Sunday, January 03, 2021

The Kid At The End Of Camelot


    I once remember a John Stewart saying, "If it wasn't for NY1, we all would have cancelled our Time Warner accounts long ago." That was true. "Was" being the key word here because, what the now parent company of NY1 has done is completely deciamte a once venerated news organization. This would come center stage this week with a lawsuit settlement that could very well take the careers of five longtime news veterans.

NY1 news came out of the blue with a then wild idea in September of 1992. The idea was 24 hours of news...not a new concept in and of it self....but it had a twist. It would focus on the five boroughs of New York City. A city that brash and full of itself deserved a network with an idea that bold.

But could New York City fill an entire days news cycle continuously? Surely even, "The City That Never Sleeps" could have a few bleary eyed moments where there wasn't a rat attacking a cab driver, what then? What would fill the airways? NY1's answer? Culture, from Broadway to downtown Brooklyn, NY1's staff always found the best human interest stories. In a city like this, the stories sometimes wrote themselves.

Let us not forget that this is a....maybe "the" sports town. From the Yankees to the Rangers. New Yorkers in the Olympics, and even high school sports, NY1 covered it all. And they did so with a passion &dedication that would put ESPN and other major networks to shame.

Then came the talent. And here's where the real unique-ness of NY1 came to the forefront. Most network reporters televise from the field with a producer, camera operator and assistant, showing up to a story in your classic news van. This van is synonymous with TV journalism, with its large satellite dish and boom, its almost a cliché. 

NY1 however, did things differently. They Realized the accuracy of a story mattered more than the fuzz. They often sent one reporter, armed with a small video camera, a tripod and maybe a MetroCard. this was laughably inept. There was no way a single reporter could show up to a breaking news scene or cover a City Hall presser by themselves. It would undoubtedly fail. 

Except, it didn't. New Yorkers grew to love the gritty, fly by the seat of your pants, no fluff journalism NY1 offered. 

From the almost dour, yet upbeat Lewis Doodley, to the upbeat and authoritative Cheryl Wills, both of whom have been at the station since the start, NY1 had a knack for matching talent to the story. After all, we are a picky city, and can quickly tell when that weather person is from Sacramento or Soundview.

Over the years, NY1 became an institution. The go-to network for most residents &workers. With its always reliable time and temperature box in the bottom corner, and its famous, "Weather on the 1's", NY1 just fit everyone's schedule like a pair of comfortable slippers. 

It's rare that whole news channels get a cult following, aside from maybe The Weather Channel . But NY1 not only developed a fanbase among both the white collar and the working class of the city. Almost breaking a forth wall of sorts, they'd become a pop-culture reference too. 

Featured in films like; "Elf", "Inside Man", "Cloverfield", and "Night at the Musuem", to name a few. It also became part of the NYC TV landscape, featured in shows like, "Third Watch" and, "Spin City." Even LA based/NYC set sitcom, "How I Met Your Mother" featured a character who was a NY1 reporter. To transcend a medium like this shows how well regarded the network is.

In a city where everyone has an opinion, NY1 gave city residents a soapbox to scream from. It all started with late night sports call-in show, "Sports on 1: The last word", wherein the typical radio call-in show was given a visual side.

But maybe its best foray into interacting with the public was the news call-in show simply titled, "The Call." Daring in the fact it gave larger voice to some of the...more colorful of the cities residents, The Call, lasted 12 years. It was, honestly, beautifully controlled chaos. reigned in brilliantly by anchor/reporter John Schiumo. In a time when it was still frowned upon for journalists to openly have an opinion, Schiumo didn't hold back if he disagreed with a callers, or politicians views.

The mornings however, are where NY1 began to set itself apart, and sadly, where the problems started to show. 

Pat Kiernan, a Canadian transplant, started with the network in 1997. He cemented himself as a stalwart in the field. His dry humor peppering sometimes difficult stories was a more human approach. He has won praise and acclaim, rightfully so. Well-liked, he helped create what was an insane idea into something many viewers can't live without. 

"In the Papers" is an idea so absurd it can only work in NYC. The segment, runs anywhere between 5-10 minutes long. In it, Kiernan literally reads and comments on random articles in that mornings newspapers. That's it, a guy on TV reading you the newspaper. And it's absolutely brilliant. His downhome-almost country like charm mixed with the barely jaded cynical city kid that make him a welcome morning face. NY1 became as much a part of the morning routine as hitting the snooze button 30 times.

Kiernan would often be Paired with journalistic Swiss-army knife Roger Clark. Clark could be found reporting from anywhere and everywhere in the city. Sometimes he would cover breaking news in Midtown. Sometimes he'd report from a dog park in Astoria. 

But Kiernan couldn't be there every day obviously, and that is where we meet, "The Five." Kristen Shaughnessy would take over for Kiernan on off days. So popular and well-liked was she, that she landed the weekend morning anchor position. 

Lighthearted but somehow at the same time no-nonsense, Shaughnessy took to the job and made it her own. The Hofstra graduate established a name for herself. She wouldn't  just stick to the anchor desk, she would often head into the field, covering stories on her own. It would be this go-get-em attitude that would see her in the spotlight on the cities darkest day.

Reporting from 2 blocks away, She was doing her job, reporting on the terrorist attack at the World Trade Center. She intently informed viewers of the scene when the south tower began to crumble. Her words, forever etched in time; "Oh its just coming down Pat...I'm gonna run..." as the line disconnected. Kiernan, left almost without words would wait for what seemed like eons. Trying to maintain, he wondered aloud if his colleague was now among the then estimated to be tens of thousands that would not survive. In the background, audible gasps are heard in the newsroom. Visibly shocked and concerned, he struggled to soldier on.

It would be nearly 15 minutes before she was heard from. In the time, 15 minutes seemed like an eternity. Shaughnessy would be among the countless throngs forced to run for their lives. This woman, ran BAREFOOT for blocks, along firefighters, police officers, EMT's. Finding the nearest payphone, she calmly called her newsroom, much to the relief of everyone. She would then continue to report for hours, despite being covered in dust. "You didn't know if the world was ending or what." she would later go on to say. "But there was still this civility and sense of help all around." 

This woman is a journalist, through and through. 

