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October 2008

All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
October 29, 2008

On Thursday morning, October 23, 2008, the average cost of regular unleaded gasoline in Sherwood, Arkansas was $2.09 per gallon, according to the website, littlerockgasprices.com.

Meanwhile, according to arkansasgasprices.com, the average cost per gallon in Batesville at the same time was hovering around $2.70.

So, W.R.D. Entertainment General Manager Gary Bridgman interviewed Anne Hines, the executive vice president of the Arkansas Oil Marketers Association, in an attempt to get a grip on why gas prices are still high in this area, yet so low around Little Rock.

"Competition has a lot to do with it," she said. Stations selling gas around $2.09 per gallon at this time are, according to Ms. Hines, selling it "...at cost, or close to it."

Uhh...okay...so let me see if I can get this straight in my head: at press time, the area wholesalers are paying around $2.09 per gallon, and selling it to Batesville customers at $2.70 per gallon while customers around Little Rock -- a town that utilizes the same pipeline that serves this part of the state, according to Ms. Hines -- are reaping the benefits of gasoline that's close to $2.00 per gallon.

I'm thinking that Ms. Hines and the Arkansas Oil Marketers Association can spin it anyway they want, but the bottom line is most local customers are feeling like Ned Beatty in Deliverance.

You can hear the squealing every time you pass a pump.

By the way, remember last week's e-mail to this column from a local businessman suggesting a boycott of area stations until prices fell to levels that other areas are paying? He (and I) invited local suppliers to explain in this column why gasoline costs more in Batesville, but as of press time, that invitation has yet to be accepted.

I'm 100% "buy local," and if our gas prices were even a nickel or two above what Little Rock is paying, I'd be a happy camper -- along with thousands of other citizens.

***

Lately, I've been doing an exemplary job of peeing off readers. Here's the latest complaint:

Mr. Grace,

I'm very disappointed in you and your column on Oct. 15 in Arkansas Weekly. I would also like to escape to a media-free cave...from people like you!

Listen to the news on the radio: Sexism about Sarah Palin.
Pick up a newspaper: Sexism about Sarah Palin.
Turn on the T.V.: Sexism about Sarah Palin.
Log onto the Internet: Sexism about Sarah Palin.
Dinner chats: Sexism about Sarah Palin.
Dreams: "Yours." Sexism about Sarah Palin.

Disgusting! I think everyone has heard enough sex jokes about Mrs. Palin. If you men in the U.S. would look at Sarah Palin for the qualified, experienced person she is and see she is not a sex object, the world would be a better place. You might just see she is as qualified as anyone who is running for President or Vice-President.

Sarah Palin is a real person with a real family. "Enough."

I'd like to thank the woman who sent this letter, but Barack Obama is also a real person with a real family, yet when supporters at Palin rallies yell racial epithets and threats to his life when she invokes his name, she -- like John McCain at similar rallies -- does nothing to repudiate those vile comments. Neither have the G.O.P. running mates stepped up to the plate to disown the fringe far right groups that send out the ridiculous e-mails painting Obama as an unpatriotic Muslim terrorist in wait. If a few people would do five minutes of research, they would realize that 99% of those stupid e-mails are completely and utterly false.

Yep, I made a sexist joke concerning a dream about Sarah Palin in a bikini in that particular column, but the smears and lies that have been thrown toward Obama are much more ugly and dangerous than the sexism that has accompanied her arrival on the national stage.

As for my thoughts on Palin's experience, I direct readers to my column last week.

Rob is the president of W.R.D. Entertainment. Feel free to e-mail him at rgmax99@yahoo.com, and check out his blog: www.suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com.

All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
October 22, 2008

Wow.

There's nothing like a column on politics to spark some fire.

Last week's column, where I suggested voters should be swayed by the substance of a candidate's policies rather than the one based on a calculated image, really delivered some lively feedback.

It seems my portrayal of Sarah Palin as a political figure hired on the basis of her potential charisma rather than her experience rubbed a few folks the wrong way.

"Oh, by the way...in your article, didn't you forget that Sarah Palin IS THE GOVERNOR OF ALASKA!? The personnel and budget she managed as governor is only around 30 times more than Obama has ever dealt with," wrote one reader.

And from another e-mail: "I have to register my displeasure at your article. I think down-playng Sarah Palin's experience shows a lack of courtesy. Comparing her to Obama would be more to the point. She is Governor of the state of Alaska, which is much larger than the Obama state. She has been mayor - whatever the size of the town? What has he been mayor of? What has he done?...I would feel much safer with her in the role of President of the United States than Obama. He has never run anything or done anything. Talk about hype? What about his other preferences - read his books!! Yet, the media whitewashes all of his connections, etc. He is all talk and no substance, and I think if he wins this election, we will ALL be very sorry!! And as far as Vice President, if something should happen to Obama (God forbid), we would be much worse off with Biden than Palin!!"

