My top 10 favorite posts on syracuse.com (so far)

This week marks my one year anniversary working at syracuse.com — it was in August 2010 that I made the decision to leave radio behind and embark on a new career, and I’ve especially enjoyed the opportunity it’s given me to write more. Among other things I do for syracuse.com, I cover a number of topics including entertainment, technology, social media, Syracuse University, viral videos, Central New York events, business news, concerts coming to CNY (see: Show Patrol), online trends and more.

Here are my top 10 favorite posts that I’ve written in the past year:
10. Why is your mom posting “I like it on the floor” on Facebook?
This was one of my first articles, and I enjoyed raising a little snark over a ridiculous web trend (though for a good cause, to support breast cancer awareness).
9. Did your zodiac sign change? Central New York is having an identity crisis
No, no one’s zodiac sign changed but in January everyone seemed to be freaking out at the “news” that it might have. I collected local reactions on social media, and it became one of the most popular articles I’ve ever written.
8. Syracuse University named No. 12 party school in nation
Princeton Review’s comparison of schools in terms of “partying” always struck me as impossible to quantify, but this was the highest SU had been on the list since before I was an SU student (2002-2005) so current students, alumni and CNY residents all took notice of the new ranking.
7. Is Jennifer Aniston a homewrecker just like Angelina Jolie?
For more than five years, fans of Aniston have praised her acting (which she’s never won an Emmy or Oscar for) mostly out of sympathy after Jolie effectively “stole” her husband. Turns out Aniston basically stole her current boyfriend from another woman, too.
6. Is May 21st the end of the world? How would you spend your last night in CNY?
People mocked Harold Camping’s prediction that May 21 would bring the Rapture, but I wanted to raise a different question. If the world really were to end, how would you spend your last night? I interviewed people in CNY for a video and article and enjoyed hearing their responses.
5. Viral Video of the Day: Baby finds mom blowing nose both terrifying and hilarious
Every day I pick a video that’s gone (or going) viral to write about on syracuse.com — this was the most popular one, and despite my resistance to enjoy baby videos I still find this one hilarious and charming.
4. Michael Jordan’s daughter Jasmine prepares to start college at Syracuse University
This one was interesting because through Twitter I discovered — and subsequently I broke the news — that MJ’s daughter was starting at SU this fall. Some people criticized it for not being “newsworthy,” but the story went insanely viral. TV, radio, and more sites picked up the story, including Huffington Post, Fuse and BET. Jasmine’s number of Twitter followers grew from 2,200 to 3,500 in just days.
3. Who owns the pictures you upload on the web? Probably not you.
I researched copyright ownership rules of photo-sharing sites like Facebook, Flickr, Picasa, Twitpic and more — and wanted people (especially professional photographers and models) to realize that posting photos on such sites usually means giving up ownership and allowing them to sell/license your images.
2. Crazy concert riders? K-Rockathon bands demand booze, DVDs, baby wipes and a garden gnome
I also did a photo retrospective of K-Rockathon’s last 15 years and backstage coverage of this year’s event, but I especially enjoyed reading through bands’ backstage demands because I’m a big music geek.
1. AT&T vs. Verizon iPhone – A comparison chart to help you choose [Infographic]
I created my first infographic to help readers pick the best iPhone for their needs. Though Verizon’s data plans are no longer unlimited, the rest of the information is still accurate and relevant today to people choosing smartphone carriers.

Thanks for reading!

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Remembering 9/11: Am I the only person who read what happened first, before watching?

On September 11, 2001, I was 17 years old and working in my high school radio station. I was the general manager of WHAB, a 10-watt station heard in a mile-radius on 89.1 FM in Acton, Massachusetts. That morning, I was working in the station during one of my free periods, gathering news for us to include in our broadcasts throughout the day. We had a continuous paper feed from the Associated Press that came out on a dot matrix printer, an old model that printed paper with holes on both sides, and all the pages were attached with perforations.

At 8:46 a.m., when American Airlines Flight 11 hit the World Trade Center’s North Tower, I was alone in the station with no television or Internet. The only computer in the studio was used primarily for audio editing. Sponsorship identifications were printed on index cards, and daily news reports were either hand-written or literally cut-and-pasted from the AP news feed.

Around 8:50 a.m. a one-sentence “breaking news” blurb said a plane had collided with one of the twin towers in New York City, believed to be an accident — no mention of terrorists, victims or anything that would indicate what would come next. It wasn’t a local news story (Acton is a suburb of Boston, about 25 miles west) but I thought it was at least significant enough to include in the morning’s first newscasts. (At the time, the student-run station was only on the air from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.) So I cut. And pasted. I’m not even sure if I had chosen it to be the lead story.

Someone then walked by and waved at me, indicating that I should follow them to the A/V room. We joined a small huddle of people staring at a TV showing a live news feed of the World Trade Center. It was now 9:03 a.m. and we all witnessed, live on television, United Airlines Flight 175 crashing into the South Tower. Everyone reacted with horror and disbelief — two planes was clearly not an accident. Many began panicking, worrying if they knew anyone working in the towers at the time.

The rest of the school day was a blur as teachers played the role of counselors instead of sticking to lesson plans. As the facts developed, and two more hijacked planes crashed — Flight 93 in Shanksville, PA and Flight 77 into the Pentagon — September 11th quickly became a day we would never forget. My peers lost whatever innocence they had left as we all realized that the world is a dangerous place and no one is ever truly safe.

While the previous generation recalls exactly where they were when John F. Kennedy was shot, 9/11 became our shared moment in grief and we will always remember where we were and what we were doing that day.

I was alone in a radio station with a stack of printer paper. Was I the only person who read what happened first, before watching?

Today, on the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, I pause to remember the many lives we lost that day and the countless volunteers and respondents who did everything possible to help. We will never forget.

