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August 21, 2013

Bitches & bouquets

Before some random news items fade into forgetfulness, it’s time to praise the good and embarrass the guilty. For the sake of a pleasant aftertaste, we shall begin with the bad and the ugly.

Religious persecution reared its ugly head during the trial of Metro Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin late last month. Her attorney, Aubrey Williams, said prosecutor David Tachau “couldn’t be trusted to tell the truth because he ‘does not believe in God’ or in ‘heaven or hell,’” reported The Courier-Journal. The ensuing condemnation of Williams’ bigotry could fill a column, so all I’ll add is this: If hell is the impossibility of reason, civility and courtroom decorum, then he was fanning the flames. Despite Williams’ sanctimonious diatribe, his client was convicted of willful neglect and misconduct. My sincerely held belief is that Tachau, a stellar lawyer, made a compelling case.

Graffiti artist Phillip Rodriguez, 25, may need a vigorous defense against charges of robbery and criminal mischief. Police say he stole 19 T-shirts on May 31 after he shoved Regalo owner Jeffrey Dotson and knocked over a store display. Rodriguez allegedly was outraged that Dotson was selling shirts bearing his design, a bug-eyed Charlie Brown-like face signed “brrr.” Dotson was outraged that his store had been spray-painted with the design. While other victims of vandalism citywide likewise are outraged, brrr supporters are expressing their outrage via Twitter (#freebrrr). I have a bipartisan solution: Let’s respect art by keeping it in authorized areas. We can all agree, I hope, that vandalism and theft are ugly and wrong.

The wonderful thing about free, legal speech is that more speech is the antidote for abused speech rights. Take a Twitter account soliciting suggestions for the development of jihadi media. Terrorism analyst and author J.M. Berger translated the Arabic into English and urged good citizens to weigh in, resulting in “a tidal wave of mockery,” according to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. Highlights include, “Have you considered creating a boy band?”; “Don’t forget to enable location in your tweets”; “People are really into cats and unicorns”; and “I hear porn is pretty popular with the kids these days.” Maddow termed the deafeningly poetic slam: “One of the best and most constructive uses of Internet trolling I have ever seen.”

The Paper, one of the best and most constructive free publications Louisville has seen, has folded. It celebrated many who make Louisville weird and wonderful — and came from a very cool, civic-hearted place. Fortunately, back issues spanning 24 months are available online at thelouisvillepaper.com. Click on “Meet Your Makers” to read about its evolution, meaning and purpose in the words of editor Stephanie Brothers and creative director Matt Dobson.

“Look at any issue, any maker that’s been in there, every person that makes this place a little bit more interesting, a little bit more unique, and a little bit less homogenous — that does good,” Dobson said. “It injects personality and it makes Louisville what it is.” Kudos to all who contributed.

I’m not much into celebrity culture because the most important celebrities — the ones worthiest of our adoration — are the ones in our lives. They’re among our families, friends, colleagues and neighbors. But mega-star Ashton Kutcher said something at the Teen Choice Awards on Aug. 11 that warrants repeating, if only to preface a heartfelt tribute: “The sexiest thing in the entire world is being really smart — and being thoughtful and being generous.”

Few of us ever have the privilege of working with someone as smart, thoughtful and generous as Sarah Kelley. She became LEO’s first female editor in January of 2010. Recently on maternity leave, she was faced with a mandate for a staff cut — and opted to sacrifice herself. Kelley personifies and inspires loyalty. Nevertheless, we are shocked and saddened by the loss of our leader.

Less than two months ago, a reader wrote me an email in which he praised her “outstanding piece” on her family history of breast cancer and whether to embrace pre-emptive surgery a la Angelina Jolie (“Cancer, Interrupted,” May 22). “She’s a magnificent writer, editor and person,” I replied. “I’ve made no secret of my desire for her to remain at LEO a long, long time.”

I’ll think of her whenever I hear her “happy tune” — Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” — and I’ll remember that the most beloved boss is my life is the one who surrendered her own job to spare someone else’s.