Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Does Survey Signal Change at Grandin Theatre?

Those of you wondering if the Grandin Theatre's board of directors would ever make good on its promise to poll members of the community about its future in the wake of a firing scandal that rocked it to its foundations a few months ago can rest a little easier. My wife and I each received a survey today--as former members of the board of directors--that Vice President and Strategic Planning Committee Chairman Tony Stavola says will be used to help shape the theater's future.

"We are entering a time of major change both in the economy and the arts and cultural life of our community," the letter reads. "The current Board is undertaking a strategic planning process to help maintain and build on the past success of the Grandin Theatre and position it to be able to meet the challenges of the future.

"One very important piece of that process is obtaining input from those such as yourself who have given so much to help keep the Grandin alive. Enclosed you will find a brief survey that will allow you to provide your own insights and thoughts to help shape that strategic plan."

Two questions remain: who got the questionnaire and how will it be used?

We'll have to wait on those answers, but Tony Stavola told me a couple of months ago that change was coming. This is a pretty strong indication that he was serious.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cuccinelli: Wrong Side Again

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has kept his streak going by announcing he is on the side of the jack-booted thugs in the rape of the James Madison University Breeze newsroom last week.

The streak involves being on the wrong side of issues. His record is perfect and we haven't even had a major abortion question come up yet. Last week, Cuccinelli told a country club crowd that he was on the side of the Harrisonburg commonwealth's attorney who stormed the offices of the James Madison University school paper and took a number of photo files. The commonwealth's attorney insists she has the right to ignore the First Amendment to the Constitution and Cuccinelli agrees with her accounting of it.

The photos she sought were of a riot that the college paper covered. The paper's editor, Katie Thisdale of Roanoke, stood up to the police state tactics (which seem to be popular these days, considering Arizona's new immigration law). Most journalism organizations and newspaper editorial writers are on the side of the students in this one. "Outrage" is a word many use.

Here is a report on Cuccinelli's stance in the JMU paper, the Breeze. It is far more even-handed and mature than the position of the dope in the AG's office.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

An Accounting of Obama's Hopey-Changey Successes

Our brothers and sisters on the right ask us daily "how's that hopey-changey thing working for ya?" as our good friend Sarah Palin phrased it recently.

The Daily Kos has a very good poll right here with a reply that might surprise you (even when given the fact that Kos is no friend of the Lovely Miss Sarah's.

Here's some of what O'Bama's done (based on several Web sources):
  • Passed healthcare reform (less than what I wanted, hell of a lot more than we had)
  • Passed tax cuts for 95 percent of Americans
  • Agreed with Russia to dismantle some (though not all) nuclear weapons
  • Authorized health insurance coverage for all children (SCHIP)
  • Saved stock market from collapse
  • Ended a travel ban on people with AIDS
  • Put a halt to the summary dismissal of gays in the military who are honest about their sexual preference (and strengthened the military in the process)
  • Stopped prosecuting those who dispense medicinal marijuana in California and abiding by state law
  • Passed mortgage fraud protections
  • Ended Bush's stem cell ban
  • Passed student aid reform and used the savings to increase financial aid
  • Started talking to some of our enemies (and even some of our friends who hated Bush)
  • Elevated our standing with other countries from what must have been a 100-year low
  • Passed a clear and understandable bill that reforms banks' credit card abuses and predatory practices
  • Stopped the bleeding on job losses and is actually seeing some gains
  • Started getting troops out of Iraq; began a concentration on Afghanistan (where it should have been in the first place); and began preparing Guantanamo Bay prison camp for closing
  • Saved the American automobile industry from collapse (look at GM!)
  • Saved the banks (though he needs to line up some executives and flog them in public; that may be next)
  • Approved new, lower automobile mileage standards
  • Put an emphasis on a green economy that could be huge in the future
That's in a little more than 18 months. Hopey-changey? I'd say.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Charities Work for the Betterment of Roanoke

This is one of three Habit for Humanity houses undergoing renovation today on Salem Avenue in Roanoke.^

Doubleclick on photos to enlarge them.)

Greeley Wyatt of the Habitat Builders Club eyes his drill.^

Here's Greeley again, preparing a beam for the house.^

Sign on the front porch tells everybody what's going on.^

Paul Glassbrenner, Greeley Wyatt and Frank Lemanski work on the Salem Avenue property.^

The Building Together house just up the street on Salem Avenue.^

These workers from Roanoke City's Code Enforcement Department build and clean this house.^

Two different charity projects were in high profile along Salem Avenue in Roanoke today: three Habitat for Humanity renovations and one Building Together project just up the street.

