Mar 30, 2012

Did YOU Rock SPAC?

A new project from the Nanoburgh publishing empires's skunk works department....

Help fund this masterpiece by pre-ordering some copies for your library. They will make great gifts!

The early start to this has been fun, in hearing people's (friends and strangers both) stories of their experiences at SPAC. Back in the day and all that.

That's how we're doing this baby; letting peeps contribute. Bands, fans, workers. Feel free to do the same: email us with anything that pops into your head about SPAC. Who knows, it might make the published book!

PS: if you submit a tale but want to remain anonymous, you'd better say so right up front! We have a feeling there will be a whole lot of that!

Visit the Kickstarter page here for more info +/or to contribute/pre-order.


Mar 28, 2012

The End of the Green Movement?

The Money Says: Green is Dead

Natural Gas Trumps Renewables, at Least to Fund Managers

“Just follow the money” is an age old guide when one is trying to get to the bottom of what is REALLY going on in any matter of importance. “Money talks and bullshit walks” is a pretty good one, too. I like them both.

I've lately been in the company of a number of people who chase money on behalf of clients for a living. These are specialists that act as middlemen between a company in need of funding and non-bank funding sources, which can include venture or private equity funds or government and institutional resources. Their job typically goes like this: a) size up the enterprise in question; b) determine if it is, in fact, a good enough story to tell; c) apply lipstick to this pig; tightening up that story to make it more sellable; and d) presenting the case to these outside funding parties with the goal of convincing them to invest in the enterprise in some fashion. It's fun stuff, but certainly not for the feint of heart or weak of mind.

In chatting with these type of folks and inquiring as to what exactly that money flow is telling us, I've reached a surprising – make that shocking – conclusion. I shall put in it universal office correspondence format for easy reading:


TO: American Green'iacs
FR: This is the Money Talking

Your Green/Renewable Revolution is Over.
(Or at least set back a generation.)


Yes; you heard it here first. Just like that, with a snap of the fingers, done. Kaput. Turn out the lights, this party's over. It was a nice short run, and the masses were certainly all singing the same tune for awhile about making the big transition to renewable energy sources, weren't they. My, but weren't those glorious days? But those high flying time are rapidly getting smaller and smaller in the rear view mirror as we give up the ghost and get back on the carbon train.

OK, what the hell am I talking about, you ask? Since you asked, here it is:

Renewable energy sector investments (money flow) have dramatically slowed down. What is surprising is just how quickly this new trend has emerged. For the past several years, alt-energy has been the darling of the venture crowd, both private and public sector. If some new firm with the word 'solar' or 'wind' or 'electro' popped up, lines would seemingly form outside their front door (if they even had one yet) to get involved. Now, those same backers seem to be running and hiding. This is true of not only private funds but also government sources, especially at the federal level.

What gives? Two easy answers:
2)Natural Gas

Solyndra, of course, was the highly-hyped US new-idea solar cell developer that pooped the bed after burning (at wildfire speed) through $500million of federal boost money. The reasons for demise are complex, but include Chinese currency manipulation, a bad tooling gamble and downward market pricing of competitive energies.

But in this age of dumbing everything down to a bumper sticker level, the Forces of Darkness (aka the Republican party and its motley bed mates) now have handed to them on a silver platter the opportunity to point to something that they can deem as examples of red meat hot buttons ranging from Obama incompetence to the overreach of government to the infeasibility of renewable energy, period. Never mind the reality or the recognition of government sponsored core R&D as being inherently messy and somewhat inefficient. The challenge of basic scientific research requires someone to accept that messiness – and the private sector won't.

The result is that the White House is now playing defense and running scared, exacerbated by the upcoming election and the prospects of millions of sickening sound bites. What used to be loose money being available for new-energy projects is now tighter than a clam, and that's waterproof. That's what I'm hearing, at least.

The we have the natural gas phenomena. Phenomena is a good word. So is the word 'suddenly,' because here it is, suddenly and seemingly out of nowhere, getting pumped from the ground – American ground at that – in quantities that are mind boggling. Plus, it's cheap! Sure, it's not renewable, but some estimates are claiming a 200 year domestic supply. And it's cleaner than coal or oil (please note the last two letters in the word cleaner).

From a purely macro economic POV, this is best be described as a mega windfall for the USofA. Granted, natural gas does not significantly replace foreign oil to the extent its backers claim, but its potential to replace oil heating in the northeast should not be minimized, either. What it IS in is the early stages of significantly replacing is coal, the primary energy source for the non-nuclear centralized plants of the power grid.

