Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A New (Purchased) Name for the Roanoke Civic Center?

OK, class, here are some choices. Pick from among them or suggest your own.
  • Carilion Coliseum
  • Norfolk Southern Palace
  • General Electric Square Garden
  • Areva Arena
  • Kroger Circus
  • CRC Gymnasium
  • Luna Hippodrome
  • Cysco Stadium
  • First Citizens Dome
The point of this little exercise is to try on some possibilities for the Roanoke Civic Center's new name. Seems the powers that be there want to sell naming rights--as has been done in a number of arenas, including the baseball stadium in Salem, which is now Lewis-Gale Field at Salem Memorial Ballpark..

The City of Roanoke and Civic Center manager Global Spectrum have hired Sponsor Hounds (at 18 percent commission) to search for an overall sponsor (not to mention a lot of little ones whose ads will appear throughout the building).

The rights for the Civic Center naming, as well as sponsorships for the Performing Arts Theatre and Special Events Center will also be on the table. Kroger and Pepsi are already on board at this point, but not for the biggie.

It hasn't been determined how much the new Civic Center name will go for, but it's not likely to be cheap.

Monday, September 28, 2009

They're Piling On Carilion Again (and This One Looks Pointless)

I'm still trying to figure out exactly the point of The Roanoke Times' 2/3 of a page look Sunday--without an overall story--at Carilion's finances. Standing alone this easily-available public information looks like an orphan. My wife asked me where the piece "jumped" from. That generally means there is a big story on Page 1 and what she was looking at was a continuation of that story. I told her there was none. Her reaction was very similar to mine: Huh?

If this piece had been juxtaposed with similar information on HCA-Lewis-Gale, it would have made some sense. The lack of anything to compare it to left it almost meaningless and, in fact, appeared to be another in a long series of attempts to embarrass Carilion (though I didn't see anything at all embarrassing in the information that ran; it was the stuff you can find on any public company by Googling it). To my mind, Carilion is one of the best run companies in our region. It has considerable courage and a great deal of vision in its attempts to get costs under control and provide outstanding medicine.

Just about anybody who's dealt with hospitals in the past 30 years or so can point to shortcomings, and Carilion is not immune to that kind of criticism--a fact its executives will discuss at length with you. But this is a non-profit health care organization with an obligation to accept patients who can't afford its care. It does not flinch at that responsibility, even though those acceptances have a troubling impact on the bottom line.

What's annoying the crap out of me lately is what appears to be the intention of wrecking any credibility Carilion has with a series of non-stories meant to harm. Carilion is an essential part of this region's economic vitality and future.

As my partner, Tom Field, pointed out in an e-mail this a.m., the criticisms have included "improper land acquisition; monopolistic practices; price gouging; lack of fire sprinklers; bid rigging; doctor/patient interference; employee dissatisfaction" and more. The evidence in these accusations has been thin--at best--and when you get past the surface, you often find one of those physicians who was let go in the past year at the heart of the complaint. Their howling is tiresome and juvenile. It's time to let it go, boys, and get back to treating your dang patients. Grandstand plays are for clowns.

I'd love to see this attack stop, but I won't bet my first-born male child that it will anytime soon. Seems to not only come with the territory, but to be the territory.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Party Hat Version of Journalism

Doug Cumming making his presentation this a.m.^

When Doug Cumming mentioned that there were 300,000 magazines, I made a note to ask him about it, following his lecture. Later I said, "Does that mean just the Roanoke Valley or is it for a wider area?"

It was for the whole world and it was for last year, said the Washington & Lee Journalism assistant professor, following his talk to a room packed with students this morning. Doug, an old newspaper guy with a couple of nice lines in his resume for magazine experience (his dad--about whom he is finishing a book--was the southern bureau chief for Newsweek magazine as Doug was growing up), made a dazzling historical presentation that had me transfixed for nearly and hour. I almost didn't say anything. The hour of quiet would have been a record. But, alas ...

In any case, I had addressed a class of Doug's first thing this a.m. and we talked for an hour about niche publications and what's next for journalism (and, oh, hell no, I don't know). They were an attentive bunch, obviously interested in what would be next after college.

