Thursday, May 31, 2007

Cakewalking ‘til 2057?

In 2002, if President George Bush had told America he wanted to open an economy-sized can of worms in Iraq that could have Americans in harm’s way in that troubled land for 50 years, how many senators would have voted to give him the authority he used to invade in 2003?

Yet, today I read a front-page piece that said the president now “envisions” (uh-oh!) a long-term American military presence in Iraq, similar to what’s been the deal in South Korea since 1954. Yikes!

Remember how we were told reshuffling the cards in Iraq would be a “cakewalk”?

Could there be such a thing as a 50-year cakewalk?

If, at the onset of the war in Iraq, Bush had told the USA’s citizenry there was no known connection between the government in Iraq and al Qaida, between Saddam Hussein and 9/11, or Osama bin Laden, but that he wanted to overthrow and hang Saddam, anyway -- just because he had it coming -- what would people have said?

What if Bush had told us he wanted to launch a civil war that would feed on itself and create two million Iraqi refugees, would most people have said -- Oh yeah, you go for it, Dubya? Then there were those little fibs about proof of yellow cake, mobile labs cooking up poison, weapons of mass destruction, and so forth.

We will probably never know what exactly Bush believed was true in 2002 and ‘03. It’s damned hard to tell what he believes now. So, whether he knew what he and his official spokespersons were saying was useful but bogus prattle, or not, whichever, they sure got it wrong.

Now Bush wants us to put all that aside and accept that a guy who couldn’t have gotten it more wrong, then, now knows what he’s doing.

Who is that gullible?

Why would anyone believe the president is telling the truth, or even knows what he’s talking about? Either way, why should we the people put any store in the notion that what this president “envisions” today will be good medicine for America tomorrow?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Filling out the Thompson ticket

Well, it appears that Fred Thompson, the former senator from Tennessee and current co-star of NBC’s popular crime show “Law and Order,” is poised to throw his hat into the ring. TIME has the story.

“Fred Thompson, a former Tennessee senator and ‘Law & Order’ actor, will take a step toward a formal presidential candidacy next week, several officials with knowledge of the plans said Wednesday. Thompson will form a ‘testing the waters’ committee, which will allow him to begin raising money and hiring staff without officially committing to a White House bid. The creation of the committee, to be called ‘Friends of Fred Thompson,’ will be paired with the start of his first major fundraising push...”

Click here to read the rest of the piece.

Given the field of announced Republican candidates running for president, such as it is, the possibility of a Thompson run for the White House comes as good news to many Republicans. No doubt, some see Thompson as a politician in the mold of Ronald Reagan, who was also an actor -- "Bedtime for Bonzo" was among his credits -- before turning to politics.

This news opens the door to speculation about who might best fill out a Republican ticket with Thompson at the top. According to early scuttlebutt coming out of focus group studies, many lean toward an action show star such as Chuck Norris. That, while some others would like a more contemporary figure, such a one of the cavemen from the popular GEICO series television commercials.

Richmond bloggers' get-together

On April 7 a group of Richmond bloggers met at the Baja Bean to discuss various topics of mutual interest. For some there it was the first time they’d met, face-to-face. While not a lot was decided the meeting went well enough, a few beers were consumed and a consensus was reached on a couple of matters.

The first was that we should continue to explore how we, as bloggers, might act cooperatively to benefit Richmond in some way. The second was that we should meet again in an informal setting. Now comes news of that get-together, which has been set for Sunday, June 3.

At je ne sais pas John Murden writes about a “meet-up” of/for local bloggers. Click here to see his post and get the details about the gathering.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Sheehan quits peace movement

Cindy Sheehan has quit the peace movement with a post at Daily KOS.

"I have endured a lot of smear and hatred since Casey was killed and especially since I became the so-called 'Face' of the American anti-war movement. Especially since I renounced any tie I have remaining with the Democratic Party, I have been further trashed on such 'liberal blogs' as the Democratic Underground. Being called an 'attention whore' and being told 'good riddance' are some of the more milder rebukes..."

Click here to read the AP story that reacts to her KOS diary.

"...[Sheehan] said the most devastating conclusion she had reached 'was that Casey did indeed die for nothing ... killed by his own country which is beholden to and run by a war machine that even controls what we think.'

