I'd read the reviews of the restored Hotel Blackhawk - all the fawning and fanfare. So I wanted to see if the fuss was warranted or just a bunch of civic cheerleading. My 15th wedding anniversary seemed like the perfect excuse for a stay, along with the discounted $79 room rate for locals that ended the next day on December 30. I also have an empathetic respect for people that put their heart, mind, and money into restoring dilapidated buildings, as I had done once with an abandoned cinema. I believe Amrit and Amy Gill of Restoration St. Louis deserve a lot of credit for taking such a risk with the Blackhawk, especially after others had forsaken the downtown-Davenport landmark.

So I went to the Hotel Blackhawk about an hour before my wife was to arrive, enough time for a few drinks at the "belly-up" bar in the lounge. It was designed to encourage folks to stand rather than sit by removing the chairs on the side of the bar that opened up to the lobby and having sparse seating along the other three sides. And I have to admit: This magical feng shui worked. It was open and welcoming, and its proximity to the check-in allowed me to sip on a Templeton Rye while watching the line diminish.

I tried to get our room key before my wife showed up, so I could surprise her with a bottle of Brut and a dozen roses in the ice bucket, but I didn't have the credit card that we used to reserve the room; it was in my wife's purse. Half-joking, I asked woman behind the desk if they took cash. She ignored me. I don't know if it was my lack of credit, the bag filled with wine bottles clinking at my side, or my insistence on getting a room with a hot tub at the discount rate, but she made me feel like some kid on prom night trying to scam a room. I will say she was the only one during our entire experience that raised my hackles. The rest of the crew was very cordial, even when the experience was occasionally below expectations.

William M. Johnson

William M. Johnson was my maternal uncle, who joined his wife of 62 years, Carm, when he passed quietly on December 30, 2010. He was 88 years old, and a treasure to me who, over these past four years, shared a rich and detailed view into my family's history. His perspectives and memories of his generation's era are invaluable.

Bill led a charmed life. He was a Depression-era child in Rock Island and fondly recalled how he used to join dozens of neighbors hunting worms at night in Longview Park so they could fish for their suppers from the Mississippi. Decades later he retired from Deere & Company, having served for 36 years as executive pilot, coming on board at the genesis of Deere's aviation department after World War II. Bill is survived by two sons and daughters-in-laws - Bill and Neva, and Tom and Kathy - 16 grandchildren, and six great grandchildren. And me and my husband, Todd. We could not have loved him more.

Curtis Butterfield, Sarah Mason-Butterfield, and their daughter Clara. Photo courtesy Sarah Mason-Butterfield.He was a frightening figure when I first met him, with tattoos of verses in Arabic and lines from literature on his arms, a shaved head, a ragged beard, and the combination of a stern voice and piercing gaze.

As an Indian who is often mistaken for someone from the Middle East, I had received plenty of negative attention from people who looked like him. But I could not avoid him.

It was 2002, and Curtis Butterfield was my freshman biology teacher and my coach for the junior-varsity academic team at Moline High School.

Early in the school year, Butterfield gave me a confrontation, but not the one I had been dreading.

"You know this is not your best work," he said, with the voice and glare used to full effect, "and if you think you're staying in my class, you need to start doing better work."

Butterfield "doesn't invite people to come in and learn; he demands that students learn," said Nicholas Pitz, a Moline High German teacher and varsity academic-team coach. "Learning is not an option."

If you're approaching this article on water fluoridation with trepidation, Paul Connett knows how you feel.

"I didn't want this issue," said Connett, the co-author of the recently published book The Case Against Fluoride, in a phone interview last week.

"When my wife dumped a whole bunch of papers on my desk one afternoon in July 1996 and said, 'Dear, would you read these papers?'" he recalled, "I said, 'What is it? What's it about?' She says, 'Fluoridation.' I said, 'Take it away. These people are crazy.'"

Connett already had a full-time job as a professor of chemistry at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York. And for a decade he had been a vocal opponent of waste incineration, a cause that sent him around the world presenting lectures.

"I didn't want a third issue," Connett said. "I certainly didn't want this one, which was stigmatized ... as the province of a bunch of Flat Earth Society crazy people. And I'd succumbed to that same notion without doing any research."

That night the Village of Canton was considering whether to continue fluoridation of the city's drinking water. Connett said: "When I started to read the papers that she put there, my intention was as quickly as possible to find out where these crazy anti-fluoridationists had made some fundamental scientific mistakes and [determine] that there was nothing to worry about. ... It didn't take me long to realize that there were some very serious problems with that practice" of fluoridation.

Most of us like to root for an underdog, so here's a story that our local television news stations should eat up.

