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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Zero-Risk ATM Winnings: Are they Training Wheels for Slots?

Last week, with casino gambling on the horizon in Massachusetts, the gaming giant MGM wowed the struggling city of Springfield with an $800 million casino-based urban development proposal—a potential economic game changer for the city and the surrounding region.  Given this heady news, it's only right to  commend neighboring Easthampton Savings Bank for offering its own ATM-based version of risk-free gaming for its customers. (It's hardly surprising that a community bank, knowing the pulse of  local values, would hatch the  inspiring promo above. No big bank behaving badly here!) 

According to the above display ad, which ran in the August 28 Daily Hampshire Gazette, the bank’s new ATM at its Loan & Banking Center on Northampton Street in Easthampton will be dealing  occasional fifties in place of  twenties through September 10th. In other words, you might experience the frisson of unexpected winnings without the downside of personal risk. And don't forget, any shekels that you put into the ATM are FDIC-secure. But the current value proposition isn't about deposits, it's about withdrawals. In that spirit, who would spite Easthampton Savings Bank for the disclaimer below?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Living Large with Apps & Mirrors

After inhaling a cone, your blogger gazes smugly into Herrell Ice Cream's low-guilt mirror.   
“Steve Herrell is the godfather of American ice cream,” notes Alan Richman in Conehead, his critique of many-things ice creamicious in the August issue of GQ. The owner of Herrell’s Ice Cream in Northampton, Massachusetts is an avid consumer of his own “premium” offerings.  So what, if he, like Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, casts a capacious shadow?  His shop’s premium ice cream salvos are real and they’re spectacular.

So what if 68.8% of American adults  are overweight or obese? Ultimately, though, having one’s desserts and maintaining a svelte umbra and penumbra when the angle of the sun is reasonably aloft is on you. But you’ve got the necessary self-discipline and vigilance to avoid  mindless eating, don’t you? With that said, chez Herrell offers the opposite of  a confession booth in the  the back of  the Northampton shop, where you can mug in front of a fun-house mirror that elongates whatever horizontality you may have incurred over the past decade. In other words, you can admire yourself as slimmer than when you came in.

When I pointed this out to the co-owner of a Northampton coffee shop known for its distinctive pastries, he confessed that his own culinary output might not figure in America’s solution to its obesity crisis. Then, he flipped open his smart phone asking, “I wonder if I can find an app that makes you look thinner?” Faster than lifting a runcible spoon, he produced a self-image-saving app and then another and another.  Here is a link to one of them, weight So now you can live large while sharing your willowy likeness with envious, clueless friends in your online network.  Bon appetite from the fooderati at Wig & Pen!
Before and After via weight

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Tanglewood Medical Mashup

Tanglewood  is ever poised for its key demographic. You can’t miss the  L'il Medic Vending Machine and Philips HeartStart Defibrillator just inside the main gate at Ozawa Hall—Tanglewood’s smaller venue devoted to weeknight chamber concerts. On a recent visit by this blogger, the L'il Medic was filled to SRO capacity with packets of Benadryl, Imodium, Pepto-Bismol, DayQuil, Bayer Aspirin, Advil, Tylenol Extra, and Trial Antacid.  Beside it, the defibrillator, suggesting an oversized fire alarm, offered added assurance.


Although a roving eye revealed discreetly nested folding wheelchairs in the back of the hall, superannuation’s  magic horn also had its youthful moments last Thursday at Tanglewood’s Festival of Contemporary Music. Second on the bill was Elliott Carter’s buoyant, mercurial Double Trio, composed in 2011. At age 104, Mr. Carter and his music proved inspirational to the much younger seniors in the hall and to the musicians in their 20s who performed the piece with energy and conviction.

Coda: I Screen, You Screen . . . 
Meanwhile, Wig & Pen has noticed what may be an age-based divide in the much larger Tanglewood music shed. For several years, three large screens have given viewers in the back third of the shed sparkling high-definition close-ups of the action on stage.  This option has value because the distance and sight lines from those seats can make viewing challenging. In spite of this visual “equalizer,” Wig & Pen, through observation and conversations, suspects that many senior concert goers are more reluctant to embrace the screens than younger audience members.  Perhaps life-long concert-viewing habits die hard? Or veteran concert goers are less comfortable with innovative visuals than screen-obsessed younger generations?  If you’re a social scientist reading this blog on your computer or iphone screen, you may want to look into this.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Pussy Riot's Pioneer Valley Invisibility Cloak

from P. Riot's Facebook page 

It’s 2012 and The Daily Hampshire Gazette—the flagship newspaper for the liberal Massachusetts zip codes of Northampton, Amherst, and the Pioneer Valley--aided and abetted by the L.A. Times--is too timid to reveal the name of the female Russian punk rock trio whose members face serious jail time for “staging a brief, obscenity-laced musical protest in Moscow's cathedral of Christ the Saviour, calling on the Virgin Mary to "throw Putin out."   [L.A. Times, 7/30]

The condensed blurb on July 31 in the Gazette with an L.A. Times by-line neglects to mention the trio's true name--Pussy Riot--instead calling it a punk group with a profane name. This is apparently a case of double standards by the L.A. Times. The risk-averse bowdlerized blurb went out to the provinces via the paper's news feed, but the full story in the Times itself did not pussy foot in revealing  the band’s true name.

from the Daily Hampshire Gazette 7-31

Of Pussies and Posses
So what if  the name Pussy Riot is a  tad overstimulating?   It’s small beer compared with a  dreaded  moniker like Insane Clown Posse, which for some evokes evil clowns on the verge of violence and mayhem. Coulrophobia aside, I suspect that the posse’s name will prove forever inviolable  with the Gazette, the L.A. Times, and other American newspapers—yet another example where violence plays better in Peoria  and Amherst and Northampton than a libidinous alternative. Where have we encountered that before?

Ultimately though, it's baffling to behold the odd coupling of questionable censorship in Northampton via L.A with a story about the prospect of draconian punishment in Russia over freedom of expression. In that, I'm grateful to be on America's side of the bed, but these are strange bedfellows, odd bed-time stories.

No sad clowns need apply