Couple of political things to note

Mayoral candidate Andy Rusk is having his kickoff party on Friday Jan. 6 at Tasty World. He's got some bands lined up, and the soiree begins at around 8:00 pm. Check it out.

On Thursday night, January 5, Candidate for Superintendant of Schools Carlotta Harrell is coming to hang out with the Oconee County Democrats at their monthly meeting. The shindig will get crunk at 7:00 pm in the Board of Commissioners Chamber in the Oconee County Courthouse. Questions? Email Dan Matthews of the Oconee County Democratic Party. Here's Carlotta Harrell's website.

Happy New Year!


Let's Talk About Edumacation

Say what you will about the School Board here in Clarke County (and we’ve definitely said our piece at AthPo), they’re at least representative of the students they purportedly serve – in the sense that, like the students, the board seems to have the critical thinking skills of Kevin Federline after a six-day bender.

Actually, I’d put the students’ critical thinking abilities up against the school board’s any day of the week. I’m pretty sure that your average 6th grader, even the ones educated in Clarke County, could tell you that it’s a good idea to screen the people who will be spending large amounts of time around students, you know, just to make sure they aren’t child molesters or anything.

Of course, I’m just singing backup to what Jim Thompson wrote yesterday. Sez Jim:
“There's still something you can do to directly affect the quality of public education in Clarke County.
“You can vote.”
Not that Jim would be encouraging people not to vote if he were happy with the Board of Education, but one can still safely presume that, like many of us, he’s just a skosh displeased with the way the Board has been handling the business of educating our kids.
I’ve been giving this one a lot of thought lately, and while there is middle ground with respect to voting most, if not all, of the Board out of office, the first thing you do when you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging.
The problems with the Board of Education go deeper than taking two years to come to a conclusion on background checks, as the ABH editorializes today. It goes deeper than the need for arts education, as the ABH reports today.
The problem is Chernobyl-style failure of leadership.
Now, you can’t pin those leadership failures entirely on Board President Jackie Saindon. There’s plenty of responsibility to go around among the other eight members of the Board, not to mention the Superintendant and his underlings.
Of course, ousting the BOE en masse is not going to happen. We know that. In a year where ACC voters have to deal with competitive races for governor, lieutenant governor, various state legislative seats, and what might be a barnburner of a non-partisan mayor’s race, school board seats are not going to sucking away much time or energy. Also, it goes without saying that finding good candidates to run for local office against entrenched incumbents is slightly more difficult than herding cats. Wet, pissed off cats who forgot to take their lithium.
Is it too late for the Board of Edumacation to turn things around? No, not at all. But unless the elected officials and the school district administration start showing some leadership, the students and teachers and the community as a whole will continue to suffer.
Time to stop digging.


Ben Epps Intergalactic Airport

...who says service in the airline industry is dead? I actually got a Christmas card from the U.S. Airways Express operation here in Athens, which, trust you me, is far better than the "Baggage Irregularity Report" I usually get from other U.S. Airways stations at various times during the year.

But, to make this a "slice of life" type post, I'm really quite surprised at how many people around here don't realize that Athens truly does have commerical air service. And while it doesn't thrill me that Ben Epps Airport is named for someone who went to the North Avenue Trade School (at least he had the good sense to drop out), it absolutely delights me that I can save about 90 miles each way plus time, effort, hassle, frustration, traffic and parking costs by flying in and out of our own little field.

In the last six to nine months or so, I've noticed that the rates from Athens to most major east coast and mid-west destinations to which I've flown have harmonized with the fares out of Atlanta (at least on 14-21 day adavance fares). But even if Atlanta is pricing out less, once you factor $.42/mile for your car, $9/day for parking plus the time driving to and from the south side of Atlanta (and leave enough time to go through security and ride the train to your gate), the bottom line starts to even out pretty quickly.

One caveat: you need to be able to walk out onto the tarmac and board a Beechcraft 1900-D "airliner." Think of it like the Krystal of airplanes...it's a bit on the small side. But once they let you off in Charlotte an hour later, you get on a real plane and end up where you need to be.

So, SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!! This is just between you, me and corn. Don't tell anyone else about one of the Classic City's best kept secrets.


More on the arrested day laborers

Many Athenians are concerned about the mass arrest of Hispanic day laborers at the Home Depot parking lot on Thursday, December 1 by the Oconee County Sheriff's Department. See "31 seeking day labor arrested in Home Depot lot", Athens Banner-Herald, December 2, 2005. The article reported that the sheriff's department had been receiving many complaints about the conduct of certain day laborers for a long period of time. It was said that they have verbally harassed customers in the parking lot, and the December 1 newscast of News Source 15 showing the arrests also reported there had been complaints of some urinating in public. The icing on the cake was that a shelter adjacent to the parking lot was erected for the use of waiting day laborers, but many continued to stand elsewhere and generate complaints, despite many verbal warnings by deputies and fliers posted at Home Depot. (I did not see any fliers as I drove by the Home Depot storefront today.)

The first thing that Oconee County Sheriff Scott Berry wanted me to know was that the arrest was a very open process accompanied by a reporter from the University of Georgia's News Source 15, something the Athens Banner-Herald did not report. He also emphasized that his office was not interested in the men's immigration status and that he does not have authority over immigration.

The men were not identified nor were they questioned before they were arrested, said Sheriff Berry. However, before a police officer may arrest someone under the charge of loitering or prowling, Georgia's loitering statute requires a police officer to "afford the person an opportunity to dispel any alarm or immediate concern ... by requesting the person to identify himself and explain his presence and conduct." Ga. Code Ann. § 16-11-36 (West 2005). Berry responded to this by saying that the men were charged under Oconee County's loitering ordinance which does not require this questioning before an arrest may be made, and the magistrate handling the charges will decide how to proceed. But both Oconee County's ordinance and Georgia's ordinance are worded very similarly since they are based on Model Penal Code § 250.6, and they include the requirement for asking the person to identify himself and explain his conduct. The text of the county ordinance appears at the end of this article.

However, the deputies did speak to the men before arresting them, and they brought translators to help, said Lynnsey Gardner, the News Source 15 videographer at the scene. She described the process as "peaceful" and gave an account showing that the operation was conducted professionally. She said that the parking lot was staked out for a while beginning before 7:00 a.m. in advance of the arrests. She said that some day laborers waiting at the shelter and thus not arrested actually approved of the roundup, though some with poorer English thought it was unjust.

Sheriff Berry said that of the 31 arrested, two were juveniles who were released from the jail facility without charges. Of the remaining 29, one was wanted by Athens-Clarke County on previous charges and another was additionally charged with giving a false name. He provided a copy of the incident report supplemented by 24 complaints on loitering by Hispanic day laborers documented since August 21, 2003. The dispatch report from Thursday's operation shows that deputies entered the scene at 8:11 a.m., 14 units of personnel were involved (including the sheriff), and 30 people were transported.

A lot of the complaints dispatched were described as a "neighborhood complaint" or "suspicious person," and most were reported from 1720 Epps Bridge Road. Some of the remarks recorded are "30-40 men in front of the cafe on the corner," "Hispanic males loit[er]ing in the parking lot," "H/M standing outside their business," "Mexican man ... soliciting bank and pedestrians to sell CD's and credit card," "day laborers out in parking lot outside of the area set aside for them," and "white 4dr truck that conducting business and the daylaborers are in the rd."


Oconee County's loitering ordinance:

Loitering or Prowling.

(a) A person commits the offense of loitering or prowling when that person is in a place, at a time or in a manner not usual for law-abiding individuals, under circumstances that warrant a justifiable and reasonable alarm or immediate concern for the safety of persons or property in the vicinity or under circumstances which cause a justifiable and reasonable alarm or immediate concern that such person is involved in unlawful activity.