But coal is an American resource, too: won't American gas just replace it for a nyet-nyet push? The answer to that is No. Coal will now be one of the nation's most significant exports, as it will go about feeding the emerging world's industrialization. So right there, anyone hoping that gas would at least be “a little better than coal:as far as greenhouse gas emissions can now sulk.

So, given all this, the question becomes: if it was so hard for new-energy alternatives to compete on a pricing-feasibility level a few years ago, how can it possibly be able to do so now with the emergence of King Gas? It's a darn good question. Add to the mix that China's shenanigans in gaming the solar market (via product dumps, currency manipulation and state subsidies) is under the gun and one could conclude that solar retrofit pricing should rise, thereby dampening demand for arrays in the US.

With business plans and revenue models becoming even suspect than they were in the recent past, market-funding sources are also suddenly (there's that word again) looking away from solar, wind, thermal and biomass start-ups and ramp-ups. A better word here might be avoiding.

Where are they looking to invest, then? Well, as they (and school boys) tend to do, they flock around the pretty new girl who just transferred into school. Yes, the money is going into Natural Gas. We're not talking just land rights and drilling here, but also:

Delivery infrastructure (the existing infrastructure is both old and inadequate for the new supply and new demand)

R&D for moving the natural gas influence over to the transportation end of the energy equation, specifically into natural gas-powered and electric autos (remember: electric will now be natural gas at its source end)

Fracking technology. Yes, we knew we'd need to get here didn't we? As we know, the jury is still out on the environmental health and safety aspects of fracking, which is the key means for extraction thru shale. The basic problem is that all sorts of scary chemicals (many of them toxic) are being pushed into the earth, and where they all end up (water? air?) is the Big Q of the times. The rush is on now to find natural and non-toxic ingredients that will serve the same purpose.

There we have it. The money is going into Natural Gas. Yesterday's prom queens are today's washed-up has-been's, and many will soon be starved of the lifeblood of precious funding. Cheap natural gas will get the masses' minds off the “energy problem”, at least as it relates to residential power needs. A successful immersion of natural gas or electric powered transportation will get their minds off the problem in total, because they will accept the “it's cleaner” aspect of gas. Carbon emissions in the US might actually decline as a result, but worldwide carbon will continue to rise at an alarming rate, with much of it done so with US coal.

Given all of this, responsible US policy at this stage of the game might include something like dedicating all the energy savings brought to the table by natural gas to subsidizing both the development and the usage of true renewable technologies and sources. Responsible global policy might include the realization that carbon is a global and not a national issue, and the creation of international governing bodies to go about developing universal standards with that in mind.

But the likelihood of either seeing fruition is nil. A discussion on expanding the State's role in the energy market is impossible to convene at this time. How then, would we even describe the possibility of convening a discussion on a worldwide regulatory body?

Impossible on Steroids, maybe?


Mar 26, 2012

A New Economic Forecasting Model?

As our readers likely know, one of our affiliated businesses produces small and mid-sized live music concerts. It's a strange industry, on both the front and the back end.

Many of our shows are in so-called "music rooms", which are a step above regular hang-out bars yet not seated theater type of venues either. They feature touring, original acts but their business models are still heavily reliant on how much beer, wine & booze gets sold at those shows. We don't own any such venues; we typically rent the room from them on a per-night basis. After that transaction, the venue keeps the bar $, we keep the door $.

Given our good working relationships, venue owners are willing to share their 'bar takes' numbers with us, for both our shows and others. It's interesting, how certain acts and genres generate numbers that can approach $15-$20 per paid admission, while others might fall under $5. Jam bands are on the upper-end, blues and jazz shows on the lower.

Our in-house sharpies have gotten very good at predicting both show attendance and that per-person bar revenue fig for any given show.

An interesting trend as of late: while our attendance predictions continue to be pretty damn accurate, our bar-take predictions have been coming up short lately. People that go to shows are spending more once they get there.

Yes, some argue that tough times turn people to drink. But, this uptick is a recent phenomenon, just within the last couple months. It therefore coincides with improving US macro-economic data in the same period.

Whatcha think: do we have a new forecasting model for the American economy here on our hands? Housing starts? Bl'ah. Wholesale inventory levels? Useless. Jobless claims? N'ah.

It's all about how much beer is being soaked-up at rock and roll shows. We'll call it the Jam Band Index!


