Monday, December 31, 2007

Crappy New Year, Plattsburgh!

Snow is shoveled but the dogshit remains. 9 days and counting.

The Burgh can take pride: Cleanliness is next to Godliness. (And people wonder why I’m an atheist.)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

My Dogged Pursuit Of A Cleaner Plattsburgh

It sits there on the borderline between a restaurant and a private office. Five days and counting. Right there on a main street sidewalk, ignored by everyone.

If I owned the private office, I would check out the frontage from time to time, making sure at least my stretch of sidewalk was presentable. Professionalism, you know.

If I owned the restaurant, I would remove that fossilizing pile of dogshit. After all, the aim of a restaurant is to maintain, not kill, an appetite.

And if I owned a dog, I would make sure to pick up its crap.

But this is downtown Plattsburgh. Why worry?

Merry Halloween!

Nothing says “Happy Holidays” in Plattsburgh more than a rotten pumpkin stuck in a snow bank. At least it’s in suspended animation with the cold weather. But when the warm days arrive, gooey fun for all.

Take pride, Plattsburgh!

Friday, December 21, 2007

I Called. Did You?


That’s the number if you want to report unshoveled sidewalks in the City of Plattsburgh. I called and mentioned the mess on the half of Elm Street that runs to Miller. See the images below? Do you see any trace of a sidewalk?

This section of Elm Street is narrow. Cars traveling in opposite directions have enough of a problem passing each other without a pedestrian in the street.

And I also snitched on the city. Once again it failed to clear out the other side of this school crosswalk on Margaret Street, forcing kids to walk in the street or climb over the snowbank.

Shouldn’t the city lead by example? Is it going to bill itself for snow removal?

When I called the Building Inspector’s office, the person who answered the phone explained that it would take a while to get the sidewalks cleared of snow. He was polite and honest, explaining that the program was new and they were still working out all the details.

OK, I can cut the city some slack on that. For now.

Maybe you’re fed up with snow-obstructed sidewalks in other parts of the city. Did you call? I do more than bitch and moan; I file complaints. What about you?

Who’s Responsible?

The other night I noticed that a front-end loader was working on the Press-Republican parking lot. At one point it left the lot, traveled a bit down Margaret Street, and started to remove part of snow pile that had been blocking the sidewalk near the bar next door.

The pile had been there for a while. It sat on the borderline of Fitzpatrick’s Bar and the PR property. You either had to climb over it – about five feet of snow – or walk in the street. I couldn’t tell who made the obstruction. Maybe it was the person who plowed out Fitzpatrick’s. Or maybe it was the person employed by the newspaper. Or maybe both snow removers contributed to the problem.

At least the front-end loader from the PR cut down the bank. But as you can see from the above image, there’s still some snow left to go. So who’s responsible?

How is the city going to handle a boundary dispute? One property owner could say that the guy next day pushed the snow onto his land. And the other guy could say all he did was push snow back that had been shoved onto his property.

Well, if such a dispute arises, I don’t effing care. I don’t want to walk in the street or climb over a hill of snow. Just remove the damn barrier.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

An American Ideal: Free Markets

Unlike some other countries, like a commie dictatorship, the United States of America takes great pride in its free market economy. Everyone has a fair shake when it comes to getting ahead.

Or so we have been told.

For your consideration, this story:

There was once a locally-owned bookstore that specialized in used tomes. Due to a surfeit of titles, it planned on opening a second location during the holiday season at The Mall, hoping to reduce some stock. But The Independent Bookstore wasn’t allowed to set up a temporary operation.

Another bookstore, part of a corporate chain, was already ensconced in The Mall. The Corporate Bookstore specialized in new, not used, items. So each bookseller appealed to a different part of the market. But The Corporate Bookstore didn’t want anyone else selling books in its vicinity; it had cornered the market at The Mall and was going to keep it that way. Apparently it had legal wording to back up its wishes.

So the Independent Bookstore never unpacked its boxes, never offered an alternative to shoppers who believe this country runs on free trade.

