Saturday July 7, 2012

First, I want you to think about your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. Next, I want you to think about some animal who drinks until he or she is above the legal limit and then gets behind the wheel of an automobile and removes your most beloved people from the universe. They may be dead or maimed, and all too often the killer is walking the streets after a relatively short period of incarceration.

Compare that to the kid who holds up a convenience store and goes to prison for years. Is it possible that some legislators who take a drink now and then are afraid of what might happen to them if the penalties for driving while intoxicated get tougher? State Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli wants to put drunken driving convictions on the perpetrator's driver's license. I'm all for that and a whole lot more.

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James Taylor was at Tanglewood this week. He gave an astounding performance. I can't believe the guy. We all know how strong his voice is. At the age when the rest of us mere mortals start to lose it, he just keeps getting better and better.

The fact that he surrounds himself with the best musicians in the business shows how confident he is in what he does on the guitar. I love the fact that the audience appreciates JT and shows it again and again as they shout out, "We love you, James."

In return, he is incredibly generous with his audience. He shares the stage with his wonderful wife/partner, Kim, and their twin sons, Rufus and Henry. Many musicians please themselves first and have a sort of "take it or leave it" approach to those in the hall. They want to try out new material they have written. But we want to hear about "Sweet Baby James" and "the turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston."

He gives them to us and the crowd whoops with delight.

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Speaking of things to be thankful for in the Berkshires, Governor Deval Patrick is high on my list. He has been so incredibly generous to all of the arts organizations. This is one busy man. Some nights he gets to three or four local events and seems indefatigable. If I were his friend, Barack Obama, I would beg him to fill one of the top spots in a second administration.

Secretary of State comes to mind. As a former corporate attorney, Patrick has the type of skills that would allow him to effectively negotiate with other countries. He has told me that when his term of office is completed, he plans to re-enter private life. I think, however, that when you get a jewel like Patrick you have to appeal to his sense of patriotism to take on a job like Secretary of State.

On the other hand, if a Supreme Court slot comes vacant he would be a superb choice for that post. Heaven knows, the court needs fresh thinking and the brilliant Patrick would be confirmable, even by the right wing Republican/conservative clique in Congress that seems to be running this country. This, it seems to me, is the No. 1 reason people should work their heads off to make sure that Obama wins a second term.

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Dr. Ruth Westheimer is in town for the opening of the play "Dr. Ruth" at Barrington Stage in Pittsfield. After some tweaking, this play will surely end up on Broadway. I recently had the privilege of interviewing her, and even in her 80s, she has the strength of an army platoon.

The play, written by the brilliant Mark St. Germain, gives us insight into a woman who saw the Nazis destroy her family, served as a sniper in the Israeli Army, and opened up sex as a publicly discussible subject. She was everywhere all week long, even riding in Pittsfield's annual July 4th parade. When I asked her on the radio for advice about my own sex life, she answered, "Only with your wife's permission."

She's one smart woman.

Alan Chartock, a Great Barrington resident, is president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and a professor emeritus of communications at SUNY-Albany.