Archive for December, 2010

Carrie’s Painting of the Week

Friday, December 17th, 2010

On the Way to Warwick

By Carrie Jacobson

What a year this has been! What gifts I have received!

So often, I am on the way to one place, on the way to one destination, when something comes to me, out of the blue – and it is beautiful, or gentle, or thought-provoking – and it was nothing like what I was setting out to do, nothing like the destination I was setting out to find.

This is what happened with this painting. It was a crisp October day, and I was on my way to Warwick. This scene was so beautiful, I nearly drove off the road. I’d have given something precious to be able to paint it in plein air, but the road was narrow, and the shoulder even narrower. A photograph was my only bet.

Back home, I painted in the studio, and much in the way that I’d found this scene I had not been seeking, I found views and colors and resonances in the photograph that I hadn’t known were there.

In my mind, that makes it even more of a gift – because it’s something I wasn’t expecting, wasn’t seeking.

I hope that you all stumble on treasures in this new year. I hope that you seek, and that you find – and I hope that on the way, you find something else. Something wonderful that you weren’t seeking at all.

If you are interested in buying this painting, please contact me at for price and delivery information. It is 36 inches by 48 inches, oil on canvas.

From Mazeltov to the Depths of Hell

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

By Michael Kaufman thinks they know me but they don’t. Why else would they send me the following email:

“Dear Customer,
“Customers who have purchased or rated Mazeltov, Mis Amigos by Juan Calle & his Latin Lantzmen might like to know that Songs from the Depths of Hell is now available.  You can order yours for just $19.09 by following the link below. 

Songs from the Depths of Hell, Kulisiewicz, Price:  $19.09” 

Yes, I ordered Mazeltov Mis Amigos a while back. It is a clever mix of Latin jazz music with traditional Yiddish songs like Mein Shtetele Belz (played as a pachanga) and Bei Mir Bist du Shein (played as a meringue). The album was recorded for Riverside records in 1961 and included some of the biggest names in 50s and 60s Latin music, conga-drum great Ray Barretto, timbales guru Wilie Rodriguez, and pianist Charlie Palmieri playing alongside African-American jazz greats Clark Terry, Doc Cheatham, Lou Oles, and Wendell Marshall.  “Juan” was actually John Cali, an Italian-American banjo picker best known for his work with the Vincent Lopez Orchestra and his solo banjo offerings. The only “lantzman” was Ed Powell, who sang in Yiddish on the date. 

I purchased the recently reissued CD for many reasons. I love jazz.  I love Latin music. I love Yiddish music. I love funny stuff. And the late Ray Barretto, who lived in Warwick, was one of my favorites.

When my daughter Sadie was little I took her to a free afternoon children’s concert he did in Newark. Barretto and his band played their hearts out for the kids as if it were a Saturday night on the main stage at the Newport Jazz Festival. They even played “Manteca” specially for us after I requested it.

I don’t like that Amazon tracks my purchases and sends me emails about items they think I may be interested in. It seems like an invasion of privacy.  (And you should see some of the emails they sent after I ordered two pamphlets by Karl Marx that I thought Sadie could use when she was taking economics in college!)

After I ordered a book by Steve Crist, editor of the Daily Racing Form, I got emails from Amazon telling me about every new book on horse racing. Since ordering a French press coffee maker I’ve been getting emails about every new kitchen product and gizmo imaginable.

But Songs from the Depths of Hell?

Here is the description: “Aleksander Kulisiewicz, a survivor of Sachsenhausen concentration camp, is a voice of hope in the face of despair. The agony of the songs is intense, but the beauty of the musical expression helps to counter the suffering experienced by so many millions. Sung in German, Polish, Ukrainian, and Yiddish with English translations in the liner notes.” 

Hmmmmmmmm, sounds interesting…..very interesting.  I don’t know how they got there from Mazeltov Mis Amigos, damn their eyes, but they got me on this one. The email provides no more information before closing with “We hope you found this message to be useful” but  at the Amazon site I learned that the album was originally released in 1979 on Smithsonian Folkways. No titles are listed but the 15 songs can be downloaded for $8.99 or purchased on CD for $15.99.

I’ll think about it. I still think it is an invasion of privacy.

