Wednesday, November 24, 2010

TSA Compensation

No one with a brain really believes those new photo-realistic full body scanners and the hands-on junk-checks are there to improve our safety or even if that were the intent that this is in any way effective. In fact, it is much more than that--and also somewhat less.

The truth was uncovered by a service technician who spent a day repairing an airport security scanner. TSA agents have developed an uncanny means of determining who, and to what extent, members of the traveling public are "compensating". The following conversation between two TSA agents, while totally fictitious, was overheard by this technician at a nearby airport. Judge for yourself.

"Lookee here, dat small enough for a Bimmer?"

"Nah, that's definitely a 'Vette."

"What you say? Why you sure?"

"Look at dat shirt, man, half way open and the only thang he got hangin' dat disco bling. 'Vette. All the way 'Vette."

"Man, dat's cheatin'. You s'posed to be lookin' at the dude's junk, not da wrapper. You got dat one, but dis next one, lordamercy! He makes 'em happy. Whatcha think? Pickup truck?"

"Hell, yes. And he PUSHED it here. From Macon. Now look a' dis. TI-nee! Gotta be either a Bimmer...7 series, or a Benz. A big Benz. S-class."

"Nah, Johnson ain't got no hoodie. Betcha dat's a Jag."

"Well I'm gonna find out." The Traveler has moved down the line, but the TSA agent approaches, "Excuse me sir, but we just found some BMW keys and were wondering if they might be yours..."

The Traveler, with an air of indignation and an appropriately sized British accent replied, "Certainly not! I drive only Aston Martin."

Upon returning the other Agent asks, "I was right, it's a Jag ain't it?"

"Nope. His Majesty ONLY drives as-TON mar-TIN!"

"You can call me James..."

"...or you can call me Bond..."

Both: "...but ya doesn't have to call me Mister Johnson!"

Laughter all around.

Now we know: it isn't about safety, it isn't just a game of "peek-a-boo" and it sure as hell isn't about our Fourth Amendment rights. No, it's a competitive sport. And the TSA may not be able to find a terrorist, but with one look at Little Willy Winky, they know your "compensation". So if the next time you fly you see the TSA agent squinting, you just tell him the heater in your dump truck is busted.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Alison's Restaurant

Anyone visiting the Shops of Dunwoody will surely notice one business set apart from the others--Alison's Restaurant. In a shopping center littered with neon "Open" signs--even our local haberdasher has one--Alison's is notably absent. Why? Glad you asked.

Seems the "Smart People" on our "Smart City" Council have deemed neon signs offensive to their sensibilities and henceforth there shall be no new neon signs even though by the looks of it the previous policy must have required neon signs. And with their unwavering "fidelity to all things past" still intact, existing neon signs are "grandfathered" so only new businesses are at a competitive disadvantage.

If you're one of those who agree with their position regarding ticky-tacky neon you probably view this is an unfortunate consequence of an effort to upgrade the classiness of the area. Until you dig further.

As Ms. Alison herself observed in a recent encounter she could "stand out front in a chicken suit waving a placard" but she cannot have the same "Open" sign as her neighbors. Because that would be tacky. And should she embark on the chicken waving tactic she should be forewarned that she cannot use any balloons, as that is tres ta-KAY. Unless of course you happen to be her landlord, in which case you could stand outside the now closed Mudcatz in a clown outfit with balloons by the bunch. Because...that's not tacky?

Normally this is where a TOD post ends, with an entreaty to patronize Alison's as an act of courage, to join with other patriotic Dunwoodians in defiance of the draconian dictators running our oppressive government. And indeed you should, but as it happens that is not the only reason. It turns out Alison's is an excellent addition to our local dining options.

Obviously Alison's is new, not just to our community but inside as well. They have completely refurbished the interior retaining only the basic layout of the previous establishment. The cuisine is Mediterranean-Italian, the menu extensive, the prices on the moderate side and the food on the plate excellent. The atmosphere immediately impresses as upscale with linens, stainless and china. The fresh decor uses muted tones with faux stucco to subtly hint at the mediterranean cuisine, but not clumsily done as is all too common. The lighting and music are consistent with the romance of "An Affair to Remember"--sconces with a mid-century look and a playlist including Billie Holliday, Sinatra and straight ahead jazz. The main dining room is spacious, a good mix of booths and tables, and unlike another local option these booths are well suited to persons of, shall we say, a "certain gravitas". The main dining room is augmented by an outside patio to the front and opens to a narrow area at back with the bar on one side and seating against the opposite wall.

The bar is full service and the wine list offers a good selection, and while it is no challenge to D'Vine's, no restaurant should even attempt to be. The food, at least in one visit (consider this a critical amuse bouche rather than a multi-visit full-toque review), was well above average and a bargain for the price. The menu may not be as experimental or trendy as others, but few can match Alison's execution.

Their calamari is of the "onion ring" variety which would not be remarkable except that it was properly fried which based on other local offerings is not as easy as one would imagine. But what really takes this appetizer to the next level is the marinara sauce which is far better than offered anywhere else in Dunwoody. Then there is the crab cake: lump white meat, sweet and succulent and unburdened by any unnecessary ingredients. A generous portion is elegantly served surrounded by a butter sauce streaked with hot sauce, allowing the diner to dial in just right amount of heat to complement the buttery sweetness of the crab.

The Steak Alambre features marinated skirt steak that is flavorful, but not dominant. The onions are perfectly caramelized, and the bell pepper is cooked al dente, something that seems to elude even the most seasoned cooks. The Lobster Ravioli, a signature dish, was properly portioned and as with all other dishes excellently prepared. This dish boasts a vodka cream sauce and as good as the lobster is, this sauce was to die for. That in one meal, the kitchen can knock three sauces right out of the park, tells you that someone at Alison's really knows what they're doing.

