Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I had the pleasure of being on Bill Dwight's talk show on WHMP (1600 AM in the Springfield area, 1400 AM in Hampshire County) in my role as a journalist/ wise guy on Tuesday.

Bill has the distinction of being the only person in this market to have a local radio talk show that isn't part of a morning drive program. I've had the pleasure of knowing Bill for years and he's a funny, insightful guy. I listen to his 9 a.m. gabfest as often as I can – probably three or four times a week.

Want to know what we talked about? Here's the broadcast. I come in about halfway.

Here's the link

I'd like to get back to doing some sort of podcast or Internet radio show, but I've not found the time.

In the meantime, I received a SPECIAL OFFER that's just for ME. Look below.

Apparently the folks at Maxim think I'm 25 years old. They think they can "supersize" my life by providing me with latest info on "cool cars, high tech toys, style tips."

"Maxim is how to burst out of your cubicle...find the perfect watering the ideal at everything...Maxim has it all...the good, the bad & the ugly."

I can win at everything by sending these guys $10 for 16 magazines? Everything? Holy crap. Ten bucks would separate me from my hum-drum middle age life, my 2001 Hyundai Accent, mortgage, an increasing thinness of hair, low-hanging gut, lack of fashion sense and increasingly bad attitude?


Wow. I'm writing a check today. Plus there's photos of semi-naked starlets.

By the way, what the hell is a "wingman?" Is that a hockey term? I can't skate.

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Monday, January 26, 2009

Caution: contains adult material. See standard disclaimer at the side.

Mary, myself and one of my colleagues from the 'paper had the great pleasure of attending a Kevin Smith Q&A on Saturday evening at the Bushnell in Hartford.

Mary and I love Smith's films – we thought "Jersey Girl" was just fine, too – and he is a pretty singular person in the American film scene.

Smith is among the show business people I call "working class." If he's not working on a film, he's working a comics script or blogging or lecturing or acting in someone else's production. Like other "working class" celebs, which includes people such as Bruce Campbell and Kathy Griffin, Smith seems honestly happy at the position he now has, but understands how he got there. And he is willing to do what it takes to keep it.

So while other directors speak to E News, he talks directly to his fans. He is just being a Jersey boy who still revels in his ability to make a movie, something he clearly loves doing.

The Smith lectures – actually lengthy interviews by his audiences – are not just popular as a live attraction, but have now been the subject of three collections on DVD.

Now while any subject is fair game at these events and while some people would sniff that John Ford or Orson Welles or even Roger Corman would do something like this, much less would speak of the size of his johnson, it's not the lewdness that attracts the audiences. It's the honesty and accessibility. Personally I would have loved to have been in a room with the three aforementioned directors and been able to ask oddball questions – "Ford, why did you think bullying an actor would result in a better performance?" "Welles, did your career suffer because you believed your own publicity?" "Corman, did you ever get guilty of exploiting cheap labor?"

But I digress.

Smith's nearly three-hour performance in Hartford was hugely entertaining. He plays with his fans as much as they try to outrage him or stump him or perhaps even shock him.

I stood in the question line as I was on a mission. When I told my pal Steve Bissette I was going I suggested that he ask the students at the Center for Cartoon Studies – the school at which he teaches – to put together a care package for Smith of their work and I would do my level best to get it to him. Steve responded with a 20 pound package – if felt that heavy – and in the interest of self promotion I slipped in a copy of my book "Escape!"

I was the 12th person to approach the mic, right after a women who collects lip prints. She takes an unopened tube of lipstick, paints your lips, have you kiss a post it note and then sign it. Smith said yes to her request and spend a good part of the evening trying to wipe it off.

This wasn't my first time seeing Smith. I got an autograph in 1997 when I was covering the Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA) in Las Vegas. I told Smith I showed "Clerks" in my film class at Western New England College and he seemed to be pleased.

So when it my turn I asked him a question and told him I had an obligation to fulfill. As he had mentioned his next project "Red State," I asked how critical the grosses were on his previous project when he was seeking funding for a new one. I whipped out my handy MP3 recorder and flipped it on.

