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Heads or fails Who says the Bills aren’t lucky? Pro Football Reference reports that the Bills won the opening coin toss an astonishing 14 out of 16 times this season. Better yet, the site said, the team tied with the 2005 Detroit Lions for the best full-season percentage on record. That’s for statistics going back to 1999. Unfortunately, the Bills’ luck seem…

Erica Hammond Carlson sent me a message on Facebook the other day. She told me her father was retiring after 45 years, and that she was contacting old friends for some reflections about his career. She wondered if I might have a point or two to add. A point or two? How about this: You're reading this because of him. Her dad is Bill Hammond, longtime news editor wi…

Jon Hitchcock glimpsed the Golden Snowball only once. In the early 2000s, he was a student volunteer with the National Weather Service in Buffalo. The famous trophy, at the time, was still a fixture in the office. Yet when Hitchcock returned a few years later to take a job as a full-time meteorologist, the snowball was gone. This morning, with almost 10 inches of new sn…

Gotta be the shoes Napoleon “Polo” Kerber has a big meeting later this month – with LeBron James. Kerber, co-owner of Fabes Sole High in Buffalo, will talk to the Cleveland Cavaliers superstar about creating a pair of custom basketball shoes, which is Fabes’ specialty. The ideas are already flowing. People close to LeBron have mentioned possibly a design r…

This is a call I wish I could make, right now. Mario Cuomo, almost certainly, would have had plenty to say about the election of Donald Trump. For many years after he served as governor, Mario was a partner at Willkie Farr & Gallagher in New York City. His assistant was a patient woman named Mary Porcelli, and if you caught her at the right moment, when Mario was at hi…

Act I, Scene I of “Shakespeare in Delaware Park.”Scene: The Anchor Bar on Main Street, 1976.Enter SAUL ELKIN, a young University at Buffalo theater professor and JOSEPH PAPP, legendary founder of New York City’s Public Theater and Elkin’s Ph.D. thesis adviser, along with certain commoners, eating chicken wings.Papp: “So, who’s doing Shakespeare?”Elkin: “I d…

His alto saxophone was made of cheap white plastic. His trumpet player, Don Cherry, played a Pakistani pocket trumpet, an instrument few, if any, had seen before that looked as if it were the clumsy little toddler of the trumpet family – either that or a minor instrument in a folk tradition none of us would ever really know.Toy instruments, some called them.That first 19…

Buffalo is a city of stubborn monuments to ancient memories.From the elegant obelisk rising from the center of Niagara Square in memory of William McKinley to the infinite variety and strangeness of the headstones and mausoleums in Forest Lawn, it’s impossible to travel more than a few of blocks in this place without stumbling onto some hulking reminder of the city’s g…

When the conductor and public intellectual Leon Botstein takes up his baton this weekend in Kleinhans Music Hall to lead the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra in a program of accessible masterpieces, the tool in his hand will do more than coax beautiful music out of the musicians.It will, in all likelihood, switch on the imaginations of audience members in a thousand unpredic…

The first object visitors see in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery’s smart and searing exhibition “Overtime: The Art of Work” is an Instagram-ready conveyor belt rotating endlessly into a spotless mirror.The pristine contraption, an untitled 2014 piece by the Polish artist Agnieszka Kurant, contains no products and implies no human operator. It’s simply an automated to…

In 1954, the great Buffalo playwright and labor leader Manny Fried, who died in 2011, made an agonizing decision that would haunt him for the rest of his life. With his marriage on the rocks and the future of the thousands of Western New York union members he represented weighing on his mind, Fried refused to answer questions or name names during his appearance before the …

On Monday afternoon, the executive board of the Western New York Area Labor Federation took a field trip.It wasn’t to a picket line, a local factory in the midst of a labor struggle or a meeting with intransigent managers. Instead, the board of some two dozen representatives from local unions gathered instead around a rectangular table in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery’…

Never underestimate the power of bad public art to ignite a community debate. See: “Scary Lucy,” the unholy bronze monstrosity of unrelenting horror in Celoron, soon to be decapitated or banished to the depths and replaced by a more faithful tribute to Lucille Ball.Never underestimate the power of great public art to bring renewed interest to matters of grave political…

Great institutions only remain great by learning from their mistakes. And, like most major museums, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery has made a few. There was the botched rollout of the 2007 sale of about 200 pre-modern artworks from its collection, a process that reinforced the notion of the gallery as an elite silo disconnected from the concerns of the public. There was a…

Buffalo has had a strong bluegrass scene for a long time but you’d be forgiven for not knowing as much – the scene remains somewhat of an underground one, sometimes favoring unconventional venues during time slots that buck the late-night hours generally held to be the norm by clubgoers.It’s there, though, and as a well-attended late afternoon show at …