END OF THE MANIA: World Wrestling Entertainment held its 19th annual Wrestlemania event last night, and it proved once and for all that WWE's time in the zeitgeist is long gone. While the event featured a few moments of excitement in four hours, the bulk of the event just underscored that the magic of the former WWF is all over. In fact, just about the only "sport" that's in worse shape right now than wrestling is its companion ringsport, boxing.
WWF/E experienced a second renaissance in the late '90s because it was able to create new stars (like The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Triple-H) and tell original and engaging stories while, at the same time, rival WCW was recycling over-the-hill stars (Hulk Hogan, Macho Man Randy Savage, Ric Flair, Lex Luger, etc.) and putting them in weak, contrived, and unbelievable storylines. Since putting WCW out of business two years ago, the WWF has made one bad decision after another: the launch of the XFL, the botching of the WWF vs. WCW angle, the change in name to WWE, the inexplicable decision to split the federation in half (the "brand extension"), and perhaps worst of all, they've borrowed WCW's penchant of using lazy, over-the-hill wrestlers who are of little use outside of their name value (since the merger they've brought in Hogan, Flair, Kevin Nash, Diamond Dallas Page, and Shawn Michaels, among many others whose best days are far behind them). On top of that, the federation has seemingly run out of convincing, groundbreaking, stories to tell.
Wrestlemania XIX was headlined by four matches: the third different WM tilt between The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin; a battle between world champion Triple-H and the overmatched Booker T; a fight for the other world title between former amateur champions Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar, and (worst of all), the years-in-the-making battle between Hulk Hogan and chairman Vince McMahon, two men with a combined age of almost 110.
On top of gratuitous appearances by marginal celebrities Ashanti, the Miller Lite catfight girls, and (gag) Limp Bizkit, the matches themselves were rather lackluster: Rock-Austin was been-there-done-that, Triple-H-Booker boring, Hogan-McMahon ridiculous and plagued with a surprise appearance by the equally geriatric "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, and the otherwise strong matchup between Angle and Lesnar was spoiled when Lesnar botched an off-the-top-rope move and landed right on his head- making the new champion look especially weak after suffering a concussion (Angle himself is facing up to a year out of action with a neck injury of his own). What looked on paper like a strong card turned into a dud; not even the scheduled three-way match pitting Chris Benoit and Rhyno against Team Angle against Los Guererros lived up to expectations.
For the WWE to have a third renaissance, it's going to have to tear itself down and build up again, as it did after its early-'90s nadir. Perhaps new acquisition Goldberg will help, but he can't do it alone. Indeed, Goldberg made his debut tonight on RAW, and his entrance and brief confrontation with The Rock had more electricity than the entire four hours of Wrestlemania combined.
In the meantime the world's greatest business columnist, Christopher Byron, takes a look at the WWE, drawing parellels both with the war in Iraq and Martha Stewart's recent difficulties. Don't miss it.
THAT'S A FACT, JACK: I don't know what it is with Sports Illustrated, but for the second time in three weeks they've decided to use a high-profile article to expose unsavory elements in the life of a long-retired ballplayer who was a member of the 1991 World Champion Minnesota Twins. After Frank Deford's Kirby Puckett expose earlier this month, last week's baseball preview issue has a long profile of Jack Morris, baseball's winningest pitcher in the 1980s and the man who started and pitched all 10 innings of World Series Game 7 in '91 (with yours truly in attendance). Ostensibily a look at the dying art of pitchers who go the distance, Tom Verducci's piece lets us know from the start what an unlikable lout Morris was: we find out he had separated from his wife early in the '91 season (the St. Paul native's only year in Minnesota), made few friends in baseball, and was unable to get a job in the game after he retired in 1994. While the story starts with a great photo illustration (Morris celebrating in front of a scoreboard with 9.5 innings of zeroes for both the Twins and Braves), I found it just a bit disrespectful towards a man who I believe belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Why must SI spoil all of our illusions, about the '91 Twins specifically?
Stay tuned for next week's SI, for its 3000-word Gary Smith piece on Kent Hrbek's failure to live up to his dream of success in the world of professional wrestling.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I just don't believe in the notion that you can't have fun while people suffer. That's probably because I come from a people who throw a party when you snip off a baby's foreskin." -Joel Stein, musing on the absurdity of holding the glam-filled Academy Awards during wartime, in Entertainment Weekly.
THE TRANSFORMED MAN: The Ohio-based national guardsman who changed his name to Optimus Prime in honor of the Transformers character now has a blog! On it, Mr. Prime thanks "the Transformers" community of 500,000 for bringing so much attention to his story. Somehow, I've gotta think that if a soldier had his name legally changed to "Papa Smurf," the reaction would be even more rapturous.
ESOTERIC WEBSITE OF THE DAY: It's the Rocklopedia Fakebandica, a comprehensive list of fictional bands from movies and TV shows. Some good stuff, but it's missing my favorite: The Frozen Heads, the band led by Gary Coleman's Arnold on an episode of "Diff'rent Strokes." (link via Paul Katcher).
WE'RE TALKING BASEBALL... The 2003 baseball season opened tonight with the Rangers' victory over the Angels; the season begins in earnest tomorrow. Therefore, here are my predictions:
AL playoff teams: Yankees, Twins, Athletics, Red Sox (wild card)
NL playoff teams: Phillies, Cardinals, Giants, Cubs (wild card)
ALDS: Twins over Red Sox, Yankees over A's
NLDS: Giants over Cardinals, Phillies over Cubs
ALCS: Twins over Yankees
NLCS: Giants over Phillies
2003 World Series: Twins over Giants, for championship #3. Wishful thinking I know, but if it happens, I want to have predicted it. Me and Jayson Stark.
Until then... PLAY BALL!
SUSPENDED ANIMATION: The Seattle SuperSonics have suspended guard Joseph Forte, the former North Carolina standout who has thus far bombed in the NBA after being drafted by the Celtics two years, for "conduct detrimental to the team" after he got into a fight with teammate Jerome James.
Hey, when Forte signed his contract with the Sonics wasn't that, in itself, "detrimental to the team"?
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Muslims in the US are Pakistani and they are Iranian. The Pakistanis tend to vote Republican for Cold War reasons. As for Iranian-Americans... they vote overwhelmingly Republican for the same reason that Cubans do- because there was a weak Democratic president who gave their country to crazy people." -Republican pollster Grover Norquist, surveying the voting tendencies of Muslim- and Arab-Americans, in the Forward. It's a funny quote and I'm with him on Carter, but Norquist's history is a bit off in regards to Cuba: the president of the US when Castro came to power was the very Republican Eisenhower, and I'd hardly call his successor, JFK, "weak" on Cuba- he did, after all, try to have Castro bumped off. And besides, the headline of the piece refers to "Arab-Americans," and neither Pakistanis nor Iranians are of the Arab ethnicity.
10 BEST MISBEGOTTEN WEB SEARCHES THAT HAVE LED PEOPLE TO THIS BLOG IN THE LAST WEEK:
1. "evil fucks George Bush" (Google).
2. "Shock and Awe Jew Iraq Hebrew" (Google)
3. "8 Mile and Steve Silver" (Google).
4. "Oz Prison Bitch Gene" (Ask Jeeves)
5. "Sean Hannity Jew Lover" (Google)
6. "cartoon Michael Moore Boo" (Google)
7. "Naked hairy men fisting" (Lycos)
8. "Adrian Brody AND Halle Berry AND Inappropriate" (Google)
9. "Adrian Brody's Mama" (Yahoo)
10. "Adrian Brody the Jew actor" (Google)
A few notes: No, I had nothing to do with "8 Mile"; rather, the screenwriter of that movie was named Scott Silver. I'm guessing "Hannity Jew Lover" came from some far-right fan of his who's less than happy with Hannity's pro-Israel (and pro-Jewish) stances. Prior to this week I had lots of hits for things likes "Campbell Brown nude" and "Ashleigh Banfield naked pics." So therefore, to those of you who do Google searches for nude pictures of attractive female news reporters, my advice is to stop, because with the exception of Andrea Thompson, none of them have any. And to those of you with blogs who want more traffic, I suggest you put words like "nude," "naked," and "topless" in them at least once a day, in a completely non-sexual context- the hits'll just keep on coming!
CLOTHES WHORES: There's a story in the fashion section of this morning's New York Post that's embarrassing even by Post standards. As the story tells it, it turns out there's a new trend of nubile, middle- and upper-class young women in New York turning to prostitution. Is it to avoid poverty or unemployment? Nope. To support their young children? Uh-uh. To put themselves through college? Um, no- it's so they can afford super-expensive clothes!
The story, written by "Precious Williams" (I don't even have a joke), quotes a few coeds and young professional women who have embraced the world's oldest profession in order to fund their ridiculously expensive fashion tastes- and in the process the Post has plunges even further below its previous low (which is the Sandy Koufax outing, I'd say; after all, I liked the "weasels" cover). This is the sort of thing that Bill O'Reilly would be loudly pontificating against if the Post weren't his corporate cousin within the News Corp. empire.
And if that weren't bad enough, the Post even includes their usual anorexic-model photos, only instead of being accompanied by dollar signs, the clothes are assigned a "tricks" value- as in, "Tori must turn three tricks in order to buy that fabulous pair of pink pants."
I originally thought that whole SaveKaryn thing (a girl who ran up $20,000 in credit card debt on clothes) was the nadir of the beauty addiction that's plaguing today's young women. But obviously this new hooker "trend" is even more shameful. Where do these people get the idea that they HAVE to have these ridiculously expensive clothes, even to the point of demeaning themselves by becoming hookers? They can't even go into mountains of credit card debt, or find rich boyfriends/husbands, or GET A JOB, the methods more commonly favored by hypermaterialistic New York women.
Kind of like that bogus "bug-chasing" thing from Rolling Stone a few months ago, I highly doubt that this is actually a "trend" at all, but rather just something a couple of Precious' friends have done. But still, like most New York City social problems, I blame this one on "Sex and the City." Shame on the producers of that show for giving women the implicit message that their lives are worth nothing if they don't look, talk, act, and dress identically to that bony little wench Sarah Jessica Parker.
PERLE GOES DOWN: Richard Perle, one of the leaders of the group of neocons who many have called the architects of the current war with Iraq, has resigned from his job as chairman of the Defense Policy Board. Perle had lately come under fire for accepting outside consulting fees (from such groups as bankrupt telecom firm Global Crossing), and even wrote a letter defending himself in today's New York Times.
Since we all know that Perle was the mastermind of the sinister, shadowy cabal of Israel-first Jews responsible for the "rush to war" of the past two years, the only logical result of his departure is the unilateral withdrawal of all US troops from Iraq by the end of the week. After all, the conspiracy's been exposed!
DEATH IN WARTIME: Damn, I feel bad for Daniel Patrick Moynihan. The former senator and adviser to four different US presidents died yesterday at the age of 76, and since his passing happened to coincide with the war in Iraq, it got next to no media coverage at all. The New York Times ran his obit in the metro section (when it would've been on Page 1 in peacetime), while its remembering-Pat editorial ran fourth from the top on the op-ed page. Same in the Post- Moynihan's obit ran on Page 7.
I can understand that war news yesterday had to take precedent- but it's just plain unfair that this American statesman won't get the tributes that he deserves.
STORMIN' NORMAN'S OFFICE: The Strib's Doug Grow offers up an (unintentionally) humorous column on a group of Minneapolis-area anti-war protestors who the other day took over the Minneapolis field office of U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN). Grow's somewhat admiring column is quite illuminating into what makes the lying-down-in-the-streets wing of the anti-war movement tick.
