Saturday, February 28, 2009

Sunderland Secret

Riverside Cemetery

Hey folks, not much time to blog today but I wanted to show you this place I found today in Sunderland. It's the Riverside Cemetery and the earliest graves date back to 1714.

The road leading to it is obscure and not always safe. That's Mount Sugarloaf looming in the background.

The cemetery itself was a glassy sheet of ice, making it impossible to really explore as much as I wanted to.

However, I did manage to get over to the back where the cemetery looks out over the mighty Connecticut River. This is a view of the river impossible to see in warmer weather because of all the leaves.

The combination of this gnarled tree and faded tombstone make this a scene right out of Stephen King novel.

I won't tell you the exact location of Riverside cemetery, lest too many flock to it, but those who know the hilltowns will recognise how to get there from my photos.

Obama vs. Jindal in 2012?

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal's TV response after President Obama's speech Tuesday so upset some Democrats that they forgot their political correctness and stooped to making fun of his accent. But President Obama seems to regard Jindel as his likely 2012 opponent according to Yahoo:

As far as the current Oval Office occupant is concerned, Obama thinks Jindal's spoiling for a contest. During his Monday press conference following the meeting with governors, the president chided stimulus package naysayers for politics as usual and "looked at" Jindal when he said, "There's going to be ample time for campaigns down the road."

Whatever their differences, Obama and Jindall have this in common - both have foreign sounding birth names that they tried to disguise. Barack used to go by the name of "Barry" and Jindall, born with the name Piyush, demanded at the age of four to be called Bobby after the Brady Bunch character (above) of the same name.

Fine Art

Wow, I can't believe the jean shorts in this photo are painted on! (click to enlarge)

Now that's what I call inspiring art!

Believe nothing because a wise person said it.
Believe nothing because it is generally held.
Believe nothing because it is written.
Believe nothing because it is said to be divine.
Believe nothing because someone else believes it.
But believe only what you yourself judge to be true.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Going Up!

And a Hospital Visit

I'm sorry to see that the Springfield Newspapers have raised their prices. It's not that I don't want to pay the small increases, it's just that the whole notion of price increases in the newspaper business seems self-destructive. At a time when the main competition to print media is online content available for free, newspapers should be moving toward making themselves also available for no cost. The Springfield Newspapers, to both preserve and grow their brand name, should decide on an affordable amount of copies they can publish and give away at carefully chosen location like coffeeshops or other spots where people want free reading material. Then they need to put everything they've got into their online presence on

The most important thing they need to do is to educate their advertisers about the total superiority of online ads over print ones. Print ads are very much hit or miss. In order to reach the minority of readers who are interested in what you're selling you have to pay for ads in every single copy of the paper. So to reach five thousand potential customers you have to pay for 100,000 ads, or whatever the publication's circulation is. In other words, 95% of your print ads are not seen, or the customers are not interested in them, yet you must pay full price for this extremely inefficient and ineffective way of communicating with your customers.

Online ads however, are only seen by those who are interested in topics relating to your product. What Adsense, for example, does is use its search technology to match ads with article related to the product. So if you are selling fishing poles, your ads appear only next to fishing related articles. No more wasting your advertising dollars on print ads that go to people that don't even fish! Instead of the ineffective scattershot method of print advertising, online ads zero in like a laser beam on exactly the customers you want to reach.

As if this was not fantastic enough, online advertising is superior to print in many other ways. For one thing its cheaper, and in color at no extra charge. You also get stats with it that let you know where people are coming from when they see your ads, and how long they spend reading them. This priceless information is just the gravy that comes along when you stop wasting your money advertising in print and move online where the real value per buck is found.

However the newspaper industry, in its typical suicidal fashion, has always downplayed the superiority of online advertising because they have printing presses to protect. They treated online ads as a minor sideline, often throwing in online ads for free with print ad purchases like it was just a novel frill to the real purchase. Now they complain that online ads won't pay the bills, but that's their own fault if they won't educate their customers on why online ads are better than print in every way.

Of course it's tough to do that when you've just made a major investment, as the Springfield Newspapers did in their clueless past, to buy a super expensive state of the art press. What a drag it must be to have made that kind of outlay just as the bottom was falling out of the printing industry! But at least the Springfield Newspapers have a credible online presence in their above average online offshoot There they at least have the sense to give the content of their paper away for free, unlike the dinosaurs at The Daily Hampshire Gazette who charge $99 dollars a year for online access. The Gazette too bought a fancy new press just as print circulation began to nosedive, but they also make the terrible mistake of charging for their online content, which is something the Springfield Newspapers were never foolish enough to try. As the always insightful Jeff Jarvis explains:

First, as soon as knowledge is known, it’s a commodity—and not a scarce one that can be controlled. Second, there is no end of competition online. As countless publishers have observed about their nemesis, Craigslist, it’s impossible to compete with free.

