Monday, November 30, 2009

True Romance

Boys in Love

It's always assumed that young guys are cold, ruthless predators when it comes to sex. Some obviously are, but the majority are not, according to this study:

Boys and girls report similar feelings of "love" in a relationship, the authors note in an American Sociological Review article, and those feelings don't hinge on having sex. Beneath the bulletproof manner they affect, a lot of young males have hearts made of cotton candy.

In interviews, guys said things like, "Every time I was around her I couldn't talk, I was getting butterflies in my stomach," and "I wouldn't want to live without Jenny," and "I ain't never, like, felt that way about somebody." One boy recounting a breakup confessed, "I wrote her a letter, front and back, crying the whole time, and then I handed the letter to her the next morning." Another filled up 74 pages recounting his romantic history.

What do these boys value most about their girlfriends? Not their toned midriffs. The interviewers got such responses as, "It was like I could talk to her and she could talk to me," and "She always comforted me when I needed a hug."

To read the whole article click here.

Kiddie Tax Revolt Crushed

Reprinted from The Baystate Objectivist June 3, 2000:

The students in Springfield teacher Catherine Crowley's fifth grade class at Mary Walsh Elementary School in 16 Acres learned a hard lesson in politics last week as their efforts to eliminate the sales tax on children's books went down to defeat.

The children became angry over the sales tax after being unable to purchase books at the school book fair because they neglected to bring enough money to cover the tax. As a class project, the young tax resisters have been fighting to convince the state legislature to let kids purchase books tax-free.

Sadly, despite a valiant effort to promote the kid's legislation on the Senate floor by Republican Senator Brian Lees, legislators were spooked as usual by very sound of a tax cut and the proposal was shouted down by a voice vote.

At least the students learned a lot about how their state government works which they would have been unlikely to learn otherwise. Indeed, just as they learned about the evils of taxation, they also learned about the evils of having a legislature dominated by liberal Democrats.

Local Visions

Greg Saulmon has this pic of a man in red displayed in a photography show about Holyoke. I sometimes see this same guy in Northampton dressed all in purple.

Here's where to see more of Saulmon's work as well as pics of Holyoke by other Valley photogs:

Date: Thursday, December 3, 2009
Time: 6:00pm - 8:00pm
Location: Wistariahurst Museum
Street: 238 Cabot Street
City/Town: Holyoke, MA

Mark Alamad captured this stunner yesterday in North Adams.

This must be where the wee people dwell in Amherst.

I wonder what inspired someone to go to the trouble of taping up this message in Northampton?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Vonnegut at Smith

More Flashbacks

Okay people, I've been rummaging through the vaults again and have unearthed a few out of print gems that I'll be posting in the coming days. Let's start with this reprint from the May 22, 2001 edition of Tommy Devine's Online Journal:

Vonnegut Versus the Thought Police

In an article that originally appeared in the Boston Globe and later reprinted in the Springfield Republican, it is reported that best-selling author Kurt Vonnegut is leaving our Valley to return to live in New York City. For the past year he has been teaching at Smith College in Northampton and offending the politically correct types on campus with his irreverent ways. As reported in the Globe:

Vonnegut has always found a certain poetry in vulgarity, and his language hasn't been muted by the tacit taboos of the ivory tower.

And that has stirred a bit of discomfort at Smith. During his public lecture last fall, which he titled ''How to get a job like mine'' or ''A performance with chalk on blackboard,'' Vonnegut strayed into forbidden territory. After getting laughs mocking the National Rifle Association and drubbing the Internet, the legendary technophobe told a self-effacing story about how he lusts for an Indian woman who works at a Manhattan grocery store and wonders whether, like dentures, she puts the jewel she wears between her eyes in a glass of water at night.

More than a few students gasped. The mix of laughter and shock sparked a staff editorial in the student newspaper headlined ''Deify Celebs Much, Smith?'' ''Why did offended audience members feel compelled to tolerate Kurt Vonnegut saying such things, however the statements were intended, when they would have walked out on anyone else who uttered the same things?'' the paper fumed, adding: ''How many of you read your first Vonnegut book in August?''

Smith's writer-in-residence laughed when asked about the tizzy his comments caused. Then he got serious. ''I'll say whatever I want; that's the price of my freedom,'' Vonnegut says. ''If it hurts someone's feelings, too bad! That's the way it goes.''

It isn't just students who have grown uneasy with the novelist's impolitic anecdotes. When he showed up in an old sweater with holes in the elbows to lecture in Elliot Fratkin's anthropology class, the professor remembers squirming a bit when Vonnegut said beauty is everywhere, including ''a young coed leaning over to grab a book.''

''A lot of us just looked down on the ground and wondered, `Where is he going?''' he says. ''At Smith, it's not especially popular to talk about the beauty of the opposite sex.''

