Interviews

The Kinderhook Creature and other Monsters of New York

bigfoot photo illustration

Did you see that?

Bruce Hallenbeck remembers watching Frankenstein with his cousin when he was just five years old. "I wasn't frightened... I was fascinated."

These days Hallenbeck's fascination with monsters extends into the real world. When he's not working with microfilm and genealogy at the New York State Library, Hallenbeck writes books about horror movies and what he refers to as "real-life monsters" -- monsters of the bigfoot and Loch Ness variety.

A few years ago Hallenbeck wrote Monsters of New Jersey, and his is newest book -- Monsters of New York -- looks into the existence of creatures such as Champ, the Adirondack Bigfoot, the Kinderhook Creature and other creatures he believes are walking, crawling, and swimming around the Empire State. The book is the basis for an exhibit on display this month at the New York State Library.

Hallenbeck took some time out to talk with AOA about his search for these real world monsters, why he finds them so fascinating, and his own encounter with The Kinderhook Creature.

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Is there a happy ending to the story for the Book House and other indie book stores?

book house exterior

If Borders can't make it, can the indies?

When is the last time you bought a book at a bookstore?

Not a virtual bookstore -- an actual, brick and mortar, physical space where you browse and read and walk around and maybe even talk with clerks or other readers bookstore? A place like Market Block, or The Book House --- or heck, even Barnes & Noble.

With Borders shutting down, the ubiquity of Amazon and the rise of the e-reader, we've been curious about -- OK, baffled by-- how independent bookstores manage to keep going.

Susan Novotny, owner of The Book House in Stuyvesant Plaza and Market Block Books in Troy gets asked about this all the time.

And some of her answers kind of surprised us.

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U.S. Water Ski Show Team: Nikki Weakley

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Nikki Weakly doing what makes her happiest.

Nikki Weakley would almost always rather be water skiing.

The 25-year-old corporate communications rep for GE put on her first pair of water skis at age four and joined the U.S. Water Ski Show Team at the ripe old age of seven.

Since then the Mariaville native has spent nearly every summer evening behind a boat on the Mohawk River, practicing pyramids, jumps and balletic swivel skiing moves with the other members of the team.

The show team practices behind Jumpin' Jack's in Scotia nearly every night, and performs on Tuesday nights in July and August. It took first place in a regional competition last weekend and recently they caught the attention of the New York Times.

Nikki tore herself away from practice last night to talk with us about skiing, wiping out and the one thing that might be more of a thrill than her lifelong hobby.

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Jason Baker

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Jason Baker: chef, artist, tough guy.

Jason Baker's first food memory dates back to a childhood visit to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. An eight-year-old Jason stood fascinated by a Jackson Pollock painting. The work was created using layers upon layers of paint. "It looked like frosting," Baker recalls, "and I thought, 'That's really f&@%ing cool. I wonder what that tastes like.'"

Today Baker still counts Pollock among his heroes. And when you hear him talk about food, you understand why. "Pollock was an artist, but he was a tough guy. He was kind of the cigarette smoking, beer drinking -- you know -- breakin' the boundaries kind of guy."

Breaking the rules is big with Jason Baker, who describes his favorite ingredient as "something he's never seen before." After working with a series of notable chefs including Paul Purdhomme and John Harris and graduating from the famous Le Cordon Bleu, Baker returned to the Capital Region. These days, he's breaking the rules in the kitchen of The Wine Bar and Bistro on Lark, where he's been putting his own spin on classic bistro food since November.

He's someone we've wanted to meet for a while now, so last week we asked him a few questions about food, art, inspiration, grocery shopping, and his love of a passive-aggressive French kitchen.

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More details about All Good Bakers' community supported bakery

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All Good Bakers' Britin and Nick

We've been curious about the community supported bakery that All Good Bakers is starting up since hearing about it a few week back. For a couple of reasons:

1. We're always interested to hear how people are finding creative ways to start up sustainable local businesses.

2. Cinnamon buns.

So we bounced a few questions to Britin and Nick Foster, the married couple that owns All Good Bakers. Britin bounced back answers about how the CSB will work, the difficulty small local food companies have finding kitchen space and... cinnamon buns hot out of the oven.

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Breaking My Art's A.C. Everson

Rooster

Stuffed rooster.

Annine Everson spends hours creating works of art.

And when she's done, people break them.

Everson makes piñatas of all shapes, sizes and colors. She makes them for parties -- and for performance art.

Yes, we scratched our heads about that last part, too.

But after the jump, Albany's only piñata making performance poet explains the allure of breakable art, piñatas and performance -- and her philosophy on strings vs. paddles.

