Archive for December, 2011

Editor’s Notebook: 12/12/11

Monday, December 12th, 2011
Jeff Genung

• Must be that time of year … no, not Christmas (that’s been going on since October). It’s Progress time! We here at The Evening Sun are getting ready for our annual ‘yearbook’ business review that comes out over five days during the last week in January. It’s a gargantuan undertaking (80 pages!) for the editorial and advertising staffs, so I just gave my trusty reporters their story assignments this afternoon. Given that two out of my four reporters have never done this before (and both sales people are brand new, too!), it should be an interesting year. Prediction: My hair will be entirely white by Jan. 27. Great Caesar’s Ghost, indeed.

• Got your letters to Santa in? No? Well it’s too late; the deadline was Friday. Santa has made his list, and checked it twice. Replies from the North Pole will go out to everyone who wrote in later this week; the letters themselves will be published in our ‘Holiday Big Book’ special section this Friday.

• Saw a spectacular Christmas show at the Arts Council Saturday … the violin madness that is Barrage. I know, I know … if you think string instruments, you think stuffy, tuxedoed snoozefest. Anything but that with Barrage – never seen so much energy on that stage! And the Christmas selections they played would get even the Grinchiest of Grinches into the spirit of the holidays. Bravo!

13 days to Christmas…

Monday, December 12th, 2011
Brian Golden

Less than two weeks until Christmas and (no surprise here) I still have a ton of shopping to do. Then again, I’ve always been a wait-until-the-last-minute kind of holiday shopper so I’m sure everything will be just fine. And when you get right down to it, my lady Renee and I actually have a bit of a head start, so maybe it won’t be so bad this year after all.

Who am I kidding? I can practically guarantee I’ll be spending a ridiculous amount of time putting the finishing touches on my Christmas shopping right up until December 24th. You’d think I’d be used to it by now, right?

As for the here and now, the Norwich middle and high schools will hold their respective Winter Concerts this week – NHS on Tuesday … NMS on Wednesday – and I’m looking forward to checking out at least one performance, if not both. It’s always exciting checking out the new talent and – as I’ve come to expect – it’s sure to be a great pair of shows. These are some truly talented and hard-working kids, to say the least, and I hope both shows are well attended (in other words, get out there and support what continues to be an extremely successful music program here in Norwich).

On a personal note, I’m not sure why this cold refuses to go away, but I sincerely wish it would. What can I say? I’m getting pretty tired of all the coughing, hacking, headache-that-is-never-truly-gone and blowing of the nose. Typically, I’ll get sick maybe once a year and – even then – said sickness only lasts a day or two (or three … tops). Which is probably why this week-long-plus dose of punishment and suffering feels like it’s lasted for about a month already. Needless to say, a good night’s sleep would be great right about now.

Of course, staying up to watch the finale of the Giants game last night did little to help in the sleep department, but I can honestly say it was well worth it. Actually, now that I think about it, anytime I get to watch my beloved Big Blue put a beat-down on the Cowboys is worth it, no matter how sick I might be. As for you Dallas fans … well … I’d speak my mind if I could without getting myself in trouble. And don’t tell me you wouldn’t do the same if the game had turned out the other way around, because we all know better than that, don’t we?

As for the rest of the evening, it’s this month’s Norwich City School District Board of Education offering, which means my plans are – for the most part – set in stone. After that, however (depending on the length of tonight’s meeting), it’s Two and a Half Men (CBS), Diners, Drive-ins and Dives (Food Network) and, of course, the new Fear Factor (?), a show which I would gladly try out for if it weren’t for the whole eating-of-disgusting-stuff challenges. Jump out of an airplane? Sure. Surf the Interstate on the back of a tractor trailer? No problem. Eat a handful of live dung beetles? Nope … no way … no how.

Sorry, but a guy’s got to draw the line somewhere.

Keep the good times rollin’

Monday, December 12th, 2011
Shawn Magrath

The New York State Department of Transportation is going to invest in the restoration of local rail lines in several counties, including Chenango. It’s not enough to do much (less than 20 percent of what was being asked) but it’s still exciting news to me.

