Tuesday, September 30, 2003 LIVE FROM GAME ONE: This afternoon I attended the Minnesota Twins' 4-1 victory over the New York Yankees in Game 1 of their American League Division Series at Yankee Stadium. For this Twins fan to go to this particular game practically required mountains to be moved, but move them I did, and I was able to enjoy and savor a memorable Twins victory. Here, from beginning to end, is the story:
- I found out from a friend with tickets that going was a possibility a few days before, right around the time it became clear that the dream of this Twins-fan-in-New-York-exile was going to come true, and a Twins-Yanks playoff series was actually going to happen. But this was when I assumed that baseball would put New York, baseball's #1 market, in the prime time slot on Tuesday. I assumed wrong, as Evil Bud and his minions instead conferred that honor upon the Cubs and Braves. The Twins' Game 1 start? 1 PM.
- So I swung into gear: I switched my shift at the news service where I work to the morning, and on Monday night spent two hours taking a train across two states (to Stamford, Connecticut) to pick up the tickets from my friend's mother. I lined up another Yankee-fan friend to go with me, and I was set.
- We arrived at the Stadium at a little after 1 today after we were stuck on the 4 train for nearly 10 minutes, getting to our seats in the bottom of the first, missing only Rudy Giuiliani throwing out the first pitch to Yogi Berra.
- We sat literally in the back seat of Yankee Stadium's bleacher section, the cheapest seats in the park, yet certainly an "alive" atmosphere, and a much better seat than my living room couch- and since we were at the back, no one could see me cheering when the Twins scored or got a third out. I decided against wearing any type of Twins jersey/hat/other insignias; Yankee fans have the annoying habit of pointing out fans in opposing team gear, screaming "asshole! asshole! asshole!," and encouraging those around them to do the same. One guy tried to start a "Red Sox Suck" chant, apparently unaware of who exactly the Yankees were playing today; at a July game two years ago my friend and I, wearing Twins and Red Sox hats, were both accosted even though the Yanks' opponents that day were the Mariners.
-Yankee fans may not be as downright hostile as the Philly faithful, or angry as Boston fans, but don't ever doubt their passion. Though I suppose I shouldn't have had anything to fear; on Monday night my two British co-workers regaled me with tales of their bouts with soccer hooligans, who make the craziest East Coast baseball fans look like pussycats. And besides- the Yankees, in what some at the time called a classist move, banned the sale of beer in the bleacher section three years ago.
- I did, however, wear my vintage 1987 Twins championship ring, that I got for free at a game the following year. Not wearing any Twins gear, though, sort of felt like going to synagogue without a yamacha or talice, although the three teenagers sitting in front of us were in fact wearing yamachas and tzitzit along with their Yankee shirts.
- All in all, I like Yankee Stadium. I call it my fifth-favorite ballpark in America, after Wrigley, Fenway, Camden Yards, and Skippy Field.
- Things moved along for the first few innings, until a disturbance in the force coming out of the fourth: Johan Santana left the game with a leg spasm, and was replaced by Rick Reed. The Twins' bullpen was directly in front of where I was sitting, and the reaction of most Yankee fans, who remembered Reed's very checkered Mets career, was laughter as opposed to booing. But Reed got the job done, as did J.C. Romero, and later LaTroy Hawkins.
- I called my dad at the office in the 5th inning, and he said his entire law firm had been sitting together in a conference room watching the game since the beginning- the loss of productivity from people attending the games or watching them in bars or at work is another excellent argument against 1:00 starts for postseason games.
- Just horrible defense all around by the Yankees, including the double-error play that led to a pseudo-inside-the-park homer by Torii Hunter, the kind of play that used to happen regularly in my Little League games at the aforementioned Skippy Field. After Hunter's play, I had the following exchange with the guy sitting next to me:
Guy: Who just got that hit?
Me: Torii Hunter.
Me: Don't worry, he'll be a Yankee in three years.
Guy: Yea, him and Piazza.
My friend Peter: Yea, and Pedro too.
- To his credit, Yankees' PA announcer Bob Sheppard managed to correctly pronounce Doug Mientkiewicz's name all four times that he came to the plate.
- In the ninth inning, of course, "Everyday" Eddie Guardado just had to give us all a heart attack again, just like in Game 5 last year in Oakland. But once again, after giving up a run, Eddie settled down and got three outs, aided by an awesome Shannon Stewart catch. Twins lead series 1-0, will have two home games, and now hold home field advantage in the Series. Oh yea, and the Yankees' 13-game winning streak against the Twins? History.
-Wonderful New York Times headline: "Twins Have a Field Day With Yankees' Imperfections." Makes the Twins sound like a manipulative boyfriend or something.
- Game 2 is Thursday night, also at the Stadium, but I'll be watching from home this time. It's all right though- great to make it up to the Bronx for a game, wonderful to see the Twinkies pull out a win, and good to escape the Stadium without anyone accosting me for being a Twins fan.
UPDATE: Welcome, TwinsGeeks! Check back again throughout the post-season for more on Twins' 2003 championship drive.
I CLAIM THIS BLOG IN THE NAME OF...: For awhile this morning some Christian website broke one of the Ten Commandments (the one about not stealing) and briefly took over this blog. Not sure how they did it, but order has been restored. Don't worry folks; I'm still Jewish.
"WHAT THE HELL DID YOU TRADE JAY BUHNER FOR?": In an interview in the Strib with "close personal friend" Sid Hartman, George Steinbrenner- the man who has benefited more than any other from baseball's Reaganomics-like financial structure, refers to baseball's new labor agreement as "communistic." Easy for him to say; he's Stalin.
Funny that for such an anti-communist, Steinbrenner never hesitated to send former Assistant to the Traveling Secretary George Costanza to a Communist country (Cuba) to recruit players.
Oh well, not as much of a sin as going to Yankee Stadium and rooting for the opposing team... 6:11 AM
PLAY BALL: After a trip to Connecticut tonight (don't ask) to pick up tickets, I will indeed be attending tomorrow afternoon's Game 1 between the Twins and Yankees at Yankee Stadium. I'll be back Tuesday night with reports both here and at TwinsGeek.com, so check both out. In the meantime:
MANUEL NO LONGER LABORS: Two major league baseball managers were fired today: the Chicago White Sox' Jerry Manuel and the Baltimore Orioles' Mike "The Human Rain Delay" Hargrove. Not fired? Detroit manager Alan Trammell, who will apparently keep his job even though his team finished a mere 76 games under .500. Contrast that with the Yankees' Joe Torre, who despite four championships may very well get the pink slip if he doesn't win a fifth this year.
Monday, September 29, 2003 LUCKY BLOGGY: After not updating her excellent "NYC Anti-Hipster Forum" blog for nearly two months, blogger Aimee Plumley found herself quoted and the blog mentioned Sunday in the New York Times. The Times, in its latest valentine to hipster/"blue collar chic" pseudo-culture, mentioned Plumley in counterpoint to the loathsome Vice magazine editor Gavin McInnes.
Aimee's blog is awesome, I grant you, but I update my blog diligently, every day. Where's my love from the Times?
YET ANOTHER CELEBRITY DEATH: Encyclopedia Brown, RIP. Why, if it weren't for him, I'd still have no idea how to spell "encyclopedia."
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Hoboken is the kind of place where, on a Friday night, if you walk down Washington Street, you are bombarded with the mating rituals of early 20-somethings who are drunk. Girls who all look alike (like all the girls on "The Bachelor") strutting down the street in their regulation-black, all shrieking on their cell phones, saying things like, "Well, we waited for you at the Black Bear … where ARE you?" In grating voices, where everything, even statements of fact, come out as questions." -Sheila O'Malley, reflecting on Hoboken then and now on the occasion of Kazan's death.
PLAYOFFS!: This post is not about Jim Mora, although I must register my disappointment that Mora was not mentioned on tonight's telecast of the game between his two former teams- nor was a montage of Mora press conference meltdowns shown on SportsCenter.
But I digress. The 2003 Major League Baseball playoffs begin on Tuesday, and the first game is the opener of the Twins-Yankees David and Goliath matchup at Yankee Stadium, followed by Braves-Cubs that night, and Red Sox-A's and Giants-Marlins the following day.
I will of course root for the Twins 'til the end, though I am also very excited about the possible advancement of both the Red Sox and the Cubs. In Boston-Oakland, someone has to be the first "sabermetric team" to win a playoff series, and I very much hope the Cubs crush the loathsome Atlanta Braves like a bug. Indeed, a World Series between Boston and Chicago would be, to quote "Back to the Future," a paradox- one of those things that can destroy the universe. And even if the Twins lose, we'll either be treated to another Yankees-A's clash, or (perhaps best of all) a repeat of '99's great Yankees-Sox ALCS.
I am both rooting for and predicting first-round playoff victories by the Twins, Red Sox, Cubs, and Giants, and with the exception of Giants-Marlins, all four will go the full five games.
