Saturday, May 19, 2007

Norfolk Construction and Projects...building is everywhere!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Hampton Roads = one word = wow!

Bert and I were honored to be invited this week by the Executive Director of the Virginia Arts Festival for the pre-show reception and performance at the performing arts center of the Scope, Chrysler Hall, of Itzhak Perlman, one of the most famous violinists in the world, in collaboration with Rohan DeSilva on piano. While not typically my genre of music, the masterful performance was amazing. I can certainly appreciate the artistry.

Hampton Roads-Cities Ranked and Rated

Gainesville's 1st; we're 137th

New edition of "Cities Ranked and Rated" says region's livability has dropped.

We're not the area we used to be.

In 2004, the first edition of the book "Cities Ranked & Rated" placed the Hampton Roads region 17th in a ranking of the top cities in the United States. In the second edition, which hit bookstores this week, the region drops precipitously to No. 137.

The rankings -- done by authors Bert Sperling and Peter Sander, demographic researchers known for the Sperling's Best Places online site -- are based on 10 primary criteria that would affect residents' quality of life.

The authors note that the Hampton Roads area's drop in the rankings is largely attributable to two factors -- the drop in job growth projection since 2004 and the increase in housing prices in that time frame.

Gainesville, Fla., tops the current ranking, followed by Bellingham, Wash.; the area including Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, Wash.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; and Ann Arbor, Mich.

Here is a quick look at how Hampton Roads compares to national averages according to some of the book's data:

POPULATION: The area has a population of about 1.65 million people, with a density of 626 people per square mile (compared to the national average of 358). The area's population is up 16.7% since 2002 (national increase of 21%).

ECONOMY AND JOBS: The area's average household income is $49,335 (compared to a national average of $46,414). Hampton Roads' recent job growth is 2.2% (compared to a national average of 1.3%), but its projected future job growth is 11.4%, just below the national average of 11.5%.

INDEXES AND TAXES: The region's cost-of-living and buy-power indexes are slightly above the national average. The income tax rate is above average (5.75% compared to national 4.7), but the sales tax is below average (5.03% compared to national 6.58%). But since 2002, the area's home appreciation rate has been 91.3%, compared to a national average of 10.1%.

CLIMATE: The region's temperatures are mild, with an average of 84 days below freezing or above 90 degrees (national average, 127 days).

EDUCATION: Public schools in the area spend an average of $5,122 per pupil, below the national average of $5,686. But the region's students score slightly higher on standardized tests than the national average.

HEALTH AND HEALTHCARE: The area scores well in air and water quality, but has a higher than average pollen/allergy score. The average doctor and dental visits in Hampton Roads ($67 and $61, respectively) are about $10 cheaper than the national average.

TRANSPORTATION: The area's average annual auto insurance premium is $1,805, almost $400 higher than the national average.

LEISURE: The area scores high for is 69 miles of coastline and gets high marks on the "amusement park rating" and the "botanical garden rating." Hampton Roads was below average in outlet malls but has twice as many Starbucks coffeehouses as the average U.S. city.

ARTS AND CULTURE: Hampton Roads has 50 public libraries (compared to 27 in the average region) and scores well for classical music, ballet/dance and professional theater. The area is well above average in all museum ratings - art, science, children's museums and overall.

And you thought you were directionally-challenged?

Found this great post on a website I stumbled upon, I got quite the chuckle! Not sure how I'd find things around Hampton Roads without the GPS after reading this.

While I think it is a little dated in that it does not give full credit to the emerging Town Center in Virginia Beach, the message is still valid and clear:

For the purposes of this document, we will refer to the area as 'Norfolk', pronounced exactly that way by Northerners who settle here. Southerners who settle here pronounce it 'Nawfalk', sailors pronounce it 'No****' and everyone else calls it Norfick'. The word 'Norfolk' actually originated in Southern England, gradually over time as a combination of the words 'North' and 'Folk', their way of referring to their brethren to the north, very much like our own term 'angel loveyankees.' (Note: when Bert pronounced it No****, his kids were appalled that he'd said a 'bad' word. LOL)

Norfolk is composed entirely of Roads under Construction. The year-round seasonal weather allows for year-round construction. The only way to get into downtown is to move there. Don't worry about getting out. Those arrangements will be made by your next of kin. All directions start with 'Get on 64..' and include the phrase 'Turn at the 7-Eleven.'

