Sunday, November 30, 2003 COMING HOME: I'm leaving tonight to head back to New York after visiting "Minny" for the last five days. Highlights have included generally avoiding the ridiculously cold weather, visiting family and friends, going to see T-Wolves and Wild, both of whom lost.
The Wolves looked especially weak on Wednesday night, as Latrell Sprewell failed to perform against his former teammates and Minnesota fell to the Knicks. Then again, there's not much they could do, what with Wally Sczcerbiak, Michael Olowokandi, and Troy Hudson all out with injuries- even Dancin' Mark Madsen missed the game, necessitating the ugly spectacle of Fred Hoiberg playing the entire second quarter.
I did see Jesse Ventura at the game, as he sat by himself for the entire first half before his notoriously hard-partying son Tyrel joined him at the half. Tyrel did not, however, "[leave] behind liquor bottles, damaged furnishings and vomit for the staff to clean up," as he once did at the governor's mansion.
While no politicians showed up, Friday's Wild game, at least, had the spectacle of the famous Mascot All-Star Game during the first intermission, despite Minny's 2-1 loss to San Jose. With a giant Subway sandwich in goal, the two teams once again skated to a scoreless tie, with the highlight being Charlie the Tuna's tackle of Twins mascot TC Bear to prevent a late score.
That ruled, as did XCel Energy Center itself. And the "State of Hockey" song kicks ass too. The Wild even have a Finnish player by the name of Annti Laaksonen, whose name is remarkably similar to the drug Rush Limbaugh was accused of using. Alas, Laaksonen's position on the ice? Left wing.
Oh, and this year's Turkey of the Year, after "the most feeble nine-victory season in Big Ten history," is Minnesota football coach Glen Mason.
That's all; more when I return to the Big Apple.
TWO STEPS FORWARD... The Jewish newspaper the Forward last week unveiled its annual Forward 50, or the 50 most influential American Jews. Topping the list for the second straight year was Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense seen by most as the principal architect of the Iraq war.
Rounding out the top five were Reform movement head rabbi Eric Yoffie, ADL honcho Abraham Foxman, Hannah Rosenthal of the Jewish Council on Public Affairs, and World Trade Center architect Daniel Libeskind.
Also listed, among those frequently mentioned here, were Joseph Lieberman, Barney Frank, Eric Cantor, Alan Dershowitz, Michael Lerner, Daniel Pipes, Douglas Rushkoff, Jon Stewart, and Debra Messing; the 50 had three Brandeisians that I know of: Yoffie, Messing, and Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Among those conspicuous by their absence from the list: Goldberg, Al Franken, Sarah Silverman, Theo Epstein, Heeb editrix Jenn Bleyer, Jay Fiedler, Ron Silver, David Paymer, and Ron Jeremy.
Saturday, November 29, 2003 REAL WORLD NIGHTMARE: Less than a week after the completion of "The Real World:Paris," which may have been the most boring season in the history of the series (quick- name five things that happened), the unfortunate news was reported the other night that a woman was allegedly raped in the house of the next "Real World" season, in San Diego.
Neither the alleged victim or perpetrator is a member of the cast but both are supposedly acquaintances of the current Real Worlders, though if guilty the perp certainly goes in the pantheon of all-time dumbest criminals for choosing to rape a woman in a house full of cameras.
No idea about whether or not the show will continue to be taped, or whether the alleged rape will be talked about when the show airs; it probably can't air until the matter is adjudicated. Though when angry hipsters in Chicago loudly protested the filming of a "Real World" season in the Wicker Park section of that city a few years ago, that was left out of the episodes.
In other other Real World news, Jeff Nussbaum, the former Tom Daschle staffer and brother of RW legend Cara Nussbaum-Kahn, is the co-author of James Carville's new book, "Had Enough."
WELCOME TO BOSTON:
Pitcher Curt Schilling today agreed to a three-year contract to join the Boston Red Sox, and thus become the best #2 starter in Bosox history. At this point, there is little question that on paper, the Red Sox are ahead of the Yankees.
Look at that photo- doesn't it look like the guy on the left should be the general manager, and the guy on the right the player who just signed the contract? Not often you see a 28-year-old GM sign a 37-year-old player.
But if Schilling had refused the trade, would Theo have broken all the furniture in his house?
PACINO... DeNIRO... PAYMER: I'm really looking forward to this new ABC crime drama "Line of Fire," which debuts next week and looks like it has a chance to rise above the rest of the "Sopranos" rip-offs from the last few years. The twists are many- it's set in Richmond, Virginia (will there be a Meryl Yourish cameo?), the FBI is personified by ex-"24" wife Leslie Hope and former "ER" babe Leslie Bibb (but apparently not Leslie Nielson), and the mob boss is portrayed by David Paymer, who has had a very similar career as a character actor as James Gandolfini did prior to 'Sopranos.' Paymer as a badass- it might just be as satisfying as Kevin Pollak's thug character turn in "The Usual Suspects."
It certainly sounds intriguing. But then, "Skin" sounded intriguing too, and we all know what happened there.
THE DIRRRRTY DIET: Us Weekly this week, for those dying to know, gives us the "skinny" on "How Christina [Aguilera] Lost the Weight," complete with two seemingly identical photos of the sickly-looking "sexy" siren.
While I am certainly proud of Xtina that she was able to drop from 90 pounds all the way back down to 80, I fear Miss Aguilera may be a bit passe, considering that US has relegated her to second-banana on the cover to that other anorexic young "hottie" with no discernable talent, Paris Hilton.
Expect a Christina sex tape to surface before Christmas, though as Triumph the Insult Comic Dog said of her MTV videos, "it's like watching porn, except the music's not as good."
Friday, November 28, 2003 QUOTE OF THE DAY: "That's certainly something I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving. It's been an amazing year: getting rid of Trent Lott, Saddam Hussein and Howell Raines is about as good as it gets. But the right to marry? I can barely believe my luck." -Andrew Sullivan, in his "Daily Dish" e-mail.
MORE TROUBLE FOR ANN: We've got our latest Easterbrook-like debate over whether something someone wrote is or isn't anti-Semitic- and this time the "someone" is none other than leggy conservative pundit Ann Coulter. In her latest column, in which she lambastes the entire Democratic presidential field for having the temerity both to have suffered deaths in the family and to have Jewish ancestors, Coultergeist fires off the following:
In addition to having a number of family deaths among them, the Democrats' other big idea -- too nuanced for a bumper sticker -- is that many of them have Jewish ancestry. There's Joe Lieberman: Always Jewish. Wesley Clark: Found Out His Father Was Jewish in College. John Kerry: Jewish Since He Began Presidential Fund-Raising. Howard Dean: Married to a Jew. Al Sharpton: Circumcised. Even Hillary Clinton claimed to have unearthed some evidence that she was a Jew -- along with the long lost evidence that she was a Yankees fan. And that, boys and girls, is how the Jews survived thousands of years of persecution: by being susceptible to pandering.
I'm not often in the habit of defending Ann Coulter, but in this case I'm willing to let her off on the anti-Semitism charge- her characteristically sarcastic point is that Jews aren't susceptible to pandering, but the candidates think they are, thus their sudden discoveries of Jewish relatives. Nevermind that the Jewish vote isn't nearly as important in presidential primary politics is it in New York (hence the Hillary relative); after all, how many Jews are there in New Hampshire and Iowa?
The quote, however, sounds anti-Semitic until you've read it a couple of times and that, coupled with the disclosure in David Brock's book that Ann said she quit her New York law firm years ago "to get away from all those Jews," sort of makes you wonder. Then again, the larger point of the column- and the rest of her work- is that Ann hates liberals, at roughly the level that the most vile anti-Semites hate Jews.
And my only other question- how does Ann know that Al Sharpton is uncircumcised?
REISTERSTOWN, Md. - A naked man who was shot in the back showed up at the home of retired Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken on Thanksgiving night and pleaded for help, police said.
The baseball superstar, helping out a needy naked guy on Thanksgiving- what could be more American than that?
Better him arriving naked at Ripken's house than Kevin Costner... 7:24 PM
AT THE MOVIES: I'll be back with more blogging from the Frozen Tundra (aka The State of Hockey) later tonight, but first, my two latest movie reviews: "The Matrix Revolutions" at IOFilm.com, and "Shattered Glass" at Hot Movie Ticket.
The latter is highly recommended; the former, not so much.
Tuesday, November 25, 2003 SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT, RE: RACISM AT BRANDEIS: From Harvey Silverglate and Alan Kors' indispensable book "The Shadow University":
It was the tenth year of [Sheldon Hackney of UPenn's] presidency, and he obsessed about race relations throughout. If some halfwit- whether racist or provocateur- scribbled an epithet on a stairwell, the campus would gratify the miscreant by acting as if a fascist night had descended. During freshman orientations, students were taught at "diversity education" seminars to perceive the campus as a hotbed of racism.
Sound familiar, anyone? Just as "Bonfire of the Vanities" is required reading for anyone moving to New York as an adult, "Shadow University" should be issued to every freshman who starts at any top college.
