Aug 022012

By Andrew Battista

This week is the 67th anniversary of the first nuclear bomb attack in human history.  On August 6, 1945, a U.S. Air Force pilot named Paul Tibbets flew a plane nicknamed Enola Gay over Hiroshima, Japan and dropped an atomic bomb that instantly killed about 80,000 people, almost all of them civilians.  They were burned alive by a fireball estimated to be 1200 feet in diameter, with a temperature as hot as 7200 ºF at its core.  In the subsequent months, many more people suffered a slow death, either because of burn injuries or because of the lingering damage caused by radiation exposure.  A retrospective report by the U.S. Department of Energy in the 1960s guessed that within five years, over 200,000 people had died from the Hiroshima bomb.  Three days after the attack, another 70,000 people would be killed when the U.S. dropped a second nuclear weapon on Nagasaki.  The casualties from that attack would also eventually surpass 200,000. Continue reading »

Jun 062012

By Andrew Battista

The 2011-12 academic cycle is over, and many at the University of Kentucky will remember the year primarily as the “season of the unibrow,” a long odyssey that culminated when the Wildcats won their eighth NCAA men’s basketball championship.

Of course, the bygone academic calendar also doubles as the “year of the protestor,” a period in which activists gathered en masse to beat drums, camp out in tents, and occupy the chasm between the fantasy of justice and the reality of global economic imperialism.  Time Magazine did actually name “the protestor” as the Person of the Year in 2011, an honor, Kurt Anderson explains, meant to recognize citizens who “share a belief that their countries’ political systems and economies have grown dysfunctional and corrupt—sham democracies rigged to favor the rich and powerful and prevent significant change.”  Continue reading »

Apr 042012

Southland Christian Center’s shopping mall odyssey

By Andrew Battista

When I read the New Testament, I always pay attention to the questions people ask Jesus.  For example, there is a famous conversation in which a Torah scholar asks Jesus what one must do to inherit eternal life.  Jesus tells him, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” a core tenant of the Jewish Law.  The scholar asks in return, “Who is my neighbor?”  This question obviously has a layered meaning.  The scholar isn’t asking who literally lives next to him; rather, he is trying to find out how far the ethic of justice suggested by the Law should extend.  The story Jesus tells to answer this question, known as the Parable of the Good Samaritan, seems to imply an infinite hospitality.  Everyone is our neighbor, even our most despised social enemies.  There are no limits to the deference and love we should show to others, whether or not their property is adjacent to us.

Spring on the Southland Christian collection pond. Photo by Danny Mayer.

Continue reading »

Feb 082012

Why public higher education should not wager on precious metals

By Andrew Battista

Most people agree that the U.S. economy imploded because brokers were placing wagers on whether or not people would be able to pay their mortgages.  The idea of mortgage debt became a speculative bubble that could not be sustained.  Now, in place of one collapsed futures market, the real estate and mortgage industry, the country has developed a twinkle in its eye for another:  precious metals commodities trading.  Our infatuation with gold in particular is as intense as it’s been in at least a century.  One needs to look no further than the Discovery Channel, which features a reality series about modern-day speculators who solicit benefactors to fund backcountry mining expeditions.  These working-class men, caricatures of American ingenuity, take a fleet of expensive equipment and ravage our last frontier, the Alaskan tundra, as they look for shards of gold now selling for $1700 per ounce on the market. Continue reading »

Aug 102011

Nazi war criminals

[In response to the June 22 Beth Connors Manke article “On war criminials and resistance fighers.”]

I met an 80+ year old man in Colorado in the mid 70s that was a ranking officer in the SS. He was gotten out by the Catholic church’s ratlines.

I discovered a shrine to the grandfather of a group of Italians that lived in Pennsylvania in the late 1980s. I was looking for a bathroom and walked into a room with a uniform, a Hitler mural, and a picture of the grandfather in a SS uniform.

When I was in New Zealand, I met a Dutchman with a real loose story. He stayed in the same hostel as I, turned up on the same flight to Australia and we split the cost of an air-conditioned hotel room in Sydney. After over 15 hours of continual questioning he finally admitted that he had joined the SS and served as a concentration camp guard before Germany invaded Holland. He was still, after 40 years, wanted for war crimes in Holland and Poland.

Turn them in?

I witnessed three separate massacres of unarmed Vietnamese in my 11.5 months in the hell we created there. I never reported them to anyone. I never even went to the newspapers in New York City when I was stationed there afterward.

41 years later, I still feel worse than any of the war criminals that I met.

friendly, Smirking Chimp blog Continue reading »

Jun 222011

What Kentuckians should expect from our land-grant university

By Andrew Battista

Don Pratt

Do faculty check out from the world when they check in to the university?

