Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Photo(s) of the Day: Beauty from the Back Yard

These boys and girls are hiding in a newly-planted cyprus tree in the back yard.
Little is prettier than a bleeding heart (my own "liberal plant").
This is a new laurel bush of a type I don't quite recall, but it's damn purty.
My first pink dogwood blossom.
Tomatoes by July 15. Bet your butt.
When I grow up, I want to be a (thornless) blackberry.
Planted these to help hide my neighbor's metal fence. They're prettier.
Ground cover is best with blue flowers dotting it.
Red bell peppers grown from seeds I salvaged from some beauties.
I often tell young photographers that they don't have to go far to find good photo possibilities. These pictures were taken a few minutes ago in my back yard with available sunlight (it is cloudy, so there aren't any shadows). I love catching this little piece of my space in its various seasons. This year, it's a bird's next; last year a baby rabbit in front of me as I was mowing grass I'd let grow too long (and, no, I didn't hurt the little guy).

A Special Summer Soup To Help Bring the Weather

Mother Smith has been in the kitchen again, this time with a creation we'll call Mother Smith's World Famous Cucumber-Bell Pepper-Rosemary Soup and Bug Repellant. (Just kidding about the last part.)

It's probably a little cool for this chilled soup right now, but maybe the weather boys will get the hint and send a little sunshine and Mexico warmth up this was in a day or so. The soup goes well with the warm weather, but it's mighty tasty any time.

Here's how you make it:


2 cucumbers
2 stalks of celery
2 Vidalia onion tops
1/4 cup virgin (or at least "good girl") olive oil
1/2 large red bell pepper
1 cup sour cream
2 sprigs of mint
2 sprigs dill
1 clove garlic
2 cups of plain yogurt (your choice on full-fat)
2 cups sour cream (your choice on full-fat)
1 cup buttermilk
1 tbsp lime juice
1/4 cup white vinegar (I prefer white balsamic here)
1/4 cup cilantro or parsely
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Mixing it all together:

Peel and core the cukes, then chop them into squares; chop the celery and onions. Toss them, with the dill, mint and garlic, into a food processor with the oil. Puree the hell out of them. You can strain the pulp off if you're a wimp, but I prefer to have it in the soup. Keeps me regular, if you must know.

Whip all this into the sour cream, yogurt, buttermilk and lime juice and chop the bell pepper and cilantro over it. Whip it again with a wisk. Garnish with the cilantro.

Eat. Use a big spoon.

A New Fantasy Novel from Roanoke's Liz Long

Liz Long
My buddy Liz Long has just published her second fantasy novel, Witch Hearts, and you can take a look at how she did it, what she expects and where she gets help with this blog post on the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference site.

Liz is one of a new generation of writers, who like their brothers and sisters in music, are taking control of their work and publishing it themselves. Interesting story.

More Investigations of Virginia's Governor

Bob McDonnell: What? Me worry?
The pile is getting deeper and deeper around our short governor, Bob McDonnell. Now, the FBI, among others is interested in what he's been up to on the shady side of governing our Commonwealth.

Read all about it here.

Where there's stink, there's often poop, but in the case of politicians, it seems to slide off before the trial begins. (Think "Teflon president," Reagan, who was about six months from being impeached when he exited office and who probably should have been leveled during his first term.)

The deal here, though, is that McDonnell, at best, can pretty much kiss his national ambitions goodbye.

Monday, April 29, 2013

If You Think the Rich Pay Too Much in Taxes ...

A new study has "found that more than $12 trillion of that money [held by extremely rich people in offshore, untaxed
accounts] was managed by 50 international banks, many of which received bailouts during the financial crisis, according to James Henry, the study’s author.

“'There’s a lot more missing wealth in the world than we had known about from previous estimates,' Henry says. 'The real scandal is not all these individual scandals but the fact that world’s policy makers who know about this stuff, have basically done nothing.'”

--Huffington Post (here)

(Drawing: rawstory.com)

Putting Together a Novel Over a Weekend

Posted a piece on Eric Earnhardt's victory in the 48-Hour Pulp & Paper Novel Writing Contest on the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference site (here). Eric's approach is fascinating and revealing, a professional journalist tackling fiction with a lot of the discipline that has made him good at what he does.

