Saturday, May 31, 2003 "I'M ONE OF THOSE EVIL REPUBLICANS":Thought-provoking piece here by Willy Stern, who argues that Republicans amid liberal society face discrimination and prejudice every day.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "People always assume I have some sort of problem with [Fred Durst]. I met him and strangely found him to be very likeable. That doesn't mean that I listen to Limp Bizkit - I would rather put a sparkler in my urethra." -Marilyn Manson, whom I don't quote often, in Entertainment Weekly.
Friday, May 30, 2003 EXTREME OPS: The Boston Red Sox yesterday traded third baseman Shea Hillenbrand to the Arizona Diamondbacks for starter/closer Byung-Hyun Kim, marking the first major deal of Theo Epstein's tenure as Bosox general manager. The deal, in Boston and elsewhere (such as Rob Neyer's column) has gotten rapturous reactions, with Neyer even absurdly likening it to Boston's infamous trade of Jeff Bagwell for Larry Andersen.
Now despite acquiring a player whose most memorable career moment up to this point was a two-night meltdown in Yankee Stadium, I feel as though this trade has a very good chance of working out well for the Red Sox. But at the same time I can't help noticing that Hillenbrand is getting the shaft, just has he has gotten the shaft, really, ever since coming out of nowhere to become the Sox' starting third baseman two years ago.
A rarity in Boston in recent years- a homegrown prospect who became a regular and produced at the big league level- Hillenbrand has been nothing but an exemplary player for his whole career in Beantown- yet the Sox have been tried desperately to unload him for as long as anyone can remember. Why? The Cult of Sabermetrics, that's why. The fascinating yet very unproven method of statistical theory favored by Epstein (and more or less invented by Sox adviser Bill James) caused the Red Sox to brand the low-OPS Hillenbrand as essentially worthless, and thus he's been shipped out.
I'm not saying I don't at least partially buy into the sabermetric phenomenon- clearly, it's right a lot of the time. But I think it's bad for the game to consider OPS and other "new math" stats the be-all-and-end-all of judging talent, especially considering that exactly zero teams have ridden sabermetrics to a championship, and exactly one team (Oakland) has become a consistant winner because of it. So if Shea Hillenbrand becomes a perennial All-Star with the D-Backs while Kim blows it against the Yankees in September, don't say I didn't warn you.
On top of that, there's a certain elitism, I think, associated with sabermetric triumphalism: now, all of a sudden, according to most sportswriters these days, the world's primary baseball experts aren't coaches or managers or scouts, but rather guys with masters degrees from Harvard (Yale, in Epstein's case) who've never set foot on a baseball field in their lives. All of sudden, the old archetype of the baseball card-collecting, boxscore-reading baseball fan going with Dad to games has given way to the guy who approaches baseball the way others would regard astrophysics.
I'm about to read "Moneyball" (like Gleeman, I'm planning to do so in one sitting); I'll let you know if it changes my mind.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I'll just add a strategic point, the kind of thing they teach in business school. If you are going to adopt a strategy to be a national newspaper, you must add the capabilities to be a national newspaper... It means having lots of well-staffed bureaus and, if necessary, credited stringers. It also means breaking out of a worldview that considers Manhattan normal and every other place weird. The truth is that the NYT is not a national newspaper. It is the New York Times (more accurately, The Manhattan South of Harlem Times). It assumes its readers have the prejudices of well-educated, affluent Manhattanites, and it staffs, writes, and edits accordingly." -The world's most beautiful libertarian, and occasional Times writer, Virginia Postrel. 10:40 AM
AOL BITES: When I logged on to AOL this evening, the top news story listed was some sort of survey of "The Best Companies For Diversity." Fair enough, except for the accompanying photo: one of Mike Tyson. Strange, I thought- are the AOL machers so clueless about diversity that they decided they needed a picture of a black person and the first they found was Tyson?
I later realized, of course, that the two stories were in fact alternately flashing, and there'd just been a delay in the photos. Tyson was in the news again over his latest psycho pronouncement, that he'd like to once again rape Desiree Washington, the beauty pageant contestant who he was convicted of sexually assaulting a decade ago. Had any other athlete in any other sport said such a thing they'd likely be suspended Bob Ryan-style, although since boxing is a mess of unregulated anarchy, Tyson will likely get off scot-free, once again. Now it's up to the media to realize that it's time to start ignoring Tyson, because he's not only a rapist and violent sociopath, but he's also a has-been in the ring.
Though on second thought, the juxtaposition of AOL stories could've been worse, I suppose. Like, if the "Best Companies for Diversity" had been rotated with a story about, say, Jayson Blair. 12:46 AM
A MAVERICK CHOKE: Ouch. Cuban's boys looked like they had Game 6 all sown up after three quarters, but for the second straight game in the series a team came back from a huge deficit in the fourth quarter, and the San Antonio Spurs clinched the Western Conference championship and will face the New Jersey Nets in an all-ex-ABA NBA Finals.
The Spurs comeback was largely thanks to heroics from Steve Kerr, who despite the onset of premature rigor mortis, nevertheless managed to hit four consecutive three-pointers to put San Antonio ahead for good. I, like most people watching the game, was under the impression that Kerr had retired three or four years ago; apparently all of the Dallas players thought so as well.
The Spurs-Nets Finals won't start for over a week, so get ready for plenty of hype based on Nets star Jason Kidd squaring off against the team that he's been rumored all season to want to sign with. The implication of course will be that if Kidd can't beat the sure-to-be-favored Spurs, he might join them; it's an echo of last year's best Finals joke, which was that the only way Jason Kidd could beat Shaq would be if he married him.
Kidd's done beating people for the year; my pick is Spurs in 5.
Thursday, May 29, 2003 FREE ENTERPRISE AND OTHER CONSERVATIVE CAUSES: There's a film that came out in limited release a few years ago that's still re-run on HBO from time to time called "Free Enterprise." Starring William Shatner and the guy who plays Will on "Will & Grace," and written/produced by Brandeis alum Mark Altman, the film was the story of two "Star Trek" geeks who meet their hero (Shatner), and seemed to exist in order to prove the theorem that people who are obsessed with "Star Trek" are in fact capable of being cool, having fun, and having sex with beautiful women.
Now we have a New York Times Magazine cover story that applies the "Free Enterprise" formula to that other not-known-to-get-laid-often youth subculture: campus Republicans. In a piece published last Sunday called "The Young Hipublicans," reporter John Colapinto profiles a coterie of young conservatives at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania who are, that's right, not living in the stone age. They may worship Reagan and Dubya, be dead-set against political correctness, and vote straight-ticket Republican, but hey- they have girlfriends, some of them are, themselves, girls, and (get this)- they don't even hate gay people!
When I was in college the only "out" conservatives I knew were religious Israel hawks here and there, a sizable cabal of Ayn Rand devotees, and the school's College Republican establishment, led by a few guys who succeeded in alienating virtually the entire school by pulling such stunts as publishing the student union president's home address and phone number in their magazine, bringing Charlton Heston to campus while locking out most of the Brandeis student body, and drawing too many sexual harassment complaints to even keep track of. Even my now-roommate was a member of the College Republicans at a nearby school at the time, and they publicly distanced themselves from the Brandeis chapter.
I really think those guys ruined any chance conservatism had of flourishing at Brandeis for years, and it took three years and a major attack on the US for a Brandeis necon revival to finally occur. I'm not saying I necessarily would've joined up, but back in those days there was just too much loony leftism happening on campus that the student body was ill-served- too often, self-righteous bullying took the place of intelligent political debate.
LIKE BUTTER, 'CAUSE I'M ON A ROLL: With apologies to Stuart Scott, my blogroll (at left) has been revised, updated, expanded, categorized, and Martinized. Enjoy.
ROAD MAP TO MY PREROGATIVE:
Because if Ariel Sharon can successfully mend fences with Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown, coming to a final-status agreement with the Palestinians should be a breeze.
Bonus question: How many of Whitney Houston do you think you could fit into one pair of Ariel Sharon's pants?
MODO'S NO-NO: Well, I guess I spoke too soon about Maureen Dowd's little slip-up being nothing- according to Zev Chafets of the Daily News, she's being investigated. Now, we don't know that anything will come of this, but between that, the Rick Bragg mistakes, and the Jayson Blair fiasco, things are looking mighty bad at the Times. Now maybe I've been reading too much Sullivan (in fact, I know I have), but I really can't imagine that Howell Raines will continue to edit the New York Times for much longer.
Zev Chafets, I should mention, is also the author of one of my favorite quotations of all time: "Israel is the only country in the world where all of the Puerto Rican girls are Jewish."
Wednesday, May 28, 2003 OFF THE FIELD: The long-troubled Field Day Music Festival, scheduled for next weekend on the North Fork of Long Island, appears to be in doubt after Suffolk County officials denied a permit to the concert organizers.
