Saturday, August 29, 2009

Woman Publicly Protests: Video

Woman Publicly Protests, Alleges Police Brutality

A summer night with an early autumn chill. Across the street near the MacDonough Monument a woman holds up handmade protest signs accented with tiny blue lights. She is excitedly talking with someone. Why is she so upset? Why such heat on a cool pleasant evening?

To get answers, ask questions.

I approach the woman, asking if is OK to photograph her. She agrees. I ask her why she is demonstrating. As I take still images and video, she explains she’s angry with an officer of the Plattsburgh Police Department for using excessive force when arresting her son.

The woman – who says her name is Andrea Provost – is emotional while making her claims. She states that a week ago, August 21st, at around 7 PM her son was arrested on a bridge. I ask which bridge. She gestures with a protest sign towards the Saranac River, indicating the footbridge that runs parallel to the railroad trestle.

Her son, Dustin Provost, she explains, was arrested for failure to pay child support. While she doesn’t condone all of her son’s actions, she said because she was Dustin’s mother, only she had the right “to kick his ass,” not the cops.

Andrea Provost wears a black t-shirt with a logo that is a variation on the “Got Milk?” promotion. It reads: “Got Guilt?” Two pairs of handcuffs hang from her right wrist.

One of her signs has a bootprint drawn on it. She claims that her son had a bootprint on his face for two days from the police overreacting. She adds that the police backed off when they noticed witnesses to their brutality. She asks that anyone who witnessed the incident to please come forward.

Some young people stop, listen to her for a while. They remain quiet, no comments or questions. I wonder how they regard the police and this woman’s allegations.

Andrea Provost won’t mention the name of the officer who she says hurt her son. She alleges that certain police officers had threatened her son, saying if they had a reason to get him, they would beat him up.

She sketches the outline of a cover-up. The arrest wasn’t mentioned in the Press-Republican. WPTZ-TV Channel 5 didn’t cover the incident because its anchorwoman, Stephanie Gorin, is married to the police chief. (Not the first time I heard this issue raised, the potential conflict of interest.) She also angrily claimed that the police prevented the hospital from taking photographs to document her son’s bruises, but x-rays were taken of his fractured wrists.

Like I said, heat on a cool evening.

So I asked questions, got some answers, and ended up with more questions. What really happened? I only got one part of the story, one POV. Maybe the Plattsburgh PD will respond and maybe the local mainstream media will look into it.

In the meantime, Andrea Provost stands out there with her unflattering protest signs that say “CITY POLICE YOU MAKE ME VOMIT” and “CITY POLICE: LET’S TALK; FACE TO FOOTPRINT.”

Freedom of speech in action. And a public relations problem.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Close, But Not Close Enough

If I only had a different camera with me, a DSLR with a fast telephoto zoom…

But all I had was my widget compact camera and so I have to make do with these images.

At least they give enough detail to help me ID the bird – almost. I’ve narrowed it down to a Downy or Hairy Woodpecker - maybe.

The other evening I was walking along when I heard short sharp chirps right next to me. A small tree laden with red berries stood between the sidewalk and the street. While audibly obvious, the source of the noise was visually shy, hiding within the tree’s leafy branches.

Suddenly something flew out, darting to the next red berry tree down the sidewalk. It looked like a woodpecker; time to take out the camera.

It was cloudy, not that much light, and zooming out my compact camera’s lens really slows it down (to f5.6 for you photo-techies). That meant a slow shutter, a real problem with handholding. So I had to zoom back, a smaller image, but even that was a trade off because to enlarge the image made the noise/unsharpness even more pronounced, as you can plainly see.

I had the ISO set to 100 and if I had the time I would’ve tried upping it to 400. But chasing this quick bird from tree to tree didn’t give me that opportunity. When he was hanging low on a trunk, he would dart around, playing peekaboo.

Besides visually, I’ve tried online to aurally ID him, playing back recordings, but the Hairy and Downy sound alike. Does anyone out know what species he is?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Feather Flophouse

“Hey, buddy – kill that flash! It's nighttime!
Let us doze and defecate in peace.
Fly off!”

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Another Pigeon Hole

The Strand marquee isn’t the only spot where messy pigeons like to roost. Check out the dilapidated building on Miller Street across from the Municipal Lighting Department.

The ceiling to the wraparound porch has sagging boards, leaving gaps. Chicken coop wire has been put up to keep out the defecating doves but there are other gaps allowing entry.

It’s ironical that this deteriorating property is only a short walk from City Hall and the Press-Republican offices. Check out the article at the P-R website entitled “Lakeside hit with dozens of violations,” Aug. 10th. It describes a tour of Lakeside Apartments with the mayor, police chief, and a P-R reporter surveying the sorry state of the complex. During the tour “a large chunk of roof” fell off.

