Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Molly Ivins, Texas patriot

For these past few years, since, oh, around the turn of the century, whenever people have learned I'm from Texas I've been likely to add, "But I left." Molly Ivins never did, at least not for long--until today. Till the end, she was calling her former governor to account. In her last column she wrote,

We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. Raise hell. Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous. Make our troops know we're for them and trying to get them out of there. Hit the streets to protest Bush's proposed surge.

"When she unleashed the full force of her writing style and her big heart, she could make a statue weep," writes Siva Vaidhyanathan, who was lucky enough to be her friend.

Links via Feminist Law Professors.

UPDATE: Mark Kleinshmidt points to the tribute pages at the Texas Observer. The Observer's obit may not have been written by Molly, but it's strongly under the influence: "Her father, James Ivins, was a corporate lawyer and a Republican, which meant she always had someone to disagree with over the dinner table. . . . Molly, being practical, used many of her most prestigious awards as trivets while serving exquisite French dishes at her dinner parties." Even in death, she leaves us laughing.

"Pressing the Holdouts" in 1960s Chapel Hill

What an honor and a pleasure to moderate last night's panel discussion by three who participated in the civil rights demonstrations in Chapel Hill in 1963-64 and one student eager to learn from them. The DTH story is just a glimpse at how rich the discussion was.

Next week in the series: the speaker ban law.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Word matters/words matter

Via Feminist Law Professors: The Judicial Language Project of the New England School of Law's Center for Social Responsibility is hosting a conference called "The Troubling Language of Rape: How Eroticism, Gender Myths, and Blaming the Victim Affect Social and Legal Discourse." On the premise that it matters intensely how judicial opinions articulate the facts, the Judicial Language Project seeks "to identify language in judicial opinions that inappropriately implies that the victim of the violence sought out the violence, participated willingly in the violence, or otherwise was in some way responsible for the violence."


Friday, January 26, 2007

Doll study redux

More than half a century ago, Kenneth Clark's use of black and white dolls to demonstrate the impact of racism on young black children became one of the rationales for the decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

A young filmmaker in New York City, Kiri Davis, performs the same experiment, to virtually the same results.

Watch "A Girl Like Me."

The quilt code: fabricating history

The so-called "quilt code," by which, supposedly, slaves gave each other directions to the Underground Railroad, first got my attention over a year ago. I thought that historians on the H-Slavery listserv had successfully debunked it. It flared back up about a month ago when listserv members learned that the faculty member from the University of Nevada at Las Vegas who had posed the question to the list in the first place had gone ahead, despite the answers he got, and directed a master's thesis that assumes that the "code" did exist. (See Ralph Luker's report of this development.)

Then, more news. On Tuesday the New York Times had a p.1 story about a proposed monument to Frederick Douglass, at the base of which is to be a "coded" quilt made of granite. There are also to be plaques to explain the "historical" significance of the quilt. Once again, historians weigh in. Writes David Blight, author of a book on Douglass and editor of his autobiography, "To permanently associate Douglass' life with this story instead of great, real stories is unfortunate at best."

Responding to the controversy, New York City commisssioner of cultural affairs Kate Levin has said that the inclusion of the plaques would be reconsidered, but that the granite quilt was set in stone. “Something can inspire an artist that is not be based in fact,” she said. “This isn’t a work of history, it’s a work of art.”

So many questions are raised by this controversy: the lines between art and artifact, fact and fiction, history and imagined memory, issues peculiar to black history (given centuries of oppression, with many traditions truly lost, why not believe, especially if it alleviates white guilt by sowing a success story as children in classrooms sew cozy new quilts?), conspiracy theory (of course there is no historical evidence of the quilt codes; it was all a secret), the dynamics of popular vs. academic history (it was a popular book Hidden in Plain View, published in 1999 to scarce notice or response by academic historians, yet noticed by Oprah, that gave the myth its current authority), and even the history of the women's movement. For, as Leigh Fellner concludes in a thorough study of this whole phenomenon,

Along with many other myths involving quilts and subcultures (such as the Amish), the Code materialized in the 1980s during the post-Bicentennial revival of folk art, the popularization of women’s history studies, and Western notions of African culture comparable to early Hollywood depictions of Native Americans. The earliest mention of a "quilt code" is a brief statement in a 1987 feminist video: quilts were hung outside Underground Railroad safe houses. (No source is given for the assertion and it is conspicuously absent from the companion book.) In 1993 a white Massachusetts woman elaborated on the Code idea in Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt, a children’s fiction book; its heroine makes a quilt containing a topographical map she uses to escape from slavery.

