Archive for January, 2011

Gigli’s Photo of the Week

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Photography by Rich Gigli

Bayville, N.J.

Bayville N.J., a pristine area is located at the northernmost section of the Pine Barrens along the shore. The Jersey Devil is a legendary creature said to inhabit the Pine Barrens of Southern New Jersey. Supposedly the Jersey Devil lurks in this area, and is home to its very own Bayville Beast according to legend. The Jersey Devil has worked its way into the pop culture of the area, even lending its name to New Jersey’s team in the National Hockey League.

A Greener State of the Union

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

By Shawn Dell Joyce

In his State of the Union address, President Obama subtly equated nuclear power and coal with “clean” energy. His main focus was on transitioning to renewable energy sources like solar, wind, hydro, biomass, and geothermal, from our current energy diet of fossil fuels. However, even the insinuation that nuclear is “green” or that coal can ever be “clean” is misleading, and sending a wrong message to policy makers.

Coal can never be clean even with the most sophisticated carbon cleaning equipment. From its extraction to its use, “coal sends more greenhouse gases into the air and more mercury and acid rain onto our earth and produces more lung-searing ozone and particulates than any other industry,” according to Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Yet, coal is the meat and potatoes of our nation’s energy diet. More than half of our energy comes from coal, making the coal industry the “number one polluter,” according to Kennedy.

Nuclear power is also quite dirty. According to Michael Mariotte, Executive Director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, “if the toxic radiation emitted daily from every nuclear reactor and other commercial nuclear facilities were the color and texture of oil, or smelled like natural gas, or came out as black soot, no one would ever again confuse nuclear power with “clean.”

We could repower American by making our buildings more energy efficient, greatly increase renewable energy generation, construct a unified national smart grid, and transition to clean and affordable electric cars. Repowering America would create new industries with high-paying jobs, and lower energy bills. It would also create energy independence with clean domestic sources of energy and less foreign oil. Most importantly, repowering our country would address climate change in a meaningful way, by making a solid impact at the scope that scientists suggest to curb climate change. 

How can this small miracle be accomplished? suggests:

—–Improve energy efficiency of our buildings: To make the most out of the energy we currently produce, America needs a national efficiency upgrade. Make new buildings more efficient, upgrade old buildings to save energy, and update our appliances and equipment to use less energy and perform the same or more functions than they do now.

—–Generate 100% of US electricity from truly clean carbon-free sources: Renewable energy generation technologies like solar thermal, photovoltaic, wind, geothermal and biomass have been adding clean, reliable power to the grid for more than a decade. This includes solar and geothermal plants in the southwest, biomass in the northeast and southeast, and wind farms through the Midwest corridor. It is now time to dramatically ramp-up the contribution of renewables to the energy mix.

—–Unified National Smart Grid: Modernize transmission infrastructure so that clean electricity generated anywhere in America can power homes and businesses across the nation; Build national electricity ‘interstates’ that move power quickly and cheaply to where it is needed; Establish local smart grids that buy and sell power from households and support clean plug-in cars.

—–Automobiles: Clean plug-in passenger vehicles will reduce dependence on foreign oil, provide transportation for as little as $1 per equivalent gallon, create price certainty with renewable energy sources that are abundant and free, and help solve the climate crisis. A plug-in fleet will also contribute to energy storage on the grid. And the transition will revitalize the American auto industry.

Already there are new ways of harnessing renewable energy being developed every day. A recent project involves laying cylinders on the beds of streams and oceans to harness water flow. Researchers discovered that a flow of three knots can produce 51 watts.  If many cylinders were layered on the sea bed over a 1km by 1.5km area, and the height of an average house, a flow of three knots could generate enough power for around 100,000 homes. Even a small cylinder stack could power an anchored ship or a lighthouse.

Biomass plants that generate energy from bagged household garbage are another potential source for renewable energy that have not been factored into the energy mix yet. Biomass plants like Taylor Biomass in New York, have the potential to turn municipal waste into a source of electricity through a process that produces minimal carbon emissions and other pollutants. Biomass plants can also be set up to produce ethanol to fuel cars.