For me, though, the highlight was Doug's presentation. His newest book, The Southern Press (Northwestern University Press) is a riveting look at the history of journalism in our region and answers a lot of questions about why Southern writers are often so good. His presentation this morning, though considerably truncated, was no less fascinating, especially when he waved around a 1748 copy of "Gentleman's Magazine," a very early British publication that was about 15 years old at the time. It had followed on the heels of Daniel Defoe's 1704 "Review" as the first magazine in the world. (I was surprised, by the way, when Doug asked if any of the students knew Defoe and none did. They weren't familiar with Robinson Crusoe, either.)
In short order, Doug talked about the birth of magazines in America: Andrew Bradford's "American" in 1741 and Ben Franklin's "General" a bit later the same year. Neither lasted a year.

The history lesson went on and included Doug's definition of a magazine (I think he picked this up somewhere along the way in printed form): "Periodical targeting a general but uniquely defined group of readers, publishing non-fiction, features, news, advice, fiction, poetry, art and photography. Magazines express and sometimes shape pop culture through design and a relationship with readers."

And, given the relationship I have developed with Valley Business FRONT during the past year, his best observation of the presentation was one I could not have put better: Magazines are "the party hat version of journalism."

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Big Read Is a Big Deal

Lucy Lee (right) addressed a room full of readers this afternoon at the Higher Education Center in Roanoke^

The Big Read is underway and not much is going to get in the way of this tidal wave, if the first meeting is any indication of its energy. While the Roanoke Valley went semi-ga-ga a couple of weeks ago over the announcement of a marathon on the Blue Ridge Parkway, my guess is the Read--which will exercise a different part of your physiology--will outrun the marathon by a full lap, when it comes to numbers of people participating.

Organizer Lucy Lee, a voracious reader, called a couple of weeks ago and asked if Valley Business FRONT (my magazine) would support the Read and I told her of course we would, not realizing that Lucy was going to make this thing big. And big it will be. The premise is that as many people as we can gather together will read Earnest Gaines' 1993 A Lesson Before Dying, which has become something of a late century classic. It deals with "justice" in the 1930s and has strong racial overtones (not unlike the To Kill a Mockingbird).

The Big Read (a national franchise) will make a Big Deal out of this book with hundreds reading and discussing it, movies, plays being presented about it. An art show concerning it. Children and adults will be involved. People who don't normally read a lot will love the camaraderie of involvement.

We met this evening to discuss ideas for events sorrounding Read and even this early in the process, the ideas were running wild. This dealie is going to give us a new understanding of what it means to read and I'm for that. As one who couldn't read until after I'd been writing professionally for several years (a touch of dyslexia, I'm told; I could also dive before I could swim), I fully appreciate a good book and find them as enjoyable to share as good cooking (mine).

Go to the Web site here and see what it's about. Get involved. This is networking, socializing, reading, discussing and getting to know your neighbors with a book at the middle.

... And Sarah Palin on Russian Literature

Just got this press release from former Gov. George Allen's people:

"Governor George Allen, Chairman of the American Energy Freedom Center, will be live on Fox Business News' "Money for Breakfast" at 7 a.m. tomorrow to discuss the President¹s speech to the U.N. Conference on climate change and the G20 Summit, which kicks off tonight in Pittsburgh."

George Allen on climate change? He'll be followed by Larry Flint talking about bicycle riding for weight control.

Shoot 'Em Up: Me 'n' My Gun

Me and my favorite gun^

Dan Casey, the best Roanoke Times columnist since Mike Ives left in the 1970s (and I say that as a close reader of these guys) has just run a blog photo contest called "Gun lovers and their guns." I entered it with a photo of me and my favorite gun (uh ... my ... uh ... only gun), but I missed the dang deadline.

This hot little number is the one I shoot the cats with when they start to pee on the television set. Sets them off; they go straight up in the air every time. Nice blast from this little green lugar and every time I pull the trigger my testosterone level elevates to dangerous numbers. I just love it. Turn on Rush Limbaugh every time I pick the dang thing up.

Now the Casey case: If you doubt his value, read this morning's column on the 4th Ammendment. It's typical of his questioning, insightful look at issues that might slip past. I didn't much like his column on Liberty University and the campus Democrats (almost everybody was unfair on that one), but that's one in six months or so. The rest are very good.