Apparently, during last Monday's demonstrations, a group of protestors thought it might be fun to "occupy" Sen. Coleman's Twin Cities office, even though it was at the time filled only with skeletal staff, and Coleman himself was not even in town, as Congress is currently in session. Once Coleman's staff left for the evening, the protestors assumed control of the switchboard, at one point even placing a call to the White House before police arrived to diffuse the situation.
Ironically, the office had belonged for years to Coleman's predecessor, the late Paul Wellstone (a hero to protestors the world over), and in an added twist, Coleman himself had been a rabid anti-war protestor during his Vietnam-era college years before turning GOP as mayor of St. Paul in the early '90s.
The opening line of Grow's article is "most of the demonstrators had been in this office many times," and one protestor is even quoted as saying that months ago she had been "sleeping on the floor" of that same office, back when it was still in "progressive" hands. So from this I'd imagine we're supposed to think the protestors were Wellstone's "cavalry" in fighting the good fight, and why, he was even courteous enough to let the transient activists sleep on the floor in the lobby of his office. Right?
Well no, not exactly. Most of the activists' previous contact with Wellstone's office, in fact, had been of an adversarial nature- these were the folks, you may remember, who camped outside the senator's office in the weeks prior to last fall's Iraq vote, with the implicit threat that they would support the Green Party candidate if Wellstone voted the "wrong way." Elsewhere in Grow's piece, we learn that after the demonstrators were arrested, they were taken to an adjacent conference room where, one of them remembered wistfully, "[We'd] once had an angry meeting with Wellstone." Wellstone, for those of you who don't know, leaned probably further to the left than any other non-Vermont elected politician in recent American political history. Though not far enough for these people, apparently.
Reminds me of the time Wellstone spoke at my high school, when a classmate of mine (part of the clique that really started to turn me against leftism) got up and started haranguing the senator about "inconsistancies" in his voting record on environmental issues- despite the fact that Wellstone was perhaps the most pro-environmental senator of the past half-century. And that's symptomatic of what's wrong with today's far left: they're so defeatist that they can't even recognize one of the most dynamic and charismatic politicians in recent US history was on their side.
HE IS A LOATHSOME, OFFENSIVE BRUTE, YET I CAN'T LOOK AWAY: No, not Michael Moore (but more on him below). Keith Blanchard, editor of Maxim and author of the new novel "The Deed," is #1 on New York Press' inaugural list of the 50 Most Loathsome New Yorkers. While the format and tone of the piece is largely borrowed from last year's oft-cited list by the Buffalo Beast of the 50 Most Loathsome People in America (the one that picked Ann Coulter #1 and dismissed her as "Goebbels with tits,") it's a fun and entertaining read, even including a two-sentence explanation of why logical top contender Ben Affleck was not eligible.
Coultergeist comes in at #4 in the Press' version, behind Blanchard and (somewhat surprisingly) the loony-left duo of wacko cartoonist Ted Rall and Fat Fat Fatty himself, Michael Moore. I wouldn't put the admittedly odious Blanchard in the league of either of them- and where's that other loathsome editor, Howell Raines? Also on the list are easy targets (Leona Helmsley, Tina Brown, George Steinbrenner), underrated but very deserving targets (Candace Bushnell, Peter Vecsey), and a few names no one reading the paper will be likely to recognize (Mark Scharfman? David Rabin? Chris Komisarjevsky?) I guess I'm willing to forgive the reflexive Strokes-bashing and Rudy-bashing, just for this dismissal of Harvey Weinstein: "a boorish film-industry mixture of Al Goldstein, Laurent Kabila, and Adolf Hitler." Right, and I'm sure neither Goldstein, Kabila, nor Hitler would've approved of Polanski winning the Oscar.
Now yes, I realize I've ripped Michael Moore in six of my last eight posts. But the Press' dismissal of him, somewhat surprising now that it's become, for all intents and purposes, a left-wing paper, is just so note-perfect I think we can safely call it the last word:
Slagging on this pandering blowhard is nothing new -especially not in these pages- but he makes it so easy. In the despicable "Bowling for Columbine," the lumbering behemoth makes fun of working-class whites in order to make over-educated whites feel better about themselves. His arguments against gun control are simplistic, weak and mired in the cloying stink of self-service, which smells suspiciously like a fat man’s crack. Every time Moore comes out in support of a liberal band or politician or fellow celebrity- as he proved last Sunday night- the hardworking, intelligent and reasoned left is degraded by association. It’s time for activists to jettison the ballast that is Michael Moore and start repairing the damage.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: " A speaker like [Michael] Moore is like a beggar in a New York City subway car. Even people who give to charity and the homeless resent this kind of panhandling, because it takes advantage of a captive audience. It's not like you can just jump out onto the tracks if you don't want to be bothered." -James Poniewozik of Time, weighing in with a fair, and savagely accurate assessment of Moore's Oscar speech. I've been thinking lately that Moore is akin to, as Tony Kornheiser said about Richard Williams, "a guy muttering to himself in a subway car."
JUST BETWEEN YOU AND ME: Connie Chung has left CNN.
GOOD FUCKING PLAY: There's a new off-Broadway play that's been getting quite a lot of good press in the past couple weeks, even though it's got a title that can't be published in any daily New York newspaper: "Fucking A." "Fucking A" was written by Suzan-Lori Parks, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of "Topdog/Underdog," and stars rapper Mos Def, Daphne Rubin-Vega of "Rent" and S. Epatha Merkerson of "Law & Order." The New York Times referred to the play as "
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I wonder if what we're watching right now will be the last sunrise in Baghdad under the regime of Saddam Hussein." -Lester Holt, on MSNBC, at about 10:55 EST tonight. I've generally been skeptical of those who accuse the news of pro-American boosterism (as I am myself quite fond of pro-American boosterism), but these comments by Holt are just ridiculous- haven't the last three days taught us not to get too optimistic about the war?
Then again, I'd sure love to be proven wrong...
CRITIQUEES, PART DEUX: BlogCritics proudly presents the Film/Book/TV version.
NOTES ON THE WAR: This blog is not now, nor has it ever been, a pure "warblog." By contrast, I cover all sorts of cultural absurdity, from sports to "The Real World" to transsexual rabbis to pro wrestling. While I do write quite a bit on politics, current events, and "the situation," I'm not writing with any type of ideological axe to grind- and while I'm pretty solidly in the pro-war camp, I'm just as aware of (and repulsed by) many of the actions of the pro-war side as of those on the anti-war side. I may have gagged at the excesses of Michael Moore last night, but he's not any more loathsome than your average caller to Michael Savage or Sean Hannity (or, for that matter, Savage and Hannity themselves). And while I don't question that what America is doing right now is the right thing, that doesn't mean I'm not nervous or uncertain about what the future holds. In the meantime, a few thoughts on the first week or so of the war in Iraq, from the homefront of Hoboken:
-The war, from what I've seen, seems to be going reasonably well, the last couple days of setbacks notwithstanding (if I see the word "quagmire" in the New York Times at any point before the war is a month old, I will march up to 43rd St. and personally bitchslap Howell Raines). Some of the Iraqi tactics have underscored, for anyone who doubted it, just how savage Saddam's regime is, from the shooting of POWs on camera to the surrender/ambush (the most underhanded, brutal doublecross since Beecher bit off part of Robson's manhood mid-BJ on "Oz"). The sight of Iraqis greeting American soldiers and tearing down the pictures of Saddam was beautiful, akin to Afghan women tearing off their burqas in 2001. That's more than just good PR- it's real liberation. And if this cache of chemical weapons we found is for real, it really says a lot that US troops found something in five days that Hans Blix missed for three months. Saddest of all, I think, was the GI who turned against his own men and tried to blow them up with a grenade. Not only does this show us that we can't necessarily trust our own men, but after this it doesn't look good for the chances of Muslims being able to enlist to defend their country in future wars
-My message to my colleagues in support of the US action is this: for God's sake, stop accusing people of being un-American! I could understand such sentiments being directed at someone who's burning the flag, or one who has literally denounced their country, but come on- when you're throwing such accusations at every other person, they start to lose power after awhile. Repeat after me: opposing the war is not opposing America. Opposing Bush is not opposing America. Not everyone who's against you is an evil sodomite. We have freedom of speech, and large amounts of people seem to be exercising it. Any lover of liberty should respect at least that much.
-It was reported on Sunday that Iraq is claiming a grand total of three (3) civilian casualties as a result of last week's Shock and Awe campaign. Not sure if that's correct, but if it is, it means that so far in 2003 more civilians have been as a result of fires in American nightclubs than by the war in Iraq.
-This war's being called "Gulf War II," which I think is a misnomer: Desert Storm was called "The Gulf War" because it was over Kuwait, whose entire eastern coast borders the Persian Gulf. Iraq, on the other hand, barely touches the Gulf at all. A better name might be "The Tigres/Euphrates War." Not only more accurate, but it gives the operation a certain much-needed biblical gravitas.
-In Manhattan for about 20 minutes on Saturday, I stumbled into the big antiwar march as it ambled through Herald Square. Now I have no doubt that the vast majority of those who oppose this war are honorable people who have good reasons for feeling the way they feel. But that's not what I saw on Saturday. It was more an anti-Bush rally than an anti-war one, and the people there seemed to have nothing less than a visceral, pathological hatred of George W. Bush that goes away beyond politics, a loathing that makes the right-wing revulsion of Bill Clinton look like a lovefest by comparison. I even saw Bush-as-Hitler signs, an eerie reminder of the "Rabin Hitler" era of Israeli politics (in 1995, the far right wing in Israel was so angry at Rabin over the peace process that they held rallies in which they held up posters of Rabin in a Nazi uniform and chanted "Rabin Hitler (Rabin is Hitler)" Rabin was of course assassinated by a fanatic in November of '95; this whole thing was chronicled in the somewhat shoddy 1997 documentary "The Road to Rabin Square," directed by Michael Karbin and nicknamed "The Rabin Hitler Movie.")
Saturday's New York anti-war rally was completely devoid of anti-Saddam signs, yet was not devoid of 70-year-old communists passing out copies of their newspaper, The Militant. The nadir of what I saw that day was when a New York City fire truck came barreling down Sixth Ave. with sirens blazing, running directly into the rally at 34th St. (where Sixth and Broadway cross). Showing that post-9/11 fireman fetishism lives on, the crowd rightly cheered the firemen, yet didn't get out of the way so they could go fight their fire. And bad, bad stuff happened all over the country too: Sullivan reports that people were literally defecating in the streets in San Francisco, and back at Brandeis a noted sociology professor, who is known worldwide for his theories in regards to the "Mutuality Paradigm," and has often declared that all humanity must join hands and get along in order to heed off the end of the world, got up at an anti-war rally and referred to the members of an undergraduate pro-war group as "freaks."
-I spent most of Saturday and Sunday in Philadelphia, and while there's barely a city block in Manhattan that isn't covered with "Stop the War" and "Bush =Warmonger" signs, I noticed a near-complete lack of anti-war sentiment of any kind in any area of Center City, including the parts that are the counterparts of, say, the Upper West Side or Greenwich Village. I can't think of any sociological explanation for the difference, other than perhaps the presence in New York of an established community of radicals that Philadelphia doesn't have. The only exception was when I bought a bootleg of a 2001 U2 concert at Repo Records on South St., and the bootlegger had given the CD the imaginative title of "Kill George Bush Jr." Bono may be a big liberal, but I know he wouldn't approve.
