Monday, November 28, 2011

Greene Gobbling

EULOGIZED as lawyers’ lawyer, devoted husband (of Patricia Ann Murphy, for 53 years), mountaineer (Kilimanjaro; Everest), runner (of marathons), builder (of a family chapel near home), chef, conversationalist, friend to many, staunch family man (six kids, 22 grandkids), polymath (engineering, law, theology), dutiful citizen, campaigner (folksy door to door bid for election as District Attorney), eternal energetic optimist,“class act”…; by Greene County’s legislators (unanimous resolution, 9/21/11), and by a procession of lawyers and judges, addressing a plenitude of lawyers and court functionaries and kinfolk, in a Greene County Court session last Wednesday (11/25): Charles J. Brown (1933-2011), late attorney for Greene County.  As recounted by witnesses, after graduating from Notre Dame University (1955) and from Fordham Law School (1962), Mr Brown worked in New York City as a specialist in intellectual property issues.  Two experiences with Lower East Side street muggings impelled him to move with his family up-State, to Ashland, in 1971.  Starting with a solo practice in Windham, he subsequently partnered what became the foremost law firm in GreeneLand.  At the same time he worked as an assistant county attorney and then (from 1996), as County Attorney, retiring from that office in 2002.  He continued to practice privately, and to play energetically, until the onset of an 18-month battle against cancer, ending on September 14.  

DISREGARDED by prospective bidders: the recent (11/17) foreclosure auction on November 17th , on a downtown Catskill sidewalk, of the extraordinary, almost-completed Union Mills Lofts development. Turnout for the announced sale consisted of two spectators. Michael Whartenby, attorney for the plaintiff, M & T Bank of Buffalo, said his client’s bid as creditor would have been $935,000.  Which means that a solvent buyer could have acquired the complex for a few dollars more.  And which also could mean that a solvent buyer, by saving the bank the expenses of agent-hiring, taxes, maintenance and other holding costs could acquire the property now for something like $800,000.  Which could be a bargain, since the defaulting debtors originally bought the complex for $2 million and then pumped big sums into rehabilitation and conversion.  The part of the property that formerly was Orens Furniture is by far the most capacious retail space in downtown Catskill.  The part that formerly was Oren’s venerable, solid brick warehouse, fronting on Catskill Creek, is far along in being converted into nine gracious condominums, with an elevator.  But the cost of completion depends in some measure on the scale of damage inflicted by September’s flooding on the warehouse’s basement (and the wiring, etc.)--an area that once housed a night club.  The lawyer and the referee who appeared for the auction did not have a key to the place.  That is why the whole thing was conducted on the sidewalk.  And a subsequent query from Seeing Greene, about how one can get inside, did not attract an answer.  That silence fortifies, in some measure, an accusation made by the defaulting borrowers, namely, that the M & T bank “malevolently” sought to shrink the imputed value of the Union Mills project so as to make it ripe for plucking by “prized customers.” 
OFFERED IN ACRA tomorrow:  a workshop on how to “lower your energy bills this winter and make your home feel more comfortable in the process.”  The EmPower New York event, from 6 to 8pm, sponsored by the New York Energy Research & Development Authority, will be conducted by Cornell Co-operative Extension’s educator, is free, and includes a light supper, a door prize, and even an energy kit (weatherstripping, shrink window insulation, outlet and light switch gaskets...).  The deadline for registration has passed, but a telephone call to the Agroforestry Resource Center (518 828 3346) could disclose that space is still available.  Otherwise, there will be a repeat workshop on December 8. 
ON OR ABOUT THANKSGIVING DAY a century ago, republican revolutionaries in China were besieging defenders of the imperial Manchu Dynasty, European powers were entangled in conflicts that would soon trigger what came to be known as The Great War, warfare between Turkey and Syria produced the first use as an airplane as an offensive military weapon, politicians in Washington were preoccupied with anti-trust issues, and (via N.Y. Times reports):
Thomas Edison passed word along that he would not accept a Nobel Prize for physics, since he believed that such awards should go to financially struggling scientists.              
The daughter and son-in-law of Karl Marx committed suicide, leaving a note predicting “with supreme joy” that glorious future awaits the cause of “international Socialism.”   
White Star Lines commenced construction of a 1000-foot-long luxury liner, The Gigantic, sister of HMS Titanic.
Explorer Ronald Amundsen reached the South Pole.
A fire in New York City’s Triangle Shirtwaist Company killed 148 people.
For discovering radium and polonium, Marie Curie received (and accepted) a Nobel Prize.
Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst was barred by Harvard University’s overseers from giving an on-campus talk  about “Votes for Women.” 
Hunters residing in the Tarrytown NY area complained that foxes, raccoons and other animals were all taking refuge in John D. Rockefeller’s 6000-acre property in the Buttermilk Hill area, where no hunting is allowed, leaving the remaining woods empty of game.
Dr Julia Sears, head of Boston’s New Thought School, estimated that “There are enough people on the planet to-day who remember one of more of their incarnations to make it a certainty that reincarnation is a positive fact.”  She herself recalled having been a Chinaman.  Many dreams and intuitions, she affirmed, really are memories of previous lives.  “And that strange feeling that you have been somewhere before, or known some one you meet, is but an evidence that you have lived before.” Members of her 112-strong audience recalled having been Italian minstrels, German monks, and a decapitated/guillotined French noble.  


