Monday, October 20, 2008

Wanted: Ignorant Voters

I find an interesting dichotomy that has surfaced in the reporting of the presidential political landscape of this past week.

First, close to home, it seems that some politicos are seeing that the voters of West Virginia might be softening their stance against Obama. Bloggers and reporters are asking if West Virginians have decided, suddenly, that they are no longer racist, or rather if it's the worsening economy that is convincing them to vote against their racial bias and in favor of their pocketbooks.

Over in Ohio the group ACORN is busy trying to find all the people they can to load up the polls come election day. They are offering all kinds of inducements - from discount coupons to businesses to free concert tickets - to get people to register to vote. They will also be providing transportation to the polls for those whom they sign up.

Ostensibly ACORN is fulfilling a noble purpose: Getting people involved in the democratic process. Of course, in doing so they are inducing people who have zero interest in - and knowledge of - politics to vote. The Democratic Party leaders are thrilled with ACORN's efforts because they know that the politically ignorant voters in the mostly urban areas where ACORN works are going to vote Democrat 90% of the time. Of course, Republicans see this as nothing short of election fraud.

Meanwhile, back in West Virginia, our ignorant voters are going to massively support John McCain; not because they like him, but because they don't trust a guy with a name Barack Hussein Obama, who by the way is black.

So both parties are rooting for ignorant voters to show up at the polls. Republicans love our idiots and Democrats love the Buckeye imbeciles.

This dichotomy would be much more interesting if West Virginia had the same same Electoral College weight as Ohio. As it is, it really doesn't matter what our idiots do. If McCain wins W.Va., then so what? If Obama wins it will be a moot point. Ohio's idiots are much more important in this election.

This is a good argument for voter qualification. People should have to prove their worthiness to vote before they are given a voter's registration card. Some kind of test should be given that would evaluate the voter's IQ and ensure that the voter possesses at least a modicum of understanding about the United States political system before they are given their turn in the voting booth.

Oh yeah, you want to call me a bad person for saying that, but you know that deep down you agree with me.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Lots of Smoke at Blackhawk Saloon

The leader of the local fight against the Kanawha County Health Department's smoking ban is Paco Ellison, owner of The Blackhawk Saloon, a little dive off Piedmont Road just east of Charleston. Interestingly enough the place is, at this writing, burning down.

Paco's last quote in the Gazette was ironic: "I think they're bluffing," Ellison said Wednesday. "We're going to continue to smoke here until they prove to me I can't. I'm going to stay right where I'm at until they take action."

As I see it there are two possible explanations for the fire:

1. The militant anti-smoking activists torched it (unlikely).
2. Friction Fire - a bad investment rubbing up against a good insurance policy (likely).

It will be interesting to see Paco's public reaction to the fire.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

What Happened to this $316,000?

From the Charleston Daily Mail, Tuesday, July 11, 2000:

State grant to fund bulk of new I-64 visitors center



A new visitors center is planned for Interstate 64 in South Charleston, with the bulk of the funding coming from a state grant.

The South Charleston Convention & Visitors Bureau and the city of South Charleston today expected to receive $316,000 from the state Department of Transportation for the travel and information facility.

The leading site for the center is a triangle-shaped lot off the Montrose Drive exit of I-64. The entrance would be on Kanawha Turnpike.

More than 75,000 vehicles pass the interchange daily, according to Jerry Legg, head of the traffic analysis section of the state Department of Transportation's Planning and Research Division.

"The Montrose Drive exit appears to have the priority but certainly, in West Virginia, property is always at a premium - so I would imagine the Jefferson Road area would be an alternative," South Charleston Mayor Ritchie Robb said this morning.

Sites off the Jefferson Road exit of Interstate 64 that should also be considered include a lot on Jefferson Road, across from McDonald's, and a lot on MacCorkle Avenue, near the Red Roof Inn, Robb said.

The lot off Montrose Drive seems to have the upper hand, Robb said, possibly "because it is viewed as closer to Charleston, and the center may serve as a sort of welcoming point to the state capital. It also might be the priority because the Jefferson Road area, in the past, has experienced some traffic problems. From my perspective, we should keep the Jefferson Road exit open for discussion.

"We'll be looking to find a suitable location that will maximize the benefits of the grant," said Robb, who added that he believes the state will ultimately make the site location decision.

Gov. Cecil Underwood was scheduled to present a check for the center today at the Wingate Inn in SouthCharleston.

Bob Anderson, executive director of the South Charleston Convention & Visitors Bureau, and Larry Green, chairman of the bureau's board of directors, said they hope all of the communities in the area will participate in the staffing and operational funding of the center to promote historical sites and attractions throughout the Kanawha Valley.

"I would like to see it bring additional people into our community - not just to the center itself - but so people will take the time to visit our stores and shop, visit our hotels and restaurants. I hope it will spin off visitors into the rest of the community," Robb said.

Anderson added, "This has been one of our dreams for almost 25 years.

We're thrilled to get this off the ground. It's the largest grant we've ever received. I think it will be great for the whole valley." Green pointed out that the closest visitors' centers are in Huntington and Parkersburg and along the West Virginia Turnpike. "I see Charleston flourishing from this, as well as Dunbar and St. Albans," he said.

Dr. William Crigger, a member of the bureau's board of directors, will serve as chairman of a committee charged with spearheading the project.

"Because of where it will be located, I think this will help Charleston a lot," he said.

Plans call for construction of a building with 2,000 square feet of space. According to a rendering by N Visions Architects, South Charleston, there would be room for 67 parking spaces on the Montrose Drive lot.

Total estimated cost of the project is $395,000. Of the $79,000 in local funds needed, Anderson said his organization has $50,000 "set aside, in the bank, committed to the project. We'll probably ask the city for the rest of the money." An environmental impact study and an archeological study must be done and there must be a public comment period before work can proceed, Anderson said. It will be five or six months before ground is actually broken, he predicted.

