Monday, June 30, 2008

Notes of upcoming events:

The next Control Board meeting has been scheduled for Thursday, August 21 at Springfield City Hall in room 220. A public comment session will be held at 10:30 am, followed by an open session meeting at 11:00 am.


(WASHINGTON) Congressman Richard E. Neal will take a walking tour of the new $17 million State Street Corridor Redevelopment Project at 9:45am on Tuesday, July 1st, beginning at St. Michael’s Cemetery and ending at Riverfront Park on the Connecticut River. He will be joined by Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno, Executive Office of Transportation Secretary Bernard Cohen, Luisa Paiewonsky, Commissioner of the Massachusetts State Highway Department, and Wayne E. Phaneuf, Executive Editor of the Republican and a local historian. During the walk, Neal will be greeted by representatives from businesses and institutions that will benefit from the improvements of the project. He will also stop to note historic landmarks and planned improvements like the $70 million Federal Courthouse, and new lighting, plantings and landscaping. At 10:30am, he will participate in a groundbreaking ceremony in front of Roger L. Putnam Vocational-Technical High School.

“State Street is a remarkable blend of cultural, governmental, educational, religious, corporate and residential properties. It is home to some of Springfield’s most significant and stable institutions. These anchors attract thousands of people to the corridor each day to create a vibrant urban boulevard. I strongly believe the $17 million project will be a model for community revitalization. It will also help celebrate the many strengths and enduring qualities of our city,” said Congressman Richard E. Neal.

The State Street Corridor is 3.2 mile urban boulevard running east to west from Berkshire Avenue to East Columbus Avenue. Construction will begin in July 2008 and will be completed in 2010. In addition to the new federal courthouse, the redevelopment project will address the physical conditions and transportation issues on Springfield’s most important thoroughfare. Changes will include improved traffic flow for the estimated 29,000 cars that travel it on a daily basis, improved safety and transportation for pedestrians and bicycles, innovative parking and improvement to lighting and aesthetics. The vision of the project is to create a renewed State Street with strong visual appeal that will act as a front door to neighbors, key institutions and employers.

State Street has played a significant role in Springfield’s history. Some of its famous travelers were Paul Revere, George Washington and Colonel Henry Know who dragged cannons from Fort Ticonderoga in New York to aid in the start of the Revolutionary War in 1776. In 1905, George M. Hendee moved the Indian Motocycle Company to Mason Square, which is also the birthplace of basketball and the home of the last freed slave in 1808. It also played host to the Underground Railroad. Other notable locations along State Street include MassMutual Insurance Company, American International College, Springfield Technical Community College, Springfield Armory, and Gunn Hall where, in 1856, a meeting was held to discuss Indian Orchard secession from Springfield. The site of Shay’s Rebellion, Wesson Hospital, St. Michael’s Cathedral, Alexander House, the Court Square Theatre and the Springfield Library and Museums at the Quadrangle are also located on the corridor.

Congressman Neal welcomes the entire community to join him for the tour of the State Street Corridor Redevelopment Corridor Project.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008
St. Michael’s Cemetery
Springfield, MA

Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Roger L. Putnam Vocational-Technical High School
1300 State Street
Springfield, MA

I put the following in the column I write for the newspapers I edit in the hopes of soliciting a response from the writer in defense of my neighbors who believe they have a God-given right to break the state law on fireworks.

Alas, to date no response at all – sigh. I really wanted to hear his self-righteous arguments.

When I was in high school there always seemed to be some underground source for fireworks. I believe at that time – over 30 years ago – New Hampshire was not the safe haven for the stuff.

For several years back in the 1970s, there was a fairly ramshackle fruit and vegetable place in Chicopee that was a source If you knew the right person to ask. If memory serves, the owner of the stand was busted at one point for selling the contraband.

Later, one would also hear stories of Massachusetts state troopers waiting over the border in Northfield to catch people with their trunk loaded with fireworks purchased in New Hampshire. Undoubtedly they'd have that cheap NH booze and cigarettes as well.

I've certainly shot off fireworks myself, but in places where it was legal and with the garden hose nearby.

Hey, it's almost July Fourth and that means every idiot in my neighborhood will be shooting off fireworks. Yay! And they'll probably be drinking! Yay! And the most they'll know about what they're doing is that you light a match and stick the flame on the stringy thing and eventually let go.

I got this letter from the vice president of Phantom Fireworks, William A. Weimer, and I'll quote it in part: "The laws in Massachusetts that govern the use of consumer fireworks are out of date and out of touch with the demands and rights of the Massachusetts citizens. The time has come for Massachusetts to be brought into the mainstream of American life and for the state legislature to allow its citizens to enjoy the celebration of freedom with consumer fireworks.

"The spirit of the Massachusetts signers of the Declaration of Independence John Adams, John Hancock, Elbridge Gerry, Samuel Adams and Robert Treat Paine should rise once again and break the chains of anti-fireworks servitude in the Bay State.

"The imperative for the legislature to 'protect' its citizens from the dangers of consumer fireworks is long gone. The consumer fireworks today are the safest ever, and the injuries associated with the use of consumer fireworks is at an all-time low. There simply is no longer any need for the antiquated laws in this state that prevent citizens from enjoying the family celebrations associated with a home fireworks display.

"Massachusetts is now one of only five states that totally outlaws the use of all consumer fireworks.

