Thursday, July 22, 2010

'Second Runway': Fashion Sense the Goodwill Way

OK, boys and girls, the event of the social season is upon us and one of the stars is your favorite editor. Goodwill Industries of the Valleys’ Second Runway is scheduled on Thursday, August 12th, 6-9 p.m. at the Jefferson Center's Shaftman Performance.

This is a fashion show—with guess who as a model—that features clothing from Goodwill, all of which can be purchased after the showing. Tickets in advance are $40 each or two for $75. Tickets at the door are $45.

The ticket includes the high energy Runway Show, featuring models from around the Valley, as well as a social with drinks and hors d'oeuvres; a chance to bid on silent auction items; a shopping spree with local vendors and an onsite Goodwill Boutique.

Second Runway highlights the high quality, low cost fashions that are recycled by Goodwill stores. Your favorite editor strongly endorses both the quality and cost of Goodwill’s items—but it’s the quality I appreciate most. The name brands, light ware and expected life of these clothes is exemplary. I was actually going to wear some of my own for the show until I was told I’d have to give them up for sale if I did. No deal, babies. I love these duds.

The runway show will feature various scenarios, one of which will be a wedding rehearsal dinner in which Donna Dilley, who writes an etiquette column for Valley Business FRONT, and I will appear as the mother and father of the bride. Another FRONT columnist, Kathy Surace, who writes about business fashion, is intensely involved in selecting clothing and in generally advising on good taste--which she has plenty of.

Most important—and let’s doing forget the mission of Goodwill Industries—is the second chance that people receive through Goodwill's training and employment programs, which the stores and donations support.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Lesson Worth the Expense

Eric Clapton: No Roanoke appearance.^

It is not my habit, nor is it my goal to come to the defense of the local daily newspaper over its shortcomings, but a column from Managing Editor Michael Stowe this a.m. (here) explains how and why a blog post became an embarrassment. Frankly, I think Michael might be a smidge overwrought over an incorrect report--posted online briefly before being corrected--that Eric Clapton was to perform in Roanoke.

Reports of sightings and landings of celebrities are laughably common in the entertainment business (Willie Nelson at the Coffee Pot, George Jones at the Golden Horseshoe, Elton John at the Little Chef) and they are part of the fun of projecting, speculating and, well, entertaining. The news business sometimes takes itself a little too seriously and I think this is a case of it.

Apparently, according to Michael's column, music reporter Tad Dickens, was told by an insider, who would know these things, that Slow Hand had checked into a local hotel. The insider was joking. Dickens didn't tell him the joke was going public. That's one misunderstanding, one mistake, one bad post, one embarrassment. But get over it. Nobody was hurt (and, frankly, I don't even think credibility was damaged, since the post was removed and Dickens quickly threw up a mea culpa). Dickens learned something valuable. The source learned something. Michael learned something.

I'd say the paper got a pretty good deal with little cost.

Lessons are expensive (ask anybody with a school loan), but if they're learned, they're worth the expense.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Study: Fat Women Are ... Uh ... Stupid

Fat people come in all kinds of fruit shapes, including apples and pears (above).^

OK, before you start throwing the furniture at me just remember this: I didn't do the study; I'm just telling you about it.

Anyhow, The Women's Health Initiative hormone trials have come to a striking conclusion: fat women have worse brain and memory function than women who are not fat. Pear-shaped women--where the fat is in the hips--fare worst of all.

Since this was a study about women and hormones, there was no word on the intellectual level of fat men, but one would assume ...

In a report in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society, researchers say, "Overall, obesity appears to be directly associated with cognitive function in postmenopausal older women." A report in the Montreal Gazette says the study "involved 8,745 post-menopausal women, ages 65 to 79."

Dr. Diana Kerwin of Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine says, "We had always thought that low body weight was associated with dementia and Alzheimer's disease," but the study showed otherwise."

For the women in the study "function scores decreased with increasing [body mass index] categories." Kerwin is quoted as saying, "The one thing about body shape is that you can't really control where the body carries it weight. That's a genetic, inherited process. But the one thing you can control is your overall body weight — what is your body mass index, how close are you to being a normal range, and looking at that as a way to maintain brain health and cognition."