Roma Torre, New York born, would be the first person hired for the network. She became another NY1 stalwart, almost instantly. Asserting herself to be a preeminent force on the team, she took the lead on the late morning and early afternoon broadcast chair. 

Dealing with NYC politics is hardly an easy task. She made it seem simple in the early days hosting "Inside City Hall", the networks political focused show.

But where Roma shines is her absolute and unflinching love for Broadway.  She would utilize this passion for theatre by headlining a NY1 institution, "On Stage." With this platform, she dazzled. Giving well informed, detailed reviews of hundreds, maybe thousands of shows and performances. Her background in the industry would make her an invaluable resource for New Yorkers of all ages.

One of the toughest stories however, would be something that would affect her personally. In August of 2014, Torre announced she was diagnosed with colon cancer. She would take a brief leave absence, but return full throttle, bringing awareness to the disease. The two time Emmy award winner is a warrior.

Amanda Farinacci took an interesting beat. Staten Island. Often regarded as New York's, "Forgotten borough." The hard luck residents of the island are a tough crowd to please. It is Home to the cities only republican stronghold, and the island's blue collar, working-class population. It required a different approach then the big city.

Farinacci proudly showcased the cities most suburban part. She showed it did in fact have more stories to tell than the "jersey shore" crowd most seem to think it coveted. 

Making made inroads with many 9/11 family members, and survivors, she was a unifying voice for many. Utilizing a personal connection to the FDNY, she would be the go-to for all things related to them. 

She would take a lead role in reporting on the cities rebuilding efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

In a time when many negatives are associated with Staten Island, her commitment to her home borough make her bastion of light. With the title, "Staten Island's Most Trusted Reporter", she proved that there are still islanders to be proud of.

Brooklyn born, and proud of it, Jeanine Ramirez covered her borough with the same unabashed pride and bravado as any Brooklynite would.

Taking skills imbued in her from Brooklyn Tech and Fordham, she took a brief detour to Texas before coming home to NY1. She would not just hold court at the anchor desk, but often take to the streets, and not just in the 5 boroughs. The lead Latino face of the network, she filed reports from Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. She continues to serve as one of the leading voices for the cities immigrant communities. 

The exemplary way in which she does her job has earned her multiple awards, including three from the venerated New York Press Club. One of her greatest honors however, was being named grand marshal for the National Puerto Rican day parade in 2002.

Joining NY1 in 2008, Vivian Lee was a new face to the station. Her multifaceted experience in both Canadian and American journalism made her a perfect fit. She is a top notch anchor, but a stellar reporter as well. Driven since childhood to be a journalist, she would fight and claw her way to the top.

She became the first New York reporter to announce the election of Pope Francis. She would later be among the honored few to cover the elimination of osama bin laden. A proud Koren American, she was awarded the mentor of the year award by University of New York's Asian American/Asian Research Institue.

These five women helped build the vaunted status that NY1 carried for more than a quarter century. That status is now being called into question. Time Warner Cable, NY1's parent company was acquired by Charter/Spectrum in 2106. Since then, a series of sweeping changes began.

In a vain attempt to attract younger viewers, new high-tech graphics and sets were made. Additionally, shows and talent were being ushered out the door. Schiumo and "The Call", Lee's "Spotlight", and "Sports on One: The Last Word", on the air since the 1992 launch, were all abruptly cancelled in 2017. None were happy, from viewers, to behind the scenes staff. It was only a sign of things to come. 

For these five, Farriniaci, Lee, Ramirez, Torre and Shaughnessy, this would become the point of no return.  

Following Charter's takeover, they saw less airtime than younger and male coworkers. It was also around this time the network itself began to change. 

In January 2017, Anthony Proia became NY1’s News Director. Later that year, Melissa Rabinovich became Assistant News Director. They then began pushing younger talent into more visible and coveted anchor positions. They even created additional opportunities for younger journalists. This, usually is a good idea when done properly. This, however - was done at the expense of older talent, especially diluting the roles of these five.

A new, morning-news show, complete with multi-million dollar, high-tech studio known as," Studio A" was rolled out. "Mornings on 1", focusing on Pat Kiernan and longtime traffic reporter Jamie Stelter, with Roger Clark was born.  

In contrast, "Studio B", where Torre broadcasted her live show, was older, less equipped, and comparatively inferior. Mornings are typically most watched, this is true. However, the level of attention and support provided to Kiernan was notable compared to Torre, with much less support. When Torre asked Proia why she could not use the morning studio for her live noon show, she was reportedly told to “stop complaining.”  

It was clear the new network heads were pushing the two as a "Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest", and many were unhappy. Gone was the to-the point news of the day, replaced with forced banter and constant social media callouts.

Eventually, it was discovered, that Torre, despite being with the network since the start, was making less than half of her male counterpart, Kiernan.  

Another point of note was the large multi-day celebration celebrating his 20 years with the network. NY1’s promotion of his anniversary bordered on the absurd. It included on-air segments, ad's on city buses and not one, not two, but three food trucks that traveled around the city with him. Roma Torre? She had been given barely a mention, despite her longer tenure. She received no special promotion whatsoever. No bus ad's, no food trucks. Nothing.

This would all culminate in the form of gender and age discrimination lawsuit, filed by the five women in the summer of 2019.

"It fits the rhetoric of 'These whiny old ladies are complaining again,'" Farinacci, told the New York Times. "But this is career-ending, these opportunities that we're not getting."

"It's always there as a woman," she added, noting that female anchors tend to disappear while their male peers get promoted. "How much longer do I have? Where am I going?"

They have unbelievably collectively worked at NY1 for more than century. They dedicated their lives to New York journalism.

Unfortunately, older women and those of color have been continually cast aside for younger women, and men especially. At the time of the lawsuits filing, Charter’s own website showed that only 2 of 19 people in its, “Company Leadership” are women. Of the 14 members of the Board of Directors, there is was only 1 woman. 

Despite Torre’s extensive record, her role suddenly changed following the merger. In mid-2017, NY1 rolled out a new&revamped weekly schedule. This was done without any advance notice or discussion. Her shift was chopped and divided amongst other anchors. 