"Former President John Adams predicted in 1776 in a letter to his wife, Abigail, that Independence Day 'ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade.bonfires and illuminations (fireworks) from one end of this continent to the other, from this day forward forevermore.' Fireworks provide the citizens of this state and this nation a means to celebrate their freedoms.

"Write to your state legislator and let them know that you want the right to celebrate your freedom with fireworks in the spirit of John Adams."

Bill may I call you Bill? I'll be happy to talk to a number of state reps on this subject if you would like to spend the evening of the Fourth in my neighborhood, listening to drunk fathers trying to teach their kids how to hold a sparkler, putting up with the barking and whining of dogs petrified by the fireworks and hoping that the bottle rockets whizzing overhead don't cause a house fire which has happened in Springfield in the past few years.

John Adams, indeed. I'm sure that what happens in my neighborhood is what he intended.

© 2008 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Thursday, June 26, 2008

"In certain trying circumstances, urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity furnishes a relief denied often to prayer." Mark Twain

I've been swearing a lot lately....mostly under my breath as it doesn't do my public image any good if I look at some elected officials and cut loose with a well...I can't very well say it here now can I? Wouldn't be prudent.

Why do I swear? We have a presidential race coming up between two guys who seem to want to play politics as usual instead of promoting the real change we need in this country.

No I'm not voting for crazy boy Nader or whatever Libertarian is running. I'll vote for Obama grudgingly. Yeah, yeah I'll take the heat from my conservative friends.

I swearing of late because the governor I helped put in office with my vote isn't the progressive I had hoped he would be. The word is that he is still trying to work out a new casino deal. Will people come to casinos when they can't pay for heating oil?

Here's a suggestion: screw the casinos and put in incentives so more people can afford new furnaces, more insulation, solar heat and electrical technology. That helps out with the frickin' fuel crisis, puts money into local businesses and helps with jobs.

I'm swearing because we have one truly lunk-headed city councilor in Springfield who would provide comic relief until you realize that people actually voted for this bozo – willingly voted for a guy who has proven to be amazingly wrong.

I'm swearing because the deal for a book fell through even though the publisher came to me, I did everything he wanted me to do and then, after almost a year of waiting, changed the rules on me. He'd still like to read the book and when it's published I'll send him an autographed copy with an appropriate verse.

Hey it's Thursday night. I just have to get through one more day and then I can swear some more!

© 2008 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Please could some Republican out there explain the following to me?

MassGOP Honors Governor Mitt Romney

Boston, MA - The Massachusetts Republican Party will honor former Governor Mitt Romney at a Lincoln-Reagan dinner tomorrow night, June 24, at the Westin Copley Place. This event is open press.
WHO: Governor Mitt Romney
Governor William Weld
Chairman Peter Torkildsen
Republican National Committeeman Ron Kaufman
Comedian Lenny Clarke

WHAT: Lincoln Reagan Dinner Honoring Governor Mitt Romney

WHERE: The Westin Copley Place
America Ballroom - 4th Floor
10 Huntington Avenue
Boston MA, 02116

WHEN: Press Set-Up Time: 5:45
Doors Close: 6:30

SET UP: There will be a Mult-Box
Throw From Riser is 65 Feet
TV Lighting On Stage

What in the name of all that is holy has the Mittster done to deserve being honored? Does he still even live in the Bay State? Are they going to talk about his legislative triumphs? His dedication to the job and the state? His support of Kerry Healey in the last election? His flip-flopping as a national candidate? His criticism of John McCain followed by his kissing up to him?

There are so many thing is life I don't get – What the hell is the purpose of a doo rag? Why do young women think wearing sweat pants with the word "juicy" on the butt is somehow acceptable? Why does anyone think that Bill Clinton is relevant after how he behaved during his wife's campaign? Why Americans aren't rioting in the streets over the price of gas? Why isn't "The Soup" on every night? – and this is one of them.

© 2008 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Monday, June 23, 2008

Here's an interesting poll from the Zogby people about how we view our bosses and the workplace. The theme of the report centers around the notion of democracy in the workplace. I try very hard to run a benevolent monarchy with plenty of input from the serfs at my place. I do little things like ask people to do things and then thanks them. I also solicit ideas and then use them and give people credit.

I'd like to say that being a decent guy – at least that's what I've been told – is easy or fun, but it's not. It requires much more effort to be inclusive and considerate than it does to be a dictator. That's why, in my opinion, we have so many petty tyrants.

Attempting to be good is a lot more work than being a self-centered jerk – that's easy!

I will add that being too decent is temptation for some people to run roughshod over you and I've had that happen. I think for some people encountering a supervisor who is trying to do the right thing is a signal that person is a target for manipulation.

Still, I continue to try to live up to the management techniques my father taught me by example. Granted, staff members may be greasing me by saying nice things about me. Perhaps they were among the folks who answered the poll!

UTICA, New York - One out of every four working Americans (25%) describes their workplace as a dictatorship, while just 34% of bosses in the American workplace react well to valid criticism, according to a new Workplace Democracy Association/Zogby Interactive survey.

The survey also found that less than half of working Americans - 46% - said their workplace promotes creative or inventive ideas, while barely half - 51% - said their co-workers often feel motivated or are mostly motivated at work.

Asher Adelman, Founder and President of the Workplace Democracy Association, said that "As we prepare to commemorate our nation's independence and celebrate the freedoms that we often take for granted, it is unfortunate and ironic that so many Americans work at organizations that are managed like mini-dictatorships."

