Archive for April, 2014

Carrie’s Painting of the Week – 5/2/2014

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014
Early Spring oil on canvas, 10x10

Early Spring
oil on canvas, 10×10

By Carrie Jacobson

One of the best things of this life as a painter is having the time, and living in the space, to be aware of the minutiae of the natural world, and the turning of the seasons.

Weeks and weeks ago, I saw the tips of the trees begin to redden. I’ve watched the buds shift to yellow green, and then to flowers and, in a second, it seemed, burst into leaves. I drive the back roads, slowly enough that I can notice the wisteria growing wild where, perhaps, a house once stood. Slowly enough that I can stop to help a turtle cross.

The daffodils are mostly passed here, except for in the shadows, but everywhere,  dogwood is blooming, pink and white, fragile and brilliant deep in the shady woods, and dancing at the edges, too. Azaleas – ludicrously loud! Ridiculously bright! – announce themselves all over town. Irises are blooming, elegant and spiky, and the lawn is already out of control.

Working for decades inside, I hadn’t known I’d lost touch. Now, I know I had.

A Beautiful Night for Baseball?

Friday, April 25th, 2014
Daughter Sadie and the author huddle for warmth during Cardinals-Mets game Wednesday night..

Daughter Sadie and the author huddle for warmth during Cardinals–Mets game Wednesday night.

By Michael Kaufman

I knew I’d raised her right when she said, “Did you forget who you’re dealing with here?” Ever since I took her to her first game at Shea when she was seven, my daughter Sadie and I have endured long rain delays, interminable traffic jams, and overcrowded subway cars to be at the ballpark to see the Mets play. She will turn 25 in a few months. Not once have we left the ballpark before the last out of a game.

But Wednesday night, after watching Sadie shiver through the first  two innings as a relentless, bitter-cold wind swirled through the new ballpark I still call Shea even though it now carries the name of a rapacious financial institution, I had asked her if she wanted to leave. “We can look for a warm place to watch the game on TV,” I added when she didn’t answer. That was when she reminded me who I was dealing with.

To be honest I was shivering uncontrollably too and I was better outfitted to withstand the cold. I wore a hooded fall coat while she went hatless and donned a thin summer jacket. Not that I hadn’t been warned: I’d ordered the tickets at a discount before the season started after getting a promotional email from Travel Zoo. “I got great seats in the Caesar’s Promenade section,” I boasted to my wife Eva-Lynne. “And they only cost…”

“April 23?” she interrupted. “A night game? It’ll be freezing.”

And I thought, “What does she know about baseball? Late April evenings are perfect. “ But she was right, as usual, just as she’d been the day before the game when she urged me to take the GPS with me before a drive to Brooklyn. “I’m from New York,” I reminded her before proceeding to make so many wrong turns I lost count by the time I arrived—over an hour late—to my destination in Coney Island.

So Sadie and I were among the 22,000 announced attendees Wednesday night (another 22,000 had paid for tickets but had the good sense to stay home).  By the time it was over there were probably no more than a few thousand besides us two and the Cowbell Man.  How chilly was it?

  • So much garbage was blown onto the field that the grounds crew had to rush to pick it up before the game started and after every inning.
  • Hot chocolate outsold beer.
  • Only two other guys were in the men’s room during the seventh inning stretch.
  • Moments after I finished my hot chocolate and put the empty cup in the holder in front of my seat (did I mention we had great seats in Caesar’s Promenade?) the cup was swept away by a gust of wind.
  • The wind blew the hat off the head of Cardinals’ pitcher Michael Wacha. (Second baseman Mark Ellis made a nice play to keep it from getting through to the outfield.)
  • John Jay came up to bat in the ninth inning  sporting a red bandanna around his neck (a style that may work well for an anarchist at a street demonstration, but which looked peculiar on a big league batsman).

