Friday, February 29, 2008

The Three Faces of Hillary

Occasionally, when she is listening to Barack Obama during a debate, or she seems a little bit too satisfied with herself, for a flickering few seconds, candidate Hillary Clinton can look too much like the evil mom, played by Angela Lansbury (as pictured above), in “The Manchurian Candidate” (1962).

In that excellent political thriller the versatile Lansbury shows just what a marvelous actress she can be.

When I think of the awkwardness of Hillary having her husband and former president, Bill Clinton, stumping for her, I am reminded of “Sunset Blvd.” (1950). In that one a rich former silent movie star, played by Gloria Swanson, has her former husband, played by Eric Von Stroheim, working for her as a butler/chauffeur.

Don’t you wonder what in the world Bill’s role would be if Hillary wins?

Then when I watch Hillary Clinton switch from one personality to another, then another, in a matter of a day or two, I am reminded of “The Three Faces of Eve” (1957), which starred Joanne Woodward.

As Eve White: She sweetly, almost self-effacingly, praised her opponent, Barack Obama, at a debate, saying how “proud” she was to appear on a stage with him.

As Eve Black: With her most shrill voice the next day she berated Obama with, “Shame on you...” over what was a tiny disagreement over syntax. Then we hear how she wants the Michigan and Florida delegations’ votes to count at the convention, in spite of party rules forbidding the same.

As Jane: When she talks about what she has done as a senator to help needy people, she can sound like a disciple of Eleanor Roosevelt. Which makes me think she’s an excellent person to represent New York in the U.S. Senate.

But one can get whiplash trying to keep up with the multiple personalities Hillary can project from one minute to the next. In contrast, candidate Obama seems unflappable, consistent and more confident every day. Which is obviously making Hillary’s moods swing from one frustrated face to another.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

McCain, Obama, macaca and Nader

New meaning for March Madness?

Legendary basketball coach Bobby Knight, 67, with all 902 of his Division I victories at the top of his resume, has already gotten himself a new job. Earlier this month he resigned from his position as head men’s basketball coach at Texas Tech. Now AP is reporting Knight has signed on with ESPN to appear as an analyst on live broadcasts of upcoming conference tournaments and the subsequent NCAA tournament that determines the national championship.
College basketball fans flipping channels back when Bob Knight was coaching couldn’t resist stopping when they spied one of his interviews or news conferences. Nobody wanted to miss what he might say or do. ESPN executives figure nothing will change with the Hall of Famer switching careers. The network announced Thursday that Knight will appear as a guest studio analyst leading up to and during the NCAA tournament.
Click here to read the entire AP story. Click here to read Knight’s bio at Wikipedia.

It should come as no surprise that ESPN management would want Knight on its roster of analysts. His presence will surely cause a stir, at least to begin with, because of Knight’s well-earned reputation for being outspoken, even confrontational. Even mean and obnoxious.

Much of his vitriol over the last 30-some years has been hurled at reporters, including those of ESPN. His bullying contempt for the working press has been seen as either entertaining to his fans, or beyond the pale to his detractors. Few basketball fans have no opinion on the former head coach at Army, Indiana -- where he won three championships -- and most recently at Texas Tech.

Now Knight can add another line to his resume -- hypocrite.

Perhaps that should come as no surprise, either. After all, he consistently demanded his players stay under control, while he blew a fuse whenever the mood struck him.

Will Bobby Knight explode during a broadcast, maybe throw a chair, or punch a fellow talking head? Who knows? Stay tuned for more, ahem, March Madness...

-- Words and art by F.T. Rea

VCU too much for UNC-W


Senior guard Jamal Shuler scored 15 points, grabbed four rebounds and made two steals in the 37 minutes of his final appearance at the Siegel Center

It was senior night at the Siegel Center on Wednesday night. That put an added pressure on the three seniors who started the game, as well as the coaches and the rest of the team. Nobody wants to lose on senior night, the last home game for the seniors.

After a rather uneven first half performance VCU played a splendid second 20 minutes at both ends of the floor to defeat UNC-Wilmington: VCU 72, UNC-W 58.

Of what was wrong with the Rams in the first half, which featured some ill-advised lobs and other ball-handling miscues, VCU head coach Anthony Grant spoke of the pressure of senior night: "Sometimes that enthusiasm, that zest, can get the best of you."

Then a happy and relaxed Grant praised his team's smothering defensive play in the second half. Grant was also quite pleased his team out-rebounded its bigger opponent by a 39-33 margin.

VCU seniors, forwards Wil Fameni and Michael Anderson, and guard Jamal Shuler combined for 80 minutes of play; together, their stats were 31 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.

Junior guard Eric Maynor scored 16 points and freshman guard Joey Rodriguez added 12. Freshman forward Lance Kearse looked good in his 13 minutes on the floor, scoring seven points and getting four rebounds.

UNC-W head coach Benny Moss was impressed with the 94 feet of pressure VCU applied, and the play of Maynor, in particular. "[He is] the best player in the conference." Moss had to mention the shot-blocking sensation freshman Larry Sanders has become for the Rams, "...they've got an eraser at the bucket."

UNC-Wilmington (18-12, 11-6 in CAA) was led by its star guard T.J. Carter, who scored 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds.

As the Rams pulled away in the second half the Seahawks started banging a little harder, which created some friction, but Grant's team wasn't intimidated. That's a good sign, because at times during the season the Rams have not responded well to rough tactics.

And, strangely, after the game the players took turns climbing a ladder and cutting down the net, which marked the first time anyone in the media room could remember seeing a net being cut down on any occasion other than following a tournament win.

Asked about the net-cutting ceremony, Grant said he wanted the team, especially the freshmen to "Get a taste of [winning a championship] ... and remember that."