Friday, November 18, 2011

Hot Coles

MARRIED on Tuesday, November 22, 1836, by Rev. Joseph M. Phillips, at the ‘Cedar Grove’ estate/farm in Catskill, New York: Maria Bartow, to Thomas Cole.  The bride-to-be was the daughter of the late Stephen and Mary (Thompson) Bartow, and the niece of Alexander Thompson, proprietor of Cedar Grove.  The prospective bridegroom was the seventh child of James and Mary Cole, who immigrated from Lancashire, England, to the United States in 1818, when Thomas was 17 years old.   For a few years prior to the betrothal, Mr Cole lived in New York City and, part of the time, in a Cedar Grove cottage where he created a body of work, and achieved a growing reputation, as a landscape artist.
That event’s 175th anniversary will be re-enacted tomorrow (11/19), at the place--lately restored by local efforts--where it actually occurred.  Professional actors will play the principal parts, dressed in period-evoking clothing, and drawing on passages from actual letters exchanged by Thomas and Maria.   The ceremony will be based on the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, and the groom’s vows will be based on Thomas Cole’s own poetry, including a passage wherein Cole rejoices in the fulfillment of his “fondest hope,” finding “that loving spirit,” “the congenial one” who “would mingle soul with my soul—mind with mind,” whereby, “like two fountains forming one deep stream whose waters clear should be divided never….”
On display beside in the bridal chamber, loaned for the occasion by the Greene County Historical Society, will be the bride’s actual wedding gown.
The re-enactment is open to the public, at no charge.  Welcoming refreshments (thanks to Crossroads Brewery of Athens) will be served at 6pm, the ceremony will start at 6:30, and a reception with wedding cake (based on a vintage recipe) will commence at 7.  Guests are invited to don “top hats and ruffles” for the occasion. Some period clothing will be available on 
             CROSSED WIRES
Lamentably, the timing of the Cole House re-enactment coincides with that of another extraordinarily attractive local event: a concert (Schubert, Debussy, Brenet, Rameau) by the distinguished pianist Raj Bhimani, performed at BRIK Gallery (473 Main St, Catskill), from 7pm on Saturday, as a benefit for the Greene County Council on the Arts. “Virtuosic, heartfelt and eloquent,” as a New York Times reviewer of Mr Bhimani’s keyboard work.

 “There was no larger force in American Art than Thomas Cole. Born in England, the artist immigrated to America in 1818 and was a successful landscape painter in the Catskills by 1825…. His paintings are featured in the collections of almost every major museum, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the National Gallery of Art, and the Musée du Louvre.” ArtInfo, 11/15/10.

