On Their Own Terms

In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein firestorm, two Times Union bloggers wrote brutally frank #metoo accounts about being sexual assault victims.

The newspaper took down the posts and suspended their accounts.

Yes, you read that right.

Chuck Miller, who had his own trouble with the Times Union, re-published the posts by Heather Fazio and Fran Rossi Szpylczyn on his blog. The paper put Fran’s post back up when she agreed to change the term “cock-tease” to “c*ck-tease” — as if that makes a difference. According to Chuck Miller, Heather Fazio has refused to change what she wrote.

Both bloggers were notified of their suspension by Tena Tyler, who’s listed on the masthead as “Senior Editor, Engagement.” Here’s how she engaged them:

Sorry about your sexual assault, but you violated our terms of service.

And what terms are those?

“You agree not to post, e-mail or otherwise make available content: – that is unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, lewd, defamatory, pornographic, libelous or invasive of another’s privacy or harms minors in any way”

OK, so a woman’s story about being attacked — in one case as a child — is “lewd” and “pornographic.” That’s fucking sick, Ms. Tyler.

Look, I’ve complained about the Times Union’s blog page for a long time, especially about the way they manipulate people and the one-sided relationship between the paper and the bloggers– but this is too much.

Any writer who continues blogging with the Times Union is out of their mind. Maybe you enjoy the opportunity to reach a large audience, but at what cost? A deal with the devil often seems like a good idea until the bill comes due.

Park at Your Own Risk

This isn’t about me wanting special treatment, it’s about common sense.

I recently parked my car downtown so I could move a bunch of boxes from one office to another. I figured I’d be out to fetch the car by 8:30, but I built in a little padding.

After being delayed, I went out to the car, where an Abany Parking Authority meter attendant was writing me a ticket — and this was at 8:51. Three minutes after my fee expired, I’m getting a ticket.

“You’re in violation,” she barked. “I’ve already written the ticket.”

Seriously? Three minutes?

After a bit of back and forth, the woman relented, but gave me a fuck you look as she stalked away. Yeah, you have a nice day, too.

So, let me ask you a question: should they ticket people the second their meter expires or allow a five to ten minute grace period. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems like bullshit to pounce on violators the moment their time is up.

And pounce is what they do.

My co-workers claim that Albany Parking Authority’s pay stations and parking app alert officers of expiring payments. Think about it. If they know a car is expired in their patrol area, they can just stroll over and write a ticket. Or stroll over and wait for it to run out.

That sounds a bit conspiratorial — but why wouldn’t they do this?

I’m not suggesting that people shouldn’t pay to park — or that rules should be ignored — but being overly aggressive may be bad policy. Welcome to Albany.

Core Values

When you live less than a mile from Indian Ladder Farms, fresh apples are just moments away — but why do that when you can pick them on your front lawn?

We were blessed with a bunch of apple trees at our new house, and recently we’ve made apple cake, apple bars, apple crunch, applesauce — all with fruit from our trees. The apples aren’t beautiful, but we’re using them. Next year? Cider — both sweet and hard.

There is some work to this. The trees need regular pruning, and Cooperative Extension has recommended a care plan that should remedy a bit of a fungus problem. Then there’s taking care of the dropped fruit, which has added up to hundreds and hundreds of pounds of apples.

This doesn’t mean I won’t be to Indian Ladder Farms. Warm donuts and fresh beer are just down the road. Those are things that don’t grow on trees.

Foto Friday

Inverness

Top Dogs

Our dog, Scarlett, has a small repertoire of tricks — certainly enough to impress visitors and to qualify her as the best trained dog in our neighborhood.

But when it comes to training dogs, I’ve never seen anything like what I saw in Scotland.

At a Leault Farm, just off the road between Edinburgh and Inverness, shepherd Neil Ross trots out a gang of border collies who move sheep exactly where he wants them in a vast field. But what makes this truly amazing is that he controls individual dogs on command.

With a combination of words and whistles, one dog will jump up and race hundreds of yards away and loop around the sheep. Then, on command, the dog will drive the sheep where Ross wants them. With more shouts and whistles he’ll send a different dog out on another route — then another and another.

It’s uncanny.

After the herding, you see how sheep are sheared – you can give it a try, if you like. The dogs wander around and socialize with the visitors; they’re calm and friendly – which is unusual for intense working dogs.

Aside from the beat up Range Rover, it could have been a hundred years ago. The lush green fields, the sheep, the dogs. A visit to this farm gives you a peek at a way of life that’s endangered on every side.

Neil Ross was born in the house on the farm, and he told us his kids are taught at home, far from “the nonsense they learn in school about the environment and politics.” That turned a few heads, but I can’t say I blame him.

NOTE: If your interested in rural life in the UK, I recommend A Shepehrd’s Life by James Rebanks. It’s a beautifully written book.

A Wee Story

All around Scotland, ancient people left clues about their existence, but there’s still great mystery surrounding the way they lived — and died.

