Aug 15, 2012

Figgs Hit Town for the Big 25

Let's play Fun With Math, shall we?

1.  I'll estimate that I have held at least one conversation with about a quarter-million unique individual human beings over the course of my life.  Yeah, a wild guess, to be sure.  But take your own shot at coming up with this fig. See, I told you that math could be fun!

2. Out of that quarter-million, I'll estimate that the topic of music was part of a conversation with any of them at a clip of approximately 5%.

3. 250,000 x 5% = 12,500 people.

4. Out of that 12,500, two (2) of them told me something to the effect of  "The Figgs are the greatest rock and roll band in history."  Yes, twice I've heard this -- from two different people.

5. So that means 0.16% of my 'musical universe" believes this to be a true statement.  "Heck, that's not even a full one-percent," you might poo-poo. My reply: "Yeah, but there's been millions of bands!"  Think about it, won't you?.

Personally, I have never seen these local Saratoga Springs legends.  But that will change this Saturday night (Aug 18), as the boys return to the city of their youth (and of their first show ever in Geyser Crest) for THE FIGGS 25TH ANNIVERSARY at the Putnam Den. $10 gets you in the door for a look at some loud history.

Here's a Made For MTV Video bty the Figgs form way back in '94. It was filmed at the now-gone E. O'Dwyers bar on the Spring Street Hil in Saratoga Springs.

Aug 13, 2012

Romney Concedes Election

I don't get the why behind Mitt Romney's choice of the Ayn Rand-inspired Paul Ryan as his Vice Presidential nominee for the GOP ticket. The spin is that Mr R is "solidifying the Tea Party wing" of his party by tapping one of their own. OK, but:

1.Did he think that the Tea Party crowd was going to go vote for Obama is he had opted for a more moderate voice?

2. This election comes down to the white suburban indie-leaning voter, who for the most part is on the fence and in-play come November. Think soccer moms and their commuting husbands in Tysons Corner, VA for who these folks are. If Romney can go +4% with this demographic in the key swing states; he's in. If not; he's out.

Mr Ryan does nothing to improve his chances here with this math.  If anything, he hurts them.

Game, set, match?


Aug 12, 2012

How to Beat the Ponies

Dear Nanoburgh,

I'm told that you're the ace horse player in this town. So what's the single best handicapping angle you can lay on a gal? I need to score!


Dear Molly,

Did you say "lay on a gal?" Oh, never mind. It must be because I just watched an old Wayne and Garth clip on the Tube of You.  Anyways, here's a good way to meet your needs and make you rich beyond your wildest dreams:

* Wait (it might take forever for it to appear) for a 7f race with a speedy favorite on the rail in the 1-hole.   It can't win. So basically, DUTCH bet everyone else who has a shot.

Note 1: To dutch is to bet multiple horses in the same race to win by spreading your bankroll/budget based on their tote odds. Yeah, this alone would take a whole post to explain -- and we're way to busy here at the 'burgh to do so now! So until you learn that aspect of the game, just weigh your bets more heavily on the horses you like that have the lower odds. The fact that you are tossing a favorite makes the %'s play in your favor in a "cover the takeout" way (another long lesson story needed sometime)

Note 2: There is a physical reason that inside/rail speed can not win from the 7f chute at the Spa. Stand there sometime and look down the track. You'll see how the chute isn't quite lined up right with the main track. It is about 6' too far in and that freaks rail birds out when they have to adjust. Plus, inside speed as a rule is at a disadvantage.

That's all I got. Go to the bank when you see this scenario happen. Then buy me a pretzel.


Aug 8, 2012

10 Signs You May Have An Unhealthy Relationship With Social Media

There is a reason the word "pervasive" is often used right alongside social media. For many of us, the social channels we use to connect with others for personal or professional reasons are a big part of every day. But how much is too much? How do we know that we might be taking our enthusiasm for social media too far? Here's Rohit Bhargava's slightly exaggerated (but mostly true) list of ten signs that you might just have an unhealthy relationship with social media in your life: 1) You receive an audible alert on your phone anytime anything happens. When your mobile device chimes, beeps or chirps anytime someone follows, retweets, shares or comments on something, you are actively sabotaging your own ability to concentrate on anything. 2) Your business card says "guru" and you are NOT speaking about spirituality to large groups in India. I know what you're thinking, but I didn't write this one because I'm Indian... READ THE REST HERE .