The discussion on H-Slavery suggests that some are sympathetic to the quilt code's teaching in schools, especially elementary schools, as a "usable past." Under this view it's no worse than the legends of Betsy Ross or the Pilgrim Thanksgiving. Seems to me that's a pretty weak defense, as if in any of these cases the real history (or as close as we can come to it) lacks the power to hold a child's attention.

Or is it that the real history of slavery is too powerful, too graphic for tender minds? If that were ever true, surely in a world in which the evening news is likely to report another beheading, that's a tough argument to make. But let me not dwell on elementary school. I probably would have let this whole episode go unblogged, but for one thing: Tucker's 8th grade language arts class, this week, is learning about the quilt code!

Paul was quickly on the case with a note to the teacher citing the NYT story and the H-Slavery discussion, urging him to "teach the controversy," as Gerald Graff taught us 20 years ago to say.

Here's one lesson plan that does just that.

UPDATE: Paul cites the Amazon discussion of Hidden in Plain View for showing "the polarity between history carefully practiced and folklore wishfully constructed."

UPDATE 2/2: More debunking from the author of a book on the Underground Railroad; and an interview with David Blight on the CBC program "As it Happens."

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Lens wide open

sold out

Lisa Scheer has been taking her new wide-angle lens on the road, and she says it's had a bit of an influence on what she chooses to shoot. This photo is from Reidsville, N.C. The slide from magenta to red to orange reminds me of what Josef Albers wrote about "color memory":

If one says "Red" (the name of a color)
and there are 50 people listening,
It can be expected that there will be 50 reds in their minds.
And one can be sure that all these reds will be very different.

Even when a certain color is specified which all listeners have seen
innumerable times--such as the red of the Coca-Cola signs which is
the same red all over the country--they will still think of
many different reds.

Even if all the listeners have hundreds of reds in front of them
from which to choose the Cocal-Cola red, they will again select
quite different colors. And no one can be sure that he has found
the precise red shade.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

UNC protest exhibit opens today

"I Raised My Hand to Volunteer: Students Protest in 1960s Chapel Hill" opens today in Wilson Library. Sponsored by the library's manuscripts department, it features diaries, letters, personal papers, photographs, and other documentation of a tumultuous period. The exhibit will formally open this evening at 5:15, with, at 6:00, a keynote presentation by Peter Filene. Programming will continue for the next three Tuesday evenings with panel discussions on the topics of the sit-ins of 1963-64; the speaker ban controversy; and the food workers' strike of 1969.

I'm going to be moderating the talk next week on the sit-ins.


Monday, January 22, 2007

NC Democrats apologize for 1898

Via the North Carolina Miscellany: Yesterday the North Carolina Democratic Party formally apologized for the events leading up to and including the 1898 Wilmington "race riot," a move prompted by the publication of the report of the Wilmington Race Riot Commission.

“Sometimes, moving forward requires a sober look at the past. I am pleased that the State Executive Committee considered and unanimously passed this resolution,” said North Carolina Democratic Party Chair Jerry Meek. “The Democratic Party of 2007—and of the last half century—isn’t the same Party that it was in 1898. This resolution is important because it renounces past actions of the Democratic Party and celebrates the Party of today.”

In Wilmington, the resolution is called "a step in the right direction."

wilmington cartoon
From The North Carolina Election of 1898, an exhibit in Wilson Library, UNC.

Ricoeur in/on translation

John McGowan has a thoughtful review of a posthumous little book by Paul Ricoeur, On Translation, reminding us that all communication involves, at some level, an act of translation.

