The Blog Squad

Friday, January 26, 2007

Pickles and Ice Cream for the Commonwealth?

Look, it was inevitable.

The minute Jim Webb picked up that picture of his father and talked about how he slept with it in his bed as a young boy another political star was hung in the sky right over Virginia. The groundwork, of course, had already been laid, starting with Webb’s dramatic late-into-the-night-and-next-day victory over former Sen. George Allen, which gave the Democrats control of the Senate. Then came the (in)famous -- depending on how you look at it -- exchange with President Bush at the White House. And then the word, right before Webb delivered the Democratic response to the State of the Union address, that he had ripped up (I doubt literally, but who knows?) the speech prepared for him by the party and had written it himself. He is a novelist, after all.

So all the planets were aligned for Jim Webb that night. What took place was fascinating, I thought. Last year, I gave Tim Kaine some good marks for his Democratic response (though I did liken his repeated mantra of “We can do better” and his hurried cadence to an infomercial host). But what Webb did the other night seemed like something entirely new. He didn’t even pretend he was going to take the president on point-by-point on his State of the Union address. Instead, he went bigger, just taking the president on in general. The Washington Post called it “forceful” and “blistering.” Maybe even more shockingly, his speech didn't sound as if it were written by committee.

The Times-Dispatch quoted Thomas E. Mann of the Brookings Institute as saying it was possibly the best rebuttal ever given to a State of the Union address. The paper also noted that the syndicated columnist Mark Shields said, “A star is born.”

And now the blogosphere is percolating with -- no surprise here -- mentions of Webb as a possible presidential candidate.

“If giving a dynamite speech before a national audience can make Barack Obama a presidential contender, then there's no reason it can't do the same for Jim Webb,” wrote Al Eisele in The Huffington Post in a piece entitled "Jim Webb for President. Why Not?"

“Indeed, the freshly-minted freshman Democratic senator from Virginia could claim to be as well-qualified to run for president as his fellow freshman from Illinois, who came out of nowhere in recent weeks to become Hillary Clinton's principal challenger.”

And this from Jeff Cohen, also on Huffington: “Webb offered a populist, anti-corporate stand on economics and a blunt attack on Bush for 'recklessly' dragging our country into the Iraq war -- a sharply-worded address that must have startled millions of TV viewers accustomed to Democrat vacillation.” This, under the headline: "Jim Webb Offers the Democratic Response to Hillary and Obama."

Hmm. Is the Mother of Presidents having some weird cravings again?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Events For Your Calendar

Christo and Jeanne-Claude

Most recently recognizable for their work “The Gates,” Christo and Jeanne-Claude are in the midst of planning another project — “Over the River: Project for Arkansas River, Colorado.” The pair uses large panels of fabric to create art, as will be the case with “Over the River,” which will feature panels suspended horizontally high above the water level. At the earliest, the installation will be on view for two weeks in 2010. But, Richmonders can get an insider’s view of the project when Christo and Jeanne-Claude speak at VCU’s Windmueller Arts Series on Jan. 31. The free talk begins at 6:30 p.m. at the W.E. Singleton Center for the Performing Arts, 922 Park Ave. For more information, call 828-1755.

Light In Africa

With the help of a benefit at Gallery5, three former VCU students are raising money to travel to Northern Tanzania to build homes. The homes, offered through the Light In Africa orphanage at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, cost $1,000 to construct and bring families closer to cleaner water supplies, markets, education and health care.
On Feb. 9, the Ashbury Gospel Choir, Rattlemouth, Tereu Tereu and A Roman Holiday will perform. There will also be a silent auction and a slide show with images of Northern Tanzania. The benefit begins at 6 p.m. Tickets are $8.

Style Tips for Sale Season

Over the last week I’ve been stopping into shops during my spare moments searching for the brightest and best of next season’s fashions to feature on March’s style page. Unfortunately I haven’t been having much luck. Very few stores have their spring styles out. Instead, they are all having huge sales. As I dug through sale items looking for new inventory, it hit me: Armed with the right knowledge, a gal could stock up on plenty of the looks for spring during sale season.

The following are a few of the items to keep your eye out for when you’re hitting the January sales.
  • Wide belts. With looser silhouettes like romantic, flowing blouses and baby doll dresses continuing into spring you’ll want to have some chunky belts to cinch your waist.
  • Bright colors. Go for primary shades like blues, reds and yellows. Style-wise, pick up basic tees and tanks that you can bedazzle with a trip to Michaels.
  • Jackets. Look for Baroque detailing like luxurious fabrics, rouching, high necks and elaborate buttons and cropped styles.
  • Anything with sparkle or shine. Metallics are going to be just as fashionable this spring as they were during fall/winter. Think accessories you can pair with feminine dresses or pieces with a futuristic styling. Anything mod or ‘60s-inspired will remain chic.
  • Dresses/Skirts. Especially comfortable and wrinkle-resistant jersey and cotton pieces. Also, anything fancy you can dress down for work with flats and a jacket.
  • Chunky shoes. Yes they’ll be in again, only bigger and better.
Now that you’ve got the tools, here are a few of the sales I spied around town. At A.R. Bevans more of the store is marked down than not. The discounts start at 40 percent off and move upward to 75 percent off. Some of my picks included party dresses that could work year round, grey-toned denim and pants that would look just as good with a tunic-style tee as they would with a sweater, and plenty of Nannette Lepore.

Coplon’s has clothes, shoes and purses marked at half off. I drooled over two Dolce & Gabbana jackets, both of which were about $900 off. Also at River Road, Harold’s had markdowns up to 75 percent off. My favorites there were studded suede round-toe pumps for $49.99. Across the street, Chico’s had racks of separates marked at half off or 30 percent off.
D.M. Williams is also doing an inventory overhaul. Most of their skirts, shirts and shoes are 30 percent off. If you’re stocking up for next year, go for metallic puffy coats and soft leather jackets.

In Shockoe Slip, IF has European designer garments marked at 30, 40 and 50 percent off. I had my eye on a fushia velour jacket with the perfect Marie Antoinette styling for spring.

