Friday, March 22, 2013

Smart ALEC Knows How To Play The Game

Mary-Alice Shemo, Chair of People for Positive Action, responds to a question during a news conference about the controversial group ALEC (American Legislative Executive Council). 

PLATTSBURGH CITY, NY – March 21, 2013

Loopholes.  Big business and politicians love them.

Take the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) for example.  By registering as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization the quasi-lobbying group legally avoids the restrictions placed on lobbying groups not registered the same way.  ALEC pushes for legislative changes that benefit corporations, not citizens.

The tax-exempt organization was the topic of a news conference Tuesday afternoon featuring a panel of four concerned citizens including members of People for Positive Action.  The panel promoted the upcoming presentation of a documentary dealing with ALEC, providing background information for the local press.

Not many people are aware of ALEC and the controversy surrounding it.  Me, I heard about it some time ago but not through the mainstream media.  I found out about it through a political cartoon.

ALEC has been criticized for working in the background, keeping the public unaware until a whistleblower came forward.  Apparently it takes political cartoons, not mainstream media, to rip away the secrecy.  Some press representatives at the news conference said they were unaware of ALEC.

Renting space at ROTA Gallery to make their presentation the panel provided a lot more information on the-lobbying-group-that-isn't-a-lobbying-group.

(Left to right)  Tom Wood, Matt Hall, Mary-Alice Shemo and Bill Cowan explain to the press how the organization ALEC disenfranchises voters.

Panelist Matt Hall pointed out that ALEC represents many major corporations, putting the goals of those companies over citizens.  ALEC influences politicans to pass boiler-plated bills to further those goals such as privatizing education.  "ALEC is not your friend," he said.

According to the Website "ALEC makes old-fashioned lobbying obsolete."  It sponsors trips for state legislators who for a minumum of work end up with nice vacations, staying at swank motels and attending fun parties while making contacts with wealthy business people, potential campaign donors.  Each legislator walks away with a model bill that he will push for when he returns to work at his statehouse, essentailly becoming a super-lobbyist for corporations.

Mary-Alice Shemo said that no matter what your political beliefs may be, everyone should see the documentary, "United States of ALEC."   A press member inquired if the documentary came across as a conspiracy theory movie, really slanted against its subject.  Shemo said the documentary provides information and let's viewers decided for themselves.

Panelist Bill Cowan observed: "In my 80 odd years I've seen a lot of films but his one has a lot of punch, it's devastating." 

The documentary, "United States of ALEC,” will be shown at Plattsburgh State campus in Yokum Hall, room 200, Friday April 5 at 7:00 PM.  Common Cause/NY Executive Director Susan Lerner will answer questions after the film.   As Mary-Alice Shemo observed people should be aware of the issues involved.

[ REVISED 3/22/13 at 8 PM, paragraph #9, to clarify reply by Mary-Alice Shemo to question about documentary being slanted. ]

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Circle Of Characters Addresses Addiction Cycle

Writer/actor Tim Wagoner (left) portrays one of 28 characters affected by the problems caused by various addictions in his performance "Support."

PLATTSBURGH CITY, NY - Wednesday, March 13, 2013

One character faded away, soon replaced by another.  Male, female, young, old, contrite, hopeful, angry, sad – a flow of stories told by addicts and those affected by their addictions, two overlapping circles.

Through his theater-in-the-round performance entitled "Support" actor/writer Tim Wagoner portrayed a cast of 28 people this evening at the Plattsburgh Public Library.

Held in the second floor auditorium, the center stage for his one-man play was a circle of chairs in a support group setting.  The chairs were a jumble of styles and types, each one was picked out to reflect the personality of the character who sat in it.

Tim Wagoner portrays someone with a food addiction.  Props to be used to bring to life other characters wait for him in nearby chairs.

Tim slipped into each character with a quick change of clothing items, picking up garb and props suited to the individual.  Scarf, knitting needles, tie, cowboy hat – all were used to bring the characters to life.  A monologue by a father struggling with alcoholism would segue into the viewpoint of his young son.