Since launching "Mornings on 1", Shaughnessy was not allowed to fill-in for Kiernan. No reason was ever given. This is interesting especially since, in 2018, NY1 hired a talent review coach to provide feedback for its anchors. This coach, after reviewing her work, was reportedly shocked that she wasn't given a mid-week anchor spot after years of talent and hard work.

In March 2018, Farinacci, Rabinovich, Proia had a lengthy talk with NY1 political director Robert Hardt. Primary season was in full swing. On Staten Island, that meant the primary Congressional race between Michael Grimm and Dan Donovan would be a hot topic. Farinacci wanted in, righgtfully so.  

She was given assurances that she would be heavily involved. This seemed a given seeing as how she is a island native, and was well liked among the boroughs Democrats and Republicans. She was the first to interview Grimm after his prison stint. She would also be first to break the news that he would be running for Congress post-incarceration. 

NY1 planned the only debate in the race on June 14, 2018. She  believed she would be a panelist, alongside chief political anchor Errol Louis, as was typically the way it was done. But, without any explanation, Rabinovich told Farinacci the week before that she would not play any role in the debate.

This is not how you treat a talented staff. Hell, this is not how you treat a bad staff. That being said, many hoped for a peaceful and proper resolution to the suit. That hope was lost on New Years eve, 2020, when it was announced that lawsuit was settled, but that the five would no longer be part of NY1.

To say this a blow to quality journalism in NYC at a time when it needs it most is putting it lightly. The real issue to note here is the fact that gender and age discrimination is still happening. While some of it might be difficult to prove, its still out there, and it needs to end. We can't let what these women did go unnoticed. 

We need to show the world that discrimination of any kind is retroactive to the advancement of society as a whole. The fact that we are still having this discussion is insane. LGBTQ persons, people of color, and of disability are still face hardships because the wrong people are in charge.

These five women are what legends are made of. They stood up for an injustice. And because of that, they lost their jobs, and we lost some of the best damn journalists this city has ever seen. This is not how you run a business.

Charter has done nothing positive for NY1, or for the cable structure as a whole. Cable is facing its demise. The cable industry needs help. The news industry needs help. But Charter went out of its way to destroy one of the last best things cable news had to offer. We may never see the likes of a NY1 at its golden age ever again, and that's another tragedy.

The fact I, a male, am writing on the topic of a women's rights issue is not lost on me. I have been called a feminist by a few, a "Social Justice Warrior", or SJW by others. I don't necessarily consider myself anything. I do however wish for an ideal society, an ideal place where issues like this don't exist. A place where women and men, or whomever you identify as, are not just paid equally, but treated equally. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Yosemite.

I initially began writing this in December of last year, since then, many...too many…other events have transpired. So I've had to make edits, and then more edits, Now we have less than a week.

"It's now or never." I said. So here we are. It’s a much more different place than it was in the fall of 2016. Democracy and human decency were Shattered in one slowly unspooling night of un-reality.

Agent Orange, as I call him, told you that it would be he who would clean up the country, due to the fact that people of another race, "raped and murdered civilians."  That was it, his...opening salvo in what has been an embarrassment of incompetence. A never ending and systematic take down of every core ideal that our nation was founded on began almost immediately. From the denial of women's rights to innocents....children, caged like animals, resembling a scene from world war II.

In doing so, he tapped into a side of the country we had long thought left us. A side so vile and disgusting, we’d rather not acknowledge their vile filth. But that’s the thing about locking away bad memories is they come back at the worst time.

So, since then, an all out assault on civil rights has ramped up. Cities are burning. We now have police officers, clad in body armor and carrying heavy assault weapons running on the whims of an unstable maniac. Now the police, Americas protectors, are now feared by many. 

It is flat out exhausting at times, to try and count the daily atrocities committed by this gutless scum. One day its taking a blind eye to bounties placed on the heads of American soldiers, the next day, its sending in government agents to fire weapons at peaceful protesters. They are then strafed with a helicopter, in the middle of a major American city, the nations capital no less!

The holder of the office of President of the United States of America is in charge of holding our nations best interests at heart. This...inhumane being has done nothing of the sort, caring only about himself. The president must be ready to compromise and negotiate. Instead, he has chosen insults and bullying. My neighbors son drives a truck with a flag on it that says, "Make liberals cry again." That's flat out bullying. Maybe not physically, but it is mental and emotional bullying.

That is the kind of behavior Agent Orange encourages. Is that what you want to be known for? To attack someone's want to live in our country, to practice whatever religion they want, to love who they want? To be viewed however they want? A country founded on the basis of freedom for all? A country whose land is actually stolen from its natives. We have zero right to say its own people aren't welcome. Athletes and entertainers. Artists and executives. They are all being verbally attacked by this shambling mass of grease. Why? Well for one thing because they, like every normal human being, agree that being shot at or abused because of the color of their skin is not acceptable. So when you get angry at looters…maybe think that the way we treated people before has led us to this. You can anger only the lion so many times till the lion mauls you.

Now, we find ourselves in the midst of a global catastrophe, made worse by the careless attitude possessed by this fool. Instead of picking a fight with an NBA champion, this idiot could focus on finding a cure for a disease that to date, looks to kill millions. Some of whom are even his staff and family. Lives lost, both American and in other nations. The sole job now, the only concern should be stopping this virus. But I guess golf is more important. No, wait, it’s not. This is the only thing that should be addressed by the President right now. THE ONLY THING. 

Even after he, his wife, and staff were stricken with this virus, he still defied medical orders. This is due to his unabashed and now certifiably dangerous ego.  Do you want to be known as the home of people who don't believe scientific theory is real? Those people who are currently denying countless decades of proven education based on a 5 minute video they saw on YouTube?

My doctors, like every other medical professional, have dedicated their lives to helping and saving others. They have all gone through years of schooling. They have sacrificed family, friends, relationships and sleeping in on Sundays - to ensure they are at the top of their game every day to help save people. Then they go back to school to learn more. They have had more sleepless nights, heads buried in a text book of medical procedures than you can imagine. So while some complain about how vaccines don't work because they "were created as a secret plot to steal my polished rock collection..." they're placing an IV in a terrified patient shaking with fear. Now go tell me how your little, "Drinking motor oil will beat the virus by Frank the bum." video has more sound reasoning.