At Stony Point, Saks Fifth Avenue had Diane Von Furstenberg and Laundry by Shelli Segal dresses for 40 percent off, plus Juicy Couture sweat suits for 25 percent off.

Over at Betsey Johnson the normal sale rack in the back was accompanied by plenty of shoes on sale and a second clothing sale rack that included a great floral jacket. I also loved sparkly flats and wedges with Lucite heels: Very appropriate for warmer weather.

Most of the Lucky boutique was also marked at half off and a wide range of thick leather belts were 75 percent off. Almost all of United Colors of Benetton was 50 percent off. They had plenty of seasonless suit separates and luxurious trenches at deep discounts.

Among a host of sales at Short Pump, at South Moon Under I picked up three dresses, all of which work now with long-sleeved shirts underneath and will also work alone this spring, and two bracelets for less than $200. The selection of sale shoes, including cute flats, was amazing. I also dropped in Bebe and grabbed a great cocktail dress that will work this summer or for New Year’s Eve next year, a basic tank and two chunky bracelets, which are another spring trend.

Happy shopping!

Megan Marconyak
Style Editor

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Nonviolence Network

The Harvey murders have had a giant impact on Richmond. Many still mourn the family, every time we read a story or pass World of Mirth in Carytown. But we’re also beginning to see a shift to productive action, such as the Bryan and Kathryn Harvey Family Memorial Endowment.

Another such effort,, will have its official launch next Tuesday, Jan. 30. Organizers Heidi Abbott, Kristin Hott and Carter Carpin, who were friends of the Harvey family, are setting up the Web site as an online warehouse of violence-prevention opportunities and organizations in Richmond.

They encourage Richmonders to add to the list, and the group’s first project is to create a Greater Richmond Pledge of Non-Violence, assisted by public submissions. The deadline is April 20.

Friday, January 19, 2007

"Chip Alert" would cover older teens under Amber Alert Law

I bumped into Sherri Ellis on my way out of the Midlothian Family YMCA yesterday. Ellis is the executive director of the Midlothian Y and the mother of Chip Ellis, the young man who was shot and killed by a Midlothian High classmate in May of 2006. I had read in the Times-Dispatch earlier that Ellis is lobbying the General Assembly (HB2255) for a widening of the Amber Alert law to include any child who is still in secondary school. Chip was 18, a legal adult, when he was murdered and therefore would not have been covered under the Amber Alert system. There certainly are valid reasons legislators might oppose this broadening of the law, particularly the sticky area the law would get into if they were issuing the alert for a fully emancipated legal adult. However it makes common sense to expand this law. As Dana Schrad, executive director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police said in the T-D story: “If [a child] is still a high school student, they probably are still someone’s responsibility.”

Ellis told me the bill had just passed subcommittee. I asked if there was anyone I could contact to offer my support and she gave me three names and numbers, which I will now pass on to you:

Del. Beverly J. Sherwood

Del. Terry G. Kilgore

Del. William R. Janis

Of course, you can just go to the General Assembly's website and contact your own delegate.

This whole exchange took place while my little boy was holding the door open for Ellis. She thanked him and called him a gentleman and asked his name. I wondered what kind of woman lives through such a horror and not only finds the strength to get out of bed in the morning but battles on for the sons and daughters of other mothers, like me. There is no telling whether an expanded Amber Alert would have changed Chip Ellis’ fate, but that doesn’t seem to be Sherri Ellis’ point. As she said to me, pointing to my son, “It’s going to benefit these guys.” And there was my answer. That kind of woman.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Daphne’s Threads on Display

If you haven’t been down to Petersburg lately, Saturday might be the perfect time for a day trip. Gwen Cooper is planning a fashion show called "A Touch of Hollywood" featuring clothes from Daphne Maxwell Reid to celebrate the re-opening of her vintage and consignment store, Second Hand Rose. Cooper was renting a storefront on Old Street when she decided to downsize and buy her own building at 8 Bank St.
The new shop needed lots of renovations and Cooper did much of the work herself, dropping 30 pounds because of all the physical labor she put in. About five years ago, she and Reid put on a fashion show for the Petersburg Chamber of Commerce. Reid is probably best known for her role as Vivian Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. When she saw the work that Cooper was putting into her new location, Reid donated loads of her old clothes to Cooper to sell at Second Hand Rose — so many items, in fact, that Cooper decided to have a fashion show with them.
Cooper says that along with great designer pieces, she has pieces Reid wore on Snoops and on Frank’s Place — two other shows that Reid appeared on with her husband Tim Reid — plus pieces made from the patterns Reid designed for the McCall Pattern Company and Vogue. Adolph’s — a longtime Colonial Heights menswear store — will provide men’s fashions at the show, and Reid will be making an appearance. The tickets to the event will feature a photo of Reid, and guests can get her autograph on them. Tickets cost $40 each and can be purchased from Cooper at Second Hand Rose. Call Cooper at 909-7280 for more information.

A Few Things to Know

Oscar Night in Richmond

Don’t resign yourself to the couch on Oscar night this year. Get off your bum and get on the red carpet. No, we’re not asking you to fly to California. Just get in your car and head to the Science Museum of Virginia for Oscar Night America, complete with a live telecast of the awards ceremony, a “paparazzi”-filled red carpet and a celebrity host — Daphne Maxwell Reid, who played Vivian Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and is co-owner of New Millennium Studios in Petersburg.

In addition to the awards show, Virginia’s Oscar Night America, one of 49 nationwide parties sanctioned by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, will feature local entertainment and a Taste of Virginia food and beverage buffet. Tickets to the Feb. 25 event, which begins at 7 p.m., are $65 and $85 for individuals and $120 and $150 for couples. Proceeds benefit the Central Virginia Film Institute, which is planning a film festival for 2008 in Petersburg. To purchase tickets, call 957-4211 or visit the Central Virginia Film Institute.

Not for the Prudish Viewer

The Vagina Monologues once again returns to the Firehouse Theatre Project Feb. 1-2 to benefit Safe Harbor, which provides services for abused women and children. Written by Eve Ensler, The Vagina Monologues offers various women’s views of, well, their vaginas. Tickets are $20. 1609 W. Broad St. For more information, call 355-2001 or visit Firehouse Theatre Project.