A Woman Who Knows Value

Gwen Mason and her Goodwill find^

I'm standing in front of about 100 people scattered loosely, left to right in front of the new Goodwill retail store at East Market Square in Roanoke at this morning's ribbon-cutting. Roanoke City Councilwoman Gwen Mason, who's running for the Virginia General Assembly, eases over beside me. She leans over and nudges me with her shoulder as the speakers change. She whispers, "I'm shopping for my campaign wardrobe."

Take that Sarah Palin! A few minutes later, I'm taking a photo of Gwen holding up a nice black dress (basic, conservative, white collar). "Oh, this is good," she says and prances off to try it on. Woman of impeccable taste, I think. And good sense of value.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Morgan Griffith and Heart Attacks

A couple of new studies just released have confirmed something we already strongly suspected: smoking in public kills a whole lot of people every year. One study found that smoking bans in public places cut heart attacks by 17 percent in the first year and "by as much as 36 percent over three years," according to a Reuters news report. Another revealed that they cut the rate of heart attacks by 26 percent and could help avert 154,000 heart attacks a year.

That's a lot of health care money and lives saved improved. In the U.S., 32 states have smoking bans, Virginia not among them, though it will join the crowd in December ... years after it should have.

One of those primarily responsible for Virginia's lack of a public smoking ban (bills get killed in committee consistently so the creepoids who oppose them won't have to publicly express their opposition) is Del. Morgan Griffith of Salem, the Majority Leader in the Virginia House of Delegates. He is adamantly opposed to the ban, saying restaurants can post signs saying they'd rather you not smoke if they want to, but that it's not the government's business.

He's running for re-election. It's time to run him off and replace him with somebody who is concerned about the health of those of us who choose not to breathe other people's smoke.

'North By Northwest': A Tale of Cars

The 1959 Lincoln Premier was the star of tonight's version of "North By Northwest"^

My wife and I just watched Hitchcock's 1959 "North by Northwest," she for the first time, I for about the 20th, and I found myself concentrating this time on the makes and models of the various cars that I grew up with.

I was 13 when the movie was made and a common pastime for boys my age was to recite the make and model of as many cars as we'd see in a day. They were distinct designs and each fall we eagerly awaited the new model year, created by Misters Sloan and Kettering of General Motors in 1939.

The cars were marvels of design, some with huge fins, others with holdover art deco fender effects. There were fender skirts, removable hard tops, diagonal double lights, and grilles that looked like shark teeth. Still others featured that newfangled push-button drive or power steering-windows-brakes.

They had white sidewall tires (some "port-a-walls," which pealed off to reveal black tires), indented safety steering wheels (but no safety belts or air bags) and most of them--even the taxicabs--came in at least two tones of color: green on green, black and pink, blue on blue, yellow and black (cabs).

"North By Northwest" was a wonderland of cars (the white 1959 Lincoln Premier was to die for), all big enough for the whole family, pets and a few in-laws to drive up at the Dairy Queen and order a large chocolate-dipped cone.

The movie is always as I remember: just as perfectly sculptured as the cars with the dashing Cary Grant and the lovely Eva Marie Saint, the sinister but suave James Mason and the always watchable Leo G. Carroll. Martin Landau, as a junior grade bad guy gave my wife the creeps. She loved the movie, but missed the opening scenes--stolen by Jessie Royce Landis as Cary Grant's society-occupied mother.

The one thing I've never figured out: what in the hell does the title mean?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Million Seller, But Is It Literature?

Those of us who find it enourmously satisfying to sell 1,000 or 2,000 copies of a book will take special note of Dan Brown's new sizzler, The Lost Symbol, which sold a million copies its first day out (this past Tuesday), setting a record.

Knopf Doubleday immediately printed another 600,000 hardcovers. There were 5 million already in print. The million sales includes e-books, the NYTimes says in its report.

Brown, of course, wrote The Da Vinci Code and re-issued Angels and Demons (remarkably similar to Da Vinci, but written years beforehand) to capitalize on Da Vinci's success.

Brown is generally noted as a pedestrian writer who tells a good story--as was The Bridges of Madison County phenom Robert James Waller. I have had to hide my admiration of his books (which I enjoyed much as I enjoy shopping at Big Lots or watching a snake eat a rat) from more literary friends lest they show either outrage or pity at my total lack of literary sophistication. But, hey, I grew up poor and stupid. I can't be expected to be sophisticated.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sometimes It's Simply About the Effort

The view from our seats was swell^

Often breaking the routine is the best cure. For years, on the third weekend of the football season, I've either been in front of a TV showing the Florida-Tennessee game or in the stadium in Knoxville watching it. Most often the game ended with disappointment. Today, it ended with a loss, but no disappointment. Maybe that's because I went to Lexington to see Washington & Lee play and get a little perspective on this thing.