-------end article-------------

OK, first of all I remember thinking when this story broke that there was no way that a visitors center could ever be built on this piece of land; it just looked too small for a typical interstate rest area. Here's an aerial shot. The yellow question mark is situated on the prospective site:

Since I was so skeptical of the site, I have been watching for the commencement of this project. Bob Anderson is quoted in the article that it would be 5 or 6 months before ground was broken. It's been 8 years. Does anyone know where the money went?

Seriously, someone should look into this.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Happy Birthday, West Virginia!

When I was in third grade I found out that my cousins in Ohio didn't celebrate West Virginia Day.

It seems silly now, but when I was a kid West Virginia Day was a big deal in my community. People were off work and there were special things that happened around town. The radio station would play "My West Virginia Hills" and people would sing along. A nine year old kid thinks the whole world is just like the part of the world immediately around him, so I thought West Virginia Day was something that people all over the country celebrated. It never seemed strange to me that we didn't celebrate Ohio Day, because I'd been to Ohio and it was nothing special to my eyes. I had been taught my whole life that West Virginia was indeed something special and so I thought it was logical that the whole world would pause on June 20th and observe the momentous occasion of its founding.

"We're the most northern southern state," my mother told me, "and the most southern northern state; the most eastern western state and the most western eastern state." Surely that alone was a designation that was worthy of a national holiday, I thought.

And my eyes could see the beauty that was all around me, and in my travels to other states I had never seen anything as wonderful as Cranberry Glades, Blackwater Falls, Canaan Valley, Spruce Knob, Seneca Rocks, Summersville Lake or a dozen other places that I had seen as a young child. I was certain that the state we lived in was a blessed gift to the world and it was worthy to be celebrated.

It was only after I became a young adult that I began to realize that West Virginia was not universally loved and appreciated. At some point I began to realize that people from other places mistook our unique way of speaking for ignorance. They mistook our simple lifestyle for abject poverty. They mistook our preference for staying in West Virginia to find a way to make a living for lack of ambition. And with all of these mistaken presumptions came a negative view of our people and by association, our state.

But I know better, and so do most West Virginians. While some of our own people buy into this fatalistic self-view, I believe that many more of us are quietly counting our blessings that come with living in a place so richly blessed with beautiful natural resources and wonderful people. We grouse about our politicians like people in every state in the union, and we wax nostalgically for the good old days like people do everywhere. But at the end of the day there is no place we'd rather live and that is why we stay.

If people around this country were allowed to see the real West Virginia, I'd bet they all really would celebrate this day.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Insane Balancing Act in South Charleston

A while back I read an article about the innovative construction technique being used on the new I64 bridge from Dunbar to South Charleston. It seems this concrete structure is being poured in place, extending from the piers outward. It has been slow going on the Dunbar side, but the part of the bridge that will cross MacCorkle Avenue is growing by leaps and bounds. It's really begin to start to look scary as both sides of the cantilever have begun to extend past the limits of what looks like common sense. I really hope the engineers have done their math correctly.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Danny Jones Congratulates Special Olympic Athlete?

Or is he twisting his arm in an attempt to collect a $2 user fee?

Gazette photo by Chip Ellis.

Friday, May 30, 2008

What is the Real Story at Tri-State Casino?

Today's news that Cathy Brackbill has resigned from Tri-State Racetrack and Gaming Center is more evidence that things are not as they seem to be at our local casino. Let's review:

In the early days of the public relations campaign to convince the voters of Kanawha County to approve Tri-State's wishes to become a full-fledged table games casino, Cathy Brackbill was trotted out as the public face of the track. Up until that time (2006) she had been serving as Director of Marketing and it was surprising to a lot of people that she was named General Manager. Some said that she was "window dressing" and had been promoted after a focus group didn't like Dan Adkins as the public face of the track during the campaign. These same people asserted that since it looked suspicious having a person who was known as the PR person leading the effort while the real boss hid in the shadows, Brackbill was given the title "General Manager" and suddenly became the face of the campaign. She remained in that role through the campaign.

The next phase of the project was the lead up to construction - or rather the explanation of why construction wasn't happening. You see, during the campaign the track had been saying it would build a $250 million "tourism and entertainment complex" and it would begin within 60 days of the election if the measure was approved. About 59 days after the election the track, through Ms. Brackbill, began crawfishing as excuse after excuse came out as to why construction hadn't started. It's good to have a PR specialist as the point person when the questions are tough and the answers aren't very good. She continued in this role until, well, we really don't know when it changed.

All we know is that in February it came to light that she was no longer the boss, that a new person had been installed over her: Rich Tesler had been appointed to the new position of Executive Director of Casino Operations. When a Gazette reporter inquired in response to some rumors that were circulating at the track, Dan Adkins said that there had been no announcement and would be no announcement, that the employees would read about it in the paper with the rest of the world. He said there might be a change in Brackbill's title, but he wasn't sure.

As of this writing, the Tri-State website lists Brackbill as Coordinator of Community Affairs. That doesn't sound like another name for General Manager, now does it? Sounds more like a PR person, doesn't it?

I hope the real story comes out, but I think reasonable people can deduce from the facts in evidence that something a little shady has been going on in Cross Lanes. Imagine that, dishonesty from a gambling institution.

As for me, I'll go on record saying I don't think there were ever plans for a $250 million anything and that Cathy Brackbill was a pawn in an elaborate scheme to swindle a gambling license out of Kanawha County voters and officials.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Pfaff & Smith

As long as I can remember the east end of Spring Street has been dominated by Pfaff & Smith builders supply, but last week the familiar yellow and black painted sign that adorned the side of the building along Spring Street was painted over as the new owner, Arrow Concrete, came in and began the process of re-naming the business. I understand that many long-tenured employees were let go and several others quit in solidarity.

Here's a shot of the last remaining Pfaff & Smith sign. I'm sure it'll be painted over soon.

It's a sad when old businesses like this get bought out by larger competitors and we lose a piece of our local history in the process. Pfaff & Smith has supplied concrete for every major building project since in Charleston since the state capitol was built.

