Headphones traditionally serve as a delivery device, a conduit that brings sound directly to your ears.
A college-student created company called Musical Minds wants to make headphones smarter, capable of reading your mind.
“At Musical Minds,” says their About page, “we use innovative brainwave technology to show how each song you listen to changes the landscape of your brain in real time. Our unique algorithm then interprets these changes to create playlists that affect mood, focus, and motivation.”
The headphones, called “Trills,” are implanted with EEG sensors to track the listener’s brain waves as they listen to music. The requisite smartphone app will show the listener how their brain reacts to what’s playing. The playlists, hooked up to Spotify, will be tweaked then to give you more of whatever music heightens your focus, your motivation, or whatever mood you might like to get into that day.
Or as the promotional copy puts it, the “mood app curates a playlist that helps you reach the emotional state you need, whether that’s carefree bliss or a good shower cry.”
“We’re actually redefining the end goal of listening to music,” Musical Moods co-founder and Ithaca College junior Jessica Voutsinas told The Ithacan.“You’re not reading a research paper on the theory behind music therapy. It’s actually working in real time, and we show you how it increases your focus, motivation, and mood. It’s not something you read about – it’s something you yourself are experiencing.”
Voutsinas told The Ithacan her “company’s goal is first and foremost to promote mental health wellness.”
That sounds all well and good, but the Musical Minds team still needs to answer some questions before Trills start helping music fans get a thrill.
For one, the app is connected to Spotify: music fans who can only get motivated by listening to Taylor Swift trash an ex-boyfriend will find no stimulus whatsoever, along with fans of Prince, Bob Seger, and King Crimson – though The Beatles are now an option on that service. Innumerable underground, independent, and unsigned artists will also be left out of the mood-change-via-music data revolution.
More importantly for those worried about online privacy – and who isn’t! – Musical Minds will need to mind that their service’s findings remain secure.
Why should you be afraid of your musical preferences getting out? In part, because if you’re not afraid, news people don’t really have any other ideas about how to get you to pay attention. Even scarier, imagine that Tipper Gore or someone like her who’s afraid of rock ‘n roll got hold of how your brain looks on death metal.
Do your serotonin levels spike when chain-listening to Slayer albums? Do vintage Ice Cube rhymes get your endorphins flowing? Can you sing of drowning your lover all a-smile? Well, then, the Surveillance State has got a cell for you.
Anyone who wants to pitch a tent in my backyard, pictured above, is welcome to stay for a while.
Whether extending this open invitation to live in the only backyard I’ve got qualifies me as a genuine YIMBYite, I don’t know. Perhaps, to be sure, we should have a Tiny House raising to create a more permanent living situation.
A YIMBYite, for those not hip to the Neo-Urban lingo, is the new, positive type of downtown-living cat who says “Yes, I most definitely want some more buildings in my city!” The YIMBYite – as in, “Yes, in my backyard” – is into more people living in less space, walking to the grocery store, rolling with the changes. As opposed to the well-known “NIMBYite,” who shows up to meetings when new development is proposed and says “Not in my backyard!”
Second Ward alderperson Duc Nguyen informed me of the YIMBY, through this Ithaca Voice article summing up a new “housing development toolkit” put out by the White House earlier in September. Nguyen referenced a “YIMBYTown” conference, the first, held in Boulder, Colorado, this past June to talk about encouraging “abundant housing and sustainable infill in growing cities.”
The recommendations made in the White House “toolkit” line up with the YIMBY line. If you’ve been paying attention to Ithaca mayor Svante Myrick’s pro-development talk over the last few years, the recommendations are kind of a bore.
“Local and neighborhood leaders have said yes, in our backyard, we need to break down the rules that stand in the way of building new housing,” the White House document reports. Those rules include too-slow or too-stringent zoning approval processes, and land use laws which favor single-family homes over denser development.
The toolkit has 10 ideas for how localities can “modernize their housing strategies and expand options and opportunities for hardworking families.” Ithaca has already pushed toward some of the suggestions, in pieces, like scrapping parking requirements and allowing for higher builds in Collegetown and downtown. The city’s tax abatement program is seemingly constantly in flux, and an inclusionary zoning program is in the long, slow grind of legislative tweaking. (My last check-in with that process was in March, at this link.)
