Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Arts Council Picks Rhonda Hale as Executive Director

New Executive Director Rhonda Hale: "I think it makes sense that the Taubman would become a significant part of the team that provides these opportunities to our regional artists and community at large."

The Arts Council of the Blue Ridge has hired Rhonda Morgan Hale as its executive director, replacing Laura Rawlings (who went to Roanoke College), in a move that is seen by the board of directors as a dramatic statement of confidence and a change of direction.

It certainly had my support--as a board member--because Rhonda is just what the Arts Council needs at this point: a strong, dynamic leader with creative ideas, the work ethic of a coal miner and outstanding community connections.

Rumors have been rampant of late about the health of the Arts Council, an organization that supports area artists and writers in a number of ways, and the quick hire from inside of Rhonda Hale is an effort to put a stop to those rumors and to show that the Council has some pretty significant plans of its own for the coming months.

You might be wondering why it is important for the Arts Council to survive in a city that has a $66 million museum and all that implies. The Arts Council is the direct representative of local and regional artists on a number of issues and it helps present their work, educate them and give them the best face possible before the consuming and admiring public. Each of the arts organizations in this region has a specific purpose and the Arts Council is one of the most important of them all because of its uber-local nature.

has been with the AC for four years and has been responsible for a 60 percent growth in artist participation. As Art Services and Arts Education Director, she was primarily responsible for ArtView recently at the Roanoke Civic Center, one of the best-run and most attractive events in recent months. It featured regional artists and artists brought in from Roanoke’s Sister Cities on display and teaching for nearly two weeks.

Rhonda has been an executive director in the past in Montgomery County, has run a small business and has been a creative consultant. I've watched her work from up close and she's a dynamo: smart, decisive, resourceful, assertive and an honest-to-god coalition builder.

Says board president Phil Sparks of the unanimous selection: “Rhonda will bring new enthusiasm, energy and a strong desire to be inclusive to the member organizations, artists and to the AC. Her success will depend greatly on our willingness to roll up our sleeves and get to work supporting her efforts. The fact that we have hired Rhonda doesn't mean that the AC doesn't have financial challenges; we do and those issues must be addressed in the coming weeks and months as we work together … The fact that it has been that way for 30 years doesn't mean that it has to stay that way.”

Rhonda says, “I am enthusiastic about working with our board to develop an up-to-date strategic plan to address the current and changing needs of our artist and organizational members and arts community.

"The arts community has seen a shift in the way it operates and it’s important that we stay relevant and are meeting the needs the changing climate offers. An increased interest in partnerships and collaborations is key to showing responsibility with the limited monies and resources that are available which makes our role in convening and facilitating meetings with artists and community groups to discuss topical issues and challenges increasingly important.

"Equally important is the need for the Arts Council to become an even stronger advocate for the arts in our region through increased presence and participation in legislation. Working with other organizations (arts, cultural and educational) and artists of all disciplines is the most important task of the Arts Council… Supporting the work they do is at the heart of all we do because of its direct impact on our community (our children, cultural wealth and our economy).

"My approach to the Taubman [Museum of Art, which recently promised cooperation with other arts groups, rather than working against them] will be one of ‘how can we better serve you?’through collaborations, partnerships, advocacy, etc. ArtView opened doors with several of our Sister Cities for artist/arts exchanges. I think it makes sense that the Taubman would become a significant part of the team that provides these opportunities to our regional artists and community at large. The rich cultural experiences that will be gained through these interactions are immense."

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Bushies on Parade: Good Look at a Sleazy Bunch

When Joe Wilson put his career, his family and his life on the line to defend America against the Bush Administration, our immediate thanks to him was to turn him over to Fox News like a sacrificial goat. Ultimately though, because of a combination of circumstances, forces and ultimate truth, Wilson and we won.

You can see how in the riveting "Fair Fame" playing at the Grandin Theatre in Roanoke. The movie version of this American tragedy stars Sean Penn as Joe Wilson and Naomi Watts as Valerie Plame Wilson, the CIA spook (that would be "covert agent" in spy speak) and they are each superb and forcefully believeable. Penn plays Wilson, the smart, debonair international expert as a ballsy and brilliant man who knows how to play the game of get even up to a point and Watts nails Plane as the uber professional who only wanted to do her job.

