Tuesday, March 30, 2010

City School Northampton: Week 6 - Planning and Development

Yin and yang. Long term, short term. Planning and zoning. Development and preservation. Building and economic development. Keep, take, and give.

This week in City School we hear from the town planner and the head of economic development. This class was our most relaxed one yet, because we only heard from two people and only two departments, and because this class was more like a discussion. Whew!

City School is a program here in Northampton where a lowly citizen like me can get a regular glimpse into the very guts of municipal government in the form of a class. Last time, we heard about City Finance. Together with 16 other people, I am meeting for ten weeks with representatives of different City of Northampton departments to hear how sausage is made. We gaze into the headlights of mighty powers and ask the most humbling of questions.

OK, by now you've got the point. Northampton, Massachusetts has a population of about 29,000. This has not changed for 60 years, but many other things have changed as we will learn during today's class. It's a city, a county seat, the home of courts, homeless shelters, regional social services, a VA. It has a well known college, the oldest county fair, farms, a major highway, a lively downtown, and a 350 year history. Something has to keep this together and a big aspect has to do with planning and development. Planning keeps development from getting out of control and development maintains our tax base. Oh, I wish it were so simple.

Planning and Development

Wayne Feiden is the director of Planning and Development. Just like the bird watchers who can tell an American Woodcock by its plumage, call, and habitat, he can tell you who owns which property, what considerations must be taken when developing property, and when to act to appropriate land. He makes maps and plans and bides his time, giving sage advice on his vision on how to arrange the pieces of our toy train set of a town.

Feiden has been working for Northampton for 21 years. Northampton develops an open space plan every seven years, so many recent developments have his fingerprints on them. He works with the 6 boards that issue permits including the Planning Board and is often seen at town meetings (on our public access TV.) Feiden is grateful that unlike some municipalities our boards get along well. Most recently, Planning was in the spot light regarding the city acquisition of Bean Farm. A little more on that later.

By state law Northampton must take a census once a year (I just received my form last week) just as the country must do it every ten (I received this too, be sure to send yours in.) It turns out that people generally tend to stay in Northampton, but younger people do leave. Apparently there is a cohort from age 22 to 35 which is missing from town (Now, this is not scientific, but this happens to be the age of all my neighbor's children who no longer live here.) Then after age 35, people move in again (this happens to be my age group.)

Northampton now has 2.14 people per house. Back in 1950, there were fewer houses and about the same number of people. At the time there were also two mental institutions housing 3,000 people. Now Northampton has protected 2,000 acres of land, but has less open space. Life expectancy is up. Family size is about half what it once was, so the number of kids is down. Houses are larger, but not nearly as large as the national average, and there are more of them, but fewer people in them. You see, the population is about the same, main street too, but not much else.

Most cities make most money (in taxes) off industrial, commercial, and office development. Houses generally cost the city money. Chiefly this is because of the services (schools, police, fire, water, sewage, etc.) that the city must provide to people. It might do OK (think tax revenue) when expensive houses are built, and people have no children (no school expenses). It might make sense for the City to purchase land that would cost more if it was developed (think of a new development for familes with school age children on a far edge of town requiring utilities and services.) All of this is in balance and probably would not matter as much if the city was flush with cash, but unfortunately it's not.

Cities can make plans, but the way they can do their will over land is through zoning, regulations, and buying land or development rights. They can also use eminent domain to appropriate (or take) land against the will of the owner (while compensating them). For instance, eminent domain was used to create the industrial park some 30 years ago. Zoning now prevents new development near wetlands, but regulations allow expansion of existing buildings. This is the case of development in the Meadows near the Oxbow and in the industrial park. This is all a trade-off which is one of the themes of planning, if you have not guessed by now.

