Saturday, February 24, 2018


Last semester at UMass there were signs all over campus claiming "Hate Has No Home" at the University.

Of course, what exactly constituted "hate" was never clear, prompting a counter-campaign claiming that there were Orwellian overtones to the signs, with accusations that they were an attempt to muzzle non-leftists by dismissing right-wing views as hate speech.

Fortunately, those chilling no-hate signs have largely vanished from campus, replaced this semester by a new campaign about "Building Bridges."

That is a far more welcoming and inclusive message. We should be trying to build bridges across our ideological divides, not demonizing those with whom we disagree. This represents a far more enlightened response to our divisive times than the previous heavy handed, partisan tinged no-hate campaign.

Bartlett Hall loves you.

One of the most popular coffee shops in Amherst is Share, which for a long time used to be known as Raos.

Imagine my surprise the other day to discover that it is vacating the premises!

Wonder what's the story behind that?

Soda heir Jeff Ziff was down in Springfield this week, where he happened to see the removal of the scaffolding and screens covering the new Springfield casino underway and took a few pics.

I never knew this was the motto of Hampshire College before I saw this sticker on King Street in Hamp.

I also came upon this bumpersticker on King Street.

It reminded me of this funny recording Captain Skypilot Ken Babbs the Intrepid Traveler sent me starring Wavy Gravy and the San Francisco jazz-fusion band ZERO.

Thursday, February 8, 2018


A frigid woodland way.

View from the fire escape of the Haymarket Cafe.

View from the front window of the Northampton Starbucks.

UMass students walking past the Fine Arts Center enroute to class this afternoon.

Today marks a negative milestone in the decline of print journalism in the Pioneer Valley. After 45 years of coming out every week (officially on Thursday, although it is often widely available on Wednesday) the Valley Advocate has for the first time in over four decades not published an issue. That is because as of this week, the Advocate has become a bi-weekly paper, slashing its publishing schedule in half, from 52 to 26 issues per year.

The reasons why are all the obvious ones. Since the late 90's the print newspaper industry has been in a relentless decline, resulting in cutbacks, firings and even permanent closings of publications throughout the Valley. Indeed, along with the reduction in the Advocate's printing schedule, Preview, their sister, glossily paged monthly magazine, is going permanently out of business effective immediately. The decision to fold appears to have been sudden, as a few stories that were apparently completed for the next, now never to appear issue of Preview are included in the latest Advocate, presented as a farewell gesture.

People much under 35 would probably have a hard time imagining the role newspapers once played in people's lives. They were the internet of their time, the only place to read the news of the day. Everyone read the paper, I remember as a delivery boy for the Springfield papers in my youth that hardly a single neighbor was without a subscription. It was a world in which everyone made time to read the paper every single day.

The Valley Advocate was a key player in that print news eco-system for a long time. I recall how in the entrance way to the UMass library there would be six or eight piles of strapped bundles of the Advocate that would be all gone in just a matter of days. Once I was entering Springfield City Hall with Mitch Ogulewicz just a few minutes after the Advocate delivery truck had left. The Advocates were always left on the stairs just inside the door, across from the grand staircase leading to the departmental offices, and down those stairs were running City Hall employees, racing to get the new issue in order to read the paper's latest take on local politics.

Alas, today it is hard to find a copy of the Advocate on campus or in any public buildings. Now that they are printing half as often, print copies of the Advocate will only become rarer. The Advocate website will continue to update regularly, but the whiff of doom is in the air. When the Advocate was acquired by it's current owner, The Hampshire Gazette, someone told me they feared it would ultimately devolve down to just a monthly art and culture insert slipped into the weekend edition of the Gazette. I scoffed at that notion at the time, but now I'm not so sure.

Meanwhile, Pablo Picasso never got called an asshole.

Not like you.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Fish Tale

UMass beneath a cold winter sun.

Once upon a time, on a hot summer day in the back section of the Miss Florence Diner, Monique Rinaldi Hulbert told me a story about a fish.

Monique had a job some place where one day she had to deliver something to a co-worker and thereby paid her first visit to that co-worker's house. When she arrived, her co-worker invited her to come in for a sip and a puff. While they were chatting, Monique noticed a small, round, glass object sitting on the table. Inside of it was some water and a living, floating fish. The container in which it lived was so small that the fish couldn't even turn around, and it's tail was continually swishing against the glass. Monique was appalled to see a living creature forced to live in such cramped quarters.

"That fish is not going to live for very long," Monique said, "if you keep it in a little container like that!"

"What are you talking about?" her coworker exclaimed. "I've had that fish for seven years!"

I remember that we talked about how cool it would be if somehow we could swipe that fish and then liberate it at Quabbin or some other place where it could joyously swim with no restrictions in any direction for the rest of its life. We imagined how thrilled the fish would be if given the chance to do so.

Then one day in a soup kitchen in Amherst, a gentleman who claimed to have been a biology major before he decided to pursue his doctorate in cheap wine, told me a different kind of fish tale. He talked about these fish you can find in the Orient, who live among the thick vegetation to be found in some rivers. The vegetation is so thick that the fish never move their whole lives, but just float in place, opening their mouths to consume any food that happens to flow past. I asked this gentleman what would happen if you took the fish out of their naturally confining environment into one where they had complete freedom of movement. He replied that the fish wouldn't know what to do, and would probably just sink to the bottom, where it would eventually either starve to death or be eaten by predators.

I don't know.

I don't have any answers.

Good fish story, Monique.