While the organizers of the festival managed to put together an impossibly strong lineup of cool, of-the-moment acts (Radiohead, Beck, the Beastie Boys, Interpol, Bright Eyes, Sigur Ros, Liz Phair, The Roots, N.E.R.D., The Streets, Ben Kweller, etc.), according to a recent New York Press story the show looked in every way like a recipe for disaster: the town of Riverhead, LI was utterly unprepared, security-wise and other-wise, for the influx of 100,000 people- and nobody in town seemed to want it to want them there anyway. Had the show gone ahead it looked a lot like it could've resulted in Woodstock '99 all over again.
Meanwhile, I personally have other plans to see Radiohead next week. For $2, no less.
BEST GEEK QUIZ EVER: According to this I'm only 12.5% Geek. Sounds about right.
STUCK IN THE MUD SOMEWHERE IN THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY: Both of the winter sports teams that call the Meadowlands/Continental Arena home, the New Jersey Devils and New Jersey Nets, are in the finals of their respective sports- and even though both of those teams play their home games just a few miles ("just a few exits!") from where I'm sitting right now, I'll be cheering enthusiastically for both of their opponents.
There's plenty of superficial reasons to hate both teams: the Devils are always in the mix for the Cup, have won twice in the last few years, yet still keep firing coaches all the time, and frankly, by now I'm sick to death of them. Oh, and they almost followed the first championship in franchise history by moving to Nashville. The Nets' best player (Kidd) beat his wife, their second-best player (Martin) is a notorious thug, and they have one of the league's most entertaining characters (Mutumbo) and don't even play him. On top of that, both teams play in a dump of an arena that nobody wants to go to, and their grand scheme to alleviate the problem is to move to (?) Newark.
Here's the reason why I consider it an affront to both logic and economics that New Jersey even has teams: during Game 4 of the Nets-Pistons series in East Rutherford, one of the ESPN announcers mentioned that the building was in fact sold out, and it marked the Nets' fourth home sellout of the season. Not of the series. Not of the playoffs. Their fourth home sellout of the season. Yes, a relatively exciting, championship-caliber team in the nation's #1 media market has managed to sell out a grand total of four home dates, out of 50-something this year, including three different playoff series. How embarrassing is that? And it's not like baseball where they have to fill 50,000 seats- the capacity at Continental Arena, as of last year, was around 14,000. Then again, what do you expect when you employ Joe Piscopo as your primary halftime entertainment?
Still, regardless of what I think of the New Jersey teams, I still hate the Yankees more. Did you ever think you'd see the day when the Nets were on a 10-game playoff winning streak, while their brethren within YES, the Yankees, were in the midst of an eight-game home losing streak?
(Oh, and $1 to the first person who e-mails me with the Springsteen song that the subject comes from. And no Googling).
YANKEES SUCK!: If you've been following baseball for awhile (especially if you've lived in Boston) chances are you've heard the phrase "Yankees Suck" an awful lot- and usually, it hasn't been true. Yes, the idea of the Yankees existing may suck, or of their being good may suck, but clearly the team has won at a consistent level ever since 1995, and still has won more championships than any other franchise in baseball history. On the field, clearly, they don't suck.
Well, now they do. Prior to winning tonight against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium, the Yanks were going through their worst stretch since they started winning pennants again in 1996: five straight losses, including eight straight at home, a 2-9 record in their previous 11 games, and even headlines from the back page of the New York Post that George Steinbrenner may want Joe Torre gone- despite winning four championships in five years (contrast that with Minnesota, when two championships in five years were enough to keep Tom Kelly around as Twins manager for eight straight losing seasons, and his career ended not with his firing but with retirement).
The nadir of the Yank slide was Roger Clemens' failure to win his 300th game at home, on Memorial Day, against the Red Sox. Hell, maybe it's nothing. Probably, it's nothing. But if the Red Sox win the AL East this year in route to the Yankees going the way of the 2002 St. Louis Rams, that Memorial Day loss by Roger will be looked at as the turning point- mark my words.
CJ Sullivan has it right in today's Billboard: getting into the playoffs every year has made Yankee fans arrogant as hell- and they've forgotten how special it is to win a championship for the first time, or at least for the first time in a generation. Yea, 'cause a two-week slump really, really sucks when you feel you're always entitled to a championship.
SHOCK AND AWE ON THE HIGHWAY: The Pentagon announced this afternoon that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was in a minor car accident today, but walked away unhurt.
Now, I myself was recently in a minor fender bender, and thankfully the person whose car I hit turned out to be a nice guy who was quite understanding. But could you imagine what a nightmare it would be to hit someone's car, get out to check on them, and it's Rumsfeld? I know I'd be in fear for my life, and preparing for the "surgical strike" on my house later that night.
Tuesday, May 27, 2003 "DORM-ROOM REEFER-PARTY PHILOSOPHY": Lileks on "Matrix Reloaded": He has all the same complaints as me: too talky, too much meaningless philosophy, Zion looked stupid, the action wasn't groundbreaking enough, the first was much, much better. And a major part looks borrowed from "Ghostbusters":
I knew I was disengaged from the movie when the Oracle told Neo to find "the keymaker," and I thought of Harold Ramis joining Sigourney Weaver to bring about the rule of Zuul. Come to think of it, the movie needed a big dose of Ghostbusting. Not in the gentle wisecracking Bill Murray sense. It needed plagues, ghosts, apparitions, giant Sta-Puft Marshmallow Men stalking down the streets in Matrixland. If Neo and his crew wanted to defeat the machines, why not play with the heads of everyone in the Matrix? Get inside the program. HACK IT. Use your m@d h@X0r skilz and give everyone a reason to disbelieve reality. But from what we see Neo et al have spent the last four years doing nothing but assembling a top-notch team of Scowling Operatives whose day jobs consist of crafting really cool sunglasses. Because, you know, you really need sunglasses on a planet with no sunlight.
BROWN OUT: Larry Brown announced yesterday that he is stepping down as coach of the Philadelphia 76ers after six seasons at the helm. Brown, somewhat surprisingly considering his reputation as a vagabond, outlasted by several years the other two big-name coaches hired the same week- the Celtics' Rick Pitino and the Pacers' Larry Bird.
Brown was best known in Philly, of course, for his often tempestuous relationship with superstar guard Allen Iverson; the highlight of Brown's time in Philly, for me at least, was the April 21, 2001 cover story by Gary Smith in Sports Illustrated about Iverson and Brown, two short-statured sons of single mothers who both found success in an unlikely place, the NBA. The story is best known for the revelation by Iverson's mother, Ann, that Allen was conceived without the benefit of intercourse.
Sunday, May 25, 2003 GOLDEN GUS: Proving once again the old adage that there's nothing European cinephiles love more than American films that ridicule America, Gus Van Sant's "Elephant" today won the Palm d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival, considered by most to be the worst slate of films in Cannes history.
"Elephant" beat out the non-American anti-American entry (Lars Von Trier's "Dogville"), while the undisputed dog of the festival of "Brown Bunny," directed by Vincent Gallo. I'm not a fan of Gallo's- I regard his previous film, 1998's "Buffalo 66," as nothing but an overrated "Taxi Driver" ripoff- but I do give Gallo credit for including a scene in the new film in which he gets fellated by Chloe Sevigny.
The Van Sant picture's victory means one other thing: thus far in 2003, the most critically acclaimed album and the most critically acclaimed movie are both called "Elephant."
Saturday, May 24, 2003 NEW YORK GIANTS: I had an interesting evening Thursday. First I attended New York Press' release party at the Puck Building for their Summer Guide issue, which was fun with the exception of a few hundred gate-crashers, most of whom had nothing to do with the paper and many more of whom, I discovered, had never actually heard of it. So therefore, they ran out of food relatively quickly- they did not, however, run out of beer, for which we can all be thankful. I also chatted briefly with Jeff Koyen, the paper's editor, who is not nearly the sex-obsessed monster that Gawker makes him out to be.
I went from the party to a concert by They Might Be Giants at Bowery Ballroom, in celebration of their new documentary film, "Gigantic." Now as I've mentioned before, neither Phish nor They Might Be Giants are even on my Top 50 list of favorite bands, yet I've seen the two of them more than any other band. Thursday was my fifth time seeing Flansburgh and Linnell; this summer I'm going to my fourth Phish show.
It was a fun show though, with all sorts of surprise guests- Frank Black showed up to guest-vocal on "Particle Man," and also joining in the fun were Mike Doughty of Soul Coughing and Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes. But a true highlight of the show was the opening act, the hillbilly rocker known as Corn Mo. The subject of a recent New York Press cover story that referred to him as "post-Jack Black," the accordionist Corn Mo rocked out with songs about being mistaken for Gary Busey, among other outlandish subjects. I highly recommend checking him out some time.
Overall, a much better show by TMBG than their 1997 gig at Levin Ballroom at Brandeis.
Then Friday I went to see a show I recently previewed for The Blueprint, entitled "The Autobiography of God As Told To Mel Schneider." Very interesting show, which dealt with God coming to Earth and conducting a one-man stage show in order to convince the human race to stop the endless drone of the prayers. Much like a movie that came out the same day, Jim Carrey's "Bruce Almighty," except actor Joseph Lee Gramm's interpretation of God was more in line with the persona of basketball announcer Bill Walton, right down the Hawaiian shirts and aging-hippie vocal affectations. Also starring in the show was Horshack himself, Ron Palillo, surfacing publicly for the first time since his loss to Dustin Diamond in last year's "Celebrity Boxing" (a loss, incidentally, that was not mentioned in Horshack's official bio). Overall, a recommended show, which is running through June 1.
