Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Bush lame; Kaine safe

The state of the union?

Oy vey...

Bush is still smirky Bush. He probably knows my ilk is wise to him, that he’s a phony on several scores. And, he’s a "fortunate one," who counts on knowing I/we can’t really do much about it.

To call the boilerplate blather of President Bush’s State of the Union address “rhetoric,” or even “propaganda,” elevates it. It was pap. Tonight he had nothing to say; so he said it with utter conviction. Who really believes this oil-bred president wants America's oil addiction cured in our time?

Who can't tell that "W" is a galling son of a president, quite confident he's going to get away with everything he's done to dupe his fellow citizens?

The Democrats' response to Bush’s waste of an hour of primetime television -- I bet the cable TV alternatives’ ratings were boffo during this ho-hum presentation -- was delivered by Virginia’s brand new governor, Richmond's former mayor Tim Kaine. This was a big moment for Kaine, a politician I’ve happily supported over the years.

Kaine presented an upbeat message. Yes, it was better than Bush's. However, the main reason was that it was shorter. Yes, Kaine played it safe.

Bush was directing his blessings at his loyal core audience. Alas, Kaine seemed to have his eye mostly on Virginia's political landscape. Maybe it was smart for Kaine's career. In my book, it was mostly a waste.

It will be interesting to see how Kaine’s rebuttal plays out of town. Maybe my disappointment will fade when I've slept on it.

For tonight, tha, tha, that's all folks!

Kaine Sharpens a Point

In comments today Gov. Tim Kaine signaled his concern about an issue that’s a sure winner for Democrats -- the illegal domestic spying being done by Bush operatives in the name of chasing enemies.

"'Whether it's a technical violation of the law or not, I think the clear intent of the law has been bypassed,' Kaine, a Democrat, said about the National Security Agency warrantless eavesdropping program. 'Leaders who do that suggest you can treat laws and rules in an instrumental way and when it serves your purpose you don't need to follow them. And I think that that's dangerous,' Kaine said at a breakfast meeting with reporters."

That quote is from this Richmond Times-Dispatch article.

This issue is almost risk-free. In the long run, only the most diehard Bush supporters, crazed hawks and neoconservatives are going to support the president's lame position that he can do whatever he likes if he snaps his fingers and claims its part of his War on Terror. Realistically, what’s that? Probably somewhere between 25 and 30 percent of the voters, at the most. And, that's a hardcore group no Democrat will ever get. So, who cares if they squawk about attacking Bush for being a law-breaker?

The upside of the strategy of decrying Bush's disregard for the law is huge. Most voters don't want a president who thinks he's above the law. As long as Kaine stays on this point -- Bush is not above the law -- Kaine is speaking as a lawyer and as a governor protecting his constituents‘ rights.

This loose legal thread has the potential to unravel into many other areas, some which may prove quite embarrassing to Bush. That's if its pulled hard enough at the right time. This isn't about policy. It's about the law of the land.

OK, I'll get SLANTblog's review of tonight's televised political drama posted, ASAP. No doubt, Virginia's blogs will be going full steam tonight.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Webb Out; Now What?

At Raising Kaine activist/writer Lowell Feld has bad news for those who saw James Webb as the best man to unseat George Allen in November -- James Webb Is Out; The Rebellion is On! The piece is lively and makes some good points that Democrats ought to consider. Like Feld, I, too, am sorry to see Webb apparently doesn't feel moved to enter politics to serve Virginia as one of its two US Senators. Not now, anyway. Here's a sample of Feld's rant:

"...I’ve got very bad news: despite our best efforts to 'draft' him, James Webb apparently has decided not to run for US Senate this year. I am hopeful that Mr. Webb will make a formal announcement regarding his thinking on this matter, but for now I’ll just say that this is extremely discouraging news for me, and should be extremely discouraging news for all Virginians and all Americans. Unless, of course, their name happens to be 'George Allen' that is.

"Why do I say this? Because I strongly believe that James Webb offered the potential for a unique sort of leadership. Because I strongly believe that James Webb offered a chance to heal some giant rifts within the Democratic Party, and in the country as a whole. Because I strongly believe that James Webb offered the potential to win back the working class, the 'Reagan Democrats,' and the national security-minded Americans to the Democratic Party. And because I strongly believe that former Senator Bob Kerrey was 100% correct when he wrote to me (on January 7, 2007) about Webb: 'He is a unique and powerful voice which could change the course of our nation’s future.'"

Holes in Reid's Bullet Story?

"Yes, I believe Delegate Jack Reid lied to the General Assembly and the public," writes J.C. Wilmore at the Richmond Democrat -- a blog devoted to politics as seen by a self-proclaimed Democrat. And this donkey has political opinions aplenty.

This time the Richmond Democrat's opinion is that the red-faced Reid's story about the accidental discharge of a round of live ammo in his office last week is baloney. Several posts on his site have been on this same subject. Furthermore, he's gotten an opinion from the handgun's manufacturer, to check out the veracity of Reid‘s claim. Guess what it says.

Wilmore may just have something with this. Reid's story reminds me of another one, from about 20 years ago. Roy West, a career-educator and then-Richmond's mayor, had a handgun go off on him at his home, which was never explained in a way that satisfied me.

As I recall it, West said he was trying to shoot a rat and somehow blew off the tip of a finger. Then he tweaked the story a bit; it seems that he would have been breaking the law to hunt rats in the city with a handgun. SLANT ran at least a couple of cartoons on the topic. West frequently lent himself to lampooning in a way hard to ignore. (I'll look around in the archives and see if I can find one of them.)

Delegate (R-Henrico) Reid’s inability to control his personal handgun properly in a public building has the feel of a story that's growing legs. His first explanation, which may be starting to crumble, must be inspiring some folks to use their imagination to deduce what may have really happened. Let’s see. There was this big rat...

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Harvey Segment on Dateline

Just watched NBC’s Dateline segment on the Harvey murders. In short, it was nowhere near as sensational as I, and perhaps many others, feared it might be. The producers mostly handled it as an in-depth news story. They didn’t dwell on the lurid speculations all that much; the mourners weren't turned into a sideshow.

However, to see that Johnny Hott -- who was on camera the most -- was put through the wringer by the local investigators was yet another painful page to a bitter story. For Hott to have been squeezed and prodded by official inquisitors in the hard, hard days after he discovered Bryan, Kathy and their kids had been murdered was like something in a Kafka story.

Then there's this: OK, I know the cops will say the doer is usually a person close to the victims and how the guy who did the deed often calls in the alarm, too, but to have focused on Hott, exclusively, was crazy, if that's what that they did. The Dateline piece suggests that may have been the case.

So, like Johnny said in the report, one must wonder what would have happened to him if the two mad dogs arrested in Pennsylvania hadn’t just fallen into the cops’ laps? How much worse would it have gotten for Hott?

Some of the statements attributed by the media to the local police, made in the days after the murders, still don’t make sense to me, either. It seems like we were told things that weren’t exactly true. Why? Did the cops know they were spreading disinformation? Were they misquoted? Richmond’s new police chief, Rodney Monroe, needs to clear the air on this -- the sooner the better.

Chief Monroe: When you could have said, "We don't know if anything was stolen," why were we told nothing had been stolen? Why were we told the crime was personal, not random? Weren't we told that? What was the good of it? And, that gag order before arrests, whoever thought of that, wasn't that rather unusual? Looking back on it now, did that help or hurt the public's interest?

These are just quick thoughts. Rest assured, I’ll follow up on these concerns soon. Anyway, if nothing else, I’m glad Dateline gave Johnny Hott a chance to let people know what extra hell he went through.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Republican-Lite Is Out

At Raising Kaine a recent Molly Ivins column was praised by Teddy Goodson. That piece by Ivins ran in the Richmond Times-Dispatch a few days ago and I, too, thought it said something essential quite well. I know Ivins may seem old hat sometimes, but this time she's saying exactly what needs saying.

So, let me add my praise to Goodson's. Here's a taste of Molly's take on what Democrats who want to do more than strike a pose most need to grasp:

"...The recent death of Gene McCarthy reminded me of a lesson I spent a long, long time unlearning, so now I have to re-learn it. It's about political courage and heroes, and when a country is desperate for leadership. There are times when regular politics will not do, and this is one of those times. There are times a country is so tired of bull that only the truth can provide relief."

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Selling the Long War

Writing for his Washington Post column, William M. Arkin targets, then skewers the brazen Bush strategy for accumulating power (while making his friends rich) by declaring a perpetual state of war: “Goodbye War on Terror, Hello Long War.

