Friday, March 31, 2006

Mason Nation Swelling

The out-of-the-shadows history of the university is being told far and wide. It began in an old elementary schoolhouse with 17 students in 1957. Now George Mason University's sprawling Fairfax campus serves nearly 30,000 students. The jolly tale of George Mason's march through this spring's version of annual hoops madness -- which will end happily, or not, in Indianapolis -- has captivated the nation.

As well, sports fans everywhere are now discovering the subtle charms of Jim Larranaga (pictured left), the author of the NCAA’s best Final Four underdog story ever. That’s good because Coach Larranaga, who has been doing his job the same way for a long time, deserves this time in the spotlight.

While most other college head coaches occasionally whine or show anger after games in the media room -- for some it's more than occasionally -- Larranaga's habit is to praise what he sees as praiseworthy and skip the rest. Yet, he is at the same time quite forthright in answering tough questions. This is a coach who consistently sets a good example for his players.

Like the rest of the greater CAA family, VCU Rams coaches, players and fans here in Richmond have been familiar with how rugged Larranaga's teams have been/always are for a good while. In the Big Dance's competition it's said the referees frequently allow more contact -- they let 'em play. For savvy teams that aren’t shy about a little contact that can be a boon.

For well-coached players who can adjust their moves to how closely the officials are calling a particular game another advantage can be taken. For example, nimble Jai Lewis (pictured right) has been using his 275 pounds quite deftly to get his way on the floor, just on the right side of what is being allowed. All the Patriots have been working this aspect of the NCAA tournament so adroitly it’s been quite a treat to watch. says 16 states are betting more on both UCLA and LSU to win it all. Florida is the favorite in 12 states. Mason has only six. Each school's own state is backing it. Curiously, the states other than Virginia that lean toward the underdog Patriots are Hawaii, Michigan, Oregon, Rhode Island and South Dakota. South Dakota? To see the color-coded map of all 50 states click on this link -- Not Larry Sabato.

With the tipoff of Saturday’s 6 p.m. tilt pitting George Mason against Florida only one day away, after defeating Connecticut in overtime there's no reason for the swelling Mason Nation to fear the Florida Gators. Meanwhile, here are some links to stories that might help with savoring the anticipation of April Fools Day:

AP: Larranaga loving Cinderella ride to Final Four
USA Today: Larranaga well-equipped to orchestrate Mason's run
The Charlotte Observer: Larranaga turns to UVa days for strategy
South of the James: For Black Alumni, George Mason’s Basketball Success is Even Sweeter
Richmond Times-Dispatch: GMU, before the big time
Yahoo Sports: Mason means business
Photos: Larranaga - USA Today; Lewis - SLANT

Music Memo from Page Wilson

This notice came in from my friend Page Wilson:

"We just celebrated our 10th anniversary at our current Swamp home. Twice a year we come to you looking for support in the form of your becoming a member of Your Community Idea Station, 88.9 FM WCVE. For two hours, this Saturday evening is your magic moment.

"T'were it not for WCVE, the Out O' the Blue Radio Revue would not be on the air. I hope you will pick up the phone and become a member.

"VCOM, the Virginia Coalition of Motocyclists, will be answering the phones once again. You don't have to break the bank to have an impact, letting the folks who make our show possible that you appreciate our little Saturday evening foray into the Chickahominy Swamp world of Purebred American Mongrel Music.

"Thank you in advance for your support on this very important mission: to keep great music on the airwaves. 1-800-478-8440."

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Insulating Bush

Here’s an eye-opening National Journal article by Murray Waas (thanks to a heads-up from Waldo Jaquith) that's worth a look. In “Insulating Bush” Waas shines a new light on the spy-outing aspects of the Bush administration’s pre-invasion propaganda to sell WMDs-in-Iraq as reality, come hell or high water.

“...The New York Times later reported that White House aides ‘had choreographed every aspect of the event, even down to the members of the Lincoln crew arrayed in coordinated shirt colors over Mr. Bush's right shoulder and the Mission Accomplished banner placed to perfectly capture the president and the celebratory two words in a single shot.’

“On May 6, in a column in The New York Times, Nicholas Kristof quoted an unnamed former ambassador as saying that allegations that Saddam had attempted to procure uranium from Africa were ‘unequivocally wrong’ and that ‘documents had been forged.’ But the column drew little notice.”

A Brief History of Future Shock

by Travis Charbeneau

As our scene opens, we live much like our ancestors lived, in the fixed and perfect world God made. Then the aliens arrive. Their technology is nothing short of miraculous. Their values, to the extent they seem to have any, are appalling. We expect God to blast them at any moment, but He doesn't -- evidence of either God's favor or (can it be?) His impotence before the alien God/gods (again, if they have any).

But worst of all is the sheer culture shock: so many ancient assumptions abruptly dashed.

The Sun, for example, clearly circles the Earth -- yet the aliens convincingly demonstrate the opposite. Then they show how our obviously flat planet is in truth round. Further, Earth is not the center of the universe, but merely one of many worlds circling one of many stars. Perhaps worst of all, the aliens say we are not the center of the universe; not even mini-gods as we'd been taught for millennia. No, Man is just another animal ... descended from monkeys!

It's too much. We feel ... alienated. Our fixed and perfect world has been yanked from beneath our feet. We wish we could go back to the happy days before the aliens arrived. Their dizzying assertions and proofs are convincing, but even if they have the truth, we'd really prefer some comfort.

Minor variations on this scene replayed throughout the 15th century and Europe's "Age of Discovery." Columbus played the alien to indigenous America; Magellan to the Pacific. Etc. But less noted is the fact that the "Age of Discovery" itself was playing the alien to Europe. Beginning in that same 15th century with The Renaissance and continuing with Galileo, Newton, Darwin, we were speedily deprived of our flat Earth, our center at the universe, our divine exceptionalism. Natural science played the alien to Western Civilization. In many respects, Columbus was only marginally less befuddled by culture shock than the "Indians" he mistakenly discovered.

Natural science was sufficiently alien to the faith-based medieval mind that those who got too far out in front were burned as heretics. Unlike Galileo, Newton didn't face the Inquisition, but both overturned their respective worlds. Darwin likewise escaped the stake, but remains so radically offensive that many "moderns" still prefer comfort to his truth, just another skirmish in our notorious "culture wars."

The Bottom Line, however, has forever had the last word. However offensive, natural science enabled technologies that made for industries that created the Universal Comforter: wealth.

Natural science would therefore win many friends to further the terrible upsets of the Industrial Revolution, regularly overturning our world. From the Renaissance onward, humanity has been increasingly alienated by "too much change, too fast." In 1965 Alvin Toffler branded this variety of culture shock "Future Shock," and eventually published a best-selling book of that name.

"Future Shock" itself came as a shock, especially in America. Americans had invented the future. We loved the new and disdained "the Old World." Americans were supposed to take accelerated change as the norm and be very comfy indeed with the technology, consumerism and "progress" that had so powerfully raised our standard of living. And in 1965 we were still riding the crest of post-war prosperity and global economic hegemony. Apart from the stale Cold War, a new Civil Rights movement and early tremors from Vietnam, there wasn't much to be upset about.

Of course, "The Sixties" had not quite happened by 1965.

The Berkeley Free Speech Movement had only begun the previous December. The "Summer of Love" was two years off. What we'd come to see as the fruition of Beat sensibility, "the Movement" against "the Establishment," had yet to grow long hair and head out for the commune "back to Nature," a Hippie take on "traditional values." Among those values were doubts about technology and suspicion of consumption and "progress." The Sixties were very much an effort to come to terms with Future Shock.

In vital respects, the effort failed. Hippies morphed into Yuppies. Boomers came to power. Idealistic Aquarian values, to the extent they existed, were co-opted by orthodontia bills, tuition for the kids, and by 2005, the woes of retirement planning. Doubt and suspicion yielded to the Universal Comforter, plus stock options. But Future Shock persists and accelerates. Terrorists knock down New York.

We owe Communist China 242 billion dollars. Cell phones sprout from our very ears. The upset of "too much change, too fast" today provokes extreme "traditional values" reaction, complete with the old desire to "get back" to this or that Golden Age.

