Saturday, January 31, 2009

MediaShift: Sarvay filling 'niche'

Well known Virginia bloggers John Sarvay (Buttermilk & Molasses) and Ben Tribbett (Not Larry Sabato) are cited as spearheading today's citizen journalism trend in "How Niche Bloggers Fill Gaps Left by Local Newspapers, Alt-Weeklies," at MediaShift.
"The director of community development called me and we had some good conversations and I became a pretty big fan of what they were trying to do," [Sarvay] said. "And I realized that they were urban planners, they weren't PR professionals. Their competency was running defense and building plans, it wasn't how to get people out to events."

So suddenly Sarvay found himself being read and even consulted by those who had the most power over the direction of downtown planning. During the peak of the process he was throwing up posts on the subject several times a day and his traffic reached an all-time high.
The article, penned by Simon Owens, can be read in it entirety by clicking here.

Friday, January 30, 2009

'Arts Flashback' series from Save Richmond

The intrepid Don Harrison is back on the job at Save Richmond. His web site has recovered from sabotage and once again he's spearheading an effort to shine a light on the seemingly always squirrelly money aspects of the Downtown performing arts boondoggle/CenterStage.

But this post is less about today's strange relationship between Richmond and its arts community and more about the history of such. Harrison's arts flashback series is back up. See what you can find in the way of patterns, while you absorb some history.

"Richmond Arts Flashback: Salvage Work." Click here.
"Richmond Arts Flashback: Mr. Cabell's Richmond." Click here.
"Richmond Arts Flashback: The Earl of Chesterfield." Click here.
"Richmond Arts Flashback: What Ever Happened to TheatreVirginia?" Click here.
"Richmond Arts Flashback: Richard Florida and 'Street-Level Art'" Click here.
"Richmond Arts Flashback: Takin' It to the Streets." Click here.

Thanks, Don. Keep the faith.

Sunlight on CenterStage's books

Don Harrison, publisher of Save Richmond, has called upon The City of Richmond to respond to his Freedom of Information Act request to look at the financial records at CenterStage, to see what funds it actually has, and just what's going on with taxpayers' money.

In October, Richmond City Council passed an ordinance that shields the taxpayer-funded CenterStage project from the Virginia Freedom of Information Act and basic taxpayer oversight. We think that it is high time to challenge that odious piece of business.

Click here to read Harrison’s post.

Given the checkered history of the CenterStage project, one has to wonder -- why in the world did City Council pass such an ordinance? What were they thinking?

Hopefully, with Save Richmond's help, we'll now find out just what they were thinking.

Moreover, now that Mayor Dwight Jones is in office and no longer a candidate, where is he going to stand on the sunlight issue? Will he stick to the old cloistered way? Or, is he hip enough to see that times are changing.

For background on this move by Save Richmond, click here to read “Sunlight in 2009.”

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

High on the Hog 9

"High on the Hog 9" was produced in 1985 by Patricia Brincefield and me. It documented the annual party on Libby Hill (1977-2006), using video shot by four cameras. We were given total access to whatever we needed. Brincefield did much to round up equipment and some of the crew.

In this brief clip (4:44) the music of Billy Price and the Keystone Rhythm Band is featured and some of the behind-the-scenes aspects of producing the party were covered.

Capel on recruiting Maynor to VCU

Oklahoma basketball coach (and former VCU coach) Jeff Capel on what he saw in Eric Maynor, when he first watched him play:
"The first time I saw Eric, I knew he had the potential to be special," said Capel. "There was something magical about the way he ran his team, and how he could get anywhere on the floor he wanted. He had a feel for the game and what was going on that is very rare in young players – his ability to not only see, but think 3 to 4 steps ahead, understanding game situations, etc. I also thought he had the ability to be a great on-the-ball defender because of his quickness and long arms. I'm really proud of the player that Eric has become under the guidance of Anthony Grant and his staff, and just as important, because of all the hard work Eric has put in."
Click here to read the entire article at the Fan District Hub.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Jan. 26: SLANTblog's VA Top Five

Each Monday during the remainder of the college basketball regular season, SLANTblog will offer its new Virginia Top Five. This feature ranks what seem at the moment to be the best five teams from among the 14 Division I men's programs in the Commonwealth.

