Sunday, January 29, 2012

Against the Dying of the Light

Here are the images from my Pecha Kucha presentation, "Against the Dying of the Light: Stained Glass Windows and the Passing of an Old World."  The text is what I plotted out ahead of time, but is not exactly what I said, though I tried to touch on the major points in the twenty seconds allowed for each slide.

I live in Nanticoke, about 25 miles southwest of Scranton. It's a small city that was once a coal mining town settled by immigrants, many (but not all) of them Polish. It's a city full of churches, many (but not all) of them Roman Catholic. (The church in the foreground is – was – St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church, and had been closed for several years when I took this picture in 2008.)

St. Francis Church was one of the older parishes with one of the newer structures. Unfortunately, a leaking roof resulted in structural damage which, according to independent estimates, could have been repaired for a fraction of the amount quoted by the Diocese of Scranton. But at the time the damage was discovered, parish consolidation plans were already in the works. And so the order came down from the bishop's office: the parish was to consolidate with nearby St. Joseph's, and the church would be closed and demolished.

The heartbreaking thought of a place that had been a religious, cultural, and social landmark for so many people in Nanticoke being condemned to demolition threw the coming diocese-wide parish consolidation plans into a stark light. How many more beloved places would be closed, shuttered, and eventually reduced to rubble?

My home parish is St. Mary's, formally known as Our Lady of Czestachowa. It's a small and humble church, set atop the highest point in the city. The structure has stood since the first years of the twentieth century, and generations have been baptized, married, and mourned within its walls. I served as an altar boy there from first grade through high school. From my earliest days I was fascinated with the stained glass windows of the church. If this building were to close, the sight of those windows would be gone forever. Could anyone do anything to preserve them?

I had thought about this for a while when one Saturday I found myself sitting in a pew in the church, waiting for my cousin to arrive for her wedding. I thought, what heck, why not? Why wait for someone else to professionally photograph these windows, when I can get started on it right now? And so I snapped this first image of the portraits of St. Francis of Sales and St. James with the mid-day October sun shining through the window.

I soon found more opportunities to gather photos, before Mass, after Mass, and once when the church was left open for people to come and offer prayers regarding the coming consolidation. When I arrived that day, camera and tripod in hand, I discovered that I had the church to myself. After saying a few prayers, I decided to do my praying with a camera, and set about the task of photographing the windows in the empty church, lit by the early-afternoon sun.

White sunlight strikes the windows from the outside and is filtered by the colored and painted glass, painting the interior of the church in the colors of the windows. These windows are over a century old and have stood the test of time, though paint has flaked off in places, grime has built up in others, and in at least one case a well-placed shot from a BB gun has resulted in a hole in one of the uppermost reaches of the windows, a hole that has been patched for decades.

The windows are pieces of history, and testaments to the history of the parish. Each one was financed and donated by a specific individual or group. All of the Ladies of the Rosary who collected funds to pay for their window are long since deceased; and even the children of St. Mary's who collected pennies and nickels and dimes to finance their window have grown old, died, and been buried for decades.

Each window is unique. Each piece of glass is different, an inhomogeneous blend of colors and opacities. These striations exist in three dimensions, not just two, so what you see depends entirely on the path that light takes from its source to the observer. Each window will look different depending on the time of day, the day of the year, the weather outside, the lighting inside, and the angle at which the viewer is looking at the window. 

And so the windows have become part of the churchgoing experience. Seeing the windows at sunrise is completely different from seeing them at sunset, and both are completely different from seeing them at night, when no light is coming from the outside and they are lit entirely by reflected light. Yet all those experiences, all that beauty, all the uniqueness yet to be experiences could be snuffed out with a decision from the diocese.

This is the first pair of portrait windows as you enter the church. The figures are each about five feet tall. At the bottom of each window are the donor plaques. (This pair was presented by the architects who designed the church.) Above that is a uniquely-colored panel that opens for ventilation. Above that, more decorations, then identifiers for the subjects in the windows, then the portrait windows themselves, then more vents (accessed by chains), a pair of decorative arches, and finally a small round window.