(b) The circumstances which may be considered in determining whether alarm or concern is warranted include, but are not limited to, the following: taking flight upon the appearance of a law enforcement officer; refusing to identify oneself; or manifestly endeavoring to conceal oneself or any object. Unless flight by the person or other circumstances makes it impractical, a law enforcement officer shall, prior to arrest for an offense under this section, afford the person an opportunity to dispel any alarm or immediate concern which would otherwise be warranted by allowing the person to produce satisfactory identification and an explanation of that person's presence and conduct.

Oconee County, Ga., Criminal Ordinance § 10 (undated copy).

Holiday safety message

I'm glad I was home to answer the phone. The police department's Reverse 911 system called us with a holiday safety reminder message. Something about locking doors and taking portable valuables if leaving town. The last message I heard was something about a community meeting in East Athens.


Lumpkin House myth

Wilson Lumpkin House

The Lumpkin House, built by the nineteenth-century Georgia politician Wilson Lumpkin, is on the University of Georgia campus. His daughter, Martha Compton, sold the house and the surrounding acreage to the university, and the story goes that it was conveyed only on the condition that if the house is ever torn down then the land would revert back to the family. That story explains why the old house is allowed to still stand.

That is not exactly true, however. Prof. Randy Beck from the School of Law obtained a copy of the deed and showed it to my first-year property class this semester during the segment of our course about defeasible fee simples. My classmates and I quickly deciphered the instrument as conveying a fee simple absolute with a restrictive covenant.

This means that if the university did tear down the house, they would keep the land regardless. The heirs may have standing to sue for breach of contract, however. How they would be identified and contacted in order to cooperate is anyone's guess.

So I would file this silly story behind the one about the Tree That Owns Itself.


Countywide homeowners association

Homeowners' or neighborhood associations often impose sets of rules on households that are rather extensive, invasive, and restrictive. The rules don't simply ''preserve'' property values since various and conflicting standards actually determine those values. The rules instead specify neighborhood standards to establish a cohesive culture and uniform designs, and some of the rules involved are idiosyncratic. Both aesthetics and nuisances are regulated by a central plan. Deed restrictions alone may accomplish some planning, but with an enforcement entity -- a homeowners' association -- they are more effective.

Homeowners' associations have fostered islands of greater regulation and planning among the variety of neighborhoods that exist in population centers. Residents can exercise their free choice to live where they wish, seeking or avoiding such regulation to match their own taste. Athens-Clarke County, however, has increasingly expanded its municipal regulations of residential properties to the point of restricting the free lifestyle choices that are traditionally available in a population center. The county government here has intruded into household privacy to the extent that we usually only allow a private association to do with our prior permission and free choice. Strict regulation and idiosyncratic rules should not be imposed across a range of people with different lifestyles and economic backgrounds by officials that do not even share their ZIP codes.

Let me get to the point: Athens-Clarke County has become more strict in the realm of enforcement than even homeowners' associations. Associations are now the oases of relaxed regulation in terms of enforcement. It is really confusing! Sure, associations are more invasive as far as landscaping and mailbox color, but one would much rather get in trouble with an association than the county's Department of Building Permits and Inspections. To illustrate this point, let's compare enforcement by a sample association in Athens with that of the county government.

First rule violation
Assn.: written warning
County: $50 fine

Second rule violation
Assn.: $25 fine
County: fine of $50 or more

Failure to pay fine
Assn.: property lien
County: criminal proceedings
possible jail time or $1000 fine


Innocent man on death row 17 years

Juan Melendez was sentenced to death in Florida for a crime he did not commit. He spoke at the University of Georgia yesterday to tell us about his life, conviction, imprisonment, and exoneration. He urged everyone to take a stand against the death penalty because of the high chance that defendants are innocent and because of the unnecessary collateral damage that an execution brings on a second family besides the victims'.

Melendez was born in Brooklyn in 1951. He was raised in Puerto Rico where he dropped out of school in ninth grade and began working with sugar cane. He moved to the mainland U.S. and became a migrant farm worker. "Everything God created, I picked it," he said.

