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The Year in Review

by The Staff on January 5, 2012 · 1 comment


Gone but not forgotten

Osama bin Laden, Col. Muammar el-Quaddafi, Kim Jong-il, Steve Jobs, Vaclav Havel, Elizabeth Taylor, David S. Broder, Andy Rooney, Betty Ford, John Barry, Sidney Lumet, Joe Frazier, Gil Scott-Heron, Christopher Hitchens, Bil Keane, Arthur Laurents, Hugh Carey, Clarence Clemons, Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz al Saud, Donald Tyson, Dr. Jack Kervorkian, Don Kirshner, Geraldine Ferraro, Cliff Robertson, Cy Twombley, Jane Russell, Amy Winehouse, Lanford Wilson, Jack LaLanne, Warren Christopher, Danielle Mitterand., Sergeant Shriver, Sherwood Schwartz, Sue Mengers, Tim Hetherington, Peter Gent, and Frank Buckles, the last World War I doughboy.

Filmmakers Ken Russell, Peter Yates, Raoul Ruiz, Gary Winnick.

Actors Pete Postlethwaite, Peter Falk, Susannah York, Harry Morgan, James Arness, Farley Granger, Tura Satana, Jackie Cooper, Anne Francis, David Nelson, Maria Schneider, Betty Garrett, Michael Gough, Michael Sarrazin, Marie-France Pisier, William Campbell, Sada Thompson, Ryan Dunn, Dana Wynter, Jeff Conaway, G.D. Spradlin, John Wood, Frances Bay, Dolores Hope, Charles Napier, Alan Sues.

Musicians Nate Dogg, Gerard Smith, Nick Ashford, Heavy D, Bert Jansch, Flattus Maximus, Phoebe Snow, Gerry Rafferty, Poly Styrene, Mikey Walsh, Pinetop Perkins, and “Honeyboy” Edwards.

Artists Lucien Freud, Helen Frankenthaler, Leonora Carrington, Jerry Robinson, Richard Hamilton, Joe Simon.

Sports figures Seve Ballesteros, Al Davis, Bubba Smith, Duke Snider, Socrates, Dan Wheldon, Dick Williams, Chuck Tanner, John Henry Johnson, Harmon Killebrew, John Mackey, Derek Boogaard, Randy Savage, Henry Cooper, Matty Alou, Mike Flanagan, Jim Northrup, Woodie Fryman, Rick Martin, Johnny Wilson, Ollie Matson, Joe Perry, Grete Waitz, Bob Forsch, Ricky Bell, and the players and coaches of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, the Russian hockey club wiped out in plane crash in central Russia.

Business Leaders Jess Jackson, entrepreneurial vintner of Kendall-Jackson; toymaker Elliot Handler, founder of Mattel Inc.; Norio Ohga, Sony CEO and developer of the compact disc format; John McCarthy, pioneer of Artificial Intelligence, a term he coined; Christian J. Lambertsen, scientist who invented the “self-contained underwater breathing apparatus” known as scuba; Wallace McCain, frozen-french-fries titan.

Local notables the Hon. Anthony V. Cardona, Appellate Division presiding justice and former Albany County Family Court judge; playwright, novelist, and Firlefanz Puppets collaborator Oakley Hall III, subject of the award-winning documentary The Loss of Nameless Things.

Gone and forgotten

Fudruckers, Sarah Palin, Herman Cain, planking.

Gone insane

The Republican Party, Netflix.

Gone and back again

Ice skating at theEmpireStatePlaza, the 1920s, grunge, Joe Bruno’s legal jeopardy, Harry Tutunjian, Rick Santorum.

Gone and back again in a flashback

Owsley Stanley, 1960s counterculture icon who manufactured LSD in mass quantities.

Gone and back and gone again

Jazz at Justin’s.

Gone and should come back

Trenchcoats (thanks to the Lark Street Flasher).

Going, going . . .

Classic daytime soap operas; the Irish language—there are only about 40,000 speakers left in the world.

Please go away

The Kardashians; Donald Trump; dubstep; the Tea Party; vampires and zombies (enough already with the blood sucking and brain munching); Conan O’Brien and other TV characters who jump around—and out of—those corner-of-the-screen pop-up adverts.

