Saturday, March 31, 2007

On Kerouac

Here's a great video about Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady.

“A germinal moment for me was back when I was in high school going to the San Francisco Art Institute on weekends, just when the words “beat generation” began hitting the papers. We asked my teacher, Wally Hedrick, about the phrase, and he said, ‘Well, there’s this book, On the Road, and it’s all in there.’ I was an impressionable San Franciscan, really taken with the North Beach scene, and this stuff began to surface.

Then in the next couple of years I read Kerouac, and I recall in ‘59 hanging out with a friend who had a Kerouac record, and I remember being impressed—I’d read this stuff, but I hadn’t heard it, the cadences, the flow, the kind of endlessness of the prose, the way it just poured off. It was really stunning to me. His way of perceiving music—the way he wrote about music and America—and the road, the romance of the American highway, it struck me. It struck a primal chord. It felt familiar, something I wanted to join in. It wasn’t like a club, it was a way of seeing. It became so much a part of me that it’s hard to measure; I can’t separate who I am now from what I got from Kerouac. I don’t know if I would ever have had the courage or the vision to do something outside with my life—or even suspected the possibilities existed—if it weren’t for Kerouac opening those doors.”

-Jerry Garcia, 1989

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Aesthetics of Worm Fishing

I've gone fishing all my life, yet even after all these years, somewhere in the recesses of my mind something still goes "Ick!" whenever I have to put a worm on a hook.

Poor worms. As stupid and ugly as snakes, but without that creature's hypnotic grace, they are doomed to slither through the soil thanklessly aerating the roots of plants. How slow and peaceful their lives must have been before the first man or woman discovered that nearly all freshwater fish consider worms to be the waterworld's equivalent of filet mignon.

Before you put a worm on a hook, obviously it is necessary to acquire some. If there is plenty of time, go out any summer night with a flashlight and gather them right off your front lawn. This method is especially popular among children who have no money.

Otherwise, go to any bait shop or outdoorsman's store and buy them. Years ago it was possible to go to any body of water and be sure of finding in the immediate area some little bait shop, usually run out of somebody's garage. Now its rare to find those backwoods worm farms. Over ten years ago the professional bait shops teamed up and successfully lobbied the legislature to forbid the selling of bait without meeting certain regulations. The cost of meeting those regulations put most of the backyard worm farms out of business. Shortly afterwards, by an odd coincidence the price of a dozen worms doubled.

A dozen worms typically comes in a nice white styrofoam cup with a plastic lid. This is more convenient than having to bring your own coffee can filled with dirt that the backyard sellers used to require. The disadvantage is that now every body of water that is frequently fished has the whole shoreline littered with styrofoam containers and plastic lids. Ecologically speaking, these are not predicted to decompose until (in descending order of probability) the sun turns purple, the law of gravity is repealed or the State of Massachusetts elects an honest legislature.

Wherever the worm comes from, the process of putting one on your hook is really quite simple. Take a worm out of the cup and let it sit in the palm of your hand. See how it squirms and struggles. It is frightened to be removed from its dark world of moist dirt. Worms don't like light, but your worm is soon to discover that there are a great many worse things it doesn't like.

It's a waste of money to put a whole worm on the hook, since fish will be attracted to a worm half the size that they usually are when full grown. Pick the worm up by its middle and position it between your thumb and index finger. Squeeze tightly, utilizing your fingernail like a razor. Try to ignore any soft squishing sounds as the worm's internal organs rupture as the worm splits in two. Notice that both halves of the worm are still alive. Keep one half and return the other to the styrofoam cup. It's a good idea to keep an old rag handy for wiping off worm guts after completing this step.

Next, take the hook in one hand and the worm in the other. Carefully position the middle of the worm over the hook. Then firmly press the worm's squirming body against the hook's point, burying it deep into the worm's soft flesh until the hook emerges slimy with blood out of the other side of the worm's body. Yet this may not be sufficient. Should a fish bite only one end of the worm, than it may be snapped in two, allowing the fish to escape. Never invite a fish to dinner and then allow it to eat and run! This can be avoided by passing the hook through the worm one more time in a different part of its body. Be careful though to position the worm far enough down the hook so that in its agonized thrashing it doesn't cause the hook itself to be obscured.

