Thursday, February 8, 2018
A frigid woodland way.
View from the fire escape of the Haymarket Cafe.
View from the front window of the Northampton Starbucks.
UMass students walking past the Fine Arts Center enroute to class this afternoon.
Today marks a negative milestone in the decline of print journalism in the Pioneer Valley. After 45 years of coming out every week (officially on Thursday, although it is often widely available on Wednesday) the Valley Advocate has for the first time in over four decades not published an issue. That is because as of this week, the Advocate has become a bi-weekly paper, slashing its publishing schedule in half, from 52 to 26 issues per year.
The reasons why are all the obvious ones. Since the late 90's the print newspaper industry has been in a relentless decline, resulting in cutbacks, firings and even permanent closings of publications throughout the Valley. Indeed, along with the reduction in the Advocate's printing schedule, Preview, their sister, glossily paged monthly magazine, is going permanently out of business effective immediately. The decision to fold appears to have been sudden, as a few stories that were apparently completed for the next, now never to appear issue of Preview are included in the latest Advocate, presented as a farewell gesture.
People much under 35 would probably have a hard time imagining the role newspapers once played in people's lives. They were the internet of their time, the only place to read the news of the day. Everyone read the paper, I remember as a delivery boy for the Springfield papers in my youth that hardly a single neighbor was without a subscription. It was a world in which everyone made time to read the paper every single day.
The Valley Advocate was a key player in that print news eco-system for a long time. I recall how in the entrance way to the UMass library there would be six or eight piles of strapped bundles of the Advocate that would be all gone in just a matter of days. Once I was entering Springfield City Hall with Mitch Ogulewicz just a few minutes after the Advocate delivery truck had left. The Advocates were always left on the stairs just inside the door, across from the grand staircase leading to the departmental offices, and down those stairs were running City Hall employees, racing to get the new issue in order to read the paper's latest take on local politics.
Alas, today it is hard to find a copy of the Advocate on campus or in any public buildings. Now that they are printing half as often, print copies of the Advocate will only become rarer. The Advocate website will continue to update regularly, but the whiff of doom is in the air. When the Advocate was acquired by it's current owner, The Hampshire Gazette, someone told me they feared it would ultimately devolve down to just a monthly art and culture insert slipped into the weekend edition of the Gazette. I scoffed at that notion at the time, but now I'm not so sure.
Meanwhile, Pablo Picasso never got called an asshole.
Not like you.
Saturday, February 3, 2018
UMass beneath a cold winter sun.
Once upon a time, on a hot summer day at the Miss Florence Diner, Monique Rinaldi Hulbert told me a story about a fish.
Monique had a job some place where one day she had to deliver something to a co-worker and thereby paid her first visit to that co-worker's house. When she arrived, her co-worker invited her to come in for a sip and a puff. While they were chatting, Monique noticed a small, round, glass object sitting on the table. Inside of it was some water and a living, breathing fish. The container in which it lived was so small that the fish couldn't even turn around, and it's tail was continually swishing against the glass. Monique was appalled to see a living creature forced to live in such cramped quarters.
"That fish is not going to live for very long," Monique said, "if you keep it in a little container like that!"
"What are you talking about?" her coworker exclaimed. "I've had that fish for seven years!"
I remember we talked about how cool it would be if somehow we could swipe that fish and then liberate it at Quabbin or some other place where it could joyously swim with no restrictions in any direction for the rest of its life. We imagined how thrilled the fish would be if given the chance to do so.
Then one day in a soup kitchen in Amherst, a gentleman who claimed to have been a biology major before he decided to pursue his doctorate in cheap wine, told me about these fish you can find in the orient, who live among the thick vegetation to be found in some rivers. The vegetation is so thick that the fish never move their whole lives, but just float in place, opening their mouths to consume any food that happens to flow past. I asked this gentleman what would happen if you took the fish out of their naturally confining environment into one where they had complete freedom of movement. He replied that the fish wouldn't know what to do, and would probably just sink to the bottom, where it would eventually either starve to death or be eaten by predators.
I don't know.
I don't have any answers.
Good fish story, Monique.
Saturday, January 27, 2018
Last night I went to the Filos Greek Taverna across from Pulaski Park.
Here's what it looks like inside:
Generally you would associate pizza with Italian cuisine, but ya gotta try the pizza at this Greek joint. It is superb!
The first rays of the rising sun come pouring through the front windows of the Haymarket Cafe. You may notice that the New York Times is in front of me.
Despite their terrible bias and shameful abandonment of journalistic standards during the Trump era, the Times remains worth perusing. It still covers topics, whatever the spin, that other papers simply do not.
