Monday, April 30, 2007

Shabby chic

Since our most recent dinner at the Lord Jeff last week, I've been thinking I'd like to check out the Mother's Day brunch there May 13. Also how much I like the old hotel just the way it is. I've never seen the rooms there, although I hear some people think some of them are shabby. Still, I hope the planned $5 million renovations don't turn the Lord Jeff into something entirely different from what it is now. (My co-worker Scott Merzbach posted a note about a movie featuring the old hotel in its heyday: "Silent Night, Lonely Night," 1969 TV movie, nominated for an Emmy, starring Lloyd Bridges and Shirley Jones.) Same thing with the Emily Dickinson House. I see renovations there should be starting before long. I'm interested in plans to re-create the garden so that it's like the garden the Belle of Amherst, herself, would have tended. (Flowers photo of the poet's garden this weekend.) Hope the property still seems a little rough around the edges the way it does now when renovations are complete, though. Seems to reflect a bit of the poet's darkness. (Brian, of course, thinks the darkness makes her a dubious icon. But, like I told him, he's About Amherst's SCIENCE -- not LITERARY -- consultant.)

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Peepers (and a toad) at sunset

Brian and I ride the Norwottuck Rail Trail to the new Maple Farm Foods on Maple Street. Peepers at the top of their game now. (Listen to them and a lone toad in video.)Now's the time to hear them, Brian says, as they'll stop singing once mating season ends in a few weeks. We get Bart's ice cream and sausages made in accordance with Islamic law (?) at market and head home.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Dominant, residual, emergent

Terms I learned in grad school. For example, forsythias are the DOMINANT flowering bush today, as I observed on my jogging route. But little flowers such as these blue ones (About Amherst's environmental consultant is in the bathroom, so I can't ask him what they are) and these pink magnolias, which weren't in bloom last time I went jogging, are EMERGENT. Those other little blue flowers featured on About Amherst a week ago? They're losing their blossoms and just barely hanging in there. They're RESIDUAL.
Likewise, at a joint meeting of the School Committee and Select Board, last night, to appoint a fifth School Committee member (former member Alisa Brewer ran for SB and won, leaving a vacant seat), there was much talk of such committees traditionally being dominated by white, middle class men. That kind of composition on this committee, at least, is now residual. Before last night, there were three women --one white, one black, one Latina -- and one man. Several people, including Chrystel Romero, the eventual winner, made the case that the committee needed someone from another CLASS, and that would be Romero, a single, unemployed mother and renter. "Most of the people I deal with on a daily basis come from another class," Romero said, arguing that she could bring the disaffected back into the fold. "I simply understand it," she added, meaning, I think, that she gets where they're coming from. HMMMM. Some might argue that the disaffected in Amherst don't come from a certain class -- but from the tribe of the disaffected. May I recommend to them the expanded Geico caveman blog (link upper right).

Friday, April 27, 2007

How I stay awake past 9 p.m.

So what if I only see 10 p.m. once in a while? If I'm sitting in front of the computer, I follow links until I'm drifting on a cloud in the blogosphere. But, hey, you knew that; who DOESN'T do this? Lately, I like to start at Tom Devine's blog, He's such an entertaining writer and notices things I've run past on my jogging route and missed. D'oh! His video tapes -- of walking along the rail trail, for instance -- draw hordes of viewers compared to my videos. (I'm thinking of my Smith College Bulb Show video. What's not to like -- love, even?) Then I follow the links on Tom's blog to Larry Kelley's, though I know the address by heart. I'm one of Larry's readers who prefers his non-golf course commentary. I'll check in on Andrew Varnon's a little more high-minded, high culture talk, a little politics and Greenfield news. Stephanie O'Keeffe's In Amherst, is a must. Through Tom, I found Laura Merwin's Bay Road with super whimsical photos I wish I took. Now that I've thinking about writing a screenplay, I've been reading The Inside Pitch, Chris Lockhart's blog full ot tips. . My daughter Ana, who works with him at ICM, a big Hollywood agency told me about it. (Then, I read today, he is not going to keep writing it! Chris, I hardly knew ye.) Check out the following PITHY advice: "Screenwriters choose to tell a story dramatically. In order to tell a story dramatically, the writer must use conflict. "Conflict is when two or more forces come into opposition. Conflict is drama. Your story must be told using conflict as the delivery method. How can you ensure that conflict drives your story and characters forward? Goals....The major goal always belongs to your protagonist...(and is) introduced by the end of the first act of your screenplay. No later. (If the dramatic story doesn’t begin by the end of the first act, your script could be tossed aside.) No earlier. (Your story could run out of steam too early.)"

