The Blue Raccoon

Monday, December 31, 2007

Going Out

Well, billion-eyed audience, with Louise, I raise a glass to you on this New Year's in Richmond, Vee-yay where the sun is bright, the wind mild and cool, and the massive second annual Carytown celebration is gearing up.

We were startled awake this ayem by the grumbling and reverse-alarm-beeping of trash trucks. Our New Year's day began with hauling our holly daze trash and recycle to their respective pick up places, fore and aft.

Last year, the folks at the New York Deli who cooked it up. Demetrius of the NYD said to, "So, Harry, for New Year's we're going to close off this end of Cary Street and have a party."

I admit to my own skepticism, being a Richmonder, and infected with its Eeyorosis that I must combat with regular treatments of a wild abandonment in dance, but I wanted success.

RVA Magazine promoted the spectacle. Most of us round C-town thought that maybe a few hundred people would attend. But good weather--a slight, fine mist toward the midnight hour--and the novelty of the thing brought out more than 5,000 with just nine peace officers to keep order. But what happened was a good time with nary a provocation prompting police procedure.

This year, the street is closed off for almost its entire mile length, with jumbo tron television screens, a bigger better ball above the Byrd Theatre (we raise our annual orb, instead of lowering one -- we don't care how they do it in New York), with three stages for music including our very own Black Cash and the No BS Brass Band. [Image, above, via RVA, by
Dave Kenedy]

Amie cut my hair today and while so engaged realized she'd not seen our megaphone employed for the "Dictation" portion of Walk The Walk. I went to retrieve the vocal magnifier, and on my way out--this I think around 1 p.m.that the traffic was getting rerouted because the blocks of the Byrd were already fenced in.

I was happy to see the megaphone still up, a sentinel of potential sound before now bare white walls, except for Amie's smudged backward writing. When I stood on the one side of the 'phone, looked like the words were coming from the wide end, and I took a cell pic, but, this requires another technological leap to display the image.

Upon my return, Amie awarded me with the news that my Flash issues were cleared up: hence, no more crashing of browsers. An early birthday present.

Later, we walked up to Ellwood Thompson's and the street and its tributaries was buzzing with expectation of the upcoming event. The possible number floating around for maximum audience to see the ball going up is around 20,000. Could happen.

[From January 21, 2006, Wit of the Staircase]

As promised, though, Theresa Duncan posted to The Wit of the Staircase from beyond the cyber-aether. Went up some point before noon and is titled either with intended or now conveyed irony, "New Beginning," and is a quotation from TS Eliot's Four Quartets, the second section, "East Coker."

She cites the poetry and lit blog Whiskey River and according to the visitation log there, the pent up Duncan demand is getting satisfaction today.

Number Two starts, sounding like (in my first and most shallow reading)--from the early 21st century--a lament about suburban sprawl:

"In my beginning is my end. In succession
Houses rise and fall, crumble, are extended,
Are removed, destroyed, restored, or in their place
Is an open field, or a factory, or a by-pass.
Old stone to new building, old timber to new fires,
Old fires to ashes, and ashes to the earth
Which is already flesh, fur and faeces,
Bone of man and beast, cornstalk and leaf.
Houses live and die: there is a time for building
And a time for living and for generation
And a time for the wind to break the loosened pane
And to shake the wainscot where the field-mouse trots
And to shake the tattered arras woven with a silent motto."

H'mmm. Time for the wind to break the loosened pane, indeed, in this particular case.

Duncan quoted from the first portion of the quarto's fifth part. The voice here is frustrated by the imprecision of words and the difficult effort in attempting to make art new. I don't know how familiar Duncan was with Eliot, or this poem, either. Here is the entire second portion, that offers a sense of affirmation:

Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
the world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.
There is a time for the evening under starlight,
A time for the evening under lamplight
(The evening with the photograph album).
Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.
Old men ought to be explorers
Here or there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning."

"A life time burning in every moment and not the lifetime of one many only," has a certain weight given the circumstances, and "Love is most nearly itself/When here and now cease to matter," and "..the wind cry, the vast waters/Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning."


I shan't belabor this; on other blogs I'm certain they have already applied tweezers to each syllable, or will soon enough, after the hangovers have receded.

It is getting on to 5 p.m. here and shadows growing long. The past few days I've been restructuring my office to better suit writing and research for the new book. Got a ways to go yet. Have a grand time, whatever you do tonight.

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

These Two About Sum It Up...

Karenna’s brows pressed together. “This new millennium. Break it all down, it’s a hung over version of the last one except with cable and penicillin.”
“Renna," [her sister Maria said], you’re more right than wrong.”
“All you can ask for, I guess.”

Party Girl for Peace sez.....

The Zeitgeist....

Year's End Holly Daze Cat Photo

Yes, our home tricked out for the recent holly daze.
There is a cat caught in mid-grooming in the picture. That's Flannery.
Amie's image shows our bushy-tailed feline friend lounging upon our improvised living room guest bed.

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Back On Track, Sort Of...

Detail of J.M.W. Turner's "Rain, Steam, Speed" (1844), via

Due to the Grande Louvre's persistent fiddling with my eMac I am at least able now to sign in to Blogger using Netscape, but with Java and Flash disabled. Which means I can't see YouTube. But other of our Computer Buddhas think, too, that my operating system--from 2005--needs an upgrade. As Laurie Anderson said some time ago, technology has brought the arms race to our living rooms, with its big hard drives and massive televisions, and everybody--including me--wants to get the biggest and best and latest.


Well, as we say around here, it could always be worse. This is an early birthday present, which is fast approaching, January 3.


"Promises that technology will improve our future lives have been surrounded by the powerful drives of consumerism. There is an enormous pressure for people to get with the program, get up to speed, compete.

