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September 14, 2011

Vol 38 • No 3

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Biggest art event, ever

The opening of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

A musical fall

Johnny Cash and Shrek inspire productions.

Need a lift? Try fall music

Taylor Swift, Meat Puppets, Rossini should do the trick.

Rep renewal

Theater raises curtain on facelift.

Fall Arts calendar

Fall Arts 2011

Our guide to the biggest music, theater and arts events of the season.

Burger joint of the week: Arkansas Burger Company

There’s no doubt that the Cantrell Road drive-in is good. It does fine Greek salads and has a good cheese dip and is doing gyros of all things now. But Arkansas Burger Company's burger will get you into fights.

A piece of history on robbery suspect UPDATES

Police announced yesterday that they had arrested two juveniles and Larry Storay, 20, in the robbery of a Baptist Sunday school last Sunday.

Thursday reception: Pat Matthews UPDATE

Thirty new paintings at Red Door Gallery.

The line is open

The line is open. Final thoughts: * NO GOOD SAMARITANS IN TEA PARTY: I'm still shaking my head about the Tea Party cheers at the Republican presidential debate last night at the idea of letting an uninsured 30-year-old die rather than provide costly medical care.

The grand new Arkansas Rep

I was fortunate to join the crowd tonight for the grand reopening of the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, refurbished after a major capital campaign.

Little Rock voters approve sales tax increase

Looks like another big win for the editorial page of the Arkansas Times. Early votes show a solid 2-1 preference for the Little Rock sales tax increase — a penny jump through two measures over the current half cent tax to raise $500 million over the next 10 years and increase the city's operating budget by 26 percent annually.

Maria Haley dies at 70

Maria Haley, 70, the executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, died at 8:45 p.m. today.

Fayetteville tops 2011 National Merit list

The National Merit Scholarship semi-finalist list was released today and it includes 143 Arkansans among the 16,000 named nationwide.

The shame of college sports

Here's your good free reading for the day. Civil rights historian (and Bill Clinton friend and diarist) Taylor Branch has written an important article for The Atlantic on college sports.

Republicans gone wild

While Bruce Holland was endangering Arkansas children (What if he'd taken out a school bus in his mad flight?), U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) was maligning his colleagues and telling constituents "it's just a good thing I can't pack a gun on the Senate floor."

All along the watchtower

The Committee for Little Rock's Future, The Arkansas Lottery, The Kochs and more.

Razorback red, white and blue

Fans were color coordinated at Saturday's Arkansas football game in War Memorial Stadium.

Reno gaining ground

Good week: Becky and Bobby Petrino

It was a good week for the Petrinos, patriotic coordination and Arkansas Republicans. It was a bad week for Sen. Bruce Holland, The Little Rock Zoo and getting robbed in church.

Little Rock goes crazy for Chipotle

Is the fuss deserved?

Flying Fish owners "working feverishly" to open in Bentonville

The new Flying Fish will be the second in Arkansas; the original, decorated with hundreds of Billy Bass plaques, is located in the River Market district.

Hot Springs Jazz Fest, Robert Earl Keen and The Boondogs

Plus, 'Ring of Fire,' Cough, Alison Krauss and The Arkansas Travelers.

Linden String Quartet, Najee, The Romany Rye and Mike Pinto

Plus, Mariachi Americas, The Flameing Daeth Fearies, Marc Ryan and more.

Concerns real and imagined for Hogs in week three

On the running game, defensive pressure and the disappearance of Greg Childs.

When germs attack

'Contagion' plausible, scary.

The media cover one of their own

Local celebrity angle trumps all.

With the oath comes a blindfold

We need to stop handing out blindfolds to appointees to state boards and commissions immediately on their taking oaths of office.

Frightening the elderly

Rick Perry would be the first Republican nominee for president since Alf Landon in 1936 that wanted to end Social Security.

How we changed

On Sept. 11, The Observer stayed away from the news sites online, and didn't watch television at all.

