Dec 29, 2010

Rick Danko, making a difference

The late Rick Danko --- to me, the heart of The Band --- was born on this date in 1943.

Here he is in The Last Waltz, performing what just might be the greatest love song in rock & roll; never feeling so all alone ...

Dec 27, 2010

Paying debts, hero style

Fred Hargesheimer, American hero and exemplar of the potential of all that can be good about humanity, died this weekend. Please read his story...


EDITOR'S NOTE: The story of Fred Hargesheimer is a saga of the human spirit, a parable for a century of war and strife, or any century. A reporter visits the Pacific island where the story began and interviews Hargesheimer at his California home.

BIALLA, Papua New Guinea — The Japanese fighter caught the American pilot from behind, riddling his plane with machine-gun rounds. The left engine burst into flames. It was time to bail out. READ FULL STORY

Dec 8, 2010

Cosell breaking the Lennon news

One of those "I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I first heard about it" moments; thirty years ago today:

In an interesting bit of historical trivia, here is the off-broadcast conversation between Howard Cosell and Frank Gifford, as they debated whether to make the announcement on-air or not:

Dec 7, 2010

Economic externalities and the environment

From the EarthTalk files...

Dear EarthTalk: In my business courses in college, we were taught that ecological degradation was an externality”—something outside the purview of economic analyses. Now that the environment is of such concern, are economists beginning to rethink this? (Josh Dawson)

By definition, economic externalities are the indirect negative (or positive) side effects, considered un-quantifiable in dollar terms, of other economic acts. For example, a negative externality of a power plant that is otherwise producing a useful good (electricity) is the air pollution it generates. In traditional economics, the harmful effect of the pollution (smog, acid rain, global warming) on human health and the environment is not factored in as a cost in the overall economic equation. And as the economists go, so go the governments that rely on them. The result is that most nations do not consider environmental and other externalities in their calculations of gross domestic product (GDP) and other key economic indicators (which by extension are supposed to be indicators of public health and well-being).

For decades environmentalists have argued that economics should take into account the costs borne by such externalities in order to discern the true overall value to society of any given action or activity. The company or utility that operates the polluting factory, for instance, should be required to compensate the larger society by paying for the pollution it produces so as to offset the harm it does.

So-called “cap-and-trade” schemes are one real-world way of monetizing a negative externality: Big polluters must buy the right to generate limited amounts of carbon dioxide (and they can trade such rights with other companies that have found ways to lower their carbon footprints, thus creating an incentive for polluters to clean up their acts). While cap-and-trade was invented in the U.S. to clean up acid rain pollution, it is a model used in Europe but not yet in America, which has yet to pass legislation mandating it. Until Congress acts to regulate the output of carbon dioxide in the U.S.—via cap-and-trade means or others—such emissions will remain “external” to the economics of carrying on business.

Recent news that has many greens excited is that the World Bank, the leading financier of development projects around poorer parts of the globe, is starting to think outside the traditional economic box. This past October, World Bank president Robert Zoellick told participants at a conference for the Convention on Biological Diversity (an international treaty signed by 193 countries—not including the U.S.—that went into effect in 1993 to sustain biodiversity) that “the natural wealth of nations should be a capital asset valued in combination with its financial capital, manufactured capital and human capital.”

Zoellick’s comments are the first sign from the World Bank of its recognition of the need to consider externalities in any overall economic assessment. “[We] need to reflect the vital carbon storage services that forests provide and the coastal protection values that come from coral reefs and mangroves,” he added.

Critics are still waiting to see if the World Bank will walk its talk. “It’s a fine rhetorical start,
” says the New York Times’ Andrew Revkin in his blog. “But the  announcement by the bank of a $10 million ‘Save Our Species’ fund, with the United Nations Global Environmental Facility and International Union for Conservation of Nature, seems quite piddling in a world where money flows in the trillions,” he adds. Indeed, we may still be a ways off from including our environmental impacts into our measures of social wealth and health, but at least the World Bank has gone on record as to the need to do so, and you can be sure that environmental advocates will be working to hold its feet to the fire.

SEND YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTIONS TO: EarthTalk, c/o E – The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; E is a nonprofit publication. Subscribe:; Request a Free Trial Issue:

Image courtesy of "Thinkstock Images."

Dec 5, 2010

Anonymous comments? Yes, of course

Requiring ID has no legit purpose, stifles the convo

An old school trick, uncovered by new school media

An incoming email questioned the policy here, as well as on most similar forums, of accepting and publishing user comments that are offered anonymously; that is without requiring the inclusion of a 'real name' that can (conceivably) be verified prior to hitting the Accept Comment button on any given blog or info portal.

The answer is simple: because a "No Anonymous Comments' policy represents an outdated and unacceptable Old Media philosophy that discourages community participation and dialog while offering no countering benefit for its being in place.

The prior journalism model was this: the broadcast-style media elite in any given niche or local community acted as the gatekeepers of information. In the print media world (the most powerful media type because of its written word format and historical head start), this meant that the news flow was pushed from their end by their hand picked proctors (reporters and wire feeds) for mostly passive consumption by the readership.

The exception to that passive aspect is the Letters to the Editor (or guest commentary, etc) submissions. But early on, the near-universal policy across the print media industry was to refuse publication, based on a number of prerequisites including word length, grammar, style and personal identification of the author.

But whereas the length requirement had its basis with the limited space/inventory justification, the other three were for a more worrisome objective: to keep the conversation nice and polite and not to upset either the newspaper's alleged presentation standards of the reputation of its cherished nor its allied community partners, namely the local (or niche) power brokers and businesses. After all, they would tend to get squirrel'y when a food fight breaks out on the editorial page and the messy fingers and potty mouths are pointing at one of them. And when things get squirrel'y, the offended party is less likely to reward the entity which hosted the beat-down. That's right, we're talking advertising dollars. But if the offensive party is clearly ID'd, then the finger can be diverted into a different direction; but not so with an anonymous opinion.

So, yes, it IS about control. A noisy and chaotic mess does not a good community make; at least in the eyes of a profit-motivated entity that benefits when everyone plays nice. There can be no doubt that we all play a whole lot nicer when our personal brand and identity is front and center than we do with a cloak of anonymity. That's why the Catholics confess behind a curtain.

Right off the bat, though, we have discrimination. The “keep it short” notice prevents long winded types that have a whole lot to say on complicated matters from participating. Likewise, those who can't put coherent sentences together are locked out, as are the passionate ones who tend to pepper their arguments with words such as goddam, fucking, shithead and others. They can't play, because they can't behave properly.

Nor can those who desire to remain anonymous, or unknown to the public (or even to the gatekeepers). This is where the most damage is done, in that some of the most potential valuable and important contributions to the community dialog are stopped from being entered into the record. People desire to remain anonymous because they each have a good reason for it. Can there be any doubt that expressing a negative opinion on the Mayor might put you in a bad spot if you lived next door to him or your kids played together or if you worked for him? Now don't you think that someone in any of those three settings might have a pretty good read on said Mayor?

Besides, the logic of attaching a name to an opinion seems to be absent. If someone submitted it, that means it came from a human – unless you think it might have been done by an algorithm; but even then one could argue that the algorithm was created by a human. If it came from a someone, then we could also conclude that it expressed their view of a matter. Isn't that the ultimate purpose; gathering opinions from humans? What else do we gain by ID'ing the author?

