The Blog Squad

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Fun for the family, and some good freak watching, at the fair

I have absolutely nothing to say about a certain daily newspaper today. Instead I am going to play Antoinette Essa and encourage everyone to get out to the Chesterfield County Fair, which runs through Saturday. If you don't have the heftier admission price for the upcoming State Fair or the patience for parking or the stomach for watching a guy drive a nail into his skull via his nostril, then you need to check out the scaled-down version in Chesterfield. (Don't kid yourself, though. If you have little ones it's still going to cost you some bucks for all those three-ticket, two-minute rides.) And it may not be the spectacle the State Fair is but it can still boast a pretty decent freak parade — Boy Scouts and goths, cowboy hats and VFW caps tipping at tattooed biker chicks. T-shirt reading is a pastime in itself: On an older gentleman: "In my next life I am going to have more memory installed." On a young woman, the suggestively simple "Wanna see my tattoo?"
Um, that would be a no.
There were caps for sale saying "Git 'R Done" and signs for "diabetic funnel cakes" and enough political signs lining the road into the fair to warrant the mourning of one whole tree. My favorite odd sight of the day was the pigs, of course. Not because they were racing and had silly names like Piggy Gordon and Rooter Martin. That's just fun. But it was that they were racing under the smiling gaze of a happy face sign reading "Jesus Loves You."
And just one more thing I have to say on sort of a personal note about fairs and amusement parks. If you are a parent anything like me you have spent all of your children's young lives reading books about how to nurture them and keep them safe. You've scrupulously kept them up-to-date on their vaccinations, you cancel playdates when little So-and-So gets a sniffle, you carry antibacterial "magic soap" with you everywhere ... and then ... without batting an eye you stick them on a rickety, jerky flying dragon (you even walk past one closed off with yellow caution tape) knowing the thing has been disassembled and reassembled more times than Michael Jackson's face and then you grin like an idiot to watch them go around in circles.
Man, you've just gotta love the fair.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

T-D's still got some 'splainin' to do

You know, I really, really didn't intend to write anything involving the Times-Dispatch again (this, I assure you was not envisioned as a T-D bashing blog) but every time I think I'm out they PULL ... ME ... BACK ... IN! Saturday's front-page apology to my old employer, Style Weekly, for ripping off one of its December cover photos and headline left me baffled. Sunday's "explanation" left me stunned. I still don't get how it all happened, but you can bet I'll be calling my friends at Style tomorrow to see if they have any inside dirt. But here's what Louise Seals had to say, in a nutshell: (1) The T-D photographer had indeed seen the Style photo while she was at the candy company being profiled in its Metro Business section. (2) She was told about the similarity. (3) She shot the photo anyway and submitted it as "original work." (4) There were "troublesome similarities" between the stories themselves. (5) The T-D's story was written by a summer intern; Style's by Ed Slipek, whose vast historical and cultural knowledge of Richmond may be eclipsed only by his penchant for detail and lots and lots of words. (Anyone reading this who has ever edited Ed is smiling right now.)
How this all happened and got through the editing process though remains a mystery, thanks to Seals' vague explanation about "several newsroom processes," and "cursory" editing. It didn't satisfy my questions, either as a journalist, a T-D reader or an intensely curious former Style employee who is, frankly, watching all this a little gleefully. The T-D has followed the Little Paper That Could too many times to count. This time it followed a little too closely.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

