Sunday, December 30, 2012

Jennifer Curtis: Don't Judge An Artist By Her Cover

PLATTSBURGH CITY - Saturday evening, 12/29/12

A Saranac Lake native, Jennifer Curtis is a senior at SUNY New Paltz majoring in painting and drawing.  She looks like the classic girl next door: blonde and pretty, neatly and stylishly dressed.

I ask the artist to pose by her favorite work for a photo.  She stands next to her gloomy painting of a feline eating a dead rabbit, a close-up of the cat chewing on a bloody facial wound.

"It's just part of nature," she explains.

OK, but shouldn't a bright young woman be rendering a nice pastorale scene of a horse grazing in a gently rolling field of green grass and sunny-yellow daisies?  Sure, in a world where only stereotypes live.

During the reception for her exhibit at the ROTA Gallery I ask Jennifer if she had any interesting reactions when someone saw her more intense artwork first and then met her later.  She smiles when I mention how an art patron might have been expecting a goth chick with black clothes and lots of piercings.

Jennifer acts a bit nervous, kinda shy, while I interview her.  Of course, having a writog fire away with so many questions while scribbling away in his notebook can be discomposing.  Or maybe her nervousness is because this is one of her first exhibitions and she's worried about the reaction to her creations.  She needn't worry.  While some of her work is dark and outre, it all shows imagination with an artist's eye for detail.

One phantasmagorical painting, acrylic on canvas, depicts a floating child's face, both eyes missing, an electrical cord bifurcating behind the boy's head, splitting into new cords.   Each cord runs through an open eye socket, dropping into the upraised palms of the subject, terminating into a plug.  Jennifer explained the inspiration behind "Plug Eyes" was the birth of her nephew, thinking about how the latest generation is immersed in a world of electronics,  TV and computers.

But not all of her creations are so bizarro.  Other pieces in the exhibit, for example, paper mache bears leaping out of solid walls right at you, are offbeat fun.

The Jennifer Curtis exhibit will run for the next two weeks at ROTA Gallery, 50 Margaret Street.  More info at .   To see works by Jennifer online, .  She can be contacted at .

Friday, December 28, 2012

Consider The Numbers

Stats: Koffee Kat Plattsburgh Versus Koffee Kat Espresso Bar

Screencap from the last email from Facebook about the stats for the two group pages. Even though the page I had created, Koffee Kat Plattsburgh, was still getting hits, it was decided to delete it without my permission. The page could have remained up, promoting the Kat on its own. Note that my stats were better. Gee, was someone jealous?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


I created the first Facebook group page for Koffee Kat called Koffee Kat Plattsburgh. I received an OK from the owner and spent considerable time setting up and adding content to the page. An employee – no longer at KK - wanted to be added as an admin to the group page. I added her, not suspecting what she wanted to do. She started a new page, Koffee Kat Espresso Bar, and tried to delete mine using her admin privilege. Her deletion attempt was unsuccessful. I thought that deletion could only be done by approval of all admins.

Today I log on to Facebook and find that my page, Koffee Kat Plattsburgh, has been deleted, apparently by another admin. All my work is gone, the history of a certain time at the coffeehouse. No one asked me to delete the KKP group page. One would think that someone with a modicum of civility would contact me about deletion outside of an automatic notice from Facebook.

Now no one can access my photos and short articles because Koffee Kat Plattsburgh no longer exists. The thanks I get for volunteering my time and doing a good job.

So I've learned my lesson. Backstabbers are out there, ready to erase your work to promote theirs. My advice: if you start a FB group page make sure you can trust any admins you add. Better yet, just make yourself the only admin.

You may ask: Why not contact FB and fix the problem, restoring the page? Obviously you've never dealt with FB -- it's user unfriendly. And I shouldn't have to fix a problem that someone else created.

*   *   *


I had left a copy of the above post at the Koffee Kat Espresso Bar page.  Of course, someone doesn't like the truth and it was deleted.  This post was put up:

* * *
Koffee Kat Espresso Bar
2 hours ago via mobile
Koffee Kat Plattsburgh and Koffee Kat Espresso Bar pages have been merged at the request of the owner. We thank everyone for your understanding and look forward to all of you visiting and making Koffee Kat a great place to spend coffee hour!