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Behind the scenes with Chopped champ Ric Orlando

Ric OrlandoAfter New World chef Ric Orlando emerged victorious on last week's episode of the Food Network show Chopped, we thought it would be fun to get the backstory on how all it went down.

Among the bits that came up during the conversation: his zen approach to the challenges, being judged, editing, celebrity chef Alex Guarnaschelli's seemingly snippy comments -- and what he did with the prize money.

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RPI's Nao Bustamante on Bravo's "Work of Art"

bustamante silver and gold

America's next top artist? From "the Burgh?" You'll have to watch to find out.

Next week Bravo premiers its new reality TV series Work of Art. It's like Project Runway or Top Chef... but this time the search is for America's "next great artist." Fourteen of up-and-coming artists will compete for a solo show at the prestigious Brooklyn Museum and a cash prize of $100,000.

One of them will be Lansingburgh resident and RPI associate professor Nao Bustamante.

Bustamante is an internationally known performance artist who teaches New Media and Live Art at RPI.

She took a few minutes to talk with AOA about Troy, being an artist at an engineering school, and her reality TV experience.

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Sean Fallon, Charlotte Barrett & Virgin Alexander

Virgin Alexander directors Sean Fallon and Charlotte Barrett

Sean Fallon and Charlotte Barrett

When he was 13, Sean Fallon and his buddies were running around Saratoga making movies with a camcorder plugged into a VCR.

This summer, Sean Fallon and his wife and film making partner, Charlotte Barrett, will be running around Saratoga making movies again. Only this time they'll have high-def cameras, a professional crew and a cast that includes Bronson Pinchot (yep, Cousin Balki) , Paige Howard (Adventureland, daughter of actor/director Ron Howard) and Mika Boorem (Dawson's Creek, and a whole bunch of other stuff).

Sean and Charlotte wrote the script for Virgin Alexander -- their first feature film. They took time out from scouring garage sales and scouting locations to talk with AOA about the script, the cast, and shooting in Saratoga.

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Kevin Craig West

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He plays Reverend Sykes in Mockingbird.

Kevin Craig West could easily win the title for hardest working guy in show business. The Arbor Hill native and Troy resident is an actor, producer, director, writer and editor who is constantly networking.

West recently named best actor at the Knickerbocker Film Festival for his work in Mike Feuerstein's film The Greatest Man Alive. And he's currently appearing in Capital Rep's production of To Kill A Mockingbird.

We got together with West last week to talk about the strange way he backed into his career, Arbor Hill, the growing film scene in the Capital Region and car chases with Angelina Jolie.

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"Driving" your bike with Tamara Flanders

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Tamara Flanders and her daughter on their tandem bike

We'd like to bike more in the Capital Region. Really, we would. But frankly, we're a bit, well, chicken. OK, maybe not exactly chicken. It's just that riding a bike in an area with few bike lanes and often-inconsiderate drivers seems a bit hazardous.

Which is why Tamara Flanders new class on how to "drive" a bike looked interesting to us. Flanders is a holistic health teacher who added a class for novice adult cyclists to her repertoire this spring.

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The Lost Radeau: a shipwreck in Lake George

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Joe Zarzynski measuring the Radeau

When we heard there was a shipwreck in the middle of Lake George we kind of went, "Waitaminute, what?"

But there is, in fact, a shipwreck in Lake George. Joe Zarzynski told us so. Zarzynski is a former high school social studies teacher turned underwater archeologist. In the 1980's he spent most of his free time chasing the Loch Ness Monster and Champ -Lake Champlain's version of the Nessie.

He stopped actively looking for underwater "monsters" in the early 90's and focused on shipwrecks instead. The shipwrecks were easier to find because-- you know-- they don't move.

Zarzynski says there are actually lots of shipwrecks in Lake George -- more than 200. And he's helped to find a lot of them. But the most impressive wreck he's found is The Lost Radeau a floating bastion from the French and Indian War -- that rests more than 100 feet below the surface of the lake. Now, thanks to his efforts, you can see it too - just be sure to bring your wet suit.

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Louise's grease car

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Mmmm. Smells like french fries.

You can smell Louise Sikelianos coming.

As she tools down the streets of Albany in her 1990 VW Jetta, the air smells of french fries. Three years ago Louise converted her deisel to a grease car that runs on a combination of diesel fuel and vegetable oil.

It's one of a handful of grease cars that are running on the leftovers at Capital Region restaurants.

AOA went with Louise for a quick spin in the grease car...

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Lori Hansen's vintage letterpress

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Lori Hansen and her 1882 letterpress

Monday through Friday she works with pixels and laser printers, designing computer
graphics for advertising and public relations at EMA in Albany. But on Saturdays Lori Hansen abandons keyboard, mouse and laser printer for ink, wood and steel.