Buy! Buy! Buy more bandwidth, more storage, more memory, more speed and if you don't you'll be left behind in the dust with the rest of the digital homeless. So what began as a promise becomes in fact a kind of threat.

As technologies escalate and things get faster, a lot of people get caught up in what amounts to a sort of personal arms race, building up arsenals of equipment, and for what? So we have to keep getting more and more stuff endlessly: And we will never ever have enough. It's like we're in a race against speed itself." -- Laurie Anderson, from here.

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Assassins: The More Things Change...

Scene from Stephen Sondheim's Assassins, via joecable.

Assassination had become a favored from of political protest in the
late 1800s and early 1900s. Four kings, three American presidents, the
Empress of Austria, two monarchical heirs, and assorted dukes, barons
governors, legislators, and other political figures had been gunned down
or stabbed to death by 1911. The King of Serbia died in a grisly 1903
massacre in which he, the queen, and her two brothers were shot and then
thrown out of palace windows. The estranged wife of Hapsburg Emperor
Franz Joseph, Elizabeth of Bavaria, was stabbed to death by an anarchist
in Geneva in 1898. That these assassinations seemed to change little did
not decrease their popularity.
" -- An Incomplete History of World
War I,
Edwin Kiester Jr.

"As saddened as I am to hear of this, the reality is that I wasn't the least bit surprised. The truth is that Pakistan has always been, since it's founding, a murky, dangerous and anarchic place who's short history has been littered with such assasinations [sic.] and other forms of political violence. Unfortunately, as much money and attention as the US and UK throw at this problem (which we must, given that the alternative is unacceptable), we don't fully comprehend the amorality that pervades this country's politics and society.
It's very possible that it emerges that this was the work of Musharraf, our supposed ally who will conveniently find today that the West now has no viable alternatives but to support his regime fully despite a recent tilt towards Bhutto.
And, frankly, we will have to oblige and redouble our support for him. Welcome to the dangerous and enigmatic politics of nuclear-armed, Islamist-stoked Pakistan. God help us all."
-- H Juneja, London, England Timesonline blog.

"This is it folks. The Pathocracy have pulled out all the stops; its mask is down, it stands before us nakedly terrifying for the world of normal people to see. No longer do they assassinate by stealth, covertly pulling strings and manipulating election outcomes... No sir, as of today, they're rubbing their contempt for humanity in our faces.
Go here for some real context to this harbinger of our new global psychopathic elite: here."
Agniezka, posting on The Guardian blog about Benazir Bhutto's death

"Pakistan is in crisis today after the former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, who only returned to her homeland in October after eight years of self-imposed exile, was killed in a suicide attack."
In crisis today? Pakistan is in a permanent crisis. It has failed spectacularly as a nation. The US rushes to depose Saddam Hussein in the name of spreading democracy but hands billions of dollars to a military dictator in Pakistan, who uses it to develop weapons systems against the world's largest democracy India." --Medgirl

"I love the amount of ignorance being spouted all around. And where did India collapsing come into all this, it is probably as stable as any western democracy. The US and UK have see nothing compared to the kind of turmoil that India has seen and yet it has survived and to a great extent thrived. Granted there are a lot of problems on all fronts, but the west had over 200 odd years of democracy to work for them, India's only had 60 and by my guess, its done a fairly good job.
The political scenario today is more about social and economic development. People with fundamentalists tendencies do come into power but a lot of them do because of the economic growth they have led to. Modi is a prime example, he might be a fascist pig, but lets be honest, most people would take economic development over freedom of expression anyday, if you ask them to prioritize.
But the point is that maturity of voters had made a lot of the fundamentalists shift towards a more moderate stance. And lets be honest, all democracies are flawed. Most western democracies are practically owned by corporations or by right wing Christian parties hell bent on making immigration from the third world an issue or both.
And as far as the domino effect is concerned, well the US should have thought of that before invading iraq, which quite frankly was a war for oil, because if they really wanted to handle terrorism, the would have dealt with pakistan and saudi first, the heart and soul of global terrorism.
Er and Iraq calming down, well just because the western media is more focused on the US presidential elections and the divorce drama of Britney spears doesn't mean it has settled down. Its still a mess and will remain to be for a long time.
Please don't form opinions of countries based on mainstream media reports, most of them are parachute pieces with absolutely no local or regional knowledge anyways. You have the internet, explore a little and see different points of views." -- EternalCynic

"This is just a pretext for the US to send in its forces (possibly as a UN "peacekeeping" mission) to secure the next link in the oil supply chain and surround and isolate Iran, now that the National Intelligence Estimate has meant the Attack on Iran has had to be postponed.
Bhutto is, tragically, collateral damage in the ongoing PNAC geopolitical game."
-- Voland, Caen, France, Timesonline

"This sad news is not only a blow to Pakistan, but to the whole region including India. The void created by this event, will surely give the hard line Islamists the stage to exploit the situation which can easily engulf India in the flames of religious violence in due course.
The West must make sure that the nuclear arsenal of Pakistan is well secured and India must take steps to secure its borders in order to contain the fallout from the current situation. The Pakistani military must take charge once again and postpone the elections till matters are well under control. Civil war in Pakistan is now closer than ever. God help us all."
-- mocho, St. Louis, Mo., U.S.A.

Global Voices has set up a page aggregating blogs and posts about Bhutto's assassination. There's also an RSS feed of bloggers' reactions.
Marxist blog the Red Diary reckons Bhutto was killed because "the strong possibility of the rise of a secularist Benazir into power made her a mortal threat for those in the State who harbored sympathy for Islamic Fundamentalists". -- GuardianOnline

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Friday, December 28, 2007

Slouching Toward 2008: A Miscellany

The yoga-dacious, cheer-riffic Kendra is a cover girl for
Art and Style Weekly's year-end Score. Scott Elmquist

Billion-eyed audience, I'm taking a pause from the present shuddering of the world to catch up on some of this and that.