SLANTblog's VA Top Five

1. Va. Tech (14-5, 4-1 in ACC, No. 32 RPI)
2. VCU (15-5, 8-1 in CAA, No. 55 RPI)
3. Mason (14-5, 7-2 in CAA, No. 53 RPI)
4. UVa. (7-9, 1-4 in ACC, No. 102 RPI)
5. VMI (16-3, 8-1 in Big South, No. 119 RPI)

VCU's match-up with Northeastern (8-1 in CAA) on Tuesday at the Siegel Center (9 p.m.) will determine the CAA leader. And, in case you're wondering where Richmond (11-8, 3-1 in A-10) is, RPI-wise, the Spiders are sitting at 128th.

-- RPI numbers from RealTime RPI, as of noon Monday.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Can it be true, is PoMo dead?

Change is not just a good thing. No matter how much we try to avoid it, eventually, it is inevitable. Without evolution, where would any of us be? We’re all the descendants of zillions of mutants.

After eight strange years of being stuck in a rut, our new president is showing us what change looks like in politics. Beyond that change in the American culture is happening all over the place. For instance, the daily newspaper, as an institution, is dying. The trend has been accelerated by the recent economic upheaval, but the death spiral had been underway for sometime.That, while blogging is burgeoning; so is Facebook.

People aren’t spending their time reading newspapers like they once did. And, here’s the bigger picture -- people aren’t watching television like they used to, either.

So, does that mean all the advertising that was going into newspapers and broadcast has migrated to the Internet?


You probably won’t read all that much about this in the newspaper. You probably won’t see an expose on television, either, because they’re scared to admit the very thing that has driven our economy and shaped out way of life for decades, ADVERTISING, is sick. It’s not on its deathbed, yet, but the advertising industry is anything but healthy right now.

All those ads that screamed for attention by being too cute, too shocking, too obnoxious, and so forth, have gone to the same well too often. It's turned into a wall of noise. To some extent, we've all developed TiVo brain.

The guys paying for advertising, the clients, have lost their faith in the effectiveness of advertising. They’re not sure it works like it did in the old millennium. What was once an extremely predictable business has become unpredictable. And, that makes for “scared money.”

Gamblers know -- scared money doesn’t win. Moreover, it’s all because the times have changed under our feet.

Breaking News: We’re no long walking the path of, swimming in the sea of, breathing, I say breathing the air of -- and so forth, metaphorically -- the Postmodern Era.

Part Two of this essay-in-progress is coming soon...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Color Radio and how many Maniacs?

On August 26, 1982 Color Radio (or Channel 36) began beaming its signal, via Continental Cablevision’s cable TV hookups, to what its creators hoped would be a listening audience in Richmond and Henrico County. It existed as the soundtrack that could be heard when a viewer tuned his television to Channel 36, which was the channel for Continental’s color bars test pattern.

Les Smith signed on with his “Music Appreciation 101,” to launch the station’s existence. In his college days Smith had been a DJ at VCU’s radio station. Then he played the same role at WGOE, the daytime AM station that owned the hippie audience in Richmond for most of the 1970s.

Smith probably had the most on-air experience of the original cast of characters who breathed life into the venture, which was the brainchild of Burt Blackburn.

“In June, 1982 [Burt Blackburn] conceived the idea of a ‘radio station’ utilizing one of Continental Cablevision's empty channels,” wrote Smith in a 2001 remembrance of Channel 36. “He approached Continental’s Virginia marketing manager, Matt Zoller, who liked the idea and encouraged Blackburn to proceed. Zoller himself had been involved in college radio.”