Vonnegut has made more of his time at Smith than stirring up trouble. Over the past year, the author has read poems and told jokes at local cafes, scatted as the lead vocalist of a band he called ''Special K and His Crew'' in the city's annual talent show, exhibited what he calls his ''new-cubist'' artwork at a local gallery, and helped a local bar brew a beer his grandfather made more than a century ago.

So what does Vonnegut have planned for his post-Valley life? For one thing, he intends ot file a lawsuit against the tobacco companies, but not for the usual reasons. A heavy smoker even in his late seventies, Vonnegut wants to sue Big Tobacco for not living up to the health warnings printed on every pack. "They promised to kill me on the package," he complains, "and they haven't done it yet." He's also working on a new book, despite a promise he made when he turned 75 to write no more. Instead he soon realized he would "crack-up" psychologically if he stopped writing.

Many of his friends and family are now dead - and that has deeply affected him. But there is a more honest reason why Vonnegut is writing another book: He can't stop writing. If he did, it might really kill him.

''Writers are very lucky. They can treat their neuroses every day,'' he says. ''When writers crack up, when they really end up in the nut house, is when they can't do it anymore. The treatment stops.''

It was nice of the Boston Globe to send a reporter out here to the hinterlands to record such witticisms from Vonnegut before he departed our Valley. What's strange is that no local print, television or radio media ever reported on his political correctness troubles on campus while he was here. Once again we had to rely on media from outside our Valley to tell us what was happening in our own backyard.


The stunning revelations that the top scientists and most respected "experts" in the global warming debate plotted to exaggerate the data supporting global warming in what some are calling "the worst scientific scandal of our generation," draws into doubt the necessity of even having the climate summit in Copenhagen next week, says Lorrie Goldstein of the Toronto Sun:

If you’re wondering how the robot-like march of the world’s politicians towards Copenhagen can possibly continue in the face of the scientific scandal dubbed “climategate,” it’s because Big Government, Big Business and Big Green don’t give a s*** about “the science.” They never have.

What “climategate” suggests is many of the world’s leading climate scientists didn’t either. Apparently they stifled their own doubts about recent global cooling not explained by their computer models, manipulated data, plotted ways to avoid releasing it under freedom of information laws and attacked fellow scientists and scientific journals for publishing even peer-reviewed literature of which they did not approve.

Now they and their media shills—who sneered that all who questioned their phony “consensus” were despicable “deniers,” the moral equivalent of those who deny the Holocaust—are the ones in denial about the enormity of the scandal enveloping them.

To read the whole article click here.

Animal Friends

Me and Tippy

Me and Copper.

Today's Video

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

True Education

The Kind You Never Forget

I like this David Brooks piece in the New York Times about the too little appreciated importance of what we learn about life through art. I could write a similar piece about the Grateful Dead.

Like many of you, I went to elementary school, high school and college. I took such and such classes, earned such and such grades, and amassed such and such degrees.

But on the night of Feb. 2, 1975, I turned on WMMR in Philadelphia and became mesmerized by a concert the radio station was broadcasting. The concert was by a group I’d never heard of — Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Thus began a part of my second education.

We don’t usually think of this second education. For reasons having to do with the peculiarities of our civilization, we pay a great deal of attention to our scholastic educations, which are formal and supervised, and we devote much less public thought to our emotional educations, which are unsupervised and haphazard. This is odd, since our emotional educations are much more important to our long-term happiness and the quality of our lives.

To read the whole article click here.

Doctor's Orders

There was an article this week in the Worcester Transcript-Telegram on Richie Neal challenger Dr. Jay Fleitman. Here's the Doctor's prescription on healthcare:

“There’s nothing worse for someone’s health than to be out of work and have anxiety about paying rent,” said Dr. Fleitman. “Our deficit spending has been enormous; it has put our economy in the hole, taxes have gone up and all that has put a wet blanket on business and economy.”

Dr. Fleitman said the current push for a public option in health care reform debate is a “Trojan horse.”

“It is a Trojan horse upon which we are building a government-run health care program where the government runs the decisions that should be left between individuals and their physicians.”

To read the whole article click here.

Holiday Pics

Cool table in Rao's in Amherst.

A sure sign of winter is the abandoned courtyard of Amherst's The Pub.

This work of "art" at UMass may be all rusty, but at least it makes a good bike rack.

For some reason the Fine Arts Center at UMass is particularly prone to graffiti. It must be that huge expanse of naked poured concrete. What does this stencil mean? It looks German to me.

The credibility of this political graffiti is undermined by the presence of Urkel.

My sister Donna and niece Emily.

Pumpkin centerpiece on my friend's porch in Northampton.

