Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Vocal Patron Of The Arts

Nighttime. Warm. A great opportunity to take out my camera and tripod and do some time exposures. Interesting effects with the shutter held open for seconds.

A big pick-up truck approaches as I stand on the sidewalk, minding my own business. Someone in the truck yells as it speeds by:

“You f***ing a**hole! Go back home with that camera!”

That’s what I like about Plattsburgh, NY. So many cultured people.

No ignorant rednecks. You know the ilk, sloped forehead and crossed eyes, the result of inbreeding for ten generations, first cousins only.

People who live to fart, not for art.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Plattsburgh Celebrates Earth Day

Sunny. Warm. A bit breezy. Springtime in Plattsburgh. A good day for the Earth Day events.

I heard it before I saw it. Glass against concrete. It was a beer bottle, its neck cracked off, rolling down the sidewalk on Main Street, the wind moving it along. I could see the impact point a few feet away, glass shards. The bleeding contents left a trail. The bottle had probably been tossed out from a passing car.

Ah, springtime in Plattsburgh.

Art Walk No Cakewalk

:: Dinner time. You’re sitting at table in a restaurant, digging into your meal. Someone walks up, stands next to your table. He stares over you at the art hanging on the wall. He leaves. Someone else comes up and looks over your shoulder at the art. It becomes difficult to enjoy your meal.

:: You know the Second Annual Downtown Plattsburgh Art Walk is scheduled today from 4 to 6 PM. One of the venues listed in the brochure is the public library. But you can’t see the art on display during the last hour of the event because -- as usual –- the library closes at 5 PM on Saturday.

:: Someone mentions the Spring Art Walk to you. Art Walk? What’s that?

The Art Walk is a good concept but once again the execution has been lacking. Last year I mentioned to a person involved with the project that it shouldn’t run during the dinner hour because some restaurants are busy serving customers, not focused on culture vultures. Obviously my logical suggestion was ignored.

And with my background in PR (public relations, not Press-Republican – please!), you have to get the info out at least a week before. I didn’t see an Art Walk poster until the day before the event, just one in the front window at the used bookshop.

Besides promotion, communication is key. The public library didn’t know it was supposed to stay open later or have green balloons outside indicating an Art Walk venue or have free refreshments ready. It was busy with its book sale.

Minor details, eh?


I found this little guy crawling around a crosswalk button. I was able to snap four shots before I entered his circle of fear. He quickly responded by flying away. Since he was so dark and tiny he was hard to spot when he walked along the black line but was obvious against the yellow paint.

I did use a photo-editing program (GIMP) to sharpen him up; my depth of field was so shallow that he ended up a bit too fuzzy, just on the edge of the DOF.

Click on each image for a larger view.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Let’s Go Free-Range

Only four parked cars. Plenty of unused spaces. What a waste.

The parking lot where the Sunbright Laundry used to stand on Margaret Street points to a key problem with parking in the downtown Plattsburgh area.

After the Sunbright building was demolished and hauled away, there was free parking on the lot. Then the property owner stated charging for parking, $16 a week. Now less people park there, especially employees at the main Post Office on Miller Street.

So where did the postal employees go with their cars? Over to the residential section of Miller Street where parking was still free, without any time restrictions such as two hours.

Of course, the owner at the former Sunbright site has the right to charge for parking. And the postal employees have the right to park where they have relocated on Miller. But the extra cars parking on Miller sometimes cause problems for the residents who live there. Some cars park too close to a narrow driveway, making it difficult for a resident to pull into traffic. Also, on a busy day cars line up on both sides of the street, making the passageway narrower for two-way traffic.

It’s said that there’s no problem with parking in the downtown area, only the perception of one. But the shift from the lot on Margaret over to Miller Street proves that the “perception” excuse is really unperceptive.

There are other downtown lots that also charge for parking but remain under-used. Shoppers like the convenience of free parking, lots of options, at the shopping centers and the mall. They don’t have to worry about a ticket after two hours. The shift in the parking pattern by the postal employees proves that there’s a need for more unrestricted feeless parking. People need convenient parking.

The city should think about free lots with no time limits as a way to draw more people downtown. Obviously not much income is being generated from the for-pay lots.

And as for the problem on Miller Street: why not limit parking to one side of the street? How about white-striping permitted parking areas and yellow X-ing out the ones where they cause problems with a driveway?

There’s a need for a proper balance between restricted and unrestricted parking.

Free-range works for growing healthy chickens. Downtown could use some free-range parking for a healthier economy. Give drivers more options. A bit of freedom.

Skid Mark

Monday, April 20, 2009

Beware: I’m A Denim Clad Parasite

Gene Lyons thinks I’m a leech.

