Archive for January, 2011

Gigli’s Photo of the Week

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

Photography by Rich Gigli

Daytona Beach, Florida

The Fastest Beach on Earth.

In 1903 marked the first official organized car racing event along the sandy beach at Daytona Beach, Florida, with Winton setting a new beach record for the measured mile of 68.198mph. However, it was only a year later in 1904, that the first Daytona record appears in the record books. Millionaire William K. Vanderbilt in his Mercedes took the record away from Henry Ford with a 39 second measured mile at 92.30mph on  January 27th. Racing continued on the beach-road course until 1958.  Bill France built the Daytona International Speedway in 1958. This is a 2.5 mile course used today for the famous Daytona 500 NASCAR race, and where lap records are in excess of 200mph.

The NASCAR racing season begins February 20th, with forty-three of the best stock car drivers in the world. The drivers will compete in the most prestigious  racing event ,“The Great American Race”.

Carrie’s Painting of the Week

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

Yowza, Cowza

There are days when my brain feels as blank and undefined as the surface of the snow in the yard, and this is one of them.

So I will let it go by saying that I really enjoy painting cows, and I have no explanation for that. I have no real love of cows (though I get pretty excited about a good burger…) – I’ve never had a cow, or wanted a cow, or held a particular fondness for cows. I mean, they are fine.

I do like seeing them standing in fields, though. And I find it intriguing that they like looking at humans about as much as humans like looking at them.

I stumbled on this enjoyment of painting cows by accident, when I was traveling through Wyoming. I got off the road (I got off the highway at every exit in Wyoming, just to see what was there), and bumped on down a dirt path, and a group of handsome if large and menacing cows crossed my path and required me to turn around. I took photos, and have made several paintings from these photos, and all have sold. So I am not the only one who enjoys looking at cows.

When we lived in Idaho, we had a little dog who despised cows. They infuriated him, and he would bark like a crazy dog whenever he saw one, including once when we were crossing an open range and a large crowd of horned, huge black Angus surrounded the car.

Gus even barked at a statue of a cow that stood outside a steak joint.

So, “Yowza Cowza,” another in the bovine series.

Don’t forget about my show, “Rough Hand” at the Wallkill River School in February. The opening is Feb. 5. Don’t worry, I will remind you again!

Corn People

Monday, January 17th, 2011

By Shawn Dell Joyce

We have become the true “corn people,” more so than the Aztecs or the Incas. If you were to examine a typical American skeleton under an electron microscope, you would find corn isotopes throughout our bones. We have more corn isotopes than any other culture, past, present and perhaps future.

Americans eat about one ton of corn per person, per year. This is not the delicious sweet corn our local farms grow. This is commodity corn appetizingly called “number two” corn, and is the main crop grown in our country. We primarily eat corn in the form of animal products. Cows; ruminants that naturally eat grasses, are being unnaturally fed corn. Salmon would never eat corn in the wild, but are fed corn on salmon farms. Chickens and pigs were naturally designed for varied diets but instead are fed mainly corn. Corn is one of the main ingredients in over 4,000 products found in our homes, even toothpaste. Some processed foods like Twinkies, contain over thirty-six forms of corn.

The corn that wasn’t fed to animals went to make corn sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup, citric acid, lactic acid, sorbitol, corn syrup, enzymes, starches, and thickeners. Thanks to the versatility of corn, our consumption of processed sweeteners has risen twenty-five pounds per person, since we began mass-producing the stuff in the early 1970’s according to the U.S.D.A. In spite of the surgeon general’s warning of an “epidemic of obesity,” we are still finding new and more fattening ways to consume corn.

 Corn is also one of the most environmentally devastating crops to grow. Corn guzzles fossil fuels in the form of fertilizer, insecticides, and heavy processing machinery. Each calorie of corn produced requires a calorie of fossil fuels to grow using standard farming practices.  When that corn is converted corn syrup, it requires ten calories of fossil fuels to create one calorie of syrup. When corn is converted to ethanol, we get about 4 calories of fuel energy for every three of calories of corn according to the U.S.D.A.

