Category Archives: Culture

All the Young Punks

I do try to avoid indulging in “when I was your age” stuff.

A young lady who works at the coffee shop was bopping around as she did her chores, decked out in punk regalia that would have fit right in at a Sex Pistols concert 40 years ago. By young, I mean young enough to be my daughter. She was rocking out to — wait for it — Green Day.

Waiting for one’s tea to steep, it’s hard to resist the temptation to strike up a conversation and say things that would make you seem like a ridiculous old geezer — or worse yet, a creepy middle-age guy trying to make time. So, one keeps one’s mouth shut.

But how would that go?

“You know, I was really into punk when I was your age. I was just unpacking my records and came across my copy of Never Mind the Bollocks on vinyl. Oh, and the Clash? I saw them live. Me and my friends at the college radio station, everybody hated us because of all the punk we played. Do you ever listen to X? Los Angeles and Wild Gift are like the best albums ever. You know, a lot of people slam Green Day, but you can really hear a lot of what influenced them if you listen to blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”

Yes, pathetic. We thought we were so cool back then.

But it is interesting that there are still punks, isn’t it? The rock era may be unique in the enduring nature of  its genres and music. A record from the late 70s might interest a lot of 21-year-olds — but could the same be said in 1970 of music that was popular in 1930?

So, ridiculous old geezers, feel good that your music survives. But please do so quietly.

Resolved

It’s time to reflect on the year that was and the one to come. We can only hope to be a bit better by the end of next December.

I made a list of things to work on. This one has seven items, because everybody knows that lists with an odd number of items are better than those with an even number.

  • Stop making that noise when you open frustrating emails. Rather than exhaling hard, breath in deeply.
  • Break the talk radio habit. Tuning in to Talk 1300 — even for just a few minutes — just makes you angry. There’s enough stupidity and intolerance out there. No need to seek it out.
  • Leave more blog comments. A brief comment helps the bloggers know that someone cares about their writing.
  • Learn to meditate.
  • Say something positive. And not in a sarcastic way.
  • Be a good neighbor. New house, new start.
  • Consider your first impulse — and then don’t do that.

We’ll reconvene here next year to see how all this went.

Localism

I used this picture, taken at the Stewart’s in Selkirk, in a presentation about communication.

donotdrink

My point was that some things, no matter how simple, still need to be explained. Things like “DO NOT DRINK” the cleaning products.

I probably did not need to mention that this was in Selkirk, but what Glenmont person can resist a Selkirk joke? You see, people may think all of Bethlehem is snooty, but in truth, the town has its own pecking order.

  1. Slingerlands people look down on Delmar
  2. Delmar is scornful of Glenmont
  3. Glenmont considers Selkirk the other side of the tracks
  4. Selkirk folks joke about Ravena

We could also go back up the scale, but suffice to say, you think anyone above you on the list is a condescending ass.

What do the people in Ravena do? They disapprove of  Coeyman’s Hollow. Coeyman’s Hollow? Westerlo. Westerlo? Medusa… and so on. You could draw a line all the way from the Capital Region to Arkansas.

Next time you generalize about Bethlehem, just remember this: it’s the Slingerlands and Delmar people who are contemptible, not the lovable crowd in Glenmont. But don’t get me started on Selkirk.

The Old Plantation

The area around Hilton Head has many beautiful neighborhoods of a sort you don’t see around here. These well-planned developments have wonderful landscaping and homes — and many have a gatehouse and guard at the entrance.

It’s also worth noting that  a lot of these private enclaves for the affluent have the word “plantation” in their name.

If you look up plantation in the dictionary, the top definition is that it’s a farm for cash crops — but culturally it seems like a loaded term, especially in a place like South Carolina.

I’m sure that some of these communities are located on grounds that were actually plantations in the past, and yes, I get that you probably don’t mean it as a reference to the antebellum South. I understand,  but here’s the thing: you’ve got this place where the wealthy white people live behind a gate and it’s called the plantation? It just feels a little odd.

A Nation Divided

Americans were so outraged with the Ferguson grand jury decision that many of them actually tweeted about it.

If only we’d had Twitter during the Vietnam war and the civil rights movement. Who knows what would have been possible with so many people sitting on their couches blurting out their opinions to nobody in particular.

Turkey Flambé: 2014 Edition

Yay, Americans are getting smarter!

You’re probably saying, “Rob, that’s not very likely. What proof do you have?”

