Don’t mess with Sandy
A tropical wave rose out of the Caribbean Sea in late October and grew to hurricane classification by the time it hit Jamaica. About a week later, the storm hit the East coast of the United States and the system named Hurricane Sandy was now being touted as a superstorm. Twitter feeds flared as the damage caused by Sandy intensified. User-submitted photos circulated showing giant parts of New York City blacked out, and subway tunnels overrun by waves of sea water. More than 80 homes were reported to be destroyed by fire that was quickly spread by winds in Breezy Point, Queens. When all was said and done, damage from Superstorm Sandy cost around $63 billion in the United States alone.
No fracking answers
If you were waiting for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to make a decision on hydrofracking in New York state, 2012 probably disappointed you greatly. The governor has wedged himself in between the interests of environmental activists and groups hoping that fracking will boost local economies. Cuomo enjoys record approval ratings, but faces reelection in 2014. Or maybe it’s images of the oval office and the number 2016 that have slowed the governor’s decision-making abilities. Either way, whether or not the big guy will allow fracking in New York is still up in the air. At least it’s not in the water . . . yet.
There are no words
On July 20, a gunman opened fire at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colo., killing 12 and wounding 58. An even more unthinkable shooting occurred on Dec. 14, when Adam Lanza opened fire on elementary-school students in Newtown, Conn., killing 20 children and 6 staff members and wounding two others. If Aurora merely fit a chilling trend—mass shootings in the United States have been on the rise in recent years—the ages of the Newtown victims seemed to bind most of the nation into a tentative consensus that something has to be done—and that that something would involve tighter gun controls.
Gun violence just brings out the best in the NRA
The head of the National Rifle Association, Wayne LaPierre, would have no part of that consensus: When he finally made his anticipated statement, he said he would not support new gun-control legislation but, instead, recommended putting armed guards in all of the nation’s schools. His statements sounded so insensitive during a time of national grieving that LaPierre was chastised even in conservative media. And his position seemed to bolster the idea that the NRA’s main agenda is not really about protecting the rights of gun owners—many of whom do approve of modest gun controls—but rather about increasing the profits of gun sellers.
Two churches, two cities, same fate?
On New Year’s Eve a State Supreme Court judge disallowed a motion by the Citizens for Saint Patrick’s to intervene in the sale of St. Patrick’s church to Nigro Companies for demolition. The judgment culminates a nearly yearlong battle by the grass-roots group to save the 1890 church and its picturesque campus for future reuse. Relatively stable, St. Patrick’s also has its own parking lot. In contrast, long-vacant St. Joseph’s church in Albany was denied an opportunity for reuse, as a brewpub, largely to accommodate neighbors who don’t want it, with lack of parking being an oft-cited reason.
The Capital Region was horrified this December after two area teenagers were killed and two others badly injured when the vehicle they were driving was struck from behind, forcing it off of the Northway. Christopher Stewart and Deanna Rivers, both 17 years old, were pronounced dead at the scene. Bailey Wind and Matthew Hardy, also both 17 years old, were taken to Albany Medical Center. Following a campaign on Twitter, NFL star Tim Tebow called Hardy in his hospital room. Many area mourners held candlelight vigils to honor the two young lives cut short.
Oh no they didn’t
In October, Liberty Ridge Farm in Schaghticoke ruffled more than a few feathers when they denied a lesbian couple use of the property for their same-sex marriage. The farm books weddings at the site, but the owners refused to allow Jennie McCarthy and Melissa Erwin to be married there. The two women have filed a discrimination complaint against the owners of the farm.
They paid the price
2012 was a bad year for Republican state senators who supported same-sex marriage in New York state. Mark J. Grisanti of Buffalo won his election, but the three others didn’t fare so well. James S. Alesi of Monroe County decided not to seek reelection, and local guy Roy McDonald was ousted, as was Stephen Saland of Poughkeepsie. Not even the midas touch from Gov. Andrew Cuomo could save these politicians from the conservative backlash.
A time to lead, finally
President Obama’s stance on same-sex marriage had been somewhat elusive: Over his career as an elected official, he has supported it, then unsupported it, and in recent years has just been hard to pin down. But on May 9, he stated in an ABC interview that he supports gay marriage, becoming the first U.S. president to do so while still in office.
