Bees and weasels, bobolinks and meadowlarks and tufted titmice, corn and potatoes, the plants and animals of the Finger Lakes Region of New York are varied and numerous. There was a surprisingly mild winter this year, but the return of real springtime brings the human population outdoors again to share space with the wild turkeys and wood ferns and lilies. People again move through the forests and meadows and every encounter can bring fresh discoveries. Those discoveries are often inspiring and delightful, but sometimes unpleasant. Mary Hood has seen them all. http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/national/local-national-1012998.mp3
Mary A. Hood of Bathm, New York is a microbiologist, conservationist and professor emerita at the University of West Florida in Pensicola. She is also a published poet and was poet laureate of the Florida Panhandle. She is a world traveller who has written in “The Strangler Fig & Other Tales” about places from the Patagonia region of Argentina to Hudson’s Bay. Her book “River Time” takes the reader on trips along (to pick a few) the Nile, Ganges, Amazon and Yangtze as well as the Mississippi and the Conhocton River in upstate New York. Dr. Hood now lives in Steuben County, NY and her fascination and affection for this part of the country is obvious and infectious. Her encounters and contemplation take place in the most basic of ways, on foot along pathways and unpaved roads. “Walking slows the thoughts to the pace of meditation and mindfulness,” she writes. “There is probably no other activity that affords us the ease of connecting mind, body and place.” But other connections are less satisfying. The natural world of the Finger Lakes Region is experiencing a threat from industrial forces: not only the incursion of 300-foot wind generators above and the possibility of hydraulic fracturing below the surface to reach the natural gas inside the Marcellus Shale. There is also the subdivision of former farmland to make way for “McMansions”, upscale vacation homes of well-heeled newcomers who,ironically, may be instrumental in community resistance to energy development. “The conflict of what is practical and what we need to preserve may play out on the canvas of this [Pulteney Highlands] landscape. My hope is that it will not be an irreversible compromise.”
Formed in Sleepy Hollow, New York in the late 90’s, Gandalf Murphy & the Slambovian Circus of Dreams is one of the best known and loved bands in their home state, singled out as Hudson Valley Magazine’s “Band of the Year” for 3 years. On stage, they create an enchanting atmosphere, using traditional folk instruments, tasty electric guitar and the distinctive singing and songwriting of Joziah Longo. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aBBT-_UhzoI
“The Grand Slambovians”
“Pushing Up Daisies”
“Tink (I Know It’s You)”
“The Great Unravel”
“A Box of Everything”
“Trans-Slambovian Bipolar Express”
Buy the DVD!
Home grown in the vibrant music community of Ithaca, NY, The Makepeace Brothers were surrounded by a constant soundtrack of Dylan, Marley, the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, as well as diverse acts from around the world that they watched perform at music festivals each year. Combining elements of bluegrass, country, jazz, Brazilian, African, and Celtic, their music is as worldly and positive as their message. The four Makepeace brothers have been called “The Everly Brothers squared” with their catchy harmonies. Aidan, Liam, Finian, and Ciaran Makepeace’s songs move people to think, feel, and dance, with lyrics that are both witty and poignant, and which spread the message embodied in their surname – “make peace”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDftdLiaVWc
“Love Comes Along”
“Bring Me Back to Mother’s Arms”
“Slow Down, Feel Up”
“Soft Side of Her Bones”
The American history we learned in school and which we celebrate on various holidays can leave the impression that following the Declaration of Independence, the Revolutionary War and the adoption of the United States Constitution, the USA simply stood up and took its place among the great nations of the world. It would seem that the thirteen colonies joined together in harmony and the people joined hands as patriotic citizens of a new republic. But it wasn’t that smooth a transition. The final quarter of the 18th century was one of the most contentious periods in our history, and the struggles are described in “The Citizenship Revolution: Politics and the Creation of the American Union” by Binghamton University history professor Douglas Bradburn. http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/national/local-national-955190.mp3
On an individual level, former colonists and British “subjects” had to accept their new status as “citizens”, while the colonies themselves needed to define what it meant to be a state within a federal system. It was felt that the legal and political system they were trying to create was to be based on “natural law”, a powerful but uncodified philosophy built on the idea that the Rights of Man are pre-ordained. As Dr. Bradburn points out in “The Citizenship Revolution”, the Constitution guaranteed rights and freedoms, it didn’t create them. He states, “In theory, no citizen would have more power than any ther to control the other’s destiny, there would be no institutionalized ranks or artificial distinctions within the citizenry, and citizens would not be bound ut by their own consent.” However, holding lofty ideals did not guarantee that they would work in reality. Bradburn details the many factors that caused the new republic to fall short and hindered the development of national unity . Were colonial subjects who opposed the Revolution citizens like those who fought for it? What about immigrants with their own language, customs and religion — an issue that has come around again? There was the matter of “states’ rights”, a serious