Monday, July 31, 2006

Porco Withdrawal

While I was on vacation last summer, Hurricane Katrina careened through New Orleans, laying waste to one of America's great cities. My attitude was like, "What? A hurricane? It's not coming this way, is it? Great...give me another beer."

This year was different. While I'm usually pleased to have a week without news, I experienced a gnawing, almost painful yearning for the latest on the Porco trial. Sure, we had newspapers and the radio, but no access to the Albany media. Hit the computer at the public library, you say? Not where I was. No library. Jonesing for a Porco fix, we burrowed our feet into the sand and endlessly discussed the ins and out of the trial thusfar. Minutes after pulling into the driveway, before even untying the bikes from the roof of the car, I was on the computer reading up on the week's testimony.

There's no denying that the Porco trial has a powerful hold on us. And why not? It's the sort of story that people have been drawn to since ancient times, from the earliest mythology to the Bible to Shakespeare ---it moves us on a visceral level.

And this week we head for the home stretch.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

In Camera

Albany Eye is on vacation. This is from February 26, 2005. Don't you wish we had cameras in the courtroom in Goshen?

News directors want cameras in courtrooms for the same reason I do ---because it makes good television. Admit it, crime is interesting. There's nothing quite like sitting in there watching the ADA work somebody over, seeing the evidence, hearing witnesses. Add the friends and family of victims and the accused and you have raw, tense drama. It doesn't get much more real ---and if you've ever stood outside a courthouse explaining what went down inside, you know it's just not the same.
Spare me the dog and pony about public scrutiny and accountability. Keep your window through which we observe the judicial system. Put away the old saw about being the eyes and ears of the people. Please. We are hooked on tragedy and we always have been.

Plus, I sort of enjoy watching the toothsome Patricia DeAngelis.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Homeless Man Beaten By Teens, Chased by Reporters

We're on vacation; this is from October 20, 2004:

It was bad enough that Michael Coene was beaten up by a group of teens in Albany, but today he was stalked by local TV news reporters determined to hear his story. At one point, Coene was reportedly whisked away from a media event by homeless advocates as WRGB's Judy Sanders tried to muscle him into doing a one-on-one interview.

And from Tuesday, October 19, 2004:

Flash! Americans Like Cheese
The Business Review scoops money page rivals with expose on the soaring popularity of fermented curd!

Click here for Monty Python's Cheese Shoppe sketch. Fetch hither the fromage de la Belle France!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Vacation Week

I'm on vacation, so this week please read and enjoy some early items from the lost archives. These two are from our very first day, Friday, October 15, 2004:

Have a Toke on Ed
If you told me a year ago that John Gray would be writing a column
in The Record about Ed Dague using marijuana, I'd of thought you were smoking
crack.

Does this make the floating head of Ed Dague some sort of prophecy?


Playing Ketchup
I always suspected that Assemblyman Jim Tedisco was a knucklehead, but when he swore off Heinz ketchup in a gesture of anti-Kerry defiance, that closed the deal. It's worth noting that
Tedisco made national news when he declared that using Heinz would put money in John Kerry's campaign coffers. Just Google Tedisco ketchup and you'll see what I mean. It's interesting to compare this with the number of results you get when you Google Tedisco
revitalization schenectady.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Friday File

Worst Of
Metroland's Best Of isn't what it used to be. We all used to eagerly await the special issue, but it's taken on a been there/done that quality, praising the obvious and criticizing the easy targets. And what's up with taking shots at Fox 23's John Gray? The lefty alt weekly noted Gray under Best Impersonation of a Journalist ---and then didn't even bother making an argument for this dubious honor that made any sense. It was just stupid. I'm guessing John Gray recently said or did something they found offensive; the Metroland crowd are as thin-skinned as they are self-righteous.

Lions, and Tigers, and Fairs (Oh, My!)
I love someone who can make lemonade from a pile of lemons. After a tiger clawed a boy at the Saratoga Fair, fair manager Dick Rowland told WROW:
We've had some people come to the gate who didn't realize we had tigers and wanted to see them.
It's rumored that they've changed the name of the animal attraction to Siegfried and Boy.

Sounds like Weeks; Feels Like Years
WGY has announced the renewal of Don Weeks contract until 2008. Weeks folksy morning show is a Capital Region institution, combining both...uhhh...highlighting the, errr...snrrrffff....zzz... zzzz....zzz... zzzzzzz....frmph....zzzzzz...zzzzz....zzzzzz... zzzzzzzzzz...zzzzz...zzzzzzzzzz...

