Saturday, March 17, 2018
On the day when I was born, my daddy sat down and cried. I had the mark just as plain as day, it could not be denied.
I saw this in Hamp City Hall yesterday. A hundred years ago the Irish dominated virtually every City Hall in Massachusetts and still have a strong presence to this day. And we ain't all crooks, neither.
On a more serious note, these brave students of John F. Kennedy Middle School in Northampton were protesting this week in favor of 2nd Amendment rights, a refreshing contrast to the Orwellian so-called "walkouts" recently organized by liberal school administrators. It took no courage for students to please their teachers by allowing themselves to be stooges for ineffective gun control policies. These pro-gun kids are the real rebels.
Be sure to visit Tim's, the new bookstore on King Street in Northampton.
Boston Garden, Boston, Massachusetts - 1977-05-07
Jeff Ziff took a great pic this week of Miller's River along the Mohawk Trail.
Monday, March 12, 2018
What on Earth has Al Giordano gotten himself into? It seems the former WNNZ radio star and Valley Advocate reporter is being accused of sexual harassment by a dozen or more women. You can read all about it here.
Oddly, Al himself has made no public remarks in response to the accusations, which is directly contrary to what is generally recommended in a public scandal, which is to get out in front of it with a statement as quickly as possible. Is he being forced into silence by legal concerns? The scandal has not only silenced the usually irrepressible Giordano, but appears to have shut down the journalism school he has run for many years. Their fundraising effort for next semester was suddenly cancelled shortly after it started, despite having gotten off to a promising start.
The scandal strikes following a puzzling period in which Al had been strangely cutting ties to old friends over seemingly minor political differences. It was behavior that doesn't sound at all like the broad minded attitude for which Al was once noted, especially in his Valley radio days when he loved mixing it up with critics and debating the issues. For example, former Springfield City Councilor Mitch Ogulewicz has said this about his sudden severing of ties:
After 35 years of associating with Al, he defriended me on facebook, because I said I wouldn't vote for Hillary. As he exited from our friendship, he went on a vulgar tirade, calling me every name in the book. Oh well.
Longtime Agawam activist Owen Broadhurst had this to say:
I loved him, admired him, bestowed upon him (in my naive youth) a form of hero worship that I *know* he did not request - but I'm still deeply wounded, offended, and feel betrayed in what he turned out to be. When his journalistic career began, I was all of 18. Back then, I haunted storefronts on what I knew the weekly delivery date just to get a Springfield Advocate as soon as I could. Because *he* was in it. And it was a must read. It is a shame. Back then: Kraft, Giordano, Turner and Vannah all accommodated those of us who fought the Berkshire Power fight in Agawam beautifully. They reported on Michael Armitage, the Springfield establishment, Albano, Tennessee Gas and Dennis the Menace Murphy. It was beautiful. While it is admittedly peevish of me to think this way, I focus on Al because I really feel it as a betrayal.
Giordano has faced health issues, having successfully battled cancer in 2016, and some have speculated that the combined stress of the cancer scare and the rise of Donald Trump may have caused the left-leaning reporter to become unhinged. So is this #metoo moment the end of the fabled career of Al Giordano? Probably not. What are the accusations against him, really? That he was sometimes a boozy boor at the after class beer bashes? That he asked women to do clerical work without paying them? People, these are not Harvey Weinstein level offenses. He should mutter something resembling an apology, permanently drop the subject, and just go back to giving political commentary as usual. Indeed, others have made successful comebacks from far worse.
Kinda hard to read the clock while waiting at the bus stop for the dawn express into Amherst.
Somebody brightened up Greg Stone's dismal Hope statue on the courthouse lawn.
Some people don't mind if their preferred presidential candidate is no longer alive.
Hometown boys Dinosaur Jr. playing the Amherst Common last fall.
Monday, March 5, 2018
Here's a picture I swiped from the Hampshire Gazette of 3rd Hampshire District State Rep. Solomon Goldstein-Rose, left, as he is introduced to speak beside other state representatives, the late Peter Kocot and the now retiring John Scibak and Stephen Kulik, in the Coolidge Room at Forbes Library in 2017.
All four of these dudes have been in the news lately, with Scibak and Kulik both announcing that they are not seeking re-election. In a tragic development, Rep. Kocot died recently of cancer. As for Solomon Goldstein-Rose, he too is going through some changes, but is not intending to leave the legislature, at least not voluntarily.
