Year in Review 2002
but not forgotten
Paul Wellstone, Thomas Whalen, Philip Berrigan, the victims
of the D.C.-area sniper attacks, Queen Elizabeth, Princess
Margaret, Howard K. Smith, Harvey Kirck, John Gotti, Stephen
Jay Gould, Stephen Ambrose, Dave Berg, Mildred Wirt Benson,
Timothy White, Timothy Findley, Billy Wilder, Lew Wasserman,
John Frankenheimer, Milton Berle, James Coburn, Richard
Harris, Rod Steiger, Bruce Paltrow, Kim Hunter, Dudley Moore,
Katrin Cartlidge, Ted Demme, Dean Riesner, Jonathan Harris,
Robert Urich, John Agar, Katy Jurado, Linda Boreman (Linda
Lovelace), Spike Milligan, James Gregory, LaWanda Page,
Teresa Graves, Kevin Smith, Glenn Quinn, John Entwhistle,
Joe Strummer, Waylon Jennings, Dee Dee Ramone, Jam Master
Jay, Layne Staley, Ray Brown, Lionel Hampton, Lisa “Left
Eye” Lopez, Peggy Lee, Aaliyah, Robbin Crosby, Lonnie Donegan,
Rosemary Clooney, Ray Conniff, Horace Lee Hogan, Jean-Paul
Riopelle, Chuck Jones, Frank Shuster, Bill Blass, Eppie
Lederer (Ann Landers), Ruth Handler, Roone Arledge, Ted
Williams, Johnny Unitas, Hoyt Wilhelm, Darryl Kile, Sam
Snead, Seattle Slew, Thor Heyerdahl, Dave Thomas, Michael
Civil rights, the Freedom of Information Act, the Clean
Air Act, Al Gore, Andrew Cuomo, H. Carl McCall, the Democrats,
the War in Afghanistan, transgender rights, That’s My
Bush, Ames department stores, Mohawk Mall, Mars Music,
Ally McBeal, spinning.
Gone and back again
John Poindexter, Elliot Abrams, the Gulf War, Donny Osmond,
Whitney Houston, Chuck Barris, the Center Square Dunkin’
to power: Henry Kissinger.
and back and gone again
Gone and back and gone and back again
Gone and back and gone and back and who the hell really
Osama bin Laden
Gone and back and gone and back and going again
Make them go away
The Bush administration, Fox News, CNN, the Rockefeller
Drug Laws, Christina Aguilera, Michael Jackson, Kelly Ripa,
reality shows, big-box stores, Chinese buffets, locally
Gone with his hood tucked between his legs
Gone but still living in our thighs
Ben & Jerry’s mint cookies’n’cream
Just plain gone
Anna Nicole Smith
Yes, Dear, we really are fucked
The Republican Party took advantage of voter apathy, Democratic
impotence and tragedy in Minnesota to take control of both
houses of Congress, leaving relatively few obstacles in
the way of the Bush-Cheney agenda of waging war, dominating
world oil markets, transferring wealth to the already wealthy,
and allowing fundamentalist Christian values to seep into
policy. Lord have mercy.
Next time, why don’t you just campaign in Jesse Helms
With the GOP already in control of the White House and the
House of Representatives, and the Senate slip-sliding away,
the Democratic Party fearfully clung to the center, ignoring
the poor, the slaving class, minorities and progressives
in a desperate attempt to appeal to the SUV set. The Dems
even matched their opponents’ calls for war while ignoring
the issue potentially most damaging to Republicans: the
widespread, loathsome corporate fraud that came to light
in 2002. Given a choice between real Republicans and fake
Republicans, voters—the relatively few that were inspired
to turn out—chose the real ones.
A plane crash killed Paul Wellstone, Democratic U.S. senator
from Minnesota, less than two weeks before Election Day,
leading to a bizarre series of events: To replace Wellstone
on the ticket, Democrats resurrected former Vice President
Walter Mondale, who led in the polls until Republican strategists
successfully cast Wellstone’s funeral as inappropriately
political. In the end, Republican Norm Coleman edged out
Mondale and helped the GOP secure control of the Senate.
Meanwhile, there were whispers that the plane crash was
an act of political assassination, though little concrete
evidence of any specific cause has yet to emerge.
mouth, insert foot, lose position: Trent Lott.
shocked, shocked to find a racist in our midst
Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott was forced out of his Majority
Leader seat after his gaffe at Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday
party, in which Lott suggested that we’d have been better
off if Thurmond had won his 1948 bid for the presidency—in
which he ran on a segregationist platform. What the hypocritical
Republicans who called for Lott’s head failed to acknowledge
was that Lott was merely voicing sentiments he—and many
of his colleagues—had held all their lives. But don’t trust
us—look at Lott’s voting record.
