Tag Archives: Twitter

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.


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.)

What Constitutes “Real Media” and Who Decides?

14 May
I’m not at all a sports guy, so although I follow a few people on Twitter who focus almost exclusively on sports, I don’t generally engage in discussions about it. As British satirist Charlie Brooker suggests, watching sporting events on TV is, “marginally less interesting than watching cardboard exist.”
But over the last few months, I had been paying a bit of attention out on the fringe of the interplay between the Buffalo News’ Mike Harrington and other people who blog/Tweet about sports.  The pattern seems to be: someone takes an opposing viewpoint, Harrington writes something dismissive to bait them, they curse at him, and he blocks them. So, although I can get rather hot-headed on Twitter, and although Harrington tried to bait me a few times, I ignored it and kept pushing, respectfully.
I do not mean to insinuate that the Buffalo News (or any other established, professional medium) is irrelevant – others push that line, but it’s not completely accurate. Relevance is determined by the reader. The News serves a completely different purpose from Trending Buffalo or what I do, as do radio and TV. But just because Artvoice is free and public radio solicits for donations doesn’t make either one any more or less “real” than the Buffalo News.  I see the whole thing as a mosaic of information, which people are free to assemble however they want. 

The backstory begins with this exchange a bit over a week ago, 

That was it. I asked Harrington to define “real media”, but he ignored me. 

So, what happens when you ignore the bait and engage in a back-and-forth? Saturday evening, Buffalo.com writer Ben Tsujimoto had sent a couple of live Tweets about a WNY Flash soccer game…



[View the story “What Constitutes “Real Media”” on Storify]


15 Feb

1. CNN has been offering up wall-to-wall coverage of the Carnival Triumph, which has limped its way back to the US after suffering a crippling engine fire on Monday. They were calling it, and treating it like, a “disaster”, but was was disastrous about it? What it amounted to was 4,000+ passengers and crew being wildly inconvenienced and placed under poor conditions of sanitation and comfort. But no one died, and everyone came home last night. This wasn’t a floating boxcar of detainees – it was a cruise ship that broke down, revealing perhaps that cruise ships need fewer nightclubs and more backup systems, as WKBW reporter John Borsa pointed out on Twitter. It wasn’t a disaster – it was a mass inconvenience. 

2. Remember the “proud racist South Buffalo guy“? He made headlines some months ago for complaining about how those minorities commit crimes, cause property values to decline, and destroy neighborhoods. He’s now been arrested for robbing a West Seneca bank

3.  A West Seneca high schooler misbehaved at a hockey game and was asked to leave. He later took to Twitter and cursed out the teacher who did it. He did not threaten the teacher, he did not mock or insult the teacher – he merely vented his frustration with a Tweet that read, in relevant part, “f-ck [Teacher’s Name] #freedomofspeech”. The school found out and gave this honor student who, it is said, has no great history of behavioral problems, a five-day suspension. 

Interestingly, the student’s hashtag wasn’t frivolous. A kid doesn’t shed his constitutional rights when he enters the school building, and he especially doesn’t lose them when he uses a public platform from home, off school grounds, and outside school time. This particular student did absolutely nothing wrong. He took to a social media site and vented about a teacher with whom he had just had a negative experience. The only punishment this student should receive, if any, should come from his parents. The teacher can confront the student directly and demand an apology, I suppose, but the school has absolutely no right and no business to regulate or ban speech – even profane speech – a student uses on social media outside school time and grounds. Believe it or not, this is a case with federal, Constitutional, ramifications.

4. A big national tea party group – FreedomWorks, which was until recently led by former Congressman Dick Armey – made a video depicting former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton receiving cunnilingus from a panda. The tea party, relegated to the very deepest fringes of the right wing, has devolved from an anti-Obama movement into a group promoting some pretty base, offensive sexist stuff. I’m not surprised, either

In one segment of the film, according to a former official who saw it, Brandon is seen waking from a nap at his desk. In what appears to be a dream or a nightmare, he wanders down a hallway and spots a giant panda on its knees with its head in the lap of a seated Hillary Clinton and apparently performing oral sex on the then-secretary of state. Two female interns at FreedomWorks were recruited to play the panda and Clinton. One intern wore a Hillary Clinton mask. The other wore a giant panda suit that FreedomWorks had used at protests to denounce progressives as panderers. (See herehere, and here.) Placing the panda in the video, a former FreedomWorks staffer says, was “an inside joke.” 

Another FreedomWorks staffer who worked there at the time confirms that “Yes, this video was created.” 

Days before the FreePAC event, the video was screened for staff. “My mouth was wide open,” a former official recalls. “‘What the hell is this?'” Several FreedomWorks staffers were outraged and stunned that Brandon, the group’s second-in-command after Kibbe, had overseen the video’s production, appeared in it, and intended to show this film at the conference, which would be attended by many social-conservative activists. They raised objections to the film. 

“How was that not some form of sexual harassment?” a former FreedomWorks official asks, noting that two female interns had been requested to act out a pretend sex scene. “And there were going to be thousands of Christian conservatives at this thing. This was a terrible lack of judgment.”