Most people navigate the area using Interstate 64 because of oddball location naming. The immediate problem here is that to access western portions of the area, you have to travel I-64 East. I-64, the largest interstate in the state, has two exits that serve Virginia Beach, the largest city in Virginia. The land mass of the beach area is approximately 1% of the city's total land area.

The city of Portsmouth is not at the port's mouth - that would be Norfolk. The city of Chesapeake is named for the Chesapeake Bay, 15 miles away. Newport News is not a newspaper. The city is, in fact, served by The Daily Press newspaper, based in Hampton. South Norfolk is in Chesapeake and 'Suffolk', an old English combination of 'South' and 'Folk' is not south of Norfolk, rather west.

Hampton Boulevard is in Norfolk and does not go to Hampton.

Northampton Boulevard is not in the north of Hampton. It is 22 miles southeast of Hampton, in Virginia Beach.

Chesapeake Boulevard runs parallel to Hampton Boulevard and does not go to Chesapeake.

Virginia Beach Boulevard starts in Norfolk and only becomes a boulevard when you reach Virginia Beach.

Portsmouth Boulevard is in Chesapeake. There is no Norfolk Boulevard but there is a Norfolk Avenue in Virginia Beach. It does not go to Norfolk.

Atlantic Avenue parallels the Atlantic Ocean. Strangely, so does Pacific Avenue.

Chesapeake Beach, nicknamed 'Chick's Beach', is in Virginia Beach. Chicks do not go there.

Meanwhile, Ocean View Avenue has no view of the ocean unless you use a high-powered telescope and a crane. Bayview is too far from the Bay to see it and Riverview has no view of any rivers.

Shore Drive has no shore but runs along beside miles and miles of military bases.

Military Highway, an apt name for the main thoroughfare of a primarily military area, will not actually take you to any military bases. Ironically, Independence Boulevard ends at one.

The Northwest River is actually in the Southeastern part of the area. Deep Creek contains no deep creeks. Great Bridge is an affluent area accessed by crossing a tiny drawbridge. London Bridge Road has no connection to London and has no bridges. It is, however, falling apart.

The area of Damneck contains no dams. Oceana Boulevard does not come near the ocean. Norfolk Naval Shipyard is in Portsmouth. One of the largest Coast Guard bases on the east coast is in Portsmouth, 21 miles from the coast.

Hilltop, a mildly affluent shopping area, is not on a hill or near a hill. There are no cars at the Chrysler Museum. Scope is not a mouthwash- it's a convention center in Norfolk.

Sometime, just for fun, stop and ask a local for directions to 'downtown Virginia Beach.' Chances are, you will be sent to Norfolk.

Virginia Beach has no downtown. They claim to but it is in fact a shopping district with five squat brown office buildings. And, no hotels.

No one carpools here, allowing the HOV-reversible lanes to be used by skateboarders during rush hours. All the tollbooths were taken down a few years ago, creating one less place for traffic accidents to occur.

Everyone in the country lived here once or knew someone who did. You will be hard pressed to find a native of the area. Everyone here is from somewhere else, due mostly to the fact that Norfolk contains the largest naval base in the world. When you curse the drivers here for not being able to drive, you are cursing the drivers of the whole country. Think about it.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Port Folio Editor interviews Bert, Valuing Community

Valuing Community
WHRO’s new president says he wants to place greater emphasis on local programming while preserving the core elements of this ‘jewel in our own backyard’

By Tom Robotham
Tuesday, May. 8, 2007

Recently WHRO hired a new president and CEO: Bert Schmidt, a native of Syracuse, New York and, most recently, president and general manager of WVPT in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Schmidt holds a BS in accounting and finance from Alfred University, a law degree from Syracuse University College of Law and an MBA from Syracuse University School of Management. Prior to coming to Virginia five years ago, he was executive vice president of WCNY-TV/FM in Syracuse.

He is currently serving as chairman of the Virginia Association of Public Television Stations.

Last week, during his first day on the job, I caught up with him in his office. Following are excerpts from our conversation.

This may not be a fair question because I know you’re new to the job and the community, but I’d like to start by asking for your initial impressions of WHRO, both in terms of its strengths and opportunities you might see for improvement.

