Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Kudos to Hinkle

In spite of how much cynical players and copycat wannabes in the world of politics would like you to believe otherwise, just because one has opinions doesn't mean he or she can't be fair. Moreover, to be a "partisan" doesn't mean one is inherently dishonest.

Truth be told, some of the most dishonest/unfair people I've ever known tried to appear to be without partisan interests or strong opinions ... when they could.

Bart Hinkle does a fine job of showing his ability to occasionally bite the conservative/Republican hand that feeds him in his Tuesday column in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. This one piece hardly means Hinkle has changed his conservative/Libertarian spots. However, it does mean he is capable of noticing and discussing inconsistencies and hypocrisies in politics without having to see them through a partisan prism.
...Under the November 1995 Dayton Accords, American forces sent to implement the peace agreement were slated to return home by Christmas 1996. Then their mission became one of "stabilization," and the withdrawal date was extended 18 months, and then American servicemen wound up stuck in the Balkans for years.

The right went ballistic.

"The thing I worry about is how we . . . get out. What is the strategy here for disengaging? What is going to happen a year from now that will allow our withdrawal without reigniting the civil war? What is going to take our place once we pull out? I do not yet have confidence that we have solved that problem."

Those words, spoken in May of 1996, came out of the mouth of Dick Cheney.

Click here to read Hinkle's "If Conservatives Aren't Embarrassed, They Should Be." Kudos to the writer for stylishly reminding us that most of the time playing team-ball is best avoided by legitimate professional columnists.

In writing about politics, team-ball is usually better left to the hired hand spin doctors, who are paid the big bucks to be blind to their team's faults and spit out slogans. And, of course, the bleating bloggers on whichever side of the proverbial aisle, who imagine themselves to be spin interns.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Film Noir in pastels

This piece, "Chinatown on Grace Street," is 10" by 8," and it will be among my recently-made art objects for sale at the Art/Music Happening at the Ha'Penny Stage behind the Carillon this Sunday afternoon (2:30 - 5 p.m.). Click here for more information about this impromptu art event.

Made of ink, color pencils and paint on paper, the scene above recalls the opening of Polanski's perfect detective flick, "Chinatown," -- Film Noir in pastels! -- at the Biograph.

Click on the art to enlarge it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Art happening Sunday afternoon in the park

From 2:30 until 5 p.m. on Sun., Sept. 23, a rather unusual art happening will unfold in Byrd Park behind the Carillon around the Ha’Penny stage. Artists who trust their urge to take advantage of this opportunity are going to take some of their work out to the park to show it, and to offer it for sale.

Anyone who thinks this sounds like fun is welcome to join in. The stage (just behind the Carillon on the right, as you face it) offers plenty of display area. For would-be participating artists to note -- no one will take a percentage of what is sold; there is no charge to participate. Maybe you'll sell some work!

Folks are also going to be picnicking at the numerous tables in that same area. Some will be bringing musical instruments (no electricity). All are welcome to come to the park and have a good time playing/listening to music. Bring your sense of humor, your coolers, and whatever else you think you ought to have with you to have fun.

This experiment/project started with me pondering where to meet some friends to show them some of my recent art work, hoping to sell some of it. Then, last Sunday, it hit me while I was playing Frisbee-golf -- as I do every Sunday morning -- those same grounds would make a perfect setting for a little outdoor get-together. Since then the original idea has snowballed nicely.

Now nobody knows what will happen. How big will the crowd be for this short-notice, guerrilla version of arts in the park? Who knows? We'll see.

Stay tuned -- I’ll post more on the event later in the week. For more info email me (Terry Rea) at ftrea9@yahoo.com or call (804) 359-4864.

The piece shown above, "NRBQ at High on the Hog 11," will be on sale

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Art object a day: Stuart monument

The third piece in the series of new art objects created each day is above. It is after the Fred Moynihan 1907 statue of J.E.B. Stuart, which is at the beginning of Monument Avenue. In pastels, ink and water color, it is 10" by 8."