* * *

So I left this comment:

"So if the pages have been merged, where is my material from Koffee Kat Plattsburgh? And why wasn't I contacted before my FB page was deleted? Maybe I should delete this page without warning and see how you like it. Erasing my page after all my work is incredibly underhanded."

Let's see how long before that comment is deleted.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Monday, December 17, 2012

Candlelight Vigil On A Cold Winter Evening

PLATTSBURGH CITY, NY -- Saturday 12/15/12

5 PM.  Trinity Park, downtown Plattsburgh.  Brought together by People for Positive Action, people gathered to hold a candlelight vigil for the school shooting victims in Newtown, Connecticut.  Yesterday a man armed with semi-automatic weapons entered the Sandy Hook Elementary School.  Twenty children and six adults were killed.

The vigil was a time for heartfelt prayers, songs about peace, individual expressions of grief and sympathy.  A moment of silence.  Against the cold darkness parents held their children close for a moment.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

"Thunder Road" Movie Pleases Skateboard Fans But Others Beware

PLATTSBURGH CITY, NY -- December 14, 2012

NO SKATEBOARDING?  Not at ROTA Gallery Friday evening.

Skateboarder fans whooped and applauded during the premier of the locally produced movie "Thunder Road."  The "grindhouse" venue was packed, every seat taken, by many young viewers with a few graybeards in the mix.

The technically well-made documentary is almost non-stop thrasher action.  There are no interviews with any of the boarders.  If you want to find out what makes them tick you'll have to go elsewhere.  If you enjoy seeing skateboarders perform impressive maneuvers and stunts – and also take some nasty spills – for an hour then this movie will suit you.

Most in the audience didn't mind seeing skaters repeatedly riding their boards down long metal rails or grinding along the edge of concrete structures.

The movie shows the boarders in action in various places around the area but not all of the spots are skate parks.  In one scene videoed on private property a sign proclaims NO SKATEBOARDING.   But if you're young and reckless, hey, why worry about a stupid sign?

The thrasher life philosophy was summed up by a bumper sticker I saw one time: WORK IS FOR PEOPLE WHO CAN'T SKATEBOARD.  It was plastered near a stop sign in downtown Plattsburgh, the same stop sign that some skaters would ignore.

Skateboarders would use Marion Street as their own park.  They would zip down Marion without looking, speeding across the intersection with Clinton.  One building on the corner was tight to the sidewalk, creating a blind spot.  Someone walking or driving up Clinton Street would have to watch out for skaters coming out of nowhere.

A barbershop used to operate out of the same corner building.  The owner would complain to the police to no avail that the skaters were causing problems, scaring away customers, even sitting outside on the ledge of her picture window.

She wasn't alone in her complaints.  The First Presbyterian Church which borders Brinkerhoff and Marion streets spent a lot of money fixing up its property, including the installation of new stonework.  Skaters came along and started grinding, ruining all the recent work.  The police were called.

One of the skating locations in "Thunder Road" is – yup, you guessed it – the same church.

In some cases skateboarding is for people who don't own property.

Don't expect to see "Thunder Road" playing at the Presbyterian Church.  It doesn't have a prayer.

NOTE: Each image was digitally photo-edited, combining separate exposures for audience and screen. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Good News Doesn’t Spur PPL Board To Restore More Funding

PLATTSBURGH CITY – December 11, 2012

A favorable report was followed by a mysterious lack of additional action at this evening’s Plattsburgh Public Library Board of Trustees meeting.

It looks good for PPL regarding its funding for next year, according to City Councilor/Library Liaison Tim Carpenter. Some PPL employees were concerned that they were facing layoffs if the necessary funding wasn’t approved.

When he made his report, Carpenter indicated that PPL had the support of the majority of the City Council, meaning the $60,000 Mayor Kasprzak had cut would be restored. He added that nothing was final until next month when the Council approved the budget.

Back in September Mayor Kasprzak was conservative with estimating future sales tax revenue while working on his budget proposal.  But that revenue turned out to be better than expected. 

With this good news Trustee John Prim raised the option of asking for restoration of other funding that the Board had cut. Carpenter said that it wouldn’t hurt to ask.

Trustee Ginny Brady said she was hesitant about asking the Council for more funding.

Carpenter said that the best way to proceed with the issue was to make a motion.

Prim made a motion but there was silence. No one seconded the motion. The Board moved on to other issues, going into executive session.

