Dec 11, 2008

A random nostalgia bite

A funny scene the other eve:

I was invited to a young man's birthday celebration. Young, as in eleven years of age. After the requisite candle-blowing and gift-opening, the kids retreated to the living room while the adults retreated to the kitchen's liquid offerings.

Soon after, I heard the long lost but familiar strains of that 80's classic Whip It soaring through the air. Yes, it was those lovable, pot-wearing devils by the name of Devo kicking it up. Peeking in, I found the young 'uns taking in the famous MTv video that accompanied the song. Remember when MTv actually showed music videos? I do.

"Yeah, he got his hands on an old tape I had from back in the day on the life and times of Devo," the lads Mom related. "He must have played the Whip It clip 50 times by now."

Now, weren't we all similarly enthralled by this master work of story-telling when we first saw it? Let us recall the basic plot line here:

Cowpokes let off a little steam after a hard day on the range by downing a few cold brewskis, roughing-up their bitches, shooting off some rounds, getting into a little S&M voyeurism and raping the cross-eyed Asian neighbor.

Ah yes: nothing like reinforcing some of those good ole midwestern family values, is there? So, for your nostalgia fix of the day, may we present ....


Dec 3, 2008

Jazz legend highlights Frederick Allen Lodge benefit in Saratoga

With the soul-jazz revival currently in full swing, Melvin Sparks is finally getting long-overdue recognition as one of the early pioneers in the original incarnation of that musical movement.

While prominent vocalists such as Sharon Jones, Betty LaVette, Duffy and Amy Winehouse are leading the genre’s mainstream charge -- and marching to the bank -- the Mount Vernon-based guitarist has at least settled into a comfortable role as the proverbial musician’s musician who played a major part in keeping the genre’s flame burning for 40 plus years. With that has come Sparks’ individual revival as well.

Taking up the guitar at age 10, the Texas native was rolling on the roadhouse R&B circuit by 1963, backing such legends as Sam Cooke and Little Richard coast to coast. Fine-tuning his unique improvisational chops throughout that decade, he became an in-demand session player, appearing on releases by Johnny Hammond Smith, Lou Donaldson, Reuben Wilson and dozens of others.

Set favorite ‘Cranberry Sunshine’ is rumored to have provided the chord structure used in the Allman Brothers’ classic “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.” He recorded his first solo album Sparks! in 1970, with several follow-ups in the ensuing years.

The timing could not have been worse, however, as soul-jazz declined in popularity and became nothing more than a historical niche genre for the next two decades. Sparks would release but one album in the 80’s, while keeping food on the table through the increasingly rare studio gigs for Jimmy McGriff, Fathead Newman and others.

The tide began to turn by the mid-90’s, and Sparks’ phone started ringing again. Gigs sprang up in not only the expected jazz club haunts but also in the not-so-expected world of jam band festivals, as artists such as Derek Trucks, Max Creek and the Greyboy All Stars would pay homage by inviting Sparks along for the ride. His free-flowing style fits in nicely with that improvisational framework, while also offering a fresh and unexpected surprise twist to a new generation of appreciative ears.

Sparks’ trademark guitar sound – quick, fluid runs on the high end strings, free of feedback or distortion – lead to his being credited as the inventor of various styles ranging from acid-jazz to jazz-funk to barbecue-jazz. The latter title might be the reason for local supermarket chain Price Chopper adopting the smiling giant of a man as the face and sound of their House of BBQ television spots.

Melvin Sparks and his instrumental trio – which includes B3 organ whiz Matt Orchestra and drummer Bill Carbone – appear Friday, December 12th at Saratoga’s Parting Glass as the featured entertainment for the Frederick Allen Lodge’s holiday fundraising benefit. The pre-show party kicks-off at 7PM, with the music starting at 8PM.

For those curious as to what the two scheduled sets might bring forth, the answer is best provided by the highlight track on his 2006 Groove On Up release, titled “Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky!”

Supervisor Joanne Yepsen, a longtime booster of the Lodge’s cause, hosts the event. The Golub Foundation provides underwriting support.

Ticket Reservations HERE

Nov 24, 2008

Green thinking is good--but not with blinders on

Sustainability and the Big Pic

Last week; I attended two green events:

1) A Green Strategy CEO Conference; convened in Albany's Pine Bush Discovery Center.

- I learned about the windmill project at Jiminy Peak; met with the Governor's Energy Sec'y; heard about CISCO's internal green processes and their green product line (building management networks). Good stuff

2) An Open House tour of a new corporate HQ in metro Boston

- I saw their smart windows, smart rooms, smart toilets (the smartest building in town!), the geothermal cooling, the light bulbs each having their own IP address; etc; etc, etc.

RE: #2 -- A major disconnect hit me as I got talking to the principals of this firm. Here they were bragging about the sustainability / energy efficiency / low carbon footprint of their new digs -- all while placing the new building (formerly in an old mill town) into the middle of the distant exurbs @ 30 miles from the nearest train stop! Their workforce was semi-skilled blue collar folks, many of whom took the bus or walked to their jobs at the previous location. Their new reality is that they've either added many hours to their weekly commute (multiple bus tranfers) or they are now driving cars. Many did not even own a car before and are now forced to go buy one. Others (about 15%, I was told) did not stay with the company after the move; and we can guess why. So what's the NET GREEN to this glorious project?

Lesson learned: Too often, we don't look at the big picture when it comes to these type of things. Instead, we compartmentalize our decision-making into narrow silos and don't pay attention to the big picture / holistic POV.

Public Policy Parallels

Public policy often takes this 'silo approach' as well. Policy related to: service delivery, economic development; community development; zoning; design review; transportation; taxation; etc; etc--are usually done in a vaccum without regard to the aforementioned holistic approach. And very often -- like my metro Boston micro-example-- the net result is something counter-productive.

A Saratoga Springs Example

It was interesting to me that the very day a 'Sustainability Group' was convening in town, the general citizenry was reflecting on the three submitted proposals for the new Public Safety complex.

Ignoring -- for the sake of this particular discussion -- the issue of 'whether a facility of this size should even be under consideration' (still a proper issue worth discussing), I think the current process will act as a good example of what I am referring to here. If form stays true, I predict that the future discussion of this project will fall into that compartmentalized scenario.

Yes; there will be (are) fingers pointing to the green features of some of the designs. But I would offer that any legitimate discussion of their so-called Sustainability Indexes are ALREADY being ignored -- and will continue to be so. For example:

1) PAID PARKING: Two of the proposals include paid parking as part of the business model. Enlightened policymakers would consider this to be unacceptable and short sighted. It puts any movement to strengthen the Localization / Local Economy aspect of downtown (a very worthwhile initiative) at a serious competitive disadvatage. Example:

A Union Avenue resident needs a toothbrush, a pair of shoe laces and a sandwich. He/she should (more on that later) have two choices: downtown or Wilton/Exit 15. Assuming that person will not take the preferred walk/bike transportation option to fill this shopping need: Where exactly are we incentivizing that person to shop IF we impose a $2 parking fee? After all, we have just added 20% to the cash outlay here. So much for the localization effort--and there goes the sales tax revenue and the income to city-based business entities. Not to mention the gas/carbon ramifications of that ride out to the mall, with its free parking once there.