With its win VCU (22-6, 14-3 in CAA) clinched a first-place finish in the regular season CAA standings. So the Rams will be the first seed in the conference's post season tournament at the Richmond Coliseum, Mar. 7-10. The top four teams in the league's final standings (see below) will receive byes in the tournament's first round.

Next up for VCU is its last game on the regular season schedule, a 7 p.m tilt at William & Mary (14-14, 10-7 in CAA).

CAA Standings
Team, CAA record, overall record
VCU 14-3, 22-6
Mason 12-5, 20-9
UNC-W 11-6, 18-12
ODU 11-6, 17-13
W&M 10-7, 14-14
Delaware 9-8, 13-15
Northeastern 8-9, 12-16
Hofstra 7-10, 11-17
Towson 6-11, 11-17
Drexel 5-12, 12-18
Georgia St. 5-12, 9-19
JMU 4-13, 12-16

-- Words and photo by F.T. Rea

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Hillary's exit

Political columnist Jonathan Alter has some good advice for Hillary Clinton.
If Hillary Clinton wanted a graceful exit, she'd drop out now—before the March 4 Texas and Ohio primaries—and endorse Barack Obama. This would be terrible for people like me who have been dreaming of a brokered convention for decades. For selfish reasons, I want the story to stay compelling for as long as possible, which means I'm hoping for a battle into June for every last delegate and a bloody floor fight in late August in Denver. But to withdraw this week would be the best thing imaginable for Hillary's political career. She won't, of course, and for reasons that help explain why she's in so much trouble in the first place.
Click here to read the entire article in Newsweek.

It’s hard to imagine Clinton will take Alter’s suggestion to heart, at least not before the Texas and Ohio primaries on March 4. Still, he makes a good point. She has a window in time that won't stay open forever.

The shrill and desperate attacks Clinton has directed toward her front-running opponent in the last few days are not improving her crumbling position, but no doubt some of them will be heard again in Republican political ads down the campaign trail.

It is obvious that more and more Democratic voters are jumping on the Barack Obama bandwagon because his message of change and hope is going over well. Right message. Right messenger. Impeccable timing.

Basically, Clinton has run on her experience and the fact she is a woman; the implication being that the time has come for a female president. It hasn't worked, and now neither have her attacks. Barring a monumental stumble by Obama, he will win the nomination. If she times her departure well, it would be a boon to the Democratic Party’s prospects for unity this year.

Moreover, it would show her understanding of the moment, an understanding that would have her accepting that an Obama victory in November will be a shared triumph for which she has helped pave the way. Without the various social movements since the 1950s, which have empowered minorities, workers and women, the amazing Obama phenomenon of this campaign season would still be a dream.

Bowing out gracefully at the perfect time would be a classy move, which would be something new to her 35-year resume.

Monday, February 25, 2008

FEb. 25: VA Top Five

Fresh for each Monday morning during basketball season, SLANTblog publishes its new Virginia Top Five, which takes into account the results of the week's games. Accordingly, it attempts to rank what seems at the moment to be the best five teams from among the 14 Division I men's programs in the Commonwealth.

At this writing, none of the teams on the list below is in particularly good shape to receive an at-large invitation to the NCAA postseason tournament. VCU presents the best case, should the Rams falter in the CAA tournament, but the Colonial is generally seen as weaker this season than last.

SLANTblog's VA Top Five

1. VCU (21-6, 13-3 in CAA, No. 52 RPI)
2. Va. Tech (16-11, 7-6 in ACC, No. 68 RPI)
3. Mason (19-9, 11-5 in CAA, No. 70 RPI)
4. ODU (16-13, 10-6 in CAA, No. 114 RPI)
5. Richmond (14-10, 7-5 in A-10, No. 111 RPI)

-- RPI numbers from RealTime RPI, as of Monday at 12:30 a.m

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Hillary, say it ain't so


Move over Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, make room for the next cheater.

That’s because Hillary Clinton appears poised to cheat in the presidential race on a scale that would dwarf what steroids have done to baseball’s image for honesty and fair play. The sort of cheating candidate Clinton is toying with now, over the Michigan and Florida delegations to the Democratic convention, will make the scandalous fixed World Series of 1919 look rather bush league in the hall of infamy.

When the Democratic Party’s national officials decided in their own peculiar wisdom to punish pushy Democrats in Florida and Michigan for breaking party rules over the re-scheduling of their primaries dates, well, the die was cast.

The candidates knew those states were told their delegations’ votes would not count at the convention if they ran their primaries earlier than the national rules allowed. The candidates agreed not to campaign in those states. Of course, the voting proceeded in violation of the rules, nonetheless.

It was an unusual situation, but rules matter in any contest -- sports or politics -- and when Democrats in those two states defied their political party’s agreed upon rules, they knew they were doing so at their own peril.

It says here that if Clinton continues to pursue the notion of reanimating those two states’ delegates’ votes, she would be doing so willing to pour stinking cynicism all over the fresh idealistic enthusiasm of the new young Democrats Barack Obama has been bringing to the Democratic Party.

It’s hard to think of a more poisonous thing anyone could do to the long-term interests of Team Donkey. If the smell of widespread cheating is in the air these days, perhaps that has something to do with the thirst for change and authenticity that has marked this campaign season.

If in the pursuit of her dream of being the first female president, Hillary Clinton is willing to cheat to win, wouldn't that be an utter betrayal of what she says she has stood for during her 35 years of accumulating baggage?

If such a betrayal would truly be out of character, could it be that Hillary is so desperate she has resorted to taking steroids?

Please, Hillary, say it ain't so.

