Archive for the 'Charlottesville' Category

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The Madeline Kahn Memorial Porch

Friends who have been following the rebirth of our back porch (which I have dubbed Deck 2.0) may not all know another interesting fact about our home: we purchased it from the estate of Madeline Kahn.

Yep, that Madeline Kahn. The famed actress bought the home for her mother in the late 1970s. Paula Kahn lived in what is now our house and taught drama and music on what remains of a small stage in the basement until she moved to an assisted facility.

As a small tribute to a fine comedienne, I will present some favorite clips. And I may as well start at the beginning, with this 1968 Academy Award nominated short film.

From Wikipedia:

The Dove (De Düva) is a 1968 Academy Award-nominated short film that humorously parodies the films of Swedish director Ingmar Bergman. The film borrows heavily from the plot lines of some of Bergman’s most famous films made before 1968. There is a journey by car back to the location of childhood memories as in Wild Strawberries. The main characters meet with the shrouded figure of Death as in The Seventh Seal. The film was directed by George Coe and Anthony Lover. Madeline Kahn made her first film appearance, in a supporting role.[1] The dialogue and voice-over narration are spoken mostly in a heavily accented fictional language, which is mostly English made to sound like Swedish, with many of the nouns ending in “ska”. There are also a smattering of Yiddish words.[2] The subtitles, which often do not literally match the dialogue, add to the humor.

The film was often shown in repertory film houses as a short feature when Bergman films were on the bill. Audiences frequently did not realize that the short was a comedy until individuals started laughing when they began to understand the fake Swedish.

DP: “GOP struggles to win over Charlottesville”

GOP struggles to win over Charlottesville | Charlottesville Daily Progress.

I am a CVille Democrat, and I support the local party, but I hope that the Republicans do find a candidate who can represent their party in the upcoming city council race. First, though, they need a platform, not just a slogan of “We’re not Democrats!”

Cross Blogging

So I’ve been off the blogging horse for awhile, and of all things, Facebook has inspired me to start again. For reasons that I will explain in a future post, I have decided to use CitizenMcCord as my primary blogging presence. I am also using a new plugin called Wordbook that, if it works correctly, will automatically cross-post to my Facebook page. In just a moment, I’ll know if this works.

It’s All My Fault!

I had a terrible dream last night. It was November 7th, and I saw this on my TV.

Sorensen Story

Update: It has been pointed out to me that I might increase my chances of acceptance if I actually spell Sorensen correctly. Duly noted and corrected.

I have decided to apply for the 2009 Sorensen Institute Political Leaders Program. Only 35 people will be accepted, so the competition is fierce, but several people I know and respect have gone through the program previously, including Waldo Jaquith and Jennifer McKeever. I am working on the application now, and the deadline is November 10.

Local NPR affiliate WVTF ran a very nice story on the Sorensen program yesterday, featuring Jennifer McKeever (among others) and you can listen to it below.

Citizen appointments

I recognize that it has been too long since I posted here. I have found that I can either do, or I can write, but I have difficulty balancing both. For the past several months, in addition to my day job and my work as lead writer for the Virginia Film Festival, I have enjoyed serving on the City Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee. I strongly feel the responsibility as a citizen to contribute my time and interest to topics that affect our community, and I have a particular interest in those areas that impact children and families. So I was particularly pleased last week to receive a letter from Mayor Dave Norris that I have now also been appointed to the Charlottesville/Albemarle Commission on Children and Families. Their next meeting is November 5th and I look forward to writing about my impressions in this space.

Indiana Jones and the Cinema of Doom

June 23, 2008

Carmike Six Cinema
1005 Garden Blvd.
Charlottesville, VA. 22901-1461

To the Charlottesville Carmike Six Manager:

I am writing to express my utter dissatisfaction with the quality of service and the general ambiance of your theater.

In the seventeen years that I have been a Charlottesville resident, I have witnessed the quality of the Carmike Six theater degrade to a state that beggars description. I have seen repeated instances of customers being forced to stand in line out in the hot sun because a single clerk is working the box office window, while other staff members inside remain seemingly unoccupied and wholly oblivious. Once inside, I see little effort to bring any organization to the lines of people lined up at the snack bar, so instead of working my way around a defined line to find my theater, I end up pushing my way through a milling crowd clamoring for butter-scented popcorn.