Michael can be reached at

Tax Breaks for Rich Irk Local Activists

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

By Michael Kaufman

Vincent Ferri was in his car last Saturday listening to President Obama’s explanation of the tax bill he negotiated with the Republicans. Ferri, a Vietnam combat veteran and peace and social justice activist, was outraged by what he sees as “capitulation” to those “who would destroy Social Security and who were responsible for the recession that resulted from their unfunded wars, unfair NAFTA agreements, and the deregulation of the various financial institutions.”

“Many of the same people who put our economy in the toilet will be among the wealthiest Americans receiving a huge windfall tax break by Obama’s ‘compromise,’” says Ferri, adding that by putting forward this legislation Obama has become “the first president to allow a direct frontal attack on Social Security since it began. “The Republicans held the unemployment extension hostage in return for these two devastating concessions,” says Ferri. “For all of their moralizing and their claims of family and religious values, their actions speak of greed and indifference to those in need.

“Will those tax benefits bring new jobs? Will they prevent the further loss of jobs? Economists say NO. The wealthy won’t spend that money to create jobs, as demonstrated by the history of the Bush era. They will continue to build factories overseas  to put more Americans out of work or just continue to accumulate more wealth and power to increase the corporate stranglehold on our governmental institutions.”

Ferri, who lives in the Town of Wallkill, has called on his friends and fellow activists in the Orange County peace and social justice movements to join him in an “emergency demonstration” Saturday on the median strip at Middletown Galleria. 

“We cannot let those around us proceed with their Christmas shopping without facing the reality of what is about to happen,” he says. “So, let’s spend that money, but wait, can you find any products on the store shelves made in America, or will spending that tax relief money just increase the deficit in our balance of trade with the third world slave labor nations that now own most of America? Will spending that money put more Americans out of work?”

One who has responded to the call is the indefatigable Michael Sussman, lawyer and longtime activist for peace and social justice.  “The people are awfully quiet….a bit like sheep,” says Sussman, leader of the Orange County Democratic Alliance, in an email to friends and fellow activists. “Are we angry? Do we feel that the wealthy are being advantaged at a time when so many are struggling badly?”  If so, he appeals to readers to join him, Ferri and others “in the streets this weekend in our own county – making noise.”

Sussman recalls the antiwar demonstrations of 2002 “when we were out screaming that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction and was NOT connected to 9/11 and that our country was on the brink of madness. We were right then and we are right now…extending these tax breaks is insane, simply insane.  

“Vincent Ferri is mad and has taken the lead. Let’s join him this Saturday at 2 p.m. at the entrance to the Galleria with signs galore and an energy and spirit to repel the elements.”  Yes, let’s.

END NOTE–If you haven’t seen or heard this recent speech before members of the U.S. Senate by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) please do so now. Here is the link. (Note the lack of applause by the Republicans and Democrats he made so uncomfortable simply by speaking the truth):

Michael can be reached at

Nixon Strikes Again

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

By Jeffrey Page

More tapes of Oval Office conversations during the Nixon Administration once again reveal his anti-Semitism and his loathing of blacks, Italians, and people of Irish descent.

Nixon an anti-Semite? A racist? Why am I not surprised?

In 1999, we were staggered by a tape on which Nixon, referring back to his early days in politics, declared: “The only two non-Jews in the communist conspiracy were [Whitaker] Chambers and [Alger] Hiss. Many felt that Hiss was. He could have been a half, but he was not by religion. The only two non-Jews. Every other one was a Jew. And it raised hell with us.”

And we’re jolted now with a later tape that captures Nixon expressing racist views regarding several ethnic groups. Doubtless we will be left slack jawed in the future when even more tapes from the famous White House taping system are released by the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum. But we shouldn’t be. Nixon has, any number of times, proved his bigotry and displayed his twisted world view.

As reported by The Times last week, Nixon was holding court in early 1973 with Charles Colson – later Colson would spend seven months in prison for obstruction of justice in the Watergate scandal – when the conversation turned to the “traits” of various peoples.

Jews? “The Jews are just a very aggressive and abrasive and obnoxious personality,” Nixon said.

Blacks? “Some of them are smart,” Nixon said.

Irish? “Can’t drink. Virtually every Irish I’ve known gets mean when he drinks,” Nixon said.