Bryant mayor – again

Bryant Mayor Jill "Republican" Dabbs was hit last week by the state Ethics Commission with a third ethical violation.

No apologies

Though Bryant Mayor Republican Dabbs explicitly admitted ethics violations in the agreed settlement with the state Ethics Commission, she all but repudiated it in a press release.

Justice Brown won't run again

He's concerned about those who will.

Normal babies

Until the Arkansas Blog pointed it out, the Arkansas Heart Gallery website, where the Arkansas Department of Human Services Division of Children and Family Services houses info about adoption, included some racially charged wording in its frequently asked questions section.

Shoe museum

The Sept. 19 issue of ESPN The Magazine uncovered another noteworthy domestic peculiarity about Joe Johnson. He has a 500-square-foot closet

Clock is ticking to get on the Times Blues Bus

Plus, the Walton Arts Center announces expansion of Arkansas Music Pavilion.

No toadfrogs, no churns

River Rail shouldn't expand

"Yes, it's true that there have been some successes in revitalizing downtown, but those efforts have been focused on tourism and entertainment, not retail trade. Attempts to create a population center of permanent residents have failed, as has any rebirth of a real retail trade area."

Orval and The Charter School Rejects

The worst person in Arkansas

This week's winner: Hot Springs Mayor Ruth Carney

National Merit Scholars

On Wednesday, 143 high school seniors in Arkansas learn that they are National Merit Scholars. Fifty-one state high schools produced at least one semi-finalist.

Drug-book war

Since 2002, the Drug Policy Education Group of Fayetteville has been donating drug-policy books and other materials to more than 50 libraries across the state. This year DPEG measured retention rates of the donated material at libraries across the state.

An inspiration throughout the galaxy

'Sons of Anarchy' returns

Plus, 48 Hours: West Memphis 3 Freed

After respite, Rwake returns with 'Rest'

The Little Rock six-piece has crafted one the best metal albums in years.

Senator Scofflaw

Sen. Bruce Holland makes laws, he doesn't obey them. Laws are for little people.

Republican wins Weiner's seat

Nope. No way to spin a Republican congressional seat pickup in New York City as anything but a piece of sour news for President Obama.

Let Him Die

The "Let Him Die" moment from the Tea Party Republican presidential debate has spawned a website and an ad campaign from a group in favor of the health care reform law.

Van Buren gunman had concealed carry permit UPDATE

I have something of a personal interest in the story about the man who was killed after going into the office of his divorce court judge in Van Buren and opening fire with an assault rifle.

LR tax vote: A tale of two cities UPDATE

The precinct results are in and they show, again, that a handful of old-line upscale neighborhoods spelled the difference in a Little Rock tax election.

The overlooked cheese dip

Chip's Barbecue is famous for its pies and barbecue. But its cheese dip deserves special notice.

Walmart, the new town square

Interesting story on NPR about Walmart and all the weird and sometimes wonderful things that happen at the retail stores on a regular basis.

To-Do: Hot Springs Jazz Fest

Nova NOLA plays the Hot Springs Jazz Fest Saturday night.

Thursday To-Do: 'Ring of Fire'

"Ring of Fire" opens Sept. 16, but pay-what-you-can night is Sept. 15.

Thursday To-Do: Cough

Cough plays Downtown Music Hall Thursday night.

Natural gas industry doesn't harm environment ...

... except when it does. Here's a Justice Department release on the $350,000 fine of a company whose gas pipeline work damaged tributaries of the Little Red River, home to an endangered mussel species.

Harlem Zone model comes to Little Rock

Several agencies announced today that Sen. Joyce Elliott would lead the Central Little Rock Promise Neighborhood, a group effort to work with children from generally low-income neighborhoods from birth to employment.

Stodola cheers "broad" support for tax

Mayor Mark Stodola, surrounded by city employees holding signs saying "Thank You," called a press conference at 11 a.m. today to thank supporters of the penny sales tax, and declared it the “start of a new day” for the city.

Friday To-Do: Arkansas Travelers

The Travelers take on the San Antonio Missions Friday.