Revolution in the birthplace of civilization

When Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire to protest his corrupt and autocratic government, it set the Middle East ablaze with revolutionary fervor. In less than a month, the Tunisian president left power and mass demonstrations in Egypt soon took down leader Hosni Mubarak. By the end of the year, the so-called Arab Spring brought civil unrest to Bahrain, Syria, Yemen, Lybia, Algeria, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and even Iraq. As dictators continue to fall, unrest in the Middle East, for once, looks like it will be yielding democratic change, and Occupy movements against economic inequality in the First World have this struggle to thank.

The human microphones heard ’round the world

Following a peculiar directive from the Canadian anti-consumerist mag Adbusters, the first wave of Occupy Wall Street protesters took to the streets of lower Manhattan in September to demand . . . nothing specific. But while they were dismissed and derided for this and their lack of organizational hierarchy, the underlying messages—too much income inequality, too much corporate control, politics corrupted by money—soon became too loud to ignore. The movement spread all across the country and the world, the camps stayed up for weeks and months, the momentum continued to build, and the national conversation changed to the point that news media were regularly talking about income inequality and the 99 percent.

And we made the news too

Occupy Albany became a player on the national stage when Albany County Attorney General David Soares said he would not prosecute any peaceful protesters who might be arrested by local or state cops. And the camp’s constant pounding away at “Gov. 1 Percent” Andrew Cuomo for refusing to extend the millionaire’s tax likely influenced Cuomo’s sudden shift in position, in which he did bully through tax-reform legislation, albeit on his own terms.

Viva la informacion

In response to Time Magazine naming “the protestor” as 2011’s Person of the Year, famed Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg proferred a more specific name: Bradley Manning. The Army private currently faces trial for leaking the largest cache of confidential material in US history to the WikiLeaks website, and a potential death penalty if he’s found to have “aided the enemy.” Many herald Manning’s actions, instead, for having aided global uprising, due to the duplicitous actions of first-world powers, made transparent by the leaked information.

Obama Derangement Syndrome, Birther Edition

After years of conspiracy theories festering among folks who don’t like President Barack Obama, in April the president formally requested that the state of Hawaii release his so-called “long form birth certificate.” They did. The White House posted the form on the web. And this finally removed the issue from discussion in the mainstream media, though the crackpots still spin ever-more intricate conspiracies.

Obama Derangement Syndrome, First Lady Edition

Every modern-day First Lady has a cause. Lady Bird Johnson campaigned against highway billboards; Nancy Reagan wanted dopers to just say no; ex-librarian Laura Bush advocated for literacy. Michelle Obama would like kids to eat fewer cheeseburgers. Predictably, this has driven some right-wingers insane. Michelle Malkin dubbed Ms. Obama “super nanny” and the “First Lady of Junk Science.” Red State says she’s leading “the liberal war against childhood.” Apparently, taking away a few Happy Meals equals fascism.

A bad year for tyrants

Osama Bin Laden, Colonel Quaddafi, Kim Jong-il, and (depending on your perspective) Steve Jobs all died sooner than expected.

Wheel of misfortune

Good Lord. The last pre-caucus polls out of Iowa painted the nauseating picture of a “Santorum surge.” It was to be expected, however, as the anyone-but-Mitt Romney tendency in the Republican base has, in turn, led to a “surge” by each spoke in a wheel of political crackpots: Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul and, finally, Rick Santorum. Calling Zombie Ronald Reagan: They’re ready for your close-up!

A heroic recovery

On Aug. 1, Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords cast her vote along with fellow Democratic lawmakers to raise the federal debt ceiling, marking her return to politics after a gunman attacked a January public event in Tuscun, critically injuring the second-term politician. While the motivations of attacker Jared Lee Loughner remain unknown, the incident drew attention to Republican rhetoric employed during the Tea Party movement that placed progressive lawmakers on a “hit list.”

Why do Republicans hate American workers?

In Wisconsin, Lord Voldemort—excuse us, we mean Republican Gov. Scott Walker—attacked unions through a law that limited state employees’ collective bargaining rights. This was the first volley in a battle that spread to Ohio and the rest of the country as Republicans went about doing the bidding of their corporate oligarch masters. (Cough, Koch brothers, cough.) Meanwhile, back in Madison, Walker energized unions and now faces a serious recall effort.

Why does the Republican Congress hate America?

