Category Archives: Blogging

A Sensitive Area

A friend was concerned. “You don’t write much about local media any more. Is it getting better or are you just losing interest?”

Well, neither. It’s certainly getting different, but not better — and yes I’m still interested. The truth is that work consumes more of my brain capacity now, unlike in the Albany Eye days. Idle hands, idle hands.

But now and then, oh boy:

That headline is a masterpiece of poor taste, and it is funny at first — until you read the story. The jarring contrast between the jokey headline and the brutality of the crime is stunning. But maybe it was OK. After all, these were just a bunch of roughneck laborers from out of town, living in a cheap hotel. They aren’t like us, are they?

Oh, one more thing. Earlier in the day I read a story in the Times Union about a lawsuit brought by a man who’d been hit in the balls with a golf club. Before you ask, “What club does one use for that shot,” you should know that the guy lost a testicle. The reporter was less restrained, and wondered if the case, “might keep the judges from looking forward to golf season anytime soon.”

By the way, both of these stories were written by Robert Gavin, who covers law and the courts. I guess he’s the Paul Grondahl of crotch stories.

So local media? Maybe not better, certainly different, always interesting.

When Black Friday Comes

I’m not a shopper, so the whole Black Friday thing makes me want to puke. But for deal hunters, Friday is the Super Bowl of buying and many wild-eyed shoppers will be clutching the gigantic Thursday Times Union.

Newspaper circulars remain an effective way to advertise, so Thursday’s five-pound edition must be a real money maker. The paper has taken to flogging the hell out of the Black Friday special edition, even heavily promoting its release as an “event.”

Marketing newspapers has never been harder, but I must say, five pounds of newspaper does sound attractive. That would get me through a lot of litter box changes.

By the way, if it’s Thanksgiving, that means it’s time for the best side dish ever invented, Albany Eye Sweet Potato Crunch. I first shared the recipe in 2006, so this is an anniversary of sorts. And for those interested in history, it was posted just weeks before Albany Eye would crash and burn in a most spectacular manner. Good times!

Bad Case of the Blahhhgs

Fun fact: about one-quarter of Times Union bloggers haven’t posted anything in a month or more.

That’s not as bad as it sounds, actually.

It’s commonly accepted that about 95% of people who start blogging give it up. Numbers are hard to come by; researching abandoned blogs is almost as pointless as the abandoned blogs themselves. Nobody cares.

It does seem that some people take to it more than others. Let’s look at a couple of recent additions to the TU’s stable of bloggers. Former administrative law judge and author Frank Robinson started blogging in early November. Since then, he’s posted interesting pieces every few days. Good stuff.

On the flip side is Anasha Cummings. His introductory post appeared on November 24 and then he fell off the edge of the earth. He may not be much of a blogger, but at least he has awesome hair.

Some readers think I have some sort of beef with the TU blog section. Well, they’re right. But also, I’ve been making fun of writing about their blog content for nearly ten years, since my days as an amateur media critic.  Why stop now?

But enough for today.  Blog posts about blogs and blogging? Now that’s tedious.

On the Edge of Oblivion

A friend sent me an email.

Rob, I’m really surprised that you have nothing to say about the apparent demise of On the Edge. There hasn’t been new post there since August 27.

Really? This I have to see.

After some examination, it does appear that On the Edge, once one of the Times Union’s most popular blogs, is dead. Positively, absolutely, undeniably and reliably dead. Most sincerely dead, even.

The busy blog went into a skid when Kristi Gustafson left in in 2014. Her successor tried like hell, but couldn’t quite capture the tart mix of style and opinion the readers loved — and others loved to hate.

What made On the Edge a real sh*tshow was the comment section, which provided a Greek chorus for Gustafson’s high-handed pronouncements. When she left, the mob fled.

This is a great example of the ephemeral nature of blogs, and testament to how one person’s unique voice can capture an audience.

Like the loss of Metroland, it’s a loss to the local media landscape. I didn’t like On the Edge — and why would I, because as a man, I certainly wasn’t the target demo — but you’ve got to admit, it was really good at what it did.

Pigture This

Inspiration can come from many places. A book, a beautiful landscape, a moving experience… mine came from Chuck Miller. Let me explain.

You may know him. Among other things, Chuck is the Times Union’s most prolific blogger, a trivia whiz and a really good photographer. At lunch a few months ago, I whined that I felt I was in a creative doldrums, particularly in regard to my photography.

“Here’s what you do,” he said. “Pick a picture you like and get it printed and framed — then enter it in the Altamont fair in August.” This was good advice. I’ve been a photographer for forty years, but most of my work is hidden away in boxes or hard drives. Maybe setting a goal, even one as simple as getting one photo entered in the fair competition, was just what I needed.