"Sheehan told the AP that she had considered leaving the peace movement since last summer while recovering from surgery. She decided on Memorial Day to step down and spend more time with her three other children. She said she was returning to California on Tuesday because it was Casey's birthday. He would have been 28."

It's sad to see Sheehan leave in this way, but I can't say that I blame her all that much. Too often, these days, the tactics and use of language by the so-called "left" are difficult to distinguish from those of the ultimate rightwing propagandist Karl Rove. Moreover, I have never believed Democrats will benefit in the long run from imitating Rove's style.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

A new direction for the old town (now 400 years old)

The RVA Blog Carnival, which is being tended mostly by Jason Kenney, the publisher of J’ Notes, is a part of a new trend -- the gradual coalescence of Richmond bloggers who see potential in building a loosely affiliated community of responsible and independent self-publishers. Now Kenney is calling for submissions to this week’s carnival; click here to read his most recent post on the topic, or simply to find out what a blog carnival is.

Ross Catrow’s RVABlogs, a web site that functions as an aggregator for 177 local blogs, probably began this trend, more than anything else. For a year-and-a-half it has offered its readers a snapshot-style overview of what’s happening in the Richmond blogosphere at any given moment. Thus it allowed local bloggers who had never met to be able to get to know one another through their work.

On April 7 of this year a dozen or so of these local bloggers met at the Baja Bean for a couple of hours of discussion of ways to act cooperatively at times, if only to throw a party. This informal confab over beer had several bloggers meeting for the first time, face-to-face.

Then the work of Catrow and John Murden to build the community blog concept should be noted, as well. Both of them have established community blogs which they publish (Catrow’s West of the Boulevard News and Murden’s Church Hill People’s News) and then helped others to do the same.

Now there are five such blogs up and running -- which includes my effort, the Fan District Hub. The other two are Hills and Heights and Petersburg People’s News. Soon I expect other community blogs based in other metro area neighborhoods will emerge.

Where all this will go is yet to be determined. It’s too new to say for sure.

Still, to me, this trend is rather exciting, because it falls in line with what has been my lifetime career -- such as it has been -- in alternative media. While I have some notion of where I’d like to see it go, it would be premature to get into that now.

So for the present it should just be noted that something new is happening in old Richmond, Virginia, which is now celebrating its 400th birthday.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Now flags at Mexican restaurants bother Goode

After being compared to cartoon chicken Foghorn Leghorn, earlier in the week by Jon Stewart on the Daily Show, Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA 5th) now says he’s not only against President George Bush’s immigration bill, he is riled -- ah say RILED -- by restaurants in his district that display Mexican flags.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch’s Peter Hardin has the story:

“...And in little towns in his district and across the line in North Carolina, ‘They've got a Mexican flag in these restaurants . . . They’ve got one on Main Street in Rocky Mount!’”

Click here to read Hardin’s piece.

Goode continues to try to appeal to attitudes warmed over from the bad old Byrd Machine days. His tirades of unabashed xenophobia may be funny to Stewart, but his Foghorn Leghorn act is an embarrassment to many, ah say many Virginians.
Art by F.T. Rea

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Chuck Wrenn

From FiftyPlus in 2002:
Twenty-two years ago, when it was generally accepted that large-scale outdoor rock ‘n’ roll events couldn’t be staged in Richmond, Chuck Wrenn put three fully-amplified bands, including the impeccably authentic Memphis Rockabilly Band, on a flatbed trailer in the cobblestone alley behind his back yard. It was the fourth edition of High on the Hog, Libby Hill’s live music and pork-worshiping festival. The 1980 event featured a serendipitous, career-defining moment for Wrenn: it began raining.
Click here to read the piece

* * *

Political blogging malaise

To a great extent, political blogging in Virginia has become a predictable animal much faster than I thought it would. Maybe this is just a lull and it will pass.

Still, not unlike the templates and formulas of the mainstream press that bloggers have piled on to ridicule, now the copycat bloggy equivalents seem just as obvious, and perhaps even more galling.

The willingness of partisan bloggers to play team ball and prevaricate shamelessly has turned out, so far, to be every bit as tedious as the worst radio talk shows and cable TV newsy programs. To me, the edgy alternative that political blogging was once held up to be is less evident every day.

Maybe political blogging has just gotten in a rut. Or, maybe its true heyday has come and gone.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Blogging trends

In Richmond two emerging trends blogging should be noted -- food/drink-based blogs and community blogging.

