The Fantastical (Real-Life) Time Machine

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I had the pleasure of being invited to perform for Living History Day at SUNY Fredonia a couple of weeks ago. The all-day event features dozens of “acts.” It’s offered to hundreds of 7th graders from throughout the Greater Western New York region. They’re bussed in early in the morning and attend live demonstrations of everything from Seneca Indian dances to artillery cannon fire.

These 12-year-olds watch as regiments from the Revolutionary War (both sides), the War of 1812 and the Civil War (both sides) conduct their drills. They see real-life colonial cooking, frontier gaming, and homespun crafts. The learn from medicine women, Suffragettes, and military historians. They discover 18th century artifacts, 19th century women’s fashions, and 20th century genealogical grave hunting.

All this is done in period dress. Not just generic period dress, but actors dress as actual historical characters. I walked in with Harriet Tubman. Later I saw her talking to Abraham Lincoln. I could have sworn I saw a British general drinking coffee with Susan B. Anthony.

And they were all in costume. Even the civilians wore clothing of the era they represented. You can see from the pictures from the event. Everyone donned the fashion of the time from which they spoke and lived.

All except me.Continue Reading “The Fantastical (Real-Life) Time Machine”

Dad and the Art of Lawnscape Maintenance

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In the art of landscape maintenance, my son and I have what you might call “creative differences.”

You see, I love mowing the lawn. It’s relaxing. It’s simple. It allows me a couple hours of free uninterrupted thought to think about whatever happens to flow through this brain of mine. In fact, this Commentary evolved from just one of those self-contained inventive sessions.

For me, cutting the grass represents a calming interlude in the maelstrom of a busy life. Sure, I want the yard to look good, but I don’t want it too fancy. Fancy implies labor-intensive. It’s not worth it. I’m a trained scientist. In my eyes, the world is not a show Continue Reading “Dad and the Art of Lawnscape Maintenance”

Heah Come Da (Hamburger) Judge!

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Sentinel Publisher Chris Carosa presents a signed copy of his book Hamburger Dreams to Best NY Burger winners, son Matt Beach and father Randy Beach, of the Ale ’n Angus Pub in Syracuse. To the left is Jean O’Toole, Executive Director of the New York Beef Industry Council, sponsor of the event.

It was a driving rain, which is actually OK if you’re driving in it. Which I was. But soon wouldn’t be.

I snaked through the meandering roads of the expansive Onondaga Community College campus, peering through the rain-fogged windows desperately searching for “Visitors Parking” between Lot 6 and Lot 7. The place was packed with cars.

Suddenly, the brake lights of a small foreign car parked ahead blinked on. I had my chance. The vehicle backed out and sailed away. I quickly maneuvered to seize the empty space. But, before I could pull in I slammed on my own brakes.

At the end of the spot stood an ominous sign. It warned “30 minute parking only.”

I was already late. It was 2:45pm and I was told the event wouldn’t end until 7:00pm at the earliest. Should I risk getting a ticket or find another space somewhere in the Continue Reading “Heah Come Da (Hamburger) Judge!”

Should You Go Wide or Go Deep?

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Remember a couple months back when I said I discovered a way to add more hours to my day? (If you don’t, here it is: “That Time I Discovered ‘Idle Time’ Doesn’t Really Exist,” Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel, March 14, 2019). With all that rediscovered time I was able to explore a dusty section of unread books in my expansive library. (And by expansive, I mean… Wait. Forget it. It only gets Betsy mad.)

I began this new venture by perusing an entire series of books from the pens of the greatest copywriters. These books defined the advertising industry as it emerged from the 19th century into the 20th. They represent the primordial tracks from which Madison Avenue men evolved. They spawned a persuasive style that combined art and science into an effective (sometimes too effective) tool.

By “art” I refer to the words that effectively captivate and motivate the reader. But how do the words work as intended?

That’s where the “science” comes in. Today we call it “market research.” Claude C. Hopkins, acknowledged as perhaps the greatest copywriter, called it “scientific advertising.” His book by the same name (published in 1923) shows how an ad means nothing unless it stimulates its audience to act. He not only wrote the ads, he studied how Continue Reading “Should You Go Wide or Go Deep?”

