Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Richmond bloggers to meet Mar. 10

Those bloggers who want to gather to discuss the potential of a Richmond-area bloggers summit, which has been mentioned recently on this blog and others, should take note of this post and help spread the word. On Saturday, March 10, between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. (or as long as the spirit is willing), there will be an informal meeting to discuss that topic at the Baja Bean, at 1520 W. Main St, in Richmond’s Fan District.

The Bean has a large room in the back of the restaurant, which lends itself to our purpose. At that meeting it is my hope that opinions will be thrown around the room freely, because I have few preconceived notions about what this proposed summit ought to be.

However, I do think it’s better for us bloggers get together first, to share our thoughts, before anyone starts inking in details such as who ought to be invited as a speaker, or whether there even ought to be any speakers, or where the thing ought to be held, or what sponsorship might be available from large or small players, etc.

So, let’s get a good look at one another, have a few beers (at Happy Hour prices), talk a little, and listen a lot to our fellow bloggers. Moreover, in the long run, I don’t think we’ll really have much trouble lining up backers, or a space to hold the summit, if we first get our own ducks in a row.

Comments are welcome.

Update: The reasons to blog are many. Some blogs are about art, or music, others are about a neighborhood. Some bloggers focus on politics, others on their family pets. Still others cover a variety of topics. What they all have in common is the desire on the part of the blogger to document some aspect of what they care about.

Accordingly, I see no reason for any Richmond blogger to feel unwelcome at this meeting. Please know, this call for a bloggers meeting isn't being made by corporate interests, or any existing group.

Unvarnishing Virginia History

The Feb. 28, 2007, issue of STYLE Weekly featured a Back Page a piece by yours truly, "Unvarnishing Virginia History." A couple of years ago, a retired educator gave me the history book mentioned. I hope he enjoys seeing what his gift inspired. Click on the link or read it below.

Unvarnishing Virginia History
by F.T. Rea

Having grown up in Richmond, I’ve been steeped in its dual sense of bitterness and pride over matters to do with, and stemming from, the Civil War. Perhaps thinned out somewhat by time, it remains in the air we breathe at the fall line of the James River.

Most of my life has been spent in the Fan District, which is home to four statues honoring heroes of the Confederacy. Beyond monuments, to know what it was like in Richmond in the past, we look to history. It comes to us in many ways — stories told, popular culture and schooling among them.

In 1961, my seventh-grade history book, which was the official history of Virginia for use in public schools — as decreed by the General Assembly — had this to say about slavery at the end of its Chapter 29:
...Life among the Negroes of Virginia in slavery times was generally happy. The Negroes went about in a cheerful manner making a living for themselves and for those whom they worked. They were not so unhappy as some Northerners thought they were, nor were they so happy as some Southerners claimed. The Negroes had their problems and their troubles. But they were not worried by the furious arguments going on between Northerners and Southerners over what should be done with them. In fact, they paid little attention to those arguments.
In 1961 I had no reason to question that paragraph’s veracity. Baseball was my No. 1 concern in those days. Now those words read quite differently.

Living through the Civil Rights era, with its bombings, assassinations, marches, sit-ins, boycotts and school-closings, did much to show me a new light, to do with truth and fairness. However, for me, there was no moment of epiphany, no sudden awareness I was growing up in a part of the world that officially denied aspects of its past. More than anything else, it took time. Life experience taught me to look more deeply into things.

Now I know that dusty old history book was a cog in the machinery that made the Jim Crow era possible.

Nonetheless, that same history book’s view of how it was for those enslaved is one that some Virginians still want to believe. It’s probably what they were taught as children, too. Some call it “heritage.” Many of this persuasion also cling to the bogus factoid that since most Southerners didn’t hold slaves, the Civil War itself was not fought over slavery.

Which is preposterous.

Of course poor Southerners, those who weren’t plantation owners, had little to do with starting the Civil War. Generally speaking, poor people with no clout don’t launch wars anywhere; rich people with too much power do.

So, for the most part, the men who fought in gray uniforms were doing what they felt was expected of them. As with most wars, the bulk of those who fought and died for either side between 1861 and 1865 were just ordinary Joes who had no say-so over declaring war or negotiating peace.

In Virginia, many who chose to wear gray did so to reverse what seemed to them to be an invasion of their home state.

Yet, if the reader wants to understand more deeply why Virginia eventually left the Union, to follow the secessionist hotheads of South Carolina and Mississippi into war, here’s a clue from Chapter 30 of that same history book, which opened with this:
In 1790 there were more than 290,000 slaves in Virginia. This number was larger than that of any other state...
Those 290,000 slaves were worth a lot of money to their owners.

Thus, the largest part of the real blame for the bloodshed of the war, and the subsequent indignities of the Reconstruction era, probably rests with wealthy slaveholders who would not give up their investments in cheap labor without a fight.

Readers interested in how much the official record of the Civil War has changed over the decades since the Civil Rights era should pay a visit to the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond. Its telling of the story of the Civil War is now based on the unvarnished truth.

Moreover, I am proud to be a Virginian. There’s plenty of Virginia history that has nothing to do with picking sides in the Civil War. My ancestors go back to the 1600s in this commonwealth. But I will not stand with anyone who chooses to stay the course with the absurd of denials of history — to do with slavery — that were crammed into that old public school textbook.

Even the Museum of the Confederacy, for now still housed in what was the Richmond home of the president of the Confederate States of America, is apparently poised to change its name to reflect its modern mission — telling the history of that time accurately, rather than to simply memorialize the Confederacy.

As for my friends in Richmond who haven’t had a fresh thought on matters racial since they were seventh-graders, well, I don’t want to pick a fight with them. So mostly we talk about other things — baseball still works.

All that said, Robert E. Lee, whose spectacular monument I see every day, remains a Virginian I admire. The dual sense of tragedy and dignity his statue conveys is striking. In his time and place, Lee clearly did what he saw as his duty. How can an honest person not respect that?

After the war Lee urged his fellow Virginians to let it go — to move on. That was good advice in 1865. It still is.

-- 30 --

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Of carnivals and summits

Currently, at The Krehbiel Strikes Back, there’s a discussion about the way the Virginia Blog Carnival has been handled in recent weeks. Click here to read “What Happened To The Virginia Blog Carnival?” and the comments under it.

Although the Virginia Blog Carnival has been around for a couple of years, anybody can start/present their own blog carnival. All it takes is the desire to do it, and the doing of it. Of course, most of its potential readers will simply ignore it if the posts selected don’t interest them. So, the only way for such an endeavor to make much sense is for the collection of posts to be attention-getting and worthwhile.

Last summer, with much assistance from Vivian J. Paige, SLANTblog floated the notion out that bloggers who wanted to participate in an experiment could join together for one weekend. The point of the project was to be original. Those bloggers who wanted to participate in the Weekend Without Echoes, were asked to post original material. That, rather than simply more cut and paste, or copycat blurbs, etc.

The project went well. I can’t say it changed anything. I know it didn’t hurt. But for one weekend there were lots of posts that were a little different from the norm.

Click here to see what I considered to be the best of the bunch -- there‘s some good writing and the topics are quite varied -- which amounted to my own WWE carnival.

And, any city can have it own bloggers summit. Talk about one to be staged soon in Richmond is underway. Stay tuned to SLANTblog for breaking news on this topic.

“...Until we do, I think a blogger summit is a great idea if for no other reason than to get to know each other outside of the keyboard. I would certainly invite the big guys on the block to attend, I just won't hold my breath waiting for them to ask us along for the ride.”
“...Having a weblog Sadie Hawkins dance is a fine idea. I'd be really interested in seeing a genuine conversation form between the various media communities in the area, though.”

Post-debate numbers on Iraq

The occupation/war in Iraq has lasted for almost four years. History tells us the longer such an operation goes on, the more resourceful those forces opposing it get. Thus, the news from Iraq gets more grisly all the time.

According to this Reuters story, the newest polling numbers -- post-surge-policy debate in the House of Representatives -- still don’t look any better for the Bush administration.

“...The poll found that 64 percent of Americans now say the war in Iraq was not worth fighting -- up 6 points from last month to a new high. According to the poll, two-thirds of Americans oppose President George W. Bush's plan to send an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq. An equal number favor reducing U.S. military and financial support if the Iraqis fail to make progress restoring order.”

Those opinion poll results spell big trouble for any Republicans still supporting the failed Bush war policy and running for office any time soon. American opinion has passed the tipping point on this issue and those politicians who can’t tell are riding for a fall.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Richmond blog summit?

While it appears that out of bitterness stemming from recent disappointments some Virginia bloggers have decided that what was the collegial spirit of The Virginia Blog Carnival, the Sorensen Institute’s Blog Summits, even my own little Weekend Without Echoes experiment, does not serve their cause. So, from the rightwing fringe of the blogosphere there is a concentrated effort underway by some to scuttle that spirit. Evidence of that game is easy to find.