Now cast your line. Observe as the terrified worm goes flying through the air and comes splashing down in the water. Unseen, the worm will sink to the murky bottom of the pond or river. In a hysterical frenzy after having been squeezed in two, twice impaled, hurtled through air and now drowning, it will soon commence twisting and thrashing. Hopefully these agonized death throes will attract the attention of a nearby bass or trout.

After a short while, if no fish bite, reel the worm in and cast again. Repeat this until either a fish gets your hook stuck in its throat or the worm dies. Worms are very hardy creatures however, and they can endure for as long as a half hour before expiring.

At the end of the day, depending on how the fish were biting, there may be a few worms left that were never used. These can be saved for another day, but if there's no way to predict when you might use them, then it may be best just to let them go. I throw mine into the woods, where presumably they burrow themselves into the ground and begin new lives in the wild. I like to think that they live happily ever after.

The returns are in for Amherst's town election and apparently virtue triumphed. As near as I can figure, a husband and wife serving on the board of selectpersons have been messing up with all their ultra-liberal views, and so the husband was ousted yesterday by a fiscal moderate. This is seen as good news, since a round of property tax increases seems possible. And that is my profound analysis of the election results.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Town Election

Today Amherst is having its town election. I voted after work, but not with great confidence in some of my choices. To my surprise, since moving to Amherst I have become what I once despised in Springfield, a lazy, half-informed voter. While I still follow world, national and state politics very closely (and the politics of Springfield) I just can't seem to get engaged in the political life of Amherst.

Part of it is that I'm not used to the scale of small town politics. In Springfield you have big, complicated problems to deal with, like corruption, crime, and poverty. In the wealthy town of Amherst the issues tend to be things like does the town need a new soccer field, or does the high school teach too many foreign languages, or were the new sidewalks downtown worth the money? I try to pay attention to these controversies, but I just can't make myself care enough to focus on the details of the debates. So I don't participate politically except by voting.

Even then I lean heavily on the advice of others, in particular the wisdom of Amherst blogger Larry Kelley. He has very deep roots in the town, in fact one of his forebears was a pallbearer for Emily Dickinson. I figure if his folks were friends of Miss Emily, then they must be good people, and therefore I voted for all the candidates supported by Larry Kelley. That's my cop-out, and I'm sticking to it.

On my way to the polls to do my duty as a mindless automaton for the Kelley Machine, I saw that the laptop computer people at Rao's Coffee Shop were typing at the tables located outdoors, which is as sure a sign of Spring as a robin.

I paused to have my picture taken in front of the psychedelic poster outside the Bangs Community Center, which is where I vote.

I thought I might get some pictures of some candidates campaigning outside the polls, but there were none. The only indication that there was an election today was this sign on the front door.

I don't know what the turnout today will be, but when I voted I was the only person in the voting room besides the poll workers.

I hope that all the best candidates win, but I won't know whether they have or not until I read Kelley's election analysis tomorrow.

Elsewhere in town, the melting snow means that construction will get underway in earnest for the new science building at UMass. At present it's just a big hole in the ground, but architect's drawings suggest that when it's done it will be very impressive.

Finally, I leave you with this serving of Wavy Gravy.

Monday, March 26, 2007


Elvira, as I came to call her, is a genuine human skull. Not a reproduction, a prop or a model, but the actual dirty-white skull of what was once a living, breathing, speaking, thinking human being. Real eyes once looked at the world from her empty sockets. The top of her skull had been sawed off and then reattached on each side with a hook and eye latch. Therefore you can take off the top of her head and look down into her empty brain pan, the now blank space where the thoughts, dreams and emotions of a woman's life had once resided.

