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Sarah Palin is the reason compasses point North.

calendar   Saturday - April 02, 2011

Loss of Local Color

I saw in the newspaper today that the last movie theater in our county closed for good last night. Movie theaters - a good idea who’s time has gone?

Once upon a time in the land of far away and long ago, the little town I grew up in (pop about 10K then, 32K now) had two movie theaters downtown. We also had 5 grocery stores; all but one of those is long gone. I remember being in the balcony of one of the movie theaters, to see Dean Jones in That Darn Cat, which tells you how young I was then and how old I am now. They closed the balcony area shortly thereafter for “safety” reasons. Two decades later one of the places converted to a duo-plex, and the other one soon went out of business. A few years later and the other theater followed suit. The duo-plex was reopened a few years later and I think it’s still in business. I haven’t been in either one of those places since the very early 80s, so I can’t speak to their interiors, but my childhood memory of them has big cushy seats in it, and a Panavision screen that must have been 80 feet wide. With a power operated curtain 2 stories tall that opened and closed for each showing.

When I was in college up in Binghamton NY there were two in the area that were kept open via federal arts grants. The one in Johnson City was huge, one of those massive plush and gilt relics from days gone by. I bet it had 500 seats. We’d go there to watch second run films on the cheap, and usually have almost the whole place to ourselves. The other smaller theater went the art house route, and did a decent weekend business that way, but I don’t think they were open more than 3 days a week.

Up in the town of Washington here there is another old time movie house, another of those gold paint and red velvet plush places from the past. They were closed for many years, but reopened a few years back. I haven’t been in there either, but I see the marquee every week and know that they run 3 or 4 films at a time. Whether that means multiple showings, or that they’ve cut the place into a bunch of mini-theaters, I don’t know.

The rise of the multi-plex was both good and bad for movie theaters. Good in that they could offer the customer so much more choice. Bad in that almost all of them did it on the cheap, and the partitioning of the grand old giant arenas into many smaller rooms resulted in bare concrete floors, raw walls painted black, and terribly small and uncomfortable rows of seats that had built in cup holders in the arm rests that made them unusable. And then they set the sound level to Deafen Everyone. Worse, they lost the giant projection screens, and with that they lost the magic. Panavision and CinemaScope are long dead*. Films are shot these days with an eye on showing them on standard television with it’s nearly square format. There is some hope with the ascent of HDTV; films can once again be shot in a bit of wide angle.

But that same HDTV is hammering the last couple nails into the coffin of movie theaters. The outrageous ticket price is another handful of nails, along with the knowledge that whatever film you’re going out to see now will be available either on disc or on download for just a dollar or two in less than 90 days.

Let’s ignore for today that the vast majority of modern movies have been total crap that aren’t even worth the one dollar disc rental.  Our local small business video store closed 5 years ago. The Blockbuster in the strip mall at the other end of town closed last year. With delivery venues like Netflix and Red Box, who needs them? It’s easier to just click a mouse and visit your mailbox a few days later. Now even that is going away; just click your mouse and start watching the film right now. What you can’t get On Demand from your cable TV company you can download from the internet; some of the TV’s being built today hook up directly and you don’t even have to figure out how to wire in the computer.

So we sit in our homes and watch films on our really large wide screen TV sets, with our own surround sound multi-channel stereos. And the movie theaters die. And we lose the community event, the polite public gathering, the shared iteration of being part of a culture, that was going out to the movies. Sad.


Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky,
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same.
There’s a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

And the people in the houses
All went to the university,
Where they were put in boxes
And they came out all the same,
And there’s doctors and lawyers,
And business executives,
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

See More Below The Fold

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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 04/02/2011 at 09:22 AM   
Filed Under: • Art-PhotographyDaily LifeHollywood •  
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calendar   Friday - April 01, 2011

Weinervision

More Stevie!


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 04/01/2011 at 03:13 PM   
Filed Under: • HumorPolitics •  
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What A Waste Of Fuel

B-1 Bombers Strike Libya

Sure, why not? Everything else that can fly is getting used over there. And the B-1 is a great airplane that hasn’t had much use. We don’t have very many of them (66 active, 33 reserve), since the procurement program was canceled almost as soon as the design was finalized and flight tested. That’s not my point.