Western fundamentalists long for a return to the Fifties at least, if not some version of the 19th Century. Fundamentalists in the "Developing World," assaulted simultaneously by Western "progress" and the Future Shock that comes bundled with it, long for a return to the 10th Century. Neither can return even five minutes, leaving both to suffer violent, perhaps terminal nostalgia.

Should genuine, ET-style aliens land tomorrow, we might expect to be well-prepared as 500-year veterans of culture shock. But, clearly, we're not. Bred by natural science, the aliens have already landed, and they are us. And, despite all the nice, cozy money -- for those who have it -- many still prefer comfort to truth.

-- 30 --

Note: The photograph of the author and the copy below are from Charbeneau's web site.

"Travis Charbeneau is a freelance writer and musician living in Richmond, Virginia. As an essayist, Travis has written for Alternet and Copley News Service and appeared independently in Utne Reader, Newsday, Esquire Magazine, In These Times, The Detroit News, Keyboard Magazine, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and many other periodicals. His essay 'My Story' won a 1985 PEN award."

No Slack for SubGenius Mom

It's 2006, already, and yet we read this: "Mother pokes fun at religion; loses son."

Outraged by a Church of the SubGenuis parody of a Mel Gibson movie with a relgious theme -- "The Passion of the Christ" -- a Rochester judge with a black hole where his sense of humor ought to be took a mother's child away from her. The woman, Rachel Bevilacqua, was subsequently ordered by the judge, James Punch, to stop blogging about the case. For an off-the-wall story that will leave you wondering -- what the hell?! -- go to Beginnings.

J. R. “Bob” Dobbs, depicted right, is the cartoon pipe-smoking SubGenius logo/mascot. Although he was said to have been killed in 1984, the Church claims he has returned from the dead on numerous occasions.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Picasso and Powell

by F. T. Rea

In February of 1981 I saw Pablo Picasso’s “Guernica” with my then-11-year-old daughter. When the Museum of Modern Art’s elevator doors opened the sight of the 25-foot wide masterpiece was so stunning the doors began to close before the spell was broken.
A few months later, what remains history’s most celebrated piece of anti-war art was packed up and sent to Madrid, Spain, upon the 100-year anniversary of Picasso’s birth (1881-1973). There it remains. However, a large copy of “Guernica” hangs on the second floor of the United Nations building -- a tapestry donated to the U.N. by Nelson Rockefeller’s estate in 1985.

On the occasion of then Secretary of State Colin L. Powell’s February 5, 2003 presentation -- underlining his president’s impatience with U.N. members seeking to avoid, or delay, war in Iraq -- the tapestry was completely covered that day by a blue drape. Powell apparently realized that even a replica of that particular piece had to be avoided for a backdrop of any photographs of him on that fateful day.

With the recent passing of the third anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq, when I think of what has been uncovered by investigations into the run-up to the invasion, I still wonder how much of what Powell said that day he knew had been ginned up by propagandists to sell a dangerous policy based on bad ideas.


In some ways little has changed at the heart of arguments concerning war and occupation since France's army -- as driven by the empire-building vision of Napoleon Bonaparte -- was an occupying force in Spain.

Overwhelmed by the brutality of France's campaign of terror to crush the Spanish will to resist, Francisco Goya (1746-1828) -- a well-connected artist who had much to lose -- took it upon himself to remove the romantic veil of glory, which had always been draped over portraits of war in European art.

Documenting what he saw of war, firsthand, the images Goya hurled at viewers of his paintings and prints radically departed from tradition. Instead of heroic glorification Goya offered horrific gore. The art world hasn’t been the same since.

Following in Goya’s footsteps artists such as Honore Daumier (1808-1879), Georges Rouault (1871-1959), Frans Masereel (1889-1971), Otto Dix (1892-1969), among many others, created still more haunting images illustrating the grittier aspects of modern war.

In the midst of the Spanish Civil War, with the storm clouds of World War II gathering, Spaniard Pablo Picasso created “Guernica.”

On April 27, 1937, to field test state-of the-art equipment, Adolf Hitler loaned a portion of Germany's air force, the Condor Legion, to a fellow fascist dictator -- Spain’s Francisco Franco. The mission: to bomb a small town a few miles inland from the Gulf of Biscay; a Basque village that had no strategic value whatsoever.

The result: utter terror.

Bombs rained on Guernica for over three hours; cold-blooded machine gunners mowed down the poor souls who fled into the surrounding fields.

Four days later with grim photographs of mutilated corpses on the front pages of French newspapers a million outraged Parisians took to their streets to protest the bombing of Guernica.

That same day Picasso, who was in Paris, dropped everything else and began sketching studies for what became “Guernica.” As Spain’s government-in-exile had already commissioned him to create a mural for its pavilion in the upcoming Paris World’s Fair, the inspired artist already had the perfect place to exhibit his statement -- a shades-of-gray, cartoonish composition made up of a terrified huddle of people and animals.

When the fair closed “Guernica” needed a home. Not only was the Spain of Generalissimo Franco out of the question, Picasso decided it wouldn’t be safe anywhere in Europe. Thus, the huge canvas was shipped to the USA and eventually wound up calling MOMA its home until 1981.


Colin Powell, a former four-star general, who, unlike some of Bush's frisky neoconservative experts, knows war from the inside out. It seems the Secretary knew something about art history, as well. Six weeks before the invasion of Iraq, he apparently retained a firm grasp on the potential of “Guernica” to cast a bitterly ironic light upon his history-making utterances. That, while he lost his grip on what had been his honor.

Instead of resigning because he disagreed with the Bush policy, Powell said, “We also have satellite photos that indicate that banned materials have recently been moved from a number of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction facilities...”

Powell accomplished his mission, such as it was. Now he lives with what it wrought, three years later, and counting.

-- 30 --

Webb Endorsed by Clark

The Daily Press reports: “Gen. Wesley Clark, former democratic presidential candidate and NATO Supreme Allied commander, today endorsed Jim Webb in his race for the U.S. Senate.”

According to Webb's campaign web site, Clark said, “Jim Webb is a real leader Virginians can count on. He will put the interests of the people of this great state first and will take his fight to the floor of the Senate. He won't back down from any challenge and he will focus on the job he is elected to do. The people of Virginia deserve a full-time Senator and there is no doubt Jim Webb is the most qualified person for the job. Jim is the only candidate with the experience and skills to broaden our party and defeat George Allen.”

This news buffs Webb’s already impressive military/public service credentials. It’s also easy to believe that Virginians who were attracted to the retried four-star general’s 2004 run for the presidency will probably like Webb.
Photo from Webb campaign web site

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Motordrive Kitty

In the spring of 1985 I visited New York City. While there I bought a 35 mm Nikon, to replace a camera that had been stolen, and something I'd wanted for a long time -- a motordrive. For the first month or so back in Richmond, I took the Nikon with me all the time, aiming my new lens at whatever I came across.

These two almost identical prints of a sleepy cat in a storefront window on Main Street, taken a fraction of a second apart, probably made better use of the rapid fire capability of the motordrive than most of what I shot then.

Mason? Why Not?

You say you’ve broken out in green and gold? Have you caught Mason Madness? Maybe you’re looking for a reason to believe the Patriots could win it all? Look no further.

It says right here that with what Jim Larranaga’s suddenly Cinderella assortment of players from the DeeCee/Baltimore area -- a hodgepodge? -- has already accomplished, there’s no real reason for them to fear Florida. After Connecticut, sure, bring on LSU or UCLA.

In covering VCU basketball over the years I’ve seen Mason play at the Siegel Center and at the Coliseum during the CAA tournament a bunch of times. While this year’s team must be the best one Larranaga has assembled, chemistry-wise, this Mason team is a lot like every squad that he has coached -- they beat their opponents in many small subtle ways. They hustle.

To tell the truth, it’s always been a little baffling to me when they win. The top teams in the CAA usually seem to have the Patriots out-manned, but they are consistently one of the best teams in the league, anyway.

Consequently, I’ve figured for some time that Larranaga must be a hell of a coach.

While most other coaches occasionally whine, or even show anger after games in the media room, Larranaga praises what he sees as praiseworthy and skips the rest. Following a win, or a loss, he acts like a man -- a gentleman -- who is grateful to have a good job doing exactly what he likes best. And, he is at the same time forthright in answering tough questions. This coach consistently sets a good example for his players. His "sudden" success is the product of doing it the right way for a long time.