Charging for content reduces audience, which in turn reduces advertising revenue. And putting a wall around content keeps it out of the conversation and devalues brands (this is why New York Times columnists were said to hate their paper’s aborted effort to charge pennies for their thoughts).

But here’s the killer: When content is hidden, it cannot be found via search (not to mention bloggers’ and aggregators’ links). In a link and search economy, content gains value only through these recommendations; an article without links has no readers and thus no value. The real cost of charging for content—and it’s a cost born by the content owner—is a loss of Googlejuice.

In the complete P&L of news online, keep in mind as well that costs decline when a newspaper need no longer be all things to all people (it can, in the words of my favorite PowerPoint line, specialize: “Do what it does best and link to the rest”). Costs also fall when the paper can jettison the expense of printing and distributing its words.

It is this complete business model that we should be focusing on as we try to bring news into its next generation, not desperate efforts to shoehorn old models into a new world.

In other words, it's time for both The Republican and The Gazette to write off the new presses as a business loss, redefine themselves as totally free online products that also print a small number of free print copies primarily for promotional purposes, and educate their print ad buyers that they need to start transferring their spending online.

Of course the local mainstream media never listens to what I say, even though I was always ahead of the curve and never gave them any advice that was proven wrong. Yet they accuse me of being egotistical for daring to offer them suggestions. Well, there's ego involved, but it ain't mine, and the only place their false pride will get them is in bankruptcy court and on the unemployment line.

Oh Mercy!

Another industry that is facing extinction if it doesn't lower its cost is the post office. Soon we'll be paying all our bills online and email has already killed the personal letter market. Let's face it, hiring someone to walk around on foot hand delivering you pieces of paper is a badly outdated information distribution system that is soon to be extinct. Yesterday I was in Springfield at the downtown post office where this banner hangs showing a 2002 stamp honoring Massachusetts. It also shows how quickly stamp prices are rising to help kill this antique institution, since the more expensive non-electronic mail becomes, the less of it will end up being sent creating an economically fatal downward spiral.

I also visited Mercy Hospital, where my sister was getting an x-ray. Here is the old hospital building, which is now used for offices.

This is the modern hospital complex.

While waiting for my sister I visited this snackbar.

What did people do in waiting rooms before there were laptops?

Mercy is owned by the Catholic church, and is filled with religious icons like the one below, which looks old enough to have been in the original building. Notice how one hand is broken off. Dropped by a careless nun?
(click to enlarge)

Afterwards we went to Main Street's Red Rose for some of their award winning pizza.

Who says there are no good restaurants left in downtown Springfield?

Today's Video

Deep in the woods of Leverett, weird musical shit goes on.

Monday, February 23, 2009

My Day

In Springfield.

I couldn't help but admire the colorful pastries in Northampton's Haymarket Cafe this morning. But I didn't buy any lest I have a sugar overdose.

I caught the bus from Northampton to Holyoke, then had to change at this bus stop to the express to Springfield, a bus filled with students, old ladies chattering in Spanish and junkies with their shuck and jive.

Finally I arrived at the Springfield Peter Pan bus station, which as usual was a freakin' zoo.

Truckin' up Main Street I stopped at Jake's for lunch. He has all these fishing trophies on display.

Once upon a time downtown Springfield was full of little diners like Jake's. Now hundreds of millions of dollars of government "revitalization" spending later, Jake's is pretty much the only one left. With the money from the Obama stimulus bill, maybe the politicians can finally kill downtown Springfield for good.

After lunch I caught the STATE-BOSTON ROAD bus to my beloved Pine Point.

During the 1970's my Dad worked as a bartender at this joint back when it was called The Black Stallion. Today it is a bar patronized primarily by politicians.

Walking into Saint Michael's Cemetery, I was reminded of why I will be spending eternity in hell along with all my childhood friends who used to call this statue "The Holy Blow Job."

I went to my father's grave, which is located not far from Kimberly, the girl who tried and failed to fuck me straight.

Nearby Jay Libardi is chillin under the snow.

I planned to visit Doyle the Twig Painter in downtown Pine Point.

However, I was dismayed to discover that he was brought to the hospital suffering from pnemonia. Hope he recovers quickly!

