Monday, August 27, 2012

Indie Record Store In A Suitcase

 PLATTSBURGH CITY - Aug. 23, 2012

Thursday evening.  Music event at ROTA Gallery and Studios, four acts.  Good performers but that colorful suitcase on a table off to the side keeps drawing my attention.  I find myself clicking almost as many images of that suitcase as each performer.

The case is open, laden with stickers, vinyl, CDs, zines, and cassette tapes.  Some samples are arranged around the table.  It's one of the better displays I've seen at a show.

After the show wraps up one of the performers known as That Really Awesome Guy With A Guitar AKA TRAGWAG AKA Tyler and his friend, Chelsea, talk about their suitcase set-up to some of the attendees.  I overhear Tyler say that besides his own material the case also has works by other creators.  DIY distro.

Going into writog mode I speak with Tyler and Chelsea, getting some more details on what they call a record store in a suitcase.

Chelsea tells me that a touring group usually has a case featuring its own work, maybe some stuff by one or two other bands.  She and Tyler like to share merch by others, checking out the material before accepting it.  That way, she points out, nothing "hateful" ends up being distributed by them.

Back in the day the adjective for this type of activity was "underground."  The implication was the Establishment can have the ground above, real creative people would work under their monopolies, maybe even undermine them.  Screw commercialism.

After years of playing the game, trying to get published via mainstream outlets, piling up rejection slips, I enjoy seeing someone succeed in working outside the System.

But don't be surprised if the System notices suitcase distro and it ends up with its own factory copy, trying to be indie and cool but while still foisting the same pre-packaged crap as before.  For the System to survive, it must subsume.

Tyler AKA TRAGWAG (left) and Chelsea speak with local musician Julian Jaster (foreground) who's interested in getting his material distributed via their suitcase record store.

** More info about Pocket Cat! distro:

** Info about TRAGWAG:


Marco Polio at ROTA.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Found In The C assifieds

The ad below appeared this way on Saturday 8/18/12.  Apparently it was OK to run as is two days later.  Another advantage of outsourcing work to another state instead of keeping it local.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Alien Worlds

Moonrise: Domed City

The Sentinel

Click on each image for larger view.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Free Movie, Full House

PLATTSBURGH CITY - Aug. 18, 2012

Saturday evening the Plattsburgh Public Library sponsored a free showing of the film, Hunger Games.  Held in the second floor auditorium, the event was well-attended, around 45 people in the audience who applauded following the movie's conclusion.

Next month the featured movie should be The Avengers, date and time TBA.  For more info check the PPL Website or its Facebook page.  You can also call (518) 563-0921.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Are These Images Illegal?

PLATTSBURGH CITY - Aug. 17, 2012

OK, I know the police have to check out reports of "suspicious" activity but once again I was stopped and questioned for just taking photographs.

I was walking home tonight and around 10 PM a Plattsburgh PD patrol car pulled up next to me.  The officer got out to interview me.  He acted a bit apologetic, saying that he had seen me around town before taking photos, but he was following up on a complaint about me photographing buildings downtown.  A second patrol car pulled up and another officer joined us.

After working as seasonal park ranger at a local state campground many years ago, I could understand the situation the officers were in.  Sometimes dubious complaints have to be followed up.

The stop wasn't confrontational but I had to show my ID (NYS drivers license) to the first officer and also provide my phone number.  I asked the officer if there anything wrong with taking photos and he said not really, that maybe some "cellphone hero" had overreacted and phoned the station.

Accompanying this post are some of the images I took tonight.  Maybe the third image of the unoccupied office is what triggered the report.  Note that everything is in public view and no one is inside, not even a janitor.  (I've also worked nights as a janitor but that's a story for another day.)  Or maybe that carved voodoo statue in the first image put a curse on me.

The PPD officer who stopped me acted professional, no problems, just like the Plattsburgh State university policeman who questioned me about my photography earlier this summer.  

One sunny evening (June 3rd to be exact) a PSUC officer drove by me while I was taking some shots of the Plattsburgh High School athletic field, the entrance booth in particular (Go Hornets!).  I got back on my bicycle and a few minutes later spotted an interesting object on the sidewalk on Rugar Street near the dorms.  Apparently acting on his own -- he didn't mention anything about a complaint -- the PSUC officer pulled into a nearby driveway and got out to interview me.  He also acted somewhat apologetic, saying that photography didn't necessarily mean terrorism, but...  