Looking more closely at the figures, we see St. Leo, formerly known as Pope Leo I, a fifth-century pope who holds a three-barred crosier actually dates from the Middle Ages - as does the plate armor worn by his neighbor, St. George, who was a figure from the third century. Most of what is “known” about St. George is legendary and likely apocryphal, including the story of his battle with a dragon – which apparently has escaped into St. Leo's portrait and is literally hiding behind his skirts.

Each pair of windows is topped with a round window, about ten inches across and about twenty feet off the ground, featuring an image and in most cases some text. The size and placement of these windows makes them nearly impossible to see clearly without visual aid from anywhere but the choir loft. The images do not seem to have a consistent theme, nor, for the most part, do they appear to be related to the portraits below. Some of these images have fared badly over the years, with some of the lettering flaking off and becoming unreadable.

Windows as old as the church, windows that have cast their light down on generations of parishioners. Ancient names preserved for posterity. Unique and ever-changing plays of light. Works of art perhaps beyond the skills of modern craftsmen. All this could be lost with a single decree. There are many things in this world that we take for granted that are passing away forever. If we have the power to preserve these things for future generations, do we not also have an obligation? Anyone with a camera can do the same thing I did. Anyone with a blog can share their images with the world.

When I first began posting my stained glass images to my blog, Another Monkey, a tattoo artist friend suggested that I should consider commemorating these windows with a tattoo. If I were to get one, it might be this one, of a smug-looking St. Michael the Archangel with the Devil under his feet. But then I thought about it: this window has been around for over a century. Any tattoo I might get would last another forty or fifty years. How transient a tribute to something that has been around for so long!

St. Mary's was not the only church in Nanticoke facing consolidation and closure. St. Stanislaus was one of the oldest churches in Nanticoke, and the first of three Parishes that were ethnically Polish. In the 1990's it underwent major renovations and became a bright, airy place, with modern stained-glass windows that admitted copious amounts of light. This photograph was taken on June 6, 2010, after the final Mass held there.  St. Stanislaus is now closed.

Holy Family Church was once the chapel for the St. Stanislaus Orphanage. It was a small but remarkably comfortable and airy place, with this rose window featuring images of the four Evangelists casting its light from behind the altar. This image was taken after the final Mass there, on June 20, 2010. Holy Family is now closed.

Holy Trinity was formed in the late 19th century by parishioners who broke away from St. Stanislaus. It is an enormous, opulent, ornate church. This stunning window is set above the main entrance to the church and faces East, and glows so much thatthe glass might be heavily doped with uranium. Holy Trinity no longer exists as a parish, but the building lives on as the primary worship site for Nanticoke Catholics, rechristened St. Faustina Kowalska parish.

We may be helpless to stop the passing of the old world, but we can at least create a record of its existence to share with future generations – if only to say “This is what you missed. We had it and we let it go away. Sorry about that.” But the time to do that is now, before these places are closed, and demolished, and turned to piles of rubble. 

And what of St. Mary's? What of the church that I grew up in, where I served as an altar boy? What of the windows that have looked down on generations of parishioners like glowing illustrations from a book?

St. Mary's no longer exists as a parish, but the building lives on as the Alternate Worship Site for the Parish of St. Faustina Kowalska. Its continued existence is not assured; very soon the diocese will assess whether a secondary site is necessary at all, and depending on that assessment, the building itself may be closed for good, and the sight of these stained glass windows may be forever denied to future generations – as has happened at the parishes of St. Francis, St. Stanislaus, St. Joseph, and Holy Family. For now, if you wish, you could still see these windows with your own eyes. In the future, perhaps all that will be left will be photographs and memories.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Pecha Kucha Scranton is tomorrow!

Well, we're coming down to the wire. Pecha Kucha night in Scranton is tomorrow, starting at 7:30! I talked about the details here, although I may have glossed over the bit about the $5 admission.

I haven't scripted out what I want to say. Instead I've been composing as I've gone along, arranging and rearranging my twenty images according to the story I want to tell. But once it's done, I think I will repost the images (most - possibly all - of which have already appeared here) along with an approximation of what I said here. Maybe I will rough out a script so I don't forget key points during the actual presentation. (This is why I write up the companion post for each PA Live! Blog of the Week ahead of time, so I can recall what I wrote and touch on it on-air.)