(Found via Amazon's awesome new "Search Inside the Book" feature)
UPDATE: The student who made the offending flier last week has apologized.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's a great Justice op-ed, deservedly mocking those who walked out on the recent Daniel Pipes speech as "left-wing fascists."
A FAIR AND BALANCED REVIEW OF THE FRANKEN BOOK: Looking for a book to read for the four-hour train ride back from Boston last weekend, I stopped into the book store at Boston's South Station and settled on "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them," the somewhat controversial new political humor book by Al Franken. After finishing the first half in one sitting and the rest a few days later, I can say that while I've got quite a few objections, I'm glad I read it.
I've got a bit of a mixed relationship to Franken and his work. He's from where I'm from (St. Louis Park, MN), I once met him at a Twins game and found him to be quite a friendly guy, I've enjoyed a great deal of the stuff he wrote and performed on "Saturday Night Live," and absolutely loved his 1996 book "Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot."
But on the other hand, my politics have moved rightward as his have lurched leftward, and it's hard to dispute that Franken's humor these days has a mere fraction of the bite his '70s SNL stuff did- much of which certainly has to do with his split with longtime writing partner Tom Davis. And I also find his tactic of rebutting the "shrill and mean-spirited" tactics of conservatives by being shrill and mean-spirited himself a tad hypocritical. But at any rate, I was sympathetic to Franken during Bill O'Reilly's hysterical lawsuit against him (writing about it here), and so I figured I'd give his book a shot.
The book starts out with all the easy, deserving targets (O'Reilly, Coulter, Bernard Goldberg, Fox News), winning most of the battles decisively and gleefully tearing their arguments to shreds. On the more difficult stuff, however, Franken punts- he devotes short, unconvincing chapters to the Iraq war and the 2000 election, and has just about nothing to say about either the Democratic presidential field or the current crisis in the Democratic party over the role of liberalism in the War on Terror. Franken's "issue" chapters, as a rule, don’t ring nearly as true as his shots at various celebrity pundits.
In addition, his chapter on the infamous Paul Wellstone memorial service, while honorable in exposing some of the excesses of the right-wing reaction, leaves out a few major details as well, including Iowa Senator Tom Harkin leading the crowd in a chant of "We Will Win!"
Franken also borrows a trick from his enemies on the right by misdefining everything- mistakes in speech, flip-flops, jokes, or deniability-maintaining spin- as "lies." It's dishonest, and only serves to make Franken look hypocritical. Especially since he stretches the truth quite a bit himself, in using every one of those tactics.
In addition, the author includes a laugh-free sequel to the Limbaugh book's most tedious chapter, "Operation Chickenhawk," as well as a generally unfunny cartoon about "Supply Side Jesus." For every joke that kills about 6 or 7 fall flat; Franken also borrows from Peter Vecsey the awful-writer tic of writing long paragraphs that start out factual-sounding but end with lame joke punchlines. Which is the book's biggest weakness- Franken shifts between joking and complete seriousness more or less at will.
There are some highlights, however, such as a faux visit by Franken and his "son" to Bob Jones University, the author's challenge of masculinity-espousing conservative pundit Rich Lowry to a fight, and the entire chapter devoted to exposing the fraud that is "Hannity & Colmes." The author even puts Colmes' name in a smaller typeface, and jokes that his autobiography should've been called "Back to You Sean: The Alan Colmes Story."
If you can get past the absurdity of a book-length polemic arguing that liberalism is always right, Franken's book is all right. "Lies and the Lying Liars" is hardly for hardcore lefties only, which is what separates it, say, from the latest Michael Moore screed. If you're looking for an easy read with a few laughs about the last few years of American politics, it's for you, providing you're willing to take everything with a grain of salt. If what you want is serious, academic analysis of why "Bush is a moron, na na na na na!"; I direct you instead to Paul Krugman.
A FOOTNOTE: I discovered at the end of the book that among Franken's team of researchers was Steve Rabin, a classmate of mine at Brandeis and one of my roommates senior year (us, and Donald Fehr's son). Steve, now at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, wrote his senior thesis as a refutation of the "liberal media bias" theory, thus beating both Franken and Eric Alterman to the topic by almost four years.
SHELLING OUT FOR SCHILLING: The surprising news broke yesterday that the Boston Red Sox are just one waived no-trade-clause away from acquiring Curt Schilling from the Arizona Diamondbacks, in order to add a second likely future Hall-of-Famer to their starting rotation. And while the hated Yankees were prepared to part with budding superstar second baseman Alfonso Soriano for Schilling, all the Sox have to give up is middling pitcher Casey Fossum and a trio of prospects who I've never heard of.
Then again, last time the Sox had Schilling he was one such prospect- traded along with Brady Anderson to Baltimore for pitcher Mike Boddicker in 1988, in what was only the second-worst trade the Red Sox made in the '80s (after the Jeff Bagwell deal). Being able to undo that mistake, in addition to the depth, makes it worth it for Boston to give Schilling the additional two years that he wants; in the deal, Fossum and the minor leaguers would go to the sorry, no-account Milwaukee Brewers, who would then surrender their lone good player, Richie Sexson, to the D-Backs. The trade is also presumably contingent on the Sox naming Terry Francona their new manager, but that was likely to happen anyway.
Tony Kornheiser said on PTI last night that after the Red Sox came within inches of beating the Yankees in the ALCS, by virtue of the retirement of Roger Clemens and now the Schilling signing, the Red Sox are at this point ahead of them. I tend to agree.
For the latest on the Schilling situation, keep checking back with the noted baseball expert Friendster Peter Gammons. 5:04 PM
AND SPEAKING OF HALL OF FAME PITCHERS: Milwaukee Braves legend Warren Spahn, baseball's all-time winningest left-handed pitcher, died yesterday at the age of 84. I saw Spahn at the Hall of Fame inductions in 2001 and he didn't look to be in the best of health; but I give him credit for hanging on for another two and a half years.
And also passing away in the last week was Eloise Pohlad, wife of Twins owner Carl, who died at the age of 86. While I've never had many nice things to say about her husband, Eloise was by all accounts a wonderful matriarch for the franchise. And I'll never forget the sight of her and her husband embracing, in their living room, as they watched the Twins clinch the 1987 AL West championship.
NO HILL IN '04: It's official: contrary to popular belief and conjecture, Hillary Clinton is NOT running for president. The Junior Senator from New York missed the filing deadline for the New Hampshire primary late last week, putting to rest months of rumors and conspiracy theories (including a whole book) alleging that the former First Lady had long been pursuing a nefarious plot to run for president. As though the tentative aspirations of a senator from a major state choosing to run for president is somehow a "ruthless agenda."
Al Sharpton's decision to run for president- now there's a nefarious agenda.
PLEASED TO MEET ME: As I mentioned before, it's going to be damn cold when I'm in Minnesota. How will I cope? Easy- I'll take the skyway.
PROBLEMS WITH THE "SEX TYPE THING"?: The Stone Temple Pilots have broken up; I would've guessed that they had broken up three or four years ago.
TMQ@NFL: Gregg Easterbrook's Tuesday Morning Quarterback column finally has a new home- NFL.com. The column will debut there later today.
Yesterday afternoon I took the PATH from Hoboken to the World Trade Center, to mark the first day of train service since September 11. And while I was merely expecting to enjoy the symbolic value of such an excursion, the train ride was, improbably, an amazing experience.
As my train emerged from the Hudson River tunnel and pulled into the station (and daylight), I realized for the first time I was in Ground Zero- indeed, the temporary PATH terminal was built in one corner of the actual WTC pit. And while I knew this going in, nothing prepared me for the actual sight of actually being right there- the closest I had been was the viewing platform, which was nearly two blocks away.
The temporary station itself was quite impressive as well- adorned with famous quotes from New Yorkers, and also retaining much of the feel of the original WTC PATH station, including the large escalators. And I also love that it opens into the "neighborhood," which for the first time since before 9/11 actually felt "alive."
With more interest groups than one can even imagine (the city, the state, the architects, the leaseholders, the unions, the victims' families, and the general public, to name a few) fighting over what exactly should happen to the World Trade Center site, I fear it could be years before any substantial development is able to begin, and even decades before anything is completed. But kudos to everyone who made this new PATH station happen- not only has it made an easier commute to the city for thousands of New Jersey residents, but it- along with the impossibly swift 7-month Ground Zero cleanup- shows what's possible when people put their heads together. Let's hope the aforementioned groups can learn from the example.
Here's more from Jeff Jarvis, who knows the area well.
NPR TO POOP ON: Not content to merely feud with Eminem, Triumph the Insult Comic dog has jumped headfirst into the Al Franken/Bill O'Reilly fracas, appearing on NPR's "Fresh Air," the same show that O'Reilly stormed off of a few weeks ago after host Terry Gross' questions were too tough.
