Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Obama needs to get out of town

President Barrack Obama's press conference today was only watched by political junkies, for the most part, people who already have their minds made up about the debt ceiling issue. Now most people will see only sound bites, including the so-called undecideds.

From AP:
At the same time, he said any agreement must include increased government revenue. Attempting to blunt Republican criticism, he said he also wants to extend existing middle class tax cuts.

"The tax cuts I'm proposing we get rid of are tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, tax breaks for oil companies and hedge fund companies and jet owners," he said.

Click here to read the entire article.

Sound bites aren't going to solve this dilemma. Obama needs to go on the road and make speeches that rally support and create new supporters. He needs to move the numbers in the polls, in order to persuade politicians to stop playing games/threatening to not pay America's debts. He needs to take his case directly to the voters. Waiting another day for either political party to show real leadership is a waste of time.

When independents and moderate Republicans start telling pollsters they've changed their minds and decided to back the president, we'll see some progress.

Not Fade Away by Florence & the Machine

What a fantastic cover of this old Buddy Holly song!

Jesus on capitalism

The concept that we must harness greed in order to drive our economy toward never ending expansion seems integral to the conservative philosophy today. Modern Republicans (Tea Party activists) seem to think the more we inflame greed the better off our society will be. Hating all taxes is good. Funding public schools is bad.

When greed runs roughshod over the commonweal and the true believing conservatives hear the outcry from those who object to such brutality, they put down their Bibles and say words to this effect:

“Hey, that’s capitalism and America was founded on undiluted Christianity and unfettered capitalism."

Which is understandable, after all, wasn’t it Jesus who said something like, "Always look out for the rich guys first?”

Monday, June 27, 2011

Windows into her soul?

Please feel free to write your own caption for this eye-opening trio of Michele Bachmann photos gathered from the Internet.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Reading between Obama's lines

One of my all-time heroes is Br’er Rabbit, of please-don‘t-throw-me-into-the-briar-patch fame.

Following Obama’s disappointing announcement that America will be pulling out of Afghanistan in bloody slow motion, it hit me that he may be playing an angle that ol’ Br’er would surely approve of.

It goes like this: Obama now accepts that the nation-building effort is getting nowhere fast. But if he admits that publicly his enemies will pounce on it and scream incessantly that such an admission would mean Americans died for nothing. Nobody needs that kind of noise when they’re trying to get reelected.

So, how do you get out of there sooner than 2014 and still get reelected?

Perhaps the answer is to admit nothing and thoroughly piss off the antiwar crowd. Then stand back and let angry Democrats -- who've suddenly found their courage -- and just enough opportunistic, Obama-bashing Republicans in Congress swell up and force the president to move faster.

That strategy would provide cover and spread the blame for whatever perceived failures ensue. Instead of the Obama administration cutting and running, it would be Congress stepping in to do the right thing.

Please don’t make me bring the troops home in a year!





Oh, please don’t make me bring all the troops home in less than a year!

-- Art and words by F.T. Rea

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Richmond's show biz-stifling tax

Some 20 years ago I started writing about the downside of Richmond's admissions tax in SLANT, a hyper-local magazine I published (1985-94) at the time. I've seen firsthand how much that tax has had to do with closing down some theaters and clubs. Since then I've ranted against that show biz-stifling tax several times, in various publications.

The list now includes the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The problem with the admissions tax is not so much that consumers object to paying it. It's that promoters don't want to bring their shows here. And, for a small club, having to pay 7 percent of what comes in at the door, when the band of local musicians usually gets that money, takes a nasty bite out of profits. Consequently, there are fewer clubs and fewer gigs. Fewer gigs mean more area musicians have to keep a day job, or they just leave town.

Click here to read the entire piece in today's RT-D.

Then call, or send an email to, your representative on City Council. Please ask them to stop taxing tickets, ASAP.

Update: Some Tea Party types, who would like to hijack this issue and pretend I've made an argument that supports their cause, are playing a game. I'm not talking about lowering taxes because I want to shrink the size of government. I am talking about bad policy; a tax that brings in $1.4 million that stands in the way of the City making much more than that.

What I'm saying about the admissions tax is that if it went away the rising tide would lift all boats, large and small. It would give the City -- and its entrepreneurs -- a chance to make more money from the tourists, conventioneers, etc., who would choose Richmond over another destination, because of the cool nightlife scene that would develop here. Hey, the musicians are already here.

So, I’m not trying to starve the beast. No, I want to feed the beast with good food, instead of bad food that is keeping it weak and always needy.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


After three weeks of you-know-whose sexting scandal sizzling on the grill, perhaps just one word will do: OVERDONE.

It took Anthony Weiner a week to admit his guilt. It then took another week for him to realize he needed to step out of the bright lights and seek treatment. In all, it took him three weeks to resign.