Smith explained the theatrical box office is never that great, but because his film are low-budget, they usually make money. "On video though that's where we fucking shine. We kill and that's what people look at."

Since "Red State" is not being financed by the Weinstein brothers, he said they are looking at outside investors and one of the things they did to prepare was to compile a list of his films and their theatrical and home video grosses.

"Say what you will about the flicks I've made, but apparently I have an audience that is good for 24 to 30 million bucks. And they will follow me wherever I go," he said.

He added that he has been criticized for having a loyal fan base, which perplexes him as isn't building an audience something everyone in show business wants.

"I find my business life reflects my personal life as nobody has ever said, 'Oh my God, you're so fucking attractive, so hot, so thin, so cut. You're so the perfect embodiment of male-dom. But people have said, 'Hey, made me come.' And that's what I think about my box-office. I've never made 100 million bucks...people keep coming back to me. And they do and that's all right with me," he said.

"So I don't have the sexy thing going for me, but I've got the reliable thing going for me. I'm reliable."

Smith appreciates the concept of longevity as he noted he has been making movies for 16 years and "I'm not talented...i just want to do it [make films] until I die and based on how I eat it might be any minute."

Making films, he said is like "being paid to be a kid."

Well I then gave him his bag of booty from the students – and me – which he seemed genuinely pleased to accept.

The only other director which I wish to would do a similar kind of event is John Waters, Both of these men are much more interesting to me than many mainstream directors who shepherd $100 million projects into the theaters because what they do is so personal and, yet unlike so many other indie types, are without pretense.

God bless 'em.

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

It's Poe's birthday and over at Bissette's blog, he is celebrating this great man of American letters. I tried to post the following there but was denied by some technical thing beyond my understanding.

So here my Poe story, somewhat a shaggy dog!

When I got out of college, I worked as a stockman for a discount department store chain as there were no full-time newspaper jobs I could find. That gig lasted about a year when I was hired to teach a developmental reading program in private high schools.

That job brought me to Baltimore and a time at Boy's Latin High School. There was another teacher from the company there, a very nice guy named Andre who liked smoking grass. One night, Andre said that he and I, both being English majors, should find the grave of Edgar Allan Poe.

Poe died in Baltimore under very mysterious circumstances and is buried in the graveyard of one of the oldest churches in the city – the only church with real catacombs.

The church is near John Hopkins University and church officials have had problems for years with medical students raiding the catacombs for skulls.

Andre picked me up around 8 p.m. on an October weeknight and he was smoking. I didn't mind it, although I have never indulged.

As we were driving toward the church the blue light from a cop car could be seen right behind us. Andre had his joint in his hand. He quickly exhaled and hid what was left. This was 1977 when drug laws weren't as relaxed.

The cop was young and tapped on the window. He took a long look at us and before Andre had begun opening the window, he smiled and said, "I thought you guys were someone else. Have a good night."

Both of us sat in a state of relief and shock and we continued down to the church.

Once there, we had little problem finding Poe's grave as it was toward the front of the church in a prominent place. There was an empty liquor bottle laying next to the base. This happens a great deal as if the spirit of Poe somehow would enjoy this gesture.

Andre decided we should read some gravestones, which went back to the colonial era, and I whipped out a pen light –once a geek, always a geek; I still carry a flashlight quite frequently.

We went through the graveyard until Andre was sure he had seen something move. I though our chances of being scaring a college student or being mugged were far greater than seeing a ghost.

Andre, though, couldn't be convinced and we left fairly quickly.

If I ever go back to Baltimore again, I'll certainly pay my respects again.

Note to Bissette: It's too bad Steve that when you and I were at Fanex so many years ago pimping the "Year in Fear" calendar – copies still available! – we couldn't have made a pilgrimage to the grave as well...minus the paranoia and the cop.

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Monday, January 19, 2009

Tony Cignoli is one smart guy. A Springfield native who helps run campaigns in this and other country, he has an insider's view of politics and yet, he never seems jaded. I love talking shop with him. He sent me the following the night before the Inauguration:

"This Inaugural will be covered like no other before, given its historical significance and the internet age. There will be so much opinion, editorial, old and new media as well as citizen coverage that I thought it would be the best service to share a different perspective. It comes from the streets of Washington D.C. as well as from this city’s behind-the-scenes Beltway regulars.

