Sunday, February 19, 2012

Graphic Memoir: Personal Stories Beyond Words


A professional journalist isn't supposed to walk into an event without any preparation, i.e., background research.  But I'm not a pro journalist, I'm just a  blogger.

So I enter the Rota Gallery and Studios, that funky DIY place, to check out the latest exhibit.  The spot is active, a good crowd for the opening reception.  I remember reading something about the exhibit involving graphic storytelling.  OK, comics books, I think, like in graphic novels.


Sure, there's sequential art kind of stuff on exhibit, the flip-the-pages kind, but also other forms of visual art, like drawings hanging on walls but without pretentious frames, separated from the viewer by high class glass.  The glass effect?  Only to be found with the displays on digital screens.  There's a slide show presentation on a laptop computer, the story Son of a Wise Ruler by MacKenzie Hand.  It's told using a lined notebook turned sideways, each illustration children's book style.  But this children's book is about being the son of an alcoholic parent. Bright fantasy kid's art, dark subject. 

You can pick up the actual meatspace notebook and flip through it the traditional manner but the laptop via earphones offers narration by the creator, a more personal experience.  The writer-artist shows through his illustrations how his father would transform from a fun-loving drunk monster into just a monster.

I snap a few shots to visually document the exhibit reception.  I notice someone peering at the detail of an orchid drawing on one wall, close up, twisting her head.  It's not until I talk with Professor Elizabeth Cohen of the Plattsburgh State English Department, the impetus behind the exhibit, that I learn the lines of the orchid are actually sentences of a tiny print memoir.  Angle your head at various degrees and follow the story path.


Elizabeth Cohen shares a work by one of her graphic memoir class students.

Elizabeth shows me various works by her students, providing background info with each one.  One item she points out: a small travel case on a table, its lid up to reveal various items including a photograph of an open road, sunglasses, canceled stamps -- and a crumpled beer can.  Dealing with alcoholism, she explains, is one of the main themes in the student memoirs.

The Rota exhibit features works from two different sessions of her memoir writing course.  Writers crossing over into visual art, two different mediums becoming one.  Like a writog, a writer-photographer.

After I leave the exhibit I'm talking about it with (to use stereotypical shorthand) a hippie and a punk.  This graying freethinker is surprised by their reactions.  Writers/college English students can't be real artists.  One of them who saw the exhibit initially thought it was work by a bunch of elementary school kids.

Man, what criticism.  I'd expect it from fine art snobs, not a hippie or a punk into the DIY scene.

Hey, isn't people's art supposed to be groovy, edgy?

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GRAPHIC MEMOIR: where storytelling meets art will run until Friday, February 24th, at the Rota Gallery, 19 Clinton Street, Plattsburgh.  Rota is open from 12 noon to 5 PM each day.  For more info: .  Email: rotagallery (at) gmail (dot) com.  Phone: (518) 314-9872.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Ducky Quacks, Denise Retorts


And just when you thought it was safe again to listen to the WIRY radio local newscast...

On Tuesday and Thursday of each week listeners are blessed (as such) to "Is It Just Me?," a commentary segment by WIRY "personality" Ducky Drake.  Drake holds forth on a short list of topics, his favorite targets those organizations represented by unions: Plattsburgh City School District, the city Fire Department, and the public library.

Drake's most recent "Is It Just Me?" segment was entitled "The Waiting Game."  In that work of journalistic excellence he went after both the Plattsburgh Public Library (PPL) and the Fire Department.  He said that employees at those places were "a' hoping and a' wishing" for a different mayor and city councilors to be elected, politicians sympathetic to their concerns.   A copy of that commentary can be heard here.

Drake is free to make any observations he wants but in this last commentary he came across as petty and vile, making sneering comments about certain individuals: Stan Ransom, Karen Ricketson, and mothers of city firefighters.

Stan Ransom is the director of PPL.  Karen Ricketson is employed as a library assistant at PPL and also is vice-president of the local AFSCME union, 788, that represents library employees.  Kathy McCleery ran unsuccessfully in the last mayoral race against incumbent Donald Kasprzak.  She is the mother of a city firefighter.

In his commentary Drake said that if PPL and the FD wanted elected officials on their side, then Stan Ransom, Karen Ricketson, and a mother of a city firefighter should run for office.  Drake didn't bother to explain who Ransom and Ricketson were, apparently assuming that listeners tune in every time he's on the air and so know all the people he snipes at.

Of course, this post is stooping to Drake's level, but sometimes you have to fight fire with fire.  (And if Drake, a city resident, has a fire, who's he gonna call?  Ghostbusters?)  Besides this post, Drake has also received some heat from Denise Nephew, President of AFSCME Local 788.  Here is her email to Drake (reprinted with permission): 

*  *  *

FROM:  AFSCME Local 788

TO:    Ducky Drake

Thursday, February 16, 2012 12:34 PM


It certainly is. 

You obviously don’t have a clue on what’s going on at the Library or the Fire Dept.  The Fire Dept. has been w/o a contract since Dec. 31, 2007.  THAT IS A TRAVESTY!  To treat our Fireman that way. 

And I, like 1000 other people, would rather have Ms. Ricketson or Ms. McCleery in office, rather than what we have now.  No other elected or appointed official EVER badmouths their employees.  Not even corporate America!

This city is on the road to no-where.

Since you think you’re so smart – you obviously haven’t done your homework!

I’ve approached the Lib. Board on why they have left the Administrative Assistant position 37 hours!  Of course you wouldn’t know – you are too stupid to find out the facts. 

What goes around comes around “Ducky.”  You and your cronies will find that out soon.

