Thursday, September 13, 2007

Left Bank Tidings

JUST PUBLISHED, by Black Dome Press of Hensonville: American Wilderness: The Story of the Hudson River School of Painting, by Barbara Babcock Millhouse, with 50 full color and 14 other illustrations. The official launch will take place Saturday (9/15) from 2pm at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill, with the author present for a slide lecture and a book-signing. The book is an expanded, more richly illustrated, more comprehensive edition of what Doubleday published in 1978. It illuminates the lives and works of Cole, Church, Durand, Bierstadt, Cropsey, Kensett, Whittredge, Innes—the whole crowd. It is now available at bookstores, museum shops and some fine local shops as well as from the publisher. Inquiries:; 518-734-6357 or 1-800-513-9013. ((It would be a nice change if Village, Town and/or County bigwigs showed support by their presence)).

COMING SOON, from the keyboard and the brush of GreeneLand’s Hudson Talbott: River of Dreams, an illustrated book for children, recalling people who have dreamed big dreams shaped by our majestic river. Attached to the book may be a disc in which Mr Talbott narrates the story, with musical background, as recorded in Frank Cuthbert’s Catskill sound studio.

IN PRODUCTION: a television mini-series created by veteran documentarian Jonathan Donald. Screened initially on PBS station WMHT, will be part of manifold festivities in 2009 in celebration of the 400th anniversary of European discovery of the Hudson River. With support from GreeneLand’s legislature, from the Bank of Greene County, and from other to-be-tapped sources, says Mr Donald ( ) the series will depict “the unique history of Greene County and events that shaped the commercial and artistic history of the early nation. They will…feature notable speakers; heirs of the earliest families; live action photography of popular entertainments old photographs; period drawings and engravings; and famous paintings.”

IN PRE-PRODUCTION: Video series pivoting on the Hudson River, slated for release in the quadricentennial year, 2009, and created by Brian Branigan of Catskill, who is abundantly qualified for the task. Rather than being a historical account, says Mr Branigan, the project “will take a slice-of-life approach, conversing with folks of all types between Albany and Manhattan. It is a relationship- driven piece from many individual perspectives” such as bass fishermen, tugboat operators; island campers, Riverkeepers, and first-time visitors from inner-city neighborhoods. See and offer to put some money (tax-deductible! to Greene County Council on the Arts, earmarked for Half Moon Productions), as well as ideas, into the project. Yes, you.

IN PROSPECT: A new American musical, replete with original plot, characters, songs, choreography and appropriate scenic backgrounds, inspired by the Hudson River painters, to be developed here. A fantasy? Not when you check credentials of the mastermind (; also ) and his music composer ( Mr Biggs welcomes brilliant ideas about story lines, song themes, lyrics….

NEXT GALLERY to open in downtown Catskskill will demonstrate the art of, uh, painting with light. Master holographer Rudie Berkhout ( will make and exhibit reflection holograms, transmission holograms, virtual images, and images that are holograms horizontally, photographs vertically. To patient, persistent interrogators he may dilate on interfering wave fronts, lasing, optical noise dampening, nanometers-sized lenses, diffraction, coherence, reference beams (off-axis and on-axis) and object beams, emulsions, differentially swollen layers, holographic embossing, temperature-shaped variations in the speed of light, glass sandwiches sealed with optical epoxy, silver salt particles as optical data storage lockers…. Opening date for the studio has not been set, but already, in the evenings, a light installation is viewable from the street. It consists of three lasers, three HOEs (no, not 'hood whores, but Holographic Optical Elements) and an LED.

NOT COMING. The reputedly imminent opening of the new Cathedral Restaurant in Catskill is not going to happen. The historic Main Street church property, bought and much improved by Robert Lightcap and Carol Blaes, is on the block. At or near the asking price, $549,000, it could be a bargain.

BANK SHOT. Directors of The Bank of Greene County have decided to spend bank money on buying company stock. The rationale, as announced by President Donald Gibson (recent successor to the retired Bruce Whittaker) is that “our common stock is an attractive value at current prices” and “deployment of some of the Company’s capital into this investment is warranted.” No elaboration was provided in the news release. Some hunches: *Most immediate, most certain beneficiaries of the buyback policy are current shareholders (of whom many of the biggest are board members). Share-repurchasing puts a floor under the market price. While being nice for current shareholders, that effect does not manifestly benefit the company itself. And buybacks do not invariably prop up the share price. Home Depot bought back 14.6% of outstanding company shares, at $37 each, and the market price still slumped, to $33.73. *Economic forces that would spur a jump in the bank’s perceived value as an investment are hard to identify. The present share price already is very high relative to earnings, as compared with other financial institutions. The price/earnings ratio of 24.25 is more than double the figure for Citigroup (11), for J P Morgan Chase (9.5), and for Wachovia (10.29). It is higher too than that of competing neighbor First Niagara (18.44). It is substantially higher than the PE’s of some big dynamic companies such as Intel and General Electric. When the price per share is high relative to current earnings per share, company stock can be regarded as a likely bargain only if an extraordinary spurt in earnings (a new product comes on line, a lucrative lawsuit is won…) can plausibly be anticipated. *Future growth is unlikely to keep pace with recent growth. The bank has flourished in recent years, thanks to the boom in GreeneLand real estate. But maintaining a given rate of growth requires increasingly bigger earnings. And sustaining growth in this cooling, sluggish real estate market looks chancy at best. Although the bank has been conservative in its choice of mortgage borrowers, some defaulting is likely. Meanwhile, the bank is in the midst of a costly expansion. Its earnings are more likely to dip in the near term than to soar.

THE WEEKEND. In Windham, tomorrow and Sunday, from 10am to 4pm, arts and crafts, continuous live entertainment, food and a Chinese auction make up “Autumn Affair” ( At the Blackthorne Resort, Mountain Thunder Motorcyle Festival, both days ( In Freehold, the Carlsen Gallery is having a two-day auction; with estate jewelry offered tomorrow and other stuff (antique furniture, pottery, pictures) on Sunday. It’s the sixteenth anniversary of Abby’s & Russ’s first auction at the Freeholod site, and 2twenty-third year of their entry into the auction game. (518)634-2466; Catalogue at In Catskill, the Wal-Mart Stren Series open bass fishing tournament, which started Wednesday, concludes with 4pm weigh-in at the Wal-Mart store, and distribution of big-money prizes. In the morning, there’s the Farmers’ & Artisans’ Market at Historic Catskill Point, with live music by Ampersand. And in the evening, it’s “Saturday Studios” up and down Main Street, including an extended stay for the appeeling “Uncovered: Nude But Not Rude” show at M Gallery; a new show of art works by the literate local journalist, Andrew Amelinckx, at Terenchin Fine Art; and the opening, at BRIK, of an exhibition of Michel Goldberg creations.

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