But you know what? We had the time of our lives, tapping our feet and hopping up and down in a vain attempt to keep warm; searching for a hat or warm sweatshirt to buy for Sadie (which she refused when she saw the sticker prices); happily watching the scoreboard as the Yankees were losing to the Red Sox, and most of all, watching the Mets defeat the team that won the whole enchilada last year.  We got to see Wacha strike out 10 batters in the four innings he pitched. But he also walked in two runs with the bases loaded in the fourth and he did not come out to pitch the fifth.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Niese pitched what the late announcer Bob Murphy would have called “a whale of game” for almost seven innings. Niese, who has always seemed on the verge of becoming an outstanding pitcher, may have finally found his niche.  We saw Lucas Duda hit a home run and we saw two batters who have been struggling (to put it mildly)—young catcher Travis d’Arnaud and veteran outfielder Curtis Granderson—deliver solid hits.  We saw sparkling plays in the field in spite of the weather, including the final play of the game when Granderson raced to the right field corner to snare a wicked Molotov cocktail off the bat of Matt Holliday.

“I wouldn’t have changed a thing,” said Sadie before we rushed to the exit, headed for the parking lot and the warmth of the car.

Michael can be reached at




Thursday, April 24th, 2014

Vs homeworkBill Hogan

Carrie’s Painting of the Week – 04/25/14

Thursday, April 24th, 2014
Big Sunflowers

Big Sunflowers

By Carrie Jacobson

Sometimes, I just have to laugh at myself, and the places this life is taking me. This week was one of those times.

I needed a huge painting for my booth at the shows, and so, over the weekend, I set out to fill a gigantic canvas – 48 inches by 60 inches – with sunflowers. I love painting them, and people love to have them in their homes, so it’s a great combination. And this time, on this giant canvas, I painted the sunflowers bigger than ever.

It took tons of paint, tubes and tubes and tubes and then even more tubes. It was so heavy that I had to ask my husband to help me move it up on the easel. I painted for days and days and days. I made thousands of strokes. And then, when I was done, I had a fabulous, massive painting.

And so I turned to my next canvas, for a project at a nature center in Mystic, CT. And this one, below, was 5 inches by 5 inches.

It just made me laugh.

140422A cardinal 5x5


Minister to Scouts: Take a Hike

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

By Jeffrey Page

The Boy Scout brain trust looked fairly ridiculous last year when, faced with growing mockery about its refusal to admit gay kids, it announced a revised membership position. It still does. Gay boys? Finally, they could join.

But gay Scout leaders? Not a chance. Doesn’t matter if a gay man from the neighborhood actually knows how to build a cooking fire in the woods or can explain the differences between a bowline knot, a sheepshank, and a square knot, there would continue to be no place for him in scouting.

And now, at last, an organization that hosted a Scout troop in Seattle has told the Boy Scouts – as it is said – to take a hike. And with that, Troop 98 is history.

It seems that the national Scout organization took exception to the gay Geoffrey McGrath’s serving as a leader of Troop 98, which was based at the Rainier Beach (Wash.) United Methodist Church. The national office issued an ouster order to church officials: They could fire McGrath or they could be unceremoniously kicked out of the Scouting movement.

The church stuck with McGrath. The New York Times quoted the pastor, the Rev. Dr. Monica K. Corsaro, as saying, “We’re going to stand firm. Geoffrey attends our church and this is a way to support our youth in the neighborhood.”

She went on to describe the no-gay-leaders position as “a policy of discrimination.”

It is also a policy of dazzling hypocrisy.

When a boy joins the Scouts, he is required to memorize, understand and live by the 12 parts of the Scout Law, which declares that a Scout must be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. Each part of the law includes a brief elaboration. More on that in a moment.

When I was a member of Troop 393 in Queens many years ago, we were told that everyone connected with scouting had to know the Scout Law and live by it. But in chasing down Geoffrey McGrath the national leaders failed nine of the 12 parts of the Scout law. Here’s the law in some detail with a look at how national scout leaders fared in abiding by it in the matter of Troop 98.

Are national leaders trustworthy? “People can depend on Scouts,” the law says. And the obvious question: Can people depend on Scouting’s brass hats to allow local people to establish the rules of membership? What, after all, is it that national is afraid of?

Are the leaders loyal? The Scouts demand that a boy display his loyalty to, among others, “Scout leaders.” McGrath was a scout leader who was dissed out of the movement on dubious grounds by national leaders.   

Helpful? “A Scout is concerned about other people,” the law says.

Friendly? “A Scout is a friend to all,” Moreover, “he seeks to understand others,” and “he respects those with ideas and customs other than his own.”

Courteous? “A Scout is polite to everyone regardless of age or position,” the law says.