A couple of years ago Hansen found a vintage 1880's letter press on Ebay. Fifteen hundred dollars, five guys, a hydraulic lift, an elaborate system of pulleys and a big truck later it was hers.

She gave us a tour of her vintage print shop, tucked away in a corner of the Historic Albany Architectural Parts Warehouse, where she prints fun, quirky, handmade cards on beautiful paper.

A closer look at Lori and the press, including photos and video of how it works -- after the jump.

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Kosciuszk-who?

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The "Twin Bridges" are actually the Thaddeus Kosciusko Bridge

We can't tell you how many times we've crossed The Thaddeus Kosciusko Bridge on the Northway and wondered, "Who was this Kosciuszko guy? And why did they name the twin bridges after him?"

Also, we could never quite figure out how to pronounce his name, which is why we -- and almost everyone else -- refer to them as "The Twin Bridges."

Well, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and one-time Albany resident Alex Storozynski has just answered all of our questions about Kosciuszko in his new book The Peasant Prince.

He took a few minutes out of his weekend to give us the inside scoop on Kosciuszko who, it turns out, was a pretty impressive guy: an engineer, an abolitionist and, oh yeah, the guy responsible for the plan that helped change the course of the Revolutionary War.

A few details and an early map of his battle plans after the jump.

And we also find out how to pronounce "Kosciuszko."

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Project Larkway winner Joleen Button

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Joleen Button (in the white dress) designed the winning collection for Project Larkway.

You get the feeling Joleen Button doesn't watch much TV.

A few weeks ago at Art on Lark, Button's collection of retro inspired summer dresses (plus one vintage style red bikini) won her the Project Larkway competition. But she's still playing with the collection, trying to make the dresses look a little better.

When she's not altering clothes to create new outfits, she's painting, doing graphic design, even making music. Constantly creating.

Button sat still just long enough to talk to AOA about the arts scene in the Capital Region, her passion for all things vintage and her great love affair with art (small "a") .

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Jennifer Maher's toy portraits

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DJ Jennifer Haley and her toy portraits

So it's no secret by now that AOA spends a fair amount of time at Uncommon Grounds.

And lately we can't help but smile at the art on the walls. The current show includes a group of portraits of quirky, well loved, interesting toys -- bunnies, lambs, squeezy bath toys and Japanese cartoon favs.

They're the work of Jennifer Maher -- known in local rave circles as D.J Jen Haley.

Jen's on hiatus from the rave scene (or what's left of it) until her new daughter gets a little older. These days she's writing a little and painting a lot --specifically custom portraits of favorite toys.

She talked with AOA recently about her art, the allure of toys, and the common ground between cuddly animal paintings and rave culture.

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Tea with the Tulip Queen

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Pinkie extended, of course.

Sure, it's easy to get a little snarky about the Tulip Queen. But it gets harder when you meet the actual Tulip Queen -- and she's a really lovely person with good intentions and a sense of humor about her royal self.

Juliana Hernandez, this year's Tulip Queen, is all of those things.

She's bright, positive, energetic. She's somebody you'd probably like to hang out with. Just don't try to friend her on Facebook if you don't know her.

Queen Juliana granted AOA an audience earlier this week for a chat about the paparazzi, the Tulip King, her new job and the weight of the tulip crown.

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Talking with Kaitlin Cassidy about Paris and Saratoga

kaitlin cassidyAfter last week's post about Saratoga Springs native Kaitlin Cassidy and her appearance on the MTV reality show Paris Hilton's My New BFF, people had a lot to say. And many of the comments were, uh, kind of snippy.

We figured it was only fair for Kaitlin to have a chance to respond, so we got in touch with her for an interview. And we gotta say: you'll probably think about her differently after hearing her answers.

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Your Veggie Mobile questions answered

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Veging at St. Sophia.

By Jessica Pasko

A few weeks ago, AOA told you that the Veggie Mobile was a finalist in an international competition. And based on the comment thread that ensued, it seemed like a lot of you were pretty curious about the whole thing.

So I caught up with Veggie Mobile Coordinator EJ Krans to get the whole scoop...

(And by the way, when he's not selling veggies, you can catch EJ playing around town with Sgt. Dunbar and the Hobo Banned and We are Jeneric.)

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Justin Maine: "So Right, So Smart"

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Justin Maine, one of the directors of "So Right, So Smart."

Local filmmaker Justin Maine just got back from New Zealand where he collected the Best Feature Film prize at the Reel Earth Festival for his new documentary, "So Right So Smart."

