Saturday, August 30, 2008

Is Palin the pick of a born-again maverick, or just a dirty old man?

Who saw that one coming? Sen. John McCain's selection of Gov. Sarah Palin to round out the Republican ticket seems to have struck almost everybody as a stunning surprise.

In an off-the-wall way, this rather strange pick does work to help revalidate McCain's maverick credentials, which have come into question this year, as he seems to have moved toward President George Bush. McCain didn't pick a guy anybody expected.

Palin has served as Alaska's governor since December of 2006. Prior to that she served for six years as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, a village of some 7,000, and as Ethics Commissioner of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission for two years. And, by the way, she placed second in the Miss Alaska pageant in 1984.

Yes, Palin, with her sparkly smile, nice cheekbones and schoolmarm cheaters, is a lot prettier than the likes of the former governor of Pennsylvania Tom Ridge, or Sen. Joe Lieberman. No doubt, much will be made of her good looks during the campaign.

Palin is a proud pro-lifer, too, who seems to have ideological appeal to the far right element of the GOP. Ultra-conservative Richard A. Viguerie says: "She's perfect ... McCain has chosen to balance his ticket with a principled conservative."

Viguerie is the sort of taste-maker who doesn't mind that his comment might suggest McCain is neither genuinely conservative or particularly principled. Many of Rush Limbaugh's dittoheads would probably be happy to second such purity test slurs.

With a less-than-subtle gesture, Palin mentioned Clinton's "18 million cracks in the glass ceiling" in her first opportunity to speak as the presumptive vice presidential nominee.

Whether Pailn will have much appeal to Sen. Hillary Clinton's
sisterhood-of-the-traveling-pantsuits type of supporters remains to be seen. Are women really going to be so fixed on electing a female this year that they will freak out by the millions and abandon their concerns for traditional issues that have always been at the top of the feminist agenda?

"I know Hillary Clinton, and Sarah Palin is no Hillary Clinton," Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said on MSNBC.

Perhaps the biggest surprise to do with McCain's pick for Veep was his willingness to give up being able to effectively criticize Obama as "not ready." If McCain thinks Palin is ready to be a heartbeat away from the presidency, then he can hardly say with a straight face that Obama isn't ready to be president.

Maybe McCain, 72, just wants to travel around the country with a former beauty pageant contestant who, at 44, is aging gracefully. Like, if he's looking at losing, anyway, because it's just not his year ... why not make it a pleasant ride?

-- Words and art by F.T. Rea

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Happy Donkeys in Denver

With Barack Obama now officially nominated, Team Donkey is on a roll tonight. Even Sen. John Kerry was speaking effectively from the podium in the convention hall in Denver.

Bill Clinton spoke before Kerry and seemed very much his old confident self. Without a doubt, he did Obama a lot of good tonight. There was not a hint of holding back his best effort. The former president's speech seemed directed at Democrats, and to the whole world watching the broadcast.

In contrast, Hillary Clinton's speech last night seemed mostly directed at women who were in the room. Perhaps she saw that as her mission.

In any event, the convention seems to be accomplishing what it should -- it is reminding the Democrats of what they have in common.

A statue of Wilder should go where?

Cordel Faulk has a strange piece on today's OpEd page of the Richmond Times-Dispatch -- "Build a statue of Doug Wilder on Capitol Square." The title made me think I would be reading a satirical piece along the lines of what Bart Hinkle might write.
The Old Dominion is a heck of a state, with an awe-inspiring story -- and we Virginians know it. We're not snobs about it or anything, but people who were born in this commonwealth know we are custodians of greatness.
Since plenty of people do see Virginians as "snobs," when I read the line above I was thinking it was still on track to set up a big joke. But as I read on, the humor seemed thin, at best.
In the commonwealth, almost everyone of the dozen-plus people we commemorate on our state capitol grounds made a major national impact.

But something important is missing -- or should I say someone important is missing.

I want to put this bluntly for the honorables and excellencies whom oversee Capitol Square: Build a statue of Lawrence Douglas Wilder.

Finally, I got to the funny part, or at least it was the part that was funnier than anything else.

Wilder's term as mayor may have complicated any effort to sell a statue of him, but seriously, let's have some perspective. His term in City Hall has been rocky, but that doesn't cloud what he has meant to this commonwealth and this nation.

Well, if you like your euphemisms steeped in absurdity, "complicated" will do.

Click here to read Faulk's entire piece.

Maybe the statue of Wilder should be positioned to face the new Virginia Civil Rights Memorial, which was unveiled last month. It would be justice for a replica of Wilder to have to face Barbara Johns in bronze, forever.

Why?

Because Mayor L. Douglas Wilder sure wasn't sitting on the platform with the governor, the artist (Stanley Bleifeld) and other invited dignitaries for the dedication last month. Hizzoner snubbed the ceremony to unveil the monument remembering Virginia's heroes of the Civil Rights movement. He has since refused to explain why.

Which leaves some Richmonders, perhaps those with more than a cursory knowledge of Wilder's history and method of operating, to think it had something to do with one or more of his many grudges.

But as far as satire goes, I can't give Faulk a good mark for this effort. Maybe he should spend a little time at Tobacco Avenue, the local news satire blog, where he would learn that good satire is supposed to be funny.

To be funny one would put his statue in Battery Park, because he used money supposedly earmarked for that neighborhood's flood relief effort to fund his failed eviction of the school board -- the infamous Friday Night Fiasco. Or, maybe the Wilder statue would be well positioned in Gwinnett County, Georgia, where the R-Braves will play their home games next summer.

And, just in case Faulk was actually serious about putting a Wilder statue in Capitol Square, I have just one word for that notion -- phooey!

-- Words and art by F.T. Rea

Monday, August 25, 2008

Urban farmers' blog

With prices at the grocery stores shooting up steadily, some among the urban hip have reacted. Their back yards have been turned into farms. That's how you can tell they're hip -- it's always been cool to be as self-reliant as possible.

This summer their families have been eating fresh produce that had only to travel from the back yard to the table. In their pursuit of gardening bliss, some of these green hipsters have been networking. Now there's something of a movement afoot in Richmond.

Curious about urban farming?

Click here to visit River City Harvest.

The Clinton Problem

With the Democrats in Denver to attend their convention, the television pundits are still chattering about Sen. Hillary Clinton’s disgruntled supporters. It’s being reported that her husband isn’t happy, either. Some of her talking head surrogates, like Paul Begala, are still dwelling on the woeful “disrespect” that has been directed toward her and her supporters all through the campaign.