-In all seriousness, my thoughts and prayers and those of so many others are with our troops in Iraq and elsewhere, bravely risking their lives for the causes of freedom and democracy worldwide. I can't describe how proud I am of them; come home soon, guys.
NOTES ON THE OSCARS: I watched the Oscars from start to finish last night, for no reason other than my love of cinema and fascination with all that is Hollywood. I knew people would say stupid things and most of the wrong movies would be honored, but what the hell- I watch because I love. A few observations:
"Chicago" wins Best Picture. I can't complain; I liked the movie and as far as I know so did most other people. I think the return to prominence in Hollywood of musicals is a good development, and "Chicago" is worlds more worthy, as a Best Picture, than last year's embarassing winner, "A Beautiful Mind." When "The Pianist" pulled off upset wins for Best Actor and Best Director, it created a dramatic scenario that actually made it look like a Best Picture win was possible- since that film was the only of the five Best Picture nominees not at least partially funded by Miramax, a "Pianist" victory would've doubled as a big "fuck you" to Harvey Weinstein. But alas, it wasn't to be.
Moore Stupider. I suppose the biggest Oscar-related topic in the blogosphere last night and today was the outburst by Michael Moore. Now I want to make clear that I'm not so upset about what Moore said- it was Moore being Moore, and loony anti-Bush schtick has been his stock and trade for the past two years. What I AM upset about is that "Bowling For Columbine"- an untruthful, dishonest, insulting, condescending, and self-aggrandizing film, whose conclusion seemed to be that what's wrong with America is all those damn Americans- won for Best Documentary. What's even sadder is that the producers of the other four nominated films, who presumably took great care to make sure their films were truthful and didn't stage entire scenes, agreed to join Moore onstage. That almost the entire audience booed Moore when he began his diatribe shows that Hollywood may be much more sane than we all thought- Denzel Washington, in particular, was caught on camera not applauding.
Sicilian vs. Roman. The other major controversy of the evening was Roman Polanski's upset victory over Martin Scorsese for the Best Director award. Now, I get that the Academy hated "Gangs of New York" (it won zero awards), and didn't wish to honor Scorsese for what was clearly not the best film of his career. So why not give it to "Chicago"'s Rob Marshall? Traditionally when there's a Picture/Director split verdict, it's either because the Best Picture wasn't a "director" movie (like "Gladiator"), or because the Director winner's direction was especially impressive (like "Saving Private Ryan," or "Traffic"). "Chicago" was very much a director movie, and there was nothing at all wrong with Marshall's direction. And if the Academy didn't wish to honor Scorsese for "Gangs of New York" when he didn't win for "Mean Streets," "Taxi Driver," "Raging Bull," or "Goodfellas," then why give it to Polanski when he didn't win for one of the greatest movies of all time, "Chinatown"?
Then there's the issue of Polanski's crime. The fact that Roman Polanski has defenders is just as inexplicable and offensive to me as the fact that Pete Rose has defenders. This is a man who not only committed a sex crime against a child, but has been a fugitive from justice for more than a quarter century. Now he may be a brilliant filmmaker (I have not yet seen "The Pianist," but everything I've heard is that it's great), but excusing his crime just because many in showbiz have snorted mountains of coke and cheated on each of their four wives (both of which Scorsese has done) is the sort of moral vapidity that can only come from Hollywood. Polanski's behavior should NOT be forgiven just because he's a Holocaust survivor, just because the Manson Family killed his wife, or just because he made a great film. The man could make a masterpiece a year for the next decade- and he would still belong behind bars.
And one more thing: had Roman Polanski molested a male child and not a female, would he have won Best Director last night? Were R. Kelly in the habit of videotaping sex with underage boys rather than underage girls, would he have the #1 album in the country right now? I'm guessing the answer to both questions is HELL NO.
Say Goodbye, Say Goodbye Hollywood. Eminem is now an Academy Award winner; Martin Scorsese is not.
Martinized. Steve Martin was uneven as host, often doing the best he could with substandard material. But he made up for every lame joke with that (apparently adlibbed) slam of Michael Moore, and he's not Whoopi Goldberg, which may be his best quality as a comedian. Also, strange that Martin mentioned Steven Spielberg at the end. SS was not on hand, and not nominated for anything, even though he directed two movies this year.
The Prime of Mr. Adrian Brody. Now that Brody has won Best Actor (defeating four former winners in the process), I may now finally know the difference between him, Jim Caviezel, and Ben Chaplin. (Malick's "Thin Red Line" still confuses me, even four years later). Brody's speech was classy, as he's one of the few recent winners who wasn't lying when he said he wasn't expecting it. And while it may have looked bad that he kissed Halle Berry full on the lips after winning, but I know I would've done the same thing, and if you're male, you would've too.
War on War. I didn't find any of the pro-peace/anti-war messages particularly offensive. Moore is Moore, Brody had the grace to mention his buddy from Queens who's a soldier in Kuwait, and several others "hoped for peace in Iraq soon," which applies to everyone on either side of the debate. The grande dames of Hollywood's aloof left, Susan Sarandon and Barbra Streissand, both managed to stay on script, though less impressive was the Spanish-speaking contingent: screenplay winner Pedro Almodovar spoke in favor of "democracy" in denouncing the war in Iraq (huh?), while presenter Gael Garcia Bernal declared that "if Frida Kahlo were alive today, she'd be against the war." Probably, although if Kahlo were still alive she'd probably be too depressed about the fall of communism to care about a mere US intervention in the Middle East. Is Garcia Bernal prepared to endorse Kahlo's politics in full?
But my favorite celeb anti-war story of all was Ben Affleck's: the actor couldn't decide whether or not to wear an anti-war pin, and left the final decision to his stylist. I bet J.Lo's upset she didn't get to choose.
Procedural matters. The ceremony actually ended on time for once, probably because they chose not to show movie clips for each nominated actor. For the second straight year the historical clip selections were lackluster, and the "75 Years of Oscar" ceremony was lacking, especially since several of the actors (especially Karl Malden and Mickey Rooney) apparently had no idea where they were and looked like they were about to keel over. Not to mention that dozens of living former winners were not present. It's always great to see Olivia de Havilland, the last living "Gone With the Wind" cast member and the Curt Flood of Hollywood- it was her lawsuit in the '50s that brought down the classical Hollywood system. And I was all set to object to the trotting out of Kirk Douglas, as the man is clearly not in the best of health, but his final presentation with son Michael was charming.
The Golden 'Road.' My favorite movie of the year, "Road to Perdition," won only one Oscar, but it was the one it deserved most: Best Cinematography, for the late Conrad L. Hall. Not only did it have the most impressive lensing of any film in years, but it was one final tribute to a truly brilliant cinemagraphic technician.
Unpredictable.And in a year in which I saw almost every major movie, I correctly predicted less than half of the Academy Award winners. In a year in which I watched next to no college basketball, I correctly predicted 12 of the Sweet 16. Which goes to show, once again, that predictions mean nothing.
THE PYTHONS OF WAR: Mickey Kaus points out the misuse of the word "sacking" in an MSNBC report about the capture of the town of Basra. (Scroll down to Sunday for the entry). However, due in part to Mickey's complaining on Microsoft-owned Slate, MSNBC has changed the word "sacking" to "taking." Presumably, those responsible for the "sacking" have been sacked.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Gael Garcia Bernal... Que lastima! I'm not sure that your experience of being filmed masturbating on a diving board allows you to channel dead bisexual artists." -Scott Ganz, ripping the teenaged star of "Y Tu Mama Tambien." Read the whole post for some great stuff, including his dismissal of Michael Moore as "Fat Fat Fatty."
"THE TEAMSTERS JUST LOADED MICHAEL MOORE INTO THE TRUNK OF HIS LIMO": I've always loved Steve Martin's comedy, but my respect for him just multiplied tenfold. And I loved Moore speaking against the war on behalf of "non-fiction," when he has been proven to have staged several scenes of his film. He even won a "Best Screenplay" award for his supposedly factual documentary.
Besides, Moore's description of the war as "fictition" was very much in "agreeance" with Fred Durst's feelings on the matter.
THE PETER PRINCIPLE: Peter Gammons says "The Twins are that good."
CHUTZPAH AWARD NOMINEE: According to a CNN story, Iraqi Minister of Information Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf today gave us the revisionist history that Iraqi soldiers haven't really been surrendering to American troops all over Iraq; but rather that the Americans kidnapped thousands of Iraqi civilians and made them dress up like soldiers, pretending to surrender to coalition forces.
I'm especially happy giving this award to Mr. al-Sahaf, who would likely be really pissed off about getting something called "the Chutzpah Award."
HE'S A BIG JEW: According to Dave Meltzer, Bill Goldberg will finally make his return to the world of wrestling, signing a contract with WWE after nearly a year of negotiations. A former NFL player and lifelong observant Jew, Goldberg burst onto the scene five years ago in WCW, putting together a "fictional" winning streak of nearly 200 matches and capturing the imagination of a whole generation of wrestling fans, Jewish and not (I was a counselor at a Jewish camp in the summer of '98, and Goldberg was every Jewish boy's hero, as Sandy Koufax was for the Jewish boys of my father's generation). Goldberg's largely been invisible since WCW went under in 2001, mostly wrestling in Japan, though he did make one memorable guest appearance on the '01 "Hannukah Special" of "The Man Show."
Goldberg is expected to debut as soon as next week's Wrestlemania, and could be just what the doctor ordered for WWE, which hasn't been in the greatest of shape the last couple years, and is now about to lose Hulk Hogan to retirement, The Rock (possibly permanently) to Hollywood, and Kurt Angle (also possibly permanently) to a neck injury.
WORST MUSIC CRITIC QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "Leave aside whether R. Kelly is a bad, bad man and ask what his recent treatment at the hands of the courts would do to any man. The case made against him is the result of over three years of surveillance, investigation, and prying. Ken Starr had less persistence. Twice after arranging to turn himself in, Kelly's been arrested abruptly and aggressively anyway, hauled off in cuffs. It wouldn't be this way if he wasn't black, and if the police weren't after his dignity as much as anything else." -Sterling Clover, The Village Voice.
Say it with me folks: "But he fucks little girls!"
Here we go: for each category, Who Will Win, Who Should Win, Who Should Have Been Nominated:
Best Picture: WWW: "Chicago." WSW: "Gangs of New York" WSHBN: "Road to Perdition"
Best Director:WWW: Martin Scorsese. WSW: Martin Scorsese WSHBN: Peter Jackson
Best Actor:WWW: Jack Nicholson. WSW: Daniel Day Lewis WSHBN: Campbell Scott
Best Actress:WWW: Nicole Kidman. WSW: Julianne Moore WSHBN: Maggie Gyllenhaal
Best S. Actor:WWW: Chris Cooper. WSW: Christopher Walken WSHBN: Jude Law
Best S. Actress:WWW: Meryl Streep. WSW: Catherine Zeta-Jones WSHBN: Muribel Verdu
Best Original Screenplay:WWW: "My Big Fat Greek Wedding". WSW: "Y Tu Mama Tambien" WSHBN: "CQ"
Best Adapted Screeplay:WWW: "The Hours". WSW: "Adaptation" WSHBN: "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind"
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I think the biggest mistake America has ever made, in terms of the Middle East, was that we told them what 'oil' was in the first place." -Actor/comedian/pundit Larry Miller, on Bill Maher's HBO show.