One of the Habitat houses was being worked on by a group of retirees who have formed a group to do just that, while employees of Roanoke City put their sweat into the fourth house for a family that could not afford to pay for the work.

Scenes from the First Blue Ridge Marathon

The finish line presented an impressive scene.^

(To enlarge photos, doubleclick on them.)

My old buddie Gordie Zeigler crosses the finish line in an impressive time.^

A five man-woman team crosses the finish line ...^

... and indulges in a lot of high-fives.^

Journalist Brian Kelley crosses in 4:27:46.^

Medal-clad marathon finishers pose for photos (groupies? Naaaaaah).^

Beth Deel patrolled the downtown race route in an electric car.^

Bruce Bryan and Stephanie Koehler (background acting goofy) worked with John Carlin to make certain everybody who finished had his name announced.^

Daniel Barchi of Carilion Biomedical Institute approaches the finish line ...^

...crosses the finish line ...^

... and collapses into conversation with his wife.^

I hadn't intended to photograph the Blue Ridge Marathon today, but I wound up downtown just as runners started coming into the finish area and danged if I didn't get caught up in the excitement. Just happened to have my trusty Nikon with me and, ignoring the possibility of getting a ticket in a 30-minute parking zone, I stood and waited for my pal Rex Bowman to show up (see next post).

Meanwhile, quite a bit was going on and it was fun being there. Here's some of what I saw. (I did not take a photo of the tall bearded guy who handed me a printed sheet declaring his interest in peace. He got mad at me when I said, "I believe in peace, but if I take this from you it'll wind up in the landfill and I'll be polluting." He said, "Can you just read it." I said, "I don't have time." I thought he was going to deck me.)

Rex Bowman at the Finish Line in Roanoke Marathon

Rex Bowman finishes in 4:33:41 (that's hours).^

Rex approaches the finish line to thunderous applause from the throngs.^

Rex gets an assist from a race volunteer (take note of this Jenny).^

Rex and his newspaper colleague Brian Kelley congratulate each other after their finish. Brian, who is an editor, beat Rex. Rex swears he slowed down to let that happen*.^

My good pal Rex Bowman was among the hundreds who finished Roanoke's killer (up Mill and Roanoke Mountains) Blue Ridge Marathon today in a respectable four and a half hours. Rex was one of a group of participants from the local daily newspaper who took part.

Said Rex, "That damn race nearly killed me ... Thank god I don't have to do that again."

Now, maybe I can get his sorry ass out to a ball game. Marathoning is obsessive-compulsive behavior and a little baseball break might lead to better mental health.

(* Joke. Heh, heh, heh ...)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Roanoke City Soccer Contest a Kick for Cancer

(Note: Doubleclick the photos and they will enlarge, some considerably.)
A nice crowd showed up on a bright afternoon for Kick for a Cure at Patrick Henry High School stadium where PH and William Fleming played girls soccer.^

Crowd members wore lots of pink in honor of breast cancer's potential cure.^

PH Coach Carrie O'Keeffe with her daughter Caroline on the bench.^

That's my buddy Annie Johnson (reporter for the Blue Ridge Business Journal), who is an assistant for Carrie at PH.^

Caroline swipes a piece of pizza from her uncle Landon (Fleming boys' coach).^

Patrick Henry's Tessa Swanson prepares to king a long one. A Fleming player (left) was hurt on this play. Sorry, but I don't have a Fleming roster to ID her.^

Fleming's very large goalie (red) faces down Tricia Jessee.^

Patrick Henry's only senior, Emily Davis, passes. She is a truly nimble dribbler and passer. Emily can play.^

Tricia Jessee dribbles by a Fleming player.^

Cathy Ren plans belly bump.^

Tricia Jessee and a Fleming player contest a ball.^

PH's Emily Leivy (7) and Emily Cilek in the middle .^

Emily Leivy in close contact.

Patrick Henry and William Fleming High Schools, Roanoke's two plublic high schools, played a soccer game for the benefit of breast cancer yesterday at Patrick Henry and quite a crowd turned out, dressed in supportive pink. Here's some of what went on.

Virginia House Saves Public Broadcasting Funding

The Virginia House of Delegates, in a rare and responsible vote that serves the public interest, overcame Gov. Bob McDonnell's efforts to eliminate funding for public broadcasting in the Commonwealth yesterday. The vote came during the one-day veto session and is reported here in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Our local daily did not have a report that I could find.

