Saturday, May 29, 2010

Tea Party Snubbed

Tea Party protesters in Springfield in April.

A local organization closely identified with the so-called "Tea Party" movement has been turned down by all the candidates but one in a forum intended to educate the public about the state representative race in the West Springfield/Chicopee area. According to the following press release:

Rep. Don Humason and candidate Vogel.

State Representative Candidate Dean Vogel will be the sole candidate to participate in a forum hosted by the Chicopee area group of the Western Mass 912 Project.

Vogel is one of three qualified candidates vying for a vacant seat in the 6th Hampden District, which includes all of West Springfield, and parts of Chicopee and Springfield. The Candidates’ Forum will take place June 3 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the new Chicopee Public Library on 449 Front Street. It is a non-partisan event that is free and open to the public.

According to Barbara Perez, event coordinator and area facilitator of the Chicopee group, the forum is designed to educate the public about important issues, and to learn about the candidates so we are better informed when we go to the polls to vote.

According to Perez, members of the group are pleased that Vogel agreed to attend the forum. Formal invitations and calls went out to all the candidates, she said. But the other Republican, Greg Neffinger, and the Democrat, Michael Finn, declined to attend.

“Dean will have ‘the floor’ all to himself,” Perez said. He will have the opportunity to define himself and the campaign in contrast to the other candidates.”

Congratulations to Vogel for having the courage and integrity to meet with all of his potential constituents in order to appraise their views, and shame on the cowardly Neffinger and Finn for not doing the same.

Meanwhile, the Northampton Democrats were doing grassroots outreach this morning downtown.

The weather was gorgeous as I crossed the Calvin Coolidge bridge yesterday on the bus.

The other night however a violent storm passed through the Valley, causing this tree to fall and block the woodland way into downtown Northampton.

Of course being an intrepid traveler I found a way around the tree through the woods. However, there was no way for cars to get around this fallen tree on Calvin Terrace.

On the UMass campus a tree in front of Herter Hall was knocked over.

Even the grass was torn up.

The national situation ain't so good either.

Jorma was in Northampton last weekend. Here is his diary entry.

Sunday, May 16, 2010 Northampton, Massachusetts

Alrighty then... Quite the hectic day today with non-stop traffic from Wilmington, Delaware almost to the the Northampton exit. Once at the iron Horse, we rushed through sound check, ate and hit the stage. Here is our set list:

The Iron Horse
Northampton, Massachusetts
Sunday, May 16, 2010

First Set:
1. Been So Long
2. There’s A Bright Side Somewhere
3. Prohibition Blues
4. Izze’s Lullaby
5. I Belong To The Band
6. Uncle Sam Blues
7. Sea Child
8. Full Go Round
9. I Know You Rider

Second Set:

1. Serpent Of Dreams
2. The Terrible Operation
3. Trouble In Mind
4. Things That Might Have Been
5. 99 Year Blues
6. River Of Time
7. More Than My Old Guitar
8. Good Shepherd
9. Genesis
10. Nine Pound Hammer
11. Encore: Come Back Baby

Here's an old video of Jorma in one of his last performances with the late Papa John Creach.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Radio Revolt

Valley leftist crusader Bill Dwight (above) is back in business, or in the pod to be precise. He is now creating podcasts at various intervals as the latest evolution of The Bill Dwight Show after he and producer Jaz Tupelo ended up no longer employed by local radio station WHMP. What happened? According to the program's Facebook page:

Bill was told by Chris Collins, the station's program director, that Michael Kusek, an area publicist, was no longer allowed on the show because one of the businesses he represented was no longer airing ads with the station's FM affiliate, 96.9 The River.

Shortly after, Dwight said he was told by Sean O'Mealy, the station's general manager, that "either Michael is off the show or 'The Bill Dwight Show' is finished." WHMP maintains Bill's decision to leave was voluntary. However, one indicator that this was not truly voluntary, his fine producer, Jaz Tupelo, has been fired as well.

Not surprisingly WHMP has a different perspective on what went down, as they explained in the following statement:

Like any other business, we set up some rules that we think are important for our employees to follow. We try very hard not to be too bureaucratic especially in an entertainment based business in which creativity is valued. We have many long-time employees who have carved out their own identity following some simple guidelines. For his own reasons Bill became uncomfortable with those guidelines and chose to leave WHMP. He was not asked to leave and in fact, we were not expecting for this to be significant issue - it certainly hasn’t been for our other staff members.

More details surfaced in a message Chris Collins (above) wrote to Dwight fan Susan Apgar:

Bill wanted complete autonomy to book his own guests on the show. That autonomy doesn't exist in our company, and pretty much every other radio company in the world, if the truth be told. Bill was not willing to adhere to our mandate regarding editorial control, and there was NO WAY we were going to cede that control to anyone, least of all a part-time host, popularity notwithstanding.

