The Baystate Objectivist

The Baystate Objectivist

Monday, August 21, 2017

eclipsed

I'm old enough to have seen a number of eclipses of the sun and moon, so I wasn't really all that excited about the one this afternoon. However, as a sometimes citizen journalist who sometimes attends things of public interest and this being sorta the kind of thing I sometimes cover, I decided to attend the public eclipse watching party at the mystical sunwheel at UMass. I began my journey by passing through the Southwest tunnel.


I took the path past the ancient willow, one of the few trees still standing from the days when the Southwest dorm complex was just a farmer's field.


The lighting was similar to dusk or a rainy day, although the sky was mostly clear and it was only 2:15pm.


Passing the UMass stadium, I was surprised to realize this was the first time I had set foot on those stadium grounds since I saw the Grateful Dead there in -gulp!- 1987.


What would the thirty years ago me have thought, if through some unexpected tear in the time/space continuum during Jerry's guitar solo, I had looked three decades into the future to see me walking by? Would I be pleased or disappointed to observe that I never quite escaped the UMass orbit? Probably I would just be glad to see I was still alive at all in the distant 2017, as even back in '87 I was already exhibiting behavior that was inspiring doubt about my longevity.

Young Tom: Good to see you!

Old Tom: Good to be seen.

Soon I found myself approaching the observance site of the cosmic event. There was quite a big crowd.


The local media was there as well.


The crowd mingled among the ancient stones. I've been told that local pagans perform moonlight rituals at this site.


Lots of people had homemade viewing devices, like this one my friend made that forms an E for eclipse!


The event was put on by the UMass Astronomy Department, which provided telescopes with special filters for magnified viewing.




A GOOD TIME WAS HAD BY ALL!

photo courtesy of mark davis and mitch ogulewicz


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Hi-Rise

Truckin' down the avenue in downtown Hamp, window shopping at Faces....


....I came upon this sign:


It was in front of the building beside First Church.


I walk past that building every day and have sometimes wondered what the upper floors were like. Hey, here was a chance to find out, so I headed up the carpeted staircase.


It led to a huge apartment that actually covers two floors, large spacious rooms with nothing in them that was not very photogenic so I didn't take a picture of any of them. However, there is a staircase leading to the roof, where I found myself on a patio and virtually face to face with the historic First Church clock!


A dizzying look down at the seething metropolis below:


A look across the street and at the Holyoke mountain range beyond, what the Valley Indians originally called "The Seven Sisters."


I didn't bother asking what they were asking for the joint, because I knew it was a rent I could never afford. I guess I'll just sit in the Dr. Seuss chair out in Pedal People Land with the chickens and the ducks and the woodland way and all the wild things. We don't have roof parties, but we do have fun.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

summer series

Last night I checked out the Northampton Summer Concert Series at Pulaski Park and took this video of a song by the band Rebelle, at least until the battery on my camera ran out.



I hate when that happens. Mary Hurley and Linda Melconian at The Fort. Photo by Keith Sikes.


Jim Sampson, owner of Music World, which he has operated for 52 years in Pine Point, shown in front of a thirty year old ad for his former student Tony McAlpine. During the late 1950's, Sampson was a major figure in the early years of the Pioneer Valley rock n' roll scene.


Here's a sign that has appeared in the restrooms of the Haymarket Cafe:


I guess it's just a sign of the times, and not a good one.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Will Suher Shrug?



I fully support the sentiments expressed in a Letter to the Editor by Joyce Davis that appears in the current issue of the Valley Advocate, defending the too often put upon Eric Suher. Mr. Suher is the founder of the Iron Horse Entertainment Group, a consortium of Northampton music venues that includes The Iron Horse (duh), The Basement, The Calvin Theater, Pearl Street and Mountain Park. The letter was written in response to a prior issue of the Advocate which printed a feature on local music entrepreneurs that portrayed Suher as a music promoter primarily interested in profits.

