Saturday, March 31, 2007

Looking back on Satchel Paige

With another baseball season upon us, I can't help but think of what was a temple of baseball in my youth -- Parker Field, which was located where The Diamond is now. This time of year usually brings to mind some of the players I saw there.

One of my all-time favorites was Leroy “Satchel” Paige (1906-82). Yep, I actually saw the legendary Paige perform here in Richmond, with his windmill windup, high kick and remarkably smooth release.

In 1971, Paige (pictured right, circa 1949) was the first of the Negro Leagues’ stars to be admitted to Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame, based mostly on his contributions before he helped break the Major League color line in 1948, as a 42-year-old rookie. The statistics from his pre-Big League days are mind-boggling. Some say he won about 2,000 games and threw maybe 45 no-hitters.

Furthermore, long before the impish poet/boxer Muhammad Ali, there was the equally playful Satchel Paige, with his widely reported Six Guidelines to Success:
  • Avoid fried meats that angry up the blood.
  • If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts.
  • Keep the juices flowing by jangling gently as you walk.
  • Go very lightly on the vices, such as carrying-on in society - the society ramble ain't restful.
  • Avoid running at all times.
  • Don't look back, something may be gaining on you.
Long after his days as the best pitcher in the Negro Leagues, throwing for the Kansas City Monarchs, following his years in the American League, Paige was on the roster of the Miami Marlins (1956-58). The Marlins played in the International League, as did the Richmond Virginians, who were called the V’s for short. When I saw him, Paige was probably in his early-50s. Not a starter, anymore, he worked out of the bullpen.

Watching professional baseball in Richmond was mostly a white scene in the late-1950s. The boos would start as soon as the Parker Field crowd noticed Paige’s 6-3, 180-pound frame warming up in the middle of a game. When he’d be called in to pitch in relief, the noise level would soar. Not all the men booed, but many did. That, while their children and grandchildren were split between booing, cheering or not knowing what to do.

Naturally, some of the kids liked to seeing the old goats get pissed off, so Paige was cool to them.

Yet, for many white adults in Richmond, then caught up by the thinking that buoyed Massive Resistance, any prominent black person was seen as someone to be against. So, they probably would have booed Nat King Cole or Duke Ellington, too.

Paige would take forever to walk to the mound from the bullpen. His warm-up pitches would be a big production, with various slow-motion full windups. Then the thrown ball whistled toward home plate with blinding speed, and lots of the kids cheered and laughed.

At the time I hadn’t the slightest idea that what I was seeing was an aspect of the changes the South was going through, to do with race, with the reaction to Paige being split on generational lines. Paige, of course, knew very well he was in the South. Being from Mobile, Alabama, he knew what was going on. He was a consummate performer, who knew there wasn’t much he could do to change the boos; they were coming from folks trapped in the past.

So, Paige good-naturedly played to the cheers, and ignoring the boos, just as he always had.

Now I understand that Satchel Paige was seeing the future, because he followed his own advice -- Don't look back.

-- 30 --

Image from

Friday, March 30, 2007

Biograph Times

by F. T. Rea
What was once proudly billed as Richmond’s Repertory Cinema opened in 1972 with a flourish. It closed some 15 years later without ceremony. What follows is an overview of its story, seen mostly through a prism of affection and edited by the merciful memory loss of its original manager.

It’s also a writer’s memoir about his salad days, 1972 through the mid-1980s in Richmond’s Fan District. That was an era in which your narrator had himself a fine perch on which to view the popular culture that flowed through the neighborhood in which a new urban university, Virginia Commonwealth University, found itself.

As much as any entity in its time, the Biograph Theatre provided a place for the music, art and politics of that age to collide and connect.

Part One: Short Subjects

Rebus the Spokesdog

Rebus was the Biograph’s official spokesdog. Drawn by yours truly he made his initial appearance on a midnight show handbill in our first year of operation (1972). He later appeared in comic strips published by VCU's student newspaper, The Commonwealth Times, which morphed into an all-comics tabloid called “Fan Free Funnies” for three issues in the spring of 1973.

In the 1970s a circle of young Fan District artists was drawing cartoons, making short animated films and even creating large cartoon-style paintings. Inspired by “underground comix,” there was a scene, of sorts. Phil Trumbo was the most celebrated artist/filmmaker of that scene at the time.

An interesting artifact of this time, which was produced by Trumbo and his partner Steve Segal, was "Futuropolis" (1984), a pixilated mini-feature that had three Biograph employees appearing in roles -- Cathy Schultz, Tom Campagnoli and Cassandra Cossitt.

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. He continued to pop up on Biograph handbills and programs all during my tenure as the Biograph Theatre’s manager. He also was happy to help out with other projects, such as my 1980s Rock ‘n’ Roll promotions with former Biograph assistant manager Chuck Wrenn; we called our partnership Lit Fuse Productions.

Rebus made a comeback in a series of ‘toons 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.

* *

Cat People

In its day RKO was known for its ability to produce well-crafted, sometimes artsy or offbeat features using a smaller budget than the other so-called major studios. Nonetheless, it was almost always in trouble, financially. Founded in 1929, RKO stopped making movies in 1953 and eventually sold its lot and production facilities to television’s Desilu Productions.Twenty-five summers ago I booked a festival of 24 titles to play at the Biograph, all from RKO, which still operated then as a distributor of its original library.

The 12 double features in this festival were: “Top Hat” (1935) and “Damsel in Distress” (1936); “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1939) and “The Informer” (1935); “King Kong” (1933) and “Mighty Joe Young” (1949); “Suspicion” (1941) and “The Live By Night” (1948); “Sylvia Scarlett” (1936) and “Mister Blandings Builds His Dream House” (1948); “Murder My Sweet” (1945) and “Macao” (1952); “The Mexican Spitfire” (1939) and “Room Service” (1938); “Journey Into Fear” (1942) and “This Land Is Mine” (1943); “The Thing” (1951) and “Cat People” (1942); “The Boy With Green Hair” (1948) and “Woman on the Beach” (1947); “Citizen Kane” (1941) and “Fort Apache” (1948); “The Curse of the Cat People” (1944) and “The Body Snatcher” (1945).

One feature, “Cat People” -- which was later remade as a vehicle to present a young Nastassja Kinski’s lithe form in all its glory -- was a low-budget black-and-white thriller. Unlike the remake, the original was a lean and subtle production that left much to the viewer’s imagination. Still, any film of that genre can be disturbing to a sensitive viewer.

For some reason “Cat People” got under one such viewer’s skin. He was a solitary man who walked around the VCU neighborhood during the day. He stayed in some sort of subsidized group home at night. Night or day, he was always medicated to the hilt. At the theater we used to let him in free. Then, of course, he would complain about everything. We laughed about him, and imitated him, when he wasn’t there. But we treated him with respect when he was, always at matinees.

Anyway, the movie scared him. “Are there really any cat people?” he would ask, in his distinctive, almost cartoon way of speaking.

“No,” he would be assured. Then a few minutes later he would ask again, his hands would flex and twitch, his eyes would wander. Same answer. Then he’d take his free popcorn and go into the dark auditorium to watch the movie for a while.

Well, I saw him recently. He’s totally gray now, he must be at least in his mid-60s. He still walks around the neighborhood, with his strange gait. There are no movie theaters in the Fan District now. When I created the image above -- of a cat named Zeke in a coat and tie -- for a calendar in 1996, I thought of that same man, and smiled. I bet he still remembers that movie.

Yes, sometimes, there are cat people. But they aren’t all mean. Some of them just look at you, like they know something you don’t know.

* *

Discovering the Fan

On April 14, 1973 the weather was absolutely spectacular. For that Saturday afternoon the 800 and 900 blocks of West Grace Street, and environs, were packed with foot traffic, like never before.