Happy Birthday Sycamore Rouge

Our favorite culture spot in Petersburg, Sycamore Rouge, celebrates its first anniversary Saturday with a party. Cruise on down I-95 (we promise it’s really not far) for an English Cabaret by Una Harrison and cake. Tickets are $25 ($20 for members).

New in 2007 at Sycamore Rouge is 3 Dollar Thursday. Each Thursday will feature drink specials and various events. Today check out open mic night. Doors open at 5 p.m., and the fun starts at 8 p.m. Admission is $3 (duh!) unless you’re performing, and then you get in for free. Call 957-5707 or visit Sycamore Rouge.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Austin's Returns to NYC's Fashion Week

Austin’s Returns to NYC’s Fashion Week
For the second year in a row Austin’s Salon & Day Spa will be heading to New York City to take the lead on a show at fashion week. This year they’ll be doing hair and makeup for Doucette Duvall, a new line of wearable, sophisticated pieces. The show runs during the first weekend in February at The Hotel Chelsea . Beth Astin, co-owner of Austin’s, says the staff is extra excited because last year when they worked on Austin Scarlett’s fashion show they only got to do makeup. This year they’ll be doing the whole shebang.
Austin’s has long been associated with Aveda products but the salon recently picked up a new line called Profound Beauty. They’ll still have the Aveda products, which are popular with a lot of clients, but after about three years of research Astin and co-owner Ken Langston decided to pick up another, less-exposed line. “It’s a little bit more exclusive and a little bit more personalized,” Astin, says. Profound Beauty features shampoos and conditioners that are geared toward cleansing and conditioning specific hair types as opposed to making hair do different things like curl or straighten. Astin notes that Profound Beauty products can’t be bought online because the products are only recommended after a consultation with a stylist who assesses your scalp condition and hair texture. In order to let clients experience the new products, the Austin’s staff is currently offering a free hair mask with a haircut or color.

Megan Marconyak
Style Editor/Staff Writer

Nancy Wright Beasley In The Flesh

Our beloved columnist Nancy Wright Beasley will discuss/sign her second nonfiction book, Reflections of a Purple Zebra: Essays of a Different Stripe, on the following days:

Jan. 16: Fountain Bookstore, 1312 E. Cary St., 6:30 p.m.,
Jan. 18: Cafe Gutenberg, 1700 E. Main St., 7:30 p.m.,
Jan. 20: Barnes & Noble Short Pump, 1 to 4 p.m., 360-0103

Reflections of a Purple Zebra is a compilation of 60 “Reflections” columns that have been published in Richmond magazine since 1998. Copies of Beasley’s first book, Izzy's Fire: Finding Humanity in the Holocaust, will also be available.

Sustainable Legislation in the General Assembly

Again, from the deep well of my enviro-feature interviews last fall …

You may have missed it last week — it’s not exactly a hot button in the General Assembly, after all — a handful of legislators launched another attempt to change the state’s environmental standards for its building practices.

“Green building” advocates say that what’s at issue is the fact that buildings are huge consumers of energy and are often full of environmental hazards — carpet glues, paints, poor ventilation, etc. The standard that this and similar bills aim for would, ostensibly, cut down on the state’s energy costs and possibly improve the indoor quality of life for state employees.

The bill introduced last Wednesday is inspired, somewhat, by the federal government’s building standard. The state legislators want new state offices and facilities to meet the U.S. Green Building Council’s “silver” rating. (A similar bill was introduced last year but was continued to this year’s session.) Locally, city councilman Chris Hilbert has also made baby steps toward getting the city moving in this direction — he told me in October that he wants city buildings to meet the USGBC’s basic-level rating. But it’s not likely to happen this year. (To its credit, the city already had a hand in planning a silver-rated building — the new GRTC maintenance facility that will go up on South Side in the next year or so.)

And as for the GA legislation, Del. Adam Ebbin of Alexandria, one of the bill's patrons whom I interviewed in October, said the green-building measure had some opposition from forestry interests, since one component of green building is to use materials that don’t deplete forests or other natural resources.

“You can have green buildings without adverse impact on the building industry,” Ebbin said, “and we’re trying to work with the Virginia forest industry to see what kind of adjustments we can make to encourage the use of Virginia woods. There’s also some misunderstanding about the way the [U.S.] Green Building Council awards these points that can encourage green building.”

A couple of buildings in the Richmond area are headed for the silver certification through the USGBC — CarMax’s headquarters in Goochland and the federal courthouse that’s on the rise on Broad Street.

There’s a similar bill in the Senate, too, and about four other bills (or resolutions) addressing issues like energy efficiency, renewable energy and climate change.

Suppression Uncorked

Suppression (aka The Fantastic Wonderfuls) is the two-piece, spastic side-project of Richmond native Ryan Parrish (drummer for Darkest Hour) and bassist Jason Hodges (The Amoeba Men). When I asked Ryan what they sounded like, he replied, in so many words, that their sound is a little whacked-out.

I've seen them twice since Ryan has come back from his last tour with Darkest Hour, and it has been, well, interesting. Both shows were in the basement of someone's house, and at first, I didn't know what to expect.

What I got was an in-your-face, speedy, grindy, punk explosion with minimal lyrics, a maximum of inaudible vocal noises and a weird sort of comedy routine in between songs. I honestly couldn't tell you if they were drunk or just pretending. Jason stared at the audience with a psychotic clown-like grin and belted out about seven or eight songs in a half hour. It definitely wasn't what I expected at all, but it was well worth experiencing.

The second basement I saw them in two weeks later started with the duo wearing electrical tape goatees and moustaches (which fell off when they got sweaty) and ended with both band members naked by their last song. How they landed a gig playing at Alleykatz and opening for the Salem, Mass., hardcore band Converge is beyond me. I'm sure it will defy people's expectations, one way or another.