Mar 19, 2012

Random Music Riffs

RIP Snowmont. We Hardly Knew Ya

The Snowmont Music Festival, slated for March 30-April 1 at Killington Ski Resort, has been abruptly cancelled. Give the organizers credit for being direct and honest in their reason for pulling this plug: a lack of ticket sales.

Somebody took a bit big $ hit on this one, and we're glad it's not us. With a lineup including the Flaming Lips, Diplo, Lotus, Snoop Dog, Chromeo, Kaskade and about twenty others, there are no doubt many large "50% Deposits" being left on the table as the principals back out from incurring further harm. We're talking 6-fig territory. It is unknown whether this is an in-house production of Killington's corporate parent or a third-party that was just renting the joint. Here's to hoping it is the former.

Several perfect storm type of factors might have been in play here:

1) March 30 is a pretty early time of the year to try to get the first-jump on festival season.

2) There is a glut of existing festivals in the northeast already, all competing for the fragile entertainment dollar from the same audience. Many other fests are shutting down. One can assume there is a reason for them doing so.

3) In particular, nearby Okemo is doing the same thing, with a similar gig being introduced this year in the same timeframe.

4) The lousy ski season means fewer people went skiing in the months leading up to this festival, which meant the on-mountain buzz was minimized.

5) That lousy ski season, combined with the lingering effects of Irene (which walloped this part of the sate), has the local economy reeling. That, in turn, will minimize ticket sales from local music fans.

6) One glaring execution mistake was made: the print ads only listed the various 3-Day purchase options (Early, Advance, Late). Single day ticketing was never mentioned (if it is even available). Sure, one could hit the mentioned website for that scoop, but that violates a central Marketing 101 principle: don't require the prospect to do extra work to learn the fundamentals.

Too bad. Live music is a tough, tough business these days. Festival production is the ultimate high wire act within the industry. Let's hope everyone is still standing and in one piece after this one.

Expand Your Horizons; Quit Smoking Cover Bands


Would we go to art galleries that featured nothing but paintings that were near-copies of famous paintings. You know: done by people that are pretty darn good at looking at the original hanging on a wall or in a book and then creating a near exact version on a canvas?

How about movies: if some local cats went about re-creating (as closely as possible) a well-known film from twenty years ago, would we go see it? Would be limit our movie viewing experience to only those types of works, with no more than one or two exceptions a year?

Consider what books we would buy. Would we only buy titles that were dupes of famous works, with only slight differences (maybe different sentence structure)?

Not likely to all three.

Then why is the vast, vast majority of the live music listening experience consumed in front of cover bands?

If we are in a Creative Economy era, then creativity needs to be supported, encouraged and rewarded. Not doing so for the most creative and ubiquitous of creative arts (music) is therefore economically damaging. Not to mention socially stifling. If your definition of "going out to hear some music" is a reflexive action to go catch cover bands; then you are part of the problem.

Support Live Music.

Better yet: Support Live ORIGINAL Music.

Move down to MOVE

Along those lines, Nanoburgh is looking forward to seeing how the upcoming MOVE Festival is pulled off in late April in Albany.

With an emphasis on local and regional indie artists (of the ORIGINAL variety), 100 acts will perform in 10 venues downtown. A $12 wristband lets you wander about.

We wish these folks well and will be first in line to support them. We'll treat it as a talent scouting mission!

This is the kind of thing the Albany market needs more of ...

Don McLean on the Warpath?

So, Don McLean is playing Saratoga as part of that city's spring Arts Fest, is he? Yes indeed; he'll croon in the shiny and glassy Skidmore Zankel Center's stage.

Maybe he'll get a buzz on afterwords and roll down to the Tin & Lint on Caroline Street. There, he can feel free to hunt down the location of that famed plaque proclaiming that space to be the very spot where American Pie was written in the early 70's.

Such a claim has since been found to be nothing more than a myth, of course, denied forcefully by Mr McLean himself on several occasions (including to us here at Nanoburgh a few years back via a phone interview). The Saratogian even caught wind of that old news (with attribution back to our work) on a recent Facebook Group chat, and ran with it as their own "investigative report" type of rah-rah (without said attribution). Somebody wake up the boys upstairs in the Legal department, will ya? What? Oh; never mind.

Once found, here's hoping he rips it from the wall and hauls it away for proper disposal wherever he deems fit. Like maybe the Hudson River?

Now that would be fun, wouldn't it?