But that’s not the way it’s going everywhere. Richmond blogger Tripp Fenderson is proposing a “summit” of Richmond bloggers. Sounds like a good idea to me. Some of his concerns mirror the discussions from the Sorensen confab in June of last year. Among his worthy questions are these:

“...Should there be a relationship (loose or formal) between traditional publishers and the community? Should media companies work to actively share news and information with this community? Should media companies acknowledge the online publishers who bring important stories about the community to the table (or who scoop the story)?”

Virginia soap blog-opera’s bad actors

No doubt, there are bad bloggers on all sides of however the so-called aisle is configured. There are bloggers who are blowhards, bad spellers, knuckleheads and copycats from right to left, from one end of the political spectrum to the other. But can anyone remember when a blogger, who was generally accepted to be a Democrat, or liberal, went postal with their complaint they had been “banned” from commenting at another blog?

Those who follow Virginia’s soap blog-opera probably have noticed that the small-but-noisy SWAC, or Castle, group of bloggers has -- since Christmas! -- been promoting itself by picking fights with respected/popular bloggers, such as the liberal Waldo Jaquith and the conservative Shaun Kenney, among other others. This same gang of the willing has thrown rotting red herrings at any blogger, no matter their political persuasion, who opposed the gang.

Eschewing how pathetically wannabe it sounds, they have insisted relentlessly that certain bloggers stop ignoring them. They have attempted to force-feed obnoxious or grotesque material onto other people’s web sites, then cried foul when their tactics were deemed out-of-bounds. Like brats crying “that’s not fair,” whenever they don’t get their way, these bad actors have cried about their “freedom of speech” being trampled.

Perhaps it has happened. I’m not a political blogging historian, such as Alice Marshall at GOTV appears to be. Perhaps she knows the answer to my query -- in Virginia, has a liberal blogger ever thrown tantrums over being banned from commenting at conservative blogs?

Also, is this same curious phenomenon going on in other states? Is there a method to this virtual madness?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Virginia Top Five

The Virginia Top Five for this week has only one change from last week, as once again Va. Tech has climbed over Virginia. Of the top four teams, which all played two games during the week, only Virginia suffered a loss (to Miami).

At this writing the Hokies and 'Hoos are in a three-way tie with North Carolina for first place in the ACC. That, with two games left on all three of their schedules. With their wins yesterday, Tech and UVa. probably have made the field to the NCAA tournament, no matter what happens from here on. They will meet in Charlottesville on Mar. 1 (7p.m on ESPN).

The CAA regular season is over. VCU finished No. 1 and ODU at No. 2. But the Monarchs have looked better than the Rams over the last couple of weeks. If those longtime rivals make it to the CAA tournament championship game, that will surely pack the Coliseum with fans and be a fitting way to send one of them -- maybe both? -- to the Big Dance. On the other hand, if either falters, and does not make all the way to the Monday night tilt, it could pop their NCAA bubble.

1. Va. Tech (20-8, 10-4 in ACC)
2. Virginia (19-8, 10-4 in ACC)
3. ODU (23-7, 15-3 in CAA)
4. VCU (24-6, 16-2 in CAA)
5. George Mason (15-14, 9-9 in CAA)

Saturday, February 24, 2007

CAA tournament pairings set

Following the last games of the regular season in the Colonial Athletic Association, which were played today, the news below has come in from the CAA Assistant Commissioner Rob Washburn:

The tournament’s paring are set. for the CAA Men's Basketball Championship, which will be held Mar. 2-5 at the Richmond Coliseum.

First-round action tips off at noon on Friday as the No. 8 seed Wm. & Mary (15-14, 8-10 in CAA) takes on No. 9 Georgia St. (10-19, 5-13 in CAA). At 2:30 p.m., No. 5 Northeastern (12-18, 9-9 in CAA) meets No. 12 Delaware (5-25, 3-15 in CAA). In the evening session, No. 7 Towson (14-16, 8-10 in CAA) takes on No. 10 UNC Wilmington (7-21, 4-14 in CAA) at 6 p.m., followed by No. 6 George Mason (15-14, 9-9 in CAA) versus No. 11 James Madison (7-22, 4-14 in CAA) at 8:30 p.m.

In Saturday's quarterfinals, No. 1 VCU (24-6, 16-2 in CAA) goes against the W&M/Georgia State winner at Noon, while No. 4 Drexel (22-7, 13-5 in CAA) takes on the Northeastern/Delaware victor at 2:30 p.m. The evening session features No. 2 Old Dominion (23-7, 15-3 in CAA) against the Towson/UNCW winner at 6 p.m., followed by No. 3 Hofstra (22-8, 14-4 in CAA) versus the Mason/JMU winner at 8:30 p.m.

The semifinals are set for 3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, with the championship game taking place at 7 p.m. on Mon., Mar. 5. The four Saturday quarterfinal contests and both semifinal games on Sunday will be televised by CN8 (and other CAA television affiliates). ESPN will televise the championship game on Monday night.

Visit the
CAA's web site for more infomation about buying tickets and updated television listings.

Friday, February 23, 2007

The Price of Free Speech

Note: This piece appeared in C-Ville Weekly in 2001. It was later edited for SLANT's pages in 2004. In its way, it speaks to the mindset of mischievous bloggers who believe it’s patriotic to force-feed a grotesque image -- a beheading -- onto the eyes of readers who would choose not be exposed to such material.
The Price of Free Speech
by F. T. Rea

Given that in Richmond the proper meaning of the words and deeds of Robert E. Lee (1807-1870) is still hotly debated, the stately Lee Monument has been a lightning rod of sorts over the years, as well as a tourist attraction. On a pretty morning five or six summers ago a curious commotion was underway about the statue's pedestal. About 25 adults were milling about purposely; some were propping large posters against the monument itself. Upon closer examination the posters proved to be pro-life propaganda. It was the same sort of designed-to-disgust material displayed relentlessly by demonstrators outside the Women's Clinic on the Boulevard for years.

So, why would anti-abortion activists be rallying in the shadow of a piece of heroic sculpture that fondly remembers a Confederate general mounted on his horse? Baffled, this scribbler's curiosity got the best of him.

To get a better look, I continued walking toward the proceedings. In response to my inquiry it was explained they were there to picket an “abortionist” with an office in the medical office building, just across the street. Well, OK... Then, with that mission accomplished, the group had opted to take some keepsake photographs, using the oldest of Monument Avenue's statues -- it was dedicated in 1890 -- as a backdrop.

Standing next to identical placards displaying a blown-up depiction of a bloody fetus -- at first it looked like an undercooked hamburger that had fallen off the grill -- they posed with easy smiles; it could have been a company picnic or a class reunion.

On a one-to-ten scale, in the Absurd Postmodern Juxtapositions category, this business was easily a nine. Old General Lee -- whose view on abortion is not widely known -- he did not flinch.

A year or two before this morning a group of a similar ilk had set itself up on the grassy, tree-lined median strip, a half-block to the east. On this occasion they were there to use the funeral of Associate Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr. at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church to suit their purpose. Along with a large contingent of the working press and dozens of uniformed police officers, they waited for the funeral underway to end.

Inside the church Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist delivered the eulogy, “...[Powell] was the very embodiment of judicial temperament; receptive to the ideas of his colleagues, fair to the parties to the case, but ultimately relying on his own seasoned judgment.”

Outside the church the eager TV crews had their cameras and microphones at the ready. The patient cops had their night sticks and side arms close at hand. The lathered up news-makers brandished their oozing fetus signs and posters citing Powell as a “murderer.”

When Powell’s family, friends and Supreme Court colleagues came outside, following the service, they had no choice but to notice the demonstration before them. Lenses zoomed in to focus on their stunned reactions.

As a longtime admirer of Lewis Powell, when I saw that one of the ranting pro-lifers was wearing a clerical collar, my curiosity got the best of me then, too. So I walked over to ask him something like -- was he really a man of the cloth, or was it just a shirt?

Taking umbrage, he fired back at me something about Powell having killed millions of babies. I had to assume he was referring to Powell’s role in the famous Roe vs. Wade decision. Asked what that had to do with forcing the dead judge’s family look at his gross placard, the sweaty zealot huffed and puffed. Instead of answering the question he repeated the same blustery charge against Powell.

There you have it -- free speech isn’t always pretty. In practice, the first amendment means we all have to take turns putting up with people who seem twisted, even mean, to us.

It’s difficult to imagine the demonstrators at Powell’s funeral changed any minds on the abortion issue by creating such a disturbing sight in the middle of the street. No, I’d say they were chiefly interested in venting their collective spleen and dealing out some payback. They weren’t there to persuade. They were there to punish and strike fear in the hearts of anyone who dares to rub them the wrong way.

Still, in our optimistic and open society, we are supposed to be obliged to allow for such venting. Let’s not forget that popular speech has never needed much protection at any time in history.

OK, that’s the price of free speech. Pose however you like next to the statue of old General Lee, astride Traveler. Wear funny costumes and bring props, if you like. As long as you don’t want to stand in my yard, to push your twisted ideas -- if you are out in the public way -- go for it. Short of what might constitute an assault, it’s your right.

Lee won’t flinch, even if I do.

-- 30 --

Photo Credit: F. T. Rea (2005)

Sorry, wrong number...