Well, I’m pretty familiar with WHRO because I’ve been in Virginia for the last five years and I’ve chaired the Virginia Association of Public TV Stations….WHRO has always had a reputation nationally as a real leader in both technology and education. And I believe that’s where public broadcasting’s strengths lie. Certainly in education, because our mission is not based on shareholder value – it’s about improving the lives of people in the community….I’m not sure sometimes whether Hampton Roads understands the jewel they have right here in their own backyard with WHRO, and I’m excited to be here to help lead this organization through the next generation of public broadcasting.

I wonder if you could talk in a little more detail about the impact on the community….One criticism of WHRO, and affiliates across the country, is that there’s not nearly enough local programming.

At the station I came from, WVPT, we did 11 local shows, and the budget was a quarter of WHRO’s….So you can do things with a small budget. I want to learn about this community to understand what its needs are, because we’re the only locally owned electronic media that exists anymore, and we need to make sure we’re addressing the needs of the local community. So I’m going to be [doing] what I call my listening tour, going out with members and donors and the education community and other people throughout the area, trying to understand what are the needs of this community and then making sure we’re helping address those needs.

So local programming is high on your priority list.

Absolutely. Again, at my prior station they are currently doing 11 shows. When I got there they were doing, well, one-and-a-half. One show we tweaked. So that’s been a real emphasis. And frankly, that’s what public broadcasting [stations] can do that others can’t do. [Commerical stations are] owned by big companies, and they do news – that’s great – but when we talk about long-format programs that delve deep into issues, that’s the kind of stuff that public broadcasting can do.

What are some of the local programs you did there?

Well, as an example, we did a program called Virginia Farming. When I first moved to the area I was driving around, and of course in the Shenandoah Valley it’s very rural, there are lots of farms, so I said to my staff, "What are we doing for the farming community?" I got a lot of blank stares. I said, "Well I don’t know what it’s going to be but we need to do something to address the needs of the farming community." We talked to [farmers] and ultimately put together this program…, which has [been chosen] four years in a row as the best farming program in the state. So we’ll do the same kind of thing here, whether it’s for the military, or the African-American population or the Filipino population. We’ll be asking, what are we doing to serve those communities?

What does Virginia Farming look like?

The first 10 minutes are newsish, video in the field, and the second half is a talking-head interview with a key person within the state, and then the last three or four minutes are a lighter and a little more fun.

So it’s a multifaceted magazine show.

Yes. And it brings in enough money to cover its costs….

It seems to me that one challenge you might face with certain kinds of local programming here is that you’re in a fairly conservative community, working for an institution that has a perceived liberal bias – although some liberals say it’s too conservative.

When people say we’re liberal, I would ask them, in bringing…programs that are focused on educating children – programs like Sesame Street…, is that liberal – to bring a quality children’s program that doesn’t have them learning about violence? Programs that are on other networks [are] often the kinds of programs that you don’t want your kids to see. I have young kids. I can see when they’ve watched a kids’ program on a commercial network and all of a sudden they want a new toy that’s out, or a new cereal. When they’re watching public TV, they’re learning their numbers, they’re learning sharing – those kind of values. I don’t think that’s liberal or conservative. That’s a family value. I use that term maybe not in the political sense that gets thrown around, but more in the sense…that you value local community. That’s what we’re all about. If you don’t think local community is relevant, then we’re not for you. But if you think children are important, educating the community is important, addressing local issues is important, then [we are for you]. We’re not about advocating for a liberal cause or a conservative cause…. We all have our own personal views….But I’m more interested in letting voices be heard and letting viewers make decisions. There’s too much media out there that are liberal, conservative – there are all of these advocacy programs. We’re not about advocacy. We’re about bringing all voices out there. [WVPT is] doing a program now called Virginia Viewpoints. They bring liberal voices and conservative voices on a single topic, like gun control, for example…discussing the topic from every perspective….

Related to the liberal-conservative controversy is the challenge of trying to strike a balance between being provocative and not offending people. Certainly if you’re doing a show on, say, the African-American community or the military, there’s a potential to either offend people or to be so inoffensive as to be bland.