But rather than walk out, America's Foremost Insult Comic Dog merely pooped on the floor of Gross' studio. If only Mr. Factor had had the class and integrity to do the same…
"JOKE 'EM IF THEY CAN'T TAKE A FUCK": The Vodkapundit, Stephen Green, has a great post, extrapolated from a recent Instapundit post about the most recent David Brooks column; Green takes issue with Brooks' contention that there's something wrong with liking sex if you're single.
That last line reminds me of Maggie Gyllenhaal telling her brother to "go suck a fuck," in the first scene of "Donnie Darko." Which also reminds me- I'm very much on the fence about whether or not to go see this new "Mona Lisa Smile" movie. On the one hand, it's a total chick flick, about Julia Roberts (whom I despise) teaching at Wellesley. On the other hand, it's got Kirsten Dunst, AND Julia Stiles, AND the aforementioned Maggie Gyllenhaal- three members of the Modern Megababe Hall-of-Fame. If Rachel Weisz were in it too, then it would be a certain "yes," but as of now I'm 50/50.
IN MOURNING: Unfortunate news from the world of basketball: Nets center Alonzo Mourning will retire from the NBA, in order to fight his ongoing battle with kidney disease. Mourning had already missed two years, including last year, prior to signing a four-year contract with the Nets prior to this season. Jason Collins will likely replace Mourning as New Jersey's starting center.
And compounding the bad news for 7-foot centers who dominated basketball in the early-mid '90s, Bill Cartwright has been fired as coach of the Chicago Bulls.
IT'S TURKEY TIME! GOBBLE! GOBBLE!: (Expect to see that headline, eluding to "Gigli," quite a bit in the next week).
Anyway, I'm heading on Wednesday to Minnesota for the seventh straight Thanksgiving- no, in 25 years I've never had Thanksgiving anywhere else.
This year, according to Weather.com, is gonna be a cold one, with temperatures topping out at 44 degrees on Friday. But don't worry, I'm going to be spending quite a bit of time indoors, including at T-Wolves and Wild games on Wednesday and Friday.
And speaking of Minnesota sports, the annual Turkey of the Year award will be given out by Star Tribune columnist Patrick Reusse on Turkey Day morning, and considering what a banner year it's been for Minny sports, it's hard to tell who the front-runner is. Last year Reusse chickened out, bypassing obvious winner Kirby Puckett to give the award to Wolves executive Kevin McHale and coach Flip Saunders. Kirby could technically get it for this year (as his trial took place in '03), but I've got to go with Bud Selig as my pick.
Interesting Turkey notes- no one has ever won twice, the trophy was re-christened "The Herschel" at the end of Mr. Walker's disastrous Vikings tenure in 1990, and J.R. Rider was named Turkey of the Millennium in 1999.
O/U 812: The funniest story in the NFL this week (other than the league's most loathsome player, Keyshawn Johnson, finally being put in his place)? The early-afternoon game between the Baltimore Ravens and Seattle Seahawks was expected to be a low-scoring, defensive clash, and oddsmakers placed the over/under at 36.5. The final score? Seahawks 44, Ravens 41, in overtime, falling just a half-point short of overtaking the over by 50 points- almost certainly an all-time NFL record.
Even better than that? Due to the longstanding effort by the league, the networks, and media to pretend gambling on its games doesn't exist, this historic event went completely unreported.
WHAT PC WROUGHT: According to an AP story, 25% of American college students- and more than 10% of top administrators- are unable to name any of the protections afforded to Americans by the First Amendment. Can't say that's much of a surprise, after the last few years of "the right to not be offended" trumping everything that's in the actual constitution.
Hat tip to Campus Press Notes.
Saturday, November 22, 2003 VILLAGE VOICE FULL SPLITS, CONT'D: "Israel's most ardent supporters in the U.S. are fighting back, but there are even cracks there. Last week two politically conservative U.S. groups, the Anti-Defamation League and the Zionist Organization of America, attacked Secretary of State Colin Powell for his approving remarks about the latest peace plan, the so-called Geneva Accord." -James Ridgeway, The Village Voice. The ADL is "politically conservative?" Since when? Just because they support Israel and oppose anti-Semitism? Ridgeway, apparently, considers such views to be "right-wing." Remember when supporting Israel was considered a "liberal cause"? Not anymore, apparently...
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "No, I have not seen the Paris Hilton sex tape. If I wanted to watch a skeleton getting pounded, I'd rent Jason and the Argonauts." -Blogger Jim Treacher. I agree- I think Paris looks like the illegitimate daughter of Ann Coulter and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.
Friday, November 21, 2003 SHINING PATH: While I can't get too excited about any of the WTC memorial designs that were unveiled yesterday, I can get excited about this: The World Trade Center PATH train station, closed since it was destroyed on September 11, will re-open for business on Sunday, the first segment of the WTC site to open to the public. One of the most powerful moments of the post-9/11 period was when a nearly intact PATH car was pulled from the wreckage; now, months or even years before anyone thought it possible, PATH cars will pull in and out of the station once again.
Even though I don't have anywhere to be in the city on Sunday, I'll think I'll be taking a train there anyway.
"YES, OSWALD ALONE KILLED KENNEDY:" I'm not normally one to praise the journalistic skills of Peter Jennings, but the special he hosted last night on the Kennedy assassination was quite an achievement- a dismantling, bit by bit, of the entire case that a widespread conspiracy killed the president of the United States 40 years ago tomorrow. Best of all is the takedown of the brilliantly made but nevertheless fraudulent 1991 movie directed by Oliver Stone.
Much of the best stuff from the special is reproduced on ABC News' website, including an amazing 3D animation of the assassination; for more, read the essay (which shares this post's name) by noted JFK expert Jerry Cohen, excerpted here.
This morning a New York Times reflection on the Kennedy assassination refers to the rifle Lee Harvey Oswald used "to kill the president, according to official accounts." Please. Forty years and countless investigations later, we can believe that Oswald was the one who did it. All lingering doubts were erased by the 1994 book Case Closed by Gerald Posner.
POST-CODE HOLLYWOOD: Congrats to my college film professor Thomas Doherty, who this week received a $25,000 grant from the motion picture Academy so that he may produce a monograph on Joseph Breen, the head of the notorious Hollywood Production Code office in the '30s and '40s. Doherty tells the Boston Globe that when he receives his award from the Academy, he'd like to "snog Halle Berry," much like Adrian Brody did last year. Wouldn't we all…
AND YOU THOUGHT JACKIE CHRISTIE WAS A NIGHTMARE: I think we have a new Worst Sports Spouse/Groupie Ever. According to ESPN.com, police in Arizona investigating the murder of former Red Sox prospect Dernell Stenson are looking into the possibility that Stenson's ex-girlfriend may have been involved. Police say the woman once text-messaged a death threat to the player, as well as doing all this:
Friends and family confirmed to the newspaper that she harassed Stenson across several states over an 18-month period, saying at various times that she was pregnant, miscarried his child, was pregnant again and miscarried again… At one point, Stenson's agent told the newspaper, the woman faked her death to try to force the ballplayer to call her.
Yikes. But why would he call her if he thought she was dead?
Then there's that text message:
U better pray I never see you U again. I swear Dernell U R worth a Murder charge 4 & that is all U R worth."
She may not be responsible for the murder, 'cause it did just sound like a random carjacking. But still, my message to the woman: U R a psycho.
AND SPEAKING OF THE CHRISTIES: There's a new article about our favorite purse-designing couple in the Sacramento Bee. It includes supportive quotes from Chris Webber and other players, and like the Newt Gingrich quote on the back of Alan Colmes' book, the reporter probably has no idea that they're sarcastic.
I'M TOO SEXY FOR THIS MAGAZINE: Johnny Depp has been anointed the latest "Sexiest Man Alive" by People Magazine. I think next year, just to shake things up, People should give the SMA award to someone more unconventional- like, say, Steve Buscemi. Or perhaps Christopher Walken. Or the guy who played Brian Krakow on "My So Called Life."
IT'S NOT TV… AT LEAST NOT THIS YEAR: When I did my Top Ten TV Shows of the Year last year, I ranked "Curb Your Enthusiasm" #1 and "The Sopranos" #2. Of course, neither will make the list this year, because HBO hasn't broadcast an original episode of either show in 2003.
But have no fear, fans of quality television: the network announced this week that 'Curb' will return for the first of ten new episodes on January 4; 'Sopranos' will air its fifth-season premiere on March 7- possibly the first show in the television history to air five seasons in six years.
Don't wait up, however, for the return of "K Street"… 4:47 PM
BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY:A Brandeis senior named Eliezer Schwartz passed away over the weekend, in what has from various published reports been described as a drug-fueled accident and a suicide. Condolences go to Schwartz's family; his older brother Moe was at Brandeis with me.
This, along with Mary Jagoda's passing, reminds us just how unimportant all this PC/anti-PC nonsense really is…
TROUBLE WITH BRANDEIS: I was just about to declare a moratorium on Brandeis-related posts, knowing that most of my readers didn’t go there and don't necessarily care about the day-to-day goings-on at my alma mater. But a couple of events this week bear commenting on, as it appears a virtual pro-PC vs. anti-PC civil war is about to break out on campus, if it hasn't already.