Trade in this country is only free if you can afford a good lawyer.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Covering Another Common Council Meeting

Overheard via telepathy: “Will it ever end? I wonder if Jack has one of those CIA suicide pills.”

Friday, December 14, 2007

Author M. Dylan Raskin Shares His Brilliant Wit And Deep Insights At The Koffee Kat

Nutshell review: “Blah-blah--excrement--blah-blah--morons--blah-blah-blah--excrement…”

Arts Versus Taxes

NCCCA Executive Director Susan Daul speaks from the podium, explaining why the Common Council should honor its previous vote and help NCCCA secure the Federal Building.

Both sides were out in force at the Common Council meeting Thursday evening.

On one side: people who want to keep their taxes low.

On the other side: people who value art, seeing beyond the need to always make the cost factor a prime concern.

And somewhere between the two sides are those who want more discussion.

Background to the controversy: last year the Common Council was in favor of letting the North Country Cultural Center for the Arts – NCCCA – have first crack on the Federal Building on Brinkerhoff Street when the Feds finally move out. NCCCA would combine the building with the Strand, connecting it with a walkway, thus forming a cultural complex that would provide a variety of activities such as art classes.

Mayor Donald Kasprzak prefers to put the building back on the tax rolls, selling it to a for-profit entity. But as he and others pointed out during the meeting, in one way any discussion about the building is premature until certain requirements are met with the Feds, e.g., it must be offered as low cost housing.

The pro-NCCCA side wants the Common Council to honor its unanimous vote last year in favor of the Arts Center taking over the Fed building. NCCCA had expected everything was settled, planning ahead to use the building, until Mayor Kasprzak tossed a political monkey wrench into the mix.

At times sitting in the audience during the Common Council meeting was like attending a sporting event. The Nay side would score and there was applause. But then the Yea side made a point and its followers would applaud.

The person next to me, knowing that I was with the Yea/pro-NCCCA side, nudged me to join in the applause. But that’s hard to do with a notepad and camera in hand. I was there to document, to make observations. I’m not into politics or sports; just journalism of the citizen kind.

Councilor George Rabideau gestures as he explains why his
POV regarding the NCCCA and the Federal Building has changed since last year.

At one point the Yea side took a shot when Councilor George Rabideau discussed an email he wrote last year to Sylvia Stack, President of the NCCCA, saying that he supported the Arts Center cause. Councilor Michael Drew, who was pushing for a resolution to help NCCCA, mentioned the email when he had the floor.

Councilor Rabideau became particularly animated when he spoke about the email. He appeared a bit upset that the personal correspondence was being used to argue in favor of NCCCA’s plan. Yes, he stated, he did support NCCCA at that time. But now he was with the Nay crowd.

Why? Because, said Rabideau, things changed after July 2006 when the City of Plattsburgh learned in December 2006 that it was facing a big debt and had to raise taxes. Taxpayers were lined outside the Common Council chambers back then, angry over the hit they were going to take. He added that tax increases are a primary concern of his constituents.

But the Yea crowd held in there. Councilor Michael Drew offered to modify the wording of his resolution, saying that the city would offer its support in the efforts of NCCCA to gain the Federal Building. The pro-NCCCA side won, four councilors voting Yes, two voting No.

But the issue isn’t quite over. New councilors are coming on board next year; they will have their takes on the issue. And the city still has to meet with the GSA in regards to what hurdles have to be jumped in getting possession of the Federal Building when it’s vacated in August 2008.

In one way everyone was on the same side. During the meeting a pol on the Nay side would point out, “Hey, don’t get me wrong, I’m for the arts.” The individual would mention that he played a musical instrument in his younger years or dutifully attended a son’s concert. Apparently not supporting the arts is almost as heinous as not supporting the troops.

So the future will tell how much real help the arts will get from city leaders. Besides NCCCA, the only place you can find active culture in Plattsburgh is in a cup of yogurt at the supermarket.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Snow Removal Law Not A Done Deal

Bureaucracy. Ya gotta love it.

The City of Plattsburgh has been pushing a new law requiring a property owner to clear snow from sidewalks adjacent to his land. But the law won’t be in effect until the Department of State verifies and files it. This is supposed to happen in a couple of weeks.

