Sunday, October 31, 2010

Hey Book Babies! Here's a Reading for YOU

Jeanne Larsen (right), Keith Ferrell (near right) and I will be reading from new works next Sunday (Nov. 7), 8 p.m. at Studio Roanoke during the third meeting of the Literary Lounge, a Hollins University sponsored event. It's free.

The Lounge, like the Music Lounge--and so much more that happens at Studio Roanoke--puts the spotlight on our local talent and gives you the chance to judge for yourself if we are of national quality. I can assure you that some are. In our little group, Jeanne and Keith both have strong national followings. Jeanne, a marvelous storyteller who writes in whichever genre occurs to her at the moment, will be reading from her new book of poetry and Keith, who has written more than a dozen books--mostly non-fiction--will read from his new novel, which I can assure you will be thoughtful, insightful and scary on several levels. Keith is an intellect wrapped in a North Carolina drawl. I'll be reading from CLOG!, the novel I'm polishing for a final push to publishers.

Jeanne's book is Why We Make Gardens (and Other Poems) and Keith simply says his book "involves a murder," but he's not passing out titles or plots yet. "It's still very early in the process," he says, "but this is a great time to get feedback on the development."

Both Keith and Jeanne will join us as teachers at the Jan. 28-29 Roanoke Regional Writers Conference IV at Hollins. Keith has been a teacher at each of the previous three and Jeanne taught last year.

My book is a fictionalized account of the square dance team at my tiny high school (380 students) in the far northwest corner of North Carolina. Teams from Cranberry High School won two national championships in the 1950s and 1960s and piled up eight state titles and retired Old Smokey at the Mountain Youth Jamboree in Asheville. The book imagines a threat to the school's dominance by the 10-times larger high school in Asheville with the backing of an autmobile dealer whose daughter is on the team and wants Old Smokey. He spares no expense at a time when the little school's team has been hit by mono and the coach has to go into the student body to find dancers.

Friday, October 29, 2010

DRI Blows It On Halloween Contest

Downtown Roanoke Inc.'s mis-fire in not scheduling the 2010 Halloween costume contest on Roanoke City Market can be forgiven once, but if it happens again next year, there's a chance there will be a "trick" in DRI's goodie bag. I'll put it there.

The contest, which drew at least the three ghouls pictured here (they said they didn't hear a word about it not being held and went to a lot of trouble to dress up), has been a popular fixture at noon, drawing not only a big crowd, but plenty of press coverage. I went down, camera in hand, only to be disappointed.

It's a fixture, DRI. Get with the program. The little trick-or-treat dealie you sponsored last week was a problem on two fronts: it was a week off and nobody cares. Let's give the adults a chance to share the holiday.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Another Triumph at Studio Roanoke

There was a point deep within the first act when I nearly lept to my feet to do my Kenley Smith Celebration Dance, the one that is warranted at some magical moment in every play he writes.

It was right there when Mary the Reverand's wife, playing Mary the mother of Jesus in the passion play, was explaining to Bobby Pence, who was playing Jesus in the passion play, what she liked about the Holy One. "When I pray, I see Jesus on a custom hard-tail" Harley-Davidson, she said. A few minutes later, Bobby Pence is trying to fight off the advances of Mary the Reverend's wife and escapes, saying, "God bless you and shit."

Somebody suggested that latter line should be a bumper sticker, sold to benefit Studio Roanoke where all this is taking place.

Kenley Smith's "12 Stations of the Cross" is the second in his Bobby Pence triology and the second installment brought back some of the key actors with their roles and combined them with fine new talent (including Rae Norton West, the wonderfully bawdy double Mary, who had been toiling in a children's play across the street when Kenley found her recently).

Also back in the role of Bobby Pence's executed-for-a-crime-he-thought-Bobby-commited brother Harleigh Pence is the fine actor Paul Stober of Lynchburg, whose underplayed presence is vital here, since Austin Alderman is a bit over the top--often shrill--as Bobby. There are times when Alderman is near perfect, as well, but those are the rare quiet moments. One moment in particular is almost distracting in its clumsiness: Bobby and potential love interest Veronica (played by promising Shonte Wilson, whom Kenley found at the Dumas Center in a play) share a tender moment, accentuated with a kiss. The kiss is so cold and so obviously difficult for the actors (lips closed, not puckered, limp, no emotion at all) that the scene is ruined. Open your mouths, kids, and kiss each other for Christ's sake.

The story is Bobby's battle with inner demons and Harleigh's post-death revelation to Bobby about his origins, which are as painful as the life he's been living.

In the hands of Kenley Smith and his keyboard, the characters are multi-dimensional, alive and people you care about--whether or not you like them. It is a fine second part to this series and we are left to ponder what mischief Kenley will delve into for Part III, coming in February as "The New Testament."

