Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Monday, April 26, 2010

Scott Leffler, xenophobe

Every so often, I have an “aha” moment. Just such a moment occurred this past weekend when I realized that I am, indeed, part of the problem.

My friends at WNYMedia.net recently had a NCAA-style bracket tournament to determine who is most responsible for the regional failure in Western New York. And the answer was us. That's right. Us.

When the results came out, I said to myself, “Yeah, 'us' collectively, but I'm not to blame.”

But my “aha” moment told me I was wrong. I hate being wrong. And even more so, I hate being part of the problem. So I'm going to work to fix it.

I've always said one of our biggest problems in Western New York is the provincialism displayed by our elected leaders. They all have their fiefdoms and they refuse to work with other communities for the betterment of the entire region.

I've even called out non-politician friends for showing the same type of provincialism.

For example, I've complained to friends from Lockport dozens of times about what seems to be a common interest in the city: Never leaving Lockport.

“The world does not end at the county line,” I've said repeatedly over the last decade.

I enjoy a particular watering hole in West Seneca. I don't go there as often as I used to, but when I did, I would have people ask my why I go “all the way to West Seneca for a beer.”

When I lived in Ohio, I traveled 54 miles one way to work. An hour there. An hour back. Every day. Five days a week. So a half an hour drive to go to “my bar” doesn't seem like a big deal to me.

This past weekend, I took the kids to the “Buffalo Pizza Fest” in the Marriott on the Millersport Highway. It happens to be Amherst right there. Based on the reactions on a local website, people were offended that the “Buffalo Pizza Fest” was held in Amherst - outside of Buffalo.

I thought this reaction was silly. I mean, it's all Buffalo, isn't it?

And that's when I had my “aha” moment. I've been guilty of the same thing.

You see, I grew up in the Town of Niagara. When I would tell people this, they would say, “Oh. Niagara Falls.” I have always been quick to correct them. The Town of Niagara is most certainly not Niagara Falls, I would explain.

Oddly enough, when I was in Ohio, I would tell people I was from Niagara Falls. Those who were familiar with a map would say, “Oh, I didn't know you were from Buffalo.” And I would correct them as well. Niagara Falls is not Buffalo.

Why didn't I want people thinking I was from Niagara Falls? Is the Town of Niagara somehow better than the City of Niagara Falls? Is the City of Niagara Falls somehow better than the City of Buffalo?

The clearcut and obvious answer to both questions is, “no.”
We're all in the same boat together. Niagara Falls and Lockport. Buffalo and West Seneca. Tonawanda and North Tonawanda. And yet we act like the border to each and every single community in Western New York is the Mason-Dixon line.

There's nothing wrong with civic pride. But the xenophobia reflected in this region is the wrong kind of pride. Until our civic pride overlaps our community borders, we're all part of the problem.

And I'm not going to do it anymore.

From now on, I'll be from Niagara Falls – even though I grew up in the Town of Niagara. I'll be from Buffalo – even though I live in Tonawanda. And I'll do my best to remember that we're all collectively from Western New York.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

In government we distrust ...

I'm in the majority.

That doesn't happen often, by the way. Although in this instance I'm not surprised.

To be honest, I'm surprised we're not all in the majority on this particular issue. It shocks me that anyone would disagree with me on this one.

The issue is simply this: Do you trust the federal government?

A whopping 78 percent of those polled in a Pew Research Poll released Sunday said they don't believe that Washington can fix what ails us. That means, though, that 22 percent said they think Washington is on the right path.

Imagine if you will that you're at dinner with nine of your closest friends. Statistically speaking, two of them think the feds are going to fix everything. Not to be judgmental, but you should choose your friends better because two in nine of them are idiots. Of course, I'm assuming that you're in the majority, too.

A lot of people read this column, though, so I know you can't all be in the majority. There are some of your reading this right now who are really upset because I just called you an idiot. There are others, of course, who aren't upset because you didn't know I was talking about you. This proves my point all the more.

I'd apologize if I were sorry, but … come on! If you are one of those in the minority, I have to ask you; “What are you thinking?”

I can't for the life of me fathom what would lead any thinking American to believe that the federal government is capable of fixing anything, much less everything.