By the time your narrator came aboard as a volunteer DJ, in October of that same year, the station had situated its studio over Plan 9 in Carytown (this was Plan 9’s old location where Chop Suey Tuey is now). My show, “Number 9,” was on for three hours on Thursday afternoons. All the DJs and the staff were volunteers -- but it was really like you had to be asked.

At times Color Radio was cool. At its peak, its programming covered 96 hours a week. At times it was silly and a waste of time, or worse. Always, it danced on the edge like no other radio station it Richmond’s history.

The handbill above was for a 1983 fundraiser that I booked into Rockitz to benefit Color Radio. The headliner was a group out of Jamestown, N.Y. that was building a following here from appearances at Benny’s and Hard Times. They called their act 10,000 Maniacs. Lead singer Natalie Merchant was 19-years-old then. The opening act for the show was a local group -- Ten Ten.

A few weeks prior to the live show at Rockitz, I taped an interview with Merchant for my radio program. What follows is the beginning of that over-25-year-old interview; she starts by answering my question about what it was she and her friends in the band were looking to gain from touring and recording their music. Was it all for fun, did they want to get rich, or what? She laughed.
Merchant: We haven’t yet assumed our adult responsibilities. We don’t have enough income to live away from our parents yet. Sure, I’d like to be independent of my parents. After that, anything ... any success that comes, I’ll accept that. I’m not intimidated by the mass media. I think it would be a great tool to reach more people.

Rea: Reach them with what?

Merchant: With what we’re saying ... with what I’m saying.

Rea: What are you saying?

Merchant: I write the words. Most of what I’m saying is that music should be instructive.

Rea: Instructive?

Merchant: It should teach you something, even if it’s just building your vocabulary and making you realize you feel good when you dance. Anything you can learn ... I don’t know (she laughs). Probably by the time we can reach more people, I’ll be more sure of what I’m trying to say.
Later in the interview I asked Natalie about the name of the band. She said one of the guys took it from a movie, a 1960s low-budget slasher flick. I laughed and suggested the actual name of the film was "2,000 Maniacs." She shrugged and smiled.

Color Radio was foreshadowing of the last gasp of the Baby Boomer-driven freewheeling underground-oriented art and music scene which had been centered in the Fan District for nearly 20 years, from the end of the beat era through the last of the punks at the party.

At Color Radio when the microphones switched on there was no filter. There was no corporate-think limit. It was even wilder than WGOE-AM had been in it rather freewheeling days in the early '70s, before it got busted by the FCC.

Color Radio had no FCC oversight.

The programming at Color Radio was left to the DJs, many of whom were connected to the local live music scene in some way. Several were in bands. Others were Rock 'n' Roll promoters or worked at record stores.

The format, in unrelated blocks, ranged from Rock to Bach and beyond. Some shows were all talk. There were comedy programs and, yes, sometimes things got raunchy, or weird. It was sort of like an offshore station; the ride lasted two years.

-- Words and art by F.T. Rea

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Bye bye boomer-centric culture

The pictures of the inauguration on television were mind-boggling. Although I was prepared to see millions of people, because of all the talk leading up to today's event, it was still something to see.

The only times I can remember seeing such crowds in DeeCee were anti-Vietnam War demonstrations 40 years ago. And, in a way, it felt like a war had ended today. However, since I've decided that I shouldn't be a sore winner and do any Bush-bashing, TODAY, I won't expand on that notion at this time.

For whatever it's worth, I can't remember ever being so happy with a new president as I am today.

Oh, I know plenty of my fellow baby boomers are feeling a little uncomfortable about President Barack Obama. In spite of how much this country needs to change, pronto! they don't understand Obama's call to move beyond partisan political shenanigans, as they've been practiced for the last 25 years -- with payback heaped upon payback.

Some will continue to search for hidden motives in whatever Obama does. Others will try to shackle him with their expectations, based on what they want him to be. The Obama I see isn't likely to let that slow him up, because he's a problem-solver at heart.