Suppression plays Wednesday, Jan 24th 6-10 p.m. at Alleykatz with Converge, Lord By Fire, and War Graves. $10 in advance and $12 at the door.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

"Darkness" Falls Over Richmond

For all those feeling the void of Chappelle’s Show, laughs are in your future. Comedian Charlie Murphy swings into town Jan. 26-28 with performances at the Funny Bone at Short Pump Town Center. No longer known simply as Eddie Murphy’s brother, Charlie Murphy found huge success on Dave Chappelle’s Comedy Central sketch show, where he was dubbed “Darkness” in a Rick James routine. Tickets are $28. Call 521-8900 or visit the Funny Bone.

City schools, by the numbers

We heard a lot of statistics at this morning’s meeting of the mayor’s education advisory committee. And numbers can be impressive, but they also can be deceptive. You know how it gets right before an election — polls all over the place telling the different camps exactly what they want to hear, even if they contradict each other.

So, I’m always a bit wary about numbers. But this one struck me: 25 percent of Richmond public school graduates and completers have no post-graduation plans, according to a 2006 statewide study.

They aren’t thinking about attending college or trade school; they don’t have employment prospects or plans to enter the military. This is shocking when you think about it. That’s approximately 300 teens (based on the number of 12th graders — not counting earlier dropouts) who have no idea what they’re going to do after graduation — at least the day they were asked the question.

Lest I single out Richmond’s schools, the stat for Henrico County is 16.3 percent, .3 percent for Chesterfield and 15.3 percent for Newport News, to compare another urban system.

And all of us know that when we fail to set realistic goals, we fail to make long-term, solid progress. Ask a crash dieter. She’ll tell you.

Maybe these students started thinking about their future after they were asked the question, but how do they prepare themselves for the real world in such a short amount of time? Can it be done?

Monday, January 15, 2007

A Targeted Beer Run

An orange legal notice sign from the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control tipped us off a few weeks ago and a round of calls today confirmed it: At least two Target stores in the Richmond area will begin selling beer and wine soon. The Target on Forest Hill Avenue, the only one within the city limits, couldn’t give us an exact date, and the Broad Street location near Libbie gave March as the expected selling date. Regardless, we can’t wait!

Reviving Angst

My week was looking a bit bleak — I hurt my back yesterday and my brother’s leaving this week for Marine duty — until I read an e-mail from John Pollard over at ADA Gallery announcing a film premiere. On Jan. 27, the gallery is offering a free screening of Is It Really So Strange?, a William E. Jones film that takes a look at the lives of Morrissey fans in Los Angeles.

The news made me feel better almost immediately. Liz Lubben first introduced me to Morrissey and The Smiths in high school, when I was ripe to receive the melancholy, the-man’s-keeping-me-down messages. Morrisey spoke to my soul. And while The Smiths and Morrissey are on my iPod, I didn’t think anyone else was into them anymore. Obviously not, though, since Jones’ film exposes a new sect of fans among the Latino community. Check it out; slicked-back hair optional. 8 to 9 p.m. 228 W. Broad St. Call 644-0100 or check out ADA Gallery.

Elliott Updated

Apparently our earlier post on Elliott finally signing a record deal was a bit premature. We got a call at 11:45 a.m. from a representative with Three Ring Projects, and it turns out that Elliott hasn't yet signed on the dotted line with Sony or anyone else. We can tell you that Yamin is in New York City writing a couple of new songs for his CD with Michael Mangini at Mojo Studios, and his album should be released in March.

Elliott’s CD Soon?

According to his proud mom, Claudette, Richmond’s favorite Idol Elliott Yamin has been busy writing songs for his upcoming CD. (He’s penned between 11 and 13). She says that fans should look for a single in the next few weeks and a CD release in February. She tells us that Elliott has signed a recording contract with Sony but that Sony won’t make the news public until this week. Elliott already has a publishing deal with the record company. And a bit of trivia — his Los Angeles public-relations firm, Three Ring Projects is headed by another Richmonder, Jeff Rabhan.

Joan Tupponce
Contributing Editor

Friday, January 12, 2007

A veritable potpourri from the week

Another great week for hilarious quotes from Richmonders.

George Nkansah Owusu, a VCU graduate sentenced to four years in federal prison for computer fraud and aggravated identity theft, sobbed in the courtroom during sentencing. Owusu stole the logins and passwords of other students to remove them from honors classes and put himself in their slots. He also changed his own grades in the computer system from failing to As and downloaded personal photos of a female student. Owusu offered this gem to the court: “Looking back” he said, “how I wish I knew that my actions were criminal.” Apparently he was OK with it when he just thought it was immoral, deceitful and creepy.


My favorite thing in last Sunday’s Times-Dispatch was the “Q&A” with outgoing editor Ross Mackenzie on his 41 years at the paper. I put Q&A in quotation marks because there was no mention of who was doing the "Q-ing" and the more I read the more it began to feel like someone asking himself questions he’d really like to be heard answering. Especially this one:

Describe yourself.
“Redactor, diaskeuast, feuilletonist, quotidian print-drudge.”

And a little further on, he says one of his “detestations” is — wait for it — “pomposity.”


A tiny golden nugget you may have missed was a small story about Rep. Eric Cantor, the chief Republican deputy whip in the House, who now finds himself in the minority party. He and some colleagues held a news conference to suddenly make nice with House Democrats asking if they please wouldn’t share some of their cake. Cantor said this, about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who two years ago proposed a “Minority Bill of Rights” which would allow the minority party more rights in crafting legislation and amendments. “In hindsight, I think she was right,” Cantor said. Word is, Cantor came to this stunning revelation sometime around 8 p.m. EST on election night last November.


If you were at all surprised to see that Mark Holmberg is leaving the Times-Dispatch, you haven’t been paying attention. First was Holmberg’s acknowledgement that he was the source for much of Greg Weatherford’s revealing look at the inner workings of the paper last summer for Style Weekly. Then in October, Holmberg stopped writing his column to go back to general assignment reporting. And then the death knell. In November, Holmberg wrote a weather story. Yes, a garden-variety weather story on the back page of the Metro section. You knew it wouldn’t be long after that.


