Thursday, September 25, 2008

Greene Feats

“GREENE HOUSE” is architectural designer Matt Bua’s name for a contemplated structure that “would pay tribute” to his adoptive home county. “A main feature” would be “insulated panels which consist of clear plastic ‘trash’ (2 liter bottles, packing and wrapping material etc.) sandwiched between 2 pieces of donated plexy-glass from picture framer’s cut offs.” Mr Bua also has sketched a “T-house” which would be suitable for serving tea while also referencing Model T Fordliness. Then there’s his contemplated Old News House (“also called the Junk Mail House”), “a conical styled dome structure that uses recycled bundles of newspapers, magazines, and junk mail as building material. The technique would emulate the Adobe brick style in which the exterior would be properly treated with plaster and lime to withstand the elements. This house’s motto will be ‘old news is good news’ or ‘read it and reap’.” Already built are Mr Bua’s “Sing Sun House” and his “lower-case a-frame structure.” Just another fish in the GreeneLand talent pool.

TOTALLY TOTS won the strongest critical plaudits, and won the popularity contest as well, when the Brooklyn Children’s Museum reopened last week after a $80 million makeover. It is a multi-room installation that transforms the youngest visitors (aged 5 and below) into confident

adventurers dealing with sounds, colors, shapes, costumes, paints, textures and liquids in such a way, says Edward Rothstein of The New York Times, that “play and information” are “intertwined.” Why mention that here? Because Totally Tots is the latest brainchild and handiwork of GreeneLanders Carol May and Tim Watkins. (Full disclosure: Ms May is not related to Seeing Greene’s copy boy).

DEDICATED in Dover, Delaware, at a ceremony attended by the Governor and other dignitaries: a three-figure, life-sized, bronze, Minuteman-like Revolutionary War monument. Why mention that here? Because the sculptor was GreeneLand’s own Ron Tunison.

GREEN IN GREENE is a company specializing in renewable energy and other environmentally benign practices. Its principals, Jessica and Keith Abrams of Earlton plan to showcase their conservation techniques at an open house on October 18th, when they will raise a new 60 foot-high wind turbine.

“ESCAPE TO ATHENS” may be title of a New York Times feature article this weekend. And yes, it will be about the Greene Athens, not the Greek one. (BTW, the deal that could have transformed the old Athens Opera House into a new performing arts space did not eventuate. Rita K. Carver is looking at possible homes for DragonFly Performing Arts).

NON-EVENTS DEPT. GreeneLand’s yearly auction of properties that have been taken over for non-payment of taxes comes next Wednesday (10/1) at the (mis-named) Quality Inn of Catskill, but there won’t be much to buy. County Treasurer Willis Vermilyea’s intensified efforts to encourage delinquents to pay their property taxes have paid off. His success left only 30 properties subject to auction (see www.NYSAuctions.com ). Seventeen of those were pieces of land, some of them inaccessible (landlocked) or un-buildable. Also included were a “seasonal residence” and a mobile home in Halcott.

MISCREANTS DEPT. The drunk driver who crashed his pick-up truck into a power pole on Main Street, Catskill, causing a power outage (on 9/14), is deputy superintendent of Greenville’s department of highways. Which means that if he, Pete Baskiewicz, loses his license, he’ll have a bit of trouble doing his job. If he is suspended, would he still be paid?

TOP DOG among cat-makers at the Cat’n Around auction at Catskill Point last Sunday was Karl T. Anis, the notorious local sign-carver and golf putting trickster. His “Katzenjammer Kittens” attracted bids that escalated rapidly before auctioneer Russell Carlsen knocked the object down, so to speak, for $5400. Well, after all, to Mr Anis’s decorated mama cat clung,

uniquely, four hand-carved kittens. Anyhow, bidders collectively paid $94,000 for the 60 decorated fiberglass felines. Of this sum, makers get 25 per cent, with the remainder going to Animalkind, a Barry Hopkins Memorial Scholarship fund, and other worthy recipients. Additional revenue has been earned from sales of cat cards, cat badges, cat posters…. Biggest benefit of all from the promotion was a big influx of visitors who enjoyed the cats on Main and West Bridge streets, shopped at local stores, discovered the new Catskill. See www.cat-n-around.com.