I Shouldn't have to fear going outside because I might catch something. I shouldn't be going on what is now my 8th month of not being able to touch another human aside from my doctors. This is not how humanity should function, but this utter and complete asshole has made ignorance the norm.

With his regime in power, countless Americans will lose health coverage and die. I could very well be among them, my Parkinson’s alone leaving me as one of the many who bear the title of having a, “Pre-existing condition.” So, essentially, one thing I’m saying is anyone voting for this prick wants me to die. And I get it, I like mint chocolate chip ice cream, and I yammer on a bit, but I don’t think I deserve death. I do like it here, amongst the living, ya know?

Another frightening example of his battle against science was his impulse into forcing NOAA, the agency in charge of the National Weather Service - to issue false warnings about the path of Hurricane Dorian last year. This served as yet another clarion call that he must be regarded as life threatening to Americans and people the world over. The narcissistic freak altered an official weather map out because he refused to admit that he misspoke. Instead, he took a marker to the map, and created a non-existent threat that confused many. This ego stroke likely cost an untold amount of money.

How many different kinds of despicable does this feckless piece of trash have to be until you realize you've been duped? The economy is not better, jobs are not flourishing, and basic civil liberties are actually in doubt. 

Removal from office is the only option. This is a move both he and his spineless brigade of yes-men have fought. This despite the overwhelming evidence pointing to the absolute and total guilt of a wretched husk of a human. You've all seen what is happening. Countless hours of footage, and his own damning ramblings are commonplace. These ramblings are very likely tied to a severe mental and cognitive disability. Many high level staffers have come forward painting a picture of a chaotic mess driven by an off the rails, self serving egotist. Nary a week goes by that a new book is released, taking another brick of integrity away.

He has used baseless fears, playing on conspiracy theories to try (and Sadly successfully) brainwash anyone who dares question him and his regime. The fabric of trust between the government and its people has been torn asunder. It needs to be stopped or these same elements of corruption will continue on this course, unchecked for far, far too long.

This is an individual so soulless, so lacking in any morality, that its astounding how he has made it this far in life.  What he has been selling since the start are flat out lies. He's preying on the naïve and weak minded. He is toying with the uninformed. He doesn't think you're smart enough to know when you’re being fed alternative, or flat out made up facts to keep some afraid - and to keep him in power.

He supports nazi's and racism. He's slowly pushing the idea that if you're not white, you're not American. This is exactly the way hitler pushed the idea that Jews weren't German, no matter how many generations they'd lived there. He's following the nazi playbook to the letter. He preaches hatred under the guise of, "necessary" change, while change is what he actually fears. When confronted by this during the recent debate, he was offered the chance to deny once and for all. It was an easy answer. Instead, he not only failed to deny, he encouraged violent white supremacist's and militias to take up arms. This very likely led to a near kidnapping of Michigan's governor. This is not change, this is dangerously close to anarchy.

Is that who you want leading our nation? For those who voted for him. I beg of you to take just a moment to look inside yourself and ask, "Does he stand for the same things I do?" Is a man who mocks handicapped people one who I want running the nation? This...man who labels countries, "shitholes", then insults and threatens cities in his own nation, is he the right choice? , a man who brags about sexual assault and ignores science...is that...truly what I, or my children want?" Look within yourselves and question if you really think this is the right track.

The change we actually need is for this regime to crumble at the might of truth and democracy. Throughout history we've seen empires rise and fall, even the highest leaders, ones with absolute power, crumble.

A united nation listens to its founding ideals, one of which he attacks on a near daily basis. That is Freedom of the Press. The free press is not the enemy of the people. It never was. It reports the truth, which is something that terrifies this tiny man. A "man" whose soul was corrupt from the start. I love my country. I would gladly fight for what it should represent, but I, nor any of you should recognize a government that tries to silence its own free press. He has tarnished our image and made a mockery of us on the global stage. He has done nothing but make us a shameful shell of a once great idea.

Thanks to people like him, greed and hatred have poisoned our souls. We need to purge it. The color of my skin, my gender, whom I chose to marry, my ability or lack of ability should not be my defining characteristic, nor should it be anyone else’s. What should we define a person by? The moral content of their character. Yet Agent Orange and his followers have none. No moral integrity whatsoever. 

I am speaking as an American. An American who will fight against injustice, intolerance, hatred and fear. It is time for that to end. And it all starts by voting him out of office in a defeat that sends a resounding rebuke to the unethical, immoral hate that he pushes upon you.

This cannot be the new normal. This is not OK. We as a human race should march forward as a society, not regress. 

He told you Americans were the greatest people, and at times we were, and I believe we can be again, but we are far from that now. We can get back there, but only as a whole. As one unified, united nation. 

I ask you, don't listen to him, this world has room for everyone; but we have to start treating it with respect. Life can be free and beautiful, but we have to correct the course. We must remove him from office, only then can we make inroads not to past good times, but better future times. 

He is evil to the core. The only thing that evil needs to succeed is for those are good, and pure of heart to sit by and do nothing. We can make a change, we don't have to take this. We cannot despair. The anguish that is now upon us is the result of the bitterness of a man who fears human progress. He hates forward progress. Only the unloved hate, and this disgraceful psycho is unloved. The power he has taken from the people must be returned. Only then will democracy, hope and liberty return. Don't give into this tyrant, this withered out husk of a man who in truth doesn't care about you. What he does do is collude with enemy states for his own benefit. He is a hollow man with an empty mind, tiny hands and no heart whatsoever. 

Our flag was created as a symbol to help inspire us and become a place better than its predecessors. Pitting one American vs. another to the point of which it breaks families...breaks friendships...that is not what this flag stands for. Instead of fighting common evils, this sociopath has us fighting each other. We swore we would learn from that mistake in the past, yet here we are again, facing another civil war. Dignity, honor and justice must see their way to the forefront again. We should help everyone when its possible. The base human instinct should be to help one another. We generally want to thrive in each other's happiness, not wallow in each other's misery.

You are Americans dammit, You are human beings! You can come together when disaster strikes right? Now's the time. You, the American people, have the power to make life free and wonderful. You have the power to make a change by removing this weak minded buffoon from office. Remember, there are more of us than there are of them, more people willing to fight for humility and for humanity. More people who are in the shadows, questioning the ruthlessness of this madman. For you, it is time to step free from the cloak of fear and stand up to fight for what you know is right. 