What is it about someone with a camera -- who takes photographs in public view, not hiding behind hedges or walls -- that provokes such a reaction?  Would I be stopped if I didn't have a camera in hand and just stared at something for a while?

Maybe I should get a micro-camera surgically hidden inside my head that operates with one of my eyeballs and wirelessly downloads images to my computer.  Or is there a law against being a photographic cyborg?

Friday, August 17, 2012

How To Drive Customers Away

Darren McGavin died on February 25, 2006. What do I remember about him? He was a solid actor who starred in many movies and TV series such as The Natural and Kolchak: The Night Stalker.

And when remembering Darren McGavin, I think about chocolate fudge flowing over cookies on my computer screen.

When I saw the news item about his death, I clicked on the link and there was Darren's obit, complete with a photo. Suddenly a pop down ad appeared, blocking his photo, some animated digital crap of a new cookie being covered in gooey chocolate. I was impressed how the ad showed respect for the dead.

But that was back in 2006. Web-savvy people know better nowadays. Or do they?

Recently I was reading an online news article about a businessman who died in a plane crash when I noticed certain words in the text were highlighted. When the cursor hovered around one of the keywords ad links would pop up as seen in this screencap:

Here we go. Text enhancement. I assumed that the newspaper's Website was trying to make a little extra money. After all, the same site was known for pop under ads: you would close the window for a story and find a full screen ad hiding underneath. Usually these ads were for local car dealer using a bit of sex to sell vehicles to the horny guys out there, the image of a cute blonde smiling and holding car keys out at the viewer as if to say: "Drive me."

But the text enhancement wasn't caused by the Website. I had overreacted, realizing some time later the problem was caused by malware that had slipped through my computer's defenses. It appeared on another news site.

I was able to remove the malware. After all, who wants to read an article about someone who has died and when the word "college" is mentioned in passing, you click on the highlighted word thinking more information pertaining to the story will be provided and ads are shoved in your face?

Does text enhancement malware also work with obits? Not as bad as an animated stream of chocolate fudge coating a cookie, blocking the obit text and photo, but still...

What idiots think text enhancement will attract customers instead of driving them away? Are any of the sponsored entities paying for this service? If they are, they're idiots, too.

Monday, August 13, 2012

And The Winner Is...

PLATTSBURGH CITY - Aug. 13, 2012

A benefit was held starting Saturday night into early Sunday morning at the Monopole in the memory of Patrick Gallagher.  Raffle prices were given out and Lowell Wurster, of the band Lucid (the big hirsute guy on the right), laughs after hearing what he has won.

And what was the appropriate prize?  Thanks to the magic of digital photo-editing you can see the details close up.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Wards: Grayhair Punk


Most oldsters quietly retire, spending the rest of their lives in calm solitude.  But a few still pump up the volume and keep rocking on, aches and pains be damned.

I'm at the Monopole on this Saturday night, wrapping up some photos of a local band.  A night of punk music, the main event is a group from Vermont called The Wards.  I've never heard of them but before their show it's obvious that they are my age.  Four guys and one woman.  Baby boomer gray hair.  But, unlike me, also adorned with tattoos, leather, chains and shit-kicking boots.  (Me, I prefer the reformed hippie look.)

A black-and-white plastic banner hanging on one wall proclaims the band's name.  It features the universal symbol for handicapped parking, the simple outline of a wheelchair bound person, but the logo is upside down.  Disability -- and old age -- be damned?

The Wards blast away.  Great hard sound but are they keeping it real or are they spinaltapping?  The lead singer knocks over his mic stand, cracks vinyl records with this bare hands, lunges into the audience.  If put-on comedian Andy Kaufman was still alive...

The distaff member of the group smiles from behind her Yamaha keyboard, apparently amused by some of the antics.  She looks like someone's grandmother, albeit one who enjoys sharing stories with her grandchildren about the glory days of the Sex Pistols and Plasmatics.

The Wards bill themselves as Vermont's Oldest Punk Band.  A fan tells me they have been around so long that they have a song about President Ronald Reagan.  A Google search doesn't give me much info but does verify they have playing since punk music's early days.

So is their act mostly a put-on?  A question I ask later behind the safety of my computer.  I like to enjoy my calm solitude, no additional aches or pains.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Where's Clintounty?

The pursuit of journalistic excellence continues.  One of the first positions the Press-Republican eliminated many years ago was the proofreader.  Obviously he wasn't needed.   Does anyone there at least use a spellchecker?

