Monday, August 30, 2010

The James River Film Journal

Brad Dourif as Hazel Motes in John Huston's "Wise Blood" (1979), based on the novel by Flannery O'Conner.

For film buffs and fans of the James River Film Festival there is a new web site up called the James River Film Journal. It's basically a gabfest about movies. James Parrish, of Flicker fame, is the editor and he's looking for additional writers to get involved.

Click here to see the JRFJ.

--Image from

Virginia's Activist Attorney General

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli wants to make it much more difficult for women in Virginia to get a first-trimester abortion. His recent opinion could accomplish what he and other conservative members couldn't get done when The Cooch was in the GA.

On Fri., Aug. 20, another of Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s opinions wafted down from his lofty perch that overlooks the rest of Virginia’s government. Once again, Gov. Bob McDonnell and senior members of the General Assembly were left to marvel at the power being wielded by the attorney general’s office in 2010.

Click here to read the entire OpEd piece at


Update: In related news "Judge rules against Cuccinelli in UVa. case."

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Beck in the Crowd

Say what you like about Glenn Beck, he certainly does enjoy himself. He obviously enjoys being a charlatan. He especially enjoys knowing how galling his performances are to people who can see right through him. Yes, no one enjoys being the dandified provocateur more than Beck, who even enjoys being mocked ... to him, it means you noticed.

Although I usually ignore Beck, he makes that nearly impossible sometimes. So, when I do catch a few minutes of his tedious over-the-top act, I am reminded of Lonesome Rhodes, the amoral, power-hungry character played by Andy Griffith in "A Face in the Crowd" (1957). Beck strikes me as an updated version of Rhodes.

-- Art by F.T. Rea

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Slipek's Kilpatrick

Having known Edwin Slipek Jr. since 1972, when he was the editor of the Commonwealth Times and I was managing the Biograph Theatre, I'm somewhat familiar with his views. The Biograph was a regular advertiser in the CT; naturally, I took an interest in its pages.

After that Ed wrote for the Richmond Mercury (1972-75), which also published some of my early cartoons. With his subsequent work for STYLE Weekly I've read what Ed has had to say about Richmond many times. More often than not, I've agreed with him ... not always.

This time I have to go on record: Thanks for writing "Poisoned Pen," the Aug. 25, 2010 Back Page of STYLE Weekly that delivers a native Richmonder's unvarnished look at the late James J. Kilpatrick.

Yes, today's Richmonders need to see that view of Kilpatrick, instead of wallowing in his reflected celebrity and accepting the soft-focused image of a man's work that still poisons debates about education in Richmond today.
Kilpatrick relentlessly and effectively championed massive resistance to desegregation through the bully pulpit of the News Leader, where he was editorial page editor from 1949-1966. “Brilliance and bias,” read the headline of the black-bordered obituary on the front page of the Aug. 17 Richmond Times-Dispatch. “A Courtly Warrior for Conservatism,” proclaimed The Wall Street Journal.

But The Washington Post got it right in quoting University of Virginia political science professor Larry J. Sabato on Kilpatrick’s demise and his studied defiance to integration: “It was one of the saddest episodes in Virginia’s long history, and it helped keep the state a backwater for years to come.”

Click here to read Slipek's piece.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Lights Are On at the New Charter School

After all the twists and turns Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts opened on Aug. 11.
As the story developed it became much more than a matter of establishing a new school in an old school building that needed refurbishing. It became a complicated political issue with agendas in the air that had more to do with history than they did with science or arts.
Click here to read "Lights Are On at the New Charter School" at, penned by yours truly.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Semi-Viral Video

This short film is 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. It was made by reusing some of my old art, film footage, etc., and a proper measure of sarcasm.

Suddenly, it has gone semi-viral. Although it's been on YouTube for a year-and-a-half, for some reason it has gotten five-times more hits/viewings in the last three or four days than it had garnered in the previous 18 months.

While I don't know what has set this interest in my little video off, I do find it semi-fascinating, so I hope this post stokes it.

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

Friday, August 20, 2010

When is intruding on solemnity OK?