In April, Republicans in control of the U.S. House of Representatives forced a budget showdown that nearly shut down the government. In July, they picked a fight over raising the debt ceiling that almost caused another international economic meltdown. They fought a war on Planned Parenthood all session, and passed a bill that would have ended Medicare as we know it. Who needs enemies with a government like this?

Because trains . . . just aren’t American!

What is it with Republicans and mass transit these days? Republican governors and mayors in places like Florida, New Jersey and Michigan have gleefully put the kibosh on major rail-transportation projects recently, pleasing their Tea Party backers while pissing off the people who would actually benefit from the improvements—including commuters, construction workers, and business that would receive a boost from increased development and commuter traffic. And in some cases they turned down federal stimulus money that’s not going to pay down the federal debt anyway, which was one of their excuses. God forbid we should ever have really good transit systems like those socialists in Europe!

It came from Massachusetts

Move over, Hillary—there’s an even more fearsome she-monster crashing through the political jungle this campaign season. She’s a Communist! A Marxist! A job-eating alien! Republicans are very, very scared of Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard professor and staunch consumer-protection advocate who has a very good chance of ending Scott Brown’s short run in the Senate. So they portray her as evil and anti-American—all because she sticks up for the middle class against the most predatory practices of large and powerful financial institutions, and, basically, because she just makes too much sense.

Bankers: still evil

Last week, in a remarkable Bloomberg News story noted by bloggers from Kevin Drum to Matt Taibbi, testy billionaires whined about being picked on. “Acting like everyone who has been successful is bad. . . . I don’t understand it,” said JP Morgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon. Of the “occupy” movement, Home Depot cofounder Bernard Marcus said, “Who gives a crap about some imbecile? Are you kidding me?” And ex-New Yorker and political dilettante Tom Golisano grumbled at pay-your-fair-share talk, “I’m going to vomit.” Marie Antoinette was Che Guevara compared to this bunch.

Europe: still a threat

As if we didn’t have enough economic worries at home, for most of the year the Eurozone teetered on the brink of collapse as wealthy European countries—ahem, Germany—didn’t want to bail out bank loans made to their less wealthy cousins—ahem, Greece—without said poor relations suffering more punishing austerity.

The royal couple

Just when it seemed like the Windsors had sufficiently screwed up so as to permanently disenchant the good subjects of the United Kingdom, they pulled off a smashing royal wedding. Prince William and Kate Middleton were married in April to the acclaim of, well, almost everyone. (Even those skeptical of the concept of royalty were grateful that someone pushed the Kardashians out of the spotlight for 15 minutes.) Locally, we were impressed by the Watervliet ice cream shop that offered a special “royal wedding” flavor; we’re sure it must have tasted like “happily ever after.”

Because “apocalypse” actually means to uncover, duh

If you’re presently reading this, you, like us, were not spontaneously raptured on May 21—or cast into hellfire—as evangelical radio wingnut Harold Camping had predicted (for the second time). But maybe you took advantage—as we did—of the opportunity for an end-of-the-world party (just in case) on May 20. Staring down the 2012 paradigm shift, we recommend you take every chance at pre-apocalyptic revelry you get.

News from the future

When a research team at Geneva’s CERN particle physics laboratory reported that they had observed a neutrino traveling faster than the speed of light, most physicists scoffed, claiming that the “error” would totally undermine Einstein’s relativity and physics as we know it. Then they replicated their results and shut everyone up. Then, as two research teams closed in on the elusive Higgs boson—so-called God particle—at the end of the year, quantum experimentation became a geeky new spectator sport.

It was a better year to be a writer than a hockey player

Most years among the famous, it’s the writers who depart this veil of tears through suicide, but in 2011, it seemed there were more robust hockey players than troubled creative types taking their own lives, reportedly because of injury-related mental impairments rather than any existential despair.

Still rolling

Gov. Andrew Cuomo proved that when it comes to steamrolling your way to political dominance, he has no equal in recent New York state politics. He orchestrated an on-time budget and a property-tax-cap deal, fought hard for the marriage equality victory, and pivoted on the millionaire’s tax to engineer income tax restructuring. And on top of it all, Cuomo’s still wildly popular. Come 2017, will we be hailing President Cuomo?

A rainbow over New York state

When the New York State Legislature legalized gay marriage this June, making New York the seventh state to do so, it doubled the number of gay Americans who are now able to legally consecrate their love. A banner achievement of the Cuomo administration, the move has put the state on the front edge of one of our era’s great civil-rights battles.