Direct your attention to the year-end issue of Style Weekly and a few familiar faces and mentions of favorite things. First on the cover, the Art Cheerleaders. Frequent glommers here may remember the cheerleaders from the appearance of Kendra and Rebecca in the video shot for the collaboration between Amie and me, "Dictation," for her just-closed "Walk The Walk" exhibition. You can see the cheerleaders in motion, and more, down at the December 5 post. Great to see Rebecca Oliver, Robbie Kinter, Mary Burruss captured in full flight. And Jocelyn Bandas and Rebecca Buhrman, too. Jocelyn looks quite excited by the prospect of 2008.

I can't tell you how wonderful their presence felt...cheerleaders jumping and shaking their pom poms for history and art! What a great cultural pradigm shift. Made me feel good, that's for sure. Yeahhhhh art!

David Timberline gave the Firehouse Theatre a mention, "The year ended on a hopeful note, though. Firehouse Theatre Project’s brilliant rumination on race, “Spinning Into Butter,” underscored theater’s unique ability to address serious social issues in ways that are both entertaining and engaging." Dave also has a theater blog of his own, here.


Last night I was walking past Black Swan Books and Nick and Ellen invited me in to sign their remaining stock of books, about 10 or so, to which also I added hand-made editorial ammendations that are getting changed in the second printing. I've received some quite wonderful reports back from people who've given the slender volume as a gift. I thank all those 1,800 or so people who have made TRS the earliest book among its first releases ever to go into an encore printing.

During the next few days, I'm sorting out through piles of stuff to get my desk and office ready to begin making progress on research for the second book.


During the Christmas holiday, we had up from Mississippi Amie's mom Sue and her nephew Justin. This allowed us to show off the town a little. I introduced Justin to the New York Deli, and during the moderate temperatures, walked him up Monument Avenue giving discourse on the histories of the monuments.

Being more of an outdoorsman than his uncle-by-marriage, he could identify the types of fish carved into Maury's pedestal. Also pointed out to him that the swirling mass of humanity wround the globe presented Monument Avenue's only woman, and she's quite a hottie, I think. (The figure next to the akilter boat, left. You can click on the image to make her more discernible.)

I became one of those tourist types I wrote about in "24 Hours With General Lee" -- taking pictures of my relative in front of each statue. Well, he wanted them. I wasn't tugging him kicking and screaming, he's a bit of a Civil War buff.

Then we went down to the Lee Houseon East Franklin. Because of the holiday, I couldn't get him in to the back porch where Mathew Brady took the famous photograph of him with the Cross-and-Bible door providing a background for him, just-so posed by the photographer to give the impression that Lee was both a main of great faith, and the commander of many martyrs. I also explained that Lee didn't really reside in the house for long; the place was where he came to after the Army of Northern Virginia surrendered at Appomattox.

I also had opportunity to give him a tour of Hollywood Cemetery and show him some of the more prominent among those in their eternal rest there, and of couse, the Pyramid.

My Grande Louvre, however, has been suffering from her second bad head cold of the season and had to deal with not feeling well, relatives in town and Christmas. This past Monday when the weather was dreadful, she shepherded them to the American Civil War Center at Tredegar, where Amie was distracted because people we knew were in the films, including our pal Raynor Scheine, who now lives here after more than 30 years in New York. Then they the Museum and White House of the Confederacy and the Virginia Historical Society's Lee and Grant exhibit.

Amie said, despite her depleted physical condition, she enjoyed playing tourist, going to places she's never been here. Good that Justin saw the Museum of the Confederacy before its collection is broken up and sent to three different locations throughout the state.


My father's birthday is Christmas Eve. That morning, Amie and me, with her mother, and Justin driving his rental car, aided by Mapquest directions, journeyed to a Cracker Barrel restaurant somewhere off Hull Street Road deep in the whorls of Chesterfield County's cul-de-sac archipelago. This is what Dad wanted, and it was his birthday, his 69th.

I'd not seen my sister Sharon and her husband Kevin in months, and had missed my niece Mya . Amie gave them a portrait painted of Mya.

The place was packed and with a waiting line. So many people who looked as though they perhaps had breakfast there more than once-a-year. I couldn't eat that much food on a regular basis and my Dad shouldn't, either.

But perhaps a present to him came later, on Christmas Day, when he dropped by to deliver some presents Mom forgot to haul to the Cracker Barrel. In conversation about family, I was reminded that Dad's two older brothers were both dead--of heart problems. And he'd had little dealings with them during the past decades. To call them estranged is euphemistic. He has a younger brother, whom he's not seen in 30 years, and didn't even know whether he was alive, and if so, where.

Well. I put the Interwebs to work. Using, upon Amie's suggestion, and Google, we found someone with his brother's name and that of his wife living in Arizona. No phone number, but an address, and a chance to communicate. Further, with his 50th high school reunion coming up in October, Dad was curious to see if he could find a classmate to whom--for some weird reason--he'd given letters written to Dad from Wernher von Braun! Dad in those days was interested in cars and rockets and aerodynamics. "They used to call me Rocket," Dad told me, and not in a kind way, I gathered. I think we found him and his phone number--the person had the right age and an unusual name--living in Minnesota.

Hope he's able to connect with these folks after all this time.


I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the recent death of retired Virginia Museum of Fine Arts éminence grice Fred Brandt. His memorial service was quite High Church Episcopal, according to a friend of ours who was there, which surprised him. He'd known Brandt many years, "And I couldn't remember a time when he ever mentioned the word God." Perhaps he enjoyed the aspects of ritual and ceremony.

He's one of those people who can make an impact on a city like Richmond that needed people like him to help mold the culture, yet few are as well aware of his handiwork as they should be. Writer Ed Slipek Jr. gave him an appropriate farewell in Style. Another one of Richmond's cultural lights has gone out as those of Brandt's generation fade into the mystic. Pax.