Some observers are suggesting he has placed his seat in danger, primarily because Goldstein-Rose has unexpectedly left the Democratic Party to become an independent. That move has already complicated his road to re-election in the form of newly announced challenger Eric Nakajima, who clearly stated in his announcement that he thinks party affiliation matters, "Our district needs a tireless and effective advocate, who will listen, work with you, and partner with colleagues on Beacon Hill to meet the needs of our towns. I believe I can do that best as a member of the Democratic Party," Nakajima said. Here he is posing with early endorser Dave Narkewicz. Of course Narkewicz is mayor of Northampton, which is not part of the district, but he is also a longtime major figure in the Democratic Party organization, so his endorsement sends a message to other party operatives that it is time to abandon Golstein-Rose.
It's generally true that the most difficult time for an incumbent to run for re-election is when they seek their second term. That is because they are still a fresh face, and not yet entrenched through deep insider relationships and bulging campaign chests built up over the years. This will be especially true for Goldstein-Rose, who competed in a six person field in 2016, winning with less than 40% of the vote. Unless other contenders enter the fray to help divvy up the vote, in a one on one race Goldstein-Rose will face an electorate where over 60% did not support him two years ago. Still, the advantage of his incumbency, short as it is, cannot be discounted, as well as his reputation for relentless door to door campaigning. Therefore, Goldstein-Rose must still be considered the front runner, but it's only March in what promises to be an unexpectedly competitive race.
The drama of the Goldstein-Rose/Nakajima contest is just part of a much larger upheaval among the Western Mass North Valley delegation. The departure of old timers Kulik and Scibek are quickly attracting a competitive field, and so will the race to replace the late Representative Kocut. Yet another unknown variable is the ultimate fate of Semi-senator Stan Rosenberg. I call him a semi-senator because, although he can still vote on completed legislation that comes to the floor, Rosenberg is currently working out of a basement office in the statehouse and has no committee assignments. The cubicle in the cellar is a humiliating demotion for someone who just a few months ago occupied the palatial Speaker's office, but Rosenberg's lack of committee assignments is a bigger deal because committees are where all legislation is actually written.
By having no assignments, Rosenberg has been essentially shut out of the lawmaking process. It is a legitimate question whether Rosenberg can still accurately even be called a full senator and whether he can adequately serve his constituents in such a crippled role. The Senate has twice had the opportunity to give Rosenberg committee assignments, yet declined to do so both times, thereby seeming to send a message to the effect, "Stan, it's time to go." Although Semi-senator Rosenberg has taken out papers for re-election, it is by no means impossible, especially if the report about his husband's alleged misconduct is as damning as some suspect it will be, that his Northampton senate seat may very well be wide open this fall and no doubt attracting an all star cast of contenders.
Whatever goes down, this much is for sure - 2018 is going to be one of the most interesting and entertaining election cycles in a long time for North Valley voters.
Full moon over KFC/Taco on King Street.
Rooftop revelers at UMass.
Of course I would see this in Amherst.
I'm comin' outta my cage.
Saturday, February 24, 2018
Last semester at UMass there were signs all over campus claiming "Hate Has No Home" at the University.
Of course, what exactly constituted "hate" was never clear, prompting a counter-campaign claiming that there were Orwellian overtones to the signs, with accusations that they were an attempt to muzzle non-leftists by dismissing right-wing views as hate speech.
Fortunately, those chilling no-hate signs have largely vanished from campus, replaced this semester by a new campaign about "Building Bridges."
That is a far more welcoming and inclusive message. We should be trying to build bridges across our ideological divides, not demonizing those with whom we disagree. This represents a far more enlightened response to our divisive times than the previous heavy handed, partisan tinged no-hate campaign.
Bartlett Hall loves you.
One of the most popular coffee shops in Amherst is Share, which for a long time used to be known as Raos.
Imagine my surprise the other day to discover that it is vacating the premises!
Wonder what's the story behind that?
Soda heir Jeff Ziff was down in Springfield this week, where he happened to see the removal of the scaffolding and screens covering the new Springfield casino underway and took a few pics.
I never knew this was the motto of Hampshire College before I saw this sticker on King Street in Hamp.
I also came upon this bumpersticker on King Street.
It reminded me of this funny recording Captain Skypilot Ken Babbs the Intrepid Traveler sent me starring Wavy Gravy and the San Francisco jazz-fusion band ZERO.
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 in the back section of 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, floating 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 that 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 a different kind of fish tale. He talked 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.