The actual theaters and seats are horrifyingly filthy, and I have seen little concerted effort to apply any fundamental cleaning between screenings. One recent afternoon, I saw a single staff member armed with a mere carpet sweeper cursorily swiping away at a theater floor that could have benefited more from a fire hose and a sanitation team.

And on the subject of sanitation, the Carmike Six bathrooms are unspeakable. The disarming smell of melted butter and plastic that permeates the entire complex combines on some disturbing level with the stench of urine cakes and human sweat to produce a malodorous assault that makes grown men weep. And heaven forefend that one should feel the need to commit other than the most urgent and passing bodily function or anything that might require even the suggestion of privacy, for such would be impossible in stalls where the locks have long since fallen out and left only holes that provide sweeping views of the crouched victims within, and the waiting lines without.

Recently, my family had an experience at Carmike Six that finally convinced us to take our business elsewhere. On June 1 of this year, we decided to see the new Indiana Jones movie. As frequently happens, our choice of venue was not dictated by any desire to attend your establishment, but because yours was the only place nearby where we could see our selected film.

I checked your website for showtimes. It was a Sunday afternoon, and I saw that  screenings were scheduled for 1:45 and 2:00. I suggested that we get there just a bit before 2:00 and try to get in to the 1:45 show, thereby missing the usual 20 to 25 minutes of commercials that precede each screening. If the 1:45 show was sold out, then our next plan was to buy tickets for the 2:00 show and just endure the commercials.

(I realize that the need to show all those previews, Diet Coke, and Fandango barf bag commercials are undoubtedly driven by corporate policies, but I wish the Carmike Corporation also had a policy of publishing more honest start times for those of us who feel that we’ve given you enough of our money to be spared the additional insult. But I digress…)

We arrived at about 1:50, and it turned out that the 1:45 screening was sold out. However, when I inquired about the 2:00 show, I was told that the next screening was not until 4:00. I pointed out that there was a 2:00 screening listed on the theater website, and the young lady at the box office replied “Oh yeah, someone else mentioned that.” No further explanation being offered, we bought tickets for the 4:00 show and bided our time at a local bowling alley. In retrospect, two hours of hurling large objects at defenseless pins was a far better use of our time and energy.

We returned to the Carmike Six at 3:30 and actually felt fortunate to already have our tickets in hand. Two long lines snaked out into the blistering asphalt of your parking lot: exhausted families waiting for Indiana Jones, and single women lined up for Sex and The City. We were able to walk past all that and, once having fought our way through the mass of humanity crowded around the snack bar, found adequate seats in the theater and waited for the afternoon’s entertainment to begin.

And waited. And waited. I struck up a conversation with the gentleman behind me, we introduced our families, and had enough time to learn our entire life stories and begin writing a novel. Finally, at around 4:20 (remember, this was a scheduled 4:00 screening), the gentleman had the presence of mind to brave the crush of hungry people outside of our theater and go find someone to start the film. We promised to help raise his children should he never make it back, but return he did a few minutes later and armed with this simple explanation: “they forgot”. We had an entire theater of patrons waiting to see Harrison Ford fight Communisits, and none of your staff members had thought to actually push the button that starts the film. The lights did dim shortly afterward and the projector fired up, though we were of course subject to 20 minutes of commercial advertising before the actual motion picture began.

After that experience, I affirmed that Hades itself would freeze over before I once again stepped foot in Carmike Six Charlottesville.

This last weekend, my family wanted to see Get Smart. Checking the weather reports and determining that the underworld was not experiencing a cold snap, we decided to go a different direction … literally. We drove to Short Pump to view our film at the Regal Cinema 14.

Have you ever been there? It’s really quite remarkable. The seats are comfortable and clean. They have cupholders, and are arrayed so that one is not craning to look over the head of the person seated in front. The screen is actually white, instead of the faded ivory of the Carmike screens. The floors do not stick to your shoes, fresh air wafts in, and the staff is unfailingly polite. Oh, and the bathrooms are not a source of personal embarrassment.

