Thursday, September 29, 2005

Public Squares

If you are curious about what went on at that Public Square meeting thrown down by the Richmond Times-Dispatch last night, which was devoted to discussions about the Virginia Performing Arts Foundation, then here are links to two perspectives.

Click here to read Will Jones' story in the T-D.

"Richard Serpa, a tuba player with the symphony, seized on comments made earlier by James E. Ukrop, chairman of the arts foundation. Ukrop said he got involved in the project when the Greater Richmond Convention Center was being expanded and business leaders were trying to figure out how to improve conditions along Broad."This isn't about arts. It's about downtown. . . "

Click on this link to read Don Harrison's account at Save Richmond.

"What we learn from the “Public Square”? Consultants are everywhere!

The first speaker at last night’s debut installment of the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s “Public Square” was a consultant… or something — he went on and on, waving around papers and claiming to have a whole lot of experience and expertise. For one thing, he told the crowd, he’d worked on the Sixth Street Marketplace. And, you know what, he still believes in that project! The gentleman reported that he had seen the city auditor’s report of the VAPAF and could find no problem with the foundation’s performance so far. He had no idea why the mayor was so concerned about this venture. Full steam ahead…"

Richmond vs. Seattle

The Richmond Kickers have advanced through the USL First Division playoffs to reach the championship game. Thus the Kickers will be on the Left Coast on Saturday (Oct. 1) night to face the Seattle Sounders. The game is set to begin at 8 p.m., PT, (11 p.m. in Richmond) and will be televised live on Fox Soccer Channel (Channel 267 Comcast Digital Cable, 613 DirecTV, 149 Dish Network). Penny Lane Pub, at the corner of 5th and Franklin Streets, is hosting a viewing party for the Kickers/Sounders matchup live from Qwest Field.

Update: After 90 minutes of regulation play and 30 minutes of overtime Richmond lost 2-1 to Seattle in a penalty kick shoot-out.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Sorry Brad

by F. T. Rea
How in the world did anyone at the Virginia Performing Arts Foundation really think announcing that its president, L. Bradford Armstrong, would be taking a pay-cut would do any good at this point? Having Armstrong forgo about a third of his six figure salary is hardly going to clean up his festering PR problem, which at this point may be the VAPAF’s problem that most sorely needs a solution.

At this time I’m not going to suggest that Mr. Armstrong’s motives or priorities have been skewed all along. I’ll leave it to others to say he doesn’t know much about what he is doing, show biz-wise. However, I will say the former big league adman has managed to become a millstone around the neck of the very project he has been working toward establishing. That Armstrong and his colleagues seem blithely unaware of this obvious truth is baffling.

At the Carpenter Center, in December of last year, I had the near-pleasure of meeting and chatting with Brad Armstrong. At the behest of a local publisher I was there as a freelancer to attend a press conference and party which had been put together on the theater’s stage by the VAPAF. When I took the gig the editor explained to me that all was needed from me was a short news story covering the essentials. In other words, I was not there as a columnist digging for dirt to use in an opinion piece.
That suited me fine. I was interested in the project, having followed its progress in the local press. I had no ax to grind. I was curious about some things and hoped to understand better what was going on. Plus, the food was tasty enough and the beer was free. And, as the Carpenter Center was closing for a couple of years for renovation, I wanted to get one last look at it, as it was.

So I mingled and read the copy posted on the displays of the proposed new buildings. After listening to the speakers -- then-Carpenter Center general manager Joel Katz, Lt. Governor Tim Kaine, and Armstrong -- I took a last tour of the lobby and balcony of what I first knew to be the Loew’s Theater. I recalled seeing “Blow Up” (1966) there, along with a list of other titles. Then I went back to the stage to ask a few questions of Armstrong, and perhaps Katz.

Katz was polite and forthcoming. But Armstrong avoided answering my questions, which were rather generic. It seemed odd. Why call in the press and then deflect basic questions with lame patter? Like, how much money did the group actually have in hand?

