Upstream. A Mohawk Valley Blogzine.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Dirty Mary Crazy Larry (1974) - Film Review

With "Dirty Mary Crazy Larry", Peter Fonda brings us another road movie, sneaking it in between his legendary "Easy Rider" (1969) and the underrated classic "Race With the Devil" (1975). Under the direction of Britain-born John Hough, best known for his work in the horror genre, Fonda plays Larry Rayder, a racecar driver dreaming of breaking into the proverbial bigtime. What he lacks, though, is the money necessary to obtain a decent racing vehicle. So, in the tradition of such movies, he and his mechanic Deke Sommers (played by Adam Roarke), pull a robbery. Along the way, they are, against their better wishes, joined by Mary Coombs (Susan George), a one night stand of Larry's who didn't take nicely to his not saying goodbye. And, in hot pursuit, are a number of police cars under the command of law officer Everett Franklin (the late, great Vic Morrow). Auto-oriented action movies were a staple of '70s cinema...they gave Ron Howard his directorial start and helped end Burt Reynolds career. Somewhere in the middle of greatness and ineptitude falls this film. It's a technically competent film, and it's obvious that the people making it liked what they were doing. The film has gone on to cult status...and it's not that I can't see why that is, its just that I didn't particularly get excited myself. The greatest flaw is in the characterization. The similar "Bonnie and Clyde" (1967) featured criminal lovers on the run from the law, but one of that film's strengths was that you loved Bonnie and Clyde (despite their heinous actions) and wanted them to get away. The same rule applied to the classic "The Getaway" (1972). But Larry, Mary, and Deke just aren't that appealing. It's not the fault of the cast, who all turn in decent performances...but more of writers Leigh Chapman and Antonio Santean. Larry comes of as stupidly crazy (as opposed to lovably crazy...which is tolerable), Mary as an aimless annoyance, and Deke as a sad sack. Those aren't necessarily bad traits to have main characters possess, but in this instance there is little in the way of endearing characteristics to balance the lesser ones. Attempts are made to make the leads more sympathetic (Deke, for example, is a recovering alcoholic), but they come off cliched. In the end, I failed to have any passionate desire to really root for the heroes. In fact, I found the most engrossing character to be Franklin, an unconventional policeman who won't wear a gun or a uniform or cut his hair...nor will he let a criminal outsmart him. The film manages to muster some strengths...there are some nice bits of humor involving an overzealous patrolman played by Eugene Daniels, some well-staged car crashes and chases (though never breathtaking as in "Race With the Devil"), and a fine supporting cast featuring Kenneth Tobey (famed sci-fi leading man of the '50s), Elizabeth James (leading lady from the 1967 hit "The Born Losers"), and an unbilled Roddy McDowall. But, though such positive assets make the film watchable and somewhat entertaining, it fails to reach the heights accorded other films in the genre. On a one to four star rating system (with one the worst), this merits 2 1/2 stars.

We Must Preserve Before We Can Promote The Valley's Beauty & History.

NOTE: This post was originally an opinion piece I wrote for The Sunday Gazette. It appeared on the Opinion Page on January 29, 2006.

The Mohawk Valley’s two prime assets are its history and its beauty and both are in jeopardy. Let’s start with its beauty. Poorly planned development has created eyesores along the river that detract from it and the surrounding valley. Three buildings, erected within the last decade, will suffice to prove my point.

The most egregious example is the Target Distribution Center on Route 5S in the Town of Florida. While beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, it would be difficult to find someone who finds any aesthetic value in this quarter mile long building squatting above the river and dominating the local landscape, its architecture apparently inspired by Brutalism or some archaic Soviet school of architecture. My son has appropriately dubbed it “the death star.”

Then there is Billy Fuccillo’s “huge” car lot on Route 5 near Nelliston, and not far beyond that is Logan’s giant salt storage shed that can be seen for miles in every direction.

The argument in support of this ugliness is that each of these businesses has boosted the local economy. I won’t disagree, but can’t we have our cake and eat it too. Why can’t we boost the local economy while requiring that such ugly structures be built farther away from the river or be better shielded from view.

There was a time when America’s rivers, including the Mohawk, were open sewers. No one wanted to live near them. It wasn’t uncommon to locate factories, junkyards, and oil storage tanks along them. That time has come and gone, but not everyone’s thinking has changed. Many still see rivers as places to dump things, if not in them, alongside them.

Meanwhile many of the Mohawk Valley’s historic sites, sites worth preserving for both their beauty and history, have disappeared or struggle to survive. Many Dutch barns have been dismantled and removed from the valley. Other barns, while not necessarily as historical as the 17th and 18th century Dutch barns, have been bought and shipped to Long Island and Connecticut where the timbers from as many as three barns go into the building of one multi-million dollar mansion.

Some historic buildings are in private hands and have not been taken care of. A once beautiful, historic brick house on Belldons Road in the Town of Florida has deteriorated to the point it is now the home of Turkey Buzzards. Butlersbury, built by they the notorious Tory Walter Butler in the Eighteenth Century and one of the most historic homes in the valley is in such bad condition it may not be salvageable.

Local groups of volunteers have worked hard for years to restore some local buildings, but with limited funds it has been very difficult. A good example of this is the Nellis Tavern near St. Johnsville which is owned by the non-profit Palatine Settlement Society. While the Tavern is in a lot better condition than it was twenty years ago, it still needs a great deal of work.

One would think that with the establishment of The Mohawk Valley Heritage Corridor Commission (MVHCC) by the New York State Legislature in 1997 that the situation would have improved, but it hasn’t, even though the Commission’s web site states that the purpose of the commission is “to preserve and promote the natural, cultural and historic treasures of the Mohawk Valley. The commission encourages regional cooperation and facilitates partnerships using heritage tourism as a tool for enhancing the quality of life and economic development in the region.”

The problem with the MVHCC is that its emphasis has been on promotion rather than on preservation. Preservation should be the commission’s first priority because you cannot promote what does not get preserved. The commission has spent enough money over the past eight years to have preserved everything worth preserving in the valley.

