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News briefs 8.21.02

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Hallmark from Hell

The greeting card industry is a $7 billion monster that commodifies human emotions into trite sentimentality. At least that's how local entrepreneur and wise guy Tom Rusling sees it. And unlike the legions of people who suck it up and buy a $2.95 "You're a SUPER grandniece" card just because it's easy and expected, Rusling's fighting back.

            The 28-year-old Pittsford native founded DISScards in 2000 to give cynical people like himself an alternative to Hallmark and American Greetings pabulum.

            "In a way, the whole DISScards concept is just a 'Fuck you' to the greeting card industry, a reaction to the shit, schmaltz, and cheesy sentiments Americans have grown accustomed to," says Rusling. "In a culture where people are watching Jerry Springer and The Weakest Link, that's not the way people communicate."

            For those people, DISScards offers a special birthday card. "Happy Birthday," the card proclaims above a drawing of an old man blowing out a candle. The unsuspecting birthday boy then opens it to find the geezer prostrate on the floor: "...hopefully it's your last one," the card reads. "DROP DEAD."

            Rusling's company also has cards to send to people who are immature, liars, or just plain annoying. "There are no stupid questions," reads the front of one offering. Inside: "Just stupid people who ask questions. Like you." (Incidentally, DISScards will also send cards anonymously.)

            A student at the University of Rochester's Simon School of Business, Rusling says he's sold about 2,000 DISScards so far. Locally, they're available at Record Archive and Firehouse 15, and online at www.DISScards.net.

            The reaction of local retailers Rusling's approached has been mixed. "Some people were offended," he says. "But then I had one guy say they aren't offensive enough."

--- Chris Busby




Jumping the turnstiles?

In early August, County Executive Jack Doyle told Gary Walker of WXXI's "Need to Know" program that home game attendance figures announced by the Rochester Rhinos are "a lot more than are attending." Attendance at the Rhinos' Frontier Field games has been of particular significance as team officials, Doyle, and other politicians wrangle over the size and seating capacity of a soccer-specific stadium proposed for Brown's Square Park downtown.

            The Rhinos had been pushing for a 20,000-seat venue and were reluctant to compromise on a smaller stadium, saying a downsized facility would not be significantly cheaper to build and would hurt the venue's chances of attracting bigger events, like concerts. But following an August 15 meeting between Doyle and Rhinos president Frank DuRoss, the Rhinos honcho said the team would consider a 13,000-seat downtown stadium, provided there was the potential to expanded it and add seats in the future.

            But what about those attendance figures? According to Rhinos spokesman Steve Rossi, the average attendance at the team's first 11 home games this season was 10,012. He says the attendance the team announces comes from box office reports it receives from the stadium.

            Rossi says Doyle is likely referring to the "turnstile count," a figure that doesn't include fans who have season tickets or complimentary tickets, and some attendees who watch the game from luxury suites.

            "A lot of people don't go through that turnstile," Rossi says. As a result, the turnstile count the county uses "is always going to be lower than the tickets we sell or distribute."

            Rossi says he doesn't know what the typical discrepancy is between actual Rhinos attendance and the turnstile count, and would not speculate.

            "There's no discrepancy as far as we're concerned," says Frontier stadium director Jim LeBeau. LeBeau says the turnstile count does include fans with season or comp tickets and those who watch from the suites, though he noted that it doesn't include Rhinos and Frontier staff or "any of the press guys."

            In any event, given the mini-breakthrough between DuRoss and Doyle on the size issue, and all the political machinations still to come before --- and if --- the proposed stadium becomes a reality, the attendance dispute seems unlikely to become a major sticking point. After all, concerned politicians are always welcome to attend a game and conduct their own head count, starting with their own over-inflated noggins.




The shows go on

Meatloaf fans can heave a sigh of relief. Despite published reports that Saucke Bros. Construction Co., which owns Auditorium Center, has petitioned a court for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, the Rochester Broadway Theatre League will present its full schedule of concerts and shows at the center as planned. His Meatness kicks off the new season September 4.