That's all I've got to say for now, except- how 'bout those Minnesota Vikings? 4-0!
CHUTZPAH AWARD NOMINEE: The Detroit Tigers and their fans today celebrated raucously after they won the last game of the season to avoid tying the 1962 New York Mets for the most losses in baseball history. "Woo hoo! We only lost 119 games!"
ELIA KAZAN, 1909-2003: One of the greatest filmmakers of the 20th century is dead, as Elia Kazan passed away Sunday at the age of 94. Kazan won two Acadamy Awards each (for Picture and Director), for "Gentlemen's Agreement" (1947) and "On the Waterfront" (1954), and his other classic films included "East of Eden," and "Splendor in the Grass." Kazan was awarded a lifetime achievement Oscar in 1999, which was highly controversial because in 1952, the formerly Communist director had gone before the House Un-American Activities Committee and named names of several of his former colleagues.
I went on record at the time as saying that I didn't feel the congressional testimony of nearly a half-century before should've precluded Kazan from receiving an award that recognized his work, and I still feel that way now. Kazan was a repentent former Communist who had seen the error of his ways, and saw it fit to expose those who he felt had betrayed his country. And had he not named those names- names that HUAC already had- Kazan's career likely would've ended on the spot, and the world never would have been exposed to several of his films, including 'Waterfront.'
Kazan's death is the third in as many days (after those of Robert Palmer and George Plimpton) that upsets me exponentially more than that of Edward Said. In Plimpton's case, I made sure to check each obit to see if it mentioned Plimpton's role in the famous Sidd Finch hoax; shame on them if they didn't.
CELEBRITY DEATHS COME IN 27s: Is it just me, or has 2003 been one of the biggest years of all time for celebrity passings? Mr. Rogers, Bob Hope, Katherine Hepburn, Strom Thurmond, Nell Carter, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Miss Elizabeth, David Brinkley, Gregory Peck, Leon Uris, Hume Cronyn, Buddy Hackett, Barry White, Idi Amin, John Schlesinger, Charles Bronson, Leni Riefenstahl, John Ritter, Johnny Cash, Gordon Jump, Said, Plimpton, Palmer, Kazan, and (best of all) Uday and Quesay Hussein. And there's three months to go.
Now perhaps, as each of us gets older and more aware of the world, it just seems like more people we've heard of have died. But even so, 2003's just been one big celebrity death-o-rama.
Sunday, September 28, 2003 BURN YOUR SIDDUR AWARD NOMINEE: "...we chose Clinton and got an undermining of liberal thinking by the person who supposedly represented that thinking.' This subversion laid the foundation for Dubya. By electing a Democrat like Clark or Dean, who are really 'moderate Republicans,' Lerner says, we may be 'creating someone even worse than Bush.'"-Lefty rabbi and Tikkun Magazine editor Michael Lerner, quoted by Richard Goldstein, in (where else?) the Village Voice. Howard Dean is a "moderate Republican"? In Lerner's world, who's a liberal Democrat, Hugo Chavez?
Saturday, September 27, 2003 5764: Happy New Year to all Jews on Rosh Hashanah. And whether you're Jewish or not, take the time to listen to/download Phish's cover of "Avenu Malkeinu." You won't regret it.
Thursday, September 25, 2003 CRYSTAL CLEAR: It was announced Wednesday that Weekly Standard publisher and arch-neoconservative Bill Kristol will host the Academy Awards in March. The Academy clearly felt that after Michael Moore and others spent much of last year's Oscars slamming the Iraq war, it might be an interesting change of pace to name Kristol, one of the principal architects of that war, host for the 2004 edition.
In addition to his career as a writer and pundit, Kristol is also an accomplished actor, comedian, and song-and-dance man who starred as gay son Jody Dallas on the hit '70s sitcom "Soap," wowed audiences with a popular Sammy Davis, Jr. impersonation on "Saturday Night Live," and later starred in several popular movies. Kristol's appearances in the hit movie "City Slickers" and its sequel, "City Slickers 2: the Legend of Curly's Gold," were bisected by his stint as chief of staff for Vice President Dan Quayle from 1989-1993; after the box office failure of his 1992 directorial debut, "Mr. Saturday Night," Kristol co-founded the Weekly Standard in 1995, later taking time out to back John McCain's presidential campaign and to direct the well-received HBO baseball drama "61*."
Kristol is believed to be the first openly Republican Oscar host since the late Bob Hope in 1979.
TWINS POST OF THE DAY: How many playoff victories are required to win a championship in baseball? 11. How many games in a row have the Twins won? 11. If only the Yankees were as beatable as the SNA Detroit Tigers. (Thanks to Isaac, who discovered this).
METRO MAUREEN: Is it Maureen Dowd's plan to spend the next year taking turns referring to different male politicians as "metrosexuals"? Today it's Ah-nuld's turn.
SEPARATED AT BIRTH: I don't normally condone "Lord of the Rings"-based political analogies, since you can pretty much shoehorn anything you want into that paradigm, but MY GOD this is brilliant.
REGIME CHANGE ON "THE WEST WING": My take on the challenge facing the show- and its lackluster season premiere- is online at Blogcritics.
FREE DMB: Wednesday's issue of the New York Post was nothing more than one long paid advertisement for AOL, and its alleged free concert by the Dave Matthews Band that took place tonight in Central Park. The Post was distributed freely in the entire metro area, AOL's logo appeared throughout (including on the front and back pages), and the entire middle section of the paper was taken up by a "special advertising section" for the show, quite obviously prepared by Post writers who have never listened to Dave in their lives.
Like the fraudulant MTV/Radiohead and Tribeca Film Festival/Norah Jones concerts earlier this year, the AOL/DMB shindig was advertised as a "free concert," implying that anyone who wanted to could show up and enjoy it, in the tradition of the famous 1981 "Concert in the Park" by Simon and Garfunkel that was attended by a half-million people. But with DMB, the only way people could get tickets was either by winning blind drawings, having them handed off by "street teams," or buying VIP packages for $250- and the lopsided supply/demand ratio of course led to frenzied bidding on Craigslist, with bids starting at $100/ticket. The concert was for "a good cause"- the New York public schools- but the money came not from ticket sales (which were "free") but rather a donation by AOL, as well as the band themselves. If it's "free," and the sponsor is kicking in the money anyway, why not just let people in first-come, first-serve?
Speaking of Dave, I picked up his solo debut yesterday. The usual Dave album, minus the band of course, with 3 or 4 near-brilliant songs, 1 or 2 horrid ones (featuring unlistenable pseudo-gospel), and the rest somewhere in the middle, leading toward good. But I agree with one thing that I've seen in nearly every review of "Some Devil": Dave's use of "ring around the rosey" as the chorus of "Gravedigger" is so cringe-inducing that it ruins an otherwise great song- and it's so weak that he includes it on the album twice. I kept waiting for Matthews to emulate "The Joe Schmo Show" and follow "ashes to ashes" with "you're dead to us now."
AL GETS SCREWED AGAIN: According to the Post's Keith Kelly, the business of porn pioneer Al Goldstein is on the brink of collapse. Goldstein, who narrowly escaped prison last year and has several defamation lawsuits pending against him, has suspended production of Screw magazine after being evicted from his offices due to non-payment of $40,000 of rent, and his legendary cable-access show "Midnight Blue" has been yanked from the air 'cause Al didn't pay Time Warner Cable either. And apparently, Goldstein's sideline business of selling personalized "fuck you" tapes for $250 a pop wasn't working out either. Too bad; I was planning to get one for this guy for his upcoming birthday.
Although Goldstein has been arrested on obsenity charges dozens of times in different states and is considered a heroic figure in the "porn community," the pron game appears to have passed him by, as mainstream culture is now just as raunchy and over-the-top as Screw used to be.
Wednesday, September 24, 2003 CENTRAL CHAMPS!:
Congratulations to the Minnesota Twins, 2003 American League Central Division champions. The Twins beat Cleveland and the White Sox and Royals both lost (the latter to the Tigers!) to reduce both magic numbers to zero and make Magic Number Guy a very happy man. Though on second thought, I suppose it also means the end of his season.
At any rate, as the Twins prepare for a David-and-Goliath first-round struggle with the Yankees, they can be proud to be 2-for-2 in division titles since the contraction crisis of 2001. Suck on that, Selig.
MADE IN MANHATTAN: The annual New York Press Best of Manhattan issue came out today, the first of Jeff Koyen's tenure as editor, and the first featuring content by yours truly. I contributed three pieces, though nothng is bylined and everything gets the "editorial we." Also, check out the front cover: perched on the two 0s in "2003" are a cigarette-smoking Mayor Bloomberg and Hillary Clinton, clutching a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20.
"GOD AS MY WITNESS, I THOUGHT TURKEYS COULD FLY": Actor Gordon Jump died Monday at the age of 71. Jump was best known for three roles: the station manager on "WKRP in the Cincinnati" who said the famous above line; the perpetually un-busy Maytag repairman in a decades-long series of ads; and perhaps most notoriously, a man who attempted to molest Arnold and Dudley on an infamous episode of "Diff'rent Strokes."
