Friday, March 31, 2006

My Kind of Church

Now that we are about a week away from the end of the Christian Lenten season and the beginning of Holy Week (a.k.a., Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter), this ad from the UCC really got me into the spirit of the season, and it's a reminder that the fundies don't have a lock on faith.

I don't have a lot of ads on Enclave, but I am freely running the UCC ad in the right-hand column for a few weeks as a service to their cause, which is closer to Jesus than anything I see coming from the theo-cons.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

All Sold out, but En Vogue: Even Democrats Rush to Christen Themselves "Libertarians"

Michael Lind takes a skewering glance, over at the Coffee Shop at the Democratic Party, which he calls a "socially-liberal, pro-business party." Looks like, without some kind of broad crisis in job availability or total political transformation, we may never see another public workfare program again, even if the Dems reclaim control of the federal government. What happens when welfare programs can no longer be reformed Republican-style and when cheap labor markets are super-saturated? What happens when America becomes overrun with sweatshops for both citizens and illegal immigrants, thanks to the Earned Income Tax Credit (which Lind rightly calls "corporate welfare, a massive redistribution of wealth to the very employers that treat their workers the worst")? What happens when we no longer have clear choices between political parties come election time?

In the Absence of Federal Leadership to Redevelop New Orleans Neighborhoods

Criminal masterminds rush in to fill the vacuum. All of those vulnerable, empty houses are becoming a new breeding ground for drug trade. Crime levels are not as high as before Katrina, so there is still a chance to protect neighborhoods aggressively from crime and to rehabilitate at the same time. However, the window of opportunity seems to be quickly closing.

Sounds Making Good on Their Prior Commitment

Nashville's decision to go with a Downtown Soundstown is looking better everyday. The Nashville Sounds are following up on their original commitment to attract minority- and women-owned contractors with Turner Universal's six-week training at Vanderbilt in April.

HT: Hispanic Nashville Notebook

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Minuteman Mass at Mall

mi·nute 2 (m-nt, -nyt, m-) ADJECTIVE:
1. Exceptionally small; tiny.
2. Beneath notice; insignificant.

The Minutemen were supposed to meet at Farmers Market tonight at 4:00 in counter-demonstration and protest to the 6:00 Hispanic Immigration Solidarity March. On our way back from Home Depot, we drove around looking to ogle the massive counter-demonstration and found this one Bedford County guy with a megaphone and a flag trying to persuade people to stay and listen to his thoughts on immigration. A NewsChannel5 crew was packing up and leaving when we arrived. Nothing to see but a guy with a megaphone on the mall. News 2 at 6:00 ran a story on nothing to see but a guy with a megaphone on the mall.

A "Nightclub" on Nashville's East Bank Near Downtown

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Downtown Nashville's Small Public Spaces: 333 Commerce at the Batman Building, Part II

This is the second part of my look at the 333 Commerce Plaza, which sits on either side of the Batman Building. I explored the northwest corner of the plaza in Part I, finding many attractive features and few drawbacks. In this post I focus on the southeast side. Most of the attractors that the northwest space lacks are compensated by features on the other side of the building, which contains a vastly different space.

There are two significant attractors on the southeast side that pedestrians will not find elsewhere on the plaza. One is a large, audible, and long water feature that accentuates the main walkway and staircase to the building. In my opinion, except for the fountains at Bicentennial Mall, this is the most attractive water feature of any downtown public space. It starts as a tall, graduated waterfall framed by faux rock outcroppings and various types of plants. The waterfall pools at various places and becomes a stream that actually runs under one of the walkways into a larger pool with a smaller waterfall feature. The second waterfall feature provides the edge to one of the tiered patios. That particular patio has precast cement tables and chairs that seem well-suited to having a meal. Within the plaza itself, there is so much water moving around that the sounds are distinct and interesting.

There is a second patio with seating amenities above the tall waterfall feature and off to the side of the main entrance to the building. The tables and chairs on the higher patio are metal mesh, and the chairs have backs. That patio seems to lead off of an indoor café within the 333 Commerce Building. So, food and a place to park yourself to eat seem readily available in the southeast plaza. That patio also has a picturesque view to the south of the Schermerhorn Symphony Center (currently under construction). Most of the tables and chairs on this patio are bolted down, but I did see two or three free-standing chairs. Chairs that can be moved to accommodate individual tastes are a strong attractor to public spaces.

Like the northwest corner, the southeast side seems well lit by sunlight (both direct and indirect; that is considered a strong attractor), but there are areas that sit close to the buildings fronting Broadway that are shaded. Also, consistent with the rest of the property, the southeast side has numerous partially-hidden edges that encourage out-of-the-way people-watching. And like the northwest corner, this plaza has a lot of plants and trees to attract pedestrians. Unlike the flatter northwest corner, this side is more tiered, which is visually interesting, but leads to what I consider to be a significant flaw with regard to pedestrian traffic.