Elvira was stolen, along with the medical supply box she came in, from a laboratory at Harvard University. The friend of mine who swiped her originally intended to make her, with a dripping candle on her head, the perfect decoration for his dorm room. Then one night, returning to his room from a party where he taken LSD, my friend had some kind of terrible psychedelic encounter with Elvira. He refused to tell the details, but he was genuinely spooked by that bad trip and thereafter Elvira stayed in her box at the bottom of my friend's closet. Eventually he decided to present her as a birthday gift to me.

So who was Elvira? Someone I know who dropped out of medical school told me that it is definitely the skull of a female. He even managed to estimate her age at the time of death - about 40 years old. He could deduce this from the seam running along the top of her head. Humans are born with the top of their skulls not completely closed, which is nature's way of helping to insure that the baby's head is pliable enough not to be damaged during its entry into the world. The "soft spot" on the the top of a baby's head eventually disappears, but the top of the skull never acquires the full tensile strength of the whole until a person is about twenty-five years old. The top of Elvira's head is completely hardened, while the seam itself is partially erased, appearing as a broken, jagged line. This means Elvira was well past twenty-five, but not yet old, when the seam would presumably be almost completely faded. Hence, she was middle-aged.

She also lived in a culture that seems to have never heard of dentistry. She is missing several of her teeth, and the remainder have cavities and brown spots. My friend suspects that she was probably Oriental. He bases this conclusion on the combination of the low-tech care of her teeth and the only bit of written information that came with Elvira: a purchase order from a medical supply company dated in 1977.

According to my friend, there is usually a chronic shortage in the world medical supplies market for things like human skulls because, obviously, most people prefer to be buried with their heads attached. However, the market was briefly flooded in the mid-seventies by the communist governments of Southeast Asia who, following the American defeat there and the ensuing blood baths (three million in Cambodia alone) had lots of human remains to exchange for valuable foreign currency. Considering the date of purchase, there's an excellent chance that Elvira was a part of that rich harvest.

So the skull of this poor, middle-aged Oriental woman who died in need of dentures had traveled the world only to end up resting atop my TV, hovering gap-toothed above the electronic images of screeching rock stars, advertisements for tampons and deodorants and droning news anchors. After a while it seemed to me a little sad, even pathetic, that her wandering skull had ended up as a conversation piece, just a testimony to my sick sense of humor and bad taste in home decor.

Finally I decided to get rid of her. Late one moonless night I took Elvira and a shovel down to the schoolyard of the World Famous Thomas M. Balliet Elementary School. There I dug a hole and threw her inside, her cardboard box from the medical supply company serving as her coffin. Then I refilled the hole. I said a few things in a whisper that felt spiritual to me and then left her there, where she rests to this day, and perhaps where she will remain until the end of the world.


There is a great article in the paper this morning about the embarrassing decision the University of Massachusetts made in 1986 of giving an award to a bloodthirsty leftist dictator. To read all the details CLICK HERE.

In the same edition is this interesting account of the Bob Weir and Ratdog show down in Springfield. To read it CLICK HERE.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Sons of Erin

Oh no, it was another unproductive weekend - unless you were producing shouts of laughter, in which case it was a weekend of overflow production! I did at least one thing that sort of resembled work, and that was helping my sister to move to her new apartment in Westfield. Afterwards we were feeling a bit parched, so myself and my sister and my sister's friend Mary headed over to the nearby Sons of Erin for a refreshing beveridge or several.

The most popular Irish club in the Valley is Springfield's John Boyle O'Reilly Club, a place where my family rules! But the Sons of Erin are an equally cool bunch and there is no real rivalry between them, since wherever Irish people gather there is a sense of brothership. On our way inside, we paused by the memorial to those who lost their lives on Septemeber 11, 2001 in the Pioneer Valley.

A considerable time later, upon leaving the joint, my sister and I paused for Mary to take our picture by the wall mural meant to represent an Irish nature scene. So we look like we're in Ireland, but only if Ireland were a cartoon.

Being Irish is a big part of my family history and the forces which shaped who I am, but I don't take this ethnic trip too far. Being 100% American is good enough for me.