COMING HOME: an original oil sketch, on wood pulp paperboard, by Thomas Cole.  It’s a modest thing, small (11 inches by 8), drawn (in pre-photography days) to capture a scene for later use in the studio composition of a fully realized landscape painting.  In this case, the scene evidently was drawn from a corner of Cole’s buckwheat field. 
The sketch is coming home as a gift from the Seattle Art Museum.  In the judgment of Patricia Junker, curator of American Art at that museum (and a 2010 speaker at Cole House), the sketch  was made two or three years before Cole died in 1848.  It was given by the Cole family to Charles G. Coffin (1857-1910), who lived on Spring Street, just across from Cole’s place at Cedar Grove.  It later found its way to Montclair NJ and thence to the Seattle museum.
The acquisition becomes one of the few original Coles that belong to Cole House. Other originals displayed there are loans, of indefinite duration, from the Greene County Historical Society, the Catskill Public Library, and Richard Sharp and Henry Martin, private collectors.

GONE HOME, at substantial expense (shipping; insurance) to owners in Cincinnati, Mitchelleville MD, Chattanooga, Springfield OH, Washington DC, Silver Spring MD, Fort Thomas KY and New York City; from Thomas Cole House, after the close of its 2011 exhibition season: 16 paintings by Robert S. Duncanson (1821-72 ), the African-American artist who was directly inspired by Thomas Cole paintings and who in his lifetime was hailed as “the best landscape painter in the West.” According to an article in The Smithsonian (Lucinda Moore; 10/19/11), the rediscovery of Duncanson as a great artist, after decades of obscurity, began in 1972 with an exhibition in Cincinnati, his home town, then gained momentum by way of several books and articles, and culminated with the Cole House exhibit entitled  “Robert S. Duncanson: The Spiritual Striving of the Freedmen’s Sons.”
That exhibit came on the heels of the 2010 season’s show that brought overdue recognition to female exemplars of  the Hudson River School of landscape painting.   
For the 2012 season, as announced in the forthcoming Cole House newsletter, the special exhibit will feature Louis Remy Mignot (1831-70) the American Creole who "began his professional career in the fold of the Hudson River School (specifically, in the Tenth Street Studio Building), painted in the Andes alongside Frederic Church, and experimented with European aestheticism toward the end of his life."  (
OPENING TOMORROW at the Columbia (SC) Museum of Art: “Nature and the Grand American Vision: Masterpieces of the Hudson River School Painters,” an exhibit sponsored by the New-York Historical Society and starring, of course, Thomas Cole.  The collection’s 45 paintings already have made lengthy stops at museums in Texas and Massachusetts, and next May they will occupy the new Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas, where they will share space with “Kindred Spirits,” the Asher B. Durand picture, with Thomas Cole in the foreground, that Alice Walton bought for $35 million.  According to a preview for the Columbus SC showing, the Hudson River paintings “represent the best of a 19th-century New York art movement. That movement’s coterie of artists…gave voice to the American landscape…. The paintings of a newly established country helped establish a cultural identity.” Indeed, they were “the beginning of American art, documenting a land of so much promise and so much untapped beauty.” 

TOURING since September, to libraries and other sites around the country is "Wild Land: Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Landscape Painting," a multi-media exhibition sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities.  "Based on scholarship from Cedar Grove, The Thomas Cole National Historic Site, says the web site, “this emmersive [sic] and interactive exhibit will take the visitor both into the studio and into the woods.”            

OPENING on January 13 in the Louvre--yes, that place in Paris, France--will be a special exhibit of paintings by Thomas Cole and by his contemporary, Asher B. Durand.  And joined with the exhibit will be screenings of "Thomas Cole: Painter of the American Landscape," the film that was made in 2009, at various GreeneLand sites, by Cole House staff members.   

