Sunday, February 28, 2010

Something's brewing: Save our schools!

Chris Dovi (formerly on the staff of STYLE Weekly) writes about a demonstration to do with public education at Capitol Square last week.
“First we grab the [state] money back,” says Kirsten Gray, one parent adding her voice to the din of chanting marchers at the rally, “then we turn to Richmond Public Schools – the public schools are our schools.”
Click here to read all of Dovi's "Unexpected Bedfellows" at RVANews.

With the debate over charter schools and other experimental approaches of public education in the air, in state politics, it seems that frustration over the direction of public education in Richmond is coalescing. A couple of hundred people in the streets chanting , "Save our schools," in February could be a couple of thousand people when the last of the snow mounds finally melt.

Legitimate grassroots political movements are always interesting, because they throw a random factor into the process that sometimes makes for unexpected outcomes. And, the way education issues are splitting now, the citizens willing to speak out to criticize the status quo or new proposals are coming from diverse political/philosophical persuasions.

For more on education matters, click here to visit a local blog that calls itself Save Our Schools; it is edited by former Richmond School Board member Carol A.O. Wolf, who is also a former STYLE Weekly staff writer.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Yo! here's your healthcare solution

Watching the healthcare summit (debate) in the Blair House on television, once again I was struck by the absence of specific language that could serve perfectly well as a sturdy platform for genuine reform. Yes, it’s a simple precept that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle should to be able to agree upon.

Here it is: America’s greatest natural resource is its citizenry -- it’s workforce.

President Barack Obama said he first wanted to identify the reform notions that both Republicans and Democrats can agree upon. That was a classic problem solving tactic, however uncomfortable it might have made some of his most relentless enemies (See note below).

Reared in a literate, freedom-loving society, America’s sons and daughters work every day to build a good life. In pursuing their happiness they establish families and build communities. In the doing, they cultivate, they procreate, they nurture, they endure. Therefore, the human beings living in the USA surely are its most significant asset.

Before what bounty still exists in its land and water, America’s most essential resource is, and always will be, its people -- its taxpaying workforce.

Just as we have recognized that other vital natural resources need to be protected from fast-buck artists, how would we not choose to protect our own health in the most effective way we can?

It’s pure folly to use the government to protect air and water, yet ignore the need to protect America’s millions of wage-earners from contagious diseases and debilitating conditions, with the potential to cripple the workforce ... put the kibosh on the economy.

Example: Not long ago there was a scandal in America over poisonous toys that had been imported from China. It was found that some of the materials weren’t safe, health-wise, for children to handle. The toys were pulled off retailers’ shelves.

Those toys never made it into France, because not unlike some other civilized countries, the French regulators never let the toys across the border, in the first place.

France had rigorous standards and inspections that kept those bad toys out of the curious hands and mouths of French kids. They didn't have to recall the dangerous products, because in France the standards were higher and the regulations were already in place. People were put before profits.

Why?

It’s actually simple -- France picks up the tab on everybody’s hospital bills.

Since France’s government has a stake in keeping French children healthy, its government naturally feels obliged to move proactively to reduce risks. One day those French kids will either be healthy, or unhealthy, workers.

When the government pays the healthcare bills, it follows that it will take more of an interest in protecting everyone’s health. That's because it will save money in the long run. Yes, save money.

Eureka!

*

Update No 1: Poor Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Richmond) might want to think twice before he brings another cheap prop to a (supposedly) bipartisan summit meeting, trying to steal some face-time on the Fox News reports. Yes, Cantor looked rather uncomfortable with that big ol’ pile of paper, all over his desk, once Obama smiled and deftly underlined the pettiness of Cantor’s weak stunt.

Update No. 2: Chris Matthews just called the summit "the Blair House Project."

Update No. 3: When Republicans say, “let’s start over,” what they seem to really mean is, “let’s kick the can down the road for another year.” And, why not? Every day that reform is averted means a lot of money to the insurance companies, et al, that have bought and paid for those legislators.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Marshall's most recent stink bomb

Del. Bob "Petard" Marshall

To read my newest post covering the brouhaha over Del. Bob Marshall's most recent stink bomb lobbed into the marketplace of ideas, click here to go to "Marshall's Petard" at the Fan District Hub.

--Art by F.T. Rea

Monday, February 22, 2010

Glad you don’t live in Manassas?

Hey, Richmonders, aren’t you glad you don’t live in Manassas?

Those who do call Manassas home are represented in the House of Delegates by news-maker Bob Marshall, a Republican of the Pat Robertson/Virgil Goode persuasion -- the crackpot feathers of the flapping right wing.

Like others in the news business today, MSNBC political commentator Rachel Maddow zeroed in on Del. Marshall’s recent and much discussed remarks about abortion -- which amounted to saying birth defects and disabilities are punishment from God.

It was all part of a piece about Virginia’s recent political turn to the “hard right,” as Maddow put it.

Here’s a little of what Marshall said to create this most recent flap:
"The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the first born of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children," said Marshall, a Republican. "In the Old Testament, the first born of every being, animal and man, was dedicated to the Lord. There's a special punishment Christians would suggest."
A "special punishment"!?

Click here to read more from that piece. And, here for a second article on the same matter.

