Wednesday, December 31, 2003 SHOULD OLD ACQUAINTANCE BE FORGOT...: Happy new year everyone, and thanks so much for reading in 2003. Right now, for what it's worth, is most likely the first time I've ever blogged while smoking a cigar...
THE OL' BALL COACH BAILS: I can't say I'm surprised Steve Spurrier failed as an NFL coach- he really did have "Rick Pitino" written all over him when he took over the Redskins. But you've told me that he'd only last two years- and willingly leave the remaining $20 million on the table- I'd have told you you were nuts.
My lord do Washington's sports teams suck- when was the last time any of them were any good? And the thing is, not even Spurrier, or Jaromir Jagr, or even Michael Jordan can help. I don't think the curse will be broken until the inevitable arrival in town of the Expos...
Even more disturbing news- the Vikings will both not fire Mike Tice, and not hire a general manager. Way to learn from your mistakes, Red.
Meanwhile, without further ado, I only plan to do this once:
NFL PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS:
First round: Colts over Broncos, Titans over Ravens
Packers over Seahawks, Cowboys over Panthers
Second Round: Chiefs over Colts, Titans over Patriots
Rams over Packers, Eagles over Cowboys
Title Games: Eagles over Rams
Titans over Chiefs
Super Bowl XXXVIII: Eagles over Titans (keeping with my pre-season prediction)
Oh yea, and...
NFL Coaching Carousel predictions: Giants: Tom Coughlin
Redskins: Romeo Crennel
Falcons: Lovie Smith
Bears: Kirk Ferentz
Cardinals: Jim Fassel
Raiders: Dennis Green
Bills: Charlie Weis
REBEL WITHOUT A CHANCE: There's an interesting piece by Franklin Foer (reprinted here) in the most recent TNR about how Howard Dean's lack of religiosity could be a liability in a general election against the president. At issue is Dean's decision in the early 1980s to switch from the Episcopal to Congregationalist church due to a dispute over a bike path (I'm more concerned with his Yankees/Red Sox conversion, but that's just me.) Anyway, the piece quotes the brother of the candidate on the subject:
Indeed, when Dean first explained his denominational switch on ABC's "This Week," George Stephanopoulos was incredulous: "Over the bike path?" Most people respond that way, even Dean's friends and family. My questions about the centrality of the bike path take them by surprise. "I have never heard that before," says his brother James Dean.
Yes, Howard has a brother named James Dean. How did this escape notice until now?
Tuesday, December 30, 2003 "HE SIRED A BASEBALL TEAM... AN ORCHESTRA IF YOU COUNT THE BASTARDS:"To Bill Brasky!
GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH: Laurence over at Amish Tech Support is running his annual Dead Pool- make your picks here.
BEST-EVER REFUTATION OF THE "LORD OF THE RINGS IS RACIST" ARGUMENT: From Jonah Goldberg, at the time of the last movie, but still relevant now:
Many of the Orcs (and the super-Orcs) are dark-skinned and have slant-eyes. They are also — how shall I put this? — Orcs! Ya frickin' idjit!
One is tempted to ask who is the real racist here? On the one hand we have people — like me — who see horrific, flesh-eating, dull-witted creatures with jagged feral teeth, venomous mouths, pointed devilish ears, and reptilian skin, and say, "Cool, Orcs!" On the other hand we have people, like Mr. Yatt, who see the same repugnant creatures and righteously exclaim "black people!" Maybe he should spend less time vetting movies for signs of racism and more time vetting himself if, that is, he free-associates black people with these subhuman monsters.
As for me, I loved "Return of the King," unquestionably my favorite of the three LOTR films. Among its many accomplishments, it set a new all-time record for Most False Endings (6) in an American film, breaking the previous record of 5, set by Steven Spielberg's "A.I.: Artificial Intelligence."
Monday, December 29, 2003 QUOTE OF THE DAY: "It doesn't matter to me whether a candidate is a secular Protestant, such as Dean; a Catholic, such as John Kerry; or someone like Wesley Clark, whose father was Jewish and who apparently switches to a different Christian denomination every couple of years. Then again, I suppose I'm one of those secularists who Joe Lieberman's mother warned him about." -Dan Kennedy, the Boston Phoenix.
BUCKNER'S COMPLAINT: In the "shameful events" roundup below, I mistakenly referred to the Grady-Little-leaves-Pedro-Martinez-in game as Game 6 of the ALCS; it was of course Game 7. Funny, in thinking of a heartbreaking Red Sox playoff loss in New York, what would possibly make me think "Game 6"?
VIKINGS CONQUERED: There are a few expectations that every football fan has, even in the unpredictable world of the National Football League. One is that if your team gets off to a 6-0 start, they will make the playoffs. Another is that if they are able to beat a team (Kansas City) that themselves got off to a 9-0 start, they should also be able to defeat at least one of the four worst teams in the league (Giants, Raiders, Chargers, Cardinals). And a third is that if all your team needs to win its division is a Week 17 victory over the single worst team in the league, and if they are leading by 13 points with five minutes left, that your team will manage to pull out the victory.
You would think wrong, if your team is the Minnesota Vikings. Then again, you'd also think your team would manage to make its first-round draft pick in time to beat the clock…
The Vikings entered Week 17 needing any one of three results to clinch the NFC Norris Division title- a Seattle loss to San Francisco, a Green Bay loss to Denver, or a win themselves over the sorry, no account Arizona Cardinals. None of the three results, alas, came to pass, as the Seahawks and Packers both won, and the Vikings gave up two touchdowns in the final two minutes to lose to Arizona, thus spoiling what would have been the first year in history in which Minnesota teams in all major sports qualified for the playoffs.
Watching the finish was the most uncomfortable football moment since the Joe Namath "I want to kiss you" interview.
Thus concludes a season which began with the team neglecting to make their first-round draft pick on time, continued with owner Red McCombs entering the locker room to berate his players after a Week 7 loss knocked them all the way down to 6-1, and featured the Vikes losing to the league's four worst teams. The entire season was plagued by McCombs' whining about the team's "need" for a new stadium to line his pockets- which has only had the effect of hurting the ballpark chances for the Twins, who actually do need one. Now that Art Modell is selling the Ravens, McCombs officially becomes the worst owner in pro football. Yes, you could make an argument for the Cardinals' Bill Bidwell, but then, which team won on Sunday?
According to Patrick Reusse of the Strib, the lack of playoffs may lead to the firing of coach Mike Tice. Now I've been clear all along in my low opinion of Tice, and my belief that he had no business being hired as an NFL coach in the first place. But for McCombs to toss him at this point, after two years as the lowest-paid head coach in the league, would be nothing less than backstabbing, especially after the year Tice spent as Red's locker-room Narc when Denny Green was still coach.
Oh well, at least Tice will always have a spot warm on George O'Leary's staff at Central Florida…
NOTES ON WEEK 17: More thoughts:
-Tice, if he gets the boot, would hardly be the only NFL coach tossed on his keister this week. Dave McGinness, Dick Jauron, Gregg Williams, and Bill Callahan either are or will imminently be out the door, along with the already-cashiered Dan Reeves and Jim Fassel.
- If the Detroit Lions have a legitimate justification for continuing to employ Matt Millen as their general manager, I'd love to hear it. Do they have some Moneyball-like system in which they consider road victories to be "overvalued"?
- Something tells me Jauron's firing isn't being received in Chicago with anything close to the anger as Mike Ditka's was ten years ago this week. But as long as the Bears canned Jauron, why not general manager Jerry Angelo as well? I don't know how any executive who purposely signed Kordell Stewart to be his starting quarterback can keep his job for long. (UPDATE:Angelo today signed a four-year contract extension. Yes, I'm as puzzled as you).
-Microcosm of the Giants' season: one of them blocked a punt against Carolina, and while no Giants were able to fall on the ball, one player did manage to accidentally knock out the ref, in something I've seen happen hundreds of times in pro wrestling but never in football.
- Now that Mike Vanderjagt has gone an entire season without missing a field goal, playing a big part in the Colts' first division title in years, are all those asshole NFL pundits (led by Sean Salisbury) about to apologize for comparing him to a "waterboy" during his feud with Peyton Manning last year?
- For pure symmetry, nothing beats the Patriots 31-0 victory over the Bills on the last week of the season, after New England lost to Buffalo by that same score in Week 1. Does this mean the Bills will cut Lawyer Milloy tomorrow, and he'll re-sign with the Pats?
- Also enjoyed ESPN's live feed of Eric Dickerson at his house, watching Jamal Lewis' unsuccessful attempt to break his single-season rushing record. But why no questions for Eric about his upcoming coaching gig in the Lingerie Bowl?
MORE ON HIPSTER JEWRY: Salon has a piece on the "Jewsploitation" craze, pretty much summing up what I've been saying for the last several months. Money graf:
Today's Jewish tastemakers lust not after inclusion but the edginess that comes from exclusion. Trendy and creative contemporary Jewishness is - as it has been at least since the Jazz Age, but more so in hip-hop America - about the coolness factor that its players associate with being black.
I also love the revelation that Jonathan Kesselman, writer/director of "The Hebrew Hammer," has never read a Philip Roth novel, or seen more than a handful of Woody Allen films. Not as bad as Mayor Bloomberg never having seen "Seinfeld," but still.
