Category Archives: Culture

A Towering Mistake

Love it or hate it, the Empire State Plaza defines Albany’s skyline, and the jewel in this crown is the Corning Tower.

Maybe you’ve noticed that the building’s distinctive profile has been sullied by the construction of some sort of storage shed on the roof.  It’s bad enough that the Corning Tower has sprouted antennas in recent years, but the shed is nothing less than a huge wart on the nose of one of the city’s most important landmarks.


Most of you probably don’t care, but it’s wrong to mess with the vision of the architects — and of Nelson  Rockefeller himself — by ruining the clean lines of the building. According to Joseph Persico’s terrific biography, Rocky was an aesthete who was famously controlling over the design of the Plaza; the shed would have driven him mad.

Worse yet, according to All Over Albany, the structure is a permanent fixture.

What were they thinking? I’m guessing there was no serious consideration at all. It’s hard to imagine that an architect would be that disrespectful of a building so important — or that anyone could look at the plans and not see the damage they were doing.

There are buildings all over downtown that have had various structures and equipment piled on top of them. That’s a routine practice and most of it goes unnoticed, but what they’ve done to the Corning Tower? That’s an abomination.

A wider view after the jump…
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Citizens

The Marines know a thing or two about ceremonies.

We were at Parris Island in May for my son’s graduation from recruit training.

The day before graduation, each platoon was introduced and marched before us in formation. It would be the first time we’d seen our sons and daughters since dropping them off months earlier and we were all eager to spend the afternoon with our kids.

But before allowing for the hugs and photos, there was a special event. We had the honor to look on as a dozen new Americans were sworn in under the Naturalization at Basic Training Initiative, which allows recruits to become US citizens when they graduate basic training.

New Americans, new Marines.

There is no easy road to citizenship, but the one these men chose was a doozy. They’d just completed a gruelling training regime, and they’d made a commitment to years of service. Now, raising their hands to take their oath, they are newly minted Americans — complete with a full-time job, and the prospect of training and educational benefits that will give bring them great opportunity.

All of our forbearers came here from somewhere else, and for all the things we hear in the news that are wrong with immigration, here is something right.

Mickey and Me

We were sitting in a box at Saratoga one fine August afternoon. I know that sounds fancy, but if you’ve ever sat in one those boxes you know it’s more cramped than glamorous. And if you’re like me you’d rather be at a picnic table with a cooler full of beer.

It was hard not to notice the activity behind us as a stream of people stopped to say hello to an older man in nearby box. We almost fell off our uncomfortable chairs when it dawned on us that it was Mickey Rooney.

Rooney was sitting alone with his racing form, about as far away from the finish line as you could get and still be in one of the “exclusive” boxes.

Now, working in TV I’d met tons of well-known people — the most famous of whom was Oprah Winfrey. But Mickey Rooney? He was a freakin’ legend. Regardless, we did our best to play it cool, acknowledging him without seeming like amateurs. We inquired with our waiter about sending over a drink, not knowing he’d knocked off the booze years before.

So we went back and forth with a little small talk about the races and such, without being intrusive. Today I would have invited him to sit at our box; it didn’t occur to me at the time that he actually might have joined us.

Eventually, Mr. Rooney let on that he had a well placed tip on one of the races. A tip? From Mickey Rooney? This we must bet, and not just our small time $2 wagers — no, at 10-1, this was more of a $20 or $30 to win sort of bet.

Naturally, we all lost money on that one.

Nothing was said about the sure thing that was not so sure. If only we could have had a preview of Mickey Rooney’s obituary we would have known that he’d visited many racetracks in his lifetime, and more often than not, made impressive contributions to the sport of kings.

So, here’s to Mickey Rooney. He never lost his taste for the ponies — or his ability to charm an audience.

The Roar of the Greasepaint

Do people have no idea how to act any more?

For example, I went to see Romeo and Juliet on Broadway. Not my first choice, but my wife has always wanted to see the Shakespeare classic performed — and since this production involved Orlando Bloom removing his shirt… well, you get the idea.

Anyhow, the family in front of us spent the entire first act busily rustling around with their snacks. I don’t know what they were into — pretzels, crackers, cookies — but it was feckin’ noisy.  My ears ain’t what they used to be, so the distraction made it hard for me to focus on the play. And it doesn’t help that I have a mild case of misophonia.

Now, everybody knows you should unwrap your snacks before the lights go down, so not to annoy the other patrons. That’s a theatre rule, rather like never mentioning the name of the Scottish play. You just don’t do it!

They quieted down, thank God,  in the second act. Maybe the parents — well-heeled Connecticut types — remembered their manners. Or maybe they caught wind of us grumbling during intermission.

Either way, were able to enjoy all the dying with a little peace and quiet. And the rippling abbs, too, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Calling All Hipsters?

It’s only takes a couple of hours to get from Albany to New York City — but sometimes it seems a lot farther away.

I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw this:

Seriously? Hipsters? Apparently, the people at the paper just heard of these exotic PBR drinking, ironic t-shirt wearing, eccentrically eyeglassed creative-types in Brooklyn. And it’s so exciting, they want to see if they can dig up some real live hipsters around here. I’m betting they’re in Troy!

Look, the hipster trend was so firmly established in 2003 that it was already being roundly mocked — and if you care what New York magazine has to say, hipsterism was already dead by 2010. I’m not saying that the hipster sensibility has disappeared, just that it’s really, really (really) old news.

At this stage of the game, doing a story about hipsters makes you seem like… well, rubes. Or at the very least, a tiny bit clueless.

Anyway, I look forward to next month, when the Times Union will be doing a big feature on punk rockers.