He was arrested in Pennsylvania in 1984 and extradited to Florida for charges of murder and armed robbery. He did not understand what was happening because he did not know English and he was very rarely provided an interpreter.

He became the victim of one those questionable plea bargains in which a criminal offers testimony as a police informant in exchange for leniency from the system. The witness implicated himself as an accomplice in the crime and lied when he said that Melendez was involved. Another questionable witness in similar circumstances also testified against him.

Melendez was also the victim of racism. The jury was composed of 11 whites and one black. His alibi was provided by black witnesses. A white woman was the holdout juror on their second vote, saying that she just didn't believe Melendez committed the crime. The foreman showed a photograph of Melendez with his hair styled in an Afro and said that a man with a haircut like that could not be innocent. The juror voted for conviction.

Worse than the false testimony or the mindless jury was the misconduct of the prosecutor and the defense attorney. In the events that led to the retrial that exonerated Melendez, the files of his former defense attorney were searched and revealed an audiotape of a confession by the real killer. The prosecutor's files revealed a transcript of that confession plus 16 corroborating documents.

The prosecutor that robbed Melendez of over 17 years of his life is still prosecuting, and the defense attorney that let him do it is a judge, yet law is supposed to be a respectable, ethical profession. It reminds me of the saying that the criminal justice system gives you results that are just that -- they are either criminal or they are justice. The lawyer that accompanied Melendez told us that there has been one exoneration for every eight executions, which means there is no certainty that the people the system is executing are actually guilty.

While he was in prison, Melendez shared a cell with rats and...roaches. He had thoughts of suicide, and with four postage stamps he bought the trash bag from another inmate with which he could hang himself. First, however, he went to sleep, and he had a dream that he was swimming in the ocean where he saw four dolphins, and he felt happy. He saw his mother on the shore and could see that she was smiling -- because he was happy. Thus began a cycle of dreams that brought him hope, so he flushed his trash bag down the toilet.

Melendez also got a lot of support from his family members and his pen pals. Through photos he could watch his relatives grow up, and his mother prayed for a miracle to release him. He renewed his Christian faith just as a lot of inmates became spiritual in search of a higher power. It made him angry, though, when one of his inmate friends died one week before the friend's new trial was granted. The nurse that could have saved his life slowly walked back and forth between the clinic and the inmate, making two trips for equipment and spitting tobacco juice along the way. He allowed Melendez to attempt mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but by then it was too late.

Melendez said, "I was not saved by the system -- I was savied in spite of the system. I was saved by the grace of God." His defense attorney had to leave his case, and since the attorney had become a judge in the same county, Melendez's case was moved to another county. Whereas previously Melendez said he was not rich like O.J. Simpson and had to rely on the public defender's office, he now got new lawyers. "I finally got the dream team," he said.

Melendez had learned to read and write English from his fellow inmates, so he understood the process the second time around. He was turned out of prison with clothes and $100. Florida does not have a compensation program for wrongful convictions.


Town and Gown Players: The Children's Hour

I already wrote a little about 'The Children's Hour' starting this Friday at the Athens Community Theater. Now I've met the cast and seen how interesting this show is going to be. Basically, it involves a brat named Mary that doesn't like her boarding school, so she tells her grandmother that her teachers are lesbians.

Town and Gown Players Town and Gown Players Town and Gown Players

As you can imagine, this is quite troubling. You could say that people get out of sorts. You could say that parents yank their girls out of the school really fast, and I imagine that leaving town on splintery rails might be involved later in the show. It is all a devious lie that evil Mary comes up with. I don't know this story, so at least I think it's a lie. Yeah, it's a lie, because she is very manipulative, and she is almost caught in her lie at first, though she either cons her way out of it at a classmate's expense or at maybe just gets to tread water for a while.

The story is really about "the frightening tendency of innuendo to take on a life of its own," or at least the program will say so. It will be interesting to see where the story and its implications lead.

