Sunday, September 28, 2008

Happy Birthday Valley Advocate!

Here's the story that landed me into hot water with one local cartoonist. Sorry but that version of "King Kong" still sucks.

I’ve been wanting to say “Happy Birthday” to the Valley Advocate for about a week now. The area’s alternative weekly is celebrating 35 years in print.

The Advocate was the first publication that paid me to write and I will be eternally grateful for the opportunity.

In 1975 I was a junior at UMass and was carrying a double major of English/Journalism. I was considering writing for the campus paper the near legendary “Daily Collegian,” but one meeting in their offices was all it took to sway me form that course.

I have always hated snobs. I’ve always hated bullies. I’ve always hated the fraternity atmosphere that permeates so much of college life. That’s what I found at the “Collegian,” and I said, “Screw it.”

So I wandered into the offices of the Advocate, which in 1975 were located in a house near Amherst Cinemas. The editor who greeted me was Charles “Chuck” Smith, a man with a background in acting and performing. We talked about assignments and I think – I couldn’t find my clip file easily – my first gig was interviewing NBC newsman Edwin Newman who was appearing at the Big E promoting his book on the English language.

Newman was low key and affable, which was fine as I was nervous – about the only other celeb I had interviewed at this time was Buster Crabbe – and I produced a story that met with Chuck’s approval.

Writing for the Advocate didn’t pay a whole lot and I clearly remembering trying to cash a $12 check for a story only to be told the Advocate didn’t have that amount in its account.

Ah, the salad days.

I wrote a review of the 1976 remake of “king Kong” that earned me my first negative letter to the editor from an UMass colleague who later turned out to be a multi-millionaire cartoonist.

From 1975 through the late 1980s, I wrote a number of freelance pieces for the Advocate, all mostly performing arts stories. When I was on WREB radio as the evening drive talk show host I would convert a number of the interviews into stories for the paper, thus making a little coin to augment my $5 an hour salary.

My interviews with George Romero, Larry Cohen and Lillian Gish, among others, were seen there.

My editor then was Bill Swislow, a nice guy who seemed to share my pop culture sensibilities. His successor was a person with whom I shared nothing and she made it very clear she wasn’t interested in my work, so that ended the association.

In the past few years, I’ve been given a halo by the Advocate staff in their “Horns & Halo” annual review, which is a designation, because of my history, that means a fair amount to me.

Although some people discount the Advocate as not having the impact it once had, the fact is The Advocate has done some great work in trying to shed some light on Springfield’s political morass over the past 20 years. If it were not for the Advocate, I doubt people would have been aware of the nature of the Albano Administration.

And thanks to Tom Vannah, Stephanie Kraft and Maureen Turner, the publication is still doing great work.

© 2008 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Dobbs enters the video age

My boss wants my department to produce videos for the newspaper's Web site and so at the risk of people telling me I have a face for print and radio, here it is:

Now reporters in newsrooms across the country are facing the challenge of being handed a camera and being told to produce videos for the paper's Web site. The problem is for print people to figure out the why of the video. technical stuff can be worked out through training and practice, but I feel the videos need to be either independent of print stories or complement print stories.

And that process – determining the how and why of the video – is as labor intensive as the actual production.

It took me two hours of fussing with iMovie to produce this six-minute video. I have to make up that time as it was a loss of writing time.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

So what color are you and is this accurate? From the folks at Zogby

After two presidential election cycles during which the American electorate was split right down the middle like two bitter, warring factions, polling over time by Zogby International has shown that the middle of the political spectrum has made a comeback.

And with the resurgence of the political center comes a pitched battle between the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and John McCain to win them over, with both investing tens of millions of dollars. So who are these people who are the targets of such lavish political spending?

These "Purples" - some independent, some moderate - are distinctly different than the "Reds" or "Blues" who are tuned into what is going on in the political world and who mostly have made up their minds about the race.
Purples require a unique approach, as shown in a new, extensive national interactive survey by Zogby and the USC Annenberg School's Norman Lear Center.

