Thursday, March 31, 2011

April Fool's Day: A Remembrance

Pals John Montgomery (left), Jim Lindsey and my Hall of Fame medal (was it all a joke?)
Tomorrow is April Fool's Day and I'd like to refer you back to this piece I wrote on here last year at this time, giving you a bit of a history lesson on this marvelous day.

Fool's Day was made especailly meaningful to me last year because I was inducted into the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame. Of course, I asked the bosses of the Hall if the date of induction was a comment on my desirability as wearer of the bronze medal. They assured me it wasn't. I remain skeptical.

UVa Pitcher's Perfect Game: Where's the Coverage?

(UPDATE: OK, seems that the local daily actually did have a small piece on the perfect game Wednesday, buried in a collection called "In the region." These are briefs and the place where you put events like high school softball games. The brief piece with no photo was on Page 4 of a four-page section and the point remains the same: the coverage is severely lacking.)

The University of Virginia's baseball team is ranked No. 1 in the country; pitcher Will Roberts (right, being sandwiched with congratulation) pitched the first perfect game in the program's history Tuesday night; it was the 2,000th win in Cavalier baseball history; Virginia plays at Virginia Tech Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Sounds like the stuff of a good sports page to me. But not here. I have not found any of that in the local daily's coverage and when I did a Web site page at the paper's home of "University of Virginia baseball perfect game" I got "Book reviews index page," "Dodgeball's a big hit in Blacksburg," "Bassmaster Classic details" and "Kevin Myatt's Weather Journal." Not much baseball in that.

If you want to read about Roberts' extraordinary success, it's here. But not here. I am told by those who get the paper and who have been calling each other with the information and e-mailing the Web story, that the local daily had nothing in its printed pages, either. I don't subscribe, so I'll have to trust their words on this.

Last week I lamented the lack of Web site coverage of the NCAA basketball tournament by the local daily and shortly before that, there was a missive about the disappearing movie listings.

It's going away slowly, fading out like the end of a long movie.

Your Government at Work for You

Spencer Bachus (right), the Republican Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, had this to say recently: “In Washington, the view is that the banks are to be regulated, and my view is that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks.”

Bachus is taking a close look at Elizabeth Warren's (yaaaaaay!) Consumer Financial Protection Bureau instead of examining the organizations that fomented the mess we're living in today. The CFPB has bought no congressmen to date.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Going, Going, Gone: Here's What's Disappearing

Those are my phone books: recycled before opening.
I ran into a site called Twenty-Five Things About to Disappear in America while searching for some info on disappearing movie ads in newspapers and this turned out to be more fun, so I'll share it instead. It's here in full (and full means full; lots of great info), but here is some of what it says (with the Top 25 ranked backwards):

25. U.S. Post Office. High price, service that is spotty.
24. Printed Yellow Pages. (See graphic; that's phone books. Came two days ago. They're in recycling. Never been opened.) Type's too small, inaccuracy's too large.
23. Classified ads. Think Craig's List.
22. Movie rental stores. NetFlix is the answer.
21. Dial-up Internet access. Do you really need an explanation?
20. Phone land lines. Old people are holding out. Nobody else is.
Anybody recognize this guy?
19. Blue crabs in the Chesapeake. Last year's harvest was smallest in more than 60 years. Too much fishing, pollution.
18. VCR. Ranks with the 8-track. (How in the hell are we going to save all the stuff we have on outdated media and what's next to be useless?)
17. Ash trees.
16.  Ham radio. What's a "ham" radio? (I know, but there's a good chance you don't. I'm older than you.)
15.  The old swimmin' hole. It's inside at the YMCA now. The outside one is polluted or dangerous.
14. Answering machines. Anything that ends in "machines" is likely gone.
13. Film cameras. I have a collection of cameras that go back as far as 130 years. They all work. But they never will again.
12. Incandescent bulbs. It's a matter of time and not much time.
11. Bowling alleys. I really don't give a dang.
10. The milkman. Not in Roanoke, though. That little dairy from Smith Mountain Lake is still delivering. Kinda cool.
9. Hand-written letters. My mother-in-law (not ex- yet) still writes them and people love getting them. Nobody likes writing them anymore, though.
8. Wild horses. Ask Congressman Bob Goodlatte about that. His record with these boys is not good. His environmental record is worse.
This little guy's vital. Better keep him.
7. Personal checks. Once again, it's the old folks holding on. Everybody else uses the check card. Easier, cheaper, etc.
6. Drive-in theaters. Again, not much to care here. Far too many alternatives and you can always park your car somewhere sexy and watch a movie on your laptop.
5. Mumps and measles. That's a good thing. I had both. They're not fun.
4. Honey bees. This concerns me. It should concern you. They have a lot to do with our food supply.
3. News magazines and TV news. Both began their exit with major corporate takeovers. I watch CBS Evening News these days just to see Ed Murrow and Uncle Walter Cronkite spin in their graves. Shameful.
2. Analog TV. Just watch a minute or two of an analog show and snap to a digital. You'll see why.
1. The family farm.

Pearlie-Mae: Virginia Woman of History

The lovely and extraordinary Pearl Fu (center with the pearls--what else?--in her hair) was one of eight Women of History honored this past weekend at the Library of Virginia in Richmond. Pearlie Mae likes to mention that she shares this exclusive company with Pocohontas. My guess is that Pokey would be honored to share the stage with Pearlie.

