QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I love 'Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.' And I was more concerned for Triumph's well-being. If Eminem wants to pick on someone, fine, pick on me, but don't diss the dog-puppet. Triumph the dog-puppet is my hero. That's the sole reason that I went to the [awards show] . . . I love that little dog-puppet." -Moby, after Eminem's squad of goons threatened both him and the famed sock puppet, at the Video Music Awards.
GAME ON!!!: Finally... the subject I have written about more than any other since the inception of this blog has been resolved. After a marathon negotiating session which lasted for nearly 24 hours, the baseball players and owners have agreed on a four-year Collective Bargaining Agreement that will avert the threatened baseball strike. Whether the agreement will accomplish its stated purpose of restoring competetive balance to the game remains to be seen, but what is undisputed is that all the darkness that has plagued the game off the field in the past few years can now be swept away, and the game will finally return to the center stage, where it belongs.
I was glued to the television until I fell asleep at 3 AM last night, and throughout the night I awoke at least once per hour in order to turn on the TV and hear ESPN's Jayson Stark speak the ugly words "no deal yet." The same held once I woke up in the morning, though while listening to WFAN on the way to work, I heard a caller eloquently speak about how he had lost two relatives on September 11, and the only thing that had kept him going was knowing that he could still watch the Yankees every night. I flipped on the radio again at 12:30 to hear the wonderful news that a deal had been reached.
As a baseball fan, I am thrilled by the day's events. And as a Minnesota Twins fan, I'm absolutely ecstatic. Sometime next week we will get to enjoy the great, great sight of the Twins clinching their first division championship since 1991, followed by a sure-to-be-exciting playoff run. (And even if the Twins don't advance to the World Series, perhaps the equally small-market Oakland A's will). The increased revenue sharing can only help the team in the future, and the lack of a strike, coupled with that playoff run, also increases the likelihood of a new Minnesota stadium. And last but not least, the agreement states that contraction cannot happen before 2006. So now that threat is gone as well; guess that proves that Bud Selig was bluffing all along.
Let's hope Bud sees this agreement, the first ever negotiated without a work stoppage, as a suitable legacy and therefore decides to resign as baseball commissioner immediately. Then, our glorious day will be complete.
DON'T SHOW THE KIDS: Next time someone asks me why, as a generally liberal person, I am a supporter of Israel, I'll tell them about this: Something called the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate is demanding that international photographers refrain from photographing Palestinian children carrying weapons and participating in terrorist operations, because such photographs harm the Palestinian cause and "violate the rights of children."
Isn't that precious? The Palestinians have parades in which they dress their preschool-aged children as suicide bombers, and send their teenagers to blow up restaurants and cafes, and when Western (as well as Palestinian) journalists expose such savagery they're the ones "violating the rights of children"? Then again, it's hard to take a Journalists Syndicate seriously when it comes from a non-democratic non-country in which the government wishes to control all press, as well as all thought.
MTV AWARDS BOTH SLIM, SHADY: That was the headline I came up with for my college paper's review of the 1999 Video Music Awards- and whaddya know, the same applies to the '02 version as well.
The show began with a performance by Bruce Springsteen and ended with the "triumphant" return of Guns 'n' Roses, so in that sense it looked no different from the 1987 VMAs. But unfortunately the rest of the show was overly saturated with the likes of Justin Timberlake, P.O.D., P. Diddy, Linkin Park, Jennifer Lopez, and the sorry trio of Ja Rule, Nas, and Ashanti. We were treated to an entertaining "Battle of the Bands" between the Hives and the Vines (Hives win, hands down), host Jimmy Fallon did the best he could with less-than-brilliant material, and (best of all) Fred Durst was not in the building. But there's just no excuse that in a year in which we saw the debuts of The Strokes, The White Stripes, Norah Jones, John Mayer, and numerous neo-soul figures, the Best New Artist award goes to... Avril Lavigne?
Eminem, as usual, was the evening's big winner, and as he is currently the most important artist in all of popular music and his "Without Me" video was expertly made, I can't say he didn't deserve it. I also liked Em's performance on the telecast (in which he sang "White America" in what appeared to be a State of the Union address-based set), although he gave up some points by simultaneously insulting both Moby and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. I can't wait for the inevitable anti-Triumph dis on the next Slim Shady album.
G'n'R's return was a nice surprise, and while they didn't sound bad, the question of whether the band that took the stage tonight can accurately be called "Guns 'n' Roses" is questionable at best, as Axl was the lone original member on stage (Rose did try make up for this, however, as he is now roughly the size of two 1987 Axl Roses).
PS: No reference was made on the telecast to the Ludacris/Bill O'Reilly controversy, although Luda was in attendance, and at one point his likeness appeared in two consecutive commercials (one a spot for the upcoming "Real World Las Vegas," and the second for the upcoming Tom Green movie "Stealing Harvard" in which his song "Rollout" was used). And when the show returned from commercial break, the intro music was another Ludacris rap, "Move." I'm looking forward to Bill O'Reilly's upcoming boycotts of MTV, the Las Vegas tourism board, Radio City Music Hall, Fox Searchlight Pictures, and Harvard University.
COUNTDOWN TO EXTINCTION: It's 1:45 AM at this writing, and players and owners are still negotiating in New York to attempt to avoid a baseball work stoppage. I had originally planned to stay up until a deal was either reached or a strike declared, but now that they're saying talks could go 'til morning, I may give up on that by 2. This has the feeling right now of a presidential election, in which it may take until the wee hours of morning before we know the results. But more ominously, the last time I sat rapt in such suspense over a negotiation between historical enemies, it was 2000's Camp David summit between Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat, and we all know how that one turned out. Let's hope Bud Selig doesn't walk away from a sweetheart deal and later encourage the owners to blow themselves up. Though on second thought, perhaps, let's hope he does.
A PREDICTION: The baseball labor negotiations will go into the wee wee hours of Thursday night, but ultimately an agreement will be reached and a strike averted. I could be wrong, but I really really hope not.
LUDACRIS LOSES PEPSI'S BIZ-NASS: I thought that anti-Ashanti petition story was odd enough, but now we have this: the rapper Ludacris has been dismissed from his endorsement deal with Pepsi after numerous complaints from consumers who were angry about his lyrical content. The complaints were a direct outgrowth of a campaign by Fox News host Bill O'Reilly, who argued on his show early this week that Ludacris' song "Area Codes" is immoral and sexist because of its depiction of women as "ho's," as in, "I've got ho's in different Area Codes." O'Reilly then told his viewers to call Pepsi and complain and like the ignorant sheep they are, they went ahead and did just that.
The Ludacris ads, which of course contained no objectionable language or content whatsoever, were part of an initative to further market Pepsi (specifically its new product, Pepsi Blue) to African-Americans; other ads feature the comic Bernie Mac. So a campaign to use black artists to market a product to black consumers has be interrupted and scrapped because Bill O'Reilly and his army of reactionary white people don't like it? I watched O'Reilly on an almost daily basis for two years, and he has proven (among other things) to have no grasp whatsoever of popular culture, as well as a consistant and disturbing disdain for black people. And it's nice that he's concerned that Ludacris is disrespecting women- so now O'Reilly is a feminist all of a sudden?
If O'Reilly knew a thing about any pop culture produced after 1962, he'd know that Ludacris is one of the most talented young artists (let alone rappers) out there today- his lyrics and delivery are especially sharp, and the song O'Reilly decided to rip on, "Area Codes," may very well have been the best single released by anyone in 2001. No less an authority than Bruce Springsteen recently told Rolling Stone that Luda is his "favorite new rapper," and even PTI co-host Tony Kornheiser (himself as much as an old fogey as O'Reilly) has said on more than one occasion that he's a fan.