Both my art and writing have been appearing in print for over 35 years. In that time, most of the people who have bothered to speak to me about something they saw of mine have meant well, and I enjoyed their comments, even when they disagreed with me.

Then, every now and then, it gets too weird. Such was the case when a man called me on a Saturday night in the early 1990s. We had never met. He’d read an issue of SLANT and said he had to talk with me, right then, because I was such a good writer...

Naturally, he was calling from a bar.

Well, I was watching a movie with my then-girlfriend, so I didn’t want to have a long conversation. It was late and the more this strange-sounding character talked, the less comfortable I felt about having anything to do with him. He said he had a story he had to tell me, something I had to write about.

Then he started babbling about religion. Uh, oh...

So, I told him I didn’t want to meet with him that night, as he had been suggesting. Still, I thanked him for the compliment and asked him to call back during business hours, if he wanted to talk any more. I don’t remember his name, now, but I did when I told the story of his odd phone call to some friends a couple of days later at Happy Hour.

One of them promptly recognized his name. “You remember him,” he said, “that was the crazy guy they found on the Huguenot Bridge, maybe in February, about a year ago. He was bleeding to death.” According to the story in the newspaper my Saturday night fan had apparently bought into one of those old-world axioms. It was something like -- if thy right arm offends thee, cut it off.

My fan, obviously a religious man, went down to the wooded area north of the bridge. He put his offending arm into the canal water to numb it. Then he chunked his arm into a fork in a small tree’s limbs, took out his hacksaw, and he sawed that bad arm off, just below the elbow.

Everyone at the bar, except me, chuckled. I was busy wondering why such a determined nut would want to talk to me about anything? What had I written that had set him off? Would he call back?

It was hardly the first time I’d been approached by a creepy reader, but this one -- he sawed his arm off! -- was especially disturbing. Quite naturally, now I think a little more about what I write, sometimes, in a way I didn’t before that incident.

Blogging opens the door to all sorts of possibilities. While I am happy to discuss readers’ reactions to my work, there has to be a limit to what I will put up with. Yet, in the blogosphere, it appears there are always going to be those who will test those limits. The story above is just one of the reasons I won’t suffer fools of a particular stripe but for so long.

Furthermore, I urge other bloggers to be careful how much you engage unreasonable people who don’t really mean well at all. Some will try your patience, and a few of them may be out of control in a dark way you don’t want to know about.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Coulter groupies want to muzzle vets

Bound for the bridge back to the 1950s, rightwing bloggers line up behind the sled’s lead dog, Ann Coulter, to call Democratic Rep. John Murtha all manner of coward and traitor. To oppose their doggedly skewed view of the greater war on terror is tantamount to throwing in with “the terrorists.”

Yes, I know all that is old hat. Actually, I’m enjoying watching that hardcore, my-way-or-the-highway crowd tear the Republican Party apart, as post-election fingers of blame waggle. At this time I won’t waste the space it would take to properly mock the flat-earth wing of the GOP.

Still, I do wonder about a couple of things that I doubt many of the Coulter groupies think much about.

The first is this: When people who are now serving in the military see politicians who are veterans called “traitors” and “cowards” -- because they oppose a dangerous foreign policy being pursued by their opposites, on the other side of the aisle -- what do those on active duty think of that?

Are they supposed to accept that once a person has served in the military they no longer have the same option other citizens have to voice an opinion which opposes the foreign policy of a sitting president?

Do those serving now wonder if they, too, will someday be called a “traitor,” for saying what they believe is wrong with a failed war policy? Although some of those who return from Iraq’s battlefield will vote Republican when they get home, others will vote Democratic. Does the Coulter crowd expect veterans to all return from combat as hawks? That, or just keep their mouths shut?

Moreover, what effect might such attempts to muzzle veterans’ right/inclination to speak their minds have on recruiting? After all, if Murtha -- a decorated vet of the Vietnam War -- can be called a traitor and a coward, what veteran can’t be called the same by some lathered up propagandist just trying to get their way?

Talk about demoralizing the troops...

The other question is this: Why do fringe cultural conservatives and neoconservatives think recycling old Cold War, anti-commie schtick will still work today, when applied to America’s involvement with the civil war in Iraq? Like, what do Middle Eastern terrorists -- who are religious fanatics -- have in common with the atheist communists that old Sen. Joe McCarthy thought were hiding under every bed in the 1950s?

Maybe it’s just a money thing: The reddest of communists were said to want to do away with our money. Now, according to arch-conservative Rep. Virgil Goode, the terrorists want to chisel the phrase “In God We Trust” off of all our nickels and dimes, so they can replace those sacred words with the scariest words ever -- “In Moo-hammed We Trust!”

Or, perhaps there’s an easier answer: There is at work today a numb, knuckle-dragging brand of conservatism, which simply holds that the entire world should cheerfully do whatever any commanding-in-chief Republican president says to do -- come hell, or high water.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

VCU tops JMU

Tonight was Senior Night at the Siegel Center. VCU’s first year head coach, Anthony Grant, started the four seniors on the team, as tradition calls for. Two of them, B.A. Walker and Jess Pellot-Rosa, have started for four years. The other two, Calvin Roland and Matt Coward, are normally subs.

The JMU Dukes were seen as a 20-point underdog in the published betting line. So, when the Rams pulled ahead 13-3 at the 17:13 mark of the first half, and all four seniors had already scored, it looked like it might be an easy night for Coach Grant.

It wasn’t.

Actually, it was a weird basketball game with a lack of tempo. Neither team really looked good. There was lots of one-on-one play. Yet both teams had pretty good shooting nights, percentage-wise.

The Rams posted a nine point lead at the halfway point. Then, eight minutes into the second half the Dukes pulled to within one point of the Rams. But a clutch trey by Jamal Shuler stiff-armed that run and the home team slowly but surely pulled away for good: VCU 83, JMU 72.

For whatever reason, except for that opening three-minute burst and the last seven minutes of the game, VCU seemed out of synch for most of the 30 minutes of play in between. Perhaps it was a carryover from its tough loss to Bradley on Saturday night in a nationally televised BracketBusters matchup. Perhaps the Rams simply expected to be able to beat the Dukes easily.

Pellot-Rosa scored 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds to pace the Rams attack. Walker scored 16 points. JMU’s Terrance Carter led all scorers with 21 points.

VCU (23-6, 15-2 in CAA) travels to Atlanta on Saturday to face Georgia St. (10-18, 5-12 in CAA) in what will be the last game of the regular season for both teams.

Who was Barbara Johns?

In January of 2002, the youngest daughter of Virginia’s 69th governor, Mark Warner, noticed that among the six statues honoring people on the grounds of what would be her yard for the next four years, there were no statues honoring a female. Nor were there any remembering significant figures of the Civil Rights Era. She asked her mother, Lisa Collis, why.

Collis started to thinking, which eventually led Virginia’s then-First Lady to consult with others to help fill in some of the gaps in Virginia history her child had found in the statuary of Capitol Square. Now a new monument is in the works -- the Virginia Civil Rights Memorial.

The sculpture by Stanley Bleifeld will commemorate a 1951 student demonstration which was led by a 16-year-old girl named Barbara Johns. To protest the deplorable conditions in which they found themselves at Robert R. Moten School, an all-black school in Farmville, students staged a “walk-out.” Although it was change they were seeking, those brave students had no way of knowing where their peaceful demonstration’s walk would lead. Much of the worst violence of the Civil Rights Era was still to come.

Nonetheless, they took those first steps. Eventually, the students were joined by civil rights attorneys Oliver Hill and Spottswood Robinson. Together, those determined Virginians wrote an inspiring chapter of the commonwealth’s history that this new monument will remember for all to see, upon its unveiling next summer.

Click here to visit the web site of the Virginia Civil Rights Memorial’s foundation. Once there, you can see a preview of what the Bleifeld sculpture will look like and learn more about how this all came about.

Click here to read more about Barbara Johns. Soon, I'll be writing and posting more on Johns.

Click here to go to artist Stanley Bleifeld’s site.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The last customer's bag

Unfortunately, my work has me sitting down and indoors much of my time. So, it’s a pleasure to walk for my everyday short errands. A walk frequently improves my disposition. Like it or not, I’m better off if I stop to take notice of the world around me and make an effort to be courteous, if not friendly, to the folks I encounter.

Fresh air is good.

Several years ago on one of my walking excursions, it was in late October, an incident provided a one-time-only perspective. As it unfolded it felt like a scene in a movie. Perhaps that was suggested to me by the fact I was in a video store, looking over the rack of current releases.

Reading the film notes on the box for Scorsese’s latest blood bath, I sensed movement behind me. As I had been the only customer in the room, curiosity turned me toward the counter. On the other side of a wall-of-videos display rack, I caught sight of the back of a man I saw rarely but recognized instantly.

Having just come into the store, he purposely handed a plastic bag to one of the two female sales clerks behind the counter. Being obscured by the maze of video boxes was a blessing, as this was a guy I had good reason to prefer to ignore. I returned my attention to the movie selections in front of me. When I heard the bells than meant the front door had opened, I glanced up in time to see the aforementioned customer leaving the store.

