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Best of 2013

1 Jan

For me, the best thing of 2013 was, hands down, a good result from a horrible health scare in the family. Everything else pales in comparison. 

So, I asked people on Twitter to give me their best of 2013. Here’s what they said. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A protected user suggested: “BCAT opened, Start-UP NY announced, Harbor Center development, Riverbend project, and BNE made a Buffalo video people liked!”

 

 

 

Last – minute entries: 

– Bills stay (for a time).  Yeah, they lose, but we’d miss them if they were gone.

– Sabres change leadership.  No place to go but up

– Dinosaur Barbeque comes to Buffalo.  2014 will taste better than 2013

– Trader Joes comes to Amherst.  Ditto

– Unemployment rate in WNY dropping.  Good.  “nuff said.

– The Stock Market is UP.  Not bad for a Kenya – born socialist. 

– The Tea Party is DOWN.  Only took the near-bankruptcy of the US Government to do this, but hey – count your blessings.

And: 

Long Live TOY – Defending Children’s Theatre in the Nickel City is one of the most positive stories to come out of this region in years- which is why we decided to try and tell it in Documentary form.

Meg Quinn, TOY’s Creative Director and Co-founder along with others from the arts community fight the Collin’s 2010-2011 Cultural funding cuts in the midst of their 40th season.  The community rallied against Collins to help remove him from office and restore the funding.

Through the prism of a unique non-profit children’s theatre we see the impact and importance of cultural assets.

The film won two audience awards at Buffalo International Film Festival, and many were moved to tears at Sunday’s screening at the Dipson Market Arcade.

A positive story that few will probably see because it’s “just children’s theatre”.

Austin McLoughlin
Mary Beth Murray
Long Live TOY Producers

Long Live TOY – Defending Children’s Theatre in the Nickel City – (Preview Trailer) from AP McLoughlin on Vimeo.

I wish you all a happy, healthy, peaceful, and prosperous 2014. If you’re going to be outside tonight for the festivities, please stay warm and safe. 

(The slideshow above displays photographs that talented WNYers have added to the AV Daily Flickr Group.)

NY Times Says Buffalo is OK: Then This

1 Aug

You likely saw the New York Times article that was published Wednesday, explaining how Buffalo’s Niagara Falls Medical Campus was transforming the city for the better. It was all over Facebook and Buffalo Twitter yesterday. Well, this also happened:

[View the story “Listicle Prediction: Achievement Unlocked” on Storify]

Hamburg and the Constitution

10 May

The right to blog anonymously is a right. The Hamburg School District is trampling all over that right, and sends a poor message to the students it purports to represent

I have never read the “Hamburg Educational Ethics” blog, which is written by the “Concerned Hamburger” anonym, but whoever writes it is a WNY blogger and, as far as I’m concerned, a colleague. 

I don’t know the first thing about what goes on in the Hamburg schools, but I know that the district doesn’t have to like what the author of that blog writes – in fact, they can hate it. But that doesn’t give them the right to serve a subpoena to “out” its author. 

Criticism of a school district is, after all, political speech – in 1st Amendment jurisprudence, political speech is afforded the very highest protection from government intervention or harassment. It is unconscionable that the district – which is a government entity – is so blatantly violating the 1st Amendment in an attempt to silence a critic. This is the stuff dictatorships do. It is absolutely unacceptable in this country. 

One of the blog’s anonymous commenters, who is also subject to the district’s subpoena, wrote this

Dear Readers….

Recently Concerned Hamburger received an email notification from Google indicating that the Hamburg School District, through their attorney Dick Sullivan of Harris Beach~ a commercial real estate attorney moonlighting in education and constitutional law~issued a subpoena to Google demanding the identities of Concerned Hamburger, Super and Klozman.  Immediately, Concerned, Super and Klozman, remaining anonymous,  hired a constitutional attorney to quash the subpoena.  You see readers~ we have the right in this country to voice our opinions and state the facts as we see them.  For almost three years and approximately 300K page hits, Concerned Hamburger has been operating as a citizen journalist reporting on the antics of the public faces of the Hamburg School District. Concerned is dedicated to reporting, and will continue to write on the school district despite their efforts to silence me and others.  It has been reported to Concerned Hamburger by many sources, that Dr. Joan Calkins has a vindictive and demonic alter ego.  Joan’s “other self ” has reported thoughout the Hamburg Community that she will unmask Concerned Hamburger, and she will cause financial harm to the victims of frivolous and baseless lawsuits she and Steve concocted.  Fortunately, turn around is fair play, and it seems that the plans of the District, the Bored of Education, Mr. Abramovitch and others will have unintended consequence never deemed fathomable on the onset of their witch hunt.  

Frankly, if the behavior of the the Bored of Education and Mr. Achramovitch was not so egregiously corrupt, there would be no material to report.  Instead, you the reader~of which there are many~ have been give factual, and sometimes humorous, accounts of the insidious behavior. 

