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.