Thursday, July 31, 2003 GONE PHISHIN': Blogging will be unusually light through Monday because I'm leaving soon to head up to Maine for IT, the two-day music festival being put on by the band "IT." I may bring my laptop and attempt some WiFi blogging, but that's iffy.
It's funny, that I keep going to these Phish shows. I like their music, but I wouldn't put them among my 40 favorite bands. I'm far from a countercultural character of any kind; I don't have a beard, I practice a decidely non-leftist politics, own not a single tie-dyed T-shirt, don't secretly wish I'd grown up the '60s, and don't really like to do drugs. I'm 25, which will likely put me in the oldest 10% of the crowd at IT; I'm also gainfully employed, and have never quit high school, college, or a job in order to follow Phish on tour.
So what brings this unlikely member into the Phish cult? I think it's that Phish shows are a true community experience, the sort of thing that bonds people together in the way few other current cultural phenomena are able- and I'm heading up there with three close friends, all of whom I've seen Phish with before. The previous Phish festival I went to, at Big Cypress in Florida in 1999, took place just a few months after the Woodstock '99 debacle, and was marred by none of the violence or rioting of its predecessor. Not to mention, Phish plays the sort of mellow music that's condusive to 70,000 people, together in a field, just chilling out.
This weekend may very well be my last-ever Phish show- I'm getting a little old for it, and besides, I find it sort of hard to justify that I've seen Phish five times in my life and Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan only once each. But I'm very much looking forward to a hell of a good time up in Maine with the rest of Phish Nation. If anyone reading this is planning on heading up, shoot me an e-mail; plans are already in the works for a mini-Blogger Bash.
SCARBOROUGH FAIR (AND BALANCED?): I've been watching a lot of MSNBC lately, due mostly to "Hardball" (where a presumably drunk Chris Matthews last week asked a guest if the WMD evidence was "bullshit"), and my new favorite cable news show, "Countdown With Keith Olbermann." Funny, irreverent, and refreshingly non-ideological, "Countdown" is clearly the best utilization of KO's talent since he left SportsCenter 6 years ago. Keith even beats the blogosphere to offbeat stories at least a few times a week.
After that one-two punch I often find myself catching the late-night replay of "Scarborough Country," the unabashedly conservative show hosted by former Florida congressman Joe Scarborough. In it's first few months the show was a note-for-note carbon copy of "The O'Reilly Factor," right down to the opening monologue, closing mail segment, and literally all of the host's mannerisms. But more recently "Scarborough Country" has carved out a new niche- virtually non-stop Hollywood-bashing, taken to a logical extreme when Joe took the show out to LA for a week earlier this month to interview many of his "enemies" face to face.
Hollywood-bashing has always been a popular, crowd-pleasing conservative cause. Even beyond its pandering to the family-values crowd, it allows righties to play the "liberal elite" card, and pursue the fiction that an evil cabal of elites in "Manhattan and Malibu" is actively seeking to subvert "the rest of America." References to nefarious "cocktail parties," by the way, are always- always- included in such rants.
Right-wing anti-Hollywood arguments fall into several general categories: Hollywood has a shocking, shameless "liberal bias" that's "out of touch" with the rest of America. Hollywood liberals are idiots who should "just shut up," because "no one cares what they have to say." And their movies suck anyway- especially Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Janeane Garofolo, etc.
To that I'll answer the charges question by question. And no, I'm not a Hollywood person, nor a lefty by any stretch of the imagination. But I know idiocy when I see it...
- Does Hollywood have a liberal bias? Of course it does. But unlike, say, the news media, the motion picture industry is under no professional obligation to be "objective" or "apolitical." A majority of Hollywood is liberal because creative types tend to be left-leaning- accusing Hollywood of having a shameless liberal bias would be like accusing Wall Street of having a shameless conservative bias.
- Are Hollywood stars "out of touch" with "normal Americans"? Sure they are- but not just when it comes to politics. Most Americans, for instance, don't make that kind of money or have that kind of lifestyle. You could also say, again, that CEOs, or athletes, or astronauts, are out of touch with "normal Americans." Since when was "being in touch with normal people" part of the job description for being an actor?
- Okay, so are Hollywood stars out of touch with the politics of "normal Americans"? Depends which stars, depends which Americans. Many Hollywood stars are liberal, some are conservative, most are apolitical. I'd say, yes, that Michael Moore is "out of touch" with most normal Americans, but he's hardly representative. But is the average Hollywood liberal out of touch with the average American? They're out of touch with conservative Americans, sure, but this line of reasoning implies that no one in the whole country outside Hollywood is a liberal. If that were the case, the Senate would be 98-2 Republican, as opposed to 53-47.
- Hollywood people should just shut up. Who cares what they have to say? Apparently, Joe Scarborough does, because he seems so obsessed with the subject that he devotes about half of his show each night to the political stances of the Hollywood left. Clearly, anything celebrity-related is a ratings bonanza, which is why it's on TV whenever Martin Sheen or Tim Robbins has something to say about President Bush.
And if it doesn't matter what actors have to say about politics, why do the O'Reillys and Hannitys of the world always make common guests of minor and/or has-been celebrities (Dixie Carter, Bo Derek, Lee Greenwood, etc.) who happen to be openly Republican?
Obviously, nobody cares more about Hollywood liberals have to say than hard-core conservatives. I mean, does anyone else but looking-for-outrage righties read Barbra Streissand's website rants?
- Are Hollywood liberals idiots? Clearly, people like Streissand and that lunatic Garofolo, with their al-Saeff-like counterfactual vituperation, aren't doing their cause a whole lot of good. But others, like director Rob Reiner and actor Ron Silver, are intelligent and articulate spokesman for the liberal cause. Buried in this is the deeper question of whether liberals or conservatives are more likely to be idiots- and I'm not touching that one with a ten-foot pole.
- Is there some correlation between being a Hollywood lefty and making bad movies? O'Reilly has tried to argue that George Clooney has had some kind of career meltdown since "coming out" as a liberal, though the facts don't bore that out- and besides, I can't wait to see Bill humiliated on Ludacris' upcoming album. Sure, a lot of the major lefties have made bad pictures, but three of the most vocal (Robbins, Sarandon, and Sean Penn) collaborated on a masterpiece ("Dead Man Walking"). Before his recent descent into madness, Michael Moore directed the near-legendary documentary "Roger & Me." And many of the great directors of the '70s were closeted, if not open, Marxists.
The careers of Garafolo, Alec Baldwin, and others have suffered lately, but that's not necessarily 'cause of their politics.
In his book Hollywood vs. America Michael Medved made many of the same points, but did it in a much more balanced, less mean-spirited manner than Scarborough, O'Reilly, etc. Ripping Hollywood on TV makes for effortless, fun, preaching to the choir, with high ratings to boot. But a huge blind spot for the American right remains its utter inability to understand popular culture- and this phenomenon of symptomatic of that.
Wednesday, July 30, 2003 QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Anything that contains the word 'universal' is bad but especially universal nudism. Can you imagine a world without clothes. It isn't hard to do. Think of all the cellulite, all the bauxite, the scabs, the oozing pussy sores, the butt pimples, the smelly genitals, the back hair, the under-wiped arses. You get the picture. Oh, sure, every once in a while you'll see a hotty but is it worth seeing the dregs of humanity nude? I don't think so. That reminds me, I used to think being a gynocologist would be a cool job. No more. Have you ever seen a eighty year old naked woman? I just know that only octogenarians would visit my practice and I would finally have to beat myself to death with those barbacue tongs they use to pry open the labradors (beaver lips)." -The World's funniest blogger, Bill Cimino.
WHERE'S WILBON?: I thought I was lucky getting three weeks of vacation at my job, but I've got nothing on Michael Wilbon- apparently the noted sportswriter has gotten the entire month of July off from both of his employers, ESPN and the Washington Post. His last Post column ran on June 26; and he hasn't assumed his chair on "Pardon the Interruption" since a few days after that.
In his stead, on the real best damn sports show period, we first had a week of Tony Kornheiser and various co-hosts, then one of Tony and Norman Chad, then yet another week of both hosts out (and replaced by surprisingly funny NBA reporter David Aldridge and WCCO legend Michelle Tafoya). This week it's TK and Chad again. I don't mind the other people, but Norman Chad really drags the quality of the program down- he's not funny, and not particularly knowledgable about any sort of wide range of sports. But I do appreciate that, in his short-lived 1996 ESPN.com (actually ESPNET Sportszone) column, Chad included a letter from me, in which I made the wildly inaccurate prediction that Barry Switzer would be fired as coach of the Dallas Cowboys and replaced by John Madden.
Wilbon's perspective has been missed, on issues from the Kobe Bryant case, to the Sprewell trade, to the Pete Rose pseudo-trial, to the whole "hunting bambi" fiasco. So get back soon Mike- and in the meantime, why not give StatBoy a shot at the co-host's chair?
Tuesday, July 29, 2003 FIRST "OZ" GETS CANCELED, AND NOW THIS...: Congress earlier this week approved the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003, a bill designed to eliminate what has long been a defining feature of prison life. The new law is expected to immediately end the career of comedian Norm MacDonald*. The bill passed both houses of Congress unanimously, which means that yes- even Rick Santorum voted for it.