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Meanwhile, How Will This Play In Iowa and New Hampshire: It Won't.

Moments before she was killed, Benazir Bhutto raised out from the sunroof of her car. Her effort to be seen and connect with her admirers proved a fatal choice. Via the Guardian, Getty Images, photographer John Moore.

Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank was asked by Keith Olbermann last night how the Bhutto slaying would affect voters in... Iowa. And Milbank responded, not much. When the Hillary Clinton mentioned the tragedy at a rally, Milbank said, the spectators seemed puzzled.

Mr. and Mrs. Murgatroyd aren't going to give a fig about the death of a foreign leader, in particular one in the seeming distant and weird land of Pakistan, which is all a bunch of terrorists and Hindoos and A-rabs and heathens, anyway. What they care about is cheap gas and low taxes and God, guns and gays. Unless she's Lady Diana, then they go all weak in the knees and weepy. What the Murgatroyds want is the safety to drive their massive vehicles with one hand so they can yammer into their cell phones about how the liberals are destroying the country as they run over dogs and small children and curse them for being in their way.

No, they won't care until the seams of the earth pop open like a baseball on the oven and a conflagaration reaches out and disrupts their lives. Then they wonder: How did this happen?

Benazir Bhutto with her children Bakhtwar, Aseefa and Bilawal.
Photo: Karan Kapoor/Corbis Via The Guardian, here.

What was Benazir Bhutto thinking when she returned to Pakistan? She seems to have believed that she was fated to lead there, probably to die there--given she indicated that she had reason to suspect that Musharraf's adherents would commit violence against her (and she was right) when she returned.

The Bush administration was betting on her to win in the upcoming parliamentary elections and we'll never know if that would've been a good turn of events or not. Her past two administrations ended in corruption and tumult; these days, even her own family members were calling her a toady of outside interests.

Yet, she returned to her homeland to try and make some impact...and die. Was she guided by a perverse arrogance, blind faith or are the two in this case indistinguishable? Our own president seems to think he was "fated" to be the nation's leader (yeah, right, "fated" by the Supreme Court).

And what happens next is anybody's guess. And conspiracy theorists are going to have a field day because of this:

"The surgeon who treated Bhutto says she was killed by shrapnel from the blast when her suicide attacker blew himself up and not the shots he fired."

And this:

"In a press briefing the interior ministry says Bhutto died when her head struck the sunroof of the car in which she was travelling. It says no bullet or shrapnel was found in her body. Confusion over the exact cause of her death may well continue because her husband has refused permission for an autopsy." -- from the Guardian blog.

Then this, from the Associated Press reporter Ashraf Khan:

Interior Ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema said that on Friday, the government recorded an "intelligence intercept" in which militant leader Baitullah Mehsud "congratulated his people for carrying out this cowardly act."

Cheema described Mehsud as an "al-Qaida leader" who was also behind the Karachi bomb blast in October against Bhutto that killed more than 140 people. He also announced the formation of two inquiries into Bhutto's death, one to be carried out by a high court judge and another by security forces.

Bhutto was killed Thursday when a suicide attacker shot at her and then blew himself up as she left a rally in Rawalpindi. Authorities initially said she died from bullet wounds, and a surgeon who treated her said she died from the impact of shrapnel on her skull.

But Cheema said she was killed when she tried to duck back into the vehicle, and the shock waves from the blast smashed her head into a lever attached to the sunroof, fracturing her skull, he said

Suffice to say, this is a hell of a mess.

Underappreciated U.S. Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich relesed this statement yesterday:

"This is a very dangerous moment for the world. Prime Minister Bhutto represented the forces of reform and the hope for an end to repression in a troubled region, and her death is a major loss to those efforts.

This terrible tragedy also underscores the need for the United States to adopt a new foreign policy toward the entire region because our current policy is all wrong. Our interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan has opened wide the doors of repression and violence. At this very moment, we should be working with leaders of the region to convene a meeting at the highest levels to begin a new effort towards stabilization and peace.

The United States must take a new direction in Pakistan and throughout the region. I met her several times, both in Washington and New York. She was deeply and genuinely dedicated to Pakistan. This is a tragic loss.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Bloody End of 2007

Via Agha Khanium's flickr photostream.

This afternoon during lunch I was browsing through USA Today's necrology, which these days, I find the most fascinating part of the media year's end wrap ups. Some I knew, some I didn't --

[Synchronicity: Yvonne de Carlo, via]

Yvonne DeCarlo's passing passed by me, as did Joey Bishop's, Dan Fogelberg. Not on the list, neither artist Jeremy Blake nor writer and bloggist Theresa Duncan. But you know: every where each day millions of innocents die and they don't get write ups in USA Today, either.

But Death wasn't done with 2007 when USA Today's pages closed -- internecine violence claimed erstwhile Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto. First I heard of it was when I checked the BBC home page late during the evening.

I confess to a lamentable U.S.-centric ignorance of that part of the world. I knew of her groundbreaking political career -- and her striking appearance always made me look; I recall in the mid-1980s during a Saturday Night Live weekend update that whoever the faux anchor was said that the newest supermodel added to the roster of John Casablancas was Benazir Bhutto. She was one of those prominent world leaders, getting on chat shows and shown in cheering crowds, or fleeing, I recall, in a limousine while wearing big sunglasses like a Hollywood star.

[Bhutto surrounded by women during a campaign stop--Can you imagine a Western politician giving up his or her zone of security like this? And what of our politicos would cause such adulation?]

I knew varying things about the vagaries of corruption charged to she and her family. Seemed courageous of her to return to Pakistan at this tempestuous time given her own personal history -- her father and two brothers were consumed in her country's cyclic violence. Some claim her arrival was sponsored by the U.S. to find a moderate pro-U.S. government there. Bhutto was the Bush administration's Plan B against the militarist Pervez Musharraf.

