Sunday, January 28, 2007

Jumping January

It has not been a quiet month here in GreeneLand. Two big boxes sprang open, as did several small ones.

Lowes Home Improvement opened at Catskill Commons, with a ceremonial picture of a board-sawing instead of a ribbon-cutting. Its prices, our informants say, are competitive with Home Depot (whereas in match-ups in other towns, they have been higher). Meanwhile, home-grown builders’ supplier Dunns is still eminently competitive—especially for buyers who need their loads to be delivered.

Wal-Mart’s gigantic (200,000 square feet) store opened, with thousands of customers and gawkers passing through on the first day. Our spies say a 24-pack of soda costs $5 at Wal-Mart, $7 at PriceChopper (so we did round upward by a penny) and TV dinners cost less too; but for fresh produce, PriceChopper is best. Meanwhile, a disarming note: enormous as it is, variegated as it is, the Catskill Wal-Mart does not sell firearms. Ammunition, yes; guns, no. That observation comes from columnist Dick Nelson—who in this matter is credible, even though as a writer he is apt to confound roll with role and to endorse the fiction that the sum of one ranger plus one ranger is two “ranger’s”.

Turning to smaller boxes, we venture to report that:

**The new Stella’s Lounge, at Catskill Point, is doing brisk weekend business, and deservedly so, with fine musical entertainment. Lex Grey filled the place to overflowing last week when she varied her usual rock diva output in favor of songs from the 1920’s and 1930’s.

**The Muddy Cup on Main Street, across from the County office building in Catskill, has opened on a 15-hours-a-day schedule and invitations to sip slowly. Modeled by owners Jim Spetz and Brian Woodward on their eponymous Hudson shop, it is touted as a gathering place for conversation, reading, Net-surfing, writing and occasional music-making. And landlord Frank Cuthbert, the mogul of upper Main Street, has just returned from a trip to Brazil, fired with the idea of extending his property holdings to Rio de Janeiro, so as to foster exchanges of music and, uh, thongs.

**Purple Heart clothing salon at 396 Main Street, Catskill, after a lingering illness, expired.

**"Catskill gets sauce from Saugerties” is the headline on a TimesUnion report that Wolfgang Brandl is moving his gourmet sauces business up here. He is buying a moribund 6000 square foot facility at 117 Cauterskill Road, behind and above PriceChopper . Bolstered by a $160,000 low-interest Quantum Fund loan, he plans to invest $320,000 in the place, which originated as a planned bakery but never got under way. His refrigerated pasta sauces are marketed under private labels by Dean & DeLuca,Gourmet Garage, Grace’s Market Place,TheAmish Markets, Raffetto’s and Adams Fairacre Farms.

**Targeted for restoration is the venerable Cairo Diner, which flourished back when a cup of coffee cost a dime. At a recent fund-raiser for that purpose, in the Town Hall, participants bought raffle tickets for a new Ron Tunison sculpture, “Union Drummer Boy,” as well as autographed copies of historian Robert Uzzilia’s book, Portrait of the Past.

**Summit Hill Athletic Club has just entered into its 21st year of operation on Route 9W in Catskill. Current membership, reports co-owner Paul Mademann, is about 600 bodies (more or less sculpted). Most senior of members are Ray and Claudia Bracaliello, who have been there from the get-go.


REFILL AHEAD. Since Rite Aid Corporation has swallowed Eckerd, we can expect one of the parent drugstore company's adjacent outlets here to be closed. That would create a vacant big box, with plentiful parking. A Best Buy? A gourmet grocery? [Inserted 1/29, 8 a.m.]