(*Though on second thought, if there's any truth to some rumors I've heard about the Kobe Bryant case, this may in fact be in its infancy as a joke phenomenon...)
WHO? WHAT?: The World Health Organization has declared that they intend to eradicate instances of polio worldwide by 2005. Which brings up the natural question- wasn't polio eradicated 50 years ago? As Chris Rock said, "we haven't had to worry about polio since the first season of 'Lucy.'"
After '05, expect the WHO to devote all their best efforts to finding a cure for scurvy.
DANCE PARTY AT TARGET CENTER!: Just when you thought the Timberwolves were unstoppable after adding Sprewell, Cassell, and Olowokandi, they've finally made one more addition that's certain to put them over the top into championship glory: Yes, on Monday night the Wolves signed ex-Laker "Dancin'" Mark Madsen to a free agent contract.
Yea, you may laugh now, but keep in mind: the Wolves' top 7 players have a combined two championship rings (both Cassell's) among them; Madsen has three.
LET THEM EAT YELLOWCAKE: A few things to say about this whole WMD/uranium-from- Niger controversey: first of all, I'm sick to death of people referring to their opponents, their enemies, or anything they don't like as "weapons of mass destruction"- even if such things are neither weapons, nor massive, nor of destruction. It's the "otherwise the terrorists win" of 2003. I'm referring specifically to a speech by Congressman/alleged presidential candidate "Crazy Dennis" Kucinich, to whom apparently everything is a weapon of mass destruction other than the actual WMDs themselves:
Joblessness is a weapon of mass destruction. Poverty is a weapon of mass destruction. Hunger is a weapon of mass destruction. Poor health care is a weapon of mass destruction. Poor education is a weapon of mass destruction. Discrimination is a weapon of mass destruction
By that rationale, so is civic bankruptcy- like the one Kucinich precided over as mayor of Cleveland in the '70s.
We've also heard the silly modifier "weapons of mass distraction," the porn parody "Weapons of Ass Destruction," and so on. But that scandal has fallen off the front page in favor of the "16 words" President Bush said in the State of the Union address: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
Now notice: even though the now-debunked intelligence had Saddam purchasing uranium from the West African nation of Niger, Bush said not the specific country but rather "Africa." Why's that? Well, it's obvious- Bush's speechwriters clearly didn't trust the president to correctly pronounce Niger, as opposed to, uh, another word that sounds sort of like "Niger," only with one more "G." Such a faux pas, previously committed in a speech by California Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante, could hurt Bush's presidency more than all his previous Bushisms combined; it was indeed a wise move by the speechwriters to sidestep it. After all, we all know how much trouble Bush has had pronouncing that other, highly-loaded N-word: "nuclear."
A MIGHTY WIND: They've just gotta ruin all my illusions about the Twins championship teams, don't they? First, Kirby Puckett turns out to be a scoundrel and serial abuser of women. Now comes news that an elderly former Metrodome technician has admitted that for years he manipulated the air in the stadium to give the Twins an advantage.
"Twins cheating" rumors are nothing new- for years they were accused of stealing signs from the Dome's centerfield cameras. When I first heard the news about Dick Ericson's little scheme I had visions of the Twins having to take down the championship banners -a la the '97 Gophers and Fab Five-era Michigan basketball- but, it turns out, Ericson acted not on orders of the team, and it's debatable whether the wind even helped them that much at all.
Then again, maybe it was the wind, and not Kent Hrbek, that pulled Ron Gant off first base in the '91 World Series...
Monday, July 28, 2003 ABLAVSKY AND ASKEW: When it came out that the perp in last week's City Hall shooting, Othniel Askew, was a political opponent of the victim, James Davis, it turned on a lightbulb in the heads of many Brandeisians who remember the Ilya Ablavsky case. Ablavsky in 1999 was a Brandeis student who also decided to run for mayor of Waltham; Ablavsky was subsequently expelled from Brandeis- and arrested- for making bomb threats against both a student dorm and the home of his opponent in the mayor's race.
Now, new revelations in the Davis/Askew case have an even starker parallel with the Ilya Case- Askew allegedly shot Davis because he believed the councilman was blackmailing him about his HIV status- a claim identical to one Ablavsky supposedly made. Hell, maybe that's where Othniel got the idea.
UPDATE: Ilya Ablvasky writes in to say that he is not in prison or a mental insitution, and has in fact graduated college and is living a quiet life in Massachusetts. Good for him.
PLAGIARISM, FABRICATION, AND OTHER GOOD CAREER MOVES: Back when I took journalism classes in college, one of the first things they taught us was not to plagiarize. Not only was it unethical, but doing such a thing, my profs always said, was the sort of thing that could get you blackballed from working in journalism for life. If only it really worked that way...
Jayson Blair, the man whose lies, prevarications, and general incompetence brought down the editorial regime of the world's most popular newspaper, has accepted two magazine writing assignments- a piece for Jane Magazine on workplace stress, and a review for Esquire of "Shattered Glass," the forthcoming biopic of New Republic plagiarist Stephen Glass. Glass himself, meanwhile, has been commissioned to write a piece for Rolling Stone, while Mike Barnicle, fired from the Boston Globe in 1998 after years of documented plagiarism and prevarication, continues to appear on MSNBC nearly every day.
Leave aside Blair's hypocrisy in continuing to accept writing work, considering his infamous declaration that "Jayson Blair the journalist had to die." How the hell can any of these editors justify hiring writers with such a well-documented history of journalistic misconduct? I know my respect for GQ, Jane, and Rolling Stone, never high to begin with, has once again taken a nosedive.
Giving Jayson Blair a writing assignment makes about as much sense as hiring Robert Downey, Jr. to be the new drug czar.
I'VE SEEN THE LIGHTS GO OUT ON BROADWAY: Reason Number 34,502 why Mayor Bloomberg sucks- he's done away with one of the city's most beautiful sights, the nighttime lights on the Brooklyn Bridge. And in a city budget of hundreds of millions of dollars, the move saves a mere $75,000. I mean, that's just one less car for Russell Harding. 11:26 PM
Every other news organization in the country was reaching for the obits they’d prepared 15 years ago... I still think Hope died in 1997 when his contract with the devil was up, but his handlers kept it a secret until they could sneak his corpse past all the centennial brouhaha. Then they wait two more months to make it look convincing and "break the news." At least in George Burns’ case, they went ahead and announced he was dead the day after his 100th birthday.
THE QUARTER-CENTURY MARK: Today's my 25th birthday, so I'll be taking the day off from blogging. Today also, incidentally, is the 25th anniversary of the release of "Animal House" -yes, it came out the day I was born.
Meanwhile, I don't think I'll ever forget that the day I turned 25 was also the day Bob Hope died, Liza Minnelli and David Gest separated, and John Kerry referred to "Muslim-speaking countries." Yep, people always used to ask me if I "speak Jewish."
Sunday, July 27, 2003 ALL 'TALK': I finally caught Pedro Almodovar's Oscar-winning "Talk to Her" over weekend and enjoyed it immensely- though I have to say it's only the second-best sexually explicit Spanish-language film of 2002, after "Y Tu Mama Tambien." At any rate, "Talk To Her" had no transvestites, and no Penelope Cruz, which in my view are two points in its favor over Almodovar's previous picture, "All About My Mother."
One other comment on "Talk to Her"- much has been made about the faux "short film" within the film in which a husband, having shrunken to a height of three inches after injecting a "shrinking serum," literally walks into his wife's vagina. If this sequence looks familiar, it's because liiterally the same thing happened in a 1990s American film- Howard Stern's infamous "Butt Bongo Fiesta" video. Though I'd wager a significant sum that the Stern video was not seem by the vast majority of people who saw "Talk to Her"- or, for that matter, Almodovar himself.
RECENT MISBEGOTTEN GOOGLE SEARCHES THAT LED PEOPLE HERE: 'cause I haven't done this in awhile:
Saturday, July 26, 2003 JACK REPUBLICAN VS. TED DEMOCRAT: I found this on a newsgroup; Michael Moore and Ann Coulter couldn't top it if they tried:
Bush bush, George W. Bush, Bush Republicans corporations
Bush George W. Bush George H.W. Bush, Republicans and Bush.
Obviously Bush hasn't bushed bush bush Bush George W. Bush into
the Middle East, but Bush George W. Bush George H.W. Bush to
the Florida elections and Bush Republicans GOP Bush Bush Bush.
This issue is crystal clear.
Liberal hogwash - Clinton Clinton Bill Clinton Hillary Clinton and
Monica, Clinton impeachment Clinton, Clinton Bill Clinton Democrats
Clinton and the Democrats as well as Clinton, Bill Clinton, William
J. Clinton, Clinton Bill Clinton, Democrats Clinton socialist Clinton
the Democrats, Clinton Clinton Willian Clinton? Obviously not,
but the liberals never have an answer for that.
Typical. Like George W. Bush never rich people George Bush
WASP mafia Bush George Walker Bush GW Bush clearchannel
corporations the Florida elections (Dan Quayle). GOP Bush
Bush Texas GOP Bush. Do you want an elite dictating your
life? None for me, thanks.
Friday, July 25, 2003 TYPO OF THE YEAR: From an AP story about the new arena in Houston, which will play host to the Houston Rockets of the NBA, Comets of the WNBA, and Aeros of the minor-league American Hockey League:
The new arena, scheduled for completion in September, will be host to the Rockets, the WNBA's Houston Comets and the Minnesota Wild's minor-league hockey affiliate, the Houston Aerosol.