Just 52% of respondents in the nationwide survey said their boss treats subordinates well, the survey revealed.

"Traditionally-managed companies, by inadvertently draining the motivation levels of their employees, are stifling productivity, innovation, and creativity. Companies cannot expect to remain competitive when such large numbers of employees do not feel like they are treated like responsible adults nor when they feel like their input has little or no impact on the company's decision-making process," said Adelman.

Adopting democratic processes can have a significant impact on employee morale and thus improve their levels of productivity and creativity: 80% of workers said they work better when they are given the freedom to decide how to best do their job. Another problem in the workplace identified in the survey: 31% of respondents said they believe that their human resources departments or upper management almost always or sometimes hire the wrong people.

But, the survey indicated, a solution to poor hires may exist within the workplace. Almost one person in five (18%) workers said they would feel more motivated at work if employees were selected and hired by groups of coworkers instead of by the bosses.

"Companies that want to boost employee engagement levels must adopt democratic and innovative practices in the way the entire company is managed," said Adelman. "Executives should be sharing information with all employees about the company's ongoing performance and goals, and employees should be empowered with greater discretion and decision-making abilities. In addition, it goes without saying that employees should be rewarded and compensated when the company is successful in achieving its goals." The nationwide interactive survey was conducted May 20-22, 2008, and included 2,475 respondents. The measure of error is +/- 2.0 percentage points. This is the largest national representative study of this phenomenon in the U.S. to date.

Would you want to elect your boss?

© 2008 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Now I've been to various media seminar and trade shows, but none provide the hard information and truly thought-provoking material like the Talkers Magazine New Media Seminar in NYC every year.

Since the magazine is published in Springfield, I treat this like a local story and I learn so much about an industry of which I was once part. I'm thinking of trying to do either a podcast or my own show on blogtalk radio (see below).

Michael Harrison is the publisher of Talkers and a guy who I think is a true media visionary

Stephanie Miller emceed part of the proceeding and was hilarious. She was also pretty stunning in a mini-dress suit thingy. Don't worry I'm not sexually harassing her. She actually encourages such talk.

Thom Hartmann is probabaly the most knowledgable guy on talk radio. he's a great Constitutional scholar.

Ed Schultz has the most listeners of any progressive or liberal radio host.

NEW YORK CITY – Although radio as a medium may be struggling with decreased advertising sales and shrinking listeners, the executives, station owners and talk shows hosts gathered at the 11th Annual Talkers Magazine New Media Seminar were upbeat about the future.

Sean Hannity, one of the top-rated nationally syndicated talk shows hosts, said the spoken word format would be the “savior of AM and FM radio.”

“Talkers Magazine” is the trade paper for the talk radio industry, which has grown in the past 20 years from 200 stations to now about 3,000. Longmeadow resident Michael Harrison publishes the magazine from his Springfield office.

Hannity pointed out that “every car in 2009 will have an iPod connection,” which will mean more and more people will program their own music rather than turn to radio. What continues to draw people to talk radio, he explained, is current events.

“If there is a huge news story people turn to us,” Hannity said.

Several speakers returned to a common theme: What talk radio must do to grow the format is to embrace all of the technological platforms people now use for news and entertainment.

Liz Dolan and her sisters recently took their syndicated program “The Satellite Sisters” off of conventional radio and went strictly to a podcast format available on their Web site. Podcasts are recordings that can be downloaded to a computer or an MP3 player such as an iPod.

Dolan was part of a panel on Internet talk and she said her biggest problem was attracting too many sponsors to the new show and format. Proctor & Gamble has signed the sisters up to provide content for the company’s Web
site and Dolan said what advertisers are looking for are the connections the talk radio format makes with listeners.

Long-time talk show host Roberta Gale broadcasts exclusively through a podcast on and predicted that advances in technology will soon allow near instant downloading of podcasts.

The success of podcasting isn’t about technology, though, “it’s all about content,” she added.

Alan Levy, who runs, said that Internet broadcasting is “democratizing the medium.” His Web site has been operating for the past 18 months and by May had attracted 3.2 million listeners.

The upcoming presidential race was the subject of many comments during the seminar’s “talk rumble,” in which a panel of hosts was asked to comment on questions posed by Alan Colmes. Although the liberal and conservative members of the panel clashed on many topics, they seemed to all agree with smiles and laughs that Sen. Hilary Clinton’s candidacy provided
them with great material.

Predictably, the conservative members of the group all predicted that Sen. John McCain would win the presidential election.

Another panel illustrated another divide in the industry, only this was not about politics but about race. A group of African-American broadcasters spoke about the disparities that many black hosts face from being on stations with low wattage to national advertisers ignoring their ratings.

The discussion was often times charged with emotion as one of the panelists, the Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, claimed the remarks made by the others hosts were tempered with the attitude that they wanted special treatment.

Talk show host Michael Medved delivered the conference’s annual address on freedom of speech and said that conservative talk show hosts should be more interested in changing listeners’ minds rather than maintaining
“ideological purity.”

“The biggest threat to freedom of speech is conservative political correctness,” Medved said. He added there is a “herd mentality” among many conservative hosts.

“Any political movement that becomes obsessed with purity is a movement in decline,” he said.

Medved also welcomed the growing popularity of liberal or progressive talk programs that add to the spectrum of political discussion.

Rather than reject contrary opinions, Medved urged his fellow hosts to use discussion and persuasion to build “ a real American majority.”