Finally, Maymont. I guess bears really do belong there because those people sure know a lot about caves. First they caved to Mayor Doug Wilder after he unilaterally decided there would be a naming contest for the new bear that replaced the two who were killed after … well, you know. This week came the news that the new bear also has been named and you can almost hear the gritted teeth of Maymont’s executive director, Norman Burns, in the quote: “We don’t typically name wildlife, but we understand the public’s desire to identify with these bears in a personal way.” Now that the floodgates are open, look this spring after the baby animals are born for a slew of naming ceremonies for Petey the peacock, Billy the bison, Cocky the rooster and the elderly sheep, Dirty Ol’ Baaaaaastard.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

It’s No Joke

Yesterday I linked to former Richmonder Andrew Beaujon’s tongue-in-cheek proposal that Richmond should market itself as a haven for federal-government offices, given the fact that we’re far enough away from Washington, D.C., to be relatively unharmed in the event of a nuclear explosion set off by terrorists in the nation’s capital. (Not a theory I’m hoping to test out anytime soon, mind you.) According to a Dec. 27 article in USA Today, the marketing effort may not be necessary: The private sector has already targeted Richmond as a safe port in the terrorist storm:

“Another plus for Richmond: It’s about 100 miles from the thriving Washington, D.C. Fear of terrorist attacks on the nation’s capital is are [sic] encouraging companies to set up some sensitive operations well [sic] 100 miles outside the city. Richmond could benefit.”

Chad Anderson
Executive Editor

Boat Show This Weekend

This winter's mild temperatures probably already have you thinking about summer, so why not get totally in the zone by checking out this weekend’s MAC Events Boat Show? Held at the Greater Richmond Convention Center for the third year in a row, the boat show boasts more than 250 watercraft, everything from sailboats and pontoon boats to offshore cruisers and houseboats. Here you’ll also find free seminars and hands-on clinics by Fisherman magazine. The show runs Friday 1 to 9 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tickets are $7 for adults, $5 for ages 12 to 17 and free for ages 11 and younger; seniors get in for $5 Friday. For more information, call (732) 449-4004 or visit Mac Events.

2007 Crystal Ball

No, we’re not talking about an omnipotent orb, this is the Arthritis Foundation’s 19th annual Crystal Ball. The fundraiser, scheduled for Jan. 20 at the Jefferson Hotel, raises money for the Virginia Chapter, which seeks to prevent, control and cure arthritis — according to the Centers for Disease Control, 43 million adults reported doctor-diagnosed arthritis in 2002.

Attendees will find a gourmet dinner, cocktails and dancing. Original watercolors by event chairperson Dr. W. Baxter Perkinson Jr. will be among the items featured in the silent and live auctions.

Lawyer Jay M. Weinberg, a lawyer with Hirschler Fleischer, will be honored for his leadership in the community. The evening will also showcase Premier HealthCare Associates’ Dr. Michael J. Strachan, this year’s recipient of the Grace Branch Moore Medical Excellence Award, which is presented to physicians because of their holistic care and affection toward patients. And Virginia Commonwealth University Health System’s Dr. Lenore M. Buckley will be presented the W. Robert Irby, M.D. Award for her dedication to the Arthritis Foundation. Tickets to the Crystal Ball, which begins at 7 p.m., are $150 each; corporate sponsorships are available, too. For more information, call 359-1700, ext. 305.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

We’re Miles Ahead of Winchester

It’s deadline time here at Richmond magazine, as we put the finishing touches on the 400-plus-page monster that is our February issue, which means late nights, Lee’s Chicken and, at least for this staffer, a little bit of laziness in the form of linkblogging.

With today’s news that Mayor Wilder and the Virginia Performing Arts Foundation finally seem to have buried the hatchet, I wanted to point out that Andrew Beaujon, the former Save Richmond blogger who, along with Don Harrison (who’s still going strong), won the 2005 Laurence E. Richardson Freedom of Information Award for investigations into VAPAF’s plans for Broad Street, apparently decided to call a truce of his own a couple weeks back. Beaujon, who now makes his home in Washington, D.C., has a peace offering for Jim Ukrop and other VAPAF supporters, in the form of a suggested marketing pitch that’s sure to produce a more interesting slogan for the city than “It’s Easy to Love.”

Chad Anderson
Executive Editor

Spa Rolls Out Club Deal

That lucky segment of the population that enjoys spa treatments on a regular basis has a new incentive at SPAepidauros (located in the Midlothian Festival Center, 9550 Midlothian Turnpike). For $49 per month spa-goers can join the Spa Club, which allows them to get half off of any spa treatments during the week. They also get 25 percent off of four weekend treatments per month, one free add-on (this includes services like reflexology, paraffin hand dips and scalp massages) per month, free steam with body treatments and special coupons and discounts for them and for their friends.

“We see a lot of people coming in for more than just pampering,” owner Anca Markie says, noting that people who come in for massages to help physical ailments or people who depend on regular facials to help with problem skin make up most of the club’s members. “People think it’s great because it allows them to come in more often and spend the same amount of money,” Markie says. The program applies to all of the treatments at SPAepidauros. It will even be applicable to the yoga classes they’ll be launching later this year.

Megan Marconyak
Style Editor/Staff Writer

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Grin and Bear It

We’ll know the answer tomorrow, but for now, let’s speculate on the name of Maymont Bear II.

The 21-month-old male bruin from Madison County will be called by the winning name suggested in a second children’s naming contest (the first yielded “Phoenix” for the other bear). Mayor Wilder will announce it at 11 a.m. tomorrow at the bear habitat. I can understand the city’s motivation in making this a children’s naming contest, because the entries would be a lot more sincere than those proffered by adults.

But that’s not as much fun for us, now is it?

So, here are some off-the-cuff bear names we’ve heard around the office: Munchy, Tempe (a perfect pairing with Phoenix), Berenstain, Pleasedontkillme. None of these, of course, are likely to become the bear’s official name.

We’ll have to wait for the mayor to tell us in his press conference.

UPDATE: The bear's name is Midnight, according to Maymont staff. And his namers are: nine-year-old Charlotte Nasworthy of the Collegiate School and 10-year-old Desiree Anderson of Cumberland County Elementary School, the city says.

