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Long Story Short: Rules, regs, and Facebook profile pics


Illustration by JP Thimot


Parking lot blues

Long Story Short previously reported that several local political leaders were meeting to discuss measures for injecting new life into the Elmwood Village, which has seen a recent increase in empty storefronts. One of those politicians is Delaware District Common Council Member Joel P. Feroleto.


Last week, Feroleto called Elmwood Village native and community activist, Jessie Fisher. Fisher is an urban planner who helped draft the original Elmwood Village Design Standards, which included many of the provisions now official under Buffalo’s Green Code (regulations for city development). Feroleto wanted to know the rationale for not allowing commercial parking lots on Elmwood. The question comes on the heels of Ciminelli Real Estate Corporation’s request for a Zoning Board variance to allow a commercial lot at 1010 Elmwood Ave, next to the former Bullfeathers Restaurant. Ciminelli purchased this lot and adjoining properties knowing that its plans would require significant Green Code variances. When its original development proposal met with heavy community resistance, it was shelved, and the request for the parking lot followed.


According to Fisher, after an extended conversation, Feroleto told her that he would be “forming a task force to study parking issues on Elmwood and craft new legislation that would alter the Green Code’s current restrictions on parking lots on Elmwood.” Fisher responded in a letter to Feroleto, which she also posted online. In it, she persuasively outlines the reasons for the parking lot restriction. More significantly, Fisher pointedly reminds Feroleto that a task force involving “hundreds of public meetings; thousands of participants; hundreds of thousands of public tax-payer dollars; and years of work by the community” already studied this question. The result was the Green Code.


The takeaway:

Since when do political leaders create task forces in which they state in advance the intended outcome? If you also wonder why public parking lots are restricted on this section of Elmwood, you can read Jessie Fisher’s letter by clicking here.



Gun talk

During the Great Depression, short-barrel shotguns and fully automatic armaments were the weapons of choice for gangland mobsters, who were—mostly—shooting other mobsters.


New York State was among the first in the nation to act, banning submachine guns like the Thompson (Tommy) gun. Believe it or not, Texas had already done the same thing. The Supreme Court upheld these bans, recognizing that the Second Amendment has limits.  


In 1934, the National Firearms Act took a different approach. Rather than banning such weapons; it taxed them heavily, at $200 ($3,500 in today’s dollars) per weapon. Buyers also had to register, which included being fingerprinted and photographed. The National Rifle Association (NRA) supported the law, which effectively ended sales of these weapons.


In 1986, the Firearm Owners’ Protection Act banned the sale of new automatic weapons. Second-hand buyers of older weapons have to obtain a federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives Stamp, undergo an extensive background check, and notify local authorities that they own such a weapon. Since this law was enacted, not one murder has been committed using an automatic weapon.


New York today

In 2013, New York State Governor Mario Cuomo pushed through the Safe Act, which bans the AR 15 (favorite of school shooters) and high-capacity magazines, among other restrictions. Last week President Trump signaled his support for tough gun law reforms. Then, as is his custom, he reversed his position after a meeting with the NRA. Congress has failed to act on any proposed legislation.


Business takes the lead

First it was Dicks Sporting Goods, discontinuing the sale of "assault-style" firearms and high-capacity magazines, and raising the minimum purchase age for guns to twenty-one. Then Walmart announced it to would raise its purchase age, having already banned bump stocks, assault rifles, and high-capacity magazines. Are these ethical or business decisions? Who cares?


The takeaway:

Just months ago, Congressman Chris Collins sought to overturn New York’s Safe Act. Congressmen Tom Reed, Chris Collins, and Brian Higgins have all accepted donations from the NRA, though Higgins stopped after 2012, and returned the donations. Remember Bass Pro? They were once going to be the silver bullet that would revitalize Buffalo’s waterfront. They strung political leaders along in negotiations until Congressman Higgins got mad as hell and wouldn’t take it anymore. They didn’t come to Buffalo, and they are currently the only remaining major national dealer of semiautomatic weapons.



Profile madness

I need to get a pet peeve off my chest.


The intent of social media profile pictures is to show friends what you look like. That’s it. Too often, however, they become hedonistic acts of self-gratification through hackneyed gestures of faux-individualism.  


Someone had to say that.  


This is not a trifle. There are thousands of name-challenged people like me who depend on your profile picture to remind us of who you are, and how we know you. Are you the chatty woman we friended over avocado dip at Leonard’s housewarming party, or the menacingly hyper girlfriend of our pet groomer? We need to see your full face; not just your eyes, or your duck-lips, or your hands, and, for god’s sake, not your feet. Stop using crappy silhouetted photos that make you look like an FBI informant on the news, or ones where you coyishly turn away from the camera, or shots taken from seventy-two feet away. The name “Facebook” comes from the “face book” directories found at some universities, consisting of photographs and names. It’s that simple. There’s plenty of room for images of your trailer hitch testicles elsewhere else on your page.