It seems economical and more environmentally friendly (Are 50 trucks, each pulling one trailer, better than one train pulling 50 cars?) and, of course… well… I just like trains. I love the way they sound (the engine, the whistle, the clatter of the rails, the warnings bells of the railroad crossing). I love the sight of them, leaving pennies on the tracks to flatten and counting the cars – even reading the graffiti on the sides (I can get a lot of good writing material from that). So I’m pretty excited to see when and if they move through the city, since I didn’t live in Norwich when the railways were functional.

I’ve heard some other options regarding the fate of the tracks, particularly some that suggest the ties be removed and replaced by a bike trail… A bike trail? Really? Come on, no one would use that. (A straight trail from the north to the south end of town? Weee! What a trip! I can’t wait to turn around and go back the other direction!) Not to mention, a bike trail that goes through the middle of the city might not be the best idea. What’s proposed to be done where this bike trail crosses (11?) busy streets throughout the city? Besides, most people that ride a bike in the city aren’t riding for recreation; they ride to get from point A to point B so unless their point A is Prentice St. and their B is someplace between Aim Fitness and Country Max, there’s not much use in it. A bike trail isn’t going to keep one of the local youth from pulling a kamikaze type move in front of a moving car on Broad Street. And for city based “bicycle recreationists,” there are other trails around town already open for everyone to not use.

I’m not expecting trains to roll through the city over night – again, that’s if they ever run again at all. I’m open to other possibilities for the rail lines (so long as their logical) but to phase out the railroad system completely would be (almost literally) burning bridges.

How much is too much?

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011
Shawn Magrath

Between writing in the Evening Sun office and spending every other waking minute writing final reports for my graduate courses at home, I’m really getting used to the glow of a computer screen. So use to it, in fact, that everything else just seems to have a dull tint without a glowing white background. I can’t wait until my eyes are able to focus again.

Today is December 7th, “a date that will live in infamy” …. you know, for most. It’s astonishing how many people don’t realize what took place 70 years ago. Talk to people and study their reaction when you mention that today is December 7th. How many blank stares do you think you’ll get in return? How many won’t know what I’m talking about now? I understand the need to live through such a traumatic event such as the attack on Pearl Harbor to get the full emotional impact of its significance but shouldn’t people at least hear the date and think it sounds familiar? I know we aren’t at a similar point when I say “September, 11” but in time…

I’ve said that I’m Christmased-out (with the 24 hour Christmas radio stations and holiday sales) but I’m starting to feel a little jollier – I’m giving credit to the Christmas decorations for this “Christmas miracle.” After seeing East and West Parks lit up and houses dressed for the season, I think we have entered my favorite part of the year (and I know I’ll be singing a different tune when Christmas is over).

But with decorations going up, what’s the cut off limit? How much is too much? I know some community members don’t know when to call it quits, like a goldfish that doesn’t know when to stop eating. One of my neighbors has enough lights on his house to land an airplane; another house nearby has enough inflatable decorations to pass for a Macy’s parade. I’m not complaining too much, as long as it’s seasonal (I know that’s asking an awful lot for some people) but when a house reaches a level of decorations that even Clark Griswold would envy, it might be time to let off the gas a little.

Sports Editor’s Playbook, Monday, Dec. 5, 2011

Monday, December 5th, 2011
Patrick Newell

From time to time this season, we’ll have the opportunity to preview some basketball games. Norwich first-year head coach, Tom Collier, is well known among the local coaching brethren for his detailed scouting reports. He shared some of his thoughts on Wednesday’s opponent, Susquehanna Valley. “You can call this ‘David versus Goliath,” Collier said. The Sabers have four players at least 6-foot-6, and that includes three-year starting center, Trenton Benton at 6-foot-6, and 6-foot-7 skywalker Brendan Normile. Also on the SV roster are Nick Coddington, who is 6-foot-8, and Aaron Cornish, a 6-foot-7 center. Norwich, meanwhile, lists its tallest starter, Dennis Oralls, at 6-foot-3. “They have Colin Manchester, who is one of the top three-point shooting guards in the league,” Collier said. “Benton is deadly around the basket, and Normile is one of most agile big man around who can leap out of the gym. All three are college-bound recruits. The combination of outside shooting and size makes Susquehanna Valley the odds-on favorite to win the Central Division (our division) in STAC.” One advantage the Tornado may have is the two games it played last weekend, while Wednesday’s game at Norwich will be the Sabers’ season-opener.

