Christmas Card Controversy?

11 12 2008

The war on Christmas comes to the Bluegrass state, well, sort of.  The 2008 Governor’s holiday cards were recently mailed out, and apparently somebody somebody got bumped off the mailing list.  The republican party chairman Steve Robertson is looking into the matter that the Beshear’s family cards might have been paid for by the KDP.  The Registry of Election Finance claims that no holiday cards can’t be paid for using parties funds if the picture on the card only has that parties members.  In other words, If the Governor’s cards of him and Ernie Fletcher holder hands in front of the Christmas tree, that would be OK to pay for that using KDP funds.  We will have to wait and see how far Mr. Scrooge, er, Mr. Robertson and the Sith will be willing to drag this one out.

The Governor has a press conference scheduled for tomorrow at 10am to explain to everyone how broke the Commonwealth is, and that a 4% spending cut in the budget is going to happen.  I doubt he addresses the Christmas card issue, but we shall see.  Check the card out here:


The Falls Fountain and Derby Clock never became a world attraction

8 12 2008

The Falls Fountain, The Louisville Clock and other fails.

I was watching the KET Ky channel today which aired an old documentary by Morgan Atkinson about the Falls Fountain.  Not long after I started watching I had a flashback to the hype the fountain generated back in the 80’s.  I was probably 9 or 10 when it was unveiled to the public who lined the bridges and waterfront to watch it start spraying.  The ceremony was also broadcast live on WHAS TV to viewers that didn’t make the trek to Louisville.    The Falls Fountain was supposed to be our attempt to attract tourists to Louisville as a world class city.  Supporters of the fountain said it would rival the Eiffel Tower, and the St. Louis arch.  It was located out in the middle of the brown water of the Ohio River, and shot a stream of river water higher than the Humana building (the one to the right).

The fountain was a huge metal box rising several feet out of the water and painted a greenish/primer color, similar to the Statue of Liberty.  It had a 530 sq. ft. pump house inside the floating metal hulk that was the size of a small apartment.  The pumps and equipment were plagued from the start by the amount of debris floating in the river.  Breakdowns were frequent and it seemed it was  down for repair, more often than it was working.  The fountain got a new camo paint job in 1992 and was finally taken out of commission once it became too expensive to maintain.  It was sold for scrap to a private owner in 1998  for $15,000.  The LeoWeekly had an excellent article about the great fountain.

The PR blitz ahead of the fountain’s launch was so overwrought, the fountain couldn’t have lived up to expectations even if it sprayed free Makers into to-go cups on the Belvedere.

I remember my 6th grade class going to the Belvedere  and the natural science museum, the fountain was in the background.  I have been to Louisville several times in recent years and didn’t realize the fountain was gone until I caught the documentary.  It never became a St. Louis arch, but it made Louisville logos and news intros for years.  The moral of the story is that spending money on a mechanical gimmick to attract tourism = fail.  Searching the system of tubes reveals limited information on the fountain project, and even fewer pictures.  Some blogs and websites compare the fountain failure to that of the Louisville Clock, aka: Kentucky Derby Clock, which was a complicated mechanical clock complete with a horse race at certain times of the day.  It was built in the early 70’s and modeled after a toy music box, with a horse racing theme.

racetrack around the Derby Clock

racetrack around the Derby Clock

I had forgotten seeing this clock as a kid, it was easily more forgettable than the Falls Fountain.  This was on a different trip to Louisville.  I think my parents walked by it and mumbled something under their breath about a total waste of money and ushered us kids on to the next attraction.  Its was impressive, but not as impressive as the Eiffel Tower.  The track featured caricatures of Daniel Boone, Thomas Jefferson, Zachary Taylor, and others racing around the track and musicians in the bandstand.  This Rube Goldberg type machine was built in the 70’s to be displayed inside the River Falls Mall which became the Galleria Mall, which became 4th Street Live.   It never really worked, in part due to the 100 foot long belts inside the racetrack that sends the metal horses around the track.

The Adam Matthews Foundation is working to restore the Derby Clock and get it repaired for all the public to enjoy.  They are taking donations and volunteers to help with wiring and other restoration tasks, and more information is available on their website.  The clock is at Bowman field undergoing repairs and the site claims it will not have a permanent home until it can run on its own without mechanical breakdowns.  Remember the ruckus the Floral Clock in Frankfort caused?  Governor Burt Combs’ pet project that drew fire as a waste of money in the 60’s, is actually a state attraction that worked.  The floral clock is still sitting on its 100 ton pedestal and maintained by the Garden Club of Kentucky.  If this clock was part of the motivation for the Derby Clock, its no wonder the designers thought it would draw a crowd.