Wailing and gnashing of teeth, part one
The champagne was on ice and schadenfreud was brewing when, on June 28, conservatives readied to celebrate the U.S. Supreme Court’s repeal of Obamacare. And then they didn’t. The fact that Chief Justice John Roberts, a conservative icon, wrote the majority decision left an especially bitter aftertaste.
The brutal Republican presidential primary season
Who needs Democrats? Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich failed to win the Republican nomination, but they softened up Mitt Romney for the general election with their brutally effective attacks.
The real war
While the political silly season raged in the United States, U.S. drones continued to kill innocent civilians (and enrage the local populations) across our various war zones. Don’t forget them.
Open season in Florida
On a February night in Sanford, Fla., a young black man named Trayvon Martin left a convenient store and headed back to his father’s home when George Zimmerman, a self-appointed neighborhood watchdog, spotted the youth and called the local police department to report “suspicious” behavior. At some point, Zimmerman and Martin were involved in a physical altercation that left Martin dead from a gunshot wound to the chest. Zimmerman cried self-defense, was questioned by police, and released without being charged. After public outcry, a special prosecutor filed charges of murder in the second degree against Zimmerman and he now awaits trial. The case sparked allegations of racial discrimination and brought attention to Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. Martin supporters wore hooded sweatshirts like the one Martin was wearing at the time of his death.
All year, the drumbeat on Fox News and in the rest of the conservative media—dubbed “Bullshit Mountain” by Jon Stewart—was that President Obama would inevitably lose. In the final weeks of the Mitt Romney campaign, they clung to this article of faith despite of mounting empirical evidence to the contrary. And when, on election night, Fox News called Ohio (and the election) for Obama, the volcano atop Bullshit Mountain exploded. Karl Rove had his own math, he screeched at Megyn Kelly. Fuzzy math, as it turned out.
The war on unions
Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker became the GOP poster boy for union busting when Republican majorities in his state passed a draconian union-restricting law in June. (Parts of the law were later struck down by the courts.) Gov. Richard Snyder (also Republican) followed suit in December, signing legislation turning Michigan into a right-to-work state.
The war on women
First there were the complaints about how Obamacare made religious institutions and private companies pay for their women employees’ birth control. Then, over the summer and into the fall, some prominent candidates’ word bombs made the Republican Party sound like the Rape-ublican Party. On Election Day, women voters proved that yelling “slut” was not a viable strategy.
Shout-out to the survivors
Just wanted to give a big hallelujah to the things the GOP tried to kill in 2012, but didn’t. The obvious targets were women’s rights (like the right to not be medically raped for even thinking the word “abortion”), Planned Parenthood, the 47 percent, unions, and old people. We’ve kind of come to expect those things from those Republican boys but even we were caught a bit off guard when they turned their sights on Big Bird. Really, Republicans? Big Bird? That’s just sad.
The year in Biden
Joe Biden, our perpetually smiling vice president, had a grand old time this year. From hugging biker chicks on the campaign trail to dismissing Republican veep candidate Paul Ryan with a dismissive chuckle in their debate, he was totally chill. Biden topped it off this week by negotiating the fiscal cliff solution. Way to go, Joe.
The odd couple
Just days before election day, Superstorm Sandy brought President Obama and Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie together, as the men planned rehabilitation efforts to areas under duress. The union was denounced by many in the Republican camp, an outcry that was balanced by anti-GOP celebrators who gleefully pointed out Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s statement that FEMA funding should be cut. Those in storm-stricken areas couldn’t care less—they are still recovering.
The zombie-eyed granny starver
We refer, using the apt nickname coined by Esquire’s Charles Pierce, to Wisconsin member of the House and Republican veep candidate Paul Ryan. Ryan, famous for a budget “plan” that didn’t add up, is a vigorous supporter of balancing the budget on the backs of seniors and the poor. With the election lost, Ryan’s back to being a flashy political irrelevancy—as shown by his non-role in the fiscal-cliff mess.
Mitt Romney did not have a good year, and he was petulant about every setback along the way. He dismissed almost half of us as moochers; he went to England and insulted the Olympics; he spent a pile of money and still lost the presidency. What will he do now? Who cares. He has his fortune to keep him warm.