I chose one of my favorite pictures, some pigs I saw at Peter’s Dairy Farm in Castleton. I was there to shoot Carmine Sprio milking a cow for his cooking show, Carmine’s Table, and happened to have my $20 plastic Holga 120 with me. Those pigs are long gone — as is the cooking show — but the photo remains.

pigs

Anyway, I woke up this morning and saw Chuck’s blog post about how his Altamont Fair photo entries did — and nearly fell out of my chair when I saw that he posted a picture of my pig photo hanging at the fair with a blue ribbon under it.

How about that.

What Chuck did for me was a small thing that made a big difference, but that’s the kind of guy he is, somebody who does small things that make a big difference. We could all learn something from the example he sets, not just on how to be a better photographer but about being a better person.

Frankenstein’s Monster

Are newspapers and other online publications discovering that they hate comments? Might be.

The latest to abandon comments is The Week, which issued a long explanation of their policy change. It included this passage:

There was a time — not so long ago! — when the comments sections of news and opinion sites were not only the best place to host these conversations, they were the only place. That is no longer the case. Too often, the comments sections of news sites are hijacked by a small group of pseudonymous commenters who replace smart, thoughtful dialogue with vitriolic personal insults and rote exchanges of partisan acrimony.

Yeah, no kidding.

Quite coincidentally, on the same day I spotted this blog comment exchange in the Capital Region’s foremost purveyor of reader comments, the Times Union:

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

 

That’s really telling: even Mike Huber, the guy who created the paper’s blog section and commenting community, now pines for the days when readers had to send a letter. Bravo, indeed.

Eat the Bird

Turkey -- not body parts.
Turkey — not body parts.

Working in the dark of night, the black plastic bags, the cooler — whenever I brine a turkey it reminds me of something out of Dexter. I hope none of my Thanksgiving guests are reading this.

Anyhow, it would not be Thanksgiving if I didn’t post a link to my recipe for sweet potato crunch. People remember two things about Albany Eye: the wiseass commentary and the sweet potato crunch recipe I first shared in 2006.

It’s getting sort of like NPR’s tradition of running Susan Stamberg’s horrible relish recipe with one important difference: the sweet potato crunch is something people will actually love to eat. Stamberg is fond of saying “It sounds terrible but tastes terrific.” Susan, let’s be honest: most people hate it.

Take my word for it, this will be one of the most popular things on the table — but I’ll share one tip about the recipe that I wrote when I first shared it:

Cook’s note: DO NOT DARE used canned sweet potatoes; you’re making dinner for your loved ones, not the inmates down at Coxsackie.

Maybe they could punish unruly prisoners by giving them nothing but the Susan Stamberg relish? Nah… that would be cruel and unusual.

Don’t Call Me Blogger

Look, I’ve been doing this for a long time.

There’s something about being called “blogger” that rubs me the wrong way. Maybe it’s the face people make when they say it — or that they put it in quotes, as seen in the previous sentence. In polite society, the title blogger seems to fall somewhere between panhandler and pornographer, so it’s time for a change.

From now on, my title here on the blog is Social Media Strategist and Interactive Audience Manager. I think that befits my years of experience in doing this and better describes my role here at Keyboard Krumbs.

Maybe I can’t give myself a raise, but who needs money when you have a fancy title?

So, You Want to Rent a Cat?

Here’s something that turned up in my inbox:

I saw your post online about renting one of your cats?  Is this actually a reality.  My roommates and I would love to rent a cat for the spring.  If the offer is no longer on the table do you have any idea where we could get a cat for 2 months but then give it back.

It’s been four years since I wrote a tongue-in-cheek post about renting my cats out as rodent control contractors, yet I still get occasional comments and emails from people who are interested in the make-believe service.

It’s hard to tell if people are just pulling my leg. Seriously, I don’t know how much stupider I could have made the blog post. For example: “Maeve can be baited to make her more attractive to mice by rubbing cheese or peanut butter on her head. Rodents find these scents irresistible and will walk right into her clutches.”

I find that people sometimes don’t know when I’m kidding. Do you ever get that dead eyed stare at a meeting when you say something you think is funny and it doesn’t seem to register? It could just be people don’t have a sense of humor. Or they think you’re an idiot. Or maybe a little of both.

It’s hard not to think that there may have been something to the cat rental concept. Maybe if I were just a bit more ambitious I could have been the cat rental king, providing a service the public needs, making a nice living and putting some cats to work doing something useful.