Category Archives: Memoir

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.

Ta-Nehisi Coates about David Carr

Screenshot 2015-02-20 09.22.49David Carr, who died last week, was a writer about media at the New York Times in recent years, which is a highly visible beat, but before that he had a colorful life as a journalist and editor and knucklehead and fuckup. Ta-Nehisi Coates met Carr when Coates was a knucklehead and Carr was an editor, an editor who hired him and who made a profound difference in the young man’s life. In this tribute Coates explains why, and also explains something deep and abiding about growing up and becoming a writer, explains the power of David Carr’s vision of journalism and reporting, and gives the George Polk award he won this week for his powerful ┬áreported story, The Case For Reparations, to Carr in honor of all his former editor taught and gave him. Beautiful.

Poem of the Day: June 25, 2014

Rainer_Maria_Rilke,_1900Was going through a box of old papers from the basement this morning and found this poem handwritten on a yellow legal sheet that had the phone numbers for my friends Alex and Jon, and my dad. I wrote it down sometime in the late 1990s. Also on the sheet there was the birth info for some baseball players not born on US soil.

Meulens, Hensley, June 23, 1967 Curacao Netherlands Antilles

Burt Blyleven, b:April 6, 1951 Zeist Netherlangs

Bruce Bochy Landes de Bussac France

Mike Blowers Weizburg W Germany

Win Remmerswaal March 8, 1954 The Hague Netherlands

Okay, onto the poem.

World Was In the Face of the Beloved

World was in the face of the beloved–,
but suddenly it poured out and was gone:
world is outside, world can not be grasped.

Why didn’t I, from the full, beloved face
as I raised it to my lips, why didn’t I drink
world, so near that I couldn’t almost taste it?

Ah, I drank. Insatiably I drank.
But I was filled up also, with too much
world, and, drinking, I myself ran over.

–Rainer Maria Rilke

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On The Road, With Maps and Directions

Screenshot 2014-02-10 12.39.05When I was a high schooler I was obsessed with Jack Kerouac’s On The Road. I read the novel multiple times and I read all of Kerouac’s other novels, there are many, some of them multiple times, the better to understand it and him.

I exulted when Visions of Cody, something of a companion piece to On The Road, was released, full of diary fragments and transcribed recordings of conversations between Kerouac and Neal Cassidy (Dean Moriarity in the novel), and my friend Peter and I went to a seminar at Hofstra University where a professor played recordings of some of those very conversations. At the time, just a few years after Kerouac’s death, much of his output was still hidden in the cardboard boxes of his papers and other items he left behind.

It was enough to keep a pipe of ephemera and data flowing for the forty years since, which is why I ate up the original scroll version of On The Road a few years back (truly exciting) and the “lost” collaboration between Kerouac and William Burroughs, which was released some few years ago, The Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks (surprising lively and moving), even though I no longer obsess over him, or the book.

My buddy Russell and I even planned on hitchhiking to Colorado for the summer following 11th grade, though our moms talked us into taking the Greyhound instead. Which was fine, because Jack often rode the Greyhound in the fellahin night of red brick sunrises, too. But once we landed in Evergreen we headed out to the Grand Canyon by thumb, dodging the highway patrol and the crazed, finding the heart of America inside the cabins of the cars and their drivers that carried us safely there and back. Just like Jack did, haunted along the banks of the Susquehanna by a shade or a memory or a portent, we found magic on the road, in whatever guise it came.

What I never thought to do was to map the actual roads Jack and Neal traversed, but it turns out just about everybody else has. Some examples.

In Kerouac’s journal is a hand-drawn map of his cross country trek.

A guy named Dennis Mansker has made interactive Google maps of all the trips in On The Road, full of odd and arresting details.

Screenshot 2014-02-10 12.47.08A guy named Gregor Weichbrodt input all the hard destinations listed in the book into Google Maps and asked for directions. The step by step routes are spontaneous prose of a distinctly mechanical perspective, but wonderful (to me) for the mere idea of it.

A Postcard from D.C.: March 2, 1964.

My aunt Dottie and Uncle Henry took me on a trip to Washington D.C. in 1964, with my cousins Kim, Karen and Steven. We visited the FBI, the Capitol (where I met Senator Jacob Javits), the Lincoln Memorial, and no doubt other hotspots.

We stayed in the Warwick, a venerable old hotel, and I marvelled that I could leave my coins on the sidetable all day and the room would be cleaned and they wouldn’t be taken.

I wrote a postcard, apparently at first intended for my grandparents, but then cleverly made suitable for my parents, about our visit to Arlington Cemetery. Spelling is not great, but cute.