Now that the California recall is back on, expect Jump's death to lead to a groundswell of support that sweeps his old co-star, Gary Coleman, into the governor's mansion. Then again, maybe not.
WORST REFERRAL EVER: Appearing in my referral logs today? Something called, that's right, Pedophile.com. Risking the wrath of Ashcroft, I clicked over, only to find that it's a search engine, advertising "the best family links on the web." Might be time for a name change, guys. Ugh.
Tuesday, September 23, 2003 A NEW LOW AT RUTGERS: It was bad enough when the anti-Israel fanatics at Rutgers University were merely throwing pies at Israeli politicians, or extolling the virtues of Soviet Bolshevism to the New York Times. Those things, loathsome as they were, could at least be laughed off as stupid kids doing stupid things. But something happened over the weekend at the New Brunswick campus that wasn't funny at all, and plunged what's going on at Rutgers to a nadir- two university buildings were spraypainted with swastikas.
Now it may have just been some local troublemakers who decided to spraypaint the campus' Hillel House and AEpi fraternity with Nazi symbols just for kicks. But coming just two days after an NJ Solidarity member threw a pie at Natan Sharansky, and knowing their track record, can we really put it past the "Solidarity" jackasses to do such a thing? With their calls that Israel has "no right to exist," the physical attack on Sharansky (something not even Hamas has ever tried), their proposal to bring Hamas members to campus, and now the swastikas, it's almost as though some anti-Semitic element (whether Solidarity or someone else) is trying to start a parallel intifada, right in Central New Jersey.
President Richard McCormick, at least, has been on the right side of this. While most college presidents are prostrate before the false God of PC, McCormick has taken a principled stand; if there was any doubt that the revocation of Solidarity's conference permit was the right thing to do, this weekend's events removed it.
Monday, September 22, 2003 I WAS TRYING TO DO TO HER WHAT BUSH HAS BEEN DOING TO THE COUNTRY FOR THE LAST FOUR YEARS: In honor of the new Woody Allen film "Anything Else," here's an oldie but goody, from "Annie Hall":
New York, Jewish, Left-Wing, Liberal, Intellectual, Central Park West, Brandeis University, Socialist summer camps, and the father with the Ben Shahn drawings, right? Really, you know, strike-oriented, kind of Red-...stop me! Before I make a complete imbecile of myself.
Note that other than "Jewish," "Brandeis," and the summer camps, every one of those applies to Howard Dean*. Maybe during the next debate the ghost of Marshall McLuhan will pop up and tell John Kerry, "you know nothing of my work!"
*Though Dr. Dean's wife is Jewish, and come to think of it, he has never denied that he went to Workmen's Circle camps. Hmm…
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "The life of a repo man is intense. Sorry, i mean, a journalist." –My co-worker, today.
DETROIT SUCK CITY: On Sunday Minnesota beat Detroit in too different sports, baseball and football, as the Twins defeated the Tigers for their ninth straight win and dropped their magic number to 2, while the Vikings beat the Lions to go to 3-0.
The win puts the Twins on track to clinch a playoff berth at home for the first time in franchise history, while the Vikings now have a two-game lead in the NFC North (Norris) Division. Daunte Culpepper got hurt, but Gus Frerotte of all people came off the bench and kicked ass. All in all, he's a much better backup QB than accused hot-tub rapist Todd Bouman.
So we may actually have all four local sports teams in the playoffs in the same year- go Minny!
SORRY, NO ACCOUNT: You may have noticed the other day that I referred to the team the Twins just swept as "the sorry, no-account Detroit Tigers." I use this phrase in homage to one of my favorite sportswriters, Michael Wilbon, who regularly says it on PTI and in his Washington Post column. Indeed, a Googling of the phrase turns up three different Wilbon columns, just on the first page.
While Wilbon usually says it in reference to the Cubs, Bears, Bulls, and even some teams not from his native Chicago like the Bengals, I suppose the modifier can also be used in reference to music ("the sorry, no account Backstreet Boys"), politics ("the sorry, no account Democratic presidential field"), or even romance ("my sorry, no account ex-girlfriend.")
But what does it mean, literally? I guess that the team sucks so much that they're not credit-worthy, so when they go to the bank to the loan officer gives them the bad news: "sorry, no account."
CAMP CLASSICS, CONT'D: Our latest camp memory, or I should say our latest lesson in abject cruelty, is the famous "Never See Your Friends Again!" song. Picture it: the last day of camp, everyone's sad and hugging their friends goodbye and getting ready to get on the bus, when some asshole (or some group of assholes), starts singing, usually to the tune of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy," or the William Tell Overture,
Never See Your Friends Again/ Never See Your Friends Again/
Never See Your Friends Again/
Never See Your Friends Again/
Never Never Never Never Never See Your Friends Again/
Never Never Never Never Never See Your Friends Again/
You get the idea. I once heard a version, with three-part harmony, to the tune of the famous "Lo Yarieau/Lo Yisa Goy" round.
And here's a 21st century update!
WRONG WING: I didn't watch much of the Emmys last night, but did watch enough to catch the outrage of "The West Wing" once again winning Best Dramatic Series, defeating (among others) "The Sopranos" and "Six Feet Under." Now granted, 'Sopranos' didn't have its best-ever year, but neither did "West Wing"- in fact, 'Wing' has gotten worse every year it's been on the air. Try watching the first-season reruns on Bravo every night, then the current stuff- it's a joke. At any rate, the award represented a last hurrah for its erstwhile creator, the original Coked-up Werewolf, Aaron Sorkin.
Even worse, "Six Feet Under"'s amazing third season garnered exactly zero awards. Where's the recognition for Peter Krause? Frances Conroy? And don't get me started on "Curb Your Enthusiasm" losing Best Comedy Series to "Everybody Loves Raymond." Ugh.
Metrosexuality might be the most all-encompassing lifestyle ideal -- clothes, food, decor, music -- since the punk era. The irony is that this lifestyle transformation has the exact opposite aesthetic appeal that punk does. Like punk, I'm hoping it lasts for a couple of Halloweens and then goes away.
Saturday, September 20, 2003 MORE ADMIRABLE MATURITY AND RESTRAINT FROM THE RUTGERS ANTI-SEMITES: Immediately prior to Israeli cabinet member Natan Sharansky's scheduled speech at Rutgers University Thursday night, one of those anti-Israel "activists" we've heard so much about got up and threw a pie at Sharansky. The assailant, an undergraduate by the name of Abe Greenhouse, was immediately arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. Greenhouse, according to the Israeli Insider newsletter, previously appeared in the news when he visited Jerusalem and spoke of placing a note in the Western Wall that read "stop the motherfucking occupation," which is wrong on so many levels it's hard to count.
What hypocrites these people are. The Rutgers "activists" are pushing right now, on "free speech" grounds, to get their canceled conference reinstated, but when the man who heroically stood up to Soviet Communist tyranny on behalf of Jewish refugees- at the price of imprisonment- got up to give a speech to 500 students, was he allowed his right to free speech? Oh no! He got a pie in the face! Way to elevate the debate, guys.
Sharansky, to his credit, returned a few minutes later and gave his speech as scheduled. The topic? "A Jewish perspective of the road to peace."
CLINCH TIME: After sweeping the Chicago White Sox and then beating Detroit tonight for consecutive win number 7, the Minnesota Twins lead the AL Central by 3.5 games, with a magic number of 6 heading into Saturday's games. Oh yea, and six of the Twins' eight remaining games are against the sorry, no-account Detroit Tigers. If the Tigers lose five of the six, they will tie the legendary 1962 New York Mets for the worst record in baseball history. The Twins even have their answer to the Rally Monkey: the Magic Number Guy. With the Twins likely to win the Central and the Red Sox pulling ahead in the wild card race, the American League playoff picture is becoming clearer: if the season ended today the Division Series would pit Oakland against Boston in one matchup, and the Twins against the Yankees in the other. And while I'm excited about the sabermetric-wet-dream of an A's-Sox clash, a Twins-Yankees playoff series is honestly something I've dreamed of ever since I moved to New York. If I can't get tickets to the games at the Stadium I'll go to all five at local bars, dressed head to toe in Twins regalia. The Twins would be underdogs, sure- especially since, as Gleeman points out, they have the glorious record of 0-13 vs. the Yanks in the last two years, and haven't beaten the Bronx Bombers since May of 2001. But they'd have 99% of the country rooting for them, and there would be nothing quite like the Twinkies winning in the playoffs against a team with three times their payroll.
Last year the Twins clinched the division on Rosh Hashanah; this year they'll likely get it done with three or four days to spare.
POLITICAL BASEBALL: Democratic presidential front-runners Howard Dean and John Kerry are in a good old-fashioned row about, that's right, baseball. The Boston Herald has the story about how the Democratic presidential contest could conceivably turn on the candidates' baseball cheering proclivities.