Criminal rehab, Bush style
John Poindexter, Elliot Abrams, Henry Kissinger—if you’re
a good Republican with criminal activity in your past, there’s
a place for you in the current administration. Ollie North
can’t be far behind.
Your honor, I just couldn’t make ends meet on my $3.2
Faith in corporate America crumbled as executive after executive
was found to have inflated earnings, hidden expenses, used
shell companies to obscure company finances, manipulated
share prices—anything to make a killing cashing in on stock
options, ordinary shareholders be damned. Oh, funny thing,
their accountants and stock analysts played right along,
approving their accounting practices and touting the stock
to ordinary suckers while cashing in their own before it
tanked. Question is, will Kenneth Lay and the rest of the
Enron looters ever see the inside of a jail cell—and if
they do, how long before their very good friend in the White
House lets them out?
With Special Guest Star George W. Bush
A videotape of a 1997 going-away party for then-Enron president
Rich Kinder surfaced in early December. Loaded with laugh-filled
skits, it featured rappin’ executives, jaunty accountants,
and recently indicted former Enron honcho Jeffrey Skilling
praising “hypothetical future value accounting” as a way
to “add a kazillion dollars to the bottom line.” Former
U.S. President George H.W. Bush made a cameo, as did his
son, George W. Bush. Federal prosecutors expressed interest
in obtaining a copy of the tape.
Old Dirty Bastards
January 2003 will see the end of the careers of two stalwart
U.S. Senate Republicans with a combined tenure of 78 years:
Jesse Helms of North Carolina and Strom Thurmond of South
Carolina. Thurmond ran for president on a segregationist
ticket in 1948, and called the 1965 Civil Rights Act “the
worst, most unreasonable and unconstitutional legislation”
ever voted on. Helms was infamous for gay-and race-baiting,
including blocking numerous African-American nominees to
the federal bench. Neither will be missed.
Gov. George E. Pataki cruised to reelection with an array
of supporters that would make any Democrat drool: labor
unions and environmentalists, Hispanic voters, a startlingly
high percentage of New York City voters—and Democratic Albany
Mayor Jerry Jennings. Some carped at the governor’s tactics,
pointing out that Pataki bought much of this support with
sweetheart deals for labor and targeted financial aid to
a certain upstate city, but Pataki just smiled and picked
out the party favors for his victory celebration.
And could you trim around my hedges while you’re at it?
In February, Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings announced that
$6.5 million in Federal money earmarked for a Lark Street
makeover would be shifted over to projects on New Scotland
Avenue—ironically, in Jerry’s front yard. Lark Street would
get a scaled-down $2 million facelift. At first neighborhood
activists protested, but eventually signed on to the mayor’s
plan—this is one case in which they really couldn’t fight
Not Gore in Four
Al Gore announced in December that he would not run as the
Democratic challenger against George W. Bush in the 2004
election for president. Gore, who many believe was the legitimate
winner of the 2000 election (and who did win the popular
vote), voiced concern that another campaign against Bush
would focus too much on the last presidential election,
ultimately decided by the Supreme Court, as one reason for
his sudden announcement. By dropping out of the race he
has opened the door for other Democrats to take a shot at
the run for the White House. But are any of them up to the
It’s Just Those Crazy Europeans
Is anyone in the United States against a war with Iraq?
It would be hard to tell by picking up the newspaper or
turning on the television. Just this past October, more
than 30,000 people descended on Washington D.C. in what
many have called the largest protest since the Vietnam War.
However, the story was buried on page A-8 of The New
York Times. Another protest in San Francisco turned
out over 20,000. Once again, there was scant coverage of
the event. But when 10,000 people turned up in London and
over 30,000 in Italy, both stories made the front page of
The New York Times. What gives?
All That Spending and Still No Secret Service
Candidates in New York’s governor’s race spent approximately
$146 million in 2002, a national record for a statewide
election. Gov. George E. Pataki was elected for his third
term after spending $48.4 million, but Independence Party
candidate B. Thomas Golisano carried the lion’s share of
the spending. The Rochester billionaire spent $73.9 million
of his own fortune is his third unsuccessful bid for the
governorship. Though Golisano’s work with his company, Paychex,
earned him the title of Top CEO by Fortune magazine
in 2001, his political investing seemed a bit shabby. If
spending just a fraction of his estimated $5 billion fortune
garnered him 15 percent of the vote, why didn’t Golisano
spend the $300 million to guarantee plurality?
What’s Michael Moore’s Number?