Noted Movie-maker Liberty Commencement Speaker

Those expecting a politically-charged commencement speaker at Liberty University May 14, will need to reconsider. Hollywood filmmaker Randall Wallace, who wrote screenplays for Braveheart and Pearl Harbor and who directed Secretariat,  will deliver the address.

That’s quite a coup for Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. and a school whose commencement addresses have most often featured right-wing ideologues in the past. Wallace, a conservative, is widely known for quality work that has included We Were Soldiers and The Man in the Iron Mask.

He won an Oscar nomination for the Braveheart screenplay. In 1999, he formed his own company, Wheelhouse Entertainment, with the main purpose of creating entertainment for worldwide audiences based on the values of love, courage and honor. Wallace is also the New York Times bestselling author of seven novels and wrote the song that was sung at Ronald Reagan’s funeral.

He spent much of his childhood in Lynchburg and is a a graduate of E.C. Glass High School. Falwell says, “Ever since I first watched Braveheart in 1995 and learned that its writer was from Lynchburg, I have wanted to meet Randall Wallace. That movie’s lessons about the evils of big government and tyranny and the virtues of freedom are more relevant today than ever.

"I watched a video clip of his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast in February [Wallace was the keynote speaker]. That convinced me he would be a perfect fit at Liberty and would bring the right message.”

Falwell continued: “Wallace said in an e-mail last week that he has great hopes he can get to know our team and find ways to get involved in what we’re doing here at Liberty,” Falwell said.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

This Is What Beautiful Women Look Like

Nancy Gray
Nancy Agee
Tamea Woodward
April Drummond
Nanci Hardwick
Mary Miller
Ariel Clark
Plastic surgeon Robert Tornambe has an interesting article today in HuffPost Living in which he correctly and astutely criticizes our perception of what beauty is in women. This is a topic that has been a burr under my saddle for years. Each year when The Roanoker magazine (which I occasionally write for) publishes its "Best of ..." list for the Roanoke Valley and names the latest television news hottie as the "sexiest" woman in the region, I simmer in righteous fury at the imappropriate wrong-headedness of it all.

About 20 years ago, I wrote a counter to the Roanoker's folly and called it "Bid-ness Babes of the Blue Ridge." The women on the list were, indeed, attractive in the traditional physical sense, but they were accomplished, outgoing leaders in the community who made their presence known. Now, that's sexy. I still think it is and as women learn to better care for themselves physically, that entire personae carries into later generations of their lives, 40s, 50s, 60s. There are even a few I know in their 20s and 30s who fit this narrow definition.

Tornambe insists that women can be their own worst enemies in the perception of what is beautiful. He says, "Women are unduly influenced into negative opinions about themselves and forced to chase an illusion. The deck is stacked totally against them. We must change our perception of beauty and choose realistic role models. We also must abandon the notion that youth is the only path towards beauty. Women must embrace the fact that true beauty does, and must, transcend the decades as we age."

Let me give you some specific examples of beautiful women:

Erin Pope
  • Nancy Agee, new CEO of Carilion Clinic in Roanoke, is one of the finest people I know on every level. Smart, courageous, forceful, kind, thoughtful and quite lovely. Not a pretentious or presumptuous bone in her head. Nancy's in her 50s.
  • Nancy Gray, president of Hollins University, is striking in her red suits, but it's the eyes that will capture you. Again, she's pretty, but her beauty goes so much deeper than that. She is a quiet, forceful leader with a sense of humor when it is appropriate and a non-nonsense, take-control demeanor when she needs it. Nancy's close to her 50s, too.
  • Nanci Harwick (no, I don't have a thing for Nancy[i]s; just a coincidence) of Schultz Creehan in Blacksburg came from nowhere to take over as CEO of that company and runs it well. She's a single mother who understands struggle (she studied for her CPA exam with a book that was out of date because it's all she had) and has developed a strong layer of compassion. Nanci's in her 30s.
  • Mary Miller, president of IDD in Blacksburg, is a member of the Virginia Tech engineering hall of fame, a PhD, a mentor to many, a mother, a visionary and a women with the loveliest, softest eyes you'll find. She's tall and blonde and in excellent health and, like the others, a person of considerable kindness, which glows. Mary's nearly 60, but I'm not sure of the exact age.
  • Erin Pope is the baby of the group and represents the near-30 generation with style, grace, energy, intellect and a feisty assertiveness when she perceives an injustice. This one has what one of the boys called "cajones." She's a fine writer who I suspect will one day be well known and she is what The Roanoker might approve of as a classic beauty. She would laugh at the suggestion.
  • April Drummond is in her 40s, has seven children (whom she tends alone) and is on the verge of graduating from Hollins University. April is the very definition of the late bloomer, but mostly that's because her opportunities came late. She's never had money, but she's always had intelligence, skill, talent, creativity (she writes plays and directs films at this point; she's also a fine actress and marvelous singer). My guess has been, since shortly after I met her, that there is a Pulitzer in April's future. Grit, determination and style mark this African princess with the classic long neck and sharp facial features. Beautiful woman in every sense.
  • Ariel Clark, art director at the tba ad and PR agency in Roanoke, is one of the sexiest women I've ever seen and she smacks hard into traditional perceptions of beauty because she's on the plus end of sizing. She re-defines beauty in a positive way with her talent, her aura, her sunny disposition and her intelligence (not to mention skin that is absolutely flawless). She's about 30, I'd estimate, and everything about her turns heads.
  • Tamea Franco Woodward of East West DyeCom and Global Metalfinishing is a real beauty in every sense, but she is so full of energy, drive, creativity, enthusiasm and positive vibes that those characteristics all but overwhelm what she looks like. She simply never runs out of curiosity and the will to learn. I'd estimate Tamea to be in her 40s, but like the others, she looks a good bit younger than the birth certificate would indicate.
Those will do for a start and serve as an example for people wanting to know what beauty is about. They don't fit the traditional notion of movie star/TV babe/model beauty. They surpasses that by quite a bit.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Where's the Hoops in Today's Local Daily Web Site?