Kind? “[A Scout] treats others as he wants to be treated.”

Obedient? I guess the leaders are obedient.

Cheerful? “He tries to make others happy,” the law says.

Thrifty? I guess the leaders are thrifty.

Brave? “A scout has the courage to stand for what he thinks is right.” (Compare the bravery of national scout officials with that of the Rev. Corsaro. In this, she defines bravery.)

Clean? I guess the leaders are clean.   

Reverent? “He respects the beliefs of others.”

Speaking of respecting the views of others, consider Corsaro’s response in an interview with the BBC: “I would really like them to honor their own bylaws to respect the religious beliefs of their chartering partners. Our religious beliefs include being accepting of all people.”


Thursday, April 17th, 2014


Bill Hogan

Putin -no David

Trying Not to Get Out the Vote

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

 By Jeffrey Page

Americans have never been enthusiastic about voting. Whether they saw it as a chore, or maybe something that interferes with a nice day off from work, they’ve avoided the polls to a degree that makes a laughing stock of a country governed by elected leaders.

Since the 1820s, the nation’s highest voter turnout was recorded in 1876 – a full 100 years after the colonies declared they would no longer be ruled by British kings and princes – when just 81.8 percent of eligible voters actually cast ballots. Even in the Great Depression of the Thirties, the highest turnout we managed was 65 percent.

And in the 11 presidential elections from 1972 to 2012, the average turnout was an anemic 53.6 percent, with the vote of 1996 falling to 49 percent. Some people say it doesn’t matter who’s in office so why bother voting? That argument will not stand the next time you use Obamacare, the next time you need an abortion, the next time there’s a vacancy on the Supreme Court, and certainly not the next time Paul Ryan proffers a budget that eliminates funding for early education.

Remember the public service announcements about the importance of voting? The message that suggested a free society could remain free only as long as its citizens exercised the franchise? Americans are deaf to such appeals now.

Some people see this lack of interest in the electoral process as dangerous. Others see it as an opportunity.

We’re supposed to be a nation that treasures its freedom in the voting booth. But now, some politicians see an opportunity, through statute, to make voting more difficult and inconvenient. Thus they discourage certain voters from going to the polls while encouraging others to pull the appropriate levers or slip their ballot into the computer.

Given our national apathy, who’s going to complain?

The New York Times recently ran an extraordinary story whose headline was shocking, even in this time of rabid partisanship in Congress: “New GOP Bid to Limit Voting in Swing States.” The report basically was a catalogue of measures that Republicans are supporting around the country. The truth here is that the Republican Establishment is engaging in voter suppression, which kind of negates the GOP’s eternal yammering about being the “party of Lincoln” and striving for a government of, by, and for the people.

In a nation where we don’t carry in-country passports, some Republicans would force people to carry voter ID cards to prevent election fraud – a rare offense. The existence of pre-Election Day voting makes casting a ballot convenient and easy, especially for working people but some on the right would cut the number of such “early days” or eliminate them altogether.

In Ohio, the governor killed a measure that allowed people to register and vote on the same day, another convenience. Ohio feared voter fraud, but again, there have been no reports of voter fraud.

Great American politicians believe that in a democracy, you encourage as many people as possible to get to the polls and, if needed, you provide assistance for them in the voting booth.

Great American cynics believe that party comes before nation so you educate your base, and then make voting as complicated and inconvenient as possible for the people whose votes you can’t count on.


Thursday, April 10th, 2014

college-prison                                     Bill Hogan

A Husband/Father/Ballplayer Gets It Right

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

By Bob Gaydos

Victoria and Daniel Murphy, proud new parents

Victoria and Daniel Murphy, proud new parents

Witnessing the births of my two sons were moving experiences for me. I was a grab bag of emotions, equipped with a camera. Anxiety, impatience, excitement, irritability, awe, relief, exhilaration and happiness played tag at different times in my head. In the end, gratitude won out.

It still does. I like being a father. I love my two sons and I am proud of them. Witnessing their entrances into the world was, for me, the right way to begin our lifelong relationships. I think being there is important. Yes, their mother did the hard work, but I never felt my presence at their births was pro forma. You know, show up, look concerned, puff your chest out, then go hand out cigars and leave mother and child alone. Old-school fathering.

It’s not me.

