Friday, November 30, 2012


A sentiment on King Street to brighten my Friday.

Blue balls before a blue dress and a blue tree in a Hamp window.

The Cannabis Reform Coalition at UMass has announced the following event for next week:

Come listen to our next installment of the Cannabis Colloquium. Terry Franklin, a long time advocate for marijuana legalization and a founding member of the CRC, will talk about the history of the UMass Cannabis Reform Coalition and what the Pioneer Valley has done to end Cannabis Prohibition. It will be held Wednesday, December 5, 2012 in the Campus Center Room 903 at 7pm and the general public is invited.

Republicans in the legislature are calling for the resignation of Massachusetts Health and Human Services Secretary JudyAnn Bigby. I agree that her level of incompetence is unacceptable, as reported in the Boston Herald.

Gov. Deval Patrick stood by his Health and Human Services secretary yesterday as House Republicans demanded JudyAnn Bigby resign, questioning her ability to lead after a deadly fungal meningitis outbreak and drug-tampering scandal at the state’s drug lab.

“We feel the time has come that in order for the agency to move ahead, that this is a necessary move by the governor,” said House Minority Leader Brad Jones (R-North Reading) at a State House press conference. “It’s not one we take lightly. The agency is in desperate need of new leadership.”

Read more here.

Bostonboy Steve Tyler is feuding with American Idol judges, even though he's not even on the show anymore, by accusing the judge who replaced him of being someone who would have rejected the young Bob Dylan. It's an interesting question, could a Bob Dylan arise in the current environment, or has the music industry become so shallow and commercialized that true musical innovators are blocked? Anyway, Tyler is grievously insulted in this article, not by the judge who called him a racist but by the Huffington Post writer who refers to him simply as "former "American Idol" judge Steven Tyler." Ouch! Someone should tell that writer that once upon a time Tyler used to be best known for fronting a little Boston based band named Aerosmith.
Read more here.

Is there anyone so partisan that they cannot enjoy this Christmas video of the White House dog?

Apparently yes, if you read the comments on the YouTube site here. Looking at some of the other White House videos I was surprised to discover that jam band king Warren Haynes was invited to the White House last February.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mad Prose

As befits the stomping grounds of Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost, our Valley is in the throes of a poetry craze. Along with the Tuesday night poetry readings in Northampton at the Hinge there is now Sunday at the Haymarket.

A packed poetry reading at Raos in Amherst.

Wisdom in a Hamp parking lot.

Nauseatingly corny.

It is widely said that Northampton entertainment wizard Eric Suher hates to be photographed. Mary Serreze however captured the camera shy Suher at the casino press conference in Holyoke the other day.

The good news from NASA is that the world is not ending anytime soon. The bad news is that means we will survive to actually have to solve our problems! Read more here.

The situation in Egypt is going from bad to depressing, as pointed out by Rich Lowry:

Since the end of Mubarak, the air has been thick with descriptions of the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi as moderates, as basically no more than Islamic social democrats. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper called the Muslim Brotherhood “largely secular.” If he had been speaking of the Church of England, he might have been right.

Unfortunately, the Brotherhood’s credo is, “Allah is our objective; the Quran is our law; the Prophet is our leader; Jihad is our way; and death for the sake of Allah is the highest of our aspirations.” And it’s not kidding. Morsi summarized his program during the campaign as “the sharia, then the sharia, and finally the sharia.” (Unlike President Barack Obama, at least he had an agenda.)

Read more here.

Photo/videographer Vas Sager yesterday released this video he made featuring some of my Pioneer Valley photos from last year.

Yoko Ono is getting into fashion:

The newest celebrity entrant into the design game first had the idea of doing men’s clothing when she fell in love with John Lennon in the 1960s. She adored the way he looked, both dressed and undressed, and was somewhat perturbed by the fact that it was almost always women who were sexually objectified by designers.

“Men were always wanting us to look good and take off everything,” Ms. Ono said. “And we were never able to enjoy men’s sexuality in that way.” She considered doing something about it then, only to realize that the world was not exactly in sync with her sartorial predilections.

Read more here.

Hotboy Chico backstage. You probably can't understand what he's saying, but who gives a fuck?