Hundreds of free helium balloons were being handed out. Hundreds of free prize coupons, tucked into plastic Easter eggs, had been hidden and were being discovered. Live music was in the air. There was a fashion show on a stage in a parking lot. Most of the merchants were featuring attractive specials and/or discounts. The event had a busy carnival atmosphere that was in no way threatening.

Nobody could remember when anything quite like it had been done before in that neighborhood of the Fan District. On that day an ad hoc group of 21 merchants cooperated for a one-time-only promotion that went over quite well -- “Discover the Fan.” Below is a piece about this event, written by the late Shelley Rolfe:

Shelley Rolfe’s

By the Way
Richmond Times-Dispatch (April, 16, 1973)

It was breakfast time and the high command for Discover the Fan Day had, with proper regard for the inner man, moved its final planning meeting from the Biograph Theater to Lum’s Restaurant. Breakfast tastes ran a gamut. Eggs with beer. Eggs with orange juice. H-hour -- the operations plan had set it for noon -- was less than three hours away. Neither beer nor orange juice was being gulped nervously.

Terry Rea, manager of the Biograph and the extravaganza’s impresario, was reciting a last-minute, mental things-to-do list. There was the vigilante committee, which would gather up the beer and soft drink cans and bottles that invariably infest the fronts of the shops in the 800 and 900 blocks of W. Grace St., focus area of the discovery.

The city police had promised a dragnet to sweep away the winos who also invariably litter the neighborhood. The day had bloomed crisp and sunny, the first dry Saturday since Groundhog Day. “I knew it wouldn’t rain,” Rea said with the brash confidence of the young. “Lots of young businessmen around here,” a beer drinker at another table said. The free enterprise system lives.

REA WAS assigning duties for the committee that would rope off two Virginia Commonwealth University parking lots that would serve as the setting for a fashion show and band concert. The committee to blow up balloons, with the aid of a cylinder of helium [sic]. One thousand balloons in a shrieking variety of colors. “If we only get 500 kids... two to a customer,” Rea said cheerfully.

“I need more people,” said the balloon task force leader.

Twenty-one businesses were involved in the project. Each of them had contributed prizes, and gift certificates had been put into plastic Easter eggs. An egg hunt would be part of the day, and Rea had a message for the committee that would be tucking the eggs away: “Don’t put them in obvious places, but don’t put them were people can get hurt looking for them.”

“We talked about doing this last summer but we never got it together,” Rea said. There had been fresh talk in late February, early March, and it had become airborne. The 21 businesses had anted up $1,500 for advertising, which was handled by Dave DeWitt, proprietor of a new just-out-of-the-Fan, small, idea-oriented agency.

“Demographically, we were aiming for people between 25 and 34,” Rea said. There had been newspaper advertising and spots on youth-oriented radio stations. “We had a surplus late in the week...” Rea said. The decision was made to have a Saturday morning splurge on radio station WRVA. “Hey,” said a late arrival, “I heard Alden Aaroe talking about it.”

“We wanted people to see what we have here,” Rea said. “People who probably close their windows and lock their doors when they drive on Grace Street and want to get through here a quickly as possible.”

Well, yes, there must be those who look upon the 800 and 90 blocks as symbolic of the counterculture, as territory alien to their visions of West End and suburban existence. Last November the precinct serving the 800 and 900 blocks went for George McGovern, by two votes. Not a landslide, but, perhaps, a trend.

NOON WAS approaching. Rea and DeWitt set out on an inspection tour. Parking lot ropes were being put into place. Rock music blared from exotically named shops. The balloon committee was still short on manpower. An agent trotted out of a shop to report, “They’ve got 200 customers ...”

And how many would they normally have at this hour of a Saturday? “They wouldn’t be open,” Rea said.

Grace Street was becoming clogged with cars It would become more clogged. Don’t know how many drivers got out of their cars, but, for a while they were a captive audience making at least vicarious discovery.

Also much pedestrian and bicycle on the sidewalks. Merchants talked of espying strangers, of all ages. A white-haired woman held a prize egg in one hand, a balloon in the other. A middle-aged man had rakishly attached a balloon to the bill of his cap.

The fashion show went on to the accompaniment of semijazz music and popping balloons, most of them held by children. Fashions were subdued. A dress evocative of the 1940s. Long skirts. Loudest applause went to a man who paraded across the stage wearing a loud red backpack. Everybody’s urge to escape?

ON GRACE STREET a sword swallower and human pin cushion was on exhibition. No names please. “My mother ...” he said. He wished to be identified only as a member of “Bunkie Brothers Medicine Show” ...

To read the rest of the story, click here for "Biograph Times."

Why believe Bush on anything?

“We’re going to fix it,” said President George Bush, referring to the problems at Walter Reed.

Of Patriot Act abuses by the FBI, its director, Robert Mueller, has said, “we will correct the deficiencies.”

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has shrugged off being caught in a lie about the firings of U.S. attorneys. His memory is foggy.

The folks down in New Orleans are still waiting for what was promised to them after Hurricane Katrina.

We’re told the current policy in Iraq -- “the surge” -- isn’t the same thing as “stay the course,” so we should be patient and wait for the new strategy to work, which it will any day now. Meanwhile, the explosions continue, same as it ever was...

Why does anyone take the Bush administration’s word for anything?

It has been ignoring the needs of veterans for six years. It has been spying on Americans, as much as it wants, for as long as it has felt like it. It has defended the use of torture, while saying it does not torture prisoners. It will not withdraw troops from Iraq, no matter what happens over there, because Bush won’t ever say “enough is enough, let’s go home.”

The president is comfortable lying through his teeth and he has surrounded himself with the same. Such dishonest people will never do the right thing, unless they are forced to do so. It’s not about democracy or freedom. It’s all about business.

Continuing to pretend that Bush will change his ways because his approval rating has dipped is a joke. He doesn’t care. He is running out the clock and he plans to keep doing what he has been doing until he leaves office.

Still, a couple of mysteries remain: When, if ever, will the press stop coddling Bush and Cheney? On what day will Bush pardon Scooter Libby?

Last Call at the Border

In 1982 three adventurous friends trusted their instincts and put together the Texas-Wisconsin Border Café, a quirky Fan District watering hole known affectionately as “The Border.”

Owners Jim Bradford (depicted above), Donna Van Winkle and Joe Seipel were rewarded with an immediate following. It evolved into an institution known widely for its wacky interior and its diverse crowd; a place where blue collars, white collars and no collars got along famously.

When word got out in early March of 1999 that the Border was being sold, old customers and ex-staffers began making pilgrimages to the place for one last drink, one last connection to a piece of their youth. Although it had been rumored the Border was for sale for some time, what isn’t these days?

When Bradford -- a tireless photo-realistic painter with a curmudgeon’s sense of humor -- died in the summer of 1997, well, the future of the restaurant became much more complicated. Of the three owners, Jim had surely been the one who spent the most time bellied up to the bar, overseeing operations.

After managing the restaurant in its salad days, Van Winkle had gone to law school, become an attorney, and moved to Fredericksburg. Fifty miles is a tough commute for a late-afternoon beer.

That left Seipel, then-chairman of VCU’s sculpture department, to hold down the Happy Hour fort in the section of the restaurant known as the Power Corner. Although Seipel’s talent for convivial conversation is considerable, he had taken on time-consuming responsibilities over the years; fatherhood not the least of them.

So, it was time to turn the page. On March 14, 1999, the last night of the original ownership’s watch, a bagpiper played “Amazing Grace” to close the Border down. After playing a while for the crowd on hand he marched out the door, bagpipes caterwauling passionately, and it was done.

The scene brought to mind filmmaker Luis Bunuel’s apt comment in his autobiography, “My Last Sigh,” about a good bar being like a chapel. No doubt, most who were there for the piper’s last mournful note took with them a strong sense of that sentiment.