With many of these programs…the content is created by outside folks. So, for example in the military…we might want to meet with folks who work with the families of military folks…[and explore] the issues they may be facing. We aren’t creating the content; it’s the folks in these communities who are creating the content. If people get offended by frank discussion, then we might offend. But what we want to do is serve those populations. We certainly don’t want to offend anybody, but we’re not going to be so bland as to be boring either.

This relates more now to national programming. And Paula Kerger addressed this in my interview with her: A lot of people perceive a disconnect between the fund-drive programming and the regular programming. And she acknowledged that there is "a bit" of one. What are your feelings on that?

It’s interesting because I saw Paula at a conference a while back…and made the same statement that I would love to see the programs we do during these campaigns be a little more tied to the programs that public broadcasting viewers love. There are sometimes programs that we air because there’s a population that likes them, but they’re not the normal public broadcasting viewer. I [think] that we need to be able to do programs that are related to our mission but can also bring membership support in. It’s easy to say let’s bring in a program that may not be completely related to the [regular programming]….

I want to see more [regularly scheduled programs] be supported by our members. Recently PBS has done a good job of taking some of those regularly scheduled programs and structuring them in a way that we can actually go out and ask for support around them – Masterpiece Theater, for example. Those kinds of things that still meet the mission but can excite people to get to the phones. Again, membership still is our most important source of revenue. It’s members that make public broadcasting what it is, so you need to be able to attract those members. At the same time we want to stay true to the mission of public broadcasting….Fortunately…, Paula goes to stations throughout the country…and really listens. So it’s not like a commercial network where… all the decisions are made in the ivory tower. The programs are all made by local stations, and PBS just gets them out to everybody. Whether it’s WGBH, WNET or WHRO, these are shows made by local communities. So it’s a great model.

So, in tying that question back to the bigger issue of programming in general, how do you strike a balance between airing programs that have merit and airing those that have popular appeal? Obviously, they’re not always one and the same.

It is a tricky balance. When state funding has been reduced, which it has been in Virginia; when federal funding is flat, which it has been for many, many years, that makes a big part of your budget either flat or going down, the pressure is to raise more money locally. That can be done through membership; it can be done through corporate underwriting, or it can be done through for-profit, non-mission-related efforts. But without the money there is no mission. So we have to be aware that we are a business that needs money to operate….

What do you say to people who say that, regardless of what programs you do, public broadcasting is irrelevant because there’s such a variety of programming available today?

People who say that aren’t watching public TV….All of the networks that have tried to do what public broadcasting does…tend to [eventually] go to the bottom line and the lowest common denominator. Public broadcasting, because of our business model, has not had to lower the standards. We still have the greatest programming out there, and we’ve been able to do that for 40 some-odd years….

In my conversation with Paula, I obviously focused entirely on television. But one of the things that makes WHRO distinct and so valuable as an institution is that it includes two public radio stations. So I wonder if you could talk about any plans you might have for those two stations.

Well, both stations are amazingly successful. In fact WHRV was the model I was using to try to build a station out in the Shenandoah Valley….So I’m not sure there are a lot of up front changes. I want to be supportive of the efforts currently going on. I want to make sure we’re relevant locally. I want to talk to the community to see if there are needs not being met….But I love the schedule that we have…. I love the classical service that we provide…Classical music is dying in this country. It’s a shame. From a commercial standpoint it almost doesn’t exist anymore….You’re even seeing some public broadcasters shying away from classical and going more toward talk. The fact that we can have both…is wonderful.

So no plans to actually consolidate the stations?

Absolutely not. That’s never been on my mind.

And the music programming on the "talk" station – Out of the Box and Sinnett in Session, for example. Those are safe?

Absolutely…I’ve been in the building now for about three hours. I can’t guarantee anything. But certainly, I love all those programs…. Our focus will be on making sure we have the money to support those services and more.

The FCC has gotten a lot more aggressive in recent years, both in the size of its fines and in what they’re prepared to consider as offensive. Has that had a big chilling effect?

Well, when you look at a potential fine of over $300,000 for a word…[and a policy] that hasn’t been well defined, I think that [is a problem]. If you’re airing a program about World War II, and you have a soldier that’s being shot at and he swears, you know, is that appropriate to put on the air? I think a lot of people would argue yes. But [the policy] hasn’t been defined. So do I air the soldier swearing at the risk of a $300,000 fine? Or do I just bleep it to be safe? You can look at community standards. But I wish there was a little better definition of what is OK….