Tennessee-Florida, at least for a UT fan, is where football sits when it reaches the top. Lately, our guys have been knocked off the top more often than they've thrust a saber skyward when the final whistle blew.

Today, anticipating No. 1 Florida--which was not only good, but also pissed off at UT's new, brash coach--blowing the Vols' doors off, I headed off to one of the prettiest little towns in Virginia to watch a football game in a marvelous new stadium (great views, as you see above) with my friend Doug Cumming, assistant professor in the journalism department at W&L. We saw a dandy (W&L lost in overtime in a game whose lead changed several times and whose last minute of regulation was a whing-dinger) and I started back to Roanoke* feeling better about everything, reconciled to Tennessee's loss.

Then an odd thing happened. Tennessee wasn't being humiliated. It was hanging close; it was belting Florida's storied quarterback. So I hurried on home to catch the second half. The game ended as a 10-point loss, considerably less than the 30 points the bookies predicted Tennessee would lose by (or the 100 some of our brilliant "analysts" predicted) and I was tickled. I have to admit that I was more satisfied watching these UT kids overachieve and lose than I was watching Philip Fulmer's undisciplined, heralded players play at less than their best and win games.

Ultimately, as I mentioned to Doug, it comes down to competitiveness and effort--which we saw a lot of in Lexington. And today, in Gainsville with my Vols.

(* I was on the road back to Roanoke at 4:20 after watching a full game, an overtime and eating a meal. That's 3 hours, 20 minutes, 10 minutes less than it normally requires to play a regulation Division 1 game--with all those TV timeouts and breaks for commercials. I love Division III football.)

Friday, September 18, 2009

400 Posts and Counting

How 'bout that: I just passed my 400th blog post (on this blog anyway; total is 402 now) since it started Oct. 16 of last year. That's a book or more.

Finding Girls Through Technology

Mike Yankaskas (right) talks about the competition submarine^

Mike Yankaskas discovered a year or so ago that science and technology will land girls when nothing else works. "I met my girlfriend at a race," says the Virginia Tech student, who was showing off his human-powered submarine at the NCTC Demo Day & Tech Expo at the Roanoke Civic Center.

Yankaskas, whose father is a judge in the complex races these submarines compete in and Mike's new girlfirend's father is a Navy diver who swims along for safety.

The submarine is, in effect, an enclosed scuba outfit that operates full of water. The diver has a scuba tank, peddals and a plane. Mike says, however, he doesn't use the plane for going up and down because "I just breathe deep to go up and let it out to go down." Ah, nature.

Smart Kids at the Tech Expo

Lelani (left), Keoni and John Dade with their robots^

It is possible that the most interesting booth at the Demo Day & Tech Expo at the Roanoke Civic Center--going on at this minute--is one that doesn't even have a name. Four high school age kids are sitting at a table surrounded by what looks like erector set construction. They built everything you're looking at and they're 15 to 17 years old.

The "sponsors," informal as they are, are First Tech Challenge of Carnegie Melon Institute and First Leggo League at Staunton River High School. Lelani and Keoni Dade (pictured above) are a brother-sister act who built several of the robots and their father, John is in charge of putting it together. Robert's robots are experiments to get him ready for a NASA contest. Contact John here if you're interested.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Irony of the Day: Roanoke Times Advice on Firing People

Oh, my goodness, this one's just too good to let pass. The headline on this a.m.'s lead editorial in The Roanoke Times, long known for running off its longest-serving and best employees at the drop of a profit percentage point, had this advice for Radford University in a headline:

Radford University cuts jobs and morale
The school fired two popular employees without warning. They deserved better treatment.

There was this finger-wagging lecture (and it's classic): "Everyone knew the layoffs were coming, but dropping the ax so abruptly is no way to treat long-time employees." And finally, "This is not like ripping off a Band-Aid. Quick firings leave a lingering sting that undermines morale and the reputation of the university."

Hear! And might I add HEAR!