Why wasn’t the motion seconded? It seems that even if the request to restore more funding was turned down, there would be at least a record that the library still needed financial support for some of its programs. Going back next year to the city for budget approval, the Board doesn’t have anything to point to. The challenge could be made, “You didn’t need it last year so why are you asking this time around?”

It’s a mystery why the Board didn’t pursue the matter, especially after its City Council liaison said it wouldn’t hurt to ask.

[ REVISED 12/13/12 12:30 AM to add paragraph re: sales tax revenue. ]

Monday, December 10, 2012

Signs Not To Be Ignored

PLATTSBURGH CITY - December 10, 2012

It's a matter of cuts.

No cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.  No more tax cuts to the richest 2% of Americans.

Noontime.  The sidewalk outside the Gateway Building on Durkee Street where Congressman Bill Owens has an office.  About 20 peaceful demonstrators holding up signs to get the message out.

Meanwhile in Washington, DC President Obama tries to make a deal with the Republicans while a political Sword of Damocles -- the fiscal cliff -- hangs over the pols' heads.  After Midnight December 31 spending cuts and tax increases will kick in unless a compromise can be reached between Democrats and the GOP.

The demonstrators outside Owen's office are concerned that Obama might compromise and allow cuts in Social Security and other safety net programs.

Among the ralliers was Mary Alice Shemo, chair of the local People for Positive Action.  She said that the term "entitlement" wasn't a bad word: people her age were indeed entitled because they had paid into the system and were expecting what they had been promised.  She delivered a petition to Owen's office that was accepted by the congressman's aide who would pass it along to his boss.

Another demonstrator, David Curry, Chapter President of United University Professions, explained that similar rallies were being held across the country, promoted by the AFL-CIO to coincide with Human Rights Day.  Thanks to the Internet, he said, local people were able to network through email lists and organize their own rally.  He added that the AFL-CIO was going to hold a candlelight gathering later at 4 PM.

The rally had a cross section of representatives from other activist organizations such as Working Families, Northeast Central Labor Council, and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

Depending upon how the whole Obama-Republican-fiscal cliff situation plays out, today's demonstration might be an inkling of things to come.  Bigger, louder protests.  And it won't be just members of activist groups, it will be Joe and Jane American taking to the streets, upset that the American Dream was really a bill of goods.

Mary Alice Shemo, Chair of the local People for Positive Action, says that the richest Americans should pay their fair share.  She thinks the Bush-era tax cuts should expire.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Sequential Artist Skips Sequence, Finds Success

Mark Gonyea and his StoryPosters at ROTAcon 2012.

The old catch-22 of mainstream publishing: To get published, you need an agent.  To get an agent, you need to be published.

Traditionally a writer or artist couldn't get an agent until he sold a work to an editor.

Cartoonist/graphic designer Mark Gonyea didn't follow that sequence.  He skipped the editor and went directly to an agent.  Using the reference book "The Writers Market" he contacted three agents with a project he had completed, a children's book about design.  All three liked the proposal but only one offered to represent Mark, seeing how his book fit a niche that no one else was filling.*

The agent sold his project, "A Book About Design: Complicated Doesn't Make It Good," to a publisher and soon other titles followed.

Mark returned to his hometown Saturday to participate in ROTAcon, a celebration of imaginative works from comics to SF/Fantasy novels to superhero toys.  I spoke with him during the slow spells while he manned his merch table at the ROTA Gallery in downtown Plattsburgh.

I had met him briefly years ago when he and his brother self-published a small black-and-white comic book.  He's been busy since then.  After a gig as a graphic designer for Vermont Teddy Bear Company, he's now self-employed, living in Hinesberg, Vermont where he works out of his home studio.

Besides paper media Mark has also found success with digital, selling short comic book stories through iBooks for 99 cents a pop online.  Each comic is dialogue-less, the lack of word balloons giving it universal appeal to readers around the world.  He also sells each comic as a large wall poster, the story told in square panels on one sheet suitable for framing.

99 cents, he says, seems to be the magic number for selling works online.  A price point that reminds older comic book readers such as myself of the days when comic books were cheap entertainment, not $5.00 works of Art.

Besides his online sales and book advances Mark also keeps busy as a freelance graphic designer.  His own story ends up in a good place all because he skipped a panel.

You can learn more about Mark and his works at:

* [ Edited sentence for clarity re: agents 12/8/12 at 7:40 PM .]