CAMDEN NJ--The works of iconic American landscape artist Thomas Cole are on display at the Stedman Gallery at the Rutgers–Camden Center for the Arts through Jan. 7.
 “Wild Land:  Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Landscape Painting” explores the works of the 19th-century artist whose visionary ideas on the natural world heralded the sense of American identity that prevails today. The exhibition, which is free of charge and open to the public, takes visitors “into the woods” and through Cole’s studio, revealing the ways in which he, and other artists of his time, pioneered cultural conversations that shaped our national landscape—intellectually, physically, and visually.  
 Through a combination of large-scale banner graphics, immersive environments, media features, and other interactive elements, “Wild Land” takes audiences on a journey with Cole through the story of his creative process. From an itinerant portrait artist to the founder of the Hudson River School, Cole transformed landscape sketches into a new vision of the American wilderness.
 The Rutgers–Camden exhibition also examines how the meaning of nature has changed over time into a source for creative and intellectual inspiration. Visitors will be invited to explore the concept of preservation and how societies come to value and live in balance with natural resources, as well as Cole’s in forging America’s identity as a nation inextricably tied to nature.
 The exhibition includes works by such contemporary American landscape painters as Michael Bartmann,Diane Burko,Daniel Chard, Randall Exon,Ann Lofquist,and Kyle Stevenson.
               --News Bulletin  (11/17/11) from Rutgers University

FORMING: a national council of authorities on American art, especially pre-modern American art, who will serve as friends of the Thomas Cole National Historic Site.  A round of telephone calls to luminaries who have previously lectured at or otherwise taken part in Cole House projects yielded, in every case, a positive response: “With pleasure,” “delighted to,” “I’d be honored....”  This from curators and directors of the nation’s foremost museums and from professors of art at the most distinguished universities….  The recruits will be named in the upcoming Cole House newsletter.   

SCENERY “is a subject that to every American ought to be of surpassing interest; for, whether he beholds the Hudson mingling waters with the Atlantic — explores the central wilds of this vast continent, or stands on the margin of the distant Oregon, he is still in the midst of American scenery — it is his own land; its beauty, its magnificence, its sublimity — are all his; and how undeserving of such a birthright, if he can turn towards it an unobserving eye, an unaffected heart.” 
                                                              --Thomas Cole, 1835.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Elections &