I don’t want to be critical without offering solutions to the above problems. I recommend the following as a starting place. First, each of the counties in the Mohawk Valley should place a moratorium on building within a thousand feet of the river until policies can be put into place that would allow development along the river but would also preserve its beauty and history. Secondly, a complete list of buildings and sites in the valley worthy of preservation should be drawn up and steps taken to preserve them. Thirdly, a list of sites and buildings that need to be demolished, cleaned up or made to blend in better needs to be made up and steps taken to rectify these situations. Finally, some of the money given to The Mohawk Valley Heritage Commission needs to be earmarked for preserving our heritage not just promoting it, otherwise the commission might as well close its doors. If the beauty and history of the valley are destroyed, there will be nothing left to justify the commission’s existence.

Big Lots In Amsterdam To Close?

Now that Sears Hardware in Amsterdam is closing, the word on the street is that Big Lots on Route 30 is the next to go. Rumors of the closing are emanating from people who work at Big Lots, so my guess is that it is going to happen.

Monday, January 30, 2006

NY State Libertarian Party Adds Upstream To Their Blogwatch

The Libertarian Party of New York State has added Upstream to its list of blogs to watch. While I didn't ask them to do it, I appreciate the exposure. I am a conservative/libertarian. As the government cow gets bigger every year, takes more hay and grain from us and gives less milk, I am leaning increasingly towards libertarianism.

Not all the contributors to this blog share my political convictions, but that's okay. There is no political litmus test for those who contribute to or comment on this blog.

Two More Blog Recommendations

I have come across two more blogs that I recommend to the readers of this blog. One deals primarily with Troy and the surrounding area. The other focuses on all of Upstate New York. One thing I like about both of these blogs is that they have multiple contributors, just like this blog, which adds a lot of variety to what is posted there.

I have also added these blogs to the links section in the sidebar.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Sunday Gazette Opinion Page

Well I had almost given up on getting anymore articles published in The Sunday Gazette. For a long time I was a regular contributor to the Sunday Opinion page. I wrote one column each month. Out of the thirty or so columns I wrote during that time, only one was rejected. That one was about my dislike of telemarketers. Of course newspapers rely on telemarketers to drum up business, so they aren't likely to publish pieces critical of them.

Now I just contribute when I feel like it. Unfortunately, I had three out of the last four pieces rejected. I had determined I would quit sending pieces in but then thought I would try just one more. Finally, today my piece on preserving the beauty and history of the Mohawk Valley was published. If you don't get The Sunday Gazette, and would like to read it, I will post it to this blog in a few days. Since the copyright reverts back to me after they publish it, I can do that.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Saturday Morning Radio

I love two shows on local radio on Saturday morning. One is the bluegrass show on WRPI in Troy from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. For those of you that hate country music and think bluegrass and country are the same, you are mistaken. I don’t like country music, but I like bluegrass. I met a couple once–she hated bluegrass but loved country and he hated country but loved bluegrass. Give bluegrass a try.

The second show I like is Car Talk on WAMC from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. You don’t have to give a fig about cars in order to enjoy this show. Click and Clack are not your average grease monkeys. They graduated from MIT and are intelligent, witty and funny. They do talk about cars and how to fix them. (People call in with their car problems and they help them to solve them), but they also talk about everything from what's in the news to such literary fads as deconstructionism.

Contributors Wanted.

I am looking for some adults who would be willing to post to this blog. I am especially looking for people with a love for the Mohawk Valley and some expertise in a particular area (religion, law, politics, farming, entertainment, education, etc.). You would only have to write a minimum of two posts a month. Posts can be short or long. You can re-use material that you have written elsewhere, provided you own the copyright. This blog is a voluntary effort, but if you have a business or website you want to promote, you can do so in your posts or we can add it to our links.

Other requirements are good writing and proofreading skills. Most posts should have some connection to the Mohawk Valley, even if only indirectly. If you post a lot, then you can feel free to write some posts that have little or no connection to the Mohawk Valley. It does not matter what your political or religious orientation is.

Interesting, thoughtful posts are what we are most concerned about.

If you are interested, e-mail a sample post to me at

Sex In The Mohawk Valley.

It was disturbing to read the following headlines and stories in yesterday's Daily Gazette, all involving local people:





Also there was a small article about a 40 year old man in Ephratah having sex with a 15 year old. And, of course, there was another story about the bed and breakfast in Schenectady which is really a sex club.

I know there are those who contend that all of this stuff has been going on for years, and that it is only now coming out into the open. If I were doing research on America's changing attitudes about sex, I would start with the hypothesis that we are becoming increasingly preoccupied not only with sex but with perverted sex. I would also start with the hypothesis that while this stuff went on before, the social upheavals of the 60s and 70s created the atmosphere for child pornography, molestation, adults having sex with minors, etc. to flourish. My hypothesis might be proved wrong, but that is where I would start.

The historical importance of the cultural revolution of the 60s and 70s is often overlooked. As a child of that era, I believe that this revolution was second only to the Civil War in the way it changed American life.

Last Adopted Grandchild of Charles Steinmetz Dies.

If you are interested in the electrical wizard, Charles Steimetz, brought to GE in Schenectady by Thomas Edison in the early 20th century, you might want to read the Times-Union story about the death of his last adopted grandchild, or you might want to read her obituary.

Finally, here is a fascinating look at Steinmetz by the late American novelist, John Dos Passos. The piece is laid out the way it was originally published.

Dos Passos: The Wizards Meet

Steinmetz was a hunchback,
son of a hunchback lithographer.
He was born in Breslau in eighteen sixtyfive, graduated with highest honors at seventeen from the Breslau Gymnasium, went to the University of Breslau to study mathematics;
mathematics to Steinmetz was muscular strength and long walks over the hills and the kiss of a girl in love and big evenings spent swilling beer with your friends;
on his broken back he felt the topheavy weight of society the way workingmen felt it on their straight backs, the way poor students felt it, was a member of a socialist club, editor of a paper called The People’s Voice.