Some would argue that we may gain insight into motivation with that knowledge. “Oh, that's cranky pants Joe, he's been pissed off ever since his wife ran off with the City Hall janitor.” But motivation should not be on our radar. The fact is that there's a member of the community out there with an opinion of X and that opinion is not being expressed unless it is with the cloak of anonymity. Not granting that privilege doesn't make the opinion disappear; it is still there. In that case, it is better for it to be heard than not.

Old Media blowhards will counter with “a Letter to the Editor can also be granted anonymity, if requested.” The bluff-calling here would be that such a process still involves the initial submission of a verified personal identity, which to some degree defeats the purpose. Plus, we can always point to the abuse of such a scenario, such as when the local daily The Saratogian publicly outed (possibly mistakenly, possibly not) a critic from a competing blog that had jumped thru these hoops. That critic/competitor has since disappeared from the scene.

Note: to their credit, many newspapers allow anonymously penned comments within their online properties. Most of them, however, do not have a similar policy in place for their legacy / print editions.)

The Bottom Line

The world has changed, the power has shifted. Information – including personal opinions – flow more freely in the modern (new) media landscape. The old barriers, as dictated by the old power brokers and opinion shapers, have either disappeared (ex: limited space) or have been rendered moot (ex: many blogs do not have the need to placate third parties as part of their survival).

In turn, the requirement of personally identifying any and all contributors to the public discussion serves no positive purpose in the current dynamic; in fact, it acts to suppress the worthy goal of providing the infrastructure and framework of maximizing that discussion.

The Nanoburgh Policy

Keep on topic and avoid making unsubstantiated claims that would be deemed as potentially libelous from our end. Examples:

OK: Whoever believes this is an idiot. (Opinion)
OK: Joe is an idiot, period. (Another opinion)
NOT OK: Joe Smith likes little boys. (Unsubstantiated, possibly libelous)
OK: Joe Smith likes little boys; he just got convicted for it. (Fact, if verified)

Dec 2, 2010

O'Reilly meets his match

A quick dose of the current state of the American dialog -- and of the American broadcast media. But it's at least refreshing to see someone like this woman, pushing back against the Machine.

Nov 30, 2010

Random riff: Social Security

Out of context, from a recent IM chat:

Well, once again we have a convenient Red Meat headline (Democratic group suggests eliminating Social Security for wealthy) that does little to help us all understand a much more complicated issue that we are lead to believe by the (as usual) lazy & incompetent mass media. Further, and as always, such a Red Meat headline generates Red Meat replies; ie., "the party of FDR..", etc.

In fact, said party will no doubt be the one that fights hardest against any proposal such as this, if it ever even sees the light of day from this particular 'centrist' think tank (which I seriously doubt). And that, my friends, is too bad--and is a major indictment against those blue types.

If one were to seriously re-visit both the earliest and the consequent debates on Soc Security, he/she will find hat there has long been a discussion on whether it is/should be considered a retirement 'entitlement' or an 'insurance' policy. The prior poster is at least correct in that the Dem party has both owned and won that talk, pushing it into the former camp. But the latter argument is worthy of new consideration; something which this group is accomplishing, albeit unwittingly.

Such a discussion invited another one on the basic concept or "retirement" itself. Are you automatically retired at age 62/65/etc, no matter what your income stream maybe be? Is a 65yo walking away from his janitor's job w/$2K in the bank a different "retirement" scenario than a 65yo that keeps working at his hedge fund or a 65yo that continues to work part time but also has $250K/yr in continuing income from investments and rental properties?

Yes, IF one is looking at if from that 'safety net' (insurance) POV. Keep in mind, such a net has both individual (micro) as well as societal (macro) benefits. After all, it doesn't do any of us a lot of good to watch some old person starving in the streets, when we could at least guarantee some level of subsistence being provided -- and on that person's dime yet!

Again--it's a convo worth having. But I myself conclude that the modern dynamic is such that its incapable of happening.

Agree? Disagree? What's the frequency, Kenneth?

Nov 27, 2010

A shout-out to a model citizen

Blogger Tighe helps fill local news gap

Rough around the edges? Check. Valuable? You betcha

(Saratoga Springs) --- Nanoburgh? is always happy to pay some 'spect to the journalistic traditions of good old fashioned muckraking and rabble-rousing when applied to the new school platforms of self-published digital soap boxes.

We especially appreciate it when it is used to fill that black hole called local journalism. In a city like Saratoga Springs, that hole is a mile wide, given the failings of a media brand called The Saratogian. That is why the now-defuct blogs iSaratoga and (dis)Utopia of Saratoga are so sorely missed.

Whereas that town's daily newspaper refuses to touch the ongoing saga of the controversial human development organization (or to some, a cult) named NXIVM --- which just might be the most fascinating Saratoga-centric story of the past few years --- one rare remaining local blogger has picked up the slack.

Likewise, the Machiavellian intrigue of the city's Democratic party has also been given a forum on this same site. Here, the Old Media opts to pay lip service, while this same loose cannon pulls back the covers and exposes the dirty laundry.

Granted, it's not usually very pretty nor does it smell very nice, but neither is the reality of both of these sordid dramas.

That is why today we pay homage to Mr John Tighe and his SaratogaInDecline blog, in the best way we know how; with a little bit of humor:

Stay Thirsty, My Friends.

Nov 26, 2010

The Beatles on iTunes

As we all know, the Beatles have finally made it into digital mode, with a good chunk of their catalog now available exclusively on iTunes.

Of interest is the #1 selling track, at this early stage. The leader of the pack: Here Comes the Sun, written by George Harrison.

When we think of the Beatles, we think of the songwriting team (teamed on paper, at least) of Lennon and McCartney. By the time Abbey Road came about, Harrison (the youngest member of the band) was beginning to be a bit of a pain in the ass -- at least to the two big shots. No longer did we have The Quiet Beatle here; instead we had The Sulking Beatle.

The conflict came down to one issue: Harrison was coming into his own as both a musician and a songwriter, and wanted more play on the albums. He was no longer content with being known as the "second best guitarist in the band" (behind the bass player McCartney, no less) nor with being allocated just a single song on each release. Thus, he's given two (!) slots on this one; no doubt grudgingly.

Lo and behold, those two are "Here Comes the Sun" and "Something". Some musicologists contend the he "steals" the album as a result -- which is saying something; this is Abbey Road we're talking about. Sinatra (who hated rock & roll) supposedly called Something "the greatest love song ever made" (although I personally chalk that up as a myth).

Here we are in 2010, and the near-complete Beatles catalog is release en mass. So look what becomes the most popular song of them all. It's one of Mr Harrison's tunes.

How do ya like that?

The late George Harrison, at the Bangladesh benefit concert at MSG (on stage while Eric Clapton was seducing his wife in the Knick's locker room), taking us into the weekend...

A special dose of Shubert

When in doubt of the possibiliies and resiliency of the human spirit or the power of music, go learn the story of Alice Herz-Sommer (click on link).

Then enjoy her rendition of Shubert's Impromptu in B Flat.

Nov 24, 2010

A breakfast of tea -- and a big headache

Logic? Reason? Data? Fuggetaboutit!

How can we debate if the facts don't matter?

(Somewhere in the Catskills) --- Despite its major flaws, the US justice system does at least one thing right. Namely: it begins proceedings by establishing FACTS, via the introduction of Statements of Fact and their subsequent agreement by all parties involved. Example: Plaintiff was walking down Broadway at 11AM; Defendant was operating a car at the same time and on the same street; etc. The process moves from there.