No-bid college food service deals

A reader sends a most interesting story. It's about a college that failed to take bids for a campus food service contract, instead extending an arrangement with Aramark in return for a contribution to a foundation that paid for football stadium improvements.

Baum Gallery: Faculty work, slip cast ceramics, Carrie Dyer installation

Three major shows open tomorrow.

Fireball Holland — curiouser and curiouser

For your consideration, another chapter in the world of Sen. Bruce "Fireball" Holland, the Greenwood Republican convicted last week of evading a Perry County deputy on an extended and dangerous chase at speeds upwards of 100 miles an hour.

Major League Eater Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas headed to Wing Ding Festival in Jacksonville

Top-ranked female competitive eater Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas will try to eat an unhealthy amount of chicken wings at the Wing Ding Festival in Dupree Park in Jacksonville at 1 p.m. Oct. 1.

Bounce TV coming to Little Rock

On Monday, Sept. 26, KARZ 42 in Little Rock will become Bounce TV, an independently owned national network that targets black audiences.

Thursday: Linden String Quartet, Montgomery Trucking, National Hispanic Heritage Month

The Linden String Quartet plays St. Mark's Episcopal Church Thursday night.

Wednesday night line

The slate is clean. Final notes: * BIKE BANDIT: An armed man robbed a Valero on Stagecoach then escaped on his bicycle.

Bacigalupi talks about Crystal Bridges

The Crystal Bridges director gives a talk at his alma mater.

Weekend To-Do: The Boondogs

The Boondogs embark on a fall tour around Little Rock starting Thursday.

Late news notes: Schools and taxes

A couple of things arrived by e-mail worth mentioning: * LITTLE ROCK SCHOOL NEWS: Here's the appellate brief by Chris Heller and Clay Fendley for the Little Rock School District in which they eat the lunch of the attorney general's office in reply to its motion to end state school desegregation funding without a hearing, without evidence, without arguments and without an answer to the city's contention that the state hasn't lived up to its end of the consent decree in attempting to stop segregation.

The courthouse shooter's resume

Maybe I missed it. But in scanning a variety of media coverage of the man who seems to have successfully committed suicide by police at the Crawford County Courthouse Tuesday, I learned of his divorce, his job, his bankruptcy and even a detailed recitation of the record of his history of holding a state boilermaker permit.

In school, character counts

A New York Times magazine article this week is a reminder that there are many ways to refract theories from the prism of education.

Burger joint of the week: Sparky's Roadhouse Cafe

Great burgers AND great cheese dip? You betcha, right in the middle of Eureka Springs.

This weekend: Open studios, from Jasper to Calico Rock

There's art in those hills, plenty to fill three days of touring.

Friday To-Do: Robert Earl Keen

Robert Earl Keen plays Revolution Friday night.

The return of the Toe Suck Fairy?

Conway. Again.

Get your Blues Bus tickets while they last

Publisher Leveritt says there are just a few seats left on the Arkansas Times' Blues Bus to the King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena-West Helena Oct. 8.

Lester Maddox and Bull Connor redux

Republicans, particularly in the South, aren't giving up the fight to deny equality under the law to gay people.

Friday To-Do: Alison Krauss & Union Station

Alison Krauss & Union Station play Harding University Friday night.

Arkansas AP scores on the rise

The state Education Department says Arkansas's push for high school students to take Advanced Placement courses is continuing to produce a rise in the number of students taking the more rigorous courses.

On 'Kindred Spirits'

An essay in The Ozark Echo.

How Democrats improved Medicare Advantage

The health care reform legislation curbed private industry profiteering in the private option Medicare Advantage and has produced lower rates, more free benefits and more participants.

More from the Echo: Patrick Dougherty

Some more background on the sculptor commissioned to create work for Artosphere 2012.

Republicans attack labor law

On a mostly party-line vote, the U.S. House today approved legislation aimed at upsetting an ongoing NLRB case about Boeing's transfer of a production line from Washington to South Carolina as retaliation against union workers.