The NCAA basketball tournament went too late for these old bones last night and I had to hit the hay in the middle of the second half during two close and competitive games, one featuring a Virginia team, VCU. So this a.m., I poured out of bed, made coffee and the bed, then sat at the computer to see who won.

Out of curiosity, I went to the Web site of the local daily first. No scores. Not one. No NCAA coverage at all. There were two NASCAR stories, a piece on Roanoke Catholic's center signing with Wake Forest (yay! basketball), a Virginia Tech wrestling story, a high school roundup and the "mailbag."

This is the newspaper that, under Bill Brill years ago, popularized the ACC and its basketball teams in this region and has always had exemplary coverage. Not today. Had to go to to find out that VCU beat the ACC's Florida State in overtime, Kentucky beat top-seeded Ohio State by two and that Richmond (that's in Virginia) lost to Kansas in a blowout and UNC (of the ACC) killed Marquette.

That's two Virginia teams, two ACC teams, two No. 1 seeds and, I would suspect, a lot of interest.

This one falls in there with movie listings, which have taken a beating in the local daily lately.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Housing Market On Comeback Trail, Survey Insists

Wanna buy a house? Start with this one. It's mine.^
Those of us with a house for sale in a market that just set a record on the low end for sales are glad to hear about the Prudential Real Estate survey that tells us the end may be near. And we're not talking about dying.

Nearly two thirds of those polled--both buyers and sellers of homes--say they think both the market and property values will recover in the next year or two. That's up nearly 20 percent over April of 2010.

Here's the press release, picked up past the lead, which I just told you:

This exceeds the 47 percent of Americans who expected house prices would rise in a similar survey conducted in April 2010, underscoring a more bullish outlook for the real estate market today. In addition, 86 percent of Americans believe real estate is a good investment despite the market volatility of the past few years.

The Prudential Real Estate Outlook Survey of 1,253 Americans between the ages of 25-64 in the market for buying a home was conducted Jan. 20-27, 2011. The national survey reveals that six in 10 respondents are more interested in buying real estate (58 percent) and are optimistic about buying given the momentum of the economic recovery (59 percent). It also shows that although the price of many Americans’ homes declined during the recession, 89 percent recognize they can also buy a new house at a lower price.

Those on the fence about buying cited uncertainty about selling an existing home (77 percent), concern about getting a fair price for the home (67 percent) and emotions (58 percent) as factors. For those who have sold homes in the past year, despite the down market 78 percent report that they were satisfied with the sale.

The survey highlighted Americans’ interest in trading up their homes. Of the 45 percent looking to trade up, 64 percent wanted more space or property, 49 percent a nicer house and 41 percent a better neighborhood. Only 21 percent surveyed said they were looking to scale down, and 34 percent said that they wanted a similar home.

The survey highlighted the importance of getting the right price in today’s market —74 percent of buyers believe that many homes could meet their needs and that price is a significant differentiator, while 26 percent stated that they were willing to pay top of market for a home that specifically suits their needs. In setting the right price, however, sellers were split—with 53 percent wanting to price right at or slightly below market to attract more bids and 47 percent wanting to price slightly higher than market and hoping to find a buyer willing to pay more.

I Apologize

I stand chastened and I apologize to all those who were offended by the Elizabeth Taylor post. Upon further examination, you are right and I was wrong. It was tasteless and insensitive. It is now down.

Texas Beauty Queen: Fat, Fired and Restored by the Court

If you're wondering what's really, truly and decidedly important in America these days, consider this story in the Washington Post this a.m.: Miss San Antonio was stripped of her title and went to court to get it restored. She won.

Seems 17-year-old, 5-foot-8, 129-pound, size 2 Dominique Ramirez got the boot because pageant people determined she was too fat for a photo shoot. They say she was chowing down on too many tacos, but that's not why she was summarily dismissed. They claim she was chronically late when she showed up at all,  didn't write thank-you notes and turned down voice lessons. Those dang thank-you notes will get you every time. They tend to soil the tiara.

 This whole mess degenerated into a peeing contest, then a court case that took a jury more than 11 hours (that's almost half a day) to decide. Wouldn't you have loved to have been a fly on the wall in the deliberation room?

So now the battle is taken to the streets. The pageant people say they won't do anything to move Miss Ramierz along to the Miss Texas pageant. The decision "was an injustice to the city of San Antonio," said an official. The queen of San Antonio, meanwhile, went to church and placed her tiara on the alter as a gift to "the patroness." Not sure who the "patroness" is, but if it's Mother Mary, my guess is she doesn't have much use for the glitter and glitz. Miss Ramirez is quoted as saying, “I just wanted to send a message I’m very grateful and she has answered my prayers.”