We have The War coming up [Ken Burns’ documentary on World War II], and we certainly hope we’re going to be able to air that unedited because the military folks deserve to have their story told unedited. To have people being shot at, and you’re hearing bleep, bleep, bleep really takes away from the experience. I think any of us would probably swear if we got shot in the leg.

Refresh my memory on how that works. Do they tell you in advance whether it’s OK?

That would be more a question for Paula Kerger. We get advice from PBS.

So you’re not going to take the risk on yourself?

I don’t want to say that…Because we’ve aired programs that have been borderline….I don’t like to edit things if at all possible. Public funds make this organization possible, so I’ve got to take that into account. I would hate to lose $300,000 because we aired a breast or somebody saying the wrong word. But at the same time I really respect the producer who creates the content and really don’t want to change that content where possible. So it’s really a [matter] of looking at every instance individually….We had a program, Casanova, that had some questionable content. And you have to make the call [and ask] how does the local community feel about it? What are the community standards?

How do you gauge those community standards?

Talking to the community and listening. We have board representation….We are, of course, owned by the schools and have ongoing dialogue – and one of my roles is to be out there understanding what people like and dislike. And that will take a while….And I’m sure I’ll get very divergent opinions as well….But I’ll get a general sense of how the community feels about certain topics….

So one final question: What do you think is the biggest challenge that you and WHRO as an institution are going to face in the coming years?

I think broadcast media are changing dramatically. People are not just sitting back and letting the shows fall over them….With TiVo and iPods and streaming video – more and more people are getting their content that way. And we need to be positioned with all of our content so that people can get it when they want it. Public broadcasting content is really perfectly set up for that….Twenty-six of the top 100 podcasts are from public broadcasting. But we need to do more of that.

From the Ridiculous to the Sublime, excerpts from Port Folio Weekly

From the Ridiculous to the Sublime
By Tom Robotham
Tuesday, May. 8, 2007

OK, let me get a disclaimer out of the way right off the bat: My wife works for WHRO. In fact, she’s the chief development officer. This, however, has nothing to do with my emphasis on public broadcasting in these pages. My track record on the issue speaks for itself. I’ve been a passionate advocate of public television and public radio for 30 years and have been writing about it in Port Folio Weekly for nearly a decade.

Moreover, I tend to be a critical friend of WHRO in particular and PBS in general. I believe whole heartedly in the mission of public broadcasting – and in its continuing necessity – but I also have a problem with some of the ways in which it falls short of that mission.

Its failings are most glaringly apparent during television pledge drives, when regular programming is displaced by the likes of Andre Rieu. We can debate the merits of the self-proclaimed "Waltz King" if you like. PBS president Paula Kerger, for example, whom I’ve interviewed for these pages, suggests that he’s introducing new audiences to classical music. To my mind, on the other hand, his concerts – an odd blend of music and third-rate vaudeville humor – reinforce the all-too-prevalent notion that classical music is too boring to stand on its own and so must be wrapped in schtick. The fact that it’s bad schtick makes it all the more offensive, but really, even if the jokes were actually funny I’d have a problem with it. Good music, not to mention great music, is sublime. That may not be immediately apparent to people who are unaccustomed to particular styles, but serving up music on a cheesy platter won’t change this, any more than reruns of The Lawrence Welk Show (which some public stations also air) have the potential to help people appreciate the bluesy punch of the Count Basie Orchestra. There are other ways of introducing people to classical music, as Leonard Bernstein demonstrated so effectively when he was in his prime. (I wish PBS would rebroadcast his educational programs – or find some young conductor who could do something similar today.) But Andre Rieu ain’t it.

Glad I GOT that off my chest.

I certainly don’t hold it against Kerger that she sees some merit in Rieu’s cavalcades of kitsch. For one thing, I’m perfectly willing to admit that I might be wrong about the Waltz King. (I’m perfectly willing to admit that I might be wrong about everything.) Second, it doesn’t really matter because on the big-picture stuff, Kerger is very compelling. She comes across as an ardent and supremely articulate advocate for the arts (she used to work for the Metropolitan Opera), a fierce defender of the First Amendment and as someone who understands the limits of the "free market." One of the most important points she made during our conversation was that A&E and Bravo – two channels that have supposedly contributed to PBS’s obsolescence – are not even a mere shell of what they once were. Both stations were conceived as showcases for the arts. Now they are vehicles for reruns of dramas like CSI, The Sopranos, Sex and the City or a variety of "reality" shows.

