Out and about in the noon hour-plus today in Downtown Lowell and Environs.
Call-to-action: Driving though Kearney Square proved that some citizens listened to President Obama last night. Three or four sign holders stood fast at the entrance to the Howe Building – home to Congresswoman Niki Tsongas’ District office. The theme: “Tax Wall Street.” Plantings: Plants, flowers and shrubs in a pastoral design have sprung-up in the Cardinal O’Connell monument area that is ringed by a brick pedestrian-friendly walk-way. It has been looking might plain and sparse. We’ll hear more about the Lowell-born Cardinal soon I’m guessing! Booking: As usual all was calm and business-like at the Pollard Library when I checked-out my books. I reserve on-line – a great service of the PML and the MV Library Consortium. BTW – I really appreciate the PML! Tents Galore: Those individual tents that house the ethnic food booths, the Lowell Folk Festival shirts, memorabilia and sought-after CDs are up at the JFK Plaza by Friday morning the downtown will be a tent garden if the array in a very large trailer over on Market Street is any indication. Saw some tree trimming over near the Market Street stage and parking garage – helps those sight lines! Detours, etc.: Much needed road work and other repairs are still dictating those detours and narrow car lanes – Jackson at Central; Lower Andover at Fayette and Perry; and out here in Tewksbury the River Road project detours onto Trull Road/Andover Street/down Fiske Street/back to River Road.
On another note – tuned-in to WCAP while on the road listening to colleague Register of Deeds Dick Howe talk real estate, mortages, the national financial situation, politics and Lowell Folk Festival history with host Jack Baldwin. Did you know that the first three Lowell Festivals were actually designated as the National Folk Festival? When they move on usually that’s it for the festival but the Lowell experience now in its 25th year has proven that some communities can sustain the event – Bangor, Maine is a recent example! Remember Deputy Superintendent George Price with his patriotic red, white and blue oversized umbrella leading the festival parades though downtown? I think that umbrella is in the Smithsonian! Remember those pre-folk festival Regatta events up on the boulevard and in Lucy Larcom Park? Some stalwart volunteers like Pauline Golec are still on-board today – she chairs the ethnic and food segments so important to the festival’s success.
Weather for the Lowell Folk Festival looks promising after some showers. The thousands of hours of work and planning, the thousand volunteers, the thousands of volunteer hours as well as the thousands of dollars (cash and in-kind) raised and donated and the thousands in the loyal festival audience deserve a great and successful festival. Get more information about the schedule, the performers, the food and fun here at the 2011 Lowell Folk Festival website.
There’s a bit of a trip down memory lane over on Universal Hub Boston here with the overhead photo of the old Boston Gas tank in all its colorful splendor.
Just a bit of history on the painting of the original tank and the artist who created the design. The artist was a nun. In 1971, artist Sister Corita Kent (1918-1986) designed the rainbow swash which was painted on one of the storage tanks in Dorchester. The storage tank was eventually demolished in 1992 and the owner at that time – KeySpan – repainted another tank – preserving this iconic image. Corita Kent was an anti-war nun until 1967 when she left her Catholic order and her position as head of the art department at Immaculate Heart College. Corita Kent is also famous for the 1985 United States postage stamp “Love,” which sold hundreds of millions of copies. Reminding us that art is sometimes “in the eye of the beholder,” Corita’s anti-war stance had some believing that a part of the artistic swatch of paint looked like Ho-Chi Minh’s profile or at least his nose! Corita – as this graphic artist is known – was visited at Immaculate Heart College by such people as Buckminster Fuller and the Berrigans.
Watch for the art of the Dorchester gas tank clearly visible on the east side of I-93 about 2 miles south of downtown Boston.