Then new owners decided to honor a date the old owners had made with Burnt Taters (now with a different drummer they are known as The Taters) for a March 26 CD release party. That meant keeping the business open under the old banner for a few more days and putting off the renovations. As it turned out, the delay set the stage for quite a finale.

What followed was an auction event on the actual last night of operation as the Texas-Wisconsin Border Café. At six o’clock Page Wilson and Reckless Abandon gave the makeshift stage in the front of the room over to the selling off of the bar’s wild and eclectic collection of wall decorations and somewhat art-like objects. They pulled down the framed pictures, the stuffed animal heads, the signs, and you name it. What went on was part wake, part fund-raiser, part souvenir-grab and all party.

The bidding at times resembled a feeding frenzy, as people climbed over one another to throw three figures at stuff, some of which wouldn't go for five bucks at a yard sale. The crowd cheered as each bid drove the price higher.

An attractive young woman who had been a regular customer got caught up in the spirit while bidding on a stuffed squirrel’s butt. A roar went up each time she raised the stakes to best her rivals. When she won the bidding battle everyone ordered another round.

The more absurd the prices got the more fun was being had by those who were lucky enough to have been there for what was truly a one-of-a-kind event. Since the money raised from the auction all went to the Bradford Scholarship Fund at VCU, more than $10,000, the harm couldn’t be found.

The Border was a happening unique in an age of conformity. It is much missed by a saloon diaspora, who attend Happy Hour services in various bars, here and there, telling their stories about what was one of the most memorable Fan District bars in a neighborhood that has seen a few good dives.

-- 30 --

Note: The image above, which depicts Jim Bradford seated at the bar, is the fourth of my new Fan City Series of prints. Click on the image, itself, to enlarge it.

It is a reduced scan of Fan City Series No. 4 -- "Big in the Power Corner" -- a 13" x 19" print on archival quailty paper with a matte finish. All of the posters in the Fan City Series are going to be the same size. 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.

Click here to see the other three images (which include “Fan District Cat,” “NRBQ at High on the Hog” and Thirty Good Years”). Each run is limited to 45 prints of the particular image. Each print costs just $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

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Why wait for the truth if you can make it up?

The developing story of Phillip F. Thompson’s arrest in DeeCee for carrying a concealed pistol without a license is one that has received a lot of attention, chiefly because Thompson works for Sen. Jim Webb as an executive assistant. Thompson’s explanation for how he came to possess the weapon and why he would attempt to enter the Senate office building with it in a briefcase has not surfaced.

Not yet.

Jim Webb’s statements, so far, have offered little in the way of an explanation. Yet, as this story is but two days old -- Thompson’s arrest was on Monday -- it doesn’t strike me as at all unusual that prudent legal advice has put a muzzle on both Thompson and Webb, for the time being.

Not forever, but for the time being.

Still, any story that can be stretched and squeezed to touch a celebrity in any way amounts to blood in the water ... so the feeding frenzy is underway, again. Thus, even though they don’t know what caused Thompson to do what he did professional gossip news promulgators are weighing in with their readymade opinions, fanciful speculations and political spins to foul the air and bring on the political bloggers.

Now, without benefit of knowing the real whys behind this developing story, predictably, political bloggers have been hurling accusations, denials and claptrap that’s hard to classify into the blogosphere. They don’t mind pretending they know what’s behind this story, how it will play out, because they are used to pretending to know stuff they don’t really know.

Better than any story I’ve seen in a good while, this one is revealing the worst, most irresponsible aspects of the Virginia political blogosphere. Bloggers who rush to judgment every time do no one any good. But that’s OK with them, like it or lump it, because most of them never really had doing good in mind.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Limbaugh, King and Sabato

Here are three new offerings in the SLANTblog Art Auction. The Rush Limbaugh above and the Larry King below are from the same 1994 Campaign Inkbites series as mentioned in previous posts. The Larry Sabato below is from the Splattergate series of cards I published in 1998 on the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal.Bidding on Limbaugh and King starts at $45.00 for either piece. And, you can buy the original artwork for Sabato’s card for just $36.00 if no one outbids you.
The Art Auction has already presented 11 pieces of original art, all done by your narrator. Click on the images to enlarge any of them. To see the drawing of the Fab Four in ‘94 -- Robb, Wilder, North & Marshall -- which was one frame of a series of cards published that year, click here. To see individual portraits of Vance Wilkins, Jim Webb or George Allen, click here. To see the others click here and here.

Note: All the art being offered in this online experiment is the original work. They are not prints. The material is being offered in this oddball fashion because -- as it is now -- all this stuff is just sitting in boxes, and I don’t have the time or money to frame it to put it in a show in a gallery, months from now, where the prices would be much higher but the gallery would take a healthy cut. For what it is worth, the last thing similar to what is in this auction that sold in an art gallery went for $190, unframed. (It was a caricature of George Bush in a cowboy hat that sold promptly at the opening -- it was a group show -- a couple of years ago.)
  • Bids and serious inquires should be sent via email to Please put "Art Auction" in the subject line so I won't miss it.

Accidental chloral hydrate overdose

The speculation over what the official autopsy would reveal about the cause of death for Anna Nicole Smith ended today, as reported here by AP.

“Anna Nicole Smith died of an accidental overdose of a sleeping medication and at least eight other prescription drugs, and she had recently had a bacterial infection from injecting drugs into her buttocks, authorities said Monday. Broward County Medical Examiner Joshua Perper said Smith died of ‘combined drug intoxication’ with the sleeping medication chloral hydrate as the major factor.”

The widely respected entertainer/actress, whose philanthropic gestures were the stuff of legends, was just 39 years old when she was found dead in her room at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Florida. And, of course, befitting her statue as a much-accomplished world-beloved figure, her death has spawned an unprecedented level of scrutiny from the press that has continued unabated, even seamlessly, ever since.

“‘...We found nothing to indicate any foul play,’ said Chief Charlie Tiger of the Seminole police department.”

In with the tidal wave of conjecture about the sudden death of Smith -- a versatile actress whose unique ability to breath life into words merely written on paper earned her every possible accolade from her peers, and whose humanitarianism has elicited comparisons to Eleanor Roosevelt -- were assertions that she had died of a drug overdose.

Smith’s legions of fans now can rest easier, perhaps even find some comfort in knowing that her death has been ruled an accident, and that she died, for what it’s worth, from overdosing the same drug -- chloral hydrate and sundry mixers -- as did her idol Marilyn Monroe.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Kaine art sold, new piece offered

Candidates Chuck Robb, Doug Wilder, Ollie North and Marshall Coleman are depicted in this scene which was part of the 1994 Campaign Inkbites series of cards I published on the Senate race that year. The bidding for the original artwork starts at $45.00. (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

This is the fourth post in what is a series of posts on the SLANTblog Art Auction. Basically, what’s happening is that I’m experimenting with selling the original art for ‘toons and caricatures using this blog. For background on this concept and to see the first three pieces which were offered in this auction click here. Please note: Bidding on the Tim Kaine caricature is closed; the piece has been sold.

To see the second batch, click here. To see the third group, click here.
  • Bids and serious inquires should be sent via email to Please put “Art Auction” in the subject line so I won’t miss it.

Art Auction, 3rd post

This is the third post in what is a series of posts on the SLANTblog Art Auction. Basically, what’s happening is that I’m experimenting with selling the original art for ‘toons and caricatures using this blog. For background on this concept and to see the first three pieces which are in the auction click here. (If you want to bid on the Tim Kaine caricature you better not wait much longer. It is about to be sold.)

To see the second batch click here.

Below are the next three pieces for sale. Comments are welcome. The bidding is being done through emails to me. Click on the pictures to enlarge them. I’ll be posting others soon. Stay tuned...
This caricature of Vance Wilkins above appeared on SLANTblog on May 12, 2006. The bidding for the original artwork starts at $36.00.

This is the second Jim Webb to be offered for sale in the Art Auction. It has appeared on SLANTblog only and the bidding for the original artwork starts at $63.00.