Eric is in the public information department at Carilion and was a television journalist before that.

Here's a brief sample of the post:

"When the contest began I took the list of required elements and highlighted the ones that were interesting and familiar. I sketched out a rough 15-chapter outline as a guide (thinking 2,000 words per chapter) and started writing. One of the other contestants had done the math—625 words-per-hour (if you don’t sleep) to reach 30k—so there wasn’t a lot of time to contemplate, just write. I think my background writing for TV news helped. Sometimes the act of writing triggers the creative process. I wasn’t writing because the story was developing in my head—the story was developing because I was writing."

Photo of the Day: Oz and the Lighted Ball

I found this fuzzy lighted ball made of some kind of soft rubber and immediately thought of my grandguy Oz. He picked up on it immediately, yo-yoing with it, biting it and, of course, throwing it at me. Love watching a sub-two-year-old figuring out how to use stuff.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Some Good Information from Appalachian Power

Appalachian Power, which furnishes electricity to my house, has an interesting and useful feature with its monthly bill. The bill tells me not only how much electricity I have used in the previous month, but how much I used in the same period last year.

It gives me the average temperature of the period in those two years and gives the number of kilowatt hours I used on a given day.

What I've learned from this bill over the winter is that this has been a much colder winter than last year's was. The period between March 23 and April 23, for example, averaged 53 degrees this year and 60 last year. That's only seven degrees, but it's also about 15 percent. It's been that way pretty much all winter and I think it feels a lot colder this year because the chill has lasted well into the spring and last year we didn't get a winter at all.

The knowledge doesn't make this chill any less comfortable--especially when I'm watching my basil shrivel from last night's low temperatures--but it's good to know.

(Photo: favim.com)

Friday, April 26, 2013

Grandfathers Day at the Theater With Maddie

Maddie and me on the way to see the "Wonderettes."
Mads and Leah in the theater.
Maddie and I determined that today was the official "Grandfathers Day" and to celebrate we (and Leah) went to Mill Mountain Theatre to see a grown-up play, "The Marvelous Wonderettes."

Mads and I have seen several kids' plays together, but tonight was her first "real thing" dealie and she was both delighted and delightful, dressed like a modern-day princess ... as usual (her mama does this part very well).

We both liked the play, were tickled to share it with Leah and, well, liked each other. T'was a fond time.

Updated Bathrooms at MMT; Same Old Way To Pee

Mill Mountain Theatre has undergone extensive renovations in its Center in the Square home, among them the bathrooms. Leah says she's never seen so many stalls in a woman's bathroom and I couldn't resist getting this shot at intermission of tonight's play in the men's room. Guys still peeing on the wall. Some things never change.

MMT Is Back and It's Nice To Have the Music

'Wonderettes' on stage at the end of the production
Sometimes you don't know what you will miss until it's gone. Mill Mountain Theater has essentially been gone for more than three years now, but it's back and the return underscores just how much the Roanoke Valley has been lacking in musical stage productions.

MMT was so heavy with musicals before it failed in 2009, that its constant music fare became drab, predictable and even boring. That wasn't the case tonight with the return of the theater and its musical "The Marvelous Wonderettes," with four professional actors in the show's roles as a girl group at a prom in the 1950s and a 1960s class reunion.

In Mill Mountain Theatre's absence as the region's only equity company, local companies have reacted with bench-building strength, developing actors, directors and writers in a variety of formats. Except for Hollins University's wonderful theater, however, musicals were noticeably absent--and a lot of that can be attributed to expense.

MMT, which is hyper cost-conscious addressed that expense with a four-character play that is simply a delight in every sense. The four actors brought in from New York to play the Wonderettes--Andrea Dotto, Katie Emerson, Rebecca Russell and Jessi Tidwell--were perfectly delightful and brought voice strength that has been rare in these parts of late.

The "Wonderettes" was more of a revue than a play, but it works and audiences have been large the first three nights and a couple of shows next week have sold out, according to board of directors president Jack Avis.

The future is looking promising, too, with three more productions planned through the end of the year, including "39 Steps" and "Sound of Music" in December. Tickets are available ($25 and $27 for "Wonderettes") at 540-342-5740.

