The Blue Raccoon

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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At 1:13 PM, Anonymous louvre said...

hmmm. your posts are reminding me more and more of those insightful, endless essays published in the NYT. Thanks for putting in a good word for those who cannot speak for themselves.


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