Brandon, a former FreedomWorks official says, defended the film, insisting it was creative and funny. But eventually a decision was made not to show the video at FreePAC. 

Armey says he didn’t became aware of the film until months later: “I heard they had made an obscene video mocking Hillary Clinton.” He says he was told the video showed Clinton having sex with an intern. “I asked another [FreedomWorks] guy if he had seen it,” Armey recalls. “He said, ‘I heard about it. I was traveling at the time. It was shown around the office.'” Armey adds, “There was a concern that this kind of behavior could land you in court. I was shocked at the ugly and bad taste.” 

Dick Armey is the guy who called Representative Barney Frank “Barney Fag”. Dick Armey is a horrible person, and “FreedomWorks” is a horrible organization. The news that they produced a video showing Hillary Clinton engaging in some form of bestiality is unsurprising.  After all, 15 years ago these same clowns were probably referring to her as “Hitlery Klintoon” over on Free Republic. 

5. Tesla is a company that manufactures and markets a gorgeous, all-electric luxury sedan. It recently contacted the New York Times to do a story showing off, in cold weather and real-life conditions, Tesla’s new network of high-capacity chargers placed at 200-mile intervals along the Northeast Corridor. It didn’t go well

Tesla CEO Elon Musk went ballistic, calling the review a “fake” in social media. This prompted the Times’ reporter, John Broder, to refute Musk’s assertions via the Times’ Wheels blog. Let’s swing back to the point that Tesla pushed this test to the Times, and that, 

This evaluation was intended to demonstrate its practicality as a “normal use,” no-compromise car, as Tesla markets it.

A cold snap in the Northeast shouldn’t cause a state-of-the art $100,000 sedan, marketed as a regular car, to be unable to make 180 mile trip without pausing for an hour to recharge. Practically any car in America can easily make 300 miles before pausing for a 5 minute refueling stop. 

Soon, Musk took to Tesla’s corporate blog, where he challenged Broder’s assertions point by point, and uploaded what purport to be printouts of data the car recorded from Broder’s ride. Again, social media went nuts, calling out the Times for lying. Lying? 

First of all, let’s consider we have a Times reporter with no known axe to grind with Tesla or electrics in general who reported on his experiences trying to get a $100k car from Philadelphia to Boston. On the other hand, we have the CEO of a corporation and his public relations department trying to spin away the negative effects of the car’s failure to accomplish what the lowliest Honda Jazz can do. But also consider the fact that, in his blog, Musk purported to get inside Broder’s mind to ascribe motives to what he wrote. Consider, 

In Mr. Broder’s case, he simply did not accurately capture what happened and worked very hard to force our car to stop running.

Broder had once written an article bemoaning the various criticisms and chicken-and-egg problems with electrics, and Musk simply dismisses that as animus. 

As a result, we did not think to read his past articles and were unaware of his outright disdain for electric cars. We were played for a fool and as a result, let down the cause of electric vehicles. For that, I am deeply sorry.

Musk made this assertion: 

Cruise control was never set to 54 mph as claimed in the article, nor did he limp along at 45 mph. Broder in fact drove at speeds from 65 mph to 81 mph for a majority of the trip and at an average cabin temperature setting of 72 F.

Setting aside for a moment the fact that driving at speeds of 65 – 81 on national interstates is not unusual, and that setting the heat at 72 on a very cold day is perfectly normal behavior – stuff that a $100k sedan that is supposed to be a replacement car and not a superfluous frivolity for the rich should easily be able to accomplish – the statement is wholly misleading. Look at the data: 

He was driving at 0 MPH a whole lot more often than he was driving 80 MPH. Indeed, the data records exactly one momentary spike to over 80 MPH – to say that he was routinely exceeding the speed limit is simply misleading. And why bother offering up the data if you won’t bother to characterize it accurately? Broder responded at the Wheels blog, after New York Times Public Editor and former Buffalo News Editor-in-Chief Margaret Sullivan became involved. As to the speed discrepancy, Broder accurately suggests the speedometer was uncalibrated due to wheel size, 

I drove normally (at the speed limit or with prevailing traffic) when I thought it was prudent to do so. I do recall setting the cruise control to about 54 m.p.h., as I wrote. The log shows the car traveling about 60 m.p.h. for a nearly 100-mile stretch on the New Jersey Turnpike. I cannot account for the discrepancy, nor for a later stretch in Connecticut where I recall driving about 45 m.p.h., but it may be the result of the car being delivered with 19-inch wheels and all-season tires, not the specified 21-inch wheels and summer tires. That just might have affected the recorded speed, range, rate of battery depletion or any number of other parameters. Tesla’s data suggests I was doing slightly more than 50 over a stretch where the speed limit was 65. The traffic was heavy in that part of Connecticut, so cruise control was not usable, and I tried to keep the speed at 50 or below without impeding traffic.

Certainly, and as Tesla’s logs clearly show, much of my driving was at or well below the 65 m.p.h. speed limit, with only a single momentary spike above 80. Most drivers are aware that cars can speed up, even sometimes when cruise control is engaged, on downhill stretches.