Quote: Is the Repub Party Really Worse than Bush?

George Bush: What, me worry?
"It is also true that Bush’s party unfortunately decided, after his presidency, that he failed primarily by being too moderate, too compassionate, and too bipartisan, and moved even further right since, making Bush look retrospectively sane. At the time, some of us simply took for granted Bush’s choices to avoid anti-Muslim bigotry and not propose enormous cuts to government programs for the sickest and most vulnerable Americans. By the standards of the present-day GOP, these decisions make Bush look fair-minded and even statesmanlike."

--Jonathan Chait in a New Yorker piece (here) detailing just how awful a president he was, and how much worst the Republican Party is after his departure from the White House (think that's not possible, read on)

Quote: 'Economics as a Morality Play'

"Part of the answer surely lies in the widespread desire to see economics as a morality play, to make it a tale of excess and its consequences. We lived beyond our means, the story goes, and now we’re paying the inevitable price. Economists can explain ad nauseam that this is wrong, that the reason we have mass unemployment isn’t that we spent too much in the past but that we’re spending too little now, and that this problem can and should be solved.

"No matter; many people have a visceral sense that we sinned and must seek redemption through suffering — and neither economic argument nor the observation that the people now suffering aren’t at all the same people who sinned during the bubble years makes much of a dent."

--Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman (here)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Quote of the Day: Old Barb Gets One Right

Barbara Bush.
"I'd say we've had enough Bushes."

Former First Lady Barbara Bush on Huffington Post.

(Photo: content.usatoday.com)

RRWC Opens Its Monthly Writers Series

Sarah Beth Jones talks to her students
We had a group of about 20 last night at the first Roanoke Regional Writers Conference Writers Series class and my guess is that'll be about average for what we can expect over the next few months. The topic was "Ghostwriting for the Internet" and it was taught by Sarah Beth Jones (see a video of her chatting about the topic here) and Bonnie Cranmer.

Next up is a class to be determined on May 22, then on June 19 Karen Chase will discuss "Blog to Book," about writing her excellent Bonjour 40, based on a blog she wrote.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Is Gov's Wife Pinching Groceries from Exec Beach House?

Bob, Maureen and some guy with wine (where'd he get the wine?).
So now it looks like we might have, Maureen McDonnell, the wife of our short governor, Bob McConnell, stealing eggs from the governor's beach house, according to this report.

Looks like we could have a whole lot of petty thefts by the gov's wife and kids, all of which add up to a hard-to-swallow binge of dishonesty that borders on shoplifting. My guess is the Republicans in Virginia will choose to call this much ado about nothing, and ignore it, while Dems will see it as the crime of the century (hey, the century is young).

It is likely neither, but it is something that needs our attention, if true, and the former executive chef for the gov seems to think it is. McDonnell has done far more wrong than have his family steal a few bucks worth of groceries, but this is yet another nail in his political coffin.

Virginia Creeper Trail Portion Closed by Storm

Trails don't come much prettier than the Virginia Creeper, boys and girls.
A good-sized section of one of my favorite places to ride a bicycle, the Virginia Creeper Trail near Damascas (which is near Abingdon, if you can't place it), has been temporarily closed because of storm damage. Closed is a three-mile section between Whitetop Station (made famous in a photo by Winston Link) and Green Cove Station. It is one of the prettiest--and steepest--sections of the trail.

The entire trail, going to Abingdon from the top of White Top, is 34 miles long and the first half is downhill (hence my adoration). It is an old railroad bed and at the bottom of the first half of the run, in Damascas, one can stop at a small ice cream shop and reward himself for a half well ridden.

A culvert collapsed in a storm, causing the closing damage, according to the Associated Press. No word on when it will re-open, but 200,000 people a year ride the trail, says the Forest Service.

Moviemaker To Talk Friday at Fork in the City

Roanoker Andrea Shreeman: 'A Good Day To Die'
Andrea Shreeman, the Roanoke native who is putting together funding to make her movie, "A Good Day To Die" (see story in FRONT's May edition, available online May 1), will give a talk at Fork in the City in Downtown Roanoke Friday at 6:30 p.m. The entire program, including getting to know her, runs 5-8 p.m.

