Friday, August 29, 2003 BOTH SLIM AND SHADY, ONCE AGAIN: The bar has been lowered every one of the last four years, but I think we can say it again now- 2003 was the least satisfying MTV Video Music Awards ever. I actually started out doing a Sports Guy-style diary, but after less than an hour realized that if the writers of the show couldn't come up with any passable material, why should I?
The biggest disapointment was the non-starter performance of host Chris Rock, making a not-so-triumphant return to stand-up after essentially sitting it out since the '99 VMAs and his subsequent "Bigger and Blacker" HBO special. Rock was supposedly assisted in the writing by comedian and Friars Club mainstay Jeffrey Ross, though the delightfully nasty wit that's characteristic of both men was next to absent from the show. Rock in particular was much more "Down to Earth" than "Bring the Pain."
Rock opened with a seven-minute monologue that fell almost totally flat, up until three zingers at the end (including a priceless Olsen Twins/R. Kelly joke) before he likened co-presenters LeBron James and Ashanti to "Kobe and his victim." It was, unfortunately, all downhill from there.
There probably wasn't a single musical performance the entire evening that I was looking forward to prior to the show, especially after Johnny Cash dropped out for health reasons, but the only one that came close to memorable was the four-way number featuring Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Madonna, and Missy Elliott that opened the show. And while I'm no big admirerer of any of the quartet, the song produced two memorable moments- a bizarre kiss between Madonna and Britney, and a camera pan to Mary J. Blige in the audience, who flashed a look of sheer horror after Christina appeared, from which the camera immediately panned away. That was funny.
Other than that, it was three hours of ho-hum- nearly all awards going to the same four "artists" (Justin Timberlake, Missy Elliott, 50 Cent and Beyonce), no Triumph the Insult Comic Dog (but lots of pointless, unfunny "Crank Yankers" cameos), and lots of white presenters making lame "fo shizzle my niizzle" jokes, although both Rock and Snoop Dogg neglected to make a "Mr. Deeds' Nutz" joke when Snoop and Adam Sandler appeared together. There were also quite a lot of "technical difficulties"- the microphones seemed to miss half of what the winners said (not that that's a bad thing), and a video package on honorees Duran Duran (?) failed to run when the sound on the "jumbotron" failed. The show ended, mercifully, with a dumb, 2-minute "medley," by Metallica, of "rock songs through the years," followed by some weak new song by the long-past-their-prime erstwhile rock gods. Really, James Hetfield these days doesn't look that much younger than Johnny Cash.
Just an amateurish effort all around- if it weren't for plenty of my fiance, Beyonce ("Crazy in Love" ran in every bumper, every commercial, and then she performed it), I'd have considered the evening a total waste.
And most eggregiously, the best music video of the year, "The Super Bowl is Gay," was not mentioned a single time the entire evening.
UP-CHUCK: Bill O'Reilly disliked Al Franken's book (or rather, the idea of it) so much that he and his bosses sued the author. But New York Press writer Mark Ames had an even more visceral reaction to Chuck Klosterman's new book "Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs"- Ames hated it so much that he left the country.
Ames- now living in Moscow- penned a near-hysterical evisceration of Klosterman's book in this week's NYPress, referring to Klosterman's relatively innocuous observations about pop culture and everyday life as "the metaphor for everything vile in my generation." He goes on to alternately attack the author as a sellout and "toxic, disingenuous and stupid," and disparages everything about Klosterman, from his looks (comparing his mouth to a "sphincter" and saying he looks like a sex offender) to his mental capabilities, comparing Klosterman to "Sean Penn's retard character in 'I Am Sam.'"
But Ames' biggest problem is with the author's musical tastes, as he thinks "Billy Joel is great," and calls Steely Dan "more lyrically subversive than the Sex Pistols and Clash combined." I agree with both statements- Ames clearly is one who has the stupid prejudice that punk rock is both a sacred cow and the only good music in the world, and is for some reason so contemptuous of Klosterman for disagreeing that he felt the need to up and move to Moscow.
Sure, a lot of the stuff Klosterman writes is sort of lame (except for the part where he points out that every woman born since 1968 is in love with John Cusack and his "Say Anything" character. That part's right.) But why not just ignore him? Or stay and fight? Lord knows there's lots of people in the media I can't stand, but I haven't felt the need to leave the country as a result.
I haven't read Klosterman's book, but after reading Ames' slam of it, I'd sort of like to.
Thursday, August 28, 2003 QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Haven't we gone too far with this First Amendment business?" -Bill O'Reilly, on his show tonight.
DR. DEATH?: When I said the other day that Howard Dean's candidacy is a "flash in the pan," I admit I was being facetious. Clearly Dean has legitimate appeal, and he's been able to galvanize in the way none of his opponents can the 15-20% of the population that, due to various combinations of Florida resentment, Iraq resentment, and "he's a moron" resentment, think that George Bush is the devil.
But now there's another controversy on the horizon: since Dean did a med-school rotation working at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Vermont, the question has been raised of whether or not the good doctor ever performed an abortion. If the answer is yes (and he has said no thus far), it's unlikely to hurt him with his base, but could cause him trouble with swing voters.
If it turns out to be true, expect "Abortionist Howard Dean" to take is place in the Republican attack-ad pantheon, along with "Liberal Paul Wellstone" and "Draft Dodger Bill Clinton."
Oh well, it's not like he experimented on cats when he was in med school, like Bill Frist did. 11:41 PM
FILM CRITIC QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "Project Greenlight is entertainment for people who already think they know everything about film production yet neglect to consider the basic divisions of labor and on-the-job politics. Only an Entertainment Weekly subscriber thinks he knows how a movie set operates without a guide." -Armond White, in New York Press, eviscerating "Project Greenlight" and its cinematic spawn.
9/11/'03: Rachel Lucas has an amazing post (found via Sheila), castigating the networks for their decision not to broadcast any "special" programming on the second anniversary of September 11. At first I thought they had a point, but after reading Rachel's post I'm not so convinced. The best part:
Do I want to see footage of the planes hitting the buildings? Yes, I do, but I understand why others wouldn't, especially the tens of thousands of people who loved or knew someone who died because those planes hit those buildings. For me, it's not watching a loved one die all over again, it's watching my world change. The moment that second plane comes into view, that moment of pure, undiluted shock when one could see that it was going to hit the second building - that moment changed me fundamentally.
SORRY, CHARLOTTE: According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer (but you read it here first!) the upcoming anti-Israel "solidarity" conference that had been planned for Rutgers University has been moved to Ohio State. It isn't mentioned in the CPD story, but the reason for the move (according to the leaked e-mail referenced in the link above) was essentially that the International Solidarity Movement can't stand the New Jersey chapter, namely the loathsome Charlotte Kates, and didn't trust her to run their conference. Even if the OSU move doesn't come off, the conference won't happen at Rutgers; an earlier story said the event, if it stays in New Jersey, will instead take place in suburban Piscataway.
I was, in a way, looking forward to the shitstorm, but OSU's probably a better place after all. Everyone there is way too concerned with the length of Maurice Clarett's suspension to pay any attention to the Middle East.
Fundamentalists seethe as Americans try to enforce rule of law
Islamic fundamentalists entered their third consecutive week of angry protest in Baghdad today against a US plan to have civil law as opposed to Sharia law be the law of the land. The protesters' anger surrounds Islamic cleric R'ai Moor, who has refused to allow himself to be evicted from the Iraqi Supreme Court building in central Baghdad. Surrounded by his fundamentalist followers, Moor has stated that God's law must be supreme throughout the state. Moor's followers chanted slogans such as "Sharia is the solution" and levied threats at the American forces. "We will not allow him to be taken from us" one protester said of the cleric. "We will resist, and God is on our side"
Tuesday, August 26, 2003 FLASHING HOWARD DEAN: Last night a buddy of mine invited me to come to the city tonight and take part in two separate activities-the next big flash mob, followed by a Howard Dean For President campaign rally. I said no thanks, much as it would've been sort of cool to conflate the two big internet phenomena of 2003- sort of like finding some way to combine "All Your Base Are Belongs to Us" with "The A.I. Game" back in the summer of '01.
I'm not a Dean supporter, and while personally, I thought the flash mob phenomenon was funny at first, it's sort of gotten tiresome now that it's going on just about everywhere in the country, if not the world. Still, I don't see too much in common between that craze and the rise of Howard Dean- one is the faddish, internet-driven, soon-to-be-flash-in-the-pan venture of a bunch of bored and misguided kids with nothing better to do. The other is flash mobs.
IT MAY BE A SHITHOLE, BUT IT'S OUR SHITHOLE: ESPN.com's summer-long roundup of all 30 major league ballparks reaches Minneapolis and the Metrodome this week, and reporter Jim Caple manages to do justice to the stadium that essentially introduced me to major league baseball. Caple even ranks it above four other parks- although two of them (Philadelphia and San Diego) are about to be replaced and a third (Montreal) could go at any time.