Another interesting element of this play is the 12 pieces of artwork commissioned for it, which are used with the theater's new projection system to great effect. The artworks are varied and always appropriate for the scenes they match (and they are for sale).

Once again, Studio Roanoke has taken a chance with an edgy, imaginative piece of theater and for at least one of us, it is a delight. Highly recommended (and cheap, brothers and sisters; cheap). The play runs at Studio Roanoke on Campbell Ave. through Nov. 7 at 8 each night, with Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Greenway Bridge: It's Ugly, But It's Finally Up

Crowd awaits the dedication of the new greenway bridge.^

Christina Koomen shoots video of Mayor David Bowers, who couldn't shut up.^

The inevitable baby carriages bring up the rear as pedestrians cross bridge.^

Pedestrians and bikers wait for the bridge to open.^

Mayor David Bowers points the way ... to something ... the bridge is behind him.^

Long line of celebrants makes its way to the food tent.^

Here's the bridge: judge for yourself whether it's the ugliest structure in Roanoke.^

OK, so forget for a moment that the new Roanoke Valley Greenway bridge over the Roanoke River in Wasena Park is one of the monumentally ugly structures of all time. Even more impressive than its level of Army Corps of Engineers Standard Issue design is its price tag of $1 million (half of which the Corps paid, apparently so Roanoke would let it be the designer).

In any case, the bridge linking Vic Thomas Park with the greenway proper is finally complete and the bikers, hikers and double-wide baby carriages can now add another few hundred yards to their exercise routine on the way to what Mayor David Bowers promises will soon be an 11-mile stretch all the way to the Water Treatment Plant in the east and unspoken points west of Memorial Ave.

The bridge was built in the flood plane where water towered 20 feet over where it now sits in 1985, says Bowers. "I'm glad we have a solid, sturdy bridge here," he said when asked why it was so ugly. Liz Belcher, who is the Goddess of the Greenway, explains that "the Corps of Engineers designed it" with a shrug. It is, she says, "part of the flood control project and it is just above the flood level" of 100-year floods.

Artist Eric Fitzpatrick, who was sketching the dedication proceedings at 12:30, smiled when he was asked about aesthetics. "I just love boxy," he smiled.

The bridge leads to what had been an often-flooded trailer park for many years and is now a pretty park named for a former General Assembly member, Vic Thomas, who championed both the outdoors and the common man. When he left the General Assembly about 20 years ago, he left these words, "Don't forget them that don't have nothing." Vic was a humanitarian, not a grammarian, but this sentiment is as elegant as anything ever said by any politician anywhere.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

New Yorker Piece Looks at Perriello the Lonely Hero

Tom Perriello (above), the 5th District Congressman who is scratching and clawing against a Republican empty suit/empty head to retain his seat, has become the poster child for what a 2010 Democrat ought to be, but most often isn't.

He is a man of principle, courage, determination and political savvy and he doesn't have his party's moral or financial support, as George Packer points out in a scorching New Yorker piece here. Packer says the Republican plan in race after race is to return to the George Bush II philosophy of wrecking government so Democrats can get elected amid the wreckage and then Republicans can blame them for the destruction, which is exactly what is happening. Cut taxes, de-regulate everything, do absolutely nothing to support good ideas because if Dems get credit, Repubs get sent to the woodshed. As Packer points out, that's not just bad government, it borders on treason.

Perriello, properly credits his party and his administration with passing a monumentally important (but still not fully sufficient) health care bill and various economic stimulus packages to try to rectify some of Bush's disasters. The health care bill is far from perfect, but the health care system is an absolute farce and any bill is better than none. The Dems have done a lot right in the past two years, but they refuse to take credit for it in the heat of Republican rhetoric that begins with the demonized Nancy Polosi's name linked to every candidate--including Rick Boucher in the 9th, who has so little in common with her that they might be different species.

In any case, Perriello, who had such strong party support two years ago, is on his own. My guess is that he's better than his party and my sincere hope is that he shows all of us--in winning--that we are smarter than it appears.

(Photo: Richmond Times-Dispatch.)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Ah, Young Love, Circa 2010

So I'm driving in to work on I-581 this morning and the radio is on 101.5 The Music Station and I'm about half-listening to a disjointed little tune from a guy who couldn't carry one in a bucket. Then I hear him sing off-key, "If you need someone to bomb, I'll be there."

I'm not quite sure what to think about that. Don't know if the change is the love, the music or the old man sitting here typing.