As I breathed more deeply of the improved air, a woman behind the counter laughed as she dumped out the contents of the last customer’s bag. With comic exaggeration she acted as if she was troubled by the mystery of what might tumble out.

“What’s tha-at?” said the other woman, backing away and sounding girlish.

My curiosity was aroused.

“Is that one ... what’s that on it?” asked the one holding the bag.

Naturally, I stepped closer. All I could see was regular black VHS video tape cassettes. Yet the two young women, who I knew only in that video rental context, were going to trouble to avoid touching what appeared to be ordinary stock of that very store.

As a spray bottle of Windex was produced, I wondered if their Halloween spirit had gone wrong? They brought me into their conspiracy with the sparkle of eye contact. Both busied themselves spraying and wiping off the tapes. It was reminiscent of conspiratorial children removing cooties from objects touched by a someone they don’t like.

Assuming there had to be something peculiar about the movies -- like maybe they were kinky flicks, or who knows what? -- I stepped even closer to see what the titles were. Without looking so hard that it would indicate anything more than a casual interest, I noticed a couple of titles.

Both were mainstream films; one a crisp black comedy I had recently seen. Playing along with their tongue-in-cheek tone I asked, “Do you have to wipe down all the tapes like that?”

They laughed, happy for my joining in.

Oh, no, they assured me their procedure was especially for the character who had just left the building. They shuddered. Suddenly, it was clear to me the two of them were just doing what bored service workers everywhere in the world do, to kill time. To amuse themselves, they were mocking a bad-vibes customer who they saw as deserving of ridicule. They had no idea I knew they were absolutely right about the guy.

Being in on their silly joke reminded me that the spontaneous sharing of unanticipated moments of levity -- contact! -- is truly one of life’s treasures.

My stride for the walk home had a jaunty bounce. The fresh air was nice.

The Bounce

This week's sports column at, The Bounce, touches on Braves baseball and state basketball:

"The scent of change is in the air at the Atlanta Braves' Disney World training camp in Florida, which means that same aroma is surely heading this way. The long-anticipated sale of the Atlanta Braves franchise -- which includes ownership of the Richmond Braves -- is apparently underway...

“...Acknowledging the disappointment his players were feeling, Rams head coach Anthony Grant was philosophical about the nationally televised loss. ‘All the goals we set for ourselves at the beginning of the season are still right there in front of us.’”

Monday, February 19, 2007

Fan City Series

Below are the first three images of the Fan City Series of prints. This launches what is a new art venture for me. Click on the images, themselves, to enlarge them.
Fan City Series No. 1 -- "Fan District Cat" -- a 13" x 19" print on archival quailty paper with a matte finish (one of 45 prints).

Fan City Series No. 2 -- "NRBQ at High on the Hog" -- a 13" x 19" print on archival quailty paper with a matte finish (one of 45 prints).

Fan City Series No. 3 -- "Thirty Good Years" -- a 13" x 19" print on archival quailty paper with a matte finish (one of 45 prints).

Soon there will be other poster designs available; other images are on the drawing board. I can't say how delighted I am with the splendid quality of the state-of-the-art printing process that is being used. It has spawned a whole new wave of creativity. All of the posters in the Fan City Series are going to be the same size. Each run will be limited to 45 prints of the particular image. Each print of the three imgages above costs $45.00.

To ask questions or to buy one of prints please contact me:

F.T. Rea
(804) 359-4864
PO Box 14761, Richmond, VA, 23221

Sunday, February 18, 2007

VA Top Five

The Virginia Top Five for this week has shifted. It is mostly a reflection of how the teams have looked in their most recent games. It is as follows:

Virginia (18-7, 9-3 in ACC)
Va. Tech (18-8, 8-4 in ACC)
ODU (21-7, 13-3 in CAA)
VCU (22-6, 14-2 in CAA)
George Mason (14-13, 8-8 in CAA)

Wouldn't it be fun to see the top four schools meet right now in an All-Virginia playoff. In the semis Virginia would meet VCU and ODU would take on Tech. The winners would clash in the final.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Bradley too quick for VCU

When VCU’s Jesse Pellot-Rosa hit a three-pointer with just under eight minutes remaining in the first half, it pushed the Rams lead over Bradley to 10 points. The sellout crowd (7,584), a screaming throng clad in goldenrod -- free T-shirts at the door, courtesy of VCU -- was sending a message to ESPN2’s viewers, coast to coast. With its Bracket Buster game featured in primetime, on its Siegel Center home court, at that moment the picture was sweet for VCU’s basketball team.

By halftime the Rams had spit out nine points of that lead. Three minutes into the second half, Bradley took the lead on a trey by Jeremy Crouch. The visiting Braves, of the highly-rated Missouri Valley Conference, never lost the lead: Bradley 73, VCU 64.

Tonight the breaks didn’t go VCU’s way. “It wasn’t our night,” said Rams head coach Anthony Grant. “Give Bradley credit.”

Crouch, one of four guards Bradley’s head coach Jim Les started, led all scores with 22 points; he connected on six of nine three-point shots he attempted. VCU had five players in double figures.

The Rams probably played well enough on defense to beat most of the teams they have played this season. But to best the Braves the Rams needed to shoot well. They didn’t. Point guard Eric Maynor had a particularly bad night offensively, scoring only four points. For whatever reason, he seemed a step slow all night.

Noting the bitter disappointment his players felt, at not playing their best game under the bright lights, Grant was philosophical about the loss. “All the goals we set for ourselves at the beginning of the season are still right there in front of us.”

VCU drops to 22-6, with 14-2 record in CAA play, which is good for first place in the conference. Bradley 's record is now 19-10, with a 9-7 league record, which puts the Braves in fourth place in the Valley.

Senate ducks debate on 'surge'

After a brutal week of listening to Republicans in the House of Representatives struggle to defend the Bush administration’s “surge” strategy, Republicans in the Senate have voted to spare themselves the same embarrassment. AP reports:

“...For the second time in two weeks, the Senate voted not to debate a non-binding measure that would repudiate Bush's recent decision to send 21,500 troops to Iraq to bolster security in Baghdad and Anbar province. The Democrats had wanted to bring the measure to the floor but failed to overcome Republican resistance. The vote was 56 in favor and 34 against. Under Senate rules, 60 votes were needed to bring the resolution to the floor for debate.”

I listened to a lot of the debate in the House and I found it to be quite entertaining. Perhaps that’s due in some part to the fact I agree with the side that prevailed. But in a larger sense I am glad to see such matters being discussed on live television with a record being made of where and how each speaker stood.

Therein can probably be found the biggest reason the Republican senators blocked the debate from reaching their floor. The unlucky Republicans still defending Bush’s folly, who are running for office next year, do not want to supply their opponents in primaries and general elections with footage of them saying things in 2007 that will sound awful in 2008, when support for the failed Bush policy in Iraq may be down to 15 to 20 percent.

New garbage policy

Blogging comes in all sizes and shapes. In Virginia a lively blogosphere exists which represents political opinion from A-to-Z, left-to-right, etc. A visit to Waldo’s Virginia Political Blogroll will offer the reader a smorgasbord of opinion, from liberal to conservative to surreal.

Some of the bloggers are clever. Some are good writers. And, some are up to no good...

Unfortunately, there are a few bloggers in Virginia who see blogging as an opportunity to harass, bully or at least annoy other bloggers with whom they disagree. Often their motive beyond being a thorough nuisance is to promote their persona by picking fights with bloggers they know have readers they could never reach on their own. Among their tactics such pests like to use the comments sections of those targeted blogs to wear out their welcome, then scream “foul” when they are asked to cut it out.

Whether they comment anonymously, or using their established pseudonyms, such bad actors add nothing to the debate. Nor do they wish to do so.

At SLANTblog I am happy to take comments from readers who agree or disagree with what I present here. I enjoy discussing political issues. I always have. But just as I would not discuss politics, or sports, or movies -- in person -- with a rude drunk whose motive is obviously to piss me off, or gross me out, I don’t feel obligated to engage the same sort of person on the Internet.

Now my patience has run out for allowing such rude pests to take up my time, or my space, at SLANTblog. That’s right -- my space.

So, to my readers I say this -- please feel free to comment to this post or any others. For now, I plan to continue to allow comments to go through unfiltered. But if those comments are deemed to be pure garbage, not only will I no longer feel called upon to respond to clutters of childish provocations, from now on I will empty such garbage out as soon as I see fit.

Regular readers, including those few who have provoked this post, know exactly who they are. From here on the bad actors mentioned above are free to spank their monkeys on their own blogs, maybe on some other blogs, but not here.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Fan District Softball League Commissioners in 1977

Fan District Softball League Commissioners in 1977
Terry Rea and Chuck Wrenn in the day

Chuck gave me a print of this photo, which I had not seen before, last night. It was shot at Tony Martin’s farm at the softball league’s season-ending picnic/awards ceremony. That year Chuck and I served as the league’s commissioners.

Five More Fears for Goode to Fret About

On live television, admittedly it was only C-SPAN, Rep. Virgil Goode tried to get the news networks to pause their 25-hours-a-day coverage of the riveting Anna Nicole Smith corpse saga, to pay attention to debate on the floor of the House of Representatives over what role America should play in the ongoing Iraqi civil war.

