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The Observer, June 12

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The cement truck behind the Arkansas Studies Institute on President Clinton Avenue on Monday was pouring the Arkansas River into the plaza under construction south of the building.

That's what The Observer learned from Bobby Roberts, director of the Central Arkansas Library System and a visionary behind the Arkansas Studies Institute.

As Roberts explains it, art and history will flow together when the river — that is, a concrete path that will trace a curvy line representing the path of the Arkansas from Fort Smith on the west to its confluence with the Mississippi on the east — is complete. Southern Arkansas University artist Steven Ochs, using an acidic medium that penetrates concrete, will paint the river and important landmarks along it. Plantings on the plaza will reflect the change in species along the river as it makes its way from alluvial plain to mountains. Defining the edge of the 160-foot plaza will be a wall made from rock taken from the foundation of the Geyer-Adams building being renovated for the institute.

Roberts has been criticized for the fact that the $21 million renovation of the historic building is over budget. It has been suggested a parking lot should have gone there. There are people who believe the study of Arkansas history is a waste of time. Roberts and the University of Arkansas are not among them.

A web camera mounted on the Main Library shows the progress of the Geyer-Adams rehab. Go to www.cals.org and click on the Arkansas Studies Institute picture. Big cranes are working on the rock façade on the west wall of the building. Cool.

 

The current administration would be proud of The Observer. Some people have spent their Bush bucks on necessities — gasoline and food, which are getting farther and farther from the reach of the middle class. But we stimulated the economy instead! We bought a $60 dog brush. You heard right.

We justified our purchase this way: If we use this miracle brush on the dog we won't have to use so much electricity vacuuming up dog hair. The Observer has a lot of dog hair. By a lot, we mean it's about two inches deep on every surface in every room. Before we cook, we vacuum. Before we sit, we vacuum. Before we sleep, we vacuum. The dog's afraid of water, so the bathroom is relatively furless.

We're thinking that if everybody spent their government sop this way — purchasing an item that would reduce energy use — think of the difference it would make in the world! We are the change, etc.

 

While we were out stimulating the economy, we saw in one store an enormous pile of stuffed green fists that make noise when you punch with them. For some reason, we were struck as never before at how we waste the world's non-renewable resources. Millions of stuffed green fists.

A solution came to us. After the fists are played with — an estimated 5 minutes per child before boredom sets in — they could be brought to a recycling center where they'd be turned into couches and soft chairs. They'd stop making the smashing noises when you sat down after a while.

 

The Observer is not a big fan of airport journalism — those stories that make the perfectly obvious point that traveling during the holidays is a pain in the tush. And the stories about the current state of aviation — poor inspections, cuts in service and flights — are depressing.

But we do like airports, for some perverse reason. Our favorites are the hubs — the ones that have been turned into malls and that host international terminals. People-watching is most pleasant in a large city park, but for pure schadenfreude nothing beats taking in the harried fliers at Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta.

The Observer can also appreciate the charms of a small regional airport. (Except the one in Memphis, whose terminal looks like something out of Communist-era Eastern Europe.) Little Rock's is tiny of course, and not much to look at on the outside. But for other conveniences the place has upsides. Where else can you find long-term parking just a stone's throw from the terminal? Where else is it impossible to walk more than 200 yards to your gate? Where else can you reschedule a flight that's been canceled because of tornado outbreaks in a matter of three minutes?

 

 

 

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