One aspect of this I can get behind, however, is Mattisiyahu, the "Hasidic reggae superstar" who I saw perform in Brooklyn last week. Not merely in costume or in character, Mattisiyahu is an actual Hasid who is well-versed in both rap and reggae. A highlight was when he stopped between songs to recite that evening's Hannukah blessing.
EASY LIKE SUNDAY MORNING- AND EVERY OTHER DAY OF THE WEEK: Nicole Richie, daughter of Lionel, last week was seen on TV telling a sideline reporter at a Lakers game that her favorite player is Kobe Bryant, because "I want to have sex with him!" Somehow, this was only the second-most embarrassing comment of a sexual nature said to a sideline reporter that week.
WAS NEYER RIGHT ABOUT ROSE?: Apparently he was. A press release for Pete Rose's upcoming pre-book interview with Charles Gibson:
In an exclusive interview to air on both “Primetime Thursday” and “Good Morning America,” ABC News’ Charles Gibson talks with baseball legend and major league hits-leader Pete Rose, who, for the first time, will tell the full story about his controversial past – including allegations that he bet on baseball and on his own team while managing the Cincinnati Reds. Rose was banned from Major League baseball in 1989, and has consistently denied betting on baseball.
Rose has told the "full story" numerous times before, but never the truth- that he bet on baseball. Looks like Rob Neyer scooped everyone the other week.
PRESENT COMPANY EXCEPTED, OF COURSE: ESPN2's morning show "Cold Pizza" earlier today had a TV critic on to talk about "the worst television shows of 2003."
Friday, December 26, 2003 THE "ALUMINUM POLE" POLL:
Top Ten Films of 2003: 1. "Big Fish" (Tim Burton)
2. "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" (Peter Jackson)
3. "Kill Bill: Volume One" (Quentin Tarantino)
4. "Lost in Translation" (Sofia Coppola)
5. "School of Rock" (Richard Linklater)
6. "Elephant" (Gus Van Sant)
7. "Master and Commander: the Far Side of the World" (Peter Weir)
8. "Shattered Glass" (Billy Ray)
9. "Swimming Pool" (Francois Ozon)
10. "Bend It Like Beckham" (Gurinder Chadha)
Honorable Mention: "A Decade Under the Influence" (Ted Demme/Richard LaGravanese); "Fog of War" (Errol Morris); "A Mighty Wind" (Christopher Guest); "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" (Jonathan Mostow); "Old School" (Todd Phillips); "Finding Nemo" (Andrew Stanton/Lee Unkrich).
Films I Haven't Yet Seen: "Mystic River," "Cold Mountain," "28 Days Later," "Matchstick Men," "American Splendor," "21 Grams," "Capturing the Friedmans," "Seabiscuit," "Monster," "The Battle of Shaker Heights."
Ten Top Albums of 2003: 1. Fountains of Wayne- "Welcome Interstate Managers"
2 (tie). Led Zeppelin- "How the West Was Won"; The Beatles- "Let It Be… Naked"
3. Dave Matthews- "Some Devil"
4. The Jayhawks- "Rainy Day Music"
5. Damien Rice- "O"
6. Warren Zevon- "The Wind"
7. Barenaked Ladies- "Everything to Everyone"
8. Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks- "Pig Lib"
9. Liz Phair (self titled)
10. Triumph the Insult Comic Dog- "Come Poop With Me"
Honorable Mention: Brand New- "Deja Entendu"; Outkast- "Speakerboxx/The Love Below"; Jason Mraz- "Waiting For My Rocket To Come"; Alicia Keys- "The Diary of Alicia Keys"; Pete Yorn- "Day I Forgot"; John Mayer- "Heavier Things", Jesse Harris- "The Secret Sun," The Shins- "Chutes Too Narrow"; The Strokes- "Room on Fire," The White Stripes- "Elephant."
Top Ten TV Shows of 2003: 1. "The Wire" (HBO)
2. "Six Feet Under" (HBO)
3. "The Joe Schmo Show" (Spike TV)
4. "JFK: Beyond Conspiracy" (ABC)
5. "Angels in America" (HBO)
6. "Project Greenlight" (HBO)
7. "The Shield" (FX)
8. "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" (MSNBC)
9. "Arrested Development" (FOX)
10. "Line of Fire" (ABC)
THE FEATS OF STRENGTH: The 2003 Stephen Silver Achievement Awards:
Man of the Year: Time reporter Michael Weisskopf, who while traveling with US troops while working on the magazine's "Person of the Year" feature, deflected a grenade, losing a hand and saving the lives of several soldiers in the process.
Entertainer of the Year (human division): Former Iraqi information minister Muhammad Saeed "Baghdad Bob" al-Sahaf.
Entertainer of the Year (canine division): Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.
Eckstein Award Winner (for cool gentiles with Jewish-sounding names): Chicago Bears and former University of Florida quarterback Rex Grossman, who led the previously sorry, no-account Chicago Bears to two straight victories.
Burn Your Siddur Award Winner (for embarrassing statements/actions by Jewish clergy): Rabbi Shmuely Boteach, who wrote a column excoriating Brett Favre for playing the day after his father’s death- because the Southern Baptist Favre didn’t observe the Jewish concept of sitting shiva.
Chutzpah Award Winner: Detroit Tigers fans celebrate raucously after their team wins on the last day of the season to avoid tying the all-time record for losses in the season. Even though the Tigers nevertheless end the year with 119 losses, 76 games below .500.
Photo of the Year:
Tabloid Front Page of the Year:
Headline of the Year: "Woman Dressed as Sausage Assaulted" (WFIE.com, 7/10). Runners-up: "Baby and Geezer In 'Hooker' Sting" (New York Post, 10/29), "Hitler and Women Haunt Schwarzenegger" (SwissInfo, 10/3), "Silver Makes Movie Viewers Think" (Yahoo News, 5/20).
Quote of the Year: David Brooks, advising Republicans coming to New York for next year’s convention, in the New York Times: "We're going to have to give them phrases they can use in case they are called upon to make elevator small talk: ('Nice weather we're having. Too bad about the climate of McCarthyism settling over the land.')"
Film Critic Quote of the Year: "Such an utter wreck of a movie you expect to see it lying on its side somewhere in rural Pennsylvania, with a small gang of engineers circling and a wisp of smoke rising from the caboose."- Stephen Witty, reviewing "Gigli" in the Newark Star Ledger. How apropos, using the word "caboose" in a review of a J.Lo movie.
Music Critic Quote of the Year: "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, the Contra Costa Times.
Newspaper Correction Of the Year: "The Byko Birthday Book yesterday mistakenly resurrected Johnny Unitas. He remains dead and did not celebrate his 70th birthday."-The Philadelphia Daily News, 5/7.
Cartoon of the Year:
Best Day of the Year: June 26: The Supreme Court strikes down sodomy laws; Strom Thurmond drops dead a few hours later.
On-Screen Graphic of the Year: On MSNBC, during the blackout in Detroit:
People without power: 1.5 million
Automotive plants shut down: 8
Penalty for rock-throwing: 10 years
THE AIRING OF THE GRIEVANCES: The 30 Most Shameful Events of 2003, in no particular order:
- Philanthropist Peter B. Lewis donates $8 million to the ACLU for "fighting anti-terrorism measures." As opposed to, say, fighting terrorism measures.
- Hoboken's Cadillac Bar has its liquor license suspended 30 days for a myriad of liquor control board violations; the first night it reopens in February, a man is killed in a bar fight. Then, in a fit of magical karma, the building above the bar collapses, shutting it permanently.
- PETA introduces a campaign called "Holocaust on your plate."
- New York Times reporter Jayson Blair is found to have plagiarized or fabricated countless articles, leading to the resignation of Executive Editor Howell Raines; Blair later receives a six-figure deal to write his memoirs, "Burning Down My Masters' House."
- Baylor basketball player Patrick Dennehy is shot and killed by teammate Carlton Dotson; two days after Dennehy's body is found, coach Dave Bliss is caught on tape encouraging other players to pin false drug charges on the dead man.
- "The Matrix" franchise releases not one boring, unimaginative and totally forgettable sequel, but rather two.
- The first known female Al-Qaeda operative, Aafia Siddiqui, is caught in Pakistan; she had earlier studied biology at several American universities, including Brandeis.
- More than 100 people are killed at a Rhode Island concert by the forgotten hair metal band Great White; indicating Great White's low industry profile, the incident goes completely unmentioned at the Grammy awards two weeks later.
- As pointed out by blogger Ken Layne, while millions of Americans gather to protest the Iraq war in mid-February, more Americans, that same weekend, go to see the marsupial comedy "Kangaroo Jack."
- Michael Jackson admits in a television interview that he regularly sleeps in the same bed with young boys; to no one’s surprise, he is once again arrested for children molestation a few months later.
- While the return to fashion of French-bashing is welcome, some take it too far, insisting french fries be called “Freedom Fries.”
- An aspiring rapper known as Big Lurch, allegedly acting on the orders of Suge Knight, kills and cannibalizes a woman in order to establish "streed cred."
- The New Jersey Nets reach the NBA finals, achieving a grand total of four home sellouts at Continental Arena throughout the regular season and playoffs.