Daniel Murphy apparently isn’t an old-school father either. Murphy plays second base for the New York Mets. He’s an average second baseman, but one of the best hitters on the team. Instead of being with the team for Opening Day, Murphy, 29, took three days of paternity leave allowed major league ballplayers to be with his wife, Victoria, when she gave birth to their first child, Noah.

For this, he was assaulted with a flood of criticism from — not teammates, not fans, not baseball officials — but by three windbags on WFAN Radio and one on Fox News. They said Murphy should have checked in to see his first child born, then rushed to be back with his team. One day off tops, they said. None of this three-day paternity leave nonsense.

Because, of course, missing a couple of games out of 162 is an act of disloyalty or lack of work ethic. Unmanly even. C’mon, Murph, hire a nanny, they said. Where are your priorities? You should be fielding ground balls, never mind being by your wife’s side for the first three days of this exciting new chapter of your lives. This is stupid personified.

For the record, Murphy appears to be doing just fine in the stereotypical, outdated, macho, male-providing-for-the-family role that seems to underlie much of this criticism. He’s getting paid $5.7 million this year by the Mets, which means, as one of his critics suggested, he could hire 20 nannies if he wanted to. The thing is, he apparently doesn’t want to. He preferred to be at the hospital when his son woke up crying.

“We had our first panic session,” Murphy recalls. “It was dark. She tried to change a diaper, couldn’t do it. I came in. It was just the three of us, 3 o’clock in the morning, all freaking out. He was the only one screaming. I wanted to.”

That’s a memory he and his wife will always have and some day share with Noah. Nothing unmanly about it.

But here’s what Mike Francesa, the big name in WFAN Radio’s lineup of sports personalities, had to say about Murphy’s decision: “I don’t know why you need three days off, I’m going to be honest. You see the birth and you get back. What do you do in the first couple days? Maybe you take care of the other kids. Well, you gotta have someone to do that if you’re a Major League Baseball player. I’m sorry, but you do … Your wife doesn’t need your help the first couple days, you know that.”

There’s more: “One day, I understand. Go see the baby be born and come back. You’re a Major League Baseball player, you can hire a nurse to take care of the baby if your wife needs help … What are you gonna do? Are you gonna sit there and look at your wife in the hospital bed for two days?”

Well, at least we know what Francesa did when his son was born. Wonder what his wife thought about that.

Boomer Esiason, who also hosts a show on WFAN, went so far as to suggest that Murphy should have told his wife to have a Caesarean section before the season started so he wouldn’t have to miss Opening Day. After all, the former pro football quarterback said, baseball pays Murphy well, so he should make baseball his priority. (Note: Victoria Murphy, in fact, gave birth via Caesarean section and Esiason apologized a day later.)

Esiason’s partner on the morning radio talk show, Craig Carton, was his usual crass self: “You get your ass back to your team and you play baseball … there’s nothing you can do; you’re not breastfeeding the kid.”

I stopped listening to WFAN’s morning show years ago when Carton was teamed with Esiason because I thought Carton was the most misogynistic, immature excuse for a radio sports host I had ever heard. He was insulting, crude, sexist, arrogant and not especially knowledgeable about sports either. This incident only solidifies my opinion and I think he continues to be an embarrassment for WFAN, but maybe his bosses don’t care.

Let’s not let Fox News host Gregg Jarrett of the hook. Here’s what he had to say about Murphy’s paternity leave. “He’s rich. He could have like 20 nannies taking care of his tired wife, and he’s got to take off two days? It’s absurd. It’s preposterous.”

No, Gregg, it’s about being a father first, not a baseball player. Let’s talk about priorities. Imagine this scenario: It’s Noah’s 20th birthday. Mom is recalling that second day in the hospital when, all of a sudden, the infant’s temperature started rising. Nurses were rushing around and calling for a doctor. She was trying to stay calm, she says, but was really scared to death. “What about you, Dad,” asks Noah. “I was grounding into a double play in Queens,” he replies.

Fortunately, that didn’t happen. Instead, Murphy was there to share the first diaper-changing “emergency” with Victoria.

Not everyone thought Murphy did the wrong thing. Mets fans, his manager and teammates all supported Murphy’s decision to take the full paternity leave. Major League Baseball, in fact, is among the few employers in the United States that allow paid paternity leave — a fact that begs changing — and about 100 ballplayers have reportedly taken advantage of it since their union got it written into their contract three years ago.