© 2008 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Blues legend Johnny Winter will be appearing in Springfield later this summer.

A popular whine is there is nothing to do in downtown Springfield. Well, the Business Improvement District is trying to boost the local tourism population downtown with a variety of activities, including a Dine Around that is taking place Thursday night.

I hope people will give these events a chance. Certainly the Stearns Square concerts are a huge success on Thursday nights and the BID is smart to try to capture other folks with music on other days.

I still think downtown needs some sort of movie theater, preferably an art house/first run combo. And there also needs to be a good traditional coffee shop with books and magazines for sale and music and spoken word events.

The Web site has more details.

Downtown Springfield will be the area's headquarters for free live music this summer with the Springfield Business Improvement District (BID) offering up not only the hugely popular Stearns Square CityBlock concerts on Thursday nights, but also a series of jazz concerts on Sundays, live music at the Farmers Market on Wednesdays and more music on Wednesdays from 4 to 7 p.m. in a series of performances called "Happy House @ The Market Place."

BID Executive Director Jeff Keck explained the purpose of the concerts is to introduce people to the city's downtown neighborhood with the hopes of filling existing real estate vacancies.

The music will begin on Wednesdays when there will be free concerts during the Wednesday farmers markets conducted from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Keck said the market has doubled in size with the inclusion of more area farmers and crafters.

The performers include the Jimmy Mazz Band, Sweet Daddy Cool Breeze, Badmonkey, Alibi, Janet Ryan and Straight Up, the Inside Job, Time Trippers, Red Haired Strangers, the Floyd Patterson Band, Dan Daniels & Your No Good Buddies, and Gene Donaldson & the Stingrays.

These same bands will then perform from 4 to 7 p.m. in the Marketplace near Hampden Bank.

Second Sundays @ Stearns will be presented from 2 to 5 p.m. in the Stearns Square Park. A number of restaurants will be open during those hours with Cafe Manhattan featuring a special brunch. The performances will be presented rain or shine.

The jazz concerts started June 8 with Bob Baldwin with Friends featuring Ragan Whiteside. They will continue on July 13 with Gordon James with special guest Ethel Lee and on Aug. 10, Urban Jazz Coaltion with special guest Scott Sasenecki featuring Radam Schwartz and conclude Sept. 14 with Ken Navarro and special guest Nu Direxions.

The Thursday night CityBlock concerts will feature an eclectic blend of veteran rock acts, blues bands and up-and-coming performers: June 26, Jay and the Americans; July 3, Gary U.S. Bonds; July 10, the Blues Magoos; July 17, JGB featuring Melvin Seals; July 24, Pure Prairie League; July 31, FAT; Aug. 7, L.A. Guns; Aug. 14, the Georgia Satellites; Aug. 21, Roomful of Blues; Aug. 28, Black 47; Sept. 4, Johnny Winter; and on Sept. 11, The Last Goodnight.

Food rather than music will be the emphasis of a new event sponsored by the BID, the Downtown Dine Around. Keck explained the June 19 event is an off-shoot of the BID's popular mobile wine-tastings. With Dine Around three groups of diners will visit one of three groups of restaurants all within walking distance of each other.

The groups of diners will spend about 45 minutes at each restaurant sampling the menu and having a drink. The evening will cost $35 per person and will be limited to about 50 diners. The participating eateries include the Sitar, the Fort, Shakago's, 350 Grill, Virtuoso, Caf Manhattan, Montenia's, McCaffrey's and Cafe Lebanon.

Keck explained he wanted to demonstrate to people the streets are safe. If the event proves to be popular he envisions it taking place several times a year.

© 2008 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Monday, June 16, 2008

Over at Heather Brandon's Urban Compass blog, she has posted a story that discusses the Hartford Courant's latest move to right its ship by increasing the advertising to news ratio and throwing some reporters overboard.

The paper's parent company is in deep trouble and naturally the best way to increase your bottom line is to decrease the very reasons people buy your newspaper: content.

As always some media theorists predict the Web will be the savior. Local news Web sites will spring up taking up the slack.

I don't think so because I think the leap to an Internet driven exclusive media landscape is about as close as the creation of a cheap portable device we won't mind losing on the bus that can take the place of newspapers, magazines and books.

It also means as many homes in America that have a TV set need a similarly cheap way to access the Internet. And it means marketing to several generations at once to build the Web news market.

Is that going to happen soon with the economy we have?

I think the best bet for any newspaper is convergence – taking the best elements from print and the Web and merging them in a way to capture loyal readers on different platforms.

But that my friends costs money. Takes time. Won't necessarily make a bad investment go away for the next quarter. May not be as sexy as a Web site with a lot of animation and shiny things that would keep a flock of crows transfixed.

The hacks with MBAs and nice suits that head the corporations that own newspaper companies don't have a clue. They know the bottom line, but they don't know the industry that they are in. And they don't care about it.

Radio, television and the newspaper industry took time to build. A convergence approach would take time to build an audience.

Now some people would say we have convergence now with MassLive and other newspaper Web sites. Nope, not in my narrow definition.

Convergence means synergy between the traditional and the new. Convergence means determining what platform best showcases which story. It means a video/Web reporter working with a print reporter on a big story. It means beating TV stations to the punch with video. It would be a lot of work, but very rewarding.