Here’s the key sentence from his latest syndicated column dealing with the decline of newspapers:

“Many bloggers and Internet commentators smugly anticipating the death of newspapers –-there’s definitely generational edge to the rivalry –- are essentially parasites.”

I’m not exactly “smug” about newspapers losing their dominance in the media. I hate seeing so many people being thrown out of work by greedy and incompetent corporations.

But with independent blogging I don’t have to reply on the local paper to approve any comment I want to get out to the public. I don’t have to worry that my letter is the proper length. I don’t have to wait weeks for it to be published, especially when such a delay means my comment loses its topicality.

I’m guessing that Gene is calling some bloggers “parasites” because we use newspaper articles to provide the background info we need for posting. Of course, if a newspaper uses my blog material for its own use, it’s not parasitic.

As for the “generational edge to the rivalry” – hey, I’m no teenager. Bloggers come in a variety of shapes, colors and ages.

Another conservative pissant, George Will, doesn’t want me to wear bluejeans.

In his last column entitled “Demon Denim” (4/16/09) Will describes the “sad tableau” of seeing dad, mom, and their kids wearing jeans. He goes on about some wing-nut writer named Daniel Akst who thinks that the popularity of denim is “symptomatic of deep disorders in the national psyche.”

George pretentiously observes: “Denim is the clerical vestment for the priesthood of all believers in democracy's catechism of leveling -- thou shalt not dress better than society's most slovenly. To do so would be to commit the sin of lookism -- of believing that appearance matters.”

He advises that “sartorial good taste” means that men should dress like Fred Astaire, women like Grace Kelly. He invokes the names of dimly remembered gods from antiquity. The Old Ones.

I wear jeans because I’m not easy on clothes. I’m not going to spend money on dressy clothes to look good when they don’t hold up as well. I’m usually banging around with my camera, sometimes going low for a shot when my back permits. That means kneeling on a sidewalk or the ground. What looks worse –-jeans a bit dirty and scraped up or dress pants in the same condition?

I dress for myself, not for some self-important conservative priss like George Will.

To Gene and George I have the same comment:

“Take a nap, old man. You’re too grumpy.”

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Leaders Of Tomorrow!

When I have doubts about the future of mankind, I pick up the student newspaper from Plattsburgh State University College. Within its pages I find reassurance.

In the latest issue of Cardinal Points (4/17/09) there is a front-page article about PSUC students and their grasp of current events. A roving reporter on campus gave a quiz, five questions. There was this one: “What state recently passed a bill legalizing gay marriage?”

Vermont is just across the lake. A glance at regional headlines provides the gist of leading events over there. But the gay marriage vote was covered in the national news, giving less of a reason for someone to miss that story.

Anyway, when asked what state recently passed a gay marriage bill, a PSUC student replied: “Australia.”

Another student was asked: “Who is the governor of New York?”

The reply: “I know what he looks like.” But she didn’t have a name, not even a first or last one.

But she did better than a male student whose response was “(clueless expression).”

In another section, “What’s The Buzz?,” a roving reporter asked students what was the most interesting bathroom graffiti they had ever seen.

One freshman girl answered: “I like the bathroom graffiti that shows affection between a couple.”

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Pioneer Motel And Public Perception

It’s not as famous as the Bates Motel in Pyscho but the Pioneer Motel, located near Plattsburgh, NY, is part of film history, notably serving as a movie setting.

Recently it was a location in the independent movie, Frozen River. The crime suspense drama depicts a poor North Country mother, needing money to support her children, who meets a Mohawk woman involved in the human smuggling trade. Together they bring undocumented aliens into the US from Canada through the Mohawk reservation that straddles both countries. The passengers concealed in the car trunk are dropped off at the Pioneer Motel.

But this isn’t the first time the Pioneer has appeared on the silver screen. There’s a France-Canada co-production released in 1979 called A nous deux, or Adventure For Two. It starred Catherine Denueve, playing an upper class whore, on the run from the law with a clever crook portrayed by Jaques Dutronc. I saw this classic on a Canadian TV station some time ago and while I don’t speak French, I think I figured out most of the details, especially when some lines in English were included.

After escaping from the law in France, Denueve and Dutronc flee to Montreal and then head south into the US. They end up at the Pioneer Motel.

I remember coverage in the newspaper and on TV about the movie around the time of the local filming. The owner of the Pioneer was wary of letting any film company, especially one from France, using his establishment. He wasn’t familiar with the international fame of actress Catherine Deneueve. He suspected the movie people might be making a certain type of movie for an adult (i.e., prurient) audience.

But he went along with the film company and nothing in the movie made the Pioneer Motel look bad.

The New York State Police also agreed to work with the film crew. It’s too bad they weren’t wary about what they were getting into. Concerned about how their job performance is publicly perceived, police officers sometimes don’t appreciate how they’re portrayed in the movies. And after watching A nous deux, I can understand why.

