Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dodd Done

He Should Resign Immediately.

Connecticut's worthless and corrupt U.S. Senator Chris Dodd looks even worse, if that's possible, as testimony leaks from the ethics committee investigating his cozy relationship with crooked banks.

Two powerful Senate Democrats said Tuesday that they knew they got low mortgage-rate deals in a lender's VIP program but thought the special treatment was a "courtesy" or the same as "frequent flier" discounts.

Both vehemently denied any wrongdoing or ethical lapse in the mortgage deals, which came to light a year ago and triggered investigations by the Senate Select Committee on Ethics and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

"I thought this was like a frequent-flier program," Sen. Kent Conrad, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said of the special benefits. "I thought nothing of it."

Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, chairman of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, said an account executive at Countrywide Financial Corp. told him that the VIP status was "nothing more than ... courtesy stuff."

A Countrywide official who handled the loans had said that both senators knew they got preferential treatment in the form of waived fees and points that likely saved them tens of thousands of dollars.

Robert Feinberg, who formerly worked in the mortgage giant's VIP section, said in testimony to congressional investigators last month that the senators were made aware of their status as VIPs or "Friends of Angelo," referring to Countrywide Chief Executive Officer Angelo Mozilo. The CEO played a central role in the subprime-mortgage meltdown, which included the downfall of Countrywide last year.

"It was always instilled in them to let them know their sense of importance of where they were. And that you ... were a friend of Angelo's. You were referred by Angelo. You were approved by Angelo," Mr. Feinberg told Republican investigators for the House oversight committee.

Taxpayers lost billions while these guys cashed-in? Even if they were somehow "unaware" of the freebies they were receiving, the fact that they thought it was normal shows the entitlement mentality of privilege they have. It is time for Senator Dodd and Senator Conrad to submit their resignations and leave the political scene in disgrace.


I didn't post anything yesterday because I had to attend to some things that were important but not really much fun. In the morning I went to the Doctor's for my annual check-up. He told me that I was in excellent health for someone my age and with my background of self-destructive behavior. That's a Devine for ya - none too pretty but built to last.

In the afternoon I had to take the bus to Easthampton to pay a visit to the dreaded registry. There used to be a registry in Hadley but they stupidly shut it down. Before I got the bus I went to the Haymarket Cafe in downtown Hamp for some coffee. Outside people were playing with a pet mouse.

Inside they were playing with computers.

Finally the bus came by and I got on. I got off at Eastworks, which is where the registry is located.

I groaned when I saw all the people waiting for service, but it actually only took about 45 minutes to get in and out, which is not bad by government standards.

In Easthampton itself I couldn't help but notice that there are all these bears on display. Bear footprints are painted on the sidewalks.

A psychedelic bear with band-aids.

One of the bears was stolen, resulting in this shrine pleading for it to be returned.

For more information about Easthampton bears go here.


Speaking of the Registry of Motor Vehicles, here's some cool transpo I've stumbled upon in my ramblings. This car parked in Easthampton defines cool.

Here's an unusual van in the Dunkin' Donuts parking lot on King Street in Northampton. Dig the triple headlights.

This rarity was parked in front of Packard's in downtown Hamp.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Getting Sirius

Visiting the Eco-Village

Having dealt with the infamous Western Mass guru Michael Rapunzel and his Brotherhood of the Spirit, I am naturally skeptical of alternative communities. However, yesterday I had a chance to visit the Sirius Eco-Village up in nearby Shutesbury and was very impressed. Never heard of it? Here's a capsule summary:

Sirius Community is an educational, spiritual, service community of twenty to thirty residents and about two hundred associate non-resident members. It is an intentional community situated between the Quabbin Reservoir and the Connecticut River, in the eastern hills of the Pioneer Valley in Shutesbury, MA. It is a demonstration site for Permaculture Design and enacts the philosophies of "living lightly on Earth . . . living in harmony with nature." Sirius is an eco-village that models organic food production, green energy generation and generally less consumptive and more self-sufficient lifestyles. This involves "green" building and passive solar construction, solar and wind power, organic agriculture, waste management, and composting and energy efficient appliances. The community strives to embody "the new planetary consciousness that honors [the] interconnectedness and sacredness of all living things." Sirius engages in community outreach through hosting workshops, apprenticeships, courses and open houses. And, more than just opening their doors, they actively seek ways to build coalitions with organizations and people in the surrounding area.