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Brian and me at the Lord Jeff

Here is my signed affidavit that I like going out to eat at Boltwood Tavern in the Lord Jeffery Inn downtown. Brian wants evidence that I've said I like a place. Claims I say I hate places when he remembers otherwise.
OK, maybe he has a point, but I swear I've never said I hate the Lord Jeff. We had my dad's 75th birthday party there. It's so relaxing, like a throw-back to an ideal New England college town in a nostalgic novel. I hope the coming $5 million expansion and renovations with high-end restaurant don't change that. Photos are of Brian eating a delicious cream cheese brownie sundae and me smelling some laurel-like bushes out front.

Another wildman in the blogosphere

No, I did not find the wild turkey. This is a goose in Rocket Joe Roberts' back yard, one of hundreds, maybe thousands of photos he's posted online along with -- you name it; he says his Web page on the old TV show Hawaii Five- O is his most visited page. Check out the list of things he has Web pages on below. He also links to his brother's Dungeons and Dragons page. I'm trying to track him down because he's a big critic of light pollution and I'm doing a story about the subject. Here's a link to his world: Gotta get back to my article!
Joe Roberts Astrophotography This page covers my activities in photography of the night sky.
Amateur Astronomer's Notebook A site dedicated to amateur astronomy, especially suited to those just starting out!
Hale-Bopp pictures I took Darn! No spaceship!
Joe Roberts' Hawaii Five-O Page If you are a fan of the show Hawaii Five-O you'll want to visit this section (my most frequently visited page)!
Minnechaug Class of 1978 Home Page Everything you loved and hated about school, and then some...
Resume Not currently looking for work, but I'll consider outstanding opportunities...
Technical Articles "readable" articles I wrote on technical stuff...
Farmer Joe's Home Page Scenes and equipment from around the farm...
Joe's Rocket Page Very little here right now, this is a new undertaking...
Joe's Model Railroad Page Some highlights and photos of my 1970's vintage model railroad.
Joe's Wilbraham Photo History Page Old and new historical photos from Wilbraham, MA.
Joe's Farmall "M" Site A site with focus on my 1949 Farmall M tractor.
Joe's Farm and Nature Page A page with photos of things around my hobby farm.
A 1970's Teenager's Bedroom A page that illustrates my start in stereo systems and electronics.
Korean War Photo Page Photos from in and around the front lines and rear area in Korea.
My Backyard Observatory A chronicle of the construction of my Backyard Observatory.
Joe's Radio Aircheck Page A page with classic radio airchecks from the 70s to the 90s!
How and Why Wonder Books A page dedicated to the vintage childhood book series.
Ramblings My comments on a variety of topics.
Miscellaneous Notes and Facts A collection of common misconceptions and miscellaneous info...
Important Notes about the contents of my pages Notes about copyright, originality of work, etc.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Spring still here

Went looking for the lone turkey of Amity Street along my jogging route. Thought I saw her across town on Strong Street on Saturday. Am considering her for icon status at the caveman blog (link upper right AboutAmherst). Also need to observe her more closely for nascent screenplay. Ana (my daughter in the story dept. at big Hollywood talent agency) sees the story shaping up to be, in her words "an indie-feeling family drama that's both moving and funny." Didn't find the turkey but did get further confirmation that spring has returned (see photos).

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Walking out of the Select Board meeting last night, Town Planner Jonathan Tucker suggested I publish my doodles.
Yesterday's 80 degree-plus weather helped turn the trees along my jogging route from stark to (practically) showy. View is looking down Amity Street.

Monday, April 23, 2007

What went on this winter

I'd heard the beavers had prevailed this winter along the Norwottuck Rail Trail. Brian and I saw it for ourselves yesterday. It is (was?)the most popular spot on the rail trail, according to Dave Ziomek, Amherst's conservation director (the other favorite is the trestle bridge over the Connecticut River) BECAUSE of the beavers' dam-making activity. It had created a vast marsh teeming with peepers, bull frogs, all sorts of birds from swallows to Great Blue Herons etc. and, of course, the beavers themselves. Now, you have to walk your bike around the chunk of trail that has caved in as the dams grow ever taller.

"That could be a beaver lodge," Brian, About Amherst's ecological consultant, observed while we took the scene in yesterday. Then, noting that it was about sunset time, he suggested we hang around because the beavers likely would be out in force soon. I was amenable to that idea -- until I noticed FOUR mosquitoes on my legs. And I have always bragged that they'll have nothing to do with me, perhaps because of the CO2 content of my blood or something. "Probably is going to be a banner year for them," Brian, an ENTOMOLOGIST, said.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

How about THIS for a screenplay?

