on the News
A number of public health experts watching the aftermath of the tsunami
disaster fear the outpouring of emergency relief supplies and the rush
to head off outbreaks of disease will prove misguided or wasteful in
some respects. Many useless donations of food and clothing may pile
up, and public health authorities may devote too much time right now
to vaccination drives, overestimate the danger of diseases like malaria,
and underestimate more desperate needs, such as counseling for those
suffering from mental anguish, they say.
“Not uncommonly, do-good countries will send in all kinds of supplies
that have no value, like tons and tons of clothing, food that people
can’t eat because it’s not their custom, even hospital-style
equipment that they can’t possibly use,” said Dr. Philip
Brachman, at Emory University, in Atlanta. He used to oversee mass disease
fighting at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In one of the worst natural disasters in history, the recent earthquake
and tsunami killed more than an estimated 150,000 people and forced
up to 5 million from their homes. The disaster has also made conditions
rife for outbreaks of disease. Human sewage, rotting animals, trash
and other contaminants washed into drinking wells and reservoirs. Toilets
and places to clean up were ruined. Crops, cooking equipment and refrigeration
were lost, making safe food scarcer. Survivors are weakened by cuts
and broken bones and huddled together in shelters where germs can easily
spread in the heat.
The World Health Organization has predicted that deaths from disease
could eventually reach those caused by the quake and the floods themselves.
“You have to be very efficient. You have to think like a rifleman,
not somebody who comes in with a shotgun,” says Dr. William Schaffner,
the head of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
in Nashville, Tenn.
The worst immediate threats probably stem from a range of diarrheal
diseases like cholera and dysentery, especially where pure water fails
to reach survivors quickly, the specialists say. Other big worries include
respiratory diseases, like measles and pneumonia, within about a week
of the disaster. In a month or so, outbreaks are likely from food- or
water-carried ailments, like salmonella and hepatitis.
The experts say clean water - along with water-purifying tablets and
equipment - are urgent priorities. Several health specialists also appealed
for more attention to mental health counseling, which tends to be overlooked
in undeveloped areas.
Though many survivors in such places have known misery, storms and natural
horrors before, this catastrophe struck with extraordinary suddenness
and intensity and took many children. Depression will probably prevent
some survivors from joining in the rebuilding, some specialists say.
For those seeking to help, we suggest attending the special benefit
set to take place at The Joyous Lake in Woodstock on Sunday, January
9, featuring Robbie Dupree, Marc Black, John Sebastian and others. The
Phoenicia Business Association is taking up donations for Doctors Without
Borders. Those who want to mail a check can do so via the Phoenicia
Business Association, P.O. Box 391, Phoenicia, NY 12464. Also, Julian
and Wendy Lines, who run the Aurobindo Center in Mt. Tremper and own
Pondicherry, a shop in Woodstock, are collecting funds from the cans
they have put out over the next few weeks. The Lines have gone to India
to help out and are expected back in March. For those who want to donate,
send a check payable to “AVIUSA” and mail it to PO Box 676,
Woodstock NY 12498. There is also a link from the Pondicherry website
at www.pondi.biz for online credit card donations.
Or contact one of the following organizations…
ACTION AGAINST HUNGER, 247 West 37th Street, Suite 1201, New York, N.Y.
10018. 212-967-7800 x108 or www.actionagainsthunger.org.
AMERICAN JEWISH WORLD SERVICE, 45 West 36th Street, 10th Floor, New
York, N.Y. 10018. 800-889-7146 or www.ajws.org.
AMERICAN FRIENDS SERVICE COMMITTEE, AFSC Crisis Fund, 1501 Cherry Street,
Philadelphia, Pa. 19102. 215-241-7000 or www.afsc.org.
AMERICAN RED CROSS, International Response Fund, P.O. Box 37243, Washington,
D.C. 20013. 800-HELP NOW or www.redcross.org.
CATHOLIC RELIEF SERVICES, Tsunami Emergency, P.O. Box 17090, Baltimore,
Md. 21203-7090. 800-736-3467 or www.catholicrelief.org.
