Friday, September 28, 2007

Asheville Revisited

Jenny Warburg for The New York Times

Grove Arcade, built 1929.


Published: September 30, 2007

The New York Times

September 30, 2007

36 Hours in Asheville, N.C.

Asheville is an Appalachian Shangri-La. This year-round resort town, tucked between the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains, draws a funky mix of New Agers, fleece-clad mountain bikers, antiques lovers and old-time farmers. And what's there not to like? Charming yet surprisingly cosmopolitan for a town of about 73,000, Asheville has a Southern appeal all its own. There are lazy cafes and buzzing bistros, Art Deco skyscrapers and arcades reminiscent of Paris, kayaking and biodiesel cooperatives and one of the world's largest private homes — the Biltmore Estate, a French Renaissance-style mansion with 250 rooms. No wonder so many locals first started out as tourists.


5 p.m.

For a taste of Asheville's urbane and crunchy sides, start at the Grove Arcade (1 Page Avenue; 828-252-7799;, a giant market built in 1929 and beautifully restored a few years ago. It now anchors downtown Asheville. The Grove Corner Market (corner of Battery Park and O. Henry; 828-225-4949) has fresh bread, wine tastings and live music. Imladris Farm (828-628-9377; sells heavenly jellies and jams ($7). And Dogwood Digs (828-337-0541) carries batik-pattern dresses starting at $32. Or just stroll along the sidewalk outside the arcade and mingle with the Bugaboo pushers and artists buying honey, jewelry and handmade soaps from local merchants.

8 p.m.

Asheville's eclectic dining scene varies from backwoods barbecue joints to sumptuous ethnic hideaways like Mela (70 North Lexington Avenue; 828-225-8880;, an Indian restaurant that blends imported spices with local ingredients. The dark, wood-paneled space draws a mixed crowd with dishes like Chowpatty ragada, potato patties topped with curried chickpeas, tamarind yogurt and mint chutney ($5.95), and shrimp bhuna, cooked with ginger, tomatoes and green chilies ($13.95). Wash it down with a Chimay beer, brewed by Belgian Trappist monks ($7), or a glass of Champalou Vouvray ($8). After 10, dining tables are cleared to make way for a salsa club.

10 p.m.

The Old Europe Bistro (41 North Lexington Avenue; 828-252-0001; is what you might expect from Asheville night life: couples sipping espressos and sharing a plate of tiramisù ($4). But if you feel like dancing to hip-hop and electronica, played by “the region's hottest D.J.'s,” head to the back, which the bistro owners have turned into the Z Lounge. The low-ceilinged space, with red sofas and faux flagstone walls, is popular with Asheville's young professionals.


10 a.m.

Grab a hearty but healthy breakfast at the Early Girl Eatery (8 Wall Street; 828-259-9292;, a friendly haunt of hip Ashevillians for the past six years that culls its ingredients from local farmers. Try the sausage and sweet potato scramble ($7.75), a delicious mix of eggs, sausage (vegan or pork), shiitake mushrooms, spices and sweet potatoes.


It's easy to see why downtown Asheville is nicknamed “Paris of the South.” On weekends, you'll find buskers, flaneurs, artists and shoppers strolling along the historic downtown district, lined with Art Deco buildings and tree-shaded squares. Quirky shops include the Mast General Store (15 Biltmore Avenue; 828-232-1883;, which sells wooden toys, Gore-Tex parkas and gummy bears, and Voltage Records (90 North Lexington Avenue; 828-255-9333), which carries 50,000 vinyl records including an import of Iron Maiden's, “Number of the Beast” ($20). If you're in the market for art, head to Woolworth Walk (25 Haywood Street; 828-254-9234;, a former Woolworth store from 1938 that showcases about 160 artists and that recently resurrected the original soda fountain.

3 p.m.

Asheville's grittier west side is home to the up-and-coming River Arts District (828-252-9122;, where local artists are colonizing old factories and warehouses along the French Broad River. Notable studios included Northern Crescent Iron (828-775-2865;, where Matt Waldrop fashions whimsical butterfly sculptures from salvaged copper, and Cotton Mill (122 Riverside Drive; 828-252-9122;, which houses nine artists. Wedge Gallery (111-129 Roberts Street) shows works from students and other artists and plans to open a brewery in December.

6 p.m.

For great views of the Art Deco skyline framed by the Smoky Mountains, take the rickety old elevator to the top of the Flatiron Building. (Don't forget to tip the operator.) The World Coffee Cafe (18 Battery Park Avenue; 828-225-6998; recently opened three rooftop balconies, where you can savor a glass of pinot grigio as the sun sets.

7:30 p.m.

You'll find modern American cuisine in a minimalist room at Table (48 College Street; 828-254-8980;, a casual but upscale restaurant opened by a husband-and-wife team who moved back from Brooklyn. The menu changes frequently and might include fried green tomatoes with quail egg and romesco sauce ($10), and a grilled North Carolina tuna in a black sesame and soy glaze ($25).

9:30 p.m.

Scores of talented acoustic musicians call Asheville home. To hear some of the best, drive out to the Root Bar No. 1 (1410 Tunnel Road; 828-299-7597;, a dive bar with a great beer selection that includes Mahr's Ungespundet ($6), a dark lager from Germany. Look for a huge illuminated “R” across from a BP station. If you're not into the band, head to the backyard for a game of rootball, a cross between horseshoes and boccie invented by the bar's former owner, Max Chain (sets are $32). For big-name acts, check out the schedule at the Orange Peel Social Aid and Pleasure Club (101 Biltmore Avenue; 828-225-5851; ), where Bob Dylan, Sonic Youth and, more recently, Smashing Pumpkins have played.