She'll be introduced by David and Ann Trinkle. David, a City Councilman, owns Fork in the City and Ann is prominent in the art community. The event is free.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Wanna Play 'Antiques Road Show'? Here's Your Shot

Ken Farmer (left) at the sale of Roanoke's Agnew's Feed & Seed.
OK, Roadies, antiques dealer and "Antiques Road Show" regular Ken Farmer of Radford is returning to Roanoke's South County Library, to do appraisals--for a fee. He spoke at the dedication of the library a couple of years ago, but didn't appraise anything.

Farmer will appraise up to 40 items at South County Library starting at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 8. Tickets to have an item appraised are $10 and can be purchased at the first floor service desk at South County.

A picture and a description of the item must be emailed to Farmer at least one week prior to the event. Instructions for doing this are included with the purchased ticket. Appraisal ticket sales will end May 1.

Note that Farmer does not appraise coins, stamps, and currency.

 After a brief talk in the South County Auditorium on May 8, he will begin appraising the submitted objects. The event is expected to last about two hours.

General seating is limited and is available at no charge on a first-come basis. South County Library is at 6303 Merriman Road in Roanoke, across from Penn Forest Elementary School.

Learning To Use the Greenway Without Killing Each Other

My pal Dan Casey, who writes a column for a local daily in Roanoke, has an especially useful piece this morning (here) about safety and courtesy for bikers and walkers on the greenway in the Roanoke Valley.

This is a growing concern because use of the greenway increases exponentially as the sections lengthen and connect. Use at peak times often resembles a city street at lunch and the mixture of bicycles and walkers is always dangerous, welcoming boorish, inconsiderate and thoughtless behavior by both riders and walkers.

I am a frequent greenway walker and biker and what I see from each perspective makes my hair stand up. There is some kind of territoriality that seems to infect people on the greenway in the same way drivers of cars change personalities when the key is turned. Normally thoughtful and considerate people won't give an inch and they insist on riding/walking two, three or four abreast on a narrow roadway meant for traffic in both directions.

Read Dan's piece for the rules, but let me say here that if you'll simply trade places with the walker/rider you're in conflict with and assume his posture for just a moment, you'll get an idea what you need to be doing. Those of you who can't walk and talk or ride and talk unless you're beside each other and totally mindless of your environment, need to be somewhere less congested. You are a hazard.

(Photo: inbetweenathlete.com)

Monday, April 22, 2013

Richie Havens: There Went the Sun

I see where Richie Havens has died and that probably doesn't mean much to most of you. Does to me, though. I interviewed the marvelous and greatly under-appreciated musician in about 1979 at the Coffee Pot in Roanoke and it was memorable. To me, it was memorable. My guess would be he didn't even know he was there.

Havens, who didn't have any front teeth at that time, had been something of a sensation at Woodstock, staying on the stage for hours because so many scheduled acts didn't show up. He loved every minute of it. In fact, my impression was that he was much more at home on stage than anywhere else. As we chatted, he sipped a draft beer--or three or four--but it appeared to me that he'd been into something else before I got there. (I interviewed Eddie Rabbitt in his country music bus once and he kept excusing himself. I heard what sounded like nasal sucking sounds every time he left. I made a pretty good guess at what he was doing.)

Havens, who was 72 (he looked much older than he was when I interviewed him), recorded 30 albums--mostly low to medium sellers--and toured for 30 years. He had that one classic hit--the Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun," which he did better--that every performer lusts after. If you're looking for a legacy, that's as good as any.

(Photo: spradosphere.com)

New Trends: The Incredible Shrinking Book

Those of you working on your Great American Novel, you might want to consider editing for length. According to best-selling author Michael Levin,the short book--the VERY short book--is moving toward the norm because readers' habits are changing. Here's a press release from Levin's publicist hawking his view:

“The first time I saw a 73-page ‘book’ offered on Amazon, I was outraged,” says New York Times best selling author Michael Levin.  “But I thought about how shredded the American attention span is.  And I felt like Cortez staring at the Pacific.”

The trend in books today, Harry Potter notwithstanding, is toward books so short that in the past no self-respecting publisher—or author—would even have called them books.  But today, shortened attention spans call for shorter books.

Levin blames smartphones and social media for what he calls “a worldwide adult epidemic of ADH."