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Frizbeetarian's Favorites

Here is the second piece in my 30-day challenge to produce an art object every day for a month. This one, "The Frizbeetarian's Favorites" (10" by 8"), was done with colored pencils and ink.

To see the first art object in this series click here. To enlarge the art click on it.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Art object a day

Inspired by the concept of completing a painting a day, something I've seen from other artists, yesterday I took up the challenge: For a solid month I'm going to try to make a new piece of art every day and see what happens.

Each piece will be whatever strikes me to do that day, so there will be paintings, sketches, pen-and-inks, and so forth. Mostly there will be lots of mixed media, as I tend to grab whatever is around. (Click on the art to enlarge it.) Yes, all of the stuff will be for sale, so if you see something you like please do drop me a line. The email address is in my bio at the top of the column on the right.

The piece above, "Mercie's Lee," is an ink and pastels study (10" by 8.5") of the statue of Robert E. Lee in my neighborhood. Three years in the making, French sculptor Jean Antoine Mercie's strikingly dignified Lee Monument was unveiled in 1890.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Yes to Mark Warner in 2008

In reading various articles, commentaries and posts on the topic of whether the former governor of Virginia, Mark Warner, ought to run for the U.S. Senate, I’ve noticed those who like to think they’re in the know seem to lean toward believing/hoping that Warner will save himself for the gubernatorial race in 2009.

Some offer that Warner is probably better at being an executive, they suggest he is less suited to being one of 100 members of a deliberative body. Others may be licking their lips, as they imagine him facing the bumbling George Allen in 2009, and trouncing the old football coach’s son so thoroughly it will send him and his cowboy boots into permanent retirement in Southern California.

Well, my quick take on it is that Mark Warner ought to run for the retiring Sen. John Warner’s seat in the Senate next year. It says here he would handily defeat any Republican now on the political landscape; I also think he’d make a good senator.

Why not? Plus, I say the Democrats ought to run one race at a time, fielding the best candidate they can find each time.

After Gov. Tim Kaine’s term is done, judging by how it looks today, the Democrats will have a nice list of capable nominees to run against Allen, or anyone else the Republicans come up with. Now that Allen has been exposed as the counterfeit Southern gentleman he posed as during his years in office, he is damaged goods.

Right now, about all the Virginia GOP has going for it is its withering majority in the General Assembly. We’ll soon see how that holds up. Moreover, I don’t see a strong statewide candidate on their roster. Jim Gilmore? Virgil Goode? I doubt either could get 40 percent of the vote.

Sure, someone could emerge, but given its history over the last six years, it is more likely the Republican Party in Virginia will continue to dwell on fighting within its own ranks, and continue to unravel.

So, first things first: Mark Warner runs and wins in 2008, then we’ll see about 2009.

Photo of Mark Warner by F.T. Rea

No 9/11 exploitation here

Yes, today is the sixth anniversary of the shocking series of airliner hijackings and subsequent explosions that was 9/11. For Americans -- especially those on the East Coast between New York and Virginia -- September 11, 2001, was a sucker-punch from hell ... what more needs to be said?

Yet both the predictable mainstream media and the copycat blogosphere are brimming over with stories/posts which state the obvious and offer recollections/observations as commentary, as if we need more of it.

However, with all due respect for anyone who lost someone dear on that tragic day, is there really anything new to say after six solid years of saying way too much? It seems to me that since that dark day’s fires were put out and the smoke cleared, the subject has been milked for whatever it’s worth -- by so many agendas, dubious and otherwise -- the best thing most of us could do today is to observe a moment of silence and then go back to whatever we we were doing.

Meanwhile, the silliest thing on 9/11 I’ve seen so far today was the Brookings cartoon on the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s editorial page. The gist of it was that America has forgotten about 9/11.