Here is a look at how those much-coveted Purple voters can be reached by political campaigns and what they want to hear (For profiles of Reds, Blues and Purples, look at the end of this release):

Connecting With the Purple People:
* All politics is still local. Purples trust and rely on their local
newspapers for news. Fifty-eight percent prefer their hometown paper, five
times more than any national or major city daily. So in addition to making a
local stop, push local surrogates to deliver your message.

* Stick with 30-second spots. TV was tops when Purples were asked what they
like to do in their free time.

* NBC is still king. Purples most trust old pro Tom Brokaw, followed by
Nightly News anchor Brian Williams.

* Don't preach to the choir if you are McCain. Few Purples tune in to Fox

* Top TV shows to buy ad time on: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, 60
Minutes, CSI, Sunday Night Football, House, Two and a Half Men, Law & Order
and Criminal Minds.

* Avoid reality shows. More than a 25% never watch them, and American Idol
is the only one to reach double figures (11%.)

* Letterman and Leno give you the best bang for the buck on late night, but
25% of Purples are already asleep by then.

* The news/talk radio format is a good buy, as 41% of Purples listen in.
* Rock and roll will never die. Classic rock and oldies stations will reach
30% of Purples. Pop stations are up there at 28%.

* Over half of Purples either don't listen to national political talk radio
or don't have a favorite talking head. Of those who do, 18% listen to Paul
Harvey and 13% to Rush Limbaugh.

* All sports, all the time. You can reach more than 10% of Purples with just
about any sports on TV. Of course football is number one (54%), followed by
baseball and basketball.

* Google them because 69% of Purples say that is their favorite site. Yahoo
is at 51% and MSN at 39%.

* Get viral. YouTube is a favorite for 27% of Purples.

* They're surfing for news - 72% say that is the information they look for
online. Purples are also more likely to go online to find out about TV
shows, movies, games, music, fashion, shopping, books and sports. But don't
waste your time with blogs - Purples don't really care about them.

* Celebrities won't help, as 87% of Purples say that their endorsements are
a turn off or have no impact.

* The Oprah exception. Twenty-nine percent say Ms.Winfrey is well-informed
about the candidate she endorsed (Obama), and George Clooney clocked in at a
respectable 26%.

* Be happy because they are. Eighty-three percent of Purples say they are
very or somewhat happy about their personal life.

What to Say to Purples:
* Forget about wedge issues. Purples are worried about the economy.
Forty-nine percent cite it as most important, compared to 3% who chose
morality and values.

* The Iraq War isn't working. Seventy percent of Purples say it has not been
worth the loss of American lives and 53% don't agree that it can be won.
* Go green. Four of five Purples say more resources are needed to protect
the environment rather than saying government has gone too far.

* Promise that you will throw the bums out of Washington. Seventy percent of
Purples blame leaders of the political parties for the worsened state of
politics. Eighty percent say this country's on the wrong track.

* Corporate America is not their friend. A whopping 90% say corporations
don't generally act in society's best interests. Also, 57% say government
regulation of business is important.

* Praise the working mother. Eighty-seven percent of Purples said men and
women should share household duties equally.

* Privatize education at your peril. Eighty percent of Purples say that
investing in public schools is better than supporting private education.

* Don't demonize immigrants. Two-thirds of Purples say they are here for
work, not a handout.

* Walk a tightrope on trade. Purples are closely split on whether workers
need trade protections.

* Be tech savvy. Three quarters of Purples say new technology and the social
and economic changes it brings are a good thing.

* Civil liberties and equality take a back seat to security and freedom. We
found that 57% of Purples say security is more important than liberties, and
74% say freedom is to be more valued than equality.

* However, don't believe that Purples want us to shoot first and ask
questions later. When asked to choose between using force or improving
anti-American sentiment to combat terror, 85% of Purples choose the latter.

* Compassion is popular. It is our duty to help the less fortunate, say 81%
of Purples.

* Be very careful talking about religion's role. Purples are evenly split as
to whether religion should have a greater role, or be left out of public

* Don't talk about guns. Purples are again evenly split on whether it is
appropriate to regulate gun ownership.

* Cutting taxes is always a good thing for everybody. So say 66% of Purples.