I thank those two readers (and the many others) who replied with their passionate thoughts regarding this subject. Now, allow me to once more dip my toe into the alligator pond. I'll point out that Alaska might be larger in terms of land, but Illinois is certainly larger in population (and red tape) than our forty-ninth state. As for Obama's experience, besides a degree from Columbia University and a law degree from Harvard, he has also been a law professor specializing in constitutional law, an attorney, a community organizer, and he has authored two best-selling books without the help of a ghost-writer (a common practice for books from public figures). And, of course, he was also a state legislator, and he is currently a United States Senator where, according to his Wikipedia.org page, he helped create legislation regarding lobbying and electoral fraud; nuclear terrorism; and care for returning U.S. military personnel.

Of course, John McCain has an astounding record of military and public service, but these two readers were comparing Obama's experience with Palin's.

Look...my friends (to use the favorite sentence-starting words of Obama and McCain, respectively), as I noted last week, both presidential candidates are far from perfect. They are not the political messiahs (as some in their respective camps think) who are going to rescue the nation from the crippling financial mess in which we find ourselves along with other major problems, national and international.

I've always admired McCain's willingness to periodically flip the bird at the G.O.P. party line, but the choice of Palin to be his running mate seemed too calculated. It was, to me, a choice based on cosmetics, not substance. Think about it: the field of potential running mates for McCain was vast, full of people with levels of experience that dwarf those of Palin's. But he erred, I believe, by likely relying on the advice of those Republican play-makers against whom he previously rebelled.

Plus, I'm certainly puzzled and disappointed by McCain's refusal to strongly repudiate and condemn both the violent rhetoric that's emerged from the crowds at his various campaign rallies and the endless and ridiculous internet smears that have streamed from some of his impressionable supporters.

In the final days of this bitter election, it's as if he has surrendered some aspects of his dignity and character for the sake of a victory.

***

But, there are some cracks forming in the faade of Obama. His recent "spread the wealth" remark to Joe the Plumber (Google it if you're not familiar) wasn't the brightest thing to say as the election winds down and undecided voters weigh their options.

And though he seemed to be spinning his wheels at times, I thought McCain scored a few zingers at the final debate last week.

Who knows? With some Obama gaffes and the ugly potential of the Bradley Effect (again, Google it if you're not familiar) possibly kicking in, an upset might be in the works for Nov. 4.

***

The above, politically-infused gobbledygook was fondly dedicated to the following: PG, Jr.; Chippy; Davy K.; Office Lady Ginger; Uncle Jack; the Colonel; Ms. Ruth; Ms. Ruth's husband; and Lawyer Man. Cheers from Cottontop!

***

Another reader e-mail I received last week came from a disgruntled business owner who is urging Batesville residents to boycott some local gas stations.

It reads, in part:

I own a small service business and have three trucks on the road...we travel on a daily basis to over 100 zip codes to work...My question is why do we have to pay on average of $.30 a gallon more for the privilege of doing business in Batesville. Does it cost that much more to transport fuel to Batesville? I think not. I promise you, if Batesville's gas is $3.99 a gallon, it will be $.30 a gallon cheaper in Ash Flat, or Searcy. Most people in Batesville just go about their routines and do not leave Batesville through the week. We leave Batesville in three different directions every day. I suggest we boycott all the stations that are serviced by one supplier. There really is no reason for Batesville to be paying so much more than surrounding areas except greed. I paid $2.69 a gallon in Searcy yesterday (10/15/08). We paid $2.66 in Ash Flat on Monday. I invite the local suppliers to explain why it costs more to do business in Batesville. Until the price of gas comes down in Batesville, we will be fueling up in areas that are more cost effective to our business.

So if a local fuel supplier would like to reply to this reader's question, they are welcome to e-mail me at the address below, and I will print their response.

All I will add is the fact that yesterday (I'm writing this column on Oct. 16), I made a trip to Little Rock, and when I left town, gas in Batesville was around $2.99. In Searcy, it was $2.71. In Sherwood, it was $2.61. And, in Little Rock, it hovered around $2.97.

***

Finally, to the four loyal readers of my blog -- suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com: I thought I'd let you know I'm back posting after a brief hiatus. And for those of you who have not had the chance to visit, you now have a cordial invite.

Rob is the president of W.R.D. Entertainment. Feel free to e-mail him at rgmax99@yahoo.com, and check out his blog: www.suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com.

All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
October 15, 2008

I know a few weeks ago I mentioned that I was looking for a cave. See, at the time, I simply wanted to escape from the coming days when I knew presidential politics would be discussed ad infinitum everywhere I turned. A media-free cave out in the country, I thought, would have been a perfect place to spend a few weeks. And, of course, I was right.