Alas, free enterprise vs. culture and history: Culture and history is no match.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Dear National Media,

The movie "Deliverance" was set in Georgia. Georgia is a state in the southern U.S. While a tiny portion of Georgia is included in the region commonly called "Appalachia", the vast majority of the state is located outside this region and shares little to no cultural traits with the rest of Appalachia.

Based upon this information, which has heretofore obviously escaped your legendary powers of fact-finding, please refrain from referencing the movie "Deliverance" or its main musical theme "Dueling Banjos" in your stories about Appalachian voters. We're asking politely. For now.



Sunday, May 18, 2008

So You Wanted WV to be in The Spotlight, Did You?

During the run up to the presidential election year there was lots of talk about moving the West Virginia Primary to a spot earlier in the year so our state's voters would be more relevant. By moving the election to January or February it would tend to focus the eyes of the country on us because the contest would still be undecided, which is rarely the case in May when we vote. Except this year, obviously.

OK, we had a test run this year. We got our moment in the national spotlight. Please, never, ever bring up the subject again. If the temptation to pass some new legislation overcomes our legislators, instead of fiddling with the primary date, let's hope they tackle a new state slogan. Here's what Jon Stewart suggested on the Daily Show:

"West Virginia: No Interviews Please!"

I quite agree.

In the Daily Show report on the Clinton landslide victory (you can see the video here), Stewart took a few really good shots at our stereotypical reputation and was aided greatly by three West Virginia women who had been interviewed by some national news media outlet. Here they are in order of their appearance:

First we have Mrs. Racist Yokel explaining why she wouldn't vote for Obama: "I guess it's the race thing. I just don't trust people of another race." For a really spirited discussion of whether race played a significant role in the election, see this post and comments over at Buzzard Billy's excellent blog. I gotta tell you, Billy, this woman sure takes a hard whack at your argument that our state isn't full of racist nut jobs.

Next comes Mrs. Religious Xenophobe, who says the reason she didn't vote for Obama was because he was a Muslim. She said it so matter of factly that it was clear in her mind that it was true. I wonder what she would have said if the reporter had told her he wasn't Muslim? I would like to have seen her reaction - who knows? Maybe she would have said "Oh, he's not? Well I'm still voting for Hillary", but that wouldn't have made as fun a story. Hillbillies are one of the last groups of people that it is politically correct to ridicule, so why miss a good opportunity like this one?

Then, we have this one, for whom I can't come up with a name. She says it's because his middle name is Hussein. "I've had enough of Hussein" she says vehemently. Obviously she has a bias against Arabs. I wonder if she voted for Nick Rahall?

These three spokeswomen really made me cringe. An especially nice touch is that they picked people whose accents were so pronounced that they had to have subtitles.

You might say, "But the Daily Show is satire and supposed to poke fun at stereotypes." Agreed, and the piece was quite funny, but it wasn't was just the Daily Show. Watching the Sunday news talk shows today was torture as West Virginia was pounded by pundit after pundit as being a racist and backward state. Every network had its examples.

My question is this: Do national media types look for people to interview who they think will fit the stereotype they are reporting on? This is not a new, post-CNN phenomenon: I recall when I was just a lad seeing a CBS news report on the famous "Pot Plane" crash at Yeager (then called Kanawha) airport. This happened in Charleston, on Keystone Drive. I know people who live on Keystone Drive and they are normal folks who look and sound much like I and most Charlestonians do. But they found a guy to talk on camera who honestly sounded like the village idiot from some holler in Mingo County. I remember thinking then how it seemed that every time we hit the national news we have very poor spokespeople.

And so it goes. And I fear it will go this way for a long, long time. So please, let's rethink the idea of intentionally putting our voters in the national spotlight.

We ain't ready for prime time.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Wireless, yes, but do they have a grammar checker?

Sign at the corner of Jefferson Road and Kanawha Turnpike.

Friday, May 09, 2008

An Open Letter to Unlikely West Virginia Voters

We can make a difference this time. A HUGE difference.

Our Democratic primary election is almost always irrelevant, coming too late in the season to really matter. I recall my mother and father being proud that West Virginia made such a huge difference in the 1960 presidential election because it was thought that a Roman Catholic JFK couldn't possibly win here, and when he did - by a landslide - it put him over the top in the eyes of the country's pundits. The meager number of delegates he won didn't do it; rather it was the statement that was made by the way we overcame our stereotypes, xenophobia and prejudice and said that this candidate transcended those things because we thought he was the right person for the job.

This time it could be bigger.

According to all the pundits Hillary Clinton should dominate Tuesday's vote in West Virginia because of simple demographics and the the perception that we won't vote for an African-American. She is sitting precariously on the edge looking down into the abyss of defeat in this nomination process. She is clinging to the "certainty" of a victory in our state to keep her life support going for one more week, to keep the fund raising going for one more week, to keep the contest alive for one more week.

We can end it.

If all of the people who are unlikely to vote (which sadly is the majority of our registered voters) were to show up on Tuesday and drop Obama's name in the ballot box the race will be over by Wednesday morning. Add a few "undecided"voters to the total and the defeat would be stunning. It would be of historical proportions. We could tell our grandchildren about the time that West Virginia made a huge difference in the outcome of a national election. We could tell them about the time when people put aside their prejudice and voted with the majority of the country for a presidential candidate.

I can't change your mind if you are for Hillary, and I don't want to. Vote your conscience. And if you have strong ideological reasons to vote for either candidate I am not tryng to convince you otherwise. But if you are undecided or one of those people who won't go to the polls on Tuesday (or before!) because you aren't interested or have been disillusioned in the process, go vote for Obama because it could be the most inluential vote you will ever make. This is your opportunity to make a difference and do it on the national stage.