Accordingly, four Richmond-based blogs featuring eating topics, restaurant reviews and talk about wine are: Brandon Eats, MessyCuisine, Richmond Cellars and River City Food and Wine.

The Fan District Hub, published by yours truly, has recently become a part of the community blogs wave, which now includes five community blogs in the Richmond metro area. The other four being: Church Hill People’s News; Hills and Heights; Petersburg People’s News; West of the Boulevard News.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Celebrating Non-Violence


Tomorrw (Sunday) in Byrd Park an event called "Not With These Hands: A Greater Richmond Celebration of Non-Violence" will unfold between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. A wide variety of outdoor activities for citizens of all ages will be staged in the Dogwood Dell/Carillon area.

John Sarvay at Buttermilk and Molasses writes about the event and the organization staging it:

“I’m apparently a sucker for people who emerge from a dark experience to create something that offers the community light. The incredibly passionate people behind Not With These Hands continue to shine light on the issue of violence in our community, even as they celebrate the people and organizations who make a difference in the Richmond region...”

To read more of Sarvay's thoughts on Not With These Hands click here.

In "Pledging for Peace" Lisa Antonelli Bacon writes about the organization behind the event in Brick Weekly:

"Reactions were strange and unexpected. Some people smiled and mouthed 'I love you, too,' through closed car windows. Others rolled down windows to wave. One man took pictures with his cell phone. And one person (gender unknown) felt compelled to bare their bottom in a freezy attempt at mooning the four teenagers holding '' love you' signs at the corner of Belvedere and Broad on the afternoon of Jan. 30. Meanwhile, across the river, 100 people gathered at the Sacred Heart Center to pledge themselves to non-violence.

"Not With These Hands, which initiated the events, is more a spirit than an organization. 'This organization doesn’t do anything on its own,' says co-founder Kristin Hott, who created the group with Heidi Abbott and Carter Wellford following the murders of their friends, the Harvey family, last year."

Click here for more informatio about tommow's event in Bryd Park.

photo from Kristin Hott

Friday, May 18, 2007

Montsinger's comeback continues

Last year at this time, due to a spinal cord injury saxophonist Buzz Montsinger was in the hospital; he was paralyzed and his future was uncertain, at best.
July 16, 2006: Buzz stood with a little help...

After two-and-a-half months in the hospital Buzz, a football star at UR in the late-60s, was released just two days before a throwdown was to happen on his behalf at Plant Zero. He couldn't stand on his feet without being held up by his friends. At the show Steve Bassett performed, as did Robbin Thompson. Billy Ray Hatley’s band played, so did Bruce Olsen and his band. Ron Moody and the Centaurs closed the show. Click here to read SLANTblog’s coverage of last year’s party.

Now Montsinger’s condition has improved so much is walking with a cane. And, there’s more good news -- another party planned for July 22, again at Plant Zero. Read about it at the Fan District Hub.
Photo: Arthur J. Probst

The inevitable? A topless car wash

Perhaps if I’d thought about it, I could have predicted that some day people would pay good money to buy topless or all-nude car washes. Although I didn’t think about it, somebody has. Reuters has the story:

"A nude car wash offering an X-rated sideshow and topless cleaning in Australia's tropical Queensland state has been given the all-clear after police and officials said they were powerless to scrub it.

"The Bubbles 'n' Babes car wash in Brisbane prompted a flood of complaints with a topless car wash for A$55 ($45) and a nude car wash with X-rated lap-dance service for A$100. "If it was approved for a car wash then I can't imagine how we can stop them," Lord Mayor Campbell Newman told a council meeting with worried local lawmakers.

"Professional car washes have boomed in most cities with drought-stricken Australians banned from washing their own cars due to tough water restrictions."

How long before somebody tries to bring this cheeky idea to Richmond? Click here to read the rest of “X-rated nude car wash gets police all-clear.”

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Jets sign VCU's Pellot-Rosa

Jesse Pellot Rosa, the home-grown guard/forward who was a four-year starter at VCU, has signed a free agent deal with the New York Jets. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has the AP story.

"Pellot-Rosa, who tried out at wide receiver, helped lead the Rams to a Colonial Athletic Association title and a first-round upset of Duke in the NCAA tournament in March. He averaged 13.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and shot over 42 percent from 3-point range last season.