BushCo gave public support to his government and wheelbarrowed tons of cash into his coffers in the inexplicable naive hope that he'd use it to stabilize his fractious nation and combat Islamic extremists. Now, the ball is up in the air, elections just a dozen days away -- and Musharraf, the most unpopular man in Pakistan, as of today, running unopposed.

I am reminded of Sadat's killing at a military review, also carried out by extremists, and that upset the balance in Egypt and the Middle East.

And I was noticing and reading more about her efforts. Now this.

I can't even begin to parse out what this will mean to the region. Won't be good, I can guarantee that, and Pakistan seems quivering on the edge of nervous collapse. And unlike Iraq or Iran, they have nukes.

Round-headed exuberant newscaster Chris Matthews made a sage observation at the very end of his program tonight. "People get paid on television to make fun of politicians, but even with her flaws, the fewer Benazir Bhuttos gives us more Bin Ladens."

The blog 3 Quarks Daily is far more aware of these matters than me.


While we contemplate the wobbling axis of events, and incipient world crisis, yet another image of the curvalicious Ms. DeCarlo, via celeblegs. Who knew she was from British Columbia?

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Monday, December 24, 2007

santa ladder

The Blue Raccoon wishes all of the billion-eyed audience the best of the season, whatever that happens to entail, and in whatever configuration that takes.

We are still technology-disabled-fraught here--best that the Blue Raccoon Technical Assistance Office can figure is that the main machine is reading Google-esque sites as viruses and shutting them down. But disabling Norton's didn't correct the situation. Meanwhile, trying to update the Blue Raccoon on Firefox, Safari, Netscape and Explorer results in browser-crash.

Hope in a Christmas Computer Miracle.

Joyeux Noel. I used to date her in the '80s. Crazy time. The clubs, and all.

The tiny image, so small due to my ineptitude, comes from hence.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Bloggus Interruptus:
When good programs go bad

Via Cooqy: the 'Trainwreck at Montparnasse,1865."

Billion - eyed audience, forgive my lack of fresh posting during the past few days. My browser and perhaps computer operating system are at odds -- this is what Amie has deduced thus far. Reloading Firefox, performing various cyber-Santaria rituals over the machine through Norton and other such devices, caused the blog to operate a bit, then, last night, crashing when I sought to type an update. Does the same thing with YouTube and some Google searches. So, I'm at a loss.

Anybody out there know anything about the relationship between Mac OX 10, Firefox and Blogger? Is my operating system not upgraded and that's causing the friction? Haaalllp!!

Meanwhile, like overburdened sacks filled with Christmas presents, I've amassed bundles of backlogged news and observations. F'rinstance.

The slender volume, True Richmond Stories, is going into its second printing by the History Press and that collection will be now be owned by yours truly. This is the earliest that a book has undergone a second printing for House of History, and for this we are all quite glad. On sale at finer bookstores throughout Richmond.

Two women died in the past few days, one whom I wish I'd met, the other whom I knew and served as an inspiration and muse for my partner-in-art-for-life. The piece below was inspired by the late artist Jackie Wall, made for Amie's current exhibition, up through December 23.

Jackie Wall was a true individual, a great lady, whose artistry was part of her life as much as her work. You should go to Amie's blog and read more about Jackie and her life.

Amie visited with Jackie this past fall when she took the photograph upon which this drawing is based. Jackie didn't get to see this piece; Amie had meant to call her to bring her into town from Farmville; but just goes to bear out what it is that we're aware of on an intellectual level, but ignore through the pragmatic denials that allow us to live: You just never know that if the the most recent moment you spent with someone will be the last time.

You may also read a review of Amie's Walk The Walk exhibition, here.

Another idiosyncratic individual left this mortal plane, and it was by her works that I knew her, and not the ones most others recognized. She was Christine A. Gibson.

In her obituary, Gibson's face looked almost like somebody I knew, and I imagine, in that Richmond way, she was someone with whom I had a passing familiarity from "around"-- seeing her at this or the other thing.

But I was oblivious to her being a charter member of BEEX, the Richmond punk band (image below, from 30underDC). For years I've walked by her house in Vine Street and admired her antic Barbie Garden, featuring usually mostly nude Barbies getting savaged by also nude Kens and other misfit toys. She changed the tableaux to match the seasons. I even put the Barbie Garden on a walking tour I conducted this past winter.

I took a memorial walk by the other day. Someone had cleaned out the Barbie Garden of dead leaves and refreshed the scene with doll bodies fixed with candy cane heads, and lights, and on the front porch was a big, heart-shaped floral arrangement.

Great sadness, all the way around, for everybody.

Why in all the hair-tugging, shirt-ripping and ponderous pontificating about the latest bout of Crupi here, nobody has mentioned one or two curious gaffes.

On page 44-45 of the assessment about the Richmond region's future, or lack thereof (both of Richmond's potential for dynamic existence in days ahead, and, what one may call a region), he writes pertaining to the conversion to the strong mayor system and the current Governor-Mayor:

"The question in Richmond today is not that the exercise of power was necessary, but about the extent and manner in which it is exercised. It is hard for a reformer to sustain the message three years out because without action, words become rhetoic. In the late 19th century, people felt the same way about Mayor John Fulmer Bright."

Bright, not so much, and too much

Fair enough. But Mayor Bright--one of the most oxymoronic names ever in the history of Richmond public servants--ruled the city for 16 years, 1924-1940. This was a crucial period for the city's growth; what could've been a progressive era was squandered by Bright and his supporters. The time was not the late 19th century. Nor was Bright a reformer. He was a diametric opposite. The mayor refused to take a dime from the Federal government in the bottom of the Great Depression.