I won’t be surprised if it takes longer. After all, it’s the end of the year, the holiday season and all that crap. And maybe the Department of State can’t rubber stamp the law until it’s reviewed by the State Department. And maybe the State Department is required to kick it over to the United Nations…

And take note: if the new law is passed, it will be “complaint driven.” When addressing the problem during his reign, former mayor Dan Stewart claimed that Public Works would “scour” the city to search and destroy – I mean clear – any unshoveled sidewalks. Then the scofflaws would be billed.

It doesn’t work that way with the proposed law. You, John or Jane Q. Public, have to call and report violations to either Public Works or the Building Inspectors office. Apparently city employees are too visually impaired to notice snow piled along a stretch of sidewalk. Their unfortunate condition must be the result of snow blindness.

So, as a public service, here’s the contact info to file a complaint:

Building Inspector
Richard Perry, Supervisor
41 City Hall Place
Phone: 563-7707
fax: 563-3645

Public Works
Mike Brodi, Superintendent of Public Works & Recreation
215 Idaho Ave
Phone: 563-6841

And as far as I know, you don’t have to ID yourself when making a complaint. So there’s no reason not to write or call to turn in a scofflaw.

Unless you’re suddenly struck by snow blindness.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

School Safety?

The crosswalk on Margaret Street for the Oak Street School. While the city has cleared to the entrance on the west side, the last part of the crosswalk on the east side remains packed in with snow. Another snowfall and the school kids might have to walk around in the street to use the sidewalk.

This isn’t the first winter I’ve photographed the same problem at this spot.

When it comes to snow removal, shouldn’t the City of Plattsburgh be leading by example?

Friday, December 07, 2007

Unshoveled Glazed Sidewalks Facilitate Downtown Perambulations

How effective is the city’s crackdown on unshoveled sidewalks in its downtown area? Consider this photographic evidence.

The property owners responsible for these uneven, slippery sections must be out of town, enjoying that Florida sun. So why should they care?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

City Threatens; Scofflaws Yawn

Property owners must shovel snow from sidewalks adjacent to their properties 24 hours after a storm or suffer the consequences!

Or so proclaimed the City of Plattsburgh with a new law that would bill property owners on their tax bills for snow removal. And while most have been good neighbors, some just still shrug it off as a boring detail.

The intersection of Miller and Elm streets. These shots are almost identical to the ones I took last winter. Sidewalks remained unshoveled and pedestrians, afraid to walk in the street, have tamped down the snow. The trouble with such condensed snow is that it can form an icy glaze on top, resulting in slip and trip. A person slips, then takes a trip to the ER.

And what about this spot between the billboard and the railroad tracks on Miller Street? Who’s responsible for clearing this stretch off? The railroad company? The billboard owner? God?

And I hope they nail the scofflaw who didn’t clean up this sidewalk on Miller Street behind the Press-Republican newspaper building. Some time ago I checked into who is responsible for maintaining this section. The responsible party? No, not the Press-Republican.

It’s the City of Plattsburgh.

Reflecting On Art

If you’re in downtown Plattsburgh, there are a couple of art exhibits you can check out.

The North Country Cultural Center for the Arts (NCCCA) is running a members’ exhibit this month. Various media are represented: painting, photography, ceramics, etc. Located at 30 Brinkerhoff Street in the old Merchants Bank building, the NCCCA is open Monday through Friday 9 am to 4 pm and Saturday, from 11 am to 4 pm.

And also, just up from the street from the NCCCA, the Plattsburgh Public Library is featuring a photography exhibit in the Walter-Hale Gallery until January 25th. The library is located on the corner of Brinkerhoff and Oak streets.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Ethics & The Loophole

Search engine queries can lead into some interesting areas. Especially gray ones.

I was looking for some information on a company that wants to build student housing in Plattsburgh when the name Karen Hitchcock popped up. I was puzzled. Why would this former president of the University of Albany be linked to that company?

I ended up reading a few articles that appeared in the Albany Times-Union and the New York Times newspapers back in 2005. They revealed the existence of The Loophole.