"Pellot-Rosa last played organized football in high school [at George Wythe]. He was recruited by Tennessee, Alabama and Virginia to play football, but chose to play basketball at VCU, which doesn't have a football team."

Pellot-Rosa played as hard every night as any player ever to wear the Rams colors. He was clutch when the game was on the line and he was the team’s best defensive player. Don’t be surprised if he makes the Jets 53-man squad and turns out to be an excellent wide receiver, or perhaps a safety.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

New Virginia Civil Rights Memorial for Capitol grounds

Michael Hardy covered an announcement made yesterday by Gov. Tim Kaine for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. A $2.6 million project, which is being financed by private donations, will result in the installation of a new monument on the Capitol grounds next year.

“A civil-rights monument on Capitol Square will break the race barrier among the many sculptures honoring Virginia leaders on the grounds of the state Capitol. Additionally, the large sculpture, surrounded by bronze figures from the Prince Edward County school-desegregation battle in the 1950s, will not be a static monument but a reminder that more needs to be done on behalf of equality. A depiction of the sculpture was made public yesterday.

“The four-sided memorial will feature 18 bronze figures showing Prince Edward’s Moton High School protesters, modern-day blacks and whites walking together and civil-rights pioneer the Rev. L. Francis Griffin, who led the community campaign. It will also depict Oliver W. Hill and Spottswood Robinson III, the lead attorneys in the case included in the Supreme Court’s five Brown v. Board of Education desegregation decisions in 1954...”

Click here to read the entire RT-D piece.

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 the new monument mentioned above 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. By the way, the 100-year-old Hill was on hand at the governor’s announcement yesterday.

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. And, here.

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

Monday, May 14, 2007

Local bloggy menu

Over at J's Notes the brand new RVA Blog Carnival is on display. Plenty of good reads about this and that from an eclectic list of local bloggers. Thanks to Jason Kenney for serving as the carnival's volunteer director this time around. Click here to look over what's on the bloggy menu this week.


Writer and Fan District resident David M. Poole has penned a tasty little essay that airs out his bemusement at the cult-like phenomenon that Starbucks has become. It is posted at the the Fan District Hub, which is the new community blog for the Fan District.

“Just before 9, I set off for Starbucks on Robinson Street clutching a piece of paper that read: ‘Venti Nonfat Misto’

“I have no idea what that means. Since my personal vices do not include an addiction to caffeine, so I’ve never bothered to learn Starbucks-speak. All I know is that you can just walk up the counter and ask for a small cup of coffee. You have to ask for a, uh, well – I don’t know what they call it...”

Click here to read Poole’s “Speaking Starbucks.”
Illustration by F.T. Rea

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Random Mother's Day thoughts

Recent tornados in the news and last night’s noisy storms combined to remind me of the twister I saw 39 years ago. Before that blue-black funnel chewed up and spit out a low-rise storage building in an open field less than 500 yards away, then turned hard left, it had been heading for where I stood struck still with awe.

The obvious role that chance, or some force outside myself, was playing in my life was certainly palpable that day. Although it’s hard to say exactly how that tornado experience changed me, it surely did.

A couple of years before the tornado, by chance, I stopped by my mother’s apartment, where I had lived only months before, to find it in flames and her asleep. After I carried her to safety, I went back in to fight the blaze in two rooms with an old foam fire extinguisher I had once liberated from an ancient apartment building that was being demolished.

Soon I passed out in the thick smoke. I don’t even remember feeling dizzy or falling down. Then, I came to my senses on the floor.

Don’t know how long I was down. With flames around me on two-and-a-half sides, it sounded like a far away voice calling my name; it woke me up. No comment on what that voice could have been. Today it all seems more like a dream than history.

Anyway, I scrambled reflexively away from the heat -- seven times hotter, hotter than it ought to be...

Click here to read the rest of the piece at Fan District Hub.

Friday, May 11, 2007

What's new?


Downtown Boondoggle Quiz at Save Richmond

Don Harrison at Save Richmond is still all over the performing arts center case/soap opera, as today’s post will verify.

“How well do YOU know Richmond’s longest-running downtown boondoggle? Do you have any idea where $8 million dollars in meals tax money went? Care to guess why it cost more than $20 million to tear down a building, leave a gigantic hole and then fill up the hole? Have you any clue where an additional $23 million of your tax dollars will soon be headed?

