Howdy, chickadees! Laura and Chris here to bring you today’s important news. We cover Virginia Beach (bad… then good!), Norfolk’s finest on the high seas, weed, lobbyists, movies you should see, and of course, the SwiftBeat. Roll that beautiful bean footage, Duke!
I am a big time Norfolk partisan. I have a really hard time admitting there’s anything to like in the suburban sprawl to our east, south, and west. Come on you guys, we all know Town Center is a joke, right? However, I also acknowledge that the best hole-in-the-wall ethnic restaurants are basically all in these places because none of them could ever afford to be Downtown or in Ghent and make ends meet (Mr. Shawarma and Pho 79, you guys keep on keeping it real, OK?), and this is a sure sign that these places aren’t completely the cultural wasteland I’d like to pretend they are.
That disclaimer made, I am really excited and happy to read that Virginia Beach is copying Norfolk and setting up their own Arts District. I’m sure that probably everyone reading this has spent some time in the Norfolk Arts District (now known as NEON) and seen what just a little encouragement from the city can do for the revitalization of an otherwise-blighted area. I wish Norfolk’s city government were even more supportive, but where they have punted the ball, individuals and local groups have picked it up and run with it. It’s great to see that a similar group is taking charge over in VB. Next up on the priority list: Elect city leaders who will do more to support culture and arts in our region. These enclaves are the start, not the end.
In a gross violation of the Eighth Amendment’s guarantee of freedom from cruel and unusual punishment, John Hinckley Jr. is now spending 17 days a month in Williamsburg.
After looking into the video of that Virginia Beach traffic stop from January your stoner Facebook friends won’t shut the fuck up about, Police Chief Jim Cervera (left) deemed that the use of pepper spray on a 17-year old boy was warranted, but the officer didn’t give the pepper spray enough time to work its Hurty Magic™ before employing his stun gun. Police are also enlisting outside help to determine whether a second officer deleted a cell phone video of the incident, as the department’s own forensic analysis was inconclusive. (I bet they drop at least a grand on this, which is nuts because I have cousin who would do it for handful of decent Quizno’s coupons—holler at me, VBPD.)
Real talk: I’d been avoiding watching the accompanying traffic stop video because of how profoundly uncomfortable I get whenever I see people challenge authority figures (I had to turn off Matilda about 20 minutes in), but I finally stomached it for this article. It was horrible. My brain, trying desperately to overcome my phobia of watching people getting in trouble while simultaneously attempting to form an objective opinion, suddenly became the comments section of every newspaper:
IF THE TEENS WOULD HAVE COMPLEID WITH THE OFFICERS IN THE FIRST PLACE THIS COULD AHVE ALL BEEN AVOIDED!!!!
y shuld the #teens b forced 2 comply with the police who r clearly using excessive force
THEY HAD THE MARIJUANA GUESS WHAT THAT IS ILLEGAL!!!!!!!!
u need 2 chill sheeple like u r the reason we r n a police state
And it pretty much went on like that until the video ended and I could finally go eat some hummus. (Final conclusion: nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.)
The Norfolk-based U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt–along with the guided missile cruiser U.S.S. Normandy–are en route to the Arabian Sea to join other American vessels in the region as Yemen descends into chaos. Houthi rebels are battling a Saudi-led coalition in what is rapidly becoming a regional proxy war with Iran. U.S. naval forces in the region are conducting consensual boardings and inspections of vessels in an effort to stifle the flow of weapons into Yemen and prevent piracy. The Roosevelt’s arrival into the area comes as an Iranian convoy of about eight ships heads toward Yemen, possibly carrying arms intended for the Houthis. Prior to this, the Roosevelt has been involved in launching air strikes against self-proclaimed Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.
I probably don’t need to say too much about this, but it is interesting to note that the ground forces fighting IS militants in Iraq are being supported by the Iranians (and US/NATO airstrikes)… while Houthi rebels in Yemen are being supported by the same Iranian government. If this makes your head spin, then you need to watch this harrowing episode of Frontline.
Speaking of your stoner Facebook friends, the Drug Policy Alliance released a set of stock photos to promote more diverse depictions of pot smokers. The intentions here are noble: despite similar usage rates among whites, blacks, and Latinos, minorities are still more likely to be arrested for possession. The DPA’s stock photos show that grass is for everyone! You can’t arrest us all, Johnny Law!