The next gimmick we have in the works to draw a world-class crowd is the World Equestrian Games.  Lexington has bent over for this one, throwing money and resources into the Centrepoint building development.  In doing so, it leveled one of the historic city blocks and took away 5 or 6 authentic bars to build a hotel to house all the VIP’s that are supposidly coming to Lexington for the games.  I love highrise buildings, but if Kentucky history tells us anything about the hollow promises of building things in hopes of drawing a crowd, maybe we should look at the Falls Fountain and the Derby Clock for insparation before we get too involved financially.  Sometimes even if you build it, they don’t come.

Before The DARE Program, Kentucky Had Cowboy Louie

20 11 2008

Some of you that attended Kentucky’s county elementary schools might remember a cowboy magician that toured in the 80’s.  His name was Cowboy Louie Mitchell, and he worked at Loretta Lynn’s dude ranch in Tennessee.  The same ranch that hosts the annual motocross championship.  As a fourth grader at Knifley Elementary School this was one of the best entertainment shows we got during the school year.  We had every type of motivational speaker come save us from class.  Folk singers, interpretive dancers, puppet shows, boo these people.  Bring out Cowboy Louie.  This was the era of Nancy Reagan’s war on drugs, and before DARE was created.  Rural students learned about the evils of drugs via Louie’s scary stories.


Cowboy Louie’s show was a mixture of magic, comedy, and the anti-drug message.  The best part of his traveling road show was the merchandise table, and the signature magic suckers.  These suckers were homemade and hand wrapped in clear cellophane.  They were trapezoid shaped and transparent red.  No doubt 99% sugar, but they were incredibly good.  His anti-drug message was overshadowed by the fact he got us addicted to these red suckers and once we were out, it took a year before we could score more.  The other items on his shwag table were just fluff to accent the suckers.  Louie bucks, which were jumbo thousand dollar bills with his picture, autographed photos, pens, pencils and erasers, all crap, we want the suckers.  I think they were three for a dollar, but if you bought in bulk and hoarded your supply til everyone else was out, you could name your price.

Louie would pull rabbits out of his ten gallon hat, cut an 8th grade girl in half, and make your teacher disappear.  Usually he picked the most attractive teacher from the crowd and dragged her onstage to the excitement of the kids.  If I were to see this now, I’m sure it would look fake, but to a crowd of magic sucker addicted ten year olds, this was better than the Christmas play.  (yes in the 80’s we had Christmas plays)  He would make the kids chant his funny, magic word:  Emo-shimmy-sho-la-di-da.  I don’t know why I remember that, there must be others like me.  I do recall the bus drivers hated Cowboy Louie day.  They got to deliver a busload of screaming kids on a serious sugar high, down the crooked gravel roads of Adair County.

There is sadly no information on the system of tubes about Cowboy Louie.  One old blog claims that he passed away in 2001.  Apparently his daughter became a semi-famous singer from Nashville Tonya Mitchell,  her Wikipedia entry says Louie passed away.  He might not have became famous, but he was a memorable role model to many of Kentucky’s students.  Motivational speakers were usually a get out of class free pass, but Cowboy Louie was fun.  If anybody else remembers this guy, drop a line.  I believe he regularly toured the rural school circuit, my friends from city schools had never heard of him.

Going Gonzo In A Backwoods Kentucky Church

19 11 2008


From the moment I walked into the door of the Easter Valley Baptist Church I was viewed as an outsider who was intruding on their church services. The Easter Valley Baptist Church is a sect, splintered from the original fundamentalist congregation of The Old Time Baptist Church some five miles up the road. Easter Valley was viewed as too progressive because women were allowed to teach Sunday school, and this created a schism between some of the deacons, and the congregation split. The Old Time elders believed the Easter Valley parishioners were interpreting the gospel the wrong way. I spent one Sunday at the new Easter Valley Baptist Church, and afterwards had dinner with some of the members, who told me of the church’s origins.

The small white painted cinder block building hidden between two mountains on a chip and seal road in rural Estill County. There is a short steeple with a gold painted cross on top with a tarnished church bell. The fall leaves accent the canvas of the small church property, if there were not a small number of cars in the parking lot, it could pass as a scene from 100 years ago. As I passed through the wooden double doors, a young man was pulling on the thick bell rope to announce the service was starting. The sanctuary smells of pine and old ladies perfume. It is a very simple interior; the walls are accented with small stained glass windows depicting the crucifixion which flank two rows of pews with a wide, plush carpeted center aisle. The pews are stained a dark oak color and are not padded, a small brass nameplate on the aisle armrest documents the donor. I am accompanied by my date that is related to some of the members, we find an empty pew a few rows behind the small congregation of 25 people. The pulpit is built of local hardwood and varnished a deep red. The wood is engraved with Old English letters: “Only God can lead”. There is an attendance board to the left of the pulpit that claims there were 38 in attendance last week with a gross offering of $1200. There is no choir, although 2 short pews are fixed adjacent to the pulpit suggesting there was a choir at one time.

