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Ice Carvings! February 3, 2013

Posted by littlebangtheory in Politics and Society.
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Here are a few shots of ice carvings from this weekend’s Greenfield Winter Carnival.

A chubby penguin over on the west end of town:

Penguin

Cute, that.

A unicorn right in the center of town:

Unicorn

Careful with that chisel, Eugene!

This was my favorite, a little polar bear carved by Sue O’Sullivan of Royalston, MA:

Polar Bear

…with two chainsaws, a chisel and an electric iron. Who knew?!?   🙂

Not in the judging was this professionally carved swan, donated to the event to get people psyched:

Swan

I did everything I could to get a clean shot of this, including laying in the mud, but urban environs aren’t conducive to clean backgrounds… guess that’s why I’m a nature photographer!  😆

The Winter Carnival went on all weekend, but I only got these few “drive-by” shots. The sponsoring Greenfield Recreation Department is happy to have people photograph for free, but I can’t be that guy.

Hey, a man’s gotta eat!

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Being There. December 14, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death, Politics and Society.
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Oh, what a beautiful morning! Clear skies, seasonable temps, a fresh pot of coffee.

You got The Boy up, fed and dressed, and Li’l Sis after that.  You don’t even mind going to work – it’s Friday, after all!

So off you go, The Boy to kindergarten, Li’l Sis to daycare, you to work. It’s blue skies and puffy clouds all the way from here to The Weekend!  🙂

Mid-morning, the smell of coffee break gets you up from your chair. Some work behind you, a little more to go, a light afternoon – you’ve arranged to get out a bit early. Christmas shopping, you know. Your boss understands – she’s got kids, too.

Your pocket vibrates: a text message.

Reading it, you put your cup down slowly, trying to process. “Come to the school. emergency.” Your smile fades to a furrowed brow, and your boss notices.

“What’s up? Everything OK?”

“Yeah, I… I think so. Hey, I gotta pick my kid up at school. Do you mind if I…”

“No, go ahead. We’re good here, have a nice weekend. And get an early start on that shopping.” She smiles, with just a touch of concern in her eyes.

You’re driving a little wild as you get to the school. A text message? Not a phone call? You try calling to find out if The Boy isn’t feeling well, no answer. Very strange.

As you turn the last corner, there are police cars, lights flashing, and a blue hand pulls you over.

“I’m a parent, I need to get…”

The Officer tells you to leave the car right where it is and directs you to a side lot, where other parents are standing, waiting, anguished. Damn,  why hadn’t you had the radio on? This looks like news, and you might have seen the congestion coming, had a clue.

Soon you’ve heard the worst of it: somebody with a gun, shootings. Your heart is in your throat. Shootings??

The Parent-Mob grows until it seems everybody in town is there, or at least everyone with young children.

Then, from the fire station, a teacher appears, leading her class, and two dozen parents break off from your group, run forward calling the names of their children, some crying, each desperate to hug and hold their little jewel.

Then another teacher and his brood, and more parents swoop forward, snatching their children from the clutches of gravity, thanking God, lavishing kisses, bathing confused little faces in tears of gratitude.

You watch the firehouse doors, praying for the sight of your teacher, The Boy’s teacher, but the next one isn’t her, and the next  one isn’t her, and your chest feels like it’s in a vise.

You look around at the thinning crowd of faces, hearing only a roar in your ears where the desperate prayers of these other young parents should be, and you see mostly the parents of The Boy’s classmates. A slow, freezing cold grips you, the same awful cold you see in their eyes, and as a last group of parents break away and run toward their children, colliding in muffled sobs, you meet the eyes of the police separating you from the awful truth, see the grief and pity in the faces, their jaws clenched, their eyes filling as they struggle to Be Professional.

The woman next to you grabs your elbow, not looking at you, wild eyes overflowing, knees buckling. You catch her fall, this woman you now recognize as living half a block from you, the one with the little girl just The Boy’s age.