Last spring I showed you the ruined condition of this house.

Now it is a parking lot with only one car in it in the middle of a business day.

On the way back home I took this picture of the mighty Connecticut through the bus window while crossing the bridge into West Springfield.

On the last leg of my journey I ran into the arts writer Andrea Murray. I took her picture.

Then she took mine.

In all a fun and fruitful day.

Worth a Thousand Words

Today's Video

If you don't have a recording studio, sometimes you just have to make your video in the room with the best accoustics, even if that happens to be the bathroom. The results are well worth it on this heartfelt cover of a classic Hot Tuna tune.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Buffett's Book

Just what you'd expect.

People sometimes ask me whether I'm a "Parrothead." No, I'm not so ugly (yet) that people mistake me for a talking bird, what they mean is am I a fan of Jimmy Buffett? Well, Buffett's range is such that nearly everyone has a song by him they like, but I think the real reason I get asked that question is because I'm a Grateful Dead fan, and to some people the scenes are similar.

To some extent they are. Both Buffett and the Dead had long careers and big party scenes surrounding them. But I'm not sure how much further the comparisons go. For one thing there's difference in style. Deadheads are partying anti-establishment bohemians, while the Parrotheads are mostly establishment types who party on the side. For one it's a lifestyle, for the other it's only a vacation, and you can see the difference.

Here are some typical Parrotheads.

Here are some typical Deadheads.

The Parrotheads look like guys who when not attending Jimmy Buffett shows are working in offices. If the Deadheads showed up in anyone's office security would be called. The Parrotheads are a pure party scene, with no other significance beyond having fun. The Grateful Dead had a much wider cultural and sociological influence that had a measurable effect on society beyond just the world of music.

Unless of course you consider Jimmy Buffett's books. Books? The Parrothead scene seems as literary as Gilligan's Island, but the fact is the Parrothead-in-Chief is a bestselling author. And in the highest league of writers, according to the Wikipedia:

Buffett has written three No. 1 best sellers. Tales from Margaritaville and Where Is Joe Merchant? both spent over seven months on the New York Times Best Seller fiction list. His book A Pirate Looks At Fifty went straight to No. 1 on the New York Times Bestseller non-fiction list, making him one of seven authors in that list's history to have reached No. 1 on both the fiction and non-fiction lists. The other six authors who have accomplished this are Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, William Styron, Irving Wallace, Dr. Seuss and Mitch Albom.

Hemingway? Steinbeck? Dr. Seuss? That's pretty heady company, so I naturally just had to read Buffett's first book Tales of Margaritaville when someone offered me a copy recently. I did so even though I couldn't care less whether I ever hear the song Margaritaville again in my life. In fact, I'd prefer not to, having liked the song just like everyone else when it first came out, but I'm now sick to death of it after hearing it played millions of times on every FM station in the universe.

My verdict on the literary Buffett? Not bad. Shakespeare's reputation is safe, but Buffett is still a better writer than you'd have any right to expect. The same likeable, fun-loving personality that comes across in his music is also on display in his writing. Buffett even aspires to be a bit philosopical, using one story to list his personal belief system, to which I add my own remarks:

Lesson One: Never forget - they are the enemy.

Buffett defines "they" as anyone standing in the way of your dreams - or maybe just your next drink.

Lesson Two: Just remember, assholes are born that way, and they don't usually change.

Truer words were never said.

Lesson Three: You do not want to go to jail.

I have learned that lesson well.

Lesson Four: When you start to take this job seriously, you're in trouble.

I have never broken this rule.

Lesson Five: It takes no more time to see the good side of life than it takes to see the bad.

I strive to remember that everyday.

Lesson Six: If you decide to run with the ball, just count on fumbling and getting the shit knocked out of you a lot, but never forget how much fun it is just to be able to run with the ball.

I'm clutching the ball with both my hands and running as fast as I can.

There are small disappointments. The plots of the short stories are sometimes contrived, and there's surprisingly little sex, but on the whole this is exactly what it intends to be - a light hearted, inspirational read, geared particularly towards the sort of person who would never read a book if it didn't have Jimmy Buffett on the cover.

Buyer's Remorse

The bank in the background of this picture taken on King Street in Northampton used to be a convenience store/gas station where I worked in 1980.