* If sustainability is a priority, then parking needs to be FREE for city residents -- as in 100% free; all of the time. The suggested $15 discount for monthly parking does not hack it. Again, we need to ENCOURAGE local citizens to shop AND work downtown. Paid parking discourages it.

* Note: Free for residents only; NOT free for out-of-town downtown office workers (more on that later)

* It WOULD be proper (and preferred) to institute paid parking for out-of towners/tourists (including those daytime office workers).

The hoped-for result of this type of public policy will find: a) local residents trading downtown; b) downtown businesses catering to local needs; c) downtown businesses increasinlgy owned/staffed by local residents.

2) Gound Floor Businesses: It is correct to have this as part of the mix; but only if these businesses are:

a) Catering to local residents' needs; and

b) Locally owned/staffed

What the city does NOT need is formula/chain businesses (for economic development/asset reasons) in these locations.

Futhermore, if sustainability is a priority, it should discourage the continuing proliferation of shops that cater primarily to tourists. This is not espousing an anti-tourism approach to commerce -- it is saying that the pendulum has swung too far in that directon and is in need of balance with a local economy.

Yes; there are sufficient case studies and precedents to suggest the proper (and legal) ways to make all this happen.

3) Upper Floors Use: should emphasize RESIDENTIAL as opposed to office usage

Point: the single biggest planning mistake the city made in recent decades was to improperly encourage/zone the upper downtown floors and the entrance roads (Church Street, Lake Ave, etc) of the city into mixed usage. The result has been the transition of former 'affordable housing' space into commercial office space. This trend should be halted.

This new building presents the opprotunity for just that. The vast majority (if not all) of the upper floors (2nd floor+) should be residential. Furthermore, they should be 'rental/apartments' as opposed to 'ownership/condos.' Aka 'affordable.''

Point: the aforementioned poor planning history is one of the major reasons for the city's parking problem. The transition of upper-downtown from residential to commercial has resulted in a slew of 'pink collar' jobs coming downtown (mortgage boiler rooms; nonprofits, etc), staffed primarily by out-of-town workers. These workers need parking during the daytime at 8AM, which makes shopping downtown at 11AM a problem for those few local people trying to do so.

If those same spaces were occupied as residences; then parking probelems would be partially alleviated: these people either give up their spaces when they drive out of town or (better yet) they might not even need a car/spot if they can both live & work downtown.

4) Tie it all Together:
this plan encourages the following scenario:

- More people live downtown

- Those people are eager & willing to shop downtown

- Businesses catering to their needs emerge (both from market forces and from the encouragement brought about by the policy incentives herein)

- Those same businesses will hire those local people that are living downtown (it's cheaper to hire them because they don't need a monthly parking pass)

- Fewer out-of town daytime office workers require fewer daytime parking. Those spots are freed up for local commerce. (Note: it might also mean that fewer spaces are required)

- More commerce downtown = greater sales tax revenue and healthier merchant P&L's.

- The economic multipliers then kick in: more bank deposits=more loans activity; more local jobs upstream & downstream

- Fewer Saratogians are driving to Exit 15 or beyond to shop = less gas consumption = green

- More Saratogians are working in Saratoga = less gas consumption = green

- Less gas comsumption = more money in Saratogian's pockets = more local spending power = more benefits

(One BIG Feedback Loop)

5) Who Will Oppose Such an Approach?

- Developers: because it takes away their preferred options. Example: it is easier for them to manage a space if it is commercial vs residential (less wear and tear; fewer tenant issues; the lack of payback if they're forced to build 100% affordable housing (there are ways to solve that equation). Furthermore, taking national chain stores out of the rental mix will bring down lease rates: good for local merchants, but not so good for the landlords.

- Unenlightened city officials: some will look strictly at the upfront revenue-loss (parking fees, etc) as opposed to looking at the long-term benefits that a Sustainable / Localization approach to this project (and others) bring to the table.

Yes: both will growl. Too bad: rage against the machine.

But: simply tossing 'green features' into the mix of a specific project or into larger public policymaking generally does nothing more than add to budget costs and capital outlays for all involved (developers and governments). But when being green is defined in a wider framework and with a wider constituency in mind, the community as a whole wins -- financially AND environmentally.


Nov 13, 2008

How come no one told us the war is over?


Our favorite 'guerilla media pranksters' -- the Yes Men -- are at it again. This time, the lads (one of whom has a local / RPI connection) are part of a confederation of like-minded troublemakers credited with having published ths week's bogus edition of the New York Times.

Some have referred to it as a utopian look into the future. I'm not sure these guys take themselves that seriously...

((PS: there is no truth to the suggestion that we were somehow involved)))


Nov 9, 2008

The Return of the Sheriff?

Time for Eliot Spitzer to Ride Again?

An appropriate and timely job posting might look like this:

Help Wanted: Special Prosecutor
Responsibilities: Look into the dealings of hedge fund managers, short sellers and other financial industry operatives for possble Securities Law violations that resulted in the current market crisis.
Apply To: NYS Attorney General Andrew Cuomo

I hereby submit the name of the perfect candidate for ths opening:

Mr Eliot Spitzer.

I know what you're saying; but work with me here on this one. Here are the reasons for my somewat contrarian suggestion:

1) He's qualified

2) He's experienced: after all, he was formery known as the 'Sheriff of Wall Street,' wasn't he?

3) He's got a lot of extra time on his hands

4) He'd likely do it for either free or one dollar

5) He's known as being a vengeful bastard, and we could really use of of those right about now

6) He surely didn't appreciate the reports of those Wall Street lions popping bottles of champagne to celebrate his resignation (see point #5)

7) His wife would certainly appreciate getting him out of the house

8) He's in the clear of any charges related to his little problem a few months back

What makes me think there won't be a lot of support for this suggestion???


Nov 7, 2008

Rider's Up! (you GOTTA see this one)

Drunken Yuppies Channel Angel Cordero

Before Fidel and Che slipped down from the mountains shouting "Last Call", Havana was one hell of a party town. With the Mafia greasing the wheels of Dictator Battista, the island's capital city was called the "whorehouse of the Carribean," offering all manners of earthly delights -- sex, booze, dope and gambling. It became a leading weekend destination for the 50's lounge lizard set.

It is a similar role that Saratoga Springs now plays for the greater Capital Region. While it might qualify as its whorehouse, there is no doubt that it acts as the area's Bar District.

While we tend to think of 'Toga as the 'summer place to be' (ah; the power of taglines); some funsters are intent on extending the highlife into the dark months. Witness these characters, viewed thru a security camera on Broadway:

An APB has been published for what the media has deemed these "well dressed horse vandals." I can picture them keeping low profiles at work.

No word from the Saratoga Chamber of Commerce as to whether they will incorporate ths clip into next year's ad campaign.

This same horse has been attacked on at least two prior occasions. Maybe it's time to replace the security camera with a remotely-controlled taser gun?


Nov 6, 2008



With this week's euphoria already fading fast (just take a look at the lastest employment fig's), it's time for the rubber to meet the road. Let's start by taking a look at how the new president's economic policies might play out.

Obama's election -- combined with our having been recently dragged to the precipice of the Valley of Death and not liking what we saw - signals a shift (albeit a relatively slight one) in the way the nation's economy will be tweaked by the executive and legislative branches.