You should also know that I did cut Bill a wide berth during his tenure, and allowed him to book a wide range and variety of guests, yourself included, and 99.9 percent of the time, I had no problem with the people he had in. This time, I did have a problem, and that's what led to this impasse, and his eventual departure.

You can feel free to classify us as the "bad guys" if you choose, but I have a sneaking suspicion that anyone who has had a boss or has been a boss is going to very much understand and appreciate our position.

The bottom line is, in the "real world," even in radio, you don't get to have everything your way, and, at the end of the day, that's what this was really all about.

The switch to a podcast will give Dwight all the creative control he wants, but also has certain drawbacks. Eventually all of what we now call "radio" will be some form of podcast, but that day ain't now. Traditional broadcast radio still has the advantage of being freely available over the air to nearly all the population, while podcasts still have a limited, tech-savvy audience that makes it hard to draw the numbers necessary to sell advertising. Soon that won't be a barrier, when digital becomes the only medium, but at present most successful podcasts are primarily supplements to programs that are also available on the airwaves. That doesn't mean Dwight can't succeed, but it does mean he has to show persistence, patience and a knack for economics not common among liberals.

Having knocked around the Valley radio scene myself, I wrote on Dwight's Facebook page the following appraisal of the radio profession:

As the former host of several versions of The Tommy Devine Show I can testify that radio is a ruthless, bullshit business where you can find yourself off the air at any time and for any reason or for no reason at all. The pay generally sucks, the management is reptilian and the gratitude level is zero, but if you fall in love with the medium you'll put up with it.

Personally I like Bill Dwight, WHMP, Jaz Tupelo, The River, Chris Collins and everybody else involved, and I'm sure I speak for many fans when I say that I just wish all this drama would go away.

Artist/designer Jon Sendelbach recently completed a beautiful metal townscape of Amherst for display in Raos Coffeeshop.

Pretty neat, eh? It shows from the right, Grace Church(on the Amherst Common), the Octagon (Amherst College), Amherst Town Hall, Johnson Chapel (Amherst College), Old Chapel (UMass) and Emily Dickinson's house.

Montague Bookmill by Greg Saulmon.

Locally harvested maple syrup at the Northampton Farmer's Market. Only 52 bucks a gallon!

Flowers in a mug at the Haymarket Cafe.

The first rays of the rising sun strike my neighbor's flag.

Grateful Dead bear shirt for sale in Hamp.

I like these little Smart cars, or "Smarties" as they're affectionately called.

Interesting paint job.

Outside now.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Down on Blogs

Some local politicians have managed to spark a political career for themselves by use of a blog. For example, Granby teacher Mark Bail had a popular blog that helped to propel him to a seat on the town selectboard. However, since he was elected his writing has all but stopped, with his most recent post being in April and the one before that in January.

Stephanie O'Keeffe of Amherst also launched her successful campaign for selectboard with a blog, which she stills keeps more or less up to date, although she has altered her writing to be a lot more dryly factual with a lot less of the gossipy style that first endeared her to the electorate. A blog she started specifically to deal with selectboard issues, was last updated in June of last year.

No doubt many of those voting for both those candidates did so with the assumption that they would continue to receive the same level of chatty insight from them about town affairs once in office that they did before the election. Perhaps Bail and O'Keeffe fully intended to do so as well, but if so, what changed their minds?

Politics is an insiders game, something every former outsider learns soon after the inauguration. Frankly, you tend not to be invited into the innermost circle of policy-making if your colleagues fear that you are going to blab everything that goes on among the politicians to the general public. For example Springfield School Committee member Antonette Pepe, although she never blogged, ran on a platform of greater openness and was never afraid to run to the media when she thought her fellow pols were up to mischief that the public needed to know about. As a result, she found herself not being informed when things were happening and not invited to any social events where members might gather and share inside information.

In the latest development in the politician's war against openness, Amherst blog-king Larry Kelley reports that the committee that runs the regional school system wants to know what restrictions can be legally placed on politician's blogs. Kelley explains:

So five local school committee chairs have officially requested in writing the District Attorney create guidelines about how and when a blog may or may not violate the Open Meeting Law--key word being "Open".

The irony simply abounds. The joint letter apparently was the idea of Shutesbury School Committee Chair Michael DeChiara, you know the guy who recently got the state legislature to pass a new law allowing towns to withdraw from school unions.

Shutesbury apparently had a beef with a shared Superintendent hiring a pricipal for only one year when most folks wanted them to get three. The issue caused Shutesbury to rethink Union 28 which shares the expenses of a Super between Leverett, Shutesbury, Erving, Wendell and New Salem.

So how is this any different than Amherst considering a withdrawal from Union 26 with Pelham where Amherst funds 94% of expenses and only has a 50% say in administration?