My point is that these airplanes took off from Ellsworth Air Force Base, flew to Libya, dropped 100 precision bombs, then flew home. To Ellsworth Air Force Base. In South Dakota. The UK is in this fight. France is in this fight. Italy is in this fight. Spain too I think? Whatever. Those countries all have air bases, and they’re all allies. And I’m pretty sure the US has at least a couple long runways on a few islands around the Mediterranean. Like the base in Corsica, or the one in Sicily. Or any other airport or air base in Europe that can handle a 737-800 or larger airliner. If you want to fly your toys in theater, bring them over and then keep them around for a bit. Flying bombing missions in Africa out of an airport near the central Canadian border is just plain stupid. Stop pissing away my tax money. [yes I know Ellsworth AFB is actually in west central SD, probably 800+ miles from Canada. My point is that it’s halfway between Chicago and Seattle, and north of Chicago. My point is that this is a 6,100 mile flight, and all that’s needed is a 300 mile flight.]



The wheels of two B-1B Lancers hit the Ellsworth Air Force Base runway Wednesday morning bringing home eight airmen from an airstrike mission in Libya.

“We, of course, were striking military targets that were designed to protect the Libyan population,” said Col. Jeffrey Taliaferro, 28th Bomb Wing Commander. “It was nearly 100 targets, nearly 100 weapons and those weapons did achieve their intended effects.”

The two Ellsworth aircrews were a part of airstrikes in the NATO-led campaign against Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi and army units who still support him.

Launched early Sunday morning, the Ellsworth aircrews from the 34th Bomb Squadron had little notice of their departure.

“Just under two days from our initial notification to launch, we were able to generate several aircraft, hundreds of weapons and launch those aircraft to get them all the way around to the other side of the world to strike targets,” Taliaferro said.
...
On top of the mission’s quick timeline, the flight from western South Dakota to Libya’s airspace marked the first time the B-1 fleet deployed a combat unit from the continental U.S. to strike targets overseas.

“They launched from Ellsworth, flew half way across the world by air refueling and many hours later got to Libya and struck those targets,” said Taliaferro, who added that such a mission is not new to all bomber aircrafts.

About 24 hours after their mission in Libya, the two B-1s hit the Ellsworth runway around 11 a.m. on Monday and taxied toward two long lines of saluting airmen. Under largely clear skies and warmer temperatures, the aircrews exited the B-1s to a welcome of handshakes, hugs and congratulatory messages.

Gee whiz flyboys, don’t you get mucho Big Swinging Dick points for this one. Yahoo, some General Genius came up with the idea and you flew the mission, dropped your bombs, and made it home without killing yourselves or crashing your billion dollar airplane. Yee frickin ha.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad they made it back safely. I’m glad they have the training etc to do this kind of thing. But it’s a foolish empty act of bravado. It’s like giving life or death medical decisions to exhausted medical residents when well rested doctors are available; it’s just plain stupid. It isn’t necessary. Fly the plane to Newfoundland and land it. Go to sleep. Get up, fly to England, land, and take a nap. Then fly it down to Italy. Have some scampi, some pasta, and then it’s nap time again. Then get up, refreshed and relaxed, grab a hot shower and a leisurely breakfast, and then go fly the mission. Then fly an hour back to your local air base. Sending exhausted air crews into harm’s way is just asinine. And the reality is that there will NEVER be a need to actually do such a thing, so there is no point training for it. Should the world situation ever be so bad that US Air Force crews are flying non-stop missions, those missions will be a whole lot closer to home than friggin Libya. You’d be better off training your ground crews to be able to work like NASCAR pit crews. And I won’t even mention the quarter million gallons of jet fuel that got used on this one.


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 04/01/2011 at 12:14 PM   
Filed Under: • Military •  
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Not Funny

Mother Nature is pulling her own April Fool’s joke here. It’s snowing. We’ve been having “wintry mix” since last night, wet sloppy bits falling from the sky. But now it’s pretty much all snow, and it’s starting to stick.

Bad Gaia, bad! Winter is over. Go away. Go back to Binghamton and Watertown NY where you belong!

Huh, I wonder if Al Gore is in the area?


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 04/01/2011 at 10:35 AM   
Filed Under: • Climate-Weather •  
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Local Color

Black River & Western Engine #60

Ready To Return To Service



image



Restoration and government inspection took more than 10 years


* Dec 1, 2009: Restoration work on #60 is near completion.
* Feb 1, 2010: The BRRHT has been tasked with overseeing completion of the BR&W steam program. The program consists of three sections: one to govern system-wide steam procedures for the Bel-Del and BR&W lines, one to govern procedures specific to locomotive #142, and one to govern procedures specific to locomotive #60.
* Mar 22, 2010: Work on the steam program is progressing. The system-wide and #142 sections are largely complete. Section for #60 is in progress. Plans for steam-crew training/qualifications are in progress.
* Aug 9, 2010: Work on #60 in preparation for recertification and operation is complete. The mandated Federal inspection (the last significant hurdle to be cleared for #60 to operate) has been scheduled and will take place during the coming weeks.
* Oct 19, 2010: #60 has officially passed her required FRA inspection! Preparations are underway for break-in runs on the BR&W.