Likewise, this is the second George Allen to be made available in this process. It, too, has only appeared on SLANTblog. And, $45.00 will buy the original if no one bids higher.
  • Bids and serious inquires should be sent via email to Please put “Art Auction” in the subject line so I won’t miss it.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

When right is wrong ... what to do?

When you’ve lost an election because the voters rejected your candidates’ failures and lack of vision, what do you do? When your Democratic political opponents are being more persuasive every day, what do you do? When opposition to the war/occupation in Iraq swells into the streets, if you’re a Republican who wants to blindly stay the course with Bush’s policy -- no matter what it is -- what do you do?

If you are a determined rightwinger, a never-say-die supporter of the neoconservative notion that America’s richest corporations know best how to rule the world -- and that America’s military ought to be used to impose that notion on any resisters -- what do you do about all those problems listed in the first paragraph?

Well, it looks like we have recently been seeing what the ever-shrinking huddles of determined war-mongering rightwingers who also believe global warming is a myth will do -- they will just make up stuff out of thin air and rally around that, ahem, stuff.

So, in the last week we were told that Bush-supporters needed to go to DeeCee to protect the Vietnam War Memorial from being vandalized by anti-war protestors who would be in town for a march.

If their message is too strong to deal with, then go after the messengers.

So, to muddy the water around what are widely regarded as legitimate concerns about the environment, we continue to see Al Gore ridiculed personally for imaginary transgressions he has wrought on the ecology.

If the message is too strong to deal with, then attack the messenger.

We routinely see Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama ridiculed personally, in much the same fashion, simply because they are popular Democrats. We’ve even seen Ann Coulter’s “faggot” remark, which was directed at John Edwards, defended by the faithful on the extreme right side of the blogosphere. As well, we’ve seen Edwards attacked for being successful/wealthy while he champions the cause of the underprivileged.

Given the revelation today, to do with Elizabeth Edwards’ health, how many hours do you suppose it will be before we see John Edwards attacked for being a power hungry guy who would not quit his campaign to stay at home with his wife who has cancer?

I can tell you this -- veterans my age aren’t reacting well to the shameless way the Vietnam War Memorial and the names on it were abused -- strictly for partisan lowroad politics -- by the pro-war demonstrators.

But when the same sort of virulent pro-war activists are willing to call decorated Vietnam War era veterans “cowards” if they speak out against a miserably failed foreign policy, then we should not be surprised when they invent a threat to the universally cherished Vietnam War Memorial. That’s just what they do...

Art Auction, 2nd post

This is the second post in what will be a series of posts on the SLANTblog Art Auction. Basically, what’s happening is that I’m experimenting with selling original art for ‘toons and caricatures using this blog. For more on this concept and to see the first three pieces which are in the auction -- Tim Kaine (2005), George Bush (2000) and Doug Wilder (1994) -- click here.

Below is the next batch of art for sale. Comments are welcome. The bidding will be done through emails to me. Click on the pictures to enlarge them. I’ll be posting others soon. Stay tuned...
The caricature of Jerry Kilgore above appeared in SLANT and at SLANTblog in 2005. The bidding for the original artwork starts at $36.00.

This was the last frame of a five-and-a-half page cartoon feature for STYLE Weekly in October of 1994. It was on the lively Ollie North/Chuck Robb/Marshall Coleman/Doug Wilder race for the US Senate. At the time, due in greatest part to North’s huge war chest, this race set a new standard for combined spending on a Senate campaign. The bidding starts at $54.00.

The cartoon above comments on an incident that played a significant role in turning control of the U.S. Senate over to the Democrats. It has appeared at SLANTblog and is available on a T-shirt by clicking here. The bidding for the original artwork starts at $63.00.

This caricature of Jim Webb was the first of three I did of him for SLANTblog’s coverage of the Senate race last year. Now you can own it. The bidding for the original artwork starts at $54.00.
  • Bids and serious inquires should be sent via email to Please put “Art Auction” in the subject line so I won’t miss it.

SLANTblog Art Auction

Going back to SLANT’s heyday, cartoons were the staple of that little ‘zine. Most of them were done by SLANT’s editor/publisher -- yours truly. Occasionally, a reader would inquire about buying the original artwork for a ‘toon in SLANT, which occasionally led to me selling the same. But most of the original art from that era of a thousand glue sticks got lost in the shuffle.

Over the years, my illustrations and cartoons have been published under a number of mastheads. Again, every now and then I’d sell the art for one of them, when someone asked for it, but I never really made an effort to do so. To me, such art was being produced for the camera and printing press, not to hang on a wall.

Since beginning SLANTblog in 2003, I’ve posted several of my old cartoons and created new ones, as well as a number of caricatures of politicians, to be posted. Like before, I’ve had a few inquiries about buying one every now and then, but I didn’t follow up on it. Now that is changing.

Years ago I had the good luck to have an art show open in a popular coffee shop’s gallery space right after a feature article about me and my cartoons appeared in the local newspaper. Suddenly, even small illustrations and cartoons were in demand. Subsequently, the show’s art sales and what it led to got me out of a jam that only cash could cure.

So, as an experiment, and because I need to make some dough fast -- or else -- I’m going to try to use this blog to auction off some art. Most people, even those who collect art, probably wouldn’t care to own originals of political cartoons and caricatures. But some folks do care about such things, because they are art-loving political junkies. They are the ones who have bought such things from me in the past, they are my target for this effort.

Larry Sabato bought the 4” by 6” original of a 1994 caricature I did of him for a set of cards -- Campaign Inkbites -- on the Virginia Senatorial race that appeared on CNN and in some newspapers. It was probably the best $100 he’s ever spent (he also bought 12 packs of the cards at $12.50 per). So, I’m hoping political bloggers and some of their readers will likewise be interested acquiring such unique souvenirs ... especially if they are available at a friendly price.

Each piece will have a lowball starting price, meaning I hope to get more with the bidding process, but won’t take less. At this point I don’t know how long the bidding will/should last on a given piece, but for now let’s say I’ll update the bidding process and announce when a piece is about to be sold for a certain price.

Note: All of the scans of black and white images posted in this experiment were done with pen and ink. The full-color work was done in ink, water colors and color pencils. Brief comments are welcome below this post and each like it.
  • Bids and serious inquires should be sent via email to Please put "Art Auction" in the subject line so I won't miss it.
The first three images of the SLANTblog Art Auction are below. I’ll be posting others soon. Stay tuned...

The Tim Kaine caricature above appeared in the paper version of SLANT in April 2005. It accompanied an exclusive interview with Kaine, which also appeared on SLANTblog (click here). The bidding for the original artwork starts at $45.00.

Update: The Tim Kaine caricature has been sold. Bids on other pieces in the Art Auction are still welcome.

This portrait of George Bush was done for in 2000. It appeared there several times. The bidding for the original artwork starts at $36.00. Meaning you can buy it for that price if no one outbids you.

This caricature of Doug Wilder was part of the 1994 Campaign Inkbites card collection mentioned above, and as remembered on SLANTblog (click here). Several of the originals to this particular set have been sold, a few are left. The bidding for this one starts at $54.00.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Leo Koury, most wanted umpire ever

Terry Rea and Chuck Wrenn in the day
Chuck gave me a print of this 30-year-old photo, which I had not seen before, when I visited his charming home across the street from Libby Hill Park about a month ago. He had recently discovered a trove of slides of his from that era in a box, mostly of softball scenes. We had a great time looking at them and telling stories from that time to the others present, whether they wanted to hear them or not.

Chuck even had a couple of pictures of the legendary Leo Koury on the job, umpiring a softball game.

The shot above was taken at Tony Martin’s farm at the Fan District Softball League’s season-ending picnic/awards ceremony in August of 1977. That year Chuck and I had served as the league’s commissioners. That season had been our first at Chandler Ballfield, where games were played through the FDSL's final season (1994).