You will remember that several officials high in the Bush Administration--which may or may not have included Dick Chaney and Karl Rove (they weren't indicted, though many believe they should have been) blew Valerie Wilson's cover in order to get even with Wilson for writing a letter that called George Bush a lair for some of the details about Iraq and nuclear weapons he presented as he prepared to takes us to war. Wilson had been sent to Africa by the CIA to determine if nuclear materials were being manufactured and shipped to Iraq. He found that wasn't the case. Bush, later, said it was the case, blatantly lying.

The Bushies are oily, sleezy and crooked as an antique camera bellows--which is just exactly how many of us see them in real life.

The movie is the intense and personal look at the Wilsons and how they fought the most powerful men in the world over a simple concept: truth. They had it. The Bushies didn't.

And this is a wonderful example of just why so many fear that wing of American politics.

A Time for Family (Ours)

Evan (from left), Madeline, Jenniffer and me out on the deck yesterday.^

I'll tell you, there's nothing like family. My kids got together at my house for the first time in years for the holiday and they got to know each other again. I think they liked what they found and I saw it in their faces. That just thrills me.

Madeline met her Aunt Jenniffer for the first time and their bond was immediate and when Jennie hugged her brother Evan last night, I had to wipe a tear away. Time and holidays have a way of doing that to us, I suspect.

Hope yours was just as good.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Surviving Thanksgiving's Killing Gluttony: An Alternative

This idealized meal is actually pretty bad for your lifespan.^

On a day when the violation of the Biblical entreaty to do all things in moderation and to, by all means, avoid gluttony is in, well, Biblical proportion, a voice of sanity cries in the wilderness. Dr. Joel Fuhrman, in this piece on the Huffington Post today, tells us we are killing ourselves with food and that there is a simple remedy to our length and quality of life: eat better foods that are not processed. I'll throw in locally grown and organic, but I'm not sure that is nearly as important as the simple basics of staying away from the middle aisles at the grocery store, white food or almost any restaurant.

Here are Dr. Fuhrman's simple guidelines to being healthier, thinner and more vibrant:
  • Green vegetables contain potent anti-cancer compounds called isothiocyanates, and are the most nutrient-dense of all foods. (Eat your green beans, your salad and your broccoli, children, whether you like it or not.)
  • The onion family contains cancer-protective organosulfur compounds and consuming mushrooms regularly decreases the risk of breast cancer.(Don't give me that bad breath crap, either. Better to smell bad alive than to stink dead.)
  • Fruits, especially berries and pomegranate. Berries are full of antioxidants and are linked to reduced risk of diabetes, cancers and cognitive decline. Pomegranate has multiple cardiovascular health benefits, for example reducing LDL cholesterol and blood pressure, and accelerating atherosclerotic plaque regression.(OK, I don't know how the hell to eat a pomegranet, either, but maybe we can learn together.)
  • Beans are a nutrient-dense weight-loss food--they stabilize blood sugar, promoting satiety and preventing food cravings. Regular bean consumption helps to reduce cholesterol and is associated with decreased cancer risk. (Beans, beans good for the heart; the more you eat, the more you ... uh ... want.)
  • Nuts contain a spectrum of beneficial nutrients including healthy fats, LDL-lowering phytosterols, circulation-promoting arginine, minerals and antioxidants; they have significant cardiovascular benefits and promote weight control. Seeds are abundant in trace minerals, and each kind is nutritionally unique. Flaxseeds provide abundant omega-3s, pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc and iron, and sesame seeds are high in calcium and multiple vitamin E fractions. (Ah, the land of fruits and nuts and very healthy people. From what I understand, conservatives stay away from California food. And they die young.)
So what does all this say about Thanksgiving Day lunch/dinner? It says "change the menu." Somehow I don't think that will play out well for most of us. The turkey and dressing, mashed potatoes, green beans (yay, beans), cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie don't fit the above scenario very well, but as always, my guess is the diet starts tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Taubman: Bastion of Liberalism (Are You Kidding!?!)

Somebody named M.J. Smith (no relation, thank god) wrote the following missive which appeared in the letters column of the local daily newspaper this morning:

“The Taubman Museum of Art is a classic example of liberal elitists throwing huge amounts of money at any issue and then, when it inevitably fails, throwing even more money at it … I, therefore, recommend that the art museum be renamed the Liberalism Memorial, and all big government elitists, members of academia and most journalists could make an annual migration to Roanoke to worship at its doorstep. With the national attention it will receive, it then can be absorbed into our $14 trillion debt.”

The only real problem with that is that it is completely wrong. The Taubman was built by and for conservatives and is maintained by conservative financial support, often using state and federal dollars that they are milking in direct opposition to their stated philosophies.