“Brain scientists tell us our brain chemistry has been transformed by short-burst communication such as texting, Tweeting, and Facebook posts,” Levin adds. “Long magazine articles have given way to 600-word blog posts.  And doorstop-size books have been replaced by minibooks.”

This sudden change in attention spans changed the way Levin approaches ghostwriting.  “Even five years ago, we aimed for 250-page books.  Today we advise our business clients to do 50-page minibooks to meet impatient readers’ expectations for speedy delivery of information.”

Levin runs the ghostwriting firm BusinessGhost.com [our first RRWC Writers Series class Wednesday at Community High in downtown Roanoke is about ghostwriting for the Internet]. “Today,” he says, “people don’t want you to prove your assertions. They just want to know that you have legitimate answers to their questions and that they can trust you. If you can’t get buy-in with 50 pages today, you won’t get it in 250.”

The trend toward shorter books caused Levin to offer what he calls the “Book-Of-The-Quarter Club,” which creates four 50-page hardcover minibooks a year for BusinessGhost’s clients. “This allows them to address four different major issues, or four different sets of prospects, and provides quarterly opportunities for marketing events,” Levin says.

How short will books eventually run?  “Can you say ‘haiku’?” Levin asks. "It could happen.”

(Photo: guardian.uk)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Mill Mountain Theatre's Comeback: Eager Anticipation

Mill Mountain Theatre will rise from the ashes of its own extravagance Wednesday with the April 24-May 12  run of "The Marvelous Wonderettes," a play that says much, much more about the future than about the past.

"Wonderettes" is a small cast play, based in music from the 1950s and 1960s, which means it will draw the right demographic (baby boomers, who have money) and will be relatively inexpensive to produce. MMT is the only professional theater in the region, but it will not be housing and paying a large number of actors for "Wonderettes," since the play has but four actors in it.

In the past, especially the recent past, MMT was guilty of spending far more money than it could afford to cater to the tastes (musical, musical, musical) of an aging theater-going crowd. At one point, it even produced "To Kill a Mockingbird" as a musical, an event that was far more offensive than entertaining.

Since its closing  in 2009, a lot has happened with the theater's structure, goals, board membership and intent. The board is heavy with successful business people, headed by Jack Avis, who owns a construction company and Cynthia Lawrence, whose marketing business has been something to watch for years. They are young, enthusiastic, active, involved, knowledgeable, full of energy and willing to use basic business principles to guide a cultural institution.

In the past, MMT has had little notable competition for those interested in live theater, save for Lime Kiln Arts in Lexington (which closed last fall) and Barter Theatre in Abingdon. Roanoke has a long and notable theater history, mostly revolving around Mill Mountain Theatre--for the past 50 or so years--but including a couple of nice dinner theaters, local group the Showtimers, Gamut and more recently Theatre Roanoke and the virtual dominance of Hollins University's theater program.

I note that MMT's admission prices for "Wonderettes" range from $22 for groups to a high of $27 (details of new production are here, and you can buy tickets online, as well). That's a good bit less than many of its past productions and, though high for two hours of entertainment when compared to movies, ball games and amateur theater in the region, it's on the light side for professional theater. Plays in the past have cost as much as $40 for a ticket. Take a family out on that. The price tags of the past limited attendance to those in the upper economic regions--mostly older and with little range in taste. Young people were all but shut out by the cost and the choice of plays. That group is now involved because of the the intense activity of alt theater during MMT's forced shutdown.

During MMT's absence, the area has developed a deep bench of actors, directors and technical people and mounting quality local productions has become the norm, rather than the exception. Operating on a shoestring is also a common theme. MMT will do well to ingest those lessons and incorporate them strongly into its plan--especially the part about using local actors to the extent possible.

I'm eager and excited in anticipation of Mill Mountain Theatre's return because this is the standard for theater in the area, in most people's minds (Hollins is the real standard right now, but Hollins does not have the financial restraints MMT must employ). I honestly hope this is an effort we can learn from and support wholeheartedly.

(Photo: marvelouswonderettes.com)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Gun Ownership: Shooting Yourself Before Shooting Others

"Owning a gun for personal security is statistically unrealistic. Owners are more likely to be hurt by their own gun than someone else’s, as a gun is used in suicides or suicide attempts 11 times as often and in unintentional shooting deaths four times as often as in self-defense."