-- Words and art by F.T. Rea

Networks waiting for macaca

This year the political news, especially on television, seems geared to cover a presidential campaign meltdown in realtime. Just how far the competitive news channels will go with their reporting to contribute to bringing one on remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, a breathless coverage of the presidential race has become the norm. Minor meanderings along the long road to the White House have been reported as if they were hairpin curves executed at high speed. Story lines on the candidates have either grown legs to dance to the 24-hour-cycle drumbeat, or they’ve fallen off the map. The sizzle factor seems to have been the difference more than substance.

Obviously, such a willy-nilly process has stretched some stories out of proportion, making them seem more significant than they really are. Oh no! Huckabee’s campaign bus ran out of gas! Is it a metaphor?

Angles with potential to be worrisome, to cause widespread consternation, seem to have stood a better chance of being aired repeatedly than those without it. That's sizzle.

Behind the scene, it’s been the job of spin doctors from the campaigns to constantly feed what they hope are such angles to the working press. It’s an industry. A lot of people are making their living from all the smoke and mirrors being used to tell the story of the 2008 campaign.

This year, with no incumbent in the race, it looks like every minor faux pas is being auditioned as the newest macaca-sized mistake. The notion that someone is sure to mimic George Allen’s 2006 senatorial campaign meltdown, which torpedoed his second term as well as his plans to run for president, seems to be in the air. Which candidate will crumble under the pressure to supply the new macaca moment?

When will it happen? Stay tuned...

VCU wins at Northeastern

VCU survived on the road, beating Northeastern, 66-62. It wasn't a glossy win but any win on the road this late in the season is a good win.

Once again, Rams head coach Anthony Grant had to depend on all-conference junior guard Eric Maynor to carry the team at the end of the game. This time around, as it usually does, that strategy worked. Maynor scored nine of his game-high 26 points in the last four minutes.

Although VCU (20-6, 13-3 in CAA) defeated Northeastern (12-14, 8-8 in CAA), this game was another example of the Rams inability to take a substantial second-half lead and run away with the game. Instead, once again, VCU let their opponent climb back into the game and it ended up being a nail-biter.

The Rams play next in Akron, to face the Zips on BracketBusters Saturday at 11 a.m. (ESPN2).

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Flashback to 1972's election

Can a John McCain take a Barack Obama's early opposition to the war in Iraq -- even though history makes it look good -- and make it seem weak-kneed in 2008 to enough paranoid American voters, rather than astute?
The handbill above is one I did for a fundraiser in September of 1972 at the Biograph Theatre, which I then managed.

With the art, hall-of-fame underground cartoonist R. Crumb's trucking man style was deliberately being imitated in the George McGovern caricature I crafted, as I was trying to reference Zap Comix and its appeal to hippies. The other movie theater operators in Richmond and lots of other mostly conservative local know-it-alls told me we were crazy to take sides in politics, by sponsoring a McGovern benefit.

To me, they didn't yet understand the role in the community the new repertory cinema would play. Fortunately, my fairly liberal bosses at the Biograph in DeeCee went along with their 24-year-old manager's rather cartoon take on what was what; it was our first year of operation at 814 W. Grace St.

Note then state senator Doug Wilder's appearance at the event (click on the art to enlarge it).

In the election, incumbent Richard Nixon was able to sell the notion that McGovern, a decorated
bomber pilot -- he flew 35 missions over North Africa and Italy during WWII -- was holding an anti-war stance in Vietnam that was weak-kneed and worrisomely anti-American.

Is that same sort of thing possible, again, in an Obama vs. McCain race?

McGovern was right in '72. But the voters in that election year couldn't cotton to the idea of accepting any sort of an American defeat in any
blood-sucking war.

Today, the war in Iraq remains bogged down, surge or no surge. Getting out of there will be a tricky mission -- it can't be done in a snap.

Still, I wonder how many people have already forgotten there were damn good reasons for an Obama to have been speaking out against launching an invasion to capture weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, before the folly got started?

Perhaps the better question is this: Will a desperate Hillary Clinton beat John McCain to the punch, to play the weak-kneed/
anti-American card against front-runner Barack Obama?

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Connecticut Watch

With the R-Braves leaving The Diamond, Richmond is looking for a new baseball team. And, sculptor Paul DiPasquale's large Native American figure, "Connecticut," has to be looking for a new home.
...The RMA, which has represented the combined wills of the jurisdictions of Richmond (six votes), Chesterfield (two votes) and Henrico (two votes) since 1966, owns and operates The Diamond. RMA general manager Mike Berry said, "Now the playing condition is as good as you'll find."

DiPasquale's Connecticut is also owned by the RMA. So, what will happen to the sculpture when the Braves vamoose? Nobody knows, yet. Meanwhile, here's how it came to find a home at The Diamond:
Finished in 1983, the original plan was for the piece to sit atop a building in Washington, D.C., at the intersection of Calvert Street and Connecticut Avenue.

When DiPasquale's Plan A unexpectedly unraveled, Plan B had the piece looking out over the roof of Best Products' corporate headquarters, near Ashland, for a couple of years.
Click here to read my piece, "The Connecticut Watch," at

-- Photo by F.T. Rea

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Feb. 18: VA Top Five

Fresh for each Monday morning during basketball season, SLANTblog publishes its new Virginia Top Five, which takes into account the results of the week's games. Accordingly, it attempts to rank what seems at the moment to be the best five teams from among the 14 Division I men's programs in the Commonwealth.

At this writing, none of the teams on the list below is in good shape to receive an at-large invitation to the NCAA postseason tournament. The state's best prospects, VCU and Mason, both hurt their chances with losses to teams with worse RPIs.

