Archive for May, 2007

Evil Has a Name

Thursday, May 31st, 2007
Jeff Genung

Oprah is evil.

I’m not sure when I came upon this brilliant assumption, but it’s been building for quite some time. Sure, you could say that she’s a talented interviewer, a generous philanthropist or inspiration for women everywhere. You could even say that I’m just jealous of her enormous success or the fact that she has more money than God. But I say it again … Oprah is evil.

I saw Oprah’s true form the other night, as by circumstance (mainly that I was too lazy to get up off the couch) I was coerced into watching a DVR-ed episode, a variation of her “Oprah’s Favorite Things” motif telling us what’s allegedly hot this summer.

Oprah didn’t use any market research or trend-watch analysis to determine what these “cool things” were for summer ‘07; she simply, and admittedly, picked things she liked. But what’s inherently wrong and evil about that, I surmise, is that these Oprah-ordained “cool things” now suddenly ARE cool entirely because Oprah said so.

It’s the same problem I’ve always had with her Book Club. Sure, she’s encouraged millions of housefraus who otherwise would be content reading TV Guide (or Oprah’s magazine, in which she’s suspiciously on the cover every month) to actually pick up a novel and read it, but these Oprah-sanctioned tomes are instant best sellers simply because Oprah told her audience to go out and buy them. And what’s shockingly apparent from watching the show is that Oprah’s audience, who were perhaps heretofore free-thinking women, do exactly what Oprah tells them to do. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, good intentions or not.

On the “cool things” show, Oprah of course, and quite generously, gave every member of her studio audience each and every one of the can’t-do-without items that the O deemed cool. By the way these women in the audience (and yes, they were all women) hooted and hollered and were brought to near-orgasm by each of Oprah’s gifts, you would have thought she’d cured cancer, delivered a lost gospel or opened a freakin’ Ponderosa in Darfur. Sure, I’d like a gift bag with the latest iPod, a $200 pair of designer sunglasses and even the wretched Beyonce’s latest CD, but I darn sure wouldn’t prostrate myself on national television for it.

That’s what’s scary, and downright evil, about Oprah Winfrey: her power over millions. OK, maybe it’s being used for good things like reading books and giving to charity and building schools in Africa right now, but who’s to say that Oprah might not turn her evil eye toward a more insidious cause? Like enslaving the nation’s housewives into a Stepford-like killing army, finally forcing Stedman to marry her .. or even a run at the White House? The mind reels.

A whale of an idea

Tuesday, May 29th, 2007
Michael McGuire

If I am going to be this big, I might as well be a whale headed in the wrong direction.

How awesome would that be? Anytime you screw-up the world will bail you out – no questions asked.

“Hello, I’m a desperate whale in need of $20 bucks for cab fare. I slept through my alarm and now I’m late for an appointment with my probation officer across town. They said if I miss another urine test they’ll throw me back in jail. Can anyone help me?”

Can anyone help you? Are you kidding?

The world’s top marine biologists would hand over fistfuls of cash, debit cards, and travelers checks all at once, start hailing you a cab and say, “Don’t you even worry about the money. All that matters is you pass that drug screening.”

“About that. The reason I overslept is because I got wicked stoned yesterday and drove 90 miles in the wrong direction on the way back from a party. My car ran out of gas and it took me all night to get back.”

–”Oh you must be exhausted. You should rest. Don’t worry about the appointment, whale. My brother-in-law is an attorney. He knows some people who know some people in the state probation department. He can pull some strings.”

“What about the dirty urine?”

–”Let me know when your make-up test will be and I’ll smuggle you in a clean sample. Not only are we Marine Biologists drug free, we are also crafty.”

“Sounds like you guys got this under control. Can we go get some food now? I’m jones’n for a breakfast burrito.”

–”I’m a strict vegan – but eating some sausage, bacon, eggs and cheese with a misguided whale does sound pretty good. Hop in my car, breakfast is on me.”

It obviously pays to be a whale.

Just don’t strive to be one of those rare 1,000 hogs that roam the backwoods of Georgia and Alabama. They can’t catch a break.

In a Norwich minute

Thursday, May 24th, 2007
Michael McGuire

I saw two propane cylinders set out by the curb on Grove Avenue the other day. I have no idea what the disposal policy is, but that’s asking for it. If I were fifteen and saw those sitting there, my first thought would be,” Awesome, target practice at the stone quarry!” But if it’s cool with everyone else it’s cool with me.

Question: Do fire fighters throw on the sirens to go back to the station? I was just curious. I saw a truck leave a call on Elm Street, and after waiting a bit to turn left onto South Broad Street from Conkey Avenue, it looked like the driver got fed-up with heavy noon-hour traffic and switched on the screamers. Everyone stopped and let them out. Pretty slick. Since my rusted GEO’s thunderous horn already commands so much respect, maybe it’s time to slap on a blue light and get in the EZ-pass lane.

What’s warm, green and has a distinct smell? No, it’s not a gangrenous sore. It’s Spring! And she’s in top gear. There’s nothing like nice weather to make you fall in love with Norwich all over again.

Spring cleaning

Monday, May 21st, 2007
Jessica Lewis

Spring has always been the time of year to clean out the old, and bring in the new. And in the City and Town of Norwich, things are no different. This spring, several attempts are being made to clean-up the neighborhoods, and even more may be needed.

As a child, I hated cleaning my room, even when it really, really, really needed it. I guess some of the property owners in Chenango County are still at that mentality. They aren’t going to clean up until someone comes in and makes them. Well, local officials are starting to do just that.