All in all, Caple sums up my feelings perfectly: the Metrodome is by all accounts a substandard, obsolete, borderline-un-American baseball facility: it has a roof, artificial turf, and horrible sightlines, produces laughably low amounts of revenue, and thanks to the roof it's next to impossible to follow the paths of batted balls, whether you're a spectator or an outfielder. And in contrast to the hoppin' Target Center area, the stadium is in a near-dead section of downtown Minneapolis, and the lack of a central parking lot means there's no tailgating to speak of.
But despite all that, the Dome does have quite a few things going for it- when filled to capacity, it's the loudest park in baseball by far. Playing there gives the Twins an immense home-field advantage; prior to last year's ALCS they were next to unbeatable in Dome postseason play. The place is packed with history, including two world championships in five years that I was on hand for. And, as Caple briefly touches on, it's actually a halfway decent football stadium- indoor football being not nearly as sacreligious as indoor baseball.
One by one, Caple does through the charming aspects of Domeball- the "Hefty Bag" in right. Announcer Bob Casey. Wally the Beerman, the kind of "local celebrity" who just doesn't exist in New York. Ushers that are "like an entire staff of Marge Gundersons" (I always though the ushers were assholes, but maybe that's changed). And the "We're Gonna Win Twins" jingle, the best in baseball by far. What, you prefer "Meet the Mets"?
Don't get me wrong- I've been hoping and praying for a new open-air ballpark in the Twin Cities for the better part of a decade, and once the jackass politicians finally get their shit together, I'll be the first one cheering. But I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't miss the Homerdome just a little bit. "Some of the happiest moments of my life happened there," Caple writes. That's right, Jim. Mine too.
THE 'BATTLE' HAS BEEN LOST: The numbers are in... "The Battle of Shaker Heights" grossed $52,000 on five screens on its opening weekend- about half of Chris Moore's goal. If you need a hug, Erica Beeney, I'm here for you...
YOU CAN FIND ME IN DA SHUL: Are you ready for 50 Shekel? The latest "Jewish rapper," who I'd imagine has neither been shot nor stabbed nearly as many times as 50 Cent, has been getting quite a bit of press lately, as the Brooklyn native is completing his first full-length album, as well as searching for a female sidekick, to be called (ha ha) "Lil' Spender."
50 Shekel's rise coincides with a new Jewish hipsterism, as celebrated previously in such places as Heeb Magazine, the performance organization Jewcy, the blond Jewish female rapper Princess Superstar, and the rising career of the young, Isroed, trucker hat-sporting actor Shia LeBouf, from "Project Greenlight."
This trend has generally combined traditional Jewish iconography with '70s black culture (lots of Isros), though in some cases (such as 50 Shekel's) it's more a borrowing of current African-American imagery. As of now, while most of what i've seen of this trend has been mere racial piggy-backing- and the trend doesn't appear to have much traction yet, outside of New York- it does show a bit of potential for birthing some legitimate culture.
One more thing: I'm having trouble enjoying Heeb, the "hipster Jew bible" for one big reason- in an age in which world events have united American Jews like at no time ever before, how in the world can Heeb take the wrong side in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as it has, and still call itself "hip'? Elitist is more like it...
COP KILLER: After nearly two decades in prison, '60s radical Kathy Boudin will be released this week, after being paroled. Boudin pleaded guilty to both murder and robbery in 1984, in connection with the Rockland County Brinks truck robbery of October 20, 1981 that resulted in the deaths of two police officers and a security guard.
Much like Katherine Ann Power, who is inexplicably admired by many at her alma mater (Brandeis) despite committing a cold-blooded murder and then lamming it for 30 years, Boudin's eventual release has become a cause celebre on the left; her odious, Rhodes Scholar son Chesa was even given a glowing, Kates-like profile in the New York Times earlier this year.
The nine children and other family of Sgt. Edward O'Grady, one of the men killed in the robbery, have to their credit promised to never at any point meet with Boudin; by the same token I can understand why the victims of Father Geoghan aren't so quick to forgive him, or even mourn his death
The most discusting aspect of Boudin's release? According to the transcript of the parole hearing, the parole commissioners "finished [Boudin's] sentences," and seemed to buy her assertion that "guilt over being white" was an excuse for her actions- even though one of the victims, Waverly Brown, was himself black. The parole board members even suggested that Boudin "write a book, or something." If she does, O'Grady's family better get every penny of the proceeds.
OH BOY, DON'T YA LIE ON THE TRACK: American sprinter Jon Drummond, long known as the "clown prince" of Track and Field, had an unusual reaction to his disqualification from a qualifying race over the weekend- he decided to lie down on the track until he was forcibly removed. The incident was reminiscent of a similar occurance during the 1996 Olympics, when British runner Linford Christie was disqualifed from the 100 meters, refused to leave the track, and punctuated the moment by tossing his track shoes in a trashcan.
At any rate, its' nice to see a Mr. Drummond in the news other than that little guy out in California...
"DEADLY DINNER: Granny Killed in Fight Over Rice" 2:05 PM
Sunday, August 24, 2003 IT'S NOT TIME TO PARTY: Evite, the online party invitation website, would seem the least likely website in the world to cause any type of controversy. But cause that it did last week, when Evite had to apologize for accidentally including Yom Kippur on list of "reasons to party" for the fall.
The Eviters write,
We understand and respect that Yom Kippur is a Day of Atonement, a day to be taken seriously to reflect and fast, and as such, one of the most important Jewish Holidays in the year.
Again we deeply apologize for the error and thank you for allowing us to make this correction.
Some will be offended of course, but I just think it's funny. But does this mean I can't count on Evite for my break-the-fast party?
SHALOM, BLOOMBERG: I take back anything nice I said about Mayor Mike after his blackout performance- Bloomberg announced Friday that he is taking a trip to Israel next week, and has even vowed to ride a bus in Jerusalem.
Let's see: the Jewish mayor of the largest city in America, the one with the largest Jewish population in the world, is announcing ahead of time that he's coming to Israel, and riding a bus- the same week that Hamas and Islamic Jihad killed 20 people and have vowed to once again step up terrorist attacks.
Hey, Mayor Mike- riding the buses in Jerusalem isn't like riding the subway in Manhattan- on your trip, you're going to be surrounded by people who are mentally and physically prepared to murder you- and don't be surprised for a second if they try.
Then, America will have to invade the Gaza Strip, and Public Advocate Betsy Gutbaum will be our new mayor- both highly scary prospects, if you ask me.
Come on Mike, back off- Rudy-style bluster has never been your strong suit.
BOBBY BONDS, 1946-2003: Bobby Bonds, a standout major leaguer for 14 years whose primary legacy is the present-day superstardom of his son Barry, died of cancer Saturday at the age of 57.
In an age in which the majority of superstar athletes are estranged from, or never even met, their fathers, the Bonds men (like Michael and James Jordan before them) remained close until the very end. At the time of the elder Bonds' death, Barry's career home run total stood at 652, just eight fewer than that of Bobby's former teammate and Barry's godfather, Willie Mays.
For the first decade of Barry's career, sportswriters and sportscasters mistakenly referred to the young star as "Bobby Bonds," seemingly more often than that. A few idiot journalists, on Saturday, returned the favor, including an on-air Fox News anchor falsely reporting that "Barry Bonds" had died.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "If you say you’re a socialist now, people will look at you kind of funny. And you are kind of funny.” -John Weld, history professor, via Professor Quotes.
Thursday, August 21, 2003 DARKMAN: This week's Village Voice, which covers the blackout, is one very good reason to wish the lights had stayed out. In the cover story, the Voice shares a funny-looking picture of Gov. George Pataki, accompanied by enormous letters that read "IT'S HIS FAULT." Now, I'm no Pataki fan, and have certainly been critical of him when he's deserved it, but how is the blackout his fault? Hasn't it been established already that the trouble began in Ohio? What, once the blackout reached New York, was he supposed to stop it with his bare hands? Though you've gotta think Rudy Giuiliani's face would be on the cover of the issue were he still mayor; how the Voice resisted the urge to blame the blackout on their other usual whipping boy, Dubya, is beyond me.
Meanwhile, the Houston Chronicle ran a blackout-related op-ed piece this morning by- my boss! His Jagger/Richards-esque conclusion for the cause of the outage? "After all, it was you and me."
AND SPEAKING OF HOUSTON, AND ENERGY...: The trial of Lea Fastow, wife of disgraced former Enron CFO Andrew Fastow, on fraud, conspiracy and money laundering charges, has been delayed two weeks- because of the Super Bowl. The trial was scheduled to start around February 1 of next year, which is the same day that Super Bowl XXXVIII is to take place, also in Houston. The argument is that the potential jury pool would likely be so preoccupied with the game they won't be able to pay attention to the trial; also, the crowds would be a problem. Only in Texas, I guess.