SLANTblog's VA Top Five

1. VCU (19-6, 12-3 in CAA, No. 65 RPI)
2. Mason (18-8, 10-5 in CAA, No. 64 RPI)
3. Richmond (13-10, 6-4 in A-10, No. 102 RPI)
4. Va. Tech (14-11, 5-6 in ACC, No. 79 RPI)
5. Virginia (12-12, 2-9 in ACC, No. 126 RPI)

-- RPI numbers from RealTime RPI, as of Sunday at 10 p.m

ODU spoils VCU's perfect record at home


Maynor drives through heavy traffic to the rack

The 78th matchup between arch-rivals Old Dominion University and Virginia Commonwealth University was a classic. After losing in Norfolk to the Rams on Jan. 19, 78-68, Saturday night in primetime on ESPN2 the visiting Monarchs stuffed an upset down the Rams throats before a sold-out (7,592) Siegel Center crowd.

VCU was ahead of ODU by six points with 2:10 remaining in the contest, but this time the home team couldn’t close the deal. The Rams lost on their floor for the first time this season: ODU 67, VCU 66.

Monarchs guard Brian Henderson (Varina High) took over the affair in the last two minutes of play, hitting three jumpers for eight points and stealing the ball from Eric Maynor on the Rams’ last possession. He hit eight of 10 shots from the field to pace ODU’s offense with 20 points.

“I’ve been waiting for this a long time,” said Henderson, a senior, referring to the fact this was his first win on the Rams floor.

“It was a tough way to lose,” said VCU head coach Anthony Grant, who had a costly technical foul called on him in the middle of the second half. After admitting that call hurt the team he said, “We’ve got to do a better job of managing the end of the game.”

Eric Maynor, VCU’s star guard, scored 25 points and grabbed six rebounds. But in the last two minutes of play, after being knocked down hard, he turned the ball over twice, committed three fouls and scored zero points in the face of ODU’s furious rally. Maynor's usual ability to be at his best when it counts most was absent this time.

It was a physical game in which the referees let the guys play, which may not have been such a good thing for the Rams. VCU has struggled at times this season against big teams that knock them around, especially when the officials allow a lot of contact. At such times they miss last year's enforcer who graduated, Jess Pellot-Rosa.

The atmosphere for the tilt was high volume with lots of yellow on display in the partisan crowd. As it turned out, the two hours of Colonial Athletic Association action was a good showcase for the conference on national television.


The crowd behind the basket mugs for the ESPN camera

Although VCU maintains a two-game lead on Mason and UNC-Wilmington, with just three league games remaining, this loss dealt a serious blow to the Rams prospect of earning an at-large bid to the NCAA postseason tournament, should they not win the league’s tournament at the Richmond Coliseum next month.

VCU leads in the all-time series with ODU 39-37. VCU's all-time record at the Siegel Center (1999-present) is 107-20.

CAA Standings
VCU — 19-6, 12-3 in CAA
Mason — 18-8, 10-5 in CAA
UNC-W — 17-10, 10-5 in CAA
Wm.&M — 13-12, 9-6 in CAA
ODU — 14-13, 9-6 in CAA
Northeastern — 12-13, 8-7 in CAA
Delaware — 11-14, 8-7 in CAA
Towson — 10-15, 6-9 in CAA
Hofstra — 9-16, 6-9 in CAA
JMU — 11-14, 4-11 in CAA
Drexel — 11-16, 4-11 in CAA
Georgia St. — 7-18, 4-11 in CAA

– Words and photos by F.T. Rea

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Rams topple the Dukes

Last night VCU (19-5, 12-2 in CAA) won its fourth game in a row and remained unbeaten at the Siegel Center for the season.

In Harrisonburg on Jan. 2, Virginia Commonwealth University lost to in-state conference rival James Madison University by one point, 62-61. At the 7 p.m. tip-off Wednesday night in the Siegel Center, it was zero-hour for VCU to deal out some serious payback. The Rams came out of the gate fast and went on to outperform the Dukes in every phase of the game in cruising to a 75-56 finish.

Click here to read the rest of my article on the game at

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Conservatives without a Conscience

Believing they had found a new Ronald Reagan in the person of candidate George W. Bush conservatives of every stripe coalesced and rallied behind him in 2000. Without that reprise of what was Reagan’s Big Tent in the 1980s Bush could not have won.

Without the disasters and follies that have happened on Bush’s watch, such as 9/11, the anthrax scare, the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the widespread spying on Americans and the torturing of captives, Hurricane Katrina, skyrocketing national debt, etc., conservatives would probably not be finding reasons to call one another names today.

During Bush’s seven years in office the meaning of what it is to be a “conservative” has become a finger-pointing game involving purity tests and blame. Now it’s obvious that there is a lot of difference between neoconservatives, cultural conservatives, foreign policy conservative, corporate conservatives, fiscal conservatives, Libertarian conservatives, and so forth.

Today, it seems about all they have in common is a shared admiration for Ronald Reagan.

With Sen. John McCain as the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party, conservatives within the party are at one another’s throats. His heroic military record and his honesty are being ridiculed. He is called a Republican in Name Only (RINO) by holier-than-thou-pundits.

Where all of this is leading it’s hard to say. Maybe the Big Tent will survive this storm, maybe Bush has destroyed it. All I am sure of at this point is that the father of the conservative movement in the Republican Party in the 1960s, Barry Goldwater, must be spinning in his grave.

There is no way the Goldwater that I remember and still admire would stand with the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Karl Rove and Ollie North as honest conservatives, or as true patriots.

Where is 'seminude' not permitted?

It appears the vague, so-called Museum District area, which apparently includes some aspects of the western part of the Fan, may soon be broadening its entertainment options, according to a Richmond Times-Dispatch article penned by Kiran Krishnamurthy.

The owner of a seminude club in Shockoe Bottom is planning to open a nightclub across from two museums frequented by children and their families.