Mad as hell and headed to the polls
Republican efforts to suppress Democratic voter turnout in a handful of states appear to have backfired: Not only did the courts toss out or delay many of the worst new laws aiming to keep minorities, elderly, students, etc. from voting—oops, we mean, aiming to wipe out that supposedly rampant “voter fraud”—the strategy actually served to fire up Democratic voter-turnout efforts. Do the math, Tea Party: If you can’t offer something for these constituencies to like, and you can’t keep them from voting, you will continue to drag down the GOP.
Lone Star, indeed
After Obama’s election to a second term, citizens of several states signed petitions on the White House’s We the People site asking permission to secede from the union; Texas led the way with more than 100,000 signatures. That the state is openly grumbling about secession is not surprising: It has a longstanding history of threatening to secede. Also not surprising: the reaction of many liberals (Go for it!), and the reaction of Austin, the Texas capital, asking to stay in the union even if her mother state leaves.
More yard signs do not equal more supporters
At the height of the primary campaign season, Albany County District Attorney candidate Lee Kindlon’s media cheerleaders brayed about the large number of Kindlon lawn signs that spread over the city’s uptown neighborhoods. They offered this as decisive evidence of a Kindlon wave and a portent of doom for incumbent David Soares. In the end, Soares thumped Kindlon in the Democratic primary but good, and the cheerleaders—Albany Citizen One, Fred Dicker—looked ridiculous as ever.
If you thought 2011 made all of the voter fraud news in Troy go away—think again. 2012 saw the acquittal of Michael LoPorto and Edward McDonough, whose first trial ended in a mistrial in March. What will those crazy Trojans do for fun in 2013?
Ex-Troy mayor Harry Tutunjian lost his electoral bid to retain the seat to which he was appointed on the Rensselaer County Legislature. See you on social media, Harry.
Will he or won’t he?
While city treasurer Kathy Sheehan announced her intent to run for Albany mayor in 2013, incumbent Jerry Jennings kept his own counsel. What will it be, Mr. Mayor? (We’ll tell you one thing, we wouldn’t bet against it—or him.)
Ballin’ at the Graveyard, an entertaining and insightful documentary about weekend b-ballers at Albany’s Washington Park courts, was a surprise, monthlong summer hit at the Spectrum 8 Theatres. (Spectrum co-owner Keith Pickard was one of the producers.) Or maybe it shouldn’t be considered such a surprise: Filmmakers Basil Anastassiou (a baller himself) and Paul Kentoffio created a vivid portrait of a largely African-American subculture that hometown audiences recognized, valued and enjoyed.
The giant Dutch clogs of this year’s Sculpture in the Streets series enlivened downtown Albany all summer and fall, proving to be one of the Albany BID’s most popular and interactive exhibits, as passers-by couldn’t resist posing with—and playing in—the shoes in joyfully creative fashion.
Saving a few thousand while losing millions
Don Rittner was budget-cut from his position as Schenectady County historian, saving the county a mere $24,000 a year. Apparently no one looked at the balance sheet, since Rittner, in his volunteer position as film commissioner, brought the county approximately $10 million in economic activity by enticing hot-buzz feature film The Place Beyond the Pines to film in the area, along with TV shows American Pickers and A&E’s Biography.
Giving new meaning to “ants in his pants”
Local filmmaker Jon Cring’s horror anthology Creeping Crawling earned a Halloween-week theatrical run at the Madison Theater, where this cautionary tale about bugs gone wrong had audiences squirming in their seats.
At the reception for Roisin Fitzpatrick’s Artist of the Light installation at the Irish American Heritage Museum in Albany, the acclaimed Irish artist presented a specially designed artwork for the museum’s permanent collection. The crystal and silk exhibit was held over due to popular demand.
Museum funding continues to shrink
If you’re not an established institution with a solid endowment, it continues to be a tough economic environment. At the beginning of 2012, funding shortfalls forced Schoharie County’s Iroquois Indian Museum to shorten its season. At the end of the year, the Saratoga County Historical Society announced that the loss of county funds was forcing it to close the Brookside Museum for a month.