If a state employee was being investigated on ethics charges, he could effectively stop the inquiry by quitting or resigning. All ethics investigations could only be conducted while the accused collected a state paycheck.

Karen Hitchcock resigned from UAlbany back in 2004, taking another position in Ontario, Canada. After her resignation it was revealed she was being investigated on ethics charges in regards to her connection with a local developer. The developer, Walter Uccellini, is the founder of the United Group of Companies. That’s why Hitchcock’s name appeared in my search engine hits.

An allegation was made that Hitchcock was trying to push building projects for Uccellini in exchange for Uccellinni to endow a university professorship for her to fill.

Hitchcock has denied any wrongdoing. She has stated she would like to see a full, impartial inquiry to clear her name. But since she left her UAlbany position, the ethics inquiry was stopped.

Of course, some speculate that Hitchcock took advantage of The Loophole to avoid any penalties if the ethics board ruled against her.

So it’s an open question: What really happened with Hitchcock and her dealings with Uccellini?

Talk about a gray area.

Before leaving office, former Governor George Pataki signed a law that closed The Loophole. The Ethics Commission can now pursue any complaints even if employees leave the state payroll.

This doesn’t change the situation for Karen Hitchcock. Maybe she could get another NY State job and restart the ethics probe.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Hey, Dude! Where's My Hotel?

On The Ball

This post is an issue about “the issue.”

I try to keep up with local events, reading different sources. Sometimes coverage in Cardinal Points, the student newspaper at SUNY-Plattsburgh, is more complete than the Press-Republican.

In the latest CP, 11/30/07, there’s an article on page A3 headlined “St. John’s student housing plans stalled.” It deals with the controversy over the student housing project being promoted by the United Group of Troy. The new complex would house around 400 students.

As explained in a previous post (“Combat Zone: Peace Or Profit?”), Center City residents want a change in the zoning regulations to alleviate the concentration of so many college students in their neighborhood. This change would limit 3, not 4, unrelated individuals to an apartment unit.

In the CP article John Ball, Chief Operating Officer for United Group, claims that such a change could kill his company’s plans. For the project to be profitable, each suite needs four renters.

Ball contends that the new student housing wouldn’t create new problems; it would solve an old one by offering student housing of a higher quality.

At one point in the article it’s stated that Ball finds the entire process regarding the proposed zoning ordinance to be foreign, a mystery. He says that when United Group approached other cities with housing projects, the issue was never brought up.

If he means by “the issue” the number of students per suite, then in that sense Ball is right as far I can tell from my research. But if he means concern about the total number of students or talk about zoning changes, then there’s more to the story, at least in Oswego.

A previous post, "United Against United Group In Oswego,” detailed how the city of Oswego killed a student housing plan that had been pushed by Ball’s company. Citizens didn’t want a high concentration of students – 300 to 400 - in their neighborhood.

There was talk of rezoning to keep the project out of Oswego. In the end the owner of the property for the proposed site agreed to a deed restriction so his land couldn’t be used for high-density housing, effectively blocking the United Group project. The owner had a choice of a deed restriction or face the possibility of being rezoned.

Obviously United Group had encountered zoning issues in Oswego and also heard complaints from some Oswegonians about having a high concentration of students in one area.

And John Ball should know about all of this since he traveled to Oswego to pitch the project, discussing the details in a public forum with city residents.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

United Against United Group In Oswego

It’s been rough sledding for the United Group in Oswego.

United Group is the Troy-based company that wants to build student housing in the City of Plattsburgh. There are been some opposition to the plan because the project conflicts with a proposed change in the zoning laws.

Center City residents are tired of the problems caused by unruly college students and want to limit the number of students living in an apartment unit to three, not four as United Group wants. But the opposition the company has encountered so far in Plattsburgh is nothing compared to what it has faced in Oswego where it has been trying to push through a similar student housing project.

According to various articles published in the Syracuse Post-Standard newspaper, the United Group’s first plan was to build in the city of Oswego. But that project was killed last year when citizens near the proposed site rallied, signing petitions, putting pressure on their elected officials.