Now I wonder how many conservatives who follow the lead of Virginia’s attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, are adamantly opposed to building the Muslim community center two blocks away from Ground Zero.

My reason for wondering is this: Cuccinelli declined to file a brief supporting Albert Snyder’s side of the case against Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church. That made Virginia just one of two states to pass on the opportunity. The Supreme Court will decide the case soon.

Rather than rehash it, click here to read my article on this matter. By the way, I agree with Cuccinelli’s take on this one.

Anyway, after you read about Cuccinelli’s concerns for freedom of speech, even when the speaker is being deliberately obnoxious at military funerals, you’ll see he’s not willing to protect the families of fallen military personnel from being offended at the worst time.

How are the sensibilities of the families of people who perished in the 9/11 attacks all that different from the families at such funerals?

Since most reasonable people of any political persuasion agree that the owners of the property in Manhattan have the "right" to do as they please, within zoning regulations, etc., we hear from those opposed to the community center -- who call it the Ground Zero Mosque -- that such a purpose would be/could be offensive to the families of 9/11’s victims.

They're saying it's terribly inappropriate, which is understandable, even if one disagrees. Yet, almost anything one does today will be called inappropriate by someone. Most of us worry about such things when we feel like it.

So, is the No-Ground-Zero-Mosque movement also saying the presence of a Muslim community center in Lower Manhattan is more offensive and inappropriate than what the Westboro hate group does at funerals?

Think about it.

What could be meaner or less appropriate than a group of professional haters from Kansas showing up at your child’s funeral, waving outrageous signs -- God Hates Fags! -- that say your lost loved one deserves an eternity in hell, because he or she died fighting for a country that enables homosexuality?

But a fair reading of the First Amendment says the government can’t stop them. So, Cuccinelli and other conservatives can live with that intrusion into a solemn occasion. How is a community center that can’t even be seen from Ground Zero less appropriate?

In the current scheme of things, how many conservatives have more tolerance for a Westboro hater's rights, because he calls himself a Baptist, than they do for the rights of any Muslim under the sun?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Queen of Claptrap

Dr. Laura is in the news today. My only brush with her persona was the experience I had when I took an assignment to write a column about her for in 2000. The title of my piece then was "Queen of Claptrap."

Other than that time, I haven't really paid much attention to the minor celebrity of Ms. Laura Schlessinger. It was easy to ignore her.

However, after writing that OpEd piece in 2000, I received an avalanche of nasty, even threatening, emails from a small, very organized national group that apparently did that sort of thing to any writer who criticized their queen. It was disconcerting, nonetheless.

Here's the ten-year-old piece:
Anybody who thinks the job of an opinion writer is easy should think again. Yes, everybody has opinions. That part is easy. What I'm referring to here - aside from the small task of gathering an opinion and converting it into an essay - is research. In order to put this piece together, I had to watch and listen to Laura Schlessinger.

Yes, the same Laura Schlessinger who is better known as talk-radio's Dr. Laura, the acerbic, self-styled adviser to the forlorn who has ridden a wave of controversy to a new syndicated television show.

To be fair with the reader, I have to admit that I have no patience with the entire confession-driven genre of programming to which Dr. Laura's television show belongs. I'm talking about the likes of Jerry Springer, Montel Williams, Ricki Lake, and so forth.

However, Schlessinger has been deliberately pushing buttons to move the stories about the views she voices on her broadcasts from the entertainment section to the news and editorial sections.

Thus, Dr. Laura has become a topic for OpEd columnists to consider. After a sampling of her product I have to say a little bit of the supercilious Dr. Laura goes a long way. For my money, she may well be the most obnoxious of the daytime talk-show hosts.

From what I can tell, her formula combines the hard-edge political and cultural outlook of the typical right-wing AM radio windbag - Rush Limbaugh being the most obvious example - with the lonely hearts advice of an Ann Landers.

