Monday, September 27, 2010

Remember the Fan District Softball League?

The Facebook group page for the Fan District Softball League is here. Pictures and comments. Join up if you like. The photo above (circa 1976) is of WGOE's popular disc jockey, Jim Letizia.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Way Conservative, or Just Crazy?

The Republican Party's agenda and the ambitions of the Tea Party movement seem to be coalescing. With Tea Party-endorsed candidates having upset more traditional GOP candidates in a few primaries, the Republican establishment is begrudgingly hopping aboard the ultra conservative bandwagon.

Karl Rove had to eat his words after the dust settled on Christine O’Donnell’s stunning defeat of Mike Castle, a well-connected moderate Republican, in Delaware’s recent primary. Soon it was announced that Gov. Bob McDonnell will be participating in the upcoming Virginia Tea Party Patriots Convention, scheduled to unfold at the Greater Richmond Convention Center, Oct. 7-9, 2010.

In the past Flat-Earth Republican strategy has picked at scabs, hoping fresh blood from yesterday’s thought-to-be-healed cultural troubles would distract Democrats from the present and tie them up defending gains made long ago. Whereas, now, it seems many Tea Party activists actually want to march us all back across the bridge to before the New Deal, perhaps as far back as the Gilded Age.

With Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin stealing his thunder, a couple of weeks ago Rush Limbaugh launched a new campaign. Limbaugh called for the newly coined Limbaugh Rule to be observed by his followers from now on:
“In an election year when voters are fed up with liberalism and socialism, when voters are clearly frightened of where the hell the country is headed, vote for the most conservative Republican in the primary, period.”
Which opens the door to wondering how one is to decide who is the “most conservative.” Like, how far right can you go before you fall off that flat earth? Moreover, where’s the line to be drawn to separate an I’m-more-conservative-than-you Tea Party style Republican from a lunatic who hears trees falling in the woods, when there are no woods?

After all, this season Arizona’s sitting governor, Jan Brewer, has made campaign news by seeing headless bodies no one else can see.

Hype? Hallucinations?

She won’t say.

Christine O’Donnell used to earn her living campaigning against masturbation, calling on teenagers to abstain. Is that way conservative, or what?

Obviously, being a “conservative” now hasn’t got much to do with what it meant a generation or two ago. Now the most passionate conservatives seem to want to turn back the hands of time, to when wealthy Christian white men controlled everything.

When your program is to do away with Social Security, is that conservative, or is it actually crazy in today's world? When you say you want to shrink the deficit, but you also want to give huge tax breaks to millionaires -- while remaining the planet’s policeman! -- is that realistic? When, instead of science, you want to teach Creationism in public schools … well, what is that?

Speaking of religion, what about the Fred Phelps clan -- the Westboro Baptist Church people from Kansas, who are coming to Richmond on Sunday, to stage their God Hates Fags stunts, etc., at local places of worship?

Are the Westboro haters just as Republican, but more conservative than Beck and Palin?

If you say that's a stretch, remember that same dynamic duo recently lent its support to the mustachioed Rev. Terry Jones, when he threatened to burn copies of the Quran.

So, when push comes to shove, which one is the more righteously conservative preacher, Jones or Phelps? Which is just crazy?


Update: Click here to read about the RT-D's account of the Westboro haters' work at three churches on Sunday.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

'What train?'

What follows is an excerpt of "The Natural" by Bernard Malamud (It's a conversation between Iris and Roy on page 142 of the Avon paperback):

Roy felt like crying, yet he told her -- the first one he ever had. "I was just a kid and I got shot by this batty dame on the night before my tryout, and after that I just couldn't get started again. I lost my confidence and everything I did flopped."

He said this was the shame of his life, that his fate, somehow, had always been the same (on the train going nowhere) -- defeat in sight of his goal.


"Always the same."

"Always with a woman?"

He laughed harshly. "I sure met some honeys in my time. They burned me good."

"Why do you pick that type?"

"It's like I say -- they picked me. It's the breaks."

"You could say no, couldn't you?"

"Not to the type dame I always fell for -- they weren't like you."

She smiled.

Favorite detective films

The series of Five Film Favorites continues at the Jamers River Film Journal: this week it's my five favorite American detective movies.

Click here to see the list and accompanying commentary. And, feel free to offer suggestions of your favorites that I overlooked.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Poll: 1 In 5 Americans Believe Obama Is A Cactus

At long last, it has come down to this:
According to a poll released Tuesday, nearly 20 percent of U.S. citizens now believe Barack Obama is a cactus, the most Americans to identify the president as a water- retaining desert plant since he took office. The poll, conducted by the Pew Research Center, found a sharp rise in the number of Americans who say they firmly believe Obama was either born a cactus, became a cactus during his youth, or has questionable links to the Cactaceae family.
Click here to read the entire article at The Onion.

Rev. Ben Campbell

The cover story for STYLE Weekly today is about an old friend, Rev. Ben Campbell, who has been the pastoral director of Richmond Hill for the last 22 years.
“The whole New Testament is the story of breaking down barriers of race,” he says. “The word gentile means ‘ethnic group.’ Nobody tells you that, but that’s what the word means. So when [Jesus] talks about Jews and gentiles, he’s actually just talking about ethnic groups, not just different religions.”
Click here to read "Bridge Work" by Scott Bass.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Why do crooks wear Yankees caps?