Musk accused Broder of deliberately running down the battery during a stop at a Milford, CT plaza where Tesla had a supercharger located, 

When he first reached our Milford, Connecticut Supercharger, having driven the car hard and after taking an unplanned detour through downtown Manhattan to give his brother a ride, the display said “0 miles remaining.” Instead of plugging in the car, he drove in circles for over half a mile in a tiny, 100-space parking lot. When the Model S valiantly refused to die, he eventually plugged it in. On the later legs, it is clear Broder was determined not to be foiled again.

Of course, Musk is merely ascribing ill motives on Broder because he is now butthurt over the article. But here’s how Broder explains what happened, 

I drove around the Milford service plaza in the dark looking for the Supercharger, which is not prominently marked. I was not trying to drain the battery. (It was already on reserve power.) As soon as I found the Supercharger, I plugged the car in.

The stop in Manhattan was planned from the beginning and known to Tesla personnel all along. According to Google Maps, taking the Lincoln Tunnel into Manhattan (instead of crossing at the George Washington Bridge) and driving up the West Side Highway added only two miles to the overall distance from Newark, Del., to Milford, Conn.

Neither I nor the Model S ever visited “downtown Manhattan.”

As a lawyer, I’m trained to recognize BS when I see it, and when someone has a motive to exaggerate or mischaracterize evidence, and then does so, I’m skeptical of everything else they have to say about a matter. So it is with Mr. Musk, who goes beyond the data and labels Broder a liar who had it out for the Tesla from the get-go. Given a choice between believing the reporter and the company’s PR department, I’ll go with the Times. 

After all, Musk told Broder directly

Mr. Musk called me on Friday, before the article went up on the Web, to offer sympathy and regrets about the outcome of my test drive. He said that the East Coast charging stations should be 140 miles apart, not 200 miles, to take into account the traffic and temperature extremes in this part of the country.

Incidentally, CNN tried the same trip and had no problems whatsoever. Perhaps the temperatures had moderated, as evidenced by the snow-free photograph accompanying the article.

None of this is an indictment of the car, or even of the network of chargers. (As someone who puts lots of miles on two cars every year, I fail to see the allure of spending the equivalent of a Cheektowaga house to buy a car that has trouble making 200 miles before needing an hourlong break to charge up, but to each his own). But the tone of Musk’s response to a negative experience that Broder had, and the malicious way in which he mischaracterized what happened and ascribed to Broder a hostile state of mind, I echo what media guru Jeff Jarvis Tweeted late Thursday, 



30 Jul

Late Friday, as viewers in the United States began watching an Olympics opening ceremony that had literally just ended in real time (#NBCFail), @BuffaloJill on Twitter imagined out loud what a Buffalo Olympic opening ceremony would look like. Hilarity ensued. 