--Michael Abraham in an op-ed (here) this morning

Friday, April 19, 2013

Peaks of Otter Lodge Will Reopen Again Soon

Peaks of Otter Lodge: It's a beauty.
Those of you sweating the loss of the Peaks of Otter Lodge on the Blue Ridge Parkway can calm down now. Looks like it could re-open by early- to mid-summer with a new concessionaire. Delaware North, which operates concessions at several national parks, will re-open the lodge, restaurant and retail shops and will also run the shuttle to the crest of Sharp Top.

The lodge was closed after Thanksgiving. This is one of the iconic stops along the parkway for both its cafeteria brunches, lunches and dinners and for the lovely walk around the small lake beside the lodge. Thanksgiving lunch there has been a tradition of mine for a while now, so I won't have to miss another one (and maybe the food will even be good again; it hasn't in recent years).

(Photo: the lynchburginsider.com)

Busch Resigns NRA; Says It Is Out of Touch with Members

Adolphus Busch IV
"The NRA I see today has undermined the values upon which it was established. Your current strategic focus clearly places priority on the needs of gun and ammunition manufacturers while disregarding the opinions of your four million individual members.

"One only has to look at the makeup of the 75-member board of directors, dominated by manufacturing interests, to confirm my point. The NRA appears to have evolved into the lobby for gun and ammunition manufacturers rather than gun owners."

--Adolphus Busch IV (here) on the NRA's opposition to reasonable gun control in his letter of resignation from the club, with which he had a lifetime membership. Busch is one of the beer people.

It's Leah's Birthday: Here's a Present

Today is Leah's birthday. I grew these just for her. Happy birthday, baby.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Goodlatte's NRA Bribes Fifth Highest in House

Goodlatte: Who me? Sell my ... uh ... vote!
Bob Goodlatte, the 6th District Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives--the guy representing us--is one of five House members receiving the largest amount of bribes in cash from the NRA and his record shows why.

Goodlatte is the recipient of $56,250 (compare that to gun apologist Sen. John Cornyn of Texas who got a meager $1,600), as opposed to a high of $71,250 for Rep. Don Young of Alaska. I won't separately identify these guys' party because they're obviously all Republicans. The other three of the top five are Steve Chabot of Ohio, Pete Sessions of Texas and Lee Terry of Nebraska.

According to the Sunlight Foundation Reporting Group, "In all, members of the [most recently elected] Congress have received $3.4 million in campaign contributions from the National Rifle Assocaition's political action committee over the years, according to data from Sunlight's Influence Explorer and the Center for Responsive Politics."

Goodlatte, says Sunlight, "easily won an 11th term this November [and] will become the next chairman of the Judiciary Committee, a key position that oversees constitutional rights -- and may see hearings about any new legislation proposed in the wake of the tragedy at the Sandy Hook elementary school. He also currently sits on the panel's crime subcommittee. He has a conservative voting record -- more conservative than 83 percent of House members, according to the National Journal -- but also often reaches across the aisle to work with Democrats, especially on technology issues. But if he wants to keep his 'A' rating from the NRA, he may not be as willing to compromise on gun issues."

Looks like 83 percent is a good number for Goodlatte. Seems 83 percent of the NRA's bribes to congressional representatives since 1990 have gone to Republicans. The NRA knows where its bread is buttered for the group it represents: gun manufacturers, some of whom were once the suppliers of much of the world's war capability, especially among small countries. These are people of no conscience and no morality. The NRA "noted [Goodlatte's] cosponsorship of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act and his co-sponsorship of the National Right-To-Carry Reciprocity Act" in endorsing him recently.

Children's Theatre Moves to Dumas in Roanoke

Inside the Dumas Center.
Roanoke Children’s Theatre, which has been performing at the Taubman Museum in downtown Roanoke since shortly after its founding in 2008, is moving to the Dumas Center for Artistic Development in Roanoke. RCT, one of the area's really good success stories, is the only professional theater in Roanoke serving kids and families, producing four literary or issue-based productions per year. It has served over 56,000 patrons to date.