Kerry is a lifelong Massachusetts resident and therefore a lifelong Boston Red Sox fan, but Dean is a bit more controversial: a New York native who grew up rooting for the Yankees, Dean moved to Vermont in 1978 and now considers it an "insult" to be called a Yankee fan. The state Dean governed is squarely part of Red Sox Nation, as is the first primary state, New Hampshire, so which team the candidate cheers for clearly matters.
But Dean also recently commented that he turned against the Yankees "when (Roger) Clemens beaned (New York Met) Mike Piazza, that was it." But that happened in 2000, more than two decades after Dean left New York. The discrepancy has the Kerry campaign screaming "flip flop!" and Dean taking offense; I personally don't know if I believe Dean. Being the year of the Bucky Dent game, 1978 was sort of a weird time for someone to switch from the Yankees to the Red Sox, and if Dean were a true Bosox booster, the Piazza beaning alone wouldn't have served to turn him against Clemens; Roger's departure from Boston in '96- and his decision to join the Yankees the year before the beaning- had already made him persona non grata (if not the anti-Christ) in Red Sox Nation.
Now such an issue doesn't seem so important on the New York side- after all, Hillary Clinton was elected to the Senate from New York despite her dubious claims of lifelong Yankee fandom, and Michael Bloomberg won election to the mayoralty of New York City even though the Massachusetts native was up front about his lifelong love for the Red Sox. But New England is New England; until the Red Sox win a World Series, a Yankee fan running for office in the area might as well be running as a Communist.
This brings up the larger question, one I've raised before, of how any political liberal can justify rooting for the Yankees, the richest and greediest team in a league whose economic structure is sports' answer to Reaganomics. It would appear to make more sense for political progressives to root for the underdog Red Sox, though this year the Sox have a payroll of well over $100 million, good for the third-highest in baseball. My guess is that Dean really doesn't follow baseball at all, and was merely trying to do some easy pandering that backfired.
On the other hand, everyone in Boston thought for years that John Kerry was Irish, and he turned out not to be. Are we sure he really likes the Red Sox?
WHICH IS MORE LIKELY: A Red Sox championship in '03, or a Democratic victory in '04?
D-O-SINGLE-G: This blog's official Favorite Conan O'Brien Character, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, will finally release his long-awaited debut album , "Come Poop With Me," on October 7, according to MTV.
Originally titled "Songs in the Key of Poop" (Stevie Wonder probably sued; imagine trying to explain Triumph to a blind man), the album will likely feature songs the dog has performed before (such as "Underage Bichon") and will include guest appearances by Adam Sandler, Jack Black, Horatio Sanz, Subway's Jared Fogel, and Conan himself. I smell Grammy!
ONE MORE THING: The Conan 10th Anniversary Special was classic, of course, but I was perplexed by the inclusion of the character of Vomiting Kermit, an actual Kermit the Frog puppet who perpetually, uh, vomits. How the hell they managed to get permission from the Jim Henson people, I'll never know.
Friday, September 19, 2003 HELLO, DALAI: His Holiness the Dalai Lama will appear in New York over the weekend, and it was almost shocking how little hype his visit is receiving, compared to his previous New York appearance back in '99.
Indeed, the Free Tibet cause (one which I support) has appreciably nosedived down the list of trendy lefty causes, what with the War on the War on Terror, the anti-Ashcroft stuff, anti-globalization, and all the other new stuff that's emerged in the last few years. The only cause that's suffered more was "Free Mumia," not that I mind.
Anyway, the Dalai Lama recently made some surprising comments, including expressing the belief that it's sometimes necessary to use violence to fight terrorism, and he was non-committal when asked whether or not he opposed the war in Iraq. Perhaps next he'll come around to realizing that after more than 40 years of futile non-violent direct action of the Chinese occupation of Tibet, maybe "passive resistance" isn't such a neat idea after all.
Meanwhile, Patrick French has a great op-ed in the New York Times about how Americans love to use the Dalai Lama to back up whatever their political beliefs are, often with no real understanding of his teachings at all. The practitioners of that weird "JewBu" fad come to mind first.
EX-SPIERS: In a bit of news certain to gladden the heart of anyone with the career plan of parlaying their blog into a real-life journalism career, Gawker writer/editor Elizabeth Spiers has accepted a job as a writer with New York Magazine.
After eight months of running the blog that nearly overnight became a must-read for the Manhattan media elite, it was only a matter of time before the pride of Wetumpka, Alabama jumped to the dead-tree media. Hopefully Elizabeth didn't burn too many bridges in her time skewering celebs/hipsters at Gawker- and I'm also hoping she finds time to keep up the Christopher Hitchens Drinking Club. 11:26 PM
ROCKED YOU LIKE A HURRICANE: Hurricane Isabel's run is over, leaving 4 million people without power and 21 people dead, in addition to a flooded city of Baltimore. New York, however, remained largely unaffected, aside from some pretty heavy wind (a mighty wind?) last night and this morning.
Gregg Easterbrook's TNR blog (likely to be recycled in TMQ Tuesday) yesterday attacked the hurricane coverage, calling it "Category Two Storm, Category Five Hype." And while Isabel did manage to cause quite a bit of damage, there's no question it got more hype than past hurricanes that hit rural Florida, Louisiana, and other such places. Why's that? Three words people: East. Coast. Bias.
THREE QUOTES IN ONE PIECE I: From James Wolcott's piece on "MSNBC's Fox Hunt" in the October Vanity Fair (not online):
1. "Like Rush Limbaugh, [Michael Savage] thinks 'global warming' is a lot of hooey, and his anti-Arab sneers are indistinguishable from those of Ann Coulter, who appears frequently enough on MSNBC to warrant her own dressing room and bikini-waxer."
2. "[Joe] Scarborough acknowledges the copycat comparisons, informing the New York Observer that MSNBC staffers call him 'The Little O'Reilly.' Perhaps they do, one blogger joked, in the sense that Elvis spoke of his penis as 'Little Elvis.'"
3. "The production values of 'Savage Nation' were on par with Al Goldstein's 'Midnight Blue'- its film clips just as moldy too."
THREE QUOTES IN ONE PIECE II: Matt Taibbi, in New York Sports Express, in a piece called "Jets Suck, Will Get Worse, Prepare For Loss": 1. "I think I'm just not even going to address the Miami game. It's sort of like sitting through your uncle's trial for flashing and child rape. We all saw what happened, and I don't think it really helps to discuss it out loud."
2. "And Ted Washington's ass, which Ted Johnson before the season said was 'big enough to show a movie on,' was indeed showing 'Ghost Dad' and 'Crossing Delancey' throughout most of the game."
3. "I will eat my own feces if Curtis Conway scores on Ty Law."
Thursday, September 18, 2003 HATE TO SAY I TOLD YOU SO: Forward editor J.J. Goldberg writes in a Times op-ed that the Jewish Population Survey numbers were phony- and the authors knew it. See, I told you not to believe that stuff...
THE LARRY SANDERS CURSE: Warren Zevon and John Ritter both died last week; ten years ago this week (9/15/'93), both Zevon and Ritter guest-starred on the same episode of "The Larry Sanders Show." Also on that show was the just-as-deceased Gene Siskel, and Chris Farley made an appearance two weeks later.
I'd be nervous if I were current "West Wing" actor Joshua Malina, who appeared on the 9/15 episode as well.
ANCHORS AWAY: ESPN is running a contest in which laymen will vie for the chance to become the network's newest SportsCenter anchor. Applying MTV's "Who Wants to Be a VJ" formula to serious sports journalism, the "worldwide leader" will conduct open tryouts in several major cities, and no broadcasting experience is required.
Because as we know, this same idea had great results when it was called "Project Greenlight."
Wednesday, September 17, 2003 I CAN FEEL IT COMING BACK AGAIN: Especially after last night's big win:
655 AND COUNTING: Barry Bonds on Monday hit his 655th career home run, putting him exactly 100 behind Hank Aaron's record of 755, which has stood since Aaron retired in 1975. And after hitting 656 tonight, Barry is 4 away from tying his godfather, Willie Mays, for third all time.
Can Bonds catch Aaron? Bonds will turn 40 later this year, but until now he has somehow both gotten better with age and avoided injury; if he can keep that up for another 2-3 years, he's got it. He'll almost certainly reach 700 in 2004, and likely tie Babe Ruth's 714 in '04 or early '05; if he catches Aaron that'll likely happen in late '05. Can he do it? I'd peg his chances at about 50/50.
ABC (ANOTHER BAD COMMERCIAL): It's not quite as shameful as the Madden/Outback travesty, but a TV ad I saw tonight nonetheless still has me shaking my head hours later.