That may sound a little spacey, and I suppose it is, but not in a bad way. In fact, I would call this community one of the coolest places in the Valley to visit and hang out for a while. Most Sunday afternoons are a good time to stop by. The community center building rises like an Aztec temple over the woodlands of Shutesbury.

Inside people were sitting around, playing instruments and just chillin.

There apparently had been some kind of activity earlier where people wrote things on a strip of paper and hung them up.

When I got there lunch had just ended. Here is the gong to call people to eat, made out of an old oxegen tank. It was surprisingly tuneful.

This is the community oven and the person who built it.

The design of the structures is sometimes quite whimsical.

Most of the buildings appear to be heated by woodstoves.

The community tries to incorporate a variety of energy sources, so that no one form dominates. That is in sharp contrast to the larger society which is primarily oil dependant. Here is one of the many solar panels on the premises.

This is one of the group meditation rooms.

Chickens wander about pretty freely.

Art is also encouraged. Someone transformed this dead tree into a beautiful wood nymph.

I like these psychedelic murals.

The community is pretty isolated, and I suspect most people would not choose to live there full time. But there is a lot for visitors to do there, including interesting and informative classes, lectures and outdoor activities available for very reasonable prices. It's the sort of scene you could get wrapped up in to ever deeper degrees without even realizing it. I suggest you check it out.

Showtime in Hamp

Where else but in downtown Northampton would you find a psychedelic King Tut?

Actually it was an advetisement for the production of Joseph's Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Academy of Music.

Saturday the band Primate Fiasco was playing on the steps of the First Church. Here's a glimpse of the scene.

Drivin' That Train

What is it about Palmer, Massachusetts (train station above) that makes everyone so fascinated with the trains that go by that they make tons of videos of them? Check it out here.

What if there were no hypothetical questions?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Chicago Rally

Right in Obama's Backyard

These pictures from a recent rally in Chicago say it all!

The key to understanding Obama's predicament is to realize that while he ran convincingly as a repudiation of Bush, he is in fact doubling down on his predecessor's big-government policies and perpetual crisis-mongering. From the indefinite detention of alleged terrorists to gays in the military to bailing out industries large and small, Obama has been little more than the keeper of the Bush flame.

Indeed, it took the two of them to create the disaster that is the 2009 budget, racking up a deficit that has already crossed the historic $1 trillion mark. Beyond pushing the 'emergency' $787 billion stimulus package (even while acknowledging that the vast majority of funds would be released in 2010 and beyond), Obama signed a $410 billion omnibus spending bill and a $106 billion supplemental spending bill to cover 'emergency' expenses in Iraq and Afghanistan (and, improbably, a 'cash for clunkers' program).

Despite pledges to achieve a 'net spending cut' by targeting earmarks and wasteful spending, Obama rubber-stamped more than 9,000 earmarks and asked government agencies to trim a paltry $100 million in spending this year, 0.003 percent of the federal budget. In the same way that Bush claimed to be cutting government even while increasing real spending by more than 70 percent, Obama seems to believe that saying one thing, while doing another, somehow makes it so.

- Washington Post

It's crazy for a group of mere mortals to try to design 15 percent of the U.S. economy. It's even crazier to do it by August.

Yet that is what some members of Congress presume to do. They intend, as the New York Times puts it, "to reinvent the nation's health care system."

Let that sink in. A handful of people who probably never even ran a small business actually think they can reinvent the health care system.

Politicians and bureaucrats clearly have no idea how complicated markets are. Every day people make countless tradeoffs, in all areas of life, based on subjective value judgments and personal information as they delicately balance their interests, needs and wants. Who is in a better position than they to tailor those choices to best serve their purposes? Yet the politicians believe they can plan the medical market the way you plan a birthday party.

Leave aside how much power the state would have to exercise over us to run the medical system. Suffice it say that if government attempts to control our total medical spending, sooner or later, it will have to control us.

- John Stossel

Saving the Past

This is the Amherst Survival Center as it looked 125 years ago in 1884. It was the North Amherst School in those days.