I hope a copy of the editorial made its way into the executive offices where the futures of talented people now departed were determined in a manner that many would describe as "quick firings [that] leave a lingering sting that undermines morale ..."

Two More Mayors Endorse Carter Turner

Carter Turner gaining ground?<

I'm not quite sure what to make of it, but there seems to be a shift in the tide over in Salem with the unthinkable--on the scale of a Perriello-style upset--in the balance. Carter Turner, the Democratic rookie candidate challenging entrenched Del. Morgan Griffith (16 years entrenched) got a couple of important endorsements today to go with an impressive list that includes the current Salem Mayor. The new endorsements--from Sonny Tarpley and Howard Packett--gives Turner the blessing of three Salem mayors.

Business people have tended to keep a low profile in Salem when it came to endorsing against Griffith. Business people have told me for years that they fear what he might do if they didn't support him. I don't know how legitimate those fears are, but I know they exist. Formers Mayor Tarpley, a retired banker and a Republican, and Democrat Packett endorsed Turner for the 8th District seat. Both were respected business professionals before retirement.

Said Tarpley, “I have known and respected Carter Turner for many years. His long-term connection to the people of this community coupled with an even temperament and intelligence are exactly what we need to get meaningful communication started again in Richmond.”

Packett is the former owner of The Packett Group (now Neathawk, Debuque & Packett), the region's largest ad agency. He says, “It’s time to get new ideas and common sense back in Richmond. Carter Turner’s approach to bipartisan coalition building and problem solving is precisely what we need representing the citizens of Salem and Roanoke County.”

(Roanoke Free Press photo of Carter Turner; modified with Photoshop)

Hmmmm. What's Missing Here?

Could it be? Yes! It is! The sign's gone. That distinctive Blue Ridge Business Journal sign in its lovely native blue has vanished from Business Journal Towers, a sign--so to speak--of changing times.

The carved metal sign was put up about three years ago by Kinsey Sign Company (at a cost of roughly $3,500) when the Journal moved into BJ Towers, as it came to be known. BJ was given permission to use the indented space at the right for what had the effect of a billboard. When I was editor of the Journal, the joke--when I'd run into a Roanoke Times employee from across the street--was, "Ours is bigger than yours. So's our sign."

Ah, the good old days. The Journal has been absorbed by The Times and is operating out of the RT building, almost anonymously, these days.

Writer Advice: Get It in Writing

Lawyer David Paxton addresses Arts Council's Writers Workshop^

Gentry Locke Rakes & Moore employment lawyer David Paxton's advice to the Arts Council's monthly workshop last night was pretty much what you hear consistently from the legal profession: get it in writing.

Paxton, the first lecturer in the series who is not a professional writer or writing teacher, filled an hour with legal advice that detailed freelance writers' rights and responsibilities, leaving them with the strong sense that there is both protection and vulnerability in contracts, depending on how and whether they are negotiated.

Paxton stressed that everything a writer writes as a freelancer belongs to the writer until he signs the rights away, even if the story is the result of an assignment from a publication. Paxton told the group that a written assignment belongs to the issuer, but the work turned in based on that assignment belongs to the writer--unless a contract says otherwise. The lesson: negotiate and don't sign anything you don't agree with just to get a gig because you may not ever be able to get any further mileage from that specific story for hire.

Paxton told the writers that rewriting a story using the same interviews and data that was used for the initial assignment could be problematic unless the entire thrust of the story is different. A warmed-over re-write, in short, is a no-no. "Copyright," he stressed, "does not apply to ideas. What you produce from that idea is what is copyrighted."

Paxton also pointed out that the copyright is automatically assumed for a writer's work, but it is limited in scope and if the writer wants the full coverage of the law, it is best to go through the formal copyright process (not expensive for a single work, but costs can mount on multiple stories or photos). The value of a copyright, he says, lasts a lifetime plus 70 years.

A publisher's willingness to deal with individual freelance writers, Paxton said, "depends on who you are and how badly they need you. A publisher, in general, will want to treat writers consistently, though."

Liability law is one of the most problematic areas for freelance writers--especially those who sign a contract with an indemnity provision that, in essence, relieves the publisher of responsibility and places it all on the shoulders of the writer. Most publishers, he stressed, "will stand behind the writer" in normal circumstances, but the indemnity clause is used in order to make the writer aware of his responsibilities to be as careful as possible.

