Archive for June, 2011

Gigli’s Photo of the Week

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Photography by Rich Gigli

Bar Harbor, Maine

There is a special mystique to Bar Harbor, Maine at dawn.  Nestled on the east side of Mt. Desert Island, surrounded by Acadia National Park, the early morning light has long been a place of inspiration for artist and photographers, alike.

Carrie’s Painting of the Week

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Old Mystic Marsh

By Carrie Jacobson

On Saturday, I went painting with a friend at Old Mystic. It was Mike’s first time painting with anyone, and for me, around here at least, it was a pretty rare experience.

Jill Blanchette and I painted together one memorable day. I painted last summer with Megan, who took lessons from me, and was a delightful companion. Heather MacLeod and I painted our way through Atlantic Canada together, a journey I will never forget.

When we lived in New York, I painted regularly with my friends at the Wallkill River School. I miss them every day.

It is an oddly solitary life I lead these days. No more working in the newsroom. No more painting with the plein-air group. These days, Peter and I work at home. He is my office mate, though he’s in one room and I’m in the other.

I go to Montville, the town I cover for I go to meetings, I do see other people, but it’s different. It is a quiet life here, and a good one. But different.

All of which goes a long way toward saying that it was fun to paint with Mike and thrilling, as always, to see the magic of what happens when two painters paint side by side.

My painting on the left, Mike's on the right - How Different!

High Price of Local Foods?

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

By Shawn Dell Joyce
We Americans complain bitterly about the rising cost of food. Most Americans don’t realize just how good we really have it in the land of plenty. In other countries where people make much less money, they spend a much higher percentage of their income on food.

In their delicious book, “Hungry Planet: What the World Eats,” photographer Peter Menzel and writer Faith D’Aluisio document the weekly food budgets of 24 international families in full-color photos. A family of eight in Guatemala spends 573 Quetzales (equivalent of $75.70) on groceries each week. The average yearly income is around $4,000, making groceries the highest expense for most families.

Meanwhile, back in the states, a family of five can spend a whopping $242.48 per week on groceries out of an average income of $35K per person. While the cost sounds much greater, compared to income and other expenses, Americans eat the cheapest food in the world, and plenty of it.

Marion Nestle, author of “Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health,” writes, “Here we have the great irony of modern nutrition: At a time when hundreds of millions of people do not have enough to eat, hundreds of millions more are eating too much and are overweight or obese. Today … more people are overweight than underweight.”

In the U.S. 72 percent of men, and 70 percent of women are overweight. Cheaper food does not translate into healthier food. In fact, our current agricultural policy is to subsidize corn to the point where it is ridiculously cheap and ubiquitous in our food system. So cheap that we even burn it as fuel for our automobiles, a crime against humanity when you consider all starving people that could be fed.

Looking back at our Guatemalan family cited above, their weekly diet consisted mainly of potatoes, rice and beans, and vegetables from their garden. Meat was added to a meal less than once a week. While the American family ate mostly processed foods like canned soups, frozen meals, packaged cookies, cakes, and crackers, and lots of meat. Another major difference is cooking. The Guatemalans eat every meal at home and one person spends most of her time cooking, preparing, and purchasing ingredients for meals. Americans eat one out of three meals at home.

How can we curb our national eating disorder?

—Eat local! When we eat what is grown in our own region we eat healthier, and at the peak of freshness. This is better four our health and the environment, as well as boosting the local economy.

—-Grow your own food! Victory gardens helped our grandparents survive the wars and Great Depression. Save money at the grocery store by skipping the imported produce and processed food.

—–Eat lower on the food chain! Meat is a threat to our health and environment. Treat it as a condiment and purchase locally-raised meats from farms you trust.  or

The Libertarian Conundrum

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

Ron Paul: Can Republicans tolerate him?

By Bob Gaydos

One thing is certain about libertarians — or Libertarians, for the politically serious — at some time they will take a stand on an issue that is in perfect harmony with yours. And, just as inevitably, they will soon take another stand diametrically opposed to yours. It’s their hallmark and the overwhelming reason that a political party arguably more committed to a core philosophy than any other party has so much trouble expanding its base and, in America’s two-party system, finding a political partner with whom it can comfortably coexist.

Think about it. How do you deal with a candidate who opposes the death penalty and abortion, is strongly opposed to a military draft, has voted against an amendment to prohibit flag-burning but favors legalizing prostitution and medical marijuana and doing away with Social Security, the FBI and the IRS?