Let’s explore these new clean and green technologies to replace unsustainable power sources like coal, oil and nuclear.

SHawn Dell Joyce is the director of the Wallkill River School and a nationally-syndicated newspaper columnist.

A Bishop Says No

Saturday, January 29th, 2011

By Jeffrey Page

The story from Arizona last spring was strange enough: The bishop of the Diocese of Phoenix announced that he had excommunicated Margaret McBride, an administrator at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, because she had approved an abortion for a patient.

Not just any patient, but a 27-year old woman, a mother of four, suffering from pulmonary hypertension, a condition that, according to The Arizona Republic, severely limits heart and lung function and likely would kill her if she carried her pregnancy to term. The Republic newspaper also noted that it was the doctors at St. Joseph’s who recommended ending the pregnancy, not the other way around.

And not just any Margaret McBride, but Sister Margaret McBride, a nun of the Sisters of Mercy.

The bishop, Thomas J. Olmsted, had another announcement. The church, he said last month, was ending its affiliation with St. Joseph’s because that’s where the abortion was performed but also because the hospital said it had no intention of eliminating abortions when it came to saving the life of the mother.

I don’t understand Bishop Olmsted’s reasoning.

When he excommunicated Sister Margaret he said that anyone who “formally cooperates” in an abortion is automatically excommunicated. Recently, however, he offered a prayer at the opening of the Arizona Legislature’s new session. His prayer recollected the shooting massacre in Tucson and at one point Bishop Olmsted declared: “We pray for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and all who were injured and for those who love and care for them.”

Congresswoman Giffords is not a Catholic so of course she can’t be excommunicated. But she has a 100 percent approval rating from NARAL – the National Abortion Rights Action League.

On one hand the pain of excommunication for a nun. On the other a specific mention of a pro-choice politician in a prayer for recovery. Yet it would seem that by the bishop’s definition, both formally cooperated in abortion.

Bishop Olmsted’s absolutism is not limited to the issue of abortion. Four years ago, the bishop refused to give communion to an autistic 10-year old boy who was physically unable to swallow the host.

I thought about that boy and recalled St. Mark quoting Jesus: “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” It seemed that what was good for Jesus certainly ought to be good for a bishop. The boy’s father had even offered to grind up the wafer in his own mouth and then transfer some of it to his son. No good, Bishop Olmsted said.

Two years ago Bishop Olmsted took President Obama to task for ending George W. Bush’s straitjacket limits on embryonic stem cell research.

Since the bishop is so uncompromising in his moral stands, can we assume that he carries a card in his wallet stating that in the event of his illness or injury, he automatically declines all medication, surgery or other treatment that has come about as a result of embryonic stem cell research? Moreover, can we assume that he has made such identification cards available to everyone in the diocese, a card each for every mom and dad and one for each child?

I couldn’t find a word about Bishop Olmsted’s carrying such a no-thank-you card.

Jeffrey can be reached at

A Governor’s Mouth

Friday, January 28th, 2011

By Jean Webster

Soon after Paul LePage was sworn in as the new governor of Maine last month his name and picture made the national news and Stephen Colbert’s program.

The reason? LePage told the Maine Chapter of the NAACP that he was too busy to attend one of the half dozen Martin Luther King breakfasts in Maine. Then, in response to media criticism, LePage said that the NAACP can “kiss my butt.”

He still wasn’t through. He then said he wouldn’t be held “hostage by a special interest” group, and if the NAACP “wants to play the race card, it’s not going to work” because “I have a black son.”

One of the many “open mouth, put foot in it” remarks by the new governor.

That LePage has a black son is a blatant lie. Devon Raymond, 25, is a native of Jamaica, not Maine. The LePage family met Raymond when his father was caddying for Paul LePage during a Jamaica vacation. But, he was not adopted by the LePages, nor does he live with them, although they are helping Raymond through college, and sometimes invite him to their home for special occasions.

That LePage would call the NAACP a “special interest group” is beyond insulting. How would he then characterize the Right to Life rally where he spoke the same weekend as the breakfast he would not attend? Were they holding him hostage? What power do they have over him?