The topper was an ample pair of sensuous Buttery Nipples that tantalize the tongue and sate the most ardent of cravings. There is truly no better way to round out the night.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Next Great Brand

Dunwoody's "New and Improved!" brand simply will not work. The copy-cat scandal will not go away and is likely to expand as folks begin to notice the relationship between Sky Designs and Norcross and connect the dots between Dunwoody staff and former Norcross staff. Even if there is no formal investigation, we can hope for open records requests around how the work was bid and the results vetted.

If we're lucky, we'll also get some much needed turnover at city hall and afterwards, should it still be considered a good idea, we can expect a new brand--an original brand.

Just in case, it would be good to start early, first by looking at why the plagiarized brand works so well for its rightful owners.

Plano, TX has a problem with the sound of its name: "PLAIN-oh". Hard to miss the "PLAIN" part. Plain does not conjure images of "extraordinary", "novel", "unique" or "progressive". So how does "Plano/Smart People/Smart Place" address this? First we have repetition, "SMART" people, "SMART" place reiterates the core message--"sounds" plain, but is really "smart". The consonance, "Plano"..."People"..."Place", ties all three parts together.

For Plano, this works. For Dunwoody, not so much. Outside of a screaming need for people to think we're smarter than we so obviously are, there is nothing about a "smart people, smart place" ripoff that supports Dunwoody's ambitions. But we could take a page out of Plano's playbook.

Plano used its brand to overcome a unfortunate consequence of its name, a slightly negative connotation of the very sound of it. Dunwoody has ripened its own opportunity to do the same.

Since the days of "Dunwoody Housewife Jokes", our community has not been held in high esteem. We've been laughed at for being arrogant and elitist, for being unoriginal in our homes--Dunwoody's Beige and Brick Four Four and a Door are renowned--and for the Stepford-like lives lived therein. At their best our battles with the county seem to reflect a NIMBY mindset but always carry racial overtones of lily white suburbanites bristling at a new, largely black power structure. The large number of Yankees in Dunwoody does little to counter this view, serving mostly as proof that "liberalism flourishes where it is not challenged." These transplants are viewed as even more racist than their white Southern counterparts and their current affection for "all things that shall not be forgotten" does little to help.

Dunwoody has a hard-earned reputation as a place best avoided by anyone smart or progressive and certainly by anyone of color. We are known as a place for white folks to raise white kids. While many in Dunwoody embrace that vision apparently that is not enough for others. Hence, the reputation repairing "brand".

Ironically, this brand already exists, though followers of this blog, all three of you, will be surprised to read of it here. This is a branding that speaks to the future. That speaks to being progressive, to honoring tradition without blind adulation. That speaks to citizens pulling together to create a new, better future for themselves and their children.

And what is this brand?
Dunwoody Yes!
"Yes" is a positive assertion of action, a much needed antidote to the negative image permeating our past and clouding our future. The exclamation speaks to energy, a vibrancy that counters the impression of a staid group of bow-tie wearing George Will wannabes and blue-haired ladies in Buicks. And it starts, as it should, with that which is being branded. Unlike "Ole 5K's" obvious rationalization of the puke green on his logo, the yellow of Dunwoody Yes! and the Dunwoody street sign toppers is vibrant. And consistent--linking the tradition of the farmhouse sign-toppers with the forward looking, outward facing brand.

So there you have it dear readers. We've come full circle and found that if we must purloin someone's brand, then let it be our own. How smart is that?

Friday, November 5, 2010

It Doesn't Matter, Part Deux

If you're interested in proper redistricting of the Dunwoody cluster, or redistributing attendance to remove trailers from some schools while filling classes in others, or even dodging the the imminent loss of accreditation, then it doesn't matter who wins the upcoming runoff.

But a compelling argument has been advanced to embrace change for the sake of change. Since changing the name/face does no harm--a basic premise of bloated bureaucracy--there is no downside. But it sends a new message to those political cowards who capitulate for fear of losing re-election--you're going to lose anyway! After cycling a few do-nothings through the process someone might figure out they might as well try something if they only have one bite at the apple. And it adds a special pas de deux to the nepotism tango. Can we ignore a swelling population district employees who are relatives and near relatives of board members past and present?

So try something new for a change--vote for change. At least then you're voting for something.

Monday, November 1, 2010

BOE: It Doesn't Matter

As you head out to the polls tomorrow, probably in hopes of ending the horrific negative ad campaigns punishing our airwaves, consider this: no matter who you vote for or who wins the election to become Dunwoody's representative on the DeKalb Board of Education, it won't change a thing. Heresy you say? Well there are a couple of irrefutable reasons why this is true.

First, our public schools, DCSS in particulary, have become a bloated, self-righteous and self-serving bureaucracy that cannot be changed by the entire board let alone one individual. Administrators, Board Members and other insiders have turned the system into an urban job works program rife with nepotism run for the benefit of the few at the expense of the many. Given that Board Members already play this game, one more, one way or the other, won't make a difference. 

Closer to home, the Dunwoody cluster has long been at the mercy of the Vanderlyn School Mafia. Until someone tells this selfish group to shut up and grow up they will continue with their whisper-campaign of fear while publicly hiding behind the chimera of "property value erosion". The tragedy of the "Fourth-Fifth Academy", ironically at only four fifths capacity, exists because DCSS lacked the courage to point out that the VanderKinder won't come home with cooties because they sit in a class with apartment kids. Furthermore the VSM's isolationist doctrine will ultimately harm property values rather than preserve them. Yet no candidate has the courage to advance a proposal to put these folks in their place.

So if you think it makes a difference who wins, by all means vote your conscience. But don't drink the Kool-aid. It's goes straight to your hips.