In truth, Marshall has gladly issued other bizarre remarks over the years, he's known for it. Yes, in this part of the country we’re used to him and his ilk -- throwbacks who want to force-feed their chosen religion into public policy ... in the 21st century, no less.

But it’s still embarrassing when the Bob Marshalls of our commonwealth make national news with their supposedly Christian, yet rather mean-spirited, interpretations of a vengeful God’s will.

Well, for people who don’t think it matters who wins elections, so they don't take an interest in the process, the next four years of Republican leadership in the Governor’s Mansion in Virginia are likely to provide some painful schooling.

Meanwhile, it’s easy to avoid Manassas and its voters.

SLANTblog's VA Top Five: Feb. 22

Each Monday morning during the men's college basketball regular season, SLANTblog will publish its new Virginia Top Five. For the third consecutive season this feature will attempt to rank what seems at the moment to be the best five teams from among the 14 Division I programs in the Commonwealth. Only games against Division I opponents are counted in won/loss records.

SLANTblog's VA Top Five

1. Richmond (22-6, 11-2 in A-10, No. 26 RPI)
2. Va. Tech (21-5, 8-4 in ACC, No. 43 RPI)
3. ODU (21-8, 13-3 in CAA, No. 41 RPI)
4. VCU (19-7, 10-6 in CAA, No. 62 RPI)
5. Wm. & Mary (18-8, 11-5 in CAA, No. 48 RPI)

Note: This rating feature puts more weight on the results of recent games than it does on games played in Nov. and Dec. Whereas, computerized RPIs are obliged to see all games as equal. Since the last Top Five (Feb. 15): Richmond went 2-0 to stay No. 1; Va. Tech went 1-1 to stay No. 2; ODU went 1-1 to stay No. 3; Wm. & Mary went 1-1 to drop to No. 5; VCU went 2-0 to move up to No. 4.

-- RPI numbers, which are updated frequently, from CBS Sports

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Who will call the Austin suicide pilot a martyr?

This morning's news from Austin, Texas, was startling. A Piper PA-28 crashed into an office building full of IRS workers.

The FBI tentatively identified the pilot as Joseph A. Stack, 53. Law enforcement officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation was still going on, said that before taking off, Stack apparently set fire to his house and posted a long anti-government screed on the Web. It was dated Thursday and signed "Joe Stack (1956-2010)."

In it, the author cited run-ins he had with the IRS and ranted about the tax agency, government bailouts and corporate America's "thugs and plunderers."

Click here to read the entire AP article.

Now let's see how long it will be before Mr. Stack's malevolent spirit is raised from the dead, to be crafted into a heroic, martyr-like figure by elements of the anti-tax, anti-government right-wing fringe. Yes, I'm saying it's likely we'll soon be hearing how the poor man just couldn't help himself; he didn't really want to hurt other people, etc.

Will we see Fox News covering a big-ass tea party, thrown down in Stack's honor? If so, then let's see how many Republicans will show a reluctance to cast this man's hateful last act in a bad light.

Whether an airplane-flying, death-wishing attacker is a Christian anti-American, or a Muslim anti-American, or an atheist anti-American, how much difference does it really make to the victims of the attack?

Moreover, how is one deliberate crashing of an airplane into an office building full of innocent people a criminal act, and the other an act of war?

Today's news from Austin has created a perfect storm of an opportunity for the most impatient power hungry conservatives, politicians and pundits, alike, to flaunt their true colors. I'm guessing some of them just won't be able to resist it.

Like, what will Sarah Palin write on her hands about all this?

*

Update
s (Feb. 22):

For a couple of stories that discuss the Stack as hero/martyr angle, click here and here.

All Dick, All the Time

Disgraced former vice president Dick Cheney is still growling and finger-pointing, and the mainstream media are still noting what he says. It brings to mind an old Dan Hicks song.

How can I miss you when you won't go away?
Keep telling you, day after day

But you won't listen, you always stay and stay

How can I miss you, when you won’t go away?


-- Lyrics by Dan Hicks. 'Toon by F.T. Rea

Inky irony, or what?

STYLE Weekly fires a reporter, Chris Dovi, for saying/writing the wrong thing in a private email that went to the wrong person.

To read the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s article on the firing click here.

Then, the very same week, the magazine runs a Back Page diatribe written by Roy West about Doug Wilder. STYLE's editors called the rather incoherent rant by one former mayor about another former mayor "Inglorious Bastard."
The whetstone of [Wilder’s] pantomime of leadership has been the propensity to make substance irrelevant. Byzantine approaches have resulted in a myriad of successful failures. When the leaves of history books are peeled back on his historic election as governor no great deeds of his will be recorded. Revealed will be a vindictive, broken trust and chosen wrong era of governance. The ingloriousness of his tenure will be spotlighted by his willingness to be the unapologetic and unabashed advocate for the lacerated and bane agenda of neoconservatives. With principles sacrificed and integrity lost, Wilder was their reliable avatar to devalue the human spirit. History will confirm the errancy of Wilder’s actions, which appealed to the anxieties rather than aspirations; and angst rather than hope of Virginians.
Huh?

It’s worth noting that the word “bastard” doesn’t appear in the text of West’s poison pen piece (click here to try to read it). That loaded word appears only in the title.