The makeup of the congregation lacks diversity the plurality being middle aged females. There are only two young adults, and a single mother with her infant. A pair of thirty somethings are sitting in front of us with their two young children who run, flip, and turn in the pew excitedly. They are cute children and their absence of front teeth leads me to believe they are around nine years old. The majority of parishioners are elderly people, and everyone is white. The children show curiosity in me staring over their parent’s backs while I smile and make faces at them. My pen and pad is starred at by everyone who walks by, so I stow it beside the old blue hymn books in the seatback in front of me. We are surrounded by curious faces when my date introduces me to the people she knows. They question me about where I attend church normally and if I know the Lord. The congregation all know each other well, they stand around and talk about the conditions of their family members and “if their hay is going to be any count.” A couple of silver haired women are gossiping about someone’s son who went to jail Friday night for a hit and run incident. A young boy is running up the isle when his grandmother lifts him up and simultaneously swats his bottom demanding he “sit down before the devil gets him.” The boy immediately starts crying, but no one seems to notice. The congregation is dressed simply, only one elderly man in the front row is wearing a suit, the rest of the men are in jeans and button down shirts. No women are present in the front rows, only older men.

Brother Steve is part of the musical accompaniment and starts the service taking up his Takamine guitar, which is plugged into the small PA system. He strums a call to worship, played with a capo. The crowd immediately settles into their seats and falls quiet. A lady to his right joins in on the electric console organ and they play in unison. As the song carries on three middle aged ladies all in simple homemade dresses rise from their seats and walk up to the pulpit. They start singing the words to the song, while one of the women (Brother Steve’s wife) is much louder than the other two and out of key. Her intended domination of the song is confusing to me, but I assume normal to the other parishioners. To an outsider accustomed to formal service this off the cuff approach to a worship service is new. I look around to see if I can spot the preacher, as he has yet to take the podium, when Brother Steve announces that we welcome Brother David Wells. He rises from a center pew where he had been talking to the women sitting around him.

Brother David is dressed in blue jeans and a blue plaid shirt with no tie. He almost immediately starts screaming about the evils of material goods, and religion being taken out of schools. He shares his personal story about being ridiculed at school for being a Christian. His face turns red and most of his sentences are ending with: “Let me tell you Honey, it aint no way to be.” [Sic] His sermon was delivered to a silent, unmoving congregation; even the children were quite, nobody fell asleep. The occasional “Amen” affirmed the preacher’s screaming testimony of the end of days is upon us, and the current war in the Middle East is the last crusade. The war against Christians must be fought by Christians, a message presumably advocating violence against people of other faiths. I expect rattlesnakes to drop from the ceiling at any moment.

He is brought to tears towards the end of the sermon, which ends in an almost pleading voice for anyone who would like to give their life to Jesus to come down and stand beside him. Two men in the front row take his cue and pass two wicker baskets up and down their respective rows, people are ready with cash or check in hand to drop into the baskets when they pass by. The offering is conducted with the organ in the background softly playing the opening bars to Amazing Grace. Once the basket made it to our row I am compelled to drop in a five, and they are taken away. The congregation stands in unison and starts singing Amazing Grace while some people make their way to the altar, heads bowed and still singing the words. This mixed group of six people including Brother Steve’s wife knell down and place their foreheads onto the base of the altar. I had never witnessed this behavior and was taken aback when they started chanting in tongues and waving their arms about while keeping their heads down. Some in the crowd are crying, some are silent, I sat in total shock. The people remain kneeling around Brother David as he leads into a very long prayer, their chanting has stopped. The prayer covers the sick that can’t be with us today, the President, as he leads the country, and for the naysayers to come to the light.

A wind of relief blows through the small church as the sermon is adjourned and the congregation starts singing “How Great Thou Are.” The church doors open as the crowd spills into the parking lot and appear to have regained their composure upon their return to the outside world. They are engaging one another about where they are eating dinner, while the children run around on the grass. We are questioned and introduced by almost every member of the church; they tell us they would love to see us next Sunday. I lie and claim our home church is in Lexington, and that our unannounced visit was a special occasion.