During the campaign last year, LePage showed why he was backed by the Tea Party. In a speech to a group of fishermen and media he said, “When I’m your governor you’re gonna be seeing a lot of me on the front page saying, ‘Governor LePage tells Obama: Go to hell.’ ”

This shocked even the state’s Republicans who have voiced their concern about their new governor’s tactless remarks.

This is not the way most Mainers behave. Most of us have a more congenial way of looking at the world, our lives, and our politics. There is a kind of civility here. As a transplanted New Yorker married to a “Maine-iac” I’ve learned that people here are more laid back and, in many instances, more tolerant. For the most part, natives and newcomers respect each other, the land, the lakes and the ocean, which is not only our state’s neighbor, but its benefactor.

Perhaps it’s this mystique that has attracted tourists and “people from away.”

Paul LePage grew up in Maine but he never learned civility. For example, during the campaign, there were questions about his family’s homes, one in Waterville, Me. and one in Florida. LePage had turned the Florida home over to his wife, Ann LePage, a few years ago, but press reports revealed that Mrs. LePage was claiming residency in both states, violating tax laws in Maine and Florida. It was resolved recently, when she paid what she owed.

Then, after pledging to do away with cronyism, LePage hired his daughter for a $41,000-job as assistant to his chief of staff. Lauren LePage, 22, was a biology major who graduated from Florida State University last June. Her only work experience has been as a clerk in a variety of stores, including Marden’s Surplus & Salvage, the business her father has managed.

Governor LePage just keeps going. Now, he’s saying “go to hell” to the environment. In order to make Maine more business-friendly, LePage proposes that all of the state’s environmental laws conform to the less stringent federal standards. In a recent report, LePage addressed vernal pools, commenting that “if vernal pools are intermittent and dry up after a rainfall, I’m going to recommend that we ignore them.”

He’s obviously ignorant about the very definition of vernal pools, which fill in springtime and are breeding areas for frogs, salamanders, spring peepers, and other spring creatures important to woodland life. Yes, they dry up when the weather warms. But by ignoring them, we ignore the life of our woods, one of the principal attractions that draw visitors, and their dollars, to our state. Significant vernal pools are protected by the 2006 Natural Resources Act shielding the land around them from development.

The fact is that Paul LePage was elected by 38 percent of the voters, who were thrilled to throw out the Democratic governor and Legislature. Now we’ll see if Maine can attract tourists and new business with a head of state who can’t control his mouth, or his principles.
                                                                   * * *
Guest writer Jean Webster is a poet, public relations consultant and freelancer. She has worked for newspapers such as the Times Herald-Record and the Boothbay (Me.) Register. She lives in Maine year round, where she and her husband John operate Orne’s Candy Store, a seasonal business in Boothbay Harbor. She can be reached at

King’s Speech Leaves You Speechless

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

By Carol Montana

Were the title not already spoken for, the multi-award winning film The King’s Speech might have been called The Agony and the Ecstasy, so well is the angst, struggle and hard work depicted. But that’s just as well, because the actual title is much more indicative of the focus of the movie.

The film opens with a crisis as Prince Albert (Colin Firth) has to make a speech at the closing of the 1925 Empire Exhibition. Our first glimpse of the prince (a.k.a. the Duke of York) is not encouraging. He stammers something fearful. It is hard to watch. His personality is not much better. He is shy, retiring and diffident.

Encouraged by his sympathetic wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), Albert seeks the advice of various speech teachers. One suggests that he smoke to relax the throat; another puts sterilized marbles in his mouth.Frustrated beyond belief, Albert swears off further therapy.

But Elizabeth, determined to help her husband overcome his disability, goes to see Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), an Australian immigrant with a rather unorthodox method of treating speech problems.

Prince Albert acquiesces to his wife, and, at their first meeting, Albert and Lionel get acquainted in a comical scene that gives welcome relief from the tension we’ve seen since the beginning of the story. Throughout the speech therapy, which is sometimes funny, often heartbreaking, Lionel gradually gains Albert’s trust as he digs, not unobtrusively, into the cause of the stammer.