Happy birthday, Freddie Mercury: My top 10 Queen songs


September 5, 2011 would have been Freddie Mercury’s 65th birthday. (Happy birfday, Freddie!) The enigmatic Queen singer was 45 when he died of AIDS in 1991, twenty years ago, but he left behind an awesome library of music that few bands have been able to even measure up to. Whether you want to call it operatic rock, vocal metal, or just straight-up classic rock, the music of Queen from 1973 to 1989 was just phenomenal.

Have you ever met someone who says they don’t like Queen? Or doesn’t know their music?? I hope not. If you ever do, you have two options — either shun them for life and never speak to them again, or have them listen to a dozen songs and show them the error of their ways. Start with these ten songs…

My Top 10 Queen Songs:
1. I Want To Break Free
2. Bohemian Rhapsody
3. Under Pressure (with David Bowie)
4. Somebody To Love
5. We Will Rock You
6. Fat Bottomed Girls
7. Crazy Little Thing Called Love
8. Don’t Stop Me Now
9. I Was Born To Love You
10. Stone Cold Crazy

Mercury wrote or co-wrote seven of those ten songs. Of course, usually I write top 5 lists but it’s hard enough to reduce Queen’s music to just 10 great songs. I’d be much more comfortable with a top 25 list, so I could include classics like “Another One Bites The Dust” and “We Are The Champions” and “Let Me Live” and “Killer Queen” and… you get the idea. (I’m not a fan of the Queen + Paul Rodgers or the Queen + Robbie Williams material, but I still respect the musicians’ efforts. It’s just not the same without Freddie.)

By the way, did you know that Freddie’s real name was Farrokh Bulsara? He spent the vast majority of his life in London, England, but he was born in Zanzibar and lived in India for some time. In 2000, when I was 16, I visited London with my family and one of the places we saw was Freddie Mercury’s home where fans have spray-painted the powerful messages of his lyrics along the gate surrounding the house. Here’s a picture of me standing in front of it, next to the title of my favorite Queen song, “I Want To Break Free”:

Freddie Mercury's London home

16-year-old Geoff standing outside Freddie Mercury's London home in 2000. Were those shorts ever fashionable?

Bruno Mars vs. Lady Antebellum: How did a pop artist get a bigger crowd than country at the NYS Fair?

Bruno Mars drew a record 35,000 fans to New York State Fair's Chevy Court on Wednesday, August 31, 2011.

On September 1, 2010, rising country act Lady Antebellum drew a record crowd of 30,000 at the New York State Fair‘s Chevy Court. Almost exactly a year later on August 31, 2011, pop/R&B singer Bruno Mars broke the record with an estimated 35,000 watching him perform on the same stage.

How?? And why doesn’t anyone believe a pop act could get a bigger crowd than a country artist at the NYS Fair?

Let me give you some background information, for those not familiar. The New York State Fair is one of the largest state fairs in the U.S., drawing about 1.1 million people over the 12-day event in Syracuse. The concerts held at the fair are always a hot topic and a crowd magnet (besides the fried food, wine, animals, rides, games and people-watching) and traditionally country artists like Rascal Flatts have pulled in the biggest audiences.

There are two main concert stages at the NYS Fair. The Mohegan Sun Grandstand tends to host the big-name artists and requires paid admission (tickets ranged from $35 to $65 this year though prices were reduced for two underselling concerts to $15), seating 17,000 people. The Chevrolet Court stage (also known as Chevy Court and formerly known as Muffler Court) has two different acts daily, free with admission to the fair, and has seating for 5,000 people — but many more can stand in the aisles and pack the surrounding area. The Grandstand used to have entertainment on all 12 nights of the fair but officials changed that to 7 concerts recently and put more emphasis on getting bigger acts at Chevy Court.

When Lady Antebellum played at Chevy Court last year, they were on their fourth consecutive #1 country song and chart-smasher “Need You Now” had just recently crossed over to pop and adult contemporary radio. So it surprised absolutely no one when Hilary Scott, Dave Haywood and Charles Kelley drew 30,000 fans and set a record for crowd attendance.

Bruno Mars, on the other hand, has six top 5 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 all within the past 15 months, including “Grenade,” “Just The Way You Are” and his appearances on B.o.B.’s “Nothin’ On You” and Travie McCoy’s “Billionaire.” He’s sold more than 15 million singles, wowed everyone at the Grammys this year with his lively doo-wop rock performance, and made headlines again this week with his soulful tribute to Amy Winehouse, performing “Valerie” at the MTV Video Music Awards (even though it’s actually a Zutons song that Amy covered on a Mark Ronson record). It shouldn’t surprise anyone that he drew 35,000 fans but it did. Why?

Here’s the rub. When Lady A was on the Chevy Court stage last year, two things limited their crowd from being bigger than it was — one, Justin Bieber was performing a sold-out show on the Grandstand stage at the same time that night; and two, anticipation for the record crowd at the fair that day may have drove some people to avoid the mob and stay home altogether. No one was on the Grandstand stage when Bruno Mars performed Wednesday, so he had no competition for an audience. Also, media didn’t fuel as much hype so very few people expected a crowd so large that some might want to avoid.

Plus, country fans (like any genre-specific group of fans) tend to think their music is bigger than it is. Yes, country music is hugely popular and has a lot of loyal fans, but pop music is more popular because that’s the very nature of the genre — it’s for the mainstream masses. And for further perspective, Lady Antebellum played at the New York State Fair Grandstand again this year, drawing only 9,800 people. Four other Grandstand concerts this year pulled in bigger crowds — Train/Maroon 5, Journey/Foreigner, Selena Gomez and Sugarland/Sara Bareilles — three of which had pop acts on the bill. Just saying.