Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 in Brief: Here's the Breakdown

OK, here's 2012 in short:
Leah, Maddie and me at Christmas
  • No bowl for Tennessee (in either January or December).
  • Earliest sellout yet for Writers Conference (which was marvy again). 
  • Oz talks and walks and throws stuff all over the house. And bites.
  • Maddie grows more delightful by the day and grows up a mile with her swim team. 
  • Kayaked a lot in the spring and early summer. 
  • Met Leah at the end of May. Fell in love with her so fast that it seemed like minutes. 
  • FRONT continued to survive in an economy and a publishing atmosphere that are both toxic.
  • Got into a fight with the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce over its sponsorship of a new business publication in Roanoke.
  • Had a 'mater sammich night for my 66th birthday. Fun.
  • Wrote a lot about the malfunction state and federal governments and got into a lot of brisk discussions with right-wingers about our differing philosophies.
  • Supported Barack Obama for president and Tim Kaine for Senator from Virginia again. The Obama support came with reservations and I think they're being emphasized right now as he folds on the fiscal deal.
  • Organized another writers conference (scheduled Jan. 25-26 at Hollins) and this one may be the best of all. About 12 of the teachers have new books out. 
  • Got robbed in October. Replaced the stolen 42-inch TV with a 47-incher that has 3D. Started locking my doors.
  • Bought a new manchair. Good piece of furniture.
  • Replaced a knee that had been bad since I was 16  in August. It's still healing, but the promise is great. Four women took care of me around the clock during this and they were angels. Thank you again, Leah, Christine, Christina and Janeson.
  • Had a good Christmas, one re-structured to emphasize face time and not material goodies.

Lay Miz: It's as Bad As You've Heard

The reports I got on "Les Miserables" before actually being dragged to see it tonight ran the length of human experience. One woman told me it was "the best movie I've ever seen." One said Anne Hathaway's version of "I Dream a Dream" was "worth the price of admission." A friend, whose wife made him go, told me it was "godawful."

I tend to agree with the latter assessment. Take the terrible singing out of Lay Miz and you have a start on a good movie. Take all the music out--with this cast--and you have a winner. But nobody did that.

What we got instead was superhero Hugh Jackman, who looks like Deputy Dawg in Lay Miz, signing so badly that people were laughing out loud (I was leading that); Russell Crowe proving that as a singer he's a great actor; Amanda Sayfreid signing like Minnie Mouse; and Anne Hathaway's version of That Song being worth the price of admission, depending on what you paid. Leah paid for my ticket.

(Let me mention that Leah was a music major in college and she talked about Jackman and Crowe being so atonal that "it sounded like an auction.")

The movie is claustrophobic beyond any reason. That Song Anne Hathaway sings is performed with the camera in so close you can count her nose hairs. It's emotional and she sings well, but we're in her space so far that it's uncomfortable for her and for us. Far too many scenes are played far too close.

There was an opportunity here to do a good film, one with a great Victor Hugo story, a few nice songs and some great period sets. But the signing got in the way. Dialogue was sung. Most often badly and inappropriately. The much publicized gimmick of of piping in piano background as the actors sang their parts wasn't all that hot, given the quality of the singing. Maybe the piano was offkey.

If there is a saving grace for Lay Miz, it is the performances of Helena Bonham Carter and Sasha Baron Cohen as the Thenardiers, a couple of crooks who were perfectly delightful in several scenes that simply didn't fit this movie.

One thing to watch for: Jeffrey Rush is in this turkey. Find him and report back to me.

A Little Christmas Cheer to Help Save a Business

My friend Mary Miller is shown here delivering an Anthurium to a nursing home resident recently. Mary went to Florida to help her sister's small business remain viable through this small program to boost income and to help create a better Christmas for this group of old people. The goal was to send 1,000 flowers to residents.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Silence Your Gun 'To Protect the Children'

The NRA says silencers are necessary on guns because the protect kids' hearing. I am not making this up. You can see for yourself here.