We have a choice to make. We all have the opportunity to be patriots. Will you take a stand?  You need to hold them accountable. Doing nothing gets us nothing. I don't care what his brood says. America was founded on one principle above all else. That is that we fight for what we believe in, no matter the odds or the consequences. The problems we all are currently facing can be solved. But we have to do it together. It has been said that a person can do anything once they realize they're a part of something bigger. Well, you are a part of that something bigger. We all are, and now is the time to show it, to become a part of that bigger, nobler cause. In a way it’s built on guile and sheer willpower.

Yes it’s a daunting challenge. 

However, with hope, and together, we can accomplish anything we set our minds to, including bringing peace to our society again. In the name of freedom. In the name of Science. In the name of Gender and Sexual Equality, and in the name of Immigrants rights, Black rights, and American rights, we have to fight this. And we have to fight to win. We are fighting for a new day, a new world, one that is accepting of science and love. One that is free from the grasp of this absolute lunatic, this...dictator. We have to fight for a world of reason, a world where progress will lead to the utopia we know we can be. Hate and intolerance? This is not what America stands for. VOTE HIM OUT

Monday, March 02, 2020

5 Bullets And A Broken Hope

   "I'm from Staten Island and I'm sorry," is how i often introduce myself to new people i meet in other parts of the city. It's not something I am proud to say. I wish I could speak about how beautiful this island is, with its beaches and untouched woods. I'd truly enjoy speaking about the great pizza and tasty Ralph's Ices, or tout Snug Harbor.

But no, first I have to defend myself from the stereotype that random Manhattan or -insert city/town/state here- is making. Because, before I even get to the, "Island", "Staten" is all they needed to hear before making their opinion. That opinion is likely even further cemented in their brain if they hail from the city.

They know of the laughing stock that is Richmond County. The forgotten borough, the family member you have to acknowledge but don't ever admit to being related to. That's us.

And you know what? I'm sick of it. I'm also sick of defending the racist, homophobic, xenophobic, epistemophobic(look it up.), and fascist lot of ignorance that has sunken its teeth into my home. For years, i'd be the, "Staten Island Apologist", hopelessly defending the backwater, backwards and outdated mindset of a place so far behind the times, its a wonder that we have working power and water.

Yesterdays disgusting farce of a parade down Forest Ave once again threw Staten Island into the forefront of national news. This time for banning an openly bi-sexual Pageant queen from marching. "Security concerns" was the reason given. This is lie. Admitting the truth, the parade is organized by a homophobic organization, would be, "pandering to the liberal snowflakes." as a random Staten Islander would say as he chugs a beer on his front lawn, which is adorned with "America: Love it or leave it" signs. Watch out George Washington, we have ourselves a real patriot here.

And with those actions, we went from a laughing stock - to the signal fire at the top of everything that is wrong with the current state of the world.

I saw an episode of, "The Simpsons" the other day. It was the one where the family is watching TV, which is showing a program like "Taxicab Confessions", wherein a drunken Homer enters the car. After a brief exchange, clairvoyant and sharp witted as ever, Lisa, with deadpans, "Another proud moment for the Simpsons." A prediction proved accurate as Homer verbally eviscerates his family. I sympathize with Lisa here. Every time I hear Staten Island mentioned on any news program, or see it mentioned in any article, I cringe as it is almost always in a negative light. And island residents do little or nothing to defend itself from the negativity. In fact, it sometimes almost seems to double down on it.

A prime example of this is what happened here in 2016. An island man had a local, "artist" erect a giant letter, "T" in his front lawn, to, "honor" the criminal who would steal the presidency. This resident knew it would be divisive. This due to the fact that, surprisingly, not everyone on this island supports someone who puts people in cages. Nor do they support someone who brags about sexually assaulting women. The sign would subsequently be set ablaze. One might think the story ends here, with the man admitting defeat and let his 5 minutes of fame fade.

But no, undaunted and in a show of true Staten Island bullheadedness, the, "artist" returned, this time erecting a bigger sign. This example only furthers the complete and total lunacy that this island displays day in and day out.

In a time where where vitriol and toxicity reign, this island does not look to engage in peaceful debate. It instead resorts into shouting matches and hate speak. We get enough of that from 1600 Pennsylvania ave. I don't want to deal with it during what should have been a celebration of Irish heritage and culture.

And don't for one second hide behind the bible. For one, I an atheist, am not governed by a textbook that tells me i'm a bad human for not going bowing down for forgiveness because I saw a breast on a TV show, while the man in the silly Jedi-robes gets away with touching little kids. Isn't it odd that the rules only apply for your conveniences, not everyone's, even though, "God loves all creatures?" Except the tan and brown ones right? They don't belong on,"your island" right? Nope, can't have diversity, because then we might not be able to elect a rich old white man into power? Thats the Staten Island way. And screw anyone who thinks otherwise.

This island is a backwards thinking sinkhole. In fact, the response to African Americans and other people of color asking to not be harassed by authorities for doing nothing other than walking, driving or even sitting on their front porch? A whole wave of pro-police, anti-black sentiment rose up. People of color politely and respectfully request the same common decency any white person would get. They were met with a stubborn wall of ignorance and hate.

Island residents beg and cry for a Whole-Foods or a Wegmans or -insert random company here- to open up on the island. Then when said company declines, the residents cry out in shame, "Why?!" Well, maybe, just maybe, some companies don't want to be associated with the type of populace this island seems to put on center stage? Whole Foods is known as a company that caters to those who support sustainability and environmental growth. You know, the way must upward beings do? Meanwhile, Staten Islanders align themselves with a, "man" who denies climate change is a real. He blatantly altered a weather map to, "prove" he was right, and has done more harm to our planets future than any other one person on the planet.

It is impossible to stand up anymore and offer this island to the masses and say "You're welcome here." I've tried, I really have. I've been a staunch supporter of showcasing the good, the potential for the island, then I hear the voices of the clueless. One of those being the city councilman who's answer to the lack of support from the city is to, "secede", that is to say, become our own city. This is an idea that has been floated around from time to time but has thankfully never gotten much traction. It is always seen as the, "Child who doesn't get what they want so they draw on the wall with markers to get attention." type of argument.

