Thursday, August 27, 2009

Chuck the Writer's blog is moving on up... to another location...

Today is moving day.

I normally hate moving - I moved around as a kid so many times, as the old joke goes, my local paper was USA Today.

But this is a big opportunity for me.

My blog has been accepted by the Times Union to join their family of blogs.

Which is a very nice touch. I appreciate joining the TU.

Right now, the stint at the TU is scheduled as temporary. We're going to see how everything works out. I get to kick the tires, test drive around the block, etc etc.

If it works out, the engagement between yours truly and the TU could extend indefinitely.

If it doesn't work out, I'll come back to this weblog, try to remember what my access password is, and resume my posts here.

Thus begins another chapter in my life.

Not as momentus as my other chapters... but an interesting new chapter nonetheless.

Oh yeah - change your bookmarks around for this link:

And see you over there!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

K-Chuck Radio's Hit of the Day: Blotto, "I Wanna Be A Lifeguard"

This song should have been a bigger hit than it was.

I know it sounds like a goofy surf tune, but it's a fun little track - and it could have been the first track from an Albany-based rock band to hit the national charts. As it was, it did get on a lot of college radio stations, and even the local Albany broadcasters like FLY 92 and 3WD gave it some love.

And if Blotto never recorded another track in their lifetime... there's always this song.

K-Chuck Radio's Hit of the Day: Stevie Wright, "Evie"

While there are some fantastic three-minute pop songs out there, there's also a lot of love for songs that stretch to at least seven minutes of music. "Hey Jude" - "Layla" - "Stairway to Heaven" - "American Pie" - the list goes on and on.

But how about a song that clocks in at over 10 minutes of music - with three distinct and separate "movements" - and it actually hit #1?

Today I bring you "Evie," an Australian #1 hit by Stevie Wright. Wright was the lead singer of the Easybeats, who most non-Aussies know as the group behind "Friday On My Mind." He recorded this song in 1970, and it has three separate movements. The first movement is a hard rock track as the guy meets the girl; the second movement is a tender ballad as the guy falls in love with the girl and the baby they've made; the third movement is a frenetic rock song as tragedy strikes the young couple (the baby is stillborn).

So here's movement #1 -

and movement #2 -

and movement #3 -

I don't know how they got this all on one 45 - I would suspect two of the movements were moved to Side 2 of the record. But still, it's a helluva a mini-rock operetta. And it's here... on K-Chuck Radio.

Monday, August 24, 2009

K-Chuck Radio Hit of the Day: The Staccatos, "Half Past Midnight"

Today we have some sweet baroque pop from The Staccatos, a five-man band from Ottawa. "Half Past Midnight" was a Top 10 hit in Canada in 1967, and won several awards. In America, the song was released on Capitol's subsidiary label Tower, but the song went nowhere in the States.

Here's the single version of "Half Past Midnight" on K-Chuck Radio:

As an added bonus, here's The Staccatos performing their hit on Montreal's CFCF television station.

The Staccatos eventually morphed into another group, Five Man Electrical Band, and had a monster hit with the song "Signs."

Saturday, August 22, 2009


It's Saturday afternoon, and I'm trying to get my front lawn mowed before we get another rain storm. The mailman always drives up our street around Saturday afternoon, and he steps up to my porch with the mail, just as I'm flattening the last blades of grass.

He hands me the Saturday mail, and I can see in the distance two post cards. I know where they're from. Syracuse. And the New York State Fair.

I don't even want to look at the back of the cards. Each card has the name of the picture - in my cases, the postcards were designated "Washington Park After Dark" and "Action Under the Basket," the names of my two photos.

On the back of each card were three check boxes:


I slowly turned the card over for the first postcard, "Washington Park After Dark.



Then I looked at the second card, the card that represents "Action Under the Basket," the photo you see above.


I looked at it a second time.


Oh my God in Heaven! I WON! My photo that I shot straight down from the rafters of Blue Cross Arena during the PBL Playoffs between Rochester and Manchester WON AT THE NEW YORK STATE FAIR!!

(you can't see it right now but I'm doing the Dance of Joy)

Now I won't really know what level I won - 1st place, 2nd place, 3rd place or honorable mention - until I actually attend the Fair. So now I need to check my calendar and see what day I can actually get out to the Fair and do some celebratory basking!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Chuck the Writer notes Megan Hauserman was DAMN LUCKY Ryan Jenkins didn't become HER millionaire

Okay. Before I start this post, although I've got my full-fledged snark on, my sincere thoughts and prayers go to the friends and family of Jasmine Fiore. What happened to her should never happen to any one, and the sadistic and brutal and misogynistic evisceration was undoubtedly the shameful work of a sadist.

Without having to defend my appreciation of trainwreck reality television (yeah, if there's a hottie being pursued by 20 guys, or a rock star getting pursued by 17 hotties, and it's on VH1, I'm watching it), I've been following closely the Ryan Alexander Jenkins criminal manhunt.

Unless you've been living under a rock, Ryan was one of the 20 eligible millionaires looking to woo the heart of Megan Hauserman, the anorexic ferret-faced lazy-eyed Playboy cybergirl Paris Hilton wannabe whose 15 minutes of fame is bordering on 14:45 and ticking.

Anyways, the premise of this show is - after Megan got turned down by Bret Michaels, came in third place on the reality competition show I Love Money, and got her hair weave torn out by Sharon Osbourne in Rock of Love Girls: Charm School, VH1 gave her her own dating show, where she got to pick from several different eligible bachelors - each with at least a net worth of over a million dollars.

Anyways, among the trust fund babies and older-than-dirt Hollywood producers was Ryan Jenkins. Now if you haven't seen Megan Wants a Millionaire (it only had three episodes aired before VH1 pulled the entire show off the network), you don't know how Ryan Jenkins operated and interacted with Megan Hauserman.

Luckily for you... I have the three episodes on my computer.

No, I'm not going to post them here. Nice try.

What I AM going to do, however, is give you at least a word-for-word transcript of the conversations Ryan Jenkins had with Megan, with the other men in the dating house, and his "confessional" interviews (which I suspect, with all the VH1 dating and competition shows, were taped months after the series ended filming, and were interspersed with the original action).

So grab some popcorn - and since this is involving one of those Rock of Love girls, have some Bactine handy -


Megan stands in front of the obligatory VH1 mansion, waiting to greet her eligible suitors. After sixteen suitors arrive, Ryan Jenkins, the last suitor, steps out of the limousine.
RYAN: Hello, Megan.
MEGAN: Look... we're matching already. (both Megan's minidress and Ryan's button-down shirt are purple)
RYAN: We are matching. Have you met any Canadians before?
MEGAN: Never.
RYAN: Well, it's about time, don't you think?
MEGAN: Absolutely.
RYAN: Can I let you in on a little secret?
MEGAN: Please do.
Ryan brings Megan close and whispers in her ear.
MEGAN (to camera): Ryan whispers in my ear... you're going to love Canadian bacon. (giggling)
RYAN: Save me a spot for dinner, okay?
Later in the episode, Megan gives each suitor gifts - everything from fuzzy handcuffs (for a guy nicknamed "Sex Toy Dave") to a glittering piggy bank for one of the trust fund babies. Ryan is one of the last to receive a gift.
RYAN: I'm a little bit of a Prince Charming, a little bit of a bad boy.
MEGAN (to camera): Yummy.
Megan gives him his gift.
MEGAN: It's a pimp cup!
RYAN (to camera): I typically date girls that turn a lot of heads. I love the chase.
Later, Megan meets with several of the suitors in a social mixer.
MEGAN: So you think that you could leave Canada?
RYAN: Well, I can do my job anywhere.
MEGAN: So why do you live there?
RYAN: I can't legally work here unless I'm married.
MEGAN: Oh... So you're using me for a green card.
RYAN: I tell you this. When we get married - I won't get you to sign a pre-nup.
RYAN (to camera): Megan was definitely into me, and I'm definitely into her. And I'm definitely not going home tonight.
Ryan survives the first round of eliminations.


Megan asks the suitors to create a gift for her for Valentine's Day. Ryan gives her a card.
RYAN: I decided to appeal to all your senses, and first I'd like to start with your mouth.
MEGAN: My mouth is not a sense, though.
RYAN: So this is your mind -
MEGAN: That's not a sense either, but we'll go with it. Because you're so cute.
Not much of Ryan in this episode. But he stays on for another week.