RUDIE REMEMBERED. The memorial service will begin at 6pm tomorrow (9/27) in the Union Mills building, 361 Main St, Catskill.

POKER is said by rumormongers to be the after-hours game of choice in a police-protected GreeneLand saloon that could turn out to be a fire trap. Do not confuse this putative emporium with the card parlor operated over There by the Hudson cross-dresser.

DAILY MAUL. “The 2008 pay scale…is $1 per hour over the previous contract, with a 4 percent per year raise over the next four years. The contract specifies a foreman’s pay at $17.02 per hour in 2008, increasing in steps to $10.32 in 2011.”

Friday, September 19, 2008

September Mourn

RUDIE BERKHOUT, a master of what he called “painting with light,” died on Tuesday (9/16) of heart failure, at home in Cairo in the house that he had designed and constructed. He was 61 years of age and had appeared to be in good health.

------A native of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Mr Berkhout lived in Hong Kong for a year as an adult, traveled through South East Asia, lived in New York City, then settled, 22 years ago, in GreeneLand. His working life was devoted largely to the nascent art of holography and to his partner of 37 years, Hudson Talbott.

----- Mr Berkhout had been planning to show and explain his latest artistic efforts this Saturday, during the scheduled tour of artists’ studios, at his and Mr Talbott’s Play of Light gallery in Catskill. That space was the showplace not only for holographic pictures, but also for products of Novia Lighting Innovation. Utilizing low-voltage lasers and holographic diffraction, those products make it possible--as the company web site declares and as Seeing Greene’s staff can attest from direct experience--“with the flip of a switch” to “scatter jewels of light over any surface, turning your room into a dream palace or your backyard into a garden of delights.”

------Holographic creations by Mr Berkhout have been shown in solo and group exhibitions in Japan, Italy, Great Britain, Germany, The Netherlands, Canada, Spain and Australia as well as in the United States. They have been exhibited, and in some cases they are installed permanently, in galleries, museums, and company headquarters in New York, Florida, Massachusetts, Alaska, California, Illinois, South Carolina, North Carolina, Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota.

------A Spanish reviewer once credited Mr Berkhout with “a sensitivity of extremely sophisticated registers and a spirituality characteristic of an artist of the next century….” Berkhout’s “ludic approximation to a medium characterized by being immaterial,” Vicente Carreton continued, ”responds to an interior need to recognize himself, and perhaps in this way to situate himself in the what has been denominated the hologenic strength of his images is nothing but the conceptualization of genuine holographic aesthetics fascinated with the ideas of hyperspace, virtual and real space, parallel realities, and reverse time.” That poorly translated bafflegab does not represent Mr Berkhout. It does serve to remind his friends of his great enthusiasm for cutting-edge technologies and his daunting attempts at elucidation.

-------In a book about State birds that he wrote and illustrated, Mr Talbott hailed Rudie as “the wind beneath my wings.”

-------Surviving Mr Berkhout, in addition to Mr Talbott, are two brothers, Peter and Freddie; a sister, Henriette; and his mother, Helene. Memorial services are being planned.

SHOW TIME. Tonight’s the night of the “Vocal Vixens” show, when top pop singers Lex Grey and Amy Serrago battle and blend musically in a splendid new space: 361 Main Street, Catskill, in what formerly—before a transformative experience—was the Orens Furniture store. The ladies will be rocking the house starting at 8pm. Tickets cost $35 at the door. Advance purchase at $25 can be made at Hood & Co., City Lights and Mahalo on Main Street, or at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site’s visitor center, 218 Spring St, Catskill. A ticket earns wine and dessert along with great music. (Yes, this sound likes promotional advertising. The show is a fund-raiser for a good cause).