The crass exploitation of the 9/11 disaster and its victims for political gain, for business profiteering, for whatever reasons, has been a shameful chapter of America’s history. So, I’ll have no part of today’s nostalgic outpouring of purple prose. And, for today, at SLANTblog, I’ll even skip wagging sarcastic fingers of blame at the worst of the exploiters.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

You can own 'The Biograph'

When the Biograph Theatre was converted to a twin cinema in the late summer of 1974, I assembled a collage in the hallway from the lobby to the larger auditorium, No. 1. That collage -- made up mostly from publicity materials and memorabilia for feature films, photos from magazines, etc. -- was about 12 feet high, it was some 30 feet long. Taking on that large a space was fun.

In 1982, for what was the Biograph’s 10th anniversary it was completely reworked, this time with quite a bit of help of the staff.

Then, in 1985, a couple of years after leaving my theater-manager job, I used up several boxes of old movie memorabilia, photos of the staff, images from handbills, and such -- stuff I had saved for years -- to make the collage which is represented above. One last stab at the theme. Beyond the cut paper it relied upon, I used transparent inks and various opaque paints on it to tint it and give it a fractured look. At the time I meant it to be a scattered collection of freeze-frames, perhaps as seen by a dreamer.

Naturally, I named the then-new piece “The Biograph.”

It was one of four large collages on plywood panels I did that same year (one of them was displayed at the 3rd St. Diner for years), all of them having to do with time. By the way, the 16 mm reel can be switched on so it turns by a little electric motor behind the plywood panel on which the paper, paint, etc., were placed. The little mirror lights up, too. The entire piece was glued together and covered with Roplex, making it quite resistant to damage. Framed with black two-by-fours, it is an extremely sturdy package.

The collage inside the frame, what you see above, is five feet wide and stands four feet tall. It showed in couple of gallery settings in the late-‘80s and early-’90s. Now, in a time in which I need to put some money together and clear some space, it is up for sale.

No one else has seen it in about 15 years. Push has come to shove and sitting in storage this artifact isn’t doing anybody any good. To move it fast, just $500 will make you the owner of this unique piece -- the perfect souvenir of Richmond’s storied repertory cinema, the Biograph Theatre (1972-87). If your best friend is a film buff, why not buy them a one-of-a-kind present?

To see an enlargement of the art just click photo of it above. Inquires should be sent by email (ftrea9@yahoo.com), or call (804) 359-4864. If you want it, don't wait.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Fan District Hub newsletter

The following art and copy made up the first Fan District Hub newsletter, which hit the streets this week:

Hub, official spokescat for the Fan District Hub, hopes you will read on, and eventually smile.
Community blogs are what’s happening

What has the potential to become a powerful network of independently published community blogs continues to form in the Richmond area. Now there are nine such web sites in Richmond. The newsletter you are reading is the paper extension of the community blog published by me, the Fan District Hub.

While I'm watching this trend with great interest, as a longtime alternative media advocate -- Biograph Theatre, Color Radio, SLANT magazine, etc. -- I suspect publishers in the mainstream media are something less than happy about it. In fact, some seem to be in a near-panic. And, for good reason.

Since newspapers and broadcasters have been running less and less local news, as a national trend, they have left a gaping void that the community blogs seem prepared to rush into with fresh enthusiasm and new technology.

John Murden’s Church Hill People’s News was the first community blog in Richmond. Ross Catrow was next with his West of the Boulevard News. In addition to the Fan District Hub, the others now running include: All Things Shockoe, Carver & Jackson Ward News, Hills and Heights, Near West End News, North Richmond News and, the newest, simple called Oregon Hill.

This newsletter will come out on a monthly basis. It will grow -- four pages next month. In the meantime, please take the time to visit the Fan District Hub online. Send us your suggestions. Yes, this is the time for volunteers to step up.

By the way, both at the web site and with the newsletter, advertising is dirt cheap, for now. For information on that click here.

The Fan District Softball League: Chapter One

Referred to as the “hippie league” by softball players who played in the polyester-clad softball leagues governed by recreation and parks departments, the Fan District Softball League had its own style, which leaned toward cotton, silk-screened T-shirts. Its games were played on “open fields,” rather than in softball complexes with fences. Among other things that meant the Fan League featured a style that put more emphasis on defensive play, rather than simply a home-run derby, with big-bellied Bubbas and Junies trotting around the bases.

