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October 19, 2011

Vol 38 • No 8

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Bouncin' in Little Rock

Working bar security is no non-stop party, but it ain't for meatheads, either.

The queen of the Town Pump

Loryn Smith is the readers' choice for best bartender.

My booze heavens

Capital Bar and Grill and Colonial Wines & Spirits are the twin pillars of local liquor culture.

Toast of the Town 2011

Our annual survey of booze and bars returns with a look at life as a bouncer, the unique offerings of Capital Bar and Grill and Colonial Wines & Spirits and a profile of the queen of the Town Pump.

The winners of the Toast of the Town readers' poll

White Water Tavern and Town Pump win big.

Democrat-Gazette drops Gene Lyons

Gene Lyons' column Wednesday in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette was his last. He was notified of the end of some 18 years of weekly column writing on Monday by editorial page editor Paul Greenberg.

Easter Seals sale deferred

The hot neighborhood issue over use of a former Easter Seals facility at the east end of Lee Avenue on nine acres controlled by the Board of the Arkansas Schools for the Blind and Deaf won't come to a board vote tonight.

Little Rock's missing link — respect for workers

I probably shouldn't watch the Little Rock Board of Directors. But I did.

Surveying the fare

Indulging at the Arkansas State Fair.

Manchurian Cain

Herman Cain may be only the Republican flavor of the week, but he is the frontrunner and he is actually going to campaign in Arkansas next week, seven months before the usually insignificant Arkansas primary. We are flyover country for all the others.

Little Rock Board of Directors stifle dissent

This year's dog whistle

Circuit Judge Rhonda Wood of Conway, who lost a 2010 race for state Court of Appeals to Jo Hart, is running for another seat on the appellate court this year. Judicial elections are non-partisan, but Wood remains determined to overcome that limitation.

Swinging at the Arkansas State Fair

Handicapping GOP

Recently, I watched my first (and last) full Republican primary debate of the season. I came up with the following list of mockeries, slanders and brazen ad hominem attacks for your enjoyment.

A benefit for the family of Derek Kass

Plus, The New Tulsa Sound, Guitar Shorty and Rwake.

UA's Coke deal

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the Arkansas Times, the University of Arkansas provided a copy of its exclusive beverage contract with Coca-Cola and the cumulative value, but not a number of specifics in the contract.

Dem-Gaz drops Lyons; Times picks him up

Gene Lyons' column Wednesday in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette will be his last. He was notified of the end of some 18 years of weekly column writing on Monday by editorial page editor Paul Greenberg. Look for him next week at

Middle-class muttering

Mitt Romney, the presumptive gopnom, said the other day that he considers himself a regular middle-class guy.

Lack of regulation is to blame

Some members of Congress say to fix the economy we must remove government regulations and keep taxes for the wealthy at a lower rate than the middle class.

'The Thing': a serviceable homage

Prequel builds upon plot of original cult classic.

Doc fest impresses

20th anniversary off to a fine start.

Scenes from a protest

The Observer made it out to the Occupy Little Rock march on Saturday, hoofing it with around 500 other citizens from the Riverfest Amphitheatre to the State Capitol, with stops along the way: the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce, Stephens Inc., the Bank of America branch, and others. It was a lovely day for a revolution — comfortable, bright, with the sky like a blue bowl upturned over the world.

Orval: Talking heads

It's not about Nutt anymore

Ole Miss matters because it's a conference game, a piece of the puzzle.

The Second City 'hilarious' at Rep

This can be a hard world to live in for those of us with a narrow sense of humor. Comedy is a very precise art, and we exist in a pop-culture vortex that more often than not has terrible aim.

Over the wire

On Oct. 4, approximately 700 federal, state and local law enforcement officers participated in Operation Delta Blues, possibly the largest drug bust in Arkansas history. icking, firearms offenses, money laundering and public corruption. The two-year investigation, which focused primarily on Helena-West Helena and Marianna, utilized 16 court-authorized wiretaps.