The possibilities of alienation (these words do not reveal the real me) and of misinterpretation (no, that’s not what I meant at all) are ever present. Our desire to translate ourselves to ourselves and to others is always shadowed by the fear of failure and by resentment of the very necessity of the task. The development of “linguistic hospitality,” the welcoming of the foreign into the privacy of the self, is the ethos Ricoeur promotes as the proper and humble response to the fact that some ideal union between a text and its translation, between our sense of self and the words with which we express that sense, and, ultimately, between the self and others, can never be ­achieved.

Ricoeur insisted, especially in later works such as Oneself as Another (1995), that the path to ­self-­understanding lies through the detour of an encounter with the other. His essays on translation dramatize this call to recognize in the foreign the lineaments of one’s own ­imperfection.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Ze Frank story

How sad it will be when "The Show" with Ze Frank comes to an end in March! It won't be the end of Ze Frank, though.

His fame goes back to a video he produced for his birthday in 2001 called "How to Dance Properly."

He also appeared at the TED 2004 conference.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Council in retreat

The Town Council's annual annual retreat goes uptown this year. In a grand improvement from the previous retreats I've been to, which have been in the windowless downstairs meeting room of the public library, this time we're in the new Franklin Hotel on West Franklin. Last night we had a lovely dinner. Today we will get down to business.

This elegant boutique hotel--with Chapel Hill's first revolving doors!--arose from the rubble of the old Trailways bus station. Before the bus station was demolished, Matt Robinson staged some powerful graffiti art there, memorializing an important chapter in our history. (See this post and scroll down for photos; more photos here.) I had hoped that the art would be preserved--I know that Josh Gurlitz, the architect, made an attempt to save it from the bulldozer--but I'm not sure that it was.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Good-neighbor policies in Chapel Hill

Last semester, Richard Simpson and Bruce Curran's journalism class produced three public service announcements for the Town of Chapel Hill. They obviously had a lot of fun with the project. We received them, gratefully, at our January 8 Council meeting. They're airing on Channel 18.

A special showing just for you.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Changing position on MLK

Jonathan Tilove writes to let me know about a recent story of his on the continuing saga of MLK road naming. "Despite stereotypes, MLK streets are economically vibrant," he reports in a story that centers on New Bern, N.C. New Bern's primary commercial street was named for King in 2000--and ever since, it has "flourished."

The picture is not so rosy in nearby Greenville. Since 1998 the racial divide in this city has been enshrined in the name of a single street, a street that's called Martin Luther King Jr. Drive up until the point that it leaves the black neighborhoods and enters the whiter, wealthier precincts of East Carolina University, where it remains Fifth Street. What happened last year I did not know:

Last year, the local chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and others pressed to name all of Fifth for King. Instead, the City Council's white majority voted to name a new bypass for King and remove his name from all of Fifth.

The Council would sooner take the name away from the black community than extend it into the white.

Other subtle changes of position are revealed in Tilove's story. In Chatanooga, Tennessee, a white developer faced with having to change the address of his building to MLK simply "gave his building its own address--Union Square." A nearby hotel "executed a familiar sidestep, switching its address to reflect its side street instead of King."

One business owner that I know of in Chapel Hill changed his address to that of the side street rather than suffer the change from Airport Road to MLK.

Then on the other hand, Town Hall changed its address from North Columbia Street to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, becoming one of some 590 government offices nationwide on MLK.

Cornel West is not one to change his position on MLK. He made a rousing, riveting speech at Memorial Hall last night as the university's MLK Week speaker. Paul gets to the essence of it. I don't know if it was videotaped. But you can see similar themes in a video of a talk he gave at North Carolina A&T in Greensboro last year.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Design blog within easy reach

It seems a little odd to be recommending a blog sponsored by a furniture chain, but Christine French of the Recent Past Preservation Network is right: Design With Reach's Design Notes is very cool.

Oddly related: Nineteen Soviet roadside bus stops, like this and this, crying out for preservation. (Via Boing Boing.)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

MLK Day in Chapel Hill

At the Post Office rally about 200 hundred people heard a variety of messages, a number of them (including mine) linking King's domestic and international peace agendas.

