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October 8, 2006

A weblog about the politics and affairs of the old and glorious City of Albany, New York, USA. Articles written and disseminated from Albany's beautiful and historic South End by Daniel Van Riper. If you wish to make a response, have anything to add or would like to make an empty threat, please contact me.

October 8 , 2006

News Updates: Sorta Like A Real Blog

Art on a moonlit night, subsidizing corporate schools with roadwork and internecine party politics

Art Walk In Albany! A while back I lamented the closing of the leading art gallery in Albany, Firlefanz on Lark Street. The space is now the new home to Central Art Supply. The proprietress of the shop says business on Lark is better than at their old place on Washington Avenue, serving both students and older folks in the neighborhood.

She also told us that one of the main reasons that Firlefanz closed is that Cathy and Ed never intended their gallery to be the center of the Albany arts scene. It was supposed to be primarily a studio, with works for sale and events as an aside. But somehow the whole arts scene came to their door and camped on their floor, and they were tired of the responsibility. They just wanted to be artists, not art directors.

It looks like art is not dead in Albany, far from it. From what we could see, it looks like the beginning of a very happening scene.

Last Friday night, October 6, The Wife and I hauled our friend Gregg Bell across Lincoln Park and down to Lark Street to participate in the 1st Friday Art Openings, described as “a new Albany Art Tradition” to be held the first Friday of every month from now on. This was only the second month, and despite only marginal advertising, it’s already a major success.

The four participating galleries were packed wall to wall with art lovers. All the galleries sported impressive eats tables, and peddled (for a suggested donation) all the cheap wine you could stomach. I highly recommend watching the people who attend art openings, particularly the way women dress for these things.

And oh yeah, there was art on the walls. Some of it was good, some really sucked. You know, art. Far and away the best display was of the hand-colored silver gelatin prints by Robert Gullie at Amrose + Sable Gallery at 306 Hudson Ave. The detail on these pictures is amazing, and have an effect on the viewer that is hard to categorize.

Mission House
Mission House by Robert Gullie
Believe it or not, this is a snapshot of one of the artworks hanging on the wall at Amrose + Sable Gallery.

The most astonishing thing I saw that night was a graphic hanging on the back wall of the Albany Center Galleries located upstairs at the Public Library on Washington Avenue.

There among a jumble of incomprehensible claptrap was a head portrait of a fellow with slicked back hair, a big nose and somewhat insane grin against a solid red background, with the words CLUB FOOT underneath. I used to see this portrait over 25 years ago when I was living in San Francisco, photocopied and stapled to telephone poles.

I used to stare at it in fascination. The image was so strikingly bizarre that defacing actually improved it. The image had been seared into my brain so thoroughly that I had actually been thinking about it a few days before the Art Walk. That kind of thing makes me think, like, cosmic thoughts man.

The fellow in the picture turned out to be a well-known actor who originally came from Albany, and Club Foot was the name of his self-consciously avant-garde rock band. There was a listening station in the corner of the gallery, I skipped through the CD. A couple of the songs were interesting, but overall Club Foot still sounded mediocre after all these years.

Hordes of people roamed the streets between the galleries, We kept stopping to yack with passersby, and at one point got diverted into the Antica Enoteca Wine Bar for a quick snort. Around 9:30 or so the three of us went for sushi at Totem, and found the place packed with people we had seen earlier at the galleries.

We had a long wait for our food. Chris, the proprietor of Totem, had not known about the Art Walk and had been taken by surprise. He was really glad to hear about the event and told us that he would be ready next month.

One more thing. While we were crossing Lincoln Park, our friend Gregg suddenly stopped in front of Thomas O'Brien school and pointed, “Look.” There was the full harvest moon, big and yellow, set perfectly between the points of the two spires of the cathedral on Eagle Street. I gotta start bringing my camera when I go out. You never know what you’ll see.

Subsidies For The Scammers They’re ready to open the so-called “charter” school built on top of the explosive landfill behind Bishop Maginn Catholic school. In celebration of this monument to corporate socialism, the City of Albany is building sidewalks where there were none before, and paving the streets that approach the building. For the first time in my memory, there is a crosswalk painted on Bucci McTeague (also known as S. Dove) where it meets Oneida Terrace.

The official line is that the managers of the Brighter Choice “charter” school have kicked in to help pay for these improvements, but there is no solid evidence that they have done so. It looks like Mayor Jennings, again indulging his strange compulsion to destroy the Albany public school system, has channeled tight public works resources in the direction of this private operation.

Like I’ve said before, I have no objection to some entrepreneur financing and starting a private school in Albany. What I object to is being forced to pay for their moneymaking scheme with my tax dollars. And I object to seeing our neighborhoods go begging for safe streets and sidewalks so that these scammers can lower their risk of liability.

If the school building fills with methane and explodes, who will take the blame? I sure hope that doesn’t happen. But if it does, I can’t wait to hear how the controllers of Brighter Choice avoid personal responsibility.

Democrats At War If you haven’t heard by now, Frank Commisso is facing a lawsuit filed by David Bosworth, the Town of Guilderland Democratic chairman. Bosworth got the short end of the battle for chairman of the Albany County Democratic Party. As recounted here on the September 30 post, the vote for the leadership of the party was conducted in a manner that we could call creative. And very possibly, illegally.

On the day that Bosworth announced that he was going to court, the weekly Altamont Enterprise came out with a front page article that everybody interested in this topic should read. As usual, the Enterprise has the clearest and most comprehensive explanation of this toilet drinking contest of all the media outlets.

Just like the Hearst Times Union, however, the Enterprise quotes committeeman Dick Barrett of Colonie, only much more extensively. Barrett apparently enjoys feeding into the media’s “City versus suburbs” nonsense, even though both candidates for chairman offered mixed City/suburb slates. But some of what Barrett says about voting in the City of Albany is very interesting:

"Forty percent of the city is African-American and Hispanic, and 25 percent of the city is impoverished. Generally, those people don't vote. The mix in the city isn't the kind it used to be," said Barrett. "Mayor Jerry Jennings has created a racial barrier.

"He has Betty Barnette, but she's only window dressing. They don't have proper representation," he said. "The city's base is anchored in the more affluent white neighborhoods...People of color dominate the inner-city and the 15,000 University at Albany students are predominately white."

The college students, who are only usually active in presidential and gubernatorial elections said Barrett, coupled with Albany's transient neighborhoods, create artificially inflated voter numbers in the city.

"There is no system for purging the enrollment lists. Transient neighborhoods are very hard to keep track of," said Barrett. "It's hard to wrench power from people who have a vice grip on it."

Um, “these people?” “Transient neighborhoods?” What "racial barrier?" Note the casual suburbanite anti-urban prejudice, which slithers dangerously close to open racism.

What Barrett does not quite say is that the old regime (“City Democrats”) are doing whatever it takes to hold off the up and coming newcomers (“suburban Democrats”) for as long as they can.

Charges and counter charges have flown around local cyberspace that Mayor Jennings threatened City workers to vote for Commisso, while Mike Breslin threatened County workers to vote for Bosworth.

Is Bosworth’s lawsuit a blow for fairplay and popular sovereignty, or is it merely the latest move in a power struggle? Would Bosworth and his allies behave differently than did Commisso and Jennings did in the same situation?

Perhaps we will eventually find out. Meanwhile, Chairman Commisso sent around this letter to all Committee persons, which we received on Saturday October 6. We’ll see if the committees mollify anybody. And as much as I’d like to see who shows up and who doesn’t to Commisso’s $100 a head fundraiser, I don’t think it likely The Wife and I are going to attend.

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