The fact is that the Taubman is the brainchild of Heywood Fralin, a long-time Republican businessman whose son William served in Virginia’s House (as a Republican) when the Taubman Museum was soliciting funds. Nicholas Taubman, for whom the museum is named (along with his wife Jenny) and who gave a reported $25 million to its construction, held an ambassadorship during the Bush Administration. Democrats didn’t get those positions. Big donors did.

Morgan Griffith of Salem, the former majority leader of the Virginia House of Delegates and a man loudly and publicly opposed to money for the arts, helped spearhead the generous support the General Assembly gave and Republican Congressman Bob Goodlatte did the same on the national level. Among the people who financially support them are Taubman board members.

Hasn’t started sounding too liberal yet, so I’m wondering where M.J. came up with his thesis. Maybe it’s the notion that Democrats are “elitists,” when the idea of “American exceptionalism” is strictly a Republican invention or maybe that Democrats are far more creative than Republicans.

Hmmm. Maybe that’s it. He mentioned academics and journalists in his little message and perhaps he assumes academics and journalists are creative and intelligent and un-American. That has to be it.

Blue Ridge Business Journal to Cease Publication This Month

The inevitable has finally happened: The Blue Ridge Business Journal will cease operations this month, according to an announcement from its owner, The Roanoke Times.

It is both a sad day for me personally and a triumph for our publication, Valley Business FRONT. I was there at the birth of the BRBJ (founded by Andrew Horn and Russ Hawkins), which became a fine business publication, one that won many awards and was what former Times Publisher Wendy Zomparelli called “a must read” for this market.

The Times bought the Journal from Jim Lindsey in 1997, but only in the last two years did it exert full influence over content. When it began to exert that influence, General Manager Tom Field and I (the editor) left and started FRONT, taking most of the advertising with us. The Journal never recovered. The Journal was folded into The Times in January of this year, moving into the main building.

Times Publisher Debbie Meade, who has seen dramatically shrinking circulation for the daily newspaper under her supervision, is quoted in The Times press release (the first I've ever received) as saying "the [Journal's] business model, [along] with the rising cost of newsprint and postal rates, has become a challenge to sustain." It is the same business model used by business journals all over the country, many of them successful. She did not mention advertising revenue, which decreased dramatically two years ago when The Times began making the decisions. The first seven months of 2008 were the best in BRBJ history, according to former GM Tom Field.

The Times’ announcement says the Journal’s final publication will be Jan. 29, 22 years--almost to the day--after the first was printed in early December of 1988. One employee position will be eliminated "through attrition," according to the press release (though the news story in the daily paper said the employee will be "laid off"), and the others folded back into The Times.

The announcement of the closing comes shortly after reporter Annie Johnson said in a note to friends and family that she was leaving the Journal for a job as economic development reporter with the Nashville Business Journal. Annie was actually with the Journal several years ago while still in college as freelance a Lynchburg reporter. She took a job with the daily paper after graduation, left for the Congressional Daily and returned to the Journal about a year ago.

The Times says it plans to “revamp” the Sunday business s section, launching the product Jan. 16. The announcement says some of the Business Journal’s features will be part of that revamping, including the business calendar and a feature called "One Question."

(Update: With the closing of the Blue Ridge Business Journal, the daily paper made some personnel changes: Megan Schnabel, former editor of the BJ, will edit a renovated Sunday business section; business writer Duncan Adams--one of the paper's best--moves to the Bedford-Botetourt beat vacated recently by Rex Bowman and editor Brian Kelly moves to a business reporting position.)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Blue Moon: It Ain't Blue, But It's Pretty

Full moons are especially fascinating to me as I grow older if for no other reason than that they are simply beautiful. Tonight, we get an extra, rare dose of full moon: the blue moon which happens once in a ... well ... blue moon. Seven times in 19 years, to be precise.

And, no, this has nothing to do with the visuals. The blue moon usually occurs when there are two full moons in a month, but that's not what is happening tonight. This will be the only full moon in November and December has but one, as well, but this is the third full moon of the quarter. On Dec. 21, a few hours before the winter solstice kicks over the season, we'll have the fourth full moon of the quarter. The solstice comes at 6:38 p.m. Eastern time, but the moon is full at 3:13 a.m., giving us the fourth one of the quarter.

