Sunday, August 31, 2008

Springfield 1915

Two views of the city's river front including a race scene

The views of recreations spots for the city. I love the roller coaster at then Riverside – now Six Flags – Park

Another scene of how the city's river front looked years before I-91 severed it from the downtown.

These photos are taken from a booklet published by the Springfield Board of Trade that was aimed at encouraging new businesses to locate in the city. "A City of Good Repute" listed the city's assest at the turn of the 20th century. Among therem were the following:
"• Springfield, a city of 110,000 people.
• Growing faster than the United States.
• Has doubled its population in 20 years.
• Value of assessed property doubled in 10 years.
• The center of trading population of 250,000 in 10-mike radius.
• The most important railroad center in Western new England.
• The terminal of two great railway lines.
• Trolley lines radiating in all directions
• Has 200 different industries with invested capital of $40 million, output of $50 million consuming $20 million in raw material, employing 28,000 men, 7,000 women with an annual payroll of $20 million."

There were many more reasons listed why this city was a great place to put down roots. Interestingly enough we still have same kind of statements – or related – to talk about today.

• We are literally at the transportation nexus of western New England – interstate highways, two airports and rail.
• Our colleges produce a workforce eager for employment
• Our housing costs are much lower than Hartford to the south or Boston to the east
• We still have a very diversified business/industrial mix
• We still have a big honking amusement park!

© 2008 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Friday, August 29, 2008

For those of you who missed my guest spot on Bax and O'Brien this morning, here are the audio links:
part one and
part two.

I deeply appreciate Bax and O'brien allowing me to plug the Springfield book and I will be appearing at two signings so far: Barnes and Nobles in Enfield CT on Sept. 6 at 1 p.m. and Barnes and Noble in Holyoke MA on Oct. 4 at 10 a.m. If you have an interest in local history, please drop by and say hello (and preferably bring a $20 with you!)
Hey did you know that Springfield is the location of the event that spurred the infant nation into considering a Constitution? That's right folks, if it wasn't for Daniel Shays and his efforts to point out the injustices that followed the Revolutionary War, who knows what would have happened to the nation. History buffs, read on...

Springfield Technical Community College will host a two-day celebration of the National Endowment for the Humanities-funded website Shays’ Rebellion and the Making of a Nation: From Revolution to Constitution on September 12 and 13, leading up to Constitution Day on September 17. The public is invited to attend these events, which focus on the history of Western Massachusetts and the establishment of the United States Constitution. The web address will be

Who was Luke Day of West Springfield, and what did he look like? What existed on State Street two centuries ago? Should Henry McCullough have been hanged? Was Daniel Shays misguided and dishonored, leading a “disordered and impoverished mob,” according to a speaker in 1898, or was he a hero who stood up for the people of the new country, and a part of an effort that led to the Constitution we still live by, today?

On Friday, September 12, the exhibit Bryant White’s Paintings Illustrating Shays’ Rebellion will open with a reception for the artist from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. in the Amy H. Carberry Fine Arts Gallery at STCC. White will give a talk at 5:00 p.m. on the process of creating historical art, particularly for this website. The art gallery is located on the lower level of Building 28. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday 12:30 to 4:30, and Saturday 10:00 to 2:00. The exhibit contains 30 paintings featured in this website; the show will continue through October 4. The exhibit is made possible in part by funding from STCC Student Activities.

According to Bryant White’s website, “When in 9th Grade, Bryant was asked ‘Do you want to be an artist when you grow up?’ He replied, ‘How old do you have to be to be an artist?’

Practicing ever since, and attending University of Maryland to attain a BA in Visual Arts & Graphic Design, Bryant White is always seeking to find the best medium for his subjects. In his love of history he has gained insight to the lives of people of the past...countless hours of reading diaries & accounts give inspiration for his works, as well as participating in Living History programs for over thirty years. ‘Even in today's mass media, all events and happenings are not portrayed...I hope to capture that moment in time, meaningful to one person, or to an entire nation.’; Currently he resides in Pennsylvania, working at home and in the studio nearby.”