The challenge for the rich dudes involved them designing a promotional campaign for Megan's pet chihuahua, Lily. We start the episode with Ryan chatting with two other suitors on a sunny lawn outside the mansion.
RYAN: There's a few different kinds of girls in my book, I narrowed it down to three. You got your Princess, you got your Betty, you got your Playa. My book's all about the three main types of girls you're gonna like, and the approaches you use with them.
RYAN (to camera): I've always rolled on kind of an echelon, and I've never really rolled with any girls that could keep up with me.
RYAN: Like working on the first draft or whatever.
RYAN (to camera): I need to hold a clinic for these dudes, just to teach them a little bit of game.
RYAN: You know what I'm calling it - The Ins and Outs: A Playa's Guide to Success.
Ryan's team wins the Lily challenge. As team captain, Ryan gets a solo date with Megan.

As part of the date, Ryan spent money to "upgrade" his date with Megan, so instead of a picnic, he takes her to an exclusive French restaurant, couriered in an Aston Martin DB-9.
RYAN: Look at you, gorgeous.
MEGAN: Hi, Ryan.
RYAN (to camera): I hear the click of Megan's heels on the hardwood floor, and I see her legs slowly emerge, and then boom, she's gorgeous, I know I've got the keys in my pocket to an extremely exotic car, and I know she's gonna be happy.
They go to the restaurant. Ryan orders a bottle of champagne and they drink the bubbly beverage in long slender glass flutes.
MEGAN: What do you plan on doing this summer?
RYAN: You'd look good in a bikini with sand stuck to your butt. And I'll rub some coconut oil on your back.
MEGAN: That's what I was thinking.
Although we don't get to see any other episodes, there are some clips in the "coming up on the season of Megan Wants a Millionaire" that bear noting. Ryan tosses a drink at another contestant (Al), who rips his shirt off and looks like he's about to throw down. Al later confides in Megan (while Al's massaging Megan's back) that Ryan may have bragged about other girls that he has conquered.

So were there signs right there on the TV show that Ryan Jenkins might have been a whack job? Or did he completely baffle everyone on the show - the producers, the directors, the other men in the house, Megan - convincing all of them that he was just a normal millionaire?

And there's one thing that's still unanswered. And it may never get answered.


Personally, I'm betting on either Big Mike or Sex Toy Dave. Sounds like both of those would be right up her alley.

Chuck the Writer would LOVE to try this on I-787

Can you imagine standing on a walkway across the Tricentennial Bridge... with your Guitar Hero game controller in hand... And just rocking out like these guys on did?

Of course if they really used I-787, most likely the only track fast enough to handle the cars would be something like "Colour My World."

Chuck the Writer's K-Chuck Radio: Stars on 45, "Medley"

I'm still trying to figure this one out. Work with me.

Around 1980, there was a bootleg 12-inch record that stitched together several recordings, all synchronized to the same clap-clap beat. One of those songs, the Shocking Blue's "Venus," caught the attention of Golden Earring drummer Jaap Eggermont, who had the copyright to that song and wanted to know who was making money off the recording without paying him.

So Eggermont decided to out-bootleg the bootleggers, and made his own licensed re-recording, using studio musicians to recreate the bootleg recording. The new track featured the intro to "Venus," as well as the Archies' "Sugar Sugar," and a ton of Beatles tracks. Whether it was because of the popularity of the Beatles recordings after the death of John Lennon, or the fact that you could hear 11 different songs stitched together in a single 3-minute track, "Medley" tore up the charts worldwide, and created a (thankfully) short-lived medley craze.

The Stars on 45 recorded a few more albums, but they were only a studio group and were never scheduled to tour. So I'm still trying to figure out who's performing as the Stars on 45 in this video clip.

I can't figure out which is funnier - the hyperactive dance team, or the audience members who are either asleep or trying not to admit they actually know the words to all the songs. But it's here... on K-Chuck Radio.

Chuck the Writer's K-Chuck Radio: Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, "Superrappin No. 2"

You want to know why Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five deserve their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Then you gotta listen to this track and be convinced. This is from 1978 - before rap music ever hit the mainstream - and was recorded on tiny Enjoy Records. This was a monster hit in the boogie down Bronx, and is an extremely rare record to acquire today (especially the original 12-minute version, what you're hearing is the abbreviated 7-minute version).

The extended 12-minute version contains Melle Mel's rap track, "A Child is Born," which was later repurposed into the track "The Message" in 1983.

Chuck the Writer's K-Chuck Radio: Ol' 55, "Looking for an Echo"

This is what happens when you start surfing around international Internet radio portals.

I came across this version of the old Kenny Vance and the Planetones doo-wop classic, "Looking for an Echo," as performed by this 50's-retro group, Ol' 55 (named after the Eagles song of years past).

First, here's the original version by Kenny Vance and the Planetones:

And here's the version from Ol' 55:

And just for kicks, here's a really swank a cappella doo-wop version by the Persuasions, as performed in the Spike Lee joint "Do It A Cappella":

All here... on K-Chuck Radio.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Chuck the Writer's K-Chuck Radio: TISM, "Thunderbirds are Coming Out"

TISM (short for "This Is Serious Mum") were an Australian rock-funk band who liked nothing better than to give an up-yours to society. They performed their songs while wearing obscuring masks, and many of the titles of their songs could not be repeated on a G-rated blog like this.

However, this track, "Thunderbirds are Coming Out," is a pretty cool song. The whole concept of the death of individuality by the acknowledgment of a classic 1960's children's TV series has a very strong vibe to it.

Now about this video. TISM invited several Australian rock bands to lip-synch to "Thunderbirds are Coming Out," and TISM (in their masks) show up in the final seconds of the clip - only to find that the song has ended without them.

Here's a clip of TISM, "Thunderbirds are Coming Out," on K-Chuck Radio.

And if you'd like to see what TISM look like actually PERFORMING the song, here's a clip from an Australian TV series, "Recovery," showing TISM in all their glory. Right here on K-Chuck Radio.

Chuck the Writer's K-Chuck Radio: The Shangri-Las, "Out In The Streets"

Here's a classic from the 1960's. You might have heard of the Shangri-La's, the girl group whose songs of teen angst and emotion brought them legions of fans with hits like "Leader of the Pack" and "Remember (Walking in the Sand)." They would later be inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, and there are still people who want the Shangri-La's inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

This track, "Out in the Streets," was not one of their bigger hits, but it is significant in that this performance, from the old tv series "Shindig," changed the image of the Shangri-La's from goody-good teenagers next door to - well, you see for yourself.

Here's the Shangri-La's, with "Out in the Streets," on K-Chuck Radio.

Chuck the Writer's K-Chuck Radio: Tony Carey, "I Won't Be Home Tonight"

This is the first of what I hope will be several different trips back into the past, to provide some classic music that hasn't been heard in a long time - songs that should have been major hits, but for one reason or another fell through the cracks.

First off, I apologize for the bad video feed, this is the best I could pull up.

Tony Carey was originally a keyboardist for the band Rainbow; he later had some success with both a solo career and a concept project called Planet P. This track, "I Won't Be Home Tonight," was from the album of the same name, and was released on Rocshire Records back around 1983. The song actually charted into the lower regions of the Billboard Hot 100, and Carey had a second minor hit from that LP with "West Coast Summer Nights."

Unfortunately, Rocshire Records was a front for an elaborate embezzlement scheme, and the company is now a distant memory. Carey, however, moved to MCA Records, and had two Top 10 hits with "A Fine Fine Day" and "The First Day of Summer."

So here's Tony Carey with "I Won't Be Home Tonight" - here, on K-Chuck Radio.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Chuck the Writer Recalls his Photographic History: the Nikon CoolPix 800

Before maybe 1998, I was not a photographer per se. I counted on other people to take pictures if I needed them for articles.

But in 1999, when Goldmine magazine tapped me to write a brand new record collector's guide, I needed to get a camera and learn how to use it - and fast. For this book, I would be required to come up with images for at least 600 rare and unique LP's and 45's. I could dodge the 45's issue by putting them on flatbed scanners and scanning them; 12-inch LP's, however, would not fit on commercial flatbed scanners, so they needed to be photographed.

So I scraped together my pennies and purchased my first camera - a Nikon CoolPix 800 - at the Ritz Camera kiosk at my local Boscov's store.

This is what a Nikon CoolPix 800 looks like (photo courtesy

I used this camera to shoot images of album covers; whether they were from my own personal collection or if I had to travel somewhere and photograph someone's collection. Once the book came out, I used the camera to chronicle what I called my "world tour," which was a 35-city autograph tour once the book came out.

It was a good little camera, and eventually I added a screw-on telephoto lens to get long-distance shots (that lens was also the first purchase I made from B&H Photo, New York's camera superstore). I also used the CoolPix 800 to capture three separate Vocal Group Hall of Fame inductions, as well as concert photographs for several of my other Goldmine-related articles.

