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Fair Fun And Fair Wishes Reviewed…

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Between my back pain and the heat, my wife and I still had a very good time at the New York State Fair this year. Although walking was a chore, we got around to see what we wanted to see, even if I didn’t get my chance to touch a pig this year, which was my goal last year as well, because it was the day of the horse, and horses and I don’t get along.

20140830_122745 Before I get into my thoughts and what I did at the Fair, I’d like to quickly review a post I wrote in April regarding 5 things I wish would change at the Fair and whether any of them happened. Let’s see…

1. There was one major thing at the Fair that was pretty neat. A company called Victory Lifts, the people who created chairs that could carry people up and down the steps when they couldn’t walk it safely anymore came up with something else that was pretty cool that they exhibited. It’s a clear small elevator that’s either made of plastic or fiberglass, and though you’d have to stand in it instead of sitting down, it will get you upstairs much quicker and you can carry things easier also. They were giving kids free rides up and down, though it didn’t take them too far up since they had to cap its size but I could see the benefits of this bad boy. I could only see one negative, that being what if it stopped and left you somewhere in the middle, as there was no alarm pad. However, there might be one that they didn’t need at the Fair; I don’t really know. Still, it was cool and something new.

20140830_1305432. There was a greater mix of music this year, even if I missed it all. Having Journey and Cheap Trick playing is a major coup as far as I’m concerned, and my Twitter feed blew up when Bell Biv Devoe played at Chevy Court; yup, I was feeling some jealousy as that’s the day I went, but my back just couldn’t handle it all. Attendance was up throughout the Fair, and that was before Monday’s dollar deal.

3. I still don’t know if they advertised the animals all that well, although I wasn’t in town to go any earlier than the final Saturday. I do know that the program we got when we went through the gate didn’t mention any special events, and the only thing I saw while walking around was calf birthing… no thanks! lol

20140830_131327(0)4. I missed the Dairy building this year and it wasn’t until hours later when I was at home that I remembered it; oy! I still don’t know what the butter sculpture was; now that’s a shame. I liked the flower displays this year in the Horticulture building but I still wanted to see more; maybe I’m just greedy.

5. There were some basketball players there on Saturday but I didn’t know any of them; that’s sad. I know that there were some celebrities who showed up this year, one being this lady from the Food Network (I don’t know who she is) but otherwise, my request for more New York celebs wasn’t met I don’t believe. I think this would be a very wise move… maybe next year.

20140830_132041General impressions… it was hot! lol Actually, it’s pretty amazing that central New York is home to many of the fried “whatevers” that were everywhere this year. This included the one and only Twinkie stuffed with a Twix bar and wrapped in bacon that there was no way I was trying this year. One thing I’ve learned is that every booth offering these types of things has their own batter for frying them in and last year when I tried something I was greatly disappointed because of that fact. Still, I almost pulled the trigger on the Oreo sandwich with the Reese’s peanut butter cup in the middle, but instead stuck with getting an apple dumpling with a scoop of ice cream, since I missed out on that last year.

20140830_122804I loved this year’s sand sculpture in the Center of Progress building, all about Dr. Seuss and his many characters, and think it was one of the best ever. Maybe if I could have gotten that back massage I’d have been better off but there was a long waiting list both there and in the building with the quilts and such (what is the name of that building anyway?) and I didn’t want to wait for any of it. If there was one disappointment it was in the corner where fudge has always been sold and where they were always making more, which I always enjoyed seeing, but this year they were just selling and not making and maybe I got there late overall because they didn’t have much to sell. So, for the first time in maybe 10 years I didn’t get any fudge, which made my wife happy.

20140830_131609As always I loved seeing the quilts and the images, but I missed out on the trains, if they had them. I also skipped the dinosaur exhibit but overheard a guy telling his son that he’d make sure the dinosaurs didn’t eat him as the boy was pulling away and crying; nope, that kid wasn’t going in there. My wife walked through all the tents selling stuff and walked through the Indian Village at the beginning, but I didn’t know there was supposed to be a new look to the Midway until I got home and, sad to say, we missed it. No rides for me ever, but this year there was one where two people got into a ball and were slingshot into the air, like a reverse bungee, and I have to admit that was pretty cool to see but my back would have broken; sigh…

We made it almost 2 1/2 hours before we decided to head out before it really got hot and crowded, but I’ll just say there was plenty to see and leave it at that; ouch! I hope next year I’m home for the early part of the Fair because I must touch that pig, or something else exotic… and I don’t mean those nasty butterflies! :-) Good job NY Fair people!  