My guess is that there's a book in here somewhere. One about basic Texas values, perhaps. Heck, there was a book in that Texas cheerleader mess a few years ago and this one's a sight more interesting.

Of Taxes (Not Paid), GE and the Obama Plan

If this story in the New York Times this morning doesn't fire up your righteous indignation, then you're probably wringing your hands considering how your company might join General Electric in screwing the tax-payers of the United States.

The premise as simple as GE's goal of reducing its taxes. GE says the U.S. owes the huge multi-national $3.1 billion, even though GE had overall profits of $14.1 billion last year ($3.2 billion of that in the U.S.). This was accomplished in the traditional American way: hire the right lobbyists, rig the system, buy yourself a few legislators and reap the benefits. Then get your CEO appointed by the U.S. president as his "liaison to the business community" and chairman of a council on corporate taxes. It's what a GE official calls "acting with integrity."

Pissed off yet?

The bright light of the press is looking into this right now not so much because it is tax season, not because this is just wrong, not because our government is totally out of sync, but because GE built the reactor that is causing so much trouble in Japan. Everything Japanese is getting a rectal exam these days and GE just happens to fall into that category.

Even as big companies like GE bitch about huge corporate taxes, the Times says, their share dropped "from 30 percent of all federal revenue in the mid-1950s to 6.6 percent in 2009" and they want it to go even lower. Obama agrees. This is the "liberal" president we elected two years ago. Obama says that GE's CEO “understands what it takes for America to compete in the global economy.” Obama didn't mention corporate responsibility, apparently.

A woman speaking for GE says, “G.E. is committed to acting with integrity in relation to our tax obligations. We are committed to complying with tax rules and paying all legally obliged taxes. At the same time, we have a responsibility to our shareholders to legally minimize our costs.” Easy to say that when you write the laws.

According to The Coffee Party (no, I'm not making this up) the original intent of corporations has been severely distorted:  "They were prohibited from attempting to influence elections, public policy, and other realms of civic society. The states imposed conditions such as limited lifespans for corporate charters (renewable by the legislature), prompt revocation if the corporation broke a law, limiting them to activities necessary to fulfill their chartered purpose, not allowing them to own stock in other corporations or own property not needed for their chartered purpose, terminating them if they exceeded their authority or caused public harm, making owners and managers responsible for crimes committed on the job, banning them from making any political or charitable contributions, and banning them from spending money to influence law making. These restrictions persisted for the first 100 years" of U.S. existence. 

Perhaps it is time we revisited those strictures. A minimum corporate tax for companies making a profit wouldn't hurt, either, and that tax should double if the company is found hiding its obligations overseas.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Nancy Agee Will Shine as Carilion's CEO: Guaranteed

Nancy Agee at news conference today.^
Ed Murphy talks to TV reporter.^
A couple of years ago, I told Nancy Agee that some day she was going to be a great CEO for Carilion Clinic in Roanoke. She immediately corrected me: "Ed (Murphy, the CEO then) is younger than me. I'll retire before he does."

Age and retirement notwithstanding, today Carilion announced Nancy will be the new CEO as of July 1, so one of us was right about Nancy, a very dear friend of mine for some years, and the CEO job.

She will, indeed, be a superior chief executive at one of the region's largest employers for the reasons that she should be: she is compassionate, smart, driven, a person who listens and absorbs others' opinions and she simply adores teamwork. All of those are traits women tend to bring to management, but traits some women tend to forget about when they get there, thus becoming the men they replace. Women don't make good men and my guess is that Nancy won't try. She is comfortable with who she is and confident in her set of skills. Those running Carilion share that confidence and fairly gushed when asked about her.

The test for me here, though, is to go into the halls of the hospitals, the mist of the laundry, the cubbyholes of building maintenance and ask people who work a number of pay grades below Nancy (whose salary will be in seven figures). They will tell you that not only does she know who they are and what they do, she cares. She asks about their children and their sick parents and their gardens.

She is a woman of considerable humanity who will care about every worker and every patient in every hospital in the Carilion system. You can take that to the bank.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

'Booth' Might Be for You; It Wasn't for Me

Among the beauties of small, earthy, edgy theater is that sometimes it misses the mark with me. I can't blame the failure of W. David Hancock's "Booth" to connect on the writing, Todd Ristau's direction or some marvelous acing by Linsee Lewis, Brian Turner and Chad Runyon. This one never had a chance with me and when the cast lit up two cigarettes at the same time in a small room, I couldn't stay a minute longer. The discomfort of the play was suddenly overwhelmed by the allergy to cigarette smoke (which, I have been assured, will be "substantially reduced" in future performances).

I don't know if it's fair for me to even mention "Booth," but I will because I want the adventurous among you (and those without an allergy to cigarette smoke) to see it. This one has so much going on simultaneously that it is a challenge to follow. Characters are speaking while their additional thoughts or backstory or side story is showing on a screen above their heads. You have to read that part.

Effectively, we have three thoroughly unattractive characters (a card dealer, ex-cop and pre-op transsexual hooker) occupying a restaurant booth and plotting all manner of foul deeds while talking in wretched detail about their wasted lives. Mary Poppins will not save you here.