But in 2005, when the Albany Patroons returned to the Continental Basketball Association, I tried to use the CoolPix to shoot some early basketball practices before the season started. Not a great idea. This camera was ill-equipped to photograph anything that moved faster than a stalactite, and most of my shots had motion blur upon them.

The final blow came when Dianne Coyne, wife of the team's general manager, saw the photos and said to me, "Chuck, you really should get a better camera if you're going to do this, these photos are not that good."


So once again, I scraped together my pennies and purchased what would be my second camera, a Nikon D70 digital SLR. More on that in another post.

So whatever happened to the CoolPix 800?

Around the time that I purchased my second camera, a friend informed me that an animal shelter in New Hampshire had recently been burglarized - among the things taken was the animal shelter's camera, which was used by the shelter to document animal cruelty cases, and to photograph possible animal adoption candidates.

I acquired the animal shelter's address. Within 24 hours, the CoolPix 800, along with some CompactFlash cards and some peripherals, were in the post office, bound for New Hampshire. No questions asked.

I had a great time with the CoolPix 800; it did what it had to do, and in the end, that's all that matters. In fact, here's a small slideshow of some of the pictures I took with the CoolPix over the time it was in my possession. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Chuck the Writer recalls his days at 3WD

Growing up in Albany in the 1970's, I had my choice of many pop/rock radio stations on the radio dial. If I wanted Top 40 radio, I could listen to 1540 WPTR or 980 WTRY on the AM dial, and when I got my first FM radio I could enjoy the crystal clear sounds of 92.3 WFLY and 106.5 WPYX, as well as "Rock 99" WGFM, which we all know today as The River.

But one Sunday morning, around maybe 1977 or so, I was spinning the radio dial trying to get from one AM station to the other (American Top 40 was on in a few minutes) - and lo and behold, I came across a station I never previously knew existed.

It was a low-power AM facility from Schenectady, New York, 1240 AM WWWD (or "3WD", as they were more popularly branded). They played an eclectic mix of Top 40 hits and "soon-to-be" hits. They spent an entire month proving - and disproving - and reproving - and re-disproving the similarities between Klaatu and the Beatles. They played records right out of the box, even if it took months for America to decide that song was a hit. As an example, 3WD wore out Thelma Houston's "Don’t Leave Me This Way" - months before the song hit the Top 40 nationally.

My friends used to joke about the station's quirky call letters, calling the station "Three-didildy-dee," or "three-wheel-drive," but for me it was a station willing to program by the seat of their pants. Call in a request on 3WD, they'd have it on the turntable in 10 minutes or less. They even played local hits like Blotto's "I Wanna Be A Lifeguard" - imagine that, a local group’s songs in heavy rotation with the Bee Gees and Chic.

I was home from college for a weekend in 1983. Because of a long layover for my train in Schenectady, I had a couple of hours to kill. I walked down State Street, looking for the usual diversions - record stores, sporting goods stores, the like - and then I saw the sign in the window.


Holy crap. It was the home offices of 3WD. I couldn't believe it.

I visited the 3WD station and spoke with two of the disc jockeys I remembered from my youth, and half-jokingly suggested that once I got out of college, I might join them in the multi-million dollar world of broadcast radio.

Four years later, in September 1987, I did join 3WD as an evening disc jockey. One of those same disc jockeys introduced me on the radio, I took my seat, and spent the next six hours in heaven.

Unfortunately, heaven lasted about two days. Then reality set in.

Low-power AM rock stations like 3WD were changing their formats to all-talk or all-sports or all-weather or all-farm reports, as people who wanted to hear the top hits wanted them in FM stereo. 3WD was being sold, so there was virtually no effort to promote the station. My 6-hour shift coincided with 3WD's other programming - which included New York Mets broadcasts, Syracuse University football and basketball games, and horse race results from Off-Track Betting. My thoughts of making "millions" in radio changed when I found out they take taxes out of minimum wage. And a snowstorm in October 1987 knocked half the radio stations off the air - guess which one was still on - and expected me to be at the studio on time for my shift? You got it.

And for all of you who've seen Play Misty For Me - trust me, when you’re on a low-power radio station, the women that call the request line would rather know the results from the fifth race at Aqueduct.

Still, I stayed with the station for six months, building up a small following with a 1950's oldies program (when it wasn't pre-empted for the Sugar Bowl-bound Syracuse football team). On March 17, 1988, my radio show was the last program aired under the 3WD call letters - the station was finally sold, was rebranded as WVKZ, and 3WD became the first station in the Capital Region whose entire broadcast day was delivered via satellite from another state.

I left 3WD with a lot of memories - some good, some not-so-good - and a sense that I had accomplished one of my dreams, being a professional radio disc jockey. Okay, the only similarity between me and Wolfman Jack is we both howled (my howls came from viewing my paycheck).

About six months later, while rifling through my local used music store, I saw boxes and boxes of records - all with "3WD" handwritten or stickered on the labels and jackets. They were all the records I remember playing, the hits and the misses and the smashes and the trashes, all branded with "3WD" to keep them in the studio in case somebody got sticky-fingered and left with their own personal record collection.

I asked the record store owner about them; they said somebody just dropped the whole lot off for twenty bucks. I bought about 100 singles and took them home, adding them to my growing record collection.

While 3WD was just another series of call letters in the whole spectrum of amplified modulation radio, to me it will always have a warm spot in my memory. In the one life we live, how rare it is that we get to fulfill our dreams and fantasies. And I did.

As far as I was concerned, they weren’t three-wheel drive to me.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Chuck the Writer does a Photo Day at the Altamont Fair

"Which of these goats did you milk?"

The question seemed innocuous enough; I was photographing a person who was milking a dairy goat, when another voice shouted from the other side of the dairy goat enclosure.

"This one and Pam," the milker responded.



"You weren't supposed to milk Pam! She's supposed to be judged in an hour!!"

And with that, I learned - as a third party observing this whole battle - that one does not milk a dairy goat, thereby removing all definition from that goat's udders and frame, just before it is to be judged on its ability to produce milk.

That was just one of several stories I gathered while spending all day Sunday at the Altamont Fair, the local agrarian / amusement exhibition production. I decided to arrive as early as I possibly could, and stay as late as humanely possible - and photograph as much of the atmosphere and exhibits of the day.

The photo trip included visiting the various animal exhibits and demonstrations, the demolition derby, the safety demonstrations, and the traveling amusement park.

Of course, I made the STUPID decision to attempt this photo day on one of the hottest days this year, with a 91-degree temperature and partly cloudy atmosphere beating down on me. By noon, I was getting winded. By 2pm, I was drinking water and diet soda and wondering if I had just developed heat exhaustion or heat stroke. By the time I left the Fair at about 930pm, my head felt like Michael Flatley had put on a pair of football cleats and practiced a "Riverdance" routine on my skull. Ow... ow... ow...

Still, even with all that, I was able to get a great series of photos from the fair. Here's a slideshow:

And if anybody has some aspirin or linament to get rid of a sunburn that makes me look like a beet, I accept all donations... ow... oh my head... mercy...

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Chuck the Writer takes his chances with the New York State Fair

Yawn. Got in the Pontiac 6000 and headed off to Syracuse this morning, with two pictures in the back seat of the car.

While the Altamont Fair was a lot closer and at least displayed my artwork in their Fine Arts Building, I would be limited in the New York State Fair photography contest to two photographs - each one to be mounted on 16x20 foam board.

I arrived at the Harriet Mills Art Center on the State Fairgrounds campus, and as I unloaded the two foam-boarded photographs, I saw other people bringing in their own foam-boarded offerings - photos of bridges and kittens and sunsets.

I walked upstairs with my offerings, filled out the return postcards, added postage, attached the claim checks on each photo, and handed them to the fair volunteers who would catalog each entry.

"That's nice," she said as she received everyone's photo, most likely a noble sign of encouragement. "That's nice." "That's nice."

She took my photos. THe first one, my shot of Washington Park benches after dark, received the standard "That's nice."

Then she saw the second photo.

"That's n - oh my God, how did you get this photo?"

You mean this one??

Yes folks, it's the shot from last year's PBL playoff game between the Rochester Razorsharks and the Manchester Millrats. That's James "Mook" Reaves putting the ball in the hoop for Rochester, while his teammate Sammy Monroe (upper left), along with Sam Carey and Marlowe Currie from the Millrats, look on.

That's the one where I received permission from Blue Cross Arena in Rochester to photograph directly from the catwalk. I love catwalk action photographs, I've shot from the rafters at Centre Pierre-Charbonneau in Montreal, as well as from the upper balconies at Burlington Memorial Auditorium in Vermont.

