Archive for March, 2010

Gigli’s Photo of the Week 3/22/2010

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Photography by Rich Gigli

AFTERNOON OF A FAWN - And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. - The Book of Genesis 1:024

AFTERNOON OF A FAWN - And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. - The Book of Genesis 1:024

Another Word about Words

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

By Bob Gaydos

Since writing in January about how much I miss Bill Safire writing the On Language column in The New York Times Magazine and what a waste I thought it was to spend an entire page in the magazine on the word “inchoate,” as was the case on that occasion, I haven’t had the energy to venture back into that space. Until last weekend.
Big mistake.

The column was written by Ammon Shea, who is described as “a consulting editor of American dictionaries for Oxford University Press.” A dictionary guy, which is really not the same thing as a language guy. Shea spends the whole column telling us that — despite what educators, research and experience tell us — the size of one’s vocabulary is not necessarily as important to a successful life as .. ta da! … how one uses all the words one knows.

Now he tells us.

But wait. Shea, the dictionary guy, then goes on to posit (a word he would probably like) that most of us underestimate the pure joy of learning arcane, obscure, unpronounceable words we will never, ever use. He particularly likes groak. He also tossed in catillate, vitulate and brochity. Don’t bother, you’ll never use them.

Anyway, as I once again rued the day the On Language column became a column about words people never use, which, in effect, makes it a waste of time, I remembered that I had asked our literate  Zest readers for their own pet language peeves. And so, with apologies and appreciation, I offer them now.

*  *  *

Lee Luce of Warwick was especially worked up: “We, too, read the NY Times Magazine and often rue the passing of Bill Safire. So you want pet peeves? I have the normal ones – “diametrically opposed,“ “Bill and me went …”, “my cohorts and I.”

“But my current grammatical pet peeve is the increasing use of the word it. My first English college professor hated when anybody used the word  and I suppose it stuck. Her thesis was that over-use of the word it asks the reader to work and decipher what it stands for in the sentence. Why not just write what you mean without asking the reader to decipher your code? She even went so far as to say that a writer was better off using more words in place of the word it than were necessary in order to make the meaning clear. Worse than using the word in a sentence was to start a sentence with the word It.

“Some quick examples from the January 11 issue of Time magazine:

  • ‘The Interview Issue: How They See It” (What is it?)’
  • Perhaps it was the economy, or maybe it was our mindlessly divided’ … political climate.’ (What is it?)’
  • ‘It turned out to be a fortuitous coincidence…’ (What is it?)’
  • ‘It may seem like this vast nation…’ (What is it?)’

“All examples are within the first seven pages of the magazine. I’m ready to cancel my subscription. Now I must confess my husband, an excellent writer, does not agree with my rantings on the use of the word it. And I’ve never seen anything written, except for the venerable team of Strunk & White, to support my visceral reaction to use of the word when not necessary. Maybe I’m just a lone grammatical voice crying in the wilderness.”

Bigsky offered this: “I realize that this column isn’t choate, so I look forward to the next one. Kindly address flammable and inflammable next time.” (Well, yes, they do mean the same thing, making one unnecessary.)

Fellow Zester Michael Kaufman wrote: I think the one that annoys me most is the way people write “loose” when they mean “lose,” as in, “I think I may loose my job.” One of the worst editors I ever had told me he didn’t appreciate my insouciance. After reading your post I checked: There is no such word as souciance.

LeeAgain wrote: “I joiced mightily at your choice of subject this week.”

From Carrie Jacobson, zest artist/writer: All those snoots who use “choate” probably went to Choate. My current peeve is “gentleman,” as in “the gentleman in handcuffs has been charged with murder.” A man is not necessarily a gentleman. In fact, I’d say, in this day and age, a man is almost never a gentleman! (Except for you.)

From jacquesdebauche: “My pet peeve is the use of “issue” when what is really meant is “problem.” In the relevant sense, an issue is a matter of dispute, while a problem is a source of perplexity. For example, if you come out of the house in the morning and discover that your car has a flat tire, that’s a problem. If you want to borrow your wife’s car to get to work, that could be an issue. I suspect this (mis)usage grew from the same M.B.A. thinking that, twenty years ago, replaced “problems” with “opportunities.”