Yes, it’s an eye-catching title, but a reading of West’s meandering hash of words doesn’t offer many clues to support the decision by the periodical’s editors to use “bastard” as they did. (I must admit I haven’t seen the most recent Quentin Tarantino cinematic bloodletting, so I can’t say whether there’s some connection in it to Wilder.)

Some might call this juxtaposition of events to do with the propriety of certain words in particular situations “irony.” Others might choose a more inglorious word.

Click here to watch Mark Holmberg's WTVR commentary.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

About Sarah's mission

Andrew Sullivan is not dismissing Sarah Palin's potential as easily as many pundits seem to be doing.
So does tomorrow truly belong to her? I refer, of course, to the former governor of Alaska, who quit when she was barely past the middle of her first term because, as she explained, she was not a quitter. I refer to the first vice-presidential nominee in modern times to run for office without holding a single press conference.
Click here to read "Fear Palin, a warrior messiah on a mission."

The notion that Palin is flirting with being be a third-party candidate has a lure to it. It is hard to believe the GOP would nominate her to head up their national ticket in 2012. But it's easy to believe there will much third-party activity in the next three years. And, Palin offers the Tea Party folks a glittering celebrity on the make that would force the media to cover their activities much more thoroughly than what other fringe movements have gotten in recent elections.

Columnist Leonard Pitts urges Palin to run.
I know you're waiting for the punch line. Maybe you figure I think you'd be a weak candidate who would pave the way for President Obama's easy re-election. That's not it. No, I want you to run because I believe a Palin candidacy would force upon this country a desperately needed moment of truth. It would require us to finally decide what kind of America we want to be.
Click here to read the entire piece.

-- Art by F.T. Rea

Sissy Spacek: Economic impact pretty amazing

Sissy Spacek visited Capitol Square on Tuesday morning to ask state legislators to do more to lure film production to Virginia.
"Last year I worked on a film in Georgia with my friend and fellow Virginia resident Robert Duvall," said Spacek. "That movie could have been shot in Virginia. I met other Virginians, working crew members, going where the work is … away from their families and leaving their tax dollars in other states. They, and I, would have preferred to have made this film at home."
Click here to read my piece about Spacek's appearance at Richmond.com.

Monday, February 15, 2010

SLANTblog's VA Top Five: Feb. 15

Each Monday morning during the men's college basketball regular season, SLANTblog will publish its new Virginia Top Five. For the third consecutive season this feature will attempt to rank what seems at the moment to be the best five teams from among the 14 Division I programs in the Commonwealth. Only games against Division I opponents are counted in won/loss records.

SLANTblog's VA Top Five

1. Richmond (20-6, 9-2 in A-10, No. 27 RPI)
2. Va. Tech (20-4,7-3 in ACC, No. 50 RPI)
3. ODU (20-7, 12-3 in CAA, No. 33 RPI)
4. Wm. & Mary (17-7, 10-5 in CAA, No. 51 RPI)
5. VCU (17-7, 9-6 in CAA, No. 67 RPI)

Note: Since the last Top Five (Feb. 8): Richmond went 2-0 to stay No. 1; VCU went 0-2 to move down to No. 5; Va. Tech went 2-0 to move up from No. 3 to No. 2; ODU went 2-0 to move up from No. 4 to No. 3; UVa. went 0-1 to drop off the list; Wm. & Mary went 2-0 to rejoin the list at No. 4.

-- RPI numbers, which are updated frequently, from CBS Sports

Remembering Donato (1941-2010)

In a Richmond, Virginia courtroom in November of 1982 I witnessed an entertaining scene in which an age-old question — what is art? — was hashed out in front of a patient judge, Jose R. Davila, who seemed to thoroughly enjoy the parade of exhibits and witnesses the attorneys put before him. The gallery was packed with art students wearing paint-speckled dungarees, gypsy musicians and film buffs.

The defendant was this story’s teller. When I got charged with a misdemeanor for posting a handbill I had designed promoting the premiere of a new feature, “Atomic Cafe,” it was a bust I deliberately provoked. At that time I was determined to beat the City of Richmond with a freedom of speech defense.

The flyer had been posted on a utility pole near VCU’s campus. Rather than pay the small fine for breaking the City’s law forbidding such posters on poles in the public way, as the theater’s manager I opted for a day in court. My defense attorneys, Jack Colan and Stuart Kaplan, attacked the statute itself as overreaching.

We asserted that I had a right to post the handbill and the public even had a right to see it. The prosecution called the little poster “litter.”

But it was easy to see that the push behind the City’s crackdown on posting handbills in the Fan District was coming from people who didn’t want rock ‘n’ roll, or alternative cinema, or all sorts of activities close to where they were living. Thus, my trial was one little battle in what was an ongoing culture war in the Fan District in that era.

My case had expert witnesses, David Manning White, Phil Trumbo and Jerry Donato, and about 100 cool handbills in front of the judge, Jose R. Davila. Davila actually seemed interested in the concept we were presenting. We contended that all the flyers put together — on key poles, in certain shop windows and on selected bulletin boards — constituted an information system. Furthermore, that an aspect of the citizenry didn’t always trust the mainstream media, so it frequently relied on information delivered by posters made by people they knew.