In the course of moving, for some reason we made a movie. It has something to do with an antique portrait of my Great Grandfather on my mother's side.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Anthony's End

So one of the last of the major corruption cases, that of former Mayor Mike Albano's chief of staff Anthony Ardolino, has been settled with a plea bargain. Although the Feds have certainly not officially stated that the Springfield corruption probe is over, it is hard to believe it has much juice left in it. Nearly all of the major agents serving in Springfield have been either promoted or transferred away, and there is no indication that any new major indictments are still to come, although there are rumors that a handful of small fry may yet be brought down as part of a final wrapping up operation.

The corruption probes degree of devastation to Springfield's traditional political culture is astounding. The once untouchable Asselin family, who plundered the city's affordable housing projects for decades, are now all broke and most of them are behind bars. Francis Keough, who turned the city's homeless shelter into a money, sex and politics empire and was considered by many to be the real brains behind the Albano Administration, is awaiting sentencing. Gerry Phillips, the likable but sleazy bingo inspector who rose to become Police Commissioner and head of a multi-million dollar job training center, served hard time in federal prison and has recently been released, but with his life, reputation and finances in ruins. Many other lesser characters in these scandals also lost their money, their freedom or both.

Some suffered who were never charged with any crimes. Our local media, in particular the Springfield Newspapers, saw their reputations tarnished due to their almost complete inability to recognize or report on the rampant corruption, and in many cases they supported and protected those who were ultimately indicted. It's hard to claim credibility when, as the Springfield Newspapers did, they endorsed Mike Albano every time he ran and called him one of the best mayors the city ever had as he was leaving office. Anyone with close ties to the Asselins, from cronies like Mo Jones to the prominent citizens who served on the board supposedly supervising the housing agency, ended up looking like fools or worse.

What was interesting was who the scandals did not touch. Mike Albano, with the entire top echelon of his administration in disgrace, somehow escaped indictment himself. Congressman Richard Neal had a close relationship with the Asselins, but no mud ever splashed on him. Other figures rumored to have shady connections, like Saco Catjakis, Heriberto Flores and Raipher Pellegrino also escaped unscathed.

But of all the scandalous figures, Anthony Ardolino was perhaps the most tragic. I first became aware of him when he was an idealistic kid just out of college and he bought a subscription to my The Baystate Objectivist. Many young people entering local politics start out as fans of mine, although that fandom is usually abandoned if they become "serious players." Politicians like to have people like me around during a campaign, hoping my presence will give them a good government seal of approval, but no one wants such do-gooders in a position to look over their shoulder when it's time to govern.

So when Mike Albano was elected mayor and picked Ardolino for his chief of staff, that was pretty much the end of any dealings I had with Anthony. At first most people were pleased with all the young people Albano surrounded himself with, thinking it would bring innovation and vitality to his administration. I must give Kateri Walsh credit for being suspicious of the hype, telling me at the time, "I wish I saw more grey hair in this administration." She was right, the young guys in Albano's inner circle ultimately brought mostly arrogance, incompetence and corruption.

It was primarily Mike Albano's fault. Albano proved to be a surprisingly weak leader, with an almost pathological fear of displeasing anyone. Instead he began leaning increasingly on Anthony to make the hard decisions. Ardolino became his enforcer, deciding who would be allowed access to the feeding trough and who would be banished. Eventually Albano would openly tell the media, "When Anthony speaks, it is as if I am speaking."

So just a few years out of college, Ardolino had become one of the most powerful people in the Valley, and he did not wield that power well. He was openly contemptuous of the local media, causing the Springfield Newspapers to turn against him. Later he would threaten TV reporter Jim Polito in a matter that was settled out of court. It became well known that Ardolino could fix traffic tickets, and that he and his popular brother Chester the cop were wheeling and dealing in real estate and business, although the details were unclear. More and more there was grumbling that Anthony was out of control.