MORE SHOW. Commencing tomorrow, in and near downtown Catskill, from noon, is a tour not just of art galleries, but of artists’ studios as well. Among points of special interest will be famed artist Mark Beard’s sprawling work space, the former Christ Presbyterian Church, at 6 Franklin Street; the Thomas Cole National Historic Site off Spring Street; and the Village’s newest gallery, opened by Tom and D’Anne Gibson in their historic home at 42 Prospect Avenue and showcasing pictures by the eminent Lawrence Calcagno (1913-93). Sign-ups sheets for the tour, with maps, are available at the Arts Council headquarters on Main Street. Following the tour comes the monthly galleries exposition. The recently opened Day & Holt Gallery at 349 Main Street will be showing works by Rebecca Synan, Peggy Greason and Anne Dunne at 349 Main Street. Frank Cuthbert will reopen his BRIK gallery for the occasion, showing his personal collection of art works. At the All Arts Matter shop, at 347 Main Street, official historian Richard Philp will display and discuss historic images from his upcoming book on the Village of Catskill.

CONNECTIONS? A correspondent who chooses to be anonymous says, sarcastically, “how nice” it is that police officer Andrew Jones, a member of the Catskill district school board, “is now a school employee,” and that Dawn Scannapieco, “former board member” also “is now a school employee. It pays to have connections.” In the case of Officer Jones, the reference is to his reappointment by Village Police Chief Dave Darling as the school resource officer, with an increase in hours devoted to security and counseling. In the case of Ms Scannapieco, the reference is to her appointment by the school board as Principal of the elementary school, after which she resigned from the board. According to unconfirmed reports, Ms Scannapieco was chosen although the board’s own screening committee had recommended a different candidate. Incidentally, Daily Freeman correspondent William Kemble reported (9/17) that Officer Jones “declined to comment about [his] reappointment. He said he could not ‘talk to the papers’ either as a school board member without permission from the board president or as a village employee without approval from Darling.”

CRIME FRONT. Aaron Beojekian, 24, of Freehold, resigned recently from the Greene County Sheriff’s staff of jail guardians. He had been charged back in January with inflicting sexual abuse on a male inmate. After many adjournments at his request, the case came to Village Court in late June. Beojekian then accepted a plea bargain, we understand, in which the sexual abuse charge was dropped, he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of official misconduct, he paid a fine of $655, and he resigned. According to a report that we have not confirmed, Beojekian’s victim has given notice of intention to bring a civil suit against the county, claiming that he incurred damage from the mishandling by Sheriff’s Department heads of his complaint. The mistreatment took place in 2007, before the new sheriff, Greg Seeley, took office and appointed Steve Worth to succeed Bill Fitzmaurice as undersheriff.

------*Michael Condine has been indicted by GreeneLand’s grand jurors in connection with the extraction from the trunk of Frank McDonald’s car of packets of greenbacks. He remains in the county jail. His initial arraignment on grand larceny charges was done by Village Justice William Wooton, not (as incorrectly reported here) by a County judge.

------*Travis Augustine, 23, has been indicted on four criminal counts in connection with the suspected murder of Catskillian Martha Conners and the slaughter of one of her dogs. That step, as recounted by District Attorney Terry Wilhelm, is reported in today’s (9/19) Daily Mail.

------*For “making two sales of crack cocaine to an undercover officer at the Budget Inn of Athens,” says a Greenville Press report (9/6), Darnell Fraser, 22, “was indicated.”

Friday, September 12, 2008

Greene Tidings

NEWCOMERS. Recently added to GreeneLand’s talent pool is Sarah Gray Miller, editor in chief of O At Home magazine, a quarterly devoted to living stylishly (but frugally). A native of Natchez, Mississippi and a graduate of Vassar College, Ms Miller is a major player in the world of magazines aimed at women aspiring to be smart consumers. Back in 2002 she was founding editor of Budget Living, which soon became a big commercial success and won a National Magazine Award for General Excellence after its first year. She and her husband now have a home in Athens.