We can put West Virginia on the map. Just think of the real benefits we would reap if we asserted ourselves as political players. Who knows? Maybe, just maybe, people will quit asking us if we know their aunt in Richmond.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Theater Review

I think I go to more live theater performances than the average Charlestonian, probably 6 or 7 shows per year on average. That probably qualifies me as an expert (West Virginia law, so I'm told, allows anyone who knows more about a subject than the average person to be admitted in court as an expert, so if anyone out there needs a theater witness just let me know). Tonight I attended Capital High School's production of "Phantom." The show was as good as one could expect from a high school theater department and featured some phenomenal talent, including two girls who were finalists in the Symphony Idol competition held earlier this year.

The most powerful performance of the evening was put on by the air conditioning in the theater. It ran full blast from the time I sat down 30 minutes before the show started until 15 minutes before the 2 1/2 hour show ended. For nearly three hours I got to experience what it must be like to be the ice trays I keep in my freezer. I sat right under the vent and despite my best efforts at shielding myself from the constant assault from the frigid wind I felt positively hypothermic by intermission and deep into the second act I felt as if I had ice crystals in my hair. It was a miserable experience. When the air finally went off I began to warm up and soon I was drifting off to sleep.

But I was awakened by the real reason I felt moved to blog this evening: Rude people who talk during performances.

At "Phantom" I found myself sitting in front of two women and a man who seemed to be oblivious that there was anyone else in the theater. They spoke in normal voices as if they were sitting in their living room and discussed the quality of the voices of the players, the props, the music, EVERYTHING! They started talking shortly after the house lights went down and had comments on each new development on stage throughout the show. "Oh, she has a pretty voice" they said after the lead (Sarah Pauley as Christine) began to sing her first aria. Well, duh?! They usually give the lead to the best singer, don't they? Does it require a play by play commentary from you?

I've noticed that more and more people talk during live performances than they used to. I think that people are so used to watching TV and chatting through programs that they just have developed an insensitivity that makes them forget that they are disturbing others and sometimes they actors with their banter. But then there is the whole answering the cell phone during the movie thing to give weight to the argument that people are just stupid, thoughtless and insensitive.

Anyway, go see Phantom if you're a fan. It plays twice more this weekend. But take a parka, mittens and a hat. And perhaps a "Quiet Please" sign.

Monday, April 14, 2008

WSAZ TV Weekend News

It really frosts me when I try to watch channel 3 news on the weekends. During the week they have a nifty split newscast with a 10 minute Charleston only news segment (hosted by Penny Moss at 6 and the lovely Jessica Ralston at 11) that focuses on what's important to us here in the Capital City. But on weekends and holidays they scrap the Charleston cast and show only the Huntingtonized version, which has a ratio of about 4 Kentucky stories and 3 Ohio stories to 2 Huntington stories to maybe one Charleston story. I can always find out whose dog got run over by the volunteer fire department's truck in Paintsville, but I can't get a follow-up on the murder investigation on the West Side.

And it pisses me off!

This is the Capital City, darn it, and we deserve a newscast that tells us what's going on, don't we? OK, we have WCHS and WVAH (ABC and Fox) who seldom venture beyond the city limits for a story, but their weekend anchor team makes those Sunday afternoon Public Broadcasting college news shows look like network pros by comparison: They giggle like middle school kids through most of the newscast and act like it's the first time they ever read from a teleprompter every weekend. It is unwatchable.

Channel 3 usually has a more seasoned person in the anchor chair at least. It would just be nice if they weren't setting up some cub reporter's story about farmer Brown's cow getting stuck in the mud in Grayson.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Charitable Giving is Rewarding. Very Rewarding.

The Clay Foundation is without a doubt the largest private foundation in Charleston and gives a lot of money every year to many deserving charities and community groups who are trying to do good things for our City. Started by the late Lyell Clay in 1986 with money he made in the newspaper business, the foundation has been run since its inception by Charles Avampato, who was an accountant with the newspaper's publishing company and a relative of the Clay's by marriage. Mr. Avampato has become a recognizable name in the Valley largely because his name is on the Avampato Discovery Museum inside the Clay Center, but he is also well known because he controls the purse strings on the biggest purse in town when it comes to people and organizations looking for funding for community projects. Avampato is well thought of by those to whom he has doled out mucho denaro over the years.

Having a job like this must be rewarding. To see your name on a museum must be rewarding. To know you have had a hand in some large community projects that have made Charleston a better place to live must be rewarding. It must give him a good feeling to know he's done a lot for the community.

But the Mercedes dealership doesn't accept warm and fuzzies for payment. I guess that is why Avampato is rewarded handsomely in more tangible ways. How, you ask? How about $260 per hour? Rewarding enough?

According to IRS records, Avampato works 26 hours per week on average and in fiscal year ending 2006 was paid $296,000 in salary plus a retirement contribution of $44,000. $340,000 for 26 hours per week! That year was no fluke, either: His pay has steadily increased over the last few years, but it has been in the $300K range for the past 3 years at least.

For 26 hours per week.

Just think if he decided to go full time!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Recycle, Reschmycle: Garbage is Garbage, Right?

On several occasions in the past year I have witnessed, or I should say I thought I witnessed Charleston City sanitation workers dumping recycle bins into the same garbage truck where they where throwing other trash bags. I really just thought I was misunderstanding what I was seeing because surely to goodness the City wouldn't ask us to separate out or recyclables and then just indiscriminately toss them in the landfill would they? Would they?

Today's Gazette has the following "Reader's Voice" blurb:

"I just observed the city of Charleston trash collectors empty all of the recycling bins on my block of Virginia Street into the regular garbage truck with all other garbage. I had a feeling this was happening but to actually see it makes me sad. I will continue to wash all plastic and cans and stack all paper neatly into my bin and hope that our mayor will take care of this problem."

Now I would normally be the first one to laugh off a "Reader's Voice" or a Daily Mail "Vent Line" complaint, but when it corroborates what I have seen happen I might give it a little credence.

The City's Refuse Collection website says "Recycling occurs on each regular trash day." Hmmm.

I think it would be interesting for anyone who reads this to pay attention and report back as a comment if you see this happening in your neighborhood. With all of the work that community groups and government agencies do to promote recycling it would be a shame if the war was being lost on the front lines in the name of expedience, but it would not surprise me if it is happening.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Math Challenged Administration?