Had Weiner made the first two moves quickly, with no lies or weasel words, who knows if the third move would have been necessary? His ability to disappear into denial made his resignation unavoidable. All of which makes me think the story probably isn't over ... there's more to come.

-- Photo by F.T. Rea

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Most and least successful presidents

President Richard M. Nixon

Not counting the incumbent there have been 11 presidents in my lifetime. Seven of them won reelection. One never was elected president in the first place. There have been five Democrats and six Republicans.

For fun I’ve ranked them in order of how successful they were. While my own views on politics can’t be taken out of the process of comparing them, I’ve tried to look mostly at their successes and failures -- both in their time and as they are viewed now. Here they are, best to worst:

1. Eisenhower (1953-61)
2. Clinton (1993-2001)
3. Johnson (1963-69)
4. Reagan (1981-89)
5. Truman (1945-53)
6. Kennedy (1961-63)
7. Bush I (1989-93)
8. Ford (1974-77)
9. Nixon (1969-74)
10. Carter (1977-81)
11. Bush II (2001-09)

-- Illustration by F.T. Rea

Fade to '98

"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.

The footage used here was shot for various purposes over several years. It was cobbled together 13 years ago for a reason that doesn't matter now. In 2011 it's a time capsule showing Joe Sheets performing on guitar, as well as a clip of the legendary bookstore cat, Gus, of Biff's/Carytown Books fame.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

How Margot Kidder Made My Day

Originally published by SLANTblog in 2009

The movie business changed during the summer of 1975. A new style of creating, promoting and exhibiting feature films was established when “Jaws” opened in 465 theaters, coast-to-coast, and became a box office smash.

Typically, in those days, major releases opened initially in the most popular movie houses in a handful of large cities. Which meant the advertising buys were all local. The unprecedented marketing strategy for “Jaws” required enormous confidence, because its distributor had to spend millions on national advertising and strike at least 465 prints of the film.

Before that summer was over “Jaws” had already broken all-time Hollywood box office records.

Washington D.C. was a regional hub for film distribution. Part of the strategy for releasing “Jaws” was that the distributor, Universal, chose not to screen the film for bookers and exhibitors in the usual way. Ordinarily, a feature about to be released would be screened a couple of times in a small screening room downtown; it was run by the National Association of Theater Owners and seated about 50 people. Bookers for theater chains would attend the screenings to help them weigh how much money should be bid for the rights to exhibit the picture in a given market. But any industry insider might have been in the audience.

At this time I managed the Biograph Theatre on Grace Street in Richmond. My bosses were located in Georgetown and I saw several movies in the DeeCee screening room over the 12 years I worked for the guys who ran the Biograph on "M" Street.

The only pre-release screenings of “Jaws” took place about a month before it was to open. It was shown to theater owners and their guests in selected cinemas in maybe a dozen cities on the same night. As I remember it, in DeeCee the function was at The Ontario.

As a treat my bosses gave me four of their allotment of tickets to the screening of “Jaws.” The auditorium was packed and the show went over like gangbusters. The audience applauded as the movie’s credits were lighting up the screen.

Not only was I knocked out by the presentation, I came back to Richmond convinced “Jaws” would be a gold mine. It was the slickest monster movie I’d even seen. The next day I tried to talk my bosses into borrowing a lot of money to put up a big cash-in-advance bid on “Jaws.”

Ordinarily, such a picture would play at the dominant theater chain’s flagship house. I wanted to bet everything we could borrow to steal the picture by out-bidding Neighborhood Theatres, Inc., for the Richmond market.

Well, we didn’t get the money. But it was satisfying watching “Jaws” go on to set new records for grosses. Its unprecedented success put its director, Steven Spielberg, on the map.

After “Jaws” everybody in Hollywood rushed out to try to duplicate the way the producers and distributors had handled it. Thus, in 1975, the age of Hollywood-produced summer blockbusters with massive ad campaigns and widespread releases began.

Another thing “Jaws” did was make guys like me feel intimidated by Spielberg’s outrageous success at such a tender age. I remember reading that he was younger than me.

Although I actually had a great job for a 27-year-old guy who loved movies, it offered no direct connection to filmmaking. At this time I had one nine-minute film and one 30-second television commercial, both shot in 16mm, to my credit. 1975’s Boy Wonder, Steven Spielberg, made me feel like I was on the wrong track.

A few night’s ago I watched a BBC-produced documentary, “Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex, Drugs and Rock 'N' Roll Generation Saved Hollywood,” about filmmaking in the ‘60s and ‘70s. It was on Turner Movie Classics. Made in 2003, it was thoroughly entertaining. Directors and other players from that time were interviewed.

Among those who made comments in the documentary were Tony Bill, Karen Black, Peter Bogdanovich, Roger Corman, Richard Dreyfuss, Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, László Kovács, Kris Kristofferson, Arthur Penn and Cybill Shepherd.

