Tag Archives: john-henry doucette

The year in review, such as it was


PORTSMOUTH, Va. — This blog is a year old.

I’ve enjoyed writing it. Enjoyed interviewing folks for it. Learned about writing and art and some other stuff too while doing it.

Et cetera.

So thanks for reading, especially those of you who stuck with it from early on — and even those who just check in for a particular writer or two. Glad to have you, either through your comments, clicks, subscriptions, or just eyeballs.

This past year, I think I’ve figured out a mix that seems to work for this blog. So here’s what I’ve got planned (loosely, oh so loosely) for the year ahead:

  1. The (and this is so very relatively speaking) popular features — the Belligerent Q&As and Craft Q&As — will remain, especially since that’s why I started the blog in the first place. I’ll try to do Craft Q&As, as time allows, though they generally take a long time to transcribe and edit. I have a couple of people in mind, though.
  2. There will be a second fortune cookie fortune writing contest, most likely to be announced in the very near future and judged in the summertime. I’ll make more of an effort to include visual artists, a shortcoming of last year’s event. There will be prizes to be determined, and a display of winner at a Hampton Roads area venue to be determined. Kerouac Cafe. as locals know, is out.
  3. The HR Arts Events page will stay, and I’ll try to be better about updating it. If you want to post an event, email jhdouc@verizon.net. I’d like to reflect more events at Norfolk State University, Virginia Wesleyan College, and Tidewater Community College. I realize I’ve been a bit Old Dominion University-centric.
  4. I’m full of good intentions, but follow through sometimes eludes me.

Thank you again for reading this blog. I’ve learned a lot about writing through the conversations I’ve transcribed here and you emails and comments. I look forward to the year ahead — and maybe even past the terrible twos.

Here’s a look back at the most popular posts, not counting those involving the contest, including a few you might have missed. The blog had more than 10,000 hits (including oddball WordPressy spam!) this past year. These posts had the biggest share:

  1. Belligerent Q&A, Vol. VIII: Earl Swift, author of The Big Roads
  2. Twelve Journalism Truths by William Ruehlmann
  3. Belligerent Q&A, Vol. V: Three people who have not seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail + one who has
  4. Belligerent Q&A, Vol. VI: Columnist Mike Gruss of The Virginian-Pilot
  5. Belligerent Q&A, Vol. XV: C0mmentator and opinion writer Brian Kirwin
  6. Selective Facts in the NPD version of John Kohn’s death
  7. Journalism: Q&A with Frank Batten Sr. biographer Connie Sage
  8. Belligerent Q&A, Vol. XVI: Hairspray author and scholar Dana Heller
  9. Belligerent Q&A, Vol. XI: Writer and editor Tom Robotham
  10. Belligerent Q&A, Vol. IX: Wanderlust playwrights Jeremiah Albers and Brad McMurran

So the focus here is local arts, but if anybody knows of a writer who might be good for a feature here, please email jhdouc@verizon.net.

Thanks for reading. Happy holidays. See you soon.

Closing this post, a special shout out to director Peter Jackson, because this exists at my local drug store:

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Photo: The Maine Coast


BELFAST, Maine — The following photos were shot in an around this community, primarily along the Passagassawakeag River and the shoreline of Penobscot Bay.

I’ve been playing around with contrast and B&W images, shooting only natural light, and these were shot generally with that in mind.

Seaweed and rocks.

Rocks and shells.

Rocks on a beach below a cliff.

Seaweed along a rocky shore.

Shells and rocks.

Cliff.

Rocks on a beach beneath a cliff.

Cliff.

Water through pine branches.

Duck in evening tide.

Seagull.

Mother duck and ducklings.

Seagull landing on utility pole.

Gull.

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Fortune winners, runners up will remain on display at Kerouac Cafe


Citizens of earth encounter 2011 Fortune Cookie of the Damned fortune writing contest entries on the walls of Kerouac Cafe, Norfolk, Va.

The exhibit of 2011 Forfune Cookie of the Damned fortune writing contest will stay up at Kerouac Cafe in Norfolk, Va., through most of July, not just a week, as I’d initially thought.

I found out during an informal gathering last night at Kerouac, 617 W. 35th St., Norfolk. No formal end date, but they’ll be up a couple more weeks than anticipated.

First place winner Gary Potterfield was not in the area. Third place winner Christopher Scott-Brown was not available. But second place winner Will Harris was on hand to get his prizes.

A brief video of the festivities follows, and you can see winners and runners up at this link to the earlier post on the contest:

Many thanks again to those who offered donations, discounts, and/or other considerations for the prizes: Prince Books, Naro Expanded Video, Kerouac Cafe, Local Heroes, Mike D’Orso, and Earl Swift.

