Saturday, October 27, 2012

Reed/Shinagawa Debate in Geneva NY

GENEVA, NY:   Put two candidates face to face, ask them questions and watch and listen. That’s what was offered at Hobart and William Smith Colleges on October 26 because of the efforts of college students.
                Tom Reed and Nate Shinagawa, our congressional candidates, carried out the debate arranged by David Luna and Olivia Lowenberg, co-presidents of HWS Votes. Questions were submitted by students and faculty at HWS and reviewed by a bi-partisan committee. Candidates were informed about general areas of concern and not actual questions
                Moderator, Professor Iva Deutchman, required that the 450 in attendance hold applause until the end to save time. Later, Shinagawa asked the audience to be respectful when they disrupted Reed’s answers with their laughter.
                Shinagawa and Reed were greeting with a standing ovation and then each made an opening statement. Shinagawa said that as Chairman of the Thompkins County Budget Committee he helped pass a budget on time with a 13% reduction in the tax rate.
                 In reference to his family, Shinagawa said that his grandfather fought for the US in the Korean and Vietnam wars and when he came home he found a job but current vets are not finding employment when they return, in part because Reed continually votes to give tax incentives to companies that move American jobs overseas.
                Reed opened by saying that he hoped the conversation would focus on a vision of America moving forward and getting people to work in the private sector. He accused Shinagawa of wanting strong public sector programs but said we really need to cut the debt and get out of this fiscal hole.
Question 1: The Finger Lakes contain some of the cleanest drinking water in the country. How will you work to protect our water?
                Reed said that he owns his grandpa’s cottage on Keuka Lake and his son now fishes there the way he once did. He would not hurt this area but he wants local governments to regulate their own regions and to be able to champion private sector investment with strong, local environmental oversight.
                Shinagawa said that Reed voted against a bill to allow the EPA to regulate fracking and that fracking is more than a water issue. It’s a jobs issue. Fracking jobs are short term, boom-and-bust jobs that leave the tax payer with the clean up bill.
                Shinagawa would invest in manufacturing, agriculture and tourism, all of which are helping the Finger Lakes area grow and all would be threatened by fracking.

Question 2: What are your thoughts on Obama’s policies in the Middle East? Is the situation there more or less settled than it was 4 years ago?
                Shinagawa said that the situation is too complex for a 3 minute answer but generally we could have helped Lybya but Mr. Reed voted no.
                Syria needs to be dealt with but it’s hard to tell who can be trusted in that arena.
                Economic pressures are working in Iran and he named some specifics to illustrate that.
                Reed retorted that he voted against involvement in Lybya because he didn’t see the reason to go there. He feels there is no consistency if the US treats Syria one way and Lybya another way and Iran another way. “Engagement in foreign countries has to be consistent from one country to another. We also have to always be strong.”

Question 3: Do you think the federal government has a responsibility to reduce gasoline prices?
                Reed said we need a comprehensive energy policy to give a long term, stable supply of domestic fuel. The Federal Reserve is pumping money into the economy which weakens the dollar and increases gas prices and now families are hurting.  We have a 150 year supply of natural gas here so we should use that and retrofit long haul trucks to use natural gas.
                Shinagawa said that he understand that the price of gas is an issue since he has driven over 50,000 miles during his candidacy but he didn’t understand Reed’s position since Reed voted against a bill requiring keeping American natural gas in America.  Reed also voted to support liquefying natural gas and sending it to Asia.
                Shinagawa said the federal government has put in regulations to increase fuel efficiency and we need to keep American fuels in America but also recognize that oil and gas are short term solutions and we need long term, forward ideas like renewable energy.