Ernie Miller: “My particular peeve is the use of the word decimate to say something has been 100% percent annihilated. The Romans would decimate; they would take 1/10th of something. I suspect few people took Latin as I did, though for a year only. When one thinks about it, it is a pretty strong punishment to remove 10 percent of something be it a population, cattle, or wenches. (Oops, that sounds like a pirate.) Every time I hear decimate to represent total annihilation, I cringe. Thinking about it, with inchoate meaning incomplete, decimate is also an incomplete action/event. Both words are then used wrong or bastardized to mean complete? Complete what?”

And Fred Madeo of Ithaca: “Enjoyed your piece on William Safire and language and usage. I climb the wall whenever I hear the following: ‘Having said that, saying that, that having been said, that said,’ and ad infinitum. It is what I call a ‘language virus‘ that catches on like one catches a cold. That said, I shall sign off.”

Me too. Well said, all. And thanks until next time.

Bob can be reached at

Glenn Beck: Ignoramus

Monday, March 15th, 2010

By Jeffrey Page

Glenn Beck, in his bizarre rant encouraging Christians to quit their churches if they see the words “economic justice” or “social justice” on the bulletin board or hear them in the pastor’s homily, has thrown down an unanticipated gauntlet. He thought he was challenging liberals, but serious churchgoers of all political persuasions must respond to his ignorance.

Beck, on his radio show, linked social and economic justice to the worst politics the world has yet to produce. “Social justice was the rallying cry – economic justice and social justice – the rallying cry on both the communist front and the fascist front,” he said. And just in case you didn’t get it, he went on to say that “social justice” and “economic justice” are “code words,” presumably for communism and nazism.

A quick aside: If “social justice” is code for communism, is Beck telling us that “no social justice” is code for capitalism? Now that’s a revelation.

I’m sure this will take Beck by surprise but social and economic justice are synonyms for Christianity and most other faiths. Additionally, ask most people and they’d tell you that social justice and economic justice are worthy ideals.
Beck would have you believe that he knows something you don’t. But in fact, he’s just a fool who sees subversion when churches lend a hand to people who are broke. And he sees a plot when members of the clergy wage campaigns against such conditions as poverty, bad education, fifth rate medical care and lifetimes of lousy, underpaying jobs.

That’s not the kind of job Beck has. The Times reported in 2008 that he had signed a contract extension with Premiere Radio Networks for $50 million over five years. That’s $10 million a year to slander good people doing good works.

His ignorance and cruelty are astounding.

He apparently is unaware of Proverbs 31:9:  “Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.”

And of Proverbs 21:13: “Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.”

Let us cut to the chase. Do you think Beck is aware of Jesus’ first 13 words in the Sermon on the Mount? “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Clearly, Beck was addressing people who worship at liberal or middle-of-the-road churches and who share – with parishioners at conservative churches – a basic belief that Jesus Christ knew what he was talking about.

For many people “economic justice” and “social justice” are code words all right – not for nazism and communism but for a society that cares for all its people including those whose incomes are substantially less than $10 million a year and who are forced to ask for food when their kids are hungry, a job when they’re out of work, treatment when they’re sick.

So far, the Times has reported that the Rev. Jim Wallis, who heads a Christian antipoverty organization in Washington has implored listeners to turn off Beck’s radio show. Wallis is No. 1. Who’s next?

And which minister and/or parishioner of a politically conservative church or social justice agency will inform Beck that his likening of social justice with communism and fascism was ill-informed, childish, and an affront to all good people of faith, no matter their politics?

Who will tell him that when he says “If you have a priest that is pushing social justice, go find another parish,” he reveals an enormous ignorance about one of the fundamental tenets of Christian churches – to love thy neighbor as thyself?

Has anyone heard from Pat Robertson lately?