Concerned Hamburger has already spent thousands of dollars attempting to protect their rights, and it is likely the the district has spent tens of thousands on this witch hunt.   This latest stunt by Steve and Joan et. al. should shock the conscience of any reader.  Taxpayer dollars intended to go to children to support a fair and balanced education in accordance with NYS Constitutional Law instead is being used to strip  Federal and State Constitutional rights from private citizens- who are taxpayers. Steven Achramovitch ought to be fired immediately, and charges should be filed against each and every board member individually and collectively. A groundswell of anti-Joan and Steve support it growing across this community, and it appears this is only the beginning. 

Sincerely,

Concerned Hamburger 

That’s the nice thing about the 1st Amendment’s protection of political speech – if you don’t blatantly libel someone (that is, knowingly or negligently publishing a false statement of fact, depending on whether the subject is a public figure or not), you can write whatever you want. For instance, the author above refers to people as  “corrupt”, “frivolous”, “vindictive” and “demonic”. Those are statements of opinion, not fact, and opinion cannot be false or true – it is protected speech. 

A quick scan of the front page of the blog reveals recitations of facts dealing with school policy and budgeting, and opinion about those facts. Nothing appears to be defamatory or otherwise actionable. The fact that the district took action against the bloggers and not individual members who feel insulted helps enhance the Constitutional issue.

Bloggers have rights with their foundation in the 1st Amendment.  Anonymity is sometimes used by bloggers to shield them from repercussions at work. In 1995, the Supreme Court held that anonymous speech is protected speech

Protections for anonymous speech are vital to democratic discourse. Allowing dissenters to shield their identities frees them to express critical minority views . . . Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. . . . It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation . . . at the hand of an intolerant society.

The Federalist Papers were written by anonyms. The Hamburg school blog may be no Federalist Papers, but it is still important to protect anonymous political speech, and the district’s efforts to use the courts to chill speech critical of it is reprehensible. 

While a minority of western New Yorkers expresses weeks’ worth of righteous Constitutional outrage over a gun law that only slightly tightens what were already the most restrictive gun laws in the country, this – this infringement on protected political speech deserves at least the same reaction.  

Perhaps the district’s social studies teachers can add this to their curriculum. 

The One Thing Podcast on Trending Buffalo

12 Jul

By way of reminder, about twice per week – usually on Mondays and Wednesdays – Chris Smith and I meet up with Brad Riter to record a podcast for Brad’s new venture, Trending Buffalo.  It’s usually about 25 minutes long, and it’s almost always about “one thing”. If you’ve missed the last couple, they’re posted below, but you can subscribe to its feed using iTunes, and keep track of it here

Books: 7/12/12

[audio:http://www.trendingbuffalo.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/TBOneThing07-11-12.mp3%5D

Food: 7/10/12

[audio:http://www.trendingbuffalo.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/TBOneThing07-09-12.mp3%5D

Chris Collins: 7/5/12

[audio:http://www.trendingbuffalo.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/TBOneThing07-05-12.mp3%5D

Chris Charvella: His Path to Atheism

30 May

Because he proposed the ultimate, NSFW title he used for this introspective series on faith, and I suggested that he use that very title on Facebook and promised to link to it when he did, I now link to it and suggest that you read it

Chris is a former colleague of mine from WNYMedia.net, living and working in Batavia and providing news and views from a rural Democrat’s perspective. Please add his blog to your readers. 

Announcement: Archived Posts UPDATED

7 May

Chris and I wrote for WNYMedia.net between about 2005 and November 2011, when we moved here to Artvoice. After we left, WNYMedia have gone through some changes, one of which rendered our archives unsearchable, difficult to find and access, and, unfortunately, useless. That’s six years’ worth of work that we couldn’t access. 

I occasionally like to write about issues that are chronic problems, or revisit ideas or decisions or plans that have come up in the past. That’s been impossible since late November.  But on top of that, it sucks to be unable to access six years’ worth of my own work – my own belongings – in any meaningful or logical way. 

That changes today. Chris, Brian Castner (whose Doubleday book “The Long Walk” will be published July 10th) , and I retained the services of Chris Van Patten to take a database backup of our entire WNYMedia archive (including images, but not including embedded video) into a chronological and searchable blog. So, if you’re looking for any old articles, head over to www.buffalorecord.com, the repository of my blog posts from 2005 – 2011. 

(I’m told the redirect via buffalorecord.com might not be fully operational for everyone yet. In the meantime, follow this link.)

Predictions 2011 Revisited

27 Dec

In the current issue of Artvoice, notable locals give their predictions for 2012. I blew the deadline, but I found my predictions from last year, and thought now would be a good time to review them.

In 2011, nothing will change significantly.