On my way home from Syracuse, I thought about the response I received from the volunteer receiver. If she took a second look at the basketball photograph - maybe, just maybe, the judges will take a second look as well. And maybe, just maybe, I can pick up my first photography fair ribbon.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Chuck the Writer goes 0-for-4 at the Altamont Fair

The good news... all four of my photos are on display at the Fine Arts Building at the Altamont Fair.

The bad news... there isn't a single ribbon near any of them. :(

I'll just have to try harder next time. That's all there is to it!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Chuck the Writer Discovers the 1981 "Answers Please" Trivia Team has a New Perspective


One of my greatest high school achievements (hell, one of the greatest achievements I've ever pulled off) was when my high school, Street Academy, defeated three consecutive schools on WRGB's high-school quiz show, "Answers Please." Yep, a little inner-city school with about 100 students demolished Albany Academy, Keveny Academy of Cohoes and St. Mary's of Hoosick Falls.

Most of the focus, as far as I can remember of the event, was Street Academy's crushing defeat of the ultra-expensive private school Albany Academy for Boys. It was like the Washington Nationals no-hitting the Yankees in both halves of a doubleheader. By defeating Albany Academy 145-105, we got to return the next week and take on a new opponent, Keveny Academy of Cohoes.

Keveny was no match. We clobbered them 185-105, and then finished off St. Mary's of Hoosick Falls 150-60 to retire undefeated (a school could only play for three weeks maximum).

So it was with great surprise to me that, while puttering along the information superhighway, I came across these two posts - from one of the students at Keveny Academy, the second of the three schools we clobbered. I don't know which of the four kids he is in this YouTube clip

but I'm pretty sure he's still gripping about getting faced almost three decades ago.

Here's his first post from October 2007.

If you don't have time to click the links, let me give you the Reader's Digest version of this.

There was a time when I could shoot facts from the hip. I knew it all. Years of Full Contact Jeopardy and Extreme Trivial Pursuit with the siblings trained me to be a lean, mean, answer machine. Blurting out the correct answers becomes so easy when you practice under the gun. By under the gun I mean sisterly body slams and brotherly head locks for wrong or untimely answers.

I knew, way before 1981 arrived, I had to make the show. Eldest sister was on it. And there wasn't a chance in hell that I would let her stand on that achievement podium solo. When Jim Labate was looking for contestants for Answers Please, I eagerly signed my name. It was time to take my trivial skills to the big time.

It wasn't a huge turnout for the tryout. Maybe ten. Eyeballing the competition, I reminded myself, "Yeah, they can be smart. They could be quick. But smarter and quicker than me, no bleeping way." Hey and if all that fails, I still have a forty percent chance of getting on the tube ...

And that's the team. Cathy Tremblay, me, and two others I can't recall without consulting the archives (Sorry!). We're on our way! Full of promises of Tim Welch accolades and local media glory! Our opponent would be the E Street Academy. I privately told myself that victory would be achieved in short order.

You know what? It was.

We get to the studio and I'm checking out the competition. Muttering to myself, "Idiot. Dullard. Simpleton...wait a minute. WTF?"

And there he stood. Rail thin, Wally Cox glasses, and a speech impediment. He fits the profile.

I turn to Cathy and utter, not the first time nor the last, "We're screwed."

The game is on and your heroes answer the first question with ease. I think we skated on the team question as well. From the very next question and continuing on for the next twenty two minutes, that villain with the Coke bottle glasses ruined Cathy, mine, and the two nameless folk's shot at immortality! Damn you Coke bottle glasses! Damn you to hell!

Wally Cox knew everything. And he knew he knew everything. Tim couldn't finish a question. Wally interrupted him.
Tim: What is the capitol of...?
Wally: Montpelier.
Tim: That is correct. Who holds the record...?
Wally: Joe Dimaggio.
Tim: Correct. What speech...?
Wally: (yawning) The Gettysburg Address
Tim: That is amazing! And correct.

And so it goes. Forever playing in my mind. A nightmare where I can't get a word in edgewise. A fever dream where I futilely press my buzzer while Einstein across the studio has locked me out. Oh how unfair! Oh the humanity!

"E Street Academy"? Funny, I did not know my teammates were Max Weinberg, Clarence Clemons and Patti Sciafla.

Apparently, there's a follow-up.

I don’t know where to begin with the comments ... The dude doing the talking for the Street Academy is the guy who soundly thrashed us all by his lonesome. Memory is failing, but I think the three gals there were mutes.

As for the Keveny Fab Four, the less said the better. My rocking mop could only be eclipsed via some serious Afro action. Thank you George. It’s nice to be vindicated on my earlier claim that Ms. Tremblay has not and will never be seen without a smile. Rock on, Cathy! It all came back to me Saturday night why I couldn’t remember the last member of the team. I think, I’m not sure, young Jimmy there got stage fright. He looks very quietly spooked down there on the end.

Oh well, your narrator does appear to be a little hopped up. There’s one instance in the video where they show both teams in split screen (with our man Chuck buzzing with the correct answer). I’m sitting there, not quite unlike a moron, nodding my head, ready to push my fist through the dais. It can never be checked conclusively, but I’m pretty sure I am saying “Motherf*cker!” right there on camera.

It could have been worse... You could have gotten smoked 150-60 like St. Mary's of Hoosick Falls did.

That... and we got the trophy!!

Chuck the Writer finds an old photo of the Armory

Back about two cameras ago, when I was shooting with a Nikon CoolPix 800, I got up one Sunday morning and snapped this photograph of the Washington Avenue Armory in Albany. The castle-like structure at the corner of Washington and Lark Streets was once a working munitions depot and armament center, as well as the headquarters for New York's 9th National Guard Regiment.

Of course, sports fans know the Armory as a mecca for professional and college basketball games, going back to at least the 1920's with the Albany Senators. Siena played their home games in the Armory for a long time, so did the 1940's Albany Green Devils and the 1980's-2009 Albany Patroons. It's also been used as the home hoops haven for Bishop Maginn basketball, Schenectady County Community College hoops, and several high school tournaments.

I took this photo in 2005, just before the Armory underwent a major restoration and face lift. This was just before the Albany Patroons re-joined the Continental Basketball Association after a decade-long absence from the league.

At some point I will get a new photograph taken, to at least show the "before" and "after" view of the Armory.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Chuck the Writer Waits for News on "The Altamont Four"

The Altamont Fair just opened up.

Among all the agrarian and entertainment exhibits at the fairgrounds is a Fine Arts pavilion, where four of my photographs are on display, in competition with other photographers from the Capital Region.

Last Sunday, while I was at the Louis Saunders basketball tournament, a co-worker and friend of mine from the day job dropped off the four framed photographs for the competition.

I still don't know if any of them won or placed or showed or even received honorable mention ribbons. Yet.

So if anybody's going in that direction and happens to stop by the Fine Arts Building on the Altamont Fairgrounds and sees anything that looks like one of my pictures with a nice big ribbon or award attached to it... please hit me up?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Chuck the Writer Shoots a Basketball Charity Tournament and Pays His Respects as well

Saturday morning. Ian McCarthy, the GM of the PBL's Manchester Millrats basketball team, had previously sent a global e-mail about his team's participation in an upcoming charity / money basketball tournament, the 2nd annual Louis Saunders Memorial Basketball Tournament, being held in Roxbury, Mass.

Having just acquired my Nikon D700 last month (and my new Souldier camera strap last week), I needed to make sure the D700 could handle action shots as well as my D70 could - and without me having to fiddle with the settings during the PBL season. So I let Ian know that I would be attending the event, and after clearing photo access with event promoter James Hall, I found myself driving at the crack of morn to Madison Park High School in Roxbury, for the two-day event.

While the Millrats had several PBL veterans on their squad, including Desmond Ferguson, Al Stewart and Kenyon Gamble, the tournament had several other PBL players scattered throughout their teams, including Sam Carey (Manchester), David Bailey (Halifax), Q Randall (Montreal) and PJ Young (Manchester / Quebec). So it was a great chance for me to check back with everyone that I had photographed last year and see how they were doing and what they were up to and whether they would return to the PBL or update their passports for overseas teams.

I ended up shooting a TON of photos over the two-day event, and some of the best ones can be seen on this slideshow.

I should mention that the D700 has a continuous rapid-fire shutter that allows me, should the need arise, to take as many as five photos per second - perfect for those slam dunks, blocks out of nowhere, and the like. The D700 also allows me to continue shooting in JPG (I had switched between JPG and Nikon's RAW .NEF format last season, but post-processing in .NEF takes forever). Both my 80-200 F/2.8 telephoto and my 85mm F/1.8 performed like champions, and I got some swank swank shots, as you can see from above.