These citizens were against a concentration of students – ranging from 300 to 400 – being placed in the midst of their quiet neighborhood.

There was even talk about rezoning to block the project. Faced with rezoning, the landowner of the proposed site agreed to a deed restriction limiting the size of any development on his property.

So United Group moved the project closer to the SUNY-Oswego campus, leaving the city behind and moving on to the town. This time the number of students to be housed has jumped to 600. But citizens in the town of Oswego are against the project. They had a lawyer challenge the decision by the town’s zoning board to approve the project, but a state Supreme Court judge ruled back in August that the decision was legal.

That’s one hurdle jumped but a few more remain for United Group, including a site review and traffic and environmental studies.

It’s interesting that when United Group made its presentation in Plattsburgh that it mentioned it had a project pending in Oswego. The company didn’t explain how pending it was.

Monday, November 19, 2007

On The Loose Again

Apparently this building doesn’t want to cooperate. A while back it sluffed off some of its stonework, the chunk hitting the sidewalk. Fortunately no one was hurt.

The city building inspector looked over the building and other stonework sections were removed before disaster struck. Now the roof is acting up.

And while not as potentially nasty as falling stonework, this roof strip could give someone a noticeable headache.

Instead of building new stuff, it’s time for the city to maintain what it already has. The average tourist is unimpressed by the sight of decrepit buildings falling apart – especially when one such building drops a piece of itself on the tourist’s poor skull.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Tracking The Details

On paper it sounds good. The proposed student housing on the Saint John’s Academy property would have employees on site plus resident advisers, all to keep an eye on things.

The developer, United Realty Management Corp. of Albany, said it would have five or six personnel on grounds, including a manager. This makes an interesting contrast to the stories of absentee landlords in Center City who collect their rent and do little to maintain their properties or handle problems caused by some tenants.

But plans change.

Maybe I’m a bit too skeptical, but I remember the incident of the bar that wasn’t going to be a bar. Back in the day when the city (supposedly) was upset with too many drinking holes, there was a businessman who fought to establish another one downtown. The businessman said his place would be different. It would also offer coffee; he would install special coffee-making machines to serve caffeinated brew.

Or so he was quoted in a newspaper article. I visited his bar after it opened. It appeared to be just like all the other bars pushing alcohol. A hang-out serving cheap suds to college students.

I noticed a detail was missing. I asked the bartender where the coffeemakers were.

He grunted. “Maybe they’ll be installed next week,” he replied.

Apparently I was the only person who tracked the controversy about the bar. Or who noticed that specially brewed coffee was never served there.

United Realty could be really offering properly supervised student housing. But projects make adjustments along the way due to budgetary or other considerations. Maybe United Realty could make its business plan freely available, showing the payroll line items for the full time on-site personnel. And from there inform the city about any changes with these items.

Personally, I’d like to see if there's a line item for coffeemakers.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Combat Zone: Peace or Profit?

It’s a matter of numbers. Three versus four.

For decades citizens in Plattsburgh’s Center City have seen the character of their neighborhood deteriorate. Theft, vandalism, noise. Landlords have converted one family homes into apartments for student housing. This means that some unruly transients end up ruining the quality of life for the permanent residents.

Some of the Center City residents have taken action. They don’t want their area to remain a combat zone.

These residents pay their taxes, obey the law. They work within the system, trying to create needed changes.

Citizen activist Nancy Monette and others have pushed for a proposed change in the law that would limit three unrelated people in an apartment unit as a functional family. This proposal, say its advocates, makes student housing less profitable, removing the incentive to convert properties into such housing. In turn, fewer students would be concentrated in one neighborhood.

Less profit = less students = less problems.

Monette states other communities find the ordinance to be very effective. Some have even reduced the number of unrelated renters down to two.

If it works elsewhere in other college towns, it should work in Plattsburgh.

But the three per unit proposal has hit a snag. Mayor Donald Kasprzak wants to review it.

Why? Because a developer from Albany plans to build student housing on Broad Street, the southern border of The Combat Zone. The developer says he needs four students per unit or the project won’t be profitable. The mayor favors the project because it will generate tax revenue.

