Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Rising Cost of Doggie Day Care

I read this morning that Michael Vick has agreed to put $928,000 in an escrow account for the care of his 48 dogs. My first reaction was holy crap! Where are they staying, the Ritz Carlton? I immediately started doing some math. Let’s see, 928,000 divided by 48 is 19,333 per dog for the rest of their lifespan. Again, seems pretty steep right? Well, maybe not. The average joe that adopts Fluffy can probably expect to shell out about 8,000 bucks for their dog over the pet's lifetime, if they’re lucky. This estimate assumes that the Fluffster doesn’t need expensive surgery, prolonged boarding, health insurance, or extensive training to break their nasty habit of eating anything within six feet of their personal space. From what I understand, the latter item is pretty pricey. I would venture to guess that all 48 of the Vick pups will need the super-sized sensitivity training course. Remember, Mikey killed all of the nice ones in the bunch.

There are many that would scoff at the idea of keeping these dogs alive, arguing the potential danger these animals impose; however, I’m not among that school of thought. Mike Vick is responsible for making these 48 dogs the aggressive, unpredictable killing machines they are (he’s the financier anyway) so he, in turn, should be responsible for their rehabilitation and care. If that entails, weekly visits to the day spa, weekend getaways to the French Riviera, or one on one with Dr. Phil, so be it. These innocent creatures just may be salvageable; however, I not so sure about old Bad Newz Mike.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Doctor Visit

Once upon a time, back in 1992 to be exact, an enterprising fellow by the name of James Crupi rolled into Richmond, Virginia to begin a series of interviews with the anointed business leaders of the day. Dr. Crupi was a hot shot business consultant who made a name for himself by consulting with the likes of the U.S. Government and other tired behemoth corporations, telling them what they needed to do to dust off their images and prepare for the new millennium ahead. So impressed were the members of the secret society of the Richmond business elite, they privately commissioned him to undertake a study of the Capital City so that they too might see the light.

Dr. Crupi went to work interviewing “a broad range” of Richmond’s business leaders to ask them how they felt about Richmond’s future. He then used those interviews to compile a report, issued in 1993, entitled “Back to the Future: Richmond at a Crossroads”. This report, with the snappy little title, infuriated many people, not the least of who were quite highly positioned in political leadership of the City. In fact, then Mayor, Roy West tried to have the City Council censure the report. It’s funny how people get so sensitive when “outsiders” come in and tell it like it is. You see, Dr. Crupi’s report happened to make the observation that Richmond was, in essence, going to hell in a hand basket, largely because the political “keys to the city” had been passed to a group of political officials that didn’t know squat about business and all the business leaders had either left town or run for cover. Well it certainly didn’t matter that anyone with more than a second grade education in Richmond already knew that. This dude with the fancy pedigree was issuing a public report and people were going to read it! It was kind of like the time that emperor bought the see through suit. Bad times ahead for old Richmond, that was for sure. The posturing, posing and collective outcry was heard from the wards to the burbs. Even the good old Times Disgrace got in on the rebuttals to Dr. Crupi’s opus. While he was an outsider and a Caucasian, it was a damn good thing for sure Dr. Crupi wasn’t a yankee. He may not have made it out of town alive.

The inflammatory report did see the light of day however; and the citizens, politicos, business leaders and media have had fifteen years to collectively chew on it. Fortunately, some of its parts were not spit out and we have come to be stronger for the repast. As a result of Crupi’s report (or despite it perhaps), Richmond now enjoys a stronger and more representative government, the City is undergoing a new business renaissance, the tax base is improving, and the core and river front areas are getting a badly needed face lift. All of these things point to a new Richmond ahead…. Right? Well, the answer may not be a resounding yes quite yet.

That old “secret society” of business elite has now become a little more involved these days, not to mention a little younger, and, lo and behold, they invited old Jim Crupi back to Richmond this year for round two. It seems that, just like some of their predecessors, they needed to buy a little clout to issue the same conclusions that John Q. Citizen can make for free (and does constantly). Anyway, Dr. Crupi has left another report on our doorstep entitled “Putting the Future Together”. I would urge everyone to read both reports, but particularly the latest one. I would link it to this blog were I not such an technological failure.