Come out and see us if you can! From hints I'm getting about the other presentations, this should be a real fun time!

P.S. I JUST found out that I'm going first! Hooboy...

Monday, January 23, 2012


Well, it's been an eventful few days. We had our first sizable snowstorm of this warm, snowless Winter - about six inches of fluffy powder in Nanticoke on Saturday morning. Saturday night I was told by a friend that Joe Paterno was close to death, and Sunday morning the announcement went out that he had died.

But that's not what I'm posting about. No, I'm posting about the fact that today, this happened:

250,000 visitors! Now, granted, a bunch of those visits are from the googlebot. And more than a few are by me, before I figured out how to ignore my own visits. But I also didn't have a SiteMeter counting for the first month or so, so it balances out, maybe!

So, congratulations, Unknown visitor from an Unknown Organization in an Unknown Country! I hope somewhere in the two pages you visited during your 46-second visit, you found the information on classifications of species comic strip that you were looking for!

And a big thank you to everyone else who has visited since I started this blog way back in May of 2004! Every one of you has gone to making up the 250,000 visitors! Except those who visited before I had the SiteMeter up. And those who visited when I had to take the SiteMeter down for a few days because it was making the Internet crash. But the rest of you, you are the true heroes!

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011 movie)

I saw the 2011 Daniel Craig/Rooney Mara version of Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo last week. While I don't feel up to doing a full review (bottom line: I liked it, more than I thought I would, and it improves on the book in several places), I would like to jot down some random thoughts.

- The day before I saw this film, a total stranger with whom I was having a random conversation asked me if I found Lisbeth Salander attractive. I found this a little hard to respond to - I had only seen Rooney Mara in the preview posters and trailers, so I couldn't say for sure. As I read the book the character in my mind's eye variously wore the faces and bodies of three different women I know to varying degrees, none of whom really resemble the description in the book. When I finally saw Rooney Mara's portrayal my immediate thought was "no, she's not attractive." I hated her missing eyebrows and her I-just-cut-it-myself hairstyle. As her portrayal developed I found her more and more attractive, until by the end of the movie I found her completely attractive. I also noticed thanks to some close-ups that her eyebrows were actually there, but pale to the point of invisibility. This is consistent with the book, where Lisbeth is a natural blonde who dyes her hair black.

- Age-wise at least, Daniel Craig is a perfect match for Mikael Blomkvist, though while reading the book I imagined him as Russell Crowe. (It turns out I am just a few weeks older than Daniel Craig, so I too would have been a good fit to play this role, age-wise.) Blomkvist's character is portrayed as less of a slut in the movie than he is in the books. (I mean, dude, seriously.) There is a hilarious scene in the film where he sits on a bed sobbing "Somebody just shot at me!" and you just want to grab him and slap him and say "Dude! You're James-freaking-Bond! Man up!" (Lisbeth Salander effectively does just that.)

- Christopher Plummer delivered his lines at triple the speed I expected him to, which probably kept this from being a five-hour-long movie. My first thought was "A guy that old wouldn't be talking that fast," and then I realized that a guy that old was talking that fast. So instead of a staid, dour old man weighed down by guilt over a missed conversation and tortured by a forty-year-old mystery and its aftermath, we see Henrik Vanger as a sprightly, charming fellow who wants to take one last shot at solving this mystery before his time is up. And, hey, it's Christopher Plummer, dammit.

- Julian Sands played young Henrik Vanger. It was strange seeing him in a non-speaking role in flashbacks to 1966. It was stranger to realize that The Sound of Music, perhaps Christopher Plummer's most-viewed performance, came out in 1965. So Julian Sands is basically playing Christopher Plummer one year after The Sound of Music!