Sometime this week, some idiot placed a flier on campus which stated the following:
There are 6.5 million Muslim-Americans in the United States comprised of African-Americans, and last night they all did your mom. Twice. Did you know that?
Creating awareness: one thought at a time.
Much like the Passner quote, the flier is factually and grammatically incorrect, on top of being viciously racist, as well as not the slightest bit funny. And it's hard to imagine anything more noxious than stereotyping blacks as rapists. The flier is supposed to be a parody of the Senate's "One thought at a time" campaign, but not a particularly funny or effective one.
I don't know what this dumbass was thinking, but he's clearly not helping his own cause by pursuing this course of action, because all he's likely to do is help prove the point of the PC zealots that there's an "institutionally racist atmosphere on campus," make it look as though those opposed to the strong-arming of the "tolerance" advocates are in fact vicious racists, and subsequently inch Brandeis closer and closer to Speech Code-land. Follow Josh for more on this.
The group claiming responsibility for the flier is called, for what it's worth, "the Mad Tea Party." No idea what that is, but they do share a name with a North Carolina-based folk-pop duo. 2:13 PM
TROUBLE WITH BRANDIS: Actor Jonathan Brandis, who starred on "Seaquest DSV," died last week, in an apparent suicide.
THAT'S THE ANTHEM, GET YOUR DAMN NETS UP: The NYSX reported last week that a mysterious fourth bidder had emerged in the fight over who will be the next owner of the New Jersey Nets. Now we know his identity: it's rapper Jay-Z. Yes, the Jigga-Man, who plans to soon retire from rap, has joined the fray, along with groups headed by Senator Jon Corzine, real estate developer Bruce Ratner, and New York Islanders owner Charles Wang.
The real issue in the bidding is where the team will go: Corzine wants to keep them in the Garden State (he wouldn't be much of a New Jersey senator if he didn't), and most likely wishes to continue to pursue the shelved arena-in-Newark plan. Wang wants to move the team to Long Island, while Ratner wants to build a new arena on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn and put the Nets there. It's unclear where J-HOVA (real name: Shawn Carter) would put the team should he win the bidding, though it's interesting to note that the proposed Brooklyn arena isn't that far from where Jay-Z grew up, and would even be assessable by the J-Z subway line.
I'm all for the Ratner/Brooklyn plan: with their woeful arena and oblivious fan base, I've long considered New Jersey unworthy of an NBA team, and how fun would it be to have two NBA teams in the five boroughs? Besides, Brooklyn hasn’t had a major-league sports franchise of its own since the Dodgers left more than 40 years ago.
But could Jay cut it as an NBA owner? I don’t see why not, although who knows if he has the money to buy a team. Also, with his rap sheet and thuggish reputation Jay's been known to occasionally get rejected by co-op boards; the other NBA owners may not be so keen on granting approval to such a sale.
Now P. Diddy's idea to buy the Knicks? That I'm all for- he can't possibly do a worse job than the Dolans have the last few years.
A PRAYER FOR OWEN GLEIBERMAN: The civil war within the New York Film Critics Circle over the ban on DVD screeners- as exemplified in the feud between Armond White and Lisa Schwarzbaum- has already been well-documented. But that's nothing compared to this scandal: in the current issue of Entertainment Weekly, Schwarzbaum's co-critic Owen Gleiberman admits, in a reader Q&A, that he has never seen John Ford's "Stagecoach." What-what-WHAT? Shouldn't he have his NYFCC membership revoked, just for that?
Wednesday, November 19, 2003 SCORE NO MORE: The Village Voice has apparently caved in to the pressure caused by the advent of New York Sports Express, and put the kibosh on its back-of-the-book sports page, "The Score." Too bad; I always liked the stuff they put it on it, even if it was, as NYSX described it, "America's only left-wing sports page."
THIEVES IN "HIGH" PLACES: When last week's entire press run of Brandeis' Justice newspaper was mysteriously stolen, the original fear was that, in the wake of the Daniel Passner brouhaha that brought (negative) national attention to the Non-Sectarian Jewish-Sponsored University, the theft had been carried out for political purposes.
The answer, however, turned out to be even more sinister: the person who stole the newspapers was merely some asshole who did for no apparent reason- other than just to be an asshole!
But since said asshole was a duly elected member of Brandeis' esteemed Student Union Senate, he was made to go before that body and offer his resignation. The Justice's account of that Senate meeting is among the highest of unintentionally comedic moments in recent U.S. media history. I won't do a full fisking, but a few comments on the more egregious parts:
In his resignation speech, [Senator Mark] Brescia criticized the Senate for excessively emphasizing procedure and politics. "It makes me sad I'm leaving the Senate," Brescia said as he resigned. "This is a game. When it stops being fun, it's not worth doing anymore."
While it's unquestionably true that any deliberative body that spends 11 hours debating about something that appeared in a newspaper column certainly does take itself too seriously, I really don't see how their punishment of an admitted thief "stops it from being fun." Assuming it was ever fun in the first place…
I wonder how the city government in New York would react if Brescia decided to take off with a few thousand copies of the Post. Then again, I'd imagine the mobbed-up delivery truck drivers would want to have a word with him first.
Brescia said his decision to take the Justices "wasn't a long thought- out process. I was checking my mail and they were all sitting on the loading dock and thought this would be kind of funny if the Justice disappeared for a little while," Brescia said. "It was just a joke, a prank that I didn't give much thought to it at all actually."
This, unquestionably, is the sketchiest part of the story. If we are to believe Brescia's story, it is that he saw 4,000 newspapers lying around, made the spur-of-the-moment decision to steal them, and then carried all 4,000 of them halfway across campus, with his bare hands, in broad daylight, without anyone else noticing.
The 4,000-issue press run of the Justice is distributed in 40 stacks of 100 newspapers each, or perhaps it's since been modified to 80 stacks of 50 or something like that. We used to carry 2 or 3 stacks of them at a time from the loading dock to the office, and even that was heavy. We're supposed to believe that Brescia carried all 40 stacks at once? More likely, he at least brought his car around, and more likely than that, he had four or five friends helping him.
"I think it's a terrible thing," University President Jehuda Reinharz said Thursday.
Nice to see Jehuda has a newfound respect for the integrity of the freedom of the campus press. 'cause a few weeks ago he was prepared to shut down the paper for the semester.
But the majority of his speech criticized the Union government, particularly the Senate. He criticized a lack of cohesiveness within the Senate, contrasting it with the cohesiveness of the Justice Editorial Board. "(The editorial board) back up their people until the end... right or wrong... and I see them as a good group of friends,"
Could that have possibly been because the Justice editors, in the Passner affair, honestly believed that the editor-in-chief did nothing wrong, whereas Brescia unquestionably did something wrong? The Justice, after all, was pretty quick to throw Passner himself under the bus; Brescia's now lying there right next to him.
I don't take student government ultra-seriously," Brescia said in an interview. "I just find it's a good venue to voice my opinion." Brescia concluded his speech pointing to specific Union officials and quoting the movie "Half-Baked."
"Fuck you; fuck you; you're cool; fuck you; I'm out," he said.
Evidently he does not take it so seriously- and not so wittily either, since he considered it a funny idea to parody "Half Baked"'s parody of "Jerry Maguire" in his supposedly dignified resignation speech. And he delivered the "fuck you" speech in front of the entire Senate, a dean, and a university vice president- what a classy guy.
Besides, perhaps his apparent reverence for "Half Baked" tells us something about his "state of mind" on the day he took the papers, huh?
Though WBRS usually airs the weekly Senate meeting from 7 p.m. until 10 p.m., this week it did not begin its live broadcast until Brescia had finished speaking. "I know a lot of the things that have to go with the legal requirements of a broadcasting station… I had alerted (WBRS) to this beforehand."
I'm amused by Brescia's selective interpretation of media rules- as he claims not to be aware of the "legal requirements" that say you're not allowed to steal newspapers. Brescia may or may not be brought up on charges and/or disciplined by the university; I was originally inclined to support letting the theft slide, but his arrogance has made me think twice.
Then again, we also learn from the article that he was one of the senators who was hardest on the Justice during the Passner affair, and "felt disempowered" when the Senate refused to explicitly call for the editor-in-chief's resignation. So, maybe, he decided to take matters into his own hands...
GET IN THE 'RINGS': Reading the entire Boston Sunday Globe over the weekend, I came across a goofy little cover story in the Globe Magazine arguing that the "commercialism" of the popular "Lord of the Rings" movies has somehow "tarnished" the legacy of author J.R.R. Tolkien. Despite some interesting stuff about various feuds among Tolkien heirs, I couldn't agree less with author Ethan Gilsdorf's analysis.
Pretty much starting with a hatred of capitalism and consumerism and working his way out, Gilsdorf argues that Tolkien's "legacy" has been done a disservice by Hollywood movie versions of his works that have cost hundreds of millions, and grossed billions of dollars. Never mind that Peter Jackson's movies themselves are almost universally loved by critics, Tolkien freaks and neophytes alike, are painstakingly faithful to the source material, and have introduced millions to the 'Rings' mythology and thus driven up sales of the books. They're "commercial," and thus must be horrible and nefarious.