The lowest tier of this plaza looks to be about 2 stories off of street level. That effectively closes it off to the street. There is nothing interesting or attractive about the cold cement wall and two flights of stairs that act as the street level entrance to the plaza. The street is so far down that, when I was there, I could not even hear the water sounds that were so prominent in the plaza itself. When I looked up the stairs I got no sense of mystery whatsoever that would cause me to break off a sidewalk stroll to explore what might be at the top. It just looked like a generic building entrance. Even the stairs are not an attractive place to kill time. They are tall, shallow, shaded, and cold. They might be a good place to stop and cool off after a jog on a hot day, but they are strictly utilitarian in function.

So, while the southeast side of 333 Commerce provided many attractors that the other side did not, it had some of the same flaws, especially in being closed off from street level. Only the intentional explorer and those who know of the plaza would be motivated to hike up the stairs in order to enjoy one of the more attractive small public spaces in Nashville.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Salemtown Neighbors Adopts New By-Laws

Association members voted tonight to adopt its first set of by-laws in the organization's short history. The new by-laws passed easily and with little discussion. Give credit to all of the members of the By-Laws Committee for spending the last four months working hard, usually on weekends, to produce and to present a governing document generally amenable to the Salemtown Neighbors membership.

Sinful Private Enterprise: Telecommunications Lobbyists Leveraging the Severance of New Orlean's Only Post-Katrina Lifeline

Pass the word. Telecom corporations are lobbying the Louisiana state government not just to end free, public Wi-Fi networks in general, but they are also hitting legislators hard to terminate free Wi-Fi during emergency conditions like after Katrina hit. The New Orleans CIO who post-Katrina got all downtown businesses back on line by opening the city's wireless network, says he would rather go to jail than shut down the city's public Wi-Fi. That network also provided the sole source of information out of the Big Easy when reporters could not get in. According to the report:
“The vendors, the BellSouths [a.k.a., the ATTs] of this world, are not only going to force us back, making our existing Wi-Fi illegal, but also they want to close a loophole for emergencies so that we would not do this again,” said Mr. Meffert.

BellSouth declined to comment. But telecommunications and cable giants have tried to restrict city-sponsored broadband initiatives in other parts of the United States. Several states bar local governments from competing with private telecommunications services.

Legal or not, Mr. Meffert said he and Mayor Ray Nagin plan to keep offering the service as long as they feel an emergency exists.

“If I have to go to jail, I guess I will,” he said. “If they really want to play that game, I guess they are right. But we simply cannot turn off these few lifelines we have to our city and businesses.”
Local government "competing" with private business? There's no sense in defining it that way. it's the equivalent of saying that when local governments provide public parks they are competing with private plazas. There's no competition. Broadband belongs to the public, and private business should keep its icy mitts off local government's interest in keeping Wi-Fi public.

Fight the power, Big Easy. Let's turn this into a whole new Battle of New Orleans.


Downtown Nashville's Small Public Spaces: 333 Commerce at the Batman Building, Part I

In the third installment of my series on Downtown's small public spaces (the first is here; the second is here) based on the film, "The Social Life Of Small Urban Spaces," I take a look at what has to be one of the more attractive spaces for people to gather: the plaza at the foot of the "Batman Building." Also known as the "BellSouth Building," 333 Commerce is one of the most popular Nashville landmarks, so it is fitting that one of the more attractive public spaces can be found at its base. The small public space is actually relatively large, occupying both the northwest corner of the property and the southeast side of the building along 3rd Avenue. Because of the considerable size and many features of the public space at 333 Commerce, I am looking at it in two parts. Overall, 333 Commerce has nearly all of the attractors identified in the film on small public spaces.

The northwest corner of the property is bathed in natural sunlight, and it is punctuated by a public art feature. The space has a variety of plants and trees accentuating long grassy lawns. A number of benches, low walls, and steps offer pedestrians places to sit, and along with the flora provide lots of "edges" where people can go and get some sense of out-of-the-way seclusion. The day I was there I saw no food vendors, but there is a large paved a walkway that runs from the corner plaza entrance to the BellSouth Building that could accommodate some food carts. There seems to be room on the lawns for a small number of café-like tables, although too many spread around the lawn might give the plaza a cluttered look. However, there is plenty of seating without tables so that people could tarry here for lunch if there was food readily available.

The aspects of this plaza that might hamper its attractiveness generally involve street accessibility, which is limited. The plaza is ringed by low walls and hedges with a small number of entry points. Save for the corner of Commerce and 4th, the plaza has the feel of being closed off from the street, which may or may not be a strong attractor for occupants of the Batman Building, but it would not seem to be a strong attractor for casual passers-by. The filmmakers said that one of the attractors of a space is in its allowance for people-watching. If the plaza is closed off from the street, it discourages people-watching. Another strike against this plaza is that seating is fixed and cannot be moved around to suit individuals or groups. They have to take what they can get. Finally, because the space is large-scale and without hidden interesting features (such as the sound of water flowing), I don't believe it would possess that mysterious aspect that makes pedestrians want to stop and explore the space.