DIRECT RELIEF INTERNATIONAL, 27 South La Patera Lane, Santa Barbara,
Calif. 93117. 805-964-4767 or www.directrelief.org.
DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS, P.O. Box 1856, Merrifield, Va. 22116-8056.
888-392-0392 or www.doctorswithoutborders.org.
INTERNATIONAL MEDICAL CORPS, Earthquake/Tsunami Relief, 1919 Santa Monica
Boulevard, Suite 300, Santa Monica, Calif. 90404. 800-481-4462 or www.imcworldwide.org.
AMERICAN JEWISH JOINT DISTRIBUTION COMMITTEE, South Asia Tsunami Relief,
Box 321, 847A Second Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10017. 212-687-6200 ext.
851 or www.jdc.org.
MERCY CORPS, Southeast Asia Earthquake Response, Dept. W, P.O. Box 2669,
Portland, Ore. 97208. 800-852-2100 or www.mercycorps.org.
SAVE THE CHILDREN, Asia Earthquake/Tidal Wave Relief Fund, 54 Wilton
Road, Westport, Conn. 06880. 800-728-3843 or www.savethechildren.org.
ISLAMIC RELIEF USA, Southeast Asia Earthquake Emergency, P.O. Box 6098,
Burbank, Calif. 91510. 888-479-4968 or www.irw.org/asiaquak.
town board will also make key appointments to the town planning board,
appointments that are likely to put power on the board squarely on the
The seven member volunteer planning board has found itself two members
short. Allan Berryann resigned last fall after being on the board for
less than one year. Appointed to a five-year term, his vacancy needs
to be filled by a replacement that would serve the remaining four years.
It was also announced that planner John Byer has resigned effective
at the closing of the upcoming February planning board meeting. It was
not immediately clear how much of his five-year term has expired.
At a January 12th planning board meeting the planners were ready to
interview candidates to find a replacement only for Berryann, but once
aware of Byer’s impending departure they decided they would conduct
the interviews to find a replacement for Byer as well. This idea met
some resistance from audience members that felt Byer’s position
should be advertised to give residents a chance to apply.
But the planners decided that the three applicants that applied for
Berryann’s seat were enough of a talent pool to pick from to fill
both. All interviews were held the evening of the 12th in closed, executive
Chosen were Glenn Miller and Keith Holmquist. Miller, a colorful local
character, is a former member of the town’s zoning board of Appeals
and was town code enforcement officer for a short time a few years ago.
A constant fixture at town board meetings, he has a track record of
publicly combating opponents of the Golf resort proposed by Crossroads
Ventures and has been known to hurl personal verbal attacks at those
disagreeing with him.
The Resort project is expected to come before the Planning Board later
this year, or next.
Holmquist operates a ski shop in the Greene County Town of Hunter and
is President of the Phoenicia Rotary Club.
The third candidate interviewed was Marcy Meiller who, like Miller,
is a regular at town board sessions. Meiller usually finds herself on
the opposite end of debates from Miller.
Although the planners have made their decisions, it remains unclear
what the Town Board will do. The planners can only make recommendations
to the town board, and the board has the power to ignore those recommendations.
Another issue is whether they will agree that it was appropriate for
the planning board to hold the interviews for both vacancies, or whether
they will decide to advertise Byer’s vacancy, which does not officially
begin until mid February.
Planner Charles Frasier said that Byer’s resignation is not official
until the town board accepts it. He also noted that Byer might change
“We’ll make our recommendations and let the town board decide
what they’re going to do,” said Planning Board Chairman
It has also become clear that some in town are paying attention to the
fate of a high profile piece of real estate in Phoenicia, where a consortium
of local investors want it declared a commercial zone on the towns current
zoning map, even though its listed as residential land.
Planner Beth Waterman, also a member of the town’s zoning revision
committee, gave an update on the committees work at the planning session.
The committee has been meeting regularly for several months, charged
with scrutinizing the town’s zoning laws to see if any changes
need to be made. When finished with that task the committee will make
recommendations to the town board, which would then start the process
of altering the laws.