Mayor Albano staunchly defended his aide, but then Ardolino was arrested for drunken driving. Although he was ultimately acquitted, the details of the case were unflattering, with the arresting officer claiming that Ardolino had tried to use his political influence to avoid arrest. When Albano found himself being challenged for re-election by the powerful State Representative Paul Caron, the Mayor feared that the increasingly unpopular Ardolino would become a campaign issue. Mike Albano always put Mike Albano first, and so Anthony was quietly kicked to the curb.

He didn't seem to mind it much. By this time City Hall was packed with people who were his friends and allies, and Ardolino began offering himself as someone who could reach the right people and influence the political process in favor of those who could meet his fees. Once upon a time that was called bribery, but today it is called being "a consultant."

The new consulting business was a booming success at first, but then things started to go downhill. Albano lost all ambition for the mayoralty after the city's finances collapsed on his watch. After he left office, he sold his house and moved out of the city altogether, making himself a figure of little or no influence. His political heir, Linda Melconian, got embroiled in a tax scandal and lost to Albano's longtime political enemy Charlie Ryan. Once in office, Ryan began systematically firing most of the key figures from the Albano era, eliminating many of the people Ardolino was dependent upon for his influence peddling. Eventually Ardolino had practically no reason to go to City Hall except perhaps to pay a parking ticket he could no longer fix.

Soon rumors were rampant that the FBI was focusing on Anthony, as revelations surfaced that he had been a hidden owner of some of Springfield's most notorious bars. Ardolino scoffed that the Feds would never get him, but eventually he too went down in a hail of indictments. Anthony still boasted that he would prove his innocence, but this week he had to face reality and bargain a guilty plea. Sentencing guidelines suggest that he should do two and a half years, although the ever merciful Judge Ponsor will probably shave something off that. So the career of Anthony Ardolino, the idealistic kid who once subscribed to The Baystate Objectivist, then went on to the heights of political power but finally sinking into the cesspools of corruption, now ends with the slamming of a prison cell door.

What a ride. What a fall.


I saw this person in Northampton the other day standing on the traffic island by The Academy of Music with an upside down flag. It wasn't apparent what exactly he was protesting.

Finally, here is a movie I made called, "Enroute to the UMass Library."

Monday, March 19, 2007

A Home Run

Last Thursday I attended the press conference at the former Chestnut Junior High School, which was all about how the school is going to be restored as housing. The press conference itself didn't have much in the way of new information, but it gave everyone a chance to celebrate the project at the site where it will occur. Therefore for the first time in years the front doors of the old school stood open for public entry.

Upon entering I saw that a good sized crowd had already arrived.

I wandered around a bit before the press conference began, and checked out the old main office. I wonder how many tardy passes were passed out over that counter over the decades?

The press conference itself was held in one of the classrooms, which had been fitted out with an American and Puerto Rican flag and a bunch of metal folding chairs that had PARK DEPT stenciled on the back. Mayor Charles V. Ryan spoke, and using one of his favorite metaphors, described the rehab of Chestnut as "a home run" for the city.

Also in attendance was State Representative Cheryl Coakley-Rivera, who had recently been in an awkward relationship with Ryan due to her role in causing the resignation of Ryan's top aide Michelle Webber. Surprising Ryan and everyone else, Rivera gave Ryan a big hug and a kiss!

Rivera, as usual, gave a funny and enthusiastic speech. As much as she sometimes annoys me politically, I can never stay mad at her. Critics said that she wouldn't be able to survive politically after the death of mother, the powerful activist Barbara Rivera. In fact she has done well establishing her own identity and holding together her powerbase. She apparently has more of her mother's talent than people realized. In any case I'm glad to see no permanent rift developed between Ryan and Rivera over the Webber incident. That willingness to put aside differences in order to work for the greater good has not always been possible in Springfield, so maybe the political scene is evolving toward a more civil culture at last.

The gathering was a who's who of economic development types, such as Dave Panagore and Juan Gerena.

Also present was the always photogenic City Councilor Dom Sarno.