-----Soon to arrive, moreover, will be internationally eminent artist Kiki Smith. She is the new owner, by means of a seven-figure purchase price, of the historic stone Van Vechten house (circa 1680) in Catskill. According to knowledgeable local artists, sculptures and prints made by Ms Smith grace many of the world’s most prominent museums. An exhibition called Kiki Smith: Her Home is about to open in Kunsthalle N√┬║rnberg . “Combining a number of genres and materials, from plaster and porcelain sculpture to drawing and photography,” according to the official description, it “develops a metaphor-rich spectrum of lifestyles for women beyond marriage.”

-----Also in prospect as new GreeneLanders are V I P’s in print journalism and documentary films.

FALLING ROOF TILES have necessitated transfer of services for St Patricks Church congregants in Catskill this summer to the annex basement (once the scene of bingo games). On the positive side, the new location brings worshippers closer together, the better to hear sermons delivered by their part-time priest, Rick Shaw (yes, that’s his real name), whose weekday work is in GreeneLand’s two State prisons.

“CATSKILL FEVER” is title of a song album/CD that was launched recently (Saturday, 8/30) by Kitty Kelly and her band at, appropriately, the Shamrock House in East Durham. The title track celebrates Irish culture as it flourishes in GreeneLand, as Ms Kelly knows from personal experience.

COOL TOWN? Catskill will soon be the setting for a CBS weekend television news show. The prospect stems from its inclusion in the recent Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel magazine article on America’s “coolest” small towns. Meanwhile, the head of the firm that supplies fiberglass figures for street art promotions all around the country dropped by recently, says Chamber of Commerce manager Linda Overbaugh, and rated Catskill’s Cat ‘n Around project as “most successful in the whole country since the original Cows On Parade in Chicago.”

“CAIRO,” says an exasperated native, echoing The Joker in the Batman movie, “needs an enema.” He was talking about the chronic in-fighting. The feuding firefighters. Town Council factionalism. Concerted attacks on reasonable school budget proposals. Bitter, deeply personal divisions over the Alden Terrace project. Devious, malicious, defamatory, dishonest treatment of the newcomers (hippies! freaks! a cult! druggies!) who propose to use their farm property to cultivate (danger! security risk!) a novel kind of art.

9/11. Some GreeneLand schools devoted a moment of silence in remembrance of victims of World Trade Center attack. Catskill’s schools, we understand, did not take part in that exercise.

NEW MALADY?. “Gregory J. Jerome, 22, of Hudson and formerly of Queens, died Monday, Sept. 8, 2008 at Columbia Memorial Hospital,” says The Daily Mail (9/9), “of an unexpected death.”

NEW OFFENSE? “On Sept. 7 the State police at Catskill charged Andrew W. Wolmy, 46, of Tannersville,” says the aforementioned organ (9/8), “with driving while ability involved by drugs and alcohol.”

EVENTS in Catskill this weekend (for example) are named in the Village web site http://welcometocatskill.com --“Stomp & Tap,” “Guns vs. Hoses,” “Radio Disney,” “Bubba Bean BBQ”—but promised details are missing. In most cases the “address,” “e-mail” and “contact” lines are blank.

-----Anyhow, one of the more esoteric special events is a series of talks on Hudson River School of Art topics, as presented by student researchers who have been docents at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, with comments by experts. Tomorrow from 1pm. Details: www.thomascole.org

-----Also on Saturday, from 3pm, up at the Kaaterskill Fine Arts Gallery in Hunter, Don Mack, the artist and author, elucidates “How Objects Speak.” (518-263-2060)

-----For this coming Friday, the event of choice for GreeneLanders could well be the “Vocal Vixens” show, “a unique and intimate acoustic evening” starring dishy divas Lex Grey and Amy Serrago (backed by hubbies Victor Deuglio & Yves-Gerard Goldberg). Wine and dessert go with the music. Advance purchase of tickets—call 943-7465, extension 4--earns a discount. All the money goes to sustain a good cause: the Carol T. Savage Art Trail Docent Training Program, connected with the Thomas Cole National Historic Site.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Greenebits