For a moment, lets pretend for a moment that the secession movement was successful. That we did gain our, "independence" from the big bad city. What then? Where would our newfound city get its money? Taxes. Those taxes would go through the roof like a Saturn V rocket. All those city services we do have now, police, fire, schools, they'd no longer be run by NYC, so we'd need to get that money somewhere...where....i know! more taxes! You think bridge tolls are bad now, just wait until the city of Staten Island gets on the map. You'll never leave again, which is maybe what some people want. They want to be insulated in their own bubble of,"maga, maga, maga, liberals are bad, deport all immigrants!"

Well fine, if that's what you want then go for it, because when it fails, i'll do nothing. Those of us who truly care about humanity and common decency and love and inclusion will long ago have laid down our arms. I say we because I know that I am not alone. I know there are good, kind, smart and caring people on this island. I see you, and I hang my head in shame with you, because I know that you too have tried, and simply grown to weary of it all.

"If you don't like it then leave!" the ignorant punks will say. Unable, as always to see their ignorance will be their undoing. It's started already. The supposed,"Great big hope" for the island, the New York Wheel was to be the islands crown jewel, a majestic Ferris wheel. It was to have been hundreds of feet high on the tip of the island's north shore. All around would see it and gaze in wonder.

But alas, it would never come to be. Financial problems and construction problems would sink the wheel before it even got its massive legs into the ground. Another in the long list of failed projects that have scarred the island. From grand shopping halls, to immense waterfront parks, to even a few failed race tracks, this island is where great ideas go to die. Almost every developer runs into problems here. The reason is because on Staten Island, "we do things our way, and if you don't do things that way, you can leave," is again the stubborn answer. It's as if this island has an innate fear of anything that could make life better for its residents.

It's kind of funny that the two things the island is known for, the Staten Island Ferry and the Verrazzano Narrows bridge, are two ways to escape the island. If that isn't a sign to out of borough residents, I don't know what is.

When offered a chance at its first ever female president, they instead went with the most morally bankrupt individual on earth. They didn't do so because they claimed she had a, "Shoddy background." they didn't choose her because shes a woman, and that's different, to different for an island run by the male elite.

It's no surprise the city, state, country and world mock and deride us. We have done nothing to prove we are anything else than what they see us as. If it ever changes, maybe we'll get that ferry from Great Kills to Midtown. Maybe one day we will receive a proper city-run hospital so I don't have to wait with my father in the ER for 6 hours. Hey, its only a heart attack, they don't kill everyone, right? Maybe one day i'll be able to say to that pageant queen, "do you want to march with a pride flag, a banner, or both?"

But sadly, those days are far, far far away. This island should be ashamed of itself.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

My NAME....is not Oliver Queen. But I wish it was.

I kinda get a post-funeral/memorial-at the restaurant/bar kinda vibe from all this right now. Like we're at that stage of trying to get over the grieving/lets enjoy life and remember the good times, all while planning for the future kinda feel.

I'll address what I alluded to in the comments below before i forget my thought, and so ya don't have to scroll down as much, then i'll get on with the rest.

I think the reason they haven't announced any cast really about the Green Lantern HBO show is...they knew they were gonna cast David, but didn't want to spoil the surprise for us, though most everyone at least speculated. If this is the case, thats another bit of amazing cooperation of keeping a secret, almost, if not better than the >!Ezra!< cameo in Crisis.

The episode scared me at first with the documentary thing, because as neat as it was the first time, i didn't want to go through it again. I'm happy it was dealt with quickly.

The cameos, oh my, they were all perfect, they didn't feel forced or jammed in, they fit in exactly where they should have.

Mia is still....shes....shes got potential, but she needs to be written better, Kat is a great actress and wasting her on being a spoiled brat is an insult to her ability.

Katie Cassidy(how many fucking Kates are we gonna get in the Arrowverse? haha),admittedly grated me at first, but she eventually grew on me, and I was sad when she initially left. To see her transform completely as an actress in front of my eyes shows how skilled she is. I rooted for Sirens redemption to the point of which I didn't want old Laurel back. So to that Screenrant writer who thinks shes gonna be the baddie in 2040, I hope you watched KC knock it out of the park with that scene with Blackthorne tonight.

Colton Haynes, my word did he go through a lot, both off and on screen, and he drove through it like a damn champion. He should be proud of what hes accomplished, and who he is.

David Ramsey. He's got that stoic resonance that....when he enters a room, he doesn't have to say anything, he doesn't really need to even move, and you can just tell the man deserves not only your attention, but your respect. He, in some ways, was more important to this show than Stephen. They called David "Little John." That'd make him almost Stephen's sidekick. No, no, he was more than that. He was his brother, his partner, his friend. If I could have a man just a fraction as loyal and good by my side, i'd be happy. He had problems, sure, but he pushed through them, and the only way he did that, is through David's acting. When they stupidly decide to reboot this show in 30 years, I feel sorry for whoever they try and cast as the new Dig, because honestly, you can't replace greatness.

Caity Lotz, I was introduced to the force of nature she is. And i'm all here for it. Yeah, i'll look at her as damn attractive, but what impresses me more so is the sheer determination she has to making Sara a complete character, physically and emotionally. Her workout routine is something I couldn't even begin to accomplish, and continuously leaves me awestruck. Aside from that, lets look at the fact she went from washed away side love-interest to the captain of a time-ship and crew of characters none of us were sure we're gonna work. Was it the doing of the writers? maybe a lil, yeah, but you need an actress to put those words into action, and she has done it in spades.

Paul Blackthore, a fellow photographer, absolutely killed it as Quinten. He went through a tapestry of emotions over his course on the show, and never once made them feel tropey or overdone. He did an arc the way an arc should be done.

And then we have Stephen Amell.

 My word sir. What you have done, what you have had a hand in creating...you may never truly understand. Anyone can throw on a costume and pretend to be a superhero. Keaton did it. Cavil tried. Maguire and others tried. He lived it, for years. More so than any expected, probably even him.