FUNNY NEWS JUXTAPOSITION WATCH:
Story A: "Some fans in the sellout crowd for last night's game between the Islanders and Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre in this mostly French-Canadian city loudly booed the American national anthem, sung before the game by Charles Prevost-Linton." (Greenwich Time, 3/21/'03)
Story B: "The French parliament has passed an anti-crime act which makes it illegal to boo the [French] national anthem" (BBC, 2/13/'03)
AMERICAN MOVIE: Two of my buddies from high school, James Buffington and Eric C. Hedberg, have made their first movie. It's called "Revisions," and the recently completed trailer is online here. It's our first look at the cinematic debut of the second great filmmaking duo to come out of St. Louis Park High School (after Joel and Ethan Coen).
SHOCK AND AWE BEGINS:
Notice the Dow number in the lower right-hand corner...
LATEST SIGN THAT THE ONION HAS LOST ALL HIPNESS AND CREDIBILITY: It's being quoted by Paul Krugman.
SADDAM HUSSEIN: DECEPTICON: A national guardsman from Ohio who recently shipped out to the Middle East has had his name legally changed to "Optimus Prime," in honor of the hero of the '80s cartoon "The Transformers." The soldier, whose former name has not been released, even got a letter from a general at the Pentagon saying that it was "great to have the leader of the Autobots" on our side.
In a related story, the Elite Republican Go-Bots have been surrendering to coalition forces in droves all throughout Iraq.
DOUBLE DOWN SADDAM: The debates of three days ago ("Should we go to war?" "Will we go to war?" "With the UN?" "Without the UN?") have given way to the debates of today ("Shock and Awe now, or Shock and Awe later, baby?"), and perhaps today's more prominent question was an existential one about Saddam Hussein: Is he alive or is he dead? Was that really him on the tape or not? If it was, was it live or not?
I've got no more answers to any of this stuff than anybody else does, but I did notice one shocking piece of irony: last night, as pundits on the news channels were debating the Saddam-or-stand-in question, the amusing 1993 Kevin Kline comedy "Dave" (a movie about a guy who stands in for the incapacitated president) was simultaneously airing on TBS. Might be the creepiest cable scheduling juxtaposition since HBO2 mistakenly aired "Fight Club" (a film that ends with an entire city-full of buildings exploding) on the night after 9/11.
THAT'S WHY THEY CALL IT LSD: Proving once again that few things turn people against a cause quite as effectively as the shutting down of a major city, 2500 protestors blocked traffic on Chicago's Lake Shore Drive today, in a rally that was timed to coincide with rush hour. Because nothing stops a war quite like preventing people from getting home to their families- do these organizations actually expect average Chicagoans to respond positively to such major inconvenience?
In a scene right out of "Falling Down," one woman even got out of her car in the traffic jam in order to get into a scuffle with a teenage anti-war protestor.
"RACHEL CORRIE DIED OF STUPIDITY AND ARROGANCE:" And Meryl Yourish tells us why.
THE CULT OF BILLY ZANE: Yes, it exists. You might think the silly, semi-obscure actor might have lost all credibility after his embarassing performance as the villain in the most-seen movie of all time, "Titanic." But apparently, the man still has fans, enough of them to support a website called The Billy Zane Museum. Incidentally, the page devoted to the 2002 movie "CQ," in which Zane played a Che Guevera-like revolutionary, has purloined my entire ADFilmWorks/Rotten Tomatoes review of that film, apparently just for the quotes in which I state that I
"laughed at every second of the Billy Zane performance; after TITANIC he’ll obviously never be taken seriously as an actor again, but he’s perfect in such a tongue-in-cheek role."
"MISSED CONNECTIONS" AD OF THE YEAR: SWM seeks "Precious."
...AND TWINS (GEEK): I want to thank the James Lileks of baseball, John Bonnes (webmaster of TwinsGeek.com) for linking yesterday, and welcome those of you who were kind enough to click over. Just 10 more days 'til opening day!
BEST BRANDEIS ACTIVISM EVER: According to Instapundit, one of the more successful student organizing groups in support of American military action in Iraq is the one at- Brandeis? Yes, as it turns out, a student group called United We Stand has formed at my alma mater, and has big plans for the first few days of the conflict. In response to a walkout that was planned months ago for the first day of the war, UWS is encouraging "all students to attend their regularly scheduled classes -even if your professors do not." (Emphasis mine).
That, to me, is the funniest part of all of this. In the '60s, when students staged strikes to protest the war in Vietnam, a big reason why was because their universities had investments in the defense industry, and thus were indirectly supportive of the war effort. These days, next to no such investments exist, and it's the professors themselves who are organizing, while the students (well-intentioned but hopelessly plagued with '60s fantasies) are merely along for the ride. The professors and students alike have been waiting 30 years for the '60s to come back and now they finally have their wish- although it's worth noting that two of Brandeis' most celebrated American Studies professors, Jerry Cohen and Stephen Whitfield- both of whom were very much alive in the '60s- have come out in support of the war.
Reynolds also links to a Justice story about how a group of anti-war students attempted a "hostile takeover" of the United We Stand group, by encouraging anti-war students to attend meetings and force votes on amendments to the club's constitution. The anti-war camp says the proposal was a joke, but my sophomore year a similar plot was hatched by members of the board of Brandeis' Reform Jewish organization to, in the name of "pluralism and improved Reform/Orthodox relations," sabotage the Orthodox organization's club elections in order to cause the election of the more "progressive" candidate. Thankfully, the plan failed, as did the anti-United We Stand effort.
Instapundit links to the Justice... I guess today is an historic day for more than one reason.
THE MOHEL IS DEAD. LONG LIVE THE MOHEL: Rabbi Shepsel Roberts, for decades the Minneapolis area's foremost mohel (performer of the Jewish ritual circumcision, or bris), died Wednesday at the age of 89. While Roberts did not perform my bris, he served that function for literally tens of thousands of young Jewish boys in Minnesota and elsewhere in the Upper Midwest over the course of more than half a century.
A few interesting things about the Star Tribune obituary: the headline writer, apparently unaware that Jewish clergy are known by the title "Rabbi," mistakenly refers to the lifelong Orthodox Jew and Torah Academy founder as "The Rev. Roberts." The obit also quotes a longtime associate of Roberts' with the somewhat unfortunate name, considering the circumstances, of Irving Kutoff.
And finally, on the hilarious Professor Quotes blog, a quote was submitted today that's attributed to a Clemson University physics professor named (no joke) Prof. Moyle: "If you don't convert Celsius to Kelvins on the exam," he says, "I will cut your nuts off!"
So much for brit milah...
FINAL THOUGHTS: Wildly divergent, but all worthwhile, last-minute Iraq thoughts from throughout the blogosphere: Mike Silverman says "Oseh Shalom." Paul Katcher does NOT feel guilty about being an American. Seth D. Michaels thinks the president is wrong, but hopes he's right. John Paul Pagano is "ecstatic for the Iraqis who will soon be free." The Homeless Guy contrasts our government's foreign policy with their unwillingness to help out folks such as himself. Meryl Yourish shares with us a song she wrote about neocons, and other Jews under fire. VodkaPundit Stephen Green has got (what else?) the Gulf War Drinking Game. And Rachel Lucas prepared for the upcoming war by getting a new gun.
Bill Cimino, on the other hand, dispenses with Iraq altogether in favor of a humorous Catholic-schoolgirl blowjob story. If only the good die young, it would only follow that Saddam Hussein is about to die at the relatively grizzled age of 65.
SINCE I DON'T EXPECT TO THINK ABOUT THE NCAAs FOR AWHILE AFTER TONIGHT: I predict a Final Four of Kansas, Kentucky, Texas, and Syracuse, with Kansas beating Texas for the championship. These carefully considered predictions come from the expertise that I've gleaned from not watching more than five minutes of any college basketball game thus far this season. Yet it wouldn't surprise me for a second if I end up getting more of the Sweet 16 right than Dick Vitale does.
Then there's this.
BAD RECEPTION FOR CLEAR CHANNEL?: According to a story in the Chicago Tribune (found via Romanesko), the media giant Clear Channel Communications has in recent weeks been sponsoring pro-war/pro-patriotism rallies in major cities throughout the US. The brainchild of Philadelphia talk-show host Glenn Beck (a Clear Channel employee), the rallies have drawn crowds of up to 20,000 people in cities that include Atlanta, Cleveland, San Antonio, and Cincinnati.
Now in this case I agree with Clear Channel's cause (both the pro-war part and pro-patriotism part), and I certainly don't consider them to be as sketchy in their motives as some of the in-the-shadows backers of the recent anti-war demonstrations (Ramsey Clark, the neo-Stalinists of International ANSWER, et. al). But that said, this looks really, really bad: not only is it unseemingly for corporations to augment their numerous campaign contributions with actual in-the-streets political organizing, but anyone who has followed Clear Channel's activities in recent years could tell you that they're among America's most shady corporations- guilty of everything from monopolizing radio stations and concert promotions in numerous cities to encouraging the proliferation of really awful music. Just as I'd call on people of conscience who oppose the war to repudiate Mr. Clark and the other less-than-honorable individuals backing their rallies, I say unequivically that I don't want Clear Channel on my side on this one.
Mass demonstrations are supposed to organized by the people- not by the government, or by corporations who own radio stations. If you ask me, Clear Channel should just stick to promoting Limp Bizkit concerts.
(On second thought, maybe they shouldn't do that, either).
CARPET BOMBING: The producers of Sunday's Academy Award telecast have announced that they will they will cut back, if not completely eliminate, the traditional red carpet arrivals of the stars on Oscar night. Works for me- the arrivals were always a tedious bore if you ask me, and if it means a few less hours of screen time for that hideous old hag Joan Rivers, then all the better. And besides, the only major star to avoid the red carpet at last month's Grammys was Norah Jones, and it sure worked for her- not only did she look better than anyone else that night, but she swept all the awards.
In fact, since Joan and Melissa will now have nothing to do on Sunday- why don't we send them to Baghdad? I hear there's a need for reporters right about now.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I think it's fair to say that Puckett was, for a time, not only the most popular person in Minnesota, but the most popular Minnesotan ever. Prince turned himself into a symbol. But you and I turned Puckett into one." -Steve Rushin, reflecting on "the only two black people from Minnesota" and invoking Slim Shady in the process, on SI.com.
ON THE EVE OF WAR: I'm sure I'm not the only one with a certain feeling tonight that "this is it." So morbidly funny that for the past six months or so I've thought about so little, intellectually, other than this war, and yet now it still hasn't sunk in that it's actually about to happen. Now, the seemingly eternal debate is finally over, with a whole other set of debates likely right around the corner.
Due in large part to the threat of terrorism, I can't help but feeling everyone's just a bit on edge- today in my office, for instance, someone shouted "holy shit!," causing six other people to instantly turn to the TV and just as quickly breathe a sigh of relief upon discovering that the "holy shit" was reaction to a news report of snow in Colorado. It's been summer-like in New York this week, you see.
My thoughts now are with our troops in the Gulf, about to engage an historical war that's very likely to have as much effect on the next several decades of American history than anything in our lifetimes thus far. Because no matter how sure we are that we have the moral high ground, that we're right, that we're the good guys, there can be little doubt that with this war, we're entering the realm of uncharted territory.
At this point, the best thing we can do is hope (and/or pray) for a short war, a successful war, with as few casualties as possible, planting the seeds for a vibrant democracy in Iraq, and the end of global terrorism.
More to come...
