Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Odyssey begins.

Off with Geek Dad and his son to East Lansing till Sunday.

UPDATE: We are here. Never mind me. Paul is already earning his Wired press credentials. Look for frequent updates from The Real Paul Jones.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Upscale Knightdale

Jamie Dervin of the Chamber of Commerce points me to an astonishing story in today's N&O on Knightdale's decision to cap its supply of subsidized housing. Yes, you got that right! They are implementing an across-the-board measure of exclusionary zoning to keep out any more housing for low-income folks.

"It's a great policy," Mayor Doug Boyd said last week. "We've got our fair share, and we don't need anymore."

I am not making this up.

They also have an anti-graffiti law and a 9 p.m. curfew for teens. "Knightdale is cutting-edge," said Mike Frangos, the town's planning director. "The town does a lot in response to citizen demands, and we are not afraid to push the envelope."

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Dean Malecha honored

Marvin Malecha, dean of the N.C. State College of Design, is president-elect of the American Institute of Architects as well as Tar Heel of the Week. In Chapel Hill, he's appreciated for the peer review assistance he generously gave to Ram Corp. for their designs for the Lot 5 project, more of which we'll be seeing soon. It was a pleasure to work with him.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Two views from the supermarket

1. I was saying to somebody yesterday that though I haven't the fiction-writing gene, there is one plot I would spin out if I could.

The poet Randall Jarrell died in 1965. One night about dusk, he was hit by a car on the 15-501 bypass near where we live. The official finding called it an accident. However, he had walked out of N.C. Memorial Hospital, where he was in treatment for a hand injury following a suicide attempt. There's great debate about what his intentions were, but that's not what the story would be about, or not mainly. The story would be about the person whose fate it was to hit him. I would make it a woman, a housewife, perhaps a lawyer's wife, perhaps she was on her way in to town to deliver some papers to her husband, or to have dinner with him. Till this sad encounter she had never heard of Randall Jarrell or given much thought to poetry. Now she is compelled to read his work, in which she finds resonances that are true and unsettling, especially in this poem--and the story goes (but where?) from there.

Next Day

Moving from Cheer to Joy, from Joy to All,
I take a box
And add it to my wild rice, my Cornish game hens.
The slacked or shorted, basketed, identical
Food-gathering flocks
Are selves I overlook. Wisdom, said William James,

[read the rest]


2. Wednesday was Adrienne Rich's birthday. Over many years of writing and activism, Rich helped create the feminist revolution that allows her to stand in a very different position, relative to the detergent aisle, from Jarrell's character. "Address," a poem she wrote in the aftermath of September 11, moves from supermarket to the incomprehensibility of the world--

I who came just for milk am speaking it : though
wanting to stand somewhere beyond
this civic nausea

: desiring not to stand apart
like Jeffers giving up on his kind loving only inhuman creatures
because they transcend ideology in eternity as he thought

[read the rest]

-- to the baffling incommunicability of how we feel, what we think, what to do.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

2007 Blooker winners

Paul was chief judge of the Blooker Prize this year. The grand prize went to My War, by Colby Buzzell, a soldier's chronicle of his Iraq experience. Given the timing--as military is trying to put as many lids as it possibly can on soldiers' blogging, accessing MySpace and YouTube, basically any communication with the outside world--it's a great pick.

"'My War'" may be the last frank and open military blog blook," said Paul Jones, chair of the Blooker judges, reports BBC news.

The fiction winner is a beautiful book, "the mini coffee table book that espresso was invented for." For The Doorbells of Florence, British journalist/photographer Andrew Losowsky took photographs of Italian doorbells and made up stories to go with them, very short stories in the "sudden fiction" tradition. If you can't hold the real thing in your hands, at least you can see the photos and their narratives at the Flickr pages of origin.

Get more from Paul.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Where there's smoke . . .

. . . there's fire, but it may be far away. Luckily I'd heard this news on the radio before getting out of my car just now. It's for real.

RALEIGH, N.C.-- Smoke from massive wildfires in Georgia and Florida has drifted hundreds of miles into North Carolina, triggering emergency calls to fire departments across the region.

In Orange County, Deputy Clerk David Hunt reported that smoke from the South Georgia wildfires can be seen as a visible haze. As a result, the 911 communications center has received several phone calls to investigate the smell of smoke.

The smoke is being driven into North Carolina by strong winds that are preceding a cold front. Expected showers and thunderstorms should dissipate the smoke by Wednesday night.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Follow the yellow-brick road.