On Saturday morning. September 13, the launch of the website, and a discussion by Shays’ scholars will be presented in the 7th floor conference area of Scibelli Hall at STCC. Registration will begin at 8:45 a.m., with the program beginning at 9:15. The demonstration of the website will be held at 9:45, followed by a panel discussion from 10:30 to noon. Scholars will discuss the continuing relevance of Shays’ Rebellion.

Panelists include:
Barbara Mathews, Ph.D., the panel moderator, is the Senior Historian at the Pocumtuck Valley Historical Association (PVMA). She has served as the Website Content Director and Specialist for the Shays website. She is the academic director of the Deerfield Teacher’s Center, and has written content for two of PVMA’s award-winning websites: American Centuries: View from New England, and Raid on Deerfield: The Many Stories of 1704.

Robert A. Gross is the James L. and Shirley A. Draper Professor of Early American History at the University of Connecticut. A social and cultural historian and onetime journalist at Newsweek, he is the author of The Minutemen and Their World (1976, 2001), which won the Bancroft Prize in American History. During the bicentennial of Shays’ Rebellion in 1986-87, he organized a national conference, co-sponsored by Amherst College and Historic Deerfield, and funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. From that gathering, and a conference held by the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, was developed In Debt to Shays: The Bicentennial of an Agrarian Rebellion (1993), the collection of essays Gross edited and introduced for the Colonial Society.

Kevin Sweeney is Professor of History and American Studies at Amherst College. He has written extensively on colonial New England, and most recently co-authored with Evan Haefeli Captors and Captives: The 1704 French and Indian Raid on Deerfield. Currently he is researching the possession and use of firearms in eastern America from 1620 to 1820.

Leonard Richards is Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
He is the author of:
• Gentlemen of Property and Standing: Anti-Abolition Mobs in Jacksonian America
• The Advent of American Democracy (1977) (won the American Historical Association's Albert J. Beveridge Prize)
• The American Record (1982, 1987, 1995) (Co-editor)
• The Life and Times of Congressman John Quincy Adams (1986) (finalist for the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for biography)
• The Slave Power: the Free North and Southern Domination, 1780-1860 (2000) (won second place in the prestigious Lincoln Prize Competition)
• Shays's Rebellion: The American Revolution's Final Battle (2002)

Registration for the Saturday program is free, but is required by September 5. To register, contact Dr. Arlene Rodriguez at, or 413/755-4232.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I've been several times to the Mark Twain house and always found it fascinating and, as a writer, inspirational. I can't imagine a historic gem such as this one being boarded up and yet that's what the management of the museum is talking about. Read on

Hartford, CT- On September 23rd, 2008, a powerful line up today’s foremost authors will host a fundraiser to help save the historic home where the father of American literature, Samuel Clemens, wrote such classics as Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Jon Clinch, author of Finn, a “prequel” to Huckleberry Finn, will join such national bestselling authors and modern literary masters as Philip Beard and Andy Carroll to read from Twain’s masterpieces.

The Mark Twain House and Museum, where Clemens spent 17 years of his life, has recently fallen upon critical financial difficulties, causing the management to announce a potential closure. After reading about its fundraising issues, Clinch set in motion an effort several weeks ago to maintain this important marker in Twain’s literary journey.

“What’s cool about this benefit is that it was a spontaneous, grassroots kind of thing among the literary community,” said Clinch, “It turns out you don’t really have to press very hard to get authors to volunteer on Twain’s behalf.”

The benefit, to take place at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, September 23rd at the Mark Twain House and Museum, 351 Farmington Avenue Hartford, Connecticut, will begin with a one-hour reception, followed by two hours of readings from the authors. The event will conclude with a unique group book signing by all the authors.

Admission to the reading and book signing is $40. Admission to the reception, reading and book signing is $100. For reservations call 860-280-3152 or email .

Authors who will be reading include: Tasha Alexander, Elizabeth: The Golden Age; Philip Beard, Dear Zoe; Andy Carroll, Operation Homecoming; Jon Clinch, Finn; David Gates, Jernigan; Robert Hicks, The Widow of the South; Phillip Lopate, Against Joie De Vivre; Amy MacKinnon, Tethered; Stewart O’Nan, Last Night at the Lobster; Tom Perrotta, The Abstinence Teacher; and Arthur Philips, Angelica.