Like Kerger, I enjoy many of these shows – though I must say that cleansing The Sopranos of "offensive" language so it could pass muster on A&E is comparable to reworking a great recipe for homemade tomato sauce until it tastes like the stuff in Franco-American spaghetti – i.e., it’s a sin against art.

But again, I digress.

Her point, and mine, is that the often-heard argument that PBS is obsolete is absurd. Attempts to present on commercial television programs of socially or culturally redeeming value have repeatedly fizzled. PBS, meanwhile, has forged ahead with programs like Frontline, American Experience, Great Performances, Nature, Charlie Rose and Bill Moyers Journal – programs that enrich viewers’ lives immeasurably but that surely would have "failed" had they been judged solely by ratings.

I also believe Kerger when she says that there is an unbreachable "firewall" between corporate underwriting and editorial decision-making. Professional journalists and broadcasters are, for the most part, much too proud, principled and passionate about what they do to cave in to pressure from advertisers or underwriters.

Not that journalists, producers and on-air hosts have all the power. The recent firing of Don Imus is a case in point. To my mind, CBS’ firing of Imus was a stellar example of corporate cowardice. It certainly had nothing to do with principle. On the contrary, Imus was doing what was expected of him – shocking audiences in an effort to drive ratings. In this case, he simply went "too far" – i.e., the backlash threatened CBS’ bottom line.

But this sort of caving in to advertiser pressure is not the primary problem with commercial media. Rather, it is the tendency to develop programming with an eye toward ratings rather than a vision of cultural excellence.

Popularity and artistic merit aren’t always mutually exclusive. As Shakespeare demonstrated, it’s quite possible to produce artistic entertainment that is multilayered and therefore appeals to a variety of audiences simultaneously. For the most part, though, today’s programming executives – on both television and radio – aren’t interested in such things. They’re interested in programming that maximizes profits in the simplest and most cost-effective way.

PBS is an exception to this rule, because it is still run with a social and cultural mission – rather than profit – in mind.

So is NPR, of course. When I interviewed Bert Schmidt, the new president of WHRO, I made a point of asking him whether he was committed to backing the two radio stations that exist under the WHRO brand.

He told me that both the classical operation (90.3) and the talk/music format of WHRV (89.5) have his full support.

This was reassuring, indeed. I’ve also been a critic of WHRO-FM in recent years, questioning their decision to discourage on-air hosts from talking about the music and from playing anything that’s too long or artistically challenging. But those are fine points. When I step back and consider that we in the Seven Cities have a 24/7 classical station, while most other markets do not, I realize what a blessing it is.

As for WHRV-FM, I can’t imagine life here without it. Out of the Box, Sinnett in Session and HearSay – not to mention the syndicated news and talk shows like Talk of the Nation – are cultural gems of the first order. There is no commercial radio station that comes close in quality, either in their music or their talk segments.

Schmidt also impressed me with his emphasis on the importance of local programming on both public radio and public television. WHRO-TV, especially, could be improved with the addition of some new local talk shows, news magazine programs and documentaries. And it sounds to me like Schmidt wants to make that happen.

In short, I felt pretty encouraged after my conversations with Schmidt and Kerger. If nothing else, it was refreshing to hear two people actually acknowledge the weaknesses in their organizations rather than simply trying to put a positive spin on everything. More important, it was exhilarating to talk with people with vision. In light of this, I sense that good days are ahead for both WHRO and PBS generally.

If only they’d dump the Waltz King.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

President Bush is related to Pocahontas?

The replica ships docked at Jamestown, in order of size: Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery.

America's Heritage Flag unveiled at Jamestown this weekend.

Last night, we attended the VIP Evening Reception of Jamestown 2007's Anniversary Weekend, celebrating America's 400th Anniversary. Organizers said that more than 15,000 people came to the beginning of the three-day commemoration of the first permanent English settlement in America.