[<a href=”http://storify.com/buffalopundit/buffalo-opening-ceremony” target=”_blank”>View the story “Buffalo Opening Ceremony” on Storify</a>]<h1>Buffalo Opening Ceremony</h1><h2>On July 28, during the Olympic opening ceremonies, Twitter user @BuffaloJill imagined what a similar event would feature if held in Buffalo. Hilarity ensued. </h2><p>Storified by Alan Bedenko · Sun, Jul 29 2012 04:13:35</p><div>What if Buffalo had an opening ceremony? What would we have? #BuffaloOpeningCeremonyJill</div><div>Vincent Gallo narrates. #BuffaloOpeningCeremonyJill</div><div>.@BuffaloJill Wing-Bleu Cheese-Celery Race #BuffaloOpeningCeremonyChris Ryndak</div><div>Instead of lighting the torch, Trent Edwards checks down. #BuffaloOpeningCeremonyJill</div><div>#BuffaloOpeningCeremony Ralph Wilson lights the Ralph Wilson torch at Ralph Wilson stadium.Alan Bedenko</div><div>#BuffaloOpeningCeremony Buster Bison and Chip interpret the closing of Bethlehem Steel through modern dance.Alan Bedenko</div><div>#BuffaloOpeningCeremony 1/8th of it takes place in Toronto.Jeremy White</div><div>#BuffaloOpeningCeremony Tom Bauerle gives dramatic speech about cats, ghosts, implied bisexuality.Alan Bedenko</div><div>#BuffaloOpeningCeremony 50-foot tall puppet of the Lady In WhiteAlan Bedenko</div><div>Conehead would’ve given his guarantee on the Olympic torch. #BuffaloOpeningCeremonyKevin Snow</div><div>#BuffaloOpeningCeremony AFSCME picket, inflatable rat on site.Alan Bedenko</div><div>#BuffaloOpeningCeremony Ani DiFranco sings a medley of songs no one’s heard beforeAlan Bedenko</div><div>After years of planning, studies, etc & countless dollars spent the stadium is never built & the games go elsewhere #BuffaloOpeningCeremonyMark Poloncarz</div><div>#BuffaloOpeningCeremony stadium empties to reveal thousands of old shoes and clothing items left by "Team Canada"Jeremy White</div><div>#BuffaloOpeningCeremony is blacked out in BuffaloGeoff Smith</div><div>#BuffaloOpeningCeremony we actually hold two competing, simultaneous ceremonies, because someone pissed someone off once.Alan Bedenko</div><div>dignitaries arrive by driving cars into buildings #BuffaloOpeningCeremonya tramp abroad</div><div>We tailgate it. #BuffaloOpeningCeremonyChris Ryndak</div><div>Lead all newscasts with first person who complains that there is nothing to do during Buffalo Olympics #BuffaloOpeningCeremonyAaron Mentkowski</div><div>#BuffaloOpeningCeremony sketchy guy invites the world to come work at Geico.Alan Bedenko</div><div>#BuffaloOpeningCeremony A drunken Pat Kane extinguishes the flame by dumping out his 40oz beer on it.Bobby Digital</div><div>#BuffaloOpeningCeremony Lenny Palumbo writes something phenomenally homophobic about itAlan Bedenko</div><div>"Better Days" named official song. #BuffaloOpeningCeremony @createvidsKevin Snow</div><div>Goo Goo Dolls play a full four hours. #BuffaloOpeningCeremonySabres 101</div><div>#BuffaloOpeningCeremony Carl Paladino lists athletes he doesn’t care for on top of his burned out buildings.DBUF11</div><div>Parade of Nations has to keep stopping at unsynched traffic lights. #BuffaloOpeningCeremonyJill</div><div>@JeremyWGR Tailgating is recognized as an official sport. #BuffaloOpeningCeremonyJeff Scharf</div><div>12 Led Zeppelin cover bands. #BuffaloOpeningCeremonyScott Michalak</div><div>#BuffaloOpeningCeremony The team at NBC is replaced by a Buffalo all-star team comprised of Duke McGuire, John Murphy, and Rick JeanneretGeoffrey Blosat</div><div>A reminder to all medal winners: "Bum-bum-bum, we buy silver, we buy gold…" #BuffaloOpeningCeremonyTodd O. Massey</div><div>#BuffaloOpeningCeremony for those that don’t have a ticket, head to party in the plaza!DBUF11</div><div>#BuffaloOpeningCeremony Pearl Street offers a discount on drinks with ticket to the opening ceremony.Geoffrey Blosat</div><div>Every visiting athlete comments on how ugly the city is. #BuffaloOpeningCeremonySteve O</div><div>Golisano holds U.S. team hostage until they agree to perform in Rochester for "one night only". #BuffaloOpeningCeremonyhippiegrrl</div><div>Irv announces lighting of Olympic Flame as "5 Alarm Fire in Orchard Park – details at 11" #buffaloopeningceremonyGlenMcDole</div><div>Keith Radford & Joanna Pisceri talk over the ENTIRE THING. #BuffaloOpeningCeremonyTodd O. Massey</div><div>#BuffaloOpeningCeremony Scott Norwood comes through the floor and kicks a flaming ball to light the torch but this time hits its on turfjason ziegler</div><div>#BuffaloOpeningCeremony Greece is first team to enter. Buster Bison, armed with a squirt gun, obstructs pathJosh Veronica</div><div>Olympic torch used to make Chiavetta’s chicken barbecue. #BuffaloOpeningCeremonySabres 101</div><div>#buffaloopeningceremony we go til 4 in the morning. Then breakfast at PerkinsJoe Haniszewski</div><div>#BuffaloOpeningCeremony giant blow up beef an wecks and chicken wings appear in center of ceremonyjason ziegler</div><div>#BuffaloOpeningCeremony where pop officially replaces sodaJon Clark</div><div>Carl Paladino makes a speech to complain about all the foreigners "invading" his city. #BuffaloOpeningCeremonyTravis Worth</div><div>#BuffaloOpeningCeremony Irv Weinstein hands out 1 buffalo wing to each person coming into stadium to hold up during torch lighting.My Low End Theory</div><div>After #BuffaloOpeningCeremony is held east of Transit Road, @BuffaloRising commenters call it the "Clarence Olympics."Ra Cha Cha</div><div>#BuffaloOpeningCeremony subject to blackoutDarin Schwabe</div><div>#BuffaloOpeningCeremony During the Biathlon the crowd is heard yelling Shoot!Mike Ripley</div><div>#BuffaloOpeningCeremony Scott Norwood goes wide right with torch, sets Lake Erie on fireian leggin</div><div>Crowd throwing their plastic beer cups at this shit. #BuffaloOpeningCeremonyScott Michalak</div><div>Team Elmwood Village would protest any suburbanites and/or SUV drivers being allowed to play. #BuffaloOpeningCeremonyCeeDee</div><div>Those who can’t get in have a Party in the Plaza #BuffaloOpeningCeremonyCasey Schroeder</div><div>#BuffaloOpeningCeremony the torch is lit by a drunk marshawn lynchJames Misercola</div><div>The Town of Orchard Park refuses to allow others to participate in swimming events #BuffaloOpeningCeremonyMark B</div><div>AMVETS outfits Team USA at #BuffaloOpeningCeremonyMarquil</div><div>#BuffaloOpeningCeremony everyone walks into the stadium and says "wait, why do you have O.J. Simpson on your wall?" #forrealthoughNick Veronica</div><div>biggest. tailgating party. ever. #buffaloopeningceremonyAndrew Haynes</div><div>Byron Brown has a field day with his giant scissors upon the opening of Buffalo’s olympic village aka Statler City #BuffaloOpeningCeremonyBennett Collins</div><div>People from Rochester say that they would have done a better job. #BuffaloOpeningCeremonyThomas Mehs</div><div>#BuffaloOpeningCeremony listen to Matt Lauer continuously refer to it as "northern New York".Trlr</div><div>Only coverage it gets in local media involves investigation into the cost of parking. #BuffaloOpeningCeremonyBradford Reid</div><div>#BuffaloOpeningCeremony Everyone outside of New York State assumes the ceremony is occurring just a few minutes from New York CityChris Ceci</div><div>#BuffaloOpeningCeremony Carl Paladino is awarded midnight permit to demolish Olympic Stadium just minutes prior to ceremony kick-off.Chris Ceci</div><div>Instead of Paul McCartney, Hit N Run Live from Cheektowaga town park #BuffaloOpeningCeremonyDennis Louis</div><div>Everything goes as planned and everyone gets upset that there’s nothing to get upset about. #BuffaloOpeningCeremony #NOOUTRAGEOUTRAGE!!!Buffalo Outrage</div><div>Terry Pegula blubbers at the sight of Usain Bolt. #BuffaloOpeningCeremony (hashtag corrected)Tim Graham</div><div>#BuffaloOpeningCeremony buffalonian athletes get nothing better than silverdk</div><div>1 person would complain 1 week before the event, Olympics are cancelled. #BuffaloOpeningCeremonySmokey Tokey</div><div>#BuffaloOpeningCeremony months after loss, Judge Bettmann says "yeah, it was a new record, but oh well. Oops."Tony House</div>