Now, let's get down to business. The set is a real piece of work and the cast is having a lot of fun. Chip Robeson explained to me that the whole production is based on viewpoints perspectives, and he tried to convince me that it wasn't "hippie" nonsense. He says the concept places a lot of emphasis on using space to strengthen the acting and promote communication with the audience. An actor can try different positions on stage to find one that offers the appropriate power for the scene. The space is carefully divided to use the intimate space near the front of the stage and the public space at the rear. Act II involves intimate dialogues and an intimate setting, so the rear wall of the set sits closer to the audience, and it is intended that the wall of the other acts is visible behind it to remind us of that public setting beyond.

Viewpoints perspectives also involve smell. Yes, a carefully crafted olfactory performance is included in the show! Aromatic oils will be dispersed in the air to enhance the scenes. Chip kept some of the scents a secret for now, but I did smell burning wood when a fireplace appeared during rehearsal.

Katie Benfield is directing, and she learned about the viewpoints perspectives from the Broadway director that promoted the concept. Julia Wilson is the assistant director.

Rebecca Douglas brings us the most wicked Mary possible. This schoolgirl is like the worst conniving brat you've ever known. Rebecca can probably transfer some of her real-life sarcasm and withering wit to this character. She can also try to run me down with a bus if I write anything bad about her.

Jessica Royals plays Martha Dobie as an earnest and innocent young teacher with a fear of abandonment by her teaching partner, who is engaged to be married, and that concern is replaced by a wrenching mix of anger, sadness, and fear when Mary's lie is recklessly broadcasted. Brooke Bender as Karen Wright shares those emotions with her friend after the lie, but until then she really acted like a teacher, which is kind of scary.

Joy Leathers as Amelia Tilford is probably like any of our own grandmothers, going from the warm, sweet granny at one moment to the stern grandmother at the next. I'll also mention Maggie Packer's role as Rosalie Wells, a classmate of Mary's, because this poor girl is completely frightened of Mary. Seeing her struggle against Mary's threats and manipulation and repeatedly caving in just makes us hate Mary so much more. Mary tries to get dirt on everyone so she can blackmail them later.

There will be seven performances on September 30 through October 2 and October 6 through October 9. Sundays will have matinees at 2 p.m., and all other shows will be at 8 p.m. Ticket prices range from $5 to $12, and you should make reservations by calling (706) 208-TOWN. Visit the website of The Town and Gown Players to learn more, including how to order season tickets.


Francois Frog goes to court

Our main news outlets have already reported that Danna Lea, owner of Athena Jewelers at 228 East Clayton Street, was written a $1,000 citation for displaying a sculpture on the sidewalk as she has been doing for over 14 years. The sculpture has been traditionally displayed with its companion piece, a sitting frog, that Lea stopped displaying when county officials ordered her to remove the bench it used to sit on, a bench that Lea says the county government itself installed a number of years ago.

Athens-Clarke County Community Protection Division code enforcement officer David Eisele wrote the ticket for a violation of the recently revised ordinance concerning sidewalk signs. Lea says that as he began writing the ticket she moved the sculpture into the building's alcove at the front window so that the base of the statue was resting off the sidewalk and on private property, but he issued the citation anyway. A phone call to Eisele was returned by Ken Hix of the Building Permits and Inspections Department who said it was against policy to comment on open cases. (The CPD is a division of that department.)

Lea's arraignment for the charge was held on August 12, and a trial date was set for September 22 at 1:30 in Athens-Clarke County Municipal Court. Her attorney John Knight says that the CPD issued the ticket because the statue was protruding a few inches over the edge of the sidewalk at a restricted height. Knight said that the ordinance is unconstitutional because it infringes on freedom of expression under the First Amendment as well as the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. He says the equal protection violation stems from the fact that the ordinance is selectively tailored and applied to certain items that lie on the public sidewalk but not others. For instance, the county commission has sanctioned the placement of bulldog statues on many sidewalk locations as well as the newspaper table at Barnett's Newsstand, yet Lea's statue protruding less than six inches over the sidewalk subjects her to a criminal charge.