The Aerosol? Zamboni or not, they've gotta be worse for an ozone layer than any other team in hockey history.
BOBO MAKES GOOD: The New York Times this morning made the surprising announcement that David Brooks, the Weekly Standard editor and author of Bobos in Paradise, has been hired as the paper's newest op-ed columnist.
Always a funny and engaging writer, Brooks will make a fine addition to the page which, despite the continuing brilliance of Mr. Friedman, has been stuck in recent years on the stodginess of William Safire and the repetitive ramblings of Paul Krugman, Maureen Dowd, and Bob Herbert.
A SAVAGE PROFILE: A lengthy interview with Sen. Rick Santorum in the current issue of GQ does not at any point mention Dan Savage's little contest that re-appropriated the senator's name. What a shockingly dishonest piece of journalism- that's why I don't read GQ.
The looming vote on whether or not to recall Gray Davis is the political equivalent of professional wrestling's "King of the Ring" event: Everyone gets inside the ropes and starts swinging.
The "King of the Ring," actually, is an annual tournament that's a series of one-on-one matches- primaries, if you will- more akin to regular politics. I think Hugh meant to compare it to the annual Royal Rumble, where 30 guys all fight it out in one ring.
Still though, it can't be a coincidence that the favorite to unseat Gray Davis is Arnold Schwarzeneggar, a lifelong friend of wrestler/governor Jesse Ventura.
SPREE KILLING: It's a done deal: Latrell Sprewell is a Minnesota Timberwolf, and will likely be moving his yacht to Lake of the Isles any day now- and maybe he'll buy Prince's old house while he's at it. And I was wrong yesterday- the Post did indeed use "Minny" in the trade headline, just in the print edition only; and in yet another fit of passive-aggressive pique, the Post sports department in the accompanying graphic used the old Wolves Wolf-head-in-basketball logo, the one the team stopped using in 1996.
At any rate, the trade gives the Wolves by far the most star-studded lineup of any Minnesota sports team in history. Forget the Twins- I haven't been this excited about the start of a Wolves season since the "All nude, tastefully done" Garnett/Marbury era.
Meanwhile, hot on the heels of the Spree/Van Horn/Robinson trade came news of another rumored blockbuster- an odd trade of undersized white centers in which the Pacers will exchange Brad Miller for the Kings' Scot Pollard- but then both teams will give players (Ron Mercer and Hedo Turkoglu, respectively) to San Antonio, essentially for free (the Spurs may toss in a draft pick or two). It sounds completely nonsensical, but the rationale is that both the Pacers and Kings will gain salary cap space by getting rid of those players for nothing while the Spurs, still holding on to oodles of space that Jason Kidd didn't want, would be better off using it on two players in the last years of their contracts than on a multi-year deal for Stephen Jackson. That way they'll have extra space next year for free agent Manu Ginobili. Got that, everyone?
JAMES DAVIS, RIP: New York City Hall was the site of tragedy on Wednesday afternoon, as City Councilman James Davis was shot and killed in a balcony above the council chamber, allegedly by his political opponent, Othniel Askew. Davis, a former cop and longtime anti-violence advocate, represented the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn.
It's unclear so far what the story is behind the murder, but a few things seemed a little off- if Askew, the shooter, was shot on the scene, then why did Mayor Bloomberg and others give everyone in the city the impression for two hours that the killer was still on the loose? With alternating descriptions that he was a "light-skinned black man" and a "dark-skinned black man." Apparently Askew and Davis were both immediately rushed to a hospital, but how come none of the 50-odd people in the room noticed that the shooter was also gunned down, without escaping? Guess this proves the old adage that the least reliable testimony is eyewitness testimony.
Speaking of Bloomberg, he just proves himself more of an idiot every day. Rudy, as we all know, was the king of the post-calamity press conference. But Mayor Mike? His first statement was that the shooting was "a crime against all Americans" (say what?) and he later said that Wednesday was "the roughest day I've ever had in this city. (Huh? Did you forget September 11?) That, on top of the whole bungling of the "escaped shooter" thing, shows once again that this guy's in way over his head. At least initial fears that the murderer was a disgruntled smoker proved unfounded.
LET MY PEOPLE GO: In Jersey City today to renew my driver's' license, I came across a Mediterrean restaurant called Pharaoh's Palace. I did not go into that restaurant, however, because I felt that as a Jewish person eating lunch in Pharaoh's Palace would be like returning to bondage in the land of Egypt.
I mean, would it be acceptable to open a Southern soul-food restaurant called Massa's House?
(Pharoah's Palace, incidentally, regularly hosts belly dancing).
GOOD HUMOR: A question from the practice test for the New Jersey Department of Motor Vehicles:
10. You needn't stop your vehicle for a frozen dessert truck when:
a. it shows flashing red lights
b. it shows a stop signal arm
c. a person is crossing the roadway to or from the frozen dessert truck
d. on a dual highway if you're on the other side of a safety island or median from the frozen dessert truck
No need to stop for an ambulance or anything, just the ice cream man.
Wednesday, July 23, 2003 SHOPPING SPREE: Despite the widespread belief that, due to their first-round playoff loss to the Lakers, the 2002-'03 season was a "failure" for the Minnesota Timberwolves, they did finish the season with the fourth-best record in the NBA, better than any team in the Eastern Conference. And even after that, the Wolves have dramatically improved themselves in the off-season so far- trading franchise embarrasment Joe Smith for Sam Cassell, signing the high-upside free agent Michael Olowokandi to instantly become the best center in franchise history, and now, if ESPN pretty-boy Ric Bucher is to be believed, they've brought in Latrell Sprewell.
Spree's move to the Wolves is part of an NBA mecha-trade, which may contain up to five teams. Assuming the deal doesn't all fall apart (which is possible; remember the six-team super-trade in 2000 that was supposed to send Allen Iverson to Detroit, kiboshed by some minor player exercising a no-trade clause?), the Wolves will acquire Sprewell from New York, giving up nothing but third-string center Marc Jackson and the contract of soon-to-retire point guard Terrell Brandon (Brandon's contract is going to Atlanta, who will get cap space; I'd like to see how the Hawks' new ownership explains to their fans why they traded their best player, Glenn Robinson, for a guy who will probably never play again). Robinson will head to the Sixers under the scenario, while Philly trades 6'10" laughingstock Keith Van Horn to the Knicks.
Sprewell would give the Wolves far and away their best lineup ever- with Kevin Garnett, Wally Szczerbiak, Sprewell, and 'Kandi, the Wolves would be strong candidates to lead the league in scoring, and a successful season will encourage KG to re-up when he hits free agency a year from now. I've never been a fan of Sprewell personally- and I've long said that thug-type players don't fare well in Minnesota (see Moss, Randy), but it's hard to beat getting something for nothing. And Spree, after all, is a Midwestern native (he grew up in Milwaukee).
Meanwhile, the trade has (predictably) gone over about as well in New York as Bloomberg's smoking ban. Spree was, after all, the most popular Knick of recent years, while Van Horn is absolutely reviled in New York due to his years of stinking up the joint with the Nets- as a local sportswriter once wrote about him, "the only thing uglier than Van Horn's haircut is his game." His uncanny resemblance to gay current Real Worlder Simon (as pointed out by Sports Guy) doesn't help either; on WFAN tonight calls ran about 25-1 against the trade, with the lone "pro" vote coming from a guy who likes Van Horn 'cause his name is also "Keith."
I give no predictions, other than a "Minny" headline in Wednesday's Post. (UPDATE: The Post resisted the temptation, but the Quickie says (emphasis mine) that "the Spree/Cassell [sic] brings more winning instinct than Minny frontcourt combined.")
AND SPEAKING OF MINNESOTA SPORTS: Welcome to those of you who clicked over from Aaron's Baseball Blog; Mr. Gleeman was kind enough to name me his "Link of the Day." If you came here from there, I should mention- in the post below in which I referred to sabermetrics as "bullshit," I was of course being facetious.
MEMOIRS OF A FISKING: I've gotten lots of e-mail about my anti-Charlotte Kates fisking of earlier this week; here are some of the better comments, with my responses:
This lil Red Kaffiah Hood decided to throw the event during a Jewish Holiday, thus extinguishing many people that would go to this event. Although I believe that many Conservative and Reform will go to the event to counter protest this confused demogogic delusional whackjob, it is important to get this event cancelled.
For those unaware, Kates' conference is scheduled to begin on the first night of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. The last time a hateful anti-Israel action was planned to coincide with a Jewish holiday, it was 1973 and they called it "the Yom Kippur War."
Fantastic piece of writing, Steve! I think the New York Times should fire Chris Hedges and hire you in his place!
Thanks, and I'm with you on the "Fire Hedges" bandwagon, but I'm not quite sure I'm Times material. Not to mention, of the 40-some columns I wrote for my college newspaper the only submission ever killed by my editors was the one where I nominated myself to succeed Janet Maslin as New York Times film critic.
Mark my words. The NYT article is the beginning of a total psychological meltdown for poor, young Charlotte. It will eventually destroy -- or transform -- her. She has no idea what has been unleashed. And she can thank the NYT for it. Altho ultimately, it's her own responsibility.