Like the Republicans they so love, this organization is way, way, way out of order, having moved into a level of crazy enjoyed by very few in this world.

The thing we need to protect children from is the damn guns and the organization that promotes them and the industry that builds and sells them.

Holiday Movies; The Good, the Bad and the Weird

So far this holiday season (Christmas, if you prefer), I've seen two movies for which I had high hopes: and one from which I expected little. Guess which was the best--by far?

I'm still up for "Jack Reacher" and the movie about turning 40 (which are still in town), but "Guilt Trip" didn't even reach the level of guilty pleasure, Quniton Tarantino's "Django Unchained" was a long wallow in the worst aspects of slavery (and our continuing guilt over it) and "Silver Linings Playbook" was the silver lining, a perfect delight.

I don't want to waste too much time on the bad ones, but speaking of waste: Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogan left with tepid lines throughout their hour and a half road trip as a Jewish mother and her coddled son was just too much. Nothing funny here from two fine comedians. Nothing. Barely a chuckle.

You've probably heard all you want to about "Django" and as with all Tarantono movies, you're either for him or again' him. I've never cared for his over the top violence--which becomes comic after a while, something we should never do with extreme violence of the head exploding kind. You can bitch all you want about movie violence having nothing to do with the gun culture of mass murder, but you'd be wrong. It has a lot to do with desensitizing us and Tarantino is the king of that numbing. He uses the word "Nigger" so often in "Django" that it loses its power and becomes something the frail of mind might consider acceptable.

"Silver Linings," on the other hand, is unexpected, delightful and even healing. As one who's had to deal with mental illness (alcoholism), I like it when art faces this massive problem frankly and without the soaring violins of sappy three-towel melodrama. This one's direct: two crazy as hell young people are trying to reconstitute their lives and have narrowed their field of help to each other. Flawed they are. Destructive they are. Batshit crazy they are. But they're appealing and there's hope in every frame of the movie.

This one--like her "Hunger Games" before it--belongs to Jennifer Lawrence, but Bradley Cooper emerges as a force, as well. They're the lead crazies and their families include Robert DeNiro and a lot of good character actors, all in fine roles. It's from the Weinstein boys and you've learned to count on them. Good movie.

Up next: "Lay Miz" and I'm not sure I'm looking forward to this. The previous two movie iterations were outstanding and neither needed music to succeed (neither did Victor Hugo's book).

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Quote: Big Guns, Fragile Minds and Massacres

"“Consider your man card reissued,” said one Bushmaster campaign (pulled off the Web after the Newtown shooting), next to a photo of a carbine. “If it’s good enough for the professional, it’s good enough for you.”
The effect of these marketing campaigns on fragile minds is all too obvious, allowing deadly power in the wrong hands. But given their financial success, gun makers have apparently decided that the risk of an occasional massacre is part of the cost of doing business.

--NYTimes editorial today

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Quote of the Day: Continuing To Fear the T

"The movement is not going away — most Republicans in the House have more to fear from primary challengers on their right than from Democratic challengers. An unpopular budget deal could reignite the Tea Party, as the antitax crusader Grover Norquist predicts."

--NYTimes this a.m.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

At Brandon Oaks, Valet Parking

We were on the way to the dining hall at Brandon Oaks Retirement Community today to have lunch with my favorite mother-in-law, Kitty Koomen, when we passed this assemblage of walkers and scotters.

"Valet parking," said Christina. I laughed out loud. Then Kitty said, "What's so funny? That's what it is." At that very moment, I saw a young woman steering a scooter into a parking place beside a fancy walker with a seat.