Little crises build into big ones as Albert’s older brother, the carefree, fun-loving and irresponsible Prince David (Guy Pearce) ascends to the throne as Prince Edward VIII upon the death of his father, George V (Michael Gambon). But then, of course, Edward abdicates in 1936 in order to marry Wallis Simpson, American socialite and divorcée.

Suddenly, Prince Albert is the King of England and, as the country approaches involvement in World War II, the stammering prince, now King George VI, must rally his country behind him as a strong, regal and well-spoken leader.

The King’s Speech has already won numerous awards, including the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival People’s Choice Award, Best-Produced film from the Producer’s Guild of America, the Screen Actors Guild awards for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role, Outstanding Performance by a Cast, and is a nominee for 12 Academy Awards, including   Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress and Best Supporting Actor.

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts has nominated The King’s Speech for 14 awards, including  Best Film, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Leading Actor, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress. 

Firth is nothing short of marvelous as Prince Albert, conveying every stammer, every pain-filled syllable with gut-wrenching angst.

As Lionel Logue, Geoffrey Rush is a true delight: irreverent, talented, unimpressed with royalty to the point of rudeness, yet so sure of his methods that he’s willing to take bets on the outcome.

Helena Bonham Carter, as Albert’s desperate yet tender wife, exudes the quiet support and fiercely protective instincts one expects of royalty, and the strength and determination one expects of a lover.

Other performances are equally strong. Guy Pearce as Edward is flighty, devil-may-care, and more involved with pleasing himself than with any supposed loyalty to the monarchy. And  the irrepressible Derek Jacobi as the Archbishop of Canterbury is always fun to watch as he struts and preens in his self-important way.

Ignore the R rating (imposed because of obscenities Logue uses to relieve Albert’s tension). Young people have no doubt heard those words and worse. Take them to see a wonderful story that roars full speed toward a triumph of the human spirit.

Written by David Seidler and directed by Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech, based on a true story and historically accurate to a fault, is so well acted and put together, so well written and directed that it seriously will leave you speechless.

Guest writer Carol Montana is a writer, photographer, proofreader and copy editor. A casualty of the 2007 job cuts at The Times Herald-Record, she is currently  co-editor of The Catskill Chronicle,  an online newspaper that publishes information about Sullivan County and the surrounding areas (  She has a Master’s Degree in Dramatic Form and Structure from The University of Connecticut. In 1995, she founded Big Sky Productions, a community-based theatre company that operates out of Grahamsville, NY.

Carol can be reached at

Carrie’s Painting of the Week

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011


One of the many things falling between the cracks here with work and painting is marketing! Eek!

“Rough at Hand,” my show at the Wallkill River School Gallery, is OPEN! It is up for the month of February, and there is a reception on Saturday, from 5-7 p.m.

I had a once-in-a lifetime experience as I hung the show last Saturday. I’d just gotten it all up, and made a price list. I was sitting down contemplating, when in walked two people who had bought paintings from me last year. They love my work – and between them, Saturday, they bought five paintings. When they asked if they could take them, I said sure!

I had extras with me, and so I rehung, repriced – and thanked my lucky stars not only for the money that those two were willing to part with, but also, and even more, for the fact that they loved my work. Honestly, there is something so moving about that, so sustaining, so life-affirming, that it makes my heart beat fast now, just thinking about it.

Please come to the opening! I am just as excited as I could be about my new work, and it is more precious than ever to me, as my time to paint is so scarce these days.

The Wallkill River School Gallery is at 232 Ward St. (Route 17K) in Montgomery, NY. The website is

For those of you in Connecticut and Rhode Island, I will be having a show in March at the Lighthouse Gallery in Groton, with the amazing Laura Maiolo. More on that as it draws closer.

For those of you in NY, see you Saturday!

Glittering Generalities Belie Reality

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

By Michael Kaufman

Many years have passed since the term “glittering generalities” popped into my head. My old teachers often used the term to describe certain bad writing traits among their students. Now it seems as if those students are enjoying the last laugh. They write State of the Union speeches for the president and rebuttals to the State of the Union speech for his opponents. Some may see this as an improvement over vitriol but I’m not so sure.  At least vitriol can be highly specific and accurate at times.