BELIEVERS. One of the people who have been charged with the crime of knowingly accepting money stolen from local notable Frank McDonald says that she took the money with the intention of returning it to the rightful owner. Sheryl Wnenta says she joined a drinking party on July 24th, was given a packet of cash, was told where it came from, was threatened with punishment if she revealed its criminal source, but held it intact in order to return it all at the end of the month, along with the $50 that she owed Mr McDonald from a personal loan. Mr McDonald had befriended her on many previous occasions. In the estimation of three local businessmen who have employed her, Ms Wnenta’s story could be true. “Even though she is woefully short of judgment about men and alcohol,” says one of them, Frank Cuthbert, “Sheryl is compulsively honest. She did take the money, but didn’t spend it and didn’t invent a fairy tale about how she acquired it. If the police had not gotten to her first, I believe, she would’ve given back the money.” Positive estimates of Ms Wnenta’s honesty have been voiced by Catskill employers Tom Thornton and Clarence Bugg. After prolonged incarceration in the county jail in lieu of posting $2500 bail or $5000 bond, Ms Wnenta has been released on her own recognizance. That decision was made by a county judge on the advice of District Attorney Terry Wilhelm.

UPDATE. Bits of information or gossip about that robbery, and about the property sale that preceded it (Seeing Greene, 8/15) have come our way. It seems that Michael Conine, the man who is suspected by police of taking the huge stash of cash from the trunk of Mr McDonald’s car, did so after Mr McDonald had lent him the car, and not for the first time. As to how the police got wind of the robbery (of which Mr McDonald had no knowledge), another explanation is that children of one of the receivers of stolen cash went on a buying spree at WalMart. Anyhow, in the wake of the odd property transaction of July 25th, followed by the extraction of the hoard of cash from Mr McDonald’s car and by other events, Mr McDonald on August 6th assigned power of attorney to Catskill lawyer Joseph Stanzione (who has not returned our calls).

JUDGED JUDGES. A GreeneLand town justice resigned recently in the face of substantiated complaints about her official conduct, and another town justice was admonished by a State watchdog panel. for multiple, “significant” instances of stalling.

----New York State’s Commission on Judicial Conduct found that Cairo justice Thomas W. Baldwin failed on several occasions to make rulings on cases that had been “pending for several years.” For these acts of "significant" stalling, the Commission meted out an admonition, which is less severe than a censure or a removal.

-----Rebecca McGowan of Jewett resigned on July 31st in the wake of allegations to the Commission that she presided over five cases where the defendant was a relative or a family friend, and that on eight occasions she failed to make timely deposits of court funds. Reports of these actions by the Commission were published in The TimesUnion and The Daily Mail. More information, on those cases and on 14 other disciplinary proceedings against local part-time judges that came before the Commission during the first half of this year, is accessible at http://scjc.state.ny.us.

-----Included in the McGowan findings is a letter in which the respondent reviews the matters cited, admits error in some cases and denies it in others, and appeals for understanding of special circumstances.

-----Jewett is a “small rural community,” says Ms McGowan, where her antecedents settled back in 1787 and where “it is very difficult to not know a majority of the population.” On her first day in office the senior town justice, Stanley Tatar, put in her hands a case in which defendant was charged with violating a local dog control law. She dismissed the charge without a hearing and without notifying the prosecutor, an Assistant District Attorney. The defendant was the Judge Tatar’s son, who also was her brother-in-law. She felt misgivings about handling the case rather than excusing herself, but Judge Tatar “assured me that because Charlie [Tatar] and I were not blood relatives,” and because “only a local law” was involved, her acceptance of jurisdiction was “no big deal.”

-----On subsequent occasions Ms McGowan did not exclude herself from presiding over cases in which two defendants were second cousins and another was a family friend. The charges related to motor vehicle laws, dog control, marijuana and burglary. While acknowledging that she probably should not have taken on those cases, she cited special circumstances, and she indirectly disputed evidence that her rulings were inordinately lenient.