Hey, there are people, regardless of their age, who are afraid of change every time. They are like an ordinarily weak swimmer who's willing to cling to a log all the way down the raging river, over the waterfall, rather than let go and try to swim for shore.

Or, maybe they're more like the guy who will stay on the wrong road, forever, rather than pull over and ask directions. Obama says he'll take the best idea and use it, regardless of who had the idea in the first place. I believe him.

Well, the young at heart, regardless of age, are excited about the change America made today. They don't want to go over the falls to crash on the rocks far below.

Billions of people, the world over, are excited, too. They all saw the miracle of America changing administrations, again, peacefully. Where else in the wide world of politics could pictures like those we saw today come from?

Where else could Barack Obama's story have unfolded as it has here in the USA?

Talk about hope!

Of course, the baby boomers aren't totally finished yet. Some of us still have a few teeth left. But the sway that generation, my generation, has held over the American culture is no longer waxing. Because of their sheer numbers, the spoiled boomers have been getting their way for way too long. The pictures on television today told me that's changing as you read these words.

-- Words and art by F.T. Rea

The Audacity of Hoops

My days as a basketball junkie finally came to an end when I was about President Barack Obama's age -- 47. Now I dearly miss playing, so I write about the game. And, as a guy who used to play at least twice a week for many years, I'm glad the new president knows his way around a basketball court.

While folks who are anti-sports my not care about Obama's hoops connection, I believe -- like his brother-in-law, Craig Robinson, does -- that you can tell something about a man by the way he plays basketball. Now comes a feature article in Sports Illustrated by Alexander Wolff that goes into that aspect of Obama's life more than what we've seen about it on television.
The path is a familiar one: Ancestry in Kansas; influences from Africa; a kind of apotheosis in Michael Jordan's Chicago; eventual acclamation by the world. And while, no, basketball itself won't be sworn in next Tuesday as the 44th president of the U.S., the game has played an outsized role in forming the man who will. Basketball, says his brother-in-law, Oregon State coach Craig Robinson, is why Barack Obama "is sitting where he's sitting."
Click here to read "The Audacity of Hoops: How Basketball Helped Shape Obama."

Monday, January 19, 2009

All Dick, All the Time

Vice President for just one more day, Dick Cheney

Aren't you glad to see this guy pack his gear and leave public office/town? I can't remember another vice president anything like him. Probably even makes some people choose to see his first name as a verb.

Jan. 19: SLANTblog's VA Top Five

Each Monday morning during the remainder of the college basketball regular season, SLANTblog will offer its new Virginia Top Five. This feature ranks what seem at the moment to be the best five teams from among the 14 Division I men's programs in the Commonwealth.

SLANTblog's VA Top Five

1. Mason (14-3, in 7-0 in CAA, No. 48 RPI)
2. Va. Tech (12-5, 2-1 in ACC, No. 50 RPI)
3. VCU (13-5, 6-1 in CAA, No. 62 RPI)
4. UVa. (7-7, 1-2 in ACC, No. 86 RPI)
5. VMI (14-3, 6-1 in Big South, No. 118 RPI)

Big in-state match-up on Saturday at the Siegel Center (4 p.m. on ESPN2) -- Mason at VCU.

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

Getting real about baseball

Writing for the Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist Michael Paul Williams (is he the last of the columnists in the building?) lays it on the line -- put baseball back on The Boulevard!

Now the plan, announced Thursday, calls for Sports Backers Stadium, a soccer and track-and-field venue, to stay put amid the mixed-use development. A new Ashe Center and an indoor-outdoor tennis complex also would be built at this sports complex.

Now is the time for the developers to further amend their proposal and return baseball to North Boulevard.

Click here to read his piece in Saturday's RT-D.

As for me, I couldn't agree with Williams more on this call.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Popping Postmodern Bubbles

A dream-like pastiche of sounds and images (stills and moving) set to the pace of an imaginary crying-in-your-beer Bob Wills song ("Bubbles in My Beer," lyrics by T. Duncan, B. Walker and C. Mills), playing in an abstract sort of bar.