The online dictionary site defines “glittering generalities” as “emotionally appealing words so closely associated with highly valued concepts and beliefs that they carry conviction without supporting information or reason. They appeal to emotions such as love of country, home; desire for peace, freedom, glory, honor, etc. They ask for approval without examination of the reason. They are a typically used by politicians and propagandists.” As Al Roller, my former managing editor used to say of the copy we churned out on behalf of pharmaceutical company-sponsored publications, “It’s beautiful. It says everything and it says nothing.”

But this is not a time to be speaking in platitudes that say nothing. President Obama’s State of the Union speech was a lot like Andrew Cuomo’s inaugural speech earlier this month. “At the end of the day, we’re all Americans,” said Obama, invoking the “American Dream” theme that has always been a crowd pleaser. Only now it wouldn’t play too well before a crowd of thousands of retired General Motors workers, who lost their pensions when the company was on the verge of collapse and did not get them back when the company was bailed out by taxpayers like themselves.

Nor would it play well to the thousands of Wyeth employees who lost their jobs after that pharmaceutical company was acquired by the giant Pfizer, which received millions from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) prior to the acquisition.

Then there are the 1,100 Whirlpool workers who lost their jobs at the Evansville, Indiana, plant last year when the company shut it down and moved operations to Mexico–after receiving $19 million in “smart grid” stimulus money. The company, which markets appliances around the globe under various brand names, was in no danger of failing. It just wanted to improve the profit margin for the shareholders. As Dave Johnson of the Campaign for America’s Future wrote at the time, “Whirlpool knows that taxpayers will shoulder the unemployment and other costs. Whirlpool employees aren’t the only ones losing their jobs…. Closing a plant like this also means all the supplier, transportation and other third-party jobs go away. More than 100 blind or disabled individuals could also be left jobless. The Evansville Association for the Blind has issued a public plea, asking businesses to consider using their employees.

“There will be more home foreclosures,” Johnson continued. The plant closing will put a strain on local businesses, perhaps even forcing some to close down, he noted. “Whirlpool is profiting from making all this someone else’s problem.”

When workers at the plant planned a rally to save their jobs, they received an ominous warning from management. “We have reminded the Local 808 leadership that the decision to close is final and is not under further consideration,” wrote Paul Coburn, director of operations, in a memo published on the front page of the plant newsletter. “In the last six months we have delivered strong results in spite of having to see a good deal of our equipment taken out of the building and moved to its new location. I believe that it is a testament to your character that you have continued to work hard to preserve the positive reputation of the Evansville workforce during this period. With this in mind, we have shared our concern with Local 808 leaders that these negative activities will only hamper employees when they look for future jobs.

“The entire community is aware and sympathetic towards the situation we all face. We fear that potential employers will view the actions of a few and determine whether they would want to hire any of Evansville Division employees in the future. We hope that this is not the case, but think it is certainly a consideration. Since the announcement, we have operated extremely well working together. We are trying to make this difficult situation better by providing a wide range of support including applying for and securing the TAA grant; offering TAA meetings on site; offering computer and refresher courses on site; counseling retirement age employees of their options; communicating as much information as we have on what to expect, and many other things.

“We are disappointed that Local 808 is not also focusing energies on the transition, where it will make a difference.  None of us like this situation, but at this time we have to make the best of it and take positive actions towards our future outside of Whirlpool.”

Our future outside of Whirlpool? While many of the Evansville workers are still collecting unemployment checks and searching in vain for new jobs, Coburn remains at Whirlpool, where he was recently promoted to Division Vice President. Such has become the American Dream.

Michael can be reached at

Sarge: An Appreciation

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

By Geoffrey Howard

I never met Sargent Shriver, who died last week, and that’s probably a good thing. I tend to get tongue-tied when I meet people I admire as much as I admired him.

Shriver is best remembered as the founding director of the Peace Corps, the almost iconic legacy of the Kennedy years, when Cold War realism and youthful idealism appeared to co-exist peacefully. But “founding director” doesn’t really do justice to what the man actually did and the things he set in motion.