WINDFALL. GreeneLander Tammy Coats scored a big win in the New York Lottery’s Jubilee game; BUT she was portrayed falsely as GreeneLand’s third lottery millionaire (along with James Maher of Windham and, 11 years ago, Kenneth Weeks of Hannacroix). The Climax resident, who works at the Stewart’s Shop in Greeenville, will receive $50,000 in each of the next 20 years. The Daily Mail’s picture shows her (along with three unidentified men) holdng a magnified $1 million check, but nothing of the sort actually was given to her. Lottery officials call her prize a $1 million win, but it’s effectively a lot less than that when the full amount will only be doled out in the course of 20 years, even though taking the full amount immediately would entail a huge income tax payment. As pointed out by Edward Ugel in today’s New York Times, “the lump sum is much preferable”; “you can invest it, earn interest on it, and be protected against inflation.” You can buy your new house, live in it, profit from its gain in market value.

PROSE is a who as well as a what. Francine is her first name. And her vocation is--would you believe?--writing. A specialist in cultural satire, Ms Prose gave a talk recently in Hunter as part of the Catskill Mountain Foundation’s Readers & Writers series.

TOP PERFORMER in GreeneLand real estate brokering in 2006, with sales of 51 units in deals totaling almost $7 million, is Ronnie McCue. Being Number One is a familiar position for Ronnie. Her firm, Rip Van Winkle Realty, also led the pack.

DAILY MAUL: “He…unloaded the lumber—donated by the big box store that had not been used for its own construction—to the Community Center.” Frank Stabile was saluted with mementos “in recognition of his distinguished service from the [GCCC’s] Board of Trustees.” “Containing a conference room, De Lucia, who has an art bachelor’s degree, the artificial stones resemble those a farmer would have taken from the fields to form his first house.” In one issue (1/23) all stories on a page headlined “Neighbors” were home-county stories. Nearly all stories on the facing page, also headlined “Neighbors,” were home-county stories, and one (“St Pat’s accepting registrations for fall”) was an exact copy of what appeared on the previous page. On the "Greene County” page the lead story was not a Greene County story.

“PSYCHIC SENSES” is the topic of a workshop slated for the Cairo Public Library this Saturday ($10; 622-9864). Conductor Michele Curtis--billed as energy body worker, massage therapist, Reiki Master and Interfaith minister--promises to elucidate what those senses “can contribute to your life.” Which finesses questions about their existence.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Comment Management (continued)

Dick, Why was Congressmen Sweeney attacked for his incident? When no one said a word about the Chewens Drunk Fest and Cover Up? Or Vinneys high housing development water main caper with stolen piping from a major industry? Talk about abuse of power and special priviliges!

The foregoing verbiage was offered, anonymously, forposting as a comment on the “Year in Review” installment of Seeing Greene. Because it makes serious accusations without backing them up or taking personal responsibility for them, it does not qualify for posting. It does qualify, however, as food for thought about sophistry, or specious argument, in everyday discourse. Let us proceed.

“WHY?” AS ‘THAT’ Any declarative statement about the when, where, how, or why of a putative event conveys a historical claim, namely, that the event took place. The same is true of any question about when, where, how or why. It prods the respondent in the direction of believing that the supposed event really occurred. To put it another way, it deters doubt about occurrence. In this case, accordingly, the commentator prods readers to believe that an “incident” pertaining to Congressman Sweeney occurred, that he was attacked for same, that a Chewens Drunk Fest and Cover Up occurred, that no one said a word about it, that a Vinney-related “caper with stolen piping” occurred, and that no one said a word about that.

RHETORICAL QUESTIONS The quoted comment consists most immediately, and preponderantly, of rhetorical questions. These are utterances whose form is interrogatory but whose discursive function is not to solicit information but rather to urge a conclusion. In this case the suggested conclusion is voiced in a closing exclamation, namely, that the cited putative incidents exemplify abuse of power and/or of special privilege. Respondents accordingly are prodded to accept two propositions: that certain “incidents” did occur, and that they are, in an important way, equivalent. The claim about equivalence serves to reinforce the claim about occurrence.