Here is a postcard showing how it looked in 1910.

The years have taken their toll, but fortunately work is now underway to restore and preserve the building.

Some work is being done to reinforce the foundation, the stones at the base of which haven't seen the light of day since the 1800's.

Assume the Position

The back of a truck parked at UMass.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Celebrity Letters

Local and Otherwise

Here is some more of my past correspondence. These e-mails are related to people who are well known for one reason or another.

Ken Babbs is the former sidekick of author Ken Kesey and co-founder of the Merry Pranksters. I wrote a review of one of the CD's he and the Pranksters made and suggested that he should write his autobiography. This was his reply:

From : capn skyp
To : "Tom Devine"
Subject : Re: Forta July 03
Date : Fri, 05 Sept 2003 11:05:34 -0700

Hey Tom, thanks for the review. The bit about Feg Shui being like a Zappa thing was right on. I guess I'll always be known as a prankster; like kesey says, "Yah never quits dah mob," but the Forta July CD is a skypilot collaboration which is why it is all new material, done on the spot, with some tweaking on the computer. The signature piece for me is Figaro de la Goof, performed spontaneously in the spirit of Neal Cassady, dubbed The Holy Goof by his buddy, Jack Kerouac. Yeah, the skypilots are a move forward from pranksterdom which took a major hit when kesey died. skypilotclub allows us to explore new realms, go where sluggards fear to fly.

Thanks for the bouquet on my trombone playing.

Zane's site has all the news about the upcoming Kesey symposium in November, plus two books coming out at the same time: kesey's jail journal and spit7, which is all about kesey.

Skypilot Band on a national tour?
hoisted aloft on a blimp
and play across country
from a platform dangling below
spending so much time
living my autobiography
I'm lacking the time to write one
but occasionally a noodle or two
appears on the website
slurped with pungent sauce.

Ken Babbs

In 2003 I wrote an article wondering what happened to Stephen Geoffrey's the once very popular 80's star who had disappeared into gay pornography. I received this mystery letter claiming to be from someone within the porn industry who refused to use their real name.

I had the pleasure of directing Stephen Geoffreys in a few videos, the best of which, I think, was LEATHER INTRUSION CASE 2: THE SPIDER'S KISS. He did a scene with Drew Andrews.

Stephen was great to work with. Always enthusiastic and eager to do what was required of him. His acting in porn left something to be desired, though. I thought he was wonderful in FRIGHT NIGHT, FRATERNITY VACATION and his other movies, but check out his acting in my video LEATHER AFTER MIDNIGHT. Hmmmm. Maybe by then he'd stopped caring about that part of his career.

He was having money problems, combined with drug problems. That is why he went into porn when the mainstream film world stopped calling him. His hair was thinning, to the point where he started wearing a hairpiece (sometimes he wore a cap just to take a break). We had a sit-down talk one day, and he told me about how he'd like to get back into doing movies, but he thought his porn career would prevent that. I told him that his main fan base were the horror fans, and that they wouldn't care if he was gay or did porn. They just wanted to see him as Evil Ed again, or in 976-EVIL III. He told me that he'd recently gone to a horror movie convention and was thrilled by the attention he got there. No one brought up "Sam Ritter". He seemed uplifted by our talk, and I hoped it might stir him to get back into the swing of it, but soon after, I heard he'd moved to San Francisco to avoid some people he owed money to.

But the gay porn thing was not something he was really ashamed of. Not too long after that, I helped the editor-in-chief of "Scarlet Street" magazine find Stephen for an interview, and in the magazine, he freely admitted to doing gay porn.

So, Stephen, if you're out there reading this, get in touch with me, okay?

Jett Blakk Katt

In recent years Ralph Slate has become a major and sometimes controversial figure in local historical circles. However in 2003 he was just an amateur historian who collected pictures of Springfield, and who wrote to tell me he had discovered that a photo I had run of Charlie Ryan and his supporters marching through Mason Square inadvertently solved a historical mystery.