Italians? “Those people don’t have their heads screwed on tight,” Nixon said.

America voted, and for the better part of two terms was saddled with this thug in the White House and his paranoid vision of his own country and its people.

This was the man who felt compelled to tell the country: “People have got to know whether or not their president is a crook. Well, I’m not a crook.”

This is the man who kept an enemies list.

This is the man who waged a secret war in Cambodia.

This is the man who picked Spiro Agnew for his vice president, thus making them a unique team in American history – the only president and vice president to resign.

This is the man who appointed Henry Kissinger as secretary of state. After Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir asked Nixon to use his good offices to encourage the Soviets to allow more Jews to emigrate, Nixon and Kissinger discussed it.

Kissinger, who is Jewish, said, “The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy. And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.”

Did Nixon fire Kissinger on the spot? He did not. He said, “I know. We can’t blow up the world because of it.”

Reach Jeff at

Greener Holidays

Monday, December 13th, 2010

By Shawn Dell Joyce

It’s hard not to feel Grinch-green during the holidays because of the rampant consumerism, waste, and emissions generated by all that shopping and gift giving. Here’s a few ways to green your holidays without being a Scrooge or Grinch.

Those lovely twinkling lights can generate as much global warming pollution as about 250,000 cars, according to Union of Concerned Scientists.  That means that if you decorate your home and tree with 10 strands of 100 bulbs lit 8 hours a day from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, it can cost you up to $200. Powering the same amount of LED (Light Emitting Diode) mini lights would cost less than $10. 

Why not donate all your old lights to Salvation Army, and invest in LED mini lights. Don’t balk at the higher cost of LED’s, you’ll get that money back on your electric bill. Generally, LED’s will pay for themselves in the first two years. An added benefit is there is less likelihood of fires because LED’s give off very little heat, and last up to 20 years. 

Tinsel and plastic decorations are an environmental hazard. Most are made from plastics that cannot be recycled and may photodegrade when exposed to sunlight. That means that they break down into smaller and smaller particles that get absorbed into living things and wind up in our bodies. Skip the phthalate-laden plastics and use natural materials for decorations like popcorn and berry strings, cut-paper snowflakes and real greenery.

What you put under the tree is as important as what you put on the tree. Gift wrapping paper is costly, and often used only once before winding up in a landfill. Many of the shiny parts of gift wrap are environmental hazards. Consider buying recycled gift wrap, or better yet, make your own. Paper grocery bags turned inside out make sturdy wrapping paper that can be decorated with real holly, straw, and other natural materials. Putting unwrapped gifts in reusable tote bags instead of gift bags is giving two gifts in one.

Emailing cards is the greenest way to send holiday greetings.  Homemade cards or cards printed on 100 percent recycled paper are the next best. Opt for cards with an enclosed coupon or gift certificate instead of mailing bulky gifts to far-flung relations. Bulky gifts take much more gas to deliver and generate more emissions in the process.

When entertaining for the holidays, plan seasonal menus and cook what is available locally in your area, even if it takes a little extra effort and money.  This reduces the “food miles” your ingredients travel and generates less greenhouse gases. If you are a guest, bring a bottle of local wine or a dessert from a local baker. When you buy from local food producers, you spread the wealth locally, and get an interesting story to tell at the dinner table.

Shawn Dell Joyce is a nationally-syndicated newspaper columnist and director of the Wallkill RIver School in Montgomery.

Carrie’s Painting of the Week

Sunday, December 12th, 2010


By Carrie Jacobson

Early this cold morning, I was driving past an inlet where a skim of ice had formed, and it occurred to me that that is what it’s like to age.

We harden, bit by bit. At first, it’s just a little skim, along the edges. The sun will come up, the day will warm, and it will all be gone, forgotten, the surface moving and alive and sparkling in the light.

Then one day, one cold, cold day, the skim grows, until one edge touches another, covering the entire inlet.

Finally, it freezes solid.

I want to make sure that I never freeze solid. I never want to be so set in my ways, so sure of myself, so absolute, that all of me is frozen, edge to edge.

I vow, then, to wake every day and turn to the sun, and to warmth, and to the knowledge that while my mortality is certain, my stasis need not be.

Gigli’s Photo of the Week

Saturday, December 11th, 2010

Photography by Rich Gigli

Sunset Stroll

Sunset Stroll –  San Francisco China Beach is a small cove located in the sea-cliff neighborhood. San Francisco is known for its fog, and that fog comes in through the ocean so that even on the warmest days of the year, a chill can usually be felt in the ocean air as you stroll along the beach.

Carrie’s Painting of the Week

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010


By Carrie Jacobson

In these short, dark days of winter, death seems to be crowding in. Friends and family have lost beloved dogs – like Buddy, here – and in my own life, three of our dogs seem suddenly, frighteningly old.

Time comes to all of us then, and here at the tip of winter, it seems more stark and more certain than ever.

It is no wonder that, in these long dark days, we decorate our houses with light, that we sing songs and gather together and cheer for life. We must! And we must never lose our hope, our faith, our belief that dawn will come.

NYC OTB: Out of the Money

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

By Michael Kaufman

There was the time I double parked in front of the OTB on Broadway in Riverdale so I could run in for a quick look to see if I’d won a bet I’d placed earlier at a parlor downtown near my job. Not only did my horse finish out of the money, but when I went back to the car a cop was writing out a ticket.

“I was just in there for a few seconds,” I pleaded. “Can’t you cut me some slack?”

He apologized and recited the standard explanation that once he starts writing a ticket he has to finish it. Then he told me he didn’t like his job. When I drove away I felt worse for him than I did for myself.

Once, when I was a single father raising two young daughters, my little one entered my name in a contest for “mother of the year.” This still warms my heart. She is all grown up now and recently I heard her laughingly tell her younger sisters about the time I took her into the seedy, smoke-filled OTB in the George Washington Bridge bus station so I could get a bet down.  “When we walked in, dad turned to me and said, ‘You’ll never get the father of the year award if you take your kid into this place!’” 

During a big protest march against the war in Vietnam that was eventually broken up by mounted police, I ducked into an OTB parlor to bet a race.

Al, the art director where I worked as editor of a medical newspaper, was also an avid horseplayer and we often would go partners on small exacta or quiniella wagers, which require picking the horses that finish first and second in a race. One of us would run out to the OTB to place the bet. During his lunch hour, Al would draw clever cartoons based on the names of the horses we were playing that day. These were so well drawn and funny that I sent some to Vic Ziegel, sports editor of the Daily News, suggesting they might use Al as a cartoonist. Vic replied that he loved Al’s work but the paper already had a daily cartoon with a horse racing theme. I still have a batch of Al’s old cartoons.

As a young sportswriter I had covered the opening of the first OTB parlor in Grand Central Station in 1971. Each time the powers that be have threatened to shut down the operation (Catskill OTB is unaffected) I have dug out the old article to use as grist for Zest. But at the last minute there was always a settlement that kept the parlors open and the old article went back into the file.  Not today. They shut it down Tuesday night, putting 1,000 more people out of work right before the holidays.

Few if any of those who lost their jobs were present for the opening at Grand Central, where a section in the middle of the upper level of the bustling railroad station became the first OTB site in the city. Mingling through the crowd that day were eager young men and women, employees of the new OTB Corporation, offering to explain things and asking if anyone needed help filling out their betting slips. A lot of people needed help. Nobody asked.

An old woman moaned when she saw the long lines. “I’ll miss my train!”

“No,” said her friend, “the train is over there. This is where they have the betting for the horses.”

A man waiting on line to bet said, “I like this, you know. You can’t change your mind. You make a bet, that’s it. I go to the track I always watch the odds and change my mind at the last minute. I get killed that way.” As he got closer to the window he had second thoughts. He said he likes it better at the track. You can’t feel the “action” at Grand Central Station. When it was finally almost his turn he looked nervously at his betting slips and then at the racing section of his Daily News. Then he said, “Save my place! I’ll be right back. I changed my mind.”

A young man with an old-fashioned bullhorn announced, “There are plenty of slips under the Big Ben clock. Winning tickets from last night’s races are being cashed at windows one and two. Bets on tonight’s races are being taken at windows three through 10.” The lines at windows three through 10 were about 40 and 50 deep. Hardly anyone stood on lines one and two. No one will stand on line today. 

Michael can be reached at

Cher, Cindy, condoms, etc.