For twenty-five plus years, the modus operendi in that matter has been guided by three dominant themes: laissez-faire, monetarism and supply-side. In its simplist form, this translated into a working model / philopsophy of:

"Get out of business' way, feed their appetite with loose money and reward the Investor Class for its successful risks so they'll keep doing it over and over again. And always keep a vigilant eye on Enemy Number One: inflation."

Simple; yes--but I'm not lecturing a grad-level class at MIT here, am I?

The current popular perception and consensus is that such a mix eventually proved to be toxic; creating a stacked deck tilted in favor of that Den of Thieves called Wall Street. Capital effiency was lost as these suspects devoted their intellectual firepower to trading paper with little (or no) basis in the real world. Exhibit A: $50 trillion in mortgage credit swaps written on top of just $5 trillion in actual mortgages! You don't think that extra $45 trillion actually went into anything productive now, do you?

So not only was this deck stacked, but it was also being used to setup the proverbial House of Cards your neighborhood Amway recruiter never mentions when she invites you over for a little chat. The poop hit the furnace, of course, when the housing industry (aka the witting accomplice) was no longer able to push any more home buyers into this Ponzi scheme. After all, it was running out of farmland to torch into suburban tracks and (even more troubling) there was this minor little issue of an economy that for some reason didn't seem well prepared to match wits and muscle with the rest of the world.

The mask was unveiled, and Joe Everyman (as opposed to Joe the Plumber) was shocked to see the pimples. After all, a 40% six-week drop in a one's 401K tends to do that. The party of free markets and deregulation was held to blame, the people spoke and Fox News's HR deparment was flooded with incoming resumes from GOP hacks suddenly looking for work.

Enter Obama, who is about to feel like a first responder at the scene of a head-on highway wreck. If you hear a gut-wrenching scream over the next few weeks, don't fret; it's just the Democrats getting their transition briefings. But that's their entry fee, now what's their plan?

The President-elect appears to be what we might call a neo-Keynesian. Before Friedman (the monetarist) and Laffer (the supply-sider) starting whispering in Dutch Reagan's ear, John Maynard K was the darling of the so-called Dark Science. The Econ 91 (as opposed to 101) summary of this model goes somehting like this:

"Spend and cut taxes during recessions as a way of priming the pump. Coversely, cut spending and raise taxes during booms as a way of both controlling inflation and to stock away a rainy day fund. The yardstick is Enemy Numer One: unemployment."

The common denominator in both approaches is the value of tax cuts. But the difference is that whereas the supply-side school thinks they should be a) permanent and b)geared to the investor class; the demand-siders believe in timing and that there is more bang for the buck when it is directed to the lower end of the food chain, where it is more likely to be pushed immediately into the economy.

It is that latter argument that appears to be Obama's leaning. We heard of those "tax cuts for those making under $250,000" while at the same time he was whispering of hikes at the upper end (income, capital gains, dividends, etc). He is also on-record as supporting a new stimulus plan; this one directed to the 'economy' as opposed to the financial markets -- possibly in the form of an FDR-style infrastrucure builing / job creation program. Interestingly, McCain, his fellow Republicans and Wall Street all seem to agree with that idea -- there are no atheists in foxholes, afer all.

But there are some HUGE complications facing the new president and this approach. As mentioned, that prior HUGE stimulus round was directed not at the economy (so to speak) as a whole but at the banking & finance industry. That bullet is going towards cleaning up past sins and doesn't address the fundamental megatrend types of structural issues facing our commerce engine. And there are only so many bullets one can fire before the six-shooter is emptied.

Secondly, there's the question of 'paying the piper.' The new stimulus / new tax cuts concept is expensive enough, but we also have this little money drain (to the tune of $12 Billion per month) of two wars going on concurrently.

Any economist worth his tenured salary will warn against the perils of waging a war without paying for it. Just look at Viet Nam for proof: both LBJ and Nixon knew that their Silent Majority subscribers would join ranks with the student left if they were presnted with the tab for that war (i.e a tax hike). This was a risk neither wanted to take; so neither did.

Ford and Carter were both Oval Office victims of that approach. So, too, was the national ecomomy. It took until the early 80's and the dawning of the microcomputer boom before that demon was exorcised. Obama and his advisors are now faced with a "damned if we do, damned if we don't" scenario.

They didn't think this would be a walk in the park now, did they?



A new question for the driver's exam

Althought this lass won't have any problem guiding a Harley or Orange County Chopper up and down the main drag of Ho Chi Minh City, others might not be so lucky.

The word has come that Vietnamese officials are considering the ban of small-chested motor bike drivers from its roads - with the recommended milestone being 28 inches. This in a nation where the average height of males is 5'4" and of women 5'0". Something about it being a qualifier for safety purposes.

I wonder if this will require the deployment of tape measures to the traffic cops?


Nov 5, 2008

Post-Election thoughts, free-form style

The People vs The GOP

The Republicans' worst enemy finally came out of hiding and made a rare appearance, and its name is Voter Turnout.

Long the minority party in this nation, the GOP has benefited from: a) election participation fig's being in the 50%-range, and b) its superior GOTV (Get Out The Vote) ability amongst its own ranks.

A charged-up black, Hispanic and college population reversed that trend and helped seal the deal.

Policy? What's Policy?

As evidenced by the McCain effort, the party of Lincoln and Teddy R. now has as its intellectual barometers the following individuals:

- Joe the Plumber
- Sean Hannity
- Sarah Palin
- Joe the Plumber (again)
- Bill O'Reilly
- Paris Hilton
- Curt Schilling
- Hank Williams Jr
- Joe the Plumber (one more time)

William F Buckley must be rolling in his grave. Hank Williams, Sr as well.

Fair & Balanced Stupidity

Fox News became nothing more than a 24-hour McCain infomercial in the final days of the campaign. Don' think so? Then go watch the YouTube reruns of Mr Sean Hannity's 'Obama's Radical Friends.' I was wondering whatever happened to Lyndon Larouche -- he apparently handed the reins over to an understudy.

One can argue over media bias -- I argue that the corporate mainstream media is, in general, biased towards the Republicans. But Fox is so far over the edge in its role as being the GOP Broadcast Network that the question of allowing equal access / rebuttal time to the opposition party needs to be asked.

Who'd A Thunk?

Hop in the time machine and travel back a few years to the Post 9/11 days leading up to the Iraq War. You're in the backyard eating some dogs and yakking it up with a group of friends and neighbors. Politics is the talk and someone says the following:

"I predict that the next president will not only be a Democrat, but will be of mixed-race, produced by a white mother and an absent Kenyan nationalist troublemaker of a father. He will have been raised by his white grandmother in that kooky state where Pearl Harbor is located, will have almost-nil political experience and will have gained his power in an urban Rust Belt city. And, oh yeah: he will have a middle name of Hussein."

Now what kind of betting odds would you have laid down against whoever made that statement?

Fighting Fire With Fire

Since the Reagan days and through the groundbreaking efforts of Richard Viguerie and others to follow, the Republican party has simply been the superior political campaigners. Unleashing the power of both IT and broadcasting to reach out and touch voters -- in a highly targeted and efficient means -- along with an innate ability to play the spin control / sound bite game , the GOP has long been the masters of this influence game when it comes to winning elections.