Jeffrey can be reached at

The World is Our Litter Box

Monday, March 15th, 2010

By Shawn Dell Joyce

Recent flooding rains wash it into our lawns, collect it in the gutters by the roads, and consolidate it on storm drains. With no leaves as camouflage, we see the plastic bags caught on bare branches.  Beer bottles, tin cans and Styrofoam cups nestle like Easter eggs under shrubs and bushes. Litter is a man-made blight on the local landscape.

But litter doesn’t end in the Wallkill Valley. In his eye-opening book; “The World Without Us,” Alan Weisman describes a small continent of litter floating in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. His words: “It was not unlike an Arctic vessel pushing through chunks of brash ice, except what was bobbing around them was a fright of cups, bottle caps, tangles of fish netting and monofilament line, bits of polystyrene packaging, six-pack rings, spent balloons, filmy scraps of sandwich wrap, and limp plastic bags that defied counting.”

 What is the source of all this flotsam and jetsam? Captain Charles Moore of Long Beach, Calif., is quoted in the book as concluding that “80 percent of the mid-ocean flotsam had been originally discarded on land. It blew off garbage trucks, out of landfills, spilled from railroad shipping containers, washed down storm drains, sailed down rivers, wafted on the wind, and found its way to the widening gyre.”

 According to Keep America Beautiful campaign, “People tend to litter because they feel no sense of personal ownership. In addition, even though areas such as parks and beaches are public property, people often believe that someone else like a park maintenance or highway worker will take responsibility to pick up litter that has accumulated over time.”

 A walk through Winding Hills Park, Benedict Park, or any of the Rail Trails and you will see that otherwise normal people are thoughtlessly dropping trash. These folks are our friends, neighbors, and (gulp) even ourselves. So how can those of us who do really give a hoot stop this blight?

 Keep America Beautiful engages people in cleaning up their community and engendering the feeling that they have a vested interest in their environment.  The organization points out that litter can also happen accidentally. As in overflowing garbage cans waiting for curb-side collection. Or from trucks at construction sites that are not properly covered.  Even from municipalities that don’t offer litter cans and proper receptacles in public places.

 Every year, Keep America Beautiful hosts the Great American Cleanup from March 1-May 31. This is the nation’s largest annual community improvement program, with 30,000 events in 15,000 communities. Last year, volunteers collected 200 million pounds of litter and debris; planted 4.6 million trees, flowers and bulbs; cleaned 178,000 miles or roads, streets and highways; and diverted more than 70.6 million plastic (PET) bottles and more than 2.2 million scrap tires from the waste stream.

What you can do to help?
• Want to organize a cleanup in your community? Go to to volunteer.
• Grab the kids and some empty buckets and walk the banks of the nearest stream picking up litter. Be sure to separate recyclables from trash.
• At home: Keep a litter bag in the car, bungee cord your curbside garbage can closed, and carry a pocket ashtray if you smoke. Teach your children to be stewards of the earth.
• At work: Ask your boss to “adopt a road” and take responsibility for keeping it litter-free, conduct a recycling drive at work to collect paper, usable clothes, tires and other goods that can be donated.
• In your community: Identify eyesores and organize civic groups to eliminate the litter, create a “trash fishing contest” to clean up the water ways. Take computer equipment or deliver it to the transfer station.

 Shawn Dell Joyce is an award-winning columnist and director of the Wallkill River School and Art Gallery in Montgomery, NY.

Gigli’s Photo of the Week, 3/14/2010

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

Photography By Rich GigliEvery child is born a naturalist. His eyes are, by nature,

FLOWERS OF THE FIELD – Every child is born a naturalist. His eyes are by nature open to the glories of the stars, the beauty of the flowers, and the mystery of life.  (Reminder, that spring arrives with the Vernal Equinox on March 20, at 1:32pm.)

Carrie’s Painting of the Week, 03/14/2010

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

Range Rovers

Range Rovers

By Carrie Jacobson

Fellow Zester Shawn Dell Joyce and I hosted the opening reception for “Celebrations” on Saturday at the Wallkill River School. It was raining torrentially, which kept some people home. But the reception was crowded and fun and happy in spite of the rain, and Shawn and I truly appreciated the folks who had the courage and will to come out  in spite of the weather.