With all that as a backdrop Sen. John McCain has commercials up and running that make use of the Clinton undertow current of discontent. Republican commentators are praising Clinton and saying Sen. Barack Obama made a mistake in not picking her as his running mate.

Part of the reason the media are pumping the negative story is that it creates an unpredictable subplot. With modern political conventions so tightly orchestrated, such stories add a little soap opera-like spice to a stew of speeches that can be rather bland, otherwise. So, we can’t be surprised when the television news channels try to boost their ratings by making some stories seem a bit more important than they may actually be.

But the Clinton Problem has risen above subplot, to be the convention story's lede on the first day of the confab.

All that said, the biggest reason for The Clinton Problem to be looming over the convention is that Hillary Clinton is obviously focused on being the Democratic presidential nominee in 2012. To her, the convention in Denver isn’t about electing Obama ... it’s about her. It’s about Hillary and her singular quest to be the first female president. She apparently has never seen Obama as anything more than an obstacle. In order for her to be the nominee in 2012, he has to lose in 2008.

With her PUMAs howling like banshees, poised to sabotage the convention, Hillary seems ready to call ever so softly for party unity -- with a wink and a nudge -- and then allow her surly surrogates to plunge their daggers into Obama’s back.

Hillary Clinton could have called off the Begalas. She could have quieted most of the PUMAs. She has done neither.

Today, I feel especially sorry for the feminists who are being used to pursue the personal agenda of one woman. At this point, my hope is that Sen. Ted Kennedy will step up to the podium tonight and lay a serious scolding on those who are dividing the Democratic Party.

*

Update (Thursday morning): Well, at long last, the Clintons were good Democrats. Hillary probably did as good a job as she could. Bill was his old self, his speech was boffo! Why there had to be all the melodrama leading up tho their speeches is anybody's guess.

-- Words and art by F.T. Rea

Friday, August 22, 2008

Meanwhile, at Virginia's Obama headquarters

Approaching the Virginia headquarters for Sen. Barack Obama it became obvious right away -- this is not your Dad’s campaign office. It’s on the ground floor of an ancient brick building at the corner of W. Marshall St. and Norton St. That’s directly behind VCU’s spiffy basketball arena, the Stuart C. Siegel Center.

Perhaps more importantly, it’s not downtown, where tradition would have it. Geographically, it’s centrally-located, but it’s not on a high traffic thoroughfare like Main St.

Most of the signage on the widows and inside the headquarters was hand-painted. The people working in the front room, volunteers and staff, ranged in age from early-20s to 60-ish. The mood was decidedly upbeat and more than a little anticipatory. Like the rest of the world, they were waiting for the word from Obama concerning his selection for a running mate.

The Communication Director for the Virginia Campaign for Change, Clark Stevens, said there are 33 other campaign headquarters sprinkled across the Commonwealth, with more to come. Unlike Democratic presidential campaigns in elections for decades, Obama has targeted Virginia as a state he can win.

Whose idea was it to hand-paint the Obama signs?

“Grass roots volunteers were responsible for it,” said Stevens.

The office opened last month and the level of energy appeared to be rather high for late-August. Workers were busy on telephones, drumming up more support and organizing precinct parties to watch Obama’s speech on Thursday night.

What about Obama’s choice for Veep?

With Virginia’s Gov. Tim Kaine supposedly on the short list, the interest in who will round out the national ticket could hardly be more intense in this city. After all, he's been living here since he got out of law school and served as mayor of Richmond from 1998-2000.

A cheerful woman shrugged and said she’d heard the much-anticipated message to Obama’s supporters would come around 6 p.m.

If one believes the national media, the other names on Obama’s short list are: Sen. Evan Bayh (Indiana), Sen. Joe Biden (Delaware), Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (Kansas), and perhaps Sen. Hillary Clinton (New York).

Obama has said he has made his decision. There was no sign at the Virginia headquarters that anyone there knew whose name will be in that message. By the time you read these words the suspense may be over. No doubt, that will get the sign-painters working at the Obama state headquarters.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Entire Baldacci letter surfaces

This morning's Richmond Times-Dispatch carried a front page headline that made Barack Obama and the war in Iraq have to settle for smaller type. That headline was, "Baldacci criticizes VCU investigation."

In the article by Michael Martz and Karin Kapsidelis author David Baldacci's nine page letter to the other members of VCU Board of Visitors is written about. Quotes from it appear in the piece. But for whatever reason, the entire text of the letter does appear. Meanwhile, Baldacci, himself, says he didn't release his letter to the media.

Leave it to Don Harrison at Save Richmond to fill the void. Click here to read what Don has to say (which is always a worthwhile thing to do) and the entire letter from Baldacci.

The end of the Silly Season

The palpable anticipation for Sen. Barack Obama’s announcement of his choice to round out the national ticket is THE story today. Many Virginians are pulling for Gov. Tim Kaine to be that choice. Some Democrats want it so much they have developed a scenario that sees Kaine abandoning the Governor’s Mansion -- which would promote Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling to governor -- as a good thing for Democrats, down the road.
What I really like about this is the disarray that it would throw Virginia Republicans into. They’ve managed to plan out the 2009 election pretty neatly, with AG Bob McDonnell running for governor and Bill Bolling running for reelection as LG. But with Bolling already in the governor’s mansion, that leaves McDonnell running for reelection as AG, at best, and challenging Bolling for the nomination, at worst. Bolling would be a much weaker candidate for governor than McDonnell—he’s milquetoast next to McDonnell—which has got to be a big part of why Bolling stepped aside for McDonnell to run. Short of a challenge by McDonnell, Virginia Republicans would be stuck with Bolling as their ‘09 candidate.
Click here to read “Governor Bolling: Good for Virginia Democrats.” by Waldo Jaquith.

Waldo has some good points. But such a scenario puts a lot of balls in play, and it creates dynamics that may not be so easy to control a year from now.

My hunch -- which may look bad any minute, if the text message from Obama says, “Tim Kaine!” -- is that all along Kaine has been a willing decoy to keep the field seeming to be larger than it really has been. The publicity hasn’t hurt anyone and, obviously! Virginians have enjoyed the attention the state has been getting.

Why not Kaine?