This isn't a Democrat and Republican issue, by the way. It's across the board. And although the distrust level is at its highest rate in decades, it isn't something that just happened. It has been slowly creeping up little by little with each passing administration and congressional class.

What does this mean, really? It means that those of us in the majority really need to step up and do something. Elect some different people. Run for office ourselves. Something. Anything.

I mean … twenty-two percent? I think England had a higher favorable rating during the revolution. Which explains how fringe groups like the Tea Party come into existence and gain such popularity.

This should be great for the GOP come November. The mid-term elections tend to swing a little bit in favor of the minority party no matter what. Given the perfect storm we've got this year between the high level of anti-government sentiment and the mid-terms, and the Republicans should pick up dozens of seats in the house and a handful in the senate.

Ironically, this will add even greater chaos and will allow the feds to accomplish even less.

The preceding sentence may sound like I'm condemning the thought of a GOP sweep in 2010, but you wouldn't be further from the truth.

Fact of the matter is, I'm a bit of a fan of chaos. And I don't want the government to accomplish much. I prefer gridlock. When the government “accomplishes” things it tends to cost us money and further limit our ever-dwindling freedoms.

In other words, while I am in the majority on the issue of whether or not I believe the government can fix our ills, I'm probably in the minority if the question is “do you want them to?”

I prefer being in the minority, frankly. I'm used to it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Just say no (to playoff beards)

Two weeks ago I said I was getting old because using the internet to job hunt is incredibly frustrating.

Last week I basically proved I was getting old because I don't like those newfangled bonus cards everybody makes you use.

And today I feel really old because my oldest daughter is now a teenager.

Pity party for me. You're invited.

Okay, enough with that. Now onto today's irritation: Playoff beards.

There is no political overtone to playoff beards. They just irk me. I don't get them.

For those who have known me for a while, I have in past grown the playoff beard. It was splotchy, itchy and ugly. And as you should already know, I was rooting for the Sabres, so it didn't work.

That's really my biggest issue with the concept of the playoff beard. It doesn't work.

Now, I'm not just saying that because it didn't work when I tried it. I'm just speaking of logistics here.

What's the deal? The team with more fans that grow playoff beards wins? So if more people in Boston take a pass on hygiene, the Bruins will beat the Sabres in the first round? But if Sabres fans throw away their razors, the good guys win?

I've always wondered if the playoff beards are made moot if you wear the same pair of socks for every playoff game. And does the whole “socks” thing matter if you eat the same dinner before every game? And does where you eat outweigh what shoe you put on first?

I guess what I'm getting at is that I don't buy into the whole superstition. About playoff beards, pre-game meals or stinky socks. For that matter, I don't worry about ladders, black cats or mirrors. I do throw salt over my shoulder, but only because it's fun to do.

I step on cracks. I leave pennies on the ground. And I don't make wishes at the first star of the evening.

Of course, pennies, cracks, cats and ladders don't have you walking around looking like a complete goofball, not having shaven in days … or weeks if your team is having a good playoff run.

And that brings me to point two of why playoff beards are just silly; people who look good in beards already have them. While people who don't look good in beards shouldn't try to.

You can always tell the “playoff beard” apart from the regular ones. They're worn by guys in three piece suits wearing Rolex watches … but who look homeless from the neck up. They're often accompanied by dark blotches or bags under their wearer's eyes, a tell-tale sign of the lack of sleep they've gotten from worrying if their playoff beard is powerful enough … or maybe just from itching.

Now, look – I'm not telling anyone not to wear a playoff beard. Do whatever floats your boat. But don't get overly upset when I mock you for it.

That said, to those of you who will be sporting the seasonal facial hair, I hope you wear it for 16 wins.

Side note: You would have known my position on playoff beards Sunday night if you were following me on Twitter. I have several 140 character rambles a day there. Twitter.com/scottleffler

Second side note: The apartment thing did work out. I typed today's column in the dining room of my new home. You would have known that too if you were following me on Twitter.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Just some stuff ...

So it's 2 in the morning and I should totally be sleeping, but instead I spent the last two hours putzing around on the interwebs.