Maine is one of the owners of MagicWig Productions in Schenectady. Usually they produce corporate video, but for the last three years his team (Guy Noerr, Leanne Robinson Maine and Michael Swantek) has been flying around the country documenting the efforts of businesses to "go green."

The resulting film, narrated by Daryl Hannah, covers a wide range of businesses -- from a farm to a brewery to a clothing company to Barenaked Ladies (yep, the band) to Wal-Mart.

So Right, So Smart makes its local debut on Saturday at Albany's Palace Theater.

Before he left for New Zealand, Justin hung out with us over bagels and told us how the worlds largest manufacturer of commercial carpeting taught him about the importance of going green, why Al Gore isn't in his movie and what he and his team have in common with folks like Kevin Smith and Peter Jackson.

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Brenny Rabine's life in the theater

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This is her first appearance at Capital Rep.

Pretty much anytime we go to a theater in the Capital Region these days, the name Brenny Rabine comes up.

Brenny has been working as an actor, playwright, producer, teacher and actor in the Capital Region for years. Not in addition to her day job -- the arts are her day job.

And her night job.

These days Brenny can be seen in Capital Rep's production of Boston Marriage. She took a little time before getting into make-up to talk to AOA about life upon the wicked stage and how she manages to make a living as an actor in the Capital Region.

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The Hollywood Drive-In


So in these days of downloads, Netflix, Hulu and big screens in your living room, justifying going out to a movie might be tough. Never mind justifying going to see a movie while sitting in your car.

But that's what Frank Fisher thinks you should do.

Fisher's Family has been running The Hollywood Drive-In on Route 66 (yep, a drive-in on Route 66) since 1952. He took a few minutes to talk with us about why he still runs the place, what people get out of going to a drive-in... and the woman who tied her boyfriend up in the trunk.

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The Piper's Dojo

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That's Andrew on the left.

Piper and dojo are two words that, we have to admit, we never thought we'd see in the same sentence. And yet, here they are-- together. The Piper's Dojo is an intensive school for bagpipers in the Capital Region.

Master piping sensei Andrew Douglas (just call him Andrew) drew a deep breath to talk with us about the dojo, the art of piping and the local pipe band culture (think the Jets and the Sharks in kilts).

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Peering into Ken Ragsdale's memory

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A picture of Ken's memory

Last week we told you about artist Ken Ragsdale's Edible Albany exhibit at Crisan. The object of Ragsdale's art is to take pictures of his own mind.

And the result is pretty cool: recognizable images, created out of paper, that are only simple on the surface. The longer you look at them, the more you start thinking -- thinking about thinking and memory and reality.

Plus they're just fun to look at. There are more of them, plus more about Ken, after the jump.

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Liz Funk loves Albany

By Jessica Pasko

liz funk todayLiz Funk wrote the book on overachievers. No -- really -- she did. The 20 year old Pace University Senior and Voorheesville native just released her first book, "Supergirls Speak Out." A few weeks ago she was on the Today show and she's got interviews and lectures scheduled all over the country.

But while many young people are leaving upstate NY after college to start new lives and begin their careers, overachiever Liz Funk has come home to the Capital Region.

She talked with Jessica Pasko about why she's back, and shared her thoughts on stopping the upstate brain drain.

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Ian Egas knows his wine

Ian Egas

Ian trained at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa.

So we've been known to drink a little wine here at AOA. We admit it. We also, sadly, admit that we have a bit of trouble differentiating our sauvignon blancs from our gewurztraminers. OK, actually, we have trouble once we get past "red or white."

Fortunately, that's not a problem for Ian Egas. He's the sommelier at Albany's swanky 677 Prime. Ian took time out from aerating and decanting to share some secrets about buying wine in the Capital Region, what your neighbors are drinking -- and Prime's $3000+ bottle.

Yep, one bottle. Yeah.

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Your new neighbors, the fishers

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Bernard's new around here.

That furry guy in the picture above is a fisher. His name is Bernard. He was caught by some scientists in the Albany Pine Bush recently as part of research into why he and his fisher friends have decided to take up residence in suburban parts of this area (they've been spotted around Albany and Saratoga counties).

What, you've never heard of fishers? Very few people have. The animals were extraordinarily rare in this area as recently as the 1990s.

Intrigued by our new neighbors, we called up Roland Kays this week. He's the curator of mammals at the New York State Museum and he's leading the research project that captured Bernard.

We talked with Roland about fisher mysteries, coked up wolverines, cat murders, squirrel horror movies and "the landscape of fear."

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Jordy Baker: eco-friendly florist

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Jordy Baker -- eco-florist. Yes, she comes from a land down under.

So the other day, while checking out Downtown Susie Brown, we ran across a post about Jordane Baker. She's the owner of Heaven Scent, an eco-friendly florist in Saratoga Springs.