Two reasons: No. 1: Kaine doesn’t help the ticket enough. No. 2: Kaine won’t leave the Governor’s mansion early, because it is too un-Virginian. Tradition has it that our governors, who can’t run for reelection, don’t play around in national politics while they are still in office. Remember Doug Wilder's flirtation with a presidential run?

Meanwhile, my enthusiasm for Obama is only growing. Forget about the slump in the national polls that he has experienced during August. Forget about flag pins on lapels. The Silly Season is almost over now.

Rejoice! The Democrats have a nominee that has the ability to inspire enthusiasm and hope like no one since Bill Clinton; perhaps no one since John F. Kennedy.

No matter who Obama picks, what will put him in the White House will be his own ability to convince voters that their country's real problems can be solved by making the necessary changes. Next week, I expect him to get specific about what those changes need to be. His acceptance speech, with a monster-sized crowd cheering him on, is likely to draw a viewing audience unlike what anyone has seen in many a moon.

And, regardless of what mischievous Republican blowhards say about not caring what other countries think, the opportunity a President Obama will have to make people all over the world believe in the American Dream, again, is exciting to contemplate.

--Words and art by F.T. Rea

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

When? Who?

When would be the best time for Barack Obama to announce his choice for vice president?

It says here that would be tomorrow (Thursday) afternoon. That way the story would dominate the news for a couple of days, leading up to a joint appearance in Springfield on Saturday.

Who will Obama select?

Prediction: Picking Sen. Joe Biden makes plenty of sense. Using weather report percentages, Biden is a 40 percent probability. Sen. Hillary Clinton comes in at 20 percent. Let's give Sen. Evan Bayh, Gov. Tim Kaine, Gov. Bill Richardson and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius each a 10 percent chance of happening.

Disclaimer: Only hunches.

Buzz: It's Kaine!

There's a buzz going around in well-appointed rooms on Main Street that Tim Kaine has been tapped as Barack Obama's choice for No. 2 on the ticket. But I can't vouch for the credibility of that rumor.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Christian president? Atheist president?

Rebus wonders:

In the long run, wouldn't it be safer for us to have an atheist president with his finger on the button -- nuclear oblivion! -- than a Christian president who truly believes in afterlife? Wouldn't an atheist care more about the life we are living now on Earth?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Conservatism walks like a zombie

"The Fall of Conservatism" by George Packer provides the reader with a decent overview of the evolution of the conservative political movement in this country from its origins, through its death and afterlife following the Cold War.
[McCain] and his likely Democratic opponent, Barack Obama, “both embody a post-polarized, or anti-polarized, style of politics,” the Times columnist David Brooks told me. “McCain, crucially, missed the sixties, and in some ways he’s a pre-sixties figure. He and Obama don’t resonate with the sixties at all.” The fact that the least conservative, least divisive Republican in the 2008 race is the last one standing—despite being despised by significant voices on the right—shows how little life is left in the movement that Goldwater began, Nixon brought into power, Ronald Reagan gave mass appeal, Newt Gingrich radicalized, Tom DeLay criminalized, and Bush allowed to break into pieces. “The fact that there was no conventional, establishment, old-style conservative candidate was not an accident,” Brooks said. “Mitt Romney pretended to be one for a while, but he wasn’t. Rudy Giuliani sort of pretended, but he wasn’t. McCain is certainly not. It’s not only a lack of political talent—there’s just no driving force, and it will soften up normal Republicans for change.”
The most interesting material is from the Nixon time. It's worthwhile to consider the shadow Tricky Dick cast over the decades that came after his own downfall.

For someone too young to remember any of that, this New Yorker magazine article makes for a pretty good history lesson. Click here to read it.

More from Bopst

From Bopst:

For a solid listen and download here. To listen to all 18 episodes of the Bopst Show, go here.

A new installment of Richmond’s one stop, sure shot for the best in music from yesterday, today & tomorrow called the Bopst Show is posted every Monday on the capitol city’s number one unfiltered news source: RVANews.

And always remember that the Bopst Show request line is always open to take your orders at: (804) 767-2550.

-- The information above was provided by Chris Bopst

Child poster from 1969

child2.jpg

The rare poster above for a gig staged in the Fan District in 1969 was silkscreened by then-VCU art student Chuck Wrenn. Eventually, the kid on the poster who was the principle performer in the band -- its name was changed to Steel Mill soon after this poster was made -- went on to become a Rock 'n' Roll hall-of-famer.

On Aug. 14, 1970, Steel Mill, led by Bruce Springsteen, played on top of the parking deck at 7th and Marshall Streets. Flashes of heat lightning provided a spectacular light show.

On Valentine's Day in 1973, Springsteen, opened for Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks at the old VCU gymnasium. The show was free!

Yes, Springsteen has some history in Richmond. Tonight, with his E Street Band backing him up, the Boss will appear live on stage at the Coliseum. Call 780-4970 for ticket information.

Click here for some details about Springsteen's days in Richmond written by Lindsay Barnes for The Hook.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Five favorite films with crazy protagonists

For this list of five favorite films, the common denominator is madness.

In each of the five on the list below, the main character is nutty. Craziness is what drives the story. To narrow the field, I’ve limited it to movies that are essentially about characters who are steadily getting more detached from the supposedly sane reality around them. Since it's hard to find the sane world in the midst of a war, movies set in war are not included on this list of five, which is presented in alphabetical order.

Five Favorite Films with Crazy Protagonists

"Aguirre, the Wrath of God" (1972): Directed by Werner Herzog; Cast: Klaus Kinski, Helena Rojo, Del Negro
"Network" (1976): Directed by Sidney Lumet; Cast: Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway, William Holden
"Repulsion" (1965): Directed By Roman Polanski; Cast: Catherine Deneuve, Ian Hendry, John Fraser
"Taxi Driver" (1976): Directed by Martin Scorsese; Cast: Robert DeNiro, Cybill Shepherd, Peter Boyle
"Wise Blood" (1979): Directed by John Huston; Cast: Brad Dourif, Harry Dean Stanton, John Huston

1974: A year of change

Part Three

"Chinatown" is 10" wide and 7.5" tall. It was done in 2007 in color pencils, ink and paint on paper.

Directed by Roman Polanski "Chinatown" premiered at the Biograph Theatre on June 28, 1974. In my nearly 12 years as manager of that cinema, I can't remember being more stunned by the first screening of a movie.