* Are they listening? Over half of Purples say they're paying more attention
to politics than four years ago.

The survey, which examined the political beliefs and entertainment
preferences of 3,167 likely voters, provides us with a fascinating view of
this slice of the American electorate. Using statistical clustering
analysis, Zogby and the Lear Center created a political typology based on
how respondents evaluated 42 statements about political values. The typology
revealed three significant clusters of respondents: "Reds" made up 41% of
the national sample, and "Blues" comprised 34%. The "Purples," a full 24%
of those surveyed, did not align with the political beliefs and values of
Reds, who could be considered "conservative," or Blues, who could be labeled
"liberal." The same respondents were asked about their preferred
leisure-time activities and their favorite radio and TV shows, Web sites,
movies, games and sports. This Zogby/Lear Center survey is the second in a

Profiling Reds, Blues & Purples

Here are brief summaries of the three political typology groups, including
their demographics and their entertainment, leisure and lifestyle


Reds are the largest ideological group in the U.S. They tend to live close
to other family members and they're much more satisfied with their
spiritual, family and personal lifethan the rest of the nation. They love
going to sports events, watching football on TV and playing Madden. They
also enjoy golf and auto racing more than other people. They use the Web to
find news and sports coverage, but they're less likely to go to social
networking sites. Reds tend to get their news from cable TV and radio, and
they much prefer Leno to any other late-night programming. Compared to the
rest of the country, they are less open to foreign entertainment and any
entertainment that reflects values other than their own. Monopoly is their
favorite game. They blame the news media for the worsened state of politics
in this country, but only a minority believes that celebrity involvement in
politics has a negative effect. They are more likely than other Americans to
think that Chuck Norris, Ted Nugent, Tom Selleck and Pat Boone are
well-informed celebrities on the campaign trail. Like other voters, most
Reds say that they learn about politics from fictional movies and TV, and a
majority says they have taken action based on issues depicted in scripted TV
and movies. Their favorite fictional TV shows are House and CSI; their
favorite summer movies were Indiana Jones and The Dark Knight. In their
spare time, they like to read and spend time with family and friends. They
drink more soda than cocktails, and they prefer seafood and salads to
burgers and beer.

Reds are the oldest group and the wealthiest, although a majority never
graduated from college. They are the most likely to be married and to live
in rural areas - most live in the South and the Center/Great Lakes region.
Almost one in three say they are "very conservative," and most describe
themselves as "born again." Seventy-two percent identify as Republican, 23%
as Independent and 5% as Democrat. Reds are the least racially diverse
group, and it's the only group where men outnumber women.


Blues are the second largest ideological group in the country. Almost all of
them think the U.S. is on the wrong track, and they are far more likely than
the rest of the country to be unsatisfied with their personal, family,
business and social life. They are more tolerant of the media than other
Americans, but they are more likely to get their news from comedy shows than
from any of the network TV newscasts. More than any other group, they get
their news online, and they use Wikipedia. In fact, their favorite
leisure-time activity is surfing the Web, where they like reading blogs and
socializing (they prefer Facebook to MySpace). They tend to get their TV
news from NBC and MSNBC, and they are fans of Keith Olbermann. Blues love
playing Trivial Pursuit, and their favorite video games are Wii Sports,
Zelda, Guitar Hero and Super Mario Kart. They like The Dark Knight and Iron
Man, and their favorite TV show is 60 Minutes. Many Blues dislike reality
programming - more than Reds and Purples. For late-night, they prefer The
Daily Show. Blues enjoy going to music concerts and to the theater, and they
often enjoy entertainment from other countries. Like the rest of the
country, most Blues don't think that celebrity endorsements have an effect
on them. Few Blues believe that celebrities are well-informed about the
candidates they endorse, except for Oprah. Blues are more likely to enjoy
sushi and vegetarian meals; they are also the biggest drinkers of wine and

Blues are the youngest group and the most educated. They are more likely to
live in urban areas and they are the most racially and religiously diverse.
Seventy-nine percent identify as Democrats (even more than Reds identify as
Republican), but they are as likely to describe themselves as "moderate" as
they would call themselves either "liberal" or "progressive." Eighteen
percent identify as Independent, and 3% as Republican. A majority of Blues
is female, and compared to other groups, Blues are more likely to be single
or in a civil union. Most live in the Center/Great Lakes region, followed by
the South, the West and the East.