- I was very glad that the action of the story was kept in Sweden and not relocated to the United States. I was a little disappointed that newspaper stories were shown in English, but that's understandable. (Still, did Swedish newspapers in the 1960's use that much color? I don't think color really came into use in the U.S. newspaper industry until the 1980's, but that could just be a regional thing.) I liked the attempts at Swedish accents (I have no idea what a real Swedish accent should sound like) but the guy who played Martin didn't sound like he was even trying - he sounded more like Colm Meany. Yeah. Turns out that was Stellan Skarsgård, a fairly prolific and famous Swedish actor, from Sweden and everything. Complete with a genuine Swedish accent.

- There is one scene that just blew me away and made me want to kiss the director or director of photography or whoever was responsible for it. It is shortly after someone has shot at Blomkvist, and he is meeting with Henrik, Martin, and Frode in what I believe was a meeting room in Martin's house. The windows are huge and white and glaring; I don't know if they were iced over or if a fresh snow had just fallen. The room is white, and everything in it is grey, or white, or black, except for the flesh tones of the men having the conversation. I was stunned. The very next scene is Blomkvist and Salander walking along a path on Hedeby Island, and the scene is mostly gray and black and some muted brown, with their skin again the only real color present.

- There were some scenes and lines created out of whole cloth for the film. The bit with Harald was fantastic. I haven't laughed at the antics of a Nazi that much since Hogan's Heroes.

- A great line that I don't think was in the book: "Can I go home now?"

- The solution to the opening mystery of the book (Who is sending Henrik framed flowers every year on his missing niece's birthday? And why?) is addressed almost as half-assedly as it is in the book (where it is mentioned in passing in Chapter 27, while the reader is saying "Wait, the mystery is solved, why are there still over 100 pages to go?")

- Salander talks to police throughout her investigations. This is a sharp departure from her character in the book. Still, if the film had remained completely faithful to the book, most of her scenes would have  consisted of her looking things up online. She also openly admits her photographic memory to Blomkvist, something that was a major point of conflict in the book. And we see her going to a club and picking someone up; in the second book it is asserted that she has not gone to a club in years, and she is not likely to pick up a stranger for a casual encounter.*

- The temporal setting of the story is a bit vague. We know that pivotal events took place in 1966, and I believe Henrik refers to this as being 40 years ago. (In the book 36 years have passed, but I am uncertain what year Harriet disappeared.) That would place the action of the film in 2006 or earlier. I don't know if the technology we see throughout is consistent with a 2006 setting, though in a few years it will all look antiquated.

- The film's ending packs a bit more emotional punch than in the book. Salander's intended gift involves much more thought and emotional (and financial) investment. Blomkvist's unthinking betrayal, while consistent with his behavior in the book, is probably less obvious to people who have only seen the movie.

- Some plot points are spelled out in this film that may come from the second and third books, so...spoiler alert, I guess.

So there you go. Sorry I wasn't able to go into more detail!

ADDED 1/16/2011, 8:12 PM:

- Both Blomkvist's ex-wife and Martin Vanger use the same wine glasses. They're probably from IKEA, but they look disturbingly like ISO standard wineglasses. I've always thought that you would cut the bridge of your nose with those things if you drank more than a sip at a time.

- Everyone grabs for their cell phones when Blomkvist gets a call at the Christmas party. It's a hysterical little scene, but does everyone in Sweden use the same ring tone?

- Blomkvist repeatedly can't get a signal at the cottage on Hedeby Island. This is a major plot point later on, It appears, incongruously, hilariously, in the action-packed teaser trailer at 1:11.

*And as I'm pushing my way through The Girl who Played with Fire, I just discovered that the touching scene at the end with Holger Palmgren is completely non-canon, and is apparently contrary to Salander's actions. The scene is essentially a stand-in for the absent scenes of Lisbeth interacting with her mother, so I'm not going to complain.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Salem, ten years later

The Golden Globes, the Martin Luther King holiday, and the Patriots playing in a division championship (I think, I don't follow football) are all reminding me of the events ten years ago this week that I recounted here:

Another Monkey: Salem, Massachusetts, January 2002

Good times, several lifetimes ago.

Pecha Kucha Scranton

Pecha Kucha. It's a simple idea with a distractingly ridiculous name: Twenty slides, twenty seconds each, no backsies. In that time, within those limits*, you do a presentation on...anything.