Even with gas prices as they are, it is completely worth it for me to drive the extra hour out to Short Pump in order to bask in this pleasant theater-going experience. Until the Carmike can compete at that level, you have lost one more customer. However, should the day come that you decide to raze your theater and start anew, I can suggest a model that you should follow: simply make going to the cinema pleasant again by providing comfort, consideration, and hygiene. I wish you nothing but luck in your ventures.


Sean McCord
Charlottesville, VA.

“Probama” WordPress theme

I find this to be an extremely clever use of open market resources. Category 4, a local web design and hosting firm (I worked with them when implementing the new Virginia Film Festival website) is offering a Barack Obama WordPress theme. Here is the message that went out from Cat4’s CEO:

In the past year Category 4 has been developing a lot of WordPress-based web sites for our clients. We recently decided to expand our reach by developing some free custom themes. Our first free theme, “Probama” went live for public download today. It’s a theme for bloggers who want to support Barak Obama and his campaign for President. In addition to a beautiful visual style, it includes some cool features, such as:

• Control panel options for Flickr, Youtube and Feedburner
• Subcategory dropdown menus
• Author-highlighting and gravatars in the comments section
• Custom archives page
• Latest-post highlighting on homepage
• Dynamic subpage menus
• RSS integration with
• Additional print.css stylesheet

You can learn more about the theme and download it from the Cat4 site.

“Five Years Too Many in Iraq” Film Festival

Iraq occupation film festival flyerFrom March 13-16, the Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice, OFFSCREEN, and University Democrats, are sponsoring a film festival marking five years of occupying Iraq. All events are free and open to the public; discussions will follow each screening. The sponsors encourage everyone to come, regardless of their opinions on the Iraq occupation or political affiliations.

WHERE: Kaleidoscope Room in Newcomb Hall, on the main grounds of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. (#30 on this map.)

WHEN: March 13, 14, 15, 16. Events begin at 7 p.m. on the first three nights and 5 p.m. on the final day.

Continue reading ‘“Five Years Too Many in Iraq” Film Festival’

Western McIntire Park Master Planning Public Forum

As if there wasn’t enough to do on March 4, Charlottesville Parks and Rec has scheduled a public forum to discuss the Master Plan Project for the western end of McIntire Park. The meeting runs from 6:30 to 8:30 in City Council chambers, and yes, that is the same time as both the Old Lynchburg Road Citizen information meeting and the UVA Medical Center update . A copy of the Park Forum agenda is posted below.

As has been reported, the City of Charlottesville has entered into a Land Lease with the Piedmont Family YMCA that provides for the construction of a community recreation center within McIntire Park. A provision of this land lease requires the City to conduct a master plan process that will determine the exact location of the YMCA within this portion of McIntire Park. This process will produce a conceptual master plan that will:

1) Locate the YMCA facility within a pre-defined area on the west side of McIntire Park

2) Identify other potential recreational improvements on the west side of McIntire Park reflecting the needs and values of the community.

To that end, upon completion of a six week Request for Proposal (RFP) process, the City has retained the services of a landscape architectural firm. Rhodeside-Harwell will assist the City in facilitating a community-driven process that will update the park master plan for the portion of McIntire Park west of the Norfolk Southern Railway. The March 4 meeting is only the first of several community engagement meetings designed to create open discussion of this project. The current schedule is as follows:

Continue reading ‘Western McIntire Park Master Planning Public Forum’

UVA Medical Center update on March 4

Those of you who work or live near the University Medical Center may find this interesting. Note that this unfortunately overlaps with the Old Lynchburg Road Citizen information meeting:

U.Va. Officials Give Update on Medical Center Plans

On Tuesday, March 4, the University of Virginia will host “Changing the Health Care Landscape: A Preview of New Facilities at U.Va.’s Medical Center.” Designed to give residents an update on Medical Center plans, the meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the Rivanna/Albemarle Room of the Courtyard Marriott located at 1201 West Main St.

At the meeting, R. Edward Howell, Vice President and CEO of the Medical Center, will describe how the new buildings and new technologies reflect the changing face of medicine.