“Yes, I’m talking to you again.

“And since you appear to be awake, I’m sure you won’t mind taking the following “EZ 2 Love That Ongoing Downtown Boondoggle” quiz in order to find out the depth of YOUR knowledge of such things as squandered operating endowments, rigged performing arts committee meetings, music hall shells, expensive PR events and shuttered, boarded-up historic theaters...”

Click here to read “Take The Quiz: KNOW Your Downtown Boondoggle” and have a few laughs about a sore subject.

R-Braves Setting the Pace

Setting the Pace,” at, takes a look at the first month of the R-Braves’ season.

“After putting up a dismal 57-88 record last season, what has happened to the once-moribund Richmond Braves? They are winning games in bunches!

“On opening day this season the brain trust of the Atlanta Braves had stocked the local roster with 11 new players who weren't in Richmond last year. In hope of improvement, it had hired a new manager, Dave Brundage (pictured right, hitting a ball to the outfielders during a practice). Of course, before each opening day in recent years, someone in the Atlanta Braves front office has dutifully announced that management intended to field a better product in Richmond...”

Click here to read the piece, penned by yours truly.
Photo: SLANT

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

It's alive! the Fan District Hub

In advance of the press release that will go out later, I want to introduce my latest get-rich-so-slow-I’ll-probably-be-dead-first scheme to the blogosphere. After publishing SLANTblog for over three years I’ve finally learned enough about this realm that I feel ready to do what I originally set out to do -- create a new publication that will bring me from my old days in the alternative media biz into the present.

Well, here it is: Click here to visit the Fan District Hub.

The Fan District Hub is a descendant of the kiosk in the town square. In this case it exists on the Internet in a blog format. Its purpose is to facilitate communication in a way that benefits the commonweal of the neighborhood, as did its counterpart -- the kiosk bearing posted notices -- in another age.

As it evolves the Fan District Hub will be a hybrid of sorts -- community blog first, but part online magazine and part experimental thing that will probably have a name for itself one day. Its success will come from its ability to serve its primary audience/community, which will be people who live in, who do business in, who go to school in, who go to church in, or who frequently choose to recreate in the Fan District.

Yet, the Fan District is not simply a bunch of nice buildings. In many ways it is the cultural epicenter of the greater Richmond area, with Virginia Commonwealth University as the biggest player in that quaking metaphor.

So, I invite my readers from the blogosphere to visit the Fan District Hub. Leave comments there, or here, or email me, if you like.

Note: As I have no idea of how to write in programmers’ lingo, PharrOut’s Ross Catrow (also of RVABlogs and West of the Blvd. News) played an indispensable role in getting this web site from an idea to virtual reality. Others helped. I’ll have more on that aspect of this new adventure later. Still, at this point I must say for all to see, “Thanks Ross.”

One reason for making this move now is to join the community blog wave while it‘s still getting started. Here in Richmond, in addition to Ross’ WotBN, we also already have the Church Hill People’s News and Hills and Heights underway. For several reasons I believe that community blogging is going to be a major direction for where blogging is going. In the next year or two, I think we’ll probably hear as much about the impact of community blogs, and networks of such entities, as we have heard in the last couple of years about political blogs.

And now, aw-a-y we go...

Living in the moment: May 9, 1970

The entire White House grounds and Lafayette Park were surrounded by DeeCee transit system buses, parked snugly end-to-end. Cops in radical-looking riot gear were stationed inside the bus-wall perimeter every few yards. As the gathering Baby Boomers were funneled into the designated demonstration area -- the grassy ellipse south of the White House -- the temperature had already reached the upper 90s before noon that blue-skied Saturday.

On May 9, 1970, the hot still air heightened the mounting sense that anything could happen.

Why not? The previous Monday four students had been shot to death on Kent state’s campus during a Vietnam War protest rally. Three days later two more students were killed at Jackson State. Unlike the other large anti-war demonstrations, which were planned for months, this time it all happened spontaneously. Those on-campus killings moved many who had never marched in protest or support of anything before to drop what they were doing and set out for Washington, D.C. to live in the moment.

For some of us old enough to remember it, the recent mayhem/tragedy on Virginia Tech’s campus brought to mind the shocking events of this week, 37 years ago. It served to remind us once again that college campuses are customarily thought to be sanctuaries, supposedly removed from the ugliest realities of modern life.