When the River Cities' Reader analyzed Quad Cities newscasts for four days earlier this month, there was one major surprise: The fourth-place local station at 10 p.m. - CBS affiliate WHBF, whose newscast has gotten trounced in the ratings by a syndication sitcom on Fox 18 - might just have the best local television news in the Quad Cities.

In just about every objective and subjective measure, WHBF's late-night newscast beats or presents a strong challenge to established power KWQC, the local NBC affiliate.

Thank you for participating in the dining survey for the Quad Cities' Dining Guide, published by the River Cities' Reader. Look for the results in the fall/winter 2013 edition in October, and at RCReader.com.

Results of our previous survey (conducted October through February) can be found here.

Information from our Dining Guide can always be found at QuadCitiesDiningGuide.com.

Here are the winners in our fall 2010 Best of the Quad Cities balloting, covering four categories: Arts, Culture, and Entertainment; Night Life; Shopping and Services; and People. 

(For the winners of our spring competition - covering Food and Dining; Civics and Government; Media; and Recreation - click here. Our Best of the Quad Cities archive - with 10 years of winners - is here.)

In this round of voting, we had 581 valid ballots, and we required participants to provide reasonable answers in at least 20 of the 63 categories. In all, 17,829 votes were cast on valid ballots.

Arts, Culture, and Entertainment

Local Band
1) Dani Lynn Howe Band
2) Funktastic 5
3) Wicked Liz & the Bellyswirls

Local Cover Band
1) Dani Lynn Howe Band
2) Funktastic 5
3) The King's Kiss

Venue for Live Music
1) Redstone Room
2) RIBCO
3) i wireless Center

(Author's note: This article was originally published in September 2010, but it serves as a fitting review of the career of Ray Bradbury, who died on June 5, 2012.)


"But of course he was going away, there was nothing else to do, the time was up, the clock had run out, and he was going very far away indeed."

Sam Weller, Ray Bradbury, and Black Francis in June. Photo by Nathan Kirkman.Unless one believes that Mr. Electrico's command to Ray Bradbury should be taken literally, the famed author will likely not be on this planet to celebrate his 100th birthday.

For those unfamiliar with the Bradbury mythology, Mr. Electrico was a carnival magician Bradbury saw in 1932, when he was 12. Sam Weller describes the event in his 2005 biography The Bradbury Chronicles: "Mr. Electrico then approached the bespectacled, wide-eyed boy in the front row. Taking the [electrified] sword, he tapped Ray on each shoulder, then on the brow, and finally on the tip of his nose and cried, 'Live forever!'"

"Why did he say that?" Bradbury said to Weller. "I decided that was the greatest idea I had ever heard. Just weeks after Mr. Electrico said this to me, I started writing every day. I never stopped."

Immortality, of course, already belongs to Bradbury. His 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451 stands alongside Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (published in 1932) and George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four (published in 1949) as a mid-20th Century cautionary-tale classic imagining a future full of numbing technology and invasive government. (See the sidebar "Pleasure to Burn -- Reading Fahrenheit 451.")

The book is the subject of the Moline Public Library's Quad Cities-wide "Big Read" campaign, which begins September 27 with a keynote lecture by Weller and closes on October 31 -- Bradbury's favorite holiday. (For a list of Big Read events, see the sidebar "Fahrenheit 451 -- Area Book Discussions, Panel Discussions, and Film Screenings.") But while Fahrenheit 451 is undoubtedly Bradbury's lasting long-form work, Weller noted in an interview last week that the book isn't typical of the author.

Sean O'Harrow in 2008In Sean O'Harrow's telling, the Figge Art Museum is gaining an ally as much as it's losing an executive director.

It was announced last week that O'Harrow has accepted the directorship of the University of Iowa Museum of Art (UIMA), at which he'll start on November 15. A national search for O'Harrow's replacement is expected to take at least four months.

"It is my faith in this region that is keeping me here," O'Harrow said in an interview Friday. "I think there's a lot that eastern Iowa can achieve. There are a lot of great museums and great cultural offerings which I think need to be better promoted, to a certain extent organized, maybe coordinated."

And he said that after three years as executive director, he's leaving the Figge in good shape. "It's a very stable institution right now, and it's offering some very high-quality programs," O'Harrow said. "And if I can help the UIMA, I think that would be a very powerful pairing ... . It was important for me to offer my services."

In an interview promoting his 2007 lecture at the Figge Art Museum, urban planner Jeff Speck promised that his ideas would be "controversial." He explained to me that "most cities, for better or for worse, are being designed by their public-works departments, who state as the highest objective the free flow of automobiles."

Three years later, the City of Davenport is on the cusp of approving a 10-year comprehensive transportation plan called "Davenport in Motion" that draws from the philosophy Speck promotes. The shock is that it's barely controversial at all.

Pages