(Department of Energy photo.)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Another Winning Production at Hollins

With the production of Melanie Marnich's "These Shining Lives," Hollins University Theater has once again demonstrated that the line between professional level theater and outstanding student productions is thinner than a one-pound trout line.

Marnich's story is perfect for a performance at a woman's college: the story of four close friends working in a factory painting watch faces with radium so they glow. They don't know the radium is killing them, but the company does. It leads to a heartbreaking, but ultimately uplifting conclusion and a fascinating study in character between the opening and closing lines.

Hollins' theater, for the past several years, has been Roanoke's best showplace, even when professional Mill Mountain Theatre was operating. Hollins took on and continues to take on much more difficult and challenging material because it is not required to draw big audiences (which it does) or make a profit (which is probably doesn't).

Hollins also has Ernie Zulia, the area's best theater guy. He teaches at Hollins and once worked at Mill Mountain, but he outgrew the part and is in his element molding outstanding productions using a combination of student novices and veterans. The list includes scene and lighting designer John Sailer, consume designer Julie Hunsaker (former owner of the Grandin Theatre), technical director John Forsman and stage manager Lilly Gray.

The obvious stars of the most recent production are the four lead actresses. Annalee Hunter plays Catherine Donohue, whose lawsuit brings down the offending watch maker. Her three friends are played by Lianne Jackson, Emma Sperka and Emily Elliott. Lianne Jackson nearly steals the play with her portrayal of the smart-mouthed, often bawdy Charlotte.

Excellent support comes from the males in the cast, borrowed from other theaters: Chad Runyon (who is now a grad student at Hollins, but has been acting in Roanoke circles for some time) and veteran Ross Laguzza.

It is a fine ensemble performance of a solid play with something important to say.

It continues through the weekend, with evening performances at 7:30 and a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 online and $15 at the door and they're worth every penny you're spending. Order them here.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

'artview' Artists Selected for Installations

Virginia Tech Professor Emeritis of Art Ray Kass has selected six artists to create new contemporary art installations throughout Roanoke. These site-specific installations will be displayed during artview: visions & voices,” an international art show Nov. 5-7 at the Roanoke Civic Center Special Events Center.

Kass is founder of the Mountain Lake Workshops and
Symposiums. His picks are: Jennifer D Anderson (Roanoke); Martha A. Olson (Blacksburg, pictured); Christine Kosiba (Blacksburg); Judith Love Schwab (Newport); Charlie Brouwer (Willis); and John Wilson (Roanoke).

Their works can be seen at the three day event alongside artists from five of Roanoke's seven sister cities. Those artists from Roanoke Valley Sister Cities
will also create on-site installations based on their two week residency in southwest Virginia.

They are: Robert Suchinski, Opole;
Poland; Kuk-Hyun Park, Wonju, Korea; Jane Motin, Saint-Lo, France; and Grigory Guerivich, Pskov, Russia (pictured); and Patricia Secco, Florianopolis, Brazil will arrive in Roanoke over the next two weeks.

The artists will conduct workshops and demonstrations during their two weeks in the city.
Admission to artview: vision & voices is $8 for adults; students are $4 and children 12 and under are free.

Meze World Cafe--One of Our Best--Closes

What a bummer! Meze World CafĂ© in downtown Roanoke has closed and now I’m down two eateries in a month or so (a whole lot more if you count all the restaurants in the City Market Building in Roanoke).

Meze was a little oasis of good, healthy food in a sea of salt, grease, flour and sugar (the four Basic Southern Food Groups). Its salad bar was as good as any I’ve ever eaten and featured a lusty helping of fruit and two delicious soups, potato feta and vegetable. It was owned by the same people who own Isaacs in Grandin Village, a mid-Eastern-flavored restaurant that is immensely popular.

I often took people to Meze for lunch and never heard a discouraging word about Meze’s food, especially the salad bar. Its menu, which could get expensive because each item had a separate price and no sides, was healthy, tasty and marvelously prepared.

I’m going to miss the restaurant, another victim of George Bush’s bad economy. As if I needed one more thing to blame on that bastard.

Monday, October 18, 2010

CityWorks Features Minnis Ridenour

Developer Ed Walker, one of Roanoke’s real Renaissance Men, is having a series of discussions at his office that are open to the public and are not only free, but come with beer and wine. His next iteration of what he’s calling CityWorks is a 30-minute conversation with Minnis Ridenour (right) set within a one-hour (5-6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 19) block.

Here’s what Ed says:

"Minnis Ridenour, is the former COO of Virginia Tech. This will be one of the best Q&As this year because Minnis is one of the most exceptional leaders in Virginia of the last 50 years. As they say in Blacksburg, 'Presidents come and go but Minnis remains.'