Demonizing the successful, and calling them "sell-outs," is of course a popular lefty and/or hipster pastime. And while I did find it a bit incongruous, say, to hear the music of The Clash (a band that recorded an album called "Sandanista!") in a commercial for the Jaguar, and a bit strange to see "The Matrix" being used to sell soft drinks and other products when it's pretty clearly an allegory about technocratic enslavement, there's nothing explicitly anti-commercial or anti-capitalistic about the LOTR mythology. Unless you think it's funny to compare Bush to the Dark Lord Sauron, but by that rationale one can pretty much use 'Rings' to back up any political viewpoint. And believe me, it's been used to argue for just about every political cause imaginable.
BIAS: No, not the Bernard Goldberg nonsense. LEN Bias. Michael Wilbon writes a great column observing that had Bias not died of a drug overdose two days after the NBA draft in 1986, he may very well have altered the course of NBA history- and yesterday would have been his 40th birthday. Unbelievable, huh?
BUD'S BOUNTY: Despite promises to stay out of the day-to-day running of the team he used to own, the Milwaukee Brewers, when he became commissioner five years ago, Bud Selig has clandestinely contributed $13 million of his own money to the team in that time period. The news comes amid a fan revolt, as current management announced plans to cut payroll down to a skeletal $30 million, for the team that is consistently among baseball's most profitable, despite not having a winning season in more than a decade.
And here's a healthy primer of Bud's lies, vis a vis the construction of Miller Park in Milwaukee. Hopefully all this will lead, very soon, to Selig's resignation.
DAVID MELECH: Here's a great interview with David Brooks in the New York Observer. Brooks is fast becoming one of my favorite columnists in America- he's a self-described conservative, yet he writes for the New York Times, calls Bill O'Reilly "an insufferable ass," and "strongly dislikes" Ann Coulter.
DEATH CAMP OF "TOLERANCE": Events unfolded at Brandeis this week (which I unfortunately missed by just a few hours) that were right out of the "South Park" episode with the same title as this post. You may remember it better as the "Lemmiwinks the gerbil" installment, but it also parodied the "tolerance camp" as a death camp in a spoof of "Schindler's List."
Back to Waltham: Daniel Pipes, the conservative Middle East scholar with two degrees from Harvard and a recent appointment to a federal think tank, spoke at Brandeis at noon Tuesday, and as soon as the speech was announced two weeks ago an ad-hoc coalition that called themselves "Hate Haters" began campaigning against Pipes and the speech (but if they "Hate Haters," doesn't that mean they are themselves haters, and we should hate them? I say "don't hate; congratulate.")
Anyway, the anti-Pipes crowd immediately began beating the drum for "tolerance"- not acceptance, not understanding, but mere tolerance. Unless of course, it was of a view with which they disagreed, in which case it not only wasn't tolerated, but could not be tolerated. It's confusing, I know... at any rate, the Tolerators held a rally that amounted to an across-campus rampage the other night, described by Dahlia of Sporadic Thoughts as mere "people shouting," and interrupting those who wished to study and/or sleep. But really, what did it matter in the short term- everyone was learning a lesson, in tolerance!
In response to this abject nonsense, I go to a true authority on the matter, Mr. Garrison:
Tolerant, but not stupid! Look, just because you have to tolerate something doesn't mean you have to approve of it! If you had to like it, it'd be called the Museum of Acceptance! [the audience looks on] "Tolerate" means you're just putting up with it! You tolerate a crying child sitting next to you on the airplane or, or you tolerate a bad cold. It can still piss you off! Jesus Tapdancing Christ!
This "tolerance" thing is, of course, nonsense- just another word people throw around in order to feel good about themselves. Only tolerating those you agree with is a lot like only believing in freedom of speech as long as you agree with it- a stupid, cowardly copout, in other words. And besides, isn't it an insult to someone to merely "tolerate" them?
The Pipes speech, by the way, apparently went off without a hitch. Josh has more. 12:41 AM
DON'T BURN YOUR SIDDUR AWARD NOMINEE: This one goes to Kol Zimrah, the Upper West Side Jewish/musical prayer group founded under a year ago by my friend Ben Dreyfus (among others), that's profiled in the Forward this week, along with other stalwarts of the growing New York independent minyan movement (which has already begun to spread nationally.)
KZ and the others have managed to give urban Jewish practice a fresh spin, while at the same time avoiding much of the synagogue politics and other nonsense that myself, and many others, and even Doug Rushkoff (in the third of his book that I do agree with) find so distasteful. So check it out- Kol Zimrah meets this Friday at 6:30 at the Society for the Advancement of Judaism, at 15 W 86th St. in Manhattan.
Tuesday, November 18, 2003 THANK YOU, BOSTON: I had a wonderful time on my four-day jaunt to my college hometown. Here, some highlights:
-I spent Friday and Saturday near Harvard with my friends Mike and Dena, enjoying an excellent Shabbat dinner, an a cappella show (featuring a performance of "The Scotsman"), and a walk around Beacon Hill, the Back Bay, and Newbury St. I love being around Harvard; when I'm there I just feel smarter. (I feel the same way about Jane Galt's blog- even though she's a Penn girl!)
-Got to see my fellow Minnesota blogger and high school classmate Jeremy Wahlman as well; now a reporter in the area, we met up right after he was done rubbing elbows with the likes of Conan O'Brien and Theo Epstein at a banquet in Brookline. It should be noted that the number of video game consoles shared by Jeremy and his roommates is in the double digits, and is almost certainly a single-apartment record.
-Also enjoyed lunch with my Brandeis classmate and former Justice colleague Brian Lowe. Now an employee of the New England Patriots, Brian anchors a webcast on Patriots.com that you should definitely check out. After our lunch he headed out to Foxboro, where the Patriots beat the Cowboys 12-0 on Sunday night. After this, and after the Belichick-coached Super Bowl win, and after 7 years, isn't it now time for the New England fans to finally get over Bill Parcells?
-On Monday I visited my alma mater for the first time in over two years, and it was great to be back- I had lunch with Josh, a leader of Brandeis' anti-Idiotarian student faction, and also got to spend some time with legendary American Studies professor Jerry Cohen, the top man on the faculty faction. I also stopped by the Justice office and got to meet a couple of the editors; the office is incredible, and a great improvement over the old two-room, windowless basement office which, to my surprise, has since been converted into the Muslim Student Association's prayer room.
-The new student center may be abominably ugly on the outside (they call it the Green Monster; but through my red/green color blind eyes it's more the Light Blue Monstrosity) but on the inside it's quite impressive and has even got a nice coffee shop. There's also a new residence hall that's called "The Village," as opposed to nearly every other building on campus that's named after rich old Jews.
-All in all, a wonderful time up in Beantown; I hope to visit again soon.
A PURSE THAT MATCHES YOUR DOUG CHRISTIE JERSEY: Just when you thought this Doug-Christie-and-his-wife nonsense couldn't get any worse, Sports Illustrated reports that they're now- swear to God- designing purses together. (the SI piece isn't online, but ESPN has the story). But hey- just because Doug isn't allowed to speak to other women, doesn't mean he can't design accessories for them.
This cannot possibly end happily. You just know eventually one of them is going to snap and murder the other…
BURN YOUR SIDDUR AWARD NOMINEE: During my trip I finally finished Douglas Rushkoff's modern-Jewish manifesto "Nothing Sacred: The Truth About Judaism," and I deliver a bit of a split verdict: about one-third of what Rushkoff writes I wholeheartedly agree with, have been saying myself for years, and am relieved someone else finally put into words. The other two-thirds, to put it kindly, I found to be complete and utter nonsense.
Which isn't to say I didn't find the book thought-provoking; I certainly did. I was encouraged to read it by a pair of articles by the author- one in the New York Times and the other in New York Press- in which he made several arguments that I'm used to making myself- that the Jewish community puts way too much emphasis on "sky is falling" scare tactics related to intermarriage and assimilation, that synagogues and federations are applying typical marketing techniques and essentially turning Judaism into a "brand," and that there's a horrible over-reliance in Jewish communities on money and fundraising. When the author repeats these arguments in the book he presents them even more forcefully and eloquently, and I applaud him for that.
It's the rest of his arguments, however, where we part company. Rushkoff's reading of Jewish history and scripture is that the main tenets of the faith are not God, Torah, and Israel, but rather (as he repeats a few dozen times) "iconoclasm, abstract monotheism, and social justice." And therefore, since most of modern Judaism rejects his interpretation of the tradition, the entire faith must be torn down and built up again- essentially, Rushkoff believes that we must destroy Judaism in order to save it.
Rushkoff's interpretations of history and scripture are questionable, to say the least, and he repeatedly argues that experts are "unanimous" or "near-unanimous" that, say, almost none of the events in the Torah actually happened as written. And there's also his anti-Zionism, as well as a disturbing disdain for any and all Orthodox Jews, whom he calls "fundamentalists," making no distinctions between Modern Orthodox Americans and radical West Bank settlers.