During the film's run the Biograph's staff and regular patrons played at finding obscure foreshadowing clues and such in the background and dialogue. Clearly, it was rare fun for us to have the best first-run picture in town, exclusively, for most of a summer. Then we closed for a quickie renovation, which converted the Biograph into a twin cinema.

"Chinatown" remains my all-time favorite to this day.

Click here to read Part One of 1974. Click here to read Part Two.
-- Art by F.T. Rea.

'Toons on 1994 four-way Senate race

In the summer of 1994, with O.J. Simpson on TV round the clock, a four-way race political race developed in Virginia. Three candidates emerged to challenge the incumbent Chuck Robb for his seat in the U.S. Senate. Republican Ollie North was nominated by a convention at the Richmond Coliseum. Former governor Doug Wilder, a Democrat, threw his hat in as an Independent. Marshall Coleman, a Republican former attorney general and failed gubernatorial candidate, ran as an independent, too.

Naturally, both Wilder and Coleman were seen as spoilers by many observers. The national press was all over the circus-like story of the four heavyweight candidates.

In late August, I issued what was then my fourth set of collectible cards -- “Campaign Inkbites: The ‘94 VA Senate Race.”

After swearing he was in the race 'til the finish, mercurial Wilder suddenly withdrew in October. Wooden Coleman stayed the course, with stubborn Sen. John Warner as his chief backer. North, ever the checkered-shirt dandy, raised and spent over $25 million; what was then a new record for the most ever in a U.S. Senate race ... any state.

In the end the awkward Robb outlasted them all.

Beneath the 1994 newspaper article about that card collection are scans of 12 of the 15 original cards from the set. Without the context of this campaign's news being fresh, some of my attempts at humor may not work so well now, hopefully the caricatures are still fun to look at.

As I produced these cards in the summer, it was an interesting challenge to try to write lines for the dialogue balloons that would keep for a couple of months into the campaign, no matter what the developments.

Right out of the gate, this edition was lucky with publicity -- first an AP story, then a five-minute report by Bob Woodruff appeared on CNN, following the Sept. 6, 1994 Virginian-Pilot piece (by David Poole and Dwayne Yancey) reprinted below.
Odds and ends from the past week of Virginia's U.S. Senate campaign: I'll swap you two Doug Wilders for a Tai Collins. The colorful U.S. Senate race has spawned a set of trading cards featuring the four candidates and a host of supporting characters - including the former Miss Virginia who gave a nude massage to Chuck Robb in a New York hotel.

There’s U.S. Sen. John Warner sounding defensive about his hand-picked candidate, Marshall Coleman: “Why should I strain to name an office he hasn't sought, or an abortion stance he hasn't taken? The point is: Marshall isn't Ollie.”

There’s conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh assessing the race: “The choice in Virginia is simple. You’ve got a stained, lap-dog liberal, a bleached and petulant liberal, a fair-weather conservative, and a genuine, world-class hero.”


There’s political pundit Larry Sabato reporting on the latest poll results: “Fifty-one percent said the race is so embarrassing they plan to leave the state.”


The “Campaign Inkbites” are the brainchild of F.T. Rea, a Richmond artist who a decade ago issued a similar deck of cards commemorating a massive death-row escape at Mecklenberg Correctional Center [by the notorious Briley brothers and four others]. The set of 15 Senate cards is available at Biff’s bookstore [also at Chickens, the snack bar in the State Capitol] in Richmond for $12 a pack.


The most unflattering likeness in the set is that of Sabato, whose green skin gives him the look of a vampire.


“Ironically, he’s my best customer,” Rea said of Sabato. “He bought 12 packs.”
In all, about 250 sets of cards were sold. Wisely, Sabato also bought the original artwork for his card.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Dontrelle at the Diamond

Former Major League All-Star pitcher Dontrelle Willis, pictured above, started for the Toledo Mud Hens. Willis looked ready to return to his parent club, the Detroit Tigers.
A crowd of 8,051 enjoyed the perfect weather, if not the result of the game: Toledo 7, Richmond 2. R-Braves centerfielder Josh Anderson, above right, kept his hitting streak alive -- now 21 consecutive games.

-- Photos by F.T. Rea

Trani's decision

Yesterday Dr. Eugene Trani announced he would leave his job as president of VCU on July 1, 2009. Before Trani's heart surgery last month he had been planning to step down in 2010. He said his decision was based on health considerations.

When a 68-year-old man, who is five weeks into his recovery from quintuple coronary artery bypass surgery, says he has decided to cut back on his work load, I don't see any need to look for what else may have weighed on his decision. So, don't count me as one of those who wants to speculate about how much VCU's recent spate of bad publicity may have come to bear on Trani's thinking about when to retire.

Given the way some of his critics have savaged him this summer, it would have been understandable if Trani had announced that he was stepping down immediately. There are some who are complaining that he didn't do just that, as if such a move would immediately fix whatever problems they have with VCU's agenda and way of doing business.

The angry calls for the impeachment and recall of elected officials we hear so much, these days, don't do much to fix problems. California recalled its governor five years ago on a whim. Elections were not meant to be overturned except in extreme circumstances.

No matter how much I don't like President George Bush, at this point in his second term, impeaching him would be silly. We, the people, had our best chance to throw him out of office in 2004.

Closer to home, I doubt the College of William & Mary is all that much better off for having ousted its president, Gene R. Nichol, in February of this year.

VCU will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of it becoming a university this fall. And, I'm happy that Dr. Trani will be the VCU president presiding over the events meant to commemorate the occasion.

That hardly means I have agreed with everything Trani has done or said. What it does mean is that Trani has done so much that has been good for VCU, and will continue to pay dividends for the City of Richmond, too, he surely deserves to finish his stay as the university's president on his own terms.

Therefore, even though it may bother some of his most bitter critics, on the day after his announcement I'd simply like to wish Dr. Trani well with his recovery, and wish the university well with its anniversary festivities.

*

Updated for clarity on Aug. 16.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Who's running the show?

Writing for STYLE Weekly Amy Biegelsen reports that SMG will be managing the Carpenter Center and the new CenterStage facilities. That’s the same Philadelphia-based SMG that has managed the Richmond Coliseum for the last 23 years.

That’s what SMG does, it manages convention centers, stadiums and other such large multi-purpose facilities. As it has been doing that line of work since 1977, SMG must have done a good job for some of its clients along the way.

In the STYLE article the thrust is on whether or not the bidding for the contract should have been an open process, or closed, as it apparently was in this case.