This is a new piece, crafted with Windows Movie Maker and a little camcorder. It was made by reusing some of my old art, film footage and sarcasm; it's a dash of oblique postmodern film ... offered as the dead horse of postmodernism finally rides off to the glue factory.

-- Images and sound by F.T. Rea (2009). All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Positive Vibe 4th Anniversary

This reminder came in from my friend Page Wilson:

: MAX'S POSITIVE VIBE CAFE; 4th Anniversary Celebration
When: Saturday, January 17th
Where: 2825 Hathaway Rd. (Stratford Hills Shopping Center, off Forest Hill Ave.)
Admission: $10 Donation.

Their mission is to help train folks with challenges to work in the food service industry, and get real jobs. Check out the website. The food is excellent! These folks continue to grow, and we're glad to be a part of it. This Saturday, we'll all get an extra helping of music, too! I'll be Recklessly Abandoned with Jim Skelding, Charles Arthur, Brian Sulser and Jay Gillespie.

It's an all day affair. Y'all Come!


2:00 - Offering
3:00 - Susan Greenbaum
4:00 - The Taters
5:00 - Chicago Cy Taggert
6:00 - Marna & Macy
7:00 - Page Wilson w/ Reckless Abandon
8:00 - Blue Line Highway
9:00 - Gary Gerloff Band

Happy New Year! For more info: (804) 560-9622.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The 10th Commandment

With a new year underway, a new mayor in City Hall and new president about to sworn in, this piece I wrote for STYLE Weekly 10 years ago is offered for SLANTblog's readers to consider. Although much has changed in the last decade, I hope there's enough in the little rant that still applies that it's worth a second look (the art is even older).


The Tenth Commandment
by F. T. Rea

According to the Old Testament, Moses heard directly from God about standards of behavior. A portion of the instructions Moses is purported to have heard, The Ten Commandments, is still well known and even in the news frequently.

There were several other rules offered atop Mount Sinai that we hear less about. If you read much of the book of Exodus, it won’t take long for you to see why. Let’s just say that some are rather old world, including the regulation of established practices such as slavery and burnt offerings.

However, the Ten Commandments are to-the-point and very basic stuff: Honor your God and your parents. Be willing to make sacrifices for what matters most to you. Don’t kill, lie, or steal, and don’t cheat on your spouse(s). Of course, even then, it depended on what “cheating” meant. In the final of the ten, Moses claimed God said people should not “covet” their neighbors’ goods.

Well, I find it interesting that after a simple list of shalt-nots, the last rule is against even thinking about a shalt-not. It seems redundant. Covet? Come on Moses, what’s the problem with a little coveting? Why not stick to Nine Commandments?

Hopefully, the reader will permit me the post-modern license to move directly from the Bible to a Hollywood thriller, in order to help Moses with his answer: In “Silence of the Lambs,” the brilliant but evil psychiatrist, Hannibal Lecter, instructs the movie’s detective heroine, who is in search of a serial killer, that people only covet what they see all the time.


Of course the ravenous doctor was right about what fuels obsessive cravings. If one hasn’t seen it, how can one lust for it? To dwell on wanting something, to the point of no return, one must see it regularly. Coveting is a festering of the mind; it's a craving for that which one cannot, or should not, have. No good can come from it.

Today, because of the modern media, everyone sees how wealthy/powerful people live all the time. One sure thing movies, sitcoms, soaps, and the celebrity news all do -- in addition to telling a story -- is to show us how well off some people are. Then, every few minutes the advertisements tell us where to buy the same pleasures and accouterments the stars in those stories possess.

If you’ve got the dough to buy the stuff, that’s one thing. If you don’t that’s another. That might spawn some coveting.

The lifestyle of a celebrity is constantly sold to consumers as the good life. Wanting that good life is a carrot on the stick that helps drive our consumer culture. Therefore, in some ways, it has been good to all of us. My thesis for today’s rant is that there is a dark side to this strategy.

