Monday, May 4, 2009


Since 1981 newspapers have been dying, a really really really slow death. I was -6 at the time. I can only imagine how uninteresting the internet was for the average user. It took two hours to receive all the text? No comics? D: Very bleak. I feel like newspapers online have come so far and stayed alive so long. If online news content is no longer generated by news organizations because they can't make their shareholders and advertisers happy, oh well. Some how, some way, someone(s) will get the news online. Like, Ghostwriter... but hopefully less creepy.

I just honesty can not take the demise of newspapers seriously now that I know how long this 'news' has been breaking.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Manhan Rail Trail Sinkhole's Clean Water Loan

The sun shines on the sinkhole on March 17th
after a long destructive winter.
Last month the city of Easthampton applied for a loan of $450,000 from Massachusetts’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund to repair the Manhan Rail Trail. The role of the Clean Water State Revolving Fund Program is to extend loans with low interest rates to communities that demonstrate a critical need for drinking water or wastewater-related infrastructure projects. This creative application has not gone unnoticed by local critics of the rail trail.
But the decision to apply for money from the state, just five days after the economic stimulus bill passed last month, speaks to the town’s desire to resolve the growing issue while the weather and economic climate are favorable. It also signifies the town’s disappointment with the pace of Governor Deval Patrick’s deliberations on a proposal to spend $3.1 of the state’s $11.7 billion dollar share of the federal economic stimulus bill on rail trail renovations throughout the state. Northampton’s Mayor Mary Clare Higgins first submitted the sweeping proposal to repair and link rail trails across the state at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington D.C. in January. Massachusetts has the highest density of rail trails in the country and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has been the principle owner of unused railways in the state for decades.
Friends of Manhan’s Craig Della Penna speculates that a majority of Manhan’s construction costs will come from transporting workers and materials to the isolated work site half a mile down a trail designed to exclude large vehicles, and more recently even all-terrain vehicles and snowmobiles. The plan is to acquire permits to fill the sinkhole, rebuild embankments, restructure a more stable concrete drainage tunnel, and dredge out all of the material that washed into the river.
The last undertaking is critical as the town is primarily eligible for a loan from the Clean Water Fund, at two percent interest, because the material that washed into the river presents a health risk due to it’s proximity to a sanitary sewer line that parallels the trail. The possibility remains that Deval might use stimulus money to replenish the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and thus enable it to offer a zero percent loan to Easthampton instead, so proponents are watching the governor closely. Easthampton Department of Public Works has also come under increased scrutiny as the questions have been raised by town officials and citizens as to whose responsibility is it to inspect what are referred to as “alternate transportation corridors” or rail trails? And how was a grey area in safety regulation allowed to form and remain for half a decade?

The Manhan Rail Trail where it passes under Park Street,
3 miles away from the sinkhole, is still in use and very
popular on a sunny weekday.

The costly damage done to the drainage system began last September when stones dislodged from a drainage tunnel running under and perpendicular to the trail, blocking the flow of rain water through the drain. Early December’s persistent rains and tepid temperatures created an acute need for drainage and eventually caused a segment of the trail to slide away leaving behind a hazardous 25 foot deep, 15 foot wide sinkhole that has since then double in width and deepened slightly with the formation of a vernal river that travels down to join the nearby Oxbow river, a subsidiary of the Connecticut River.

At the southern most part of the former railway,
south of South Street, an existing concrete
and metal pipe culvert, or drainage tunnel,
remains functional.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Art from Art

In my judicial interpretation of U.S. Copyright Act, Shephard Fairey’s revision of the Associated Press photo would be protected by the fair use defense because the nature of the photo, the character of the use, and the effect on the market were such that the AP was in no way defrauded or deprived. Fairey altered not only the image’s color scheme, he also captioned it and changed the direction of Obama’s gaze while retaining the same composition i.e. the facial outline. The alterations had a transformative effect on the work. Captioned as it is Fairey’s work should be protected as a political commentary on par with criticism or parody. The non-commercial character of the use accompanied by the viral cooperative manner in which the revision was even further altered, transferred into different mediums (collage, stencils, posters, stickers, murals, digital art, fashion) and inserted into public space make it simultaneously grass roots political speech and art. The anti-commercialism of Fairey’s punk cultural context is critical in interpreting his purpose.
That Shephard Fairey went on to do commercial work, in keeping with personal ethical standards, is incidental. His professional reputation profits from cultural phenomena and its political implications but Fairey still should not be penalized for his use of the image. News events, context, the way a man looked when he looked at a camera, the content of reality should not and can not become something a company can just own for more than a decade. We only get to keep a president for eight years. Iconic images will arise. Granted they aren't just free floating in the public domain to be picked up and photocopied and sold; however, in this case after Mannie Garcia captured a moment in a photograph Fairey responded to it in a political, artistic, non-commercial way which likely increased the exposure and prestige of the original photograph and did no conceivable harm to the AP. He has never denied the influence of the original image and he has made no effort to collect from street or internet vendors making money off of derivatives of his work, indicating to me that AP’s claim of degradation of the value of their work and their ability to make money from their copyright is unfounded.