There's a pretty detailed explanation of full moons and blue moons here, but I'll spare you those details in this short blog post. I will note that next month's full moon will come with a total eclipse.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

April Drummond Shines Again with 'God's Eye'

You gotta love April Drummond, even when she's preaching at you. She did that tonight in her senior thesis play, "God's Eye," at the Hollins University Theatre, but because it was April I just let it soak in as good theater, which it was.

April is a Horizon student at Hollins ("non-traditional," they call it and April's certainly that: single mother of seven kids who started college at 40) and she's finishing her senior year as an accomplished theater person. I don't single out a discipline because, as she demonstrates so well in "God's Eye," you can't. She does everything. I even suggested she might have had a hand in the set construction to one of the roadies and she nodded with a smile.

"God's Eye" is a 19th Century Christian morality play with a good bit of absurdity involved and some humor that sometimes seems misplaced--but is always funny. April--quiet, feminine, sweet, thoughtful April--is a riot when she turns on the comedy charm and as the story's conscience--Grandmother Straightway--she turns it on plenty.

She wrote, directed, acted in, lent four of her children to and wrote words and music for "God's Eye." Her daughter, Farrah Johnson is a splendid female lead (with Kimba Clemmons as a wonderfully sleazy foil as Mr. Jones) you can spot her other kids throughout (though April had to think before she identified four of them when asked).

My guess is that April will be a major talent before she's through. "God's Eye" is a good building block, though hardly her best work, even to this point, and my guess is that when she focuses on some of the characters finding their way onto the paper in a smaller format (this play had 20 people in it), she will find the voice that's dying to get out. I still see a Pulitzer in this one's future.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ginger Mumpower Considering Run in 8th District

It's looking like my buddy Ginger Mumpower will make a run for the General Assembly seat vacated by the reprehensible Morgan Griffith, the 8th District. She'd run as a Democrat against Greg Habeeb, a far right Republican (is there any other kind these days?) whose abortion absolutism could cost him even in nutcase Salem.

Ginger is a pretty, cultured woman with a tough-as-nails country background who, I suspect, has the brass and intelligence to go toe-to-toe with any Repub and especially one whose views are as far out of the mainstream as the one she'll be facing. Ginger is a successful business owner: she was the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce's Small Business Person of the Year at one point.

I look forward to this race. Ginger's a dandy who's accustomed to succeeding. She's going up against a lawyer whose arguments are based in law and not truth--and there's a huge difference.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Annie Johnson Leaving Business Journal

My friend and colleague Annie Johnson, the reporter for the Blue Ridge Business Journal, has announced in a letter to "friends and colleagues" that she is leaving for a new gig with the Nashville Business Journal beginning Dec. 6.

I've known Annie since she was in college at Randolph Macon Woman's College (now Randolph College) when she covered Lynchburg for us (I was still editor of the BRBJ) while still a student. She was one of the best writer/reporters we had then and continues to be a promising talent whom you'll hear from in the future.

Annie was hired by the local daily newspaper in Roanoke right out of college, but she was underused and ultimately went to D.C. to work for Congressional Quarterly, where she reported on the government in action. You can still see the holdover of that assignment in her reporting for the BRBJ, which is heavily tinted with government reporting.

In her note, Annie said she'll "be the new economic development reporter ... My decision to leave Roanoke was not an easy one. I have come to love this town and the people thaqt live here. The regional business community is a vibrant one and there are plenty of stories to tell. During my time at the BRBJ, I've encountered some incredibly bright community and business leaders that have given me significant portions of their time and healthy doses of patience ... But in the end, the call to a larger media market and the opportunity to continue progressing in this industry, which has faced its challenges was far too great. I appreciate your time, support and friendship." Her last day at the BRBJ will be Dec. 3.

Good luck, Annie, though I doubt luck will have much to do with it. I'm proud of you.

You can send your best wishes here. (If that doesn't link you, the e-mail address is: annie.johnson@bizjournal.com)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Bush the Plagiarist: Oh, Hell, Who Cares?

George Bush's new book puffs him up (but deflation is pending).^

George Bush has made a long and undistinguished career out of living up to very low expectations and now he's even having apparent plagiarism blown off by the Huffington Post, which accuses him of "lifting passages" from advisors's published works for his new book.

In a piece about the thefts, the whole thing is boiled down to this: "The clip jobs illuminate something shallower and less surprising about Bush's character: He's too lazy to write his own memoir."

Here's Why We Can't Get Along

My friend Diana Christopulos of the Cool Cities Coalition, who is among those defending the construction of a wind farm near Roanoke, wrote a piece a day or so ago about studies that show bats can be protected from the huge machines.

