A Life of Flabby Loneliness

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It was a cold February winter more than 35 years ago. I sat uncomfortably close to a diminutive manually assembled Bush Furniture computer hutch. You remember those things. They looked like the mutant offspring of a too short desk and a flimsy book shelf.

Little did I know I was on the leading edge.

Actually, I did know I was on the leading edge… and loving it.

Hunched over what was then a new Wang PC, I had convinced my employer I needed to Continue Reading “A Life of Flabby Loneliness”

Can You Hear the Music of Mathematics?

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Just about anybody who’s anybody can tell you about the math in music. Between time signatures (three-quarter, four-four, cut-time…), fractional notes (whole, half, quarter, eighth, sixteenth, thirty-second, sixty-fourth…), and the rest of the nomenclature (octaves, measures, counting…), music is nothing without math.

Even if you take out the technical aspects, the popular discussion is rife with numbers. Literally. I mean, how many of you have bought a 45 of your Number 1 hit that you just heard on the top 50* countdown? (*These being the top 50 songs as measured by the Billboard 100.)

Again, anybody can talk about the math in music, but can they talk about the music in math?Continue Reading “Can You Hear the Music of Mathematics?”

Nobody Knew: When “The Miracle” Touched Greater Western New York

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Everyone knows what happened. Forty years ago this past weekend, when Al Michaels asked the world “Do you believe in Miracles?” a new generation discovered the power of belief. It may surprise you, then, what many people didn’t know…

Yale_Hockey_1980_US_Olympics_300In the months leading up to the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics, Team USA hockey coach Herb Brooks scheduled a rigorous sixty-one game exhibition program for his ragtag group. One of those games was played right here in Greater Western New York. The event was held at Buffalo’s Nichols Arena against the Yale hockey team.

Just a couple months earlier, Yale hockey coach Tim Taylor used that game to lure me away from my intention to join the crew team. “Chris, we’ll fly you to Buffalo so you can visit your family,” he said. I took the bait and agreed to serve as manager of the team, (hockey being my second favorite sport and all).

Little did I know that decision fated me to meet history head on.

After all, it was just hockey – at the time an unassuming game played by generally Continue Reading “Nobody Knew: When “The Miracle” Touched Greater Western New York”

Childhood’s End: A Review of Ford vs. Ferrari

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Does this make sense to you?

There was a time when you met your best friend forever in Kindergarten. You went to school together. You graduated together. You were part of each other’s wedding parties. You raised your families together. You went on vacations together. Ultimately, you retired to the same communities together.

At least that’s what we were raised to believe.

My best friend was Angelo. From that day we met as five-year-olds to board that first school bus, we were best friends. Although the only class we ever shared was Kindergarten, from that point on we did everything together. Each day we would walk up Abbott Parkway to the school bus stop together. Every summer day we’d play together.

We talked of our past, present, and future.

We talked about our families, especially my uncle who wanted to design sports cars and his cousin, who frequently laid rubber in the middle of our street with his red hot 1968 Mustang.

We talked about school friends and who liked Ford and who liked Chevy.

We talked about our future wives, how we’d be each other’s best man. Oddly, Angelo Continue Reading “Childhood’s End: A Review of Ford vs. Ferrari

Every “Real Man” Knows How To Tie A Bow Tie

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If you’re a guy of a certain age, (or maybe any age, I don’t know), you can’t say you’ve never fantasized the following: You’re sitting at a plush Baccarat table, debonairly dressed in a crisp tux, cradling a dry martini (shaken, not stirred) in one hand, fondling a couple of heavy chips in the other, while coyly catching the eye of a certain femme fatale.

If there’s one prop that defines this scene, the one thing your mind’s eye focuses on, it’s the bow tie.

You can’t wear a shiny tux without one. The bow tie tells the story – the whole story.

Here’s why.Continue Reading “Every “Real Man” Knows How To Tie A Bow Tie”

First They Came for Our Plastics Bags…

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First they came for our plastic bags, and I did not speak out – because I am but a small voice and could do nothing.

I offer this allusion because Martin Niemöller’s poem remains as profound today as it was when the Lutheran pastor penned his post-war confession in 1946. It’s language of persecution, oppression, and injustice, along with the attendant feelings of shame, regret, and the aura of culpability, ring true today in the Empire State as they once did in the totalitarian morass that immediately succeeded the Weimar Republic.

More on that in a moment. First, a bit of (more) recent history.

By the time Mr. Maguire whispered the word “plastics” into Benjamin Braddock’s attentive, albeit naïve, ear in the 1967 hit movie The Graduate, it had already been two years since Continue Reading “First They Came for Our Plastics Bags…”

Ode to Larry Pierce: Forever Among the Colonnade of Community Pillars

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They are few and far between. Any vibrant community is blessed by no more than a handful. They’re unassuming when you see them. But the moment they speak, you know them.

They are the bedrock of any sustainable community – the foundation upon which everyday folks like us can confidently build our everyday lives. They allow us to assume a comfortable regularity of our surroundings. This makes our lives more pleasant. This makes our lives easier. This, indeed, makes our lives.

Yet, they are much more. Beyond the rock of a common foundation, they represent the solid stone pillars that uplift our community. In doing so, they not only make our lives Continue Reading “Ode to Larry Pierce: Forever Among the Colonnade of Community Pillars”

Why the Hamburger is Who You Are

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I had the most enjoyable of times a couple Thursday evenings ago. Perhaps a bit too enjoyable.

I was honored to have been invited to speak to the Mendon/Honeoye Falls Historical Society about a subject near and dear to my heart: the history of the hamburger. Not only is it the topic of my most recent book, but I have been lucky enough to talk about my research at events across the nation.

You can understand why I may have enjoyed myself just a tad more than I should have during my Historical Society presentation.

Oh, I tried and tried to maintain my sober scholarly best. But, as it wont to occur when I talk about matters I’ve pursued down rabbit holes of research with extreme vigor, passion inevitably gets the better of me. And when that enthusiasm inspires audience interest, it Continue Reading “Why the Hamburger is Who You Are”

Condemned to Repeat It: This 200+ Year Old Concept Rises Again in 2020

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“Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
– George Santayana in his 1905 series, The Life of Reason: the Phases of Human Progress.

It’s not new. It’s been with us since George Washington ended his second term as President. You might have heard it ended once and for all during the nadir of the American experiment.

But it’s still here. And for all its association with evil, the worst of our proud heritage, people continue to embrace it like a badge of honor.

Yet, it began with such promise…

No one ever questioned George Washington. He’s our first and probably last Continue Reading “Condemned to Repeat It: This 200+ Year Old Concept Rises Again in 2020”

Bills Fans May Be Hurt, But We Are Not Slain

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This is not the Commentary I had planned to write. Nonetheless, I write it with reluctance because a community cries out for it. Not our entire community, so if this doesn’t apply to you, feel free to skip it.

Of course, to ignore this piece betrays a certain detached coldness many of your neighbors would find less than appreciative. Read it to understand them. Read it to empathize. Read it to sympathize.

Those within the portion of our community to which this column addresses – especially those new to the cause – will read this to recognize the true meaning of resiliency.

By the time you receive this, Saturday’s heart-breaking loss will be nearly a week old. A lot of stuff has happened between now and then. A lot of stuff that separates you from that pain. A lot of stuff way more important than a game.

Nonetheless, it’s important to capture the emotion of that moment when an overtime field goal ended a Cinderella season. That feeling must be bottled. Not bottled-up, but Continue Reading “Bills Fans May Be Hurt, But We Are Not Slain”