This year’s governor’s race proved that a political party
touting a wholly progressive agenda doesn’t stand a chance
in New York unless it is fronted by a celebrity. Just ask
the Green Party. The Greens became an A-list political party
in New York four years ago when its gubernatorial candidate,
“Grandpa” Al Lewis, secured more than 50,000 votes. But
this year, Green candidate Stanley Aronowitz—a CUNY sociology
professor, author and cultural critic—failed to receive
the 50,000 votes required to maintain the party’s official
ballot line. The Greens are now suing the State Board of
Elections to allow New Yorkers the right to enroll in their
Politicians for Pot
It’s either no longer hip to be square or it’s a great time
to talk some shit about smoking dope. Almost every candidate
in New York’s governor’s race came out in support of medicinal
marijuana prior to Election Day. But expect no change as
Gov. Pataki, the major abstainer, ended up winning. Though
the majority of candidates said they supported legalizing
marijuana for medicinal purposes, Marijuana Reform Party
candidate Thomas K. Leighton cried poseur and said the pot
issue was his.
How Much More Do You Want Him to Give?
With the control of both houses of Congress up for grabs
this year, campaigning got ugly—just ask Max Cleland. Prior
to his run as a Democratic Senator from Georgia, Cleland
served in Vietnam and lost three limbs. But since the version
of the Homeland Security bill Cleland supported was different
than President Bush’s, his challenger, Saxby Chambliss,
pulled the un-American card and attempted to paint Cleland
as less patriotic than he—a nonveteran who’d vote with the
president. Beside the campaign support Chambliss received
from Vice President Dick Cheney and President George W.
Bush, one campaign ad against Cleland featured images of
Osama bin Laden. Georgians bought it, and Chambliss unseated
Well, Maybe if it Wasn’t All the Way in South Africa
President Bush didn’t want to take time out from his summer
vacation to attend the United Nation’s World Summit on Sustainable
Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, but he did send
Secretary of State Colin Powell. Many nations were angered
that Powell, a representative from the world’s largest economy
and source of industrial pollution, presented the typical
U.S. ideas toward global environmental policy. Such shortsightedness,
exemplified by the administration’s refusal to acknowledge
the Kyoto Protocol, angered many nations but surprised few.
The Gelded Age of Environmental Protections
The Bush administration decided to ease restrictions on
industrial polluters, particularly coal-fired power plants,
this year. The Bushies effectively castrated the Clean Air
Act by increasing the amount of money that power plants
could spend on modifications before having to install updated
air pollution controls. Critics said the measure allowed
industrial polluters the leeway to bring their pollution
controls up to par whenever the hell they feel like it.
If I Gave ‘em Too Much, They’d Pull Me Into Court
With great fanfare, George W. Bush signed a 77-percent budget
increase for the Securities and Exchange Commission in July.
And dang it, he was going to get tough on corporate crime.
Right. Four months later he slashed the promised increase,
much to the chagrin of SEC chairman, Harvey L. Pitt. Until
he was pressured to step down, Pitt was a vocal advocate
for more money in the SEC’s budget.
Anthrax? That is so 2001. No, a domestic smallpox attack
from an Axis of Evil nation tops the U.S. Things to Fear
list this year. Why should we be scared that smallpox would
be released domestically, even though the disease has been
eliminated worldwide since the late 1970s? Washington says
Saddam has smallpox, but the Bush administration isn’t showing
its hand. Well, the threat must be serious enough for President
Bush to have smallpox vaccines—estimated to kill two in
every million vaccinated and cause serious health complications
in many more—prepared for every U.S. citizen, right?
Will Learn for Shelter
Extensive debate, delay and confusion from all parties involved
led to the construction of Albany’s third middle school
being put off until at least 2005. The ACSD officials are
looking anew for a plot of land, and the district’s sixth
graders, who were supposed to have new homes in the reconfigured
middle school structure, may soon receive unscripted lessons
as first-world refugees.
I Didn’t Want to Supersize Me
McDonald’s, Wendy’s, KFC and Burger King all faced lawsuits
from people claiming that the fast food they’d eaten throughout
their lives caused their obesity and health problems. No
shit. These folks are claiming that the nutritional information
about the crap they were shoving in their faces wasn’t clear
enough. Maybe it’s time for the fast food chains to steal
a page from the tobacco industry’s book and place warning
labels on their products: “Warning: This burger may stop
your heart,” or “Warning: These fries may lead to cankles.”
Guns Don’t Kill People, People with Military-Strength
Guns Kill People
As “experts” on network news shows were clamoring about
white vans and alleged links to Al Qaeda in the D.C. sniper
case, investigators were pulling two sleeping males from
a blue Chevy Caprice. The snipers who killed 10 and injured
three over the summer did so with a Bushmaster assault rifle,
a knockoff of the military AK-47 model. Many gun-control
advocates took the opportunity to note that weapons more
powerful than the Bushmaster could be for sale to the public
in 2004 when the federal assault-weapons ban expires.
