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March 12, 2011

Reporter's Notebook: Envelopes: Quick toss is rued later

Daily Star

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I have a bad habit of throwing away envelopes.

The habit extends to fax cover sheets, and any other piece of paper I deem superfluous.

Too often, I do this before I realize that they contain much-needed contact information. If I'm lucky, I get to dig through one of the big, red recycling bins dotted around the newsroom, searching for my lost treasure.

But usually I'm too late, having tossed the envelope days earlier. This happened to me recently while sorting through submissions for The Daily Star's annual recipe contest.

So if you are the author of a recipe for Peppermint Frosted Chocolate Pound Cake _ which sounds delicious, by the way _ please give me a call. I seem to have thrown away your envelope, and with it, your name.

And for anyone who is still thinking of entering the cook-off (the first recipe deadline is March 28), please be sure to include your name and telephone number inside the envelope, with your recipe. They say old habits die hard.

While compiling this year's Oscars predictions story, I decided to put together a chart of how accurate The Daily Star's prognostications have been for the past 10 years.

I had a lot of fun doing it _ a telling fact, I suppose, since not everyone gets their kicks compiling Excel spreadsheets. And I did learn a few things.

For the first half of the 2000s, our panel remained basically the same. Stalwarts Ken Golden and Paul Jensen, professors at Hartwick College and SUNY Oneonta, respectively, were there each year, with a pretty solid track record of picking winners. They were joined by the Oneonta Theatre owner _ first Phil Colone Jr., then Terry Mattison _ until 2008. Mattison sold the theater in 2009.

This year's "experts" acquitted themselves as they usually do, with local filmmaker Joe Stillman stealing the crown of perfect picks from Golden, who had achieved the feat for the past two years.

My Oscars research also allowed me to get acquainted, posthumously, with the late Harold deGraw. When deGraw died at age 86, I had never even seen Oneonta, but The Daily Star's July 23, 1999, story helped me get to know one of its beloved citizens.

Oneonta's "Movie Man" began the Oscar picks tradition in the Star in 1966, according to our story, and led the pack in picking winners for three decades.

"Whenever I looked at the article, I would look at what (deGraw) said and judge my picks on that basis," Paul Jensen, a film professor at the State University College at Oneonta, told the Star in 1997.

The jury is out on whether it's easier (because of Netflix/the Internet/movie multiplexes) or harder (because of the glut of media that stretches our attention span to the breaking point) to keep up with the great films of the day than it was in deGraw's time.

But I'm probably not the one to ask. Don't tell deGraw, but I haven't seen the inside of a popcorn palace in months _ and I can count the number of movies I've seen in the last year without even using my toes.

Emily F. Popek is assistant editor for The Daily Star. She can be reached at 432-1000, ext. 217, or