That trends looks like it has run its course. Observers from both camps are highly impressed -- even amazed -- at the organizational powerhouse called the Obama campaign, which not only matched the Republican competencies but added a new element to the mix: the network.

The people involved in this effort could make a nice career ahead of them -- not in politics -- but in the corporate re-organization and turnaround field.

The McCain Legacy

The Maverick entered the contest with a recognized dignity, class and respect from most corners. He left the campaign with a reduced amount of each.

Long a thorn to the Bush/Jesus wing of his own party, McCain presented a "I can work with this guy" alternative to the sane / country club / coastal factions as well as to suburban independents.

Granted, his abortion view created problems, but he would offset that concern with comments such as those that warned his comrades of the dangers of allowing freaks like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson being handed the keys to the family car.

Although he gained the nomination largely without the help of the right-wing, McCain felt the need to play makeup with them after. And it wasn't pretty. Along with that union must come the wedding present of the Karl Rove dirty tricks / Swift Boat playbook, for that's what became of the McCain campaign.

A New Drinking Game Is Born

From one of our younger friends comes word of a new dorm room and frat house sensation that swept throughout the UAlbany student community: the Joe the Plumber Drinking Game.

You guessed it: the students would tune in to C-Span every night to catch a stump speech by Mr McCain or Mrs Palin with bottles of tequila and six packs of lager at the ready. Each time they heard the name 'Joe the Plumber,' a 'shot and a shooter' were required by the participants.

Well, at least it's good to hear that our future leaders are involved in the process...

The McCain Error (the biggest one, at least)

McCain smelled an opening after Obama put away Mrs Clinton. The thinking: after the primaries' bitterness, the female vote could be had. What was needed: a female candidate.

But at the same time, the right wing needed stroking; and we all know what the predominant issue among this group is, don't we? So that made the perfect VP candidate as being: a pro-life woman. A very, very short list it was.

That's why the search ended up landing in -- of all places -- Alaska. There, the cartoon character names Sarah Palin was found and thereby thrust into the national spotlight.

Actually, two bad assumptions were made by this move:

1) Clinton supporters (male or female) were not going to jump ship to McCain. I take that back: they would have IF he nominated Mrs Clinton herself. I wonder how that would have gone over at the convention?

2) At the same time, he needn't have worried about keeping the Right wing in fold. Did he really think they were going to go vote for Obama in a hissy fit?

How Could McCain Have Made It A Tighter Race?

Michael Bloomberg as his VP pick.

Just think about how the campaign could have paraded Mr Mayor in front of the cameras during the market meltdown. He's a guy who knows finance and Wall Street, but isn't taited as being one of its bandits. It sure would have worked better than the image we have of McCain suspending the campaign, running back to DC to save the day and then just looking overwhelmed by the scale of the issue.


Nov 3, 2008

Obama and Generational Change -- Didn't We Skip A Generation Here ?


The expected election of Obama is heralded as being both a transformational and a generational change, which is likely true.

It is transformational in that it (hopefully) adds a sturdy nail to the coffin of this nation's ugly racial history as well as project to the world an image of a people ready and willing to recognize its place as a member of the global comunity, freshly aware of those shades-of-gray nuances of the new world order that were not well-served by our departing Idiot Prince and his vicious gang of Vandals disguised as neocons. Hopefully, the Global Village's dwellers buy into the thinking that even good people can make a mistake now and then -- and Bush was our 'gimme.'

It is, in fact, generational in that Obama will be the first president of the post-baby boom demographic, which (again: hopefully) makes him immune to the Viet Nam psyche and the subsequent Culture War that little quagmire later spawned. He thankfully shows signs of that being the case.

The common analysis is to point at Obama's two immediate predecessors -- Bubba and Dubya -- as being the Oval Office representatives of that Baby Boom populace, given their entry-dates into this world. But by painting with such a wide brush, such an analysis is flawed.

The boomers are better defined not as a single socio-demographic / psychographic entity; but as two. Such a breakdown might go like this:

The Early Boomers

These folks had their formative (high school) years best represented (in a pop-culture kind of way) by George Lucas' movie American Graffiti. The guys were car-crazed, beer swilling, clean-cut, non-flauntingly patriotic and optimistic, all looking ahead to a pre-destined adult future. Those from blue collar families were locked-in to blue collar jobs (with a possible stop in the military) and those from white collar families to a college - driven path into traditional professions such as local banking and dentistry.

The girls, meanwhile, bode their time as football cheerleaders while eyeing their future mates across the cafeteria table, all while maintaining a remote, safe and respectable distance.

Their soundtrack was Elvis and the Beatles---at least up until when the Fab Four "got a little weird" come Sgt Pepper (an actual observation by none other than Bush the Younger).

The Later Boomers

Those in this wave were best highlighted (or lowlighted?) in the movie Dazed and Confused. Without a war draft to contend with, the guys took the opportunity to face the world as just one never-ending party. Smoking pot at the same rate as their parents smoked cigarettes, it was all about finding the next kegger or concert and getting laid. Despite their nihilistic view of the world, they subtly (and unconsciously) held professional-class ambitions; even those with blue collar pedigrees. But the reality was that they didn't have a clue as to what form that would take. Dazed and cofused, indeed.

The girls were treated in a more egalitarian fashion and were more embedded into the guys' circles than were their older, Early Boomer sisters. This no doubt served as Reason #1 for the mass development of casual sex amongst this crowd. And all of this was happening at the height of the Rock Era, which provided the background noise.

These are two different tribes, my friends. Siblings from opposing ends of the spectrum eyed one another suspiciously and lead very different lives --even while living under the same roof. I personally must have been right on the dividing line; I recall a certain amount of tension and hostility between my high school class and the one that was a year ahead of us. Whereas we would refer to them as the "Opie Cunningham Class," they would frequently accuse us of being too tolerant of the hippie types floating around campus or not being serious enough about our athletic pursuits. Fortunately, all was forgiven in the years after, when we were all forced to deal with the real world.

So, does this difference in lifestlyes mark its respective recipients with different views of the world? To quote Mrs Palin: You Betcha!

You don't think that somone whose rite of passage was tooling the rod down the main drag, one step away from marrying his/her high school prom date and reporting to a union job down the street from where born ends up with a different life experience and world view than someone whose coming of age milestone was an acid trip at a Led Zeppelin show prior to embarking on a lifetime road trip that included many hundreds of friends, lovers, neighbors and associates before settling into a groove on the opposite coast? If not; we disagree.

Whereas the Early Boomers got their not-so-different after all members Clinton and Bush to the White House, the Later Boomers like myself never got ours. While we produced the movers and shakers of the first phase of the technology revolution (think Jobs, Wozniak, Gates), we never collectively mastered the political game. Probably because it never hit our radar screens.

Maybe that fact ended up serving everyone well.


The Capital Region adds another casino -- kinda

In the meantime, anyone care to play some cards?

How about some poker, Saratoga style?

It's Casino Saratoga -- online poker with a local twist for all of you Capital Region card-muckers. The good thing here is that you can't lose your shirt playing on it.

Who says you need to own a race track around here to toss a poker game? Let's see how this one goes over. Are the lawyers ready?


Like, where ya been?