Purples are the smallest ideological group, and in many ways they fall
between the Red and Blue camps. Like Blues, they think the country is on the
wrong track, and they are less satisfied with their personal, business and
social life than Reds. Most Purples say they are paying more attention to
politics now than four years ago, and a large majority says they learn about
political issues from fictional TV shows and film. Like Blues, most get
their news from the Web, but they are more likely than any other group to
use the Web to find information about celebrity gossip, TV shows, movies,
games, music, fashion, shopping, books, relationships and sports. Purples
are more likely than Reds or Blues to say that playing games and listening
to music are the most enjoyable things to do online. Unlike Blues, Purples
prefer MySpace to Facebook (it's a tie for Reds). Tom Brokaw is popular
among Purples, and they believe he's the most influential news personality.
Purples say watching TV is their favorite leisure-time activity, and their
top three shows are Law & Order: SVU, 60 Minutes and CSI. Purples like
reality programming more than any other group, and American Idol is their
favorite. They prefer Letterman and Leno over all the other late-night
programs. Like Reds, they say they are not big fans of foreign entertainment
products, but they give high marks to the Wii, Super Mario Kart and Dance
Dance Revolution. Scrabble is their favorite game. Purples are the biggest
cocktail drinkers, and they like a good surf n' turf.

Most Purples haven't graduated from college, and half identify as "born
again." They are the most likely to be divorced, widowed or separated, and a
large majority of Purples is female. Most live in a large city or in the
suburbs, and a higher proportion live in the East, compared to Reds and
Blues. Most Purples are middle-aged and middle-class, but they are far more
likely than other groups to make less than $35K. A majority voted for Kerry
in 2004. Forty-five percent of purples identify themselves as Democrats; 24%
as Republicans; 31% as Independents.

Data was collected from August 19-21, 2008. A sampling of Zogby
International's online panel, which is representative of the adult
population of the US, was invited to participate. Slight weights were added
for region, party, age, race, religion and gender to more accurately reflect
the population. The respondents were asked to evaluate 42 political
statements which Zogby and the Lear Center developed in 2007 as a tool to
more accurately describe a person's political profile. A statistical
analysis of the data revealed three very different ideological groups, which
were labeled "Red," "Blue," and "Purple." The same respondents were asked
about their preferred leisure-time activities and their favorite radio and
TV shows, Web sites, movies, games and sports. This survey is the second in
a series.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Shameless self-promotion time again, kids!

First, my Fleischer at the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction tomorrow night will have all new clips and shorts than the one I presented at the Main Street Museum this summer. The show starts at 7 p.m. and is free. I'll have copies of my animation book, "Escape! How Animation Went Mainstream in the 1990s" for sale. For directions, etc. go here.

Then I'll be signing copies of my newest book, "Springfield A Postcard History" at the Holyoke Barnes & Noble on Oct. 4 at 10 a.m. Please come by and say hello, and help me pay for the fuel we'll use this winter!

I will also be part of my friend Mino's monthly wine dinner at his spectacular Buon Appetito restaurant in Westfield on Oct. 13. Diners will not only get a lavish meal but also a copy of the Springfield book, which I will be happy to inscribe. Call 568-0002 for more information and reservations. I'll post the menu when I get it!

I can not tell you just how great Mino's cuisine is – simply the best Italian you've ever tasted. His wine dinners fill up quickly.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Since my buddy Mark "not the Race Car Driver" and I have been testing the bounds of our friendship through a heated political discussion on this blog and his, I thought I would attempt to explain a little of my own politics by reprinting what I wrote this week in my column:

My paternal grandmother was from Alabama and was a rock solid Democrat. When asked once if she would vote for Jesus Christ if he was running as a Republican, she replied, "He wouldn't be a Republican."