10 a.m.

Load up for a picnic at the Western North Carolina Farmer's Market (570 Brevard Road; 828-253-1691), a bright and cavernous space where you can chew the fat (literally) with the drawling farm folk. In the fall, you'll find stands overflowing with ripe heirloom tomatoes, orange bell peppers and crisp Granny Smith apples. At the Mountain Sunshine Farms (828-258-5358; sample the one-year cured ham ($4.99 a pound), muscadine jelly ($2.96 a jar) and Amish Gouda cheese ($6.95 for three-quarters of a pound).


Take your provisions to western North Carolina's beautiful wild lands. In the autumn, the mountain air clears of its summertime haze and hardwoods explode with color. Drive south (and uphill) along the Blue Ridge Parkway, until you reach milepost 407.6 for the Mount Pisgah Trail. This three-mile trek is steep, rising 500 feet to a 5,721-foot peak. Unpack your picnic and soak in the grand panorama, which includes the gothic spires of Asheville, the Shining Rock Wilderness area and 6,684-foot Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi.


US Airways has flights from Newark to Asheville, with a change in Charlotte, starting at $329 for travel next month. It is often easier to fly directly to Greenville, S.C., about an hour by car to Asheville. Delta has nonstop flights from La Guardia Airport to Greenville, starting at about $360. A car is a must to get around; major rental companies can be found at both airports.

The plushest spot in Asheville is the Inn on Biltmore Estate (1 Antler Hill Road; 800-411-3812;, where the lavishly appointed rooms are $299 to $2,000 a night. Set on the grounds of the 8,000-acre Biltmore Estate, the inn also offers Land Rover excursions, horseback riding and fly-fishing.

Mountain Vacation Rentals (828-398-0712; offers rustic-style cabins starting at $100 a night, with choices ranging from simple cottages with kitchenettes to luxurious log cabins with Internet and huge decks.

Cedar Creek Cabins in the nearby town of Weaverville (70 South Main Street; 828-645-5531; also has nicely appointed log cabins for $150 to $225 a night.

Our Most Recent visit to Asheville:

Back to the Blue Ridge

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Go Evo

Yes, he was on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. That is how he caught so many people's attention, including mine. But his name and fame have been around for years. What a remarkable man, not afraid to take on capitalism nor the war on drugs-- He's a native Bolivian coca leaf chewing Socialist. Yet, as the article below reveals, the President of Bolivia is just what South America needs, and he offers us liberals to the North, an interesting role model:

From the NY Times:
September 18, 2007

A Radical Gives Bolivia Some Stability

COCHABAMBA, Bolivia, Sept. 14 — Evening newscasts speak of a country on the verge of balkanization. La Paz and Sucre dispute which city should be the capital. Santa Cruz, in the east, clamors for autonomy. The governor of the province encompassing this bustling city in the Andes has called on President Evo Morales to resign.

But Mr. Morales, the first Indian to govern Bolivia since the Spanish conquest almost five centuries ago, knows a thing or two about unrest, having organized protests for years as the leader of the country’s cocaleros, or coca cultivators, who fiercely resist American efforts to eradicate their crops.

“Step into my office,” said Mr. Morales, at the start of an interview at 5:45 a.m. on a Friday. He opened the door to a barren room in a decaying building here that houses the Federación del Trópico, which represents coca-leaf growers from the jungles of central Bolivia. When in Cochabamba, where he also keeps a modest home, he conducts presidential affairs from this office.

Mr. Morales’s work habits, inspired by the coca farmer’s custom of rising before dawn, have not changed since he became president in 2006. The sport-utility vehicles of the president’s motorcade sit on the curb. A BMW, one of three he uses around Bolivia, is parked nearby. So is his private jet.

For all the worries that Mr. Morales’s radicalism would create economic and political turmoil in Bolivia, the reality of his tenure is that the country is relatively stable. Social divisions and poverty remain entrenched, but Mr. Morales has surprised many, including some in the business community, with his staying power.

When asked about Bolivia’s problems, he replies with an economist’s precision. “One of the most ferocious debates in my cabinet is whether we should spend part of our foreign currency reserves,” he said, explaining how these reserves had more than doubled since he took office in January 2006, to about $4 billion. In a nod to economic orthodoxy, Mr. Morales said, “I don’t want to for now.”

Bolivia remains South America’s poorest country, with about 60 percent of the population of 9.1 million mired in poverty, making such debates crucial. Yet the results of one of Mr. Morales’s policies in particular — the nationalization of the petroleum industry last year — has surprised even skeptics.

Feared as a radical move, the nationalization was in effect a renegotiation of terms with foreign energy companies that have stayed in Bolivia, attracted by the country’s bountiful natural gas reserves. Revenue from oil and natural gas climbed to 13.3 percent of gross domestic product in 2006 from 5 percent in 2004, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington.

That increase has placed Bolivia on its most enviable economic footing in years, with growth of about 4 percent expected this year. Economists also note that coca is lifting Bolivia’s economy, with traffic climbing to neighboring Brazil.

In a touch of irony, the urban upper classes, many of whose members remain explicitly critical of Mr. Morales, are benefiting from the newfound stability and economic vibrancy. With a cocalero in power, cocalero activists no longer shut down the main highway from Santa Cruz, enabling the province’s exports to reach important markets. Similarly, parts of the southern area of La Paz are prospering as builders rush to meet demand for comfortable apartment buildings. Here in Cochabamba, a new $6 million Cineplex, which seems plucked from suburban California, illustrates how investors are pouring money into new projects.