"So what's the deal with Tech Valley Times?"

So goes the line of questioning when I step out into the Capital Region's business and social circles. Inquiring minds want to know, given the lengthy gap of postings on both the main news portal and here on my loosely-tied squawk box.

At the very least; it's nice to know the media property gained a loyal fan club since its early-'03 birth.

The bottom line: business divorces -- just like the other kind-- take time to resolve, and the business is in the process of just such a clean break before it begins anew with its Tech Valley Times 2.0 (or is it 3.0 by now?) life cycle. A rather unique issue is delaying that process. For a three-letter clue: think M, I and A.

We haven't been sitting idly-by during this interim; instead we've been laying the framework for a unique approach to the news-delivery business here in the brave new world of the always-on networked economy.

Stay tuned--when we get there, you will see exactly what being a 'multimedia information provider' really means or how one goes about 'rejuvenating and repositioning an established brand.'

If anyone is interested in joining the fun and playing in this sandbox; give me shout.

May 23, 2008

It can't happen here, huh?

For those who believe that the Golden Goose called Saratoga Race Course is an economic engine that is a given which will never crease giving, I direct your attention to this story in today's Palm Beach Post:

Hialeah Park remains a horse racing tragedy

A good read on what truly is a tragedy for the remaining handful of us that still love the former Sport of Kings.

May 3, 2008

Radio LobsterPalooza


June 7 in Albany's Washington Park

Festival Info (including Brew Fest & Meal Tix:


Apr 27, 2008

Music schedule set for LobsterPalooza

After a little bit of booking-related craziness and cancellations (brought about by the breakup of one of our co-headliners and some questionable practices by the other), the dust has settled and we are now able to announce the Music Schedule for the 2008 LobsterPalooza Festival in Washington Park (formerly the Albany Lobster Fest ) on June 7:

5PM: Ominous Seapods
"Jam band rockers ride again in a rare appearance"

4PM: Amy LaVere
"Alt-country's new star; Americana's princess"

3PM The Lee Boys
"Pedal steel madness. Get up and dance!"

2PM Jim Weider's Project Percolator
"The Band's guitarist; Master of the Telecaster"

1PM Ryan Cabrera
"Pop idol turned indie rocker"

Between Sets: The Tallest Man On Earth
"Europe's mystery minstrel on first USA tour"

In the Brew Tent: Ramblin Jug Stompers
"Blotto boys crank up their rolling party"

There is something for everyone here with this show. The best news: it's all FREE!

Full info on the Festival, including bios & clips on the acts plus meal & brew fest tix right here.

For a preview of the fun: here is a background piece on The Lee Boys...

Be there!


Apr 23, 2008

Reaching out for the youth market?

Hearing some chuckles from the two young interns here at Action Central was a welcome change. I've accused these young 'uns of being too uptight; too concerned about such mundane issues as grad school choices and resume-writing than about enjoying the prime time of their lives. So the source of these hearty bellows raised my curiousity.

That trigger was a piece of junk mail in the incoming-news mailbox. Specifically, a sales pitch from boutique airline Spirit Air -- which I use on a somewhat regular basis, actually. The email was boldly proclaiming their current promotion: a MILF Sale.

What's so funny about that, you ask? Well, go ask a college-aged young man what the acronym MILF stands for and you will get a rude awakening. If you're about to Google the phrase, be warned: Adults Only!

Gee whiz, do you think someone screwed up at Spirit Air's ad-agency here or what? Or, maybe they are just reaching out to the frat-house demographic. After all, it is spring break season, and the airline serves a number of those markets. Hmmmmm? Ya think?

Nah, there's not that kind of creativity in the advertising industry today.


Apr 22, 2008

Saratoga Racing Observations, Part I

Confessions of a former teenage track rat

As a kid growing up in Saratoga Springs, that city’s annual thoroughbred racing meet was the highlight of the year for myself and for many of my local pals. Horse racing was our very own major league sport; a staging of the very best in the world for what seemed like our very own up close & personal viewing pleasure.

The love of this sport was bred into us back in the day. Our parents and grandparents would regale us with epic tales of witnessing Man O War, Seabiscuit or Dr Fager on the track and of storybook-like characters roaming around Broadway or the lake casinos after. They actually lived it during the days of grandeur and it hooked even a bunch of middle class kids that were in the midst of the rock & roll era’s Wonder Years.

We’d all beg our father into taking us to this magical place we would only see on the evening news until he finally gave in on a magical Saturday afternoon that most of us still recall as of it were yesterday. Walking into the track for the first time is much like walking into your first major league ballpark –to us, anyways.

That’s because we were all instantly hooked by everything that is right about the sport: the brilliantly green pastoral setting of the infield; the natural beauty of the magnificent beasts themselves; the flashing speed of the brightly colored silks; and the excitement of the crowd’s roar as the contest makes it’s way down the homestretch. I can still mentally replay the very first race I ever saw, with my CV Whitney-owned pick rallying for third and rewarding me with 30 cents for a $2 show wager I shared with my father. I still have the program from that day.

After that experience, August couldn’t come fast enough each and every year. My buddies all went through the same thing and all caught the same bug. We would compare notes in school as we waited for the calendar pages to turn. Our teachers, many of whom were recent arrivals to the Spa city, would marvel at the sight of sixth graders capable of dissect the Morning Telegraph (now Racing form) at an expert level and carry on a conversation filled with racetrack lingo that must have sounded like a foreign language to them.

The two or three Saturdays that we would all be taken to the races (there was no Sunday racing way back then) under parental supervision became the season’s preferred weekend of choice. Being a young lad with very empty pockets, the financial aspects of this new hobby (i.e., pari mutual wagering) became a challenge, soon solved by – what else – selling racing forms in front of a morning breakfast shop!

Eventually, the track thing became a venture amongst peers. After all, they also ran races during mid-week and the adults all seemed to have that nagging problem called jobs standing in the way of getting us to Union Avenue for these sessions. So we started the weaning process and would head over to the track as packs of bike-riding kids.

Technically, minors were not allowed entry unless accompanied by an adult, hence our first problem that needed solving. The magic solution came by means of somebody’s older brother (he was must have been a football player or bodybuilder) who went about bending one of the posts that made up the iron wrought gate on Union Ave. He bent it (I assume he was aided by some sort of tool) in such a way that an in-shape teenager could slip through, thereby putting him in a position to simply jump another smaller fence at the top of the stretch to gain free admission. This $2 savings would finance our daily doubles. I’ve often wondered if this bent post is still there in the same shape as then.

Once inside, we would proceed to a certain section of the grandstand aisles and convene with a horde of familiar faces. There were probably about 100 or so of us that used this area as our base camp for many years – on any given day there would be anywhere from 20 to 50 of us reporting for duty. From that vantage point we witnessed many great moments in the sport’s history; always surrounded by friends.

Betting on the races became the second problem to solve. Again, minors cannot legally wager. So we could be seen asking complete strangers to place our bets for us in the betting lines, almost always without complications in a much more hassle-free era. If someone got caught today placing a bet for a kid, he’d likely end up on child abuse registries.

As we got into our high school years, we were presented with a third major challenge, one which is common to all American teenagers: how do we get some beer and where do we get the money for it? Creativity once again came to the rescue.