Guess life is what life's supposed to be in retirement communities.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Getting Grandmothered for Christmas

My grandgirl Madeline (left) and her brother Oz are being smothered in grandmothers here. Chris Visscher (right) and Judy Dickerson are among a whole slew of grandmothers who lavish these kid-os dawn to dusk. This one's a Christmas prep day as Chris helps Mads paint a gift at my friend Pam Berberich's Glazed Bisque-It this morning.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Sepcial Chistmas Done Our Way

Leah, Maddie and your favorite editr waiting for "Junie B. Jones" to start.
Maddie poses with Junie B. Jones,  post-production.
Maddie with actress Stevie Holcomb.
Us, looking gorgeous.
A touch of glamor in the afternoon.
Glamor girls at the Hotel Roanoke.
Leah reads 'Maddie the Marvelous'.
Pampa's turn to read from the book he wrote Mads for Christmas. Two books for one kid. Lucky girl.
This was officially Madeline Christmas Day and, boy, was it a dandy. Christmas has devolved into a competitive exercise in gift over-giving the past few years with the kids drowning in stuff they don't want or need, so we figured we'd do it a little differently at Pampa's house this year.

Leah and I dressed to the nines took Mads in her pretty new dress to see the delightful Roanoke Children's Theater production of "Junie B. Jones: Jingle Bells, Batman Smells," then brought her to my house for dinner of her choosing and Leah's preparation (chicken noodle soup and chocolate mousse) and a few presents we made or otherwise had some direct involvement in.

Leah and I each put together books. Leah wrote the wonderful "Madeline the Magnificent," about a little girl who conquers a dragon by being kind. I threw together a picture book of Mads' adventures with the Roanoke Vikings. We took the time to read both to her. She loved them.

We went through a few trinkets and wound up the evening giving her a baby doll she immediately named Lucille (I have no idea where that came from). This was a doll made by a group of poor women and sold through Charity Cottage in Vinton, which was founded by Maddie's swimming coach and my much-admired friend Annette Patterson. All this meant something to Madeline and she had time to absorb it, which means it will stick with all of us.

I love Christmas like this.

It's Time for the Annual 'A Christmas Story' Marathon

"I triple-dog-dare you!"
Factoid of the day: Jean Shepherd's* "A Christmas Story" first appeared in--get this--Playboy Magazine. It is now a Broadway play (one I don't want to see; why would you do that to a classic?).

My favorite Christmas movie of all time. Love it.

"You'll shoot your eye out." "I triple-dog-dare you." Red Ryder BB gun. "What do you want for Christmas, little boy?" "Oh fuuuuuu...dge!"

For some of the great lines from the movie, go here. For the movie's marathon (annually since 1995) go to TBS any time between 8 p.m. Christmas Eve through 8 p.m. Christmas day.

(*OK, he spells it like a girl would. Jean is still around, living in Florida. He's 91.)

Christmas Pollyanna: A Time for Sanctioned Family War

The editr in his Pollyanna finery.
Family members examine Leah's (right) family Christmas book.
The boys and our Pollyanna vests.
Gloria Swann photographs, Parker,Weiss, Joan Beverly and John Swann, her hubby.
Hunter Swann (standing) takes one of Gloria's goodies.
Herb Edwards hides behind a metal flower I really wanted, but didn't get.
Bea Clements loved this snowman, but lost it.

John and Glo with the Foreman grill, which John traded for finally.
I had the flower for a while and it went with my hat. Sigh.

Bea looked sweet, played like a ruthless veteran.
Gloria must have opened half the gifts. This one left her quickly.
Paul and his dad, Chip Clements examine Leah's book.
Chrissie and her dad, Herb Edwards enjoy a moment.
Future model Parker and her mama Joan.
Gorgeous sisters Glo and Leah.
Herb shows off his Scarface towel.
John and I all pretty in our lovely finery.
Paul sneaks up on the dwindling gifts.
Me as Santa-Dorf
I got introduced to the Pollyanna last night and it had nothing to the innocent little girl of literarary note. This is a Christmas season game that features all the human emotions of modern Christmas: greed, competition, corruption and fierce ruthlessness. Ah, Christmas.