Waterman said a sticking point for the committee is Code Enforcement
Officer Mike Malloy’s request to break out the zoning map issue
from all other revision proposals and move it ahead immediately.
Waterman explained that Malloy has told the committee that there are
errors on the current map, most notably the property of the Phoenicia
Plaza along Route 28.
The Plaza, built in the early 1970s, has a blurry history. Waterman
said the committee has reviewed as many documents as could be found
about the land, but have found nothing that supports the idea that it
was meant to be zoned commercial. What they did find was evidence that
the land was non-commercial in 1975, but shortly after that the Town
Board issued the previous owner a variance for the Plaza. While everyone
agreed that a town board does not have authority to issue a variance,
some wonder if the old resolution, drafted when zoning was in its infancy,
was worded incorrectly, and that perhaps the board meant to amend the
zoning back then to make the land commercial. Until that piece of the
puzzle is discovered, Waterman can’t see supporting a measure
to make the change to the map, which now lists the land as residential.
“If we can find where the town board amended the ordinance to
make it commercial/light industrial, fine, but I can’t see that
anywhere in the paperwork,” she said.
Miller, who said he was involved with town zoning back then, claims
that the “maps were drawn wrong,” and said the Plaza property
is indeed commercial.
Board members suggested that the committee should find any town board
members from the era and ask them if they recall the town board’s
intent. It was noted that Mount Tremper resident Marian Umhey was on
the board at that time.
In other news, the long-awaited unveiling of yet another comprehensive
plan was delayed this week, when the architect of the document fell
ill and cancelled the January 17th session to present
it. Supervisor Robert Cross Jr. said Tuesday that no new date has been
This draft, while new, is actually the third completed draft plan in
as many years. Committees with differing personnel have worked for several
years to prepare a plan. The first one was viewed as too pro-development.
The second was seen as too anti-development. Both caused firestorms
of resentment in town when released to the public.
Since October staffers from the Stantec Corporation, hired by the town
to take all the previous efforts at a plan and forge them into one clear
draft, have come to town twice to meet with the public. They appear
to be right on schedule for the having the job done in March.
Their third visit on the 17th was scheduled to walk those interested
through the elements of the plan, and accept input about any recommended
changes. While only a committee meeting, the draft’s author noted
the public is invited.
“We’ve made that commitment that it is open too the public.”
said Stantec’s Paula Benway last week. “What we have is
a draft of a complete plan. The draft will be reviewed by the committee
and changes may be made as a result of the committee’s recommendations.
It is important to make clear that the document will not be complete
until there are public hearings held, and the public offers input.”
Benway added that her draft is the first complete draft by Stantec,
and it is based on her professional opinion of all the data provided
by the committee as well as the direction the committee has so far provided.
The plan will serve as a blueprint for the town’s future, outlining
what the people want and don’t want in terms of development, business
activity, and housing. Stantec was brought in to help a committee that
admitted last year that it was unable to put a plan together without
Last November Benway came to town and unveiled the less controversial
part of the plan. The crucial section - how to implement the plan -
was not ready yet.
During the talk about traffic, it was noted that large development proposals
like the Crossroads Ventures Golf resort, and even the fact that skier
visits at Belleayre have reached all time highs lately, are warning
signs that it might become difficult to get onto the highway from side
roads. As a result, Benway was asked to add information to the plan
that would warn future town leaders of the possibility that the highway
could be at full capacity within a decade.
As for the Phoenicia sewer project... the sewer committee remains quiet
about the location of the project treatment plant, but they have an
option to purchase land along Route 28 just east of the Phoenicia Diner,
and west of the Phoenicia Plaza. The parcel, about three acres in size,
might not be enough to fit the entire system, so the committee is negotiating
with several adjacent landowners to purchase more property.
This Saturday the committee will meet for a daylong interview session
with representatives from several engineering firms jockeying for the
job to build the $11 million system. Hopes are to break ground this
Lastly, the town’s cell tower committee may have a final draft
of the long-awaited tower law. Committee member Gerry Setchko said they
met last week and made minor changes to the draft. A clean copy with
those changes will be printed.
Setchko said if the committee likes the draft they would pass it on
to the town board for approval.