Question 4:   Seneca Lake is the best attraction we have. How will you protect the lake?
                Shinagawa said that he has worked with Barbara Lifton to protect the latke and surroundings towns for years. One thing he did was to protect towns from the high truck traffic that moves New York City’s garbage to the Seneca landfill. He worked to make trucks use truck routes.
                The trucking for garbage though is nothing like the industrialization of the area that fracking would cause so he would not allow the industrialization of the Finger Lakes area. He would protect existing agriculture and tourism industries.
                Shinagawa would continue his work to eradicate the invasive water plant, hydrilla, which made its way into the Finger Lakes. Now small towns have to use local funds to deal with this plant piecemeal when the federal government could create one coordinated plan.
                Reed said that we need jobs and secure energy sources for manufacturers to protect the area. We need fracking but it’s okay to preserve the Finger Lakes and to frack in other areas.
                Reed said that we can’t keep putting up protective walls to limit development in the private sector.
                In a rebuttal, Sinagawa said that Reed’s policies benefit large corporations but hurt the local people. In Pennsylvania, when fracking operations are nearby, business owners can’t refinance. Wineries continually tell him that if fracking starts, they are out of business. These local jobs need protection.
                Reed rebutted saying that was not true. He lives in this area and he will protect the Finger Lakes.

Question 5: Geneva’s recent economic growth has been driven by grass roots businesses. How will you help grass roots business in this area?
                Reed said we need four things.
                 1. Create competitive private sector jobs and control the debt.
                 2. Stop regulations like the TMDL standards (These regulate how much toxic run off is allowed into a water system.)
                Reed said, “We are all for clean water but we can’t do it with regulations.”
                3. Reform the tax code because a fiscal cliff is causing uncertainty. We can’t have 2 year or 10 year plans. We need simplified tax codes.
                4. We need to develop domestic energy sources.
                Shinagawa asked if the question was about sustainable, local jobs and the moderator said yes.  Shinagawa said that he’s a member of the Development Corporation in Thompkins County and has worked closely with small businesses (Ithaca Beer Co and the Courtland Produce Co) to help them grow with low interest loans.
                Shinagawa also said that the Affordable Health Care Act helped those companies get less expensive heath care policies by grouping together.
                “We also have to reduce the cost of education or our citizens but Mr. Reed has voted to reduce Pell Grants and to double student loan interest rates.”
                In a rebuttal, Reeds said all we need for economic development is lower taxes.

Question 6:  Why do you think that congressional approval rates are so low?
                Shinagawa said that congress hasn’t done much to help create jobs. Shinagawa said that Reed hasn’t written and passed a single piece of legislation during his tenure. He said that Washington is in constant fight mode and constant campaign mode. Shinagawa wants to limit campaign time and force congress to work.
                Reed said that he is known for being bi-partisan but that Shinagawa is obviously partisan because Shinagawa speaks of wanting democrats to always work together.
                “It’s frustrating to see the bickering,” Reed said. He said that he is constantly trying to get people in Washington to talk and listen and work together.
                In rebuttal, Shinagawa said that Reed voted with Republicans 93% of the time and that Reed identifies with the Tea Party and their stated agenda to obstruct the president.

Question 7:  How has redistricting affected the way you campaign?
                Reed said, “We are campaigning just like we did 3 years ago. You need to sit down and talk with the tea party members to understand how they feel. We support a vibrant private sector.”
                Reed said he travels the district and talks with the people.
                Shinagawa said that he began his campaign by going to the people he worked with to help them rebuild after Hurricane Lee. These people convinced him to run.
                Shinagawa has been endorsed by mayors of every major city in the district, including Corning. He has talked with people and knows they care about medical care, pensions and jobs and that he wants to protect Medicare from the voucher system that Reed supports.
Question 8:  What is one issue on which you’d break with your party?
                Shinagawa said that we have gun laws and we should enforce those and not write new ones.
                Also, when Elliot Spitzer was governor, Shinagawa organized a demonstration to force Spitzer to make healthcare focus on patients and not profit. Spitzer told Shinagawa that if he followed through, he would be forced out of politics in New York State. Shinagawa ignored him and held the demonstration.
                Reed said the broke with his party by supporting STEM (an agency that promotes Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).  Reed feels that the US has to develop an educated workforce in those areas.