What inspired me to take this picture however was the impeachment bumpersticker. Wow, someone calling already for the impeachment of President Obama! Um, actually I think that bumpersticker was meant to refer to the former president. So why didn't the car owner remove the sticker when the person they wanted impeached left office? I suspect a number of Democrats are already nostalgic for the days when they could blame everything on George Bush. And I predict that as the aftermath of Obama's bailouts become clear, their nostalgia for the days when Democrats didn't have to take responsibility for what happened will only increase.

In Hamp

Last night at the TD Northbank in downtown Northampton I photographed this painting. I recognize Northampton City Hall on the right, but I'm not sure what I'm looking at on the left half. The old Rahar's building?
(click to enlarge)

At first I thought it was just a commerical painting, but then I saw it had a name and a date.

Wow, that painting is 56 years old!

Later we walked over to Sam's where Luke Arivel was giving a viola concert.

Today on Strong Street in Amherst I photographed this view of the Holyoke Range.

Today's Video

We've all been here.

That Autumn Feeling from Efehan on Vimeo.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Nobody Read It

The disaster's in the details.

You didn't have to read every word of the recent so-called stimulus bill to know it was bad legislation. But one would at least have hoped that the people voting on the bill would have read it through at least once before making their decision on whether to support it. However, such hopes are in vain, according to Liberator Online:

The massive $787 billion 2009 "stimulus" bill -- possibly the largest spending bill in U.S. history -- was received by all Congressional members at 11 p.m. Thursday evening, February 12.

The gigantic bill was 1,073 pages long, with an additional 421 page Explanatory Statement. Further, portions of the bill consisted of hand-written last-minute insertions.
As the small-government lobbying group Downsize DC notes, the bill is filled with:

* Hand-written copy-editing;
* Insertions scrawled in the margins;
* Typographical deletions of whole paragraphs;
* And "a variety of curious hash marks and other annotations."

Yet a mere 15 hours later, around 4 pm, the U.S. House passed it -- appropriately enough, on Friday 13th.

The Senate passed it just 3 hours and 5 minutes later.

Yes, that's right. Congress passed this complex, far-reaching, revolutionary bill in a matter of hours, without taking enough time to even learn what was in it, let alone read it, or even read most of it.

The conservative Heritage Foundation declared: "[N]ever have we seen a bill more cloaked in secrecy or more withdrawn from open public exposure and honest debate."

This happened despite:

* President Obama's repeated campaign promises of transparency in government, including a pledge not to sign bills that aren't posted online for the public to read for at least five days before the final vote is cast.

* Speaker Nancy Pelosi's promise that the final version of the stimulus bill would be posted online for at least 48 hours before the vote.

Somehow we've got to find a way to bring this madness to a stop!

The Vanished Past

A person you wish you knew, but who is far too good for you, sent me this picture of children on the playground of The World Famous Thomas M. Balliet Elementary School, along with the following note:
(click photo to enlarge)

My mom found this old photo. I'm pretty sure my brother David had it all these years. It was taken on June 19th, 1964 and is of Mr. Johnson's 6th grade class. As I recall, Mr. Johnson was in Room 12 and preceded Mr. Goodermote. He was much nicer too. At any rate, my brother David was the happy looking kid in the third row, on the the left, who is looking towards your house. My next door neighbor Janice Trombley is the girl in the back row, on the far right. The girl who is 3rd from the right in the back row is Theresa McGuire. The guy in the front row on the far right is Ricky Montagna, who lived at 63 Seymour. I wonder if this photo would embarrass the living crap out of him. I hope so. The girl in the last row with the white skirt looks familiar, but I'm clueless as to who she is. Despite the lack of enthusiasm of most of the subjects, I'm happy that David was thrilled to pieces on that particular day.

45 years ago.

Imagine that.

Today's Video

Justin Kreutzman, son of Bill the Drummer, is a respected avant-garde filmmaker. Here's a little something he made about Dad and his band.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

My Morning

The wet snow last night left the woodland way I take downtown a stroll of transcendant beauty.

Still, I can't wait for spring to come so it will be safe to step off the path and take a walk by the old creek.

This overpass along the woodland way has words of wisdom scrawled in green day-glo.

When I reached State Street I noticed for the first time that this house has a painting hanging on the porch.

However, it was obvious that the painting was not of the house it was hanging on.

What was it a picture of? Ah ha! Looking across the street I saw that the painting was of the view from the porch itself.

Of all the beautiful houses on State street that plain house struck me as an odd artistic choice, but what the muse commands the artist must obey.

Finally I arrived at the Northampton homeless shelter, where me and my friend Injun Jeff cooked pancakes for the street people.

Blueberry pancakes no less, so nice and fluffy white they were the finest in Hamp, or so we said.