That is what is missing from the current public policy discussion: the Red Meat crowd does not seem interested in operating from that initial foundation of facts. (To be fair, many on the other side are in the same boat).

Hence, today I heard things like this from my fellow diners (at a diner): "Gov't doctors will perform our annual physicals"; "I am now forced to provide health care to my 3 workers"; "all employers are required to leave their current plans"; .. and.. "the Dems are against extending all the Bush tax cuts"; "we need to balance the budget like Reagan did"; etc.

So, when you have people operating under these type of fallacies, how can the process / discussion / debate move forward in a reasonable and productive manner?

Then there is the absence of Logic. The usual "my premium is going up 21% , there's Obamacare for you" is all the rage. When some clown in the diner (guess who?) made the mistake of offering: "mine too, but its gone up at that rate each of the last 5 years, so how's that tied to the new act that doesn't really kick in this year?".. the reaction? Well: that's when the usual defense of name-calling and spitting kicks in.

Red/Blue? Dem/Rep? Lib/Con? I don't think so. I think the real divide taking place is more of an intellectual one. That's not to say there isn't plenty of room for debate and disagreements, mind you. But when the broadcast and landscape is dominated by people willing to swallow any 5-word slogan that best pushes their 'us vs them' hot buttons, then we're screwed from finding real fixes.

Elitist? Maybe. But does anyone have a better explanation?

Please don't think this craziness has run its course. Here's a preview:

Panties in a bunch

So The Simpsons have gotten under Bill O'Reilly's thin skin, have they?

Memo to Bill: I doubt that too many of your crowd considers the "#1 with racists" thing to be an insult. So mellow out, dude

Google Street View image of the day

I wonder if that dog had been in the trunk, too?

Nov 23, 2010

Adding to the legacy

Disturbing. Very. Disturbing.

Nov 19, 2010

Here's how to put a wrap on it

A friend of mine is retiring from the restaurant business after 45 years. He asked if I had any ideas as to how he might bring down the curtain. I didn't.

All I advised was to take a look at this video, below. This guy sure as hell came up with a way to exit the stage with something special, didn't he?

Johnny Cash, taking us into the weekend...

Nov 18, 2010

How to speak like a Teabagger

Nov 16, 2010

Who needs accountability?

One of the shortcomings in our current view of human ethics is a seeming absence of accountability in certain endeavors. While we certainly put the hammer down on a guy that murders his neighbor, at the same time we tend to give free passes to those that 'blow it' in less violent cause & effect actions.

That stockbroker who advised us to invest in a penny stock that is now worthless? We're broke, but he's still living comfortably, partly due to commissions earned from our buy/sell action. Or how about any one of many scandal plagued politicians, forced to retreat from the public view but still keeping the taxpayer-funded pension and health care benefits until death.

The cottage industry of futurists is another case in point. Walk into the bookstore and wander thru an online bookseller and you'll see many dozens of titles that offer predictions of just where we're headed, be it of the economic, political, social, scientific or metaphysical variety.

This hit me today as I was clearing out the bookshelf. There was a formerly popular mega seller titles Next - Trends for the Near Future, penned in 1999. Among the gems offered in that title:

- A worldwide recession will be caused by next year's (read: 2000) Y2K 'computer bug'

So, how'd that work out? Fact: Y2K actually served up a mini-boom in the IT sector, forcing corporate america to upgrade technology infrastructures that they might not have done ordinarily. This resulted not only in job creation and innovation on the supply side, but also a mass realization of efficiencies and productivity throughout the economy.

This was just one of many which was a total miss, by the way.

But the authors weren't forced to refund the purchasers of these books, were they?

Stay classy, New York!

Here is a random example of why I never:

1) Go to a sporting event in metro NYC

2) Get out of my car in New Jersey

3) Set foot on Canada Street in the Village of Lake George during the summer

Stay classy, New York!

Nov 15, 2010

Craigslist post: real or fake?

Here's a current post on the Albany Craigslist site. Funny? Sad? Both?

Unmotivated 20-something seeking Personal Assistant/life coach

I'm looking for someone who will help me manage my meager finances, force me to get up and take walks, and basically just accompany me everywhere to ensure that I stay productive and on top of things; give me good, solid advice and keep me out of trouble. I'm not a criminal or anything, I just get easily distracted and always come up with horrible ideas that inevitably leave me broke and/or depressed. I don't have much money but I'll buy you food, coffee and cigarettes and give you $50/week in spending money. Sometimes my dad sends checks, when he does we can split the money. Hours are basically around the clock, you can sleep on the couch.

Applicants should be energetic, patient, creative and motivated with the ability to manage ~$300/week. The only bills i have are rent and my cell, you should keep my payments current by constantly reminding me of the due dates and making sure i don't blow bill money on pot. Applicants should also be able to think of interesting budgets and ways for me to save.

Hopefully we can become friends. I'm looking for a male because it would e too easy to ignore a girl trying to wake me up, but honestly anyone can apply.

Just write to me with your qualifications, a current resume and any questions you might have

This is a serious listing! Only serious applicants please!


Time for a vote,

Real or fake??

Nov 14, 2010

Recyling food and the Liability myth

Dear EarthTalk: I work at a fast food place and I am appalled by the amount of unpurchased food we throw away. The boss says we can’t give it away for legal reasons. Where can I turn for help on this, so the food could instead go to people in need? (Ryan Jones)

Many restaurants, fast food or otherwise, are hesitant to donate unused food due to concerns about liability if people get sick after eating it—especially because once any such food is out of the restaurant’s hands, who knows how long it might be before it is served again. But whether these restaurants know it or not, they cannot be held liable for food donated to organizations, and sometimes all it might take to change company policy would be a little advocacy from concerned employees.

A 1995 survey found that over 80 percent of food businesses in the U.S. did not donate excess food due to liability concerns. In response, Congress passed the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act, which releases restaurants and other food organizations from liability associated with the donation of food waste to nonprofits assisting individuals in need. The Act protects donors in all 50 states from civil and criminal liability for good faith donations of “apparently wholesome food”—defined as meeting “all quality and labeling standards imposed by Federal, State and local laws and regulations even though the food may not be readily marketable due to appearance, age, freshness, grade, size, surplus or other condition.”

While homeless shelters, elder care organizations and boys and girls clubs are frequent beneficiaries of food donations, the most common recipients are food banks and food rescue programs. Food banks, according to California’s CalRecycle website, “collect food from a variety of sources, save the food in a warehouse, then distribute it to hungry families and individuals through local human service agencies.” They usually collect less perishable items like canned goods, which can be stored and used any time. In contrast, food rescue programs typically trade in perishable and prepared foods, distributing it to agencies that feed hungry people, usually later that same day. Mama’s Health, a leading health education website, maintains an extensive free database of food banks and food rescue programs state-by-state.

Unused or even partially eaten food waste can also be utilized even if it’s not edible by human standards. The U.S. Department of Agriculture approves of food businesses giving or selling food waste to local farmers for use in composting or as animal feed. If such food contains or has come into contact with meat, it should be boiled for 30 minutes to reduce the risk of bacterial infections in the animals that eat it. Many states have complementary laws on the books regulating the donation of food waste at the local level.

