Monday, December 29, 2008

Ecchs At the Library

Maybe someone should stop in and borrow the book, “Picking Up After Your Dog For Dummies.”

Echhs Marks The Spots

The snow melts, revealing more “holiday cheer” on the sidewalk.

These doggie bits have been sitting near Maggie’s Restaurant on Margaret Street for days. Bon appetit!

Snow Job

Lately the job market in general can best be described in wintry terms: cold, bleak, gray.

Want a job that pays a dollar more than minimum wage? You’ll be left out in the cold, pal.

Times are tough again. I’ve seen this all before, especially during the Reagan Depression of the early 1980s. Back then you could pick up the local newspaper and see a photo showing 300 people waiting in line trying to get a job application at a new restaurant.

Walk up and down the mall, seeking a sales clerk job. Even if you fill out a form, you never hear back from the store.

So you try all the other stores scattered around town. At one place where I was more than qualified, I mentioned I was worth more than minimum wage pay per hour because of my work experience and background. The manager pointed to a stack of applications lying in a chair near his desk: “Well, those people are willing to work for minimum.”

Stand in line at the unemployment department and notice the pie chart on the wall. It breaks down the pay ranges in Clinton County. Roughly two-thirds of the chart is red, indicating minimum wage jobs.

Today in the Plattsburgh daily newspaper there was a display ad promoting the wonderful service it offers to jobseekers.

A young professional woman leans back in her office chair in the photo accompanying the ad. She’s looking up towards heaven, meditating, thinking about her future.

The copy reads: “You’ve done the soul searching. Now find a job that feeds it.”

The ad says that you’re unique and that you should get connected with an employer as unique as you. So use the newspaper’s online job listings and make that connection. It’s so easy.

What is the woman in the ad dreaming about? Maybe she wants to help others so she she’ll become UN diplomat, helping poor people in a downtrodden third world country. Then after a year or two she can become vice-president of the World Bank.

Lady, if you lose your secretarial job, you’ll be lucky to be working for tips at a pizzeria. You might find yourself living in third world conditions for a while. Unless your last name is Rockefeller or Kennedy, forget it.

Hard times mean a great market for greedy employers. Plenty of desperate people to exploit at low pay.

That’s why I cast a skeptical eye at any ad that infers changing jobs is as simple as changing socks.

Advertising: selling daydreams as reality.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Crapifying Citizen Journalism

Description versus prescription.

Citizen journalism. Originally it meant a natural, grassroots sort of activity: individuals using computers and the Web to write about what was important to them. No editors, no censorship, no traditional methods to be followed. Freedom of expression. The type of thing I do with this blog.

But like any mutation, if it can’t be stamped out or ignored, it must be subsumed.

There’s a newspaper - the Oakland Press in Pontiac, Michigan – offering a course in citizen journalism. [Link] But is it still citizen journalism if the mainstream media is prescribing, not describing, what it is?

The OP wants to train citizens in proper journalism and thus has created The Oakland Press Institute for Citizen Journalism. (Now there’s a distinguished name, eh?) Course graduates will have the opportunity to provide content to the OP, both in print and online.

Fine, but there are problems with this. Real citizen journalism started because “proper journalism” was failing to provide the news that people wanted. Mainstream outlets were gatekeepers, deciding what was publishable.

The Web, especially with blogs, opened up the world to everyday people. Traditional outlets were bypassed.

So let’s say a newspaper does train some “citizen journalists” to be used as a freelance pool. The paper will then have low-pay/no-pay creators to provide content. (Well, maybe seeing your byline is “payment” but that thrill soon wears off.)

It’s a great deal for any newspaper, especially with newspapers in such decline with advertising and readership. Rely on part-timers or volunteers to get free/low cost content. And these content providers – not aware of copyright law and terms like “work for hire” – could end up handing over all rights to their material for a pittance.

Sure, some original writing might get through. But all content has to be vetted by the newspaper. Too “original” and it’ll go in the circular file. The editors still have the power of thumbs up or down on submissions.

That’s isn’t citizen journalism. That’s co-option.

The next step will be colleges teaching CJ courses. Following the newspapers, they will prescribe, not describe, what citizen journalism is.

I'm waiting for the mainstream institutions to codify what “writogging” is.

Of course, accuracy, fairness, and plain old good writing are requirements for any form of expression. But to learn those basics, you don’t need a four-year college degree.

To blog or writog you don’t need a BA or a byline in your local newspaper.

What counts is the feedback from readers, not gatekeepers.

Dust Bunny Playpen

Aren’t they adorable? And they’re ready for adoption. Dust bunnies need minimum care – no water, just add some dirt now and then. Perfect pets.

Holiday Cheer On The Sidewalk

Main Street, downtown Plattsburgh, NY.

(No, it ain’t a gift from one of Santa’s reindeer. Santa picks up after his pets.)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Economy Stripped Bare

On the public bus, riding home.

Woman #1 was upset. Her employer was shutting down its business. Soon she would be unemployed, bills to pay.

“I’ll work as a stripper if I have to,” she declared.

Woman #2 understood her plight. “I used to dance at a men’s club. I had to; I had four kids.”

Woman #2 explained that until she found a better job, she danced but only topless, no full nudity. She made around $700 a night at a local club.

“But I’m not toned,” said Woman #1.

Woman #2 said that she wasn’t toned when she worked as an exotic dancer. “I had four kids,” she repeated.

Then the Helpful Guy joined the conversation, making it a three-way.

“I know where you can make some money dancing,” he said. “Go across the border to that Canadian men’s club.” But he did advise that the club was a front for prostitution. One time for his birthday he had the Around The World special there.