© 2008 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Bonus Sunday posting (for my more substantial one, scroll down). My friend and really good photographer Elizabeth liked my shot of the Chrysler Building. With such encouragement, let me post a shot from Grand Central Station, a truly impressive building.
First a teasey kind of announcement:

A group of Western Mass. bloggers – of which I'm proud to say I am a part – have been working a collaboration which we hope to debut in the next few weeks.

Some of the best known bloggers in the area will be part of the group and we'll all reveal more in the coming days.

Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art Artists Festival

I've not been to a comic book show in many years. Like fans in my age group the show that really started the whole movement was the now largely forgotten annual NYC events put on by the late Phil Seuling – the man who was also responsible for establishing the direct market for comic books.

My tastes in comics has always been pretty broad and as I've aged – 54 and counting – I've become much more interested in either classic comic strips or efforts by independent artists. The MOCCA show was perfect for me as it showcased all sorts of very talented indie folks.

The show did have one major drawback – no where to sit. The best conventions I've been to have some area that is to take a load off your barking dogs. The show's other weakness was having it split over two different floors – the first and seventh. The seventh floor was beautiful but the roof was nearly all skylights and that made it pretty oppressive in the 100 degree NYC weather.

One thing was very apparent at the show: the presence of women both as comics consumers and creators. Back in the good old days, comic book shows were completely dominated by guys. A woman walking around could cause fanboys to drop whatever they were looking at and stare in that way that male dodos must have looked at the last females dodos right before extinction.

The times when fanboys were most likely to suffer heart attacks was during the costume competition when women would come out dressed like Red Sonya or some other character with mesh bikini tops.. The flash bulbs – remember those? – would be popping.

Hey look they're still doing it! The last time I saw something like this was in 1976. It's nice to know that some things in life – horny guys, T &A and women willing to wear steel mesh outfits – never change.

Just for the record, I had a girlfriend and I never took a photo of some redhead in a Red Sonya outfit. Honest.

There were women displaying a wide range of comic books they created as well as fangirls, God bless them. No one was in costume, though. I thought that was a step in the right direction.

I met Ted Rall at the show, one of my favorite political cartoonists and bought his amazing book on Central Asia. Anyone interested in foreign affairs needs to read this book. Buy it!

Being a Western Mass. patriot, I was happy to see New England represented at the show with Trees and Hills artists, a collective of cartoonists from Mass., Vermont and New Hampshire. This is a cool book as it as a music CD as well.

I've got to admit I find too many comics anthologies running about 60 percent good stuff and 40 percent crap. Secrets and Lies though is well worth the $20 and is 90 percent good stuff! Full of talented up and comers, the book also features new work by my buddy Steve Bissette, who has slowly re-entered comics through his teaching gig at the Center for Cartoon Studies. That's right folks, it might be a sign of the End Times that Bissette is drawing comics again, so enjoy it while you can.

Order Secrets and Lies from its publisher Catetanyo Garza right here.

© 2008 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Thursday, June 12, 2008

One of my favorite buildings in the world – the Chrysler Building in NYC at dusk. One of the best moments in an otherwise odd little movie, "Doc Savage, the Man of Bronze" is the scene in which we see Doc's headquarters is in this building with a room in one of the eagle's heads.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Okay animation and comics fans, head over to Animation Review for a piece on "Persepolis" – soon to come out on DVD – and a talk by its creator Marjane Satrapi. It's a remarkable comic transformed into a wonderful film by its own creator, a rarity these days.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The following is what I wrote for the weeklies I edit on the recent appearance by Sen. John Kerry: "When I looked around the banquet room at the Red Rose restaurant in Springfield last week, I was struck by not who was in the room to show their support for Sen. John Kerry, but who wasn't and the fact that there was a longer line at the buffet than there was for people to pay their respects to the senator.

Now generally a long-time incumbent senator or representative has the power to generate a long line of local pols and supporters to kiss his ring and the room at the Red Rose was pretty full. Many of the folks, though, that I had expected to see I didn't. The usual suspects at such an event include city councilors, state reps and senators and mayors as well as local party officials and activists.

And while Chicopee Mayor Michael Bissonnette was there, as well as Springfield City Council President Bud Williams and State Rep. Sean Curran were there, I didn't spot any other mayors. If this had been a function for Sen. Ted Kennedy cancer or not the room at the Red Rose would have had a line out of the door and down the sidewalk.

Of course, Kennedy is living history, one might say, but Kerry, who was the Democratic presidential candidate, represents a bit of history himself. One would think that his leading the Democrats nationally in the last election would have given him more of a cachet.

Now, I only stayed for the first hour, as there is just so much fun I can endure, folks and no, I didn't avail myself of the food as that was for the paying customers. So it's quite possible other elected officials turned up after I left.

The question any political junkie might pose from observation of the gathering was whether or not Kerry's support had slipped, especially in light of the pretty rigorous campaign run by Attorney Ed O'Reilly who has mounted a primary challenge.

As I write this column, the Massachusetts Democratic Convention is looming and for O'Reilly it will be his acid test. If he is able to secure enough support, Massachusetts' voters will have a fairly unique opportunity of having an incumbent senator reaffirm his base supporters.

Political wags have long said if you see Kerry in Western Massachusetts, you know it's an election year, so I expect that we'll get more exposure to Kerry in the coming months. If O'Reilly proves successful, I'm hoping we'll have a debate out here in the hinterlands."