The main reason YIMBY groups exist, it seems, is to mobilize behind these neo-urbanist ideals. The problem of mobilization is one that Myrick lamented many a time during the approval process for the 210 Hancock affordable housing project. Few who don’t live somewhere yet are going to show up in support of their potential future home, or so his musings go. And while affordable housing was approved at 210 Hancock and at Stone Quarry in recent years, it seems less certain that many people in Ithaca are crazy about Really Big Buildings like that proposed at State and Aurora in the Triangle. Every unit matters, but It’s those big projects that are, in theory, supposed to give a big increase to supply and lessen the housing crunch for people who can’t swing this area’s high rents right now.
Though there might be a teensy bit less demand for housing now than in recent years, not everyone’s getting into somewhere nice this fall. Get at me about my backyard vacancy: don’t bring rats, please, though a ferret is OK. Better yet, if you’ve got an RV, I’ve got some gas money. Let’s go South. Winter is coming soon.
Writers, like most people, like to be noticed once in a while. Sit or stand at a keyboard all day in a quiet room, and even a misspelled email in ALL CAPS informing one of gross incompetence and grammar mistakes can be a comfort: “Well, at least somebody is reading,” the writer thinks.
Those writers who have come to Ithaca over the past 15 years through the City of Asylum program experienced a heavier sort of critical attention in their home countries. Your average letter-writer or tweeter might have some nasty things to say; the City of Asylum writers have had action taken against their lives.
Present at the Kitchen Theater on Sunday, September 25, were Yi Ping, the first Ithaca City of Asylum writer, who fled China along with his wife, poet/translator Lin Zhou after the Chinese government increased repression after the Tiananmen Square protests. Here was Sarah Mkhonza, who had her University of Swaziland office ransacked after criticizing the monarchy’s repressive regime. Journalist/activist Sonali Samarasinghe left Sri Lanka for the United States with her family after her husband, editor of a weekly paper openly critical of the government, was assassinated in 2009. And Raza Rumi, the current ICOA writer-in-residence, left his home in Lahore, Pakistan, after an attempt made on his life by Islamic militants in 2014 that left his driver dead.
In exile, the internet has allowed these writers to continue publishing for outlets in their homelands. Given their apparent distance from danger, one might think that they would grow more outspoken in their critiques. Yet the effect of exile has been somewhat the opposite for some.
Mkhonza said at the Voices of Freedom celebration on Sunday that she feels her words don’t have quite the same impact spoken from afar.
“I can be out here and speak, but it doesn’t get to Swaziland the same way as when I was there,” Mkhonza said.
In Pakistan, Rumi was a defender of liberal values, of human rights, and a critic of the military’s use of jihadist militias. He’s more careful in what he says since coming to the United States.
“I’ve been put in the position of telling people not all 1.6 billion Muslims are terrorists,” Rumi said, adding drily “It gets rather exhausting.”
In Sri Lanka, Samarasinghe said she was a “lot more strident.” In the U.S., she has found her style to be more “tempered and circumspect.”
“You have to be strident, or you’re not going to be heard with all that noise and fearmongering going on,” Samarasinghe said of her writing in Sri Lanka.
Despite the distance, their duty is still to write. As Yi Ping put it, though he’s a poet, essayist, and dramatist, he feels because in the U.S. he has “the freedom to write and speak, I should focus on political writing and help my friends.”
With her voice rising, Mkhonza said her work was to tell Swazis, especially women, “the freedom is theirs, the voice is theirs, and their stories can be told by them as well as by anyone.”
Though writers and journalists are by and large freer from the threat of physical violence in the United States, there are areas where critics here don’t dare to tread: Rumi reiterated a point he made in a March interview with me for the Ithaca Times that when it comes to coverage of national security policy, most outlets toe the government policy line.
Ithaca City of Asylum co-founder Anne Emmanuelle Berger said in a video introduction sent from Paris that Ithaca’s “marginality” and “diminutive size” is why this town is a good place for writers who question power. Far from the center of decision-making, writers in humble burgs like this one have more room to breathe, free of influence and fear. The pen might be mightier than the sword, but it’s a slower-acting force that needs space and time to have its effect.