Once you discover this space, it seems one of the more outstanding places to gather. However, you have to be intentional in order to find it. It is not easily stumbled upon.

The Most Cognitively Dissonant Moment I Have Ever Had in Nashville

Seeing Jethro Tull perform at the Wild Horse Saloon a few years ago. It didn't exactly fit the "You're So Nashville If ..." category.

While I'm on the subject of music, here's a couple of other random thoughts. I think that the one pop tune that drove the point of irony home most effectively was Howard Jones's 1980's hit, "No One is to Blame." A sampling:

You can look at the menu but you just can’t eat
You can feel the cushions but you can’t have a seat

I know that Alanis Morissette referred explicitly to irony in the 1990's (which seems bad form relative to Jones's implicit reference), but she seems to confuse irony with oddity or happenstance. Rain on your wedding day is not necessarily ironic.

The most perfect synthesizer rock song ever is Styx's "Fooling Yourself" (The Angry Young Man)." I know that synthesizers are much maligned, but give me a break, they are part of my high school cultural experience, and everybody knows that the high school cultural experience is sacred. I won't begrudge you your high school fling with Spin Doctors if you won't begrudge me my fling with synthesizer rock.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Frank Rich on Getting the Real News

The February 24, 2006 edition of the Texas Observer had a super interview with New York Times columnist Frank Rich, which included the latter's views on public demand for hard news instead of entertainment. Here's an exerpt to pique your interest:
It’s not simply that FOX [News] is right wing; that really isn’t the big point. The big point of all of them is that they’re going to give the audience what it wants and what gets the highest rating. So it will always be an abducted young woman, shark attacks, or Monica Lewinsky .... Do I think that there is an audience for something higher? Of course there is. But it's a niche audience .... We live in an odd situation right now .... You have traditional mainstream media terrified by the technological developments, intimidated by the government and the rise of the very vocal critics of the blogosphere. It can’t last indefinitely. There comes a point, for instance, when people are going to want news about what’s really going on in Iraq. They’re going to want news about what’s really going on with the next Enron. They’re going to want to know what is really going on with global warming. There is a market for that. It may not be in primetime, but people will want it. Someone will supply it, someone will figure out how to make money doing it and how to distribute it.
That will be the supply that matches my demand.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Suckers In The City: We're Subsidizing Suburban Soccer Moms Welfare Queens

In 2004, I voted against giving Nashville Gas another 30-year meal ticket. I didn't know at the time that they were making Metro Nashville residents pay the franchise fees of the services provided to Sumner, Cheatham, and Williamson Counties. If I had, I would have also made it my mission to go door-to-door preaching the word that supporting Nashville Gas would amount to paying for some undeserving suburbanite's meal ticket. If I thought for one minute that a significant portion of my gas bill (6.11%) would be paid as an entitlement for gated bedroom estates in red counties, I would have sought converts. If I thought for one minute that my payments would constitute a hand-out for upper-middle-class welfare queens living lakeside to put more gas in their Volvo and Lexus tanks to justify their commuter lifestyles, I surely would have done more than just vote against Nashville Gas in 2004.

We're obviously suckers here in the city. We pay $500,000 extra a year to Nashville Gas to cover the tab of the outlying bedroom communities. Then we get to sit around and listen to those leeches boast about how marvelously more inexpensive it is to live in the suburbs than the city. Well, no wonder it's more inexpensive to live in the suburbs. "Taxes," they tell us; when, in reality it's more like hand-outs to the outer-ring unneedy. It's the land of entitlements out there; and Metro Nashville residents are none other than the suckers keeping that spigot open.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Charitable Malfeasance

Private charities enjoy a high status and little criticism, until things go south quick and deep; and then people take notice. But big disasters boost problems that are already rooted in private charities, which tend not to be checked and balanced until something goes terribly wrong or big people get busted. And so goes the charity news this week:
  • According to the New York Times, the Red Cross has only received 60% of the $3.6 billion that Americans donated for hurricane Katrina relief. Thanks to horribly lax leadership, managers who discouraged whistle blowers, and generally bad-seed volunteers, the other 40% is simply gone. The Red Cross may be headed for a federal investigation. It's about time.
  • According to ABC (and originally the Houston Chonicle), the Bush family is getting in on charitable malfeasance. Barbara Bush (the president's mother) gave relief money to a Katrina/Wilma relief fund on the condition that it be spent to buy educational software from her son Neil's company, "Ignite! Learning," which is home of a contraption called "The Cow." "The Cow" appears to be designed to prepare students for standardized tests. This is not the first time the Bushs have been in a conflict-of-interest snarl in Houston over private donations and "The Cow," reports ABC.
Perhaps we are too charitable to charities.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

12South Online

Check out the 12South Neighborhood Association's fledgling website/blog.