Over the course of the weekend, local, national and international dignitaries are scheduled to participate in various activities. President Bush is scheduled to visit Sunday, and retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor participated in Friday's opening proceedings as well as Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, U.S. Sen. Jim Webb and former governor and Republican presidential candidate Jim Gilmore.

Organizers for the event, which has an estimated price tag of $30 million, have said it has three main goals: increasing state tourism, teaching visitors about history and attracting new economic development.

We toured Jamestown Settlement, a living history museum with a wonderful docent who added animation to the stories within. Later this summer, we'll tour the rest of Historic Jamestown (which is a federal park), since Bert has never visited before. As a Virginia-born and -bred girl, Jamestown IS history to me.

Interesting tidbit: who would have thought that President Bush is related to Pocahontas?

In Anniversary Park, across from the Settlement Museum, had an exhibit showing that:

Bush's 8th great-grandfather Robert Bolling was married twice. His first wife, Jane Rolfe, was Pocahontas' only grandchild. Bush descends from Robert Bolling through his second marriage. In addition, Bush's 8th great-aunt Mary Kennon married Pocahontas' great-grandson.

He's related to most - if not all - of Pocahontas' living descendants. Don't hold that against Pochaontas, though. LOL

More cool, interactive info re: Jamestown:
You think you've got it rough? 1607-2007

Friday, May 11, 2007

Jamestown Celebration, Re-enactments, the Queen, and the BBC at WHRO

The replica Jamestown ships, The Susan Constant, center, Godspeed, right, and Discovery ply the waters of Hampton Roads as they make their way to Virginia Beach to participate in the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, Va., Tuesday, April 24, 2007. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

I love this area! Such rich history all around us! 105 (minus one who died along the way) men and boys sailed across the Atlantic 400 years ago to become the first permanent English settlers in the New World. Little did they know they'd give birth to history's biggest superpower. The small group of high-born, but ill-prepared colonists who set up camp along the James River on May 14, 1607 on a swampy, mosquito-infested swath of land in Jamestown, were seeking gold and a water route to the Orient. What they found was famine, disease, drought and hostile natives.

Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain, or Her Royal Highness (HRH), visited the Old Dominion (aka Virginia) recently. During the visit earlier this month, her Majesty walked the 200 yards from the Executive Mansion to the portico of the State Capitol in Richmond, greeted by well-wishers.

HRH carefully made the ascent up the steps of the newly-renovated Capitol (she is in her 80s now, after all). Gov. Timothy M. Kaine called it a “celebration of Virginia’s diversity.” Before the queen’s arrival, the crowd was entertained by bands and singers of bluegrass, gospel, jazz and soul. The queen, of course, was restrained.

Inside the Capitol, Elizabeth made a short speech to the General Assembly, which convened a special joint session. She noted how much Virginia has changed since her first visit in 1957 to honor the 350th anniversary of the Jamestown landing.

Wonder what she was thinking whilst glaring at VP Dick Cheney?

“Over the course of my reign and certainly since I first visited Jamestown in 1957, my country has become a much more diverse society, just as the commonwealth of Virginia and the whole United States of America have also undergone a major social change,” she said.

“The melting pot metaphor captures one of the great strengths of your country and is an inspiration to others around the world as we face the continuing social challenges ahead,” she said.

Later in the day, Queen Elizabeth II rolled past crowds in an open-topped carriage along Duke of Gloucester Street in Williamsburg.

Her Majesty zipped down Interstate 64 by motorcade late Thursday afternoon from Richmond and boarded the carriage at the brick Capitol. Two chestnut horses named Captain and Ranger pulled her a half-mile to the Williamsburg Inn.

Three other carriages trailed along, carrying a group of dignitaries that included U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and Colin Campbell, the president, chairman and chief executive officer of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

Bringing up the rear were four black sport utility vehicles crammed with men in bulletproof vests cradling big guns. My, my, how times have changed.

The BBC was here in Hampton Roads to cover HRH's visit and used the WHRO Radio studio. How cool! Check it out:

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Virginia At 500--What Will The 2107 Jamestown Quincentennial Look Like?

X Curmudgeon: Virginia At 500--What Will The 2107 Jamestown Quincentennial Look Like?

check it out! If we were planning to live another 100 years, then perhaps we moved from a robust area (Harrisonburg) to a devastated area (Hampton Roads). One can only ponder, but clever food for thought!