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Photo: Happy Easter


Easter egg, 2011. This is one I decorated. I meant it to be patriotic, but it just looks like a melting snow cone.

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Belligerent Q&A, Vol. V: Three People Who Have Not Seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail + One Who Has


Dozens of Americans cannot calculate the airspeed velocity of unladen swallows, identify witches beyond the shadow of a doubt, or deal with the French.

They live with a secret shame – they have never seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Some of them will even try to hide the secrecy of their shame by talking about it when you ask them to do that.

To prepare this very special Belligerent Q&A, I traded emails and Facebook messages with three people who have never seen the movie. To ground this live wire of an endeavor, I also questioned one person who has seen this film.

Q. Who would cross the bridge of death must answer me these questions three, ere the other side he (or she) see. What is your name?

My name is Judy.

Q: What is your quest?

I’d love to find our missing iPod Touch.

Q: What is your favorite color?

My favorite color is green.

Right. Off you go.

When Judy Le of Norfolk, Va., isn’t successfully crossing the Bridge of Death and thus avoiding being hurled into the volcanic gorge below, she is the assistant director of presentation overseeing joint ventures at The Virginian-Pilot, the finest newspaper in the great Commonwealth of Virginia. She noted:

I haven’t seen the movie because I don’t have a good sense of that kind of humor.

Next …

Q: What is your name?

Elisabeth Anne.

Q: What is your quest?

My quest, my quest, to find the Holy Grail/and this, and this I shall not fail.

Q: What is the capital of Assyria?

(Overly expressive language omitted.)

Q: What is the capital of Assyria?

Sigh. Bassyria, seriously.

Elisabeth Anne King, who taught second graders for 10 years, now runs a daycare center. She lives in Westerly, R.I., when she is not being hurled into the Gorge of Eternal Peril.

Would have accepted Assur. Also Ninevah. Possibly Nimrud. Shubat-Enlil is pushing it. So are Kalhu (the ancient name of Nimrud) and Dur-Sharrukin. But there were options, you see.

Q: Who would cross the Bridge of Death must answer me these questions three, ere the other side he (or she) see. What is your name?`

Andrea. Is that it?

Q: That’s just the first question. What is your quest?

Worldwide women’s freedom of oppression.

Q: What is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow?

That is not an important piece of trivia I would know. However, I would guess 30 mph.

P.S. That question is weird.

When not being hurled into the gorge, Andrea Wells Latham of Virginia Beach, Va., is co-owner of Ice Art Inc.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, introducing David Kidd, a scholar from Norfolk, Va.

Q: What is your name?

I am Arthur, King of the Britons. Or you can call me David, beloved of the LORD. Doesn’t get much better than that for epithets.

Q: What is your quest?

I seek the faulty Brazil – or whatever other cool mistake auto corrections can give.

Q: What is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow?

(A long period of Facebook silence follows; Kidd is dealing with his kids.)

Q: Dave?

Wha – An African swallow or a European swallow?

Q: I don’t know — (Thrown into gorge.)

Le, King, and Latham, will receive a DVD copy of a film they obviously need to see – Places in the Heart, starring Sally Field, Danny Glover, Ed Harris, and John Malkovich, who acts with his customary subtlety and grace as Mr. Will.

Just kidding. Monty Python and the Holy Grail it is. And just in the nick of time.

Kidd, meanwhile, will have the glory of second-hand quotes to keep him warm.

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Belligerent Q&A, Vol. IV: Jeff Maisey of Veer Magazine


Despite any impression given by this image's bright lighting, Veer publisher and editor Jeff Maisey is not a being comprised of pure energy and power. Yet. Photo by Kathy Keeney.

Norfolk, Va., publisher, editor and writer Jeff Maisey started Veer Magazine, a monthly alternative publication and website serving the Hampton Roads region, two years ago following the death of PortFolio Weekly.

Veer, while carrying the name of another former local music zine, also carries a bit of the feel of the defunct PortFolio – not to mention some of the pub’s strongest contributors.

An online shell of PortFolio lurched along until December, when a note was posted about what its author insists on calling a “digital double” of the print edition. Saying it don’t make it so. Because nothing says so long alt weekly like a note from a “staff” gutted years earlier, and what appears to be stock art.

At least we’ve got Veer and AltDaily, two alternative outlets with their own voices, rather than an “alternative” published by the dominant media source.

