Jan 31, 2011

Form your own cult

With the latest craziness on the Saratoga County - based NXIVM cult / human development organization being revealed this week, we here at Nanonburgh? thought it might be helpful to teach how YOU TOO can form your own cult:

Jan 19, 2011

Saratoga's upcoming tragedy

If a problem's existence is ignored, is it truly a problem?

How's the thought of a WalMart or TGIF on Broadway sound?

Is Saratoga's jump the shark moment close at hand?

"Denial is a common tactic that substitutes deliberate ignorance for thoughtful planning." (Charles Tremper)

"The speed of the human mind is remarkable. So is its inability to face the obvious."
(Simon Mawer, The Gospel of Judas")

Saratoga Springs --- Health, History & Horses are the three H's that formed the basis of the 100+ year old legacy of the tourist-based economy in Saratoga Springs, NY. One still sees some of the rusted old signs proclaiming such, scattered around the city. What was the proverbial sleepy little town came alive in the summer, attracting multitudes of mostly urban city folk to its semi-remote location in the Adirondack foothills, providing a welcomed breath of fresh mountain air spiked with the sanctioned sins of horse race gambling and recreational drinking.

The natives' modus operandi was simple: go balls to the wall during the warm season, make a bank deposit on Labor Day, and gear-it-down in the colder months, trading and socializing with fellow citizens in a livable, functional and (mostly) localized community setting. In other words: the American ideal, albeit with a unique summer time dynamic.

But popular tourist towns undergo a common development cycle: seasonal visitors like what they see, and many start contemplating the possibility of taking up residence in what they perceive to be an unpaved paradise. A subset of those ponderers eventually does just that. Here come the new neighbors, and they ain't from 'round here, Josephine.

The subsequent demographic inflow takes one of two forms: lower economic classes from neighboring towns arriving in search of service sector work; or those from higher up the food chain of the retired or nearly-retired variety, seeking a safe and pretty landing spot for their Life 3.0 years. Resort towns on the Jersey shore serve as an example of the former; Myrtle Beach and Aspen as the latter.

Saratoga is full force into this type of transition, and obviously following the Myrtle Beach/Aspen formula. But a ghetto is a ghetto, as that term is applied to enclaves on both ends of the class spectrum. The city's resulting gentrification, vanity lifestyle, declining social fabric and gray-brain energy output have been documented in this column's past offerings, signaling a major change in its very heart and soul. The view here is that, in whole, the compounded effect is generally negative. There: the disclaimer is on-record.

With it, too, comes a shift of focus; one best exemplified by a re-take on that Health, History & Horses mantra. Let's look at the three elements, individually:

HEALTH: Originally included to promote the healing powers of the local waters, such an industry has effectively disappeared from the map. Yes, vestiges remain, but the taking of the baths registers nary a blip on the economic activity scorecard.

Some will argue that the health aspect now has an internal focus, substituting activities geared towards residents (yoga in the park, bike races)for the prior tourist attraction purpose. If so, this highlights the marketplace adapting to the demands of its new constituency.

HORSES: The world class thoroughbred track retains its primary function, which is to act as the super-magnet for grabbing a massive quantity of seasonal visitors and thereby filling the coffers of the city's retail and hospitality businesses. But as stated, in recent decades it has also added to its purpose that "get 'em a little pregnant" role of selling local real estate property.

Saratoga's new-demo makeup certainly sees the value of the track in performing those functions, but seems to tolerate it in a deal with the devil attitude. Its PETA-influenced liberal sensibilities breed no love for horse racing as a sporting passion Meanwhile, the neighboring harness track has become little more than a broadcast studio, subsisting on transfer payments from video-crackheads.

HISTORY: At the inception of this branding tag line, History was included out of respect to the area's siting of the eponymous Revolutionary War battles. But from an economic impact analysis, the city's Victorian heritage and architecture had (and has) a more dominant impact. Front and center is the downtown / Broadway street scape -- with its human dollhouse effect -- as the city's foremost, year-round asset. After all, they didn't locate the City Center alongside a convenient Northway exit, did they?

But here lies a problem -- or at least a predicted problem from this vantage point. There is a coming collision between the city's need to preserve its unique downtown look and feel and the sensibilities, influence and power of its mass of recently-arrived citizens.

Dead center on Broadway is the largest retail store in the city: Borders Books. Its bunker-like design is a monstrosity and an eyesore; but that fact is an inconvenient sideline to this discussion. The fact that it is a chain store is the bigger concern; an error of past planning boards and city councils that should not be forgiven:

MEMO TO CITY OFFICIALS (past, present and future): Tourist-centered historic districts are not meant to be filled with national chain store outlets! Visitors need to given a unique experience, one that they do not normally find in their home locations. If not, they will eventually say "WTF? This doesn't look any different than the mall back on Long Island" and abandon that destination as a leisure option.

But bad is about to become even worse: the Borders Corporation is in deep financial difficulties, teetering on the verge of bankruptcy. It's easy to see why: its primary products are physical books, movies and music --- now there's a 1-2-3 punch being delivered, wouldn't we agree? Whether the company restructures under Chapter 11 or even merges with a competitor (B&N), the possibility of its closing a location like this one in Saratoga is real. Further, if their destiny is Chapter 7, it won't even be in doubt.

So, what happens to Saratoga's valued downtown streetscape under such a scenario? How does the possibility of a WalMart, TGIF, Applebee's, Chili's or a Home Depot sound? How about two of the above, given the space's size?

Such a chain store vision would be the most likely outcome, for many factors. But the citizens of the great city of Saratoga Springs will rise up and not allow such a thing! Right? Unfortunately, that is doubtful.