Many cities and town are now expanding curbside pickup programs to include kitchen scraps and yard waste and then diverting the food waste into profitable compost. Still, some 6.7 percent of the solid waste going into landfills consists of food discards, reports the North Carolina Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance. Diverting food waste to feed hungry people or for animal feed or compost is a winning scenario for all concerned parties as it not only provides relief to overburdened landfills but also helps meet social welfare, agricultural and environmental needs. Also, those restaurants, grocery stores and other businesses that donate food will likely reap the additional reward of saving money on their actual waste removal bill as their trash bins and dumpsters won’t be filling up quite so fast.

SEND YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTIONS TO: EarthTalk®, c/o E – The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; E is a nonprofit publication. Subscribe:; Request a Free Trial Issue:

Reprinted with permission
Image courtest of "Brand X Pictures."

Nov 12, 2010

Mercy, mercy me

This song --- recognized as the musical Call to Reason for the Green movement -- came to mind as I was driving home after a tour of a toxic brownfield site today. Any given industrial neighborhood in the Far East today could act as the backdrop for the video.

Two other things hit me:

1. Wouldn't it be nice if old school soul like this could somehow knock hip hop and rap (two other toxic poisons) off the map?

2. To think, the composer and performer of this masterpiece was killed at a young age by a handgun -- fired by his father.

Marvin Gaye, taking us into the weekend...

Nov 9, 2010

Post-election riffs and raffs

Palin's cooked; the GOP breathes a sigh .... Fact: Big Media = the GOP's P/R Dep't .... Upcoming game plans for the two parties .... Hint: it ain't gonna be pretty (or smell nice) .... Statewide and local election briefs


If we lived in rational times, the US would be experiencing a left-wing communist insurgency. After all, the logical reaction to a crippled economy caused by 30 years of conservative political and economic rule should be a counter-pull from the opposite side of the spectrum, right?.

But here we are in just such a spot in 2010, but instead of Marx-quoting leftists ruling the airwaves and soap boxes, we're bombarded with the bombastic shouts of the New American Right, a shitshow mashup of good ole boys, libertarians-on-acid, amateur economists and semi-literate cartoon characters parading around as the intellectual descendants of the Founding Brothers. As if that isn't bizarre enough; there are actually people out there that buy into it. The unfortunate part is that they vote.

Such an observation certainly isn't meant as a call for communism, mind you; after all, there aren't a whole lot of Best Practice case studies out there which would support such a position, are there? But then again, such black-white / red-blue / fascism-communism dichotomies are the current standard for debate, with the more legitimate shades of gray perspective being WAY too much to comprehend for today's nano sized attention span. Hence an analysis of a China, with its legacy of central decision-making still the status quo, running wild in the global marketplace is one that can't possibly gain traction with an audience that approaches politics in the same way it does Sunday's football game: “We're wearing green, getting 3 points and are gonna kick your ass!”

Another way to look at it is this: re-read my first paragraph. An innocent enough observation on political dynamics, it would seem. Now jump into the future and pretend I was running for high political office. There's no doubt in my mind that this very post would one day become the center of attention, as my opponent's attack team would feel like they struck gold with a nugget that has them screaming: “look, this guy says that communism is the rational alternative for America!” The right wing media would be all over me, the nonsense would spew and the dumbing-down of the nation continues. To think, 18 out of the world's top 20 universities are located between our shores, yet the most popular source of political information is Fox News.

Which lead us to the greatest modern day American myth: that of the existence of a 'liberal' (or Democratic leaning) media. I've dragged enough times on that very subject in this column to refrain from feeling a need to repeat it here, but I will repeat a single observation that I simultaneously admire (for its execution) and which scares the hell out of me (because of its consequences). It is this: the conservative / right wing voice not only dominates the traditional broadcast news mediums (TV; radio, newspapers), but at the same time it has succeeded in convincing most Americans that just the opposite is the reality. Again: scary, just plain scary.

National Elections

One under-reported (see the previous point) aspect of last week's elections is the fact that the so-called Tea Party got beat up pretty good in the key US Senate elections. Where many thought that body was up for grabs, the result is that it is still in Democratic hands. This tells us that people vote differently on local elections (which includes one's local House rep) than they do for statewide and national elections. This can act as a glimmer of hope for Obama going into 2012.

Despite the fact that almost all of the nuttiest of the wingnuts (the Witch, Sharon Angle, Wilson, etc) were defeated, the single most dangerous, Rand Paul, did make it into the Senate. In addition, the new cast of incoming Congressional victors includes a fair amount of out-there types.

The rubber now hits the road for these people, in that their lofty ambitions of historic possibilities will now give way to the real world of constitutional facts and the complexities of rule making. In other words, most will soon realize they have gotten themselves into something way over their head, and will crawl into the faceless trenches of constituent service. Even Mr Paul is already starting Act One of his “ya know, I was really kidding about lot of what I said,” today pledging to bring home the bacon (via those previously dissed earmarks) to his Kentucky.


The national Republican Party is in a pickle – but they know it – and will bear watching as the most important long-form story of the next two years. Last Tuesday did give them the fortunate and unexpected gift of essentially pushing Sarah Palin off the map as being a serious contender for the party's presidential nomination, and for that they should (and likely are) very thankful. She will now fall into a comfortable role, along with many of the new wingnuts like Paul, of keeping that base in GOTV (Get Out The Vote) mode come November '12. For that service, she will make many trips to the bank at her going rate of $50K per stop.

But what of the rest of the GOP? Who will emerge as the front runner for the nod to take on the sitting president and how will he (yes, I seems to be just he's at this point) get there? The tactic is easy to predict: go right during the primaries, and go back to the center after one gets the nomination.

This won't be pretty, mind you. Just yesterday, we saw Texas Gov Rick Perry popping a gasket with John Stewart, rambling on about how the dawn of the Progressive Era in the early 1900's basically doomed this nation into a permanent period of stagnation and incompetence.

Apparently, Mr Perry is not aware of the fact that such a movement was championed by a member of his own party (Teddy R) and that in the interim this nation a) won two World Wars; b) defeated both European fascism and Soviet communism; c) became the model for world democracy and free markets; among countless other accomplishments. But those are mere details. Now, if Perry is talking like this, what do you think we're in for when Huckabee and Gingrich get warmed up?

The Democrats are in less of a pickle, but are more in need of a legitimate plan. Their biggest shortcoming is painfully obvious: an inability to get it message and narrative across to John Q Public. That needs to get fixed, pronto. Indeed, that will not be easy: we know that the GOP's major financial backers now own the mass media microphones and plan on continuing their successful disinformation propaganda campaign on their behalf into the future. A countering message can be done, but it must start early.

Early predictions? Obama has to be considered the morning line favorite, believe or or not. Recent history tell us that a new president's first Congressional election results don't predict the big race two years later – see Reagan and Clinton's ass-whipping followed by easy victories of their own. Plus, there is an outside chance that the Republicans go into civil war, and the Tea Party puts up its own candidate in 2101. That would siphon 5-10% of the vote from the GOP and clinch it for Obama. Don't rule that possibility out.

There are some other interesting under-the-radar dynamic at play as well. First is the (again) unreported observation that two Republican big tent constituencies have suddenly lost influence within the party. First up are the neocons of the Dubya, Cheney and Rove regime. Three years ago, they ruled the globe, today they can't even get a seat at the little kids' table. Second is the decline of the religious right. Granted, they are still there spitting their vitriol, but one can't help but notice that many of the newly empowered libertarian types don't even bother paying lip service to the born again crowd. So ½ of both GW Bush's and Ronald bases are now feeling like they are on the outside looking in.