One feature film set to debut on screens throughout the country next month is “Evo Pueblo,” in which the director Tonchi Antezana depicts Mr. Morales’s origins in the Aymara Indian village of Orinoca. The fictionalized account shows his stints in brick factories and how he played trumpet in local bands ­ and his radicalism as head of the cocaleros.

The film reflects a fascination in Bolivia with Mr. Morales, who never graduated from high school and remains a bachelor at age 47. At rallies, crowds hold placards celebrating reports that Mr. Morales is mentioned as a possible recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Two journalists, Darwin Pinto and Roberto Navia, have caused a sensation with an unauthorized biography called “Someone Called Evo,” which recounts the president’s amorous adventures and his rise to power.

On the political front, critics say Mr. Morales is tilting toward authoritarianism, with rough verbal treatment of opponents and a proposal by supporters to be re-elected indefinitely. And some policies seem erratic and inspired by President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, like his moves this month to establish diplomatic ties with Iran while announcing visa requirements for American visitors.

“Chávez sees the creation of a great Latin American fatherland, a vision that I share,” said Mr. Morales, defending his aid from Venezuela, while criticizing foreign assistance that requires conditions like coca eradication. He remains the leader of the Federación del Trópico, saying he would return to growing coca when his presidency ends.

For now, Mr. Morales, dressed in jeans and tennis shoes, seems at ease after attaining the highest approval ratings of any president in recent memory. He shoos away advisers and bodyguards, preferring to conduct the interview alone. He jokes about efforts to improve his swing in frontón, a sport similar to racquetball that is beloved by Bolivians.

“We’re creating another way of doing government, but it has not been easy,” Mr. Morales said in halting and carefully enunciated Spanish as the sun rose above Cochabamba. “The challenges seem to arise every day.”

He chafes at criticism from Bolivia’s light-skinned elite. Even as president, he said, he still suffered from discrimination, pointing to snubs and insults from the business community in Santa Cruz, a bastion of opposition to his government.

“I thought that by getting to the presidential palace I could end discrimination,” he said, remembering how his mother was prevented from entering the plaza of Oruro when Mr. Morales was a teenager growing up in that city. “I realize now that the decolonization of our society will take longer than expected.”

Also, read:

Wikipedia article: Evo Morales

And from the BBC:

In pictures: Morales' indigenous ritual

An Aymara peasant holds a flag from the old Inca empire at the ancient site of Tiwanaku

An Aymara Indian holds a flag from the old Inca empire during spiritual ceremonies on the eve of the inauguration as Bolivian president of Evo Morales.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

In the Stars

Call it synchronicity, but my horoscope today is altogether apropos:

Sep 22, 2007

Leo (7/23-8/22)

You can't see the truth about life unless you deal with your relationship issues.

"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves..."




Tuesday, September 18, 2007

We heard the dazzling voice of Bjork last night at the Fox:

Bjork brings ‘Icelandic soul’ to the Fox

When attending a concert by elfin Icelandic musical phenomenon Bjork, you can dress up to the nines, put on new threads, try out the whole spool, knock yourself out.

You still won’t exceed the lady on stage.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Jefferson to Bush: Wrong Direction

Two articles say it all today: A review of the election of 1800 in the New Yorker and an editorial by Frank Rich on the abyss Bush has brought us. Here they are:

Frank Rich: Sunday New York Times

Thomas Jefferson, anti-war Deist: the election of 1800


Party Time

Smear tactics, skulduggery, and the début of American democracy.

by Jill Lepore September 17, 2007

The year is 1800. Americans go to the polls to elect a President. Which Founder do you favor? The Federalist incumbent, sixty-four-year-old John Adams, or the Republican challenger, fifty-seven-year-old Thomas Jefferson, who, awkwardly enough, is currently serving as Adams’s Vice-President?

Consider your vote carefully. This is the most important election in American history. What Jefferson dubbed “the revolution of 1800” marked the first transition of power from one party to another. It led to the passage, in 1804, of the Twelfth Amendment, separating the election of Presidents and Vice-Presidents. (Before that, whoever placed second became the Vice-President, which is what happened to Jefferson in 1796.) It might have—and should have—spelled the end of the Electoral College. At the time, many people, not all of them members of the Adams family, thought that it might spell the end of the American experiment. As Edward J. Larson observes in his new book, “A Magnificent Catastrophe: The Tumultuous Election of 1800, America’s First Presidential Campaign” (Free Press; $27), “Partisans worried that it might be the young republic’s last.”

To size up the candidates, what you need, for starters, is the word on the street—or, since the United States in 1800 is an agrarian nation, the word on the cow path. Adams: a Harvard graduate and Massachusetts lawyer who helped negotiate the Treaty of Paris in 1783 and served two terms as Washington’s Vice-President before his election to the Presidency in 1796. Distinguished, disputatious, short, ugly, hot-tempered, upstanding, provincial, learned (president of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences). Very clever wife. Suspected of wanting to be king. Loves England. Thinks his diplomats have to tread carefully with Napoleon. Signed into law the Sedition Act in 1798; depending on your point of view, this was either so that he could have anyone who disagreed with him thrown in jail or so that he could protect the country from dangerous anarchists.

Jefferson: former governor of Virginia, onetime Ambassador to France, Washington’s Secretary of State. Eminent, brilliant (president of the American Philosophical Society), surpassing prose stylist, author of the Declaration of Independence (with help from Adams), unrivalled champion of liberty, slave owner, grieving widower, rumored to have fathered children by one of his slaves. Tall, humorless, moody, zealous, cosmopolitan. Artistic. Loves France, not so worried about Bonaparte. Ardently opposes the Sedition Act. Reputed atheist.