If You Work in Government, Then Dealing with the Inconvenience of Democratic Protests Is Part of the Job

Chris Wage has a very fine response to the ADAPT wheel chair protest at Capitol Hill and the Bredesen administration's rather disingenuous attempts to discredit the protest by referring to it as a "national group of professional organizers."

I've already said my piece about using sectionalist sentiment--in this case with the label "national group"--to question the legitimacy of protestors. I think it is both irrelevant and prejudiced. However, the Tennessee official responsible for the above reference, TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely, is obviously intending "professional organizers" as an implied smear, too.

But I don't understand where the smear is. Chris took issue with the claim that they were professionals. My response to Nicely would be, "So, what?" So, what if they might be professional organizers who protest at the state house for the rights of their interest group? Is Mr. Nicely implying that if organizers get paid to organize, then their actions are illegitimate? And could we not imply the same of hiring leaders for TDOT? If members of ADAPT desire to use organization funds to pay a smaller group of leaders to represent them (just like Tennesseans choose to pay bureaucrats to run offices like TDOT), where is the harm in that?

I have no doubt that members of the Bredesen administration meet regularly with lobbyists who are hired guns for corporations and manufacturing groups. Are mercenary lobbyists for big business better than generally low-paid (the annual salaries that I see advertised for organizers are in the high $20's) professional organizers? Nope; they're worse. ADAPT may be in your face, but corporate lobbyists are behind your back. Does Commissioner Nicely paint those high-paid lobbyists ugly with the same brush he tars ADAPT? I doubt it. Lobbyists are monied interests; all ADAPT has is protest and civil disobedience.

If Mr. Nicely thinks that salaries that probably average on the low end of the scale are enough compensation to make people sit in the cold rain, face derision from some state workers who just want to go home after a long day, become the subject of Bredesen's scorn in the mainstream media, and eventually be dragged off in cuffs quite possibly to jail, then he has been spending too much time in smoke-filled rooms with the lobbyists who are infinitely worse than a small band of annoying protestors who shut down traffic on a couple of streets. Like them or not, those people have some sense of conviction that is their compensation for what they are doing; and even if we disagree with them they deserve our respect. And they deserve more honest treatment from this administration.

And government employees, among whom I would include Gerald Nicely and Phil Bredesen, better get used to social protests when government services to common people get cut, while well-mannered lobbyists win special consideration for their clients behind the scenes. You folks are just going to have to deal with it or move on to something else. To paraphrase the insightful thoughts of one no less inconvenienced government worker to a TV reporter: it's the democratic way. She understands her line of work. But those who want to work free of protestors (professional or not) ought to find a more tame career in the private sector.

Gang-Related Graffiti Removed From Morgan Park Less Than 24 Hours After Vandalism

Kudos to the Metro Parks Department for once again responding quickly after the Morgan Park Community Center was hit with gang-related graffiti in the past 24 hours. I called about the graffiti when I saw it this afternoon, only to find out a few minutes later that Parks employees were on the scene in the process of removing it. Quick removal really makes a difference for the neighborhood and I know I speak for many here in thanking Metro for rapid response.

Parks continues to get high marks. Should you see any more graffiti appear at Morgan Park call Park Maintenance at 862-8411 and be sure and report it or any other suspicious activity to Park Rangers at 880-3429.

Vandalism on Morgan Park Community Center.

Parks Dept. employee removes the graffiti this afternoon.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Brownstones Eighty-Sixed

I just heard that the developers of 5th Avenue Brownstones (corner of 5th & Garfield) have changed their plans. Rather than the retro-storefront-looking mixed-used development they originally planned (while waiting for people to buy before breaking ground), they intend to build strictly residential in the style of Germantown Court. I also understand that they are not going to wait this time to pre-sale the single-family homes, and that they will start building in the next 5 months.

Some of us were getting concerned that developers were going to give up on that important corner. Good to see that they are going to move ahead. I always thought it was a little unrealistic to expect the Brownstones to pre-sale (they had pre-sold the 1st floor retail space).

HT: Kacy

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

From Where They Might Hail Should Not Matter

I don't want to get into the effectiveness or the rightness of the wheelchaired protestors on Capitol Hill over the last couple of evenings. I feel ambivalent about their protests. Let's just leave it at that.

But I do have clear feelings on a couple of reports by New 2 video journalists Andy Cordan and Scott Fralick, and those feelings are not good. Cordan at the 5:00 or 6:00 hour and Fralick at the 10:00 hour filed reports that the protestors were "not even from Tennessee," in terms that I felt were too strong and overblown. Implied in both was a creeping sectionalism that seems more of a hang-over from the provincial old south than it does an objective or balanced focus on who the protestors are.

