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The year in review 2007

Year In Review 2008 | Food | Cinema | Theater | Dance | Art | Books | Classical | Live | Recordings

 

Gone but not forgotten

Boris Yeltsin, Benazir Bhutto, Lady Bird Johnson, Jack Valenti, Molly Ivins, Merv Griffin, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., Paul Tibbets, Wally Schirra, Art Buchwald, David Halberstam, Norman Mailer, Kurt Waldheim, Leona Helmsley, Richard Jewell, E. Howard Hunt, Kitty Carlisle Hart, Tony Wilson, Anna Nicole Smith, Jane Wyman, Deborah Kerr, Yvonne De Carlo, Marcel Marceau, Michelangelo Antonioni, Ingmar Bergman, Carlo Ponti, Kurt Vonnegut, Madeleine L’Engle, Ike Turner, Oscar Peterson, Max Roach, Luciano Pavarotti, Dan Fogelberg, Gian Carlo Menotti, Ernest Gallo, Liz Claiborne, Don Ho, Porter Wagoner, Alice Coltrane, Robert Goulet, Beverly Sills, Phil Rizzuto, Jerry Falwell, Evel Knievel.

Political figures Jane Bolin, Teddy Kollek, Thomas Eagleton, Mohammed Zahir Shah, Michael Deaver, Ian Smith, Henry Hyde.

Writers Ira Levin, Mark Harris, Sidney Sheldon, Elizabeth Hardwick.

Filmmakers A.I. Bezzerides, Bob Clark, László Kovács, Melville Shavelson.

Actors Betty Hutton, Calvert DeForest (aka Larry “Bud” Melman), Ian Richardson, Herman Brix (aka Bruce Bennett), Gordon Scott, Charles Lane, John Inman, Tom Poston, Alice Ghostley, Lois Maxwell, Laraine Day, Dick “Mr. Whipple” Wilson.

Musicians Kevin DuBrow, Brad Delp, “Sneaky” Pete Kleinow, Tommy Makem, Joe Hunter, Frankie Lane, Bobby “Boris” Pickett, San Fadyl, Mstislav Rostropovich, Michael Brecker, Denny Doherty, Luther Ingram, Boots Randolph, Tommy Newsome, Lee Hazlewood, Dakota Staton, Barbara McNair, Zola Taylor, Joe Zawinul, Teresa Brewer, Casey Calvert, Pimp C.

TV Personalities Don “Mr. Wizard” Herbert, Tom Snyder, Joey Bishop, Joel Siegel, Charles Nelson Reilly, Brett Somers.

Arts figures Iwao Takamoto, Richard Jeni, Johnny Hart, Michael Kidd.

Local notables Ann Comella, Ed Swartz, William Pascarell.

Religious figures Tammy Faye Messner, Rex Humbard, Sri Chinmoy.

Rich people Brooke Astor, Arabella Spencer-Churchill.

Activist Yolanda King.

War criminal Maurice Papon.

Sports figures Benny Parsons, Scott “Bam Bam” Bigelow, John Doherty, Bowie Kuhn, Darryl Stingley, Chris Benoit, Bill Walsh, Darrent Williams, Sean Taylor, the Fabulous Moolah.

Critters Barbaro the Kentucky Derby winner, Washoe the sign- language chimp, Tatiana the tiger, Alex the brainy African gray parrot.

Gone and forgotten

George Pataki.

Gone—or demoted, anyway

Pluto (the planet)

Gone and back again

Washington Park concert series, Joe Bruno’s power, John McCain’s campaign, Don Imus

Gone and back again, old rock bands division

Led Zeppelin, the Police, Genesis, Crowded House, Squeeze, Van Halen with David Lee Roth, Black Sabbath with Ronnie James Dio

Gone and back again, disposable pop bands division

Spice Girls

Gone into the evil hands of Rupert Murdoch

The Wall Street Journal

Gone, and we thought he’d never leave

Alberto Gonzalez

Gone, and replaced by Drew Carey

Bob Barker

Gone to pot (or steroids, actually)

Hank Aaron’s home run record

Going, going . . .