It makes sense. Baseball players are undeniably well paid. But they are also away from their families for much of the time for eight months in the year. Half of their games are played away from home. Three days out of a 162-game season is a pittance. And for Murphy to be criticized for missing games is absurd since he played in 161 of the Mets’ 162 games last year, often with injuries. He’s what they call a “gamer.”

(In my case, paternity leave was not available, but I had an understanding boss who let me spend as much time as needed with my sons and their mother. Besides, my work was a 10-minute drive from home; Murphy’s son was born in Florida and the Mets were playing in New York. A tough commute.)

Taken aback by the harsh criticism, Murphy described his decision simply: “We felt the best thing for our family was for me to stay.” That says it all.

While Murphy was being criticized for wanting to be with his wife in the first three days of their son’s life, other ballplayers who had taken performance enhancing drugs — cheated — were being greeted back from their 50-game suspensions. Pro football and basketball players continue to be arrested for assaulting their wives or girlfriends. The New York Jets recently signed quarterback Michael Vick, who served time in prison for running a dog-fighting enterprise.

These are the role models professional sports have offered to today’s youth for much too long. Rich, macho, spoiled, selfish, arrogant, self-centered, young men.

Murphy returned to the Mets after three days with his wife and son, was cheered by fans and singled in his first at bat. He’ll be able to tell Noah that story some day. Way to go, Murph.


The Joy of Baseball in Spring

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

By Gretchen Gibbs

Well, the baseball season has opened, and already on Thursday the Mets (the team I root for) were behind by two games in the NL East standings. The Yankees were playing .500 ball and were tied for first place in the AL East with Tampa Bay and Toronto. It seems a good time to reflect on my recent baseball experience.

I’ve always wanted to attend spring training, but this was the first year I managed it. I would have gone to Port St. Lucie, where the Mets train, but I have a sister in the Clearwater/Tampa/St. Pete area, and I wanted to see her, too. My sister’s condo turned out to be five minutes from the Phillies training site in Clearwater, and I saw two games there, one against the Braves and one with the Yankees. I also drove five miles to Dunedin to see the Toronto Blue Jays camp, and watched them play the Tampa Bay Rays.

The thing I realized about spring training is that it doesn’t matter who wins.

Nobody really cares. Not the players, not the managers, not even the spectators. Tie games are usually ended after nine innings. And when you take away the tension about who’s ahead, something else emerges. It’s a relaxed camaraderie in the stands. More attention is paid to the sparkling plays – the incredible catches against the wall, the diving catches in the infield, the home run hit over the wall and onto the berm where young children are picnicking with their parents.

There is the smell of buttered popcorn and beer and hotdogs. There is a certain background crowd noise at a baseball stadium that I haven’t heard elsewhere. It’s kind of a steady hum, a soothing “white noise.” And the vast stretches of green, now Astro Turf even in Florida, and speaking, “summer, summer, summer.” It was March but in Florida it was already summer. Spring training is quintessential summer.

I saw a few things I’d never seen before. For example, just as at big league ballparks, the walls of the stadium are padded panels that players can bang against without hurting themselves too much. In one game, a batter hit the ball sharply to the wall, and it disappeared. Nobody could figure out what happened. The two closest fielders were scratching their heads and there was muttering in the stands. It turned out the ball found a path between the panels, never to be recovered. They played it as a ground-rule double.

I loved the Phillie Phanatic and wished the Mets had a decent mascot. The Fanatic goes around the field and stirs up the fans with his dancing and good-natured taunting of the opposition players. Mets fans and Phillies fans generally don’t like each other, and it was instructive to sit with a bunch of folks from Philadelphia and see how their feelings about baseball were just like mine.

I liked the experience of seeing a game with a Canadian team in Florida. At the stadium in Dunedin, they sang “O Canada” at the start of the game. The vendors ply you with Labatt instead of Bud. The crowds were full of folks from Toronto and Montreal and Vancouver, all willing to tell you their winter stories.

I would happily replace the regular season with six months of spring training. Nobody talked about drugs or salaries or trades or whether the franchise will survive.

It was just a game. As Roger Angell said, “The Summer Game.”