The idea of the game is to place a bunch of wrapped gifts in the middle of the floor--one per player--and draw numbers so that each person can pick a gift. Contestants can select a gift from the pile or from another player and that's where it gets tricky. If you really, really, really want one gift, you go after it. Sometimes players (kind of off the books) team up to get a specific gift. Some are so stubborn that they piss everybody else off.

At the end of the evening, everybody's face hurts from laughing. I was the rookie last night, so I wound up with the two "Tipsy Wine Glasses", glasses with bent stems that nobody--especially a recovering drunk like me--wanted. I had my shot at several of the best gifts (a great metal sunflower, a hummingbird feeder, a George Foreman grill, a snow sled), but tried to be nice and lost them all. Next year, I will not be a rookie. Next year, I will wear the eye of the tiger.

I was surprised at the fierceness of the competition, especially from players like Sis, who was wild-eyed and obsessed, and Bea, a woman whose inside and outside don't always match. She can be fierce and gorgeous at the same time. She plays the game. She wound up with what she wanted. And more. Same for John Swann. The guy can play the game and if he doesn't get what he wants while it's going on, he trades for it after the game's over. He can do that. It's his house.

Fun? Yep. Nervewracking. Sure. Wanna do it again? You bet. How about tonight? I'm not a damn rookie any more.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Gun Solution from Rep. Bob Goodlatte: Is This for Real?!?

Rep. Bob Goodlatte
The following comes from my pal Robin Barnhill, a bright woman who follows important developments closely. This is telling about the man who represents the 6th District--my district--but does not represent me. Never has. On any issue.

Here's Robin's note to me:

Bob Goodlatte's NRA votes - passed: A bill to prohibit civil liability actions from being brought or continued against manufacturers, distributors, dealers, or importers of firearms or ammunition for damages, injunctive or other relief resulting from the misuse of their products by others. A YES vote would: 
  • Prohibit individuals from filing a qualified civil liability action
  • Exempt lawsuits against individuals who knowingly transfer a firearm that will be used to commit a violent or drug-trafficking crime
  • Exempt lawsuits against actions that result in death, physical injury or property damage due solely to a product defect
  • Dismiss of all civil liability actions pending on the date of enactment
  • Prohibit the manufacture, import, sale or delivery of armor piercing ammunition
From me [Robin]: The one that really gets me is :Exempt lawsuits against individuals who knowingly transfer a firearm that will be used to commit a violent or drug-trafficking crime

Quote: NRA's Wayne LaPierre's Stunning Bullshit Rant

Wayne LaPierre: We hope he's praying, but probably not.
“No one seriously believed the N.R.A. when it said it would contribute something “meaningful” to the discussion about gun violence. The organization’s very existence is predicated on the nation being torn in half over guns. Still, we were stunned by Mr. [Wayne]LaPierre’s mendacious, delusional, almost deranged rant.

“Mr. LaPierre [a Roanoke native] looked wild-eyed at times as he said the killing was the fault of the media, songwriters and singers and the people who listen to them, movie and TV scriptwriters and the people who watch their work, advocates of gun control, video game makers and video game players.”

—NYTimes editorial today

(Photo: Talking Points Memo)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Planning Commission Rejects Hotels on Huff Lane

Huff Lane School
The Roanoke City Planning Commission has given a thumping and unanimous "NO! Sir!" to a proposal from NDRA II to develop two hotels and a restaurant where Huff Lane School now sits empty, as it has been for some time. The vote came earleer today.

The hotels would have brought in a nice chunk of change in tax revenue for the city, but neighbors in the Huff Lane area (and I live about four blocks from the school, though I was not directly involved with the 'hood association) raised a ruckus. Roanoke City Council gets the final say, but the Planning Commission's voice usually carries some weight.

Extreme? Who's Extreme? (Hint: Republicans)

"Fifty-three percent of people, including 22 percent of Republicans, said the GOP's views and policies have pushed them beyond the mainstream. The number is up dramatically from previous years. In 2010, fewer than 40 percent thought the party was too extreme."