While hiding out at the Pioneer, Denueve and Dutronc find themselves surrounded by state police cars, red lights flashing, a trooper on a bullhorn telling them (in English, of course) to surrender.

No way out. At least in real life. But this is a movie…

Dutronc tells the cops that he and Deneuve aren’t alone. He lies, saying that they have taken another couple hostage. The cops better play along and give them a couple of cars to get away or the hostages will suffer the consequences.

So the troopers bring in a couple of cars. “OK,” says the trooper in command on his bullhorn. “Bring out the first hostage.”

Dutronc comes holding a woman by her arm, her features disguised with a jacket thrown over her head. He puts her in the car, then gets in and drives away.

“OK,” says the trooper with the bullhorn, “bring out the other hostage.”

Time passes. Crickets chirp. Nothing happens.

There’s a close-up of the trooper in command. “Oh, I get it,” he says after his brain has slowly processed the details and figured out the deception. By this time Deneuve and Dutronc are miles away.

Great way to mold public perception, huh?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Native Intelligence

I’m walking down the sidewalk, a sunny afternoon, minding my own business. Up ahead is a bar, its front porch close to the street. Some scruffy beer-swilling guys are standing outside on the deck, smoking cigarettes, jawboning.

A woman wearing tight bluejeans comes out of the bar. Her car is parked in the lot near the sidewalk. The passenger side window is open; she leans in to retrieve something from the front seat.

One of the men on the deck looks at me and yells: “Bite her ass!” He repeats the phrase to make sure that I heard him.

Obviously these men were taking a break from a meeting of the local chapter of the Mensa Society.

Incomplete Sign

This sign near a Plattsburgh elementary school entrance prohibits trespassing.

It forgot to prohibit something else.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Wipe Plattsburgh Off On The Map

News item: Plattsburgh, NY makes the best toilet paper.

Consumer Reports magazine rated Quilted Northern Ultra Plush bath tissue as number one when compared to 13 other major brands. Out of a total score of 100, QNUP rated a 79 overall. It had a very good rating on strength and disintegration, an excellent rating on softness and ease of tear.

Apparently Sean Fallman, president of North American consumer products for Georgia-Pacific, was flushed with victory. He stated this recognition by Consumer Reports “is a true testament to great product design and quality manufacturing.” More details on QNUP are rolled out at www.quiltednorthern.com.

So all you readers out there in cyberspace: buy Quilted Northern Ultra Plush today! The economy in the Plattsburgh area is always depressed; help out and make it less depressing. Save Plattsburgh from a downward spiral.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A Penguin And A Tigger Walk Into A Bar Coffeehouse

Q: What's the occasion?

A: Boredom.

"Bug Off, Man!"

"You shutterbugs with your big cameras
really bug me, man."

"Frisky" Headline

Press-Republican, front page, Thursday, April 9, 2009:

"Gas-tank frisk at border reveals marijuana stash"

I didn't know that a gas tank could be frisked. Maybe this one was wearing clothing and the marijuana was detected during a pat down.

Unlike PR editors I have a dictionary at hand when writing. I try to be accurate with my word usage and definitions.

Most dictionaries define frisk (as used in the headline) as a quick tactile inspection of a suspect's clothing for concealed weapons or stolen articles. One dictionary said the word could be broadly used as a verb to mean searching quickly. If the headline writer meant frisk in the sense of a quick search, then the term is still incorrect. I suspect the inspection by the border officers was methodical, not cursory.

Or maybe the officers were frolicking and gamboling with the tank and that's how the stash was discovered.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Dog_hit At City Hall

Mr. Mayor. City Councilors. It’s in your backyard. Isn’t it about time to do something about this chronic problem? Either step up –- or step in it.

Reality Check

Last Sunday afternoon I encountered some young marchers making a statement as they made their way around downtown.

Founded in 2001 and operated by the NY State Department of Health in Albany, the youth program isn’t against smokers. Instead, it focuses on how Big Tobacco manipulates people to pick up the cigarette habit, such as the way smoking is depicted in Hollywood movies.

While cynics may scoff at such efforts between puffs, it’s good to see such an effort, especially as a counterpoint to greedy corporations who care more about profits than public health.

I’ve seen how cigarettes can kill. Slowly suffocating to death from emphysema. Or dying as metastasized cancer destroys body and brain. I would probably be dead by now if I had picked up the smoking addiction. Yes, some people can smoke during their lifetime and never suffer from it. But not everyone has such hardy stuff in his genetic makeup.

But at least most smokers are courteous enough to leave their butts in the proper receptacle before entering a building.

Or if they do leave a butt on the ground, it’s not as bad as a used syringe.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Juxtaposition: Foreground And Background

Foreground: Busted beer bottle. Typical Plattsburgh litter.

Background: Plattsburgh City Hall.