Within five years, she is headed for:
1) Ardent neo-con transformation, or
2) Irreversible nervous breakdown, followed by long-term hospitalization.
She sounds like she's already out of her friggin' mind.
Charlotte as a neo-con? Hmm, I could see her as an Ann Coulter type- she already has the Ann-like habit of defending the indefensible, as well as spouting off complete nonsense as though she actually believes that it has validity. Though on second thought, I suppose option 2 is considerably more likely. She can't pull off Coulter's pseudo-glam look, especially not with that darn Kaffiyiah in the way.
Just as Charlotte (Kristin Davis) is becoming a Jew on "Sex and the City," this other Charlotte has to come and trash the Jews. What gives?
Also, it'll be awhile before I'm able to enjoy Dr. Pepper again.
Good fisting ... er, fisking. I imagine this loopy bitch is against fisting too, as it reinforces the patriatrchal power structure, or whatever such bullshit reactionary liberals like to spout.
I'm not about to speculate about Ms. Kates' sexual proclivities, but I will say one thing- there's nothing "liberal" about Charlotte and her ilk. As my old professor Jerry Cohen used to say, "joining the Communist Party isn't like signing up for the College Democrats."
Gordie [Fellman, Brandeis prof. of Sociology] was talking about nominating Hedges for an honorary degree from Brandeis- I wanted to vomit when I saw that.
Damn. I always liked and got along with Gordie personally, but you've just gotta shake your head at some of his cockamamie political causes. I mean, why not give Mumia Abu-Jamal an honorary degree while we're at it?
(Oops, bad example).
DEAD AND LOVING IT: In the latest in a series of geopolitical deaths that I can't seem to get too upset about (Idi Amin's will be next), Saddam's sons Uday and Quesay Hussein were killed Tuesday in a firefight with US troops. The Hussein boys were reported dead at least twice during the war- but, apparently, we mean it this time. Uday and Quesay Hussein are still dead.
In a bizarre, ad-libbed, unintentionally hilarious comment, Chris Matthews tonight gave Uday and Quesay the perfect epitaph: "they had pig Latin names, and one of them was a pervert."
Tuesday, July 22, 2003 QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Pootie Tang will draw you a picture of how he gonna kick your ass, then mail it to you ten days in advance. The picture gets there right? You're goin', 'What the hell is this?' and then Pootie Tang knocks on your door, Promptly kicks your ass and you still won't know what happened to you!" -Chris Rock, in "Pootie Tang," unquestionably the most underrated American film of the past five years.
WINNING TWINS: After entering the All-Star Break with an eight-game losing streak, the Minnesota Twins have won five straight since, including a four-game winning sweep of Oakland in which they beat Hudson, Mulder, and Zito on consecutive nights. And despite hysterical denunciations of the Stewart/Kielty trade from all corners of Twins Nation, Shannon Stewart has been knocking the cover off the ball, and the Twins haven't lost since they got him.
Stewart-for-Kielty working out? The A's losing four straight? Shea Hillenbrand tearing it up for Arizona? Bill James embarrassing himself on the witness stand in the Rose trial? Maybe that sabermetric stuff is bullshit after all.
IDI GOURMET: Ugandan madman and former dictator Idi Amin is said to be near death in Saudi Arabia, having lapsed into a coma from which he is not expected to awaken. The news has led to a comical sequence of events- with some demanding that Amin, who has been exiled since falling from power in 1979, be allowed to return to Uganda, with others threatening that if he does, the presumably still-comatose Amin will have to face trial for war crimes. It would have to be a quick trial, seeing as how Amin could die at any moment.
My take? As soon as Amin dies, send him back to Uganda to be eaten.
KOBE'S BEEF: It's hard to have anything to say about this Kobe Bryant case, when so little is known at this point- all we know is that Bryant's reputation seems irreparably damaged, and that we're almost certainly headed for a trial that'll make OJ look like nothing.
A couple of observations about the press conference Kobe and his wife Vanessa held on Friday: watching a Lakers superstar call a press conference to make an embarrassing admission of a sexual nature was just a bit eerie, remembering Magic Johnson do the same thing 12 years ago. And in that conference Kobe had shaved both his head and his goatee, in the process re-claiming the look he had his rookie season. Back then I remember noticing that Kobe looked a lot like the late rapper Tupac Shakur, who had been murdered merely weeks prior to Bryant's debut in the fall of 1996; knowing that Tupac was convicted at least once on sex-abuse charges, perhaps Kobe should've thought twice about his little makeover....
Monday, July 21, 2003 FISKING CHARLOTTE: I've never met Charlotte Kates, the second-year Rutgers law student who is spearheading this fall's anti-Israel conference at that New Jersey university. Several friends of mine, active in campus affairs, have, and they inform me that she's a hostile, short-tempered backbiter. But that's irrelevant… what's important is that the Paper of Record, the New York Times, has assigned its most notoriously anti-American reporter to write a glowing, Page 2 profile of Ms. Kates, drawing a picture of a committed youngster drawn to the political causes of the downtrodden- but hey, she drinks Dr. Pepper just like the rest of us.
A woman so committed to solidarity with the Palestinians that she wears a red kaffiyeh everywhere she goes (despite her status as a white girl from New Jersey), Ms. Kates has according to the article been a committed Communist since the age of 13- yet a quick Google search reveals her onetime association with yet another shadowy organization. Kates was once a member of the Church of Scientology, before breaking with them, and adding anti-Scientology to her laundry list of activist causes. Strange that such a committed Marxist-Leninist could not only support an Islamic holy war movement but also join the Church of Scientology; stranger still that Mr. Hedges saw fit to omit this pretty crucial fact from his elaborate description of Charlotte's life story.
There's been much talk that since Joseph Lelyveld returned to succeed deposed Executive Editor Howell Raines, the Times has continued its former habit of underhanded Israel-bashing- but in the two months since Raines quit there hasn't been anything as egregious as this Kates valentine. Forget Jayson Blair- this piece may be "a low point in the 140-year history of the newspaper."
Anyway, on with the fisking:
By CHRIS HEDGES
Of course, one of the most problematic parts of the story is its byline. Hedges is the same reporter who stood up in front of the graduating class of Rockford College and gave a rambling, anti-American speech that had little to nothing to do with graduation or the students.
Hedges, of course, is not a columnist or editorial writer, but merely a reporter- and conferring glory upon an admitted Communist who vocally supports terrorism is apparently his idea of a human interest story. Kind of like Bill Ayers, the 1960s Weather Underground member whose many plots included an attempt to blow up the Pentagon. The Times decided to promote Ayers' autobiography with a glowing profile- which ran on the morning of September 11, 2001. Oops.
WHEN Charlotte L. Kates was in elementary school, she devoured a series of books on foreign countries. One nation, however, captured her imagination. She was in the family car on her way to a children's arts festival in Philadelphia, when, she said, the utopian vision of a communist society in the Soviet Union leapt off the pages and inspired her to be a revolutionary. She never looked back.
That, I'd say, is the problem. Even though, as she got older, Kates presumably learned all about the tens of millions murdered by Stalin, the religious discrimination, the Hitler/Stalin Pact, the gulags –not to mention the ultimate failure of communism worldwide- she never looked back.
The governor met with the Rutgers president, Richard L. McCormick, yesterday to discuss the conference, among other things. According to the governor's office, Mr. McGreevey left the meeting supporting Dr. McCormick's decision to let the conference take place.
Hedges, of course, leaves out the fact that, in a strongly-worded letter to the student body that went beyond usual college-president mealy-mouthing, McCormick wrote that he "strongly disagrees" with the message put out by Kates' group and refused to endorse the conference. (Full disclosure: I briefly worked on McGreevey's 2001 campaign).
Ms. Kates also stirred up the campus in March when her organization reserved banner space for two weeks at the Douglass College Center. The banner read: "From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will be Free" "It was a call for all land between the Jordanian River and the Mediterranean to be returned to the Palestinians," she said.
Hmm, and how does Kates suggest getting all those Jewish people out of Israel? By asking nicely? Ethnic cleansing? Genocide? And Kates also forgets that unlike in any Arab country, Arabs in Israel enjoy both the right to vote and the right to serve as elected representatives.
And also, "The Jordanian River"?
Such a call also meant Israel would be wiped off the map. The Israel Action Committee of Rutgers organized a sit-in at the center demanding that the banner be removed. It was not.
So she somehow managed to thwart the will of the International Zionist Conspiracy and keep the banner up. Way to go, Char!
New Jersey Solidarity takes a hard line in its support of the Palestinians.
Gee, ya think? In refusing to recognize the state of Israel and dismissing out of hand the idea of a peaceful two-state solution, Kates is taking a position to the left of both Yasser Arafat and Edward Said.
Ms. Kates will not, for instance, condemn suicide bombings
Wow, how "brave" of her. Does this mean she volunteers to go become a suicide bomber herself? I'm sure not many at Rutgers would complain if she took that step, or if she went to Gaza and stood in front of a bulldozer. Because whenever I see dozens of people blown to smithereens in a pizza parlor, on a bus, or at a Passover seder, the first word that comes to my mind is "solidarity."
saying "it is not our place in the United States to dictate the tactics Palestinian groups use in the liberation struggle"
Then how is it her place, in the United States, to demand the Palestinians wipe Israel off the map?