He put his body and mind and soul on the line for the entertainment of others. He didn't need to. He could have used stunt doubles a lot more, but he committed to his craft, to the character and to his fans. That says a lot about a person. I could wax philosophical for hours about the salmon ladder and the fight scenes, which I may at some point. But for me the real juicy scenes are the ones where he showcases emotion. The Lance scene, you know the one. The torture with Chase where he was for all intents....broken. Almost all of the prison scenes. Things like that are often tried and tired. Stephen just kept me wanting more.

In a day and age where some of us, even me, a lifelong geek of 35+ years - is at times suffering from, "Superhero fatigue", Amell just kept me friggin riveted. Even at the slow points, he managed to shoulder the burden of what, at times were some bad episodes. He never wavered.

The man deserves all accolades. He also deserves a rest. I can't even begin to imagine how much his body and mind have gone through these past few years. The constant conventions, the long, cold nights shooting, jumping, sliding, swinging, shooting damn arrows. It takes a toll. And for those who say, "he's an actor, he can deal with it," that's no excuse. You haven't done it. Sure you expect a show or a film to do well, but you never think it'll become a global phenomenon. The man still had to earn a paycheck, still has a family, and still is - human. Yes, I know it comes as a shock, but he still drinks the same water and breathes the same air, so for those who criticize him...go through a week of his life and see how you do.   The man is a hero in many other ways.

This show came at a weird point in my life. As it began, I was in the middle of a very odd college career, prepping for a hopeful career as a firefighter/photographer, now i'm pretty much just a photographer who runs and shakes a lot. Meh, thats Parkinson's. I've...had a lot of bad happen in my life, but this show brought an hour of respite in my life. It made feel good to be a geek again.

Arrow will always help inspire me to make myself physically, mentally and emotionally better, not because I want to be a superhero, I know that isn't real. I want those things, because I simply, like Oliver...want to do good.

So, to the cast and crew of Arrow, and their families, well done. You haven't failed this fan.

Monday, December 02, 2019

Knocking The Meatball Off The Tree

   Christmas for me wasn't always a year-round thing like it is now. I know, shocking, right? There was actually a time when Christmas was only a few weeks out of the year. Now it seems like next Christmas begins at roughly 9:45am on Jan. 2nd of every year.

Oddly, I can't think of many early Christmas memories off the top of my head. When It really started pumping was around 1986ish. At least that's when I start being able to pick out specific memories and experiences.

We'd just moved into our new apartment that year, and I distinctly remember cookies being made & presents being opened. Family from both sides would come over, my fathers here on Staten Island, & my mothers from various points in jersey. For a few years we switched it up and went to various relatives houses, but for the mainly it seemed like everyone came to our place most years. Maybe this was because I was the youngest out of the grouping until cousins on my mothers side came along.

Back to the cookies, we ran an operation that could have put most bakeries to shame. We baked upwards of 15 different types of cookie, and at least 4 batches of 25 cookies (at least.), All told the baking alone took the better part of 6 days, one for just shopping. Sometime around the late 90's, maybe as late as 1998, we stopped for a few years due to just....massive amounts of other things demanding our time. But in 2003, to help honor the passing of my mother, we restarted the cookie bake, trimming down the variety to about 10, but increasing the quantity. This was due in part to a new twist. We would hand deliver boxes of cookies to firehouses here on Staten Island. This tradition would actually last until 2016. Now we've streamlined things a bit more, opting to ship cookies to friends & family out of state, and we've lowered the batch count to a more manageable 10 or so.

If you thought the cookies were impressive, just wait till I get into decorating. Most people, from what i've gathered through informal polling have 5 or 6 boxes of decorations. We have about 11 totes, 15 boxes, and a few bags for soft stuff, pillows & stuffed Santa's . The bathroom alone has multiple boxes, though this may change with our upcoming remodel. The decorations range from your usual stockings(personalized of course)and wooden signs, to more eccentric items, such as the Yoda figurine, wherein the diminutive Jedi master has donned Santa's hat and coat with a sack full of toys.

We used to take photos to guide us each year as to what went where, trying to keep to form each year, but over the years kinda decided to change things up every so often. This has led to a bit of confusion when it comes to packing it all away and finding what goes where next year, but we manage.

Until we moved in 2001, we never really had the chance to decorate outside. Since then however, we've gone outside. 2001 was also around the time "icicle lights" became the rage, in fact, they were so hard to find at one point, we resorted to using blue lights until we could find the traditional white ones, a fact bemoaned by my mother, who loved the white lights(Personally I like the more colorful ones). With about a week to go before the big day that year, we finally found enough to fill the roof, leaving us with a sudden excess of blue lights. Making the basement more of my own sort of pool/game room, I had them hung down there for a few years leading to quite a weird effect.

Recently, due to my fathers advancing age, and my arms being essentially made out of tissue paper, the notion of going up on the roof is simply not plausible, so we've opted for an easier lawn setup, complete with a T-rex carrying a gift. "Denver the Dinosaur", is as I call it, the most accurate Christmas decoration you can find. Dinosaurs are fossils, which is what plastic is after all. My idiot logic is solid on this.

Shopping for the big day has always been...interesting. What really changed things for starters, for me at least was when we started taking our summer vacations, usually in late summer, in Cape Cod. It was here where we discovered, "Christmas Tree Shops." For those of you who are unfamiliar with the chain, they're kinda like a bargain version of Bed Bath and Beyond, with a focus on holiday knick-knacks, 4th of July, Halloween, and of course Christmas. Being the crafty person she was, my mother loved the store, and we'd often have the car filled with Christmas gifts purchased from there for various family and friends. Keep in mind this was often late August.

Once I got a sizable income, I could finally contribute to the gifting en-masse. And wow did I. I'd often come home with bags full of gits from the mall, making a detailed shopping list, denoting the giftee, date of purchase, time, location and price. I made, and still do, a vow to never give out a gift card or money. Honestly, and maybe this is just me, I find it impersonal and lazy. If you're even giving the mental space to get someone a gift, put a bit of effort into trying to get to know them. A little effort shows that person you're thinking of them.

The advent of online shopping has made things a bit easier in terms of finding hard to locate items, and I do purchase things online, but I try my hardest to use brick and mortar stores. I worked retail, during the holidays, and I know how difficult it can be to survive in that industry so I try to give back. Though I do enjoy sitting in the food court of the mall on Black Friday, sipping a hot chocolate, watching the chaos unfold.