Still, this is experimental theater and this is an experiment. I saw a lot of very real interest in the room from others attending. That's the beauty of theater, especially at this level. It has room for all of us, even though on occasion it misses for each of us. While it hits for others.

" Booth" runs March 23-April 3 with tickets running $20 at the door and $15 in advance. Students, old people and troops are $12. You can find out more here.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Classics with Dudley Do-Right and That Damn Frog

This morning on WVTF Public Radio, Seth Williamson played Franz von Suppe's "Light Cavalry Overture" and I know it will likely annoy him to hear this, but every time I hear the melody from that piece, a vivid picture of Dudley Do-Right riding backwards on his horse comes to mind. (Go to the 2:29 mark in the attached "Light Cavalry" to get the melody and then listen to Dudley's tune you'll see what I mean. The two melodies are slightly different, but I don't care. They're close enough.)

Walt Disney and Warner Brothers educated a generation of kids in classical music (though they had nothing to do with Dudley) and we must thank cartoons while simultaneously cursing them. Mickey Mouse in "Fantasia," a host of outlandish Warner characters, including that damn operatic frog ("One Froggy Evening"; OK, it's Ragtime; it's still cool) and the signing whale, come to mind.

Classic Americana: go to the lowest common denominator and make it memorable, like the GE light bulb and Pachalbel's Canon.

Marriage After Divorce: Who Needs It?

Columnist Nina Collins has a thoughtful commentary (here) this morning about the new reluctance women are showing for re-marrying. As a newly-single again guy who sees a lot of single women out there, I fully understand her logic in explaining the resistance. And it doesn't just apply to women.

A friend explained the other day that she wasn't about to give up her freedom, but occasionally she yearns for somebody to mow the lawn and maybe do the dishes. "But I dare him to touch that damn remote." Dare, indeed. That's just about as precise a symbol of modern freedom as I know. He/she who controls the remote controls ... etc.

Collins points out that the 2007 census tells us that 52 percent of men and 44 percent of women are likely to marry after divorce these days. I've seen other surveys that had those numbers falling noticeably as the number of divorces increased. There are a lot of us out there with more than two marriages behind us, as well.

She says 60 percent of second marriages fail (no numbers on successive marriages) and 70 percent fail if children are involved. No surprise in that. "Sex on demand is a beautiful thing," she writes, "but having the bed to oneself sometimes is equally a treat." My guess is that "sex on demand" most often ends after a couple of years, as well. Far too often, sex becomes a bargaining chip or control mechanism, losing any deeper meaning it might have had.

There's also something to be said for trying to salvage what was good about a marriage: the initial friendship that sometimes gets buried in all the angst. That's a sad loss. My most recent ex and I have found that saving the friendship has enormous value to both of us in ways we never dreamed and it has made the entire process of divorcing, if not easier, then certainly less stressful.

Still, we have a lot of people talking about the "sanctity" of marriage, even as they visit their lawyers. They want more availability of marriage (between gay people, for example) and continue to make it harder to get divorced than to get married. That should be reversed.

Marriage should require a trial period, six weeks of intense education (six months if there are children involved either now or planned) and counseling for at least two years. My thought is that anybody who wants to get married--and is willing to undergo all that--should receive our mass blessing. Otherwise, no dice, baby. 

Marriage is too difficult an institution to be entered casually. It can be a wondrous union of two people, but it almost never is. My youngest brother and my oldest sister have those kinds of rare marriages. They represent two of the eight siblings in my family. One in four. That's about what I'd estimate the "happy" quotient is for marriage in our society is right now, regardless of which number marriage it is.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

An Autism Talk You Won't Want to Miss at Roanoke College

My friend Melanie Almeder, an English professor at Roanoke College, has put together a talk that will lure you if you have any interest in autism, courage, family togetherness and and a kind of victory that touches all of us.

The event is a talk by Ralph and Emily Savarese, who have become nationally prominent of late for their book Reasonable People. Their talk is “Smart Self's Walk Down Freedom's Trail: Autism and Artful Advocacy. Here’s Mel’s announcement:

The Visiting Writers' Committee of the English Department, the Jordan Endowment, the Education Department, the Chaplain's Office and the Sociology Department invite you to a talk: "'Smart Self's Walk Down Freedom's Trail': Autism and Artful Advocacy," with D.J., Emily, and Ralph James Savarese. March 30, 7 p.m. in the Wortman Ballroom at Roanoke College. There will be a book signing and reception following the talk. 

Ralph and Emily Savarese adopted an autistic boy named D.J., who had been "written off as severely retarded." Their story, told in Ralph and D.J.'s memoir, Reasonable People, which Newsweek called a “real life love story and a passionate manifesto for the rights of people with neurological disabilities," is the story of radical transformation forged by great persistence and love.

Ralph, Emily, and their son D.J. have been interviewed by NPR and CNN, among others, and have been guest speakers across the country. Their activism continues to inspire people across the world. For more information on the family and their writings go here and follow the link to Reasonable People.

The Case for Tennessee Basketball Coach Bruce Pearl

(UPDATE: As you probably know, the University of Tennessee president and athletic director ignored my advice and Monday fired Bruch Pearl. Sons-a-bitches.)