Mar 18, 2012

Ask Joe Bruno's Ghost - March 18

Dear Jose,

What do you think Mitt Romney's chances are against Obama?
- DJ Homie J

Dear Homero,

Who the hell is Mitt Romney? And I thought the Army SEALs shot Obama in the heart when they found him in a Nepal whorehouse then dumped him into the North Sea from a cruise ship? Or was that Whitey Bulger?

Dear Joe's Ghost,

A question of proper etiquette that you might be able to answer:

If a stranger buys me a drink in a bar, am I obligated to buy the next round? What if I am in a rush and need to leave; do I just buy one for this person on the way out?

- Torn

Dear Torn,

Ah yes: one of the greatest questions ever received here, and one of the most asked questions in all of the social sphere. Let me tell you how I handle this...

Actually, when I think about it, I haven't bought my own drink in 50 years. There's always some ass-kisser standing by wanting to get into my ear and figuring the best way to do that is to saddle up next to me at the rail while I thank him for the hospitality. But I don't give them the chance. I just give the old nod/wink and then turn away and get back to BS'ing with whoever I'm there to BS with in the first place.

The only advice I can give to you is this: if it is a hot dame that's pushing the freebie at you, then you sure as hell better stick around and get the next round going into her direction -- and you'd better make it a double while you're at it. But if it's just some ass clown, then ignore him for the rest of the night.

Ghost Man,

What is your biggest fear? Is it the thought of dying in prison?

- Lady J

Lady J,

Now how can I die in prison if I'm not going to prison? Or did you mean the possibility of my dropping dead if I were visiting someone else in prison? Now what do you think the odds of that happening are? What a dumb thing to ask. I'm really disappointed here; I thought we could get on a good roll starting with the prior question and you had to come along and fuck it up.

But since you asked, I'll tell you the one thing that's always scared the hell out of me. It's that freaking giant mutt sitting on top of the warehouse over in the North End. I mean, have you ever seen how big he is? He doesn't look that big from the road, but go stand right underneath him sometime and tell me what you think. In my nightmares, I see him jumping off that roof, swimming across the Hudson in about a minute flat and then running up here to the ranch and devouring the horses.

That's why I found $50K in the budget one year; to buy some cables to keep him tied-down. Guess what? He hasn't escaped since then, has he now?

Dear Senator,

Most distinguished men in your position retire to the lecture circuit for some easy coin. Why not you, Joey B?

- Hank the Elevator Operator

Dear Operator,

Hammerin' Hank! How the hell are you doing, you dirty old SOB? The last time I heard your name mentioned, it was someone saying you were pissing icicles or shitting marbles or something crazy like that. Frankly, I'm shocked to hear you're even alive. Maybe there's something to be said for what we used to call your 'Water Works Pub' lifestyle after all, huh? You know what I'm talking about ...

Now, what was the question you asked me?

Mr Bruno,

What kind of job do you think your old gal Marcia White is doing at SPAC?

- Saratoga Sal

Mr Sal,

I hear she's doing a great job taking care of homeless dogs and cats and other furry hair balls at the ASPCS or whatever letters they use at that joint. I guess they also prevent cruelty, too? I like animals, you know (except for that big dog on the roof again). Tell her I miss her.

Mar 16, 2012

Whose Field of Dreams Was This?

A Boyhood Nostalgia Trip

West Side Rec, Saratoga National Little League

After all these many years away, there it is in front of me. But something in me feels strange for some reason, and it is not the reaction I would have predicted. This was supposed to be a happy-happy nostalgia trip, after all. But walking through that open gate suddenly requires a conscious and confirming effort. Now I'm not even sure that coming over here was a good thing to do after all. Who'd have thought?

But here I am, reporting for duty once again. Playing second base and batting lead-off, Number 12. Sorry I'm not in uniform, guys. I'll just take my usual spot, midway between first and second right here, ready for pre-game infield practice. OK? Coach Green should be doing his slow walk out of the dugout any second now, bat and ball in hand, puffing a cigarette and soon pounding some grounders thru the dirt to us.

There's Skippy to my left, Chucky to the right at short and Frankie at third. Our ace Mikey H. is on the hill tonight, thankfully, so he is over on the sideline tossing to a scrub in prep. Sean'y will be behind the plate as always, so he ambles over alongside Coach to flip him the ball after its made its way among us around the horn. The outfielders are on their own, taking turns arcing the ball high into the sky to one another, simulating the upcoming pop ups they will soon be seeing for real.