But Obama couldn't possibly tap into this ostracism for his won political benefit, could he? Well keep in mind that the original neocon (before the more vicious Bush variety arose) was a guy named David P Moynihan, a Nixon administration wonk who fled the party (for the Dems) when Dutch Reagan hit the scene, talking scary talk. Politics can make strange bedfellows, so don't rule it out.

As for the religious bloc, there is little prospect for the hard core right segment jumping ship any decade soon. But, that group is not the only of-faith variety out there, even within the Christian community. Many of the nation's soup kitchens, shelters and community good organizations are manned by these God-fearing individuals, and the prospect of axe-cutting conservatives eying their own individual aid programs can not be a comforting thought. Yes, the moderate Christian vote might be up for grabs.

Barring an economic calamity, there is also one single tactical move that Obama can make that will almost certainly clinch the deal for his reelection. It will only require his stepping up to a mic in the Oval office and saying these seven words: “Hillary Clinton will be my vice president.” Check? Check mate. Sorry, Joe. But he'd make a decent Sec of State, anyways!

Local Elections

No surprises in the statewide races, given the Crazy Carl Paladino factor. Our own Nanoburgh? Poll had Wilson gaining like Zenyatta in the Comptroller's race, and we think he would have taken it if it were a week later.

Like Cuomo, both Gillibrand and Schumer were blessed by weak opposition in their US Senate races. Ms G is quite the story: two years ago she was labeled good as dead for her seat, with the chance of a primary being almost a given. Fast forward to now, and we are looking at a rising star in the party.

We are on record here as being both fans of Scott Murphy and not-so-impressed by Chris Gibson. Gibson's views on energy, the environment and local economic development deeply disturb us, and his having yesterday appointed a former VP from the Associated General Contractors of New York State as his Chief of Staff already has him in our pup tent. Let's hope he 'grows' into the office.

The NYS Senate 43rd District race between incumbent Roy McDonald and Saratoga Supervisor Joanne Yepsen had an equally disappointing result, for political and personal reasons as we have been involved in previous efforts, initiatives and campaigns with the challenger here at Nanoburgh? This race could/should have been tighter, but Mrs Yepsen's effort was characterized by a series of missteps, mistakes and an absence of messaging and candidate branding. It was tough to watch as an interested outsider. That's too bad, for this is a candidate that could have done some good.

The local (Saratoga) focus will now turn to City Council races in 2011. We know from the past three versions that this will certainly be entertaining.

The Nanoburgh? Poll

Yes, it is a real deal. Yes, we appreciate the kind words.

In a nutshell: this is a project attempting to 're-write the ground rules' on election forecasting. How? By using data mining techniques and methodologies that have been used in the consumer market for a few years — and applying them to individual elections in the political realm. Frankly, we're surpised to be one fo the first doing this. More to come.

If this is an area of interest, feel free to inquire for an Inside Baseball look.

Nov 5, 2010

Mahavishnu memories

It was your typical high school road trip. Four of us piled into Mullie Mulligan's convertible and hit the southbound Northway lane from Saratoga, bound for that dangersous (to us sheltered types, at least) rat cave known as Troy. Our mission? The still under-the-radar J Geils Band was in town, fresh off their early Full House release. It was time to boogy.

Of course, the two great Unwritten Rules of the day were in effect:

1) If more than three kids were in each others' company at any given moment, it required the lighting-up of funny looking cigarettes;


2) If that event involved an automobile, and the expected travel time was in excess of ten minutes, cheap beer would be served.

Not ones to break established protocol, we were in full compliance. Upon arrival at the old RPI Armory, we walked into this warmup act (see video below):

Being too young, drunk and stupid to quite get it, we shrugged them off, wandering around to check out the girls in the room. After all, we were there to rock and roll. This clip is of the original lineup; the same five who played in Troy on that very night. Rest assured, however, that I got caught up to the Mahavishnu Orchestra a few years later.

After the show (which also included the newly solo Peter Frampton, believe it or not, we somehow ended up at Charlies's Hot Dogs for a round of killing off the munchies. There, we ran into a wild eyed dude who HAD gotten the whole Mahavishnu thing, and was rambling on and on and on about the experience. My only reaction to him was simply: "how many of those hot dogs do you get for a dollar?"

I had an Art History major pal of mine later on in college. He caught a later version of the band during summer break (Central Park in NYC), and came back declaring they were the "most creative expression of humanity -- ever." Now that's quite the review, eh? He soon thereafter quit school and emabarked on a musical career of his own.

Another long lost buddy was seeking a private instructor for bass lessons years later, and dialed up a number he found in the Village Voiceclassifieds. It was Rick Laird, from the Mahavishnu.

The Mahavishnu Orchestra, taking us into the weekend...

Nov 2, 2010

Election Day, from a youngster's POV

A 6yo's view of the day

Plus: hearing stories of an earlier Tea Party

I recall being a little kid, maybe six or seven years old, on an Election Day many years ago. My mother took me along as she headed down to City Hall. We trudged up the steep stairs to an upper floor, and walked into a room that I still remember as being messy and filled with papers and old books. These were no doubt the registration records. People were milling about and moving back and forth.

In all this confusion, I was surprised to suddenly be facing my Grandmother, from the other side of the family, sitting at a table in the center of all this noise. She was a poll watcher, and bragged to me afterwords about her long-running streak in playing that role locally. I think she also mentioned a remuneration of something like $2 for her efforts, when I inquired. My mother left me in her care as she herself disappeared for a minute, which turns out the amount of time it takes to pull a couple levers on the other side of the room.

My Grandfather would take the effort to dress up in his best suit on Election Day, grab his Stetson hat and head down to Broadway to perform his duty. After, he would retire to Rocco's (now the Parting Glass) a block and a half down the hill, where he joined other gentlemen dressed in the same manner. An hour or two later, he was back home, putting the suit back into the closet and later dialing in to the in-town radio station to hear the results.

For whatever reasons, I was into politics at a very early age. My Grandfather was an old school, Al Smith styled New Deal Democrat. But he told me that his favorite guy of all was Adalai Stevenson, the party's presidential nominee in both 52 and 56 (vs Eisenhower).

Stevenson later became the UN Ambassador under that young upstart JFK. On a visit to Dallas, he was heckled and pysically roughed up by right-wing nationalists. The Dallas Times Herald, on its front page the next day, stated that "Dallas has been disgraced. There is no other way to view the storm-trooper actions of last night's frightening attack on Adlai Stevenson."

This was just one month before Mr Kennedy would run into similar problems down in the Big D himself, but with much more severe consequences.

When asked if he wished to press charges against his assailants, Stevensoon replied:

"I don't want to send them to jail. I want to send them to school."

Now isn't that a timely thought?