Joel Katz, former executive director of the Carpenter Center, weighs in:
“SMG was awarded a no-bid contract that taxpayers now cannot learn about,” writes Katz, who was ousted as vice president of marketing and programming for the Virginia Performing Arts Foundation in May 2005.
Writer Don Harrison adds his two-cents-worth:
Don Harrison, co-founder of the popular blog SaveRichmond.com, says “the no-bid contract says everything. It’s just another in a series of eyebrow-raising incidents associated with this thing.”
Others are more upbeat about the news. Click here to read the piece.

OK, the no-bid thing bothers me, too. I agree with what Joel and Don say. But what also bothers me about this news is what Biegelsen touches on here:
There is good reason to question the abilities of SMG, which has a spotty record in its 23 years of managing the Richmond Coliseum. In the late 1990s, operational problems and financial mismanagement had the Coliseum reeling. After years of decline in the number of bookings, a 2002 city audit of SMG’s management revealed significant potential savings.
So, SMG may be good at running some venues but maybe not all.

There was a night SMG looked about as bad as it could get at managing the Coliseum. On Nov. 28, 2001, a crowd of 11,666 and a national television audience were witness to an infamous truncated basketball game; it ended moments into the second half because the floor was deemed unplayable.

It was unplayable because of condensation, caused by the ice under the floor (for hockey games) and the convergence of unseasonable warm weather.

However, SMG had ample warning that the floor would sweat -- it had happened before to a lesser extent -- and yet nothing was done about it. So, the premiere sporting event of that year’s basketball season in Richmond -- (No. 22) Michigan St. vs. (No 9) Virginia -- was kaput.

That night I was seated on press row. After the cancellation I asked the spokesman for SMG -- given the Indian Summer weather -- why they didn't melt the ice and refreeze it afterward for the hockey game, scheduled for two day later. He literally ran out of the media room, rather than answer my follow-up questions.

Now SMG will be running the Landmark (formerly the Mosque) and the Carpenter Center (formerly the Loew's). They are theaters. The sort of acts going into those venues will be quite different than the sort traditionally booked for the Coliseum. No circus. No basketball tournaments. No tractor-pulls.

It takes a different brand of finesse to book acts, and make money, for such theaters. And, it takes a good feel for the local market.

Is an international management company likely to have such a rare feel?

No.

Moreover, I believe the City of Richmond ought to hire its own management team for those theaters and probably for the Coliseum, as well. There are people living in Richmond today who have the background to be considered for such work. No doubt, there are plenty who’d be willing to move here to run one of those beautiful old theaters.

In this age of outsourcing, it may seem better to pay experts from Philadelphia to run Richmond’s publicly-owned show biz venues. But I question that wisdom. I think it is just easier; it serves to cover bureaucratic butts. I’ll bet you it costs a lot more money than it should.

Richmond should have a department with a boss who oversees the running of the Coliseum, the Carpenter Center, and so forth. Each of those venues should have its own house manager. All of those people should live in the Richmond area and be on the City‘s payroll. And, it won't hurt if some of them know the Richmond market and have connections to local entertainers.

The City of Richmond has had an awkward relationship with show biz for decades. Intended, or not, it has done much to squelch the local entertainment scene over the years.

It’s high time for all that to change. Wouldn't you like to hear the mayoral candidates speak to this issue?

I would.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

1974: A year of change

Part Two

It seems we may be living through a year of big changes. Some years pass and little seems to have changed. While, in hindsight, others marked the beginning of new eras. After a long lull, no doubt, 2001 reshuffled the deck.

To me, 1974 was a standout year of change. What follows is my list of some of the most important events of that year:

Jan. 2: President Nixon signed a bill mandating a 55 mph speed limit in order to conserve gasoline.
Feb. 4: Patty Hurst was abducted; eight days later the Symbionese Liberation Army told the Hurst family it had to give $230 million in food aid to the poor.
Feb. 11: The Devil in/and Miss Jones prank was staged at the Fan District's Biograph Theatre (814 W. Grace St.). The story was covered by the national media; for background click here.
Mar. 2: Nixon was named by a federal grand jury as a co-conspirator in the Watergate cover-up.
Apr. 8: Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s career home run record with his 715th round-tripper. Later we found out about the death threats Aaron had received leading up to his feat.
Apr. 15: Patty “Tania” Hurst helped her captors rob a bank at gunpoint. Nobody knew what to make of it.
Apr. 27: Initially, the Cherry Blossom Music Festival riot at City Stadium (now U of R Stadium) pitted Richmond’s police force against music lovers who objected to the harsh tactics of policemen trying to arrest pot-smokers. Then it spread. During the four-hour melee that ensued police cars were set afire and many heads were busted. Once again, Richmond made national news; for background, click here.
May 15: A.H. Robins Co. yielded to pressure from the feds to take its contraceptive device, the Dalkon Shield, off the market.
July 1: Argentina’s President Juan Peron died. His wife, Isabel, took over in his stead.
July 27: The House Judiciary Committee voted 27-11 to impeach Nixon. Three days later the Supreme Court said Nixon had to surrender tape recordings of White House meetings that had been sought by the Watergate investigation’s special prosecutor.
Aug. 8: Nixon resigned in disgrace; President Gerald Ford was sworn in. Millions of hippies stayed too long at the party to celebrate Nixon's downfall.
Aug. 12: The Biograph Theatre closed to be converted by a 24-hour-a-day construction crew into a twin cinema in four weeks.
Sept. 8: Ford pardoned Nixon, which all but sealed Ford’s defeat when he ran for reelection in 1976.
Oct. 29: Muhammad Ali regained the world heavyweight boxing crown he had lost by refusing to be drafted into the army in 1967. In Zaire, Ali defeated then-champion George Forman by a knockout in eighth round.
Nov. 13: Yasir Arafat, the head of the Palestine Liberation Organization, addressed the UN with a pistol strapped to his waist. Supporters of Israel cringed.
Dec. 12: Georgia governor Jimmy Carter announced he would run for president. Nobody noticed.

To read Part One of this series click here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Dr. StrangeRove gasped

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

-- 'toon by F.T. Rea

Rove's peculiar view of Richmond

So, Karl Rove apparently thinks Richmond is a one-horse town and had the temerity to say so on Sunday morning's Face the Nation. It seems Rove mocked Richmond's diminutive population by naming some more populous towns almost no one in Richmond knew existed.