Closing Statements:
                Shinagawa said that he and Reed are different. Reed supports an end to the guaranteed medical coverage created by Medicare. Reed supports doubling the interest rates on student loans and Reed supports incentives for companies to ship American jobs overseas. Reed is anti middle class.
                Shinagawa said that we need jobs here and need to end free trade and seek fair trade agreements. We need to look to the future with sustainable energy which we could research, develop and manufacture right here. We need Social Security and Medicare and we need to deal with spending by getting accountability in the Pentagon’s budget. We should close some of those cold war era military bases overseas and ask the wealthy to pay their fair share in taxes.
                Reed said, “There is an attempt to label us as anti middle class but I was the youngest of 12 children and my mother raised 6 of us by herself after Dad died.”
                Reed said that after his father died, his mother depended on two government programs - Social Security and a military pension - so he surely understands the middle class.
                Reed said that if we tax the top 2% of wage earners we’d get about $70 billion but we need over a trillion so it just wouldn’t make enough difference.

                There was no attempt to determine a winner and both candidates engaged in conversation and photo ops with supporters for about 30 minutes after the debate.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Local History Saved and Savored in Castile

CASTILE: Local history. We create it every day but, come evening, we sweep it out the door like so much cat fur. Luckily, some few dedicated people roll up their sleeves and hold onto that history knowing that we don't really learn without remembering where and what we've been.
            “The history of our town is in those cabinets,” a woman said nodding toward a row of drawers in the Castile Historical House. She and 8 other people were at work in and outside the museum when Rick and I just happened to find it on Tuesday. Rick and I had been on the road when plans changed so we happened down this street in Castile where local history is lives in an old, white house.
            Outside some people planted pachysandra around what was the town fountain – now a geranium planter. Inside clocks ticked and voices conversed sorting through the newest newsletter, an ongoing inventory and the filing of information that chronicles the ongoing life of Castile.
            The house was built in 1865 by Henry Cumming. It was sold only 3 times with the last sale made in 1956 to Annie Eddy. Mrs. Eddy bought it purposefully to donate it to the Castile Historical Society in memory of her husband. Currently the organization is supported by about 90 members with 10 of them active, friendly and dedicated to weekly work sessions. Jim Little guided us through the museum of local history.
            We chanced into the house after turning around in the parking lot of the unusual and interesting public library and saw, when we walked into the house, a portrait of Dr. Cordelia Greene, the library’s benefactress and one of the country’s first female physicians.
            The front door opens to an exhibition room where the collection rotates because much of what the house offers is on the second floor or in the basement and some people aren’t able to manage the stairs. Right now a newly refurbished oak case holds carved hair combs, long gloves, hats - the accoutrements of our grandmothers’ grandmothers who knew how to gussy up from lace collars to shiny buttoned shoes. 
            To the right of the front door is a Victorian parlor with musical instruments and paintings by local artists. The furniture is period correct for the clothing and the games on the small table.
            The dining room holds several more locally painted works by Annie and Jennie Myers, Carolos ‘Stebbins, Lemuel Wiles and Edward McGrath. The Myers sisters traveled the world to paint and gave away sketches to children when they were in Castile. There are also Japanese style wood block prints in gentle colors and shapes created by Jane Barry Judson.
            The kitchen cupboards stand open to show the tools of cooking in the late 1800s and the internet, used in the research room, helps to locate information on many of the things displayed.
            The basement hosts the war room with uniforms from many branches of service, ribbons, weapons and posters. There’s a trophy earned by Castile’s Boy Scout Troop 54. Each scout collected at least 1,000 pounds of newspaper and donated it to the war effort. For their service they were given a cardboard shipping tube created for a 75 MM Howitzer shell. Newspapers were used to make those tubes though the one the Boy Scouts earned was prettied up with a certificate featuring General Eisenhower.
            The second floor has a Victorian bedroom with dresses, a postage stamp quilt with thousands of tiny blocks and furniture suited to the room. Across the hall is the Indian room with beaded work as well as woven baskets and the huge camera once used by the photographer who built the neighboring house.
            There’s a medical room dedicated to Dr. Greene where a mannequin of a woman wrapped in a blanket and seated in a wheelchair sits surrounded by the tools of the medical trade (– tools now much improved in design and function by my thoughts). Dr. Greene ran Greene Sanitarium, established by her father. Alcoholic women lived in the Sanitarium and took the Castile Water Cure. They drank water and sat in the cold, fresh, country air on the porch to kick their addiction. The facility became a nursing home in 1956.
            The Castile Historical Society invites people to stop by. They offer occasional dinner meetings with speakers on various topics and open all such meetings to the public. The work they’ve accomplished in this house on Park Road is an impressive use of Tuesdays over the last 60+ years.