sticking point in the first years of American ndependence since the states were pre-existing entities whose representatives established the Federal government. And of course there was the condition of African slaves and freemen — a black person might be a citizen in one state but not in another –which led in some cases to the bizarre status called “denizen”. “The Citizenship Revolution” brings back many of the patriots and heroes of 1776. Founding Fathers now on opposite sides of the nation’s first great political dispute and follows the formation of political alliances with the Federalists (not to be confused with the earlier federalist and anti-federalist movements) versus the Republicans (not related to today’s GOP). It was a time of highly partisan journalism and grass-roots movements in all the states debating the Alien and Sedition Acts. Communities erected French-inspired liberty poles topped by cockades — harkening to the excesses of the American-inspired revolution in France — and both sides marched and sang to the new political anthems like “Hail, Columbia”. American political action had already begun to display a touch of carnival-like spirit, itself an expression of freedom. Bradburn’s book includes some of the song lyrics of the time.
There is a fictional city called Onkwedo in a real place called Upstate New York. It is the seat of Waindell University — a prestigious but non-existent scholarly institution with a famous rowing team — where the great (and real) Russian-born writer Vladimir Nabokov once taught. Barb Barrett was living in Onkwedo with her husband and two kids (Sam and Darcy, all fictional) when her marriage broke up and she lost custody of the children. Her beloved father and cousin have died. On her own and determined to prove herself a fit parent, she buys a house that had once been occupied by Nabokov. http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/national/local-national-970286.mp3
(In Ithaca from 1948 to 59 Nabokov rented several houses, mostly from Cornell faculty members on leave). Barb supports herself by responding to consumer complaints for the Old Daitch Dairy (fictional, but the name is borrowed from a real Downstate dairy company). She also tries to tune up her housekeeping skills and one day, while performing “one of those boring jobs of which life is made”, Barb comes upon a stash of discarded 4×6 index cards. Nabokov, in real life, wrote drafts of his stories on index cards. By right of salvage, the tormented, lonely woman may have come into possession of a work of cultural significance, an original Nabokov story about baseball legend Babe Ruth. “Cleaning Nabokov’s House” is a rollicking, disturbing and emotionally realistic novel by Leslie Daniels.
Through the writings of Edgar Allen Poe — considered the father of modern detective fiction — to two-fisted Nick Carter, wily Sherlock Holmes and the feisty Nancy Drew, to the works of Agatha Christie and Erle Stanley Gardner, for more than a century readers of all ages have enjoyed gumshoeing along with a favorite sleuth in pursuit of evildoers. The genre is so popular that real-world detectives often find themselves denying that they have supernatural powers of observation. Detective fiction retains its appeal on many levels: it is action and adventure in a struggle between good and evil, but usually with enough grey space for moral ambiguity. It is science (both physical and social) up against the forces of chaos and destruction. The best of the works will even have room for good development of plot and character, humor and personal foibles. http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/national/local-national-1020136.mp3
There’s also a clear tension between between the curiosity of the private or amateur detective and the perspective of the professional police investigator. This is surely the case with Dave Gurney. He sometimes flashes a badge but it says New York Police Department — Retired. A native of The Bronx and a graduate of Fordham University, the fictional Gurney was the NYPD’s top detective — a hero to millions for cracking several cases of serial murder. He and his wife moved Upstate to the beautiful, bracing countryside of Delaware County where Dave would have as much use for unsolved crime cases as he would for an elevated train rattling between Sturges Corner and Bovina. But trouble and the demands of justice seem to follow him. Dave Gurney is the creation of John Verdon. A native of The Bronx and a graduate of Fordham University, John was an executive in the New York advertising field. He and his wife now live Upstate in the beautiful, bracing countryside of Delaware County, which has become a setting for the Dave Gurney mysteries, along with much of the Southern Tier and Central New York. This geographical connection has not stopped his books from becoming international best-sellers. The premiere volume in the series was “Think of a Number” in 2010. We meet Dave while he is pursuing his retirement activity, painting portraits taken from mug shots of convicted murderers. To his amazement, the paintings draw both morbid interest and the support of serious art collectors. He’s a little bored with life, but doesn’t jump at an opportunity to return to criminal investigation when Mark Mellery –an acquaintance from his college days — turns up with a plea to learn who has been threatening him. The threats lead to a series of murders and Gurney’s skillful and nearly fatal involvement. One year later the second Dave Gurney mystery appeared, “Shut Your Eyes Tight”. The brutal decapitation of a bride on her wedding day has stumped police investigators and Gurney’s skill in finding clues and connections draws the reader along. Critics have noted approvingly that Verdon has brought back an earlier popular form, the “fair play” whodunit, wherein readers can follow the action along with the protagonist and apply their own powers of deduction.