Bismarck was sitting in Berlin like a big paperweight to keep the new Germany feudal, to hold down the empire for his bosses the Hohenzollerns.
Steinmetz had to run off to Zurich for fear of going to jail; at Zurich his mathematics woke up all the professors at the Polytechnic;
but Europe in the eighties was no place for a penniless German student with a broken back and a big head filled with symbolic calculus and wonder about electricity that is mathematics made power
and a socialist at that.

With a Danish friend he sailed for America steerage on an old French line boat La Champagne,
lived in Brooklyn at first and commuted to Yonkers where he had a twelvedollar a week job with Rudolph Eichemeyer who was a German exile from fortyeight an inventor and electrician and owner of a factory where he made hatmaking machinery and electrical generators.
In Yonkers he worked out the theory of the Third Harmonics
and the law of hysteresis which states in a formula the hundredfold relations between the metallic heat, density, frequency when the poles change places in the core of a magnet under an alternating current.
It is Steinmetz’s law of hysteresis that makes possible all the transformers that crouch in little boxes and gableroofed houses in all the hightension lines all over everywhere. The mathematical symbols of Steinmetz’s law are the patterns of all transformers everywhere.

In eighteen ninetytwo when Eichemeyer sold out to the corporation that was to form General Electric, Steinmetz was entered in the contract along with other valuable apparatus. All his life Steinmetz was a piece of apparatus belonging to General Electric.
First his laboratory was at Lynn, then it was moved and the little hunchback with it to Schenectady, the electric city.

General Electric humored him, let him be a socialist, let him keep a greenhouseful of cactuses lit up by mercury lights, let him have alligators, talking crows and a gila monster for pets and the publicity department talked up the wizard, the medicine man who knew the symbols that opened up the doors of Ali Baba’s cave.

Steinmetz jotted a formula on his cuff and next morning a thousand new powerplants had sprung up and the dynamos sang dollars and the silence of the transformers was all dollars,
and the publicity department poured oily stories into the ears of the American public every Sunday and Steinmetz became the little parlor magician,
who made a toy thunderstorm in his laboratory and made all the toy trains run on time and the meat stay cold in the icebox and the lamp in the parlor and the great lighthouses and the searchlights and the revolving beams of light that guide airplanes at night towards Chicago, New York, St. Louis, Los Angeles,
and they let him be a socialist and believe that human society could be improved the way you can improve a dynamo and they let him be pro-German and write a letter offering his services to Lenin because mathematicians are so impractical who make up formulas by which you can build powerplants, factories, subway systems, light, heat, air, sunshine but not human relations that affect the stockholders’ money and the directors’ salaries.

Steinmetz was a famous magician and he talked to Edison tapping with the Morse code on Edison’s knee
because Edison was so very deaf
and he went out West
to make speeches that nobody understood
and he talked to Bryan about God on a railroad train
and all the reporters stood round while he and Einstein
met face to face,
but they couldn’t catch what they said
and Steinmetz was the most valuable piece of apparatus General Electric had
until he wore out and died.


Friday, January 27, 2006


Vague title you say? You bet. People are vague in themselves anyways. Lately I just get fed up with the way people are. The way they act. The way they live. Not that I am one to pass moral judgment or heck, even any kind of judgment. But don't we all? This is an over used topic but people really are separated by their beliefs, race, and their level in society. I'm not quite sure why people just don't accept that others are different. Although this seems kind of hypocritical considering I'm not accepting the people that don't accept people. If that makes any sense. Well, this blog was just one of those off the top of my head things.


Thursday, January 26, 2006

Today I Spread Manure.

I love old diaries and have owned a few over the years. I had one once that was kept by a farmer near Fort Plain during the year 1917. It wasn't very exciting. In fact, the most common entry was “Today I spread manure.”

As I read it, I kept hoping to find some reference to World War I which The United States had entered that year, but there wasn't any. At first I was a little annoyed with the guy. How could he write about spreading manure when such a terrible event was going on.

But since I have kept a paper journal for six years now, I can better understand this diarist. It is very easy to get caught up with my own life and forget the world around me. My paper journals, which I keep in those marble composition books because they will stand up on a shelf like a regular book, often don't reflect what is going on in the world, just what is going on in my world. Sometimes days go by during which I forget we have troops getting killed in Iraq. If you don't have someone stationed there it is easy to forget what is going on there.

Furthermore, I have begun to see the value in spreading manure. Fertilizing the earth is an important part of the cycle of life. Without a fertile earth, we won't need a war to destroy us. Did this Fort Plain farmer realize that? I don't know for sure, but he must have thought that spreading manure was important because he not only did it almost everyday, he also recorded that he did it in his journal.

Another journal that I owned was kept by a lock tender at Fonda's Basin on the Erie Canal in the 1800s. Fonda's Basin was not in Fonda but was somewhere near Clifton Park. This diary which chronicled life on the canal had more varied entries and was more interesting than the one kept by the farmer in Fort Plain. This diary is now in the New York State Museum.

Another time I owned a number of journals kept by various members of the French family from Amsterdam. I read many of them, and they gave a fascinating insight into life in Amsterdam in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Now that many people have turned from writing journals on paper to blogging on the internet, I wonder how many journals future historians and antiquarians will turn up. I will most likely leave my composition books to my daughter when I die, but to whom do I leave my blog? Is a blog worth preserving, and how do you preserve a blog for posterity?

Where Were Rogers' Rangers?

I enjoyed the second part of The War That Made America, but was disappointed that there was no mention of Rogers' Rangers in the entire documentary. It seems like they at least deserved a mention.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Mohawk Valley Book In Progress.

Paul Keesler who has written a book on the Kuyahoora Valley, is now writing a book on The Mohawk Valley. You can read it as he writes it.

Reminder. The War That Made America.

Just a reminder that the second half of The War That Made America, a documentary about the French and Indian War, is on WMHT tonight at 9:00p.m. Upstate New York was the scene of many battles in this war.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

To kill or not to kill? This shouldn't be the question.