From : "Ralph Slate"
To :
Subject : Charlie Ryan Photo
Date : Wed, 27 Aug 2003 10:19:02 -0400 (EDT)

Hi Tom --

I was browsing your excellent website, as I often do, and came across the photos of Charlie Ryan campaigning. One of the photos looked really familiar to me -- the one entitled "ryanmutual.jpg".

I am an amateur historian, Springfield resident, and I like to collect photos of Springfield houses. I buy them at antique shows or on eBay, and I like to try and send a copy to the owner when I can identify it. The abovementioned photo looks exactly like one of the houses I have been trying to identify. You can see it here on the right:

I'm guessing that the photo is from State St., approaching Mass Mutual, can you confirm this? I have a whole slew of photos from the same photo album, I bet I can pin them all down with this coincidental tip.


Ralph Slate

For a few years I did radio with Tony Gill at WAIC in Springfield. He sent me the following account of the political scene in Springfield. Of course he was just joking - or was he?

From : "Anthony Gillylan"
To :
Date : Mon, 19 May 2003 05:57:07

Hi Tom!

Love your commentary online! I think Dave Starr was laughing precisely because he knows the city is as corrupt and incompetent as anything he's ever published. Seuss's statue would become a huge FBI surveillance target, rightfully investigated by the Feds should Springfield take over Libraries and Museums. The Cat in the Hat would find himself handcuffed the next morning, charged with masturbating in front of the little children who sought out Seuss's books to learn basic reading skills. Then the disgraced Cat in the Hat would escort Mayor Albano to Seuss's (re-built and re-imagined) House on Mulberry Street, which he was able to purchase in a sweetheart no-interest no-pay loan arranged in a City Hall back-room deal, thanks to Artichoke Ardolino.

Of course, Gerry Philips is there waiting for the both of them. You know where this is going. Cries and Whispers: Mikey and Gerry are spotted together at local Cat House!


Tony Gill

Karen Powell and her husband Bob are two of Springfield's most notorious activists. They were especially active during the Albano's era's baseball stadium scheme, which was backed by the Springfield Newspapers. That sometimes caused the Powell's to receive negative press, but when the paper made fun of Karen's brand new lower back tatoo, she could barely contain her anger and contempt.

From : Karen Powell
To : "Tom Devine"
Date: Tue, 21 Aug 2001 01:38:33 -0400


About Mayor Mike's Daily Paper, I am still trying to figure out when I pulled my pants down. About the only thing they got right is that I did get a tatoo of a butterfly. It is on my lower back so sometimes I have to pull the waist on my jeans a little but I haven't shown anything that I would be arrested for showing in public.

I will be the first to admit that I am somewhat unconventional and I was really excited that I finally did go and have my tatoo. I told Bob that I had to do something to make me feel more like my old self because my basic personality is to buck the rules and I have been very establishment lately. I am certainly not going change my personality to suit a bunch of stuffed shirts who are just looking for something to pick apart about people.

For some reason when it comes to that "so called paper, " I don't see or hear the same things they do even when we are at the same place. They wrote about one meeting I went to during the stadium fiasco and I don't know which one of us was really there since I heard the opposite of what they reported. During the Needle Exchange, they wrote an editorial criticizing Sue and me for saying something at a meeting that we didn't say. We were not even at the meeting.

I think McDermott gets a little upset when things are not going his way so he shows just how petty and unprofessional he is. Maybe I should get Caron's name tatooed on my butt and as McDermott suggested, turn the other cheek. :)

The day I let that moron McDermott intimidate me is the day you will see pigs fly. I am also not going to change the way I act or think. I have always done what I feel comfortable doing and am not going to act like something I am not to make some "hot shots" happy.

The only time I get hurt is when someone that matters to me says something that hurts my feelings. When it is someone that doesn't mean anything to me, they don't have the power to hurt me. I may get angry initially but even that doesn't last. I could see McDermott's fingerprints all over that piece of trash and I have no doubt that he will do it again. Thankfully, he is one of those people that I don't care what his opinion of me is.

I did send Mr. Newhouse a fax concerning McDermott's unprofessional comments to Paul Caron when Paul announced his candidacy. I presume that may have touched a nerve. I also faxed Mr. Newhouse a copy of the piece they did in the Spfld tabloid with a few personal comments.