Well, if you are among the political activists who attended the recent gathering of the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, you make him the easy winner of a straw vote on potential Republican presidential candidates in 2012. In fact, Ron Paul, the man who won 39.7 percent of the votes in New Orleans, is an old hand at such victories having won a similar vote earlier this year at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Not bad for a 75-year-old doctor who was the Libertarian Party candidate for president in 2008. But Paul is a Republican congressman from Texas and, in fact, has always been a Republican, probably because he agrees with their no-tax-is-a-good-tax philosophy and their oft-repeated arguments against government involvement in people’s lives. But, see, Paul, who is a tea party guru, too, really believes that stuff, which means, while he’s against government regulations, he also opposes government snooping and denial of individual rights in the name of national security. And most conservative Republicans have a problem with that kind of, well, logical purity.

I think I’m like most Americans in that I don’t think much about libertarians most of the time. I tend to notice them when presidential politics resume and, honestly, most of the time it’s to wonder how the most ardent libertarians (or Libertarians) came to have such a negative view of the political system which has brought this country so far in a mere 235 years. Also, they have had some really strange leaders. What stirred this current interest is a public posting on Facebook by a former colleague of mine which suggests his dismay with the attitude of Republican conservatives to some of the statements of Paul.

My friend posted: “What divides libertarians from conservatives is the conservatives’ failure to realize, or their unwillingness to concede, that toleration is not equivalent to endorsement. It should be obvious that to tolerate something is not the same thing as to approve of it. If toleration required approval, toleration would not be a virtue. What value is there is being prepared to tolerate only those things of which you approve?”

Now, that’s why I “friended” this guy. He understands that in a diverse, democratic society like ours, the only way to coexist with a semblance of serenity, if not dignity, is to tolerate differences of opinion. That would seem to be a basic requirement for any political group that preaches about moral values all the time. My friend also dismisses my suggestion that libertarians might be more comfortable with Democrats, who are clearly more tolerant of diverse views and groups, because, he says, both political parties think libertarians are “crazy.” Which is probably true.

Still, there’s Ron Paul atop the straw polls, speaking his mind more unabashedly than any other Republican candidate dares, arguing against the war in Afghanistan and the Federal Reserve, opposing U.S. involvement in Libya and introducing a bill with Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) to end the federal war on marijuana and let states legalize, regulate, tax, and control it without federal interference. Paul is against pre-emptive wars and being the world policeman. He opposed the Iraq war, wants all U.S. troops brought home, did not vote for George W. Bush, has opposed affirmative action for any group, thinks rights are individual, not collective, considers abortion to be murder, voted no on banning physician-assisted suicide and declaring gay-marriage unconstitutional, favors prayer in schools, opposes replacing oil and coal with alternative fuels, rejects letting illegal immigrants earn citizenship and strongly opposes free trade agreements. He’s all for owning guns, but thinks the Patriot Act has seriously harmed civil liberties.

It either makes no sense or is the most cohesive political philosophy around. Actually, it kind of reminds me of that beer commercial for “The most interesting man in the world.”

I wouldn’t vote for that guy either.

Bob can be reached at

Waiting for the Enlightenment

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

By Jeffrey Page
I’ve been waiting for that mystical third Republican, the one who’d add his or her vote in the State Senate to those of two previously announced Republicans, and almost all the Democrats, and make New York a place where gay people can do what most people take for granted: Get married.

First Senator X was supposed to appear any day. Then Richard Long, the chairman of the Conservative Party, announced that any Republican who supports a same-sex marriage bill would suffer terribly by never again receiving the endorsement of the Conservatives. And all of a sudden, the talk in Albany turned from marriage to tenant rights in New York City.

But I’m still waiting. And I’m thinking about the freshness in the breeze when Sen. Roy McDonald, one of the two Republicans on record in support of same-sex marriage, spoke to reporters. “They can take the job and shove it. I come from a blue collar background. I’m trying to do the right thing and that’s where I’m going with this,” he said.

I’m also thinking about George Michaels, a man who discarded his political career by doing what he believed was right.

It was 36 years ago. New York was on the verge of adopting a law allowing a woman, in consultation with her doctor, to get an abortion any time she wished in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. This was three years before Roe v. Wade.

The measure had been approved by the State Senate. Governor Nelson Rockefeller said he was ready to sign it. All that had to happen was for it to be approved by the Assembly.