When it comes to the tree, I, as I am with many things(Asperger's makes me a lil weird), very specific. This also comes in part to just the way the tradition has gone, how we've done things since I can remember. For starters, its a real tree, ok? Don't give me that fake abomination. That is a flat out insult to me. I take this very seriously. Well, sort of. I understand if someone is elderly or allergic  or disabled, but if not....there's no reason you should have a fake tree. The tree is usually purchased about 12 days before the 25th. Next, the tree has to have a booty. I want it thick. Just like my s'mores. It's gotta be at least a foot taller than me too. Those are the guidelines that are to be followed.

When we get the tree home, we cut off lil branches and make room on the bottom...which is where one of the...more interesting stories comes from.

I don't remember the exact year, but it was the early 90s. The tree was up and in the stand and we'd  begun putting the lights up. Noticing a few branches he missed, my father, scholar that he is, got the clippers out and began cutting....right into the wire. The tree instantly went dark. Reacting without thinking, as kids often do, I screamed, distraught, "You ruined it! You ruined Christmas!", as I ran, crying into my room. Thankfully, it was a simple fix. Ever since, we joke about making sure we get all the cuts done before putting on the lights to avoid another, "Ruined Christmas."

The way it goes is this; Lights, garland, and then the ornaments. There are about 3 boxes of those, and the tradition there is, the oldest goes first, and when I say oldest, I mean oldest. A paper/carboard Santa covered in glitter that belonged to my great grandmother. It's easily over a century old and how its lasted this long I don't know. We flip a coin to decide who gets to do it, then go about the rest of the tree with every variety of ornament you can think of, from photos to LEGO to traditional glass. Christmas music is obviously setting the tone, and it takes anywhere from 2 - 2 1/2 hours.

Something that was told to me a few years ago, was that as a baby, for my first few Christmases, i'd do nothing but stare at the tree for hours on end, which oddly enough, I've found myself doing in recent years.

Under the tree is our Christmas village, much of it consisting of Department 56's, "Snow Village" series. Some of the figurines have seen better days, and i'm slowly starting to replace them in an effort to make the town more...lively...?

Throughout the month, i watched, and still do, many of the specials, from "A Charlie Brown Christmas", to "Rudolph", but one of my favorites would actually be David Letterman's annual Christmas episode, where Paul Shaffer would impersonate Cher, focusing especially on the fact she wore a muff, Jay Thomas would tell undoubtedly the best  talk show story of all time, and Darlene Love would wrap it up with an epic version of, "Christmas, Baby Please Come Home."

As tradition heavy as I am, I don't have a particular script I stick to on Christmas eve. Not anymore anyway. It used to be cookie delivery, but in recent years has mainly been about either tidying up or gift wrapping. I think I need a new Christmas eve tradition.

Christmas day. The big one, my Super Bowl. It used to start like this...

I'd wake up, make it approximately 2 feet out of my room before my mother intercepted me like a cop about to take down a criminal, and drag me into the bathroom to stylize my hair for photos. She was hilariously oblivious to the fact that -no one looks that good when they first wake up- This would fall on deaf ears however, as the hairspray turned my head into a helmet. Finally me and my father would get this point across and I made my way to the tree obstacle free.

I used to go first, always starting with the stocking, which has always been filled with snacks, batteries and socks, which, lemme tell you, become a much better gift as you get older. We'd then open one gift at a time, alternating person to person as we had, and continue to have, a glass of Martinelli's apple cider.

Over the years, this has stayed pretty much the same, with small variations here and there. I won't go deep into gifts because that's not what the day is about for me, but I will say that one of the best I ever got is a scrapbook my father made me a few years ago, featuring sort of a, "best of photo series" chronicling my life. There's also been the yearly Hess truck.

The rest of the day has varied throughout the years, but up till a few years ago, i'd spent the majority of the day with a friend a few blocks away. It's been difficult recently, due to the fact I simply don't have much family left and many friends have honestly moved on.

As I look back, I always fondly remember Christmas 2001. It was the first in our new house, and following September 11th, there was a real sense of togetherness and want for a good day. All told, we had over 75 people at the house, with some even having to park on the front lawn due to lack of parking on the block. It was kinda warm from what I recall, which resulted in opening the garage to accommodate more people. It would also be one of the last times the core four of me and my childhood friends would all be together. It would be my mothers last healthy Christmas, though we didn't know that at the time. It was simply put, the best Christmas I ever had. I was surrounded by people I wanted to be around, everyone had a good time and it was just so....ugh I know its lame to use this word, magical.

Remembering it...it seems like just yesterday and not nearly 20 years ago. So much has transpired. I've lost not just family and friends, I've been hit with Parkinson's, Asperger's, bum elbows, depression. I've lost so much and tried desperately to hang on to any facet of previous holidays that I am often disappointed in the end result as of late. No one is around, no one seems willing to interact with others due to the current climate of vitriol it seems. People are less tolerant, less patient and more distracted. It's sad what the holiday has become. It's also become so commercial that even the commercials are commercialized.

Still, I have small vestiges of goodness. I still bawl like a baby at the end of, "It's A Wonderful Life", my mothers favorite Christmas movie. I still name the Christmas tree, and I still have hope for that happy moment under the mistletoe.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

I am a softy. I love Santa. I love Christmas. Thanks for joining in. Come back again as I'll be posting more. Now go eat Turkey 
Im getting Daria a sock candle. 
Disney plus and thrust? 
If your Christmas tree sings, consult your doctor. Side effects may include eggnog,tinsel,holly,snowballs&tidings of good joy.
Indina Minzel has A Superman style jawline. She could cut metal with that thing. 
Fake trees suck. 
What even is cardi b? Alien? Malfunctioning robot?
Of course Al Roker is introducing the dough boy balloon. 
Chicago?Guess they couldn't afford Rockapella this year huh? 
Coke is a dick to birds. 
"How can we make people hate Jimmy Fallon even more? "
Holy shit that trolls balloon is out of control
The weather outside is frightful...? Is Jim Cantore nearby?!?! Run!! We're all gonna die! 
Dinosaur balloon... Jeff Goldblum must be nearby. Must go faster. 
Oh wow Tony Stark can talk to animals now?