Have you noticed? Perpetual war, not nearly enough unlike the conditions of George Orwell's “1984,” is where we're heading with the scattered War on Terror that Bush says he sees in our future. That neoconservative concept for expanding a wartime president's power is really nothing new. It's just another power grab, wrapped in a cheap banner of patriotism, nothing more, nothing new. Here's a sample of Arkin's bulls-eye:

“...Defense experts want the long war to be the new name for the war on terror, a kind of societal short hand that will stand shoulder to shoulder with the Cold War, promoted to capital letters, an indisputable and universally accepted state of the world. ‘This generation of service members will be in what we're calling the Long War,’ Army Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said earlier this week.”

This analysis lays out an important case quite well in a small space.

Bopcats Forever

Lindy Fralin's band the Bopcats has been at it for 30 years. Can that possibly be true?

Let's see, thirty years ago the Steelers beat the Cowpies in Super Bowl X. “All the President’s Men,” “Taxi Driver” and “Rocky” were among the popular films that came out in 1976. Tom Petty’s and Blondie’s first albums were released. The Reds swept the Yankees in the World Series. Jimmy Carter defeated Gerald Ford in the presidential race (I won a hundred bucks on that one!). And, somewhere in all of that swirl "them cats what's boppin" were set in motion.

To commemorate their 30-year run the Bopcats are performing at the Tobacco Company on both Friday and Saturday nights, Jan. 27 and 28. About the Bopcats' history and the gig Melissa Ruggieri writes in her column for the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

"Co-founder Lindy Fralin guesses the band has rotated through 'something like eight drummers and seven bass players over the years,' a thoroughly believable number for a band that has nestled in the corners of Richmond's smokiest bars for 30 years.To celebrate its longevity, several old 'cats -- as well as the current ones will set up for a pair of free concerts at The Tobacco Company this weekend, pulling out their favorite '50s and '60s covers from Elvis and Chuck Berry and indulging Fralin's wife with her requests for 'Magic Carpet Ride' and '96 Tears' -- 'stuff we haven't done in 15 years,' Fralin says."

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Cuba to Play

The story of the Bush administration’s curious strategy -- mixing sports and politics obnoxiously -- to do with Major League Baseball’s first World Classic has made for headlines in many ports of call. This is an update to a story reported on SLANTblog on Jan. 18 about Cuba being barred from play -- now Cuba is back in the game.

As of this writing, 16 teams, representing 16 nations -- including feisty Fidel Castro’s Cuban national team, perhaps with a few potential defectors on board -- are set to play baseball in a few weeks. The slant on this offbeat sports story depends entirely on one's point of view; it's much more than sports news in lots of places.

To illustrate that point here’s a set of links, all updates on Cuba’s renewed participation in the tournament, which is set to run from Mar. 3 to Mar. 20:

heartbeatnews: U.S. Caves -- Allows Cubans To Play In WBC
Miami Herald: Playing ball now in Cuba’s court
The Daily Yomiuri: U.S. frees Cuba, averts World crisis
LA Times: Cuba Back in the Game
AP: Castro says Cuba will play

Play ball!

Domestic Spying is THE Issue

For the unsure donkeys who’ve been waiting in the weeds for years, especially the sorry poseurs that endorsed President George Bush’s folly of a war plan for Iraq -- because they were afraid to seem soft on terror -- this domestic-spying flap is exactly what they’ve been waiting for. At this desk it says this is the issue that will unravel Bush’s overreaching presidency, unless...

The only way Bush will get out of this scandal with his political scalp intact will be if the sometimes-squirrelly Democrats once again fail to step up to the line, toe the mark, and clobber the palooka. America’s public opinion is poised to turn against President Bush like never before. Now he’s probably something worse than an inept executive -- “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.” Now Bush appears he may be an arrogant law-breaker, even a tyrant-in-the-making.

In short, it seems to me there aren't more than two basic reasons for Bush’s spies not to go to the FISA courts, as the law clearly calls for. Either the judges aren’t trusted to keep secrets, uh-oh, or the eager spies already know the judges would frown on their requests.

Bush can dress up in a flight-suit and declare whatever he likes, he can change the fear code from yellow to orange, but he’s still not above the law. This administration is out of control. Nixon's ghost needs to be driven out of the White House.

The play-it-safe guys should stand aside, it’s now up to bold Democrats to do their duty -- restore the rule of law. This is a time for leadership. Perhaps a fresh voice is what the doctor ordered.

Well, I hope Gov. Tim Kaine steps up to the line and throws a stiff jab, or two, when he speaks after Bush's State of the Union address. Instead of a scattered criticism of Bush’s entire presidency, Kaine should zero in on domestic spying as the can't miss issue it is. Kaine is a skilled trial lawyer, he could seize the moment and present the case for Virginians' privacy in a free society. Will he?

And, if Sen. George Allen is fool enough to stand too near President Bush’s peculiar interpretation of the law, he does so at his own political peril. Once everybody gets it that the ship is sinking, a clueless lingering in the wrong position could get an ambitious man trampled.
Illustration: F.T. Rea

Rainy Day Escape

This 9-by-12 inches, oil-on-paper study was done last summer on a rainy afternoon, when a fog of melancholia drove me to get out some old art supplies I hadn't touched in years. Once I got started I drew that set of steps at least a half-dozen times, one after another, almost in a frenzy. The first was with pencils, then I tried charcoal and finally went to oil sticks. This was the last of them. It's called "Escape."

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

City in Denial

With Martin Luther King Day having just passed and anticipating Black History Month in February, I want to recycle another of my Back Page pieces for STYLE Weekly (this one ran in 2002, not all that much has changed). Here's a preview:

“...With payback being heaped upon payback, progress didn’t stand a chance. Now, every time a controversy that touches on race pops up the oh-so-familiar cries are heard: ‘Oh Gawd! Let’s hope this business dies down before it makes the national news.’ Like a dysfunctional family in denial, we don’t want the rest of the country to catch on that Richmond is still trapped in yesteryear’s snare.

“Well, take it from me dear reader -- they already know. Everybody knows. Even in other parts of Virginia they know Richmond is frozen in time when it comes to race.”

The Stuff of Sausages

For a worthwhile Internet source on what's going on at Virginia's General Assembly session take a few minutes to look over the Waldo Jaquith blog. In general, the political commentary at Waldo Jaquith is sharp and entertaining. The ongoing GA coverage is a hoot; here's part of the most recent post, "Honer edgakation funding":

"...There’s a pack of old white guys shambling about the halls of the General Assembly advocating selling the organs of undocumented immigrants. (Or something like that.) They’re all wearing buttons that say 'STOP: Honer the Rule of Law.' Some of them have scrawled the letter 'o' over the 'e' in 'honer,' but the first impression has, alas, been made."

Monday, January 23, 2006

Listening to Better Angels

When I was 16 I talked a thief out of stealing a charity’s plastic contribution box from the counter of a beachfront doughnut shop.

In the summer of 1964 my teenage morality was too keen to allow me to ignore Mike snatching the coin container and hiding it in his nylon parka. Unfortunately, it still wasn’t keen enough to keep me from hanging around with such a character, who lied as easily as he breathed, frequently started fights and let his friends down. So Mike was still part of my circle of friends, then, which would change, but it's quite another story.

Anyway, Mike and I, along with a couple of other high school classmates, had been up all night drinking as we searched for and crashed parties. It was about 8 a.m. and we were low on cash, to replenish our supply of beer and gasoline. In the vernacular of the day: we were "wasted." Living day-to-day on beer, cigarettes and doughnuts at Virginia Beach -- without adults in the picture -- passed for a happening lifestyle to us.

One of Mike’s weaknesses was his superstitious nature. So, I told him he’d probably catch the disease -- which one escapes me -- if he stole their money. Mike chuckled, because he knew I was trying to trick him into putting it back. Yet, a few fretful minutes later, he nonetheless undid the dirty deed and replaced the box. I was satisfied with myself then, in part because the people who'd contributed to the charity hadn't wasted their trust.

Now I would say the money would not really have been wasted, even if badboy Mike had kept it. The children who had put in their dimes, to help others they didn't even know, they became better citizens. So, there’s the act of giving, with the feeling of doing it. That’s one thing. Then there’s what happens afterwards. In truth, every time we follow our hearts to trust anyone, there’s a risk. Will we waste our money, or worse -- our time?