We reminded the judge that history-wise, handbills predate newspapers. Moreover, we asserted that the eight-and-a-half-by-eleven, cheaply printed posters were art — a natural byproduct of having a university in the neighborhood.

At the crucial moment, Donato, a popular VCU art professor, was testifying. He was being grilled over just where to draw the line between what should be, and what should not be, considered to be genuine art. The Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney, William B. Bray, asked the witness if the humble piece of paper in his hand — the offending handbill, which had gotten its creator busted — could actually be “art.”

“Probably,” shrugged the prof. “Why not?”

The stubborn prosecutor grumbled, reasserting that the flyer was no better than “litter.”

Eventually, having grown weary of the high-brow vernacular being slung around by the witnesses supporting my position, the prosecutor tried one last time to trip up the clever witness.

As Warhol’s soup cans had just been mentioned by the art expert, the lawyer narrowed his eyes to ask a question tantamount to: “If you were in an alley and happened upon a pile of debris spilled out from a tipped-over trashcan, could that be art, too?”

“Well,” said the artist, pausing Jack Benny-like for effect, “that would depend on who tipped the can over.”

Donato’s delivery was perfect. The courtroom erupted into laughter. The obviously amused judge fought off a smile.

The crestfallen prosecutor gave up. The City lost the case. Although I got a kick out of the crack, too, I’ve always thought the City’s mouthpiece missed an opportunity to hit the ball back across the net.

“Sir, let me get this right,” he might have said, “are you saying the difference between art and randomly-strewn garbage is simply a matter of whose hand touched it; that the actual appearance of the objects, taken as a whole, is not the true test? Furthermore, are you telling us that without credentials, such as yours, one is ill-equipped to determine the difference between the contents of a trashcan and fine art?”

Yes, the prosecutor gave up too soon because, whether the wise-guy professor admitted it, or not, that is exactly where he was coming from. A smarter lawyer could well have exploited that angle.

Still, the prosecutor’s premise/strategy that an expert witness could be compelled to rise up to brand a handbill for a movie, a green piece of paper with black ink on it, as “un-art” was absurd. So, the wily artist probably would have one-upped the buttoned-down lawyer, no matter what.

Perhaps the question shouldn’t have been — how can you tell fake art from real art? After all, any town is full of bad art, and good art, and all shades of in-between art. Name your poison.

Isn’t it better to ask — what is worthwhile or useful art?

Then you become the expert witness.

-- 30 --

Click here and here for more on Gerald Donato (1941-2010)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Wake for Darryl Cohen planned


On Thur., Feb. 25, at 8 p.m., some of Darryl Cohen's friends will gather in Shenanigans at 4017 MacArthur Ave. to celebrate his life. Julius Pittman & the Revival will be playing live (no cover charge). Other musicians will be sitting in.

My friend Darryl, who ran the Bandbox (a popular record shop) on the 900 block of W. Grace St. (in the 1970s), died last month in his Va. Beach home. He grew up in the music business in Richmond, his father owned Pat's One Stop -- a wholesale record distributing business.

Click here to visit the Facebook page for more info on the wake.

David Brooks doesn't speak for modern Republicans

Wouldn't it be nice if columnist David Brooks actually had some influence on the current crop of conservative poseurs?

A president can’t lead a social transformation without a visceral bond with the center of the electorate and without being in step with the rhythm of the times. Obama is lacking these things. As a result, the original Obama project, the third Democratic wave, is dead. The administration resists this conclusion, just as it took the Bush administration a while to recognize that Social Security reform, and the larger privatization dream, was dead.
Click here to read the entire piece at the New York Times.

Most of the time, regardless of the hyperventilating of other pundits, Brooks seems so measured and prudent. He reminds me of the thoughtful conservatives I used to admire years ago. After all, William F. Buckley, a ground-floor founder of the conservative movement in the 1950s/60s, was Brooks' mentor.

Now Brooks has to be many liberals' favorite conservative pundit. That, while it seems the most visible modern Republicans, Dittoheads and Tea Party loyalists are not so much acquainted with Brooks' style or his substance.

Sometimes it seems that President Barack Obama imagines he is locked in a debate with a David Brooks-type of conservative. It says here that's exactly where President Obama has been repeating the mistake that has arrested the momentum for his agenda.

In political reality, Obama is locked in an imaginary game of place-kicking a football. In this game no points have been scored, because the Republican Congressional leadership is Lucy. Ever the optimist, Obama is poor ol' Charlie Brown.

David Brooks isn't in this game, he's just watching it repeat, over and over ... like the rest of us.

Friday, February 12, 2010

McGovern Night at the Biograph

The handbill above is one I did for a fundraiser in Sept. 1972. (R. Crumb's trucking man style was deliberately imitated in the McGovern caricature trying to appeal to hippies.)

The other movie theater operators in town and lots of other know-it-alls told me then I was crazy as hell to take sides in politics by sponsoring a McGovern benefit. That was still in our first year of operation. Eventually, they learned the Biograph was going to be something different from business as usual in Richmond.

Biograph favorites

The staff was in a partying mood on Feb. 11, 1974.

Feb. 12, 1972 was the first day of business for the Biograph Theatre at 814 W. Grace St. Here's a couple of lists of favorite films from my stint as that cinema's manager (1972-83).