George Michaels was a Democrat from a conservative rural district upstate. He supported a woman’s right to choose abortion but always voted against it since, being a politician, he liked the idea of being reelected time after time.

A vote was scheduled in April 1970, and before he made the trip to the capital, Michaels spoke with his son’s wife. The Associated Press reported years later that Michaels told her if the bill failed, it might be voted again in the next session.

“In the meantime,” his daughter-in-law said, “thousands of women will be mutilated and die because of that stupid legislature.”

“Boy, that rocked me,” AP quoted Michaels.

He went to Albany. The abortion bill came up. Michaels voted against it.

And it went down by one vote.

But then Michaels addressed the chamber. “I realize, Mr. Speaker, that I am terminating my political career,” he said – The Times reporting that his hands trembled as he grasped the microphone – “but I cannot in good conscience sit here and allow my vote to be the one that defeats this bill. I ask that my vote be changed from ‘no’ to ‘yes.’” And for women in New York, the Dark Ages ended.

Michaels was right. It was political suicide. A five-term incumbent, he suddenly had challengers in the 1970 primary, which he lost. He was 80 years old when he died in 1992.

Where’s the one Republican needed to stand tall now?

Where’s that one Republican who will acknowledge out loud that which he privately knows is the truth: That gay people pay taxes, obey the speed limit, raise children, go to church, and pursue happiness with a fervor equal to everyone else’s.

Where’s the next George Michaels?

Jeff can be reached at

Gigli’s Photo of the Week

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

Photography by Rich Gigli

Windsurfing at Sandy Hook, N.J.

Let’s Stop Blaming the Parents

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

By Michael Kaufman

In the aftermath of allegations by six former Newburgh Free Academy basketball players that they received preferential treatment from administrators and the head basketball coach, some folks are beginning to point fingers at the parents of the players.  Attendance records show that the players from school’s 2009-2010 championship team cut nearly 1,200 classes over a period of approximately 135 school days. Administrators and coaches are said to have turned a blind eye despite pleas from concerned teachers and a formal complaint by the teachers’ union at NFA. Four of the six failed to graduate.

Kevin Gleason of the Times Herald-Record, which broke the story three months ago, brought up the role of parents in a recent article. “When will it end?” he wrote. “The answer is only loosely related to the length and outcome of the investigation…. It will end when parents instill a healthy value system in their children, setting a good example, teaching them right from wrong, holding them accountable for their mistakes.

“It will end when parents demand to know what’s going on in their child’s life, what he’s doing in school, who he’s hanging out with, where he’s going, how he’s acting, what he’s feeling….Yes, folks must be held accountable for allowing so many kids to cut so many classes with minimal consequences. But district accountability is a short-term solution. The long-term solution involves producing kids who can thrive in any scholastic environment.”

In the days that followed publication of Gleason’s article, the paper published several letters to the editor harshly criticizing the boys’ parents for their presumed lack of awareness of the class cutting by their sons. I have no idea how aware the parents were and neither do those holier-than-thou letter writers. From my reading of the news articles on the subject it seems as though at least some parents had expressed concern.

Family life in this country has changed a great deal since the 1950s, when the majority of married women in “middle class” families did not have to work to contribute to the financial support of their families. Today we often hear of couples who work two jobs, of children being raised by grandparents, and there are more single-parent families now than at any time in our country’s history. More than ever, families must rely on the schools to assume the parental role during school hours and after-school activities. The Latin words for this are in loco parentis and the concept has been around since the late 1800s. Until the 1960s, when it was challenged by the Free Speech Movement at the University of California campus in Berkeley, it was also the norm at colleges and universities.

In any case I am wary of the tendency to blame parents for someone else’s wrongdoing. An article in the June issue of Psychology Today goes so far as to suggest that Bernie Madoff’s mother may be to blame for his swindling ways. The article, titled “6 Clues to Character,” quotes Susan Engel, a psychologist at Williams College. “Goodness comes from somewhere and so does badness. People model themselves on those around them.” Bernie wasn’t the only cheat in his family, says Engel. Guess who had her own financial brokerage firm when little Bernie was growing up and who was investigated by the SEC for failing to file financial reports? But before they could revoke her registration, notes Engel, she withdrew it. “She might have been defrauding customers, sneaking past the regulatory commission, or cheating the government, and if so, there would be a good chance it was rubbing off on Bernie.”