Below are links to a few stories about George Mason’s dream run to the Final Four:

Yahoo Sports: Why Not George Mason?
Richmond Times-Dispatch: Seniors' moments carrying GMU
Sports Illustrated: Don't bet against them
Photo from GMU

Monday, March 27, 2006

Illegal immigration = cheap labor

It seems every news story about illegal immigration I hear or read contains at least one sentence tantamount to this odd phrase -- “they (meaning illegal aliens/guest workers) are here doing work Americans are unwilling to do.” It doesn’t matter if it's NPR or CBS, the Richmond Times-Dispatch or the Washington Post. They all are using that language.

Well, it seems to me that obligatory disclaimer is propaganda, and little more. Even stories willing to challenge the bizarre Bush administration's border policy, which is happy to wink at America's mounting illegal immigration problem, don’t seem willing to question whether our society truly needs these hungry workers from parts unknown.

Moreover, are we to blindly accept the presumption that the American economy’s need for these foreign workers trumps other concerns, such as national security, or worries about the effect this phenomenon is having on the take-home pay of American citizens?

Why don’t the news stories say what's what? Aren't undocumented workers frequently willing to work less money? America's labor force is more than willing to work for a living wage. Then again, desperate people will always do what they must.

Bottom Line: Isn’t it also true that lowering the standard wage for blue collar jobs in this country is a lot more important to the Bush administration and its corporate bedfellows than guarding our borders?

Sunday, March 26, 2006

20 Answers from Webb

Raising Kaine presents 20 questions of, and answers from, Democratic senatorial hopeful James Webb.

Mason Madness

The last weekend of March and CBS was broadcasting an Elite Eight overtime game, a George Mason vs. Connecticut match-up. Whoa! What could it mean?

Yes, that George Mason, somewhere up in Fairfax. The underdog Patriots, coached by rather unglamorous Jim Larranaga. You remember straight arrow Larranaga, don't you? He was an assistant under straight arrow Terry Holland at Virginia -- the only coach and school from the Commonweath of Virginia to have made it to the Final Four, until now.

Cinderella is still dancing and having a ball. It's the last weekend of March and now preseason polls don't matter any more: Geo. Mason 86, Connecticut 84 (OT).
The Patriots big man, Jai Lewis, shown above rebounding in 2006 CAA tournament action, scored 20 points, grabbed seven boards and dished out three assists in 41 minutes on the floor against the Huskies.
Links to stories about Mason, the first CAA member ever to kick in the door to the Final Four, are below:

AP Story
Box Score
The Mason Gazette

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Art Gallery at the Biograph

This story comes from the Biograph Archives, the web site devoted to the history of the Biograph Theatre (1972-87), where a number of new posts are up.
The staff art show that hung during the Biograph's second anniversary party on Feb. 11, 1974 -- which featured the well-attended "The Devil and/in Miss Jones" prank -- included various works by several then-current employees and some former staff members, too. Most of those who worked there in the early days were artists of one stripe or another. This piece, by yours truly, was made to hang in the space of the lobby’s gallery that usually featured the artists' statements.

I also had a couple of pieces in the show. One of them sold and that was fun. Another piece was stolen. That was a bummer and a weird kind of violation.

Although most of the art shows that hung in the gallery displayed the work of local/VCU-connected artists, that was not always the case. In the first three or four years, when the walls of the lobby regularly featured shows that changed every couple of months, or so, occasionally art by then-renown artists, usually printmakers, was on display. Among them were Ernest Trova, Robert Indiana and sculptor George Segal.
From Ernest Trova's Falling Man series
In the summer of 1978, the same time as the Rocky Horror Picture Show began its five-year run at midnight, we had a show up that was memorable for an odd reason. It was a group of silkscreen prints and paintings by Barry Fitzgerald, who drove a cab and sometimes played keyboard in a popular local band, Single Bullet Theory.

Fitzgerald’s work had a pop art, reaction-to-advertising look. His droll sense of humor showed in a series of a half-dozen similar paintings. Each had a large line drawing in black against a background of a flat field of a single color. The renderings were done in the sparse style of a government pamphlet. Each had the same girl, Lois, coughing as she faced the viewer. Each had a caption written across the bottom of the colored panel which explained that Lois was choking on something. I think Barry was asking about $100 apiece for them.

Let’s say the first one was blue. It might have said, “Lois chokes on a gumdrop.” I think one of them did say that. The next one could have been yellow, it would have said something like, “Lois chokes on a pocket watch,” and so forth. The only other caption I remember had Lois choking on an Egg McMuffin; that one I’m sure of.

One day a man claiming to be a lawyer called me to say I had to take the Egg McMuffin piece down, pronto. He told me he was a local guy, who’d been talking that day with an attorney for the McDonalds fast food empire. He asserted that if I didn’t take it down McDonalds was going to lay some legal action on the artist, the Biograph and me.

For my part, I said something like, “What!”

The caller explained that it wasn’t a matter of Fitzgerald saying anything against McDonalds’s signature breakfast sandwich, which was fairly new then. No. The problem was that McDonalds wanted to protect the use of the words “Egg McMuffin.” They didn’t want it to become a generic term for a sandwich made by anyone using the same ingredients, etc.

Then I must have said something like, “What!”

Anyway, the threat finished with how I better do what the caller said, because all the law was on McDonalds’ side.

Well, I called a friend who is a lawyer to ask him what he thought. He said I ought to buy the painting. Then I told Fitzgerald what had happened. He loved it. We decided to leave it up.

So, what happened? Never heard from the wannabe McDonalds lawyer again. For a long time I've wished I had bought the painting.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Mason Wins!

WASHINGTON, D.C.: Carrying the ball for many college basketball fans who enjoy seeing Billy Packer and other business-as-usual hoops experts made to look/smell like windbags, after they carped about a mere CAA team receiving an at-large bid, George Mason methodically finished off Wichita State: Mason 63, Wichita St. 55.

Now Mason advances to Sunday's NCAA action, the Elite Eight. Below are links to stories about the Patriots' Sweet Sixteen victory over the Shockers:

Associated Press: "...There were questions on Selection Sunday about whether the Patriots belonged at the Big Dance as an at-large choice from the Colonial Athletic Association, in part because the team lost two of its last four games. Think they belong now?"

AP Box Score

The Mason Gazette

Oxymoron: Modern Afghanistan - Updated

In the American political game winning points is frequently a matter of opportunism. Any story that flashes across the wire is another chance to bash one’s opponent. When "shit happens" it's always the other guy's fault. There’s a bunch of people earning a good living because they can take almost anything that happens, on any given morning, and turn it into a little bomb to throw at the other side of the aisle in time for the afternoon news cycle. Almost.

Every so often a story comes along that must baffle even the most hardened of spin doctors. Don't believe me? Try this one: Where’s the red state/blue state angle on the bubbling brouhaha in Afghanistan over Abdur Rahman’s trial, set to begin next week? Rahman is apparently facing execution for committing the crime of converting from Islam to Christianity. Click here to read the story from Reuters.

“...Virtually everyone interviewed in a small sample of opinion in several parts of the deeply conservative, Muslim country on Friday said Rahman should be punished. Several clerics raised the issue during weekly sermons in Kabul Friday, and there was little sympathy for Rahman.

“‘We respect all religions, but we don't go into the British embassy or the American embassy to see what religion they are following,’ said cleric Enayatullah Baligh at Kabul's main mosque. ‘We won't let anyone interfere with our religion, and he should be punished.’ Analysts say they doubt the man will be executed and his case could hinge on interpretations of the new constitution, which says ‘no law can be contrary to the sacred religion of Islam.’”

While I can’t say Rahman’s problem makes President George Bush’s policy in Afghanistan look bad, neither can I say it makes it look good. All it does is make me shake my head with wonder at how different that part of the world is from what makes sense to me. It seems to me that people from the Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan region of the globe are more different from us in America, culturally, than people from China, or Peru, or Iceland, or you name it.

It reminds me of listening to a woman who had just come home from a Peace Corps tour of a year or so in Afghanistan in the early 1970s. Here’s how it went: She was quite disillusioned, not so sure the mission of the Peace Corps was even workable in some places. Her story was that the people she met, at various levels of society in Afghanistan, would all steal anything of hers she turned her back on.