"The book quoted the 1917 revolutionary slogan: peace, land, bread and freedom," she said. "This idea hit me. I had to find out more about socialism."
Judging by her subsequent life path, that must have been the last history book Kates ever read. The Berlin Wall fell when Charlotte was 9; apparently she wasn't paying attention when everyone from East Berlin crossed to freedom in West Berlin, and not the other way around.
She looked up the American Communist Party's local chapter in New Jersey, where she grew up. She rode her bike on Sunday afternoons to local party meetings. By age 13, she said, she had joined the party, paying monthly dues of 50 cents.
Chris Hedges obviously thinks it's "cute" that a 13-year-old girl would join up with the local Communist Party; I'd tend to think of such a thing as "child abuse."
Her decision to "side with the oppressed, liberation movements and the working class"
Before she personally wipes Israel off the map, maybe Charlotte should think about joining a Kibbutz- last I heard, those people were socialists too.
In the seventh grade, she agitated to loosen the dress code at her school and reduce the lunch fees. "It was called the `lunch costs too much campaign,' " she said.
Had Charlotte lived her dream of growing up in Soviet Russia, the cost of lunch would've been the least of her worries; I'd imagine she'd have been more concerned about the breadlines.
Her small dorm room at Rutgers, which she shares with three other first-year law students, is decorated with the requisite picture of Che Guevara, a hero of the Cuban revolution, along with a poster of Nabil Salameh, a slain radical Palestinian leader.
Of course, if Charlotte lived in Cuba, her anti-government activities (and wall decorations) would likely get her thrown in jail.
A poster on the wall reads: "Long Live the Proletarian Feminism of the Heroic Red Women Fighters of Peru."
Because if there's anything Palestinian society is known for, it's feminism.
She has a weakness for Dr. Pepper. There was a case on her floor.
Ha! And as we all know, Dr. Pepper is produced by corporate, imperialist, capitalist swine. How dare she drink it!
The day after being featured in an article in The New York Post this month with the headline "Rutgers gets `F' For Putting Anti-Semitism 101 on the Schedule," she lost her summer job as a customer service representative for an electronics company in Teaneck.
The "article" Hedges references was actually a column by Andrea Peyser which, unlike the Times profile, made no reference to Kates being a communist. Let's see her try to get a job now!
"They told me it was because they were doing financial restructuring," she said, her signature red kaffiyeh draped around her shoulders, "but I have my doubts."
Maybe it was the "signature red kaffiyeh" that got her fired. Seriously though, would you let someone who publicly supports suicide bombing work in your office?
In writing this, I come not to bury the Palestinian cause. While I consider myself a strong supporter of the state of Israel, I am not blind to the suffering of the Palestinians, and I believe that a peaceful, two-state solution is the only viable long-term option for either side. And while my friends close to the situation believe that October's conference should not take place, I say (as our president said), "bring it on." Let there be a massive counterdemonstration that thoroughly embarrasses and discredits Little Red Kaffiyeh Hood.
It greatly pains me that a demagogue such as Charlotte Kates, who has shown in her writings and public utterances both about the Middle East and about communism that she has little to no grasp whatsoever of history, is getting such a large amount of attention for her hateful, self-righteous, ill-considered cause. Especially when it comes from a "respectable" source such as the New York Times. Bill Keller, I'm counting on you to put an end to journalistic garbage like this.
PUTTING DOWN THE REBEL: One of my favorite blogs in recent months has been that of the Hasidic Rebel, a gentleman who lives in one of Brooklyn's ultra-Orthodox communities and reports daily on the goings-on of a world that very few outsiders ever get a chance to glimpse. And while the Rebel (who has never revealed his real name) is often critical of the community and its leaders for being racist, exclusionary, and corrupt, he's made it perfectly clear all along that there are many things he loves about Hasidic life, and that's what keeps him in the fold. He's been compared to clandestine Baghdad blogger Salam Pax, though a more apt comparison may be to Andrew Sullivan, who refuses to renounce his Catholicism, his conservatism, or his homosexuality, despite the multiple contradictions inherent in his status.
It was only a matter of time before the Rebel was profiled in a mainstream publication, and profiled he was, by William O'Shea in last week's Village Voice. O'Shea deserves credit for bringing this story to the forefront, but not much credit at all in the way he did it: in true Voice style, the reporter came into the piece with an agenda, and let facts be damned.
O'Shea's story makes it look as though the Hasidic Rebel blog were merely a laundry list of the evils of Hasidism, and that the Rebel is a "prisoner" in the community much the same way that Salam Pax was in Saddam's Iraq. While the Rebel is often critical of the more repressive tendencies of his community, he's clear that there is much he loves about being there, and that's the reason he hasn't left- a fact that isn't even touched on in the Voice piece. Did O'Shea read the blog at all, other than to pull two or three inflamatory quotes?
(Full disclosure: the Rebel writes "William O'Shea, among a handful of other writers for various publications, requested the interview for the Village Voice. His was the first request and the only one I gave." I was one of those other writers, but O'Shea apparently beat me to the punch).
PRISON BITCH: Has any news story ever been more of a conservative wet dream that this convicted murderer who wants a government-funded sex change? It's got every thing to raise the bile of dittoheads: government waste, softness on crime, sexual deviancy...
Mark Lewis Brooks has been in prison for the last 12 years for a murder, at some point in prison realized that he was more comfortable as a woman (gee, imagine that...), and now wants the state to pay for his "psychotherapy, electrolysis, hormonal therapy, breast implants and 'genital reassignment' surgery."
Are we sure this is real? And it's not some made-up, Onion-like parody designed to give Bill O'Reilly a heart attack?
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES: From Sunday's Boston Globe: "Milwaukee coach George Karl says to be prepared for a quicker, faster, more athletic Bucks team next season. 'I want to play faster,' he said. 'I'm trying to change the face of the team. We're going to be a more athletic team, a more defensive-oriented team."
From Reuters, Sunday night: "George Karl Will Not Return to Coach Milwaukee Bucks."
DOWN ON THE FARM: Time for what's always one of my favorite news stories of the year: the list of wealthy celebrities who somehow managed to gain federal farm subsidies. Heading this year's list is indicted Worldcom CEO Bernie Ebbers, who collected more than $4 million in government farm grants in the four-year period ending in 2001. Also on the list were Larry Flynt ($412,000), Charles Schwab ($363,000), Ted Turner ($353,000) and new Chicago Bull Scottie Pippen ($158,000). This follows news last year that baseball pitcher Kevin Appier had received $40,000 in farm subsidies, against a major league salary of more than $4 million.
Scottie Pippen owning a farm? Not that hard to imagine, compared to Latrell Sprewell owning a yacht...
Friday, July 18, 2003 QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Shock jock Michael Savage's real last name is Weiner, which also has a sexual meaning already. (Real Savages everywhere hate Michael Weiner for appropriating our last name, and as far as we're concerned he can go eat his own weiner and choke on it.) And despite pleas from many readers to think up sexual meanings for Scalia (those flakes that fall out of your pubes the morning after sex?), Frist (fisting someone up to your wrist?), Rehnquist (that thin, clear fluid that is sometimes mixed in with a man's cum?), and Clarence (when an angel gets his red wings?), I'm done with new sexual terms for the moment." -Dan Savage, refusing any further elaborations on "Santorum."
NOT TOO BRIGHT: Just as the Michael Moores of the world got a perverse joy last week when a worker at Lockheed Martin (a target of Moore vituperation in "Bowling For Columbine") opened fired at an LM plant, those who blame Hollywood for gun violence got some ammo Thursday- no pun intended- when a gentleman by the name of Richard Bright stormed into a school board meeting in Charleston, West Virginia, doused several people with gasoline, and then opened fire; thankfully nobody died.
Now the anti-Hollywood forces have two tacks to follow here- first, they could blame wrestling, since the episode of WWE's RAW that aired three days before this featured wrestler Kane pouring gasoline on announcer Jim Ross and BY GAWD SETTING HIM ON FIRE! But not everyone watches wrestling, so option two may be more effective: the shooter in the case has the same name as the actor who played capo/hitman Al Neri in all three "Godfather" films. When an attempted mass murderer happens to have the same first and last name as the man who committed the most famous murder (Fredo Corleone's) in movie history, that just can't be a coincidence. Hey, Coppola used to get sued all the time, but it's been awhile...
Bright (not the actor) has been charged with both malicious wounding and wanton endangerment- two crimes with great names, I'll give him that- though apparently not even Don Corleone can get him out of this mess.
FOR PETE'S SAKE: When Daniel Boorstin wrote in 1961's "The Image" about "pseudo-events"- i.e., events that take place solely for the purpose of being reported- the sort of thing he had in mind for the future was likely the "mock trial" of Pete Rose that aired Thursday night on ESPN. Despite its status as an exercise that was produced and put together from its very conception by the network, the "trial" was nonetheless treated by ESPN's news operation as though it were a legitimate sports happening; other outlets even treated it as actual news when the "jury" ultimately determined that Rose does indeed belong in the Hall, despite agreeing in 1989 to a lifetime banishment from baseball after it came to light that he had likely placed bets on the Cincinnati Reds while he was their manager.