- The website Friendster.com includes six different fake profiles for Kobe Bryant's accuser.
- Presidential candidate Dick Gephardt, despite nearly three decades in Congress, promises in a speech to use executive orders to overturn any Supreme Court decisions with which he disagrees.
- Seeking to piggyback on the success of Nike and LeBron James, Reebok signs young hoops phenom Mark Walker to an endorsement deal, even though Walker is only three years old.
- Red Sox manager Grady Little leaves Pedro Martinez in to pitch to five batters in the eighth inning of Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, costing the team the game and Little his job.
- In the recall campaign, 12,263 Californians vote for Gary Coleman to represent them as governor.
- John Madden appears in a commercial in which an NFL player looks to be paralyzed, but then makes a miraculous recovery when served on the field with food from Outback Steakhouse.
- After Bob Hope dies, an obituary is published in the New York Times by film critic Vincent Canby- who himself preceded Hope in death by more than three years.
- Sharon Stone stars in a commercial in which she's seen having had sex with the animated AOL logo.
- Brandeis Justice columnist Daniel Passner calls Cubs manager Dusty Baker by a racial slur, leading to a near-race riot and the resignation of six editors from the paper.
- Fox News Channel sues Al Franken- and tries to stop the publication of his book- because he misappropriated their catchphrase "fair and balanced."
- The website Evite.com is forced to apologize for including Yom Kippur in a list of "reasons to party" for the fall.
- The Staten Island Ferry crashes into a dock, killing 11 people; because it happens 2 hours before a Yankees-Red Sox playoff game, nobody notices.
- The rapper C-Murder is convicted- of murder.
- Rush Limbaugh, during a short-lived stint as a commentator on ESPN, accuses Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb of being overrated by the media because he's black. Limbaugh is fired, later goes to rehab and is under investigation for violating federal drug laws; McNabb subsequently leads Philadelphia to nine consecutive victories.
- Rutgers student and Israel-hating Jew Abe Greenhouse is arrested after throwing a pie at Israeli politician Natan Sharansky; this follows a months-long drama in which a national pro-Palestinian organization withdraws their annual conference from Rutgers to protest the extremism of organizer Charlotte Kates.
- The Kermit the Frog character falls into the public domain, leading to such abominations as "Vomiting Kermit" on "Conan O'Brien" and Kermit calling Justin Timberlake a "douchebag" on "Saturday Night Live."
- And as the year ends, American pop culture is ruled by- Paris Hilton, the most undeserving person to ever hold the zeitgeist.
Wednesday, December 24, 2003 NAY-ROD: The Alex Rodriguez deal is dead. Really. I mean it this time. And so do both teams.
Did the Red Sox and Rangers bluff each other so excessively that this deal that appeared mutually beneficial to all parties has now fallen apart? It looks like that's what happened- though of course, blame for the scuttled trade also belongs at the feet of the union, Scott Boras, Nomar's agent Arn Tellem, and who knows who else.
Then again, who knows if the trade actually is dead? It's unlikely, to say the least, that Rodriguez or Ramirez will be traded to any other team, so expect rumors of a revived deal to continue indefinitely even into the season, unless of course Boston actually signs Nomar Garciaparra to an extension. But I wouldn't hold my breath for that.
Meanwhile, the Bosox today made another major transaction, bringing aboard free agent second baseman Calvin "Pokey" Reese to play alongside whoever the hell their shortstop is next year. Are you ready, Boston, for the veritable murderer's row of Reese, David McCarty, and Gabe Kapler? Pokey Up!
HAPPY FESTIVUS: And just so you know, this blog's year-end awards, coming later this week, will have a Festivus theme! Start the Festivus carols...
Tuesday, December 23, 2003 DON'T HAVE A COW: The first American case of mad cow disease has been discovered in rural Washington state. The case was isolated and is thought not to endanger humans or our meat supply. Still though- I keep hearing about how the beef industry has been doing great- and the bread/grain industry not so great- 'cause of this whole Atkins diet craze; maybe the mad cow thing will cause enough panic to reverse the trend.
BURN YOUR SIDDUR AWARD NOMINEE: As a die-hard Vikings fan, I've hated the Green Bay Packers for as long as I can remember, and they're unquestionably my least favorite team in all of pro sports not named "New York Yankees" or "Atlanta Braves." But last night, for the first time ever, I rooted for the Packers to win, even though a loss would have all but clinched a division title for the Vikes.
Brett Favre, you see, decided to play the game, despite the death the previous night of his father and coach, Irvin. And he had a career game, throwing for nearly 400 yards and three touchdowns in Green Bay's 41-7 win over the Raiders. And even though it hurt the Vikings, and even though Donald Driver's four catches eliminated my fantasy team from contention, it was still hard not to root for Brett.
Not so happy for Fav-re was "Kosher Sex" author and World Net Daily columnist Rabbi Shmuely Boteach, who took the quarterback to task in a column today for "failing to honor his father." Never mind that Favre's family insisted that he play- Boteach believes that his decision to play was disrespectful not only of his father, but of himself, because:
In the Jewish religion, there is a mandatory period of seven days of mourning after the loss of a parent that must be observed before the mourner can resume his or her normal life. This period, known as Shiva (seven), is often mistakenly understood as being a time to show respect for the dead. But this is erroneous...
I fear the repercussions on Brett in not being afforded this time – of having been devastated on the inside and still having to smile for the cameras, and reach his receivers on the outside.
Never mind that Brett Favre is, to the best of my knowledge (and I would know) NOT A JEW. So yes, I can find it in my heart to forgive him for not sitting Shiva. Especially since he flew to Mississippi today for his dad's funeral.
Boteach, of course, is the same guy who regularly defends Michael Jackson, so how much credibility does he have in judging the actions of the generally virtuous Brett Favre?
(Via Bill McCabe).
December 23, 2003 -- A gang of karate-kicking hooligans smashed two of the Three Wise Men in a Brooklyn church's Nativity scene, police and church officials said yesterday...
When asked if he felt the attack on the Nativity was a bias attack, [the priest] replied, "Heavens, no. It's just a dumb, dumb act by some dumb, dumb kids... a bunch of kids did this, the kids like to horse around," the pastor said. "Sometimes they do karate kicks against the shed where the Nativity scene is situated."
WELCOME BACK, KAPLER: While waiting out the latest pretend-deadline on the Alex Rodriguez deal, the Boston Red Sox yesterday re-signed outfielder Gabe Kapler, not to be confused with Gabe Kaplan, who they had released two days before.
With Schilling and Foulke (and A-Rod?) in the fold, the names have all changed since Kapler hung around. But those dreams (of a championship) have remained and they're turned around, for one of baseball's only Jewish players.
Time makes a great choice in naming the American soldier person of the year for 2003. Really the only logical candidate, except maybe for Paul Wolfowitz. And don't forget about Mike Weisskopf, the Time reporter who wrote the piece, who had his hand blown off two weeks ago while throwing a grenade, saving the lives of several American troops in the process.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "As a native New Yorker, as a former worker at the World Trade Center, and the son of an architect, I think I am obligated to say this. This is one of the worst building designs I have ever seen. It will be an embarrassment to the memory of the lost. And it will look like a prop from the first "Superman" movie." -Keith Olbermann, reviewing the new "World Trade Center," on "Countdown" last Friday. No, I don't think it was that bad, but still, it just doesn't look right. Especially there.
"DEAD"LINE: The "dead" Alex Rodriguez trade has gotten another two-day lease on life, as the Rangers have declared another 5:00 PM deadline (this Tuesday) for completion of the deal. After which A-Rod will officially be a Ranger next year. Really. They mean it this time.
Sunday, December 21, 2003 AVENGING 'ANGELS': I've now watched all six hours of "Angels in America," including several of them twice. I've already gone on record as saying that I loved the first half, and there was a lot that I liked about the second as well- great performances (especially by Al Pacino, Ben Shenkman, Justin Kirk, and Patrick Wilson), and wonderfully drawn characters who I would've wanted to spend even more than six hours with.
However, there were quite a few things I didn't like about part 2, which sort of dampened my enthusiasm about the whole work. I wasn't as offended by it as Andrew Sullivan (then again, I also don't have a decades-old blood feud with Tony Kushner), but I also can't agree with near-unanimous reaction of critics who thought 'Angels' was the greatest work ever to air on television. Here, a few nitpicks:
- The story is supposedly set in 1985 New York. But everything about the city shown in the film looks like 2003- and none of the characters wear clothes or haircuts indicative of 1985.
- All the stuff with Emma Thompson as the Angel? Trite, nonsensical, and very very silly. How many times can she scream "eye! eye! eye!"? Which brings up an even larger problem, with the film's theology: while it flirts at different times with Judaism, Catholicism, and Mormonism- and borrows liberally from the iconography of all three- in the end 'Angels' seemingly rejects religiosity all together in favor of secular humanism. Which, if you think about it, is really cheating.
- The most interesting character in the piece, the closeted-Alex P. Keaton lawyer Joe Pitt (Wilson), is left with a maddingly unresolved character arc. And as his wife, Mary-Louise Parker is even more annoying than she is on "The West Wing," which wasn't previously thought to be possible.