Today there are a lot of grieving people, especially in Richmond, who want to contribute in some way toward establishing fitting remembrances to the Harvey family -- a family whose lives touched so many others before their deaths on Jan.1 in their Woodland Heights home.

Accordingly, some of those who were closest to the Harveys are currently working with the The Community Foundation -- a Richmond-based non-profit foundation since 1968 -- to raise money, eventually to be used to underwrite projects honoring the family’s devotion to art and music, and to the arts education of children. The specifics are still to come, but because of who is behind this project I can happily endorse their effort. Here's the link to the Bryan and Kathryn Harvey Family Memorial Endowment.

Meanwhile, I’m getting email/messages from people who have bright ideas of how to raise money. They aren't sure what to do. My advice to them is to contact Kim Russell at The Community Foundation: (804) 330-7400.

Russell says, “For now, people who are planning something should get in touch.” She’s already had a few calls along those lines (see post below this one about a restaurant that raised $500). That way if anyone comes across a spontaneous fund-raising effort -- let's say a jar in a shop calling for donations, or restaurants giving a percentage of their take, etc., if you like -- you can check with The Community Foundation, to see if the folks doing the collecting have really been in touch and are on Russell's list.

Russell adds that soon she hopes to have such information available to everyone online, as well as the capability for donations to be made over the Internet. Resources are pouring in, some are donating services and so forth.

The important thing, at this point, is there are honest efforts underway. In time they will snowball. No one, not even Mike’s ilk, can steal the good feeling you’ll have if you listen to your better angels and get involved. More information on this topic will follow.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Harvey Fund-Raising Efforts

Taken from family and friends in a searing flash, in order to remember the lost Harveys in a fitting way there is much sentiment in the air to turn the panic and sorrow felt during of the first week of 2006 into something uplifting.

Now, if missing Bryan, Kathy, Stella and Ruby is making you feel you should act, or maybe you wish to atone for something you regret, or if you miss a time in your own life when you weren't so cynical, perhaps this is your best chance to do something purely good to make it right.


Accordingly, a tip of SLANT’s cap goes out to Jeff Allums, who runs a restaurant in the Fan District -- the Baja Bean. For Allums, too, absorbing the news of the murder of the Harvey family was difficult but unavoidable, in the scary days following the tragedy. Upon reading about the establishment of the Harveys' memorial endowment on SLANTblog Mr. Allums felt he should act.

Allums has been in business at the corner of Lombardy and Main since 1999. While he didn’t know the Harveys, he knew plenty of people who did. He found that several of his regular customers, especially the Happy Hour geezers that once hung out at the Texas-Wisconsin Border Cafe (1982-99), remembered Kathy Harvey fondly, Bryan, too.

Kathy was quite easy on the eyes when she waitressed at the old Border over 15 years ago, pre-World of Mirth; it's said the Harveys’ romance got some early traction there in that time. Perhaps it's so, the Border was then in an atmospheric league of it own, cool-wise -- as blue collar-artsy a bar as the law allowed in Richmond.

Anyway, Allums understood the Harveys were connected in many ways to the culture that helps his business thrive.

Jeff is also a father.

So, the restaurant’s general manager got an idea. A Baja Bean flyer was produced which announced, “On Tuesday January 17th, 2006, from 4 p.m. - 10 p.m. we will be passing the bucket and donating 25% of the sales to benefit The Harvey Family Memorial [Endowment].” He got in touch with The Community Foundation. About $500 was raised. Jeff trusts that money will be used well.

That’s how easy it was. A good deed was done. Updates on further fund-raising efforts, and new details on how the sums raised will be used by the Bryan and Kathryn Harvey Family Memorial Endowment, will be posted as they come in.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Remembering the Music

Tonight (Friday) the Jimmy Catlett Band is performing live at Poe's Pub, 2706 E. Main St. Shannon O'Connor is opening. By the way, the Jimmy Catlett Band includes Armistead Wellford (Love Tractor, Gutterball) and Kevin Pittman (Dads), both of whom collaborated with the late Bryan Harvey in various projects/bands. SLANTblog has been tipped off the band is planning to do a couple of Bryan Harvey covers as a tribute.

Beyond that gesture there's some move afoot now to produce a CD with various groups covering House of Freaks material, in order to raise money for the Bryan and Kathryn Harvey Family Memorial Endowment. It's too soon to say more.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Kaine to Speak for Dems

Mark Warner introduced Tim Kaine to the election-night party in the Canal Club, Nov. 2, 2004, as "your next governor!"
The Washington Post reports Virginia's Gov. Tim Kaine will offer the Democrats' televised response to President Bush's State of the Union Address on Jan. 31.

"...In the wake of the congressional lobbying scandals, Democrats are attempting to capitalize on what they call a culture of corruption in the Republican-controlled Congress. That makes it appealing to turn to an outside-the-Beltway governor, rather than a member of Congress, for the response to Bush's speech this month. For Kaine, the selection is the culmination of a whirlwind of activity since he defeated Republican Jerry W. Kilgore on Nov. 8."
Photo Credit; F.T. Rea

Free Speech on the Freeway

Thanks to Triscula's post at Three Wheels we can kill some time learning about, perhaps enjoying, the escapades of a political artist/commentator known to some as the Freeway Blogger.

A visit to the Freeway Blogger's web site shows a photo gallery of his on-site work and offers background on what he thinks he's up to. In the San Francisco Guardian in "Sign of the Times" Jan Sturman writes:

"In the past four years, [the Freeway Blogger] says, he's planted more than 2,500 of these brain-mines along California's freeways. He estimates that today's propaganda campaign could reach up to a quarter of a million people. Not bad for a few dollars in supplies and a couple hours of work. It all started with a soggy mattress dumped on the side of a highway in Orange County. The Supreme Court had just selected George W. Bush as president after the contested 2000 election. Incensed, Freeway Blogger pushed the mattress up against a tree and spray-painted '1776-2000: RIP' across the yellow stains.

"'What shocked me is that even as thousands of cars drove past it each day, the sign stayed up for a week,' he says. 'Suddenly I found my voice.'

"Since the 2000 election, 9/11, and the U.S. military's invasion of two countries, Freeway Blogger has refined the crude mattress approach to a choreographed dance of message transmission using recycled cardboard, paint, and reconnaissance.

"'Freeway blogging requires a sense of rhetoric, art, science, demographics, and sneakiness,' he tells me."

Yes, I suppose it does. If this sort of thing catches on, well...

An underground artist who used the streets of the Fan District in the early 1980's as his canvas/kiosk, Art Riot, would certainly get a kick out of this story, if he's still around.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Castro: We aren't afraid...

Of all the silly things, petty things, the Bush administration has done during its reign here’s one that was as unnecessary as it gets. Then again, when it comes to striking a pose to throw a bone to one of its rabid constituencies, the White House rarely misses the chance. So, Cuba's baseball team is being prevented by Bush's Treasury Dept. from playing in Major League Baseball’s World Classic, set to begin in March.

One must assume it's being done to protect the National Pastime from the spread of communism. But if its about being communists, what about China, one of the other national teams in the tournament? Then again, what chance does China stand in the field? Hmm...

Which, of course, has given the old southpaw himself, Fidel Castro, another opportunity to crack wise, hoping to make America look foolish, even cowardly. This AP story will catch you up on what remains of the Cold War in some minds.

"'...We aren't afraid of anything,' Castro said in a wide-ranging speech late Tuesday. 'It's very difficult to compete against us in any area ... not even in baseball do they want to compete with Cuba.'

"Castro's comments appeared to refer to the inaugural World Classic, a 16-team tournament scheduled for March 3-20 and organized by Major League Baseball and its players' union. The U.S. Treasury Department last month denied MLB's application for Cuba to play its scheduled first-round games in Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory. Later rounds are to be played on the U.S. mainland."
Castro photo from latinamericanstudies.org

Richmond Moving Image Co-op News

The following notice about events and deadlines came in from Richmond Moving Image Co-op poobah James Parrish:

James River Film Festival Call for Entries Deadline -- January 20
Friday, Jan. 20, is the deadline for entries to the annual James River Film Festival juried competition for short films. Submission guidelines and entry form are available at RMIC's web site. Get those films in! Finalists will be shown during the festival, March 20-26, and cash awards will be announced at the screening.

