Authors Posts by Tony Omer

Tony Omer

Tony Omer
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Seventeen years ago hundreds of Islanders volunteered their time and skills to help raise West Tisbury’s Agricultural Hall. It was a massive outpouring of community spirit and support. This past Saturday, the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society celebrated its 17th annual Barn Raisers’ Ball.

The barn was a classic, a huge, old post and beam building deconstructed in Woodsville, N.H., trucked down and reconstructed at the corner of State Road and the Panhandle in West Tisbury. It took many people to reassemble the parts.

People who knew what they were doing managed those who didn’t and worked. There was very little standing around. People with strength helped raise the bents, the frames of the post and beam structure, and people with saws cut planks, People with hammers shingled. Working with the chaotic precision of an ant colony, volunteers scrambled over the frame and the building rapidly came together.

Several Island businesses and many individuals provided and served food to fuel the effort. After three days, when the framing was done and the building was closed up but not yet tight, the roof had yet to be shingled and the floor was not down, the first Barn-Raisers Ball was held on the sandy dirt floor. Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish played.

This past Saturday evening, Nov. 13, the Agricultural Society sponsored the 17th annual Barn Raisers’ Ball, open to all friends and supporters of the Society. Once again, Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish played, beverages were provided, and the front hall was filled with cookies, brownies, pies, cakes, strudels, tarts, puddings, waffles, and ice cream brought by the attendees to share.

The place was packed with people of all ages and most found the beat of the Bluefish boogies too hard to ignore, dancing from the first notes to the last.

A visitor from Vermont said he’d never seen anything like this party. He marveled at the setting, the band, and the age spread of the partyers. It was suggested that he import the concept back up to Vermont if it was “that good.” He shook his head and said, “No this is unique.”

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On Saturday, almost 100 cyclists paid an average of $100 to ride their bikes around the Island in the second annual Cycle Martha’s Vineyard. The event was sponsored by the Rotary Club of Martha’s Vineyard with proceeds benefiting Big Brothers Big Sisters of Martha’s Vineyard and other Rotary charities.

Seventy-five of the cyclists rode 100 kilometers (62 miles), covering most of the Island. After skirting Vineyard Haven, the cyclists headed up-Island where they circled Aquinnah via Lobsterville and Lighthouse Roads. Then they headed back down-Island, passing through West Tisbury on the way to Katama, and finally back to Oak Bluffs, where both rides started. The others rode 50 kilometers (31 miles), from Oak Bluffs to Edgartown via the State Forest bike path and back to Oak Bluffs.

There were a number of rest stops along the way, at Edgartown Bikes, Morning Glory Farm, and a stop manned by Big Brothers and Big Sisters at the Chilmark Community Center. According to one rider, Peter Rodegast, “The day couldn’t have been better for riding, with a beautiful clear sky and temperatures in the mid-sixties.”

The rides began at 9:30 and 11 and ended around 1:30 at the P-A Club, where beer was available, and a pig was roasted and served with all the fixings. Live music was provided by the Island’s own Ballywho.

Event organizer Bill Brown said, “This year we had a better turnout than last year. People were more positive, everyone had fun and we made some money. We will do it again next year.”

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Satsang Lounge originators Misi Lopez Lecube and Lizzy Kent describe their event as “a modern day cabaret series that presents exciting new works by a rotating cast of the best up-and-coming local talents. Artists, musicians, dancers, actors, writers, and filmmakers are brought together on these performance-driven evenings, creating an electrifying experience for the audience.” And indeed an electrifying experience it was.It was a gathering of mostly year-round Vineyarders, mostly 20-somethings and 30-somethings, but with a fair number of refugees from the Sixties. It was a loosely structured and immensely entertaining evening of music, videos, dance, and drama. It was an evening of people making and enjoying art.Inside The Yard’s performance studio, Jess James and Lizzy Kent danced a wonderfully light-hearted piece they choreographed called “Remote Control.” Amy Leonard danced with hoops, Cirque-Du-Soleil-like. Adam Petkus performed a moving original dramatic monologue written by a friend. The crowd was hushed and amused by the drama of the traveling spot of light in Chris Laursen’s animated film “Stars.” Other homegrown videos brought cheers from the crowd: “Lila,” a short film by Janis Vogel, “Supernova Fieldtrip” a video by Chris Laursen and Mikey James, and “Too Many Miracles” by Sam Mason.From the studio to the adjacent barn, the crowd danced inside, spilling out the barn doors talking and laughing. At least three different musical groups performed: “Ton Up Boys” with George Berze, Caulder Martin, Colin Ruel, and Nettie Kent; Alexis Roth sang with Marciana Jones, and Tim Laursen and Gardner Allan’s “Double Rainbow,” Tim playing a cranked-up electric guitar with robot drummers.The music was loud. One of the over 30-somethings, Mark Mazer, remarked, “It was loud in the Sixties and it’s still loud.” But seldom played with more enthusiasm.It was people having fun, making things happen. There is a young, nascent, fun-loving undercurrent of creative life on the Vineyard. It’s just below the surface, about to burst into the open. Bring it on.