It also meant the league’s activities received less scrutiny by authorities outside of itself, which was viewed at the time as a good thing.

The rather unorthodox Fan League bubbled up out of the pop culture ooze of the summer of 1973, which was the heyday of WGOE, the daytime AM radio station that dominated the local hippie audience. Its sound could be heard in the shops and on the sidewalks of the bohemian commercial strip of West Grace Street, adjacent to Virginia Commonwealth University. WGOE, inadvertently set the whole thing in motion when its promotional softball team of deejays and a few ringers, the ‘Nads, played a few games against impromptu squads representing a few regular advertisers on the station, mostly bars.

By the next summer teams began to jell, but there was no formal schedule and fields were still being commandeered, rather than secured by arrangement with any proper authority. By 1975 the name Fan District Softball League had come into use and the organization had its first commissioner -- Van “Hook” Shepherd. Cassell’s Upholstery beat the Bamboo Cafe in a one-game playoff for the season’s

championship finale. The four other teams in the league that inaugural season were the Back Door, Sea Dream Leather, Uptop Sub Shop and WGOE.

In 1976, in addition to the regular season the league staged two tournaments, one of them an invitational. Teams representing the Biograph Theatre, deTreville, Hababas, J.W. Rayle, the Pinheads (the VCU sculpture department and friends) and the Rainbow Inn were formed in 1976.

During the first decade of the league’s existence, next to the music and nightlife scene, softball-related activities were at the heart of the Baby Boomer-driven culture in the Fan District. Unlike most softball leagues in those days, the FDSL usually had lots of fans at its games. Of course, the kegs of free beer that were around had something to do with that. In that time the freewheeling FDSL was the only organized-yet-independent softball league in the Richmond area.

Thus, the Fan League governed itself, made its own schedule, cut its own deal with the umpires, etc. It remained so through its last season in 1994. The Fan District Softball League had lasted 20 years, which was a wonder in itself.

Chapter Two will appear in the October newsletter.

SUV’s in the Fan

The first time I drove a sports/utility vehicle, it was a Toyota ForeRunner and I was surprised at how unstable/top-heavy it felt. That was 10 years ago. While some makes are worse than others, since then, as a class, SUVs have proven to be outrageously susceptible to rolling over.

A few weeks ago I saw a muscle-bound SUV flipped over by a low-slung compact like it was a cheap hamburger. The compact had been doing about 25 miles-per-hour before it struck the SUV on the rider’s side -- the SUV ran a red light -- causing it to tumble and spin around on its roof; the driver was bloody, trapped inside and lucky to be alive.

In that case the high-riding design of the driver’s SUV was dangerous only to her. Let the buyer beware. But what about danger posed to others? Some say SUVs generally threaten smaller cars on the road. Maybe they do. However, in the Fan District, there’s absolutely no doubt SUVs can be a danger when they are parked at the curb.

Decades ago a good many Fan residents rode streetcars, later buses, to work, or to shop; purchases from department stores, grocery stores, etc., were routinely delivered. Neighbors walked for short errands and saw one another in the doing. Lots of middle class families didn’t own a car. The neighborhood was originally designed for such a lifestyle.

Well, that era is long-gone, yet there aren’t any more parking spaces now than there were 75 years ago. So, with many times more motor vehicles, it’s crowded. And, get this -- the taller those vehicles are, the more difficult it can be to simply get around.

That’s because the height of large SUVs, vans and such, breaks the sight line of a motorist, or bicyclist, trying to see around them at an intersection. From a side street, entering an intersection, either you must creep part-way into the intersection and peer around, or you jet across, hoping for good luck...

Consequently, now we need a law which recognizes that in densely-populated neighborhoods, for safety concerns, vehicles that stand over a certain height shouldn’t park near the corner. Maybe tall vehicles shouldn’t park within 15 feet of the corner.