Update: When I first posted the photo above with a mention of Leo Koury a month ago, it prompted a writer doing some research on Koury to send me an email. So I have added a scan (see below) of the small portrait of Koury I did for his card for SLANT Legends, a card collection of locals I designed and published in 1993.For readers who don't know who Koury was, he owned several restaurants in Richmond, including a couple of gay clubs. He was seen as a lovable underworld figure by some, and as a dangerous criminal by others. His restaurants had sponsored several softball teams and he umpired softball games as a sideline. In 1978 he fled the long arm of the law -- Koury disappeared just before he was indicted for a laundry list of crimes, including murder, although no corpse was ever found.

The FBI never could find him, either, which eventually made Leo Koury the man who stayed at the top of their most-wanted list longer than anyone else. Rumor had it he was in and out of Richmond a few times during his time on the lam, but he never got caught. At the age of 56, in 1991, Koury died of a brain hemorrhage in a San Diego hospital.

A Sign of the Times

One summer afternoon in what I’d guess was 1975, give or take a year, I was walking about 50 yards behind a guy on the 800 block of West Grace Street. Then, like it was his, he casually picked up the Organic Foodstore’s sandwich board style sign from the sidewalk in front of the store. Without turning his head to look around, the sign thief kept going at the same pace.

As I walked faster we continued heading east on the red brick sidewalk. By the time we had passed the Biograph Theatre, I had sized him up and decided what I would do. He was a big-haired hippie, 18 to 20 years old; he could have been a student. Or, he might have been a traveling panhandler/opportunist. In those days there were plenty of them in that neighborhood, asking for “spare change.”

Passing by Sally Bell’s Kitchen, in the 700 block, I was within six or seven yards of him when I spoke the lines I had written for myself in the time it took to close the ground between us. My tone was resolute, my voice clear: “I saw you steal the sign. Don’t turn around ... just put it down and walk away.”

As seen from walking behind him, the thief’s body language announced that he had heard me. He didn’t turn around. Instead he walked faster, with the sign under his right arm, holding the weight with his hand.

Moving closer to him, I said with more force: “Put the sign down. The police are on the way. Walk away while you still can.”

Without further ado the wooden sign clattered onto the sidewalk. The sign thief kept going without looking back. It had worked!

As I gathered my neighbor’s property I watched the fleeing hippie break into a sprint, cross Grace Street and disappear going toward Monroe Park at the next corner.

With a big smile I carried the recovered sign back to the store, which was a few doors west of the Biograph, where I then worked. Obviously, I don’t really remember exactly what I said to the thief over three decades ago, verbatim, but that was a faithful recounting of the events.

What I had done came in great part from a young man’s sense of righteous indignation, together with the spirit of camaraderie that existed among some of the neighborhood’s merchants in that time. There were a bunch of us then in our mid-to-late 20s, who were running businesses on that bohemian strip -- bars, retail shops, etc. -- all nestled up to burgeoning Virginia Commonwealth University. We were friends and we watched out for one another.

My tough guy performance had lasted about a minute. The character was drawn somewhat from Humphrey Bogart, maybe a little Rod Serling, and as much Robert Mitchum as I could muster. Hey, he didn’t look back, so the thief must have felt lucky to get away. Who knows? Maybe he’s still telling this story, too, from another angle.

Now I'm amazed that I used to do such things. In those salad days the confidence I had in my ability to become a character -- upon demand -- that could swell up to control the playing board, well, now it seems more funny than anything else. I’m amazed anybody bought it.

Then, the Young Turk’s sense of cocksure confidence displayed in this yarn gradually began to evaporate from my psyche; the process picked up speed upon the death of my grandmother in 1982. Now I’ve seen more of life, so I understand that family deaths frequently mark big changes in a person, in all sorts of ways.

This much I know -- that quirky pop scene on West Grace Street has a goldmine of stories that haven’t been properly told in print, yet.

There was Chelf’s Drug Store at the corner of Grace and Shafer. With its soda fountain and a few booths, it had been a hangout for magazine-reading, alienated art students since the late-1940s. The original Village Restaurant, a block west of Chelf’s, was a legendary beatnik watering hole, going back to the 1950s. Writer Tom Robbins and artist William Fletcher “Bill” Jones (1930-98) hung out there. That neighborhood was also home to characters such as the wandering Flashlight Lady and the Grace Street Midget.

During the late-‘60s the hippies had come on strong to replace the beats, as the strip went psychedelic, seemingly overnight. But by the mid-‘70s the hippie blue jean culture had peaked. It was about to be replaced by the black leather of Punk Rock and polyester of the Disco scene. All-night dance clubs became popular.

So, by the late-‘70s the mood on West Grace Street had changed severely. Cocaine was becoming the preferred drug of choice with the druggie in-crowd, replacing pot. Several restaurants were serving liquor-by- the-drink, the dives catering to the young set began having rugged bouncers at the door.

Into the 1980s I remember an angry, red-bearded street beggar with a missing foot threatening to “bite a plug out” of me, because I had had the temerity to tell him to stop bothering people in front of the Biograph and move on. Times had changed, I didn’t press my case any further that day.

Instead, I moved on.

-- 30 --

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Bounce on VCU hoops

Today’s sports column at, The Bounce, looks at VCU’s run in the NCAA tournament and the hot-property future of its sought-after head coach, Anthony Grant.

“...Today is Day One of what will be the Grant Watch. VCU Athletic Director Norwood Teague has already indicated that Grant’s contract deserves to be sweetened. And, he said that before this past weekend’s heroics. Before Michigan fired its head coach Tommy Amaker, too. And, soon there will other big-name school with openings. No doubt, Grant’s name is going to be high on several athletic directors’ lists of coaches to try to lure away from their current jobs by waving large sums of money at them -- more numbers.

“No one should be surprised if Grant decides to talk with one or more of those hungry-to-win athletic directors. Nor should they be surprised if Teague’s boss, VCU President Eugene Trani -- a can-do guy, if ever there was one -- comes up with enough incentive, in whatever form, for Grant to decide to stay. Grant inherited this season’s players from Jeff Capel, who left a year ago to coach at Oklahoma. Next year Grant will have six new players on the roster he recruited, including four high school stars from his home state of Florida.”

Click here to read the whole piece at

Hank’s Cadillac

The postcard above is from VCU’s Rarely Seen Richmond Collection, which includes over 600 scans of postcards, mostly from the 1900-30 era.

The first train pulled out of Broad Street Station at 1:07 p.m. on January 6, 1919. Designed by John Russell Pope, what was originally known as New Union Station was constructed on the site of what had been the Hermitage Country Club. A partnership of the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac Railroad and the Atlantic Coastline built the station to satisfy the growing city’s needs.

Directly across the street the William Byrd Hotel, at 2501 West Broad Street, opened in 1925. The twelve story hotel catered to travelers heading north and south. At the other end of the block the Capitol Theater opened for business a couple of years later. It was the first movie theater in Richmond to be equipped for sound.

Boasting a first class train station and the neighboring new businesses, the area soon became a cosmopolitan and fashionable part of town. After all, residents of the Fan District then lived within easy walking distance of direct access to the entire East Coast.

The William Byrd’s barber shop open in 1927. Legendary barber Willie Carlton began looking out of the barber shop’s windows at Davis Avenue in 1948. He bought the business in the 1950s. Carlton still works at that same barber shop, when he’s not playing golf. He usually comes in on Fridays and Saturdays.

Recalling that for many years automobiles parked on the 800 block of Davis at a 45 degree angle facing the barber shop, Carlton chuckled as he described a visit by singer/songwriter Hank Williams, who was asleep in a convertible when it was time to open the barber shop.

“Well, he was taking a little nap, out there in his Cadillac,” Carlton recalled in a tone that signaled he could still see the picture being described.