Low Key at the Mountainaire this weekend

Low Key Arts opens "So Many Open Houses" in the historic Mountainaire Hotel in Hot Springs.

Weekend: Najee, Flameing Daeth Fearies, Romany Rye, River City Men's Chorus and more

The Flameing Daeth Fearies will be filming for a video at Juanita's Friday night.

The line is open

Live, it's Thursday night. Closing out: * POSTAL CUTS: The Postal Service plan to cut spending includes consideration of the future of 250 processing center.

C'mon, it's easy to be cheesy

The World Cheese Dip Championship is just a week and a half away… and the part that surprises me about that is that there are just 20 confirmed participants heading to War Memorial Stadium that day to participate in the big rally to see who has the best cheese dip you can find anywhere.

North Little Rock: Again with the midnight meetings

The city of North Little Rock sent out an e-mail at 7:30 p.m. last night about a special City Council meeting at 10 a.m. this morning to call a Nov. 8 special election on two half-cent sales tax proposals — a permanent half-cent to be split between operations and capital expenses and a five-year tax of a half-cent to be spent on capital projects.

CFO leaves Pulaski school district

Got a brief note from Pulaski County School District Superintendent Jerry Guess: PCSSD's Chief Financial Officer, Anita Farver, has resigned her position effective September 30, offering to help in the transition of a new CFO, when he or she is hired.

Capi's to close Sunday

A sometimes sparkling "nuevo Latino" menu, a trendy setting in a popular shopping center and the sure hands of restaurant veterans apparently weren't enough to sustain Capi's.

Capi's to close Sunday

A sometimes sparkling "nuevo Latino" menu, a trendy setting in a popular shopping center and the sure hands of restaurant veterans apparently weren't enough to sustain Capi's.

UA chancellor slices the baloney

Just because everybody does it — works out kickback schemes with college campus food service suppliers — doesn't make it right, no matter how much UA Chancellor David Gearheart may insist otherwise.

Pieday: Key Lime at Rolando's

Pie and cheese dip. Or in this case, a layered slice of tartness accompanied by flaming queso. Yeah, you gotta try Rolando's.

Arkansas unemployment rate rises to 8.3 percent

The Arkansas unemployment rate in August was 8.3 percent, up from 8.2 percent the month before.

North Little Rock schools' building plan

The North Little Rock School Board voted last night to ask voters in Feburary for a 7.4-mill property tax increase for an ambitious plan to rebuild the entire school district, by closing or consolidating some schools and improving all of them.

Republican leader faults whistleblower

Hoo, boy. House Minority Leader John Burris isn't giving me much confidence on governmental integrity should his party come to power in the next election.

Tonight in Argenta: V.L. Cox studio opening

V.L. Cox is reopening her studio in Argenta Studios, adjacent to First Presbyterian at 4th and Maple, with a reception from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. tonight.

NLR sets sales tax election UPDATE

I ranted earlier about North Little Rock's hurryup City Council meeting this morning to call a penny sales tax election to grow NLR spending by $15 million a year.

Tonight in Argenta: Sherrie Shepherd

Planes and boats and trains.

"Museum School Faculty Exhibition: Past and Present"

Work in all media by current and former faculty.

Argenta tonight: James Hendricks

Abstract work at Greg Thompson Fine Art.

Fiber artist Rush at Laman Argenta

Quilts, demonstration, etc. for 3rd Friday.

Reminder: HRC at Boswell-Mourot

The gallery welcomes the On the Road to Equality Bus Tour.

Murdoch's troubles jump the Atlantic

Report says there's new attention given to Murdoch corporate skulduggery in the U.S., more pressure on Fox Nation.

LRFF kicks off Argenta Film Series

The Little Rock Film Festival's Argenta Film Series kicks off Monday night.

The Post-Mortem, Scandal and Shame Edition

A post-mortem of the Little Rock sales tax election, his week's mini state Republican scandal and Taylor Branch's powerful cover story in The Atlantic about the shame (and sham) of college sports are on the agenda this week on the podcast.