This is the same mayor who stated that Center City residents have tolerated unruly college students for too long.

But if he kills the three per unit proposal, conflict will continue, no decrease. Citizens who worked so hard to bring changes in the law will once again feel betrayed.

There won’t be peace in The Combat Zone.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Touring The Combat Zone

A winter night. Walking through the central neighborhood of Plattsburgh, on my way to a college event. Groups of young people on each side of the street, throwing flaming toilet paper at each other.

A warm, sunny day. Walking down a sidewalk in Center City. I easily notice across the street three young guys who have flipped a car over in a driveway. Shouting, screaming, swearing, they’re kicking away on the car, one beating it with a baseball bat, windows cracked and shattered. Gas pours out all over the ground.

For decades Center City has suffered from the plight of unruly college students. And while those students are in the minority, it’s a potent minority. So few cause so much trouble.

But there’s profit to be made if you’re a landlord. Buy a one family house, chop it into apartments, and rent them out to college students. House by house the character of the neighborhood changes. Vandalism and noise. Rudeness reigns. Come home and find a college couple getting ready to couple behind your hedges. Or enter your bedroom and find a complete stranger, a drunken college student, passed out in your bed. (Make sure to check the sheets for vomit.)

Taxpayers who reside in Center City complain. Complain to the mayor, the police chief, the college president. Lately some of these issues have been coming to a head. Advocates are pushing for something to be done. But they run up against the money angle. Landlords and developers want to make a profit on their investments. The city wants to collect taxes on those investments.

But what about the enforcement of zoning, civil, and criminal laws to control the problems? Once again: it’s a matter of money. The city has a limited budget; it doesn’t have enough building inspectors and police officers to handle the situation.

So Center City remains plagued by vandalism and noise and litter and overall disrespect.

Welcome to The Combat Zone.

Friday, November 02, 2007


At least one downtown establishment in Plattsburgh decided to fix up its deteriorating fa├žade, replacing moldy molding with fresh material. Even though the upgraded molding hasn’t been painted yet, it looks a lot better than the dry-rotted crap that was falling all over the sidewalk.

Now if only other building owners would follow this example, especially when they house businesses that are offering classy services…

Thursday, November 01, 2007

A Classy Entrance

Even at night certain details stand out, pointing to a neighborhood sliding into a slum area. Daylight just makes the details easier to spot.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Autumn Spectrum

No car. Traveling limited by foot. I have to work within the confines of the city, especially when shooting fall scenes. I enjoy autumn photography that emphasizes nature over man. The less man-made objects in an image the better.

Usually this means that a few leaves end up representing the season instead of grand mountains and forests ablaze with color. But I do end up with shots that others overlook.

[More fall images can be found at my website, . Check under HEADLINKS or use this direct link to the page.]

Sunday, October 21, 2007

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Do you see the problem in the following image?

No? OK, let’s take a second look with a couple of special marks.

Red arrow: Sewage treatment plant.

Green arrow: Proposed site for new hotel.

Still don’t see the problem? Then one more image:

Soup’s on!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Vision Of A Clown

Irrational. Completely irrational.

Who would ever seriously consider putting an upscale hotel next to a sewage treatment plant? Did they think the letters P.U. were only an abbreviation for public utility?

And besides that, why did the City of Plattsburgh go ahead and prepare the lakeside lot before a firm deal was in place to build the hotel-conference center?

Mucho bucks were spent to have the area cleaned up. Also, the ground was compacted to support the new structure and even a parking lot was installed, complete with fancy lampposts. But still no hotel: it remains a pipe dream. (Well, at least the empty parking lot gives seagulls a place to hang out.)

What caused this madness? The story heard on the street (OK, it was actually heard in a back alley) is that supernatural intervention triggered the inexplicable inanity.

One sunny afternoon a former city leader was down by the lake, drinking away on a twelve pack of Neutron Bomb Malt Liquor he had purchased with a city credit card. Suddenly a vision rose up in front of him: a circus clown 902 feet tall. The city leader dropped his can (and also his bladder).

With a raspy ethereal voice the Great Clown boomed: “In my name build a hotel here.”