Oh, in case you were wondering, the city does not just go out and buy land. It uses Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds to do so. They are collected based on a 3% surcharge on property tax.The CPA has different missions and committees which make these decisions: Preservation, Affordable housing, Recreation, and Agricultural. They recently decided to purchase the Bean and Allard farms in Florence for $990K. Eventually 24 acres of the Bean farm will be used for recreation. The farmland will be preserved for farming purposes, and there will probably be some community gardens.

Community and Economic development

We also heard from Teri Anderson who is director of community and economic development. CED is funded mostly by federal grants. It gets $750K per year from HUD. $360K goes to debt on the Northampton Senior Center and $150K to development. There are many other, usually project-based, grants which must be applied for and administrated.

Chiefly, CED provides support to and participates in city committees. They provide support to city staff. They work on regional projects and with regional groups like Next Step Collaborative, the Chamber of Commerce, or the Passenger Rail Advisory Committee (which as you should know recently received $70M in stimulus bank bailout funding to get Amtrak running through town and shaving 45 minutes off my trip to New York (look for this to actually happen within the next two years.) CED also works on housing and economic development projects including the Fairgrounds and building at the old State Hospital.

James House Learning Center

As an example of development, Anderson told us about the James House. Originally a Bank, then Juvenile court on Gothic Street, the James House Learning Center would be a long term educational space mostly aimed at adults. The city council said it should self-sustainable (not subsidized). Including the Center for New Americans, classroom with Child care. For renovations, unions have provided volunteer labor and local businesses have provided discounted materials. Unfortunately, due to the war budget cuts, the actual staff to run programming (i.e. classes) has been laid off. In the works for James House: provide transitional assistance through the regional Welfare office which currently is located in Holyoke.

Next Week

Whew! Pat yourself on the back. You made it through another week.

Next week, we'll be visiting the Police Department. Cops, robbers. That should be easy. As usual, please tell me what you think by leaving a comment.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Five-Spice Gunpowder

We recently had some good chicken at a local Chinese restaurant, and I was wondering what was in it. This restaurant is unusual in that it has a separate 'good' menu where you can order their Hong Kong style food.

The chicken tasted like it had Five-Spice Powder in it. I know this because we have some at home. Now what are those 5 spices? When I got home, I went to our spice cabinet, took out the bottle of Five-Spice Powder and looked at the ingredients which were both in English and Chinese and it read "Spice", so no help there.

I was still curious, so I looked on the web. As I was typing the letters into a Google search, it filled in the top popular useful searches. I entered the characters "five-" and it suggested "five - seven = negative two".

Huh? I studied math in school, and I already knew that 5-7 = -2. Now why would Google suggest that? Why would that be a top search? And what is in Five-Spice Powder anyway?

Here are the answers:

Many many people are searching for a nasty pistol called a "Five-Seven". They go to Google to find it and enter their search text. Google tries to show off and do the math for them and provides links underneath the result. Five-Spice Powder is the third choice on their suggestion list when they type the first few characters: "Five-".

Here's what's in Five-Spice Powder: star anise, cloves, cinnamon, Sichuan pepper, and ground fennel seeds. And here's a recipe if you want to make it yourself, and this is a similar chicken recipe to the one I had at the Chinese restaurant.

Here's a link to information about the Five-Seven pistol, and some information about cheap bullets.

If you didn't know, Google will also do other math tricks like unit conversions for you. For example, try entering "8 gallons in cubic centimeters" into a Google search.

Lastly, I suggest you prepare the chicken according to the recipe and tell me how it came out; you can even shoot the chicken yourself with your Five-Seven and serve it with some Gunpowder tea.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

City School Northampton: Week 5 - Finance

Apologies, I'm back from a small hiatus. I did not go anywhere, but I've been remiss in my bloggerly duties regarding City Schools. Northampton City Schools, if you haven't learned by now, is where regular citizens learn about the workings of our small city. Last time we heard about the schools. Previously, we learned about things like the Health Department and many other facets of our city government. I'm a few weeks behind in relaying what I have learned from you, so you have yet to hear about today's subject of City Finance or even about Community, Economic and Land Development, or our Police Department. But I've taken pretty good notes, and I hope to synthesize some of what I've learned.