Apparently, after the hard-living country music great finished sleeping off his road weariness, he got out of his snazzy ride and came inside for his haircut. Carlton says the price of a haircut in those days was 60 cents. Lunch in the hotel’s busy dining room cost about the same.

During the station’s peak use, the years of World War II, an average of 57 trains passed through Broad Street Station on a daily basis. During the ensuing decades rapid outward growth of the city combined with the withering of America’s passenger rail system to change the character of the neighborhood. In 1975 Broad Street Station was no longer the hub of metropolitan life it had been; the last passenger train left the station at 4:58 a.m., on November 15 of that year.

In 1977 the distinctive building’s second life as the Science Museum began.

-- 30 --

Perspective in Motion

After decades of driving automobiles, mostly small station wagons, over the same city streets, nearly five years ago your narrator switched to using his then-29-year-old bicycle as his primary ride.What a change.

It had been years since I’d done much riding. It was a decision made in summertime. At first I was shocked at how soft my legs had gotten. I got over that with a lot of pedaling. Then the weather began to change. It had been even more years since I had ridden in the winter. Once my legs were in a little better shape, I was reminded again of what a great deal that bicycle was when I bought it.

That damn bike has outlasted a marriage, three live-in girlfriends and nine motor vehicles.

Perched on the seat of my trusty ten-speed, exposed to the elements and staying alert for signs of physical threats, I began to notice things mostly ignored rattling around town in motorized metal boxes on wheels.

In my travels I came upon an accident involving several vehicles. As I negotiated my way around the debris on Floyd Avenue near the post office 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 late-model whatever, the sound of utter despair pouring out of her caught me off-guard; the sound of her crying 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 too close to the railing and I glanced over at the traffic going by under the bridge.


The sense of being up high and uncomfortably close to the drop-off flipped a caution switch in this old goat’s 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.

Perspective is so important. A high perch can allow us to see more, in a way, but that obscures small details. An automobile expands our range, but it also seals us off. While time can reveal new truths, the process puts a new set of blinders on most of us.

Crossing the bridge the bicycle chain churned smoothly, sounding precisely as it always had, as I wondered if I’ll ever get too scared to ride my bike across such bridges. Maybe I’ll even be afraid to ride at all, one day, I chuckled.

After all, I’ve been too scared to get close enough to a woman to hear her cry for what has become a long time. Now I have to push away from the keyboard to go fix the flat tire on my bike, a chore I’ve already put off too long.
-- 30 --

Photo: SLANT

Monday, March 19, 2007

Richmond blog carnival up and running

The RVA Blog Carnival is an intro to and a collection of links to presentations gathered from Richmond’s vibrant blogosphere. It’s a potpourri of this and that, which might acquaint a reader with a new point of view, or provide a moment of pleasant diversion.

Yet, if you have no curiosity about new things, if off-the-wall notions scare you, or if you feel that time is not on your side -- this may not be your cup of tea.

It’s also a project-in-progress for the yet-to-be named group of local bloggers, who have recently taken a few baby steps toward becoming a coalescence of independent self-publishers trying to be good. Click here to travel to Geistweg, the host/editor of this week’s offerings.

Then you’re on your own -- don’t say you weren’t warned.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

VCU Rams lose in OT

The VCU Rams lost their second round NCAA tournament game to the Pittsburgh Panthers in overtime: Pittsburgh 84, VCU 79.

The overachieving Rams finished their first season under head coach Anthony Grant with a record of 28-7, which speaks for itself, in a way.

Having won the CAA regular season and tournament championships, and having defeated mighty Duke by two points in a first-round NCAA game, this team put up some fancy numbers when it counted. No VCU team has ever won 28 games in a single season’s campaign.

For fans who just beam up the final scores on their cell phones and watch highlights on ESPN, that’s all one needs to know. Stats. To such in-a-hurry, semi-devotees of college basketball the bottom line is everything. Numbers.

Which is fine for how to pay off bets, but it says little about why there is a sports section in daily newspapers. The character and team spirit this VCU squad showed -- with special mention of the two senior starters Jesse Pellot-Rosa and B.A. Walker, who both scored 20 points -- in coming back from being behind by 19 points in the second half was truly amazing.

Yes, this hard-fought game was a perfect example of why the NCAA tournament has such appeal -- there were three overtime games today, out of eight games played.

Click here to read the AP report and box score. Here is one quote from the story:

“‘More than losing,’ Grant said [of his players], ‘they’re disappointed that this team doesn’t get to play together (anymore).’”

More than they lost, the gritty Rams ran out of time. My congratulations go out to Coach Grant, his players and staff, and the VCU family of supporters. Stay tuned for more commentary on NCAA action...

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Colin Powell's blue drapes

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, upon the 100-year anniversary of Picasso’s birth, history’s most celebrated piece of anti-war art was packed up and sent to the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid, Spain. 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 as a backdrop of any photographs of him on that fateful day.

Now four years into the war-of-choice in Iraq, when I think of what has already been uncovered by investigations into the run-up to the invasion, I wonder how much of what Powell said that day he knew then had been ginned up by propagandists in the Bush administration. And, I wonder how much of what he said he believed was true.


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 paintings 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 (1881-1973) 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. He was probably right. 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 hawkish neoconservative experts, knew war firsthand, 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 may have 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...”

Now Powell lives with the memory of the strategic blue drape that was thrown over “Guernica,” and the symbolic blue drape that he helped to throw over the truth.

-- 30 --

Dr. StrangeRove, or...

Dr. StrangeRove gasped, "It would not be difficult, Mein Führer! Nuclear reactors could easily provide, heh... I'm sorry, Mr. President."

Apologies to Peter Sellers and Stanley Kubrick. 'Toon by F.T. Rea

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Rams outlast Blue Devils

It was an intense 40 minutes of postseason basketball. The Rams beat the Blue Devils in a contest that will be remembered, both teams gave it their all: VCU 79, Duke 77.

It came down to two squads quite evenly-matched, but from way different ends and expectations. Still, when push came to shove, one team didn’t have the best guard on the floor, the other did. He was VCU’s Eric Maynor, who scored 22 points in the game and hit the winning basket.

The last person to be surprised by this turn of events was probably Jeff Capel, VCU’s former head coach -- now at Oklahoma -- who originally recruited Maynor from Fayetteville, North Carolina, Capel’s home town.

My published prediction for this game read this way: “...Yeah, I know this prediction could look way too home-cooked after the game is played, but here goes anyway: VCU 69, Duke 64.”

As one who has covered VCU’s basketball program as a sportswriter for over two decades, I have to say this is as good a Rams team as I've written about. And, as a guy who went to VCU, I have to say head coach Anthony Grant is already the best coach the Rams have ever had; he is the ninth in school history.

That’s no slam on Capel, or anybody else. No, Grant is just that good.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Suckered Again by Uncle Sam

Suckered Again” by Ted Rall is a bitter piece that looks at how veterans have been cheated and mistreated in the past. So, in a way Rall cuts the Bush administration some slack, because in the wake of Walter Reed revelations, it allows for its apologists to say, “We’re just living up to tradition.” That, right before those same lame White House spin doctors chide Democrats again for “not supporting the troops.”

“...More than 300,000 soldiers were wounded in combat during World War I, but the Veterans Bureau, predecessor of the V.A., rejected all but 47,000 claims. ‘The Veterans Bureau,’ a columnist wrote in 1925, ‘has probably made wrecks of more men since the war than the war itself took in dead and maimed.’

“America’s first major military defeat led to mistreatment of those who had served in the Korean War by those who said they hadn't fought hard enough. Among other indignities, P.O.W.‘s were denied their back pay of $2.50 for each day of captivity.

“Thousands of Vietnam vets were discarded like used tissues, reduced to homelessness and starvation after being denied adequate medical treatment and cash benefits. As recently as 2004, according to the Christian Science Monitor, ‘an estimated 500,000 veterans were homeless at some time during 2004 [but] the V.A. had the resources to tend to only 100,000 of them.’