As for the tournament itself, Manchester advanced to the final round, after pulling through the semifinals in double-overtime against a squad whose roster included Glenn "Big Baby" Davis of the Boston Celtics. Dayng. But they could not beat a team called "Mission Hill," who captured their second consecutive title in the tournament.

For those of you who do not know Louis Saunders, I received a lot of knowledge from people at the event, who knew him and remembered him. Louis Saunders coached basketball and football, and many kids who were previously at risk for a life of despair found hope and encouragement and empowerment under his guidance and coaching. He is still missed in the community, and I am certainly sure that over the weekend he was watching the game and smiling down on all those who played and attended.

Sunday morning, however, before the second day of play, I made my own pilgrimage of a different kind.

My beloved grandmother, God rest her soul, is buried in a cemetery that borders Saugus and Melrose - literally on the town line itself. So that morning, I got on Route 1, turned left at the baseball / miniature golf course, drove past Lowe's, turned around in the parking lot of Town Line Tenpins, and arrived at the cemetery. A few private words and some quiet moments of reflection with my grandmother and my grandfather, a prayer, a stone left on each grave marker. My grandmother took care of me when others could not or chose not to, and her care and love and support is a debt I can never fully repay.

Oh, and one more thing. If you ever find yourself in Roxbury and you're hungry for breakfast, go to this diner called the Silver Slipper. Great breakfast food there, and they've got those old 1970's R&B jams playing in the background.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Chuck the Writer Shoots the Madison Theater

The Madison Theater is one of Albany's last neighborhood motion picture palaces (the Spectrum on Delaware Avenue is the other). Many of the other palaces in the Capital District have long since disappeared - the Strand and the Warner and the Ritz all were destroyed when downtown Albany was plowed over to build the Empire State Plaza; the Hellman became a medical office building; the Fox Colonie and the UA Center were repurposed for other uses; the Petit Cine 1-2 became a used car dealership; the Cine 1-10 is an abandoned building behind Northway Mall; the Mohawk Drive-In is now an office park... you get the picture.

That almost became the fate of the Madison; for many years it was the last single-screen cinema in the area, which meant that if the film wasn't a blockbuster you were playing to a house of empty seats. It closed down in the mid-1990's. A few years later, someone purchased the Madison, re-opened it as the Norma Jean Theater (with the "Madison" marquee still affixed atop the sign), and carved the Madison into five mini-cinemas. The place was profitable for a time, then it was shut down again.

Around 2002, a friend of mine, Jay Pregent, and his partners, purchased the Madison and currently run it as an independent 7-screen movie theater. They show the regular classics, as well as some documentaries and other family fare. During the summer, they're even showing some Bollywood films.

So last Saturday night I took the D700 out to shoot the Madison, and even got some of those cool red trailing lights from the cars traveling along Madison Avenue. Sweet.

Chuck the Writer Discovers Price Chopper AdvantEDGE fuel card loophole and exploits it

I'm really not a fan of Price Chopper's AdvantEDGE program. In order to get any sort of a discount at their stores, you have to acquire an AdvantEDGE shopping card, which then gets swiped when you purchase items. You get a discount, but that AdvantEDGE card tracks your purchases - which, I suspect, then get reported to advertisers and insurance companies and whatnot. You wonder why your health insurance rates went up? Maybe it's because Price Chopper snitched on you for buying that carton of Winstons.

So about two months ago, Price Chopper added a new wrinkle to their AdvantEDGE program. For every $50 you spent with your AdvantEDGE card, you could get 10c/gallon off your purchase of gasoline at any participating Sunoco stations. There is no limit to the amount of discount you can achieve - you spend $500 and you can get $1.00/gallon off your fillup.

So, after begrudgingly acquiring an AdvantEDGE card, I tried a little experiment.

One morning, I saw a woman with about two full grocery carts up at the register. The cashier was ringing everything out, and I walked up to the woman and offered her the use of my AdvantEDGE card - she accepted, and she ended up with the discounted purchase, while I ended up with 40c/gallon off my next fuel purchase!

Hey, this thing might actually work in my favor. Not only will I get the fuel at a discount, but the computers tracking my purchases will get more scrambled than an egg in a blender. "Wait, the customer is purchasing cigarettes AND nicotine patches? He's buying black coffee AND decaf? He's buying diapers AND condoms? HELP!!!"

Well, this scheme worked for about a week. I made sure to ask the customer beforehand, in case they had their own AdvantEDGE card (don't want to take their fuel money away), and if they needed a card, I was only too happy to volunteer mine.

As I said, it worked for about a week. Then one day, I went in and saw someone with a ton of groceries and trying to ring everything out. I offered my AdvantEDGE card to the customer, he accepted. The cashier, however, looked at me as if I had insulted his mother.

"Sir, you can't use your AdvantEDGE card for someone else's groceries."

"Why not?" I asked. "When I didn't have an AdvantEDGE card before, the cashier either swiped their own store card or they asked someone in the line."

"You can't do that any more, sir."

Now the customer was getting miffed. "Why can't he do that? Why can't I get a discount for my purchases?"

"You have to get your own card, sir."

"I don't want my own card. Why can't I use his?"

"Then he gets the fuel points and you don't."

"So what? You mean to tell me you're going to make me pay $20-$25 for more for my food just because a good Samaritan isn't allowed to help me out?"

"That's right, sir."

I could see where this was going. The Price Chopper cashier probably caught hell from someone about "We need to make sure we track what purchases these people are doing," and he decided it was time to lay down the law.

Rather than cause an international incident, the customer and I agreed that this Price Chopper cashier was a tool; the customer finished his purchase, and we both left.

Eventually I had a discussion about this with a Price Chopper store manager, who informed me that yes, they didn't want people sharing their AdvantEDGE cards because it wasn't "in the spirit" of the promotion with Sunoco and the fuel discounts. However, he did give me a special one-time use 50c/gallon discount card for my troubles with the cashier, and said he would speak to the cashier about the appropriate way to handle future situations.

So what have we learned from this adventure?

1. When you get your AdvantEDGE card from Price Chopper, fill out the information with an intentional mispelling - i.e., if your last name is Schmidt, spell it as "Schmit" on the application. That way, when you get junk mail addressed to "Schmit," you can go back to Price Chopper and demand the reasons why they sold your name to a marketing company, and show them the proof.

2. If you want to share your AdvantEDGE card, make sure you do it in the morning when the lines aren't very long, and only do it if the person isn't reaching for their own AdvantEDGE card out of their purse or wallet. Don't just swipe your card on their purchase without asking first.

3. Look for sympathetic cashiers; don't give the cashier a hard time. Not every cashier is a tool; many cashiers are hard-working individuals who like to be treated with respect, and will reciprocate that same respect back.

And if all else fails...

4. Shop at Hannaford or Save-A-Lot, where the prices are much lower and you don't hvae to deal with customer loyalty cards.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Chuck the Writer Completes Work on "Project 3"

I still can't believe I put this together.

I also still can't believe I didn't think of this sooner.

A little background.

I've covered the Vocal Group Hall of Fame inductions since the first one was held in 1998. In 2001, I started taking pictures along with my written coverage, both for Goldmine and Billboard magazines.

Last week, while puttering around through flickr, I discovered that Flickr had a partner company called Blurb, a company that could produce high-quality bound books.

So I thought about it ... and thought about it ... and decided that I would test out this Blurb software by creating a book containing the photographs I took of the inductions and concerts of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.

First issue I needed to cover was to look through my archive and see if I could find the original DVD's that contained the source materials - my photographs. I also needed to make sure that the photos were of halfway decent quality (the first three years I covered the inductions with a Nikon CoolPix 800, the last few inductions were shot with my Nikon D70). Then, I needed to sort through the photos and pick the best of the best.

I decided that since I was most likely going to be paying for the publishing of this book myself, I would keep costs as low as I could - this book would be 7" by 7" (the same size as a 45 RPM record jacket), and would have 60 pages. Some artists I never got a chance to photograph (someone else took photos in the early inductions), other artists I didn't have the best quality photographs, etc.

But what I did have was some magic and rare photographs - bandmembers reuniting for the first time in nearly a generation. Groups giving their last recorded performance before the final surviving original vocalist retires or gets called to Glory. All-star jams featuring a blend of girl-groups or gospel harmonies or doo-wop elegance.