New York Senate Republicans, Eliot Spitzer’s national ambitions, consumer civility, affordable gas, hopes to end the Iraq war, a Starbucks-free block in downtown Albany, public smoking anywhere on planet Earth, analog television signals, Amy Winehouse

Going (hopefully)

Albany Convention Center

Gone, finally

Harry Potter, Boston’s Big Dig

Gone, quietly

Marcel Marceau (sorry!)

Back, minus the expletives

Bruce Willis as John McLane in Live Free or Die Hard

Back, but very lonely

Harry Tutunjian

Won’t go away

Brian Scavo

Please go away

The Bethlehem roundabouts, Daughtry

Losing Steam

Hugely popular as New York state attorney general and the landslide winner in the 2006 gubernatorial election, Eliot Spitzer came charging into office—and proceeded to make several major political missteps that have sent his approval ratings into free-fall. From his “I’m a fucking steamroller” boast to his public tongue-lashing of noncooperative Democrats in their home districts to his clumsy handling of the Bruno “Troopergate” mess to his ill-fated attempt to allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, Spitzer has shown he is a man of conviction, ideas, and not much political savvy. He apparently thought he could win these battles simply by being the smartest guy in the room; as his nemesis Joe Bruno well knows, it takes a different kind of smarts to rule Albany.

Cuomobitious

Andrew Cuomo has a history of doing what is best for himself, party be damned. But it wasn’t until Troopergate that the new attorney general reminded folks that he would stick a knife in any turned back to further his political career. The reminder came when he cited shadowy rulings to chide Gov. Eliot Spitzer, a move Albany District Attorney David Soares reportedly condemned.

A Country of Immigrant . . . Haters

Gov. Spitzer’s proposal to give driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants set off a firestorm of debate in New York and across the country. Spitzer was lampooned by conservative groups for what they said was an attempt to legalize illegal immigrants. Spitzer was forced to scrap his plan because of the backlash and apparently only managed to raise the hackles of anti- immigrant groups.

All’s Quiet . . . Too Quiet

It has been more than a year since State Sen. Joe Bruno announced that he was under investigation by the FBI, and so far, nothing. We have waited and wondered: Does the FBI have the goods on the strongman of Rensselaer County or not? Did U.S. Attorney Glen Suddaby’s nomination for a federal judgeship derail a possible prosecution? Bruno certainly doesn’t behave like a man cowed by the prospect of a federal trial, flexing his muscle and trading blows with the newcomer governor. Does Bruno know something that we don’t?

This Broken Machine

Unhappy with the direction of the Albany County Democratic Committee, Jerry Jennings formed a Democratic city committee to endorse and back candidates, contradicting the work of the county committee. Meanwhile, chaos seemed to reign in the Albany County Legislature elections. What kind of chaos? The kind that gets Brian Scavo elected.

Getting Tuff

Albany Police Chief James Tuffey and Mayor Jerry Jennings both uttered the word this year, the word neither one of them has been willing to speak in reference to Albany before: “gang.” It seems they may have noticed Albany has a problem with those entities.

What Is an Illegal Weapon?—A Primer

Is it legal for police to buy automatic weapons and resell them? How about an assistant district attorney? Albany Police Chief James Tuffey says it’s a matter of “intent.” We hope that someone gets to the bottom of this mess. (Hat-tip to our pal at the Democracy in Albany blog, and the Times Union for going to court over this one.)

Sweeney John, the Demon Driver of the Northway

Former Congressman of New York’s 20th District John Sweeney was pulled over for DWI after he nearly swiped a police cruiser. Sweeney reportedly was found to have a young woman sitting on his lap. Although he did plead guilty without much fuss, plans for his political resurrection likely have been sidelined.

Bloodsport

Harry Tutunjian trounced his Democrat opponent for mayor, but Trojans don’t really like their politicians. They just tolerate them. So to ensure that the Republican administration doesn’t let all that power go to its collective head, the wise citizens of Troy also voted in, or reelected, six Democrat councilmen, handing a strong majority over to the Democrats. Early bets are that this will not only slow the realization of some of Tutunjian’s pet proposals, but also create some lively, and bloody, political theater.