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Jeepers

For sale?Here's what Chief Assistant District Attorney Michael P. McDermott had to say after yesterday's session at the Porco trial:
There's more than one way to skin a cat, and we'll keep trying to skin this cat until the cat gets skinned.
I've been wondering what will become of a certain yellow Jeep in case McDermott is successful in his cat skinning. Christopher Porco's distinctive vehicle has loomed large during the trial; as jurors hear testimony about it and see surveillance pictures showing it, the Jeep sits parked outside the courtroom. Several reporters have noted that Porco chauffeurs his mother around Goshen in the Wrangler, which he allegedly bought by forging his father's signature on a $16450 loan.

Anyway, just in case Porco is no longer allowed to drive the Jeep when the trial is over, I might be interested in making an offer on it. I'd even be willing to go down there and pick it up. It may not be the white Ford Bronco, but around here, that's about as good as it gets.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Hello Mudder, Hello Fodder

My horse is somewhere to the left of these horses.It's a celebration of gambling goodness! NYRA has announced that the New York Lottery will be sponsoring this year's Travers Stakes. Apparently NYRA's so hard up for cash that they're whoring out the name of the area's greatest sporting event. Is it just me, or is there something weird about NYRA selling the name of the Travers to a State agency? Speaking of the lottery and the track, don't miss Lottery Day, coming to the flats on July 27. According to the NYRA press release, your losing "non winning" lottery ticket gets you in for free, where you'll enjoy an entire afternoon of picking "non winning" horses. Also, be sure to join all those "non winners" spinning the turnstiles on Sunday, July 30 at Saratoga Baseball Cap Day.

Chips Ahoy

Not everybody thinks the AMD chip-fab plan is a great idea, but the most damning criticism so far comes from MapInfo founder Mike Marvin.
Marvin's a guy who hasn't just talked the Tech Valley talk, he's walked the Tech Valley walk. He knows a little about building the area's tech equity ---without giant government hand-outs. His op-ed piece in Sunday's TU blasted the proposed $1.2 billion, million dollar per-job project:
We are not getting a corporate headquarters that would provide leadership and growth. We are getting a factory. We are not getting revolutionary technology. We are getting the latest in incremental changes to a process that has been going on for decades. Why, then, are we spending $1.2 billion?

When the plant is no longer in use because of obsolesce or changing business climate, there will be one very large concrete tombstone in our region with no other possible use.
The Luther Forest chip-fab shell game is far from over. After all, no con is ever over while there are still suckers to be had.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Business is Business

This is the final week that you'll get to read the print edition of the Business Review online. The paper's web site has been running a banner that reads:
Beginning Monday, July 24th, ALL stories from The Business Review print edition will be available online to print-edition subscribers ONLY.
We've accused the Business Review of looking like the chamber of commerce newsletter; their reporting generally lacks a critical eye toward its subjects, focusing instead on rah-rah pieces that avoid tough questions. That's what makes this bad news for economic development people. The Tech Valley and Nano crowd will be losing a valuable tool that they've exploited to tell their story to a world of online readers.

Albany Eye is all about finding solutions, not pointing out problems, so here's what I'd suggest: Maybe a deep pocketed company or organization could sponsor of the Business Review's online edition, keeping it free and open for everyone out here in the web-o-sphere. Someone like the chamber of commerce, perhaps?

Monday, July 17, 2006

Love Silo

I'm endlessly fascinated by old abandoned places. More than once, my urge to explore derelict buildings, factory sites, and other artifacts of days gone by has landed me in trouble. Most recently, I was nearly arrested for trespassing after an excursion onto the grounds of a shuttered state mental hospital, but that's a story for another day.

That's why I found Cathy Resmer's Metroland piece on former missile silos in the North Country and Vermont so interesting. It's amazing to consider that them thar hills were dotted with atomic weapons ready to wipe out the Commies. It's also amazing that the story is relatively free of any moralizing or gratuitous lefty politics. It reads more like a travelogue, recalling days when we knew who the bad guys were ---and keeping them at bay was as simple as putting them in the sights of our missiles.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Goodbye Mr. Pete

The Times Union has finally pulled the plug on Mr. Pete.

A while back the TU granted a blog to Dave Petersen, an Albany High social studies teacher who retired at the end of this school year. The intention was that he would share his thoughts and philosophy on education. Petersen was well-known for his unique style in the classroom, and to the paper, it must have seemed that he would provide some colorful and insightful content. Well, they were wrong.

Petersen grew tired of blogging nearly as quickly as he started, providing only five entries since they set him up in March. What a terribly wasted opportunity. The TU prominently placed Petersen on the front of its blog page with a picture and all, but the teacher didn't step up and seize the chance to be read by a vast audience. We "made fun" of Mr. Pete at first for his "unjudicious" use of "quotation marks." We didn't realize at the time that the problem wasn't his grammar, it was that he had nothing to say.

The paper has had some real winners in it's blog section, particulary Capitol Confidential, but when it comes to that blogging stuff, lots of people like the idea, but they don't like the work.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Climbing Into Bed With Tech Valley

Hooray for nano tech! You may not understand all this nano business, but take my word for it: If it's nano, it's good stuff.