Invisible-hand-of-the-free-market-man vs. the occupation

Good week for a march

An estimated 500 sign-wielding Occupy Little Rock protesters marched along a route that included stops at the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce, the headquarters of Stephens Inc., the Bank of America building and the Federal Building.

Bruno's closes, but should reopen

Bruno's Little Italy, one of Little Rock's oldest restaurants, closed on Oct. 8, but owner Scott Wallace said a sale is in the works that should lead to remodeling and reopening.

Hot Springs Doc Fest continues

Plus Ha Ha Tonka, the Arkansas State Fair, Blue Mountain and Jim Mize, Pervez Musharraf, the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and Deer Tick

10 Horse Johnson hits the stage

Comic country duo revs up at ACT.

Damien Echols might be a Hobbit

Damien Echols is writing a memoir for Penguin imprint Blue Rider Press, scheduled for publication September 2012 and may have a small role in "The Hobbit," which director and major WM3 benefactor Peter Jackson is currently shooting in New Zealand

What now for Occupy Little Rock?

Occupy Little Rock and the future.

Singing the Delta blues

An unprecedented strike force of more than 700 law officers swept across the Delta last week to arrest 70 people indicted for drug dealing and public corruption.

Clinton Foundation Celebrity Division

Funny or Die has something to cheer up the morning — Ben Stiller, Sean Penn, Kevin Spacey, Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen, Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig and more.

KUAR Blog challenge is Friday

In response to a question: Yes, I'll be raising money as usual Friday morning on KUAR.

The verdict on fair food

A few more ruminations on what's being offered out at the Arkansas State Fair this year. You been yet?

Push for fancy Broadway Bridge begins Friday

Metroplan announces a press conference Friday morning to begin a push for a community process to encourage design ideas for the replacement Broadway Bridge.

A Tale of Two Farms, Harvest Edition

P. Allen Smith welcomes Chef Peter Hoffman from Manhattan's Back Forty to Moss Mountain Farm Saturday as part of a special harvest celebration.

Legislators on move for 2012 elections

Democrats are grumbling that a couple of Republicans, thrown curves by lines of new legislative districts shaped by Democrats, are moving out of current districts to prepare to run in 2012.

Local prosecutor cheers 'Delta Blues' bust

I talked to Prosecuting Attorney Fletcher Long of Forrest City for a column this week about his thoughts on Operation Delta Blues, the massive federal investigation of drug dealing and police corruption in Helena-West Helena, which is a part of Long's district.

Outstanding... yes, in the field.

Jody Hardin and Barbara Armstrong's Scott Heritage Farm, Chef Lee Richardson and his team from the Capital Hotel, P. Allen Smith's Moss Mountain Farm and the folks with the traveling Outstanding in the Field culinary tour bus join forces for a dinner on the land.

Sex solicitation charges brewing in Arkadelphia

The Arkadelphia Siftings Herald posted a story yesterday afternoon almost as exciting as an OBU-Henderson game.

Louise Halsey-Susan Chambers

"Solastalgia" is at HSU.

"Illustrators 53" exhibit at UALR

Forty illustrations selected for the Society of Illustrators' annual show.

What's Robert Trevino got to hide?

My recent reporting on some real estate deals between the Arkansas Department of Career Services, headed by Bill Walker, and businesses headed by his friend Richard Mays triggered a steady flow of phone calls about the agency and its Rehabilitation Services Division.

Mark Pryor gets tough on FEMA money

U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, not known as a Capitol Hill firebrand, has gotten hot about the federal government's effort to collect flood disaster aid erroneously paid about 34 Arkansas families following a flood.

Win tickets to 'Shrek'

Enter to win tickets to see "Shrek the Musical," which comes to Robinson Center Music Hall Oct. 28-30.