A woman named Tammy Belinsky sent this e-mail to Diana and several others with Cool Cities:

dear "environmentalists", thank you for using a condom when you rape me signed, mother earth

The rhetoric from the defenders in this has grown louder and more shrill with each note of agreement--generally from the scientific community--that the windmills should be built. People I would otherwise look at as philosophical allies are sounding pretty distant these days and when the accusation turns to "rape," even in a mocking vein, I think it's time to step back and look at what's happening here. And it's not just what's happening to land. It's what's happening to good people. I don't like it.

I am fairly certain Tammy Belinsky is not a bad person and I'm equally certain Diana and her colleagues aren't trying to rape Ms. Belinsky or her land or her lifestyle. Let's get a grip, people. We'll never talk if this goddamn yelling doesn't stop.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ha! Caught the Bastards!

I saw this bumper sticker on a pickup truck in the Walmart parking lot in Roanoke today:


I'm standing there scratching my head when the truth in this comes to me: the sticker is on the bumper of one of them damn liberals trying to make everybody think gun owners is stupid. That has to be it. Caught you bastards!

The Taubman: Money Troubles and a New Plan

My guess is that there were a lot of raised eyebrows and drooping jaws this morning when members of the local intelligentsia opened their daily papers in Roanoke and saw Mike Allen's excellent piece on the bleak projections for The Taubman Museum of Art. The real-world shortfalls on projections made in what must have been a dream-like state are dramatic on every line of the balance sheet.

The Taubman's new director David Mickenberg signed on to a ship with a big hole in the bow and he's trying to patch it, publicly starting tonight with a meeting to discuss the future. It is a solid, noble gesture amid a sea of unrealistic hope, over-expectation and advice from paid consultants who should have known better than to think that this world-class facility would thrive in a city of about 90,000 people.

This museum was built just as George Bush's wars and tax cuts were intersecting to produce the worst economy in two generations, businesses were closing, unemployment was at a dangerous level, arts funding at every point of government was being dramatically cut or eliminated, a major hurricane helped put building materials out of reach, and this small city was on the verge of exhaustion from mismanagement and divisiveness.

When Georgeanne Bingham, the big-time museum professional brought in to open the Taubman, resigned shortly after the doors parted, my guess at the time was that she saw what was coming. And it wasn't thousands of people to spin the turnstiles.

Museum supporters strongly deny it, but anybody on a cultural board could see money for the arts drying up as The Taubman soaked nearly everything arts related from the community. Mill Mountain Theatre closed in its wake and nearly every other organization (the symphony excepted) is in some danger of closing or dramatically shrinking.

The projections for the museum were outsized and unrealistic from Day 1. Mike's story has all the numbers, so I won't repeat them here. But they are truly out of the park from the standpoint of expectation and delivery.

My guess is that if somebody like Anne Piedmont, who just opened her own statistics shop in Roanoke and was working for the Regional Partnership, had been hired to make projections for the museum, we'd have gotten something more like real numbers. Anne is an artist, a native, a statistical guru and a woman who will not bullshit you. All too often, highly-paid consultants from the major urban areas simply tell you what you want to hear, take the money and run.

In any case, I'm rooting for the museum to make a strong statement to the community and for the community to make a statement back that we want it. I also hope--strongly hope--that the museum board will work hard to integrate itself into the core of the arts community as a leader and an organization that responds to the need for all the arts to be healthy. A community with "art" and not "arts" has little.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Securing a General Assembly Seat Permanently

Ran into one of my favorite old politicians today, Chip Woodrum, the smart, funny, accomplished former General Assembly member from Roanoke that the Republicans ran off with their hateful style of politics.

Chip was always a hail-fellow-well-met whose notion of service had a good bit more to do with serving Virginians than getting elected. Of course, one of the first things the Repubs did when they took over the General Assembly and got to draw district lines was to put Chip and Dick Cranwell, another monumentally effective legislator, in the same district. Dick declined to run against his old friend and soon afterward, Chip lost his taste for this foul-smelling game of politics of destruction. The Roanoke Valley has never recovered from their loss at about the same time Vic Thomas was also retiring. Their accomplishments are legendary. Since then, they're not even worth a line of agate in a box score.

So this morning, Chip's talking about finding somebody to run for the vile Morgan Griffith's (pictured) seat from Salem and he says the Dems are damned if they do/damned if they don't on this one because of redistricting. The way Chip tells it, if this Greg Habeeb character wins (he's a Griffith-style Republican with some outlandish abortion notions) the election to fill the seat, then the Republicans get it outright. If a Democrat wins, the Repubs will have the opportunity of redrawing the district lines so he lives outside the lines and loses the seat. Simple politics. And that's why we hate it so.