Very high energy, if you're into that sort of thing.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

da vinci

This morning all that remained of yesterday's snow was this sheet of ice at the end of my back steps leading into the street, creating a hazard that might cause me to fall and break my neck!

To the disappointment of some politicians, that didn't happen. The kids are back from their Thanksgiving break. Here is the UMass Belly Dancing Club strutting their stuff for charity in the campus center.

Yesterday the last lunch was served in the old school house used by the Amherst Survival Center for over three decades. On Monday they reopen in their new location across from Cowls Lumber.

Let's talk about Massachusetts politics. Let's talk about hypocrisy. But I repeat myself.

When it looked like John Kerry might be elected president in 2004, when Massachusetts had a Republican Governor (Mitt Romney) the Democrats hastily changed the law so that a vacant senate seat would not be filled with an appointment by the governor, but require a special election which the Democrats felt sure they would win. Now a mere eight years later there is speculation that Kerry might leave the senate for a post with the Obama Administration, thereby creating a special election which many observers believe would be won by Republican Scott Brown. Surprise! Now there is talk circulating that the Democrats want to change the law back! And they wonder why people have no respect for politicians.
Read more here.

Thinking of playing Powerball? Don't. Do Not. You are going to lose. YOU ARE GOING TO FUCKIN LOSE! Here's why.

This FREE resource features archival recordings from 92Y by some of the best writers of our time. Including Truman Capote, Kurt Vonnegut, Adrienne Rich, Edith Grossman, Carlos Fuentes, Jonathan Franzen, Lucille Clifton, E.L. Doctorow, Garrison Keillor, Gore Vidal, Cynthia Ozick, Allen Ginsberg. W.H. Auden and dozens more.

Leonardo da Vinci Park in the South End of Springfield.

Angelina Jolie as seen by Leonardo da Vinci

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

First Snow

Looking out the window at the Haymarket this morning I saw that it was starting to snow.

By the time I got to UMass it was deep enough to leave footprints.

Last week the weather was better. The verdant farm fields of Hadley are barren now, but their incredible beauty still soothes the soul.

Recently I was on the Norwottock Rail Trail with Mark, riding along in this contraption.

It's like a bicycle built for four, each seat having their own pedals. Mark got it from Europe. Here is what it was like to ride in such a vehicle.

Greenfield native, internationally acclaimed magician and libertarian activist Penn Jillette recently did a major interview with the Washington Times. An excerpt:

Election night brought speculation that the United States was slowly embracing libertarianism; that victories for recreational marijuana and gay marriage symbolized a potential shift toward a libertarian direction of personal freedom. Jillette remains unconvinced.

“I just don’t know. I don’t know. People still seem to think that they should vote themselves money. They seem to think there is stuff which they think is the government’s job, when it’s really the individual’s job. You have to be careful as a libertarian because you can sound very Republican. I don’t want people who are in poverty, in pain, or suffering, to suffer because it’s for their own good and they can pull themselves up by their bootstraps. I want to help them. I want us all to help them. I just don’t want to use guns to do it.”

To read the whole interview go here.

Haymarket Rest Room

It turns out there was a record turnout of voters in Massachusetts earlier this month as Barack Obama beat former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney 61% to 38% with one percent voting for third party candidates like Bay State resident Jill Stein. According to the Boston Globe:

Secretary of the State William F. Galvin said the Nov. 6 turnout was 3,184,196 people – or 73.3 percent of registered voters - compared with 3,102,995 people who voted in 2008, the previous record.
Read more here.

Northampton's Iron Horse Music Hall released the following statement today.

A must read, on the eve of Dinosaur Jr's show at Pearl Street, tomorrow night, Wednesday 11/28 at 8PM. Dinosaur Jr's first club gig (ever) at Pearl Street about 25 years ago in the mid to late '80s. A recollection by club manager John Allen:

I don't remember the year exactly, it was the Thursday before Good Friday 1986 or 87, and it was the first ever club booking for Dinosaur Jr. Their "manager
" Simon (a fellow Brit ex-pat) had brought me a tape of them and begged me to "give them an opening slot on any show." I listened to the tape and was impressed that a collection of local kids had produced this Neil Young-ian sound. I also liked Simon, a cheery enthusiastic fellow, so I booked the lads as the opening act for Cow Punk rockers, Jason & The Scorchers. I'd gambled there would be enough people home for Easter who needed to get out and have some fun. We got a modestly sized crowd of rabid Jason fans wearing cowboy hats and doing shots of Jim Beam as they hollered in heightened anticipation for their hero Mr. Ringenberg and company to take the stage. I'd given Dinosaur and their "manager" strict instructions to play for no more than 30 minutes.