For the staff a workhorse of a time-killer between shows, during lulls, was making top ten lists and comparing them. We listed our favorite films of all-time, or our top ten westerns, or film noirs, etc. Here's a current list of my favorite ten titles that were Richmond premieres (still in their first-run bookings) when they were screened at the theater in my time there.

1. "Chinatown" (1974)
2. "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie" (1972)
3. "The Conformist" (1971)
4. "The Conversation" (1974)
5. "Seven Beauties" (1976)
6. "Amarcord" (1974)
7. "Wiseblood" (1979)
8. "Bread and Chocolate" (1978)
9. "Napoleon" (1927) This was the restored version which came out in 1981
10. "My American Uncle" (1981)

And, with no apologies, here's my list of the ten weirdest movies that I presented, with the actual date they opened at the Biograph in parenthesis:

1. "Honeymoon Killers" (10/22/82)
2. "Eraserhead" (2/16/79)
3. "Fingers" (2/8/80)
4. "Eyes of Hell" (3/16/73)
5. "Heart of Glass" (4/26/82)
6. "El Topo" (5/25/73)
7. "Freaks" (3/31/72)
8. "Thundercrack!" (11/26/76)
9. "Greaser's Palace" (5/5/73)
10. "Pink Flamingos" (7/18/73)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

All CAA team predictions

With just three weeks until the CAA announces its All-Star team, here are what seem to me to be the 15 most likely names to wind up on the conference's first and second teams:

Chaisson Allen (North'n), Kent Bazemore (ODU), Jawan Carter (Del.), John Fields (UNCW), Samme Givens (Drex.), Jamie Harris (Drex.), Gerald Lee (ODU), Cam Long (Mason), Matt Janning (North'n), Charles Jenkins, (Hof.), Robert Nwankwo (Tow.), Joey Rodriguez (VCU), Ryan Pearson (Mason), Larry Sanders (VCU), David Schneider (W&M).

Of course, there are still some important games to play. Some guys may swell up and play better than others, which might change my list. At this point I'm offering no hints about who I think is No. 15, the most likely guy to fall off the list. Click here to see the CAA's preseason All-Conference team.

Wilder's pitch (to get a job) ... another screwball

Former Mayor/Governor Doug Wilder has opined for Politico. It was an easy gig, because for Wilder no matter what the year, or situation, it's always about the same thing. Whether the topic is ostensibly the Obama administration, or elections, or the Democratic Party, or the future of this or that, it's really about the only entity that truly matters to Wilder -- himself.

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_gEL3KZsN9-g/R5Aji2lTVDI/AAAAAAAAAKk/bAEMNCoyAYw/s1600/Squirrelly2.jpg

Thus, Wilder's article for Politico was no different than most of his OpEd pieces for the Richmond Times-Dispatch have been -- lots of I-told-you-so.
Though I discussed with Tim what I was doing relative to the vice presidency, he and I never had any discussions as to whether he should be the national party chairman. There are several reasons why I felt then, and do now, that it is not a good fit for Tim, the party or Obama.
In other words, Kaine made a mistake -- he didn't kiss Wilder's ring and ask permission to take the job Obama had offered him. That's how Doug rolls. Click here to read Wilder's most recent attempt to be relevant.

It's almost interesting, as well, how Wilder characterized himself as a "Democrat," yet he praised himself -- surprise, surprise! -- for not backing Creigh Deeds in the gubernatorial race last year. For the most part, Wilder's expert political analysis came across as a has-been boosting Obama to fire somebody and give him a job.
-- Words and art by F.T. Rea

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The long view of "change"

Sometimes, these days, it seems like mean habits die so slowly that we're standing stuck in the mud and there's no hope of change. The hyperventilating media have a way of making it appear true. So, when some of us get frustrated with the pace of progress demonstrated by our society or government, it's understandable.

Arguments thought to have been debunked long ago by the tide of history still wash like waves across the current marketplace of ideas. Yet, when I think of how it really was when I was a kid, growing up in Virginia in the '50s and 60s, I know the evolution of thinking about matters racial has brought us a long way.

At least it has for most of us.

Click here to read a page (from Virginia Historical Society) about Massive Resistance -- the most shameful political strategy in Virginia's post-WWII history. Take a few minutes to remember, or perhaps learn, how it was just 50 years ago. Think about what it took to free Virginia from the Byrd Machine's decades-long grip ... it took relentless determination and it took time.

Today most Virginians think the separate schools, water fountains, movies theaters, etc., of the Jim Crow Era belong in a museum along with the blatantly racist seventh grade Virginia history book I was forced to study in 1961. Times have changed all but the most stubborn of us. And, yes, some Virginians are still stuck in time ... so it goes.

Also note the cartoons by Fred O. Seibel (see the 'toon above). He was the quite well known political cartoonist for the Richmond Times-Dispatch in the middle of the 20th century. Who else remembers his Moses Crow character (the little bird with the specs on his beak)?

ODU at VCU video highlights

Playing in the Siegel Center on Saturday, VCU defeated ODU, 70-58. It was as lively inside the arena as it was cold and snowy outside.



Still, the game was a sell-out, when some other area games were canceled, due to the weather. Click here to view some clips I shot of the action before and during the game.