This woman, who was about 25 and a liberal, said the people there -- even those who needed help from the modern world the most -- generally considered Americans to be fools for coming there to try to change anything. Anything.

That was then, this is...

Update (TUESDAY, Mar., 28): Afghan Convert in Hiding After Release

"...Abdul Rahman, 41, was released from the high-security Policharki prison on the outskirts of the capital late Monday after a court dropped charges of apostasy against him for lack of evidence and suspected mental illness.

Irish Festival

This note about the Irish Festival came in from musician/radio host Page Wilson, the emcee for the Irish Festival, which will take place on Richmond's Church Hill, Saturday and Sunday (March 25 & 26):

Benefiting St. Patrick's Church, at Broad & 25th Streets. This 21st annual two-day street festival is full of music, food, dancing, children's activities, and general foolishness, involving celebrations of the Emerald Isle. Your last chance this year to get green!! There's a small cover charge; I think it's $2 or $3. I'll be playing a set around 4 p.m. on Saturday, Recklessly Abandoned onstage with Jay Gillespie, Brian Sulser, and Charles Arthur; and will be there both days helping emcee the main stage.

Saturday’s Main Stage Schedule:
10:00 a.m. -- Parade
10:35 -- Irish Dancers
11:00 -- King Golden Banshees
11:40 -- Irish Dancers
12:10 p.m -- The Sommervilles
12:45 -- Powder Keg
1:20 -- Tinkers Dam
2:05 -- Ex-Patriots
2:50 -- Poisoned Dwarfs
3:35 -- Kelly Kennedy
4:15 -- Page Wilson with Reckless Abandon (pictured above)
5:05 -- Bart Chucker Band
6:00 -- Uisce Bethea

Sunday’s Main Stage Schedule:
10:00 a.m. -- Blue Line Highway
10:35 -- Floating Folk Festival
11:15 -- Dave Alltop
11:50 -- The Atkinsons
12:30 p.m. -- Crossroads Dancers
1:00 -- Ominatago
1:30 -- St. Baldrick's Headshaving
2:00 -- Harrison Deane Band
2:45 -- Susan Greenbaum Band
3:25 -- Gary Gerloff Band
4:05 -- Janet Martin Band
4:55 -- SUAS
5:45 -- Andy & Cindy
Photo Credit: F.T. Rea

A Look at Perspective

by F.T. Rea

After decades of driving small station wagons over the same city streets, about four years ago your narrator switched to using a bicycle as his primary ride. Perched on the seat of my 30-some-year-old ten-speed, exposed to the elements and staying alert for signs of a physical threat, I began to notice things mostly ignored rattling around town in metal boxes on wheels.
Now, with my legs in a little better shape, I'm often struck with how much difference a change in perspective can make.

Last year I came upon an accident involving several vehicles. As I negotiated my way around the debris on Floyd Avenue the sobbing of a young woman caught my attention. She was seated at the wheel of one of the wrecks; her hands clutched her face. When I came within a few feet of her mangled vehicle, the sound of despair pouring out of her caught me off-guard; it pierced my practiced detachment. Although I didn't know her, for a few seconds my heart raced as if she was dear to me.

If I'd been in a car I probably wouldn't have seen or heard her. Pedaling away it dawned on me that it had been a long time since I had been that close to a young woman crying inconsolably.

A few days later riding across a small bridge over the expressway, a car nudged me close to the railing and I glanced over at the traffic going by under the bridge. The sense of being up high and close to the drop-off flipped a caution switch in my head.

After a deep breath I enjoyed a private laugh at how much I've changed over the years, with regard to heights. Somewhere in my mid-30s, the daredevil boy who had once climbed the WTVR tower for grins was body-snatched; he was replaced by a nervous bozo quite uncomfortable with heights.

Where we are provides a specific perspective. A high perch can allow us to see more, in a way, but that obscures small details which can mean a lot. An automobile expands our range, but it also seals us off. While time can reveal new truths, the process usually puts a new set of blinders on us, obscuring the old truth.

As the bicycle chain churned smoothly, I wondered if I'll ever get too scared to ride my bike across bridges like that one.
Photo Credit: F.T. Rea

James River Film Festival Schedule

More notes in from the Richmond Moving Image Co-op about the evnets remaining in this year's James River Film Festival:

What: A Reception (sponsored by the Virginia Film Office and the Virginia Production Alliance) where you can meet the festival's guests
When: Friday (tonight) 6 p.m. -7:30 p.m.
Where: Plant Zero Art Center
Tickets: Free Admission; Cash Bar
Note: The public is cordially invited to meet festival guests: producer/animator Ray Harryhausen, composer/guitarist Gary Lucas, experimental animator Martha Colburn, filmmaker David Williams, and members of world jazz ensemble Hotel X over hors d’oeuvres and drinks.

What: James River Film Festival Juried Competition Finalists
When: Friday (tonight) 8 p.m.
Where: Plant Zero Art Center
Tickets: Admission $5
Note: Annually the James River Film Festival hosts a national competition for original short films (30 minutes or less) in any genre (narrative, experimental, documentary, animation), juried by Richmond area filmmakers and professionals. Join us for this premiere screening of our jury’s selections and the announcement of cash award winners (up to $2,000!).

What: Ray Harryhausen screenings with introductions
When: Saturday at10:30 a.m."Jason and the Argonauts"
When: Saturday at 2 p.m. “The Art of Motion”
Where: Byrd Theater
Tickets: Programs are $7 each
Note: Dan Neman’s RT-D article.

What: Gary Lucas with Hotel X
When: Saturday, 8:30 p.m.
Where: The Canal Club
Tickets: $12 in advance, $15 at the door
Note: Hays Davis' RT-D article

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Thomas: Standing on a rooftop...

Helen Thomas, surely the doyenne of DeeCee political beat reporters, was called on at President George Bush’s Tuesday press conference. That in itself made news. The room came alive. It was the first time in years the sitting president had deigned to recognize the venerable Thomas thusly; her punishment was apparently over.

Never short on pluck, Thomas promptly told Bush he’d be sorry. Once she asked her question about the origins of the war in Iraq, it was obvious she was right. She followed up when Bush tried to bob and weave. The prez shouted her down, almost. It was good theater. Click here to read Thomas’ column that reacts to that Bush press conference.

“...Bush says he ‘will settle for nothing less than complete victory‘ but admitted that 'more fighting and sacrifice' are needed. He remains optimistic ‘because slowly but surely our strategy is getting results.’ He couples that statement of hope with the warning that the terrorists 'will attack us again.'

“He told a news conference Tuesday that future American presidents and Iraqi governments probably will have to decide when to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq . In other words, we will remain at war in Iraq at least through 2008 and beyond. In the run up to the war, reporters heard almost daily from White House officials trying to make the link between ‘9-11 and Saddam Hussein,’ though the president later acknowledged that he knew of no link between the two.

“Now Bush claims that the terrorists have made Iraq the ‘central front’ in the war on terrorism. Not so. That designation was first heard in the White House press room when the administration was running out of credible rationales for the war.”

Wall of Hair?

Once known for creating a “wall of sound” as a pop music hit-maker/recording engineer, now Phil Spector, 66, is perhaps going for a wall-of-hair look. Pictured left, Spector is charged with murdering actress Lana Clarkson in his Southern California home on Feb. 3, 2003. Now, according to AP:

“A [Los Angeles] judge agreed Wednesday to postpone the murder trial of music producer Phil Spector until September, noting that prosecutors and a defense attorney have scheduling conflicts."

The trial had been scheduled to begin on April 24, but apparently one of Spector's attorneys has to be in New York then for a federal trial. Clark, a B-movie actress who starred in such cult classics as “Barbarian Queen,” was 40 years old on the night she died, after working a shift as a hostess at the House of Blues on Sunset Strip. Police say she went home after work with Spector, who is now free on $1 million bail.