L. Frank Baum was born on this day in 1856. More at the American Memory Project.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Pass the Chicken Marbella (it's passed already)

Nothing lately has made me feel as old as the passing of the 25th anniversary of the Silver Palate cookbook--and I only found out about it from last week's NYT Magazine, which I'm just now getting to. (No longer online.) "Generation X-ers will value the kitch factor, feeling slight embarrassment at having once thought it so sophisticated and adult." Twist the paring knife, would you?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Nation and narration

It's been 400 years since the founding of the Jamestown colony. The queen has come and gone. Over at Cliopatria, they organized a symposium on the very good question that this occasion occasioned:

Why has the American national narrative characteristically taken New England/Puritans rather than Jamestown/Virginia/Anglicans as its foundation touchstone?

As I looked forward to reading the answers, I wondered if anyone would get into the good question behind that one: What about Roanoke?

Turns out, the first one out of the box does just that. In a provocative essay, Rob MacDougall writes,

Like many I expect, I first learned of Roanoke as a kind of ghost story. I don't know which lurid kiddie book I read it in, but I do remember having the distinct impression that "Croatoan" was the name of some slavering forest monstrosity, and not, as it turned out, a nearby Cherokee tribe. The fate of the lost colony remains unknown, but the best guesses say they either got killed by the Powhatans, set out on foot for the Chesapeake and died en route, or went native, interbreeding with the Indians. Whatever became of them, there's a nice lesson there for American history about hubris, failure, and the great unlikeliness of the American experiment.

And he continues,

In Edmund Morgan's American Slavery, American Freedom, Roanoke is not a creepy campfire tale but a tragic road not taken. While Raleigh's ships were settling Roanoke, his friend Drake was buckling swash up and down the Spanish Mainósimple piracy, Morgan admits, "but on the scale that transforms crime into politics." Morgan makes much of Drake's alliance with the Cimarrons, black and Indian slaves escaped from the Spanish. Drake was not above slaving himself, but he made common cause with the "Maroons" and threatened New Spain with a general uprising of its Indian and African labor. As Drake sacked Santo Domingo, Cartagena, and San Augustin, he liberated, or collected, some three hundred Indians and two hundred "Negroes, Turks, and Moors," whom he planned to deposit at Roanoke to enjoy English-style liberty and serve as a rallying point for New Spain's oppressed natives and slaves. "Perhaps it could never have come to pass," Morgan writes, "and perhaps no one really intended that it should." Nevertheless, for him, Roanoke represented "a dream in which slavery and freedom were not yet married, a dream in which Protestant Britons liberated the oppressed people of the New World."

What if this story had become our founding myth, rather than the Pilgrim story? There was no contest, really, but it's useful to remember the contingencies of fate, all those roads not taken. For, as Homi Bhabha has observed, the idea of the nation is always, at bottom, haunted with ambivalence.

Blackberry winter

Botanist Ken Moore, in this week's Carrboro Citizen, reminds us of the traditional name for this lovely late cold spell.

It’s early May and the blackberry “brambles” are brightening field edges and roadsides with masses of pure white flowers. When these same blackberry flower-filled days and nights are really, really chilly, the old timers refer to it as “Blackberry Winter.”

Blackberry blossoms are so beautiful, he suggests them for cut flower arrangements (cut with gloved hand of course). Maybe I'll give it a try. Inspired by Blue Girl, I've been keeping a vase of fresh flowers near my desk. So far, they're easily found just outside the door. This week it's mock orange and some late azaleas. It's a nice focal point to help focus the mind.

Blackberry bushes are plentiful around here too. Ken warns that this season's berries will lack a certain sweetness if we get the predicted drought. Not that they won't still be worth the effort. But much as I'd like to turn them into a deep dish blackberry cobbler, an old recipe that has a madeleine sort of effect on me, by the time blackberry summer comes around I've never been able to catch them. Seems like the birds get to them first.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Keeping a lid on it in Manteo

A story in the New York Times' "Escapes" section on the good life in Manteo makes mention more than once of their inclusionary zoning ordinance, which mandates a certain percentage of affordable housing. That's the model we started with in our Chapel Hill deliberations, though we're still working on it. The consultant's report is due back in time for a hearing on June 11.

Metheny & Mays, Denton & Chapel Hill: circles & circles

I had a delightful coffee yesterday with Jim Schaeffer, director of the Long Leaf Opera Festival. I expected we'd talk about his exciting upcoming season in Chapel Hill, as well as our common passion for mid-century modern architecture, but we quickly figured out we had something else important in common: we'd been undergrads at North Texas State University at the same time! He was there on a music scholarship. Not me, but I did hang out on the fringes of the music community.