A national historical landmark, The Mark Twain House and Museum is open year-round for guided tours and attracts more than 60,000 visitors a year. The Boston Globe calls the 19-room House “a marvel of whimsy and craftsmanship.” Since its inception, the goal of the institution has been to honor and interpret the legacy of Mark Twain. The Mark Twain House Museum seeks to foster an appreciation of the legacy of Mark Twain as one of our nation's defining cultural figures, and to demonstrate the continuing relevance of his work, life and times. For more information visit

But wait there's more bad news for the home sof American literary giants. Edith Wharton's The Mount in the Berkshires is facing foreclosure. Their Web site reads:

Despite the good news of a six-month extension which allows us to stay open for the 2008 season, The Mount continues to face the threat of foreclosure, which could still result in this National Historic Landmark being closed to the public forever.

Please make a contribution now! To prevent foreclosure, The Mount needs to raise up to $3 million through the Save The Mount campaign by October 31, 2008.

To learn more go here.

Here's what gets me. A guy like Stephen King could wipe out their debt at these places and probably barely dent his checkbook. I hope someone with a fat wallet will step forward and help all of the smaller donors keep these two places open.

© 2008 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Monday, August 25, 2008

First, a sign of the End Times...go here for a better view

and now read:

"As a child my imagination was stirred by the great animated films of Walt Disney. Imagine my delight when Disney recently opened their archives to me as I prepared for my first-ever series of images inspired by classic Disney moments.

In the first piece of this series, Snow White's world is alive with color. The Prince's castle where Snow White will eventually discover happiness looms majestically in the distance, while a foaming waterfall and fanciful animals remind us that Snow White is at peace with all of nature. Of course, I also included my iconic colorful flowers which festoon the scene with hopeful reminders of spring.

I hope that Snow White Discovers the Cottage will be a fairy tale come true for Disney and Kinkade collectors everywhere.

Thomas Kinkade"

What kind of world does this guy live in? Oh I know: a world which rewards the triumph of marketing over talent and originality.

I can only imagine he's like the old time radio kids host who didn't know the mic was still on when he snorted "that will hold the little bastards for another night."

BTW, this is the guy who was caught pissing on a Winnie the Pooh statue at Disney Land – allegedly!

A big tip of my hat to the Other Mark!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The following I wrote as part of my column this week in the newspapers I edit, but I'd like to add a little more.

Garbage isn't the topic that has my top of mind awareness most of the time, but in the City of Homes there are issues that surround the disposal of garbage.

Down the street at the abandoned nursing home, people routinely dump everything from bags of trash to tires and mattresses. There's a mattress there now. In the city we have a bulk pick-up policy that is not big dead. You call. You pay $12 or so per item and it's gone.

Some people though seem determined to "beat" the system by just dumping their stuff anywhere they think someone else will deal with it – like the taxpayers.

And the garbage wars contine on another front. The person I profiled below also likes to take the city-owned cans from foreclosed houses, fill them up with his stuff, and then wheel them back in front of the boaded up houses. That way he doesn't have to pay an excess bag fee like the rest of us.

The garbage guys actually pick up the trash from houses that are clearly not occupied and the garbage scammer then collects his cans for another day.

Gentle readers, please let me present Chapter 506 of "Life in the Big City: The Missing Garbage Can."

So Lucky the Wonder Bichon was leading me on my morning walk the other day and like any responsible dog owner I carry a plastic bag to retrieve evidence Lucky had used the facilities.

Our routine is simple: we either walk down Spruce Street to Central and walk down Central a bit or we go the opposite direction and walk down Florence Street. Generally when we walk there are precious few other people on the street and the only animals we tend to encounter are some of the chickens aren't they illegal in the city? walking around their yards and crowing. Oh, yes, and one of the many stray cats who now live in our area.

Fortunately, the roosters in our neighborhood tend not to crow at dawn; otherwise, I would revive my plucking skills.

We complete our walk on Monday morning and I have Lucky's leash in one hand and a bag of poo in the other. I go to drop the bag in our garbage can when I realize I don't have one.

Now I had a can on Sunday night because I emptied trash into it.

I called my wife to tell her that someone has taken our can out of our driveway where it has sat unmolested since the city issued it to us.