Castile Historical House is open Tuesdays 9-12 and 1-3 and by appointment. 17 Park Road East, Castile,   NY 14427. Phone 585-493-5370

Elaine Hardman, Tin Tinker on The Chew

NEW YORK: I don't watch much daytime TV. Daytime, for me, is for riding bikes, working in the garden and making pottery.
          Still, when I saw that The Chew was looking for people to do a segment on handcrafted work, I sent photos of my earrings upcycled from tin cans and a note telling them of my vast TV experience. I've been on AM Buffalo 3 times.
          Maria, the production assistant called and asked if I could teach Clinton how to make a simple pair of earrings in 5 to 8 minutes. "Sure," I said, "I was an elementary teacher for 35 years."
          She laughed and said she’d send a booking sheet. "Great!" I told her, though I’d no idea what a booking sheet was.
          Later the show’s producer called to give me details on time and address – building 24. She said to walk up to the side door like I belonged there and my name would be on a list. I should wear my regular makeup and be ready for a touch up. I didn’t mention that I don’t own any make up.
          What to wear? Kymberli said to wear bling. I keep my bling with my makeup. Eileen, Allison and Meredith said to wear a solid color. My new striped silk blouse was out but Allison lent me the blouse we got at a thrift store.
            Rick said I needed a new belt so we went shopping for belts the day before I left - right after I had quality time with the dental surgeon dealing with my root canal.
          My mouth was hardly swollen and I thought Clinton Kelly would like my newest shoes so I worked on my lesson plan, chose my materials and selected a platoon from my army of pliers and cutting tools. Time for a tiny television career.
        I drove to my friend’s house in New Jersey. Norma always welcomes me and gives me a place to leave the car and a place to stay in the city. We took the train in. (Honestly, I love when they shout all aboard and blow the whistle.)
         New York is hectic with people moving head down into time as if pushing into a strong wind. Helping someone pick something up earns a person a threatening glare that softens into disbelief and then a crinkle-eyed grin.
        My daughter Emilie met me for dinner and a very short visit and came to the show with me for support.  
        The ABC Studios are in a massive building. I never got a booking sheet and my name wasn’t on the list but nobody asked me for identification. Rather, Emilie and I followed one person who handed us off to another threading through narrow halls with uncountable arrays of electric wires.   
          We passed the ABC nightly news desk. It’s inside of glass room so that it looks almost like a museum exhibit. Then we entered the part of the building that is The Chew.
          The while building teems with people. For someone not aware of the big picture, it feels chaotic. It takes 142 people to put together The Chew and on Thursday they tape both the Thursday and Friday shows so it’s really busy.  
          We had to wait for the first audience to leave before we went to the green room. (These are NEVER green.) Maria offered us water, coffee, tea and snacks - the food prepared during the first taping.  
          Here’s some of the behind-the-scenes scoop on creating a daily cooking show like The Chew. There’s a rehearsal. A comedian comes out with a hand held microphone and whips the audience to a frenzy of shouting, singing and clapping.
          They record a 30 second segment of clapping and hooting (some people really get into this). The comedian says that it’s a warm up but the production people told me that if the actual applause isn’t good they splice the best whatever seconds on the clapping rehearsal into the show.
          Ditto for 30 seconds of laughing on demand. It’s a back up recording just in case they need it.
          Emilie was in the midst of the hooting audience when the makeup artist arrived. She said that half the guests she works on have no makeup. She applied lip gloss and called me done.
          In the rehearsal the cooks chop and stir the air saving the actual food to use during the taping. They use a teleprompter. Every word of their natural conversation and banter is scripted and marches past in all capital letters, 2 or 3 words on a line matching their reading speed. How can they read so naturally? The comedian uses has hand signals to encourage the audience to applaud or laugh.
          My part was short. I introduced myself to Clinton Kelly and talked briefly about making tin can folk art earrings. If I may brag, half the audience laughed at my joke without being told to.  
          Then Clinton talked with the other 3 guests and their projects. Diane stamps floor tiles with permanent ink and uses them as trivets. Susan staples chicken wire on picture frames to make an earring hanger and Sue ties plastic six pack rings together to make flower-like decorations.
          Clinton chose to stamp on the floor tiles saying it looked the easiest and I applaud his choice. They were all able to do this project in the very short time period allotted. I couldn’t have worked with 5 people.
          The main focus of The Chew is to help people make fast and easy meals. That’s reasonable. We all need the occasional fast meal. But I can’t work fast whether I’m making pottery, tin can folk art sculpture or jewelry, my mind is says slow. (My cooking is slow too and often starts with the growing part.)
          Clinton Kelly and Carla Hall came to the green room after the show and both seemed warm and interesting. They invited me to come back to the show with them for a longer segment this summer. I don’t know if anything more will happen. I’ve had my 15 seconds of fame on national TV.