Cooter and Skeets to Bid Farewell to Rabbit Ears
It’s official: The FCC decided this year that by 2004, every
television set must come equipped with a digital tuner.
The change in technology will eventually have all TV consumers
viewing digital signals, so the analog waves can be taken
over by the federal government and reallocated, most likely
with devious purposes—closed circuit, Congressional porn.
Never mind that the prices of these upgrades will fall on
consumers or that televisions bought in the next few years
may become obsolete—what the hell are we to do with all
these metal coat hangers and tin foil?
U.S. Retards Killing Practices
In June, The U.S. Supreme Court decided 6-3 that the execution
of the mentally retarded constituted cruel and unusual punishment
and was therefore unconstitutional. The court of last resort
first considered the matter in 1989, but didn’t decide to
halt such executions until reviewing the case of Daryl Atkins,
who was an accomplice to a murder at age 18. Atkins lawyer
protests that his client’s IQ is 59, equivalent to that
of a 9-to-12-year-old child.
company you keep: John Walker Lindh.
Didn’t Look so Dirty in Court
John Walker Lindh, raised in a quaint, liberal San Francisco
suburb, emerged on national television last December as
the American Taliban: bearded, wild-eyed and dirtier than
Pigpen. In July, Lindh arrived in federal court somber,
gaunt and shaven like a skinhead. His guilty pleas to charges
of conspiring to kill U.S. nationals and aiding terrorist
organizations resulted in 20 years in federal prison.
UAlbany’s Center for Excellence in Nanotechnology got a
big boost this summer when Gov. George E. Pataki unveiled
a $400 million plan to lure SEMATECH North, the Austin-based
computer-chip consortium, to the Capital Region. Jobs, technology
and money are expected to follow suit, but what will the
City of Albany due to keep the flock of technology workers
from moving to Clifton Park?
They Brought Down the House
In the Most Egregious Waste of Local History category: Retail
giant Target demolished the 164-year-old Defreest-Church
House in the town of East Greenbush. The house stood on
the ground that would eventually be the 125,000-square-foot
store’s parking lot. Protesters offered an alternative construction
plan, where the store would lose 25 parking spaces and the
house would be saved, but it was ignored.
We Will Protect You and You but Defiantly Not You
A gay rights bill that had been pending in the New York
State Legislature for 31 years was signed into law by Gov.
George Pataki. Only 31 years? The Sexual Orientation Non
Discrimination Act makes it illegal, under New York state’s
human-rights law, to discriminate against people because
they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or straight. However, the
language in the bill doesn’t provide protection for transgender
people, making the bill’s passage a bittersweet victory
for the LGBT community. So what’s up with the selective
Some Guys Have all the Luck
Former Rensselaer County Executive Henry Zwack, who was
indicted then finally acquitted on multiple charges of perjury
in connection with the county’s no-show employee scandal,
was once again indicted and then acquitted on 34 felony
and misconduct charges while in office.
Give Me Your Guyanese
Schenectady Mayor Al Jurczynski attempted to reinvent his
city by attracting Guyanese immigrants to move there from
New York City. Too bad the influx of Guyanese could not
help the city out of its financial woes. A state audit revealed
that Schenectady administrative department was borrowing
money from capital projects and reserve funds to help finance
city operations. As a result, New York bond rating firms
have threatened to cut off the city’s borrowing.
Breed ’em and Weep
A showdown looms between area Catholic hospitals and the
state over the new women’s health bill that, if signed into
law this year by Gov. Pataki, will require employers that
offer health insurance to pay for contraceptives as well.
The Catholic church doesn’t approve of sexual relations
that completely block the possibility of conceiving a child,
so the law would go against its religious beliefs.
My So-Called Life as a Crackhead
Noelle Bush, daughter of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and niece
of President George W. Bush, was sent to jail three times
this past year for drug possession. The first arrest was
made last January when she tried to fill a false prescription
for Xanax at a drive-through pharmacy in Tallahassee, Fla.
She was then court-ordered to a drug treatment facility.
In July, she was jailed for three days after she violated
the terms of her sentence when a treatment worker caught
her with prescription pills. In October, she was busted
again, this time for possession of crack cocaine. She served
10 days for that violation.
It Was a Gas, Man
After three days of a tense standoff, Russian security guards
stormed a Moscow theater where Chechen rebels were holding
700 people hostage. The Russian Special Forces used an incapacitating
gas in their attempt to siege the building. The gas is believed
to have killed 118 of the hostages. Russian authorities
refused to identify the type of gas used, making it difficult
for doctors to treat those survivors suffering from poisoning.
Many believe that the gas contained Valium or a form of
B2, a hallucinogenic. While the Russian government did apologize
to those who lost loved ones in the raid, they wouldn’t
admit that the cause of death was due to poisonous gas but
rather blamed it on heart attacks, dehydration and shock.