At the war protest in DeeCee some of the more experienced hands had come out prepared with provisions for a long day. Even more had not. Estimates ranged widely but most reports characterized the size of the crowd at well over 100,000. Home-made signs were everywhere, including occasional pro-war placards that denounced the protesters. The smell of pot burning gave the gathering a Rock 'n' Roll festive feel, too, as a series of speakers took turns ranting over the massive sound system of Woodstock proportions.

Behind the podium a black man was lashed Christ-like to a huge cross, perhaps to dramatize to the largely white crowd who was doing most of the dying in Vietnam. As a convoy of military vehicles suddenly drove into the area the crowd booed. When it turned out the troops were bringing in water for the thirsty the booing stopped. Dehydration was a problem.

After the last speaker the police stood by watching thousands of chanting citizens, most of them under 25 -- filled with righteous indignation -- spill out of the park to stretch a line of humanity around the wall of buses. No effort was made to prevent the mob from marching into the streets which had already been blocked off. The march flowed north, then west, from one block to the next. Long lenses peered down from the roofs of those distinctive squat DeeCee buildings downtown.

Untold numbers of fully-outfitted soldiers were crammed into basements, visible in the doorways, awaiting further orders. Until that day's bizarre uncertainty most of them had probably been glad to be anywhere other than Vietnam. A cheer went up from the marchers when a determined kid managed to get on top of a bus to wave a Viet Cong flag.

The cops quickly hauled the flag-waver off but a commotion ensued and the scent of tear gas spiced the air. Hippies who had been wading in a fountain to cool off scaled a statue to get a better look, as I snapped pictures with my new 35mm single lens reflex.

The next day I was back in Richmond for yet another gathering of my generation. Staged in Monroe Park, Cool-Aid Sunday featured live music and various information booths and displays were set up, aimed at helping young people with their troubles. They included the Fan Free Clinic, Jewish Family Services, Rubicon (a dry-out clinic for drug-users), the local Registrar’s office, Planned Parenthood, Crossroads Coffeehouse, etc.

Although it was not a political rally the crowd assembled in Monroe Park, while smaller, was similar in character to the one in Washington. No one was seriously injured at Saturday’s tense anti-war demonstration. Then, ironically, a 17-year-old boy -- Wilmer Curtis Donivan Jr. -- was killed on Sunday in the park in Richmond when a four-tiered cast iron fountain he had scaled suddenly toppled.

It seems I took no pictures on Sunday, the 10th, but the photograph of Donivan falling to his death that ran on the front page of the Richmond Times-Dispatch on the Monday that followed is one I’ll never forget. No doubt, the momentum from the extraordinary week which preceded that fateful Sunday in Monroe Park was in the air as Donivan opted to climb that old fountain, not unlike other hippies in DeeCee the day before.

It set the scene.

In 1970 the USA was becoming ever more bitterly divided over the Vietnam War. Living in the moment was killing off the young and unlucky wherever they were.

Words and photo (1970) by F.T. Rea

Friday, May 04, 2007

Oliver Hill's 100th birthday

From Jessica Smith in Sen. Jim Webb’s office:

“Senators Jim Webb (D-VA) and John W. Warner (R-VA) this week applauded the unanimous passage of a Senate Resolution honoring the life of Oliver White Hill, ‘a pioneer in the field of American civil right law, on the occasion of his 100th birthday.’ Senator Webb will join hundreds of Hill’s friends and family on Friday night in Richmond to present Hill the official Congressional Record.

“‘It is with immense pride and an even greater sense of humility that I filed this resolution honoring the life and work of Mr. Hill,’ said Senator Webb. ‘Oliver Hill’s commitment to equality and fairness is a shining example of what a person can achieve with courage and conviction.’

“‘His tireless efforts to end discrimination everywhere through his Foundation have grown a new generation of lawyers to continue his legendary civil rights work for years to come,’ continued Webb.

“Senator Warner said, ‘I am proud that this champion of civil rights is a fellow Virginian whom I have come to know personally over these many years. Without a doubt, the legacy of Oliver Hill’s remarkable career in support of equal rights will continue to be felt through the determination of the many Americans he mentored and inspired. It is a great privilege to join Senator Webb in honoring Oliver Hill with this Resolution.’