T-D's barbaric illustration

First of all, back to Greg: Yeah, I thought that whole "Who Runs Richmond" in the T-D piece was just — oh, I don't know — redundant? Who couldn't name the usual suspects as the owners — lock, stock and barrel — of this town? My favorite part was when Gene Trani and Bill Goodwin are surveying the city from the Federal Reserve Building looking for a spot to put the new VCU School of Engineering. Despite other "likely sites," Goodwin looks at the corner of Main and Belvidere, which, the story says, "the university was struggling to renovate as the new home of its School of the Arts."
The story paints it as this almost Biblical moment: That's where it should go, Goodwin said.
I almost expected next to read, "And it was good."
Anyway, I wanted to post about something completely different until you sidetracked me, Greg.
You know, a couple of weeks ago the NCAA announced it is cracking down on the use of American Indian names, mascots and images deemed offensive to some Native Americans. Teams called the Braves or Tribe or Redskins or Savages or, say, the Barbaric Scalpers would be prohibited from displaying images on uniforms or having mascots perform at tournaments and so forth. This decision has been widely blasted but having seen yesterday's Times-Dispatch I'm thinking we need a similar oversight board for newspaper illustrations.
Alongside A. Barton Hinkle's well-written, well-thought-out, multisyllabic Op/Ed piece on the iBook debacle (By the way, as my grandmother would say, Basta! Is there anyone out there who hasn't written about it? Oh, wait! I have no idea how the iBook Stampede affected Cynthia McMullen's cats!) was this uncredited "illustration" of a flared-nostriled, curly-cue nippled, war-painted American Indian holding an iBook, representing the barbarians at the RIR gate. Blinding cultural insensitivity aside, no wonder no one claimed credit for the drawing! It looked as if it had been scrawled by someone who was rejected by the correspondence art school because they couldn't draw Winky. And blinding cultural insensitivity not aside — what were they thinking? I've been in these meetings where you try carefully to find a piece of art that conveys the meaning of the story and for the life of me I can't imagine that Hinkle was sitting there nodding his head, "Yes, yes, crazed savage Indian. I like it." Score another point for the T-D and its stirring of the Melting Pot yet again.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Who Runs Richmond?

As you and I are old hands at Style Weekly, that tally sheet of Richmond's famous and influential, I wondered what you thought of the Times-Dispatch's "Who Runs Richmond?" feature. The paper promoted the thing like crazy. And what was its conclusion? That "no individual or group is all-powerful"! Shocking! Are they saying that our city has no anointed king? And here I thought the T-D was afraid to take a stand!
Curiously, after that don't-blame-us-if-you-disagree caveat, the paper focused on the same ol' rich white guys everybody else does: Jim Ukrop, Booty Armstrong, Bill Goodwin and Eugene Trani. Also, where was the mayor? Don't tell me Jim, Booty, Bill and Gene don't jump when he calls. Well, maybe not Bill. But you know what I mean. Doug runs this town, and you can't tell me any different.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Pork - the unsung food group

I think the reporter missed the real story: Clearly, those rats are from parts further south -- North Carolina, maybe. When you cross the Pork Rind Line somewhere below Petersburg, you know you're really in the South. This gives some politicians an easy way to portray themselves as one of the people. Wasn't George Allen always saying how fond he was of those things? And when campaigning, didn't George H.W. Bush force himself to eat them by the handful so he could connect with Southern voters?
You know, I kind of like pork rinds. But I haven't been able to eat them ever since I started thinking of the meaning of the word "rind."

JUG of pork rinds????

I'm not sure which piece of information in Tuesday's A-1 story in the T-D has my jaw still swinging on its hinges. It may have been the headline -- RATS! Or maybe it was just the idea that rats (the four-legged kind) are running rampant in state government offices. Truthfully, though, the thing that stuck with me most was this quote from state budget analyst Michael McMahon about what the rats did to his two to three gallon JUG of pork rinds that he keeps under his desk. "They ate almost all of the pork rinds," McMahon marveled. (Yeah, it says marveled.) "You could see the little teeth marks on the plastic, and they had spit out pieces of plastic," he said. (One can only wonder what the rats did to his jar of pickled eggs.)
Here comes the kicker:
"It gave me the willies."
Now, I've worked in offices -- skanky ones. And even in those pits I never had officemates hoarding two-gallon jugs of pork rinds under their desks. Talk about the willies.
Now, let's see, Mike: Jug of pork rinds. Rat problem. Jug of pork rinds. Rat problem.
Nope. I can't figure it out either.