The American writer is often guilty of not using freedom to its fullest ends; we pat ourselves on the back for living somewhere oppression isn’t so blatant, and congratulate ourselves on our wit and charm while ignoring that “shabby backstreet” of our own country where most people live, to borrow a phrase from Nelson Algren.
Writers worldwide would do well to heed Samarasinghe’s words every time they crack open the laptop or set pen to paper:
“I’m very, very critical of my country not because I hate my country, but because I love my country and want it to be a better place.”
Featured photograph of Yi Ping and Lin Zhou from YouTube.
Some unpublished work from the 2015 Little League World Series. Reporting from South Williamsport, Pennsylvania:
Little League takes great pride in the thousands of volunteers that coach, umpire, sell nachos, and otherwise make its youth baseball programs happen worldwide. So much so that they named the secondary, 5,000-seat stadium at the South Williamsport grounds “Volunteer Stadium” when it opened in 2001.
During the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, though, one can find a crew of unpaid laborers who are not there for their children or love of the game. These folks are performing a Community Service, like the volunteers helping to instill the timeless American values of friendly competition and baseballing in the youth. But you won’t see them cheering on ESPN; they’re only here because the county probation office said so.
The probationers are easy to spot around the Series grounds. They wear faded yellow T-shirts that say simply “Little League World Series” and walk in zigs and zags with a broom and dustpan around the concourses, brushing up a bit of dust here, a Coke cup there. They are in the parking lots, waving their arms vaguely at incoming vehicles. And they line up near the end of games in the stadium entranceways or up the steps, waiting for the fans to leave so they can do a clean sweep of trash left behind. Between the games, the trash crews of 10 or 12 saunter about emptying cans and throwing the bags onto four-wheel Gators that are driven to out-of-sight dumpsters.
Workers take breaks in a fenced-in area under the stands shielded from easy viewing by green plastic. There are a few picnic tables, some leaf blowers, rolls of trash bags, and a pile of folded yellow T-shirts awaiting new recruits. Maybe 30 people are working at any one time during the day, with the numbers going up in the evening after people get off work and when clean-up is most needed.
Community Service workers relax at the Little League World Series. Photo: Josh Brokaw
Listen in as they work or wander and you catch snippets of regretful conversation: “So I got leaving the scene of an accident.” “They said my taillight was out. And then I blew a .09.”
A man with long stringy hair and gray stubble sweeping up had figured out how he will knock out his 68 hours of service time.
“If I work five doubles at 13, 14 hours a day, I can get it done.” Shifts start at 8 a.m. and go until 3, then the second shift works until 11 or so, depending on when the games end.
Assigned sweeping duty on a Friday night, a machine shop worker named C.J. was not shy about sharing his feeling on his assignment.
“This is all bullshit,” he said in a loud rasping voice, his scraggly beard titled toward the ground as he looked for more debris. “I punched a truck because they did fucking burnouts in front of my house and were throwing rocks at my nieces and nephews.”
A bypassing Little League staffer in a red shirt heard C.J. cursing and took him aside for a minute’s conversation.
“No, you didn’t get me in trouble,” he said, as he returned to his sweeping. “I got here at 7 after a 10-hour day. At my job, I sweep and pick up trash all day long. I mean, it’s my career. They said ‘You can come in at 7 and stay till its done. It might be 4 in the morning.’ I said you can keep fucking smoking what you’re smoking. That’s not happening.”
A lady in pink sweatpants who was waving pedestrians out of the buses’ way Friday afternoon said she found herself here after passing out at the wheel during an allergic reaction to her Ambien scrip. She was slapped with an under-the-influence charge.
“Here I am, 50 years old, and I don’t even drink,” Pink Sweats said. “There are people here who I guess have DUIs, and theft charges and stuff. Everyone who goes in front of a judge gets community service.”
Pink Sweats is right on a number of counts. Drunk driving charges provide plenty of labor for Little League. On last check, in early 2013, DUI charges were 40 percent of court filings, according to the local district attorney. In 2012 Lycoming County had more DUI charges than Philly, with a population of roughly 120,000 and a land area larger than Rhode Island. “Theft by unlawful taking” — i.e. shoplifting — at the local K-Mart or mall is another popular misdemeanor, along with plenty of drug charges in this heroin-hit region.
