Monthly Archives: October 2012

The Important Part is There Was a Cape

I’m pretty lame now, so I don’t dress up for Halloween anymore.  Usually I’ll think of a cool costume in June but by the time Halloween rolls around, I can’t remember what it was.

Besides, like grocery shopping and buying new socks, Halloween is a lot of pressure.  Do you want a scary costume, a funny one?  Are you going for clever because what if no one gets it and you spend all night explaining it again and again to rolled eyes and polite laughs?  And if you’re doing a couple’s costume?  That’s even scarier—now in addition to your own, you’re responsible for someone else’s.  If that costume idea goes bad, you’re in trouble.

I suppose there’s a lot of easy ways around all these things, like calming down and realizing its just Halloween.  But it’s not that easy, it never is.  After all, as Margaret White always says, “They’re all going to laugh at you.”

I had some weird costumes growing up and some simple ones.  Dracula, Wyatt Earp, box of lucky Charms, typical stuff.  This one year in particular I remember having a pretty awesome costume, way cooler than any of the store bought crap my classmates had.  It was an easy  one to make too, I think.  And that’s what every parent wants right, an easy costume?  So what was this awesome costume you ask?  I was SuperTed.  Yeah, that’s right.

Man in Shirt and Tie wearing a ape

I’d be so much more productive if I got to wear a cape to work

The costume was pretty simple too; a red sweatsuit, some felt my mother attached to the front for his emblem, a cape (goddamn right I had a cape) and the finishing touch: the head and hands of my previous year’s costume, and I was transformed into a beary awesome superhero.  Oh right, yeah, I was a Carebear the year before.  May or may not have been Sunshine Bear.  Moving on—I had a cape, have I mentioned the cape?

You have no idea who SuperTed is, do you?  Fine, whatever.  Here’s some backstory on him:  he was created in 1978  as a storybook character by a Welshman because his kid was afraid of the dark.  That led to a kid’s cartoon series like everything did in the late 70s/early 80s.   The original cartoon was the first British cartoon broadcast in the US when it aired on the Disney Channel.

SuperTedThen, in 1989, Hanna-Barbera made a second series, The Further Adventures of SuperTed, which aired as part of the “Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera.”  The other shows included in that ‘funtastic world’ you might remember a little better; Fantastic Max, Don Coyote, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures, the Midnight Patrol, and even a little Pup Named Scooby Doo, but no one liked that show.

If you never watched these shows, you had a terrible childhood, and your Saturday mornings were clearly completely wasted on you.  I used to sit through infomercials on Saturday mornings because I was so psyched for cartoons; I’d wake up too early.  Nothing has really changed, apparently; I’ll still watch fucking anything on TV.  Really, I just need a moving picture and I’m entertained.

You can watch these cartoons now, Bobby’s World is on Netflix now, so they’re not hard to find.  But, you don’t want to, not really.  They’re not the same.  I just watched the intros for both the original Welsh cartoon series and the American ‘Further Adventures’—and… ‘Murica didn’t help things much.  I’m pretty sure the sidekick has space herpes and just roofie’d the poor bear.  Both intros are a little terrifying in that what the fuck is this and how did my parents let me watch th—Oh my god the bear just ripped his skin off!  How is that a superpower?!

Book Nooks and Little Couches / a New Way to Raise Money for Your Classroom Through Donors Choose

Berenstain Bears bookcoversI always liked to read when I was little. I had a great collection of Berenstain Bears books I’d go through over and over, and a pile of Encyclopedia Brown’s from my brother.  Like any other little kid though, I probably enjoyed watching cartoons more—usually while jumping and climbing all over the couch like I was Spiderman. Ok, so maybe I still do that, but now I love to read, too.

I really love it.  And more than that, I need it. I need to read.  I have piles of books throughout my house, shelves loaded to bursting and piled to the ceiling on others; piles on the floor, piles on my stairs. Even old ones boxed up to donate that I will never actually give away.

I like to think of these books, more books than I could read even if I had months to spend on my couch, as my retirement savings.  History, biography, true crime, sci-fi, fantasy, comics, good fiction, bad fiction, James Patterson sell-out fiction.  Anything.  I’m going to keep piling them up.  One day I’m going to read them all.  Every single one.

I have Mrs. Hopkins to thank for this hoarders-esque love for books.

Top Secret by John GardnerMrs. Hopkins was my third grade teacher and actually the daughter of my second grade teacher.  It was a small school.  One Friday she gave me a book she thought I’d like.  The name of it was Top Secret, one of John Gardner’s lesser known kid’s books.  It was a good hardcover copy; brand new, spine unbroken, dust jacket still fresh.  Looking back, Mrs. Hopkins probably bought it herself.

You don’t think about books in your school or classroom libraries when you’re that age.  There’s no thought of where they came from.  It’s a library: those books are part of a library and that’s the most natural thing to a nine year old.  Those books are all meant to be there, and nothing should ever stop that from being a reality.

Now, years later, I’ve seen what schools and individual teachers go through to get the money for those books.  They struggle for each and every book’s spine that some little kid can pass their fingers over as they walk the length of a bookshelf for that one perfect story to lose themselves in.

I didn’t know if I’d even like this book.  Didn’t have any intention of spending my Friday night reading, either, just saying that.  I took it home with me, least I could do for Mrs. Hopkins.  She was pretty cool.