"The excitement is nuclear – it is huge and everywhere. That is obvious from any report coming from the Capitol. Yesterday’s concert at the Lincoln Memorial naturally conjured up all the ghosts from the long journey to this moment: The most obvious of Lincoln and King. Beyond the electricity of performances by U 2, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder and Garth Brooks and despite the World’s Fair meets World’s Series combined with the Super Bowl feel of the celebration, there is no denying that there is something different being recognized on the streets of Washington and in the shadows of America’s monuments.

"As Obama said and Biden echoed when they took the steps of the Lincoln Memorial yesterday, this is all about so much more than the bricks, marble and mortar of the nations’ capitol. It is more than the Inaugural decorations and the stage erected behind the Capitol Building . Obama’s words yesterday may be as significant as the speech he gives tomorrow.

"There is an audacity by all here, the first-timers, the politicians, the incredible number of foreign visitors and even from the hardened and jaded Beltway wielders of influence, to collectively share the same hope. There is a need to hope and believe that in one moment, as one man, Obama, places his hand upon another man’s bible, Lincoln’s that this nation shall prevail, be restored and will carry on despite all challenges. There is a palpable hope that all we want for ourselves and our country might yet still be.

"Republicans, Democrats and that unique other 'Green' party - the folks who make grand livings lobbying and navigating this city’s back rooms and halls all seem to have a feeling that something new is taking place. It is more than what comes normally with the renewal of Presidential Inaugural and more than the historical aspect of the Inaugural of the nation’s first African-American President.

"Obama’s supporters are obviously ecstatic. The Democrats revel in a victory for their party. But Republicans here are positive and expressing hope for the nation as well. Many are not being cautious in a normal partisan sense by with-holding their thoughts that something new is about to happen in America . Perhaps it is polling that suggests that six out of ten Republicans are expressing a desire that Obama will address the nations’ challenges successfully. I think it is more though.

"The political consultants and advisors, the players behind the scenes in both parties seem to know that the rules will be changing. Obama’s campaign was ground-breaking and it revolutionized the arena we play in. It is believed, perhaps even secretly hoped for by the players who benefit from the old-Beltway ways, that this new President and his Administration may actually have the audacity to change the way this city works and to make it work for the citizen’s of America. Obama certainly has the political capitol and national will to do exactly this.

"Pundits will look for the big lines in tomorrow’s speech; the phrases that will be repeated in the discourse of politics like those provided the most memorably from Jefferson, Lincoln , FDR, Reagan and JFK who historians arguably maintain are the best Inaugural Address givers. All hope that Obama will exceed expectations as one of the most gifted orators of all Presidents and that his speech will be remembered and recited by school children decades from now. Whatever he says, the stage is set that there will be an underlying message in-between his lines that this day is about us, the nation and where we can dare hope to go. That is already what is whispered, said and shouted from the streets, in the 'smoke-filled' rooms and at the many parties and events of this Inaugural."

Saturday, January 17, 2009

You never know what's going to pop up on ebay, right?

(I've tried to add the link to the auction page, but blogspot doesn't seem to allow it!)

In high school and college I was bit by the fanzine bug and produced five or six editions of "Inertron," named for the element in the original 'Buck Rogers" strip that powered an anti-gravity rocket-pack device.

Horror, science fiction and comics were the main topics. My first movie star interview appeared there – Buster Crabbe, a very gracious man.

My father, who was teaching at the time, owned his own spirit duplicator machine and I used that as my printing press, going to outside offset printers for covers and photo pages. Eventually it was all offset printed.

I never made a dime off it as my costs always exceeded my revenues and my print runs were around 100 or so back in the period of 1971 to 1976. My last fanzine effort was a four-pager that I sent out to my subscribers in 1976.

I loved it. I loved working with contributors. The joy of holding a finished edition in your hands was incredible. I didn't care that what I did was something that no one else in my peer group would even think of doing – aside from a handful of people at the UMass Science Fiction Club, fellow geeks and fanboys and girls before those terms were used.

