the only ones. One notable moment of social protest was the period of 1963-64 when, despite the determined activism of Chapel Hill college and high school students in particular, the town council not once but twice refused to pass a local public accommodations ordinance. During Holy Week 1964, protesters positioned themselves in front of the Post Office and stayed there day and night for a week, fasting.

The three in the center--Quinton Baker, Karen Parker, and Braxton Foushee--reflect upon their experiences as students and protesters in Chapel Hill in 1963-64. On the right is UNC student Erika Stallings. It was a privilege to moderate this panel, to hear the panelists' brave stories.

In today's story about Peace and Justice Plaza in the Daily Tar Heel, Laura Bickford, a current-day protester, complains that "It's unfair for this one moment 40 years ago to be memorialized when there are a lot of other struggles that are going on." But that is precisely not the point. This is not a marker that commemorates the past only. By giving this space the name of "Peace and Justice Plaza" and by honoring three notable activists with the explicit acknowledgment that others may be honored in the future, the town is acknowledging its part in the long and unfinished civil rights movement. We are saying that protest is a welcome and healthy part of civic discourse--even when (as in the 1963-64 episode) it turns out that the town is on the wrong side of history.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

This American Carrboro

Paul has posted this great parody of "This American Life" that Tom Maxwell and John Ensslin have done, "This Carrboro Life." (Duncan, you would have gotten an email thank you by now, but your mail address bounced, even though I used "reply"!)

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Shrimp and grits . . . not

OK, so it's passe and kitch, I still like the Silver Palate recipes. On Saturday night I served the classic Basque Salad to guests. "Like shrimp and grits only with rice," said one. Just so. And (dare I say it in Chapel Hill, home of Crooks Corner which has cornered the market on that one) just as good.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Destination Chapel Hill

Laurie Paolicelli, for the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau, is spearheading an effort to have Chapel Hill selected as one of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Distinctive Destinations for 2008. (Hillsborough is one for 2007.) She asked me to write a letter in support of the nomination. Here is what I wrote.

To the National Trust:

In November 1829, William Ruffin wrote from Chapel Hill to his father, Thomas Ruffin, who was soon to begin his distinguished career on the North Carolina Supreme Court, with a complaint about his new college town:

I think that the Trustees were imprudent in their choice of a site for the University. Instead of situating it in a town where there is good society or at least respectable with whom the students might have intercourse, they picked upon a spot at the time almost uninhabited and entirely destitute of persons with whom a gentleman ought to have intercourse. . . . The Trustees chose the spot where young men were to be trained up in the paths of science and morality, but left it open for vagabonds. If they wished a retired place aloof from the world, secluded from all intercourse with men—they should have permitted no one to settle on it. Whereas they have let all come who wished until finally half the villains in the state have congregated and fixed upon this place as one in which they can spend their time idly and at their ease.

Young Mr. Ruffin, no model student, should not be taken as a reliable witness. His father had pulled him out of a private college in Baltimore in favor of the state school that was both less expensive and closer to his watchful eye in Hillsborough. William’s sense of a clear difference between the town and the gown is accurate; but by the early 21st century, I believe most people have come to find the tension to be creative, healthy, and productive.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was “the first state university to open its doors.” I understand that folks down in Georgia had their charter earlier, but Chapel Hill brought more determination to the project. The physical campus, a beautiful space full of old buildings still in use surrounded by giant canopy trees, offers fascinating glimpses into a rich past, “rich” as in bountiful and “rich” as in fraught with the complexities that mark the entire American South. On McCorkle Place is an obelisk to the Rev. Joseph Caldwell, first president of the university. This marker was erected in 1904 to replace one considered not fine enough. The old marker was removed to the African American cemetery, where it marks the burial place of three slaves, including November Caldwell, who had belonged to Joseph Caldwell. Professor Tim McMillan offers a walking tour of the campus that reveals other interesting traces of the university’s racial history.

The African American cemetery and its white counterpart are next to the Center for Dramatic Art, which houses the Paul Green Theater, named for the first southern playwright to gain national attention. The original Playmakers Theater, which has just been renovated, is in an 1851 building that is a National Historic Landmark. A couple of blocks away, on beautiful Franklin Street with its large historic houses (within one of Chapel Hill’s three National Register districts), is the Horace Williams House, named for a UNC philosophy professor and home to the Preservation Society of Chapel Hill. Thomas Wolfe’s portrait hangs in the Dialectic Chambers in New West (actually an old building, recently renovated), and his shadow is everywhere.