3rd Italian Film and Food Festival -- Saturday, January 28
RMIC and Mamma 'Zu present the 3rd Italian Film and Food Festival on Saturday, Jan. 28 at Plant Zero Art Center. Four films will be screened throughout the day accompanied by an Italian buffet (included in the ticket price) prepared by Mamma 'Zu. Beverages extra. This year's lineup includes: Roberto Rossellini's Viaggio in Italia (Voyage to Italy) at 10 a.m., Gianni Amelio's Lamerica at 1 p.m., Paolo and Vittorio Taviani's La Notte di San Lorenzo (The Night of San Lorenzo, Night of the Shooting Starts) at 4 p.m. and Michelangelo Antonioni's L'Eclisse (The Eclipse) at 7:30 p.m. All films will be presented in Italian with English subtitles.

Tickets for individual films are available for purchase only at the door 30 minutes before each show on a first come, first served basis for $10 each. All day passes ($25 each) are available for purchase at Chop Suey Books and Video Fan (check or cash only) and, if any are left, at the door the day of the festival.

Webb Defends Murtha in OpEd

In a N.Y. Times OpEd, “Purple Heartbreakers,” combat veteran and former Secretary of the Navy James Webb responds vigorously to the Bush administration’s tactics, which have used shameless surrogates to torpedo the character and honor of his fellow Vietnam vets when they opposed the president's policies. Webb cited John McCain, Max Cleland, John Kerry and now John Murtha as examples.

“...Military people past and present have good reason to wonder if the current administration truly values their service beyond its immediate effect on its battlefield of choice. The casting of suspicion and doubt about the actions of veterans who have run against President Bush or opposed his policies has been a constant theme of his career. This pattern of denigrating the service of those with whom they disagree risks cheapening the public's appreciation of what it means to serve, and in the long term may hurt the Republicans themselves.”

Lowell Feld at Raising Kaine offers some of his thoughts on the potential senatorial candidacy of James Webb, as well as some background. Webb’s momentum for a run against Sen. George Allen in November seems to be picking up.

WRIR-FM One-Year-Old

The following notice came in from WRIR, Richmond's Indie radio station:

WRIR [97.3 FM], has been on the air for a year. To mark the occasion the local community radio station is throwing a party on Feb. 3 at The Renaissance (formerly The Cornerstone), 107 W. Broad St. The event, which coincides with the next First Fridays Art Walk, is open to the public from 7 p.m. to midnight.

Local bands Special Ed and the Short Bus, VCR, The Cheap Seats and Hotel X will be on hand for the celebration. The party also marks an opportunity for the public to meet the people behind the microphones who give WRIR its truly distinctive on-air voice. A $5.00 donation is suggested and all proceeds will go to help fund the station’s programming and operational costs. WRIR is a nonprofit, all volunteer-operated radio project of the Virginia Center for Public Press.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

White House: Bombing Al Jazeera ‘Outlandish’

The Bush White House is sticking to its story -- denying the troubling accusation that it once floated a plan to bomb Al Jazeera, the TV station in Qatar, by the desk of British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Now a Reuters story says that a freedom of information request from a journalist has started the clock ticking on the possible exposure of a critical document.

“...Downing Street will respond to the request -- made on Monday by Al Jazeera lawyers under Britain's freedom of information laws -- within 21 days, the spokesman said. A British newspaper reported last year that the memo of a Blair-Bush meeting in April 2004 detailed a proposal by Bush to bomb Al Jazeera but said Blair had dissuaded him. The story was dismissed as ‘outlandish’ by the White House and Blair denied receiving details of any such U.S. proposal.”

At this writing the White House remains mum on whether it ever considered bombing National Public Radio, The Daily Show, The Washington Post, Al Franken’s keyboard, Michael Moore’s belly, or SLANTblog's supply of Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Marrs Diatribe Letter Mocked

Snoopy at River City Rapids reprints a lowbrow diatribe in the format of a letter-to-the-editor from former delegate Brad Marrs -- a cultural conservative from the loon wing of the Republican party -- which appeared in Tuesday’s Richmond Times-Dispatch. Snoopy also tosses a few choice words of his own at the embittered Marrs, who obviously still just doesn’t get it:

“...I'd like to find the 42 people who put Katherine Waddell over the top against Mr. Marrs and buy them all drinks.”

Today’s Marrs letter is almost funny, in a dark way. His view of the RT-D as a traitor to his ilk's backward thinking is rich. Yet I wonder how many citizens’ thinking does his letter still speak for? How many embarrassed Republicans are still defending his mean spirit? In 1956, or '66 the spirit of the Marrs letter probably would have spoken for many. Today, in supposedly more enlightened times, we hope it would speak for a lesser percentage of everyday people.

But since Marrs lost by only 42 votes, I wonder...

Drinking Liberally

Drinking Liberally is said to have begun in New York City sometime in May of 2003. Anyway, that’s what is remembered from the event by those who think they were there. Now it is a national political/social club with 127 chapters in 40 states. Its slogan? “Promoting democracy one pint at a time.”

According to its web site Drinking Liberally is this: “An informal, inclusive Democratic drinking club. Raise your spirits while you raise your glass, and share ideas while you share a pitcher. Drinking Liberally gives like-minded, left-leaning individuals a place to talk politics. You don't need to be a policy expert and this isn't a book club -- just come and learn from peers, trade jokes, vent frustration and hang out in an environment where it's not taboo to talk politics.”

Now this from the reanimated Richmond chapter: “It's been a long time coming, but we are re-launching Drinking Liberally in Richmond, Virginia."

The next meeting for DL in Richmond is at Richbrau Brewing Co., in Shockoe Slip, Thurs., Jan. 26, beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Kaine, First Post-Katrina Governor

By F. T. Rea

Tim Kaine’s resounding victory on Nov. 8 put smiles on a lot of faces in Richmond's Fan District on the sunny morning after the election. Happy people on the street were waving and giving thumbs-up signs to one another like the Redskins had beaten the Cowboys, or perhaps a particularly tedious spell of bad weather just ended. For many Democrats, coast-to-coast, that morning’s headlines were probably the brightest sign they’d seen in a long time. It says here Kaine’s win also sent a clear message to America’s politicians of every stripe -- wise up, like it or not, we are all living in a post-Katrina environment.
Gov. Tim Kaine
Illustration by F. T. Rea
It took almost four whole years for an event of sufficient impact to jostle the collective national psyche enough to allow for turning the page on the shock and anger of 9/11. Hurricane Katrina has done it. Nobody is forgetting 9/11's tragedy but putting it into its historical perspective is healthy and useful. Obviously, there's a big 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 sense of helplessness -- rampant anxiety -- shared by all for some time after such catastrophes has similarities, too.

After absorbing the shock and anger that Katrina set loose on the Gulf Coast Americans now have a fresh perspective on how not to prepare for, and deal with, calamities.

In the numbing smoke-filled air of Ground Zero and the panic of the anthrax scare Republicans sought and gained power. In the fearful public’s eye they seemed better suited to deal with the situation than did the Democrats. Plus, people naturally rallied around their president. Consequently, the political pendulum suddenly swung to the right, even further than many of us thought possible. In the fours years since those hijackings and exploding buildings, in truth, the Bush administration's response has not worked out all that well on any front. Here we got a fear color code, now stuck on yellow. Abroad, it has created an unfolding disaster in Iraq with no end in sight.

There's plenty more but to cut to the chase -- it took a hurricane blowing into New Orleans to truly reveal what a bad joke the Bush administration’s signature Homeland Security Department was -- “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.”

Out of nowhere it was like an instant civics lesson for the whole country -- hey, sometimes only the government can fix it, or it doesn't get fixed. Opportunists who’ve been getting elected by telling us how “government can’t solve the problem because it is the problem,” don’t necessarily know much about how to make government's gears work smoothly when the need arises. In a crisis they can be useless.

After years of slogans from tax-cutting, chest-beating Republicans, claiming to be devout fiscal conservatives and robust can-do guys, in the real world -- post-Katrina -- it's turned out some aren't much more than poseurs. So, perhaps more than anything Jerry Kilgore or Tim Kaine ever said on the stump, the muddy horror show in New Orleans set up the day for a practical, upbeat Democrat to win in Virginia, two months later.

Moreover, Kaine is an unapologetic believer in the power of government to improve the lives of the people it serves. To his credit, Kaine has always been that sort of guy, he never denied it. So, it’s quite fitting that he should be the first to benefit from the pendulum starting to return from its wild swing to the right.

As far as how much of a boost Kaine’s win will give to Mark Warner’s presidential bandwagon, who knows? It certainly can’t hurt him. Other than buffing up Warner's image as a winner on the national stage, what does Kaine's victory in Virginia mean for the rest of the nation?