LEADING QUESTION In some respects the cited passage resembles the classic question “When did you stop beating your wife?” That utterance is formally interrogatory, or information-soliciting, and the interrogator may hope to trick the immediate addressee into giving a direct answer. But in context (prosecutor to defendant in court) the question also is rhetorical and accusatory, and its prime target is not the defendant but rather the audience and, most particularly, the jurors. These auditors are invited to believe that information has been conveyed; it is that the defendant has been a wife-beater. In the present case, a compound question is addressed to “Dick” while being offered as a blog comment that would go out to the community-at-large. The passage differs from the wife-beating query, however, in that the immediate addressee is not the immediate target of accusation-in-the-form-of-question. Instead, Dick is treated as a kind of confederate who might help to confirm accusations and, perhaps, provide the ostensibly solicited explanation(s).

COMMON KNOWLEDGE PLOY Vital to the rhetorical force of the quoted message is a tacit claim of comprehensibility. The sender prods receivers to believe that his words make sense and so do his references. We are prodded to believe that the Sweeney “incident,” the “Chewens Drunk Fest” and the “caper” are matters of common knowledge. That suggestion is conveyed partly by the absence of elaboration. The fact that the putative episodes are cited without elaboration ‘means’ that—for decently informed citizens, at any rate--elaboration is superfluous. Reinforcing the Common Knowledge nudge, along with the absence of elaboration, is the use of special labels. These labels, often capitalized, convey an impression of being part of common discourse. They seem to be shorthand references to event clusters whose details are generally known and are recorded in readily accessible sources. Thus we have cryptic references to “Watergate,” “Enron scandal,” “Teapot Dome” and “9/11”—references whose persistent use imparts an aura of authenticity. Anybody who does not immediately recognize “Watergate” as the name of a scandalous episode (as well as an apartment complex) can learn all about it on Google. An unscrupulous communicator can exploit this usage by devising his own set of labels for putative past events. Thus, by citing “Chewens Drunk Fest” in capital letters and without elaboration, a communicator seems to be alluding to a matter of common local knowledge. Such is the case, too, with a message whose author (a would-be contributor to Seeing Greene), arguing that Catskill is rife with “cover-ups,” recites a string of catchy labels: “the $450,000.00 Rescue Truck Bid Rigging Cover Up,” “the police cadet money caper,” “the Grapplers hire for Less Contest,” “the ETA 3-11 scam,” “the Liberty Street Racial Profiling Case,” “the tax monie [sic.] laundering scam” (“just to name a few thast [sic.]come to mind!”). The author seems to be tapping standard shorthand labels for locally known events. He deters suspicion that those cryptic labels are his own creations, designating events whose occurrence has not been confirmed.

DUPLICITY In this case the Common Knowledge ploy is quite a club. To challenge the sender’s claims effectively, a respondent needs to be self-confident about his grasp of the relevant facts as well as about sound reasoning. I shall now assume the guise of the confident analyst and critic.

>>The question “Why was Congressman Sweeney attacked for his incident?” is phony. It expresses a counter-factual proposition. Judging from what appeared in the news media, Mr Sweeney was the beneficiary for many months of suppression of a State Police report of an emergency (911) telephone call wherein Mrs Sweeney complained of being mauled by her husband. At a late stage in the Congressional election race last year, after months of being stonewalled officially, news people got copies of the report and published them. Mr Sweeney was not attacked; a domestic incident in which he was involved was exposed. He responded with an attack on the ethics of his opponent, along with spurious promises to produce the “authentic” report. The question of whether Mr Sweeney used political leverage to get the report suppressed for most of 2006 has not been answered. If he did so, he used special privilege illegitimately.

>>The occurrence of a “Chewens Drunk Fest” is not a matter of record or of common knowledge. Accordingly, respondents who don’t know what event our commentator is talking about are not abnormally ill-informed citizens. As it happens, a few anonymous commentators on two local blog sites have alluded persistently in the past year or so to the supposed event. Their unsubstantiated references do not give it historical authenticity.