But why go all the way out to Lakeside and raise a big stink while ignoring a building just as bad in the downtown area? In this case maybe City Hall and the P-R believe in NIMBY when it comes to pointing attention at a building rotting away.

Hang around this Miller Street eyesore long enough and maybe you’ll see a chunk of it falling off.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Stool Pigeons Still Rule The Roost

Apparently dumb defecating doves don’t take the hint.

As mentioned in a previous post, there was a problem with pigeons roosting inside the Strand marquee. Work was done, removing the signs and upper structure, leaving just the overhang.

But after all that effort, I noticed pigeon crap still underneath the marquee. Instead of carpet-bombing all over the sidewalk, the pattern was now in a rectangular shape, following the outer outline of the marquee.

Today I discovered why the problem has remained. The ceiling underneath was also removed, exposing metal brackets along the inside perimeter, perfect perches for the pigeons.

Now the mess is more concentrated, thanks to the brackets.

Solutions? Bend up the brackets or block them with wire mesh to prevent roosting. Or install those sharp metal spikes used on ledges to keep pigeons away.

And after that problem is fixed, hose down the sidewalk using some water and bleach with the vigorous application of a squeegee or a push broom with stiff bristles. Then take any tools used in the clean-up and drop them off at a hazmat disposal station.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pigeon Mess At The Strand: UPDATE

As I mentioned before, there was a pigeon problem at the strand, the fouling birds roosting in the marquee. Instead of sealing off the marquee, it appears the decision was made remove all the signs, the upper structure, and leave the overhang.

I regret that I wasn’t around when they hauled away the old signs. Years ago when the marquee was being upgraded, one side was open and unless I’m mistaken there was another marquee hidden inside, a triangular-shaped one pointing out from the building.

Anyway, no more roosting pigeons to carpet-bomb the sidewalk.

A Small Suggestion

In my previous post I discussed how difficult it was to find the phone number for the mayor’s office at the City of Plattsburgh website. Not to just complain, let me offer a practical solution. Just make a tiny modification to the homepage:

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Ms. Greene is an information ferret. She keeps digging until she gets what she wants.

For example, the city of Plattsburgh mayor’s office – what’s the phone number?

She checked a phonebook. Not there.

She went to the city’s website. Still couldn’t find the number.

That’s because the phone number isn’t listed where you think it would be, the City Resources and Departments link. Building inspector’s number, sure, but not the mayor’s.

I’m something of a data digger myself. I found the mayor’s number on the city’s site with some oddball clicking. The number is listed on the Message from the Mayor page, accessed through the About Plattsburgh link. Even then it was placed not under his name but that of his assistant, way at the bottom of the page. You had to read and scroll through the message to get to the number. If you gave up or nodded off while reading, too bad.

And as for the phonebook situation…

The Clinton County Area 2008-2009 phonebook published by Verizon does list the mayor’s office under the City of Plattsburgh in the white pages. Now go to the latest edition, 2009-2010 and you can’t find the City of Plattsburgh listings unless you realize that Verizon has split the white pages into residential and business listings. The city offices are now under the business white pages, including the mayor’s office.

Effing great job, Verizon, pulling a switch like that. (Looking for City Taxi in the new book? Business section.)

During the Space Age they put a man on the moon. But during the Information Age someone has to laboriously search out a phone number that should be readily available? Man can walk on the moon but he can’t contact another man?

Ms. Greene did get phone the number for the mayor’s office on her own. How? She availed herself of an arcane tool used by leading deep researchers.

She called someone who knew the number.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Halloween In August

Ankle Breaker?

Looks like a worker enlarged the hole around this water cap on a Brinkerhoff Street sidewalk and left it. When night falls, this might not be the easiest hazard to spot. How about an orange pylon over it or a bit of bright yellow spraypaint to mark it? Something to defend the city against a lawsuit if a pedestrian falls and sues.

After all, I keep hearing that the City of Plattsburgh has no money…

Pigeon Mess At The Strand

OK, around three weeks and it’s still there. Carpet-bombing by pigeons that were roosting in the old Strand marquee. The mess stretches across the width of the sidewalk. Is this supposed to be a key feature of the future arts corridor?

Time to hose it down and also to do a better job of sealing off the marquee from the defecating doves.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

How NOT To Curb Your Dog

Just another disgusting image from downtown Plattsburgh (AKA Dogtown). This was taken at Trinity Park.

As not to injure the sensibilities of certain readers, the image has been censored with my patented photo-editing process, Flora-dation.