Smile, the post-Katrina pendulum swing has just started.

Meanwhile, in this commonwealth, Virginians are generally more optimistic about the future. They have seen a state government solve big problems, or at least reverse negative momentum; they know it can be done. That speaks well for the futures of both Warner and Kaine.

-- 30 --

Update (Jan. 19, 1:30 p.m.): The Washington Post reports Virginia's Gov. Tim Kaine will offer the Democrats' response to President Bush's Jan. 31st State of the Union Address.

Friday, January 13, 2006

The Big Stretch

by F. T. Rea

The prototype was assembled during a lull in seventh grade shop class. After tying some 15 rubber bands together to make a chain a collaborator held one end of the contraption, as I stepped back to stretch it out for a test. Squinting to sight along the taut line to take aim, finally, I let go. The whole thing gathered itself and shot past the holder.

The released tip smartly struck a target several feet beyond the holder. While the satisfaction I felt was a rush, the encouragement from the boys who witnessed that launching felt transforming. Through a pleasant sequence of trial-and-error experiments, it was determined how to best maximize distance and accuracy. Once guys across the room were getting popped with the bitter end of my brainchild -- dubbed the Stretch -- the spitballs that routinely flew around classrooms in 1960 at Albert H. Hill junior high were strictly old news.

The following morning, uncharacteristically, I appeared on the schoolyard an hour before the first bell. Inside a brown paper bag I had with me an updated version of the previous day’s invention. It was some 60 links long -- the Big Stretch.

Soon boys were shoving one another aside just to act as holders. Most of the time I did the shooting. Occasionally, one of the guys from my inner circle was permitted to be the shooter. As the wonder whizzed by it made such a splendid noise that just standing close by the holder was a thrill, too. On the asphalt playground behind the yellow brick school building an enthusiastic throng cheered each flight.

The Big Stretch went on to make an appearance at an afternoon football game, where its operators established to the delight of the audience that cheerleaders could be zapped on their bouncing butts with impunity from more than 25 yards away. After a couple of days of demonstrations around the neighborhood and at Willow Lawn shopping center, again, I significantly lengthened the chain of rubber bands.

But the new version -- about 100 rubber bands long -- proved too heavy for its own good. It was not as accurate or powerful as the previous model. Then came the morning a couple of beefy ninth-grade football players weren’t content with taking a single turn with the new Big Stretch. Although there was a line behind them they demanded another go.

Surrounded by devotees of the Big Stretch, I stood my ground and refused. But my entourage -- mostly fair weather friends -- was useless in a pinch. Faced with no good options, I fled with my claim-to-fame in hand. In short order I was cornered and pounded until the determined thieves got the loot they wanted. They fooled around for a while trying to hit their buddies with it. Eventually, several rubber bands broke and the Big Stretch was literally pulled to pieces and scattered.

By then my nose had stopped bleeding, so, I gathered my dignity and shrugged off the whole affair, as best I could. I didn’t choose to make another version of the Big Stretch. A few other kids copied it, but nobody seemed to care. Just as abruptly as it had gotten underway, the connected-rubber-band craze ran out of gas. It was over.

At that time the slang meaning of "cool" had an underground cachet which has been stretched out of shape since. We’re told the concept of cool, and the term itself, seeped out of the early bebop scene in Manhattan in the ‘40s. That may be, but to me the same delightful sense of spontaneity and understated defiance seems abundantly evident in forms of expression that predate the Dizzy Gillespie/Thelonious Monk era at Minton’s, on 118th Street.

Wasn’t that Round Table scene at the Algonquin Hotel, back in the ‘20s, something akin to cool? If Dorothy Parker wasn’t cool, who the hell was? And, in the decades that preceded the advent of bebop jazz, surely modern art -- with its cubism, surrealism, constructivism, and so forth -- was laying down some of the rules for what became known as cool.

Cool’s zenith had probably been passed by the time I became enamored with the Beats, via national magazines. Widespread exposure and cool were more or less incompatible. Significantly, cool -- with its ability to be flippant and profound in the same gesture -- rose and fell without the encouragement of the ruling class. Underdogs invented cool out of thin air. It was a style that was beyond what money could buy.

The artful grasping of a moment’s unique truth was cool. However, just as the one-time-only perfect notes blown in a jam session can’t be duplicated, authentic cool was difficult to harness; even more difficult to mass-produce.

By the ‘70s, the mobs of hippies attuned to stadium Rock ‘n’ Roll shrugged nothing off. Cool was probably too subtle for them to appreciate. The Disco craze ignored cool. Punk Rockers searched for it in all the wrong places, then caught a buzz and gave up.

Eventually, in targeting self-absorbed baby boomers as a market, Madison Avenue promoted everything under the sun -- including schmaltz, and worse -- as cool. The expression subsequently lost its moorings and dissolved into the soup of mainstream vernacular. Time tends to stretch slang expressions thin as they are assimilated; pronunciations and definitions come and go. Now people say, "ku-ul," simply to express ordinary approval of routine things.

The process of becoming cool, then popular, pulled the Big Stretch to pieces. Once the experimental aspect of it was over it got to be just another showoff gimmick, which was less-than-cool, even to seventh-graders in the know.

-- 30 --

Beaujon's Bryan Harvey Interview

At Save Richmond, Andrew Beaujon's 2004 interview with Bryan Harvey provides good insight into the reasons for House of Freaks, in the first place, as well as reasons for the two-man band's inability to make a bigger splash in the long run.

"...But also the production values. Johnny [Hott] and I were trying for a much more primitive sound. We were trying to go for this front-porch recording sound that we heard in the Son House records. We wanted it to sound like an old blues record. We were working at a time when the industry was still kind of in the new wave days -- big reverb, big drum sound. That sort of mid-'80s sound. We kept fighting the same old battles: 'You see this expensive rack of equipment? Turn it off.' And they'd turn down maybe half a notch. We'd say, 'Keep going. Keep going.' Finally you just get tired of fighting those battles. Afterwards, the lo-fi ethic became a little bit more fashionable."

Live Music Notes

More notices about live music have come in from friends:

From Brad Tucker: The Taters (with Jim Wark) will be at Poe's Pub tonight (Friday, Jan. 13).

From Page Wilson: On Sat., Jan. 14, Page Wilson with Reckless Abandon (Chris Fuller, Jay Gillespie, Charles Arthur, and Jim Skelding) will be at Ashland Coffee & Tea.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Divine Coincidence?

Boy, oh boy, you know old Pat Roberston is twitching up a storm down in his plush Tidewater television studio. He’s looking at the headlines, too -- hey, that crazy guy who tried to assassinate the Pope (in 1981), who is a Turk, has just been let out of jail. THAT, while the Bird Flu is bubbling to a boil in Turkey, a whole damn country named after what else? -- a bird!

So far Robertson has yet to weigh in on this obvious case of divine coincidence. However, he did issue an explanation for his recent controversial statements about two heads of state:

"OK, heh, heh, maybe I should've suggested Chavez just needed to be slapped around, a little bit," said Robertson. "But on Sharon, hey, the stroke was strictly God's idea. When He asked me what to do about Sharon turning into a wuss, well, I said maybe give him a ba-a-ad sinus headache, scout's honor. Hey, God does the smiting, not me!"

Note: The above attempt at satirical humor, altered photo included, is not meant to scare anyone. Please don’t take it seriously, unless you must.

Kudos to Buttermilk & Molasses

A tip of the cap to writer John Sarvay, former editor/publisher of Caffeine Magazine -- a local mid-1990s 'zine which swam up the same bohemian stream as some other "alternative" publications have in Richmond. In the last 10 days Buttermilk & Molasses has done a noteworthy job giving its readers, who wanted to keep up with the tragic story of the slain Harvey family, a reliable source for good/useful information. That without them having to see a lot of the trash that’s been slung around. Keeping a cool head in this stretch hasn’t been easy.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Memphis Rockabilly Band

An excellent saloon Rock 'n' Roll act, the Memphis Rockabilly Band was from Boston, of all places. Richmond was one of their favorite towns, as they toured the East Coast for about ten years, beginning in the late-1970s. Perhaps there was an extra appreciation here then for Rockabilly music. There was a handful of popular bands based here playing in that style. The Bopcats and Shake and the Drakes were among the Fan District groups feeling/riding a revival wave of interest in Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent, Jerry Lee Lewis, Rick Nelson, et al, driven in great part by Brits such as Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe (Rockpile).
Bill Coover
Memphis Rockabilly played at Hard Times a bunch of times. The band, fronted by Jeff Spencer, appeared at High on the Hog in 1980 and ‘81, when the annual throwdown was still being staged in the alley behind Chuck Wrenn’s house. Every year, it seemed, they would show up with a new bass player, as a fourth. Bill Coover (guitar, saxophone) and Terry Bingham (drums) were the other two regulars for the whole ride.