Is there any way out of this maize madness? Eating is a political act. Every dollar you spend on food is casting your vote, we literally are what we eat. When you pass up processed foods with all of its hidden corn, and buy fresh, locally-grown foods, you are helping to encourage more sustainable agriculture. Visit Wallkill Valley’s winter farmstands and buy your meat from local producers.

Shawn Dell Joyce is the director of the Wallkill River School in Montgomery, and an author of “Orange County Bounty” local foods cookbook available through www.WallkillRiverSchool.com

He Heard Noises

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

By Gretchen Gibbs

David Brooks in his New York Times column of January 10 condemned the media coverage of the Tucson shootings, arguing, in his usual moderate style, that Jared Loughner’s rampage was a consequence of mental illness, probably schizophrenia. Brooks pointed out that Loughner’s anti-government ramblings on the net owed something to the far left as well as to the far right and that there is no evidence that he was a Tea Party member or a fan of Sarah Palin. The criticisms of Palin and far right radio after Tucson, Brooks said, “were vicious charges made by people who claimed to be criticizing viciousness.”

It does seem that Loughner had his own brand of anti-government hatred, and it is almost certainly true that he is schizophrenic, judging by his descriptions of imaginary persecution and his senseless lists of numbers. What Brooks seems to be missing, however, is the relationship between culture and mental illness. Loughner need not have been a member of the Tea Party to have been influenced by its violent rhetoric.

Culture impacts mental illness in several ways: the disorders themselves, their relative frequency, and the manifestations of the disorder. Thus I have never seen a case of pibloktoq (pronounced pie-BLOK-too; found in the Arctic, where an attack may cause the sufferer to run naked through the snow) or koro (found in Southeast Asia, where a victim believes his penis is retracting into his body and will kill him). Some disorders are much more or less common in certain cultures. The Amish, for instance, are said to have extremely low rates of depression. Schizophrenia is a disorder distributed quite evenly over cultures, implying that the biological basis for the disorder is probably more important than environmental causes. Even here, however, the manifestations of schizophrenia, specifically the content of delusions and hallucinations, differ culturally. Researchers have found that types of delusions vary according to gender, social class, and the specific society to which the individual belongs.

It is not surprising that Loughner has violent anti-government delusions about this country where a President has an almost 25 percent chance of dealing with an assassination attempt, and an almost 10 percent chance of actually being slain. (There have been ten attempts, five since Franklin Roosevelt, and four killings.) Violence is nothing new to American politics, the Tea Party did not invent it. But violent rhetoric exacerbates what is worst about our political imagery, and it contributes to a perilous climate for elected officials.

I am writing this on Martin Luther King Day, a commemoration that reminds us of both the dangers of violence in politics and the beauty of non-violent protest. Enough said.

Gretchen can be reached at guestwriter@zestoforange.com

Names Not the Same

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

By Jeffrey Page

I came across a remarkable double standard in crime reporting at The New York Times.

The paper ran a story on Saturday about the arrest of a man who had been sending bizarre love letters to Tatiana Schlossberg, 20, the daughter of Edwin Schlossberg and Caroline Kennedy. You know who they are.

The letters make your skin crawl. “I know you. I know the feeling of you,” the Times quoted from one of the more recent letters. “I know your shape, your sound, your warmth and your taste.”

The Times identified the man and informed us that he was 41 years old, unemployed, a native of Pakistan and a naturalized United States citizen. Ever see information like that in a story about a frightening yet relatively minor crime? The man’s name is Naeem Ahmed. By publishing usually omitted information, was the Times implying some kind of connection between a Middle Eastern name and an obnoxious intrusion into the lives of a famous family?

If not, why was the use of Ahmed’s place of birth and citizenship status necessary for the story?

Maybe the answer lay in another story in Saturday’s paper.

It was the extraordinary account of the arrests of three men – a sheriff, a county attorney, and a hospital administrator – in West Texas, all charged with prosecuting two nurses who informed state medical authorities of alleged improper activities at the local hospital.