While I'm talking to her, I walk past a house being rehabbed and there in the driveway next to another garbage can is my own. I can tell it's mine since I spray-painted our address on it.

I knock on the door of the house and despite there being two cars in the driveway no one answers. I then wheel the can back to my house, open the garage and lock it inside.

Since then the guy doing the rehab has stared at me when he has seen me, expecting me to say something. I'd rather share this little tale of woe with you folks because I'm not sure what kind of profanity would fly out of my mouth. Actually, I do know exactly what kind of profanity would be issued in this case.

Now in light of my impassioned defense of Springfield last week, I'm sure some readers would ask why I like the city when there are clearly folks of such low moral fiber they would steal a trash can. Granted, it is moments such as this one when I question why we live where we live.

We have lived in our neighborhood since 1990 and have had two other petty thefts in 18 years someone stole our basketball hoop off of our garage and a kid ran up on our porch and swiped a hanging basket of flowers. Overall, that's not too bad considering the nature of urban life.

Now add the trash can theft to the bag of McDonald's litter left on the street in front of my house and the candy litter and liquor bottles that sprout in my front garden every time I pick a previous crop and one has a list of little quality of life issues that could easily compel someone to find a home at the end of a half-mile long dirt road surrounded by acres of woods somewhere in Franklin County.

I have to remind myself that weasel-like folks live in the country as well. I'll never forget a guy who wanted to slaughter pigs in an area that abutted our farm in Granby. He had dug a pit and was preparing to suspend the killed pigs over the pit for bleeding and then the slaughtering process something that was violating any number of health regulations. He was stopped, thank goodness, before we had to endure the sounds and smells of pigs being killed and cut up.

My point in all this is it is the little things that can drive me out of a community as well as the big things. The question is what kind of control do we have over the large events, such as a factory closing, or the small ones, such as this harassment? I like to think we could have more control over the smaller issues, but what am I supposed to do? Call the police? I would be able to hear the laughter from the headquarters. Call the Quality of Life Flex Squad over a light-fingered neighbor? I'm sure there will be laughter as well.

I guess what I will do is buy a length of chain and a lock and attach my trash can to the tree in the driveway to deter any future re-assignment. Keeping it in the locked garage is a pain.

And I will more closely observe what the rehab guy and his crew are doing.

These are the times I wish Lucky wasn't a cute little fluffy happy dog, but instead an adult rhinoceros. I would make sure he would use this guy's lawn as his restroom and I wouldn't carry any bags.

© 2008 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I've posted my review/feature on the mostly animated documentary "Chicago 10" here at Animation Review.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sigh...this thing was clearly bullsheeeet.

When we lived on a small farm in Granby, MA, we raised hogs for several year. The pig pen was at the edge of the pine woods on our property and was quite spacious , allowing the hogs to be the clean animals they really are.

The secret in producing fine pork is what you feed the hogs....naturally. The best meat we ever produced came from pigs raised on corn and fresh excess milk. The worst came from adding slop from the high school cafeteria.

The slop came in garbage cans and it was my job to reach through it taking out paper products, coffee grounds, any bones, etc. that might upset the pigs. It was not among my favorite farm jobs. I much preferred shoveling manure, frankly, than to be up to my armpit in garbage.

We placed these garbage cans up on a wood box about a foot tall near the pig pen and one morning both of them were neatly flipped over and dry as a bone.

Lifting the cans ups there was nothing on the bed of pine needles, which didn't seem disturbed.

The pine needles didn't allow any tracks of any sort to be left.

So what could have consumed all of that slop in one night and be do damn neat about it? A family of bears? A troop of raccoons? Dozens of possums?

Or perhaps it was the Big Foot that Frank Sousa of the local paper wrote about? Nothing like that ever happened again although we continued to use slop.

I wanted to sleep outside by the cans and see what would happen but my parents, anticipating my being mauled by a bear, vetoed that idea.
© 2008 by Gordon Michael Dobbs
Now this is going to be interesting...

Beginning Tuesday, August 19th, the Department of Public Works will begin reclaiming city-issued trash barrels belonging to households for which the annual $90 per barrel fee has not been paid since the trash fee became effective in July 2007.