This week we finally met the Mayor - our subject was city finance. Once again, let me summarize that we are quite lucky that we have so many competent people working for us - and willing to share information about what they do. We started off with Mayor Higgins describing the budget, where money goes and where it comes from. Karen Bellavance-Grace, the Mayor's assistant, who is organizing City School had given us a municipal finance crossword puzzle to work on for homework. It was quite hard, though the words aren't that difficult to recognize now that we have the answers e.g. bond, tax rate, levy, audit. Karen also often sends us some links to city departments so we can either learn or look into the subject of a City School class ahead of time. Most of the city websites are not polished, but they are quite full of information. (I am often pasting such links into this blog because they will be useful for you for further study - not just because it's fun to link to odd stuff.)

Proposition 2 1/2

Basically, almost everything in the Northampton City Budget depends upon Property Tax. Mayor Higgins gave us her Power-Point printout that illustrates the budget. We learned about Proposition 2 1/2 and we found out that 2 1/2 is a magic awful number. This all started with the tax revolt in California (they passed the aptly named Proposition 13 in 1978) and voter referendums. Massachusetts version is proposition 2 1/2. It basically limits property tax increases to 2.5%, but there's more to it. To give you an idea, before 2 1/2 arrived, taxes brought in $12M. When it kicked in back in 1982, taxes were reset to $10M. It wasn't until 1987 that taxes got back to their 1981 level. The city must vote for a tax override to go beyond a 2.5% increase. The city has only done this to fund school building projects and the new fire station. It wasn't until last year that the city voted for a general override. This is something that neighboring towns like Amherst have just voted to do (tonight). 2 1/2 sounds simple, but it isn't quite. It is also notorious for binding the hands of government. Basically if the city comes up short, they must cut services and/or lay off people because they cannot simply raise taxes.

City Revenue

Because revenue is limited, everything goes back to 2 1/2.

To figure out the income for the city of Northampton, you add the following:
  • $36M - last year's levy
  • $1.1M - personal property tax
  • $900K - the 2.5% increase
  • $300K - an estimate for new growth (new buildings or additions)
  • $1.2M - exclusion overrides for the school project and fire station debt
  • $2M more - last year local voters passed the general override required by 2 1/2
That adds up to $41.5 million for taxes.

There are other revenues:
  • $6.3M - Smith Vocational School tuition for out of city residents
  • $2M - auto and boat excise taxes
  • $900K - fines and forfeits (mainly parking tickets)
  • $400K in other income
  • $377K in hotel taxes
  • $300K interest on tax titles and Payments In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT)
  • $8.5M - state school aid
  • $1M - school choice income
  • $3M - school construction aid
  • $4.3M - general government aid including lottery and state PILOT
  • $400K federal reimbursements for things like Medicaid services
  • $3M - revenue from providing services to enterprise funds like sewer, water, and sold waste which are all run as a self-sufficient enterprises
  • $165K - money from the local cable company
  • $25K - CPA funds and fees that pay city salaries. 
This adds up to around $91M.

Unfortunately, due to the lousy economy new building is down, interest is down, probably fewer expensive new cars are being purchased - so auto excise tax is down. You probably have an idea that costs are only going up and so on. (Figures here are approximate. I hope they add up correctly.)

Thus the budget is born. $91,000,000. 71% of revenue comes from local sources - people like me, 24% from the state, and 0.6% Federal. More detailed Northampton finance information can be found here.

City Budget

Like the revenue, most of the expenditures are fixed. The state was doing better 20 years ago, but now things are always tight. Costs are climbing every year, there are cuts, cuts, and more cuts. So spending for the most part is non-discretionary. Not much waste here.

