Category Archives: News

Tiananmen Plus 25

tank man 2

June 4, 1989. Chinese troops massacred several hundred, if not thousands, of peaceful, unarmed pro-democracy protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.  Somehow that same government is still in power, still lying and covering up. At least for now, Chinese government officials can scrub the Internet tubes of all mention of the massacre of its own citizens, but the rest of the world will always have this photograph.

Thank you, Tank Man, whoever and wherever you are.

Farewell to a (Rare) Bookseller


Elaine Sargeant, the face (and voice) of Whitlock Farm Booksellers, one of the state’s most beloved and oldest used book venues, died last Thursday. She had been battling health issues for years, a battle she kept well hidden from customers at the barn, where she held court for more than 30 years as the book buyer and unofficial shop greeter. That is, Elaine’s unmistakable smoky voice—the voice of an eccentric but always entertaining aunt, it seemed, or perhaps, as her name suggests, a female master sergeant—would offer a greeting to every customer who walked in the shop door. She had a certain genius for pointing you in a direction that would, inevitably, uncover literary treasures you hadn’t known you wanted until you walked in the shop.

I have written about Whitlock’s many times over the years, but I have a special fondness for my memories of Elaine Sargeant. She watched my son grow up over the years, pointing him toward the books he would like when he was a toddler and, on each visit afterwards, finding new age-appropriate treasures for him, too. I was taken aback today, when I entered the shop and Elaine wasn’t there and then nearly floored when I found out she’d died after a brief final illness.

A fitting tribute to Elaine Sargeant would be to head out to Whitlock’s this weekend and browse among the literary treasures there. They are all affordably priced and most were acquired and put on the shelves by the always astute and perspicacious Elaine Sargeant.

Whitlock Farm Booksellers, 20 Sperry Road, Bethany CT, 203-393-1240,



Friends of the Earth?


Every spring, right around Earth Day, I am astonished, astounded and humbled by how Mother Earth pushes forth new growth. Despite everything we do to her. Despite all that we take for granted. Despite the perpetual spew of carbon into the atmosphere and so on and so forth. In my collage, above, I try to convey that feeling.

However, the Lizard King, Jim Morrison, said it best—this from the Doors’ song, “When the Music’s Over”:

“What have they done to the earth?
What have they done to our fair sister?
Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her
Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn
And tied her with fences and dragged her down…”

Here’s one of the best videos of the Doors performing the song:

BP: Beep Peep

BP: Beep Peep


Exxon will forever be linked with the Valdez spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska that netted a record fine and still taints the formerly pristine waters and shores there 25 years after the fact. This is as it should be, of course.

However, British Petroleum (BP) caused an even bigger environmental disaster in American waters only three years ago at the Deepwater Horizon oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico, a leak that was as horrific as the attempt to plug it was botched. While Exxon is no friend of the environment, its record since the Valdez spill has been far better than BP’s, which has a history of environmental crimes, cover-ups, corruption and just plain lies.

Who can forget BP’s then-CEO Tony Hayward’s pity party over the blowback from the Deepwater Horizon spill.

Poor guy, just wanted his life back.

Now, after a veritable slap on the wrist, BP has been cleared to begin pumping oil out of the Gulf of Mexico again. Greg Palast, an American investigative journalist based in Great Britain, has followed the trail of tears left behind by weepy Tony Hayward.

Conclusion: The arrival of electric cars can not come any sooner.

Free Junk


Do you need to furnish a new apartment or even an entire house? Do you need to BUILD an apartment or even an entire house? How about a lawn mower, slightly used, to go with these projects? And a plastic sandbox and a bicycle in need of a wee bit of elbow grease? Garden hose? A stuffed animal or three hundred?

Well then, please come to Cheshire in the springtime, because April is the coolest month for junk hereabouts. The town has, after a three-year hiatus, revived its bulky waste pickup program. Consequently, every home in the town has emptied out the contents of their basement and put the detritus at the curb.

In theory, the material awaits pickup from the trash hauling company contracted by the town. But, in practice, enterprising trash pickers arrive from miles around and leave Cheshire with their salvaged loads tottering like the Clampett family in Beverly Hillbillies.

Come join the fun. It’s the ultimate in recycling and reusing and it goes on all month.  Do NOT let this stuff end up in the landfill when it can FILL your house!

Who Needs Sundance?

Yale Latin American film series

For the past month, an exciting film series has been taking place in New Haven, apparently under the hipster radar. It is the NEFIAC Latin American and Iberian Film Series, sponsored by The Council for Latin American and Iberian Studies at Yale. All films are free, open to the public, and have English subtitles. The complete schedule is included in the poster above.

One event that has already occurred was the screening of two films by Cuban-born Miguel Coyula, his work in progress Blue Heart and Memories of Overdevelopment.

Ana Arellano’s CT Latino News article on Coyula will make you wish you’d gone to the screening:

Furthermore, it will make you NOT want to miss the last three screenings in the festival:

March 31, 2014. 7 pm. Luce Hall Auditorium. Aku Rodríguez will present La gran falacia (2013, Puerto Rico). Documentary.

April 9, 2014. 7 pm. LC102. Luis Argueta (Guatemala) will present the rough cut of his soon to be released documentary, Abuelos y nietos juntos: Two Generations Together.

He will also show scenes from his work in progress, The U-Turn,

April 14, 2014. 7 pm. Luce Hall Auditorium. Isabel Castro will present Crossing Over, a rough cut of her soon to be released documentary.