Well, I have to hand it to Goode, he did his best to draw notice to the important debate by revealing a threat to America no one had considered. In so many words Goode asked us all: What if the terrorists take over America and strike “In God We Trust” from the coins and bills we use as legal tender? What if they put “In Moo-hammed We Trust” on the money, instead?

By going further into the realm of absurdity than political comedians Jon Stewart or Bill Maher, Goode tried valiantly to help C-SPAN garner a larger viewing audience. But perhaps Goode was too timid. Maybe he needs to do more to goose the ratings.

To the rescue comes SLANTblog’s list of five more things Goode should say he fears might happen, in order to play to his anti-Islam, KKK-like following and draw attention to the debate.

Five More Fears for Goode to Fret About

1. What if the terrorists seize every print of the 1972 classic movie “The Godfather” and change the title of the film to “The Moo-hammed Father” or “The Allah Papa,” or whatever?

2. What if the terrorists put a suicide bomber in every home in America, to force American children to swear on the Quran their undying loyalty to Moo-Hammed, five times a day?

3. What if a terrorist sneaks into the House of Representatives, by getting himself elected, to swear on the Quran, so he come back later wearing bombs around his waist?

4. What if the terrorists sneak across the Mexican border, wearing stolen sombreros, and go into America’s supermarkets to stock the shelves with poison jars of peanut butter, in order to kill millions of peanut butter and jelly sandwich-eating Christians?

5. What if the terrorists get a hold of the remains of Anna Nicole Smith?

By the way Maher’s “Real Time” show starts back up tonight on HBO. What does the reader think are the chances that Maher is planning to skewer Virgil Goode for sounding like a raving lunatic?
Art by F.T. Rea

Goode on the "money" threat

The live broadcasts of the debate in the House of Representatives on C-SPAN have been damn good TV. Of course, I'm glad the Democrats have been doing a pretty good job of making their case. And, the Republicans have struggled, for the most part -- their arguments have sounded stale.

Beyond the partisan aspects of it, I hope a lot of young citizens have been watching. It’s been a great civics lesson.

Without a doubt the most bizarre part of the show, so far, has been when Rep. Virgil Goode opened his mouth. Of course, I cringed because with Virginia listed next to his name the man looked and sounded like a crackpot. I’ve listened to hours and hours of other speakers, but none of them sounded as nutty as Goode.

Goode even warned his listeners that if the resolution opposing the Bush “surge” plan passed, it could lead to them -- meaning the enemy -- taking the phrase “In God We Trust” off of our money. Then Goode said they -- once again, meaning whoever he imagines is the enemy -- would replace those words with “In Moo-hammed We Trust.”

Goode acted as if that made-up-out-of-thin-air threat to our currency was pertinent. No one laughed him out of the room. Nobody threw a net over him.

No, it wasn’t The Daily Show. It was C-SPAN. Must-see TV.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Why endorse Obama now?

It is being widely reported that Virginia’s Democratic governor, Tim Kaine (depicted left), is going to endorse Sen. Barack Obama in a couple of days. A story about this planted rumor is at the top of the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s front page today.

“Gov. Timothy M. Kaine plans to endorse Illinois Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign when Obama appears in Richmond on Saturday, a political source said last night. Kaine would not confirm the endorsement, which was also reported by The Associated Press and The Washington Post. He did urge reporters to attend the Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner sponsored by the Democratic Party of Virginia on Saturday at the Greater Richmond Convention Center...”

With Sen. Hillary Clinton established as the frontrunner in the race for the Democratic nomination next year, and several other Democrats in the field -- both announced or poised to announce -- no doubt Kaine’s move is going to be seen as premature, or ill-advised, by some Democrats. Still more Democrats will simply wonder why now?

This much I know about Gov. Kaine -- he is an astute political player who does his own thinking. Beyond that, since Kaine didn’t consult with me on this matter, I must guess at his motives for this move.

My guess is Kaine now thinks Obama looks like the best candidate for the Democrats in 2008. Although I’m not sure he’s right about that, yet, I can easily see why many people agree with that idea.

And, knowing that Clinton is clearly the establishment front-runner, Kaine probably prefers an open race, one in which several candidates have a chance, even if Obama fades. With the advantages Clinton has in money and favors-owed, Kaine may think that the only way to keep the race open is to help the best Stop-Hillary candidate in the field, now, rather than later.

The simpliest reason I can see is that Kaine has more chutzpah than many Democrats. For that I say -- bravo!
Art by F.T. Rea

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

CAA standings

With less than two weeks remaining in the regular season, the current Colonial Athletic Association basketball standings are as follows:

VCU (22-5, 14-2 in CAA)
ODU (20-7, 13-3 in CAA)
Hofstra (19-8, 12-4 in CAA)
Drexel (19-7, 11-5 in CAA)
W&M (15-11, 8-8 in CAA)
Mason (14-12, 8-8 in CAA)
Towson (14-13, 8-8 in CAA)
Northeastern (9-18, 7-9 in CAA)
Ga. State (9-17, 5-11 in CAA)
JMU (7-19, 4-12 in CAA)
UNCW (6-19, 3-13 in CAA)
Delaware (5-22, 3-13 in CAA)

At this point it looks to me that Wm. & Mary, George Mason and Towson are dangerous, but can't win the CAA postseason tournament to take place at the Richmond Coliseum, Mar. 2-5. But any of the top four teams in the standings could win it all. That should make for an entertaining event and sell some tickets.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Surge debate in the House

C-SPAN is covering the debate over the Bush administration’s “surge” policy in Iraq in the House of Representatives. This debate over what to do in Iraq is long overdue. It is taking place because of the results of the 2006 election, which put the control over the House in the hands of the Democrats.

So, forget about blogging feuds and even the business-as-usual shenanigans of the poseurs in Virginia’s General Assembly for a day or so. Please, pay attention to what is being said on the floor of House about the most important issue of our time.

Briefly told, in my view here are the basic differences:

Although those who are rising to support the Bush “surge” policy say it is a new strategy, they are using the same old words to support it. They continue to see Iraq as the most important battlefield of a worldwide war against terror that the USA launched to respond to the attacks of 9/11. They continue to believe democracy can be imposed on the divided Iraqi people by America. They say again that we must stay on to finish the job, in order to justify the sacrifice of the Americans who have died in Iraq.

Those who are rising to speak against the surge are saying enough is enough. The war in Iraq was a mistake to begin with, based on bogus intelligence reports. The mission has shifted from one thing to another the whole time the American armed forces have been there. Today, staying the course in Iraq is just piling more mistakes on those already made. They doubt democracy can be imposed on anybody, anywhere, by outside forces. They say we must stop pouring American lives and treasure into what is clearly a folly that is getting worse.

But my summaries are mine. Another writer would write it differently. This is a time to hear for yourself what is being said. Tune into C-SPAN and listen/watch to this lesson in civics. And, while you do, be thankful that we live in a country where this debate is taking place in the sunlight.

Sulkosphere’s Top Five Virginia Targets

With Valentine’s Day on the horizon no doubt a good many folks’ thoughts are turning warm and fuzzy. Others will ignore the day, seeing it mostly as a promotion to goose the sales of greeting cards and candy. The best thing I can say about February 14 is that pitchers and catchers will begin reporting to Major League Baseball spring training camps the next day.

Still, others -- namely, the half-vast rightwing sulkosphere -- will gather their resentments, jealousies and prejudices to hunker down to ride out the winter storm that’s moving into Virginia. So, forced to stay indoors during the bad weather and still festering over the 2006 election results, the sulkosphere will have extra time to attack its favorite liberal politicians, RINOs, and other pet targets.

As I’m a list-maker by habit, top fives of this and that occur to me all the time, this presents a new challenge. I wonder who would be on the blogging sulkosphere’s selected list of five Virginia targets to sling mud at on Valentine’s Day. With that said here is my prediction for tomorrow’s carnival of carping:

The Sulkosphere’s Top Five Virginia Targets

1. Jim Webb -- Virginia’s Democratic U.S. senator
2. Tim Kaine -- Virginia’s Democratic governor
3. John Warner -- Virginia’s Republican U.S. senator
4. Waldo Jaquith -- Charlottesville area blogger
5. John Chichester -- Republican state senator from 28th District

Readers are encouraged to make up their own list of five, or to suggest a particular name I should have listed.

Update: In case anyone is wonding how a blogger makes it onto such a list with elected officials, here’s part of a bizarre comment under a post on a blog that exists only to promote itself by bashing Jaquith; it was left there by a card-carrying member of perhaps the most unhinged chapter of the aforementioned sulkosphere:

“...The same type thing happens with Google. They move all the negative links to the top for Republicans; positives are at the top of the links for Dems.”

So, now it appears that in some mind(s) an existing conspiracy between Jaquith and Google is hurting Republicans.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Virginia Top Five

Virginia Tech’s crushing of Virginia in Blacksburg on Saturday afternoon juggled the Top Five for the week. Surging ODU’s victory in Norfolk over VCU didn’t, but it certainly sent a message to the CAA that the Monarchs are a serious contender to win the tournament, Mar. 2-5, at the Richmond Coliseum.