A few weeks ago I was invited to take part in Pecha Kucha Night Scranton on January 28, 2012. According to the event's Facebook page, it will take place from 7:30 to 9:30 PM at the Vintage Theater, located at 119 Penn Avenue in Scranton, PA.

My presentation - one of many to be done that night - has a remarkably pretentious title but focuses on a topic familiar to longtime readers of this blog: The stained glass windows of what used to be Our Lady of Czestochowa (St. Mary's) church in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania. More than that, I look at the closing of Catholic churches in Nanticoke - which was the driving force behind the Stained Glass Project in the first place - and the passing away of an old world that we have an opportunity, and perhaps an obligation, to preserve, even if just photographically. (OK, you twisted my arm. The presentation is called "Against the Dying of the Light.")

I'm a bit excited about this. It will be my first opportunity to display these photos before a live crowd, and the first chance to gauge reactions directly. It will also be my first attempt at threading a storyline through not only my stained glass images but also my Churches of Nanticoke images, and bringing it all home in a way that will connect with people. Maybe, based on the crowd reaction, I might decide to go further with this.

If you're interested, stop in at the Vintage Theater in Scranton on Saturday, January 28 starting at 7:30. If this event is well-received, perhaps this will be just the first of many Pecha Kucha nights locally!

Other posts about this event:
The Vintage Theater
NEPA Blogs
Brent Pennington

*So this has me wondering about limits. What if someone includes the same slide twice in a row, creating eighteen 20-second slides and one 40-second slide? What if they took this further? What if they took this all the way, and displayed twenty identical slides, effectively displaying one slide for 400 seconds?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Do you have a blog card?

When I was a kid reading Sherlock Holmes stories, I was always fascinated by the use of calling cards. Someone would show up at 221B Baker Street, ring the bell, and hand Mrs. Hudson a card. She would send it up to Mr. Holmes so he could decide whether or not he wanted to talk to the person at his door, and at the same time ascertain from the card what part of the country they were from, what they had for breakfast, and their shoe size.

Decades later I became all-too-familiar with the intricacies of business cards, and the international customs involved in the exchange of business cards. (In this culture you present with two fingers, only after being offered a card; in this culture you use both hands to present the card, accompanied by a bow. Here's a video that looks at some of the subtleties of business card culture.) When I became a blogger I got to thinking: why not create a business/calling card for my blog, Another Monkey? It wouldn't have to be anything fancy - just a card with the name of my blog, the address, maybe a memorable picture. I already had the picture, and the card stock, so it didn't take much effort to create a card using a basic graphics package that I had picked up years earlier.

Years went by, and I handed out my card at various gatherings of bloggers. Then NEPA Blogs came into being, and later, the Blog Fests. I realized we had an opportunity to publicize NEPA Blogs to bloggers who might not be aware of it yet. Unfortunately by now I no longer had my original computer, or the installation disks for my graphics package (one of them went missing, rendering the whole shebang useless). But using the free program at ("Design & Print Online" under "Templates & Software") I put together a basic card. As Michelle took the site further and further into the social media world, the amount of information that needed to be on the card kept increasing. Finally it settled down to this:

So on one card we have the blog name, the shortcut address, the full address, the email address, and the names for use on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter. It's a crowded card, but it works.

I carry a supply of both cards with me at all times now. Anywhere I go that seems appropriate I will tack up or leave one or both, or simply hand them out. I pass out the NEPA Blogs card to other guests at PA Live! who have blogs or are interested in starting blogs.

So what about you? If you're a blogger, do you have a blog card? The perforated business card stock is easily available at any office supply store, or even the computer paper sections of some retailers. provides a broad range of free templates (including a blank one, which I prefer) to design your card.

If you're going to the Spring 2012 NEPA Blog Fest on March 20, you should consider putting together a blog card to hand out. NEPA Blogs will also have a card exchange table where you can leave your card and pick up the blog cards of other bloggers. Blog cards are a great way to express your creativity and advertise your blog at the same time!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Have your old posts been Drafted by Blogger?