CRAZY LIKE A FOX: Helping to usher in the new era of New York Times-hating, in which any and all mistakes or minor distortions will be looked as on the level of Jayson Blair's deception, Fox News Channel ran a bit during this morning's "Weekend Live With Tony Snow" in which they took Maureen Dowd to task for a column in which she twisted President Bush's words. In the column MoDo claimed Dubya had said that al-Qaeda terrorists "aren't a problem anymore"; what Bush was clearly referring to were the substantial amount of al-Qaeda terrorists who are either captured or dead. Andrew Sullivan was the first to point this out; the story was later picked up by Spinsanity, which gave due credit to Sullivan.
Both FNC and Andrew made what was at best an error and at worst a distortion look like a deception on the level of Blair's years of journalistic fraud. But what's strange is that the Fox segment gave no credit to Sullivan at all for originally pointing it out, and only mentioned Spinsanity right at the end (followed by a comment from Snow that the story "demonstrates the power of the Blogosphere.") Funny that in covering a story about distorting news- and also chastising the Times for the case of reporter Rick Bragg and his refusal to grant credit to a freelancer- Fox News somehow fails to even give credit to the journalist who first broke the story on which they're reporting.
WHO SAYS THE LEFT HAS NO MORE ORIGINAL IDEAS?: Two cartoons, both published in the May 21-27 issue of The Village Voice:
But at least Tomorrow managed to not steal my Neo/Neocon joke...
BOOK JACKET QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "If you believe children should be seduced into warped sexual behavior by the Gay Elite, if you think confessed murderers should be set free by defense attorneys who know how to wield the race card, if you feel promiscuous gay men should be empowered to spread AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, don't read this book." -From the book jacket of "The Death of Right and Wrong," the new book by Tammy Bruce, who is gay, but apparently not elite.
Gay Elite, huh? Who knew Elton John had so much influence over our children?
Friday, May 23, 2003 BLOG OBSERVATION OF THE DAY: "Very obese and, therefore, large breasted women should not rest their tits on a table. Even when that table is in a booth in McDonald's. If having ones elbows on the table is a show of bad manners, then resting ones elephantine appendages there certainly is, too." -Kambri Crews, who is one of my favorite NYC bloggers, despite her lack of "elephantine appendages."
REMEMBERING OWEN: Wrestler Owen Hart, aka The Blue Blazer, passed away four years ago today after falling 60 feet into the ring during a stunt gone awry. May he continue to rest in peace.
LOTTO JACKPOT: In an event that proves the future direction of the NBA relies on nothing more than the way a ping-pong ball bounces, the Cleveland Caviliers last night won the NBA Draft Lottery, and with it the right to select Ohio native LeBron James #1 in next month's draft.
I suppose it's good for the league, and good for LeBron, that things worked out the way they did. The NBA has never been as big on "hometown heroes" the way baseball is, the Cavs (bad as they've been) do have some pieces in place and could contend next year, and for once the team with the worst record actually did get the top pick.
That doesn't change one fact, however: the lottery system is a joke. It's one thing to prevent teams from tanking in order to get #1, but didn't the Cavs (and Nuggets) do that anyway? And isn't it ridiculous that under the lottery, the team with the worst record has an almost-90% chance of not getting the top pick? And I'm not just bitter because of 1992, when the Timberwolves had the worst record in the league, were assigned the third pick rather than first by the lottery, and thus ended up with Christian Laettner as opposed to Shaquille O'Neal.
The lottery really should've been scrapped the following year, when Orlando had one ball and got the #1 pick. I mean, if the lottery had been in existence in 1984, the third pick might have gone to a team other than the Bulls- and right now there'd be a statue of Michael Jordan outside someone else's arena. The Washington Bullets, maybe?
The other funny thing is that LeBron signed a $90 million shoe contract, meaning that he is virtually certain to be paid more by Nike than by his team for at least the first five years of his career. True, for most of his career Jordan got more money from endorsements than for playing- but not when he was right out of high school.
Still, I think if LeBron can surround himself with the right people and grow up in the league the way Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett did, he'll do just fine. If only they can do something about those hideous new uniforms...
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "LeBron is more popular than the governor of Ohio. And he may be more influential. He's what they call a revenue-generator. If this was Minnesota, he'd be a combination of Jesse the Body Ventura, Prince, Randy Moss, the Wild, the Twins, ice hockey and fishing." -Ralph Wiley, ESPN.com. R-Dub, giving some luv to "Minny."
Thursday, May 22, 2003 JAYSON TAKES MANHATTAN: It was bad enough when Jayson Blair gave a rambling, pompous, unapologetic interview with the New York Observer, in which he refused to take any blame and actually seemed to take delight in the con that he pulled off. But now he's got a blog!
Yea, I know it's not really him. But it wasn't really him reporting from West Virginia, either.
JANE GALT RULES: Megan gives us Jane's Law, which applies universally to American politics: "The devotees of the party in power are smug and arrogant. The devotees of the party out of power are insane." Read the whole post, it's brilliant.
Chika Chika Boom Boom
hideous sound collages
latest Pali atrocity
brave lone iconoclasts
epitome of humanitarian solicitousness
faintest whiff of goatiness
I still think the Goofy-has-a-human-wife discovery was James' best Bleat post ever, but that's just me.
BOB ON BUD: What a self-serving, nauseating interview with Bud Selig, by Bob Costas, on HBO's "Real Sports" last night. I wish I had a transcript so I could Fisk it. In the interview, whether discussing Pete Rose, the steroid situation, or his asinine plan for homefield advantage to be decided by the All-Star Game, Selig alternated between dodging Costas' questions and supplying inane justifications for his past bad decisions, such as his defense of MLB's near-non-existent steroid-testing politics- "I banned steroids in the minor leagues!" Oh yea? Want a cookie?
That Costas has often been discussed as a logical candidate for commissioner himself was sort of the elephant in the room throughout the interview- it would be like if John Kerry interviewed George W. Bush and didn't mention that he was running for president. Costas, ever the gentleman and yet ever the hard-nosed interviewer, tried really hard to keep his contempt for Selig a secret but hey, that's hard for anyone to do. There can be no question now that baseball will not reach its greatest potential as our national pastime as long as Bud Selig is commissioner.
Loathsome as Bryant Gumbel is, "Real Sports" really does come up with interesting stuff on a fairly regular basis- last night's show also consisted of a fascinating interview with Terry Bradshaw who has (who knew?) battled clinical depression for many years, as well as a fun profile of Kornheiser and Wilbon, and a look at the torture of Iraqi athletes when the Olympic team was run by Uday Hussein.
SEASON FINALE WEDNESDAY: A few things to say about the season finale episodes of the past few days (Spoilers for all):
- I didn't watch the last "Buffy"; in fact, I never really watched the show at all. Shame; I probably would've liked it.
-"24"- eh. It could've been worse I suppose, but- where the hell did Jack get a high-powered rifle, in the middle of LA Coliseum? Did one of those crazy Raider fans leave it behind after the final L.A. Raider game, in 1995? Is there any reason for Kim Bauer to even be on the show, aside from the not-so-insignifcant fact that she's hot? What was the point of having an all-powerful super-villain character (Peter Kingsley) when he's only introduced in the last few episodes and given no background whatsoever? And worst of all, why did the first season's villains try for an entire 24 hours, unsuccessfully, to kill David Palmer, when the new bad guys were able to hatch an assassination plot and carry it out- successfully- in ten minutes? I guess that's what happens when you send Dennis Hopper to do a man's job.
-"Law & Order" ended tonight with a clusterfuck of a two-part episode: the first part tried to shoehorn the Laci Peterson case together with the woman-running-over-her-husband, as well as a third Ripped From The Headlines plot that I didn't pick up on- it was so busy they didn't even have time for the lawyer half of the episode. The second half was like a montage of Michael Jackson's Greatest Scandals- the baby dangle AND the molestation thing- and was noteworthy for two things: the actor who played Enrique Morales on "Oz" guest-starred- as a character named Morales! (JK Simmons and Chris Meloni were not in the episode, unfortunately). And even better, figuring prominently in the storyline was a fictional version of The Smoking Gun website, called on the show by the memorable name UpYourButt.net. Now UpYourButt.net, somewhat surprisingly, does not actually exist. If I were the producers of "L&O" I would've bought that domain name, or just had it re-direct to the show's site- because you just know everybody who was watching punched in UpYourButt.net as soon as it was mentioned. I know I did.
(UpYourButt.net is not to be confused with "Up Your Ass," a radical feminist play written in the late '60s by Valerie Solanas, the woman best known for shooting Andy Warhol and subject of the feature film, yes, "I Shot Andy Warhol." A revival of "Up Your Ass" was actually performed in New York last year.)