From the Haymarket I headed to the bus stop.
Soon I arrived in beautiful downtown Amherst.
I headed over to Amherst College to visit their library.
I was a few minutes early and the Robert Frost Library wasn't open yet, so I walked over to the nearby war memorial for those from Amherst College who died in the two world wars. It is one of our Valley's most beautiful spots.
On the giant marble disc is carved the names of the young patriots.
Some gave all.
While on the subject of untimely deaths, I must express my regret for the sudden departure of Eddie Gallagher. He used to live on Wilbraham Road near WNEU and his grandpa was a former chief of police. Eddie was also a good friend to my buddy Bodie Chesbro. God, he could be fun to hang with. His obituary doesn't say so, but before he went to college in Maine he did a few semesters at UMass. Eddie used to come by my dorm room 403 (O3 is the chemical symbol for ozone) in Cashin after his classes (or between them) and we'd have crazy pot parties. Damn he loved weed, so much so that we called him "The Smokehound."
My, oh my, what is becoming of my youthful companions?
Late night downtown stroll.
Saturday, January 20, 2018
Another beautiful morning in our Happy Valley as I headed down King Street towards downtown.
Sid, the cat who lives in Shop Therapy, was out for his morning stroll.
What on Earth?
A woman's clothing store has transformed itself into a center for THE RESISTANCE!
And yes, they are STILL "with her."
As the 10:00 bus was taking me past City Hall, the usual suspects were starting to gather for an 11:00 anti-Trump rally on the one year anniversary of his inauguration.
I did not support Donald Trump in the 2016 primaries, nor did I vote for him that November. However, my frank appraisal of his first year in office is that I greatly underestimated him and I think that things are moving mostly in the right direction on a lot of fronts for the first time in a long while. So it's probably just as well that I got outta town before that rally got underway.
Photographer Mary Carey was down by the mighty Connecticut yesterday. Lots of ice blocks piled up onshore.
This video makes me happy.
Monday, January 8, 2018
Downtown Amherst on New Year's Day, as seen from Starbucks.
A giant snowpile in downtown of Northampton.
Well, another year done gone. Lots to be happy and grateful about, with only an occasional mishap here and there. At the start of 2018, here's an update of where my online projects are at the start of 2018:
The Ogulewicz Chronicles - 2017 marked the first full year that this newly re-released and expanded memoir of Springfield politics has been available. This insider account by former City Councilor Mitch Ogulewicz, now features over 50 historic supplemental videos, making The Chronicles essential reading and viewing for anyone wanting to better understand what happened to the once great (and soon to be great again?) City of Springfield in the seminal decade of the 1980's.
The Diary of J. Wesley Miller - This massive Pioneer Valley history database kept expanding throughout the past year, as we followed the always interesting, insightful and sometimes downright bizarre adventures of one of Springfield's Grand Eccentrics (and his friend Eamon). Wesley knew everyone, and his behind the scenes views of our Valley's prominent personalities, politics and culture brings the modern history of our Valley fully to life with a degree of color and depth never before available. There's no end in sight, as the material currently available online covers only the years 1999 thru 2005. While certain years are missing, there is still decades worth of material yet to be released, going back as far as 1968. I only hope I live long enough to completely release all the contents of this historical treasure chest, which gets an average of between 50 and 60 hits per day, not bad considering what it is.
Tumblin' Thomas - This is the most popular website I edit, a fact which sort of irks me. I started Tumblin Thomas as a way of spreading memes, those one frame, one thought visual creations that can be anything from funny, to beautiful to sharply political. I created the tumblr in response to the meme craze so I wouldn't clog up my other blogs with them. That means it is the blog where the least amount of the material originates with me. In other words, the most popular blog I do is the blog I personally contribute the least material to. That makes the thousands of hits it gets weekly personally less gratifying than the numbers might suggest it should be.
The Baystate Objectivist - This, of course, is the blog you are reading right now, and it is the one on which appears my most serious writing about the endless kaleidoscope of topics that interest me. I'm gratified by the 9,000 to 10,000 hits it gets per month, but wish it was more popular than, say, my stoner memes on Tumblin Thomas. Oh well, this blog still has the distinction of being the Pioneer Valley's longest running blog - 20 years online this year, with seven years as a print publication before that. It is also the Pioneer Valley's first blog (I saw nobody else around when I started) which has sometimes caused me to be referred to as "The Father of the Valley Blogosphere" although I am demanding a paternity test. In any case, I'll try to do some retrospective pieces at various points throughout this year in celebration of the twenty years online anniversary, so that will be fun.
In the meantime, Peace and Love to you all in 2018!