This morning, I put the finishing touches on "The Vocal Group Hall of Fame, Volume 1." I'm going to spend the next couple of days proofing it (and sending a digital copy to the Vocal Hall for review). Then up to the Blurb online printing company it goes. And then we go from there.

"Project 3" was chosen as a code name because it symbolized what would be my third published book. It would also be the first book in which I had complete autonomous control over the content, the photos and the text. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book, after publishing costs, will be designated for the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. Am I going to sell a million copies? Probably not. But this is a boutique project, and I know that the people who would be interested in purchasing this book will be appreciative of music, vocal harmony and classic pop and soul.

The hard part is done. Other than proofreading and confirming that everything is where it's supposed to be, I've got my third book in the pipeline and it should be printed and bound very very soon.

Damn... this feels good...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Chuck the Writer Receives Inspiration and begins "The Project 3"

It was more than ten years ago when Greg Loescher, the editor of the music magazine Goldmine, recommended my name to his publishing company as a writer for a new line of music collector's guides.

My first guide, Warman's American Records 1950-2000, was an instant hit (the "Warman" was Eliot Warman, the author of an antiques collectibles guide; the publishing company branded his name on several different collectibles guides, similar to Hoyle authoring several books on card-playing games). Between that book and its 2004 sequel, I sold over 10,000 copies - a respectable number for a trade publication.

I also embarked on a self-promoted "Warman's World Tour," which involved me setting up book signings at various Borders and Barnes & Noble bookstores throughout the Northeastern United States (and a few Chapters bookstores in Canada).

While the thrill of being a published author is still a wonderful feeling, there were factors that eventually caused me to leave Goldmine and the publishing company, factors that I will choose not to repeat in this blog.

Flash forward to July 28, 2009 - and more specifically, last night.

As I'm drifting off to sleep, my subconscious mind starts thinking about those books, and how much excitement I felt in creating the text, rustling up the photographs of rare and expensive recordings, and the excitement of seeing the volumes in print. Would I ever go back to that publisher and do it all again? Not a chance, I mutter to myself as I start to drift into dreamland.

But then inspiration hits.

Who says I can't put together my own book - in this age of self-publication and online publishing companies, what's to stop me from assembling a new book on an entirely different topic? Maybe not music collecting, per se, but something involving materials I've created in the past?

All I have to do is rustle up the materials - if I stored them in the proper archival location - and maybe, just maybe, if all the stars are aligned properly, I might be able to put something of my own together.

And at that moment, I drifted off to sleep.

They say that our dreams are vibrant while we are asleep, but that once we awake, we only remember a small fragment of those dreams. At 3:00 a.m. I woke up. Those fragments were still there in my mind.

I quickly went from my bedroom to my home office and checked my archive discs.

Both DVD storage discs were still accessible and contained all the materials I needed.

This morning, I began work on what I will now refer to as "The Project 3."

Wish me luck.

I may need it.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Chuck The Writer Shoots the Waterfalls at Poestenkill Gorge

Of the four photos I wanted to submit to the Altamont Fair photo competition, one of the quartet just didn't grab me. Try as I might, I could not get a decent capture of the Oakwood Cemetery waterfall without climbing down a very unsafe ravine.

I wanted another waterfall shot, if for no other reason than I used the title I had originally assigned to the Oakwood Cemetery waterfall shot - "Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls" (Psalms 42:7) for the title of the photo - I needed another waterfall shot, without having to traipse all the way over to Buffalo.

What to do ... what to do ...

Solution - Last year I purchased a book that was written by the Rensselaer County Land Trust, and it featured hundreds of locations throughout the area. I ended up choosing the waterfalls at Poestenkill Gorge, right in the heart of Troy.

Saturday afternoon - sun was beating down like crazy, the UV index must have been above infinity. I had to climb down a very rocky and uneven path, until I came to the base of the Poestenkill Gorge. And staring right up at me was the waterfall, cascading over dark black shale rock.

Up with the tripod. Out with the D700. And with all five of my lenses, and with the nerve of someone willing to stand on the last semi-anchored rock with a $3,000 camera and hard-to-replace lenses, I got some fantastic shots of the waterfall. Although the trend now is to get rivers and waterfalls with long exposures, to give them a mystical, otherworldly look, I chose instead for an instant capture, with the goal of expressing the power of the waterfall as it splashed on the rocks.

So this photo - along with my captures of the RCA dog statue in downtown Albany, the D&H railroad bridge in Slingerlands, and the midnight shot of the park benches at Washington Park in Albany - will be my entries for the Altamont Fair photo contest.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Chuck the Writer Gears Up for June 2010

I've had a love-hate relationship with Hamilton College. There were times when it was the most wonderful place in the world, and there were times when I felt like I was as out of place as the second trombone in a string quartet.

But over time, I've mellowed in my appreciation for the college. Two years ago, I sat transfixed to the TV set as the Hamilton College women's lacrosse team beat Franklin & Marshall on the CBS College Sports network, winning the NCAA Div III lacrosse title, Hamilton's first NCAA championship award.

I've returned for the 5th, 15th and 20th reunions (missed the 10th for reasons that completely escape me right now), and for the 20th I even hosted an Alumni College event (when former students return to the campus and show what they've learned).

Sometimes on long drives through the New York State Thruway, I'll absent-mindedly switch my radio dial to 88.7 and listen for about half an hour to WHCL, the college radio station. And on occasion, I'll even stop at the college and pick up a souvenir shirt or watch a basketball game on campus.

Next year my 25th reunion at the college will take place. This is a significant milestone, without a doubt. I'm hoping to host another alumni college, I'm hoping to meet up with old friends, and I'm hoping that any painful memories I had from my time at old Ham Tech are completely erased by the positives out there.

The 2010 reunion is less than a year away. If I'm going to do an alumni college, I'd better get started on the project right now. As opposed to pulling an all-nighter and cramming like crazy - which is how I got through most of my classes at old Ham Tech.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Chuck the Writer is Getting Into CTRL

There's a new web-based 5-minute TV series, produced by NBC, called CTRL.

Here's a link to the episodes via Hulu.

The show is based on a 2008 Sundance film festival entry, in which a nebbish office worker discovers that, thanks to an accident involving spilled tea on his computer keyboard, now gives him the power to control life with the same control-function keys as used on the stained keyboard. [CTRL]+[Z] sends him back in time (a few minutes per keystroke), while [CTRL]+[B] initiates the "Bold" function - not to bolden the characters, but to make him more bold and assertive.

Of course, this is a comedy, so nothing on the keyboard goes exactly as planned. Sort of like the old joke about the guy staring at the magic mirror and saying, "Make my lovemaking equipment so long that it reaches the floor," and suddenly his legs disappear.

But it is worth watching, so take a look and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Chuck the Writer Assists on a New Writing Project

Robert Bradley is an expert in the history of professional basketball. He's the head person behind the Association for Professional Basketball Research, an organization similar to the SABR people who chart baseball's history.

So when he contacted me the other day and asked if I had any information on the Continental Basketball Association standings for his upcoming book project, and if I could help him out...

I couldn't pull up my statistical data fast enough.

I was able to get him the standings for the last ten years of the CBA, and then followed that up with statistics from the United States Basketball League, the Premier Basketball League, the Eastern Pro League - and this morning, I e-mailed him the scores from the 1947 New York State Pro League semifinal playoff round between the Albany Red Devils and the Cohoes Mastodons. And you think today's team names are goofy??


This is what research is for. It's similar to tracking your family tree, discovering your genealogy. Only in my case, it's involving the rediscovery of professional sports that had long since passed into the mists of the diaspora.

Just for example, here's a piece I wrote on Barney Sedran and Marty Friedman, the "Heavenly Twins," two basketball stars from the early history of pro hoops. In fact, at 5'4", Barney Sedran is the shortest professional player ever inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Chuck the Writer loves this song "United Breaks Guitars" by Sons of Maxwell

This is absolutely funny. And it's great. And it's ironic.

Here's the deal.

This musician, Dave Carroll, from the band Sons of Maxwell, was on tour and was waiting for his United flight to take off, when a passenger on that plane looked out the window and said that the plane loading crew were tossing guitars in the air. Apparently one of the guitars that was being tossed - and later damaged and broken - was Carroll's acoustic guitar.

He spent some time trying to get United to fix it, and went from call center to phone jail to runaround.

However, Mr. Carroll didn't let it stop there.

He wrote a song about it.

And he made a video for it

And he shows off his busted guitar in the video.

And I'm posting it right here because I want you to watch this - it's just that great!

And don't get me wrong - I'll fly United more than I would any other airline (and my wife, who loves Southwest, thinks I'm nuts for my brand loyalty), but if United ever damaged my camera equipment in transit, I better get some replacement and not just measly $50 travel voucher!