I still take so much satisfaction in getting something in print. I'm still a geek! When I was publishing the animation magazines, I took great pride in walking into bookstores and seeing it on a rack. I still get those feelings for the newspapers I edit, even though I don't own them. I'm just a hired hand.

Anyway, here is a copy on ebay with a starting bid of .99. I might bid on it myself!
© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Thursday, January 15, 2009

This is one of the funniest bits of animation I've seen in a long time:

(Caution: perhaps not the best thing to play at the office)

I was very impressed with two recent animated releases:

For a number of years now I have received screeners of animated features at this time of year so I can vote in the annual Annie Awards presented by the Hollywood chapter of ASIFA, an international organization dedicated to the art of animation.

This past week I was sent two screeners and rather than discuss DVDs in this space, I'd like to call to your attention two animated films one that is currently in theaters here and another I hope will be seen here.

The first is the second animated feature ever to be produced in Israel, "Waltz with Bashir." Filmmaker Ari Folman served in the Israeli Army during the war in Lebanon in 1982. He was 19 and he witnessed the massacre of Muslim civilians by the Lebanese Christian Falangists who were seeking revenge for the murder of their president-elect Bashir Gemayel.

Although enlisted men such as Folman didn't participate in the massacre, other than light flares for what they thought was a different mission for the Falangists, the on-going debate in Israel has been how much did government leaders know and whether or not they allowed it to happen. Thousands of people were killed.

Folman himself has had both recurring dreams about the event and memory lapses and he decided to interview people who had served with him as well as one prominent Israeli reporter about the war and the massacre. He used these interviews as the basis of this outstanding film.

I've often written that what I want from an animated film is an effort to stretch and push the medium from the kiddy ghetto in which it has long been assigned. This film straddles a documentary and an exploration of a dream and frankly, while it could have been done in live action, it clearly works best as an animated film.

Like "Persepolis" last year, this film uses animation to tell a story, not as a pre-sold medium that indicates a particular kind of content. As a painter would chose the medium of his or her choice watercolors or oils, for example in which to convey a vision, Folman has used animation because it makes the most sense for his story.

The animation isn't as lush as some American audiences might expect, but I thought it worked perfectly for the subject matter.

So far this is the film I would pick as the best animated feature of the year, although I'm sure the Oscar race will be won by "Wall-E."

The other film I watched this weekend is the wonderful adventure fairy tale, "The Tale of Despereaux." I haven't read the book by Kate DiCamillo, so I don't know if the adaptation was true or not. The film stands on its own merits, though, and they are considerable.

I can't tell you how refreshing it is to watch a Hollywood mainstream animated family film that doesn't have a musical number, a stupid comic sidekick or any fart jokes. Instead we're offered a compelling story about a mouse who is seen as a misfit in his community, but a hero in ours, who saves a kingdom by adopting the ideas of truth, honor and bravery.

How often have we seen mainstream animation used a medium for a story about forgiveness and redemption? A film that doesn't preach a message, but gives audiences one nonetheless?

Although the film moves a bit slowly at first, I urge audiences to stay with it as I thought the story and characters quickly build momentum.

The voice cast does a great job with Matthew Broderick shining as an understated hero and Dustin Hoffman as a thoughtful and truly human acting rat.

This is a film that truly the whole family can enjoy, although I must say there are scenes that are too intense for younger children. Please leave any child under the age of five or six home with a babysitter.

Animation isn't just a means to sell toys, tell bad jokes or present musical numbers as these two outstanding films attest.

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sometimes having the coolest coat on the block might be a problem. From Sgt. John Delaney of the Springfield Police Department:

"At 12:29 P.M. officers were dispatched to Hampden Bank 115 State Street for a bank robbery. The employees of the bank stated when officers arrived that a black male about 5'10", dark skinned with pock marks on his face, medium build wearing a black coat with a hood and a silver design on the left chest area with silver buttons and a design on the back, dark pants and army type camo pants. The bank robber handed the teller a note that stated "Give me the money in the drawer". The bank robber then stated that he had a gun to the teller[although he didn't show it]. The teller handed over an undetermined amount of cash. The robber grabbed the money and fled in an unknown direction.