Liability insurance for individual writers, said Paxton, generally costs about $2,000 to $2,500 a year, but writers associations or groups "can negotiate that down."

Paxton said that if he were looking at publishing a piece in a legal journal he'd do the following:
  • Ask "Will I get paid? How much and when?"
  • "Refuse to indemnify the publisher."
  • "Ask if I will retain rights to the story after it is used because it could generate additional income."
  • "Ask what additional use the publisher might make of the story--the Internet, for example--and if I would be paid additionally for that use."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Roanoke Named Best Place (Ballot Box Stuffed)

For those of you who keep up with this sort of thing, Roanoke has been named the best city in the country, according to a Kiplinger poll in which 18,725 people voted. Roanoke edged Louisville, Ky., for the title 3,229-3,048. We stuffed the box better'n they did, is my guess. Lynchburg finished fourth at 2,194.

This note appeared at the list of the top cities:

"On June 10, we noticed that a peculiar pattern of ballot stuffing had skewed the top 25 vote count in our best cities poll. So we reset the voting tally to where it had been 48 hours earlier. (Thanks for the heads up, tweeters.) Louisville, Lexington, we feel your love. Please vote again --just once a day, please. To the person (or people) who stuffed the ballot box, come on, let people express the excitement they feel for their favorite city. This is a reader's choice poll. No prizes. No deadline. Thanks."

By the way: I agree it's a good place to live. Wrote a long recommendation to somebody considering moving here the other day and I think it was convincing.

Friday, September 11, 2009

OK, So Cut It Out With the Shot Shot!

OK, TV news breath, I've had it! The notion that there is some kind of federal mandate that you show people getting shots--all the gory details--every time you have a story about the flu or anything else that might require, or even have as a low-level option, a shot has run its course.

Some of us react viscerally to needles. We know what a shot looks like and feels like. You don't have to keep showing it story after story after story. So cut it out, dang it!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Short Evaluation of Morgan Griffith

Griffith with his mouth open>

My good friend Kurt, a man who tends toward dignity and brevity, tells me he ran into Salem Del. Morgan Griffith at a football game Friday night and said to him, simply and ... well ... elegantly, "You are a disgrace!"

Kurt's lovely wife was dumbstruck (though I suspect she agreed with the assessment). Kurt admitted, "That was the marguerita talking." But sometimes the marguerita speaks volumes of truth in one simple blurt.

Griffith is at best disgraceful as a representative of anything associated with grace and civility, with logic, kindness, compassion or any of the human characteristics so many associate with his mother, a long-time teacher in the Salem system. Somebody once explained him as a "demon seed." He said, "No way that woman could have given birth to that man."

Maybe not. Maybe so. Who knows? But Kurt got it right and it delighted me. Griffith's response: "Are you in my district?" It's about the votes. Always the votes. Only the votes. If you see Griffith, remind him that he's a disgrace. It's only fitting.

Major Leaguer Pitching for Salem in Playoffs

As one who's been complaining for many, many years about the way minor league baseball pushes its players around from league to league and team, never considering whether the fans like it or not, we have a new wrinkle for the Salem Red Sox. A major league star will start the first game of Salem's quest for a Carolina League title Wednesday in Winston-Salem.

Is that legal? Is it fair? Just what is it?

I have no idea, but Daisuke Matsuzaka gets the start and one must assume Winston-Salem (the unfortunately re-named "Dash," dropping back from the wonderful "Warthogs" of yore) is royally pissed. The game--which I'd say will be a sellout--starts at 7 p.m. at Wake Forest Baseball Stadium.

"This is a great way to kick off the 2009 post season for the Salem Sox," understated Salem General Manager John Katz, who will be watching his last series in Salem. He's leaving the organization at the end of this season. "It's always exciting to have a major-leaguer on the field, and to have a pitcher the caliber of Daisuke Matsuzaka on the bump in game one is really something special."

The Red Sox pitcher--commonly referred to as something similar to Dice-Kay by Sox fans--was signed in 2006 and has started 69 major league games. He has a 34-20 record with a 4.11 ERA and a fat salary. He is ranked third among major league pitchers in most strikeouts and most wins in his first two years of play. He is 28.