If you're anything like us, you just said, "Huh? Eco-friendly florist?" Yeah, we had to ask.

So we called the native Australian to find out exactly what an eco-friendly florist is, and why after living in Australia, London, Tokyo, Manhattan and all over Europe, she's decided Saratoga Springs is the place to be one.

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Kreisler's Long Sleep

Amy_Biancolli.jpgAmy Biancolli has our dream job. She lives here in Albany, but she's a movie critic for the Houston Chronicle. She's also an author.

And now she's a playwright. Capital Rep is staging her first play, "Kreisler's Long Sleep," as part of its "Biggest Little International Play Festival."

The play is based on her book about world renowned violinist Fritz Kriesler. Now, admittedly, we're not exactly up on our violinists, but this guy sounds pretty interesting. Amy took a few minutes off from the glamorous life of a film critic/playwright to tell AOA a little more about him-- and about herself.

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Out in the cold with Capital News 9's Kaitlyn Ross

Kaitlyn Ross cold

Kaitlyn wanted us to tell you that she's much prettier without the hat. We think she's pretty cute this way, too.

So, this morning we turned on Capital News 9 only to find poor Kaitlyn Ross shivering on an Albany street corner just so viewers could see exactly how cold it really is outside.

And a few months back, when trees were bent over with ice, Kaitlyn was standing in Washington Park to let the Capital Region know that it was much too dangerous to -- you know -- stand in Washington Park.

In fact, if it's morning -- and the weather sucks -- turn on channel 9 and you're almost certain to see poor Kaitlyn out in the thick of it. Which prompts the question, what the hell did she do to piss off the Capital News 9 producers?

And of course, being us -- we had to ask.

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The book on Phil Pascuzzo

Phil Pascuzzo book covers

Cover art by Phil Pascuzzo

By Melissa Mansfield

Everybody's heard that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. But is that really true?

Phil Pascuzzo should know. He's the drummer for local band Scientific Maps. He's also a book cover designer -- he's created more than 300 of them. (Phil's also designed artwork for local musicians such as Brent Gordon, Brian Patneaude, and Sgt Dunbar.)

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Bryan Thomas knows where the funk is

Bryan Thomas closeup

Portrait of a soul rocker.

Bryan Thomas has been making the Capital Region a cooler place to live going on ten years now, through his work with the Hidden City collective and a string of soul rock albums. And this week he's releasing a new album, 1369 Lights.

We recently bounced a few questions Bryan's way (that would be toward Delmar). He emailed answers back about finding the funk at pre-school soccer games, why he name-checks local places in his songs so often, and what he thinks is the best-kept secret about the Capital Region.

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The guy on the big pink bike

Andrew Franciosa and his big pink bike

We first saw The Big Pink Bike (our name for it) after Jess spotted it back in August. And since then, it seems like we've either been seeing it, or hearing about it, everywhere.

So who is this guy who rides The Big Pink Bike?

His name is Andrew Franciosa. He's a junior at UAlbany. And he was nice enough to answer a few questions we had -- most of all, why?

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At Your Service in the Capital Region

Pam and Michael HowardWe recently stumbled across the web site for At Your Service, a "concierge and consulting service" here in the Capital Region.

We'd heard about these kinds of personal concierges in bigger cities, but we were kind of surprised to hear there was one right here. You know, this isn't Manhattan -- who doesn't around here doesn't do their own grocery shopping?

So, curious about the personal concierge business, we emailed a few questions to Pam Howard, who owns At Your Service with her husband Michael (that's them on the right). She emailed back answers about grocery shopping, four-day wedding planning and sniffing for cat pee.

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The Vespa guy

Vespas at Schenectady dealership

A trio of Vespas lined up outside the dealership in Schenectady.

What was your first job out of college? It probably wasn't as cool as what Peter Caschera's got going on.

After graduating this past May from Georgetown he came back to the Capital Region and opened a Vespa dealership. (His brother Giuseppe, who's still in college, helps out during school breaks.)

We stopped by the dealership in Schenectady this week to ask Peter a few questions... and, um, ogle the merchandise.

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Making it up with the Mop & Bucket Company

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The Mop & Bucket Company

Last week when we talked with Katie Haverly, she mentioned she was doing improv with a company called Mop and Bucket here in the Capital Region.

We've heard a lot about these guys lately. They've been holding performances and
workshops at Proctor's Theater and they're teaching a class that starts tomorrow night at The Arts Center of the Capital Region.

They're adding improv to the list of stuff to do in the Capital Region.

What is improv? It's theater without a script. It's audience participation. It's making it up as you go along.

