Ode to a Once Mighty Oak

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And in that brief moment, its reign ended.

We don’t know how old it really was, but the centuries had exacted their toll. Despite the efforts of the valiant few, the rot that builds with age had eaten its way through the internal fabric that once supported its mighty infrastructure.

When that final gust rushed through, the great citadel had fallen. It had stood for so long that those closest to it, stunned by the fatal reality before their own eyes, could only muster an anemic disbelief.

All that incredulity could not suspend the finality that was. It was gone. Not really. But really.

*          *          *

The Seneca tribe was a fierce warrior tribe. They had to be. They guarded the “west gate” of the Iroquois Confederacy. From that position, they both protected one flank of their Continue Reading “Ode to a Once Mighty Oak”

This True Story Reveals The Meeting That Gave THE SENTINEL Its Name and Why It Got That Name

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Yes, you’ve heard part of this story. In fact, you probably think you know this story. Or, do you only think you know this story?

Bits and pieces have appeared throughout the years. Some of these have been true, others mere rumors meant to delight and excite the mind of the reader.

But this – this column – will for the first time reveal what really happened that dark winter night in January of 1989. Here it is, for the first time ever told by the one who was there at that meeting.

First, here’s the part that’s true. You already know this part. Or you may not. Here it is.

The Honeoye Falls Weekly Times began publishing during the era of hometown newspapers in 1882. “Independently Devoted to the Best Interests of Honeoye Falls and Vicinity” and running a dense seven columns over four pages, it was published and edited by William O’Brien and Wilson A. Gillette.

The fledging media entrepreneurs admitted in their inaugural op-ed (Thursday, August 31, 1882): “This is the first number of the Honeoye Falls Weekly Times. As to whether it is a readable paper for a first issue, remains for our readers to decide.”

The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle offered a less than charitable opinion of the effort. Its edition of Friday, September 8, 1882 bluntly stated: “Honeoye Falls has four newspapers Continue Reading “This True Story Reveals The Meeting That Gave THE SENTINEL Its Name and Why It Got That Name”

This is Why New York State Needs an Electoral College

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The war had been going on for the better part of a year when John Adams wrote, “The blessings of society depend entirely on the constitutions of government.” Shortly thereafter, on May 10, 1776, the Second Continental Congress passed a resolution recommending the thirteen colonies “adopt such Government as shall in the opinion of the Representatives of the People, best conduce to the happiness and safety of their Constituents in particular.”

In a letter to his brother John Augustine Washington dated Philadelphia, May 31, 1776 George Washington issued this prophetic warning: “To form a new government requires Continue Reading “This is Why New York State Needs an Electoral College”

Today’s Columnists Find Their Roots in Revolutionary War Era Pamphleteers

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On the afternoon of June 9, while chasing the fugitive sloop Hannah, the unthinkable happened. The HMS Gaspee ran aground in low waters off the Rhode Island shore on what was then called Namquit Point. Unnamed Sons of Liberty, once alerted, sprang into action. In the early morning hours of June 10, before high tide could rescue the British man-of-war, the rebels boarded it, shot its commander, and burned the ill-fated vessel to its waterline.

The year was 1772 and the newspaper industry was dying. Of the thirty-seven weekly broadsheets published in the thirteen colonies, only eleven reported on what came to be known as “The Gaspee Affair.” By 1783, primarily due to lack of revenue and the logistical problems caused by the Revolutionary War, the Colonies would be down to only about twenty newspapers.

Still, the story of the Gaspee Affair stirred the American patriots. Why? Because an itinerant Continue Reading “Today’s Columnists Find Their Roots in Revolutionary War Era Pamphleteers”

Are You an Instigator, a Skeptic, or Merely Somebody Else’s Tool?

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They say the world is made up of two types of people. They’re wrong. The world consists of three types of people, but two of those types get all the press.

Journalists like to frame issues in a binary fashion – one side against another. That’s simple. It’s black and white. It’s A versus B. Reporters don’t do this because they can’t handle the complexity of multiple opposing points of view. They structure their stories as a duel between competing interests because readers find those stories easiest to digest. The audience finds such pairings quite familiar. Literature is replete with examples: Ahab vs. Moby Dick, Sherlock Holmes vs. Professor Moriarty, and Bambi vs. Godzilla, to name a few.

It’s not just drama. Philosophy often has an attraction to complimentary combinations. We see this most markedly in the Taoist notion of “dualistic-monism” as expressed in the Continue Reading “Are You an Instigator, a Skeptic, or Merely Somebody Else’s Tool?”

Dave Snyder and The Alfred Sun Show How to Promote (Civil) Community Discussion

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german-tv-discussion-1251809The role of the media in society has been the subject of debate since before our country’s founding. Such was the oppression of the British government during the pre-Revolutionary era that our Founding Fathers, with great wisdom and foresight, codified “freedom of speech” directly on our Constitution via the first amendment. Through the years “polite society” has continually modified what was considered “proper decorum” when it came to public communication, it’s only been until very recently that our nation has forgotten the corollary of the First Amendment: “I may disagree with you but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” In modern times, it’s becoming increasingly accepted to wish death upon those that disagree with you.

The role of the press in maintaining the freedom of speech cannot be understated, and jolly old England appears front and center in this fight. It was Queen Elizabeth I who, in 1585, first created laws to limit the freedom of the press. Here’s the flavor of those laws: Continue Reading “Dave Snyder and The Alfred Sun Show How to Promote (Civil) Community Discussion”

The Heart of America Rests Peacefully Within the Heart of Greater Western New York

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(The following is an excerpt from the chapter “We’re Baaack”
in my 2012 book 50 Hidden Gems of Greater Western New York.)

The muddy road seemed to hardly merit the official route number New York State had assigned it. A “repaving” project had caused the traffic jam, and presumably most of the IMG_9916_daniel_shaysmud. The rain had stopped when we begin to climb the small slope that would lead us to Union Cemetery. Union Cemetery is closed to new burials now, but the grave I’m looking for is from 1825.

We pull into the gravel road that circles through the interior of the cemetery. I’m not sure where the grave is. My research indicates there’s a marker. I’m thinking it marks the actual grave. I see a marker by the roadside at the edge of the cemetery. Turning into the graveyard, I assume that’s where the grave is, but as I drive up the moist lane, I notice yet another sign – Continue Reading “The Heart of America Rests Peacefully Within the Heart of Greater Western New York”