END OF THE AFFAIR D'BLAIR: The saga of America's most hated teenager, Blair Hornstine, is coming to an end, as the South Jersey valedictorian has settled her lawsuit with Moorestown Township, over their decision to make her share the title of valedictorian with another student. In the deal, Hornstine will receive $60,000- a mere drop in the bucket for the loaded, high-tax-base town- though the majority of the sum will cover attorney fees. Harvard's rescinding of Blair's acceptance, however, stands.
Watching the movie "Say Anything" for the first time in awhile the other week, it struck me how much Blair has in common with that movie's fictional heroine, Diane Court (played by Ione Skye). Both are young, semi-attractive, super-brainy high school valedictorians, whose smarts, lack of social skills, and f-d up relationships with their sleazy fathers have caused them to become social outcasts. Maybe all Blair needs to solve her problems is a Lloyd Dobler in her life; though I can't imagine many of her classmates would object if she took off for England for awhile.
Yet despite all this, Blair Hornstine remains only the third most-controversial Blair of 2003, after Jayson and Tony.
MOORE-ON: In "honor" of the DVD release of "Bowling For Columbine," I hearby share with you an anthology of the best anti-Michael Moore quotes! Maybe another time I'll do an Ann Coulter edition...:
10. "Michael Moore is the Leni Reifenstahl of the Left" (Newsmax.com; though I bet Moore doesn't live to be 90.)
9. "Michael Moore: Idi Amin, Without the Laughs" (Matt Labash, the Weekly Standard)
8. "Satire is not an excuse for dissembling. Great satirists like Jonathan Swift and Mark Twain used hyperbole as a form of social criticism. Michael Moore, however, uses lies, distortions, and nonsensical arguments to mask cheap attacks and promote his own political agenda. Take him seriously at your own risk." -(Ben Fritz, Spinsanity.org)
7. "This is, however, the first Oscar ceremony that I have viewed through a rather narrow political lens. And, quite frankly, I'm not as huffy as one would expect... but then, of course, there is Fat Fat Fatty." (Scott Ganz)
6. "Read this. It's about Michael Moore and how he's a big fat liar. The stories keep piling up about that guy, and I love it. I have a whole "favorites" folder in my browser just for stories about how big of a lying nutpig Moore is. It's getting really full." (Rachel Lucas)
5. "Moore is a disingenuous danger to this country, and his assumptions and assertions should not go unchallenged. The collective expertise and research abilities of the entire Internet are more than enough to debunk most of the nonsense Moore regularly puts forth as fact, and we at MOOREWATCH hope to be the clearinghouse for this information." (Front page of MooreWatch.com, organizers of the RevokeTheOscar campaign)
4. "Moore is astoundingly out of touch with the reality that he claims to care so much about. He is Chomsky for children. He does real damage to the cause that he thinks he is advancing. As is also true of Ralph Nader, the American right is much in his debt." (Alan Wolfe, The New Republic)
3. "This lumbering behemoth's... arguments against gun control are simplistic, weak and mired in the cloying stink of self-service, which smells suspiciously like a fat man’s crack." (New York Press)
2. "'Michael Moore' is to 'working class' as 'French' is to 'resistance'": (Tim Blair)
1. "If you ask me, Michael Moore is a gasbag who, if stuck with a pin, would fly around the room until he ended up on the floor as three pounds of wrinkled hot-dog skin and a sweat-stained ballcap. And if he is a balloon, that would mean that his penis is twisted in a tight little knot." (James Lileks)
A MAGER MOVE: The shocking news was announced last week that Paul Magers, news anchor for the past two decades at Minneapolis' KARE-11, is departing the NBC affiliate to take a similar job at KCBS in Los Angeles.
Magers, the brother of former Minneapolis and Chicago newsman Ron Magers, has been rumored to be interested in big city or network jobs for years, and has even subbed on the weekend Today Show in recent months.
Wow, seems like everything in Minneapolis is changing- for all these years of going home, Paul Magers on Channel 11 was one of the few constants from the old days. But as long as Mark Rosen keeps doing the sports on WCCO, I'll be happy.
QUEERED BY 'QUEER EYE': Lionel Tiger, the Rutgers biology professor who invented (no joke) the concept of "male bonding," has an entertaining smackdown of "Queer Eye For the Straight Guy" on the Wall Street Journal op-ed page. I totally agree with Tiger's argument about the offensiveness of the show- the problem isn't at all its celebration of homosexuality, but rather its deep-seeded prejudice that there's something "defective" about heterosexual maleness.
The charade feeds on an enthusiastic glee in confronting what I call the "male original sin," which is that all men and boys are in urgent need of remedy from their natures and must rapidly liberate "their feminine side" (the front? the back?). It is all remarkably condescending and peculiarly rancorous, but also nationally fashionable. It has little to do with homosexual rights and everything to do with antipathy to maleness and confusion about what it is.
'Queer Eye' is an entertaining show, no question, and it's clearly touched a cultural nerve. And that it wouldn't have been possible ten years ago is something of which I'm quite mindful. But my objections to it are the above, plus its stereotyping (both of gays and straights), plus its unquestioning, all-encompassing faith in the cult of materialism.
And one more thing- I can't help wondering how Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, and the rest of 'em feel about the 'Queer Eye' people using the "Fab Five" name. Then again, there's a fairly good chance that neither Fab Five has any idea of the existence of the other.
Wednesday, August 20, 2003 AND THAT BITCH ANN MURRAY TOO: Here's Gregg Easterbrook- aka Tuesday Morning Quarterback- on ESPN.com:
In the hours after the blackout, Toronto's mayor Mel Lastman declared that the problem must have started in America but, "Have you ever seen the United States take blame for anything?" Mel, we've taken the blame for more awful errors than anyone can count -- the bomb that hit the Chinese embassy in Belgrade and the destruction of the Iranian Airbus among many others. Just a few months ago, in a case that every Canadian except, apparently, the mayor of Toronto knows, America took the blame for the four noble Canadian soldiers whom United States forces killed with friendly fire in Afghanistan. America accepts lots of blame because we are out defending the free world: and equally important, defending the notion of freedom. Year after year, liberal democracy spreads and tyranny continues its retreat, because year after year the United States surrenders blood and treasure in this vital fight. Canada sleeps well, with very small defense expenditures and thus more money to spend on itself, because the United States stands guard.
But I thought Canada stood on guard for thee!
POETIC JUSTICE OF THE DAY: The corporate parent of the worst company in America, U-HAUL, is now bankrupt, according to the New York Times. In a rare feat, however, the stock of the company is somehow rising, which can only suggest Enron-like shenanigans.
While the article completely omits any mention of U-HAUL's in-the-toilet customer-service record, it does share that the company's CEO, Edward Shoen, took control of the company by ousting his own father, who founded U-HAUL in 1945. What a guy!
It makes sense- U-HAUL's always been morally bankrupt, so it only follows that they're now financially bankrupt.
IN A JAM: As a semi-member of the Phish cult, I'm quite disturbed at the news this morning that Phish bassist Mike Gordon has been arrested for child endangerment, after an incident in which he "accompanied" a 9-year-old girl into a boathouse, and allegedly took "art photos" of her, after a concert by The Dead at Long Island's Jones beach theater. (Gordon does not face any type of sex rap, at least not at this point).
Just Gordon's luck, the girl turned out to be the daughter of some Hell's Angels members who, according to the Daily News account, put the beatdown on Gordon before police arrived- Hell's Angels beating up hippies at Dead shows, of course, being a tradition nearly as old as time itself.
In the meantime, now the counterculture has some idea of how sports fans feel about Kobe...
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "There are two simple lessons from the suicide bombings yesterday in Baghdad and Jerusalem: No one is safe and there is no turning back. Suicide terrorism is the plague of this century. It cannot be escaped, denied, or appeased. It must be defeated." -Editorial in the Jerusalem Post (via LGF)
Tuesday, August 19, 2003 WORSE... THAN ANY ZIONIST: The planned "Solidarity With Palestine" conference scheduled for October at Rutgers University may now be off, because members of the national Palestinian Solidarity Movement have a beef with the conference's infamous organizer, law student Charlotte Kates. According to an e-mailed "public letter," which has not apparently drawn the attention of a media that has understandably been more focused on the bus that was blown up today in Jerusalem by the PSM's allies, the national leaders are proposing moving the conference from Rutgers to Ohio State. The reason? "violations of the democratic process and irresponsible behavior by New Jersey Solidarity that seriously threatens the future of the movement."
These "violations" seem to be that New Jersey Solidarity, Kates' group, no longer has any Arab members, has been disavowed by every other major pro-Pali group in the New York area, and members of the NJS "had confrontations with almost everyone at [a previous national meeting], were not respectful of democratically-made decisions, nor personally respectful to the individual delegates." Therefore, Not-So-Good Charlotte is taking their group on "a destructive course that could very well have a worse impact on the PSM than any zionist."