The (never)ending stories
Soap opera fans have had a tough haul these last few years, what with the cancellations of Guiding Light, As the World Turns, and All My Children, but 2012 was killer for those of us who had to withstand the pain of losing One Life to Live in January. Since its inception in 1968, this soap, created by the legendary Agnes Nixon, cultivated generations of heartfelt stories, many of which were culturally groundbreaking, such as light-skinned African-American Carla’s attempt to pass as white and, decades later, the town’s homophobia when a teenager (played by Ryan Phillipe) came out. Lions and tigers and bears had nothing on the trials, tribulations and, yes, many joyous occasions experienced by series center Victoria Lord Gordon Riley Burke Buchanan Carpenter Davison Banks. . . . While we still wonder whatever became of Destiny and Matthew, and whether Victor is still locked away by crazy Allison Perkins, we are heartened to hear rumors that the company Prospect Park is planning to reboot OLTL (and AMC) to online, and possibly cable, format.
Venerable educational network the Learning Channel (TLC) rolled out one of the most-talked-about reality shows ever this year: Here Comes Honey Boo-Bo,o a spin-off of some schlock about child beauty pagents. Watch as the eponymous character farts, curses and eats cheese doodles. Or don’t.
Groceries gone wild
Trader Joe’s intensified the already-vicious supermarket wars with its arrival on Wolf Road, where cops were on hand for the opening days to keep traffic moving and defuse any scuffle over the last box of discounted Arborio. Meanwhile, longstanding Price Choppers and Hannafords kept having mysterious “grand reopenings,” while the grocery chain that started the bad blood, Shop Rite, descended alien-like onto a once-sleepy parcel of land in Slingerlands within a cabbage toss of Price Chopper. Will it ever end? We’ve got two words for you: Whole Foods.
Metroland moves to Pine Hills
After eight years at the historic former police station at 419 Madison Ave., Metroland moved uptown to more compact digs at 523 Western Ave. It was a traumatic and liberating experience. Perhaps the weirdest aspect involved Metromouse, our vermin mascot. “Metromouse” was actually a large, extended family of mice. They left five days before we did—just disappeared. Feel free to draw your own conclusions.
When a “foam party” crowd became violent with police officers outside the Washington Avenue Armory this fall, the City of Albany temporarily suspended the venue’s ability to hold electronic music events, which have been wildly popular in recent years. The incident has brought attention to tension between downtown residents and promoters who want to amp up Albany nightlife. The question of what constitutes a “concert” as opposed to a “nightclub” event remains ill-defined but may determine the future of DJ shows in the future.
After years of rotting away, the long-closed Starlite Music Theater (originally the Colonie Coliseum) was finally demolished. Here’s the real question: Will theater in the round ever make a comeback in the Capital Region? (We wouldn’t bet in favor of it.)
And goodbye to you, groovy ’70s sign
The classic Northway Mall sign, which also doubled as the marquee for the long-gone Cine 1-2-3-4(-5-6-7-8-9-10), was removed. We watched with sadness as a workman hammered the letters, in all their slick, blue, no-caps-font glory, off the sign. Its replacement has none of the original’s me-decade panache, and the name is spelled in ALL CAPS—a sign of the dreary, over-emphatic times.
The last quack
We also said goodbye this summer to the Albany Aqua Ducks, those strange, oversized amphibious vehicles that hosted historical tours of Albany’s downtown, and then would take a splash into the Hudson. They always gave us a shout-out when the tour passed the old office, so we’re returning the favor. Quack!
We prefer the term “breasts”
We solemnly declare 2012 the year of the side boob. Forget frontal cleavage, the past 12 months were all about breast exposure on way different coordinates. The Huffington Post lead the charge in coverage of the phenomenon—female celebrities (mainly Miley Cyrus) whose breasts could be seen peeking out from the sides of purposefully ill-fitting or strategically cut blouses, tank tops, or dresses. If you were young, rich, famous, and female in 2012, chances are some paparazzi snapped a few frames of you and your side boob. What’s shakin’ for 2013?