Basically, he took a raw idea that John Kennedy, his brother-in-law, had thrown out offhandedly in a University of Michigan campaign appearance in October 1960 and turned it into a vital reality within 3 months of the inauguration. He created an agency on March 1, 1961 – almost exactly 50 years ago – that began sending the first of what would grow to be more than 200,000 volunteers (so far!) into remote corners of the world to teach, to build, to heal, but also to listen, to learn, to understand.

It’s hard to overstate the cumulative impact of the agency Shriver started. The Peace Corps presents a part of the American story that the rest of the world doesn’t get to see in our military, economic and diplomatic policymaking. In the 1970’s, President Nixon tried to kill the Peace Corps, but was thwarted by an unlikely coalition of Third World leaders, many of whom were vehemently anti-American in their views, coming out strongly and publicly in its defense.

And it’s worth noting that this positive impact comes at an incredible bargain price. With an annual budget of a little over $400 million – less than the annual budgets of our military bands – the agency sends about 8,500 volunteers to 76 countries from Azerbaijan to Zambia.

In its earlier years, up until the 1990’s, the Peace Corps was primarily focused on hard-core Third World countries in Africa, Latin America, and South Asia. But the world changed and the agency Sargent Shriver created changed with it. The fall of the Soviet Union led to dramatic Peace Corps opportunities in the newly independent states from Albania to Uzbekistan, and even, for a while, in Russia itself. Just last year, new countries like Mexico and Indonesia – the world’s most populous Muslim nation – were added to the rolls.

Interestingly, with Shriver’s passing, coinciding as it did with the Peace Corps’ 50th anniversary, there is a groundswell of support for increasing the Peace Corps budget and the number of volunteers to something closer to its late 1960’s peak of 15,000. Unfortunately, the call for a bigger Peace Corps will have to do battle with demands to cut governmental spending. The outcome is unclear. 

Of course, great as it was and is, the Peace Corps is only a part of the Shriver legacy, only part of his answer to the famous challenge John Kennedy posed to us all. He went on from JFK’s Peace Corps to LBJ’s War on Poverty, starting Head Start, the Job Corps, VISTA – the domestic Peace Corps – and other anti-poverty initiatives. And it didn’t stop even there: he became Ambassador to France and was generally credited with helping to rein in a head-strong Charles de Gaulle.

He went on to run for the vice presidency on the Democratic ticket with George McGovern in 1972 against Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew, and while the Republicans won, it is hard not to speculate on what McGovern and Shriver might have accomplished – and the critical mistakes they might have avoided – had the election turned out differently.

And even then he wasn’t finished. He and his wife Eunice were driving forces behind the Special Olympics, raising millions for charities in the process.

As I say, I never met Sargent Shriver, but I did pass within his orbit, as did so many others. A Peace Corps Volunteer in the early Sixties, with a brand new BA in my hand, I headed off to dig wells for two years in a West African country I had never heard of, and that experience changed my life.

Thank you, sir. I wish I had had the opportunity to shake your hand.

Geoffrey can be reached at

* * *

Geoffrey Howard is semi-retired and lives in Warwick. After serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in a small village in Senegal, he and his wife Carole have maintained a management consultant practice, interspersed with volunteer assignments in Uganda, Namibia, Thailand, Ghana and – 40 years later – Senegal once again.

The Answers are in the Stars

Monday, January 24th, 2011

By Bob Gaydos

I blame it all on the stars. The ones in the sky, not on reality television. If they could have just stayed where they were supposed to stay, where they have been for billions and billions of Carl Sagan years, none of this other stuff would be happening.

You know, thousands of birds dropping dead out of the sky. Dead crabs washing up on the shore of Great Britain. Rightwing blowhards being dropped by conservative radio stations. A leftwing bloviate shown the door by a leftwing TV station. Republicans muttering not so much under their breath anymore that they wish Sarah Palin would just shut up.

Just when we had the sides all chosen up for the game, someone went and moved the stars and suddenly I’m a Taurus, not a Gemini. But hey, I don’t feel like a Taurus. I have been Gemini-like pretty much since I became aware of the signs of the Zodiac. Charming split personality, that’s me. Keep your bull to yourself, Parke Kunkle.