This is a dandy move for RCT, though its affiliation with the Taubman was good for both organizations and gave the Taubman more of a "people" feel. Pat Wilhelms formed RCT after effectively being tossed out by Mill Mountain's Theater's former--long gone and hardly missed--creative director and took her considerably experience across the street to RCT. Pat came out well. MMT eventually closed and had to bring in a board of directors to resurrect it.

Dumas Center exterior.
“We are so proud to have reached this exciting new stage of growth – literally!” says Pat . “The opportunities in our new venue offer so much to RCT, our patrons and our community.  Not only will our audiences enjoy increased audience seating capacity, we will be able to expand programming opportunities and provide abundant free parking.”  

The additional available space in the Dumas will provide RCT with dressing room access, mirrored classrooms, a parent lounge and new and fun surprise events that will complement RCT’s mission.

"To be housed in a historically creative place will not only serve as inspiration to the company, but will give us the opportunity to share our invigorated new vision in our new neighborhood. We look forward to all of the ways we can work together to give our community’s youth and families creative, imaginative opportunities that inspire their growth and health,” emphasizes Wilhelms.

The new season includes: “How I Became a Priate,” a musical in October; “A Little House Christmas” in December; “Teen Brain,” another musical in February;  and “The True story of the 3 Little Pigs” in June.

(Photos: jhpence.com and downtownroanoke.org)

Putting the Pro-Gun Vote into Perspective

If you want a perspective on the Senate gun background check vote yesterday, won by the "no" faction by a vote of 46 against, 54 in favor (55 if you count Harry Reid's procedural vote against), consider the following, the winning percentage in the past seven presidential elections:

George H.W. Bush, 1988, 53.37
Bill Clinton, 1992, 43.01
Bill Clinton, 1996, 49.23
2000-George Bush, 47.87
2004-George Bush, 50.73
2008-Barack Obama, 51.6
2008-Barack Obama, 52.87

None of those occupants of the Oval office (and I refuse to Call George W. Bush a president, since he didn't win in 2000 and rigged the election in 2004 with two wars) won 54 percent of the vote.

Just four elections in our history have seen the winner with 60 percent of the vote (according to Wikipedia, here), the percentage the Senate requires for most actions. Just 12 more won by 54 percent or more. We have had 57 presidential elections since the first one in 1789. The 60 votes are necessary in order to shut down a threatened filibuster, which the opposing side doesn't even have to execute. 

It is long past time for the Senate to modify its arcane and outdated rules, especially when you consider that 90 percent of the American public favors some kind of background check (the figure most often cited) and 46 percent of the Senators oppose those checks, half the percentage of those they represent.

Our three congressman from this region--Bob Goodlatte, Morgan Griffith and Robert Hurt--are on record as opposing any kind of controls on guns, ammunition or those who sell and buy them. They need to be voted out of office in the next cycle (for this and myriad other far right wing stances). Our two conservative senators--Warner and Kaine--had the good sense to favor background checks, though neither goes far enough in wanting guns controlled.

(Photo: washingtonpost.com)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

RRWC Writers Series Begins Next Week

Liminal Space is through the door at the left.
The Roanoke Regional Writers Conference will initiate its
monthly RRWC Writers Series Wednesday, April 24 at the Liminal Space at Community High School in downtown Roanoke. The classes will be held 6-7:30 p.m.

The series, which will be free (a basket will be passed to cover teachers’ travel expenses), is designed for professional writers, those who would like to write for pay and serious students.

Initially, topics will include  “Writing Sci-Fi and Fantasy,” “Marketing Your Manuscript,” “Translating Your Book to the Stage,” “The Art of the Short Essay,” “Writing Memoir,” “Researching Biography” and a number of others.

The first two classes will be:
  • Wednesday, April 24, Liminal Space at Community High School: "Ghost Writing for the Internet" with Bonnie Cranmer and Sarah Beth Jones. Bonnie is a well-known social media consultant who does a good bit of ghost writing and Sarah Beth is the co-owner of Nary Ordinary Business Services in Floyd, which is heavily involved in social media and blogging.
  • Wednesday, May 22, Liminal Space at CHS: "Blog to Book" with Karen Chase, a design studio owner and well known blogger who worked in Roanoke until relatively recently. She is now in Richmond. Her first book--just published--is Bonjour 40, which is taken from the blog she wrote for 40 days when she visited Paris to celebrate her 40th birthday. The self-published book has been a surprising success at every level and Karen is working on her second book now.