The Other Horse Race

It was clear quite early that this year’s election season in Saratoga Springs would not be like any other. Allegations that long-term Democratic Department of Public Works Commissioner Thomas McTygue was under investigation by the FBI flew through the city. Multiple workers under McTygue came forward with allegations about McTygue’s ethics and misuse of DPW resources. Meanwhile, Mayor Valerie Keehn fought to keep her job against McTygue-backed Gordon Boyd and Republican Scott Johnson. Boyd got trounced, as did McTygue for his DPW seat, but Scott Johnson unseated Keehn to become the new mayor of Saratoga Springs.

Stone-Cold Foolish

Roger Stone, a political advisor to Republican State Sen. Joseph Bruno (R-Brunswick), was forced to resign this year after making threatening calls to Gov. Spitzer’s elderly father, Bernard, who is suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Stone used profanities to describe Spitzer and informed Bernard Spitzer that he would be compelled to testify about loans he made to his son. He told Bernard he would be “arrested and brought to Albany.” Stone insisted the call was an elaborate conspiracy and that he had been set up.

Rats Jumping Ship

The administration of George W. Bush is in trouble, and it doesn’t take a political analyst to see it. All one has to do is start counting up the top-level appointees who have taken the opportunity to get out: economic adviser Al Hubbard, Homeland Security adviser Fran Townsend, Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, communications director Dan Bartlett, State Department undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs Karen Hughes, and budget director Rob Portman. With a recession looming, Bush’s lame-duck floundering, and a sure-to-be nasty 2008 election threatening to bring a lot of hard-earned negative press to the feet of their boss, these appointees couldn’t dive into their book deals and K Street job offers fast enough.

And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going

Alberto Gonzales just couldn’t take a hint. As the various scandals plaguing the U.S. Department of Justice dragged on, and even Republican senators were telling him—in “senateese”—to fuck off, the dull-witted attorney general would not resign. Finally, his patron, the president, told him he could go. So he did.

Everyone Had a Wide Stance

From a dingy bathroom stall in a Minnesota airport came the “tap tap tap” heard ’round the world, as Idaho U.S. Senator Larry Craig was busted for lewd behavior. A strong case can be made that Craig was entrapped. An equally strong case can be made that Craig and his fellow “I’m not gay” Republican pals are a gaggle of douche bags who should just come out of the damn closet already.

Friends in Very High Places

Former Dick Cheney chief of staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, widely viewed as the Bush administration’s fall guy in the Valerie Plame affair, was convicted on March 6 of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements to federal investigators. But he never served a day in prison; on July 2, President Bush commuted Libby’s 30-month prison sentence. Although Libby had been convicted by a jury for his involvement in a scheme to publicly identify a classified CIA agent and then obstruct a federal investigation into the matter, Bush called his sentence “excessive.”

Extreme Water Sports

If strapping a woman upside down to a board, blinding her with a mask, seizing her mouth shut, and pouring water into her nostrils to stimulate the sensation of drowning sounds to you like anything less than torture, than you should apply for a job at the White House. Attorney General Michael Mukasey has refused to say whether or not he considers waterboarding to be an act of torture, a definite nod to his boss’ inclination to approve extreme “interrogation techniques.” And as the White House and CIA scramble to spin-control the leaked revelations that tapes of interrogations of suspected terrorists were destroyed by the CIA, one can only wonder: If waterboarding isn’t considered torture, what else has been allowed?

Dog and People Killers For Hire

In 2004, when the charred remains of four American contractors were dragged through the streets of Fallujah and hung from a bridge spanning the Euphrates, few Americans knew that those men had worked for Blackwater USA, and if they had known, it would have made little difference. This year, Blackwater finally was given the spotlight it deserves in investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill’s best-selling book. Now, much about the Virginia-based mercenary company has become widespread knowledge: The founder, billionaire ex-Navy SEAL Erik Prince, is the largest contributor to the Republican party; Blackwater has been hired for domestic military work, such as “policing” the streets of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina; and Blackwater employees, hired to guard top U.S. officials in Iraq, sometimes shoot civilians, and journalists’ dogs.

Where’s the Trouble?