The 49th Clyde Cole team title was easily won by Pennsylvania prep school, Wyoming Seminary last weekend in Oxford. The Blue Raiders brought 10 wrestlers last year, and claimed the team title racking up 280.5 point to outdistance runner-up Queensbury by 75 1/2 points. This year, with a full lineup in tow, WS piled up eight individual titles and 366 team points. Check out this statistic: If you added together the point totals of second-place Queensbury and third-place Greene, “Sem” would still maintain a 13-point advantage. Sem is off to the prestigious Ironman tournament this weekend, and later on, the Beast of the East.

I am not a fan of the Schwan basketball tournament schedule, hosted by Norwich. This coming weekend is the annual Norwich Pennysaver girls’ basketball tournament, and the girls’ schedule mimics that of the boys. Until the last three years or so, Norwich’s annual boys tip-off basketball tournament had varsity games scheduled at 6 and 7:45 p.m. Running concurrently were the JV games at the Norwich Middle School gym. Games were scheduled so that the JV time was opposite the respective boys’ varsity team. It allowed fans of their school to move from one gym to the next upon completion of the first game. The new and “not improved” version of the tournament invokes the quadruple-header-at-one-gym schedule. Four straight games are played with the capper beginning in the 9 p.m. range (and last year it was closer to 9:15 p.m.). Back-track about one hour and 45 minutes for each game to the opener – around 4 p.m. Remember, this schedule follows a school day in which kids are up early in the morning and taking classes all day. I ask, how many JV games on school days start at 4 p.m.? None. How many varsity games start at 9 p.m. or later? None, unless the JV prelim has a wild four- or five-overtime finish. Those aren’t even my strongest arguments against the schedule. Visiting schools in the JV games are needlessly delayed an hour and a half to two hours while they wait for their varsity team to play. Also, based on my observations the past two years – at the boys’ and girls’ tournaments – basketball games that start at 9 p.m. or later do not draw as many fans as games that start in the 7:45 p.m. range. For some people, a basketball game starting after 9 p.m. is just too late! A Friday night basketball game at Norwich High School used to be a can’t-miss event for sports fans. Not only was this the season opener for a solid Norwich team, but the Tornado were playing longtime local rival, Oxford, who brought a fan base of its own. With the stage set for a capacity crowd ready the rock the building’s pillars, seats were readily available in every section aside from the Norwich student section. Something seems amiss to me. Before the Norwich gymnasium was remodeled to bring it up to date with building safety codes, the Norwich gym’s seating capacity was in the neighborhood of 1,000. Now, a full house at Norwich is about one-third less the previous maximum occupancy, and Norwich still cannot fill the stands. For Saturday’s consolation and championship games, I would make just one adjustment: Flip the order so that the JV championship game precedes the varsity consolation game. Saturday, Greene’s varsity team played Oxford in the varsity consolation game. That contest served as a warmup for the Greene JV team’s title game against Norwich. It just doesn’t sit right with me when a JV team is higher on the marquee than its varsity squad. Isn’t it the aspiration of a junior varsity player to ascend to varsity? I ask that the Norwich school consider a schedule change for next year. Friday’s original schedule allowed for a seamless, time-efficient transition from a respective school’s junior varsity to varsity game. For Saturdays, I consider it a lack of respect for a varsity program – and the varsity players and coaches – by having it play second fiddle to the junior varsity. A varsity sports team, regardless of the sport, is that sport’s preeminent team. It is the best combination of players to represent a school in interscholastic sports at the highest level of competitive varsity sports. I think some people have lost sight of that.

Follow Patrick Newell on Twitter @evesunpat

Heaven done called…

Monday, December 5th, 2011
Brian Golden

Blues guitarist, singer and songwriter Jimmie Vaughan said it best, I think, when he penned the song “Six Strings Down,” which can be found on his 1994 album Strange Pleasure.

“Heaven done called … another blues stringer back home.”

Needless to say, I was saddened yesterday by the news of legendary blues guitar-slinger Hubert Sumlin’s death at the age of 80. Sumlin, guitarist for the equally legendary Howlin’ Wolf, was a huge influence on modern blues (and that’s putting it mildly), influencing the likes of Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Keith Richards and many others (including myself).