"Even now, five years after retirement, he is as active as ever advancing the causes of higher education, leadership, integrity, arts and design, good government, and sophisticated commerce. To me, he is a giant in our midst and is generous to make this time available.

"For those interested in how Roanoke and Blacksburg work together to achieve great things in the coming decades, don't miss this."

Perriello's Race Appears To Be Tightening

I can't vouch for the accuracy of the Roanoke College poll in the past, but here's its latest on the Tom Perriello-Robert Hurt race in the Fifth Congressional District of Virginia, a race between a far right Republican (Hurt) who wants to take the seat of one of the most competent, honest and noble people in Congress.

Here's the RC release:

"Republican state Senator Robert Hurt holds a six-point lead (46 percent-40 percent) over Democratic incumbent Tom Perriello in Virginia’s Fifth Congressional district according to a poll conducted by The Institute for Policy and Opinion Research at Roanoke College. Independent candidate Jeffrey Clark is a distant third with 1 percent of the vote, and 13 percent remain undecided with two weeks until Election Day.

"The poll includes interviews conducted with 567 likely voters (registered voters who said they were likely to vote) in the Fifth Congressional district between October 5 and October 14. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percent.

"The percentage of undecided voters remains high this late in the campaign: 13 percent of likely voters have yet to make a decision in the contest for U.S. Representative. Perriello holds a slight advantage among undecided voters, 19 percent-16 percent, while 92 percent of the Hurt’s supporters and 86 percent of Perriello’s supporters say it is very certain they will vote for that candidate. Hurt voters were more likely to have paid a lot of attention to the campaign (54 percent-42 percent) and are more likely to be very interested in the campaign (66 percent-50 percent) when compared with Perriello voters.

"There is a significant gender gap in this campaign with men supporting Hurt (52 percent to 31 percent) and women supporting Perriello (48 percent to 40 percent). The majority (80 percent) of those who are undecided said they are very likely to vote. The undecided voters also trend toward being Independents who are moderate or conservative."

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Endorsers for Wind Farm Piling Up

The few dogged holdouts insisting that the wind farm planned for Bent Mountain is a bad idea are slowly becoming overwhelmed by numbers. When the Sierra Club of the Roanoke Valley endorsed the project last week, it brought the number of environmental groups on the side of the farm to six. That's not counting local governments and others who favor the farm.

The Bent Mountain protesters, who live in the shadow of the proposed wind farm (which will be quite imposing from its sheer size) have presented a substantial case against the "industrial" farm, but its argument has been countered consistently by the groups listed below.

It's looking increasingly like the farm is coming and we'd all better just get used to it.

Roanoke Group, Sierra Club: Founded in 1892 by the legendary John Muir, is the largest grass-roots environmental organization in the world. The Roanoke Group has over 700 members.

U.S. Green Building Council Southwest Virginia Chapter: Devoted to sustainable building practices and listing almost 500 subscribers in Southwest Virginia.

Roanoke Valley Cool Cities Coalition: An all-volunteer organization devoted to reducing regional greenhouse gas emissions with over 200 affiliates representing more than 25,000 citizens in this region.

Greater Roanoke Valley Asthma and Air Quality Coalition: Pulmonologists, nurse practitioners, respiratory care practitioners, registered nurses, allergists, and other representatives of health and environmental groups working to improve air quality and respiratory health for the Greater Roanoke Valley through education and partnerships with other organizations with similar goals.

Renewable Energy Electric Vehicle Association: Local volunteers from a wide variety of professions who undertake do-it-yourself renewable energy projects.
Chesapeake Climate Action Network: The first grassroots, nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to fighting global warming in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.; educating and mobilizing citizens of the region to foster a swift transition to clean energy and energy-efficient products.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I Need Help With a Magazine Story


I need to get in touch with people of the following description for several magazine stories I'm writing (please give me their names and contact info):

  • A happily married couple 30s or 40s with kids
  • A housewife who is fit, involved and loves what she's doing
  • Grandparents raising a kid or two and enjoying it
  • An old man--75-85--who is still in pursuit of the fairer sex
  • A young couple happily living together who have not even considered marriage
E-mail me directly at if you know people in these categories. And thank you. I'll owe you one if you have good contacts.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Writers Group Features Hot New Lynchburg Author

My buddy Betsy Ashton of Valley Writers tells me that a fine new voice in novel writing is the guest speaker at the next meeting Nov. 4 at the Unitarian Universalist Church on the corner of Grandin Rd. and Brandon Ave. in Roanoke. Gametime is 6:30 p.m.

The writer is Kathleen Grisson (right) of Lynchburg who has, as Betsy says, "written a highly-praised historical novel, Kitchen House." She will speak and sign copies.

Monday, October 11, 2010

No, Dear, That Is NOT Me!