As Bob Dylan said, "don't criticize what you can't understand." Do you think Bill O'Reilly has ever heard a single song by Ludacris? Have any of his viewers who called Pepsi to compain ever listened to rap in their lives? I'd rate the likelihood of either of those at somewhere between "probably not" and "not fucking likely."
ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER KIDNAPPING: Anyone who's been watching the news at all this summer can tell you that it seems like more little girls are getting kidnapped and/or killed than ever before. Seems like every day there's another girl (and the occasional boy) missing somewhere in the country, and each cable news channel spends hours of programming following every single little facet of the case.
Only the truth is, just like last summer's "spate" of shark attacks, there aren't really any more kidnappings happening this year than any other year. What's really going on is that it's a slow news summer, as the War on Terror is no longer producing major news every day, the attack on Iraq is still months away, there's no one story with anywhere near the intrigue of last summer's Chandra Levy case.
So the networks have all made the conscious decision to abandon their long-held policy of only following child kidnapping cases in which the child is white, female, blond, and beautiful, and has decided to begin covering cases involving victims of other demographic backgrounds as well. At the beginning of the summer the shameful coverage of the Elizabeth Smart case was a virtual repeat of that of the Jon-Benet Ramsey murder, in which the media more or less took for granted that the greatest tragedy was that the victim was so cute.
The bad publicity has led the newspeople to adjust their thinking in the matter, and the upshot of that is that awareness is spread about specific missing children, leading to a greater likelihood that they'll be found. Though it's not as though the networks are operating from any humanitarian perspective; in reality, kidnapped children = ratings!
HOMELESS MAN STORY: There's a new blog that I've added to my links section, written by a Mr. Kevin Barbieux of Nashville, Tennessee. The twist? He's homeless, and blogs entirely from public libraries. Though oddly enough, he's smarter than about half the bloggers out there. Things that make you go hmmm.....
'MY NECK, MY BACK' UPDATE: Old-school rapper Too Short (remember him?) has a parody/response for Khia.
CHUTZPAH AWARD NOMINEE: Leave it to Vince McMahon to assert that pro wrestling somehow has the moral high ground over Major League Baseball. In a reprise of an ad campaign that they ran during the 1994 baseball strike, World Wrestling Entertainment broadcast a commercial on last night's episode of WWE RAW in which Vince, doing the voice-over himself, lambasts baseball for considering a work stoppage, and not only promises that wrestling won't ever go on strike, but also that his company will "never have an off-season."
As usual, McMahon's logic is transparent to anyone not in his regular 12-to-14-year-old male demographic. Yes it's true that wrestling will never go on strike, and that's because McMahon has long ensured that his company remains a non-union shop- in the process resisting numerous attempts at labor organization, most notably one in the early '80s headed by Jesse Ventura. And if the wrestlers and other employees had any collective bargaining power, of course, it's a pretty even bet that there would in fact be an off-season, or at least some vacation time.
Of course, what's another major issue in the baseball labor dispute? Mandatory testing of players for steroids. When Vince, who of course refuses to conduct drug testing of any kind, produced the original anti-baseball ads back in '94, for what was he on under federal indictment at the time? You guessed it, steroids.
BUD SCREWED BUD: By the way, back during the All-Star Game fiasco, we all remember that Bud Selig (a man who wields extreme power to do evil behind the scenes) sat in his front-row seat, made a decision that affected the outcome of what was on the field, and was subsequently booed lustily by the entire crowd. Was anyone else reminded at the time of the regular on-air occurance of Vince McMahon (another real-life bad guy with extreme, behind-the-scenes power) coming to ringside, making a decision to "screw over" the fan favorite and cause him to lose his match, and then getting booed lustily by the entire Smackdown crowd? The Selig-McMahon parallels are just uncanny!
SC25K- NO KO?: I generally enjoyed Sunday's 25,000th episode of SportsCenter, as it was great to see all of those classic SportsCenter commercials, testimonials by celebrities, and a rare non-football appearance by Chris Berman. But I had one very big problem with the show- not a single appearance, or even acknowledgement, of former anchor Keith Olbermann. Now I realize that to say Olbermann left ESPN on bad terms would be the understatement of the decade, but the man did appear on almost half of those SportsCenters, and along with Dan Patrick he took the show to a level which it had never reached before and hasn't come close to reaching since. However, none of the show's old highlights included Keith, nor was he in any of the classic commercials chosen for the Top 5. They didn't even broadcast any of the classic bloopers from the Patrick-Olbermann era of the show, most notably that great moment when Dan's microphone broke and Keith's hand held it in the bottom corner of the screen.
I have always loved SportsCenter and likely always will, but I am very disapointed that the network chose on this occasion to ignore a man who is likely (other than Berman) the greatest anchor in the history of SportsCenter.
ESOTERIC WEBSITE OF THE DAY: The British newspaper The Guardian reveals the results of its Interpret "Mulholland Drive" contest!
FLAMING MANHOLE ON CHRISTOPHER STREET: According to this morning's New York Post, two manholes exploded over the weekend in Manhattan's West Village, "shooting flames" three feet in the air on the corner of Christopher Street and Waverly Place. A manhole goes off in flames in the middle of the weekend on the gayest block in town- this stuff really just writes itself.
THE TERRORIST PROFESSOR: Last week, on the same day that Opie and Anthony were fired by WNEW, the University of South Florida took steps to remove Sami Al-Arian, an engineering and computer science professor who has drawn fire for his connections to international terrorism. No one doubts that Al-Arian has been vocal both in his support of suicide bombers and in his lack of opposition to Al-Qaida, but the soon-to-be-deposed prof believes that the issue is really academic freedom.
Al-Arian is the latest fraudulant professor to rise to prominence for his questionable activism in a field completely unrelated to his area of expertise, much like Holocaust denier Arthur Butz of Northwestern (a professor of engineering) and loony America-hater Noam Chomsky (a professor of linguistics at MIT; how can he have time to teach when he writes 50 books a year?). It is ludicrous for such people to hide behind "academic freedom" when they are doing dangerous and certainly un-academic things which certainly do not contribute in any way to responsible intellectual discourse. Al-Arian's indisputable links to known terrorists shouldn't fall under the perview of "free exchange of ideas;" this guy doesn't belong on the faculty, he belongs in jail.
Now normally when professors come up with wacko ideas, it's because they have to keep their jobs- in order to maintain tenure, academics must be published with some degree of frequency. I have long maintained that most of the truly ridiculous theories in the world exist because some academic had to come up with something in order to not be fired.
But my favorite part of this was when Al-Arian didn't deny that he once declared "Death to Israel," and actually said that "'Death to Israel' had nothing to do with killing Jews.'" Does this remind anyone else of when Ice T tried to argue that "Cop Killer" had nothing to do with killing cops?
PROBLEMS "IN THE BEDROOM": My take on the DVD of "In the Bedroom" is online at Blogcritics; enjoy.
A 'FOOLISH' AWARD: Here's one of the year's most humorous stories: R&B singer Ashanti is scheduled to receive the Lady of Soul Entertainer of the Year Award at the upcoming Soul Train Music Awards- and over 20,000 people have signed a petition decrying the decision.
A 15-year-old Californian named Rommel Zamora started the drive because he feels that Ashanti lacks "the singing ability and the stage presence" of other candidates, and especially pales in comparison with Aretha Franklin (whom the award is named after). It's hard to argue with that logic; while I'm certainly not the world's foremost authority on commercial R&B, anyone with ears and even a minimal amount of taste in music can tell you that Alicia Keys, Mary J. Blige, Aaliyah, or even Tweet are considerably more talented than Ashanti (I do give Ashanti the advantage over Khia, however).
