Monthly Archives: August 2008

Not a Fair deal?

The Post-Standard has an excellent story today on the continuing adventures of New York State Fair director Dan O’Hara, probably Eliot Spitzer’s most unpopular appointee in Central New York. This one looks at how Live Nation came to be involved in bringing “big acts” (Boston! Styx! WOW!) to the State Fair Grandstand this year.

For those readers not playing the home game, O’Hara has been behind such popular measures as personally removing a photography entry to the Fair’s art competition that featured a sex doll (from the waist up) smoking a cigarette; banning smoking anywhere on the grounds; moving the Fair’s popular Wine Court to East Jesus; and generally being, in the eyes of many, an autocratic killjoy. This story looks at how his deal with Live Nation might cost taxpayers money (now the state comptroller is looking into it). Then again, Live Nation is also in the business of being a killjoy; here’s a post about how they’ve changed concertgoing at Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

I’ve got plenty of ideas on how to make the Fair better and healthier, but alienating fairgoers isn’t among them. I’d love to know more about how he got this job in the first place, and why he apparently still believes he can do anything he wants and not face scrutiny now that Spitzer is gone. (I suppose an obsession with Bruce Springsteen can cover a multitude of sins, but maybe not all of them.)

Irony: still not dead

The Huffington Post on China and Tibet:

The first major red flag that this was going to be a propaganda exercise of massive portions was when the government paraded a group of Han Chinese children through the Bird’s Nest dressed in the garb of the nation’s 54 minority groups — as a effort to “celebrate” the diversity of China. How inclusive! Except for the fact that the government either exoticizes these groups for tourist purposes while they remain poor, second-class citizens, or create conscious programs to aggressively assimilate these groups out of existence, particularly in politically hostile regions like Tibet and Xinjiang. An equivalent in America would be if the government got a group of white kids from Manhattan together and dressed them up as members of Native American tribes and paraded them around as example of how respectful we are towards the “native peoples.”

Yet that’s what Americans still do all the time when they cheer Native American sports mascots.

Filth and filth

I was going to call this post “Giant Tit Spotted on Offramp to Herald Place.” But this is a family blog, and “tit” is one of the Seven Words You Can’t Say on Family Blogs, so I didn’t. Instead, I’m going to try, in the spirit of the late George Carlin, to analyze filth at length. And we have a filth problem in Syracuse: perhaps we don’t have enough of it.

Here are two standup guys doing Syracuse a good turn and hoping to make a difference. A couple months ago, they cleaned the offramp to Herald Place in less than 20 minutes and made a high quality video to explain and publicize the problem. If we had just 50 more volunteers like them we could probably clean up Syracuse for a whole weekend… if everyone could just get their schedules together. Maybe our elected leaders would strive to live up to the dedication of our citizens, and understand they need to give Syracuse the beautification commission it really deserves.

What would Carlin have said? He would have said “Bleep that bleep.” I didn’t always agree with him, but he always made me think.

Sadly, nobody in power takes the broad daylight approach seriously. Don’t get me wrong: They should take it seriously. And they do, but they don’t. The intellect says “Yes, yes,” but the political will just rolls over and falls asleep. Now, if I was a DPW crew manager controlled by whatever strings control whoever makes whatever phone calls, I have to be honest and say I’d be watching these guys and admiring their work, because they just did my work for me — work I’m under contract to do, except no one thinks it’s their job to schedule the work in a coordinated manner.

Here’s a new suggestion: maybe we should stop sending mature men to do a boy’s work. Because putting trash into a Hefty bag is probably not the only thing you can legally or constructively do with it. And no, I’m not just talking about creating graffiti out of pre-existing dirt. I’m not just talking about kudzu topiaries of questionable taste. I’m talking giant genitalia made of garbage. The more embarrassing to middle-class sensibilities, the better.

Now, I’m sure someone would have to research the precise legalities of picking up multiple fragments of pre-thrown trash and just mistakenly dropping them into a suggestive shape (you can’t just go off half-cocked). But, lest anyone think my suggestion just comes from the blue, let’s take a quick look at the recent history of art, trash and filth in our fair city, and ask a couple questions — here respectfully submitted:

Question One: Why was a giant insect recently made out of trash and safely displayed at Lipe Art Park? I mean, that’s a cute idea. And Lipe is a very public space. The “Litter Bug” is not all that provocative, however. Alas, it is just not filthy enough. Could we do even better worse?

Question Two: Why was provocative (some might say obscene) art recently put on display at one of our city’s spanking new art galleries for the wine and cheese set — where it arguably couldn’t do the local masses any practical good? There is most certainly a niche for provocative art in Syracuse — but some of the artists tasked with the mission of saving Syracuse don’t seem to want to take advantage of the abundance of free on-site materials just sitting in empty, high-traffic public spaces that have a big potential audience just driving by each morning. (Explain that one to me — without using the word “grant.”)

I have no answers, but it’s disheartening to watch all of these good people making earnest efforts at doing something truly worthwhile in Syracuse, yet just orbiting around each other, and never connecting. There’s civic spirit, there’s imagination, there’s boldness, but there’s just something keeping all these ingredients from reacting with one another and creating something that penetrates the consciousness of those in charge.

So at least consider it as a thought experiment. What if some suburban mom orbiting the city center gets offended that her children are getting a free education? And sets off a chain reaction of phone calls to Joanie Mahoney’s office to Mayor Driscoll’s to the SPD, and some joker gets in trouble, and the voracious national media has a field day with it (“Syracuse: Trashiest City in America?”).

Or, you could just make that one phone call. “Mayor Driscoll, if you’d prefer not to see a gigantic gar-boob — or worse — erected somewhere along some highly visible thoroughfare that you forgot to vacuum, I’d think about picking up the phone and coordinating some regular cleanup with the State of New York.”

Or are are things not that desperate yet?

Just a throwaway post, tossed from the window of a speeding blog. But Syracuse is a great recycling town. Why not turn that junk into “junk” today?

In the shadow of Olympus

Coverage of the Beijing Olympics has a strangely ambivalent feel. On one hand, the media is busy drawing attention to China’s massive pollution problems, human rights violations, and architectural coverups of Beijing’s endearing everyday shabbiness. But the corporations that bring us all these messages, via the corporate-owned news media, are also furiously serving up the Olympic hype 48 hours a day. (NBC is boasting 3600 hours of coverage. To paraphrase Rita Rudner, I don’t even want to do anything that feels good for 3600 hours!)

Yet, all this show isn’t really directed at the networks’ traditional core audience; more like over our heads, at a comfortable global citizenry that many Americans feel less and less that they belong to. It almost feels like being forced to attend the lavish wedding of a bride and groom that you don’t know. (Or worse, the lavish wedding of your ex.)

I don’t remember much sentiment or even hype that the 1980 Lake Placid games would “transform Upstate New York” or even just transform the Adirondacks. Lake Placid had already hosted the Games before, and it was, and would remain, a mountain resort village. But that was before Calgary. I suspect the ’88 Winter Games in that Canadian city did for (or “to”) the winter games what the ’84 Los Angeles games did on the summer side: the Olympics as all-consuming media and pop culture spectacle, to be held only in rich countries. (Certainly, the transformation was complete by 1992 in Albertville.)

Lake Placid might someday co-host the Winter Games again, perhaps in a shared bid with Montreal or some other Canadian city. But that would have to wait for a future where not only would Upstate’s economy be better, but where the Olympic movement had somehow stopped being a “Great Game” or a royal wedding.