Go Dave Carroll! Power to the people!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Chuck the Writer FINALLY GOT THE D700!!!!

I scrimped. I saved. I went without.

But on Friday, I was able to finally realize my goal.


From 2005 to the present, I worked with a Nikon D70 camera. I actually purchased this camera to replace my Nikon Coolpix 800, which I had owned since maybe 1999. At the time, the Albany Patroons were coming back to the CBA, and the camera I had just wouldn't work with action photography. So I bought a D70 from my local Ritz Camera and went from there.

Since then, I've used the D70 for four CBA seasons and two Premier Basketball League seasons, and have captured maybe 30,000 photos over that span of time. I also used it for various nature and outdoors photography.

But over time, I saw that my D70 wasn't as powerful a camera as I originally thought. I couldn't get the ISO above 800 without lots of grain. The kit lens that came with the D70 was barely adequate for my needs. In other words - I could go up to bat and hit a single, maybe a double, but the other batters were hitting home runs.

I had fantasized about acquiring Nikon's top-of-the-line D3 camera, but where the hell was I going to come up with $5,000?

Last year, however, out came Nikon's successor camera - the D700. It had the huge FX sensor like the D3, I could crank the ISO up to above 6400 (and maybe higher), and all my lenses would be completely compatible, meaning I didn't need to invest thousands in lens replacement.

The D700 retails for $3,000. Still way out of my price range.

But then came a Nikon rebate. That dropped the price to $2,700.

Then B&H Photo in New York City offered a D700 for $2,000 - factory reconditioned.

After a couple of calls to B&H to guarantee that the camera would be there, I hopped a Greyhound bus and rode down to New York City. I had to hurry - not only was it 4th of July weekend and I wanted to photograph the fireworks at the Empire State Plaza, I had to get to B&H before the place closed at 2pm. For those not aware of this, B&H is predominantly operated by Satmar Hasidim, and that means no work on Shabbat. So the place closes at 2pm and doesn't open back up until Sunday morning.

Got down there. Traded in my F/1.4 lens that I never use. Handed over whatever cash I had squirreled away. And all that, plus some wiggle room on one of my credit cards, and the salesperson opened up a cabinet, pulled out a box that said RECONDITIONED NIKON D700 and put it in a basket. "The only thing you won't like about this camera," he said to me, "is you won't want to stop using it."

Well if that's the only caveat...

Rode back home on the Greyhound. Poured through the operations manual like I was cramming for a midterm final.

On Saturday morning, I tested four of my five lenses on the D700. My F/1.8 action lens worked great. So did my E-series F/1.8, my Kiev wide-angle and my Kiev Fisheye. Even though the latter three weren't computer-based lenses with CPU connections, the D700 has a special command that allows the user to input data about those lenses so that the camera can meter properly. Wow...

Saturday evening. 9:15 pm, I'm on the roof of the Eagle Street parking garage, armed with my new D700, the Kiev fisheye lens, and the cheap-ass Quantaray tripod that I always fear is going to topple over in a stiff breeze.

So did my new camera pass the test?

You tell me....

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Chuck the Writer's Latest Trivia Target - the Sea Unit

Competitive team trivia is just that - competitive. Everybody talks trash before the event starts, we all cheer if we get the right answer, we all grumble when the answer is horribly wrong, and in the end we congratulate the winning team, chat for a while, and go home.

Unfortunately, in the four-plus years I've played competitive team trivia, there have been a few sour apples that have really made team trivia less of a fun event and more of a grit-your-teeth-and-hope-the-guy-isn't-parked-near-your-car-afterward event.

Don't get me wrong - I talk trash just as much as anyone else. And if the host says that "Street Academy" is in the lead, and I hear a chorus of boos and groans, that's respect, man.

Unfortunately, some teams mistake respect for taunting.

With that, I'll introduce you to Dave. Dave is the captain of a trivia team originally called "See You Next Tuesday," and is now known as "C-Unit." For purposes of delicate sensibilities, I will rebrand that team as the "Sea Unit," rather than promote their purile pubic pecadilloes.

If Dave's team gets in the lead, he'll come over and start talking trash in the middle of the game at me. "We got you beat, Street Academy! You can't beat us, Street Academy!"

Hmm... A team of one (me) against a team of four or five (them).

I first met Dave's team over at Old Chicago, when his team scored a victory one week. I half-jokingly suggested they might have called a friend to get the answer, and Dave flew into a rage. "I had that answer, Street Academy, I knew that answer, you didn't know it, get over it!"

Oh... kay...

A couple of weeks later, I ran into the team at a trivia game at Recovery Room. I was in the lead at that time. Dave comes over to my table, and starts trying to chat me up - and while he's talking, he's helping himself to the french fries on my plate!

We talked afterward about keeping some decorum, and he agreed to tone it down.

That was until last night.

I was in second place, with a chance for the win, and the final question was "Strom Thurmond once ran as a third party candidate in an election that saw which person elected President?"

I didn't know the answer, so I was trying to calculate how old Strom Thurmond would have been to have been considered a successful candidate for a presidential election. Meanwhile, Dave runs up, slaps his answer slip on the host's table, and then starts shouting across the bar at me, "I got the answer, Chuck, you don't have the answer do you, or else you'd have brought it up already, I got the answer!"

Which completely threw my train of thought off the track. I calculated that Strom Thurmond, who was so old Methusulah once called him Pops, would have been a successful candidate in the late 1940's or mid-1950's, so that would have been either Truman or Eisenhower. I hedged my bet and figured he might have been in one of the two Eisenhower elections.

No such luck. It was Truman. So I lost the $50 bar tab - and the grand prize that night, which involved tickets to a Def Leppard/Poison/Cheap Trick concert at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

So at this point, Dave and the Sea-Unit team are now on my shit list. You better have your "A" game every time I see your team at trivia, because rest assured, I don't care if I come in 19th in a field of 20 teams - as long as your squad is in 20th place right behind me.

Or worse - in 21st.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Chuck the Writer's First Day on Facebook

Normally, when I received invitations to join Facebook, I dismissed them as unrequested spam - especially when it was tagged as "your friend wants you to join..." without mentioning who my "friend" was.

Be that as it may, today was a surprise. I received ten different facebook requests - and all of them came from people I knew from working with the Premier Basketball League.

Ten people from the PBL - that can't be a coincidence.

So I decided - what the hell - let's give Facebook a trial run. Worst thing that could happen - I shut it off in six months.

But suddenly I realized that there were a tonload of PBL people on the board - owners and coaches and players and fans. And some of them even had my photographs on their homepage (and I know you've got my photo on your profile, Sam Carey! :) )!

One of the reasons I didn't initially join Facebook was because of the horrible experiences I had with MySpace. I always felt like MySpace was designed for the X-generation and not for the baby boomers like me. So I'm going to keep an eye on things regarding facebook. And I'm going to leave it to just "friend" my professional and sports contacts.

But I swear on a stack of floppy discs ... I ain't going to join twitter. Forget that.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Chuck the Writer's thoughts on the passing of Michael Jackson

First off, thoughts and prayers go to the entire Jackson family.

During my years writing for Goldmine, I never did an interview with Michael Jackson or with the Jackson family, although I did meet Jackson's father Joe Jackson when the Jackson Five were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame (not much of a meeting, more like a "hi, how are you" kind of thing).

But during the time I did write for the music collector's biweekly, I did interview several people who either worked with Jackson, were influenced by Jackson, or in some cases parodied Jackson's work.

Here's some quotes:

From my Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff article (Gamble and Huff were the top R&B producers of the 1970's, working with the O'Jay's, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, the Three Degrees and the Intruders)

In 1976, Detroit and Philadelphia met as one when the Jacksons entered 309 South Broad Street for the first of two Gamble-Huff produced albums. "Epic (Records) asked us if we wanted to produce the Jacksons," said Gamble. "In reality, we were trying to sign the Jacksons ourselves to our own label. No question we were trying to do that. But CBS had deeper pockets than ours. Those songs were released on a combined label, that's the first time they ever did that. The house band, MFSB, that played on that first album. The Jacksons didn't play, they just sang on the album."

"I think Tito played on one thing," replied Huff, "maracas or something like that. He did play on a couple of the things they did for themselves. They did cut a couple of songs on that album."

"It was a whole new world for all of them. They came into our world, Philly International was a different environment for them. They were welcome to participate in the production, they produced a couple of songs on their albums, so they had a lot more freedom here. It was trying times for them too, because Jermaine had just left the group, they were going through just a little bit of controversy there. Me and Huff, we had the songs for them, and that's the easy part. Getting in the studio and getting the right songs. I enjoyed working with Michael, because he had his own ideas about how he wanted himself to sound."