WARTIME DECISIONS: There's been lots of talk in the media in the last few days about various sports, entertainments, and sports entertainment events that are scheduled to take place in the next few weeks, and whether or not they will be affected by the onset of war in Iraq. Here, all in one place, is a roundup of said events, complete with odds of cancellation. Now keep in mind, these odds are for entertainment purposes only, and are subject to war only. Should, God forbid, a terrorist attack happen, then all "bets" are off.
Event: The NCAA Tournament
Scheduled Date and Place: Begins March 20, continuing for three weeks until Final Four weekend of April 5; various locations.
Circumstances: Sporting event at major venues throughout the country; NCAA executive director Myles Brand has already announced games will happen.
Odds of cancellation: 50-1. Won't be canceled, but games likely moved from CBS to ESPN or MTV. "One Shining Moment" airs as scheduled.
Event: 75th Annual Academy Awards
Scheduled Date and Place: March 23, Los Angeles.
Circumstances: While terrorists are unlikely to attack a roomful of anti-war activists, there is precedent for war affecting awards: Emmy Awards were postponed twice in 2001, the first time because the Afghanistan bombing campaign had begun that morning.
Odds of cancellation: 2-1. More likely postponed until after war.
Event: Wrestlemania XIX
Scheduled Date and Place: Seattle, March 30.
Circumstances: Major event scheduled to be held outdoors (at Safeco Field) for the first time in years; Wrestlemania immediately after Gulf War I (Hulk Hogan vs. pro-Iraqi Sgt. Slaughter) was not canceled but moved to a smaller, indoor arena.
Odds of cancellation: 100-1. Not even a terrorrist attack would be likely to derail this one, though perhaps Safeco's roof will be closed. Vince McMahon went ahead with a live WWE show the Thursday after 9/11, when baseball and football were still standing down, and even had his daughter Stephanie give a speech in which she compared their family's ordeal during Vince's 1994 federal steroid trial with that of 9/11 victims; Vinnie Mac's never been one for tact.
Event: The Masters
Scheduled Date and Place: Beginning April 10, in Augusta, GA.
Circumstances: This year's Masters had already been facing plenty of controversy, what with feminist protestors, anti-feminist counter-protestors, and even the Klan scheduled to converge; now Martha Burk is calling for the tournament to be called off if the war is still going on then.
Odds of cancellation: 10-1. If the Masters is derailed, it won't be because of any war.
Scheduled Date and Place: Tuesdays, 9:00 on FOX.
Circumstances: Plotlines thus far this year have included plane hijackings, plots against the United States by middle eastern governments, and the detonation of a nuclear device within the continental U.S.
Odds of cancellation: 20-1. It's already been renewed for next year, but might FOX decide that the remaining 9 hours of the season are a bit too close to home for comfort?
THE PUCKETT PIECE: Over the weekend I finally read Frank Deford's Sports Illustrated cover story on the fall of Kirby Puckett (excerpted here, but not online). After now reading it a second time, my comments are four:
1. I've said this many times before in this space, but Kirby Puckett is no less than my favorite athlete of all time. My AOL screenname used to be KIRBY34RF. I personally saw him win two world championships, attended his Hall of Fame induction, met him two or three times, and observed as his legend was created- that of the greatest Twin of all time, and the biggest icon Minnesota had ever seen. And alas, it was just that- a legend. To see that the man I'd always thought was the embodiment of everyhing that was virtuous turn out to be the exact opposite- in fact, a serial philanderer and abuser of women- was one of the saddest things I've ever experienced as a sports fan- and indeed, the dissolution of Kirby Puckett may be the saddest non-death event in recent sports history. Had it happened when he was still playing and I was 12 years old, myself and a whole generation of fans may well have been scarrred for life.
2. That said, I didn't feel from reading the piece that Deford was able to get across exactly how important Kirby Puckett was to the Twin Cities during and after his 12-year career. Unlike, say, Mike Piazza or Roger Clemens, who are big fish amid an even bigger pool of New York celebrities, Kirby Puckett was not only the most popular athlete in Minnesota- he was the most important person in town, period. The revelations about Puckett's misdeeds came out around the time of the Twins' near-contraction; I'd be willing to wager that more Minnesotans than not were hurt more deeply by the Kirby revelation- the bad news that didn't get undone the following year.
3. Also, the piece was generally devoid of new information, and (aside from new allegations that members of the Twins front office paid off a woman to settle a sexual harassment suit and otherwise covered for Puckett and his mistresses) not much content that wasn't already dealt with in Bob Sansavere's similar piece in the St. Paul Pioneer Press last fall (which had the same headline, and almost all of the same sources). Also missing is an interview with Kirby himself, who has yet to respond to the past year and half of allegations- obviously he's not talking, but why the cover story when the subject isn't interviewed and no news is being made? And why so many quotes from marginal local radio personality Jeff Dubay- did Reusse, Barreiro, and Sid refuse to cooperate or something? Regardless, the piece has gotten tons of attention in the Twin Cities; my dad said he went to go buy a copy of the magazine tonight and it was sold out everywhere in town.
4 .It was crass, but not altogether inappropriate, for Deford to tie Puckett's all-too-public fall from grace in with his recent drastic weight gain (Puckett, who was never in the best of shape even in his prime, is now well on the northside of 300 pounds, and even fatter than infamously chubby former teammate Kent Hrbek). I think it sums up Deford's piece best that nothing in the story made the tragic point of Kirby's fall better than the opening-page photo, an illustration of an overweight Kirby behind sunglasses, with an image of his younger, rookie-era ballplayer self in the frames, and a singular tear streaming down his left cheek.
TRIUMPH THE INSULT COMIC DOG FOR PRESIDENT OF IRAQ:
Because if we absolutely must install a puppet regime, it might as well be led by an actual puppet.
TRANS-RABBI: Further strengthening my long-held theory that Reform Judaism is the most sexually permissive of all the major American religious sects, it was reported last week in The Forward (not online) that a female-to-male transsexual has been accepted to the rabbinical school at Hebrew Union College. The California native is believed to be the first transgendered individual to enter HUC; the Forward article did not mention his name or whether the 24-year-old is a pre- or post-op transsexual.
Now I'm not here to make a judgment over whether or not this person is fit to serve as a rabbi. I've come into contact with plenty of rabbis in my time who were clearly not up to the job while (most likely) continuing to possess their original genitals, and there's no reason to think that this person couldn't do as good a job in the rabbinate as anyone else. But this really does say something about how far outside the mainstream RJ is- after all, do a survey of average Americans and ask how they'd feel about their spiritual leader being a transsexual, and about 95% would probably say "hell no." Do the same survey of reform Jews, and 95% are likely to say "sure, why not?"
LETTER TO THE EDITOR OF THE YEAR: I don't normally quote from letter-writers here, since the authors aren't professional journalists and all, but this one's just too great to pass up. It's from the Sunday New York Times Arts & Leisure section, in response to a profile the week before of the actress Frances McDormand that had insulted her alma mater:
"As a 1981 graduate of Bethany College (from which McDormand graduated in 1979), I am familiar, and quite comfortable with Bethany's relative obscurity. But I also know for a fact that the New York Times is perfectly capable of condescension toward most any institution located outside its island home except, of course, for Harvard. Why should a liberal-arts college in the northern pandhandle of West Virginia be excluded?"
-Peter Jensen, Timonium, MD
HAPPY ST. PATRICK'S DAY; HAPPY PURIM: Feel free to party, whether you're Irish, Jewish, both, or neither.
And doesn't this prove that the Jewish Conspiracy isn't to blame for the Iraq war, since we wouldn't be starting it on a major Jewish holiday? Only the Arabs start wars on major Jewish holidays.
STONE COLD LUKA KOVACS: There was a time not too long ago when "ER" was up there with the top dramas on television. But now, with next to none of its original cast left and other shows like "24," "The Shield," and the Sunday-HBO lineup eclipsing it, primetime television has quite obviously passed "ER" by. However, I've still kept up with the show and generally have enjoyed it so far this season- that is, until last week, when what looked like another strong episode ended with a twist that was so absurdly ridiculous that it left me guffawing at least halfway through the 11:00 news.
Part of "ER"'s absurdity has always been its over-reliance on a plot device that it borrowed from the world of professional wrestling- The Heel Turn. A heel turn, as wrestling fans know, is when a wrestler who's known as a "good guy" all of a sudden switches overnight into an arch-villain- a "heel" in wrestling jargon. Usually a heel turn is foreshadowed when a previously likable character all of a sudden starts acting arrogant, selfish, or otherwise "bad," and hints that he's about to turn against his partner or allies. Outside of wrestling, heel turns have been known to happen in geopolitics (most notably Russia in 1917, Iran in 1979, and France in 2003), and of course most of us can probably name friends or significant others who have turned heel in real life.
On "ER," just about every major character has had at least a brief heel turn, usually to be brought back to hero-dom by a Major Act of Redemption (such as when George Clooney was about to be fired and saved the kid from the river, or when Noah Wyle got over his drug addiction by crying to Dr. Benton). This year, the heel-turn assignment fell to the formerly saintly character of Dr. Kovacs (played by Goran Visnijac), who was nothing but a good boy for his entire four-run on the show, until this year he started to exhibit the classic symptoms of "ER"-heeldom- arrogance, belief that "I'm-a-better-doctor-than-you!," boorish behavior towards women, etc. At one point, after trying unsuccessfully to seduce a comely med student (Leslie Bibb), he even got into a Chappaquiddick-like car accident with her.
Which brings us to last week's episode. "ER" this season has gotten very film-school-ish- the car accident episode, for instance, was told in reverse, Pinter/"Memento" style, for no other reason other than "because." Last week, the regular scenes of the episode were juxtaposed with Dr. Kovacs "confessing" in voice-over narration, and since he had spent the majority of the episode refusing to go to court-mandated counseling, we're led to believe that he finally DID go to see a shrink and that's where the voiceover is coming from. But in the final scene of the episode, the camera pulls back, and we see that the therapist has long, exposed legs- (Dr. Melfi?, we're supposed to think?), until we realize- she's not a therapist at all, but a hooker! Luka's spent the last hour confessing about his professional doubts- to a hooker!
That Dr. Kovacs, what a heel! Oh whatever will he do to redeem himself? Why do I think the inevitable scene of redemption will somehow involve him saving lives?
TONIGHT'S THE NIGHT WE'LL MAKE HISTORY: As war with Iraq is now apparently "days away" (well, it's been "days away" for months, but this time it really is!) I can think of no better method of commiseration than to share with you the lyrics of the WINNER (finally) of this blog's "Zogby/Shaw/DeYoung" Poll, on the unofficial theme song of Gulf War No. 2. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you "The Best of Times", by Styx:
Tonight's the night we'll make history, honey, you and I And I'll take any risk to tie back the hands of time And stay with you here tonight I know you feel these are the worst of times I do believe it's true When people lock their doors and hide inside Rumor has it it's the end of Paradise But I know, if the world just passed us by Baby I know, you wouldn't have to cry
The best of times are when I'm alone with you
Some rain some shine, we'll make this a world for two
Our memories of yesterday will last a lifetime
We'll take the best, forget the rest
And someday we'll find these are the best of times
These are the best of times
The headlines read 'these are the worst of times'
I do believe it's true
I feel so helpless like a boat against the tide
I wish the summer winds could bring back Paradise
But I know, if the world turned upside down
Baby, I know you'd always be around
The best of times are when I'm alone with you
Some rain some shine, we'll make this a world for two
Our memories of yesterday will last a lifetime
We'll take the best, forget the rest
And someday we'll find these are the best of times
These are the best of times
And so my friends we'll say goodnight
For time has claimed it's prize
But tonight will always last
As long as we keep alive memories of Paradise...
