Friday, December 28, 2007

Mourning the M-bag

Just before Christmas I went to the post office to ship 40 pounds of books to Spain. The books were obscure English language books on linguistic history. On calculating postage I was informed by an apologetic postal employee that my preferred shipping method, cheap, take as long as you like, slow boat, surface mail (the M-bag) no longer existed.

The M-bag died on May 14, 2007, and with it the incalculable value of the paper diplomacy of ideas, stories, poems, and literacy programs. Myriad scholars, book dissemination non-profits, and generous individuals who believe in the value of ideas, of sharing books, and of literacy, have been struck hard by this passing. In lieu of a dollar a pound by slow boat, offered is four dollars a pound by air.

The United States Postal Service, by offering universal service to all of the Union, with special rates for dissemination of ideas in the form of media, print and library materials has a distinct role in American civic life. This historic civic role is what distinguishes it from a fully private corporation whose sole civic mission is to operate ethically and profitably enough to pay taxes.

So readers you have a choice. Accept this passing and read 101 Uses for a Dead M-bag, or sign an online petition to request the return of the M-bag, and affordable surface shipping of books around the world. Think of it as homeland security.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

First Ladies, Sir!

If I were truly a follower of Emily's List I would be writing poems to spur Hilary onward to the presidency. Instead I am loving Barack Obama and John Edwards. I have an irrational desire to see children in the White House: Jack, Emma, and Obama's little girls sliding and running, giggling and cavorting through the various wings. Of course Bill as First Lady tempts me but I am having a running bout of Hilary-As-President Fatigue Syndrome.

I have been reading The Book of the City of Ladies by Christine de Pisan (1364-1430) . Christine rebutted 14th c. literary misogyny with wonderful stories, lively details of thousands of years of women who ruled fierce tribes, incipient nations, nation-states; women who fought wars, commanded troops, fed poison to their enemies. I seem to remember Cleopatra, Joan of Arc, Elizabeth I, and more recently Victoria, Indira Ghandi, Mrs. Thatcher, Mrs. Merkel. That's the incomplete list. I fail to feel the novelty of Hilary's run. Alas....

In other news, a lovely woman who interviewed Hilary during the 1992 campaign, Nardi Reeder Campion, died November 29th, at the age of 90, shortly after talking with her editors about her next book. She was a 1938 graduate of Wellesley College, Hilary's alma mater. She lived in Amherst for several years starting in 1970, worked at the Emily Dickinson House, wrote the book that became the Tyrone Power movie, The Long Gray Line(1955). Kudos for a life well lived.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Another Movie Moment II

Offside (Iran, 2006), 93 minutes, was the feature film at the Asian Arts and Culture Series , Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2007 , 7PM at UMass, Isenberg 137. It was preceded by some delightful amateur videos.

Emily's review:

Random girls dress like boys to sneak into the Iran-Bahrain soccer playoffs at the big stadium in Tehran. They get caught. They talk in the prisoner pen. The men talk. Lots of talking heads. The big excitement is not the soccer game but a trip to the bathroom. Talking heads, scenes of Iran, no music. Nothing much happens. I missed the end, and thus leave it as a surprise for you.

Potentially interesting premise, with under-developed characters, stiff acting. You see & hear men, men, men: stupid men, protective men, possessive men, craven men, cowed men, howling men, discouraged men, bossy men, with cameos by a handicapped old man and a young boy. The dialog is mostly back-forth argument for why men are protecting their daughters, sisters, mothers, spouses from other men. Talk about twisted self-loathing! The girls inexplicably yearn for all the hooplah surrounding soccer and soccer-crazed men. Hard to believe.

Good idea, and a chuckle or two, but not quite there. I do suggest, however, reading some alternate views and the backstory to balance my rather harsh comments. That said, I give this movie: 2 1/2 soccer balls.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Another Movie Moment

Tomorrow night at UMass, Isenberg 137, courtesy of the Asian Arts & Culture series :: Little Red Flowers.