Of course a psychology magazine would have an article that blames “zee mother.” I am surprised they never came out with one about the mother of Osama bin Laden. Perhaps she was too overbearing during toilet training or teased him about his height when he was growing up. Personally, I’m with Einstein on this question…..not Albert, although I tend to agree with his opinions. I mean Charles Einstein, author of How to Coach, Manage, and Play Little League Baseball; A Commonsense Instructional Manual.

The book, published in 1969, was an invaluable resource when I coached my son’s Little League team years ago. Einstein mentions some of the obnoxious ways that parents can behave and how their behavior influences that of their kids. But he also says there are just some times when the parents are great….and the kid turns out to be a bum anyway.

The NFA players are not bums and neither are their parents. They are the victims here. Worthy of praise are those teachers who tried to fulfill their role in loco parentis and were ignored by the powers that be. Like some of their counterparts at colleges and universities, they placed more value on winning an athletic championship than on providing a quality education to their student-athletes. The blame is theirs.

Michael can be reached at

Ten Percent Challenge Takes Root

Monday, June 20th, 2011

By Shawn Dell Joyce
The Ten Percent Challenge is taking root in the Town of Montgomery, where the Village Board recently passed a unanimous resolution to support the challenge, pledging to reduce energy use at the municipal level by 10 percent or more in the next year. Also, the village will be getting 10 percent of its residents to join in. This challenge will result in fewer tax dollars being spent on municipal utilities and residents lowering their utility bills.

Montgomery joins Walden in pledging to reduce energy use. Walden Mayor Brian Maher first embraced the challenge issued by Sustainable Hudson Valley. He called public meetings, attracting residents from all over the Wallkill Valley. The group formed into the Ten Percent Challenge committee and has been meeting monthly ever since. The next meeting is at Montgomery Village Hall at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, July 6.

The Ten Percent Challenge is a baby step toward energy independence. The more efficiently we use the energy we have, the less energy we need to import, or produce through environmentally damaging methods like fracking. Energy efficiency guru Amory Lovins points out that “it’s much cheaper to buy efficiency than it is to buy energy.”

The goal of the Ten Percent Challenge Committee is to get Maybrook and the Town of Montgomery on board as well, and have the whole Town of Montgomery committed to the challenge. Neither government has been approached yet; but interested residents should come to the next meeting to find out how they can take a resolution before the board.

NYSERDA is making the pledge simple for residents by offering free energy audits through their website Residents can take part in the challenge by signing the pledge at their village halls on July 16. Informational tables will be set up in all three villages to tell residents about the pledge and the free energy audits. At most tables, residents can speak to an auditor directly. The tables will remain in village halls for the week of July 17-23 with free literature. Walden will have a booth at the big block party on Ivy Hill on July 16th.

Warwick recently made headlines by announcing its own version of the Ten Percent Challenge called “Energize Warwick” where they are offering a $10,000 cash bonus to the nonprofit that gets the most “points” for households reducing their energy usage. This incentive is a great way to get community groups like the Boy Scouts, Little League, churches and other nonprofits to mobilize their memberships. It would be a real boon to the Town of Montgomery to have an incentive package to offer as well.

All municipalities are in competition through Sustainable Hudson Valley for a prize to the one that reduces its energy usage the most. Among other prizes, the winning municipality gets a solar thermal unit installed on a municipal building, and a vacation at Omega for the municipal leaders. While prizes are nice, the real winners of the Ten Percent Challenge are the residents who will pay lower taxes in the winning communities. Let the change begin with you, take the challenge with us, get involved, and let’s make a change!

Shawn Dell Joyce is the director of the Wallkill River School, a nonprofit arts org in Montgomery that is a benchmark for the Ten Percent Challenge. The entire org will reduce its energy usage and encourage ten percent of its members to do the same.

Carrie’s Painting of the Week

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

Cape Cod Morning

By Carrie Jacobson

Where have I been the past couple weeks? Apparently I’ve been in some other time zone, some time zone in my head, where the passing of days is meaningless – even though it continues to happen.

As the days have traveled by, I have looked up and realized that yes, I’ve forgotten to post to Zest. And forgotten a slew of other things as well.

This week where I live, sunrise is at the earliest it will be for the entire summer. Sunset will continue to grow later, but the truth of the matter is that we are in that stretch, that sweet stretch, where the days arc out broadly, and dawns and dusks are as slow and gentle as they will be all year.