The Bush administration is under fierce criticism from family-planning
advocates here and abroad for what some are calling its
obvious attempt to pander to right-to-life constituents
at the expense of women around the world. In July, the administration
withheld $34 million in previously approved aid to the United
Nations Population Fund, suggesting that the agency worked
with governments that forced women to have abortions. In
November, Bush announced that the United States would no
longer support the Cairo Program of Action, a 1994 accord
that provides educational services to women around the world,
unless the phrases “reproductive health” and “reproductive
freedom” were removed from the United Nations agreement,
claiming that these were code names for abortion.
George Bush, Science Guy
In Febuary—after many, many months of stubbornly refusing
to acknowledge reams of evidence that human activity was
the leading cause of the increase in greenhouse gasses and
a major contributing factor in climactic change (i.e., global
warming), and insisting that the research was inconclusive—President
Bush relented and declared he would offer offenders “firm
incentives” to reduce emissions. The incentives? Lesser
threats of mandatory regulation in the future. Bush said,
“I’m confident that the environmental path I announce will
benefit the entire world—you know, up here on this side
and down on the underneath side where the Chinese people,
the Yeti and Chilly Willy live.”
Tim Russert Predicts Big Chandler Win; Ross Crestfallen
In November, in the thick of the election season, NBC ran
a series of phony campaign ads for an undefined senatorial
race. In one attack ad, Bill Sterling is criticized as untrustworthy;
in a defensive ad, an earnest voiceover intones, “Bill Sterling
doesn’t care about politics; he cares about America and
he cares about freedom. Freedom from special interests.”
Swell. But Bill Sterling is actually actor Josh Brolin,
and the spots were actually just NBC’s attempt to capitalize
on the success of The West Wing with a new cheeseball
do-gooder-in-D.C. series. You’d think that after Ross Perot,
America would have had its fill of fictional candidacies.
What If We Built a Large Wooden Badger?
Snatching a high-tech, low-success fantasy from the cold-war
dementia of an ex-president/actor, President Bush funded
a missile-defense shield to the tune of $8 billion. When
faced with criticism that the shield can’t work—never has—Bush
astutely pointed out, “Well, shucks, that’s awright. Ya
gotta keep in mind, at this point we ain’t even sure Iraq’s
got any missiles.”
of omission: Cardinal Bernard Law.
Forgive Me, Me, Because I Have Sinned
A sex scandal first uncovered in the Boston Diocese led
to the eventual resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law, who
was accused of participating in a cover-up by transferring
priests who allegedly molested members of their congregations.
During the ensuing investigation, four other bishops and
more than 300 Catholic priests resigned or were fired, and
many dioceses looked to federal bankruptcy laws for protection
in the face of potentially massive legal settlements. In
a related story, Protestants around the world adopted expressions
even more smug than usual.
The Anarchist’s Etiquette Book
In May, 21-year-old University of Wisconsin student Lucas
Helder was arrested for a five-state pipe-bombing spree,
which injured six people. During his arraignment, an affable
Helder answered the judge’s questions with responses such
as “most definitely” and “for sure”; he also revealed that
he was intending to distribute the bombs in the pattern
of a giant smiley face.
Test Is a Four-Letter Word
In May, a diverse group of anti-censorship organizations
sent a letter to the New York State Department of Education
asking them to cease the editing of passages on the English
Language Arts Regents examination. According to the executive
director of the National Coalition Against Censorship, Joan
Bertin, the passages have for three years been stripped
of any reference to race, religion, ethnicity, sex, nudity
and other themes deemed to be potentially offensive, rendering
the selections “confusing, if not nonsensical.” A spokesperson
for the department responsible for the cuts responded, “Oh,
for Christ’s sake, give us a goddamned break. We’re just
trying to do our fucking job.”
In October, former hippie-guru Ira Einhorn was convicted
of the 1977 murder of his girlfriend, Holly Maddux—for the
second time. After skipping bail in 1981, Einhorn was convicted
in absentia; when he was discovered in 1997 living comfortably
in the south of France, the Pennsylvania legislature passed
a law allowing him a new trial and promised the French government
he would not face the death penalty if they allowed his
extradition. As another condition of the deal, in exchange
for Einhorn, the French receive Jerry Lewis, Adam Sandler
and a brash, slapstick doofus to be named later.
I’m Not a Legitimate Businessman, I Just Play One on
New York City Mayor Bloomberg chose to skip Manhattan’s
Columbus Day parade when organizers refused to allow cast
members of the popular HBO series The Sopranos to
ride along, claiming that the fictional mobsters were not
positive representatives of the Italian-American community.