FRIENDS CLOSE, ENEMIES CLOSER: Bill Cimino suggests that we adopt a Corleone-inspired foreign policy:
"Here's my fantasy - you know the big scene in 'The Godfather' when Michael Corleone orders all those hits while he's at church? I'm hoping something like that happens this week. GW goes to church to pray for peace, and while he's there a bunch of special-ops guys whack Saddam, Kim 'Mr. Silly Head' Jong-Il, some higher-ups in the Saudi royal family, Fidel, you get the idea. Whoever's asking for it. I want it on video though just like the movie so I can watch it over and over again."
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "In some ways, the Red Sox front office in 2003 is like the John F. Kennedy White House. JFK was America's youngest president and relied on old sages like Dean Acheson, George Kennan, and Robert Lovett. But his closest confidants were young Ivy Leaguers McGeorge Bundy, Dick Goodwin, and his brother, Robert Kennedy. In Epstein's administration, Bill Lajoie, Lee Thomas, Mike Port, and Lou Gorman would represent Acheson & Co. Epstein's young turks are Josh Byrnes, Craig Shipley, and Ben Cherington. And the Stat Guru? According to historian David Halberstam, who wrote 'The Best and the Brightest,' Robert McNamara would have to be Bill James. McNamara was very statistical. His power came from his knowledge of numbers.'":- Dan Shaughnessy, The Boston Globe.
WE'RE GONNA WIN, TWINKIES!: The starting lineup for my 2003 Fantasy Baseball Team, The Twinkie Defense, is as follows:
C: Jason Kendall, Pittsburgh Pirates
1B: Erubial Durazo, Oakland Athletics
2B: Craig Biggio, Houston Astros
SS: David Eckstein, Anaheim Angels
3B: Troy Glaus, Anaheim Angels
LF: Adam Dunn, Cincinnati Reds
CF: Ken Griffey, Jr., Cincinnati Reds
RF: Kevin Millar, Boston Red Sox
Rotation: Barry Zito (Oakland Athletics), Jarrod Washburn (Anaheim Angels), Brad Radke (Minnesota Twins), Jason Jennings (Colorado Rockies), Casey Fossum (Boston Red Sox)
Bullpen: Robb Nen (San Francisco Giants), Matt Mantei (Arizona Diamondbacks), Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez (Anaheim Angels), Joe Mays (Minnesota Twins), Kyle Lohse (Minnesota Twins), Chad Fox (Boston Red Sox), Jon Garland (Chicago White Sox).
Utilities/Bench: Jack Cust (Baltimore Orioles), Hank Blalock (Texas Rangers), Jeremy Giambi (Boston Red Sox), Mike Cuddyer (Minnesota Twins), and last but not least, Your Olympic Hero, Doug Mientkiewicz of the Minnesota Twins.
My draft rules were, as usual, no Yankees, no Braves, and no one who I had last year. Wish me luck, ladies and gentlemen, as the Twinkie Defense begins.
GETTING CARDED: According to the New York hipster/blogger bible, Gawker.com, the cool thing now is to hand out "blog cards"- business cards with information on them about your blog. Now I'm the first to admit I'm not normally on top of all these trends- but I can tell you that I had blog cards made a full SIX MONTHS before Gawker officially declared it cool. Gigglechick can even vouch for me.
TIME FOR A SITDOWN: James Gandolfini is threatening to give up his role as Tony Soprano in a dispute with HBO over his contract. The two sides have sued each other, and the network has even announced that production on season 5 will be delayed until the dispute is resolved.
It's time to get into gear, Mayor Bloomberg. True, he may be a cigarette-banning, subway-fare-raising buffoon most of the time, but in the last week alone Bloomberg's mediation efforts have solved both the Broadway musicians' strike, and the 18-month Yankees-Cablevision war. Now even though Mayor Mike admitted during his 2001 run that he had never seen "The Sopranos" (nor "Seinfeld" or "Sex and the City"), he may be the only one who can get Gandolfini back on the show.
Now if he could just do something about that little Tony-Carmella dispute...
ECKSTEIN AWARD NOMINEE: Kevin Mench, the starting left fielder for the Texas Rangers. He may be a mensch, but he's not a Jew.
FILM CRITIC QUOTE OF THE DAY: "The Africans around their farm are mostly a kindly, grinning bunch- particularly cook, handyman and surrogate uncle Owuor, whose saintliness makes Hoke in 'Driving Miss Daisy' seem like Amiri Baraka." -Matt Zoller Seitz, reviewing the movie "Nowhere in Africa" in New York Press.
PRANK OF THE YEAR: The editors of a campus humor magazine at Tennessee's Vanderbilt University this week pulled off the practical joke of a lifetime: they produced a fake press run of the student newspaper, the Vanderbilt Hustler, in which they falsely reported the death of university Chancellor Gordon Gee. Tears were shed, moments of silence were observed, and plans were even made for a memorial service before the ruse was revealed and Gordon Gee (not to be confused with G .Gordon Liddy) turned out to be alive and well. To his credit, Gee was a good sport about the prank, even agreeing to be photographed with the "GEE DEAD" broadsheet.
Imagine the same prank pulled on Brandeis' Jehuda Reinharz, or (God forbid) BU's John Silber. College presidents as a rule, from what I've seen, are corrupt, spineless, or both, but it's good to see that Mr. Gee is the exception. And that he's alive.
Meanwhile, the funniest part of the story isn't even part of the joke: Vandy's student newspaper is "The Hustler." Do all of their staffers have "Editor of Hustler" on their resumes?
THE GAMBLE: The Twins yesterday signed pitcher Kenny Rogers, late of the Rangers, Yankees, A's, and Mets, to a one-year contract worth $2 million. The acquisition, made necessary by the recent injury to star pitcher Eric Milton, is the first time the Twins have signed a veteran free-agent starting pitcher of whom I've heard in probably a decade.
THE "RUSH TO WAR" THAT SHOULD'VE BEEN: As the Bush Administration's "headlong rush to war" enters its 14th month, it's about time we pondered what, exactly, has been served by keeping the Iraq crisis at a virtual standstill for the last half-year.
It's become very clear now, what with the absurd vote-scrounging, stifling bureaucracy, and unlimited "waived deadlines," that taking the case for war to the United Nations last September was a huge, huge mistake. Hindsight being 20/20, what should have instead happened is this: A coalition of the US, Britain, Spain, and whoever else was interested should have gotten their act together, bypassed the UN, and invaded Iraq in October or November of last year. Just as President Clinton did in the Kosovo crisis, and each of the three times that he bombed Iraq. That way, Saddam would've been either captured or dead by Christmas, and we all could've gotten on with our lives months ago.
Instead, the developments in the US-Iraq crisis in recent months have been almost universally negative: The already weak economy has sunken even further into the toilet due to ever-present "war fears." The long-term credibility of the United Nations, regardless of the outcome of the crisis, is in grave doubt. Saddam has been given six more months to prepare for an invasion (and six more months of advancement in his weapons programs), and Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups have had six more months to plot retaliatory attacks. And perhaps most notably of all, the endless delay has caused opposition to solidify, and has given the previously moribund anti-war movement time to become a powerful, well-organized force. As a result of all of these factors divisions, both within America and worldwide, have widened considerably in the six months. And even if the war in Iraq starts next week and goes off without a hitch, there remains a very strong possibility that we'll all be the worse in the end for the process- and it could even cost Dubya his presidency.
Had Bush gone to war last October, he would have been accused (with some degree of truth) of warmongering, of unilateralism, of ignoring world opinion, of stifling internal dissent, and (of course) of rushing to war. And guess what- six months later, he's still being accused of all those things, even though each of them is less true now than it would've been then. The French would've complained, but they would have gotten over it eventually. Considering the mess that has followed, launching a war last fall would've outweighed all of those negatives. Instead, we've gotten a "rush to war" that has in fact been the longest period of national discussion prior to a foreign military conflict in American history.
Of course, there are quite a few "shouldas," "couldas," and "wouldas" in the last couple of decades of US-Iraq relations. Yes, we now know that going to Baghdad at the end of the first Gulf War would've saved us the entire last year of agitation. Saddam's 1993 assassination attempt on a former president of the United States, if you ask me, should've been cause for regime change right then and there. And, as I've learned from Kenneth Pollack's book "The Threatening Storm" (which I'm trying, in vain, to finish before the war starts), there were many within the foreign policy apparatus of the Clinton Administration (including, of all people, Al Gore) who actively favored regime change as the best solution to the Iraq problem, but didn't dare pursue it since they knew it lacked the will of the American public- a will that would suddenly materialize, as we now know, on September 11.
Regardless of how one feels about the Iraq situation (and by now, I'm sure, everybody's got an opinion), there's little denying that the past six months of stalemate have been an unmitigated disaster. There's still a chance that a war in Iraq could accomplish all of its objectives: the elimination of the threat of Saddam's weapons, the establishment of democracy in that country, and later elsewhere in the Middle East, and perhaps most importantly, an actual bright future for the Iraqi people. But the course taken by the Bush Administration since last fall has not only put the entire world at a standstill, but has sacrificed American credibility both militarily and diplomatically.
To paraphrase the "Clerks" character Randall, "it's time to shit or get off the pot, Mr. President."
THEY WILL NEVER TAKE OUR FREEDOM (FRIES): I enjoy making fun of the French just as much as the next guy, make no mistake. But I draw the line at this hubristic nonsense that demands French Fries be renamed "Freedom Fries." At first it was just some silly diner owner in North Carolina, but now no less an authority than the US House of Representatives has signed on.
Now I'm putting aside the absurdity of assigning villainy to French Fries, which are not, nor have ever been, French. What bothers me most about the rise of Freedom Fries is that it's just a right-wing version of the same linguistic buggery that's usually known as "political correctness." Just like kooky academic leftists who try to make it a thought crime to refer to a woman as a "woman," "Freedom Fries" is just another attempt to hijack everyday language in the service of a narrow political agenda.
So in the tradition of anti-PC zealotry worldwide, I offer my final analysis: "Freedom Fries: They're Retarded."
THE TANGLED MAUREEN: I've never kept much of a secret of my distaste for New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd. It's not so much her politics as her annoying and very tiresome writing style, with her stream-of-consciousness pontificating, halfheartedly shallow Bush/movie analogies, and lack of any original reporting whatsoever.
But perhaps the most annoying component of Dowd's bag of tricks is the shear unimaginitiveness of her nicknames, a weakness unseen since the days of the championship-era Minnesota Twins. Just as Kent Hrbek was "Herbie," Rick Aguilera "Aggie," and Steve Lombardozzi "Lombo," Dowd has shown a complete lack of creativity in her mocking of the Bush Administration characters- Donald Rumsfeld is "Rummy," John Ashcroft "Johnny," and Paul Wolfowitz, in today's column, was christened as "Wolfy." It's a good thing Henry Kissinger resigned from his post on the 9/11 investigation panel, before Dowd had the chance to mockingly dismiss him as "Kissy." (Oh wait- she did mockingly dismiss him as "Kissy.")
Dowd could learn a thing or two about nicknaming her conservative political enemies from the anonymous proprietor of the anti-Andrew Sullivan blog SullyWatch. Not only does this blogger link at least once a day to Sullivan's infamous barebacking ad, but he has a whole array of humorous nicknames for him: The Blog Queen, Captain Bareback, Smalltown Boy, The Sage of South Goodstone, Randy Andy, etc. Even as a Sullivan fan, I laugh every time.