Last Tuesday, 7963 GreeneLanders took part actively in a uniquely American exercise.  They voted in popular elections that would determine not only who would be their town-level law-makers, but also who would occupy a rich variety of extra-legislative public offices: State Supreme Court judge, district attorney, county clerk, county coroner (!), town judge, town clerk, town tax collector and town highway superintendent.
Prior to last Tuesday, moreover, 891 GreeneLanders applied to the county elections commission for absentee ballots covering all those offices, and about 700 of them actually posted those ballots (still to be counted, and potentially decisive in a couple of races).
Those voters comprised a fraction of the eligible population.  Registered to vote in GreeneLand, and classed as “active,” are 28,542 names.  In addition, 2702 names are listed as “inactive” voters (persons who are registered but failed to vote on previous occasions).   On this showing, about one out of four eligible GreeneLanders actually took part in the elections. 
Their participation, however, was uneven.  Incomplete.  Selective?  Ballots in which a vote was cast at every opportunity occasion may have been the exception rather than the norm.  Many of the voters chose, with regard to lots of office-filling exercises, to be non-voters.  And they did so for eminently cogent reasons: felt ignorance regarding the candidates; consciousness of the stupidity of filling such offices as clerk and coroner by popular election; and awareness of the futility of voting when—as was so often the case—there is only one listed candidate.
Anyhow, among the most remarkable results of Tuesday’s elections--apart from the crazy dollar cost, per vote, of  the exercise--were these:
*An incumbent town supervisor was out-polled by a political rookie.  That happened in Cairo, where John Coyne (Republican) lost to Ted Banta (Democrat) by a margin of 823 to 628.  And at the same time, the two incumbents who sought re-election to the town council went down to defeat.   One of them, Richard Lorenz, was an endorsed Democrat.  The other, Janet Schwartzenneger, a registered Republican, ran on the Independence and Reform Cairo party lines, after failing to win local Republican Party endorsement.  They were out-polled by Dan Joyce and Tony Puorro, the official Republican candidates.  But another incumbent office-holder who had been dumped by local Republicans—Tara Rumph, town clerk, listed on the Conservative and Reform Cairo party lines--won re-election.
*A write-in candidate won an office.  That was in flood-ravaged Prattsville, where the incumbent town supervisor, Kory O’Hara, received 140 votes while Alan Huggins, a former supervisor, received 155—all by painstaking write-ins at the bottom of the ballot.
(Here and elsewhere, we are citing figures published in the Press and posted at
Other candidates who waged active write-in campaigns were unsuccessful. Specifically, in New Baltimore’s contest for two town council seats, Christine Walsh garnered 244 write-in votes but that put her far down in fourth place, with victorious incumbents Chris Norris and Lisa Benway reaping 636 and 588 votes.  Similarly, Gary Maher’s 208 write-in votes for highway superintendent for New Baltimore fell short of incumbent Denis Jordan’s 751 regular votes. 
Also, in Athens, Ray Brooks, former county legislator and avid Republican, mounted a late-stage challenge to incumbent town supervisor (and Democrat) Leallen Palmateer, but was swamped by 356 votes to 91.
(The Brooks effort was the closest thing to electoral contestation that occurred in Athens.  That fact evidently inspired a Daily Freeman scrivener to opine (11/10) in connection with the multi-office elections, that “The outcome…were [sic] largely not surprising….”)
THE WEEKEND.  Main GreeneLand attractions:
   *Chilly Willy Winter’s Eve tours, with early local history recalled, at Greene County Historical Society’s Bronck Museum in Coxsackie.  Costumed guides, Dutch and Swedish treats, recollections of life here going back to the late 1600s.  Saturday and Sunday, at two-hour intervals from 11am.
   *Group art show & sale (works of 16 artists) opening, from 5pm Saturday, upstairs at Ruby’s Hotel in Freehold.  634-7790
   *Festival of Trees, the Fortnightly Club’s annual, lavish display and sale of Christmas decorations plus Santa Claus plus munchies.  At Anthony’s banquet hall, Leeds, Saturday and Sunday, following opening gala (reservations) on Friday at Elks Lodge. 
    *Rip (Van Winkle) awards and sale.  Carved, dressed figures designed for the summer promotion in Hunter go up for auction on Saturday (viewing from 4pm, auction from 6pm) at Windham Mountain. 

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Doggy Days

BOCKER T. LABRADOODLE, actor, model, therapist and pawthor (Chasing Bocker's Tale) now resides up here, on Superstitious (sic) Drive in the Sleepy Hollow Lake development.  Bocker is not an actual bocker (=beagle/cocker spaniel crossbreed).  Neither is he descended from a once-popular trouser or from an old Dutch settler (knickerbocker).  But this labrador/poodle performer is manifestly bocker (=especially cute, per The Urban Dictionary), which helps to account (along with astute management by mothering Marie) for a flourishing career in show business.  See (especially the Press kit) as well as Facebook and Twitter sites.
COMING TUESDAY, to a polling station near you: county and town elections, whose most conspicuous feature is a dearth of candidates.   Each GreeneLand voter who goes to the polls will be offered a ballot (to be processed electronically) enabling her/him/ them to participate in electing two State Supreme Court judge (for Judicial District 3), a district attorney, a sheriff, and two (!) county coroners.  The listed choices include four candidates for the two judgeships, two candidates for the two coronerships, and one candidate each for district attorney and for sheriff. 
In addition, each voter will be offered  chances to vote on candidates for election to various town offices: supervisor, council member, judge, clerk, highway superintendent, tax collector.  The total of offices that are subject to election on Tuesday in GreeneLand is 84.  If each one were contested, then, there would be at least 168 candidates. But in fact there are 115 (plus about three avowed, active, write-in candidates).
On the printed ballots for Ashland, Athens, Durham, Halcott, Jewett and Windham, voters will find  precisely one candidate for each elective office. 
In contrast, lively competitive action abounds in Cairo, with two contestants for supervisor, five for two council seats (one of them an incumbent who was refused re-nomination by her fellow Republicans), two for town clerk (the 12-year incumbent was not re-nominated by fellow Republicans, and neither was her husband, the outgoing highway superintendent), two for highway superintendent, and two even for tax collector.  Also loaded with actual choices this year is the New Baltimore ballot, presenting rival candidates for town supervisor, justice, council member (three candidates for two seats) and highway superintendent.  At the same time, a third candidate for highway superintendent has mounted a write-in campaign, as has a fourth candidate for town council.  (New Baltimore has been the scene over the past few years of extraordinary wrangling among as well as between co-partisans).
Meanwhile, in Catskill, Tuesday’s ballot names two candidates for town supervisor (both former town councilmen running for a currently vacant seat), three for two council seats, and two for highway superintendent.  