In fact, my brother and I were under an oath not to reveal to Grandma that my father ran and won a seat on the Granby School Committee as a Republican. He had no party affiliation and had merely accepted the invitation of the Republican Town Committee to go for the position. The old man was deadly serious with us on not spilling the beans, as he didn't want to face his mother's wrath.

I bring this little bit of my family history up as illustration of my belief that faith and politics go hand in hand. Just like we believe in the mysteries of religion, many of us place the same devotion in candidates for public office.

And I don't believe we look for a candidate to challenge or enhance our beliefs, but rather someone who mirrors our established opinions.

How many people vote on following criteria:

Whether or not a candidate is a friend of labor?

Whether or not a candidate is pro-life or pro-choice?

Whether or not a candidate is considered a fundamentalist Christian?

Whether or not a candidate a candidate is for "big" government?

Whether or not a candidate is for or against gun control?

Whether or not a candidate supports minority rights or the rights of women?

Whether or not a candidate is for stopping illegal immigration?

Whether or not a candidate would work toward same-sex marriage?

Whether or not a candidate has a stand on the war on drugs?

Now once a candidate admits a position on any of these particular issues, some voters either stop or start their support. Too many folks are one or two issue people. So do these one or two issue voters have the inclination to consider opposing arguments to their own views?

My guess is "No." I have several friends who call themselves conservative and if I do get into a discussion with them some won't even discuss politics with me it's almost a certainty that any challenge to their belief structure is met with a level of hostility.

The same goes for people who I see that call themselves "progressive." They are often times so adamant in attacking the status quo they lose sight of the goal to help convince people the liberal side of politics does indeed offer solutions.

How do you stand on the checklist I cited? Here's my score:

Whether or not a candidate is a friend of labor? I support the right to organize.

Whether or not a candidate is pro-life or pro-choice? I support a woman's right to chose.

Whether or not a candidate is considered a fundamentalist Christian? Religion is a private issue, protected by the Constitution and should not be part of government.

Whether or not a candidate a candidate is for "big" government? I'm for effective government meeting the needs of the nation.

Whether or not a candidate is for or against gun control? I support the right to bear arms.

Whether or not a candidate supports minority rights or the rights of women? Everyone should be treated equally under the law.

Whether or not a candidate is for stopping illegal immigration? Illegal immigration needs to be stopped by making sure workers are here legally.

Whether or not a candidate would work toward same-sex marriage? The government shouldn't interfere in the romantic lives of consenting adults.

Whether or not a candidate has a stand on the war on drugs? Have we actually addressed the reasons behind the demand for illegal drugs?

Now, do my answers make me a liberal or a conservative or a Libertarian? For whom should I should I vote?

Here is my list by which I judge candidates:

What are you going to do to stem the flow of manufacturing jobs from this country?

What are you going to do to create a new economy with entry-level jobs?

What are you going to do to end the War on Terror?

What are you going to do about global warming?

What are you going to do about NAFTA?

What are you going to do about creating an equitable tax structure for all Americans?

How are you going to reverse the national deficit?

These are difficult questions that can't really be addressed adequately with a 30-second attack ad.

Perhaps I'm asking for too much.

So dear readers how would you answer those questions?

© 2008 by Gordon Michael Dobbs
Going back to Vermont. Come by and see the show!

The Center for Cartoon Studies presents an evening with animation historian and scholar G. Michael Dobbs on Tuesday, September 23, at7 PM. Dobbs will sign copies of his new book “Escape!”, followed bya lecture and exhibition of vintage animated cartoons from the 1920s-1940s at 7 PM at the Center for Cartoon Studies, 94 South Main Street, White River Jct., VT, with Q&A after.

Dobbs, who is currently writing a biography of pioneeranimator Max Fleischer, will discuss the Pre-Code FleischerBrothers animation ofthe 1930s (Betty Boop, Bimbo, Koko the Clown, Popeye,etc.) and its influence on the cutting edge work of the 1990s that helped re- define the medium for the 21st Century.

“Escape! How Animation Broke into the Mainstream in the 1990s” chronicles the rise of animation with updated articles from “Animato!” and “Animation Planet” magazines as well as new pieces.G. Michael Dobbs saw the industry change first-hand as editor of those two publications. Interviewing both the risingstars and the vets of the animation industry, Dobbs gave his readers a front row seat to an entertainment revolution.