One thing in life I have a very strong opinion and feelings about is abortion. And in this entry I'd like to reflect a little on it. According to the dictionary a fetus is "In humans, the unborn young from the end of the eighth week after conception to the moment of birth, as distinguished from the earlier embryo. ". A fetus is a fancy scientific word people like to use to make it sound as if a baby is not a living being. But in fact, the definition of fetus says "the unborn young". So in actuality a fetus is an unborn human being. To be born according to the dictionary means "Brought into life by birth. " It states "brought into life". Not "becomes a life". I've had a handful of people I've known over the last two years that have had abortions. I feel every living thing should have the chance to be somebody and make something of themselves. Many people argue that if the baby is brought into this world it will not have a good home environment. This may be true but a living being should be given the chance to be able to make the best of their situation. Not too mention, I don't believe that I or anyone else would want someone deciding whether I live or die. My friends seem to argue with me the fact that it is their body and their choice. It is their body. But it contains another human being inside of it. A separate body. For all we know, maybe the person who was going to stop world hunger was aborted.
Abortion is also sickeningly cruel. The methods are absolutely disgusting. And I personally find it disturbing that it can be expressed so simply in an encyclopedia. The most common type of abortion is suction-aspiration. Otherwise known as "vacuum abortion". For the abortion, suction from an electric pump is used to remove the "fetus" or "embryo". For a late abortion a method is used often called intact dilation and extraction which requires surgical decompression of the "fetus's" head before the evacuation. The hysterotonomy abortion is said by Wikipedia to be "similar to a caesarian section but ending with a dead fetus, can also be used at late stages of pregnancy." Well, this brings an interesting thought to my mind. If supposedly a fetus is not a living being than how can it result in being dead?


Ellis Hospital A Good Place To Get Sick.

Ellis Hospital in Schenectady is not a good place to get well, as the advertisements claim, at least if you are going there for surgery. Ellis ranked high for cardiac surgery, but did poorly when it came to overall surgical infection prevention. The hospital only followed recommended procedures 58% of the time, according to the New York State Hospital Profile, which was just launched on the New York State Department of Health's Web Site.

Note: The information below comes from the Health Department's Site.

Overall Surgical Infection Prevention (composite score)

What these numbers mean: Hospitals can reduce the risk of wound infection after surgery by making sure patients get the right medicines at the right time on the day of their surgery. These measures show how often the hospital gave these medicines to its surgery patients within defined time periods.

Source: NYSDOH. This measure is a weighted average of all voluntary surgical infection prevention measure data.

Date: These data cover the period from July 1, 2004 to March 31, 2005.

Ellis Hospital 58%

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Terrorists Have Won!

If terror is the goal of terrorists, then the terrorists have won because terror is driving politics and policy in the United States. Before anyone jumps to the conclusion that this post is being written by a bleeding heart liberal, let me give you my credentials in the form of my voting record. Reagan-Reagan-Bush Sr.-Bush Sr.-Dole-Bush Jr.-Bush Jr. I will say that if President Bush had the opportunity to run again, I would most likely vote against him. Why? Because he has over-reacted to the event we all call 911 and in his drive to provide us with safety and security he has trampled on the U.S. Constitution.

Obviously, some reaction to 911 was necessary. We needed improved intelligence, tighter security at our borders, at airports and at all important military, transportation and industrial facilities. Terrorists needed to be tracked down and brought to justice.

Whether we should have gone into Afghanistan and Iraq is not as important to me as it is to some people. Both of those countries enjoy a greater degree of freedom today than they did before 911. The important question to me is—do we as Americans enjoy greater freedom today than we did before 911? I don't think so.

Americans have been spied upon without the government getting subpoenas, internet search engines are being asked to tell the government what information we have been searching for and Americans have been held without being charged with a crime or being provided with a lawyer. Equally troubling is that we are actually debating whether we should use torture to get information out of people, a debate I never thought I would hear in my lifetime.

Many Americans are willing to accept all of this because they believe it keeps us safe. History proves that these frightened rabbits are correct. In pre-World War 2 Germany, terror was the order of the day. Bombs, riots, and assassinations took place on a regular basis. When Hitler came to power, he stopped the terror and brought law and order to Germany. Everyone was safe. Everyone rejoiced, except for Jews and those who opposed the government. The majority of Germans traded away the rights of a minority of Germans in order to be free from terror. In the long run, no one was free from terror—it's just that the new terror came from the government.

If we are going to give the government increased, and even unconstitutional powers, to combat terrorism, we should not be surprised if the government uses those powers against us. The men and women who fought in the American Revolution fought against a government that misused its power and terrorized its own citizens. They would not trade freedom for safety. Neither should we.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Today at the Albany Institute of History & Art and More on Amsterdam:

I just want to all know that today is a special day in the Capital District; it is a "GE Free Community Day" on their newest exhibit, GE Presents Excavating Egypt at the Albany Institute of History & Art and they are having the following:

GE FREE COMMUNITY DAY, Sunday, January 22, 2006, Noon - 5:00 pm, Festivities include hands on art experiences, storytelling and gallery activities for families. FREE Admission courtesy of GE.

I went to their THIRD THURSDAY PROGRAM (Thurs. 1/19) where we joined Director Chris Miles on a special Behind The Scenes Tour of the Albany Institute's collections. I have to say that this was truly a special thing to do and when they offer it again please go and do it. Their compact storage area is a thing of wonder, three floors, and 17,000 square feet of climate controlled space where everything has its own space on moving shelves/walls. There was not a spec of dust that I could see...and I don't believe they have people who only dust all day. From a collector's standpoint, I almost wanted to turn over my collection to ensure its longevity.

More On Amsterdam: I am hoping to post more about the local area in the very near future, some of the things that people from outside of the community (maybe even those from inside the community as well) might find fascinating about Amsterdam, such as the fact that we not only have an Amsterdam website but actually have two or three depending on how you look at them.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Gilboa Dam Break--Build Your Ark Now

For those of you living along the Schoharie Creek or along the Mohawk River between Fonda and Schenectady, the possibility of flooding, damage and tragedy, in the event the Gilboa Dam breaks, is very real. The dam is in weakened condition. Work is being done to strengthen it. If you want to keep up to date on the latest news about the dam, we recommend you check on a daily basis.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Surprise! Trish DeAngelis Does Have A Heart!