Armstrong wouldn’t give me anything close to a straight answer. Most of what I got from him was dismissive guff, served up with an intense haughtiness that was both startling and off-putting. Since then I’ve noticed more of the same air in his public remarks, and I’ve spoken with enough people to gather that my impression of him is widely shared.

It's too late to rehabilitate Armstrong's image. When the VAPAF’s surely well-healed, supposedly politically savvy, board finally wakes up and gives Brad Armstrong the air it will probably be doing the best thing it can toward breaking up its logjam with Mayor L. Douglas Wilder.

(Photo Credit: F. T. Rea)

The Biograph Archives

Remember the Biograph Theatre at 814 W. Grace Street? (Now the same building is home to Hyperlink.)

If not then perhaps you are somewhat curious about the lively Fan District pop scene in which the Biograph existed (1972-87)? Before Shockoe Bottom became a nightclub/live music hub in the late-80s, that Grace Street strip and environs had been the epicenter of what was shaking after-dark for 20 years. Visit the Biograph Archives for an easy way to kill some time.

Saving Gas Money

Want to find the lowest price for gasoline in your neighborhood, or maybe any metro neighborhood? Well, instead of burning up all your gas to search for the best deal, you may be able to save some time and money by going to Richmond Gas Prices. The web site is devoted to all things gas.

Internet Disclaimer: I have no idea of whether the site mentioned above is run
by folks who know what they're doing, or if it's just a joke.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Anti-War Demonstrations on Saturday

"'We'll be the checks and balances on this out-of-control criminal government,' Sheehan, who has become the anti-war movement's best-known face, told the group gathered at the Ellipse, a park behind the White House. In Los Angeles, about 15,000 people protested peacefully, while thousands more marched in San Francisco and in London urging an end to military action in Iraq nearly 30 months after an invasion ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The crowds in Washington swelled through the day, and by late afternoon organizers of the anti-war demonstration said 300,000 people had assembled -- exceeding an anticipated 100,000."

Read the Reuters story.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Ad Wars

By F. T. Rea

It's a shame Virginia voters will not see the two major party gubernatorial candidates Democrat Tim Kaine (on the left) and Republican Jerry Kilgore in a face-to-face debate setting as much as we might like -- at this writing Kaine and Kilgore are scheduled to have only one debate televised statewide. Which may mean political advertisements will play a larger role in determining the outcome of the election than many observers might believe they should. That can turn an election into a fundraising contest in which issues take a back seat to image-making and image-destroying.

That lone televised debate, sponsored by the University of Virginia Center for Politics and moderated by Larry Sabato, will take place on Oct. 9. Instead of a series of face-offs, to see if either thinks well on his feet and which one is better at keeping his sense of humor under stress, etc., we get another tedious, lowbrow edition of Ad Wars. Without a number of debates with each devoted to a specific area of interest, with follow-up questions, viewers of that one event are most likely to get fed a steady dose of talking points.

Furthermore, it appears the GOP kingmakers are convinced their man needs to be kept under wraps and carefully controlled. He looks nice enough in his tropical sunset orange shirt in those commercials, but can he speak effectively without a script?

Sadly, at this point both camps are running negative ads on TV, and we've still got weeks to go. Which seems to me to be more dangerous for Kaine. Doesn't it undermine his rose-tinted image of being a decent, missionary-helping-kids-in-the-Third World kind of guy? If Kaine begins to seem just as willing to travel the low road as Kilgore it could soften his base.

Whereas, most of Kilgore's hardcore supporters already know he's a weasel. They like him for that.

Monday, September 19, 2005


The R. Crumb frame above did a nice job of capturing a
turning point in recent political/pop culture history.
Renegade artist R. Crumb, creator of the ultimate underground comic book nameplate, Zap Comix, was quite influential in the late-'60s. He was copied by many who did quite well, but Crumb eschewed the life of a celebrity and, alas, he didn't always make smart business decisions.