In broad strokes, here's the budget:
  • 73% - salaries and benefits
  • 18% - maintenance
  • 8% - debt
The money goes to, and roughly close but not quite the same percentage of employees work in each of, these areas:
  • 61% - education
  • 19% - public safety
  • 8% - public works
  • 8% - government
  • 3% - culture and recreation
  • 1% - human services
As you may surmise, most of these expenses are simply things that can't be cut very easily. In fact they are areas that have been cut over and over, so it's difficult to cut some more. I could tell you all about how your tax money is going to pay the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but you probably don't want to hear that. I could tell you about how the city can't simply raise taxes when they need them, but I did that already. We are currently stuck with the lot we have and we are lucky that we have smart people running things.

Tonight's Parade

Our city finance director Chris Pile organized our most efficient class yet. Tonight's class was about City Finance and that's what we got plenty of. I'm not going to give each player a fair amount of time here. I'll mostly introduce some of the roles in city fiance. The Mayor led our parade, since she produces the budget which must be approved by City Council.


We heard from Joe Cross who along with the City Assessor assesses the value of residential, business, industrial, and personal property taxes. Assessment is done using standard rules and the last full year of sales data among other things. Northampton has 12,000 parcels of land and is worth $32 Billion! The average assessment is $303K. The average tax bill is $4K. Our tax rate is $12.64. The tax rate fluctuates from year to year to match the tax increases and the change in property values.

Now if the town is really worth $32 Billion why would anyone complain about the measly little $41 Million tax bill.

Tax Collector

The City of Northampton has a Tax Collector who basically bills everybody for just about everything. We heard from the collector Melissa Lampron. She sends out 25,000 excise tax bills for all our cars (22,000) and our boats. The collector collects any bills. This is one of the various separation of powers required by the Massachusetts State Department of Revenue. They bill car dealers for licenses; they collect Smith Vocational High School tuition from other school districts, Water and Sewer bills, Tax bills; you name it.

Additionally, the collector fulfills the role of a collection agency that you might fear if you do not pay a bill. She will issue a Municipal Lien certificate and bill for outstanding parking fines and tell DMV to mark or lock your license renewals or release them if you are now up to date and paid up. (By the way, if you are an out-of-stater you can get away without paying your bill, but if you live in certain states like New York, then you cannot. Also, do not park your junk heap in our town if you can't bother to put a quarter in the parking meter. Hey! And also the usual parking ticket is $10 and not your out-of-town city slicker price. How dare you not pay! Aren't you ashamed now? Not paying for parking while on your big expensive vacation in our sweet little story-book city where they even forgive your first ticket - or so I heard - but maybe just for residents.)

In 2009, the collector collected $36M in revenue and had about $257K uncollected. The city collects taxes on 10,000 residential parcels.


Joyce Karpinski is the Northampton City Auditor. She spoke with us about what her department does. From The Auditor's website:
The Auditor's office provides payroll, accounts payable, purchasing and accounting services for all of the city's departments. They keep a complete and accurate set of general ledger and budgetary accounts. Additionally, accounts are maintained in nine separate funds including enterprise funds, capital projects funds and special revenue funds.
The auditor reconciles with the Treasurer and Collector, does city payroll which comes in the form of warrants that are signed by the finance director or mayor and given to the Treasurer to release. She does W-2s. She pays 500 invoices a week (fortunately, their present software won't let her pay more than that.) She arranges an annual outside audit and makes sure that bids and contracts follow proper procedures. There are many other auditor duties.


George Zimmerman is the Northampton City Treasurer. He said that he basically runs the city checkbook. The Treasurer makes no budget decisions.

The Treasurer moves money around. He wheels and deals with bank accounts and invests money. (I meant to ask, but I assume the money invested is in short and long term funds for good reason, like our rainy day funds, as opposed to simply trying to strike it rich for the city.)  Unfortunately interest rates went down over the past 5 years from 5% to about 1%. The Treasurer also disburses money and borrows money when told to do so. He controls 32 accounts and 150 sub-accounts at 8 banks.
About $100M will come into the city this year or about $2M a week (if it could only be thus.)