One of our older friends landed a job at one of the concession stands. That takes care of one-half of the issue: as long as we stood in his line, we were assured of not being asked for age-proving ID’s. Next up was solving the ‘money’ issue. After all, these things went for a buck and a half back then.

Our gainfully employed buddy had an observation, which lead to an idea. The observation was that the “accounting” at the beer stands was done on a ‘per-cup’ basis: the supervisor would take an inventory, and determine the number of cups that were missing. He would multiply that number by $1.25, and that’s what he expected to see in the cash drawer at 6PM.

“So, all you guys have to do is buy just the very first cup of beer from me each day,” he concluded. “From that point on, just walk up with the original empty cup and I will fill it at no charge. They’ll never notice it”

Absolutely brilliant, and it worked to perfection. A half-dozen of us would each chip in a quarter and go about that first purchase of a super-large cup of Schaffer Beer early in the day. We’d pass it around amongst ourselves, with the rule being that whoever took the last gulp had to go back up and get the refill. All day long this cycle would repeat. We must have cost Harry M Stevens Company thousands of dollars over the lifespan of using that little trick.

These were glorious times on a personal level. Not only did I have a front row seat for some of the great names in horse racing --- such as Cordero; Shoemaker; Secretariat; Affirmed & Alydar; and Ruffian --- but I got to enjoy it in the company of my buddies.

And that, my friends, is better than hitting a million-dollar Pick 6.

.......Tix On Sale for Two Major Shows at The Parting Glass......

Apr 4, 2008

The Tallest Man On Earth is coming to town! Eek!

The Grand Enigma -- aka The Tallest Man On Earth -- has the Scandinavian citizenry scratching its head. Never photographed, while at the same time the subject of rumor and legend in his native Sweden's rural forestry, he is the mystery minstrel of Europe.

Armed with a simple acoustic guitar and nasal-twang of a voice that brings the dreaded "Dylanesque" comparison, The Tall One (as he is known to his few trusted human allies) actually draws a more direct line of influene to the ghosts of Woody Guthrie and Son House. The result is a haunting, sparse sound that conjures up visions of Dust Bowl-era America, but with an emphasis on nature's natural course and lovelorn relationships as opposed to the political undertones of some of his influences.

Rumored to be 12'5" tall, this guy has twice been captured on audio; the first being his self-titled 2005 EP, which sprang the cult hit It Will Follow the Rain and made his the near-darling of the Swedish cafe and beer fest crowd (which we didn't know actually existed, but why would we?).

The recently released full CD Shallow Grave is a materpiece of pure acoustic Americana, filled with three minute ditties that are as concise as they are spooky in their tone and delivery.

We heard about this guy from an incredibly musically-knowledgeable pal one night; she turned us on to this dude and we've hardly seen her since. Thanks, A! More, please.

But, there's only one thing to do, right? Yesiree--let's bring this guy across the pond and get him over here into the USA, where he rightfully belongs! Mission accomplished; as we have The Tallest Man On Earth coming in for two local shows on June 7th:

- Afternoon: at the LobsterPalooza Festival in Washington Park in Albany (with Ominous Seapods, Amy LaVere, etc)

- Evening at The Parting Glass in Saratoga (with Knotworking).

Get to one of these shows; you'll be glad you did.

Full Show Info


Mar 18, 2008

The rats breathe a sigh, and party hearty

It's taken me awhile to post my own take on the Eliot mess. But here are a few observations from the Capital City:

* Having been embedded downtown on the very week that the big news broke, what struck me the most was the raw look of shock on peoples' faces as they walked around the streets. Although nothing near the level, significance or scope; it reminded me a bit of 9/11.

* Spitzer was poised to be that rare breed of politician, one whom rank & file members of all parties were willing to throw their hopes behind with a united goal of actually making fundamental change in both policy and in the way things get done in government. To have that goodwill come crashing down in a ball of flames like this only serves to further plunge that dagger of cynicism into the hearts and minds of the working stiff.

* We now have a chorus of warm fuzzies rising from the Capital, fawning over the prospects of the new Governor Paterson being more of a "uniter," or "a guy we can all work together with" -- as opposed to The Steamroller, who was hellbent on chasing these rats from the wharf and wasn't concerned about who he pissed off along the way. I'm not sure that we can take comfort in that picture.

The translation one can all make from this new lovefest, of course, is that the long-running Albany way-of-doing-business can now feel more safe and secure in its power hold. Isn't that a nice thought?

New York State government is a failure that needs to be fixed. Ths status quo of institutional corruption and a bunch of suits running around -- sound-biting us with 19th century policy-fixes to solve 21st century problems -- is slowly eating away at the legacy bedrock foundation of this somewhat great state of ours. As we await our Godot to save us, we continue to give a free pass to the players that bring home the bacon to our local districts, all while turning a blind eye to the fact that such practices are bankrupting the state as a whole.

Couple all of that with the the reports of Wall Street CEO's celebrating Spitzer's demise with champagne toasts. "The Sheriff is dead, it looks like we can get back to the business of anarchy in Dodge City." A week later, we watch as Bear Stearns is sold for $2 share at the very minute it is listed on the NYSE at $30 per. Why do I think that the ones who cashed out at something higher were the ones partying the most?

We don't need a uniter; what we need is a bomb-thrower.

I realize that I might be a minority of one here; but personally, I'd let this little whore-mongering problem slide if the guy could have delivered on the pest control promises.


Feb 25, 2008

A big idea from a big headed guy


The past week saw us working Beantown for a show with one Todd Mohr and his long-time band mates, known to keepers of the flame as Big Head Todd & The Monsters. The setting: the dingy and dark Paradise Lounge on the Back Bay.

What we had there was a fine group of gentleman playing some excellent rock & roll before a large and appreciative audience on a Thursday evening; it's as simple as that. BHT&M, to these ears at least, are one of the great under-appreciated bands of the American Rock Era - but the music business is not a fair game, not by any means. While Carrie Underwood is selling out the TU Center; artists with 10x the talent are drawing 75 paids down at Red Square. But that long-running age of industry-forced noise pollution may be nearing the end of its life cycle.

The dynamics of The Monsters' career goes something like this: during the early 90's, they were one of the reigning big shots (along with The Samples, who are due in Albany June 7th at LobsterPalooza in Washington Park) of the college-rock scene. But that environment, at that time, was known as the hotbed for the jam band scene. So, event though BHT&M were playing straight ahead rock, they were being tagged as a jam band. The result was they were left in a sort of no-man's land when it came to airplay, and never got to the big-stars level that many had predicted. But fret not for these lads; they make a good living playing to the faithful night after night, year after year. No sellouts here.

So it was with interest that we caught a dood deal of national press buzz on the band over the last three weeks. It had nothing to do with their tour, for that is a normal part of the routine. Nor did it have anything to do with any kind of "VH1 Behind the Music" gossip fodder, thank goodness.

Instead, it is the chosen distribution method of their new album release that is garnering the media noise. That distribution method? Give the goddam thing away for FREE! Yes, FREE!!!

That's right--hit their website and download the whole thing for nada. Physical copies (aka CDs) are available in select markets for free as well, courtesy of sponsoring radio stations or corporate underwriters. One can also order a CD online, and just pay a $5 charge to cover the shipping.