Today's New Saratogian has no personal, direct link to the city's history. Therefore, most can not relate to the days when downtown was primarily a localized economy, with locally-owned clothing, hardware and other stores. To them, such a qualifier is a non-starter; the perceived benefits of a big reach mega chain rings truest, and is not perceived as a problem. One cannot blame then; after all they came from a place where glory days are defined as hanging out in the Bergen County Mall and a high school prom in its food court.

If (or more likely when) the news becomes that the Borders on Broadway is closing shop, the buzz will begin as to "who's coming into the space." Here's one bet you can take to the bank: the Whole Foods / Trader Joe's crowd will go into full speed motion. But even a chain restaurant won't be met with much resistance. Indeed, the locals pay lip service to New Urbanism; unfortunately, their definition of it is the ability to walk to a WalMart.

Today, if a TGIF (or other suspect) wanted to move into the Borders spot, there's not much that can really stop them from doing so. The need is for what is called a FORMULA STORE ORDINANCE, which can (and does) provide the legal cover for preventing just such a calamity.

But the sense here is that such bravery would not get popular support, and the city's true power structure (the housing and retail industries) won't let it happen, anyways.

Just mark my words: when that sad time comes, we can mark in our calendars as it being the day this once proud city officially lost its soul and became just another faceless 'burgh in the Land of Mediocrity.


Jan 17, 2011

Biomass as Regional Sustainability?

An intriguing proposal has been advanced; one that promises to deliver significant environmental, economic and social benefits to the Northeast USA. Its name is Thermal Biomass.

Here is a recent background piece, written by yours truly and appearing in this month's edition of eco Local Living magazine.

Note: here is a mock up of a Biomass eco Village, as referenced in the story:

Note: here is a typical residential biomass system flowchart:


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Jan 12, 2011

The Party of Lone Nuts

Sure, the not-suprising direct-line/cause & effect was bound to be drawn by some on the left; that was expected. But so was the "see, dere go da lame-stream media , picking on us gun loving 'mericans agin" counter move by the right wing machine. Need proof? Google Palin this AM. It goes both ways, just like we knew it would. Sound bites and the abandoning of logic rule the process; I wouldn't be surprised if the Poly Sci schools aren't teaching these tricks. Oh yeah, they are: it was called Rhetoric 201 in my day.

But pull back a bit further and consider this: if I'm dealing crack and one of my customers OD's, I am certainly fair game for consideration as part of the Blame game. Yes, the primary 'blamee' is the crack head, but others are deserving of part of the flack as well.

The "lone nut" piss-away has legs, but it only goes so far. The fact is, we have a poilitical movement and a compliant & supporting media that serves those lone nuts; the old "shelter from the storm" thing. In the AZ case, the delivered product is there as Exhibit X: all the buzz words (9/11 conspiracy; The Fed, New World Order; Gold Standard, 2nd Amm, etc) that would not otherwise be part of the vocabulary of a Sun Belt suburban misfit attending a community college that likely spends 1/2 its resources teaching basic grammar to its students.

Sure, his (likely) disease probaly had him on course to do some serious harm to someone. But there's 300 million+ prospects out there for him to deliver that nastiness to. So when his final choice is a Dem/Jewish/liberal/Obamacare-luvin gov't representin' gal who sure as hell ain't buying into those aforementioned sound bites and rah-rah's; well then we need to start going "hmmmmmm".

Jan 10, 2011

Why Limbaugh is wrong (as usual) on Arizona

We knew it was coming: the framing of this event as a no more than a single crazy nut, with no logical tie-in to the New Right's more structured movements and efforts. Yes, today -- as predicted -- we have the former (at least we think former) prescription pill addict Rush Limbaugh stating just such a case to his network of the logically-challenged.

The problem with that argument, of course, is the fact that the Tea Party IS the movement of the single crazy nuts (plural). In the marketplace of ideas, the Tea Party and their accomplices SERVE this constituency.

The idiot is Tuscon is on record as spewing the standard menu of ideology as does the wingnut movement in general: 9/11 conspiracy; the New World Order; int'l Jew bankers; gov't coverups; immigrant racism, erosion of property rights, Ayn Rand, and on and on. He even had the handmade nutty political philosophy (the 'words' thing) that so many of them do. And of course, he and the others are all suddenly experts on the US constitution.

Whether this guy attended rallies, donated to candidates, worked a formal election campaign, etc is irrelevent. Simply put, he is a manufactured product model -- Serial Number 42225 -- of this lunatic right wing machine that has arisen in this country. The blame lies not only with the nuts themeselves that are the most actively involved, but also with that segment of Middle America (especially the Republican Party) that has both coddled and manipulated those nuts as a means of advancing their own misguided political goals and agendas.

Jan 9, 2011

The NRA and Arizona

A legit argument can be made for US gun ownership by sane individuals, under reasonable limitations and mandated safeguards. I can buy into that.

But the NRA does not. If you live in Saratoga, you know the recent local tragedy that could have been averted with the presence of a simple and inexpensive gun lock. The NRA is 100% against such a mandate. It claims that its own cartoon-character's educational campiagn is a more effective tool for preventing these instances.

Likewise, the Arizona gun ownership law that allowed a deranged individual -- who had been rejected by the US Army from enlisting, who had a arrest record (albeit for a petty offense) and who had previously published threats against government officials on his social media sites --- the privilege of walking into a local gun shop and walking out with a 9mm Glock semi automatic with a 20-shot magazine; well that legislation was crafted with NRA guidance and support.

To all dues paying NRA members: you might want to wash that sticky red substance off your hands today.