And Kat Koppett says it's not just for theatrical types. Koppett is a twenty year improv veteran. She's performed with troupes in NYC and San Diego. Today she teaches improv in classes and in business settings. She also performs with the Mop and Bucket Company (Mopco.). She says there's a lot that real people can learn from improvisation.

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Seven questions for Katie Haverly

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Katie Haverly

Sometimes you have to lean in close to hear what Katie Haverly has to say. But back up when she starts to sing. Girlfriend's got some lung power.

The soft spoken singer/songwriter has lived in Phoenix, Flagstaff, Chicago, Boulder, Chapel Hill and England but she considers the Capital Region her home. She's living in Troy these days and when she's not making music she's a public health researcher for NY State. Haverly sat down over a cup of tea and answered a few questions for AOA.

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A modern building hidden in plain site

Massry Center from Madison Ave

Looks can be deceiving... in a good way.

The new Massry Center for the Arts at the College of St. Rose opened this week and it's quite the building. We got a tour yesterday and the place has some really nice spaces.

The thing that really caught our eye even before the place was even finished, though, is the way it fits into the context of the neighborhood surrounding CSR. Massry is a 46,000 square foot building, but it's relatively unassuming in both size and style from Madison Avenue. In fact, the size is almost hidden when you look at it from the street. It's like this modern building has just been discretely tucked into one of Albany's traditional neighborhoods.

Bill Koonz, an architect with Saratoga Associates, designed the Massry Center. We asked him a few questions yesterday about the thinking behind the design.

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The Capital Region without a car

TQL holding a CDTA map

A transit-riding superhero has to protect her identity.

Later on AOA: TQL revealed herself to be Leah Golby.
____

One of our favorite people in the Capital Region's online neighborhood is ThisQualityLife, who blogs about her adventures navigating the bus system at Qualities of Life in Albany. Gently prodding CDTA to do better, she's become an advocate for people who use public transportation. We think it's great she's taking the time to speak out.

Part of what makes TQL's effort interesting is that she doesn't have a car -- by choice. A little more than a year ago, she decided to give it up. Frankly, we can't imagine getting around the Capital Region full-time without a car. So, we were curious about what prompted her to do that and how it's affected her life. We met up last week to ask her a few questions...

What prompted you to give up your car?

It wouldn't start. (laughs) There was a day where I had all this free time planned, and I went downstairs, and my car wouldn't start. And I was just like, well, I could call AAA and take the time to try to get it fixed -- or I could still enjoy my free time. So, I just kept walking.

And you haven't stopped.

Yeah. (laughs) Yeah, essentially. It's a lot of walking.

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Andrew Catalon knows more about team handball than you do

Andrew Catalon

Andrew's gotta be one of the nicest guys in TV.

The Summer Olympics started today in China. And, of course, that means wall-to-wall TV coverage. One of the people behind the mic for some of the games will be Andrew Catalon, the weekend sports anchor at Channel 13 here in the Capital Region. We bounced a few questions his way last week.

How'd you get hooked up with this Olympics gig?

I did a curling show for NBC Sports in December. And they called me up a couple months ago and said, "Listen, we have an opportunity for you to do some Olympics stuff if you're interested." And I jumped at it -- it's a great opportunity.

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Rain, rain go away...

rainbow in Colonie

One upside to the rain: more rainbows, like this one over the weekend in Colonie.

Oh, Capital Region. Why so soggy this year? According to the folks at the National Weather Service, A-Town and surrounding areas have received twice the usual share of rain this summer. This is no surprise to those of us that have had to carry umbrellas to the track, the pool, the barbecue and -- oh hell, just about everywhere.

So why is it so wet this year?

We asked Brian Frugis, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany.

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David Tyree, Super Bowl hero and temporary A-Towner

David Tyree

For whatever reason, things just seem to stick to his head.

If you didn't see it, you've probably heard about David Tyree's catch during the last Super Bowl. It's the one where the ball looked like it just stuck to his helmet. Some people are calling it the best play in Super Bowl history -- and it's one of the reasons the Giants were able to beat the Patriots.

But the new season is about to start and that means it's back to work... in Albany. Tyree and the rest of the Giants are in town for a month to train for the upcoming season. He took a few minutes away from practice (lunch, actually) at U-Albany to talk with AOA about what it's like to be a temporary A-Towner...

Since the Super Bowl, do you go around introducing yourself as David Tyree, Super Bowl Hero?

No, no, I definitely don't. It's never been my character -- never will be. Sometimes I have a hard time -- as much as I love a free meal, sometimes I think I should use this thing more often but I have a hard time doing that.