James River Film Festival Notes

This notice about the 13th James River Film Festival came in today from the Richmond Moving Image Co-op's James Parrish:

Naked Testimonials: The Films of Martha Colburn
(2 hour program) Thursday (tonight), 7:30 pm, at Plant Zero Art Center. Admission: $5

Experimental animator Martha Colburn makes things move and morph using a variety of techniques to create colorful, layered patchworks of bizarre and striking imagery -- soldiers in Iraq receiving delicate cosmetic surgery, skeletons superimposed over couples making love, spiders with women’s faces and shadowy phalluses. Combined with her hypnotic soundtracks, Colburn’s visuals emerge as “naked testimonials of our times, and of her generation’s” according to avant-guru and filmer, Jonas Mekas, who connects Colburn’s work to the found-image-collage tradition of Stan Vanderbeek, Dick Preston, and Bruce Conner in the 1960’s. Colburn’s dynamic, self-taught style has found its way onto screens in museums, galleries and microcinemas worldwide! Join us for this very special evening of Colburn favorites followed by a Q&A session with the filmmaker.

Born in Pennsylvania, experimental animator Martha Colburn divides her time now between Holland and New York City, and has exhibited her films at the Sundance, Rotterdam, and New York Film Festivals, the Museum of Modern Art, and galleries in Europe, New Zealand and China.

For more information about the film festival visit the RMIC web site or call (804) 232-7642. Festival programs are available at Chop Suey Books, Video Fan or Plan 9 Music.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

CAA 6-1 in Tournaments

This postseason mid-term report card came in from the CAA's Rob Washburn:

Counting both postseason men's basketball tournaments, heading into tonight's NIT quarterfinal game between CAA teams Hofstra and Old Dominion, the CAA has the best post-season winning percentage (.857, 6-1) of any Division I conference. The CAA also trails only the Big East in number of teams remaining in post-season play with three (Hofstra, ODU and NCAA Sweet 16 participant George Mason). Here are the won/loss records for the conferences at this point:

CAA: 6-1 (.857)
Big East: 15-6 (.714)
Missouri Valley: 7-3 (.700)
Pac-10: 6-3 (.667)
SEC: 9-5 (.642)
ACC: 10-7 (.588)
C-USA: 4-3 (.571)
Big Ten: 6-8 (.429)
Atlantic 10: 3-5 (.375)
Big 12: 3-6 (.333)

Update: ODU (24-9) defeated homestanding Hofstra (26-7) by a score of 61-51 on Wednesday night in Hempstead, N.Y., to advance to the NIT's semi-final round at Madison Square Garden.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

VCU Tennis Notes

This in from Phil Stanton, VCU’s Sports Information Director:

Following its four victories in winning the 2006 Blue-Grey Classic, in Montgomery, Ala., the VCU men’s tennis team is ranked No. 17 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s national index. This marks the third Blue-Grey title for the Rams in the last four years. VCU plays again on Sunday, Mar. 26, hosting Brown at 1 p.m., at its home facility, the Thalhimer Tennis Center.

The undefeated VCU women’s tennis team (18-0) is ranked No. 21 by the ITA. The women return to action on Friday, Mar. 24, with a 1 p.m. match against Hampton also at home. Both tennis teams are coached by Paul Kostin.

Webb's Strong Suit

Since the mid-1980s hundreds of my commentaries on politics have been published under various mastheads. Hardcore rightwingers are usually sure I’m a liberal, perhaps even a communist. Yet, plenty of lefties disagree sharply with my views on this, or that, and get angry about it. Libertarians tell me I’m one of them. I tell them I’m not.

With my political writing, I'm usually trying to point out an angle others may be missing. In the long run I want to change minds and being the voice of a political party doesn't facilitate that end. So, there you have it, I like to call 'em as I see 'em. Although I’ve been a maverick of a sort for a long time, in some ways, my credentials as a longtime supporter of Democrats go back a good ways, too. See below:
The handbill above is one I did for a fundraiser at the Biograph Theatre, a Fan District repertory cinema I managed, 1972-83. (R. Crumb's trucking man style was deliberately imitated in the McGovern caricature trying to appeal to hippies.)

The other movie theater operators in town and lots of other know-it-alls told me I was crazy to take sides in politics by sponsoring a McGovern benefit. That was still in our first year of operation at 814 W. Grace St. Soon they learned the Biograph was going to be something different from business as usual in Richmond. It was as independent a cinema as it got, in the heyday of art theaters.

James Webb is said to be a maverick. That scares some people. Not me, I like a guy who does his own thinking.

Today I think Webb’s candidacy is probably the best chance Virginia Democrats have had in a long time to reconnect with the authentic roots of their own party -- the Commonwealth’s workers and families who live off their paychecks, everyday people.

There’s a shift in the wind now. A lot of voters who had drifted toward the GOP during the last two decades, because it seemed more modern or righteous to them, have recently had their faith in Republican leadership shaken. Some are now looking for a new style of leadership. Will the Democrats open their arms to welcome these voters, some of them wandering former Democrats? Or will the Democrats bog themselves down with petty disputes over who is or isn’t a “real Democrat,” or who was wrong on this issue or that, back when?

When Webb says the Republican Party of Ronald Reagan has left him, I recognize he’s speaking for a whole lot of others, too. Some of them would like to vote for a president who won't break the bank -- maybe a Democrat. The cynical and short-sighted style of Karl Rove and Dick Cheney must have a lot of smart Republicans thinking about crossing to the other side of the aisle. That’s good. The panel above I did for STYLE Weekly, as part of a five-page spread on the colorful four-way Robb/North/Coleman/Wilder senate race in 1994.

George Allen, who actually said Democrats had “soft teeth” and “whiney throats” at the 1994 Republican convention that nominated Ollie North, is no longer in the catbird’s seat. Times have changed; his proteges Jim Gilmore and Jerry Kilgore don’t look so good anymore. As a Bush yes-man in the Senate, now Allen faces an election that should have everything to do with the Bush administration’s failed policies and inept performance.

OK, on a debate stage, can you imagine semi-glib George Allen referring to James Webb as a whiner? Not likely. (I never have figured out what that "soft teeth" thing was. Like chalky, or rubbery? Or what?)

Democrats who want to defeat Allen should 86 the challenges to Webb’s sincerity. They ought to take the man’s word when he says he has found a home in the Democratic Party. Turning the authenticity of his donkey credentials into an issue is not unlike calling him an imposter, or an infidel.

Have Democrats gotten so inward-looking and shrill they want to be seen as tantamount to a flock of religious zealots demanding utter conformity?

In truth, "authenticity" is probably James Webb’s strong suit. Webb’s rich real life experiences in several fields offer a rather stark contrast to what Allen has actually done on his own. Smart Democrats who want to win should be licking their chops at the prospect of Allen having to contend with Webb.

Bird Flu Is Punishment?

Is God going medieval over same-sex marriage?

Pat Robertson, a well-known American preacher with his own TV show, has said that God sometimes sends storms to punish certain wicked places that don’t do enough to limit homosexuality. Heaven forbid, gays should marry one another! Thus, in Robertson's view, Hurricane Katrina hit a bulls-eye in devastating New Orleans.

As a man of the cloth, who wouldn't just make stuff up, Robertson shakes his jowls and says he gets his weather reports directly from God. (See image above)

Does this worry Robertson's followers? Nope, fundraising is better than ever. Now, in another sign that the postmodern God's pendulum is swinging retro on punishments in the new millennium, a “prominent sage,” Rabbi David Basri, who preaches a form of Jewish mysticism called Kabbalah, has pinned the spread of bird flu in Isreal to God’s punishing far-left political parties which have been “strengthening and encouraging homosexuality.”

Spring has sprung, snow is in the forecast for the Fan District today, and somewhere it must be raining frogs...

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Why Can't Basketball Coaches Behave?

Richmond Times-Dispatch sportswriter Paul Woody has written a short column on basketball coaches that I wish every university president in the country would read and consider.

“...College basketball coaches spend too much time hollering at and reacting to the officials. It is foolish to think that does not have an effect on the players and, to some degree, the fans. And it is preposterous to think that officials in a championship tournament are out to "get" either team. More needs to be done to stifle the verbal abuse coaches dole out toward the officials. Head coaches should spend most of the game seated. Now, they stand whenever they wish. Some never bother to take a seat. They prowl the sidelines, instructing players and yelling in the ears of the officials as they sprint by the bench.”

To me, Woody is right on the money. The behavior of too many basketball coaches during games is outrageous. Are they playing to the television cameras? Coaches abuse the refs and their players in the name of leadership. Sometimes they just throw fits, or chairs. In some cases it’s plain to see a crazy coach is making his team crazy, too.