I always remember when Bob and I were getting married. My mother sat Bob down and gave him a pep talk because he would need it being married to me. She told him not to even try winning an argument because it wasn't possible with someone as stubborn as her daughter. She also told him he would have his hands full. My Mom knew me well. :)


In the year 2000 Pine Point's Twig Painter Richard Doyle announced that he was running for president. He wasn't on the ballot in any state, and spent no money on his campaign, but that didn't stop him from getting widespread local publicity that included a column by Tom Shea in the Springfield newspapers. I also wrote something, and Doyle sent me this letter of gratitude.

July 20, 2000


Thank you for your coverage of my campaign to become the first person to be elected to the Presidency of the United States without ever appearing on the ballot of a single state. I remain confident that a groundswell of write-in voters will make me the first President elected to the presidency from Western Massachusetts since former Northampton Mayor Calvin Coolidge. However, I intend to be much more dynamic than so-called "Silent Cal" about whom one wit is said to have exclaimed after he died, "How can they tell?"

One of the keys to my massive charisma is that I always accentuate the positive. As a local educator and businessman, I am dismayed by all the pessimism I encounter among the public these days. How quickly we forget how fleeting life's problems are, and how often they are resolved for the better. For example, let me recount for you a recent crisis I experienced with my most recent (female) lover.

I wished to purchase a birthday present for my girlfriend, but as we had not been together for very long, after careful consideration I decided to purchase her a pair of gloves - romantic, but not too personal. Accompanied by my sweetheart's younger sister, we went to Walmart and I purchased a lovely pair of white gloves. Her sister also purchased a joke gift to give to my girlfriend, a sexy pair of panties. We both had our purchases gift wrapped at the store, but somehow during the wrapping the clerk got the gifts mixed up, so that I walked off with the package containing the panties while the sister went home with the gloves. Since I had no way of knowing about this mix-up, I mailed the package to my lover accompanied with the following note:

"Darling . . . I chose these because I noticed that you are not in the habit of wearing any when we go out. If it had not been for your sister, I would have gotten you the long ones with buttons, but she wears short ones that are easy to remove. These are a delicate shade, but the lady I bought them from showed me the pair she had been wearing for the past three weeks, and they were hardly soiled. I had her try yours on for me and she looked really smart. I wish I was there to put them on you for the first time, as no doubt other hands will come in contact with them before I have a chance to see you again. Just think how many times I will kiss them during the coming year! I hope you will wear them for me Friday night."

Imagine my surprise when I visited on her birthday and she hauled off and slapped me in the face! Fortunately, after much explaining, we reconciled to much laughter. So Tom let your readers remember that life is short and to face piles of trials with smiles.

Professor Richard "The Twig Painter" Doyle
American International College
Springfield, Massachusetts

Suicide March

We’re only in the early stages of the liberal suicide march, but there already have been three phases.

First, there was the stimulus package. You would have thought that a stimulus package would be designed to fight unemployment and stimulate the economy during a recession. But congressional Democrats used it as a pretext to pay for $787 billion worth of pet programs with borrowed money. Only 11 percent of the money will be spent by the end of the fiscal year — a triumph of ideology over pragmatism.

Then there is the budget. Instead of allaying moderate anxieties about the deficits, the budget is expected to increase the government debt by $11 trillion between 2009 and 2019.

Finally, there is health care. Every cliche Ann Coulter throws at the Democrats is gloriously fulfilled by the Democratic health care bills. The bills do almost nothing to control health care inflation. They are modeled on the Massachusetts health reform law that is currently coming apart at the seams precisely because it doesn’t control costs.

David Brooks in today's New York Times.

Inner Sanctum

Every morning you can see the Northampton merchants sweeping the sidewalk in front of their stores. But today the sidewalk has tents set up for a big outdoor sale.

At Faces they have to mop their new rubber turquoise entranceway, rather than sweep it.

But such concerns of the day are of little interest to First Church, which views downtown from the perspective of centuries.

I saw a friend of mine going into the side door, and asked him if I could go inside. He said yes and I got to see the very nice lounge area in back.

From the outside this section of the ancient building looks quite drab.

But from the inside you can see the room exploding with colors from the stained glass windows.

Hopefully I'll have the chance to explore more of the inside someday.