The Report from TEDx Buffalo

12 Oct

At first blush, one might find it incongruous to hear a series of modern secular lectures under the ever watchful stained glass gaze of the Virgin Mary and an assembled heavenly host. The Montante Center at Canisius College began life as Saint Vincent de Paul Church, a squat romanesque dome filled with decorative tile and narrow purpled windows. Fortunately, after closing both the college and Montante family saw potential its its wide gallery and vaulted space, and now faintly eastern orthodox scroll work shares at the stage with modern acoustic baffles and suspended sound equipment. The old is new, the worthy refreshed, and a local seat of learning has a remarkable space to continue its centuries old Jesuit tradition of inquiry and thought.

What better place for a TED conference?

Buffalo’s first independently organized TED event met yesterday in grand fashion, despite delays and hiccups, some public and some only known to the dedicated volunteers who put on the show. The TED mothership is careful to curate all three groups that come together at any conference: organizers, speakers and attendees. A Who’s Who of the local technology, design and entrepreneur scene spent seventeen months crafting a day of lectures and ideas. The speakers were local and national change agents. The in-house attendees were selected for their ability to effectively broadcast the conference message, or (even better) to put directly into practice the ideas presented in their own industry leading positions. I snuck in the back door.

For a play by play of each speaker or topic, read Frank Gullo’s convenient summaries and link warehouse, or head to Twitter, the official record of the 21st Century. You can read my past feed, or follow the #tedxbuffalo hashtag to catch up. The video was live-streamed by WNYMedia yesterday as well, and the TEDx Buffalo website should have that edited video of each speaker up soon.

So instead of recreating the event, speech by speech, let me try to draw together some themes that emerged. As the organizers picked presenters for their expertise and ideas, and not for each specific topic, much of what was discussed was not deliberately pre-planned. Rather, any trend in the chaos reflects an evolving shared subconscious mindset, a cultural evolution, a collective perspective on the priority of our world’s problems.

The Return of the Small and Local

It is inevitable in our technologically shrunken world that humans would retreat to a cozy focus on the close and small, our brainstem programmed Dunbar Number, in the face of a vast, flattened, and inter-related global economy. That living close and small also has needed environmental and local economic benefits is either a happy coincidence or contributing cause of this phenomenon, though that is a TED talk for another day.

The majority of speakers addressed how to make change at a micro-level, not country by country or even city by city, but block by block and house by house. Chuck Banas of Buffalo Green Code discussed building neighborhoods and streetscapes through zoning, the legal method by which plans become reality. Eric Walker of PUSH Buffalo took it a step deeper, and using his analogy of the city as a sick patient, advocated working house by house and family by family to build consensus and grassroot buy-in for solutions. Patrick Finan, guru of the BlockClub mini-empire of print magazines, design and marketing, entreated everyone to build as small of a house as possible and put nice things in it. The advice was not entirely metaphorical – he has kept his companies deliberately small to keep quality up, ambitious in performance not size, with no desire to be as American-ly large as possible.