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Albany Rickshaw

Ricshaw.jpg

Yes, that's a rickshaw at the corner of State and Lark.

Check out what we found while we were having dinner on Lark Street the other night! (Unfortunately all we had handy was the camera phone, but you get the idea.) Yep, there's a new way to travel in Albany. A very, very old new way to travel.

Right now Albany Rickshaw is a one man company, and that one man is in pretty good shape. Loren Grugan is an Albany police officer, but in his off-hours he'll pull you around the city in his new rickshaw. Loren doesn't stay still for very long, but he put the breaks on to talk with AOA.

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The Albany Art Room

Art_Room_Karen.jpg

Karen Schupack giving art tips to Cole and his mom.

The Albany Art Room is pretty much what it sounds like. It's a big room (actually 3 rooms) filled with just about anything you can use to make art. There are buckets and boxes of crayons, markers, paper, paint, stencils and brushes. There are beads and strings and easels. There's glitter and paste and a big box filled with pretty purple sand. There's just all kinds of fun stuff.

And for $5 an hour little kids and little kid wannabe's (otherwise known as grown-ups) can play with all of it, and take their creations home.

Karen Schupack says she started The Albany Art Room because she wanted something like it in the world, and she thought other people might like it too. In between coaching
budding young artists and their parents, she told us why.

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Spa City Cupcakes

Rachel St Martin holding a cupcake

Rachel's holding a Driving Me Coconuts! cupcake.

Everyone has probably had a moment at their desk at work where they've thought, "I don't want to do this anymore. There's gotta be something different, something better, for me." So few of us actually follow through on that impulse, though. And for good reason: there are bills to pay, careers to protect, and failure is a real possibility.

But some people do make the jump. Rachel St. Martin is one of them. Unhappy with her job in corporate PR, Rachel quit so she could start Spa City Cupcakes in Saratoga. The shop just opened this month in the Downstreet Marketplace on Broadway, offering, as Rachel describes them, cupcakes that are "big and real" in flavors such as creamsicle, s'more and "Elvis Has Left the Building."

Curious -- and hungry for dessert -- we stopped by to ask Rachel a few questions...

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Heather Bohm-Tallman, dog photographer

photo

Pretty much everyone with a dog -- or any pet, for that matter -- has probably taken their fair share of dog pictures. It's not like three million plus photos on Flickr have been tagged "dog" by accident. But we'd never heard of anyone having their dog professionally photographed.

Then we came across Heather Bohm-Tallman, a photographer from the Saratoga area who shoots weddings, events and... dogs. "Really?" we thought, "That's kind of cool. And maybe a little weird. We gotta talk to her."

So we emailed Heather a bunch of questions and she was nice enough to answer...

(there's more)

Brian Premo: Joe Bruno is like the guy who sunk the Titanic

New York State Capitol

This has been Joe's house for a long time.

Joe Bruno actually has a challenger this year for his state Senate seat. His name is Brian Premo. He's a defense attorney from Lansingburgh with a wife and four boys. And he's been endorsed by the Saratoga and Rensselaer County Democratic committees.

But Joe Bruno has been in the Senate for 32 years, he's been majority leader for 14 of those years. He's the most powerful Republican in New York State. Heck, seemingly half the buildings and parks in Rensselaer County are named after him. So why would a person do this to themselves?

AOA called Premo to ask: "What are you thinking?"

(there's more)

Virgil's in Saratoga: coffee without the buzz

virgil's sign

Unplug before entering.

Kathleen Quartararo wants you to visit Virgil's House, her coffee shop in Saratoga
Springs, but your laptop can stay at home. And your cell phone? Off, please.

In a day when most of us are looking for a place with a good latte AND free wifi, Kathleen is bucking the trend in an effort to create an old fashioned unplugged environment. No phones, no texting, no computers. Why? AOA called her (yes, on our cell phone) to find out.

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Igniting Albany's floating, burning tulip

Dr. Z with flaming handsMore Mission Impossible than 1812 Overture. That's what Dr. Gary Zeller (that's him on the right holding the fire) says it will look like in Washington Park on Friday night, when Mayor Jerry Jennings ignites "Night Fire", aka Albany's floating, burning tulip.

Gary Zeller (alias Dr. Z.) is a chemist, entertainer, pyrotechnics expert and the owner of the environmental technology company Zeller International. He did the special effects for "Dawn of the Dead" and won an Academy Award for the development of Zel Jel, a fireproof substance that protects stunt people.

He's also the guy who figured out how to make "Night Fire" burn.

AOA talked with Dr. Z about how to burn down a giant tulip display without, you know, burning down everything else around it.

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One year behind the wheel of The Fagbug

Erin_in_the_fagbug.jpg

Note to consumers: Rainbow flag paint job not standard on the VW bug.