Dr. Laura's frequently expressed judgments on homosexuality - notions that some would call antediluvian, while others plainly see as hateful - have provoked an anti-Dr. Laura movement that is making news as well. For more about that, check out

Dr. Laura, in spite of her startling throwback opinions, is a modern gal when it comes to making money; so she's got a Web site, too:

"Do the right thing" is Dr. Laura's oft-stated slogan. Well, I can't argue with that. Who can? But the rub is who's defining what "right" is?

Dr. Laura's tonic is basically a dose of Pat Buchanan's political and social agenda, served up with Bobby Knight's bedside manner. The sad part of it - maybe even the scary part - is that some pitiful soul might take her mean-spirited blather to heart, because it sounds bitter and medicinal.

The burgeoning movement to protest her bashing of gays and other people she sees as immoral is gaining momentum. With quotes such as, "a huge portion of the male homosexual populace is predatory on young boys," being attributed to Dr. Laura, it's easy to see why.

While I can't say I'm prepared to endorse everything that's being said and done to "Stop Dr. Laura," I can say with enthusiasm that I'm a great believer in the time-honored tactic of boycott.

Apparently Procter & Gamble got the message. It, like a string of other would-be national sponsors of her TV program, such as Verizon, RadioShack Corp., Kraft Foods, and Kimberly-Clark, have decided to back off.

It won't surprise me if the television show - aired locally at 4 p.m. weekdays by WRIC TV 8 (Ch. 8 broadcast and AT&T Ch. 10 Comcast) - runs into trouble in the Richmond market. Virginia's particular brand of conservatism is baffling to people from other states.

Yes, Virginians are happy with right-of-center politics on many issues. Yet, they aren't comfortable with extremes in any direction; especially those extremes that are blatantly tacky.

Ask Ollie North: In spite of his far-right beliefs, his 1994 $25 million cakewalk to a Senate seat turned out to be a fall from grace. Ollie, with that checkered blue shirt and his self-serving lies to Congress, was just too gauche for Virginians to stomach.

By the same token, Howard Stern's radio show didn't last long in Richmond, either. Although it had plenty of listeners, the big local advertisers weren't comfortable being associated with it. What some of Stern's fans failed to grasp was it wasn't so much his lefty politics that got Howard in trouble in this market; it was his style.

It will be interesting to see whether WRIC will be able to run the commercials of major local advertisers such as Ukrop's Super Markets or any of the big banks in or adjacent to the Dr. Laura show.

With the anti-Dr. Laura movement picking up speed, I wonder how many Richmond companies are going to be willing to write off the entire gay and lesbian market for the sake of riding Laura Schlessinger's publicity wave. Beyond the organized alternative-lifestyle groups, the controversy that is swelling up around this talk show has bad vibes.

In ad jargon, it's going to be too easy for local agencies to buy around the Dr. Laura telecast. That simply means that roughly the same audience is readily available to an advertiser through other vehicles, so Dr. Laura and her hefty baggage can easily be avoided.

Bottom line: My hope is Dr. Laura will get canceled before I have to write any more about her. Just the thought of having to watch her on television again gives me the willies.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Too close to Ground Zero

Without my natural cynicism, the contrived issue to do with the Ground Zero Mosque might baffle me. After all, if this country wasn't founded on religious freedom and doing what you want on your own property ... then what?

But it seems there are some new-wave conservatives, who are so much about the latest talking points strategy that they don't give a happy hoot about traditional conservative values. And, apparently there are some focus-group numbers out there that say striking a high-profile pose against "building a mosque too close to Ground Zero" will play well with enough voters who thoroughly dislike all Muslims that it could help with turning out the vote in November.

Doesn't matter if it's not a mosque. Doesn't matter that such a strategy endorses hate.

So, being against anything Muslim is the game. Too close to Ground Zero is the cover. Since none of the jowls-shaking critics can agree on how close is “too close,” that makes for lots of easy chatterbox cable news television.