Upon leaving I noticed an autographed picture of George W. Bush in the entranceway to the sanctuary. At dinner I asked why the photo of the President was arranged beside notable pastors of the church’s history the response was overwhelmingly “he’s a good Christian man”. Naturally the next question was about the origin of the photo, which I learned that the preacher and a few deacons had attended Bush fundraisers and party rallies. My secular education would question their tax exempt status.

Once we arrived at great aunt Edna’s house for dinner, I noticed the women in the church are treated as seconds to men. When I voiced concern to these women about their not being seen as equal, they acted offended I even tried to discuss the matter. These women are so subservient that they can’t eat dinner until the men are done and have had seconds. They are not even allowed to sit at the dinner table with the men, and are expected to be mothers to the children and not question the man’s business.

I tried to remember this was the more progressive of the two congregations, even though the women might teach Sunday school, they are still second class citizens. The literal interpretation of the bible is be-all, end-all, final word that rules these people’s lives. I would expect any deviation from these guidelines to be repented inside the church or within one’s close knit family. This church functions today much like it has for the past 150 years, the traditions are handed down from the generations through the same families that built the church. This particular style of worship could be seen by many as a dangerous mindset, but to the people that attend services it’s just another Sunday.


Fear and Loathing: alive and thriving in Kentucky

7 11 2008

Today was my first functioning day after the painful drive from Washington. Once arriving in Lexington I realized that there were no newspapers here either, and the mood was melancholy. 8 hours before I had been surrounded by the happiest bunch of drunks I have ever seen. I expected nothing positive from our red state, and was a large part of the reason I wanted to go to DC for election night. My Obama high was nowhere near wearing off, but I’d be assaulted by a huge redneck if I didn’t keep it to myself. Up yours red state, there is no way you can take an honest win away from us. I took a lot of shit on Tuesday for even wearing a UK sweatshirt, which had to come off immediately and stored in my backpack unless I wanted to explain myself to every random person on the street who tried to hug me.

random quote from election night:

“I just got felt up by a Dutchman, I guess our standing in the world has improved.  Blog about that Bitch!” S. O’Sullivan

When nurse Lari called me from the hospital halfway through her first shift since our holiday, she said her coworkers were in mourning from the serving McCain received Tuesday night. Talk of the 7th seal had been opened, chickens coming home to roost, rivers of blood, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria. A fundamental bunch of extreme right-wing nurses apparently work in the UK hospital, and the majority believes they should bury their paychecks, and hide in a shelter because a “Muslim” is President. All campaign season these same co-workers perpetuated the Obama is a Muslim email, and that his hidden agenda is to feed all the black people welfare so they can mooch off whitey. She claims she bit her lip and kept to herself for the duration of the 12 hour shift, she knows you can’t argue with irrational people.

This shit gets deeper. At the office this morning our UPS driver, Rodney, who happens to be a black man said he had been getting yelled at all day making his stops. He claimed people actually booed him, and some would turn their back and refuse to sign the delivery board. Keep in mind these are the same people he sees every day six days a week. He was accosted by a manager at another small minded business and forced to say he voted for Obama, and that it his win was a serious problem. “Fuck em, they’ll get over it” is all he had to say as we hugged, high-fived, and hollered like it was Tuesday night inside the safe haven of my office. I have long been hiding Obama posters on the backs of interior doors and even offered to donate the entire office to the campaign if they needed the space during the primaries.

Two of my good friends here in Lexington will not return my phone calls, and I’ve known these guys since we were in elementary school. It’s easy to see a person’s true colors when they are pushed into the unknown and are forced to break tradition.

republicans4voldemort :: Fear and Loathing – alive and thriving in Kentucky
But Just when we thought the days of living in fear and fencing ourselves in were over, this ridiculous bunch of assclowns refuse to yield. I bet the Klan must feel really impotent standing on the sidelines of social progress. Backwoods hillbillies is all the rest of the country expects from us, hell, its what were best at.  The uglyness of some of our fellow statesmen is unbelievable, yet completely expected.  We could speculate about the root cause of this disease, but any rational voice would be damned as “crazy secular liberals, just wanna take our guns.”  (please don’t fuck with my guns Barack, old assault rifles are fun to shoot)

Some members of the Kentucky Democratic Party should take a real long look at themselves and come out of the rebublican closet. I heard a quote that some upper level KDP official said he was “forced” to endorse McCain because the DNC didn’t give him anyone worth voting for. I think Howard Dean and the DNC should come down on some of our sheltered elected Democrats like the hand of god. Stir the pot and get the actual progressives in the state party to man-up and start sanctions against the guys hiding under our party banner. What the hell is there to lose? This state votes republican every time and with malice against the national candidate, that’s no party I want to be a part of.

