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Rex Smith

Rex Smith, the co-host of The Media Project on WAMC, is the former editor of the Times Union of Albany and The Record in Troy. His weekly digital report, The Upstate American, is published by Substack."

  • For years, I’ve gone out for a ramble with my dog each morning. Some years back, when we lived deep in the country, I squinted across a meadow during our walkabout and thought I saw a wolf. Now, there are no wolves in our part of Upstate New York – I know that to be true – but humans sometimes aren’t good at recognizing reality. Reality, in this case, is that I was looking at a coyote. They’re sociable creatures, you know, and quite unlikely to attack if you’re bigger than a rabbit.
  • You wouldn’t figure a Scottish sociologist born in the middle of the 19th century would be the ideal author of a favorite bumper sticker in 2024. But the other day, when I once again saw that saying, “Think globally, act locally” on a bumper, I had to check it out.
  • About half of Americans live in the suburbs, which is how I would describe my Upstate neighborhood. And I’ll tell you, it felt like a slide into luxury when we came in from 15 miles further east about two decades back.
  • Perhaps you have never tried to photograph a pig. I have, so I can tell you that it’s not as easy as you may think if you’re unfamiliar with porcine deportment.
  • On a sunny afternoon in Manhattan last month, the noisy chants and drumbeats of the Columbia University demonstrations faded as I walked down toward Riverside Drive, where tulips were in bloom and Norway maple were budding. In the city no less than here Upstate, spring is enlivening, and nature is comforting in its regularity.
  • In my view, my side gig as a musician took off when I was 5 years old. That’s when my big brother, who was 14, taught me to confidently sing “A Teenager’s Romance,” Ricky Nelson’s big hit of 1957 – which I performed before a captive audience of about three dozen at the annual family reunion. I must’ve killed it, because after that, I considered myself a singer. And as devotedly wedded as I have been to my journalism career, music has remained my tender passion.
  • Here’s a hypothesis and a modest proposal: I’d say that truthful information is the lifeblood of democracy. That’s got to be so, because it’s only with a grasp of what’s true that voters can make good choices when they cast ballots. Yet we are awash in lies and distortions by people in public life and disreputable media sources.
  • It’s the season of plenty for sports fans – which others view as exhausting excess: Before we’ve recuperated from the NCAA basketball hoopla and golf’s Masters tournament, we’re launched into the Major League Baseball season even as the NHL and the NBA are just beginning playoffs.
  • The cherry trees that line Washington’s Tidal Basin are not a species bred to yield tasty pies, jams and jellies. Washington’s cherry trees live mainly to display abundant clusters of delicate pinkish-white flowers. I was admiring them a couple of weeks ago, at the peak of what the Japanese call Sakura hanami — the season of viewing the cherry blossoms.
  • There’s an art to the put-down, but it seems to be vanishing. You know, if you say someone’s brain is the size of a pea, you get the point across, but it’s not as memorable as, say, the approach taken by Will Rogers, who once said of a politician that “if his brain was gunpowder, he wouldn’t have enough to blow the wax out of his ears.” That, folks is rhetorical art.