The Times-Dispatch report says, "The House’s action will leave about $1.1 million in funding for public radio and television and about $10 million for the Comprehensive Services Act." Doesn't seem like much, but public broadcasting operates on "not much."

(Note: It is my understanding that Del. Morgan Griffith, with whom I have never agreed on anything to my knowledge, is a supporter of public radio. My guess is that, if the rumor is true, he has significant responsibility for blocking the governor's efforts. If so, I say, "Thank you, sir.")

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tea Party Specifics: You Gotta Love These People

OK, here it is, laid out in terms you can understand:

Obama plans to ban fishing. Says so right here.

These deeply thoughtful people tell you in great deal exactly what they fear from those bad people in the White House. Revealing. Somebody call Faux News right now!

Downtown Living: Get Your Tickets Right Here

A wall at Wilson Hughes that you just have to see.^

The Davidsons' foyer. Wanna see more? See me.^

OK, admit it: you're nosey. You want to know how people live, what their digs look like, what kind of stuff they have, what the bathroom smells like, whether cat hair gets on their things.

Now's your chance to see what it’s like in downtown Roanoke in some of the newest and most modern apartments and businesses during this year’s Downtown Living Tour Saturday, May 15 10-5 p.m. and Sunday, May 16 from 1-5 p.m. And you can buy tickets from me for the special introductory, blue plate special price of $15 right now or $20 if you put it off too long. Just e-mail me ( and I'll get a ticket to you--in person if necessary.

I swore I'd never do this ticket-selling business, but I believe in the sponsoring Arts Council of the Blue Ridge so much that I joined its board recently and this is a major fundraiser at a time when money is tight and homes are still just as much fun to visit. Think of it: $15 and you get to soak up other people's lifestyles for a day or so.

This year’s tour features nine locations, one art show (Tables, Lamps & Chairs--And Other Sculptural, Functional and Fine Art for Contemporary Living), discounts to area merchants and free transportation thanks to Commonwealth Coach and Trolley Museum.

This year’s properties include:
  • Cotton Mill Lofts (home to Rodney Overstreet),
  • HL Lawson Building (home to Brandon Kirk),
  • Wilson Hughes Gallery (home to artists John Wilson and Suzun Hughes),
  • 414 C South Jefferson Street (home to Janice and Larry Davidson),
  • 118 Campbell Ave SW (home to Cindy and Keith Hummer),
  • 16West Kirk Ave (home to Joe Pritchard and fiancĂ© Heather Nichols,
  • 303 Market Street (home/office for Kevin Devine and Devine Building Services).
Ticket holders will receive discounts at participating merchants. If you don't want to buy tickets from moi, you can buy yours at the Roanoke Civic Center, Jefferson Center (my office is just down from the ticket booth) and The Arts Council of the Blue Ridge. (But I know you and you want to buy them from me. Don't dare buy them from anybody else.)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Governor Takes Aim at PBS, Public Radio

It appears that Governor Bob McDonnell, a wolf in sheep's clothing if ever there was one, has now turned his gun sights on Public Radio and Public Television in an effort to end state funding to them within four years. A story to that effect is here in the Lynchburg News & Advance.

The far, far right in Virginia--of which this graduate of Pat Robertson's Regent University is a key member--has been after what it considers these "liberal" icons for many years and it just may be able to nail them under a governor who shares their hatred of public broadcasting (and loves the 700 Club).

Here's a warning note from Steven Greico of Blue Ridge Public Television in Roanoke:

Public broadcasting officials in Virginia are expressing deep concern over Governor Bob McDonnell’s proposed budget amendments to phase out all state funding for public television and radio over the next four years, beginning July 1, 2010.

“It is important to note that these reductions would be on top of the 15 percent cut already imposed in the budget bill recently passed by the Virginia General Assembly,” said James Baum, president and CEO of Blue Ridge PBS. “In fact, since 2000 the state’s funding for public broadcasting in Virginia has been reduced by over 40 percent. While Blue Ridge PBS has maintained services to our audiences during the period, the proposed cuts we now face are of a different magnitude.”

In the coming two-year budget cycle, Virginia public television stations would lose over $2.2 million in state funding that provides on-air and on-line instructional programming, as requested and used by teachers in the classroom all over the Commonwealth. All funding would be terminated in the subsequent two years.

The governor’s amendments would also implement a four-year phase-out of all state funding to support public broadcasting’s programming in the arts, cultural matters and public affairs. Statewide, the reduced funding in this category totals $592,835 beginning in 2011, with total elimination scheduled over the following two years.