“It took a decade after the fall of Hanoi before Vietnam vets began turning up on the streets, but troops who served in Afghanistan and Iraq have already become homeless. ‘This kind of inner city, urban guerrilla warfare that these veterans are facing probably accelerates mental-health problems,’ says Yogin Ricardo Singh, director of a veterans advocacy program in Brooklyn.

“‘You can have all of the yellow ribbons on cars that say Support Our Troops that you want,’ adds Linda Boone of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. ‘But it’s when they take off the uniform and transition back to civilian life that they need support the most.’ As usual, they're not getting it.”

Click here to read the whole piece.

An honest person has to wonder what President Bush thinks the horror story that has oozed out of Walter Reed has done/is doing for morale in the armed services.

My own grandfather, a WWI veteran who served with the Richmond Light Infantry Blues in Europe, never forgave President Herbert Hoover for ordering the rout of the camp of the Bonus Expeditionary Force in 1932, which some observers still see as one of the most shameless episodes in American history.

So, today, when you hear someone chanting mindlessly about supporting the troops and staying the course, it’s worth remembering the history of what slogans of that sort of have actually meant to those who did their duty, then found themselves abandoned by Uncle Sam afterwards.

All of which serves to remind us of why war should always be the last resort.

The Rams can beat the Blue Devils

VCU Rams senior guard B.A. Walker
While I don’t want to say that VCU is a better basketball team than Duke, every day of the week, or that you should bet the farm the Rams will beat the Blue Devils on Thursday night. But if I had to wager $100 of your money on this game, I’d take the 6½ points VCU is getting.

On top of that, this year’s VCU team is good enough to beat this year’s Duke team, maybe four out of ten times. And, this time around the Rams may well be more motivated than their opponents.

The Rams guards are smart and versatile enough. They are quick and athletic enough. They are more experienced -- Duke doesn’t have savvy seniors like B.A. Walker and Jesse Pellot-Rosa. Sophomore Eric Maynor, the Rams point guard, may actually be a better pro prospect than any of the Blue Devils guards.

OK. Duke may be stronger inside than the Rams, at least on paper. But so was Drexel. So were other teams that totally wilted under the pressure VCU can put on the ballhandler. In the ACC nobody plays a full-court press quite like VCU does.
Photo: SLANT

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Where are honest Republicans keeping their honor?

Do everyday Republicans have any sense of honesty and fair play left? Or, is staying the course, and calling Democrats running for office names, all that really matters now?Republicans have heard smirking President George “The Decider” Bush tell the voters deliberate lies to get America into a war -- a war that now is being seen by many as the worst foreign policy blunder in American history. Using the fear that was in the air after 9/11, they have heard blustery Vice President Dick Cheney say all sorts of things that have turned out to be deliberate prevarications.

They have seen torture defended as proper conduct. They have heard decorated veterans, such as Rep. John Murtha and Sen. Jim Webb, called “cowards” for opposing the tough-guy snarls of Cheney, the loudest poseur in an administration of such blowhards who avoided military service.

They have seen what happened in New Orleans. They have seen the corruption and overcharges, etc, associated with Haliburton in Iraq. They have seen Jack Abramoff, Randy “Duke” Cunningham, Tom DeLay, Mark Foley, Robert Ney and Ralph Reed parade by. They have seen Scooter Libby convicted of lying.

Now they see Bush’s Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, squirming under the scrutiny his corrupted-by-politics office has brought on itself. Gonzales says he “takes responsibility.” What does that mean?

This isn’t to say the basic conservative philosophy once espoused by Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan is bankrupt. It is to say that Bush and his cronies are morally bankrupt and incompetent at running the federal government. Bush and his neoconservatives are absolute traitors to all Goldwater held dear. Do Republicans care about that?

In truth, Bush has used traditional conservatives to get elected, then betrayed them in every way. How bad does it have to get before true conservatives wake up and walk away from the most dangerously dishonest and incompetent president anybody alive can remember?

So, in these telling times, where are honest Republicans keeping their honor? At what point does being an American matter more than beating Team Donkey?
Art by F.T. Rea

Truly convenient inconsistencies

The obsession that some of the most outspoken Republican/rightwing commentators and bloggers have with bashing gays, or just the subject of homosexuality, is easy to see/hear any day of the week. It’s been that way for a long time, and, it seems, it’s getting more that way all the time. One could easily get the idea that they fear if they don’t do all they can to stand firmly against same-sex relationships, that any number of practicing heterosexuals would hear the call to take a walk on the wild side.

So, to these anti-gay patriots, calling a politician such as John Edwards a “faggot” is one of the worst things one can say about a man who is running for president.

However, at the same time we have some of the same rightwing voices bashing Edwards (pictured left) because he is a guy who grew up poor, pulled himself up by the bootstraps and lives well today. It seems they feel that if Edwards is going to campaign on a platform of wanting to help the least fortunate in America, economically, that he should himself be a poor man, or at least live like one.

So, to those who criticize Edwards for being wealthy, I have to ask -- when did Republicans decide that making good money is a problem?

History has shown us enough about rightwingers who do all they can to persecute homosexuals -- J. Edgar Hoover and Roy Cohn come to mind first, more recently Mark Foley and Rev. Ted Haggard -- to understand about that syndrome.

But now, what in the world are we to think of rightwing Republicans who beat up on a politician because the guy has made a fortune and lives in a big house?

It seems that in truth, the convenient inconsistencies from the so-called cultural conservatives are getting more consistent all the time. Rather than put a label on that phenomenon, I’ll allow readers to draw their own conclusions.
Image from Edwards camp

Greens on Richmond water rates

This notice just came in from the Richmond Green Party:

"At Monday’s Richmond City Council meeting, the Chairperson for the Richmond Green Party, Scott Burger, addressed city leaders about the City’s residential water rates. The Richmond Green Party is very concerned about the wise use of limited natural resources, including water. In recent years, shortages of water have occurred in the Richmond area as the result of serious droughts and the unwise use of the resource. One important variable that influences conservation of water is the rates charged to the consumer. Unfortunately, the rates charged to residential consumers of water in the City of Richmond provide a discount for those using the greatest amount of water, and cause those who conserve water to subsidize those who waste water.

"In other words, Richmond’s utility charges each citizen $43.55 in minimum water and wastewater service charges. Burger noted that with a mandatory solid waste charge of $17.50, and a recycling charge of $1.64 tacked onto the minimum water bill, the first glass of water from a typical residential service in Richmond will cost $62.70. It is unjust for the city to place these exorbitant service charges on minimum water use.

“'It is shameful that Richmond provides a half-price discount in residential water rates for those who use vast amounts of water, over 100 CCF (hundred cubic feet). This encourages waste at a time when the water resources of the region are stressed,' said Burger, who also brought a chart of typical minimum bills for the area and displayed it at the City Council meeting.

"Reforming Richmond's draconian water rate structure is both a conservation issue and a social justice issue. No longer should we force those who conserve water to subsidize half-price discounts for those who waste water. No longer should a senior citizen or indigent family have to pay a ridiculous fee for minimum water and sewer service. By acting now, the City of Richmond will minimize water shortages in the future."

According to Burger, comparing Richmond’s approach on this issue to that of cities, such as Alexandria, Hopewell, Norfolk -- even New York City! -- puts Richmond in a bad light. To read more about the principles of the Green Party, or to get involved, click here.

Monday, March 12, 2007

RVA blog carnival

One of the constructive ideas that came out of the Saturday meeting for local bloggers at the Baja Bean was to institute a regular roundup of the best posts from the well-known, as well as the not-so-well-known, blogs based in Richmond. Jason Kenney, of J’s Notes, volunteered to get the ball rolling, and he wasted no time in doing so.