Segregationists across the south in the 1950s and 1960s tried to discredit the Civil Rights Movement because many of its own came from non-southern states to ride buses, sit at lunch counters, register voters, and join marches. I do not know very many reporters or people in general now who begrudge that movement for bringing "outsiders" in to initate social change (in fact, MLK, Jr. returned the favor by taking his southern organization to Chicago in 1966). So, other than providing a sensational appeal to re-open sectionalist emotions, I fail to see how Cordan's and Fralick's hail-from angle contributes anything to our knowledge of the event.

Beyond being moot, it also seemed slanted. When video journalists cover local anti-abortion rallies do they ask people where they are from or who is paying for their lodging? I can't remember ever seeing the hail-from angle applied to conservative movement protests. Does anyone remember if the stories on all the horn-honking of the anti-income tax advocates a few years ago garnered a single story on whether the protestors were disqualified to protest because of their backgrounds? I don't remember one. I am concerned that tonight's reports contained seeds of bias, since the same questions might not be asked of conservative protestors.

It seems to me that in America, no citizen is an outsider just because she may protest in another state. News 2 may have forgotten that detail in their rush to play the hail-from angle on what was already a very controversial and emotionally charged story.

Please Feel Referred

If you are looking for help with building or setting-up a computer network in either your home or business, including technical support, troubleshooting, and security features, you can look no further for help than locally-owned Net Works.

We recently bought a beastly new PC from Dell with lots of cool media options and my personal favorite, a widescreen flat-panel monitor that rotates 180° for a long portrait presentation, which really helps on lengthy documents. We maximized RAM and disk space, because this was our first opportunity to go whole hog on a computer and not settle as we had in the past (for the last 5 years I had been working on a refurbished and squirrelly HP PC).

One of the proprietors of Net Works, Benjamin VH, is also one of my neighbors and hosts his own weblog. We made the decision to go with Dell over Gateway after waiting over a month on an order from flat-footed Gateway, and since Benjamin VH is high on Dells, he came on board to help us get the machine we wanted and he’s been available ever since, configuring, setting up, and overcoming any obstacle. He even helped us optimize our wireless signal by replacing our router at a reasonable price.

We’re very pleased with our Dell, and more than satisfied with the excellent service we have received from Net Works. We will be rewiring and tweaking our home network in the next few months, and it really helps to know that a local company--rather than some corporate consultant half a world away or some half-witted Comcast subcontractor twice removed--will be here for us when we need it.

So, I highly recommend Net Works to any who might be looking for assistance with a home or office network. Check out their website, which I am linking in my “Links That I Plug Box.”

Monday, March 20, 2006

The High Cost to Us of Utilities Deregulation

Many of us have been warning that deregulation allows companies to stick high prices to consumers because in corporate America there is no such thing as a "free market," especially in utilities. Now comes a neutral academic report that those consumers in deregulated states typically have had larger electricity rate increases than customers in states still under regulation.

We are not surprised that the belief that deregulation leads to lower prices is at best mere wishful thinking. But you should keep this in mind in light of NES's bid to hike their rates so that we will pay them almost 10% more than we already do. What we need is more state government regulation (if we can get it) of NES to keep prices manageable for families who will not otherwise be able to afford their inflationary tactics.


Saturday, March 18, 2006

MSNBC Report on the Military and Gang Bangers

MSNBC's Joe Scarborough reported on Wednesday night's Scarborough Country that the U.S. military is actively, sometimes knowingly, inducting violent gang members into the armed forces where the latter learn tactics of urban warfare, which they use against local police when they get out of the military. During the broadcast, the crawler at the bottom of the screen mentioned that both the Crips and the Bloods (both of which have groups in Nashville) are known to have had members trained by the military.

According to the report, while the military denies recruitment of gang bangers, gang experts are reporting to undercover gang cops that militarily trained gang members are leaving the military and applying their killing skills against police. Scarborough referred to the January 2005 killing of a police officer in Modesto, CA by Marine Andres Raya as an example. Local FBI officials in El Paso, TX told a reporter for the El Paso Times that they are concerned that the influx of soldiers through base realignment and closure would itself lead to a spike in gang-related activity. A Fayetteville, NC detective told Scarborough that he has seen gang members going in and out of Fort Bragg for years. He also said:
I received a letter from a probation and parole officer with over 20 years experience in the California area, who recently wrote me, stating that [U.S. military] recruiters had actually come to her, requesting that she sign a petition to pretty much expunge records of known gang members on probation and/or parole to join military ranks.
I know the Pentagon is hard up for new recruits necessary to replace the 20,000 casualties suffered by U.S. forces even though George W. Bush declared "Mission Accomplished" over 1,050 days ago, but if these reports are true, Rummy and his Pentagon crewbies have developed a knack for cultivating criminal elements at home. And Americans have a lot more to be concerned about beyond Pentagon blunders in the Middle East.