Earlier on Tuesday afternoon, Dobbs will be lecturing CCS’s comics history class, “Survey of the Drawn Story.” CCS sponsored his appearance in the Valley earlier this summer on July3rd at Left Bank Books in Hanover, NH and the Main Street Museum in White River Jct. That event filled the Museum to capacity and delighted an audience aged 6 to 60 years of age. This week’s
event provides a new selection of animated cartoons and further insights into the history of the medium.

A writer and former radio talk show host, Dobbs has working Western Massachusetts’ mass media for over 30 years with stints at The Valley Advocate, Holyoke Transcript-Telegram and Westfield EveningNews. He's interviewed dozens of personalities as diverse as elected officials such as Michael Dukakis, Eliot Richardson and George MacGovern to best selling authors (Sidney Sheldon, Alan Dershowitz)to film legends (Vincent Price, Lillian Gish) to television personalities (Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas, Clayton Moore, Elvira).

Dobbs is also a nationally recognized animationauthority through his position as editor of Animato! and Animation
Planet, two magazines for animation fans. He taught as an adjunct faculty member for 13 years at Western New England College, instructing students inthe development of mass communications and the history
of film. His freelance writing has appeared national in Video Watchdog, USA Todayand Rod Serling Twilight Zone Magazine. He joined Reminder Publications as the editor of the Chicopee Herald and is now the managing editor of the company’s five publications, which reach about 120,000 readers in western Massachusetts.

His second book, a postcard history of Springfield, MA from Arcadia Publishing was published in August; he will also have copies for sale at CCS. Dobbs lives in Springfield, MA with his wife Mary, a disobedient Bichon and way too many cats.

The vintage animated cartoons are all unrated butsuitable for all ages; admission is free. CCS students willalso be selling their comics and minicomics before and after theevent. For more information, call 802-295-3319.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Last week was very busy, so I apologize for not posting more. I'll make it up this week.

With the presidential election now in full swing, I can't help but be saddened by what I see as an obscuring of the issues by the most paper-thin rhetoric and manipulation.

McCain and/or his advisers were brilliant in selecting freshman Governor Sarah Palin because she manages to hit a lot of buttons that McCain apparently couldn't hit. What grimly fascinates me is as economic problems continue to affect more and more people and institutions in the country, the emphasis has not been on Pailin's experience, but rather that she is a "normal" person with "real American values" – what ever that is and whatever those are.

She hunts. She's a beauty pageant contestant. She's pro-life. She's a Christian of sorts. She doesn't know much about foreign policy stuff, although she is the commander of the Alaska National Guard and is next door to Russia – sort of.

All of the folks who embrace her seem to forget a couple of things:

The folks backing McCain are the same who backed Bush. McCain and Palin will not be agents of change as they are packaging themselves. They won't be allowed.

While Palin was the mayor of a small town of 7,000 people – which had its own Washington lobbyist – McCain was in the Senate where for the past eight years his maverick change agent role was confronted with the harsh reality of his voting record – he's a Bush neocon supporter.

Constitutional conservatives should be appalled that McCain will undoubtedly carry on the same fiscal polices as Bush – the national debt is getting deeper and deeper.

All of the Republicans who laugh off the issue of her local of experience would be gnashing their teeth and frothing if the Dems had picked a freshman governor such as our own Deval Patrick. The hypocrisy is overwhelming.

By the way could someone please show in the Bible a text where Jesus condones a preemptive attack and killing of woman and children? Please explain to me how the Iraqi War jives with Christian theology?

So this is what I hope to hear from both candidates:

What they are going to do about keeping American jobs here.

Getting rid of NAFTA, which has failed to help US workers.

If they are going to stop illegal immigration by closing down the illegal jobs those folks hold.

If they are dedicated to helping re-tool this country into a green economy.

How they are going to end the War on Terror.

Whether or not either will be returning to a Constitutional-based government.