The Corrimony Cairn is deep in the countryside down a narrow road in the Highlands, and while it may not be as grand as a place like Stonehenge, you feel a strange force viewing this 4,000 year old burial chamber.

Our tour guide pointed to the standing stones that circled the main structure. “Some people believe that if you hug those stones, they bring long life.”

Long life? Ok, why not. It was a wet day, but really: are you going to visit the cairn and not hug a rock?

The next day we were off in another small bus and on our rainy way to the Isle of Skye. We stopped at a lovely spot along the way with a stone bridge over a winding creek. It all stood below a dramatic cluster of mountains, and even on a misty day it was stunning.

Our guide, Chris, pointed down to the river. “It’s said, that if you put your face in the water for six seconds, it will bring you eternal beauty.”

I was the only taker. It was extremely cold water.

Chris teased me a bit along the way about my facial, and how I’d been magically transformed. I remarked that it must be very distracting to see me in the rear view mirror.

It wasn’t until later that I wondered what else these drivers get tourists to do — and how much of it is malarkey. But who am I to complain, now that I am blessed with long life and eternal beauty?

Another Brick in the Paywall

Watch for changes to the Times Union’s digital offerings.

I noticed on my phone and tablet they’ve been fiddling with settings that impose a monthly story limit. By “fiddling,” I mean turning it on and off. Also, the paid content timesunionPLUS story designation has vanished.

It could mean that they’re getting ready to pull the plug on free content — like so many newspapers have done — and that the timesunionPLUS scheme was a bust.

The blogs? Those will probably stay free. Hey, you get what you pay for.

Maybe they’ll take up my idea of offering unlimited access for $.25 per week, which I’d gladly pay for the online edition.

“Rob,” you say, “why should they give away their news content. That makes no sense, these days.”

No, I suppose it doesn’t. And who would do that, anyway? Oh, I don’t know — local TV stations, maybe? They’ve never charged you for news and they still don’t.

Anyhow, wait and see.

The Debate Debate

All politics is local, and local news is always looking for a way to make local races interesting. Sometimes it’s a struggle. In much of the Capital Region, political power is so tilted toward one party that results are a fait accompli — and in many other races, the candidates are often indistinguishable.

That was the case when the Democrat candidates for Albany mayor debated on August 17 — and it was a real snoozefest. The winner of the September primary will be mayor — and you may as well pick the name from a hat, because they’re all the same.

But this isn’t about the debate, it’s about the exessive exposure it got in the media: the amount airtime it got far exceeds the audience.

You could watch the debate live in primetime on WNYT or listen on WAMC, plus there was streaming. WAMC ran the whole thing again the next afternoon.

What’s a small audience?

In 2013, about 12,000 people voted in the Albany mayoral primary. That represents about 1.3% of the people in the market. That adds up to a ton of people who are not involved or interested.

I used to work with a news director who said that people in Pittsfield won’t watch a story about Schenectady. I said that people will always watch a compelling, well-told story — no matter where it occurs.

But a boring story? Kiss them goodbye.

At the Movies

Spectrum TheatreI went to the Spectrum Theatre recently, and it turns out they no longer accept these pre-paid passes.

The theatre changed hands in 2015. The new owners bought the Spectrum’s funky hippy-dippy indie vibe, the art exhibits, the homey slideshow ads, the cake and cookies and popcorn with real butter, but there’s one thing they didn’t buy: a long-term commitment to honor these cards.

At the box office, I explained that it’s not cool to turn down the passes. The box office clerk explained back to me, “I can’t help you. Call customer service if you have a complaint.”

And he handed me this fortune cookie-sized piece of paper.

Landmark Theatres

Landmark wants to hear from you. Or not.

The woman I talked to at Landmark was impatient with my call. I suggested that when they bought the theatre, they also bought the Spectrum’s loyal long-time customers — and their passes. “Too bad,” she said. I was obviously not the first person to bother her on this topic.

No biggy. I can afford to buy movie tickets and I’ll still go to the Spectrum.

But one more thing: the passes you and I bought may not be any good, but it turns out that the former owners — Keith Pickard, Sugi Pickard, Scott Meyer and Annette Nanes — got a nice bonus as part of the purchase deal. Keith Pickard told the Times Union:

“We have passes forever. That was negotiated. That was part of the negotiating deal — that we have movie passes for as long as Landmark is leasing the property. Don’t forget,” he added, “we’re film lovers.”

Well. that’s terrific. Too bad your long-time customers — the film lovers who patronized your business for decades — don’t get to use the passes they purchased “forever”.

Keith Pickard also said:

“We’re very happy to be a part of this, and we think Landmark will serve the community well. … The legacy is very important to all of us, and I can’t stress this enough. We feel we have a good partner for this. It’s stewardship.”

You’ve got your legacy, Mr. Pickard. And your lifetime pass.