- I don't object to Kushner's leftism on its face, or his depiction of Roy Cohn as an evil, repugnant bastard. But the one thing I can't get past is the sight of Cohn (Pacino) being taunted at the time of his death by an apparition of Ethel Rosenberg (Meryl Streep), whose execution he had pushed for three decades earlier. But, history having now all but definitively proven that Rosenberg was in fact guilty of espionage and treason, why would Cohn, after a lifetime of misdeeds, be haunted by her as he dies? Is Kushner arguing that Ethel was innocent, or that she was guilty but we should root for her because McCarthyism is more a crime than selling out one's country to Stalin's Russia? Have the dozens of critics who claimed this the best TV program of the year asked that question themselves?
Other than that, yea, great movie.
As a postscript, I saw a commercial the other night for Gateway that seemed to (probably unintentionally) parody 'Angels'- we see a couple lying in bed when something begins to crash through their bedroom ceiling. But rather than the angel that drops in on Prior Walter, we see the hind legs of a cow- Gateway's trademark. The cow, however, doesn't speak, or have sex with either of the couple, or lead them into heaven.
SAY IT AIN'T SO, TED: Remember that "snowmobile rally" the Minnesota Vikings had last winter that resulted in an alleged sexual assault and the arrest of a time vice president on DUI charges? An arrest has finally been made on the assault front- and the arrestee is Ted Brown, a reserve running back for the team in the '80s- who I once met when he spoke at my synagogue.
Kirby, Kobe, and now Ted Brown- who will be the next pro athlete arrested for rape? I say the smart money's on Ruben Boumjtie-Boumjtie.
THE BOOK ON PETE: Left off the A-Rod/Manny story while the rest of the ESPN.com baseball crew chased it, Rob Neyer came up with another big scoop: Pete Rose has a new book coming out in early January, which is the same week that next year's Hall of Fame inductions are announced. With Rose's negotiations with the commissioner about reinstatement ongoing, Neyer speculates, could this book contain the Hit King's long-awaited admission that he is indeed guilty of betting on baseball?
The book, from its title ("My Prison Without Walls") sounds on its face like more of Rose's woe-is-me victim-mongering. But what if Neyer is right, and the book is actually baseball's version of Robert McNamara's "In Retrospect"? I'd love to see the subsequent Errol Morris film...
Saturday, December 20, 2003 HAPPY HANNUKAH, FROM PETER YARROW: Don't let the light go out... it's lasted for so many years!/ Don't let the light go out, let it shine through our love and our tears! 1:19 PM
FAREWELL, MY LOVE:
(Via LGF- Not only did Yasser just lose his #1 patron, but apparently his longtime lover as well!).
A GAY OLD TIME: This is great: the American Family Association, a Christian right group, has commissioned a poll on their website on the issue of gay marriage- and surprisingly, "yes" is currently ahead of "no."
As of Friday afternoon, the poll had recorded more than 155,000 votes "for" full marriage rights for gays (47.73%), about 144,500 votes against both gay marriage and civil unions (44.44%), while just under 25,500 voters (7.83%) support civil unions but not marriage. That's 56%- a clear majority- that favors either gay marriage or civil unions. Don't look for AFA to be too vocal about those results...
NEWS ITEM:Michael Jackson joins the Nation of Islam. They said all the good Jacko jokes were already written ten years ago, but now we've got a new batch. Let's get right to it:
- I didn't know the Nation of Islam allowed white people.
- Or men who wear lipstick.
- I was under the impression plastic surgery was a no-no as well.
- I didn't think it was possible for the NOI to have any members more grotesque than Farrahkan, but I suppose I've been proven wrong.
- Aren't celebrities supposed to find Islam after going to jail, and not before?
- Does this mean Tommy Mottola is now a "white devil," as opposed to "devilish"?
- Will he now disavow his music, like Cat Stevens did?
- Grand prize goes to Colin Quinn: "This is bad news for the guys who were looking forward to raping him in prison- now that he's a Muslim, he's untouchable."
- One more thing- on the above New York Post front page, why is the phrase "9 Counts" rendered in the "Boston Red Sox" font? Don't tell me that's not intentional...
Friday, December 19, 2003 MUSIC CRITIC QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "If an act consistently does great work over an extended period of time, it will eventually be rewarded with a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist." -Nathan Rabin, giving some props to Fountains of Wayne in The Onion AV Club's year-end rock critic awards. Seriously- I pay attention to music pretty closely, and I've never heard of 90% of the stuff listed.
YEAR-END AWARDS: Entertainment Weekly has collectively given its 2003 Entertainer of the Year award to the cast and crew of the "Lord of the Rings" films. Also giving out a group award was New York Sports Express, which awarded its inaugural Sports Criminal of the Year trophy to- who else?- the Portland Trail Blazers.
NO DEAL: So the Rodriguez/Ramirez trade is now "dead"- unless it's not. Which means it won't happen- unless it does.
Yes, the Selig-imposed deadline for the two parties to agree on a new contract came and went without a deal- which you would think would put the kibosh on the deal, but you'd think wrong, because Our Favorite Commissioner concluded his "deadline has passed" statement with "at this time"- a big enough hole to fit together a later swap. Even one involving two players whose contracts together are worth more than the budget of the entire "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.
The deal was crushed by the declaration of Players' Association big shot Eugene Orza that the union would not accept any deal that included a reduction in overall value. Orza is like the labor side's designated asshole- whether it's a work stoppage or something like this, when Gene Orza is quoted, it's never good news.
Then again, after the deadline the combative president of the Red Sox, Larry Lucchino, declared the trade "dead," while Rangers GM John Hart still held out hope- yes, the two sides are so far apart they can't even agree on whether or not the trade is dead. ESPN's three-headed monster of Peter Gammons, Jayson Stark, and Tim Kurkjian remain divided on the likelihood of a deal; as with the last month of negotiations, I'll keep you posted.
Thursday, December 18, 2003 YEA, BABY!: Belated congratulations to blogging supercouple Eric and Dawn Olsen (of BlogCritics and DawnOlsen.com, respectively) on the birth of their son Alex on Saturday. Alex is a lucky boy- he'll get to spend his entire life telling people he was born the day Saddam Hussein was captured- whereas I have only the the release of "Animal House" to brag about.
Here's Alex's first post, complete with pictures.
APOLOGIES: Sorry for my absence the last two days- Blogger, as we all know, sucks, and decided to not publish any of my posts for the past 48 hours. But now all ten posts are here; keep scrolling for more. I've been putting off getting off BlogSpot, but nonsense like this may spur me to actually do it.
Anyway, I'll be back later tonight with more, on the A-Rod trade that was (or wasn't- 7 minutes to deadline!), "Angels in America," and the whitest man to ever join the Nation of Islam.
DESPITE ALL MY RAGE I AM STILL JUST A RAT IN A CAGE:
I've also got to give credit to the "South Park" producers- long ahead of the curve on the evil of Saddam, they managed to put together last night's brilliant "Ding Dong, Saddam's Been Caught!" episode in just four days of turnaround time.
HUMPHRIES IN THE LAND OF HUMPHREYS: Sportsline's Greg Doyle calls freshman basketball player Kris Humphries of the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers "the best player in the country." Say what? A Gopher, the best player in the country? When was the last time that happened, Kevin McHale?
With all four pro sports teams having winning records, Minneapolis native Larry Fitzgerald contending for the Heisman, and now this, what a year for "Minny."
Wednesday, December 17, 2003 FIRST IN FLIGHT: Today is the 100th anniversary of human flight- which is in my opinion the greatest invention of the 20th century. It's either that, or Skee-Ball.
DEFENDING THE DOC: If you're Jewish, you've probably in the last week or two received an e-mail forward once or twice (along with all the "Jewltide" and "Jew Year" club party invites) warning that Howard Dean is a rabid opponent of the state of Israel who will dismantle that country's relationship with the United States as soon as he reaches office. Therefore, he must be stopped.
The evidence? Dean has said in the past that as president he would be "evenhanded" in regards to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and also called members of Hamas "soldiers." This "evenhandedness," according to the author of the e-mail, is "regularly employed by Arafat and his coterie of adherents, and it is a phrase that is anti-Israel."
Now I've made it clear in the past that I'm not a supporter of Howard Dean, and I'd rather he not become president. And yes, the "soldiers" comment was a gaffe that he later backed off of. But come on- Dean has made about 25 statements about Israel since the campaign began, and about 20 of them were positive- including probably the best known: "I'm not going to let anything happen to Israel. My wife is Jewish."
If out of all those comments, the worst they could come up with is that he's "even-handed," then no, he's not anti-Israel. What concerns me more is that if Dean had had his way Saddam Hussein, rather then getting dragged out of that hole on Sunday, would still have been in the palace across the street.
AND SPEAKING OF WHICH: Dick Morris goes ever further off his rocker in today's column: Just a week or so after declaring that Gore's endorsement of Dean had created a "war within the party" between Gore and Hillary for the 2008 nomination, Dick now predicts that Hillary will in fact be Dean's running mate in 2004. Remind me again why anyone takes this loon seriously, when his specialty is not political analysis but rather far-fetched Hillary-centric conspiracy theories that have no continuity whatsoever from week to week?