Some SUV- and van-lovers would no doubt object. Still, it says here -- get a garage! -- that no one has an intrinsic right to park anywhere they choose in the public way. After all, driving itself isn’t a right in Virginia, it’s a privilege.

By the way, the small sedan in the above mentioned accident had a crumpled front end; its driver appeared unhurt.

Hub’s blurbs and links
  • For information about the Bryan and Kathryn Harvey Family Memorial Endowment click on the link or call The Community Foundation at (804) 330-7400.
  • VCU’s student enrollment for this year is the largest in the university’s history, more than 31,300 students.
  • Alas, it seems the retiring Sen. John Warner is one of the last of a dying breed of cat inside the beltway -- a courteous politician who does his own thinking.
  • Richmond Free WiFi Blog

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Richmond has 10 community blogs now underway

What has the potential to become a potent network of independently published community blogs continues to form in the Richmond area. Now there are 10 such web sites.

While I'm watching this trend with great interest -- as a longtime alternative media advocate -- I suspect some of the publishers in the mainstream media are less than happy about it. In fact, some seem to be in a near-panic. And, for good reason. Since newspapers and broadcasters have been running less and less local news, as a national trend, they have left a gaping void that the community blogs seem prepared to rush into with fresh enthusiasm and new technology.

The first community blog I noticed in the area was one up in Charlottesville, started by Waldo Jaquith a few years ago. It is cvillenews.com.

Later, in Richmond, John Murden got the ball rolling with his Church Hill People’s News. Ross Catrow was next with his West of the Boulevard News. The others now running include: All Things Shockoe, Carver & Jackson Ward News, Fan District Hub (published by your truly), Hills and Heights, Near West End News, North Richmond News, Oregon Hill and Petersburg People’s News.

No doubt others are on the drawing board.

So, while some bloggers continue to focus a great deal on the contrived little battles that routinely erupt within the fractious Virginia political blogosphere -- games which usually have little or no effect on anyone outside that peculiar realm -- others are now looking to interact with/serve the community in which they live in the real world, where the voters actually live, too.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

John Warner: good natured, unflappable and unbeatable

Yesterday, Virginia’s Senator John Warner ended speculation over whether he plans to campaign in 2008 to hold onto his seat in the U.S. Senate. Standing before the Rotunda at the University of Virginia, Warner announced that he will not seek a sixth term, choosing instead to retire on Jan. 6, 2009.

At 80 years old, surely Warner deserves a less hectic schedule. Among his comments, the white-haired veteran of World War II (Navy) and the Korean War (Marines) said, “How fortunate, how blessed I have been.”

Well, he’s not the only one.

The citizens of Virginia have been fortunate to have had Sen. John Warner representing their interests since 1979. Although Warner has been a moderate-to-conservative Republican, both in his expressed views and with his voting record, he has not let GOP political hacks push him into violating his own standards to play team ball.

Thus, at times Warner moved decisively to scuttle the campaigns of Republicans he saw as unworthy of his fellow Virginians’ support. Following his leadership, the voters rejected an extremist, Mike Farris (1993), and an opportunist, Oliver North (1994). Thus, owing much to Warner's efforts, Virginians were spared from being represented in high office by a rather mean-spirited religious crackpot, on the one part, and a traitorous smirking wiseass, on the other.

Of course, since those days some on the GOP fringe have hammered Warner as a RINO (Republican in name only). Yes, that crowd has tried more than once to unseat him. That, while Warner has remained good natured, unflappable and unbeatable.

And, in spite of how many times I have disagreed with Warner’s positions on other matters -- including his past support of Bush’s policy in Iraq -- still, I must say thank you, Senator. Thanks for the thoughtful, measured way you have carried yourself over the last 28 years in office.

Alas, it seems Sen. Warner is one of the last of a dying breed doing the people’s business inside the beltway -- a courteous representative of the people who actually does his own thinking. The list of those who want his job brings to mind that Warner’s successor will be hard pressed to live up to the standard he has set.

-- Art by F.T. Rea