Rushkoff's solution is to start a new tradition known as "Open Source Judaism," of which he himself may very well be the only member. Which is probably a good thing; if Open Source Judaism ever took off it I could only imagine it would be every bit as obnoxious and self-righteous as the Open Source computer-programming movement from which it gets its name.
I merely disagree with Rushkoff on this stuff; I'm not about to subject him to the vitriol that he's already suffered from various quarters of the Blogosphere and elsewhere. So his blog will stay on my blogroll; however, in the interest of fairness and balance, here's an anti-"Nothing Sacred" fisking that's generally representative of the arguments against his book.
YOU COULD SAY I LOST MY BELIEF IN OUR POLITICIANS; THEY ALL SEEM LIKE GAME-SHOW HOSTS TO ME: I don't quote post-Police Sting lyrics often, but I do so now to prove a point: Mickey Kaus suggested recently that, rather than all nine Democratic presidential candidates fighting with each other during debates to say essentially the same thing, the Dems should switch to a new debate format- using
"modern speed-dating technology"- in which the different candidates square off one-on-one, for a few minutes at a time.
I have a better idea- why not apply the format of "The Weakest Link" (and other game/reality shows), and have one candidate be eliminated from the debate before each commercial break? Some debates the judges could decide, while others the studio/home audience votes. This way only the major candidates would be left at the end of each debate, eliminating the filler from the Sharptons and Kuciniches of the world. And people like Kerry and Clark would be kept from napping- as they have been- when presented with the threat of elimination.
This way, candidates would actually have incentive to actually do well and say smart things, rather than the pandering, ineffectual bullshit that's characterized the debates so far. They could even have one big debate each month, in which the first couple candidates eliminated would actually be required to drop out of the race.
Come on, who's with me on this?
Also- the respectable, 15-year legacy of the "Rock the Vote" campaign may have been wiped clean by the embarrassing debate they sponsored in Boston a few weeks ago. But now legendary sitcom producer Norman Lear is sponsoring an alternative called Declare Yourself- check it out; my sister was at the launch.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "In Praise of Santorum"- Headline, by Andrew Sullivan. But which Santorum is he talking about? After all, we know Sully and Dan Savage are friends…
TASTELESS, BUT TRUE: With Sunday's 28-10 victory over the Giants, Donovan McNabb and the Eagles ran their record to 5-0 since Rush Limbaugh entered rehab. Now that Rush is out, expect the slump to resume…
A MASS-IVE VICTORY FOR GAY RIGHTS: A Massachusetts court has done the right thing and struck down a ban on gay marriages, in a move certain to piss off much of the right, but make Andrew Sullivan a very happy man. Now if only they could do something about that Big Dig thing…
A-ROD AL MVP: Alex Rodriguez was named the American League's Most Valuable Player earlier today, and some are up in arms that a player from a last place team could get the award. My reaction to that is the same is my reaction to the annual outrage about who does or doesn't make the All-Star team- who cares? In spring training next year, will anyone even remember who the MVP was? I think the prospect of Rodriguez being traded to Boston is a much more interesting story than whether the baseball writers thought he was worthy of being MVP or not.
But one reaction from the voting- when the Twins traded for Shannon Stewart in July, could anyone have even dreamed that he'd finish 4th in the balloting for MVP? Ahead of #5 David Ortiz, who the Twins let go for nothing? I don't remember seeing Bobby Kielty's name on the list…
Monday, November 17, 2003 BACK TO NEW YORK: I'm back in New York after a relaxing, fun-filled weekend in Boston with friends old and new. Regularly scheduled blogging will return tomorrow with more on Daniels Passner and Pipes, Bills Parcells and Belichick, Dougs Rushkoff and Christie, and Boston's newest Green Monster.
Friday, November 14, 2003 BOSTON: MORE THAN A FEELING: I'm leaving in about an hour to head up to Boston to see friends at Harvard, Brandeis, and elsewhere; therefore blogging will be light if not nonexistent until Monday night. And I'm taking Amtrak, not the mysterious Chinese shuttle bus. Maybe next time…
STEAL THIS PAPER: I suppose another two weeks without any more Justice drama was just a bit too much to ask. According to an e-mail from a Justice editor obtained by Jawsblog, the alleged guilty party in the recent theft of hundreds of copies of the paper was Mark Brescia, who is (surprise) a member of the Student Union Senate. Brescia admitted to the theft in his AIM away message (of which a screen capture allegedly exists); impeachment proceedings are supposedly now underway. Campus Press Notes has more.
So Daniel Passner was a student senator, and so is this guy. Nice to see the Brandeis student body are still such fine judges of character when it comes to choosing their undergraduate representatives…
SEEING RED: Last night I once again had the pleasure of meeting up with the Best Blogger in Weehawken, Sheila O'Malley, for a drink in Hoboken. We met at Busker's Bar & Grill, the latest incarnation of what used to be my favorite Hoboken bar, Miss Kitty's. Kitty's, like Dirty Frank's in Philadelphia, sounds from its name like a nudie bar but isn't, and it didn't surprise me for a second that Sheila has been to Dirty Frank's many times.
Anyway, it was wonderful to see Sheila again, and check out her blog if you haven't before. And another pleasant surprise- a visit from the Guinness Girls!
GOOD NEWS FOR YANKEE HATERS: George Steinbrenner has apparently been driven insane by losing two World Series in three years, and that's great news for fans of every other team in baseball. Not only is he considering trading 26-year-old maybe-future Hall of Famer Alfonso Soriano for the two-years-from-retirement Curt Schilling, but yesterday The Boss announced the hiring of recent convict Darryl Strawberry as a "player development instructor." Because really, it's hard to imagine a better role model for young, developing players than Darryl Strawberry.
Strawberry and Gooden, in the same front office? Can Steve Howe be far behind? Or perhaps they can go the "Brawling '86 Mets" route, and employ a new "scouting staff" of Lenny Dykstra, Ron Darling, and Tim Teufel.
THE RALL PIECE: I've been e-mailing with a few different people on this, so I figured I'd clarify a thing or two (and if I'm repeating things I already wrote in e-mails, I apologize):
Some have written that in Rall's piece (original one here, my original comments here), was more a "devil's advocate" sort of thing [yes, if Saddam is the devil, Rall is his advocate- ed.] than a serious argument in favor of the Iraqi resistance. To that I say this- if Thomas Friedman had written the exact same column, word for word, I would have had a different reaction- because Friedman often plays devil's advocate, assuming the positions of foreign factions with whom he obviously disagrees, in order to prove a larger point. We know Friedman doesn't come at things with an agenda, and he's certainly not rooting for America to lose, even when quoting someone else who does.
Ted Rall, however, doesn't get the same benefit of the doubt, simply because he's made it clear in his past columns and cartoons and television appearances that, yes, he does hate America, and does openly root for us to lose the War on Terror. He might not actually mean it, he might just want to rile up his political opponents (as soon as the piece appeared, it was denounced by every major conservative blog, which was likely the reason he wrote it in the first place). But the fact is, based on positions Rall has taken in the past, it's not hard to imagine him rooting for the neo-Baathists to defeat American soldiers in Iraq.
And besides, he claims to be speaking as an Iraqi resistance leader. If he were one, there would likely be 1) references to Allah, and 2) references to "the Jews" and/or "the Zionist cabal," and 3) positive references to Saddam. Rall uses none of the three, perhaps because he knows his argument collapses the moment he mentions Saddam's name.
He does, however, refer to "Dick Cheney's cynical oil war." Guerrilla warriors in the third world don't use phrases like "Dick Cheney's cynical guerrilla war"; cartoonists who live in Manhattan and read The Nation do.
Last year Rall finished #2 in the not-exactly-right-wing New York Press' survey of the 50 Most Loathsome New Yorkers, behind only Maxim editor Keith Blanchard and just ahead of Michael Moore, and they called him "just another self-righteous shitheel who coasts on self-created controversy and tells himself that any publicity is good publicity." Hopefully this latest nonsense will be enough to push him to #1 in next year's edition.
Instapundit has quite a bit more on this.
ELEMENTARY:Aaron Gleeman points us towards the Periodic Table of Bloggers. Pretty cool, I'd say, but for one complaint: Aaron is designated the element "silver," as its symbol is "ag," and those are his initials. Shouldn't I be the silver representative, considering it's my friggin' last name?
A MIGHTY WIND: How bad are the winds in the Northeast the last couple of days? Why, the National Weather Service came up with a graphic just for them!
Looks like the logo for an NHL expansion team...
THE PISS MAN'S HERE...: And he reports that more than 5% of Major League Baseball players tested positive for steroids this year, triggering a new testing regime that will go into effect next year and dole out fines and suspensions for anyone found to be shooting up.
And you thought it was the ball that was juiced... clearly this has been a problem for a long time, and it says something about the almost unchecked power of baseball's players union that it took until now for mandatory drug testing to become a reality (the new system was agreed to for the first time in last year's new labor agreement; players had long resisted it, even though the NFL has tested for steroids since the early '80s).