The Purchase of Hyperreality

We took our chances spending the past week on vacation in Florida, what with it being Spring Break and all. We hedged our bets by staying with a friend in Melbourne, along the “Space Coast.” It was hedging, because Melbourne seems to lie inconspicuously between and out of the way of hot Breaker destinations like Daytona and Fort Lauderdale. I spent a quiet couple of days at Melbourne Beach and even enjoyed the unhurried life of Historic Downtown Melbourne, where I sat at a quiet café table imbibing Black and Tans and puffing on pre-embargo Cuban cigars.

But what would vacation be without a hyperreal excursion? And so, we also burned one of our days on Disney World. On our way to Orlando, we drove through a planned “conservation community” called “Harmony.” Also called “neo-traditional,” this suburban town (30 minutes from both Orlando and Melbourne) assimilates some of the characteristics of New Urbanism, including detached garages with back-alley access and neighborhoods within walkable distances to schools and to markets (yet to be built) at the town center. Most of the lots in Harmony seem to be sold, so interest in this suburban denial of suburbia looks high.

Our visit to Disney’s “Main Street, USA” afforded our second foray into the hyperreal. As walkable neighborhoods were lucky to survive the automotive age, Walt Disney nodded to nostalgia and created a faux urban façade in the form of a turn-of-the-century street car neighborhood. Now the Disney Empire charges over $60 a head just to experience Main Street, USA’s performative urbanism. As such, Main Street, USA represents the commodification of community, and it salves suburban anomie and alienation from community.

The repackaging and marketing of communities in America, typified by places like Harmony, FL and Main Street, USA, suggest that we have no sense of place, or at least a very slippery sense of place that shifts with market values. The drive to make money seems stronger than the will to preserve in the first place space that enhances community. In his recently published book, American Vertigo, Bernard-Henri Levy observes America’s willingness to allow cities like New Orleans and Detroit to die and writes, “That a city could die, for a European, that is unthinkable.” I am also reminded of the recent comments of the owner of Vandyland on West End when a reporter asked him his feelings about the diner's closure; he spoke with wonder about buildings existing in Europe for hundreds of years, and he conveyed his disappointment that the same cannot be said of American preservation. We don't seem to need community; we merely wipe space clean and market its hyperreality while we stage the bare perception of community at higher prices.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

What's In A Name?

PLAN blog and Barista report that New Jersey Assemblyman, Peter J. Biondi (R), is trying to ban anonymous blogging. Biondi's bill would require operators of websites to keep a list of legal names and addresses of any and all posters (and commenters?) on their websites. PLAN staff responds:
I wonder what's next? The banning of unsigned editorials?
I bring this news to you at the risk of the General Assembly picking it up and running with it themselves. I wouldn't put any bad idea past them.

Bust Of Gang Members

News 2 has the story about the arrest in East Nashville of gang members connected to the Crips.

Downtown Nashville's Small Public Spaces: Financial Center Plaza

This is the second installment of my survey on small public spaces in Downtown Nashville. The first was on the small park across the street from the Downtown library. I had originally intended to post this follow-up sooner, but Carrie Underwood, the Nashville City Paper, and other North End issues rose up for writing beforehand.

Let me turn your attention next to the Financial Center at the corner of Church St. and 5th Ave., North. Let me also add a caveat: when I refer to small public spaces, I am using a soft sense of "public" rather than a hard definition of "public." I am not only referring to parks that are publicly owned, but also those privately owned properties that get used in a public manner with little or no hampering of social gathering. This is an important distinction, not because more public ownership of property is unimportant, but because it is unrealistic to assume that publicly owned properties can dominate highly dense areas. I'm all for setting aside as much property for public ownership as is possible, but very often private squares and plazas have to pull double-duty, and they should do so. So, I refer to the Financial Center Plaza as a small public space in the softer sense of the term.

A large, bricked-over plaza fronts the Financial Center with a few trees, but very little other greenery. There is no water feature, which is one of those attractors mentioned in the film. The plaza is well-lit by both indirect and direct sun-light. There is no seating provided in the plaza (which would be considered another strong attractor), and it seems generally an area meant for crowds of people to move quickly through, north-to-south and east-to-west. It is totally open to the public sidewalk, but there is nothing about the plaza itself that would make people want to stop and look. It seems a utilitarian void designed for movement.

The few "edges" to the plaza are the only spaces where gathering could occur. Those edges do not fall on the west (street curb) or on the east (an alley). The north edge is the shaded and raised building portico. The steps of the portico could invite people to sit and talk or eat lunch, but I do not know whether they are so used. Right now, scaffolding obstructs access to those steps. I also do not know whether building security allows or encourages people to gather on the steps to socialize. Only the public sidewalk along Church St. (recently renovated) can be considered a strong public space. It contains planters and a few benches, for those willing to play "musical chairs" to get a seat.