The all-state team this season won’t be easy to pick, because there are so many good guards in the commonwealth and really no outstanding big men. That chore will come later. Anyway, here’s this week’s list of the five best men’s Division I basketball teams in Virginia:

The Virginia Top Five

No. 1: Va. Tech (17-7, 7-3 in ACC)
No. 2: UVa. (16-7, 8-3 in ACC)
No. 3: VCU (21-5, 13-2 in CAA)
No. 4: ODU (19-7, 12-3 in CAA)
No. 5: GMU (13-12, 7-8 in CAA)

For a frequently updated look at the RPI go to Realtime

Biograph Theatre's 35th

There was a time when the 11th of February meant a party was probably brewing, maybe a few surprises, too, at 814 West Grace Street, in Richmond's Fan District. That was before the Biograph Theatre closed a little over 19 years ago. Well, today happens to be the 35th anniversary of the opening of the Biograph in 1972. With that thought in mind, here's an excerpt of "Thanks, Aimee," written by yours truly for (in 2000):

"...For me, the gig lasted nearly 12 years, including five years of Rocky Horror midnight shows. Four years after my departure, seven years after the arrival of cable TV in Richmond, the Biograph's screen went dark in December '87. Times had changed and the theater could no longer pay its way. But in that little independent cinema's heyday, Feb. 11 meant something to those familiar with the nightlife in the VCU area. The Biograph's second anniversary was the party that established the occasion of the theater's birthday as a date to mark on the calendar. That was the year of The Devil Prank."

A few Biograph Theatre anniversaries have been celebrated since it closed. In 1992, for the 20th, I booked two acts, lined up a room -- Twisters (it was the Back Door in the 1970s, more recently it was Nanci Raygun) -- promoted the event and even made up some T-shirts. We had the Useless Playboys as the headliner; Rebby Sharp did an opening set. The late Carole Kass, the best friend in the working press the Biograph ever had, was there. The reunion aspect of it was like most good reunion parties.

For the 30th anniversary, in 2002, working with the Richmond Moving Image Coop, we showed several films and presented three bands at Poe's Pub. That open-to-the-public party -- featuring Page Wilson with Reckless Abandon; Burnt Taters (now The Taters); Used Carlotta -- packed the house and raised a little money for RMIC. Wilson did a version of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land" that was powerful.

Colleen Curran at wrote a piece about the occasion.

For yet more Biograph-related nostalgia click here to visit the Biograph Archives.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

VCU 63, Mason 49

Except for the first three minutes, in which VCU exploded for 13 points, it was hardly the prettiest game the Rams have played this season. But for years George Mason has been specializing in making basketball games physical and ugly, then winning a lot of those ugly games. So, the sellout crowd (7,585) at the Siegel Center, plus the ESPNU audience that watched this CAA tilt, watched VCU grind out a win: VCU 63, Mason 49.

Wil Fameni’s double double -- 10 points and 11 rebounds -- provided a nice compliment to B.A. Walker’s 17 points, in pacing the Rams offense. The Patriots were led by Will Thomas who scored 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.

Now the talk about postseason play for the Rams will increase. VCU (21-4, 13-1 in CAA) has a RPI in the mid-40s, which is borderline for getting an at-large invitation. Last season, the CAA did send two teams to the NCAA tournament -- the Patriots used their at-large bid to make a run to the Final Four -- but the league was rated higher then than it is this year.Thus, winning the CAA tournament here in Richmond, Mar. 2-5, remains the only sure way for the Rams to go dancing, NCAA style.

Elsewhere in CAA action Drexel (18-6, 10-4 in CAA) defeated Hofstra (18-7, 11-3 in CAA) in overtime (95 to 87), to give VCU a two-game lead on the conference field. VCU plays next at ODU (18-7, 11-3 in CAA) on Saturday at noon. That game, which is already sold out, will be televised regionally on CN8.

Update: Wil Fameni’s emphatic block of Folarin Campbell’s attempted layup at the 3:44 mark of the first half was featured on ESPN’s Plays of the Day segment as No. 7.

The Who: future of Rock is live performance

Robert Woodward writes (for Reuters): “The Who sees live music as the future of rock.”

“‘[The Internet] is probably the most powerful informational, promotional tool today. It's a very effective, focused machine for promotion. I look forward to using it for live events, there's a big scope for live music and live events.’

“But Townshend said live music is what it is all about today, with the British rock band that dates back to the 1960s embarking on a 29-date tour starting on May 16 in Lisbon. ‘Festivals are really important, I'm not really into the Internet,’ Daltrey, 62, told a news conference which was live webcast on

“The Who’s role in rock history, assured by songs such as ‘My Generation,’ made them into one of the great live bands during the 1960s and 1970s before the death of drummer Keith Moon. Bassist John Entwistle died five years ago...”

Townshend is onto something. It seems the more accessible canned music becomes, the more special live performances become. On top of that some of the best bands I’ve ever seen/heard live were not so good at being recording artists. One of the great saloon Rock ‘n’ Roll acts of all-time, NRBQ, comes to mind.

As for seeing ‘em live, I count The Who’s summer of 1968 show at the Mosque, here in the Fan District, as one of my top five best live shows ever. The Trogs opened for them. That was way back in the time when The Who used to break up their instruments and the sound equipment at the end of the show.

WDCE to air Bryan Harvey retrospective

The Dads frontman Bryan Harvey in 1982
Photo by Cindy Hicks (all rights reserved)
Today’s Weekend section of the Richmond Times-Dispatch has the following article on Page 3:

“To honor the memory of Bryan Harvey and his family, WDCE (90.1 FM), the University of Richmond radio station, will offer a Harvey musical retrospective tomorrow [Friday]. From 9 p.m. to midnight, Harvey’s music from the early days of Skateland to the nationally known House of Freaks to The Dads to his last musical collaboration in NRG Krysis will be played.

Listeners will be encouraged to make a donation to the Harvey Family Memorial Endowment to help provide enrichment for children and families through the arts. Harvey, his wife, Kathryn, and their daughters, Ruby and Stella, were murdered in their South Side home on New Year’s Day 2006.

“This is the second year that WDCE is paying tribute to Harvey's musical contributions. The special will also be streamed on the station’s Web site.”

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Aggrandizing aggregation aggravations

At Capitol Talk -- a blog new to me -- there’s a post by Terry Carter about the never-ending effort by some to promote themselves by attacking a blogger whose top shelf status in the Virginia blogosphere makes them green with envy. Here is an excerpt of it:

“...Let’s get a few things straight here, first of all, the blog aggregator is OWNED by Waldo, it is maintained by Waldo, and it is a great service he provides to bloggers within the state of Virginia. The aggregator accepts blogs from BOTH sides of the political aisle, and is USED by both sides of the aisle. I’m sick and tired of visiting the aggregation site, and seeing post like this show up on what seems like a daily basis. If the juvenile right wing bloggers of Virginia have such a problem with everything Waldo does, obviously stemming from his decision to remove a conservative blog from his aggregator, they need to remove themselves from the VA Political Blogs aggregation system. PUT UP OR SHUT THE HELL UP!”

While I can sympathize with Carter’s frustration/irritation with the campaign that’s been underway for the last six weeks by a handful of bloggers obsessed with harassing Waldo Jaquith, I disagree with what seems to be Carter’s solution.

That’s because I’m glad Jaquith’s aggregator accepts/displays posts from both sides of the aisle. While I don’t miss the nose-out-of-joint Waldo-harassers from the so-called “Castle” blogging team -- who left his aggregator in a huff over a bogus freedom of speech angle -- it would be a shame if all the conservatives pulled out.

But that appears to be what the Castle bloggers would like to engineer. They left and they want to dupe others into following them. Having little constructive or persuasive to say about politics, they spend their time talking amongst themselves and patting one another on the back.

Yet, with good reason thinking Republican bloggers have distanced themselves from the Castle Kooks. So, the sulking Kooks attack Republicans, too, if they can’t pass the first-of-all-you-must-hate-Waldo purity test. It matters not how much any of them might agree with Republican-to-bone Shaun Kenney on real political concerns, so long as he won’t jump aboard their imaginary bandwagon.

But the discussion of real political concerns at Waldo’s eclectic aggregator goes on. And, the Kooks have a bully platform at Blognet News. Actually, I’d say they are featured at that aggregator, for whatever reasons. If it weren’t for Blognet News magnifying their reach I’d say they would have few, if any, readers outside of their own thin ranks for their steady flow of bile.

Still, in the long run, such loutish tactics -- which mimic the bloody fetus placard-waving, right-to-life abortion clinic harassers most of us have seen and cringed at -- probably say all most grownups need to know about the Castle Kooks to get their drift.

Here at SLANTblog I’m happy Virginia’s blogosphere has two aggregators that draw from both sides of the aisle. Because I enjoy honest lively debate, I hope we’ll see a third such aggregator and a fourth. That, rather than all the Democrats off to themselves, and all the Republicans the same.