When he died in 1953, The Times-Dispatch eulogized, "He was probably the most conservative citizen of what is, on the whole, a conservative city. Pretty much anything that had been going on for a long time seemed good...No matter what anybody said, no matter how many cities discarded their bunglesome, outmoded systems...ours was a "splendid form of government...If he ever changed his position on an important public matter, the event escaped us."

Bright's astounding stubborness ran the gamut from orneriness to absurdity. He opposed hiring additional firefighters and a court order forced him to create the position of public safety director. He opposed Byrd Airport, the Virginia State Library, the appointment of black police officers, purchasing the Mosque (now Landmark Theatre) and, to his credit, Federal housing projects (but he didn't advocate historic preservation and responsible adaptation/renovation, either).

He once ordered that the manly attributes of the Bull Durham logo be painted over to prevent giving offense. Bright, a native Richmonder and physician at the Medical College of Virginia was always an impeccable dresser, spoke well, carried himself as befit a brigadier general in the National Guard (through the First Virginia Regiment), and demonstrated personal generosity. His will set up a trust fund which resulted in Patrick Henry Memorial Park across from St. John's Church and he distributed $77,520 in cash to a variety of churches and charitable organizations. His bequest set up the Children's Milk Fund that came to be administrated by Family and Children's Service of Richmond.

And, one old Richmonder told me, Bright the only person who had drapes in his East Grace Street house.

"Good government for less money"

Bright's sclerotic tenure proved one of the enduring arguments for overhauling the city's government to prevent the rise of his like again. Despite vigorous attempts to unseat Bright and constant criticism from the press, his disdain for which was no secret, he kept enough of the status quo happy and assured his return to the office, again and again. His philosophy was "good government for less money or better government for the same money." City leadership remained entrenched and placed greater emphasis on public order, tradition and white unity, while deferring the modernization of public services and structures, as historian Marie Tyler-McGraw describes.

There was, for example, no city planning office. Engineers were allowed to do their work without oversight. Bright's reluctance to even think about planning bequeathed to Richmond, by the fault of his doing nothing, oceans of parking lots and highways bisecting the city through historic and (at the time), poor neighborhoods.

Pottage As Legacy

The city charter was at last changed in 1947, giving the city an appointed mayor, with a city-manager system, but that proved, in the end, worthless, too. Why Richmond can't manage to manage herself is another entire question and one the Crupi report can't answer. Our failings as a city are maddening and pathetic.

I am reminded of an incident years ago during one of these perennial conferences on "regional cooperation." This was held in the gymnasium of Douglas Southall Freeman High School. A white-haired gentleman stood up during a comments period and stated with a straight face that Richmond ought to realize that it is lost and should turn in its charter and let Henrico and Chesterfield counties administrate her! The Berlin Scenario! Build a wall around Richmond and have checkpoints at the cardinal gates.

I've since encountered other sentiments, not too dissimilar from that gentleman's -- including one drunk Henrico uberfrau who declared to me Richmond needs to be stopped, because all they want to do is support Hillary Clinton and that can't happen. I mean, she was just short of declaring the residents should be packed up in trucks.

The residents of the cul-de-sac archipelago won't be satisfied until in some apocalyptic scenario, the mighty River James roars from her banks and, like a socio-economic neutron bomb, wipes away all the wretched, poor, halt, lame, deaf, dumb and people of color, and cleans the city so the Bourbanites can move in.

Always Merry: Vanity Fair's version about Duncan-Blake

Wit of the Staircase, Dec. 25, 2006, Duncan with Marc Jacobs Santa Claus, by Andrew Stiles.

But. While getting the 3 p.m. coffee yesterday with my office mate, taking us to a rather grim 7-11, the new Vanity Fair is out and in it, as we were promised back in the fall, a big story about Jeremy Blake and Theresa Duncan, "The Golden Suicides."

I want to spend more time with this piece, but, can't at the moment. Suffice to say, the story quite in the physical sense was dropped on the doorstep of writer Nancy Jo Sales when, Father Frank Morales showed up the day after Jeremy Blake walked off the Rockaway Beach.

Morales is Sales' ex-husband. He was also the subject of a profile/interview conducted by Duncan, with a cameo by Blake, on a much-cited posting on The Wit of the Staircase. (Link above)

So. Sales got the inside scoop on everybody, though I'm wondering how much corduroying of the brow was done over the conflict-of-interest aspect of all this, though her referring to Morales as the Fox Mulder of conspiracy theorists--as a compliment?--perhaps gave her journalistic "distance."

But that's not quite the end of that, either. You know, in the old movies, and even today on some TV shows, reporters are yanked from assignments by bellowing editors because they're "too close to the story."

In this case, seems that quite real writer John Connolly was supposed to have written the feature--I'd have to go through the archives here but I remember someone writing in the comments that this was the person--but for some reason, Sales was given the piece to finish. See the Society of Mutual Autopsy for the salacious details.

And I thought, too, when reading the feature, that the interval of "ten minutes" between Blake's arrival at the apartment and inviting up Morales, and the Father's discovery of the death scene with all the attendant police clamor seems...too truncated; more like an episode of Law and Order. Which is what this whole event, in its bare outlines, resembles.

But now with Vanity Fair's contribution, the Duncan-Blake deaths have reached media apotheosis, leastwise far as print media goes.

I'll have more on the story, and other matters, I hope before too long but my computer issues may make regular posting difficult in the coming days.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

A Weekend Enjoying My Love for Richmond
And my annoyance with Firefox or Blogspot or my Mac, I can't figure out which

Image by Cameron Lewis via Marionette Myspace site.

This weekend, batching it while Amie was down at the Basel Artpalooza in Miami, was marked by great pedestrian pleasures, cultural feasting, frustration with my computer, and attempts to ready the decks to plow into research and writing mode for the next book -- and sleeplessness. I'll deal with these in vague order.

The High Art Hike

Image via Main Art Supply.