If the American political left's been missing anything lately, it's humor- and Maureen Dowd, I'm looking chiefly in your direction.
DE-GEEKIFICATION, CONTD.: Adding strength to my theory that I'm not nearly as much of a geek as I always thought, I just saw the list of the Science Fiction Book Club's 50 Most Significant Science-Fiction and Fantasy Books, and of the 50, I have read... one and a half. I read all of "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" in high school, and a little bit of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's/Philospher's Stone" a couple years ago.
But then again, I have seen the movie versions of several books on the list ("Lord of the Rings," "Dune," "Harry Potter," "Interview With the Vampire," "Slaughterhouse Five," and "Starship Troopers"), and of the 100 films on the AFI's list of "100 Years, 100 Movies," I have up 'til now seen 68. So I may be a film geek, music geek, Twins geek, and democracy geek, but at least I'm not one of those sci-fi geeks.
BIN LADEN AND BILL GATES: The New York Times Magazine this week profiles Fadi, a Jordanian teenager who's facing two possible futures between which he has yet to decide: join the anti-Western jihad, or indulge his love for computers by coming to America and trying to get a job with Microsoft.
"Ha!," I can already hear the entire Times readership cackling collectively, "Jihad and Microsoft- what's the difference?"
WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, BLAME THE JEWS: It's all about oil! No, no, it's about avenging Bush's father! Even though he wasn't actually killed! Still not convinced? Of course! It's because those Jewish-named power brokers in the Bush Administration (the ones who all work a level or more below that noted Mishbucha of Cheney, Powell, Rice, and Rumsfeld) are more loyal to Israel than America! That's the real reason we're going to war in Iraq.
Now we've even got a Democratic congressman parroting this line. James P. Moran of Virginia, apparently unaware of polls that show the majority of American Jews are liberals who oppose both Bush and the war, said earlier this week that "if it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq we would not be doing this," and that "the leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going and I think they should." Now Moran knows how Trent Lott feels- at least, he should, if the Democratic Congressional leadership has any backbone whatsoever. But then, backbone has hardly been the Dems' strong suit in the post-Clinton era.
Doesn't anybody remember that Bush I's administration, specifically his foreign policy team, was constantly accused by the press and others of anti-Semitism (over the Israel loan guarentees dispute and other instances)? And now Bush II's team, with many of the same people, is somehow acting on behalf of the International Jewish Conspiracy? How does that work?
SADDEST SPORTS ILLUSTRATED COVER EVER:
This week's issue. That's gonna be a hard, hard, story to read...
BAD SPORTS PREDICTIONS DEPT.:
Peter King, SI.com, Monday: "Now, help me understand something. UConn, the team with the longest winning streak in women's college basketball history, goes 16-0 in the conference... How on God's green earth is this 'anyone's' tournament, particularly in a woeful women's basketball conference such as the Big East?"
SI.com headline, Tuesday: "Villanova Ends UConn's 70-Game Winning Streak, Wins Big East Tournament."
King's entire column is about football, except for the one women's basketball paragraph. Bet he never goes out on that limb again.
PEARL RECRIMINATIONS: Judith Weiss has a post over at KesherTalk that's gotten quite a bit of attention in the Blogosphere in the last couple of days, in which she criticizes Mariane Pearl, the widow of murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, for her decision to raise the couple's infant son, Adam, as a Buddhist. Mariane is herself a French-born convert from Christianity to Buddhism, and Weiss feels that by declining to raise her son in the faith of his late father, Mariane Pearl is not only "betraying" her husband, but is even guilty of "an act of ethnic cleansing."
Now KesherTalk is a great blog, and I certainly have the utmost respect for Judith Weiss as a writer. But in this instance she's way, way out of line. Yes, Daniel Pearl died as a hero in the service of his religion, his country, and his profession, and it's undoubtedly a tragedy that he never lived to see the birth of his son. But how is Pearl's heroism and martyrdom in any way damaged by his widow's very personal decision to raise her infant son the way she personally sees fit (in her own religion, as opposed to her husband's)? And even moreso, how is that anyone's business other than her own? For Weiss to somehow doubt Mariane Pearl's love of her husband for this reason, when I would imagine she has never met either of them, is nothing short of shameful.
Is Weiss suggesting that it is Mariane Pearl's obligation to embrace (if not convert to) a religion that is not her own, and has never been her own? Is it really fair for her to compare the French-born Mariane, who is an American citizen, to Vichy-era French neighbors who stood by and watched as Jews were shipped off to Auschwitz? And how can Mariane's personal religious beliefs even be considered in the same universe as the genocidal practice known as "ethnic cleansing"?
I am a Jew, I come from a family of Jews, and I fully expect to one day raise Jewish children. But to question the morality of others based on their personal familial and religious decisions is not only un-Jewish, but un-American. Weiss' argument is in line with the worst kind of Jewish elitism, the condescension towards gentiles to which I have long been exposed in various Jewish communities in which I have lived. It's the attitude that caused friends of mine in college to refuse to speak to another friend who had taken on a non-Jewish girlfriend. The attitude that if the son of a Jewish father must be raised as a gentile, then he might as well not even be alive.
Weiss seems to feel so strongly about her argument because Mariane Pearl "reminds" her of various people from her past- an in-law, a friend of her ex-boyfriend, and those who practice "the shiny, well-scrubbed Buddhism of lean expat Europeans with Lonely Planet guides in their backpacks." But those others (such as the guy with an Israel-less world map on his wall) clearly were anti-Semitic- is Weiss actually suggesting that this makes Mariane a Jew-hater? And since, once again, Judith Weiss does not know Mariane Pearl, I consider it an enormous and very unfair leap to accuse her of such horrible things, when all she wishes to do is raise her young son, by herself, after her husband was viciously murdered by evil terrorists in Pakistan. I believe the only right thing is to allow her to grieve, and live her life, in the way in which she sees fit. And if this woman, who has never been a Jew, chooses to not raise her son as a Jew, then so be it.
LET'S PICK UP STYX: In case you were wondering, the Zogby/Shaw/DeYoung Poll ("Which Styx Song Should Be the Unofficial Theme of the New Gulf War?") is currently locked in a five-way tie, among "Mr. Roboto," "Come Sail Away," '91 winner "Show Me the Way," "The Best of Times," and "Fooling Yourself (the Angry Young Man)." Vote now- and break the deadlock!
9/11 + 18: Today is the 18-month anniversary of September 11. Say Kaddish.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "March in Minnesota: according to the weatherman on TV right now, the low tonight will be 5 below. The high Friday will be 55 above. We've all dated someone like that." -a true Minnesotan, James Lileks.
THE BILL AND BOB SHOW: Tonight's debut of the Bill Clinton/Bob Dole point-counterpoint segment was enough to get me to watch "60 Minutes" all the way through for the first time in three or four years- and for the first time in recent memory, an actual real-life event was less inspired than its own "Saturday Night Live" parody. While the real-life Clinton-Dole face-off lasted three or four minutes and was lacking in anything important or memorable, the SNL version featured a cameo by Dan Aykroyd as Dole, brought to New York and the show just to deliver the utterly perfect line, "Bill, you ignorant slut."
SNL was lackluster otherwise, except for a touching tribute to Mr. Rogers in which Horatio Sanz sang "You Are Special," clad in a Rogers-like sweater, complete with the "Land of Make-Believe" trolley in the background.
TWO DOLLARS!: Better off dead than accept a fare hike? The Metropolitan Tranportation Authority (MTA) of New York has approved an increase of 50 cents, to $2 per subway or bus ride. Makes me glad I live in New Jersey, and walk to work. Just 'cause Bloomberg doesn't know how to balance the budget.
In the meantime- fight the fare increase!
DR. RUTH IS HARDCORE: According to an interview by journalist E.B. Solomont in this month's issue of The Blueprint, the noted sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer has a secret past that nobody knew about. The diminuitive sex guru, at the age of 16, fought along with the Haganah, the defense force led by Yitzhak Rabin that fought for Israel's independence during World War II. Now 75, Dr. Ruth has remained an ardent Zionist, keeping her office decorated with pictures of Israel.
With our nation about to go to war, and Israel facing the renewed threat from terrorists in Haifa and elsewhere, let us all look for inspiration in an unlikely place: Dr. Ruth Westheimer, multi-generational Jewish badass.
ANOTHER ANDREW SULLIVAN SCANDAL: In the latest in a series of scandals to effect major college basketball programs in recent months, 12 players at Villanova have been suspended for illegally using a university telephone code to make personal calls. Among those suspended was senior forward Andrew Sullivan who, while presumably not gay, or HIV-positive, or conservative, is from England.
Better that than barebacking, I suppose...
PAYOLA: JR Taylor, in this week's New York Press, lets us know about NYRock.com, a new website with a revolutionary (and very shady) business model: any band wishing to be written about on the site's "Street Beat" section is required to remit a payment of $20. If they want their photo published, it's another $10.
I find it sort of sad that a site wishing to gain attention, especially from the notoriously sellout-conscious New York hipster community, would sacrifice their integrity right off the bat in this way. Even sadder? The site is currently graced with a review of the latest album by seminal '80s rockers Hall & Oates. Yes, Darryl and John have apparently been reduced to paying $30 for a review from a fly-by-night website. "Out of Touch," indeed.
REAL WORLD: LAS VEGAS QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "Sarah's male friend came over to stand up for her, and Alton picked a fight with his equally hairless foe in a manner that seemed to be a metaphor for Bush's approach on Iraq: Alton kept saying how he didn't want to fight, but he would if he had to. I was waiting for Alton to call Sarah an evildoer who spills drinks on her own people." -Josh Wolk, from the "Real World Watch" column, in Entertainment Weekly.
PERSIAN GOLF WAR: Headline from Sports Illustrated's website: "Amid Threat of War, Qatar Masters Hit With Mass WD's." True, it's only referring to a golf tournament, and in this case "WDs" means "withdrawals" from the tournament. But is it a good idea to use the verb "hit with," not to mention "Mass WDs," at a time when a war is about to be fought in that part of the world over something else called "WMDs," in which the "M" also stands for "Mass"? Bad idea, SI, bad idea.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "[In real life], Bill the Butcher had about as much to do with the 1864 Draft Riots as Bob the Builder" -William Bryk, debunking the plot of "Gangs of New York," in New York Press.
|You are 21% geek||OK, so maybe you ain't a geek. You do, at least, show a bit of interest in the world around you. Either that, or you have enough of a sense of humor to pick some of the sillier answers on the test. Regardless, you're probably a pretty nifty, well-rounded person who gets along fine with people and can chat with just about anyone without fear of looking stupid or foolish or overly concerned with minutiae. God, I hate you.|
Best question: "Have you ever bought an academic text just for fun?"
ROLLIN'... ROLLIN'... ROLLIN'...: After two days of Blogger template tomfoolery, my new, improved, expanded, and alphabetized blogroll is finally on the site- down and to your left. Enjoy!
UPDATE: Just kidding! No it's not! The drama continues...
"an important message to my fellow foreign bloggers:
please do publicise on your blogs that i was hired to manage the main website of the only true russian opposition party (Communists) and since my last project is a tabloid, containing, among others silly sex-related content and many russian journalists really hate me, they greeted my hiring with a series of derogatory articles, some of which were really funny as hell. here are the headlines: Communist Party Website Will Feature Eaten Penises, All Users Should Enroll in Communist Party (this one is true, actually =)"
QUOTE OF THE DAY: James Lileks, making fun of George Clooney's anti-Bush condescension: "It’s like Jimmy Stewart in 1941 giggling over Roosevelt’s speech. 'Listen to his language - ‘infamy!’ What’s wrong with that cripple? Couldn’t he say it was payback for the oil embargo?'"