Otherwise, the celebration of the famed navigator—a confused
and genocidal Genoan who almost single-handedly decimated
the indigenous population of Hispaniola in his inevitably
unsuccessful attempt to rob them of imagined stockpiles
of gold, a resource that did not even exist on the island
in any substantial quantity—was a smashing success.
Up, Up and, uh, Weird
Millionaire broker Steve Fossett became the first man to
successfully complete a solo around-the-world hot-air balloon
flight. In 14 days and 20 hours, the 58-year-old traveled
almost 20,000 miles before landing safely in Australia.
The feat has earned Fossett several records of which he’s
quite proud—including the longest distance flown by a person
in a balloon, the longest time aloft—and at least two he’d
rather not discuss.
Gift Wrapped in a Heart-Shaped Box, No Doubt
Just in time for the Christmas shopping season, the warring
camps of Nirvana survivors settled out of court and released
both a greatest-hits collection and a hardcover copy of
Kurt Cobain’s private diary, thereby securing their places
in the talentless carrion section of hell. Reached for comment
in Heaven, Kurt had no comment—’cause he’s fucked up on
Don’t Get No Strangelove
President George W. Bush surprised even Beltway insiders
by appointing former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger
to head the recently created panel investigating the events—and
the lapses in intelligence leading up to the events—of Sept.
11. Shortly after the appointment, Kissinger stepped down,
claiming conflicts of interest would prevent his effective
leadership. You see, he’s interested in lying like a rug.
The Only Thing Worse Than Being Talked About
In June, amid an absolute media frenzy, Paul McCartney wed
Heather Mills in a mind-bogglingly elaborate affair at an
Irish castle. The couple went to great lengths to keep the
details of their nuptial plans secret, but the legacy of
Beatlemania still is vital and the former Beatle’s years
spent managing a sometimes-invasive press proved just sufficient
experience to shield the couple’s privacy. Oh, and on the
same weekend Peter Gabriel married someone—a lady, we think—in
a pancake house he owns, or something.
Best-selling author Maya Angelou went to work for the Hallmark
greeting card company, penning inspirational words for a
line of cards bearing her name: “They are very hard to write
and I am very proud and pleased with the results. I have
to write in two sentences what I would like to take three
pages to explore.” Angelou also announced that she has signed
a new two-book deal for a record-breaking six-kazillion
dollar advance: To a Very Special Grandma and Happy
Birthday, You’re Four!!—each reported to be stories
detailing the spiritual trials of strong-willed, independent
women overcoming societally imposed obstacles—have already
made Oprah’s reading list.
So, It’s a Demotion?
In June, Mick Jagger, lead singer of the Rolling Stones,
was awarded an Order of the British Empire, inspiring saucy
comments from bandmate Keith Richards: “You won’t hear us
calling him Sir,” the guitarist rasped. “We’ve got other
names for him.” When asked to be more specific, the living
embodiment of the semi-demonic spirit of rock & roll
replied, “Well, see, technically speaking, Mick’s the president
of Glimmer Twins, Inc., and, with me, majority shareholder
in Beggar’s Banquet International. There are lots of other
titles, too, ’cause what we’ve done, right, is to create
subsidiary holding companies to which we loan money, which
we can then record as positive cash flow, not debt, and
because it’s taken from the development budget and not the
. . .”
Speak Softly, and Pack a Huge Monkey
While doing advance work for Secretary of Defense Donald
Rumsfeld’s June visit to New Delhi, India, the personnel
assigned to ensure his safety discovered a potential security
risk when they were attacked by Rhesus monkeys. Rumsfeld’s
trip was salvaged, however, when some quick thinking G-man
thought to bring in much bigger, scarier monkeys to chase
the little bastards away. Currently the big scary monkeys
are beating the livin’ hell out of the smaller ones, motivating
President Bush to declare them members of the Axis of Evil
and to recommend an immediate regime change.
I See London, I See France
Rita Wilson, assistant principal of Rancho Bernardo High
School in California, was demoted after she allegedly lifted
the skirts of female students in front of male students
in an unauthorized “thong check” during a school dance.
Her goal, it seems, was to discover any suggestive clothing—however
cleverly concealed under layers of other less-suggestive
clothing—in an attempt to preempt—prevent, rather—that’s
prevent sexual assault.
A Man With a Plan, and a Tan
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg flew a number of city
officials in his private jet to the Bahamas, where they
investigated the feasibility of retrieving decommissioned
cruise ships for use as shelters for New York’s homeless
population. Though no decision is expected soon, the informal
commission says it will overlook no opportunity—no matter
how tropical—to solve this serious social ill.
And Justice for All?
The convictions of five black and Latino men imprisoned
for the 1989 rape and beating of a white woman in New York’s
Central Park were overturned based on DNA evidence and the
confession of a man jailed for an unrelated offense. The
men, who were between 14 and 16 at the time of the attack,
served between seven and 11 years for the crime. Prosecutors
and police claim they still believe the men were involved
in the attack in some way, but defense attorneys insist
that confessions used to convict all were coerced.