Maisey had edited PortFolio until its demise as a free weekly in early 2009, and quickly put the nuts and bolts in place to launch Veer. Among the Veer contributors who should be familiar to folks around here are Jim Newsom, Leona Baker, Larry Bonko, Kristen de Deyn Kirk, Montague Gammon III, and Patrick Evans-Hylton – not to mention longtime PortFolio editor Tom Robotham, Maisey’s predecessor in that gig.

About a year ago, Maisey told me his research with advertisers showed they would back a version of PortFolio without the political tone for which it was known under Robotham. That said, Veer for some time now has had Robotham batting lead-off with an essay that can be reflective or give the pub a little bite. This month he addresses the tension between those that filled the PortFolio void and the company that created the void in the first place.

This past week, Maisey said he has ideas in the works for more publications. He recently launched Afr-Am, aimed at the local African American community, and more may be on the way – including ideas that sound like they will directly challenge a few pubs produced by Maisey’s old employer. We recently traded emails on Veer, light rail, and the quantification of TV news personality hotness.

Q: Just who do you think you are? Please use three examples in your response.

Today I’m a romantic, smart-ass travel addict in need of a fix. That’s three, right?

Q: Veer is celebrating its second birthday. Given the past struggles of other alternative publications in Hampton Roads, including PortFolio, is wishing you another two years in the print business a blessing or a curse in the internet age?

I hope you wish us more than two additional years. Independently published magazines – and I’m talkin’ PRINT –  in this region are actually flourishing. We are seeing growth and additional opportunities. I launched a new monthly magazine in February geared to the African American community. What’ll we launch next? A weekly business journal, parenting pub or catalog of apartments? Hmmm … stay tuned.

Q: As a musician and longtime music writer, what is it about the local music scene that keeps you from giving up the legwork and just holing up in your abode and letting iTunes do the heavy lifting for you?

A thriving local music scene is essential to the quality of life in any city/region. The more that can be done to bring attention to it…the better. Plus, who doesn’t like reading about themselves?

Q: The Virginian-Pilot’s Deirdre Fernandes recently reported that extending light rail from the Norfolk border to the Oceanfront could run about $807 million. Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms told The Pilot that “sounds like a lot of money” and also “my gut would question whether the ridership would be there to justify the cost.” Set aside troubling implication that the mayor seems to quantify sums with his ear and gives serious consideration to the skepticism of his gastrointestinal tract. Why so much hesitant language at this point? Should we continue to invest in rail given the road and tunnel situation, economic development potential, etc? Or do we need the time out to consider stuff like “rapid transit” buses?

I penned a commentary on this topic in the April 15 issue of Veer and could talk additional hours over a beer on any given afternoon. For any mass transit system to work it needs to be practical and run efficiently, on-time and frequently. Anything less will result in low ridership. Over 50 years ago Norfolk had an electric trolly (light rail) that extended from downtown, down Granby Street and to Ocean View. Many businesses and residential areas were within a few blocks of the rail line.

Given the updated estimate – which will likely go up to $1 billion – for extending light rail from Newtown Road to the Oceanfront, I’d say the numbers aren’t favorable for a city – Virginia Beach – whose residents have been less than enthusiastic overall on the notion. So if Norfolk’s light rail goes no greater distance than it’ll serve this year, I’m less than optimistic about its long term health. Both end-of-the-lines are pedestrian dead zones. Any real ridership will be confined to downtown and maybe as far as the baseball stadium.

But, again, if the train isn’t convenient to my schedule, it might be quicker to just walk to my destination and save the dollar. And I’m an advocate for rail. As for ‘rapid transit buses,’ on a region-wide scale, it’s just not gonna work for the reasons I previously stated. I’d be happy if the NET bus route was extended to 21st Street and Colley Avenue. BUT it needs to operate more frequently and from 8 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. Needs to serve the 9-to-5 workforce as well as diners, bar hoppers, concertgoers and get Ghent dwellers home safely when the Tides go extra innings.

Q: Veer recently named Laila Muhammad the sexiest television newsperson in Hampton Roads. Did you ask Larry Bonko to watch evening TV until he became suitable aroused, or was there some other methodology?

Nearly 10,000 votes were cast online. That’s enough to get someone elected mayor in this town! Some people thought the subject matter was beneath Veer, but the pickup rate was great and we attracted some new readers, who, admittedly, probably watch an unappetizing array of American Idol and Dancing with the Stars. Hopefully, they scanned the other pages within Veer as well.

Q. We’ve covered so much ground here. What else would you like to say?

Good night and good luck!

The new edition hit the stands on Friday. Here’s a link to the places you can pick it up.