As for the mayor, he received a certificate from Maymont proclaiming him a "Bear Buddy for Life." That's quite an honor.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Two Years of Good Vibes

Positive Vibe Café will be celebrating its second anniversary on Jan. 13, and the staff wants you to come out and celebrate with music and food. Garth Larcen, president of Positive Vibe says there will be food and drink specials all day along with special menu items and live music from local bands. “We’re just lucky stars,” he says, “All these people are donating their time.” The band line-up is as follows:

1 p.m. Offering
3 p.m. Carol Covell Trio
4 p.m. Marna & Macy (formerly the Marna Bales Band)
5 p.m. The Taters
6 p.m. Gary Gerloff
7 p.m. Page Wilson
8p.m. Janet Martin Band

If you don’t make it out for the anniversary celebration, check out Tummy Tuesdays on the last Tuesday of each month when belly dancers entertain. “We have about 10 dancers come in and dance around the tables,” Larcen says. “It’s just a way to get live entertainment that’s different from most other places around town.” You don’t need reservations for the second anniversary or for Tummy Tuesdays unless you have a large party.

Megan Marconyak
Style Editor/Staff Writer

The Green Scene Revisited

In November, we published a feature in the magazine, which I wrote, on sustainability efforts in the Richmond region. If you haven’t the foggiest idea of what “sustainability” means, it’s probably easiest to think of it like this: Waste not, want not. As a writer, I find it’s a sticky topic to cover because it touches on just about every human process. Think of everything you consume and produce in a given day, and then consider whether there’s a smarter, cheaper and cleaner way to make those things happen. Bingo, you’re now thinking about sustainability. Anyway, our story examined what people are doing around Richmond — in government, business and their personal lives — to conserve natural resources, save money and live healthier, notably when it comes to big-ticket issues like buildings and mass transit. When I worked on that story in October, I spoke with almost two dozen sources — far more than ended up in the article — and I learned a lot more than we had space to report. The story bypassed the global-warming debate and instead observed many of the pragmatic benefits of sustainable practices. If you’re the slightest bit intrigued or if you have a strong opinion in one direction or the other about global warming, you’ll have a chance to learn more and join the debate at the Richmond Town Hall meeting from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 16, at the First Unitarian Universalist Church at 1000 Blanton Ave. (near the Carillon). The event will feature presentations from experts in climate change and green building, as well as a moderated discussion.

L.A. Premiere for Richmond DP

Richmonder Bunt Young didn’t mind his early 4 a.m. wake-up call this morning. The 42-year-old cinematographer left around 6 a.m. to attend tonight’s Los Angeles premiere of God Grew Tired of Us, a documentary about three “Lost Boys” from Sudan. The film won the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. Young, who has won three Emmy awards for his work on ESPN Speedworld, served as director of photography on the documentary, which also won awards at the 2006 Deauville Festival in France. The opening was originally scheduled for Jan. 12, but the film’s narrator, Nicole Kidman, could only attend a Monday-night event, thus the quick trip out. Brad Pitt came on board as an executive producer after viewing an early cut of the documentary in Los Angeles. The film will open for limited release on Jan. 12 in New York City and L.A. Angeles. Other major cities will follow.

Joan Tupponce
Contributing editor

Friday, January 05, 2007

Carl Gordon Comes to Richmond

The Living Word Stage Company, under the direction of Derome Scott Smith, is showcasing a Hollywood star in its February production of Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, a late-1980s August Wilson play inspired in part by the blues song of the same name. Carl Gordon, who you might recognize from FOX’s TV series ROC during the 1990s, starred in Wilson’s play Piano Lesson on Broadway, so this production is fitting. Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, which is set in a Pittsburgh boardinghouse in 1911, looks at African-Americans who fled discrimination in the South. Performances are Feb. 2-25 (Fridays and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m.) at Pine Camp Cultural Arts Center. Tickets range from $18 to $20. For more information, call 355-2187 or visit The Living Word Stage Company.

To Blog or Not to Blog ...

Long time no see, my friends! Like the phoenix from the ashes, or Lazarus from the tomb, or perhaps more fittingly, one of those arm-chomping zombies from “Night of the Living Dead,” this blog has risen from the dead. Why did it disappear in the first place? Well, that’s a question with several answers. One reader hilariously suggested we pulled the plug because we weren’t making any money on it. Would that it were that simple! That might be the cynic’s view, but the simple truth is this: Back when it was really rolling it was just me, five days a week. There were times, without exaggeration, when my children were each holding one of my legs as I wrote. (Thank God, I never had a third … child, that is.) I simply could not keep that up, especially during the summer, when the kids (did I mention I love them with every fiber of my being?) were NEVER OUT OF MY FACE.

So I asked, "Pretty please, may I have a break?" And the good people at Richmond Magazine said yes, and used that time to think about a much bigger question: What should a city magazine’s blog be exactly? The answer doesn’t come easy for traditional print media types. We often enter the blogosphere like newborns — kicking, screaming and wondering why we were forcibly removed from our nice, cozy place.

But I think the gang at the magazine has figured it out: It’s not about one person’s viewpoint or venting (there are plenty of those blogs out there if you want that.) No, it’s not about me, or even about you (though you seem very nice …) It’s about us — our city, our counties, our communities. What’s happening, what’s irking us, what’s important to us. It’s the miracle of the Internet: As our community and our world seem to be expanding more quickly than we can comprehend, we have the ability to connect on a personal level again more quickly than we ever could through traditional media.

Enough of that. Just a couple of thoughts on the new year. First off, kudos to Carytown for pulling that celebration off! I am particularly impressed by the off-beat idea of having the ball go up instead of dropping down. I don’t know if it was an engineering necessity or a stroke of inspired genius, but it sets a whole different tone, don’t you think, to have the ball go up? New Year’s Eve is always tinged with melancholy, and the downward direction of the ball symbolizes all of that for me. But going up — that is one optimistic ball!

Now a warning, Richmond. Three thousand people showed up spontaneously for a city event and caught everyone by surprise. Look for the corporate sponsors to descend and try to choke the life out of it next year. I’m just saying.

Well, I’m happy to be blogging again and look forward to discussing a lot of hot-button topics with you. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with what is sure to be one of the best quotes of the year, from our honorable Governayor, from the Richmond Times-Dispatch.