Since I didn't watch Face the Nation, I didn't catch Rove's attempt to cast aspersions at Gov. Tim Kaine's enlarging reputation as a problem-solving governor (of a medium sized state) and former mayor (of a medium sized city).

Since I was born in the Fan District and have lived in Richmond all my life, must I take umbrage at a low-brow put-down coming from a political figure I thoroughly dislike? There are two pieces in the Richmond Times-Dispatch today that react to Rove's remarks about Richmond. (Click here for Michael Paul Williams's column. Click here for A.Barton Hinkle's OpEd piece.)

Naturally, the political blogosphere has been replete with rather more blustery reactions. (If you need a dose of bluster, click here to check out Waldo's Va. Political Blogroll for any number of posts on this matter.)

Yet, rather than get lathered up over Rove's calculated sneers, it might be more useful to take a stab at figuring out why Bush's former brain was high-profile scoffing at Kaine's firsthand experience in dealing with urban problems as a mayor.

At the top of the list of whys: If Rove wasn't seeing Kaine as a player, a rising star in the Democratic Party, he wouldn't have bothered. Rove obviously wanted to put some talking points into the echo chamber. Those japes were for those who had the ears to hear them.

Next: It was the same tack Texans of his ilk invariably see as their strong suit – size is power, it trumps the other cards.

Moreover, Rove knows the City of Richmond votes Democratic. So, he used the size slam on precincts that he knew wouldn't like it, but were already sure to vote for Sen. Barack Obama and whoever is his running mate, anyway.

Knowing something about Virginia politics, Rove was betting the rest of the Commonwealth's voters, outside of Richmond, wouldn't mind so much his suggesting Richmond isn't nearly as important as it thinks it is.

Knowing something about Virgina, myself, I suspect Rove wasn't far off the mark about that sentiment being widespread in the 'burbs and boondocks.

Another angle to this story -- background -- is that Rove lived in Richmond for a spell. I'm told he and his wife had an apartment in the Fan District in the summer of 1978. It seems a blond, hippie-haired version of Karl was here doing field work for the Republican Party then. I have even heard a few stories about that time ... nothing I can be sure is true, of course.

Anyway, bad luck being what it is, there's the distinct possibility that young Karl left Richmond with a bad taste in his mouth. Which means he might have been giving in to a long-held urge to ruffle the feathers of a mean city he thought should have been more hospitable to him 30 years ago. I'm told he left town in a hurry.

Back to the analysis: Rove has consistently used snide jabs to piss off his opponents. Like any good wiseass, he knows there are some accusations that can't be answered directly. For instance: If I say, “You always argue with me.” You can't say, "No, I don't."

Therefore, if Rove says, “Richmond is a one-horse town.” We should already know we can't say, “No, we live in a two- or three-horse town.”

Verily, we just should shrug off the pointed words of a propagandist without portfolio as pure guff. And, if we just want to make mischief, perhaps we should offer Karl Rove the opportunity to put some flesh on the bones of his firsthand knowledge of Richmond.

-- 30 --

Monday, August 11, 2008

Schapiro on Wilder's 'fuzzy math'

In the wake of yet more puzzling news about money problems for Mayor Doug Wilder, Jeff Schapiro fires a broadside at Hizzoner in his column for the Sunday Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Another constant: Wilder's blind spot when it comes to money -- his and taxpayers' -- and its accompanying influences. The latest example: his failure to accurately report his assets on his compulsory conflict-of-interest statement.
Click here to read the column.

Maybe Jeff Schapiro is the guy at the RT-D to find out where Wilder was on July 21, when the new Virginia Civil Rights Memorial was being unveiled. That is, if that venerable newspaper is still into investigating mysteries.

According to what I have learned about it, Wilder was invited to sit on the platform in Capitol Square with Gov. Tim Kaine, former First Lady Lisa Collis, the artist Stanley Bleifeld, Julian Bond, and other speakers and sundry dignitaries.

Then, it seems, Wilder blew off the invitation. We're told he was out of town. But he won't say where or why. His spokespersons don't seem to know anything more they can tell us to clear up this mystery ... at least nothing they can say on the record and keep their jobs.

What could have been so important that it kept Richmond's mayor away from such an auspicious event, one that honored heroes of the Civil Rights Era? Why must it remain a secret?

Was the mayor really out of town, or was he merely, ahem, out to lunch?

Friday, August 08, 2008

Virginia: the mother of Veeps?

Will Obama select former Richmond mayor Tim Kaine?

If you like to have presidential campaigns tramping around in your neighborhood, living in Virginia is the place to be this year. Don't be surprised if either Sen. Barack Obama or Sen. John McCain shows up on your front porch to ask for your vote.

Although a Democratic presidential candidate hasn’t carried Virginia since Lyndon Johnson did it in 1964, in 2001 and 2005 Virginians elected Democrats as their governor. Then, in 2006, Democrat Jim Webb took Republican incumbent George Allen’s seat in the US Senate. Now Democrat Mark Warner is heavily favored to beat Republican Jim Gilmore to replace retiring Republican John Warner.

So, it’s fair to say Virginia has been trending away from red and toward blue.

Thus, Virginia is a battleground state with its 13 electoral votes up for grabs. Pundits are seeing Virginia as “purple.” Which means we are going to see a lot of Obama and McCain and their surrogates between now and Nov. 4.

It also means both camps want to flatter Virginia any way they can. Putting Virginians on short lists for Vice President is one of the ways to do that very thing; that is, if you make sure those short lists are leaked to the press.

So, we have the names of Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine and Republican Rep. Eric Cantor being bandied about. I certainly don’t know how seriously either is actually being considered. But I have my doubts about either of them making the cut.

Neither man can tout name recognition outside the Old Dominion as being on his resume. While Kaine is on the New York Times list of potential running mates for Obama, Cantor is not on its list for McCain. Although Kaine is probably on Obama’s short list, it seems unlikely that Cantor really is on McCain’s. Working from that list of 20 names my own predictions are as follows:

Obama needs a Veep who is well known for having experience in foreign policy, so he will select either Sen. Joe Biden (Delaware) or Gov. Bill Richardson (New Mexico).

McCain needs a Veep with appeal to moderate Republicans and Independents, so he will select Tom Ridge (former governor of Pennsylvania and former Homeland Security Secretary) or Mitt Romney (former governor of Massachusetts).

