Charlottesville Breaking News

Anti-Mormon? Sherlock Holmes yanked from reading list

After a parent complained that it gave a negative portrayal of her Mormon religion, the Albemarle County School Board voted unanimously in agreement with a committee's recommendation to remove A Study in Scarlet, the first of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes mysteries, from acceptable texts for teaching language arts to 6th grade readers.

With a 200-signature petition, over a dozen former Henley Middle School students appeared before the Board at its August 11 meeting to urge retention of the controversial story set in 19th century Utah.

The effort failed, as the committee agreed with complaining parent Brette Stephenson that the story contained "religious bias." Board member Diantha McKeel noted that since the school system seeks "age-appropriate" works of literature, the novel can still be taught at the 10th grade level.

Another speaker told the board that a child was recently asked on a school bus if the child had multiple moms, an apparent reference to the now officially banned Mormon practice of polygamy. The committee lamented the fact that some Mormon characters in the novel practice kidnapping, murder, and stalking.

"It could put a group of our students," said board member Eric Strucko, "in an unfair situation."

Later in the meeting, the Board voted to defer action on a plan to erect...

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Lawnmower men: Meriweather mows irreverent ground

You've tossed dull corporate newsletters straight in the trash, so why read the one from the yard maintenance company? How about dramatic candor of "The Ooops Issue"?

"In May of '96, if you were driving down 250 in the vicinity of McIntire Park and saw a truck pulling a trailer that was ON FIRE, chances are good that was us."

Then there's the customer appreciation issue with photos of Meriweather Mowing Service owners Rod Ballard and Dave Norford kowtowing– literally– to one 20-year customer, yet also calling out by name a deadbeat client who ordered a lot of work right before filing for bankruptcy. "Not cool, Richard. Totally. Not. Cool," admonishes writer/editor Ballard, whom Norford calls "the volcano of creativity that keeps bubbling out."

The newsletter started out as "strictly advertising," says Ballard. "And lawnmowing is kind of boring. You can only say 'let us lime and fertilize' so many times."

The two men had a long history of deadpan before starting Meriweather in 1990, says Ballard. They both attended Albemarle High and became friends at PVCC. Both worked at the original Piedmont Airlines. They used to broadcast Madison High football games.

And they were both playing on the same softball team in 1989 when Norford helped Ballard mow his lawn. "We knocked it out," says Ballard, "and said, we ought to start a lawn service."

The next summer, they had 30 customers.

Given the frequency of the...

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The week in review

Worst slaying: Clark Elementary third-grade teacher Dawn Reddick is gunned down in a drive-by shooting in Newark July 29, shielding a seven-year-old boy she didn't know from flying bullets, the Newsplex reports.

Worst flashback: Three teen girls attending a camp at Virginia Tech report seeing a man who possibly was carrying a gun August 4 around 9am, leading to a cancellation of classes at the university that was the scene of the worst campus mass murders in 2007. No one fitting the young women's descriptions, which police deemed credible, was found, and the alert ended around 3pm, WSLS-TV reports.

Sharpest dispute: Carey Hicks, 47, of Crozet is found knifed in the stomach and crouching in bushes August 6 on Harris Road, according to NBC29 reports. Police say he was stabbed during an altercation on nearby Bent Creek Road, and they've arrested Linda Doig, 50.

Worst trend: A woman is stabbed in the shoulder early August 8 in Southwood Mobile Home Community, NBC29 reports.

Most ho...

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Wrong people identified as debtors

The August 11 print edition's property auctions incorrectly identified Jason and Candice Love as the owners of two parcels on Morgantown Road. The parcels actually are owned by Maplehurst Associates. The Hook regrets the error.

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Where's Waldo? At the White House, in your computer... where *isn't* Waldo?

Where's Waldo? It's a clichéd question to ask about a man by that name, but in the case of Waldo Jaquith– who so resembles the famous find-the-character cartoon that he changed his first name to match– it's irresistible.
Hey! There's Waldo in court as a teenager, launching a lawsuit against local government! Look, he's on the red carpet at the My VH1 Music Awards! What's he doing all by himself on the Appalachian Trail at age 17? Psst. Turn on the TV and there's Waldo on the Today show talking about workplace bullying! And wait a minute, isn't that Waldo popping up at the White House just a few weeks ago?

Indeed, for a guy who claims he abhors the spotlight, it's eerie how he keeps stumbling– haplessly, he insists– into the national media glare. His most recent honor? A $165,000 national journalism grant to make the Virginia State Code more accessible.

"I figured I had a 1 in 100 chance of winning," says Jaquith, sitting in a stately conference room in UVA's Miller Center, the political thinktank where he's worked as a web developer since leaving the Virginia Quarterly Review following the July 2010 suicide of its managing editor and the ensuing high profile controversy over workplace bullying that brought Today to Charlottesville.

Shaking his head with a smile and a look of wide-eyed wonder, the no-longer bespectacled Jaquith– once dubbed enfant terrible by local media during his teenaged...

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Editor's Note
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