Ostensibly a "trial," the show was more a Lincoln-Douglas-style debate between celebrity jurists/Dream Teamers Johnnie Cochran (arguing for Rose in the Hall of Fame) and Alan Dershowitz (arguing against). Indeed, the third star of the proceeding was an elephant in the room by the name of O.J.- whether it was the presence of those two lawyers, the "trial" of a retired superstar athlete, the question of whether off-field misdeeds should affect a player's historical standing, or the athlete refusing to admit any wrongdoing despite nearly insurmountable evidence of his guilt, the Long National Nightmare of the Simpson trial was never far from the surface, even if it was only mentioned at the end.
At any rate, the trial took place at Harvard Law School, and was apparently the brainchild of Dershowitz's son, an ESPN producer. And that was part of the problem- nearly every aspect of the trial was complete make-believe, from the goofy music, to the absense of such key figures as Rose himself and ex-commissioner Fay Vincent, to the inclusion of witnesses (like the funny ex-pitcher Bill "Spaceman" Lee, and legendary statman Bill James, whose stubborn defense of Rose is really the one and only blind spot in all of his writings) who have little to nothing to do with the case, to Dershowitz's un-Dersh-like demuring of practically everything he said (something Cochran didn't do, though both lawyers were clearly on autopilot), to Judge/CourtTV anchor Catherine Crier actually calling for a "recess" (read: commercial break) right as the verdict was about to be read- an "American Idol"-like copout that not even "The Practice" has stooped to. I was surprised the lawyers and witnesses didn't get up and all take a bow at the show's end.
Despite sitting through the entire three-hour trial (which consisted, honestly, of about one hour total of worthwhile material), and extra hour of "post-game," I don't feel I learned anything new about the Rose case, except that Bill Lee thinks there's a evil baseball conspiracy. The conventional wisdom has long been that Rose will be reinstated the day he admits that he bet on baseball and apologizes for the act itself and the 15 years of lies; I agree with and endorse this supposition provided Rose never be allowed to manage or otherwise work in baseball again. But since we all know how gutless Commissioner Bud is, I'm guessing we'll see Pete get an unconditional pardon, sooner rather than later, and he'll be managing the Reds again by this time next year.
Wahlman was there, and got to "breathe the same air as Bill James"; check out his report.
JOLTED JUNIOR: Ken Griffey, Jr., the Grant Hill of baseball, suffered an ankle injury in Thursday's game, and is now out for the season. This means the Griffey's season has been cut short in each of the four seasons since he engineered a trade to the Cincinnati Reds from the Seattle Mariners.
Griffey was already on the outs with both his team and the Cincinnati fans; that Griffey had stopped to watch the ball that didn't leave the park, lost his footing, and suffered the injury then isn't likely help matters either.
What's happened in Griffey's career these past four years is unquestionably the saddest decline of a Cincinnati Red since the Pete Rose banishment. Indeed, like Rose, Ken Griffey has likely worn a Reds uniform for the last time.
THE TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGIN': There's not much I can add that other bloggers haven't already touched on, but I'm thrilled with the selection of Bill Keller as new Executive Editor of the New York Times. From reading his work I've gotten the impression that he's a brilliant, sharp, fair man, one who won't devote too many energies to pursuing petty political causes and editorializing from the front page, the way his predecessor so often did.
The Times has never been my favorite paper, more for its elitist impulses than its political ones, though I must say that reading it daily for work purposes for the past year has given me a new appreciation. Let's hope Bill Keller can bring the Grey Lady to new heights.
Thursday, July 17, 2003 50 DIRTY WORDS: Stephen "Vodkapundit" Green has a list of 50 Words Never to Say on a First Date, the best of which are "time served," "Dahmer-esque," "clean needles," "fanny," "credit rating," and "Na-na-na-na-nineteen-nineteen."
Some more (of mine): "material breach," "gout," "gunt," "ingrown," "oily," "rupture," "hirsute," "elephantine," "ill na na," "bitch titties," "nudie bar," "ValuJet," "autoerotic asphyxiation," "Santorum," "cameltoe," and "jocularity."
YAY FOR THE RETARDED KID!: No idea whether or not this is legit, but here's TardBlog- a blog written by a special-ed teacher, telling humorous stories about her students. I guess the next step would be a blog by an actual retarded person.
BYE BYE, BOBBY: In what may turn out to be the most unpopular Minnesota Twins trade since their 1988 exchange of Tom Brunansky for Tommy Herr, the reeling Twins (losers of eight straight) on Wednesday dealt rightfielder and fan favorite Bobby Kielty to Toronto for Shannon Stewart. In the deal the Twins also acquired a Player To Be Named Later; unless the Jays pulled some kind of waiver blunder and the PTBNL ends up being Carlos Delgado, it's looking like the Twinkies got hosed on this one.
The rationale for the trade is that Stewart is a veteran, can run better than Kielty, and is able to bat leadoff in lieu of Jacque Jones. But as Rob Neyer and others have been saying, the Twins have a surplus of outfield offense, and a deficit of both quality starting pitching and middle infield offense- so why trade an outfielder for an outfielder?
Even moreso, the high-on-base-percentage, high OPS, low-salaried Kielty was a favorite of the more sabermetrically-inclined among Twins fans, most notably Aaron Gleeman and John Bonnes, who I half-expected to react by ceremonially returning their season tickets, in the tradition of Bob Swerski's Superfans after Da Bears fired Ditka. I was also afraid that upon news of yesterday's trade Gleeman would either shoot himself or get really drunk prior to posting, but thankfully he made it through the day and put up a reasoned, nuanced reaction.
The trade illustrates the unfortunate fact that while Toronto has adopted a sabermetric-centric organizational philosophy (and thus were sure to seek out a player such as Kielty) while the Twins have not. Therefore, Aaron Gleeman will now have to go through life as a Twins fan without enjoying the talents of his favorite player not named "Johan." Until the inevitable day when fires Terry Ryan and replaces him with Aaron, that is…
And speaking of names, as Jeremy points out, 2/3rds of the Twins' new starting outfield (Torii Hunter and Shannon Stewart) are men with girls' names; the third is Jacque (pronounced "Jock") Jones. Should the Twins try Jones in center, he'd be a Jock flanked by two girls; rumors that the Twins will now attempt to trade for Sandy Alomar, and/or lure ex-Boston hurler and Minnesota native Dana Kiecker out of retirement, remain unfounded.
IF WE CAN'T FUCK IT, WE'LL KILL IT: Assuming its not a hoax, we've reached yet another cultural low point: a firm near Las Vegas is offering "tours" in which men roam the woods and shoot at naked women with paintball guns. Think of it as like the paintball episode of "Six Feet Under" except, you know, not as gay.
With all of the options available for, um, "communicating" with women in Vegas, is this really nececessary- to "kill" them? Snopes.com originally argued that the tour was a hoax, but tonight the firm's chief exec, Michael Burdick, appeared on "The O'Reilly Factor," where he was opposed by feminist lawyer Wendy Murphy. Murphy, oddly, kept addressing Burdick as "Mr. Bird Dick."
"FEMALE" TROUBLE: In case you had any doubt that Ann Coulter has no purpose in American political discourse other than provocation for provocation's sake, take a look at this interview in Time Magazine, complete with a photo that makes Ann look like The Evil Sarah Jessica Parker. Among other outrages, Coultergeist appears to advocate a Soviet-like one-party system ("The Democratic Party has got to go away") and shrugs off the painful fact that Hillary Clinton's book will outsell hers by a substantial margin.
Nearly everything Coulter says in the interview is repeated from either her column, her talk show appearances, or the book, most notably a phrase in which she accuses the Democrats of "female taunting" about weapons of mass destruction. Coulter, it appears, is some sort of self-hating female; she was also apparently frustrated she didn't make enough of a "splash" when she used the phrase in her column last month. Maybe that's a sign of Ann Coulter's decline, when she can say something so faux-outrageous and no one even pays attention; I think, to borrow the Kornheiser phrase, we'd all be better off treating Coulter as though she were someone muttering to herself in a subway car.
WORST MUSIC CRITIC QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "What was indisputable was [Springsteen's Tuesday] gig was one of the top engagements of this tour." -Dan Aquilante, in the New York Post. Quite an achievement for this to be one of the top engagements of the tour- especially since it's the first engagement of the tour. Aquilante, longtime readers may remember, is the same critic who last year, reviewing a Def Leppard concert, spent an entire paragraph on the impressive guitar solos by Steve Clark. Unfortunately, Clark by the time of the concert had been dead for 12 years.
THANKS, BOSS: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band played an absolutely amazing concert last night at Giants Stadium to kick off their 2003 stadium tour, the highlight of which was a rare performance of the group's 30-year-old first hit, 1973's "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)."
I should've known from the New York Post's Tuesday preview, which predicted "musical surprises," that Rosalita would be making an appearance. But it was by all means the only highlight, as Bruce mixed old and new material in a 27-song, more than 3-hour set before 50,000 fans.
Unlike Bob Dylan, whose voice is now so shot that it's frankly sad to listen to him these days, Bruce remains in top form, able to jump and dance all around stage for hours without so much as a shortness of breath, all the more remarkable considering that he's 53 years old.