Detectives from the Criminal Investigation Unit under the direction of Lt. Thomas Kennedy are investigating this Bank Robbery. The investigation is ongoing. Anyone having any information on this individual please call 413-787-6355 the Springfield Police Department CIB."

I wrote the following as the column for the newspapers I edit. I really believe that the melt-down of corporately-owned media, which has been coming for several years, along with the economic downturns has created a perfect storm that will eventually affect the nature of our democracy.

The business model media operates on now has not been changed by the Web at all. In fact, the Web is operating on the same business model of advertising to pay for free-to-the-consumer content. That model can not sustain a structure of professional journalists presenting the stories that need to be told. Many "citizen journalists" do a great job – I'm proud to be associated with several great ones in Pioneer Valley Central – but none of them can do that job as a paying gig right now.

I know there are of people who would disagree with this assessment because they think the Web and digital media on the brink of replacing all other mediums. Dream on.

Can you afford a Blu-Ray player and a HD TV right now? Most people can't. Do you want to buy a "kindle?" What do these futurists say when confronted with the poverty that we have in a city such as Springfield? Take away the free papers and the books in the library and expect people who are having a tough time finding food to trade up to the new digital age?


We need to re-train our audience to pay more of their share for content – just like magazines have done for years now. We need market "real" news – not celebrity slop – as just as important to folks as who Madonna is currently with.

I'm just back from participating in a panel discussion at the sixth annual communication conference presented by Western New England College and the Valley Press Club and I'd like to thank all of the people who made a point of complimenting our coverage of their organizations. I passed your remarks onto my deserving staff.

Since the storm and the economy undoubtedly kept some people from attending this conference, which routinely offers real solutions and ideas to its attendees, I'd like to offer some suggestions on how businesses and organizations should cope with the ever-changing media landscape.

First a bit of a discussion of current affairs:

Newspapers in general have done an excellent job in detailing its own suicide a public death caused by incompetent and often greedy corporate management and an erosion of the advertising base brought on by the dominance of national and regional chains that don't feel the need to advertise.

The corporate model has been to sacrifice the reasons people pick up a newspaper meaningful original content to maintain some other status quo. The result has been ever-decreasing readership.

And yet just what medium is going to offer the kind of local news that many people need: Britney and Olsen Twins-free real stuff about where you live, work and shop?

Most local television stations focus on weather, crime, money and weather. Sorry if my colleagues in television view this as harsh, but they have admitted it themselves.

Commercial radio has largely given up local content. After your local morning guys, talk/news stations parade syndicated programming. You know, I'd like to see Bax and O'Brien do a music-free talk show. I think they would make great straight talk show hosts.

I'm glad Bill Dwight of WHMP is allowed to do an hour of local, although Hampshire County-centric, radio. Thank goodness we have two public radio stations covering events and WFCR is opening a new studio in Springfield that should boost its journalistic role here.

And I shouldn't overlook the contributions of John "Binky" Baibak of WHYN-AM.

"The Valley Advocate" still packs a punch with the investigative and news analysis pieces that are often missing from daily papers.

I'm no Luddite. I love the Web, but community newsgathering and dissemination is still in its infancy there. The issue remains how to pay for content on the Web and whether or not newly self-minted citizen journalists learn and maintain professional standards.

Right now, in this market, no medium can deliver as much local news as weekly community newspapers, especially if matched with a solid Web site. This combination truly supports readers looking for local stories and advertisers wishing to find a local audience.

And by "news" I mean more than just crime and politics, but the supposedly "little" stories that actually mean so much to so many people.

Yeah, I'm a partisan. I freely admit it. I just don't see other media fulfilling the local role that used to be the norm here.

And in order for this country to function we need to know things, besides whether or not the marriage of those chuckleheads on "The Hills" was legal.

So what can you do as someone wishing to spread your local news message? I'm afraid there's a little work involved. Here are some ideas:

First, think about whom you are trying to reach. Are age, gender or location criteria?

Then try to match your targeted market with a medium that reaches that market. This step might take a little research.