When I came to Chapel Hill as a graduate student twenty years ago this fall, I was drawn to the university for its academic strengths, of course—but also to the town itself for its reputation as a beacon of light within North Carolina and the South. Thanks to the work of Frank Porter Graham, Howard Odum, and many other university figures, Chapel Hill has a secure reputation as a place where progressive ideas are born and progressive ideals are lived out. It has been my privilege to participate as a public official in the thoughtful evolution of this thriving and inclusive town. For me, the pleasures of living and working in Chapel Hill are inexhaustible. I am convinced that the history and character of Chapel Hill, as reflected in its built environment and the generosity of its citizens, are more than enough to make it a Distinctive Destination for 2008. I hope you will agree.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Homelessness plan moves into action phase

At tonight's meeting of the executive team of the Partnership to End Homelessness in Orange County, we will declare ourselves off to the start of our 10-year plan to end chronic homelessness. We haven't hired a plan coordinator yet--finalizing the job description is one of our agenda items--but there's already real work going on that is having an impact on homeless people. Tonight we will hear from some of the people doing this work:

Project Homeless Connect, a one-day, "one-stop" offering of services to the homeless, is happening because of a $3,500 grant that the staff working group for the Orange County Partnership secured this spring. That represents just one way in which the 10-year plan promises to enable us to leverage new resources as well as to better coordinate existing ones.

Since November 2004, when the community held a forum on homelessness that attracted more than 300 people, it has been clear that there's a tremendous amount of public interest in working constructively to help the homeless in our midst. In September 2005, we kicked off the project of creating our 10-year plan. "Our challenge is to make an enduring difference," said Mayor Foy at that meeting. "It is possible to have a society as rich as our based on moral values that does not accept that people will be homeless."

Now it is time to act. Please give your support in whatever way you can to our "bold proposal."

Monday, September 03, 2007

Labor Day weekend round-up

The celebration of the 65th reunion of the Navy B-1 Band in Chapel Hill was very moving.

Farewell to a man whose powerful influence on my life was unknown until he died.

The Loray Mill in Gastonia is finally going to get the historical marker it deserves.

Paul has a nice Labor Day poem in yesterday's N&O.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The future, past and present

One of the neatest things about the blog Paleo-Future is the way it consistently reminds you how far off the mark predictions about the future have always been. (Where's my three-wheeled runabout?)

So it is with a bit of skepticism that I read in the Guardian about a smoothly running, traffic jam-less "world where cars drive themselves, people could be tagged so they are constantly monitored, and nearly all modes of transport can be run by computers rather than people."

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Today in history


From the Library of Congress' American Memory Project:

Ten suffragists were arrested on August 28, 1917 as they picketed the White House. The protesters were there in an effort to pressure President Woodrow Wilson to support the proposed "Anthony amendment" to the Constitution which would guarantee women the right to vote. . . .

Friday, August 24, 2007

It's hot. Go read a book.

Via wood s lot, seasonable advice from Andrei Codrescu.

Quietly, quietly, the artworks and the poems and the stories keep being made in small towns and big towns and middle-sized ones, storms of beauty like butterflies migrating past one’s hoary head. You’d think that by now every wall in every house in the world would be covered by works of art and that there would be a stack of poems by every chair, being read dawn to dusk, loudly or to oneself, by lovers of words. But no, most walls are bare, sporting at best religious icons, and at worst mass-produced pictures from yard sales and Walmarts, and the people read the crawlers at the bottom of TV news and the thin newspapers with even thinner words and zero matter for reflection. People complain of excessive mediatization, of too much TV, too-loud advertising, too many sensationalistic news stories, but I don’t believe it. I think that a great big silence surrounds and suffuses us and that all the noise the world makes barely penetrates it, and that most people’s inner lives are muted craters gurgling forth only the loopy monotony of one’s own voice discussing misconnections and mortality in nonstop prose. And yet, over there, by the trees in the Vermont hills, lovely magical theater is being made for decades by the Bread & Puppet Theatre, and there by the Russian River, living for years in a house beneath the redwoods, poet Pan Nolan projects in lovely lines the issues of a consciousness intensely immersed in nature and irony, and a little up the ocean, in Prague, Vincent Farnsworth makes the cacophony of the band rehearsal next door into a manual for gracefully ageing, and just around the corner in Baton Rouge, Colleen Fava, burning sacrificially for art is reading Robert Musil in his wooly and unfinished entirety for the purpose of feeding her mind and pleasing her capricious teacher. So why is it, that all most people hear is their own lonely sorrow drowned in TV noise, and all they see is their insignificance barely kept at bay by shopping? The answer is that there are two devils: the Devil of Conformity who keeps us from seeing and hearing what artists make and thus condemns us to sterile solitude, and the Devil of Art and Joy who is fighting the Devil of Conformity as we speak. Today, in the deep laziness and profound tedium of summer, go out and buy an artwork and a book of poetry and keep it talismanically around, or take it with you into the waves. You must quit boring yourself.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Grace Paley