Coming this Fall, we're going to have what must be the world's first nano TV show, NanoNow, a partnership between UAlbany's "Nanocollege", Berkshire Bank, and Fox 23. It will be a weekly program celebrating all things nano, and as the press release says,

FOX23 anchor Ann Hughes will present weekly segments that demonstrate the growing impact of nanotechnology on the lives of consumers and a host of industries; FOX23 anchor John Gray will provide weekly news updates tracking regional and worldwide developments in nanotechnology.
Hmmmm...not to be the wet blanket around here, but what's Fox 23 doing putting their anchors in a weekly PR piece for the nano college? Actually, I guess they're doing the same thing CBS 6 is doing. For several years, WRGB has been in cahoots with the Center For Economic Growth in producing Business Forward, a weekly show about "Tech Valley" hosted by Jack Aernecke. What you have there is the station's business "reporter" doing rah-rah stories on a show paid for by CEG. Nice.

Why is this bad? Because instead of doing journalism, which sometimes requires a healthy dose of skepticism, they are joining forces with the subjects of their stories. That's called crossing the line, but hey, a buck's a buck.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Street Meat

PETA protester Peter Porko.Yeah, we're all bummed out about the Porco trial being postponed, but what are you gonna do? You can keep yourself busy by going over to WNYT's Porco Trial Blog and reading the comments people have left; some of them are pretty funny.
Better yet, go to the Times Union's extensive special section on the trial and peruse some actual transcripts from Monday's testimony.

The good news? The trial hiatus will free up some people to cover today's PETA event:
Naked PETA Members Wrapped in Cellophane for Pro-Vegetarian Demonstration

Lying nearly naked on large trays and covered with clear plastic in front of signs reading, Meat Is Murder, members of PETA will mimic packages of meat while other PETA members pass out leaflets with information about factory farms and slaughterhouses.
This will be taking place in Capital Park at noon; I recommend grabbing some lunch from the vendors before touring the outdoor meat department. If you're feeling adventurous, head over there with a souvlaki or the chicken teriaki on a stick ---but don't expect the PETA folks to find that amusing.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Thanks Again, TU

I whipped through Price Chopper Sunday afternoon, grabbing a six pack of Coors Light (appropriate for hot summer days, only), flowers for my wife (I said something stupid earlier) and a copy of the Times Union. The flowers worked their magic and the Coors hit the spot, but there was something weird about my Sunday newspaper: it contained Saturday's news.

It seems I'd inadvertently picked up a copy of their new early Sunday edition. It's essentially Saturday's paper with Sunday's special sections and classifieds, which is duly noted on the banner across the top which reads Saturday's News With Sunday's Features. That's great on Saturday, but maybe it should come off the freakin' newsstand on Sunday since it looks like the real Sunday paper. Even the date on the front page read Sunday, July 9.

The upside? Thanks to an introductory offer, my day-old paper cost only $.50, half of the new edition's regular $1 price. What a bargain.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Thanks, TU

In need of a manzier.Albany Eye would like to personally thank the Times Union for taking that pre-op picture of Frank Gondar off the front page of its web site. Mr. Gondar was featured in a story about male breast reduction surgery. Click the pic if you dare.

Escape From Corporate Cavern

Secrest Caverns: It's like Howe Caverns on acid.You should drive up to Howe Caverns this summer --and keep on driving. Instead of turning right and climbing the hill to the famous cave, stay on the road and you'll soon arrive at Secret Caverns. And there's no mistaking when you've arrived at Secret Caverns.

Secret Caverns is every bit as funky and unusual as Howe Caverns is sterile and structured. You'll sense this on the ride up, when you start seeing their mad billboards that dot the roadside. It's funny that for all Howe's marketing savvy, the last thing visitors see are dozens of signs for their tiny competitor up the road. Those who keep driving will be well rewarded.

While Secret Caverns may be smaller than Howe, but it's also...well, cavey-er. When you're down in Secret Caverns, you really feel like you're in a cave, not at Disney World. It's drippy and dank and feels just slightly creepy. Our tour guide was not some bland, innocuous teenager, but a young lady sporting a lip ring, red high-tops, and a wry sense of humor. She allowed plenty of time for our group to move single file through the narrow, craggy passages, offering cave anecdotes and geologic facts along the way. Once you reach the end of the cave (the end of the tour; the cave keeps going) you'll find a sight more sensational than anything at Howe: a thundering hundred-foot waterfall that alone is worth the price of admission. Bring a good flashlight; it will help you see into the nooks and crannies, and in Secret Caverns, you really get the sense that you could end up needing it to find your way out.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Gimme Back My Hand!

Lead with your chin...And a chainsaw.Movie buffs shouldn't miss this weekend's rare opportunity to see Sam Raimi's classic Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn on the big screen at Albany's Spectrum 8 Theatres. If you're familiar with the insanely over the top horror/comedy you require no explanation; others may want to read Roger Ebert's review for an idea of what's in store.