I came across an interesting item on "The Real Blogger Status" today. It's in a post called "Recovering A Deleted Post" - which is itself interesting. But what caught my eye was this:

The choices of recovery / restore may depend upon how the deletion / removal occurred.

(1) Deleted by Blogger - Saved as Draft, because of DMCA violation accusation.

Well, that's interesting. It made me wonder: If Blogger were to do this to an old post of yours, delete it and save it as a draft, would they inform you? Or would past posts be silently slipping away into draft status?

I decided to check for myself. I know that I have numerous posts saved as draft. In some cases I started them, lost interest, and set them aside for later. In other cases I had a germ of an idea but didn't get around to doing anything with it. Other times I accidentally created a post from an online article using the blogger toolbar, or simply put something together as a post with no intention of publishing it.

Still, when I opened my list of draft posts, there were a few that looked completed, published even. One dealt with the issue of advertising back in February of 2009. Did Google decide that this crossed the line on its rules for people publishing ads not drawing attention to the ads, and put the blog into a draft status?

There are two others in draft status that dealt with the issue of racism in politics. Unlike the "Advertising" piece, neither of these posts had been assigned labels. And both of these posts seem to lack conclusions. Did I just get tired of writing them and save them for later?

NOTE: In a post published the same day as the "Advertising" post was written, I wrote this:

I have a different post about one-third done, but I'm going to hold off on it. It's nothing time-critical, anyway.

So it looks like I was the one who put that post in draft status.

Still, if you use Blogger, it might be worth your while to review your posts that are currently in Draft, to see if Blogger has been quietly flagging your posts for suspected DMCA violations.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Blog Fest is coming!

The Spring 2012 edition of NEPA Blog Fest will be held at Rooney's Irish Pub in Pittston on the evening of Friday, March 30.

Blog Fest grew out of Gort's periodic gatherings of Wilkes-Barre area bloggers and others at a small bar in Wilkes-Barre.  Occasionally a candidate for local office would stop by to put in some face-time. Two years ago Gort decided to try something new: working with local political bloggers Joe Valenti and Dave Yonki, he moved the event to a larger venue - Rooney's Irish Pub in Pittston - and put out an invitation to as many candidates running for state and local office as he could. He also put out the call to local media, letting them know this was happening.

And, whaddya know: it was a huge success.

We did it again in the Fall of 2010 with a slightly smaller turnout.  (This was, however, the first time the event was dubbed "Blog Fest," on a handwritten sign in front of the place.) But in the beginning of 2011, Gort was taking a break from blogging. As the Winter started to edge into Spring I began to wonder about whether a Spring edition of the event would be held at all. Finally, while catching up on posts I had missed on Dave Yonki's blog, I came across the announcement - nearly three weeks after it had originally been posted on Joe Valenti's Pittston Politics blog. (Dave's blog is indexed by issue number, and Joe's by date, so if you miss an announcement on either one, the only way to know about it is to go back and read through every post you've missed.) While word of the event may have gone out to Dave and Joe's regular readers, the larger community of bloggers throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania were generally in the dark about it.

Michelle and I found out about this at about the same time, and with just a few weeks to go she decided to try to publicize the event to non-political bloggers and the general public. She wrote up a post for NEPA Blogs, she sent out information to the local media, we posted announcements wherever we could find available space.

In the end it was a mostly political event, less well-attended than the first one (and possibly the second.)  Non-political bloggers were few and far between.  (This may have been due in part to a major political event in Dupont and a dinner for the Luzerne County Historical Society being held that night.) For whatever reason, Rooney's seemed to be unprepared for the size of the crowd, and service was very slow. Gort, however, was in attendance, and I believe that he was inspired that night to resume blogging, and to be at the helm for the next Blog Fest.

Gort announced the upcoming Fall 2011 Blog Fest on his blog and through Facebook. Unfortunately he did this with just nine days to go until the actual event! This wasn't as last-minute as it seemed: he had been working to schedule the event so that as many candidates as possible could attend without having a conflict with their campaign and fundraising schedules. The Blog Fest was held just weeks after the worst flooding in the region's history, only a hundred feet or so from the high-water mark, as a light rain managed to re-flood many of the roads leading away from the venue. There were plenty of candidates on hand, and a few more non-political bloggers than at previous events, all of which was quite remarkable given the circumstances.