But the funniest part of all this is Soul Train's response, posted on and since retracted from their website, which managed to invoke slavery, rip "white-owned" Black Entertainment Television and question how Zamora could have a valid opinion, considering that his name "doesn't sound African-American." Kind of harsh when you're talking to a 15-year-old kid, but then Ashanti herself was 15 only six years ago. And yes, I will indeed resist the urge to make an R. Kelly joke right now...
FROM FOOLS AND FROM SAGES: After failing to win the Washington Redskins' quarterback job, Sage Rosenfels was traded yesterday to the Miami Dolphins for a conditional 2003 draft pick. Rosenfels will be a backup to Miami QB Jay Fiedler, meaning the Dolphins are likely the first team in NFL history to have two Jewish quarterbacks on their roster simultaneously. Though for some reason I get the feeling that Fiedler and Rosenfels will both go down with injuries and Ray Lucas will be the Tom Brady of '02 and lead Miami to the Super Bowl. Just call it a hunch.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Speaking of auto racing, when Jason Priestley's friends band together to convince him to stop racing, can they do the intervention in the living room of the Walsh house? Everyone can sit in the same seats that they did during the Dylan McKay intervention; we could even have Nat scream, 'Show me some trust!'" -At last, Sports Guy's official response to the Jason Priestley car accident, on ESPN.com.
STRIKING OUT: We're now nine days away from baseball's official strike deadline of August 30, and the guarded optimism of the past few weeks has all but disappeared. The cabal of hard-line small-market owners, apparently undaunted by Commissioner Selig's "gag rule" that prevents owners from speaking publicly about labor issues under threat of a million-dollar fine, have come out with a series of rather stupid statements that do nothing but expose the owners as bumbling fools. First San Diego Padres owner John Moores declared that he'd love to shut down the game for all of next year if that results in a more favorable labor agreement for the owners. Then Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks, who's closing in on Jerry Jones for the Most Repugnant Owner in Dallas award, said that even though the owners have been pulling for a plan which includes a luxury-tax threshold, he'd rather go for a hard salary cap in order to keep players' wages down. This is the same Tom Hicks who is currently paying Alex Rodriguez $250 million over 10 years (when no one else was offering within $50 million of that), as well as obscenely over-inflated contracts to such deadweight as Chan Ho Park, Carl Everett, and John Rocker. I find it laughable that management, whose biggest problem isn't the labor contract or salary structure but their own gross mismanagement, blame the players' union for their own idiocy.
If I had to guess I'd predict right now that there will not be a strike, and that an agreement will be reached at the 11th hour in order to prevent a work stoppage. Then, the countdown to August 30 will be replaced by the countdown of the Twins' magic number...
DOWN WITH ANDY: New York Press' Christopher Caldwell has the best takedown I've seen yet of New York gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo, whose candidacy has been increasingly floundering over the last few months. When Cuomo says in a commercial that he "fought gun manufacturers- and the KKK" as HUD secretary, it's just so hard not to make fun of him.
I once considered going to work for Cuomo's campaign, but then I realized that he's merely a not too bright guy with a limited and not-so-impressive public service record who's running for a top political job for no reason other than that his dad used to have it (sound familiar?) I prefer the much more impressive Carl McCall, the State Comptroller and Cuomo's rival in the Democratic primary who would be New York's first black governor. As for Gov. George Pataki, I lost all respect for him the day he signed a piece of hate-crime legislation and stated that the new law "would have prevented the Holocaust." I like McCall- he's the only major candidate in the race who hasn't made a big deal out of his standing up to New York's ever-present Nazi scourge.
SEX IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD: I've been following with interest the events of the last few days involving the New York shock-jocks Opie and Anthony, who directed a stunt in which a couple was encouraged to have sex in St. Patrick's Cathedral. The couple and a producer were arrested, and the two radio hosts were suspended indefinitely by their station, WNEW. The low-rent Stern imitators are no stranger to trouble, having been thrown off the air in Boston in 1998 when they reported on the air that Mayor Thomas Menino had died. Now right-wing blowhard William Donahoe of the Catholic League and others are attempting to revoke WNEW's charter and punish its parent companies, Viacom and Infinity Broadcasting.
Now, I of course find it hard to defend the act of having sex in a house of worship, especially in the middle of the day in which numerous people (including children) were worshipping nearby. Whether it's abuse of a child by a priest or consensual sex by adults as part of a radio stunt, there's obviously no excuse for any type of sexual intercourse within the confines of a church.
However, recalling an experience from earlier in my life gave me new perspective on the situation. Back in my high school Jewish youth group days, our region got together at quarterly events known as "conclaves," which always ended with a "shul-in," in which all hundred-odd participants at the conclave would sleep and/or stay up in the synagogue at which the event was held. It goes without saying, with that many teenagers packed together in such a small space, that quite a bit of debauchery always took place- there were always apocryphal anecdotes that couples-for-the-night had snuck into the rabbi's office, or even the sanctuary. Now granted, to my knowledge nobody either had sex nor broadcast their adventures on the radio, but this nonetheless very much qualifies as Sexual Activity In a House of Worship.
It also goes without saying that on sexual issues especially, the Catholic Church isn't quite so liberal as Reform Judaism, with its coterie of openly gay rabbis, and a sometimes odd morality in which it's okay to not believe in God as long as you're pro-choice. But I find it kind of strange that when shul-ins were outlawed a few years ago, it wasn't because of the sex-in-temple thing, but rather over fear of potential sexual harassment suits. Perhaps the O&A case will make them think twice.
THE DEVILS SENT BACK TO GEORGIA: Two of the worst people in Congress, one on the lefty fringe and one on the righty one but both from Georgia, are out of Congress after losing primary elections last night- and good riddance to both. Wacko conservative Bob Barr, who began trying to impeach Bill Clinton almost immediately after Bubba took office and served as one of the managers when Clinton actually was impeached six years later. Barr also was an outspoken advocate of "family values," and now he'll be going home to his wife (his third, by the way) after losing to fellow incumbant Republican John Linder.
McKinney's loss, to former judge Denise Majette, can be chalked up almost entirely to the Jewish Conspiracy (thanks, guys!). The incumbant has been the most outspoken member of Congress when it comes to supporting the Palestinians and being hyper-critical of both Israel and America's War on Terror- even at one point accusing President Bush of planning 9/11. So naturally, money flowed from throughout Jewish campaign finance channels nationwide in the successful attempt to guarantee McKinney's defeat. The results of both elections have also been chalked up to Democratic voters crossing over and voting for the more moderate Republican, and vice versa.
Regardless of which side ends up in control of the House and Senate after November's midterm elections, look at all the evil, backward, or just plain crazy people who will be out of Congress next year: McKinney, Barr, Gary Condit, James Traficant, Jesse Helms, Strom Thurmond, Dick Armey... whether Hastert or Gephardt or Daschle or Lott is in charge, I think we can safely say next year's Congress will be a much better place than this year's.
DEAD TERRORIST DIRTBAG WATCH: When a guy who even the PLO thought was "too extreme" gets bumped off, I can't say I'm shedding many tears. Abu Nidal died yesterday, after a lifetime spent plotting and carrying out the deaths of hundreds of people, as well as working towards the destruction of the state of Israel. Nidal was even kicked out of the PLO in the early '80s when he was deemed a liability, and retaliated by assassinating a top PLO moderate (believe it or not, there once was a time when Arafat's gang had "moderates").
The Iraqi government ruled the death a suicide, a conclusion must be considered a bit suspect, considering that Nidal was shot several times, and also (of course) that it was reported by the Iraqi government in the first place. The announcement came from Saddam's Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, who Gulf War-era CNN watchers may remember as the guy who looked at all times like he was wearing Funny Nose Glasses. And on the eve of their removal, it also hurts the credibility of the Iraqi regime that this terrorist, one of the worst in the world, was living as a free man in Baghdad.