Emily's Review : Do you remember those scary days when you were five years old and monsters lurked in the dark, when the great unknown of kindergarten loomed bigger than life itself, and a little gold star was your most coveted desire? Watch an impish little fellow navigate these perilous waters as you once did.

Charming, well done, this production joins noodles, silk, and Marco Polo in a long line of Italian-Chinese adventures . Five little red flowers. *****
Available on DVD from Amazon in the UK, perhaps sometime soon in the USA.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Emily's Movie Moment

According to the NY Times I should be attending local book events, but I am spending all my time at local movie events. This week I saw three of a little-publicized DEFA Jurek Becker Film series, all introduced by Christina Becker. All have been wonderful,thought-provoking, and well worth watching.

The fourth and most important film, "Jacob the Liar"
will be shown Sunday, November 18th at 2PM at the Amherst Cinema. Christina Becker will be introducing her late husband's work. The combination of director Frank Beyer and Jurek Becker is powerful. Christina's commentary makes it all the more touching as one understands the artists whose talents have given birth to these works.

In other news:

In the NY Times online, what's playing at the Amherst Cinema appears alongside movie reviews. Titles link corresponding reviews. Scroll down for an incomplete list of other local theaters.

I have bought five DVD copies of Man With A Plan from Vermont Public Television in honor of the late Fred Tuttle and "little guy" candidates everywhere. Please let me know if you'd like to borrow one for a bit.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Like An Old Bicycle Gathering Moss

Like this old Montreal classic I have been vegetating. I have returned to lovely New England, and am shaking off my foliage.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Candian Vacation

I have been in Canada, and thus the bloggerly absence. I will return soon to lovely New England, and to the Northampton-New York axis which could be improved only by being Canadian.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Clothesline Nation

Tis a simple thread forbidden it seems,
In agreements protecting American dreams.
How dare the contrarian try to dry clothes,
On a line in his yard, near a neighbor's nose?

Does the bra offend? Or the working man's shirt?
The flapping sheet, or the scanty skirt?
"Haven't you a dryer?," some neighbors cry,
"You agreed that your undies would NOT touch our eyes!"

" I answer, dear friend, citing one greater Trust,
To tame mine, and my country's great lust.
For Victory Gardens won one Great War,
Victory Clotheslines may settle the present day's score."

What could say more in our time of surge
In our hour of oil, in our Month of Dirge?
Than a simple thread, strung from every tree
Eschewing rich oil, ever so free.

To Osama Bin Laden I wave my pants.
I wave my bra at all pious rants.
Free-waving clothes on a sunny day,

Bespeak independence, the old-fashioned way.

The modest clotheslines, a simple thread,
Saves the planet, raises neighborly dread --
Until we join hands, agree and stand tall,
With clothesline'd fencepost, balcony, and wall.

My neighbor's new clothesline on North Prospect Street has raised Amherst's Clothesline Quotient to new heights. Vermont has challenged the legality of association bans on clotheslines -- great idea!

Clotheslines -- great for political action, comic commentary, or just drying clothes.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Taioba Times

Tobacco this is not. Taioba (tie-OH-bah) is an edible Brazilian vegetable that looks like a houseplant with large elephant ear leaves. This plant is one of the 2007 crop at the UMass Agricultural Extension Farm on River Road in South Deerfield.

My cooking instructions: treat it exactly as you would spinach. Sautee with onions and garlic, use it in an omelet, mix it into a lasagna. I describe its taste as "buttery spinach. " If you are near Wilson Farms, Lexington, MA this coming Saturday, you can try it. On second thought, stop by the farm in South Deerfield and see if there are any samples!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Emily Sleuths: Case of the UK Scam Letter

This picturesque pond scum is my entree to a story about scam letters.

Recently I received an envelope with a UK postmark, on lawyerly letterhead from Humprhey's and Company attorneys, in all their lawyerly regalia. It told a convoluted story of client, and his family killed in a fiery crash with no heirs. Because my name was like the client's name I might be heir to the unclaimed estate: $4.9 Million UK pounds! Oh my! I could respond by phone, or by email to:

This is an old scam in new scamshell. I detest scammers -- it is disgusting to prey on the gullible, disabled, desperate, and uninformed. I sent the UK envelope and letter along with a handwritten note expressing my distaste for scammers to the Springfield office of the Massachusetts Attorney General, Consumer Fraud Division.