Since New Jersey Solidarity appears to be a Kremlin-style cult of personality consisting of Little Red Kaffiyah Hood and very few (if any) others, obviously the PSM folks' problem is with her, even though her name is not mentioned. I mean, these people may be terrorist sympathizers who don't recognize Israel or its right to exist, but to their credit they're consistently supportive of democracy- something Charlotte, a lifelong Communist, clearly isn't so into.
I'm not quite sure how I feel about this- yes, it's great to see this loathsome individual put in her place; after all, blogger Mickey Kaus pointed out the other day that "as Howell Raines learned... it's harder to get away with being a bigshot prick than it used to be." But I was sort of looking forward to the conference actually taking place; just yesterday morning, it was announced that a pro-Israel conference would be happening at the same time as Kates' jubilee. I was sort of hoping the "Solidarity Conference" would end up being like one of those Klan rallies where 600 counter-protestors show up, opposite five or six Klansmen.
My other favorite thing about the letter? The signatories all have either distinctly Arabic names, or distinctly Jewish names.
IS THE BATTLE OF SHAKER HEIGHTS FIXED?: Entertainment Weekly has a not-altogether-tongue-in-cheek item in this week's issue (not online) alleging that the fix is in with "Project Greenlight." EW can't understand why Miramax (and producers Ben Affeck, Matt Damon, and Chris Moore), in need of a hit, would choose the obviously unqualifed "bumpkin directors," Kyle Rankin and Efram Potille, as winner of their let's-make-a-movie contest. Did they purposely hire abrasive, not-very-talented helmers knowing they would clash with the producers, actors, and writer, and thus produce riveting TV?
I think they did, and here's why: the budget the directors are given for the film is around $2 million ($1 million last year). I haven't seen any statistics and I'm only speculating here, but I'd imagine the fee HBO pays Miramax/LivePlanet (Damon/Affleck's production outfit) for the right to air the show isn't a whole lot less than that number. Ergo, Miramax had already recouped the majority of its investment before an inch of film was shot, and any subsequent profit the movie itself makes is gravy on Miramax's part.
Therefore, the producers are given the chance to monkey around to their heart's content, and hire the sort of director who would, say, interrupt an important production meeting in order to ask for a free car. The only reason anyone would see "The Battle of Shaker Heights" is that's the "Project Greenlight" movie, so producing a riveting TV show is a better way to draw interest in the film than just about anything the Miramax marketing geniuses could come up with. That's why we've been treated to the long-running, three-way battle among smarmy, chair-breaking asshole producer Chris Moore, clueless directors Ranken and Potille, and sensitive, sweet-eyed screenwriter Erica Beeney, who I confess I've had an Ohio-sized crush on since episode one. When she had her little peptalk with J.Lo a few weeks ago, my eyes were on Beeney, baby.
EW also mocks the presence in the film of Ray Wise, who is forever etched in popular memory as Leland, the man Who Killed Laura Palmer on "Twin Peaks." Is the evil spirit BOB haunting the set? The owls are not what they seem...
But my favorite moment on a series full of Unintentional Comedy Hall of Fame bits came on last week's episode, during which Ben Affleck (gracing the show with his presence) lamented that if 'Shaker Heights' flops, he, Damon and Moore may have to "reconsider whether Project Greenlight is a viable way of producing movies." As opposed to what, Ben, doing it the "Gigli" way from now on?
WORLD ACROSS "THE WIRE": The show that precedes 'Greenlight' on HBO Sundays, "The Wire," is absolutely incredible- but among all my friends who worship "Sopranos," "Sex and the City," and "Six Feet Under," I don't know a single person who watches it. Yes, I know a bunch of cops trying to bust drug-runners on the Baltimore docks doesn't sound as interesting as the Jersey mob, or women frankly discussing tea-bagging, or dead bodies, or the creator of "Seinfeld" wandering around offending people, or a bunch of amateur idiots making a movie- but trust me, it is. Season finale is Sunday.
AND SPEAKING OF HBO, AND TWIN PEAKS...: Next week David Duchovny begins a guest-starring stint on "Sex and the City." He'll certainly make the show more watchable, but knowing that an embarrassing stint on SATC all but ruined the career of another of my favorite actors, Kyle MacLachlan, I'm not so optimistic about Mulder's chances. Oh well, at least Blair Underwood is working again.
THE BODY ON WEEKENDS: Just like when he announced "Saturday Night's Main Event" (and later the XFL), Jesse Ventura will soon once again work Saturday nights for an NBC-owned property. The former Minnesota governor's show on MSNBC will now be a once-weekly operation, rather than the five-nights-a-week program originally envisioned by the network.
It's not out of the realm of possibility that the show could work- after all, Ventura has had some level of success in various modes of public life, from wrestling to acting to sports broadcasting to radio prior to politics, so I'd say he's got a good chance to come up with an entertaining show- definitely better than Michael Savage's, and probably Joe Scarborough's too. But then again, it's hard to disagree with the Phoenix's Dan Kennedy, who points out that "To my knowledge, this is the first time that the channel has ever cleaned up one of its train wrecks before it's aired for a few painful months."
Here's my analysis of Ventura's chances for success, posted when the show was announced back in February.
1) More than 98% of all convicted felons are breadeaters
2) Half of the children who grow up in bread-consuming households score
below average on standardized test.
3) More than 95% of violent crimes are committed within 24 hours of bread
4) Bread is addictive. People who use it, use it over and over again and
5) Bread is often a "gateway" to harder food items such as butter, jelly,
peanut butter and even cold cuts.
6) Bread is proven to absorb water and since our body is over 90% water...
well, you can only imagine.
7) Newborns can choke on bread
8) Hunter Hearst Helmsley likes bread.
Monday, August 18, 2003 EXCLUSIVE: THE OFFICIAL END OF ROLLING STONE'S CREDIBILITY:
All that, plus a news article by disgraced plagiarist Stephen Glass, all in one issue!
"WHEN THE LIGHTS GO DOWN IN THE CITY," OR: NOTES ON THE BLACKOUT OF '03: As I write now it's been nearly 72 hours since power was restored in Hoboken, after 11 hours, due to the Blackout of '03. Here, in no particular order, are my reflections in this, the largest mass power outage in U.S. history:
- The blackout began at 4:18 p.m. on Thursday the 14th, right after I had left work early, and was on my couch, typing up the Bill O'Reilly/Al Franken post that can be found below. I was about to press "publish" when the lights went out; I first figured it was just my building, or perhaps just my block, so I figured it would come back on moments later and I could publish then (with my laptop switching to battery power). Unfortunately, the lights stayed out long enough that my computer ran out of power too, with my router of course not working either; by then I'd heard people outside yelling "the power's out!" With no computer or TV working I figured I'd take a nap; after an hour down I heard my cell phone beep that I had a message, but couldn't get my messages, leading me to think maybe something was up region-wide. That's when I turned on my portable radio, heard the phrase "Blackout of '03" for the first time, and realized that it wasn't just my building or my block or Hoboken- but rather much of the Northeast and Upper Midwest.
- Soon after that I went outside, and (minus the crying and panic), it was an eerie echo of 9/11- about five times the normal number of people on the street in Hoboken, wandering aimlessly from all directions, wondering how they'd get home. I walked over to Pier A in order to watch the sun go down on Manhattan without light and- much like September 2001- there were next to no lights on in the city, with the exception of conspicuous floodlights, downtown. I was also stuck in Hoboken for the entire ordeal, much like 9/11, though once again a part of me wishes I had been somewhere in the city, experienced the event along with the rest of New York and come out with stories to tell for the rest of my life.
- I was hoping to see all the lights of Manhattan come back on at once- which would have unquestionably been one of the most amazing sights of my life. Alas, it wasn't to be, although Lileks last Friday expressed a similar wish.
- I listened to about two hours of radio, and one of the first things I heard was WABC's Sean Hannity introducing a Republican congressman guest with the half-kidding proclamation that "we've gotta find a way to blame this on Clinton." I later heard callers, of course, throwing blame Bush's way. FM radio was more enjoyable; seeking to emulate radio legend Scott Muni, who famously climbed to the top of the Empire State Building in order to broadcast with a microphone and portable radio during the 1977 blackout, Q104.3's Ian O'Malley did a similar thing, playing such blackout-applicable tunes as Journey's "Lights" and Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark" while broadcasting from his Discman.
- At around 8:00 I met up with some friends who live down the street, and after hanging out at their apartment for awhile we went to try to pick up our other friend, who had waited hours to be ferried from Manhattan to Weehawken and was meeting us at an uptown diner. Due to traffic gridlock and the hundreds of other people waiting there- as well as the lack of cell phone service, we missed her the first time- and the second too- until we finally reached her about 3 hours later.
- After nightfall, auxilary power remained on in much of Hoboken, including a majority of the streetlights on sidestreets. But the main street in town, Washington Street, had no lights whatsoever- it really looked not unlike the apocalypse. You know how a street you know well can look completely different in daylight from how it appears at night? On Thursday Washington St. was like a third way- I honestly felt like I didn't know where I was, even blocks from my apartment.
