Friday, June 29, 2007

Ride the Music

Yikes, another hectic day ahead with no time for blogging! I did go to the Control Board meeting yesterday and commentary, pictures and video will be going up tomorrow, I swear.

Andy is going to visit his rich parents in Quincy this weekend (who don't know that I am leading their son astray or that I even exist) leaving me to cope until he gets back on Monday, which I intend to do very nicely by reuniting with some Pine Pointers and going to see the Jefferson Starship in Northampton on Sunday. The Starship these days is essentially a Paul Kantner solo band, but with frequent surprise visits from Airplane alumni, in particular Marty Balin and David Freiberg. Jack Cassady and Jorma Kaukonen sometimes drop in on east coast shows, so keep your fingers crossed. Unfortunately, Grace Slick has been in poor health in recent years (frankly it's a miracle she's even alive considering her past) and almost never appears with the band.

Yet I strongly recommend going no matter what the line-up turns out to be. Although pushing 70, Kantner is still very energetic and the spirits of old are known to arise even today, if your mind is open to it. As Kantner says in this email:


Haven’t seen your face in a while. How have you been? Do you still dream? Come back with us.

Hello new one. Sit by the fire and join us. Tell us of your discoveries and concerns. We will listen.

We know each other. Our hearts took many paths. Again we find ourselves in an unpopular war, social chaos, an unknown enemy and a struggle to make it all OK.

Sometimes you can just wink at somebody and they understand.

The price is absurdly cheap, thirty bucks to see genuine inductees to the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame. It is also going to be outdoors, which will only further intensify the vibe. Be there, it'll be a high time for all.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Gone South

No blogging, I've gone down to Springfield for the day. In the meantime, here's some good advice.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Ayn Rand Quotes

Someone sent me these great Ayn Rand quotes.

A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.

A government is the most dangerous threat to man's rights: it holds a legal monopoly on the use of physical force against legally disarmed victims.

Achieving life is not the equivalent of avoiding death.

Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage's whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men.

Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong.

Do not ever say that the desire to "do good" by force is a good motive. Neither power-lust nor stupidity are good motives.

Force and mind are opposites; morality ends where a gun begins.

Government "help" to business is just as disastrous as government persecution... the only way a government can be of service to national prosperity is by keeping its hands off.

I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.

Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority; the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities (and the smallest minority on earth is the individual).

It only stands to reason that where there's sacrifice, there's someone collecting the sacrificial offerings. Where there's service, there is someone being served. The man who speaks to you of sacrifice is speaking of slaves and masters, and intends to be the master.

Just as man can't exist without his body, so no rights can exist without the right to translate one's rights into reality, to think, to work and keep the results, which means: the right of property.

Love is the expression of one's values, the greatest reward you can earn for the moral qualities you have achieved in your character and person, the emotional price paid by one man for the joy he receives from the virtues of another.

Man is a being with free will; therefore, each man is potentially good or evil, and it's up to him and only him (through his reasoning mind) to decide which he wants to be.

Every man builds his world in his own image. He has the power to choose, but no power to escape the necessity of choice.

Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver.

People create their own questions because they are afraid to look straight. All you have to do is look straight and see the road, and when you see it, don't sit looking at it - walk.

Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is evil. That sentence is the leper's bell of an approaching looter.

So you think that money is the root of all evil. Have you ever asked what is the root of all money?

Wealth is the product of man's capacity to think.

The hardest thing to explain is the glaringly evident which everybody has decided not to see.

The question isn't who is going to let me; it's who is going to stop me.

The truth is not for all men, but only for those who seek it.

The worst guilt is to accept an unearned guilt.

There are two sides to every issue: one side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil.

There can be no such thing, in law or in morality, as actions forbidden to an individual, but permitted to a mob.

To say "I love you" one must first be able to say the "I."

Those who say that theory and practice are two unrelated realms are fools in one and scoundrels in the other.

When I die, I hope to go to Heaven, whatever the Hell that is.

The other day I looked up to see my favorite color: The Rainbow!

I took that picture by the new market Maple Farms in Hadley, which is giving Whole Foods a run for their money in the fresh produce business.