Dreyfuss, who was one of the stars of "Jaws," spoke of attending one of those pre-release screenings. He said he totally forgot himself as the actor on the screen, because he got caught up in the experience of seeing it for the first time in a crowded theater.

Actress Margot Kidder (best known for her Lois Lane portrayals in the Superman series of movies) appeared on camera several times. She made a joke out of how Spielberg had begun to fib about his age, once he became so famous. She had known him before his sudden notoriety, so she noticed when he went from being older than her to being younger.

Kidder claimed Spielberg was fudging his birth date by a couple of years.

Well, flashing back on my silly jealousy to do with Spielberg’s rise to stardom, when he was supposedly younger than me, I had to laugh out loud.

Then I looked Spielberg’s age up; he’s older than both Margot and me.

So, I Googled around and found some old articles about “Jaws” and Spielberg. Yes, it looks like Kidder was right. Back in the ‘70s, perhaps to play up the Boy Wonder aspect of the story, Spielberg’s birth date was being massaged. Somewhere along the line, since then, it looks like it got straightened out.

Laughing at one’s own foolishness is usually a healthy exercise. Yes, and when the laugh has been waiting 34 years to be discovered, it’s all the sweeter.

After all, nothing has ever been more integral to Hollywood’s special way of doing business -- before or after “Jaws” -- than making up fibs, especially about one’s age.

-- 30 --

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Janus' puffy wig-hat

Somebody really needs to tell the sleepy bus-driver's attorney, Richmond's own Murray Janus, to stop buying his discount wig-hats at the Dollar Store.

Frederick a candidate for state senate seat

Waldo Jaquith reports that the former chairman of the Republican Party in Virginia, Jeffrey Frederick (depicted above), is making a comeback:
My favoritest RPV chair ever, Jeff Frederick, is running for state senate! (Or, apparently, he and some friends will be sharing the seat, because in his e-mail to supporters, he wrote that “we’ve decided to run.“) This is for the 36th district, Toddy Puller’s open seat.
Click here to read the entire post.

-- Illustration by F.T. Rea

Monday, June 06, 2011

Palin's shameless and busy Wiki-boaters

When it comes to the modern demonization process, Republicans don’t miss a trick. They know how to focus propaganda on an enemy, to do damage, as well as anybody. They gave us the need to invent the term "swiftboating."

Yes, they know how to sling the slop. But they also know something about how to avoid incoming attempts to tar one of their own.

The battle between Sarah Palin’s supporters and history, as we knew it, is a perfect example: Palin’s Palinistas have heard the taunting reactions to their darling's strange summing up of Paul Revere‘s famous ride.

Can't wait to see what Tina Fey will do with this gift.

However, since it was over 200 years ago, the busy Palinistas feel certain there are no eyewitnesses alive today. Moreover, there’s no pesky video record of the event on YouTube.

So, the Revolutionary War is just more good old malleable history. It all depends on which history one believes.

It’s basically the same mindset as when Flat-Earth conservatives say it all depends on which scientists one chooses to believe. So, with straight faces, they call for teaching creationism in public schools, as an alternative to evolution. In pursuit of the Almighty Dollar they endlessly blow off evidence of mankind’s contribution to the process of global warming/climate change.

When pinkos and milksops mock Sarah Palin the Palinistas won’t let it stand. It matters not what claptrap has spilled out of Sarah’s mouth, between those you-betcha winks. No reach is too far for the faithful to use to slough off the guffaws.

The part of this picture that is somewhat baffling is that serious Republicans, who know better, don’t seem to care what price might have to be paid for using such silliness as a cornerstone for building a political base.

As long as the Palin activists can win the Wikipedia battle against the liberty-hating liberals who want to hurt their celebrity girl, Sarah’s magic bus will roll over her enemies, to save the nation from socialism ... and Muslims.

Hey, once the Earth is back to being flat, anything's possible!

Since we can be sure, at long last, (sigh), they have no shame, now I fear we may be facing the need to invent a word like Wiki-boating.

-- Art and words by F.T. Rea

Updates: Borowitz can't resist: “Palin: ‘We Must Never Forget the Wisdom of Jefferson, and his Wife, Weezy’”

Goddess of June 1989 on VCU's campus


Built by art students, on May 30, 1989, the Goddess of Democracy was erected in Tiananmen Square as a symbol of their call for democratic reforms in China. The gathering protest in Tiananmen Square had begun in mid-April; tension was mounting.

Subsequently, on June 4, 1989, following orders, the People’s Liberation Army put an end to the demonstration. Mayhem ensued.

Although reports varied widely, hundreds, if not thousands, were killed. Made of chicken wire and plaster the Goddess was destroyed during the brutal routing of the protesters that had remained to the end, in defiance. As the drama played out on television, via satellite, the events shocked the world.

