Provided photo

Originally published in the Rutland Herald on Oct. 4, 2012. 

It’s been 22 years since Bob Newhart last performed in Vermont, but that changes Friday when the legendary comedian takes the stage at Rutland’s Paramount Theatre at 8 p.m.

During his more than five decades in show business, Newhart has enjoyed success not only on stage but also on the big and small screens, including two critically acclaimed network sitcoms — “The Bob Newhart Show” and “Newhart.”

For Vermonters, “Newhart” holds a special place as being one of the state’s most notable forays into pop-culture relevance. On the show, which aired on CBS from 1982 to 1990, Newhart played Dick Loudon, owner of the fictional Stratford Inn located in a small Vermont town full of quirky locals and backwoods oddballs.

While the series was shot entirely in California, East Middlebury’s Waybury Inn served at the exterior for the Stratford, adding another point of Green Mountain pride to the show.

While Friday’s Paramount performance will not feature Larry, Darryl and Darryl, it promises to offer a glimpse into Newhart’s button-down mind.

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Yesterday, on my way home from work, I came across a couple runaways out for a date on Court Street. Inspired by my photo, friend and occasional collaborator Will White, penned the following lines of verse.

You could say they were in the courting phase
He didn’t mind that she could curse up a blue streak
She didn’t mind that he had an axe to grind
He admired the action on her produce basket
She blushed at his robust undercarriage

Sure, she had a wall-eyed front left wheel, that squeaked when it was cold
And his handlebar grip would slip when it was damp out
But her stately perpendicular lines
Balanced his downtown tweed
And no one could argue their love…
For public free libraries

Here’s the thing about Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day. The turnout today is not an demonstration of traditional values. It’s an endorsement of bigotry. The fact is, if in 2012 your traditional values cannot accept same-sex marriage or homosexuality in general, then the traditions you value need an update. And today was not an expression of religious freedom. Because, again, if your religion cannot accept homosexuals, then your religion is flawed.

Let’s go back to the beginning of this whole Chick-fil-A foofaraw and replace the word “gay” with “black” or “Jew.” If Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy had spoke out against miscegenation — if he had said that interracial marriage was inviting “God’s judgment on our nation” — would there still have been a Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day? I doubt it.

So what’s the difference? Why is it acceptable for homosexuals to be the target of bigotry in this instance? Because of an obscure passage in an old book? Sorry, that’s not good enough.

Freedom of religion? Bullshit. This is bigotry, plain and simple. Check out this story about people turning out to support Chick-fil-A in recent days, saying things like “I’m so glad you don’t support the queers, I can eat in peace.”

Yea, glad are those who hate the queers, for they shall know peace.

And shame on opportunistic, attention-starved conservatives like Mike Huckabee, Michele Bachmann, and Sarah Palin — who value divisiveness over discourse — for exploiting the unfounded anxieties of our country’s small-minded, over-Bibled bigots that, sadly, still believe this garbage.

And that’s what is so troubling. Not only do so many people in this country still harbor these awful prejudices, but when given the opportunity they will celebrate them proudly. Bully for our freedom of speech, which allows you to so proudly proclaim your bigotry. No one can take that away from you, or any of us.

At the end of the day, Chick-fil-A still has a right to do business. Dan Cathy has a right to be a conservative homophobe. And people have a right to support them both. But don’t hide behind your Bible and don’t pretend this is some  great moral cause. It’s not. Because, honestly, you should be ashamed. You should feel small and petty. You should be embarrassed to hold such vileness in your heart. Just eat your goddamn chicken sandwich and shut the hell up.

Originally published in the Rutland Herald on July 18, 2012.

Rutland County GOP Chairman Rob Towle’s offensive Facebook post has become a national news story and sadly has brought the ugly, racially charged rhetoric currently at play in parts of the Republican Party home to Vermont.

While the post was eventually removed after commenters from all sides decried it as racist and offensive, Towle’s half-hearted non-apology only drew more criticism. By Tuesday, Towle found some better words and apologized in earnest for his “bad judgment,” calling the post “stupid and insensitive.”

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Originally published in the Rutland Herald on July 5, 2012.

In their haste to report on last week’s Supreme Court ruling of the Affordable Care Act, CNN and Fox News Channel got one key part of the story wrong: all of it. This most recent failure underscores exactly what is wrong with the 24-hour cable news channels: Simply saying something — anything — is now enough. On Thursday, CNN and Fox performed the journalistic equivalent of a commenter writing “FIRST!” on an Internet message board.

This ratings-driven motivation comes at the expense of both organizations’ credibility and devalues the importance of factual journalism. Viewers would have been better served if the reporter had simply read the document or just held it up to the camera and slowly flipped the pages.

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Rutland City Police investigate a shooting on Cleveland Avenue shortly before 4 p.m. Friday. (Vyto Starinskas/Rutland Herald photo)

[UPDATED (5/1/12): The shooting on Friday, 4/27/12, was accidental and not a drive-by]

(Published in the May 2, 2012, edition of the Rutland Herald) Before we respond to last week’s shooting near Cleveland Avenue with hopeless despair over Rutland’s further decline into darkness, let’s count to five and put things into perspective.

Early reports labeled the incident as a drive-by shooting. Further investigation revealed that it was, in fact, accidental. While this development changes how the shooting is classified, the public’s initial response was no less real.

As word of the shooting went viral on social media Friday afternoon, the tone was dire. Across the Rutland, people clucked their tongues and shook their heads lamenting the loss of town they once knew.

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Originally posted on ThePlaidCrew.com  on Jan. 5, 2010. 

BOSTON—A local teenager is resting comfortably today after a potentially dangerous encounter with a cougar over the weekend. Jeremy Richmond, 19, of Somerville was walking his two-year-old golden retriever, Scooter, at a neighborhood dog park on Saturday afternoon when he was approached by the cougar who was later revealed to be Leslie Putnam, a 41-year-old divorcee and mother of two.

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