Are you still on the fence? You’re out of luck: there will be no Presidential debates, and precious few speeches. (In 1800, Americans considered politicians’ putting themselves so far forward to be unforgivably tacky.) No campaign managers, no Web sites, no television ads, no YouTube interviews, not so much as a Horse and Cart Across America tour. When Adams took a roundabout route through Pennsylvania and Maryland on a ride from Massachusetts to the nation’s new capital city, one Jeffersonian newspaper editor asked, “Why must the President go fifty miles out of his way to make a trip to Washington?”

But there is plenty to read, if you have a mind to—not only Adams’s three-volume 1787 “Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States” but also his 1776 “Thoughts on Government,” as well as Jefferson’s 1774 “A Summary View on the Rights of British America” and his 1787 “Notes on the State of Virginia.”

If you don’t have time to page through those tomes, you can always pick up a newspaper, where the differences between the two men and, above all, between their parties, will be boldly asserted; early American newspapers were unabashedly partisan, favoring either the conservative Federalists or the Republican opposition that Jefferson had launched in the seventeen-nineties. Take a look at the Philadelphia Aurora, an organ of Jefferson’s party, edited by William Duane (a printer whom Federalists had pursued, unsuccessfully, for sedition in 1799). The edition of October 14, 1800, tells you that your choice lies between “Things As They Have Been” (under Adams):

The principles and patriots of the Revolution condemned. . . .
The Nation in arms without a foe, and divided without a cause. . . .
The reign of terror created by false alarms, to promote domestic feud and foreign war.
A Sedition Law. . . .
An established church, a religious test, and an order of Priesthood.

And “Things As They Will Be” (if Jefferson is elected):

The Principles of the Revolution restored. . . .
The Nation at peace with the world and united in itself.
Republicanism allaying the fever of domestic feuds, and subduing the opposition by the force of reason and rectitude. . . .
The Liberty of the Press. . . .
Religious liberty, the rights of conscience, no priesthood, truth and Jefferson.

The same week, Philadelphia’s Federalist paper, the Gazette of the United States, offered a still more emphatic judgment:


At the present solemn and momentous epoch, the only question to be asked by every American, laying his hand on his heart, is: “Shall I continue in allegiance to


Or impiously declare for


Despite what the Gazette would have you think, the Almighty wasn’t on the ballot. But historians generally agree that the battle between Adams and Jefferson mattered, far more than most elections. Larson argues that this election, “more than any other, stamped American democracy with its distinctive bipartisan character.” Jeffersonians claimed that the vote in 1800 would “fix our national character” and “determine whether republicanism or aristocracy would prevail.” Whether or not the nation’s destiny hung in the balance, the election involved plenty of mudslinging, backstabbing, and chicanery, though you might call it democracy. It involved everything, in other words, that the President despised. In 1787, Adams had written to Jefferson, with whom he was still friends, “Elections, my dear sir . . . I look at with terror.”

With so much at stake, in a contest between two men once so closely allied, now so starkly opposed, Americans made up their minds by reading the newspapers, which numbered more than two hundred and fifty. “The engine is the press,” Jefferson observed. Yet so tawdry did the candidates consider even this kind of electioneering that neither wrote a single word for the public prints. And, when Jefferson urged friends to pick up their pens, he warned, “Do not let my name be connected with the business.”

Jefferson also saw the usefulness of pamphlets like James Callender’s “The Prospect Before Us,” which advised readers, “Take your choice, between Adams, war and beggary, and Jefferson, peace, and competency.” “Such papers cannot fail to have the best effect,” Jefferson wrote. But, for “The Prospect Before Us,” Callender was convicted of sedition. Sentenced to nine months’ confinement, he wrote a second volume from jail. Thumbing his nose at his prosecutors, he titled one chapter “More Sedition.”

Callender may not have been seditious, but he was a political hack. In 1797, he had ruined Alexander Hamilton’s political career—and poisoned his marriage—by exposing an adulterous affair. (In 1802, Callender, resentful that Jefferson had never rewarded him for his election-year martyrdom, published an article in the Richmond Recorder reporting long-circulating rumors that Jefferson “keeps, and for many years past has kept, as his concubine, one of his own slaves. Her name is SALLY.”)

But James Callender’s muckraking was dwarfed by what Alexander Hamilton was willing to do. The disaffected former Secretary of the Treasury determined to persuade Federalists to drop the President and throw their support behind his unmemorable running mate, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, of South Carolina. (Pinckney, to his considerable credit, did not approve, and the plan failed.) Hamilton drafted a statement expressing his views on the “great and intrinsic defects in [Adams’s] character which unfit him for the office of chief magistrate.” It was published at the end of October, 1800, as “Letter from Alexander Hamilton, Concerning the Public Conduct and Character of John Adams.” As Larson puts it, the pamphlet “read like one long rant.” Hamilton wrote of the President, “He is a man of an imagination sublimated and eccentric; propitious neither to the regular display of sound judgment, nor to steady perseverance in a systematic plan of conduct . . . and to this defect are added the unfortunate foibles of a vanity without bounds, and a jealousy capable of discoloring every object.” If Hamilton’s portrait did Adams no good, neither did it do him much harm. The President was not running on his personality, after all, but on his record. For better and, in the end, for worse.

Meanwhile, Federalists did their best to paint Jefferson as a character entirely unsuited to hold office. (Hamilton thought him a crafty, fanatical, “contemptible hypocrite.”) From their stronghold in New England, they warned voters of Jefferson’s duplicity. We will not “learn the principles of liberty from the slave-holders of Virginia,” the Connecticut Courant declared. Or, as another Federalist editor put it, “Democracy in Virginia, therefore, is like virtue in hell.”