            Nancy Calocerinos, RBTL's vice president for sales and marketing, says the League still has a one-year agreement to manage the space. Although neither Saucke Bros. principals William and Raymond Saucke, nor the lawyer handling their case, has contacted RBTL regarding the company's filing or plans for the center, Calocerinos says their situation will not affect the League's immediate future there.

            A spokesperson for Saucke Bros. Construction Co. referred calls to Douglas Lustig, the lawyer handling the company's bankruptcy filings. Lustig could not be reached for comment.

            RBTL's CEO Don Jeffries hopes the situation will turn into an opportunity to renovate the 1930s-era building. According to Calocerinos, should the building be bought by a non-profit organization, or the RBTL be able to secure a long-term lease, the League would be eligible for federal and state funds for renovation of the historically significant property.

            Renovations to the Green Room undertaken to accommodate Meatloaf and his entourage --- bat chamber, dashboard lighting, massive make-up counter --- are probably already underway.




Book of the month

The October 1 "Books Sandwiched-In" lunchtime literary discussion at the Bausch & Lomb Public Library building features a novel library aficionados will find more than a little ironic: Richard Russo's Empire Falls. Russo's Pulitzer-winning work chronicles life in a decaying Northeast industrial town, where the ill-conceived financial decisions of an unyielding county executive and a complacent legislature have ruined the community.

            But that's just our interpretation. Those who've actually read Russo's book know it's about a fictional town in Maine where the southern migration of textile jobs has left most of the townspeople unemployed and scheming against one another. But given the devastating effects Monroe County library officials say county funding cuts will have on hours and services, participants can be excused if they chuckle in bitterness as book reviewer Kenneth Goode, director of the Monroe County Office of Government and Community Affairs, leads the discussion.

            Coming up in November: Hubert Selby, Jr.'s horrific novel of urban violence and desperation, Last Exit to Brooklyn. Just kidding --- as far as we know.




Word gets to Wegmans

The Ralph Naderite Washington-based organization Public Citizen recently jumpstarted a citizen response to Wegmans Food Markets' sales of irradiated ground beef. (For background, see City Newspaper, "Irradiation's Food for Thought," July 24, via www.rochester-citynews.com.) The group sent out a sample letter that charged "irradiated food has not been proven safe to eat." The list of deficiencies included bad effects on nutritional content, research findings that irradiated food has caused health problems in animals, and concerns about the FDA testing and approval process that brought irradiated meat to market in the US.

            Wegmans is having none of this. Buffalo-based environmental activist Mike Schade, a staffer with the Citizens Environmental Coalition, sent his own detailed letter echoing Public Citizen's concerns, and Wegmans issued a defense of the status quo. Said the letter: "We relied on scientific, health, and nutritional experts about the process and product [i.e. Wegmans Irradiated Fresh Ground Beef]." The letter went on cite endorsements of food irradiation by the World Health Organization and American Dietetics Association.

            Wegmans spokesperson Jeanne Colleluori says the irradiated ground beef "is continuing to sell very well in our stores." She says Wegmans is putting emphasis on education about the product and the irradiation process.

            The irradiated beef has moved off the front page on the Wegmans website; Colleluori says this is just a natural change in features, not an indication that the company is backing away from the product. But we note the website's emphasis on another product line, Wegmans' "Food You Feel Good About" beef, pork, and lamb. FYFGA products are produced with "healthy animal practices," says Wegmans --- no hormones, no antibiotics, plenty of natural grazing, and (though this is left unsaid) no irradiation.




Moving the deck chairs

A recent study by the State of Illinois shows a pattern familiar to Rochesterians (and to anyone who studies public education anywhere in the nation):

            The state's poorest-performing schools, the Chicago Tribune reported last month, are "crowded together in impoverished neighborhoods where the vast majority of students are African Americans or Latinos."

            Years of reform efforts have not changed the situation, the Trib reports. And neither has a major structural change sometimes recommended for Rochester: giving the mayor control of the schools. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley has been in charge of that city's schools for the past seven years.




Correction

Our Continuing Education entry on the Rocking Horse Equestrian Center (August 14-20, 2002) contained two errors. The rider pictured in the photo is not disabled, but a regular riding student at the Center. And instructor Cathy Hallett is a certified trainer who teaches hippotherapy. She is not a certified hippotherapist.

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