This time, though I am cold as winter on these 50-degree mornings, I am aware. This year, for the first time in ages, through the fog of the passing days and the missed appointments and the forgotten meetings, I am stretching out along these golden days, and savoring their length and light and fragile dawns and dusks.

The Incredible, Shrinking Man

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

Lebron James grew smaller with each game.

By Bob Gaydos

There was a story in the papers Monday about the smallest man in the world. No, not Lebron James, although I can understand the confusion. The official smallest man, according to Guinness World Records, is Junrey Balawing, of the Phillippines. Junrey turned 18 Sunday, qualifying him for the title. He is listed as 23 1/2 inches tall and weighs 12 pounds. Or just about the size of one of Lebron’s thighs.

When Lebron was 18, he was 6 feet 8 inches tall and weighed about as much as a football linebacker. He was on the cover of Sports Illustrated. He was the Chosen One. King James. Savior of the Cleveland Cavaliers, first pick in the NBA draft and heir-apparent to Michael Jordan.

On Sunday, Lebron played basketball like he was the smallest man in the word. Indeed, as the National Basketball Association championship series marched on to its conclusion. Lebron shrank inch-by-inch with each defeat for his Miami Heat until he was virtually invisible at the end of each game and a mere bobble head of himself at the end of the series.

Indeed, his shrinkage was made even more pronounced by the growth with each passing game of Dallas’ seven-foot giant, Dirk Nowitzki. Mr. Softee became Mr. Clutch. James just became irrelevant.

This is not about basketball. If it were, I would say that the Dallas Mavericks, a very talented group of players, were simply better at playing as a team than were the Miami Heat, which is true and rather important in a team sport. But this is one of those sports-as-metaphor-for-life moments. An allegory for all times and my favorite kind, because it involves sports, which, at most, are a pleasant distraction from all the other stuff. No one gets seriously hurt when Lebron James comes up small in the biggest game(s) of his life except maybe for some degenerate gamblers who should have known better than to bet the ranch on a classic narcissist whose life has been a testament to hubris. (Gotta love those Greeks.)

Took a while to get there, but that’s the life lesson. If you are told from childhood that you are special, you are bigger, faster, stronger and far better than others, that you can do no wrong, that you are, indeed, the Chosen One, it can be extremely difficult when something goes wrong (say, the other team wins a game your team should have won) to look at yourself in the mirror and say, “It’s my fault. I didn’t play hard. I didn’t lead. I didn’t do all I could have to win that game.” After all, you can do no wrong.

But behind the arrogance and exaggerated sense of self-importance present in the narcissist, usually lies an insecure individual with low self-esteem who has trouble dealing with failure or criticism. Because he has never been wrong — or so he was led to believe — he doesn’t know how to react when blame (for his team’s loss, for example) is laid at his feet.

Someone with a more realistic self-image who also happens to be a superstar (Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson) will take it upon himself to do try to do better the next time and, if he fails, well at least he gave it his best shot. But a narcissist — say someone who starts each game with arms outstretched messiah-like in a cloud of white powder — can’t deal with failure, so he’s likely to avoid taking risks that could result in defeat. An Average Joe might blow off a job interview. A basketball player might avoid demanding the ball and taking important shots late in a basketball game, even when his teammates are counting on him to do so. Let Dwyane do it.

Unfortunately, for Lebron and his teammates, Dwyane Wade couldn’t carry the team this time. He tried and failed, which is no shame. It still put him one significant step ahead of Lebron.

As I said, this is no-harm, no-foul for most of us. Fans move on. The players get paid well and will try again next year. Young hero-worshippers learn a valuable lesson about clay feet and hopefully file it away for later in life.

For Lebron James, though, it will linger, despite his day-after bravado about moving on with life. There is a lesson — actually several lessons — in this painful public humiliation for the young man who held a nationally televised announcement to reveal that he was leaving Cleveland, where he was the unchallenged King James, and “taking (his) talents to South Beach.” To wit: You are never as good as the people who surround you say you are. No one is perfect. The Chosen One has yet to arrive. Showing up is 90 percent of life. Losing is not a disgrace; not doing your best because you’re afraid to be blamed for the loss, is. Humility is a virtue. And, not for nothing, hubris was considered a crime in Ancient Greece.

* * *

P.S.: Junrey Balawing got no cash from Guinness for his smallness, but he showed up for the ceremony, smiled a lot, got a plaque and a birthday cake and gifts from around the world. He seemed certain that no one, not even a star basketball player from America, would claim his crown.

Bob can be reached at