-I barely watched "American Idol," this year or last, but I'm glad Ruben Studdard won, beating out Clay D. Lang (I don't know who first came up with that nickname, but it's pure genius). As Michael Wilbon pointed out today on PTI, Ruben deserved to win because American popular music is right now missing the sort of iconic, large, black, soul singer in the tradition of Barry White and Luther Vandross- both of whom, incidentally, are ailing right now. What Michael Wilbon has done for sportswriting and television pontificating, hopefully Ruben Studdard can do for popular music.
KEEPIN' 'EM ON THEIR TOES: We have now seen the release of the "My Neck, My Back"of 2003: it's "Cameltoe," by Fanny Pack, a Brooklyn-based group of three female singers and two male DJs. In the song, reminiscent of story-rap classics like C&C Music Factory's "Things That Make You Go Hmm" and Young MC's "Bust a Move" as sung by a trio of what sounds like 12-year-old girls, the group tells of the "camel toe," an unfortunate wedgie-like affliction that is, shall we say, specific to women only. Who knew such an obscure condition could be fodder for a hit single that's been getting radio and MTV airplay?
If you haven't heard "Camel Toe" yet, don't worry- you'll know it when you hear it.
Wednesday, May 21, 2003 BOMBING AT YALE: What to make of the explosion at Yale Law School tonight? One thing I think we can be sure of is that it wasn't al-Qaeda. Osama's boys tend to be a bit more meticulous about making sure the buildings they blow up are actually occupied, and besides- crazy students calling in bomb threats hasn't exactly been a rare occurance on college campuses in recent years (see Ablavsky, Ilya); it was only a matter of time before a bomb actually detonated.
GET READY NEW JERSEY- SHE'S COMING HOME!: EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman has submitted her resignation. Hopefully now she can do something about the Garden State's pesky, omnipresent toxic-waste problem.
Tuesday, May 20, 2003 ECO TRIP: As of today I am ranked #768 on NZ Bear's Blogger Ecosystem- and if two more people link to me, I will rise from the somewhat embarrassing "Crawly Amphibians" category into the relative safety and comfort of "Flappy Birds." Come on people- help a brother out!
POST HYPOCRISY, CONT'D: The New York Post admits today that a former freelancer for them, Robin Gregg, once plagiarized a story from the National Enquirer.
Which is worse- a fake column by a person, or a real column by a horse? 1:59 PM
HEADLINE OF THE WEEK:"Silver Makes Movie Viewers Think." Yea, I try to. But looking at Joel Silver's body of work, I'm not so sure he does.
Speaking of which, I'll post my "Matrix" review in the next day or two.
CARRY A COMPASS, TO HELP YOU ALONG: I take the Political Compass test about once a year, and regardless of how much I think my politics change, I almost always end up in the same place- right in the middle. My score, out of ten, is:
Economic Left/Right: -1.38
Yea, you can't get more centrist than me, without being totally apolitical...
YEAH BABB-Y, YEAH: Last Friday I attended my second Big Apple Blogger Bash, and while it didn't have the turnout of the first, it was nonetheless a splendid time.
I got to see familiar faces (John Paul Pagano, Ken Goldstein, and Paul Frankenstein, among others), some new faces (the notorious Jahna D'Lish, Dahl, Zeebah, and various other lovely ladies), and even an unfamiliar ass. Also got to meet blogging pioneer Anil Dash, who shared some fascinating insights into the world of cyberspace.
One of the highlights of the evening was unquestionably sharing a plate of nachos with the famous blogger Megan McArdle, aka Jane Galt. It would've been really, really cool if her credit card had said "Jane Galt," but alas it bore her real name.
Oh, and one more thing: the Bash was held at the Hell's Kitchen bar Siberia which- according to Page Six- was once a Jayson Blair hangout. Or was it? 12:33 AM
ON YOUR MARK...: The Dallas Mavericks beat the Sacramento Kings in seven games and are now in the Western Conference finals, where they beat the Spurs tonight to win Game 1. Send Mark Cuban an e-mail to congratulate him!
Monday, May 19, 2003 GOOOOOOOOAL!: The Minnesota Wild pulled off a near-impossible feat in Game 4 of their series against Anaheim- they scored a goal against ultra-hot goalie Jean-Sebastian Giguerre. Unfortunately, it was the only goal they scored in the entire series, and they lost the game 2-1 (and the series 4-0). Oh well, it was a great run for the zero-expectations Wild, and they'll have the satisfaction of losing to the soon-to-be-Stanley-Cup champion Ducks.
The Twins, meanwhile, swept the White Sox over the weekend and now have sole possession of first place in the AL Central. Don't be surprised if they keep it into October.
KING ME: Last week's episode of "The West Wing," Aaron Sorkin's final hour at the helm of the show he created, was the long-faltering series' best episode in recent memory, one which had the feel of seriousness (as well as greatness) missing from the show the past two years.
(Spoilers begin here:) From the starting point of the kidnapping of President Bartlet's daughter, the president was forced to make the gut-wrenching decision to temporarily step down from power- and since the Vice President character (Tim Matheson) resigned a few weeks prior, the presidency was thus thrown to the Republican Speaker of the House (John Goodman).
This is historically significant for three reasons: one, those ideas by Patrick Ruffini, Mickey Kaus, and others about having "West Wing" go GOP have finally been vindicated. Two, after (to the best of my knowledge) no television series in history had ever had a plotline involving the invocation of the 25th Amendment, two series ("West Wing" and "24") have done so just in the past month. And three, with his ascension to the presidency, Goodman joins a select fraternity of actors who have portrayed both the President of the United States and the King of England on screen (he played the latter, you may remember, in "King Ralph.") I don't have a full list of other such actors in front of me, but the only one I can think of right now is Anthony Hopkins, who portrayed Richard III in "The Lion in Winter" (among numerous other Shakespearean kings) and both Richard Nixon in "Nixon" and John Quincy Adams in "Amistad." Goodman also has the added distinction of being the only man to play both a president, a king, and Linda Tripp (which he did on "Saturday Night Live" back in '98; then, last week, he portrayed Anna Nicole Smith).
TRUCKIN': It's often been said that by the New York Times picks up on a cultural trend, that trend is usually all but over (unless that trend is journalistic fraud- HAR!). But that goes double for nonsensical hipster fashion fads, like this new fascination with trucker hats.
Even more absurd than that whole throwback jersey craze, trucker hats (those goofy mesh caps favored by Johnny Knoxville, Ashton Kutcher, and others) are the latest example of blue-collar chic to affect the denizens of Williamsburg and other wackishly hip neighborhoods- it's like wacker bars, only ten times worse. The Times last week decided to wade into the trucker-hat "phenomenon," looking more ridiculous, somehow, than those wearing the hats themselves. There's even a description of how people who live in Williamsburg are supposed to wear the hat one way while those from various other neighborhoods don it other ways. But the nadir of the story is this paragraph:
Now the hats have been scooped up by entertainers who seem to be seeking a rougher image. The actor Ashton Kutcher, on his MTV show "Punk'd," typically wears up to five different trucker hats per episode. (He spends a good portion of the time sitting in front of the camera shifting the hats on his head, which has been known to send purists into a rage)
If you're sitting at home watching "Punk'd," and you see Ashton Kutcher, and you're thrown "into a rage" by the way he's wearing his hat, then I'm sorry, there's something very, very wrong with you.
FROM THE HORSE'S MOUTH: The New York Post reports the astonishing news this morning that they have secured the services of Funny Cide, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, to write a daily column for the next three weeks, as he prepares to go for the Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes.
As they continue to hammer the Times for the Jayson Blair affair, the Post can't help but come across as hypocritical in this case. Like Blair, Funny Cide comes to paper at an unusually young age (3), without having graduated college, and without any previous professional journalistic experience of any kind. Also, like Blair, he's been warned in the past about ethical lapses. Blair claims to have been molested as a child; Funny Cide is a gelding.
Now I'm not sure if this is a matter of Funny Cide or his handlers kissing the ass of publisher Rupert Murdoch or editor Col Allan, or if it's some new affirmative action program for horses. But it's no good. The Post already has one drooling, sub-literate hack (Steve Dunleavy); it has no need for another.
We have to stop Funny Cide from writing for the Post. Right now.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "After winning the Kentucky Derby three weeks ago, Funny Cide won the Preakness today and will attempt to become the first gelding ever to win the Triple Crown three weeks from now at the Belmont Stakes. What's a gelding, you ask? Here's a hint: Doug Christie." -Jeremy Wahlman.
FIRST RUNNER-UP: "Actually, the man with the best chance of emerging as the star of this year's playoffs isn't even a player -- he's Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who's more fun to watch during the games than any of his players. He's wildly enthusiastic, filthy rich and completely accessible to the media. Cuban is proof that every once in a while the Wheel of Fortune lands on one of the frat boys in Delta House. Let me put it this way: When was the last time you saw Abe Pollin come to the games wearing a Black Sabbath T-shirt?" -Tony Kornheiser, the Washington Post.