The collection of city-issued barrels follows two recent mailings advising home owners that their trash fee was unpaid .

Barrels will be collected from homes on regularly scheduled trash pick-up days.

Mayor Domenic J. Sarno said homeowners must continue to pay the $90 fee while the city considers a solid waste master plan that is more cost effective for the city and its residents.

“Unfortunately, the business of trash collection and disposal is a very large ticket item and the City simply cannot shoulder the finances without this fee,” said Sarno. “But we are actively looking at alternatives with a concentration on finding a solution that is most cost effective for not only residents, but also the City.”

Those wishing to pay the past due fee immediately, may do so online at Click on “pay city taxes and fees online.” Under “Bill Type,” choose “Refuse/Trash Fee.”

Other options include paying in person at the Collector’s Office in Springfield City Hall or by mail at Collectors Office, Springfield City Hall, 36 Court St., Springfield, MA 01103. Write Trash Fee on the envelope.

Residents who want more information or believe they have received a warning in error can call DPW Customer Service at 787-6260.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

My friend Elizabeth burst my bubble...actually she didn't, but the guy at the on-line Hoax Museum is being all Mark Martin-y about the Big Foot. And I was saving her a seat in the van to drive over-night to the press conference!
Road trip! Who is coming with me! From the other Mark M....thanks!

DNA evidence and photo evidence to be presented at a
to be held on
Date: Friday, August 15, 2008
Time: From 12Noon-1:00pm
Place: Cabana Hotel-Palo Alto (A Crown Plaza Resort) 4290 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, California 94306

Searching for Bigfoot, Inc. Menlo Park, California
Tom Biscardi, CEO



A body that may very well be the body of the creature commonly known as “Bigfoot” has been found in the woods in northern Georgia.

DNA evidence and photo evidence of the creature will be presented in a press conference on Friday, August 15th from 12 Noon to 1:00pm at the Cabana Hotel-Palo Alto at 4290 El Camino Real in Palo Alto, California, 94306. The press conference will not be open to the public. It will only be open to credentialed members of the press.

Here are some of the vital statistics on the “Bigfoot” body:
*The creature is seven feet seven inches tall.
*It weighs over five hundred pounds.
*The creature looks like it is part human and part ape-like.
*It is male.
*It has reddish hair and blackish-grey eyes.
*It has two arms and two legs, and five fingers on each hand and
five toes on each foot.
*The feet are flat and similar to human feet.
*Its footprint is sixteen and three-quarters inches long and five and three-quarters inches wide at the heel.
*From the palm of the hand to the tip of the middle finger, its hands are
eleven and three-quarters inches long and six and one-quarter inches wide.
*The creatures walk upright. (Several of them were sighted on the same day that the body was found.)
*The teeth are more human-like than ape-like.
*DNA tests are currently being done and the current DNA and photo evidence will be presented at the press conference on Friday, August 15th.

The creature was found by Matthew Whitton and Rick Dyer (residents of Georgia) in the woods in northern Georgia. (The exact location is being kept secret to protect the creatures.)

Matthew Whitton and Rick Dyer will be flying in from Georgia to be at the press conference. Also present at the press conference will be Tom Biscardi, CEO of Searching for Bigfoot, Inc.

Whitton is a Clayton County, Georgia, police officer, who is currently on administrative leave after being wounded in the course of duty pursuing an alleged felon. Dyer is a former correctional officer. Whitton and Dyer are co-owners of and Bigfoot Global LLC., a company that offers Bigfoot expeditions. Whitton and Dyer are working with Bigfoot hunter, Tom Biscardi, and Biscardi’s Searching for Bigfoot, Inc., to present and conduct the scientific study of the evidence and information on this body.

A few weeks ago, Whitton and Dyer announced the finding of the body on the “Squatch Detective” radio show, an internet based radio show hosted by Steve Kulls. While on that show, the commentator asked Rick Dyer “Would you allow one of our people to come down and verify the body?” Dyer replied, “The only person we would allow to come down and verify the body was ‘the real Bigfoot Hunter,’ Tom Biscardi.” The next day, the producer of the Squatch Detective show contacted Biscardi with pertinent information on how to contact Dyer and Whitton.