“SUMMER COTTAGES” is the title of Weekend America broadcast on American Public Media last Tuesday, featuring part-time GreeneLanders Cornelius Eady, the poet, and his wife Sarah Micklem, graphic designer and writer. With warmth and wit, the interviewees dwell on the contrast between their tiny “tunnel apartment” in Manhattan and their fragile Cairo cottage. To hear and read the interview, including two poems that will be published in Mr Eady’s forthcoming collection titled Hardheaded Weather, go to www.weekendamerica.org then to Find Past Shows and Stories, then to 2008/August “Summer Cottages.” (The Eady-Micklem sense of bucolic tranquility evidently is not disturbed by knowledge of ongoing strife among Cairo dwellers over firematics, subdivisions, zoning, planning…).

JUST OUT, from Black Dome Press: a new book by Diane Galusha, titled Another Day, Another Dollar: The Civilian Conservation Corps in the Catskills. It’s all about this region’s part of a New Deal program during the great pre-World War II depression, when thousands of jobless men were hired, at one dollar a day plus bed and board, to carry out forest restoration and conservation programs. Ms Galusha, a journalist who currently works for the Catskill Watershed Corporation in Margaretville, recalls what took place in 11 CCC camps that operated in GreeneLand and six other Catskills counties. In a foreword, Bill McKibben (Middlebury College scholar in residence; author of The End of Nature), recalls that “the CCC planted 3 billion trees (which would be no small help with global warming)” and invites us to “imagine an army of similar size trained to insulate American homes and stick solar photovoltaic panels on their roofs.” Ms Galusha’s book “offers a glimpse of how, with the same sort of vision, cooperation, hard work and political will we might tackle the earth-altering changes that darken our very doorstep.”

UNCLAIMED DEPO$IT$ II. Trustco Bank of Glenville NY names GreeneLand individuals, firms or trusts as depositors whose funds in long-idle accounts will go to the State unless properly claimed. Among them are a county legislator, Charles Martinez, and a well-known, long-time resident young woman: Ashley Hopkins. Among others: Richard Allen, ASAP Auto Supply, John Creech, Kirsten Dalland, Andrew Davis, Isaac Davis, Daniel Marchesani, Lawrence Mark, Joseph Mazur, Renee Peckovitch, the Olga Santora Revocable Trust (at 2 Franklin St = library?), Jacob Rivette, Patricia Wade and Billy Weber, all of Catskill, plus William Bacon, Theresa Ballard, Regina Cozzocrea, Robert Dyer, Helen Husmann, Shelby McNeil, Bernadette Nugent, Meagan Oneill, Justin Schmidt, Mary Smith, Robert Stark, Lillias Teague, John Telfer and Christopher Young.

WIND POWER. Tree farmers Russell (Skip) and Rosie Veeder of Earlton have been given at $23,000 U.S. Dept of Agriculture grant to buy an electricity-generating wind turbine. It comes out of a $1.6 million fund dispensed by New York State from a $35 million USDA budget. According to reporter Jim Planck (Daily Mail, 8/30), Mr Veeder made point of thanking U.S. Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand “for all her work on this,” as well as thanking USDA officer Scott Collins. The Veeders’ wind turbine will be the first in New York to support a Christmas tree farm. Lots of electric power is needed there, Mr Veeder explained, to discourage deer; they lust after conifers.

OOPS! Mid-Hudson Cable screens a television advertisement touting its “Digtial Cable” service.

CORRECTIONS. The former proprietor of Birch Hill Power Products (mentioned in Seeing Greene, 8/29) is Kirk (not Kurt) Yates. And GreeneLand's Rip Van Winkle Express does not transport clients of ARC, Veterans’ Affairs or Community Action. Those agencies transport their own clients. The feasibility of integrating their transport services is being studied. What is more, the State Police who was mentioned in a previous blog is Scott Youngblood, not Young. {Latter correction was inserted after original posting of this blog. In addition, the Yates name correction was corrected.}