Sunday, May 18, 2003 WORST MUSIC CRITIC QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "When I'm not dreaming of a Canadian-led invasion of the U.S. and a subsequent regime change that results in free nationwide health care and a Tim Hortons on every block, I ponder the enthusiasm I have for Killer Mike videos and whether or not it's appropriate for me to enjoy so much art and rock in a world that has been recently devastated by so much violence, hatred, and Aaron Brown." -Scott Seward, the Village Voice. I don't think you're allowed to write about music, theater, or film for the Voice anymore without throwing in multiple non-sequiter Bush and Ashcroft references.
Friday, May 16, 2003 THE WHITE STUFF: I pay tribute once again to Weird Al Yankovic in sharing the news that the lawsuit seeking to outlaw Oreo cookies has been dropped. And it wasn't until now that I realized the doctor originally behind the suit had borrowed two-thirds of my name: Stephen Joseph. Now I know how Lisa Marie Presley feels about that actress who used to date Tim Burton.
But seriously, while I rarely eat Oreos anymore I have long felt a special kinship with them, whether it was eating whole boxes of Double Stuffs over the course of all-nighters in college, or it's an award-winning story I wrote in 5th grade about a ficticious baseball game between the "Baltimore Oreos" and "Hydrox White Sox"- probably the first extracurricular thing I remember writing, ever. So let's all be glad that Oreos will be remaining legal- we are now one step closer to the removal of tyranny from the United States.
THE LAKE SHOW: CANCELED: The elimination from the playoffs tonight of the L.A. Lakers puts the final nail into the coffin of the NBA's '90s era- completing the process set in motion when Michael Jordan retired as a player and was subsequently dismissed by the Wizards. Sure, there's a better-than-average chance the Shaq/Kobe Lakers will win at least one more championship, but the fact that they were mortal (in a way that the Jordan-era Bulls never were) just proves that the league has entered a new era- the end of the NBA's Three-peat Period.
Yes, I know Tim Duncan and the Spurs won the championship in '99, the year before the Lakers began their run, but it's not just the Spurs: the Lakers starting next year will be just another contender. And with the influx of European and other foreign-born players, the dilution of talent in the league ever since the expansion of 1989 may now finally be subsiding- just in time for the arrival of LeBron James in the league next year.
And one more note about the Lakers-Spurs series, specifically the Phil Jackson heart scare: when I was in high school my rabbi had a similar scare, when blockages were found in his arteries that required an emergency angioplasty. Following that the rabbi (a Bulls fan and like Jackson an ex-hippie) proceeded to take three months off in order to recover. Phil Jackson, after having almost the same surgery, took three days off- and before the series was over his former teammate, Dave DeBusschere, died from a heart attack. Was anyone else just a little bit creeped out by his decision to return immediately? Like maybe Phil could have a heart attack at courtside at any moment?
Michael Wilbon's got a good column today on the demise of the Lakers.
GOOGLE ABUSE, CONT'D: Here are the latest misbegotten web searches that have led people here of late- seems to be a lot of fixation on athletes and their wives:
Thursday, May 15, 2003 ONLY IN THE NEW YORK POST, #45605: Yesterday, the Post ran, as a supposedly serious news story, a poll of the Most Hated New Yorkers. It contained the usual suspects (Trump, Lizzie Grubman, Mayor Bloomberg, Steinbrenner, Sharpton, etc.), and coming in at #1 is hated hotelier Leona Helmsley.
Later on we find out why: the poll was actually commissioned by Helmsley's lawyers, in order to prove that she is in fact the most hated person in the Big Apple. Helmsley, you see, is facing an upcoming lawsuit, and the purpose of the poll was to show that she can't get a fair trial in New York- an enterprising legal strategy, to say the least, one which involved leaking the questionable questionairre to the Post.
How is this a news story? How can such a poll, which was taken by one of the participants in order to sway a judge, possibly be considered legitimate, let alone scientific? Besides, it can't even be right: Helmsley, for the most part, hasn't been in the spotlight for a decade- how can she still be relevant enough to be hated is enough of a mystery. She's not even America's most hated Helmsley anymore.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "As a fake newsman myself, it’s always encouraging to see the profession catching on...If I can inspire one guy to make up all his sources, well then I’ve done my job." -Jon Stewart, complimenting Jayson Blair, on The Daily Show.
IN MEMORIAM: Two American icons passed into the sunset five years ago yesterday, as Frank Sinatra passed away, and "Seinfeld" went off the air, both on May 14, 1998.
Wednesday, May 14, 2003 THE PEOPLE VS. STEPHEN SILVER: I had to go to court in Hoboken yesterday morning to answer charges in a minor traffic matter which were incurred the day I moved a few weeks ago. Long story short, it was all the fault of the incompetent and corrupt folks at U-HAUL, and my case was dismissed save for a $20 fine.
I was pleasantly surprised at just what an entertaining experience it was sitting in the courtroom- if you ever have a few hours to kill on a weekday morning, I highly recommend visiting your local arraignment court- it's like watching a marathon of "Night Court." I watched as a man was arraigned on the charge of (illegally) operating a tractor within the city limits of Hoboken (?), was approached by three different defendents who thought, since I was wearing a suit, that I was their lawyer; and witnessed a DWI defendant sentenced to what sounded like The Ticketmaster Order From Hell: ("it's a $500 fine, plus a $150 penalty, plus a $100 'DWI surcharge,' plus a $50 'safe streets' penalty- oh yea, and your license has been suspended for two years."- don't drink and drive kids!)
But the highlight of the day was unquestionably the arraignment of a guy who clearly didn't speak a word of English. Well, maybe one word:
Judge: Do you wish to plead guilty or not guilty?
Judge: Do you speak English, sir?
Guy: [Mumbles some more]
Judge: Okay, I'll ask you one more: guilty, or not guilty?
And speaking of "Night Court," it really was one of the truly underappreciated sitcoms of the '80s, right there next to my favorite of the era, "It's Garry Shandling's Show." Groundbreaking in that it was the first (and last) lawyer show to be based entirely around an arraignment court, "Night Court" can almost be read as a Tom Wolfe-like commentary on crime-ridden, pre-Rudy New York: a city so desperate to process its endless rolls of criminals that they even had to arraign them at night. I'm still waiting for a "Night Court" DVD collection...
(And I'm not the only fan- awhile back I got a comment on this blog from someone using the name Reinhold Weege- an extremely obscure reference to the writer/producer of "Night Court" and "Barney Miller"; in one episode of "Night Court" we discovered that the John Larroquette character, Dan Fielding, had the given first name "Reinhold." Come to think of it, I'd be willing to wager that Mr. Weege once had a comical experience just like mine in arraignment court, and that's where he got the idea for the show!)
CRIMSON TIDE AT THE TIMES: In the Jayson Blair fallout, Mickey Kaus weighs the pros and cons of blaming the Blair Affair on affirmative action, or on editor Howell Raines and his tendency to promote those who suck up to him. Or both. Here's Mickey:
I remember getting a call from an aspiring young reporter I knew, asking for a xerox of an article Howell Raines had written about Alabama football. The reporter needed to read the article in order to suck up to Raines in a job interview. The reporter is now on the national staff of the Times.
Interesting that Raines is an Alabama guy. But what Kaus doesn't mention is that the second-biggest national racial brouhaha going on right now (after the Blair thing) is an effort by Jesse Jackson to challenge the recent hiring- by Alabama- of Mike Shula as football coach, replacing disgraced strip club-phile Mike Price. Jackson feels that a better candidate would've been Packers assistant Sylvester Croom (who is black), and has demanded a thorough investigation.
The last time Jesse Jackson interjected himself into a sports-related scandal in the South, you'll remember, was the Augusta National mess, and we all know how Raines reacted to that- and now it's going on in his home state. If he weren't held up with the prospect of losing his job, you've gotta think Howell would be jumping into the 'bama football story with both feet.
YOUR BIAS OR MINE?: I recently finished reading Eric Alterman's "What Liberal Media," his screed against what he considers the rightward tilt of today's news media. While I've generally not been a fan of Alterman's (he wrote a very pedestrian book about Bruce Springsteen, and his blog, Altercation, sucks), I was surprised by how much I enjoyed, and was persuaded by, his media book. I found his arguments well-argued and well-supported even when I didn't agree with them, which is much more than I can say for the book "What Liberal Media" is billed as a rebuttal to, Bernard Goldberg's "Bias." (Alterman also takes aim at Ann Coulter's "Slander," which I confess I have not read.)
Before and after reading either book, my opinion about the left or rightward tilt in the media has remained pretty much unchanged: the media is extremely large and by no means monolithic, and therefore slamming "the media" as "liberal-leaning," "conservative-leaning," "responsible for Columbine," or any other such blanket condemnations is silly and counter-productive- if one reporter or one newspaper does something stupid or unfair, it's their fault, not "the media's" fault.
Furthermore, I've long looked at bias as in the eye of the beholder: to a conservative, conservatism is fair, unbiased, and correct while the same is true of liberalism to a liberal. That's how people on the right can claim to honestly look at Fox News Channel as "unbiased," while those on the left can do the same with the New York Times.
