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The Morning Grumpy – 6/8/12

All the news, views, and filtered excellence fit to consume during your morning grumpy.

Hey, what’s up, lame pun raccoon? Got a good one for us?

1. This Saturday, June 9th, come to Riverside to participate in the 3rd Annual Ride Along the Waterfront at Black Rock Canal Park.  This year’s event includes the popular 3 mile kayak/canoe paddle, 14 mile non-competitive bike ride, and a wellness fair.  New this year, Petworks will be on hand with their agility dogs and Buster Bison will be in appearance to entertain the kids.

Ride Along the Waterfront begins at 9:00am with the kayak/canoe paddle from the boat launch at Black Rock Canal Park to the foot of Sheridan Drive and back along the curve of the Niagara River.  The bike ride begins at 11:00am and will include a “poker run” and the best hands will win prizes.  The bike ride follows the Riverwalk from Black Rock Canal Park to Lasalle Park and back.  The wellness fair will take place from 9:00 – 1:00, so stop by at any time before, during, or after any of the events.

Those interested in participating can do so for both events, an individual event, or can just stop by and check out the wellness fair.  Ride Along the Waterfront is a free event, open to all.  Participants can register day of the event.

Ride Along the Waterfront is a yearly event based out of Black Rock Canal Park.  It exists to encourage Buffalonians to get out and experience all that our waterfront has to offer and to bring awareness to Black Rock Canal Park and the improvements to the park that will begin later this summer.

2. Dan Rather reports on a new book that claims we no longer operate in a functional democracy.

Today, they say, instead of a Congress created by the people, for the people, we now have a GOP that is so adversarial that there is no room for compromise. This inability to negotiate makes it virtually impossible for new policies and laws to be created, which in turn frustrates many Americans, who ideologically fall in between the two political extremes. In the end, they say, it creates an anti-politician sentiment of “throw the bums out” and provides a toehold for non-politicians to be elected, who then become even more ineffective and obstructive than their predecessors.

The book also points the finger at the press. They say, in order to appear objective and balanced, and to please the corporate bosses and sponsors, news operations are engulfed in attempting to appear unbiased. It’s become a televised see-saw of sorts. One side pitted against the other, going up and down or back and forth, but not really telling the audience what’s actually going on.

When government in our republic morphs from one of ongoing legislative compromise to Democrats negotiating with ideological terrorists, progress comes to a halt.  Historic use of the filibuster, daily threats of filibuster, refusal of the minority to allow cloture votes in the Senate, and levels of legislative obstructionism not seen since the Civil War have led us to the point where gridlock just cannot be overcome and brinksmanship is now valued over governance. GOP 2012!

3. Yesterday, Buffalo Rising posted an article from a guy who is looking to “crowdsource” ideas for a better Buffalo using a Google document.

Quite often we read blog posts and their associated comment sections about how Buffalo could be a better place if (insert logical to fantastical remark). There are so many ideas out there, but the common problem I see is that there isn’t a place to truly share it with the community.
With this in mind, a question arose. Why not ask people for all of their ideas, and categorize them?
The question asked is simply, “How can Buffalo be a more livable city for its residents, workers, and visitors?”
Actually, the question is, “who is this guy and what credibility does he have?” I’m sure the author is well-intentioned, earnest, and just trying out a concept. But, to me, this kind of effort is a major problem with Buffalo.
We have hundreds of (mostly non-profit) organizations in the city working to “make Buffalo a better place”. They also compete with each other for attention and funding. We even have dozens of organizations working on answering this guy’s very specific question of how to make Buffalo a more livable place.
We also have thousands of people who are independently trying to solve problems by creating “”one-stop shop” websites, forums, and networks for these various organizations to collaborate. The weird “we’ve got to get everyone to collaborate” sub-genre of community activism is particularly tiresome to me.  Why? Because I’m usually asked to participate in those efforts due to my history of working with lots of different groups on community projects.
A better idea would be for this guy to approach one of the already established organizations in town, join, and work with them on their projects. Once ingratiated into the group, he can propose the organization work on his idea. The best kind of leaders know how to follow. Buffalo is filled with people who are dissatisfied with the pace of progress and want to start their own thing. Don’t. Unless you have some revolutionary concept (doubtful), join something and make it better.

