The Birminghamster
For July 16, 2003 "Hot town, summer in the city." - Vol. IV No. IV published every other Wednesday

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  Mazer's To Offer Landlord Variety Grab Bag

restoration aids

Tools of the Trade
Avondale() Summertime brings with it a surge of home upfitting by landlords intent on making their properties more attractive for sale or rent. Historically low interest rates have taken this gentrification craze to new heights in the Southside and Crestwood communities, and Mazer's Building Supply and Outlet Center is hoping to capitalize on this by supplying much needed shortcut products in a grab bag format. Landlords are already familiar with Mazer's cut-rate building materials and damaged or distressed lumber and wallboard. Now the store is offering its more popular landlord products bundled together in random assortments.

The possible selections will include: plastic roof cement, Kilz™, foil tape, drywall patch, siding remnants, Goop™, and Great Stuff™ expanding foam. Landlord and contractor Chad Bohm is enthusiastic about the variety grab bag. "I don't really care what I get in my grab bag," said Bohm. "I love all of these products." Most southside landlords have no trouble recalling a situation in which the grab bag might have come in handy. "Just the other day I was ripping out some old wooden windows in this run-down bungalow," said duplex owner Chris Hinton. "You know how the new vinyl windows never quite fit in the non-standard openings? Well, I always use expanding foam around the edges and glue small strips of siding over that. It really makes the job go fast and the new windows always look better."

Landlord Nancy Mayes was excited about some doorknobs that she saw in one of the grab bags. "I'm always having to replace old glass doorknobs and latch hardware. Sometimes putting in a new pre-fab door is easier, but I would still need the doorknobs." Mazer's expects the variety packs to sell well at $39.95 each. "For that kind of money, it is an incredible value," said Bohm.

'Bath Party' Ousted

adults only

Watch Your Back
Eastlake(JM) The secular men's magazine 'Bath Party' has been successfully removed from a rack at Pleasure Books East to make way for 'Illegal Invasion' and 'Coalition of the Willing', magazines more acceptable to the hardcore bush contingent. "We can't continue to sanction the illegal and disruptive activities of 'Bath Party' loyalists," said Scott, a spokesman for the new regime at the popular East Lake book store, "With the addition of new, previously under-represented titles, we look forward to establishing a free and open system for governing our rack."

The details of such a system have yet to be worked out. For example, the management is still undecided on whether to keep 'Secretary Colin' in place or how high to put 'Tom Ridge' in the stable of titles. That decision is said to be left with the bookstore's Vice President. "Dick does all the thinking around here." a clerk confided, "and his big thing seems to be what he calls 'Shock and Awe' as far as the displays go." Rumor has it that Dick has other big things in the works, such as capitalizing on the store's abundant resources of novelty oils and its strategic location near the intersection of First Avenue and Oporto-Madrid Boulevard. The whole thrust of the plan has yet to come into the public eye.

Highway Literacy Campaign Deemed a Failure: Electronic Signs Removed After Brief Trial

Roll And Read
280 Corridor(JM) A pioneering campaign earlier this year to help commuters brush up on their ABC’s has been halted by the State Highway Officials after complaints that the electronic 'flash cards' were an unnecessary distraction for motorists on some of the region’s busiest highways. County accident statistics neither prove nor disprove the suggestion that collisions increased during the first phase of the planned twelve-year 'Learn to Read on the Road' campaign. Helen Thursby, who lives in Altadena and drives up Highway 280 every day to her daughter’s daycare center in Bluff Park and then to her office in Homewood was glad to hear the signs would be removed, "The last thing I need in the morning is another flashing sign screaming for my attention. I mean, I’ve already got Lindsay in the back singing along with the Veggie-Tales tape while I put her lunch together and pull the morning’s sales calls from my briefcase while trying to check in with my partner and get my messages. Then when I look up, here’s this big sign flashing the alphabet in my face. What’s the point of that? What a waste of my tax money!"

Warren Chipotle, an educator with the highway department expressed regret that the system was not well received. "We really hoped that this thing would take off. I’m not aware of any other state using its highway funds this way. This is money that’s already earmarked for highway maintenance being used to shore up an area that is chronically underfunded education. Alabama has one of the lowest literacy rates in the developed world, and no money to improve the system, yet there are hundreds of millions of dollars coming into our department every year. I’m really disheartened that the administration didn’t see fit to continue this program."

After three months of flashing the alphabet, the signs would have moved on to basic word construction and, by the end of 2003, even short sentences. Over the course of the next twelve years, motorists would have been exposed to rules of grammar and prose structure, and eventually to classic works of literature. A special serialized version of 'Great Expectations' by Charles Dickens had already been licensed and stored on computer disk, ready to greet commuters beginning in spring of 2011.

A spokesman for the administration did not hesitate to list reasons for the sudden curtailment of the program. Besides the possible distraction to drivers, there was a question of the legality of using highway funds for literacy programs under Federal law, as well as the threat of litigation from community leaders in areas that were not targeted in the program. "If you look at where the state put these signs up, you’ll notice that it was mostly the corridors for affluent commuters who are probably already well educated. Routes into town from poorer communities were left out, and that exposes us not only to costly litigation, but also to the possibility of civil judgments which we just can not risk."

Other objections came from representatives in the statehouse who wanted more accountability in the choice of materials that would be used in the system. One legislator who asked not to be named implied that the Federal government could use the system for propaganda and that the literacy curriculum might not respect Alabama’s traditional educational values. Hightower Communications, the Atlanta firm that erected the highway signs, has already begun the process of removing them. Lane closings and associated delays should be expected over the next few weeks.