Finally, here are some new videos by two of our internet friends Jay Brannan and Bo Burnham. That's all until tomorrow, when I will be attending the first meeting of the new Springfield Control Board.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Creative Destruction

There are a few notable changes in downtown Amherst. For one something new has opened in the former For the Record site (above). It is the newly expanded Souper place which used to be in a closet like space a few doors down.

I'm a soup fan, but I'm also a music fan, and I hate the way the internet is systematically driving the traditional record store out of business. While I love the infinite selection online, I fear the day is fast approaching when the idle flipping through the music selection in a retail setting will have become impossible. The internet is great if you know what you're looking for, but without record stores, how will we be exposed to what's new or what we never knew we liked before someone turned us on to it in a record store?

The Internet: A great creator and a terrible destroyer.

Also new in downtown Amherst is this cool mural that was painted next to the Saint Brigid Roman Catholic Church, on the Food for Thought bookstore building.

It's mostly great, certainly very colorful, some of it is even psychedelic.

I like this depiction of an alien visitation.

Unfortunately, this being Amherst, some political correctness had to intrude on the otherwise innocent art. Here an evil eagle dressed in corporate attire sucker punches Lady Justice.

In case you didn't get the blatant anti-American message, a nearby image of a computer spells it out for you.

Why do so many things in Amherst always have to become a means for spreading leftist propaganda? Fortunately some of the artists who worked on the mural wrote personal, non-political messages.

In any case, here is the sign identifying the culprits - I mean contributors behind the mural. Click to enlarge.

Monday, June 25, 2007

New Discovery

Hey, I found another cool place for you to check out! It's in Hadley and called the Alexandra Dawson Conservation Area. While it isn't very big, it covers some absolutely gorgeous land by the banks of the Connecticut River. I guess the easiest way to get to it would be to go to the Hadley Common (the part the rail trail goes through) and then go to the end until you see these four posts. Then just walk right in. I've taken this picture from already inside, looking towards the common.

That is not however how I went there, having stumbled upon it out of boredom with the rail trail. I haven't been very good with my walking these days, in part because I've become bored with the rail trail. That may be hard to believe, considering the incredible beauty of the trail, but the fact is anything can come to seem commonplace through repetition.

So I started searching for new places to detour off the rail trail's well paved path to look for something new and unexplored. Coaxing Andy off the coach one evening after supper with the promise of new adventures on this long summer day, we took such a detour near the Calvin Coolidge Bridge, on the road where all that maddening construction has been going on.

It is a wonderful stroll under wide open skies, and the expansive sense of freedom it creates may inspire you to do things like strike silly poses amidst the fields of crops.

Keep on walking past the rows upon rows of evolving vegetables, until eventually you come to this breathtaking vista of the Connecticut River!

At one point we came upon two women and a dog by the riverbank and I made this video.

A giant hot-air balloon slowly rose above the horizon and then headed in our direction, that is to say, towards the river. The two dots beside the balloon in this picture are hang-gliders, which swooped around the balloon like insects around a streetlight.

It was a magical sight such as one only sees in our magic Valley. When the giant orb got closer, it became apparent that it was the UMass Weather Balloon!

Perhaps there was a university scientist on board that balloon, but I preferred to think not. I wanted to imagine that it was two lovers, perhaps undergrad meteorology majors who had gone aloft without their professor's knowledge, floating blissfully over the Connecticut, in the face of what must have been a mind blowing view of the setting sun.

We stood and watched the sun set, just the four of us, we two on the ground and the two hovering in the air.

O Mighty Connecticut, no wonder the Indians called you their mother.

Visit the Alexandra Dawson Conservation Area soon, and bring a friend.

Speaking of Hadley, I never realized that there is a stone commemorating the Hadley King-Killers on the common.

The stone has been placed at what is supposed to be the exact spot where the Angel of Hadley is alleged to have first appeared.

If you've forgotten the details of the legend, click here.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Malls We Have Loved

Urban commentator Heather Brandon recently sent me a link to a website by a person who is obsessive about malls and which features some of the ones here in our Valley. As you will see, this dude really knows malls! Once you've read up on them, you'll never look at your post-payday or after school hangout the same way again.