It all looks pretty much the same. The backstop is definitely unchanged and original as are the bleachers on the far side. I'll make sure to go sit in them before I go, for they would be the same pieces of lumber on which the family all sat. The fence has been replaced, and the new one is set up closer to the plate. Or is that just ego taking over? Yeah, no doubt. How about the dirt, though; could any bits of it possibly be the same that were here so long ago?

But now we're into game mode. Funny, but I've almost always looked back and reminisced about playing defense and only rarely of hitting. I'll bet that is the opposite than is the case for most others. It must be because I loved the art of fielding so much, and I ended up being very good at it. I could always remember certain specific sequences in incredible clarity, as if they happened last week. Like snagging a richote'd liner off of our #2 pitcher's glove; flagging down one of Sean's laser beams to catch a kid trying to steal second, my heroic (to me and my personal fan club, at least) over-the-head catch in the Series.

But right now it's that last inning of my last year in Little League. It's all on the line. Trophy Time. We're up by one in a tense and well execute game. But they have a runner on first with only one out. It's gotten hairy as our ace tires and the other team starts to catch up to his heater. Coach comes out to say something to Mikey, but Sean seems to be doing all the talking. I look around at the other guys in the infield: they each look me right back in the eye and we all nod to one other. "We'll get there," we're all saying without moving our lips. "We'll get there." I turn around and point the two closest outfielders to where they should be standing, and they oblige with nervous obedience. Being a 12-year old, I was the elder here, after all.

Then I look at the crowd. Mom and Dad are in their usual perches; tonight my Dad is next to Skippy's. They went to school together and then went to war at the same time. Just like everyone else in town of that age. Here they are back together again. Mom is next to my aunt. Mom only got to about one-quarter of the games, for she had to keep the family neighborhood grocery store open until nine each nite. But this was it, requiring all hands being on deck. So tonight it was shut down early, with a sign on the door saying "Closed for Personal Reasons." My aunt, on the other hand, was at every single game all season long; her red Plymouth Barracuda always easy to spot parked out on Division Street. I would often worry about it taking a foul, but it never did. But my friend Roy's bedroom window across the street did once, which we all thought was a riot. Roy was the opposing pitcher in our last series. As tough as he was with his breaking ball, I somehow always managed to hit him well, including my pushing a foul line double against his squad a few nights earlier in the clincher.

Now we're ready to go. Mikey looks into Sean, who does his usual hop onto his toes in anticipation. He rocks back ever so slightly; I can still see that little hitch, early in his quick windup motion. There it is and then he stretches and drags his left leg along the dirt towards the plate. His fast ball barrels in. Somehow the kid managed to put his wooden bat on it with a loud crack of a sound. That wasn't supposed to happen, given he was in the bottom of the batting order.

It's hard at me in one furious bounce, maybe a half step to the right. But it's firmly in the glove and the momentum has me looking up and right at Chucky, who is dashing to second from shortstop. He was placed perfectly to get there quickly. It's out of my glove, into my hand and into his glove in a flash, all in one motion. He scrapes the bag as he glides over it towards me, then stops and pivots on his right foot to put himself on a direct line to first, to where he zips the ball. Skippy stretches out to take it, and the runner is out by a whisker. A double play. Yes indeed: we got there.

Skippy raises both arms and we all run towards Mikey and Sean. We pile onto one another, just off to the first base side of the mound, our gloves getting launched into the air as we run. I watch my Spalding leather hit the ground, and given that it was my most prized possession in all the world, I try to grab it for safekeeping. But someone was pulling me from behind and into the pile of screaming bodies, so I couldn't get to it. But my younger brother, who was our bat boy, saw my dilemma and grabs it, giving me a thumbs-up to let me know it was in his protection. I could now get back to celebrating the fact that we were the champs; which to a kid at that age, in that time, in that town, was a pretty big deal. Well, to this kid, it was.

Every minute detail as described above is exactly how it happened. Forty years later, there it still is: clear as a sunny day. Then it becomes the usual "where are they all now?" I only know the answer to that question for four of the players.

Our glorious ace Mikey stole a taxi that he had called to The Hub one night seven years later, deep into the post-high school Crazy Days of that era. The cabbie had come in the front door after realizing his horn honks were getting nowhere. As he weaved his way through the drunken mob inside, Mikey dashed out the side, into the running car and off he went. He proceeded to embark on a high speed joy ride up Church Street with it. By chance, I just happened to be home from college on that very night, and witnessed the shenanigans, in-motion, with some of the left behinds (what we called the peeps that didn't go away to school). "Ha ha, what a pisser that crazy bastard is, huh, stealing a cab 'cus he didn't have a ride home? " Yes, indeed, what a pisser.