The Times reported the charges and the background, but carried not a word about where they were born or their citizenship – perhaps because the sheriff’s name is Roberts, the county attorney’s name is Tidwell and the administrator’s name is Wiley. Good old easy-to-pronounce Anglo-Saxon names. Americans through and through, presumably. If Sheriff Roberts had been born in Inner Mongolia we don’t know because the Times didn’t think it was necessary to note his place of birth. We can assume the sheriff is an American citizen, but what about that administrator?

I was going to write a letter to Arthur Brisbane, the Times’ public editor, to ask for an explanation of the two treatments. But then I read his weekend column about the Times web site’s wildly incorrect report that Gabrielle Giffords had died of her wounds in Tucson. This blunder got into the story when the reporter writing it informed his editor that he had, in Brisbane’s words, “a few changes he wanted to make.”

Since when is the assassination of a member of Congress considered one of “a few changes?” His editor never saw the change. And so, the revised story, incorrectly noting Giffords’ death, ran. It was corrected 10 long minutes later.

An editor told Brisbane that “everything” should go past two editors.

Considering the case of Naeem Ahmed, the same standard – two editors signing of on a story – might have worked at the city desk and not made the Times look like a place with different rules for dealing with people of different backgrounds.

Jeffrey can be reached at jeffrey@zestoforange.com.

Gigli’s Photo of the Week

Friday, January 14th, 2011

Photography by Rich Gigli

I Have A Dream

A distraught mother with three children, failing to pay the monthly rent, were evicted along with all their possessions. The scene was in the mid-sixties, Paterson, N.J.

Rush, Hannity Miss the Point

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

By Michael Kaufman

Say this about Barack Obama: He sure makes a great speech. If only his job consisted of making speeches he’d already be right up there with the all-time great presidents in American history. His moving remarks Wednesday night in Tucson struck just the right tone. Only the most ardent of Rush Limbaugh’s “ditto heads” (and some other unprintable-on-a-family-blog-site heads) would think otherwise.  So will someone please explain to me why someone as bright, articulate, and seemingly decent as President Obama keeps sending members of our armed forces to occupy, fight, kill (or be killed or maimed) in Afghanistan and Iraq?

Meanwhile, as I listened to the president’s plea for civility Wednesday night, my thoughts turned to people I know or have known whose political views differ greatly from my own. There was Karen Coolidge, president of the Young Republicans when I was a student at SUNY New Paltz.  Back then I was part of a group of socialist-minded students seeking authorization from the college administration to hold meetings on campus just like the Young Republicans and Young Democrats did. When the administration denied our request, Karen spoke out in favor of our right to meet and helped get the bureaucrats to reverse their decision. During our time together at New Paltz, Karen and I argued vehemently about the war in Vietnam, the Cold War and other divisive issues. I never once doubted her honesty, sincerity, or good intentions nor did she doubt mine. 

I thought about my childhood friend Paul Elis, who served in the Green Berets in Vietnam while I was protesting against the war and resisting the draft at home. Our friendship, strained as it was at the time, has endured.  

More recently, when I wrote about losing my job a couple of years ago one of the first people I heard from was Douglas Cunningham, a political conservative who had previously lost his own job at the Times Herald-Record.  I still have the email. “The family matters,” he wrote. “The job is just a job.”

That was the last of four bullet points labeled “practical thoughts.” It was followed by nine helpful tips on job searching. I still don’t like Doug’s politics. He worked for Nan Hayworth’s campaign in the last election against John Hall, targeted for special attention by the Republican National Committee (but not among those included in Sarah Palin’s infamous “bullseye” map). But I like Doug…..and we can converse with civility. The Record is much the worse without him….as it is without Beth Quinn, who used to argue collegially with him within its pages. 

I have spent parts of the last couple of days listening to Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh on the radio. I wanted to hear what they had to say about the events in Tucson and particularly regarding the blunt and I believe truthful comments of Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik. Had they heard Keith Olbermann’s “special comment” on MSNBC wherein he apologized for any intemperate remarks of his own that might have been interpreted by a deranged person as suggestive of an act of violence? Would they too renounce or reconsider the use of inflammatory language? What did they think of the president’s speech?

