Saturday, January 28, 2017

Live from Brooklyn

Dave was filling the smoke machine, Tony was tweaking the lights and the band was sipping beers in the green room. They were going live in less than an hour, so that was all routine. But when the studio is one you built with your own hands in an old garage behind your parents' house, stuffed with $100,000 worth of gear and run as a passion project with the help of family and friends, things don't always go smoothly. The master computer was hung up and Katie had to reboot it, and they were calling one of the cameramen who lived down the block to "come over already." But at least the audio guy was just a few minutes away according to his GPS. Just one problem: he was pulling up to 78th Street in Queens when the studio was in Brooklyn.

None of this seemed to faze Paul Liatsis, the not-yet-30-year-old driving force behind Bridgeside. Paul had started his production company as a wrapper for his freelance work, tried producing his own comedies and even got his pilot "Work In Progress" about 2 slackers working different jobs accepted at a couple of film festivals. But coming from a family of musicians, and even playing in a band with siblings and cousins, it was only a matter of time before the cleaned-out garage became more than just a rehearsal space.

He had seen his sister ("The kid with the real talent!" he laughs) struggle as an actress and not get roles, before giving up and turning full time to music, a profession where she called the shots. That led him to realize that whatever he did he wanted to make his own content and control it himself. And so while many dream of making a show or writing a song, Paul took the long view: he wanted to create a channel.

He had been living with his cousin, but with all the kids out of the house, his folks took the apartment on the second floor and Paul moved back in and claimed the first. And he started to upgrade the stage they had built in the garage to be more of a studio that could handle live shows. He added more lights and cameras, ran the wires underground to the house, turned the room behind the kitchen into a control room including a high-end audio system, and turned the mud room into a green room. "If I'm gonna live at home," he said, "I'm gonna have the best badass space I can have."

His sister's band was the guinea pig. Under the banner of Bridgeside Live, he recruited friends and family as crew, and went online with a live one-hour performance show. It was a disaster. The sound was bad, the sync was off. He felt horrible, but rather than be cowed he doubled down. He tweaked the equipment, added better gear where he could and started calling local bands with a free offer of airtime. In the beginning it was hard. But then word started to get around about the cool stage in Brooklyn, about the after-party screening in the tent with the fire pit, about the chance to be live on YouTube and Facebook where fans could watch.

Now after doing it weekly for a year, he's got a steady supply of talent filling up his regular Tuesday night 9PM slot. He's added a Q&A session with the band after a 50-minute performance, and edits the sets into individual songs he posts each day for the next week. The night I visited they smoothly showcased journeyman musician John Santiago and his current project of Johnny and the Bootlegs, jamming through nearly an hour of original material and registering over 500 views on Facebook Live. And anyone watching the 7-camera show could be forgiven for not knowing it was originating from a garage in a quiet residential part of Bay Ridge.

Paul and his gang have started to branch out into other genres. They produced a pre-Golden Globes show that focused on fashion, and have cooking and sports programs in the works. But what he's most excited about is the community he's building. "This isn't about me," he says, "it feels more like a movement." He laughs: "I don't want to go all Olive Garden on you, but when you're here, it feels like family."


Marc Wollin of Bedford loves to learn about people. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Too Fast?

At one point in the distant past my wife and I shared an office. It was the early days of personal technology, when computers were an exotic and expensive tool. And so we had just one PC that we shared, located on a Lazy Susan between our desks (Side note: her name is Susan. She hates, hates HATES that term.) Eventually the price dropped, and we got another, but we still only had a single printer. If you wanted to print something, you flipped a switch one way or the other, and out came your document.

The one we had was a dot matrix model. If you are unfamiliar, they made a sound like a phalanx of angry bees as they went line-by-line down the page. Eventually it finished, you ripped off the paper as if you were in a newsroom circa 1942, and looked it over while the next page printed out. But as with everything else, things got better, and we finally we bought a laser printer and installed it in the same spot.

I configured each of our machines and showed her the new settings. On its maiden voyage, she finished what she was working on and hit print. A few seconds later her document started to spool out quietly and quickly. She grabbed the first page to proof it, just as the second one began to emerge. She looked up, thrown from her normal routine. "Wait!" she said, "I'm not done reviewing this page!" Faster, yes. Better, yes. But it was a new order, requiring a rethinking of her routine.