Show times are Friday at midnight and Sunday at 9:30pm.

Annoyances of the Week

It was hard to choose just four, but here goes:

Tom Geisel's Hair
It's time for the Key Bank exec to lose the long hair. And you wonder why those clean-cut CBA boys started looking good? Get a freakin' haircut.

Mike Conners
The smarmy Albany County Comptroller has been all over TV lately in these gas tax stories. Now he announces he's switching back to the Dems. According to a TU story, Sen. Neil Breslin compared Conners to Benedict Arnold, saying, "At least Benedict Arnold only switched once." Good luck with the party swap, champ.

Degree Happy
Some woman(name omitted) from a local hospital(name also omitted) sent an email this week with a press release attached. Here's how she signs herself:

You know, I'm not terribly interested in what degrees you've attained. OK, if you have a PhD and you're a college professor or a scientist, go ahead and call yourself Dr., that's fine. Anything short of that, save it for the resume. And what the hell is a CCM anyway?

Carmella Mantello
Here's another one that's been inescapable. The Canal Corporation head has been all over TV and the papers due to the damage caused by last week's flooding. A couple of years ago, when Mantello was in charge of the Hudson River Greenway, Albany Broadcasting's Joe Condon asked her about the significance of the New York Central Railroad during a Sunday morning interview show. She didn't know, because she'd never heard of the historic railroad that changed New York. Mantello may have spent eight years on the Troy City Council, but I'm not sure she took 4th grade social studies.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Cheap Eats

A recent edition of the slick Downtown Albany BID newsletter devotes an entire page to their Restaurant Week promotion. That's where diners can get a three course meal at a fine eatery for just $16.09. Figures for the April event sound great; the BID (Bar Improvement District) reports that 13,000 people took advantage of the deal, which by any measure, is fairly impressive. They're doing it again in August.

I gave up on Restaurant Week last year after my cut-rate dining experience came with cut-rate service. This was at Nicole's Bistro, a place where I've eaten some excellent -and expensive- meals. This time it was neither. The service was rushed and abrupt, and our routine questions about the $16.09 offerings were met with an icy stare. The servers, used to taking orders for $25 entrees, not entire meals for $16.09, had a really tough time masking their contempt for me and the diners at nearby tables. At tip time, I expressed my gratitude for being treated like riff-raff.

Next time, I think I'll take my $16.09 and go to Applebees.

Editor's Note 7/10: Thanks to the reader who pointed out this related column by the TU's Steve Barnes.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Adult Attention Deficit Disorder

I may have missed a word here or there, but this is what I heard Paul Vandenburgh talking about on WROW this morning, all within the same minute:
I remember the first time I saw the San Diego Chicken...I thought boy, this is the best.
We gotta talk about North Korea today.
Remember I said someone dropped off the Best of Heart CD...
This is fairly typical of the show, which is generally a tangled weave of fragmented ideas, random thoughts, and of course, commercials. Indeed, the only coherent stretches are the show's frequent live-read spots. Vandenburgh's program breaks down as follows:
  • 6-7am: Nonsense such as celebrity birthdays and chat about things like American Idol.
  • 7-8am: A heavy hour for ads and promises of what news topics will be discussed today.
  • 8-9am: Now comes some actual discussion of news, when time allows.
I hate to say it, but Joe Bruno may have a point.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

We Hold These Truths To Be Self Evident

When's the last time you read the Declaration of Independence? Before today's picnics and fireworks, take a moment to visit the National Archives web site and reacquaint yourselves with the bold statement that set this nation forward.

Even better than reading the Declaration is hearing it read out loud; For years, NPR's Morning Edition has presented a reading of the Declaration of Independence featuring various NPR hosts, reporters, and commentators. It never fails to move me.

Celebrate, enjoy, and remember.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Different is Good

When it comes to music, Capital Region radio sucks. Yes, I know that it's a matter of taste and all that, but the fact that a market this size is missing a really interesting commercial music station is a cryin' shame.

During a trip to Massachusetts over the weekend, my dial was welded to Northampton's WRSI. They call themselves "The River", but it's a far cry from this market's muddy, stagnant Clear Channel River ---their River is cool and clear and sounds great. The format is officially called adult album alternative, but for a good idea of what they spin, check out their playlist.

OK, so Northampton is a very progressive place. Maybe Albany can't handle hearing The White Stripes, Son Volt, and The Band all played in the same set. Maybe our heads would explode, or something. But on the other hand, I beleive that there are enough people around here who have decent taste in music to support a smart music station. Like the banner on The River website proclaims, different is good, but different takes gut and resolve, something missing from corporate radio. Meanwhile, it's the middle of the road, my friend. The middle of the road.