Debate 101: Don't risk losing credibility by basing any part of your argument on an assertion that can be easily demonstrated to be false.

Mayor Jones thinks that the Health Department's claim that they need 85 parking spaces is an excuse for not wanting to move to the space the City is suggesting in the old Morris Square building at the ballpark. According to the article in today's Gazette:

Jones sent a city employee to the health department building on Lee Street to count parking spaces Tuesday afternoon. Health officials said the department needs 85 parking spots at its new location.

Jones said the department has only 20 parking spaces now.

Health department administrators said the agency has 59 spaces (20 at the front of the building and 39 behind). The department also leases another 25 spaces at the city-owned parking garage across the street.

A quick drive by the Health Department building will confirm the existence of the 20 spaces on the Lee Street side and the 39 on the Washington Street side. I would assume that the City would know about the other 25 it leases to the Health Department, but then I also assume that any City employee could count as high as 59.

Danny says he wants to play hardball with the Health Department. He should first solidify his arguments.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Blogging as Art?

I was looking for an outlet. That's the whole reason I began blogging. I like to write, but a private journal always seemed silly to me; if there isn't at least some chance someone will read what I write I find it difficult to apply much effort to the process. Of course this blog doesn't have a New York Times magnitude readership but when I write here I know that people might read it and that, like taking the road less traveled, makes all the difference.

Still, I don't really labor over the words that get posted here. I don't concern myself with technicalities of sentence structure. I prefer to write as I might speak and in doing so I am prone to have a run-on sentence or some awful alliterations, and I use commas inappropriately from time to time, but hey, it's my blog.

I really think I get from this blog, when I make time for it, the same thing that painters get from creating images on canvass. Even if what I put down here isn't going to change the world, it does change me. It helps me get things out of my system, or sometimes deeper into my system. Some of my more curmudgeonly political posts just make me feel better because sometimes somebody ought to say something; and when I do it makes me feel better. But rarely do I feel I've made a difference in what I do here.

I really like it, though, when I find this blog listed on a blogroll of a blog that I enjoy reading. This is especially nice when it's not a "West Virginia Blogger" list or a roll that I am a member of because of some other demographic criterion. I like it best when I'm just included because someone likes to read what I write. It is as flattering as anything else in my life, particularly when the other blogger is a really good writer. And there are some pretty good writers who have this blog on their blogroll.

Yes, I enjoy tracking referrals to this blog and looking at the blogs that referred readers to this one. Some of the bloggers that have this blog on their blogroll are really terrific writers and I am proud to have them included in my readership. I've never really maintained my blogroll very well but I think I'm going to change that. There are some wonderful things written in the blogosphere and I have been the recipient of many gifts in the reading of them. The least I can do is to pass it on.

In the meantime, here are two bloggers that send me readers from time to time. They are both wonderful writers and share their gift selflessly through their blogging:

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Steeples of Charleston

OK, here is a shot that has become a bit cliche' , but it's still awfully nice. WVSky sent this one, but photos of the same shot from the same angle have been featured on many Charleston area blogs and adorn the walls in the homes of some of my favorite people.

The steeples in this picture are on buildings of different denominations. From nearest to farthest they are: Sacred Heart, where they worship God and downtown real estate; St.John's , where they worship God and England; Christ Church United Methodist where they worship God and John Wesley; The Baptist Temple where they worship God (you know, the REAL God); and the State Capitol where they worship Democrats.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Healthy Revenge for Mayor Jones

I knew this was coming. Ever since the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department investigated the facilities that Danny Jones used to prepare his barbecue ribs for a big firefighters dinner last year, it has been a foregone conclusion that the mayor would exercise his power in a punitive way. Today the Gazette reported that the honorable mayor has decided to direct his vengeance toward Board of Health president Steven Artz.

"He's getting in the way," Jones said. "We don't need his help. When his term ends, I'm going to replace him."

While I'm sure there is disagreement about the job that Dr. Artz has done leading the Health Department (he has been the leading voice in promoting smoking bans - an unpopular position), I would hope there would be some agreement that a person shouldn't be summarily whacked in such an obvious act of revenge. It seems that Mayor Jones is becoming more and more open about his proclivity to seek harsh retribution against people who offend him.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Kanawha County Courthouse at Night

Another contribution from wvsky.

This is a very well done portrait of one of Charleston's oldest buildings and the place from which all of the shenanigans of county government emanate.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

From Staggering Success to Bankruptcy

The Charleston Gazette reports today in its "On File" blurbs that Eimors Construction has filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy. This means that the company will be liquidated. Sad.

Eimors rocketed to prominence in the Charleston construction industry over the last few years. For a while it seemed that every construction project in downtown Charleston was being done by Eimors and half the pickup trucks on the road seemed to have the Eimors name lettered on their side doors. The company was a real local success story and it employed a whole bunch of people in all aspects of the construction trade. Among their many projects of the past few years was a major rehab on the Capitol Street building where The Manahan Group has its offices. It seems now that it was that project that was the beginning of the end for Eimors.

When the restaurant Cazon, which resides in the same structure as Manahan, closed abruptly last year the story came out that the newly renovated building was woefully inadequate, both structurally and electrically. Cazon, the stories said, was forced to close because the building was unsafe. I never heard any scuttlebutt as to the final resolution of these claims, but it certainly cast a shadow over Eimors quality of work.

About the same time the Manahan building was finishing up, and at the height of Eimors' success, the contractor signed on to take the lead in the St. Jude Children's Hospital fundraiser house built in Putnam County. Once that highly publicized project was finished it didn't take long for the stories of unpaid suppliers and subcontractors to hit the papers, putting a real damper on all of the positive press that Eimors might have gotten otherwise. That was the straw that left the formerly proud company crippled. Eimors told the Gazette in October they would be going out of business. Today's report puts the final nail in the coffin.