Aug 7, 2012

Downtown Movie Theater and a Failure of Saratoga IDA to Invest Wisely

Chefs of the Future: "You Want Butter on That Popcorn?"

Saratoga real estate developer Sonny Bonacio has a plan. In this case, it's a plan for what to do with the former Railroad Avenue Price Chopper --- better known to natives as the Ghetto Chopper. The long-standing supermarket was sacrificed to make way for the newest annex to the city's burgeoning Canyon of Condos in the shadow of the Franklin Square historic district. His surprising idea for the property: build a giant multi-screen movie theater complex on it.

While we hold doubts with the supposed “no negative parking or traffic impact” prediction of two separate studies (someone get us copies) as well as the initial design offering (this is supposed to be a Victorian town), we can appreciate the means in which such a project acts as a counter punch to the long-running trade war waged on the city by the Wilton Suburban Sprawl Machine. For this reason, combined with the project's adherence to the core density mantra of New Urbanist thinking, we would not stand in its way if we had a say in the matter. If Mr Bonacio thinks the numbers work in his favor, then let's get out of his way and let him proceed with putting up his own money to make it happen.

But there lies the catch: a mere week after announcing his grand vision, Mr B stated that he would require $1.2million in assorted tax breaks in order to proceed. The numbers just don't jive otherwise, he claims. Such bait & switch theatrics aside, the question becomes whether or not the Saratoga Industrial Development Agency (IDA) should agree to such concessions, given their role as the approving entity.

That they did, granting the majority of the request. We find ourselves distressed when hearing of that decision.

Bear in mind that this reaction is not coming from the “keep governments out of the markets / don't pick economic winners” perspective of the political right nor is it coming from the “end all corporate welfare” thinking of the left. Economic development entities have a rightful and valued role in community planning, but if (and only if) it assists initiatives that demonstrate the potential to generate clear and significant benefits for the greater good and if (and only if) the private sector is not providing such a solution on its own. The report card in determining the latter is obvious; the report card for determining the former is via an analysis of both its direct and indirect economic benefits. The contention here is that the Price Chopper to movie theater conversion does not qualify under either count.

We already know the “direct” selling points being offered by supporters of the tax breaks. First and foremost, it is argued, a downtown movie theater of this scope will generate impressive new foot traffic, which in turn will generate revenues and sales taxes from the resulting commerce in nearby retail and hospitality businesses. But this is a stretch. Movie-goers tend to be just that: movie-goers, period. The stickiness factor is weak when compared to other attractions, especially live-performance venues. The Schenectady example that is offered as a supporting case study actually proves otherwise in that Proctor's is the dominant traffic-generator there and not the movie complex next door.

Likewise, one must ask if the resulting part-time and low-wage jobs for ticket-takers and butter-toppers is the labor force of the future we should be trying to develop with public investments? Will such jobs break the city's brain-drain and entice young people to return after schooling in search of professions? Not likely.

Our bigger objection is with the lack of substantial “indirect” benefits, or the so-called multiplier effect. Is this helping to establish an industry cluster that is all the rage of the econ-dev world and seen as the magic bullet for localized growth? In other words, will a wellspring of nearby support services sprout up to serve the theater's needs and will additional theaters relocate there soon after? How about a local movie industry; will that arise as a result? This one's even easier to forecast: such goals will never be realized.