When I listened to Hannity, he and his callers were railing against Sheriff Dupnik as if he had directly accused right-wing radio and television commentators like Hannity of causing last Saturday’s deadly rampage. No one….not Dupnik, not Olbermann, not anyone I know of, said any such thing. But Hannity and his callers spent their time gleefully recalling instances when Democrats, including the president, used language like “hand to hand combat” and “bullseye” to discuss their electoral or Congressional confrontations with Republicans. 

Rush was even more clueless. He began his program by telling a convoluted story he said he’d heard from a man who had been on a plane returning to the U.S. from abroad. The man heard the couple sitting behind him say that Rush had killed people in Arizona. “Can you believe that?” The man did not say anything to the people because he didn’t want to create a disturbance, but when he got up he glared at the couple to show his displeasure.

After that heartwarming story Rush began his program by making fun of Professor Carlos Gonzalez, the Native American who gave the invocation at the beginning of Wednesday’s memorial gathering in Tucson. Then he ridiculed Eric Holder, U.S. attorney general, and Janet Napolitano, director of homeland security, for reading from scripture. “That must have really alienated the Democrats’ base,” he laughed. He noted that there were no rabbis, priests or ministers included, and joked, inanely, “I wonder what the Muslim brothers thought.” He called the memorial a “pep rally” and suggested it had been delayed for a week (actually it was four days) so the president could tailor his speech to reflect public opinion polls and “they could print the t-shirts they gave out.” Click.

I’d had enough. The president is wrong about a lot of things, including the deadly occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, but he is right about the need for civility. I think Karen Coolidge, Paul Elis, and Doug Cunningham would agree.

Michael can be reached at michael@zestoforange.com.

Rummaging for the future in the past

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

By Bob Gaydos

I’ve spent the past few days rummaging through cardboard boxes and those old post office mail crates (tell me you don’t have a couple stashed away) on a search for some personal stuff long ago relegated to the archives, AKA the walk-in closet. I do this kind of stuff when I’m avoiding writing for this blog or, as is more often the case, when the only stuff to write about is seemingly the same, old nasty crap. Sorry for the bluntness, but that’s the way I feel about it.

My co-bloggers, Jeff Page and Michael Kaufman, bless their ever-acerbic minds and hearts seem to have no difficulty rising to the challenge of commenting on whatever may be the controversy du jour. They continue to call out the bad guys and thank God for that. I pretty much agree with what they write, but to me it is all part of an endlessly recycled argument in which nobody ever listens to the other side. It’s the stuff that ends marriages and divides nations. At some point, it’s pointless.

So I wasn’t going to write about the shootings in Arizona because I didn’t think I had anything new to say and, more to the point, it wouldn’t make any difference. And then, as I’m rummaging through the boxes, discarding old memos and scanning old editorials, I come across a copy of the Times Herald-Record from Dec. 22, 2006. Why am I keeping this? I flip through to find out and suddenly it hits me in the face: “ ‘Final’ thoughts of an editor.”

My last editorial at the Record. The one they let me sign. The one that expressed exactly what I talked about at the top of this piece and that still holds true more than four years later. I wrote about my worries. To wit:

“I’m worried. Not about Iraq, or global warming, or terrorism, or even urban sprawl. Well, sure, I’m worried about those things, but, truthfully, they’re mostly out of the control of any one of us. It requires collective action, a meeting of the minds, — compromise — to do something positive about complicated issues. What worries me is I think we’ve forgotten how to do this — all of us, not just Congress and the state Legislature. … I think our society has become coarser and, in many ways, less tolerant. This is evident in our culture, our schools, our political debate.

“Honest differences of opinion over the most mundane issues now routinely degenerate into personal attack and shouting matches. You hear a lot of this on TV and radio. The internet puts no filters on any opinion, however hateful or unfounded in fact. It is ‘buyer beware’ and pretty much free of charge. We have abdicated debate to the extremes. We complain about politicians who can’t work together, yet constantly return to office those same officials because they delivered some money for a favorite cause. …

“Here’s where the stuff comes in we don’t want to hear, the stuff we call hokey or lame or naïve. Sorry if you feel that way. Complain to the next guy.