Local Traveling Art Shows

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A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of being invited to go to an art show at the Spark Contemporary Art Space at 1005 E Fayette St, which just happens to be across the street from Collins Barber Shop, where I’ve been going for haircuts for almost 39 years; small world. One of the pictures below will show what it looks like on the outside; very cool.

20140613_201833The guy who set it up and invited me was Isaac Bidwell, who I’ve interviewed twice on this blog, who’s an artist in his own right, and had a few pieces he was exhibiting at this show. It cost $5 to get in, and he was telling me that they do these art shows every couple of months in different locations, always with a different theme.

The theme on this particular night was art talking about the 1980’s, a period I know well, although I’ll admit that there were a few pieces I didn’t understand or didn’t get right. For instance, one picture I thought was supposed to be Howard Stern and was told it was Joey Ramone, who I’ll admit I didn’t know as well.

80s cartoonsMy favorite piece of the evening was by a young lady named Marjorie Countryman, who did a nice composite of 80’s cartoon characters, many of whom I knew from a different era but the overwhelming majority I didn’t know; and I thought I knew the 80’s. lol

There was also music. This guy named DJ Stay Gold did some interesting mixes of music. By that, I mean he would play the music of one song by a particular artist and over that he’d play the lyrics and singing of a different artist. I thought that was really cool, as I remembered something like that from the 80’s when a DJ somewhere in the country first mixed the voices of Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand from two different records on a song called You Don’t Bring Me Flowers and turned it into a hit. This guy was amazing to say the least.

20140613_200716For someone like me, one of the other benefits is seeing the types of people that show up for these types of shows. Tattoos are the norm these days, although I’m still stunned a little bit here and there when I see nice looking women with tattoos all over the place. I’m fascinated by it, and I got a picture of this one lady named Meghan who really intrigued me… with permission of course. :-) I have to admit that many of the people were more fascinating than some of the art.

I’m not sure just yet if there’s a central place to find out about upcoming shows but I’ll reach out to Isaac to see if there’s something and I’ll update this post with that information if I get it. I love being able to support local artists, and I hope that one lady, who I gave some encouragement to in showing her art, does so.  

5 Things I Wish Would Change At The NYS State Fair

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I’ve been going to the New York State Fair for decades. I’ve always had a good time, but over the last couple of years my wife and I have gone to the Fair and headed back home in less than two hours. At first I wondered what the problem was, but as I sat down to think about it I realized that we’re both bored with what we see.

20130901_111456_resized It’s not that we don’t like going, but I’ve gone at least 30 times over the years, and I’ve noticed how some things have changed since the first time I went, and not necessarily for the better. I also figure I’m probably not the only one who has some issues with the Fair. So I thought that I would spend some time listing five things I wish would change to maybe make things feel a little bit more fresh and festive.

1. Let’s get some new things for the Center of Progress building. Back in the day, you used to go to the Center of Progress building knowing that you were going to see some new technology along with some favorites such as the sand sculpture, the fudge in the corner, and of course all the government and special interest group booths. Last year they finally had something new, and yet it was something old, that being recliners that massaged your entire body; all of them hurt me in some way. Since Syracuse is trying to publicize itself as a technology center, it would be cool if some of that newer technology or newer products found a place in the building, and maybe move a lot of the things such as candy and peanuts somewhere else.

2. Someone’s got to say it, so it might as well be me. When it Syracuse suddenly become a country town? From my perspective it seems that the majority of the Grandstand major concerts every year are either country acts or teenybopper acts, and I can’t even remember the last time I went to a performance of anything. There needs to be more diversity in the major acts, and I’m of the opinion that people will pay more money for some performers who might not normally play for smaller crowds but might be willing to come play at an outdoor venue. I remember some major acts that used to come play in the 80s, so someone has to be willing to come play now.

3. Put more effort into advertising which animals are going to be on display on which days. The last couple years have been disappointing to me, and that’s saying something because I usually don’t like animals to begin with. However, I did try to go see the llamas and the sheep, and some other things I can’t remember right now, only to be told that they were displayed in the first couple of days and then sent away to bring in different animals that were more common. Maybe there’s a schedule posted somewhere, since those who display the animals obviously know when to bring them, but I don’t know how to find it and I can’t be the only one.