Delightfully eccentric Crumb invented cartoon characters Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural and remained in the periphery of the public eye through the '70s, in some part due to being a member of the Cheap Suit Serenaders, a semi-popular Old Timey style band that played in the San Francisco area occasionally and put out a few albums.

Since then Crumb has lived in France for some years with his wife and daughter, popped up as the subject of an award-winning documentary film, "Crumb" (1994), was a character in "American Splendor" (2003), and he's never stopped drawing.

Visit the unofficial Crumb Museum for a unusual way to kill some time.

Friday, September 16, 2005

National Folk Festival in Richmond

The National Folk Festival -- a touring multifaceted festival of Americana that stays in a different city for three years, then moves on -- will unfold for the first time in Downtown Richmond throughout the weeked of Oct. 7 -- 9. From the view at this desk this festival has all the look of a well-planned special event that should go over like Gangbusters, build on its success and be a boon to River City.

From the festival's web site: "The [67th] National Folk Festival celebrates the roots, richness and variety of American culture through music, dance traditional craft, storytelling and food. This event is a large-scale FREE three day event. The festival features over 25 of the nation's finest performing groups and crafts people, seven stages of continuous music and dance, craft exhibits and demonstrations, a Folk Arts Marketplace, children's area and delicious regional and ethnic foods." Click here to get more info.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

A Painting a Day

Cherry No. 3
From Richmond artist Duane Keiser's web site, "A Painting a Day":

"For this blog I'm going to try to make a painting each day (starting 12/10/2004.) Most of the paintings on this blog will be postcard-sized oil sketches (I call them Postcard Paintings.) I paint them on site, using a modified cigar box as an easel."

Keiser's paintings of olives, plums and ravioli are worth a look. His approach to selling his art may well be the way of the future for the independent artist, to keep from being at the mercy of the gallery system.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Laughs to Ward Off Despair Dept.

Isn't it nice to see the president's purported eternal optimism has not been diminished by the flood of criticism that has swamped his administration's performance in the Gulf Coast, pre- and post-Katrina? Once again, we see Dubya and his Dad finding a plucky way to make the best of a bad situation. Note: This image was sent to us from one of those sneaky undisclosed sources we all hear so much about. SLANTblog cannot vouch for its audacity.


In a little more than two years George W. Bush has fallen from his John Wayne-like flight-suited thumb’s-up victory-declaring pose on the deck of the USS Lincoln to looking more like Humphrey Bogart, playing the creepy ball bearing-rolling Captain Queeg, in the 1954 movie adapted from Herman Wouk’s splendid WWII novel, The Caine Mutiny.

In the story Queeg was the cowardly captain of a US Navy minesweeper, the Caine, caught in a typhoon. He was relieved of his command during the storm by his second-in-command, who later alleged at his court-martial that Queeg had frozen up on the job and seemed out-of-touch with reality.

Like Bogart’s jittery Queeg testifying on the witness stand, President Bush was twitching and rolling those steel marbles in his hand -- click, click, click -- last week as a storm-driven reality swirled elusively around him, too.

“Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.”

Uh, oh. Click, click click...

‘I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees.”

Click, click, click...

“... Homeland Security.”

Click, click, click...

Why not laugh off shame and blame? Our feckless leaders sure don't mind doing it. Washington's special version of the Blame Game has now become a fashion statement with a timely new T-shirt, featuring the art shown above, available from The same outfit has the design available on mugs, posters, etc, and lots of other political humor stuff.


Then there's this from The Daily Show:

Ed Helms: "Jon, today, finally, a ray of hope. Eight days after Katrina came ashore, the federal government has gotten its act together, marshalling all of its resources in a desperate effort to save this beloved, and now beleaguered, president."

Jon Stewart: "President? I thought you were talking about New Orleans."

Helms: "No, that place is [#!%?&!]. But many here believe with quick action, George W. Bush's reputation can still be saved. . . .

"The main thing is, in a very reassuring sight, the federal government has finally brought in the heavy machinery: The Rove.