Perhaps not surprisingly in our ever-expanding Food Network culture, the focus on local also naturally turned to what we eat. Patrick Lango of White Cow Dairy sells out of each batch of yogurt and milk-drinks before he even processes them. The draw? Local cows, local grass, lots of sunshine and undiluted milk from a farm in East Otto. To paraphrase Mr. Lango: “People get so excited by our food. And I say, “Relax! It’s just food.” Your body likes it because you got used to eating things that aren’t food. But chill out – all our food used to be like this. And it can be again.”

Ethan Cox of Community Beer Works wants to create a relaxing neighborhood-based biergarten culture in the Third Room, lubricated by fresh, locally brewed beer (preferably his once the brewery opens soon). The higher purpose is to mix cultures and classes, but the local beer is the key facilitator. Even Stacey Watson of Drop-In Nation (more on her in a moment), presenting her ideas of how to best assist high school drop outs, noted that she builds community child by child, usually by eating together. 

The Power of Individual Storytelling

The ultimate distillation of local focus is to place priority on the individual, and several presenters compressed sweeping events into the personal. The Uncrowned Community Builders institute, an outgrowth of the Uncrowned Queens initiative by Dr. Barabara Seals-Nevergold and Dr. Peggy Brooks-Bertram, is compiling the biographies of pioneers and groundbreakers in minority communities, from Buffalo African-Americans to Alaskan Inuit. Drop-In Nation begins by meeting each child where they are, learning their story, helping them teach their story to themselves, and only then use a circular story-telling culture to help them focus on their own success. The Anne Frank Project at Buffalo State College, led by the dynamic Drew Kahn, is finding the individual in genocide, finding the Anne Frank in Rwanda and Cambodia, to humanize and  illuminate the incomprehensible. 

Key to the success of each venture is the recognition of storytelling at its heart. As a guy who seeks to make his living telling stories, this is a subject near and dear, and where I found the most meaning from a day full of ideas. When Drew Kahn asked Rwandan women how they tell the story of the genocide, they didn’t understand the question. How could they not breathe? How could they not eat? Then he saw for himself, through stomps and claps and songs and hymns to the lost, that theater, that stories, teach all, geometry to the horrors of children being hacked with machetes. 

Note that every theme so far – biergarten culture, a greencode return to walkable streets, old dairy and farming techniques, storytelling as meaning – is a refreshment of the past. An identification of what was inadvisably discarded in the name of progress for incorporation in a desired future. This dichotomy of historic truths versus TED’s oft focus on technology leads us to…   

The Evolution of Education

While few speakers wished to declare our education system broken, it was obvious there are many holes to be filled. We watched a video of a March 2011 TED lecture by Salman Khan, describing his efforts to use video and online software to turn education on its head, so children view lectures at home to free up time to do group “homework” at school. Drop In Nation is addressing the shortfall of assistance to high school drop outs, half the teenage population in Buffalo. No wishy washy Love-All-The-Little-Children venture, Stacey Watson is using the latest research on how the brain learns to pick up the kids whose minds work circularly, not linearly. Karen Armstrong at the Future City Competition is filling a gap in math and science education by getting middle-schoolers to imagine and build urban areas of the 22nd Century.

It struck me that even ideas that focused on the internet and technology were at their heart education based. Remy DeCausemaker’s Open Code and Open Data initiative wants to make the government more transparent, but ultimately as a way to better inform the public, not as an ideal end until itself. And Brandon Kessler, who runs the ChallengePost.com method to solve big problems, is focusing much of that energy on education and children, using apps to get kids to eat better and revolutionizing the classroom.

Our Next Billionaire

I seek to take nothing away from the other speakers, but let me note that only one of them is likely a future billionaire. That distinction belongs to the yet unmentioned John Bordynuik, CEO of JBI Inc in Niagara Falls, who heads up the most important initiative you’ve never heard of.

Mr. Bordynuik, formerly affiliated with the Ontario Legislature and chemical dreamer, has discovered a way to covert average plastic waste into fuel. Currently 7% of our global plastic waste stream is recycled. The leaves 93%, or 29 millions tons, ready to be turned into a potential 7 billion gallons of low-sulfur fuel that can run engines and factory processes of all varieties. Sound too good to be true? Bordynuik himself listed “Disbelief” as his first stumbling block to success. Currently, the JBI factory in the Falls siphons up the majority of the waste plastic stream of Western New York. I would bet it’s a matter of time before we’re mining our landfills for more.

It would be fitting of such a revolutionary TED lecture that it would incorporate the themes of the other speakers as well. The Plastic2Oil process started as a story, a dream of cleaning up plastic strewn beaches and toxic air across the world. The process is scalable and local – not ever bit of plastic need be driven to the JBI plant. Smaller versions can be installed at each local plastic producing factory, converting the waste stream on site to fuel usable on site. And none of this process would be possible except through a hard science education – chemistry and math and engineering – that is becoming increasingly rare.

The Tiny Temblor of ’11

24 Aug

Right at 1:51, Washingtonians I follow on Twitter announced that there had been an earthquake there:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/106061360194002944″%5D

Interesting, I thought.

Even more interesting was two minutes later when the old, historic brick building in which I work began to shake and rumble, its bricks and windows creaking from the strain of infrequent and unexpected movement. For about 5 – 10 seconds, everything shook and thanks to the Tweets from Washington, I was instantly able to rule out a passing truck or explosion.