This is , of course, a variation -- a large variation at that -- on the highly publicized move by Radiohead to offer their latest release as a "pay whatever you want" offering. Yes, I'd say "here; have it for free" is a radical extension, wouldn't you?

So, what's this all about, you ask? Have the millions of road miles finally caught up to these longtime rock warriors? Ummm, no -- ther's actually something pretty smart going on here.

What you have is a 'past their prime" rock band in need of an adrenaline rush to extend their careers. They make most of their money playing live shows, not from the CD/download sales. So why not look at the recorded music portion of their business model as 'promotion' as opposed to the traditional 'revenue' outlook? Interesting...

500,000 copies will get into people's PC's or CD players. Now, these won't be just shotgun giveaways, mind you--they are going to the right people. People such as Relix Magazine subscribers and BHT&M Fan Club opt-in's and radio listeners in markets where they are about to perform.

The goal: get them on-board (or back on-board) the Monster train. Translation: go to one of their shows at $25 a pop next time they roll thru town. After all, that's where the New Reality of the music business points to the green stuff.

Monster's management told us that the math models are saying "1 in 30 in 18" -- meaning it needs one person out of each thirty recipients of the freebie album to hit one of their live shows in the next 18 months for this experiment to break-even.

As the industry struggles to find its place in this Brave New World, we'll watch this one closely.

In the meantime, go get your own copy. It's on us.

Feb 12, 2008

What a combo at LobsterPalooza !

Do you like lobsters? How about top-shelf live music? Have a taste for craft beers? Or maybe you just enjoy people watching?

If you answered YES to any of those four (we aye'd ALL of them!), then we've got some fun lined up for you in June.

It's the eight annual Albany Lobster Festival (now called LobsterPalooza); which is actually three festivals in one.

And we're right in the middle of it! Yesiree, we've been given two missions:

1) "Up the ante" on the musical front (shifting it from primarily local acts to those of the national touring variety); and..

2) Rounding up corporate supporters for this worthy fundraiser -- where we'll trade you a great big ad campaign for your company in return for your financial help.

Get on board! You wouldn't be able to buy this advertising exposure for the cost of being an event supporter; so direct some of that marketing budget right over here to the good people at The Albany Rotary Foundation!

It all funds some great community progrmas with NO admin fees; courtesy of 300+ volunteers and the generosity of the Fest's media and in-kind partners.

Join in...


Jan 30, 2008

Agency of record? So what?

Just a question that hit me today while sorting through the usual incoming barrage of news releases:

What is it about the advertising and public-relations industries that makes every company within either feel they must announce to the public the names of each and every new client they are lucky enough to have landed?

"The XYZ Agency is proud to announce that the Turkish Embassy has retained its serices to design a new organizational identity..." (note: code-talk for letterhead and business cards).

Do we care?

If others followed suit -- and if the traditional media outlets extended the same space that they currently do for these usless tidbits -- we'd be buried in it.

"McDonalds of Latham today announced the names of the 2,105 customers it served on Tuesday."

"Lia Honda was chosen as the preferred dealer by sixteen car-buying customers yesterday. The happy motorists are......"

"Nano Burgh is pleased to announce the IP addresses of its 617 site vistitors on Monday."

Enough...go away.

There. I feel better now.


Jan 10, 2008

Catchin' a groove in the stalls

Ace bassist Tony Levin -- last seen in our company when he played our New Year's Eve show in Albany as part of Jim Weider's Project Percolator -- is a world traveler. After all, between putting his own group on the road or as part of Peter Gabriel's band, Pink Floyd, or any of dozens of other acts, the Woodstock resident has traversed the globe many times over.

So, one can assume that Mr Levin has seen a lot of airports. Taking that a step further, we can then conclude that he has seen a lot of airport rest rooms. With those confines being of such interest as of late -- given a certain Congressman's (no, not John Sweeney, another one) toe-tapping escapades within -- we think Tony's experiences are of value to our viewing audience.

The music-video from his most recent release:


Jan 9, 2008

A reversing of the outsource tide?

An incoming email today serves up an interesting take on the curent state of the outsourcing movement.

A friend of mine owns an I/T shop in the region, designing and delivering high-end, customized, database driven websites for a very narrow target audience. Over the past couple of years, he has sent a good deal of what he calls the grunt work (lower-level progrmamming) overseas.

He is now looking to start bringing that work back to these shores. Here's a clip from our correspondence as to why ...

...... I'm giving up on the overseas agencies, telling them not to even inquire about the next round of projects. I tell them "let's not waste each others' time." Yes, I am DONE with the time & language barriers and the (now) constant upsells because of the "falling dollar." Now of course, I'm back to where I was two years back, struggling to find competent American talent, and if I DO find it, whether I can get it at a reasonable rate....

A fair warning to the "greener pastures" crowd?


New Hampshire and the McCarthy legacy

With the New Hampshire primaries at hand, let us remember the life of Senator Eugene McCarthy, who rose to fame in that state in 1968 and brought down a sitting president of his own party in the process. What was the disagreement between the gentleman from Minnesota and LBJ? Viet Nam, that's what. Read his obituary here.

We're prone to do the "Local Connections" thing here on this blog; here's an appropriate one today:

In his later years, Mr McCarthy became a prolific writer of books and newspaper columns. One of those books was A Political Bestiary, a quirky look at the jungle of politics. The artist for the second edition of this heavily-illustrated, coffee-table sized hardcover was Christopher Millis of Saratoga, who is also known for his work on the Close To Home comic strip. We know that guy.

Some random quotes from the Poet of Capitol Hill on this anniversary of his triumph:

"It is dangerous for a national candidate to say things that people might remember."

"Being in politics is like being a football coach. You have to be smart enough to understand the game, and dumb enough to think it's important."

"The only thing that saves us from the bureaucracy is inefficiency. An efficient bureaucracy is the greatest threat to liberty."

"There comes a time when an honorable man simply has to raise the flag."


Jan 8, 2008

Mr. Sweeney's double vision

Party animal -- and former Congressman - John Sweeney learned one lesson, but apparently forgot another.

First, Congressman Kickass (as he was called by soulmate George Bush in reference to our local hero leading a strong-arm mob during the Florida recall mess) certainly must be given credit for not drinking and driving. It looks like he wised up on this matter after his recent little DUI incident on the Northway. The proof: reports that he called a cab to get himself and his drinking buddies home safely from local nudie bar Double Vision. A big Atta Boy to you on that one, JS.

But -- like so much in Mr Sweeney's life as of late -- a problem arose. Namely, he refused to pay the cabbie after being dropped off at his Clifton Park home. Not only that, but he also failed to answer the front door when NYS Troopers responded to the taxi company's complaint!

A simple misunderstanding, said his attorney, the always reliable E Stewart Jones after the troopers rang him up to help solve the deadlock. The fare was eventually paid, the taxi company dropped charges and all is back to normal at Sweeney Central.

The amusing part here is that the troopers were so familiar with this guy's recent legal woes that they knew who his lawyer is!

A few takeaway thoughts on this one:

1) Our decision to heartily support Mrs Gillibrand looks better and better every month that goes by, does it not?

2) What exactly is Mr. Sweeney doing for a living nowadays? In other words, who would actually feel good about having this guy on the payroll, representing the organization? Let me guess: it's a political patronage job?