4. Malcolm Gladwell and Bill Simmons had another of their long-form email conversations and posted the product to Grantland. In it, there was one nugget of commentary that really stuck out, the absurdity of sports coverage in America.

Do we really need 25 people crammed in baseball locker rooms fighting for the same mundane quotes? What’s our game plan for the fact that — thanks to the Internet and 24-hour sports stations — a city like Boston suddenly has four times as many sports media members as it once had? Why are we covering teams the same way we covered them in 1981, just with more people and better equipment? If I could watch any Celtics game and press conference from my house (already possible), and there was a handpicked pool of reporters (maybe three per game, with the people changing every game) responsible for pooling pregame/postgame quotes and mailing them out immediately, could I write the same story (or pretty close)? If we reduced the locker room clutter, would players relax a little more? Would their quotes improve? Would they trust the media more? Why haven’t we experimented at all? Any “improvements” in our access have been forgettable. Seriously, what pearls of wisdom are we expecting from NBA coaches during those ridiculous in-game interviews, or from athletes sitting on a podium with dozens of media members firing monotone questions at them? It’s like an all-you-can-eat buffet of forgettable quotes, like the $7.99 prime rib extravaganzas at a Vegas casino or something. There’s Russell Westbrook at the podium for $7.99! Feast away! We laugh every time Gregg Popovich curmudgeonly swats Craig Sager away with four-word answers, but really, he’s performing a public service. He’s one of the few people in sports who has the balls to say, “This couldn’t be a dumber relationship right now.”

Bringing this down to a local level, there are dozens of bloggers writing about their immediate reactions to sporting events, providing mildly informed game analysis, and covering the Sabres and Bills with a breathless anticipation unseen since PANDAWATCH.

Certainly, there are fan blogs where people post their thoughts to generate discussion with like-minded friends, but that’s not what I’m talking about.  I’m referring to amateur sports blogs that feature regular content, publishing schedules, and dedicated features about our local teams. I’m not sure what they’re all trying to accomplish. Is there some kind of coverage these people aren’t getting from established beat reporters and experienced analysts? What am I learning from Die By The Blade, BuffaloWins, or Two In The Box that I’m not already getting from seasoned professionals with access like Paul Hamilton and Mike Harrington? What fresh opinions am I not getting from the likes of Jeremy White, Mike Schopp or Chris Parker that would force me to look elsewhere? When do we reach a saturation point with “sports takes”?

As I get older, I find our obsession with sports to be a harmful distraction from the serious issues in our lives, especially when people take it so fucking seriously. This 24/7 sports coverage from establishment outlets, blogs, gossip sites, Twitter, and Facebook has created a local and national media crucible in which we ask our athletes to operate. They handle it poorly (because they’re usually meatheads) and we slam them for it. I just don’t get it.

Proceed with your allegations of hypocritical irony as I’m a news blogger. However, I think there’s nuance here and we can hash it out in the comments if you so desire.

5. Speaking of Gladwell, he claimed in a recent interview that in fifty years, the world will have forgotten Steve Jobs, but will honor the legacy of his contemporary, Bill Gates.

Still, Gladwell is fascinated that today we seem to revere certain corporate figures. He describes them as “our new prophets.” Yet, for him, these great business people are, in essence slightly inhuman. They shutter any humanity they might have in favor of the pursuit of profit.

Something, though, happened to Gates. “(He) is the most ruthless capitalist, and then he wakes up one morning and he says, ‘enough.’ And he steps down, he takes his money, he takes it off the table,” said Gladwell.

“There’s a reasonable shot that, because of his money, we will cure malaria,” he added.

He contrasted this with his now well-known view of Steve Jobs as a tinkerer, rather than a great creator. “Every idea he had came from somebody else — and, by the way, he would be the first to say this,” he said. (The second, surely.) “He was quite happy ripping people off,” is Gladwell’s view.

He went on to call Jobs “shameless” and “a self-promoter on a level that we have rarely seen.”

This reminded me of something Anil Dash once wrote about how Bill Gates performed the greatest tech hack ever.