Setchko was dissappointed by news that the proposed law needed to endure
an environmental review under State Environmental Quality Review Law.
While the rest of the planning board seemed well aware of this, Setchko
still has his doubts.
“I’ve got to read this law again,” he grumbled.
In The Landscape
never a good time to do this, but I feel very comfortable with the
transition,” she said. “It feels like the right time.
I’ve been granted a tremendous opportunity to serve, well, you
know, ‘the environmental governor’. I came in as commissioner
and we had a number of goals. We did them all, and more. Not a surprise
– he (Pataki) is so fantastic.”
Citing personal reasons for her departure, Crotty, 38 and married
last year, explained that “My husband and I want to start a
family. If we’re going to do that, this is the time for us.”
As for her future, she said she didn’t feel comfortable exploring
her options while still in her current position, though she hopes
to find “a less stressful job”, than the one she’s
Crotty, the first woman to head DEC, had been appointed by Governor
Pataki in March 2001 and had previously served as the agency’s
Deputy Commissioner for Water Quality and Environmental Remediation.
During that time, she also served as the Governor’s representative
for the negotiation of the 1997 Memorandum of Agreement between the
City and the Watershed Towns, and later, as his representative to
the Catskill Watershed Corporation. A skilled negotiator, she is widely
credited as one of the principal architects of the MOA. She has also
been widely viewed as highly supportive of funding for capital improvements
made and planned for the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center. Between her
leading roles for DEC, she also served for a time as Director of State
& Local Government Relations for Plug Power Inc, a Latham-based
company developing new fuel cell technologies.
Replacing Crotty as Acting Commissioner will be the agency’s
Deputy Commissioner of its Office of Natural Resources since January
2003, Lynette Stark. In that capacity, Stark has been directing DEC’s
natural resource conservation and planning efforts and overseeing
its departments of water, land, minerals, forests, fish, wildlife,
and marine resources. Prior to coming to the agency, she served as
Pataki’s Deputy Director of State Operations, working with state
agencies and stakeholder groups to develop policies related to environmental
conservation, agriculture, and parks.
What changes, if any, DEC’s leadership might have on issues
concerning the Catskills is unclear, with Crotty calling her successor
“fantastic,” and stressing her expectation of continuity
in direction. In broad terms, many Albany insiders and observers and
have come to regard the autonomy of state agencies in recent years
with increasing skepticism, citing belief that across the board, major
agency decisions appear to reflect direct control by “the second
floor,” Albany-speak for the governor’s office in the
Capitol Building. Public officials recently voicing such views include
Attorney General and declared gubinatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer
and Westchester Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, who’s seeking the
job Spitzer hopes to vacate.
In other DEC-related business last week, state Assemblyman Kevin Cahill
fired off a formidable epistle to the departing Crotty, urging the
Commissioner to require a “full Adjudicatory Hearing”
for the proposed Belleayre Resort project. “It is not for those
of us who author our laws,” said Cahill, “to short circuit
the opportunity for a full and public airing” of the issues.
He called on her to honor “the integrity of the (review) process
put in place by the state legislature,” by affording “all
interested constituencies every benefit of SEQRA.”
Cahill’s letter, which was also copied to presiding Judge Wissler,
Crossroads’ Dean Gitter, and Tom Alworth of the Catskill Center
for Conservation and Development, marked a notable shift for the 4th
term assemblyman, who until now has maintained a low profile with
respect to the proposed project.
Citing expert testimony from the project’s recent Issues Conference,
Cahill characterized as “inadequately detailed” the developer’s
treatment of stormwater and potable water issues, secondary growth,
impacts on the forest preserve, and community character. He also stressed
the lack of any meaningful alternatives analysis by the developer,
quoting its DEIS that “detailed market and fiscal analysis”
show that “any reduction or elimination of a project element…
is not a reasonable or feasible alternative.” Cahill requested
of the Commissioner full adjudicatory hearings on all of these issues.