Okay, Ed O'Reilly wound up getting 22 percent of the delegates at the convention. He needed 15 percent. For an underdog, that's an accomplishment. Now does he have a chance against Kerry in the primary? Only if Kerry does something so stupid, so horrible, so unforgivable that party loyalists couldn't ignore.

I can't imagine what that is. After all an accidental death didn't impede Kennedy's senatorial career. It did stop him from being president, though.

So what is confronting Kerry is the knowledge that among loyal party members quite a few are pissed at him. Will he care?

Let's face it, the Senate is a life sentence for those who play the role correctly and Kerry apparently knows how to play the part. He is an abstraction in Western Massachusetts, though. At least Kennedy gets out here about once a year and actually seems to know all the players.

Well, I'm at least guaranteed a little fun as O'Reilly seems to be a scrapper who wants to take Kerry on in debates. Wouldn't it be cool to have a Democrat and a Republican running for Senate that were on equal footing? No incumbents? yeah, yeah I hear you about seniority, but can anyone tell me how Kerry has directly helped Western Massachusetts? What specific programs has he initiated that have been a measurable benefit for us?

© 2008 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Monday, June 09, 2008

It's amazing to me that many people refuse to watch silent films or foreign movies because they don't want to deal with subtitles. The rap I've heard from many is they can't pay attention to the action on the screen if they have to read subtitles.

I love to hear the voice of an actor regardless if he or she is speaking in a language I can't understand.

I've never understood modern Americans saying something like this as we've developed into viewers who regularly divide our attention when watching television. People talk to one another, eat dinner, neck on the couch, among many other diversions. reading a subtitle is child's play.

Of course everyone who goes to the movies knows that this living room behavior extend to theaters where people bring their crying infants, talk about what is going on the screen and otherwise ruin why I love going to theaters to see movies: the ability to watch that big screen and fall right into the story.

Having a trio of old ladies cry out "Is that it?" at the end of "No Country for Old Men" is a typical kind of movie experience these days.

Yeah, subtitles are hard.

Suck it up if you're a real film fan.

American Silent Horror Collection

In the coming weeks, you'll be reading more about some of the recent releases from Kino International, a company that specializes in silent and foreign film. This week the company's collection of silent horror films is in the spotlight.

The collection includes four films "The Penalty," "The Cat and the Canary," the John Barrymore version of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" and "The Man Who Laughs" as well as the documentary "Kingdom of Shadows."

The horror film, as most audiences know it today, didn't really establish itself as a genre until the successes of "Frankenstein" and "Dracula" in 1931. Before that time there were films that had supernatural themes or were thrillers, but the phrase "horror" wasn't used to describe them.

The star most closely associated with silent horror films was Lon Chaney, the star character actor who was well known for his creative make-ups. The Chaney film in this collection, "The Penalty," is one of his most extreme. He portrays a man who had his legs unnecessarily amputated while he was boy. He becomes a criminal as a man and swears revenge on the doctor and his family.

To achieve the look of having no legs below the knees, Chaney used a harness apparatus that bound his legs against his back. He could only wear it for relatively short lengths of time due to the pain it would cause.

The film itself is a pretty wild ride into the mind of someone obsessed with revenge.

Pain and revenge figure prominently, although in very different ways, in "The Man Who Laughs," a big budget adaptation of the Victor Hugo novel of the same name. Encouraged by the huge box office returns of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," Universal Studio head Carl Laemmle produced this film at the coming of sound in 1928. The story revolves around Gwynplaine, the son of an English noble who has fallen out of grace with the king. The boy is given over to a "surgeon" who creates freaks for sideshows and has his mouth deformed into a permanent smile.

The great German actor Conrad Veidt has the unenviable role of acting only with his eyes as the appliance used to keep his mouth in a grimace prohibited any movement. Gwynplaine is no a monster or villain, but a victim who must reconcile what has happened to him with how he views the world.

The film is presented with its original music and sound effects track.

"Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" is thought by many to be the book that has been filmed the most often and this version was definitely the best of the silent editions with the prince of Broadway John Barrymore clearly enjoying the chance to cover his handsome features with a very effective make-up.

"The Cat and the Canary" was a favorite on the stage by the time director Paul Leni brought it to the screen in 1927. It's the classic "dark old house" thriller in which a group of people gathered together in a spooky old mansion for the reading of a will get more than they bargained for from "The Cat."

It may be corny, but the film is still a great deal of fun.

The documentary is the weakest part of the package as it tries to be artistic rather than informative. Considering each DVD has a number of cool extras, the unsatisfying documentary further pales in comparison.

This is a great collection for anyone serious enough about film to venture into the silent era.

The Three Stooges Collection, Volume Two 1937-1939

The world can be divided in many ways and one is undoubtedly people who find the Three Stooges funny and those who don't.

I fall into the former camp and find that the wits of my childhood still can make me laugh.

If you've never heard of the Three Stooges before, I'll attempt to describe them: three odd-looking little guys who seemingly communicate all of their major emotions through insults, hits, kicks and slaps. Their professions, marital status and relationships between each other seem to shift from film to film. One could either see them as either low humor or high art.

This collection essentially shows the Stooges in their best light the trio features Curly Howard, undoubtedly the best loved stooge, who came into the act when brother Shemp left it to pursue a solo career. Curly is a comic full of idiosyncratic sounds and gestures that make little sense, but are a scream.