I had the same sense the other morning of what I'll call acceleration displacement when I went to make a cup of coffee with our new electric kettle. For years we had used your standard kettle that we kept on the range. I would fill it with water, turn it on, then putter around getting the press set up, munching on a banana, reading a bit of the paper, deciding which type of jam I wanted with my muffin. I had a several minute buffer and more for all that activity while the water heated up. Now, from the time you press the little lever to the time the water starts to boil is a mere fraction of what it was. I have to cram the banana down my throat, race to scoop out the coffee and slam the muffin into the toaster to get it done before the water is ready to be poured. Of course, there's no rule that says it has to all be finished by then, but old habits and all that.

Unrelated and unimportant anecdotes, until it struck me that they are emblematic of so much that is happening these days.

With technology, with politics, with public discourse, things are coming at us faster than ever before. To be sure, there's a positive side to that: we have information and tools at our fingers almost instantaneously. A few taps on your pad or phone, and anything we need to know appears before our eyes. No more waiting days or weeks for the data needed to make decisions or judgments.

Then again, that is also the problem: there is no buffer. News cycles are measured in hours, response times in seconds. And yet in so many cases, it would be better to slow down, consider the landscape, then decide on a course of action. How often have you fired of a reply to an email or text and thought twice about it? How often has a news story caused you to comment on it, only to have the basic facts change and your comment rendered superfluous or even foolish? Like unwanted features in an app, just because you can react quicker doesn't mean you should. The rub, of course, is figuring out when fast helps, and when it hurts.

Just over 50 years ago, Ralph Nader proclaimed that the auto industry was "Unsafe at Any Speed." In the case of how we do things today, it isn't how fast we're driving, but how little time to consider what to do when we get there. Perhaps we need to reformulate Nader's mantra: slowing down might not be a bad idea, because sometimes speed can be not unsafe, but unwise.


Marc Wollin of Bedford is trying to go more slowly when he can. Sometimes. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Saturday, January 14, 2017


No high ceilings. No walnut paneling. Instead, it was a non-descript beige-colored windowless conference room with mismatched chairs, an empaneling room in the county court house. I was with 18 or so other civic minded souls who hadn't dodged their jury duty summonses, or just as likely, had used up all their deferrals. We were the last gaggle culled from the 100 or so that had been called to serve one cold January morning.  

After 10 minutes or so, a clerk came in and handed out questionnaires. As we filled them out she told us that lawyers would be in shortly to add to an existing panel 2 more regular jurors and 2 alternates. After we completed the forms, she collected them, shuffled them, asked us to stand, then called our names and asked to sit in order.  

Then the two attorneys came in. As the clerk distributed copies of our questionnaires to each, they introduced themselves and their firms. The two took a few minutes to scan the papers, then one got up and gave us an overview of the case. The facts weren't in dispute: one man was to blame, having driven head on into another, causing both serious injuries. However, in the hospital after the accident, it was discovered that the man who caused the accident had a brain tumor, which he subsequently died from several years later. The man who was hit was suing the first (actually, his estate), saying his family had seen his erratic behavior leading up to the accident, should have known something was amiss, and should not have allowed him to drive. If chosen, we would be asked to agree or disagree with that contention. If we disagreed, the trial was over, and the injured gentlemen would get nothing. If we agreed, then we would also have to determine damages. Numerous witnesses would be presented, both medical and personal. And we would have to decide which it was.

All this, and we hadn't even gotten to the court room.

He started questioning us politely one by one. Had we ever been in an auto accident? Had we ever been sued? Could we set aside our sympathies to look at the facts? In several cases, an answer caused the lawyer to ask the potential juror to step into the hall along with the opposing counsel for a less public inquiry. And then it was my turn.

He asked me the same basic questions. No, no, yes, I said. But then I allowed that he had all but tried the case in front of us already.  He quickly requested I step outside, and asked me to elaborate. I told them that they described a un-diagnosed brain tumor. And we've all had experiences where we have something long before we go to a doctor, be it the flu or a hernia or whatever. But, protested one lawyer, what if you heard medical evidence that this wasn't really hidden? I responded that then the other lawyer would produce a doctor that said differently. They were like reviews on Amazon; they would cancel each other out. Additionally, I said that in my of line of work I was used to making decisions quickly; I didn't need to hear multiple witnesses. One would be plenty. They thanked me for my candor, and ushered me back to my seat.