And with the pop of a clown hammer the vision disappeared.

If anything is going to motivate someone to make rash decisions, it has to be a 902-foot-tall clown.

Incredible, you say? Can’t be true? Well, there are those who say that if you stand at the right spot in the parking lot built for the nonexistent hotel, you can see the Great Clown, even snap a photo of it.

Of course, photos can be faked. And as for those who see the towering clown, maybe history repeats itself a la the Oracle of Delphi. But instead of inhaling intoxicating gas from beneath the earth, they’ve been breathing a surfeit of fecal miasma from the sewage treatment plant.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Enough Already!

This image was taken on October 2nd, four weeks before Halloween. They’re already trying to get people into the materialistic feeding frenzy of the so-called holiday season.

It used to be the Xmas crap didn’t start up until after Thanksgiving. Now some stores have to beat out Halloween. If you notice in the image, you can see part of a Halloween display on the left side; it isn’t as prominently located as the Xmas lawn ornaments. It won’t be long before they start pumping holiday “music” through the PA systems. You won’t be able to escape the same sugary tunes ad nauseam.

And people wonder why I hate Xmas so much.

(Note to morons: No, I’m not Jewish. If you don’t like my anti-Xmas comments, move to the North Pole.)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Macro: Near-Far

My compact digital camera allows close focusing on a small object with the wide-angle setting. I can set up some interesting shots with extreme perspective distortions between foreground and background objects.

This fallen berry is keeping an eye on the firehouse on Cornelia Street.

It’s so easy to enhance the beauty of Clinton Street. Just smash a beer bottle against a signpost. Instant art.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Can It!

Sometimes I like to photograph crushed aluminum cans in the street. Why? Because it’s a free country – or so I’ve been told.

I’m near the Post Office when I notice a crumpled cylinder in the gutter. The parking spot is free but when I get ready to shoot, a car pulls in. So I walk away for a while and wait for another chance.

When I come back another car has pulled into the spot but not as close to the curb as the first one. It’s a busy time of day for the Post Office, so I decide I might as well get the shot now.

I crouch to get the shot, my camera aimed straight down. Suddenly a woman appears – the owner of the car – and she pointedly asks me what I’m doing.

I’m sick of this routine. OK, if you’re curious or even concerned, how about inquiring with a civilized tone instead of challenging me like a criminal? Better yet, why don’t you say nothing and watch what I’m doing? If it turns out I’m doing something wrong, then call the cops.

This woman sees me crouch down with a camera behind her car and she immediately assumes I’m committing a transgression against her precious vehicle. What does she think I’m up to? Does she have something to hide? Is there a terrorist nuke strapped underneath her car?

Some people act stupid when they see a photographer. In their narrow minds human + camera = problem. But take away the human presence and they don’t think twice about being surveilled by a not so obvious camera, a spy eye without the immediate physical presence of its operator.

Wake up. You’re being watched, recorded. Sometimes this is necessary to prevent or cut down on crime. In some cases it’s Big Brother.

I’m not your problem. At least I operate out in the open. It’s what you don’t see that sees you that you should worry about.

Monday, October 08, 2007

State Fair: Milking Some Downtime

Afternoon in the dairy building at the New York State Fair. Peaceful, like an indoor pasture. Siesta time for both animal and human.

A dairy farmer works odd hours, long days on the homestead. And those days get odder and longer when it’s time to go to the fair and display livestock. Grooming, feeding and cleaning. Hoping that this year a ribbon might be won.

Hurry up and wait. Transport your prized cows to the fair, making sure to get set up in time. Then wait for the competition. Catch some rest when you can. Learn how to nap in a folding chair and ignore the city folk walking through, gawking. After all, most of them don’t think about all the effort to maintain a herd, trying to live on a narrow profit margin. City people probably think that milk is just made in a factory by a machine. But your sore back says otherwise.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

I’m A Skateboarder…

…and I can do whatever I want. I can set up a ramp and fly across Protection Alley. The Monopole building makes a blind spot and so I can’t see oncoming traffic when I sail into the street, but so what! I’ve got the right of way because I’m a skateboarder!