I started off from home after a dinner of soup and the last cold beer in the fridge, on foot, for the Main Street galleries. I was early in getting onto the sidewalks by 7:21 but had to make time in order to cover the territory.

Stopped into the Artemis Gallery and was attended by bevy of beauties who administrated the wine and sandwich dispersal. Then, without even knowing what I was to see, I clambered up the spiral stair to Main Art's exhibit rooms -- where I was caught on tape (see below, via Main Art's site) speaking with writer and poet Michelle Seurat. The show is of photographs from the collection of long-time Richmonder George Cruger.

The eclectic assortment of known and unknown photographers spanning centuries and nationalities was quite surprising and quite worth spending time with.

Among the notable images were women workers in an airplane factory somewhere in the United States during World War I -- the earlier generation of Rosie the Riveter; Harold L. Harvey's erotic portrait of a woman smoking -- dislike the habit but there is a powerful psycho-sexual tug when seeing a pretty woman releasing a ribbon of smoke; Nickolas Murray's portrait of writer Willa Cather; an unknown who capured pro-Juarez clergyman kneeling in prayer just before his execution in 1927; a stunning color image of Jackson Ward/Richmonder Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson in mid-step during his role in the Hot Mikado; the film-still like Sailor and a Girl at Sammy's Bar in New York by Lisette Model; a uniformed teenaged girl pumping Esso gas in 1941, Service With A Smile; a dramatic view by Joe Clark of a 1948 Baptism; the Edward Hopper-esque Third Avenue El with Gum Machines of 1951 by Esther Bubley.

A special hometown fave was that of artist Myron Helfgott posing in 1981 with his high school basketball team "then and now" using the old photograph and below it a "new" one with his frends at the time arranged in the same positions and Myron standing in the coach's place. He sold post cards of the image and a clerk, ringing up a sale, remarked to Myron, "You're the only one who hasn't changed."

From there I ambled down Main to Broad Street--cutting through Monroe Park and recalling how not long ago this is something one didn't attempt after dark. The night was pleasant, somewhat misty, but for the first week of December, alright for art walking.

I partook of hot cider on the sidewalk by 1708 and Quirk, talking with various folks about history and the book. I purchased this from the lovely (and with child) Kristin Hott who was there for her Not With These Hands non-violence organization. 1708's small works show was quite crowded; not prime for viewing the work displayed -- and one bathroom was working at the time.

I went over to Transmission to see Amanda Marie paintings. These resemble, on the surface, those quirky print wallpapers for children's rooms from the 1940s into the 1960s, or line drawing illustrations from young adults books of that period, like The Happy Hollisters. But Amanda Marie carries these off with, to be expected, a hip ironic twist. The image below is from denversyntax.

Transmission, located in an old storefront just off Broad on Brook Road, is a small exhibition space, the kind where in such a crowded situation, I never quite know what to do with my hands. This anxiety is heightened by how every pocket in my leather Tiergarten flea market-bought leather jacket is ripped, except for the top right breast, just the right size for cell phone totage. In the new year, I'm getting my pockets sewn.

Anyway, I don't know if Ms. Marie was present on the scene and I was too self-conscious about myself--feeling like the lumbering big-shoed clown--to ask. I scurried out and headed for the Bonsai at Gallery5.

The 400-year-old version wasn't there because when they were delivered to the space it was snowing. And, I learned, they were only display for three days due to their delicate natures. Still, at least one was 95 years old, a few in their 60s, and the immense responsibility of tending to these amazing plants--how this act could form a portion of a ritualized life--is easy to see. And you'd have to will them to somebody who'd know how to take care of it, elsewise you'd not be assured of its continued existence, past yours.

I marveled at a miniature grove of willow leaf ficus, 35-years-old, and one young woman remarked to her companion, "I want to go frolic in it." You half-expected to see little people giggling and playing in their tiny forest.

At Ghostprint I was gladdened to see works of figuration and narrative by artists like Thomas van Auken. This is his portrait of Sarah Ochs, of 2001, from his website.

Saturday was a wonderful day of pedestrian pleasure. I pottered about the house until time for me hie out of for my Book People signing, left at 2 p.m. and got there at 2:58. I love the simplicity of just locking my door and walking out, no fuss, no muss, though I did get nervous as time was rolling on and called the store when I was at Bunting Avenue for fear I'd be late. The Patterson-Three Chopt bus blew past me, as my back was turned, and that annoyed me, too.

Still, the brisk journey did we well and I felt quite fine passing the mixture of older houses, circa World War II infill and admiring decorations and architecture on my way.

My good Richmond friend and Mutation veteran Isaac Regelson came by and we chatted for a while.

I left the store at 5 p.m. and was back in Carytown by 6:10, and concluded I didn't want to take the time to return home because I wanted to see XF's Disconnect dance program. Former Firehouse staffer Jessica Fulbright was in this show, as was Melanie, with whom I had the great pleasure of dancing with at Opus event a few weeks ago.

I thoroughly enjoyed the antic, satiric, athletic interpretations with assays of disco, modern and eclectic styles. It was more of a theatrical piece than just dance and the audience was part of the show, really. Wonderful.

Then I was going home and passed by The Camel when I saw the line up of the evening's bands and Marionette was supposed to play at 8 p.m. But it was already 8:30 and peering through the window I could see mike stands and instruments, but no band. I actually got to Allen and Broad and peered into the lit windows of the 900 square feet condos selling there for $130,000 and though, hey, if I was 22 again, I'd buy one...when I my head nudged me to get back to the Camel.

Glad I did. None of the bands had started playing, I got a triple set of Tunnels and Bridges, Langley Hollins and my favorite, the post-punk, folk, creative collaborative of Marionette, complete with their video back drops. I'd love to get them to do something for the next book. And red-headed Heather, her mistral voice, and tambourine.

I returned home, quite satiated by my days experiences, and foot sore, but in the best way.