When powerless/poor people see that same contrived entertainment they want the good life too. However, if they are trapped in their circumstances and have no hope, they don’t believe the good life is available through legitimate channels. So, instead of feeling motivated to work overtime, to earn more money, the powerless are left to covet.

Eventually all that desire for the unobtainable can lead to trouble. I’m convinced that some part of the violence we have seen from teen-agers, lately, stems from their exaggerated sense of powerlessness. In the worst cases, their impatience boils over while waiting for what they imagine to be an adult’s awesome power over life and death.

The good news is that kids grow up. Most of our children won’t shoot up their schools because of frustration with having so little say-so over their schedule. The bad news is that for many of the world’s underdogs their sense of powerlessness is something that isn’t going to dissipate so easily. In the so-called Third World, the longing for First World goods and options is festering as you read this.

Meanwhile, these powerless coveters aren’t thinking about where to shop for knockoffs of what they see flaunted on the tube. Watching the images on television and the Internet -- as everyone in the world now does -- they are coveting, and at the same time, they don’t see a way for them to get over being poor in their lifetime. A hundred years ago, 50 years ago, the world's underclass wasn't wired into the rest of civilization. Now it is.

Now they know how soft life is for the well-off. History isn’t much help here because it tells them that the unwashed masses usually have had to take what they wanted by force.

How much longer we can rely on the gentle patience of the world’s hungriest millions is anybody’s guess.

In the meantime, perhaps the other side of “thou shalt not covet” is “thou shalt not flaunt.” If the wisdom of the ages — the Ten Commandments — suggests we should discourage destructive cravings in the shadows, perhaps we ought not to promote them so much with our brightest lights.

– 30 –

– Illustration (1982) by F.T. Rea

Monday, January 12, 2009

Jan. 12: VA Top Five

Fresh for each Monday morning during the rest of the college basketball regular season, SLANTblog will publish its new Virginia Top Five. It will attempt to rank what seem at the moment to be the best five teams from among the 14 Division I men's programs in the Commonwealth.

SLANTblog's VA Top Five

1. Mason (12-3, in 5-0 in CAA, No. 55 RPI)
2. Va. Tech (10-5, 1-1 in ACC, No. 57 RPI)
3. VCU (11-5, 4-1 in CAA, No. 64 RPI)
4. VMI (10-2, 5-0 in Big South, No. 82 RPI)
5. UVa. (7-6, 1-1 in ACC, No. 84 RPI)

RPI numbers from RealTime RPI, as of 9:30 a.m. Monday.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Flashback: Don't Walk

The scenes in front of and inside the 538 Club, which was on Harrison St., were shot the day the proprietors lost their beer license in the spring of 1983. They decided to just give away what beer was left, because they were out of business.

Once word got around the neighborhood, the free beer drew quite a crowd. Eventually that momentum led to the graffiti treatment to the outside of the building, then the total trashing of the interior of the club.

This three-minute film was assembled using old Super 8 footage that was transferred to video over 20 years ago, then recently converted to digital. The soundtrack is borrowed from R. Crumb's Keep-on-Truckin' Orchestra (1972); the tune is "Wisconsin Wiggles."

Other footage was shot at High on the Hog parties on Libby Hill, between 1980 and 1983. Those who were part of the local rock 'n' roll scene in those days will recognize lots of faces in this collection of moving snapshots.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Closing The Border: Part One

The Texas-Wisconsin Border Café was a popular Fan District watering hole, a quirky saloon that served Pabst Blue Ribbons, bratwursts and bowls of outrageously hot chili to the willing -- white collars, blue collars and no collars, alike -- for 17 years (1982-99). On Saturday afternoons live music was presented.

After The Border closed, I wrote a piece about the place for As it closed, I shot some S-VHS video tape of the process, itself.

The YouTube video above is the result of a day's effort to edit some of that footage into a semi-coherent package to document what happened. The seven-minute product is called "Closing the Border: Part One -- Mar. 14, 1999."