I told him I'd been thinking a lot lately about another NTSU musician who was there when we were: pianist Lyle Mays, who starred in the prestigious One O'Clock Lab Band and went on to a career with Pat Metheny and on his own. On the Lab Band's 1975 album ("Lab '75"), Mays composed and produced every cut except one, "What Was" by Chick Corea, in which he simply was Chick Corea.

So I knew about the phenomenal Lyle Mays at the time, enough to be sure to buy that album and every Metheny/Mays album I saw, but I'm not sure I ever saw him in concert. It was great to find this video of a concert version of one of my absolute favorite songs in the world: "First Circle." Enjoy.

UPDATE 5/13: More in the N&O on the Long Leaf Opera Festival, especially the upcoming world premiere of "Strange Fruit."

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Chapel Hill endorses homelessness plan

Late on the agenda of last night's Council meeting, long after the public hearing on the proposed moratorium for the northwest area, after the manager had presented his recommended budget, we endorsed Orange County's Ten-Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness. You can read the whole thing online.

The roots of this project go back to a roundtable discussion on homelessness held in Chapel Hill in November 2004, attended by around 300 people. We heard about Raleigh's 10-year planning process, and work began to consider whether we ought to embark on one. By September 2005, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Hillsborough, and the county had agreed to work on a joint plan. A steering committee was formed. With the help of a consultant, J-Quad, in February 2006 eighteen focus group sessions were held throughout the county. Over the school year 2005-06 a team of graduate students from the UNC School of Public Health performed an "Action-oriented community diagnosis" (.pdf) involving intensive interviews and a public forum.

In June 2006, the steering committee made a policy decision that the plan would emphasize solutions to chronic homelessness, but not at the expense of ongoing important efforts to combat transitional homelessness or to support the many people at risk of becoming homeless. The focus on chronic homelessness recognizes that these people are truly the least among us: they are broken down with no place to go. And they have the greatest impact on the community in terms of their consumption of public resources.

Over summer 2006, a series of subcommittees of the steering committee worked with the information that had been collected to that point to come up with the recommendations that, with the steering committee's final input, resulted in the final plan.

The key strategy for addressing chronic homelessness is . . . homes. The "housing first" model, as other cities have begun to demonstrate, is an approach that works. It works in terms of getting people housed and keeping them engaged with the services they need, and it works in terms of saving public money. This model reflects changed thinking in the social services community: it's a shift from the "housing ready" model, in which a person was supposed to show that he or she "deserved" housing. The trouble with that model is that the things you need to "deserve" housing, like sobriety and a job, can be hard to land if you don't have a stable housing situation in the first place.

It's an ambitious program. It calls for 40 units of permanent supportive housing to be built, rehabbed, or rented during the first 3-5 years of the program. And that's with intensive support services, which is crucial. You don't just give someone a key and say here's your house.

In addition to concentrating on the chronically homeless, the plan has four other major goals:

  • Increase employment
  • Expand efforts to prevent homelessness
  • Increase access to services (e.g., support the IFC's efforts to go to 24/7 availability)
  • Increase public participation in working on these issues

The first step will be the hiring of a full-time coordinator for the plan. So much of the plan involves coordination of resources, putting heads together to address common interests. For example, the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership's downtown outreach task force is working on a street outreach program that fits well within the homelessness plan. Another important responsibility of the coordinator will be working to secure funding from the numerous public and private sources that are available.

Working on this plan has shown me that across the county there's a great collective will to take on these issues--though some frustration at not knowing how. Homeless people too are interested in working on solutions for themselves and others. Homelessness is a complex problem reflective of many others, including a crisis in mental health services, the problems of returning veterans, substance abuse issues, consequences of domestic violence, and on and on. There is no easy solution. Representing the collaborative work of many, many county residents, Orange County's Ten-Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness has great potential bring all of us together to do what we can for each other.

UPDATE 5/9: Terry Allebaugh, director of Housing for New Hope in Durham, goes to Washington.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Fast walking

I'm a fast walker. It's a survival skill I picked up as a subway commuter going to school and working in downtown DC.

NYC is the only American city that was studied in a survey of the speed of walkers in 32 international cities. It comes in at eighth place. Singapore's walkers lead the pack.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Wilmington again: why is the truth so hard?