Sam Moore, owner of Club Velvet, has contracted with a construction company for work on the former Julian’s Restaurant at 2617 W. Broad St., across from the Science Museum of Virginia and the Children’s Museum of Richmond.

A few months ago I noticed a renovation effort was underway at what had been Julian’s (second) location on West Broad St., the northern boundary of the Fan District. Curious about what would be opening up in a building that had long been vacant, I asked one of the workers about it. When I was told no one knew, it sounded odd.

Reading the RT-D article makes me think that now the word is out, there is a brouhaha on its way over this development.

The Fan District, once home to such X-rated fare as what went on every day at the Lee Art Theater (blue films and live strippers) and the Red Light (topless dancers) in the 1990s, may no longer be a place that will accept "adult entertainment" in its midst.

That article also makes me think that Richmond’s laws defining “seminude” and regulating what states of undress are permitted within the city limits are both somewhat vague and more than a little amusing.

A city ordinance bans nudity, which is defined as “any state of dress less than seminude.”

The city defines “seminude” as a state of dress with “less than completely and opaquely covered pubic region, buttocks, or female breasts below a point immediately above the top of the areolae, excepting any portion of the cleavage of the female breast exhibited by … apparel provided the areolae are not exposed.”

If one tries to take all that literally and apply it, might the determined sunbathers in Monroe Park or on the Lee Monument be in trouble come the first warm sunny spring day?

No doubt, however tacky it might seem to lots of people, there’s a market in most cities for nightclubs that feature scantily clad women — seminude? — as waitresses or dancers. However, just as zoning laws prevent someone from opening a hog farm or constructing a 50 story building in any old neighborhood, it seems such an approach would prevent a nightclub in certain areas, too.

However, Science Museum, or not, in this case the somewhat gritty neighborhood in question seems to have few limitations on what sort of business can operate there now. Stay tuned...

Click here to read the entire RT-D article.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Obama: This is our moment

Barack Obama has won in Virginia. That his victory tonight comes during Black History Month must be satisfying to some who can remember when that would not have been possible. Moreover, that Obama’s only opponent for the Democratic presidential nomination is a woman also testifies to how much times have changed.

Truth be told, Obama is changing the political landscape. He is in the process of changing what is possible in Virginia and across the nation. His appeal to the young is obvious. But it’s his appeal to the young at heart that may be what gets him the nomination.

There are a lot of people in their 50s and 60s who can remember inspirational political leaders who were uplifting. Obama is reaching out to a broader audience every day. The Obama bandwagon is picking up steam, because more and more everyday people of all ages are hearing Obama’s sincere and eloquent call for change.

Because I played organized sports growing up and then as an adult, into my 40s -- Frisbee-golf is all that’s left of my “career” -- a lot of my friends and associates are jocks. And, in Richmond that means most of those guys are conservative in their politics. Usually they vote Republican.

To a man, they can’t stand Hillary Clinton. Whether they ought to feel that way isn’t the issue. They do. And, let’s face it, she is toting a lot of baggage. Every time I hear her tout her “35 years of experience,” it makes me think she’s helping Obama with that more than she knows.

However, several of those graying jocks I talk sports and politics with at happy hour are somewhat disillusioned with today’s GOP, in general, and George Bush, in particular. A few of them are quite intrigued with Obama’s campaign. They ask me about him, what I know about his record.

Those conservative-leaning old goats are feeling the same vibe that is getting more intense with each week of the 2008 presidential campaign. They can see Obama is noticeably different from the typical politician in either party.

Instead of continuously attacking his opponents with negatives, Obama says he’s a “hope monger.”

Tonight, basking in the glow of three more victories, Obama said what so may Americans now hope is true, “This is our moment.”

-- Words and art by F.T. Rea

Picasso and Powell

by F. T. Rea

In February of 1981 I saw Pablo Picasso’s “Guernica” with my then-11-year-old daughter. When the Museum of Modern Art’s elevator doors opened the sight of the 25-foot wide masterpiece was so stunning the doors began to close before the spell was broken.
A few months later, 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 nearly five 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 --

Obama's momentum to be tested

The voting going on today in Maryland, DeeCee and Virginia is being called the Potomac Primary by the media. In the presidential primaries and caucuses in other states, to date, the turnout and enthusiasm that has surrounded the Democrats’ contests has made the Republicans look rather disinterested/depressed. No doubt, some of that passion has been due to the Bush White House’s long list of failures.

Perhaps a bigger factor has been the Barack Obama phenomenon. So far, Obama's ability to inspire young/new voters looks off-the-charts. Going in, the polls say Obama will win in all three primaries. Then again, polls for primaries can be way off.

Polls and pundits aside, now we’ll see whether Sen. Clinton's 35 years of experience/baggage can produce an upset and make her Virginia’s preferred Democrat to face the GOP’s presumptive candidate Sen. John McCain, or not. If Sen. Obama does pull off a hat trick today, it will add much to the perception that his support is snowballing everywhere.

With new polls suggesting Mr. Obama would fare better than his opponent in a general election pitted against Mr. McCain, the inevitability of Mrs. Clinton’s supposed cakewalk through the nominating process continues to evaporate in the bright lights.

My expectation is that this trend will continue.

Perhaps anticipating three more losses, Clinton is reported to have said yesterday in Maryland, “I am absolutely looking to Ohio and Texas, because we know that those are states where they represent the broad electorate in this country.”

In spite of Clinton’s deep-pocketed resources, it is looking more and more like Americans will be looking at an Obama vs. McCain matchup in November.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Biograph's 36th

Today marks the 36th anniversary of the opening of the Biograph Theatre. In 2000, I wrote a piece for about anniversary parties at that cinema which I managed for nearly 12 years. Here’s an excerpt:
...On Feb.11, 1972, the Biograph Theatre at 814 W. Grace St. was set in motion by a gem of a party. The first feature presentation was a French war-mocking comedy, "King of Hearts" (1966). On the screen, Genevieve Bujold was dazzling opposite the droll Alan Bates. In the lobby, the Fan District's version of the beautiful people were assembled. The champagne flowed and the flashbulbs popped.