For a pictorial, historical and architectural overview of Springfield's Eastfield Mall click here.

As for here in the north Valley, the following aerial photo shows the two main Route Nine malls in Hadley. Notice that Route Nine is called "Russell St." the old term the locals used to use, and sometimes still do.

To study the Hampshire Mall, click here:

The Mountain Farms Mall is located across the street, and fell into "dead mall" status for a time before being brought back to life by the arrival of Wal-Mart. Check out these historic photographs from its dark past by clicking here.

Finally, here's something about second thoughts.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Remember the Rat Cellar

In the ancient times of the 1970's, when I was a student at UMass, the most popular place for students to go drink (besides your dorm) was a place called The Drake. There is a bit of graffiti (above) related to the now defunct establishment which apparently no one has the heart to remove. I remember the place well, it was located in what is now an upscale apartment block.

The building is located by the Historical Society and almost across the street from that popular, if stuffy new hangout located in the old Amherst Cinema building, Amherst Coffee.

Don't put too much stock in me calling it stuffy, remember that my standards were set by the Pine Point Cafe, a place where at times no laws of God nor Man applied. It is on the side of the cinema building facing the parking lot that the Save the Drake graffiti can still be seen.

Yes, boys and girls, it is true - in the 1970's the drinking age in Massachusetts was eighteen! We actually had a soda machine in the front lobby of my dorm except instead of dispensing Coke and Pepsi it sold Bud and Miller. That meant that if you ran out of beer you could keep the party going from the vending machine. Except on Sundays, because the machine was always sold-out after Saturday night and wasn't refilled until Monday.

So on our beerless Sundays we would often go to the Drake, or more precisely, it's downstairs dive, The Rathskeller. The locals with money favored the Drake proper, but the Rathskeller was for boozy hippies like me and my roomies. It was great, Carl Mayfield's Martian Highway used to play there a lot and everyone smoked so much pot in the restrooms that newcomers could find the toilets just by following the smoke plume. This was a clientele that did not "Just Say NO."

In those days the answer was always yes.

It was years before I realized what the real name of the Rathskeller was. Here is the internet definition of what I believe is originally a German word:

A restaurant or tavern, usually below street level, that serves beer.

For a long time I thought the name was "Rat Cellar" as did most of my friends. It wasn't until we saw an article in the Hampshire Gazette about a drug bust in the joint that we realized its real name. It seemed strange to us - "Rat Cellar" may have been technically wrong but it was spiritually more accurate. The old entrance to the Rathskeller/Rat Cellar has been sealed off from the modern building, although you can still see a faint outline of it.

When the Drake/Rathskeller closed sometime in the 1980's there was a great outpouring of that old canard about it being "the end of an era" except in this case it was true. The closing represented the triumph of the new Amherst - Amherst as the academic Longmeadow. People with real serious money were moving into town, people who were fleeing Boston or who were the last remnants of Springfield's upper crust. The Drake/Rathskeller with its dirty hippies and wild times just didn't fit anymore. When it closed everyone knew that it meant that the flower-power era that had dominated Amherst throughout the 60's and 70's, making it the counterculture capital of Western Mass, was over. The local hippies either became yuppies and joined the new establishment or fled to rural sanctuaries in nearby towns like Pelham, Sunderland and Whately.

But in a town that is obsessed with cleanliness and appearances and otherwise acts with alacrity to remove graffiti everywhere else, after all these years no one in Amherst can quite bring themselves to scrub away that "Save the Drake" spray painted on that brick wall. That pleases me, because it means that on some level Amherst still remembers what it used to be.

Speaking of Pine Point, the infamous Mean Mary Jean sends along this classic postcard. (click to enlarge)

Can anyone date the cars well enough to put forth a guess of how old this is?

Finally, here is a video of me walking out in the field to meet some friends for a Celebration of the Solstice ceremony.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Kickoff

Tuesday I was in Springfield all day, starting in the morning with the Springfield Control Board meeting at City Hall (see previous post) and at night at the official kickoff rally for the Karen Powell for City Council campaign. In between I sort of shlepped around my old stomping grounds of ol' Pine Point, going to lunch at Tony's Pizza on Boston Road. There I ran into former City Councilor Barbara Garde. She said that she's been drinking heavily since she left office.

