Nuts for Squirrels

After years of chasing squirrels, my dogs finally got one.

It always plays out the same way: the dogs sprint out the back door and the squirrels dash away from he bid feeder and up the tree — but this time was different.

A smallish, young squirrel fumbled its escape and Scarlet caught up with it at the bottom of the tree. Just as she put her paw on it, I called her off — but the squirrel turned and ended up right in from of Maddy, who cornered it in a nook at the base of the tree.

Maddy — who tends to be stubborn — wouldn’t back off, and I had to go over and pull her away from the startled critter.

Once the dogs were back in the house I went to the tree. The squirrel looked down at me and was like, “Dude, WTF?!” I couldn’t tell if it was injured, but after a while it vanished into the trees, so I’m assuming it was just shaken up.

The next day — like it never happened — the squirrels were back at the feeder, including one who looked a lot like the one the dogs captured.

And the dogs? I’ve got to figure that they’re filled with new hope. Now that they know they can catch a squirrel, anything is possible.

Shoe Business

Wouldn’t it be great if there were voice activated toilet seats? You just could walk in and tell it to go up or down and never have to touch the damn thing.

seatWell, we don’t have them — so until that wonderful day arrives you should just do what most sensible people do: use your foot.

This leads to an interesting question: how dirty are your shoes from touching toilet seats?

“How dirty” stories used to be all the rage in TV news. I did promos for stories where we tested hotel rooms, household items and common objects you find in public, like doorknobs and water fountains. We’d swab the things and send the samples to a lab for analysis. Two weeks later? Instant sweeps story!

Anyway, way back in 2008, ABC News did a story about dirty shoes. The results? Your shoes are astoundingly dirty — maybe even the dirtiest things you own. I’m not trying to freak you out here, but you may be making a toilet seat dirtier by touching it with your filthy shoe.

Just something to think about. Meanwhile, I suppose in the future it will be odd to hear people calling out “up” and “down” in public restrooms.

A Tale of Two Headlines

headline

June 11, 2015

oopsy

July 9, 2015

Well, it took a month, but the Times Union finally figured out what other media outlets were reporting from practically day one: that the Dannemora escape was far from the first.

In today’s front page item, the paper blames Governor Cuomo for spreading the “first escape” story; one has to wonder who Cuomo is blaming.

Paul Grondahl writes, “Cuomo’s comments were picked up and repeated, including by local residents.” Yes it was picked up and repeated. Please refer to the photo at the top of this blog post.

Anyway, this makes it all OK:

The Matt and Sweat imbroglio, however, did not eclipse the level of subterfuge in the escape of George Leggins of Coxsackie, who broke away on July 31, 1915, from a farm outside Dannemora’s walls.

Anyone who can use imbroglio and subterfuge in the same sentence gets an A+ in my book.

Would You Rather Be First or Right?

The Dannemora prison escape has been a fascinating story, and Friday evening, with one escapee gunned down by police and the other on the run, it was a big news night.

There were many wild tales from the North Country woods, many of them brought to us by eager reporters on Twitter. Unfortunately, some of them were not exactly true, like this one from Time Warner Cable News reporter Geoff Redick.

Exciting? Yes. True? No.

But, Rob, Geoff Redick says right there that “TWO police sources” told him this story.

Oh, really — what police sources? To be so confident, it must have been two very high ranking people with direct knowledge of what’s going on — like officials from the command post.

Mr. Redick went on to tap this one out:

Later in the evening, this all turned out to be bunk. Whatever — stop distracting me with all those annoying facts!

TV news has always been obsessed with getting stories first, even if only by a few minutes. Social media has taken it to the next level; it used to be about who could get it on the air first, and now it’s who can tweet it first.

I’d say this is progress. There’s never been a faster way to get things wrong.

Sounds Like America

If asked you to name a composer who evokes the American spirit, you’d mention Aaron Copland, but could you come up with another? I could a bunch — and all of them have worked in Hollywood.

There is a particular style of movie score that’s big and bold and sweeps you away. It sounds like America.

One of those scores is the one James Horner did for Rocketeer.

I have a long history with the movie.

Horner died in a plane crash this week. It’s telling that he escaped to the sky, a very American pursuit, which you can hear in his music. And you can certainly hear it in that title theme to Rocketeer, titled “Takeoff.”

The Clock

There comes a time when things have to go.