One-Upping Warren: This is the Right Way to Forgive Student Loans

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It was one of those silly socialist ideas that normally come from the mouth of Bernie Sanders. No one took it very seriously in 2016 when the then 74-year-old Vermont Senator tried to win the (we now know rigged) Democrat nomination from Hillary Clinton. He proudly declared “free college for everyone!” The kids loved it. The adults giggled.

The Clinton establishment knew this kind of talk wouldn’t fly in fly-over country (hint: that’s us). It was too radical. Too impractical. Too communist. So they laughed at Bernie and encouraged him to say what he said.

Little did we know.

Andrew Cuomo, with a watchful eye on his own 2020 political ambitions, decided to see Continue Reading “One-Upping Warren: This is the Right Way to Forgive Student Loans”

“Can I Do This?”

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Just under two minutes away from the fields, the car’s audio system thundered that ever-familiar “Thud– Thud–CLAP!” bass beat. I knew what it was. The kids didn’t. I could use this. They needed it.

All I said to them was, “Boys, listen to this. It’s an omen.” It’s good to have been an AM disc jockey (back in the days when they used to play music).

“Thud– Thud–CLAP!”

“Thud– Thud–CLAP!”

“Thud– Thud–CLAP!”

It captivated the boys. They couldn’t turn away from its allure. The a cappella voices meant Continue Reading ““Can I Do This?””

This is Why New York State Needs an Electoral College

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The war had been going on for the better part of a year when John Adams wrote, “The blessings of society depend entirely on the constitutions of government.” Shortly thereafter, on May 10, 1776, the Second Continental Congress passed a resolution recommending the thirteen colonies “adopt such Government as shall in the opinion of the Representatives of the People, best conduce to the happiness and safety of their Constituents in particular.”

In a letter to his brother John Augustine Washington dated Philadelphia, May 31, 1776 George Washington issued this prophetic warning: “To form a new government requires Continue Reading “This is Why New York State Needs an Electoral College”

Mechanical or Intuitive: Which Approach Works Best for You? – A Real-World Lesson (Part II)

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The Conclusion of: “Style or Substance? A Real-World Lesson – A Real-World Lesson (Part I)

“Yes, you may hit the right notes more often than Chris,” she began, “but your intuitive desire to physically search for the perfect note interferes with the broader tempo of the entire piece. Chris is mechanical. To him, keeping that tempo is more important than finding the perfect pitch. The concertmaster’s job is to lead the entire orchestra in maintaining this tempo.”

The answer shocked me. I never thought of myself as a mere machine. But there it was. The teacher had just said so. I was mechanical, not intuitive.

This didn’t sound right. How could a machine find the joy in playing the way I did? Wasn’t a machine dispassionate? Doesn’t a machine work precisely because it has Continue Reading “Mechanical or Intuitive: Which Approach Works Best for You? – A Real-World Lesson (Part II)”

Style or Substance? A Real-World Lesson (Part I)

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I never had someone so mad at me. And for no reason. We were both in tenth grade. Except for orchestra, we shared no other classes. We did share an Italian-American heritage. And she was mad in a way only an Italian-American can get mad. I’d seen it all before. In my extended family. In my neighborhood. In the dark alleys of the most obscure hallways within the school.

I just didn’t get it. I didn’t even know what a concertmaster was. Yet, there I was. Her, me, and the violin teacher.

But I get ahead of myself. Let’s go back to the beginning of the story…Continue Reading “Style or Substance? A Real-World Lesson (Part I)”

5 Reasons Why Splitting From New York Would be a Bonanza for Greater Western New York

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A few weeks ago a Syracuse media published an article denouncing the idea of splitting New York into multiple states. It is recommended that you read that article before reading this one. The article was entitled “5 reasons why splitting New York would be a disaster for Upstate,” by Mark Weiner. It appeared on March 5, 2019 on the NYUp.com website. [The on-line version of this Carosa Commentary contains a live link to that article.]

What follows is meant to mimic Weiner’s article by using the same data and quotes to reach a 180° opposite conclusion. It starts with the very title. Weiner concludes “studies show the split into two states would likely be an economic disaster for Upstate New York, experts say. The region simply depends too heavily on taxes and fees paid by wealthy residents and corporations in New York City and its suburbs.” I’ll present his very same arguments, with very little additional information, and come to a completely Continue Reading “5 Reasons Why Splitting From New York Would be a Bonanza for Greater Western New York”