Overall, I would say that this is a relatively weak small public space for Downtown residents and workers who seek to pause somewhere to people-watch. If people will be allowed to sit on the steps once the scaffolding comes down, I would move the plaza up to the "fair" category. Otherwise, seating is nearly non-existent. There is nothing remarkable or even remotely eye-catching about the Financial Center Plaza that would make people stop and take notice. I think that it could be vastly improved with a small outdoor cafe and food vendors. That would be a nice, sun-bathed option among the many restaurants that populate the Church St. area.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Explanation, Please: It's Legal For Iraqis To Vote In Nashville, But It's Not Legal For New Orleaneans To Do Likewise?

Americans are really in a bad way when Iraqis in this country are granted greater ease to vote than evacuated Katrina victims. Iraqis get satellite polls; [mostly African-American] New Orleaneans outside of Louisiana get packets. It looks to me like Republican redistricting by another name; I thought the Bush administration's lack of follow-through with the federal money and resources to rebuild hardest hit neighborhoods was just incompetence. It may also be a premeditated election strategy.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Jazz Workshop Needs Volunteers

East Germantown's Nashville Jazz Workshop has sent out a request for volunteers for their Saturday, April 8th Jazz at the Workshop event. They need help for set up, for work during both day and evening events, and for tear down. The volunteer coordinator is Monica Ramey, who can be reached at A preliminary meeting for voluneers will be held on Monday, March 20th at 8:00 p.m. at the Workshop, which is located in the Neuhoff Complex on the banks of the Cumberland.

Requiem For Kirby

Kirby Puckett--Hall of Famer and the catalyst on one of the most remarkable teams (the Minnesota Twins) in World Series history--died today at 44. Incidently, he hit .382 in his first minor league season here in Tennessee (with the Elizabethton Twins of the Appalachian League).

Flower Mission Bell

More City Paper Fallout In Salemtown

A member of the development group about to start construction on the Salem Gardens development at 6th Av. and Garfield told me after the Nashville City Paper's story that the financiers funding the project want to change the name to Germantown Gardens because of the negative connotations in the false reporting. Over the weekend, another member of the development confirmed to S-townWife that the name will probably change to Germantown Gardens. That member also told S-townWife that he did not see William Williams' half-hearted attempt to redeem the situation a week later, precisely because it was "buried" deep inside the publication.

Those of us in Salemtown can thank the City Paper for pushing us off the map.

A New Convention Center?

I've been sort of hanging back on the prospect of a new convention center Downtown without taking a stance. Today I took one, and here it is [originally published at Nashville Metblogs]:
The Most Important Recent Event For Downtown Nashville
By nash_michael
March 6th, 2006 @ 10:40 AM Uncategorized
Here’s my nomination for most important recent (as in, say, the last 5 years) event for Downtown Nashville development: Mayor Purcell’s move of the convention center proposal (which sanctions a supersized $455 million structure in SoBro) to the Nashville Civic Design Center for evaluation.

Just when visions of a residential Downtown are starting to be realized, along comes the tourism industry pushing an archaic plan for a new convention center. What makes the plan archaic is that convention centers have been designed in the past to 1) bring life back to dying downtown areas and 2) keep conventioneers sealed from actual city life, which is assumed to be gritty. The problem is that at least one study shows that convention centers cost more money than they bring in. It would be foolish to stem the rising tide of residential life in Downtown Nashville by eating up a huge footprint in SoBro with a convention center that may look good for private businesses in the short-term, but will drain the vitality of civic life over the long haul.

So, Mayor Purcell did the politically astute thing. It was also one of the most important things he has done in his administration (and bigger than anything Phil Bredesen ever did). He passed the plan over to the NCDC for evaluation. The NCDC is committed to supporting thoroughly balanced mixed-use development, so I expect to see at the very least a modest convention center alternative that incorporates residential development. The ideal decision for me would be to ignore the convention center proposal and to let convention centers be run by private companies like Gaylord. I hope that NCDC comes up with a mixed-use alternative that excludes a convention center and that the Mayor accepts it. Tourism matters in Nashville, but neighborhoods matter more. Let conventioneers stay in Donelson, and let them take taxis if they want to experience Downtown Nashville. Let Downtown Nashville continue along the track to becoming a neighborhood where people live, not just visit.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Anniversary Day

S-townWife and I are celebrating our wedding anniversary today. We were married on a mountain farm in Vermont (near Mad River Glen) on 03/03/03 by a Justice of the Peace and with a number of horses in attendance. I'd do it all over again.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Metroblogging Nashville Is Here

The Metroblogging folks have moved in to make Nashville one of the 42 cities they cover. Metroblogging recruits local authors internationally to blog on local events of interest to the community. It seeks to hit that wide-open niche of local and hyper-local blogging at a global level of coverage.