The traditional march from the Post Office to the First Baptist Church was more comfortable than I can remember--warming us up for Curtis Gatewood's fired-up speech, which was designed to return us to a proper state of discomfort.

UPDATE: In his post, Mark Kleinschmidt reminds us that the Post Office space has a name--Peace and Justice Plaza--a name the Council gave it back in June. We asked the Public Art Commission and the Historic District Commission to design an appropriate marker. I see that we have an "information item" on this project coming up on February 12. The wheels of public process turn slowly (but they do turn).

Monday, January 15, 2007

At the Riverside with King

Today after you've heard the "I Have a Dream" speech for the n-teenth time, not that it isn't worth hearing again, you might spend a little time with Dr. King's 1967 sermon at the Riverside Church (full text and audio), in which he dared to say,

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in [a] revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war.

As Taylor Branch reports in At Canaan's Edge, the final volume of his magisterial trilogy on King's life, while the Riverside congregation "embraced King's message as though relieved to hear biting reflection sustained with nuance so devoid of malice," rewarding him with two standing ovations, public reception of the speech ran from mixed to hostile. His longtime adviser Stanley Levison

considered the speech itself an obstacle to public understanding. "I do not think it was a good expression of you," he bluntly advised, "but apparently you think it was." With his trademark directness, Levison called it unwise to focus on Vietnamese peasants rather than average American voters. "The speech was not so balanced," he told King. It was too "advanced" to rally his constituency, and covered so many angles that reporters sidestepped his message by caricature and label. "What on earth can Dr. King be talking about?" wrote a Washington columnist on April 5, wondering how any civil rights leader could overlook the benefits of integrated combat. "If there hadn't been a war, it would have served the Negro cause well to start one."

It simply seemed a betrayal for King to shift from civil rights to the war. From Branch again,

While neither [the Washington Post or The New York Times] engaged the substance of his Riverside argument, both archly told him to leave Vietnam alone for his own sake. "Many who have listened to him with respect will never again accord him the same confidence," declared the Post. "He has diminished his usefulness to his cause, to his country, and to his people." Editors at the Times pronounced race relations difficult enough without his "wasteful and self-defeating" diversions into foreign affairs. In "Dr. King's Error," they summarized the Riverside speech as "a fusing of two public problems that are distinct and separate," and predicted that his initiative "could very well be disastrous for both causes."

Upon which King "broke down more than once into tears."

nc emancipation
Emancipated slaves, New Bern, N.C., 1863, accompanied by Union troops

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Crisis intervention needed for state mental health care

Mark Sullivan, executive director of the Mental Health Association in Orange County, opened the 29th Annual Legislative Breakfast for Mental Health yesterday morning with a sobering statistic: The national average per capita spending on mental health services is $92; in North Carolina, it is $52. "As a state we are ashamed," he said, as he called for "a responsible, compassionate, and effective" system of delivering mental health services.

Writer and Orange County resident Lee Smith led off the session with a moving account of the life and tragic death of her son, Josh Seay, after struggling since high school with schizophrenia. What came through as she recalled the onset of his illness during the summer before his senior year, at a music camp at the Berklee College of Music, and then the years of diagnosis and treatment, marked by steps forward and backward but largely (until the end) forward, thanks to effective treatment programs, was that the fundamental means to treat mental illness are in place: if you can find them, if you can afford them. Yet the story of mental health services in North Carolina is one of dwindling resources. Smith gave credit to her son's ability to progress to the extent that he did--from institutionalization to independent living and employment--"to the resources available in this community." Yet, she continued,

the promise of community health remains unfulfilled. Many people living right now with the most serious and persistent mental illness are not being provided with the treatment they need. Treatment works if you can get it, but many just can't get it. Our family was lucky but we were also persistent, and we had insurance--a key factor--and we were educated enough to figure out how to navigate the system, which is not so easy. . . . In fact it is almost impossible for a seriously ill person to do so.

During the remainder of the morning, a number of points got my attention:

1. North Carolina is one of 13 states that do not require "insurance parity," meaning equal coverage for mental health treatment.