Bruce, near the end of the show, even made a poignant if wishy-washy political speech, mentioning that he appreciates that people with varying political views are able to appreciate his music, and opining that for politicians to lie, especially about matters of war, is not a "Republican or Democratic issue." He also expressed support for the Food Bank of New Jersey, as well as for the revitilization of his longtime stomping ground that gave him the title of his debut album- Asbury Park, NJ.
The Setlist: -Born in the USA
-My Love Will Not Let You Down
-Darkness on the Edge of Town
-Waiting on a Sunny Day
-Out on the Street
-Mary's Place (w/ band intros)
-Into the Fire
First Encore: -Bobby Jean
-Pink Cadillac (inst. intro)
-Born to Run
-Seven Nights to Rock
Second Encore: -My City of Ruins
-Land of Hopes and Dreams
-Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
-Dancing in the Dark
As Cusack said in "High Fidelity," thanks, Boss, for one of the best concerts I've ever attended.
CORRECTION: I had said earlier that this week represents Springsteen's first foray into Giants Stadium; he had in fact previously performed five shows there in 1985.
THE JERSEY SHUFFLE: I think it's safe to say that Bruce Springsteen is the best thing about New Jersey, and I feel blessed to have experienced the Boss performing right at home, "somewhere in the swamps of Jersey." But I've noticed quite a few odd happenings in the Garden State in recent days and weeks. To whit:
- Rutgers University in New Brunswick is gearing up for the annual conference this fall of the Palestine Solidarity Movement, a national student group that refuses to recognize Israel's existence and "has not taken a position" on whether they approve of suicide bombings. The group also erroneously refers to Israel's form of government as "apartheid," even though Arabs in fact enjoy considerably more legal and democratic rights in Israel than they do in any Arab country.
My friends in Rutgers law school are on the case. I'm not sure if I'm with them in pushing for the cancellation of the conference, but I certainly do believe that not a penny of taxpayer money should go towards helping those idiots.
-The mayor of Hopewell, the South Jersey hometown of my roommate, last week appointed Marc Moran to the city council- apparenty unaware that Moran has ties to a national white supremecist group. Moran has since resigned.
- Like trucker hats, metrosexuals, and "Cameltoe" before it, a national newspaper article has somehow turned the whole NJGuido thing from a minor curiosity into a major, nationally felt phenomenon.
- It was reported last week that Blair Hornstine, the South Jersey brainiac who sued when her high school only made her co-valedictorian, has been dropped from Harvard's class of 2007, as a result of allegations that she plagiarized parts of a local newspaper column.
Over the months of this case Hornstine became perhaps America's most reviled teenager- acquiring the nickname "Whiny McTired" (the verb "Hornstining") from Jeremy Wahlman, and having her misdeeds catalogued in the Weekly Standard.
The Hornstine-out-of-Harvard story was broken in the Harvard Crimson, bringing up the natural question- the Harvard Crimson publishes in the summer?
- In Carlo's Bakery in Hoboken at around 8 this morning, a 20-something white guy walked in wearing a visor, which has apparently supplanted the trucker hat as the latest must-have hipster hatwear. This piqued the interest of an 80-something Italian guy sitting at table nearby, who asked where the hat came from. The guy told him the name of the store, inspiring a knowing retort from the senior citizen:
"It makes you look like an old fucking guinea."
HEY NOW, HANK BLALOCK: That's part of why I love Chris Berman- obscure "Larry Sanders Show" references. Tonight the American League won the All-Star Game, and with it homefield advantage in the World Series, with a 7-6 victory. Hank Blalock won it with a home run, but the MVP award went instead to Angel Garret Anderson, who the night before had won the Home Run Derby.
Also- last week I predicted that the AL would win after Armando Benitez gave up the game-winning homer, and that Benitez would be traded to the Yankees the following day. Armando didn't get in the game, but the AL did indeed win on a homer, and Benitez reportedly will in fact be traded to the Yankees today. 3:42 AM
THE KANDI MAN CAN: Well, that worked out all right... mere hours after losing center Rasho Nesterovic to San Antonio, the Timberwolves Tuesday signed erstwhile Clipper Michael Olowokandi to a three-year contract worth just over $16 million.
Olowokandi, the #1 overall pick in the 1998 draft, has shown flashes of brilliance but even more rawness in his first four NBA seasons, yet still stands a very good chance of becoming the best center the T-Wolves have ever had. Then again, his competition is Randy Breuer, Felton Spencer, Luc Longley, Sean Rooks, Cherokee Parks, Stanley Roberts, Dean Garrett, Loren Woods, and Rasho.
NFL RUSH-ING LEADER: Political commentator Rush Limbaugh and sports announcer Dennis Miller appear to have traded places, with Miller moving from Monday Night Football to a recurring Fox News Channel gig, while Limbaugh, it was announced this week, will be joining ESPN's "Sunday NFL Countdown" football pregame show.
I've never cared much for Limbaugh, partially because of his far-right politics but mostly because of the lack of civility he has brought to public discourse over the years- Rush, after all, is the one who made it acceptable to not only out-argue but dehumanize one's political opponents. And it's that mean-spiritedness is the biggest reason why I'm not happy he's joining "Countdown."
For the last few years ESPN has had the most watchable NFL pregame show on the air, far outclassing competitors CBS and Fox, and that's mostly been due to its likable on-air crew. Chris Berman, Tom Jackson, Chris Mortenson, Steve Young, and even Sterling Sharpe are some of the most appealing personalities on the network; the network even advertised the show last year as "a little football among friends."
Unfortunately, with this year's new hires, "NFL Countdown" seems to be moving towards the wretched "attitude" model that's already infected so much of ESPN's programming. First the network brought in ex-Dallas Cowboy and career criminal Michael Irvin, plucking him from the cast of Fox Sports Net's wretched "Best Damn Sports Show, Period." Now it's Limbaugh, who will likely help to turn the show's collegial atmosphere into just another "Around the Horn"-style insult contest.
I guess come football season I'll just have to start watching "Meet the Press" instead. That, or just sleep later.
ESOTERIC WEBSITE OF THE DAY: RepentantNaderVoter.com. A bunch of people who voted for Ralph in 2000 but have since had second thoughts due to Bush's actions in office.
I'd say the past two years have made me more glad than ever that I didn't vote for Nader- had he been elected president, America probably would've sunken into the sea by now.
Tuesday, July 15, 2003 SORRY ABOUT THE FROTH: Apparently something's wrong with the Santorum poll and results weren't tabulated; let's try that again.
ME AND MY BOSS: In 1974, Bruce Springsteen's first great album, "Born to Run," was released.
In 1975, Giants Stadium opened. But never in the years since have these two icons of New Jersey met. Until tonight that is...
Check back late Tuesday for a full report on the first of the Boss' ten sold-out Meadowlands shows.
DC FOLLIES: I'm back from a weekend in Washington, DC, where I had a wonderful time as always. There's nothing quite like driving and walking around a completely deserted downtown Washington at 3:00 in the morning on a Saturday; I pulled a blade of grass from the lawn of the White House, which is presently taped to my computer at work.
Also had some fun adventures in the Georgetown and Dupont Circle areas and at a place in Maryland called The Silver Diner (no relation), and enjoyed lunch at a Georgetown eatery called Billy Martin's- which is named after a baseball player, but not the ex-Yankee manager of the '70s and '80s.
One other lingering issue that arose from the trip: one of our dinner companions mentioned that a friend of his was upset about recently having been laid off from a major environmental organization. Which raises the question: if one gets downsized from an environmental or otherwise left-leaning organization, does that count as getting screwed by The Man?
SPRINGTIME FOR SPRINGER: Trash TV host and former Cincinnati mayor Jerry Springer has announced that he will run for the U.S. Senate from Ohio next year. For several reasons, the national Democratic party should do everything they possibly can to distance themselves from his candidacy.
Leave aside that Springer has for nearly a decade lived in and produced his show in Chicago, which last time I looked was separated from Ohio by two states and two more Great Lakes. And leave aside as well that Springer's past, which includes arrests for solicitation, is as shady as that of any present political candidate, with the possible exception of Al Sharpton, and California recaller Darrell Issa.
Every day that Jerry Springer runs for the Senate, that's a couple thousand more dollars the Republicans can raise just by using his name in fundraising letters. The GOP will already be falling all over themselves to refer to the Dems as the "Party of Al Sharpton"; soon Springer's name will get similar billing. You thought the Republicans enjoyed Hollywood-bashing before?
But perhaps even worse than the sleaze imparted on Springer's show (which, I confess, I've enjoyed from time to time) is the elitism and limousine liberalism implyed in his candidacy. Springer is like Michael Moore in this regard: while he claims to stand up for "the common man," his TV show, more than any other current touchstone of American pop culture, is built around the hatefully cruel mocking of Southern/rural/underclass stereotypes- a comical, more lowbrow version (if that's possible) of "Bowling For Columbine." With the Democrats increasingly becoming the party of The Other Elite, is Springer's double-edged class warfare really what they need right now?
Still, better him than Dennis Kucinich...
ONE STAR REVIEW: I love baseball, but I don't care about the All-Star Game, and I have a hard time understanding why anyone does. Sure, it's fun seeing all those superstars together on one field, and the pageantry of the event is cool for the first few minutes, but then, sooner or later, it becomes just another game- one that everyone instantly forgets less than 24 hours later. The only reason anybody remembers last year's game is because it had the one outcome no baseball game is ever, ever, supposed to have- a tie.