- Now for the meta part of the story: as some of you know, I make my living as a reporter for a news service that covers the energy industry. And due to an early morning report that we put out daily, I am often required to be in the office in the wee, wee hours. Now I know many people, in NYC and elsewhere, had the day off from work Friday. But for my company that wasn't exactly an option- especially since this was the biggest national energy story since the Enron collapse, and possibly even bigger than that.
I fell asleep on my living room couch at about 1 AM, thinking that either the power would come back on and wake me up, or that it wouldn't come back on at all, in which case I wouldn't be able to go to work anyway. Come on it did, at 3:02 AM EDT, and I headed into the office two hours later. Without breaking any confidentiality agreements, I can say that it now appears the outage began in Ohio; my boss appeared on CNBC Friday morning to discuss the situation. Though I really wish our original impulse ("Blame Canada") had in fact been accurate.
-Yes, I know it's a cliche that "New Yorkers come together" in a time of crisis. And Lord knows I'm always the first one to point out New York elitism and/or condescension to the rest of America and Canada. But I notice that New York seemed to handle the crisis much better than, say, Cleveland; and there was indeed a welcome lack of looting, in contrast to '77.
Mayor Bloomberg, after bumbling like an idiot and showing no leadership whatsoever during such previous calamities as the near-transit strike, the February blizzard, and the James Davis murder, really stepped up this time and showed that he may just be growing into the job. Now if he could just do something about that stupid smoking ban...
So that's the story of the blackout- on the one hand an historical night that I'll never forget, but on the other- just other night at the office.
Sunday, August 17, 2003 DIRTBAG DICTATOR DEATH DEPT.: Yep, there's one less evil despot in the world- Idi Amin has died. Rest in pieces, bitch.
THE MELTING OF THE MELTING POT: David Brooks, as astute an observer as there is of modern sociology, has a piece in this month's Atlantic about how despite years of political correctness, Americans don't really care about diversity. It's a distinction that transends politics, really. Here's Brooks:
In the Washington, D.C., area Democratic lawyers tend to live in suburban Maryland, and Republican lawyers tend to live in suburban Virginia. If you asked a Democratic lawyer to move from her $750,000 house in Bethesda, Maryland, to a $750,000 house in Great Falls, Virginia, she'd look at you as if you had just asked her to buy a pickup truck with a gun rack and to shove chewing tobacco in her kid's mouth.
The other fascinating thing in the piece? Brooks tells of a firm called Claritas, which breaks down the entire U.S. population into 62 "psycho-demographic clusters," such as "rising Hispanic," "town and gown," and "suburban sprawl." Which one are you in?
WKOBE: You know how all those news people had a hard time dancing around some of the more salacious aspects of the Kobe case? Yea, that was nothing. Yet another professional basketball player is being accused of sexual assault, this time for participating in a gang rape of a young woman. The twist? This time, the accused is a WNBA player.
Latasha Byears, formerely of the Los Angeles Sparks, is under investigation for raping a former teammate; three men are said to have participated in the alleged assault as well.
We know who and where of the case- but the how? Your guess is as good as mine...
Everyone here is all proud because there was no looting in Detroit but "THERE
AINT SHIT TO LOOT IN DETROIT" what can you loot some old bum's bottle's and
can's, shopping carts & matteress laying on the shoulder of the highways,
someone's broken ass screen door or one of the Mayor's pimp suits. Chick news
anchor's look hotter all sweaty wearing either one of those silk tank top
things they where under a blazer or a blouse unbuttoned 3 buttons in a studio
with no a/c got to see that thanks to my battery powered SHARPER IMAGE little
tv. People where all freaking out at gas stations and driving around looking
for gas stations that can pump gas, hello moron's you would have gas in your
car if you stayed home and didnt drive like everyone on tv and radio are
saying. People where trying to put gas in buckets, old margerine tubs, jars and
other things it was a hoot to watch this newsgirl on channel 4 try to explain
that you can only put gas in a approved container while some dude at the pump
behind her is filling up a cooler with gas.
Whenever there's a big calamity in New York everyone always talks about how New Yorkers "pull together" and "help each other through it." Guess that doesn't apply to Detroit, Cleveland, or (for that matter) Canada.
UPDATE: MSNBC just ran a graphic with the following info, for Detroit:
People without power: 1.5 million
Automotive plants shut down: 8
Penalty for rock-throwing: 10 years
That may just be my favorite graphic ever.
Friday, August 15, 2003 LET THERE BE LIGHT!: The lights are back on (in Hoboken at least); I've finally got power back after 11 hours without. I have my entire Blackout '03 story in my head, and much of it on paper; check back later today, for the blog version.
Thursday, August 14, 2003 FRANKENSUIT: It was reported earlier this week that Fox News Channel is suing writer/humorist Al Franken for copyright infringement over his forthcoming book, "Lies and Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right." Fox allegedly filed the suit at the behest of talk host and longtime Franken nemesis Bill O'Reilly, who engaged in a shouting match with the comic on C-SPAN the other month; they probably let him write the lawsuit too, as its full of Factor-esque mean-spirited references to Franken being "shrill and unstable," as well as "intoxicated," and "not a well-respected voice in American politics."
The suit, of course, has had the unintended consequence of sending Franken's books sales through the roof; in two days he's moved from #84 to #1 on Amazon.com. FNC is attempting to obtain an injunction to prevent the book's release over Franken's use of the phrase "fair and balanced"- which is, of course, clearly a parody of Fox's laughably inaccurate tagline and won't confuse anyone old enough to read.
Even though he's a St. Jewish Park boy like me, I'm far from a fan of Franken's; his politics are way to the left of mine and besides, he hasn't come up with anything funny since that whole "Politicians Who Have Showered With Blacks" thing, and that was almost a decade ago. But there's little doubt that he's in the right here- clearly, it's Fox and O'Reilly who are being shrill and mean-spirited, and it's only a poetic justice that the advance Franken will get for his next book likely quadrupled in the last three days.
O'Reilly struck back against Franken's denials in his "talking points memo" on The Factor last night, reproduced on his website. Since its so audaciously hypocritical and hysterical, and the closest Mr. O has ever come to self-parody, I hearby offer a fisking:
In just a few weeks, the FOX News Channel (search) will celebrate its seventh anniversary, awash in success and publicity. In that short period of time, we have become one of the most powerful news organizations in the USA, an amazing accomplishment. That is true, and Fox deserves credit for putting together such an effective operation in such a short period of time. They may have done so while piggybacking on the fiction of "fairinbalanst," but nevertheless...
But that success has caused an incredible amount of anger among some in the elite media An entire network (owned by a massive multinational corporation) just sued one guy. But it's the one guy who's "the elite," right?
And their attacks on us have now resulted in legal issues, such as trademark infringement and defamation. Little bit of hypocrisy there on Bill's part- he spends just about every night on his show being critical of everyone under the sun, but yet he's awfully quick to sic his lawyers on anyone who dares be critical of him, whether it's Franken or the proprietors of OReillySucks.com. Then there was that infamous column where O'Reilly bashed "the internet" for saying mean things about him, and called for the creation of a federal "cyber police."
And besides, for someone who bitches all the time about the nefarious influence of "the trial lawyers," O'Reilly sure seems to sue people an awful lot.
The main point here is that trying to hurt a business or a person because you disagree with what they say is simply unacceptable in America. It is? Say what? You mean a person like Ludacris? Or like Jesse Jackson? Hillary Clinton? The ACLU? O'Reilly ran an obnoxious, self-righteous, and borderline-racist crusade against Pepsi and Ludacris, a business and a person who said things with which O'Reilly disagreed. - and his boycott against them was not only acceptable, but Bill did it himself! Trying to hurt a business because you disagree with what they do or say is "not acceptable"? By that rationale, the Montgomery Bus Boycott was "un-American."
And besides, O'Reilly's nonstop Hillary- and Jesse Jackson-bashing, justified or not, has gone miles beyond anything Franken has done- much less in a book that hasn't been released yet.
Vigorous debate is embraced by us, You mean like on "Hannity & Colmes," which, as TomPaine.com has said, is about as "fair and balanced" as a Harlem Globetrotters game?
It is simply a joke for The New York Times to editorialize that fabricated personal attacks are acceptable under the banner of satire. If I'm not mistaken, the Supreme Court has said exactly that- but then Bill couldn't imagine going through a whole monologue without mentioning the New York Times.
I wonder if The Times thought that Donald Sagretti (sic) was funny when he manufactured dirt to hurt Richard Nixon's political opponents. Actually, I always thought Segretti, whose name O'Reilly can't be bothered to spell correctly, was quite a funny guy- he coined the term "ratfucking" (which always gives me a chuckle), made common practice of releasing stink bombs in polling places during voting, he had a funny haircut, and he was played in the movie by Robert Walden, who starred in the TV show "Lou Grant" and later appeared alongside O.J. in the film "Capricorn One." Plus, Segretti had the cajones to run for an California judgeship in 1995, and despite having gone to prison and been disbarred for his Watergame misdeeds, even resurfaced in 2000 as the Orange County co-chairman of John McCain's presidential campaign. Besides, I love O'Reilly's hubris in comparing Franken's silly book- and the Times' innocuous editorial in defense of it- to Watergate.