The New Fence at PH: Keeping Out the Babies

My friend Kurt and I were walking over at Murray Run the other morning and noticed that posts have been put into the ground for a fence around the Patrick Henry High School. I, of course, immediately went off on school officials who would take yet another resource away from the public. "Jerks," said I. "Who the hell owns that track? We do. And the school people keep taking tracks and fields and gyms and padlocking them from public use. It's freakin' crazy.

Seems I jumped the fun. Here's what Kurt found out:

"I spoke with [athletic director] at PHHS--evidently they are having problems keeping strollers off the track, among other things, [and they] damage the new surface, recently put on the track. So, in an attempt to keep that from happening, they are putting up a fence with access possible via passage ways that zig-zag in and which make getting a stroller in difficult/impossible.

"She didn't know for sure what they were doing down at the Blenheim Rd. entrance, but on a subsequent visit, [I noticed] a path leading to the Greenway is situated outside the fencing."

PH architect Richard Rife of Rife + Wood further explains, "The fence is primarily to keep bicycles and other wheeled vehicles off the track. Kids doing wheelies on their bikes peels up the rubber survacing on the track. The track upgrades cost over $150,000. Just trying to protect your investment. Citizens will still be able to get on the track and walk their laps. There was no intent to keep strollers off, but the turnstile required tokeep bikes out unfortunately excludes strollers."

Thanks, PH. Anything that keeps those damn babies and their strollers out of my way has my vote. Now, let's talk about the dogs that poop on the Greenway ...


Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Nice Haul from Happy's: Cameras to Cantaloupes

The $3 cantaloupe from Happy's.^

Kodak Autographic Brownie from 1914-1934 (big gap, but it's the best I can do).^

1985 Nikon L35, the first Nikon AF compact.^

Big haul at Happy's this a.m. Picked up a cantaloupe for $3 that is bigger than my head ("Don't eat anything bigger than your head" is the dieter's credo) and two interesting cameras for my collection.

The camera collection is mostly popular models, not much that's exotic. When people see the collection, they often go to one camera and say something like, "My grandmother had that same camera and took pictures of me when I was 5!" Kind of a People's Collection.

The Nikon above is the L35 from 1985, the first Nikon auto focus compact camera. Nikon was behind Canon for many years with the AF cameras, then with the digitals (its early models were simply awful). A bargain at $4.

The Kodak Autographic Brownie was manufactured sometime between 1914 and 1934 (my guess would be the bottom end of that) and cost $50.50 new--a pretty good pot of money at the time. Condition is a problem with this one and it's probably not worth the $5 I paid, but I like the camera, so it's not a loss.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

'Feedback Loop': Once More to the Edge at Studio Roanoke

Writer Adam Hahn's second play this season for Studio Roanoke, "Feedback Loop," is a bit more high concept than plays well to my ear, but it is a superbly written and performed one-man effort (Don Gallo) that has been playing to nice sized crowds.

"Feedback" is the monologue-told tale of a man who is traveling back in time to try to save the life of his girlfriend. He does it over the course of 10 years, time after time watching the same girlfriend die, but each time in a different way as he watches himself become a different, parallel person each time.

It's a little hard to follow the linear logic for a while (each time you travel back, you become a different person and the other person/people don't die; they're still around), but once the hook is in "Groundhog Day" is on and the story takes form. Greg Machlin's direction is simple and pulls the story to its finish, if not its conclusion. I found myself drifting at points, but most of those in attendance, who have less attention deficit problems than I, seemed to hang on every word. And in slightly more than an hour of sustained dialogue, there are a lot of words to hang on.

As I've said before, I don't go to Studio Roanoke to see "Camelot," I go to see theater, raw, creative, developing, courageous, edgy, in your face theater and if "Feedback Loop" ain't theater, then it doesn't exist.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A New Meaning for an Old Name: NPR

NPR, BP, KFC, TNN, CNN, ESPN, NASCAR all have something in common. They're the name you know, not the name on the articles of incorporation. And now, with NPR, like most of the others, it'll be official, setting off what some believe is the public radio giant's headlong spring toward being all digital all the time.