So now the news is going out about the Spring 2012 event. Michelle has issued a "Save the Date" announcement - because, what the heck, this time there are twelve weeks until the actual event, and we're going to need to issue reminders every week or two or everybody is going to forget about it.

So who is going to show up? In the past a lot of non-political bloggers didn't show up because they perceived it as a political event, and their absence made it even more so. But it doesn't have to be that way. Politics is a part of life, but life is about more than politics. Blogs are about more than politics, too; some people - especially some political bloggers - may not see it that way, but a quick glance at the live updates list on the NEPA Blogs sidebar will reveal a whole lot of bloggers who do not write primarily about politics, if at all.

Yet non-political bloggers cannot pretend that politics doesn't exist just because they, say, find political chit-chat so godawful dull that they would rather core out their ear canals with a grapefruit spoon than listen to someone drone on and on about the intrigues and treachery in some local school board or political body. This stuff affects us all - if not directly, then regionally; the corruption of judges in Luzerne County or county commissioners in Lackawanna County or whoever in Wilkes-Barre or Pittston or Scranton affects the overall perception of Northeastern Pennsylvania, and affects little things like how willing companies are to move into the area, and therefore what the likelihood that more and better jobs will ever come back to NEPA.

So if you're a political blogger, show up: you'll find plenty of candidates who want to talk to you and try to get in your good graces. And if you're a non-political blogger, show up too: you'll find other non-political bloggers who would love to meet and interact with you. And maybe the two groups could mingle a bit. Political bloggers might discover a world of blogging that exists outside of politics, and non-political bloggers might find a few thoughtful, intelligent candidates who are willing to actually listen to what normal people have to say.

But whatever you do, please keep me away from the grapefruit spoons.

Monday, January 02, 2012

The relentless march of fracking

As I read the year-end reports of the top news stories of 2011, I think one of the great underreported, undercited stories of 2011 is the slow, grinding, gnawing, relentless change coming through the Pennsylvania government's total commitment to making this a frack-friendly state.

It's not in the big stories, but in the little things that hit page 6 and then go away:

- Cabot Oil stopping delivery of water to the Dimock residents whose wells were contaminated (and who won a judgement against Cabot - before it was later overturned.)
- The continued bubbling of methane into the Susquehanna (and where else? would we notice methane being released anywhere other than under water?)
- The elimination of local control over any zoning regulations involving fracking.
- The Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) filed by Chief Gathering against concerned individuals who were trying to stop Chief from running a gas pipeline through their neighborhood - the lawsuit would have bankrupted any non-Corporate Citizen in NEPA, and even the costs associated with fighting it would be enough to economically cripple anyone. (Among other things, Chief wanted to financially destroy these residents of Northeastern Pennsylvania for portraying Chief as bad neighbors...something that Chief's actions in the suit proved to be true.)
- The death of John Jones III on July 31 when an out-of-control fracking truck overturned onto his car, killing him and injuring his daughter.
- The recent collision of two fracking trucks that resulted in a spill of "drilling mud" (doesn't that sound benign?) into a creek.
- The contamination of a pristine waterway by multiple releases of "drilling mud" into it.
- The intentional dumping of fracking waste onto game lands.
- The poaching of deer out-of-season and without a license by employees of the drilling industry.
- The arrest of a group of illegal immigrants working for a fracking contractor.
- The approval of new fracking-related withdrawals of water from the Susquehanna River at a meeting of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission - after the meeting was abruptly adjourned without allowing the scheduled period of public comment.

...and on and on and on.

In two years or so, people will look at the glowing skies at night from the lights of the drilling pads, hear the continuous industrial clamor of the drilling rigs, look at the unsellable status of their houses (who would want to buy a house in such a location?), look at the destruction of freshwater supplies and the contamination of creeks and streams, shake their heads at the latest deaths due to fracking truck accidents, read about the latest crimes perpetrated by roughnecks from Oklahoma and Texas and Georgia, and ask "What happened? How did this happen?"