Enclave will be competing with Metroblogging Nashville, but it will also be sharing yours truly as an author. Guess I'm a glutton for publication punishment, but I decided to give it a go. It's not that I'd rather "switch than fight." It's more like co-opting another channel to funnel more readers Enclave's way. If it doesn't work out, I can always return to Enclave-monogamy.

But for now, give Metroblogging Nashville a look and let's hope that it turns into something beneficial for all of us.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

No Commendation For Finally Telling The Truth (Or At Least Part Of The Truth)

I'm happy that you've made the statement, but I cannot agree with most of my colleagues. See, I don't think an adult of your intelligence ought to be commended, for simply, at long last, telling the truth.

- - New York Senator to Charles Van Doren in Quiz Show

I disagree with the vague generalities about Salemtown by those* who don't currently live in Salemtown. I continue to object to those* who refuse to see Salemtown as we are.

While some* write as if affordable housing is not planned in or proximate to Salemtown, others of us have reported otherwise. Professional journalists are notorious for focusing on race to the exclusion of class. (The reason for that, in my opinion, is that most journalists are economically conservative, but they use social issues to distinguish themselves as progressively sympathetic, crossing over sometimes to paternalism). Some* continue to do so, even as class divisions in Salemtown cut across ethnic lines and will be our primary challenge. But that's just my two cents as someone who lives here. There are those* who signify our problem graphically and oversimplistically as an African-American "district" against "white-collar white" development. Those of us who live here see more. We see both African Americans and whites who have lived in the neighborhood for 20, 40, and 60 years. We see a considerable Hispanic population, ignored by the media. We have a growing gay and lesbian community, but we don't pit it against some monolithic "largely straight district" just to make the story more attractive. We work side-by-side with African-American developers and "white-collar blacks" (to borrow a term from some*). Some of those professionals don't even live in the neighborhood.

So, I don't believe now that some* deserve kudos for finally getting around to telling the truth, especially when the truth is tardy and it remains half-baked.

*By "those" and "some" I mean City Paper editor William Williams who at long last made an attempt to address last week's front-page debacle, even though the attempt was no more than a subtitle in a completely different article buried way back on page 15. I was waiting to write this today to see if anyone would see it and try to refer me to it, but no one did, which I take as a sign that it was basically invisible to any but those who closely read every article in the Business section from beginning to end. So, I am returning the favor by reducing my cite of Mr. Williams' article to an asterisk and the tiniest print that Blogger will allow me. That seems to me to match the scale of today's City Paper retraction a whole week after the damage was done; it is like this fine print: too little, too late.

The Fire In Her Belly

I wouldn't completely compare S-townWife to the Dragon Lady of Capers Avenue. Those of you who drive by Fannie Mae Dees Park and see the dragon sculpture straddling the public playground a stone's throw from Vanderbilt may not know that it commemorates Ms. Dees, who got her nickname for fighting Vanderbilt and other muckity-muck leaders to keep the university from swallowing that property up as it expanded decades ago. What we have left is a real public jewel in the form of "Dragon Park."

Now, as I said, I don't see an exact comparison between S-townWife and the Dragon Lady, but I couldn't help but think of Ms. Dees slaying dragons when S-townWife told me Monday night of an insidious plan she caught wind of concerning Morgan Park. After Ernest Campbell spoke to Salemtown Neighbors on Monday night about Germantown's designs on Morgan Park, S-townWife felt motivated to poke around and turn over some stones around the Community Center to see if she could find out more details about possible changes to the Park.

S-townWife was appalled to hear a rumor that Metro might have sold or might have plans to sell portions of Morgan Park to private developers. Those portions reportedly included the baseball diamond that sits between 3rd Ave. and 4th Ave. and the playground that sits between the Community Center and 4th Ave. According to reports, Metro was "hanging on" to the Community Center. Needless to say, S-townWife was incensed at the news and immediately wanted to start a "Friends of Morgan Park" group to fight off private development and keep all of Morgan Park non-commercial, public, and family-oriented.

On S-townWife's behalf, I contacted Metro Parks Director Roy Wilson on Tuesday and asked him to confirm or deny the truth of those rumors. After following up with staff in the Real Property Department, he responded that there was absolutely no truth to the rumors and that Morgan Park would neither change--aside from the addition of a greenway spur trail, landscaping, new playground, and gardens--nor pass out of public hands. S-townWife was relieved when I gave her the good news. Although, she is no less committed to starting "Friends of Morgan Park" to protect and to support this valuable community asset. There's no dousing the fire in her belly now. I'd like to think that somewhere out there the Dragon Lady is smiling at that fire.