The City of Northampton has an A+ bond rating. To me this is good and sounds appropriate. (Of course, the USA has a higher rating despite the state of the current economy, and the ratings agencies themselves rated highly many of those banks and finanical companies that got bailed out. I don't rate the rating agencies highly one bit. Who can trust people who came up with a scale that goes from AAA to A to BBB to B to CCC to C and down to D not to mention all the combinations in-between?)

Break Time

At City School we took a break (actually a little earlier, but you deserve one now). We were meeting at Smith Voc in their restaurant. The little bakers (students) were kind enough to leave us cookies and coffee that they prepared. We were meeting at 6pm, so they were not around. The Oliver Smith Restaurant is open Tuesdays, Thursdays, and fridays for lunch (10:45 to 12:15pm). Call if you need information 413-587-1414 ext. 3522.

Soothing break below. Sand drawing, what could be more soothing?

OK, the break is over! Back to Class!

Northampton Public School Finance

Now that we are almost worn out, I will rush through some of the important stuff, namely the school budget. It is prepared by the Northampton Public Schools Business Manager. Her name is Susan Wright, and together with the Superintendent (and others) she prepares the budget. She handed out a 40 page budget to us for fiscal year 2010 and went through some highlights. I am not going to do that with you. I'm just going to give you a link to it. As you have learned before, the city council appropriates, but the school committee allocates. The city is assuming a level services budget - same level of service. (Unfortunately, your country and state have other priorities more important that the education of our young and are likely to cut something.)

The budget is about $28M plus about $10M in (school building) debt and health insurance and city services. We spend about $10K per student here in Northampton, while Amherst spends about $13K.

One thing I learned (and as always there is a highlight even when looking at the budget) is that just like the PTO does fund raisers and sells cookies to fund a class trip, city agencies are continually writing and managing grants to pay for things. They simply do not get all the money they need. They expect to receive $1.7M in grants in FY10 (fiscal year 2010). This means that they have to apply for the grants, win the grants, and administer the grants. This means that someone must be employed to hand all this. In some cases for city agencies, they share people who do this or allocate a 1/2 an employee. But it happens here and elsewhere. My daughter's teacher sometimes writes her own grants and has been awarded NEF money in the past. Fortunately there is less paperwork for her, but also less money at stake.

Smith Voc Business Manager

Our host (we were eating her school's cookies after all) Nancy Roberts is the Smith Voc. Business Manager. She spoke to us about the budget. Smith Vocational High School, as you learned here, is another school district within Northampton. It has a budget of $7.5M, $4.5M of which comes from tuition to cover students from other school districts. There are 450 students and 45 "sending districts". The Business Manager handles various revolving accounts (like the monies taken in by the restaurant) and school finances. Smith Voc. needs to equip their shops with modern equipment, so their students have up-to-date skills so they can get jobs after they graduate. They have a grant writer (see I told you.) They also have 2.7 clerks (we puzzled over that one.) and a Bursar.

It costs about $17K per student to educate their kids annually. They bill other districts four times a year for tuition which is about $14K. They have small class size (partially due to safety reasons) and expensive teaching equipment (thingy to straighten the frame of your car and a shop to paint a car.) They provide special school buses which are only allowed to drive students to job sites. They share a social worker (4o%) and project and contract bidding with Northampton Public Schools.

Their budget goes to 76% Instruction, 14% Maintenance, 2% Student services, 1% Other. (Sorry these numbers don't quite add up to 100%.) They own land can can sell it, but the money would only go into their stabilization fund. The city covers capital costs.

We learned that at Smith Voc on the day of our class that a goat had triplets, they had a new calf named Kipper and a new lamb named Norman.