Extensive scientific studies will be done on the body by a team of scientists including a molecular biologist, an anthropologist, a paleontologist and other scientists over the next few months at an undisclosed location. The studies will be carefully documented and the findings will be released to the world, according to Biscardi.

Biscardi is known as “the real Bigfoot Hunter” because of his extensive investigations out in the field. He has been searching for Bigfoot since 1971 and over the past several years, he has been criss-crossing the United States and Canada tracking down the hottest leads on Bigfoot sightings.

Videography on the studies will be done under the supervision of Scott Davis, an independent producer and owner of TV Biz Productions in Phoenix, Arizona.

Currently, Tom Biscardi and his Searching for Bigfoot Team, in conjunction with Bigfoot Global LLC., are preparing to capture another of these creatures alive. That expedition will start very soon. The dates and the locations are being kept confidential.
The body that is currently being studied is being referred to as the “RICKMAT” creature, a name derived from the names of Rick Dyer and Matthew Whitton. [Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman recommends the term “Georgia Gorilla” be used to remove any taint of ego from the discovery, and so the general public, media, and science will have a comfortable moniker until a formal zoological name may be bestowed.]

Last year, a film that Biscardi produced about his investigations, called “Bigfoot Lives,” won first place in the Documentary category at the Pocono Mountains Film Festival. Biscardi also hosts a Bigfoot oriented internet radio show that can be heard on Wednesday nights from 7:00pm to 8:00pm PDT at The show is heard in over thirty countries.
Searching for Bigfoot, Inc. has exclusive rights to all publishing rights, photo rights, television and film rights, production and distribution rights and other commercial opportunities related to the discovery and findings regarding this body and these creatures.

Interested parties may contact Searching for Bigfoot, Inc., in writing, at their mailing address, 1134 Crane St., Suite 216, Menlo Park, California 94025.

Monday, August 11, 2008

I'm happy to report that I've received an advance copy of my new book "Postcard History Series: Springfield" from Arcadia Publishing and I'm quite pleased.

I'm also pleased to announce my first signing will be Sept. 6 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Barnes & Noble in Enfield, CT. I think I will be giving a quick talk and then, hopefully, sell some books.

I'm eager to set up a signing in the city, but the question is where and how – we have no independent bookstore. The only new bookstore we've got now is the Walden's at Eastfield Mall and they are not in the habit of hosting authors.

Any ideas?

My interview with Emmy Award-winning (and Academy Award-nominated ) animator Michel Sporn is posted on Animation Review. Go read it!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

This week has been a meat grinder at work, so therefore my lack of posting....I'm making up for it this week.

I'm sure at least some of you have seen the news reports on the piece on "America's Fastest Dying Cities." I was the first in the area's press corps to find out about this and inform the mayor's office. However the mayor elected to speak with other outlets rather than me.

That's what I get for trying to do something right.

If you've not seen a report about the story, in a nutshell, Springfield was lumped together with cities such as Detroit and Flint, Michigan, Canton, Youngstown, Dayton and Cleveland, Ohio, Buffalo, NY, Charlestown, WV and Scranton, PA. Census track information was used to determine these cities had negative or marginal business growth, high unemployment, and decreasing populations.

Springfield did not deserve to be on this list and I suspect some of these others towns didn't deserve it either as the numbers don't tell the whole story.

But the Forbes folks aren't interested in a "whole story." They want to do the business equivalent of a Britney story. If you actually look at what is happening in our area you see a number of high tech machine shops begging for workers. You see BayState Medical begging for workers. You see millions of dollars in private investment such as the Onyx/LA Fitness complex, as well as seeing a place such as the Springfield Business Incubator helping to create jobs with stable small businesses.

You see a community that has attracted a developer to turn the historic Court Square building into a condo/hotel complex. You see Springfield participating in the Knowledge Corridor initiative with Hartford and partnering with Chicopee on the high tech industrial park.

Yeah I readily admit I'm a booster. I'm not one of the MassLive anonymous posters who live in the suburbs, work in Springfield and then snipe at it under a cutesy pen name. Frankly I seldom read what those cowards write.

Does the city have its problems? Absolutely. Are the problems that took years to develop? Yes. Are there immediate solutions? No. Are there solutions that will take time? Yes.

