Monday, December 31, 2007

What Must They Think?

It is always refreshing to be enlightened by the journalistic emanations from the penumbra of civilization in Central Arkansas. It lets us know what the elite and effete think of us up here in Northwest Arkansas, holding up a mirror to our own venality and vanity. We can be glad that it only happens every so often: once when we elect goofball zealots to public office, and once when columnists write their year-end reflections.

In their "Best & Worst of 2007," the staff of Arkansas Business declared Northwest Arkansas the winner of
Best Place to Be a Bankruptcy Attorney. With the northwest Arkansas housing market taking a dive in 2007, bankruptcy attorneys there stayed plenty busy. At the end of the year, at least 16 residential contractors had filed for bankruptcy protection, each listing more than $1 million in debts. One bankruptcy attorney, Theresa L. Pockrus of Fayetteville, told Arkansas Business in June: "I have visited with numerous clients related to the contraction industry. We haven't seen the end of it yet."

Northwest Arkansas received much more attention in the B&W 2007 cover story by Bob Lancaster in the Arkansas Times. Great columnist in the state's best newspaper. Here are a few of them:

Worst excuse. The mayor of Centerton (pop. 6,743) since 2001 resigned in November after disclosing that his life before coming to the Bentonville suburb more than 20 years ago had been one of multiple identities in which, starting out as a clergyman in New York state, he was relentlessly hounded across the country by a gang of evil Satanists intent on capturing and brainwashing him. He seems to have started and deserted several families along the way. The devil-worshippers caught him at least once, he said, forcing him into the back of a van and erasing five years from his memory with an electric torture device. And from there, the story gets really strange.

Worst class to attend if you're a raccoon. An agri/shop teacher killed a live, caged raccoon with a nail gun in November at the start of a Huntsville High School class on wildlife skinning. School authorities saw no need for a reprimand or anything, and in fact with all the attention the coon-killer teacher became something of a folk hero at Huntsville, one admirer showing support by killing and skinning a dog and hanging the carcass on the gatepost of another Huntsville teacher who was thought to have reported the original coon-killing to the Humane Society.

Best Duggar. Michelle (Mrs. Jim Bob) Duggar of Springdale popped her 417th natural-born child, a girl, in early August. Only a slight exaggeration.

Worst drama. Ill-advised e-mailings and cell-phone calls apparently cost Houston Nutt, the 10-year head football coach at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, what he called the “dream job of a lifetime” as he was allowed to resign in November and lug away a hefty severance to coach the lowly Rebs at Ole Miss. The UA coaching melodrama played out over a year and it was so tacky, so trashy in so many respects, that it was finally sad, maybe pathetic, for what it said about everyone involved in it, the fans included.

Worst seasoning for green beans. A Siloam Springs cannery offered $100 in October as a "goodwill gesture" to a Utah woman who found a severed mouse head in a can of the company's green beans that she'd bought at Wal-Mart. She saw the $100 as a hush-money offer, and declined it, and said she would continue to speak out for a mousehead-free canning process.

Best '07 Arkansas tourist destinations. If you were the type who'd rather not have your every move scrutinized by authorities manning a 24-7 surveillance camera atop a 200-foot transmission tower, anywhere but Lowell. If your idea of a landmark worth visiting wasn't a giant hole in the ground dug at taxpayer expense with money filched from schoolchildren, anywhere but Fayetteville. If your papers maybe weren't exactly 1,000 percent in order, with every “i” crossed and every “t” dotted, or even if they were, anywhere but Rogers. If you planned to take any pets, livestock, or other living creatures along with you, and preferred that they not be killed with a nail gun and skint on the spot, anywhere but Huntsville.

Best infiltrator. Benton County's only Democrat — not only its only Democratic office-holder, its only Democrat, period — announced in May that because he aspired to higher elective office he would be switching parties.

Worst overpaid. Dr. Jay P. Greene of the University of Arkansas School of Education Reform at Fayetteville, pulling down $160,000 a year of pub ed money to advance a blowhard conservative political agenda, argued in a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece in January that public school teachers, few of whom make half as much as he does, are paid too much.

Best wish list. A civic survey in January asked Green Forest residents what they'd like to see in the way of development in their home town. The local paper summarized their wish list: “A small-town atmosphere that is safe and friendly, good jobs, nice restaurants, big box stores like Wal-Mart or Target, and a major community center…” Otherwise they were pretty much satisfied with the place the way it is.

Worst image. John White's “golden handcuffs.”

Worst worrier about losing the breeding war to blacks. Sen. Denny Altes.

Now that you've got the hang of it, feel free to add your own nominations for 2007's Best and Worst of Northwest Arkansas in the comments section.

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