The City of Norwich has been taking serious steps to get things cleaned up for nearly a year now, since they passed a new garbage ordinance last year. With the recent addition of the Rental Registration, things seem to be off to a good start. Already, apartment buildings that looked more than a little shabby in years past, with garbage and junk all over the yards, have started to clean-up. Other buildings have begun making the necessary structural repairs, to actually make the buildings fit for habitation. It’s great that these actions are finally being taken, but at the same time, it’s sad that someone had to come in and watch over the property owners shoulders to make sure the job was being done.

In the Town of Norwich officials have worked to clean-up properties near the Halfway House Bridge, and are trying to make the eyesores in the town go away, or at the very least get better. It’s not the end, by any means, but it’s nice to see progress being made in areas that have needed it for quite some time.

There are several more areas in need of a good cleaning, but municipal governments can’t take care of them all, at least not in a timely fashion. Hopefully their efforts will encourage people to get moving and clean-up their own properties, instead of waiting for that parental figure to come in and make them do it.

Easy, rider

Tuesday, May 15th, 2007
Michael McGuire

What happened to real bikers?

You know, the ones who would stab you with the sharp end of a broken pool stick if you reminded them quiet hours at the campground went into effect at 10 p.m.

You know the type. They were the ones who couldn’t ever take compliments:

“Hey, nice chopper Slingblade! Can I check it out?”
– “Sure Mike, if you can knock me off it.”

Now they’ve gone soft. Unlike the old days, today you’ve got a better chance of buying insurance from a biker than you do crystal meth.

“What’s wrong with that,” you ask?

I’ll tell you.

Bikers used to only bother you on desert highways and in Mel Gibson movies. Granted, they would mess you up pretty good if your paths crossed. But the chances of having a run-in with these rolling criminals – while dangerous – was pretty slim.

But “Bikers” have suddenly sprouted up everywhere. They aren’t looking to cause trouble, however. They just want to let everyone know that helmets are unconstitutional, that Harley-Davidson mufflers are loud, and that they have leather vests that compliment their large pipes (which I personally think is more annoying than the rare possibility of getting shivved by a guy with “love” and “hate” tattooed on his knuckles).

Why can’t we go back to the way things used to be?

The Hell’s Angels never did me wrong (that’s probably because I never met any).

And after witnessing the pre-Bike Week festivities in Myrtle Beach last week, I’d say having middle-aged dudes with Richard Gere mullets and Orange County Chopper goatees ripping loudly up and down the road on their fat boys at all hours of the night – wearing flip flops and “Big Johnson” T-shirts – has kept me up more nights (literally) than worrying about a gang of rowdy road dogs.

Buying a house vs. shopping for shoes

Monday, May 7th, 2007
Jessica Lewis

I wish shopping for houses could be more like shopping for shoes. Over the past few months, I have been trying fervently to find a house, without much luck. This never happens when I’m shoe shopping.

When you’re looking for a pair of shoes, you determine the style and the size and how much money you want to spend and you can almost always find something that fits your criteria. You simply go to the store and find what you’re looking for. Why can’t buying a house be like that?

Over the past month, I’ve seen all kinds of houses. Big ones, small ones, clean ones, dirty ones and even really, really disgusting ones. (Seriously, I’m not a neat freak by any means, but how do people live like that?) I’ve seen the nice but outrageously overpriced houses, the ones that looked like they were about to fall down around you and tons and tons with flood damage. I’ve seen rodents, termites, bats and one house that looked like a group of teens had used it for a party location.

After all the searching, I’ve decided it’s not worth the stress, but that’s too bad, because I already kind of sold the house I’m living in. So, I have no choice but to continue the hunt. I fear finding a decent and reasonably priced home may be more difficult than finding reason in ’30 Seconds’ comments, but I guess I must continue to try.

I’m usually quite optimistic, but after seeing several houses that could just as easily have had condemned notices on their doors as for sale signs, I’m starting to become just a little jaded.

My advice to anyone who is looking for a house, don’t. At least not until I’m done. That way, at least I’ll have first dibs.

OV budget woes

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2007
Jessica Lewis

Over the last couple of weeks, we here at The Evening Sun have been reporting on the proposed school budgets for districts around the county. It was surprising for me to see the wide range of budgets, from Otselic Valley, the smallest school  in the district with a proposed budget of $8.1 million to Norwich, one of the largest schools with a proposed budget of $32.3 million.

It’s obvious that bigger schools need more money to provide for larger student populations, but schools like Otselic Valley seem to get the short end of the stick. The declining enrollment rate over the past 6 years has led to less state funding, and with a rural and sparsely populated district, a tax levy increase of one percentage point only raises $23,000 for the school. Unless something changes, I don’t know how the school is going to continue to operate.

As a graduate of OVCS, I have seen all that the school has to offer. They have excellent test scores, great teachers, many of whom have been there for years and have a stake in the community. Programs that rival larger schools. (The Varsity Boy’s Basketball team won the Class III D2 Championship this year.) But how long can the school continue in this fashion. No one wants to see the school dissolve and the students there have to be shipped out to other districts, but without some means of increasing the revenue, it seems like this could be a possibility in the future.

This year, the school will be cutting three teaching positions and two members of the support staff, and who knows what the future may hold. I hope for the sake of the community that the school is able to find some way to sustain the financial hardships without additional losses of staff or worse, but without a fresh source of revenue, I cannot imagine how it will be possible.