2. More people with mental illness in North Carolina are in jails and prisons than in any other facility. A few counties (starting in Orange County where Judge Joe Buckner has been a leader) have mental health treatment courts. But expansion faces resistance. Some district attorneys actively resist mental health courts, because it means putting fewer people behind bars: "it lowers their batting average."

3. People with mental illness are often not eligible for Medicaid because they are not identified as "disabled."

4. North Carolina is one of only five or six states that does not provide across-the-board special assistance money to support independent living for the mentally ill in their communities. At least 50 percent of the mentally ill are in adult care homes--exactly the wrong place for nurturing independence.

5. Transitional housing is a huge gap in North Carolina.

These facts are especially discouraging to those of us working on the 10-year homelessness plan, for certainly a great percentage of the chronically homeless are mentally ill; and the percentage of mentally ill homeless is bound to rise with the continuation of the state's mental health "divestiture" plans.

With a new legislative session about to begin in Raleigh, the time is ripe to speak out. The good news is that this Chapel Hill session was full to overflowing people from Orange and Chatham Counties who care passionately about these issues. The bad news is that this is the only legislative breakfast scheduled so far in the state--and there are 98 other counties.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Get your war on stage.

The comic strip "Get Your War On," created by David Rees, son of Phil and Peg Rees of Chapel Hill, comes to life in an off-Broadway production. The Austin company Rude Mechanicals performs the show through January 28. From the Times review:

Eventually, what separates this show from most Bush-bashing satires is a subtext about our own powerlessness. The critics onstage — and those laughing in the seats — seem content to poke fun without ever asking that old, essential question: what is to be done?

Promo video.

Hear no Monkees, see no Monkees

The other night at the Flying Burrito, the music that we were munching our chips to put Paul in mind of a story to tell Tucker: about the time he met Jimi Hendrix. "Met" is maybe a stretch--there was no formal introduction, and anyway, Paul wasn't setting out to meet him. He was actually in hot pursuit of the Monkees.

You just have to read this wonderful story.

I've known Paul for a long time. I've heard him tell lots of stories, a few of them more than once. This was such a great one, I couldn't believe I'd never heard it.

Sally: Paul, I've known you for almost 20 years. Why have I never heard this story before?
Paul: You've never cared anything about Jimi Hendrix.
Sally: But I did care about the Monkees.
Paul: This is not a story about the Monkees! There are no Monkees in this story!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Foiled insurgency in Texas

Little did I know, till being tipped off by Cliopatria, that since 2003 a Texas law has required all school children to start the day with the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Flag of the Great State of Texas.

Now, I was brought up by Texas patriots. They showed me Washington-on-the-Brazos, where our Declaration of Independence was signed. They taught me about the Centennial Exhibition of 1936. In my school we had prayers and the pledge to the stars and bars, but I did not even know there was a pledge to the Texas flag.

Here's the story, from the Handbook of Texas Online.

In 1933 the legislature passed a law establishing rules for the proper display of the flag and providing for a pledge to the flag: "Honor the Texas Flag of 1836; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one and indivisible."

But there was a bit of a problem--an error that was not corrected until 1965. The 1836 flag looked like this:

tx flag

It was called David Burnet's flag, after the man who was the first president of the Texas Republic. Yes, 1836 was the year that, down at Washington-on-the-Brazos, Texas declared its independence from Mexico! It did not become a state until 1845: nine years of sovereign independence. (I have earlier told the story of the Lone Star Flag.)

So for more than 30 years, from 1933 to 1965, Texans--at least the secretly initiated who actually knew about the pledge--swore their allegiance to the flag of the failed but still deeply imagined and warmly remembered Republic of Texas. What were they thinking?

The post-1965 version is the same but for the deletion of the year. Even more abbreviated than the old one, it lacks music entirely: "Honor the Texas Flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one and indivisible." As long as schoolkids have to say it every day, they ought to give it an overhaul. I hear Kinky Friedman has time on his hands . . .

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Welcome to historic Hillsborough.

Props to Laurie Paolicelli, executive director of the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau, for commissioning local writers to write about their home towns. Today in the Chapel Hill News we have Michael Malone's rhapsodic take (scroll down for the story) on Hillsborough and its "small-town charms."