Mitch Touches A Cow4. Find a way to boost the energy both in the dairy building and the horticulture building. The butter sculpture is always pretty good, but the displays and booths in the building leave a lot to be desired, especially for us non-milk drinkers. And some of what I have seen in the horticulture building over the last couple years has been pretty boring and lackluster, and it has to take more than people being able to spend a dollar for a baked potato to really get our juices going.

5. Aren’t we New York? I’m of the opinion that over the course of 12 days there should be at least two days where there’s some kind of “wow” factor. Maybe it’s famous actors who were originally from the Central New York area; maybe it’s famous athletes who were originally from central New York, or played for Syracuse University. I think it would be great to bring in people like that, or even other famous people, to spend three or four hours somewhere signing autographs and taking pictures with the fairgoers. And if you advertise it far enough in advance, you’d probably get some amazing crowds and you’d give the public something that they’re not going to get at any other state fair in the country.

That’s what I have for now. Does anyone else have any ideas that they think would help to stimulate more interest and more fun at the New York State Fair?  

An Interview With CNY’s Lauren Greutman Of I Am That Lady

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Lauren Greutman is a star. She’s on Bridge Street often, has a very successful blog, and was highlighted in Syracuse Woman Magazine as the May cover story, was highlighted in a promo video for it, and also writes articles for them. She’s also a very nice person; the first time I met her in person, after we’d been talking on Twitter for a while, we hugged each other as if we were old friends. I hope you enjoy this interview.

LaurenG0021. You are that lady! How did you come to be I Am That Lady?

I was washing the dishes one night after teaching a coupon seminar where one lady asked me if I could start a blog. I thought to myself “I am just that crazy coupon lady” and that was where the name was born. I searched on GoDaddy to see if the domain iamthatlady.com was available and was shocked that it was!

2. I don’t remember how we first made contact, but I know I saw you on local TV, Channel 9’s Bridge Street. How did you get to do that and will you be doing it again some day, maybe on a more regular basis?

I think we started chatting on Twitter first, and then the rest is history :-)

I actually went on Bridge Street for my first time about 2 months after my blog launched because I was teaching a coupon seminar at a local event and they wanted someone to talk about it. They sent me and I was so nervous. I really hit it off with Chris, Kaylee and the producers and they just kept on inviting me on. They started asking me to co-host about 2 years ago and Chris and I loved working together. I was doing a weekly segment but it was just too much for me. I go on about once a month usually to co-host and try to put my own segment in there as well. I was actually applying to be the co-host after Kaylee left, but then I found out I was pregnant with my 4th child and knew I couldn’t do it all. I consider it a blessing that I got pregnant because my goals are much more focused on my brand now.

3. What prompted you and Renee Benda into starting up the local blogging group?

It is actually all Renee, I just helped her organize some of the social media elements.

4. You know a lot about the local businesses and also deals from national businesses that are in central New York. How do you get all of your information?

I get hundreds of emails per day from PR agencies, companies etc. I look through all of them and forward the ones that I know my readers will like onto my assistant who does most of the postings. It is tough work looking through them all and weeding out the good ones, but I try really hard to post only the deals that my readers like and that are valuable to the main goal of my website.

5. On my finance blog I wrote that sometimes a deal isn’t a deal if you have to drive too far for it with the cost of gas these days. You live in Oswego, which means you’re probably driving far for many of them. How do you reconcile distance with savings?

I totally agree! Since I live in Oswego I do most of my shopping there. I do not shop at Wegmans unless I am up that way. I do most of my shopping at Price Chopper, Aldi, and Walmart because they are all about 5 minutes away from my house.

6. How do you believe your online business grew to the point where your husband was able to leave his job and work with you from home? I know many people would love to be able to do that.

LaurenG003_1I think networking has been key in my success. I started going to blogging conferences and learning how the bigger blogs were doing it, I read all I could about SEO and social media. I had dedicated over 60 hrs per week for the past 3 years into my blog/business and it has paid off. My husband has been an actuary for the past 12 years and worked in Syracuse. He worked long hours and life was getting too stressful. We prayed about him leaving his job for over a year and after our 4th child was born, we knew it was the right time. I feel incredibly blessed that I was able to get through the tough times of being a business owner and blogger while being a mom. All my hard work paid off and we now get to live a life that is a dream!

