Tuesday, October 15, 2019

ZooMa Fall

Early yesterday morning I was walking across UMass when I saw a raccoon coming in my direction. Whipping out my camera with lighting speed I captured the critter before it scampered into some bushes.

UMass is putting in fancy new sidewalks between the major buildings in the heart of campus.

Not everyone is impressed, as this sarcasm drenched poster suggests.

It reads: What better way to spend 32,000,000.00 than to create a brick road like in "The Wizard of OZ" to remind our students that it is a fairy tale that they will ever be able to pay back their student loans after we increased the cost of tuition by $580 dollars this year!" - Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy, probably.

This car parked at UMass is the first time I've seen any bumperstickers for Democratic Party presidential candidates Tulsi Gabbard and Andrew Yang. What is even more unusual is to see them together on the same car! Is this meant to suggest a Gabbard/Yang ticket?

Meanwhile, is Northampton a hipster paradise?

I leave you with a modern love song.

Forest Park by Jeff Ziff

Monday, September 30, 2019

Casino Comparison

Recently I was in Albany, New York.

Then I went on to Saratoga, where we made a brief stop at their casino. Of course I don't gamble, but I was anxious to compare theirs with our casino in Springfield.

One important difference was that there were no gambling games such as poker. It was all just a giant slots parlor!

There were also a lot fewer dining choices in Saratoga than in Springfield. However, this subsidized diner called Lucky Joe's had good food at a very cheap price. There is little such subsidizing of meals in MGM Springfield, but you can earn yourself some kind of "points" at MGM that can be used to shave money off the cost of food. I think overall MGM Springfield has a better way of doing things since it allows for a wider range of dining choices. And frankly, despite the good food and cheap prices, Lucky Joe's had the feel of a fast food joint with pretentions.

Overall, I would say that Springfield has a much better casino than Saratoga has. The atmosphere is better and more lively, while also offering a wider range of things to do, places to eat and outside attractions. Unlike Springfield, the Saratoga casino is not linked to their downtown in any meaningful way.

As for the Springfield casino, it just finished celebrating its first year anniversary. Here is an end of the year report card.

Generating Income - B

The casino is generating only about two thirds of the revenue originally projected, suggesting that MGM may have oversold its potential. You mean a casino company may have exaggerated its income potential to help generate political support? I'm shocked, I tell you, simply shocked! But never mind. The $20-22 million pouring into the South End each month is $20-22 million more than it had coming in before.

Public and Political Relations - A

The casino has been a better fit with the city than critics such as myself predicted. The attempts by MGM to imbed itself as a real partner with the city have been largely successful, while their willingness to respect the historic nature of its setting has been outstanding. MGM also has been unobtrusive in the realm of local politics, with no hint of any political corruption, which is a sincere concern in a city with Springfield's long history of shady politics. The truth is MGM has proven to be a good neighbor.

Wider Economic Development - C

The casino has definitely attracted new businesses downtown, but not at anywhere near the rate hoped for. Still, every month seems to bring news of some additional downtown development not related to the casino. The pace is slow, but as long as there is still forward motion, it is hard to complain. Hopefully, each small step will ultimately combine to spark a wider renaissance.

So my overall verdict is this: The casino, while not everything it was advertised to be, has none the less been a good partner with Springfield and has put the downtown on a path toward economic expansion for the first time in many years. Be grateful.

Meanwhile, it is starting to look a lot like Fall upon the woodland way into downtown Northampton.

In Northampton, pedestrians like to hula-hoop across the street.

Finally, here is some comedic intensity from Massachusetts' own Bo Burnham.

Words of Wisdom from UMass poster sale.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Pine Point Library Revisited

Once upon a time, the Pine Point section of Springfield had a beautiful, old library that had formerly been The Boston Road Elementary School, which closed after the nearby Thomas M. Balliet Elementary School was built. My maternal grandfather went to school there.

It burned in 1970, destroying Pine Point's most prominent landmark. It was supposedly beyond restoration, but some local historians have questioned whether the damage was really that extensive.

In any case, it was torn down and replaced by a blander structure which was built in 1972. I was there a few weeks ago for the first time in several years.

Only a portion of the building is still a library, located in what was once the Community Meeting Room.

The Pine Point Community Council apparently uses the building for their meetings.

However, most of the building appears to be used for English language and Adult Learning programs.

Well, at least the building is still in use.

Meanwhile, here in the upper Valley, the light pours through the backdoor of the Haymarket Cafe in Northampton.

The usual political foolishness downtown.