In the ad, actor Gordon Clapp (Det. Medavoy on "NYPD Blue") is shown arriving on set and crossing paths with an attractive young woman. As Clapp arrives all of the cameras, microphones and other electronic devices suddenly begin emitting a pronounced feedback noise, until the actor reaches into his breast pocket, pulls out a small recording device, and proclaims, "I've been bugged!" Then, the attractive woman to whom he'd spoken disappears- she was, it turns out, an undercover reporter for TV Guide, and we're supposed to think "ah, TV Guide, they've got the inside scoop all my favorite shows!"
The spot is in jest, of course, but from it we're supposed to draw four conclusions, all of which are false: 1) that TV Guide is known for their journalistic standards/for breaking stories (in fact, it's known for neither), 2) that TV Guide regularly uses the practice of planting clandestine recording devices on the sets of TV shows and/or the actors themselves (they don't, at least I hope not), 3) that such a practice is journalistically acceptable/ethical (it isn't, of course), and 4) that if TV Guide ever did engage in such a practice, they'd be good at it (judging by the feedback noise and Clapp's quick discovery before the scene even begins filming, they're not).
So essentially, the message conveyed by TV Guide with the ad is: "Subscribe to TV Guide, because not only do we commit illegal, unethical acts of journalistic misconduct, but we fail at them too!"
Tuesday, September 16, 2003 QUOTE OF THE DAY: "With the Howard Dean bandwagon rumbling toward carrying two, three or perhaps even four states in the 2004 election, everybody wants on board." -Gregg Easterbrook, who begins his latest Tuesday Morning Quarterback column with a large section lifted from his new TNR blog.
HEADLINE OF THE DAY: From the Washington Post: "Delay Has Voters Feeling Queasy." That's the California recall delay, not Tom DeLay, although I'd imagine he makes quite a few voters queasy himself.
SUMMER GAMES, CONT'D: In the tradition of Skee-ball and Ga-Ga, I give you the volleyball derivative known as "Nuke 'em." When I went to camp Nuke 'em was always considered a kinder, gentler, form of volleyball or dodgeball, one for the younger kids not yet ready to play the more "grown up" sports. Though now that I think about it, I never understood how the "kinder, gentler" part dovetailed with the game being called "Nuke 'em."
PATRIOT MISSILES: Tonight I attended a very interesting event, a symposium on the Patriot Act and other anti-terrorism legislation at the downtown New School (in the same auditorium as the famous Andrew Sullivan-Richard Goldstein smackdown of last year).
The intellectual star power was almost overwhelming- the panel included author Kurt Vonnegut, Harpers editor Lewis Lapham, Village Voice columnist Nat Hentoff, author and CourtTV founder Steven Brill, ACLU head Nadine Strossen, and New York Sun Managing Editor Ira Stoll. I was also pleasantly surprised at the tone of the discussion: while I was expecting a nonstop Bush- and America-bashfest, the conversation remained civil while not in lockstep, nobody (unlike those idiots in Union Square the other week) called America a "police state," and only Lapham referred to the Bush Administration as "fascist."
The occasion of the panel was the 9/11 anniversary, as well as the release of Hentoff's new book on "The War on the Bill of Rights." Hentoff spoke first, and while I sometimes disagree with him, I acknowledge that he is one of the bravest and most admirable reporters in the country, and was greatly interested in what he had to say. Unfortunately, I can't say the same about Vonnegut: senility clearly seems to have set in for the 81-year-old novelist. Bearing a remarkable resemblance to like-minded Brandeis professor Gordon Fellman, Vonnegut rambled for ten minutes about Bush liking to dress up and pretend he's in a movie, spoke the absurdly incorrect statement that Iraq is "the worst strain American soldiers have ever been subjected to," said Bush is "at war with all of the Arabs," and then launched into a bizarre tangent about the Democrats being the "party of perversion," not even mentioning the Patriot Act or civil liberties at any point in his comments. Vonnegut, apparently realizing he'd bit off more than he could chew in agreeing to take part, didn't speak again for the remainder of the evening, except to say "I should've been in the audience." Maybe he should stick to fiction.
Token conservative Stoll, who used to write the anti-NYT SmarterTimes.com blog, filled the Alan Colmes role, as the spokesman for the minority viewpoint who was essentially set up to fail. But Stoll didn't help himself, stumbling through his opening statement, offering no original or substantive commentary whatsoever, and essentially punting whenever another panelist challenged or asked him a question. Every third word out of Stoll's mouth was "um"- if this guy can be the #2 editor of a daily newspaper in America's largest city, then I suddenly feel a lot better about my long-term career prospects.
The most impressive of the panelists was Brill, the founder of Brill's Content and author of "After: How America Confronted the September 12 Era," whose role was to act as an all-purpose bullshit detector for both sides of the debate. Brill pretty much articulated my own position: The Patriot Act itself has gotten a bum rap because it is essentially innocuous, and the majority of the "new" powers therein merely consolodated those that already existed. However, Brill argued, the real complaint civil libertarians should have with John Ashcroft's post-9/11 policies is his imprisoning of "enemy combatants," as well as the dragnet that resulted in hundreds of Muslims being detained. Brill, a lawyer by trade, also handled himself impeccably in the debate portion, having to argue the pro-Bush side at times because Stoll was napping.
The ACLU's Strossen was surprisingly pragmatic and sensible, but a few things she said stuck out: she argued that anti-terrorism measures as a rule "cannot be effective," (to which Brill retorted that they have been and inevitably will continue to be). Then Strossen spoke of having attended an ACLU leadership meeting at a coffeeshop in Washington on the afternoon of September 11, 2001, to discuss a response to whatever the Bush Administration's response would be. Remember that afternoon? Could you have imagined sitting down at that moment to plot strategy?
But most outrageous of all was Harpers' Lapham. One of those old liberals who has been turned by the events of the last two years into a stammering nutjob, Lapham went off on a long rant that was full of wacky statements- he ran through a laundry list of usual talking points about the "Bush-Ashcroft Administration," stating that they hate the American people, and are "more scared of American democracy than they are of the Jihadists," before predicting that one day the Wall Street Journal will praise Bush for his "fascist regime" (?)
In the panel discussion portion of the evening, Lapham was at it again: he referred to the War on Terrorism as "an elective war," which practically had me on my feet ready to take him on, and later stated that he doesn't understand why Al-Qaeda poses any more of a nuclear threat to the US than the Soviet Union did when, as any college freshman in Intro to International Relations could've told him, Al-Qaeda is a greater threat because, as terrorists who value martyrdom, the Cold War-era doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) doesn't apply to them should they acquire nuclear weapons. Not to mention that Al-Qaeda has mounted an attack on the continental US, something the Soviet Union never did. Even Hentoff, a well-credentialed man of the left and perhaps America's foremost civil libertarian, acknowledged that we're in a war with barbarians whose goal is to destroy civilization- a fact apparently lost on Lapham, who seems to think Bush is the true barbarian.
The moderator, Brian Lehrer, noted before the program that this event took place before an audience in Greenwich Village, where by survey not a single audience member either supported the Patriot Act or had voted for George W. Bush. But Lehrer also told of another poll, by Gallup, which stated that 50% of Americans think the Patriot Act is just right, 22% think it goes too far, and 21% don't think it goes far enough. The truth is likely somewhere in the middle, but keep one thing in mind: in a country with no rights or liberties, such a panel would of course never be possible.
HE DOESN'T LOVE FOOTBALL ON TV: The New York Post's perpetually pissed-off sports-TV critic Phil Mushnick has written the inevitable slam of John Madden's paralyzed-player-eats-Outback commercial, only about a week after I did. But then Mushnick follows that with about ten more things about the week in TV sports that he feels like bitching about; the headline, "Tasteless, Vulgar, and Everywhere," could've gone with any Mushnick column from the last five years. And watch him go apoplectic tomorrow about Monday Night Football having ended at 1:00 AM.
I think we can say at this point that sports have passed Phil Mushnick by, and his various beefs are less constructive criticism than pure hatred- Phil doesn't appear to have actually enjoyed sports in at least a decade. How about handing the critic's job over to someone who actually likes sports?
Monday, September 15, 2003 THAT CRAZY, CRAZY NEW YORK TIMES: Front-page headline this morning: "Poorer Countries Pull Out of Talks Over World Trade." By World Trade, they mean "as in World Trade Organization [WTO]." But did the NYT editors not stop to think that, especially this week, when most readers see the words "World Trade," the first word in their mind afterwards is "Center"?
ESOTERIC WEBSITE OF THE DAY: We already talked about Skee-Ball and Ga-Ga, but here comes a website devoted to another great summer sport- Capture the Flag! Though come to think of it, I think I remember, one day, my high school cross-country team playing a game of CTF, after hours, at school.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: Bill Maher, on the Jewish population survey, as well as the claim by a Middle Eastern government that Barbie is a "Jewish doll."
New rule: Jewish people have to start fucking. The Jewish population in America dropped 5% in the last ten years, which may explain why this country's finances have gone to shit. Breed you sons of Abraham, breed! Without Jews, who's going to write all those sitcoms about blacks and Hispanics?
Oh, and new rule: Barbie is a shiksa.