BUSH IN THE ROUND: According to an AP report, the GOP is planning various configurations of Madison Square Garden for next year's Republican National Convention, and one of them is a "theater in the round"-like setup in which President Bush, on a center platform, would slowly rotate and thus face different convention-goers at different times.
Is it just me, or is that among the worst plans ever devised? In giving a speech, aren't you supposed to make eye contact with specific audience members? How is Bush supposed to do that if he's rotating as he speaks?
If you ask me, there are only three events that could possibly derail a Bush re-election: a sudden economic downturn, more terrorism domestically and in Iraq, and that "theater in the round" plan. And you thought the cruise-ship thing was a bad idea...
Speaking of Our Fearless Leader, he already crossed one anti-GWB talking point off the list with Saddam's capture. And in last night's Diane Sawyer interview he also removed the "won't say Bin Laden's name" argument, declaring that "bin Laden's on the runâ€¦ he's probably in a hole somewhere hiding from justice."
SKINNING THE CAT: I just got the Flaming Lips' "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" album and it's great, but in listening to the first track, "Fight Test," I realized it sounded a bit familiar- quite similar to a certain favorite campfire song of my youth that was also in the movie "Harold & Maude." A Google search later, my suspicions were confirmed: Flaming Lips Settle Cat Stevens Lawsuit. Because despite having converting to fundamentalist Islam and "disavowing" all of his '70s music, the erstwhile Mr. Katz is still quite territorial about "Father and Son," apparently.
HORN BLOWS: I should probably weigh in on this controversy over Saints receiver Joe Horn and the stunt where he pulled out a cell phone after scoring a touchdown in last Sunday night's victory over the Giants. While it was a generally classless and not particularly funny stunt, I'm not really "outraged," and I don't see why anyone else is. Although I would favor a new league rule forbidding overenthusiastic touchdown dances by players who play for teams with losing records.
I'm more offended by Giants linebacker- and outspoken born-again Christian- Michael Barrow, and his comparison of last Sunday's loss to "being raped." Just imagine if an NBA player said that after losing to the Lakers...
Detroit Lions team president Matt Millen also had to apologize the other day for calling an opposing player a "faggot." Millen probably would be suspended, if it weren't for his about-to-be-fired status. Because as much embarrassment as the slur brought to the team, it was nothing compared to his having presided over three consecutive road-victory-less seasons.
Tuesday, December 16, 2003 FENWAY-ROD?: No, the Mets fans haven't yet given up their "Shea-Rod" dreams, but now it's time for another ballpark-pun.
The Alex Rodriguez/Manny Ramirez trade, called all but dead as recently as Saturday, is now, according to Jayson Stark, "coming together," and it's safe to expect it to happen." The trade is "gaining momentum," according to Gordon Edes and Bob Hohler of the Boston Globe, and is "on the verge of being realized." SI.com's Tom Verducci says "insiders expect" the trade to "go down this week," while an unbylined SportsLine report calls it "closer to fruition." The critics are unanimous- it's the best trade of the year!
Not that it matters all that much, but one thing I haven't heard brought up by anyone: Manny Ramirez is headed to the Rangers, who will prove with the trade (as they have before) that they care a great deal more about money than they do about winning. Ramirez, for his part, has made it perfectly clear that the team he wants to play for is the Yankees. Now a Red Sox-Yankees trade is, of course, out of the question, but with Manny headed to the sure-to-be-in-last-place Rangers, is there any doubt that he'll be dealt to the Yankees, likely within the year?
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "It's riveting, in a way, to see the Red Sox and Yankees divide all of baseball between themselves, like Roosevelt and Stalin splitting Europe at Yalta. (George Steinbrenner is Stalin, of course, and Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria is Churchill, custodian of an empire that is, even in the first hours of victory celebration, already dead.)"- Steve Rushin, Sports Illustrated.
BUT I THOUGHT YOU HAD TO GO TO HARVARD TO WRITE FOR "THE SIMPSONS": Another week, another Brandeis reference on "The Simpsons," strengthening the theory that there is now a Brandeisian on Groening's writing staff.
On last week's Christmas episode Homer called something "sadder than 'Tuesdays With Morrie,' referencing the memoir by Brandeis alum Mitch Albom about the late Brandeis professor Morrie Schwartz. "Will & Grace," which stars Debra Messing '91, ran its own 'Morrie' homage episode a few years back.
If on next week's episode there's an Abbie Hoffman joke, that'll clinch it.
FILM CRITIC QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Like a starlet in a Melrose Avenue boutique shopping for vintage fashions, 'Mona Lisa Smile' wears the 1950s like a funky sweater twinset covering toned abs and a navel ring: The movie's a Vanity Fair cover shoot posing as a feminist lesson for postfeminist moviegoers, who never understood the big whoop about keeping one's name after marriage. It's a gussied-up sorority-of-rising-stars project produced, I fantasize, by baby-boomer studio guys whose younger spouses articulately defend a woman's right to stay home with the kids." -Lisa Schwarzbaum, in super-cynic mode, in Entertainment Weekly (not online).
NO ONE LEFT TO PUNK TO: "Punk'd" is going off the air. Ashton Kutcher, who seems to have better things (and better people) to do, has decided to pull the plug on the popular MTV show, just as it was starting to get tiresome and repetitive. Bill Goldberg, on last Sunday's show, added to his considerable legend by becoming the last celebrity ever punk'd.
"LINE OF FIRE" RULES: No, I haven't yet wrapped my head around the concept of David Paymer as a mob boss. Though it was sort of cool to see the same actor menaced by loan shark John Travolta in "Get Shorty" threatening an in-hock better on "Line of Fire"- and cutting off his finger to boot.
Check out this show if you can- even though it was created by Rod Lurie, who directed the worst Hollywood film of the past five years, "The Contender."
Monday, December 15, 2003 COLIN CANCER: Secretary of State Colin Powell underwent surgery this morning for prostate cancer, and all indications are that the surgery went just fine. Best wishes for a speedy recovery for Secretary Powell.
MSNBC pulled a major faux pas this morning, running a bottom-of-the-screen headline of "Powell to undergo cancer surgery," as footage played of jubilant Iraqis celebrating the capture of Saddam Hussein.
IT'S ON: Just two days after the deal was declared all but dead, the Texas Rangers have apparently blinked and, if Jayson Stark is to believed, Alex Rodriguez will be a member of the Boston Red Sox by the end of the week.
If this deal happens, the Sox will officially have completed the best offseason of any team in baseball history, and it's only December. And they haven't even traded Nomar yet... Boston's owners deserve enormous credit for waiting for Tom Hicks to back off his demand of $25 million for Manny Ramirez- yes, Hicks may be a good enough businessman to have become a billionaire, but the fact that he overpaid A-Rod by about $100 million shows that his acumen as owner of the Texas Rangers is about on the level of the last guy who held the job- you know, the one who traded Sammy Sosa.
Meanwhile, the Baltimore Orioles, in their quest to become the most expensive fourth-place team in baseball history, have signed Miguel Tejada, and apparently Vladimir Guerrero and Ivan Rodriguez are right on deck. Too bad their two best pitchers are still Rodrigo Lopez and Omar Daal...
Meanwhile, it's not a good sign that the Twins are not in the mix for any major, or even mid-level free agent; TwinsGeek reports that it's due to a judgment that the contract of injured pitcher Joe Mays will not be covered by insurance next year, while Mays recovers from Tommy John surgery. That's a damn shame.
Via Tim Blair, the above is the new electoral map, pointing out all the areas of the country with unusually large concentrations of Howard Dean supporters. I see that Los Angeles and San Francisco have finally been combined into one big metro area. And gee, what's up with that big yellow splotch where Minneapolis/St. Paul used to be?
Still, I always thought the old red-blue dichotomy was a tad oversimplified, since there are clearly large concentrations of both long-haired hippies and mulletted rednecks in all 50 states (see, even their hairstyles are similar). But I agree with Blair's observation that the above map is "much easier to understand than the old red/blue model, which confusingly presented commie-hating Republican areas as red."
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "It's never that easy, of course, in Red Sox country, where some half-asleep folks might have awakened yesterday morning to US Ambassador Paul Bremer saying, "We got him," and concluded that the Sox' pursuit of Alex Rodriguez had finally been brought to a satisfying conclusion." -Gordon Edes, the Boston Globe.
Sunday, December 14, 2003 FRIENDS OF THE DEVIL: Separated at birth?
No wonder the hippies were so opposed to the war...
Friday, December 12, 2003 HOT HOT HOT (STOVE): Time for the real excitement to begin- the baseball winter meetings start tonight in New Orleans, and much player movement is expected. Things got off to an early start yesterday, with pitcher Andy Pettitte- a mainstay in the Yankees' rotation for as long as they've been good- jumping to his hometown team, the Houston Astros. The New York tabloids and talk show callers are aghast that George Steinbrenner didn't try harder to keep the lefthander, but by the end of the day the Yankees had reached a tentative deal with the Dodgers to bring in pitcher Kevin Brown, who was signed to the sport's first-ever $100 million contract prior to the 1999 season, but never pitched in a playoff game for the Dodgers.