At any rate, we can all be glad that Nidal died without ever witnessing his lifelong goal of the extermination of Israel, and also that unlike so many other Islamo-fascist terrorist goons, when he committed "suicide," he didn't take any others with him.
THE INSIDER: When the story broke earlier this summer that Martha Stewart was being accused of insider trading in connection with the ImClone scandal, I was told by a friend that he had in fact been a classmate in college of Douglas Faneuil, the assistant to Stewart's broker Peter Bacanovic at Merrill Lynch who is himself being accused of impropriety. My friend also mentioned the nugget that in college, Faneuil was actively gay, and had never made much of a secret of that fact back then, although that info has conspicuously stayed out of the papers for the past few months.
Now, the Stewart/ImClone case has been all over New York's tabloid gossip columns since the beginning, with no detail spared about the personal lives of Stewart, ImClone head Sam Waksal, or Bacanovic (often described as a "party boy" and "obsessive social climber"). So all this time I've been expecting some kind of major "outing" of Faneuil as soon as Page Six or whoever else got ahold of the information- more likely than not in the notoriously gay-obsessed New York Post, where Mike Piazza was "outed" by the since-deceased gossip Neal Travis and it became a national story.
So you can imagine my surprise today in coming across a small item on Page Six stating that Faneuil and his boyfriend were seen together at a Mary J. Blige concert at the Apollo Theater- and the story wasn't that Faneuil is gay, but that he was seen in public in the midst of the investigation. Does the appearance of this really innocuous item (coming on the same day that the New York Times began including same-sex marriages on their wedding pages) indicate a new willingness of the media to deal with homosexuality in a more mature way? It's ironic that on the day after Neal Travis' funeral, his old paper handled an "outing" much better than their venerable old columnist ever did.
OUT FOR A SPIN: I used to be a big fan of Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, but in the past year he's gradually grown more and more unwatchable. And now, with his campaign against a critical website, he's proven to be a rank hypocrite. While O'Reilly spends every one of his shows insulting public figures with whom he disagrees (Jesse Jackson is only the most common), he sent his lawyers after a webmaster who attempted to do the same thing to him. OReilly-Sucks.com recently received a cease-and-desist request from Fox News Channel's lawyers because they dared to criticize the host.
Kind of ironic coming from Mr. O, with his constant championing of the "the little guy" in his struggle against "the powerful" (funny the way class warfare works- liberals rail against "the rich" while conservatives rip on "the elite," as though they're two mutually exclusive groups- O'Reilly's politics can only be called right-wing Marxism). If his $4 million contract hasn't proved the guy is a phony, maybe this legal action finally will.
BLOOMIE BLOWS SMOKE: Until recently, Mayor Michael Bloomberg's tenure was marked by a general tendency to not piss people off. A Democrat-turned-Republican and notable non-ideologue, Bloomberg main achievements (like gaining control of the schools, balancing the city budget and agreeing to a labor contract with the teachers' union) were things that would have happened under Rudy Giuiliani's watch had Rudy's numerous enemies not prevented them. However, Bloomberg's heavy budget cuts have been widely unpopular among just about everyone whose budgets he cut (basically, every city agency), and now he's angered the city's smokers with a new anti-smoking intiative which will not only raise taxes on smokes, but also ban cigarettes from all bars and restaurants.
Now as a lifelong non-smoker (except for the occasional cigar), I can't say I'm that upset about such laws, although I do draw the line at banning smoking in bars- isn't the reason smokers go to bars in the first place because they're not allowed to light up anywhere else? The big argument in favor of the legislation is that waiters and bartenders will therefore be shielded from second-hand smoke, but I don't buy that for a couple of reasons: There's still not a shred of proof that anyone has ever died from second-hand smoke and besides- don't bar employees know what they're getting into when they go to work in a bar? They're like that secretary who went to work for (and later sued) Al Goldstein and was shocked (shocked!) to find pornographic material in the office.
BEYOND REPAIR: A rally was held in Washington, DC, over the weekend in which African-Americans gathered to demand reparations for slavery. The reparations movement has gained quite a bit of steam in recent years, although if those who participated saw this rally as their chance to obtain widespread mainstream acceptance of the reparations idea, then I foresee a problem.
Speakers throughout, rather than emulating Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, or even Jesse Jackson, went even further- loony Brooklyn-based city councilman Charles Barron (who recently led a delegation that visited tyrannical dictator Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe) set the tone for the day when he suggested the violent overthrow of the government and later stated that "I'm going to go and slap the first white man I can find." Despite the name "Millions For Reparations," the attendance was in the low thousands, echoing a similar rally several months ago, a week after the rally for Israel at the Capitol, in which a speaker claimed that "we don't have so many people here, but we didn't pay people to come like the Jews did."
Even though polls show that a majority of blacks favor reparations (just as any demographic group would react affirmatively if you offered them free money), any discussion about reparations must begin with the caveat that reparations will never happen. There's no way it will ever be accepted by society at large, nor is it socially, fiscally, or politically feasible. The morality of reparations can be debated endlessly, but the fact is, the point is moot. The true legacy of the reparations movement will likely be that it becomes a visible political issue in the mid-'00s, probably influencing the 2004 presidential election around the candidacy of Al Sharpton- as a corollary, it may very well be the issue that will derail (if not destroy) the Democratic party. Ultimately I see the reparations movement becoming a more subversive version of the Equal Rights Amendment- an initiative that takes off, divides America sharply, and then eventually peters out when it becomes apparent that it will not succeed.
FROM DC TO DA: The latest "Law & Order" casting shuffle may be its most surprising ever- AP reports that the departing U.S. Senator Fred Thompson will join the show this October as the main District Attorney. The role, while a small one, has been crucial throughout L&O's long history- the DA only has three or four lines per episode, but that person is expected to exude a certain gravitas which slam home the point that justice is in fact being served. For the first ten years it was the great Steven Hill as DA Adam Schiff, the show's longest-lasting and final original cast member, who was unfortunately replaced two years ago by the ineffective Dianne Wiest (thankfully, Hill has lived on in TD Waterhouse commercials). As both an experienced actor and two-term senator, Thompson sounds like a natural for the role- but how will he make time for the shooting schedule when he's still officially a Senator until January?
WAY TUA GO: I caught last Saturday's broadcast of the heavyweight fight between David Tua and Michael Moorer, although since the fight lasted all of 30 seconds, it didn't take long to "catch" it. What struck me most about the fight wasn't the quick ending, but rather the odd dichotomy between the ring entrance music of the two fighters. While Moorer came out to rap music, Tua (who normally enters the ring to war chants indiginous to his native Samoa) emerged from the dressing room accompanied by some kind of bizarre, Michael Bolton-like adult contemporary ballad. An odd choice, certainly, but perhaps Tua merely meant to distract Moorer with the seemingly wussy choice of music- and it looks like it worked, because Moorer took it on the chin less than a minute into the fight.
MOVIE FOCUS GROUP QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "A few years ago I decided to really start getting serious about my career, so I started tuning out movies and TV- really, everything except for internet pornography." NOW do you see why I hate my job?
GOT YOURSELF A POSTER: "The Sopranos" has already redefined the art of the television series, and with HBO's new ad campaign, it has now redefined the art of the promortional poster. The brilliant ad, photographed by Annie Leibovitz, features the entire cast of the show, in such a position so that none of them are making eye contact with any others. There's already speculation that the looks on Tony and Carmella's faces indicate a potential divorce, and that Paulie Walnuts' back to the camera spells that he'll likely either betray the family or get whacked. After almost 18 months off, the wait is almost over- Sopranos IV will debut on September 15 (as will, directly afterwards, "Curb Your Enthusiasm.")