A Christiansburg man with the perfectly wonderful name of Dan Smith is doing a bad thing and I don't want to get blamed for it. He's having a party to raise money for the Tom DeLay of Virginia, Snarling Morgan Griffith, a Republican drunk driving lawyer who is running for Rick Boucher's 9th District seat in the U.S. Congress.

I want to assure you that I have nothing to do with this, save sharing Mr. Smith's glorious nom de plume. It's Oct. 20 in Christiansburg (I'm not giving the address because I'm not into promoting mischief). If you see Mr. Smith in the mean time, tell him he might want to reconsider what he's doing here.

October Cover--Angel in My Pocket: An Investment Guide

Executive Summary: Investors with wings come in all sizes, shapes, bank account sizes and, as of lately, locations. The new kid on the block in this region is home-grown.


For entrepreneurs searching for financing, the thought of an angel investor is enchanting. But an entrepreneur who links arms with an angel must be prepared to be partners with a source who will have a high degree of interest in ROI, his raison d’etre.

Being an entrepreneur with a start-up company is not for the faint of heart. Being an angel investor is an exercise in taking on the entrepreneur’s risk. The pressure for the company to perform can be intense. In return for their investment in companies, angels receive an equity stake in the company. But for many angels in this region of Virginia, it isn’t all about the money and that’s where remaining true to their name comes into account.

Many angels are successful former or current entrepreneurs who genuinely want to help entrepreneurs get their businesses, off the ground as well as to benefit the overall region where they live. They bring a depth and breadth of knowledge to the new entrepreneurs. Securing angel funding can consume great chunks of time. Angel investors are taking significant risks on a relatively unproven ventures and it is understandable that they like to carefully examine the business from all angles. Angels research the business to determine whether the investment should be made. This due diligence includes looking at a wide spectrum of elements including the people, products, projected sales, financial and legal issues.

“It’s getting more and more difficult to get early stage funding,” says David Poteet of Nomad Mobile Guides in Blacksburg. “Some investors write a check with no involvement and others interested in the company also do mentoring.”

“A lot of things can be overcome, but you must have good people in the deal,” says attorney Mike Drzal of LeClair Ryan in Blacksburg. “[You need] people highly motivated with a tremendous work ethic, flexible to make adjustments, and honest and forthcoming regarding competitive challenges. Angel investors are looking for good people.”

Angel investors do not have to be accredited investors as designated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Still, most of the money coming from angel investors comes from accredited investors. Accredited investors—as defined by the SEC—have income and asset requirements that must be met. Angels are filling a void of sorts that began occurring when many venture capital funds were no longer available for the new companies.

“Angels are having to fund bigger and bigger rounds [because] many venture capital funds, particularly in our region, are moving downstream to where there’s less risk such,” says Attorney Ken Maready of Hutchison Law Group in Blacksburg. “[That includes] companies with actual recurring revenue, which is not typical in seed and early-stage startups.”

One of the ways that a region can benefit from new small businesses is job growth. According to a recent Kauffman Report, businesses less than five years old account for the creation of two-thirds of total new jobs. In 2007, there were 12 million new jobs in the United States with young businesses responsible for 8 million of those.

In our region, there have been several successful technology startups including—but certainly not limited to—Luna Innovations, WebMail (MailTrust), ADMMicro, TechLab, Meridium, Optical Cable, VTLS, Pixel Optics and Synchrony.

“Small homegrown businesses and entrepreneurs play an important role in our local economy,” says Sam English of CIE Partners in Roanoke. “Smart entrepreneurial people are attracted to the area and an infrastructure is established that supports creativity and risk-taking. An entrepreneurial economy benefits on multiple levels: creating profitable businesses in the region; [creating] quality jobs; [improving] local wealth for entrepreneurs and investors; and strengthening the community with additional tax revenue [and] philanthropy, [creating] business leaders and [generating] investments into other businesses.”

Until recently, angels have been difficult to identify, mostly because individual angels wanted a low profile for obvious reasons. Now, many angels are forming groups to become more visible to people with ideas and the groups are becoming more organized. That said, there are still many angels who quietly invest individually.

“The 460 Angels Group is more of an idea of the 460 Capital Partners,” says Bob Summers, its director. “We started working on it three years ago. The group is meant to be regional—Southwest Virginia. The initiative kicked off last October to the network people. The advantage of the group is [that individuals are] pulling together. I anticipated getting 10 accredited investors the first year. We have 30 accredited investors between Roanoke and Blacksburg.” “We have a lot of work to do. We need our angels being more sophisticated in terms of strategy to be like other regions. It’s a work in progress. “It’s all about networking and matching the right company with the right angel investor.”