Monday, February 08, 2010

SLANTblog's VA Top Five: Feb. 8

Each Monday morning during the men's college basketball regular season, SLANTblog will publish its new Virginia Top Five. For the third consecutive season this feature will attempt to rank what seems at the moment to be the best five teams from among the 14 Division I programs in the Commonwealth. Only games against Division I opponents are counted in won/loss records.

SLANTblog's VA Top Five

1. Richmond (18-6, 7-2 in A-10, No. 31 RPI)
2. VCU (17-5, 9-4 in CAA, No. 52 RPI)
3. Va. Tech (18-4, 5-3 in ACC, No. 65 RPI)
4. ODU (18-7, 10-3 in CAA, No. 39 RPI)
5. UVa. (14-7, 5-3 in ACC, No. 95 RPI)

Note: Since the last Top Five (Feb. 1): Richmond went 2-0 to stay No. 1; VCU went 2-0 to move up from No. 3 to No. 2; Va. Tech went 2-0 to move up from No. 4 to No. 3; ODU went 1-1 to drop from No. 2 to No. 4; UVa. went 1-1 to remain No. 5.

-- RPI numbers, which are updated frequently, from CBS Sports

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Reid: The sour face of Democratic impotence

Sen. Harry Reid, the Majority Leader of the Senate: The sour face of Democratic impotence

Art by F.T. Rea

Friday, February 05, 2010

Sam Moore's tribulations

Newsmaker Sam Moore was dealt a setback yesterday, as Virginia’s ABC Board voted to snatch away Moore’s license to sell alcohol at his Club Velvet in Shockoe Bottom. Still, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s coverage Moore’s high profile strip club will apparently be allowed to operate as usual, selling alcohol to its lap-dance-loving customers, until its legal appeals have been exhausted.
"The evidence in this case demonstrates that . . . there was massive consumption of alcoholic beverages on the premises of Velvet by underage persons with the full knowledge of Mr. Moore," [ABC officer Clara A. Williamson] wrote.
Click here to read the entire article by Michael Martz.

Letting Moore continue to push booze across the bar is likely to lead to more newsworthy developments. How long before he has a big fat provocative sign up on that outside wall he likes to redecorate? If he decides he's bound to lose, imagine what the final days could be like.

Hey, I can remember witnessing a night club totally trashed in 1983, when its ABC license was taken away. All the beer on hand was given away to anyone who came by that afternoon. The taps ran constantly for hours. (Click here to see a little video I made from old Super 8 footage I shot that has some clips from that happening.)

Keeping up with Moore’s adventures can be time-consuming. Wasn’t he arrested last week for threatening a cop?

So, if you only have so much time to devote to news stories chronicling the colorful saga of Mr. Samuel J.T. Moore III, who best captures the essence of this battle between Citizen Moore and ABC? Would it be in a newspaper, or magazine or maybe on television?

Not necessarily. SLANTblog recommends Tobacco Avenue on the Internet for its take on this made-to-be-mocked reality soap opera.
“Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow,” ABC commissioner Gabriel Hudson said at yesterday’s hearing. “Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall. Thou art a disease that must be cut away.”
Click here to enjoy the entire post, "O Woeful Day: Dandiest City Gentle-man’s Club Loses Thy Liquor License."

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Five of a Kind: Absurdity & Satire

This is the third edition of this feature (click here for No. 1 and here for No. 2). This time I'm going to rely more on the short films themselves, rather than mostly on the music. So this will be like a little film fest on absurdity, satire and whatnot. Hey, make some popcorn if you like. By all means, forget about that wintry mix weather forecast.



"The Big Shave" by Martin Scorsese in 1967. This was an artsy NYU student film made with way more inspiration than money.



"Junkopia" was made in San Francisco in 1981 by Chris Marker of 'La Jetee" fame. With what real estate goes for in that part of the country there are probably expensive condos where the sculptures in this film were then.



"De Düva" (The Dove) was made in 1968. Directed by George Coe, it was Madeline Kahn's first appearance on film. It's a send-up of master filmmaker Ingmar Bergman's "Wild Strawberries and "The Seventh Seal."



"Thank You Masked Man" is a seven-minute cartoon collaboration between comedian Lenny Bruce (who died in 1966) and filmmaker John Magnuson, who, previous to this effort, had shot/directed a documentary of a Bruce performance.



The globe scene from "The Great Dictator." Charlie Chaplin at his best in 1940.

The Dogtown Hero

-- Fiction by F.T. Rea
June 3, 1959: Roscoe Swift, a lean boy of eleven with sandy hair and blue-gray eyes, lived with his mother and her parents in Dogtown, just south of Richmond proper.

For as long as he could remember Roscoe had been in training to be a hero. Although it wasn’t something he talked about, it was at the heart of much of his striving. He was a strong reader and had absorbed many a biography and adventure story about heroes. At summer camp he had won a National Rifle Association Sharpshooter patch. His grandfather's guiding words on being honest, fist-fighting and baseball had been etched into his psyche. He had repeatedly tested his nerve with daredevil stunts.

On this day
the most significant test of Roscoe's mettle had arrived: He was playing the biggest baseball game of his career and the whole game was on the line.