As the new cinema house's first manager, at 24, this yarn's recounter was convinced he had the best job in town.

Repertory movie theaters such as the Biograph became popular in large cities and college towns in the late '60s and early '70s. The fashion of the era, driven by a film-buff in-crowd, elevated many foreign movies, certain American classics, and selected underground films above their current-release Hollywood counterparts. A repertory cinema's regulars viewed most of the product coming out of Hollywood then as naïve or corrupt.

For me, the gig lasted nearly 12 years, including five years of Rocky Horror midnight shows.
Click here to read the entire piece.

Click here to go to the Biograph Archives and read more about that chapter of Richmond entertainment/Fan District history.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Feb. 11: VA Top Five

On Mondays during basketball season SLANTblog publishes its Virginia Top Five. It attempts to rank what seems on that day to be the best five teams from among the 14 Division I men's programs in the Commonwealth.

This past week VCU won twice, Tech and UVa. dropped two, Mason and Richmond went 1-1. Meanwhile, Hampton and William & Mary are lurking.

SLANTblog's VA Top Five

1. VCU (18-5, 11-2 in CAA, No. 57 RPI)
2. Mason (17-7, 9-4 in CAA, No. 59 RPI)
3. Va. Tech (14-10, 5-5 in ACC, No. 89 RPI)
4. Richmond (12-10, 5-4 in A-10, No. 119 RPI)
5. Virginia (11-11, 1-8 in ACC, No. 138 RPI)

-- RPI numbers from RealTime RPI, as of Sunday at 11 p.m.

Mentors on the road

Balcomb Greene (1904-90)

Some deaths suddenly pull back a curtain, inviting us to look again at the roads we’ve traveled. Other deaths make us go numb. This piece is about the former.

Last month, Lee Jackoway, a man I worked for over three decades ago died. We had spoken to one another only once that I can remember since I left WRNL, AM and FM, the two radio stations he managed. Yet the news of his death made me confront and reconsider how much I had learned from him in the eight months under his tutelage.

That realization brought to mind others who long ago took an interest in opening the eyes of a young know-it-all. It wasn’t long before my thoughts were focused on a dream job I had in 1969. It had me driving bona fide scholars around Virginia from one university campus to the next in a big black Lincoln.

Each week, under the auspices of the University Center in Virginia (a consortium of Virginia colleges and universities), there was a new scholar in a different field. My job was to drive them to lectures, dinners, convocations and to hotels throughout the week.

Naturally, in the crisscrossing of Virginia the wiseguy driver and the actually wise visiting scholars had a lot of time to talk, although some of them kept to themselves, mostly. Others were quite chatty and in several cases we got along well.

Three of them stand out as having been the best company on the road: Daniel Callahan (writer/editor at Commonweal Magazine), Henry D. Aiken (writer/philosophy professor) and Balcomb Greene (artist/philosophy and art history professor).

Callahan challenged me to think more thoroughly about situational ethics and morality. He was happy I was reading the books of Herman Hesse and he turned me on to “One Dimensional Man” by Herbert Marcuse. He was curious about my experiences taking LSD, we talked about drugs and religion. Click here to read about Callahan.

Aiken (1912-‘82) was then the chairman of the philosophy department at Brandies University, he loved a debate. He was used to holding his own against the likes of William F. Buckley. Talking with him about everything under the sun in the wee hours, I first acquired a taste for good Scotch whiskey (which I haven't tasted in many a year).
From a ‘pragmatic’ point of view, political philosophy is a monster, and whenever it has been taken seriously, the consequence, almost invariably, has been revolution, war, and eventually, the police state.

-- Henry D. Aiken
Aiken, like Callahan, agreed to help me with a project I told them about -- inspired by popular new magazines Ramparts, Avant-Garde, Rolling Stone, etc. -- at 21-years-old I wanted to jump straight into magazine publishing, with no experience, ASAP.

That dream stayed on the back burner for 16 years, until the first issue of SLANT came out in 1985. However, the biggest influence on the way I went about publishing SLANT flowed from my association with Greene (1904-90). He was, by far, the rent-a-scholar who was the funniest and the one who had the biggest influence on me.

The son of a Methodist minister, Greene grew up in small towns in the Midwest. He studied philosophy at Syracuse University, psychology at the University of Vienna and English at Columbia University. Then he switched art, having been influenced by his first wife, Gertrude Glass, an artist he had married in 1926. He became a founder of the avant-garde group known as American Abstract Artists in 1936.

After World War II, just as abstract art was gaining acceptance, Green radically changed his style. He began painting in a more figurative, yet dreamy, style that fractured time. Click here, here and here, to read about Greene and see examples of his work.

One day I’ll write a piece about the visit to Sweetbriar with Greene. It was a hoot collaborating with him to have some fun putting on the blue-haired art ladies of that venerable institution. This time my mention of him is to get this piece to I.F. Stone. It was Greene who gave me a subscription to I.F. Stone’s Weekly.

I.F. “Izzy” Stone (1907-89) was an independent journalist in a way few have ever been. In the 1960s his weekly newsletter was a powerful voice challenging the government’s propaganda about the war in Vietnam. Click here to read about Stone, and here.
"All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out."
-- I.F. Stone
Stone remains one of my heroes. At my best, over the years, I have emulated him in my own small ways. Thank you, Professor Greene.