We Hold These Truths to Be Self-Evident
In West Chester, Pa., a high school was named for Bayard
Rustin, a civil rights activist and aide to Martin Luther
King Jr. Bayard, who graduated from the district in 1938,
was also gay, a former Communist Youth Party member and
a conscientious objector during World War II. Every once
in a great while, something really cool happens in America.
Photos from a Halloween party in 1988 showed Albany City
Court Judge Cheryl Coleman in blackface dressed up as Tawana
Brawley. The photos caused quite a controversy in the African-American
community, leaving many to question if Coleman—who said
she did not intend to offend anyone—is racist and if she
should remain on the bench.
Mother of the Year
Terese Milbrat tricked her daughter Hannah into thinking
that the 7-year-old had cancer so that she could collect
money from her Ohio community. She even went so far as to
shave the young girl’s head, and give her sleeping pills
to give the appearance that the child was receiving chemotherapy.
She placed a bandage on the girl’s back to cover a supposed
“port” where chemotherapy was administered. She then sent
her to counseling to prepare to die. Milbarat collected
more than $10,000 in donations before her scam was revealed.
The World According to Rupert
The Federal Communication Commission has begun to review
rules that currently limit the number of television stations,
radio stations and newspapers that a company can own locally
and nationally. The review takes place every two
years, but this one has added significance because the current
Republican-dominated FCC has shown a greater willingness
to ease regulations than the FCC of the Clinton administration.
Many critics contend that allowing media conglomerates—such
as Viacom Inc., General Electric Co., Walt Disney Co. and
News Corp.—to own even more properties could lead to an
unwillingness to cover news that parent companies or their
affiliates might find unflattering, giving people a limited
perspective on many issues.
Only You Can Promote Forest Fires
Terry Barter, a U.S. Forest Service employee, admitted to
starting Colorado’s largest forest fire. Barter, who patrolled
the area where the flame began, 55 miles southwest of Denver,
staged the fire to look like an escaped campfire. But once
investigators found inconsistencies in her story she was
forced to admit that she caused the blaze that destroyed
over 26,700 acres in Pike National Forest.
It had been 35 years since Sidney Poitier, the first African-American
man to win Best Actor, took home his Academy Award. Denzel
Washington broke this embarrassing—to Hollywood—losing streak
with his win for Training Day at the Oscars last
March. Even more epochal was Halle Berry’s Best Actress
nod for Monster’s Ball, as she became the first black
woman to ever win that award.
If You Build It?
WAMC, the Albany-based public radio behemoth, opened the
$1.2 million WAMC Performing Arts Center—Linda Norris Auditorium
on Central Avenue last February. Designed to host concert
performances and live radio programs, the space struggled
to find its niche as a midsize venue.
For $50, whaddya expect?
Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings proudly opened the impressive
and beautiful new Hudson River Way bridge over I-787 in
August. Unfortunately, by the end of September, many of
the bricks adorned with personal messages and dedications—bought
at $50 and $250 a pop by 10,000 members of the public—were
deteriorating and unreadable. Caveat emptor.
The Kennedy Saga Goes On
In August, Kennedy family cousin Michael Skakel was convicted
in the 1975 killing of his then-neighbor, 15-year-old Martha
Moxley. Sentenced to 20 years to life in prison, Skakel
was tried as an adult—though he was 15, thus a juvenile,
at the time of the killing. He plans an appeal.
Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow
Things went from bad to worse for actor and accused wife-killer
Robert Blake. First, the former Our Gang kid was
denied bail. Then his lawyer quit, angry that Blake had
agreed to a TV interview. On the bright side, however, Universal
issued a deluxe DVD set of Baretta episodes—no doubt
the royalties will help Blake buy smokes in the big house.
My Big Fat Greek Profits
In a year of megabudget spectaculars, it was an independent
film by little-known playwright-actress Nia Vardalos that
really clicked with the public. Celebrating love, family
and unapologetic ethnic humor, My Big Fat Greek Wedding
turned a $5 million investment into a $218 million gross.
Burning Logs, Higher Ratings
WPIX-TV in New York City resurrected an old Christmas favorite,
the Yule Log. It was TV at its simplest: a crackling fireplace
and gentle holiday music for two hours. This visual comfort
food was the highest-rated morning program in New York City,
beating Good Morning America, the Today Show,
and an assortment of cartoons and religious services.
Let’s All Go to the Lobby
More than 1.5 billion movie tickets were sold this year—the
highest number since 1959, when Ike was in the White House,
Erastus Corning was in Albany City Hall, godless Communists
were in the Kremlin, and Ben-Hur was on the big screen.