The black and white photograph of the juxtaposition on the left (extracted from this video) exhibits both the context of Fairey’s Obey street art and the infinite opportunities for artists to riff off each other. In my opinion this presumably copyrighted photograph's unique existence is dependent on Fairey’s execution of his Obey piece to the same degree that Fairey’s later Hope poster is dependent on the existence of Mannie Garcia’s copyrighted photograph and it, to me, is all art.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Story Idea #3: 6th WRRC Conference

On April 9th the UMass Water Resources Research Center will host its sixth annual conference titled Water Dependencies In New England: Systems, Stresses, And Responses. Part of the conference will be devoted to climate change adaptations and impacts as well as research being done as a result of global climate change. I’d like to see of what’s presented what implications or connections there are to domestic crisis in California and what can be learned from measures water officials are taking there or on a more local level to the proposed Russell Biomass plant on the Westfield River.
Possible Interviews:
Sarina Ergas (Associate Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering)
Dr. James F. Manwell (Professor and Director of the Renewable Energy Research Laboratory)
Dr. Chad Nelson (Director of the National Environmental Technology Center in the UMass Environmental Instititute).

Story Idea #2: BID

This is a story from Pittsburgh's Post-Gazette about vacant store fronts that lead me to look into what has been going on with businesses in western Massachusetts in light of consumer confidence lows.
Northampton has a particularly interesting and highly contested campaign to establish a Downtown Northampton Business Improvement District. In theory the town will gather dues from businesses and in turn will provide services to augment shopping with the ultimate goal of drawing in more revenue for the whole town. Based on the support that the BID has received thus far there is indication that the expenditure of an operating budget for bells and/or whistles might be unwelcome by business owners along with the proposed BID compulsive lifetime dues that will supply $675,600 of said $935,500 budget.
It's also evident that the "security" services as well as the anti-panhandling measures the BID includes are in effect a round two for proponents of the anti-panhandling ordinance seemingly resolved earlier this month. There is some speculation that BID might be supported more by non-business entities in the BID (like Smith College) that will receive services but pay no dues. I'd like to look in how this is being received by business owners in Northampton and how the way Hampshire Mall is zoned and serviced by the Hadley community compares and contrasts to the proposed BID. If I pursue this angle I hope to talk to: Doug Kohl (Thornes), Susan Stockman (Executive Director of South Hadley Chamber of Commerce), Suzanne Beck (Executive Director of Northampton Chamber of Commerce), Timothy J. Kelley (Chief Operating Officer of Hampshire Mall Leasing) and James Dostal (Northampton City Council President).
If I pursue BID as round two of anti-panhandling measures I'll forgo some of those officials and professionals and try to speak with some activists from the Poverty Is Not a Crime [PINAC] or the Freedom Center or Arise for Social Justice in Springfield.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Bike Out of the Recession

As Massachusetts prepares to spend its $11.7 billion share of "State and Local Fiscal Relief" provided by the stimulus bill, I'd like to look into the proposed $3,100,000 Manhan Rail Trail project in Northampton. Specifically I'd like to gather local opinions as to whether the shovel-ready proposal, that will create 18 jobs and a 2.4 mile recreational trail, is in keeping with or contrary to the spirit of the stimulus package goals. I hope to interview Stephanie Kraft editor of the Pioneer Valley Advocate, Mayor Clare Higgins of Northampton or Mayor Michael Tautznik of Easthampton, and maybe some people from one or all of these organizations:
Pascommuck Conservation Trust