'LET THE BODIES HIT THE FLOOR' UPDATE: Some of you may remember last summer's "hit" single "Bodies" by the band Drowning Pool, with its "infectious," repeating chorus of "Let the Bodies Hit the Floor!" A ubiquitous song on WWF broadcasts for several months last year, "Bodies" may have been the nadir of the thankfully now-passe nu-metal movement- however, the song was immediately pulled from the air after September 11, for obvious reasons. Now, even after it's managed to regain airplay on K-Rock and other places, I've got a feeling it's about to pulled again, because on Wednesday the band's lead singer died.
David Williams was found dead on his tour bus, and cause of death is to be determined. While it may be tasteless for me to comment on whether or not his body did in fact hit the floor (just as it would be tasteless to ask if Lisa Lopes was "hanging out the passenger's side of [her] best friend's ride" at the time of her death), at least he didn't drown in a pool. Because that would've been the most ironic rock star death since Kurt "I swear I don't have a gun" Cobain shot himself.
According to another recent report, an soundtrack album for this year's Ozzfest tour is scheduled to be released on September 3 featuring a cover by Drowning Pool of the Metallica song (I'm not making this up) "Creeping Death." I think we can count on that getting scapped as well. There appears to be a lesson here, and it is that if you're in band and you're considering writing a song about death and destruction, stop- and start writing one about puppydogs instead.
SUMMER OF STROKES: I just returned from the Strokes/White Stripes concert at Radio City, and I must say that in this Battle of the Bands, the Strokes win, hands-down. Which isn't to disrespect the Stripes at all- after all, if every rock band to emerge in the past two years were in the tournament, these two would likely be the #1 and #2 seeds.
There was nothing really out of the ordinary about the White Stripes' set- just the mysteriously related Jack White and Meg White on stage with no backing musicians and in their trademark all-red-and-white outfits. They played a great deal of material from their two pre-fame albums (which most of the audience clearly didn't recognize and therefore wasn't into) and also chose to forgo performing their biggest hit, "Fell in Love With a Girl" from the "White Blood Cells" album. But they did play the best songs on the album, "Hotel Yorba" and "We're Going to Be Friends" The Stripes were good, but not outstanding, and somewhat surprisingly they didn't particularly capture my imagination or that of most of the audience, from what I gathered. After all, The White Stripes' style isn't particularly conducive to such a large venue, and the accoustics at Radio City were surprisingly substandard.
The Strokes, however, certainly did live up to expectations. Now while the two groups' studio material is roughly equal in terms of quality, for some reason (maybe it's the existence of a rhythm section) the Strokes had a great deal more enery on stage and the crowd was considerably more into them. I had seen the Strokes before, in Boston earlier this summer, but that was nothing compared to the performance they gave their hometown crowd tonight. The band rampaged through almost their entire "Is This It" album in addition to four other tracks, all of which were outstanding. They even brought Jack back out for the encore, a song called "New York City Cops" that was left off of "Is This It" for obvious reasons last October.
Julian Casablancas and co. spent their hour onstage completely debunking the pervasive anti-Strokes backlash that has been perpetuated by an obnoxious group of jealous New York rock snobs ever since they came on the scene a year ago. In an odd choice, the music played in the Hall during the half-hour set break was from a Ramones live album- and the Strokes managed to follow that up without making fools of themselves. In New York, that's as great a complement as I can give a young rock band. Tonight's show as not part of any tour, but rather the second of two shows in New York, the city that in a way made both bands (while the Stripes are from Detroit, a successful Manhattan show last spring was the beginning of their climb into hipsters' hearts.)
In short, if The White Stripes come to your city, try your best to make an effort to get tickets. If the Strokes come to town, don't you dare even think about missing them.
CRAZY ARMOND WHITE QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "[Vin Diesel's] ascension coincides with that of the biracial gay porn actor who wears a "Black" and "White" tattoo on either pec and goes by the historically loaded name Dred Scott. These performers are the vanguard of a cultural deconstruction—a confrontation—that’s waiting to happen." Yea, 'cause a major action star like Vin Diesel and a gay porn actor are roughly equal in terms of cultural significance and mainstream stature, huh? Read White's review of "XXX" here.
STROKES AND STRIPES FOREVER: I'm counting down the hours until I arrive at Radio City Music Hall to see the two bands that are at the forefront of neo-garage: The Strokes and The White Stripes. I know that seeing these two bands in New York isn't quite as cool as having seen, say, Nirvana and Pearl Jam together in Seattle in 1991, but I'd be hard pressed to come up with anything quite as cool since. I'll be on with a full report tomorrow night...
TAKE! IT! OFF!: The New York Post's Page Six reported today that Kara Hughes, a high-level aide to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, was thrown out of a trendy bar last weekend after a man at the bar asked her to take her shirt off- and she did. Page Six neglects to mention that a nearly identical incident happened on a recent "Sex and the City" episode, and thus misses the whole story: it's clear now both that 1) women, especially in New York, have imitated that show to the point of absurdity- first they all started dressing like the women on it, now they're undressing like them, and 2) men are now aware of this, and are thus exploiting it for their own gain. Ladies, expect a rash of copycats in coming weeks.
You may remember a story about how on the night of Hillary's election victory over Rick Lazio in 2000, it was initially reported that Chelsea Clinton had been heard screaming "I FEEL LIKE A PORN STAR!" during the party, although the story was later corrected to state that another woman in the room (not Chelsea) had said it. Could that have been Hughes? And isn't this kind of a behavior that's to be expected from an aide to Bill Clinton, not Hillary?
Kara Hughes, by the way, is not to be confused with Karen Hughes, the former top Bush aide who thankfully has not been known either to doff her top in public, nor to declare her desire for a porno career.
AND SPEAKING OF PAGE SIX...: Neal Travis, the gossip page's original editor who later wrote his own gossip column called "Neal Travis' New York," passed away yesterday of cancer at the age of 62. Travis most recently gained notoriety as the reporter who "outed" Mike Piazza, drawing the Met's ire and causing the resignation of the Post's best sports columnist, Wallace Matthews. While, by the very nature of his profession, Travis will likely leave behind just as many enemies as friends, I (as did many others) read his column almost every day, and he certainly will be missed.
KEEP PHISHIN': After a two-year hiatus, Phish announced today that they will reunite for a series of concerts, including a New Years' Eve show in Manhattan and a four-night stand in Hampton, VA. While I don't fit the stereotype of the average "trustafarian" Phish fan, I rarely listen to their albums, and I likely wouldn't pick them as even one of my 25 favorite bands, I've seen them twice and I highly recommend the experience. In fact, I spent my Millenium New Years' seeing the band at the Big Cyprus Indian reservation in Florida, and it was at once one of the wildest and most mellow experiences of my life- and five months after the infamous Woodstock '99 riot, it was nice to go to a major youth-oriented music festival with lots of peace and love and not so much arson, sexual assualt, and other grotesque violent acts. It's too early to say if I'll be going to see Phish on their latest go-'round, but I wholeheartedly welcome their return.
VENI VEDI VICTOR: The new Eddie Murphy film "The Adventures of Pluto Nash," while it looks like a complete and total dud (as it has sat on the shelf for nearly two years), it does have one thing going for it: the villain is played by the hilarious up-and-coming actor Victor Varnado. Varnado, who has the unlikely distinction of being both an albino and an African-American, got his start performing in comedy clubs in Minneapolis (where I saw him more than once) and has since graduated to film roles- he previously appeared in "End of Days" with Arnold Schwarznegger and the controversial Harmony Korine film "julien donkey boy."
Victor now resides in New York; for more check out his website, BestAlbino.com.