Worse than mom jeans
“Mommy porn” reached new levels in 2012. Gone was the tired and trashy supermarket smut emblazoned with Fabio’s likeness of yesteryear. Fifty Shades of Grey, published mid-2011, blazed through our consciousness with a fierceness that was astounding. Part of a trilogy penned by E.L. James, the titillating and fictional tales sold more than 65 million copies. Besides being criticized for being a poor example of literature, Fifty Shades was slammed for its depictions of the abuse and submission of the female main character, who in addition to being a victim, was also an idiot. The best part of the whole thing? The many parodies and jokes spawned by the “erotic” fiction.
Anonymous:1, Westboro: still awful
You don’t need us to tell you that the Westboro Baptist Church are a bunch of delusional, hate-spewing worms. So we might as well revel in the small defeat they suffered at the hands of hacker collective Anonymous, who jacked their website this fall after the church planned to picket the Sandy Hook funerals, and published church members’ contact info.You can give Fred Phelps a piece of your mind at (785) 273-0325.
We are all Pussy Riot
In February, a group of feminist activists calling themselves Pussy Riot performed an irreverent song in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior, landing themselves in jail and in the international spotlight as their court case became a referendum on Vladamir Putin’s legacy of exploitation and patriarchy. When three members were convicted of hoolaganism and religious hatred, the world came to Pussy Riot’s defense, donning neon ski masks and offering gestures of solidarity with the free-speech rebels.
Another role model down the drain
Lance Armstrong, the professional cyclist and triathlete who won the Tour de France a record seven straight times, was banned from all sports for life by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, and stripped of all his titles dating back to 1998, for using and distributing performance-enhancing drugs.
Did you think the royal wedding in 2011 was the biggest media moment for Kate Middleton? Wrong. 2012 brought the princess a lot more than anyone could have predicted. Before the recent baby rumors and obsession with Middleton’s “bump,” photos of the young royal sunbathing topless made the tabloid rounds. But the biggest story affiliated with the princess was one of a prank gone wrong. Two Australian DJs called the hospital where Middleton was being treated for morning sickness and pretended to be Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth II. They convinced Jacintha Saldanha, a nurse who was manning the phones, to reveal information about Middleton’s condition. Saldanha was later found to have committed suicide, and the radio jocks were pulled off the air.
You can’t make this stuff up
First, we were shocked (and titillated) to learn that retired four-star Gen. David Petraeus was resigning his post as CIA director upon revelations of an extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. But as if the details of that steamy affair—conducted at home and abroad and in unencrypted sexually graphic e-mails (this is the nation’s top spy?)—weren’t juicy enough, every day seemed to bring a new revelation. Cyberstalking! Broadwell jealous of suspected new mistress Jill Kelley! More sexually explicit e-mails dragging more married people—including another general—into the fray! Shirtless photos sent to Kelley from the FBI agent who may have uncovered the Petraeus affair! And some of the sideshows are just bizarre—like the letter to the New York Times Ethicist columnist in July in which the writer asks for advice on his wife’s affair with a high-ranking government official, and the fact that when the scandal broke, Broadwell and her husband Scott were in the middle of a romantic dinner.
O captain, you suck
At least 30 people were killed mid-January when the Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia ran aground off the coast of Tuscany. The vessel’s captain, Francesco Schettino had tried to perform a near-shore drive by for the locals, when his showboating caused the ship to hit a reef. Schettino then abandoned ship with its distressed passengers and fled the scene. He was arrested and ultimately charged with not communicating the correct details of the disaster to maritime authorities, and leaving the passengers to fend for themselves.
Skydiver Felix Baumgartner boldly went where no Red Bull-sponsored man had gone before this fall: into the stratosphere on a hot air balloon, from which he would jump, clad in an astronaut’s suit, to break the world record of 24 miles, as well as the sound barrier.
It’s a classic American tale: Enterprising lad builds software empire and then leaves company in disgrace after manufacturing a virus scare that never transpired. Retires with great wealth to an island off of Belize. Entertains himself with high-risk addrenaline sports, a stream of young mistresses, and a hobby of designer crug synthesis. When a wealthy ex-pat neighbor turns up dead, he goes on the run, paranoiacally documenting his flight through a blog and Vice magazine. When finally detained in Guetamala, John McAfee fakes a heart attack to avoid being returned to Belize and ends up in Miami to live happily ever after.