Finance Director

Chris Pile is the finance director. He is the Mayor's right-hand-man (although he might be left-handed, you never know) and the senior finance resource for the city and a fount of budget knowledge. I've seen him on public access cable at a city council meeting answering budget questions. (I found a recent story featuring him that paints a picture about city finance at a city council meeting.) He spoke about about general municipal finance and most importantly was very good at organizing the class tonight.

Next Week

I sound like a broken record CD, but I'll say it again. These people are all quite knowlegable, competent, and are on our side. They are even looking for suggestions and help (and possibly a fictional generous billionaire to move into town and solve our problems, but I wouldn't count on that happening anytime soon.)

Sorry to cut this so short (kidding). Next week we will all learn about Development and Planning. Then the Police Department, the week after that.

Thanks for joining me in City School. Please grade this week's paper and leave your comments here on this blog. Thank you.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Long Island Movies and Documentaries

It's my intention to maintain the definitive list of movies that take place, are supposed to take place, or are about Long Island, New York. (That would be the part of Long Island which is not located in New York City.) I'll try to keep this up to date, but please do not hesitate to recommend additions and changes by posting to the comments area.

  • 3 Backyards (Eric Mendelsohn, 2010) [IMDB] - Another indie film from Old Bethpage's own Eric Mendelsohn. Being an indie it is not necessarily in full release, but I have my fingers crossed. 
  • Grey Gardens (Michael Sucsy, 2009 ) [IMDB] - Well reviewed bio-pic about Jackie O's eccentric Aunt and Cousin. Based on a documentary of the same name from 1975 (see below).
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004) [IMBD] - Two lovers are so torn when they break up that they have their memories removed. Sweet, sentimental, and different. This, plus some of his other non-LI films, made me a Gondry fan. Charlie Kaufman collaborated on the screenplay and my old neighbor in Brooklyn created the sets - including the absurdly giant kitchen and the shell of a house on the beach.
  • Pollock (Ed Harris, 2000) [IMDB] - Ed Harris portrays the inspired and tragic life of artist Jackson Pollock. Filmed at the house Pollock Krasner house which is now a museum you can visit.
  • L.I.E. (2001) [IMDB] - I have not yet seen this rough movie about struggling LI kids. 
  • Judy Berlin (Eric Mendelsohn, 1999) [IMDB] - This very blog's author's old-schoolmate directs Edie Falco who it appears is stuck in Old Bethpage. This movie made me relive my long ago Long Island late summer evenings. 
  • Love And Death On Long Island (1997) [IMDB] - Though it's really a "Hamptons" movie, it's a wonderful Long Island film with challenging roles. Stuffy professor and stunning actor John Hurt is utterly infatuated beyond his control with a famous heartthrob actor (think Keanu Reeves) played by Jason Priestley. Allusions to Death In Venice are purely intentional .
  • The Daytrippers (Greg Mottola, 1996) [IMDB] - Thanksgiving on Long Island is interrupted for a non-stop family trip to New York City. Stanley Tucci, Liev Schreiber, Parker Posey, and Anne Meara.
  • Simple Men (Hal Hartley, 1992) [IMDB] - Lindenhurst and out east.
  • Trust (Hal Hartley, 1990) [IMDB] - Starring Shelly and Edie Falco and others. More Lindenhurst.
  • The Unbelievable Truth (Hal Hartley, 1989) [IMDB] - One of several Long Island films by director Hal Hartley. Here an ex-con returns home to Lindenhurst. (I actually saw the premier of this film, at the Huntington Cinema Arts Center. After the film, all the actors stood up. We applauded. This among the earliest movies for each of them, so it's more than likely that Adrienne Shelly, Edie Falco, Hal Hartley were there. In fact, it's so early in their careers, it's likely that their parents were there as well.)
  • Family Business (Sidney Lumet, 1989) [IMDB] - Sean Connery, Dustin Hoffman, and Matthew Broderick play three generations of criminals in this comedy. I cannot remember exactly how much of this takes place on Long Island, but I definitely recall some recognizable Syosset office buildings. Sorry, no Sayville.
  • She-Devil (Susan Seidelman, 1989) [IMDB] - I was living in Port Jefferson Station when this movie was filmed at an estate in Port Jeff's Belle Terre - the big pink one at the end. Roseanne plays as the eponymous character. Even with Meryl Streep starring in it, I still haven't seen it.
  • The Amityville Horror (Stuart Rosenberg, 1979) [IMDB] - This film, which I'm sure I originally saw for 99 cents at the Morton Village Theater in Plainview, started a string of almost a dozen remakes, sequels, 'documentaries', and of course practically it's own genre ( Horror Movies Ripped From The Headlines). I recall driving by the real Amityville Horror house during driver's ed.
  • Interiors (Woody Allen, 1978) [IMDB] - One of the first not starring the director himself. This serious Bergman-inspired film has many long scenes with no dialog at the beach. Can you hear the surf? Can you see people speaking in profile? Is that death I smell or the surf?
  • Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977) [IMDB] - Since I do not need to tell you about this film, I can remind you that some of it takes place on Long Island. (Please help me identify any scenes or any other of his films I should include here.)