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“The Lead Balloon, Limericks on Martha’s Vineyard” by Joe Eldredge, 2010, hUMILITY pRESS, West Tisbury.

“The Lead Balloon” is the title of Joe Eldredge’s latest book. He is an Island architect, poet and (Shakespeare) authorship-question scholar. It is a collection of limericks about Island things and places, inspired, in Joe’s own way, by the Vineyard Limerick Challenge, which will be reprised sometime this coming winter. “The Lead Balloon” can be found at Bunch of Grapes in Vineyard Haven and at Alley’s General Store in West Tisbury. You can hear Joe and other Island poets reading from their work tonight and tomorrow night at The West Tisbury Library at 5:30 pm.

Limericks tend to begat limericks:

At times Joe sounds like a loonhowlin’ like mad at the moonbut a bit too cleverhe seldom evergoes over like a lead balloon.

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Attorney, college professor, and Edgartown summer resident for the last 25 years, Dennis C. McAndrews has written a play about John F. Kennedy. It begins around the time of his election as president. It is mostly a speculative piece about what would have happened if Kennedy had lived longer. According to McAndrews, “Kennedy was a fascinating figure on multiple levels and his life was cut short, so young. There was so much promise and so many things he had wanted to do.”

This year marks the 50th anniversary of President JFK’s election as president in 1960. He was the youngest man ever elected president, the first Catholic, and arguably, the most charismatic. His sense of humor, his style and eloquence, and good looks ushered in a new generation of politicians on the national scene.

Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. His was a presidency that was not only one of the shortest and most tragic but came near the middle of a century filled with perhaps the most significant political, economic, social, and scientific changes since humans first harnessed fire and sat around it plotting their survival. His presidency ushered in the beginning of the Vietnam War era, and he was witness to significant successes and tragedies of the civil rights movement.

On stage, Mr. McAndrews becomes the person Kennedy might have been if he were still alive today and 93 years old. On stage, Mr. McAndrews’ Kennedy uses slides to illustrate events of his life. He reflects on both his public life and the events he might have had a significant part of, and also his private life, which was not without controversy. Mr. McAndrews has made a point of trying to retain the humor that he feels was a significant part of Kennedy’s personality and approach to life.

“Of course Vietnam was such a big issue and is the centerpiece of the play, but I am particularly interested in the effect of Kennedy’s death on civil rights,” says Mr. McAndrews. “Many historians believe that he would not have acted on civil rights during his first term, that without Kennedy’s death the civil rights legislation would not have immediately passed under Lyndon Johnson.”

Numerous historians have speculated on the possibilities of a longer Kennedy presidency. Mr. McAndrews has culled the literature and added his own ideas, developed during his 30 years of teaching political science, concentrating on civil rights and civil liberties. Mr. McAndrews suggests that his play is not suitable for young children because of its frank references to war and death.

Mr. McAndrews is an attorney with offices in his hometown of Berwyn, Penn. He is known for his work representing individuals with mental disabilities. He also serves as a consultant to other public and private attorneys with regard to disability and special education issues, and serves as a special education hearing officer. He is a former prosecutor and served as a special prosecutor in the case of Commonwealth v. John Eleuthère du Pont. He teaches at his alma mater, Villanova University.

The Kennedy family has had strong ties over the years to the Cape and to the Vineyard, and their influence will be felt for years to come. It is an interesting flight of fancy to image how our lives might have changed if John F. Kennedy had lived.

Play: “If JFK Survived Dallas: Presidential Reflections in 2010 at Age 93. How would history have been different if President John F. Kennedy had survived?” Tuesday, July 6, 7:30 pm, St. Andrews Parish Hall, Edgartown. Free. Written and performed by Dennis C. McAndrews, Esq.

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How many bands are there in the United States at any given minute? How many of them are any good? Probably more than is worth counting.

Cover bands, bands that play music created by others, are a dime a dozen and some of them are pretty good. Many cover bands produce music that is indistinguishable from the original songs. They spit out duplicates of the original songs and we are entertained.

1 Night Stand played at the newly renovated Seasons Pub in Oak Bluffs Friday night and they are pretty darn good. They play “mostly cover tunes,” according to their lead singer Dan Panico, who lives on the Vineyard and is the owner of the Computer Lab. Their Facebook site claims they are “an intense four-piece rock/top 40 cover band playing radio hits that people know and love.” But unlike most cover bands, they craft their songs into versions that in many cases are better than and often unrecognizable as the originals. Mr. Panico said that they play a wide range of songs and try to incorporate the latest hits into their repertoire with their own twist.