Writing for The Atlantic Wire, Ray Gustini asks a good question. Some of us who always root for whichever team is playing the Yankees might have wondered the same thing -- why do we see so many pictures of criminals wearing caps with the Yankees logo on them?
Yankees caps and clothing have dominated the crime blotter for so long, in so many parts of [New York City] and in so many types of offenses, that it defies an easy explanation.
Click here to read "Why Do Criminals Wear Yankees Hats?"

Perhaps author James A. Michener said it best in 1981: "I don't see how anybody interested in the humanities could possibly be a Yankees fan. They are the Republican right wing. They represent everything that is conservative and objectionable in life."

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Harvey Family Memorial Bridge

Painting by Laura Loe

Hills and Heights has the story of the bridge dedication in Forest Hills Park tomorrow (Sunday):
On Sunday, September 19, people from across the city of Richmond are invited to come together in healing and celebration as they help dedicate a new pedestrian bridge named for the Harvey Family in Forest Hill Park. Beginning at 2 pm, musicians, a balloon artist, children and families will be present as city officials cut the ribbon on the bridge across Reedy Creek where it flows into the lake and Friends of Forest Hill Park unveil a granite marker nearby.
Click here to read the entire story.

Click here to read another story about the bridge at the RT-D.

Click here to read quite a bit of background on the Harvey family (some of the links are old and stale, but a lot of it is still available.)

Update: Click here to read the story about the ceremony yesterday (Sunday), including a short video at the RT-D.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Five Film Favorites: Courtroom Trials

Writing for the James River Film Journal, as part of a series about favorites, yours truly has posted a short piece on favorite films about courthouse trials. Click here to read the list of five and accompanying commentary.

In previous weeks other lists of five have been posted at the same web site, which also features other writers' posts on film topics.

Politics of the Centrifuge

Perhaps the biggest irony of the so-called Information Age is that the truth seems to matter less all the time ... especially when it comes to politics.

The process of obscuring truth/reality hasn’t depended on a shortage of info. Quite the opposite. Just trying to keep up with politics can so clutter our heads with spin and hokum that even if the simple truth is in plain sight, it can be hard to spot.

Information? Who has the time to sift through the heap of hype?

So in 2010, to save time, Americans are tending more and more to focus on the brand of reality they prefer to see. For millions of consumers it’s as easy as choosing between Fox News and MSNBC.

In the process, we the people are losing our collective grip on the desire to solve our society’s largest problems through cooperation. The constant whirl of conflicting political messages seems mostly to inflame our grievances, which alienates us more than it pushes us toward common sense solutions.

Consequently, instead of politics of the American melting pot, today we have politics of the centrifuge.

The middle ground of the moderate is frequently portrayed in political commentary as hopelessly sold-out, tied in knots and passionless. Many who follow politics, on both the right and the left, now view any crossing of the aisle between Democrats and Republicans as a betrayal.

Speaking of elected officials, rather than search for insight into what’s really happening, to do with wars America is fighting or the long-term implications of the nation’s economic woes, their staffs save time, too. They depend on focus groups to reveal how best to package truth-challenged propaganda to give it credibility, to dupe a target audience.

The endless doubts about President Barrack Obama’s birth certificate and the drumming that he’s a secret Muslim are organized campaigns to underline the notion that the sitting president isn’t really one of “us” -- he’s not a legitimate American; he’s not even a bona fide Christian.

Although they tell it in different ways, both Fox News and MSNBC have amplified those mean-spirited hoaxes because the stories have sizzle with their respective audiences. How much warmed-over racism might, or might not, be behind such ugly mischief is up to the reader to decide. While you're deciding about that, ask yourself how many Birthers are also Tea Party activists.

On the other hand, some of the same Democrats who now carp about Republicans not recognizing Obama’s legitimacy spent eight years saying George W. Bush was a bogus president, because Al Gore actually beat him in Florida. Didn’t matter to them that "officially" Bush won. Regardless of how tiresome it got, lots of donkeys brayed about that his entire term in office.

The spinning picked up speed as the ninth anniversary of 9/11 approached: While knowing that a public burning of Islam’s holy book would surely incite riots abroad and probably get some people killed, some ultra conservatives tried to use the specter of the Quran-burning threat as leverage against establishing what they have dubbed the “Ground Zero Mosque” in Lower Manhattan.

By linking the issues, as if they were moral equivalents, Fox News personalities Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck egged on the mustachioed Rev. Terry Jones to burn baby, burn. It says here they were openly offering Jones political cover if he chose to stick his thumb in the eyes of zillions of Muslims.

Although Pastor Jones said he was convinced that Jesus would approve of the book burning, eventually the pyromaniacal preacher changed his mind about the stunt. After all, the threat of it had already made him into a celebrity, which had obviously been his chief motivation, all along.

It’s hard to say the threatened Quran-burning did any of the rest of us any good, unless you want to count how it demonstrated, once again, that information delivered at lighting speed isn’t necessarily fostering much wisdom. Yet, it can instantly tear us apart.

The entire frenzy of Jones’ threat cast a creepy shadow over 9/11 ceremonies. It also served to further stifle the art of compromise.

Yes, kids, there really was a time when lots of ordinary people of all stripes understood that compromise has always been an essential element in making a democracy function properly.

Compromise greases the wheels of progress. When angry factions bellow that they must have their way, without an iota of compromise, it merely throws sand in the gears. Apparently, the easy wealth of information enjoyed by citizens today is apparently not teaching them those basic lessons about civics.

Published just after World War I, “The Second Coming” by William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) foretold of a people without the desire to find common ground. Here are the poem’s first eight lines:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
-- 30 --

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