Example: Pete "The Panic" Gillen (pictured above), when he roamed the sideline talking in tongues at Virginia (1998-2005), acted like a nut during the games. His moody teams frequently reflected that on the floor. The mystery remains why he lasted so long.
Photo Credit: F.T. Rea

Baugh's Powell Award - Updated

UPDATE: Here's the link to a more in-depth piece about David Baugh by Tom Campbell in today's Richmond Times-Dispatch

TUESDAY, Mar. 14: Some lawyers travel the low road to make a name for themselves -- they use television commercials with jingles. That, while a few still take the high road to get noticed in a world with too many lawyers in a hurry. Richmond attorney David Baugh has won an award for demonstrating his love of the Constitution, as reported in this article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

"The Virginia State Bar will honor Richmond defense lawyer David P. Baugh on April 26 with the Lewis F. Powell Jr. Pro Bono Award for 2006. Baugh, 58, was selected for representation of First Amendment cases, his zealous defense of indigent criminal defendants and his work in teaching other criminal defense lawyers..."

Kudos to Baugh; he represents his profession well. Below the reader will find an interview that ran in the March 2005 issue of SLANT.

Walking With Baugh
by F. T. Rea

Like successful lawyers can sometimes be, David P. Baugh is not afraid to be garrulous, even galling, when he thinks something important is at stake. In a courtroom he’s a tough customer, yet, Baugh is also a bit of a dreamer, who calls the Constitution his “religion.”

Consequently, where others saw only indefensible evil, Baugh recognized chances to shore up a basic principle he says he cherishes -- in the USA everyone is entitled to a fair trial. To make that talk into more -- a walk -- at times Baugh has represented notorious clients, charged with heinous high-profile crimes. “Most lawyers don’t get the opportunity to take on such cases,” said Baugh in his roomy office on Cherry Street in Oregon Hill. “Criminal lawyers don’t represent people; we represent a set of principles.”

By “such cases,” no doubt, Baugh was referring to two of his clients, in particular. In 1999 there was the unrepentant cross-burning Ku Klux Klan official, Barry E. Black, of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Then there was Mohamed Rashed Daoud al-‘Owhali, card-carrying follower of Osama bin Laden. For his role in the 1998 bombing of the American embassy in Kenya al-‘Owhali received a life sentence in 2001, supposedly, with no chance of release.

In pursuit of taking stands Baugh has served a little time (five days for his 1991 courthouse scuffle with then-Commonwealth’s Attorney Joe Morrissey) and he has served on the Richmond School Board. I met Baugh shortly after he began his law practice in Richmond in 1983. Over the years talking with him about politics has always been interesting, because he is not the least bit shy about saying what he thinks, off the top of his head.

During the interview that preceded the Q and A section below a new aspect of Baugh was revealed to me. It was a side of him I hadn’t seen before -- the proud son, with big shoes to fill. His father, Howard L. Baugh (who grew up in Petersburg), was one of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen, who flew P-40s and P-51s in World War II.

The unpracticed warmth in the son’s voice, as he spoke of his father’s military adventures and the medal, France’s Legion of Honor, that was bestowed upon him in a ceremony in Paris last summer, underlined his adoration for his father. “He was always my hero,” said Baugh.

SLANT: As men you had to work with how difficult were Black and al-‘Owhali? Were they in any way similar?

BAUGH: Mr. Black and Mr. al-‘Owhali were zealots, persons driven by a cause. Both were very polite and gentlemanly. There was an initial phase of distrust, but that is to be expected. Due to the nature of the defense, I did not have to work with Mr. Black. The facts were set and uncontested. The sole reason for the trial was to make a record from which to appeal and challenge the statute. With al-Owhali -- a death case -- there was much more work and the need to get the jury to understand the defendant’s perspective to assess the morality, or immorality, of his actions.

S: To prepare for the al-‘Owhali case what did you do beyond gathering facts, to better understand your client’s mindset, and al-Qaida’s motives and its way of operating?

B: For the al-‘Owhali case I tried to read the Koran. Impossible! I did read history books, a lot of Internet information from that area and a wonderful book, “Teach Yourself Islam,” from a woman in England. This 250-page book exposed me to my ignorance and the general ignorance of the West, concerning this religion. When I understood these things I could understand the framework upon which my client’s logic was laid.

S: What does the general public in this country need to better understand about al-Qaida’s nature?

B: In [al-‘Owhali’s] trial, Al-Fadl [a former member of al-Qaida] testified: ‘You cannot understand al-Qaida unless you understand Islam. We have more people willing to martyr themselves than we have targets.

One of the realities of democracy is the need for a well-educated and informed population. [In America] news programs are a collection of sound bites, and the news is slanted. Everyone concerned with the preservation of the world should spend some time learning about Islam and the truth about it.

S: What’s your stand on the military tribunals, rather than trials, for the Guantanamo detainees?

B: The entire policy reminds me of a lousy Nazi movie and [it] reflects a lack of faith in the brilliant philosophy of our constitution -- which is not merely a list of rules, but more accurately, our morality, our moral rudder which guides us and who we are.

S: What’s your reaction to the call for Constitutional amendments to ban same-sex marriages and flag-burning?

B: The proposed same-sex marriage ban and flag-burning amendments would undermine the constitution from within. The sole purpose of the bill of rights is to protect us from our government and the majority of ourselves. When the majority and the government suggest amending to limit rights, rather than expand rights, it should be viewed with great suspicion.

S: Regarding Virginia’s laws and practices, what needs to be changed right away?

B: Virginia needs to be more inclusive. The laws preventing full restoration of convicted felons need changing. These laws are not odd when one considers Virginia’s history of trying to limit the voting base to property owners and whites.

S: Finally, regarding politics, are there any more runs for political office in you?

B: I was on the school board and lost reelection. I still feel that the school system is the key to the resolution of the nation’s woes. Democracy requires a well educated and informed populace. The quality of students being graduated from America’s schools is pitiful, by and large. Basic information is not known to most and information which is not directly related to some paycheck is deemed unnecessary.

If I could spend more time in Richmond, instead of following my practice around the country, I would run for that office again. We cannot make all parents good parents. Therefore [at school] we must expose younger children to that to which they should be exposed. We need to shape a new perspective.

Illustration by F.T. Rea

Patriots Humble Heels

George Mason's smothering defense was too much for defending NCAA champion North Carolina today, as the underdog entry from the CAA ended the season for the ACC bluebloods: Mason 65, North Carolina 60.

The success that Mason, as a so-called “mid-major,” has demonstrated by making it to the Sweet Sixteen, as an at-large entry, is especially sweet to fans of the CAA. The brand of basketball played in the Colonial, where the players generally stay for four years, is appreciated by true fans of the game, who like to believe that teams still win games, not stars. Well, ask the Tar Heels.

In the ACC, Big Ten, etc., the best players usually leave in a hurry. George Mason doesn’t have anybody on its roster likely to be drafted by the NBA. North Carolina always has several. However, today the best team won. Kudos to the Patriots head coach Jim Larranaga.

And, kudos to the CAA’s commissioner Tom Yeager, who is pictured above talking with referee Karl Hess. Yeager worked long and hard to see this day.

Friday, March 17, 2006

James River Film Festival

The Richmond Times-Dispatch’s movie reviewer Dan Neman previews the 13th James River Film Festival, which runs from Monday, Mar. 20 throiugh Sunday, Mar. 26 (events are at vaious locations):

"The James River Film Festival has never been mainstream. It has always been on the fringes, showing independent, artistic and experimental movies to the small but dedicated art film crowds. This year, the festival's 13th, is no different. The films to be shown from Monday through March 26 tend to provoke extreme reactions, whether favorable or not. One of the guest speakers, Ray Harryhausen, has come to be revered after a career during which he pleased his fans more than the critics, who often found his films schlocky and cheesy..."

For anyone interested in volunteering to work with the Richmond Moving Image Coop during the week-long festival the chance is still there, if you act quickly. The message below is from the RMIC:

Volunteers only need to work one event to receive their volunteer pass and obtain free admission to all festival events! A volunteer meeting will be held Sunday, March 19 at 4:00 p.m. at Plant Zero. You will need to sign up for volunteer slots before attending this meeting.