He injured his throwing shoulder earlier this season and had a 1-5 record before being put on the disabled list. He started for Pawtucket (the Sox AAA club) Sunday and, in 67 pitches, allowed four hits and two earned runs in a little over four innings.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

You Simply Can't Give Up On the Guys

My pal Tommy Denton and I at the Wake Forest-Baylor game yesterday^

Two years ago after I'd bought tickets for the Duke-Virginia game for an outing with my wife and my sister and her husband, Virginia opened the season with an ignominious 23-3 loss to Wyoming. When I heard that score--Wyoming was terrible--I was crestfallen, believing my $70 or so investment was in the toilet.

We went up anyway and watched Virginia beat a so-so Duke team 24-13. Then, in succession UVa beat North Carolina by 2, Georgia Tech by 5, Pitt by 30, Middle Tennessee by 2, UConn and Maryland by one each, before losing for the second time (NC State by 5). Virginia bounced back beating Wake by 1 and Miami--in one of the most surprising reversals of fortune in UVa history--48-0. All this represented one of the most exciting football seasons I've ever watched. Christina and I went up for the UConn game and watched most of the rest on TV.

I had been at the verge of giving away the Duke tickets and had no idea what I'd do with the already purchased UConn tickets at the time of the Wyoming disaster. College football, though,is a game of redemption and a game of constant hope. I think that's why I dearly love it--far beyond the game at any other level. Pro football is too dry and the players too good. High school football is slow and flawed. It's the college game, so full of life, enthusiasm, youthful error and astonishing talent, that keeps me interested 12 months a year.

Tommy and I, pulling for different teams yesterday, each enjoyed what was given us. His team (for which he played guard in the 1960s) won, but I don't think that made a lot of difference to either of us. It was a marvelously competitive game with a lively crowd, warm sunshine and even those cell phone calls to my brother son to see how Tennessee was doing in its opener (it won 63-7) and to my wife to see how UVa was progressing (it was, of course, regressing).

So Saturday--in spite of Virginia's embarrassment against William & Mary--we're going to Charlottesville to see the Cavs play ranked TCU in a game where it will be a prohibitive underdog, remembering that if we'd ditched Virginia after the Wyoming game two years ago we would have missed one of the most exciting seasons in the history of the Cavs.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Iron Chef Roanoke at a Civic Center Near You

If you’re looking for some hot competition and football’s not your bag (too violent), baseball’s over, cross country’s ... well ... cross country then we have a dandy for you. It involves iron, chefs, food and gas stoves.

Give up?

On Tuesday, September 8, 3:30-6 p.m. at the Roanoke Civic Center Special Events Center hospitality industries of the Roanoke Valley (150 competitors) will compete for bragging rights.

Sponsored by The Roanoke Valley Hospitality Association, the Olympics will feature games such as Water Waiter Relay, Your Turn to Play Engineer, So You Think You Can Housekeep, Hospitality Hockey and The Hunt for Hospitality. New to this year 's event is the Copper Skillet Competition.

Set up like the "Iron Chef," local chefs will be given a "mystery box" in which they must create the best dish as judged by Chefs and culinary foodies. They will be given 45 minutes to complete the task with a 15 minute brainstorm. Great visuals and all going to support the Roanoke Valley Hospitality Scholarship awarded to a student pursuing a career in hospitality.

This one’s sponsored by National Business College, The Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center, Holiday Inn-Salem, U.S. Foodservice, Ovations, Residence Inn Marriott, Courtyard By Marriot, The Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center, Roanoke Civic Center, Holiday Inn-Tanglewood, and Hunting Hills.

What Are Your Rights as a Writer? David Paxton Will Tell You Sept. 15

David Paxton

Ever wonder who owns that story you just sold to a small publication? You do. Contrary to popular belief, unless you've signed away your ownership, the story is yours to resell as often as you want, once the publication has published its "first rights."

I learned that at lunch today with Gentry Locke Rakes & Moore attorneys David Cohan and David Paxton, a couple of corporate lawyers who know writers' rights--and the rights of those big, scary publishing companies, as well.

David Paxton will share some of that knowledge Sept. 15 at Center in the Square in the Arts Council of the Blue Ridge's fifth edition of its Writers Workshops series. David's presentation will be the first by a non-writer, but it will also be as important as any verb conjugation, dangling participle or gerund you've ever known anything about because David's words can protect you from those who would prey upon you and your talent.