If, after the votes are counted, this ugly issue slowly melts into the woodwork -- to sleep with the cockroaches -- well then, you'll know why.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Confusing justification with justice

This Wednesday the Back Page of STYLE Weekly deals with immigration, liberty and morality.
Too many Americans no longer see immigration as a positive ingredient in our national melting pot. Rather, it is being posited as a noxious weed thrown into a politically toxic stew. To use this tragic accident as justification for Virginia to join Arizona in seeking to do what the federal government is constitutionally charged to do, i.e., secure our national borders and direct our foreign policy, is grossly misguided, though sadly in character with our nation’s and Virginia’s historical mistreatment of our fellow human beings.
Click here to read the entire piece, "Justification Without Justice," written by Shaun Kenney and Claire Guthrie GastaƱaga.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Is Kaine's DNC job secure?
With off-year elections less than three months away, Democrats are bracing for losses in congress. It's traditional for the party in the White House to suffer such. Currently, the donkeys have a majority in both houses. It remains to be seen how well prepared the Republicans are/will be to take advantage of that natural swing of the political pendulum.

Former Gov. Tim Kaine (depicted above) is the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. It's his job to hold onto as many seats as possible this year. How long will Kaine last as chairman, if Democrats have a bad November 2nd?

According to Michael O'Brien's piece in The Hill, Kaine is so well liked in the party that he's not a likely scapegoat.

“I think Tim Kaine is out there doing what he should be doing — building the party, building the party apparatus,” Axelrod said. “That is what you want a party chair to do. That is the guts of the job.”

Lawmakers and party insiders contacted by The Hill expressed unified support for Kaine’s work as chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and praised him for working to channel President Obama’s grassroots support into a tool for governing.
Click here to read the entire article.

Hat-tip to Blue Virginia. Illustration by F.T. Rea

Dedicated to the Ones

The version of the song "Dedicated To the One I Love" that is probably the best known today is the one performed by The Mamas and Papas, as seen in the 1967 video below.

My memory of the song takes me back to the Shirelles' version, which was actually given two releases about a year apart. The original 1959 single was apparently ignored by the disc jockeys. When the same record was re-released later, which I didn't grasp was a cover, something about the market had changed ... it became a hit.

But, as I've recently learned, the original version of the song was put out in 1957 by the 5 Royales. It was written by two members of that band -- Ralph Bass and Lowman Pauling. The video below is that version. It's funny, now I like both the M&Ps' effort and the original by the 5 Royales better than the one by the Shirelles, which I liked just fine at the time.

Change is good. See what you think.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Cuccinelli the perpetual campaigner

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli isn't on the ballot in November. Still, he seems to be in the news more than any other Virginia politician. Maybe more than all the other Republicans in the commonwealth, put together.
Just as Cuccinelli’s shoot-from-the-hip style pleases Tea Party convention planners, it has been creating a problem for some in the Virginia Republican Party. He has completely overshadowed the two other men on the GOP’s winning ticket in 2009, Gov. Bob McDonnell and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling.

Bill who?
Click here to read Cuccinelli's Week That Was."

Friday, August 06, 2010

Boies on Prop 8 challenge

David Boies on Prop 8 & Supreme Court from JD Lasica on Vimeo.

Update: Ted Olson explains why he and Boies won on Fox News. This one is really something to see/hear. It's fun watching Olson swat Wallace's irksome questions about "judicial activism," etc., like they were slow-moving, late-summer flies.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Net neutrality, free speech issue

Minnesota's Sen. Al Franken says net neutrality is the free speech issue of our time:
But telecommunications companies want to be able to set up a special high-speed lane just for the corporations that can pay for it. You won't know why the internet retail behemoth loads faster than the mom-and-pop shop, but after a while you may get frustrated and do all of your shopping at the faster site. Maybe the gatekeepers will discriminate based on who pays them more. Maybe they will discriminate based on whose political point of view conforms to their bottom line.
Well, I'm certainly not in favor of more consolidation of the telecommunications industry. They are basically the same people who killed locally owned and programmed radio. They are the cloaked why behind Hollywood's tedious penchant for doing so many remakes and sequels.

Click here to read Franken's entire OpEd piece at CNN.

Monday, August 02, 2010

'Love is a fog'

"Love is a fog that burns with the daylight of reality."
-- Charles Bukowski (1920-94)

-- Art by F.T. Rea