  • Farmingville (2004) [IMDB] - Why is it that bad things make for good documentaries? This award winning documentary explores a string of attacks by Suffolk county residents on Mexican farm workers. Unfortunately, this is still going on today. What? Do the locals really want to work at farms and menial labor themselves? This film does not make you proud of our great Long Island heritage. Not one bit.
  • Capturing the Friedmans (Andrew Jarecki, 2003) [IMDB]
  • Wonderland (1997) [IMDB] -  Quirky documentary of Levittown and some of its residents.
  • Grey Gardens (1975) [IMDB] - Documentary about Jackie O's eccentric Aunt and Cousin. See 2009 film based on this above.

Scenes (this is a placeholder heading)
  • Crocodile Dundee (Peter Faiman, 1986)  [IMDB] - Paul Hogan plays an Australian Out-Back fish out of water when he visits NYC with his large knife. The love interest is a reporter for Newsday, a great Long Island Newspaper. A least one scene is at the Newsday headquarters in Melville, but do help me out here because that may have been in the sequel where the two end up back in Australia. This movie came out of the local fame of Paul Hogan as well as a curious pre-occupation by US movie distributors with Australian comedies around this period (Muriel's Wedding, Pricilla, etc.).
  • North by Northwest (1959 [IMBD] - One of Alfred Hitchcock's masterpieces. You'll see Hitchcock's cameo in there somewhere, but most importantly 1950s Glen Cove, LI makes a cameo as well. I don't know where it was actually filmed, but traditionally, the Russian embassy types kept home on Long Island's north shore. I recall them being harassed by patriotic citizens during the Cold War in the 1970s.
 Other Lists of Long Island Movies
  • An article about Long Island award winners.
  • About.com list of top 10 Long Island movies.
  • A strange Sayville-obsessed Long Island list. OK, we admit it, everything started in Sayville.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Hawaiian Music And Hula

We saw Hapa tonight and Hula. Here's a video. No, we weren't at this show.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Logorama: Ronald McDonald Takes Hostages and LA Is Destroyed

The short film Logorama won an Academy Award (Oscar) this past Sunday.

I found it on the web Monday.
It was taken down by today, but can be found here.
I assume it is copyright that keeps it offline, but please tell me where you will find a venue to legitimately see this film. I'm not sure you can buy it or rent it yet.

You must check it out before it disappears again.

It's a 16 minute animated film where the characters, props and sets are 6,000 logos. Ronald McDonald is wanted by the police (Michelin Men) and LA is consumed by an earthquake and everything - I mean everything - is a brand name. (Oh, and there is some Tarantino-ish cursing, so preview it before you put it in front of the kids.)

And, by the way, I'm willing to see it again on the big screen.