This report on the Upshot tonight tells us that NPR wants to de-emphasize its radio past (to the chagrin of its radio affiliates for "a more modern, more streamlined" sound, like maybe the Internet. But care must be taken here since the affiliates contribute 40 percent of the $154 million operating budget.

(Gorgeous bakelite radio from

A Good Interview at 101.5 Radio

Bruce Bryan and your favorite editor ready to go on air at 101.5.

Bruce Bryan and I sat down for 30 minutes this afternoon to record Roanoke Valley Conversations, which will air on 101.5 FM, WVMP (call letters you almost never hear). It is right here.

It was actually a lively session and I found Bruce to be an engaging and engaged interviewer whose level of enthusiasm is catching. We enjoyed it. Tune in. You might, too.

By the way, while I was in the studio I did a promo ("101 point 5, the music place" is all it says), something I would have a lot of trouble doing for anybody else because nobody else plays music I listen to. Haven't for a number of years.

Occasionally, public radio plays some nice jazz, but that's rare (when it's played and when it's interesting), but mostly radio is bottled and canned bullshit. Radio play-lists are embarrassing. 101.5 plays music that we don't hear anywhere else locally (and most of it doesn't get played anywhere nationally, either) and it's good stuff, completely devoid of a strict demographic, which drives programmers up a tree.

Cox Communications: Best Service Company? No

UPDATE: A cox service person called at 2 p.m. and cheerfully asked if I'd like them to install today (I have an appointment and can't). We're scheduled at 8 a.m. tomorrow. Amazing what a little blog post can do, especially when all that Facebook followup gets people talking about certain cable companies in ways that countermand that expensive advertising.

Cox Communications in Roanoke, which has provided internet service for me personally and for our business, Valley Business FRONT magazine, since its inception nearly two years ago, has been advertising its quality service. In last year's "Best of ..." issue, FRONT named Cox the best service company in the region.

Something has changed.

We have moved our offices into the heart of downtown Roanoke (as of July 1) and we still don't have internet service. We notified Cox in mid-June that we were moving. We were told it didn't do conversations the last week of the month. But this is July 8. Eight days into the month and I still can't work out of the office.

Best service company in the region? In the past, yes. Right now, no. Not close. We'll keep you informed about just how long this conversion takes. Should be an interesting case study. If it goes much longer, we're going to call Verizon.

A Little Break To Write a Novel

This may be the first time I've had a five-day span without a blog post since I started posting in October of 2008. It's not a matter of being neglectful and it is certainly not a matter of not having anything to say.

For the past eight days or so, I've been writing that novel I have been talking about for 18 months and if word output is any indication, the book is ready to be born. I have written 28,000 words in that time, writing a scene here, a chapter there, as time made itself available around my day job.

It is, from my perspective, a good story. My high school in a tiny town in the far western mountains of North Carolina had one of the nation's best square dance teams for many years (the school no longer exists, but the consolidated high school in Avery County is still a square dance powerhouse; the photo above is the 1960 team). It won two national championships, eight state titles and retired the Mountain Youth Jamboree's Old Smokey trophy, a big deal in this sport. (Here is a piece I did on the real team for Blue Ridge Country magazine in January.)

Square dance is a cultural and heritage issue in North Carolina and my book is based around an outside threat to this heritage. It is set during what would have been my senior year in high school and is an entertaining yarn, I think.

So, for a while longer, blog posts will not likely be as frequent as they have been. For some of you, I suspect, that's good news.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Leave Wonder Woman the Hell Alone!

You pick: Lynda Carter (left) or Miss 2000s All-Business Wonder Woman

There are some things that just shouldn't be messed with and Wonder Woman's costume is one of them. On Lynda Carter, the blue star-studded short-shorts, the red and gold bustier and the little princess crown created (along with Ms. Carter's amplitude and tiny waist) a wet dream for every adolescent American boy of the age.