Let’s Polka welcomes back Fritz’s Polka Band for more toe-tapping fun. Move your furniture to the side of the room and dance along with this great band. This group comes to WSKG with some tremendous credentials including the fact that they were the first polka band to perform at a Woodstock Festival (Woodstock ’99). In 2010 they were inducted into the Syracuse Area Music Hall of Fame. Fritz is backed by two electric guitars (played by Frank Nelson and Tom Campbell, who also provide vocals), electric bass (Gabe Vaccaro) and percussion (Mike Faraino).
Fritz’s Polka Band returns to Let’s Polka for another half hour of fun and excitement. Fritz has been playing in the band since he was only 8 years old and his showmanship is second to none. The group has such a strong following that an entire busload of fans made the trip from Verona, New York to the WSKG Studios to take in the performance. Fritz is backed by a strong group of musicians including Frank Nelson and Tom Campbell on electric guitar and vocals, Gabe Vaccaro on bass and vocals and Mike Faraino on drums. Highlights of this set include, ‘Chime Bells’ and ‘Stretch It Out’. Bill Flynn hosts and talks to Fritz about the original tunes that he wrote for the group.
Ever since the first days of the Republic – when Benjamin Franklin feared the United States would turn into a German-speaking nation and the Constitution disallowed anyone not born on these shores from becoming President – immigration has played an important and sometimes contentious role in our national life. The deepest and widest impact of immigration can be found, of course, in our vast forests of family trees. But the contribution of individual immigrants to American society, culture, economy and public life is immesurable. http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/national/local-national-1011378.mp3
In a special, pre-recorded Off the Page originating from Buffalo Street Books in Ithaca as part of the 2012 Spring (W)rites Finger Lakes Literary Festival, a panel of writers and legal experts and an audience including several immigrants tells about the pathways into the USA and the barriers that may be encountered. They also shared stories of coming to America and read poetry that pointed up the cosmopolitan nature of American society and the cross-currents of our history. Panelists included Stephen Yale-Loehr, immigration attorney with the Miller Mayer law firm in Ithaca, author of several books and many professional papers on immigration law, and coordinator of “Green Card Stories”, a new coffee-table style book of photos and biographical sketches that present the range of experience of individuals from many parts of the world seeking the coveted document that would allow them to live and work in the United States. Also Gail Holst-Warhaft, a native of Australia who holds several positions at Cornell University including adjunct professor of comparative literature. She has translated many literary works from Greek and is now in her second term as the poet-laureate of Tompkins County. Ms. Holst-Warhaft edited and published “Far From Home: An Anthology of Poems by Immigrant Poets to Ithaca”.
“Even when I think I’m writing about something that’s the news of the moment, the same subjects crop up over and over again — keeping passengers in planes on the tarmac for hours… Internet dating, waiting rooms in doctors’ offices, how bad television has become… None of it is funny while you’re in the middle of it, but afterwards it’s what people talk about with their friends. That’s when we all try to make the story fun to hear, and that’s what I do. For some reason, the more miserable a time I’ve had, the funnier the story that comes out of it.” — Jim Mullen
There’s no universal rule that says we must feed our cats better gourmet fish dinners than we ourselves might be devouring for supper, or an innate wisdom that allows any human being to properly operate a computer printer. Life’s daily struggles cannot be avoided, so we learn to bear up, maintain our balance and, if possible, laugh in the face of adversity. It is our lot in life, a lot of it. So it helps to know that others are going through the same stresses or displaying the same foibles, and it’s a gift to be able to find kindred souls in your life, on your street, even in the pages of your newspaper.