Iraq? Check. Afghanistan? Check. Pakistan? Oh crap. Our ally is in deep, deep trouble. The military dictator “took off his uniform,” as our president so inelegantly suggested, but still shows no sign of letting go of absolute power. Our prime-minister pick was just horribly murdered. And, unlike the other problem countries, Pakistan has nukes. Happy New Year!

Who Has Nukes?—A Primer

Not Iran. Repeat, not Iran. The National Intelligence Estimate was finally released, and it turns out Iran halted their nuclear weapons program years ago. Mr. Bush, please step away from that button—and pay attention to Pakistan.

Sisters Doin’ It for Themselves

As Americans wring their hands over the possibility that we could elect (gasp) a woman president, other countries this past year happily elevated accomplished females to top executive positions. Prathiba Patil was elected as the first female president of India, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner became the first female president of Argentina, and Yulia Tymoshenko became prime minister of Ukraine. And, on a completely inappropriate note, the photos we’ve seen of Kirchner have us Metroland men packing our bags for Buenos Aries. Muy caliente.

Pale Blue Eyes

Time Magazine couldn’t get over Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin’s dispassionate blue eyes. They belie no hint of feeling, wrote a reporter in the magazine’s person-of-the-year profile of Putin; there is a deadness that seizes steely control of every situation. Simply: Putin is a stone-cold badass. His strongman political maneuvering in Moscow set the stage for his ascendancy to unchecked authoritarian control. He brazenly cock-blocked Bush’s thrust for war in Iran. A friend recently returned from a trip to Moscow saying that some of his Russian relatives, so filled with nationalistic pride, now refuse to speak any English. Putin has reminded his own people and the rest of the world why Russia was once and could again become a power broker on the world stage.

The Blair Resignation

British Prime Minister Tony Blair resigned his post on June 27, ending a more-than-10-year stint in the position. Blair had lost the support of the British people, apparently thanks to his unyielding support of President Bush and the Iraq War.

The Clinton Supremacy

Just on the heels of the cross-party endorsement of John McCain by Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Bill Clinton decided to make a little announcement of his own. Clinton told a crowd at a campaign stop in South Carolina that, once elected, Hillary would send him and George Bush Sr., on a tour abroad to announce that “America is open for business and cooperation again.” Bush Sr. quickly denied that he would have anything to do with the Clinton world tour.

The Gore Ultimatum

Former President-elect Al Gore continued his ascent to godliness this year. In February, he took home an Academy Award for last year’s global-warming doc An Inconvenient Truth. In July, he organized Live Earth, a worldwide series of benefit concerts aimed to combat climate change. And in December, Gore shared the Nobel Peace Prize with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Next stop: the White House?

Hey Baby . . . Vote for My Guy

Did it start with “Obama Girl,” back in April 2007? This much-watched viral video featured a comely lass singing the praises of presidential hopeful Barack Obama, and got, well, old fast. At least it was a professional bit of ephemera; those homemade videos by “crazy eyes” Ron Paul Girl prattling on about irrigation and how Ron Paul will get all our hoses flowing are creepy.

The Real Mitt Romney

This depends on where you check in with Republican Mitt Romney on the space-time continuum. Governor Mittens, late of Massachusetts, hated guns and loved the gays. Presidential candidate Mittens hates the gays and loves the guns. Candidate Mittens loves puppies. Vacationer Mittens shoved the family dog into a carrier and strapped it on the station wagon roof for a long trip. (And, surprise, the dog crapped down the back window at 55 MPH.) Who will Mittens be tomorrow? Stay tuned.

Oprah’s President Club

Oprah Winfrey, the queen of all media, took a break from self-aggrandizement and making millions of dollars to go on the road with Barack Obama. We’ll see if she can sell a president they way she sells books.

The Long Campaign

Will. It. Ever. End? Not the Bush presidency, though that’s another endless misery. No, we mean the campaign to replace the current idiot in chief. Ten months, one week and counting. . . .

Oh Cana-dough

Forget about that budget trip to Montreal and your confidence in the American economy. The value of the U.S. dollar dropped below the Canadian “Loonie” for the first time in 31 years. The good news: You no longer have to feel guilty about sneaking that Canadian penny in with your change.