On a lark, I wrote to "Barrister David Campbell":
From: "Emily Dickinson"
Date: Thu, 30 Aug 2007 12:37:19 -0400

Dear Barrister David Campbell,

I have received your email about the sad deaths and estate of your client.

The letter, in its entirety, including envelope, and poorly composed offer, has been forwarded to the Attorney General, Consumer Fraud Division, State of Massachusetts.

I guess you will have to think quick, and stop mailing to our state, since our top police folks are now watching you.


THE RESPONSE ( 12 hours later)

Dear emily,

Well too bad as what i sent to you is only a proposal . There is not fraud determined here and i guess you and your attorney knows that. You can only ignore not take part and thats it . I don't know why all this insult is coming up.

Well you take care and remain poor.
Happily, Barrister Campbell!!!! I never expected such a quick and comic response. Further, I hope exposing this ruffian to bloggerly sunlight will cause his tired old scam to comletely fade away, in Massachusetts at least.

I did not photograph the original -- my apologies. If a reader has received a similar letter or if I retrieve a copy from the AG, I will gladly post it here.

Be safe and be skeptical.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Tobacco Times

Pretty as a petticoat, a tobacco blossom:

On the way to the drying barns:

I often wonder about orientation of the barns. Were they oriented to the sun, by having the slatted side facing south ? Or did some farmers bet on the slatted side facing west to catch prevailing breezes?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Still Life with Mashishi and Cucumber

The Amherst farmer's market brought these lovely lemon cucumbers to town Saturday, while my favorite agricultural marketing students from the University of Massachusetts came home with these little green exoticss, Brazilian "mashishi" cukes harvested from their experimental farm in South Deerfield.

Tomorrow, I shall chop the little darlings in half and compare. The Brazilian cukes, properly spelled maxixe, are part of an effort to develop markets for specialty Brazilian vegetables.


Variety is the spice of life... the yellows are sweet, the maxixi are tangy... sliced thin, with an accent of bite-sized tomato, paper thin red onion..... what a summer treat!

In another part of Amherst, a tractor brings in the marshmallow harvest.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A Republican of a Different Kind

Green petticoats hanging in slatted doors,
Awaiting a promised prom,
Hubbard and butternut bursting forth,
Cabbage in big-leaved prime.

The valley this day was a romance,
An idyll of bountiful earth,
Till a barnside in hard-working Hatfield,
Offered a counter to birth.

Under the sign, near Lincoln's name is Its worthwhile to stop a moment and think of these and others who suffer in war.

UPDATE: According to a neighbor's post at flickr, this sign is in Whately.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

No Crime Intended

An exceedingly rare "elephant portfolio" of John James Audubon's life-size birds is missing from its custom-made display case in the Special Collections room at the Amherst College Robert Frost Library. Librarians report that within a few weeks it will be no longer be missing.

Farther down the Norwottuck Trail, a snowy egret has been sharing perches with three great blue herons. Meanwhile three wild turkeys lurking one morning in the meadow of the Brickyard Conservation Area ducked and covered before they could be properly seen.

I often think how Audubon would have loved a simple point-and-shoot camera.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Pittsfield Police Report

Last week two bulls loose in Sunderland's Squire Village, and now this. A thousand pound cow in a Pittsfield pool. If loose lips sink ships, what do loose cows do?

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Best of the Police Report - July 27

One bear , two bulls, and five raccoons were chased, reported or removed by the police this week:

* One black bear was reported on Farm Lane and another(?) bear was seen in the woods behind the Friendly's restaurant on Route 9 -- July 19 at 6:55PM, and July 20 at 11:43AM.

* Two bulls that got loose into Squire Village (Sunderland) were located and chased back onto Silver Lane, where their owner was contacted to put them back in a pen -- July 21 at 2:30AM.