Listen to the news on the radio: Obama/McCain.
Pick up the newspaper: Obama/McCain.
Turn on the TV: Obama/McCain.
Log onto the internet: Obama/McCain.
Dinner chats: Obama/McCain.
And now, when I dream: Obama/McCain.

Well, I exaggerate a little on the latter. I haven't had dreams about Obama or McCain, thank goodness. (I have, however, had many dreams regarding Sarah Palin in a bikini, but that's another column, isn't it?) (I'm kidding.) (Sort of.)

The incessant 24/7 coverage of the 2008 presidential race in both the media and casual, everyday conversation can be maddening, but there's something else that's bothersome about this race in particular.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize the dire condition in which this country currently resides. The seemingly endless bleak news that bleeds from Wall Street is just one more enormous obstacle the next president will have to face. Along with that horrific mess, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Social Security and perhaps a new Cold War with Russia, it's clear that a pretty big "TO DO" basket awaits number 44.

So it's a bit odd to see millions of people -- on both sides -- dismiss the importance of clearly thinking through their decision for one of the most crucial elections of our time.

When people practically elevate any type of public figure -- particularly a political figure -- to semi-messianic status, warning bells sound in my head. I certainly think extremes in the far left did this with Hillary Clinton and, of course, Barack Obama, and I think many folks in the far right are doing this now with Sarah Palin. To many, these figures can do no wrong. Obama could shoot Barney the Dinosaur in the head on national television, and his supporters on the fringe would justify his actions, likely blaming it on Bush policies. Conversely, if a reporter dug up irrefutable evidence that Sarah Palin was the madam at an exclusive Anchorage brothel, far righties would dismiss it as a left wing media conspiracy.

Ignoring the political realities of the day for the sake of allegiance to an image -- a political contender as a celebrity superstar -- seems dangerous. These people are going to be taking hold of a country mired in debt and international dilemmas.

When a great friend of mine says he's voting for the team with "the hot chick," I laugh, but inside I'm thinking: Yikes! He's kidding, right?!? Sarah Palin might be a beautiful woman, but I certainly don't feel comfortable with a person, who two years ago was the mayor of a town the size of Batesville, one heartbeat away from an office held by a 72-year-old with a history of health issues. The reason Tina Fey's impersonation of Palin on Saturday Night Live is so popular and damn funny is because it is a bull's eye representation of her naivety. If skating by on cute winks and endless use of the word 'maverick' without any hard core, substantial proof that her team can change the course of the country, then we're in trouble. It's all glitz, catch phrases and smiles, and for some folks, that's all they need.

All the principals in this presidential race are flawed. There, obviously, will never be a perfect candidate in any election. But if a majority of voters rely on surface-level razzle dazzle choreographed and written by Hollywood-like handlers, and do not seriously consider the meat and potatoes of what each party has to offer this country, then we'll get what we pay for, so to speak.

Rob is the president of W.R.D. Entertainment. Feel free to e-mail him at rgmax99@yahoo.com, and check out his blog: www.suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com.

All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
October 8, 2008

Louise Leonard, who passed away last week, was Rob's grandmother. This is her obituary which was written by Rob.

Louise Fike Leonard, 86, of Batesville peacefully passed away in her sleep Sunday morning, September 28, 2008.

Born in Batesville, January 11, 1922, Louise, or Lou as her grandchildren and great-grandchildren called her, lovingly cared for her husband, Quenten, and their only child, Nancy, in west Batesville for years. In the mid-`70s, Quenten developed kidney disease that necessitated the couple leave their home and move to Little Rock, away from their daughter and her family. Lou's devotion to Quenten was best exemplified in her loving care for him during his illness while in Little Rock. After her husband's passing in 1979, Lou returned to Batesville where she spent many joyous years celebrating life with her family and friends. She regularly cooked Sunday dinners for her family and spent her afternoons at her daughter's home, doting on her beloved grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Her love of family was second only to her love of God and Jesus Christ. In her journal, an entry from 1993 perfectly sums up her life: I have a wonderful family and good health. The richest blessings any one could have. Thank You God for all. This is my prayer.

And an entry from 1990 best reveals the joyous outlook she carried through her life: The things that mean the most in this life are Love of God, Health, Love of Family and be content and have a positive attitude. Try to do something good each day for your fellow man. Will give you good feeling and help you to stay happy.

Louise Fike Leonard was preceded in death by her husband, Robert Quenten Leonard; her brothers, Adler, Adrian, Don and Dale Fike; and her parents, G.B. and Esther Fike.

She is survived by her daughter, Nancy Grace, and her husband, Preston Grace, Jr. of Batesville; her grandson, Preston "Chip" Grace III, his wife, Tonia, and their children, Will and Carly, all of Batesville; her granddaughter, Charlotte "Candi" Grace of Little Rock; her grandson, John Robert "Rob" Grace, his wife, Julie, and their children, Hannah and Hutton, all of Batesville; and her granddaughter, Mollie Beth Smith, her husband, Ken Smith, and their children, Jacob and Sam, all of Batesville.