By the way, Chip tells me this Habeeb fellow believes there should be no abortion starting "from the moment of conception" for anybody for any reason. I'm not sure Habeeb knows this, but medical professionals agree there is no single "moment of conception." It is a process and can't be narrowed to a moment or an hour. I'm wondering if "moment of conception" can include the gleam in daddy's eye when he sees mama in her jammies under Habeeb's definition.

But, hell, that makes as much sense as the other platform planks these guys run on: no taxes, plenty of war, guns for everybody, death to those who break the state's laws, support tobacco 'cause it means jobs (all the deaths are acceptable as collateral damage). That would be the "pro-life" platform.

Chip's opinion of Habeeb: "I'm sure he's a good lawyer." Take that as you will.

(The following comment is from Tom Barger:

"I have enjoyed meeting a class act like Dick Cranwell at various events. This redistricting is foreordained because of loss of population in the 9th. Common sense would say...Salem is a sister city of Roanoke. But people of Salem were confounded by the bombardment of TV ads for the 9th and 6th districts. They couldn't even vote on their own future! Even Griffith, if he was in town on election day, (doubtful) couldn't any more vote than I could, because Goodlatte was the only candidate. That's gerrymandering for you. This may mean that Salemites can only wait two years to vote Boucher back in as representation of their interests. I approve if Salem joined Blacksburg, but only if Boucher brought his tech investment interests to Salem.

"Habeeb. No one has heard of him. But we have no Democratic party here. Maybe we can find someone in Blacksburg to run against him. Or Tyson's Corner. What difference does it make to live amongst your own constituents, judge School Board candidates or pay local tax bite? Rove and Cheney had a long history of flying in carpetbagger candidates to run against Boucher. Even Ollie North of Fairfax. Don't ask for common sense or shame when it comes to right wing politics.

"Salem is a rock solid GOP white community, but social red flag issues do not resonate here, esp. abortion. Habeeb needs to vote straight coal corporations, problem is, no coal business here. Unless you want to bring the inland port. ")

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Literary Lounge Packs the House at Studio Roanoke

Keith, Jeanne and me after the show.^

Your favorite editor reading from CLOG!.^

Jeanne Larsen reads from her new book of poetry.^

Keith Ferrell's new novel has some elements of the tone of a Poe work.^

Tonight's Literary Lounge at Studio Roanoke packed the house for a reading from new or developing works by Hollins-based poet and novelist Jeanne Larsen, author Keith Ferrell and your favorite editor.

Keith read from his new novel--about a murder that did or didn't take place--while Jeanne read poems from her brand new book and I read from CLOG!, my new novel about a competition square dance team.

It was an appreciative crowd that Matt Williams put together for this first Sunday of the month and Matt says this is the biggest house the Lounge has drawn to date. I heard a number of people asking when the next one is and I suspect that there will be some growth.

After we read, about seven members of the audience read from their developing works and there was a strong feeling of community in the evening. I love this stuff.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Obama's Options Against Repub Obstruction Varied

Mitch McConnell (background) studies the enemy.^

As I watched the excremental and vomitous Republican leader Sen. Mitch McConnell tell President Obama to take his compromises and shove them up his black ass today, I was cheered by this piece by Dan Froomkin on the Huffington Post. In effect, Froomkin says Obama could tell McConnell and the tiki-torch wielding mob of Republicans, emboldened by gains in Congress, that the compromise would be better placed up their white asses.

Froomkin makes a lot of sense that executive authority can, in many cases, skirt Congress (especially since the Repubs only control one branch) in areas like banking (oh, talk about sticking it to somebody), health and safety, the military, climate change (including cap and trade via the EPA), immigration and campaign finance.

One of the reasons the Repubs scored so heavily Tuesday is the latter issue where, because of Republican Supreme Court rulings vast gangs of unidentified and unidentifiable people are allowed to pump money into elections. They are totally unaccountable ... unless the IRS gets involved, which Obama could order.

The Repubs are slobbering all over themselves at the opportunity controlling the House will give them to investigate even the most minute details, tying up government and preventing legislation from happening (a very real goal). This is how Repubs govern, or at least how they want to govern. So, if government is going to be tied up in investigations of itself, seems to be that it would be Obama's duty to turn on the administrative enforcement division (Justice Department and FBI) to dig up an equal amount of dirt, shenanigans and criminal behavior.

