Rise Again

“This is all because of Joe McCarthy.” John McCutcheon, folk musician and songwriter extraordinaire, was on the stage at Proctors Sunday night. He was talking about the network of folk venues and series like our own Eighth Step, which is now housed at Proctors, and which was hosting a release concert for Rise Again, the sequel songbook to Rise Up Singing, the venerable 1200-song, tiny-print, words-and-chords only songbook that has enabled thousands of groups of people to sing together over the past 25 years.

My nine year old elbowed me. “Who’s Joe McCarthy?” Oh boy. Continue reading

Just Take a Walk?

Last spring, as I walked to a board meeting of the Community Loan Fund of the Capital Region on Orange Street in Albany, I passed a memorial to a young man who had been shot and killed a couple of days earlier. There was a huge collection of candles on the ground between two stoops, marked off by caution tape, and with a large crowd of mourners around it.

Across from that memorial, tacked to a telephone pole was a relatively recent cheerful green and white sign that designates this stretch of road as part of a get-fit walking trail, and exhorts the viewer to “grab someone and take a walk!” This walking route is a loop that extends up into Center Square. Continue reading

In Defense of Saggy Pants

“Pull up your pants already.” “All these guys with their pants around their knees, waddling…”

Hey look, it’s the fashion police. Seems like everyone has something to say about sagging pants, from the president to the mayor of Dallas, who took out billboards to say it. Now Newton, N.J., is the latest town to try to ban sagging.

News flash, everyone: fashion trends look dumb. And sometimes they limit your movement in stupid ways.

But listen up close: Continue reading

Pipeline Whack-a-Mole

Didn’t I write this column already?

The one where I say, hey, it’s so awesome that New York state banned fracking, but companies are still trying to criss-cross our state with new pipelines that allow gas fracked in other places to get to market—whether that market is New England, or abroad via tankers.

The one where I explain how these companies who care for nothing but a quick buck and destroying the climate in the process are using eminent domain and federal regulations to force us to allow them to transport stuff across our state that (a) does not benefit us and (b) needs to stay in the ground for the future of humanity.

Oh right, I did. Continue reading

Zone It Right

In case you missed it, Albany is redoing its zoning code. Given that portions of it date back to 1968, conflict with each other or are too vague to consistently interpret, and are scattered through about a dozen different chapters of the city code, this is a good thing. Just by making something consistent and accessible, the city will vastly increase its friendliness to people who want to open businesses, rehab houses, and otherwise participate actively in the ever-evolving landscape that is a city. Continue reading

On Flags and Losing

I am glad the Confederate Flag is coming down in so many places. I am also glad that the attention on it has allowed its actual history as a explicit symbol of race hatred and resistance to civil rights and desegregation, rather than a battle flag, to become more widely known. It is good that we having an opportunity to clear up the “it was about states rights” lie, even if some politicians are avoiding it.

I have been more uncomfortable with the number of people in my own social networks who have been arguing that one of the reasons that the flag should come down is that it is a symbol of treason and after all, “the South lost!” Continue reading

The Anti-Bucket List

I’m turning 40 soon. Like so many of my cohort who are doing the same, I never expected it to be a big deal. I remember being really turned off by “over-the-hill” jokes when my parents turned 40, and never quite understood the desire to stay 29/39 forever. I’m not so sad to put my 30s behind me.

And I stand by that. But the passage is notable, perhaps more notable than I expected to be, and I have found myself thinking for a while about how to mark it. This idea has been at least a year in the making. Continue reading

Stitching the City Together

The map of Albany on the screen, at quick glance, looked a little like a heat map of poverty and distressed neighborhoods, with one large red area over the Sheridan Hollow, Arbor Hill and West Hill neighborhoods, and another over the South End. There was a knowing intake of breath among the various neighborhood leaders and civic activists attending the Albany Roundtable’s May 21st event.

But the map that Dr. Mindy Fullilove (left), the evening’s keynote speaker, had put on the screen was not a current map. Nor was it a descriptive exercise reporting on building conditions or poverty.

No, that map was a cause. Continue reading