But the most ferocious attacks on Jefferson concerned his views on religion. Jefferson had once offered a Franklinesque statement of his passionate commitment to religious toleration: “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” All over the country, clergymen preached that such a view could lead to nothing but unchecked vice. From New York, one minister answered Jefferson, “Let my neighbor once perceive himself that there is no God, and he will soon pick my pocket and break not only my leg but my neck.”

If Federalists would make Jefferson’s religion political, Republicans would make a religion of his politics. On March 31, 1800, the Vermont Gazette printed a Jeffersonian creed:

From a direct tax,
Good Lord deliver us. . . .
From a war with the French republic,
Good Lord deliver us.
From all old Tories; from aristocrats
Good Lord deliver us. . . .
From the sedition act, and from all other
evil acts
Good Lord deliver us.

Adams himself had little but contempt for members of his party who would make an issue of Jefferson’s religious convictions, asking, “What has that to do with the public?” And Jefferson, though he called himself a Christian, held a skeptical view of the Bible, and readily conceded that his critics were right if they expected that he would promote religious toleration: “For I have sworn upon the altar of god, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” Yet, for all the ink spilled on the subject, one clear-eyed political observer of the day predicted that Jefferson’s religious views would probably “not deprive Jeff of a single vote.”

Whether it did is difficult to say. In 1969, in “The Idea of a Party System,” Richard Hofstadter regretted that “the definitive account of this election remains to be written.” Nearly forty years later, that’s still the case. Larson, the University Professor of History and the Darling Professor of Law at Pepperdine, and a former recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, tells the story well. His narrative is by far the best of several recent books on the subject. But his argument, that during the pivotal campaign “a popular, two-party republic was born,” though persuasive, is not exactly novel. (Hofstadter made a similar claim.) Maybe a definitive account of this election remains unwritten because its candidates loom larger than life. Larson’s book, like almost everything written about the election of 1800, has a forest-and-trees quality: we can’t see the Voters for the Founders.

“As you love your country, fly to your polls,” the Gazette of the United States urged. But there was no “Election Day” in 1800. Voting stretched from March to December, and the President wasn’t chosen until February, 1801, just weeks before he took office. To get to the polls, you may have trudged through snow; you may have sweltered in the sun.

Whatever the weather, chances are you couldn’t vote. There were sixteen states in the Union in 1800. In Maryland, black men born free could vote (until 1802, when the state’s constitution was amended to exclude them); in New Jersey, white women could vote (until 1807, when the legislature closed this loophole). All but three states—Kentucky, Vermont, and Delaware—limited the franchise to property holders or taxpayers, which works out to about sixty to seventy per cent of the adult white male population. Out of a total U.S. population of 5.3 million, roughly five hundred and fifty thousand were enfranchised.

Even if you could vote, at no polling place, anywhere, should you have expected a ballot with choices marked “ADAMS” and “JEFFERSON.” Nor should you have expected your government to have supplied a ballot of any kind; many states still voted viva voce, and, in those which didn’t, you supplied your own ballot unless you brought to the polls a “party ticket,” torn from the edge of your local newspaper, with your choices already printed: the slate of your party’s candidates.

If you voted by ballot, your ballot would be destroyed. Your government would not keep any record of the results, unless you lived in Massachusetts, the only state where election returns were routinely collected and preserved. Not until 1824 would records be better kept. The scandalous election of 1824, much like the Bush-Gore battle in 2000, riveted the nation’s attention on the casting and counting of votes. That year, Andrew Jackson trounced John Quincy Adams in the Electoral College, ninety-nine to eighty-four, but, because this represented a plurality, and not a majority, the election was thrown into the lame-duck House, which, perversely, chose Adams.

But election returns before 1824 do survive: in newspapers, where partisan editors printed them after every election, like so many box scores. Since Americans voted so often—most legislators and many governors served for one-year terms, and in some towns voters went to the polls every other month—thousands of returns can be found in early American newspapers. Until recently, though, the records were too numerous, and too scattered, to be useful to historians. Then, in one of the strangest and most heroic tales in the annals of American historical research, a man named Phil Lampi decided to devote his life to compiling those returns. He began this work in 1960, when he was still in high school. Living in a home for boys, he wanted, most of all, to be left alone, so he settled on a hobby that nobody else would be interested in. He went to the library and, using old newspapers, started making tally sheets of every election in American history. His system was flawless. It occupied endless hours. Completeness became his obsession. For decades, at times supporting himself by working as a night watchman, Lampi made lists of election returns on notepads. He drove all over the country, scouring the archives by day, sleeping in his car by night. He eventually transcribed the returns of some sixty thousand elections. Since 2004, the American Antiquarian Society, in Worcester, Massachusetts, has been digitizing Lampi’s collection; soon “A New Nation Votes: American Election Returns, 1787-1825” will be available online.

It’s still impossible to give anything like an exact figure for the 1800 national popular vote, but Lampi calculates that, in elections held that year, somewhere around a hundred and fifty-one thousand Americans cast votes for Republicans, compared with a hundred and thirty-nine thousand for Federalists. To the extent that this serves as a proxy for a popular vote, we now know that Jefferson won.

The election of 1800 was possibly the least democratic election in American history. In later elections, more citizens voted: by 1828, most states allowed white men to vote, whether or not they owned property or paid taxes. In earlier elections, more states allowed for the election of Electoral College delegates by popular vote. In 1796, seven out of sixteen states relied on the popular vote. But in 1800, after Republicans made a strong showing in local elections in New England, the Federalist-dominated legislatures of Massachusetts and New Hampshire repealed the popular vote, and put the selection of Electoral College delegates in their own hands. Before the year was out, seven of the sixteen states had changed their procedures for electing delegates to the Electoral College.