My guess, though, is that he won't. His absolute dedication to hearing the other side out and trying to govern by compromise has cost him almost all the advantages of his office. It might be advisable for him to play a little hardball with McConnell. Obama has homecourt advantage, he's younger, more athletic and has god on his side. And she's pissed.

(Christian Science Monitor photo).

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Arts Council Gets Ready for the Big Show

Your favorite editor with the lovely Arts Council MVP Rhonda Hale, one of my favorite people.^

St. Lo, France, artist Jane Motin and her family preserve a memory.^

This table featured Roanoke's Davidson family (that's Larry and his wife Janice in the center).^

My pal Cara Modisett was part of the musical entertainment. She also talked about her new downtown show "Music After Midnight," which debuts soon (too late for me).^

These are some of Dave Wertz' horses.^

Annie Waldrop did this appealing layout.^

Suzun Hughes (standing) admires the work of her buddy Darcy Meeker.^

This is the work of Brizilian artist Patricia Secco.^

Talented Charlie Brouwer of Willis did the tower at the right.^

Couldn't figure out who did the dolls, but they're a little scary.^

This was my favorite piece and I have no clue who did it. Good though, huh?^

The ArtView VIP Dinner tonight gave a marvelous preview of the city's first international art show, featuring artists from Roanoke's sister cities. The show runs Friday-Sunday at the Special Events Center (which I prefer to call the Special Events Garage, since it looks like one) and if what we saw tonight is any indication of the level of talent ... well, go see for yourself. It costs $8.

There are a number of local, regional and foreign artists taking part, but the spotlight is on the artists from Roanoke's in Russia, Poland, Korea, France and Brazil.

West End Community Market Inside for Winter

The West End Community Market goes inside.^

Patchwork Farm awaits customers.^

In the fall, it's fresh carrots and other root veggies that show their color.^

Customer studies the produce.^

It's a community market and a community center.^

Peppers' primary appeal is their spice, but who can deny they're pretty?^

There's still plenty of greenery for dinner.^

The West End Community Market in Roanoke has moved inside for the cold months, but, as you can see from these photos, there is no less enthusiasm, no fewer customers and no shortage of good food available. These pictures were shot minutes ago.

The West End Community Market is open Wednesdays 3-6 p.m. in the building next door to the West End Center, a child care facility for the poor. The market was organized about a year ago by people concerned that residents in this depressed area were not being given enough opportunity to buy healthy, affordable and locally grown food.

The progress in establishing the market has been slow and the customers continue to be mostly white and middle income, but organizers assure the market is here to stay and some of the corporate sponsors second that.

Organizing Again to Support the Arts as Education/Economic Development

Even as yesterday's elections send shivers through many of us, we once again face a Virginia General Assembly session (without Morgan Griffith, thank God; the only good aspect of his election to the House) that is poised with a meat ax, ready to cut programs that affect most of us.

Laura Rawlings, director of the Arts Council of the Blue Ridge (I'm on the board) sent the following letter from Trish Poupore of the Virginians for the Arts,to those who see value in state support of the arts. The United States is one of the few First World countries that does not support the arts at high levels on the national level and state support has slipped to dismal levels under Republican domination. Some are finally beginning to understand that the arts comes under the headings of "Education" and "Economic Development" in addition to the sheer pleasure it provides.

Here's the letter:

"Anticipating that state budget support for arts grant funding could face continued challenges during Virginia's coming legislative session, Virginians for the Arts is working to expand its grassroots membership and its list serve, which it uses to send advocacy alerts, calls to action and news about arts funding in Virginia. Grassroots support was pivotal during the 2010 legislative session to the survival of funding for arts grants made through the Virginia Commission for the Arts.

"The News & Advance in Lynchburg reported (Mar. 24, 2010) about Del. Scott Garrett’s (R-Lynchburg) account to his local chamber of commerce at the end of the legislative session: “Public reaction to a proposed cut in state funding for arts agencies led him to believe arts should be regarded as an economic development tool and not just a quality-of-life issue. ‘I had 1,983 emails about the arts after the House of Delegates proposed to cut state support entirely by 2012.’

"In the final budget, most of the funding was restored. ‘What I heard, loud and clear, from our business partners is that arts are what brings businesses into our community,’ Garrett said. ‘I absolutely agree with that.’”