Joe Seipel (click here for more on him), who one of the restaurant's three owners, is the most visible character featured. At the time, Seipel was also the chairman of VCU's sculpture department.

Updated (Jan 13): Part Two shows the (Burnt) Taters performing and the auctioning off of The Border's wild collection of art and artifacts from its walls. It was a scene like no other I've witnessed. Click here to see it at YouTube.

Fade to '98

Here's a crude effort at cobbling together some video footage I shot around town in 1998. (I'm learning how to use the Windows Movie Maker, so, I'm slicing and dicing some old material.) The original moving pictures were recorded for various reasons.

Now it all plays like a time-capsule. Basically, "Fade to '98" shows the viewer some moving Richmond postcards from late in the 20th century. The soundtrack by Don' Ax Me ... Bitch was grabbed using a camcorder during a live performance at the Texas-Wisconsin Border Cafe on a Saturday afternoon. Mike McAdam was sitting in.

This little film is also noteworthy for showing the late Joe Sheets performing on guitar, as well as a clip of the legendary bookstore cat, Gus, of Biff's/Carytown Books fame. And, there's the Main Street Grill and...

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The Grace St. Game

Here's a cartoon flashback view of West Grace Street in the VCU area from 1983.

(Click on the image to enlarge it.)

In a way, this piece was done to help explain why I had just quit my longtime job as the manager of the Biograph Theatre: Twelve years was more than enough of that neighborhood.

In my view, too much of this dark picture of the deteriorating hippie culture depicted above was based on something akin to reality. Who remembers what the Candy Glutman's name really was?

Monday, January 05, 2009

What is a 'part-time' chairman?

Times are tough, all around -- Gov. Tim Kaine has taken a second job.

Following in the footsteps of former-Gov. Jim Gilmore, Kaine has accepted the chairmanship of a political party, while serving as governor. President George Bush tapped Gilmore to serve as the national chairman of the GOP, which he did ... briefly.
There was a time when Virginia governors didn't seek higher office, or mix in national politics in a big way, while they were in office. It just wasn't done.

Whether Kaine ought to divide his time -- he's technically going to be the "part-time chairman" until a year from now -- between his last year duties as governor, and whatever he's going to do for Team Donkey, part-time, I don't know.

But, if for no other reason than he is imitating Gilmore, in my gut, I wish Kaine had not taken the offer. Time will tell if it was a smart move. Sometimes, "change" is awkward.

-- Words and art by F.T. Rea

It's about regional cooperation, stupid

The importance of regional cooperation in the Richmond metro area is outlined in a post penned by yours truly at the Fan District Hub.

In the future it’s going to be more and more difficult to provide clean water, proper schools, adequate fire and police departments, and all sorts of costly but unavoidable budget items, without genuine cooperation from all the governments of the metropolitan area.

The question is: How long will it take?

Since the densely populated suburban counties have developed — to some extent — on the backs of those who moved there hoping to avoid dealing with urban problems, their elected officials are accustomed to being automatically against most boundary-blurring notions.

Furthermore, the City of Richmond’s officials are accustomed to looking at the counties as lesser-than entities.
Click here to read the entire piece.

Three years ago: The Harvey family story

Mother, father and two daughters found brutally slain in their home on New Year's Day. The parents were well known in the local arts/music community. Three years ago at this time of the year, my sense of what a blog could be was altered by the role SLANTblog played in the days after the nightmare story of the murdered Harvey family broke.

Driven by compulsion, to comfort the community of those who were devastated by the tragedy, and perhaps trying to hang on to what remained of my sanity, I wrote and published a series of posts. It was a community that formed out of necessity, out of a collective crying out -- how could this unthinkable crime have happened?

We went to services and we clung to one another, literally and virtually. Some of SLANTblog's readers in that spell, I already knew -- we had many common associations. Other readers found their way to SLANTblog in the fashion of how the Internet works.

