Charlottesville Breaking News

Material macabre: Sensational acting drives Poe-laced melodrama

It is widely known that on Oct. 3, 1849, Edgar Allan Poe was found wandering the streets of Baltimore, raving and incoherent. He died on Oct. 7. He was 40. His death was about as much of a surprise as the passing of such modern icons as Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse. Poe was an acute alcoholic, particularly fond of the notorious spirit absinthe. He also used opium and who knows what other substances, and as a man supported only by his writings, may have been badly nourished. This is a lifestyle known to lend itself to incoherent wanderings.

The Raven, a feverish costume thriller, attempts to explain Poe's death by cobbling together spare parts from thrillers about serial killers. It should not be mistaken for a movie about Edgar Allan Poe, although to be sure he buys a drink for a man in a tavern who is able to complete this line of poetry: "Quoth the Raven ..." When I heard that John Cusack had been cast for this film, it sounded like good news: I could imagine him as Poe, tortured and brilliant, lashing out at a cruel world. But that isn't the historical Poe the movie has in mind. It is a melodramatic Poe, calling for the gifts of Nicolas Cage.

T...

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Taking action: Group forms for autism support

When a child is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, parents' devastation is likely compounded by the overwhelming need for support– and the lack of a centralized resource for families. Creating such a hub is the impetus behind the newly formed Charlottesville Regional Autism Action Group, which launched in April.

"There are a lot of families who need a lot of help," says Frances Greenstein, a counselor and one of several parents who've helped launch the volunteer-run group that offers support meetings, tips on obtaining state and federal benefits, and a directory that parents of autistic children will appreciate.

'It's not just 'which doctors are best?'" says Greenstein. "It's 'where should I take my child for a haircut?"

As reported recently by the CDC, the reported incidence of autism has jumped to one in 88, and while many peg the increase to more aggressive diagnoses, it suggests there are hundreds of children in Charlottesville and surrounding counties who have been diagnosed with a disorder that may mean a lifetime of dependence on family caregivers.

"We want to offer a sense of a team," says Greenstein, mom to a 9-year-old boy, "a sense that if you can change one thing, you begin to have hope again."

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Sign language: Robert Hurt announces reelection run

Congressman Robert Hurt was in town Monday to kick off his reelection bid for the 5th District. Local Republicans including supervisors Ken Boyd and Rodney Thomas gathered at Albemarle Square shopping center to show support for Hurt's candidacy.

Also in attendance: Some who didn't and who carried signs for Hurt's Dem opponent John Douglass.

That led to a battle of the signs in front of the cameras and podium as Hurt rallied the party faithful and reminded them of his economic message: "It's the spending, stupid."

John Flanagan was one of the Douglass sign carriers, and says he was there "to let Mr. Hurt know there are people who don't like him in Congress."

Declares Flanagan, "I was assaulted here today, pushed and shoved."

"These folks are welcome to come to our campaign events, and they won't be treated as rudely as we were today," says Scottsvillian Dolores Rogers, another Douglass sign carrier.

Some of the Republicans questioned the appropriateness of the Douglass sign carriers at the kick-off.

"The last time Republicans went on Democratic turf– Periello's– they were threatened with arrest for trespassing," says John Miska.

Hurt sign carrier Mary Ann Doucette pooh-poohs the notion that the Democrats were assaulted.

"It was rude of them to keep talking while Representative Hurt was talking," says Doucette, calling Rogers "very discourteous."

As for Hurt, he took the battle of the signs in...

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Civil squirm: Huguely must testify in $30 million lawsuit

Two months after an explosive criminal trial and mere days before time expired to file a civil suit, Sharon Love has filed a $30 million action against the man convicted of killing her 22-year-old daughter. While doubts arise about the likelihood that she will ever collect a penny from the convicted killer, Mrs. Love may get something more valuable: seeing George W. Huguely V take the stand.

"The Loves could call George Huguely as the first witness in the plaintiff's case," says legal analyst David Heilberg, who notes that might be a savvy strategy.

"I love to do that when we perceive our adversary to be the scoundrel," says Heilberg, a practicing lawyer. "You put them right out there first. It sets the tone."

Heilberg says the chance to see Huguely squirm may begin long before the former University of Virginia college lacrosse player ever reaches the witness stand, as the Loves would likely force Huguely to submit to questioning during the pre-trial investigative process known as "depositions."

In a deposition, lawyers for the Love family would likely conduct a veritable fishing expedition and ask questions about money, women, sports, and prior acts of violence.

"The fishing expedition aspect of depositions is to determine what devil is in the details not known before filing,...

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Vacancies down: But can renters absorb enough empties?

The number of vacant houses has fallen by more than a third. Could this be the recovery sign that blogging realtor Jim Duncan hopes it is?

On April 20, Duncan posted an entry on realcentralva.com that noted, according to his calculations, that the percentage of vacant homes listed for sale in the Multiple Listing Service has fallen from 36 percent in 2007 to 23 percent today.

First, what's so bad about vacant homes? For starters, even under the best of circumstances, some insurance companies require an inspection before agreeing to underwrite a home that has been vacant. Other insurers demand something called a vacancy endorsement if the house is going to be uninhabited for more than 30 days after the purchase.

Potential buyers are understandably concerned about the potential neglect and deferred maintenance items that so frequently accompany homes left empty by job transfers, marriages, deaths, or other changes in family circumstances. But when a vacancy occurs due to a foreclosure or a short sale, as is so often happens in these current market conditions, concerns multiply.

A homeowner facing foreclosure may have neither the means nor the motivation to continue the upkeep, a situation that often results in significant deterioration before the bank takes ownership. Once uninhabited, bank-owned...

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