[ LOCAL COLOR ] By Kate Antoniades
Amongst all the pharmaceutical-hawking spam messages, the tweets about Justin Bieber's new haircut, and the YouTube comments that make you question your faith in humanity, you can still manage to find plenty of good stuff online. The following local blogs, each with a specific focus on an aspect of life in Rochester, offer images, information, and opinions that are definitely worth a visit.
Note that this is just a sampling of local blogs; we welcome you to tell us about your finds at the online version of this story at rochestercitynewspaper.com.
Greg Bell started Jazz@Rochester (jazzrochester.com) partly to learn how to blog. Clearly, it worked: in the six years since he created it, the site has become one of the Top 25 jazz blogs on the web and gets several thousand page impressions a week, Bell says.
Bell, a principal attorney editor at Thompson Reuters, has strengthened his connections in the jazz community, too. "It was kind of a hobby at first, but I now know most of the jazz artists in town and count quite a few of them as friends," he says. The organizers of the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival (which takes over downtown for a week-plus every June) grant him a media pass, and he's one of the sponsors of Exodus to Jazz, a series of live performances at the LutheranChurch of the Reformation.
"The thing about live music, especially jazz, is that...that's really the only time it's going to happen," he says. "The way jazz is played, because of the improvisation, you're going to hear it that way, and no one else is going to hear it that way."
Bell says he's "religious" about his weekly Wednesday posts that list the upcoming week's jazz gigs. He draws from local listings as well as information the artists send him themselves -- and he posts without prejudice. "If somebody says it's jazz, I'm OK with it," he says. "I'm not the jazz police."
The RochesterNY Pizza Blog
The blogger behind The Rochester NY Pizza Blog (rochesternypizza.blogspot.com) wants to try every non-chain pizza place in the Rochester area -- and he's getting close. "I'm probably about 90 percent there," says the man, a local attorney who prefers to remain anonymous. (On his blog, he refers to himself as "Pizza Guy.")
Inspired by food blogs like Slice (slice.seriouseats.com), Pizza Guy started the site in 2009. "I think even if I didn't have the blog, I'd probably be doing this; I'd be going to all these pizzerias anyway," he says. "I love pizza, and when I like something, I want to try every single one."
The blogger posts one to three reviews a week and includes photos, thorough descriptions of his meals, and details about other menu items. He assigns each restaurant a letter grade from A to F. (Only one restaurant so far, a Chinese place, earned a failing grade.) The blog gets about 150 to 200 visits a day, with a spike on Fridays.
Once in a while, Pizza Guy says, he gets the urge to make his own pies. "I've gotten a lot of respect for people who make pizza," he says, "because it's not as easy as it looks."
Now retired after a 30-year career with the U.S. Postal Service, Frank Regan calls himself a "full-time environmental advocate." He says he became interested in environmental issues "through philosophy and listening to programs on public broadcasting about the state of our environment."
Regan's an active member of the Rochester Regional Group of the Sierra Club, leading its zero-waste and transportation committees and serving as the group's webmaster. He blogs about environmental issues at rochesterenvironmentny.blogspot.com, an offshoot of his website, rochesterenvironment.com, which he created in 1998. Each week, Regan sends out an e-mail newsletter to about 600 subscribers.
In his posts, Regan takes national or world environmental issues, such as climate change, and explains how they relate to Rochester. To stay informed and find topics for his daily writings, he keeps up with the latest news, attends numerous meetings, and keeps in contact with environmental groups.
Regan hopes his visitors take his message seriously. "I hope they 'get it,'" he says. "It's not just another issue.... It's really the moral responsibility of everybody. They have a responsibility to have an understanding of what's going on and vote properly."
Whether you're using a point-and-shoot or a fancy digital SLR, Rochester offers plenty of photo opportunities. Joseph Moroz, the owner and lead photographer at picturerochester.com, knows that firsthand: He's posted more than 1,500 images on the site, which has gotten more than 475,000 hits.
Moroz, who currently works in the architectural and construction fields, started the blog in 2005 with his then-business partner to showcase their photography. He has continued to work on the site because he admires Rochester's art and architecture and enjoys learning more about the area. "The city is full of history," he says.
To capture shots like his recent photos of DrivingParkBridge, the Little Theatre, and the Eastman Dental Dispensary, Moroz goes out at least three to five times a week. "Typically when I go shooting, I shoot between 100 to 1,500 images a day," he says. "I'm very detail-oriented; I'll shoot the same thing 50 different ways."
Moroz, who spends about 10 to 12 hours on the blog each week, hopes that his photographs encourage visitors to take a second look at his city. "I want people to rediscover the city of Rochester," he says, "and I would like for my website to help."
Rochester Falconcam blogs
Peregrine falcons have been nesting in Rochester buildings since at least the late 1990's, first at Kodak headquarters and now at the Times Square and Powers buildings downtown. Falcon fans can get a closer look at these birds and their daily activities with the Rochester Falconcam (rfalconcam.com), which offers streaming video from six cameras. Once a Kodak project, the Falconcam is now run by the Genesee Valley Audubon Society, along with its associated blogs, Imprints (rfalconcam.com/imprinting) and FalconWatch (rfalconcam.com/falconwatching).
Jim Pisello, a Kodak employee, writes Imprints, while several volunteer area falcon-watchers produce FalconWatch. The blogs get about 50,000 visits each year, Pisello says.
FalconWatch details the birds' activities, while Imprints aims to educate, says Pisello, who writes about the birds' life cycles and behaviors in order to explain "what's going on behind the pictures," he says. The blog also updates visitors on annual events like banding day, when the Department of Environmental Conservation places ID bands on the newest falcon chicks.
The current birds are Beauty, a female, and Archer, her mate. Lately, says Pisello, a newcomer has been "acting pretty cozy" with Beauty during Archer's winter migration. "If Archer returns," he says, "we'll have a little bit of drama in March."
While not exactly a blog itself, RocWiki (rocwiki.org) provides a good foil for the websites above; while each of them deals with a particular part of Rochester, RocWiki covers all that the city has to offer. It's an extensive online guide to the area, from festivals to newspapers to bakeries.
As Pete B., one of the site's seven volunteer administrators, explains, RocWiki is "free for all, available to all, and also available for anyone to add to it." While some cities have similar sites, RocWiki -- which began in 2005 -- is one of the best, says Pete (who declined to give his full name). "We are one of the biggest and one of the most well-known [city-based wikis]."
Pete, who works in tech support for an internet-service provider, is the site's current top editor. Since getting involved in 2006, he's made more than 25,000 edits, he says. In an average week, he spends five to 10 hours working on the site.
During a recent week, RocWiki got 30,156 hits, Pete says. One of its most popular sections is restaurants, where visitors can post comments about their dining experiences. "All pages are available for anyone to update," he says. "This is our website. It's not mine, it's not yours -- it's everyone's."