But that perfect story for a little kid to lose themselves in?  That was this one.  Fridays were always TV and pizza night, and we got pop with dinner.  That was a big deal.  Not this time, not this Friday night.  I spent the entire night laying on the couch, my feet buried under one of the cushions and I read that book from cover to cover.  Couldn’t put it down.  Haven’t put it down since.

I’ve seen teachers do a lot to put books in kids’ hands, from grants to cashing in cans, to paying for them straight out of their own pockets.  There’s countless ways they do it, and maybe you can say there’s never as many books or enough money, but they do it.

Donors ChooseJust like Mrs. Hopkins twenty years ago handed me a book that changed my life, a friend of mine is reaching out through a group called DonorsChoose to raise money for her own third grade classroom.  She wants to build a book nook with little kid couches and as many books as her students can read.

Check out the link, hopefully you can give a little to make this happen.  When you enter the code INSPIRE, DonorsChoose will match any gift you give.  Gifts of $50 or more gets you a pile of thank you notes from those little kids whose lives you helped change.

Take a look, share it, talk about it, inspire a teacher you know to reach out through organizations like this.

So thank you John Gardner for writing Top Secret.  Thank you Mrs. Hopkins for finding that book and handing it to me, for smiling and telling me, “I think you might like this.”  I did.  I’ve thought about that book and the impact it had on me every day.  And thank you Mrs. Clabeaux, for being part of a new generation of teachers that are finding ways to reach out to thousands of people so that you might change the lives of as many kids as possible.

Or even just one that twenty years later might remember a book you handed to him one Friday afternoon.


from Mrs. Clabeaux at 11pm October 23rd:

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU EVERYONE who donated to my project! I put my project up this morning at 10am and not even 12 hours later was I fully funded!!!!  ♥ We are getting $750 worth of brand new books and materials for our classroom library! You have no idea how much this means to me and my students! They will be so happy and motivated that there are so many people who care about their future! You truly have made a difference!!!

Buffalo Mayor Asks the Transit Authority for Help with His Homework

previously published on BuffaloSoapBox

Douglas Adams once said, “I love deadlines.  I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by,” and this is a sentiment apparently shared by those holding the fate of Buffalo’s Outer Harbor in their hands.

Buffalo Outer Harbor

Buffalo Outer Harbor

I’m a little confused about this article, perhaps I should start there.  If I remember correctly, the deadline for proposals by the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation and the City of Buffalo was September28th.  But according to YNN, the NFTA is still asking for these proposals as of October 12th.

The stumbling block, it seems, is that neither the city nor the ECHDC feels they should have to pay for the property.  This is over 400 acres of Buffalo’s Outer Harbor we’re talking about, but both Brian Higgins and Mayor Byron Brown expect the NFTA to simply hand over the property to one of the two entities free and clear.  Which entity will ultimately gain control will be decided by a best of five rock-paper-scissor duel between Higgins and Brown.

Brian Higgins

Brian Higgins

Higgins has said this is because the property would need $30 million in repairs, and that alone justifies the freebie.  Is that $30 million on top of whatever development takes place or is that his rough estimate of how much his waterfront project is going to cost?

He’s also criticized the NFTA for having made “three requests for proposals over the last five years with no tangible progress.”

Byron Brown has stated that he wants to “get together” with the NFTA and develop a proposal with them.  He wants to sit down and “talk through it… to look at a range of possibilities.”

Could it be that the NFTA has made no tangible progress because no one has responded in any tangible way to their requests?  Two weeks after the deadline for proposals, the Mayor of Buffalo is suggesting that he sit down with the NFTA to create a proposal?

I don’t think that’s how this works.  Why does the NFTA have to do sit down and do your work for you?  Why is this demand that the land be handed over only coming to light now, rather than the months—if not years—prior to the deadline of this latest request?

Brown wanting to sit down with the NFTA to create a proposal with them suggests that he doesn’t have one at all, and that is terrifying.  If he’s already refusing to pay for the property then what exactly is Brown bringing to the table?

YNN ends their article stating that the NFTA wants proposals submitted within 60 days.  I thought the deadline was two weeks ago?  Wasn’t September 28th the date that the City and ECHDC needed to submit their proposals?  Where has this additional 60 days come from?  When does it begin and end?  Why are we even asking that?  Isn’t the deadline the deadline?

Where is the city’s proposal?  Where is the ECHDC’s?

The NFTA paid nothing for the property, that’s what you’re upset about Brian Higgins?  You don’t want to pay for the property because they didn’t 60 years ago when they took it over from the Port Authority?  Get over it.  Make an offer, get control, rebuild it.  NOW.  This city has been dying without a waterfront, whether as a commercial harbor or a tourist attraction, for the last sixty years.  Do something about it.  Do something other than cry about how unfair it is you have to pay for a piece of land you want to own.

creepy abandoned mansion

As this house is a liability and not an asset, it is now free to whoever wants it.

Let’s put it this way:

There’s a house on Buffalo’s East Side an individual wants to buy.  It’s owned by the City of Buffalo and listed at $7,000.

The problem is, the house is a disaster.  It’s going to need new water pipes, new wiring, drywall, appliances, bathroom fixtures, cabinets.  In short, it needs to be gutted and rebuilt from its broken basement windows on up.  What’s the going to run?  $60,000?  More?

By Brian Higgins’ logic, the City of Buffalo should just give that individual the house.  They shouldn’t have to pay a cent for it.  After all, a house in that state of disrepair is not an asset to the city, but a liability, and we haven’t seen any tangible progress on the City’s part to rehabilitate the property.

That’s not going to fly is it?

Get your proposals in order.  This has gone on long enough.


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