What kind of name is that anyway? Parke Kunkle. Who names a kid Parke when he’s already got Kunkle to carry around? Kunkle is an astronomy instructor at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, which sounds like a great place to get lost for your career. But with the Internet, nobody need be lost forever. So when Kunkle sat for an interview with the Minneapolis Star Tribune to help fill their Sunday paper, the stars were already aligned for his moment in the sun. (Please don’t tell me how to mix my metaphors. It’s my blog.)

Kunkle told the Sun that the stars had moved. Well, the Sun didn’t know anything about it, so it ran a story about how the Zodiac was all messed up and those signs people follow in the paper every day to help them plan their lives were, how to say this delicately, wrong.

OK, I can feel the scientists out there getting agitated about the stars “moving” references. That’s just a writer’s conceit, see? I know the stars didn’t really move, but it makes it easier to get people into the story than telling them the earth actually tilted on its axis thousand of years ago, altering its alignment with the stars and, of course, altering the signs of the zodiac, which were conceived about 5,000 years ago and are based on the earth/stars alignment. See how boring it can be explaining science? Call it the Fox news approach.

But here’s the real deal: Good old Parke tells us that scientists knew about this starry shift 2,000 years ago. Wow. How come WikiLeaks couldn’t find out about this? Not content to leave it there, with Pisces now Aries and Virgo now Libra, he also tells us there are really 13, not 12 constellations.

The scientists have known about this a long time as well, he says. Apparently they kept Number 13, Ophiuchus (Nov. 29-Dec. 17), secret because 12 signs fit neatly into a calendar year and Ophiucus is a yucchy name to say, much less have to admit to being one.

So there you have it. That’s why the birds dropped dead in Arkansas and Louisiana. It wasn’t the weather or bad food or poor navigation skills. It’s also why we’re having all these snowy days in January. I’m convinced it’s why Andrew Luck, the best quarterback in college football, decided to stay at Stanford for another year instead of coming out to be the first draft choice of the worst team in the National Football League, the Carolina Panthers, who (I could not resist this) truly have no luck at all.

It’s why WOR Radio in New York and WPHT in Philadelphia have dropped Glenn Beck, not because his ratings were falling and advertisers were leaving. It’s also why WPHT also dropped Sean Hannity, who had previously been dropped by KSL Radio, a Mormon station, in Utah. It has nothing to do with Beck ranting about crime around Independence Hall or KSL’s mission statement which calls for advancing “integrity, civility, morality, and respect for all people.” Its just Aquarius and Capricorn not knowing what’s what or who’s who.

Same goes for Keith Olbermann, the brightest and loudest star in the MSNBC galaxy, getting the quick shuffle out the door to even the sides. Here’s your money, Keith; keep your mouth shut.

The wacked-out zodiac (and what do you think the zodiac killer is thinking these days?) may well be responsible for the recent strange conversation between the president of the American Atheist Group and Bill O’Reilly, who still has a job at Fox news, but who has been told by his boss, Roger Ailes, to “shut up, tone it down, make your argument intellectually.”

The atheists had posted a billboard calling religion a scam. O’Reilly said he could prove them wrong: “I’ll tell you why it’s not a scam in my opinion: Tide goes in, tide goes out. Never a miscommunication. You can’t explain that.”

Atheist: “Tide goes in, tide goes out?”

O’Reilly: “See, the water, the tide comes in and it goes out … It always comes in, and always goes out. You can’t explain that.”

Now, had the stars not been out of alignment for thousands of years, O’Reilly may have known, intellectually, that tides rise and fall due to the combined gravitational effects on the Earth caused by the Moon and the Sun. That what the scientists tell us. For thousands of years, how these celestial bodies are aligned has determined the daily rise and fall of sea levels. It’s a scientific fact. You know, the same way that how the stars are aligned with the Earth has determined what happens in our personal lives for thousands of years. …

Actually, it’s all Parke’s fault.

Eating Local in the Winter

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

By Shawn Dell Joyce
In the dead of winter, most of us dream of the plump ripe tomatoes of summer, while fondling the pink excuses for tomatoes in the supermarkets. But, did you realize how many local farms are open right now with some fresh, locally-grown produce? Here’s a partial listing of a few farms in the region where you can stop in all winter.