On this day – July 26, 1775 – the U. S. Postal Service was established by the Second Continental Congress and Benjamin Franklin was installed as its first Postmaster General. According to history.com, Franklin was experienced having served a the postmaster of Philadelphia. Some persepective on mail in the colonies and Ben Franklin’s legacy:
During early colonial times in the 1600s, few American colonists needed to send mail to each other; it was more likely that their correspondence was with letter writers in Britain. Mail deliveries from across the Atlantic were sporadic and could take many months to arrive. There were no post offices in the colonies, so mail was typically left at inns and taverns. In 1753, Benjamin Franklin, who had been postmaster of Philadelphia, became one of two joint postmasters general for the colonies. He made numerous improvements to the mail system, including setting up new, more efficient colonial routes and cutting delivery time in half between Philadelphia and New York by having the weekly mail wagon travel both day and night via relay teams. Franklin also debuted the first rate chart, which standardized delivery costs based on distance and weight. In 1774, the British fired Franklin from his postmaster job because of his revolutionary activities. However, the following year, he was appointed postmaster general of the United Colonies by the Continental Congress. Franklin held the job until late in 1776, when he was sent to France as a diplomat. He left a vastly improved mail system, with routes from Florida to Maine and regular service between the colonies and Britain. President George Washington appointed Samuel Osgood, a former Massachusetts congressman, as the first postmaster general of the American nation under the new U.S. constitution in 1789. At the time, there were approximately 75 post offices in the country.
Today the postal service gets the mail delivered, rain or shine, using everything from foot to plane to mule to service about 144 million homes and businesses in the United States and its territories. With over 40,000 offices and a delivery burden of over 212 billion pieces of mail, the USPS – a not-for-profit, self-supporting agency that covers its expenses through postage and related products – is the nation’s largest civilian employer, with over 700,000 career workers. Today it struggles with a “red ink” debt that needs to be controlled. Proposals for closings post offices are on the desk of current Postmaster General Patrick Donohue who will hold a press conference later today to release a long-awaited “post office study list” of potential closings nationwide.
Today family and friends will bury performer Amy Winehouse.
The first time I ever “heard” or “heard of” Amy Winehouse was the night of the 2008 Grammy Awards. Truthfully, I never watch these shows, but for some reason that night my channel surfing stopped on the awards show. Cuba Gooding was in the middle of introducing Winehouse. As soon as I heard her unique voice I was blown away. Winehouse performed live by satellite feed from London because she was undergoing treatment for drug addiction. Winehouse’s gave a riveting performance of her hit “Rehab”. She won three Grammys…Song of the Year, Best Female Performance of the Year and Record of the Year. After seeing/heraring Winehouse that night I purchased several of her songs for my iPod. But the singer’s fall was fast and steep. Below is a video of an intoxicated Amy Winehouse’s in Belgrade at her last concert. It is in total contrast to the second video that shows Amy at her best.
It is so sad when such a talented artists is destroyed by inner demons.
Last night’s effort wasn’t one of the greatest speeches ever given by President Obama. At the start, he tried to explain some economic history and fundamentals in a simple way, but it came across haltingly and sort of hung like a cloud over the rest of his remarks which did get better. I especially liked the line that “the American people voted for divided government; they didn’t vote for dysfunctional government.” But my favorite passage was this:
The first time a deal was passed, a predecessor of mine made the case for a balanced approach by saying this: “Would you rather reduce deficits and interest rates by raising revenue from those who are not now paying their fair share, or would you rather accept larger budget deficits, higher interest rates, and higher unemployment? And I think I know your answer.” Those words were spoken by Ronald Reagan. But today, many Republicans in the House refuse to consider this kind of balanced approach -– an approach that was pursued not only by President Reagan, but by the first President Bush, by President Clinton, by myself, and by many Democrats and Republicans in the United States Senate. So we’re left with a stalemate.
This quote was particularly apt, because it illustrates how much the national Republican Party has changed philosophically over the past thirty years. Today, even Ronald Reagan would be cast out for being ideologically impure.
I didn’t watch Speaker Boehner’s address. I’ve heard him repeatedly over the past few weeks and all I see is someone who wants to act in the finest traditions of the US Congress and find some compromise but who is being held hostage by the radicals in his party and who lacks the ability to bend them to his will.
The irony of all this is that it is a completely artificial crisis. Congress has already voted to spend this money. The cuts should have been made at budget time or when they were handing out tax cuts or authorizing wars without any corresponding revenue increases to pay the cost of fighting. It’s like an individual who goes on a credit card spending binge and says, when the bill arrives, “I’ve got to cut back so I’m not going to pay this bill.”
Anyway, after the President’s speech I scanned through Facebook and Twitter for immediate reaction. I observed that the country is as far apart as is its leaders, so maybe they’re just a reflection of us. But if that’s the case, they’re not doing their job, because the job of a leader is to lead, to shape public opinion, not react to it.
Here is an interesting look at the Lowell Campus of Middlesex Community College provided by an an amateur videographer who calls himself wishbuyer.