It continued around the room in a similar vein. One person knew someone with a brain tumor, another had been in an accident. Then the other lawyer had his turn, and probed a little deeper. One person had an employee just diagnosed with a life-threatening condition. Another was related to a doctor. After the second lawyer finished, the two excused themselves and left the room. Ten minutes later they came back with a court officer, called out 4 names and led them away. The rest of us wished them luck, then went back to sitting.

A few minutes later, the door opened and another 15 or so folks filed in. Turned out they had been through a similar process. They found seats, and we all went back to books or phones. A bit later the court officer came back and told us that was it. We were dismissed. As it was, none of us would get to sit in judgement. Rather, it was we who had been judged. And in the matter of having an opinion, we were each pronounced guilty.


Marc Wollin of Bedford is good for 6 years of no official judgments. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Circumstantial Evidence

It might not have been the first snow of the season, but it was the first that had fallen overnight. And it wasn't much to speak of, just a gentle coating of white, enough to create a continuous canvas covering every surface. You could see where the squirrels were jumping around, where the deer were foraging for food and well, where someone drove across the lawn.

The tracks plainly went down our neighbor's driveway to the bottom, then did a K-turn as the car reversed. They then headed about halfway back up. There, between their driveway and ours, there's a little break in the woods, a spot where the trees stop on one side and bushes on the other. The tracks clearly proceeded through the gap, onto our driveway and to the bottom. There they did a similar K-turn and headed back to the top. Alphabetically speaking, rather than each having a well traced "I" we had an "H" between us.

This being seven in the morning there weren't a whole lot of explanations save one. Both homes get The New York Times delivered daily. And while I had a paper route when I was a kid, the time when some pimply faced 10-year old would ride his bike with a bag of Daily Bugles and toss one to each customer is firmly in a "Leave It To Beaver" past. These days it's a guy in a racing down the street and flinging them out the open window of a beat-up Toyota.

That said, while we've gone through a number of iterations as to the method, the present delivery person had raised the bar of late. Perhaps it was some supervisor's orders because of our longstanding customer-ship, or more likely trying to mollify us after numerous complaints as to the quality of the service. Whatever the reason, we had noted with pleasure that recently the paper went from being skidded under a tree at the top of the driveway to being thrown close to the back door. No, it's not ironing the creases out the pages, but I'll take what I can get.

But while I prefer the latter approach to getting all the news that's fit to print, I'm not willing to sacrifice my lawn for it. Maybe the he was running late and was looking to shave off a few seconds. Maybe some newborn Bambi had wandered onto the top of our neighbor's driveway, and he didn't want to spook it. Or maybe it was a substitute driver less attuned to the normal routine. More likely it was Occam's razor: he saw a shortcut and he took it.

I snapped a picture of the tracks and we sent a note of complaint to the Times. As customers for over 20 years, one would think they would put some value in our relationship and the handling of any issues. You would think. But back came the quick response. While they were sorry, "Upon review of the photo of the damage, we are unable to determine if this damage was caused by our carrier. Please provide us with video or photographic proof of the carrier causing the damage. If you are unable to provide us with the requested proof, please contact your local authorities." Translation: tough luck. Unless you can tell him to stop mid-lawn while you go get your phone to tape it, we don't believe you. Your words, your photo ain't good enough. It's merely circumstantial evidence that SOMEONE drove across your lawn at 7A while the paper was being delivered. But our guy? You may have a gun and it's smoking, but unless you have video of him pulling the trigger, no dice.

I thought about putting a nail-studded board in the gap. Or maybe stringing a tight steel wire from tree to bush at bumper height. Rather, I opted just to put a chair dead in the middle: we're watching. But justice came from another angle. Coincidentally, a few days before this all happened, tucked inside in the paper was a holiday card from the carrier with his address, the usual signal for a seasonal tip. I had written out a check, and it was sitting on my desk ready to be mailed. And wouldn't you know it: before it got to the mailbox it took a shortcut to the trash. Live by the sword, die by the sword.


Marc Wollin of Bedford loves reading the physical paper in the morning. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.