Roscoe smiled, remembering the Ted Williams baseball card he’d slipped into his back pocket for luck before he’d left for school. He blocked out all else to remember the situation: Bottom of the last inning, men on first and third. With one out, his side was two runs down.

Actually, Roscoe lived in the two-story 1920’s stucco house with his grandparents. His mother lived somewhat detached in her studio over the garage, which was about 40 yards from the house. She was a sometime commercial artist who didn't usually venture outside in any weather conditions that didn't suit her mood; sometimes she wouldn't answer the phone or the door. Sometimes he wouldn’t see her for days.

When Roscoe was two years old his mother split up with his father, who went back in the Army and subsequently died in a helicopter crash in Korea. Since his mother refused to talk about his father -- she destroyed all photographs of him right after their separation -- the boy's blurry picture of the dead man had been pulled out of the air. His grandmother liked to say his father had "a wonderful smile."

His grandfather told him that his father had been a good baseball star player he was Army, so he had gotten preferential treatment. When Roscoe imagined his father he saw him in a baseball uniform with pin stripes.

School was easy for Roscoe. He took pride in being able to turn in a paper first and get every question right. Most of his trouble stemmed from his unpredictable temperament -- his quick temper stood in the way of him getting a good grade in conduct.

Baseball was what mattered to Roscoe. During baseball season he routinely calculated the up-to-date batting averages of his favorite Major League players before he went to school.

Two of the fifth-grade classes had finished the year tied, forcing a playoff game to decide the championship. Following lunch, all four fifth-grade classes at Gittes Creek Elementary had been given the afternoon to watch the two teams settle the issue. Which was a treat because all the previous games had to be played during recess.

Students with no taste for baseball had the option of watching a black and white 16 mm documentary film about Jamestown's 350th anniversary. Thus, there was a pretty good crowd for the title game.

As he took his practice swings, Roscoe reminded again himself of the situation. "No grounder," he thought so hard he could hear it. He knocked red dust off his sneakers with the bat, as if they were spikes. "Drive it out of the infield. No double play."

A group of some 20 men, fathers, uncles and a few grizzled ballplayers from the surrounding neighborhood added a measure of authenticity to the crowd. Girls from the two classes in the championship game were acting as cheerleaders. No one could remember that ever happening before, but it suited Roscoe just fine.

In 1959 baseball was still unquestionably America's National Pastime, and in Dogtown even fifth-grade baseball in the last week of school was important.

Swift stood in the batter's box on the first base side of home-plate. Originally trained as a right-hander, he had decided that if the best hitter in the game -- Ted Williams -- batted left-handed, that was good enough. Besides, to Roscoe, for some reason left-handers just looked better swinging the bat, in general. So, he’d been practicing batting left-handed for months in neighborhood pickup games. Finally, the switch had to be tested in a real game ... a game that mattered.

This was it.

Roscoe’s best friend on the team, Bake, cheered him on as he stood ready to run, but still touching first base. However, a few of his teammates were still imploring him from the bench to bat right-handed, since everything was at stake.

Butterflies the size of eagles disquieted Roscoe's stomach.

Stepping out of the box, the batter took three slow and deliberate practice swings. He looked at the crowd on the third base line. Cheerleaders were chanting, "Ros-coe, Ros-coe, he's our man ... if he can't do it, nobody can!"

His grandfather, a workaholic architect who had taken the afternoon off for the first time in Roscoe's memory, stood in the shade of an ancient oak tree with the other men. Peering under the flat brim of his straw hat Rocsoe's first coach stoically watched the action, as only he could.

On the first baseline, the other team's cheerleaders and fans/classmates booed and hooted at Roscoe, who dug in and did his best to ignore them.

However, there was a particular girl, with a strawberry-blonde ponytail and lively blue-green eyes, cheering for the other team. Her name was Susie and he never failed to notice her. The best thing to say to Susie never came to mind when she was near. She made him feel short of breath. So Roscoe watched her from a distance ... with a sense of longing that baffled his eleven-year-old understanding, but it couldn't be ignored.

Although Susie was surely calling for his downfall, he was more than a little glad she was there.

Back in the box, Roscoe shifted most of his weight to his back foot and turned his front foot thirty degrees toward first base. Relaxing his hands, he squinted and squared his jaw.

The pitcher threw the first pitch outside and in the dirt. It got by the catcher, but a no-stealing ground rule didn't allow the base-runners to advance.

Sure the next pitch would be across the plate, Roscoe leaned back and prepared to cut the ball in half. The pitcher went into his stretch, as the infielders behind him chattered like magpies.

Roscoe took a big roundhouse swing and nearly lost his balance.

Whoosh!

The laughter from his opponents and their classmates pierced his armor of concentration. Nonetheless, he didn't look at anyone on either baseline. He knew he'd shut his eyes as he'd swung the bat. His cheeks flushed as he pulled his baseball cap's brim down on his brow. Again, he relaxed his wrists and fingers and slowly leaned away from the pitcher, to put more weight on his back foot.

"It only takes one to hit it!" Bellowed his grandfather through cupped hands.

Roscoe took in a deep breath and let it out slowly.

Working from an exaggerated stretch, the pitcher confidently cut loose with the same pitch -- a fastball. Swinging from his heels, Roscoe rolled his wrists just exactly as his weight shifted toward the pitch; he tagged the ball sweetly.