Athens-Banner Herald stories indicate that the impetus for the sign ordinance revision was brought to the county commission by a blind downtown resident. He complained of the dangers presented to his pathway on the sidewalk, including commercial signs and road construction barriers. Lea says that this concern does not square with a citation recently given to Angelo's Italian Restaurant at 275 East Clayton Street: she says that it received a sign ordinance citation for a sign that was placed on a sidewalk dining table. The tables are legally placed on the sidewalk under the sidewalk cafe licensing ordinance and surrounded by the prescribed railing, so the sign presents no danger to pedestrians.

Knight expresses concern that the government in a community normally tolerant of artistic expression is taking measures that reduce expression. "The citizens of Athens should be outraged," he writes. "We are confident that our Municipal Court is immune to political pressure and we have no doubt that the Court will find this problematic ordinance to be unconstitutional." Knight and Lea also say that the ordinance technically does not even apply to the sculpture since it is directed at signs and merchandise.

Lea says that the various new measures taken by the county commission are presenting an increasing level of hardship for downtown business owners. She says it is difficult to earn a living as a single mother in these conditions, so she also works in Greensboro every week. She and her assistant Tom have frequently talked of closing shop, but it seems that their passions for their work keep them going.

Lea says that the sign ordinance particularly hits hard the owners of businesses that operate off the main street level. Dynamite Clothing, for example, is no longer able to advertise its basement store with a sidewalk sign and thus escapes the notice of downtown shoppers.

The introduction of the sign ordinance was particularly unhelpful, according to Lea. She says at the time of the revision that copies of the new code were unavailable though promised to be quickly delivered to downtown business owners. However, her first notice of the ordinance was not a copy but a $1,000 citation.

Lea says that Knight is representing her on essentially a pro bono basis, but she is accepting donations for a legal defense fund.

Dan Conger of the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce says that their Local Impact Committee investigates regulatory issues that affect the downtown area. This committe meets at 10:30 on the second and fourth Wednesday each month. This writer will try to bring you information about their discussions soon.


Play D.D.

Some mad comic skills will be converging on the stage at Athens Community Theater next week. Don't worry if you think your attention span is short and that you'd rather watch television than see a cultural event: This performance is like television, pleasantly devoid of high culture, too (though if you want you can enjoy the cultural implications and commentary and whatnot). "Play D. D." is a series of 30 skits that appear across five different television channels that a monkey with a short attention span is flipping through. And that's not all! There are also commercials plus -- and this is a lot of fun -- six improv segments for which you as an audience member will have the chance to provide ideas. The writers of this thing are interested in how Neil Postman has claimed that the average shot on television lasts for only three and a half seconds, so they are taking advantage of our short attention spans.

Who is the mastermind behind this upcoming performance? I tried to find out when I met the actors for their first rehearsal inside the Athens Community Theater. They tried to prevent me from finding out, deflecting all credit for various details to other members or to the whole group. In fact, as I watched them discuss the scripts and brainstorm over changes and details, I saw continuous cooperation among them that is rare between intimate lovers, much less among six people who love the spotlight. The Town & Gown Players website, however, accuses Katie Benfield of directing this second stage performance, and it also credits Anton Chekhov as a writer, to which I pose the question, WTF?

The players all have day jobs and a number of experiences that have really brought them together. They have worked together in recent Town & Gown Player's mainstage productions, including "Les Liaisons Dangereuses," "I Hate Hamlet," and "The Suitors."

Brooke Hatfield works for a Madison County newspaper. She says that, yes, she is descended from the Hatfields of that little Hatfield and McCoy spat a few years back. Brooke injects a lot of spontaneous hilarity as well as a lot of energy into their skits. She is also known for her sarcasm and her writing skills

Joe Cerniglia is a waiter and a bartender on top of writing poetry and acting. Joe has the comic personality -- sometimes appropriately subtle or deadpan -- that captures the message being sent and holds the scenes together. He is known as their Joey Tribiani look-alike.