Get What You Pay For

The subprime lending market, that Rube Goldberg-esque machinery of economic debauchery, went into its thunderous death throes this year, taking down with it the already flagging U.S. dollar. Other victims of this buy-now-pay-a-shit-ton-later, floating-interest, bank-loan scheme are a half a million soon-to-be-former homeowners, and the American ownership of three of the United States’ largest banks. A recession is heralded for 2008, and this time the experts say we all know exactly what to blame. But this banker-made catastrophe hasn’t hurt everyone: $38 billion dollars in bonuses were handed out this holiday season to executives at the top five Wall Street firms.

Big Time

Nxivm founder Keith Raniere doesn’t like all the attention; he is notoriously reclusive. But when you create an executive-training system that attracts TV stars, billionaires, and the children of a Mexican ex-president for clients, you get noticed. And when your followers donate $30,000 to Hillary Clinton’s presidential war chest, even New York Post and Village Voice take note. We suspect that even more big surprises await us from Capital Region’s “Vanguard.”

In Infrastructure We Trust, Blindly

On Aug. 10, the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis collapsed during rush hour, plunging dozens of cars into the river below, killing 13 people, injuring more than 60, and leaving a school bus full of children clinging to the edge of a concrete slab. The tragedy raised national awareness of bridge safety, at least until Superbad hit theaters.

Bad Day

On April 16, Seung-Hui Cho went on a shooting rampage at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va. By the time he was finished, 32 people (including the perpetrator) had died and many more were wounded, making the incident the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.

To Bee or Not To Bee

This year marked the first-ever national honeybee crisis, which reminded us, or at least should have, of the interconnectedness and delicacy of our environment and agricultural systems. In a syndrome researchers dubbed “colony collapse disorder,” bees fly off in search of pollen and never return to their colony. And no one knows why. And those buzzing little bees are critical. According to a Cornell University study, aside from the environmental implications, honeybees pollinate more than $14 billion worth of seeds and crops in the United States every year. Be afraid. Bee very afraid.

From China with Death

From our slightly paranoid conspiracy-theorist perspective, this is the most underhanded assault we can remember. It began with our pets: The cat food, dog food, fish food, even cow feed was poisoned. Then the children: Our toy boxes were suddenly overflowing with deadly weapons; we were struck with terror when we caught little Jimmy chewing on Spider-Man’s head. It was a patient attack—lead paint was slowly breeding an entire generation of mildly brain-damaged Americans. The nation bloomed with an enthusiastic sense of economic patriotism, fueled by the fundamental sentiment, “Buy American or die!!!” Zheng Xiaoyu, head of the State Food and Drug Administration of the People’s Republic of China, was executed for corruption and approving tainted products. A fierce argument against our conspiracy theory?

What Is a Bomb?—A Primer

Or, more specifically, what is not a bomb. A Lite Brite-style light board featuring a basic-cable cartoon character flipping the bird—the Mooninite Err of Aqua Teen Hunger Force fame—is not an explosive terrorist device. Unlike the dozens of cities where this viral marketing campaign for a feature-length cartoon was deployed without attracting police interest, Boston law enforcement went absolutely ape and called in Homeland Security. And they looked like fools.

Hell No We Won’t Write

On Nov. 5, members of the Writers Guild of America, the labor union representing radio, television and film writers, went on strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. The strike, which has affected over 12,000 writers, is in large part over contractual compensation for DVD sales and “new media”—content written for and distributed over digital media and the Internet. The last such strike, 20 years ago, lasted for 22 weeks and cost the entertainment industry an estimated $500 million. Of course, if you’re a big fan of reality television, this just may be your dream come true.

Geek Crack

Those covetous slaves to geekdom couldn’t wait to get their delicate, greasy paws onto Apple’s latest and greatest technological shackle, the iPhone. Hailed as revolutionary and thrust into the face of everyone without $500 to waste on a cell phone, the iPhone’s interface—a large, always-smudged, touch-sensitive screen—lets users finger their way through contacts, bookmarked Web sites, and so much more. Believe us: so much more. It might be the most important piece of geek gadgetry since the pocket protector; and yeah, we’re jealous.