During the show, we both gave demonstrations, continuing work on paintings we’d started before the reception. I was pretty nervous. I often paint in public, and I’ve given workshops, but both of those are far removed from painting – in my dress-up clothes – to a room packed full of people.

I paint with a palette knife these days, and as I was slathering on the paint, I could hear people behind me saying “That looks like fun.”

Well, it is! So I turned and offered the knife around, and lo and behold if people didn’t take me up on it. Well, that calmed my nerves and made the whole experience utterly delightful.

The show is up until the end of the month, at the gallery on Route 17K in Montgomery. Check the Wallkill River School website (to the right on this page) for hours and directions. I think you’ll like the show. Shawn’s pastel paintings are vivid and deliciously painted. They are exciting, with interesting angles and boldly graphical presentations.

I’m happy as can be with the paintings I’m showing this month. Many are large, and most are bright and lively and eye-catching. The one at the top of this entry is one of the ones in the show. It captures a small herd of cattle who crossed my path in Wyoming. They looked pretty formidable; I took a photo from inside the car, not daring to get out.

If you’re interested (it’s a big painting, 34 x 60) contact me at for price and delivery options.

The Other Side of Jim Bunning

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

By Michael Kaufman

Before Jim Bunning became the “Republican moron from Kentucky” –as Bob Gaydos aptly described him in a recent Zest post–he was one hell of a major league pitcher.  Bunning was the first man since the legendary Cy Young to win more than 100 games and strike out more than 1,000 batters in both leagues.  When he retired in 1971 his 2,855 career strikeouts were second only to Walter Johnson’s 3,508.

In 1957 he was a 20-game winner with the American League Detroit Tigers, for whom he pitched from 1955-1963. After a disappointing 1963 season the Tigers traded him, along with veteran catcher Gus Triandos, to the Phildelphia Phillies for pitcher Jack Hamilton and outfielder Don Demeter. Hamilton and Demeter accomplished little with the Tigers. Bunning went on to assure his place in the Hall of Fame.

In 1965 he topped the National League in shutouts with five and he led the league in that department again in 1967 with six. He was a 19-game winner for three straight years, 1964-1966.

I still have my ticket stub from June 21, 1964, when he pitched a perfect game for the Phillies against the New York Mets on a sunny Fathers Day afternoon at Shea Stadium. At 33  he was in the midst of his first season in the National League.  In the late innings the crowd was roaring on every pitch. Mets fans had little to cheer about in those days but on this day they were rooting for Bunning to finish pitching the first perfect game in the National League in 84 years.

When it was over we stood and cheered, “We want Bunning!” Minutes went by but he and his teammates had long disappeared into the dressing room. “We want Bunning!” we chanted even louder. No one left the stadium. Finally, after a few minutes more, he emerged from the dugout and acknowledged our cheers.

Bunning was no right-wing yahoo back then. A graduate of Xavier University in Cincinnati, where he received a bachelor’s degree in economics, he was a leading force in the Major League Players’ Association and served on the union’s Pension Committee. His degeneration into someone who would block the extension of unemployment benefits to hundreds of thousands of jobless American workers is an embarrassment even to his fellow Republicans.

FROM THE VIRTUAL MAILBAG — Thanks to Jack and Peter for their comments on last week’s post. “As significant in the situation as the casual anti-Semitism of the local sports organization (no one would play games on Sunday, or Christian holidays, lesser incorrect religions of course cannot be similarly accommodated) is the fact that Orthodox Judaism, fasting, religious holidays, religion in general and its rules and conventions are all (expletive deleted) and should not be allowed to be taught to/imposed on children,” wrote Jack. “I mean, if a Sikh institution has a team, will their players be allowed to carry iron knives in the game?  It’s part of their religion, after all.  I can’t wait for the Islamic Fundamentalist High School Houris wanting to play basketball in full chador…” Don’t hold back, Jack.