The Virginia General Assembly will vote on the governor’s amendments during the scheduled re-convene session on Wednesday, April 21.

Spectacular New Benches in Old Southwest Roanoke

My good friend Anna Wentworth, who lives in the neighborhood, gives the following report on the spectacular new benches in Highland Park, Old Southwest Roanoke:

"These are the original sculptural benches installed this morning around the fountain in Old Southwest. The artist (Don Lawler) did them for a good price. I was amazed he could do them for the money we had available and the funding was from the One Percent for Art (and $1,000 from Old Southwest Inc.). They are museum quality, made from Indiana limestone and really classy. I hope OSW residents appreciate them."

One Final Hall of Fame Dealie

White people stare at camera and accept stuff: That's Bonnie and Bob Lee (left), Mayor David Bowers holding the proclamation and Christina and me in the middle.

Interesting little Proclamation ceremony at City Council's afternoon meeting today, where Bob Lee, late of WDBJ7 and I showed up to accept the notice of the city for being named to the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame.

My wife works in the City Manager's office, so I asked if she'd show up and take a picture or two and she did just that, only to have Councilman Rupert Cutler insist she needed to be in the photo and promptly take over the camera.

Mayor David Bowers was, of course, in his element, doing the part of his job he does best: the ceremonial stuff (and I'm not sure we've ever had a mayor who enjoys it more or does it better than David, frankly).

The Proclamation declares April 1, 2010 as Bob Lee and Dan Smith Day and Bob and I agreed I get the morning and he has the afternoon and evening. Seems fair to me.

My pal Joe Dashiel of WDBJ7 News was there to chat with Bob and me afterwards (news clip is here) and David says the entire session will be broadcast on Public Access Channel 3 Thursday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 4 p.m.

And now, I think maybe all the celebrating about the Hall of Fame is over and we can get back to work. Thanks, everybody. Very nice.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Is 'Greenberg' the Worst Movie EVER?

In "Greenburg," Ben Stiller plays a wastrill who is ill-tempered, mean-spirited, juvenile, self-absorbed and self-centered, guileless, insensitive, incurious, arrogant and, well, not much of a role model. I don't really blame Stiller for doing everything that's asked of him in what may be the most significant waste of time of any activity I've been involved in this year--and I hope it stays at this level because I'd hate to see what's below it.

Let's put the blame where it belongs: writer-director Noah Baumbach, who gives us a character we can all loathe: a useless man who relishes his role, who basks in carelessly and thoughtlessly hurting other people, who blames every shortcoming in his life on something other than himself, who lectures and writes letters to the editor without ever turning in a good minute of a useful life.

Why a movie like this is even seen by the public (I was drugged and dragged by my wife, who admitted to having made a serious mistake afterwards) is puzzling to me unless, as Christina says, "I was expecting something else" because the trailer hinted at a sensitive, lost little man searching for a breast to snuggle. Chick flick, maybe.

It ain't a chick flick or a dude flick or even a passable flick. Don't see it. Take my word for it: you can watch reruns of the "700 Club" right after 9/11 and come out better.

Maddy and Pampa: Still Pals

Madeline's grandmother shot this photo this morning and it is quickly becoming my favorite of the two of us.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Earth Day in Granolaville

Roanoke Mayor David Bowers (black vest in the center) managed to find a crowd at Grandin Gardens and made a speech, handing out a proclamation in the process.^

Wendy Schuyler shows how an expert twirls a hoola hoop.^

Suzan Tyler Decker reads from her book, 'Johnny Green and the Little Green Man'.^

Suzan signs her book for my granddaughter.^

Camille Moorfield does some intense earthworm research.^

My buddy Rosalie Kell (left) discusses the benefits of earthworms to Camille and her pal.^

I don't know if the boys at the Taxaco station thought about it, but the electric cars on their lot could mean bye-bye to their way of life.^

My wife, Christina Koomen (left), and Jennifer Bowman of Cox talk about Cox's e-recycling event.^

Tumbling is a marvelous way to keep the knee-biters occupied.^

Erin Hunter sings and Monica Vilhauer plays violin to entertain Earth Day revelers. ^

If Earth Day has a ground zero in the Roanoke Valley, it is the combination of Grandin Gardens and the Roanoke Natural Foods Cooperative in Grandin Village. For most of today it was a beehive of activity for granola-eating, latte-sipping lefties, celebrating like happy pagans.

If the right has its Tea Parties, the left has Earth Day and the atmosphere was positively festive for the entire day. Here is some of what it looked like (and I was there because my peeps were there).