Despite the aim, the execution here is—well, it’s stock photos, which means they all look like you’re at a sad party with your friend-from-high-school-you’ve-outgrown-but-feel-obligated-to-see-whenever-they’re-in-town’s weird godparents. Honestly, who plays Jenga stoned?
Almost better than the pictures is the article itself, which contains perhaps my favorite piece of stoner reporting of all time: “The stereotypical marijuana user — the ‘stoner’ — hasn’t adequately represented the actual people who responsibly enjoy marijuana for some time.”
And to solidify this point, who is the very first person featured in the link of “actual people” tearing down the stoner label? SNOOP DOGG*. That’s weak as hell, HuffPo. Call me when Buzz Aldrin makes the list (“Hell, I was smoking so much devil’s lettuce back in ’69, I didn’t even realize the moon landing was real until the mid-80s.”).
*Actually, they have him named as Snoop Lion. While journalistically correct—he announced his new alias in 2012 after converting to the Rastafari movement—he will always be S to the N double O P to the D to the O double G to me.
With the out-of-town news, Chris says:
And we have always been at war with Eurasia. But actually, as we learn in this article, the history of businesses running our government is a relatively short one, at least in the modern era. The current age of corporate interests roughly tracks with the emergence of the modern conservative movement, starting in the early 70s, with peaks in the 80s, and then again beginning in the 00s. And like any good bureaucracy, corporate government relations departments have made themselves indispensable to their parent companies by becoming self-perpetuating, and in fact have become profit centers. It’s no longer enough for corporate lobbyists to simply fight regulation and legislation, they now manage profitable (for their companies, at least) relationships with the government in the form of contracts. So, to sum up, corporate lobbyists go to Washington to roll back environmental and labor regulations, and bring back billions in harvested tax dollars to their plutocrat overlords. But never forget, immigrants and gay people getting married are the biggest threats to our way of life.
From the Don’t-Call-It-Racism-or-Sexism desk: Parma, Missouri just elected its first female African-American mayor, Tyrus Byrd, who was sworn in last week. Byrd, a former city clerk, defeated the 37-year incumbent by 37 votes. Parma is a small town, with a population of about 740. As Byrd took office, though, 5 of the city’s 6 police officers, as well as the city attorney, the city clerk, and the water treatment supervisor, quit. The resigning police offices cited “safety concerns” as their reason for leaving. Clearly, there are some facts missing from the capsule accounts given of the story (were the resigning officials white, what is the racial makeup of Parma, etc) that make it difficult to say for certain that race and/or gender is the key motivator here, but the overtones certainly exist. It could just be that the city employees got used to working for a long-serving mayor, and decided they didn’t want to have to change the way they did things for the new one.
And also, support your local cinema:
Like I was saying last week, the Naro hosts a weekly non-fiction film forum on Wednesday nights, and the fact that more people aren’t going every week is a crime. I was at the AltDaily showing of The Princess Bride on Friday and was really psyched to see a huge crowd there to watch the movie and support the Muse Writing Center. But, if even just a third of that crowd would show up regularly to see these documentaries and participate in the post-show discussion, we’d see ripples everywhere. Forums like these are really the bedrock of what it means to engage in your community. Frank discussions of controversial topics are going to bring us closer together. This week’s showing of Planetary is an excellent opportunity to celebrate Earth Day and consider the way’s that we’re all connected, simply by inhabiting the same rock in space together. The discussion afterwards will be facilitated by three local environmental experts, Prof Tom Ellis (TCC), Catherine Kilduff (staff lawyer for the Center for Biological Diversity and a high school classmate of mine, go Bulldogs!), and Glen Besa (Director of the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club). Come on out—bring your thinking cap, be ready to cite your sources, be respectful, be ready to engage thoughtfully.
And finally, on the SwiftBeat, Laura says:
TSwift’s new boyfriend is allergic to cats, and it’s causing some tension of Shakespearian proportions. What will become of Olivia Benson?!
Long ago, a prophesy foretold of two great ones who would alter the course of history with their unmatched witticisms about the world around them. But until they arrive, Chris O’ Brien and Laura Watkins are filling in. Sharing a love of tacos, cats, justice, as well as an overarching ambition to perform history’s greatest karaoke duet of “Lightning Crashes,” and last but not least, a common ancestor in Charlemagne, Chris and Laura excel at beer drinking, trivia, and giving the Price side-eye to the patriarchy. They’re also pretty sure they were orphaned Russian siblings in another life, but that’s a story for another time.