This may be the first promotional article on Hillsborough in modern memory that mentions Judge Thomas Ruffin not only for his general high acclaim as an early 19th century jurist but also for his infamous decision in State v. Mann--the 1829 opinion in which he wrote, "The powers of the master must be absolute to render the submission of the slave perfect."

Michael Malone ought to know: he and his wife, Maureen Quilligan, have in their own back yard the small, beautifully preserved office that Ruffin worked in; the Burnside property, where they live, next to St. Matthew's Episcopal Church, where he is buried, was the site of his home.

Has southern history turned a corner? Is it finally OK to talk candidly, even in the local newspaper, about our troubled, troubling past?

Tim Tyson thinks it has and is. Earlier this week he spoke on "The State of Things" about his upcoming course, through Duke's Center for Documentary Studies, called "The South in Black and White," as well as about his experiences lecturing on race around the state.

I sense a kind of new openness. There’s something going on out there, and I don’t exactly know, but I know that when we’re going to high schools and community colleges and churches these days we’re seeing a new willingness to talk about history in an open way and to tell the story a little differently. . . .

The fact that here in the South right now we’re seeing a new imagination about our prospects and this willingness to talk about race and history is not a surprise. If you look globally, everywhere where people are struggling for decent wages, for the dignity of human personality, for basic human rights, you will hear the vision of the black South that we’ll be studying in this course. This culture already echoes around the world, wherever people are standing up against what Dr. King called “the thingification of human beings.” The black South echoes for the ages. It’s a world historical culture that has come about in the South, of immense importance.

Next week I'm having lunch with Laurie Paolicelli, county commissioner Barry Jacobs, Afro-American Studies professor Tim McMillan, and others to talk about ways to highlight the history and experience of blacks in Chapel Hill and Orange County.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

So it's really true.

One of the best blogs in the blogosphere just folded. What Michael Berube pulled off over the past three years was simply amazing, and it would have been even if he hadn't been so productively writing books and stuff at the same time. A giant hole has been rent in the internets. All the best to him in whatever's next.

Another one of the seven

Remarking today's news item from the North Carolina NAACP about their planned march on the General Assembly next month, Mark Kleinschmidt notes that the organization's head, the Rev. William Barber, was recently named (along with Tom Jensen) one of the "seven who will matter in 2007." This is a man who is already making a tremendous difference.

I first experienced the power of Rev. Barber's presence two years ago, on Martin Luther King Day in Chapel Hill, 2005. We had just emerged from the throes of renaming Airport Road for King--a subject the preacher did not shy away from. Warming to the metaphor of the road, he urged us all to keep traveling in the ways of social justice. I've been watching, and occasionally (not often enough) working with, this gifted leader ever since.

She stood there ironing

Tillie Olsen died on January 1 at age 94. She's a writer I never got around to in grad school, or later--my loss. There was a kind of feminism, back then, that struck me as special pleading. I was wrong, I think, in her case. After all, it took a mainstream male writer, Wallace Stegner, to recognize that her story "I Stand Here Ironing" was worth an investment. If it hadn't been for him, back in 1955, she wouldn't have won the Stanford University Creative Writing Fellowship that launched her career. This story and much more is told in Anne Fernald's moving tribute.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Finger pickin' good

On Saturday night, acoustic guitarist Muriel Anderson played to a sold-out audience of 2,000 in Charlotte. We weren't there. We were luckier. We saw her last night at a house concert in Chapel Hill. We had front row seats in clear view of her incredible fingers.

She started off with the Flamenco flair of "Leyenda," then moved around all over the place, including the classic piano rag "Nola," the romantic "Arioso," and her own September 11 composition, "Owls' Psalm."* She said this composition was inspired by a walk in a park where she heard two barred owls calling to each other in minor sixths, one a half-tone lower than the other. Sure enough, the sound of the female barred owl is a little higher-pitched than that of the male. Are they minor sixths a half-step apart? If you're Muriel Anderson they are, and it's hard to quibble with that.

*These mp3 sound files and more are available to sample.