By Jessica Pasko

It's been a whole year since Erin Davies first discovered the words "UR Gay" and "Fag" scrawled in red spray paint on her VW bug, which was parked near her downtown Albany apartment.

After her initial humiliation, Erin became fascinated by people's reactions to the graffiti on the car. That sparked the idea to drive across the country with the words on the car, and to film the experience in an effort to open up a dialogue and raise awareness of gay rights. She's also spoken at numerous college campuses throughout the year. She says it's very exciting to have made it to the one year mark, following a year filled with ups and downs.

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Talking with Tim Gunn at Macy's

Tim Gunn at Macy's

"Make it work!"

Well, we did it. After a week of agonizing over our respective wardrobes, we finally selected our outfits and set out for the "good" Macy's to meet fashion guru Tim Gunn.

The first thing you need to know is that, seriously, this guy is just as nice in person as he is on TV. In fact, he may be the nicest celeb we've ever met (because, you know, there have been so many). Tim was in town for a Liz Clairborne fashion show at Macy's (he's now chief creative officer for Liz Claiborne) and he set aside a few minutes to answer some of our questions -- and some of yours. Here's how it went...

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Drew D'Amelia, the Mathmaticious guy

Drew D'Amelia

The glasses were a prop.

After we saw Shen 9th grader Drew D'Ameilia's Mathmaticious, a math-inspired parody of Fergie's Fergalicious that's been viewed more than 1.1 million times on YouTube, we ran the numbers and figured there was a high probability that he'd be interesting.

That turned out to be true. And it's a good thing, because we didn't bother to check our work.

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Talking with They Might Be Giants' John Flansburgh about The Egg

They Might Be Giants

That's John on the right. Of course, that's also John on the left.

The Egg is "exciting and old," so much so that it prompted They Might Be Giants' John Flansburgh to write a song about it. TMBG is back in town this week to play a couple of shows at the "performance orb." John was nice enough to talk with AOA about one of the stranger venues the band has played -- and let us in on what they were thinking the first time they encountered our giant concrete egg.

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Retiring racehorses

Horse_1.jpg

A while back we linked to a story about the New York State's efforts to save thoroughbred racehorses from the slaughterhouse. They're working with an organization called The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation to help retrain the horses and find them homes.
This got us thinking about retiring racehorses. Why retire them? Where do they retire to? A beach house in Boca? We called the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation's Executive Director Diana Pikulski for some answers.

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Botanical garden in Saratoga?

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This is NOT Saratoga Springs (it's actually the New York Botanical Gardens), but maybe it could be.

Saratoga Springs kind of has it going on. Sure, there's the racing thing, but there's also shopping, SPAC, restaurants, a little night life and a state park with tennis, skating, a theater, golf, hiking trails and two swimming pools. What's it missing? Brett Van Zandt says a botanical garden. Van Zandt is heading up a movement to build The Springs Botanical Garden in Saratoga's Spa State Park. Here's the dirt on the big garden plan:

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The scoop on snow emergencies

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Well, Punxsutawney Phil emerged from his hole Saturday, and the little rodent says we're looking at six more weeks of winter. That means there could be a few more snow emergencies in our future (Mr. Snow Miser... are you listening?). A-Town has only seen two snow emergences this season. The first kind of took us by surprise, and the second hardly seemed like enough snow to constitute a concern, much less an emergency. But then, it's not our job to declare snow emergencies. Who's job is it? AOA got the scoop (or shovel if you will) on Albany snow emergencies from Albany Police Spokesman Jim Miller.

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Freaking out at RPI: an interview with Puckman

RPI's Puckman

Doesn't he ever get sick of being slapped around?

Tomorrow is RPI's 31st annual Big Red Freakout. So on the eve of the institute's biggest hockey game of the year, AOA got an exclusive interview with the RPI mascot, Puckman.

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Mame Faye: the inside scoop on Troy's second most famous figure

mame_faye.jpg

Mame Faye reportedly told young women of Troy, "Why work in a shop? Don't you know you're sittin' on a million."

Troy's most famous figure may be Uncle Sam, but its second most famous, Mame Faye, ran a string of brothels across from Union Station. Filmmakers Penny Lane and Annmarie Lannesy (that's them below) just completed a documentary on Mame Faye called, "Sittin' on a Million". They gave us the scoop on how this business woman became a wold famous madam to the greatest generation.

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The Scoop

Ever wish you had a smart, savvy friend with the inside line on what's happening around the Capital Region? You know, the kind of stuff that makes your life just a little bit better? Yeah, we do, too. That's why we created All Over Albany. Find out more.

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