Blast Zone

The derelict Wellington Hotel Annex is going to be demolished tomorrow and it’s probably the most exciting thing to happen in Albany since Henry Hudson stepped off the Half Moon in 1609.

They’re going to blow the place up in a controlled implosion that was originally scheduled for Thursday, August 22 — in the middle of a work day. The Thursday blast date had a very casual feel to it, sort of like, “Hey, no problem, we’re just blowing up an 11 story building.”

So, what I want to know is what’s different now, because Albany has set up an exclusion zone surrounding the Wellington, closing every street in or out.

implosion

Imposion street closings

Just to clarify, on Thursday it was OK to have thousands of people in the surrounding offices, but on Saturday we have to close every street. Puzzling.

UPDATED: In case you didn’t see it, here’s video of the big eveng from All Over Albany.

Wellington implosion from All Over Albany on Vimeo.

The Horses Are on the Track

Nothing quite compares to the mediagasm surrounding Saratoga every summer — and it’s not unjustified. The racing season is the only world class sporting event we have around here and the whole culture surrounding it is a big deal.

Who could blame TV stations for committing huge resources to live broadcasts or newspapers for literally wrapping every edition in Saratoga coverage?

But over the weekend we saw something unusual: a piece from Times Union columnist Chris Churchill calling out the racing industry on animal abuse and doping. He says that all it would take is a documentary like Blackfish to blow some of the shine off of Saratoga. This was one of the few times a local media outlet has done anything less than a glowing story about the track and racing.

Nobody wants to spoil the party, do they — but If you’d like to see what damaging reporting about racing looks like, see the devastating series Breakdown in the New York Times.

Being imperfect, I still enjoy going to the track and spending money. For the record, I also continue to love the NFL, even though I know the truth about how it sometimes wrecks the players. I just can’t help it.

So, don’t expect to see a lot of negative stories about racing around here. Not as long as it’s front page news and there’s money to be made.

True South

We visited North Carolina last week to see my son graduate from Marine infantry training. He is now qualified as a machine gunner, which means I can probably trust him with the lawnmower.

It’s always interesting to go down south; here are a couple of observations from the trip:

Shark Week

One of the things I enjoyed on Emerald Isle was going for an early morning swim after my run. By early, I mean before 6am, so it was still relatively dark. It was a great way to start the day — and fortunately I enjoyed it before the beginning of shark week on Discovery. Did you know that sharks love to feed at dawn. Neither did I.

Smokes

There’s always been a tiny part of me that still craves a cigarette — and this was never stronger that when I saw that you can get a pack of Marlboros in North Carolina for only $4.50. It’s unfair that New Yorkers pay twice that amount for a pack of cigarettes. Is the cost really a deterrent to smoking? I’m not convinced. The smoking rate in North Carolina is less than three percent higher than in the Empire State.

All Y’all

The people down there are noticeably friendlier and more polite. Even the little children at Waffle House address the waitress with “Yes, ma’am” and “No, ma’am.”  It may not be genuine, just a case of people who have learned better manners, but I’ll take it.

Foto Friday

Lewis County, NY

Vox Populi

So, Times Union, how’s that comment thing working out for you?

When the paper introduced commenting on news stories late 2013, I wondered if it would elevate the conversation above the untreated waste often found in the blog comments.

I wasn’t alone. When the comment system was launched, Paul Block, the TU’s online executive producer, said, “Let’s hope for some positive discourse on our stories in the days to come.”

That may have been asking for too much.

For example, let’s look at a recent story about a young man subdued by taser wielding cops. Here’s a sampling of the positive discourse:

-Commenters describe the young man as stupid, a twit, and a freak.

-One comment alleges that the young man has a “serious drug problem” and has been arrested before on “numerous” charges. He also claims that the tazee soiled his pants.

-Readers assert that the young man’s father is stupid, acted to “get him out of trouble,” and that he “needs mental help.”

-There are two uses of the word scumbag — and one of the plural, scumbags.

And that was only in a handful of comments.

Look, you can judge for yourself whether reader comments add anything to online content. Some papers are very strict about what gets posted and others either don’t care or simply don’t have enough warm bodies to keep after this stuff.

It used to be if people wanted to write a comment on a story they had to mail a letter to the paper. And maybe we were all better off.

Call Me Lefty

It’s been a glorious summer so far, but thanks to a bum arm, there have been some minor inconveniences.

In June I injured my arm while on ambulance duty when lifting an oxygen tank. If memory serves, when it happened I commented, “Fu*K! Fu*K! Fu*K!” and proceeded to hop cartoon-like around the ambulance bay.

I’m not sure I actually heard my distal bicep tendon tear, but I immediately knew there was trouble and ended up riding in the ambulance as a customer, not an EMT. It’s worth noting that the incident drew everyone within radio distance so they could stand around and watch me writhe in pain.

Lifting an oxygen tank does not make for a very glamorous story, so in order to spice things up I concocted a variety of tales that made my arm more interesting. The top three:

1. I lifted a car off an injured person.

2. Caught a baby tossed from the window of a burning house. No, wait — TWO babies.

3. Wrestled a contaminated needle away from a deranged patient.

The long and short of it is I required surgery to reattach the tendon, a barbaric procedure that involved drilling a hole in my arm bone. This video shows what they did:

After ten days in a soft cast and a month of wearing a sling, I’m starting to get better, but full recovery is still months away.

The lesson here: when there’s something heavy to lift, find someone else to do it.

#9 Dream

You know your blog’s in trouble when you start writing about your dreams.

But what the hell.

I’ve had a recurring nightmare where I’m a DJ at a radio station. The song on the turntable is ending, but the next record is not cued up and I’m running around the studio trying to find a record to play next.

I had the dream again the other night, and things were complicated by turntables that played the records upside down, so you not only had to find a song to play, but then struggle to get it ready.

It’s a quaintly old-fashioned dream, what with vinyl and turntables. Those things are gone from radio stations, as are DJs who get to pick out their own music.

Maybe there was a time when railroad men would dream of running out of coal or people would have nightmares about receiving bad news in a telegram. Technology may change, but anxiety is forever.

 

Foto Friday

Piglets

The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing…

Cheers to the Discovery Channel for pulling off a whopper.

As part of their Shark Week ramp up, this video was circulated showing a shark off the shore of Wolfe Island in Lake Ontario:

This was of special interest to me because I vacation on the island each summer; the presence of sharks would certainly spice up my kayak excursions.

The whole thing caused quite a media sensation until Discovery’s PR firm revealed it was all a big promotional stunt.

The best line to emerge from the shark panic came from Frontenac Islands Mayor Denis Doyle, who joked, “We’re going to have to get a bigger ferry.”