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/106061635336146944″%5D

The 5.8 magnitude quake centered in Virginia was felt from Georgia to Quebec, all of which are situated on the same tectonic plate.  Almost instantly, Twitter lit up with jokes about how the quake was Obama’s fault (parody quickly became reality on that one), that people should text “DONATE” to a number to donate a $1 to buy East coasters another latte to replace the one they spilled, and this picture began appearing, showing the “devastation” from the quake:

It wasn’t a big deal and no one got hurt, which is good. It was one of those shared experiences that helps people flex their humor muscles and try to get a superswarm badge on Foursquare (no dice).

Did you feel it? Did you know what it was right away? Where were you at the time?

Two Stupid Twitter Arguments

18 Aug

Two of the dumbest arguments broke out in Buffalo’s Twittersphere yesterday afternoon, and it all started with this simple question:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nateatsbuffalo/status/103922579991048192″%5D

The suggestions came in fast: San Marco, Siena, Trattoria Aroma, Carmine’s – people came up with helpful ideas almost instantaneously; Twitter is all about instant gratification in 140 characters.

Then came this:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nxtARROWpres/status/103922814737846272″%5D

Twitter is also all about seeing stuff that makes you shake your head in astonishment.

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nateatsbuffalo/status/103923543850487808″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/103924656817442816″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nateatsbuffalo/status/103926644858826752″%5D

I think you see where this is going. It’s another 2005 vintage suburbs vs. city online argument, in this case begun by a self-described “city snob” who remains deliberately ignorant of the suburbs; someone whose business is to attract entrepreneurs to the region.

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nxtARROWpres/status/103924047670284288″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nxtARROWpres/status/103926170134913024″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/103926404403560448″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nxtARROWpres/status/103926531218350080″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/103926640035368960″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nxtARROWpres/status/103927278907555840″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/103927558369837056″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/103927715274559490″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nxtARROWpres/status/103928095920226305″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/nxtARROWpres/status/103928674981642240″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/103928615326064640″%5D

It went on and on from there, and I tried to redirect the conversation with this:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/103929636001546240″%5D

But @nxtARROWpres kept trying to backtrack and change the subject to how sprawl “kills” and how ignorant and insensitive suburbanites are. He called for MetroRail to be expanded for the sole purpose of bringing suburbanites downtown to see all of the city’s cultural wonders, ignoring the fact that an improved Metro system would also help city dwellers reach jobs located in the ‘burbs.

So, argument #1 was a group of people rebutting some vividly ignorant views on regionalism. Thanks to @nateatsbuffalo, @buffalucci, @edwardmichael, and @speljamr for fighting the good fight. Regional cooperation trumps dumb city/suburb cleaves every day.

Ah, but I promised two dumb arguments.

In the midst of all of this, “@BuffaloRach” tweeted this:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/BuffaloRach/status/103932240349761536″%5D

Now, let me be clear – I had given @nateatsbuffalo the San Marco and Aroma suggestions. I didn’t jack the thread – @nxtARROWpres did, never giving a suggestion thanks to his deliberate ignorance of all things suburbs. Furthermore, I haven’t argued with @nxtARROWpres on Twitter for literally months, about anything. So, I thought @BuffaloRach was out of line and full of crap, so I defended myself. That’s when, for the second time in as many weeks, I got this argument:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/103932500170113024″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/BuffaloRach/status/103932695117176832″%5D

There’s this meme that’s started in town about how I react to the opinions of others. Essentially, it breaks down like this:

a. Someone writes something stupid;

b. I argue with the person, inviting them to defend their stupid statement;

c. I am accused of not respecting the opinions of others.

That’s not how it works. If you write or think something stupid, you don’t just get to do so without challenge.

Hey, Obama is a socialist! Thank you for your opinion!

Hey, the suburbs suck and the city is the greatest! Let’s agree to disagree and not discuss this at all!


[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/BuffaloRach/status/103935144959803392″%5D

What does that even mean?

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/103935528927379456″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/BuffaloRach/status/103935725514399744″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/103936118654906368″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/103936282853523456″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/103936696478998528″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/BuffaloRach/status/103936480673665025″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/BuffaloRach/status/103936939664748544″%5D

Again, it went on from there. Now, I was using Twitter to argue a deeply existential argument about our very region – the political, economic, and social future of Buffalo and WNY hinges, I think, on government consolidation, regional government, and the city and suburbs working together. That is extremely important to me, and here I am arguing with somebody who thinks I shouldn’t argue on Twitter because it annoys her that I don’t just instantly roll over for stupid opinions.

If the topic is “Twitter threads that annoy me”, I should go ballistic every night of every fall, winter, and spring with idiotic and facile one-word-Sabres Tweets as people watch hockey – stuff that belongs on an IRC chat, not for the public’s benefit. If the topic is “Twitter threads that annoy me”, I should call out the little PR/social media expert Twitter cliques that like to prove what great friends they are and what fantastic social lives they have as they make plans – in public, on Twitter – to meet for drinks and food after work – stuff that belongs in a text message, not for the public’s benefit.