*Five raccoons stuck inside a dumpster at a South Pleasant Street location were removed by police -- July 16 at 8:00AM

Meanwhile a quieter suspect, this lovely chanterelle, was developing on the Norwottuck Trail between Station Road and Warren Wright Road. Myco-friends, tell me true, is this a chanterelle or do I deceive myself?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Ode to Emily Dickinson

I blush to see a lovely, modest poet honor me! My deepest thanks for this particularly lovely poem which captures my little room perfectly.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Let Them Ride Bikes....

The Norwottuck Trail is getting mighty bumpy lately, but it's always ten degrees cooler than anywhere else on a hot summer's day. Its also a spectacular alternative to that confined vein of transport ugliness that runs through Belchertown, Amherst, Hadley, and over the mighty Connecticut.

Norwottuck draws families, novice and experienced bicyclists, walkers, runners, and skaters who come and go from myriad exits at eateries, grocery stores, malls, housing developments, bird blinds, and hiking trails along its nine or so miles.This week it drew a scholar of bicycle trails, Anne Lusk. Anne's idea in a nutshell: destination is destiny. People like to go places. So, our lil' ol' trail is part of a three year study that follows on Anne's monumental, 565 page doctoral dissertation from U. Michigan.

Meanwhile in that great destination Paris, France they are duplicating the public bicycle success of Lyon, and getting Americans off their arses.

Tell 'em, Anne!

Red-Tailed Hawk

A hawk stood on a green:
She did not know I saw
She bit a squirrel just in halves
And ate the fellow raw....

as the old poem goes. Then with great drama this striking red-tailed hawk, gripping the bloody-red gray-furred body in talons, joined her sizable "little one" in a nearby tree. Two aggressive, squawking blue jays harassed the young bird who shrugged off their diving swipes. I received an impression of giant gentle-ness.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The No Shusshing Zone

Unlike librarians, this turtle is easily shussh-able. He was walking across the bicycle path at a snail's pace when he curled into his shell. In honor of my friends, the hip, new generation of librarians, I cataloged him.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Requiem & Resurrection: A Lily's Story

We late mourned a lily ravaged by deer,
Who ne'er perchance knew that neighbors were near.
Her beauty and fullness we'll never know.
Yet Mother had others who lived and did show.

Persistence pays when luck meets its mate,
In flowers, in life, we meet and face Fate.
The beavers are gone, and the herons are too.
But frogs keep on croaking as berries turn blue.

UPDATE: Good news... A great blue heron and a white heron-ish bird are said to be about. A belted kingfisher has thrice appeared before my novice eyes --- but said sighting is affirmed by a expert-ish photographer with a huge-lens camera. Above, could be a Canada Lily not a Turk's Cap -- if anyone knows, please comment.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

My Cups Runneth Over...

Someone is gracing Amherst with sculptures made from recycled cups. These beer cup flowers may be a memorial, sprouted where fraternity houses once stood on North Pleasant Street, right side, north if facing UMass. "Robotic Recycle Man" twists about in the garden between Rao's and the Bangs community center.

Whoever you are, one or many, we love and appreciate your work.

UPDATE: A barista at Rao's says Robot Twisty may be the work of a woman named "Smiles". For unknown reasons, by Sunday July 8, Robot Twisty was gone.

Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Lily Missing from Bicycle Trail

This suspected Turk's Cap Lily was seen on the Norwottuck Bicycle Trail, Monday evening at 7:30 PM. When the photographer returned Wednesday morning at 8:30AM, the lily was gone. Deer are suspected.
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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Solstice Thanksgiving

"We gather'd together to feast and be pagan,
Earth's bounty is precious for life is all one,
We ate with Thanksgiving, this food that once was living,
Sing praises to the Life that becomes now our own."