The next step is a court case being brought against a lab in California that has allegedly supplied numerous top athletes with drugs that may or may not be legal; Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi, among others, have been subpoenaed to testify. It'll be interesting to see what happens when Bonds takes the stand; like Barry, Hulk Hogan long denied using steroids throughout his career (including on a memorable "Arsenio Hall Show" appearance), but on the stand in the 1994 Vince McMahon steroid trial, Hogan was indeed forced to admit his longtime steroid abuse.
Because when even professional wrestling has tougher anti-steroid standards than baseball does, you something's not right.
THE 98 PERCENT SOLUTION: In the realm of goofy quotes by Georgia senators, I thought it would be tough to top Zell Miller's crack the other week about how Howard Dean "knows as much about the South as a dog knows about Sunday." But during the 30-hour filibuster of the Republican judicial nominees, the junior Senator from Georgia had this to say:
The Democrats note that 168 of Bush's nominees have been confirmed and only four blocked -- a 98 percent approval rating in a closely divided Senate... "If I told my wife I was faithful 98 percent of the time, she would not be happy with me," declared Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.)
So is Chambliss saying that the Democrats in Congress are bound to "honor and obey" the executive branch 100% of the time, as though the Congressional oath of office were a marriage vow? That's about one step away from arguing that the Senate Democrats should be the president's bitch- though some would say that they already are.
CLARK CAN'T: We keep hearing about how all the other generals who served with Wesley Clark can't stand him and don't want him to be president. Here's one reason why:
In an interview with Maxim that was published in the November issue, the General has this to say (not online, but quoted by blogger Rob Bernard):
In the 19th century, we were motivated by manifest destiny. In the 20th century, it was the idea that it was our duty to contain the spread of Communism and keep open the door for freedom. Today there is no substantial challenge to American ideals.
There's not? Excuse me? Those barbarians out there who want to kill us all, in large part because of our ideals? They're not a "substantial challenge"?
Clark just blew any chance of getting my vote; in fact, it's hard to find a Democrat in the race who hasn't blown it yet, and it's still 2003.
Thursday, November 13, 2003 THE LIST BEHIND THE LIST BEHIND THE LIST: Men's Journal, a magazine that I don't read, has released its Top 50 Guy Movies list, and as pointed out by Dan Shanoff, the best guy movie of all time ("Swingers") was not included. And that's so not money at all...
The top three on the list are "Dirty Harry," "The Godfather," and "Scarface," which were released, respectively, in 1971, 1972, and 1983. Fine movies all, but shouldn't a list like this maybe try to, say, skew a little younger? Then again, I guess this means Men's Journal is, like GQ and Esquire, and Playboy, a "hip" magazine that's both by and for middle-aged men.
HE'S FREE: Cross-dressing real-estate heir Robert Durst, probably the most prominent American to get away with murder since OJ, is reportedly "relieved" at his acquittal by a Galveston, Texas, jury this week. In the interview with Cindy Adams, he also says he feels "great" after being found not guilty- real probing interview there, Cindy.
I don't know what scares me more- that Robert Durst is free and on the loose, or that Fred Durst is. Speaking of which:
MUSIC CRITIC QUOTE OF THE DAY: "The reasons why the demise of Limp Bizkit should be celebrated like V-E Day among those caring about music are many. It's difficult to wish ill on anyone who works hard climbing the ladder, but if karma truly exists, Durst will re-emerge in the next century as a tone deaf, one-armed accordion player."- Tony Hicks, Conta Costra Times
WHY JOHN KERRY WILL NEVER BE PRESIDENT: It's not even 2004 yet, but every indication seems to be that John Kerry's presidential campaign is dead in the water, with advisers stepping down left and right, and the junior senator from Massachusetts losing ground rapidly to Howard Dean as well as the other candidates. I'd been trying to put my finger on what exactly was wrong but yesterday, as I ordered lunch, I caught five minutes of the movie "Full Metal Jacket" on the TV in the deli, and it all hit me at once:
Pogue Colonel: Marine, what is that button on your body armor?
Private Joker: A peace symbol, sir.
Pogue Colonel: Where'd you get it?
Private Joker: I don't remember, sir.
Pogue Colonel: What is that you've got written on your helmet?
Private Joker: "Born to Kill," sir.
Pogue Colonel: You write "Born to Kill" on your helmet and you wear a peace button. What's that supposed to be, some kind of sick joke?
Private Joker: No, sir.
Pogue Colonel: You'd better get your head and your ass wired together, or I will take a giant shit on you!
Private Joker: Yes, sir.
Pogue Colonel: Now answer my question or you'll be standing tall before the man.
Private Joker: I think I was trying to suggest something about the duality of man, sir.
Pogue Colonel: The what?
Private Joker: The duality of man. The Jungian thing, sir.
Pogue Colonel: Whose side are you on, son?
Private Joker: Our side, sir.
Pogue Colonel: Don't you love your country?
Private Joker: Yes, sir.
Pogue Colonel: Then how about getting with the program? Why don't you jump on the team and come on in for the big win?
John Kerry, who I don't doubt does love his country, wanted to have it both ways in running for president- to be the war hero who turned against the (Vietnam) War, but remains proud enough of his service to mention it every time he opens his mouth. To be the staunch opponent of the Iraq war, and the "warmongering" of the Bush Administration, who nevertheless voted for the war resolution (but against the money appropriation). To attack Dean for being too anti-war, and Lieberman for being too pro-war…
Every time Kerry gives a speech, he may as well be wearing both the peace pin and the "born to kill" helmet. And instead of having it both ways, he's having it neither way- he hasn't been able to come up with any sort of coherent message, and thus his candidacy is down and out. Because not much of the American electorate buys into "the Jungian" thing- or even knows what it is. At any rate, it doesn’t appear Kerry will "come on in for the big win" anytime soon.
(A footnote: I was in the Copley Square mall in Boston when I first learned of the death of FMJ's director, Stanley Kubrick, in March of 1999. As reported in the Boston Globe earlier this year, Kerry's grandfather committed suicide in the adjacent Copley Plaza Hotel in 1921). 8:10 AM
FOX NEWS KANGAROO COURT WATCH: On Wednesday's episode of "Hannity & Colmes," Alan Colmes was suffering from laryngitis, but instead of calling in sick he showed up on set and merely sat there and remained silent, as Hannity interviewed the guests. Not too different from any other night when Colmes is healthy, in other words…
A four-segment-long panel discussion of the Laci Peterson case took up the first 40 minutes of the show, and in addition to the two hosts featured four different simultaneous guests, including cutie legal analyst Lis Weihl. Six people, including Colmes, vying for screen time on one show? Reminded me of the baseball scene in "The Naked Gun," where the camera pans to reveal ten different announcers in a single broadcast booth, one of whom is Dr. Joyce Brothers.
TED RALL: PRO-SADDAM SWINE: Read this. An open letter to the Baathists, Islamists, and Fedayeen Saddam in Iraq, cheering them on against the American troops- and published on Veteran's Day. From the same cartoonist (not writer, cartoonist) who, among other sins, published a comic poking fun at 9/11 widows. And this guy is syndicated nationally? They won't do it, of course, but if I were the Village Voice I would immediately fire Rall from his cartooning gig. Because if you take the "controversial comments" of Al Campanis, Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder, Trent Lott, Rush Limbaugh, Gregg Easterbook, and Daniel Passner and add them up, it still pales in comparison to the sheer disgustingness of what Rall wrote.
It's one thing to oppose the war, or to want the troops to come home. Those are defensible positions. What is not defensible is to openly root for foreign guerrillas- especially those loyal to one of the most vile dictators in history- to kill American soldiers, as well as UN officials and Red Cross workers. Rall, proudly, defends the slaughter of all three.
The best part? When Rall refers to the Iraqis who help with pro-democracy efforts as "sellouts." What a typical hipster-asshole attitude: "it's okay to support fascism, repression, rape, and murder and everything else Saddam did- just don't sell out, man!"
DON'T TELL MOM ABOUT MY BLOG!: The blogging phenomenon gets the Onion treatment. The piece is #1 at Blogdex and the Blogosphere seems to appreciate it, though I found it a tad condescending, especially the "100 regular readers" line. Are they jealous that blogs now have all the internet buzz that the Onion had three years ago and has since lost?
At any rate, my mother has known about my blog since the day I started, as do my boss, my grandma, and various co-workers of my father's. I don't really mind, but some other bloggers would- discovery by "the authorities" of their true identities could be a matter of life and death for Salam Pax or the Hasidic Rebel (the latter seems to have disappeared, so maybe he has been discovered…). And the pseudonymous "This Fish (Needs a Bicycle)" had to scour her archives for incriminating material the other week after her mother did discover her blog- which, now that I think about it, may be where the Onion got the idea.
JUSTICE DELAYED IS NOT JUSTICE DENIED: According to Jawsblog, this week's press run of the Justice has been found- and more likely than not, its initial disappearance was merely a printer or delivery delay and not outright theft.