Window replacement project underway at the Forbes Library.

Jerry Garcia t-shirt and reflection in a Hamp storefront.

Words of wisdom on Green Street.

Today's Video

Psychedelic folk.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Beatnik Comics

Mostly Disappointing.

With fewer and fewer people reading books these days, it is no surprise that a lot of literary stuff is being made available in comic book form. When the popular artists Harvey Pekar, Ed Piskor and others united to do a collection of comics based on the lives of the writers of the so-called "Beat Generation" that sounded like a great idea.

However now that the results have been released by the publication of the hardcover comic anthology The Beats: A Graphic History , unfortunately the quality is very mixed. While the writing accompanying the comics is first-rate and supportive of the idea that the Beats were major figures in American and World Literature, the pictures that go along with the text are often ugly and inappropriate.

The chief appeal of Beat Literature is in it's celebration of life, Jack Kerouac in particular had a gift for seeing the excitement and adventure in life even in the face of unhappy and even sordid circumstances. These drawsings capture all of the sordidness, but too little of the love of life. It's hard to believe it could be done, but even Neal Cassady, the most intensely passionate of the Beat adventurers, is made to look neurotic and depressed.

Kerouac is portrayed as a pathetic drunk.

Nearly all of the figures from the Beat scene come across as depressing lowlifes.

Of coures the truth is that they WERE lowlifes in some ways. But that was the point, that despite their "beatness" they still celebrated the ability to get the most out of life even while living on the edges of society. It is this enthusiam for life and love of existence for its own sake that was at the core of their appeal. Stripped of that quality by these gloomy comic images, anyone who had never read any of their books might well be left wondering by these comics what the appeal of the Beats was in the first place.

Despite this major flaw, there are some important areas where these comics make meaningful contributions. The section of the book called The Beats: Perspectives has some great material giving long overdue credit to some of the so-called minor figures of the scene, such as Robert Creeley, Kenneth Patchen and Dianne di Prima. There are a few who are overlooked, such as Jack Micheline, but in general these comics are important additions to our understanding of the scene as a whole.

The best of the beat perspectives is a cartoon written by Joyce Brabner and drawn by Summer McClinton called Beatnik Chicks. This cartoon explores the less than admirable way the male beatniks treated the women in their lives. Whatever their literary virtues, from a feminist perspective the male Beats were sometimes real bastards, as shown below in this devastating critique of poet Leroi Jones and his marriage.

Even the sainted Cassady is denounced by Brabner as "a sociopath, dangerous to know and hurtful." Some of Brabner's criticism is unfair, since you can't really hold people of the past to the standards of later times. Sadly, despite their celebration of freedom, the men of the Beat Generation were all too typical of many of the men of that era in being exploitive and even cruel to the women in their lives. While we might wish that they had been more enlightened in their behavior and attitude towards women, to condemn them for being like most men of the 1940's and 50's is like saying that we wish people of the 1800's had been more enlightened about child labor. It's just not reasonable to expect those in the past to have lived by social standards that simply didn't exist at the time.

Overall I would judge this book as worth reading, if only for the fresh critiques it offers of the Beat era and the appreciation it shows for some of the lesser known figures. But in the area in which it should be most effective - the artwork - it is mostly disappointing.

Ziff Scenes

Here's some cool pics from ace Valley photographer Jeff Ziff.

The scene outside the Haymarket in Northampton.

Holyoke street scene.

Bunch of guys making a scene at the Mt. Carmel celebration in Springfield.

Sumner Avenue in Springfield.

Railroad tracks in ol' Pine Point by Five Mile Pond. As a boy I once came upon the skeleton of a dead dog on these tracks.

Hell of a hood in Agawam.

Entertainment scene in downtown Springfield.

Classical Condominiums in Springfield.

Holyoke Police Chief Anthony Scott.

Porter with pregnant girlfriend in Brimfield, Ma.

Statues atop the Barney Mauseleum in Springfield's Forest Park.

Today's Video

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Happy Thanksgiving!

The lights looked really nice in Northampton last night.

Today was the community Thanksgiving dinner put on by the Amherst Survival Center at the Lutheran Church.

The yard of the partyhouse next door to the church looked like things might have been rockin' last night.

Cool decal on a car in the church parking lot.

There was plenty of food for all.

Here's the turkey - I mean being served behind me!

I'm likely to overdose on turkey during the next two days, since I'm going to three separate dinners! Well, that's a problem of plenty, and when I catch myself bitchin' about the problems that come from having too much, I remind myself of the times when I had too little.

Have a Hot Holiday!!

I think hip people
leave small ghosts behind,
haunting winter ballparks
and locked bars,
that phantoms of oldtime stoners
move between the shadows;
but no phantom follows
where a square has gone.