I recently conducted an informal survey of several hundred Facebook profile pictures. Here’s what I found:

• Six sunsets
‚Äč• Eight celebrity faces
• Nine people wearing masks
• Eleven cartoons characters
• Thirty-one animals (thirteen dogs, eleven cats, two each of elephants and tigers, and sundry other wildlife)
• Twenty-three political statements
• Sixty-six arbitrary images, the insignificance of which is presumably meant as irreverent humor
• Eighty-seven works of “art” ranging from illustrations, to graphics, to paintings and sculpture. These fall into roughly three categories: 1. decent artwork whose use trivializes the artist, or the art, or both; 2. bad art that the user knowingly employs as ironic wit; 3. bad art that the user does not realize is bad, which is just sad.


Here’s some common profile picture categories, and what they indicate about the user:

Pictures of your kids. These users have relinquished their self-identity, replacing it with the extrinsic gratification of having successfully reproduced. Usually, around eighty percent of the pictures on their profiles are their kids.
Profile subject as a kid. These people believe their life peaked at age seventeen, when the world was so much better, and they were still cute.
Pop cultural references. These users wish to be defined by their nerdiness, trendiness, or patently transparent drollery via images they unearth on Google. Ersatz hipness through calculated frivolity.
Text. People who substitute written statements for their picture are not fond of mirrors. This is also true for people with empty profile picture boxes.
Cats. These folks don’t realize that to most people their pet is devoid of personality and entirely unremarkable. Cats do however, make good metaphors for lonely lives.
Dogs. No one cares that the profile subject has a dog, or how it looks sleeping, or wearing glasses, or laying on its back with its legs splayed. These people don’t get that.
The partier. These (often young) people wish to show others how much fun they are having now that they are old enough to drink openly. In the female version, there are as many as five other women with their heads crammed together, leaving social media friends to guess which one is the profile subject.
The unobstructed face. These are grownups who are comfortable in their own skin and want to help other users determine their identity.


The takeaway:

Social media users: show us what you look like.



Long Stories Shorter: Quick takes on items of note

Late snow

So, you think last week’s March snowstorm was something, huh? Maybe you also think we’ve seen the last of winter. Really? Are you from around here? March is far from the latest month for shovel-worthy snow. In fact, since WWII, we’ve snow in May thirty times. In 1967, there was an inch and a half; in 1976, a half-inch came down. There was also a trace of May snow as recently as 2013 and 2016.


Then there was May 8, 1989, when we got just short of eight inches show in a storm that blanketed all ten counties of Western New York. Roofs collapsed, and snowplows were brought out of storage to clear streets. So, don’t put the shovels away just yet.


Saving private blueberries

People in Clarence understand preservation, right down to protecting beloved fruit vines from the developer’s wrecking ball. A proposal for a new subdivision that would eliminate the U-Pick Blueberry Farm on Shimerville Road, was rejected a couple weeks back by the Clarence Town Board, after residents mounted something of a save-our-blueberries campaign. But a new plan that preserves the cherished community tradition of self-berry-picking—which dates all the way back to 2012—has now been approved. However, the Town Board stressed that privately owned blueberry vines are none of their business and had nothing to do with the earlier rejection. The deciding factor was all about compliance with building codes, they say.


Raging Teslamania portends possible statue

First the Buffalo Common Council adopted a resolution calling for fourteen blocks of Niagara Street to be dedicated as the Nikola Tesla Heritage Trail. Now Buffalo Rising reports on a push for a statue of the Croatian-born crackpot genius to be placed downtown. In the three-dimensional model of the proposed statue, an awkwardly rigid figure—resembling one of those chainsaw statues carved from tree trunks—seems to be spinning a basketball on his fingertips.


Tesla is a dandy name for a car. Tesla CEO Elon Musk continues to be bullish on his SolarCity plant on Buffalo’s waterfront. Nikola Tesla supervised the installation of one of the first commercial electric power stations, delivering electric power to Buffalo. But a statue? First of all, there is already a large statue of the scientist in Niagara Falls, a 1976 gift from Yugoslavia. Secondly, so much mythology has been spun around Tesla—much of it by the narcissistic inventor himself—that his two significant accomplishments are often overshadowed by a long list of fallacious claims made by conspiracy-minded followers who credit him with other people’s inventions. Tesla was largely (but not exclusively) responsible for the induction motor, and AC power transmission. After that, he pursued numerous crackpot ideas, and schemes for which he lacked the ability or commitment to realize.


If you ask me, instead of a statue, Buffalo should erect a giant outdoor Tesla Coil. Now that would be cool. 



Artist and educator Bruce Adams is a longtime contributor to Buffalo Spree.


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