Zombies are real
And the cause is “bath salts.” Legally synthesized faster than the government can outlaw their various analogs, the drug was reportedly behind a rash of freak cannibal episodes this year, not to mention the wholesale destruction of user’s souls. Scarier than fiction, for sure.
With mounting public and political support of medical marijuana and regular old recreational use, cannabis advocates won a number of major victories this year, the most prominent of which was full legalization in Colorado and Washington. With a federal ban still in effect, it’s unclear how the policy will fully play out, but 420 advocates are flying higher than ever in the interim.
When stock for Facebook went public, investors lined up to rake in what they thought were going to be record profits. It didn’t work out as expected. Facebook’s initial public offering raised around $16 billion based on speculation that the company was valued at $100 billion, but the price per share never delivered. The social media giant’s stock price kept falling, sparking lawsuits from angry investors—some who claimed the whole thing was dirty. Facebook blamed a Nasdaq technical glitch for sluggish trading, but allegations were also launched that Morgan Stanley kept crucial information from most investors. In the end, no one “liked” the results—especially Zuckerberg, who got bounced off the list of the world’s 10 richest tech moguls.
Mars is going to be less of a mystery, thanks to NASA successfully landing the Mars Rover on the red planet’s surface. The plucky probe is digging up new info on our Solar System neighbor almost every day.
Disappointed iOS 6 users, especially those in Australia, were warned not to use Apple Maps, the app that replaced the tried-and-true Google Maps after Apple updated its operating system. It was reported by national media outlets that drivers became stranded when relying on the app’s navigation. Some drivers wandered into the wild and were stranded for days without food and water. In less dire situations, iOS 6 users were just plain annoyed with the heavily criticized application. Once Google Maps became available for iOS downloads, there were 10 million in the first two days.
Sim . . . universe
Once the subject of late-night AM radio and chat rooms destined to get your computer a virus, talk of whether or not we humans may be living in a vast, ornate computer simulation reached academic circles when Oxford University philosophy professor Nick Bostrom published a paper making precisely this case.
One giant leap for particle physics
So, CERN, the big particle-smasher thing in Europe pretty much said they discovered the Higgs Boson “God particle.” At least, theoretically or something. Anyway, it didn’t create a black hole that consumed the univers on Dec. 21. Maybe all this business is just a glitch in that computer simulation we’re all living in.
Primates like shopping, too
When Darwin, a Japanese snow macaque clad in diapers and a shearling coat, wandered into a Toronto IKEA, people went b-a-n-a-n-a-s. The almost-8-month-old monkey was taken into custody and transported to a primate sanctuary in Ontario after it followed its owner into the Swedish home furnishings outlet. Following his “arrest,” the monkey earned a hashtag, Twitter handle, and Facebook page. Darwin’s owner, Yasmin Nakhuda, pleaded to have her pet released, but a judge denied her request.
If you’re on Twitter, you can follow NASA’s real Mars Rover, which Tweets 140-character status reports @MarsCuriosity. Or you can follow a fake Mars Rover account like @SarcasticRover, which posts smart-ass messages “from Mars.” There are fake political accounts among local Tweeters—including a Jerry Jennings and dead Erastus Corning, Jr.—as well as numerous fake animal accounts. We’re partial to @AlbanySquirrel for Tweets like this: “These Holiday Lights in the park are lovely. Now the owls can clearly see us and devour my mother in the soft glow of Santa’s sleigh.”
One billion people with nothing better to do
Ugh, “Gangnam Style” dominated 2012. You might not have been completely convinced when your drunk uncle threw himself across the room in some wild interpretation of the dance but believe this: The South Korean dance style is horribly infectious. Go ahead, join the over one billion viewers who watched PSY’s video of the single on YouTube, and then try not to reference it ever again.
Welcome to the new post-apocalyptic age
When Dec. 21 came and went without the global catastrophe some believed the Mayan calendar prophesied, humanity breathed a sigh of relief and got on with business as usual: enduring world wars, economic recessions, climate-change-induced superstorms and mass shootings. Maybe the Mayans were right after all.
We can all agree on this one
Saratoga-based Stewart’s Shops took home the world title for Best Dark Chocolate ice cream at the World Dairy Expo in Wisconsin.