Citizens of Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Virginia could vote directly for their state’s delegates to the Electoral College. In Tennessee, sheriffs cast votes for Electoral College delegates. But, in the other ten states, you could vote only for your state legislators, who would, in turn, choose delegates to the Electoral College, who would, in turn, elect the President. Your choices would be represented, on your behalf, by your betters. The people, Larson writes, were the election’s “wild card,” which is why “lawmakers in most states did not authorize them to vote for electors.”

In some places, efforts to manipulate the voting were thwarted. When, in an election brilliantly engineered by Jefferson’s running mate, Aaron Burr, New Yorkers elected a Republican Assembly, Hamilton tried to persuade Governor John Jay to convene the lame-duck (Federalist) legislature to institute the popular vote, so that the Republican legislature would not be able to choose Jeffersonian electoral delegates. “It will not do to be overscrupulous,” Hamilton claimed, if the result would be “to prevent an atheist in Religion, and a fanatic in politics from getting possession of the helm of State.” Jay refused.

Everyone hoped to avoid what had happened in 1796, when Jefferson received sixty-eight electoral votes to Adams’s seventy-one, and became his opponent’s Vice-President after the man whom Federalists wanted for that office, Thomas Pinckney (the brother of Charles Cotesworth Pinckney), received only fifty-nine votes. Federalist electors were supposed to cast the second of their two votes for Pinckney; instead, many threw that vote away on other candidates. This botched result ought not to be surprising; the election of 1796 had been the first contested Presidential election in American history (in 1788 and again in 1792, Washington had run unopposed), and the Electoral College did not easily accommodate the developing two-party system. The framers of the Constitution did not make allowances for the rise of parties, which they considered sinister. In his Farewell Address, in 1796, Washington had warned of “the baneful effects of the spirit of party.” And, before he came to lead the opposition, Jefferson himself had pledged, “If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all.”

Unfortunately, when the Electoral College convened in December, 1800, it did not meet the challenge of a two-party state. Although it was immediately obvious that John Adams had lost, it took a while before anybody won. Republican electors were supposed to vote for Jefferson and Burr. For Jefferson to become President, though, at least one Republican elector had to remember not to vote for Burr, so that Jefferson would win and Burr, as the runner-up, would become his Vice-President. That someone forgot. Instead, Jefferson and Burr both received seventy-three votes in the Electoral College, to Adams’s sixty-five and Pinckney’s sixty-four. (The Federalists, at least, had remembered to give their Presidential candidate one more vote than they gave his running-mate.)

The Jefferson-Burr tie was thrown to the House, where lame-duck Federalists held a majority. (Jefferson’s party had just won sixty-seven House seats, compared with the Federalists’ thirty-nine, but these new congressmen had not yet taken office.) There were plausible rumors that the Federalists planned “to let the government devolve on a President of the Senate.” Jefferson, who believed that a Congress capable of passing the Alien and Sedition Acts was likely to attempt to push through an act “declaring that the President shall continue in office during life,” had little difficulty crediting stories of the most pernicious Federalist schemes. James Madison advised Jefferson to respond to such a constitutional crisis by a means that, while not “strictly regular,” was still the wisest: summon a special session of the newly elected Congress. “The other remedies,” he warned, “are substantial violations of the will of the people, of the scope of the Constitution, and of public order and interest.”

It took the House seven days and thirty-six ballots to break the tie, largely because Federalists had come to believe that, as much as they hated Burr, they hated Jefferson more. A few had pledged that they would rather “go without a Constitution and take the risk of civil war” than cast a vote for an atheist. Only when it became clear that a victory for Burr could not be insured did Federalists find a way to break the tie. On February 17, 1801, just two weeks before Inauguration, Thomas Jefferson was at last elected President.

On March 4, 1801, when Jefferson was sworn in, Margaret Bayard Smith, the wife of a Republican newspaper editor, was in the crowd. “I have this morning witnessed one of the most interesting scenes a free people can ever witness,” she recounted in a letter. “The changes in administration, which in every government and in every age have most generally been epochs of confusion, villainy and bloodshed, in this our happy country take place without any species of distraction, or disorder.” This was how Jefferson understood his triumph: it was, as he wrote to a friend, a revolution forged not “by the sword,” but by “the suffrage of the people.”

In his Inaugural Address, the new President tried to wave aside the bitter partisanship of the election, as if an opposition party were merely an emergency measure in which he had temporarily participated: “Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists. If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.” That he was only slightly disingenuous is a credit to his statesmanship. Three weeks later, Jefferson wrote to Sam Adams, “The storm is over, and we are in port.”


Friday, September 14, 2007

Strings Attached

Addie has risen. Michael Haverty resurrects Faulkner's As I Lay Dying in the form of marionettes in the Push Push Theatre production in Decatur. Dar and I watched the transformation of Darl, Jewel, Dewey Dell, Cash, Anse, Vardaman, and Addie Bundren into eerily alive characters on a puppet stage Thursday night. It was a seance of fictional beings, a spell of magic, an enchantment wondrous to behold.

Have you forgotten the story?
Review it here: As I Lay Dying

Here's info on the production:

As I Lay Dying
By William Faulkner

Featuring Wade Tilton, Amy Rush, Michael Haverty, Jeffrey Zwartjes, and Matt Stanton

Fact Sheet
Press Release
E-Life interview with Director Michael Haverty

A mother's death triggers a farcical-heroic journey to the graveyard for one dirt-poor southern family. Piling the body aboard their rickety wagon, the Bundrens face raging flood waters, arson, physical abuse, and buzzards tempted by the smell of decomposing flesh in their quest for interment. With the combination of a fast-paced, kaleidoscopic structure, an ever-shifting point of view, and a heightened level of tragedy that approaches the comically absurd, Faulkner's novel, one of the greatest works of American literature, begs for adaptation to the puppet stage.