At one point someone whispered in my ear, "Half the people in this room can't stand the other half!" To which I replied, "That's Springfield!" But to see everyone put aside their rivalries and grudges and ambitions to unite in celebration of a clear success was a real delight. I've learned to always be cautious about expressing optimism about Springfield, but I really feel that some sort of corner has been turned in the city. The long downward spiral is over, and there is the unmistakeable feel of renewal breaking through like a daisy coming up between a crack in the asphalt.


The Amherst College Outing Club sends this proof that they are thriving despite the arctic conditions currently gripping New England.


Remember a few posts back I was talking about all the Tom Devines in the world? Well here is a video by a Tom Devine in Australia, a nation you may recall that was originally founded by criminals from the jails of England and Ireland. I'm sure some of my relatives, then as now, fell into the criminal class, so I wouldn't be at all surprised to find that the Tom Devine in this video is a blood relative. In his video, Tom Devine imagines himself as "The Tominator" and chases his friends all around trying to shoot them. In other words, a Tom Devine who's just another nut with a gun.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Irish Day!

Have a Happy Saint Paddies Day everybody, just don't end up in the paddy wagon! Here's a great picture of a great Irishman (that I ripped off from Heather Brandon) showing Springfield Mayor Charles V. Ryan at the Urban Land Institute doodah the other day in Court Square.

I promise I will put up those Chestnut School photos tomorrow, undeterred though the heavens fall. In the meantime, I leave you with a song and a joke.

John O'Reilly hoisted his beer and said, "Here's to spending the rest
of me life, between the legs of me wife!"

That won him the top prize at the pub for the best toast of the night.

He went home and told his wife, Mary, "I won the prize for the best
toast of the night."

She said, "Aye, did ye now. And what was your toast?"

John said, "Here's to spending the rest of me life, sitting in church
beside me wife."

"Oh, that is very nice indeed, John." Mary said.

The next day, Mary ran into one of John's drinking buddies on the
street corner. The man chuckled leeringly and said, "John won the
prize the other night at the pub with a toast about you, Mary."

She said, "Aye, he told me, and I was a bit surprised meself. You
know, he's only been there twice in the last four years. Once he fell
asleep, and the other time I had to pull him by the ears to make him

Friday, March 16, 2007

What Spring Break?

Friday at five 0'clock is the start of the UMass Spring Break. However, it hardly feels like spring, with a major blizzard roaring through the Valley. The usual Friday afternoon traffic jam surrounding the University was made much worse by the raging storm.

The wealthier students who are leaving the state for MTV orchestrated revelries in sunny climes are no doubt pleased by the snow, which only underlines the delightfulness of their escape. However for the unfortunate middle-class students who must work the break for their beer money for the semester, it isn't so nice. You can always tell after Spring Break who the upper crust students are by their golden bronze tans, in contrast to everyone elses pale wintry white. In any case, with the University shutting down for a week everyone is leaving town, as evidenced by the crowd at the Peter Pan bus stop.

I'm always glad to see the students leave, but soon miss them. Without its colleges, Amherst is just a sleepy cow town. Here is a student headed to the bus stop, dragging his suitcase across the tundra. Or if not exactly the tundra, at least the Amherst Common.

By the way, I attended the big press conference yesterday at the Chestnut Junior High building. I have commentary and pictures to post, if I can only find the freakin time!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Resist Despair

Read any interesting columns lately?

I'm basically lazy when it comes to editing the photographs in my camera, so I never go through and erase them until the memory gets full. Then I finally go through and delete the pictures I took and for whatever reason didn't use. Doing just that the other day, I stumbled upon this one, taken sometime last Fall, on the Norwottock Trail. I believe this was taken on the Hadley stretch of the trail.

I'm not sure what I had in mind when I took that picture, but it is an interesting one. Why would someone go to the trouble of painting that sentiment on a public trail? In fact they even made a stencil of the phrase, the better to make it more legible and of higher quality. What is the despair they are thinking of? What is its cause? In what manner is it to be resisted? By walking beautiful nature trails?

Perhaps someone will write and tell me. It's amazing how often I'll wonder aloud about something in this journal and then suddenly an Answerman will come calling in my email box.