“Good for the girls,” wrote Peter.  “What is the matter with people, anyway?  Make nothing into a big deal.  Those kids showed so much class.” Thanks, Peter, and as Ted Mack used to say, “Keep those cards and letters coming in.”

Michael can be reached at

A Year of Democratic Decline

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

By Jeffrey Page

“Left face!” Sgt. Al Minicus would bark at his trainees at Fort Dix and, invariably, 65 men would turn their bodies 90 degrees to the left, and one or two would turn to the right.

“You’re so damned dumb, you’d f**k up a wet dream,” Minicus would shout into the face of a soldier who turned the wrong way. It’s a line that can’t be explained but whose meaning is understood immediately.

And so we turn to the dreams of New York Democrats. One year ago they had the world by the tail. Comptroller Alan Hevesi had resigned two years earlier and talk of his idiotic use of state workers to chauffeur his wife had pretty much faded. And Governor Eliot Spitzer, who had paid high priced hookers to do that which he wished done, was out of office for nearly a year. The punch line “Eliot Spitzer” was heard less and less.

The Democrats had elected a promising new president. They were in solid control of the House and Senate. Rep. Charles Rangel was chairman of the important Ways and Means Committee. A House freshman, Eric Massa, had won a seat in a traditionally Republican district on Lake Erie. After eight years of Bush and Cheney, Pataki and Joe Bruno, this looked like the Democrats’ time.

But they have spent the better part of a year acting very strangely and through it all, there was a large nonpartisan constituency watching and wondering: Whoa, is this the party to fix things?

–Last spring, Democratic State Senator Pedro Espada defected to the Republicans. The Senate ground to a halt; important legislation was put on hold. Then Espada kissed some Democratic rings, or maybe it was the other way around. He defected back. And Senate Democrats welcomed him by making him their majority leader. Truly, this was Marx Brothers material.

–Recently, another senator, Democrat Hiram Monserrate, learned that – you know? – you’re just not allowed to drag your girlfriend around by her hair and shoulders. Monserrate was convicted of misdemeanor assault. In a rare display of political courage the Senate kicked him out. He won’t go quietly. He’s threatening to sue.

–Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is looking into reports that Governor Paterson had staff and/or the state police contact the ex-girlfriend of his confidante to get her to withdraw a request for an order of protection against the aide, David Johnson. Some are calling for Paterson to resign.

–Recently, two important members of Paterson’s administration quit – his criminal justice adviser (“good conscience,” she said, made her continued service impossible) and his communications director (“good conscience,” he said, dictated that he leave). Oh, and the head of the state police retired.

–Rangel gave up his chairmanship of Ways and Means as suggestions of lapses of ethical conduct swirled about him. One charge is that Rangel took trips to the Caribbean that were paid for by corporations. This is not allowed but don’t be too hard on Rangel. After all, he’s only been in the House of Representatives for the last 39 years. And there’s also an unresolved matter of possible income tax evasion.

–Massa used to be a Republican. Now’s he’s a Democrat. He says the reason a staffer went public about Massa’s alleged sexual harassment is that the White House is out to get him because he doesn’t like President Obama’s health reform plan. So he resigned. Then the Times ran a story about Massa’s interview on an upstate radio station in which he confirmed that, at a party in January, he  “grabbed the aide, joked about having sexual relations with him and mussed his hair before getting up and leaving.” The aide’s complaint is now in the hands of the House Ethics Panel.

–Toss in the White House’s insane non-response over the summer as the Tea Partiers grabbed headlines on Page 1 on the matter of health reform. Did the geniuses in the Obama Administration think the Tea Party people would get it off their chests and then just go home?

Twelve months ago, the Democrats were sitting on top of the world. Nowadays, they’re sitting on one another. And that’s no dream.

Jeffrey can be reached at

10 Steps to Improving Your Local Economy

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

By Shawn Dell Joyce
Recently, most of Orange County’s industry has been “outsourced,” causing a loss of jobs and the disintegration of hometowns built around companies like IBM. Our current recession is an indication that this global economy is not working. Economist and author Michael Shuman said recently “about 42 percent of our economy is “place based” or created through small, locally-owned businesses.” This means that almost half our economy depends upon small independent businesses that make up the backbone of our hometowns.