Friday night line

The line is open. I'll leave you with: * LINCOLN AS LOBBYIST: I guess former Sen. Blanche Lincoln isn't technically a lobbyist yet, just a shill for a lobbying concer, here playing a convincing Republican as a voice for the National Federation of Business against clean air regulation and other useful government regulations.

It's not nice to pressure state employees

A legal scholars sends this statute book clip: 5-52-105. Attempt to influence a public servant.

First shot with Judge Gunn

Legal and disciplinary reviews continue behind closed doors, but former Judge Mary Ann Gunn's claim for fame and riches on reality TV — built on her state drug court experience — will head to syndicated stations at the end of the month.

Dillards in Aspen zoning matter

In which a Little Rock couple pays $380,000 to change a zoning rule in Aspen, Colorado, courtesy of the Aspen Daily News: The article reports that William and Mary Amanda Dillard paid $380,000 to free up use of a caretaker unit attached to their home.

Charter schools fight resegregation complaint

Interesting article in Democrat-Gazette today (pay wall) about charter schools in Pulaski County banding together to intervene in the federal court case where the Little Rock School District is arguing that the state has contributed to segregation — contrary to a federal court decree — by years of almost unquestioning approval of charter schools.

Today's question: Leniency for Lu Hardin?

Chuck Banks, the attorney for Lu Hardin, filed his pleading yesterday in federal court asking for leniency in sentencing Sept. 26 for Hardin, the former University of Central Arkansaas president who has pleaded guilty to wire fraud in a bonus scheme he worked out in part to cover gambling debts.

The Republican voter fraud myth

It's old news, but it's always a worthy reminder whenever there's reporting on the Republican myth that voter photo ID laws are about preventing vote fraud.

The Saturday night line

Uneventful here. All the football teams I follow are playing tonight, or played earlier in the week.

Slopping the legislative hogs

Michael Wickline of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette today updated the situation on legislative "expense" reimbursement practices.

Maybe Shane Broadway was OK after all

Credit Republican Sens. Johnny Key and Michael Lamoureux and Rep. John Burris. To varying degrees in this article from Stephens Media, they acknowledge the obvious.

A minimum tax for millionaires

What about it? President Obama is about to propose a minimum income tax rate for people reporting more than $1 million a year in income.

Fall is over; the line is open

So much for crisp temps. What do you have to say for yourself tonight?

Rabbi Levy retiring

Rabbi Eugene Levy of Congregation B'nai Israel confirms a friend's report that he's retiring — effective Oct. 31.

Fox censors at work

Surprised that Emmy coverage this morning didn't mention this: Alec Baldwin removed himself from an opening comedy sketch on the Emmy presentation because Fox producers removed a joke he'd made about the Murdoch empire phone hacking scandal.

Walton money takes over Wisconsin

A report from Wisconsin on the state of affairs in that Tea Party Republican-controlled state: The Republican governor and legislator are cutting spending on public schools by $800 million, but increasing the amount sent to private schools by $17 million.

Huckabee: Do as I say....

Mike Huckabee knocked down a lecture fee the other day for appearing in a new speaker series at Yale University honoring William Buckley.

Polling Arkansas congressmen

Talk Business and Politics has already riled some Republicans with its new poll with Hendrix College on approval ratings of the state's four congressmen.

Former store eyed by Easter Seals

A resolution has been filed for the Pulaski County Public Facilities Board to approve $4.5 to $5 million in revenue bonds to finance purchase of a former retail building (built for a grocery and most recently used as an antique mall) for an Easter Seals job training and wellness center for adults with disabilities.

Surprise! Republicans oppose millionaire tax

It's hardly surprising that the Republicans are gearing up to fight President Obama's minimum tax on millionaires to the last millionaire.

Lottery Commission today: Fireworks? UPDATE

The Arkansas Lottery Commission meets this morning amid continuing reports about dissatisfaction with leadership. Gerard Matthews will be at the scene.

Ernie Passailaigue resigns as Arkansas lottery director

The Arkansas Lottery Commission today received the resignation of the founding director of the Arkansas Lottery, Ernie Passailaigue.