--CNN/ORC poll in Huffington Post


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Summer Food at the Edge of Christmas: Thank You God

That's my son's chili, sitting on chips and rice, topped with yogurt, lettuce, guacamole and my homemade salsa. We call it God's Taco Salad. Canteloupe courtesy of one of the Mexican vendors at Happy's Flea Market.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Elmwood Park Renovation/Amphitheater Moving Ahead

It doesn't look like much yet, but no matter what you feel about Roanoke's new amphitheater near City Market, you're going to get it. Can't go back now.

The amphitheater will cost somewhere between $4 million and $6 million and will have 4,500 seats. This is part of a total park renovation and is expected to take a year to complete. There was some structure going into place today, but mostly it looked like a site being graded.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Quote of the Day: The True Goal of the NRA

NRA top-dog Wayne LaPierre is a Roanoke native. We should be ashamed.
I'm not exactly sure where the following comes from, but the man who posted it on Facebook so that I could see it (John Weircioch) says it is from an editorial "elsewhere." It is stark, true and eyebrow-raising:

"The NRA is a gun manufacturer's lobby. Their goal is to assure themselves of a continuous and ever-growing market for what are truly durable goods. Guns last forever, so they need to create a market for new ones. It's how they make money. The NRA does not care about the Constitution. It does not care about "rights." It's goal is to have a market. If there was money to be made in banning guns, they'd be for that. 
"The NRA is the mechanism by which certain corporate interests hoodwink a large number of citizens into thinking that a corporation has their true interests at heart. The NRA is indifferent to the deaths of these children. As long as the money keeps rolling in, what people do with the guns they buy is completely beside the point. This is what the discussion needs to be about. There is no such thing as gun "rights." It is a bill of goods sold by the NRA. They are laughing all the way to the bank."

Dems vs. Repubs: A Stark Difference in Response

If you ever wanted a clear picture of the difference between the two national parties, here it is in their response to the shootings of six and seven year old children in Connecticut:

Here's what the Republicans say.

And here is the Democrats' response.

As usual, the difference is a polar opposite. Where do you stand?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Real Meaning of Christmas: Banks and New Cars

While we're bitching about the War on Christmas, let us consider the commercial side with a new twist in Roanoke:

The Roanoke Christmas Parade of old is now called Haley Toyota's City of Roanoke Christmas Parade. It is all part of the SunTrust Dickens of a Christmas, which was once just the Dickens of a Christmas. Dickens, of course, being Charles Dickens, but, hey, who can say "no" to a bank. Or a car dealer that sells Japanese cars. In Japan, Shinto and Buddhism are the major religions.

The parade was held last night in downtown Roanoke without major incidents of violence.


The Real 'War on Christmas' Is Older Than Fox Nooze

"So the next time someone maintains that [he is] defending traditional American values by denouncing the War on Christmas, remind [him] of our 17th-century Puritan forefathers who refused to condone any celebration or even observance of the holiday. In America, our oldest Christmas tradition is, in fact, the War on Christmas."

--Rachael Schnepper in the NYTimes today

Friday, December 14, 2012

Regulate Guns and Offer Mental Health Care Now

I'm not sure there is a good time to connect the killing of scores of children in Connecticut and a political problem that has been with us since the birth of the country. But if those kids died in order that others may live in the future, then at least there's that. If not, their deaths are simply awful and intolerable wastes.

The fact is that with the deaths of our most innocent, their parents, grandparents, uncles, brothers and sisters are outraged and are calling for gun laws that make sense and that help prevent this kind of catastrophe in the future. The mantra that "guns don't kill people, etc. ..." is simply wrong and we have reached our level of compromise on this point.

Guns have to be regulated and if that means occasionally a criminal gets his hands on one, then we'll just have to deal with that. Criminals and angry, isolated people who would not be criminals if they didn't have access to guns can get them any time they want them. They can get any kind they want, up to and including rapid-fire assault weapons that kill many people in seconds.

People commit suicide and murder at outrageous rates in this country because it's easy to do either with a gun. Many of those deaths would not happen without a gun's presence.