Easy. Every Thanksgiving, I scour the internet for videos of people having horrible mishaps when frying turkeys — and these videos are getting very hard to find. The most recent fryer fire I could locate was uploaded to YouTube more than a year ago, on December 10, 2013.

Combine the lack of videos with the proliferation of phones that shoot video and it can only mean fewer fires.

What you will find on YouTube are many videos of fire departments staging turkey fires to demonstrate the dangers of hot oil, open flames, turkeys and (presumably) alcohol. Having served as a firefighter, I can tell you that they pass up few opportunities to light things on fire for training. Here’s a good one:

So, if we connect the dots we can surmise that all these demonstration videos have made a difference and yielded smarter Americans. Now, all we need are some videos about how local talk radio can rot your brain…

A Towering Mistake

Love it or hate it, the Empire State Plaza defines Albany’s skyline, and the jewel in this crown is the Corning Tower.

Maybe you’ve noticed that the building’s distinctive profile has been sullied by the construction of some sort of storage shed on the roof.  It’s bad enough that the Corning Tower has sprouted antennas in recent years, but the shed is nothing less than a huge wart on the nose of one of the city’s most important landmarks.


Most of you probably don’t care, but it’s wrong to mess with the vision of the architects — and of Nelson  Rockefeller himself — by ruining the clean lines of the building. According to Joseph Persico’s terrific biography, Rocky was an aesthete who was famously controlling over the design of the Plaza; the shed would have driven him mad.

Worse yet, according to All Over Albany, the structure is a permanent fixture.

What were they thinking? I’m guessing there was no serious consideration at all. It’s hard to imagine that an architect would be that disrespectful of a building so important — or that anyone could look at the plans and not see the damage they were doing.

There are buildings all over downtown that have had various structures and equipment piled on top of them. That’s a routine practice and most of it goes unnoticed, but what they’ve done to the Corning Tower? That’s an abomination.

A wider view after the jump…
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Citizens

The Marines know a thing or two about ceremonies.

We were at Parris Island in May for my son’s graduation from recruit training.

The day before graduation, each platoon was introduced and marched before us in formation. It would be the first time we’d seen our sons and daughters since dropping them off months earlier and we were all eager to spend the afternoon with our kids.

But before allowing for the hugs and photos, there was a special event. We had the honor to look on as a dozen new Americans were sworn in under the Naturalization at Basic Training Initiative, which allows recruits to become US citizens when they graduate basic training.

New Americans, new Marines.

There is no easy road to citizenship, but the one these men chose was a doozy. They’d just completed a gruelling training regime, and they’d made a commitment to years of service. Now, raising their hands to take their oath, they are newly minted Americans — complete with a full-time job, and the prospect of training and educational benefits that will give bring them great opportunity.

All of our forbearers came here from somewhere else, and for all the things we hear in the news that are wrong with immigration, here is something right.

Mickey and Me

We were sitting in a box at Saratoga one fine August afternoon. I know that sounds fancy, but if you’ve ever sat in one those boxes you know it’s more cramped than glamorous. And if you’re like me you’d rather be at a picnic table with a cooler full of beer.

It was hard not to notice the activity behind us as a stream of people stopped to say hello to an older man in nearby box. We almost fell off our uncomfortable chairs when it dawned on us that it was Mickey Rooney.

Rooney was sitting alone with his racing form, about as far away from the finish line as you could get and still be in one of the “exclusive” boxes.

Now, working in TV I’d met tons of well-known people — the most famous of whom was Oprah Winfrey. But Mickey Rooney? He was a freakin’ legend. Regardless, we did our best to play it cool, acknowledging him without seeming like amateurs. We inquired with our waiter about sending over a drink, not knowing he’d knocked off the booze years before.

So we went back and forth with a little small talk about the races and such, without being intrusive. Today I would have invited him to sit at our box; it didn’t occur to me at the time that he actually might have joined us.

Eventually, Mr. Rooney let on that he had a well placed tip on one of the races. A tip? From Mickey Rooney? This we must bet, and not just our small time $2 wagers — no, at 10-1, this was more of a $20 or $30 to win sort of bet.

Naturally, we all lost money on that one.

Nothing was said about the sure thing that was not so sure. If only we could have had a preview of Mickey Rooney’s obituary we would have known that he’d visited many racetracks in his lifetime, and more often than not, made impressive contributions to the sport of kings.

So, here’s to Mickey Rooney. He never lost his taste for the ponies — or his ability to charm an audience.