I guess The Times editorial board would be yucking it up if their pictures appeared on a book cover accompanied by the word "liar." Well, that's likely to happen whenever the Jayson Blair book comes out; the NYT would be wise to just ignore it, if you ask me.
There's no question that many of the attacks launched against FOX personnel are designed to injury and demean. But what about the attacks launched by FOX personnel, and lobbed at liberals and centrists more or less every day? I've walked by News Corps' headquarters on Sixth Avenue a few times and now that I think about it, it does look sort of like a glass house.
It's unfortunate, but in this country, if you're successful or famous, many courts will allow defamation, slander and liable(sic) to go unpunished. Aw, that poor, rich, famous, Bill O'Reilly. It must be so hard, when you attack people for a living, to have to deal with all the attacks... my heart bleeds.
But once again, that's not the issue here. The point is accountability. We are shining a spotlight on the haters and the enablers. On second thought, maybe Bill and Ludacris have something in common after all- Luda doesn't care much for "the haters" either.
Talking Points cannot understand how people could side with the defamers and their pals. In other words, it's a big mystery to O'Reilly why he's not universally loved by all. Listen up Bill- you may think you're God's frickin' gift, but dude- you're not above criticism. And when you go too far, as you do often, people are gonna push back. Everyone gets free speech, not just the people you agree with. When you send your lawyers after anyone who dares call you on your bullshit, it makes you look like a whiny little child. And now Franken gets to sell 'Lying Liars' as "the book Fox News doesn't want you to read."
But it's important to know just who these people are. For as Don Corleone once said, "kept your friends close, but your enemies closer." But I thought Bill hated NAMBLA- does he realize he just endorsed the National Association of Marlon Brando Look-Alikes? First Watergate, now "The Godfather"- O'Reilly really is stuck in 1972.
And that's The Memo.
The Most Ridiculous Item of the Day No, I'd say the Most Ridiculous Item of the Day was, in fact, the Memo.
IT'S A GAS: MSNBC just did a brief, light news story about Quentin the dog, a 30-pound basenji who narrowly escaped euthanasia and has been adopted by a St. Louis man. More than 700 people across the country expressed interest in adopting the dog after word leaked that Quentin had survived a trip last week to a local gas chamber.
Yes, you read that right, St. Louis is in the business of putting dogs to sleep by taking them to the gas chamber. Now, I'm far from a staunch animal rights activist, but I do find it a bit problematic that someone at some point made the decision that the most efficient, humane way of euthanizing dogs is by escorting them to the friggin' gas chamber.
The NBC story also says that "In Defense of Animals, a group that is also donating $5,000 to an effort to eliminate the gas chamber as St. Louis' primary way of euthanizing strays." Good for them- I don't think dogs belong anywhere near the kind of death machine that's more commonly associated with either a) the Holocaust or b) capital punishment of murderers. What's next? Dr. Kevorkian's suicide machine for dogs?
PHOTO I NEVER EXPECTED TO SEE IN THE WEEKLY STANDARD:
Yes, a Standard writer has Gary (described as "conservative") on his "short list" of Cali gubernatorial candidates. But that's only 'cause Hasselhoff isn't in the race. The piece, by Standard Assistant Managing Editor Victorino Matus, also includes perhaps the first mention in Weekly Standard history of the oft-feared but never-seen bully known as "The Gooch," and while Matus enumerates several key moments in 'Strokes' history, he conspicuously leaves out any acknowledgement of Nancy Reagan's famed guest appearance.
And in other recall news, the Schwarzenegger camp has hired billionaire investor Warren Buffett as an economic adviser. In an attempt to jazz up his "boring" public image, Gov. Davis has responded to the move by hiring Jimmy Buffett as his new chief of staff. Meanwhile, the Coleman campaign has brought aboard a business genius of its own: the noted Park Avenue industrialist Philip Drummond. 7:25 AM
ANOTHER MODO NO-NO: I've long observed that when mainstream media outlets attempt to cover blogging, they tend to get it totally wrong. I've also long observed that New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd tends to really, really suck. Today, the twain have met, in what may be the worst MoDo column in memory- and she doesn't even mention "Rummy," "Wolfie," or "Kissy"!
Dowd begins the column by asking "is the internet over?," apparently not having paid attention during the dotcom crash that happened, oh, almost three years ago. Then she raises the failed AOL Time Warner merger and the spam epidemic, and extrapolates those into a thesis that along with the internet no longer being "cool," blogging is somehow on the wane. Why's that? Because virtually all of the Democratic presidential candidates have started lame blogs of their own!
I give MoDo credit for recognizing that blogging isn't for everyone, and that the Democratic candidates just aren't cut out for it. Indeed, most bloggers, and others who follow political media, have noted this phenomenon, but rather than predict gloom and doom, they've reacted mostly with ambivelance. The Blogosphere is a meritocracy, you see, and if a blog isn't interesting (like, say, all the DemBlogs with the possible exception of Howard Dean's) then it'll just get ignored, in favor of the thousand other blogs more worthy of readers' attention. But clearly, blogs are far from dead; even Ms. Dowd likely realizes that the departure of her friend and boss, Howell Raines, may not have happened the way it did were it not for the collective influence of the Blogosphere, and that was just a few months ago.
Arguing that the feeble blogs started by Kerry, Graham, and Gephardt somehow harm the Blogosphere as a whole makes about as much sense as claiming that gay marriage would somehow destroy the institution of straight marriage- and I know MoDo would never be caught dead making that argument.
Man, I'm counting down the days 'til the debut of David Brooks' Times column. Then, there'll be more than one column on the op-ed page worth reading twice a week.
A ROSEY RETURN?: According to a published report Tuesday morning, Pete Rose could be back in baseball in a matter of a few months. But all sides are denying it, and the details of the report don't quite seem to add up.
BaseballProspectus.com, which is the bible of the sabermetrics movement yet has never broken a story as far as anyone knows, reported that Rose will be reinstated after the World Series, will be allowed on the Hall of Fame ballot, will not be required to acknowledge that he bet on baseball, and will be allowed to take a managing job as early as 2005 as long as he has the commissioner's permission.
I don't doubt the integrity of the Prospectus reporters, but I find this story a bit hard to believe, for a few reasons: it's hard to imagine that even a cretin like Commissioner Bud would allow Rose back in baseball without admitting to wrongdoing. It's also hard to imagine that Rose would ever be allowed to manage again, when he has a history of betting on baseball, is a longtime compulsive gambler, and has never established that he doesn't remain one to this day. And finally, how did this story slip past Gammons, Stark, Verducci, and every other top national baseball reporter, and get caught by the Prospectus writers, who by their own admission aren't even really reporters?
I stick to my position that Rose, on condition of admitting that he bet on baseball, should be allowed in the Hall, but not allowed to manage again. Let's hope Beelzebud is smart enough to make the right choice- but I wouldn't count on that.
MILF TIME!: I've been listening to Fountains of Wayne's outstanding new album, "Welcome Interstate Managers," for a couple months now, but it wasn't until today that I saw the "Stacy's Mom" video for the first time- damn.
But I've gotta say that after listening to the song for all that time, I misunderstood it- I assumed that it was a tribute by the band members, who are presumbably in their late 20s, to sexy 40-something women, with Stacy herself in her 20s as well. In the video, the boys obsessed with Stacy's mom are practically pre-teens, with Stacy looking like she's 17 or 18 and SM appearing to be in her mid-30s, if not younger... not that I'm complaining, since both Stacy and her mom are quite something to look at, yet Stacy's Mom is clearly no match for Stifler's Mom.
YOUR OLYMPIC HERO: HERB BROOKS, 1937-2003: The man most responsible for one of the greatest moments in American sports history has died. Herb Brooks, the coach of the gold medal-winning 1980 US Olympic hockey team, was killed Monday in a car accident on I-35W, just north of Minneapolis. He was 66.
A St. Paul native and lifelong Minnesotan, Brooks had also coached both the University of Minnesota Gophers and the North Stars. He also brought several Minnesotans with him to Lake Placid in 1980, when the team of college-aged amateurs somehow knocked off the professional Soviet team, in what was probably the greatest American Olympic moment since Jesse Owens showed up Hitler at the 1936 Berlin games.
By sheer coincidence, HBO happened last night to broadcast "The Miracle On Ice," a documentary about the victory that was produced last year- and the broadcast had been scheduled beforehand, prior to Brooks' death. I don't know if it's the celebration, the pageantry, or the waving flags, but that's one highlight reel I can never resist watching to the end- even though I was only two years old when the 'Miracle' happened. Last night, of course, what is already an emotionally wrenching sequence of events was made even moreso by the news that had preceded the broadcast by just a few hours. Mike Eruzione, Jim Craig, and other '80 players appeared on television later that night to share their recollections of the man they called coach.