One positive effect that picture had, if not in the battle against despair, then in the battle against middle-aged sloth, is it reminded me of my nearly deceased New Year's resolution to be more physically active by doing things like walking nature trails. Rousing my resolution from its semi-catatonic state, I took the free bus to the Hampshire Mall, resolved to walk the Norwottock nature trail back to Amherst. The trail passes just behind the mall. As I crossed the parking lot enroute to the trail, I passed this mountain of snow. It will be May before that melts completely away!

The wetlands directly behind the mall were, well, certainly wet. I believe this is the area that is the center of controversy regarding the proposed construction of a Walmart Superstore.

The trail was surprisingly snowy, at least at the Amherst end. I don't think you could safely run on it without fear of slipping and falling. Unless of course you were jogging in golfing shoes.

As I strolled along past the farmer's fields, pausing occasionally for a huff of the sticky-icky primo kush (even my virtues have vices) I saw that the snow was melting on the unshaded farmland. Soon it will be time to turn the earth and place the seed.

At the end of the trail I was surprised to see a two-thirds full bottle of Amstel Light balancing on a fence. I thought to myself, there must be a story behind that.

Amstel is too expensive a beer to just casually leave behind like that, hardly even drank. It must have belonged to a wasteful rich person, or someone who was already drunk and therefore didn't care if they finished it. That was probably it, a drunken student who was forced to walk home by the trail because he stayed out past the last bus, and perhaps he paused by the fence to clear his head for the walk, and then staggered away forgetting his last beer, only to be found the next day by a stoned writer taking photographs.

Here's a video I made on the trail. It's called, "Words is Bullshit."

Monday, March 12, 2007

It Ain't Me Babe

I've always been a fan of the brown envelope sent by the anonymous but well informed person. Even when I can't take what they tell me public, the information will have an influence on what I write about that subject in subtle ways that enriches my reporting. Of course sometimes the anonymous source is a troublemaker spreading lies and gossip. But most of the time I find envelopes thrown over the transom to be very reliable sources.

So I was happy as always to have such a mysterious brown envelope show up in my post office box in Amherst last week. What could it possibly be? An inside angle on the Asselins? A previously undisclosed Keough caper? A newly unearthed abomination from the Albano era?

I quickly tore the envelope open and devoured the two page letter inside! Then I went, "Huh?" It was an unsigned letter from a federal employee in Washington D.C. complaining that he/she was being harrassed as a whistleblower. What did they think I could do for them? Then it occurred to me.

They had the wrong Tom Devine.

When I was kid growing up I knew of only two Tom Devine's in the world besides myself, both of them relatives, one living and one dead. The dead one was Thomas Jefferson Devine, the Civil War figure and founder of the Texas branch of our clan, which predates the Massachusetts branch by about forty years. Here is a picture of me and my relatives in front of the offices of The Devine Newspaper in the City of Devine in Texas.

The Tom Devine that was alive when I young was the Monsignor Thomas Devine of Elms College in Chicopee. However my boyhood was some time ago, and unfortunately The Monsignor is now deceased, although an endowed scholarship keeps his name and memory alive.

However today, thanks to the internet, I am now aware that the world is literally swarming with Tom Devines. There is the eminent scholar of Scottish and Irish history. There is the fabulous interior decorator in Los Angeles. There is the one that's the subject of an unsolved murder. They're everywhere, these Tom Devines, at least according to Google. My only consolation is that if you Google my name, I come up first. So while I may be only one among many Tom Devines in this world, I am the most famous one.

So who was my dimedropper looking for? Instead of me they want the Tom Devine from The Government Accountability Project in Washington, which is an organization which specializes in issues involving whistleblowers. Everything they need to know about that Tom Devine can be found here.

It's funny, when I was a kid everyone called me Tommy, which I didn't like because I thought it sounded too kid-like and I wanted to sound older. Now that I am getting up in years and would appreciate a youthful "Tommy" I don't hear it much. Instead I hear more and more the dreadfully formal, "Thomas."