The number of guns owned by an individual, their type, calibre and whether they are rapid-fire must be regulated now. I have no problem at all with people who want a .30-.30 or a 12-gauge shotgun for hunting and home protection. I have a lot of problem with the ready availability of a gun to a man who would shoot dozens of people in a school, his family and anybody else he happens to see on a dark, dark day.

Guns are not the only problem here, either. They are simply the easiest to deal with in a sensible and clear fashion: regulation. The mental health issues that go unreported, unnoticed, unchecked and untreated are as much a tragedy as anything else surrounding these acts. The people who kill 20 or more children in an hour aren't simply those who are angry about something. They are tortured people who have been that way for a long time. They have no way of handling the demons within and we all suffer for it. We must make drug and alcohol addiction treatment available to those who need it and mandatory for some. Mental health counselors and treatment centers must be as available as hospitals for those with cancer or a broken leg. Insurance must cover treatment.

If we don't do these things and do them quickly, our children will continue to die for our ignorance, our cowardice or our neglect. None of that is acceptable.


Book Publishers Hate Writers: Here's Why

This piece was sent to me as part of a press release with full permission to use it, so I will. It gives a good insider's look at the relationship between authors and publishers (like making sausage, it ain't pretty, so take something for your stomach beforehand).

The business is changing--taking a leaf from the musicians' notebook--with many writers going toward self-publishing, e-books and the likes and if the publishers were pissed before, think what they must be now. They still have to pay those dang mortgages and if there's no product--or less product--where's the money coming from?

This is a relatively long piece (a tome by blog standards), but if you're a writer, you won't mind. If you're not, what the hell are you doing here?

Here goes:

By Michael Levin 

It seems so…unliterary. But publishing houses despise authors and are doing everything they can to make their lives miserable. Here’s why. Authors are admittedly a strange lot.

There’s something antisocial about retreating from life for months or years at a time, to perform the solitary act of writing a book. On top of that, authors are flaky. They promise to deliver a manuscript in April and it doesn’t come in until October. Or the following April. Or the April after that.

This leaves publishers with several options, all of them bad: revise publishing schedules at the last minute; demand that authors turn in projects on time, regardless of quality; cancel books altogether; or sue the authors (as Penguin has begun to do) for undelivered or poor quality work.

Authors are also prickly about their work. There are few jobs on the planet in which people are utterly free to ignore the guidance, or even mandates, from their bosses. Yet book authors are notoriously dismissive of their editors’ advice. When I was writing novels for Simon & Schuster back in the late 1980s, my editor, Bob Asahina, used to tell me, “You’re the only writer who ever lets me do my job.”

Also, annoyingly, writers expect to be paid. Maybe not much, but something. The Authors Guild produced a survey in the 1970s indicating that writers earned only slightly more, on an hourly basis, than did the fry cooks at McDonald’s. Publishers were still responsible for paying advances to authors, hoping that the authors would turn in a publishable manuscript – which doesn’t happen all of the time.

So it’s understandable that publishers might feel churlish and uncharitable toward authors, on whom their entire publishing model depends. But since the 2008 economic meltdown hit Publishers’ Row, the enmity has turned into outright warfare.

The three R’s of the publishing industry, the strategy for survival, quickly became, “Reduce royalties and returns.” Returns are books that come back unsold from bookstores. Printing fewer copies typically ensures fewer returns. Reducing advances and royalties—money publishers pay writers—was the other main cost that publishers sought to slash. And slash they did.

More and more publishers moved to a minimal or even zero advance business model. They said to authors, “We’ll give you more of a back end on the book, and we’ll promote the heck out of your book. We’ll be partners.”

Some partners. Zero advance combined with zero marketing to produce…that’s right. Zero sales. And then who caught the blame for the book’s failure? Not the publisher. The author.