 photos: Elaine on the set of The Chew
A sheet that blocks out the segments of Episode 153 of The Chew
Carla Hall peeking out and then Clinton Kelley and me in the blouse I got for Allison at the Goodwill store but she lent it to me.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Rail Car Cuties

SCIO: They looked like a row of Tonka trucks on the railroad tracks along Route 19 in Scio on Saturday afternoon. Clean and shiny in the afternoon sun, these little yellow, orange, green and red cars were surrounded by men and women in glowing yellow safety vests. What were these machines that look like fun on metal wheels?
            Gary Gadziala was watching some people putting one back together but he took a few minutes to talk with me. He identified these nifty vehicles as rail cars. They were used by the railroads until the 60s when they were cast aside in favor of trucks that could run on the rails or drive on roads.
            “Easier,” he said, “for the crews to get around and not have to schedule clear tracks for them. This way the trucks could get off the tracks and the trains could run.”
            When the railroads solved one of their problems, they also created a recreational opportunity for train enthusiasts. All the people mulling about were members of the North American Rail Car Operators Association - rail car owners out for a weekend spin. They’d stopped for lunch at the Mahogany Ridge in Scio when I found them.
            They were on one of the hundreds of excursions organized by NARCOA. This particular excursion was named “Western New York and Pennsylvania Railroad” and involved a round trip from Olean to Hornell on Saturday and then on Sunday another circuit from Olean to Emporium. Gadziala drove from his home is Ellicott City, Maryland to join the group of 37 rail cars.
            Most of the cars in this outing were made in the 1950s or 60s but some were older, rounder, louder and even cuter. NARCOA sponsors excursions like this all over the country and people register for the rides that interest them.
            Gadziala has been part of the group since he bought his rail car in 1980. He said it’s a fairly expensive hobby with the acquisition and maintenance of the rail car and then the cost of participating in excursions.
            The rail cars have 2 cylinder gasoline engines and some of the nicer cars have heaters, no small matter for some of these winter excursions. The organizers work out the trip with the railroad and arrange for a representative to lead the run in one of the modern road/railroad trucks.
            Later that afternoon I was behind our house clearing some branches downed by last week’s snow and heard a clanking noise. Sure enough, there were bits of yellow, orange, green and red zipping over the railroad tracks behind the trees – rail cars headed back to Olean.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Valerie Bobinger