7. I think you’d mentioned that your husband was going to become more of a writer for your blog so that different types of articles could be added. Will they be included within your normal content or will you set up different channels for it all?

We will be changing some things on the blog mid year which we are VERY excited about, but for now he is blogging under his name.

8. I know you’ve been working on a local blogging conference that, unfortunately, it looks like I’ll be out of town and won’t be able to get there. Can you talk about that and how you got into working to set it up?

Dan Morris is a blogging revenue coach that I met while in Atlanta 2 years ago. He is brilliant and has helped me learn so much. When I heard that he was starting his own traveling blogging workshop series I was SO excited to bring him here to Central New York. There are so many talented bloggers here that want to dig deeper into making money at this, and I knew that they would learn so much from him. We don’t have many advanced blogging resources in this area, so I thought it would be the perfect fit.

For anyone who wants to see what the seminar is about and wishes to sign up for it they can go to Blogging Concentrated and use the coupon code iamthatlady for $50 off!

9. I love when local folks get known nationally as well. Where have you traveled, who have you met, and are any of them as intriguing as me? lol

I have met many fabulous people. Last year I met with Michael Hyatt and John Acuff. I have bflown to Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles and Atlanta to meet with companies or speak at events. My blog was featured on air at Anderson Cooper’s day time show last year and I’ve appeared on the 2nd largest news program in the US in New York City. I’ve seen and met a lot of amazing people!

10. Talk about your book, why you wrote it, why people should buy it, and when it’s coming out.

We have an ebook coming out called ‘Budgeting That Works‘, which comes with 2 FREE customizable budgeting spreadsheets, a 10 day email course, a live webinar Q&A, sessions with Mark and me and much more. We’ve had to push back the launch for the book for now.

11. I’ve never done an 11th question but this is your time. What do you want people to know about you, your website, and anything else we haven’t already covered?

I want people to know that blogging is very hard work. Posting deals is the easy part and probably only about 10% of what I actually do. There is SO much that goes on behind the scenes. That being said, I am SO passionate about helping people learn how to budget and save money. I work very hard to bring only the best deals, coupons, and local products around and am very proud of what I do!

My blog is I Am That Lady, and you can also follow me on Twitter at @iamthatlady, on my YouTube Channel, and also at Facebook.  

Tim Dodge & The Night Writer’s Group In Liverpool

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Back in January 2011 I wrote an article about a writer’s group I’m a participant and original member in called the Night Writers. We meet once a month at the Liverpool Public Library, usually the last Wednesday of the month unless it’s a holiday month like November & December. We’re sponsored by the library, although we haven’t always been.

Tim Dodge works in insurance, but he’s also a trustee with the library and our current coordinator/leader; works for me since I’m out of town so often. He’s also a great writer in my opinion. He has a blog and does many podcasts, some of them interviews and some reading portions of his books. Thus, I thought he would be a perfect candidate to interview; below are his thoughts on writer’s groups and writing in general:

1. I initially wrote about the Night Writers group back in January 2011. What was your thought about the group when you came to your first meeting?

It was so long ago that I don’t really remember the first meeting. I do remember that I had attended a workshop at the library on a Saturday and learned about the group that way. I had participated in a couple of online critique groups, so I guess my expectation was that it would be a live version of that.

2. We have a core of people who have been in the group for a long time, but have problems getting more people into it. However, at one point there were so many people that there was talk of having two separate groups. What happened and what do you think needs to happen to increase participants?

That has been a source of frustration for me for a long time. I think the period of time when we were not a library-sponsored program hurt. The group was no longer mentioned in library flyers and other promotional material. We had to do our own promotion, which was ad hoc at best. Now that we are a sponsored program again, I think participation is creeping up a bit. Every month there seems to be another new face at the meeting. However, not many of them come a second time, which is discouraging. I think we’re in general a pretty supportive bunch, so I don’t think people are turned away by criticism. It could be that a monthly meeting is not habit-forming. Still, I think continued promotion by the library is the key. They can reach a lot more people than we can on our own.