Business 101: Companies that exhibit skyrocketing success in a short time nearly always fall to the ground with a thud just as quickly. It's sad that all of Eimors employees had to learn this lesson the hard way.

By the way, this story isn't over. There are other businesses who were in partnerships with Eimors who are reeling from the experience. Barring outside intervention, one or two of those will probably fall to the same fate as Eimors in the next year or so. Watch Capitol Street closely over the next few months and you'll see what I mean.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Andy & Company - Out of Business

I didn't hear it for myself, but it's my understanding that Andy Albertini called it quits today, resigning on the air. The reason for his abrupt departure might be the new Arbitron Ratings:

ARBITRON Quarterly Report
12+ Mon-Sun, 6a-12mid
Pop: 214,100
Black: 0 (0%) Hispanic: 0 (0%) Asian: 0 (0%)

Station Format Owner Spr 06 Fall 06 Spr 07 Fall 07
WQBE Country Bristol 20.5 20.2 18.1 14.4
WVAF AC West Virginia 11.3 11.7 11.1 12.8
WVSR Top 40/M Bristol 6.7 5.0 9.1 9.3
WCHS-A News West Virginia 5.3 9.2 6.4 8.2
WKWS Country West Virginia 7.1 10.3 7.7 8.2
WKLC Rock LM Communications 5.3 6.7 6.4 7.4
WKAZ Adult Hits West Virginia 3.2 1.8 5.7 5.1
WRVZ Top 40/R West Virginia 6.7 4.6 4.4 4.3
WZJO Alternative Bristol 3.5 2.5 4.4 4.3
WMXE Classic Hits LM Communications 4.2 2.5 3.4 3.1
WAMX Active Rock Clear Channel 1.1 1.1 0.7 1.2
WEMM Religious Mortenson 1.1 1.8 1.0 1.2
WKAZ-A Oldies West Virginia 1.1 1.1 2.0 1.2
WRYV Classic Rock Connoisseur 1.1 1.1 0.7 1.2

Note that WVTS (the station that carried Andy & Co.) doesn't appear anywhere on this list.

Can someone please start a decent local talk show? Please?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

View from the Other Side

It seems that most every published photo of Charleston's skyline is taken from the south side of the river. There are places on the West Side and Capitol Hill that are just as dramatic. Here's a shot sent by Jackie taken from the Market Drive area of the West Side Hill. The original shot was wider but I cropped it down because I like the way it makes the perspective makes South Hills look like it's almost part of downtown.

For those not familiar, this shot shows the three tallest buildings in town. From left to right they are BB&T (originally named "One Valley Square"), Chase (originally "Charleston National Bank") and Laidley Tower (originally "Laidley Tower"). These three buildings are just about the same height, give or take the flag poles and rooftop mechanical shacks. For years there was an FAA imposed regulation against buildings taller than 200' (about 17 stories) in downtown Charleston since it sits in the glide path of Yeager Airport. I'm not sure if that prohibition is still in effect, but the occasional jumbo jet that lands at Yeager comes in pretty low over the city on approach. There would definitely be a point at which a building would be too tall in the downtown area. I'm guessing 50 stories would be too much.

Monday, January 28, 2008

A Computer Discussion with Myself

I awoke late one night, at least I think I awoke, to find myself in conversation with a much younger version of me. The young me was from about 1986 and the subject of the conversation was computers. It was quite an interesting conversation and I thought it should preserved here for posterity.

As I a began to wake up, it seems that the conversation was already in progress and I fell asleep before it was over, so forgive me if it seems to begin and end somewhat abruptly:

Young Charles: "Oh yeah, I bought a memory upgrade."
Old Charles: "You can never have too much RAM."
Young: "I agree. Timex Sinclair makes it easy. I now have a full 16K. That's like 8 times more memory than I had before."
Old: "Ah, that's right, I remember. The Timex Sinclair came standard with 2K of memory."
Young: "Yes, but it wouldn't even run a lot of programs. I had to have it in order to run a flight simulator."
Old: "You mean Microsoft Flight Simulator?"
Young: "Micro-What?"
Old: "Microsoft. You know, Bill Gates? The ones who make the IBM operating system."
Young: "Operating System?"
Old: "Yes, You know: DOS?"
Young: "Whatever, dude."
Old: "Well, where did you get your flight simulator? Who makes it?"
Young: "Out of a magazine. It was about 10,000 lines and it took me two days and nights to type it in."
Old: "Sheesh, I remember now: BASIC! Man, I - er, you - spent a lot of time just typing in all that 'if X=Y then goto Z; else goto A; plot xsin'. "
Young: Yeah, it's a pain, but at least you only have to do it once. After that you can save it and just load it the next time you want to run it."
Old: "How big is your disk drive?"
Young: "My what drive?"
Old: "How do you save it?"
Young: "With the tape recorder."
Old: "Oh yes, I remember. You plug the cord in to the output jack and start the recorder."
Young: "Yes, then you press play to load it."
Old: "And remind me: How long does it take to save and load a 10,000 line program?"
Young: "About 20 minutes. It's pretty fast."
Old: "Um, yeah: 16K in 20 minutes. Fast."
Young: "So, tell me about your rig."
Old: "You wouldn't believe it."
Young: "Sure I will. A friend of mine has a Commodore 64. It's got a ton of RAM: I think it's like 128K or something like that. He's got a modem and everything."
Old: "Mine's a little more than that."
Young: "How much more."
Old: "Well, for starters I have a gigabyte of RAM."
Young: "What's a gigabyte?"
Old: "It's um, a million K."
Young: "Yeah, right."
Old: "It's true. And I've got a 80 gigabyte hard drive."
Young: "A what?"
Old: "Tape recorder."
Young: "It must take a long time to type in that many lines of program."
Old: "Yeah, but we don't really do that any more. We go to the store and buy disks with the programs already on it. Or we download it."
Young: "You what?"
Old: "Never mind. You really wouldn't understand."
Young: "I'm thinking about getting a modem. You can dial into other computers and leave messages for people and read stuff."
Old: "Yes, I remember."
Young: "Do you have a modem?"
Old: "Yes, but I really never use it. I connect through a wireless broadband connection."
Young: "Huh?"
Old: "Like I said, you really wouldn't understand..."