Mike Strange, a columnist at the Knoxville News-Sentinel, wrote a marvelous defense of cornered University of Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl yesterday after Pearl’s team lost to Michigan by 30 points in the NCAA Tournament. He insists Pearl remains a hero to the fan base (and I can attest the truth in that in at least one case).

That game will have no bearing on whether Pearl is kept at UT because of extenuating circumstances brought on by the athletic director, a truly unpopular figure these days (a poll at the Sentinel found Pearl with 91 percent support vs. 8 percent for the AD).

Pearl is the best and most popular basketball coach in UT history because of a number of accomplishments, listed by Strange:
  • The first SEC championship since 1967 and the school's first No. 1 ranking, both in 2008; 
  • The school-record six straight NCAA tournament bids, the longest active streak in the conference; 
  • UT's home crowds at UT's cavernous and previously near-empty arena jumped 5,504 per game in Pearl's first year and has been in the Top 5 nationally ever since (the Vols sell out for games against teams like Arkansas, unheard of previously); 
  • Tennessee leads the SEC in league wins (65-31) since Pearl arrived and his record away from home is enviable; 
  • He graduates a high percentage of his athletes, rare in Division I basketball;
  • He has raised huge sums for cancer screening and endowed a scholarship in the name of a former player; 
  • he has worn orange body paint at a women’s game; he has become a presence and an icon in just six years. 
He also cheated in recruiting and lied to the NCAA about it (before ‘fessing up on his own).

Pearl is not an evil man, hell bent on winning at any cost. He is not a thoroughly obnoxious figure like Bobby Knight, who threw tantrums and snarled at everybody, or John Calapari, who recruits players to play one year before turning pro and being, effectively, a farm team instead of a university.

He’s a good guy who shines a bright light on UT, whether it’s positive (most of the time) or negative (this year). He deserves to return to the university in order to show the good side again.

By the way, I didn't mention that he has a great looking girlfriend? She's gotta be at least 14.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Day of Big Scores at Happy's

Some days at the flea market and the antiques mall are better than others. Some of you might remember that last year I scored a Tiffany bracelet for $2 (it was authentic and worth quite a bit of money). Today, there were a lot of opportunities at Happy's Flea Market in North Roanoke and I cashed in my share.

I began the day by running into Erin Pope, who writes for FRONT and is one of the most stylish young women I know. She was holding a pair of aqua moccosins just bought for almost nothing and talking about a woman with a booth "full of Gucci shoes" and other names of equal note (Fendi, Ferragamo). Above and below are a few shots from that booth.

The woman who had the booth talked about the glut of pretenders at flea markets who were selling fakes, but "these are as authentic as you'll find." The photos above and below show you her goods. She also told me of a guy at the back of the lot "who's selling Orvis sports jackets for $1." She hadn't even finished the sentence before I was trying on jackets. They were badly wrinkled and probably not worth much, but Orvis makes good stuff and I looked further.

I found a new pair of Jack Purcell tennis shoes, the kind I can't find any more: canvas. Bought those, along with a lamb's wool sweater (dusty orange) and a pair of gameday Orvis pants ("gameday" because they're Tennessee orange and I couldn't possibly wear them in public at any time other than the day of the game in Knoxville). I added a pretty (and new) lime T-shirt by Orvis and the total was $8--$5 of that for the shoes. The total retail from the tags on the four items was well over $200. And everything was new.

Before I left the Orvis guy, one of the Happy's regulars had entered the pictutre with a wad of cash and paid Orvisboy $1,800 for everything he had left.

And, hey, we're not even talking here about the 99 cents a pound tomatoes you could have had today (and probably tomorrow).

It's Time for Those Exotic Warm Weather Foods at Happy's

Shopper picks over 99 cents a pound tomatoes.^
This is an Aisan "store."^
Strange fruit (and veggies).^
No idea what these are. Thorny cukes?^
Tonight's salad.^
Exotic languages and foods from these ladies.^
Mango city.^
If it's pretty, it's healthy. This is the health center.^
Hispanic breads and pastries kept in containers.^
These old boys entertained with Gospel tunes. Nicely done.^
Saturday was the first real spring day of the season at Happy's Flea Market in Roanoke Saturday and the food was as bright and cheerful as the people. While many people come for the bargains in flea market staples, Happy's has evolved into a marvelous fresh food market and some of the foods are from other shores.

The wide variety of Hispanic and Asian specialties require many of us to ask "what is this and how do I cook it." The vendors are happy to help. It's a marvelous, lively, entertaining place to spend an early Saturday morning.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Where Did You Say That Movie Is Playing?

(UPDATE: Here's a good link to find movies in our area.)

It doesn’t seem that long ago that all one had to do to find a movie to attend this evening was to pick up a daily newspaper, turn to the entertainment section and look at the movie ads.

A couple of years ago, those movie listings turned into on-line listings that were much more convenient, if you had a computer (if you didn't, you still had the paper), and linked to each movie so you could see what it was about.

Now it appears that the latest development—at least in the Roanoke Valley—is that some of the movie theaters (notably the Grandin) aren’t advertising, aren’t being listed online as part of any larger grouping and, frankly, we seem to be on our own. In the olden days, newspapers would furnish these listings in their news sections because people wanted to know them and they were, thus, news. Now, it seems, they are advertising and damn the news value.