Their set began louder than any I'd ever heard in the room. There weren't nearly enough bodies to dampen the sonic attack reverberating between gobsmacked wannabe cowboys and the walls. People immediately began heading for the front bar away from the stage. The crowd was not bashful about expressing their distaste, booing and covering their ears. I ran to the side stage area and told Simon, their "manager" to tell them to turn it down, which he did to little avail. By the time I got back to the front bar people were accosting me angrily, demanding that I get them off the stage. I allowed them a little longer before returning to the stage where I got into a shouting match with Simon, who told me there was nothing he could do. I asked J Mascis myself from side stage to turn it down, he ignored me at first and then actually turned it up, which I didn't realize until I was back out front being screamed at by the few remaining patrons (the rest were leaving in droves, covering their ears as they fled).

I returned to the side stage and gestured to Mascis that he should make the song they were playing their last one. He stared at me briefly before his face disappeared behind the curtain of hair he used to punctuate his attention to anything beyond his immediate concern. As they came to the end of the song he immediately launched into another. I began gesticulating at him wildly he ignored me and played even louder. I was shouting that he needed to end it, or I would cut the power! He began yet another song which is when I pulled the master switch killing all the stage power; sound, lights everything! When I was sure they'd got the message and had lost their momentum, I returned power to the stage. I attempted to talk to J Mascis but found it difficult communicating through the curtain of hair that separated us. The band left quietly and listlessly. Apparently they'd expended everything they had during the brief sonic assault on the ears and bodies of the wannabe Cow Punks of Western Mass.
- John Allen, booking agent at Pearl Street Nightclub, 1984 - 89.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Eat Me

Early morning delivery of hipster drinks to the Haymarket.

For years we've heard the tax cuts enacted by Congress a decade ago at the request of former President Bush described as "tax cuts for the rich." Now that they are expiring at the end of next month we discover that they actually were tax cuts for 96% of the population, and that the largest group standing to lose money if the cuts expire is the middle class. Funny how the Democrats forget to mention that fact all those years they were calling for the taxcuts to be repealed. The fiscal bullshit will be flowing like water in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, the press conference this morning by Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse on a casino for Mt. Park in Holyoke did not get rave reviews, as suggested by this Mary Serreze photo.

A surprisingly strong backlash against the proposal has come from Northampton, with Mayor David Narkiewicz releasing the following statement:

My position with regard to casino gaming in western Massachusetts remains unchanged. I view any casino development in our region as a serious potential threat to the social and economic vitality of Northampton and have made it clear since my candidacy that I will advocate for the best interests of our community as the Commonwealth’s gaming process moves forward.

The City of Northampton has worked for decades to create a unique economic environment with a strong base of locally owned businesses, great schools, safe neighborhoods, and a vibrant downtown that is an unmatched retail, dining, and arts and entertainment destination for the region and New England.

I have not spoken with the Mayor of Holyoke about any prospective casino in his city, but I certainly look forward to hearing from him after this morning’s announcement.

I have serious concerns about a resort casino located six miles from the heart of downtown Northampton and will work with other surrounding communities to protect our interests and the interests of the region should any casino proposal be advanced in Holyoke.

It's a fact that casinos have been known to suck some of the life out of downtowns, an unpleasant prospect for Hamp which will not be all that far from the casino. On the other hand the development involves Eric Suher, whose entertainment empire is Northampton dependent, so can't he be counted on not to foul his own nest? What makes this issue such a bitch is that the law legalizing a casino in Western Mass has already passed, meaning the only relevant questions are where it is going and who will run it. I'd much prefer to see the local businessman Suher in charge than one of the national casino chains behind the other proposals. Of course the best solution is to take the casino business completely away from the government (which has no business running casinos) and give it to the private market, but fat chance of that much commonsense ever entering into the discussion.

Ankle bracelet monitor model Lindsay Lohan and friend.