And that’s not to say the man didn’t lead a prolific life … he did (although the lack of a Grammy Award after four nominations says something about that particular awards committee). No, what’s sad is that there are so few of the “original” bluesmen left these days. Actually, when you get right down to it, Sumlin was more of a second generation bluesman. Any yet, that’s one of the reasons I’ve always loved the blues … there’s always another generation of musicians on hand to take the form in another direction, all the while preserving both its history and integrity.

With that said, rest in peace Mr. Sumlin. The musical legacy you leave behind will not soon be forgotten and I’m sure you’re in good company up there in blues heaven. And if you think of it, tell Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Albert King, Albert Collins, Freddie King, Robert Johnson, Jimi Hendrix, SRV and all the other guys I said hi.

The government’s trying to take away my garden?

Friday, December 2nd, 2011
Shawn Magrath

My favorite national headline in a long time: “Cain to Meet with Wife.” Really, if I were scheduling time to “meet” with my wife, I’m in deep. It’s not a meeting to look forward to.

I would like to think that anyone who purchased a smart phone in the last few years had a general understanding of some of the negative drawbacks. A phone with a built in GPS – someone can find where you are at all times. A phone with internet – online activity can be tracked. So it didn’t come as a surprise this week when public awareness spread that millions of smart phones contain built in software that records the actions of every user, from internet usage to the key strokes in text messaging.

But better than the backlash of consumer concern are the conspiracy theories sure to follow. I love conspiracy theories. I love theory conspiracy theorists. No one brightens my day more than someone who speaks with a stubborn and irrational, misinformed sense of what’s happening (AKA someone that talks out their butt). They speak their “truths” about something incredible (like the staging of the 1969 moon landing) or the government’s involvement in something inexplicably unfortunate (the government had control over the 9/11 attacks) and things that just really don’t make sense in the eyes of a sane human being (Obama is trying to take away my garden?). So with growing attention drawn to memory software in cell phones, I can’t wait to see some of the new conspiracies that develop, similar to what Orwell prophesied. Who knows? For the first time, new conspiracy theories might not be that much of a stretch.

On another note, the park looks terrific after Thursday’s tree lighting ceremony. I really hope to see a snow storm (sorry) before the decorations are taken down. When the streets are empty and everything around is white, lit by the soft glow of street lamps, that’s the best time to check holiday decorations. Congratulations to the BID for its organization of another spectacular event.

Sports Editor’s Playbook, Friday, Dec. 2, 2011

Friday, December 2nd, 2011
Patrick Newell

The first big wrestling tournament of the 2010-2011 season begins tonight at Oxford with the 49th Annual Clyde Cole Tournament. Last year, just like every other year, the final results were a pretty good indicator of future success at sectionals. A total of 13 wrestlers at last year’s Clyde Cole tournament – all of whom finished among the top three in their respective weight class – qualified for the Section IV finals. Returning champions are Joe Nelson, Oxford; Tyler Ponte, Wyoming Seminary; Evan Botwin, Wyoming Seminary; Dom Malone, Wyoming Seminary; Connor Sutton, LaSalle Institute; Eric Morris, Wyoming Seminary; Matt Lashway, Queensbury; and Kyle Stanton, Greene.

It’s hard to believe we’re entering the 15th year of the Tom Schwan Memorial Basketball Tournament. I had just a few months to glean as much knowledge from Tom as possible before his untimely passing in January of 1996. The lessons I learned have shaped the way I have written articles for 16-plus years…. Oxford and Norwich remain as longtime participants of the tourney, while Sidney and Greene are new editions this year. Before it was named the Schwan Tournament, the NHS-hosted tourney was an annual season tip-off tournament that Schwan regularly covered for us. My first year at the newspaper was also the lone year I was able to trek north to Sherburne-Earlville for its boys’ basketball tournament. Tom was expertly handling things in Norwich. S-E’s tourney runs concurrently with Norwich’s, and this weekend’s tourney is the 29th annual invitational hosted by the Marauders. Also participating in the S-E tournament is Unadilla Valley. If you’re the slightest bit curious about the prospects for this year’s local basketball teams, I invite you to click on the sports link on our home page. Today we have brief capsules of each area basketball team. For the girls, check out Thursday’s articles.