But it was on another range of issues, ones not currently before the
DEC since their inclusion was not sought by the effected municipalities,
that Cahill has now called for additional study. He said that it is
“necessary that there be a complete evaluation of the impact…
on the Ulster County Department of Social Services budget, in accommodating
employees who may be eligible for Medicaid and/or Food Stamp benefits
by virtue of their low to moderate wages.” He also called for
an “in-depth investigation,” “before, not after
adjudication” of the local impacts to traffic, businesses, and
public school districts” affected by the project. According
to Cahill, “Crossroads’ DEIS does not include an analysis
of the Onteora School District” and it’s capacity to serve
or fund additional school-age children associated with the resort
and its worker population. “Clearly, in the interest of a complete
review, these matters should be discussed in more detail,” he
Cahill also praised “the professional demeanor and approach”
of Judge Wissler, whom he said “has conducted himself in an
exemplary manner and is a credit to his position” and the agency.
Some of the issues raised by Cahill were among those essentially removed
from Judge Wissler’s table for possible adjudication by the
Towns of Shandaken and Middletown’s failure to present studies
raising them in evidence at last year’s Issues Conference for
the project, and by decisions made by Ulster County and the Onteora
School District not to file for party status in the resort’s
SEQRA process. Those decisions also removed from consideration under
SEQRA, the tax package proposed by the developer for impacted municipalities
and school districts. Those tax proposals are viewed by some as highly
favorable to the developer and unfavorable to the project’s
host towns and school districts.
Dov-Man Gets Made“I didn’t get home until
pretty late, around midnight or so. I had to watch a recorded version
of it,” says the 16-year old Junior, whose drive to “get
ripped and buff up” by joining the school’s wrestling
team, serves as the episodes narrative engine. “I was pretty
nervous about going to school the next day. There are quite a few
embarrassing moments in the hour-long show, from my perspective. Like
the love interest and my mom’s line about me being her little
And sure enough, Dov says he heard plenty of comments about being
that “little muscle man” the next day.
But for every ribbing or tease, he says there were many more full-blown
moments of praise, congratulations, even awe.
“People kept coming up to me saying they were blown away by
hard I’d tried,” Dov says of the show’s grueling
moments of training and vulnerability. At one points he gets a nosebleed.
At another, he’s left on the verge of vomiting. Offscreen, he
says he got his braces shoved up into his lip, ruining them for two
Then again, reports have come in from other students that the fellow
student seen as Dov’s bully nemesis in the program, Willy Orlando,
has been booed in the halls of the school since last week’s
air date. And that the love interest, Evelyn, who Dov admits having
had a crush on for over a year -- on camera, no less – has actually
started talking to him again.
The way this all came about, with Dov and the Onteora High School’s
inner life playing on a heavy rotation for MTV viewers around the
world, is somewhat circuitous.
According to Dov, he first heard that the show was searching in the
Hudson Valley for a subject. While rehearsing a pair of revues at
the Hurley-based New York Conservatory for the Arts, where he’s
been taking singing and dancing classes for years. Even though he
says he’d never seen Made, now in its fifth season, he decided
to give it a shot.
“On every new episode of MADE, one willing candidate embarks
on a mission to transform his or her life,” reads the show’s
on-line publicity packet. “Whether it's to become a varsity
football player, a BMX biker, or a surfer, each teenager has a dream
to break out of their shell and find out who they really are. Sometimes
they make it, sometimes not, and sometimes they realize they had what
they wanted all along.”
“I knew I had a good chance of getting it when my first interview
lasted for twenty minutes,” Dov says of the process that started
in August and didn’t really reach a definitive okay until a
week before actual shooting started in October. “I told them
all about my story, how I’ve been bullied a lot over the years
and developed a ‘Charlie Brown’ attitude to get through
it all. How I wanted to earn some respect at school.”
Dov Rubenstein is a fast talker, sweet-faced and a bit of a ham. Yet
he’s also earnest and not afraid to display his vulnerabilities.
It’s easy to see how a casting director could warm to him…
Within a few days of his first audition, Dov was given a call back,
told he’d made the first cut. This was against other teens in
the region. Now, he started meeting with Made producers to hone what
his story would be, were it to be chosen over other contenders from
around the country.