For more information, please e-mail Dan Smith at pampadansmith@gmail.com or call him at 540-556-8510.

Quote of the Day: Deciding What's News (Hint: Social Media)

Kelly McBride, an expert on media ethics at the Poynter Institute, said she saw no evidence of any cover-up, simply confusion by news editors over whether the story merited national attention. “One of the ways the news media knows how to cover a story these days is because of the attention in social media,” Ms. McBride said. “That’s how people judge whether there’s an appetite for a story.”

--NYTimes this a.m. (here) in a story about the coverage of a trial of an abortion doctor in Philadelphia

Monday, April 15, 2013

Quote of the Day: Tax Corporations as if They Were People

For most of the 1950s, corporate income at large companies was taxed at 52 percent, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. The federal government, meanwhile, collected about a third of its revenues  from this source. Today, thanks largely to the “reforms” ushered in by President Ronald Reagan, the ostensible tax rate on corporate income is no higher than 35 percent — and the corporate-tax share of federal revenue has fallen to about nine percent.

--NYTimes this a.m. (here)

(Graphic: taxpolicycenter.org)

Photo of the Day: Last Chapter of the Big Box

At the risk of belaboring the point, I will once again express sorry at the loss of Books A Million, the big box (boooooo!) book store (yaaaaaaay!) near my house. I consider the loss of a book store--even one like this--to be the equivalent of the loss of a library, since book stores help writers stay in business and libraries don't. Quite the contrary, in fact, since they give away our work.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Hey, Dude, Is That Machine Gun Standard Equipment?

This WWII-era jeep--totally restored, I'd guess from the look of it--was on City Market yesterday and was a show-stopper.

My guess is that many of us looked at the mounted machine gun and wondered what the NRA thought about that for traffic control. Imagine turning this baby around on its swivel when somebody was tailgating. Heh, heh, heh ...

Photos of the Day: Oz and Maddie Visit the Front Yard

Golden-haired Oz seems to have something to say.

The grandbuds came over today with Evtan and Kara so Ev and I could team up on a landscaping project.

While Ev and I took a break, I grabbed a Canon and started shooting. These children absolutely adore each other and Oz is beginning to develop a delightful--and funny--personality.

They seemed to enjoy themselves and the fact that spring was cooperating fully didn't hurt a bit.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Hollins' '9 to 5' Is Simply Dazzling

Hollins University's production of Dolly Parton's and Patricia Reskick's "9 to 5," the 1970s play that became a hit movie, continues a recent level of excellence of production that has become the standard in this region--with or without the presence of Mill Mountain Theatre, the professional theater.

Mill Mountain returns late this month after nearly two years of being dark but it has a long way to go to catch Hollins and its outstanding director/chairman of the theater department Ernie Zulia and the team he has put together. Zulia once again pairs seasoned professionals--both on and off the stage--with talented students to produce a play that delighted a full house tonight.

Ernie Zulia with Mary Ellen Apgar.
Whether Zulia's direction, John Sailor's outstanding set, Amanda Quivey's eye-grabbing costumes or performances by seasoned professionals like Drew Dowdy paired with a student lead trio of Russell Wilson, Brittany Kemmer and Maria Latiolais, the teamwork is obvious. The show was stopped by a second level player, Lucretia Bell in one of those "holy crap!" moments.

Zulia even brought back recent graduate Mary Ellen Apgar, who was so memorable in last year's "Good Ole Girls" to do the narration for this one. She graduated last spring and does a narration as well as she does an "old girl." Dowdy, for his part, has become the hottest acting commodity in this region in the past year--deservedly so.

This is the story you'll remember from the movie with Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dabney Coleman. It revolved around an evil, sexist male boss and the three secretaries who overcame their status and got even, taking over the company eventually. The script is a bit dated, but on a woman's campus, it elicits howls.

The three leads--Wilson, Kemmer and Latiolais--are delightful singers separately, but are especially effective when harmonizing. There is some solid dancing throughout. This is a fluid, professional performance on every level and one that should appeal to a wide audience. Go see it.