Unfortunately, that ride only lasted a few westbound blocks, to where Church and Van Dam meet. There, Mikey lost control and barreled into a house on the left hand side, resulting in a horrendous crash, explosion, fireball and his instant death. I didn't even learn about it until my next return trip back home a month later. If hearing that news wasn't bad enough, me and my pal Bob P. spent that weekend's entire time conjuring up enough courage to go knock on his mother's door to retrieve my drum kit that was down in her basement. Not good: the before and after to that scene also took place at The Hub.

Roy, the one-time opposing pitcher, died an early cancer death. Sean went on to become a very successful college football coach, which was no surprise given his role as our little squad's heart and soul (and loud voice). Skippy is the only one I see on a somewhat regular basis, at his joint in town when I happen to be back there and in need of a cheap and filling lunch. I hope he keeps it a while longer, for I'm sure the day he exits will put an end to that "somewhat regular" thing. As for all the others? I haven't a clue.

For these are nomadic times. Whereas our parents would watch us romp on the very same fields of dreams in which they once played, along side our friends who were the sons and daughters of their own childhood friends, we ourselves scattered to the winds. Once we landed in our own Private Idahos, Zoomtowns and East Clusterfucks, we then pretended it was an equally satisfying experience watching our own kids play on fields to which we ourselves never set foot and with teammates born to parents which we never knew and never would.

But who's kidding who? We all know better. Among missing friends here at the seemingly empty West Side Rec Field on this particular afternoon, there's no need or motivation for us to BS one another now. Is there guys?


Mar 13, 2012

Rndom Quote - Mar 13

"The idealistic wind of the 60's is stll at our backs, and most of the people I know who are my age have that ingrained in them forever." ..... (Steve Jobs)


Mar 9, 2012

Happy Birthday FM

Happy Bithday (this week ) to FM RADIO.

At this time in 1941, W47NV in Nashville was the first to operate commercially while using the physics of Frequency Modulation transmission technology.

FM had been around for awhile, but ignored by the industry because of its "line of sight" aspect. AM was deemed superior because it could bounce its signal off the sky and beyond the horizon. But FM overtook AM in the early 70's, primarily because of its superior sound clarity. It played the role as the major source for music discovery throughout the 70's until the Inter-tube hit town.

For an interesting look at the history of the radio business, round up an old copy of Empires of the Air by Saratoga resident Tom Lewis.


Mar 7, 2012

News Journalism: Worst Career Move?

“I wanna buy you lunch”
is usually code speak for “I wanna pick your brain.” But there's a trade I'll pretty much take anytime, as it more often than not presents a chance to catch up with an old and (often) rarely seen pal. Thursday's yak-fest was just such a case, with my old school chum Mark at some bland Manhattan sandwich joint.

It seems that former BMOC and unofficial titleholder as the world's fastest beer shooter is a few months removed from watching his oldest daughter don the old cap & gown and strolling up to some college president in an upstate gymnasium to receive her undergrad degree in a field of study he mentioned but I don't recall. After the requisite “geez, we're getting old” kicked and subsided, we moved onto his more pressing matter, the primary reason for our midday rendezvous.

His dilemma: said daughter is now considering Journalism School, and asking dear old Dad for his guidance in making that final determination. Although not mentioned, I also sensed his being not only the guiding light but also the potential banker for such a venture — but I didn't press on that theory.

So what could I add to this exploratory, Mark asked? Surely my background on either the fringes or deep in the epicenter of the world of the news media industry – both old and new media varieties – would be of value in ascertaining the girl's (err - lady's) dream of starting out as the ace investigative reporter for some local daily and eventually moving on to being a renowned columnist for some prominent media brand. Worth that sandwich and lager tab, at least.

My advice was simple and right to the point: DO NOT, under any circumstance, aid and abet such a suicide mission, one that would only lead to years of poverty, frustration, disillusionment and quiet desperation for the kid. As for the big guy himself, years of guilt were an equally likely future as a direct result.

Overly dramatic on my part? No, not by any means

“The first job of the writer is to be interesting”
Henry James

“My job was to write stories that met the Lowest Common Denominator test”
A former reporter for an upstate NY daily paper

Mr James would not be a happy camper in today's typical local newsroom. His interesting writers might exist in certain quarters, but not there. In former times, back when local communities had a sense of identity and purpose, the local paper served as the network hub for the local citizenry. Through its pages, one was able to get a daily sense for the pulse of the city. Relevant news was interspersed with sage commentary and big-pic meanderings on the state of said city. The newspaper's staff members were well-respected and usually had a deep interest and understanding of the community, often based on the simple fact that most of them were natives. The publisher was a leading mover and shaker, managing the business as a local enterprise and as a trusted communal asset.