Eight miles to the south of Clinton is the historic town of Flemington, NJ. It’s the Hunterdon County seat, and it’s courthouse was where the famous Lindbergh baby kidnapping trial took place in 1935. A few hundred yards down Main Street past the courthouse a rail line crosses the road, and a very short distance down that rail line is the terminus of the Black River & Western railroad. The BR&W RR is an actual commercial rail company; they own a good number of miles of track in our area and haul freight from here to there. Mostly though they are known for their weekend excursions in the summer. Come on down to Flemington, and shop ‘till you drop. They’ve got one of the largest outdoor discount malls in the country, and dozens of quaint specialty shops downtown. Enjoy the town’s well preserved picturesque 1850’s architecture. Watch one of the frequent parades, or the monthly classic car and street rod shows. Have lunch in one of the half dozen Zagat rated restaurants. And take your kids on a train ride. Just 90 minutes from NYC, less than an hour from Philadelphia! This is how small towns survive these days.

BR&W has been doing the theme based scenic train ride thing since 1965, when engine #60 was all that they had. I took the trip as a very small boy, probably in 1967. It was awesome!! These days the rail company, which is actually a historic trust, owns quite a few old time diesel locomotives. All the restoration work is done by volunteers and the members of the historical society. Their steam engine was taken out of service back in November 2000, and it had only rarely run in the years leading up to that. I’ve been living here in the county for 14 years now and I’m in Flemington every weekend and I’ve never seen it, not even on a siding. It’s been living in a train house a few miles further south in the town of Ringoes.

image

10/10/09 - a long time in the making, #60 is fired up for the first time in 9 years

15 miles to the west of Clinton there is another steam engine excursion railroad, the New York Susquehanna & Western that does theme runs up and down a privately owned length of track along the Delaware River. Right now they are the only operating steam engine in the entire state. A dozen miles south of there and across the river into PA there is another one, the New Hope & Ivy RR that runs a locomotive quite similar to the BR&W’s #60. So these things aren’t impossible to find in my locale. They just aren’t very common.

I’m glad we’re going to soon have another steam locomotive running in the area. They aren’t energy efficient, they have tremendous maintenance requirements, the government regulations are a mile long, and they pollute the air even when fed clean burning anthracite coal. I don’t care. They are magical things, living breathing iron dragons created by the hand of man. I’m going to find out when the first run of #60 will be, and I’ll be on that ride that day.

The first link at the top of this post has information about the engine, which was built by ALCO in 1937 and worked was owned by Great Western it’s entire working life.

The locomotive was first owned by the Great Western Railway of Colorado, and had the distinction of being the only Alco locomotive in their fleet - all of the company’s other locomotives were built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia, PA.

Because #60 was one-of-a-kind at Great Western, it saw the least amount of service of all their locomotives. When the BR&W purchased the locomotive from Great Western it was delivered along with a box car containing their entire stock of parts for #60

A pretty good database of every surviving steam engine in the western hemisphere can be found here. Facebook has several pages for the BR&W with pictures.

The Black River & Western Railroad has been in continuous operation since 1854. For a long time it was part of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

image

another 17 photos here


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 04/01/2011 at 08:32 AM   
Filed Under: • planes, trains, tanks, ships, machines, automobiles •  
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Not that very many people ever read this far down, but this blog was the creation of Allan Kelly and his friend Vilmar. Vilmar moved on to his own blog some time ago, and Allan ran this place alone until his sudden and unexpected death partway through 2006. We all miss him. A lot. Even though he is gone this site will always still be more than a little bit his. We who are left to carry on the BMEWS tradition owe him a great debt of gratitude, and we hope to be able to pay that back by following his last advice to us all:
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It's been a long strange trip without you Skipper, but thanks for pointing us in the right direction and giving us a swift kick in the behind to get us going. Keep lookin' down on us, will ya? Thanks.

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Oh, and here's some kind of visitor flag counter thingy. Hey, all the cool blogs have one, so I should too. The Visitors Online thingy up at the top doesn't count anything, but it looks neat. It had better, since I paid actual money for it.
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