My friends and I used to run this silly (and great) blog back in college. On it, we’d tell long-winded stories and state half-baked opinions about the kinds of things that are of interest to college kids (mostly our joint Madden season and inside jokes no one else could possibly appreciate). I loved it because it provided an excuse to write, was a collaboration with a fairly large group of us, and would sometimes find its way to readers outside our college circle. I loved it because the kudos from friends allowed me to believe the illusion that I was a good writer. It was fun shitting on people and various things back then, and I was good at it. I was good at being mean.

Years later – the blog all but abandoned at that point – I came across a memorable idea in Chuck Klosterman’s otherwise forgettable book “Eating the Dinosaur”. He said, paraphrasing here, the easiest form of writing, the lowest and most basic style, is to shit on something that is clearly flawed. That it takes little to no skill to point out the blemishes and pelt them with your hottest burns. In other words, snark is easy. He’s right, yet my urge to criticize still remains (follow me on Twitter!), especially when it comes to print journalism. Despite my endless gratitude for the journalism field, there’s this bizarre tendency, now that I’m semi-retired from newspapers, to scoff at and mock the industry, to delight in the spectacle of its floundering, and I’m not sure what drives it. And the more I read of what classifies as media criticism, the more I learn I’m not alone. Everyone has a problem with The Media, but the true sadists it seems are some of those old newspapermen who – by choice or otherwise – no longer file copy for a living.

It doesn’t take very long to find hot takes and think-pieces, rants and raves, snide comments, and parting shots from past editors and reporters, each aired with this half-smug suggestion of a coming reckoning for the general public. As if the absence of quality local news will usher in some intellectual fallout, certain political corruption, and whatever else (Whether that’s true or not is a discussion for another time).

Perhaps it’s the ingrained cynicism so common among journalists, festering to the surface and joining with our inability to keep from running our mouths. A respected St. Bonaventure professor pens a manifesto, lamenting (excellently) the gutted press, and I think about it for weeks. It’s so precise and great that I feel the urge to jump in the mix, formulate my two cents, think of clever, pointed barbs directed at no one in particular, to lash out. And then I realize, a few hundred words into it, I have literally nothing to say, only this initial, nebulous glimmer of insight that manifests into a blah list of usual reporter grievances. Then comes another thought: I’m venting because I care, because I love journalism. I miss it, and I’m pissed that its current economics make it an impossible career choice right now. To prod that anger further is to veer dangerously close to writing one of those awful “Why I Left Journalism” blogs, or worse, yielding to that old base tendency to dump on what most know to be flawed.

And does the world really need another 1,000 bitter words about the state of journalism, the “changing media landscape”? Does the craft really need more criticism when it could use all the support it can get?

Some other time, maybe.

Correction: Because of my bad writing, it sounded as if Dr. Denny Wilkins, whose piece I reference here, is no longer teaching, when in fact he is. He wrote me to point out the error. Still learning, folks.

Punk bands aren’t supposed to age well, so one would expect that after 27 years, more than a dozen releases, Strung Out was in the afterglow of a long and successful career, when full-blown middle age all but vaporizes any remaining pretense of youthful punk ethos. One could sympathize with a band that built its name within the confines of “punk metal” if they eventually lost their creative vigor and went alt. One could forgive a founding member or two for bailing, sending the remaining bandmates into the inertia of failed solo projects and one-off anniversary gigs. History would be the guide.

And yet, none of those scenarios has materialized for Strung Out, who has done the seemingly unthinkable. They’ve dug deeper into fast, melodic punk, somehow pushed it further, and last year released – no bullshit – their best work, Transmission.Alpha.Delta. It’s a fantastic record, from front to back, with some of the strongest songs they’ve ever penned (“Rebellion of the Snakes”, “The Animal and the Machine”, and “Black Maps” to name a few). Vocalist Jason Cruz has said in interviews that he’s not one to get sentimental about the band’s accomplishments, that Strung Out is forward-thinking and more or less bound by the common goal of progress. It couldn’t be any more evident. With its bright production work – producer Kyle Black gets a deserving nod here – Transmission could be considered a rebirth, but it is more the latest step for a band that mystifyingly continues to push ahead in a genre built on and revered for its sonic simplicity. Good for them.