3. What do you think makes Night Writers different than other writer’s groups, if you know anything about other groups?

I think we are a bit more relaxed and welcoming than some other groups. I can’t really generalize, as I’ve only attended one or two other groups, but I have attended some where the critiques tend to be a bit sharper than ours are. Nothing necessarily wrong with that as long as participants know what to expect. However, while some of us who attend Night Writers are serious about writing, others just like to dabble, which is fine, too. Our group is very accepting of writers who have a wide variety of goals.

4. Let’s talk about the writing process. All of us have different ways of doing things, but tell us your process.

My process is evolving. I wrote three novels without doing any outlining, then I wrote a fourth one with an outline. I’ve just started another without an outline, but that doesn’t mean I won’t create one once I’ve got a firm idea of where I’m going with it. I try to write at different times of the day, but I seem to be most productive at lunch or early evening.

5. Do you think you can get the same type of feedback from having people critique you live or online, since I know you put many of your submissions out on the internet in some form?

There’s a definite difference between live and online. I think there’s a tendency to be nicer in person, which may or may not be a good thing. Writing is seldom all good or all bad. In person, people may tend to talk only about what was good, whereas online they may emphasize what they didn’t like. Obviously, a balance between the two is best, unless the writing is truly awful.

6. Talk about the different ways you share your stories online and what led you to the processes.

Sometime around 2006, I discovered podcasts, and it didn’t take me long to find some shows about writing. I found podcasts hosted by authors who were hoping to become successful but weren’t quite there yet. Mur Lafferty, Scott Sigler and Tee Morris are the most notable examples because they all have since published books with large New York publishing houses. I found that all of these authors and others had built audiences by releasing their stories and entire novels as serialized audio podcasts and distributing them for free on the Web.

An entire online “store” called www.podiobooks.com has hundreds of titles available for free. I took the plunge myself in early 2009 by releasing my novel “Acts of Desperation” that way. My comedy novel “Purgatory” followed later that same year. Recording an entire novel is a lot of work, but it was very rewarding. Both of those books are still available on podiobooks.com.

7. Have you ever come close to having someone publish any of your works? If not, how do you feel about self publishing overall and how have you tried selling your stories?

I published a couple of stories years ago, but there was no payment involved, so I don’t really count it. An agent asked for the full manuscript of my latest book last winter, but I have not heard anything since, so I’m not optimistic on that front. I self-published “Purgatory” in paperback and ebook formats a year and a half ago. The process was not terribly difficult, thought it was time-consuming to get it just the way I wanted. However, to successfully self-publish you have to devote a lot of time and energy to marketing. To be perfectly honest, I have not done a good job at that.

8. What led you to trying to be a writer, and can you honestly say that if you could make your living at it that you’d give up your present career and never look back?

I remember being seven or eight years old and thinking I’d like to write a book. I wrote little articles and plays for student newspapers and class plays in elementary school, and I was a writer and editor for my high school newspaper. I worked for my college newspaper for one semester. In short, I’ve always enjoyed writing. Fiction writing is hard work, but there’s no better feeling than when you write those last two words at the end of a novel — “The End”. It’s a great feeling of accomplishment. I don’t know that I would give up my career to write full-time right now, but I can picture myself doing it as I get closer to retirement age.

9. We’ve had previous members who felt that one of the goals of Night Writers should be to get someone published. You know our members; I think you and I are the only two who have really tried to get something published. What do you believe the overall goal of our group should be?

It would be great to get someone published, but that’s not an easy thing to do when literary agents report getting 200 queries a week. I think the goal should just be for everyone who participates to be better writers after participating than they were before. And for everyone to enjoy themselves. If it’s not fun, why do it?

10. Make a pitch; tell central New York why they should check us out.

Do you like to write but are afraid you’re not good enough? Do you want people who are more objective than your mom to review your work, people who will tell you what is and isn’t working in your story? Are you intimidated by the thought that other writers are way better than you?

At Night Writers, you’ll find other writers who are in the same place you are. People who will tell you what they like and make gentle suggestions for improvement. The only people allowed to make harsh judgments are those who have made the New York Times best-seller list, and they always seem to be busy on meeting nights. At Night Writers, you’ll get a chance to present your work and to critique the work of others, in a relaxed atmosphere where the emphasis is on getting better at writing in the company of friends. New members and their friends are always welcome!  

Copyright 2013