FOR NEWMIE: Twins shortstop Cristian Guzman, half of what Aaron Gleeman calls the "Offensive and Defensive Abyss," on Saturday hit his first home run of the season after 500 at bats, the longest homer-less streak in baseball this season.
Guzman's homer could have been construed as a tribute to Twins third base coach Al Newman, who was hospitalized over the weekend after suffering a brain hemorrhage. Newman, when he played for the Twins from 1987-1991, did not hit a single home run, and finished his 7-year baseball career with more World Series rings (2) than homers (1, which he hit as an Expo in '85). We know Newman wouldn't want the Twins' current shortstop befallen by a similar fate- so knowing that Guzman hit the homer, for Newmie.
The Twins, meanwhile, won again on Sunday, yet remain tied for first place with the White Sox. Considering that all but three of their remaining games are against the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians, the Twins will have to blow it very badly in order to avoid winning the AL Central.
Sunday, September 14, 2003 KEEP RUTGERS TERROR-FREE: The Rutgers University anti-Israel conference scheduled for next month is officially off, after the national Palestinian "solidarity" movement decided in August to move it to Ohio State. Now, Rutgers has canceled what was left of the conference- much to the disdain of our friend Little Red Kaffiyah Hood.
Ms. Kates, the woman who has both called for Israel to be wiped off the map and entertained the idea of inviting Hamas members to campus, has written a public letter asking supporters to complain to university president Richard L. McCormick, who had the effrontery to call off the conference and openly give his support to a concurrent pro-Israel rally, called "Israel Inspires." The latter event will feature such speakers as arch-neocon Richard Perle, Clinton-era CIA director James Woolsey, and Israeli politician Natan Sharansky. Charlotte must really be angry about that last participant- not only does Sharansky represent Israel, but he was previously a dissident against her beloved Soviet Union.
The letter, of course, makes no mention of the decision by Kates' comrades to pull the national conference out of New Jersey, and dishonestly acts as though her plans were ruined by the Rutgers administration only. Kudos to McCormick for taking the right stand and not caving in to the usual college-president gutlessness; send him an e-mail here and tell him so.
MONKEYPORN: According to the New York Post, the latest must-have video is "Call of the Wild: Sex in the Animal Kingdom," a 60-minute anthology of various animals gettin' it on it with one another. The twist? The video was directed by Mel Stuart, who also made one of the most beloved childrens' films of all time, "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." The question of how the 75-year-old auteur went from that to animal porn in 30 years remains unanswered, as does that of whether or not the video features any Oompa-Loompa lovin'.
Friday, September 12, 2003 A TALE OF TWO JOHNS: In the biggest day for simultaneous, unrelated celebrity deaths since Sammy Davis, Jr., and Jim Henson both bought the farm on May 16, 1990, country legend Johnny Cash and sitcom mainstay John Ritter passed away within a few hours of one another this morning.
Ritter's death is unquestionably the bigger shock, as the actor was only 54. The best thing I ever heard said about John Ritter (and I don't remember who said it) is that he took one of the stupidest shows of all time, "Three's Company," and made it consistantly hilarious. In Jack Tripper, Ritter created a character as iconic as any in sitcom history, one that made us forgive the show's often lame and always repetitive nature- when for a time I had two female roommates, I never minded being called "Jack Tripper."
Ritter went on to a semi-successful post-'Company' career, later starring in the underrated cop show "Hooperman" as well as in movies, his most memorable big-screen role being as the sensitive gay man with the funny haircut in Billy Bob Thornton's 1996 "Sling Blade." At the time of his death Ritter was starring in the sitcom "8 Simple Rules For Dating My Teenage Daughter." John Ritter will be missed, and I don't think I'm alone in the Blogosphere in wishing that it had been Saddam apologist Scott Ritter who died, not John.
I confess that I only became familiar with Johnny Cash's work in the last year or two, but the man was clearly a great performer, as well as a brilliant songwriter (if you don't believe me, go read the lyrics to "One Piece at a Time," or listen to the gradual walk-up-the-scale of "I Walk the Line.") The one country singer who for whatever reason the rock 'n' roll crowd always "got," Cash had a strange late-career moment in which he recorded a cover of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt," and made a video that will be looked back on as nothing less than a self-eulogy. The video was nominated for seven MTV Video Music Awards, and rigged as those are I'd imagine Cash would've won Video of the Year had he not missed the ceremony for health reasons.
Hard-living as any singer in history, Cash nonetheless made it to age 71 before succumbing to diabetes. For the last week I've been trying to buy the last Warren Zevon album and haven't been able to find it anywhere in New York or New Jersey; we can now expect a similar run on Cash records.
THE BEST AMERICAN 9/11 WRITING: Since 9/11 was the event that more or less made the Blogosphere what it is today, and because much of the best writing on blogs in the last two years has been either directly or indirectly related to that very subject, I thought I'd do a roundup of the best blog writings of the anniversary:
-Oliver Willis may be a liberal, but that doesn't mean he's not still angry about "those bastards" who attacked our country, and he still doesn't give a shit about "their rights"- funny, neither do I. Oliver's got a Howard Dean logo at the top of his blog; if Dean can find a way to win over the Oliver Willis types (and there are many), he may just have a shot after all.
-And I already mentioned the "Voices" project at "A Small Victory," but it's worth another look.
As for me, I enjoyed the chance, while jogging late at night, to run by the Towers in Light the way I used to pass the Twin Towers, and it gladdened my heart to see the flags, candles, signs, and pictures of people once again adorning Sinatra Park.
And from a media standpoint, I was absolutely floored by last night's episode of "Countdown With Keith Olbermann," which toned down the snark for one night in order to deal with the anniversary- profoundly and tastefully covering the tragedy from all angles, without sanctimony, blame politics, or fearmongering. The best part? A montage of stories about the ubiquitous "missing person" posters, set to U2's "Joshua Tree"-closing "Mothers of the Disappeared." A new high, certainly, for what's becoming the best show on cable news- which probably means it's weeks from cancellation.
BURN YOUR SIDDUR AWARD NOMINEE: Taking that PR axiom about releasing bad news on Friday afternoon a step further, the United Jewish Committee chose to release their National Jewish Population Survey on the afternoon prior to the second anniversary of September 11.
The numbers are no surprise to anyone who's ever read such a study before: growing intermarriage rates and lower birth rates indicate that Judaism is near extinction, even though all of the unmeasurable indicators not in the study- i.e., Jewish influence in American culture, politics, and life, have never been better. The UJC survey even throws in some happy numbers- the intermarriage rate is only 30%, and synagogue membership and identification with Israel are both way up.
Douglas Rushkoff, in a great Times op-ed almost a year ago in which he argued that judging Judaism "by the numbers" is basically meaningless, wrote that this very survey was supposed to be released last November, but the UJC held off at the last minute due to "missing data"- I guess they ultimately decided to do the next best thing and put it out when no one was paying attention. (And yes, I see the irony in posting on Friday afternoon about the "no one will see it on Friday afternoon" phenomenon.)
STUPID OMBUDSMAN: "To tag Hamas, for example, as a terrorist organization is to ignore its far more complex role in the Middle East drama. The word reflects not only a simplification, but a bias that runs counter to good journalism. To label any group in the Middle East as terrorist is to take sides, or at least appear to, and that is not acceptable. The same holds true in covering other far-flung conflicts. One person's terrorist is another's freedom fighter; it's not for journalists to judge." –Christine Chinland, the Boston Globe's ombudsman (ombudswoman?), refusing to "take sides" against a group whose sole reason for existence is to murder civilians. Which is more "not acceptable"- blowing up a bus, or calling the people who did it "terrorists"? What brainless, heartless, gutless vapidity.
But hey, who are we to judge?
THE WEDDING PLANNER (WANTS HER DEPOSIT BACK): The Affleck/Lopez vows are off, at least for the time being (the eventual divorce, however, is still on). The New York Daily News felt the need to share this news on their Thursday front page, even on the two-year anniversary of 9/11 (see above right; via Gawker). This shows once again why I don't read the Daily News- it has all the shallowness of the Post, but none of the shameless audacity.
The News' decision does have an internal logic, however, since the wedding was allegedly postponed due to "excessive media attention," and it was the NYDN who, in their biggest scoop of the year, published the day and location of the now-scuttled nuptials. But this doesn’t bode well for Ben and Jen- the last time something they worked on together was postponed due to bad media attention, they called it "Gigli."
Thursday, September 11, 2003
9/11/'03: Well, today is September 11. It still doesn't seem right- at work today I typed out that dateline at least 10 times, and it never felt right, not even the 10th time.