Cutting through Hamp's Childs Park recently, I saw this bench dedicated to the late Richard Garvey, a major editor at the Springfield Newspapers, who lived in Northampton and was active in civic affairs.

Finally, I was in downtown Springfield this week and took this video leaving Union Station by bus.

Monday, September 9, 2019


Last week I went to the Amherst Cinema.

The movie I went to see was Remember My Name the new documentary on the life of singer/songwriter/musician David Crosby. I wish I coulda swiped this poster.

The film was great. Crosby's life dovetailed with many of the cultural changes of the later part of the prior century. Today, this new century finds him old, cantankerous, but very much alive and eager to retell his many adventures, supplemented by old film footage and of course his wonderful music, much of which was done as a member of the super-group Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

This film autobiography is quite engrossing, but also a little bit sad when you contemplate all the music that was never made due to the way he and his fellow band members were always letting personal squabbles get in the way of their music. Crosby appears at times to almost beg his former band members to bury the hatchet and reunite for one last tour, and hopefully that is what this fascinating and enlightening documentary will succeed in making happen. Here's the trailer to the film:

The blood-thirsty Leftist dictator Robert Mugabe has finally been sent to the eternal hell he surely deserved when he died last week. But as the Boston Globe's Jeff Jacoby reminds us, Mugabe had his American fans, among them the clueless Lefties at the University of Massachusetts:

The atrocities committed by Mugabe’s forces were reported on at the time by human rights organizations and international media. By 1987, the death toll carried out in Matabeleland had reached 25,000.

That didn’t keep the University of Massachusetts from awarding Mugabe an honorary degree. In October 1986, Zimbabwe’s increasingly ruthless ruler was extolled in a special convocation on the Amherst campus as a champion of human rights. The UMass chancellor, Joseph Duffy, hosted Mugabe at a dinner in his home, where he praised his leadership and economic reforms and expressed the hope that Mugabe’s record in Zimbabwe was a preview of what a post-apartheid South Africa would look like.

It took 22 years for the UMass trustees to have second thoughts about the honor they had bestowed on the Zimbabwean butcher. Mugabe’s honorary degree was revoked in 2008.

Read the entire article here.

In downtown Amherst across from The Black Sheep there is this sidewalk made of bricks that have memorial names engraved on most of them.

I was very pleased to see that a new brick has been installed in honor of blogger Larry Kelley.

Yesterday, I encountered a Wooleybear Caterpillar on the woodland way into downtown Northampton.

It looks a little thicker than the one I saw last year.

Supposedly, how wooley the caterpillars are is an indicator of how cold the winter will be. By that standard, this winter should be a bit harsher than last year.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Ms. Crowe

Longtime local pacifist and left-wing activist Frances Crowe of Northampton died this week at the age of 100. That's a pretty good run, and she was in reasonably good health all the way to the end. Crowe is the latest major Valley leftist to die in the past year, preceded by Springfield's Michaelann Bewsee, David Vigneault and Mildred Dunbar. For our local Left to lose three such giants in one year is indeed a major blow to the movement.

Although I am unaware of Frances Crowe ever publicly identifying as a socialist, neither am I aware of any lefty causes she didn't back. However, her primary focus was on a militant form of pacifism which denounced all war on principle as immoral. No one can criticize her for inconsistency, she opposed, protested and was often arrested over every military conflict that occurred during the decades since she began her activism, which was inspired after World War II by the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan.

Of course everyone agrees that war is terrible and should never be resorted to unless as a last resort. I hate violence too, but I don't agree that war is never justified. I admire the activism of these peacers, but not their cause. What Crowe and her supporters were doing was playing on emotions in hopes of getting people to feel that war is never justified, which is nonsense.

If a person broke into your house armed with a knife and threatened to rob you and hurt your family, would you say to the intruder, "I'm a pacifist, and because violence never solves anything, I will therefore do nothing to stop you. Can't we talk about this instead?"

Or would you attack the intruder with every bit of physical force you could muster in order to disarm him and protect your loved ones?

A person behaving like a pacifist in the face of such a threat would actually be encouraging violence, and certainly would inspire no one's respect. Nations are simply collections of people, and while people and their nations should avoid resorting to violence whenever possible, no sensible person believes that it is never necessary. What else can you do when another person - or another country - decides that they are not interested in talking things over, and makes it clear that they intend to get whatever they want by force unless somebody stops them? You respond by giving them what every bully understands best - a punch in the nose in the form of either a fist, if on the personal level, or a cruise missile, on the international one.