Thank You, Bart


During the eight-year reign of Bush the Dumber, only a few things stood between us and complete and paralyzing despair. David Rees’ Get Your War On comic strip, Steve Gilliard’s News Blog (, Media Whores Online ( and Digby’s Hullabaloo spring readily to mind. Rees’ strip is no more (it served its purpose), Gilliard is dead, Media Whores disappeared into the ether but, thankfully, Digby is still plugging away. Here’s a link to her indispensable blog:

Now we have to add one more to the loss column: Bartcop. This may be the biggest loss of all. Bartcop, the longest running political satire site on the web, was an inspiration, if not a template, for hundreds of other progressive blogs that came in its wake. “Bart,” whose real name was Terry Coppage, died last week after a many-year battle with leukemia. Somehow, day in and day out, week in and week out for nearly 20 years, from his home in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Bart kept the hammer going, skewering the pompous lying bastards in Washington and the corporate media that enabled them. He took particular glee in savaging Bush, whom he memorably nicknamed The Murder Monkey, and “Darth” Cheney, and the caricatures of both that appeared on Bartcop were delightfully inflammatory.

Bart the man and Bartcop the website were like anchors in the constantly shifting currents of the Internet. There was no one else as fearless. Just knowing he was out there, even if you didn’t check the site every day or even every week, was as consoling as knowing that that Grand Canyon and Big Sur were out there, though you hadn’t laid eyes on them.

Here’s a link to Bartcop’s site. Check Bart’s “Last Word” and then explore the back issues. You have hours of fun ahead of you.


Dead Zones: The Grateful Dead And Hartford

HC Grateful Dead Concert2.jpgPop music is a prism. To understand changing times, listen in to the music of a given era. Most pop acts are fleeting, lasting a couple years, crystalizing the tastes of the moment before fizzling out or self-immolating. The Beatles were only a band for 10 years or so. (The Jonas Brothers only for eight. Nirvana for seven. Wham! were only around for five.) Setting aside the cryogenic/holographic/devil’s-pact mysteries of acts like the Rolling Stones, now celebrating a half century of rocking, pop music and longevity are generally opposed to one another. A rare exception is the case of the Grateful Dead, which existed as a band for 30 years, releasing new material and touring as a top-drawing concert act for practically that whole time. (To call them a “pop” act is a stretch, though they did hit the charts in 1987 with “Touch of Grey.”)

Over those decades, in shifting focus, the Dead’s concerts were seen to represent the hippie counterculture, the holdover legacy of the ‘60s in subsequent years, a likely scene for scuffles with police, a potential danger of poor crowd control and stampedes, the long-term problem of LSD use, and the scene of all kinds of other cultural curiosities.

The Grateful Dead played over 2,300 concerts in their long, strange career, before guitarist, singer and guiding spirit Jerry Garcia died in 1995. The Northeast was a big market for the Dead, and they played Connecticut often, with numerous shows in New Haven, Waterbury and Hartford. They played the Hartford Civic Center 18 times over a 13-year period. Some of that band’s huge, passionate and talmudic fanbase think that the Dead’s 1977 show in Hartford was among one of the group’s best. What are the odds? (Actually, for each of those two-thousand-and-then-some shows, there is probably someone who swears that one was the best — so the odds are probably pretty good.) Continue reading

Picturing Punk

Cafe 9 Photo show

Tom Hearn grew up in Cheshire with a guitar in one hand and a camera in the other. On Friday night at Café Nine, his two hands come together, so to speak, at the opening of an exhibition of his rock ‘n’ roll photographs. Hearn, whose boyhood buddies Eddie “Legs” McNeil, John Holmstrom and Ged Dunn left the suburbs to start Punk magazine, was never without his camera when he went into Manhattan to meet up with his Cheshire posse. Many of the photos—which are in living/breathing black and white—are from forays into New York (and CBGB, et al), but others document the burgeoning punk scene in New Haven. Think the Ramones, Debbie Harry, the Dolls, Link Wray, Robert Gordon.

The photos will be on view at Café Nine for the month of March. The opening reception is Friday, March 7, from 5 to 8 p.m. at Café Nine, 260 State Street, New Haven, 203-789-8281,

The legendary Furors will be providing music at the reception.

At one time, the fate of the nation rested in the hands of these three gentlemen from Cheshire pictured below (L-R) John Holmstrom, Eddie “Legs” McNeil and Ged Dunn, at the “Punk Dump” in New York. Photo by Tom Hearn.

PunkDump 1

GMO Wars: A Congressional End Run?

Anti-GMO rally in Hartford.

Anti-GMO rally in Hartford.

Connecticut made news last year by passing a “sort-of” requirement that most products containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) be labeled that way. (The “sort-of” qualification is there because the requirement won’t actually take effect unless a whole bunch of other stuff happens.)

Other states are moving in the same direction, and a few big corporations like General Mills have made some concessions on the GMO front in an effort appease consumers who want such labeling.

So Big Food and Big Agriculture are again looking to work their lobbying magic in Congress. They want a federal law that would create a standard for “voluntary” GMO labeling, which would presumably undercut state legislative campaigns on the issue.

Most polls show overwhelming public support for GMO labeling, despite the insistence by federal officials and the food/agriculture industries that there is no health risk to eating genetically modified food.

Critics argue not enough is known about those risks, and point out that GMO crops can also have a significant impact on the environment.

The ferocious opposition to labeling from major food and agriculture industrial giants also raises questions about why, if there’s no real difference between GMO foods and non-GMO foods, are they so opposed to simple labels.

The answer to that is money: U.S. companies dependent on GMO crops, seeds, related pesticide applications, and the corporations who sell GMO foods are terrified American consumers will end up rejecting those products.

Europe already has basically done that, and similar actions have been taken in other nations around the world.

All of which explains why Big Food and Big Agriculture are counting on the congressional route, despite recent victories against anti-GMO efforts in California and Washington.

Those industries clearly have some devoted supporters in Congress, including various farming-state legislators who killed a pro-GMO labeling amendment during the debate over the latest federal farm bill.