Grace Paley died yesterday. She was one of the first women writers I really loved. I saw her at a PEN conference in Houston around 1977, and again when she read at George Mason University from her 1985 book Later the Same Day (just checked my autographed copy). The Times obit is correct about her voice, both her writerly voice and her actual, physical voice. Her stories are best read aloud, and really best read by her. I had her on Books on Tape once, only once, a library copy, but there's a stretch of Wade Avenue in Raleigh that I can't go down--this is 10 years or more ago now--without hearing her voice. Most times, she is reading the story "Wants," which starts like this:

“I saw my ex-husband in the street. I was sitting on the steps of the new library.

“Hello, my life, I said. We had once been married for twenty-seven years, so I felt justified.
“He said, What? What life? No life of mine.
“I said, O.K. I don’t argue when there’s real disagreement. I got up and went into the library to see how much I owed them.
“The librarian said $32 even and you’ve owed it for eighteen years. I didn’t deny anything. Because I don’t understand how time passes. I have had those books. I have often thought of them. The library is only two blocks away.
“My ex-husband followed me to the Books Returned desk. He interrupted the librarian, who had more to tell. In many ways, he said, as I look back, I attribute the dissolution of our marriage to the fact that you never invited the Bertrams to dinner.
“That’s possible, I said. But really, if you remember: first, my father was sick that Friday, then the children were born, then I had those Tuesday-night meetings, then the war began.”

But don't stop there! You can hear the whole short story read, not by Paley, but by another interesting reader.

It's a story that sticks with you, like the smell of the bacon that Paley's narrator and her (not yet ex) husband had, and yet didn't have, in their small apartment, where, it seems, they had, and yet didn't have, many things.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

"A is for Architecture"

George Smart's mother, Ann Seltman Smart, was an accomplished radio personality in Raleigh in the 1950s, one of the first women broadcasters in North Carolina. In the 1960s, for UNC-TV, she produced this great 20-minute documentary film on North Carolina architecture. What a wonderful period piece from a time when architecture looked forward and North Carolina was where it was happening. We look back at the 60s and wonder how they could have made so many mistakes, how we ended up with all this sprawl. What gets forgotten is that they were trying, at least the best of them were, to "design for living" in all the right ways. What's painfully evident from this production is that architects considered themselves urban planners. I don't know exactly when or why architects retreated from the front lines of planning and building. We don't look to architects to be planners any more. Architecture is for the few who can afford it and who care to ask for it. This film is from another time.

So, watch the film; then watch this 7-minute video that George has produced as part of his nomination of his mother to the North Carolina Broadcasters Hall of Fame. Clearly she deserves to be there!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Monarch season in Merritt's Pasture

Ken Moore devotes his Carrboro Citizen column this week to the milkweed stand in Merritt's Pasture. Paul and Tucker were among the "observant citizens" he mentions who noted the annual return of the monarchs to this spot; I was on the Town Council committee that decided to mark out the milkweed stands so that they wouldn't get mowed down at the wrong time of the year. The metal stakes aren't all that attractive, but they do their job.

Do as Ken suggests and go check it out yourself--till the heat breaks, best early in the morning.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

House for sale: Wright for you?

Yes yes! Only it would require relocation to Minnesota--and a lot more than that. Sotheby's is offering this Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house for $3.75 million.