Get to know us! Contact that medium and find out how they wish to receive contributions: hard copy by mail, fax or e-mail? Who should receive the material? What are the deadlines? Here at Reminder Publications I prefer e-mail. Send me your release two weeks before an event at

Do a Google Blog search to see if there are blogs that cover your topic. Drop them an e-mail. Locally, Pioneer Valley Central ( is one such local news blog, but there are others.

Consider buying a digital camera and video recorder. We publish submitted photos and we are increasing the number videos (linked by YouTube) on our Web site. Call me (525-3247 ext. 103) or drop me an e-mail about a possible video submission.

And please shop at the local businesses that support publications such as this one.

There is no other locally owned and operated medium than community newspapers that is as invested in the future of an area. We are here to help restore and grow our circulation area by presenting as full a picture of it as possible.

Got a question? Ask me. And thanks for reading.

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Monday, January 12, 2009

My buddy Mark "Not the Race Car Driver" Martin gave me a barn sale find a Christmas ago – an old ledger that was used by a Springfield area movie and sports fan as a scrap book.

The ads this person clipped and saved are primarily from Springfield, although there are some Boston venues included. Perhaps they too advertised locally for people who could afford to go to Boston for live theater.

The ads are from the early to mid-1920s, based on the release dates of the movies, and show a pretty vibrant town in terms of live entertainment and motion pictures. In fact, the downtown was filled with movie houses.

Something to remember: there were many factories downtown providing a ready and immediate market for theaters and restaurants. For a downtown to succeed people need to be there for a basic, primary reason, such as a job. With jobs leaving downtowns these kind of businesses move with them.

Here are four interesting ads:

Court Square Theater was a long-time "legitimate" stage featuring productions with local talent and road shows with some big names

Sidney Smith his comic strip creation "The Gumps" is all but forgotten today, but the long-running feature was popular enough to inspire live-action film adaptations. I think the double bill is interesting to say the least – Smith and the former Secretary of Commerce!

The Broadway Theater was on Bridge Street and featured vaudeville acts with its features. I've never seen "Yolanda" with Marion Davies, but Keaton's "The Navigator" is tremendous.

Before you get all misty eyed about the prices at The Mohican Market, also a Springfield institution for years, just remember people were working for $25 a week back then.

Here are two more:

The top one is The State Theatre, which was on Taylor Street near Main. The Goldstein brothers were regional theater magnates whose empire stretched up and down the Connecticut River Valley. My generation will remember The Bing, The Calvin, The Garden and The Rivoli, all Goldstein properties. I don't know when The State ended its run, but its featured live theater and – gasp – burlesque exactly the same it was seen in Times Square! Interesting that the Mardi Gras is on Taylor Street?

The Capitol was next to City Hall where the financial services building now is. I would have stood in line to see Hoot Gibson, one of the best movie cowboys known for his riding abilities – he was an actual champion rodeo performer – as well as his laid-back humorous approach to the genre. I've not yet seen a Gibson silent western, but he was very entertaining in the few sound films of his I've caught.

I'll post more of the material in the coming weeks.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Don't you love mug shots? Why is this guy smiling? Oh, he must be drunk, still!

This came to me the other day from Sgt. John Delaney of the Springfield Police Force:

"At 1:15 A.M. this date officers Kim Brantley and Jose Diaz were on patrol in the area of 759 White Street when they came across an accident. The officers observed a white male standing next to his black pick-up that was just driven through a fence at that address. The officers then observed two parked cars in front of the address that had been smashed into. The officers questioned the driver and he wasn't responding very well because of all the Budweiser he had just consumed. There were empty beer cans all over the inside of his truck and frosty one that was half gone in the cup holder. The driver also admitted to having three white wines. He was placed under arrest for Driving While Intoxicated. Arrested was:
1) James O. Lord age 34 of 32 Bradford Street, Provincetown MA, charges;
a) Operating Under the Influence (second offense)"

Here's the damage to the fence.