Visitation was Wednesday, October 1, 2008 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the home of Nancy and Preston Grace, Jr., located at 55 Bluff View Dr. in Batesville. The funeral was Thursday, October 2, 2008 at 2:00 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church of Batesville. Arrangements were handled by Roller-Crouch Funeral Home.

Pallbearers were H.D. Bailey, Charles Barnett, Nelson Barnett, Jim "Buck" Buchanan, Butch Ketz, Ray La Croix, Max McElmurry and Chris Okolo. Honorary pallbearers were Eddie Sisco, Calvin Hodges, Jeff Phillips, Dr. Bob Slaughter, and Lou's grandsons and great-grandsons: Chip Grace, Rob Grace, Will Grace, Hutton Grace, Jacob Smith and Sam Smith.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Independence County, 2200 Harrison St., Suite A, Batesville, AR, 72501; and First Presbyterian Church of Batesville, 775 Boswell St., Batesville, AR, 72501.

Rob is the president of W.R.D. Entertainment. Feel free to e-mail him at rgmax99@yahoo.com, and check out his blog: www.suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com.

All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
October 1, 2008

By now, you likely know that the former American Idol contestant, Clay Aiken, has announced that he is, in fact, gay.

For those of you who did not know that Aiken came out of the closet until you read the above paragraph, I realize that the news is likely a complete shock.

Clay Aiken? Gay? I haven't been this stunned since I learned Liberace played for the other team.

Who's next? Richard Simmons? Michael Jackson?

(Cough. Cough.)

Anyway, the news of Aiken's homosexuality took many in his conservative, mainly middle-age female fan base completely off guard.

Known as, gulp, "Claymates," these Aiken fanatics took to the website known as, double gulp, "The Clayboard" and let their dismay be known.

One post, from a lady with the screen name of "renee4clay," read: I feel like I'm the only person who really thought Clay was straight. If it's true everyone seems to be taking it so in stride. Or else they're just not posting. I still love him, but I've got lots of processing to do.

Oookay. Now here's a post from "dml28": I have been a fan from the very beginning and will always admire his voice and quirky personality, but I just can't do this anymore. And I will very much miss, probably as much as Clay, the wonderful and clever chats with those members of this board, and I really mean that. Stupid tears are gunking up my contact lenses...

"Strollynn63" posted: This is a gut wrenching day for The ClayNation. Somebody wake me up, I hope it's a dream.

And here's a doozy from "NClayolina": This is an extremely upsetting time for me, so this will be my last post on this board, or any other Clay board...because the music and a part of me died yesterday. Like so many of his fans, I have invested over five years of promoting him in every way I knew how, especially to young people, including my three young nephews and four teenage nieces. But he lied to us for those five years...presenting himself as someone that he is the very opposite of.

I have lost all respect for him...I will never be able to look at him the same again.

I will never be able to listen to him sing, "O Holy Night," knowing he desires unholy nights.

Of course, not all Claymates were upset.

"Claynadian75" said: The Clay Aiken that I fell head over heels in love with is still the same man to me today that he was five years ago. I don't think anything will ever change that, actually, I know nothing ever will. I am proud to be a fan of such an amazing, courageous, caring and passionate man!

And here's a message of support from a poster known as "Vincent": I'm here, Clay.

I bet you are, Vince. I bet you are.

I don't know what's more sad.

The picture of Vincent curled up in bed under his Clay Aiken posters, sobbing quietly for his hero.

Or, the fact that I just spent an hour of my time on a website devoted to Clay Aiken.

***

For a good DVD rent: try In Bruges, a comedy thriller about two hitmen on the lam in the Belgian tourist town. Colin Farrell, as one of the killers, turns in a hilarious performance that's also quite touching. It's a very violent flick, but a true find.

And for an excellent CD, pick up the latest (and best) album by the Nashville band, Kings of Leon. Only by the Night could be the breakthrough record for these Pentecostal preacher boys who ended up playing rock and roll instead of good old Gospel music. For those who like Led Zeppelin, Steve Earle, Springsteen, the Stones, etc.

Finally, my favorite artist besides Springsteen -- Ryan (not Bryan!) Adams -- released the first cut from his upcoming album with his band, The Cardinals, last week. "Fix It" continues his acoustic rock laments of lost loves that haunted his excellent 2007 album, Easy Tiger. The new album from Ryan Adams & the Cardinals, Cardinalogy, hits the stores at the end of October.

Rob is the president of W.R.D. Entertainment. Feel free to e-mail him at rgmax99@yahoo.com, and check out his blog: www.suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com.

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