Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The Bounce

Wronging Wainwright

The story on Jerry Wainwright's departure that has been oozing out of the University of Richmond has a bad smell to it. In my book Wainwright is as respected as just about anyone in college basketball today, as far as being a straight shooter goes. He is a class act. Those in the Spiders athletic director's office, and whatever other boosters who are trashing Wainwright following his move to DePaul, are doing injury to their own program.
(Photo credit: F. T. Rea)
Fan District Flashbacks is a new series of single-frame drawings with
captions. This is No.1, it appears in the June issue of SLANT.

Where's Jaws?

by F. T. Rea

It’s summertime and Virginians are entering the troubled waters of a gubernatorial election. How many televised debates will there be? Who is the true tax-cutter? Which campaign will stoop the lowest? Here we go again. As Virginia is the only state to forbid a sitting governor to run for reelection, every four years we elect a new one, whether we want to, or not. Generally, Virginians don’t mind being the only folks to do something, so don‘t expect this to change soon.

And, just as it was four years ago, sharks are biting people, again. Why? Is it a coincidence? What’s to be done? Where’s former Virginia governor James S. “Jaws” Gilmore III when we need him? After all, it was the semi-visionary Jim Gilmore who once launched a commission, a Shark Task Force, to study the peril of shark attacks on Virginians.

That was the late-summer of 2001, in the winding down of Gilmore’s term in office, when his own dismal disapproval ratings were hurting the gubernatorial campaign of his still-loyal sidekick Mark Earley. By the way, the then-candidate for Attorney General, Jerry Kilgore, broke with Gilmore on his by then-unpopular inflexible stand on the car-tax issue.

With the news of a pair of shark attacks off the nearby coast, Gilmore must have thought he heard opportunity knocking on the door. Immediately, the semi-savvy player donned a pith helmet and shark-hunting khaki outfit to strike a pose.

Standing in defiance of an enemy that no one could possibly defend, Gilmore must have imagined his popularity would soon soar again. Note: Washington Business Journal (SEPT. 5, 2001): “In response to the recent shark attacks at Virginia Beach and in North Carolina, Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore has convened a task force to examine the issue. The shark task force will be headed by Secretary of Natural Resources John Paul Woodley, State Del. Terrie Suit (R-Virginia Beach) and several marine experts... Florida Gov. Jeb Bush recently said that the media attention to the recent spate of attacks is overblown.”

Blithely ignoring the sitting president’s brother, Gilmore likely cocked his pith helmet to one side, to listen to what sounded like, “Knock, knock.”

In 1997 Gilmore had galloped to triumph with his No-More-Car-Tax mantra. Virginians liked his blue collar style. Then, as governor, he stubbornly stayed on that same tired workhorse issue through his four-year term, until it collapsed in a heap in the spring of 2001. Meanwhile, Gilmore’s handling of the Hugh Finn right-to-die-with-dignity case was diabolically clumsy; his handling of the Sally Mann censorship flap at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts was bull-in-a-china-shop clumsy. With some justification Governor Gilmore is remembered for his stubbornness and his awkwardness, rather than his bold Shark Task Force.

“Knock, knock....”

“Who’s there?” Gilmore may have whispered, thinking he heard the shark musical theme from “Jaws” playing in the background.

Earley lost in Virginia, handing the keys to the Governor’s Mansion to Democrat Mark Warner. Gilmore wasn’t National Chairman of the Grand Old Party long enough to do much more than be remembered for being fired, and, of course, denying that he was fired. Note: USA Today (Nov. 30, 2001): “Gilmore resigned, effective in January, saying he wasn't willing to commit to the extensive travel and time away from family required to prepare for the 2002 elections. He leaves after less than a year in office, a period marked by disappointing elections...”

Well, as history unfolded, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 overshadowed all else in the news for a long time. So, lame duck Gilmore and his Virginia Shark Task Force’s findings were ignored on December 14, 2001. Furthermore, the first sentence of the VSTF report sort of made it unnecessary to read the rest of it. Note: “In more than 390 years since the English settlement of Virginia there had never been a fatal shark attack in Virginia waters until September 1, 2001 when a 10-year old boy named David Peltier was attacked near the Little Island Fishing Pier at Sandbridge...” The report went on to say that sharks usually live in the ocean and every now and then one of them bites a person who is also in the ocean.

But even if Gilmore’s expertise in preventing shark attacks is not much use, there are always more elections to be botched. So, don’t be surprised to see the old shark hunter himself wading in, awkwardly, to drag down yet another fellow Republican’s gubernatorial campaign. If Gilmore’s enthusiasm for candidate Jerry Kilgore turns out to be tepid, remember where you read it first.