I'm not sure this works out so well for any of the three teams. The Dodgers, baseball's worst offensive team last year, should have insisted on much more than just a couple of prospects and Jeff Weaver for Brown, especially considering how desperate New York was to replace Pettitte by the end of the news cycle. The Yankees, failing to plug Curt Schilling into the righthander-who's-pushing-40-and-makes-big-bucks rotation slot vacated by Roger Clemens, instead settled for the overpaid, oft-injured, temperamental Brown, who may or may not still have anything left in the tank. And it's hard to think of a big-splash acquisition the Astros have ever made that hasn't blown up their face- aside from Randy Johnson's two-month stint in '98, Pettitte is the highest-profile pitcher acquired by the Astros since Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams in 1994. And then there's the remarkable stat that Pettitte has more career postseason victories by himself than the team has in their 40-year history
The A-Rod-Ramirez deal may very well be dead, but leave it to the Red Sox to come up with something else to make the SOSH people happy. And don't be surprised if A-Rod actually does come to Fenway- the deal just makes too much sense for anyone not to happen.
And hopefully the Twins can get something done too. More later…
David Robinson and Tim Duncan are SI's Sportsmen of the Year, in what is a fair and correct pick- they're both good guys, they won the championship this year, therefore…
I suppose some year they'll have to give it to Barry Bonds- but with the steroid talk and first-round playoff exit and all… yea, Robinson and Duncan.
AND YOU THOUGHT THE NYT HAD INADEQUATE SPORTS COVERAGE: Did you know that Daniel Okrent, the new "public editor"/ombudsman of the New York Times, invented fantasy baseball? I guess that's the sort of invention that he should've made a ton of money from, but most likely didn't. But he is a Yankee hater!
I think I like this guy- in his introductory piece in the Times last week, he wrote:
I'm an absolutist on free trade and free speech, and a supporter of gay rights and abortion rights who thinks that the late Cardinal John O'Connor was a great man. I believe it's unbecoming for the well off to whine about high taxes, and inconsistent for those who advocate human rights to oppose all American military action. I'd rather spend my weekends exterminating rats in the tunnels below Penn Station than read a book by either Bill O'Reilly or Michael Moore.
SOME OF THE WORST WRITING YOU'VE EVER SEEN: This, from the keyboard of some theater-freak reader of the New York Times was chosen-of everything on the "Cable TV" message board- as the first entrant in the paper's summary of Part I of "Angels in America":
"I haven't stopped crying. Too many former fellow attendees no longer in attendance planetside floating about the noggin. Pacino! and Mrs. Gummer beyond praise and then some, and then again, ad infinitum (throughout, but perhaps most especially at the Cohn/Rosenberg scene, which almost stopped my heart). Her Thompsonity slightly underparted but utterly formidable nonetheless, (and just wait 'til the wind-up). As Harper (also known as inlareviewer's other alter-ego en travesti)...
And that's just the first third of it. Any idea what the hell that person is talking about?
On the subject of "Angels in America," I have to break company with Sullivan, even though I agree with him on the general loathsomeness of Tony Kushner: I loved it. Probably the best movie on HBO since "61*," and I eagerly await part 2 on Sunday.
Thursday, December 11, 2003 BROOKLYN NETS?:
Via Gothamist, here's a sketch of the proposed new Nets arena in Brooklyn, designed by the noted architect Frank Gehry. Note to everyone in power: please make this happen! Better the Nets play in the above kick-ass facility than that disgusting, obsolete, foul-smelling monstrosity known as Continental Airlines Arena.
FIVE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WORDS IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE:"Maureen Dowd is on vacation." 8:26 AM
QUOTE OF THE DAY: ""I vow that as long as there are imaginary treaties signed by pretend delegates to create hypothetical peace, this fake news show will be there to cover it." -Jon Stewart, "The Daily Show," exposing the fraudulent Geneva Accords.
TOM FRIEDMAN, INTERNATIONAL BADASS: Thomas L. Friedman, the three-time Pulitzer-winning foreign affairs columnist and author, is known worldwide as one of the leading experts on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other aspects of the Middle East. His skills as a brawler, on the other hand, are less known.
But, according to a piece by Stephen I. Weiss in Jewsweek, TLF apparently learned how to handle himself in the way of fisticuffs while growing up on the mean streets of St. Louis Park, MN. Weiss' piece, about Friedman sitting in on a panel at a think tank's annual dinner and discussing the recent Geneva Accords, sounds just like any other account of such an event (albeit with some humor and some Friedman-bashing) until it suddenly turns into a Jackie Chan movie:
Harvey Schwartz, a Manhattan lawyer, greets Friedman and with a smile on his face tells him he learned two things from Friedman that night: That the columnist, "Supports drilling in ANWR," and is, "willing to sacrifice Israel on the altar of Iraq." Friedman yells "F**k you," hits the guy with his right hand, and then shoves him into a small crowd of people with their backs turned. Schwartz has a good foot and 100 pounds on the diminutive Friedman, but he went about three feet backwards from Friedman's push.
Wow, that's not the sort of thing he learned from Mim Kagol, is it?
Read the whole piece- my favorite part is the Warhol-like arrangement of six Tom Friedmans at the top.
ECKSTEIN AWARD NOMINEE: The David Eckstein Award, for public figures with Jewish-sounding names who are not in fact members of the tribe, this week goes to former University of Florida quarterback Rex Grossman, who will make his first NFL start Sunday for the (sorry, no account) Chicago Bears against the Vikings. Grossman was a great college QB, who I'm certainly rooting for to have a decent professional career, but nope, not a Jew. And since he's playing the Vikings, I'll start rooting for him next week.
MY 2003 WEBLOG AWARDS BALLOT: Vote yourself, early and often, over at WizBangBlog.
Wednesday, December 10, 2003 SHADOWS AND "FOG": Last night I attended a screening for the new documentary by noted filmmaker Errol Morris, "The Fog of War." This fascinating film consists of interviews with former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, discussing his role in such international events as the World War II, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and of course Vietnam.
McNamara, who made major headlines a few years ago when he admitted that he had known the Vietnam War was a mistake as early as 1966, movingly and chillingly tells different stories from the wars, combined with archival footage from them, as well as newly declassified recordings of his conversations with Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. Ironically, the most disturbing moment of the picture is film of the Tokyo firebombing in World War II that killed 100,000 civilians, and McNamara's candid admission that had it been a losing war he likely would have faced war crimes charges.
The Vietnam segments, perhaps naturally and perhaps because Morris framed them that way, look and sound eerily like the modern-day footage of the war in Iraq, right down to the Secretary of Defense stating that the war is going better than it actually is. Disproportionate casualty totals and other differences notwithstanding, the entire film almost has a voice in the background whispering, "Iraq is Vietnam, Iraq is Vietnam." But this is no Michael Moore picture- Morris has no interest in beating his audience over the head with such metaphors, and if McNamara shared any opinions about the current War on Terror, they're not in the film.
I met Morris a few years ago when he came to Brandeis to show a rough cut of his film "Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr.," the story of a designer of execution equipment who later became a leading spokesman for the Holocaust denial movement. In the subsequent Q&A session Morris, whose shyness and unassumingness I found very refreshing, had to defend himself from a barrage of questions from audience members who assumed that he made the film to draw a moral equivalence between the death penalty and the Holocaust, until he finally came out and said "there's clearly a difference between putting men, women and children on trains and gassing them and capital punishment of murderers."
Morris unfortunately took ill and missed his advertised appearance at the "Fog of War" screening, robbing him of the chance to make a similar (or opposite) statement about the Iraq/Vietnam comparison. But the auditorium wasn't wanting for star power- I passed Mike Wallace in the hallway, and recognized no less than a couple dozen "media people" who looked familiar but whose names I couldn't quite place. Bloggers too- Elizabeth Spiers and Neal Pollack were both in attendance as well. That "Liberal East Coast Media Elite" that O'Reilly and the others always talk about? They were out in full force- and yes, the screening was followed by a cocktail party.
After the film ended, former JFK speechwriter and biographer Ted Sorenson got up and defended his longtime friend McNamara, calling him a good man and comparing him favorably to those currently in Washington. Much more classy comments than those of the woman before him, who wondered if the film would ever be screened for "the masses."
AND SPEAKING OF HIPSTER JUDAISM….: Here are the names of upcoming parties for which I currently have invitations in my in-box. All true:
-Jew Years' Eve
-Night of 1000 Jews
-Fifth Light of Latkes Hannukah Party
-Gefilte Fish Gala
-Jewltide: a Hannukah Bash (featuring "Hasidic reggae superstar Mattisyahu.")
-Oy Fest 2003 (with "What I like about Jew")
-The Heeb Hannukah Party (featuring “Ol’ Dirty Rabbi” and the Jew-Tang Clan.")
-Christmas Eve Tribal Ball Extravaganza (for those of us who Santa will not be visiting)
-The Ball (Accessible through the Jewniversal Pass).
Which one should I go to first?
GORE BACKS DEAN: Former Vice President Al Gore announced yesterday that he is backing Howard Dean for president, in an early-morning press conference in Harlem (which was fisked, on air in real time, by Don Imus on MSNBC- good times!). Gore, in throwing his former running mate Joseph Lieberman under the bus, said he made the decision because Dean is the only candidate who has galvanized the Democratic base (which is true), and because Dean can win (which isn't quite as true).