Tis the season to junket

Just noticed House Republican Leader John Burris' Twitter that he's off to Romania and Croatia for a two-week exchange program through the State Department, a program called the American Council of Young Political Leaders.

Securities commissioner raps Morgan Keegan

Securities Commissioner Heath Abshure announced today he'd reached a consent agreement with Morgan Asset Management and Morgan Keegan over charges that the securities firm's employees had provided inaccurate and misleading information to Arkansas residents who invested in seven Morgan Keegan funds.

Wednesday To-Do: Ha Ha Tonka

From the Ozark Hills of southern Missouri comes Ha Ha Tonka. The quartet’s name is a nod to a state park up there, a bucolic wonderland on Lake of the Ozarks. In the video for “Usual Suspects” we find the band members hanging around the train tracks and playing their drums and guitars and mandolin, drinking beer, throwing stuff and generally engaging in revelry. Actually, that’s what this band’s music is very well-suited for: carousing with pals while consuming beers. In a broad sense, Ha Ha Tonka’s sound hails from the Kingdom of Leon — it’s catchy and propulsive, but rooted in country and southern rock.

Wednesday to Weekend To-Do: Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival

HOT SPRINGS DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVALVarious times. Mostly at the Malco Theater.

Rotten tomato crops produce lawyer reprimand

Sarah Vestal, a former Arkansan now living in California, sends a copy of a recent decision by the Supreme Court Committee on Professional Conduct issuing a reprimand and fine of $1,500, plus $50 costs, to Graham Catlett, a Little Rock lawyer, over Vestal's complaint about Catlett's role in a failed organic tomato business.

We're over the hump

Here's an excellent recap from Hillcrest Residents Association President Glenn Borkowski of last night's meeting of the Board of the Arkansas Schools for the Blind and Deaf and the discussion of businessman John Chandler to take over the Easter Seals lease of nine school-controlled acres at the end of Lee Avenue and buy the former Easter Seals building for offices.

Thursday To-Do: Arkansas State Fair

Dollar-for-dollar, the best deals on entertainment in Central Arkansas all year (outside of Riverfest) are found at the Arkansas State Fair.

Thursday To-Do: Jim Mize-Blue Mountain

Blue Mountain and Jim Mize share the bill at White Water Tavern on Thursday

FLASH: Gaddafi captured

Reuters has just sent out a headline that former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has been captured.

Gas drilling complicates mortgage lending

A story from New York Times of interest in the Fayetteville shale: It reports that banks are becoming wary of lending money for land on which gas wells might eventually be drilled and might become home to waste pits, environmental problems and other changes.

Burger joint of the week: Hamburger Station

And now, let us take a moment to consider the Hum-Burger, a monumental burger that has been clogging the arteries of generations of Paragould-ians and pilgrims venturing there-forth from the wilds of Northeast Arkansas.

"Uncorked: Mad Scientist Mash" tonight

Fund-raiser for Museum of Discovery.

Meredith Oakley joins Stephens Media

Meredith Oakley, who resigned last march as associate editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette after 35 years at the paper, is back in the newspaper business.

Trevino's tint job: Still no answer

It appears that I won't be getting an answer to why Robert Trevino, head of Arkansas Rehabilitation Services, charged taxpayers $192 to get a full tint job on the windows of his state vehicle, a Chevy Equinox.

Big times Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Music Festival

The Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Music Festival turned pastoral Mulberry Mountain into a non-stop string-pickin’ newgrass jam Oct. 13-16. Think of it as a smaller, tamer version of its cousin, Wakarusa, which occupies the same Ozark hillside space in the middle of summer. Not that Yonder Mountain is either small or tame.

Fire reported near Maumelle

KARK reports people are being removed from places nearby because of a chemical fire off Counts Massie Road near Maumelle.

NPR blamed for firing of show host for free speech

The lefty blogosphere is buzzing — understandably — about National Public Radio pressure forcing a public radio station to fire the host of a show on opera because she was participating in an anti-war demonstration in Washington.

