Long Story Short looks back
The year in review
It’s an annual holiday ritual for journalists to look back at the previous year, because it beats writing new stuff during this busy week. Today, Long Story Short joins this proud tradition by reflecting on the year that was 2018.
In the news
The heart of LSS is news, and we covered it. Even the strange stuff.
Congressman Chris Collins made it into LSS several times last year, before and after being federally indicted on insider trading charges (True Crime Story). We covered his Strange victory as he was reelected, despite having earlier said that he would not run.
The long citizen-driven campaign to close Tonawanda Coke was the topic of several articles, including Things go better without coke.
In Bugged at the plaza we wrote about a woman who parked her car at the West Seneca plaza, and came out to discover a swarm of bees in the vehicle’s grill. Bugged at the plaza II was a story about a Niagara Falls Boulevard Walmart shopper who thought she was being pursued by human sex traffickers. It was really a case of paranoia, triggered by an annoying religious group known as “God the Mother,” and fueled by a “helpful” neighbor with an urban legend.
In The News faces digital age realities, we told about a doom-and-gloom email sent to Buffalo News workers, announcing drastic cost-cutting measures, including staff cuts, reduced salaries, and the elimination of familiar newspaper features.
Spectrum Cable rated several articles about bad service. Continuously climbing cable cost warned consumers about Spectrum’s plans to go digital, and the associated costs that would bring.
Many local news outlets told you about the discovery of a “priceless” Elephant Bird egg in a closet at the Buffalo Museum of Science. But only LSS told you how much the egg is actually worth ($92,750) in Shell shock.
Elmwood and the mall was one of several stories we did on the recent business downturn in the Elmwood Village, and Hertel Avenue’s commercial uptick.
LSS broke the story (in Buffalo), of a local police cold case that’s getting a second look. An unsolved mystery enters the digital age was about a fifty-year-old double murder, and a family still trying to get closure. A recent credible email named the alleged murderer, and the Monroe County Sheriff’s office is now calling for any piece of information that could help close the case.
It’s an opinion column!
While it’s true that LSS covers the news, at some point during 2018, Spree editor Elizabeth Licata began describing the blog as an “opinion column.” Fair enough. We do voice our view and engage in cultural self-reflection.
“You know how sometimes one small thought triggers a steadily-building avalanche of musings, until your brain is virtually buried under a big pile of loosely related ideas?” we asked in Brain avalanche. It began with musings on the trend toward “othering,” and ended in an optimistic assessment of the world’s progress toward enlightenment.
Facebook feminism started with a negative social media response to the term “manpslaining,” and ended with one straight, white, able, male’s satirical apology to women, people of color, those with disabilities, and members of the LGBT community.
After receiving several fake Facebook messenger warnings about bogus account cloning, and nonexistent hackers we railed at the public’s gullibility in Hoax alert, hoax alert, hoax alert. Then we offered tips on how to spot hoaxes.
Dog gone it was a rant about neighborhood barking dogs.
The price of innocence recounted the author’s story of buying his way out of a traffic ticket, while reflecting on how less privileged people are often caught up in the economic-based legal system.
In Policy-making 101: rules are for everybody we raged against the double standard that routinely grants developers building variances under the city’s Green Code, while uniformly denying average citizens the same for such things as parking pads. What followed was a look at other “development” issues, new and old.
Smokin’ hot pot
We printed several articles on the likelihood that cannabis will soon be legalized in NY, which now seems all but certain. In O Canada, land of cannabis we lightheartedly outlined the hazards of bringing pot over the border from Canada, where it’s now legal. Some people weren’t listening. Since then, there has been a whopping 140% increase of border cannabis seizures.
Dopey debate focused a State Assembly public hearing in City Hall’s Common Council chambers, where Erie County District Attorney John Flynn verbally battled Assembly member Crystal Peoples-Stokes. Since then, the assembly member was named the incoming Majority Leader of the newly Democratic led State Assembly—the first woman, and first African-American to serve in that role—and Governor Cuomo has announced that legalizing cannabis is a priority for 2019.
In Hemp times, we also wrote about the wonders of nonpsychoactive hemp, which New York State now allows businesses and researchers to grow and process. “Three tenths of a percent of THC might sound like schwag levels,” we wrote, “but who knows what would happen if you smoked a whole sweater.”
You gotta laugh
LSS believes that laughter is the best medicine for dark times, so we are always on the lookout for the funny side of life.
In Doughnut discovery we investigated the etymology of the word doughnut vs donut, while marveling at the wonderfulness of Paula’s Donuts, which we described as “deep-fried heaven,” and “sex for the taste buds.”
We explored the history of the term “witch hunt,” recently popularized by a number of white men suspected of doing bad things, in Witch hunt: a brief history, which also examined witches in popular culture.
Driving drunk is not funny—except when it is. LSS occasionally spotlights amazingly stupid things local drivers do when under the influence. Blotto Tales: Episode 3 includes two such stories.
Strolling down the avenue? Wear a hardhat warned about flying manhole covers.
We ran a blow-by-blow account of our email interaction with a fraudulent father named “powell” in Scamming the scammer.
Guns and education
LSS discussed these two topics separately and, unfortunately, too often together.
In Finding perspective on school shootings we noted that “schools are perhaps the safest place children can be.” We looked at the data, considered the actual risk, and made a case against irrational fear.
School safety: raising the absurdity bar noted “that ninety-eight to ninety-nine percent of student homicides take place when students are not in school.” Again, we pressed for cooler heads to prevail.
In A shot in the dark we reported on recent research showing that school shootings are far less common than claimed in the Education Department Civil Rights Data Collection. We also noted several alarming local school district initiatives intended to combat this overhyped threat.
In Education 101: undoing bad legislation we advocated eliminating the misguided use of state student test scores for teacher evaluations. The practice has been temporarily stopped, but the topic is still hot.
Celebrating all things Buffalo
Other topics regularly covered were police abuse of authority (In praise of body cameras), city vexations (Fix that, part II: street stuff), urban successes (One great place), some good art ideas (Don’t miss PLAY/GROUND!), some bad art ideas (For God’s sake: Samuel Herbert’s monumental undertaking), and the many triumphs, challenges, controversies, and celebrations of our city.
LSS would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year.
Long Story Short is an opinion column by artist and educator Bruce Adams, a longtime contributor to Buffalo Spree.
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