Now, she's wearing black pants and looking all 2000s, a Type-A professional woman with the sex appeal of an open laptop case. It's not so much Wonder Woman these days as it is Wonder, Woman? We're confusing roles here. Wonder Woman is a sex symbol, one with power and authority to be sure, but pure sex when Lynda Carter pulls (pulled, since she's probably near 70 now) on the shorts.

Writer Michael Straczynski explains it this way on Huffington Post, "She's been locked into pretty much the exact same outfit since her debut in 1941. If you're going to make a statement about bringing Wonder Woman into the 21st century, you need to be bold and you need to make it visual. I wanted to toughen her up, and give her a modern sensibility." Why, Michael, does Wonder Woman need to be brought into the 21st century? A poll says 56 percent of those responding don't like the change. Bet they're all men.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Lardass America: We're Getting Fatter

Mmmmmmm, burger. Mmmmmmm, lardass.^

I probably don't need to tell you this, but it looks like were getting fatter--and fatter and fatter--as a country. A lardass map on Healthy Americans says the prevailing flab quotient in the U.S. is about a 30 percent obesity rate. In 1991, no state surpassed 20 percent of its population in the obese zone. In the past year alone, obesity increased in 28 states and decreased only in D.C. There are 38 states with rates over 25 percent.

The heaviest of the heavyweight states are all biscuits and gravy-loving deep Southerners: Oklahoma, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas where the rate is over 30 percent (they're not measuring incrementally after 30 because that's just disgusting, I'd guess). Virginia is in the 20-30 percent range with the rest of the South and most of the nation. Mississippi has a six-year run as the fattest state (33.8 percent).

The report bears out that poor people are fatter than rich people (good food is expensive) and that African Americans and Hispanics are heavier than white people. They're also poorer, as a rule.

A trio of western and a group of tiny Northeastern states are the healthiest (Colorado leading the way).

A third of kids are obese and most of their parents are in denial: more than 80 percent of parents surveyed say their little darlings are at the right weight. Want fries with that Big Mac, honey?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

An Interesting Chat With Julie Newman (Friday, 7:30, 10 p.m.)

That's me with supermodel Julie Newman (a dang good interviewer).^

Julie Newman and I sat down this morning to record Friday's second edition of "Blue Ridge Week with Julie Newman," a new public affairs program, featuring news people on WBRA-Public Television Fridays at 7:30 and 10 p.m.

You can see the entire show here. Scroll down and click on the screen.

Julie looks like a supermodel and it's easy to stereotype her, but she's one of the best interviewers I've seen in years. I'd put her in Gene Marrano's league. She did her homework today, asked simple questions, let me answer them, followed up intelligently and kept the session moving at an interesting pace.

We had a grand chat for 30 minutes and I hope you'll join us. Julie characterized it as "conversation over a cup of coffee at the kitchen table" and that's exactly what it felt like. Not easy to accomplish with a bunch of cameras staring at you, but in this case, ease was the order of the day.

This program is a worthy addition to the conversation in this part of the world. If you miss it tomorrow, you can plug into the Web site version here. Just scroll down a bit. I'm told it will be posted Friday before air time.

Happy 35th to The Roanoker Magazine

The new issue of the Roanoker magazine is on the stands and it's one of the more interesting I've seen in a while (yes, dang-it, I wrote a piece for it, but that's not why it's so good. Uh, maybe it is).

This is the 35th anniversary and editor Kurt Rheinheimer asked Roland Lazenby and me to go into the past and project into the future with lead stories and I think they turned out well. There are a number of other reminiscences in the magazine, as well, and there's the added benefit of seeing a photo of your favorite editor with no hair on his face, but plenty of hair cascading over his collar (not to mention that great tie with the ugly pigs on it).

Richard Wells, publisher of the Roanoker, and I worked at a local daily in Roanoke together 35-plus years ago when he decided to break away and become a publisher on his own. We'd come up here from Asheville's newspaper (we are both Asheville natives) and were both sportswriters. Richard got interested in skiing and opened Ski South magazine, then the Roanoker and since then a bunch of others (including the excellent Blue Ridge Country).

Congratulations on the success of these ventures and for sticking through every type of economy to remain at the top of the game.