( Screencap taken at 6:13 PM, 8/9/12. )

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Pageantry: Meming American Ideals In 1914

Local historian Matt Hewson explains how pageantry back in 1914 was used to impart certain themes to the public at large. 

 PLATTSBURGH CITY - Aug. 6, 2012

I didn't know pageantry from a posthole until I attended an informative lecture this evening at the Clinton County Historical Association.

Pageantry in this case refers not to a beauty contest but a staged civic event in which keys scenes from local history were acted out, a craze in the early 20th Century.

Thanks to the presentation by local historian Matt Hewson I learned how historical pageantry was used by wealthy progressives back then to impart values to everyone across America, including immigrants.  Language was no barrier when it came pageantry: the key was visual story-telling.

Locally pageantry reached out to French-Canadian immigrants in the Plattsburgh area during the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Plattsburgh.  Matt compared a pageant to a silent movie.  The actors spoke no words but through exaggerated gestures and emoting they conveyed a story that everyone could follow, even those in the audience who only spoke French.

I could grok this visual aspect of pageantry.  After all, I remember how Kmart would draw customers to a particular section of the store with a portable blue light flashing away, announcing a sale suddenly in progress.  No matter what language a shopper spoke, he knew to dash to that aisle to take advantage of a low-price item.

But pageantry, I noted, was much more involved than the Kmart Blue Light Special.  After all, Kmart didn't throw in special effects like explosive sounds and smoke.  And outside of Martha Stewart and Jaclyn Smith, it wasn't really into role modeling.

Historical figures with admirible qualities, explained Matt, were chosen to appeal to a broad audience, even former enemies like British General John Burgoyne.  The message was that the United States and England were now friends, that what happened during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 was just some fighting between two brothers.  The younger brother proved his mettle to the older one.

This message fit into what was happening back in 1914, said Matt.  With World War I raging England needed help from the States, food and war materials.  So the average citizen had to be convinced that he, too, would profit from aiding England, even though in reality the little man would see little, if any, profit.  Matt compared it to the "trickle down" economics of the Reagan Era.

Note to myself: Those suckers who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

So where did they find actors to portray historical figures for the pageants held in 1914 on the grounds of the Plattsburgh barracks?  Matt said that Commodore Thomas Macdonough was portrayed by his grandson.  No mention was given of the grandson's thespian skills.

During the Q&A that followed Matt Hewson's lecture someone asked why Macdonough gets all the attention while General Alexander Macomb -- who won the battle on land -- is more or less forgotten.  Matt thought it was because ships sailing on water were more "sexy" than just foot soldiers marching across the ground.

With his PowerPoint presentation Matt Hewson explains that US and British flags were held at the same height during the 100th celebration of the Battle of Plattsburgh, promoting the theme of two brothers now equals.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Hooray For Hooping 2

Wait long enough and something old becomes popular once again.  Like tie dye shirts.  Or Chuck Taylor All Stars.  Or Hula Hoops.

Back in the late 1950s almost every kid on the block had a hoop; the toy sold in the millions. And while it was fun to grab a stick and roll a hoop down the street, the main attraction was for kids to make it spin around their waists as long as possible.

Of course, this was during the Cold War and those dour commies had to dis Americans for having so much fun.  Russian officials declared the hoop was another example of our decadence.  (Speaking of decadence, has anyone heard from the Soviet Union lately?)

According to the story back at that time the hoop was inspired by Hawaiian dancers;  that's why "hula" was in its name.  While many people think the hoop is a relatively recent discovery, it actually dates back to ancient Greece.  Throughout history hoops were made of various materials such as stiff grasses, willow, wood and bamboo.  It was the invention of plastic that made it a modern hit, a toy that could easily be mass produced.

Like a typical fad the hoop toy mania peaked and died out, becoming just a childhood memory for baby-boomers.  Now the hoop is popular once again but for all ages, especially adults looking for a fun way to recreate and exercise.

On Wednesday and Friday evenings you'll notice some hoopers in training in Trinity Park, thanks to the sponsorship of ROTA Studios & Gallery.  Classes are continuing throughout August.  The fee is only $3.00 per class and hoops are provided.  For more info contact Chelsea Varin at (518) 569-3470 or email plattsburghooping[at]gmail[dot]com.

(Disclosure: Photo-editing was done to remove background distractions in a couple of the images.)