Nov 1, 2010

The NANOBURGH? 2010 Election Poll

The final Nanoburgh? Poll:

NYS Governor: Cuomo (D) vs Paladino (R)
Winner: Cuomo
Winner's %: 62

NYS Attorney General: Schneiderman (D) vs Donovan (R)
Winner: Schneiderman
Winner's %: 53

NYS Comptroller: DiNapoli(D) vs Wilson (R)
Winner: Wilson
Winner's %: 53

US Senator from NY: Gillibrand (D) vs DioGuiardi (R)
Winner: Gillibrand
Winner's %: 59

US Senator from NY: Schumer (D) vs Townsend (R)
Winner: Schumer
Winner's %: 57

US Congress District 20: Murphy (D) vs Gibson (R)
Winner: Gibson
Winner's %: 52

US Congress District 21: Tonko (D) vs Danz (R)
Winner: Tonko
Winner's %: 52

NYS Senate District 43: Yepsen vs McDonald (R)
Winner: McDonald
Winner's %: 55

NYS Senate District 44: Savage (D) vs Farley (R)
Winner: Farley
Winner's %: 57

NYS Assembly District 110: Keramati (D) vs Tedisco (R)
Winner: Tedisco
Winner's %: 57

The Nanoburgh? Poll utilizes a unique and proprietary research methodology which distinguishes it from traditional phone-based polling.

Archive: our pre-election poll on the 2009 Saratoga Springs local elections

Post-election reality check

Here is Wednesday's reality check, two days early:

Democrats: opportunity can arise in places you least expect it. Sit back and enjoy the Hatfields and McCoys go at it over the next two years. You win, they lose.

Republicans: you've slept with the mangey mutt; now what are you gonna do about those fleas?.

Tea Party: just being pissed can't sustain a movement; otherwise you continue to be used as a tool for the GOP.

Oct 31, 2010

Farewell Pontiac

The legendary Pontiac line of cars is now officially at the end of its run. It joins Saturn, Hummer and Mercury in that regard this year.

Below is the 1970 Pontiac Firebird 400, which was part of our freshmen year crew. Long may you run.

Oct 29, 2010

When the lights go down in the city

It's both World Series and election season. Both pastimes evoke deep personal emotions in followers. If you don't think that is true, then you weren't by my side when I witnessed people lining up to get into the cemeteries around Boston to share the Red Sox 2004 win over the Yankees with their missing loved ones the next morning or the tears shed at the Black Elks Club in Saratoga on November 4, 2008.

This year's Fall Classic presents an underlying sociological dynamic that plays well into the current political climate. We have as opponents teams representing the the ultimate Blue City of San Francisco vs. the ultimate Red City of Dallas. It's the center of urban liberalism duking it out with the center of sprawling nothingness. Heck, they don't even slap the label 'Dallas' on that squad; it's called the Texas Rangers. You can get to one stadium on public transportation, the other needs a car. One is embedded in the city, the other mirrors the suburban wasteland of the New South, with the park located out near the airport half-way to Fort Worth.

When those are the choices, which 'burgh do you think holds the strongest ties and loyalty among its citizenry? Yep, you guessed it, and nothing could prove that better than the singalong that broke out in the late innings of last night's game.

While we sure never envisioned the following sentence ever being written here on Nanoburgh (given they might be the worst rock & roll band in history):

Here's Journey (and 43,000 chorus members) taking us into the weekend....

So, how do the Rangers match this at tomorrow's home game; with the theme song from the old Dallas TV show?

Oct 28, 2010

Loud is good, but so is not-so-loud

In this age of guys in backwards baseball caps on their head and headphones dangling around their necks while they push the play button on their notebooks to call up some variation of music that someone else actually made -- and getting paid for it -- it's goddam refreshing to run across young kids making real music. Kids like the Silversun Pickups.

Sure, they get the rap of being of bit pop'y and Smashing Pumpkins clones, but my rebuttal to that is: 1) wouldn't it be nice if this kind of music were actually the dominant genre on 'pop' radio stations; and 2)a Pumpkins clone is a whole lot better than a Madonna clone, eh?

To me, a sign of a great song is one that can sound good in both full blown electric mode and in scaled-down acoustic mode. Take a look at the two versions of Panic Switch to see just that. Also: I'm a big fan of the girl's bass lines.



Oct 27, 2010

Attention Guitar Heads

A Dummer's Engineering Feat - For Guitars

Saratoga Springs Rock & Roll Trivia

So Where's the Autograph Wall Now?

How's that riddle go?

- What do you call guys who hang around with musicians? Drummers!

Hey; who says that rock and roll drummers are the weak links in any given band? That might have been true back in my glory days (yes, I was most certainly the weakest link), but it sure wasn't the case if and when Gene Parsons was involved.

As if his tenure in groundbreaking acts the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers is not enough for his resume, Mr Parsons (not to be confused with the more legendary Gram Parsons from that very same crowd) was also a garage shop inventor. His most famous creation is the StringBender (or B-Bender) device for guitars, which he co-invented with the great axeman Clarence White.

Fascinating stuff from both an engineering and a musicology POV. Here's the background:

Now, how many breadcrumbs do you think are hidden in that 'stache?

Saratoga Trivia

In its final incarnation (Parsons, White, McGuinn and Battin), the Byrds performed at an old Skidmore College property on Regent Street in 1971. At the conclusion of their day/nite double show, a couple of the boys hit Broadway for some liquid libation. They landed at the old D'andrea's , in the basement pub whose brief life coincided with that timeframe.

Part of the ratskeller-like decor was an Autograph Wall, on which visting personalities of the day added their script, thereafter illuminated with a glow in the dark light. The pair (I believe it was Skip Battin and Clarence White) did just that.

Decades later, that Autograph Wall hung in the D'Andreas'a Pizza shop on Caroline Street. Unfortunately, it has very recently been removed, with its current whereabouts unknown. We'll make an inquiry.

Here is a lonnnnnnnnnng and live version of Eight Miles High from that final lineup of the Byrds.

Oct 26, 2010

The death of local media legends

RIP: Boom Boom, Mac, Saratogian

Well, one is technically Walking Dead

You know the old wives tale: death comes in three's. Well, the Capital Region's media universe suffered just that; three deaths last week. Let's look at each one:

Boom Boom Brannigan

If you are my age and grew up in the Capital Region, your music tradition and transition went like this: you started out listening to Boom Boom Brannigan on WPTR (AM radio) in early grade school, then when you got into high school you kicked into the deep shit on WRPI (FM radio). Despite the consensus, music today is just as good as it was then; the real difference is simply that AM/Top 40 back then was better --- in Boom Boom's day and into the 70's --- than today's garbage. The problem with today's fine and worthy music is that is just doesn't get played to the masses.

There is a site online somewhere of local radio clips, and you can play back some old Boom Boom shows. A perfect radio voice, he had. That was pre-Clear Channel, when local radio actually.....well, existed. He was a big deal, and when he made a promo appearance somewhere, it was an event.

But to me, he was always a bit of a contradiction. After all, he got big during the British Invasion, but he paraded around town looking (and acting) like Elvis. But Elvis was non existent to kids my age; the Beatles blew him off the radar screen and he didn't really make an appearance in our world until the end, as a Vegas act. Apparently, Mr Brannigan never got that memo.

When FM kicked in, the Boomer was pretty much all done himself. Sure, he bounced around the dial with his (now) oldies act, but his prime time status had long since passed. I saw him at the race track one year, under the party tent. Everyone in the place would steal glances at the big guy, whispering to their friends without trying to be too obvious about it. But is was cool; they weren't in viewing-a-trainwreck mode. Instead, you could tell that each person doing so was briefly overcome with a nostalgic whiff that transported them back to a childhood or teenage years of comfort and glee.

And there sure ain't nothing wrong with that.

Bob McNamara

Likewise, Bob 'Mac' McNamara was another local media fixture that was around... well, forever. He was the sports guy, serving anchor terms with all three of the broadcast networks in the Albany market. Remember; local news used to be a thirty-minute affair, so the five minutes allocated to sports had to be delivered quickly and succinctly, which this guy seemed to do pretty well.