Why would Gilmore want to do that? What’s he got against Kilgore? Well, it says here that Gilmore is still unhappy with some Virginia Republicans about some old business. Still, whether he’s got anything specific against Kilgore, or not, may not matter. If Gilmore already senses that Kilgore is going to lose to Tim Kaine -- and at this point that seems to be more likely than not -- the former governor might just see some gain from never having been on the Kilgore bandwagon at all. Especially, if Kilgore loses bad, and, he might.

Later, with Kaine in office, giving the Democrats two consecutive terms, Gilmore might believe he would then be in a better position to run for governor next time around. Yes, I think he means to put on that man-of-adventure khaki outfit, again, and run for governor in 2009.

Soon, late at night, Gilmore may hear a familiar sound. “Knock, knock...”

“Who’s there?” Gilmore might ask.

From the other side of the door the shark music is there, again, but maybe this time there will be more -- a tentative male voice with a somewhat effeminate mountain twang saying, “Candygram.”

-- 30 --


It isn't all that often I get to send out a heads-up about a current band. But here's one for Spoon, a stylish Texas outfit I first saw/heard on Austin City Limits about a year ago. Click on this link to listen to an NPR review (that ran on Monday) of Spoon's new album, "Gimme Fiction."

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

copyright F. T. Rea 2005

Pomp and Circumstances

In the June 8 issue of STYLE Weekly Scott Bass did a fine job of tracing the history of the controversial Virginia Performing Arts Foundation. His piece -- "Pomp and Circumstances: A grand vision. The complicated reality. The untold story of Richmond's performing art center." -- should be read by anyone trying to get their arms around what all the fuss is about.

"The foundation’s problems, however, began long before Wilder took aim. During the past year the arts center project has suffered from a number of strategic missteps, ineffective public relations, and a fund-raising campaign that has been ineffective in both the private and public sectors. Meanwhile, serious questions about the arts center’s future operations remain unanswered."

Click here to view the article.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Price of Pot Prohibition

Dr. Jeffrey Miron, an economics professor at Harvard, says replacing pot prohibition with a system of taxing and regulating it, in a fashion similar to alcohol, would generate a total of savings and revenue that would fall somewhere between $10 billion and $14 billion per year. Wow!

Now a group of distinguished economists (including Nobel Prize-winner Milton Friedman ) has written an open letter calling upon President Bush to have " open and honest debate about marijuana prohibition." The letter adds, "We believe such a debate will favor a regime in which marijuana is legal but taxed and regulated like other goods."

Read the story at

"'As Milton Friedman and over 500 economists have now said, it's time for a serious debate about whether marijuana prohibition makes any sense,' said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C. 'We know that prohibition hasn't kept marijuana away from kids, since year after year 85 percent of high school seniors tell government survey-takers that marijuana is easy to get. Conservatives, especially, are beginning to ask whether we're getting our money's worth or simply throwing away billions of tax dollars that might be used to protect America from real threats...'"

After 20 Years, Why SLANT?

Time capsule: The hipster staff at Domino's Doghouse
welcomed SLANT to the scene in 1985
(Photo Credit: F. T. Rea)

In SLANT’s first year of existence, 1985, desktop publishing was just catching on. Nintendo entered the home video game market and America Online was founded. Seven New Jersey teens were busted for accessing a Pentagon computer using an ordinary telephone line. Mikhail Gorbachev took the reins of power in the USSR and quickly implemented his “glasnost” policy. France's government finally admitted its intelligence officers actually did sink Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior. In Richmond times were changing, too, as the 6th Street Marketplace and The Diamond opened that same year.

The first issue of SLANT was a 16-pager; it cost a quarter. In the 20 years since SLANT has gone through a number of format changes -- from twice-a-week handbill, to monthly tabloid, to weekly newsletter, etc. (And, there was a nearly-eight-year hiatus. After a comeback last year it is now being published on a once-a-month basis.)

SLANT on the masthead said up-front that the material presented would come from a point of view; no tricks would be employed to convince anyone otherwise. My hope was then, and remains today, that a thinking person will see SLANT’s admitted directness, and consider that all reportage ultimately comes from some vantage point. Of course, this doesn’t get into whether the report is fair, or even honest.