UNCLE ELVIS: I have nothing really to say about either the upcoming 25th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death or the recent wedding of his daughter Lisa Marie Presley to actor Nicolas Cage, except to mention another wedding: my good friend Dena was married last month and her new husband Mike, in addition to being a great guy, happens to be a second cousin of the actress Selma Blair (from "Cruel Intentions"). Selma, it has been rumored, is the girlfriend of "Rushmore" actor Jason Schwartzman, who is himself the son of actress Talia "Adrian!" Shire, the nephew of Francis Ford Coppola, and the first cousin of Nicolas Cage. Now that Nick and Lisa Marie have tied the knot, the Presleys have been united by marriage with the Coppolas (hey, better them than the Jacksons), and the next big wedding I hope to see is one between Schwartzman and Blair. I may not be a big fan of either one (indeed, when I met Schwartzman on a promotional tour for "Rushmore" I thought him an irritable little shit), but if they were to marry, my friends would suddenly become related (albeit tangetically and posthumously, yet still related), to Elvis.
EVERYONE'S A CRITIC: I thought I'd let you know all about a new venture which I am a part of: It's BlogCritics.com: a new website consisting of music and book reviews- and the catch is, everyone who writes for it is also a blogger. The site is scheduled to launch TODAY (look for my review of Ben Kweller's "Sha Sha"); be one of the first to see it!
SIGNS, SIGNS, EVERYWHERE, SIGNS: I saw M. Night Shyamalan's "Signs" on Saturday night, and I can't say it's a masterpiece of storytelling or suspense on the level of his earlier picture "The Sixth Sense," I found it a fascinating and well-directed film on the whole- and the best tribute I can give "Signs" is that I saw it over 24 hours ago and as I write it's still in my mind and I'm still pondering its meaning.
(MINOR SPOILERS BELOW)
Like Shyamalan's previous two films "The Sixth Sense" and "Unbreakable," "Signs" is a supernatural thriller that has at its center an adult male who is challenged, at least in part by a young boy who loves him, to accept his destiny . It's the most Hitchcockian of Night's films, in that the horror isn't what you see, it's what you don't see. Roger Ebert got it exactly right in his review: "Here is a movie in which the plot is the rhythm section, not the melody."
And that's what separates "Signs" from a movie like "Independence Day"- it's not really about crop circles or aliens, but rather about how one family reacts to such and the dynamics within- almost all of the best moments of the film are confrontations between dad Mel Gibson and his son (Rory Culkin, in probably the best performance ever by a Culkin brother). I'm sure I'm not the only one who saw lots of echoes of September 11 in the film- the events in "Signs" are supposedly affecting the whole of humanity, yet the camera never pans back from the Hess family farm in Bucks County. There's not really a surprise ending, but like the two previous Shyamalan pictures "Signs" ends up being about something completely different from what it started as- in this case it's really a story about family and faith. I'm not sure what religious tradition Shyamalan was raised in, but the theology ultimately endorsed by the film is a unique mix of Calvinism, narrative convenience, and good old-fashioned Hollywood magic.
Newsweek has famously called Shyamalan "the next Spielberg" and while I wouldn't say he's reached that point yet, I can certainly see him creating a high-quality, diverse body of work over the course of many years while never losing his unique voice- really, just like Spielberg. Even when Shyamalan's films have ultimately failed narratively (like "Unbreakable"), one can tell by watching that this guy is a special filmmaker. And with the exceptions of Wes Anderson and Spike Jonze, I can't think of any other young director whose career I'm more excited about watching unfold.
BILLIONAIRE CHUCK: The oncoming labor war has sort of obscured what was baseball's biggest off-field feud earlier this year, the one between Cablevision and the Yankees over the cable giant's refusal to carry the team's YES Network on its systems, a move that has resulted in Yankees games being blacked out in about a third of New York-area homes so far this season. Recently, commercials debuted which purported to be "Cablevision editorial meetings," in which the company's board of directors discussed their goals, strategies, etc. Though I ultimately realized that the ads were in fact pro-Cablevision PR/propaganda, I thought at first that maybe it was a subversive, YES Network-produced parody of the Cablevision bigwigs and their sinister motives, along the lines of Vince McMahon's infamous, anti-Ted Turner "Billionaire Ted" sketches. YES would still be wise to consider this- "so Mr. Dolan, what are we doing today?" "Why, the same thing we do every day- [turns to face camera] WE'RE TAKING AWAY YOUR YANKEES!"
'MY NECK, MY BACK' UPDATE: The ubiquitous, hyper-raunchy R&B tune is winning all sorts of new fans. The other night, as I strolled through Greenwich Village, two young ladies stopped at a red light in their SUV, blasting the Khia song out of their outsized speakers and singing along loudly. The car accelerated away when the light turned green, and then two minutes later I passed two nondescript white males who were walking along Bleeker Street in the other direction. I heard one of them absentmindedly mutter to himself, "my neck, my back, my..."
GET WELL SOON, BRANDON WALSH: 90210 legend Jason Priestley, as most of you have probably heard, was critically injured this morning when his race car crashed into a wall at a track in Kentucky. He fortunately wasn't drunk this time, as he usually is when he gets into a car wreck, a boat wreck, or a talk-show appearance train wreck (like he did on Fox News Channel last year). On another infamous talk show appearance a few years ago, Priestly appeared on Conan O'Brien with the intention of pushing a product a friend of his had developed, the Padlock Cover, and Conan mock-admonished him for "turning my show into an infomercial." Checking today, I was happy to see that Padlockcover.com has survived the e-commerce crash, yet not only is there no "get well" note to Priestley, but there's even still a link to his racing team. Oops.
At any rate, please visit the site and order a padlock cover. For Brandon.
MUSIC CRITIC QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "There's no TRL in Bruce's world, no Dodge Neons or PlayStations, no 'Hot in Herre' or Olive Garden or John Ashcroft. While an element of anachronistic cluelessness has always been integral to Bruce's appeal, he now seems vacuum-sealed from the actual present day, as if he was cryogenically frozen at the end of 'American Graffiti.'" - Keith Harris, reviewing "The Rising" in the Village Voice. It's one of those crazy music reviews where you can read it three times and have no idea whether or not the writer liked the album.
"YOU DIPPED THE CHIP, YOU TOOK A BITE, AND YOU DIPPED IT AGAIN!": One question for today: does "Seinfeld" get credit for inventing the term "double-dip recession"?
JAIL FOR COMMISSIONER BUD?: People who hate George W. Bush (like Jonathan Chait here) have two standard arguments for why, which in a sense contradict one another: On the one hand they consider him a clueless moron, but on the other they claim he's calculating and evil.The job Bush really always wanted, it has been said, was not President of the United States but rather commissioner of baseball and now, ironically enough, the same too-incompetent-to-be-corrupt argument is being bandied about in relation to the man who got the job Bush wanted, Bud Selig.
Ever since Selig's bogus "Blue Ribbon Panel" gave a series of recommendations about the game's financial health, the press and the players' union alike have argued, with some merit, that the owners' "massive losses" were, with the help of creative accounting, pretty much a figment of their imaginations, a shell game played with an eye towards the next labor agreement. But this was before Enron, et al, back when such "accounting tricks" were something to be joked about, rather than the reign of terror that has ruined thousands of lives and sent the economy into freefall. And don't forget- baseball has long relied on Arthur Anderson for its accounting work But now it's not just the union and the media who are going on about the phantom numbers- owners are doing it too.