“I have never believed in the view that a calendar day should trigger any different response relating to one’s individual commitment than that which one should already have as part of their constitutional makeup. As a result, my wish is no different for next year as it was for this year or the preceding one. Each day, I wish for that which culminates in the best possible resolution of my efforts toward goal-oriented results.”

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Restocking the Stocking

Sure everyone runs around rampant from discount to drug store the week after Christmas, eagerly searching for that 75percent-off, blowup snowman or a half-beaten-down collection of faux greenery. But there are some amazing finds for the most discerning of tastes, even if the bank account cannot ordinarily subsidize discerning taste.

Boutiques aplenty are stocked with treasured trinkets that only a month ago were marked up well beyond their wholesale price. Case in point: Check out Tinker's (2409 Westwood Ave.). Although their holiday stock is dwindling, there are still key finds and unusual mementos perfect for stowing away as next year's gift for someone special. For the Jimmy Buffet fan in your life, pick up a miniature, decorated resin-palm tree in a tiny snow globe and let them shake, shake, shake that beauty. My own Parrothead - Big Sis P.J. - may delight in this tiny token of affection next year, if I can still find it at the store. There was also a beautiful blown-glass flamingo ornament that would look perfect on her Lilly Pulitzer-meets-Hodge Podge tree.

Dogged consumers also must hit Mongrel (2924 W. Cary St.) before the rest of their leftover stock runs out. Boxed cards that normally cost a king's ransom are now readily affordable for any lowly member of the court. You'll find some beautifully etched cards, intricate designs and unique styles.

Also Tweed (11743 W. Broad St.) is busy restyling their store, but the upscale goods are still ripe for the picking. Twisted metal ornaments, holiday cocktail napkins and assorted holiday-themed home goods are perfect host and hostess gifts for next year's soirees. Strawberry Fields (423 Strawberry St.) is busy relinquishing its collection of adorable holiday accents. Winter Wonderland tableware, Victorian-designed decorations and a girl snowboarder tree ornament (that I would have bought for myself if a friend hadn't already put it atop my present this year) were all items that drew my coworker's and my attention away from the hot lunches clutched in our hands.

Some of these items might already be gone when you get there, so get there fast and think - if you stock and store now your life will be that much easier next December.

Court Squires
Associate Editor

Saying No to High Fructose Corn Syrup

Local natural foods store Ellwood Thompson’s is trying to make it a bit easier for folks to be healthy in the new year: they’ve banned all products with high fructose corn syrup. HFCS, a sweeter form of corn syrup, is found in soft drinks and cookies as well as ketchup and yogurt. Why the ban? HFCS is a refined, processed sugar, which doesn’t meet Ellwood Thompson’s standards for foods that are minimally processed and have no artificial flavors, colors, preservatives and sweeteners. This form of sugar has also been credited with contributing to the nation’s rising obesity rate. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Americans consumed three times as much HFCS in 2004 than in 1980. But it seems that Americans have been better informed about HFCS in recent years. In fact, according to a survey of food writers by Hunter Public Relations, HFCS was the No. 8 topic among the top 10 food-related news stories in 2006. Perhaps this wave of information has given pause to several manufacturers, including Jones Soda, which this month switched from HFCS to cane sugar, a more “natural” ingredient.

Sarah K. McDonald
Associate editor

OK, So a Trip to Italy's Not in the Cards...

However, you can indulge in some of the special menu items and Italian wines at Manakin Grill’s Tuscan Wine Dinner on Jan. 20. Winemaker Andrea Cragnotti will be there to talk about the wines from his Corte Alla Flora winery in Tuscany along with Gary Moore of Siema Wine Imports.
The dinner, which costs $80 per person plus tax and gratuity, will include hors d’oeuvres and four courses. Co-owner Julie Witten says that although the menu isn’t finalized, two wines will probably be paired with each course. And rather than matching the wine to the food, co-owner and head chef Darren Witten will create special menu items to complement the wines. “Darren loves doing wine dinners because we get to do dishes we don’t usually do in the restaurant,” Julie explains. During each course Cragnotti and Moore will talk about how the wine was made and why it pairs well with the specific dish.
The Manakin Grill generally hosts four wine dinners, each with its own theme, throughout the year. Reservations are required. Call 784-0544 or check this website for more information.

Megan Marconyak
Style Editor/Staff Writer

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Baby New Year

Felicia Minor missed out on her 2006 tax deduction, but the mother of the first baby born in Richmond this year made up for it. Antonio Lamont Teal, introduced into the world at 7:12 a.m., Jan. 1, will receive a one-year university contract through the Virginia Prepaid Education Program. In other words, his first year of college is already paid for.

Antonio, with drowsy eyes and a crown of dark curls, was clearly the star of the press conference held today at Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital. Although the first baby of the year always garners news coverage, the other reason for the press conference was the cable launch of BabyFirstTV, which began airing on Comcast digital cable channel 125 today. It’s been showing on DirectTV — satellite — nationally since May 2006.

Richmond (chosen for its demographics) is the first cable market for the channel, which is geared toward newborns through 3-year-olds. Richmond magazine wrote about BabyFirst in August’s Family Matters special section. The channel, which features three-to-seven-minute “programs” (because babies have short attention spans) interspersed with 1-minute intervals geared toward parents, does not show commercials. It costs $9.99 a month, but during January it’s free if you get digital cable.

Critics worry about exposing babies to a great deal of television, but BabyFirst representatives note that they have the approval of several pediatricians serving on the channel’s board. What do you think?

An Unsatisfying Meal

Now that the Washington Redskins season has finally, mercifully ended, I have nothing but pity for Larry Michael and Bram Weinstein, the hosts of Redskins Lunch, the noontime sports-talk show that covers all things Redskins and airs locally on WXGI 950 AM. According to the station’s program director, Mitchell Bradley, plans call for the show to continue through the offseason, perhaps with a slight tweak in format. Unless there's some major shift in the subjects they cover, what in the heck will they talk about?

It’s been nearly three years since WXGI switched its identity from country and bluegrass music to its current ESPN-affiliated sports-talk format, and for this fan of sports talk, they’ve mostly been good years, at least until this past summer, when Redskins owner Dan Snyder’s Red Zebra Broadcasting purchased WXGI and shuffled its programming. Redskins Lunch replaced Colin Cowherd, who provided a serviceable alternative to WRNL 910 AM’s Jim Rome during my lunchtime errand-running.