I was shocked to read in The Daily Gazette that Trish DeAngelis, Rensselaer County D.A., has agreed to send John Raymond of Troy to a secure psychiatric facility rather than prison. Raymond was charged with arson because he set a fire in his apartment in an attempt to kill himself. As I have argued several times in this blog, would be suicides should get psychiatric help not prison.

According to The Gazette, DeAngelis said, "This is one of the rare cases that is appropriate for this type of disposition." My own feeling is that these cases are not as rare as DeAngelis would have us believe.

More Television Worth Watching.

This coming Sunday Justice Now will be interviewing former Mohawk Town Justice, Roy Dumar, on its television show. Dumar was accused by his wife's former husband of abusing their child. No evidence was found and the former husband admitted he had lied. Justice Now airs at 5:00 PM every other Monday on Time Warner Cable Channel 18, and at 5:30 on Cable Channel 16 in Schenectady, NY. Justice Now is also seen now on Sunday's at 11AM on Commercial TV station WNYA (Channel 4 Cable, Channel 15 over-the-air).

Justice Now has done some great shows. They have interviewed victims of injustice, well known authors on the subject, and have interviewed many locals, including Alan Chartock, Carl Strock, and newly elected Rensselaer County Judge Bob Jacon. Copies of all shows are placed in the Troy Public Library for borrowing.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Propane Tanks, Suicide, And Terrorism.

I just caught part of a news story on the radio yesterday about a man (local I believe) who tried to commit suicide by blowing himself up in his car with a propane tank. I looked for the story in the paper today, but I didn't see it.

My first comment is that these tanks can be easily turned into bombs, and they are so readily available. I think of it every time I stop at FasTrac for coffee. The tanks are stored outside and would be easy to steal. Then again anyone can walk in and buy one.

My second comment is about the response by the police to this incident. They plan to press charges against this man. Once again a suicidal, obviously not mentally healthy person is being charged with a crime for attempting suicide.

I realize that if this man had succeeded in blowing himself up, he could have blown up other people as well. But this man needs psychiatric help, not prison time.

Our Newest Contributor.

Our newest contributor, my daughter Rachel, has already introduced herself. Hopefully, we will have some other contributors to this blog in the next few weeks. I did want one teenager posting on here. It is so difficult to be a teen today. I thought it was tough when I was a teen in the late 60s and early 70s, but it is even tougher today.

Thank you Rachel for your posts and your honesty.


I figured I might reflect some on the stereotypes of school. Not only high school, but middle school and even sometimes elementary. The entertainment industry seems to exaggerate in the eyes of the public what stereotypes are like in schools. Honestly thou, it's not much different. The jocks, well they have it made honestly. They are rewarded for being physically strong. For being able to throw a ball thru two bars. Whereas the smart people or as some say "the nerds" are criticized instead of congratulated with awards on there intelligence. Jocks do tend to be stuck up. I'm friends with only one jock from my school. We don't really even talk much but he's fairly nice. Although very superficial. The preps, well the teachers love them because they're so nice and pleasant to them. Although to the other people at school, we're ridiculed for being different and not being friendly. Me for instance, I listen to different music. I'm not friendly with people. I honestly really don't care much for other's problems since they never seem to care about mine. Sometimes I think about if I was born with more enthusiasm? Or with a competitive streak? Or maybe if I was black? Would any of these things make me a better person? No. But I would be accepted. I'm a smart person. I'm wasting my brain thou right now. I have no use for it anymore. Things never seem to get any better, and I have no friends to really talk to...but I'll stop complaining. I don't think I'm in much of a mood to really talk about things with proper sanity. I hope some of my thoughts made sense though.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Hello, my name is Rachel Weaver. I'm 15 years old and the daughter of Daniel Weaver. My dad asked me if I wanted to post on his blog about high school, horses, my opinions, and whatever I wanted to. I go to Amsterdam High School. If you even want to call it a school. I do honestly like living in Amsterdam yet I can't stand most of the people in it. As most people already know. Last year I was in a placement home. Northeast Parent and Child Society. Today I'm just going to talk a little bit about what I do, I work with horses. I currently own a tri colored paint mare named Flicka. Every other day I go to Peaceful Acres. I'm training a pony there right now named Apache and working with PMU foals. For those who don't know what a PMU foal is, let me explain. Mares(female horses) are bred in order to get a hormone needed for the medication premarin for women. In result of being bred of course the mare has a baby(foal). There is no use for the foals since they can't be bred and so they are sent off to be slaughtered. Nanci Beryl of Peaceful Acres fostered six of these foals that were saved by Frank Weller of . These foals are scared to death of people. Its an accomplishment in itself to be able to pet them. Nanci is adopting one of the foals and a girl named Camille who works there is adopting another. I would love to adopt one but at the moment I'm not financially capable of doing so. So I just work with the foals trying to get them used to a person's presence. I enjoy working with animals, especially problem animals. Animals listen where as people do not. Animals love you unconditionally and people do not. Animals appreciate you and what you do to help them and people normally don't.
I'm a writer. I mostly write poetry and journal. Eventually I'd like to write a book about my Grandmother. Like most people thou I'm great at putting things off.
Please check out my poems if you'd like at
I'll probally be blogging daily. Comments are always appreciated.
"Dying is an art like everything else..I do it exceptionally well"-Sylvia Plath

Make John Jablonski President of FMCC.

Instead of searching all over the country for a new president for Fulton-Montgomery Community College, why not make acting president John Jablonski the president. He had done a good job as acting president. Furthermore, he has been at the college a long time and already understands its needs and problems. He has lived in the area a long time as well and understands the area, its people, problems, stong points, etc.

My Two Sons

David, John, Edna in wheel chair, Aunt Mooney Posted by Picasa

I am very proud of my two sons. They are kind, intelligent, generous (add any other positive word here) men. John turns 26 today. He just graduated from The University at Albany with a M.A. in English and has applied to several graduate schools to work on his PhD.

David earned a 4.0 average at Fulton-Montgomery Community College. He also took a nine week film making course at the New York Film Academy in New York City. Right now he is working as a CSM at Wal-mart in Amsterdam. He turned 24 on Jan. 14.