Years ago, we had a garage sale when my mother was selling her house. My father died several years earlier, and spread out on the lawn and driveway were a lot of his things. Tools, clothing and the bric-a-brac that builds up after of decades in the same place. I didn’t end up with much of it.

My mom went from place to place, each time shedding more possessions — and now we’re facing a move that will not allow furniture to go along.

And that brings us to the grandfather clock.

My father built the clock 40 years ago from a kit and it stood for years in our dining room — and now no one in my family wanted it. I’m at a point in my life where I’m trying to get rid of things, not acquire more — but the idea of the clock going on Craigslist and ending up with some strangers really bothered me.

So, I drove to Poughkeepsie and loaded it in my car.

I may regret it one day, but how can I just let the clock go? So much of the tangible evidence of his life is gone, scattered here and there — it just seems like something he made should stay with me.

No, we’re not defined by stuff, but objects have the power to transport you through time. What could be better for that than a clock?

Segue Fever: Military Edition

In 1980, the prospect of World War III was still a very real concern. From my dorm room near Plattsburgh Air Force Base, I could watch FB-111s tear into the sky — and by all accounts, they were nuked and ready to rock.

Naturally, when XTC’s Generals and Majors came out in 1980, we played it constantly at the college radio station. There’s nothing like a peppy song about blowing up the world.

I’d bet you $100 that Colin Meloy listened to some XTC records when he was growiing up in Montana — and I think you can hear it in 16 Military Wives. These are two songs that belong together.

Under the Table and Dreaming

Scarlett looked up from her iPad.

“Rob, you see how New York passed a law that allows dogs in restaurants.”

“Yes — but only in outside dining areas. And only at restaurants that allow it.”

That’s when Maddy trotted in.

“Hey, Scarlett said we’re going to a restaurant!”

“No, not yet,” I said. “The governor has to sign the bill first.”

“What are you going to order Scarlett? I want pork belly. Doesn’t that sound fancy? What’s a governor?”

Scarlett handled this one.

“He runs New York, so he’s in charge of a lot of things. Like Thacher Park.”

“Oh my god, I love Thacher Park. The same guy who runs Thacher Park is going to let us eat at restaurants! He’s the best governor ever!”

Scarlett jumped down off her chair to get a drink of water.

“Maddy, I think this whole thing is just so they can bring us to restaurants — not so we can eat at them. And it treats us like second class citizens. The law says we need a separate entrance and we won’t be allowed to sit on chairs. No offense, Rob, but this is more about vain dog owners than about dogs.”

She curled up in the corner.

“You two can go, have fun. The whole thing just sounds like it will be disappointing. But bring me a doggy bag.”

Reporter Walks Into a Bar…

What a pleasant surprise to see Plattsburgh’s Monopole bar appear in a New York Times story. I spent many hours in the Monopole as a college student. It wasn’t my favorite haunt, but we’d often end the night there grabbing a slice of scalding hot pizza.

It would come right out of the oven and burn the hell out of your mouth. A sober and sensible person would wait for it to cool; we were neither. In the morning, you were not just hung over, but you had shreds of skin hanging down from the roof of your mouth. Good times.

But about that story. A Times reporter made the rounds of the North Country collecting theories about what happened to those two escaped murderers. Among the opinions was that of longtime Monopole bartender Gail Coleman, who posited that they ran off to Italy. Hey, why not?

Stories like this one show why it’s great to be a newspaper reporter. You can go around and talk to people, like in a bar for example, and whip up a pretty good piece. Your story comes from conversation.

Compare this to what it’s like being a TV reporter. Weighed down with a big camera and lights, the moment you walk in, all intimacy is lost and artificiality takes over. Plus, a certain type of person is attracted to TV news crews. What’s the word I’m looking for… oh, yes: yahoos. If you don’t think people act strangely when cameras are on, go home and turn on TLC or Discovery.

A lot of people won’t talk with a camera pointed in their face — not the way they’ll talk to some guy with a notebook who’s drinking a beer. I once had a TV reporter try telling me I was wrong about this; I guess that’s what happens when you inhale hair spray fumes for so many years.

It makes you wonder why anyone would do that job. The stagey interviews, reliance on pictures to tell your story, merciless time constraints — meanwhile some newspaper reporter is sitting in the Monopole chatting up Gail, all the while coming up with something better than any work you’ll ever do, all in his head.

God, I’m going to miss newspapers.