In addition, Luis Carazzana, a senior facility planner in the University’s Office of the Architect, will describe the buildings and infrastructure that will support the new Medical Center model.

The meeting, scheduled to run from 7 to 8 p.m., will include displays, resource guides and light refreshments. Ample free parking is available at the Courtyard Marriott.

To offer suggestions of topics for discussion or to gain more information, please contact U.Va.’s Community Relations Office at 924-1321 or via

Old Lynchburg Road Citizen information meeting

I (finally) attended my first Parks and Rec meeting last night as a Board member, and I hope to blog about it this weekend. Until then, I thought it important to get this information out to those who may not have seen it, particularly my neighbors in the Fry’s Spring area.

Citizen information meeting
Old Lynchburg Road Safety, Sidewalk, & Drainage Project

Tuesday, March 4, 2008
6:00 pm to 8:00 pm
Cherry Avenue Christian Church
1720 Cherry Avenue
Charlottesville, VA 22903

The City of Charlottesville is excited to invite you to attend an informational meeting about the improvement to the Old Lynchburg Road corridor from the South City Limits to Jefferson Park Avenue. Come and see preliminary plans and share your ideas and concerns. This meeting will be most constructive with all participants present for the entire duration. Representatives from the City of Charlottesville and the Consultant Study Team will be on hand to discuss and receive input on a variety of citizen concerns including drainage, traffic calming, and pedestrian/ bicycle facilities.

Project information including displays showing the proposed preliminary design and potential property impacts will be available at the meeting.

If you have any questions, please contact Tony Edwards, City Engineer, at 970-3182 or email Tony at edwardst AT

My Six Words To Live By

Smith Magazine is sponsoring a contest to tell a complete memoir in just six words. Many of these have already been collected in a book Not Quite What I Was Planning, but they are also still accepting submissions on their website. My own contribution is linked below:

What happens if I press this?

“The Native People Still Live”

This Sunday, Feb. 24th at 3:00 P.M., Chief Billy “Red Wing” Tayac of the Piscataway Nation will speak at UVA  issues affecting today’s American Indians. The event, open to the public with no admission charge, is sponsored by the Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice, the American Indian Student Union, the National Native American Law Student Association, and the Office of the Dean of Students of UVa.Tayac Flyer

Chief Tayac has been an Indian activist for several decades, participating in many indigenous struggles, including Wounded Knee, Gankineh, Big Mountain, OK’a, Gustafson Lake, and the Salvadorian Indian and Ecuadorian Indian Movements. Chief Billy Tayac is currently working to assist Spanish speaking Indians who are suffering a new era of economic invasion resulting from NAFTA and the unregulated practices of many multinational corporations based in the US. Once again Indian people are being forced off their land. Chief Tayac is a voice for Indian people everywhere and an inspiration to all of us.

Additional information can be found at the AISU website.

“Uncounted” to screen Feb. 21, free

UncountedMy friends at the CCPJ are sponsoring two very interesting events this week. To begin, a free screening of Uncounted on Feb. 21 at 7:00 at Sojourner’s Church, 1017 Elliott Ave. The film is a nonpartisan look at election fraud and error, with a focus on the elections of 2004 and 2006 and the problems created by the expanded use of DRE (directly recording electronic) voting machines. Both Charlottesville and Albemarle residents vote on DREs. More information can be found at CCPJ.

News of a CCPJ Feb. 24th event can be found at this post.

2008 City Primary Results Posted

The Charlottesville Office of Voter Registration has posted the results of the February primaries as a PDF. The results are broken down by precinct, and it’s very clear to see how Obama swept them all. I was standing out in the freezing rain at my precinct for the last two hours, manning a table for the local Dems, and I have to give the Ron Paul guy due credit. He had been out there since 6:15 AM and was still there as I packed up close to 7:00 PM. We talked a bit, I learned more than I ever wanted to about the gold standard, and his candidate came in a respectable third.