While the idea of an "East Coast Elite Liberal Media With Their Cocktail Parties, Etc." began as an anti-Semitic canard that was advanced by Nixon and others, it's not without grains of truth. But as even Goldberg concedes, the bias of the New York Times, CNN, and the Jennings/Rather/Brokaw axis is more a matter of elitism than politics- of course their coverage leans to the left- but in a way that is more inadvertant than conspiratorial. As opposed to Fox News Channel, which was founded for the express purpose of injecting conservative bias into the national media.
Indeed, Alterman's book is at its best when describing the almost brilliant synergy in play among the Republican Party and various conservative media outlets, talk radio hosts, political activists, and think tanks (in a great piece in the Boston Phoenix this week, Dan Kennedy calls this the GOP Attack Machine). Alterman describes in detail how "liberal" media outlets are always inviting conservatives on for "balance," whereas conservative news organizations don't even bother with such efforts.
Alterman's argument isn't without its share of blind spots, however: The author completely discounts the considerable influence in national discourse of NPR, as well as the alternative press, and he ignores the influence the very liberal Times has on other media outlets nationwide. He also stretches considerably in slapping the "conservative" label on any journalist (from Howard Kurtz to David Broder) with a habit of quoting any Republican in a non-negative light. And if the Republican media juggernaut has as much power as Alterman says it does, it doesn't explain how Democrats ever win elections. There are also quite a few spelling errors (the author spells Gregg Easterbrook's name three different ways), and in two different sections he confuses which ones are "red states" and which are blue.
In a way, Goldberg and Alterman are both right. While "Bias" was a poorly written screed in which proving liberal media bias took a backseat to mean-spirited potshots at the author's former boss Dan Rather, he did make some valid points in regards to ridiculous ways in which people in network newsrooms are out of touch with their audience. Alterman makes the opposite argument even more convincingly, but obviously did much more research- his book consists of nearly 20 pages of endnotes, compared to Goldberg's zero.
Reaction to the books will likely fit along ideological lines: Fox News watchers will prefer "Bias," with New York Times devotees favoring "What Liberal Media." As a social liberal with some neocon leanings, I say the tie goes to the better-written, more intelligent book, and that undoubtedly is Eric Alterman's.
BARNEY GUMBLE REVIEWS '24': On Tuesday's episode of "24," (spoilers!) Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) actually spoke the line "my heart just stopped," becoming in all probability the first television character to utter that phrase since Barney, on a 1992 Simpsons episode called "New Kid on the Block." And while we know that Barney's heart stopped because he had spent several hours drinking beer straight from a tap at Moe's, we don't know what caused Jack's heart to stop and then suddenly start again ("there it goes"), but it may have something to do with the storyline three weeks ago when Jack was clinically dead for most of an episode, even though he was walking around, driving, and shooting people less than an hour later as though nothing had happened. Or perhaps it was his plane crash a few hours earlier, or the fact that a nuclear bomb detonated what looked like 100 feet away from where he was sitting.
It should go without saying that the second half of "24"'s second season (the "proving the recording is fake" part) has paled in comparison to the first half, the "finding the bomb" part. Not only is there less tension, but we've had long periods of little-to-no activity, and no holy-shit surprises on the level of the-blond-sister-is-really-with-the-terrorists moment. And of course not a single believable event has taken place since at least the third or fourth hour... but there is a chance it'll all be redeemed by next week's finale. Let's hope- I still stick to my Bob-Warner-as-ultimate-villain hypothesis.
ALL YOUR BASE: New York Magazine sex columnist Amy Sohn interviews a duo of teenage girls about the sexual habits of the earthbound Upper East Side schoolgirl. In a discussion of the "first base" system, and how it's changed over the years, Sohn asks the girls what their "slugging percentage" is.
Slugging percentage, I like that- sabermetrics as applied to teen sex. And just like in baseball, it sheds the sort of light on the subject that was unimaginable as recently as the '80s. However, I suppose on-base percentage is the most important statistic at all in that regard. How about that as a pickup line- "hey, what was your OPS in high school?"
Tuesday, May 13, 2003 DOWN WITH OREOS?: Alarming news out of San Francisco:
Kids in California may have to give up their Oreos, if a lawsuit filed by a San Francisco public interest lawyer is successful.
The lawsuit, filed last week in Marin County superior court, seeks a ban on the black and white cookies, arguing the trans fats that make the filling creamy and the cookie crisp are too dangerous for children to eat.
If you ask me, this is so fascistic that not even John Ashcroft would touch it.
AW, DAMN: At least ten Americans are dead in a terrorist attack in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The attack apparently was caused by multiple car bombs, and was timed to coincide with Secretary of State Colin Powell's visit to Riyadh. More as this develops.
BOSSES OF NORTH JERSEY: Today is election day for the city council in Hoboken and surrounding communities, and several slates of candidates are seeking to challenge those loyal to Hoboken Mayor Dave Roberts. Roberts, who despite his name is an Italian-American (and also owns a Mexican restaurant on my block), came to power two years ago, and is facing multiple challenges to his "Hoboken United" ticket. One day last week I saw Roberts shaking hands with constituents outside the Starbucks on Newark Street, while his blood enemies were conducting their mini-rally less than a block away.
One of the insurgent slates is led by Tony Soares, a city councilman who happens to be a dwarf, and got his start in politics as a national spokesman for the Little People of America. Two weeks ago, a clown entertaining children at a Roberts campaign event repeatedly used the word "midget" in his act, upsetting Soares who, ironically, holds the "at-large" council seat for Hoboken.
But the Hoboken machinations are nothing compared to what's going on in suburban North Bergen. Mayor Nick Sacco, also a state senator, is running for re-election as well as leading a slate of candidates in elections to fill the Board of Commissioners, and the mud has been flying mercilessly. Sacco's administration was investigated for corruption last year by the FBI, and while no wrongdoing was found on the part of the mayor, that hasn't stopped a truly bizarre campaign commercial from his opponents, in which they claim Sacco must be guilty because "the FBI doesn't make mistakes" (they don't?). The ad also complains that Sacco, who was elected in 1991, has been mayor too long, and "only communists and dictators stay for too long"; finally, they say Sacco "wants you to think he's the Saddam Hussein of North Bergen." Huh? I'm surprised they don't go the full monty and just call it "regime change."
MAGIC POTION: The Village Voice (in the person of writer Ta-Nehisi Coates) is coming down on Magic Johnson for agreeing to appear in a series of print ads for Combivir, an HIV/AIDS drug made by GlaxoSmithKline. Johnson, probably America's most famous carrier of the HIV virus, decided to make the ads in order to spread AIDS awareness in the African-American community; Coates and others see a problem with it, however, because Glaxo is one of the pharmaceutical companies that has sought to protect its patent, and thus prevented the proliferation of generic drugs.
There's one thing these people must realize: if it weren't for Combivir and other drugs like it, Magic Johnson would very likely be dead right now. Anyone who remembers Johnson's revelation in 1991 that he had tested positive remembers that the science of the time projected that Magic had, at most, 10 years to live. Last night, twelve years later, Magic (looking healthy, if a little chubby) was in studio for TNT's NBA playoff coverage.
As America's second-most famous carrier of the HIV virus has pointed out, if the companies that produce HIV and AIDS drugs had been forced ten years ago to start giving away all their drugs for free, they probably would've gone out of business, the revolution in AIDS drugs in the past five years never would've happened, and many, many people would be dead. So cut Magic some slack- with the exception of the scientists who have designed the drugs, he's probably done more for people with AIDS in the past decade than any other American.
SAD TIMES: I've read the New York Times' account of the Jayson Blair affair over and over again, and I'm left just shaking my head at how Blair could've gotten away with such a deception for so long. He was not only kept on with the Times after he'd been caught plagiarizing, but was promoted, and put on more important assignments, and allowed to advance despite possessing such of journalistic integrity, not to mention work ethic.
One of my journalism professors in college once told us, on the last day of class, that an important part of being a reporter is resisting the urge to "make stuff up"- because there will be days when you're on deadline, your source hasn't called you back, and/or you're 40 words short and need to come up with something. Blair clearly began breaking this rule right way, saw a lack of consequences, and just kept right on going.
Now I can understand the Times not figuring out that Blair never actually finished college (in the journalism profession, I've found, no potential employer that's interviewed me has ever bothered to check the veracity of everything on my resume- though you'd expect the Times to have higher standards). But what I don't get is how Blair was able to file from his apartment in Brooklyn while pretending to be in other cities- I remember a similar bit "The Daily Show" did with Mo Rocca back during the 2000 campaign, where Rocca was riding in a cab and told the cameraman not to pull back too far, or else Sixth Avenue would be visible and Rocca's deception about being out on the trail would be exposed. In Blair's case, every one of his friends must have been in on the scam- there must have been dozens of nights when he went out to the Williamsburg bars, only to have a story in the paper the next day filed from Washington, DC, or West Virginia.
Monday, May 12, 2003 TALKIN' SMACK: It used to be that in order to be suspended and/or fired as a columnist for the Boston Globe, you had to plagiarize (Jeff Jacoby), make stuff up (Patricia Smith), or both (Mike Barnicle). But now, longtime Globe sports columnist Bob Ryan has been suspended by the paper for a month without pay for saying on television that he'd like "to smack" Joumana Kidd, the wife of Nets superstar Jason Kidd.
