Category Archives: Nature

Extinct Butterflies Aren’t Necessarily Gone. A True Story

Screenshot 2015-05-14 10.56.51Some years back I wrote and directed the Audubon VideoGuide to Butterflies Common and Endangered with Jim Ebner, who shot most of the footage. We worked with Paul Opler, who wrote the Peterson Field Guides to Butterflies and The Complete Book of North American Butterflies, and is one of the preeminent butterfly experts in the world.

I’m posting clips from shows I’ve worked on and am now distributing through Mastervision. This section, on extinct butterflies, is beautiful, and oddly optimistic. But the atala is the exception, not the rule. I remember that we didn’t want to end on a total bummer, even though it is hard to look at trends (especially the fragmentation and elimination of milkweeds because of Round Up resistant agriculture) and not be pessimistic.

Welcome to the New Mastervision!

LittleLeagueDVD-Cover-ArtFor nearly 30 years, since I wrote and directed the baseball instructional video Little League’s Official How-to-Play Baseball Video for Mastervision, I’ve worked off and on for the company.

Richard Stadin, who started the company in 1981, and I worked together distributing a slate of impressive educational and instructional (mostly) videos, first on VHS, and then on DVD. You can see the list at (I also wrote and directed, with Jim Ebner and Paul Opler, the Audubon Butterfly Essentials for Beginners and Gardeners and the Audubon VideoGuide to Butterflies Common and Endangered, for Mastervision.)

Just a few weeks ago, after a long period of transition, Richard Stadin retired, signed the papers, and passed keys to the company to me.

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Richard Stadin signs agreement to transfer Mastervision, after 35 years. It was a hard moment for him.

My mission is to move as much of the collection to digital distribution, sell some DVDs and help promote the titles to new audiences via social media.

To that end I’m posting promotional clips on YouTube, on the Mastervision channel, and Facebook, on the Mastervision Page. All the titles are on sale there now, for a limited time, so please check them out if you’re interested.

People will soon be able to buy digital downloads of all the titles, and rent some of them, too. I’m excited about the possibilities.

Like Mastervision on Facebook!

IN THE NEWS: Red Hook’s Maraschino Cherry Factory

redhook-cherries-doorAt some point, years ago, we learned that the largest maraschino cherry factory in the US was located in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Always interested in factory tours and local food (this last said with a grin), and often in the neighborhood for bike rides and social events, we searched out the place, hoping to get a look at all the bright red cherries.

But a phone, Google Maps and a search turned up nothing but a plain brick building without identifying markings. We talked about knocking and seeing if we could get an informal tour, Red Hook seems friendly that way, but didn’t. The factory just didn’t feel open in that way.

red-honey-from-beesSome time later, apparently 2010, Dell’s Maraschino Cherry factory was again in the news. Beekeepers in Red Hook found that their bees were making a red concoction rather than their natural honey. The source of the red? The dyed corn syrup in which the cherries are marinated as part of their processing.

Unsurprisingly, bees like sweets! Arthur Mondella, who owned Dell’s (and whose family started the company in the 20s), agreed to take measures to contain his sweet detritus and prevent the bees from getting to it.

A funny story, it seemed, with a happy resolution, until earlier this week, nearly five years later, investigators from the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Environmental Conservation, as well as the Brooklyn district attorney’s office, showed up at the Dell’s factory with a search warrant for documents relating to charges that the company was dumping in the local waters.

Some dicey constructions, the smell of marijuana, and another search warrant led to a surprising discovery and a cascading tragedy you can read about here.

LINK: The Bears Are Hungry

Screenshot 2015-01-29 09.14.32It is important when out in the woods to keep bears from eating your food, both because you want to eat your food, and because the more bears associate food with humans the more dangerous they become to people.

This excellent survey of the current state of keeping bears from eating your food is a must read if you hike and camp, or if you are interested in the ability of bears to solve problems. That’s just about everyone, right?

Suburban Safari: Bears

The question is whether this video from Rockaway, New Jersey, reminds you more of Barbet Schroeder’s film version of Charles Bukowski’s Barfly, starring Faye Dunaway and Mickey Rourke, or is a leading example of why people are leaving the suburbs and moving back to the cities. In a hurry. If they have a choice.

I’m leaning toward Barfly.