HOTH, each second Saturday of Hogtober since 1977, moved across the street into Libby Hill Park in 1983 to go legit; MRB returned to appear there in 1984, ‘85, ‘86 and ‘87. Six times, that’s got to be the record for HOTH appearances.

Over the last week, like many of my readers, I’ve given much thought to those salad days. I've seen so many faces from that time at the Harveys memorials. Bryan Harvey’s band then was The Dads. Dancing was enjoying a revival then, too. The Dads were a peppy band with quite a following among the region’s young Rock ‘n’ Rolls girls. It was a happening scene. Like any scene, I suppose you had to be there...

Here’s a link to a Memphis Rockabilly Band web site. I don’t know who put it up, but the facts look close to the truth. I did the illustration of Bill Coover above in 1984 for a series of Fan District trivia cards.

...tears, phone calls, vigils

At Three Wheels the Richmond-based blogger, Triscula, captures the feelings of many in her neighborhood with her heartfelt piece about living through the last week, "All Things Must Pass..."

"...The days that followed that terrible news were filled with tears, phone calls, vigils and obsessive attention to the local (and national) news. Terrible details of the brutality of the crime. Terrible images in my imagination of their final moments. Endless speculation about the identity of the killer(s) and their possible motives. I struggled mightily to try to understand who could do such a ghastly thing to such lovely people. I think everyone who knew them, and many that only knew of them, were engaged in the same.

"Time seemed to stop.

"Despite the terrible sadness I was feeling in that week that followed, I was amazed and deeply touched by the beautiful things that were revealed around me. The love and care between the people in my community, the loyalty to the dignity and memory of the Harveys, the diligence of the local print media in covering the story with the same sense of dignity and care, and the determination of those that were suffering to push ahead and make a beautiful legacy for these people and push off from the images of the horror that Bryan, Kathy, Stella and Ruby suffered."

Bruce Olsen & friends to play

The following notice came in today (Wednesday) from Adrian Olsen:

Subject Line: Time for the Music Again (Olsen Family Band)

Text: We apologize for having to cancel last week's Shenanigans show, but we are on for tomorrow, Thursday the 12th at 8:30 p.m. I hope everyone's new year is improving daily and that I see ya'll there tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Harvey Memorial Fund Established

Note: The following notice was received from friends of the Harvey family at 10:50 p.m., Jan 10 (Updated 11:45 a.m., Jan 11):

Bryan and Kathryn Harvey Family Memorial Endowment Established Locally

(RICHMOND, VA)… At the request of family and friends, The Community Foundation Serving Richmond and Central Virginia (Tax ID# 23-7009135) has created the Bryan and Kathryn Harvey Family Memorial Endowment. The Fund is established in memory of Bryan, Kathryn, Stella and Ruby Harvey and will be advised by a committee of their family and friends. Bryan and Kathryn shared a love of music and art, and they were known to their family and friends as kind and generous people. Thus, it is appropriate that the purpose of the Bryan and Kathryn Harvey Family Memorial Endowment is to provide music, visual art and performing arts enrichment in the Richmond area, which may include but is not limited to educational scholarships.

For anyone who wishes to memorialize the Harvey family through a contribution to this fund, please make your check payable to the Bryan and Kathryn Harvey Family Memorial Endowment and send it to the following address:

Bryan and Kathryn Harvey Family Memorial Endowment
c/o The Community Foundation
7325 Beaufont Springs Drive, Suite 210
Richmond, VA 23225

To reach The Community Foundation by telephone call (804) 330-7400.

Furthermore, I'm told by those same friends that we will soon have more news about, "some major musical events," to begin the fund-raising effort. Further developments will be posted, ASAP.

National's Curtain to Rise Again

Dark for over 20 years the National Theatre, at 704 E. Broad St., is in the process of changing hands. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports today that Historic Richmond Foundation, owner of the 1923 vintage theater since 1989, has agreed to sell the National to RIC Capital Ventures. It is slated to become a concert hall.

“‘Aggressively, we’d like to open before the end of 2006,’ said Brad Wells, a partner with the company. ‘We’ve got a great theater shell. There’s a lot we’re going to preserve.’ The sales price is nearly $1.6 million, Wells said.

“RIC Capital Ventures is affiliated with James River Entertainment, which produces the Innsbrook After Hours concert series and the Loudoun Summer Music Fest and other concerts. Wells said James River Entertainment plans to book events at the National in consultation with Rising Tide Productions, which owns and operates the NorVa, a restored 1,500-capacity theater in Norfolk. While details about the planned restoration are incomplete, the National is expected to accommodate 1,500 patrons with no fixed seating, much like NorVa, Wells said.”

The National’s volunteer caretaker Jim Whiting (mentioned in the RT-D’s story) deserves to get a medal for his 15-year effort to watch over/preserve that wonderful old theater. Although the news piece didn't mention if the theater's ghost was thrown into the $1.6-million-deal, there is a nice nine-picture slideshow at the RT-D site.

Sarvay at Buttermilk & Molasses has more on the story and some links for background.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Remembering Well, But How? When?

by F.T. Rea

Artists of every stripe in the Fan District and environs are starting to think about just how to act upon remembering the Harvey family murdered on Jan. 1, 2006 in their home. We’ve had the memorial service(s). With our fingers crossed that the cops really do have all of the real murderers locked up, please, what’s the right way to express the loss we are feeling, and our hope for a better day?
World of Mirth, early in the process of being transformed
into a people's work of art, a shrine with toys at the heart of it.

Photo Credit: J.C. Wilmore (Jan. 2, 2006)
At the Saturday afternoon (Jan. 7) Byrd Theatre memorial we were asked to follow songwriter Bryan Harvey’s plea expressed in the title of his 1991 House of Freaks song “Remember Me Well,” by always remembering to laugh.

OK. Mission accepted. Bryan and Kathy loved to laugh and to make us laugh. They lived their lives in the middle of what some might see as Richmond’s most lively/creative crowd.

On Sunday afternoon, sculptor/educator Joe Seipel characterized the throng assembled at the Byrd’s ceremony the day before, in this way: “...That was quite a roomful of people, I’d say the cutting edge of the Richmond arts community for the last 25 years.” Maybe Joe, as a problem-solving artist, is already mulling it over -- hmm, what should be done to satisfy both an individual's and the community’s need to create joyous reminders of, and tributes to: Bryan, 49; Kathy, 39; Stella, 9; Ruby, 4?

Every mood-swinging mind in the ad hoc community brought together by this tragedy is probably grinding its gears over the same, too. It's an escape from the horrors. Local musicians and filmmakers must be chewing on the concept, big-time. Richmond’s artists/storytellers are feeling called upon to document the light moments of the Harvey family -- instead of dwelling on their last dark seconds -- and tell about the awkwardness of trying to laugh again at life's absurdities, and even the grim reaper.

OK: Let’s all make our own Bryan and Kathy dolls, or draw comic strips with them as characters. Name every girl born for the next year, either Stella or Ruby. Let’s blow-up the family's best goofy pictures -- we saw a bunch of them at the Byrd, many in silly costumes -- and slap them on selected billboards in town. Let's resist our fear to be funny, again, to remember them as they were at their funniest.

Let’s buy a theater and rename it The Harvey. We could show the James Stewart classic comedy, “Harvey” (1950) at the opening party. Why not create a World of Mirth toys-for-tots-like program to give toys to needy children?

Let’s set up fully-funded scholarships in the names of the Harvey girls, Stella and Ruby, to go to the arts educations of deserving children. Let’s name sandwiches and desserts after the Harveys. Let’s start calling a certain subtle hue, perhaps her most favorite color, after Kathy.

Let’s do have a giant costume party/dance on 2007’s New Year’s Day, and thereby reclaim that symbolic day for our community by having a special band on stage that Johnny Hott might be able to put together for such an occasion. It could raise some dough for the Harveys’ favorite charity.

Some have already said they want to convert the Harveys' Woodland Heights property into some sort of park. Hey why not? And, if there are reasons why not, do something else to establish a park elsewhere. Got a better idea? Let's do it! Arrggh!

OK. Put the straightjacket away, I'm feeling calmer again.