>>If the “Drunk Fest” did occur and “no one said a word about it,” it remains to be seen whether the absence of “word” betokens abuse of power (by, presumably, Chewens or Chewenites). Other explanations come readily to mind: participants and spectators chose silence on the subject; police authorities did not know about it, so no report eventuated….. In alluding to a “Cover Up” our commentator implies that (i) there was an event that can properly be called a Chewens Drunk Fest, and (ii) its occurrence was reported officially, but (iii) the report was suppressed, and (iv) the suppression has not been disclosed. Moreover, by way of his closing exclamation the commentator also claims (v) that the lack of publicity can be traced to illicit use of special privilege. Those claims, however, are not self-evident. In point of fact, no police report of anything like that event exists. The absence of such a report COULD be due to the exertion of special influence, but there are other eminently plausible explanations. It behooves our commentator to dispose of them (as distinct from repeating his version of reality, ad nauseum, without substantiation, on two blog sites).

>>Similarly, the stolen piping “caper” seems to be our commentator’s invention. It “exists” only in the form of reiterations, by him and perhaps others, in anonymous blogs, without substantiation, and without attention to what Mr Seeley has said on the subject. Our commentator COULD buttress his Cover-Up thesis by establishing either that (a) the “caper” (stolen pipe) was duly noted in a police or other credible report, but the report was suppressed at the behest of a privileged power wielder such as Mr Seeley; or that (b) the “caper” occurred but was never reported, and in that way was effectively covered up, thanks to the use of special influence. The commentator does not make, let alone substantiating, either claim. He simply indulges in irresponsible, anonymous, cowardly defamation.

UKASE Anonymous comments will no longer be posted on Seeing Greene. Would-be contributors must accompany proposed comments with verifiable personal identifications (name plus telephone number or e-mail address). However, we will consider submissions in which contributors identify themselves clearly to the Greenekeeper and request anonymous postings. We will either heed those requests or not publish.

P.S. If this were a scholarly paper, it would be sprinkled with references to rhetorical analysis, discourse analysis, the Principle of Charity, the Principle of Relevance, conversational implicatures, pragmatic (vs. logical) implication, and invited inference.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

A Year in Review

For most of GreeneLand, most of the time, 2006 was a very good year. Northern river towns experienced further renovation of historic buildings along with industrial park development, the prospect of attractive new residential and retail tracts, and incipient participation in burgeoning nanotechnology projects. The Industrial Development Agency settled in new Coxsackie quarters and established Greene Accelerator, an incubator of promising start-ups.

Mountaintop communities suffered from the closing, for urgent repairs, of Route 23A between Palenville and Haines Falls. That was a nuisance for residents and a deterrent to visitors--who also were deterred by the fact that, owing to the absence of winter, the 2006-07 winter sports season did not commence in December 2006. Meanwhile, mountaintoppers and visitors were able to enjoy excellent movies, top-grade concerts, organic produce and other treats, thanks to the Catskill Mountain Foundation. Local support for the Foundation’s manifold cultural products was manifested at the benefit banquet in October that, with dinner sales, donations and auctioned items, brought in $84,000.

Catskill’s 200th birthday came in the midst of a surging transformation, with majestic old houses being restored by new owners, Main Street undergoing a comprehensive makeover, and the imminent emergence in Catskill Commons of a huge retailing complex. Renovation of upstairs apartments brought in a new breed of Main Street residents. The Community Center was rescued from oblivion. To restored, restyled storefronts came more art galleries, more cafes, more home interior improvement shops. Of the many gallery exhibits (especially on promotional Second Saturdays) one was touted memorably as exploring the “cyclical nature of experience” by means of “elegiac and ethereal” images showing “fluidity and fragility of life forms” whereby “the ephemeral and the eternal find a necessary balance.” Memorable too was Daily Maul prose crediting a new tattoo parlor with “exceedingly unique masterpieces” on its walls and, on its proprietor’s torso, “profound and vociferous figures.”