I just can't win.


The ladies at Smith College in Northampton have never been shy about chalking their opinions on the campus sidewalks.

Finally, I leave you with this cool poem.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Rally Update

While I may have been falling down on the job of covering the UMass troops rally the other day, others were not. Here is the article that appeared in the Daily Collegian. And those intrepid souls over at Springfield's CBS affiliate were the only broadcasters to get some video footage.


A number of people have asked me why I had no written comment on last week's sentencing of Raymond "Papa Ray" Asselin to ten years hard time, but I don't like to kick people while they're down, and as the prison door slams shut behind him Papa Ray is as down as down can be. At his age his prison term quite probably means he will die behind bars. That is probably the worst way to end one's life, indeed it is the ultimate definition of a failed life. Sad, yet he has earned it. How the Asselins strutted around town, demanding a respect they never deserved, treated as pillars of the community when they were no better than common thieves. I remember the days when it was only the Advocate's Stephanie Kraft and myself who were attacking the Asselins, when they were at the top of their power and it was difficult and even dangerous to do so. Yet although I may feel some vindication from their fall, I can take no real satisfaction. All I can feel is disgust.

Judge Ponsor said that the corruption went on for so long and was so widespread that he said he believed "hundreds" of people must have known what was going on. Yet less than a dozen were indicted and imprisoned. That means there are dozens more out there, no doubt some extremely prominent persons among them, who should have been shackled right beside Papa Ray and yet apparently have escaped justice. As my farewell to this whole sordid mess, I leave this song in honor of everyone involved in the Asselin Scandal, including the unindicted.

The father is a man of power
whom everyone obeys
Now the youngest of the family
is moving with authority....

Building castles by the sea
they dared the tardy tide
to wash it all aside....

The sandcastle virtues
were all swept away
In the tidal destruction
In the moral melee

So they rode themselves over the fields
and they made all their animal deals
but wise men don't know how it feels
to be thick as a brick

Wednesday, March 7, 2007


Barak Obama's new commercial is a lunge for the throat of Hillary Clinton.

The internet is flooded with Hillary jokes. Here's one of the better ones:

A man died and went to heaven. As he stood in front of St. Peter at the Pearly Gates, he saw a huge wall of clocks behind him. He asked, "What are all those clocks?"

St. Peter answered, "Those are Lie-Clocks. Everyone on Earth has a Lie-Clock. Every time you lie the hands on your clock will move."

"Oh," said the man, "whose clock is that?"

"That's George Washington's. The hands have never moved, indicating that he never told a lie."

"Incredible," said the man. "And whose clock is that one?"

St. Peter responded, "That's Abraham Lincoln's clock. The hands have moved twice, telling us that Abe told only two lies in his entire Life."

"Where's Hillary Clinton's clock?" asked the man.

"Hillary's clock is in Jesus' office. He's using it as a ceiling fan."

Sunday, March 4, 2007

We've Moved!

Hi everybody! Look where I am, over here in Bloggerland! Why have I abandoned the mothership Well, the old girl sure was a reliable vehicle for adventures in innerspace, but it just didn't have all the bells and whistles required by the blogosphere in its current evolved state.

For example, there was no way to leave messages. Yes, you could send me an email and I would print it, and many people did, but frankly that is too much like the now quaint practice of sending letters to the editor. People don't want to be filtered by an editor, even one as wide-minded as me. Peoples want to say what peoples wanna say, and they don't need no stinkin editors standing in the way. So I'm stepping out of the way by coming here to Blogger where you can leave all the messages you want.

There is other neat stuff too, like RSS feeds and permanent archives and perhaps a blog roll if I can get around to it plus who knows what other innovations that will occur to me as I master this new format.
So enough talking about changes and let's start doing them. Tomorrow sometime I'll put up the first new post about what I intended to put up on the old blog and see how it plays out on the new one. There may be a few bugs to work out but I expect no major problems.

So until then, I leave you with this video by my buddy Jay: