Archive for September, 2010

Carrie’s Painting of the Week – 9/28/10

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010


This is the other painting I made at the Deerpark Family Fun Day a couple weeks ago. Aja is in the Port Jervis/Deerpark Humane Society shelter, and she is up for adoption. She’s a sweet dog, with the most hopeful expression on her face. Maybe you’d like to adopt her? If you do, I bet you could get this painting to go with her… Here’s the shelter’s web address:

There’s something about a shelter animal that pulls at the heart, even more than other animals do. It has always seemed to me that the shelter animals remember, and know that they’re better off, and treasure the change that you have made in their lives.

Of course, they come with their issues – but who doesn’t?

If you have room in your home or in your heart for a shelter animal, go out and get one. You will find love and company and, chances are, a true heart.

If you would like me to paint a portrait of your pet (Christmas is coming! Hanukkah is coming!), send me an email at

Churchill makes the cut

Monday, September 27th, 2010

By Bob Gaydos

“October is a fine and dangerous season in America. a wonderful time to begin anything at all. You go to college, and every course in the catalogue looks wonderful.”

— Thomas Merton

Yes, I’m back to The List. The 20/20 if you will. Choosing the 20 most influential thinkers of the 20th Century, as laid down in a challenge by a friend who has since failed to participate in the actual choosing and who shall, hence, go nameless until he deigns to join in the process.

Tim and Ernie, though, they’re a different story. Both have taken a sincere interest in the project and both said I should take a look at Thomas Merton. And since I respect both of their opinions, I did.

Quite the man, Merton. I confess that with Merton, as with quite a number of names mentioned in previous columns, my personal data bank did not go much beyond the superficial labels. Catholic. Monk. Pacifist. Author. Poet. Social activist.

But he was so much more than the sum of his parts. As a priest and author he preached a gospel of peaceful co-existence, including among religions. His too-brief life was a spiritual journey seeking to discover and praise the common threads of people’s different beliefs and to put those beliefs into action, protesting against war and racism. His writings and teachings influenced thousands and figured prominently in the 1960s anti-war and civil rights protests and the Thomas Merton Center in Pittsburgh to this day carries on his crusade for peace and social justice.

Coincidentally, the Center in November will present the annual Thomas Merton Award to Noam Chomsky, another renowned thinker, scholar, writer and long-time activist and potential member of The List.

The Merton quotation at the top of this column is not necessarily representative of his life’s work, but I like the simple truth it conveys as well as the timely convenience. It makes October a perfect time to start whittling The List to 20. This is not going to be easy, so I will start with those I think have to be on it and then consider the rest, the way baseball teams do in spring training.

So, not in any order, here’s the proposed foundation of the 20-person roster (If you object, speak now or start your own list):

  • Albert Einstein
  • Gandhi
  • Henry Ford
  • The Wright Brothers (count as one)
  • Thomas Edison
  • Picasso
  • Nikola Tesla
  • Mark Twain
  • James D. Watson and Francis Crick (again, count as one)
  • Winston Churchill

Churchill is the only statesman on The List, suggesting to me that most of them, while having influence because of their positions, are not necessarily great thinkers. I think Churchill was the exception in the 20th Century. His oratory, courage and vision, not to mention leadership, were profoundly important in saving the world from the Axis powers in World War II and in shaping the modern world. He was also an artist and prolific writer, who enjoyed cigars and brandy. A sampling of his quotations provides a good snapshot of the multi-dimensional man:

  • “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.”
  • “Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”
  • “Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put.”
  • “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
  • “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
  • “We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”
  • “I may be drunk, Miss, but in the morning I will be sober and you will still be ugly.”

What can I say? I like the way he thinks.

Bob can be reached at

No More ‘Warwickian Exceptionalism’

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

By Michael Kaufman

The Town of Warwick has been home to my family for 10 years, which makes me a newbie compared to the many lifelong residents whose families date back generations. During our years here I have developed a deep attachment for the town, the little village that bears its name and the people (well, most of the people anyway).  Yes, Warwick is a special place, set in a beautiful valley, with picturesque farms, orchards, and wineries, fine restaurants, quaint places to shop, and some of the best ice cream on the planet for sale at the Bellvale Creamery on Route 17A.

But somehow it has gotten into a lot of our heads that we are better than our neighbors in adjacent towns and villages. This has led to delusions of grandeur in which we are sometimes joined by local and regional media outlets. A case in point is the extensive press coverage of a community effort to combat teenage drinking. It was front-page news in the daily Times Herald-Record on Friday, September 24, as well as the weekly Warwick Advertiser. The Record devoted a two-page spread, featuring an “open letter” from community leaders, and an article headed, “Group has faith in town’s ability to work out problem.” A quote from the new superintendent of schools appeared in bold type: “Warwick is incredible in its collective approach to problems, and we’re hoping to tap into that.”

What prompted the open letter and the attendant publicity (including a follow-up story on Monday with a banner headline on the front page, “Warwick continues talking about teen drinking” and in yet another edition after that an editorial lauding the effort? According to the open letter, “For the second time in three months we have had to remove a student, by ambulance, from a school event due to alcohol poisoning.” After consulting with parents and students, the authors determined that this is not “an isolated incident.”

I am glad that after years of covering up such incidents under previous school superintendents, school officials and community leaders have decided to address the problem of excessive alcohol consumption by students. But buried 12 paragraphs into Friday’s article is this telling sentence. “The cities of Newburgh, Middletown and Port Jervis have already formed similar organizations, as have the towns of Cornwall and Montgomery.”

So why does Warwick deserve kudos for its past-due recognition of a problem that everyone has known existed all along? Aww, it’s because we’re so special, that’s why. “Organizers hope the strategy will work effectively in Warwick because of the town’s unique cohesion on other social issues, such as sustainability, business development, energy use and land preservation.”

So far this “unique cohesion” has gotten us a new big box supermarket across the street from another big supermarket on Route 94, complete with a traffic light that frequently backs up traffic. But we are supposed to be grateful because the new big box that blocks views of the mountains was built using “green technology.” There is also a tasteful sign by the entrance, welcoming shoppers to a place called “The Fairgrounds.” What next, a sign in the bathroom saying, “Welcome to the botanical gardens?” And dare I mention again the eyesore known as Liberty Green, accompanied by yellow blinking lights and a four-way stop sign on Grand Street?

And as we all know, there is plenty more to come in the way of development along the Route 94 corridor…. but not to worry.  I’m sure it is going to be swell because “our” millionaire developer and the other businessmen involved in the planning discussions only want what is best for all of us and will surely be swayed by the voices of reason.  Uh huh.

I’m glad that the new school superintendent, with the backing of community leaders, has come clean regarding the alcohol problem. Maybe next he can address the drug problem in the high school, which has been similarly swept under the rug for years, and the bullying, which has been ignored with tragic consequences.

I love Warwick but it is about time we stopped congratulating ourselves for how wonderful we are and began taking a closer look at things. I think we will find that our Warwickian exceptionalism some call “unique cohesion” does not hold up under scrutiny.  

Michael can be reached at

Gigli’s Photo of the Week 9-26-2010

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

Photography by Rich Gigli

HIGH HOPES - Growing up on a farm a young boy's imagination could be endless. Peddle power vs horsepower, no problem. Just what makes that little boy think he'll move that tractor? Well, he has high hopes, high apple pie in the sky hopes.

No Contest

Friday, September 24th, 2010

By Jeffrey Page

Lately, some Zest writers have been discussing sports writing in general and the work of Jimmy Cannon in particular and, as a result, we decided to have a contest for our readers. Actually, it’s not much of a contest. We’re just asking you to join the discussion with some observations about your favorite sportswriters – the poets of journalism.
Before I give you the details of the competition, let me weigh in with my own recollections of Jimmy Cannon.

When Zesters Bob Gaydos and Mike Kaufman were talking about him, I had a twitch of memory, something about an ahead-of-his-time description of the most famous Yankee of them all. I finally found it in a dusty old collection of Cannon’s columns. “Babe Ruth,” he wrote, “was more than a man. He was a parade all by himself, a burst of dazzle and jingle, Santa Claus drinking his whiskey straight and groaning with a bellyache caused by gluttony.”

Here he is on what baseball is: “Baseball isn’t rich men whining publicly about how much baseball costs them. It is Willie Mays running with that rocking gait, his back to home plate, as he chases down a fly ball hit over his head. It is the multitude at Shea Stadium shrieking ‘Let’s go Mets’ with two out in the ninth and five runs down. This is baseball, where every day is another season.”

He wrote about all sports and may have been his best on boxing. He wrote: “Once again today they’re trying to figure out Floyd Patterson. They wonder why he bleeds for small money when he is a rich man. It is all behind him, and the barbaric traditions of the fight racket always offended him. But he borrowed a left hook to the body from the shylock of the past and knocked out Charlie Green Tuesday night in the tenth and final round of a clumsy and boring fight.”

All right, think of your favorite writers working today or the ones you read when you were a kid. Tell us who you like and if there’s a line in their work you found so perfectly written, breathtakingly insightful that you committed it to memory. Drop me a line at the address below and be the envy of your friends with a mention in Zest of Orange.

In this contest, everybody wins.

Jeffrey can be reached at

Sustainable Living: Buy local

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

By Shawn Dell Joyce

“Think local for a stronger economy!”

Recently, we had a day where local merchants encouraged people to spend $25 at a local business. While that may seem like a small gesture, if we all do it, and make a habit of it, we could end the recession in the Wallkill Valley.

Economist Michael Shuman suggests that if every family spent just ten percent of its income at local businesses, it could add up to an infusion of millions of dollars into the local economy.  Where this happens, communities tend to have a higher quality of life, lower crime rates, and a friendlier, more neighborly attitude.

Local businesses are not shipping goods over thousands of miles and paying the higher fuel costs, also they tend to bank local, advertise in local papers, purchase local, use local contractors, and pay good wages and benefits to local people. That keeps money bouncing around longer in the local community. Each time that money passes through another pair of local hands, it improves the local economy a little more.

“About 42 percent of our economy is “place based” or created through small, locally-owned businesses,” notes Economist and author Michael Shuman. He estimates that we could expand this figure to 70 percent or more, by localizing some of our main expenditures. In the process, we would boost our local economy, and save money at the same time.

—–Local Food-Most of our urban areas are surrounded by farms that produce lots of local foods, that are shipped thousands of miles away. Ironically, 75 percent of fresh apples eaten in New York City come from Washington State, and foreign countries. Meanwhile, our farms grow 10 times more apples than the Big Apple consumes. If we all started eating closer to home; say within a 100 mile radius, eating in season, and lower on the food chain, we could localize our food system.

—–Local Electricity-The electricity for our houses and businesses most often flows through hundreds of miles of power lines from the source to our home. Imagine if cul-de-sac residents teamed up and purchased a communal wind turbine, or set up solar panels on all the southern-facing garage roofs. We could create a series of small-scale energy providers that could potentially meet their own power needs.

In Montgomery, a Taylor Biomass has found a way to generate electricity from bagged household garbage.  This would fill a huge leak in our local economy replacing fossil fuels with locally-generated electricity.

—–Suburban Renewal-If we relocalized our towns so that residents could walk to the farmer’s market, hardware store, library, and post office all in the same area, we wouldn’t have to drive so much. Driving is expensive, and environmentally devastating. When you walk or bicycle, you go slower, appreciate the architecture and history, wave to the neighbors, and possibly engage in conversation. This kind of walkable downtown encourages local spending and reinforces community bonds.

—–Business to Business-Part of what my business; The Wallkill River School does, is encourage our clientele to frequent other businesses. An example: We partner with Wildfire Grill to provide appetizers at our monthly receptions in exchange for advertising on our class brochures, and encouraging our reception guests to go for dinner at this fine local restaurant. This keeps the 50-75 people who come to our receptions in Montgomery spending money at more local places. When the tide comes in, all boats float!

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

Shawn’s Painting of the Week 9/26/10

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

Gigli’s Photo of the Week 9-19-2010

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Photography by Rich Gigli


The Power of Crowdsourcing

Monday, September 20th, 2010

By Jason Poggioli

Have you ever asked a friend a question because you thought he might know the answer? Ever ask a group of friends? How about asking a million people? That’s what the Internet is enabling people to do and in the process is transforming how we share knowledge and solve problems in the 21st century.

It’s called crowdsourcing and it refers to the idea of turning whatever question or problem you may have over to millions of people around the world to let them resolve it. The website is probably the most well known example of crowdsourcing. The notion that allowing just anyone to contribute to an online encyclopedia, and its resulting in a reasonably accurate compendium of knowledge seems strange and counterintuitive to most.

Here’s how it works: A web site is put together to provide the infrastructure and formatting guidelines to allow the general public to log in and contribute reference articles on pretty much any topic. Maybe you’re a high school teacher with an above average knowledge of American history and would like to write something on the causes of the War of 1812. Of course, anyone can edit any article, or create whole new ones that anyone else could edit. Go ahead and try it. It’s completely open to anyone willing to contribute.

Typically, the immediate reaction is skepticism since such information is so clearly susceptible to vandalism. However, the formula cuts both ways. As easy as it is for one person to vandalize, it is equally easy for the vandalism to be wiped clean. And there are many, many more people cleaning up than people messing up. All edits are kept and there are armies of volunteers who can reverse a change with the click of a mouse. Vandals quickly get bored and move on. Errors of a more subtle nature can take longer to correct. For example, if the history teacher inadvertently documents an incorrect fact it may not be immediately noticeable, but ultimately crowdsourcing wins out because other contributors are constantly reviewing and checking for references on all work. It’s peer review on steroids.

Wikipedia is merely one expression of the mind-boggling phenomenon of crowdsourcing. When the Internet enabled millions to effortlessly communicate with one another it tapped into what could be called the “cognitive surplus” of the human race. Modern society leaves all of us naturally evolved problem solvers with unprecedented levels of free time and a strong desire to contribute. For the past 60 years the popularity of television has been a powerful testament to our levels of free time despite frequent lamenting to the contrary. Time we previously sunk into watching television is now being spent on the Internet. Instead of passively absorbing information and viewpoints from a handful of producers, the populous is now able to answer back and we have just begun to witness the ramifications of this change.

Admittedly, a large percentage of the content created by the masses is trite and silly, but the sheer volume of output allows for even 2 percent of it to be a staggering amount of material. Clay Shirky, a professor of new media at NYU, has written several fascinating books on the topic. According to his research,, represents with every line of code, every article, and every discussion approximately 100 million man-hours of effort. Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? Until you learn that that is the equivalent time this country spends watching television commercials. In a single weekend.

One company, Innocentive, uses crowdsourcing as the basis of its business model. Other companies with thorny problems in need of solving go to Innocentive offering a big cash reward for the answer. Right now Innocentive has offers ranging from $10,000 to $50,000. Innocentive signs up hundreds of thousands of people willing to take a stab at the problem for a cash prize. One clever fellow gets the cash, Innocentive skims from the other company’s reward, and the company with the problem now has a relatively inexpensive solution. Everyone wins and the collective human race takes another innovative step forward.

The Internet is, by most popular accounts, less then 20 years old and crowdsourcing on the Internet is far newer than that. We have only just begun to see the results of enabling millions of people to broadcast their contributions to the world. What kind of future can you imagine when billions of brains are harnessed to solve mankind’s problems?

The Night Jimmy Cannon Let Loose

Sunday, September 19th, 2010

By Michael Kaufman

Thanks to Bob Gaydos for sharing memories of his days as a young sports editor in Binghamton with Zest readers last week. His post brought back a flood of memories, including one involving Jimmy Cannon, the legendary sportswriter much admired by Bob.

Cannon’s place in the canon of American sports literature is assured, and rightly so. However, my one in-person experience with him was brief and unpleasant: He spat on the sidewalk….though I should hasten to add that I was not the target of his disgust.

It happened outside Madison Square Garden on the chilly evening of February 16, 1970. Later that night Joe Frazier would box Jimmy Ellis in a bout that would be recognized as a world heavyweight championship fight by the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC).  Muhammad Ali, the true champion, had been stripped of his title more than two years earlier for refusing induction into the Army and expressing opposition to the war in Vietnam. After much hemming and hawing, the NYSAC decided to hold this championship bout to replace the title “vacated” by Ali. The outcome was a foregone conclusion. Ellis, a former sparring partner of Ali and a journeyman fighter, was a sacrificial lamb for the coronation of Frazier. The fight was a sham.

I was walking with Leonard Shecter, one of my sportswriter heroes, when we saw Cannon approach from the other direction. I was hoping the two would start chatting and maybe Len would introduce me to the man who had famously written of Joe Louis, “He’s a credit to his race….the human race.”

Evidently Cannon did not think quite as highly of Shecter as he did of Louis. He glared at Len as he got nearer to us. Len pretended not to notice and nodded a hello but as those two came side by side, Cannon stopped in his tracks. Len and I stopped too. Cannon looked Len in the eye, turned his head and sent a wad of spittle to the sidewalk: “Ptooooooooey!”  Then he straightened his shoulders and calmly walked away.

Coincidentally, among those who witnessed the scene was Rocky Graziano, the former middleweight champion, who Bob also mentioned in his post (“the textbook image of a pug”).  I jumped on the chance to ask Graziano for a comment about the fight. Did he really think this could be called a championship fight? Shouldn’t Ali still be considered the champion until someone defeats him in the ring?

“If da State o’ New York calls idda championship fight den it’s a championship fight!” he replied in textbook pug fashion.

Then I asked Len for an explanation of Cannon’s behavior.

“I guess he doesn’t like me.”

Not many of the old-time sportswriters liked Len much. They blamed him for breaking the supposedly sacred code of silence that had existed over 100 years of newspaper coverage of baseball. It happened in September 1958. The Yankees had just clinched the pennant and were returning home by train from Kansas City, accompanied as usual by the beat writers who covered the team for the New York area newspapers.

During the trip a brief scuffle took place involving Ryne Duren, a young relief pitcher whose career would be plagued by alcoholism, and Ralph Houk, then a coach for the team, who was known as a tough disciplinarian. Houk swiped Duren with the back of his hand, and his World Series ring cut Duren above an eye.

“I pushed him down, and that was the end of it,” Houk later recalled. As described in a 2008 article by Alan Schwarz in The New York Times, “That was what everyone thought — including all the Yankees’ beat writers, who, following longtime baseball etiquette, agreed not to write about the incident. What happened on the team train stayed in the family.

“Shecter, who covered the team for The New York Post, agreed, too. But then he found himself in a jam. The next afternoon, Til Ferdenzi of The Journal-American wrote a small note about how the Yankees’ front office had hired a few private detectives to monitor the players’ wild behavior. When Shecter’s  editor scolded him for missing that story, Shecter offered one better: the Duren-Houk dust-up….

“Shecter did not exactly seem to regret his decision….years later, he recommended that a pitcher he had befriended keep a diary of a full season. Shecter took the notes and tapes and helped write what became Ball Four, Jim Bouton’s seminal account of major league life as it truly was — alcohol, nudity, amphetamines and all. The public rejoiced, bought three million copies and has since expected such details from the news media as a matter of course.”

Len’s 1968 book, The Jocks presents an iconoclastic view of the role of sports in America. He also wrote On the Pad with William Phillips, the bribed policeman whose testimony before the Knapp Commission helped uncover corruption in the New York City police department. My favorite of his books is Once Upon the Polo Grounds, a hilarious account of the first two seasons of the New York Mets.

Leonard Shecter had leukemia and died in 1974 at age 48. On a cold February night in 1970 I saw Jimmy Cannon spit on the sidewalk at the sight of him. Nobody asked me but I think Jimmy was wrong on this one.  

Michael can be reached at