The Don and Virginia Lovness estate in Stillwater, Minnesota sits on 20 acres of lakefront property located 15 minutes east of St. Paul. The home has two bedroom wings separated by the living spaces that include an immense fireplace built of hand-cut Wisconsin stone. A glass window wall faces views of the lake. The property includes both the main house, known as the studio, and a smaller home, the cottage, which is also made of Wisconsin stone. The homes have been maintained by the family since the mid 1950s and the built-in furnishings, designed by Wright for the homes, go with the property. There are also Wright designs for three additional cottages.

Designed in the mid-1950s, this house is in Wright's "Usonian" style. That's a word he apparently made up:

Some suggest that Wright came up with the name during his first trip to Europe in 1910, when there was some discussion about referring to the USA as "Usona" in order to distinguish it from the new Union of South Africa. (In those days, as for much of the century, it's easy to see how the two nations could be confused.) Wright once said he took the name from Samuel Butler's utopian novel Erewhon. But no one's been able to track it down there. . . . Most likely it was a joke. After all, read in a mirror the title of Butler's novel is Nowhere.

Usonian houses were small, "organic" in design and choice of materials, and accommodating.

"We can never make the living room big enough, the fireplace important enough, or the sense of relationship between exterior, interior and environment close enough, or get enough of these good things I've just mentioned," Wright wrote in a 1948 issue of Architectural Forum. "A Usonian house is always hungry for the ground, lives by it, becoming an integral feature of it."

As John Sergeant writes in his excellent 1976 book on Wright's Usonian houses,

They had no "sense of the grand," but were designed for the celebration of the family coming together. They were not formulated for servant-help, but were planned for ease of maintenance with a central kitchen from which conversation could be maintained with guests.

But, Sergeant continues, Wright came up with this revolutionary idea "in post-Depression America at a time when an organic architecture in which each person was free to express his or her needs was clearly impossible." For that and many other reasons--Wright's own politics being among them--his hoped-for revolution in housing design for the masses didn't happen.

The price wasn't the problem. Usonian houses could be had for $5,000 to $10,000. But for other reasons, the revolution didn't happen. Instead, the precious few intact Wright designs that come on the market, like the Lovness property, go for millions. Who is going to buy this house? Never mind the credit crunch. What kind of person with that kind of money is going to want a home of a mere 1,875 sq. ft., with no room for a Jacuzzi in the master bath?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Year of the deer

We hate their destructive ruminant ways, but the salt block we have out behind the house sends a different message. This summer we've gotten almost used having two pairs of doe and fawn spend the afternoon relaxing in our back yard, but yesterday they were joined by two more fawns on a frolic of their own--a total of six!

If I were a poet, I'd write a poem about it. But wait, somebody already has.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Saturday in Saxapahaw (II)

Django Haskins wowed the crowds again for his part in the Saxapahaw Rivermill music series held amidst a bustling farmer's market. He played a handful of new tunes and many old favorites.

Not sure where to turn? Aimless Farm has what you need.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Triangle Modernist Houses

Thank goodness, George Smart has taken all of his impressive research on the modernist architects of the Raleigh, Chapel Hill, and Durham region and has launched a web site. Writes George by way of introduction,

In January of 2007, I typed "Raleigh modernist architecture" into Google and began learning about our tiny universe of cool houses and their ardent admirers. A cataloguer at heart, I could not resist the urge to learn and index as many as I could, visiting almost all of them or at least talking with their owners over the next six months. This webpage is the result of my local investigative research. I also included some others I particularly like from outside the area. These houses truly rock, if you are into this kind of thing...
...which I learned, sadly, that most people aren't. The failure of modernist design to catch on with homebuyers is staggering. Except in rare cases, like the neighborhood of Arapahoe Acres in Englewood, Colorado, these unconventional houses are considered slightly treasonous anomalies to the predictable homeowners association mindset.

All too true, but it's also true that many people are interested in this architecture--I hear from them from all over the place, via this blog, all the time. In Charlotte, the real estate community is catching on: there's at least one real estate agent who markets these houses for their historic architectural value.

It would be a great niche market for someone in Chapel Hill.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Northside Night Out

Last night, once again the Northside neighborhood participated in the National Night Out, an event designed for neighborhood-building and community support for fighting crime. Paul and I were there. It always seems to be on the first Tuesday in August. I don't know why it's invariably on the hottest day of the year--a test of fortitude perhaps. Anyway, even in the heat, this year's event went well. We ended up at the Hargraves Center. I've been going for a number of years, at least since I was involved with the neighborhood in creating the Northside Neighborhood Conservation District. Back then, the gathering place was the vacant lot that formed a kind of peninsula at Sykes, Whitaker, and N. Graham Streets. But by now, Empowerment, Inc. has built two houses there, strategically filling a gap in the neighborhood, providing attractive affordable housing, not coincidentally enabling more "eyes on the street."