Educational SOS

With departmental and general budget cuts looming, State University of New York students and faculty rallied hard all year to defend public education with the Save Our SUNY movement. The walkouts, teach-ins and general demonstrations found solidairty in the Verizon strikes, Wisconsin collective-bargaining rights advocacy and Occupy movement, insisting that state-supported education is a human right and critical to a fair and equal society.

The perfect penis pun that writes itself

What could be more delightful to us, the cynical alternative press, drunk on dick jokes and schadenfreude, than a scandal involving a congressman “sexting” pictures of his johnson to a host of sultry vixens—none of whom was his pregnant wife? The fact that said congressman was born with the surname “Weiner.”

What happened, Gary?

To the surprise of most observers (and city Democrats), Republican and Alliance Party candidate Roger Hull came within a whisker—less than 100 votes—of winning the Schenectady mayoral contest. The Democrats have a healthy enrollment advantage, but that only matters if voters show up at the polls—and turnout was shockingly low this year. Still, despite the evident absence of voter enthusiasm, Acting Mayor Gary McCarthy managed to squeeze out a win.

Here’s your hat, Harry

Term limits finally ended the reign of Troy Mayor Harry Tutunjian. We don’t mourn his exit. Some of Tutunjian’s greatest hits: he demolished the antique marquee on a movie theater/porn shop, dragged Joseph’s House through the courts because they wanted to build another homeless shelter, tolerated Bob Mirch’s political rampage, and blessed a civic jihad against the Sanctuary for Independent Media. And, of course, let us not forget the Troy City Hall debacle.

See you in court, Clem

While we’re mucking about in the cesspool that is Rensselaer County politics, let us note that the 2009 Troy voter fraud scandal seems to be headed, finally, toward resolution. In December, ex-City Council President Clement Campana was indicted on one misdemeanor and five felonies related to the absentee ballot scandal, and three other Dems—John Brown, Tony DiFiglio and Tony Renna—pleaded guilty to one felony each. Somewhere, garbageman-for-life Bob Mirch is smiling.

The college that ate a neighborhood

Welcome to the City of Saint Rose! It’s easy to find; just look for the ramparts, er, markers, at the corners of the area formerly known as Pine Hills. See that behemoth building going up on Madison Avenue? That used to be a block of picturesque 19th-century residences. The upscale college has been buying up houses at a rapid clip for years, and now it’s looking like its own private fiefdom—complete with parking lot exits that only the most intrepid of bicyclists dare to cross.

The hospital that ate a neighborhood

One day there was the Albany Medical Center you always knew, with its parking garage across the street, quickly giving way to a modest (in some parts decaying) neighborhood of small businesses and homes as you headed down New Scotland toward Madison. Then you took a nap, and when you woke up—OMG! A Hilton Garden Inn! Starbucks! Panera! CVS and SEFCU! Several newly minted medical and office buildings! And they’re still digging all around the hospital, so god knows what else New Med City has up its sleeve. Or how poor little two-lane New Scotland Avenue is going to handle all the extra traffic.

The nanobots that ate everything

There is a certain strain of techno-paranoia that worries over the notion that nanobots will eventually devour everything. (Think of the ending of Gore Vidal’s Duluth.) We don’t know about that, but we’re pretty sure that UAlbany’s College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering campus is going to devour everything between SUNY, Crossgates Mall and the New York State Thruway. Albany County’s allegedly “unrelated” plan to move Washington Avenue Extension north of its present location just confirms this.

Angry Mother Nature

With two tropical storms pummeling the Capital Region, Catskills, Adirondacks and beyond this summer, saturating crops and destroying infrastructure, it’s easy to forget we also had a real friggin’ earthquake.

What next, Springfield, a swarm of locusts?

There was plenty of extreme weather to go around in the Northeast in 2011, but Springfield, Mass., hit the angry-weather jackpot: brutal snowstorms, tropical-storm flooding, the earthquake, and a serious tornado that plowed through the city and left flattened buildings and several people dead. Then, just to let you know Mother Nature does have a sense of humor, she finished off Springfield’s year with some of the mildest weather on record.