All the years growing up in Western New York and not once did any of us ever consider getting out on the snaking Allegheny River that winds through town. Not once*. A paddle or even a swim might as well have been a bike ride to the moon.

Yet, on this particular Saturday at least, groups of people – families, too – were pushing in rafts at various points along the river. Parking areas near recently constructed launch spots – built in response to the bump in water enthusiasts, I assume – were full, and, out on the roads, pick-ups hauling pairs of kayaks motored down side-streets. A fresh resurgence seems to have grabbed ahold of the old hometown. One project gives way to another – Good Times, a reconfigured main drag, a revived ball park and a new amateur baseball team to call it home, a coming hotel on a decades-old brownfield, an upstart brewing company to get excited about. God knows what else. Larger issues exist, of course, primarily the stagnant job market, which is nothing new for a town built on manufacturing. But, the front-facing stuff reflects, I think, a community believing in itself again, and it’s so awesome to see.

*Did our parents actively discourage this because – and who knows if this was/is actually true – the Allegheny was a cesspool of coliform bacteria, Mad Cow, SARS, Zika, etc.?

Take a second and think back over your last two months of existence, and, if you’re like me, it all just appears like one, big amorphous blob of days. Minus something completely out of the ordinary (a weeklong trip to some faraway place, say, or your house burning down), even special times worth remembering get rolled into the blob, to the point that answering the simple question, “What have you been up to?”, becomes like trying to explain the theory of relativity.

A couple of years ago, this void in memory made me sad, that I could live days, months, an entire year, and only come away with a few lines. There were special moments during time’s passing to be sure, but damned if I could remember what the hell they were. So I started writing everything down as a reference. Good thing, too, because when I look back on Spring 2016, my fickle eyes can’t see much beyond a day or two. Everything beyond that is just hazy, indefinite shapes dotting the timeline. Even squinting only gets me back a week or two. Our animal brains aren’t fit for this kind of mental storage. Thank god for pens.

Family: Lindz and I have been to Geneva (NY, not Switzerland), back to Olean for my grandmother’s 90th, out to Keuka Lake and Waneta Lake, and out to the Hudson Valley for a weekend. This Saturday, we’re heading back to Olean for a birthday, and, later this month, it’s out to Vermont to meet up with friends for a little vacation. We celebrate our one-year anniversary in July. Things are great. Both of us are trying to establish this daily habit of dedicating at least one hour of each evening to our respective crafts – she holes up in her studio to work on an ongoing project; I tinker away on guitar, songs, piano, or whatever. The activity is symbolic in a way – after all responsibilities are handled, the day ends with meaningful work that charges us up for the following day. So far, so good.

Our dog, Ada, is an ornery little shit, though. Two walks per day, an extended run, soccer in the backyard, and she still follows us around the house, grumbling about her little dog problems. C’mon, dog.

Music: I’m in gigging mode recently, driving out to Rochester on two separate weekends and Corning on another. This month, I’ve got three gigs in Ithaca. The shows have been fun and, at the very least, have been lessons in taming my anxiety leading up to gigs. I can’t really explain how gratifying it is to battle through that dread, drag my ass onto a stage and sing even as my out-of-control brain is in a state of meltdown – “Run! Run now!” If I’ve learned anything these past few months – and this goes beyond music – it’s that my feelings are really not accurate most of the time. My moods, my feelings, change with the direction of the wind. Silly, then, to be guided by them.

The barn: Our sagging, 100-year-old carriage house is fixed and ready for another century-long fight against gravity. Most everyone for whom we sought guidance advised us to simply tear it down and build something cheap and practical. We just couldn’t do it, though; we had to find someone out there who could bring our carriage house back to life, and that someone was a barn restorer named Seth. Inside of five weeks, he and a partner jacked up the barn, tore out the foundation, paved a new one, braced all the walls, and replaced what needed replacing. The roof line is actually that – a straight line. It’s damn magic.

Et cetera: I’ve been taking piano lessons with a guy named Noah since February, and the challenge of learning a new instrument has unearthed some of that old excitement I had when I first picked up guitar as a teen. In many ways, I’m flying blind – I visualize shapes on the guitar’s neck, and that helps me remember chord patterns and scales. But there are no mental maps on which to draw from with piano, where all those keys are laid out linearly in front of me. In two weeks, I’m playing a recital (adorable, I know), where I’ll play Chopin’s “Prelude in E minor”, a piece that has taken me months to master.