According to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, "the strength of hockey in the United States is a testament to Herb Brooks and the historic Olympic triumph in 1980." And it was only fitting that that team was coached by a man so intimately linked to the "State of Hockey." Herb Brooks will be missed by all who knew him, and all those who remember the glory of that amazing victory.
BIG FUCKING Q: While it seems that each "celebrity roast" broadcast on Comedy Central is less funny than the previous year's, this year's version (of Denis Leary) managed to hold my interest to the point where I tuned in and turned on, but didn't drop out- though by the end, I was ready to. (Sports Guy neglected to do a recap, so I guess I'll pick up the slack).
This year Comedy Central severed their relationship with the Friar's Club, following last year's Chevy Chase fiasco, and hired Leary's production company to produce the roast- of Leary (huh?). The production values were improved from previous years, but the divorce from the Friars deprived Jeffrey Ross of his prime annual gig- though a rather grotesque bit involving Rene Russo and Gina Gershon echoed Ross' infamous Bea Arthur/Sandra Bernhard joke.
The event also left out the primary roaster of 2001's Rob Reiner event, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog- though ironically, a highlight of the show was a taped "monologue" by Leary's foul-mouthed dog (voiced by Gilbert Gottfried). Indeed, most of the memorable moments were taped comments from the likes of Conan O'Brien, Jon Stewart, Joe Mantegna, Russo, and (best of all) Christopher Walken.
As for the comics who actually showed up, they left quite a bit to be desired. Most of the roasters decided they'd rather make fun of flamingly gay actor/comic Mario Cantone than Leary, a routine that got old real fast; half the comics there were denizens of Comedy Central late-night like Adam Ferrera and Dane Cook, and most of the big stars in the room (Kiefer Sutherland, Elizabeth Hurley, and several Sopranos cast members) didn't even participate. And Jeff Garlin, so hilarious as Larry David's sidekick on "Curb Your Enthusiasm," was given next to no opportunities to be funny. When the best comics on the dais are Ed Lover and Dr. Dre, you've got a problem.
It was good that this roast left behind geriatric, decades-past-their-prime comics like Alan King, Dick Gregory, and (what the hell) Al Franken. But the Leary roast had the distinct feel of amateur hour. Leary himself was hilarious by the time he got on the mike at the end- but the producers then chose to close the show with Jim Breuer (who appears to have put on about 70 pounds since his SNL/"Half Baked" heyday) singing a pointlessly unfunny metal version of Leary's "The Asshole Song."
And one more thing wrong with the show- In a roomful of immature comics, there was somehow not a single Denis/Penis joke.
It may have been an improvement over the infamous Shaquille O'Neal celebrity roast- but if Comedy Central wants to keep doing these things, they've gotta come up with some better material.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BROTHER: Say your prayers and eat your vitamins, dude, because Hulk Hogan is now 50 years old. The mighty Hulkster and his 24-inch pythons celebrated their 50th birthday yesterday along with all his Hulkamaniacs, though its unknown whether he was joined by the "Macho Man" Randy Savage, King Kong Bundy, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, Bad News Brown, Zeus, or any of the other surviving 1980s WWF/E superstars.
Also known for his starring roles in "Rocky III," "No Holds Barred," "Suburban Commando," and "Mr. Nanny," Hogan is probably the most famous competitor in the history of professional wrestling, and remains an on-and-off WWE superstar to this day. When I heard Hogan was turning 50 part of me thought he had turned 50 years ago, but another part realized that Hogan really looks exactly the same now as he did in "Rocky III" 20 years ago.
So watcha gonna do, brother, when 50-year-old Hulk Hogan runs wild on you?
Monday, August 11, 2003 BUGGERY BRYANT?: Well, that was fun while it lasted... according to an MSNBC story, sources close to the Kobe Bryant investigation are adament that one of the more explicit rumors related to the case is NOT true- the one that says Bryant and the alleged victim first engaged in consensual intercourse, but then Kobe forced her to submit to, um, a certain act that was until recently banned in several states.
That's right, the "anal rumors" are false, as anal rumors are wont to be. Matt Drudge (no stranger to sodomy himself, I've heard) posted something about this in the early days of the scandal, though it was apparently retracted; ever since I've gotten at least a couple dozen "Kobe + anal" Google searches to this blog each day. In the last few weeks the rumor has been spread on more than one talk show by the wacky right-wing pundit Debbie Schlussel, who with her I-wanna-kill-Hillary vituperation, frequent Howard Stern appearances, leather-pants wardrobe, and heavy Long Island brogue (even though she's from Michigan), appears to be pursuing a niche as the JAPpy answer to Ann Coulter.
Schlussel, appearing on "The Abrams Report" last week, attempted to argue in favor of Kobe's innocense by bringing up "rumors of an unnatural sex act," which would presumably turn off the jury and lead to Bryant's acquittal. Say what? Schlussel, who like Star Jones is a lawyer, apparently hasn't kept up lately with law or politics- or history, for that matter; she mis-stated Rosa Parks' name in a 2000 column.
Too bad the sodomy rumor has been put to rest; I was just getting used to pundits and talk show hosts uncomfortably dancing around it. This would've made the Clinton-Lewinsky newscasts look like nothing...
WORST QUOTE OF THE DAY: "An unassisted triple-play is like a late-night bar hook-up: Not quite sure what's happening, over before you know it, then wild cheering by spectators." -Dan Shanoff, in the Daily Quickie, giving us WAY more information than we need about his proclivities. I think he really just wants to "hook up" with triple-playboy Rafeal Furcal.
TWO TRACK MIND:
Today marks the fourth time in six days that Arnold Schwarzenegger has appeared on the front page of the New York Post, and also the fourth time in six days Jeff Nelson has appeared on the back page. You hear people talk about the pressures of the New York tabloids- since Nelson was traded to the Yankees last week, he's been on the back page of the Post more times than not- and he's merely a setup reliever!
THE DAY THE EBILLS DIED: New York Press announced Friday that they have discontinued the Daily Billboard, the NYC alt-weekly's irreverent, sometimes brilliant group blog that I've had the opportunity to contribute to for the last six months.
I've always been one to make lemonade out of lemons, so rather than mope about over the loss of one of my few paying gigs, I thought I'd share a sort of best-of of the late Billboard. Here, without further ado, are the Best E-Bills Ever:
1. "Toodle-oo, Lou" (3/25/'02): Former Press editor John Strausbaugh with an unforgettable smackdown of aged Wall Street commentator Louis Rukeyser, on occasion of Lou's firing from PBS.
2. "Wackers" (10/3/'02): William S. Repsher's shot at "wackers"- urban white people pretending to be crackers.
3. "Tomei in '04" (4/17/'03): Reihan Salaam, arguing that the best thing America could do would be to elect a beautiful woman as president of the United States. He also suggests an alternate plan, in which "We could have the United States become a constitutional monarchy, with Kobe Bryant, representing black Americans, the West Coast, our nation’s vigor and physical prowess, etc., as king and Natalie Portman, representing American Jewry, the East Coast, our nation’s sophistication and sartorial flair, as queen." Yea, not sure Kobe is King is such a good idea anymore...
4. "Down With American Cultural Imperialism" (9/11/'02): On the first anniversary of September 11, 2001, Bill Repsher gives us a master list of "various items from our American culture that the rest of the world should feel free in excising from their own."
5. "Big Pussy" (9/30/'02): C.J. Sullivan rightly derides Randy Moss as a "hateful little brat."
6. "Feel-Goodism in the Fog of War" (4/1/'03): Reihan again, this time arguing (quite convincingly, I may add) that "Pootie Tang" is the greatest film of the Millennium. I'm a sine yo piddy on da runny kine...
7. "The Yodeling to Come" (7/11/'02): Jim Knipfel, shitting on Michael Jackson, likening his behavior to a "meltdown on a scale unseen since Caligula’s final days."
8. "Audie Murphy Machine-Guns Deepok Chopra" (10/16/'01): Repsher again, this time making fun of a silly New York Times piece about "voices of the past." By the end he's referred to an 82-year-old woman quoted in the article as "a smug old bitch," and recommended that she check out a Tristan Taormino column with the headline "Ass Licker."
HE'S A EUNUCH... HE'S DEFINATELY A EUNUCH... HE'S DEAD: RIP to Gregory Hines, a fine actor and even better tapdancer who died yesterday at the far-too-young age of 57. I'll always remember him best from "History of the World," as well as guest-starring appearances on shows from "Webster" to "Will & Grace." Gregory Hines will certainly be missed.