We asked David--and next month CPA Joe Schaban--because there's more to writing than writing and knowing the rights of writing is ... uh ... right. Forgive that. I got carried away. Anyhow, David wanted to know what you need to know and I gave him this outline:
  • Who owns my stories?
  • Do I own the story if I write it to a specific assignment?
  • Who owns my photos that go with the story?
  • Can I resell any of this?
  • What is first rights; second rights; etc.?
  • How do I protect myself from liable suits?
  • What is the publisher's responsibility for my freelance story?
  • Can a publication force me to write only for it in a specific market? What are my rights?
  • What if I don't get paid for a piece that is published? Do I have any rights?
  • What if the story I write as an assignment does not publish; must I be paid? What are my rights in this situation?
  • Do I have any rights as regards uses beyond what we initially agreed to: publication in a print edition? If it is published online, is it my right to demand additional payment?
These are some of the pressing questions writers have about their legal rights and David will answer most or all of them. This class may not be as entertaining as some of the others, but it's one you won't want to miss if you sell your words.

The Program
David Paxton, Gentry Locke Rakes & Moore attorney
Your Rights as a Freelance Writer
Sept. 15
7-8 p.m.
Presented by The Arts Council of the Blue Ridge
2nd Floor Galleries Center in the Square Roanoke, VA

Admission: FREE

For more information or to register for these free workshops please contact:

Rhonda Hale
or 540.224.1205

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Alfred Dowe Is Slowly Coming Back

Alfred Dowe is slowly climbing out of the pit, the disgrace that he has worn like a heavy coat for months since he left Roanoke City Council a thief.

Dow was caught heavily padding his expense account and ultimately resigned when the heat became intense. He was not prosecuted for a felony (though he was held accountable for misdemeanors), but the payback has been severe. Dowe had been a successful banker, an NBA role model for minor league players who played for the Roanoke Dazzle and a popular member of Roanoke City Council.

But that all went away suddenly.

Today, though, Dowe--a man with considerable energy, a large smile, a backslap for anybody who passes--remains a popular figure. At William Fleming High School's graduation today, he was constantly surrounded by well-wishers, few of whom avoided Dowe's troubles, virtually all of whom said they had offered a prayer or two for him. For that, and for the outpouring of support he has received for many months, Dowe is grateful.

"Some days are harder than others," he says. "Every day, I think of another person I hurt or affected in some negative way, somebody I disappointed. It's day by day, but the community helps. The people continually offer support.

"I remain positive; I've never lost that. I'm the same guy I was, but a different man. You know that there was a reason I was popular, that I could build consensus, that people listened to me and, frankly, I'm still a decent guy.

"Life offers its lessons as a present to us. It all comes down to how we get up and define ourselves."

These days Dowe, who appears to have bulked up a bit in recent months, is defining himself by contributing work to people who toil for ESPN and the NBA. He's been as a basketball talent scout for years. He says he is also an independent contractor, "contributing at Owens/Corning as a design consultant" for homes. It's all pretty unclear, but when you're in Alfred Dowe's shoes these days, that's what you're dealing with.

(Note: Eleanor S. DeVane, associate general counsel for ESPN, writes: ""Please be advised that a quick search of our electronic records failed to produce any confirmation that Mr. Alfred Dowe is working for ESPN in any capacity." I mentioned to her that a volunteer would likely not be listed as an employee in HR records.)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Whole Grains and the Writers Group

Your correspondent, in his Tennessee orange (lovely, delicate, tasteful) shirt, addressed the Penn Women of the Roanoke Valley today at Mama Mia's in Salem. The topic was the future of the publishing industry and the question-answer portion was informed, intelligent and lively. Good bunch of accomplished women.

The buffet? Pedestrian and like so many restaurants had absolutely no concession to those of us whose old fart diets obviate things like heavy cheese and white flour pasta. The Italian restaurants need to take a page from the book so beautifully written by Olive Garden on how to treat Baby Boomers. Whole grains, baby, and the Italian world opens to us.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

It's the Icing on the Cake

Daniel Moorman, the six-year-old son of Gail Terry, head of the data processing department at Lewis-Gale Clinic in Salem, found his opportunity at the cupcake table when nobody was looking this afternoon and went to town sampling the icing on several of the treats. Daniel was part of the gathering celebrating the health care organization's 100th anniversary.