Here's am even better one that came in before Christmas that I meant to post oveer the holidays:

"At 3:05 A.M. this morning Officers David Ramos and Selenia Cruz were dispatched to 418 Liberty Street for a large disturbance at a house party. The officers arrived and found 21 year old Jonathan Robinson of Springfield lying in the middle of Liberty Street suffering from stab wounds to his left side and the left side of his head. The victim received deep stab wounds and was losing a lot of blood. While he was lying in the street he was able to look up at a woman standing in front of 418 Liberty Street. He was able to point to this female and exclaim, "That is the person who stabbed me". The woman then entered the home while the officers provided first aid. The ambulance arrived and quickly brought Robinson to the Baystate Medical Center E.R. The victim is in 'serious but stable condition' and the wounds are not life threatening. The female then re-appeared and the officers arrested her for the assault. She fought with the police and was abusive in her remarks to the officers. The arresting officers had to use pepper spray to get her under control. They recovered a large kitchen knife. The officers observed blood all over the walls in the hallway. The fight started because Robinson made remarks as he was leaving. he commented on the weight and the sexual orientation of the female. She took offense to the remarks and grabbed a kitchen knife and stabbed Robinson in the side and the head as he was leaving.
Arrested was:
1) Christina Brown age 24 of 418 Liberty Street Springfield, charges;
a) A&B Dangerous Weapon (Knife)
b) Resisting Arrest
c) Possession of Electric Stun Gun...(officer found this weapon in her house)"

There's no crying while you're having your photo taken!

Ah, life in the big city! Gotta love it!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Another artifact from Springfield's past

I couldn't help but want to spend a buck on this item when I found it this summer. No it's not a cook book neither for the creation of food for pets or using pets as ingredients – wise guys – but a 1937 fundraiser item for the friends group of the MSPCA in Springfield.

As you can see members of the group submitted recipes, drawings and photos.

And the book was supported by local advertisers.

I haven't tried any of the recipes, but I love the fact they are much more intuitive than today's cooking instructions. There are phrases such as "a slow oven." There are recipes that instruct to bake something but give no idea at what temperature. I suppose cooks then simply knew such things. There's one page in which the previous owners penciled in his or her own amendments about temperature for ginger wafers with the warning "watch!"

Monday, January 05, 2009

I received a vertaible bounty of bad and marginal cinema this Christmas, thanks to my friends Steve and Dave. Steve's intentions, he told me, was to bathe me with movie cheese and boy did he with two collections of drive-in films from the last 1950s through the 1970s.

I've watched most of the films from a collection of stinkers released by the late Crown International outfit and boy, oh, boy I finally had the chance of seeing "Madmen of Mandoras," an amazing little opus in which Hitler's head is kept alive by a group of Nazis in a mythical South American country who are following his orders for a new attack on the world.

The Crown International collection also had an actually interesting voodoo thriller "The Devil's Hand," which starred Linda Christian.

Dave have me one of those 50 film collections – this time one of science fiction films – which included a damn near perfect print of "The Mesa of Lost Women," a totally bizarre film that is in a league with those made by director Ed Wood.

Yeah, I know, why bad movies. Shouldn't I be spending my time watching good movies? Well, I do plenty of that. I'm just fascinated by movies that were made by people who actually thought what they were producing would be entertaining to someone, perhaps only themselves.

I also think that quite often it's easy to get an understanding of an era through its throwaway popular culture as opposed to its "significant" culture.

And I love finding a low-budget throwaway movie that is really legitimately good – that happens more often than not.

Take for example this choice bit of fermented curd:

I picked up this press sheet at Cinefest one year just out of "what the heck is this thing?" And naturally I'd love to see it. Here's the trailer.

Now come on be honest, you'd spend 90 minutes watching this, wouldn't you?

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Here's a couple of clippings from the Springfield Union – the morning daily paper before The Morning Union and the Union-News and now The Republican – showing a bit of the night life in Springfield circa 1937.

The "Hollywood Band Wagon" show at the Paramount – now the Hippodrome night club – was a live how starring Abbott – they left off a "t" – and Costello. At this point in their careers they had been burlesque and vaudeville stars, but hadn't yet made the splash on radio that would help propel them to national prominence. They were still a couple of years away from making their film debut.

Lord, just look at the number of movie theaters that was in this area! The Capitol was next to City Hall where the bank building is now standing.