There has been a tremendous amount of growth over the last one to two years on the angel investor scene in Blacksburg, the New River Valley and Roanoke area. On one side of the equation, the angel community appears to be coming together and on the other side at the same time; there is considerable guidance available to entrepreneurs along the lines of how to present to angels, the process as a whole, how deals can be structured and what an angel-backed company looks like. As a result, there are opportunities galore.

This guide will help you start your search.

Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center (CRC) is home to more than 100 companies engaged in leading-edge research in diverse areas of technology. The Center’s mission is to develop a growing, prestigious research park for high-technology companies. Concurrently, the CRC will, in collaboration with the university, advance the research, educational, and technology transfer missions of Virginia Tech (VT). CRC currently has 27 completed buildings totaling 956,000 square feet housing 2,200 employees on 120 acres of land. Total build-out is planned to be another 28 buildings totaling 950,000 square feet housing 3,000 employees in Phase II. CRC is a for-profit wholly owned, private subsidiary of the Virginia Tech Foundation, and is, therefore, not a state entity.

VT Knowledge Works is a regional business acceleration center serving technology-based enterprises at all stages of the corporate lifecycle. With conference and incubation facilities located in the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, VT Knowledge Works encourages and supports entrepreneurs, executives, and investors as they plan, launch and grow companies to financial independence.

VT KnowledgeWorks Entrepreneurship Summit is an annual two-day comprehensive workshop custom designed for prospective company founders, entrepreneurs launching or re-vamping a business, growing companies seeking expansion capital, and individuals interested in investing in early-stage companies. Originating in April 2009, the Summit includes business concept competitions, open angel forum and educational seminars.
The NewVa Corridor Technology Council (NCTC) is a non-profit member-driven association of businesses and organizations in the greater NewVa Region encompassing Roanoke and Blacksburg, VA and the surrounding counties for the purpose of driving prosperity and working together to promote the growth and success of the region’s technology sector. Access to Capital Committee was established in 2009 by NCTC to increase communication between technology firms that need funding and investors willing to fund them.

The Angel Capital Association (ACA) is North America’s professional alliance of angel groups. The association brings together many of the angel organizations in the United States and Canada to share best practices and collaboration opportunities. ACA serves as the public policy voice of the American angel community.

460 Angels
is a seed and early-stage angel investor group facilitated by the NCTC Access to Capital Committee. The group just kicked off last October to the network people and focuses on funding and coaching hi-tech entrepreneurs with scalable business models based in the New River Valley and Roanoke region of Virginia. This group is seeking technology based product companies, which can scale to a global marketplace. The group’s members are experienced in engineering, software, finance and management. The 460 Angels follows the ACA’s Best Practices.
Pitch & Polish Clinics that help tech-related companies prepare for raising Angel capital are hosted monthly by the NCTC Access to Capital Committee. The entrepreneur is allowed 10 minutes to pitch an idea/company and receives feedback on how to improve from a seasoned panel consisting of four to eight panelists. The entire session takes approximately 30 minutes. Additional representatives from the entrepreneur’s company may also attend, but otherwise this is a private session between the entrepreneur and the panel of advisors. This opportunity is open to any tech-related company seeking early stage investment and is the first step to accessing capital. Pitch & Polish clinics are held monthly at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center. The first clinic was held in May 2010.

DayOne Ventures
is a seed stage investment and mentoring program for technology-based startups, funded and operated by experienced, successful entrepreneurs who are also angel investors. The entrepreneurs are experienced in both building and selling technology businesses. The program launched on March 12, 2010 and is housed at the VT Knowledge Works Business Acceleration Center, located in the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center in Blacksburg, Virginia, home of Virginia Tech. Each spring, up to three early stage enterprises are selected through a competitive evaluation process. Those winning teams selected receive benefits including up to a $16,000 stipend to cover personal and business expenses in relation to participation in the program, free furnished office space, Internet access and hosting, free company formation and legal documents, and free brand development and logo. Accomplished entrepreneurs work closely with the teams for three months to maximize the opportunity in each start-up and remove unnecessary risks. The program normally begins in late May and concludes in late August. Each firm then has the opportunity to present to potential investors via a demo day event. In exchange for the package of benefits provided, DayOne Ventures receives an equity stake in the emerging enterprise.

Virginia Active Angel Network (VAAN)
is a professionally managed and member-led group of accredited investors that meet monthly in a dinner model in Charlottesville. Founded in 2005, VAAN has members from Southwest Virginia to Northern Virginia and to New York City and Georgia who participate either by driving to the Charlottesville dinner or through on-line access. In this model, VAAN allows the presenters to still reach a large investing membership while reducing the number of members that must travel to local dinners (as was the model the first four years of VAAN). VAAN considers opportunities to provide funding and mentor capital to early and seed stage ventures primarily in the central and southern Virginia region, and the greater region, including Maryland, Washington DC, North Carolina, Kentucky and West Virginia. VAAN also syndicates opportunities with other Angel Capital Association angel groups.