Katie Benfield is a speech and language pathologist for St. Mary's Health Care System. In a flash she goes from being businesslike when laying out her ideas or instructing stage combat to becoming the funniest and most interesting characters. She has shared her improv techniques gained from her theater experience in Colorado.

Will Riley is a customer service director. Will is versatile and his characters are always, always funny but somehow believable since you think you must know people like them, and, boy, oh boy, what fun he is making of them! He claims to be anal-retentive.

Julia Wilson is a social worker. Will says she is "best described as wholesome with an edge." Edgy indeed, when you least expect it, too. I didn't get a chance to talk to her long.

Joe Costello teaches children and mans a crisis hotline. His size and his beard are striking, and he is incredibly animated on the stage. You'll be scared when you see him tackle his colleagues in one skit. He appeared as an extra in the film "Napoleon Dynamite" (his lines were cut).

This is the first performance by these silly, sassy six as a new group. They haven't even named their troupe, though they briefly considered the proposals of "Shiny Object All-Stars" and "The Meat and Potatoes of Town & Gown." They are interested in putting on more shows together, but Cerniglia plans to move to New York in a few months with plans for acting on a professional basis. All six contributed to the writing of this play.

There will be five performances, and the troupe encourages you to attend the shows at eleven p.m. because the theater on Grady Avenue is located close to many of Athens' bars. The skits will be saucy and use foul langugage, so don't plan on bringing children or Brooke's parents.

What: "Play D. D.," comedy skits and improv
Who: Six monkeys
When: June 10 (8 and 11 p.m.), June 11 (8 and 11 p.m.), and June 12 (2 p.m.)
Where: Athens Community Theater, 136 Grady Avenue, Athens, GA (behind the Taylor-Grady House)
How much: $5 for all shows, no reservations required
For more information: Call (706) 208-8696


49 years of bicycle commuting

I asked Prof. Bob Burton what he thought of the recent discussion in the Athens Banner-Herald about the viability of commuting by bicycle. He said he hadn't kept up with it but agreed the editorial that started it sounded silly. Basically, the ABH said that commuting by bicycle is impractical and accomodating it is a waste of money. Bob said he has been using a bicycle at the university for 49 years, beginning in his undergraduate days. When he lived in Reed Hall he thought he may have had the only bicycle on campus, and as a reaction to this transportation choice someone put his bicycle in a tree. He got it out somehow. Many mornings I see him riding down Jackson Street on his way to Peabody Hall. Of course, it helps to have your own office to make it easier to store your belongings and change out of your Spandex duds.


Fragrant intellectual visitor

The worst problem my friend is experiencing from his house guest is that this visitor has taken about one shower in the two weeks since he arrived. My friend offered to wash his clothes, but he said, no, he didn't want detergent on his clothes. The visitor is supposedly still recovering from time living in a tent in Athens and following a guru he believed to be Jesus Christ. It seems that the visitor doesn't have his personal convictions in order because he is shifting among different ideas on a daily basis. My friend had been warned that this man was obviously a little different because he was seen dancing in circles along the streets of his hometown. This visitor is well-read and intellectually challenging, though, so I wouldn't even begin to question his searchings. The visitor has procured items that suit his vegan diet during his stay, and my friend has enjoyed the new abundance of interesting bagels and whatnot. My friend's apartment is near campus and downtown, so the visitor has the heart of Athens at his disposal.


MTV's 'Room Raiders'

It has been interesting to see some of the episodes of "Room Raiders" on MTV that were taped in Athens, although the show is nutty and I don't find the premise interesting since the concept is basically aimed at teenagers. I first saw the episode in which Robin from "Real World San Diego" raided rooms, and it was really neat to get a peek inside the crazy-colored houses in Mandyville where the guys live. I also saw the episode of the uber-Christian dawg raiding the rooms of those girls that lived in different places. He was so insane that I had laugh at the humility that the girls must have felt for being on the show -- especially when he stripped naked and played that girl's guitar. I quickly figured that instead of one winner there would be two -- the loser would be the girl he picked for a date, and it ended up being the girl that models and seems to have nothing in common with him.