(photo is our cat Hester, surveying the scene at home this week.)
Nicky, Brian and I saw "Amores Perros," last night, directed in 2000 by Alejandro Gonazalez Inarritu ("21 Grams," "Babel"), rented from the soon-to-be-closing Video to Go. (Nicky says they never should have moved to Greenfield. ) It's three intertwining stories, all featuring dogs and released as "Love's a Bitch" in the U.S., although Inarritu said it was a bad translation. The plot: 1) Gael Garcia Bernal -- who I LOVE -- and his champion fighting dog cross paths inadvertently with 2) a hitman and his dogs and 3) a supermodel and her little pooch. We liked it, although it was way too violent, and also, none of the women are very sympathetic characters with the exception, maybe, of the supermodel.
How about this? Three intertwining cat stories: 1) a lady with a ton of cats in her house; 2)a cat and a wild turkey who ceaselessly walk, as though looking for something, around town and 3) a CAT BLOGGER. The cat and turkey's wanderings eventually attract the notice of the cat blogger who follows them to the woman's house. The woman then sets off on a lone journey, leaving the cats behind. Cat blogger finds them all loving homes. Must send pitch to Ana, my daughter who works at ICM (L.A. talent agency representing Mel Gibson etc.).

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Spring, Amherst and politics: I got to go back to work

Spring returned yesterday. I looked out the back door in the afternoon and it seemed the lilac bushes had sprouted buds since morning. Old tree and tiny blue flowers (photo) on my jogging route along Amity Street this morning. NO MORE OVERRIDE signs too. Is it even legal to post a sign in front of the former Perry Hotel unless all of the current tenants oppose an override? And the sign in front of the ramshackle student house on Main Street. Are the students following the issue? Whatever.

After spending a month away from Amherst and from work on family medical leave my interest in town politics -- politics, period -- is diminished. Did love today's Maureen Dowd on John Edwards's expensive haircut and America not being ready for a metrosexual president, though. How on EARTH could Edwards spend several hundred bucks on a haircut and not have it raise a red flag for him that it might look bad? Because he's so RICH that wouldn't even occur to him. And I like him; he's my candidate. Same principle at work in the divided reaction to the OJ Simpson verdict, I think. What you think springs from the life you live.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Return of the turkey

My family and I have gotten SO MANY thoughtful remembrances of my dad posted online at the Berkshire Eagle, in e-mail, cards and in person as well as beautiful condolences, cards, flowers (see photo), food and help of all kinds. We've got a lot to live up to!
I was jogging down Strong Street this morning, when I saw a large bird crossing the road along the railroad tracks. A goose? Duck? Great blue heron?
No, I believe it was the LONE TURKEY of Amity Street. She disappeared after attracting attention by walking into Gold's Gym and the Greenfield Savings Bank branch on University Drive, then appearing in a March 2006 Gazette photo with a cutline explaining she'd been walking on top of cars in the Stop & Shop parking lot (see photo).
Today, as she headed south along the train tracks, I thought she'd be a good addition to a screenplay. Sure, I know something like this has been done, but I'm forgetting the movie.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


My dad died April 11. Photo is of his 8th grade class at St. Charles School, Pittsfield, 1945. Dad is last person on right, top row. Following is a letter his colleague and orthopedic doc, Laurence Cohen, wrote to the Berkshire Eagle about Dad, last of the country doctors.

Thursday, April 19, 2007
Saturday, April 14To the Editor of THE EAGLE:
When I learned that Dr. William (Bill) Carey died today, I realized that he represented the last of the old-time doctors whose practices were more like Marcus Welby (most young people probably have never heard of this fictional TV doctor) than any doctor alive, on TV or in true life. Like Dr. Welby, Bill was always available whenever you needed him. He made house calls, he would take you into his office at a moment's notice, and he thoroughly knew his patients and their families for several generations. I truly believe that he probably didn't charge many of his patients, and for those he did, it probably wasn't enough.
As a hospital staff member, we physicians saw him as a renegade and a maverick. He reeled against so many of the regulations which have come down upon us because of the few crooked doctors (nationwide) who would exploit billing loopholes and bill insurers dishonestly. We have become so regulated and distrusted by third-party payers that the burden has become onerous.
Bill's approach was to not deal with them, and consequently he was able to practice as he wanted at the expense of losing a considerable amount of revenue which he had forfeited. He didn't care. He was the antithesis of the stereotypical wealthy doctor.
I suspect that in his last years some of the modern techniques and new approaches to medical care may have been getting ahead of him. He recognized this, and relinquished the care of his hospitalized patients to the "hospitalist" (a new specialty).
He wore many hats. He raised a wonderful and successful bunch of kids. His children watched over him, particularly after his wife died, something which caused him to finally show his age. To the members of the "running" community, he was a regular. I doubt if he missed any race in the western part of this state. He ran countless marathons. He participated in many Josh Billings races. He wasn't very fast, but he always finished. His knees were in terrible shape, and they would have stopped most runners decades ago. To the private airplane pilots, he was the man to go to for the required physical exam every two years. To many Dalton residents he was like a family member as well as their doctor.
In the last several years, I have learned a lot about him and his strong religious upbringing. He attended a seminary in his high school years. He still continually questioned authority at all levels and disciplines. This is what set him apart and made him rather controversial in the medical community. Those of us who knew what a unique man and friend he was are not going to be able to fill the void he has left.
Pittsfield, April 11, 2007