I want specifics. I want facts. I don't give a flying crap about dogma, photo ops, lipstick on a pig, fake indignation, what someone is wearing, endorsements from people supporting the status quo, whether or not someone is wearing a flag lapel pin.

I'm pissed. This country is approaching a state of despair it hasn't seen since the Depression.

© 2008 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Monday, September 08, 2008

It was a very busy weekend with a successful signing at the Barnes & Noble in Enfield Conn. on Saturday (the next one is Oct. 4 at 10 a.m. at the B&N in Holyoke) and a successful sales effort at the Mattoon Street Arts festival on Sunday.

Thank you to the friends and family who turned out to say hello and buy a book and thanks to the many people who came out who are among my readers.

I went to the Great New England Air Show at Westover ARB on Sunday morning to take photos for the paper and for myself. My father, a career Air Force pilot and officer, was stationed three times at Westover when it was an active base. That's the reason we wound up in Massachusetts.

Every time my wife and I go to the Cummington Fair, I'm hit with the urge of selling the house in Springfield – not in this market – and moving to the country and do a bit of farming. It is true: you can take the boy off the farm, but you can't take the farm out of the boy.

And when I'm at Westover to cover a story or to go to the Air Show, I have deep regrets I didn't join the Air Force out of college or go ROTC.

One of the Air Show moments that linked me to my father was the chance to not once, but twice go up in a vintage B-17. My dad flew them in WWII (B-29s in Korea and his last plane was a B-52) and from what I understand it was his favorite plane. A photo of him in front of "Sue's Special" – named after my mother – is in our living room.

Well, the farm bit might happen one day – my neighbors have chickens so couldn't I raise some laying hens? – but the Air Force doesn't want a flabby 54 year-old.

In any event by going early to the Air Show I completely avoided the horrendous traffic jams and was able to get some pretty good shots.

Here is one of the Westover C-5s in flight. The thing barrelled down the runway, cocked itself upwards at a near impossible angle and took off into the sky like a rocket. It was very impressive to see it fly with the pilot showing how the biggest plane the Air Force flies can maneuver.

Here's a vintage Corsair with the folding wings designed for service on aircraft carriers.

Here's a shot of the nose of the B-17 that was having some technical issues. My hat is off to the guys who keep these pieces of history in the air. It's astounding to me. When I was a kid I was under the strong impression the B-17 was made out of wood. I don't know why. For some reason the dull greenish/brown many were painted during WWII equated to be lumber in my mind.

The B-52 was flown out of Westover and many of the childhood memories revolved around my father's service on them as a pilot. He used to be placed on alert – this was the Cold War and those B-52 carried nukes – and had to live in an underground bunker that the men used to call "the Mole Hole." He'd get to come out of it periodically and talk to us through a fence. The building still exists only now it is the terminal for the civilian airport at Westover.

What surprises me is the B-52 is still flying as many of these planes are over 40 years-old.

Any good air show has stunt acts and this is one of those with a woman from Canada who makes her living walking on a biplane in flight.

© 2008 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Sunday, September 07, 2008

More shameless hustling of the Springfield book!

I'll be selling copies at the Mattoon Street Arts Festival this afternoon, probably around 1 p.m. This free event, staged on historic Mattoon Street in downtown Springfield – take a look – features a wide assortment of arts and crafts as well as food ands entertainment.

It's supposed to be a great day weather-wise today, so take advantage of it and come by the festival.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Joe Biden, if he does appear at the Log Cabin on Wednesday, will have to share the venue with Bax and O'Brien!

The top-rated morning team is having their "Big Bonkin' Smoke" event at the same time at the Log Cabin. This is what they are going to be doing:

"Rock 102 in conjunction with Azon Cigars and the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House, proudly presents the next Big Bonkin’ Smoke on Wednesday, September 10th!

"Big Bonkin’ Smoke means an evening full of premium cigars, awesome food, great prizes, cigar-related premium items and more! Your admission price covers a buffet dinner, a gift bag of premium cigars, a limited edition event shirt, and a chance at winning all kinds of prizes.

"There'll also be motorcycles on display from Harley Davidson of Southampton, sampling from Peroni Italy, and a chance to interact with some of your favorite Rock 102 personalities!