The scandal plagued Massachusetts Probation Department is back in the news for fucking up again, this time over "lost" equipment that has undermined their ankle bracelet monitoring system. Somehow I suspect that a better word than lost is "stolen." A complete housecleaning of that hack heaven department, including mass firings, is long overdue.
Read more here.

There's a good article in the Valley Advocate about a tempest in a teapot over art on the downtown Northampton trestles.

I'm surprised the article doesn't mention what adorned that trestle for much of the 1970's and 80's. Around 1976 through some acrobatic vandalism someone managed to paint in large white letters "EAT THE RICH" across the whole length of the trestle, where it remained for at least ten years. It was a different Northampton in the 1970's, where rents were so cheap I used to pay my rent selling joints. By the late 80's however gentrification had advanced to the point where the graffiti was obviously inappropriate, since to follow it would require the citizens of Northampton to dine on themselves.
Read the article here.

Former Springfield City Councilor Mitch Ogulewicz, now a resident of South Carolina, recently put on his Facebook page one of these JFK cards which were everywhere when I was a kid. You couldn't go into anyone's house and not see one stuck up somewhere. I think they were passed out by churches, and not just Catholic ones. Politico has a interesting little article today about an incident involving JFK and Latinos. Read it here.

Yes, the Rolling Stones are but a pale shadow of their former selves, but it's still nice to have them around. Here are a few snippets from their 50th anniversary show last night.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Game Change

There is an absolutely fantastic article in The New Yorker about the Grateful Dead. It gets into a lot of interesting things about the legendary archives of the Dead's music, but also has some great sociological and historical insights. An excerpt:

Later, I got the tapes. To my ears, the performances held up, and the music, on repetition, began to feel like something composed, rather than improvised. It took on a life of its own, apart from my experience of having witnessed its creation. The tapes themselves are long gone, but I still listen to those shows from time to time. I’ve even found an amateur video of the second night on YouTube, synched to a soundboard recording. The fact that I also listen, with equal or even greater regard, to many dozens of shows that I never attended, the majority of them performed during my nursery-rhyme years, props up my usually fruitless contention that nostalgia has nothing to do with the way the Dead wormed their way into my mind’s ear and fought off all comers even decades after the band had disappeared from the stage. The Dead inspired many lamentable bumper stickers, but one good one captured how it felt, and feels, to be under their sway: “Who are the Grateful Dead, and why do they keep following me?”

Read more here.

This brilliant essay in the New York Times calls upon President Obama to get his new term off to the right start by calling for Congress to repeal the federal marijuana laws so that the states can be free to authorize its sale just as Washington and Colorado have done. One of the things that I'm ashamed of my generation for is how we have betrayed the promises we made as kids when we said that when "we were in charge" meaning our generation, we would have the sense our foolish elders did not and would legalize marijuana. It is not too late to redeem ourselves, and the leadership should come from President Obama, who biographers have claimed was a quite stoney youth himself.
Read it here.

I'm surprised to hear that Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse is changing his tune on casino gambling. I don't gamble, but I still support the right to gamble because I don't consider the fact that I don't enjoy a certain vice as grounds to deny it to others. What I don't like are government run casinos with legal monopolies (just the corruption issues are mortifying) and if those are the only terms under which gambling is going to be allowed, then I'd just as soon not have it.

That said, if indeed there is going to be a casino no matter what, then I can't think of anyone else I'd rather see it run by than Eric Suher, the man who almost single handedly saved the downtown Northampton music scene by buying up all the failing music houses in the 90's and making them profitable. Unfortunately, for that profound public service the only thanks Suher has ever received are strikes, lawsuits and insults. His entry into the casino siting sweepstakes would be a game changer, bringing a local player into the mix with a proven track record of public service and managerial excellence. Holyoke may quickly go from being completely out of the casino siting game to being the number one contender.
Read more here.

Most people know Larry Kelley as king of the Amherst blogosphere and a guy with a flag fetish. Years ago however he was known as one tough son of a bitch with a kick that could send you to dreamland in one second flat - as demonstrated in the video below.

Here's an interesting tidbit by Peter Goonan on a little known cemetery in Blunt Park in Springfield. Is Blunt Park considered to be in Pine Point or as part of the Square?
Read more here.