.... in this case, Central Massachusetts smoked trout.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Rbbbts and a Green Heron

A couple of updates on two ends of the Norwottuck bicycle trail:

On the South Amherst - Belchertown side, the road repairs are complete, the green heron is back, and the frogs are burbled-eyed, croaky, and plentiful. I also saw small hand-sized fish, and a turtle sunning on the yellow flowered lily pads. A black and white warbler lives not too far away, but will not sit still for a portrait.

On the Northampton side, the much awaited Damon Road crossing and extension were STILL unfinished as of last week, but I found odd, open-ended finished segments. Much awaited....
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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Hush Hush: Let's Blame the Beavers!

Someone is blaming the beavers for the hole in the Norwottuck Bicycle Trail next to the former U-shaped beaver dam on the Belchertown Side. It has generated a lot hush hush scurrying on the part of the "responsibles", the DCR and the Town of Amherst. How hush hush? Consider this odd bit in the Amherst Bulletin:

Wendy Fox, press secretary for the DCR, said that a notice of intent has been filed with the town, but before repair work can begin, an environmental consultant will have to pre-approve the work.

The reason for that, Fox said, will be to determine whether or not the repair work will harm an endangered animal that lives in the wetlands area. The name of that species cannot be revealed for its own safety, Fox said.

So, Let's pray for great blue heron, the little frogs, the fish, the birds, the bees, the flowers, and the trees... oh, yes, and let's not forget that secret endangered creature, whoever it may be. I am sure it appreciates its anonymity.

In fact should it not be eligible for a secret endangered creatures witness protection program, a new secret identity, and a new secret habitat if we can find one.

Speaking of secrets, above, a red maple blossom.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Annals of Unreported Crime: Case of the Zen Fountain

This week's unreported crime involves a Louis Pomerantz Zen fountain, shown a month ago in the shadow of snow. Thursday night marauders apparently stumbled through the yard and decided, "Off with its head!" They carried away the top piece which is loosely sleeved onto a water spout.

The owner refused to call the police, understandably deterred by how ridiculous she would appear in the Amherst Bulletin Police Report: "The theft of a rock was reported to police. When the police got there the rock was not found. Many other rocks were still around."

The rock was found Sunday morning about a block away on Hallock Street, and was retured to its home base.

The Yellow Rose of Texas

"The Yellow Rose of Texas", an admirer claims, has the perfect rhythms and cadences for singing my poetry. (Thank you, Jim Marra, of Jamaica Plain, MA). This tidbit was particularly appreciated when I came upon this yellow rose of Texas off Guadalupe St. in Austin, TX.

Alongside, I found a longhorn art car, with painted cows, a cowgirl, and Happy Trails painted on the rear end!

This was my first trip to Texas, and it was beautiful. Wildflowers, orange paintbrush, purple fields of bluebonnets, springtime is Texas' foliage season, oh my! Between Austin and College Station one finds a Pioneer Valley of sorts, Hadley-esque landscapes with the Brazos River as this area's Connecticut.

I tried to say, "Howdy!", but found Texans say "Hello!", and "Good morning!" Further, I encountered many Bush Bashing Texans! Yes, bus drivers, working folk, even Republican Texans in old-timer BBQ restaurants are shaking their heads in wonderment at the sorry state their boy has wrought.

To finding thinking folk, I can only say, "Yee-hah!", remembering Texas as the home of the incomparable, late Molly Ivins.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Refreshing Times

Emily was deeply impressed by the showing of at least a hundred people who attended a Library Trustees meeting at the Jones Library to support the ESL program.

For one and a half hours, people came forth and explained to the trustees what the ESL program meant to them, as individuals and as citizens of Amherst.

It was a proud moment for me to see Amherst coming out, welcoming and supporting immigrants, all-American at its best.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Look it UP! Jones Library & ESL -- Tues - March 12, 7PM

"Why you should fall to your knees and worship a librarian" by the Librarian Avenger

Ok, sure. We’ve all got our little preconceived notions about who librarians are and what they do. Many people think of librarians as diminutive civil servants, scuttling about "Sssh-ing" people and stamping things. Well, think again buster.

