Best Story of a Bold Venture

Early in George Takei’s graphic memoir They Called Us Enemy, a pen-and-ink version of the actor appears onstage at a TED Talk in Kyoto. “I am a veteran of the Starship Enterprise. I soared through the galaxy … to boldly go where no one has gone before,” he says. “I am the grandson of immigrants from Japan who went to America. Boldly going to a strange new world, seeking new opportunities.” For the rest of the 204-page book, Takei revisits a dark chapter from his, and our nation’s, history: the internment of Japanese-Americans during the years of WWII. Though it might seem distant to us now, his bold foray reminds us we’re not as far from the past as we might think.

Best Re-Etching of Local History

As the saying goes, nothing is written in stone. Back in April, Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a new law to have the statues of Uriah M. Rose and James P. Clarke moved out of their digs at the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall Collection. The new residents? Civil-rights activist Daisy Gatson Bates and musician Johnny Cash—two Arkansans with superlative gifts and an exhaustive list of accomplishments, big and small (but, you know, like mostly really big). Although it may be a few years before Johnny and Daisy take up their posts, these fine folks, Asa mentioned, best represent the story of our state. We couldn’t agree more, Governor. We couldn’t agree more.

Best Small-Town Revolution

We’re not sure if Searcy’s one in a million—but it’s at least one in 12,000. This past February, the White County town got wind they were in the running for a makeover courtesy of the Hulu show, Small Business Revolution-Main Street—a long-shot opportunity that’d both get them on the map, and on the screen. And then … they got it. For the past few months, we’ve seen hints of what’s to come—revamps, renos, rebrandings—but when the show finally debuts Oct. 8, we know one thing for certain: Odds are, it’ll be great.

Best Break From the Ranks

“My name is Vivian. I play soccer. I am six years old,” begins the letter from Vivian Lord of Little Rock. What follows, however, takes a hard turn from your typical 6-year-old’s missive: “Why do you not make girl army men.” After her query to toy companies went viral, Vivian eventually landed a spot on CBS’s On the Road with Steve Hartman. During the second half of the story, Steve traveled to BMC Toys in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where he met with owner Jeff Imel—who then committed, on camera, to making Vivian’s dreams a reality. Jeff made a point of saying that he’d long considered something similar (a June 2018 post on BMC’s blog confirms as much), but as he said: “[Vivian] put it to the top of the list. Easily.”

Best Isn’t-the-Future-Bonkers? Moment

Deep in the trenches of a lab in the department of mechanical engineering at the University of Arkansas, inventor and professor Wenchao Zhou visualized a future where swarms of smart and autonomous 3D-printing robots would work cooperatively to accomplish a task too complicated for a single machine—such as building houses or cultivating farms. This vision of the future—named AMBOTS, for Autonomous Mobile roBOTS and Advanced Manufacturing roBOTS—is now actively in the works. Just how revolutionary is Zhou’s idea? Well, energy and innovation giant GE called the endeavor one of the “5 Coolest Things on Earth.” So there’s that.

Best Transmission from Springdale’s Heart

Do you realize … or should we say, did you realize that Wayne Coyne was in Springdale? Though some may recognize the scraggly haired Flaming Lips frontman for his visually over-the-top concerts (we’ll never forget the moment we saw him walk over a sea of fans in an enormous inflatable hamster ball), he recently took a smaller-scale approach at the Arts Center of the Ozarks: While in town to promote his enormous immersive installation dubbed King’s Mouth—a ceiling-skimming tower of mylar balloons in the shape of an open-mouthed king’s head, in which up to eight people could experience the Flaming Lip’s new album King’s Mouth: Music and Songs—Coyne stopped by to give 20-minute presentations on “spin art.” Jelly? Yeah, us too.

Best Soon-to-Come Artspace

After shooting some sidelong glances across the river—we see what you’re doing there, Memphis—we’re finally getting some attention from Minneapolis-based Artspace. Now the nonprofit, which offers affordable live-slash-work housing to a community of artists and creatives, is eyeing a move west, or more precisely, to Little Rock. But wait! Before you bid farewell to your roommate—we know it’s been a roller-coaster year for you two—we have to mention that the development will take a few years to come to fruition. In other words, it’s a bit too early to pack up your easels and pastel cases, but there’s still good reason to get excited.