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/103952753679810560″%5D

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/buffalopundit/status/103941811655028737″%5D

So, to recap:

1. Arguments about how the city sucks and the suburbs are great, and vice-versa, are idiotic and counterproductive. They are damaging to the region as a whole, which needs to work together to move forward;

2. When I am confronted with a stupid argument, such as the one shown in number 1, supra, please don’t tell me what I can and can’t argue about, or that I’m wrong to not just roll over and quietly accept other people’s dumb opinions; and

3. If you have a bad Twitter habit like making plans for drinks on the patio of the Mansion with your Twique every other day, and otherwise using a public platform for your private conversations, don’t hammer me for my bad Twitter habit of engaging in arguments about important political, economic, or social issues.

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/BuffaloRach/status/103950207305265152″%5D


Give All The Votes!

17 Aug

Over the past several weeks – particularly in the wake of the article I wrote in defense of the Buffalo food trucks‘ attempts to codify how they can do business – I have been taking a pleasant walk up a bleak Main Street to happily stand in line to enjoy tacos from the Where’s Lloyd taco truck.

What I appreciate about Lloyd’s is that they understand that the point of a food truck isn’t just to serve food out of a truck. The point is to serve something unique or special that you can’t find elsewhere, or that other people don’t do as well.  I don’t mean to denigrate the other local food trucks, which serve coffee, two of which serve BBQ, and one of which serves Buffalo classics. I frankly haven’t tried any of them, but I wish them success.

But Lloyd’s is the one that does tacos better than pretty much anyone else in town, and brings them out to where people are – Main & Mohawk, the Larkin Building, and several office parks throughout the week.

The tacos? Two delightfully soft, mildly sweet corn tortillas, topped with your choice of tomatillo pork, braised beef, chimi chicken, or beans, cabbage, cilantro, and hot/medium/mild sauce. They’re messy, they’re delicious, and the contrast between the succulent, moist meat (I usually get one beef, one pork, both excellent) and the crispy cabbage gives great mouthfeel.  The “Rocket Sauce” is a must – tomatillo-based heat with flavor. At $2.25 per taco and a buck for a can of soda, it’s a bargain, to boot. The burritos add rice and/or beans in an overstuffed flour tortilla, for $5.50.  I find that’s too filling for lunch, and gets you sort of sleepy.

So, the food is good, the concept is solid, it’s a great value, and they have become a part of the local food landscape in just one year.

To that end, Lloyd’s is in a competition for the Food Network show “The Great Food Truck Race.”  Astonishingly, Lloyd’s is in first place nationwide, and you get to vote for them ten times per day. If selected, Lloyd’s wins $10,000 and gets to travel nationwide competing against other food trucks (the competition is based on cash earned per night in different cities, and there’s loads of location strategy involved).

Now, R ‘n R Barbecue, the Whole Hog Food Truck and the Roaming Buffalo Truck are also competing, but splitting the vote 3 or 4 ways will ensure that no one wins.  Since Lloyd’s was first in town, I think it’s fair that Lloyd’s is first in line for this competition – the others should wait their turn, (but that’s just my opinion).

To vote for Lloyd’s, click the link or text FT182 to 66789 – every day, and if you register on the Food Truck Race site, you can instantly give your ten votes to Lloyd’s each day.

#BuffCashMob: Nominations, Please

2 Aug

This past weekend, Chris introduced us to the #BuffCashMob idea, which he describes as

Rather than do the slacktivist thing, posting links to businesses we like and writing on their Facebook pages, let’s get out, en masse, and show them some straight up cash love. Buy their goods, pay for their services, patronize their establishments. And have a great fucking time doing it!

The goal will be to get 100 people to “flash mob” a local establishment to spend $10-$20 each on the goods and services offered. No discounts, no coupons, no special deals. Just spend $10 in their business.

Think of it as a reverse-Groupon. Instead of businesses offering crazy discounts to get people to mob their stores, the Buffalo hivemind is going to take the initiative and spend money for goods & services at posted prices. The best way to promote and grow Buffalo business is to support and patronize them.

The thought for the inaugural #BuffCashMob is that it ought to probably take place around 5:30 this Friday, perhaps at a local watering hole as a Twitter meetup happy hour. But really, what it is, is up to you. Fill out the form below or Tweet your nominations using the #BuffCashMob hashtag, or by @replying to the @BuffCashMob Twitter account. We’ll post a poll Thursday of the top three semifinalists, and announce the winner Friday morning.  Happy voting!


Commenting in 2011

18 Jul

Margaret Sullivan is right; the Buffalo News comment section has become more civilized.  Making people own their commentary is a good idea, and we’ve been having a lot of discussions lately about the way in which we allow comments, and whether they add much value anymore. Furthermore, much of the commentary takes place on Twitter or Facebook, post-sharing on those platforms. It was on Twitter, for instance, that someone validated my point that noise from the skyway is a non-issue at the Inner Harbor.  Going forward, the commenting system is going to have to change to reflect contemporary realities and capabilities, rather than further relying on decade-old technology with Gravatars.