A former Anderson auditor and Selig man, Robert Starkey, was hired by the commissioner to conduct an "independent" appraisel of the New York Mets franchise, in order to determine the price for which Mets owner Fred Wilpon will buy out his longtime partner, Nelson Doubleday. When Starkey came up with the almost comically low $391 million figure for a team in the nation's largest market (the baseball equivilant of Dr. Evil asking for "one million dollars"), Doubleday -a longtime owner, and one who has always been rather hawkish on labor matters- accused the commish of manufacturing "phantom losses" in order to improve their position in the current collective bargaining. Adding to the trouble for Bud, he was sued last month under federal racketeering statutes by a group of former Montreal Expos minority owners, who claim he conspired with former owner Jeffrey Loria to dilute the franchise's value and systematically destroy baseball in Montreal. The implication is that Bud improperly (and possibly unlawfully) interfered with the Mets' appraisel and the domino-like sales last winter of the Expos, Florida Marlins, and Boston Red Sox.
Last time I heard anyone talk about RICO lawsuits, it was Tony Soprano and Uncle Junior. But Bud, of course, is no Tony Soprano. On the stupid-or-evil question, I'd say the 9th commissioner has quite a bit in common with the 43rd president: he's not an especially intelligent man, but he is incredibly persuasive, and that's how he's able to get his cronies to go along with what he wants. The difference is, Bush is using his limited intellect and winning charm to prosecute a worldwide war against terrorism, whereas Selig is using his skills to "keep salaries down," with the goal of restributing large sums of money from millionaire players to billionaire owners. The Harken scandal may be old news, but it nevertheless ties Bush to the corporate greed scandals- just as the Expos/Doubleday accusations connect Selig to the accounting fraud.
We could conceivably have a scenario in which Selig, the Vince McMahon of baseball, is prosecuted by the feds the way Vince was back in '94. Will Bud Selig eventually suffer the same fate as Sam Waksal? Those of us who truly love baseball can only hope...
FULL DISCLOSURE FOR PUNDITS?: I don't usually agree with Michael Kelly, and his column certainly doesn't usually make me laugh, but this one did. Just great, great stuff.
TALES OF THE SUCCUBUS: Check out Jordan Rockwell's blog for some great stories that I know many of us can relate to.
THE PRESS GETS RUDE: Ever since I came to New York two years ago, New York Press has been my favorite publication to read, and I have never missed an issue. I love the paper's irreverent tone and while it doesn't come from any clearly defined political ideology, I admire its solid commitment to questioning the conventional wisdom on everything from politics to music.
But in this week's issue, in particular, I noticed a surprising amount of vulgarity- and it didn't even include the sick-and-twisted "Rehabilitating Mr. Wiggles" comic strip. Remarkably, the issue's cover story (on something called "Pimpology") doesn't even rate an honorable mention on the shock scale for the week.
First, in Armond White's capsule review of the new Jennifer Aniston movie "The Good Girl" (not online), he states that "Aniston is playing a hateful twat, yet she's still extremely likable." First of all, who knew a respected film critic could use the word "twat" in print? (I've never seen Ebert do it). Secondly, if she is such a thing, how can she be extremely likable?
Then, in editor-in-chief Russ Smith's "Mugger" column, on his usual pro-Bush, anti-Democrats rant, he refers to Attorney General John Ashcroft as "the left's house nigger." Now, not only is it at best highly questionable and at worst racist for the very white Smith to use such a term, but he doesn't even use it correctly: Ashcroft is himself white, isn't "the left"'s anything, since he's of the right, and the relationship between the left and Ashcroft is nothing even remotely like that between a slave owner and his house-slave. The aforementioned slur is most often used by black people about other black people who they feel are "not black enough" and too close to "The Man"; how that translates into a white conservative writer's opinion about a white conservative politician, I'll never know. I do know that next week's "The Mail" section will likely consist of at least 10 letters nearly indentical to what I just wrote.
BOWDEN AND BOWDEN: I swear I was about to post this, but Keith Olbermann beat me to it: there seems to be an epidemic of sports figures with the last name Bowden making insensitive remarks related to September 11. First Cincinnati Reds general manager Jim Bowden (who, to be fair, has always been a highly respected baseball man) said in a press conference that the players union should start their strike on the anniversary of September 11, and that players' union boss Donald Fehr should "guide the plane right into the building, if that's what they want to do." Bowden was later fined, although Olbermann feels that the comments are just as bad as those of Al Campanis in 1987, and that Bowden should resign/be fired. Keep in mind, too, that Bowden was originally hired by disgraced former Reds owner Marge Schott.
Meanwhile, Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden has decided to make "Let's Roll" his team's official slogan for the season- ostensibly not because of heroism of Todd Beamer and the other Flight 93 passengers, but rather because it just sounds cool. Here's Coach Bowden:
"That guy, on that plane, knowing they were fixin' to die and they were going to try to keep it, save the, save the White House or whatever they were gonna hit and I heard that guy, they said he said, 'Let's Roll,' I could really relate to that, and you know that's exactly the motto we're trying to get to our players, is, hey, the season has started, we got bad year last year, let's roll. And then, of course, in honor of those people who died on that plane."
So far, "Black Hawk Down" author Mark Bowden has managed to keep his mouth shut on the matter, as have Bobby's coaching sons Tommy and Terry Bowden.
LETTER FROM MARLA: This letter was written by Marla Bennett last May about how she is a part of the struggle for Israel's survival. Marla, who went to Israel previously in 1995 on the same program as me but a different semester, was killed in last week's bombing at Hebrew University.
CHUTZPAH AWARD WINNER: The winner of this blog's inaugural Chutzpah Award is New York mega-developer Larry Silverstein, who owns the site formerly occupied by the World Trade Center. Silverstein is fighting with his insurance company, you see, because he had a policy which stated that in the event of a "tragic occurance" that should happen to destroy the Trade Center, he was entitled to collect $3.55 billion. But since the Towers were attacked twice by two separate planes, Silverstein claims that the September 11 attacks in fact constitute two separate tragic occurances, and therefore he's entitled to double the amount ($7.1 billion.) It's not like he has two separate leases, or the two planes crashing didn't have anything to do with one another. What's he gonna do next- sue Osama bin Laden twice?
I GET A KICK: The World Adult Kickball Association (WAKA- is Fozzie Bear a member?) has issued new up-to-date rules that will govern all official kickball games among adults. A few questions here- who knew kickball had "rules"? Where are these adults who didn't give up kickball in 5th grade like most people and instead continue to play it as grown-ups? If there's actually a groundswell of support for professional kickball, could professional ga-ga be far behind?
But my favorite WAKA rule is definitely #16: "Ghost Men: Ghost Men are not allowed." Wouldn't major league baseball be a lot more fun if they allowed Nomar Garciaparra to hit a single, put a "ghostie" of himself on first, and then bat again? That could make one-on-one baseball a reality.
GETTING GOTTI: Yes, Rolling Stone may still be rather irrelevant, but at least new Managing Editor Ed Needham has made it readable (which it wasn't last year, when 'N Sync and Creed were on the cover of consecutive issues). The newest issue, with Mr. Springsteen on the cover and a five-star review of "The Rising" on the inside (by Kurt Loder, of all people), features a fascinating profile (not online, unfortunately) of hip-hop producer Irv Gotti, the man behind the Murder, Inc. record label and its string of recent hit hip-hop/R&B duets featuring various combinations of Ja Rule, Jennifer Lopez, Ashanti, and Fat Joe. The most eye-catching part is a top-ten list of "Gotti's Greatest" songs, nearly all of which are duets between a thuggish male and a female who chooses to stick by such a man despite (or perhaps because of) his thuggery and mistreatment of her. In discussing Ashanti's song "Foolish," RS staffer "Toure" writes that women are drawn to such music because they "like to imagine a love so intense they keep running back against their better judgment." Another example of this trend is the newer, non-Gotti R&B single "Addictive" by songstress Truth Hurts, which is more or less a celebration of unreliable, unpredictable, and cruel men.