Proposal made to elect Game and Fish Commission

The attorney general's office released today an opinion rejecting a proposed constitutional amendment to elect members of the state Game and Fish Commission.

Fair Park residents confront City Hall

Joe Busby, who labors hard and effectively for the Fair Park Neighborhood Association, shares his note to members about a meeting at City Hall today with City Manager Bruce Moore and others about the latest ward reapportionment, which splits the neighborhood between two wards.

Rascal Flatts headed to Verizon

Country pop standouts Rascal Flatts are bringing their "Thaw Out 2012" tour to Verizon Arena next year on Saturday, Feb. 11.

Small firm gets big share of state bond business

Interesting spread sheet here on the portion of State Treasurer Martha Shoffner's investment of public funds in bonds through brokerage accounts. She heavily favored a small Russellville firm, St. Bernard Financial Services.

Take your marks

Get set and go to the open line. Final words: * GRIFFEN OBJECTS TO U.S. KILLING: Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen takes editorial pen in hand again.

McDaniel establishes policy for lawsuit settlements

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, who's come under fire for how he directed winnings in state lawsuits, has established a policy for handing such money, Talk Business reports.

Pryor helps block job bill

U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor was one of three Democrats who joined with all Republicans to block a jobs bill to pay to hire teachers and emergency workers.

Call in your pledge to KUAR UPDATE

Going to be light posting for a while this morning. I'm off shortly to KUAR, for the final day of fund-raising in this installment of twice-a-year fund-raising.

Weekend To-Do: Boo at the Zoo

Halloween, like a lot of holidays, is really just for the kids; once you reach a certain age it's nothing more than an excuse to party in a skimpy outfit. Boo at the Zoo, in its 20th year, is for those little ghouls (and their parents) who are still at the stage where they'd rather dress up like Disney characters than drape the neighborhood in toilet paper.

Saturday and Sunday To-Do: Arkansas Symphony Orchestra: 'Fire and Light'

The second concert of the ASO's Masterworks series brings together three pieces that jump around in time.

Weekend: Guitar Shorty, Dwele, Rwake, Helmet

Guitar Shorty, Dwele, Ryan Cabrera, Rwake and Will Hoge all play in Central Arkansas this weekend.

George Fisher online exhibit

The U of A Special Collections has posted drawings, cartoons, and more.

Matthew Gore's "Modern Archaic"

Reception is 5 to 8 p.m. tonight.

The Hairy Bikers come to Arkansas for frogs

"Hairy Bikers," a History Channel about a French chef who loves motorcycles and a motorcycle repairman who loves cooking who travel the country hunting and foraging for food to cook, is set in Arkansas tonight at 9:30 p.m.

Arkansas unemployment rate holds steady

The unemployment rate in September in Arkansas held steady at 8.3 percent. Full report here.

Paging Alice Stewart

Politico reports en masse resignations of Michele Bachmann's paid campagn staff in New Hampshire. Alice Stewart, who left a nice job in Secretary of State Mark Martin's office to handle press for Bachmann, not quoted in this piece.

Ethics Commission keeps sales tax complaint alive

I had my closed session with the Arkansas Ethics Commission this morning on my complaint that the Committee for Little Rock's Future hadn't adequately disclosed expenses on supporting a recent sales tax increase.

Arkansas Lottery hires Jerold Fetzer as CFO

The Lottery Commission voted unanimously this morning to offer its CFO job, previously held by Philip Miley, to Jerold K. Fetzer, 61, an accountant and audit partner with Miller and Co. Certified Public Accountants.

Cyclocross series comes to Little Rock this weekend

Bicyclers of all stripes, take note: Cyclocross is happening this weekend in Little Rock. What's cyclocross, you ask?

John Shipp, Andy Warhol and home plates

A sporting Argenta ArtWalk event at Thea.