As Davis points out in her response to the criticism of Suher's business practices:

It is a business people — not a social service agency. There are business costs — employees’ payroll, venue supplies and upkeep, insurance, all sorts of behind-the-scene costs, etc., etc. that they must pay. Businesses need to turn a profit to remain sustainable & viable. It’s a pretty basic concept. To continually bash [IHEG owner] Eric Suher for his business successes is just sad and indicates limited knowledge that although music is part art, it is also a large part business.

Suher first emerged on the Northampton scene in the early 90's as a t-shirt tycoon with a lot of money to invest and a strong passion for music. At the time, nearly all of the major music venues in Hamp were on the ropes, struggling financially and in danger of closing. Had they done so, the entire Northampton music scene would have collapsed, with devastating repercussions for the downtown restaurants, bars and retail shops that rely on customers from all over the Valley and beyond to come to Hamp for the shows and then patronize the local businesses before and after.

Suher started with the Iron Horse, and as each of the other major Hamp venues staggered towards bankruptcy he rescued them, stabilized their finances and turned them into profitable places where thousands could enjoy the joys of music on a weekly basis. By rescuing the Northampton music scene at its moment of greatest peril, Suher is more responsible for today's economic success of downtown Northampton than any other single individual. It wouldn't be hyperbole to suggest that every downtown businessperson should silently say to themselves, "Bless you, Eric Suher," every time their cash register rings.

But in reality, Suher doesn't get much thanks. This is despite the fact that in 2015 Suher literally put money into the pocket of every downtown merchant by, at his own expense, leading the legal fight to liberate the downtown from an illegally created so-called Business Improvement District (BID). BIDS are terrible for downtowns for a number of reasons, but mainly because they create a crony capitalist culture that destructively divides the downtown business community against itself into insider/outsider groups with local politicians also getting in on the act.

In Northampton, the BID was particularly destructive because the fees they charged were a barrier to entry for young entrepreneurs with a dollar and a dream, who often can't afford to pay the fees in their early typically struggling years. This barrier to newcomers the BID created worked contrary to Northampton's role as not just an economic center but a cultural one as well, because a steady supply of new blood in the economic system is what keeps the central business district attuned to new cultural trends. The reduced number of new startups made Northampton less able to reflect current trends, undermining the hipness of the whole scene. BIDs also encourage the replacement of local shops by national chains with deep pockets who can easily afford to pay the fees.

When the BID was finally declared by the courts to have been an illegally formed entity that should never have existed in the first place, every former BID member got a nice addition to their bottom lines as the result of their new freedom from BID fees. You might have thought that Suher would've received high praise and expressions of gratitude for putting extra money in everyone's pocket, but in actuality he received mostly criticism and insults. Suher was attacked by established business insiders who had liked the barriers to fresh competition the BID fees provided them, and also by politicians who disliked the loss of their ability to meddle in downtown affairs through the manipulation of BID policies.

Eric Suher doesn't appear to give a damn what anyone thinks of him, but the long term danger of the relentless and misguided attacks on Suher is that he may one day get tired of being the Atlas holding up the downtown Northampton business and music scene and instead shrug off the burden and go make money somewhere else. It would be a tragedy if downtown Northampton finally learns the true value of Eric Suher only by losing him.


Looking towards Starbuck's from the steps of City Hall.


View from a table in Pulaski Park.


The amazing Miss Flo's.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Death of a Rammer

Greetings from beautiful downtown Holyoke.


My neighbor's sunflower.


Peace, Love and Beer in downtown Northampton.


Really sorry to hear about the death of my old Springfield Technical Community College Ram newspaper and radio colleague Mark Wiernasz. In many ways he was truly Mr. WWLP. The picture below was taken by me for the STCC student newspaper in - gulp! - 1975.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Icons

What on Earth?


Saturday morning I visited this new place in Hamp called Iconica, located directly behind the itself iconic Haymarket Cafe. It's definitely a hipster haven, but the coffee is good and the atmosphere super cool. It's also nice to see that historic space finally open to the public. If you go, be sure to check out the upstairs loft.


Is Northampton going to the dogs?


The choice is yours....


The other night I went to an art show in downtown Hamp where you had to wear 3D glasses to see the paintings.


It was quite disorienting.


Bye.