Everyone charged in Lycoming County gets community service hours – 50 hours is the standard, given with everything from six months probation to 20 year state sentences – and the unemployed can use service time to work off fines and costs. In 2011, the most recent numbers easily available in the “Best Jail Practices” report, 1,232 people did 130,604 hours of service – worth $946,879 in savings to government and nonprofits if paid at minimum wage.
However many of those hours go to Little League is unclear, but it’s a fair chunk. At 30 people for 15 hours a day, a conservative estimate, that’s 450 hours a day in people power for the two weeks of the World Series. Sit in the Lycoming County probation office every week for an hour, and the first offer you hear PO’s always make is “You can work at Little League.” It’s the easiest to schedule for both sides, with so much work available there during the Series and also during 9-5 business hours six days a week for most of the remaining year. It’s also got a bus stop — important if your driver’s license is suspended or taken away.
None of this is illegal, of course; nonprofits have always benefited from community service programs and Little League is a nonprofit, albeit one with a newly inked, eight-year, $60 million TV deal, and a CEO who takes down over $450,000 a year in total compensation. And according to (another) C.J., who was parking cars off Route 15 on Saturday, working in small crews of four or five during the offseason isn’t awful: they can drive the carts, then, and they get a lunch made in the dormitory kitchen “which isn’t too bad.”
Would you volunteer for this gig, though?
“Well, no.” C.J. laughed. “I guess we’re the volun-TOLDS.”
A lone man named Rod drinking at Riepstine’s brewery on the rained-out first day of this year’s World Series was less kind. His first and only DUI in 2011 led to him getting assigned World Series work. “They tell you you have to go to Little League. It’s a scam.”
The yellow T-shirt was presented him upon arrival.
“I went in and said I’m not wearing that yellow shirt, like a work release convict. I went home.”
The next spring, he was given extra time, 75 hours, and was sent to work it off at the World Series grounds in May.
“I power-washed the whole damn stadium myself,” Rod said. He got up and grabbed his growler to go.
Stories featuring public figures as beloved as Jon Stewart, animals, and crazy happenings in New York City are destined for internet attention. All three of those came together on April 1, when a one-year-old white-faced bull on his way to a livestock market in Queens escaped and took a ramble through the campus of York College.
The bull, later named Frank Lee after the Alcatraz escapee, was tied up and tranquilized by NYPD officers, then sent to the Animal Care Center of Brooklyn. Numerous videos from onlookers of that “arrest” are online, with incredulous, incisive commentary like “It take the whole NYPD for some damn cow?” and “He about to buck the shit out of them.”
That story in itself would be enough to garner some pageviews, but it gained real notoriety when outlets found out that former Daily Show host Jon Stewart came to New York in a van with trailer, along with his wife Tracey to feed Frank some hay and drive him to Cornell’s veterinary hospital for a check-up before relocating to the Watkins Glen Farm Sanctuary.
A short video shot by Tracey of her husband, in ball cap and retirement beard, feeding Frank hay made the rounds, and the “Holy Cow!” and “No Bull” headlines proliferated across the web.
“Everyone Wants Jon Stewart to Return, But He’s Just Saving Escaped Cows,” was the Esquire headline. At New York magazine, “Queens Bull Escapes to College, Gets Rescued by Jon Stewart,” and the New York Times, always nuanced, led with the more accurate “Bull in Queens Is Captured, and Jon Stewart Chauffeurs It to Freedom.”
After Farm Sanctuary national shelter director Susie Coston got the call from New York a bull needed a home, calling Tracey Stewart, the nonprofit’s newest board member, to pick up Frank was a practical decision.
“I called the Stewarts because they’re an hour away, with a truck and trailer,” Coston said. “By the time I get there, he’d be all stressed out. Of course, it turned into ‘Jon Stewart rescues a bull.’”
Taking in a large farm animal who made a break for it in New York City isn’t a new happening for Coston. At any one time, somewhere between 50 to 100 of the approximately 500 animals at Watkins Glen are rescues from the city’s live markets. Queenie, another resident cow, also made her escape in Queens.