I think what makes me uneasy most of all is that so many people seem to have decided to "not make a big deal" about the anniversary, at least compared to last year. Last year, in the period around the 9/11 anniversary, the mood of Fall 2001 seemed to briefly return: the flags, shrines, and pictures of people seemed to make a sudden reappearance, and with it came the post-calamitous, introspective atmosphere that almost naturally caused everyone to put things in perspective, count their blessings, and everything else. And honestly, that was a vibe that always, in some weird way, made me feel good. That vibe is no where to be found this year; in Manhattan last night I saw almost no indication or acknowledgement of the anniversary, aside from the annual birthday dinner of my friend, who was born on September 10. It took renting the surprisingly good Spike Lee movie "The 25th Hour" to recreate the feeling of post-9/11 camaraderie.
Yes, I know most people who feel that we need to be "protected" from thinking about the horrors of that terrible day are well-intentioned, ever-sensitive, etc. But in the lack of attention (and, by extension) respect being paid on this anniversary is undercut, I feel, with a sense of "it's been two years, it's about time we got over it."
At any rate, I know that I have NOT "gotten over" the events of September 11, I'm NOT ready to "move on," and I'm not entirely certain that I ever will be. I'm upset today not so much as those knuckleheads who will use the occasion to scoff at the American flag ("ewww, that's so jingoistic!"), or to attempt to turn Osama Bin Laden into some type of Che Guevara figure whose goal in knocking down the Towers was to crush globalization and get the workers of the world to unite (even Noam Chomsky has said that Bin Laden wasn't motivated by globalization, and probably doesn’t even know what it is). No, today I am upset at those, whether in media or everyday life, who want to infantilize us, and keep us from commemorating this anniversary and honoring the victims the way they deserve.
I will not use today's events to attempt to push any type of political agenda. My personal commemoration included, at 8:50 this morning, excusing myself from work to go stand on the Hoboken pier and pay my respects to our fallen brothers and sisters. I'll watch the TV coverage tonight, just as on the day itself and in the weeks afterward, I found that I couldn't tear myself away from the TV until I felt I understood what exactly had occurred.
Also, as I have periodically in the last two years, tonight I'm planning to dig out Sports Illustrated's post-9/11 issue (adorned with an empty seat filled with an American flag, and headlined "The Week That Sports Stood Still"). That issue taught us the not-altogether-contradictory message that sports are both meaningless in the grand scheme of things, and restoratative in the way they help the community out of its collective doldrums. I'll also be reading Michele Catalano's "Voices" project- a wonderful collection of people's thoughts, prayers, and recollections of that day. And finally, I'll be making one more trip to the Hoboken pier today, for the return of the Tribute in Light.
My all those victims of September 11, and all those who lost their lives and the resulting War on Terror, continue to rest in peace.
GOING TO THE CANDIDATES' DEBATE: I watched the Democratic presidential debate on Tuesday night with interest- I love the absurdity of a "2004 presidential debate" taking place with four months to go in 2003 (if Carol Mosely-Braun or Bob Graham drops out by the end of the year, did they "run for president in 2004?") The debate, also, was almost certainly the first (and probably the last) time that the Congressional Black Caucus and Fox News Channel have collaborated on anything.
I also loved that every candidate answered every question by ripping George Bush, stretching sometimes comically; Sen. Graham's hubris in using the word "quagmire" to describe Iraq, something not even the New York Times will do; and the bizarre resurfacing of the Lyndon LaRouche cult. The supporters of the noted perennial candidate/perennial nutjob attempted to interrupt Joe Lieberman nearly every time he opened his mouth- thus granting LaRouche more mainstream media attention than he's gotten since he was convicted of tax evasion nearly a decade ago.
Then there was Lieberman and Dean's sparring over Israel, with the Senator doubting Dr. Dean's commitment to the Jewish state, and Dean swearing that he can be trusted with Israel's security- after all, his wife is a member of the tribe! This followed a really disturbing Village Voice piece the other week that quoted the concerns of a bunch of leftists who don’t trust Dean –the most successful and galvanizing progressive political candidate in a generation- because they fear he is "too far right" (namely, because he doesn't support the immediate obliteration of Israel).
And speaking of Lieberman, his long-lost twin brother, the Dad from "Alf," was arrested on DUI charges last week.
I’M IN LOVE/WITH THAT SONG: But my favorite part of the debate, no question, was near the end, when the candidates were all asked to name their favorite song, and more than half of the people on stage managed to embarrass themselves. Obviously not having prepped for that question, the candidates struggled to come up with answers that fit their personas, pandered to key demographic groups, and didn't sound like outright lies. The candidates had varying success:
-Dean, smartly knowing his Historically Black College audience, named the Wyclef Jean song "Jaspara"- I'd have guessed he'd name something by his co-Vermonters Phish, or something. Even though the questioner said this was a question "for the Gen-Xers"- a ridiculously passé reference to people who are now as old as 36- Dean was the only candidate who named a song that was recorded after 1984.
-Lieberman named two tunes- Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop," which Joe probably has no idea was also Clinton's 1992 campaign theme song; would a President Lieberman be able to summon a reunited Fleetwood Mac to his inauguration? Joe also named Sinatra's "My Way." "The record shows/I took the blows"- also sounds more like a Clinton song.
-"Crazy Dennis" Kucinich said his favorite song is John Lennon's "Imagine"- a popular favorite, sure, but do we really want a president who wants us to "imagine no more countries"? "No possessions"? "And no religion too"?
-Al Sharpton listed James Brown's "Talking Loud, Saying Nothing," which he of course accused the president of doing. "Say It Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud)" would've been a more inspired choice for Sharpton, though for Al to drop out of the race immediately would be more inspired still.
- Most embarrassing was Richard Gephardt, who named Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA." Dick apparently wasn't paying attention to the flap in 1984, when Ronald Reagan used the song in his re-election campaign, unaware that it's not so much a patriotic anthem but the cynical lament of a disgruntled Vietnam vet. Even worse, Gephardt made the same mistake himself four years later, using the song as the theme music of his 1988 presidential run- and still unaware of the mistake, named it again as his favorite song on Tuesday. Maybe Gephardt finds the story of the angry vet inspiring, but that's not exactly conducive to a national campaign and besides, isn't "the disgruntled Vietnam vet" more Kerry's angle?
-Speaking of the Son of Kohn, Senator Kerry named another song from the "Born on the USA" album, the much less ambiguous "No Surrender." Not to be outdone, John Edwards called off "Small Town" by John Cougar [sic] Mellancamp, a song that's pretty universally regarded as a ripoff of another "Born in the USA" track, "My Hometown." A fourth song on the album, "Glory Days," was played at some rallies for candidate and former NBA star Bill Bradley in the 2000 race- which some objected to, since one of the verses tells of a washed-up former athlete driven to drink. And I'd imagine at least one candidate who's run for office in Darlington County, Oklahoma, has used that song in a campaign as well.
It wasn't quite Alan Keyes and Gary Bauer sparring over mosh pit dives and the nefarious influences of "Machine Unto the Rage," but still pretty funny nonetheless.
By the way, a special prize for the first person who e-mails me with the song that the subject line comes from.
COME WHAT MAYS: Lost in the excitement over tonight's Twins victory that put "Minny" a game behind the White Sox in the AL Central was the news that pitcher Joe Mays will undergo "Tommy John" surgery today and likely not pitch again until 2005.
Also, funny that the "Tommy John" nickname has stuck- yes, John was the first major player to receive the procedure, but can you think of any other athlete who has a surgery named after them? By the same token, no athlete since Lou Gehrig 80 years ago has become the namesake of a disease.
Linda Cohn, on SportsCenter tonight, called Mays' injury "devastating," apparently not ironically. Mays' stats this year: 8-8, 6:30 ERA, and he was pulled from the starting rotation on two different occasions. Has Linda not seen Mays pitch since 2001?
QUOTE OF THE DAY: ""You know what? I hated religious fanatics who wanted to murder me on September 10." -Dennis Miller, referring to two years ago today. (As quoted by my favorite blogging redhead).
"POSTURING LOONS": No, not the state bird of Minnesota, but rather those who idiotically misinterpreted 9/11 as some sort of Marxist revenge fantasy. Here's Christopher Hitchens, in a column on "how not to remember September 11," in which he finds time to bash those leftists, in addition to flagwavers, as well as those who practice "Ground Zero Kitsch." The best part:
Reflect upon it: Civil society is assaulted in the most criminal way by the most pitilessly reactionary force in the modern world. The drama immediately puts the working class in the saddle as the necessary actor and rescuer of the said society. Investigation shows the complicity of a chain of conservative client states, from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia, in the face of which our vaunted “national security” czars had capitulated.
Here was the time for radicals to have demanded a war to the utmost against the forces of reaction, as well a full house cleaning of the state apparatus and a league of solidarity with the women of Afghanistan and with the whole nexus of dissent and opposition in the Muslim world. Instead of which, the posturing loons all concentrated on a masturbatory introspection about American guilt, granted the aura of revolutionary authenticity to bin Laden and his fellow gangsters, and let the flag be duly seized by those who did look at least as if they meant business.
WEIRDEST HEADLINE OF THE DAY: From the Times: "Schwarzenegger's Achilles' Heel: Women." But aren't women every man's Achilles Heel?