That’s the Stats

No other team in pro football history can say it: 16-0. The New England Patriots had a banner year on their way to going undefeated: Tom Brady set a new record for touchdown throws (50) and Randy Moss set a new mark for touchdown receptions (22), while the team posted the most total points (589) as well as wins, since the Miami Dolphins’ 1972 undefeated regular season was only 14 games long. They need win just three more games to make the ultimate claim: best team ever.

Fenway or No Way

The region’s three favorite baseball teams all looked like winners for a while in 2007. But the star-laden Mets fizzled spectacularly, and the Yankees ran out of gas in the playoffs yet again. While the above descriptions sound like Boston teams of old, this time it was the Red Sox who looked like the best team all year, and proved it by cruising to a championship.

All of Them Juicers

After years of doing the institutional equivalent of putting his fingers in his ears and mumbling “la la la la,” Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud “rhymes with dud” Selig sent former U.S. Senator George Mitchell out to find evidence of steroid—and other tasty substance—use among the players. And guess what? It wasn’t just Barry Bonds. Surprise, surprise . . . Rocket!

Cruel World

On Dec. 10, Atlanta falcons quarterback and three-time Pro Bowler Michael Vick was sentenced to 23 months in federal prison for his part in an illegal dogfighting ring—including the killing of dogs who did not fight aggressively enough—on his Virginia estate. Although public sentiment seemed to weigh heavily against Vick (the guy is clearly a giant douche), the case did create something of a divide among African-American leaders and commentators: While some maintained that animal abuse is abhorrent under any circumstances, others suggested that Vick was the victim of racism and that dogfighting is an acceptable part of urban black culture.

Taking His Ball and Going Home

Big, cuddly murderer O.J. Simpson added burglary to his illustrious resume in September, when he and several accomplices were charged with stealing Simpson memorabilia from the Palace Station hotel-casino in Las Vegas. (“I just wanted to get my stuff back,” he reportedly said.) Several codefendants have taken plea deals, while Simpson pleaded not guilty on Nov. 29 and will be tried in April 2008. What will he do without Johnnie Cochran? Stay tuned to find out!

Attack of the Retail Blob

Colonie Center is undergoing a prolonged overhaul—the retail equivalent of plastic surgery. They’ve peeled it to the bone, given it a fresh look, and added some fancy bits. New stores, new restaurants, even a ritzy new movie theater on the way. But, like so many glamour-hungry patients, it doesn’t seem to know when to stop. The mall is oozing into the parking lot, and we’re becoming worried for Wolf Road. You’d better gobble down that dinner at P.F. Changs, or the mall may leach out and swallow your car.

Getting Huge

Proctor’s Theatre in Schenectady completed years of major renovations this year, unveiling their vastly expanded main-theater stage early in the year, then opening three brand-new adjacent venues in September, making the 400 block of State Street the entertainment center of the Capital Region. Who knew?

Making Waves

The Capital Region saw a welcome addition to the radio dial this July when public-radio station 97.7 FM dropped classical music in favor of the AAA, or Adult Album Alternative, format. WEXT, or Exit 97.7, went a step further than just playing Ryan Adams album cuts by including a healthy, if not unprecedented, amount of locally produced music in regular rotation.

Back in Black, Again

Under the fine leadership of the still-new board and director Marcia White, the Saratoga Performing Arts Center ended the 2007 season in the black, again. Excellent work.

A Great Year

While we’re handing out kudos, here’s to Barrington Stage Company and director Julianne Boyd. They celebrated their 25th anniversary with a widely acknowledged knockout of a production of West Side Story. Two of Metroland’s critics agreed that it was the best production of the year—and if you can get Ralph Hammann and Jim Yeara to agree on anything, that’s something.