Cah-rack!

Over the second baseman's glove the ball left the infield with dispatch. It took a sharp nosedive, as it evenly split the distance between the right and center fielders. The pair frantically chased the top-spinning sphere down the grassy slope, all the way into the winding trickle of a creek that bordered the schoolyard.

The utter perfection of the bat’s perfectly-timed kiss on the horsehide's sweetest spot resonated through his body. Roscoe heard the furor like it was far away. He ran like a monster was chasing him. Rounding third base, he nearly caught up with Bake.

"Slow down, man, they haven't even found it yet," Bake advised over his shoulder with a sarcastic chuckle.

Roscoe's euphoric classmates were jumping around wildly. His grandfather beamed as he waved his straw hat back and forth over his head.

Teammates, suddenly champions, were pounding him on his back as Roscoe approached home plate. Meanwhile, his capacity to comprehend the moment was red-lining. He looked at Susie on the quiet side of the field. The way her head tilted to the side, the position of her limbs, something about her stance, or gesture, made him feel disoriented.

It was as though he was viewing the event from a number of different angles, simultaneously. He felt both inside and outside the scenario. Roscoe's mind raced and the rest of the world seemed to be moving in slow motion. As he strained to pull all the elements together, to grasp all he was sensing, he heard an explosion.

Boom!

Then he felt a strange calm. Everything seemed extra vivid and in its place. As he crossed home plate, it suddenly occurred to him that he hadn’t loped around the bases, a la Teddy Ballgame. As far as the ball rolled he could have, but he'd been way too excited to act nonchalant.

Roscoe stifled his smile. Most importantly, he had remembered to not tip his cap. If the batting king and ace fighter pilot of the Korean War, Ted Williams, No. 9, never tipped his cap to the public on his home run trot -- which he never did -- that was good enough for Roscoe, too.

Looking to find Susie in the confusion, Roscoe was soaring above all of his dark doubts. He was up there where a real hero doesn't have to tip his cap … or sit quietly at his desk until the last bell at school rings. Susie had vanished.

Later, when Roscoe asked around, he found out no one else had heard the big explosion. Rather than ask too many questions, he put that mystery in the same secret place with some other mysteries, a few theories and a stack of guilty haunts.


* * *

All rights reserved by the author. The Dogtown Hero is part of a series of stories called Detached. Two remaining stories, set in the '70s, will be inserted, eventually. Links to the six others which have been finished are below:

Central Time
Fancy Melons
Gus the Bookstore Cat: The Film
Maybe Rosebud
The Freelancer's Worth
Cross-eyed Mona

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Poll: Over half of Republicans are crazy!

A Daily Kos/Research 2000 Poll that sampled the opinions of 2,003 people who said they were Republicans revealed that 63 percent of them believe President Barack Obama is a socialist.

Opinion polls can be useful, or they can be distractions. Whether they are accurate snapshots of the moment's truth depends. It can depend on the methodology and the motives of the pollsters. Or, it can depend on how much the respondents gamed the process by answering questions in a way to tilt the results. After all, no one is obliged to tell pollsters the truth.

And, sometimes a poll can be quite entertaining. The poll mentioned above falls into that category for me. Here are some other results:
  • 77 percent said that public school students ought to be taught the book of Genesis to learn how the world was created; 51 percent said that sex education should not be taught in public schools.
  • 55 percent said gays should not be allowed to serve in the armed forces; 73 percent said openly gay people should not be allowed to teach in public schools.
  • 53 percent said Sarah Palin is more qualified to be president than Barack Obama.
For a few good laughs, click here to see into the hearts and minds of some folks who claimed to be Republicans.

The results do offer some insight into why Republican candidates often strike the rather backward, anti-intellectual poses they do in primaries and in opposing Democrats. And, it may also underline why it's practically useless to try to compromise with Republican politicians who fear answering to voters who hold fast to beliefs such as those reflected in the aforementioned poll.
-- H/T to Chris Bopst

Monday, February 01, 2010

SLANTblog's VA Top Five: Feb. 1

Each Monday morning during the men's college basketball regular season, SLANTblog will publish its new Virginia Top Five. For the third consecutive season this feature will attempt to rank what seems at the moment to be the best five teams from among the 14 Division I programs in the Commonwealth. Only games against Division I opponents are counted in won/loss records.

SLANTblog's VA Top Five

1. Richmond (16-6, 5-2 in A-10, No. 38 RPI)
2. ODU (17-6, 9-2 in CAA, No. 47 RPI)
3. VCU (15-5, 7-4 in CAA, No. 60 RPI)
4. Va. Tech (16-4, 3-3 in ACC, No. 70 RPI)
5. UVa. (13-6, 4-2 in ACC, No. 90 RPI)

Note: Since the last Top Five (Jan. 25): Richmond went 2-0; ODU went 1-1; VCU went 2-0; Va. Tech went 1-1; UVa. went 1-1 to rejoin the Top Five. W&M (14-6, No. 51 RPI) went 1-1 to fall from the list for the first time this season; George Mason (15-7, No. 105 RPI) is on a roll, but still has only one win against a team (ODU) with a RPI better than its.

-- RPI numbers, which are updated frequently, from CBS Sports