Next we consider the concept of local dollars retention. This new enterprise will be operated (if not outright owned) by a national chain, which will drain a good deal of start-up investments, operating cash and net revenues to its out-of-state mother ship. Then there is this stone cold fact: depending on the title, 70-90% of all ticket admissions go to any given film's distributor and producer. Now just how many of those enterprises are located in the city or county's bounds? Such a giant sucking vacuum effect will likely offset all the supposed direct and indirect benefits, if not actually surpass them. Why are local taxpayers subsidizing not only the city's most successful developer but also the Hollywood blockbuster industry?

Good paying full-time jobs. Career professions. Industry clusters. Local enterprise support and acceleration. Local dollar retention. These should be the key qualifiers for any proposed economic development investments made by the public sector on behalf of its funding citizenry. On all five counts, the Railroad Avenue movie theater proposal falls short.

Tax breaks are a true zero-sum game: if one party is given such a benefit, the burden is picked up by all the others --- unless the project has the prospect of delivering an exceptional level of economic activity and/or quality of life benefits back to the community. If they do not – as is the case here – then any request for the concessions should be rejected, It is then up to the private sector entrepreneur to determine whether the project stands on its own merits without that public assistance. That volley would put the ball back in Mr Bonacio's court.

That should have been be the perspective from the Saratoga IDA's office, at least. But it wasn't. That, in turn, calls into question the guiding philosophy and economic development strategy of the organization and its leadership.



Aug 1, 2012

Water World

Today's theme is H2O:

1. Brother Can You Spare A Cup?

The second word in the municipal name of 'Saratoga Springs' is springs. Springs, as in places where that clear colored elixir of life bubbles to the top and spurs the imagination. This joint was built on those scattered examples of such, spread about within the 'burgh's boundaries.

Why, then, can't you sample a gulp at any of the sprouts unless you BYOC: Bring Your Own Cup? Casual passers-by are enticed by signage or fancy pavilions to wander up to these spots for an unplanned visit, but once there .... what? They can take a look, take a sniff, take a picture-- but they can't take a taste because there is no way to do so other than to lick a wet palm.

Can't the city buy a few some paper cup dispensers and attach them to some posts?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we know the pushback: some drunk will toss them all over the place to make a mess now and then. But that's what morning clean-up crews are for.

Saratoga's supposed to be a tourist town which celebrates its historic heritage. Let's start doing so. Note to DPW: Get On It.

2. A Waiting Disaster

We ran across fellow troublemaker John Tighe recently and had a quick chat with him and his lovely bride on his current burr in his saddle: SPAC. With that being a topic long of interest to us here at Nanoburgh, we were happy to rip.

Mr T painted an interesting picture, based on his attendance at one of the recent Phish performances:: an intensely hot and humid evening with 30,000 people inside the gates, most of whom were wound up to the max and building up a sweat while grooving to the Green Mountain Boys Made Good. Many of them were into the latter hours of an extended session of celebration that began many hours (or days) ago. And yes, some might have even been under the influence of alcohol or some other mind bending substance. Ya never know. And.....

....... a grand total of two small water fountains to serve this throng and to offer respite from the stifling conditions.

As we concluded, this is a disaster waiting to happen. I didn't even ask what a bottle of water costs in that facility; learning so would likely make my head explode. One of these nights, some dehydrated kid is going to pass out on the lawn (at least they still call it a lawn, don't they) --- and never wake up.

We're tired of the police state commonly called SPAC and the Spa Park during concert season. We're tired of the press conferences announcing the massive uniformed presence. We're tired of the harassment and bullying in these public picnic grounds. We're tired of the post-show arrest reports. We're tired of the wasted expenditures. We're tired of doing all of this under the ruse of 'public safety'.

If the concern here is truly public safety at SPAC, then someone better figure out a way to get the water flowing.


3. Who'd A Thunk?

My pal Richard is an ad agency exec down in Atlanta; a retro Mad Men kinda guy. He even looks the part. Recently, he offered a good response when someone pooh-pooh'd the feasibility of monetizing a kooky idea that was being tossed about the table at a recent burp session.

"Yeah, but tell me this: Twenty years ago, if someone said they were going to bottle drinking water form that tap over there and sell it at $2 a pop..what would you have said?"

Uh huh. Good point.