But back to the blogosphere. The issue of Amherst withdrawing from Union 26 has gone from obscure non-issue to raging controversy mainly because of the discussion on Catherine Sanderson's school committee blog.

The other School Committee chairs wonder if perhaps some Anons posting comments could be School Committee members thus potentially bringing together a quorum discussing something outside a posted public meeting.

Forgetting for a moment that a blog is public, these Chairs are not showing much faith in their fellow School Committee members if they honestly believe an elected public official would cowardly cower behind a cloak of anonymity.

The next question asks about the propriety of comment moderation where the blog owner could slant the discussion by nixing opposing comments. So it's the old "damned if she does, damned if she doesn't" routine?

What's a blogger to do? You can't allow Anon comments because it could be cowardly elected officials in disguise and you can't moderate comments because you could censor them. Hmm....

These phony concerns about blogging are really just a lot of hair-splitting blather designed to pervert the open-meeting law in order to use it as a club to beat into silence public officials who have the audacity to blog about what local officials are doing. God forbid that the public be as privy to what is going on as the political insiders. Actually there is really no reason for any official rules for blogging by politicians, because the simple standard is this: Any action that brings more information to the public about what the political class is doing is automatically GOOD. Any action that helps to obscure or hide information from the public is BAD. I don't think you need a law degree to tell the difference.

I have long believed that EVERY elected official should be required to keep a blog and to spend at least twenty minutes every day composing a post telling the public what they have done in the last twenty-four hours on the public's behalf. Any elected official that refuses to blog daily should be considered by the voters as violating the public trust. Indeed, a failure to blog should be considered sufficient grounds for removing that official from office in the next election.

An eerie silence has fallen over the University of Massachusetts with classes now over and the seniors graduated.

Here is a picture of the Old Chapel as it appeared in 1885.

Here it is this morning, one hundred and twenty five years later.

Some UMass students pull a prank on their roommate in this video. What is interesting is how in the conversation before the prank a student refers to "the crazy people that chill in Amherst."

What do they think is so crazy about Amherst? Maybe the students watch Amherst Cable TV.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

All About

Wow, who knew you could get so much knowledge for just 35 cents!

Just a few months ago the woodland way I walk into downtown looked like this.

Now it looks like a big green jungle.

Speaking of green, this dude has been sitting on the Amherst College campus for generations.

All that majestic sitting requires a little refreshment.

Poetic observation in downtown Northampton.

Weird image in a Hamp window.

Big blooming beauty near my house.

Things on my neighbor's porch: stones, pictures, flowers and a hand-woven basket.

I can't believe that J&J's packy in Springfield has gone out of business!

I used to live right by there on Dresden Street, in a scene where no law of God nor Man applied. Another Springfield fixture falling into ruin - Silvano's. It was a favorite of mobsters and corrupt politicians.

A Springfield police officer enters the headquarters.

The photo comes from this website run by someone who tracks and photographs local law enforcement. Check it out here.

A Smith graduate now living in New York City wrote a great blog post about the Rachel Maddow speech last weekend.

While walking towards the President's house to find my parents, I bump into guess who? Rachel Maddow. I quickly asked if I could take a photo with her, and nicer than any celeb she happily took a photo and congratulated me on my hard work and good luck with my future endeavors.

To read it all click here.

In the past Northampton was captivated by a woman with a different ideology.

30 Nov 1967, Northampton, Massachusetts, USA - Miss Julie Nixon, 18, a sophomore at Smith College, shows off her ring after announcing her engagement to David Eisenhower, 19. He is a sophomore at Amherst College.

The Immolators practicing in Easthampton.

“When you let people do whatever they want, you get Woodstock. When you let government do whatever they want, you get Auschwitz.” – Doug Newman

Monday, May 17, 2010

More Hampenings

They are having a big t-shirt sale at Faces in downtown Northampton this week.

Apparently the big fashion statement for the summer of 2010 is the Grateful Dead, as it has been in these parts since at least 1967.

I understand why the t-shirt below sells. What I don't understand is how they sell them in Massachusetts. Maybe they're a hit with the snobs that come up from New York City.

Muppethead graffiti in downtown Hamp.

Damon and I walked across the overpass on Main Street.

The view of downtown Northampton from the middle of the overpass.

What is the sense of this garish yellow line at the bottom of the courthouse steps? For two hundred years people have been climbing those steps, now all of a sudden there needs to be a safety strip?

Are people still protesting Darfur? Yes.

Rachel Maddow spoke at the Smith graduation ceremony yesterday. Here's the video of her accepting her honorary degree.

I wonder whether she noticed these signs in a Main Street window.

Bill Gunn, who is running against incumbent John Olver in the upper Valley congressional district, gave this fiery speech Saturday.

Last night in Northampton.

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