Here's the SLANTblog post from Jan. 6, 2006:
The growing display in front of Carytown’s World of Mirth is something to see. To remember the slain Harvey family -- parents: Bryan and Kathy, daughters: Stella and Ruby -- toys, flowers, notes, candles, and all sorts of things have been left off on the sidewalk in front of Kathy’s shop.There’s a large board for people to leave off their written comments. So much of the stuff there was obviously put out by children. Even as still more brutal, hair-raising details about the crime scene itself emerge, the tenderness of what’s on that city sidewalk is palpable.
Click here to read, "The Storm and the Sunlit Painted Ladies," which is a collection of excerpts from that flurry of 2006 posts.

And, to see and hear Bryan Harvey in a television interview I conducted with him and his House of Freaks partner, Johnny Hott, in 1990, click here for Part One at YouTube. Click here for Part Two.

For another perspective on the Harvey family's deaths and the aftermath, click here to go to John Sarvay's Buttermilk & Molasses.

Still remembering...

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Baseball stadium deal's fine print

In the Richmond Times-Dispatch there's a good opinion piece about the downside of the financial picture of the baseball stadium in Shockoe Bottom concept.
The developers propose using sales and use taxes generated by the project for the purpose of paying interest on a civic bond issue to fund a ballpark. The implication is that any tax receipts generated by the project are somehow qualitatively different from other tax receipts.

In fact, Shockoe Bottom has continued to develop positively for more than a quarter of a century now -- without the touted necessity of a baseball field. And all the taxes come directly to the city, rather than being diverted.

It is well to note that the developers will exit the risk loop upon completion of the project. The proposed bond issue for a ballpark not only denies the city any immediate return but also, like other aspects of the proposal, privatizes gain while socializing risk.

Click here to read the piece written by two residents of Church Hill, Randolph Bell and Jean Wright.

Furthermore, if somebody bothers to run a survey, my guess is they will find that there is considerable opposition to this project among the people who live close to where the stadium would be built.

Add to that number the baseball fans who say they probably won't go to baseball games in Shockoe Bottom, and one has to ask again -- who is really in favor of this very bad idea? And, why?

Friday, January 02, 2009

Wilder, Wilder ... Wilder

Rather than write a retrospective of the career of the one and only L. Douglas Wilder, Esq., another look back at his astoundingly unique role in politics, I'd rather dredge up some of my old stuff -- cartoons and links to a couple of written pieces. Today, I'll stand on my various reactions to his doings, already on the record.
The 'toon above was part of a series on the U.S. Senate race called Campaign Inkbites (1994)

After Wilder won the mayoral race by a landslide in 2004, I wrote a Back Page for STYLE Weekly, "Wilder Comes Home" (Dec. 29, 2004):
From a platform at his Nov. 2 victory party in the Omni Hotel, former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder said he needed to do no "studies" to divine which were Richmond's most pressing problems. When he spoke of a set plan to "hit the ground running," the crowd lapped it up. Even as the Democrats' national ticket was about to crash and burn, this was a roomful of unrestrained smiles. Those also assembled on the ballroom's low-rise stage, including Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine, beamed and applauded. With so many longtime Wilder supporters on hand the sense of satisfaction in the air was palpable.
Click here to read the entire piece.
The drawing of Wilder above was done in 2004

Following the episode at City Hall that had a judge halting an eviction of the public school administration in the middle of the night, I wrote a piece for Brick Weekly, "The Wilder Walk" (Oct. 4, 2007):

Yet most of the defenses of Mayor Wilder, these days, have a striking similarity. They consistently laud what he said back when he was on the campaign trail, asking for votes to win the job he had done much to create. Yes, the same job he originally said he would not seek.

What Wilder’s defenders can’t do is say much on what problems he has solved, or of what he has actually accomplished in a satisfying way on the job as mayor.

Click here to read the entire piece.
The illustration above came in the wake of the sad news a year ago that the Richmond Braves would be leaving town.
-- Art and words by F.T. Rea