Springfield's leadership should be making sure the city's kids see the career paths that are available to them locally. The machine shops put training program at Putnam High themselves to train the workers they need and they had to beg to get the donated equipment wired!

The primary job of the business community and the mayor's office should be not just job creation, but making sure the available jobs are filled by insuring there is a properly educated workforce.

© Gordon Michael Dobbs

Sunday, August 03, 2008

I can't remember where I found this puffy plastic sticker, but the cultural collision it represented continues to fry my mind!

Remember Piels Beer? It's still around but for many years it was one of the regional brands that one could find in New England. It's perhaps best known for the great animated commercials the company had.

Piels was a working class beer and when I found this faux Peter Max promotional item I couldn't believe it. Someone how it seemed to be aimed at aging counter culture types who were potentially nostalgic over the beer they had while in high school. Right?

Piels was brewed in the Willamansett section of Chicopee for a while until the early 1970s. I often wondered if they used water from the Connecticut River?

© 2008 by Gordon Michael Dobbs
Fellow blogger Tom Devine has been writing on and off about news coverage in The Republican (our daily paper here and part of the Newhouse empire) and the nature of what is news. This is, of course, someone in my position thinks about alot. Ideally, I think what goes into a newspaper, magazine or on a blog under the guise of news should have some value to to a reader – either it can enlighten or entertain.

Unfortunately another "e-word" is used instead: exploit.

The Republican has a long history of exploiting local, state and national events in their paper in ways that are worse that tabs. With a tab you know there is going to be sensationalism. In a broadsheet there is supposed to be respectability.

The guys and gals at The Republican who dream up the crap they serve us are not alone. The local TV stations like giving us a diet of fear and titillation as well.

If you don't see it as much as I do perhaps it's because I've been re-sensitized to how members of my profession behave. Read below and you'll see.

If you watch the "Today" show, you know that during the 7:30 a.m. half-hour they usually open the show with a story involving some sort of tragedy: a missing child, a murder, a natural disaster. As a human being and a news person, I'm always a bit disturbed that a national news organization frequently picks stories that exploit someone's loss.

A news story should serve the interests of the consumers, but not pander to their fears or appeal to them as worthless gossip.

I've wanted to write about something that happened in our family, but I didn't want to be accused of doing something similar to what I detest in so much of the "news" these days the parade of victims who are presented to us as some sort of grim, gossipy form of entertainment.

Luckily my sister-in-law Josephine has given me the angle that I needed.

Last summer my wife received a crushing phone call. Her favorite cousin Ann had been savagely murdered. Last week her husband was convicted for the crime.

I do not wish to go into any of the details. Although we were aware there were issues in the marriage my wife had advised Ann to seek help no one in the family ever thought an event of this magnitude would ever happen.

Having something such as this take place in your own family to people you care most about is almost unthinkable. It is almost surreal to speak with a reporter in an effort to get additional information only to be asked if you're willing to make a statement or supply a family photograph.

To read coverage of the event and to see Ann's photo splashed on the cover of newspapers reminded me that what is a tragedy to a small group of people is simply crime news to a larger audience.

As I read the stories, I never saw what I thought should be underscored: that domestic violence affects every race and every economic demographic. Educated, affluent people are involved in domestic violence as well as people who live in mobile home parks. There are no stereotypes when it comes to this issue.

The news reports were obviously consumed with the very sordid and profoundly sad details of the case, but not with the bigger picture, not with the message that might help others.

My sister-in-law is collecting used cell phones in Ann's memory to donate to local domestic violence programs to give women a lifeline to help. If you have one that's collecting dust, erase your information from it, and bring it and the charger to our offices here at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow.

If you don't have a cell phone, but would like to help local women who are suffering from domestic violence, please consider writing a check out to Womanshelter/Companeras, P.O. Box 1099, Holyoke, MA 01041.

I think a news story about a tragedy should seek to prevent such an event from happening again. If you are suffering from abuse call Womanshelter at 1-877-536-1628.

Since my column ran in the papers I edit, I've received over a dozen cell phones for donation. Perhaps these will help a woman make the call to help save her life.
© 2008 by Gordon Michael Dobbs