“Most people don’t realize there are thousands of farm animals in New York City,” Coston said. “They’re herd and flock animals that don’t do well alone, and they go crazy.I know people who go into a coma when they get there, saying ‘Oh my god, why am I here?’”
As a practical matter, when Frank first arrived at Farm Sanctuary, “no one was hanging out with him,” Coston said – a bull can inseminate a cow for up to four weeks after castration. Now, Frank the steer is integrating himself into the herd; he’s easily recognizable in the pasture, with his white face and bantamweight stature compared to most of the other bovines.
The Stewarts will be opening a fourth Farm Sanctuary location in 2017 on their 12-acre farm in Monmouth County, N.J. Animals will be provided from Watkins Glen, according to Coston, with the property housing about a half-dozen cows, a few pigs, sheep, goats, a couple horses, and up to 50 chickens.
Tracey was already an animal advocate and discovered Farm Sanctuary president Gene Baur’s first book at a beach house in New Jersey, which led to their association. Stewart has written a book, Do Unto Animals, and has related merchandise like notebook sets, fine art prints, and tote bags.
“Everyone has transformative moments,” Tracey said in an interview reprinted in Sanctuary magazine. “For some, it’s discovering CrossFit; for others, it’s finding religion. For me, it was cows.”
Help from celebrities is nothing new for Farm Sanctuary. Tom Scholz, of the band Boston, has his name on the sheep barn in Watkins Glen; comedian Kevin Nealon sponsored the visitor’s center; and celebrities as varied as talk show host Ellen DeGeneres to hip hop mogul Russell Simmons, and Game of Thrones actor Peter Dinklage have supported the sanctuary over its 30 years.
Photo by Lyndsey Hewitt. Frank the Bull is at left, with Farm Sanctuary shelter director Susie Coston at right.
My grandfather turned 87 last week, and being the considerate grandson that I am, I waited a few days to call – to let the holiday linger, you know.
The report from Indiana included the news that he enjoyed his birthday dinner of broasted chicken and a can of beans from the Pay Less grocery; that Mr. Trump was likely not spanked enough as a child, since he turned out to be such a brat; and that there were some new planets discovered that might support life though “their sun ain’t as hot as ours.”
Despite the provincial nature of my job as a local newsman, I sometimes like to know what’s going on out there in the worlds. So after exchanging weather notes with Grandpa and saying goodbye, I plugged “new planets” into the search machine.
The Fox News headline above was Number Two on the results list; given the bear-blinding flashlight advertised, it seems they have targeted what their readers want to know about life.
New aliens to hunt? Martha, pack your bags. We got a new place to go on safari!
And we wonder why the aliens don’t want to say hello.
The National Geographic headline reminds us of the paradoxes inherent in this thing we call life:
The three dimensions are so passe when we’re talking about outer space.
Listed as our “in-depth” option on p.1 of Google News results, the NatGeo lead is about as purple as the infrared light put off newly discovered ultracool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1 might appear to our eyes:
A tantalizing trio of Earth-size worlds circles a tiny, dim star relatively close to us, and each planet is within or near the region where the star’s light could support the whispers and sighs of extraterrestrial life.
Don’t worry about the aesthetic life of any potential life on this planet, though; as astrophysicist Michaël Gillon goes on to explain in the NatGeo article, “for local creatures with infrared vision, plants would have some colors and would look much nicer.”
But I can read good enough to know that I like these two sentences of “it depends”:
The planets’ atmospheric properties, and thus their habitability, will depend on several unknown factors. These include the planets’ compositions; their formation and dynamical history (their migration and tides); the past evolution and present level of the extreme-ultraviolet stellar flux (probably strong enough in the past, and perhaps even now, to significantly alter the planets’ atmospheric compositions); and the past and present amplitudes of atmospheric replenishment mechanisms (impacts and volcanism).
I do have to give the Google ‘rithm credit for its selection on one count. At the bottom of the page one results for “new planets” was this science column from Tim Philp of the Brantford (Canada) Expositor: the opening and closing ‘graphs are generically “gee-whiz, things have got crazy since I was a kid,” but in the core five paragraphs, he does some fine expository writing on how astronomers have been finding so many more planets in recent years. It’s a two minute read that’ll leave you more intelligent.