In the above photo both boys are helping there aunt bring our friend Edna into the house on Christmas Day a year ago. Edna was 100 years old and has since passed away.

Traffic Watch

In a small place like Amsterdam, where almost everyone knows everyone, you don't need traffic cameras to catch people breaking traffic laws.

To the driver with license plate TESLA7, it is illegal to park in the cross walk in front of the post office in Amsterdam.

Judge Aison, you are very careful about not parking in the cross walk in front of the post office; however, it is illegal to go into the left hand lane to make a right hand turn into your driveway like you did yesterday when I was coming in the opposite direction on Broadway Hill. Furthermore, it is dangerous.

Assemblyman Tonko, you are supposed to have your headlights on when it is raining.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

What To Do About Amsterdam?

You might be interested in a post about Amsterdam on a relatively new upstate blog. I have responded to it in a comment, and you might want to as well.

Television Worth Watching.

For the most part, television seems to be a vast visual wasteland. I cancelled my subscription to cable many years ago for which a friend, rather an acquaintance, said I was a fanatic. Where I live now, I cannot get cable.

I do get PBS (WMHT-17) still, and it is still worth watching. I watched Country Boys on Frontline last week, a documentary about two boys struggling to grow up in rural, eastern Kentucky. It was fantastic. The story could just have easily been about two of the many boys struggling to grow up in the Mohawk Valley.

Tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. I plan to watch the first two parts of The War That Made America, a documentary about the French and Indian War. Upstate New York and the Mohawk Valley played a crucial part in this war. Sir William Johnson, one of the most powerful men in Colonial America but not well known outside of the valley, will be featured in this documentary. Parts three and four will air on WMHT on January 25 at 9:00 p.m.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Upper Mohawk Valley Blog Recommendation.

I have been searching for a good Upper Mohawk Valley blog, covering the Utica-Rome area. I have finally found one. It's title is Fault Lines A Utica/Upper Mohawk Valley Blog. If you have any interest in that area, check out this blog. I have also added it to my links.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The Title Of This Blog.

The title of this blog came from Chapter One of Codman Hislop's book The Mohawk. The Chapter's title is Upstream. In the chapter Hislop says, "Men have always looked upstream when they came to the Mohawk, for upstream was west."

The word upstream also characterizes the valley's history, especially over the past half century as it has had to struggle against industrial and economic decline. The valley is no longer a destination for people, but simply a conduit through which they travel on their way to some place else.

Upstream also defines my life which began in 1956. I was born into a family of 14 children (same mother, same father), struggled against poverty to finally earn an M.A. in English from Suny Albany. My wife came from a similar background. She raised three children, while also becoming an R.N. Our greatest struggles have come in the last few years, the worst being my wife's battle with stage three primary peritoneal cancer (a form of ovarian cancer). During this same period, we were falsely charged with neglect of our youngest child (after successfully raising two boys, one of whom just graduated summa cum laude from Albany with a M.A. in English), a battle we won, but at a significant price. I will have a lot more to say about this in future posts, as well as commentary on the failure of foster care, our family courts (which do more to dissolve families than to unite them), Child Protective Services, Social Services and more. My experience with "the system" did a lot to destroy many prejudices and beliefs that I use to hold and has given me a burning desire to fight injustice wherever and whenever I see it.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Black Robes Don't Make Judges Clergymen.

Almost everyone agrees that there is some kind of wall of separation between church and state. (Actually those words are not in the Constitution but were in a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to a group of Baptists who were fighting for religious freedom in Connecticut where the Congregational Church was the established church). Not everyone agrees as to how thick or high this wall should be. I prefer the metaphor of a chain link fence, through which the state and church can at least pass notes to one another.

Almost everyone thinks that there should be some separation of church and state in order to keep the church from controlling the state. But the wall works both ways. It is meant to keep the state out of the church as well as the church out of the state.

A panel of the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court ruled this week in a 3-2 decision that Catholic Charities must provide contraception coverage to its employees, even though contraception is against the teachings of the Catholic Church. The majority was able to justify this decision by stating that Catholic Charities is not primarily religious in nature.

I am not a Catholic (as I demonstrated by my ignorance in a previous post), I do believe in contraception; however, it seems to me that the Appellate Division has climbed over the wall into the church courtyard on this one. It could be that their black robes have caused some identity confusion and they think they belong there. The less than unanimous decision gives some hope that in the future these judges will be hauled back over the wall, into the belly of the state where they belong.

Vow Of Poverty Correction / Capital City Rescue Mission

A reader of this blog has pointed out that not all priests are required to take the vow of poverty. After doing some research, I found out that this is true. Diocesan priests have to take the vows of obedience and chastity. Religious priests have to take those plus the vow of poverty.

Nevertheless, I am still disturbed whenever I find Christian leaders, both Catholic and Protestant, who have amassed great fortunes while in the Christian ministry, especially since the bulk of money coming into any religious organization comes via the donations of its members.

I am equally upset when I hear of CEOs of charities who get paid enormous salaries. That is why I am careful about where I give my money.

One of my favorite charities in this area is the Capital City Rescue Mission. It does an incredible job with the homeless, drug addicts, etc. on a shoe string budget. Its director, Perry Jones, is a very humble man. He has been at the mission a long time. He could have moved on to bigger things a long time ago but has chosen not to. I heard him speak in a church over twenty years ago and was impressed then and have followed the fortunes of the mission ever since.

By the way, the mission does not accept any money from the government. It relies completely on donations.

I was never a big fan of former Governor Cuomo, but he used to go down to the mission on a fairly regular basis and volunteer. I have never read anything in the mission newsletter about Governor Pataki doing the same.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Route 30 In Amsterdam Does Need Sidewalks.

I travel Route 30 in the City and Town of Amsterdam everday. I rarely drive up Route 30 without seeing someone walking along the side of the road. Yesterday, it was three people including a baby in a carriage. For the safety of the people who walk the road, sidewalks are needed. A sidewalk would only be needed on one side of the road. I rarely see anyone walking beyond Wallins Corner Road, so it would probably only be necessary to bring a sidewalk from the city to Wallins Corner.