Friday, January 05, 2007

2006: year of ibiblio

What an amazing list of accomplishments! Congratulations to Paul and all the other ibiblians old and new, near and far.

Blogroll additions, etc.

My blogroll keeps growing. Two new ones today. First, I've broken down and added Ze Frank. I watch him more than I'd like to admit, but honestly, not often enough. It was the champagne fairies that did it. Second, for local color, Wilson Library's North Carolina Miscellany.

Check them both out.

In other housekeeping matters, I've updated my home page. The Town Council has a lot on its plate, but over the past year we've accomplished a good bit, too. The Lot 5 proposal, which we are scheduled to finalize in February, is probably the biggest. In the new year, I hope one of the things we will do is to follow through on something the Planning Board is encouraging right now: to articulate, clearly and publicly, a new vision is for downtown Chapel Hill (indeed for the whole town). This is a pivotal time for our cherished "village." Growth is going to happen. It's a matter of making it smart and consistent with our needs and values.

Our annual Council retreat January 19-20 is going to be held at the new Franklin Hotel.

Segwaying into the new year

The Chapel Hill Police Department is trying out a couple of Segways. "It's a combination of visibility, accessibility and mobility," says police chief Gregg Jarvies.

Sadly, we will lose Jarvies to retirement on April 1. After 31 years of service, seven as chief, he's entitled--but he leaves big shoes to fill. The town is seeking your input on the qualities to look for in a new chief. Creative thinking is clearly one.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Fairy dust

Who knew that the trains of bubbles that arise so magically from the bottom of a champagne glass are caused by a bottom-line inability to get the glass clean?

An amazing fact that bubbles up in a story about absinthe.

UPDATE 1/5: The inimitable Ze Frank on those mischievous champagne fairies. (Thanks, Paul.)

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A gaggle of grammatical gaffes

Not the first time noted here, but you can't have too much "fun" with stuff like "this."

Evidently (see their interlocking blogrolls), these kinds of folk flock together.

Literally, a Web Log (An English language grammar blog tracking abuse of the word "literally")

Apostrophe abuse

Apostrophe catastrophe

--all of which somehow calls to mind the odd blog about the lowercase L, which I see is still marshalling its evidence.

Inspired by Feminist Law Professors.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Emancipation and remembrance

Today is the 144th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. New Year's Day--not a hard connection to make. How come we don't remember? (Well, some people do remember.)

Relatedly, from several sources lately I've heard about the call by the president of the University of Texas to have a discussion about the campus' memorials to Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee. He's planning an "advisory committee." I don't know the particulars of this one, but both the call and the response are achingly predictable. We've seen it at UNC.

Kevin Levin's posing of the question on his blog has generated an interesting dialogue with a Georgia man. This man's comments challenge Kevin to get to the heart of the matter:

I am not suggesting that these monuments were placed for necessarily "anti-black" reasons. What I am asking you to think about is the fact that until recently the overwhelming number of statues that commemorate the Civil War throughout the country were placed by white Americans. Again, I am not suggesting overt racism in all of these cases, but you must remember that the decision re: who and/or what issues would be remembered were decided by white Americans who enjoyed a monopoly on political control, especially in the South. I guess what I am wondering is if the landscape of monuments would have been more diverse had political participation through basic civil rights been extended to black Americans. The answer seems to me to be a resounding yes. Is it any surprise that African Americans would find statues to N.B. Forrest offensive? Don't you think black Americans would have voiced these concerns at the time these statues were unveiled? Might Monument Avenue in Richmond looked different had its substantial black population had a chance to voice its concerns about who would be immortalized?

I am working on the assumption that if one race monopolizes political power they will also monopolize the process of remembrance. And that process of remembrance will reinforce political control. It's a vicious cycle.
I heartily endorse Kevin's suggested further reading: David Blight's Race and Reunion and Kirk Savage's Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves.

Congratulations, Tom!

Tom Jensen made the Raleigh News & Observer's cut as one of the "seven who will matter in 2007."

Tom has mattered a great deal to me ever since he threw himself into my 2003 campaign for Town Council. His help was invaluable, and he was all of a college sophomore. It's official now, Tom: we expect great things of you.