The most surprising moment of the speech was when Dean referred to Gore as "the elected president of the United States." Huh? That's the sort of thing I'd expect to hear from one of Dean's freakish supporters, not from the Good Doctor himself. If Dean refuses to abide by the results of the 2000 election, why does he see fit to blame Bush for everything under the sun, including the color of the sky? If he thinks Gore won, why isn't he running against Gore?
Anyway, the right-leaning pundits of course went to town- and their angle? As always, it's All About Hillary, and her supposed conspiracy to eventually become president. The Hillary-obsessed Dick Morris led his column Tuesday with
Dissatisfied at how thoroughly forgotten he is among active Democrats and resentful of all the attention Sen. Hillary Clinton, his White House rival, is getting, Al has reportedly decided to flank the Clintons by backing Howard Dean for president.
Others put forth similarly bizarre theories, seemingly taking it as a forgone conclusion that all parties, in 2003, are acting with 2008 in mind. As Timothy Noah pointed out in Slate awhile ago, the right has a considerably greater interest in a Hillary presidential run than Mrs. Clinton herself ever did; after all, the leading liberal advocate for such a run is some college freshman from Virginia.
Of course, I sort of wish Gore had borrowed a page from the WWE (by way of Sports Guy), and "turned" on Dean during the speech, whacking the former Vermont governor with a chair as "Don't Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)" blared over the loudspeaker, and Gore's "mystery partner" sauntered into the auditorium from his nearby Harlem office. "By Gawd!," Shepard Smith would scream, "That's Bill Clinton's music!" 4:59 PM
OUCH:"Angels Lock Up Colon." Of course, we all know Bartolo is destined to someday pitch for a New York team, so the Post can make a daily habit of doing what I just did.
JEW WORLD ORDER:
Time Out New York has a cover story this week (not online) on "The New SuperJews." Featuring actor Adam Goldberg of the new "Jewsploitation" movie "The Hebrew Hammer" on the cover (they picked the wrong Goldberg!), the piece examines the new Jewish hipsterism, as exemplified by Heeb Magazine, the rapper 50 Shekel, and various other hip hop/klezmer hybrid projects going on in the city lately.
I come at this whole thing with mixed feelings. While it's certainly refreshing to see young Jews taking pride in their identities, I can't help but find this whole movement a tad artificial. These people are clearly hipsters first and Jews second, and virtually all of the iconography seems like carefully combined hybrids of inoffensive but annoying Jewish stereotypes (overuse of the word "oy", for one) and '70s blaxploitation culture, sometimes modified to hip-hop. None of this feels the slightest bit authentic, nor does it have much connection to actual Judaism- two problems not shared by the nascent independent minyan movement.
Also, this is very much an only-in-New-York phenomenon, and hasn't touched most American Jews, or even most young American Jews. And with the War on Terror and Intefada going on, along with widespread international anti-Semitism, Heeb & Co.'s lefty, not-so-pro-Israel message comes across as more than a little incongruous, especially if they claim to speaking as "the new Jews."
Still though, that Jenn Bleyer is pretty cute. And 50 Shekel is a riot. And I do want to check out that "Hebrew Hammer" movie…
THE GREAT GOATEE DEBATE: Does having a goatee make you look conservative, or just gay? That's been the subject of a bizarre cross-blog debate over the last few couple weeks.
It all started in a recent issue of GQ, when a writer named David Kamp went off on a couple of goateed conservatives (not online):
Maybe you've even taken notice of photo-bylined neoconservative commentators like Andrew Sullivan and Rod Dreher, for whom a goatee signifies a cool-daddy engagement with the poptastic modern world of Wi-Fi technology, reality television and boutique California garage wines, a world they find compatible with their rigorous, showboaty churchgoing and unapologetic hawkishness, which therefore gives the lie to the stereotype of conservatives as jowly, out-of-touch old guys, because -- look -- there's this groundswell of goateed young, self-congratulatory moralist offalheads who represent the true direction in which America is headed
Dreher, who has said that he is working on a book about "granola conservatives" (supposedly righties who practice such generally hippie-associated customs as vegetarianism, nature hikes, and organic living) that seems to prove Kamp's point, fired back on National Review's "The Corner" blog, stating that he's had his goatee for almost a decade, it has nothing to with his politics, his dog, Checkers (ha!) loves it, and besides, he doesn't even know what Wi-Fi technology is.
Soon after John Derbyshire, NR's resident fag-basher, fired back at Dreher that "the goatee is an abomination, and engenders a cloud of suspicion about the wearer's sexual orientation." This of course led to the obligatory denunciation from America's leading gay conservative, who- contrary to the original piece- has a full beard and not a goatee. Andrew writes:
I'm not defending the goatee. And I understand he's trying to make a jocular comment. But, even in the context of jest, this is a simple, bald declaration that someone's orientation alone - their involuntary identity, not anything they might or might not do - is "suspicious." Again, imagine if someone had written that he despised beards because they "engender a cloud of suspicion about the wearer's possible Jewishness?"
Just for the record, I had a goatee a few times in high school and college- when I was much more liberal than I am now- and I've never been gay, goatee or not.
The last word, of course, goes to the goatee-free VodkaPundit, who digitally grafts a goatee onto Derb.
CRAZY/BEAUTIFUL: Great column by Amy Sohn in New York Magazine about the sad fact that a disproportionate amount of eligible single women in New York are stone-cold insane. And the more beautiful they are, the more crazy they are.
Bona fide crazy girls are beautiful nymphos who toy with men’s minds by showing up at their doorsteps in the middle of the night demanding sex, then never calling again. They are actresses, models, or dancers, have at least one substance problem, and like to break things when they get mad. And an inordinate number seem to live in New York.
It's about time someone wrote about this bizarre, intriguing phenomenon.
Am I the only one who's infinitely more attracted to the woman on the left? (Via Gawker)
IRON SHEFF: The long-awaited marriage of one of baseball's most loathsome players and one of its most loathsome teams may be off, as the New York Daily News reports that a last-minute demand for more money could derail the Yankees' deal with free agent outfielder Gary Sheffield.
It's a common occurance, these last-minute demands, when Sheffield has changed teams in the past- you may remember the wailing for an extension that preceded his trade from the Marlins to the Dodgers, and the subsequent whining that got him dealt by the Dodgers to the Braves.
If Sheff doesn't sign, and A-Rod goes to Boston, expect Steinbrenner to one-up the Bosox by signing Vladimir Guerrero to patrol right field.
MY ONE AND ONLY COMMENT ON THE BCS SCANDAL: So yea, Oklahoma, LSU, and USC each had one loss. But Brandeis football, once again, had NO losses in 2003, so I think they should be in the title game. Their weak "strength of schedule" notwithstanding...
Monday, December 08, 2003 YEAH DEIS!: As though being mentioned in about 10 different Woody Allen movies wasn't enough, my alma mater last night crossed a new threshold of cultural relevance: it was mentioned on "The Simpsons."
On last night's all-new episode, which concerned Krusty the Klown's bar mitzvah (I know the show's supposed to be "timeless" and all, but Krusty's gotta be older than 13), Lisa says the following:
I have a Jewish imaginary friend. Her name is Rachel Cohen, and she just got into Brandeis."
A watershed moment, my friends. And just for the record, in my four years at Brandeis I don't remember meeting a single Rachel Cohen. Although, back then, my comedy troupe once wrote a vicious sketch lampooning Brandeis Jewish women, and gave the character the stereotypical name "Sarah Glickstein." Which had to be changed, once I informed them there actually was a Sarah Glickstein enrolled at the school at the time.
Still, with this, and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog namechecking "Waltham, Massachusetts, America's poophole" on his recent CD, it's been a historical year for comedy involving the Non-Sectarian Jewish Sponsored University. That whole "rhymes with tigger" thing notwithstanding...
Sunday, December 07, 2003 THE COMPASSIONATE CONSERVATIVE, OR THE "SANCTIMONIOUS SCOLD?": Blogger PatioPundit puts his finger on what's wrong with Joseph Lieberman. Lieberman is probably the closest to my views of all the Democrats in the race, and I'd imagine that's probably true of most Kosher Scoop Jackson Democrats- Jewish social liberals who are hawkish on national security matters. But I would never vote for him, and I can't imagine most KSJs would either.
Why not? Because he is, and always has been, a "sanctimonious scold," attacking Hollywood along with William Bennett, and now introducing a politically tone-deaf anti-junk food initiative. Lieberman showed, in the 2000 campaign and other times, that he can be a likeable and sympathetic figure, when he plays up his son-of-an-immigrant roots and historic status as the first Jew on a national ticket. But going after junk food? Does he really think that'll give him any traction in a national race?
GOD BLESS DAVID BROOKS: What a great column yesterday, making fun of the decision by Tom DeLay not to put GOP delegates to next year's convention in New York on a luxury boat- because now, the delegates will have to mingle in the city with all the angry liberals.
Brooks overgeneralizes, of course, saying "New York" when he really means "Upper West Side of Manhattan." But I'll let that slide, for such gems as coaching Republicans to use phrases like "Nice weather we're having. Too bad about the climate of McCarthyism settling over the land." Brooks, like very few other writers, has complete understanding- and sympathy for- the complexities of the blue/red divide- and that's what makes him worth reading.