The Poli was on Main Street and The Court Square theater was on Elm Street. Note the movie at the Court Square; Jimmy Cagney in "Great Guy." Cagney was in a contract battle at Warner Brothers and had stayed off screen for about a year. he made this film at First National, a small indie that was trying to improve its status. Cageny kissed and made up with WB and First National eventually withered away.

The Arcade was near the corner of State and Maple Streets. The Jefferson was on Main Street in the North End, where audience members could get "oven bak-ware" as a bonus. Much, much later it was the Jefferson Fine Arts Theater and was the city's porn theater, when there were porn theaters.

Double features, what a concept! Look at them all! When "Grindhouse" was released as a faux double feature, at the showing I attended people walked out after the first half because they didn't understand another film was coming.

© 2008 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year!

There's no better way to start a New Year than to write about Springfield politics, right? Here's what I just wrote for the papers I edit:

I took the period between Christmas and New Year’s off and I was under strict orders to unplug and basically watch movies and relax. One of the things, I try to do for my staff, though, is not to burden them with trying to filling the hole meant for this column.

So on New year’s morning, I’m briefly plugging back in – while I’m on vacation typically don’t look at newspapers or watch much local news – and the task is easier because of the implications presented by the negotiated settlement between House Speaker Sal DiMasi and State Rep. Cheryl Coakley-Rivera.

Coakley-Rivera had placed the governor’s loan repayment bill for Springfield several amendments that stopped the bill’s legislative process dead in its tracks. So did State Rep Ben Swan, but obviously DiMasi didn’t recognize the merits of Swan’s arguments.

After discussions with House leadership, Coakley-Rivera removed several of the amendments, but two were allowed to go forward – one that would eliminate the trash fee and another that would require city residency for any new city employee and those receiving a promotion.

I have no doubt that Coakley-Rivera was simply doing her job as a state rep and responding to issues identified by her constituents. Her positions, at least on the trash fee, put her at odds with Mayor Domenic Sarno, once an ally on the issue, and the Finance Control Board, which, ironically, she also wanted to stay longer in the city.

Now here’s the rub in all of this: the state has now stepped into two issues that have historically been the role of the city to address. That’s an interesting and, perhaps to some, a dangerous precedent.

The question becomes who represents the city’s interests as a whole and how are we as a community suppose to set policy. If a state rep and mayor disagree over a controversial law or fee set by a city, should this be the way to settle the issue?
Over the years, residency requirements are fairly controversial, and although they were once pretty common, unions representing municipal employees have sought to eliminate them. So what are the legal implications here?

And the trash fee? From the press release dated Jan. 1: “Representative Coakley-Rivera’s amendment to eliminate the $90/barrel trash removal fee has been fast-tracked ending the fee per barrel one year earlier than she had originally proposed, now July 1, 2011.

“‘This is a major victory for the residents and businesses, helping them out in this tough economy and fighting our trash fee related problems of blight, flight, and illegal dumping,’ said Representative Coakley-Rivera.”

I live in a neighborhood where illegal dumping has taken place in the past and I have to say I’ve not seen an increase in the time in which the fee has been collected. The threat of illegal dumping, though, has never been the real issue here. Whether or not the city should be charging for a service that is already covered by our taxes is what bothered many people who made the claim that city residents don’t have an additional $90 a year to spend.

Although the city needs the $4 million it receives from the fee, I’m sure the logic is that it can afford to absorb it with a better re-payment plan in place, provided the Senate approves it. I hope so. With more cutbacks in state aid anticipated, perhaps we would need that $4 million past 2011.

Now some folks in other communities probably will read all of this and roll their eyes in the way I know they do about this latest turn in the soap opera that is Springfield politics. In this sub-plot, Coakley-Rivera has won by going over Mayor Domenic Sarno’s head – as those as well of the City Council and the Finance Control Board – and had the state dictate city policy.

But before anyone chuckles, consider it happening in your community. If you live in a city or town in which there is a controversy or two and a mayor or select board on the opposite sides of that issue with members of the local legislative delegation, this can happen to you.

And is that the way you wish to have your community governed?

© 2008 by Gordon Michael Dobbs