-- Photo of Greene from Harmon Meek Gallery web site

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Straw that Broke the R-Braves Back


Blame for losing the Richmond Braves has been slung in every direction since the bad news broke on Jan. 14: The local team’s owners, the Atlanta Braves, announced they had decided to take their players, bats and balls to a new home to be constructed in the Atlanta suburbs after the upcoming baseball season at The Diamond is concluded.

Outrage erupted! Angry baseball fans felt cheated.

Naturally, the finger-pointing was directed first at Mayor L. Douglas Wilder. After all, he had campaigned for mayor promising to fix the problem of where the R-Braves should play baseball.

Then the list of the blameworthy grew. It included the R-Braves general manager Bruce Baldwin, the Richmond Metropolitan Authority (which owns The Diamond), City Council, the Atlanta Braves, officials of the surrounding counties, the Richmond Baseball Initiative’s ballpark-in-the-Bottom guys (remember them?), and so on.

Bloggers and letter-to-the-editor-writers even attempted to guilt-trip fair-weather fans for not supporting the team by going to enough games. Quite naturally, some of those most blamed trotted out denials of blame.

We’ve seen depressing timelines showing significant dates in the saga of losing the R-Braves published. Those speaking for the Atlanta Braves front office say talks with Gwinnett County’s officials moved to the front burner in early October of last year. Not before.

Mayor Wilder has said otherwise. He also has said Richmond will have professional baseball in 2009, but he won’t say who, or how.

Still, if culpability is the issue, let’s do look at the context of time by asking -- what else was going on during that crucial time leading up to early October?

More specifically, what was dominating the news coming out of Richmond in the days leading up to the fateful decision made by the owners of the Atlanta Braves to end a 42-year relationship?

Well, on Saturday morning, Sept. 22, Richmonders began absorbing the perplexing news about the Friday Night Fiasco their mayor had engineered. The front page story told of Mayor Wilder’s botched effort to forcibly evict Richmond’s public school administration/school board from their offices in City Hall.

Wilder’s ploy was stopped cold when Circuit Judge Margaret P. Spencer issued a restraining order at 1:15 a.m. on Saturday.

Other than an absolute yes-man, it’s difficult to imagine any sane person who would have advised Hizzoner to do such a thing. Like, who really would have told him to grab some money from the fund to help Battery Park recover from flooding that was The City’s fault, and spend it instead on a moving van sneak-attack on the School Board?

Since then Judge Spencer has made the restraining order permanent and Wilder’s behavior in this matter has been seen in an increasingly bad light. Moreover, as a smart lawyer, himself, Wilder had to know in advance there was a good chance a judge would put the kibosh on his eviction plot before the night was over.

So, you have to wonder what was going on in the squirrelly mayor’s then-76-year-old head. He blew half a million bucks out of disaster-relief monies to create a disaster out of thin air at City Hall. Nothing was accomplished for the money.

Well, there’s no chance the management team of the Atlanta Braves (owned by Liberty Media since February, 2007) didn’t read all about Mayor Wilder’s stunt. The story stayed at the top of the news for a week. There’s no real chance those decision-makers saw Wilder’s headline-making behavior as a good sign.

Let’s face it, to a guy reading about it sitting in an office in Atlanta, it probably looked like Richmond’s government was coming unhinged. In early October, who knows how many people in what positions decided to give up on investing in Richmond, based on what they were reading in the news?

That is why a wise and prudent person would not have done what payback-obsessed Doug Wilder did in this instance. It put the City of Richmond in a bad light.

– Words and art by F.T. Rea

For a Song

by Travis Charbeneau

How much is a song worth?

This should-be-simple question is fundamental to an ever-more complex intellectual property debate. Normally, to determine how much something costs, you go to the store and check the price tag. Easy.

But millions of us now buy songs off the Internet, where there is no "easy." The old Napster-style scheme, essentially music for free, is supposedly shut down. But new outlets have sprung up, hundreds of MP3 sites that all want your credit card. But ... again, "how much?"

Apple's iTunes emporium originally called the tune at 99 cents. And they still dominate the market. Rhapsody, a chief competitor, fooled with 49 cents, but settled at 89. And, exploiting international copyright loopholes, a huge number of Russian and Ukrainian sites have appeared with high-quality MP3s available anywhere from nine cents to 20. Most famed of these is probably, which was sued for 1.65 trillion dollars by the RIAA. It simply morphed into MP3Fiesta and/or MP3Sparks. Some ex-AllofMP3 customers report that they found their accounts still in good order when re-directed to the new sites. Over 1.5 trillion bucks is big, scary money, unless you don't have to pay it.

We also have "unlimited use" sites that still use file sharing, but somehow have remained legal. The much-lauded, running off the old Gnutella network, has a one-time-only charge of $34.44 for the "pro" version, which gives you lifetime, unlimited access to 12 million songs, plus DVDs, games, etc. If I download just half their catalog for $34.44, that comes to 0.00000574 "cents" per song.

Some out there will recall when The Beatles decided to stop performing. Amongst other difficulties, they felt incapable of reproducing their recorded artistry on a live stage. This worked out marvelously for many groups. For a very short time.

The day when musicians could expect to make money from their recordings alone seems all-but-over. Old acts accustomed to residuals from their records are naturally concerned. New artists find that the Web may get them previously-unavailable exposure, but what then? With recordings going for nothing, they're "lucky" to be left with endless drives to live shows and motels for any sort of "livelihood" ("endless drives to live shows and motels" is also known as "Death"). Established groups from U2 to RadioHead to The Eagles have tried alternative marketing schemes to so-far-dubious results.

It's possible that any musician's prospects of making a living from his or her recorded work may only have lasted around 50 years; the second half of the last century. Like the blue collar autoworker who could put a boat in the driveway and two kids through college on a single paycheck, the rock star millionaire may likewise have come and gone.