Those days are long gone. Industry consolidation has resulted in the dominance of chains or groups (their own preferred term). Locally owned papers are a rarity. Working personnel are hired nomads, pushed from one corporate outpost to another, from one strange town to the next. The concept of a “publisher” itself has disappeared — there is actually no one at any given location who fills that traditional role. The title still exists (as a charade), the person holding it is typically just someone from the sales department. A larger and larger percentage of the news is syndicated from outside sources, and most of that is of the 'lifestyle' variety with zero unique connectivity to the locality. Very few local papers even bother with quality local commentary any more.

So where does this leave a fledgling news journalist? Start with an assignment of covering the mundane city council meetings, zoning boards and police blotter and he or she is off to the races. 60+ hours a week at $22K per year should do it. With a little luck, that person might soon be asked to cover whatever can pass as local scandal, like a politician's son being arrested for DUI or another's alleged affair with a staffer. For that is what it's all about today; scandal and conflict. But that kind of work is the glass ceiling; there is no longer a plum column heading with his or her name on it, because they don't exist any longer. Or, an assignment to the paper's online portal is possible, where the requisite skillset is not in solid reporting, but in article search engine optimization.

The bottom line is that an English Comp degree from a community college will land a job at most daily and weekly newspapers in this country today. An advanced degree has no payback path within that environment. Simple supply and demand economics dictates such. Furthermore, there is no premium paid for any sort of subject matter expertise.

Now back to my buddy Mark in the restaurant. His head is hanging low after this reality check. But he now knows what he needs to do: tell his precious princess “no” to the J-School funding. The right move, for sure. She'll hate him for a bit, but somewhere down the road will thank him … immensely.

Hopefully she doesn't come up with some creative scheme to go do it without his aid.

In other Media/Journalism news....

Good Riddance, Andrew Breitbart

Alleged new media journalist Andrew Breitbart has left this earth. The right-wing tent pups act as if we just lost a Founding Father — literally! That's right; the neo fascist rag called the Washington Examiner ran a deadline this past week crying that “We Have Lost Our Samuel Adams.” Uh-huh. Memo to the Examiner: Sam was the brewer, you were maybe thinking of John? (or are we missing some clever joke here?)

For those not trapped in the mindless lunacy of the propaganda machine run by the modern day conservative and libertarian movements, Mr Breitbart's legacy is simple: he did nothing more than further degrade both the American political dialog as well as the profession of journalism itself. Truth was never the priority or the goal in Breitbart's world; outcomes were. His agenda was clearly staked, and his faux-journalistic endeavors from that point on existed to do nothing more than to serve that agenda.

His lesson: if one can't match a philosophical opponent on merits, merits are to be ignored and Plan B is unleashed. As examples, we are told that hacking a Twitter account to pry into a personal relationship is a valid strategy, given the outcome of destroying that person is met. Or the fact that a supposedly damning undercover video is found to be heavily edited is equally irrelevant for the same reasons. Or that taking a short clip from a public interview completely out of context, thereby leading an observer to believe that a point was being made that was totally the opposite of reality, is simply a tool of doing biz in the hardball world of new media. Well, all of that is just peachy.

The conservatives have their new martyr. He's probably a good one for them, give their “race to the bottom” mentality. Meanwhile, anyone with even a minimal concern for the proper (and disappearing) role of journalistic integrity and excellence in this nation has spent the last few days struggling to hold down the puke each time this cretin's name gets mentioned.

Of note: the Net's alt-reality (aka tinfoil) division is already alive with conspiracy theories on the cause of his death....yep: Obama took him out.

Local Media Wars

It's entertaining to witness the current pissing contest between the two competing papers in the city of Glens Falls: the daily Post Star and the weekly Chronicle.

It started when the Chronicle took its hometown neighbor to task for referring to itself as a “30,000 Circulation Daily” in a Help Wanted Ad it has placed for its own personnel need. The Chronicle made a big deal out of this, publicly pointing out that the P-S's actual number is a bit over 26K.

Two points here: first, big freaking deal. This was a Help Wanted ad, not a sales pitch to potential advertisers. Second, this is obviously an important distinction to the Chronicle because its own front page claims a circulation fig of 28K for itself. It seems like someone needs to be known as the bigger rooster in this 'burgh.