-- Words and art by F.T. Rea

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Jonny Z Festival on Sat.

jonnyfoto2.jpg

What: The first annual Jonny Z Festival -- a day of art-gazing, art-making, art-buying in memory of Jonathan Zanin

When: Sat., Aug. 9, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

Where: The 200 block of N. Shields Ave., in front of Joe's Inn (between Grove and Hanover)

Join us for this free, fun, funky, family-friendly, Fan block party, featuring a mural dedication and Polaroid exhibit by young artists from St. Andrew's School.

The City has granted permission to close the street and the alley beside Joe's. ART 180 will be dedicating its new mural at the festival (at noon), honoring the children who painted it, and remembering Jonny Z (pictured above), in whose spirit and memory the mural and the festival were created.

They'll have all the makings of a proper street festival:

  • Bizarre Market arts and crafts vendors
  • WRIR DJ's plus live music every half hour, including Liza Kate & Josh Small, Mason Dixon Disaster, Marshall Costan & Justin Bailey, WTGW (What the Girls Want), the Photosynthesizers, and the Antlers
  • Food (sweet treats, sno-cones and lemonade from Joe's, plus whatever you want from inside the restaurant or from Shields Market)
  • Tattoo and face painting
  • Jonny Z prints and T-shirts for sale
  • Raffle drawings every hour
  • Books on Wheels
  • And, a Spiderman moonbounce (Jonny's favorite).

They'll also be painting another mural with festival attendees. Even the weather is cooperating, so come around on Saturday for merry-making in memory of His Goodness, Jonny Z.

For more information call 804/233-4180, or click here. ART 180 gives young people the chance to express themselves through art, and to share their stories with others.

-- The information above was provided by Marlene Paul of ART 180.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Favre fatigue factor

The Redskins looked good in their first preseason game under new head coach Jim Zorn. So far, the news out of the Washington training camp has not been tainted with hold-outs or other distracting squabbles between management and the players. Fortunately, there's no sign that owner Dan Snyder has been coveting Brett Favre.

What a mess the Packers have on their hands:

"It's time for it to be over," cornerback Charles Woodson said. "It's gone on long enough."

As the league's longest-running daytime drama continues to twist and turn, Woodson and other veteran Packers players aren't publicly assessing blame or taking sides. They just don't want to talk or think about it any more.

Click here to read "Packers players fed up with Favre saga."

Like so many football fans I have long admired Favre's style on the playing field. But I have to admit I did not enjoy watching his sobbing retirement press conference. Actually, I cringed as he went on, and on...

Without that rather bizarre Mar. 6 tear-fest, the story of a star quarterback un-retiring would hardly be so unusual. The soap opera it has been for the last month was spawned, in great part, by that weepy performance. Hopefully, he will be traded somewhere -- anywhere! -- before the Favre fatigue factor in Green Bay drives most of his adoring fans nuts.

Update: ESPN is reporting that Favre has been traded to the New York Jets.

The Stretch

http://fdhub.net/wp-content/uploads/2007/08/10-26-04bounce_story.jpg

The pair of seats above was acquired at the last game played at Parker Field in 1984. With the help of my then-girlfriend, Tana Dubbe (pronounced Doobie), we literally ripped them up from their platform. Others were doing the same, as the authorities actually allowed/encouraged it. A few days later the grandstands were torn down.

Ed Note: The Richmond Braves first home game at Parker Field took place in the spring of 1966. With the last month of R-Braves baseball underway at The Diamond, I’ve dusted off a old piece published by STYLE Weekly. File this one under In Happier Times.

The Stretch (Oct. 4, 1999)
by F.T. Rea

With the turning of the leaves, The Fan District of Richmond, Va., will again be transformed into a living impressionistic cityscape. As they always do, the season’s wistful breezes will facilitate reflection.

All of which leads to the fact that yet another baseball season has come and gone. After 6,783 games, the last game ever has been played at Detroit’s fabled Tiger Stadium. The Giants and the Astros will be playing in new parks next season as well. The World Series, first played in 1903, will soon be upon us. Although baseball’s claim as the National Pastime may no longer hold up, the colorful lore generated by the magic of events at baseball parks probably outweighs that of all the other sports put together.

Of my childhood memories few are more pleasant than those associated with attending baseball games at Parker Field. I began going to the games with my grandfather when I was about 7. Naturally, we pulled for the pinstripe-clad V’s, the home team. I eagerly drank in all I could of the atmosphere, especially the stories told about legendary players and discussions on the strategy of the game.

As I got older I began to go with my friends, most of whom played baseball. We usually took our baseball gloves with us to the game. We’d go early so we could watch the V’s warm up. As often as possible we talked with the players. If one of them remembered your name it was a source of pride.

A highlight of each spring was the day the New York Yankees came to town to play the V’s, who were part of the Yankees’ farm system. It was a geographically convenient stop for the Bronx Bombers because they were on their way North from their Florida spring training camp. Thus, this dress rehearsal game would always take place just before opening day.

Consequently, I saw Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, and the other great Yankees of the late ’50s and early ’60s play in Richmond.

In those days, baseball was clearly the most important thing in life to me and that meant Parker Field was like a temple. When we cheered the heroics we witnessed, and rose for the seventh inning stretch, and stayed until the last out regardless of the score, it was tantamount to exercising religious rites.

A few seasons before they tore Parker Field down (it was dismantled in 1984 and in its place stands The Diamond), I experienced one last thrill at the old ballpark. This was when my daughter, Katey, was about 7 or 8.

The home team by then — as it is now — was The Braves. Katey, her mother, and I were sitting in box seats as guests of neighbors who had gotten comps from a radio station. It was Katey’s first trip to Parker Field.

The spectacle itself was interesting to her for a while. As it was a night game, the bright lights were dazzling. The roar of the crowd was exhilarating. Being old enough to go along on such an outing, instead of staying at home with a baby sitter, was a boost to her morale. Nonetheless, by the middle of the game Katey was getting tired of sitting still and bored with baseball.

During the sixth inning it fell to me to entertain, or at least restrain her, so the others could enjoy the game. I tried telling her more about the object of baseball, hoping that would help her pay some attention to the game.

That didn’t work for very long. She was soon climbing across seats again and this time she knocked a man’s beer into his lap. As the visiting team began their turn at bat, in the top of the seventh, I got an idea and asked Katey if she wanted to see some magic. Of course she did.