It is inaccurate to say, as so many peacers do, that war has never solved any problems. In fact, war has solved some of the biggest problems mankind has ever faced. Was it a mistake to go to war to end slavery? Should Hitler have been confronted by a candlelight vigil? Would communism have fallen to repeated verses of Kumbaya? Will terrorists be convinced to surrender by sit-ins and hunger strikes? Whenever evil has gone on a rampage, the lesson of history is that evil will succeed until those opposed to it fight back.

Yet Crowe and her admirers refused to concede that war is sometimes not only morally justified, but a practical necessity that is sometimes the only means by which the light and the good can triumph over the dark and the evil. If Crowe's "idealism" was ever practiced in real life, our world be a much darker place, a world where violent evil could go unrestrained. Chanting "Give Peace a Chance" in response to a Mao, a Stalin or a Bin Ladin doesn't make you an idealist. It makes you a fool.

Frances Crowe had this in common with the three other Valley leftist leaders who died this year, in that she was also ineffective. Just as Crowe never achieved world peace, Michaelann Bewsee never achieved the socialist revolution she strove for, Dave Vigneault and his crusade for forced busing in Springfield proved to be a ruinously bad policy and Mildred Dunbar consistently defended the local Democrats and their corrupt and incompetent political machine, even as it systemically kept dragging her beloved city to new lows.

Therefore, we must conclude about Crowe as we did about the others: That she was a wonderful inspiration to civic activism, but the shame is one would have wished that Crowe, Bewsee, Vigneault and Dunbar had shown better judgement in the causes to which they devoted their activism.

Speaking of activism, while going to Look Park in Northampton the other day, I was surprised to see this flag flying on a nearby house.

Meanwhile, gonna keep it psychedelic while skywalking on the haters....

Tuesday, August 20, 2019


I once asked the prominent left-wing activist Michaelann Bewsee about her first name. I told her that, while of course I was familiar with both the name Michael and Ann, I had never seen them combined that way. She replied with a story to the effect that while her mother was pregnant with her, her father was all set on having a boy he would call Michael. Of course in that ancient realm of the late 1940's it was impossible to tell what sex a child would be until after it was born. When the blessed event occurred and the new baby turned out to be of the female persuasion, her father stubbornly stuck to the name Michael and just jammed an Ann on the end to feminize it.

For the rest of her over 71 years, Michaelann would continue to be other than what people wanted her to be. Politicians didn't want her on their their backs, but she never gave them respite from her relentless activism. The stale and corrupt political establishment in Springfield only wanted her to shut up and go away, something she never obliged them with doing. Her secret power was that she was fearless, and therefore never backed down no matter how powerful the forces she faced. She understood that sometimes the best strategy is to just keep on coming until you wear the fuckers down.

Unfortunately, Michaelann generally brought her formidable political talents to all the wrong causes. A shameless socialist whose group Arise for Social Justice once invited the Communist Party candidate for president to hold a rally at their headquarters, Michaelann was none the less open to other people and ideas. Certainly she was always very nice to me. The last time I saw her was over a year ago, when I was walking down State Street by STCC, and apparently having noticed me passing by through the window, she came out of her office, called out to me from the sidewalk and waved. I regret now that I didn't cross the street and speak to her, but I was trying to catch a bus and so I just smiled and waved back, having no idea I would never see her again in this world.

One time I asked Michaelann why she was so friendly towards me, considering that we held almost diametric political views. "Because we're both anti-establishmentarians," she replied, which was the first time I had ever heard that term used in a conversation. It means, "A political philosophy that views a nation's or society's power structure as corrupt, repressive, exploitative, or unjust.' According to Michaelann, "The only disagreement between you and me is over what to do after the revolution." Presumably, in that post-revolutionary period we would part ways, she to advocate for her socialist utopia and I working towards libertarian liberation. In the meantime, we were both trying to smash the same machine, and therefore to Michaelann we were comrades in arms against the same local political foes.

As it has turned out, Michaelann will not be here for the revolution to which she dedicated her life, if in fact it ever comes. Yet she was a wonderful troublemaker, and I will always admire her for the good example she set for every political activist, whatever their views. Go raise some hell, why don't ya? Do it with Michaelann's blessing.

Speaking of activists, Springield's controversial Sal Circosta (right) was at the Trump rally in New Hampshire this week with friends Joseph Yacovone and Dario Gagliano.

Congressman Richard Neal as he appeared in a Tech High yearbook from the 1960's.

The UMass Grad Research Center as seen from the Integrative Learning Building.

Amherst has an inferiority complex.

I stumbled upon David Starr on a table in Northampton's Pulaski Park.

The other morning I took a shortcut through Thornes Marketplace before most of the shops were open.

posing with a famous twig painting