Editor’s note: A version of this essay originally appeared at the close of Andrew’s recently completed dissertation, Knowing, Seeing, and Transcending Nature. His committee enjoyed reading it, but they insisted that it should not be published in the final version.

It’s been at least a year since I wrote anything for North of Center. It’s not that I’ve gotten lazy, contracted writers block, or grown disinterested in Lexington. On the contrary, I’ve been furiously pecking away at my dissertation—a study of 400-year-old Renaissance literary texts—so I can resume writing about the community I experience daily, or what I like to call “the real world.” Although I learned a lot about myself and my interactions with culture while writing my dissertation, I often was frustrated when I expended my last bit of emotional energy on a riff about epistemological uncertainty in The Faerie Queene when I could have instead joined the Kentucky Rising protests in Frankfort, spearheaded campus sustainability programs, helped to clean up residue from the BP Deepwater Horizon explosion, or simply reserved more time to grow my own vegetables. I haven’t even been inside the remodeled Lyric Theatre yet. Continue reading »

Jul 282010

A response to “Mall of God”

By Jake Caldwell

I am writing in response to the recent article in North of Center, “Mall of God.” I first want to tell you how much I have appreciated the work that you and your volunteer staff have poured into North of Center. I believe it is a much needed service to the Lexington community and the articles have been consistently well written and critically incisive.

Before I offer my response to “Mall of God,” however, a disclosure of my self-interests is in order. I am a minister on the staff of Central Christian Church, the congregation that Andrew Battista criticizes for acquiring property from the Windstream Corporation at below market value. Like almost all of the ministers I know, my work routinely positions me to see the shortcomings of my own congregation, which is to say that I do not, as a minister, labor under any pretensions about the church being above or immune from criticism. And like most ministers I know in mainline Protestant traditions, I agree whole heartedly with the issues Andrew raises with the way mega church strategy and polity parrots consumer trends. Continue reading »

Jul 142010

Southland Christian buy Lexington Mall

By Andrew Battista

On July 13, leaders of Southland Christian Church held a public forum on the Lexington Mall property, which they have agreed to purchase from the Maryland-based Saul Centers, Inc. The terms of the transaction have not been disclosed publicly.  Southland held the meeting to solicit feedback from neighbors, nearby business owners, and anyone else interested in how the property would evolve in the hands of Lexington’s largest megachurch.

Southland’s contract with Saul Centers, Inc. is well-known by now, as is the fact that by purchasing a commercial space appraised at over $10 million, the megachurch will expand its brand to a third campus while effectively removing as much as $100,000 in annual tax revenues from the already-depleted LFUCG budget.  Like all churches, Southland is a nonprofit organization and therefore will render unto Caesar duty from only a portion of their new property: the sections that indisputably exist to make money (i.e., the Applebee’s and Perkins facilities that are lumped into the sale). Continue reading »

Jun 092010

Mighty Wurlitzer also a part of KY Theatre experience

After reading Colleen Glenn’s informative article (“Kentucky Theatre Summer Classic Movies Series returns May 26,” May 19) about nearly all aspects of the 2010 Kentucky Theatre’s Summer Series—including the anticipation of the series, assemblage of the movies, people involved, Flash Gordon Series, and a synopsis of each feature film—were covered. However, there was no mention of one very essential item which is experienced before each matinee and evening feature picture, and has been a part of the Classic Series Film Series since 2001!

Kentucky’s Mighty Wurlitzer-Theatre Organ Project, Inc continues each Series with pre-show mini-concerts on the 2-Manual Conn Theatre Organ (a 1959 tube model), which recreates the movie patron’s experience of the “Golden Age of the movie palace,and at no cost to the Kentucky Theatre Group, Inc or movie patrons. Continue reading »

May 202010

CVS, ProgressLex and building a dignified city center

By Andrew Battista

“Progress” has always been a slippery concept. It’s difficult to critique an organization that collectively pursues “progress,” just like it’s unpopular to poke holes in a community that wants to valorize its own creativity as a linchpin of social improvement. It’s harder still to define what counts as progressive, especially when what’s at stake with the progress debate is actually the ability of the community in question to enjoy the amenities that most people in Lexington would deem essential.

Recently, a group of well-intentioned public activists have formed ProgressLex, a nonprofit dedicated to social justice and “smart and sustainable economic development” in downtown Lexington. Thus far, ProgressLex has mastered several bailiwicks: the architectural aesthetics of certain downtown buildings, the traffic flow of Lexington’s downtown thoroughfares, and the brand development of Lexington as an epicenter of brainpower and social industry. Continue reading »