Tim initially created the performance with just three characters as part of his Scene Study course at Plattsburgh State.  His cast of characters grew as he worked on his play, personalities that came forward as he explains in his play's brochure.

After his performance Tim sat down and had a talk back with his audience, discussing the issues raised by his work.  One woman stated she had problems in the past with addictive behavior and now was concerned about her child.  For a moment a support group was created, allowing people in the audience to share their own stories.

The event was sponsored by AmericCorps.  Tim says he hopes to bring "Support" to other venues.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Spring Ahead Two Days?

In a previous post I mentioned how the Press-Republican last year told its readers to set their clocks back one hour for daylight savings time.

Well, as screencap below illustrates, the PR must get really confused this time of year with changing clocks and whatever.   (Click on image to enlarge.)

Maybe the layout person for the PR website should date a proofreader.  Or maybe that person has been working too much overtime.

A big thanks to the alert reader who sent the tip to me.

Did You Fall For This One?

Pasted below is a microfilm copy of a Press-Republican masthead section from last spring.  Notice how on Saturday, March 10, 2012 the PR reminded its readers on the front page to properly set their clocks to change over to daylight savings time.  (Click on image to enlarge.)

This slipped by me until someone mentioned it to me the other day.  Apparently it had generated a number of timely phone calls.

The PR should adjust its budget and spring for a copy editor.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Kaitlyn's Cast Cameras: Making Disposable Permanent

Sculptures by Kaitlyn Donovan.  Perfect gifts for Iron Man.

PLATTSBURGH CITY, NY - Saturday, March 9, 2013

Art is created to last and endure.  But not most mass produced goods.

Back in the heyday of the throwaway society you could buy a cheap plastic camera that did the job but wasn't built to last.  The worse ones were one-use disposable cameras: shoot the preloaded roll, process the film, and toss the body in the trash.

Environmentalists were upset.  They forced the issue with camera companies and so disposable became recyclable.

Kaitlyn Donovan has found another way to recycle cheap plastic cameras, creating permanent works of art.  Cast iron permanent.

Besides serving as ROTA Exhibitions Coordinator Kaitlyn is also an artist/photographer who works at a Vermont camera store.  Cameras are an important focus in her life.  During the opening of the ROTA Gallery Staff Exhibit this evening she detailed the intense work involved in making her metal sculptures.

Using her Holga camera sculpture Kaitlyn Donovan explains how the mold was separated from the cast iron by cutting a flap in the back.  Her other sculptures involved prying two halves apart along a seam.

A mold is formed from each body, prepared for the pouring and shaping of molten iron.  Kaitlyn said that such sculptures can't be created by one person in an apartment kitchen.  Besides having the proper furnace at least a team of four is needed to conduct the process in an appropriate facility such as the one at Plattsburgh State.  Besides teamwork, she added, timing is critical since molten metal cools so quickly.

Kaitlyn explained how she used two different methods to create her heavy metal cameras.  Her Holga sculpture – which could be argued takes better shots than the original – used the ceramic mold method, resulting in more detail in texture and shape.  Her smaller cameras involved sand molds, a less time intensive process but with sacrifice in detail.

Why does Kaitlyn create these sculptures?  She says there are homages to old cameras, gravestones if you will.

Heft one of her cameras and you can feel the weight of solid permanence.  Just don't drop one on your foot.

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ROTA Gallery is open daily 12 noon to 5 PM depending upon volunteer staffing.  More info at or email .

The ROTA Staff Exhibit will run for two weeks.  Below are other works on display, obviously stuff you won't see anywhere else.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

ROTA On The Ropes

ROTA Vice President Matt Hall (right, burgundy shirt) coordinates a meeting to discuss how to deal with the not-for-profit cooperative's budget shortfall.

PLATTSBURGH CITY, NY - Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013

Contrast: warm discussion – cool room.  I put my fleece jacket back on.