In theory, an hour of Redskins talk every day should have been manna from heaven for me, given that my all-time favorite sports memory remains John Riggins’ 43-yard touchdown run in Super Bowl XVII, followed closely by quarterback Doug Williams’ evisceration of the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXII, back in the years when John Elway was still known as the punk who’d spurned the Baltimore Colts and couldn’t win the big one. Instead, Redskins Lunch has mostly been pretty disappointing.

I can’t place all the blame on the hosts’ shoulders: Given the Skins’ miserable 2006 campaign, there just weren’t a lot of positives for Michael and Weinstein to talk about, and picking at the wound for 60 minutes every day got to be a bit much. That said, Michael, who also does play-by-play for the Redskins’ radio broadcasts, has been such an unapologetic homer, only recently beginning to level some relatively tame but well-deserved criticism toward the team, that it makes for boring radio. Whenever Weinstein, who’s set up as the cynic to Michael’s Pollyanna, works up a head of steam, you can usually count on Michael to take the wind out of his sails with a knee-jerk defense of the team, no matter how justified Weinstein’s point may be, which, again, can make for a dull broadcast.

I know the NFL has become something of a year-round affair, what with free-agent moves, coaching hires, draft analysis and the occasional police-blotter item, but I have no idea how Michael and Weinstein are going to create five hours a week of entertaining radio in the offseason, given the troubles they had doing so during the actual season. But maybe they’ll get lucky and Snyder will open up his wallet to work out a trade for Dallas Cowboys wide receiver/freak show Terrell Owens. That should fill a few minutes.

Chad Anderson
Executive Editor

Images of Ethiopia

Ethiopia’s tragedies have been in the news for many years. The famines of the 1980s and most recently the country’s brush with war against Islamic fighters in Somalia have given Westerners a tarnished view of this rich country. But, as photographer/Richmonder Emily Taylor saw during her travels, there’s so much more to this African country. For instance, did you know that coffee and reggae music originated in Ethiopia? Taylor hopes to share these tidbits about Ethiopian culture and more through Project Image Ethiopia, a nonprofit media project. A website launch party ($5 per person) at Gallery5 (200 W. Marshall St.) in Jackson Ward on Jan. 20 will kick things off. Beginning at 8 p.m., you’ll find Taylor’s photographs of landscapes, religious leaders and children, plus world, hip-hop and reggae music spun by DJ Seph Tekk. Sales from prints and Project Image Ethiopia merchandise will benefit Taylor’s nonprofit. For more information, you can check out this website or call 240-3339.

Sarah K. McDonald
Associate editor

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Happy New Year, direct from Carytown

Did anyone expect such a crowd at Carytown on New Year’s Eve? I went out of curiosity (also because it was free), and I expected something like the busy-but-relaxed Watermelon Festival, only with drinking.

Instead, it felt like what I’d imagine of Times Square — well, minus the cages and the restricted restrooms and the security alert and Ryan Seacrest. But the crowds were certainly present in Carytown. Under a persistent mist (the big rains came later), folks crowded up to the stage where Black Cash and the Bad Trips faithfully covered Johnny Cash tunes — “A Boy Named Sue” was a highlight. The crowds were mainly polite, although there was plenty of moving around and the resultant jostling. Lots of people with water bottles with liquids other than water inside, plus one guy with a flask.

And shhh … I even smelled pot. There were also “celebrity” sightings: Father Time (a guy in a long, platinum wig and a toga) and a Tara Reid look-alike who was stumbling drunk, with about a yard of torso showing between her high-cut sweater and low-cut jeans. Maybe we’d best forget that sighting.

The climax of the evening was the rising, glowing ball rigged with fireworks. See video here:

I read that the organizers wanted to provide a gathering place for Richmonders to celebrate New Year’s Eve, and in that they succeeded. Other celebratory options in town, while lovely, cost $75 or more (from a prix-fixe dinner to a night at a fancy hotel). And I’ve gone that route before on previous New Year’s Eves. It’s nice, especially if you plan ahead. But for me, even as an occasional claustrophobe, it was worth the traffic and the weather to join the first year of what’s likely to be a Richmond tradition.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Richmond Magazine Gets Back to the Blogosphere

Happy New Year, and thanks for dropping by

If you were lucky enough not to be stuck at home last night (as I was) with the ultimate holiday gift from a co-worker — a cruddy head cold — then maybe you made it out to the Carytown New Year’s Eve celebration organized by RVA Magazine. Kudos to Anthony Harris for pulling together the free NYE hoedown, which apparently drew more than 3,000 people and featured several bands, fireworks and the raising of a lighted ball atop the New York Deli, a la Times Square.

Beginning today you’ll start seeing blog posts at this website Monday through Friday. It’s a new online feature we’ve named The Blog Squad, a reflection of the group effort from our staff and columnists.

As a magazine, we’re not exactly newbies to the blogosphere. In 2005, two of our columnists extended their wit and prognostications to our website. But a year ago, one of those writers, former media columnist Greg Weatherford, pulled the plug on his column to go tackle other writing projects. And last year, Janet Giampietro, our opinion columnist, made a valiant effort to keep a finger in the pie despite the fact that her nonstop schedule as a stay-at-home mom didn’t leave much time to blog.

So, in September 2006, we put our blog on hiatus and took a moment to figure out a new approach. Well, voila. We’re back.

You can expect The Blog Squad forum to be a little more casual and personal than our monthly magazine — but just as useful and entertaining. Our bloggers have divvied up topic areas and localities to watch; however, they’re just loose guides. In other words, be ready for anything. We’re also happy to say that Janet Giampietro will also show up every Friday at this blog site.

I’ll have my eye on local sports personalities and happenings — but more so from the world of alternative sports. I’ll also try to follow what’s going on with various charitable and community-service organizations around the region, as well as current events and issues in the business world.

Look for me on Mondays, and please, as always, let us hear from you — what you like, what you don’t like and anything in between.

Jack Cooksey
Managing editor
Richmond magazine