By way of belated full disclosure, I used to string for PortFolio and have contributed occasionally to Robotham’s TReehouse Magazine website, including some writing about Veer and AltDaily.

And Maisey and I are both “Survivors of Landmark,” so there’s that. Remember, “SOL” tees are available at this blog’s Merch store.

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UPDATED: Ted Danson coming to Norfolk for talk with Mike D’Orso


During a recent reading at Borjo Coffeehouse in Norfolk, Va., author Mike D'Orso points out something in a book he is holding. The microphone pretends to understand, but the microphone has a painful secret — illiteracy. Photo by John-Henry Doucette.

• • • • • • • • • • •

April 27

It’s back on, baby. Ran into Prince Books owner Sarah Pishko this evening in Norfolk, Va., where it is always sunny except when it is not, and she said Ted Danson is scheduled to come to Norfolk next month. And so it’s sunny again.

And you may recall, Danson had to cancel a planned visit this month to promote his writing project with local writer Mike D’Orso.

Danson was called away suddenly to battle the Yakuza, all of it at once, with his mighty anti-Yakuza Level 5 Power Handsome. Or do some voice work for a cartoon. Okay, the latter is what you might call true.

Mike D’Orso also sent out an email announcement this evening. D’Orso wrote:

We now have a new date and time set for Ted Danson to come and join me (and all of you – those can make it) in a discussion/signing of our book, Oceana: Our Endangered Oceans and What We Can Do to Save Them. The event will, as before, be held at Prince Books in downtown Norfolk, on Saturday, May 14, at 12 noon. As before, Ted will only be signing copies of the book (no other memorabilia).

• • • • • • • • • • •

April 19

Ted Danson has postponed his visit, according to Prince Books.

Prince hopes to have a new date to announce in the next week.

Mike D’Orso, in an email announcement, said Danson had to do a movie shoot:

Ted was extremely apologetic and we will set a new date soon. Sorry to all for the inconvenience. But rest assured he is still coming.

• • • • • • • • • • •

April 9

Welcome back to the blog that does little more than tell lame jokes about blood-spitting rock’n’roll bass players repping high-end insurance products and walk-up whatever Norfolk, Va., author Mike D’Orso is doing. Look, it’s a niche. When you see one, you gotta carve it out before James Franco does.

A while back, I wrote about D’Orso’s collaboration with Ted Danson, Oceana: Our Planet’s Endangered Oceans and What We Can Do to Save Them, published this past month by Rodale Books. D’Orso — he’s a friend, full disclosure — recently did a reading and Q&A at Borjo. It was great stuff, but it was light on Danson.

Now D’Orso says Danson is headed to Hampton Roads for an appearance at Prince Books, one of the last independent bookstores in these parts. A discussion and book signing starts at 1 p.m., Saturday, April 23, at Prince, 109 E. Main St., at the corner of E. Main Street and Martins Lane.

D’Orso, via email, said:

We’re going to have a nice casual sit-down conversation for the first half, then open the floor to any and all questions not pertaining to ‘Cheers,’ ‘Damages’ or ‘Bored to Death.’

So fire up those Becker, Body Heat and Three Men and a Little Lady questions.

Just kidding. Maybe just stick to ocean acidification, commercial fishing and so forth. Though if you want to ask something cheap — say along the lines of Apparently our planet’s oceans are endangered; what can we do to save them? — it’s been done. Got there first, didn’t I, Franco?

Regarding Danson, D’Orso added:

He – and I, if people want it – will then sign books before I toss him back in my Camry and drive him back to the airport.

And while you’re at Prince, maybe you could buy some books. It’s National Poetry Month. Twenty percent off poetry. Not bad, if you’re into that sort of thing.

If you head to Prince, there’s metered street parking and a couple city garages within easy walking distance. There’s also some free parking in the TowneBank lot behind the building on the Martins Lane side.

Please don’t park in Pete Decker’s space. It simply is not done.

Nothing left to say, so it’s boilerplate time:

Here’s a link to info on the Danson-D’Orso book.

Here’s a link to a recent video interview with and story on D’Orso by The Daily Press.

Here’s a link to D’Orso’s site.

Here’s a link to a James Franco fansite run by a lady named Vanessa, who will pay or already has paid good money to see Your Highness.

Finally, here’s an absolutely pointless link to the very post you are reading right now.

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Photo: Florida Coast & Clouds


 

Florida Coast & Clouds, 2008. Photo by John-Henry Doucette.

 

I shot this on a flight back from Florida in 2008. Just snapping away out the window, but I like the image. Kind of pretty and creepy. A friend called it scary, but it isn’t quite that too me. That light reflecting draws my eye away from the clouds. So scary isn’t the right word to me.