The folks in Northside have a lot to be proud of. They're actively "taking back" their neighborhood, and by being the first neighborhood conservation district in Chapel Hill--not an easy process by any means--they paved the way for four others.

New early voting site at old post office

When Andrea Rohrbacher made the great suggestion that the old post office on Franklin St. be used for early voting, as an alternative to the Morehead, we encouraged the town manager to run with it. Yesterday, the Board of Elections approved it as the site.

That's wonderful. Now the trick as always will be to get out the vote!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Turning a corner on homelessness

The Orange County 10-year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness has was adopted earlier this year by all the participating jurisdictions, including Chapel Hill. Out of that plan came the recommendation to form an "executive team" to oversee the plan's implementation. Last night, that team met for the first time. I was selected to be the chair of this group. This is a challenging assignment. We are charged with hiring a full-time coordinator for the plan and overseeing the work. I'll shortly be meeting with a subcommittee to flesh out the job description and recommend how to go about advertising and interviewing for the position. Here's the charge of the executive team from the 10-year plan document:

The Executive Team will provide insight as to the direction, and new efforts that are needed over the course of the 10 Year Implementation. It will serve as a base of community support by advocating for programs that move the results of the 10 Year Plan forward within Orange County and provide oversight for the 10 Year Plan Coordinator. This Team will meet quarterly [at least!] to ensure that goals, objectives and strategies of the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness are being met, and to help address the inevitable challenges inherent in this ambitious initiative. At least one meeting per year will serve as a public forum for the community-at-large. These annual forums will provide the Executive Team an opportunity to update the community on plan activities and to reaffirm community direction and support as the Plan evolves and new strategies are adopted to end and prevent homelessness in the next decade. Annually, strategies will be prioritized for the coming 12 months.

Members of the executive team are the ones who will forge the critical links to the community in this new and ambitious project. One thing I learned at the conference of the National Alliance to End Homelessness was that every place that has taken on such a project has responded to the challenges of its own circumstances in its own creative ways. Another is that the two most important words are "partnership" and "collaboration."

I shared with this group a DVD showcasing the work of Seattle's Downtown Emergency Services Center, a nonprofit organization that provides "disabled and vulnerable homeless adults," particularly those with mental health and substance abuse problems, with a continuum of housing and support services ranging from emergency shelter to permanent supportive housing. They've achieved great successes, including, recently, the opening of their 1811 Eastlake Project (built to house 75 chronically homeless people, targeting alcoholics) in downtown Seattle after an 18-month legal battle with one real estate developer. (See a recent story about this amazing project.)

King County, Washington (where Seattle is), has a comprehensive 10-Year Plan, managed by the Committee to End Homelessness in King County. By their own reports, they're making good progress. But other contemporaneous reports are not so rosy: wrote the Seattle Weekly over a year ago, "The region's ambitious 10-year timetable to end homelessness is in serious trouble, undercut and under funded. The Bush administration is sending mixed signals, and things are about to get worse."

Clearly, we have our work cut out for us.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Human trafficking bill awaits signature

The bill to authorize assistance to victims of human trafficking, sponsored by Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, has passed both houses and awaits Gov. Easley's signature. This bill will allow victims of trafficking to be treated like victims, like people with tremendous needs for help--not like the criminals who have abused them. Thanks and congratulations to Sen. Kinnaird and others for taking this issue on.

Donna Bickford and the Carolina Women's Center at UNC deserve a lot of the credit for this victory, too.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Weird Al in full

How great to see Weird Al Yankovic in concert at Carowinds last night! A multimedia show, covering a lot of ground. While we had to explain some allusions to Tucker (e.g. "all choked up like Momma Cass," ouch), he had us outsmarted on many others. But in one way or another we are all white and nerdy.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Interview with Ernest Dollar

Ernie Dollar, who in March became executive director of the Preservation Society of Chapel Hill, tells Fiona Morgan for The Independent Weekly that he wants to get younger people to embrace the cause of preservation; and his notion of "preservation" goes beyond old houses.