“At his 100th birthday celebration dinner, Oliver Hill will be recognized for his service to the nation in the advancement of civil rights. Among his many accomplishments, Oliver Hill was a key lawyer in the historic Supreme Court case, Brown vs. Board of Education, appointed by President Truman to study racism in the United States, and left his law practice to serve his country in the Armed Forces during World War II.”

On a personal note: When I’ve seen Oliver Hill in the last few years, it has felt like being close to a saint. There are always adoring people standing near him and gazing at him in awe with respect and admiration. And, for good reason. I hope I live long enough to see a statue of him unveiled on Monument Avenue.

Happy Birthday, sir.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Geyer: Tenet Confirms What Many Already Knew

Over the decades of her reporting on international politics Georgie Anne Geyer has seen ‘em come and seen ‘em go. Her take -- “Tenet Confirms What Many Already Knew” -- on the new Tenet book, and the nefarious role of neoconservatives in getting America into a war it will be hard to get out of, is worth reading. Here’s an excerpt:

“...But in truth, the Tenet book, ‘At the Center of the Storm,’ is old stuff. It only confirms what culture-savvy journalists like Arnaud de Borchgrave of United Press International, Steve Chapman of the Chicago Tribune, Trudy Rubin of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker and, modestly, yours truly, were writing even a year before the war started.

“Still, one has to say, Thanks, George! Your book will stand as a kind of final confirmation for all of us. As the neocons have momentarily paused in their passions to destroy our country, just about the only ones left to join the ‘mea culpa’ club now are the president himself, Vice President Cheney and the disgraced (and disappeared!) Donald Rumsfeld.”

Click here to read the whole piece.

Always about Wilder

When the movement in Richmond to change the city charter picked up steam, to allow for the citywide election of a strong mayor, it was said to have been about accountability and efficiency. It was said that it was about problem-solving.

It wasn’t, because it was really about L. Douglas Wilder.

In 2004 Richmonders overwhelmingly voted for the change, ushering in a new era in local politics. Many of those voters thought it was about reform and putting an end to taxpayer-financed boondoggles.

It wasn’t. It was about Doug Wilder.

When Mayor Wilder pulled back the curtain to reveal the pure folly of the Virginia Performing Arts Center’s grandiose plans and outrageous fudging on the numbers, many hoped it was about putting the kibosh on such malfeasance.

But it wasn’t. It was still about Hizzoner.

When Richmond’s showboating mayor regularly butts heads with the city council, voters wish it would be about making Richmond a better city. When Richmond’s stubborn mayor fights with the school board, parents wish it would be about improving education. When Richmond’s quarrelsome mayor accuses and intimidates nearly everyone in his path, especially people who work for the City of Richmond, citizens wish it would be about important issues, they wish it would be about leading to a brighter day.

Alas, it never is. It’s always about Wilder.
Art by F.T. Rea

Edwards opening at Main Art

“Intervals and Progressions,” a show of recent work by sculptor Harold Edwards, opens at Main Art Gallery, 1537 W. Main St., on Friday, May 4. The opening reception is from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. The show will stay up through May 29.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Webb on Bush veto

From Sen. Jim Webb’s office here is his statement on the Bush veto:

“Congress exercised its constitutional responsibility this week by appropriating more than $100 billion to fully support our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, the President chose not to cash that check. It is up to him to explain to the American people why.

“We won this war four years ago. The question is when we end the occupation. This bill called for a much-needed shift in our approach to Iraq. The United States military is not going to change the societal makeup of Iraq. And the Malaki government is not going to bring peace among Iraq 's competing factions without the strong, overt, diplomatic cooperation of other countries in this region. And this bill called for just an approach.

“I have always said that we need to support the troops through leadership that is equal to the sacrifices we are asking them to make. It is time for a new approach in Iraq, one that displays smart diplomatic leadership in the region. We must bring this occupation to a proper conclusion that will increase our ability to focus on international terrorism, increase the stability in the region and allow us to focus on our strategic interests elsewhere in the world.”

In spite of the usually clumsy efforts of Webb’s adversaries to paint him as a hothead, he continues to put out measured statements on important topics, such as the one above. His words here calmly present a point of view, but there’s no guff, no malarkey.

Webb continues to make me glad I supported him from the start. And, I am old enough to remember politicians that I supported who proved to be disappointing. So far ... so good.
Art by F.T. Rea