• As in every year, Buffalo and Western New York will take two leaps backwards for every tentative step forwards—in all things. Incremental change (or more accurately, window dressing that masquerades as change) will take place here and there as the community’s attention turns to unproductive arguments over the Peace Bridge, the inner and outer harbors, casinos, and other longtime development projects.

• Chris Collins will rudely run roughshod over friend and foe alike in his re-election campaign, and a Democratic challenger will be far more competitive than in 2007. The Legislature will be downsized, and Collins will attempt to dictate the outcome.

• As Carl Paladino’s 15 minutes of fame elongates like Stretch Armstrong’s appendages, he will attempt to generate political buzz every few months by insulting people. A compliant local media will transcribe his every vendetta-fueled outburst and treat it as “news,” whilst asking its readers to weigh in through idiotic online polls. However, without Michael Caputo in charge of messaging, “clever” will be replaced by “disturbing.”

• In late 2011, the Erie County Legislature will again turn into a three-ringed circus whereby local cultural organizations do battle with Republicans over 0.1 percent of the total budget.

• The Statler will become a flashpoint for a civic discussion (re: blood feud) regarding buildings that have outlived their current usefulness, are historically significant, but unreasonably expensive to do anything with. This will become particularly acute when the preservationist conference comes to the renovated-but-still-just-awful Convention Center.

The last two didn’t exactly turn out that way, as Mark Croce pulled together an investment group to save the Statler and begin what appear to be earnest redevelopment efforts, and the 2012 budget didn’t become a circus because Collins lost and let Poloncarz step in with his priorities for funding. The preservationist conference gave Buffalo a boost of self-congratulation, as the local nostalgia industry continues apace.

Other than that, it was pretty damn spot-on.

Read more:

Getting To Know You

20 Dec

Alan and I have been writing on the AV Daily blog for about a month and we’ve been having a lot of fun. You know a lot about our politics, interests, and opinions, but we don’t know a lot about you. In order to make content you’d like to read and share with your friends, we think it’s time for you to tell us a little about yourselves. We’ll post a few of these anonymous surveys and see what we gather. We’re not going to use the information to sell you something since we don’t really sell anything.

Take a minute and answer a few questions, we’d like to know who is on the other end of this here internet tube.

AV Daily Reader Questions

 

You can submit Yes/No questions of your own in the field at the very top and we will select some of them to add to the survey.  Check back later to answer newly submitted questions.

The Nooner – The Five Worst Christmas Songs Ever

28 Nov

A new semi-regular feature on AV Daily will be a top five list for us to discuss and argue. I mean, everyone likes lists, right?

It’ll be released sometime around noon each day and will primarily be written by me, but other writers may fill in based on availability.

We’ll kick it off with the discussion I had with a customer this morning and turned into a heated hour long argument amongst a dozen people that was then transferred to Twitter. You can take my list, re-arrange it and/or substitute songs, but you have to offer your own list. You can’t just complain about mine.

As Buffalo and WNY radio stations begin pummeling us about the head and shoulders with their commercial pop yule logs, I thought it would be fun to make a list of the five worst Christmas songs. Ground rules are that these have to be real Christmas songs that you have a legitimate chance of hearing on local radio. If we go into the unsavory corners of YouTube, we can find some really dark and horrible Christmas songs, like this one:

But, I want to keep it real.  So, it has to be a song you regularly hear on the radio during the annual War on Christmas.

5.Please Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk On Christmas)” by John Denver – So, we all remember that John Denver was an alcoholic, right? K, just checking. In the first verse, the song describes how Dad came home drunk on Christmas last year and in the second verse, he comes home drunk again. The whole song leaves you hanging and the unfortunate listener is left to assume that Denver passed out while recording this little ditty.

4.Christmastime” by The Smashing Pumpkins – This songs gives me the creeps and it sounds like the lyrics were co-written with Jerry Sandusky. This song sounds like a lonely Christmas suicide.

3.Merry Christmas, Darling” by The Carpenters – Remember that lady who suffered from seizures whenever she heard Mary Hart’s voice? I have a similar problem when I hear Karen Carpenter attempt to turn the word “Christmas” into a verb. I don’t have seizures, but I’m filled with malevolence and a desire to knock over snowmen.

2.Wonderful Christmas Time” by Paul McCartney – An awful melody, horrible instruments, Linda’s warbling, and bad memories of disappointing gifts. The opening synth notes immediately make my Christmas spirit turtle up like George Castanza’s schmekel in a cold pool.

1.  “Christmas Shoes” by NewSong – A red state country Christmas song that is beloved by Twilight Moms and serial killers.

However, Christmas Shoes inspired this brilliant bit by Patton Oswalt, so it has that going for it, which is nice.

Also, honorable mention: “Backdoor Santa” by Clarence Carter – Because who doesn’t love a song about Santa bribing kids to go to bed early so he can have anal sex with their Mom?