Walnut Ridge's fast hello, goodbye with Beatles

Everybody's written plenty about Walnut Ridge's effort to make some tourist capital out of the Beatles' brief airport stop in the town 47 years ago.

Michael Nellums teaching again

Michael Nellums, who left the Pulaski School District under a cloud, is teaching again at the state center for juvenile offenders.

Houston Nutt: Double-secret probation?

Somehow, I don't think it's a good sign when Ole Miss Athletic Director Pete Boone schedules a news conference BEFORE football coach Houston Nutt's weekly press conference.

Three to see at UALR: Flatbed prints, "Roux," Tisdale

Innovative printmaking and ceramics, for those who'll put up with a lack of parking.

The line is open; Little Rock school case argued

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals today heard an appeal of a lower court judge's decision to end state desegregation aid to the Pulaski public schools.

Equality comes to the military

YouTube is packed with It Gets Better-variety video marking the end of discrimination against gay soldiers in the U.S. military.

The disappearing middle

John Brummett writes about a recent Fayetteville panel discussion in which left and right predictably took different views on taxes for the rich and solutions for the country's budget problems.

Republicans go for the money

Republicans? Hypocrites?

Debate: The war on drugs

This event, at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the University of Arkansas union ballroom in Fayetteville, could be interesting: The University of Arkansas Chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), in coordination with University Programs, is hosting a debate between former Princeton Professor/Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance Ethan Nadelmann and former DEA Administrator/US Congressman Asa Hutchinson.

Psst. There are school elections today

It's school election day and contested issues include school board seats in Little Rock and North Little Rock.

Time to settle the school case

I wrote yesterday and I remain confident that the 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals isn't about to uphold Judge Brian Miller's Twilight Zone ruling that ended state desegregation aid payments without notice, evidence, a hearing, briefs or so much as a by-your-leave.

Erin Brockovich: Eyes on the frackers

The Log Cabin Democrat had full coverage of the appearance the newspaper sponsored at UCA last night of Erin Brockovich, the anti-pollution crusader made famous by her biopic.

Blue light special: New shops at Chenal

Attention Little Rock shoppers: The Promenade at Chenal announces opening of J. Crew, coming of Nike and several more retailers.

Can the city of Little Rock count?

A reader who checks the fine print pointed out this interesting anomaly to me. In the recent sales tax campaign, Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola boasted about how the city had restrained growth of its workforce and employed only a bit more than 1,500 people.

Obama not popular in Arkansas

Dog bites man. Sun rises in east. Death and taxes.

Class warfare? Bring it on

The Republican Talking Points Factory churned out "class warfare" for the Obama tax plan and ventriloquist dummies like Sen. John Boozman have busily been parroting it.

Go dip that chip

With all the attention on the cheese dip lately, we're wondering what restaurant makes your favorite chip.

Abduction in Horatio store

I'd missed this story — the abduction and killing of Wendy Hernandez, a store clerk in Horatio, during an apparent robbery last Thursday.

UALR gets $1.15 million for business college

UALR announced today that the trust created by the late Stephen Harrow Smith had given $1.15 million to the university to establish a dean's endowment and create a seminar room for the College of Business.

Can we do this?

Over in Fairhope, AL there's a place called Windmill Market, an indoor-outdoor eco-friendly market that's taking green to the extreme. Wouldn't it be great if Central Arkansas had something similar?

Great moments in the repeal of DADT

Rachel Maddow, in cheering the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, dredged up the film clip to beat all film clips during the death throes of the fight to discriminate against military men and women.

'So Many Open Houses' reviewed

Freelancer Blair Tidwell reviews "So Many Open Houses" art installation.

Tonight: The Apache Relay, Adam Faucett & The Tall Grass, This Holy House

The Apache Relay plays Stickyz tonight.

Tuesday topics

A nation looks to Arkansas for financial leadership. Arkansas looks for a lottery director. Ethics regulators look at Denny Altes.