Well, it wasn't all spent putzing. I did look for jobs. Found a couple that could potentially fit me. Oh, and I updated my resume with my new address.

Yeah, it technically isn't my address for another six days, but I already changed it on all my bills, so I might as well update the resume, too, right?

With the apartment hunt in the rear-view, finding a decent job is once again top priority in the whole "rebuilding my life from scratch" project that I'm apparently working on.

What is it I'm looking for? Well, I'd love to do radio again. Having the ability to share instantly my thoughts on whatever is going on in the world was pretty damn cool. But I think we all know that jobs in the radio biz are few and far between.

So ... the other thing I consider myself to be pretty good at is writing. Of course, I already do the column for the Lockport Journal, the Tonawanda News, and WNYMedia.net. But more of that wouldn't suck, ya know?

And writing often leads to jobs in public relations. I wouldn't mind PR if it was something (or someone) I believed in. Of course, the biggest problem with that is that I'm a journalist ... synonymous with cynic. Hard to find things to believe in.

In the meantime, I'll continue to believe in Loaves and Fishes ... and Vodka.

'Night all. Sweet dreams. If I'm in them, let me know.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Don't call it a bonus ...

Like any adult male, my wallet contains my drivers' license, passport card, a couple membership cards, some credit cards and 413 bonus cards from various stores across Western New York.

The credit cards and membership cards are kind of necessary. So is the drivers' license and passport card. But those bonus cards really what makes my wallet too cumbersome. And with Lent over and me being able to eat chicken wings again, I thought I should give something else up: Bonus cards.

I'm not going to carry them. I'm not going to use them. I'm opting out of the scam that is the bonus card.

Okay, I just cleaned my wallet out. There weren't really 413 bonus cards. Just nine. Two from grocery stores, a restaurant, a pet store, a sporting goods store, a gas station, a bakery outlet, a discount store, and a beer store.

Nine bonus cards. And I'm not going to use them any more. Not at the gas station. Not at the grocery store. Not anywhere.

I'm sick of it all.

Here's an idea for retailers if you want my loyalty: Just give me the best price without having to weigh myself down with your bonus cards.

I look at shopping as a symbiotic relationship. I give retailers money. They give me products I want or need. They win. I win. Win-win. Once the places I shop at decide that they want me to swear my allegiance to them by filling out a form and carrying card, it's not really symbiotic any more. It's tilted in their favor.

Why would anyone want to do that? Take a win-win relationship and give more power to the other party?

Yeah, I know, many of you probably think I'm being silly here. I can hear the mental mumbling right now; “Gee, Leffler, what's the big deal? Just carry the card like everyone else.”

The big deal is I don't want to.

Quite a while ago I just stopped carrying my wallet. I keep my credit card and some cash in my front pocket. I keep my wallet in my car. If I really need something from my wallet, my car is never far from me.

The advent of my not carrying my wallet led to me never having my bonus card on me. And that led to me asking the cashier at any respective store if I could “borrow” their bonus card – you know, the one they keep at the register for people that forget their card.

I've never been told “no.” They – without thinking – grab the bonus card and swipe it. Or oftentimes, the person in line behind me will hand me their bonus card.

As such, I really don't know why I didn't swear off bonus cards a long time ago.

You might think that my concern is that I don't want the store to know what I'm buying. Some big brother complex. It's not that. I don't care who knows what I buy. Heck, I'm probably going to post it on Facebook anyway. I just hate the hassle.

There are some stores that tie your phone number to your bonus card, allowing you to just give your phone number instead of handing them your card. I like this concept. Since you're the only one who has your phone number, it makes it private, easy and convenient … as long as you're willing to say your phone number out loud.

What? The girl behind you is going to memorize your phone number and call you later? And that's bad? Okay, maybe it is for you, but for me … not necessarily.

I know this whole thing is kind of a tangent that won't likely get anywhere, but maybe someone from the executive offices of one of these stores will read it and realize that they're irritating their clientèle. Or at least they're irritating me. And an irritated Scott Leffler spends his money elsewhere.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Now we're talkin'!

A video game to prepare for the Bird War. Love it!
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