Extreme Makeover: Gallery Edition

In 1925, Beech-Nut mogul Bartlett Arkell built the Canajoharie Public Library and Art Gallery. Still supported by the Arkell Endowment, the gallery recently underwent a $10 million renovation. The spectacular new building houses a rich permanent collection, including work by Winslow Homer, Mary Cassatt, Andrew Wyeth, Georgia O’Keefe and Edward Hopper, and an extensive archive of Beech-Nut advertising art. The revitalized museum also hosts changing exhibitions, film and concert series, and workshops and educational programs. If you’ve long been pining for a legitimate reason to visit Canajoharie, now you have one.

The Year in White Trash

Oh, Britney, where do we begin? The shaved head? The stint in rehab? The banging of random dudes in hotel pools? The running over of innocent bystanders with your vehicle? That awesome comeback “performance” at the MTV awards show? Chris Crocker? The fact that your album actually kinda turned out OK? So many possibilities. . . . Wait, we’ve got it! How about the fact that your 16-year-old kid sister went and got herself knocked up? See, Brit? You are a role model!

High-Profile End to a High-Profile Life

Anna Nicole Smith, alive and dead, has been tabloid fodder for more than a decade. The stripper turned Playboy Bunny captured the imagination of billionaire octogenarians everywhere when, in 1994, she married J. Howard Marshall, 63 years her senior. Her battles with drugs, alcohol, and her weight were a constant source for ridicule in tabloids, blogs and late-night TV. When her son Daniel died in the fall of 2006, Smith reportedly plummeted into a depression that ended in a drug overdose. Even the fight over where to bury her body became scandal, with her estranged mother and boyfriend engaging in a high-profile legal dispute that dominated the news cycle.

Let’s Hear It for the Curves

Jennifer Love Hewitt rose up against the body-image twisting paparazzi after a series of bikini-clad photos of the actress garnered brazen publicity—the petite but curvaceous actress was repeatedly ridiculed for being fat. But, unlike so many young starlets, J. Love didn’t wallow in celery and diet pills. She spoke up for herself, and against the skeletally-thin-is-sexy Hollywood aesthetic, saying, “Being a size 0 doesn’t make you beautiful. . . . To all girls with butts, boobs, hips and a waist, put on a bikini—put it on and stay strong.”

Alec Rules

Simply put, Alec Baldwin ruled in 2007. He was the funniest actor on the best comedy on TV, Tina Fey’s 30 Rock. (This is a show with Fey, Tracy Morgan and Judah Friedlander, too.) And when his 12-year-old daughter gave him a hard time, he called her “rude” and “a little pig.” While that may seem harsh, it pales in comparison with some of our own memories of parental chastisement. Nut up, children of America—listen to the smart Baldwin and be polite.

Of In Rainbows

Art-rock band Radiohead, recently freed from a lengthy contract with EMI, announced the release of their new album through their Web site on Oct. 1 with the simple message, “Well, the new album is finished, and it’s coming out in 10 days. We’ve called it In Rainbows.” The album’s experimental release structure, which allowed fans to pay as little or as much as they desired to download 128kbps MP3 files of the tracks, was hailed as a harbinger of doom for the major-label system, and the phrase “doing a Radiohead” made its way into the music-biz vernacular. At year’s end, the band got really subversive and, uh, released the album on CD.

Double Up

Five years after being charged with 14 counts of child pornography, R&B singer Robert Sylvester “R” Kelly came dangerously close to actually facing trial. Meanwhile, he released a new studio album, toured the country several times over, and debuted another 10 wicked awesome chapters of his wicked awesome Trapped in the Closet soap opera. Here’s hoping the next chapters are on their way soon, because Kelly’s trial is set to begin on May 9, 2008.

The Morons Are Winning

Proof that the rich are getting richer, but not wiser: The $27 million, 60,000-square-foot Creation Museum opened in Blacksburg, Ky., this May. This just in: The Earth is 6,000 years old and dinosaurs coexisted peacefully with humans! Bill Hicks is spinning in his grave.

We Can Haz Kittehs?

This was the year of the lol cat. What is a lol cat? A funny picture of a cat (or squirrel, dog, mouse or, famously, a walrus), with accompanying text that is written in a kind of pidgin English. For some reason, many of us find this hilarious (except for those of us who had our bucket stolen). And if you looked at the Metroland blog this year, you couldn’t escape them. Srsly. Kthnxbye.


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