This production uses hand-carved wooden marionettes, animated two dimensional portraits, silhouette film, and live musicians to explore each Bundren family member's inner desires and delusions. These different styles are unified within the visual and aural world of the carnival. By contextualizing the Bundren's story within a world of sensation and illusion, their tragic circumstances are heightened and their selfish motivations exposed.

And a glowing review from Creative Loafing:


Carved out of a legacy and all grown up, the puppets take Atlanta


Published 09.12.07

Joeff Davis

PURE PUPPETRY: Michael Haverty's production of the William Faulkner novel As I Lay Dying is his most ambitious yet. "Faulkner seemed [the right choice]," he says, "partly because he would describe his characters as 'wooden' or being like objects."
info info

As I Lay Dying

Through Sept. 23. $12-$30. Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m. Haverty Marionettes, New Street Arts (PushPush Theater), 121 New St., Decatur. 404-822-8580.

Puppet master
Top five shows from Jon Ludwig

Michael Haverty practices his art through his hands. A tug here, a tilt there, and he can bring a little soul to a lifeless marionette.

His hands were his most important puppet back in January at Tales of Edgar Allen Poe at the Center for Puppetry Arts. Bobby Box's adaptation was book-ended with a dramatization of Poe's most famous poem, "The Raven." But instead of using a raven puppet, Haverty donned a pair of gloves festooned with oily-looking black feathers. He held his hands together and flapped his fingers to make the sinister "raven" glide through the performing space.

After the show's climax, cross-cutting between the violent endings of three Poe stories, Haverty was able to quoth the raven once more. Actor John Ammerman, playing the narrator, concluded the show with the lines: "My soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor/Shall be lifted – nevermore!"

Meanwhile, Haverty forsook his gloves and dipped his now-bare hands in stage blood. Repeating the motions, he represented the bird not with black feathers but with crimson, dripping fingers. Poe's raven was made of blood.

The impact of a simple red raven speaks volumes about the art of puppetry in Atlanta. The device represents Haverty's particular talents as a performer and puppeteer, exemplifies the Center for Puppetry Arts' boundless creativity, and demonstrates the possibilities of puppetry beyond fairy tales and educational shows. Tales of Edgar Allen Poe was aimed at adult and teenage audiences, and Haverty took glee in the reaction of the high-schoolers. "I don't think they'd ever seen anything that gory," says the 27-year-old puppeteer with a boyish smile beneath the bushy, dark mustache – he calls it "half handlebar, half walrus" – he cultivated for a show...

The whole article

Great Faulkner Site


Monday, September 10, 2007

On the Tube

Wait, it's not t.v. it's

TV Reviews

Up Close and Painful

Doug Hyun

Adam Scott and Sonya Walger in HBO's new Sunday-night series.

Published: September 7, 2007

The sex in HBO’s “Tell Me You Love Me” is bold, but not brave.

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Claudette Barius/HBO

Cheryl Hines and Larry David in “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” which starts its sixth season Sunday.

Explicit scenes of young, lithe bodies having it in many places and in all manners, including solo, are plentiful in the first few episodes. Yet when it comes to a white-haired, elderly couple, the camera looks away, sparing viewers the shock of seeing sagging bellies and wrinkled limbs in the throes of carnal bliss.

Those inhibitions hold true for the emotional content of the show as well. “Tell Me You Love Me,” which begins on Sunday, explores the intimate lives of four couples more closely and more frankly than any other show on television. Created by Cynthia Mort, who was a writer and producer for “Will & Grace” and “Roseanne,” the series is bold in its candor and unhurried attention to detail, but not quite brave enough to lay bare the bleakest, pettiest injuries that can scar a marriage.

That fearlessness is what drove Ingmar Bergman’s 1973 mini-series “Scenes From a Marriage,” and made it almost unwatchable and riveting. Ms. Mort’s version is kinder. It’s certainly easier on the eyes and mind, but not as compelling.

The series bores deeply and single-mindedly into the marrow of marital relations, and it does so with sympathy and insight. It’s daring but not revolutionary. “Tell Me You Love Me” is a little like a jazz musician who wants to scandalize the audience but still be asked to play in the orchestra at the country club dance.

In some ways the season premiere of Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” which follows it on Sunday, is more unsettling. The sixth season heightens the hairline tensions between the semifictional Larry (Mr. David as himself) and his wife, Cheryl (Cheryl Hines). That they are played for laughs on this faux cinéma vérité comedy only makes them sharper-edged.

The humor is as warped and bracing as ever, but Cheryl’s affect has changed: the long-suffering wife who used to greet Larry’s monomaniacal mishaps with a sweetly placid exasperation now looks scornful. It doesn’t help viewers’ comfort level to know that in real life Mr. David and his wife, Laurie David, a Hollywood environmentalist, split up this summer.

Without “The Sopranos” or “Deadwood,” HBO seems to be the cable network of all sex and no violence. So many of its more recent series burrow into marital relations, be it the polygamous spats in “Big Love”; the schism between Cissy and her aging surfer husband, Mitch, in the just-canceled “John From Cincinnati”; or even the skirmishes that enliven Ari’s marriage in “Entourage.”

The broadcast networks, however, are giving chase. This season, ABC has “Cashmere Mafia,” a chick-lit comedy that picks up the female condition where HBO’s “Sex and the City” left off. In this new series Darren Star, who produced “Sex and the City,” focuses on four friends, high-powered career women who have to balance work with family and their mates. (ABC also gives the male version of the same predicament in “Big Shots,” about four high-powered executives who etc. ...)