Another story on the Ithaca drug policy. This was all reported in two days after the plan rolled out, but the story ran another week later. The not-for-profit heads quoted below were a bit offput by the plan’s rollout: the short of their complaint was “We’re working on more solutions … but we don’t go around announcing projects until the funding is worked out.” Photo is of the Dick Van Dyke Center in Seneca County, which, from what I hear, has no connection to the actor Dick Van Dyke.
A lack of places to go for people to get off addictive substances is a common complaint around Ithaca. Tompkins County has neither an inpatient detox facility nor a crisis walk-in detox. The perception, at least, is that one must be court-mandated or fail out of an outpatient program like those at the Alcohol & Drug Council (ADC) or Cayuga Addiction Recovery Services (CARS) to get a spot in an inpatient detox – the closest of which are in Syracuse, Binghamton, Elmira, and the state-run Dick Van Dyke facility in Seneca County.
Take this quote from someone in the “business” focus group convened to give input to the new Ithaca drug policy for an example of this frustration: “Most people addicted to heroin are going to be on Medicaid. In order to get into in-patient, you have to fail out of outpatient … They need to have three or four dirty drugs screens before they can qualify to get into inpatient, which is where they needed to be initially, which can take 3-4 months.” Or read our June 2014 feature on the heroin epidemic “No Question It’s Gotten Worse” on ithaca.com, which features the frustrations of several people in recovery.
“Insurance is probably our biggest struggle with the inpatient (facility),” said Monika Taylor, director of chemical dependency services at Crouse Hospital, Syracuse, which hosts a 40-bed unit. “There’s supposed to be parity with behavioral health and primary health, but I don’t know if that’s fully happening quite yet.”
Once a patient does get into treatment, sometimes the insurance company might only end up covering a few days of treatment, Taylor said.
“You hardly ever see 28 days (of treatment) anymore,” said Rich Bennett, director of the Ithaca Rescue Mission. “You have to ask if it’s worth it to go into treatment for a week, and then whatever jobs and relationships are there might go away.”
Nevertheless, when someone walks into the Rescue Mission and says “I can’t take it anymore, get me into treatment,” Bennett said they do their best to get someone help because their attitude might “drastically change in three days.”
ADC has been in talks “for a while” with New York’s Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) to bring an inpatient detox to Ithaca, according to executive director Angela Sullivan. For now, ADC offers what they call “intensive outpatient” programming, which includes three three-hour meetings a week along with medically-assisted treatment for most of its clients trying to get off opiates – a number which has increased from about 5 percent of people calling them their primary drug in 2011 to about a third of the approximately 500 people ADC served last year.
As a state-certified provider of addiction services, ADC does have to reveal a positive drug test to probation or social services, whoever the referring partner might be.
“We do not automatically discharge someone for a positive test,” Russell said. “That is an old school myth that I don’t even think was true 10 years ago. When someone tests positive there’s always a conversation.”
Bill Rusen, CEO of CARS, found the lack of detox options in the Ithaca Plan to be its most objectionable omission.
“Imagine (Cayuga Medical Center) without an ER,” Rusen said. “When CMC was being built, they might have said we’re going to have shamans in there, it’s going to be fantastic. We’re going to have aromatherapy, an ICU, cancer care, cardiac care, but we’re not putting an emergency room in. If you’re having a heart attack you’re really not too interested if the shaman shows up. In this unfair, fallen universe we live in where there’s not enough time, energy, or resources for everything I think the first choice has to be a detox.”
CMC did host a detox until 2009, but “it’s a loser” financially, Rusen said. “You have to have a nurse and a medical person on duty all the time, even if they never saw a patient that day. Even insurance which pays better than Medicaid doesn’t pay enough to cover the costs.”
Rusen said he’s had a proposal “sitting around for about two years” to cover a walk-in outpatient detox, which would cost about $150,000 a year to cover staffing.