Today, any time an agent or acquisitions editor considers a manuscript or book proposal from an author, the first place they go is to get sales figures. These numbers used to be proprietary to the house that had published the book; now they’re out in the open for all to see. And if an author’s sales numbers are poor, no one thinks to blame the house for failing to market the book.

The author’s career is essentially over. One and done. Next contestant, please. It’s completely unfair, but destroying the options of a writer actually has some benefits for publishers. Which leads me to think that maybe publishers are actually happy when authors fail.

As authors gains traction in the marketplace, their fees go up. They can charge a publisher more money for their next book. The problem is that there’s no guarantee that the next book will sell well enough to justify the higher advance the publisher had to pay the author. So if publishers can turn writing into a fungible commodity, they no longer have to worry about paying more, or potentially over-paying for a book.

If publishers can commoditize writing, they’re no longer at the mercy of unruly, unmanageable, and unpredictable writers. They can lower their costs, they can guarantee that their schedules will be adhered to, and they can keep the trains running on time.

The problem is that they destroy the uniqueness and creativity that readers expect when they buy a book. As the quality of books diminishes, book buyers are less likely to turn to books the next time they need to get information about a given topic. They’ll go to Wikipedia, they’ll do a Google search, they’ll phone a friend. But they won’t buy another book.

Publishers have begun to hate authors. But seeking to squeeze out the individuality and admittedly the eccentricity of authors is just one more reason why book publishing as we know it is going over the cliff.

New York Times best selling author and Shark Tank survivor Michael Levin runs this site  and is a nationally acknowledged thought leader on the future of book publishing.

(Photos: top,; middle,; bottom,

Quote of the Day: 'The Ability To Do a Lot of Harm'

"So Republicans have suffered more than an election defeat, they’ve seen the collapse of a decades-long project. And with their grandiose goals now out of reach, they literally have no idea what they want — hence their inability to make specific demands. 

"It’s a dangerous situation. The G.O.P. is lost and rudderless, bitter and angry, but it still controls the House and, therefore, retains the ability to do a lot of harm, as it lashes out in the death throes of the conservative dream." 

--Paul Krugman, NYTimes (in a remarkable column0

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Once Again, Where Is the Roanoke Daily's Reporter?

President Teresa Sullivan (blue suit) after being re-instated.
I continue to be both befuddled and bemused (as well as bewitched, bothered and bewildered) by a Roanoke daily paper's absolute refusal to send a reporter to Charlottesville (two hour drive) to cover the biggest education story in the Commonwealth of 2012. It had a story last night on its website, but it was an AP dispatch.

When I checked the website at 2 p.m., the AP story was not there. It reappeared at 2:18 and here it is. Looks like the Daily Progress' piece.

The paper will send a sportswriter to C'ville for the announcement of the signing of a football player, for a lacrosse or baseball game, for a basketball exhibition game or a non-competitive game against Longwood, but not for something as big as the firing of the president, the re-instatement of said president (though it sent a reporter very late in this process after being criticized) and now for the accreditation organization's decision to look and see what all went wrong and whether it should be punished. That means UVa--one of the finest universities in all the land--is having its accreditation questioned.

That's a pretty damn big story. It was a huge story when large crowds were gathering to protest the firing by a small cadre of power-hungry trustees, a fact that was later determined to be both unethical and illegal. Gov. Bob McDonnell re-appointed the head of this little group to the board, a move that could cost him heavily in coming months or years when his ambition starts to outstrip his good sense.

If you're interested in the story, here's the Daily Progress' report. The best reporting on this has actually come from a small alt paper called C'ville Weekly. My guess is that there will be some awards showing up for its excellent job. The Roanoke paper? Not so much.

But if you're looking for news out of the Roanoke daily, I was told yesterday by somebody who'd know that Sherrie Yates, the long-time HR professional who was everybody's go-to gal when they needed something important, is "leaving for another job," after 35 years, according to a contact at the paper. She was not the HR director, which is almost always a political position that is basically useless. Sherrie did the work. She's a big, big loss to the people in the trenches remaining.

(Photo: Washington Post.)