I got the shot. A caterpillar crawling along the sidewalk into the grass. But the question remained: What kind was it? From its light green color I thought it might be the larva of a Luna Moth.

I searched with Google. Failure. I tried the public library, bugging the reference librarian. He used the digital card catalog, linking up with one of those old-fashioned things called books. Success.

According to Peterson First Guide to Caterpillars of North America (Amy Bartlett Wright, 1993) what I happened upon was indeed a moth caterpillar but one that would transform into a Cecropia (Hyalophora cecropia, for you Latin lovers).

As you can see, this particular larva is bizarrely built and imbued. There’s those black areas with white spots that look like dice or dominos, depending upon your angle of view. Notice the blue and yellow tubercles along its body? The yellow ones look like tiny birthday candles. And the four red tubercles near its head with their bristles make it look poisonous, unsafe to touch. There are a few caterpillars that can irritate bare skin, producing a rash, but Cecropia isn’t one of them, according to the Peterson guide.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Stan Burdick, Genial Cartoonist

A bunch of photos and a few mental notes. Enough material to create a post about Stan Burdick’s recent presentation at the PPL (Plattsburgh Public Library).

For the uninformed, write a short background graf to get them up to speed:

Stan Burdick is an editorial cartoonist whose work has appeared in various North Country newspapers. A selection of his political graphic commentaries is on display this month at the PPL. He is the director of the Ticonderoga Cartoon Museum. His presentation, “Tall Tales and Riotous Rhymes,” for both adults and children, uses his cartoons to illustrate silly stories and poems. (Ever hear the one about a purple cow?)

Now need a title for the post. “Stan Burdick, Cartoonist” sounds too bland. Need an adjective. How about “genial?” Check the dictionary. Besides meaning “amiable,” it can also be defined as “of or characterized by genius.” Perfect on both counts.

Now to pick out a photo that shows both types of his geniality, personal and artistic.

No, that doesn’t work.

And this doesn’t bring out his friendly style.

Let’s try another one.

OK, this is better. You can see his face. (Note to aspiring photographers: viewpoint is everything. Don’t sit there; get up and move around.)

In this shot he’s explaining how to imagine a role reversal to create a cartoon, in this case, a snake charming a snake charmer.

The next two shots show the use of another kind of reversal involving a hidden image. Flip the image from top to bottom and you see the rest of the story.

During the Q&A that followed the presentation, I asked Stan how he dealt with creating editorial cartoons while facing a weekly deadline. He said he roughs out some ideas and puts them aside. When he gets writers block – actually, cartoonist’s block – he goes into his idea file and an item will trigger the inspiration for a cartoon.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Street Portraits

Evening on Clinton Street. The sun is low, creating strong side lighting on the buildings. I’m capturing the moment with my camera.

Someone behind me gets my attention.

“Hey, you want to take our photo?”

I turn around. It’s not often that someone asks me to be photographed. Usually I encounter a person who’s wondering about what I’m doing, even though my camera is aimed nowhere near him.

So I take one shot and mention it might be on the Web. The guy doesn’t object.

A couple of days later I see the guy again on the street. He asks me if that photo I took of him and his friend is online yet. Since it’s a good shot (I’m not that experienced with doing portraits of people), here it is.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Recollections of TV’s Golden Age

Phantom TV

“Hey! Bob Hope’s on tonight on Channel 5.”

The 1950s TV viewer puts down his newspaper and turns on his set. Reception is fuzzy, faint on Channel 5. The viewer walks over to the remote control for a contraption on his roof called an aerial. He twists the dial back and forth, manipulating the rotary motor built into the aerial. He aligns the antenna’s metal rods to pick up the station broadcasting the comedian’s appearance.

“That was funny. Let’s see – Lawrence Welk is on Channel 8. I like his orchestra.”

The 1950s TV viewer changes the channel to 8. Bad reception. Time to turn the aerial again.

But no matter which way he turns his aerial, he will never pick up special appearances by Bob Hope and Lawrence Welk intended for an exclusive audience. Call it phantom TV.

Retired advertising copywriter / copy supervisor William Lowell worked with phantom TV presentations back in the 1950s-1960s. Unlike the major networks who tried to draw in the widest audience – thus the term broadcasting – phantom TV was narrowcasting, aimed at a specific audience.

Carried on a closed circuit television system, the specific audience was the employees of a major American automobile company. Arrangements would be made with a local TV station to carry the program that introduced new cars for the upcoming model year. A special viewing room with a large TV would be set up for the employees at the station.

“This went on behind the scenes,” recalled Lowell while I sat down with him recently for an interview. “It took a lot of preparation.”