                Say a word. Show an idea. Raise a child in a space shaped by an engineer and a classically trained oil painter and let the child grow toward her interests.
                Valerie Boebinger’s childhood was guided by her artist-mother and her mechanical engineer -father– two parents dedicated to different, inviting careers. When it was time for Valerie to choose a college and an area of study she was still tossing art and engineering in her mind. She began college tours from her home in Florida with a zigzag trip that brought her eventually to beautiful downtown Alfred.
                A parent of Valerie’s best friend in high school attended Alfred University and he encouraged Valerie to visit. When she saw the program in neon glass, she was “completely blown away.”                 The art program and facilities in Alfred were superior to all others on her college tour and she just had to come to school here. Her path was settled for 4 years.
                Now Valerie is graduating with a BFA in Art and a minor in music. This is your invitation to hear her as a member of the Alfred University Symphonic Band on April 27 and see her thesis show on May 5.
                Valerie came to music early in life when she toddled off to piano lessons at age 4. She developed a love for the majestic cello but her school had no string program. When Valerie heard Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue when she was in 4th grade she decided on the clarinet, started lessons in 5th grade and now hopes to continue to play in community groups after she graduates.
                At AU, Valerie has played with the Symphonic Band every semester and sometimes has also been a member of Orchestra and/or Chorus. Symphonic Band is conducted by Dr. Christopher Foster, a man of sound effects and an all-knowing ear.  Regarding her conductor, Valerie said, “Dr. Foster is a great conductor. People really respect him. If a conductor is uncharismatic the band suffers but with Dr. Foster we don’t worry about that. Everyone appreciates his attention to detail.”
                Valerie’s favorite pieces for this concert are Vesuvius by Frank Ticheli and Symphony Number 1, “The Lord of the Rings”, V “Hobbits” by Johan de Meij.
                “Vesuvius just sounds amazing,” said Valerie. “I love the dynamic and meter changes and the building, swelling sound that dies to nothing and then builds again. Then there is “Hobbits” bouncing with happiness and I have this insanely high part that is fun to wail on.”
                Regarding the concert, Dr. Foster said, "The Symphonic Band is more incredible than ever. I have a lot of talented players, including several seniors that I'll be sad to see leave. We're doing some tough yet exciting pieces like Ticheli's Vesuvius, Holst's First Suite in E-flat for Military Band, and 'Hobbits,' from De Meij's First Symphony, The Lord of the Rings and the band is doing a fantastic job with them."
                 Valerie actually came to Alfred to study art. She sees art as a self expression. It’s about a process, not a product. She expresses herself visually. For her senior thesis she has been working on a series of Zen paintings to show the images of some of her favorite music.
                Just before she started this series she was feeling stressed so she painted straight lines in a meditative activity working up to 9 consecutive hours on a piece and really getting lost in the work.
                She liked these geometric pieces, liked the sharp lines in them. One has a sense of piano keys and others relate to her feelings for musical compositions the Bach Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. She shows how the pieces would look as paintings. She also painted Rhapsody in Blue, still one of her favorite pieces.
                These paintings will be included in her senior show. They are all painted in the same size and shape – orderly – contemplative - serene. Valerie’s show will be in Binns hall, in the Painting classroom #134.
               The concert is on Friday, April 27 in the Miller Theater, Miller Performing Arts Center at 8 PM. The Symphonic Band will also perform Jungle Dance by Brain Balmages, Russian Sailors’ Dance by Reinhold Gliere, Ammerland by Jacob de Han, and Dusk by Steven Bryant.

**For community members unfamiliar with the Alfred University Campus: Enter the campus at the traffic light on Main Street. Drive uphill past the old gym on the left and turn left just after the large boulder. Miller is the building just before the road turns right. Notice the tall glass doors before you turn left again for parking. No tickets are needed.
**Community members are also welcome at Senior Thesis Shows on Saturday May 5, opening from 4 to 7 PM. Shows are in Harder Hall. Binns Hall, the Cohen Center and the Brick. Again, there are no tickets but much of the work is for sale. You’ll find maps on campus or just follow the crowds. Carpool if possible.