Oh, Richmond, I do love you.

[I will continue my entry, provided I can get onto something other than Firefox or Safari which are crashing on my home machine.]

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Friday, December 07, 2007

'Tis The Season...
For First Friday and Art Basel, Cell Phones, Bonsai and Book Sales

Well, billion-eyed audience, if you've been following along you with the story thus far, you know that this image of exuberance and annoyance signifies that it's our art monthlies, First Friday in Richmond. This picture was taken (not by me) at a long-ago opening at the Three Miles Gallery which is where the now busy downtown bistro, Tarrant's, will be receiving guests tonight in its expanded seating room.

The girls better wrap'em up, it's cold and rainy today though by this evening, the precipitation will have slacked off though the temperature will not be as hot as they are.

Exotica on the Agenda

Among the exotica on the agenda tonight is a demonstration of traditional Balinese puppetry at TheatreIV; Transfiguration: The Art of Bonsai at gallery5 -- at which nobody will be naked, or so I'm told--too prickly--and some of the trees that will be on display are, well, 400 years old. That puts things into perspective, doesn't it? The new Ghostprint Gallery has an introductory group show and Transmission may take the coveted Too Hip For Words prize with its show by Amanda Marie, An Unfinished Story. She is a frequent contributor of illustration for magazines such as Juxtapoz, The Onion, and Syntax Magazine, and other stylish publications with type-points too small for my fading eyes, thus, meaning I'm out of their demographic. (Although a yoot remarked to me, "Just get better glasses.")

I keep thinking if I buy these publications or view their web sites, that somehow an electro-digital-alchemical reaction will occur between my fingertips and their pages, or in some kind of weird exchange of information within the light refracted by the digital images, and the years will begin to slip away from me. I'll start wearing knit caps with dangly things and develop a hankering for Pabst Blue Ribbon (as demonstrated by this image via SLOG ) Alas, never happens. Still, I'm looking forward to seeing what Amanda Marie does, live and in person, so to speak.

And there are of course all the other gallery spaces, on West Main and Broad streets, with all their plethora of plethoras.

Amieo and cell phones

Meanwhile, where is my partner-in-art-for-life? Well, in Miami, for the Biggest First Friday of Them All, the Art Basel Miami artgasm and extravaganza of marketplace economics. If you're going to catch big fish, you gotta go where the big fish are, and I want my Grande Louvre to hook a sturgeon, or perhaps a pilot whale. A passel of Richmonders have taken a flyer "down there" and I'm wondering if they'll find each other and if the collected energy may cause a geyser to erupt on Biscayne Boulevard.

The image below looks like it could be Richmond; but it's a portion of the Art Basel Experience, via Bloomberg. This is the opening of the NADA exhibit during a New Museum benefit, December 4.

So I put Amie O. on a jet airliner on Wednesday, amid snow, and got to communicate with her as she passed out of the security clearance via our new cell phones. My first ever airport terminal cell phone chat! Yes, billion-eyed audience, I have joined the 20th century, seven years late. It takes pictures and may make Julian fries, if I knew which buttons to push. I'd be quite the self-referential blogger if I had someone take a picture of me and my Razor and posted said image here.

Maybe later.

In the meantime, I'll be signin' and sellin' True Richmond Stories, tomorrow, Dec. 8, at Book People, between 3-5 p.m., though I'm not at the moment on their web site. It's 536 Granite Avenue, south of the intersection of Patterson and Libbie.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Shameless Self-Promotion: A continuing series
Hell, nobody else will do it for you, as the saying goes...

Here, billion-eyed audience, is filmmaker David Williams' verison of the event presented by me and the partner-in-art-for life Amie Oliver, with help from the Art Cheerleaders (Kendra, blonde; and Rebecca, both artists in their own right). This piece, called "Dictation," was part of Amie's Walk The Walk exhibit at Plant Zero Art Center, available for viewing through December 23. I read pieces about the arts from my book True Richmond Stories.

This is me, Amie, Kendra (left) and Rebecca posed in front of the wall on which Amie wrote her impressions of my subject matter. Yes, she writes backward with her left hand with greater ease than she can scribe the other way. Yes, she installed a mirror so that passersby who cared to or even noticed could read the text.

Then here's an image of me and Amie with her long-time friend, artist and professor Ken Mitchell, visiting Richmond from the Glasgow School of Art a few weeks back. We love Ken--I first met him when Amie took our wedding holiday around the Scottish Highlands--and were happy to see him even for a brief time. As you can see, too, Ken took some True Richmond Stories with him.

And to round out the multi-media aspect of this post, here is the 26-minute interview conducted by Tim Bowring with me and Amie on his WRIR 97.3 show, Zero Hour.

Below is a snippet from the New York Deli event in Carytown that Amie shot. Here I'm presenting a piece about Martin Hawkins, the Revolutionary War-era sturgeon rider in the James River. Behind me are members of the Happy Lucky Combo; Pippin Barnett on percussion, Barry Bless with the accordian, and Dave Yoh on upright electric bass.

This was a great time. Ward Tefft of Chop Suey Books brough books across the street from Chop Suey Tuey -- about 20 or so-- and sold out of them. People came off the street having seen the slender volume setting on the front window shelf table, even after the music was over. The attraction: the Hollywood Cemetery pyramid on the cover. This is primal stuff; the pyramid is a greater symbol of Richmond than even the Lee Monument, since it is old, mysterious and the shape and meaning are more ancient than Richmond, race, politics, or even the Civil War (which is its putative purpose, commemorating 18,000 Southern dead buried there).

One young woman bought five books. I signed expressions of my appreciation for her choice; and that of her varied future in-laws and family.

The New York Deli gang passed to Amie a splended signature book in which they all expressed their appreciation that made me feel as though I'd accomplished something far more important than I think I have....humbling, is what it was.

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