“We have to stop whining and yelling at each other and listen for a change. We need to stop looking for someone to blame and accept personal responsibility. That doesn’t mean ignoring the liars and charlatans in our midst. It means expressing in clear, no-nonsense, non-threatening terms what we expect of each other. It means respecting those who mean us no harm but may disagree with us. It means recognizing our common roots and dreams, as individuals and neighbors. It means teaching our children by deeds as well as words. It means fessing up to our mistakes and honestly trying to fix them.”

Yeah, that’s how I still feel. Nobody is trying to fix things. Well, almost nobody.

My 16-year-old son, Zack, came home from school Thursday and said, “Obama’s speech was really moving last night.”

“Really?” I replied, confessing with some embarrassment I hadn’t known the president planned to speak and never bothered to listen to him later.

“Yeah,” Zack said, “I was going to watch ‘The Office,’ but Obama was speaking so I listened. It was powerful.”

Well now. I was reminded. Yes, Barack Obama, someone I have criticized for not facing down his hypocritical critics on the right, clearly understands the need to find the solution rather than living endlessly in the problem. It is in his DNA as well as in his books. It’s why I and many others were thrilled when he was elected president. Persistently trying to bring people together, to disagree civilly, to compromise, is often seen as a sign of weakness, but it’s what I was looking for when I said goodbye to the Record.

Now, I will still have trouble rising to the challenge of the controversy du jour, so don’t expect a flood of harangues and harrumphs all of a sudden. But Zack reminded me that the future may not be as bleak as I had thought. You have no idea how good that made me feel.

bob@zestoforange.com

Gigli’s Photo of the Week

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Photography by Rich Gigli

Portland Head Light

The rocky ledge runs far out into the sea
And on its outer point, some miles away,
The lighthouse lifts its massive masonry,
A pillar of fire by night, of cloud by day.

– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “The Lighthouse”

Palin’s Missed Opportunity

Monday, January 10th, 2011

By Jeffrey Page

Listen and you can hear a nation praying for Gabrielle Giffords, and for a return to political conversation that doesn’t involve pouring gasoline on a fire. But instead of promoting such a dialogue, Sarah Palin offered a defense of her politics.

In the days since the shootings in Tucson, Palin’s friends have rushed to her defense, saying that her placing of a rifle scope’s crosshairs in 20 congressional districts on a map of the United States, including Giffords’ seat, had nothing to do with the attack on Giffords. That’s a coy response considering that those crosshairs came with the wording “We’ve diagnosed the problem. Help us prescribe the solution.”

But while the faithful remained faithful, Palin knew something about the public’s perception of her that her fans did not. So she removed the map from her web site and assured Glenn Beck in an email that she hates violence and war.

Palin doesn’t understand the power of rhetoric. Turning politics into a wink-and-nod message to demonstrate your toughness – “Don’t retreat. Reload” she once told her followers – is on a level of violence all its own. It coarsens us. It makes us ugly.

If Palin was sincere, she would renounce her retreat-reload message. She would also denounce the words of the infamous Sharron Angle, who lost her bid to unseat Harry Reid as senator from Nevada: “There are Second Amendment remedies.”

If Palin was interested in anything more than damage control she would tone down her rhetoric and distance herself from all the other political arsonists who see nothing wrong with incendiary language. Such as Roger Ailes, the president of Fox News. After Giffords was shot, and six others killed in Tucson, Ailes informed his on-air personalities – Palin is one of them – to calm down and keep Fox’s message civil.

Ailes’ order came just 53 days after he said of National Public Radio executives, “They are, of course, Nazis. They have a kind of Nazi attitude.” Nazis because they made the monumentally idiotic decision to fire Juan Williams for comments he made while appearing on a Fox interview show.

Palin finally weighed in on Wednesday. Here was her chance to embrace civility, to call for comity, to ask for calm, to deliver a message that might actually get people talking with one another.

Instead, she made herself the victim by identifying criticism of her political rhetoric as “a blood libel,” an expression used to describe the age-old anti-Semitic fiction that the blood of Christian children is required to make Passover matzoh. Pogroms began and countless people were killed as a result of this lie.

Say goodnight, Sarah.

Jeff can be reached at jeffrey@zestoforange.com.