This year the buffoon responsible for that embarrasment, Commissioner Bud Selig, has come up with an even more misguided idea: the league that wins the All-Star Game will be awarded home-field advantage in the World Series. Fans and sportswriters alike have been nearly unanimous in their dislike of this asinine new development; clearly, one has nothing to do with the other, and there's no reason not to give home-field to the team with the better record, as every other sport does. Like every other Selig idea since he took over as commish, it's an underhanded grab for ratings- and just like every other Selig grab for ratings, it's likely to fail.
But what's even worse are these stupid "controversies" over players getting "snubbed"- nearly all of which are alleviated when, due to injuries and/or no-shows, subsitutions are named to the team. This year each league had 34 players named to the original roster- and that's not included the dozen or so since named as "replacements." This practice reached a nadir today when, already having arrived in Chicago, Oakland's Barry Zito was shunted off the All-Star team without warning in favor of Roger Clemens-and was informed of the decision not by his team or the league, but by a reporter.
I say if you're going in this direction anyway, turn it into the sort of game depicted in the W.P. Kinsella novella "The Iowa Baseball Confederacy"- 80 innings, with hundreds of players on each side and constant substitutions. Want ratings? Run it as a ten-part, "Band of Brothers"-like miniseries.
I'll be at the Springsteen show so I won't even be watching the All-Star Game; today was hard enough, as one of only two days out of the entire year (Wednesday being the other) with no scheduled games of any big-four professional sport. The baseball event I am looking forward to this week? The three-hour mock trial of Pete Rose, showing on ESPN Thursday. It's Alan Dershowitz vs. Johnnie Cochran; I can't wait to see what they say when the inevitable Rose vs. OJ comparison comes up.
BREAKIN' THE LAW, BREAKIN' THE LAW: It was announced this week that frontman Rob Halford has reunited with Judas Priest after a 12-year layoff. The group will record a new album and embark on a world tour next summer; wherever they are right now, Beavis and Butt-head are smiling.
With this news, on top of the rave reviews Husker Du's Bob Mould is getting for his new electronica album, it's been a great week for aging, bald, openly homosexual frontmen of seminal '80s bands. Hopefully, Michael Stipe can soon complete the trifecta by leading an R.E.M. revival; I just ordered tickets to see them at MSG in October.
AHOY, MAYTE!: According to a published report, the Former Artist Known as Prince is leaving his lifelong home state of Minnesota, having purchased a $10 million home outside of Toronto.
It hasn't been a good few years for Prince Rodgers Nelson- his music career has nosedived, his wife Mayte left him and took up with Tommy Lee, and his best movie ("Purple Rain") was ripped off by Eminem. But if you think it sucks for him, what about Kirby Puckett? Not only have the sex revelations all but destroyed his once prestine reputation, but Prince's departure means that he is now, at least according to Chris Rock, the only black person in Minnesota.
AND SPEAKING OF PEOPLE SPURNING MINNESOTA: Juwan Howard, who is black, will not be taking Prince's place- the forward, who was thought last week to be all but signed, sealed, and delivered to the Timberwolves, agreed yesterday to sign with the Orlando Magic. Formerly considered the most overpaid player in the league due to the $105 million deal he signed with Washington seven years ago, Howard overnight became a bargain, accepting $28 million over five years.
How dare Juwan turn down the Wolves- it's hard to imagine why anyone would agree to take $28 million to spend their winters in Orlando, when they could've accepted less to spend them in Minneapolis.
Friday, July 11, 2003 HAVE A DRINK ON DIRK: Every other referral today is looking for the Dirk Nowitzki/Steve Nash drinking pictures. I don't have them, but Jeremy does. And he's also got a bunch more embarrassing Joe Morgan quotes, including Joe saying that "Pitchers observe other pitchers better than hitters do in most cases. They want to know what makes them succcesful." The same logic, I guess, behind the old adage that "women don't get dressed up for men, but rather for other women."
In the meantime, I'm headed down to our nation's capital for the weekend... later folks.
'ZO WAY: ESPN.com is reporting that Alonzo Mourning will sign with the New Jersey Nets- and by extension, so will Jason Kidd. Thus ending one of the more bizarre episodes in recent basketball history.
Maybe someday we'll learn the whole story of what the hell happened these past 48 hours, but I suspect it'll be awhile.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Anyone who says 'all liberals are . . .' and follows it with something like genetically driven to oppose the United States is just talking nonsense, and gives the impression that they are actually standing on their hands, and have taught their rectum to pass gas in such a way that forms recognizable phonemes." -Lileks, taking a whack at Coultergeist. I always knew I was missing something, back when none of my favorite right-leaning writers had the cojones to make fun of Evil Ann.
AIM CONVERSATION THEATER: From an AOL Instant Messenger discussion the other night between myself and my friend Peter:
Me: I just realized- every woman I've dated in the last two years has been either a teacher or a social worker.
Him: Man, you've gotta watch out for those social workers. Those people are crazy.
What a sad commentary on our society- we can't even trust social workers to not be nuts?
I'M JUST KIDD-ING!: Don't you just hate when you read a news story, react strongly to it, go home, spend 45 minutes writing a strongly-worded, very hostile, 500-word blog entry about it, go to sleep, and wake up later to find out said news story had been debunked by all involved?
So yes, Jason Kidd, I owe you an apology. I was wrong to take the New York Post at their word when they said you'd demanded the firing of coach Byron Scott, and yes, I was wrong to call you a "classless piece of shit." That's an insult that should only apply to the absolute lowest of the low in society. Like, say, people who smack their wives in front of their small children.
Still though, I find the way the story progressed throughout Thursday a bit interesting, to say the least. The Post story hit newstands and was published on the paper's website at around 6:00 A.M. EDT. Soon after it was talked about on morning talk shows on radio and TV, and was picked up by numerous other news sources. By the time I published my blog entry at shortly before 3:00 P.M., there hadn't been a single denial by Kidd, by any of Kidd's associates, or by anyone in the Nets organization.
The first published denial, by Kidd's wife Joumana to ESPN's Ric Bucher, came out at around 4:00 P.M.- a full ten hours after the publication of the original story. Shortly thereafter Joumana was joined by her husband, as well as Nets president Rod Thorn, in debunking the Post's version of events.
Had the Post story been competely without merit (as would have been the case had Peter Vecsey written it), and with every basketball reporter in the country hot on their heels for a quote, wouldn't all parties have thoroughly debunked the story by the end of the morning? Instead, it took nearly half of a news cycle for the Kidds to issue their first denial, and a few more hours for the Nets side to do the same. Also, notice that Thorn denies that Kidd "demanded or asked for" Scott's dismissal. Had Kidd said, as I believe he did, "should you happen to let Byron go, I'd be more amenable to staying," that wouldn't, technically, meet either definition.
I have no inside informaton and no proof of what happened, but here's my hypothesis: the Jason-says-fire-Scott story (attributed in the Post to "several league sources") was an intentional leak, most likely from Kidd's side, in order to gauge how likely the Nets were to fire Scott. The ten-hour gap between publication and denial allowed the Kidds to measure media reaction, as well as the Nets' reaction, in order to gauge the likelihood of a Scott-free future for Kidd, should he re-sign in New Jersey. The stories that the Kidds are conflicted, with Joumana favoring New Jersey and Jason San Antonio? Likely a deliberate smokescreen as well.
If this is indeed what happened, then I don't like Jason Kidd any more than I did before. But I do admire his sneakiness- perhaps he should consider a career as a political operative once he retires from basketball.
LAKER LUCK?: With today's announcement that the Lakers will sign Karl Malone, to go with Shaq, Kobe, and fellow new acquisition Gary Payton, talk has already begun that the Lakers have already sowed up next year's NBA title, and are now, essentially, invincible. Not quite, I say...
Unquestionably, a starting five of those four players (with, I guess, Rick Fox rounding out the lineup) would be highly formidable, and undoubtedly the best starting five in the league regardless of what San Antonio does with their cap room. And it's admirable that Payton and Malone took less money than they could've received elsewhere in order to go for a championship (although it's not like they had $100 million offers waiting from other clubs).
But let's get real here: there are a thousand things that could go wrong for the Lakers between now and the end of next year's playoffs. The team's biggest weakness last season was a lack of bench depth, a problem they've yet to address and likely won't considering they just used up most of their cap room. Shaquille O'Neal has been oft-injured for the past two years, and seems to no longer enjoy playing the game. Coach Phil Jackson had a near-heart attack during last year's playoffs, and there's no telling how much longer the Zen Master can go.
Payton and Malone are both still effective players, yet are 33 and 40 (respectively), both considerably past their primes. It's unlikely one basketball will be enough to keep all of four of those stars happy, and I haven't even yet mentioned the very real possibility that Kobe Bryant will begin next season on trial, if not in jail. It's all for naught if that happens, especially since Kobe isn't too likely to luck out due to the sudden death of the chief witness for the prosecution right before trial, as happened in the case of Chris Webber.
Besides, the last time an L.A. sports team simultaneously imported two superstars was when the Dodgers brought in both Darryl Strawberry and Eric Davis for the 1990 season, and we all know how that turned out. I won't be surprised if the Lakers do win next year's NBA title, but I'll be even less surprised if they do not.