Tickets are available in person at Azon Liquors, Walnut Street in Agawam across from EB’s or online by clicking below! This is an 18+ event."

The costs is $70.

Well, you know what people say about politics and smoke-filled rooms. Perhaps the VP candidate will feel at home sharing a stogie!

And the word is out that McCain and/or Palin may be coming to the Big E – as I learn more I'll share.

Friday, September 05, 2008

More shameless hustling

There's a million things to do this weekend here in the area, but please stick a $20 bill in your pocket and head down to the Barnes and Nobles in Enfield, CT. on Saturday between 1 and 3 p.m. to buy my new book on Springfield and to say "hi" to yours truly.

Thanks to Bill Dwight for having me on his WHMP talk show yesterday to discuss both of my books.

Go here to listen to Bill's show. My segment starts about half-way in the file.

Joe Biden is coming to Holyoke for a fundraiser on Sept. 10 at the Log Cabin and the minimum donation is gain admittance is $500. I'm going to try to cover the event.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The next chapter in the Springfield trash saga:

Mayor Domenic J. Sarno and members of the Springfield Department of Public Works and others will hold a press conference on Wednesday, Sept. 3rd, 10 a.m. at the Western Massachusetts Recycling Facility, located at 84 Birnie Avenue.

During the press conference, officials will announce details of a pilot program scheduled to begin on Sept. 20th in a small section of the City of Springfield. The pilot program is aimed at increasing the rate of recycling by providing residents with the convenience of single-stream recycling. Currently, Springfield residents are required to separate their recyclables into two groups: paper and plastic. Single-stream recycling will allow residents to mix those items into one cart. The wheeled cart is the exact size of the carts currently used for weekly trash disposal (95 gallon) and will be labeled “For Recycling Only.”

The City of Springfield will carefully study the impact of single stream recycling on the overall recycling rate for those neighborhoods included in the pilot. If successful, the move to single stream recycling will be implemented in phases citywide.

“The concept of recycling is essential to the City of Springfield’s future,” said Mayor Domenic J. Sarno. “Our land fills are near capacity, our waste removal costs continue to rise and we must do all we can to protect our precious green space, which has gained national acclaim. I’m very excited that this one program will allow us to impact all of those areas by making it more convenient to throw away less by recycling more.”

During the press conference, officials will identify those Springfield households included in the pilot program and they will also discuss details of the project.

We currently separate metal from plastic from paper because otherwise it won't be accepted. My neighbors however seem to be able to use their sole blue box for everything.

Monday, September 01, 2008

First day of school for new Springfield superintendent

Just noticed I received this release:

"About 26,000 Springfield students will head back to school for the new year on Tuesday, September 2, and new Superintendent Dr. Alan Ingram will join them.

Dr. Ingram will start the school year at the breakfast table with students at Chestnut Middle School at 7:30 a.m. From there, the superintendent will visit four other schools across the city to welcome teachers, students and parents to another academic year.

“We have tremendously high hopes for a great school year,” said Dr. Ingram, who was named superintendent of Springfield Public Schools in July. “If we all work together and stay focused on the most important thing, which is student learning, we will see great academic progress this year. Our students are excited, our parents are hopeful, and our teachers and ready to serve.”

Dr. Ingram expects to be joined on the school tour at various points Tuesday by Mayor Domenic Sarno and members of the Springfield School Committee, some of whom will be visiting other schools as well.

Springfield’s 44 schools open on a staggered schedule, with some high schools starting at 7:35 a.m. and some elementary schools at 8:50 a.m. Parents should check with their school or the Springfield Public Schools website,, to verify school start times.

Superintendent’s first day of school schedule
September 2, 2008

7:30 a.m. – Breakfast with students at Chestnut Middle School.

8:30 a.m. – Greet students and staff at Brightwood Elementary School.

9:15 a.m. –Visit with students and staff at Putnam Vocational-Technical High School.

10:00 a.m. –Visit students and staff at Brunton Elementary School.

10:45 a.m. – Visit students and staff; observe classes and progress of first day at STEM Middle Academy.