This was right after Vox Optima got a Canon Rebel XTi for my usual work camera. It’s a basic camera that has served us well. When I got it, I was shooting everything I could to get a feel for it. It tends to saturate everything, but I like that heavy color feel. I shot outdoors with it today, and it worked great – or as great as I can work it, anyways. A useful camera, but I’ve been thinking about the next one lately.

For indoors stuff, I’ve been thinking about getting something that lets more light in. A lot more light in, really. I like natural light, but sometimes the Rebel isn’t quite there for someone with my technical limitations. Any suggestions are welcome.

We’ve never really done anything with this image, so it wasn’t particularly useful for my job other than as practice for the much more useful image I hope to shoot someday. Not that there’s anything wrong with shooting something pretty. Or a little creepy, even.

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Belligerent Q&A, Vol. III: Travis A. Everett of Tunnel Traffic


 

 

Travis A. Everett, who is from Texas, wears a hat with not one but two Ts on it in this photo. He is the founder of Tunnel Traffic, an occasional reading series. Texans seem to like a certain kind of alliteration. Photo by John-Henry Doucette.

Tunnel Traffic is an open-mike reading series that generally is held at Borjo Coffeehouse near Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va.

The series was developed by Travis A. Everett in coordination with the MFA Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University. One of its sponsors is Barely South Review, the program’s online literary magazine. By way of full disclosure, I’m a student in the MFA program and was one of the fiction readers for the review this past year.

I recently traded emails with Everett, since the next reading is coming up on Wednesday, April 13. The topical reading series is meant inspire new work and provide reading experience for students, according to the webpage. Writers write to prompts announced before each reading. The vibe is meant to be low-pressure and casual.

In addition to his studies at ODU, Everett is a poet and the founding editor of escarp, a text message-based review of “super brief literature.”

This Belligerent Q&A is about Tunnel Traffic. In case you missed the photo cutline above, let me mention that Everett is from Texas. I wonder if that will come up.

Q: Just who do you think you are? Please use three examples in your response.

  1. An accident waiting to happen
  2. A typography/design geek
  3. A weekend programmer

Q: It seems to be an interesting choice to name something Tunnel Traffic and expect people from Hampton Roads to want to experience it. Please describe your marketing plan in a limerick, haiku, or rhyming couplets.

I come from West Texas
where sky is the coolest thing
you can drive under

Q: The bling, the flashy cars, the reality shows – hasn’t the public had enough of the ostentatious lifestyles of the creative writing community and its twisted, insatiable passion for the subversive forms of fiction, poetry and narrative nonfiction?

Well, I think that’s actually one of the problems contemporary literature faces. So the equivalent of a Benz and a bottle of Cristal is a stuffy reading voice or a highly referential style that both resist non-writers — and the reality-show analog is writing about a writerly life like it’ll matter to anyone who isn’t a writer. There’s room for that, of course, but I also think it’s a really self-fulfilling prophecy to bemoan the lack of readership for very writerly books of poetry and prose. So in that sense, yeah — I think the public has had its fill of a specific kind of writerly lifestyle.

Q: Your readings are “topical” – please explain. Does that mean topical like a Jay Leno monologue, or topical in a way that prolongs one’s will to live?

Or topical like anti-itch cream? So you can listen to one late night monologue and hear a joke about, let’s say, a runaway Toyota, and you might laugh. But a single joke doesn’t show how far the content can stretch. Let’s say it’s topical like a roast, or a slam-dunk contest: shedding the usual rules of the dance give it a relaxed, fun, informal atmosphere with an undercurrent of both inter- and intra-personal competition.

In some sense it doesn’t matter, on The Tonight Show, if Jay has the best Toyota joke or not (as long as his joke is at least funny) because he’s not in a topical context. But if you take a number of late-night hosts and other comedians and let them know you’re having a runaway-Toyota-joke-night, they’re each going to be looking for an angle no one else will take and as a result they’ll cover a lot more territory, territory they probably wouldn’t have opened up as individuals outside of that context.

Q. We’ve covered so much ground here. What else would you like to say?

If you commit to coming, a topical prompt will help you write something you probably wouldn’t have written otherwise. Seeing how other writers approach the same task can help expand your sense of what words can do. It’s a low-pressure way to get reading experience.

The next Tunnel Traffic reading is scheduled from 8 to 9:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 13, at Borjo at W. 45th St. and Monarch Way. The topics are Easter eggs and/or gunpowder. Members of the public are welcome to come out either to listen or to read.

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