A police officer comes to your aid, helps her softly to the ground, and you see the look in his eyes, “I’m So Sorry,” and you know that her little girl isn’t coming out of that fire station.

And in that instant a lightning bolt sears its way through your mind, your heart, your soul,  and you realize that The Boy isn’t coming out either.

………….

Perhaps I should apologize for putting “you” into this account; after all, it wasn’t your  child who was killed this beautiful Friday morning.

But there will be other Fridays, or Wednesdays or, God forbid, Sundays, and there will be other schools, temples, movie theaters, malls.

It happens in big cities, in small towns, wherever We The People might carve out our little piece of Heaven. It happens to Liberals and Conservatives, to Christians, Jews, Muslims and Atheists.

And there’s absolutely no reason it can’t happen to you or me, or to our children.

For a lot of parents in Newtown, Connecticut, there will be no Christmas shopping this weekend.

It’s time to talk about why.

Working on the Chickley River. December 9, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Love and Death, Politics and Society.
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The Chickley river in Hawley took a massive hit from Tropical Storm Irene over a year ago, and has since been cleared of storm debris and redirected into a channel which doesn’t threaten Route 8A.

But the clearing left the river looking more like a canal than a wild river; Hawley’s head of public works had all obstructions removed, and deepened and straightened the channel. Locals protested, but up here in the Hilltowns, there are plenty of people in positions of power who don’t give a crap about girly stuff like fish habitat and letting Nature be Nature.

Thankfully, several State agencies stepped in and imposed a program of re-naturalizing the river, rebuilding it to where it might not only return to being a viable hatchery for native species, but might also stand a chance of surviving future floods.

Here, an ET&L excavator is replacing boulders previously removed from the riverbed and adding contours to the banks to slow seasonal run-off:

_MG_5570

The banks are still a mess, and I expect the raw spots to be colonized by fast-growing invasives like Japanese knot-weed, which was taking hold here before the flood and will likely take advantage of the open space afforded it.

But at least there will be trout habitat, and something in the channel to slow the Spring floods:

_MG_5581

This work is nearing its end, and the sad turbidity of the worked-in water will give way to the clarity of winter, only to be followed by Spring’s reworking of what Man has done.

I feel bad for the people of Hawley, many of whom objected to the inappropriate channelization of the river, and all of whom (and their children and grandchildren) will be paying for the bond needed to fix this avoidable mess.

Along The Road. December 1, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death, Politics and Society.
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It’s my nature to follow every back road I find, especially the little ones I’ve previously overlooked, or the unpaved extensions of places I more regularly go.

So it happened that I was up in Windsor today, scoping out light conditions at an old tree I like to photograph.

Well, the light sucked, so I noodled on past my destination to where I usually turn around at a “Road Closed” sign. But today there was a light glaze of snow, and it being deer hunting season in Massachusetts, there were plenty of tire tracks continuing southward.

So I threw it down into four wheel drive and continued past hills and valleys and beaver ponds, eventually coming out at a paved/plowed road (this is usually how it goes around here, unless there’s a sign explicitly stating, “Dead End.”)

And the first house on that end, the last one before their  road became “closed,” was a doozie –  a modest ranch surrounded by the artifacts of an atypical life-style: transformers and big banks of insulators piled against stone walls (!?!) and an array of at least a dozen antennae, 30′ – 50′ tall, surrounding the house fire pond.

These would be interesting people to talk to, so long as you had a way to leave the motor running and the driver’s door open.

Their driveway was flanked by more indicators of who lived here, which made me chuckle:

_MG_5390 Cropped

_MG_5391 Cropped

Dig the bloody body parts.