Monday, December 6th, 2010


By Bob Gaydos

A collection of random thoughts that piled up in my brain as I was figuring out my list of the twenty most influential thinkers of the 20th Century:

  • It’s hard being a McCain. It must be. After all, look at poor John, the onetime war hero, prisoner of war, and principled maverick Republican senator from Arizona, the man who never marched in lockstep with his GOP colleagues and never sold his soul for anything as crass as a vote (that savings and loan scandal notwithstanding). I don’t know when it started, maybe when he got his butt kicked in the 2000 primaries by that draft-evading Bush kid, but McCain hasn’t been the same since. He sold out in South Carolina to the Righteous Right — the same ones who pilloried him in 2000 — to get the 2008 GOP nomination and then developed such a crush on the governor of Alaska that he asked her to be his mate, er, running mate. Taking his lead from her, he then forgot everything he ever knew about principled governing and opted for doing and saying whatever was likely to gain him votes. Meanwhile, his actual mate, Cindy, who is the wealthy wind beneath John’s sails, finally dared to be herself and came out publicly against bullying of gays and for repeal of the military’s don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy, which John adamantly opposes. Or so it seemed. A day after her public service announcement appeared, Cindy tweeted the world that she supported both the anti-bullying of gays message and her hubby’s position on DADT. Yes, that is literally impossible, even for the best of wives. Adding to the McCain household holiday spirit, their daughter, Meghan, is quite vocal about repealing the military ban. Meanwhile, back on Capitol Hill, the senator was saying that, while surveys showed a majority of military personnel in favor of repeal, as well as the Joint Chiefs, McCain was rejecting the conclusion of a report — which he requested — saying the change could be made with no harm to military effectiveness. As for the support for repeal by the defense secretary and commander-in-chief, the man who graduated near the bottom of his class at Annapolis said he considered neither of them a military leader. Imagine if he had become president and someone said that about civilian control of the military. As disappointing as Obama has been, we could have had McCain. So I am grateful.
  • The uptight City by the Bay. San Francisco banned Happy Meals. Once upon a time, it was the place everyone went to get happy. Playing Big Brother is unbecoming its reputation.
  • The Bristol stomp. Bristol Palin, who dances about as well as Sanjaya sings, mercifully did not win the Dancing with the Stars competition. After weeks of being kept afloat by a rightwing write-in campaign, the Sarah Palin offspring lost to Jennifer Grey, who actually can dance. Bristol and her baby sister responded to the defeat and to criticism of her “talent” with an ungrammatical, profanity and gay-bashing laced assault on Facebook. Mom was apparently too busy discovering Alaska for her TV show to provide parental guidance. Again, forever grateful.
  • Snap out of it! Cher is back in the movies. Who cares if “Burlesque” is good or not, it’s just great to have her image dominating the screen again.
  • We love you, yeah, yeah, yeah. The Beatles are now available on I-tunes. I don’t have an I-anything, but it seems only right that the lads’ tunes can now be downloaded along with Miley Cyrus and Diddy, or whatever he‘s calling himself these days.
  • Sloooooowly, I turned, Step by step … The pope said it may sometimes be acceptable to use condoms. Arright, arright, don‘t get too excited just yet. Pope Benedict XVI said some people, specifically male prostitutes, using condoms could be justified because the intent was to reduce AIDS infection. While this is huge, he did not suggest using condoms as birth control, which is banned by the church, or mention the use of condoms by female prostitutes, suggesting to some that, perhaps, their infection is OK with the pope. Benedict said he wanted to start a debate on the topic of condoms. Oh to be a fly on the wall in the Vatican.
  • Hit the road, Jack and don’t come back. Some football coaches finally stood up to high-priced, whiny-baby star players, telling them to pack up their gear and take their act elsewhere. Randy Moss got cut by the Minnesota Vikings, the Tennessee Titans told quarterback Vince Young they were tired of his prima donna act and the Washington Redskins showed the sullen Albert Haynesworth the door. That’s three down and about 50 more to go in the NFL.
  • “Shut up, Jon Gruden! Nobody cares if ‘they blitzed the A gap.’ ” The preceding was a message from my son, Zack, a 16-year-old football fan who knows his stuff and can spot a Monday Night Football blowhard when he hears one. Got to admit, the kid’s got a way with words.