When struggling each month to pay the rent the thermostat has to be set lower.

Folding chairs in a circle.  Staff, members, and supporters of ROTA Gallery gather this evening to discuss how to raise more funds.

Before the meeting ROTA Vice President Matt Hall urged supporters through Facebook to attend and help address the non-profit co-op's ongoing budget problem.  In his post he stated:

"I can't speak for all of the organizers, but I personally feel like Plattsburgh needs an independent arts space, a space where kids can have music shows, where anyone can show their art, where we can share skills and ideas and culture. A space that is free of judgement and pretentiousness, free of drugs and alcohol, a safe space for people of all backgrounds."

During the meeting he mentioned that moving to the new location at 50 Margaret Street meant a doubling of the rent.

Funds raised through donations for events like art exhibits and music events are falling short of the monthly budget for ROTA.

Someone suggested that one way to raise funds was to finish renovating the basement area, turning it into a recording studio.  But that project has to be kept on hold until basic finances are under control, allowing ROTA to expand its services.

The basement has been used for music events.  During the winter months the main floor can be cool but the lower level is like a meat locker.  ROTA is doing the best it can with what it has.

The meeting saw a mix of young and old supporters.  Despite the impression that some may have, ROTA isn't just a kids concern.  Adults are also involved.

In attendance was Dr. Laura Carbone, MD, who works at CVPH Medical Center, practicing in Internal Medicine and Nephrology.  One of her outside interests is photography, particularly music events.  I met her one time at a ROTA concert; she told me then that she enjoyed the energy of young performers.

At the meeting she said that it was important to have a place like ROTA where young artists and musicians can create and play.  How important?  She gave a $200 check to help the not-for-profit arts co-op meet its rent this month and also pledged $100 a month, becoming ROTA's first supporting member.

If more supporters like Laura come through, the ROTA can expand its offerings – and say goodbye to meat locker concerts.

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More info about ROTA: or email .

Monday, March 04, 2013

Gunning For Ad Dollars

The juxtaposition is jarring.

The article is headlined: "Mental-health services offered locally for youth."  The lede states that there has been an increased focus on childhood mental health since the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting.

It's a well-written article but...

While reading the article on my tablet, accessing the Press-Republican's mobile Website, I notice an ad directly above the headline promoting a "Bedside Shotgun Rack - There When You Need It."

The link takes you to page featuring a photo of the rack in position between the mattress and foundation, someone lifting up a shotgun from the side of his bed.

I do notice that there's no blanket in the way.  Of course, for illustrative purposes, the viewer has to clearly see how the rack works.  But I would suspect that normally the shotgun-in-rack would be buried under a draping blanket, especially during the cold winter months.  Such a situation could lead to a slow response, maybe even a misfiring if the half-awake shooter got tangled up in his sheets.

But we shouldn't worry because the Backup site states: "The bedside gun rack is the safest and most effective way to protect your home and family from an unwanted intruder."

It's safer than placing the shotgun under your bed, the ad points out.  Indeed.  But what about the loaded weapon hanging on one side of the bed where someone could accidentally bump into it without thinking?   An amorous couple could go out with a bang in more ways than one.

The ad sums up with these words:

"A shotgun sprays its ammunitions so you don’t need a great shot to get the job done and it doesn’t pierce walls. $39.95 is priceless when it comes to protecting your family."

All this from clicking on a link in an article about mental health services being utilized to prevent another tragic school shooting.

Yes, advertising is the lifeblood of a newspaper.  But instead of letting its sites being auto-filled with any ad out there, the PR should screen ads.

And maybe there's the algorithm problem, contextual advertising automatically generated by article keywords.  So the word "shooting" triggers a bedside shotgun rack link to fill in the ad spot.  If that's the case, the PR better find a better ad agency or end up with more dubious article-ad match-ups.  Imagine what would happen if an article mentions a "rump parliament..."