Today SLANT remains as independent as it gets. From the start my inspiration came from free thinkers who, in their day, found an original way to have their say. Among others they included: the American pamphleteers of the 1770’s, who fomented revolution; the French artist who used lithography to become the father of modern political cartooning, Honore Daumier (1808-1879); Spanish surrealist filmmaker Luis Bunuel (1900-1983), whose startling films spawned riots in the early 1930s; crusading independent journalist/newsletter publisher I. F. Stone (1907-1989); underground comix artist/publisher R. Crumb, who sold his Zap Comix out of a baby carriage on the streets of San Francisco. (Crumb was born in 1943 and is still alive.)

In its first issue SLANT mocked Richmond’s new 6th Street Marketplace with a cartoon of mine and it featured an essay -- “All Art Becomes Political” -- in which I asserted that art, of any type, regardless of its subject matter, is inevitably classified by viewers/listeners as either supporting the establishment or challenging it. Moreover, same as it ever was, wealthy people know what they like to see, and hear, etc. They encourage what they like and they support artists who cater to that taste.

Therefore, if you see or hear art that has been conveyed to you by way of an expensive process, you should bear in mind that fat cats hired everybody onboard. Of course that rule doesn’t label the art, or the fat cats, as good or bad, right or wrong.

In our modern society art-makers -- whether they draw, write, or make music -- who go against the grain, don’t usually make much money. Today money buys credibility. Like, if you don't have money, what could you know? A person without property is largely ignored, even distrusted.

Sad? Yes. But it's not evil. It's just the way it is. We live within a crowded society that -- for the time being -- trusts its wealthy class and is content with its conformist way of life. History suggests that if times get tougher that will change.

Whatever else it may seem to be, or not, SLANT is not a copycat, and it is locally produced. Ads are laughably cheap. Submissions are always welcome, and sometimes used. Pick up a copy of SLANT, dear reader, because you still can. History suggests that if times get tougher that could change, too.

-- 30 --

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Sound

by F. T. Rea

"In the spring of 1984, I ran for public office. In case the Rea for City Council campaign doesn’t ring a bell, it was a spontaneous and totally independent undertaking. No doubt, it showed. Predictably, I lost, but I’ve never regretted the snap decision to run. The education was quite simply worth the price..."

Click here to read the STYLE Weekly Back Page piece.

The photo is from the 1984 campaign's
launching at the City Library.

Tinted Postcards

VCU's library has a wonderful collection of old postcards featuring 20th century Richmond scenes. Do yourself a favor and click here.

Barbie Goes Local

Visit the River City Rapids to read about a new line of custom Barbies that may soon be on the way to the Richmond market. They include Chesterfield Barbie, Libbie & Grove Barbie, Grace Street Barbie, Hopewell Barbie, Shockoe Bottom Barbie and more.

Warning: if satire upsets you, when it gets too close to home, better skip this one.

Friday, June 03, 2005

SLANT Baseball Stadium Survey

With all the talk about what’s right or wrong about The Diamond, or the proposed new baseball stadium for Shockoe Bottom, I haven’t seen much in the way of a study, scientific or not, to see what baseball fans think of such notions. I'm curious about whether baseball fans -- people who actually go to The Diamond -- think baseball in the Bottom is doable, or not.

Therefore, using the infinite and random potential of the Internet, SLANT is going to try to conduct a study. If you think you have been to at least 10 games at The Diamond in the last five years (an average of twice per season), I hope you will take the time to send me your answers ( to the questions below. Furthermore, I’m also hoping you will feel free to copy, and or forward, this survey form to other fans who go to baseball games in Richmond.

Note: I will not reveal or pass on anyone’s email address. And, your name will not be used in the piece I publish unless you send me a comment, AND give me your permission to use it.


1. How many R-Braves games at The Diamond have you attended in the last five years?

A. At least 10 games
B. Between 10 and 25 games
C. Between 25 and 50 games
D. Over 50 games

2. Given your understanding of the proposed new baseball stadium for Shockoe Bottom, what do you think of the plan?

A. It sounds like a great idea to me
B. Good idea, but I’m not so sure about some of the details
C. It may be unnecessary, but I’m not against it
D. It’s an absolutely terrible idea

3. If the R-Braves do leave The Diamond to play on a new field in Shockoe Bottom, what effect would that have on your attendance?

A. I’m sure I would to more R-Braves games
B. I would probably go to about the same number of games
C. I doubt I’d see as many games, but I would not boycott a new stadium
D. I would never go to the Bottom for a baseball game.

4. When the dust all settles where should the Triple A Braves play their home games?
A. Assuming it get fixed up properly, at The Diamond
B. At the new stadium in Shockoe Bottom
C. At a new stadium in a better location than the Bottom
D. In another city.

If you would like to make a comment, feel free to do so. Send your answers/comments to (Photo credit: F. T. Rea)