It was decided that wanting to be buff and ripped wasn’t enough…
he’d have to get that way via a sport. When MTV execs started
playing with the idea of getting the Mt. Tremper student onto his
school’s girl’s volleyball team, Dov decided to try the
same sport his father had played when he was his age… wrestling.
One part down.
Then came the deeper narrative elements. A good plot, be it reality-based
or fictional, needs strong characters.
Dov was asked to play up the crush he’d mentioned so there’d
be a viable love interest to the story. That meant staging a proposal
to Evelyn that she accompany him to the annual Tomahawk Dance…
even though other students say such formalities are usually a thing
of the past now. Kids just go, not paying any real attention to “dates.”
Then came the need for a nemesis, an antihero. Enter Orlando, even
though it turns out the kids share the same advanced classes, and
have actually known each other for years. Willie, it turns out, was
game to play the role asked of him. And with glee.
Finally, the standard “making” elements that are the meat
and potato formula of the show were thrown in… professional
adults who could help take Dov from his geeky weakling role, at episode’s
start, through his makeover into at least a wrestling contender. For
these roles, MTV brought in a wrestling coach from the Syracuse area,
Gene Mills of Syracuse-based Pin to Win Wrestling, to serve as a daily
mentor. Later, they dropped renowned WWE pro wrestler Kurt Angle,
a former National and Olympic champion, into the scene at Onteora
to help bolster Dov’s attutude… as well as the series’
Along the way, Dov, as the sole focus of the episode, is faced with
various challenges. He gets a wrestling “crib” set up
in his basement. He goes to a wrestling camp. He gets followed around
school as he’s made fun of. His every move around Evelyn, who
gamely plays along, is followed by a worldwide audience.
Moreover, Onteora gets defined for that same world audience via the
quick flow of shots and voice-over narration that describe it. The
giant green Woodstock traffic sign on Route 28 near the turnoff to
385 is played prominently, along with several clichéd shot
of the Village Green and a few of its more hippie-like denizens. Phoenicia’s
crumbling Daniel Boone statue. Students are seen in their wildest
seventies-like garb. The place is lent a rural but chic air, and actually
termed “pretty normal.”
It’s odd seeing the fifty-year old high school halls on a reality
tv show, let alone the views of mountains that surround the high school’s
The New York Conservatory seems like a set for Fame, bustling and
full of the nation’s top talent.
And yet the slight story manipulations that focus viewers’ attention
on Dov, Evelyn, Willie and his wrestling coaches, not to forget his
parents, Dave and Bonnie, end up lending the whole episode a super-real
feeling. The plight we all carry within us to be cool and somehow
win the girl of our dreams, no matter the work it takes, plays on
the poignant heartstrings of the subconscious. Meanwhile, the actual
documenting of Dov’s transformation, losing thirty pounds and
a baby-face in a couple months, is riveting in its unquestionable
“I felt very vulnerable, bringing my deepest feelings out. Nothing
was sacred,” Dov says of the whole process, now in its heavy
airplay part. “But I’m an actor. Everything worked, in
the end, for the good of the production.”
Some elements, he adds, did not make it into the filming. Many of
his friends opted not to appear. There were times his mother simply
said ‘enough” and asked that the camera be turned off
her. And yes, there were elements of “reality” lost to
the needs of “realty tv.”
Dov is fully cogniscent of what the show can do for his dramatic dreams.
He understands that other things can come of his television debut,
but is also happy just to have accomplished what is seen within the
episode’s frame of reference: a buffer body, now primed for
leads, and not just the character roles he’s been satisfied
with to date; the confidence gained by trying something challenging,
and seeing it through; the joy of getting a hidden crush out into
reality, and gaining a good friend in the process.
Did being followed by a camera for 120 hours change the way he treated
Dov says no. He’s always had a mixture of self-consciousness
and the ability to be himself. A need for attention and a wish to
be normal. Like most kids.
“I think that after a while I was thinking of all the stuff
that would be seen, but my attitude grew so that I realized that the
more embarrassed I was, the better television it would be,”
he says. “Maybe I overdid a few of my little quirks, as a result.