Bill Gates has pulled off one of the greatest hacks in technology and business history, by turning Microsoft’s success into a force for social responsibility. Imagine imposing a tax on every corporation in the developed world, collecting $100 per white-collar worker per year, and then directing one third of the proceeds to curing AIDS and malaria. That, effectively, is what Bill Gates has done.

For more information about the incredible impact Bill Gates is having on our world, click here for an awesome infographic.

Fact Of The Day: On June 9th, 1978, After 148 years, the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints finally allowed black men to become priests.

Quote Of The Day: “We are not a household. We are an economy. Your spending is my income, and my spending is your income.” – Paul Krugman

Video Of The Day: “Garden Of Your Mind” – Mister Rogers remixed by Symphony of Science

Song Of The Day: “Old Habits Die Hard” – Mick Jagger

Follow me on Twitter for the “incremental grumpy” @ChrisSmithAV

Email me links, tips, story ideas:

  • 1. Sports and its coverage is little more than a latter-day version of “panem et circenses”. I remember when Jeremy White argued with me on Twitter when I suggested that something he said about a sports thing being of critical importance was “exactly what’s wrong with WNY”. He got quite touchy about it, but didn’t really rebut the point with much more than his emotion. 

    2. I grew up in the 70s when Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street taught us to be good neighbors and care for one another. Now, TV shows for kids are repetitive mindsucks, with Dora the “Explorer” encountering mythical creatures on her repetitive treks to mildly difficult-to-reach destinations. Or we have Caillou, whose personality traits are only mildly more repugnant than those of, say, a Kardashian or Hilton. There was a certain innocence we had as kids when Oscar sang about trash, Mr. Rogers showed science clips – there was learning involved. Now, we have bald French Canadians teaching kids that whining works. 

  • There’s way too much sports coverage, and I love sports. 

    At the end of the day, an article written by someone with a paid reporter , or a TV producer who lives 400 miles away are the same to me. Both are opinion pieces based on the event, and both aren’t very useful to me.

    I’d rather sports coverages get cranked down, and those salaries shifted towards pursuits more in the public interest, an area vastly underserved. 

  • You lost me at “professionals like PAUL HAMILTON.”  Are you kidding me?  There are kids in middle school who know more about sports and write better than Hamilton. He has access, period. He’s awful —  And then you think we should be complacent with the “opinions of Mike Schopp”?   You’re serious?

  • peteherr

    The fundamental problem in WNY particularly is that we hang our entire identity on the fact that we have two professional sports teams. I love football and I like Sabres hockey, but it isn’t all there is to me. If either team left, I would be sad for a time, but not suicidal. I’d find a new football team to watch and probably never see another hockey game again.

    The second part of it s that as a society, our new royalty are our celebrities… stars, sports stars. It’s actually kind of comical, but I think it has been like this since the dawn of time. If my mind for history is correct, I seem to recall that the gladiators got treated like royalty too…as long as they kept winning. Maybe we should feed our has-beens to the lions too. Then we could see if T.O. still has any speed.

    Alan…good one. I think I am a little older than you, but my siblings and I grew up with Sesame Street and so did my kids, and I still love the messages of tolerance, and friendship, and cookies.  

  • 2. I find this “adversarial” and “ideological terrorist” meme verging into dangerous territory. Yes, the GOP have been obstructionists in Congress, and generally not interested in shared governance. This makes them ineffective and bullheaded, but that’s an issue of process, not policy. The emerging consunsus from a lot of the stuff you quote is that journalists are failing because they try to present both sides, when only one side is sane and valid. I disagree with most of the GOP’s current policies, but that doesn’t make them invalid. Dems are doing in reverse what the GOP did to them in the mid-200’s, where every Dem policy they didn’t agree with was “unpatriotic.” Chris, you’ve posted a lot about the shrinking GOP base, the whietening, the aging, the lack of legitimate voters, and the extremist nature of the views. But those extremist views just won a recall in WI, handily. I don’t think its helpful to tell so much of the population that not only do you disagree with them, but their view is illegitimate and journalists shouldn’t give it the light of day.

    3 & 4. I think these are actually the same idea, and the nuance is not sports versus news blogging, but that you chose to join an established voice to strengthen an existing institution. Perhaps culture is getting ready for a great contraction of individual outlets, and whatever legacy platforms that survived the great new media/blogging-apocalypse will benefit?