CBS is readying “Swingtown” for midseason, and that drama, about an airline pilot and his wife, pushes the envelope still further. Set in 1976, “Swingtown” looks at marriages that are open: to threesomes, wife-swapping, disco, Quaaludes and other post-Woodstock experiments that reportedly perked up the suburbs during the Carter administration.

The novelty of “Tell Me You Love Me,” besides the graphic sex, is the absence of most of the peripheral people and events that normally fill a life, or a television show. Neighbors, co-workers, in-laws, job interviews, plumbing troubles are all but airbrushed out. There is barely any music, and the series is shot in a wintry, washed-out palette that at the moment is fashionable on all sorts of dramas and police procedurals, but that also brings to mind Ken Burns’s elegiac documentaries.

Almost as if in homage to Woody Allen’s “Interiors,” the bedrooms, kitchens and work spaces of the main characters are colored in muted beige, gray and brown hues. Even the red in a child’s kindergarten painting, posted in a suburban kitchen, is more of a faded rust. It could be monochrome as metaphor, a signal that all marriages are alike and that all marital differences are essentially the same. More likely it’s style as self-defense: If it looks like art, then it can’t be pornography.

The narrative jumps among three couples, divided by generation and predicament but all of them patients of Dr. May Foster (Jane Alexander), a 60-something marriage counselor and sex therapist. Hugo (Luke Farrell Kirby) and Jamie (Michelle Borth) are in their 20s, engaged and randy as goats. Their wedding plans fall apart under the strain of her jealousy and his unease with until-death-do-us-part monogamy.

Palek (Adam Scott) and Carolyn (Sonya Walger) are in their 30s, blessed with good looks, a good relationship and plenty of money. She’s a lawyer, he’s an architect, and their lively sex life is undermined by their inability to conceive. “Do you think we’re failing because of me?” Palek asks Carolyn, unconsciously using failure as a synonym for infertility.

In their 40s, Dave (Tim DeKay) and Katie (Ally Walker) have the opposite problem. They are a loving couple and devoted parents to two healthy children, but they haven’t had sex in a year, and neither seems willing or able to overcome sexual inertia. Dave’s nightstand hints at some libido-inhibiting factors: a framed picture of their daughter, an alarm clock and a television remote.

Dr. Foster, who is trying to finish a book, “Bed Dread,” while also juggling patients, has a handsome, caring husband, Arthur (David Selby), a retiree eager to retire to the bedroom. Even they have some strands of jealousy entwined in their bliss.

As the narrative evolves, problems deepen. “Tell Me You Love Me” is at its best when tracing the clash of language and intention and, worse, the corrosive effect of silence.

“Curb Your Enthusiasm” is of course all about the havoc Larry unleashes every time he opens his mouth. Season 6 is as acid and elegantly constructed as past seasons, and Mr. David has a remarkable knack for finding new ways to brew loony confusion and affront out of the most mundane errands. Each small misstep ripples into ever widening circles of trouble.

The best dramas punctuate unhappiness with pinpricks of humor, while the best comedies brush up against sorrow. “Tell Me You Love Me” is mostly meditative. But when Cheryl flinches at Larry’s boorishness at a charity function, then looks at their friend Ted Danson with a dreamy smile, there is a shadow on the joke.


HBO, Sunday night at 9, Eastern and Pacific times; 8, Central time.

Created by Cynthia Mort; Ms. Mort and Gavin Polone, executive producers. Premiere episode written by Ms. Mort and directed by Patricia Rozema. Produced by HBO Entertainment in association with Pariah and O&M/ANN SJM Productions.

WITH: Jane Alexander (Dr. May Foster), Ally Walker (Katie), Tim DeKay (Dave), Sonya Walger (Carolyn), Adam Scott (Palek), Michelle Borth (Jamie), Luke Farrell Kirby (Hugo) and David Selby (Arthur).

Curb Your Enthusiasm

HBO, Sunday night at 10, Eastern and Pacific times; 9, Central time.

Larry David, Jeff Garlin, Gavin Polone, Alec Berg, David Mandel, Jeff Schaffer and Tim Gibbons, executive producers. Season premiere episode directed by Larry Charles.

WITH: Larry David (himself), Cheryl Hines (Cheryl), Jeff Garlin (Jeff) and Susie Essman (Susie).

The Washington Post likes the two shows even more:


Watch It.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Southern Decadence

What a weekend: 125, 000 worshipers of Dionysus.

Sep 4, 2007
Click for Our Pics

We reveled in the Big Easy: some of the party animals a little Too Big and a little Too Easy.
Still, a good time was had by all; New Orleans was the beneficiary of Gay Largess.
KT and Dan helped Dar and me enjoy the delights of N'awlins: seafood, gumbo, cheese burgers and a freeze at the Camellia Grill, service and style at Adelaide's, named for the eccentric aunt, ambiance and taste sensations at Feelings. We also enjoyed the singing and the embodiment of Naked Boys Singing at the Marigny Theatre.

Read the review:

Costumes thrown to the wind in a rollicking, risque revue

'Naked Boys Singing' cooks with, from left, Phillip Gordon, Travis Resor, Marshall Harris, Julius Dietze, Jason George and Bryan Wagar at the Marigny Theatre.


'Naked Boys Singing' takes off at Marigny Theatre

You may also read the Times Picayune take on Decadence:

Eliot Kamenitz / Times-Picayune
The 34th Annual Southern Decadence Parade strutted through the French Quarter Sunday as a throng of onlookers saw costumes and fine feathers in the 1200 block of Royal Street. See story