"Many believe he's the one man who can fix the gaping breach in the president's approval ratings."

Stewart: "But what impact will that have on the actual rescue effort?"

Helms: "The actual rescue effort? What is your obsession with the horrible humanitarian catastrophe?"


And, finally, an email sent here from a wiseguy musician in Scotland said:

"Did you catch Dubya's latest press conference? When asked what he thought about Roe vs. Wade, Bush said, 'As long asthe people are safe, we have no opinion as to what method they used to get out of New Orleans.'"

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High Water

This photo was shot 20 years ago in Richmond on 14th Street, looking south. Shockoe Bottom was already flooded. It shows exactly where the National Guard should be when the water is rising fast to threaten a city. This year it seems the National Guard was quite busy elsewhere, so poor New Orleans had to fend for itself.

As the so-called "fog of war" lifts, what the hell really happened in Katrina's aftermath, way down yonder in New Orleans, matters to me. Getting the straight story wasn't easy last week.

Accordingly, this space will expand with a growing list of links to stories that have helped me better understand -- from the relatively safe confines of the Fan District in Richmond -- what was going on and not going on, when unprecedented news of a shameful governmental failure and anarchy was flooding into my little space from many unreliable sources.
  • "Louisiana Nursing Home Charged in 34 Deaths" -- Reuters

Monday, September 12, 2005

Local Blues Show Raises $3,655 for Katrina Victims

Terry Garland
This Monday update came in from John Morgan of the River City Blues Society: Thanks to the hordes of folks who showed and generously gave, to all the bands and volunteers who helped pull this off, and to the ownership of Arthur's and the Inn of Virginia for their overwhelming generosity, we raised $3,655 for Hurricane Katrina relief. This money will be divided between the Red Cross Relief fund and two Musician relief funds as well. I am honored to be associated with such kind and giving folks.

The RCBS show took place on Sunday, Sept. 11. Included on the stage were: Pure and Sinful, Johnnie and the Lowdowns, Sheryl Warner and the Southside Homewreckers, Phifer Marshall Band, Terry Garland and Nick Moss.
(Photo Credit: F. T. Rea)

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Fan City Flashbacks, No. 2

Suddenly feeling his pirate ancestry speaking
to him, Rebus said aloud, "Arrgh!"

Vermont Court to Decide Civil-Union Custody Case

Here's a good example of how complicated modern life has gotten, from legal and ethical standpoints:

"Rena Lindevaldsen, a lawyer for the conservative legal group Liberty Counsel, represented Lisa Miller-Jenkins by arguing that the civil union between her and Janet Miller-Jenkins was void because the two women lived in Virginia, which does not recognize same-sex relationships. The two Virginia residents came to Vermont in 2001 and got a civil union. They returned home, where Lisa was artificially inseminated and gave birth to a baby girl, Isabella, now 3. Later they moved to Vermont, where they lived together a little more than a year before splitting up. Lisa returned to Virginia with Isabella and has sought to deny Janet visitation rights."

Wow! For the rest of the AP story about this case, which has Virginia in the spotlight and has all sorts of potential to set precedents click here.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Lengthening Shadows

by F. T. Rea

It took almost four whole years for a disaster of sufficient impact to befall the United States that the national psyche could, at long last, allow for the turning of the page on 9/11.

Obviously, there's a big psychological difference between a four-pronged terror attack that kills thousands and violent forces of nature that do the same. Yet the nightmare for those unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the worst of times can be much the same. The collective sense of helplessness -- rampant anxiety -- felt by all Americans, for some time after such catastrophes, has similarities, too.

Still, as a byproduct of this most recent calamity, Americans should gain some perspective on past calamities. Which ought to lead to seeing 9/11’s place in time more clearly -- tragic and stunning as it was, 9/11 was not the most significant political event in the last 100 years of world history; it was not even the most deadly single day in American history. Turning the page doesn’t mean forgetting, or downgrading what happened in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia on September 11, 2001; it does mean shaking off the hype and moving on.