The Post Star answered nicely, with a counter of “but our 26K is verified.” Touche! The Chronicle's response was a wimpy “but we have lots of advertisers because it works.”

We'll play the role of referee in this scratch-off. Here is our ruling:

The Chronicle is full of shit.

It claims a “Circulation” of 28,000; and does so on the front page of each and every issue. This publication – not quite a full-fledged newspaper while not quite a shopper either – is available to all readers at no charge. It is a freebie. That's all fine. That being said, a paid copy is more valuable than a free copy (it's more likely to be both read and shared) to potential advertisers. Whether the ad rates for the two papers reflects this distinction, we do not know or care.

But, in the newspaper industry, the word “circulation” assumes PAID. If Chronicle management were to deny that, they are denying fact. Similarly, if they argue that their placing the word “free” above it in a different font color gets them off the hook, they are similarly mistaken. Their 28K papers are the number they print and then distribute to drop-off/pick-up locations throughout the region.

Their 28K figure is defined in the news publishing industry as DISTRIBUTION, not circulation. Therefore, they are the party that is mis-leading the public to the greater and more harmful respect here.

We hereby call on them to correct this inaccurate statement.


Mar 5, 2012

Sustainable Skis and Boards

From the Earth Talk files...

Bamboo dominates green practice of green sport

Dear EarthTalk: I’m in the market for a new pair of skis. Are there skis being made today that are made with materials and processes that are kinder to the environment? -- Scott Paxton, Rutland, VT

Yes, in fact ski (and snowboard) manufacturers may be among the greenest sporting goods industries out there today, given the importance to practitioners of keeping our carbon emissions down—global warming is bad for skiing and boarding—and our alpine backcountry preserved.

Perhaps the biggest green change in the industry is the adoption of bamboo as a core material for both skis and snowboards. Bamboo is fast growing and doesn’t require much if any fertilizers or pesticides, so it can be produced sustainably. It is also rigid and hard to break. While most skis and snowboards on the market today still use more traditional hardwoods like beech, birch or aspen in their cores, bamboo is definitely coming on strong. Some of the leading ski makers leading the bamboo charge include K2, Salomon, Kingswood, High Society, Boomtown, Obsidian, Locomotiv, Liberty, and Blue House.

Bamboo isn’t the only green innovation in skis today. Switzerland-based Movement Skis uses wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). And Germany’s Grown Skis will recycle your old skis to make furniture and use remaining wood scraps in making new pairs of sustainably-sourced wood skis.

Another German manufacturer, Völkl, eschews fiberglass entirely in its Amaruq Eco skis. The wood core is wrapped instead with wood sidewalls and topsheet. And instead of using epoxy to bind things together, Völkl uses all-organic wood resin and then protects the skis’ wood surfaces with an application of linseed oil. The metal edges employ 60 percent recycled steel.

Sustainability is also the new normal in snowboards. California-based Arbor Collective uses sustainably sourced bamboo, natural wood veneer and poplar, respectively, in its three lines. Protective top layers are made from a 30 percent castor bean-based bioplastic and the edges are made of 60 percent recycled steel.

Salomon, one of the industry’s leaders, has pioneered using bamboo in its snowboard cores as part of its Green Initiatives for Tomorrow program. The company’s embrace of bamboo has helped it cut down significantly on toxic fiberglass resins while reducing the plastic content of its boards by some 25 percent.

Burton’s Eco Nico snowboard uses FSC-certified wood for its core, a lacquer-free top sheet, 90 percent recycled steel edges, 100 percent recycled sidewalls and a 50 percent recycled base. K2 Sports Fastplant snowboard uses bamboo for its core, and is deemed virtually unbreakable by the company. Another manufacturer, Washington-based Gnu, uses sustainably harvested Aspen trees for their snowboard cores.

Many other ski and snowboard makers have jumped on the green bandwagon as well. Indeed, there’s never been a better time to do the right thing by your snowsports equipment purchasing.

EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of
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iThe iPhone is Apple

Interesting fig's from Apple's financials:

Well over half of Apple's $46.33 billion in revenue came from the iPhone. All by itself, the iPhone generated $24.4 billion in revenue, beating all the rest of Apple's business combined by $2.47 billion, and beating all of Microsoft by over $3 billion.

At the same time, it also came to light recently that Apple sold more iOS devices in the past year than Macs in the past 28 years.

Source: WebPro News