The prints of these short comedies are among the best I've seen and although there are no extras, the collection features 24 films, which is plenty of great viewing.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Take a look over at the links and you'll see two of them pertaining to my new book from Arcadia Publishing coming out on Aug. 25. If you live within the Springfield area, you need this book! And I'll autograph it and toss in a free car-wash! Maybe...

The news that the former Court Square Hotel may be re-developed – nothing yet is cast in stone – is quite welcomed but I should point out that when I asked the question about what will happen to Old First Church, everyone danced around it.

It's fairly distressing that so far no one has come up with an idea on how to use the city's most historic structure. Well, I should amend that statement – no one has discussed PUBLICLY – what to do with the church. One suggestion I've heard of using the
church as a place to show movies is ill advised to this old theater manager.

If you're a Springfielder, what would you like to see in the church?

©2008 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Boy, do I get some crap in my role of crusading managing editor of great metropolitan weeklies!

Look at this one....

Monday, June 02, 2008

California same-sex marriages could generate 1 billion the first year
The Wedding Report, Inc. estimates that California same-sex marriages could reach 33,800 and generate 1 billion in revenue the first year.
Tucson, AZ- "There are an estimated 112,700 same-sex couples in California today. We believe that in the first year alone approximately 25%-35% will get married, roughly 33,800 couples. The California 2008 estimated wedding cost is $29,600, put those together and you get 1 billion the first year," said Shane McMurray, CEO Founder of The Wedding Report, Inc.

The Wedding Report, Inc. estimates that over 3 years, 49,400 same-sex couples will marry in California generating $1.5 billion in revenue.

About The Wedding Report, Inc.

The Wedding Report, Inc. is a research company located in Tucson, AZ. They track and forecast number of weddings, spending, and consumer trends for the wedding industry.

Now maybe in California there will be some sort of same sex marriage boom, but it didn't happen here in the Bay State. Ask the city clerks of Springfield, or Worcester or Boston if their offices are mobbed by gay couples.

There were the same predictions that gay marriage would be a growth industry.

Now here's a beauty:

Is God a Cosmic Monster?

By John W. Whitehead
June 2, 2008
“I am more afraid that we are really rats in a trap. Or, worse still, rats in a laboratory. Someone said, I believe, ‘God always geometrizes.’ Supposing the truth were ‘God always vivisects’?”—C. S. Lewis
In Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, the death toll from a killer cyclone stands at 78,000, with 56,000 people still missing. At least 1.5 million are hungry, hurting, homeless and in desperate need of supplies. In China, the death toll is equally staggering. Some 80,000 people have been confirmed dead by the 7.0 scale earthquake, and at least 20,000 are missing. Countless more are without shelter, food or medicine. How do we explain such tragedies in light of the fact that in most churches it is taught that there is a God who is loving and all-powerful? If this is true, why is there so much excruciating pain and unspeakable suffering in the world? Is God simply a cosmic sadist or a monster who visits mayhem, destruction and death on innocent people? Natural disasters have wreaked havoc on the planet since its beginning. But all the pain people have had to endure has not come by way of so-called acts of God. People hurting people accounts for much of the suffering of humanity. It is people, not God, who produced the wars, bombs, guns, whips, racks, prisons, torture and so on. It is people who pollute and destroy the ecological environment, thus helping to create more adverse weather patterns. And it is human avarice and stupidity, not the workings of nature, that explains much of the poverty and suffering which exists. Nonetheless, there remains much suffering that is unexplainable. According to reports released by the United Nations, approximately one in seven people in the world—that’s 850 million—don’t have enough food to eat. Every five seconds, a child dies of starvation. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases estimates that between 400 and 900 million children, almost all of them in Africa, contract an acute case of malaria every year. And an average of 207 million people die of it every year. That’s more than 7,000 a day, 300 every hour, 5 every minute. The list goes on and on. The question is, why is there suffering of any kind? And why would a so-called “good” God allow suffering? If there is a good God, according to theologian C. S. Lewis, then he is no less formidable than a cosmic monster. And if God hurts only to heal, as traditional Christians believe, there is little hope in avoiding the pains of life. “A cruel man might be bribed—might grow tired of his vile sport,” writes C. S. Lewis in his book A Grief Observed, “might have a temporary fit of mercy, as alcoholics have fits of sobriety. But suppose that what you are up against is a surgeon whose intentions are wholly good. The kinder and more conscientious he is, the more inexorably he will go on cutting. If he yielded to your entreaties, if he stopped before the operation was complete, all the pain up to that point would have been useless.” Thus, according to Lewis, if there is a good God, then pain and suffering are necessary. If they are unnecessary, then there is no God or a bad one. And how do I (or anyone, for that matter) expect to escape the same? After all, God, according to Christian tradition, killed his own son. Likewise, disasters such as recently happened in Myanmar and China show us that, in an age of cosmic alienation, we really do not understand God. “What reason have we, except our own desperate wishes, to believe that God is, by any standard we can conceive, ‘good’?” wrote Lewis. “Doesn’t all the prima facie evidence suggest exactly the opposite?” Applying the word good to God is meaningless. Obviously, what God considers good—at least by the standards of some theologians—is radically different from our perception. In fact, maybe we are so intellectually and morally depraved that we cannot fathom what a good God is. We are not the commanders of our fate. We are not gods. We are frail, vulnerable beings hoping (and praying) that somehow we can communicate to that one who determines our fate. So many questions remain. But as C. S. Lewis recognized: “When I lay these questions before God I get no answer. But a rather special sort of ‘No answer.’ It is not the locked door. It is more like a silent, certainly not uncompassionate gaze. As though He shook His head not in refusal but waiving the question. Like, ‘Peace, child; you don’t understand.’” Where does this leave us? Suffering just comes, and we need to deal with it the best we can. As professor Bart D. Ehrman writes in his book on suffering, God’s Problem (2008), we should “work hard to make our world the most pleasing place for others—whether this means visiting a friend in the hospital, giving more to a local charity or international relief effort, volunteering at the local soup kitchen, voting for politicians more concerned with the suffering in the world than with their own political futures, or expressing our opposition to the violent oppression of innocent people.” WC: 876

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book The Change Manifesto (Sourcebooks) will be out in August 2008.