What to do on Super Tuesday

February 5 is Super Tuesday, and though Virginia will not be voting until a week later, the results of that twenty-two state voting blitz could do much to determine the next nominee of each party. So if you’re not already invited to a friend’s Super Tuesday party — complete with 50′ plasma TV and ready snacks — then hopefully you have already RSVPed for the Road Back PAC “Super Duper Tuesday” gala at Gravity Lounge. For more Democratic Party events, visit

If you don’t have $30 burning a hole in your pocket, but still want to spend at least part of the evening with like-minded folk, then you may wish to attend an alternative event titled “Left of Center on Local Food”. LOC is a group for the young Dem-curious, and this event focuses on the local food movement. Left of Center can be found on the web at

“Gosh, things are going just swell in Iraq!”

In the January 29 C-Ville Weekly, Josh Levy writes an editorial about just how great things are going in Iraq:

Not long ago, it seemed as if we were on the verge of defeat; now it is likely that Iraqis and Americans together will subdue al Qaeda and other radicals in Iraq and build a peaceful and tolerant society.

Further down, he submits that “By July (2007), it looked as if Congress might force the U.S. to surrender” until Bush came up with the brilliant strategy of finally listening to all the military advisers that he had previously fired and actually increase the troop level. Levy goes on to suggest that General Petraeus should be named Time Magazine’s “Man of the Decade”.

You can bet that I will be submitting a counter-editorial, and I will highlight it in this space if it gets published. But I also find myself wondering: just who is Josh Levy?

Continue reading ‘“Gosh, things are going just swell in Iraq!”’

Downtown Pedestrian Mall Meetings

(This is a copy of a letter that was distributed to various groups concerning the Downtown Pedestrian Mall revitalization.)

You are invited to a meeting on January 29, 2008 at 6:00 p.m. at the Sage Moon located at 420 East Main Street to discuss plan concepts and get your input.

If you have any questions concerning the meeting, please contact Tony Edwards, City Engineer, at 970-3992 or email him at edwardst @

Neighborhood Development Services
P.O. Box 911, Charlottesville, Virginia, 22902
Phone (434) 970-3182, Fax (434) 970-3359

Dear Downtown Business Owner/ Manager:

As you launch into the New Year, the City continues to be committed to your participation in the revitalization planning of Charlottesville’s Downtown Pedestrian Mall. As mentioned in our December correspondence, The MMM Design Group Team will convene Key Stakeholder meetings and design charrettes this month and we want you to be involved.

The purpose of these meetings will be to update the businesses and building owners on the latest plan concepts, reflect on what we’ve learned about your needs, ask key questions relative to your business sector, and conduct a design charrette — getting your input and reactions.

All of the meetings are targeted for 2 hours, with the schedule as follows.

Pedestrian Mall Scheduled Meetings

Business Sector Date / Time Location
Retail, Services and Restaurants January 24 at 10:00 a.m. SNL Building at 1 SNL Plaza, at 7th Street & E. Jefferson Street
Professional Businesses and Nonprofits January 28 at 10:00 a.m. SNL Building
Entertainment January 29 at 10:00 a.m. City Hall Basement Conference Room
Residents January 29 at 6:00 p.m. Sage Moon

We look forward to continuing to build this plan together.

Kind Regards,

James A. Tolbert, AICP
Director, Neighborhood Development Services

Bike Action Meeting!

I don’t mean for this webiste to become a blog about all the things I wish I could do, but that’s all I seem to have time to do anymore!

In that spirit, here are a few more interesting events happening in and around our city:

Saturday, January 26, 2008, 11:00 a.m.
Downtown Library on E. Market, McIntire Room

Callng all cyclists and would-be cyclists: we’re collecting data on car/bike run-ins. Help us brainstorm on how to present this information and begin plotting an awesome Bike festival for spring!

We will focus on creating an informal system for reporting and tracking bike-auto collisions in the area. Data collected by police reports are known to significantly under represent the true number of collisions, and the Community Bike Shop and others have noticed considerable disparities between local data and actual bike-auto collisions in the area.

At this meeting, we will seek input on:
• A system for tracking such data informally, to supplement official data;
• A system for making the combined data much more accessible for the public.

Co-sponsored by Alliance for Community Choice in Transportation & The Community Bike Shop