New legal action over Mary Ann Gunn's drug court

W.H. Taylor, a Fayetteville lawyer, has sued producers of "Last Shot with Judge Gunn" to seal videos and other records of the state drug court Mary Ann Gunn once ran in Washington County.

Legislator questions football weekend committee meetings

Rep. James McLean of Batesville is going to lose his club membership card if he continues this kind of behavior.

Metroplan announces design competition

Metroplan today announced a bridge design competition in hopes of encouraging more community interest in producing a landmark design for a planned Broadway Bridge replacement.

Immigration raids underway

No details yet, but federal immigration officers have apparently raided businesses today in Rose Bud, Heber Springs, Batesville and Mountain View.

Greg Thompson: James Hendricks

Abstract paintings.

Laman Library: Annette Costa

Ceramics demonstration on tap.

Brokers defend work with state Treasurer Shoffner

I still haven’t heard back from State Treasurer Martha Shoffner to talk about her office’s investment practices.

It's happening on Maple St., too! Cox-Gorrell-Halloween

V.L. Cox and Doug Gorrell invite you to check out their work at Argenta Art Studios, 401 Maple St., tonight from 5-8 p.m.

Friday night open line

It's open: * WAR IS OVER: President Obama declares all but total withdrawal from Iraq by the end of the year.

Correction: No Cox tonight

V.L. Cox says she will NOT have her Argenta Art Studio open tonight because she is preparing for next week's "Up With Art VI" show and sale at the Argenta Community Theater.

The Marginal Issues That Matter Edition

Small controversies and debates that signify bigger ideas and issues are discussed this week. Namely, the Arkansas Ethics Commission's hearing on adequate campaign disclosure, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel's new policy for handling winnings in state lawsuit, a new lawsuit directed at former Fayetteville Judge Mary Ann Gunn and more.

Sunday To-Do: Deer Tick

DEER TICK9 p.m. Stickyz.

Occupy Little Rock occupies Clinton Library grounds

Members of the Occupy Little Rock group have set up camp outside the Clinton Library, video contributor Gabe Gentry reports.

Occupiers vs. the Tea Party

The New York Times this morning tries to explain differences between the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street (etc.) movement.

NPR drops Simeone's opera show

Hard to defend National Public Radio for dropping distribution of a show on opera because the host participates in unrelated political activities.

Race for the Cure throngs Little Rock streets

Coming soon to a school board near you — the takeover

Chilling story from Denver that is emblematic of the Republican and billionaire effort to take over public school districts as a step toward corporatizing and voucherizing and charterizing them.

Saturday night live

Free for all.

Book learning preferred over computers

For an utterly slow Sunday morning, I'd recommend a New York Times feature on a California school that bars computers.

Anybody there?

If so, this line is for you. I've been in suspended animation.

Koch-funded climate skeptic concludes it's warmer

The climate-change deniers were tickled when a Berkeley physicist known as a warmer planet skeptic got a commission from the Koch gang to study global temperatures.

Still more debunking: On OWS and taxes

The change of heart of a scientist on climate issues reminds me that I've been meaning to link a couple of other items that dispute cherished teabagger/Republican faith.

Faded Rose closes west location

Ed David calls with word that his Bowman Road outlet of the Faded Rose has closed.

Faded Rose closes western branch

Ed David calls with word that his Bowman Road outlet of the Faded Rose has closed.

Last night: Deer Tick at Stickyz

Having missed the first opener, New Orleans' Dead People, I arrived in time to catch Deer Tick's New York compatriots The Virgin Forest, whose set was comprised of rockabilly-influenced guitar work delivered with red-eyed, murder-ballad menace.

Maumelle land use debate heats up

The Pulaski County Planning Board meets tomorrow afternoon on the proposed land use plan for the Lake Maumelle watershed.

Pieday: Peanut Butter at Gina's Place

Gina's Place is the new name for Ann's Restaurant, still serving up great home cooking and some of the best pies in Northeast Arkansas.