Brother and sister team; Holly and Ned Roebuck, are working together to save their family farm. For several generations Roebucks have worked this particular piece of property into many different configurations. These Roebucks have free ranging Belted Galloway cows, and an organic vegetable farm. Walnut Grove Farm in the Town of Crawford, offers frozen organic free-range beef, pork, bacon, pies and jars of jams and jellies by appointment. Ned Roebuck (845) 313-4855

A family farm for many generations, W. Rogowski Farm, 327-329 Glenwood Road, Pine Island, 258-4423, has an organic farm stand open year round. The owner/farmer is Cheryl Rogowski and family, and has been a major force in promoting sustainable agriculture in our region. You can currently find apples, pears, shallots, turnips, beets, garlic, onions (of course) potatoes, greens of many varieties including Asian, chili peppers, squashes, turnips, radishes, cabbages, dried beans, and processed things like jellies, honey, maple syrup, sugar and crème. Also you will find books, my artwork, and some garlic wreaths. Open every Sat. from 9-2 until spring.

Nestled between subdivisions, and making the most of a bit of open space is Blooming Hill Farm 1251 Route 208, in Washingtonville. Guy Jones and sister; Cindy Jones offer many varieties of potatoes, squash, cold-hardy lettuces, and chards, root vegetables, onions, broccoli some fruits, eggs, and real milk with real cream on top. You must see the farm stand to believe the beauty and abundance of these fresh organic vegetables. Open Sat. from 9-2 through April.  782-7310

Dolan’s Farm in Gardiner is on 208 near Ireland Corners. I would give you their phone number but it won’t do you much good, because no one answers the phone on this busy farm. You are more likely to find the farmer around back behind the farm stand in the packing room where bins of apples are available. Dolan’s is open, and you can buy apples until this season’s harvest runs out. Just pull down the driveway a bit and look for a lanky smiling man up to his elbows in tractor parts and you’ve found Mr. Dolan.

Apples are also crisp and delicious from Soons Orchards, 23 Soons Circle, New Hampton. Soons is probably famous for their pies, but you can find local garlic, vegetables, apples, pears, fresh ground peanut or almond butter, mixes for dips or soups, jars of salsa, jam and jellies, honey, and maple syrup, among other items. Soons is open to the public until 5 pm most days, and encourages you order pies in advance for the holidays. Soons has been family owned and operated for many years, and you can almost always find a Soons in the store., (845) 374-5471

One of the few multigenerational working family farms left in the region is Cornwall’s Jones Farm on 190 Angola Road. This farm does a bustling business in the winter with the “largest gift store in the region,” according to co-owner David Clearwater. He and wife Terry, and her parents are the farmers. Terry is also an artist and framer who runs a frame shop next to the farm store. Their farm features fresh fall apples, homemade fudge, a bakery, gourmet foods, and many other goodies. Open 8am-5pm weekends, and until 6pm during the week., (845) 534-4445

Penning’s Farm at Route 94 and Warwick Turnpike offers an indoor farmer’s market every Saturday from 11-4pm with live music, a café, and food tastings. Right now, you can find local foods producers like Lowland Farms (for grass-fed beef), Hometown Baker (Warwick-based bakery), Astas (homemade dog treats) Hudson Valley Pantry (homemade jams, jellies, hummus, and salsa), Late Bloomer Farm (sprouts, organic grains, and artisanal soaps), local wines, ciders, and live plants. (845) 986-1059.

Dines Farm offers fresh meats, and other farm’s products delivered to your door! Dines is located in Oak Hill, about 38 miles South of Albany, and offers their own pasture-raised chicken, pork, lamb, beef, duck, rabbit, turkey, chicken sausage, and hot dogs. Right now, they are offering mushrooms, goat cheese, and jams and jellies from other farms.  Dines delivery network is mostly Rockland, Westchester, Orange, and parts of Ulster. They are open to delivering in other areas, so it is worth a call if you want them to come to you. To set up a deliver, or ask what’s available, call (518) 239-4206 or email and ask to be on the emailing list. 

Shawn Dell Joyce is the director of the Wallkill River School and an author of “Orange County Bounty” local foods cookbook.