Sunday, January 27, 2008

One Bridge Place

When I mentioned this building in another post, wvsky came through with this great shot that shows its charm. As I said, I have had many, many people over the years tell me that this is the thing they remember most about their visit to Charleston.

For those of you who haven't seen it in person, this was the unadorned back side of a building that was left exposed after the adjoining building was razed. The detail is all painted, but in a very strategic way to incorporate actual windows and faux windows into a flawless pattern. Even in person it's difficult to see which are the real windows and which are fake.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Great Blue Fog of 2008

wvsky sent this photo of today's blue fog that covered the whole valley. No one is admitting that they caused the problem. It definitely smelled like chlorine, so there are only a couple of suspects.

Hey, we made Drudge!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Nice Mix

I count eleven buildings in this nice geometrically diverse shot from wvsky. Lots of architectural styles to pick from. This shot is taken from the South Side Bridge looking north.

At the left-center of the shot you can see the muralized building scape of One Bridge Place. I can't tell you how many people over the years I've talked to who have visited Charleston and remember that building more than any other in town. Is it really that unique? I've not seen any other like it, but you'd think someone somewhere would have copied it by now. I'll try to get a straight on shot of it to post sometime.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

"And Don't You Forget It!"

Mayor Jones has been strangely serene in his dealings with Council lately. I had begun to think that having a new wife and child had brought him some new perspective and a kinder, gentler manner vis-a-vis his fellow elected officials. Apparently not.

At last night's City Council meeting, Councilman Cubert Smith joined the ever-growing list of city council members that have been publicly chastised by the mayor. Read the whole story in this morning's Gazette here.

Now to be fair, Cubert Smith is an odd nut: I mean that in the most endearing way possible. He is an artist (which automatically qualifies him as quirky) and ran unsuccessfully for City Council many, many times before finally succeeding in the last election. And for him to try to attend a meeting between the mayor and his employees is a little out of the ordinary, but so is the mayor's vehemently denying him access to the meeting. But Smith did not deserve the cold-blooded attack at the end of last night's meeting, when Mayor Jones publicly scolded the councilman for writing him a "pretty nasty letter" calling into question his exclusion at the mayor's meeting with police officers.

I have personally read other letters that the Mayor has characterized as "nasty" and I have to say that Mayor Jones must have a different definition of "nasty" than I do. I have also read letters that the mayor has written to other council members and they seemed to me to be very nasty.

According to the Gazette:

Smith said he didn’t come to the meeting to be adversarial. He said he was
appointed to a council committee on employees and a black caucus, and allowed to
meet with employees.
“Well you’re not,” Jones said. “I want you to understand
that. You’re not going to intrude on meetings of mine, and don’t you forget

Anyone who has observed Mayor Jones for very long knows that this was Cubert Smith's induction into the "Danny Jones Political Enemies Club", a club whose membership continues to grow and grow.

Welcome aboard, Cubert!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Union Building Pedestrian Death Trap

Here's a shot, courtesy of Morgan, that shows very graphically the danger of exiting the Union Building onto Kanawha Boulevard. For those of you who aren't familiar with it, the Union Building is the only building that was left on the South side of the boulevard when it was revamped in the mid 1900s. The boulevard curves around the Union Building and sits way too close to the entrance. The speed limit on the boulevard is 40 MPH but cars frequently go much faster. The car in this picture is actually in the left lane of traffic, so you can imagine how it looks when one zips by in the right lane. I'm not sure how many car vs. pedestrian incidents there have been here over the years, but it's not surprising that they happen.

Friday, January 18, 2008

One Last Night Shot

Since we started a little controversy about light pollution, here is a great night time shot of Charleston taken from one of the best vantage points in town. (click on picture for a larger view)

I don't know: As bad as the haze and long exposure makes it look like in this shot, it seems to me that Charleston isn't as brightly lit as many similar-sized cities I've seen.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Brawley Walkway at Night

You can tell an old Charlestonian because they will say this picture is of Fife Street. Once in a while I'll catch myself saying Fife Street, but it's been Brawley Walkway long enough now that I'm starting to come around.

This shot is just outside Ellen's Ice Cream, the best ice cream shop on the planet.

Thanks to WV Sky for this one.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

More Downtown Illumination

Since you mentioned it, SagaciousHillbilly, here is a shot of the all lit up South Side Bridge. I remember the night in March of 2000 when the first threw the switch on the lights. It was supposed to big deal, but it wasn't so much. Still isn't, at least by itself but I think it compliments the other city lights nicely - if you like that kind of thing.

Thanks to WV Sky for this nice shot. Remember folks, feel free to send me your Charleston pics (charlestonianblog at and I'll post them here.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Andy Albertini Hates Saving for College

It seems to me that conservative talk show hosts get more arrogant the longer that they are on the air. I've seen this happen over the years again and again (to be fair, it might happen to liberal talk show hosts too, but there really aren't any of those who stick around long enough to see a change). Charleston talk radio host Andy Albertini is a perfect example and is a work in progress.

When Andy first hit the airwaves after the demise of Jerry Waters he seemed to be a reasonable person most of the time, but the longer he stays on (and I have to admit, I am very surprised he is still on) the more of a blow-hard he becomes. This morning he pontificated for quite some time about the evils of "529s". He talked about the genesis of 529s and how liberals had used them for all kind of improper political gain. He pointed at the McCain-Feingold Campaign Reform Act as the reason he could not vote for John McCain because that was the act of congress that created 529s. He went on and on. He must have said the number "529" thirty times in about two minutes as he worked himself into a frenzy about this great evil that has been perpetrated on the citizenry.

What's wrong with saving for college, Andy?

Just yesterday I heard him talking about being proud of having and paying student loans with which he paid for his education. Does he think that debt-financed education is better than that which is saved for? What a non-neo-con position that is!

This is just inexplicable, unless Andy was wrong. Nah, couldn't be. At the very moment I am writing this he is talking on the radio about how he is always right; a subject introduced by the "Mr. Know-it-All" fanfare from the "Rocky and Bullwinkle Show."

Of course, he coud have meant "527" which is the IRS designation for certain politcal action committees, the creation of which was provided for by McCain-Feingold. But wouldn't that mean he was wrong about something?

Now I don't mean to bust Andy's chops too much, but I would like to use this incident to point out to him and his fan that people sometime mispeak. If Hillary Clinton, John Edwards or any other Democrat/Liberal would have committed this same faux pax he would have railed about how out of touch and stupid they were.

Intellectual honesty: It's what's lacking in talk radio.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Charleston at Night

Thanks to WV Sky, who took me up on my offer to post photos of Charleston to compensate for the demise of the "Downtown WV" blog. Here is a great nighttime shot of the United Bank building. This building is illuminated by a mechanized lighting system that is hidden during the day and then swings over the edge of the building at dusk. If you are ever downtown just as the sun goes down you should take the time to watch the lights as they begin to move into position: It's a little ghostly.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

School Shooting Angers Parents

According to the story in this morning's Gazette, several Sissonville Middle School parents are upset that John Adams Middle School students were used in a TV commercial shot on location at the new Sissonville school building. According to the story:
Sissonville parent Kimberly Parsons said she visited the school for a
parents meeting Friday and saw a crew filming students as they walked into
the school. An office worker and a teacher told Parsons that the crew was
filming students from John Adams Middle, she said. “It made me [upset],
obviously,” she said. “It didn’t have to be my child, but it should have
been some of the students that went to school there. “I’ve talked to other
parents about it, and they were shocked.”

I don't know why she is shocked. It is well known that the kids that go to John Adams are far above average and much better looking than kids at Sissonville. They also are far more intelligent and would therefore take direction better than those hoodlums that live up I77.

Let's face it: John Adams students live in South Hills, an area known for its upper-crust breeding stock. If you were going to shoot a commercial that was going to show off the nicest, newest and most wonderful school in the county, wouldn't you want to have the best looking and most intelligent kids starring in it? There's no reason to be petty, Ms. Parsons. Think of the greater good.

Really, it's amazing that the county even built those folks a school in the first place. They should be more appreciative.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Draconian Abortion Laws?

One of the interesting things about our shared TV market is that we get to hear news from that mysterious place across the Big Sandy and Tug Fork Rivers to the west called Kentucky. If you've read the novel "Crum" then you know the colorful way in which the author of that book labels Kentucky. I can't really write it in this family-friendly forum, but um..., he calls it the land of..., well..., people who fornicate with pigs. I won't go that far, but I will say that once in a while I hear things from over there that really make me wonder what kind of people inhabit the place.

The latest is a story that I thought I heard on Channel 3 about a bill that will be introduced in the Kentucky legislature this session. The report said that the bill would require a woman to view ultrasound images before she could receive an abortion. I thought that this sounded completely absurd, even for Kentucky, and so I did a little research. It turns out that this is not the first time a bill like this has been introduced in a state legislature: Last year a similar bill was introduced in the South Carolina legislature and actually passed through the senate there.

But then I found out that it is Ohio, not Kentucky, that is considering this measure. Call me prejudiced or ill-informed, but I had a higher opinion of the Buckeye state.

I'm not trying to start a discussion on abortion; those discussions are fruitless. But I would like to pose the question, "What the hell is wrong with you people?" How close is this to "cruel and unusual punishment"?

I can't even begin to comprehend what kind of sick mind it would take to defend this.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Downtown WV Photo Blog

I'm sad to note the passing of "Downtown WV", one of the blogs in The Gazz stable. The blog featured photographs taken in and around our beautiful home town that were always entertaining if not technically excellent. Unfortunately not only is the blog no longer being updated but all of the former content has been removed.

So as a public service I will be glad to help fill the void left by this departure. While I don't have much time to go around town snapping photos I will be glad to post some of your shots here for the world to view. You can email photos to me at . I would appreciate it if you would limit the file size to 1MB or less.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Things I Can't Understand

I know there are a lot of things that I don't understand. Many of these things are simply outside my field of expertise, like how much thrust does it take for a Delta IV rocket to achieve escape velocity? Some of these things can be solved by a quick Google search. while some are just too mysterious to be solved so easily. Here are few that are on my mind this evening:

Why does Cabell County Schools run TV ads? Do they think they are going to get more students by advertising that they have good teachers? Who pays for the ads? Since I live in Kanawha County I really don't have a dog in the fight, but it seems to me that someone's money is being wasted down Huntington way.

Why does the Charleston Police Department broadcast the location of their DUI checkpoints? Do they just want to catch the stupid and/or uninformed drunks? Wouldn't it be better if people didn't know where they were?

Why does every TV news broadcast have to have a health report? Most of these reports are just fillers, and many of them seem to be better suited for publication in the "Medical Journal of Duh!" (This just in: People who eat large quantities of chocolate are likely to be obese.)

And speaking of TV news, why do we have to see the following reports on every station, year after year?
  • Video of reporters standing by the interstate showing the heavy traffic the day before every holiday.
  • An interview with a Lowes or Home Depot associate about how they are running out/have plenty of spaces heaters, ice melt, snow shovels, etc. in response to whatever the current weather threat is.
  • A visit to homeless shelters the first time the temperature dips into the single digits.
  • A reporter shown wiping the snow off of a car where snow has collected a half-inch deep for the first time each season.
But the biggest question I have this evening is the same one I have every January 1: How long into the new year am I expected to tell people "Happy New Year"? Days? Weeks? Months? How am I supposed to keep track of whom I have and have not wished a happy new year? It all gets a little maddening, these holiday traditions.

If anyone has any answers to these burning questions of mine, please let me know.

Oh, and Happy New Year.