"Michael made our job a little eaiser. He was very clever. Plus, he could sing."
In 1996, I put together an interview with the members of Earth Wind and Fire. Here's Verdine White's comments about the state of music video broadcast channels:

In 1983, Earth Wind & Fire released the "Electric Universe" album. It was also their last release for four years. "The whole scene was changing," said Verdine. "There was an explosion of video artists. At that time, MTV wasn't playing black artists - the only black artists they played at that time were Michael Jackson, Lionel Ritchie and Prince. There was BET to play black videos, but they didn't have the same money behind MTV. It hurt a lot of those groups, because the audience didn't know who those groups were, and they only knew about groups that had the visibility. Rick James was the first black artist to really bitch about MTV, and he was right at the time. They were playing acts that hadn't had hit records, and he had hits at the time."
And finally, here's some comments taken from a Goldmine cover story I wrote on "Weird Al" Yankovic:

By 1984, Yankovic and his band were working on a new album, Weird Al Yankovic in 3-D [Scotti Bros./Rock n' Roll 39221]. The last song recorded for that album was a parody of Michael Jackson's rock hit "Beat It" as an ode to omnivorism, "Eat It." Getting permission from the King of Pop to make fun ofone of his biggest hits wouldn't be easy, but Yankovic gave it a try. [Yankovic's manager] Jay Levey contacted Jackson's representatives, and told them what he wanted. A few days later, Levey received a call back - the representatives said Michael Jackson gave his permission, thinking Yankovic's idea was good for a laugh.

"Eat It" became Yankovic's first Top 40 hit, peaking at #12, and winning a Grammy for Best Comedy Recording. The song's accompanying music video featured Al making fun of Michael Jackson's own video, turning Jackson's original "West Side Story" music video rumble into an all-out food fight (and eventually won an American Music Award trophy for Best Male Performance). Rick Derringer even added his own wacky take on Eddie Van Halen's "guest-starring" guitar solo. "If we are parodying this whole thing," said Derringer, "then my contribution as a soloist at that point would certainly be a parody of Eddie's. And that's what I tried to do, and that's why we blew up the guitar at the end of the video. Our version culminated in the guitar player whipping himself in such a frenzy that he exploded. Jim West did the solo in the video, but that's my guitar solo on the soundtrack."

By 1988, Yankovic adapted another King of Pop hit, rewriting Jackson's "Bad" into "Fat."

"I met Michael Jackson twice in person, and both times they were very brief. Once I went to a TV shoot that he was doing, and I got to talk to him briefly after that. He mentioned that he really enjoyed my movie UHF, and the fact that he would play it at his theater at the Neverland Ranch, and guests got a kick out ofit. And another time I was backstage at a Michael Jackson concert, and I presented him with a gold album for Even Worse (the album containing "Fat") and had my picture taken with him - and whoever took the picture had their camera stolen, so I never got that photo. In retrospect, I'm not sure that's the kind of thing that Michael Jackson really appreciated, another gold album for the pile."

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Chuck the Writer - TWO MORE AWARDS WON!!

Well, your man is happy. Very happy. Way happy.

I submitted two articles for the 2008 International Automotive Media Awards, and this afternoon I found out the final total.

"Diecast Dreams," the article from RoadKing, won a bronze medal in the magazines-entertainment category.

"Redlines, Orange Tracks and Blue Streaks," the article from Toy Collector Magazine, picked up the GOLD MEDAL in the internet-entertainment category!

Two big awards to add to the collection!

As can be seen here, I am celebrating my awards with Elaine Haessner, the person in charge of the International Automotive Media Awards. My sincere thanks to the IAMA's and their parent company, the International Society for Vehicle Preservation. I had a fantastic time at the awards, and I look forward to writing new articles that, in the future, might also earn similar recognition.

Oh... and after the awards, I had to do a little celebrating.

Because right next to my Red Roof hotel - was a chain restaurant featuring chicken wings, beer, and various other bar delicacies.

In fact... I got two of their "delicacies" to pose with me and my winning awards!!

And talk about stepping into the wayback machine - this Hooter's was having a competitive trivia night, something along the lines of "Are You Smarter Than a Hooters Girl?"

Of course I won. Come on. It's competitive bar trivia. You might as well ask Jack Nicholson if he ever did any acting in his career.

But in any case... I'm celebrating, baby! Two more awards for the Chuck Miller Creative Writing Service!

Chuck the Writer's Award Day: 7am, LaGuardia Airport

The flight out from Albany to LaGuardia Airport was on a DeHavilland turboprop. Just what I need. Last time I flew on a turboprop, my wife and I were going to my daughter Cassaundra's high school graduation in Seattle, and the flight required a connecting flight from Albany International to Newark Liberty - hence the turboprop. Of course, we hit a ton of turbulence, and I'm going through every prayer I can remember, while my wife is going "Whee, what fun!" like she's doing her third run on the Comet at the Great Escape.


After I got in my seat on the plane, someone else asked if I could switch with them so that they could sit with a member of their party. I graciously agreed, and ended up sitting in one of the "exit" aisles. So now I had to pay attention to how to take the exit door off in case of an emergency - and this was LaGuardia Airport, where that plane crashed into the water a few months ago.

No matter - the flight was uneventful if a little turbulent, and after receiving a great overhead view of the '64 World's Fair globe, Arthur Ashe Stadium and Citi Field, the plane landed safely at LaGuardia International Airport.

But what they didn't tell me was that in order to get to my next connecting flight, I actually had to leave the terminal (US Airways) and walk 15 minutes to the main terminal for the next flight (American Eagle). Which meant I had to haul my gear 15 minutes in the muggy morning, and then go through another TSA security checkpoint. Everything in the basket. Back through the X-ray machine. And then down what looked like a subway corridor to the C terminals.

Interestingly, before you go through the terminals there are tons of high-end restaurants. In the C terminal, however, you get your dining choice of Auntie Anne's, Au Bon Pain or Hudson News. Not exactly Jack's Oyster House or Coulsons' News.

So I've got a couple of hours to kill before my next flight. So far so good.

Chuck the Writer's Award Day: 445am, Albany International Airport

I've learned over the years how to fly light. Throw all my clothes into one carry-on bag (my commemorative Albany Patroons gym bag), pack my camera and a couple of lenses into the camera bag, and pack the laptop. The camera bag goes (hopefully) into the overhead compartment, while the laptop goes under my airplane seat.

As for going through the security gates, I've learned that everything needs to go into a scanning bucket. Everything means wristwatches, rings, keys, loose change, belts and glasses. Then I walk through the X-ray machine and hopefully don't hear any sort of BEEP that would require a more invasive search by the TSA.

In this case, the only thing the cute TSA security guard said to me was, "I like your necktie." I was actually wearing my ripple-rainbow tie, one of my personal favorites. I thanked her and asked her to wish me luck for today.

In a few minutes, I'll be boarding a DeHavilland turboprop with about 40 orange-shirted members of a church ministries group, all bound for Mexico. This way, I figure that if I do my usual pre-flight routine of reciting the 23rd Psalm as the plane takes off, I'll have a group of people who can help me out if I forget some of the words.

Next stop - LaGuardia International Airport in NYC.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Chuck the Writer's Award Day: 230am, Albany

I can't sleep.

I've tried everything - soothing music, a cold drink, the knowledge that I won't ever have sextuplets just for the benefit of exploiting them on national television - but I can't sleep.

I've got everything packed for my trip to Detroit for the International Automotive Media Awards. My flight has been confirmed, my rental car is at the parking lot, my free room at Red Roof is all set to go (this is why I use their loyalty plan, stay a few nights at a Red Roof and you get a free stay).

I don't know if it's the anticipation of hopefully winning something at the IAMA's, or if it's that pre-Christmas Day excitement of hoping that whatever you've hinted for with your parents has actually come through in the end, all wrapped up and stuffed underneath the pine needle-dripping tree.

I know the award is for one of two car-themed articles I wrote last year - either for "Diecast Dreams," a feature article in RoadKing magazine, or for "Redlines, Orange Track and Blue Streaks," a cover story for Toy Collector Magazine. I just don't know which article received the award, or if both of them did - and if so, what level of award did I earn. Was it bronze, silver or gold? And if it was gold, did it eventually win best of division - and if so, did it win best of 2008?

I'm still kinda sweating it out. Hopefully, however, this trip to Detroit will be beneficial. Wish me luck. I'll post updates throughout the day.