Those of us with cars forget how difficult it is for people in Amsterdam, who don't own cars, to get around. Bus service is minimal, taxis are expensive and people don't give strangers rides anymore.

Years ago, when I had no car, and I worked up on Route 30, I used to walk the road. It was not safe then; it is even less safe now.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Vow Of Poverty Going The Way Of The Vow Of Chastity

The Catholic Church and the family of the former bishop of the Albany Diocese, Rev. Edwin B. Broderick are squabbling over guardianship and control of the assets of the ailing 88 year old. The assets are estimated to be near three million dollars. Didn't Rev. Broderick have to take a vow of poverty when he entered the church? I wonder how much he would have amassed if he hadn't taken the vow?

A Look Back at a Look Forward

The following is the first of what I hope will be many posts on this site regarding Amsterdam history. I know this is the "Mohawk Valley Perspective", and I wish I could say more on Mohawk Valley history but in truth, I study and collect mainly Amsterdam's history.

One could ask "Why?" and it is a valid question, as we are a sleepy little city not so different than any other in the Mohawk Valley. To my friends in Albany, where I work, Amsterdam is not a place that they would even consider venturing to. To me and my family and friends in Amsterdam, it is our home, our heritage. So I venture forward in this blog with a "look back at a look forward." Read the whole entry in the link and you'll see what a thriving community we had only a hundred years ago.

The following is taken from the 1906 Annual Meeting Board of Trade:

"Amsterdam, located in the Mohawk Valley, beautiful for situation, is about midway between the equator and the north pole. To be exact, it is less than 150 miles south of the dividing line.

The census of 1900 gave the United States 140 cities of 10,000 inhabitants or over. Amsterdam was the 205th city. If we had 1,436 fewer inhabitants, it would be the middle city.

Amsterdam's population in 1813 was 150. Since then it has doubled seven times, an average of once every twelve and one-half years. To continue this growth will give us in 1925 a population of 76,000; in 1950 a population of 304,000; in 1975 a population of 1,216,000.

This is ab-so-lute-ly sure to take place, provided every man now a member of this Board of Trade will remain here an active, working member until 1975."

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Amsterdam History...

Sorry the delay in getting a post here...but I will have something a little later. As an FYI...I am not a writer by nature and it takes me some time to complete thoughts, so my post might be a few farther apart than Hawkeye would like. But I hope that I can be of some use. I do have a passion for the hustle and bustle of what Amsterdam used to be and would love nothing more than to see that return. But realistically, we know that may never happen so we can only look back while looking forward and hope that we don't hit a tree in the journey.

No Taxpayer Money For Smoke Shack

Montgomery County has agreed to pay for half the cost of a smoking shack outside of the County Office Building. If smokers want a place to smoke, they should cough up (pun definitely intended) the money themselves. Taxpayer’s money should not be used to support smoking.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Mohawk Valley Hall Of Fame.

The Utica Observer-Dispatch has a cyber museum for famous people from the Mohawk Valley. Unfortunately, it leans heavily toward the upper Mohawk. You can suggest names to be added, however.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Midlife: A Personal Essay

So your mother dies and you think that being orphaned at age 46 won’t hurt, but it does--hurts more than when your father died twenty years earlier--and now the link between you and the past is broken and you are now the past to which your children cling, the anchor at the end of the chain of time, and it frightens you because you know that you are not forged from the same iron your parents were.

And then your son gets expelled from a small but prestigious college for being too liberal in his views, and after two months of letters, phone calls and mustering up the best arguments for his reinstatement, you realize that the school officials aren’t even making an attempt to rebut them. Come hell or high water, they have already made up their minds and are not about to be confused by the facts.

And then your wife takes sick. The surgeons cut out half her insides along with the cancer, and you are scared she is going to die and for a whole year you watch her lay in bed fighting fatigue and nausea.

Then ten days after he graduates from high school, your nephew goes up on top of a mountain in Kentucky and scatters his brains to the four winds.

And then your teenaged daughter starts to have problems and the county comes along and says “we can do a better job than you.” So they ship her to a children’s warehouse in Schenectady where most of the day she is looked after by Rent-A-Moms and Rent-A-Dads whose only qualifications for the job are a high school diploma and a driver’s license. They tell you she will be safe there. They don’t tell you that there are adolescent sex offenders housed in the same building. When you find out, you fear for your daughter’s safety and soon your fears are realized.

By now you are ready to crawl into the woods where wounded deer go to die, and just lay there until you fall fast asleep, fall full circle into your parents arms, but something keeps you from doing it.

It’s not a psychologist who stops you, nor a psychiatrist, nor anyone else who sees all depression as mental illness--professionals who don’t consider that a boxcar load of Zoloft attached to the trains going to Dachau would not have made a difference to the people there--that sometimes depression is the only appropriate response to the circumstances of life.

No, it isn’t always a counselor or pills or some major miracle that keeps you from quitting.. It is often little things and little people that make life worth living when your existence hovers somewhere between the anvil of adversity and the hammer of God.

Like when you go to Grandma Millie’s in Johnstown for some coffee and see a young woman sitting at a table by herself reading War And Peace. She is like the lone trillium you found growing out behind your house, among all the brush and debris, and you circled it with logs so you would know where it was and wouldn’t step on it and crush it.

And you go to buy books from an 87 year old man in Gloversville, and he shows you his flight log from World War Two. And you feel honored to have seen it. Then his wife interrupts your conversation to say she is going out to look at her lilac bush, and she says the word “look” in such a way that you know she means she is not going out to check on it, she is really going out just to look at it

There is something moving about this old man showing you his log book and telling you he is selling you his books because his children have no interest in them or in history. And it’s equally moving to watch this old lady, in the dusk of life, the street lights having come on many years before, tottering out to look at her lilac bush.

Then there is your minister who checks on you regularly. And you know how busy he is, and how he must get discouraged sometimes, only having a small congregation. Yet he has stayed in the same church for twenty-eight years. He could have used the church as a rung up to a bigger church in a bigger town, but he stays because he believes that his work is a calling not a career. And the two oil paintings from his wife, a quiet, gifted artist, cheer your house in a way that a Rembrandt or Picasso couldn’t.