If the community of caring, talented citizens in the Byrd Theatre for that Harvey memorial pulls together, we can do a lot of things in this town. Especially, if we help one another.

If a bona fide arts renaissance blossoms in Richmond, on the heels of the most bitter tragedy ever to befall this generation of Richmond artists, writers, musicians, etc., how would that suit you, dear reader?

That would be a happy tribute to those same playful personalities we are still struggling, for the moment, to remember without crying. Now, mood-swings notwithstanding, we must remember who we are... well.

-- 30 --

Picking Up the Pieces

by F.T. Rea

Sunday morning I woke up still exhausted. Six whole days and nights of jolting aftershocks, which seemed to be shaking to pieces what matters most, wore this grizzled scribbler out. With the arrests in Philadelphia of Ray Joseph Dandridge and Ricky Gray an anxious Richmond, Virginia now prays for calm.

At this writing it appears the apprehended pair of murder suspects, both 28, may have killed the innocent Harvey family -- Bryan, 49; Kathy 39; Stella 9; Ruby 4 -- as part of a wider crime spree. It’s not at all clear how the true murderers selected their victims. Dandridge and Gray remain in Pennsylvania, for now, held in connection with killing seven people in Richmond's Southside.

So, we’ll wait to learn more, as we try to get back to something akin to normalcy. Hopefully, these arrests will stick and reduce the flow of ghoulish gossip-mongering that's been rampant. At the same time let's have the unvarnished truth from our police department and news agencies, ASAP. Let’s hear the worst of it, and get it over with.

Since we learned of the Jan. 1 Harvey murders we have been breathing shallowly, caught in the grip of fear. Guessed-at reasons for the Harveys to have been selected for slaughter dominated too many conversations, as if that's what mattered most. Now it appears the dark speculations about how the crime had to have been personal, and thus had to have been committed by psychotic fiends who knew them, was mostly a matter of too many of us playing “profiler,” trying to make sense out of the senseless.

Those who knew Byran best for his much-admired music figured it had to be about that. His song lyrics were mined for clues; old events and connections were revisited. Others closer to Kathy feared it had to do with her life as a prominent Carytown merchant. The couple's Woodland Heights neighbors surely suspected the bloodletting had to do with the neighborhood.

Thus, everyone saw the crime scene itself through their own prism. Which means, of course, the terrified children at Stella’s and Ruby’s schools must have thought it was about their little world.

Now, we’re told the Harveys may indeed have been picked at random. OK. Is that worse that our squirming-toad-imaginations conjured up, or not? Does it matter?

Of course, for those looking for sensationalism, the lyrics to Bryan Harvey’s songs will now conveniently be converted from clues into premonitions. So, don’t expect that aspect of this story to ever stop completely.

It won’t surprise me if we eventually learn the Harveys weren’t picked totally at random, either, or that there's more to come out. Perhaps these murders were something like the Clutter family's killings in Capote’s “In Cold Blood,” in that the crime started out as a robbery of people thought to be rich, but that easy motive was an excuse to do more. Or not. Maybe we’ll never know why.

After all, should we ever believe anything the sub-human culprits tell us? Hell, they may be so wicked they don’t really know why they did it, except it was a thrill.

In the crucible of this shared ordeal for the community grieving the painful loss of the Harveys a truth more important than base motives is being forged: We know much, much better than before that we absolutely cherish our ordinary lives, just as they are -- our children, our friends, our history together and our community.

There were 1,399 of us at the Byrd Theatre yesterday afternoon for the memorial ceremony. Let me tell you, being in that room was a powerful experience. We were told by speakers to “remember the Harveys well,” by remembering them as who they were -- generous, talented people who gladly took the risks to make us dance and laugh.

Right now we still feel fragile.

This terrible experience in the process of transforming us. But into what? Let's hope we're being changed into a community of individuals a little quicker to take risks to follow their hearts and laugh sincerely.

-- 30 --

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Arrests Made!

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that two men have been arrested in Philadelphia in connection with the murdered Harvey family:

"Monroe said Richmond police believe Ray Joseph Dandridge, 28, and Ricky Gevon Gray, 28, are responsible for the New Year's Day slayings of four members of a family on West 31st Street in Woodland Heights and last night's slaying of three members of a family on East Broad Rock Road. 'The senseless killings of these seven people -- two families -- was disturbing, not only for the families of the victims, the community, as well as the police department,' Monroe said."

Here's the AP story.
CNN's version

Nobody Told Me There'd Be...

For the Harvey family memorial service inside the old friend that is the Byrd Theatre, its 1,399-seat auditorium was filled with suffering people who had to be there. The presentation was to-the-point and uplifting, with a great emphasis put on their love of music and devotion to making us laugh, to promoting good times. We left feeling better; we still have a long way to go. The display pictured above was in the lobby.

The mainstream press will have its take on what happened. For a different look at the story, in the last week writer John Sarvay (at Buttermilk & Molasses) has done a splendid job of serving the community as a responsible publisher, at large, working with his own sense of how to tell the story. With the role blogs have played in living through the last week, I guess we've just seen yet another way the Internet is reshaping our notion of reality. Anyway, Sarvay's view of the event is worth reading.

Photo: F.T. Rea

Right; Rite; Write...

by F.T. Rea

Walking home from the bar the air was seasonally crisp. Back inside the place I had found myself explaining to a good friend, who was a little worried about me, just what I’ve been doing for the last five days -- functioning as a self-appointed, round-the-clock editor of what is the most terrifying/compelling story I’ve been close to in my life -- the Harvey murders.

But why? Maybe, my friend suggested, some in their grief could resent what they see as my using or even magnifying the tragedy. OK. My sobering walk’s thoughts on that topic have been gathered, here they are:

What I’ve been doing with my series of posts on SLANTblog is trying to present a restrained version of this story, with background, useful to people I care about. That, while I’ve been trying to keep my wits about me. I've suddenly broken down in tears every day, absorbing the dreadful deatils of the story as they came out. I've tried to avoid the gossip. Work has been my only balm.
In front of World of Mirth on Thursday
It’s this way -- newspapers do their job, their way. Likewise the local broadcasters. They all have their intentions, as do the pushy national media types who've been roaming about the Fan District today. And, I have mine. Every publisher is obliged to define and perform for a specific audience. Each has his agenda.

My aim, however, has been to be useful to a smaller audience -- people who knew and cared about the Harveys. The little Fan District-centered world I know best is changing as I write these words. We won’t be the same again. This bizarre grief spell is unprecedented. Those who understand what I mean with that -- you are my audience, wherever you are as you read this.

We are, for a time, a community. This is our Kennedy assassination. This nightmare is our 9/11. Our Katrina.

The fog of pain in the air I’ve been breathing is the collective pain felt by decades of associations -- many longtime friends, people I’ve worked and partied with, people I’ve insulted, people I’ve schemed with, people I’ve played sports with, people I’ve helped and people who’ve helped me, people who’ve created a generation’s music and danced to it. Then there are our community’s children; my granddaughter, as was little lost Stella, is a nine-year-old at Fox Elementary.

As a pair, Bryan and Kathy Harvey were naturally cool and talented in ways few people are. He was a gifted musician/songwriter. He had a style that was risky, yet easy to like. As an artist, he was respected because he went his own way, rather that try to ride some artificial wave. In her professional realm, she was also an innovator, a trend-setter. She didn’t much need someone else to tell her where the boundaries were to do with style and aesthetics. Within a copycat world of retailing cookie cutters, she fashioned a World of Mirth.

They had two beautiful daughters, whose horrific deaths will haunt us forever as our ultimate standard for evil. No, we weren’t prepared to accept such a level of depravity existed in our midst. We pray our cops can soon deliver genuine relief.

In the morning I’ll go to the Byrd Theatre for the ceremony, hopefully early enough to get inside. And, using my job’s tools as unobtrusively as possible, I’ll make a record of what I think calls for it.Yes, I know some well-meaning people, who see things differently than I, might say I should do no such a thing, that it’s exploiting grief, framing ritual as spectacle. OK. I’ll take my risk with that. I have to trust my instincts not to let my audience down.

After my coverage of the service at the Byrd, I’ll continue to post new information about the Harvey killings and various reactions to them. However, SLANTblog will also begin to have stories about other subjects, along the lines of its usual fare before Jan. 2. A gradual return to normalcy -- we’ll see how it goes.

Soon, it will give me great pleasure to use SLANTblog to spread the word on what gets going to establish fitting remembrances to a family that represented the best in us: Four beings I’ve chosen to believe remained brave and felt the vibe of one anothers' love to the very end.