Friday, August 08, 2003 QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I had barely been back to the Upper West Side since we broke up, and I was reminded why; the Upper West Side makes you feel like you don’t bathe often enough, like you’re this swarthy minion swooping up from the city’s underbelly, lurking in to sully their happy, lily-white pseudo-suburbia. The Upper West Side is a strip mall designed by The New Yorker, where people pat themselves on the back for "getting" the new Todd Haynes movie and hypothesize about the city’s homeless "problem." The whole area makes me want to drink six cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon, and then fart. Preferably in a crowded Starbucks." -Will Leitch, in the Black Table, who recently performed a (nearly) Length of Manhattan Walk. (Via Gawker).
Speaking of which, the Second Annual LoMW is tentatively scheduled for early September; more on that when plans firm up. Here's the story of last year's.
U-HAUL, U-SUCK REDUX: The Manhattan User's Guide (MUG) today has a roundup of the worst of everything in New York- and included, of course, is U-HAUL.
The MUG tells of U-HAUL "using the loosest possible interpretation of the word 'reservation,'" and also shares that the sorry truck rental service has an unsatisfactory rating from the Better Business Bureau, due to "Complaints about advertising issues, credit/billing issues, delivery issues, defective/damaged merchandise, failure to provide service, delayed service, workmanship/repair issues, failure to provide promised adjustment, selling practices, and miscellaneous issues." To that I add the company's sure-to-be-illegal practice of keeping insurance information well-hidden inside the truck, so the company is off the hook when renters get into accidents.
Can we please find some way to put these assclowns out of business?
MOST DISGUSTING MOVIE CRITIC QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "This putative franchise closer offers more of the same—though like, say, a jizz stain on Mom's best linen, the formula has long since hardened into a flaky mess." -David Ng, reviewing "American Wedding" in the Village Voice. In all those nasty reviews of "Gigli," I don't remember a single critic likening the film to a "jizz stain."
Thursday, August 07, 2003 JUDGE DREAD: In a truly outrageous miscarriage of justice, a judge in Illinois has sentenced William Ligue, the piece of human garbage who (along with his son) ran onto the field (shirtless, I may add) at Chicago's Comiskey Park last year and assaulted Kansas City Royals first base coach Tom Gamboa, to 30 months of probation.
It's an absolute outrage that this subhuman dirtbag, who for no reason whatsoever decided to blindside a man in his 60s from behind and pummel him to the point that he still can't hear out of one ear, will serve no jail time. Sure, he used the "excuse" that he was on drugs, but hell- if anything, that should give him more time behind bars.
Even worse, however, was that Judge Leo Holt had the effrontery to blame the incident on Major League Baseball itself, due the frequency of brawls in games. What the hell is that? Is the judge aware that 99% of brawls happen after brushback pitches, and almost never result from a player being blindsided from behind, much less a senior citizen first base coach? Let's not forget too, as Sports Guy has pointed out, that rarely if ever has any player actually been injured in a baseball brawl.
(And Speaking of baseball brawls, the ruling happened to come down on the tenth anniversary of one of the greatest ever- the 1993 noggie-battle between Robin Ventura and Nolan Ryan).
GEEK QUOTE OF THE DAY: "How do you interview Steve Lombardozzi for 15 minutes and never ask him about fighting Dan Gladden on his lawn? How can that happen? And is it any coincidence that he makes it into the booth when The Dazzle Man is in Sturgis?" -TwinsGeek (John Bonnes), remembering the 1987 festicuffs between the two ex-Twins- the sort of thing no true Twins fan could ever forget. Hey, I also remember that Lombo- like Doug Mientkiewicz- had a hot wife named Jill.
F. GRAY, GARY?: The Oakland-based alterna-weekly East Bay Express has a veritable command center for the Gary Coleman-for-governor campaign. Check it out, to find out what choo talkin' bout.
WHOA, NELLIE: In the sort of trade that really should have been disallowed by the commissioner's office 'cause it was so unfair, the New York Yankees tonight traded Armando Benitez to the Seattle Mariners for Jeff Nelson. The trade reunites the Yanks with the pitcher they had as their setup man for all four of their '90s championships; they haven't won since he left as a free agent. Benitez, meanwhile, is an infamous choke artist who the Mets should've dumped after two weeks (rather than six years); I think if anything this trade clinched the AL West for Oakland.
Wednesday, August 06, 2003 TOTAL RECALL: After today's events, the California Recall has officially surpassed the 2000 presidential race to become the most fucked-up election in the history of American politics.
First GOPer-turned-leftist Arianna Huffington announced that she's running, which presumably means that her now-gay, still-Republican former husband, Michael Huffington, will not be jumping into the race. Then Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Dems' best hope for keeping the governorship in the event of a Davis recall, announced that she would not run.
Then, a parade of marginal celebrities decided to throw their hats in the ring- pornagrapher Larry Flynt (isn't he from Cincinnati?), comedian Gallagher (who apparently hasn't worked in years), porn star Angelyne, and (best of all) Gary Coleman, also unemployed, who is apparently running on the premise that voters sick of "Gray" would prefer instead to support "Gary." They join the organizer of the recall, convicted car thief "Jihad" Darrell Issa.
Then, tonight, Arnold Schwarzeneggar made the surprising decision that he will indeed run for governor. I've all along had mixed feelings about this recall business, since it's sort of silly to throw out of office a man who was re-elected less than a year ago, but I've gotta say I'm excited about the idea of Ah-nuld jumping into the race.
Learn it well, Gray Davis. For it may be the chilling sound of your doom...
IT'S ALL OVER: Despite an overnight traffic jam, three days of muck (and mire), and a glaring lack of affordable T-shirts, I had quite a good time at Phish's 2003 IT Festival in Limestone, Maine. While I probably won't be going to any more such festivals in the future, this one was a helluva time.
The ride up was mostly without incident, that is until my three friends and I arrived 20 miles from the concert grounds when, apparently, the other 60,000 people all reached the same spot at the same time. This resulted in traffic barely moving at all for a nearly 12-hour period- yes it was a pain in the ass, but it resulted in some fun moments, such as us taking out beers, roadside, at 5:00 AM, and a girl knocking on our door to tell us that she had a) had a flat tire, and b) had run out of pot- and that she wanted to know if we had any pot (when my friend offered use of a spare tire, the girl walked away). We finally reached our campsite at around 11:00 Saturday morning, about 30 hours after leaving New York.
The festival's communal vibe was fun, although I preferred the layout and atmosphere of the band's Big Cypress festival in Florida back in '99. I liked that they had a "Live Phish" booth set up in which concertgoers were allowed to burn CDs for free. And the "Shakedown" area, in which various independent vendors were allowed to peddle their wares, was the best I'd ever seen. Predictably, there was much visible support for Howard Dean (who shares a home state, and lefty, weed-loving fanbase, with the band), though I did also see a Kucinich-for-President van. Rain for days before the festival started also created a virtual river of mud/muck that was reminiscent of Woodstock.
As for the band themselves, they were in top form, despite what some called lackluster song selection. Phish played six sets scattered over two days, though a couple of those lasted only an hour, and included bloated, seemingly never-ending versions of mediocre material, most eggregiously a 38-minute rendition of "46 Days" that opened Sunday's third set. But the band did break out some classics, including an excellent "You Enjoy Myself," "Chalkdust Torture," and "Wilson" (in its shortest version ever) on Sunday, following highlights "David Bowie," "Down With Disease," and "Meatstick" from Saturday. Here are the setlists, for those interested.
All in all, a hell of an experience; watch WKIKYA for his account of the same events.
Tuesday, August 05, 2003 GREAT SCOTT!: According to Sports Illustrated's Page Six-like "Sports Beat" section, new Monday Night Football sideline babe Lisa Guerrero is engaged- to pitcher Scott Erickson of the Baltimore Orioles. The 39-year-old Guerrero, who has been listed as 39 for at least four years by my count, met Erickson last year on a blind date; Erickson already has a ring of his own, which he earned with the '91 Twins, though sadly he no longer possesses his Twins-era mullet.
According to the SI account (emphasis mine),
The pair was set up by a mutual friend, and their first date came after a World Series bet. Because the Angels beat the Giants, Erickson, 35, who lives in Northern California, had to fly to Guerrero's hometown of L.A. for their first date, dinner in West Hollywood
We all know what this means- Scott Erickson bet on baseball! 11:37 PM
HOPE DOESN'T FLOAT: Christopher Hitchens has a great anti-obit of Bob Hope in Slate, in which he alleges that the late comedian went his entire 100 years without ever saying anything funny. Hitchens, the author of an anti-Mother Teresa book, has clearly never been shy about speaking ill of the dead.
But the most fascinating part of Hitch's screed is his evisceration of the New York Times obit of Hope that was written by longtime Times film critic Vincent Canby. Lots of jokes have been made about how news organizations put together obituaries of Hope and other aged celebrities years in advance, but the Times has set a new low- Vincent Canby, who along with Pauline Kael, Andrew Sarris, and James Agee was among the stars of my senior thesis, died three years ago.
It was bad enough when CNN accidentally released a premature obit of Hope in 2001. Yes, Bob Hope was so old that he actually outlived the man who wrote his own obituary.