Then I got her to promise to be good if I showed her a big magic trick. She agreed to the terms without qualification. Making sure she alone could hear me, I pulled her in close and whispered my instructions.

The gist of it was that she and I, using our combined powers of concentration, were going to make everyone in the ballpark stand up at the same time. Katey was thrilled at the mere prospect of such a feat. I told her to face the ongoing game, close her eyes, and begin thinking about making the crowd stand up.

After the visiting team made their third out, I cupped my hand to her ear and reminded her to think, “stand up, stand up …”

As baseball fans know, when the home team comes to bat in the bottom of the seventh inning everyone stands up, ostensibly to stretch their legs. It’s a longtime tradition called “the seventh inning stretch.” There’s a mention of the practice in a report about a Cincinnati Red Stockings (baseball’s first professional team) game that took place in 1869.

Tradition aside — when Katey turned around, opened her big blue eyes and saw thousands of people standing up — it was pure magic in her book. No one in the group gave me away when she told them what we had done. As I remember it, she stayed true to her word and was well-behaved the rest of the game.

Sports dilettantes today complain that baseball games are too slow and meandering. While I admit baseball has its lulls, nonetheless there are textures and layers of information present at baseball parks that are just too subtle and ephemeral for the lens of a TV camera to capture. To appreciate them you have to be there and you have to bother to notice.

Sometimes there’s even a hint of magic in the air.

-- 30 --

Ed Note: Here's a short list of some of the standout players who have worn the uniform of the Richmond Braves: Tommy Aaron, Sandy Alomar, Steve Avery, Dusty Baker, Jim Beauchamp, Steve Bedrosian, Wilson Betemit, Jeff Blauser, Curt Blefary, Jim Breazeale, Tony Brizzolara, Brett Butler, Paul Byrd, Francisco Cabrera, Vinny Castilla, Bobby Cox, Mark DeRosa, Joey Devine, Jermaine Dye, Johnny Estrada, Darrell Evans, Ron Gant, Jesse Garcia, Ralph Garr, Marcus Giles, Tom Glavine, Tony Graffanino, Tommy Green, Johnny Grubb, Albert Hall, Wes Helms, Mike Hessman, Glenn Hubbard, Andruw Jones, Chipper Jones, David Justice, Ryan Klesko, Brad Komminsk, Javy Lopez, Adam LaRoche, Mark Lemke, Rick Mahler, Andy Marte, Kent Merker, Dale Murphy, Joe Niekro, Phil Niekro, Larry Owen, Gerald Perry, Chico Ruiz, Paul Runge, Harry Saferight, Jason Schmidt, Randall Simon, John Smoltz, Mark Wohlers, Brad Woodall, Tracy Woodson, Ned Yost and Paul Zuvella.

Geyer on 'race card' absurdity

Once again, columnist Georgie Anne Geyer has come to the rescue. In "Long Campaign Begins to Sour" she zeros in on the "not-very-funny" absurdities that have been dominating recent news coverage of the presidential campaign. Geyer sees the "race card" issue as bunk.

Now, after seven years of W.-imposed misery that has left many of us limp with the stupidity of it all, it has been a joy over the past year to witness some of our dreams finally approaching reality. There was Barack Obama -- African-American, biracial, cosmopolitan, whatever you choose to call him -- actually having a chance to be president of this United States. And there was John McCain, a good and honorable man whom no fair observer could ever accuse of racism.

But in the last two weeks, the wonderful promise of this last year has been reduced to a series of not-very-funny absurdities. Everybody is talking about how "race has finally entered the campaign," but unless I'm a lot dumber than I think I am, I can't even figure out how, when or, above all, why.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

1974: A year of 'change'

Part One

With good reason, there’s been lot of talk about “change” this year; it seems to be in the air. 1974 was a year of big changes. At the time, the most obvious of them had to be the resignation of President Richard Nixon. It took a few years of perspective to grasp that the whole culture actually shifted that year.

Tastes in music, clothes, politics, movies, drugs, and you-name-it, took off in new directions during 1974. Suddenly, social causes were out, socializing/partying was in. Going into the year, no one would have guessed the most popular gesture of group defiance on campus -- the protest march -- would morph into spontaneous gatherings to cheer on naked people as they ran by?

Yet, in the spring of 1974, streaking on college campuses became a national phenomenon.

Richmond’s police chief announced that his officers would not tolerate streakers -- students or not -- running around in the city’s streets, alleys, etc. The VCU police department said if it took place on campus it was a university matter and would be dealt with by its personnel.

Leading up to this point, there had been an escalating series of incidents on or near the VCU campus; police dogs had been set loose in crowds and city cops had been pelted with debris. But those incidents had ties to the subculture, in some ways they were to do with politics.

So, the City’s Finest and what might have been seen as the anti-establishment crowd based in the Fan District had some history leading up to what I saw happen on the 800 block of W. Franklin St., the night of Mar. 19, 1974.

A group of about 50 uniformed policemen stormed in on small motorbikes and in squad cars to arrest streakers. They ended up catching four streakers and then arresting 13 other people. Most of those others were taken from among the peaceful, decidedly apolitical crowd that had been watching the adventure from the sidewalk.

After a lull in the action the cops inexplicably charged from the street into the crowd of maybe 200. Bystanders were dragged into the street. One kid was knocked off of his bicycle and slammed repeatedly against the fender and hood of a police car. Others were beaten with clubs or flashlights. It was a riot -- a police riot.

At the time, I worked at the Biograph Theatre, a block away. While I’ve seen various clashes between policemen and citizens over the years at anti-war demonstrations and a few brawls, what happened that night on Franklin St. was the most violent and out of control behavior I've ever seen from that many uniformed officers of the law.

That’s probably because I didn’t go to the Cherry Blossom Music Festival that unfolded at City Stadium a month later of that year. More about the outdoor music fest that spawned a four-hour riot will appear in Part Two of 1974: A year of 'change.'

In the meantime, click here to read about the streaking incident on VCU's campus. Click here to read about the Cherry Blossom riot and to see a fantastic slideshow at inRich.

This year’s presidential campaign and the spike in the price of oil have been sweeping away many long-held notions. Maybe 2008 will yet launch a new style in cinema, something as startling as the French New Wave of the early ’60s was. Maybe it could set loose a new sound as fresh as bebop or rockabilly were when they were new.

In a year that might see a black man elected president of the United States, who knows what other changes will take place?

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