But in the end, it worked out. Now, they’re saying it may be
the best episode of Made they’ve done.”
Dov adds that he’s been suffering from a bit of “aftermath”
since the show aired. He’s got a lot of school work to catch
up on, the current production to concentrate on, and a whole slew
of wrestling matches to compete in before the season ends.
And the wrestling, he admits, really hurts.
“I just don’t want to find out now that I’ve been
used,” he admits.
But then he’s all smiles and cheer once more, albeit a bit bruised.
“Maybe I should find an agent,” he asks/declares. “This
was a real experience…”
Made airs Thursdays at 10 p.m., plus other times listed on www.mtv.com.
Born and raised in eastern
Colorado – the flat part most people don’t think of when
they think of the western state – she moved to these smaller
mountains via marriage almost 20 years ago. During the interim, she’s
finished graduate studies in the city, written four books, and re-directed
her life, and our general understanding of the entire phenomenon of
autism, through her mothering of son Elijah, with whom she’s
started traveling the country giving lectures.
The interest in German dates back to family, and younger years spent
studying the language in its native land. Along the way, she worked,
as best one could be expected to, as a translator for the late actor
Klaus Kinski, star of numerous Werner Herzog classics of the 1970s.
But she also found the seeds for her latest book, Clever Maids: The
Secret History of the Grimm Fairy Tales, which has just come out to
raving reviews, and will be celebrated at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, January
29, with a book signing party thrown by Golden Notebook at Joshua’s
Clever Maids, a remarkable work, uncovers the hidden secret of the
popular stories… that they were as much the product of the women
in the Jacob and Wilhelm’s lives as the men they said were their
sources. And it does so, as is Paradiz’s style, with a sly,
gentle humor that reveals her hefty amounts of research, both historical
and textual, with the personal touch of a memoir.
It follows the similarly sterling, and even more influential success
of her earlier work, Elijah’s Cup, which started off as a memoir
about dealing with the discovery of her son’s being diagnosable
for Asperber’s syndrome, a form of autism, but ended up heralding
new ways of looking at those who inhabit the edges of our “normal”
worlds that have proved subversively influential.
Paradiz, in her book, showed how the autism spectrum was much more
prevalent than originally thought, and included a number of top artists
and thinkers who found ways of utilizing its perspective to advance
culture and science, among other things. Think Warhol and Einstein,
maybe even Michaelangelo and DaVinci…
The process of writing Elijah’s Cup also served to strengthen
Paradiz’s relationship with her son, Elijah, and participate
ever-more strongly in his education. The result was a realization,
three years ago, that many of those with Asperger’s –
bright but socially awkward, dedicated but prone to almost manic concentration
– were falling through proverbial cracks. Hence the idea for
Aspie, an education program just for those with Asperger’s.
Paradiz’s experiment, part of Onteora’s INDIE program,
was recently featured in a New York Times front page story about the
syndrome, and changing attitudes towards it. Furthermore, her students
are currently part of a new exhibit, Art/Aspergers/Autism at Ricco/Maresca
Gallery in New York’s world-centering Chelsea art district,
where she’s set to speak in the coming week.
Furthermore, Paradiz has started having the fun of bringing Elijah,
now a strapping teen with a keenly developed sense of hiumor, on the
road to lectures with her, where the two perform a classic Abbott
& Costello like act... albeit with state-of-the-art professorial
She says it’s all driven -- this flurry of work and accomplishment
-- by the steady beauty of living just off the persistent Esopus,
by the constant support of her equally amazing partner, Gerard Ryan,
by the vibrancy this wide community of OLive and Shandaken, Woodstock
and the entire Catskills and Hudson Valley have lent her life.
But most of all, she likes to say, it all comes down to the lessons
she learned, over time, through her son, Elijah. Her need to understand
and communicate better. In other words, the heart of her need to live
our Upstate lives fully, with complete commitment.
Val Paradiz has learnt to give in ways that equal all she’s
been given. With gusto.
There seems to be something inherently Catskillian in that. It’s
something we all strive for.
She’s someone we should all be proud of.
Just as she’s so proud of dear Elijah.