Just kidding. Actually she said she's enjoying life after politics very much.

After lunch I wandered across the street to visit Doyle the diabetic Twig Painter to see how he's doing (lousy) where he took this picture of me. Not bad aim for a blind guy.

At around 5:30 I headed over to the John Boyle O'Reilly Club, where my family rules and where the rally was to be held.

Greeting arrivals at the door was former City Councilor Carol Lewis-Caulton (left) and North End activist Germaine Kennedy.

Another former Springfield City Councilor on hand was Paul Sears.

Sears is best remembered for having cried out in warning that it was folly to build the New North Elementary School (now Gerena) on a sandy swamp by the riverfront. Millions of dollars later, time has proven Sears completely correct.

Also present was conservative bloger Bill Dusty (left) and activist Michael Gosselin.

Here City Councilor Timothy Rooke chats with former mayoral aide Michelle Webber.

Here's a picture of the candidate herself, surrounded on her right by her husband Bob Powell and on her left by current City Councilor Bud Williams and the Master of Ceremonies John O'Brien of the #1 ranked radio show Bax and O'Brien.

O'Brien's introductory remarks were hilarious. Explaining that he alters his name depending on the gig, he introduced himself as "John Boyle O'Brien." He then lashed into local politicians with acidic wit, telling the audience that City Councilor Bill Foley had intended to attend, but abruptly cancelled upon hearing that no TV cameras were present. State Representative Angelo Puppulo, who had stayed only briefly and then left, was declared by O'Brien to have departed because "he realized he'd already won an election and didn't need to stay." He even poked fun at me and fellow blogger Dusty, saying that we "lived our lives on computers" and therefore were as close to real live women as we ever get. Of course I never go in search of women, so the joke didn't really apply to me, but I took the ribbing in good humor and resisted an urge to shout out, "Stop, you're making my boyfriend jealous!"

The biggest laugh of the night was at the expense of State Representative Benjamin Swan, who was there as a Powell supporter.

O'Brien said that Swan had bought him a drink, but refused pay the taxes on it! The line, based on Swan's infamous controversies over unpaid taxes, made the audience howl with laughter, and to his credit Swan himself took it in good humor.

O'Brien suggested that Karen Powell make use as a spokesperson for her anti-crime commercials the individual who was shot and injured the other day in Springfield, a person who had also survived the Kennedy Fried Chicken shooting in January. O'Brien said the victim could be used in commerials to encourage people afraid of crime to move to the city with the slogan, "We may have lots of shootings in Springfield, but our aim is terrible!"

Referring to a biographical sketch of Powell on Dusty's website, O'Brien recounted how Karen and her husband had been the founders of the activist group that opposed a taxpayer financed needle exchange program in Springfield called CANE, for Citizens Against Needle Exchange. O'Brien joked that the needle exchange supporters were campaigning under the name Citizens Utilizing Needle Technology, which is getting a little bit raunchy considering the Mayor of Springfield was sitting just a few feet away. Everyone groaned, but with a smile on their face.

Before his talk reached the point that the vice squad would have to be called in, O'Brien surrendered the microphone to award-winning Springfield educator Melinda Pellerin-Duck, who gave a surprisingly fiery speech, openly denouncing those politicians who had passively allowed the widespread corruption of the Albano years to continue until the FBI was forced to step in. She was then followed by Mayor Charles V. Ryan, who gave an overview of his long political relationship with the Powells, including the infamous Simon for Mayor campaign. Here is a picture I took earlier in the evening of Mayor Ryan and his wife Joan with School Committee member Antonette Pepe.

At last the candidate herself spoke to a wildly cheering crowd.