This time, it appears the dear Doctor has learned the importance of mixing some honey with his medicine to make it easier to swallow. He is careful to acknowledge that “Richmond has accomplished much” over the last fifteen years since his last check-up. While some may take exception to his implication that the City’s progress is somehow a result of his 1993 recommendations, few can argue that many of his “observations” have been successfully addressed. Perhaps we can forgive him his trespasses since he was nice enough to pat us on the back for building that nice new renamed airport and creating a strong mayor (indeed) form of government. He even applauds our progress on convincing people not to kill one another! Thank god for his recommendations in that area. We may have never figured that one out were it not for his benevolent intervention. Let me not digress, but get to the point of the matter; being, we’ve got a ways to go folks! As Crupi states, [despite progress] “something is missing. The pieces are not tied together”. Basically, he observes that we are not working together collectively or cohesively to construct a unified vision for a new Richmond. Well, I’ll be damned. Why didn’t anyone ever think of that one! Don’t get me wrong. The dude makes good sense and he makes points that need to be made. Here are some of what I believe to be his best ones:

· The Richmond Metro area has too much per capita motor vehicle traffic (vehicle miles up over 100% in the last 20 years. This is because of what? Urban sprawl! It can’t continue. People need to live closer to where they work. Unrestrained residential development in Richmond’s surrounding counties will kill our City and our economy.

· Richmond needs better mass transit. Period, end of story.

· Richmond needs better schools. It’s not that hard to agree on a solution folks. We know there’s a problem. Let’s address it in a non-partisan way! They aren’t colors, they are kids!

· We need to continue to build and refurbish our core downtown and riverfront (ya think!).

If pushed to come up with one major criticism of Crupi’s work, it would be his antiquated reliance on old paradigms to explain social phenomenon. He continues to draw from the well worn book of “race” and “culture” as a theoretical framework for which to explain and cure all our urban ills. It’s time to get a new book because we’ve read that one too many times. To either explain or address a city’s problems in the context of one group versus another is a recipe for failure. Further, it is offensive to all and beneficial to none when cultural, class or racial lines are drawn between any one group and a tangible goal (in this case building a viable city). Look at this quote from Crupi’s new report:

“Differences in communication styles also contribute to the problem. Opportunities are being lost because perceptions are getting in the way of getting things done. The black community tends to interpret problems in the context of their social consequences while whites tend to view problems in the context of their economic consequences. It’s like watching a discussion between an artist and an entrepreneur. The artist is emotionally expressive and worries about the richness lost by jumping to outcomes while the entrepreneur just wants to solve the problem and views emotional expression as counterproductive.”

I can’t really speak for others but I find this type of stereotypically based crap to be wrong on so many levels. To attempt to explain major issues in this type of sociologically simplistic way is not only lazy but offensive. I believe there to be no more “black” and “white” community. Sure, there are instances where references of this type are somewhat useful; however, this imaginary community of reference can no longer be a vehicle for explaining or addressing the economic or urban issues we are facing. As far as I’m concerned, anyone that seeks to prove their point by referencing people as a collective group, with singular traits and values might as well be selling snake oil. When we fall back on generalizations like this, we become contributing members of a pseudo discipline that has given rise to a kind of conceptual shorthand meant to explain the world in a way that one thinks it should be understood. We are much too multicultural as a population to fall victim to this “old speak” bullshit.

Finally, I believe Dr. Crupi has done a great service to the City of Richmond by blessing us with his learned observations and thought provoking tidbits. But, the time has come for us to strike out on our own. Hopefully, we will not have a need for the doctor to do another follow-up in fifteen years; however, should he feel the need to re-visit, I hope he will be pleased with the progress we have made.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Let Us Give Thanks

Well folks, it’s almost that time of year when we get to gather around a table filled with food that no rational human would ever consider eating under normal circumstances, and give thanks for another season’s bountiful harvest. Our nation’s farmers have toiled long and hard to bring these gifts to the table so your body may be nourished and sustained and grow strong to withstand the harsh winter ahead. Right? Oh, ok, er… so what if the basted fowl in the center of the table is a genetically engineered mutant that has a closer resemblance to a Beverly Hills housewife than its distant relative known as a turkey. Who care’s if the sweet potatoes and green beans come from China? We’re talking tradition here folks. Were celebrating how far we’ve come. We don’t have to rely on farmers in this country anymore. We’ve got land to build on now that those damn farms are out of the way.

And, come to think of it, Thanksgiving is not so much of a harvest celebration anymore anyway. We can be thankful of how far we have evolved as humans. You know, how we’re one world without borders now, harmonious, one big world family as it were. We’re thankful that the majority of the world thinks like we do and shares the same values. Hell, they’re playing football (real football, not that soccer crap) in Europe and baseball in Asia. Now that’s really something to be thankful for. And what about those foreign cultures we have embraced in this country? Thanks to our newfound tolerance and respect for others, we now have salsa and Doritos in our party bowls instead of those old chips and French onion dip. I even heard of folks serving sushi at some of those fancier Thanksgiving throwdowns. Thanks be to God, Allah, Buddah and all the rest. One world, under er…, a higher power, with liberty and, uh…, well, we’re thankful anyway.

Let’s not forget the material things we all have to be thankful for as well. Time was, all we could be thankful for was a chicken in every pot. Now we can have an SUV in every driveway, a flat screen TV in every den, and a retailer on every corner to sell it to us. Now that, my friends, is something we can all be thankful for.

And let us not forget to thank our Nation’s leaders for sponsoring a day to watch football and a war to protect and preserve our freedom to enjoy all our material gifts. Without the government’s efforts to democratize the poor savages of Iraq and other backward nations, each and every tradition that we hold so dear in this country would be under constant siege. I don’t know about you my friends but I like our little corner of this world just like it is and I’m thankful we have a government that supports the effort to keep it that way. Happy Turkey Day!!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Bit of Devlish Humor

Forgive me this indulgence, but this was too good not to pass along:

One day in the future, OJ Simpson Has a heart attack and dies. He immediately goes to hell, where The devil is waiting for him. "I don't know what to do here," Says the devil. "You are on my list, but I Have no room for you. You definitely Have to stay here, so I'll tell you What I'm going to do. I've got A few folks here who weren't quite as bad as You. I'll let one of them go, But you have to take their place. I'll even Let YOU decide who leaves." OJ thought that sounded pretty Good, so the devil opened the door to the First room. In it was Ted Kennedy and a Large pool of water. Ted kept diving in, and surfacing, Empty handed. Over, And over, and over he dove in and surfaced with nothing. Such was his Fate in hell. "No," OJ said. "I Don' t think so. I'm not a good swimmer, and I don't think I could do that all day long." The devil led him to the door of The next room. In it was George W. Bush with a Sledgehammer and a room full of rocks. All he did Was swing that hammer, time After time after time. "No, this is no good; I've got this problem with my shoulder. I would be in constant agony if all I could do was break rocks all Day," commented OJ. The devil opened a third door. Through it, OJ saw Bill Clinton, Lying on the bed, his arms tied over his Head, and his legs restrained In a spread-eagle pose. Bent over him was Monica Lewinsky, doing what She does best. OJ looked at this in shocked Disbelief, and finally said, "Yeah Man, I can handle this." The devil smiled and said . .

(This is priceless)

"OK, Monica, you're free to go."

Friday, November 9, 2007

Sign of the Apocalypse

Richmond, Virginia is a strange town. For years, the city’s populace has defined themselves more by their geographic location surrounding the city rather than any kind of “urban-centric” identity. Hardly anyone describes themselves as a Richmonder. Rather, we have West-enders, East-enders, South-siders, and the dreaded and oft ostracized North-siders. All of these directionally focused suburbanites stand in awe of we heathens, hoods, and otherwise ethnically undesirable folk that choose to live “in the city”. Many folks would just as soon drive their SUV off a cliff than go into the city limits of Richmond after dark. Well, if last night is any indication, things may be a changin’ in these here parts of the Capital City. I went to see Zappa (Dweezil, not a cadaver) at Toad’s Place downtown on a weeknight and the place was packed with the most eclectic bunch one could imagine. I even saw a silver haired septuagenarian in the balcony that looked like Eleanor Roosevelt! Looking around the crowd last night brought to mind the movie quote “If you build it, they will come”. Whoever had the stones to build a first class music hall down-town has my respect and gratitude. Especially, in light of the many that have tried and failed to attract suburban cave dwellers out of their holes and into town after dark. Toad’s Place is a terrific venue for both its state of the art sound and its perfect size. Its ability to draw both good acts and a big crowd is a refreshing change to a sometimes stagnant area and I hope the trend continues. Maybe one day this town will grow up and become a real city and the “enders” and “siders” will become just plain Richmonders. Scary thought huh?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

"Sacred Cows Make the Tastiest Hamburger"

This quote, from the late, great Abbie Hoffman sums up in a few words what this blog is all about. Stay tuned....