I asked a friend to see if she could find a good movie for us to go to tonight and here’s what I got back:

First, the general movie advisory: "The Lincoln Lawyer: (that Matthew McConaughey legal story) opens this weekend. As far as I can tell, it's at Salem, Tanglewood, and Valley View, with a 1-ish, a 4-ish and a 7-ish. 

"But now for the ongoing rant about trying to find movie listings, cuz it's getting worse. Today, lists only a fraction of what's at Valley View, and NONE of what's at Tanglewood! As we know, the Grandin's listings haven't been on there for a while now. So, I went to the Carmike site, and the drop-down menu that shows the cities where they have theaters is not alphabetized. Not by state or city. Sheesh! 

Even after scrolling all the way through I could only find Salem. I finally found the Tanglewood listings on one of those generic movie sites. I found the full Valley View listings on the Regal site. 

Is the Times trying to help Netflix stage a bloodless coup of the movie business or what? I mean, maybe they're p.o.'d because the theaters aren't advertising. But I have to wonder what the Times did to drive the theaters away. 

Frankly, the newspaper ought to cut movie theaters a generous deal, because some people WILL BUY THE PAPER TO GET THE MOVIE LISTINGS! I mean, Hell-O!!! Anyway, maybe we can catch "Lawyer" sometime this weekend, if we can find it! 

As we all know, the daily newspaper seems hell bent on making itself as useless as possible as fast as it can and it is well on its way. Success comes in some odd forms.

Hey, Roanoke Artists: VTC Loves You

The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute in Roanoke is looking for a few good pieces of art and that’s a good thing. While the City of Roanoke stirred up a hornet’s nest recently by excluding Roanoke area artists from the rooms of its renovated City Market Building, VTC is seeking out our artists specifically.

Sign up for it here.

Here’s how the press release reads: Several times a year, the school will ask local artists to submit work to go on display in the building. An open house will be held at the beginning of each new show for artists to showcase and explore their work with the community.

“There are several reasons we wanted to start an art program here,” says Dr. David Trinkle, a city councilman in Roanoke and associate dean for community and culture. “It adds visual interest to our school, helps humanize the health care environment, and allows audiences to better understand the role of arts in healing. Second, it gives the community an opportunity to interact with the school, either by submitting a piece of art to go on display or by attending the open houses.”

The inaugural art program show will begin at the end of April and run through July. The first public showing will be during the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute’s grand opening May 7. An additional art open house will be held at 5 p.m. on May 17.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

editrdan Passes 100,000 Readership

fromtheeditr passed 100,000 page reads yesterday and I'm tickled with that. The pace of viewing has picked up in the last little bit and the average viewership is running at near 500 a day.

It's funny what people are reading. If the post has "fat" in the title, it's a hit. If it has "liberal" or "conservative" it is second level, but popular. Seems readers are obsessed with weight and politics. Though the movie at Smith Mountain Lake, Ben Beatle leaving the local daily and anything about River Laker are near the top of the charts.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Here's What You Need If You're Going To Cook

Here's one for the cooks among you: the 50 greatest kitchen inventions from The Daily Meal.

When you look at the bottom half of the list (the pull tab at 50, paper towels at 48, egg carton at 37, the blender at 44, the microwave at 34, recipes at 27, refrigerator at 25), you see there's some serious stuff near the top.

The top four are salt, fire, knife and spoon. I think my dad, who cooked for a living, would have taken that knife and put it on top and I tend to agree, though I know some mighty fine cooks (mostly women) who have a lot of trouble with knives (keeping them sharp, using the right one, putting them in drawers, washing them with the forks, etc.). When men cook well, you get an indication of what's coming when they pick up a Sabatier eight-inch chef's knife (pictured; ain't it purty?) and slice a cucumber. Tap, tap, tap.

Go to the list and take a look. Fun stuff, like picking the best all-time shortstops.

The Spoiled Rich Kids of Wisconsin and Their Latest Tantrum

Scott Fitzgerald talks to the enemy: the press.
"Wisconsin's looking curiouser and curiouser," cried Alice. And Alice should know. She's in Wonderland, where nothing is as it seems. Or maybe it is as it seems, which is even curiouser.

The latest curiosity in the madness that has become the Banana Republic of Wisconsin's trademark is a laughable dictate from from Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. He has decreed that Democrats will no longer be allowed to vote in that decreasingly-august body, which has already lost just about any credibility it ever had. The pouting and tantrums being thrown around by the majority party (and we're talking about 19 Republicans and 14 Democrats in a small state) are bringing derision nationally, not to mention protesting crowds of 100,000, the size of one of Wisconsin's larger cities.

In a story in The Nation today, John Nichols writes, "On Monday afternoon, Fitzgerald, who has publicly admitted that he and other Republicans advanced the anti-labor legislation in order to strengthen the position of the GOP in 2012 elections, sent a letter to senators that read:

'“Dear Members: With the return of the Senate Democrats this weekend, questions have arisen regarding Democrat members’ participation in Senate standing committee public hearings and executive sessions. Please note that all 14 Democrat senators are still in contempt of the Senate. Therefore, when taking roll call votes on amendments and bills during executive sessions, Senate Democrats’ votes will not be reflected in the Records of Committee Proceedings or the Senate Journal. They are free to attend hearings, listen to testimony, debate legislation, introduce amendments, and cast votes to signal their support/opposition, but those votes will not count, and will not be recorded.'”