This at first sounds like an ironic hip-hop counterpart to the ancient tradition in musical theater of "Boy-Meets-Girl, Boy Loses-Girl, Boy-Gets-Girl-Back." But deeper down Irv Gotti and Ja Rule's work is clearly quite a bit more sinister than that of Gilbert and Sullivan. My question is- why the "against their better judgment" part? I know that women have a natural attraction to "bad boys" (though I wish I knew why), but when they fantasize about finding a man who will make them run away and then come back again, how can that lead to anything but self-destruction? Before this mindset was being exploited by hip-hop producers, didn't it have a different name- "Battered Women's Syndrome"? And doesn't the popularity of such music among men indicate that they're just as down with mistreating women through hip-hop as their women are?
Eminem is just proven more and more right all the time- the mainstream media only harps on this sort of thing when he does it.
GO AWAY, HEARTBREAKER: In Philadelphia over the weekend, I did what I usually do when in a strange city- listened to lots of sports-talk radio, in this case on Philly's WIP. And while I left a day too early to hear reaction to the bizarre trade of Dikembe Mutombo for Todd MacCullouch and Keith Van Horn (again, isn't it a collective-bargaining violation for an NBA team to acquire two white players in one trade?), I did catch an interesting segment in which callers were invited to share their most painful moments as Philly sports fans. The Philly fans, as they told stories of Joe Carter and Eric Lindros and Iverson's arrest and 20 years of Phillies disapointments, sounded (if such a thing is possible) like an even more bitter version of Boston fans, as though Philly somehow had the market cornered on sports-related victimhood.
All I could think listening was, what's so special about Philly? Is there any city in North America with any kind of sports tradition that hasn't had its share of devastating defeats? Granted, New York's had it a bit better than everyone else historically and Boston's had it a bit worse, but of all the other four-sport towns (Philly, Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, Denver, Dallas, LA, San Francisco, DC/Baltimore, Miami, Phoenix, and of course Minnesota), it pretty much all evens out in the end- every one of those cities has both won at least one championship and had at least one heartbreaking loss or painfully bad season in recent years. So remember- next time your team falls just short of the championship, it's not because God is frowning upon your city- it's just your turn.
VIEW. AND THEN RE-VIEW: My take on "The Kid Stays in the Picture" is online here.
JAILHOUSE CONGRESSMAN: Even though Ohio's James Traficant has been kicked out of Congress and sentenced to eight years in prison, he still plans to seek re-election this fall as an independent. Traficant's predicament reminds me of that of Leonard Richards, a Minnesotan convicted first of murdering his half-sister in a bid to collect on an insurance policy, and then during his trial, killing his lawyer (a crime for which he was later convicted; on a 7th grade field trip, I attended a day of his trial). Richards, undeterred, ran for State Treasurer of Minnesota in 1996 as a Democrat, gaining 33,033 votes. Now granted, this is the same state that elected Jesse Ventura governor, but Traficant is so popular in his Youngstown district that it won't surprise me if (even if he's not re-elected) he at least out-polls Richards.
And in other Traficant news, the crazy ex-Congressman has been forced to admit for the first time that his bizarre hairstyle is in fact a toupee. Shocking, I know.
POST-LOGIC: The New York Post published a correction in today's paper of their item yesterday that had indicated the late guitarist Steve Clark was still in fact a member of Def Leppard. Good for them; as any Post reader knows every day they do the paper they make terrible errors and they aren't normally corrected (perhaps they should try to hire StatBoy away from PTI).
For instance, earlier this week the Post published an "exclusive" that the NFL was planning a major Times Square bash to celebrate the kickoff of the season at which U2 would perform (Bono's likeness was splashed across the front page). Two days later, the paper didn't publish a correction, but merely mentioned that Bon Jovi would be headlining the show, and that while U2 wouldn't be performing, there was a chance Bono would appear in a non-musical capacity. And adding insult to insult, they spelled it "U-2."
ESOTERIC WEBSITE OF THE DAY: It's about time someone came up with an Anti-Save Karyn site. SaveKarynNot.com suggests that donors contribute their money to actual, legitimate charities, as opposed to the super-leveraged 28-year-old with a weakness for expensive bikini waxes. Hard to argue with that logic...
IF YOU HAD ANY REMAINING DOUBTS ABOUT THE BRILLIANCE OF "THE RISING"...: Even the world's most cynical rock critic, William S. Repsher, says he likes it. What he doesn't like is the hype, which he believes "smells like ass the way Astoria does in deep summer."
WHY IS THIS ATTACK DIFFERENT FROM ALL OTHER ATTACKS?: Yesterday's explosion at Jerusalem's Hebrew University that killed seven people was different from the usual garden-variety Hamas mass murder for several reasons: for one, it was not a suicide bombing, as the attack was in actuality caused by a bomb that had been left behind. But more importantly, it killed three Americans who were students at the University. Now I haven't seen it brought up much in the media since, but this may represent a bad omen for the conflict. Because even after all of the recent attacks (which, with a few tragic exceptions, have not killed Americans) there are nevertheless always a great many Americans, most of them young, in Israel at any given time. As anyone who's American and Jewish can tell you, tons of Americans go and study at Hebrew U every year, including in the summer. Until now Hamas and the other terrorist goons have generally avoided areas (such as Hebrew U and the high school I spent two months at in 1995) in which large concentrations of Americans are known to congregate. Now that that taboo has been broken, we've got a problem. Because if Hamas and Islamic Jihad decide to kill a whole bunch of Americans in attempting to draw the U.S. into a full-scale war, we could have a situation that makes the last two years look like nothing.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "What would things be like for Palestinians now, if Israelis or Americans thought like Arabs? They wouldn't be like anything at all, of course. There wouldn't be any Palestinians." -Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds.
ART HOUSE CHIC: I saw two movies tonight, and both had key locations that were merely blocks away from the theater at which I saw them. The first was "The Kid Stays in the Picture," a fascinating documentary about '60s and '70s Hollywood producer Robert Evans. Narrated by Evans himself, it weaved together that narration along with old film clips and still photographs to create such a fascinating look at 30 years of Hollywood history that we almost forgive Evans for being such an unlikable cad.
When you get past its creepy premise (15-year-old prep schooler lusts after his stepmom, instead has affair with her best friend), "Tadpole" is quite a charming and funny little film. It doesn't fit into the Younger Man/Older Woman pantheon of "The Graduate," "Harold & Maude," and "Rushmore," but it also doesn't deserve some of the vitriol it's received: Andrew Sullivan (among others) has accused it of condoning pedophilia, while Armond White of New York Press called it "'The Graduate,' as if directed by a freshman." And as I've mentioned before, the director is Gary Winick, who is not to be confused with disgraced former Global Crossing CEO Gary Winnick.
DEF, DUMB, AND BLIND: Def Leppard was my favorite band throughout my childhood, although I didn't even hear about their concert at Irving Plaza on Tuesday until after the fact. So you can imagine my surprise when I read Dan Aquilante's review in the New York Post- and I was even more surprised when I got to this line (since corrected in the online edition): "But soon the guitar interchanges between Phil Collin and Steve Clark had the necessary crunch." Kind of interesting to read that, since Steve Clark DIED IN 1990! How can Aquilante know that Steve Clark was the guitarist of Def Leppard, and not know that he's dead? He might as well have written "Rick Allen did a great job drumming with both arms."
CONTRACT THE YANKEES: Doug Berman in the Boston Globe (where else?) comes up with the best idea I've heard yet to solve baseball's labor problems. Is there a single problem germane to the upcoming labor dispute that wouldn't be instantly solved by cutting the Yankees out of the equation? Although I always agreed with one of my old economics professors, who said that the solution was to saturate the New York market by putting five or six teams there. How about a division of teams from the Bronx, Queens, Westchester, Long Island, and New Jersey?