1 Night Stand is made up of four musicians. Mr. Panico sings, plays tambourine and an occasional harmonica. He has a clear emotive voice that can take a ballad apart, wrap it around your soul, and put it back together and have you dancing the night away. And he can push the occasional hard rock tune with the best when required.

Canadian Andre Lamarre from Quincy plays a wonderfully understated guitar and his vocals compliment Mr. Panico’s.

Kumari Miker is one of the more accomplished bassists I have heard in a long while. She drives the rhythm section with her intensity and she sings.

Their harmonies are spot on and their musicianship superb. Kenny Issacs is the band’s regular drummer. The excellent drummer Jay Trevor filled in for Mr. Isaacs at Seasons on Friday, May 14.

Mr. Panico claims the band is “a high energy dance band,” which they in fact are, but they produce a lyricism and melodic center that goes beyond being just a dance band. I heard the Byrds, Lifehouse, and Gin Blossoms as well as Bad Company, Aerosmith, and Pearl Jam in their stylings and I know there are other influences that I just can’t put my finger on.

Their professionalism and comfort level with each other belies the band’s name. Mr. Panico said that they have been together for two and a half years. They are very good and it is a good thing that they are not just a one-night stand. They will be back at Seasons Memorial Day weekend. While most of their gigs have been in and around Boston, they plan to play a number of other dates on the Vineyard this summer as well.

Seasons’s summer schedule is not yet set in stone but according to managing partner Mike Santoro, they will have live music three or four nights a week, karaoke three nights a week, and some comedy. Mr. Panico is the karaoke MC on Tuesday nights. Mr. Santoro said he is proud of the new menu and the renovations at the Circuit Avenue restaurant and bar.

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Cyclists rode either 25, 50, or 100 kilometers. The latter were the first to start, shown here leaving the high school at 9 am. — File photo by Susan Safford

Six hundred and ninety-one cyclists completed Bike MS: Ride the Vineyard fundraising ride, in the sun on Saturday with more than 100 volunteers and five Island businesses providing support. Sixteen states were represented. Twenty-two riders were from the Vineyard. A portion of the $450,000 that was raised for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society will be shared with the Martha’s Vineyard Boys and Girls Club.

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Island Food Products, the Island’s local foodservice distributor, hosted its 2010 Spring Food Show Wednesday, April 26 at Mediterranean Restaurant in Oak Bluffs. More than 40 companies displayed a wide range of food and beverage products to a constant stream of Island restaurateurs during the day-long event.

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A Prophet (NR)

A young illiterate prisoner watches and learns as he climbs to the top of a Corsican prison gang in a French prison. Nominated for an Oscar as the best foreign language film and winner of the Cannes Grand Prix, this French film, with English subtitles, has won praise from critics around the globe.

4.5 shells

Date Night (PG-13)

A likable comedy by the director of Night at the Museum films, Shawn Levy, staring Steve Carell, Mark Wahlberg, and Tina Fey. A long-married couple from New Jersey experience a bizarre date night out. Entertaining.

2.5 shells

Death at a Funeral (R)

A so-so urban remake of the 2007 dark comedy. Produced by Chris Rock with Keith David, Loretta Devine, Peter Dinklage, Ron Glass, and a screenplay not up to actors’ abilities. A dysfunctional family turns a funeral into a fiasco.

2 shells

Diary of a Wimpy Kid (PG-13)

Author and cartoonist Jeff Kinney’s popular series is the basis for this affecting, relatable movie. Greg Heffley’s (Zachary Gordon) diary is filled with the details of a million little humiliations, many with or because of his chubby, endearing buddy, Rowley (Robert Capron). Makes you want to go out and hug a wimp.

3.5 shells

How To Train Your Dragon (PG)

This 3-D DreamWorks Animation is an affectingly told fairy tale with a message. Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), the son of a dragon slayer, and his puppy-like fire-breathing dragon change how things are done.

4 shells

Kick-Ass (R)

An ordinary New York teenager decides to take his comic-book fascination to the streets in a wetsuit as a super hero who has no powers. He meets others like him, including a young girl who would be a terror on any playground, and they take their lumps as they fight crime. Starring Nicolas Cage, Aaron Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz.

2.5 shells

The White Ribbon (R)

Director Michael Haneke (“CACHÉ”) earned the Palm d’Or at Cannes in 2009 for this dark drama set just before World War I. In a small German village, a number of unexplained accidents beset the haunting schoolchildren and their parents. Though they at first appear coincidental, it begins to seem that they are not, in fact, accidents at all.

3 shells