Then again, this makes sense- to steal an entire press run of the paper would have required either a conspiracy of 30 or 40 people to take the stacks from every distribution spot on campus, or a "Sopranos"-style hijacking of the delivery truck- neither of which sounds like a particularly plausable course of action.
I'll be up at Brandeis on Monday, unfortunately missing the next issue (and the Daniel Pipes speech) by just one day.
UPDATE:According to Dahlia, there was indeed at least a partial theft of the press run, and a few hundred copies were found in a garbage bag in East Quad. She also says she knows who did it…
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEXANDRA TRUSTMAN, STUDENT: My question for you all is-and it is not quite boxers or briefs-but Macs or P.C.s?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The student, from Brown University, Alexandra Trustman, took a lot of heat for that question. Then she explained that a CNN producer not only provided the question, but when Ms. Trustman tried to revise it into something about technology use that didn’t sound so "fake young," the producer stopped her. CNN has confirmed it and apologized for it.
Next time, have them ask about those new dune buggy things. I hear the kids love those.
Of course, we know how much Keith just loves to tweak all of his former employers on the air, as he's worked in the past for CNN, ESPN, and (of course) Fox.
Wednesday, November 12, 2003 ONE MINUTE RECORD REVIEWS: I've gotten a lot of new CDs lately, and haven't written about hardly any of them, so I'll play Robert Christgau (except, you know, readable), and crank out a few brief reviews. Here we go:
The release of the Strokes' debut album "Is This It" two years ago ignited the "post-punk" revival and subsequently a hipster civil war that nearly caused Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood to burn to the ground. One side of the debate heralded the return to minimalist, stripped-down rock after a half-decade of Britney mousketeering; opponents seized on everything from the band's haircuts to their clothes to their status as rich boys with famous fathers to their obvious inferiority to the Ramones.
Lost amid the hype was that "Is This It" was a near-masterpiece, vying with "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" and "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" for the title of Best Album of the Decade So Far. "Room on Fire" isn't much of a departure thematically, and while it doesn’t quite measure up to its predecessor, it nonetheless represents a worthy follow-up.
Must-downloads: "Meet Me in the Bathroom," "12:51."
Coming off a three-year layoff following the best album of their career (2000's "Maroon"), this Canadian band is back with more fun pop-rock for the masses. There's less harmonizing than usual, but Page, Robertson, and Co. keep up their trademark humorous lyrics, especially on "Another Postcard." The album's tour de force is "War on Drugs"- no, it's not a heavy-handed political track, but rather a beautiful ballad in which the meaning of the title remains a mystery until the last verse. For that and "Maybe Katie," I'll forgive BNL for jumping on the unfortunate recent trend of including feeble acoustic versions of three songs as hidden tracks.
Must-downloads: "War on Drugs," "Maybe Katie"
The debut album from America's Foremost Insult Comic Dog is, like the "South Park" movie soundtrack before it, a masterful distillation of a modern comedic institution into musical comedy album form. Creator Robert Smigel and a virtual armada of Conan O'Brien writers take what was once a one-joke character and create a three-dimensional comedy album that's full of laugh-out-loud moments.
Highlights include "Cats Are C-nts" (featuring Conan himself; you'll have it in your head all day!), "Benji's Queer," and a duet with Blackwolf the Dragon Master, the Star Wars nerd from Triumph's famous "Attack of the Clones" bit who hangs around Washington Square Park in a wizard costume and uncannily resembles disgraced Times reporter Jayson Blair. There's also "I Keed, I Keed," an Eminem-style insult rap in which the dog declares that Christina Aguilera's videos are "like watching porn, except the music isn't as good."
I could do without the prank call/spoken word bits, but during a montage of quotes from live appearances, Triumph says, "Welcome to Waltham, Massachusetts- America's poophole." Proving that, yes, one of the Conan writers must be a Brandeis alum.
Must downloads: "I Keed, I Keed," "Blackwolf," "Benji's Queer," "Cats Are C-nts."
I love Luda, and his "Word of Mouf" is on the short list of my favorite rap albums of all time, but after two years (an eternity in hip-hop), "Chicken-N-Beer" is a huge disappointment. Except for on "Hip Hop Quotables," there's very little of Luda's trademark humor and wit, the skits all fall flat, and not even his long-awaited slam of Bill O'Reilly is all that funny. "Stand Up" is a much better video than song, and when the cover of the album is funnier than any of the songs, that's a problem.
Must downloads: "Hip Hop Quotables," "Hoes in My Room."
When it comes to the question of whether it was a good idea for Andre and Big Boi to record separate albums, everybody's got an opinion (even General Wesley Clark!) Mine is that both sides of the double-album are too long and chock-full of filler, as well as material that pales in comparison to much of the work Outkast has performed as a duo in the past. Besides, two and a half hours is just way too much music- and how do you get Norah Jones for a guest spot where she's barely even audible?
Still though- "Hey Ya" is a strong candidate for single of the year.
Must downloads: "Hey Ya," "The Way You Move," "Prototype."
This time Andrew's only got one song with the word "party" in the title (compared to three on his last album), but don't hold that against him- "The Wolf" is more of the '80s-influenced fun-rock we've come to expect from AWK. And yes, he's got less buzz than last time around and may be headed for quite a short career, but that doesn't mean the album doesn't kick ass. When he comes to party, he will party hard!
Must downloads: "Long Live the Party," "Make Sex," "Totally Stupid."
Unless you're a hard-core follower of the rock-crit scene, you may very well have never heard of the Scottish band Travis. But I've been a big booster of the band for awhile now- their debut "The Man Who" is just as good as everyone says, their follow-up "The Invisible Band" even better, and critics who panned it didn't know what they're talking about. They also did a memorable concert cover of Britney's "Baby One More Time."
In fact, if you were to pit Travis' first two albums against the first two of their fellow Radiohead inheritors Coldplay, I'd hand it to Travis, no question. But, I'm sorry to report, "12 Memories" is a colossal dud. The first two discs had me immediately, but I couldn't wait to toss "12 Memories" back on the shelf, what with the horrible melodies, and complete lack of any memorable lyrics or choruses whatsoever.
Then there's "The Beautiful Occupation," which may be the weakest political protest song I've ever heard- "For the beautiful occupation/The beautiful occupation/You don't need an invitation/To drop in upon a nation." Come up- that's the best they can come up with?
Must downloads: None, but look for that Britney cover
Rushing back into things barely a year after his debut hit (though my sister has known about him since the days of Napster 1.0), Mayer delivers a generally solid sophomore disc. Though not solid enough for me to have listened to it at all in the last month, unfortunately…
Must downloads: "Bigger Than My Body," "Daughters."
Yes, "Some Devil" has all the crap that usually drags down other-wise great DMB albums: lame falsettos, pseudo-gospel, and instrumental jams that seem to go on forever. But buried in all the muck of "Some Devil" are at least five truly great tracks, and the more I listen to the album the more I like it, and realize how superior it is to every DMB studio album since at least "Crash." On hand on two tracks in Phish frontman Trey Anastasio, but in order to prevent jam-band Armageddon, he merely plays guitar and contributes no vocals.
Look at it this way- if your favorite DMB album is "Everyday," you'll like "Some Devil." If it's "Busted Stuff," you probably won't.
Must downloads: "Trouble," "Oh," "Baby," "So Damn Lucky."
STOLEN JUSTICE: In a repeat of the sort of anti-First Amendment garbage that's become all-too-common on college campuses in recent years, the entire press run of the latest issue of the Justice was stolen on Tuesday night. (Hat tip to Jawsblog)
It's uncertain why or by whom, and I'm sure we can look forward to a thorough investigation from Reinharz and Co. We don't know if this has anything to do with the Passner brouhaha, although it's worth noting that there was no such theft of the issue in which the original Passner quote appeared.
One possibility- in a front-page article about a forum the BBSO held last week, the "n-word" actually appears in the Justice, which it did not in Passner's offending article. This week, the word comes up in the context of Randall Kennedy's best-selling book "Nigger," which was discussed at the forum. Kennedy, a Harvard professor who is black, wrote the book as a history and study of the word; the comedian Dick Gregory gave the same title to his autobiography, he said, so he could tell his children that anyone who called them by the word was merely promoting his book.
The inclusion of the word in the article is in perfect context and thus is completely defensible, as any reasonable person can see; then again, we know we can't count on college activists to be reasonable. There's similar trouble on campus now because a group called the "Brandeis Coalition For Tolerance" is getting ready to not tolerate an upcoming speech by conservative Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes.
A similar campus media theft incident at Brandeis happened five years ago, when hundreds of copies of the right-wing journal Freedom Magazine were tossed in a dumpster by a member of the student senate who never apologized, and was not forced to resign his Senate seat. Freedom was later defunded after several bordering-on-illegal stunts which included publishing the home address and phone number of the Student Union President. Several senators memorably lambasted the magazine as "racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, and anti-Senate," and another challenged the magazine's publisher to a fight.