CIE Partners
is an independent Roanoke-based organization promoting innovation and assisting entrepreneurs, small businesses, and nonprofit organizations in the western region of Virginia. The organization began in 2006 as the Center for Innovation and entrepreneurship with the mission of assisting inventors and entrepreneurs. Building on that success, in 2008, the organization added staff, expanded its offerings to include services to nonprofit organizations and changed its name to CIE Partners to reflect its expanded capabilities.

From Charlottesville to Roanoke to Blacksburg, CIE Partners has an available network of resources to accelerate the development of successful businesses and to enhance the operation of nonprofits. The organization provides advice and consultation, works side-by-side with its clients to actively advance their interests. Its expertise is tailored to meet different client needs as the organization assists in designing and carrying out feasibility, financing, and follow-through activities. CIE Partners specializes in working with inventors at the idea stage, entrepreneurs in the start-up phase, and nonprofits at any point of development.

Hutchison Law Group
Angel Investment Education Series offers a series of workshops and seminars for prospective angel investors and for entrepreneurs seeking angel investment funding. Founded in 1996, Hutchison Law Group expanded into Virginia with the opening of an office in Blacksburg in January 2010.

LeClairRyan SCOUT (Startup Companies Originating Unique Technology) Award recognizes and assists an entrepreneur or emerging business with high growth potential. The recipient may receive up to $15,000 in complimentary legal services over a 12-month period. In order to be eligible for consideration, applicants must have a commercially viable business model based on proprietary technology or innovations. A cogent business plan demonstrating high growth potential is required. Companies seeking or preparing to seek angel or venture capital financing are eligible. This is the second year of the SCOUT award. Submissions will be accepted until November 1, 2010. The winner will be determined by the leadership team of LeClairRyan’s Venture Capital Practice, along with outside assistance, and will be announced on December 1, 2010.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Spat Inside the News Bid-ness

The scoop squabble that has broken out between Roanoke's local daily newspaper and WDBJ7 television is a comic opera in full flower. It's a classic "did not/did, too" scenario with the TV station initially reporting big doin's at the Taubman Museum of Art and the paper saying the report was inaccurate.

Effectively, the TV station's team of reporters (and I've counted at least three working on it so far) reported that "sources" told them the Taubman, which has been under considerable financial stress of late, is looking for partners and for working models that would change its operation formula. I'm not so sure that's big news, since most arts organizations are doing the same things on an on-going basis, but the report comes on the heels of the resignation from the board of Jenny Taubman, who raised a great deal of money for the $66 million project. So, it looks suspicious to an enterprising young reporter and if somebody inside bends the reporter's ear, that ear gets bigger.

The local daily's arts reporter, Mike Allen, is a veteran news reporter with an interest in the arts (he writes and acts) and he has good sources. His report effectively said the TV station was overreacting and that nothing important is going on.

For as long as I've been in the news business (since 1964), the nasty squabble between print reporters and TV newsies has been escalating. The print boys arrogantly dismiss electronic reporters as pretenders and often believe themselves to be the only legitimate source for news. The electronic sector--which has some very good reporters, like Joe Dashiell--has always had something of an inferiority complex balanced by that local stardom that comes with being familiar to people ("Hey, didn't you used to be ...").

This a.m., Channel 7 hit back at the local daily's report, saying, "Is, too!" (I also noted that the TV station refused to say the newspaper's name publicly, calling it "a local newspaper.")

Stay tuned. Those institutions don't have much use for each other and this could get good.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Shooting Starts Tuesday on SML Movie; Seymour headlines Cast

Sarah Elizabeth Timmins' Smith Mountain Lake-based movie "Lake Effects" begins shooting Tuesday and the cast is lined up with the most recognizable name being that of Jane Seymour (right). Sarah has done some fine work organizing this movie when it looked like it had failed more than a year ago. She's a tireless worker and a charmer who should give classes.

Here's her release on the cast and the movie:

"Filming is planned to begin Tuesday and is slated to last four weeks. Main character, Sara Tisdale will be played by Virginia born, Scottie Thompson.