Denise Nephew
Ward 2 and Pres. Of AFSCME Local 788

*  *  * 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

FB Post: Man Reveals Gun, Startles Library Employee


A Plattsburgh Public Library employee was surprised Wednesday after a man approached her at the front desk and said the security gate system at the front entrance wasn't working.  To prove his point he flashed open his jacket to show his holstered handgun.

The employee talked about the incident on her Facebook page.  No one was threatened or harmed but the incident did raise concern after the man left.   The Plattsburgh Police Department was contacted.

In her post she described the man as Caucasian, about six feet tall, in his late 50s or early 60s with a thinning hairline.  He was wearing a green bomber jacket.  While he appeared to be a "nice guy," he didn't announce himself as a police officer or some other governmental agent.

The security gate at the public library is set up to detect library materials being stolen, not handguns, a detail that one would assume a law-enforcement officer would know.

Responding to the Facebook post, someone said they alerted a supervisor at the local Department of Social Services.

I searched for "Plattsburgh Police Department" on Facebook and found two pages, one with that name, another a location page under "Plattsburgh City Police Department."  Neither page provided any news or alerts.  At the PPD Website there was no info about the incident.  The last news release posted was dated 1/20/2012.

So this proves one point: people are getting more of their news from Facebook while some official sources are missing the opportunities online to interface with the community.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Simulacrum: Mickey, Is That You?

Gee, will the Walt Disney Company sue me for a copyright violation with this found object image?

Hey, it's no star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame but it's not bad for downtown Plattsburgh, NY when you consider what else can be found on its sidewalks.


Sometimes after reading a news story you want to learn more, get all the details.  For example, take the news item pasted below that appeared in Monday's print edition of the Press Republican.   (It can be found online here.)

*  *  *

Police Log: Feb. 13, 2012 — Accident

Mon Feb 13, 2012, 05:58 AM EST

PLATTSBURGH — A Plattsburgh City Police officer was involved in a two-car motor-vehicle accident Sunday afternoon.

According to police, unit 308 was driving south on South Catherine Street in Plattsburgh at about 12:05 p.m., when the accident occurred at the intersection of South Catherine and Johnson Avenue.

Police said the officer involved in the incident was enroute to a reported domestic dispute on Hill Top Way when the accident occurred.

No one was injured, and the incident is under investigation.

*  *  *

OK, we have what, when, and where but not who or why.  Since the accident is under investigation the why is up in the air.  But regarding who was involved, the name of both drivers is missing, including that of the police officer (unless the officer's name is Unit 308.

What makes this small item stand out are the complaints that some people have made to the Press-Republican about city police cars driving at high speed while answering calls, sometimes without any sirens, just lights.  I have observed this myself while downtown, sitting at a coffeehouse and a red meteor streaks by the front windows, no audible warning.  There's no mention of lights or siren in the above news item.

Last April there was another accident involving a city police car answering a call when it collided with a civilian vehicle.  That article gave the names of all involved in the accident.  The civilian driver, a 84 year old man, was ticketed for not yielding the right of way to an emergency vehicle.

If you go the archived online version of the PR article, you will find this comment from matt151617:

"This is sad [the civilian driver] was ticketed. The police officer failed to yield the right of way to the other car. The officer was going through a red light, and [the civilian driver] had a green. Look up the New York State laws, having emergency lights and sirens does not give you the right to not show due regard. Emergency vehicles are required to stop at a red light, and proceed only after verifying the intersection is clear.

"I understand the police officers were responding to an accident, and did have their lights and siren on, but it does not excuse them from going through a red light. Fortunately no one got hurt."

Someone named ddonny added this typo-spotted observation:

"wonder if the old man had time to respond,i know ive seen police cars with light on in plattsburgh doing 55mph or more,maybe the oldtimer wasent quick enough,at least everyone is ok."

And LocalCitizen commented on a earlier version of the online article:

"Even though the Police lights & sirens may have been on, one cannot assume that they are being seen & heard. Any emergency vehicle has to proceed with caution & be on the lookout for people or vehicles that may not be aware of them. Unless the other vehicle was operating at any unlawful speed, or ran a red light, etc, it is the fault of the emergency vehicle. To ticket the driver is playing it safe, trying to avoid a lawsuit. If that driver's lawyer gets involved, goodbye ticket & hello payday. I'm not on either 'side', I'm just sayin'! Had they killed a person walking across the road, would they have ticketed them, too?"

Interesting POVs.  I wonder if our hometown newspaper looked into any of the issues raised by them.

Anyway these comments show that some are concerned about city police speeding through the streets during an emergency and whether the speeds attained might be too high.  This latest incident involving another civilian vehicle renews that issue.

But the investigation is underway and the public will learn who was at fault, if anyone.  After all, transparency is important when it comes to the government.

Speaking of investigations, what was the upshot of the accident back in April?  Was the ticketed civilian driver found guilty?

Friday, February 10, 2012


Lately I've been shooting indoors more than outdoors.  Why?  I HATE WINTER.  I prefer the heat generated by local rock musicians in a bar setting over freezing my ass off while finding something worthwhile to image in a frost-dead landscape.  Anyway, below are links to some of my latest rock images.

Lowell & Sabo, 1/3 of the band Lucid.

View the entire set here: 

      Lucid at the Monopole.

View the entire set here:

Lucifans at the Monopole (Fans of Lucid).

View the entire set here: 

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Crow Parties


Late Saturday evening.  Both the dark and the cold are growing stronger, competing for dominance.  I'm walking towards Smooth Moves cafe for a much needed cup of hot coffee when my attention is easily diverted by crows mobbing a towering winter-bare tree across the street, a raucous plethora.

Later that evening I wander over to another cafe, My Cup of Tea, where a blues band is playing.  The band's name: Crow Party.

It's all about synchronicity, isn't it?