Though there’s no inpatient detox for Ithaca in the new plan, one of the recommendations is a 24-hour crisis center, which would serve as a place for law enforcement to bring intoxicated people without going to the CMC ER, a place with short-term temporary beds for people waiting an inpatient bed, and a safe “chill out” spot for people to go rather than being inebriated in public.
At the moment of crisis, the idea for the 24-hour center is to replace trips to the CMC ER, which cost the hospital, Bangs Ambulance, and Ithaca police $413,526.91 in 2015, according to the plan – one of the very few hard numbers included in the report, and one that CMC has made clear is not sustainable.
There is money available for this kind of diversion right now, according to Rusen and Russell, in the form of the Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment (DSRIP). The idea of DSRIP is to reduce avoidable hospital trips by people on Medicaid 25 percent in the next five years, with up to $6.42 billion available statewide.
“I assume this center is going to piggyback on (DSRIP) a little bit,” Rusen said.
Wrote this column on a Tuesday morning because I thought we had some opinion page space to fill in the Times. We did not. It might run sometime. It might not.
This column is written on deadline. It must be written very soon, or it will not exist.
Newspapers, like the one you hold in your hands, still have deadlines. On Tuesday here at the Times and Finger Lakes Community Newspapers office,the work reaches a focused pitch as 5 p.m. comes closer and our 10 papers must be sent to the printer in Williamsport, Pa.
How sharp my editor’s words for my late copy will be today, I don’t yet know. It will depend on the other writers, freelancers mostly, all of whom have talent and knowledge in their field. Most of whom are prone to sometimes turn in stories that are too long or too short, missing a photo, that need a fact-check on some arcane reference or Latin phrase.
Or the question will come: “Do you have anything else laying around?” A fresh half-page has opened up, demanding fresh copy, and we have no wire service to provide filler. Rewriting a press release is a last resort. So an offhand meeting remark by some official on an in-progress project gets a follow-up call, or at least a close interpretation of its supporting documents, and 400 words on the subject appear in the paper.
The reporter must be grateful for deadlines, for without them, none of his work might exist. What us clock-driven moderns call procrastination is a specialty of his. An idea, a phrase, stored in the dark closet of his mind is safe in there. Exposed to light via print, it becomes everyone’s possession. Better for the idea to rot in obscurity than be found banal or skipped over by the reader. Better to leave it on the shelf than to open the door one night and find the hoard empty, with only canned conventional wisdom left over to heat up for the readers. Only hacks of the Murdoch or Sulzberger line can stomach serving that cancerous stuff for long.
Anyway, some procrastination is good for creativity, says one of those recent studies that confirm our vices which the American press is so good at disseminating. Sometimes procrastination even pushes one to clean the house, or take a look at bills going unpaid, an activity which quickly puts one back to real work. And whether procrastination, “time-wasting,” is a vice depends on whether the feeling behind it is one of contemplation or acedia – apathy, to be “without care.” The difference is between the olive-munching Greeks speculating on the nature of existence, and that modern cry “I’m bored – give me something, anything, to do.”
Our service agencies at their best can only honestly answer modern longing with things to do. The progressive ones go beyond suggesting “get a job, any job,” but their mandate to keep everyone safe and healthy, perfectly normalized, does not include an instruction manual to make active, engaged, reaching minds. Trained to go to work and then be entertained for generations now, it’s no wonder that the American has no idea what to do with off hours. There are so many hours, with only a few lucky ones still getting 40 hours of repetitive tasks to do for decent pay these days.
The deadline is a holdout from more industrial days, when one’s work might have been hard and exploitable, but at least you knew when you had to work. Most of my colleagues’ deadline pressures have dissipated into the 24/7 news cycle, that terrible rolling deadline, when any happening, anywhere, needs written up immediately to capture web traffic that no one has yet figured out how to make pay.
There’s more to say, but this column must end. Two more stories to write today.
Our local daily is the Ithaca Journal, Frank Gannett’s second newspaper; purchased by the grand old man of newspaper consolidation in 1912, the Journal just had its 200th birthday. That fact went unnoticed by the paper, given that the folks over there are down to three reporters.
It occurred to me that there had been lots of headlines popping up on the Journal‘s site recently with some variation of the RANDOMLY CAPITALIZED format. The New York tabloids freely use ALL CAPS in headlines, but they almost always use them before a colon, in a “HEAD: Here’s the subhead” format.