The bus pulled in to its last stop and the conversation ended.

How uplifting. America, The Land Of Opportunity.

Obviously the robust economy means that more people like Woman #1 are seeking out positions promoting good American morals. And who deserves the credit for this shift in the job market?

That family values president, George W. Boob.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Two More Rough Spots

There’s a sidewalk buried under this stretch of snow. Even though this section is on Miller Street behind the Press-Republican building, the last thing I heard was the city was responsible for keeping it open.

And here’s another snow-buried stretch right next door to the City Hall parking lot on Cornelia Street. The business that was in the building adjacent to the sidewalk has closed. So does that mean the property owner no longer has to clear the way?

I’ve heard that scofflaws are supposed to be fined when they don’t shovel. So how much money was raised by fines last winter? Was even one ticket given out?

A Corner On Stupidity

Every winter is a fight. Getting around Plattsburgh on foot. Cold temps, slippery conditions, exposed to the raw elements – the problems car drivers don’t have to worry about while enclosed in their climate-controlled protective boxes.

What makes the long hard slog a lot easier is when sidewalks are cleared of snow as required by the city. Most people have done this with the last storm. Thanks.

But there’s always a few that don’t get it. For example, take the property on the corner of Cornelia and Margaret streets where a hair salon used to operate. Next to that building there’s a for-pay parking lot. The snowplow did an excellent job of scraping that lot clean – while blocking the sidewalk.

Today it’s a small hill that able-bodied people can step around or over. (If you’re a disabled person using a wheelchair or motorized scooter, you’re screwed.) After the next storm it’ll become a mountain.

And there’s the sidewalk on the Cornelia Street that hasn’t been shoveled. Pedestrians have been forced to walk in the street or tramp down a path on the concrete.

After all the complaints and news stories over the years, a property owner must be stupid – or just a rude jerk – for not clearing the sidewalks adjacent to his property. Then again, this corner lot featured ugly weeds all summer, so why worry about some snow? Time to talk with the turkey responsible.

Gee, how will the city be able to contact the scofflaw property owner?

And don’t forget: you can’t use the parking lot there during the winter unless you have a pair of permittens.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Combat Zone Story: “Brandy”

The frustration and anger pours out over the telephone. Decades of problems and no change, no solutions.

Vandalism, noise, litter, theft – even a threatening anonymous letter. Center City resident “Brandy” has been through it to the nth degree.

She’s not afraid to share her experiences but only up to a point. She uses the pseudonym Brandy because like many people in her neighborhood, she’s afraid that being too outspoken can make the situation even worse. A lesson quickly learned: Don’t attract attention.

“People ask me why I bother to make my house so beautiful,” she explains. “Why fix it up to have it trashed?”

Most of her neighbors have learned to stay below the radar of transient residents. They don’t spruce up their homes. A plain looking house might be left alone. And if you don’t complain about all the problems, the troublemakers will focus on someone else who does raise a stink.

In the Combat Zone a majority of the civilians have learned that the best way to deal with the ongoing conflict is to keep quiet, ride it out, and maybe someday the city will fix the problem.

Brandy says the problem will never be fixed.

“The college is the #1 economy around here since Plattsburgh Air Force Base closed,” she says. That creates a problem when trying to deal with unruly students who live off campus. The city can’t push too hard or it might ruin the benefits it receives from Plattsburgh State.

Brandy understands that the city police have a tough job. She praises them for a quick response time when she calls. But the follow-up to a crime is lacking. Reports are made and filed away. The Plattsburgh PD is understaffed and overworked; it can’t provide the time and energy needed to resolve some cases.

And when someone is caught, she observes, the judge acts too lenient. An offender will act regretful and the judge will let them off easy.

“Just make an example of one of them,” Brandy says. She adds that a special statement should be published at the beginning of the semester warning students that vandalism and other such infractions won’t be tolerated by the city.

Another area that needs attention is making landlords spend more time supervising their properties. A building manager should be around to make sure that renters are behaving and the property is being properly maintained.

But some landlords don’t care. They just collect rent from their transient boarders and let the longtime residents fend for themselves.

Brandy loves her home. She has poured her heart and soul into the historic building. She has raised a family there and now wants to live in the peace and quiet that she has worked for and earned over the years.

But the peace and quiet are constantly interrupted by stolen property, busted beer bottles, torn up flowers, and fornicating trespassers.

Brandy says she might refuse to pay her taxes in protest of how the city keeps ignoring the problems in her neighborhood. But after a long exhausting fight, she is also considering moving away.

And if she chooses that path, an outspoken voice in the Combat Zone will be completely silenced.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Downtown Cleanup: The 3 T's

The tools...

The team...

The trash...

Another Sign Of The Times

Add the church on Brinkerhoff Street to places that have to post signs because inconsiderate dog-owners are letting their pets crap all over without picking up after them.

And maybe Trinity Park needs bigger signs to get the point across about curbing dogs. Then again, even if the city put up a big billboard with flashing lights and a siren, there will always be a few idiots who will ignore the message. By the way, if you visit the veterans’ monument in Trinity Park to enjoy the Xmas lights recently strung around it, watch out for such frozen walnuts as those depicted above.

Answers? Install a dog park downtown and ban all dogs from other areas. Start licensing dogs to create funds so that the health codes can be enforced.

Or, instead, just watch your step. But don’t wonder why visitors to the area wrinkle their noses when downtown Plattsburgh is mentioned.

After all, image is everything. Especially when you have to scrape it off your shoe.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Ground Level Art

To many, bits of debris to be stepped over and ignored. To me, objet trouves.

(Click on each image for larger view.

The Dust Of Ages

(Click on image for larger view.)