Schoharie’s 15 minutes
Late Show With David Letterman sent staffer Biff Henderson
to Schoharie in November, and then bused half of the town
to the Ed Sullivan Theater for a “Tribute to Schoharie.”
Letterman joked that the town was so small that they had
to “timeshare a hooker with Cobleskill.” Schoharie named
the road to the town sewer plant after Dave. Everyone felt
If They Move, Kill ’Em
Florida fish farm owner Vicky Davidson was arrested for
having her employees illegally kill a number of alligators
and more than 4,000 endangered birds in a program to protect
her fish stocks. Bird victims included black neck stilts,
cattle egrets and eastern meadowlarks, as well numerous
herons. She faces a long list of felonies and misdemeanors,
including taking endangered species and witness tampering.
When Russian skaters Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze
topped Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier in the pairs
competition at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, non-Russian
viewers everywhere cried foul. Sure enough, something was
rotten—French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne admitted that
French skating federation head Didier Gailhaguet had pressured
her to vote for the Russians. The Olympic officials tried
to please everyone, giving the Russians and Canadians
The Quality of Mercy is Nonexistent
President George W. Bush announced his first pardons just
before Christmas: a moonshiner, a grain thief, an automobile
odometer alterer, a minister/draft dodger, a man who lied
on a Social Security form, a copper wire thief, and a postal
worker who stole $10.90 from the mail. It was rumored that
the turkey Bush pardoned on Thanksgiving had a longer rap
If The Breast Offend Thee, Cover It Up
In a act of stunning prudery, U.S. Attorney General John
Ashcroft spent $8,650 of taxpayer money to drape a cover
over two statues in Justice Department headquarters. The
12.5-foot art deco figures revealed a bit too much skin
for the grandson of the founder of the Assembly of God church.
As Cragg Hines wrote in the Houston Chronicle, however,
“at least he didn’t blow them up.”
Please Cooperate or We’ll Arrest You. Never Mind—We’ll
Arrest You Anyway
As part of the fallout from Sept. 11, the Immigration and
Nationalization Service instituted a program requiring all
male aliens over age 16 from select Arab or Middle Eastern
countries to register. Dec. 16 was the deadline for men
from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Sudan—and when thousands
reported to fill out their forms, between 1,000 and 2,500
were detained in the Los Angeles area alone, according to
a maniac, kleptomaniac: Winona Ryder.
Think She could Afford This Stuff
Winona Ryder, the 31-year-old actress who won the public’s
heart playing quirky roles in everything from Edward
Scissorhands to Girl,Interrupted, was charged
with three felonies—grand theft, commercial burglary and
vandalism—as a result of a shoplifting spree at Saks Fifth
Avenue in Beverly Hills last December. Ryder was found guilty
of theft and vandalism after a weeklong trial, and was sentenced
to three years of probation. She was also ordered to pay
$10,000 in fines, and to go to counseling to cure her of
her denial of guilt. The clincher? Ryder is now being sought
out to model the clothes she tried to steal. Marc Jacobs,
one of the designers whose clothes were apparently a target
of the amateur thief, has asked Ryder to be part of his
Can’t Get Out of the Rain
Poor Michael Jackson! He’s had a rough year. He was bitten
on the foot by a spider (thankfully, he recovered with no
permanent damage); he dangled his baby, with one arm, no
less, off a balcony in Germany (this particular baby is
his third, named Prince Michael Jackson II—yes, his first
son is also named Prince Michael); he had a $21 million
lawsuit brought against him for skipping out on two heavily
publicized Y2K concerts (initiated by concert promoter Marcel
Avram, who had sued Jackson before for concerts on which
he’d lost money); he called Sony Music chief and former
friend Tommy Mottola “racist” and “devilish” while chillin’
with Al Sharpton; and his morbidly mutated nose—is it really
falling off? We all knew he was a little (OK, a lot)
off the wall, but it seems that this year was the year that
the self-proclaimed King of Pop seemed to spin out of control
on a downward spiral of shame.
The Raelian Movement rely on the media to get their word
out—that the aliens who created humans through cloning now
want us to be informed of them so they can visit—and their
most recent announcement last week captured the attention
of the media, the Pope, George W., French President Jacques
Chirac and many a citizen of Earth: They created the first
human clone. The group credited with the feat is Clonaid,
set up by the Raelian founder, and it claims genetic tests
will be provided, and that the 7-pound baby girl, Eve, is
home with her mother.
Dear God: We think you slightly misunderstood what we
meant by “White Christmas”
A Dec. 25 snowstorm dumped 2 feet of white stuff on the
Capital Region, bringing travel to a near-standstill and
changing many holiday plans. The storm broke records of
many varieties, and gave Capital Region residents the first
white Christmas in many, many years.