Saturday, December 06, 2003 MORE FROM THE ANTI-COLMES LOBBY: From The Onion:
Alan Colmes Loses Argument With Nephew NEW YORK—Alan Colmes, the liberal co-host of the Fox News debate program Hannity & Colmes, lost an argument to his nephew Bryan while babysitting the 8-year-old Monday. "I wanted to stay up late to watch television, but Uncle Alan said, 'There's already too much self-parenting in America,'" Bryan said. "So I started screaming, 'Mom lets me, Mom lets me,' real loud. He gave in after, like, 20 seconds." In the past two years, Bryan has won arguments with Colmes on the subjects of Pokémon cards, Crunch Berries cereal, and steel tariffs.
Wow, Colmes-bashing has really caught on since the Franken book came out.
Friday, December 05, 2003 FILE UNDER ARROGANT BASTARD ALE: A company in Italy has introduced a a line of wines adorned with pictures of Hitler and other leading Nazis. Wow, who'd have thought there'd be demand in Europe this year for a product advocating extermination of the Jews?
The wine, according to the above article, was made "chiefly for the German market" (duh) and is "a huge success in Italy."
THE HOT STOVE GETS HOTTER: I've always been one of those baseball fans who enjoys the winter "hot stove league" as much- if not more than- the season itself. During the offseason I check ESPN.com about 25 times a day to check on the latest trades, signings, and rumors, as opposed to checking the scoreboard once a day when games are actually being played.
This off-season's been a little slower than most, with every team (except for two) cutting costs and not signing free agents- to the point where some are even alleging an '80s-like collusion conspiracy by the owners.
While I don't know about that, it's certainly strange that a top-five-in-the-majors talent (Vladimir Guerrero) and a recent MVP (Miguel Tejada) are both free agents, and there's little-to-no buzz about either. They say the signings will start trickling in around the time of next week's arbitration deadline, followed by the subsequent winter meetings- it won't be soon enough.
At any rate, the big news has been the literal "arms race" between the Yankees and Red Sox, representing a postscript to their soon-to-be-legendary ALCS that- unbelievably- only ended seven weeks ago. With both teams awash in TV revenue, they can afford players no other team can- hence the acquisitions of Curt Schilling by Boston and Javier Vazquez and Gary Sheffield by New York- and don't think either team is done.
The Yankees' trade for Vazquez was huge for them, because with Roger Clemens retiring and David Wells and possibly Andy Pettitte departing, the team now has a dynamic, young pitcher who will likely be in their rotation for the next decade. Someday, inevitably, the Yankees will suck again; bringing in Vazquez serves to push that day even further into the future.
As for the Red Sox, the previously long-shot idea that they might be able to pry Alex Rodriquez from Texas must now be considered a very real one. A Manny Ramirez-Rodriguez deal (a swap of the two highest-paid players in the game) would presumably be contingent on the Sox agreeing to pay a fraction of Ramirez' salary, in addition to also jettisoning Nomar Garciaparra, likely for prospects or a mid-level second baseman such as Adam Kennedy of the Angels. Boston's next likely move after that? A big new contract for Pedro Martinez- already the game's highest-paid pitcher. Whi's #2? Soon-to-be-Yankee Kevin Brown. #3? Curt Schilling.
When the opportunity presents itself to acquire the best player in the game- which Rodriguez is- it's a hard thing to say no to, which is why I suspect Theo Epstein will say yes. But the Sox need to ask themselves- is it worth it to trade two superstars for one? While money certainly seems to be no object for the team, do they really want to be paying Manny Ramirez to play for Texas? And as for Nomar, shouldn't they think long and hard before getting rid of one of the most beloved players in franchise history? And, even if it's just for a year, why can't Nomar DH, or play second?
The Twins, meanwhile, have been jettisoning people left and right to save money- just like everyone but the Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies, in other words. A.J. Pierzynski is a Giant, LaTroy Hawkins a Cub, and Eric Milton a Phillie, with Jacque Jones and possibly Doug Mientkiewicz heading out the door next. I won't miss any of them with the exception of Milton, but as the only person on the Eastern Seaboard with my own Doug Mientkiewicz jersey I really really hope he stays put in "Minny."
I'm excited at the possibility of expanded roles next year for St. Paul native (and former #1 overall pick) Joe Mauer and Justin "Nosferatu" Morneau, but acknowledge that it's all for naught if they don't keep Shannon Stewart and "Everyday" Eddie Guardado.
But enough baseball punditry for now- time to check the ESPN baseball page again...
A 'SIMPLE' RACIST?: There's a fairly noxious little op-ed in the New York Post today by a Mr. Mark Goldblatt. Watching the premiere of "The Simple Life," the first thing Goldblatt apparently noticed was that, as the daughter of Lionel Richie, co-star Nicole Richie (called "Ritchie" in the piece) is half black, and thus must've been a beneficiary of affirmative action. Which is unfair, seeing as how she's rich and all...
Now leave aside that Nicole Richie is hardly representative of the African-American experience. I don't know what's more pathetic- that the first thing Goldblatt thought of when seeing a black person on TV was her affirmative action status, or that of all the many, many things about "The Simple Life" that are reprehensible, that's the one he chose to write about.
SO MUCH FOR THAT "ROCK REVIVAL:" This year's Grammy nominations were announced yesterday and- damn. If even the middle-aged, almost entirely white music academy gives the majority of Grammy nominations to hip-hop and R&B artists, I think we can finally safely declare rock 'n' roll dead, or at the very least in semi-retirement. The four most-nominated artists (Beyonce, Outkast, Missy Elliott, and Jay-Z) are all African-American, while two others with multiple nods (Eminem and Justin Timberlake) are white but produce "black" music- which, from an academy that gave Best Album two years ago to the worst record of Steely Dan's career, can only be called progress.
Which isn't to say the Academy's traditional old-white-guy bias is a thing of the past- it can't be good for the plight of males in popular music that the Best Male Pop Vocal Performance category consists of two guys who are old (Sting, Michael McDonald), two guys who are dead (George Harrison, Warren Zevon), and one guy who was in 'N Sync (Justin Timberlake). Had Johnny Cash been deservedly nominated instead of Sting, we'd have had the first majority-dead category in Grammy history, although Cash is nominated in several categories, as is the comatose Luther Vandross.
I'm going to shock you: my prediction for Best Album is Timberlake's "Justified"- and it's deserved. After years of producing some of the worst pop music of the decade with 'N Sync, Timberlake somehow put together a great record, showing that he'll still be around long after we've forgotten Britney, Christina, and all the rest. So what if "Justified," up against Norah Jones, Bruce Springsteen, and others, likely would not have even been nominated last year.
Record of Year? It's between "Crazy in Love" and "Hey Ya." Either one's fine by me.
Here, the various absurdities:
-With about 100 categories per year, it's next to impossible for anyone to have a pop music career of any length without winning or been nominated for a Grammy at least once. Which is no excuse for the some of the mediocrities up for major awards this year: Train? Matchbox Twenty? Nickelback? -Way to go Coldplay guy! First you impregnate Gwyneth Paltrow, then you're nominated for Record of the Year, all in one week!
-Among those you thought had retired decades ago who are up for Grammys this year: Barbra Streissand, Kenny G, the Eagles, Steve Vai, Earth, Wind, and Fire (!), The Oak Ridge Boys, and Ludwig von Beethoven (nominated for Best Orchestral Performance).
-Judging by the nominees, Evanescence is currently the best rock band in the world ("Bring Me to Life" is a good song, but no, they're not).
-Fountains of Wayne, who probably deserved a Best Album nod, are up for Best New Artist, even though they've been around for about a decade.
-Best Female Rap Solo Performance has three nominees (Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, and Da Brat) who would've been up for the same award had it been given out in 1989; with Latifah also becoming the first Oscar acting nominee up for a rap Grammy.
-Hillary Clinton is up for her second Grammy, once again for the book-on-tape version of her autobiography (she won for "It Takes a Village" in 1995). Her competitors include Bill Maher, Don Cheadle, and Al Franken.
-The Best Comedy Album category includes "Weird Al" Yankovic, David Cross, Garrison Keillor, George Lopez, and Margaret Cho. It omits the best comedy album of the decade, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog's "Come Poop With Me."
-There is a Best Polka Album category, though Weird Al is not nominated. No, I'm not kidding.
BETTER THERE THAN STORE 24:
Doesn't this photo make it look like Terry Francona is being named manager of a Boston-area Dunkin' Donuts?
(No, that's Grady Little's new job- ed.)
THE HOWLS ARE NOT WHAT THEY SEEM: David Lynch announced the other day that he wants to raise $1 billion to build "peace palaces" in every major U.S. city, and thus "save the world" through transcendental meditation. Because if there's anything I associate with Lynch's work (which I love, by the way), it's peace, love, and coexistence. That, and severed ears.
Will the palaces all look like the "Red Room" from Twin Peaks? Or perhaps a "Club Silencio" vibe? Who will administrate them, The Man From Another Place? The Monster Behind the Diner? Killer Bob?
And besides, a country with palaces in every city- isn't there something a bit, uh, Ba'athist about that idea?
And speaking of castles in the sky and those who live in them, everybody always makes fun of "Crazy Dennis" Kucinich for wanting to start a federal Department of Peace. But guess which university already has one?
(hat tip to Josh for both).