ANTI-FRENCH POST OF THE DAY: Jordan Rockwell, with yet another reason to hate the French (one that could've been cribbed from my senior thesis): they invented auteur theory! So every arrogant, self-indulgent film that's been released anywhere in the world since the late '60s is their fault too!
24 EXPLODES: It must be said: the writers and producers of "24" have got balls of steel. In an age when movies are routinely pushed back months or years because their content might remind people a little too much of what's going on in the real world, the "24" team decided to make the centerpiece of its second season a plot by Middle Eastern terrorists to detonate a nuclear bomb in a major US city. And as the season has progressed, more and more details have been added to edge the story even closer to home:(Spoiler alert): A young, white, upper class American character, Walker-Lindh-like, was recruited to the terrorist cause. The terrorists may be supported by (unnamed) Middle Eastern governments. The agents raid a mosque in order to arrest a suspected terrorist. A plane is hijacked, and then it turns out the plot is to explode the nuke on a plane over the city. Then on tonight's episode the nuclear bomb actually exploded, in the California desert.
The "24" producers aren't simply trying to cash in on current anxiety about "the situation," nor are they making feeble, half-hearted attempts to insert terrorism into their plots in order to remain relevant, like "The West Wing" has been doing for the last two years. They're telling a tense, action-packed story, and doing so in a revolutionary manner. And while there may be logical and logistical errors all over the place, we somehow don't notice them while we're watching- and that's a mark of great storytelling.
"24" made its debut mere weeks after 9/11, and in its second season, rather than shy away from real-world issues, the show has confronted them head-on- always knowing, of course, that all it takes is one more real-life terrorist attack, and their show won't be broadcast again for a long, long time.
Despite its resemblance in more than one way to the abysmal Michael Bay film "Armageddon," tonight's "24" was full of thrills and chills- the biggest chill coming when the actual bomb exploded- and then another one, two minutes later, when the teaser for the 10:00 news told of the latest spy-plane skirmish in the very-nuclear-capable North Korea. They had to have seen that one coming...
PORNO JIHAD: As pointed out by John Paul Pagano and numerous others, captured Al-Qaeda terror mastermind Khalid Sheikh Muhammad appears to be the long lost twin brother of porn legend Ron Jeremy. It is my hope that, once Khalid gets out of the torture chamber or wherever he is, that he finds out about the resemblance- it'll just add insult to injury once he discovers that he looks so much like one of America's foremost infidels. And a Jewish one, at that.
And even worse, the release of Muhammad's photograph led to an article in the New York Post this morning about, yes, waxing for men. The piece even quotes a doctor as saying that "many people think that only homosexuals get their hair removed." Even though just two weeks ago we were told that, due to "Joe Millionaire," "exposed chest hair is in," all of a sudden hairy-chested men such as myself are confronted with a stark choice: wax (and risk looking gay) or don't (and risk looking like a terrorist. Or Joe Millionaire. Or Ron Jeremy.)
DEEP 'SIX': I've now watched the season premiere of "Six Feet Under" twice, and I honestly couldn't tell you exactly what the hell happened. But then, maybe that's the point. (Once again, spoilers starting now:)
For "Six Feet Under" to kill off its protagonist, Nate Fisher, would've taken major cajones (its creator's name, after all, is Alan Ball), and since the show has made use of apparition characters since its first episode, such a decision seemed not quite so far-fetched. Kill Nate off they did, only to bring him back after 15 minutes, after a sequence so bizarrely profound that it somehow didn't come across as a copout.
That opening sequence will one day to be remembered in HBO lore along with Ralphie's Severed Head, The "Oz" blowjob bite, and the restaurant curse-a-thon that closed the most recent season of "Curb Your Enthusiasm." We see Nate on the operating table (the conclusion of last season's brain surgery), then he drifts through various possible futures for himself, whether dead, alive and brain-damaged, alive and married to Brenda, or alive and married to Lisa. The last of those turned out to be true (at least as far as we know), though Nate experiences deja vu from the opening scene throughout the rest of the episode, leading us to question is-he-alive-after-all?
I could be nice and compare the episode's opening to "Mulholland Drive," or I could be nasty and liken it to "Vanilla Sky." But I liked it, so I suppose the former is more apropos. It did set up all sorts of possibilities for the new season, which I will be eagerly awaiting.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "So basically, there's more chance of Norah Jones being a one-hit wonder than there is of the Twins being a one-hit wonder." -Jayson Stark, on ESPN.com. Actually, I think they both have staying power- and I'd like to personally invite Norah to sing the National Anthem at the Metrodome for Game 3 of the 2003 World Series.
REAL BIG PHISH: On Friday night I went to see Phish at Nassau Coliseum on Long Island, my first time seeing the vaunted jam band since the famed Big Cypress new years' festival in 2000. While I am certainly an unlikely member of Phish Nation (I've never been to more than one Phish show in the same week, I own next to no tie-dyed clothing, and I shaved that morning), I did have a good time at the show; most notably, the band played "Destiny Unbound," a song they hadn't played live since 1991 (Bush is president, we've going to war with Iraq, Phish is playing "Destiny Unbound," etc. etc.). For those of you who care about such things, here is the setlist. Though I'm guessing those of you who really care and have already seen (and memorized) all of the recent setlists.
And in even more exciting concert news- I went out Saturday morning on two hours' sleep and got four tickets for Bruce Springsteen at Giants Stadium on July 15. I've been sick ever since after waiting outside for two and a half hours, but whatever. It was worth it for my first-ever Bruce show.
DA DEISBLOGS: Two of my former fellow Justice columnists, Seth D. Michaels and Lex Friedman, are back with blogs of their own- and both kept the names of their old Justice columns. Seth's got The Seth Bulletin; Lex The Lex Files.
I'LL STAND UP. YOU'LL STAND UP. IT'LL BE ANARCHY: Anyone who has followed the recent anti-war protests (and the anti-globalization protests before that) knows that while a majority of the protestors are peaceful, well-intentioned, and generally harmless, there's also an ever-present element of radicals who are there to stir shit up and break shit down. These people are known, almost universally, as wearing bandanas over the lower half of their face- a sort of universal uniform that says "anarchist."
Last week's Village Voice, predictably, covered "police abuses" at the New York protest on February 15, and writer Alisa Solomon (known for her usual valentines to Hamas and other suicide-bomb "activists") documents the various bad acts by the cops and takes just about every protestor at their word. So far so good, but most eggregious is this, the testimony of a guy who was arrested by "counterterrorist intelligence":
Josh Roberts, 23, a carpenter from Fitchburg, Massachusetts, attending his first rally, pulled a bandana out of his pocket when the wind off the East River got to be too much, and wrapped it over the lower half of his face. His friend did the same with a tan handkerchief...
THE KKK TOOK MY GOLF BALL AWAY: The annual Masters golf tournament, scheduled for next month, was already expected to be a circus due the long-simmering controversy over whether or not women can be admitted to the Augusta National golf club. But now the Masters wack factor is heading off the charts, because none other than the Ku Klux Klan has announced that they will demonstate during Masters weekend.
It's certainly bad news for Augusta chairman Hootie Johnson that, on the eve of the Masters media blitz, he has to deal with the PR nightmare of the KKK being on his side. I feel that the most responsible way for Augusta, and the media, to handle the Klan's presence is just to ignore it. The Klan hasn't had a great deal of national influence for about two decades, and as journalist Christopher Caldwell has pointed out, the average Klan rally in recent years has generally pit about six Klansmen against about 500 counter-demonstrators. For the media to give the KKK's presence any attention whatsoever would be to give them the legitimacy that they crave and don't deserve- and seemingly put them on the same level as Martha Burk's feminist protestors, or Hootie Johnson himself.
ANOTHER REASON TO NEVER SUPPORT PETA: It was annoying enough when all they did was throw paint on celebrities' fur coats. But now People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are introducing a project that's not "ethical" by any stretch of the imagination: a poster exhibit/propaganda exercise that draws moral equivilence between modern-day meat-eating and the slaughter of the Six Million- called, that's right, "Holocaust on Your Plate."
According to The Forward, the exhibit "pairs images of soon-to-be slaughtered animals with photographs of starved, naked and slaughtered concentration camp victims." Now, I'm not saying that animal rights isn't a legitimate cause that serious people can get behind- but this new Holocaust project looks like an attempt by PETA to scare away any sane person who's ever even considered giving them their support. I don't know what these lunatics are thinking, but they should know by now that invoking the Holocaust in the service of a petty political cause is never defensible, much less effective.
In response, the kick-ass blogger Meryl Yourish has a better idea: Establishing March 15 as International Eat An Animal For PETA Day. Bill Cimino suggests a beef roast/pork chop combo (Cowporkage), in lieu of Turducken; I'll likely be feastin' on my usual chicken-and-rice combo.
FAMILY STYLE: My sister Amy, currently studying (yes, studying) abroad in Amsterdam, has an op-ed about the war in the GW student newspaper. Check it out!
MOVIE DIRECTOR QUOTE OF THE DAY: "If you see that movie, you're going to say, wow, let me be a schizophrenic. I've got this really beautiful chick who I have no trouble sustaining this relationship with, I have fun with Ed Harris when I'm bored, I win the Nobel Prize, then I have a movie made about my life starring Russell Crowe, and then we win Oscars. So let me be a schizophrenic." Director David Cronenberg, deservedly bashing "A Beautiful Mind," in The Village Voice.
I MARRIED THE SEXIEST WOMAN ALIVE- WHAT WAS I THINKING?: Hockey player Sergei Federov has admitted that he briefly married tennis megababe Anna Kournikova two years ago. Admitted?
SHE'S THE NEWEST DALLAS COWBOY: No, I'm not talking about any cheerleader (though perhaps I should be). I rather refer to the first, and probably the most unlikely, NFL acquisition of the year.
In 1995 then-New England coach Bill Parcells fought a titanic struggle with management (in the person of owner Robert Kraft) over who to draft in the first round of the NFL Draft. Kraft wanted Ohio State receiver Terry Glenn, Parcells wanted another player. Kraft won and Glenn was a Patriot, one who Parcells once derided as "she" during a press conference, and the two continually butted heads before Parcells left the team after Super Bowl XXXI.
Six years passed, Glenn wore out his welcome with the Pats, didn't get a Super Bowl ring after being suspended, and generally failed last year in a comeback attempt with the Green Bay Packers. Parcells' recent travels have been well-documented, but long story short, he's now coach of the Cowboys. And today, he traded for Glenn, giving up an undiscolosed draft pick.
Parcells and Glenn are said to have patched up their relationship, but it's still hard to fathom the two on the same sideline again. But then, Glenn's quite a fit for the team- a many-times-suspended, drug-addled malcontent playing the position wide receiver for the Cowboys- exactly what's been missing in Dallas since Michael Irvin retired. The Cowboys could replicate Troy Aikman by signing a concussion-prone quarterback (many, I would imagine, are available), but I think it's fair to say that recently released all-time rushing leader Emmitt Smith will never be replaced.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "And what's with [Michael Jackson's] gay-porn director best friend? (You do the math. No, I'm kidding. I'm also friends with gay-porn directors and I'm not gay.)" -Gossip columnist Michael Musto, who may in fact be the gayest man in New York City, in the Village Voice.