The DiPietro-Glover residence, Trumansburg, NY. February 2015 (photo by Lindsey Glover)


Lindsey’s show at SUNY Cortland, March 2015.


Lindsey at Longwood Gardens, outside of Philly.


Green wall at Longwood Gardens. (by Lindz)


Lindsey’s piece, Glacial Lake, is featured at the Ice Box gallery in Philadelphia. (by Lindz)


Springtime on the Black Diamond Trail.


J. DiPietro, Uncle Neil and Luca hit the links somewhere in Virginia. First stop on the road trip that would take us to Charleston, S.C.  April, 2015.


Night One of the annual Fogarty Golf outing, Charleston, S.C.


BBQ with friends and family in Allegany, NY. May, 2015.


Night One of wedding weekend with 2/3 of the Hernquist brothers and 3/4 of the Fogarty cousins, Ellicottville, NY, July 2015. 


Fam. July 11, 2015. Ellicottville, NY


Just married, July 2015, Ellicottville, NY


Lindsey and Ada at Northpoint, Trumansburg. Summer 2015.


Chenango River Adventure, Summer 2015 (by Lindz)


Alexandria Bay in the Thousand Islands, Summer 2015 (by Lindz)


A walk on Curry Road, Trumansburg.


Southwick Beach encampment, September 2015 (by Lindz)


Lindz at Genesee County Park, Summer 2015.


At the finish line of the Buffalo Creek Half Marathon, outside of Pittsburgh, Pa., October 2015.


Carnegie Museum of Art and Natural History.


Lindz and the big, red door in Corning, NY. November, 2015.


Lights out, December 2015 (by Lindz)

I’m not a very intelligent dude. I like things on the bottom shelf*, put in simple terms. And though I’m not often the best at it, I aspire toward clarity.

Which brings me to god.

It seems in our faithful efforts to define who god is, we’ve resigned to impart the most basic, overly simplistic and flawed identity: god is everything and everywhere, all the time. The ambiguity is unsettling, leaves room for doubt. No wonder, then, that whatever message god intended for us is likewise dumbed down – be good, go to heaven; be bad, go to hell – misinterpreted, or drowned out completely.

Mired in the hair-pulling between countless entities with convenient and pliable value systems, bitching about who god is and what god meant – and can’t forget the murder and genocide carried out in that effort – is a very clear charge: Be good to each other.

That’s it, to me at least. Not heaven or hell, or saying the right prayers, or living a life “according to god’s plan”, not even spiritual salvation. All it’s ever been: one billion Sunday sermons and several hundred pages of scripture distilled into a single, foundational directive that has proved more than enough work for us to handle.

Be good to each other, always.

Merry Christmas.

* intellectually and physically; I’m short.

purityIt seems borderline impossible nowadays to enjoy a tiny sliver of pop culture without bringing at least some third-party opinion into the experience. Hype – positive and negative – snowballs in the age of the internet, where deep-dives and think-pieces exist to segment, dissect and extract cultural value. To say we’re blind to it or that it has no sway – even a single headline in a Twitter feed – is a convenient self-deception, a hopeless hands-over-the-ears attempt to retain our idea of pure individuality. Despite our best efforts, hype finds us.

Which is all well and good, but I just wanted to enjoy Jonathan Franzen’s new novel in peace. Damn you all, Internets.

After being billed as the Next Great American Novelist by Time in 2010, Franzen’s standing turned online, it seemed. If the take-downs were to be believed, Franzen was no longer a great novelist but sexist and tone-deaf in his white maleness. At his base, he is an asshole. And, while we’re at it, is he really a good writer, anyway? All this before I even got to Page 1 of Purity.

And though I read far more critically this time around – Thank you, Gawker Media – I’ll just say: I think Purity is a pretty good book, just like Corrections and Freedom before it. I enjoyed reading it, found it worthy enough of my limited time and attention. And really, there isn’t much else to say beyond that.

“How odd a figure I must seem to you now, a solitary crank who maroons himself with a TV set and dozens of stacks of dust-jacketed comic books. Don’t think I wouldn’t appreciate a dramatic visit between two and three in the morning,” he told her, “from an intelligent woman in spike heels and a slit skirt, with high-impact accessories.”

Don Delillo’s “White Noise”