The Thomas Cole National Historic Site experienced a banner year, with big increases in visitors, members, sales (thanks to newly opened reception center and bookstore), events and grants.

“Our Town” and two Chekhov plays were performed, by local casts at Catskill Point and in Beattie-Powers House (whose refreshed Friends organization, proved to be the real deal).

Musicians took advantage of the new high-tech recording studio on Water Street. Among them were harpist Jim Davis, rock diva Lex Grey, and proprietor Frank Cuthbert,composer of these poignant lines, among many others:

You're drifting through my mind again. I close my eyes and just pretend. You're still tugging at my heart, dancing in the dark. You're drifting through my mind again.

You're drifting through my mind again as my lover and best friend. It was magic from the start, shot an arrow through my heart. Drifting through my mind again.

Sometimes I cry, that we said goodbye. I can't let it lie. I guess that's why, you're drifting through my mind again.

You're drifting through my mind again. I go to sleep but there's no end. You're the star of all my dreams, stealing every scene. Drifting through my mind again.

You're drifting through my mind again. I close my eyes and just pretend. Every night and every day ever since you went away. You're drifting through my mind again.

You're still tugging at my heart, dancing in the dark. Drifting through my mind again.

ELECTIONS on November 7th yielded gains, locally as well as nationally, for Democrats. Full credit goes to the Botch Administration. In the county legislature, the ranks of Democrats swelled from two members out of 14 to five. In State-wide races and the U.S. Senate contest, Democratic candidates swept the field.In the 20th U.S. Congressional district (Greene and other counties, or pieces thereof), new face Kirsten Gillibrand ousted four-term Republican incumbent John Sweeney; it was one of the country’s biggest surprises. Meanwhile, Republican State Senator Jim Seward easily won re-election, and the two rookie Republican candidates for Assembly seats representing parts of GreeneLand, Mark Molinari* and Peter Lopez, also won by comfortable margins. Prior to that result, a Daily Mailfactor opined that neither candidate was “a shoe-in”. [*OOPS.  As commentator Sean pointed out, it is Tim Gordon, not Mark Molinaro or even Mark Molinari, who won election to represent part of GreeneLand in the Assembly; and he is an Independencian, not an outright Republican]

TRANSITIONS. Long-serving county legislators Frank Stabile and Gunther Ohm retired, with Wayne Speenburgh succeeding Mr Stabile as chairman of that governing body. County Chamber of Commerce director Debbie Zetterlund was succeeded by Tracy McNally; Catskill Postmaster Donald Stegall, by Leon Griffin; Public Health Director Martin Kosich, after revocation of his license to practice medicine, by Marie Cross-Ostoyich. At the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, Amy Bruning was succeeded as education and volunteers manager by Lana Davis Chassman. Catskill Librarian Luisa Sabin-Kildiss resigned abruptly, and was succeeded by Jessica Maisano. The Catskill Game Farm, at age 73, died. So too, in infancy, did the Greenville Chamber of Commerce. The venerable, esteemed Freehold Country Inn either died (on or about December 10, and contrary to a previous Seeing Greene note) or entered a comatose state.


>Four GreeneLand women were convicted in separate cases of, in essence, swindling. They evidently extracted money on false pretences from would- be authors of published books, from foreign residents hoping to stay and work legally in the U.S., from high school cheerleaders, and from female softball players. The Green Card scam artist blamed her prosecution/persecution (by the State Attorney General’s office, most immediately) on the Russian Mafia.

>Herb-growing Margo Muller ran afoul of Catskill Town authorities on account of the height of her weeds. She was given 60 days, said The Daily Maul, “to correct the citation.”

>According to Maul reports, local police in February conducted a search “vehemently,” and for three hours a man ”held a real estate office hostage.”

>Sheriff Richard Hussey’s license to drive was suspended after (long after) he refused to take a chemical sobriety test.

>Three deputies filed a lawsuit accusing the sheriff of favoritism in connection with the elevation of Sgt Tor Tryland to lieutenant.