Of course I realize that MTV shows are heavily edited to present what the director wants to show, and there has been a lot of talk about how fake "Room Raiders" is, so I won't presume that the participants' personalities were realistically portrayed whenever I might see these fellow UGA students around town. Bunny McIntosh wrote about her experience and how they put words in her mouth, and Lizzy Vincent submitted this comment to Athens World:

I too was on Mtv Room Raiders. The experience over all was quite fun, but needless to say, there were many scenarios that were not true. I was told 'what to wear' for my bio (I was told to button up a shirt all the way & it looks so tacky), I was told to include in 'my hobbies' that I enjoy playing violin (which I have not played since 4th grade). Everyone was really nice, but the bad part of our taping was that is was like 80 something degrees outside and in the van covered with soundproof material due to the airplanes overhead, the van was like 90 something. With all of the people in the vn, the air was hot and humid. All three of us girls were drenched in our own sweat! We kept having to say 'please cut' so we could turn around an wipe ourselves fown with paper towels! I have naturally thick, semi-curly hair which I straighten flat with a Helen of Troy Gold series hair iron. The humidity was making my hair pouf up and get wavy. Giselle, one of the girls in the van, had the same situation, but her hair was getting worse than mine, and her face was glowing from the sweat. Stephanie (the thrid girl) was not as phased as we were.

Our Raider, Brandon, was dressed up as a 1st class hillbilly -- fake bubba teeth, fake acne, fake nosehair, fake farmer tan lines, greasy hair, a nasty white cut off shirt, 80's jeans, and loafers or slippers. He spoke in a fake redneck accent for effect. At the end, he made an 'unexpected ugly duckling to swan transformation.' We had to act like we had NO CLUE what was really going on. Hmm.

I hope you had fun on the set; we had an interesting experience. :) Take care, and I'll look out for your episode. Check for mine. The 'Hotlanta' episodes started Monday the 10th. New episodes air every day at 4:30. You will recognize my episode -- I am the long haired blonde sitting between two petitie short haired brunettes. I am wearing a light pink California t-shirt and jeans.


So it might be nice to see the participants in an authentic setting, but it still looks like it must have been fun and crazy.


Prophet Charles

He said his name was "Charles, Prophet Charles." He lives in a tent and ministers full-time, though he is infinitely better groomed than your average tent dweller. He said he was going downtown to spread the Word. He explained that he gets money by simply finding it on the sidewalk downtown -- presumably dropped by drunk people -- and sometimes it's huge wads of cash. God tells him where to walk to find it. I've certainly never found anything more than a dime downtown, so who am I to doubt his divine influence.


Map room

My grandfather Richard Merchant visited Athens today. I learned that for two years in the 1940s he worked for the Sanborn Map Company in New York. Just this week Tim, who has been reading this blog and will hopefully soon write here, wrote to me about the Sanborn fire insurance map collection at UGA. I called Tim to ask where we might find them, and he told me to go to the Map Room at the Science Library.

In the Map Room we met Tom Hardaway, and we told him about our interest in the Sanborn maps. We figured it might be nice to find a map from approximately the time Richard worked for the company. Tom found a map of Dalton, Georgia, from 1941, and he offered to give us a special viewing of the original color map, explaining that he normally directs patrons to the black-and-white microfilm copies. (After all, Richard was the assistant foreman in the coloring department, so he could appreciate the full color version better.) Tom was kind enough to engage Richard in telling a bit about his life story and found other maps that interested him. Richard talked about his mapmaking experience with Sanborn and the Air Force, and Tom told us that fire insurance maps are not even printed on paper anymore in the computer age. Another staff member, John, joined us for a while, and he gave my grandfather a copy of a "Soldier's Map of Atlanta" from the 1940s.

Map Room at Science Library Map Room at the University of Georgia