Follow Patrick Newell on Twitter @evesunpat

Those perfect Thursday nights

Thursday, December 1st, 2011
Brian Golden

Thursday was – by far – my favorite day of the week growing up, for a number of reasons. When I was younger, it meant a new episode of The Cosby Show (a classic, to say the least), not to mention Cheers (another classic), which I was – every once in awhile – allowed to stay up and watch.

Needless to say, I had a much better grasp on the comedy of that particular series as I got older.

What I truly loved about Thursdays, however, was the opportunity I had – once I was old enough to stay home alone for a few hours – to kick back and enjoy the fact that I had the house to myself. On top of that, I was typically thrown $5 for a Doug’s Subs foot-long every week. And I’m not talking about the “new and improved” Doug’s Subs that moved to what was once the Two Sisters Cafe, I’m talking about the original Doug’s Subs, just south of that location. Don’t ask me why, but after they relocated, those wonderful submarine sandwiches just didn’t taste the same.

Those were the good old days, let me tell you. And it’s not that I didn’t enjoy spending time with my folks back then (because we certainly had our share of fun), I simply reveled in that three hours of freedom while my parents worked the Thursday night shift at McLaughlin’s.

It was a great time for imaginary games, of course (cowboys and Indians, zombie apocalypse, alien invasion … you know what I mean), and I had a blast re-arranging the furniture, thereby making it easier for me to jump over, around and on to. What can I say, when battling hordes of vicious aliens (or zombies), a guy needs some cover … right mom? Steve?

Obviously, things haven’t changed all that much in 20-plus years, except that now, instead of gunning down my imaginary adversaries, I write about them (I can just feel that first science fiction novel begging me for a chance to see the light of day).

Then again, some nights I would simply throw in a movie (VHS, of course), crank up the “surround sound” (back then, it was just a pair of stereo speakers … but they sounded great) and enjoy. My favorites? Back then? Well, I can honestly say most of those flicks are still some of the best (in my mind) … “Krull,” “Time Bandits,” “Transformers: The Movie,” “Howard the Duck” (that one almost hurts to admit) and any of the original Star Wars movies. Other times, it would be John Wayne, of course … “Big Jake,” “Rio Bravo,” “The Alamo” or “John Wayne and the Cowboys.”

Regardless, I have great memories of that time. It was – as our younger days always seem – much simpler back then. Not that I have any regrets … I don’t. Yet I must admit I find it humorous (in a sad way) to hear kids these days complain on how there’s “nothing to do.”

When I was their age, that was never a problem. In fact, the only issue we had back then was … why isn’t there more time to do it all?

Editor’s Notebook: 12/1/11

Thursday, December 1st, 2011
Jeff Genung

• And it’s December. NOW you can put up the Christmas decorations, turn on the lights and play the carols. Anything prior to this was premature holidaculation.

• Good timing, because tonight’s the Christmas tree lighting ceremony in downtown Norwich, 6:30 p.m. Always nice to hear the Perry Browne kids sing their little hearts out.

• Speaking of singing (and piano-ing), congratulations to NHS musicians Dillan Smith and Jason Handy, who are headed to NYSSMA’s winter conference this weekend. Good luck!

• So the DEC has extended the comment period on proposed gas drilling regulations, again. Again? I’m all for having your ducks in a row, but it seems like there’s been more than enough time allotted – and people on both sides of the issue have certainly had ample time to get their two cents in. Sounds like typical New York State bureaucracy to me. Let’s set a deadline and stick to it for a change.

• The ‘30 Seconds’ crew has been consumed lately with trying to figure out who’s who. As in how to differentiate among the “Man from Norwich,” “Woman from Sherburne” and “Man from Greene” contingents, or how many posters are changing their towns and sexes at will in order to agree with their own messages, or stir their own controversies. Let me clue you in on a little secret, dear readers: I don’t really care! “30 Seconds” is probably the least of our priorities here at The Evening Sun. While it’s true that our website does give the IP addresses of ‘30 Seconds’ posters, we rarely pay attention to it. Frankly, if your idea of fun is to post all day under multiple towns and sexes, have at it! The same rules apply – no libel, no profanity, no naming names, no bashing local businesses, etc. The same goes for the “voting” system – it’s all fun and games. Or, as my friend William Shakespeare put it, “It is a tale told by an idiot; full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”