If that doesn’t keep those damned kids away, it’s too bad for them. Don’t say they weren’t warned.  😉

A Hilltown Handwarmer. December 1, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death, Politics and Society.
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Up in Hawley I came across a couple of young gents keeping their backsides warm, even as the weather kept their Budweisers cold.  They declined to be photographed, but graciously let me take a shot of their fire pit, if that’s what one would call it:

_MG_5399

Oh, the many uses of a Chevy… It’s not your typical urban burn-barrel, but then, we ain’t in no stinkin’ city!

Moonlight Magic In Shelburne Falls! November 26, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Love and Death, Politics and Society.
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Despite being a convert to Reverend Billy’s Church of Stop Shopping, I’m also a strong supporter of my local towns, and have of late taken frequent opportunities to promote the events and little businesses in said hamlets.

The most recent of such events was Shelburne Falls’ Moonlight Magic, which was a Black Friday affair (so much for my membership in the Church of Stop Shopping.) The whole town gears up for this night of sidewalk sales in a candle-lit setting.

Aside from the considerable pre-planning coordinated by the Shelburne Falls Business Association, the day begins around noon with our local high school students building the luminaries which will light the night:

Hundreds of these sand-weighted candle lanterns will be placed throughout the village and lit at sunset. They create a beautiful aura for this community event.

The village was striking enough as sunset approached:

…but destined to become even more so after the light left the land:

At any rate, the late afternoon was spent setting things up, with the main (Bridge) street closed to vehicular traffic:

Merchants set up tents and product displays:

A magician appeared on the steps of Memorial Hall and conjured an appreciative crowd:

Storefronts came to life:

Vendors showed their wares:

…The smell of a variety of foods filled the air, including this wood-fired pizza offering:

A parade motivated from the Buckland side of town, lead by the Expandable Brass Band:

…and a Snow Princess in a white convertible:

…riding past a Steel Bridge Santa:

…and followed by the Serendipity Stilt Walkers:

…and of course, a magical lady tying balloons:

…into hats for happy children:

And all the while, upstairs in Memorial Hall, Fred at Pothole Pictures kept a loop of Looney Tunes going:

…perhaps the most fun way I could envision to get warm between tours of The Street.  🙂

All in all, it was a truly magical night of friends and lights:

I hope you’ll excuse the ghosts and noise in these silly-long exposures, but it seemed to me that existing-light photography was the way to go for this event, and that was the price I paid for photographing it this way.

Elizabeth! November 6, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Politics and Society.
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So, it looks like Elizabeth Warren has defeated incumbent Senator Scott Brown here in Massaacbusetts.

WOOT!!!

🙂

A Thought. November 1, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Politics and Society.
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I had a thought today, and since I so seldom have thoughts these days which are succinct enough to be conveyed within the framework of my compromised capacity for communication, I thought I’d share it before it evaporated into the miasma of my mind.

The difference between Democratic politicians and Republican politicians is this:

Democratic politicians are Corporate Concubines.

Republican politicians are Corporate Property.

That is all.

A Visit From Elizabeth Warren. October 23, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Politics and Society.
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We had a guest in town this week. Elizabeth Warren, candidate for Senate in Massachusetts, visited The West End Pub in Buckland as part of her Western Massachusetts campaign.

She was enthusiastically greeted by a relatively large group of people in this usually uncluttered town. That’s her in the red jacket in the middle of this crowd:

She was an attentive listener:

…and seemed to care about engaging with people:

She talked a little more formally about the things she believes in and plans to work for:

I wasn’t an unbiased observer, but rather was fully on board with her appraisal of problems and prescriptions for solutions.

I knew I wasn’t alone in liking this as Pip wagged his tail in appreciation:

Thanks to Ms. Warren for noticing that we exist out here in Western Massachusetts.

Haven’t seen a hair of Senator Brown…

 

Talk Amongst Yourselves. October 12, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Politics and Society.
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I took this shot this past week, and couldn’t help thinking “political thoughts:”

Like, “Governor of New Jersey Visits Western Massachusetts.”

I gave up writing political rants a good while ago, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still think about it.