From this morning's N&O on yesterday's House vote to "acknowledge" the Wilmington race riots of 1898, part of the follow-up to the legislative commission's report on the political coup that threw elected blacks out of office.
In a 67-47 vote, legislators approved a bill that recognized the riots that ousted an integrationist government in Wilmington and bolstered segregationist Democrats.
Rep. Thomas Wright, a Wilmington Democrat, said it was one of 10 bills related to recommendations from the Wilmington Race Riot Commission.
Lawmakers defeated an amendment to add wording acknowledging that Democrats, News & Observer publisher Josephus Daniels and others were also behind the riots.
Rep. Paul Stam, an Apex Republican who is House minority leader, said the bill was rewriting history by leaving out the role of the Democratic Party, the newspaper and others behind the coup.
"If you want to do history, we have to do it right," Stam said.
Rep. Dan Blue, a Wake Democrat, said that both Republicans and Democrats contributed to the problems of racism during the 19th and 20th centuries.
"There's enough blame to go around for everybody regardless of partisan bent," he said.
The amendment's failure led some Republicans to vote against the measure.
That Josephus Daniels did not have a key role, that it was not a specifically Democratic move, is belied by the evidence at every turn. From Tim Tyson's writings in the N&O earlier this year summarizing the report of the Wilmington Commission,

As the 1898 political season loomed, the Populists and Republicans hoped to make more gains through Fusion. To rebound, Democrats knew they had to develop campaign issues that transcended party lines. Democratic chairman Furnifold Simmons mapped out the strategy with leaders whose names would be immortalized in statues, building names and street signs: Charles B. Aycock, Henry G. Connor, Robert B. Glenn, Claude Kitchin, Locke Craig, Cameron Morrison, George Rountree, Francis D. Winston and Josephus Daniels.

They soon decided that racist appeals were the hammer they needed to shatter the fragile alliance between poor whites and blacks. They made the "redemption" of North Carolina from "Negro domination" the theme of the 1898 campaign. Though promising to restore something traditional, they would, in fact, create a new social order rooted in white supremacy and commercial domination.
At the center of their strategy lay the gifts and assets of Daniels, editor and publisher of The News and Observer. He would spearhead a propaganda effort that would incite white citizens into a furor that led to electoral fraud and mass murder. It used sexualized images of black men and their supposedly uncontrollable lust for white women. Newspaper stories and stump speeches warned of "black beasts" who threatened the flower of Southern womanhood.
The Democrats did not rely solely upon newspapers, however, but deployed a statewide campaign of stump speakers, torchlight parades and physical intimidation. Aycock earned his chance to become North Carolina's "education governor" through his fiery speeches for white supremacy.
What is Rep. Blue doing here? As an African American Democrat, a member of the post-civil rights-era Democratic Party, sure he has an interest in airbrushing the fact that the Democrats were the bad actors. But the shifting of the ideologies of the parties across the 20th century is well known. It doesn't make sense to convert the perpetrators of this violence into an amorphous "white elite," nor is it right to leave the crucial roles of Daniels, Aycock, et al. out of this official piece of evidence now added to the historical record. What happened happened.

UPDATE 5/9: some of the back story. (Via Ed Cone.)

1066 and all that

An animated version of the Bayeux Tapestry.


Thursday, May 03, 2007

Arjun Nicastro

I only met Arjun Nicastro once, but it was enough to realize that he was a pretty incredible person. He was speaking, in his role as substance abuse counselor, at the Freedom House Recovery Center in June 2005. The occasion was "Unity Day," a day of celebration and reunion for people who had been through the drug treatment court under Judge Joe Buckner's leadership. From a story published at that time,

Judge Joe Buckner, who oversees the program, said it's important that people understand that DTC is not "a coddling court," and that people are held accountable.

"There are two goals here," Buckner said. "One is to help the person have as good a life as possible. Second, I expect law abiding behavior, responsible parenting. It's about getting what we as a community deserve."

Arjun Nicastro, the outpatient services coordinator for Freedom House in Chapel Hill, said that participants in the program always "egg each other on" to completion. Having a team of individuals to be accountable to helps retain people in the program, he said.

"Those supports and reinforcements are very important in changing behavior," he said. "People have deeply ingrained patterns that need to be changed."

Nicastro said by the time a person reaches the stage where the program is being offered, they usually have created a "tornado" of destruction through their lives and the lives of those around them. The DTC network, which includes probation officers, Interim District Attorney Jim Woodall, Buckner and various treatment specialists, can help people to rebuild relationships while keeping them off drugs and helping them become productive members of society, he said.

A week ago, Nicastro died of leukemia. He was 48. From the N&O, we learn how well he understood about tornados of destruction. First incarcerated in 1975 at 17, in Alabama, seven years later he received a life sentence for manslaughter. In prison, he read We're All Doing Time, by Bo Lozoff, who with his wife Sita work miracles out in western Orange County with their Human Kindness Foundation. Eventually--Nicastro was 40 by this point--they got him out and brought him up here, where he truly found a new life. The State of Alabama pardoned him on the day he died.

UPDATE: More from Orange Chat, including how to contribute to a memorial fund for five-year-old Dylan Nicastro.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007