These same gutless suckup state Dems are undoubtedly kissing McConnell’s ass since he won; to get a new project in their county so they can feel like they are “doing the work of their constituents.” You think these assholes would support President Obama? Hell no. Our embarrassing method of conducting state elections focuses on who the better hunter, fisherman, or tractor driver might be. Not who is actually qualified for the job they are seeking. Some, but not all, of our state Democratic Party is an embarrassing bunch of elected dickless wonders. But as the old saying goes-“politics are the damndest in Kentucky.”

moment of zen:


An Obama pumpkin smiles after it wins

Dear Mr. Obama

30 10 2008

Hello, my name is redacted.

I have been a fan of yours since you were the junior Senator from Illinois.  I’m a Washingtonian originally from Kentucky.  When I moved to the district in 2004 I rented a flat at the Meridian on Mass avenue, one of the original two new highrises built in the chinatown/gallery place redevelopment.  Residents were buzzing around telling one another that Barack Obama got an apartment upstairs, and we were very proud.  The Meridian had its share of other celebrities, the Wizards team doctor, Shamiqua Holtzclaw, and a couple rappers nobody really heard of; but day the white knight of the Democratic party moved in upstairs, we were in the tank.

We didn’t really see you much because you guys were currently getting served by the republicans on the hill.  Nsa wiretaps, gitmo, cia leaks, they were running away with the country in the name of national security.  The golden days of Bill were gone and Washington was sad and locked down tight.  Barriers of all sorts went around all kinds of buildings, it seemed like any office that was property of the people was off limits via armed guards and blast walls.  Security is undoubetly important, but it almost gave the appearance of marshal law.  We assumed the Bush family would be in for two terms since they had that really effective nationalist approach of keeping people scared.  Kerry was no candidate, and Edwards is an ambulance chaser.

On election night 2004 my friends and I were at the 9:30 club at the Rock the Vote party.  The crowd was full of ambitious progressive young dems hoping to get the worst president ever out of office.  Big tubs of campaign on ice were waiting in the hallway for the moment Ohio would turn blue on the bigscreen.  We fell silent around 2 am when it turned solid red.  A few people actually cried.  It was a tough loss to take, and going home felt like the walk of shame.  Loud republican motorcades were all over the city late that night and It was hard to sleep.

Over the course of the next few days the buzz was that you were suiting up to run in the primary next time around, and that gave us hope.  Hope that somebody would fix the mess and vacate bush policy.  Hope the next president would actually be “OF” the people and “FOR” the people.  Not a rich businessman or a chump that married any heiress.  We wanted a guy who went to the gym at Wash Sports Center Chinatown, and ran his ass off on those stair climbing machines.  If I had went to the gym more often instead of watching daily show reruns I could have worked out with Barack Obama.  You really did a good job of acting normal despite everybody in the gym is looking at you.  No SS troops to keep people from saying hello, when people approached you always said “hello.”  That’s one of the reasons I’m such a fan, you always spoke to me and one once loaned me a quarter at the Gatorade machine because I was short.  Definitely in the tank.

I stopped going to that gym but have told the story many times.  Currently I am a student at the University of Kentucky, I had to leave Washington for a couple years but am moving back when I graduate.  I know most people are having a hard time finding work due to the current economic situation, but if Washington is under democratic control things will improve. I would like to do PR for candidates, maybe become someones press secretary.  Perhaps you could direct me to someone that needs help and actually pays.

You have a big week ahead of you.  You have ran a very honest and sincere campaign and have done a better than average job of explaining what the plan is.  People follow you when you talk, perhaps its the law prof in you, but it works.  This morning on the way to class some people found a chickenshit redneck display of social ignorance, it was a dummy with an Obama mask hanging from a tree.  The school president got all hot and bothered over it and is offering a personal apology to you and your family.  He would really like to tell you in person if the situation warranted.  Frankly I think a speaking engagement at the university would be a wise idea, you haven’t came to Kentucky a single time since you announced your run.  I understand our 8 votes usually turn red weeks before a presidential election, but this place is greatly misunderstood and we have lots of swing voters.  Our voters will vote for a yellow dog democrat if you prop him up, just not usually for a presidential election.  However it could still earn you an extra slate of voters, and send a big “F-you” to the morons that hung up the dummy.

I wish you luck and pray for a fair election.  Please repair the extensive damage done in the past eight years.  You do realize you will have two wars, possible cold war, deficit, bad economy, and shitty traffic around the beltway to deal with before your term would even start.  Don’t forget you are the white knight, and we have very high hopes.  Madeye Moody says “Constant Vigilance” and thats good advice for anybody.  If you win it will show real progress in America, the kind that makes us proud to be Americans again.

Come to Kentucky, I owe you a quarter