The skittish among us need to stop looking at everything that happens through a terror alert, color-coded prism of fear. It also means it's high time for the lapdog national media to bark at the Bush administration whenever it overuses purple images of 9/11 to cover its assorted miscalculations. As well, turning the page means taking a fresh look at the so-called “lessons of 9/11,” a phrase frequently employed by President Bush and his spinners.

Remember how we were told to watch out for crazed Arabs flying crop dusters spewing toxic chemicals? When George W. Bush rolled up his sleeves to unilaterally declare war on what he called “the turr’ists,” remember how he said they hated us for our freedom. So much so they would be only too happy to poison our water supplies, blow up our power stations, start forest fires, etc. They would likely be doing anything in the way of low-budget mischief available to them to cripple our economy and shake our confidence.

Well, it hasn’t happened. Why?

Should we believe it’s because our Homeland Security department has cracked down and prevented such occurrences?

Ha! That’s rich. Homeland Security begins to sound like an oxymoron when ones considers that department's asleep-at-the-switch hurricane relief program for New Orleans. Moreover, just about anyone who has wanted to sneak into this country from Mexico has been able to do so on Bush’s entire watch. Sleeves up or down, the prez seems to shrug off illegal immigration.

So our federal government hasn't really stopped anyone who wanted to wreak havoc from being in our midst. If Bush’s original reading of what message was implied by the 9/11 attacks was right, then why hasn’t sabotage broken out coast-to-coast?

Actually, the only mischief that has fit with Bush’s slasher movie scenario was the anthrax-in-the-mail mystery in the weeks following 9/11, which apparently had nothing to do with the Middle East. Speaking of Homeland Security, the spectacular anthrax case remains unsolved by its sleuth division.

Another of Bush’s Lessons of 9/11 had him supposedly believing that launching an elective war in Iraq would facilitate fighting the worldwide network of terrorists “over there,” rather than "here." Like, he was going to wake up all the sleeper cells, sleeping wherever, and trick them into going to Iraq. Yet, the majority of the hijackers were not from Iraq. They were from Saudi Arabia, as is Osama bin Laden.

It says here that the explosions of 9/11 likely had more to do with Saudi Arabia than Iraq, or even religion gone wrong. Al Qaeda has repeatedly claimed it is extremely unhappy with America’s presence on sacred Saudi soil, and with its unwavering support of the royal family. Murders who deserve no pity, yes, but I still believe they mean what they’ve said.

That said, as the shadows of 9/11 lengthen, the more it appears al Qaeda’s point with 9/11 was always rather blunt: “Get the hell out of our country!”

However, this piece is not demanding an immediate change in the USA’s policy toward Saudi Arabia, a policy which has helped to keep oil plentiful and relatively inexpensive for over 50 years. That, while a blind eye was turned on how the royals treated their people. My point is not that America is right or wrong to continue protecting a heavy handed monarchy from its angry subjects in the 21st century.

My point is this: As long as our government stays in bed with the Saudi rulers that oil-driven policy will have its price. Meaning Americans should not be surprised to hear from al Qaeda's messengers of death, from time to time, no matter what our Keystone Kops department of Homeland Security spends to prevent them.

If we left the royal family to fend for itself -- heavens-to-Betsy! -- wouldn't that be caving in to terrorism? Isn't that wrong?

When the French finally left Algeria in 1962, they were surely not wrong, but there had to have been plenty of hardliners wearing suits in Paris saying to the very end of that bloody occupation that France should never cave in to terrorism.

Meanwhile, for those fiscal hardliners in this country who like to waggle accusing fingers at government, saying that all governments should be starved, so they can’t waste tax dollars, take a good look at what’s happened in New Orleans. Then look at gasoline prices. Anarchy isn’t so pretty, and neither is unfettered capitalism.

As the mud dries in New Orleans, and the toll of Katrina’s wrath is better understood, will the support for Bush’s adventure in Iraq dry up inside the Beltway, too?

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Illustration by F. T. Rea