Of storms and men

By Bill Shein
February 9, 2015

As I write these words on Monday (January 26), another intense storm is barreling into the northeast, bringing cold, wind, and possibly record snowfall. On my face, the air has a brisk, but not yet biting, and moist, but not quite wet feel familiar to New Englanders outside before a snowstorm. And also to writers who – for the sake of argument – are currently locked out of their house with a deadline looming.

Astronomers are also eyeing a “potentially hazardous” asteroid hurtling towards the earth, confident it will pass “safely” about a million miles from our troubled planet, where our always-responsible media remains properly focused on Very Important Things.

The killer asteroid’s diameter is equal to five football fields. Using a reference point torn from the headlines, that dwarfs the length of eleven underinflated footballs arranged end-to-end. READ MORE >>

My Selma

By Mickey Friedman
January 26, 2015

It’s sad but not unexpected that controversy roils about “Selma.” It is especially sad that the Motion Picture Academy has chosen not to honor the extraordinary work of David Oyelowo, its star, and Ava DuVernay, its director.

Films are made by men and women: they are works of art, not truth. I don’t know the truth of Selma. I only know a bit about my Selma. The time I matched with twenty-five thousand others into the heart of Montgomery, Alabama.

I went because then, as now, black lives matter. Freedom matters. Justice matters. Because it was impossible for me to see the violent vestiges of segregation without being offended on the deepest level.

Perseverance Furthers

By Mickey Friedman
January 17, 2015

I usually begin Christmas at Fuel Great Barrington. Ever since I lost my office, I write each day at Fuel. But this year Fuel was closed. Blessedly I found Christmas morning sanctuary with Craig and compatriots at Pleasant and Main in Housatonic.

Pleasant and Main is a perfect fit for the town in which it lives. Because Housatonic is mostly a home for the people who live there; and thankfully there are still not enough reasons for tourists to wander the streets except to come and buy Richard’s wonderful bread and eat good food. And for me Pleasant and Main is still filled with the spirit of Joan and Jay Embree: Joan, a writer extraordinaire, a cook beyond compare; Jay, a host of impressive skill. Joan and Jay established the unpretentious atmosphere that Craig has lovingly maintained, and he has continued their commitment to comfort and quality, healthful cooking that Housatonic folk can afford.

Mars for the Martians

By Mickey Friedman
December 23, 2014

Some of us have decided to get the heck out of Dodge. And, as usual, the desire to flee is being sold as noble.

So there’s talk of Mars.

Elon Musk, who I’ve never met, has brought us the Tesla and SpaceX, his own private space program. He seems a fine fellow but Elon is only the most prominent of earthlings who wants Mars.

Because “an asteroid or a super volcano could destroy us, and we face risks the dinosaurs never saw: an engineered virus, inadvertent creation of a micro black hole, catastrophic global warming or some as-yet-unknown technology could spell the end of us … Sooner or later, we must expand life beyond this green and blue ball—or go extinct.”

Public Education

By Mickey Friedman
December 13, 2014

My friend Matthew, a recent graduate of Monument Mountain, reminded me of Give-to-Give, a program that enabled students here to help students in impoverished Haiti. So when he felt a slight chill at school, he added a sweater, compared his lot with others and soon felt grateful for what he had. Matthew imagined Haiti. I imagine Iraq.


A Singular Ray of Light

December 3, 2014
By Mickey Friedman

I drove with Jurek Zamoyski and Mel Greenberg to pick up and deliver food for Great Barrington’s four food pantries. There’s a pantry at the Calvary Christian Chapel on Route 41, one at the Women’s Infant and Children’s (WIC) office on Stockbridge Road, one at Railroad Street Youth Project, and one at the Senior Center.

Mel is always picking up spare food and making sure it gets to hungry people. A singular ray of light in this ever-darkening universe of ours, he is a small antidote to melting ice and mindless materialism.

Selfish, Greedy People

By Mickey Friedman
November 9, 2014

The debate about the Monument Mountain HS renovation has sent me back in time. Dreaming my five block walk from Webb Avenue to P.S. 86. A small army of kids streaming from our apartment buildings in rain, snow or shine to our home for the day. Built in 1926, it still stands, serving 1,700. I can’t help but imagine my mother’s reaction if I told her I didn’t like the lighting there. Frivolous complaints weren’t welcome when there was laundry, shopping, dishes, homework to be done. Both parents working, and money always tight.

My imaginary Congressman, Bill Shein, likes to remind me of the great failing of our civilization: conspicuous consumption. The constant waste of precious resources to make and sell things of dubious purpose. How many varieties of breakfast flakes? Cars? Phones? A demand fueled by a constant drone, and the occasionally artful commercial: LeBron James, the Jesus of Cleveland, returns to lead his basketball-loving black/white army of sad city-dwellers to a new glory. So buy Nike sneakers.

Those with money know their children deserve an indoor greenhouse. Those without tremble to see the fuel-oil truck arrive; rejoice when the gas pump reads less than $3.50 a gallon; scour the shelves for Buy One, Get One Free.

School Facts Not Fiction

By Mickey Friedman
October 27, 2014

Michael Wise of the Great Barrington Finance Committee says I’m “unhelpful.” Alan Chartock calls the 955 of his fellow town citizens who voted NO last November “selfish” and “un-American.”

They say the issue is simple: If you vote NO on their $51.2 million renovation of Monument Mountain High School you will pay more to fix the school as things break: “Fixing only essential repairs will cost taxpayers at least 20 percent more than a Renovation Project.” They say there is no practical alternative.

51.2 million dollars reimbursed by the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) with $23.2 million. A reimbursement rate of 48.52 percent. It will cost the district only $28.02 million, and Great Barrington $19.4 million.

To convince you they made a chart: We need $38.6 million worth of necessary repairs. Claiming if we applied to the Accelerated Repair program of the MSBA we’d only get $4.9 million, a reimbursement rate of 12.7 percent. That’s $33.64 million with Great Barrington paying $21.4 million.

So why spend $21.4 million to fix things when for $19.4 million you get it all? Why trade a reimbursement rate of 48.52 percent for a measly 12.7 percent?

That’s the fiction. How about helpful American facts:

Love and Lies

By Mickey Friedman
October 20, 2014

I woke to learn from The Eagle that I’ve been instilling “anger and fear in the most financially vulnerable citizens of our community.” From the Berkshire Edge, I’m “short-sighted and selfish.” And “deceiving you.”

Mr. Bradway of Stockbridge, MA says I’ve been “conspicuously omitting data and facts that would provide for the opportunity of a circumspect and objective viewpoint.”

Quite the mouthful.


NO, then YES

By Mickey Friedman
September 30, 2014

I left the most recent meetings about the Monument Mountain High School renovation with heightened respect for Principal Marianne Young and Superintendent Peter Dillon, yet feeling sad that the School Committee had asked these dedicated educators, their employees, to front their “informational sessions.” Their jobs are difficult enough, and it’s one thing to come to Town Meeting to explain the annual costs of learning but quite another to explain, let alone justify, the strategic choices of the School Committee. Didn’t the School Committee ask to represent us in matters of public education?

And, even after Great Barrington’s overwhelming 955 to 596 NO vote, it’s the School Committee asking us to vote for a $51.2 million renovation of Monument.

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An online newsmagazine based in the Berkshire Hills of Western Massachusetts, Red Crow News covers what's happening and what we hope will happen.

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