Farewell, Zuzu’s

The Great Recession has been hard on a lot of arts institutions. Sadly, it contributed to the demise of one in our own backyard, multiple Best Of-winner Zuzu’s Wonderful Life on Albany’s Hamilton Street. Under the direction of Sue Caputo, Zuzu’s was the longtime home to Wit and Will improv, Habiba’s belly dance classes, Pentimento Playback Theatre, and also hosted staged readings and various cultural events over more than a decade of existence. It is missed.

Next time, try the bus

It was a big year for the Capital District Transportation Authority. They introduced the BusPlus limited stop service along the Route 5 corridor, and restructured bus service in Albany County. Ridership is up 6 percent. Here’s hoping the Feds and New York state don’t gut transit funding in 2012, which would endanger the improved—and popular—CDTA system.

Fowl play

After an enthusiatic grassroots effort led to the passage by the Albany Common Council of an ordinance allowing for city residents to keep a small number of domestic chickens (they’ve been banned for the better part of a decade), Mayor Jerry Jennings performed an exceptional act of douchebaggery by vetoing the bill, which was regarded as a first step toward urban sustainability. The Albany Chickens campaign struck back the best way they knew how, by pasting “Veto Jennings” stickers on every street corner in town.

Price Chopper: the next generation

In December, Neil Golub announced that he was stepping down as CEO of Price Chopper, the locally based grocery chain that has, under his leadership, dominated the Capital Region supermarket sector for decades. His younger cousin Jerel Golub, who has his own 30-year history with the company (and was COO), will assume the CEO post. The new CEO will have his work cut out for him, as an old competitor has returned.

The return of Shop Rite

Old timers may recall when the big grocery chains in the Capital Region were Price Chopper, Grand Union and Shop Rite. Most Grand Unions have gone to retail heaven, but Shop Rite, after exiting the area in the late 1980s, returned with a vengeance in 2011. A new Shop Rite opened in Niskayuna, another will be opening soon on Albany’s Central Avenue, and more are planned. En garde, Hannaford and Price Chopper!

Bigger and better betting

And what’s right next to that fancy new Shop Rite on Central Avenue? A brand new OTB Teletheater! Dubbed the Clubhouse Race Book, this temple of gaming includes the 711 Sports Grill and, we suspect, more TVs than three Best Buy showrooms.


Once upon a time there was a drive-thru suburb which had its own sleepy backyard mall. Unfortunately, it was too sleepy, so its owners decided to remake this “country mall” into something fresher. Clearly it wasn’t fresh enough, and it was decided that drastic measures were in order. Thus, the made-over Clifton Park Center Mall was reborn, complete with a Hilton Garden Inn and a shiny new movie multiplex, the Regal Clifton Park Stadium 10 & RPX. Still no Macy’s, but that RPX screen is pretty big!

Will Paris drop by for the reopening?

Speaking of makeovers, Albany’s Crowne Plaza Hotel on State Street acquired new ownership this year. The rechristened Hotel Albany is now a Hilton property, and will be undergoing a multimillion-dollar upgrade. File this under “what goes around,” as the hotel first opened three decades ago as a Hilton property. The main thing we want to know is this: Will they bring back Cahoots?


Whether it was on account of the cocaine, megalomania or tiger blood, Charlie Sheen staged a media coup this summer so meteroic that most of his million-plus Twitter followers probably knew him more as that guy on the T-shirts/getting roasted on Comedy Central/hosting the Gathering of the Juggalos, rather the than the highest-paid star of sitcom Two and a Half Men, throwing a tantrum over the termination of his contract. Usually, when celebrities commit this far to their own insanity, they have to be scraped off the floor of history, yet Sheen emerged a surreal champion.

Bieber baby buggy bumpers

We knew there was trouble brewing when the Biebs was seen asking people to touch his pet snake at the MTV Video Music Awards. Lo and behold, this fall fan Mariah Yeater filed a paternity lawsuit alleging that the 17-year-old singer was the father of her 4-month-old. The world rushed to scrub the image of this barely legal backstage tryst from their minds while Yeater quietly dropped the charges.

If you build a new sports complex, the title will come

The College of Saint Rose women’s soccer team came back from a 1-0 halftime deficit to beat two-time national champions Grand Valley State 2-1 for the women’s Division II national title. That’s right, the national title. Beautiful game, beautiful finish for the Golden Knights.

and that’s the end of . . . the year in review . . .

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