FIRST RUNNER-UP: From the Washington Post: "The Snoop in Your Coupe." It's a story about surveillance equipment in new cars, and has nothing whatsoever to do with either Snoop Dogg or the Snoop Deville. Fo' shizzle.
LENI RIEFENSTAHL, 1902-2003: The world is running out of centurians: filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, who made "Triumph of the Will," "Olympia," and numerous other hagiographies of Hitler that are studied in film theory classes to this day, has died at the age of 101.
For the last word on Leni, we go to my old film professor Thomas Doherty:
She's the greatest living female filmmaker, but the feminists kind of have a problem with her, because she was a Nazi.
The headline of the Times obit, incidentally, refers to Riefenstahl as "controversial." It's rare for the NYT to identify ex-Nazi associates as such; usually they save "controversial" for Communists, '60s radicals, and Hamas members.
PARSELY SAGE ROSEMARY, ONE MORE TIME: Simon & Garfunkel, a band that is literally four decades past their prime, is expected to announce tomorrow that they will overcome their hatred for one another and go on tour later this year.
Bruce Springsteen putting on a better-than-ever show at 54, I think we can safely say, is the exception rather than the rule- as John Strausbaugh has long argued, rock 'n' roll is music that's by and for young people, not those at the far end of middle age still hanging on to the successes of decades past. Still though, for historical sake, and because I've never seen Simon in any incarnation, I may think about actually going.
WORST COMMERCIAL OF THE YEAR: We've already set a new low for football-related commercials this year, and it's only Week 1 of the season.
Late in "Monday Night Football" tonight, a commercial for Outback Steakhouse aired which begins with the semi-familiar sight of a football player lying motionless on the field, surrounded by concerned teammates. The camera then turns to announcers John Madden and Al Michaels, and Madden gives the usual spiel in that type of situation, i.e., "when an injury like this happens, it really puts the game in perspective," etc. Then, a trainer puts one of those "awesome blossom" things, or whatever it's called at Outback, in front of the injured man, and the formerly paralyzed player is so excited about the appetizer that he immediately smiles and gets up!
That's right- a TV commercial is parodying the concept of paralyzing on-field injuries. Who the HELL okayed this? After players such as Darryl Stingley and Mike Utley have been paralyzed in games, numerous other players have suffered dehabilitating concussions, and the Packers' Donald Driver landed on his head and lay on the field for 10 minutes on Sunday, someone thought it might be a good idea to "poke fun" at such things in order to sell chain-restaurant appetizers? What the hell is wrong with some people?
It's already been well established that John Madden will take money from anyone, and put his name on anything if the price is right. And since last year "Monday Night Football" has turned into pretty much one long commercial for Madden and his various products. When this commercial provokes a huge outrage (as it should), perhaps Madden will start to think twice about his blanket endorsements.
When Darryl Stingley was paralyzed in a game by the Raiders' Jack Tatum, Madden (then the Raiders' coach) famously visited Stingley in the hospital right after the game. But I guess the money from Outback, which also sponsors the announcer's "Madden Cruiser" bus, was enough to overcome the old coach's sensitivity.
TMQBLOG: Tuesday Morning Quarterback and legitimate genius Gregg Easterbrook now has a blog, hosted by the New Republic. Because I guess a weekly 5,000-word column in which he's allowed to talk about anything he wants and have it read by a wide audience wasn't enough, and Gregg has even more to say.
MONDAY NIGHT SWEAT: A chunk of several minutes of tonight's Monday Night Football was spent discussing the ass sweat of Tampa Bay center John Wade. According to sideline reporter Lisa Guerrero, Wade's sweat was such a concern that he considered changing his pants at halftime, lest the sweat cause quarterback Brad Johnson to fumble.
Unlike the case of Clemson's football team, which lost its opening game to Georgia by a score of 30-0 after center Tommy Sharpe vomited on the ball and caused a fumble, the sweat didn't get in the way of a shutout victory, as the Bucs beat the Eagles 17-0.
EXPRESS YOURSELF: The New York Sports Express, the very good offshoot of New York Press that started the other month, now has an almost-fully-functional website. While you're there, check out the best piece in the short history of the NYSX: Matt Taibbi's "Sports Crime Blotter" column on the colorful history of mascots in baseball, specifically the Pittsburgh Pirates' Pirate Parrot, who was the middle man in that team's early-'80s drug ring.
Monday, September 08, 2003 QUOTE OF THE DAY: Here's Al Franken, from his current book:
They don't get it. We [liberals] love America just as much as they do. But in a different way. You see, they [conservatives] love America the way a four-year-old loves her mommy. Liberals love America like grown-ups. To a four-year-old, everything Mommy does is wonderful and anyone who criticizes Mommy is bad. Grown-up love means actually understanding what you love, taking the good with the bad, and helping your loved one grow. Love takes attention and work and is the best thing in the world.
WALKING AND TALKING: Yesterday, in just seven hours, I completed the second annual Length of Manhattan Walk, walking almost nonstop from the Broadway Bridge (at 225th St.) to Battery Park, for a total of about 13 miles.
No huge surprises this year; unlike the first walk, when I ran into Alan Colmes in a deli. Of the four of us who started I was the only one who finished all 265 blocks; my co-walkers, to their credit, managed to reach 72nd Street- which is mistakenly referred to as "uptown" by most narrow-minded Upper West Siders.
For next year's third annual LOM Walk, tentatively scheduled for next June, I'm hoping for a bigger crowd, and hopefully we can also do it for some charitable cause. Let me know if anyone has any ideas for a worthy one.
NOTES ON WEEK ONE: Due to the Walk, I didn't see any football yesterday aside from the ESPN game, but much as I love the NFL, I don't think I've ever spent an entire 6 hours in any of the 10 Hoboken bars that have NFL Sunday Ticket, and the alternative is staying home and watching the locally broadcast Giants and/or Jets games, neither of which I care too much about. As long as I get my Chris Berman/Tom Jackson highlights (complete with the best background music of any sports TV show, ever), my Sunday is always complete.
Anyway, based on those highlights, a few notes on the first week of the NFL season:
-Ah, after entering the season with no optimism whatsoever for my Vikings for the third straight year, they go ahead and beat the Packers, at Lambeau Field, in the first game of the season. Way to go, Vikes. Moss looks in top form, and even their defense, which unlike last year actually has some guys that I've heard of, came up with some big plays. If the Packers keep slipping, it could be smooth sailing for the Vikings in the NFC Norris Division, since neither the Lions nor the Bears appear to be going anywhere this year.
-I already defended the honor of Colts kicker Mike Vanderjagt, who was called a "waterboy" during the off-season when he dared criticize his teammates for lacking heart. Well, let's just say I told you so, 'cause Vanderjagt kicked three field goals, including a 45-yard game winner, as Indy beat Cleveland.
-Blame it on the concussions, blame it on the Chunky Soup, blame it on his frightening wife- but any way you look at it, it appears there's a good chance Kurt Warner is finished. It's sad how the mighty have fallen, but even sadder that Rams coach Mike Martz left Warner in the game even after he knew KW had suffered a concussion. Like Sports Guy said, it's going to be interesting to see which coordinator job Martz takes after the season.
- Lawyer Milloy kicked ass against the Patriots five days after they cut him; in the future, expect teams to expect much more caution in releasing All-Pro players who may conceivably sign with divisional and/or Week 1 rivals.
-That's all; I already can't wait to read TMQ on Tuesday…
KISS MY ASHCROFT: I was in the city Friday night and, walking through Union Square, happened to stumble into a medium-sized anti-Patriot Act protest/"street party." Aged hippies and NYU freshmen alike went through the motions of The War on The War on Terror, bashing Bush, chanting slogans, reading Allen Ginsburg poems through a megaphone (which one girl wasn't able to do without giggling, incidentally), and giving rambling speeches that I sort of found myself fisking in real time, in my head.
Most ubiquitously, several demonstrators held signs and wore T-shirts that said "Stop the Police State!" Now Lord knows I'm no fan of John Ashcroft- I find it hard to have any respect for anyone who feels the need to cover up a nude statue, or considers dancing to be "Satan's palsy." And there are certainly parts of the Patriot Act and other Ashcroft initiatives that I find not-quite kosher, most notably that whole holding-citizens-as-enemy-combatants thing. I generally consider Ashcroft and those like him as Exhibit A for Why I'm Not A Republican.
Yet at the same time, the whole rally sort of took on an air of absurdity once people starting throwing around words like "police state" and "fascist" to describe our government. Even moreso because, the entire 45 minutes or so I was standing there, I don't remember seeing a single cop, anywhere, despite about 250 people assembling in the not-very-big park. In real fascist countries (like, oh I don't know, Saddam's Iraq), you can't have an anti-government, anti-president rally in the center of the largest city in the country without the authorities coming down hard on you- usually with guns and/or tanks.
If you hold a "stop the police state" rally and the police don't even bother to show up, that might be indication #1 that maybe you're not living in a police state after all.