As part of the big push, Bob Hope or Lawrence Welk might appear.

“[The car company] would present the advertising plan and promotion for the new model year,” recalled Lowell about his work with an ad agency. “That would involve whatever television personalities the company had contracted for. For example, Lawrence Welk and his band would be there to promote the new Chevrolet or whatever it would be. Or the sales manager for Plymouth would be bantering and swapping jokes with Bob Hope. And of course, by the means of television, all the dealers and salesmen around the country would be tuned in to see all that.”

One time Lowell worked with Bob Hope’s writers. One would think comedy writers would be outgoing, jovial types cracking one-liners.

“They were businesslike,” explained Lowell. Someone would offer a line for Hope to deliver. His writers might reply that it wasn’t appropriate for their boss.

Another line would be offered. “The writers would look very serious and nod their heads that it was acceptable,” said Lowell. “And if it was acceptable it meant sooner or later someone would type it all up and take it to Hope and let him read it. If he liked it, fine. If not, we made changes.”

While making the initial cuts the writers remained sober, intent on the process. If the writers liked a line, they wouldn’t laugh or smile, they would flatly state: “That’s funny, that’s funny, use that.”

From what I gathered from Lowell, putting together a routine with Hope’s writers was just as mechanical as putting together a car on the assembly line. If the part passed inspection, it was added.

It’s been decades since Lowell was involved with phantom TV. Maybe film or kinescope copies might have been made, documenting those narrowcasts. It would be interesting to see if such recordings do exist.

The Seer With The French Cuffs

Lowell recalls walking down a city street in the early days of TV, seeing the first sets with their round screens on display in store windows. He sensed that TV was going to become the next big thing.

But not everyone was so impressed by the new technology and its format.

In the late 1940s - early 1950s Lowell was working for an advertising agency that had arranged presentations for its employees to learn about new research or what the latest trends were. Writers and artists would visit and make presentations.

One time the head of the agency’s New York City office gave a talk about what some predicted would be a major trend: television.

The expert was well dressed, wearing a three-piece suit with French cuffs. Lowell and his fellow admen were in awe of the expert because of his position in the industry.

But their awe soon turned to surprise.

Recalling that incident, Lowell paraphrased what the expert said:

“Now, listen, there’s a lot of talk about television. Don’t let it go to your head. It’s never going to take the place of radio because with television you have to sit down there and watch it. With radio, you can walk around, you can do the laundry, you can wash the dishes. You can listen to radio. Television you have to sit there. Television isn’t going to last long. It’s a flash in the pan. It won’t take the place of radio.”

“We looked at each other,” said Lowell about the admen at the meeting. “ ‘Who is this guy, what was he saying?’ We were all enamored by the idea of television.”

Lowell knew the early television receivers with their small round screens would improve. The screens would get bigger, better.

And as time passed, it was obvious the prediction against TV was wrong.

“[Clients would say] put my account on television or else,” explained Lowell. “You couldn’t get on television fast enough.”

And as for the expert with his “Don’t get excited about television” viewpoint? He had to find work elsewhere.

Go West, Young Adman

Lowell caught the TV bug but as a writer, not as a viewer.

In the 1950s he took a six-month leave of absence from his advertising job and moved to LA, trying to break in as a screenwriter. His wife was happy about his decision and was supportive. She knew her husband was interested in writing fiction.

“It was very competitive,” Lowell recalled. “But very stimulating. Because every day something new was coming along. Somebody new was coming along, and had starred in this, starred in that, and this was developed and that was developed, everyday something new.”

Lowell mentioned the movie, Sunset Boulevard, starring William Holden as a struggling writer in Hollywood. In the film Holden meets a secretary who wants to also become a writer. He teams up with her, working nights on preparing a script, hashing out the plot and story details.

“That gave a pretty good impression of what was going on,” said Lowell

But after six months in LA Lowell had only sold one treatment; he had only made $700.

Lowell was hoping to break in with one of the half-hour westerns that were popular at that time, programs such as “Have Gun, Will Travel,” “Tales of Wells Fargo,” and “Wanted: Dead Or Alive.”

“But all those shows were canceled,” said Lowell. So he returned to his former job, advertising, leaving behind treatments and ideas for TV shows never produced and seen.

Another type of phantom TV.

But Lowell didn’t give up on writing. He kept pressing on, creating short stories that were published in a leading mystery magazine, some based in the Adirondack region where he retired.

And with television as popular as ever with hundreds of channels available, the demand for material still great, maybe one day Lowell’s work, perhaps a mystery set in the Adirondacks, will make it to the TV screen.