Librarians have degrees. They go to graduate school for Information Science and become masters of data systems and human/computer interaction. Librarians can catalog anything from an onion to a dog’s ear. They could catalog you.

Librarians wield unfathomable power. With a flip of the wrist they can hide your dissertation behind piles of old Field and Stream magazines. They can find data for your term paper that you never knew existed. They may even point you toward new and appropriate subject headings.

People become librarians because they know too much. Their knowledge extends beyond mere categories. They cannot be confined to disciplines. Librarians are all-knowing and all-seeing. They bring order to chaos. They bring wisdom and culture to the masses. They preserve every aspect of human knowledge. Librarians rule.... -- "

Now, the issue of where the Jones Library budget cuts should come from has had two answers: the librarian department head proposal which preserves the ESL program, and the trustee proposal that eliminates the ESL program.

I want the burden of cuts to fall on my own library-loving shoulders rather than on the shoulders of new immigrants. I will wait longer for books. I will forgo the latest and greatest so that ESL is preserved. The rationale of "serving too few people" is specious at best.

I will be attending a public meeting on Tuesday, March 12 at 7PM to ask that the trustees trust the librarians and preserve the ESL program at the Jones Library. Please look at the proposals, and come to the meeting. It should be lively!!!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Essay: Emily Never Tires

Embryo J. Regicide sends me junk mail. He wants to sell me something, but he never will. Its not that I am offended -- no no no. Its that I am so utterly fascinated by his name that I never read down to his blush-inducing junk mail proposition. His name is so jarring that I am consumed with laughter! I close my eyes, I fall back in my chair, I laugh out loud, and my imagination soars.

I see a cramped, messy, windowless, equipment-filled 10 x10 cell, and two desperate thirty year-old males masquerading as mass-marketing geniuses. They live in a soulless geography with bland architecture, a faceless 1950’s concrete block in Eastern Europe, the back-end of a strip mall in Framingham, Massachusetts. They’ve been working at quick-rich schemes for 18 months. They are so bored they create new people: Embryo J. Regicide one day, and Waistcoated F. Hellion, Salazar F. Pinball another.

I wouldn’t accept a free pencil from a guy named Embryo, so whoever is paying these guys is getting ZERO for his junk mail money. So, dear readers, help me! What is this junkmail all about? Who generates these names? Is it a program? And who are these guys to get paid for their services? Whoever you are, thank you!

If you really live in Framingham, I would love to meet you.

Friday, March 02, 2007

New one same as the old one...

Thanks for the new STOP sign, Amherst sign guardians, but I have to confess I really liked the old one.

Birds To The Feeder

Birds to the feeder, seeking their fill,
Know not to come when food level's nil.
Hope for the blogger slow on the seed ,
Birds do come back on recant and re-feed.

Best of the Police Report - March 1

By far, the best snippet of the past month:
A woman missing from her Amherst home since Feb. 22 has been located in San Diego, Calif. and appears to have gone there on her own.

Kaitlyn Ierardi, 19, who is confined to a nonmotorized wheelchair, apparently traveled cross country by bus and was located in San Diego Monday.

Police were initially contacted by her concerned family Feb. 23 and released her photo and information to the media seeking information about Ierardi's whereabouts This led to several tips from area residents that helped track Ierardi's movements.

Police will work with San Diego police to ensure that Ierardi remains safe.

Is this heartwarming-determination or hell-girl on wheels? Imagine if this young lady had had a motorized wheel chair???? Well, with sympathy for the anxious friends and family, I say:

Kaitlyn, congratulations, its still cold here!

Its Always Summer Somewhere

They are not mere fishermen but giant squid catchers, not mere judicial reformers but petticoated cross-dressing 68 year old lawyers, not mere ivory tappers but piano-playing, pathos-plying leg pullers.

They are all New Zealanders. Enough said. Draw your own conclusions.

Reminding you its always summer somewhere, Emily.

CORRECTION: The author of the the third article, "Shoot The Piano Player" is anchored in New Zealand, while Joyce Hatto, the subject of the article is a London-based POM. *

*Prisoner of Mother England.