In truth, the historical picture isn’t even that sunny. For the first 30 of those 50 years, artists were ripped off by the record companies in the grand old style perhaps best exemplified by Col. Tom Parker's "handling" of Elvis. For the last 30 years we've had "piracy" via technology, from the dual-tray cassette deck to MP3s. This would leave the "day" of the rock and roll millionaire about ten years and 24 hours short.

Some will argue that the whole phenomenon was simply a wild historical aberration. Consider the old expression of a real bargain as something you got "for a song." That doesn't say much for music's perceived worth, reaching way back.

Mozart and his contemporaries were often considered little better than court jesters, and even wore the livery of their masters, just like the footmen. They were subject to the artistic demands of their "fan base," often some tin-eared aristocrat complaining about "too many notes" (see "Amadeus"). And, of course, like Mozart, many died paupers.

Their predecessors, the first guys to take music secular, were the troubadours of the 12th century, forever "on the road," lucky if they could find a house where they might "sing for their supper." Their predecessors in sacred music were most likely to have been monks on a vow of poverty. Nary a hint, much less a popular dream of riches.

Then, starting with Edison, fame and fortune glimmered for the talented and lucky songwriter or actor. New technologies and more abundant leisure time fed appetites and dreams, inspiring and enabling imitation. Eventually, the computer gave us a music revolution. Now, it's devouring its children.

And we still don't know the fair price for a song.

At 12 I bought some Elvis tunes as 45 RPM records. Cost: 99 cents each. I bought them again on LP; the 8-track cartridge, on cassette and the (insanely-overpriced) CD. Now iTunes wants me to pay another 99 cents?

And, again, new songs by new artists are problematic. What's a fair price? And how will we ever find out? And what about the other arts, as books, films, photos, etc. all mutate into the digital equivalent of the MP3? All this "intellectual property" is merely so much information. Once digitized (and any copy-protection scheme can be hacked), it becomes free.

Only artists are crazy enough to work for free.

-- Travis Charbeneau is a freelance writer/musician living in Richmond, VA.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Feb 4: VA Top Five

Each Monday SLANTblog publishes its Virginia Top Five for men’s college basketball. It attempts to rank what seems on that day to be the best five teams from among the 14 Division I programs in the Commonwealth.

This past week Mason won twice, Tech also won both its games, so both moved up. VCU went 1-1, Virginia lost two and Richmond split a pair.

SLANTblog's VA Top Five

1. Mason (16-6, 6-3 in CAA, No. 52 RPI)
2. Va. Tech (14-8, 5-3 in ACC, No.64 RPI)
3. VCU (16-5, 9-2 in CAA, No. 58 RPI)
4. Virginia (11-9, 1-6 in ACC, No. 120 RPI)
5. Richmond (11-9, 4-3 in A10, No. 108 RPI)

-- RPI numbers from RealTime RPI, as of Monday at 10:30 a.m.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Rams hammer Tigers

Freshman Joey Rodriguez at the point

Playing at home on Saturday, VCU bounced back nicely from its 12-point loss on Tuesday to George Mason up in Fairfax, to defeat the visiting Towson Tigers: VCU 65, Towson 42.

“They’re all freshman. They’re all freshman,” went the celebrating/taunting chant from some in sell-out (7,590) crowd at the Siegel Center.

With VCU ahead of Towson by over 20 points in the last two minutes, Rams head coach Anthony Grant had installed five of his freshman -- all recruited from Florida -- to do mop-up duty. They were starters Joey Rodriguez and Larry Sanders, plus Lance Kearse, Ed Nixon and Myk Brown, who all came off the bench.

Actually, three of Grant’s prized freshmen, in particular, had rather good games, stats-wise. It was a good thing. As it happened, his two star guards -- Eric Maynor and Jamal Shuler -- had off nights, at least with their shooting. The combined for a seven-for-25 clip from the field. But they, and their hustling teammates, played tough defense the entire 40 minutes.

Towson head coach Pat Kennedy shrugged and said about VCU’s defense. “We’ve not seen pressure like this all year.”

Sanders, a forward, scored 11 points, grabbed eights rebounds and blocked seven shots. Kearse, also a forward, scored 11 points and hauled in five boards. Rodriguez, one of three guards to start the game, scored five points, dished out five assists and got seven steals.

Grant praised Kearse's effort in the game, as well as during recent practices. "With every game he's getting more confidence."

Of Sander’s 26 minutes on the floor, Grant said, “His defensive presence inside was tremendous.”

Next up for league-leading VCU (16-5, 9-2 in CAA) is a game on Wednesday (7:30 p.m.) at Georgia State (6-15, 3-8 in CAA).

-- Words and photo by F.T. Rea

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Monk and Green tapped for NFL Hall

Monk, No. 81, working in traffic. Of course he got hit. And, of course he caught the ball.

Justice for the seven-times-snubbed Art Monk finally came out of the National Football League’s Hall of Fame voting process. Today Monk and his former teammate Darrell Green were named as part of the 2008 class to be inducted in August. AP writer Barry Wilner has the story:
Like the two old friends they are, Darrell Green and Art Monk chatted about the latest news in their lives: making the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Never mind that thousands of people were listening to the conference call after Saturday's announcement. This was simply two former Washington Redskins sharing verbal hugs after receiving the sport's highest honor.

"May I just say to you when I first came to Washington, you had just won the Super Bowl, you guys worked me over for nine weeks and I hated all of you," Green told Monk, drawing laughter...
Hail to the newest Redskins Hall-of-Famers!

Click here to read the entire AP article. Click here to read last year's screed bemoaning Monk's exclusion from the HoF.

-- Photo by Ernie Brooks