Our efforts this past year included reducing threat of elimination of the Virginia Commission for the Arts (proposed by the Virginia House of Delegates) to a 16 percent cut. VFTA organized a protest, bringing nearly 300 advocates to the state capitol the day the VA House of Delegates finalized its budget.

Efforts during the legislative session resulted in TV news coverage and more than 60 editorials and news articles drawing attention to proposed cuts to the arts. As we face the next legislative session, we need your help and would like to count you among our advocates for public arts funding for the arts in Virginia.

Here's What the 9th District Lost

The loss by Rick Boucher (above) to Morgan Griffith in the 9th District of Virginia is especially serious if you care anything about the future of the Internet specifically and technology in general.

Boucher was a member of the Energy/Commerce Committee (chairman of the subcommittee on telecommunications) and the important Judiciary Committee. His work on keeping the Internet free and open has been vital and his high level of intellect has been especially crucial because of the complexity of various issues he's worked on.

Republicans did not target Boucher's seat because they wanted Morgan Griffith there. Boucher had become an important (though soft-spoken) voice regarding the technology industry and was enormously influential in a number of areas.

His work on the cap and trade bill--which was distorted by the Republicans in the campaign as a "job killer"--was important in getting something the coal companies could live with, though it was not nearly as good an environmental bill as it should have been. Without Boucher, a Southern conservative, the bill would have been far closer to what the EPA wanted and what would have been to coal's detriment and the environment's benefit.

Boucher, for 28 years, has been a man who could work with Republicans as readily as he worked with Democrats. He and Republican 6th District Representative Bob Goodlatte were often called "the mountain technology boys" because they were so influential in that area. Don't expect Griffith to do anything but watch and walk with a pompous swagger. His intellectual capacity, put in a room with Boucher's is the light that went out in the corner lamp.

Politico quoted Bruce Mehlman, a partner at Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti, this morning, thusly: “Boucher is one of the smartest, most engaged members on these issues. He is generally a force for a thoughtful approach. I don’t always agree with him, but you can guarantee he is very judicious and fact-based. He is a constructive force in the mix that generally doesn’t play these issues as a partisan hack.”

According to Boucher’s Web site, he “has long recognized the importance of deploying broadband networks, and for more than 10 years he has encouraged local governments in his Ninth Congressional District to find means to increase access to high speed Internet services. Largely due to his efforts, Southwest Virginia today has one of the most capable broadband networks to be found in rural America.” One just went up, in fact, in the past month.

Boucher has added more than 5,000 jobs into a district that is poor, rural, spread out and not exactly a hot spot for industrial expansion. My guess is that the jobs issue is an area where Griffith will be a dismal failure. I am not aware of any jobs he helped create in his Virginia General Assembly district while a delegate. In fact, I'm not aware of anything he did. I am aware of a lot he blocked that would have been of benefit to the district, but I can't recall a positive (unless you count securing money for the Salem Museum and the Taubman Museum--whose board of directors is seeded with his financial supporters--as a positive).

Point is, the 9th District shot itself in the foot, and not with a .22 rifle. It used a bazooka this time and it will suffer for its own irrationality.

(Photo: mucullagh.org)

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Haunting, Beautiful New Voice in Song

I don't normally go around promoting music--truth be told, I don't even listen to much of it, 'cept for some occasional light jazz--but this is simply fabulous. Kid named Frazey Ford (above) singing a Dylan song that he couldn't sing any better than he sings anything else.

Here it is. Frazey used to be part of the three-female singer group the Be Good Tanyas, which I've never heard of until this minute. 'Course I never heard of her until tonight. Ordered as much of her music as I could find. What a voice. I'll sleep with this one (song, not girl).

And the Lord Has Proclaimed: Griffith-Free Congress

When Biblical law was being laid down (in a draconian manner) in Leviticus 18, one of the admonitions not mentioned as directed by the LordGod was the election of Morgan Griffith to Congress. Guess it slipped God's mind with so much going on.

My feeling is the oversight wouldn't slip through the cracks today--one day before voting--and the the directive would be thus in a 31st verse: "Nor shall you vote for a Morgan Griffith, to defile yourself with thus vote, for verily I say, he doth not represent unto the 9th District, nor even unto the 6th. Nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it. It also is perversion."

Same could be said to a slightly lesser degree over in the 5th District where Tom Perriello has the LordGod's blessing as a man of the people facing the representative of kings and nobles who would apply hidden taxes to the masses in the form of lower wages and lost jobs.

It hath been proclaimed throughout all the land to be thus.

(Graphic from choose-law.com)