No question that it was an incredibly stupid thing to say out loud, let alone on TV, and Ryan's refusal to take it back at the time was far beneath his well-earned reputation as a respectable journalist (Ryan has since apologized). But look at the ironies here: Joumana was, of course, smacked (literally) by Jason himself, and he was arrested for spousal abuse in January of 2001 (working for a league-affiliated publisher at the time, I stood in NBA headquarters two days later and watched as editors frantically removed Jason Kidd's likeness from the cover of the following month's issue of Hoop Magazine). And while Ryan was suspended a month for talking about smacking Mrs. Kidd, Jason Kidd actually did smack her and was not himself suspended, neither by the league nor by his then-team, the Phoenix Suns.
Ryan made the remarks on a local news show Sunday night, apparently angry that Mrs. Kidd has promoted herself to such a degree that she had begun using the couple's son, T.J., as a "prop" while attending her husband's games. She did the same thing last year when the Nets played the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, leading to chants by Celtics fans of "wifebeater" at Kidd, and supportive quotes from coach Byron Scott and teammate Kenyon Martin that the well-publicized history of spousal abuse was Kidd's "own business." Boston-area sports radio host Glenn Ordway memorably commented at the time that "the Yankees are playing at Fenway this weekend, and we haven't gotten a single call about it 'cause you people only want to talk about [sic] Jumanji." With the Celtics and Nets now once again playing each other in the playoffs, Boston-Joumana tensions have flared up once again.
While the anti-Joumana feeling in Boston is, I feel, mostly driven by a desire to get under the skin of opposing player Kidd, I believe that Joumana is hated for much the same reason that Hillary Clinton is hated: since she has chosen to remain married to a powerful man who everyone knows has mistreated her, she's seen as opportunistic and power-hungry by those already predisposed, for whatever reason, to dislike her. Indeed, numerous media outlets have reported that keeping Joumana happy is a big part of the Nets' strategy for getting Jason to re-sign when he becomes a free agent this summer; it's been rumored that she will be offered her own show on the YES network.
(Note: this post appeared on New York Press Daily Billboard on 5/13/'03) 9:05 PM
If the capital of the free humans in The Matrix is Zion, does that mean that Neo and friends are Zionists? And will CAIR put out a statement denouncing the movie for being anti-Islamic because of this?
Good question. Does this make Neo a Neo-con? That would certainly be consistent with his nascent Zionism.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Perhaps the most disheartening development of the war -- at home, anyway -- is the number of liberals who have allowed Bush-hatred to take the place of thinking. Speaking with otherwise perceptive people, I have seen the same intellectual tics come up time and time again: If Bush is for it, I'm against it. If Bush says it, it must be a lie. Their opposition to Bush has made liberals embrace principles -- such as the notion that the United States must never fight without U.N. approval except in self-defense -- to which the Clinton administration never adhered (see Operation Desert Fox in 1998, or the Kosovo campaign in 1999). And it has made them forget that there are governments in the world even more odious and untrustworthy than the Bush administration" -TNR's Jonathan Chait, in the Washington Post, rightly chastising those who can think of no political argument other than "Bush is a moron" (via Stuff From Wozz).
SEAWEED FOR THE SAC KINGS: Despite the season-ending injury to superstar Chris Webber, the Sacramento Kings beat the Dallas Mavericks 99-83 on Sunday to even their Western Conference semi-final series at 2-2. According to ESPN.com's account of the game, the Kings have one thing to thank for their victory: a "soothing seaweed bath" that was prepared for guard Doug Christie by his wife, Jackie, after the Kings lost Game 3 on Saturday. The bath inspired Christie to put up 13 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists, and supposedly encouraged his teammates to improve their play.
This would be bad enough even if we didn't already know about Mr. and Mrs. Christie's, shall we say, interesting relationship. You'd think Christie would've learned by now not to talk to reporters about his open submissiveness to his wife, after getting burned by the New York Times this time last year- and no, that story was not written by Jayson Blair.
ANOTHER REASON TO MAKE FUN OF DOUG: The notorious neo-Nazi and Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel is on trial in Toronto for the Canadian equivelant of racketeering, and he wept in court yesterday, claiming that he "owes [his] life to Adolf Hitler." Zundel's lawyer was quoted as saying "there's not one iota of evidence from a witness, but all hearsay. I don't think the certificate is reasonable and I don't think Mr. Zundel is a threat to the security of Canada."
The lawyer's name? You guessed it, Doug Christie. And while the NBA Christie once played for Toronto, I can't imagine Zundel would want to have anything to do with the biracial basketball star.
Sunday, May 11, 2003 WHY NOT HAVE A WEEK AND KILL KEANU REEVES?: "[Co-director Larry Wachowski] is one of the most intelligent people that I've ever had the pleasure sitting down and having a conversation with. You know, besides maybe Cornel West. Or even Sister Souljah." -"Matrix" co-star Jada Pinkett-Smith, having a "Sister Souljah Moment," in the current Entertainment Weekly. Interesting that Jada's favorite '80s-era, has-been rapper is Souljah- and not her husband, Will Smith.
Friday, May 09, 2003 FIVE YEARS FROM TIBET: Today marks the five-year anniversary of the historic visit of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama to my alma mater, Brandeis University. Now it's quite hard to describe what an extraordinary event this was: 1998 was also the 50th anniversary of both the State of Israel and Brandeis itself, but both of those commemorations took a back seat to preparations for His Holiness' visit.
Despite a full-court press of events and programming leading up to the visit, and the stirring speech delivered by His Holiness that day, the behavior of Brandeis' student body in reaction to the visit was nothing short of embarrassing. When the Dalai Lama emerged from his motorcade and memorably exchanged hugs with then-Hillel director Rabbi Albert Axelrad, the moment was nearly ruined when students began yelling, "aw, he's so cute!" Another student rubbed his head, quite a no-no in Buddhism I'm told. And even worse, most discussion I heard on campus the day of the speech had nothing to do with anything His Holiness had said or done, but rather centered on what other celebrities were rumored to be on campus that day. Richard Gere! The Beastie Boys! That made clear that even after months of special programming and teach-ins, the average Brandeis student didn't have a clue who the Dalai Lama was or what he stood for- to them he was just another celebrity. And one not as interesting to them, I may add, as Richard Gere.
This theory of mine was bolstered when Students for a Free Tibet, which at the time of the visit was one of the campus' largest student organizations, was de-chartered less than a year later, more for lack of interest than anything else. And have you noticed how Tibet's really started to fall down the list of trendy activist causes? I mean, the Beastie Boys aren't even talking about it anymore.
COMMENCEMENT BLUES: The graduation of the class of 2003, the final students that I ever attended Brandeis with, will take place on May 18. This year's honorary degree recipients include former Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke, "John Adams" author David MacCullough, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (?), and the commencement speaker, Israeli supreme court President Aharon Barak.
I've heard no big complaints yet about Barak, but I can say that with the exception of my year's speaker, Desmond Tutu, there was a lot of controversy over who the speaker was every year I was there, mostly driven by hypersensitive fools with easy access to the Justice letters page. In '97 it was then-German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who drew protest because some students found it "unseemly" for the leader of Germany to address a university of Jewish students, many of whom were descendents of Holocaust survivors. Yes, Brandeis actually came under fire for failing to pander to the irrational prejudices of peoples' grandparents. In '98 the honor went to Shimon Peres, who faced small but vocal opposition from the hawkish among the Brandeis community. And in 1999 a freshly back-from-space John Glenn was met with resistance from campus feminists, who were upset that both the former astronaut and the student commencement speaker that year were "white males named John." (Glenn didn't help himself, delivering a rambling speech in which he confused "Star Wars" with "Star Trek." No, the first human to orbit the Earth is not a sci-fi geek).
But these skirmishes were a mere warmup for 2001, when the honor went to Fidelity honcho Peter Lynch. Now setting aside that Lynch has raised literally hundreds of millions of dollars for charity, his selection left two different sets of pissed-off graduates- 1) activist/Marxist types who were angry that the home of "social justice" was awarding a degree to such a leading capitalist, and 2) those who had never actually heard of Peter Lynch, and were upset because they felt they were entitled to a more famous speaker. I told this story a while later to a friend and fellow 'deis alum (no, not him), who had the reaction that Brandeis wasn't worthy of Peter Lynch's presence.
Last year's speaker was Ted Koppel. No complaints from anyone that I can remember, though I would've liked to see someone start a movement to get Koppel bumped as speaker in favor of David Letterman, as ABC was considering at the time.
These stories should prove the existence of a pattern: Students at Brandeis like to complain. Right up 'til the end. 1:17 PM
SOMETHING WILD: The Minnesota Wild last night won Game 7 of their second-round NHL playoff series, defeating the Vancouver Canucks 4-2. With the victory the Wild became the first team in NHL history (and, I believe, the first in sports since the 1985 Kansas City Royals) to come back from 3-1 deficits twice in the same season.