>A defense lawyer, according to a Maul confabulation, moved to have Judge George Pulver Jr recused from trying a certain case “because of impartiality.”

>Volunteer firefighters Joel Shanks and his father Rick filed suit against the Catskill Fire Company and the Catskill Village Trustees, claiming deprivation of their rights to freedom of speech and to due process of law.

>GreeneLanders were invited, in an Awakened Heart CafĂ© advertisement, to meet a “Renounced Artist.”

>John Walde was charged with embezzling funds from, while serving as treasurer of, the Order of Red Men.

>Jared Paul Stern of Oak Hill was charged with attempting to extort money from victims of nasty gossip published (with his help) in The New York Post.  [Post-post message from Mr Stern: "Dick, I was not 'charged' with anything. Burkle made false accusations. There have been no charges, no filings, no nothing. I am prepping libel and defamation lawsuits against him and the Daily News. Please change your post." I should have said accused].

>A pub owner, a State trooper, town council members and other Greenville denizens were embroiled in legal disputes involving harassment, stalking, excavating, and a generous dose of whatever

>A Tannersville Village trustee filed suit accusing her putative colleagues of illegitimacy.

>A teenager reportedly drove her vehicle into the side of a “convenient store.”

>In East Durham, the priest of Sacred Heart parish, Jeremiah Nunan, was placed on administrative leave by the Albany diocese pending the outcome of investigation of a sexual abuse charge.

>Foodie Janeen Sarlin expatiated on “Chocolate as Aphrodisiac.”

>“Greene County Historian and [sic.] Raymond Beecher” reportedly expatiated on the legacy of Cedar Grove. (So much for reporting).

>Story’s Nursery was heavily damaged by fire, but faithful customers rallied.

>Inside/Out magazine moved to Stewart House in Athens.

>Two small children were maltreated, fatally, by their mothers’ live-in lovers.

>Bellydancing, declared teacher Bonnie Mion, is “memorizing to watch.”

>Two feature movies were made in GreeneLand.

>After watching news about Terrell Owens “with baited breath,” sportswriter Antonio D’Arcangelis turned to games talk “without further adieu.”

>The former Grandview Elementary School building on West Bridge Street in Catskill was demolished, amid local lamentations. The former Washington Irving School building, on the other hand, survived, with renewed prospect of becoming stylish condominium development, next door to the former annex, which is now the flourishing Senior Center

>A truck that was hauling a cargo reportedly incurred a serious accident “while being transported.”

>The Hudson River at one period in 2006, said columnist Don Nelson, was “teaming with bass.”

>The Bank of Greene County opened a new administration building and three branches.

>A Seeing Greene commentator lamented cover-ups of “every wrongful transgression.”

>Ambitious renovation of Tannersville’s Orpheum Theater, for use as a live performance venue, was launched by the Catskill Mountain Foundation.

>The Coxsackie-Athens Courier came into existence, as a member of publisher Richard Bleezarde’s mini-stable of local papers.

>Rumors of complete consolidation of The Daily Mail and The Register-Star proved to be unfounded.

>Those publications advertised for a Circulation Department employee who could do “computer imputing.”

>Daily Maul readers were invited to contemplate such events as:


Festival draws a crowd with attractions abound



The Monday announcement by the county of the grant’s arrival, preceded by a Governor’s Office for Small Cities declaration six days earlier, accompanies along with some statistics, seen as staggering by a county Planning and Economic Development Department statement.

[Local law 3 of 2006] amends the Dogs and Other Animals Law with the intent of deterring pet owners, especially dogs, from defecating on property, public or private, other than the owners.

Karen explained that [her pet] had been scene in the Catskill and Cairo areas.

[Walter Mirmann, owner of Rainbow Golf Club, said] the tourism industry in the county, which, following what is regarded nationally ‘rule of thumb’ within the business, generates for around every dollar spent at a tourist attraction, seven dollars spent elsewhere in the county.