And so you realize that the painful present does not really exist--just as you reach out to grasp it, it slips into the past--and that life is only memories of what was and the prospect of what is to come, and so you put your hand back on the plough and aim for the end of the row and hope that when you look back you will see a straight furrow.

Patricia DeAngelis Proves Once Again That She Is A Dangerous Woman.

Rensselaer County D.A. admits to witholding evidence that could have kept man from prison. Read the full story.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Should Beating Sex Offenders Be Part Of Jail House Recreation?

I don’t know anyone who isn’t happy that Thomas DeVito is in jail, unless its DeVito himself. DeVito pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree sexual abuse this past Wednesday in a case involving children in his former daycare. He would have gotten more time if Montgomery County D.A. Jed Conboy hadn’t bungled the first trial by prosecutorial misconduct. Instead of getting fifty years, DeVito got only getting seven. Think about that the next time there is an election for D.A. in Montgomery County. Now DeVito is suing Montgomery County for more than two million dollars because he claims he was beaten twice by inmates in the Montgomery County Jail. It would be easy to say that DeVito deserved to be beaten. That’s what I used to say about criminals who were assaulted in prison--they are just getting what they deserve. But over the years, I have changed my views.

Injustice and crime are still injustice and crime, no matter by whom they are committed, against whom they are committed, or where they are committed. My guess is that DeVito was beaten--sex offenders are often the target of other “self righteous” criminals who feel that “I may have beaten an old lady and stole her purse, but I didn’t molest any children.” Guards often look the other way when this happens.

When a prisoner assaults another prisoner it is a crime. If we are not going to tolerate violent crime outside of prison, we should not tolerate it in prison. Law abiding citizens are expected to keep the law; prisoners should be expected to as well.

In any event, an investigation should be launched to see if DeVito was assaulted. If so, charges should be brought against any prisoner involved. Charges should also be brought against any guard, doctor or other jail staff member who did nothing about it. The alleged beatings took place in 2002 and were reported by DeVito. Why wasn’t an investigation launched then?

By the way, this is the second major law suit in the past year against Montgomery County because of actions or the lack of action by the Sheriff’s Department. Think about that the next time you are voting for Sheriff of Montgomery County.

The bottom line is DeVito deserved to be put away for a long time, but he wasn’t because the D.A. messed up. Long prison terms for sex offenders is justice. On the other hand, prisoners assaulting other prisoners is not justice, it is vigilantism. When guards ignore such assaults they are no longer on the side of law and order, and it’s only the bars that separate them from the men and women they guard.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Listening To The Governor's State Of The State, Or, Watching Paint Dry.

You would be hard pressed to find a politician as dull as George Pataki. But then I listened to Sheldon Silver's response, as well as responses by Hugh Farley, Paul Tonko and Marc Butler to the Governor's speech and realized that the Governor is not alone when it comes to being dull.

Of course, the Governor did not mention the Mohawk Valley, with the exception of a side reference to Schenectady. He did mention Central New York, which the valley is part of. He also referred to "The Empire State High Tech Corridor, stretching from Buffalo to Albany, through the Hudson Valley, into New York City and out to Long Island." I had heard of Tech Valley but not The High Tech Corridor. I guess The Mohawk Valley is part of that corridor.

Anyway the problems of closed factories and boarded up housing in many cities in the valley are not the kind of things the Governor wants to talk about in his State of the State speech. While there are positive signs in the Mohawk Valley, we are still part of the rust belt, maybe even the buckle of the rust belt. There was little in Pataki's speech to make people in the valley stand up and cheer.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Who Deserves Credit For New York State's Surplus?

While Governor Pataki and his fellow politicians will take credit for the two billion dollar surplus in the budget, it is we the taxpayers who deserve the credit. That two billion came from taxes and user fees, not from any politician’s pocket. Governor Pataki, like Governor Cuomo before him, likes to brag about how he has lowered taxes, but it’s primarily income taxes that have been lowered.

All other taxes have been raised. We even have to pay sales tax now on items we have purchased from out of state. We pay taxes on shipping. User fees have gone up dramatically. I wonder how much of the surplus came from increased tax revenues from the huge spike in fuel prices?

As the anonymous commentator to my last post said, the state should give us a rebate from the surplus. If my math is right (and it may not be), two billion divided by eighteen million people is $111.11 per person. A family of five would receive a rebate of $555.55. Of course, if only taxpayers received a rebate, that figure would be higher.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

New Yorkers Deserve Rebate Of Gasoline Tax Windfall.

New Yorkers pay on average 45 cents per gallon of gasoline for state and local taxes. While some State officials, like Eliot Spitzer, jumped all over the oil companies for their windfall profits from the gasoline price hikes in 2005, they were relatively silent about the State's windfall from taxes on gasoline. How about a refund of some of those taxes? It might help us pay our heating bills this Winter.

Monday, January 02, 2006

New Year's Resolutions For This Blog.

My goals for this blog will not be easy to achieve. Anyone who blogs knows how difficult it is to keep a blog going. My goal is to add three or four more contributors so that no one will have to blog every day and yet everyday there will be at least one new post. My goal is to add contributors who are very knowledgeable about life in the Valley. I hope to make this the premier blog about the Mohawk Valley and eventually jump from a blog to an e-zine or web zine.

Thanks to all who read and comment on this blog. Your comments are appreciated.

Montgomery County Not Preparing Its Citizens For Possible Gilboa Dam Break

While Schoharie County has informed its citizens about the dangers of the Gilboa Dam, Montgomery County has not done so. The Schoharie County web site has information on what areas of each town will flood in the event of a dam failure, escape routes, shelters and other valuable information. Montgomery County has nothing about the dam on its web site, even though if the dam failed the Towns of Florida and Glen would experience flooding and people's lives would be in danger. Montgomery County needs to be more proactive in protecting people living in the lower Schoharie Valley. By the way, if the dam goes, there will also be flooding on the Mohawk River, especially in Schenectady.