Thompson grew up in Richmond, VA. Thompson graduated from Harvard University in 2005 with a Bachelors degree in Performance Studies and Literature. Since graduating, Thompson moved to New York to pursue her acting career. She’s appeared as a guest on several television shows such as, “Brotherhood” and “NCIS.” Thompson is also the female lead in the Universal’s highly anticipated thriller “Skyline” due to hit theatres this November. "

Jane Seymour has been cast to play Vivian Tisdale, Sara’s mother in the film. Seymour, has played in hundreds of television and film productions. Her most famous role was as a Bond girl in the 1973 movie “Live and Let Die.” Many may also remember Seymour in her later role Dr. Quinn on the television show, “Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman."

Sara Tisdale’s boyfriend Ash, will be played by Casper Van Dien. Van Dien brings 20 years of acting experience to the set. He began his career with two big breaks; on the daytime soap opera, 'One Life to Live' and prime time drama, 'Beverly Hills, 90210'” Since then, many will remember Van Dien from his role as Johnny Rico on the sci-fi action film, 'Starship Troopers.'

"Sean Patrick Flanery will take on the role of Mark Futterman, host of a science fiction exploratory channel. Flanery has appeared in over 53 films since 1988 including 'The Boondock Saints,' 'Powder' and 'Simply Irresistible.' Most recently, Flanery is in the 2010 SyFy horror film, 'Mongolian Death Worm' and 'Saw 3-D'.

"Madeline Zima will take on the role of Lily Tisdale, Sara’s sister. Zima began acting in front of the camera as a little girl when Woody Allen discovered her for the movie, 'Alice.' Over the years Zima has honed her comic timing while working on the television show, 'The Nanny' and as a wicked stepsister opposite Hilary Duff in the movie, 'Cinderella Story.' Many will recognize her as a series regular on both 'Californication' and 'Heroes.'

Ben Savage will play Carl, a local lake monster enthusiast. Many know Savage for his lead role, Cory Matthews on the NBC television show, 'Boy Meets World.' Old Vic will be played by Richard Moll, mostly notable for his role as Bull Shannon on the television show, 'Night Court.'

Jeff Fahey has been cast to play Ray Tisdale, Sara’s father. Fahey is a seasoned actor with over 30 years of acting experience under his belt. Most recently Fahey played Captain Frank Lapidus from the hit show 'Lost' and is in the movie, 'Machete' with Robert DeNiro.

There are many other experienced actors and actresses cast for the film. They include: Eyal Podell, Richard Riehle, Ron Canada, Mary McDonough (Erin from 'The Waltons') and Barry Papick."

So, Which Polls Should We Trust? (Hint: None of Them)

Morgan Griffith at his best (right)>

Polls are both a blessing and a bane during election season, which, like professional sports, seems to have no beginning or end.

A great example of this Jekyl-Hyde duality is the SurveyUSA poll yesterday that had the despicable Morgan Griffith (boooooo!) trailing the intelligent and effective Rick Boucher (yaaaaaaaaaaay!) in Virginia's 9th District by 15 points, 53-38. Meanwhile, Tom Perriollo (hooooray!), has been trailing his Republican opponent Robert Hurt (hisssssssss!) over in the 5th District Congressional race by as much as 46 points recently, an assertion that has brought the Perriollo camp to the brink of apoplexy, especially when a conservative group's poll has the race at about four points' difference.

Griffith has been using the "He's Nancy Polosi and Barack Obama rolled into one" tactic, which is simply preposterous, and he's also "blaming" Boucher for support of cap and trade, which was the right vote. The problem with Griffith thus far, it appears, is, as one of the old boys from the coal fields might put it, is, "You ain't from around here, are you?" Griffith doesn't live in the 9th, but as a pal o' mine says--using the Palin reference every time she gets the chance--"Griffith can see the 9th District from his house." I said months ago that I'd be surprised if Griffith got 40 percent of the vote (the same 40 percent that votes "no" to everything).

Perriello is on familiar turf looking at an opponent's backside. He trailed Virgil Goode two years ago up until just about the last week, but this time his opponent is not taking incumbency for granted because he doesn't have any. Goode had been routinely elected by wide margins for years, but Goode faced the recognition of his incompetency in a year when people finally figured out that George Bush had screwed up just about as completely as a human being can and that his policies were spelled "ruination."

According to, pollster Pete Brodnitz, "SurveyUSA’s polls have been a consistent outlier in the race for Virginia’s 5th Congressional District." Perriello's people have called the numbers "mathematically impossible." quoted a Democratic Congressional Committee spokesman as saying,“High-quality, reliable polling done by Democrats and Republicans have shown this race to be neck-and-neck ..."

The Virginia Board of Elections notes that far fewer than one percent of voters have cast ballots early, but Survey USA reportedly says that number is seven percent, a significant difference.

In any case, wherever you go, it looks like Perriello is trailing an empty political suit, a situation that is unacceptable. Perriello is the very definition of what a good representative should be.