The victory sets up a Western Conference finals between the 6th-seated Wild and the 7th-seated Anaheim Mighty Ducks, which is an even more unlikely matchup than the last Minnesota-Anaheim series, the Twins-Angels ALCS of 2002. The Quickie's way of pointing that out? "No. 6 Minny vs. No. 7 Anaheim."
This Minny thing is really getting out of hand, though this time Quickie author Dan Shanoff offends other cities as well, referring to Sacramento as "Sacto."
For comparitive purposes, and to make sure my hypothesis of no Minnesotan ever saying "Minny" was correct, I did a search of the Star Tribune's website. I found that in the past month the only Minny's mentioned were in a satirical column two weeks ago by Patrick Reusse, and a series of boxscores that included the name of South Korean women's golfer Minny Yeo. I think we should introduce Ms. Yeo to Dan Shanoff; perhaps they'll hit it off, Rushin/Lobo style.
And much as the Minny thing bugs me, I do find it kind of charming when ESPN.com columnist Ralph Wiley refers to his former employer, Sports Illustrated, as "The Illy." I'd love it if one time he called it "The Ill Na Na." 1:04 PM
TV CRITIC QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "Well, let ['Survivor''s Heidi] tell you: 'My strongest assets to this group are my athletic ability and intelligence.' Okay, maybe not, but she does have really, really enormous breasts, and if you don't think that can be an advantage, then you haven't met Rob." -Dalton Ross, handicapping who might win "Survivor: the Amazon," in Entertainment Weekly. How many people like me who haven't watched "Survivor" since the Colby/Tina season will tune in for next week's finale, just 'cause of that one line?
Thursday, May 08, 2003 ONE YEAR IN THE 'SPHERE: Today marks the one-year anniversary of the creation of this blog. Hard to believe it's been a year- as an out-of-work writer last spring I decided blogging might be a nifty idea to get myself writing every day, and in my first post I mentioned that that I had been inspired by sources as diverse as Andrew Sullivan, The Boston Sports Guy Bill Simmons, and The New York Press Daily Billboard. I never could've guessed that in the intervening year I would get to meet Andrew Sullivan, that Sports Guy would leave Boston for LA, or that I would end up actually writing for said Daily Billboard.
I am now very grateful to actually be gainfully employed as a working journalist, as well as to be read by a couple hundred people a day here. I want to thank each and every one of you who has read, commented, e-mailed, linked, blogrolled, mis-Googled, or otherwise come into contact with this blog in the past year; your support is very much appreciated. Thus begins Year #2...
(Isaac over at WKIKYA is also celebrating his blogoversary this week, congrats to him as well. If I remember the sequence of events correctly, I told him what blogs were and that I was about to start one, but he managed to get his online a few days before mine.)
ANOTHER REASON WHY I LOVE NORAH JONES: Not only is she beautiful and talented, but she supports Israel too. According the Forward, Norah will be appearing at a concert later this month in Washington, DC, celebrating the 55th anniversary of the establishment of the Jewish state. Also appearing will be Jerry Seinfeld, Ben Stein, the Israeli pop singer Noa, and veteran actress Tovah Feldschuh.
It's enough for me to forgive Norah's involvement with this Friday's so-called "free concert" in Battery Park, in conjunction with the Tribeca Film Festival. Sure, it's "free," if by "free" you mean you're able to win ticket drawings (and be the 103th caller) conducted by local radio station "Blink 102.7." Way to go guys, name a whole station after a feeble non-punk band, and put on fraudulant free concerts to boot!
Speaking of Norah, I recently got a funny Google search, apparently by someone who confused Jones' father, Ravi Shankar, with a certain radical African-American poet: Yes, when one Googles "'Norah Jones' father, Amiri Baraka," this blog comes up fourth. Though interestingly, Baraka made an appearance on the most recent album by The Roots, who co-headline the Tribeca concert along with Jones.
Something tells me Norah Jones wouldn't go within a hundred miles of an Israel tribute concert if Amiri Baraka really were her father.
ESOTERIC WEBSITE OF THE DAY: It's the Gay Russian Hall of Fame! From which we learn that Vladimir Putin, Kournikova ex Sergei Federov, Alexander Kerensky, first-man-in-space Yuri Gagarin, Vladimir Nabokov, and Ayn Rand are/were all of the homosexual persuasion. And also, perhaps more importantly, that noted chemist Vladimir Alexandrovich Fock was the "reputed inventor of the 'felch.'" Boris' Kitchen thanks you, Mr. Fock.
Inexplicably left out of the Gay Russian Hall of Fame? T.A.T.U. 7:53 AM
BEST IRAQ NEWS SINCE THE STATUE FELL: The young Baghdad blogger known as Salam Pax, whose blog was must-reading in the days leading up to the war but who was feared dead when the posts ceased at the start of the bombing, is in fact alive and posting.
THE DREADED REAR ADMIRAL: While Democrats have been critical of President Bush for staging last week's speech aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, Rear Admiral Stephen Pietropaoli (a Navy spokesman) said that Bush's speech did not cause any delays or substantive costs in the arrival of the carrier near San Diego.
I don't really have a joke or comment or anything else to say about the matter; honestly, with a rear admiral in the news I was just looking for an excuse to mention this.
THE NOT-MINNY SPORTS UPDATE: The Wild won Game 6 at XEC to force a deciding game in Vancouver. Awesome. The Twins have won three in a row. Yes. The Quickie hasn't used "Minny" in over a week. Woo hoo. But the coolest thing to happen in Minnesota sports this week? This box-score line (pointed out by TwinsGeek) from the 9th inning of the Twins' victory Wednesday over Tampa Bay:
Romero 1 0 0 0 0 3.
That's 1 inning pitched, 0 hits, 0 runs, 0 earned runs, 0 walks, and 3 strike-outs by JC Romero. What the box-score doesn't tell you is that Romero struck out the Devil Rays' second, third, and fourth-hitters, all swinging, on nine pitches. And the second was Rocco Baldelli, #2 in the AL in hits and the early favorite for Rookie of the Year. Damn. The Twins are now two games over .500; don't expect them under .500 again this year.
COMICAL AL Y.: Lex Friedman (quoting MTV.com) reports that "Weird Al" Yankovic's 12th album, "Poodle Hat," will be released on May 20, and will include a parody of the Eminem song "Lose Yourself." Yankovic's album will apparently arrive in stores prior to another project with an Eminem connection: "Songs in the Key of Poop," the long-awaited debut CD from Triumph the Insult Comic Dog; the album, which as of now has no announced release date, will presumably include Triumph's own parody of "Lose Yourself," "Lick Yourself."
Lex, for what it's worth, used to dress up as Weird Al for college a cappella concerts, and on at least one occasion sang an actual Yankovic song. A fitting tribute to a truly unique American artist, as Yankovic's career has lasted for so long that he's managed to parody both Vanilla Ice and Slim Shady.
I DID NOT HAVE SEXUAL RELATIONS WITH THAT WOMAN... OR THAT WOMAN: Recently deposed Alabama football coach Mike Price, in a defense previously used in a nearly identical situation by "Real World: Las Vegas" cast member Alton, now says he was "too drunk" to remember the events of the nudie-bar-trip-heard-'round-the-world, yet was apparently sober enough to categorically deny reports that he engaged in a three-way with a pair of women in his hotel room that night.
Now perhaps Mike Price's morals differ from mine (since he's a 64-year-old married man with grown children, that's possible). But if there were ever a published report somewhere that said I'd had sex with two women, let's just say that true or not, I wouldn't exactly be rushing to debunk it.
DESTINY'S CHILD: Ebay is selling a highlight video of Washington State's run to the Rose Bowl in 1997, when they were coached by Price. The title of the tape? "A Season of Destiny." The name of the stripper who brought down Coach Price? That's right, Destiny. Call Price's short Alabama career the "Non-Season of Destiny."
Adding insult to insult, Price appears on the cover of the video along with WSU's starting quarterback from that year. You might remember him- Ryan Leaf.
Wednesday, May 07, 2003 JUST ONE QUESTION: Why is it so horrible that Mets infielder Rey Sanchez got a haircut mid-game the other day, when such a key part of the mythology of the same team's 1986 Game 6 victory is that Keith Hernandez retired to the clubhouse, before the game was over, and had a beer? Would Sanchez's behavior have been excused had it happened during a World Series game?
MORE BLOGOSPHERE/WEST WING COINCIDENCE: After the Yourish thing and the resignation of Sorkin, Mickey Kaus posted an idea earlier this week to turn "West Wing" Republican once President Bartlet's term expires. Conservative blogger Patrick Ruffini then wrote in saying that he had in fact already written a right-wing version of "West Wing" (called, what else, "The Right Wing") last November.
Strangest thing of all though: the fictional Republican president in Ruffini's version is named Prescott. The episode of "24" that aired two weeks ago featured a coup by the hawkish and presumably Republican vice president, who successfully assumed the presidency. His name? You guessed it, Prescott! So I guess when "West Wing" goes GOP, references to war with "Kundun" and "Qumar" will be replaced by a general strike against, simply, "The Middle East."