Kirsten Hirsch, Volunteer Coordinator:

Warner's Momentum - Updated

That Mark Warner is being boosted by Daily Kos sure isn’t going to hurt the former Virginia governor’s move to become a player on the Democratic Party’s national stage. Warner is busy doing what a candidate ought to be doing at this point, he’s putting his ducks in a row and weighing his options. Kos is helping with the ducks and that’s going to mean a lot of young lefties and other political junkies in all sorts of places are getting to know Warner, a guy they might not notice otherwise.
New York Times Magazine cover March 12, 2006
The following editors' note was posted on the N.Y. Times web site on Wednesday, March 15, 2006: The cover photograph in The Times Magazine on Sunday rendered colors incorrectly for the jacket, shirt and tie worn by Mark Warner, the former Virginia governor who is a possible candidate for the presidency. The jacket was charcoal, not maroon; the shirt was light blue, not pink; the tie was dark blue with stripes, not maroon. The Times's policy rules out alteration of photographs that depict actual news scenes and, even in a contrived illustration, requires acknowledgment in a credit. In this case, the film that was used can cause colors to shift, and the processing altered them further; the change escaped notice because of a misunderstanding by the editors.

Calling Warner the Anti-Hillary, as some now like to see him, is an easy lede but mostly it's trick to cast him as a gimmick. But those propagandists trying to brand Warner in that fashion, to hobble him, are probably in for a surprise -- unlike so many politicians, with Warner's natural aw shucks style, the build-up doesn't outweigh the performance.

As he proved in Virginia, the more you see of Warner, the more you like him. Although she has lots of powerful friends, can the same be said of Hillary Clinton?

From Kos:

"While just about all the 2008 contenders from both parties ignored Austin's South By Southwest (did they even know it existed?), the Warner campaign was busy building support. Warner hails from the tech industry an thus has credibility in this field. And his tech people were working it, recruiting the smartest and brightest industry execs to serve on advisory panels or work the campaign.

"While most of the other campaigns will hire the same ol' consultants doing the same ol' crappy websites (and thinking that "blogging" is cutting edge and hip), Warner's people were scouring the conference for the interactive technologies of tomorrow, the stuff that will truly be cutting edge and hip in 2008. By then, blogging will be downright institutionalized.

"The goal was clear -- locking these supporters up early not only gives the Warner campaign a frighteningly effective talent pool to draw from as the election heats up next year, but also deprives rival campaigns of their talents."

Joe Morrissey, Still Battlin’

Joe Morrissey, Richmond’s erstwhile feisty little dickens is in the news again. STYLE Weekly is reporting that after a cooling off period wa-a-ay out of town, Richmond's former Commonwealth’s Attorney and star of thousands of TV commercials has become a celebrity in a hurry down in Australia. Yes, Australia.

"Last week a Supreme Court justice in Sydney, Australia, reviewed the application of Richmond’s expatriate and pugnacious former top prosecutor, Joseph D. “Fightin’ Joe” Morrissey, to practice law in that country. When he applied to work in Australia, he had failed to mention his troubled past in Richmond to authorities. A former Richmond commonwealth’s attorney and notorious defense lawyer here, Morrissey was stripped of his license to practice law by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in 2002 for unprofessional conduct."

Illustration by F.T. Rea

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Claude 'Kleptomeister' Allen's Role Model?

Thanks to a posted heads-up -- “Weisberg launches damning attack on Bush, via Claude Allen” -- from J.C. Wilmore at The Richmond Democrat I read an excellent piece in Slate, ostensibly about President George W. Bush's top advisor on deep discounts, Claude Allen.

With this shoplifting scandal about to break Claude "Kleptomeister"Allen quit his White House job last month. No, Claude is not related to Sen. George Allen. However, both Allens are tied directly to another deep-thinking Republican who isn't exactly welcome at the White House anymore, either, Jim "Shark Task Force" Gilmore. Ah, but that's another story.

The Slate piece, "Claude Allen's Mentor," by Jacob Weisberg, is brisk and sarcastic. It’s ripping entertainment for those who really don't like Bush and his neocon henchmen one bit.

“...The president has expressed his shock and disappointment. How could one of his top appointees, a devout Christian who passed a series of FBI background checks, have been a common thief? But the more we hear about what Allen is accused of, the less it sounds like kleptomania and the more it sounds like an application of Bush economic policy.”

Wilder: R-Braves 'Walking Away'

“Mayor L. Douglas Wilder says the Richmond Braves are unwilling to work with the city on building a new ballpark. The team ‘is now turning its back and walking away from the people of Richmond,’ Wilder said this afternoon,”as reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Why has it come to this?

Enough of milking the public's reaction to the Maymont bears' bad luck. Let's hear the mayor tell us the unvarnished truth about what has happened over the last couple of years with regard to where the R-Braves ought to play baseball.

Hack Attacks vs Webb's Sizzle

James Webb comes across as his own man. Just the thought of such a creature scares the hell out of hacks on both sides of the aisle. So, Webb and anyone -- such as Leslie Byrne -- who sides with him from now on is going to be attacked. Like it or not, the pattern has already been established.

In an age marked by bland conformity, an authentic maverick with some natural charisma could have sizzle enough to break the mold and get most of his power directly from the voters. That, instead of having to cut all sorts of deals with party insiders and petty poohbahs.

No doubt, strange bedfellows will find one another, plots will hatch and attacks will come from every angle. It’s like everybody in politics today is working from smarmy Karl Rove’s low-road playbook -- using surrogates, attack the opponent’s strong suit with whatever truth or fiction might stick long enough to work.

My hope is that Webb’s ardent supporters will not take the bait to play the game in that same go-for-the-throat style. There’s a long campaign ahead and restraint needs to be used, sometimes. You can’t run the whole marathon of a race like it’s a sprint.

In order for Webb to win he needs to emphasize how different he is from the run-of-the-mill politician. He needs to flush out new voters. If his supporters and aides act just like Republican pit bulls, using the same nasty tactics, it will do much to obscure the differences between their honorable man and George Allen, whatever he is.

That’s exactly what the Republicans need.

The GOP wants voters to see Democrats as just as dirty as their guys, in every way. Note the way the Jack Abramoff scandal is being furiously sold by Republican propagandists and rightwing commentators as touching both parties equally. That’s just one example of the same strategy.

It's no wonder Webb had to think long and hard about running. He was tough as nails as a young man on a mission. Now we'll all see just how good of a fighter he still is, as a man in his 50s, accustomed to calling his own shots.

Labels That Don't Stick

The language of politics is always worth thinking about, again. Like votes, hopefully, every word counts. Along those lines, “Labels That Don’t Stick” is a piece I wrote for STYLE Weekly a couple of years ago. (Click on the link to read the whole piece)

"...In the contemporary American political game, when players call themselves or their opponents 'liberals' or 'conservatives' they are probably just trying to jerk you around by what they see as your shallow understanding of the situation. Today's political issues divide along many lines. There are urban vs. suburban arguments. There are differences that split generations, classes, lifestyles and you-name-it. Trying always to frame such issues in a left-right context tortures the truth."

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Miller Fix?

Wanting to know more about Harris Miller and having noted from Lefty Blogs that the candidate has a new web site, I clicked on the link. The first thing I saw was a head-scratching, boring blurb in bold type at the top of the page: “We Can Fix Washington." Then this: "Together, we can clean up Washington and refocus our government on the right priorities.”
Without going any further, I cringed and wondered: who in the world would put such banal, vague copy up as the most important thing for a viewer to see? Was it a joke? Would a serious player approve of such a lame message? It was like a Saturday Night Live parody of political pap written by a focus group for a bland candidate with nothing of his own to say.

Out of respect for a sharp politician that I like, Mark Warner, who is said to be close to Harris Miller, I’ve been wanting to keep an open mind on the Miller candidacy. Although I lean toward his opponent, James Webb, I’ve declined to say/write anything against Miller, himself. But the stuff coming out of his campaign seems quite bush league, so far. I wonder what Warner thinks of it.

Supposedly, Miller has some party regulars, pros, among his advisors. Well, it isn't showing.