Most people do have a very antiquated view of preservations societies, and I think [preservation societies] have sort of helped feed that stereotype. Our mission statement is to preserve the architectural heritage, the natural landscape and the culture of Chapel Hill. It encompasses those who are interested in saving the trees, stone walls and green space, and the arts and music communities.

He also thinks it's time to realize that mid-century modern is a proud part of our architectural history too--something that naturally warms my heart!

Recently the Preservation Society and Orange Politics hosted a fundraiser for The People's Channel.

See the Preservation Society flickr pages for some neat photos.

UPDATE: The Chapel Hill News has taken notice, too.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Tragedy waiting to happen

No one could have predicted which bridge it would be, or how catastrophic the results, but the bridge collapse in Minneapolis was foretold in the 2005 Report Card for America's Infrastructure. The category of bridges got a C, which was the second highest grade (slightly behind solid waste).

Between 2000 and 2003, the percentage of the nation's 590,750 bridges rated structurally deficient or functionally obsolete decreased slightly from 28.5% to 27.1%. However, it will cost $9.4 billion a year for 20 years to eliminate all bridge deficiencies. Long-term underinvestment is compounded by the lack of a Federal transportation program.

As I did then when I blogged about it, this time I couldn't help thinking about Walker Percy's Love in the Ruins.

Conservation victory

From Raleigh: Thanks to the advocacy of Land for Tomorrow and others, this year's state budget includes $128 million over two years for land and water conservation.

Congratulations to all of those who worked hard to get there. It's great news for all of us.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Eight random facts meme

Oh dear, I pay a not so random visit to Feminist Law Professors and find I've been random-tagged! Well, here goes.

1. I met my husband in a poetry class. I, a new Ph.D. student, was so terrified of the teacher I was auditing it. He, a staff employee computer geek, was taking it for credit.

2. I've never read anything by Kafka except "Metamorphosis," even though I've taught law and literature. So go ahead, call me a cockroach.

3. I had a great Freshman English professor who asked me if I was an English major. I was so flattered, I said yes and never looked back.

4. My first car was a beautiful maroon 1969 (used) Karmann Ghia. I wouldn't mind my next car being the same, but it seems too dangerous and I doubt it's fuel-efficient. (I didn't realize till I Googled it just now that it was born the same year I was.)

5. I have Prius envy.

6. I can't understand how I have a child who likes licorice. I blame his father.

7. I'm a big Django Haskins fan. (Catch him August 11 at Saxapahaw!)

8. I prefer not to touch reptiles, although I know this disappoints my family.

I tag: ae, Ruby, Paul, Mark, Jeff, Blue Gal, Tom, and Ed.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Mullein it over

Ken Moore's columns in the Carrboro Citizen are always a delight. This week's is about one of those great, ordinary, but not so ordinary weeds you see along the interstate: Wooly Mullein. Who knew that Quaker women rubbed it on their face to work up a blush--wearing "makeup" without breaking the rules?

Other fine reads are two columns by Ed Cone, one on the joys of being (temporarily) alone, another on Dave Weinberger on virtual catalogues and other intersections of the internet, categorical thinking, and philosophy.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Rock the vote--don't rock the boat.

"One-stop" voting--the early voting option that we've had for a number of years in Chapel Hill on the UNC campus--was an idea whose time, I thought, had come. This could be the year when it has come and gone. Barry Garner, director of the Orange County Board of Elections, is proposing to move the location to the new Robert and Pearl Seymour Senior Center. Ideally, it should be at both places. Ideally, voting should be convenient to everybody--students, seniors, and everyone in between. It doesn't seem right to have to choose.

But Garner says he can't justify both. This year, the Morehead Planetarium, where the voting has been in the past, is going to be unavailable because of a construction project. But according to Mike Tarrant, vice president of the UNC student body, UNC is offering alternatives, including the Student Union, which would be a fine location.

Every election year, the Town makes an effort to get out the student vote. All I have to do is think about my own undergraduate days to realize that voting in your adopted town is not something that comes automatically. Students need all the reasons they can find to vote in municipal elections. Again, I wish the choice didn't have to be made. I'd like to see "one stop" voting on campus and at the Senior Center. But if there has to be a choice, I think the better one is to keep it on campus.