Occupy LR decision this morning UPDATE

City Manager Bruce Moore says the city will decide this morning what to do about the Occupy Little Rock encampment on city park property around the Clinton Presidential Center.

The mess Michelle Rhee left

Valerie Strauss writes in the Washington Post of what Michelle Rhee, the self-promoting school reformer, wrought in Washington, D.C. Who needs urgency for half-baked ideas?

Janitor slain in Searcy

A 24-year-old janitor was shot to death in a Searcy medical office he cleaned Sunday night, Fox 16 reports.

Mayor's challenge: Give up the car for a week

Mayor Mark Stodola challenges Little Rock residents to walk, bike or ride a bus to work next week.

Crystal Bridges offers press preview

Crystal Bridges: Getting clearer

Great tour through Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art this morning.

Tracking the drug court files

Mary Ann Gunn, the former circuit judge who left the bench to film a reality TV show based on the drug court she once oversaw in Fayetteville, wasn't happy about an amended complaint filed last week by W.H. Taylor of Fayetteville on behalf of clients who were former participants in drug court.

LR police chief says Occupy LR group must move

Police Chief Stuart Thomas met the press at Fourth and Ferry this afternoon, a parking lot owned by the city, where the police want to move the Occupy Little Rock protesters currently camping on the grounds of the city park occupied by the Clinton Presidential Center and Park.

Monday night line

The line is open. Final words: * WILLARD GATEWOOD DIES: Dr. Willard Gatewood, a former chancellor of the University of Arkansas and one of the founders of the UA Press, died Sunday.

Questions about Maumelle land use plan

It's technical stuff, but those of you who care about clean water in Central Arkansas should continue reading on the jump.

Chamber leads effort to oppose gas tax increase

Well, sure, the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce will lead the effort to oppose the Sheffield Nelson-led initiative to move the gas severance tax in Arkansas to a level charged in neighboring states.

Occupy Little Rock agrees to move to new site

Occupy Little Rock apparently will agree to move its overnight camp from the Clinton Presidential Center Park to a city-outfitted parking lot nearby.

Predicting the future on retirement systems

I was interested to read today that the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System will stick with an expectation of 8 percent annual return on investments in figuring soundness of the system.

TIF: The grab that keeps on taking

Fayetteville has the misfortune of being one of the few places in the state that got hung with a tax increment finance district — a developers' scheme (abetted by the city government lobby) to steal school tax revenue to subsidize private developers.

Arkansas sees auroras

Skywatchers are buzzing about a rare sight — auroras spilling into the night skies of the United States, even Arkansas, thanks to, well, explains.

Kris Allen to judge Blackbird Academy songwriting competition

Blackbird Academy of the Arts is a nonprofit arts education program based in Conway, and until November 15, they will be accepting submissions for the Alchemy Songwriting Competition and Showcase.

Judge grants another chance for drunk driver

Teresa Belew of Mothers Against Drunk Driving provides a report on a hearing today before Circuit Judge Leon Johnson on the prosecuting attorney's request to revoke a suspended sentence given Benjamin Swindoll.

Pat Robertson says Republican base too extreme

When televangelist Pat Robertson says a political party has become too extreme ..... As Right Wing Watch reports, on his 700 Club broadcast on Monday Robertson — the founder of the Christian Coalition — said the following of the Republican party’s lurch to the far right.

Charlaine Harris goes graphic

Magnolia's Charlaine Harris, author of the wildly successful Sookie Stackhouse novels (which were turned into the equally-successful "True Blood" series from HBO), is branching out into the world of graphic novels — the visual, book-length, often more-literary cousins to comic books.

Arrest follows Searcy slaying

Fox 16 reports an arrest has been made related to the robbery of a wallet from a janitor, Zach Mitchell, found slain Sunday in a Search medical office.

Unilever to add Jonesboro jobs

Unilever says it will invest $40 million and add 125 jobs in expanding into the former Alberto Culver plant in Jonesboro.