We won't even bother to insult your intelligence by talking about how many basic principals of democracy that little fit violates--not to mention how many laws it must violate. It is enough to point a finger at Republicans trying to govern and showing us what we've known all along. Spoiled rich kids don't do well with power.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Your Bracket for the March Madness of Bad Business

March Madness isn't just about basketball. It's about business. And I'm not talking about the business of the NCAA basketball tournament. What we're getting at here is The Consumerist's 2011 Worst Company in America tournament. and you can play.

There will be daily games between companies, decided by the voting public. Will it be Comcast, the No. 1 seed, or will some upstart like BP go on a tear and score upset after upset? The top conferences, as you might expect, are banking and telecommunications.

Read about them all and pick your favorites (picking based on logo design is prohibited, but selecting by color is still held in favor. Companies with female CEOs have been granted sentimental favorite status.)
You can find out all you need to know here.

Folk: The Music of a Generation's Transition

Public Televisions' fund drives most often feature a kind of muzak that is far more offensive than alluring (the faux-Irish crap of late, especially), but tonight I'm sitting here watching John Sebastian raise money based on the folk songs of the early 1960s. It's like a dream-scape.

This was a time of great transition in music when Bobby Darin and Roger McGuinn could occupy the same stage and sing the same songs to great effect. I just sat through a filmed version of lounge singer Bobby Darin crooning the moving "Simple Song of Freedom" (here) while wearing a wide-lapel tux and big bow tie. It was a song he wrote during a change of heart and it is moving, simple and at the very essence of these message tunes.

Peter Paul and Mary (I'm still in love with Mary Travers and she's dead), the Rooftop Singers, the Brothers Four, Judy Collins, Pete Seeger, the Serendipity Singers, the Byrds, the New Christy Minstrels, the Mamas and the Papas, the Sandpipers, the Kingston Trio (pictured above) and dozens of others defined my early teens, They softened us all up for the hard times a-comin' with Vietnam, Civil Rights, the Women's Movement, the Environmental Movement, puberty, responsibility, adulthood. It raised our individual and collective consciousness and, I think, helped create a generation that rebelled against damn near everything previous generations held dear.

It is astonishing how so many of those "protest" lyrics could be sung today without anybody asking, "What was that about?" Sadly, it's as much about us now as it was then.

For some of us, it's still going and the music is as rich as it ever was, even though some of it is now in color. When I got married a few years ago (in my 50s), my son and his girlfriend (later his wife) sang Tim Hardin's "If I Were a Carpenter," one of five of Hardin's songs sung by Bobby Darin on Darin's album of that title. Transitions just keep coming.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Basketball Legend Stepping Down at UVa

Debbie Ryan and Kay Yow (right) had a lot in common, but the one item that will remain strongest with me is the triple overtime game their basketball teams--the University of Virginia and N.C. State--played about 25 years ago. It was the best basketball game of any kind I ever saw. The final score was something like 124-121 in triple overtime--I don't even remember who won and it doesn't matter--and the game marked a turning point in national interest in the women's game, I think.

Ryan, the University of Virginia's coach for the past 34 years (nearly as long as Pat Summitt's 36 years at Tennessee) will step down at the end of this season and basketball will lose not only one of its best coaches, but also one of its best sportswomen.

She's a class act with 736 wins (Yow had 657, Summitt, who beat Ryan's Cavaliers 70-67 in overtime for the 1991 national title, has over 1,000), seven ACC Coach of the Year awards, 1991 national Coach of the Year, 24 NCAA tournament appearances and on and on. She, Yow and Summitt are all in the women's basketball hall of fame.

Yow has become the face of breast cancer nationally (all that pink women wear in their games is a direct contribution from Yow), since dying from it a few years. Ryan, too, is a pancreatic cancer survivor, but we don't know much about it because it's never been much of a public issue for her. She just coached on.

Ryan has always been one of the more popular coaches in women's basketball and even Geno Auriemma, the cranky Connecticut coach who doesn't seem to like anybody, gushes over Ryan, under whom he started as a coach. He says Ryan is responsible for just about everything good that's ever happened to him. Pat Summitt calls Ryan one of her best friends. (Read Katrina Waugh's marvelous piece in the local daily this a.m. Has all the stats and she talked to the notables. Nice reporting job.)

Women's basketball has never gotten out of hand the way the men's game has. The sense of outsized self-importance that seems to afflict the men doesn't exist in the women's game. The women can read and they graduate at unusually high rates. Pro basketball beckons some of them, but the pay rate--about $50,000 a year--isn't enough to tempt players from skipping most of their college years in order to play a game for a few years.

The women's game seems to remain in proper proportion to its overall importance and Debbie Ryan is partly responsible for that. She seems to know what is valuable and to impart that to her athletes.

Maddy Makes Her First Bungee Jump

My little buddy Madeline made her first bungee jump yesterday at Valley View Mall and it was a success. Until she was overtaken by a mysterious "stomach ache" that seems to overwhelm children when they're scared and don't want to admit it.

My guess is that she really did have a bit of nausea (that motion is a bit much for some), but she was a trooper and next year, she'll do a flip off the rafters. Promise.