3) Has anyone seen his wife lately? I'm getting concerned about her well-being, especially after her spousal abuse claims.

4) Ditto for the 24yo who reportedly was in some sort of physical contact with the ex-Rep when pulled over on the DUI charge.

5) To think, Sweeney's name was even mentioned a few times as the possible CEO of the Center for Economic Growth after Kelly Lovell left. How do you think that would have worked out?

6) Does getting elected to Congress get one a lifetime pass for acting stupid?


Jan 5, 2008

The road ran thru here

No reason for posting this one -- other than the fact that even thirty-six and a half years later, it still puts a chill up my spine:

Some interesting local sidetracks to all of this:

- Although this rare clip of the original lineup of the Allman Brothers was filmed at the Fillmore East in 1971, it wasn't done at an actual concert. Bill Graham brough them into the building on an afternoon during their legendary run at the storied venue to video-record four songs. The doors were opened for passersby to come in and watch the session, thus providing some faces in the crowd.

- It was just a short time later that the band was found venturing further north, playing a free outdoor afternoon show at Skidmore College, on a spot where the tennis courts are now located.

- The live shows of that NYC run were audio-recorded and became the Live at the Fillmore album (as well as part of the Eat a Peach album), which sent them to superstardom.

- But before the actual release, guitarist Duane Allman would die in a motorcycle accident. Bassist Berry Oakley would go on to do the same, mere blocks away. The two were buried side-by-side.

- The remnants of the band -- with second guitarist Dickey Betts stepping into the limelight and with new member Chuck Leavell on electric keys -- would return to the Capital Region in June of 1973 for a performance at SPAC. An unknown band named the Marshall Tucker Band opened.

- Gregg Allman met one of his estimated six wives in Saratoga in the early 80's after another SPAC gig--she was a city resident.

- Years later, Saratoga would again provide an interesting footnote to the band's history. During a SPAC performance in 1989 as part of the HORDE tour, Betts was heavily intoxicated, resulting in sloppy playing, missed cues and even staggering off the stage on several occasions to use the restroom facilties. New guitarist Warren Haynes stepped in to at least partially save the night. But it got worse: Betts was arrested at the downtown Holiday Inn for allegedly beating up his wife and spent the night in the city jail, later pleading to a reduced misdemeanor. Betts was eventually kicked out of the band that he helped create, with alcoholism cited as the reason. He would not play with them again until their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.


Jan 4, 2008

Tom Gilcoyne: 1916 - 2008

I'm not sure whether Tom Gilcoyne ever technically lived -- as in held an official residence -- in Saratoga Springs. Regardless, he did, in fact, live some of his greatest personal moments of joy in the Spa City.

Gilcoyne, known to thoroughbred interests and fans far and wide as the National Museum of Racing's in-house historian & librarian since 1989, passed away yesterday (January 3) at the age of 91.

The RPI grad had his retirement from the chemical and abrasives industry interrupted into that volunteer endeavor, fatefully brought about by his recognizing an error in the museum's silks collection during a visit, resulting in a conversation with a staff member and an invitation to join in the fun. From there, the Troy and (later)Latham native found a spot where he could share his virtual fountain of knowledge of his beloved passion -- horse racing -- with the expanding museum, its visitors and researchers from around the globe.

Gilcoyne became The Man within the racing world for data and facts on the sport's history. Whether it was a reporter inquiring about a long-forgotten stakes race, a preservationist seeking information on the past look of a certain race course, or an author seeking background information on a horse named Seabiscuit for a book she was writing, the friendly gentleman was always eager to dive into his beloved collection of books up on the top floor and find the answers -- if he didn't know those answers off the top of his head.

His passion was built on personal experience; of his first being brought to the local track in the early years of the 20th century. Of later watching the great legends in action, animals with names like Citation and Whirlaway, Carry Back and Damascus. Of visiting dozens of tracks waround the nation during his business travels.

Mr Gilcoyne knew the game of horse racing. Check that; he loved it, and was ready, willing and more than able to lend his hand in passing on its glorious past to others. He played a key role over the past eighteen years in promoting both Saratoga and the thoroughbred industry.

In this new century of demographic shifts within the rapidly changing boundaries of Saratoga Springs, the new influx of city dwellers arrives with little appreciation for the Sport of Kings, despite its regional economic importance. Why would they: they weren't exposed to its magninficence as children, with their first glimpses of it taken while in the hands of -- and its traditions passed down from -- their parents and grandparents. Or of sneaking into the track as teenagers and asking strangers to place bets because of the age restriction. Or of wandering the backstectch on a chilly early morning just to catch a glimpse of a horse you watched on TV. The way it used to be around here. The way it was in Tom Gilcoyne's time.

No, Mr Gilcoyne may or may not have ever had that address in Saratoga. But that doesn't mean he shouldn't be honored as if he did.

Are there any new streets or buildings around here that need a name?


Tribute band central

Here we are only in the first few days of the new year, and already one of our 2008 Tech Valley Predictions (see our main news portal) is apparently coming true.

Our crystal ball forecast a shakeout of downtown Albany's untra-lounge scene. Lo and behold comes word that the lounge'iest example of this too-late-to-the party phenomena -- Noche Lounge -- is taking down the "Welcome Lizards" sign and becoming a live-music club.

Good news, we guess. Until one looks at the initial lineup of acts scheduled to get the new operation (now called Jack Rabbit Slims, a la Pulp Fiction's twist venue) off to a rocking new year. That gets us scratching the old noggin.

We've got a Led Zeppelin tribute to begin the festivities on January 11. Then, we've got tribute things going for: Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond, Iron Maiden, and Tool. The only break in the action is a local cover band.

I don't know about you, but I just want to know when they get some Sabbath action going on in there! Then we'll be smoking!

Does anyone think this experiment will actually work? Let's hear from you.

Regardless, we wish them well. It's not an easy game.


Jan 3, 2008

Reporting from the boonies -- of Saratoga?

I found out today that I live in an "outlying area."

Such was the information I gained this AM, courtesy of my friendly neighborhood Stewarts worker and the Albany Times Union.

Thursday is my one day a week to buy a hard copy of the T/U, primarily to catch the well-done Preview section of Mr Greg Haymes and company. Today's exercise revealed that the price of the paper has risen by 50%, from the long-running fifty cents to a new price seventy-five cents.

"Ouch," I said to the clerk. She referred me to the masthead, which declares:


So there I am, officially a resident of the hinterlands, err outlying areas. I could have sworn that Saratoga Springs was an integral part of the Capital Region; I guess I was wrong on that one.

I would love to know the motivations for this move. Is it just a monkey see, money do copy of the way the New York Times has done business for many years? Is it a subtle strategy designed to encourage people to stop buying the paper and instead read the online version? Are they writing off certain areas from their core target area? I frankly don't get it.

But maybe there's something more creative going on here. Recall my earlier prediction: that the Hearst Corp - owned T/U will make a bid on the local operation (i.e., The Saratogian) of the struggling Journal Register news chain, which would then allow them to take a more 'regional conquer' approach?

Could it be that this new price increase is just being inflicted as a temporary pain, so that it can announce some good news (a price decrease) in the coming months as a result of its new, predicted expansion?

Stay tuned.