So, to indulge my idle and irresponsible speculation that perhaps Gannett is gearing up for another purchase — the Daily News, last I heard, is still on the block with a price of $1 attached – I took a swing around the internet to see if CAPS LOCK was taking over other Gannett properties.
The answer gleaned from this highly scientific anecdotal survey, in short, is that if Gannett’s NEWSROOM OF THE FUTURE will be featuring lots of random caps to INCREASE ENGAGEMENT, its Southern Tier papers are serving as the incubator for the program.
I skimmed pages as far down as clicking “more news” twice will let you. 27 stories are shown on most of the Gannett pages, before you can’t click anymore and run into the video and FEATURED CONTENT bars, because the “8 biggest moments in Apple history” and “Why this grocery store unisex bathroom sign went viral” is essential local reporting …
There weren’t any random caps at the Detroit Free Press, the Louisville Courier-Journal, the Asheville Citizen-Times. Nothing in Reno or the Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader. Shreveport, Pensacola, Tallahassee, all have yet to start serving the capitalization lords. Nothing in Indy or Phoenix.
There certainly are some Gannett sites using some caps.
Gannett’s lone Montana paper, the Great Falls Tribune, had several GALLERY and UPDATE headers. Delaware’s News Journal featured a RECAP and a TGIT! – which I presume to stand for Thank Goodness/God It’s Thursday, as it was a link to the entertainment section.
Bruce Springsteen’s hometown rag had some WATCH on its homepage, while centraljersey.com used STUDENT NEWS. Morristown was using WATCH and LETTER and PHOTOS, though a video of “True Islam” program in Mountain Lakes got a lower-case “Watch.” “History:” and “Police:” got no caps treatment along with “WATCH” in Vineland, but “FISHING” did.
Gannett has six papers in New York. Poughkeepsie had a SPEAK UP to encourage commenters to speak up. Rochester and Westchester’s Journal News (lohud.com) seem to have avoided the bug, even while using identical headlines on Albany bureau generated items like “How they fared in the state budget.”
Ithaca, Binghamton’s Press & Sun Bulletin and the Elmira Star-Gazette, old Mr. Gannett’s very first newspaper, share a lot of editing and content. And here is where the CAPS seem to be given their greatest freedom. All of these headlines were up at the same time one early morning late last week. The CAPS are original; the colors are my innovation. If you’re reading Gannett executives, I’m available for consulting gigs.
SETTLE IN: Fourth Cal Harris trial
TAKES YOUR BREATH AWAY (a N.Y. cigarette tax story)
TROUT OPENER: mixed results for anglers.
UPDATED: Who’s the best? 34 years of all-star hoops
ZERO FATALITIES: DEC says 2015 safest season in decades
MAKING A MURDER TRIAL: Harris case needs resolution
And then there was “SUMMER PLANNER: Send us your event listing” and “How much for THAT house? Look it up here,” “HOW MUCH? NY educator pay, pensions a click away … those are promoting a database site Gannett’s been building that might or might not be more navigable than plucking things like salaries and government contracts straight from state sites.
A couple favorites that were up on Ithaca:
NAME CHECK: See if you’re owed unclaimed money
ORANGE PRIMER: What you need to know about Syracuse
PARTICIPATE: Election 2016 coverage
And this, on Facebook.
SAD STORY: Suffocated while asleep. Mom rolls on child
Fortunately, DEATH NOTICES is not yet part of the style guide.
See the above image for Elmira’s current idea of how to get people “engaged.”
OH, %$@#*&. DID YOU MISS SOME NEWS?
While compiling this piece, I stumbled across an item printed in the May 11, 1977 Washington, Pa. Observer-Reporter regarding a recent purchase Gannett had made of a western chain.
Al Neuharth told the stockholders there has been some recent criticism of newspaper groups or chains, the story said, and then closed like so:
“The infusion of professionalism that Gannett and its subsidiaries bring to these newspapers will convince even the critics or cynics that it matters little whether newspapers are owned by individuals, or families, or partners, or chains,” he said. “What really matters to the readers is what those owners do with them.”