If that does happen the Virginia blogosphere would then be as bad as Congress.

Update (9:50 p.m., same day):

For an overview of the most recent brouhaha in a series of ‘hahas in the saga of the Castle bloggers’ pathetic cry for help, click here for “As The Virginia Blogosphere Turns,” a revealing post by The Krehbiel Strikes Back.

Talking in the Trash

In politics, words always mean more than what’s on the surface. Just how words are said, or when they are said, can do much to shade their meanings.

That said, what’s up with the provocative words of Hanover County’s Del. Frank Hargrove?

After former Sen. George Allen’s infamous “macaca” meltdown and the much-publicized anti-Muslim stance of Rep. Virgil Goode (depicted left), what was behind fellow Republican Hargrove’s suggested alternative to the proposal to apologize for Virginia’s official part in maintaining the slavery system in pre-Civil War times?

Of slavery, Hargrove said Virginia’s “black citizens should get over it.” To present this wizened advice for the ears of his fellow legislators, the delegate chose a time that suited his purpose -- Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Then, to bolster his opinion that an apology for slavery coming 142 years after the Civil War ended is pointless -- and to reveal his equal-opportunity-offender side -- 80-year-old Hargrove asked, “Are we going to force the Jews to apologize for killing Christ?”

Well, the simplest explanation is that Mr. Hargrove doesn’t get it and doesn’t want to get it. He can’t fathom how much has changed in his lifetime.

Hargrove is a relic from the days of Massive Resistance, when it was fashionable for many of Virginia’s establishment politicians to speak in a code, with a wink and a nudge. To facilitate their public stoking of prejudices such politicians needed only a patina of syntax. They spoke as they pleased, confident that anyone offended by such words had no clout to do anything about it.

Sadly, the press in that era largely let them get away with it.

Forty, fifty years ago, when one of those segregationist cats said to an all-white political gathering, “those nig-rahs” -- when referring disdainfully to black Virginians asking for full citizenship -- the people in the audience with the ears to hear it, they knew what the speaker meant.

In that time comedian Lenny Bruce used to do a bit in his nightclub act on that same twisted pronunciation of the word “Negroes,” which was then in popular use by certain Southern politicians, among others.

Today President George Bush comically mangles the pronunciation of the word “nuclear,” by saying something like, “noo-kew-ler.”

Is that a strange Connecticut/Texas dialect? Or, is it what linguist Geoffrey Numberg calls a “thinko,” as opposed to a “typo.”

In his book “Going Nucular,” Nunberg points out that in the 1950s some political hawks and weapons specialists deliberately mispronounced the word “nuclear,” in that same way, to make the word their own -- to give it more punch. Cartoon everyman Homer Simpson still says “nookewler,” too.

Accordingly, it says here that Hargrove was trying to be funny. Moreover, he’s so far past having any ambition beyond just waking up each morning, to amuse himself he’s perfectly willing to stick his thumb in the eye of any opponent ... and the horse he rode in on.

Thus, Mr. Hargrove will doubtless ride through the season’s media attention, blithely unconcerned that he’s made it yet more difficult for his struggling political party, the Grand Old Party, to seem modern in Virginia on issues to do with race, class and culture.

Enough has been said about Allen’s ethnicity gaffes during his senatorial campaign, so I’ll move on to U.S. Rep. Virgil Goode, who is a politician very much on the make.

In December, Goode’s calculated choice to go very public with his anti-Muslim/tough-on-immigrants stance represented more than Hargrove’s warmed-over sarcasm, served up from the vault. Goode is obviously confident there’s still plenty of support for his throwback, xenophobic statements in his largely rural congressional district. He doesn’t get it either, but for different reasons than Hargrove.

Goode’s reading of the results of the 2006 election is shallow. He can’t see that like Americans in many other states lots of Virginians are sick and tired of being force-marched backward, culturally, by the neoconservative Bush administration. Furthermore, the words of any Republican that dwell on limiting abortion rights, bashing same-sex relationships and seeking to establish creationism as having equal standing to science are painting the GOP into a dark corner of the political landscape.

Word-wise, Hargrove is a crusty old wiseacre.

Allen probably overstayed his welcome. But it took his sloppy and ill-advised use of words to assure his downfall. Now Allen is history as an elected politician.

Originally elected to his office as a Democrat, Goode, ever the opportunist, wants to inherit what was Allen’s cache of statewide conservative support. Yet, Goode is foolishly underestimating how rough modern communications -- chiefly the Internet -- are going to be on his good-ol’-boy, trash-talking ilk.

Eventually, Mr. Goode should get wised up. Give it another year. By then he may begin to catch a whiff of reality.

The way things are going, in 2008 there aren’t going to be many Republicans with any real future in public office, who will be willing to stand with Goode and Hargrove, knee-deep in the Strom Thurmond wing of the dumpster of history.

-- 30 --

Art by F.T. Rea

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Braves 1957 Series MVP Lew Burdette dies

Lew Burdette, who attended the University of Richmond and was later the Most Valuable Player of the 1957 World Series -- winning three games as a starting pitcher for the Milwaukee Braves -- died today at the age of 80.

AP reports
: “Burdette started his career with the Yankees and was traded to the Boston Braves for Johnny Sain during the 1951 season. He also spent time with the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies and California. The righty led the NL with 21 wins in 1959, ERA (2.70) in 1956 and twice led the league in shutouts. He pitched a no-hitter against the Phillies on Aug. 18, 1960, and was the winning pitcher in a famous game in which Harvey Haddix lost a perfect game in the 13th inning -- Burdette went all 13 innings for the victory.”

“I make my living off the hungriness of the hitter.”
-- Lew Burdette

More on Monk

Here is an excerpt of my sports column, The Bounce, for this week at

“...Since [Art] Monk has been on the list of 15 finalists every year since 2001, what’s his problem? What is it that has made the 39 voters on the panel of mostly sportswriters say ‘yes’ to four more wide receivers -- Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, James Lofton and Michael Irving -- but ‘no’ to Monk each time?

“Monk was a blue collar, possession receiver and a great blocker, rather than a flashy game-breaker. He caught a lot of footballs in traffic on third down to keep drives alive. He consistently played the game in a way that his teammates and his opponents, alike, respected. By his nature, Monk was as dutiful and stoic as Michael Irving was squirrelly and loquacious.”

Click here to read The Bounce.

Monday, February 05, 2007

VA Top Five

Virginia Tech dropped both of its games to fall off the top shelf of the Atlantic Coast Conference. Virginia Commonwealth won twice at home but lost its first Colonial Athletic Association game of the season, playing at Hofstra. That, while Virginia won twice and moved into a tie for first place in the ACC. Below is a preview of the Top Five that will be included in tomorrow’s sports column, The Bounce, at

The Virginia Top Five

No. 1: UVa. (15-6, 7-2 in ACC)
No. 2: VCU (20-4, 12-1 in CAA)
No. 3: Va. Tech (16-7, 6-3 in ACC)
No. 4: ODU (17-7, 10-3 in CAA)
No. 5: GMU (13-10, 7-6 in CAA)

Note: Here’s a scheduling update from the VCU sports information office: VCU is hosting Bradley (16-7, 7-6 in Missouri Valley Conference) for its BracketBusters game at the Siegel Center on Sat., Feb. 17, at 8 p.m. ESPN2 will broadcast the game nationally. This made-for-TV match-up is one of three home games remaining in the regular season for the Rams.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

NFL Hall remains Monkless

Today the National Football League announced its 2007 class to be inducted into its Hall of Fame on August 5 -- Gene Hickerson, Michael Irvin, Bruce Matthews, Charlie Sanders, Thurman Thomas, Roger Wehrli. Once again, the list does not include the name of Art Monk.
Monk, No. 81, working in traffic. Of course he got hit. And, of course he caught the ball.
Monk, a wide receiver drafted out of Syracuse in the first round in 1980 by the Washington Redskins, eventually finished his career in 1995 atop the NFL’s list for most receptions. He still ranks as No. 6 in that category. During his years with the Redskins he played on three Super Bowl-winning squads under Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs.

Of Monk’s game, Gibbs said, “He was big, he was strong, and he was intelligent. He had everything. I can’t see how a receiver could be more valuable to a team.”

Here’s a glance at Art Monk’s career as a pass receiver in statistics:

Regular season, 1980-95
Receptions: 940
Yards: 12,721
Touchdowns: 68

Postseason, 15 games
Receptions: 69
Yards: 1,062
Touchdowns: 7

So what’s Monk’s problem?

He was a possession receiver and a great blocker, rather than a game-breaker. Monk simply played football in every game in a way that his teammates and his opponents, alike, respected. He was a quiet, dutiful player who didn’t promote himself. He was as stoic as Deion Sanders was loquacious. Perhaps most important, he didn’t jump through hoops for sportswriters.

For whatever reason, every year Monk is put on the HOF’s list of finalists, then he’s left off the list of inductees.