ELSEWHERE.  The paucity of contestants for elective offices in GreeneLand marks a contrast with the electoral picture in nearby counties. Ulster County is experiencing a hot fight for the office of district attorney, plus contests in 18 of its 23 legislative districts.  Kingston city voters will encounter active choices between candidates for mayor and for most of the common council seats.  In Saugerties, voters get to choose between rival candidates for supervisor, for governing board and for highway superintendent.  In Dutchess County, voters are being stimulated to turn out on Tuesday by, among other contests, an intense battle for the office of county executive.   On the other hand, they will encounter just one choice for district attorney, sheriff, and county clerk.  Over in Columbia County, voters are being treated to the unusual spectacle of contests—not altogether peaceable contests—for district attorney, county treasurer, county judge and even coroner.  And Hudson City residents have been entertained, to an unusual extent, by the mayoral contest between Bill Hallenbeck, the Republican nominee, and Nick Haddad, the erstwhile nominal Republican who is the Democratic nominee and is supported more ardently by active Democrats than was his ‘regular’ Democratic predecessor.
BTW.  In the words of a Register-Star reporter--to use that noun loosely--it was the sight of “a need in his community” that drove a new candidate “to enter the political spectrum”).
ENDORSEMENTS of candidates for elective office used to be a standard, and influential, thing for newspapers.  That was then.  To be sure, the Albany-based TimesUnion did endorse candidates in competitive races for State Supreme Court Justice in two districts, along with a candidate for sheriff in one county, for mayor in one city, and for supervisor in two towns.  The Kingston-based Daily Freeman did bless three candidates--the incumbent Ulster County district attorney, a candidate for Dutchess County Executive and, half-heartedly, one of the four candidates for mayor of Kingston--but it offered no word on any other contest in its three-county area.  As for The Daily Mail and its sister paper, the Hudson-based Register-Star, their Saturday-Sunday (11/5-6) editorial enjoins us to “Take Diabetes Seriously” and their next editorial advocates voting. 
(A Daily Mail scrivener did opine, on 11/4/11, in the guise of doing straight news, that “Since Coyne’s election” as Cairo town supervisor, “by most measures, the town has moved forward.”).
Seeing Greene also is devoid of endorsements.  But we do salute a proposal voiced by one candidate.  In a letter to The Daily Mail (10/27), Rick Hanse, would-be town councilman for Coxsackie, not only espouses the idea of greater transparency of  governmental deliberations, but also advocates specific steps to that end:  agenda of pending Council meeting to be posted on the town's web site in advance, so people know what topics will come up; agenda of Planning and Zoning board meetings also to be posted on line; tentative minutes meetings also posted, so as to allow for challenges or correction prior to formal adoption.  Mr Hanse also affirms, perhaps too hopefully, that the best thing for “positive direction” for a town is having “the greatest possible participation” of residents. 
BUT ALSO, let's have a burst of write-in votes, at appropriate places, for Bocker T. Labradoodle.