Everyone I knew that was associated with him through the years considered him to be a royal pain in the ass, with a personality that quickly and dismissively made a snap judgement on a person or a subject matter, and then moved right on to the next one in line. Well, there you go: just like the on-air persona. What might not have worked in the office no doubt helped him stay in the game for all those years.

But it all came crashing down, when Mac got into a row with a worker bee at a local PBA Bowling event. A 300-game had been rolled during the tourney's early qualifying round, but the youngster had failed to ring up the Old Master to get him running over to fawn over the big deal.

But there lay the rub: bowling a 300-game was no longer a big deal, especially at the PBA level. In fact, it often happens more than once on a daily basis. But Mac was stuck in the past, and hadn't kept on top of his own game. Like Boom Boom; another memo was missed. He was fired, refused to apologize to get his job back, and was off the air forever. No one would touch him.

I would guess he spent all these retirement years as a not-to-happy kinda guy. That's too bad. I don't know if he necessarily deserved better, but that's no way to exit the bright lights of the big stage.

The Saratogian

OK, the daily newspaper of Saratoga Springs isn't really dead – it hasn't shut down and it continues to produce a large quantity of folded paper each and every day of the week. So let's instead just file them under the heading of Walking Dead. Here's why:

The Saratogian, like all newspapers, is facing tremendous challenges with declining circulation, falling ad-revenues, blah, blah, blah. We all know the deal here, right? Right.

But the hometown folks have a plan: to go full blown into this Citizen Journalism thing they must be hearing a lot about, and sign-up a crew of local yokels to become subject matter experts in a wide variety of topics. In other words, enlist some fresh voices to produce editorial content for the paper on a regular basis. There's even some sort of revenue-sharing plan in place that will split any page revenue (Google AdSense, etc) --- this business model has been out there for awhile (Topix, Associated Content, Examiner), with modest returns being realized by the writer.

Now, a cynic (and labor union members, no doubt) would dismiss this as nothing more than a ploy that replaces a professional journalist (or two or three or four) with a team of not-so-professional amateurs, at a small percentage of the financial compensation. You know, there is probably even some merit to that argument!

But that's not what gets us into mourning mode here, with the realization that the Saratogian has jumped the shark / shit the bed / bought the farm / given up the ghost. Instead, it is the Formal Invitation to participation in this so-called Community Media Lab (ahh) by Managing Editor Barbara Lombardo that has us taking the black suit to the dry cleaners. Here is a part of it:

“We’ll provide training and feedback on blogging and some of the basics of reporting and writing. We’ll also invite you into the newsroom, to get to know our staff, to learn how decisions are made about news coverage and presentation – and to give you opportunities to participate in that discussion and to bring ideas to the table.”

Let us summarize what exactly is going on here, from the Saratogian's POV:

1. The old model of news journalism obviously isn't working

2. A major part of that reason is the leveling of the playing field, where anyobody and everybody can take part in the conversation, publishing his or her thoughts on the internet in any presentation style, format, frequency or spirit that they desire. All the old rules are off the table.

3. We want a piece of that action!

4. But first, anyone who wants to play with us needs to come into our terrarium and learn our Standard Operating Procedures of how we operate under the old model; you know, the one we admit doesn't work and we are trying to move away from?

So, Ms Lombardo wants me (and/or you) to “learn how decisions are made about news coverage and presentation” and then “help everyone hone their blogging skills”? Take these new people that are supposed to lead them into the new frontier, and make them buy into the OLD business model? Does this make any sense? No, it does not.

Let's try using a useful analogy:

*** A telegraph company FINALLY realizes that it's decline most likely has something to do with technology advances such as the FAX machine and (ultimately) the internet. So, in a last ditch effort to survive, it takes its last remaining funds in the bank and buys a Secure eMail Delivery business. Now, what's the first thing it does? It sends all those new software engineers to the factory to learn how this business has long made those old, shiny, copper plated telegraph keys!

Just like Boom Boom and Mac, the Saratogian hasn't gotten the latest memo. But as opposed to those two gentlemen who just went quitely into the night, the Saratogian is looking like a major league idiot by thinking it can somehow reverse the new alternate universe of democratic conversation and info-exchange and somehow bring it back into last century's failing paradigm – and make it work!

It brings to mind Mr Einstein's famous quote:

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.“

A New Memo to Ms Lombardo: Fuggetabout it!

Now, if you want to do it right, give me a ring. It ain't hard; and I ain't that expensive.

(oh no, I used the word ain't! That sure ain't gonna fly in the Community Media Lab, is it?)

8 Things 'bout The Social Network

OK, it's been a month since The Social Network (a semi-fictionalized story on the founding of Facebook) hit the big screen. Yeah, I'm getting headaches from everyone asking me if I saw it. Yeah, I f'ing saw it!! The followup, of course, is the automatic “Well, whatd'ya think?”

Here are some free form thoughts on this buzzworthy flick:

1)I actually saw the movie on its first day of release, in Boston – which is where the core of the plot takes place in both the movie and in real life. Interestingly, there was NOBODY in the theater! Seriously, I would guess maybe twenty-five in a room built for two hundred. I think this pays tribute to Boston's place in the world, where the smart and innovative hordes there are actually doing stuff and looking towards the next big thing instead of sitting back and reflecting on what to them is yesterday's news. Steve Jobs has always exhibited the same attitude, being uninterested in getting formally involved in projects that mark his historical legacy to the masses via anything other than continuing to “change the world” through his design and positioning marvel.

2)Continuing with the 'Boston' subject, the movie highlights the cluster effect of having a high number of young, sharp and fancy-free individuals (namely college students) packed into a small, tight geographic area – the Hub's Back Bay and Cambridge areas. Keep in mind, it's not all about just Harvard and MIT, either: Napster (which plays an important role in the Facebook story) was launched across the river at Northeastern.

3)When watching a flick, we all search for a hero within it. There were none to be found in this one. But they all walked away as either accidental billionaires (the name of the original book) or legal eagles about to get healthy year-end bonuses. This tells us something about the modern business dynamic, doesn't it?

4)Speaking of Napster; isn't that really a more important and world-changing story than Facebook? After all, it fundamentally blew up the established business model of the ever-powerful music business. Has there been a movie made of Napster?

5)The core problem between Zuckerberg/the Napster guy and the CFO was the classic (in the internet biz world at least) “do we keep building the brand” or “do we start looking for revenue?” set of dueling propositions. They disagreed. This dilemma is nothing new; it has been a part of the industry for decades. I've sat in a half dozen board/strategy sessions myself over the years, grappling with that very question.

6)There is an “Albany” catch to the movie, but you need sharp eyes to catch it. Somehow, I did, but I have yet to find anyone else who did likewise. How about you?

7) Yes, I get the whole "real world loneliness of the guy who invented the alternate universe of virtual pals" thing -- and how that extends to me and you and everyone else in modern life. I knew, going in, that this would be a key theme. But credit is due to the producers and screenwriters for doing it subtly, and not hitting us over the head with it.

8)Bottom Line: a decent movie; interesting story. I don't quite get the uber - accolades it is receiving, however – including its seeming Oscar nods. Personally, I left wondering how much of it was fiction vs fact.

I doubt I will ever know...