As their art student counterparts in China had been murdered in the shadow of their 33-foot-tall sculpture, in Richmond a group of VCU-affiliated artists heard the call of inspiration to stand with those who had fallen. They knew they had to build a replica of the lost Goddess.

The impromptu team of the willing and able worked around the clock for the next couple of days to give form to their tribute to the courage of those who had perished for freedom of expression. While the project was not sponsored by the school, wisely, VCU did nothing to discourage the gesture.

Richmond’s Goddess of Democracy (pictured above and below) stood the same height and was made of the same basic materials as the one in China had been.

Twenty-two years ago, facing Main Street, it stood as a memorial for about a month in front of the student center. CNN had a report on it, as did many other news agencies. Its image was on front pages of newspapers all over the world.

The little placards on sticks that surrounded the sculpture were added a few days after the Goddess was completed. Art-wise, it was one of the coolest things ever to happen in the Fan District. And, to my knowledge, nobody made a penny out of it. It was constructed and maintained entirely by volunteers.

It was also a wonderful illustration of how traditional right and left, liberal and conservative, characterizations of all things political don’t always do justice to the truth of a situation. Was the stubborn and heavy-handed Chinese government standing to the right, or to the left, of the upstart students calling for reform?

When communists are the conservatives clinging to the old way, how does that play out on a spectrum of left-to-right thinking?


The Goddess of Democracy on VCU’s campus in 1989 was the most dignified and most successful piece of guerilla art this scribbler can remember having seen.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Post Pizza Summit: Are Palin and Trump teaming up?

So the grand diva of Tea Partyland, Sarah Palin, is back on the bus to promote her, to launch her, ah … to make news out of nothing. Yesterday she was in Boston to demonstrate her deep knowledge of American history (see video).

Palin’s hot weather bus tour has received a good deal of attention from the very people she seems to hold in contempt -- those who work for aspects of the mainstream media. Of course, Palin doesn’t say “mainstream.” That wouldn’t be cute.

Palin must think her fans like it when she says “lamestream.” I think she’s right, but saying “lamestream media” isn’t clever, anymore.

To me, it never was. Still, I understand some folks think Sarah Palin is so cute that anything she says is spot-on. To them, when she said “refudiate,” it wasn’t a dumb-ass slip of the tongue. It was super cute. Even sassy!

Donald Trump thinks he’s cute, too.

Trump surely is fan of sass. And, I betcha Palin likes Trump’s gall, not to mention his audacious fashion sense with that hairdo thing.

Their pizza date in New York was inevitable. More get-togethers are bound to come.

If they do team up, just imagine what their combined tour on wheels might look like. As a dynamic duo, Palin and Trump -- or would it have to be Trump and Palin? -- could dominate the news by just meandering around the country to rewrite history and to continue to announce that neither of them has decided whether to run for president. Celebrity worshipers would be in heaven.

Such a spectacle could also sell millions of T-shirts, and whatnot. They could drive politicians in both major parties crazy, because they would suck up all the time and space in the news reports of the day.

Some cable news networks would probably turn it into a realty TV show. I can see the signature opening for their show now: With Mancini's "Moon River" playing in the background we see wheels rolling, then their bus crossing a bridge, then a cheering crowd and a waving American flag, then one of Sarah's cutesy winks, then one of The Donald's steely squints ... two grifters off to see the world.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Cantor has to go!

Suddenly, I can’t get Rep. Eric Cantor off of my mind.

Over the last decade, for whatever reason, I’ve managed to all but ignore Cantor. After his outrageously weaselly comments about leveraging federal assistance to Joplin’s tornado disaster victims against cuts in programs -- mostly programs he’s been ideologically opposed to his entire career -- the No. 2 Republican in the House won't let me ignore him.

To see the suffering of disaster victims as a tool in a never ending tug-of-war over ideology is beyond disgusting. It shows a total lack of empathy on Cantor’s part. Now when he flashes his wee grin/psychopathic sneer, I see an embarrassment to the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Now everything he says bugs me. When he speaks on behalf of the Ryan Budget, which would radically alter Medicare, if passed as is, it makes my skin crawl. When he instructs the president that there can be absolutely no discussion of tax increases to reduce the deficit, it's enough to make a goat puke.

Moreover, that he represents part of Richmond -- my home town! -- well, it is too much to bear. Cantor simply has to go.

The Democratic Party simply must pour whatever resources it can muster into an all-out effort to locate a strong candidate to run against Cantor in 2012. If Virginia's Democrats cynically allow Cantor's district to be safe for him, again, it will make the party look pathetically weak. Move somebody into the district, if necessary, but get it done.

Cantor has to go!

Click here to see what Jon Stewart has to say about this matter.

-- Art and words by F.T. Rea