Click here to view the first installment of the RVA Blog Carnival, perhaps a new tradition in the making.

Update: Since I can't figure out how to leave a comment at J's Notes, here's what I wanted to say to Jason:

It seems we local bloggers, whatever we end up calling ourselves -- The March 10thers? River City Know-It-Alls? Richmond Blogs Aplenty? -- have established a little bit of momentum. Thanks for the good job on the carnival and for turning it around so promptly, to keep that momentum going.

Final VA Top Five for this season

This will be the last installment of my Virginia Top Five. Once the NCAA tournament games begin, I see no point in continuing to compare the teams in this way. The best news for area hoops fans is that four teams from among the 14 Division I programs in this commonwealth are going to the Big Dance. It’s been 21 years since Virginia sent four teams to the NCAA championship tournament.

Virginia Top Five

No. 1: Va. Tech (21-11); RPI: No. 34 (2-3 in last five games)
No. 2: VCU (27-6); RPI: No. 42 (5-0 in last five games)
No. 3: Virginia (20-10); RPI: No. 55 (2-3 in last five games)
No. 4: ODU (24-8); RPI: No. 37 (4-1 in last five games)
No. 5: George Mason (18-15); RPI: No. 119 (3-2 in last five games)
The RPI numbers cited come from RealTime RPI.
Opening round matchups:
  • ODU, seeded 12th in the Midwest Region, will face Butler (27-6) in Buffalo at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday.
  • VCU, seeded 11th in the West Region, will face Duke (26-6) in Buffalo at 7:10 p.m. on Thursday.
  • Virginia, seeded fourth in the South Region, will face Albany (23-9) in Columbus at 12:15 p.m. on Friday.
  • Va. Tech, seeded fifth in the West Region, will face Illinois (23-11) in Columbus at 7:10 p.m. on Friday.

Bloggers reactions to Saturday's meeting

Reactions to/reports on the local bloggers meeting, which was held on Saturday afternoon at the Baja Bean in Richmond's Fan District, are starting to appear on blogs. I'll post them (with updates) below as I notice them:

J' Notes: "RVA Blogger Meet-Up And The Return Of The RVA Blog Carnival"
Haduken: "Bloggers do it on Saturday."
Buttermilk and Molasses: "Richmond Weblogger Throwdown"
SLANTblog: "Richmond bloggers meeting report"
River City Rapids: "Richmond Blog Carnival"

Sunday, March 11, 2007

VCU and Duke?

This press release just came in from Phil Stanton, VCU Director of Athletic Communications:

"VCU will travel to Buffalo, N.Y., to face Duke in the first round of the 2007 NCAA Tournament on Thurs., March 15. The Rams are the No. 11 seed in the West Region, while the Blue Devils are the No. 6 seed. This will be the first meeting between VCU and Duke.

"Under first-year head coach Anthony Grant, the Rams are 27-6 overall and 16-2 in the Colonial Athletic Association. VCU earned the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament be defeating George Mason 65-59 in the championship game of the CAA Tournament this past Monday at the Richmond Coliseum. The Rams enter the NCAA Tournament on a five-game winning streak.

'Duke, under long-time head coach Mike Krzyzewski, compiled an overall record of 22-10 and posted an 8-8 mark in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Blue Devils enter the NCAA Tournament having lost three straight and seven of their past 11 contests."

The irony is that when VCU hired Jeff Capel, an ex-Dookie, as its head coach in 2002, many postive-thinking observers thought that would surely bring on a regular season game with Duke. Maybe two there, and one here. It didn’t happen. Capel is now coaching Oklahoma, a school which did not make the NCAA cut this time.

Now the first-ever matchup with the high and mighty Blue Devils comes by way of the NCAA tournament, a year after Capel’s departure. This irony won’t be lost on the VCU players, who, facing this first-round game, may well be much hungrier than Duke’s.

Well, I think VCU has an excellent chance to defeat Duke. This is the weakest Duke squad we’ve seen in years and VCU is being coached by the first-year head coach who surely will be one of the most, if not THE most, sought-after coaches in the country in a month -- Anthony Grant.

Meanwhile, for the fun of it, I’m going to say the upstart Rams will actually do it in an underachievers vs. overachievers scenario. Yeah, I know this prediction could look way too home-cooked after the game is played, but here goes anyway: VCU 69, Duke 64.

Dogtown Hero

Saturday, March 10, 2007

VCU's Roland on CBS tomorrow

This March Madness item just came in from Phil Stanton, VCU Director of Athletic Communications:

"Senior center Calvin Roland will be featured on 'The Road to the Final Four' on CBS on Sunday, March 11, at 12 p.m."

Roland, who came off the bench to score 12 points in the Rams victory over George Mason to win the CAA’s tournament championship, was named to the conference’s all-academic team for his accomplishments in the classroom.

Richmond bloggers meeting report

On what was a beautiful afternoon in the Fan District the Richmond bloggers’ meeting at the Baja Bean went quite well. About half of those who showed up to talk and listen were folks who publish blogs that are generally seen as at least somewhat political, the other half fell into a category that might be called other-than-political -- meaning blogs about community, food, girls, or whatever.

The discussion ranged from what we all have in common to what to do next. The spirit of the meeting was informal and collegial. It was decided that the group will meet again next month, to continue discussing what undertakings we might pursue together. Unanimous agreement was reached over the importance of having inexpensive beer available at the next meeting, too, unless we can figure a way to make it free.

The group seemed happy to entertain the notion that we could ban together to perform a community service, the nature of which will be determined down the road. The possibility of staging a full-fledged blog convention, with workshops and speakers, seemed to have some traction, but no firm decisions were made on that front.

Out of this meeting. we can expect to see a new eclectic Richmond Blog Carnival appearing on the horizon of the blogosphere, which Jason Kenney, of J’s Notes, will be telling us more about in the near future. The group apparently liked the idea that it would focus on quality posts, and seek out original material, rather than be centered around politics or any other limited category.

Among the other blogs that were represented were: Awkward Things I Say To Girls, Church Hill People’s News, River City Food and Wine, River City Rapids, RVA blogs, Save Richmond, The Shambling Darkness Project, Sisyphus, SLANTblog, West of Shockoe and West of the Boulevard News.

Mark Holmberg (formerly of the Richmond Times-Dispatch) showed up with his notepad and a camera man to cover the event for WTVR Channel 6.

At this point the ad hoc group of local bloggers has not named itself, nor has it elected officers. But something new is underway in Richmond. So far ... so good. We’ll see what happens next.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Richmond bloggers to converge on the Bean

As previously mentioned here at SLANTblog, on Saturday, March 10, there will be an informal meeting at the Baja Bean to discuss putting together what would amount to a local blog convention, or “summit,” if you prefer that term. The gathering is open to all, but the point of it is for local bloggers to meet one another and air out their ideas on that topic.

Hopefully, we will leave the restaurant with a better sense of what we bloggers have in common, and what the agenda and format of a Richmond bloggers’ convention ought to be. If we’re lucky we’ll have formed a consensus on some matters. And, we should have a better idea who would be willing to give some of their time to the project.

As we all know, there are many motivations to blog. Some bloggers focus on politics and current events, others on their family pets. Some blogs are about art, or a hobby, others are about a neighborhood. 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 hasn’t been made by corporate interests, or any existing group. No sticky name tags will be handed out, so if you want to wear one, make your own.

The Baja Bean is located at 1520 W. Main St. (across the street from Main Art), in Richmond’s Fan District. The meeting is set to begin at 1 p.m. and last until approximately 4 p.m., or as long as the spirit is willing. By the way, cold beer will be on sale at Happy Hour prices.

Update: The Bean has a WiFi system on the premises. So for anyone who wants to bring a laptop and blog the bloggers meeting, the opportunity is there. And, yes, in case anybody is wondering, elements of the working press will be covering the event.