Oct 24, 2010

Mr Taibbi on the Tea Party

"Of course, the fact that we're even sitting here two years after Bush talking about a GOP comeback is a profound testament to two things: One, the American voter's unmatched ability to forget what happened to him 10 seconds ago, and two, the Republican Party's incredible recuperative skill and bureaucratic ingenuity. This is a party that in 2008 was not just beaten but obliterated, with nearly every one of its recognizable leaders reduced to historical-footnote status and pinned with blame for some ghastly political catastrophe. There were literally no healthy bodies left on the bench, but the Republicans managed to get back in the game anyway by plucking an assortment of nativist freaks, village idiots and Internet Hitlers out of thin air and training them into a giant ball of incoherent resentment just in time for the 2010 midterms. They returned to prominence by outdoing Barack Obama at his own game: turning out masses of energized and disciplined supporters on the streets and overwhelming the ballot box with sheer enthusiasm."

- The very good Matt Taibbi on the bottom line to this whole Tea Party thing.

Sometimes referred to as this generation's Hunter S Thompson, Mr. Taibbi has one possible disadvantage when compared to Gonzo Man: I doubt many young people are adoptees of the long-form journalistic arena in which he plays. That is unfortunate.

Oct 22, 2010

Just gimme that old time ... jug music?

Appalachian moonshine music from here in the Capital Region? Yesiree, Jim Bob.

With roots in a late-60's start as the Star Spangled Washboard Band interrupted in the 80's by a foray into the wacky world of Blotto style rock & roll, one can today enjoy the current incarnation of Albany's own contribution to this old timey genre.

Ramblin Jug Stompers, taking us into the weekend...
(performing at the much, much-missed Lark Tavern)

Oct 20, 2010

Joe Bruno's Ghost - October 2010

Hey Joe,

What do you know about this Paladino guy?


Hey Paulie,

Well, I'll tell you a story. A few years back, he stopped by my office, begging for some sort of deal for some crazy real estate project he was dreaming up. I was heading to a Chamber mixer out at the ball park --- you know, the one with my name on it --- so I suggested he join me. He agreed, meeting me at the VIP gate.

We get to the shindig, which was in one of those deals up in the back where people stand around nibbling on little food and sipping wine. But this Paladino character hits the room like a Hun and starts grabbing the chow by the shovel full, like a guy just released from a German POW camp. Every eye in the room was on him, but he didn't give a shit.

The bigger problem was that he as passing gas like a Canadian transmission line. I mean, he was letting them rip like a bugle, and half the joint left just to get away from the fumes. Finally, the Chamber director asked him to leave. By this time, he was drunk, and not too happy about this request. He flipped her the bird, and told me that he'd swing by my place in the morning to continue our discussion.

I watched him head down to the grandstand, where he grabbed an aisle seat to watch the game and keep drinking. There was this disabled kid right in front of him, with some sort of noisemaker that Carl apparently didn't like. So what does he do? He starts pounding on the back of the kid's head, knocking him over the row in front. All hell breaks loose, as security pounces on him. But this Paldaino is a tough SOB, and fists and feet were flying all over the place, not to mention more F-bombs than I've heard in all my days in Albany. They finally tase'd the fucker, which caused him to soil his pants. It was one ugly scene, I'll tell you: kids were crying, parents were trying to shield their eyes, the action on the field came to a dead stop.

They finally drag him out to the parking lot and threw him up against his car, with still more profanities flying. But when he gets in, the battery was dead and he couldn't get it started. So he figures he'll just sit there and take a nap. When the game lets out an hour later, there he was. All the kids started picking up rocks and tossing them at the car, which woke him up and got him all cranked up again. Back came security to intervene. Finally, one of the maintenance guys jump-started him. How do you think Paladino thanks the guy? He call him a piece of garbage and flips his shit-stained pants at him as he sprays gravel all over on his way out the exit.

But that's not the end of it. I get the word later that he drove down to the South End Tavern, walked into the place bare-ass naked, asking if they serve Genny beer! When they refused to serve him, he sucker punched some old drunk, spit at the barkeep and asked which ladies in the room “want a little bit of this?”, as if I need to paint that picture any clearer for you.

Well, here' s the funny part of this whole thing: there he is the next morning at 8AM in my office waiting room. He's all cleaned up, in a nice suit, as if nothing happened. We talked about his issue, and off he went.

I decided right then and there that this was a guy I could do some business with. Oh, maybe I shouldn't have said that?

Oct 13, 2010

The Art of the Deal

Here's a real life biz conversation from this week.

The setting: I'm about to sign a mini-micro contract for a (very) short engagement with a major global corporation. My direct contacts have signed off on me; now I am getting kicked upstairs to a Buyer, whose job is to beat me up and negotiate my quoted fee in a downward direction. We'll call him Guy:

Guy: The Marketing Department is ready to proceed with you.

Me: We'll, that's great. I'm ready to roll as well.

Guy: Your Agreement is pretty straightforward, I'll sign off on the fine print.

Me: Good.

Guy: Let's move on to the Contract Amount.

Me: Oh, so you don't consider that to be the fine print?

Guy: No, in my world, that's the headline.

Me: Well, then; how much more would you like to pay me on this project?

Guy: Now that's funny. I suggest that we knock a thousand dollars off, so we can get this wrapped up today and let you get working on it.

Me: I don't see that happening.

Guy: I'd like to get some consideration from you, otherwise this thing might get pushed back until after I get back from my vacation next week.

Me: I'd like to leave here and hook up with a couple Victoria's Secret models back at my hotel room, but I got a feeling that we're both gonna come up a little bit short today. You know what I mean?


Guy: You wont budge, even if it means walking away from the project, will you?

Me: No. I do these types of assignments more for fun and for accomplishment than for the money. But I'm not having much fun right now. So unless you can find me $1,000 worth of fun for my giveback, I think I'll stand firm on this one, Guy.

Guy: My wife says that I'm no fun, so according to her I wouldn't be able to find you any fun if I set out to do it with that thousand dollars we're talking about here. OK, we're done. You win. Counter sign here, and we're on your way. Your badge for next week will be waiting for you downstairs at the Security station.

The Lesson: throw a little humor at 'em, and see what happens. Note that this took place in NYC. But: I'm not sure I'd recommend this particular dialogue in, let's say, Kentucky or Tokyo.

Oct 12, 2010

What's this remind you of?

Here's a picture of the contraption about to be utilized to pull those Chilean miners up from underneath a half-mile of dirt and rock.

Q: what does it remind you of?

A: that thing at the bank drive-thru where you shoot your check to the lady and she shoots you back the fresh C-notes.

Oct 9, 2010

Red Sludge and Red, Red Rain

The so-called Red Sludge disaster in Hungary is pretty crazy stuff, no? I mean, not only is it burying its victims, but it is also BURNING them! A little science lesson to help explain all this:

"Red sludge is a byproduct of the refining of bauxite into alumina, the basic material for manufacturing aluminum. Treated sludge is often stored in ponds where the water eventually evaporates, leaving behind a largely safe red clay...."

Wait a minute here. Keep in mind, I was a pretty poor student in the low-level hard science courses I was forced to take as part of my liberal arts education, but bear with me here with this question I have:

Q: The sludge is toxic, until the water evaporates, at which time it's not so toxic. Doesn't that mean that the toxicity went up in the air into the clouds; and when things go up, they tend to come back down?

Someone has a good bead on all this: Mr Peter Gabriel, taking us into the weekend....