This guy doesn't understand the concept of a paragraph so why should I take him seriously?!

Monday, June 02, 2008

Welcome to the blog of many parts....

First, some unfinished business – here's the photo of Moon's Arch on South Woodstock VT, the domed stone structure that predates Native Americans and is believed by some to have been constructed by wandering Celts. Joe Citro informed me that there are no historical regulations protecting the many such constructions in the state. This is amazingly short-sighted in my opinion.

I love seeing these things that are not always easily explained away. There is something very reassuring to me that mysteries in the physical world still exist.

Department two – Head over to my animation review site for my opinion of some new animation to home video.

Department three– Another segment in the continuing drama of a reporter's life: I'm always amazed when an elected official is actually on time for an event. Last week, I had little hope that most of the time allotted for Senator John Kerry's campaign swing through Springfield – a meet and greet at a local restaurant – would be spent waiting for the junior senator. I was wrong. I arrived at the same time he did and while he was talking to a cluster at the door, I made my way in and positioned myself outside of the door of the function room.

You see once the politician goes into the room of waiting supporters – people who are going to give him money and put his bumper stickers on their cars – of them care little to mingle with the press. We are useful, but only at certain times.

The fact that Kerry seldom ventures into Western Massachusetts except when he is running for re-election is a hard and fast rule and I wondered in the several minutes I waited actually what I could ask him that would be of interest or use to my readers and wasn't typical campaign blather.

I wound up asking him about what the Senate could do about gas prices and he told me he was sponsoring a bill that would set up an investigative unit at the Justice Department that would look at how speculation has driven up the price of petrol. He also blamed the Bush Administration for not encouraging energy companies to seek out alternative fuel sources.

Fair enough, but has he been vocal on the subject for the last two years or so as prices began their upwards creep?

Given that I had about three minutes and he told me I needed to be brief, I thought I did okay.

I followed him into the love fest, which is indeed a love fest for some and an obligation to go kiss the ring for others.I'm always surprised who shows up and who doesn't at this kind of event. I stayed for an hour and noticed that only one local mayor turned up, as well as one state rep and one Springfield city councilor. Perhaps more turned up after I left.

One person told me she was there as an observer not as a supporter and said she worked for Kerry's Democratic challenger Ed O'Reilly but left that campaign for unsaid reasons. She said that Kerry was "the lesser of two evils."

If I had more time and I hope along the campaign trail I will I'm going to ask Kerry how he think he has benefited Western Massachusetts. I bet there will be many generalities.

© 2008 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Sunday, June 01, 2008

My head is still in mini-vacationland, so I will post about John Kerry tomorrow.

I love history and oddity, so my affection for the work of my friend Joe Citro is deep and sincere. And Joe is one of the nicest guys I know. It's a pleasure to get together with him and mutual pal Steve Bissette for a magical mystery tour of Vermont, which we undertook on Saturday.

This is one of Joe's great books. Buy it!

The first stop was Springfield Vermont and the home of inventor and former Vermont Governor James hartness, which is now a handsome hotel.

Hartness was known for his inventions and innovations in the field of metal working, but he was also fascinated by astronomy had had his own observatory built on the grounds. The telescope was linked to his underground work rooms that are accessible through a long tunnel.

The current owner of the estate gave us a detailed and well informed tour of Hartness's "fortress of solitude," and I can admit an underground liar seemed quite appealing to me, if not to all three of us!

Here's Alex the owner explaining how the telescope works.

To learn more go here.

We went to Cavendish Vermont to view the memorial for Phineas Gage, a Vermont railroad worker who accridently set off a charge that drove an iron rod completely through his head. He lived, although his personality was changed, therefore providing 19th Century scientists with a valuable insight about how the brain works. Seven years after he was buried, his body was exhumed and his head was given to the Harvard medical museum along with the rod that pierced it! Apparently it's still on display.

Next up was Cuttingsville and the house an grave of John Bowman, a wealthy 19th century man who lost his wife and children and was so overcome by the grief he built this opulent grave with a stature of himself waiting outside. Joe said Bowman was convinced his wife and children would somehow return to him and had his servants prepare meals and keep the house as if they were about to arrive.

He was able to leave a trust fund to maintain his house and it is handsome to this day.

We then were on the trail of Moon's Arch, which Joe described as probably the most famous and biggest of Vermont's alleged Celtic sites in South Woodstock. As we went over a number of dirt roads we encountered some amazing estates and one house had a series of fairy statues mounted along the road.

We did find the arch but it was on posted private property. Being a good boy, I photographed it from the gate.

Dammit Blogger won't let me put up my final photo! I'll try tomorrow!

© 2008 by Gordon Michael Dobbs