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Fallback

Writing for the New York Times, Matt Bai provides a savvy analysis of the Democrats’ race for the 2008 presidential nomination, as it pertains to Virginia’s Mark Warner. “The Fallback” is worth the time to read.

“...The Democratic field now emerging, on the other hand, is looking a lot like Gladys Knight and the Pips -- and you can guess who gets to be Gladys. The party's insiders, expecting Clinton to be a virtually unstoppable force, seem to be falling in line behind her, which means there will be only so much additional money and organization left over for those who would challenge her. But more than anything, Democrats will tell you that they are desperate to win next time around, and a lot of pragmatic activists and voters worry that Clinton is simply too divisive a candidate to take back the White House. (In a Gallup poll in January, 51 percent of respondents said they would definitely not vote for her.) These Democrats are actively shopping for a candidate who can derail Clinton before the party, as they see it, dooms itself to yet another near miss. And so the conventional thinking holds that there may only be room for two serious candidates by the time the primaries roll around: Hillary and the anti-Hillary. What Mark Warner needs to do now, just as his rivals do, is to begin making the case, as subtly as possible and before most of the country has even started to think about 2008, that the senator from New York is the wrong candidate for the party — and that he's the only guy who can stop her.”

Donkey Poseurs

In his comments about a previous SLANTblog post, “Is Miller Going High Road, or Low?” Conaway Haskins, of South of the James, suggests some Democrats seem "programmed to lose," even "afraid to win."

Well, I agree with him.

It seems to me this attitude began to have sway in the donkey party when many lefty Dems in the 80s had no real answer for Reagan’s success in building the big tent the Republicans have used ever since. They were baffled. Instead of confronting the Reagan-thinking directly on the issues of the day, they preferred to strike a pose that said -- "We were correct about Vietnam and Civil Rights, we’ll always be correct, no matter the issue. One day you’ll see that’s so. We’ll wait..."

They are still waiting.

Still wrapped up in striking backward-looking poses. Still living in the Glory Days when their causes were cool. Still quibbling over syntax and purity, still losing elections.

Now some of them are foaming at the mouth over what a thoughtful man, James Webb, may have said over 30 years ago about the subject of women serving in combat zones. Never mind how much has changed since then, to them Webb can never be a "real Democrat" if, as a young man, he believed something that is now out of style.

You know what, dear reader, most of the men that I know of the liberal persuasion, who are also combat veterans of Webb’s generation, still think women shouldn’t be in combat zones. (By the way, most worry about how young men will act under fire in a co-ed foxhole, rather than whether or not women can fight.) Sorry, but it's true and I've asked lots of them about this. Are the purists going to drum them out of the party too, as being anti-feminists?

Are we really going to say that a group of 50-some-years-old men, with firsthand experience in all-out combat, should be branded as "less-than-real Democrats," because on one issue they might have a generational prejudice? Then again, is it a silly prejudice, or a belief that was forged in a crucible?

Those are fair questions?

Honest people can debate them without calling their opponents barbarians or fools, and attempting to ostracize them. A political party that can’t hold together while such differences are settled by time is going nowhere fast.

Those Miller partisans attempting to brand Webb as unworthy in this particular way are perfectly willing to lose to George Allen in November as long as they can say they struck the right, or is it left? pose, again. Winning and governing isn't what they are about. What they are about is something to ponder, too. Can you dig it?

Cox Extends Pact with Braves

With the temperature in the 80s again today in Richmond, and baseball season not far off, the good news comes for Atlanta Braves fans -- manager Bobby Cox has signed an extension of his contract.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

CAA Sends Two to NCAAs

Tonight the Colonial Athletic Association got the news it wanted, two of its members were named to the field of 65 teams going to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Two additional CAA schools were invited to join the field of 40 in the National Invitational Tournament.

The winner of the CAA tournament, UNC Wilmington (25-7), is seeded 9th in the NCAA’s Atlanta Regional bracket and will face George Washington (26-2), the 8th seed on Thursday in Greensboro. That took care of the league's automatic bid. Then George Mason (23-6) was added as an at-large team in the Washington, DC bracket. Mason, seeded 11th, will face 6th-seeded Michigan St. (22-11) in Dayton on Friday.

ODU (21-9) and Hofstra (24-6) received bids to the NIT. The VCU Rams (19-10) were left out of the field. In spite of VCU's No. 81 ranking, according to the latest RPI, it was excluded from the two post-season tournaments, which included 105 schools.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Is Miller Going High Road, or Low?

Who, in his/her right mind, really thinks knowing the precise date of James Webb’s conversion to the Democratic party is actually important in determining his potential to become a good senator? What Democrat, in their right, or left, mind doesn’t want disillusioned Reagan Democrats or progressive Republicans to join their ranks today?

Webb, quite correctly, says the Republican Party has moved to the right. So now the man says he's a Democrat, and happy about it. I say welcome aboard.

Yet, if one took seriously the catty chatter from some purebred Democrats -- who see themselves as way-more-donkey-than-thou -- newcomers can't necessarily be full members right away. No doubt they see Webb’s maverick streak as a threat, instead of an asset. They have recently sought to undermine his campaign with silly distractions that smell faintly of a swift boat-like strategy.

Well, it says here that if candidate Harris Miller wants a future in Virginia politics, beyond just being a well-connected guy, he should put the kibosh on this sort of thing, pronto! Chalk it up to bad advice, fire somebody and swear off such tactics from here on. Show some class.

Yes, I suspect that Webb, a populist, will win this primary because he will have widespread appeal. But that remains to be seen. I also think the Democrats, with any good candidate, are rather suddenly in an improved position to win back this seat in the US Senate, unless they self-destruct.

For the Democrats, what's it going to be this year, high road, or low?

Virginians need to see a clean campaign of ideas from both Webb and Miller. How about a campaign that makes everyday people see the plain reasons why they should trust today’s Democratic Party more than today’s GOP?

Rebus Called Up

Although Rebus was surprised to be called up from the cartoon reserves to serve in the Cartoon War, he's flattered that anyone remembered him. The panel above shows him reacting to the startling notice for him to return to active duty.

Rebus, depicted below at the top of Biograph Theatre Program No. 53, is best known for his role as the Biograph's official spokesdog. Drawn by yours truly he made his initial appearance on a Midnite Show handbill in what was that storied Fan District cinema's first year of operation (1972). His name, Rebus, came a few weeks later -- it started as Uncle Rebus, then Uncle was quickly dropped -- when he reappeared in a single panel that I drew for my own amusement. It was titled: "Have a Good Time," which had become the Biograph's motto.

A month-or-so later, that single panel has grown into a nine-panel comic strip, called "Rebus Wakes Up." It was subsequently published by VCU's student newspaper, The Commonwealth Times, which morphed into a pulp comic tabloid called "Fan Free Funnies" for three issues in the spring of 1973.

What is a rebus?

It’s a word puzzle. The viewer sees a line drawing of an eye, then a plus sign, then the letter “c”, then another plus sign, then the letter “u.” Decoded that means “I see you.” Such little puzzles, usually somewhat more complicated, were common in publications aimed at children in the 1940s and '50s. The original Rebus comic strips all had little rebus puzzles in them, somewhere.

In the 1970s a circle of area artists was into drawing cartoons, making short animated films and even making large cartoon paintings. Inspired by “underground comix,” there was a scene, of sorts, in the Fan District then which revolved around cartooning. In some ways it was a precursor of the illustrated fiction wave that began to be noticed about ten years later. Anyway, in such a make-believe world, Rebus was a minor celebrity ‘toon, perhaps along the lines of local pitchman who appears on TV frequently selling sofas, promoting community events, etc.

Rebus continued to pop up on Biograph handbills and programs all during my tenure as the Biograph’s manager (1972-83). Rebus also helped out with other projects, such as my 1980s Rock ‘n’ Roll promotions with Chuck Wrenn; we called our partnership Lit Fuse Productions.

Later, to make my then-girlfriend laugh -- she thought Rebus was a chump -- I did a black humor series of small paintings called "Documenting the Death of Rebus." In each piece he was being killed off in a different way. Then she moved out.

Undaunted, Rebus made a rousing comeback in a series of 'toons published in SLANT (1985-94), doing some of his best work. As well, he has appeared on various posters, calendars and T-shirts. etc., I've produced over the years since.