Last year, of Monk’s exclusion of Hall of Fame defensive back Ronnie Lott said, “Art Monk was an example for Jerry Rice. That’s what Jerry always told me. There's nothing negative to say. He has the numbers, the catches, the championships. You have a Hall of Fame for all it represents. I know he represents all that it’s about: Integrity, love and passion for the game, community, what he gave back. Look how he conducted himself. Nobody I know deserves it more.”
Photo: Ernie Brooks

Friday, February 02, 2007

History vs. heritage, with malice toward none

The Lee Monument, sculpted by Jean Antoine Mercie, was unveiled on May 29, 1890.
Having grown up in Richmond, I have been steeped in its dual sense of bitterness and pride over matters to do with, and stemming from, the Civil War. In 2007 it remains in the air we breathe at the fall line of the James River. I’ve lived most of my life in the Fan District, which is home to four statues honoring heroes of the Confederacy. There are more of them elsewhere in town.

To know what it was like in Virginia in the past we turn to history. It comes to us in many ways -- stories told, popular culture and schooling among them. In 1961, my seventh grade history book, which was the official history of Virginia for use in public schools -- as decreed by the General Assembly -- had this to say about slavery at the end of its Chapter 29:

“...Life among the Negroes of Virginia in slavery times was generally happy. The Negroes went about in a cheerful manner making a living for themselves and for those whom they worked. They were not so unhappy as some Northerners thought they were, nor were they so happy as some Southerners claimed. The Negroes had their problems and their troubles. But they were not worried by the furious arguments going on between Northerners and Southerners over what should be done with them. In fact, they paid little attention to those arguments.”

In 1961 I had no reason to question that paragraph’s veracity. Baseball was my No. 1 concern in those days. Now those words read differently.

Yet to know enough to see that difference, I’ve had to keep my mind open to other accounts of how it was in Virginia in the time of slavery. Living through the Civil Rights Era, with its bombings, assassinations, marches, sit-ins, boycotts and school-closings, did much to show me a new light. However, for me, there was no moment of epiphany, no sudden awareness I was growing up in a part of the world that officially denied many aspects of its past.

The process was gradual. More than anything else, it was life experience that taught me to look more deeply into things. Now I know that dusty old history book was an important part of what facilitated Jim Crow. Now I know better than what I was taught as a child.

Nonetheless, that same history text book’s view of how it was for those enslaved is one that some Virginians still want to believe. It’s probably what they were taught as children, too. Many of this persuasion also cling to the bogus factoid that since most Southerners didn’t hold slaves, the Civil War itself was not fought over slavery.

Which is preposterous.

Of course poor Southerners, those who weren’t plantation owners, had little to do with starting the Civil War. Generally speaking, poor people with no clout don’t start wars; rich people with plenty of power do.

So, for the most part, the men who fought in gray uniforms were doing what they saw as their duty. As with most wars, most of the men who died for either side between 1861 and 1865 were just ordinary Joes who had no say-so over declaring war or negotiating peace.

If the reader really wants to know why Virginia eventually left the Union, to follow the secessionist hotheads of South Carolina and Mississippi into war, here’s a clue from Chapter 30 of that same history book, which opened with this:

“In 1790 there were more than 290,000 slaves in Virginia. This number was larger than that of any other state...”

Those 290,000 slaves were worth a lot of money to their owners. The largest part of the real blame for the bloodshed of the war, and the subsequent indignities of the Reconstruction Era, rests with those wealthy slaveholders who would not give up their cheap labor without a fight.

Readers interested in how much the official record of the Civil War has changed over the decades since the Civil Rights Era, should pay a visit to the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond. Unlike it was at one time, its telling of the story of the Civil War is based on the unvarnished truth. Its scholarly CEO, Charles F. Bryan, Jr., would have it no other way.

Moreover, I am proud to be a Virginian. My ancestors go back to the 1600s in this commonwealth. But I will not stand with anyone, Virginian, or whatever, who says they want stay the course with the absurd denials of history that were crammed into that old public school text book.

Sometimes it seems a few of my friends in Richmond haven’t had a fresh thought on matters racial since they were seventh-graders. At the same time, I don’t want to pick a fight with them, so mostly we talk about other things -- baseball still works. Still, those cats know if they try to run that “it’s my Southern Heritage” baloney past me it just won’t work.

All that said, Robert E. Lee, whose spectacular monument I see every day, remains a man I admire. The dual sense of tragedy and dignity his statue conveys is striking. In his time and place, Lee did what he saw as his duty. I respect that. After the war he urged his fellow Virginians to let it go -- to move on.

That was good advice in 1865. It still is.
Photo by SLANT

Truth should never be your enemy

Raising Kaine’s Lowell Feld linked a story on his site to a previous post of mine here at SLANTblog -- "Top Five Loony Losers for the GOP". Feld began with this:

“I really like this, courtesy of SLANTBLOG”

Feld then offered a portion of the text. Subsequently, he received criticism for part of what he copied -- the sixth position, the one to do with slavery. So, Feld promptly removed it, leaving the five apparently less controversial points still displayed. Click here to see the post at Raising Kaine.

Then, in the comments section of the same previous post at SLANTblog, the same blogger who worked Feld so effectively at Raising Kaine, “Dannyboy,” left this comment for me:

“I disagree, and will continue to disagree, with your last one.”

My response to Dannyboy was this:

“Without slavery there would not have been an American Civil War, as it happened. There would surely have been rough patches over states rights. There would have been plenty of trouble over any number of issues. But not the war that was. Yet, when I hear Robert E. Lee called a traitor, I bristle. To me he was a tragic hero, as were so many Virginians. When their home state was invaded, they stood with their state, instead of the USA. That was a dilemma. Calling those who chose to serve their state “traitors” is shallow. Nonetheless, that war was over money and power, like all wars are. In 1861 in Virginia, the money and power chose to defend slavery. The soldiers, like all good soldiers, did what they saw as their duty.”

There is the background. Now, I want to direct my comments from here on to Feld and all the other supposedly “progressive” Democrats that I frequently agree with over at Raising Kaine:

Please know that I am as Virginian as it gets. Still, when somebody says I’m trampling on his “Southern heritage,” when I merely refer to established history, as historians know it to be -- check out the Virginia Historical Society, nowadays -- I know I’m being bullied.

Look here, I can disagree with Dannyboy over the Civil War and still be happy to stand with him on other matters. As it is with many of my friends, I can dwell on what we agree about. But I won’t pretend Dannyboy’s old style, Lost Cause take on the Civil War is legit.

The truth is that same sort of denial perpetuated Jim Crow 50 years ago; it stands in the way of progress today. Catering to those in our midst who deny history is not the way to build a modern Democratic Party, a party that will actually last from one election cycle to the next.

Truth should never be your enemy.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

All blogs are local?

Here’s some Internet-related news for Richmonders and those interested in Richmond, Virginia. Three new locally-based web sites have recently been launched that may be of some interest to you. The first is the online presence of a weekly magazine, the second is a blog about the history of a movie theater, the third an online newsletter for a neighborhood.

Click on their links to see for yourself what they are about:

West of the Boulevard News

Top Five Loony Losers for the GOP

To a great extent, Republicans rode into control of Congress in 1994 and then the White House in 2000, on the backs of cultural issues.

By uniting many of America’s social conservatives with corporate conservatives and hawks, Republicans absolutely ruled DeeCee from the election in 2000 until the election of 2006. Now it seems the voters are wising up. Costly failures of the neoconservative Bush administration, both at home and abroad, are no longer being ignored by a majority of Americans.

Furthermore, from what I can see many Republicans, at least in Virginia, have taken a rather strange message from their November trouncing. They seem to think they lost because they weren’t conservative/backward enough. While dismissing the utter incompetence of the Bush neoconservatives from New Orleans to Baghdad, they sound the call for the GOP to turn hard right and step on the gas.

Don’t laugh, words to that effect are being chanted by the faithful as you read this.

OK, go ahead and laugh, but this is not only funny -- it’s also a good thing. If Republicans want to lose control of Virginia’s legislature by continuing to see stubbornness as strength -- as does President Bush -- that’s just fine. If they want to go down with the sinking ship by clinging to unsupportable positions that are weighing them down, I have to say it’s a fate they richly deserve.

Accordingly, here are the five most contorted positions, plus a special Virginia bonus, that are rapidly turning red states to blue. (If I’ve left one out, readers are encouraged to add to the list.) Drum-roll, please ...

SLANTblog’s Top Five Loony Losers for the GOP
  • In public schools Bible verses regarding the origin of Earth and its inhabitants should have equal footing with scientific evidence. “Creationism” should be taught in the same way as science.
  • Global warming is a myth created by leftwing scientists and tree-hugging crackpots who hate capitalism.
  • Pointing out the indisputable fact that in America the rich are getting much richer at everyone else’s expense, or questioning the wisdom of tax cuts for the wealthy, is engaging in “class warfare.”
  • Validating same-sex relationships undermines the institution of marriage, because it encourages homosexuality, which is a decadent lifestyle choice.
  • With regard to how Congress should pay it bills, “borrow and spend” is more fiscally prudent than “tax and spend.”
Note: Then as a special bonus position, there’s this one -- a dishonorable mention? -- which strikes much closer to home:
  • The Civil War wasn’t fought over slavery, because most Southerners didn’t own slaves.