These small businesses are what give our town local color and local flavor. They are what differentiate us from every other exit on the Thruway which has the same six chain stores. Local businesses are also committed to their hometowns, and support the local economy through hiring people in the area, donating to local charities and volunteer ambulance and fire service, and paying local taxes. Shuman estimates that we could expand our region’s economy to be 70 percent local or more by incorporating these ten simple steps that will actually save you money in the process.

–Localize your home! The biggest expense most of us have is our mortgage. Actually, 60 percent of our annual expenses go to shelter. This money often flies out of our community and into absentee landlords’ hands, or corporate banks in other states. By renting from a local landlord, or buying your own home with a mortgage from a local bank, you can localize this expense. Local banks and credit unions typically have the best rates anyway, possibly saving you money in the process. Try to find a bank that doesn’t repackage and sell loans on the secondary market which would stop your money from flowing through the community.

–Drive less! According to Shuman, Americans spend one out of every five dollars on transportation. That amounts to almost $5,000 per year! Until we can start replacing imported oil with locally-produced biofuels, our best bet is to drive less.

–Using mass transit, bicycling, or walking are highest on the list, but not very easy for us rural folks. Use the car sparingly, buy gas from an independent gas station if you can find one, and use a local repair shop you trust.

–Eat Independently! Households spend about $2300 per year on restaurants; unfortunately it’s mostly fast food chains. This one is a simple matter of choice with very little effort required to find a wonderful independently-owned restaurant.

–Local Arts and Entertainment! Most people opt for a movie at a corporate multiplex at the mall. Enjoy homegrown talent! Visit the small repertory theaters, see a real play instead of a movie. Visit an art show and buy art from local artists, buy music directly from the bands.

–Localize Your Health Care! Most of us have health care plans that are far from local, yet two components: high-tech equipment and prescription medications can be localized. Get your meds from an independent pharmacy, preferably one that also uses local suppliers. If we take better care of ourselves, walking more, eating local, building strong family and community ties, we will reduce our need for the high-tech equipment. Using local midwives instead of OB-GYN’s, and naturopaths or herbalists are alternative ways.

–Buy Locally Grown! Eating locally, meaning buying fresh vegetables, meats, and dairy from local farms reduces transportation costs and vitamin loss. Farming is one of the few industries left in the Hudson Valley. The closer you eat to home, the more you improve your health, your view, and your local economy.

–Localize Electricity! If Taylor Biomass were online, we would have local electricity. Until then, increase energy efficiency by improving insulation and having a home energy audit, then invest in solar hot water through a local provider.

–Give Locally! More than 6 percent of the U.S. economy is nonprofit according to Shuman. Most of these nonprofits are in the forms of hospitals, universities, and churches, but locally we also have arts organizations, environmental groups, and many others.

–Buy Local! In the time it has taken you to read this, Americans have collectively spent $23 million. Shuman says that $16 million of this figure could be spent in small locally-owned stores. Imagine how much $16 million would help our schools and communities.

Shawn Dell Joyce is an award-winning columnist and founder of the Wallkill River School in Montgomery.

Carrie’s Painting of the Week, 03/10/10

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

Sunset in Sonoita

Sunset in Sonoita

By Carrie Jacobson

This one nearly slipped by me! I’ve been so wrapped up in working on “Celebrations,” my show with Shawn Dell Joyce at the Wallkill River School, that I nearly forgot to post to Zest. Yikes!

This painting, one of the ones you will see in the show, is of an area south of Tucson, Arizona, a place called Sonoita. A spine of mountains rises above the plains, which are rich with grass that glows and waves in the wind. It’s a lonely, lovely spot that picks up the colors of the air and the sun and the wide-open prairie.

Our show is on now at the gallery, 232 Ward St. (Route 17K), Montgomery. See the website (to the right) for more information. And come to the opening reception on Saturday, from 5-7 p.m.