-- 30 --

Friday, January 06, 2006

World of Loss, Grieving and Tribute

The growing display in front of Carytown's World of Mirth is something to see. To remember the slain Harvey family -- parents: Bryan and Kathy, daughters: Stella and Ruby -- toys, flowers, notes, candles, and all sorts of things have been left off on the sidewalk in front of Kathy's shop.
There’s a large board for people to leave off their written comments. So much of the stuff there was obviously put out by children. Even as still more brutal, hair-raising details about the crime scene itself emerge, the tenderness of what's on that city sidewalk is palpable.
Photos: F. T. Rea

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Harvey Ceremony

Candles and Shared Grief
The service for the Harvey family at the Unitarian Church tonight seemed to help many of those who attended -- strength in numbers. The mood of the ceremony itself was understated. There was no music. That will come later. And, when it does, I’ll be there, come hell or high water.

Many of the faces in the overflow crowd were familiar, the local arts/music community was well represented. There were tears and hugs aplenty. After the simple ceremony a candlelight vigil was held outdoors, behind the church. Some testified through sobs, most just stood and felt the vibe. I was surprised somewhat that the television crews actually showed restraint -- no bright lights or microphones in peoples’ faces until it was over.

Who can remember a blow to this city's collective psyche as bitter and difficult to grasp as this? As for me, I went to the memorial service with my daughter, Katey, who grew up in the Fan District, her husband Brian and their two children, Emily, 9, and Sam, 7, who both go to school at Fox.

Now I’m so glad we went as a family and had dinner together later. Emily and Sam are doing OK. I hope Stella Harvey's other schoolmates are taking it as well. Like so many other children familiar with Carytown, the funhouse mirror in front World of Mirth, Kathryn Harvey's shop, is a playful memory my grandchildren will probably carry with them forever.
Photos by F. T. Rea

House of Freaks

A million hearts a million minds
Have lived and died in 40 years
Pray for yourself and for your memories
And be thankful we've had 40 years
-- Bryan Harvey from "40 Years"
Bryan Harvey (left) and Johnny Hott were House of Freaks.
Art: A detail from the House of Freaks' "Monkey on a Chain Gang"
album cover.
It was in 1986 at the Jade Elephant that I first saw and heard what became the House of Freaks. At that time I already knew both Bryan Harvey and Johnny Hott, from their previous musical endeavors. SLANT was then a handbill-style periodical, in the midst of fighting the City’s anti-handbill laws. The Jade was one of SLANT's early advertisers, so I ran ads for the bar touting "Bryan and Johnny live at the Jade," or something like that. The name House of Freaks came later.

However, I liked their two-man act right away and went on to do what I could to encourage/support what they were doing. All that existed in a time in which you probably have to be over 40 now to remember. Hell, some of us are pushing 60, these days.

Thinking of those two guys, stubbornly resisting everyone who told them to get a third player -- because a duo can’t be a band! -- takes me back to that rambunctious time on West Grace Street, when it was the main strip for live music and nightlife in Richmond. In the early- to mid-80s the Shockoe Bottom club scene was still in its formative stages. Watching Johnny sob on television last night, as he tried to tell a newsman the story of finding his longtime friend's home engulfed in smoke on Sunday afternoon, tore my heart out.

As I contemplate the memorial ceremony at the Unitarian Church in a couple of hours, and who might be there, names of people, bands, and places flash through my raw nerves and into mind -- they are listed below in no particular order. Twenty, twenty-five years ago the Fan District still had a thriving hell-bent-for-leather, artsy music scene in which there was probably no more talented an individual operating than Bryan Harvey. Certainly, there was no nicer guy.

The Dads, Throttle, Michel’s, Benny’s, Orthotonics, Hard Times, The Bowties, Beex, The Village, Offenders, Megatonz, Chuck Wrenn, The Pass, Death Piggy, Millionaires, R.A.W., Red Cross, Prevaricators, Casablanca, Rockitz, Barriers, Shake & the Drakes, Main Street Grill, Grace Place, New Horizons, Chelf’s, Biograph Theatre, The Insinuations, I Remember Reality Review, Plan 9, Bopcats, Good Humor Band, Single Bullet Theory, Theories of the Old School, Shafer Court, The Pass, Lamour, 1708, The Clubhouse, Domino’s Doghouse, Faded Rose, J.W. Rayle, Toronados, Insect Surfers, Soble's, Gatsby's, X-Dux, Tom and Marty Band, Boys and Girls Grow Up, Cha Cha Palace, The Good Guys, Texas-Wisconsin Border Cafe, The Rage, The Jade Elephant, Hababas, The Back Door, Non Dairy Screamers, Color Radio, Floodzone, Joe Sheets, Don' Ax Me... Bitch!, Page Wilson, "Z," Steve Payne, AAE, The Copa, Rick Stanley, Bruce Olsen, 353-ROCK, House of Freaks...

Feel free to send in suggestions, as I'm sure I've left plenty of names out.

The Harveys Story: Updated Info and Links

This section consolidated links from earlier posts, it was started at 3:09 a.m. on Jan. 3, 2006. Links to other web sites offering background or reactions to the story of the slain Harvey family have been added and removed, as needed, since this post went up. Readers should feel free to comment, report broken links, or make suggestions. And, thanks to those readers who are helping with the updates, you know who you are. The last update was made on Thursday, June 10, 2008.

SLANTblog posts
Family Found Murdered (Jan.2, '06)
House of Freaks (Jan.3)
Harvey Ceremony (Jan. 3)
World of Loss, Grieving and Loss (Jan. 6)
Right; Rite; Write (Jan. 7)
Nobody Told Me (Jan. 7)
Picking Up the Pieces (Jan. 9)
Remembering Well, But How? When? (Jan. 9)
Harvey Memorial Fund Established (Jan. 10)
Harvey Fund-Raising Efforts (Jan. 21)
Listening to Better Angels (Jan. 23)
Harvey Segment on Dateline (Jan. 29)
Bryan Harvey's Music Remembered (Apr. 7)
Harvey 50th Well Done (Apr. 28)
Remembering the Sunlit Painted Ladies (June15)
The Storm and the Sunlit Painted Ladies (July 22)
Harvey grants announced; murder trial to start today (Aug. 14)
SLANTblog: Defendant admits murdering Harvey family (Aug. 16)
SLANTblog: Now, what to do with the murderer? (Aug. 17)
The trail is over, remember Stella well (Aug. 23)
Ruby Harvey memorial children’s run (Nov. 1)

Richmond Times-Dispatch
Harvey Family Remembered (its entire collection of articles)
Deadly week in Richmond
Forum: Readers remember the Harvey family (58 pages of comments from readers)
Run Raisers $6,000 for Ruby fund (Dec. 19)

Other News & Commentary
John Sarvay's Buttermilk & Molasses (a number of posts)
Don Harrison at Save Richmond
Hollywood Reporter
Rolling Stone

N.Y. Daily News: Pals of slain rocker find solace on Net
TimesOnline: Obit
Richmond.com: Where do we go from Here?
NO-IDEA: Farewell, Harvey Family
The Blue Raccoon: World of Tears
Three Wheels: All Things Must Pass
AJ's Journal: This nearly broke my heart

Oz Geier's photo gallery
House of Freaks @ GAPD (four pages of late-80s publicity photos)

Background & Tribute
9X: House of Freaks: Remembering The Great, Original Guitar/Drum Duo
Work Magazine profile of Kathryn Harvey
Richmond.com profile of Kathryn Harvey
Also Also: Bryan Harvey and the New South Gothic
bluecricket.com: Ask Bryan
Jalpuna: Please remember him well
Trouser Press: House of Freaks
Save Richmond: Bryan Harvey interviewied by Andrew Beaujon
Elizabeth Cougar for STYLE Weekly: Kathryn Harvey's Imaginative Eye
Greg Weatherford for STYLE Weekly: A Real-Life Love Song
National Review: Remembering Him Well
Rhino Magazine: Bryan Harvey Remembered Well
Rhino (2004 reissue): "Monkey on a Chain Gang" (w/audio samples)
Rhino (2004 reissue): "Tantilla, Plus" (w/audio samples)
Pop Matters: Review of House of Freaks' 2004 reissues
Rhino: Remembering Byran Harvey by Steve Wynn
Three Wheels: Empty Spaces
House of Freaks interview on YouTube
House of Freaks interview on YouTube