I spoke to Mayor Ryan and asked him whether there were other reformers running for Council seats this year, and aside from GOP candidate John Lysak there don't seem to be many. Dom Sarno, who is giving up his seat to run against Ryan, appears to be creating the only vacancy. Widespread rumors that incumbent Rose Marie Mazza-Moriarty was stepping down appear to be unfounded. That only makes it even more important that voters rally with enthusiasm behind whatever challengers enter the field, especially behind a proven reformer like Karen Powell.

Here is a video survey of the room and a snippet of O'Brien's comments.

Hey, it's the first day of summer! The weather is just gorgeous, officially beginning summerlike activities already underway. On the Amherst town common recently a woman sits reading on the grass.

Some people prefer to read not on the grass but in the air, like this kid reading a comic book near Amherst College.

A baby rabbit appeared in my yard and sat as co-operative as a model while I photographed it.

Finally, here is the ultimate summer song.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Farewell Good Servants

Sup? I'm sorry for not posting yesterday, but I was in Springfield all day, starting in the morning with the last meeting of the "old" Financial Control Board and ending with the evening kick-off rally for Karen Powell's City Council campaign. The day kept getting more and more out of hand, as my days will, until this morning I woke up on Bill Dusty's couch in Springfield's South end.

The things I do to keep you informed.

Anyway, today we'll go over the Control Board meeting, and tomorrow I'll tell you about the Powell pow-wow. This was a special meeting of the Control Board, because it was the last one with the members appointed by former Governor Mitt Romney.

The meeting started with a public speak out, which was dominated by people from Sumner Avenue School who were angry that their principal was transferred.

It was a good presentation, but with an air of futility to it. The speakers seemed unaware that the members of the Board they were appealing to were essentially fired at the end of that meeting, to be replaced by the political appointees of Deval Patrick, and therefore unable to do anything for Sumner Avenue even if they wanted to.

Teacher's Union leader Timothy Collins, who has fought bitterly with the Board over the past two years, struck a conciliatory tone as the board members depart.

Despite their past battles, Collins showed he had class by giving the board a respectful farewell. He did manage to deliver a few thinly veiled zingers however, referring to how he had at one point been called "rapacious" (a fifty cent word meaning greed-crazed) and reminded them that the fiscal crisis had led to massive loss of teachers and administrators. Others in city government also addressed the board to thank them for their years of service, such as park department head Pat Sullivan.

Did you know that Pat Sullivan is the nephew of telephone answering machine editorialist Eamon T. O'Sullivan?

During the break between the end of the speak out and the beginning of the actual meeting, TV reporter Sy Becker chatted with the Sumner School protesters while School Superintendent Joseph Burke arrived.

Had the protesters stayed for the whole meeting, instead of departing right after the speak out, they would have heard Burke defend the transfer of the principal as necessary to the pursuit of educational excellence throughout the system.

With one foot out the door, there wasn't a hell of a lot for the board to do at its last meeting, but they did present a fascinating overview of the city's new budget. As they went over each aspect of it, it was made repeatedly apparent the tremendous strides the city has taken under the wise guidance of Mayor Ryan and the Control Board. Again, it only underlined how unfortunate it was to replace the dynamic talents of the board members, who apparently were replaced for no reason except hard, cold politics.

On the other hand, as activist Sheila McElwaine was impressing upon me, this is the beginning of a new era in Springfield's recovery, and while the old board did an outstanding job of fixing the basic underlying structure of Springfield government there is a new era beginning that requires new talent. In any case, it is premature to be critical of the new board, and they should be greeted with encouragement and support during the first phase of their tenure. I intend to make it to the first meeting of the new board, so as to do a compare and contrast of the new and old board based on my first impressions. All citizens should withhold judgement until the new members can be observed in action.

Everyone was delighted to see in the audience none other than original board member Tom Trimarco (right) who came by to see his former colleagues finish their gig.

The city indeed owes a great debt to the departing Control Board members, who did very difficult work on the public's behalf with sometimes little more than insults as their reward. They have indeed set a very high standard for the new board members to try to match.

Here is a video survey of the room.

In Westfield recently I saw this sign in a sportsman shop window.

Like all red-blooded Americans, I have an almost erotic fascination with weapons of all kinds.

I leave you with this saying I saw chalked on a blackboard in the Amherst Starbucks.