FUNNY HEADLINE JUXTAPOSITION WATCH: Side-by-side at my news stand this morning:
Village Voice: "Pataki's Dark Magic: How the Governor Made the State's Fiscal Crisis Worse"
New York Post: "At Last a Leader With Guts: Gov Takes on Taxing Pols."
One of 'em's gotta be right...
WHERE'S THE EXCITEMENT?:
Are people going to this? I've noticed very little buzz in the Blogosphere, and less than 10 people have RSVP'd. I plan to be there regardless; the last one was damn fun, and Siberia was a great location choice.
SO MUCH FOR THE 'MINNY' REVERSE CURSE: The Quickie yesterday referred to "Minny"'s two home playoff games last night; both the Wild and Timberwolves lost (though the Twins won).
Headline in the Quickie today: "RETIRE THESE CONVERSATION TOPICS:
1 "Big Night in Minnesota": 2-for-2 on playoff losses. (Emphasis mine).
WORLD-WIDE WRONG: Norman Mailer, in a nonsensical rant in which he claims the US went to war in Iraq because white people are now not as good at sports as black people, lists as remaining bastions of white sports hegemony "ice-hockey, skiing, soccer, golf, (with the notable exception of the Tiger) as well as lacrosse, swimming, and the World-Wide Wrestling Federation."
Things wrong with that statement:
1. The Secretary of State, National Security Advisor, and thousands of the soldiers who courageously and successfully fought the war in Iraq were themselves black.
2. The "World-Wide Wrestling Federation" is now of course known as World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE); "WWWF" was the name it used two names ago; the second "W" was dropped by the federation around 1970, when Mailer was still wandering around the Village Voice offices in an acid-induced stupor. Doesn't the London Times have fact-checkers for this sort of thing?
3. The most successful wrestling personality to emerge in the past five years, The Rock, is in fact half-black and half-Samoan.
4. As anyone who watched the Wild-Avalanche series knows, two of the game-winning goals for Minnesota were scored by Richard Park, who is Asian-American. And Paul Kariya, who led the Mighty Ducks to a first-round sweep over the Red Wings, is a descendent of Japanese-Canadian immigrants. So hockey's far from an all-white bastion either. Then again, Canada didn't join the war.
5. The most popular golfer in American history is Tiger Woods; the most popular soccer player in American history is Pele, a dark-skinned Brazilian immigrant.
6. So apparently, Mailer's argument has been reduced to "the war in Iraq happened because of the lack of opportunities for racial minorities in skiing, swimming, and lacrosse." But of course!
JUST JACK (AND ADAM): My review of "Anger Management" is right here.
THE VIKINGS' SHAME: In the past few years the Minnesota Vikings have made a few good draft picks (Duante Culpepper and Randy Moss), a few bad draft picks (Derrick Alexander, Duane Clemons, and Dwayne Rudd), and even a draft pick of a player who turned out to be nuts and never actually played for them (Demetrious Underwood). But throughout all those years, the Vikings never simply failed to make their pick, like they did on Saturday. In fact, neither has any other team.
Saturday's blunder, in which the Vikings tried and failed to trade down in the first round and ended up missing their turn (twice), was the latest shameful episode that's proven just what a second-class organization the Vikings have become under Red McCombs and Mike Tice. And you thought they wouldn't be able to top the drunken, Tailhook-like "snowmobile rally" in terms of sheer embarrassment this off-season.
The Vikings spent most of the '90s as Minnesota's premiere sports outfit, but now, with the Twins in the ALCS last year and the Wolves and Wild in the playoffs now, they're down to a distant fourth. Fifth, if you count Gopher hockey. Hell, the WNBA's Lynx are closing in too.
U-HAUL: U SUCK: I'll spare you all my complete U-HAUL horror story, because frankly, I'm afraid it'll be too familiar to most of you. Indeed, I've never known anyone who has used U-HAUL and not had a nightmarish experience. In a nutshell, among the complaints in my forthcoming letter to the CEO of U-HAUL are the following:
-A reservation, to U-HAUL, isn't like a reservation at a restaurant or anywhere else. It's more like a "suggestion."
-The company's customer-service representatives are almost universally idiots, whose job is to spend two minutes evading questions like Ari Fleischer, and then placing callers on hold indefinitely.
-After driving directions from downtown Newark to Hoboken were promised to me, the idiot behind the counter laughingly failed to deliver, and I was left to fly blind. Oh, and did I mention that I was given a 24" truck to drive around the narrow streets of Hoboken? When I ordered a 17-footer?
-After getting into a minor fender-bender, I was informed that U-HAUL has an official policy of purposedly keeping insurance information well-hidden within the truck, so that accident participants are unable to find it. Let me know, lawyers and lawyers-in-training: this can't be legal, can it?
Anyway, I'm all set in my new apartment and am very happy- and soon I will be blogging high-speed full-time. Can't f'n wait.
MUSIC CRITIC QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "Not that they need the encouragement, but there's at least one inane musical category the VH1 people have yet to count down: 'Most column inches of fawning press in proportion to actual number of records sold.' Unofficial standings show the Hives with a slight lead over Interpol and longtime chart presence the Roots. But watch out for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs." -Josh Tyrangiel, breaking down the music hype phenomenon, while reviewing the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' debut in Entertainment Weekly.
ESOTERIC WEBSITE OF THE DAY: InternalMemos.com. The name really says it all.
SEMIMASTERS: MCA's 20th Century Masters/The Millennium Collection was cool back around the millennium, back when everything had "millennium" on it, and they were releasing pretty good collections by true masters like The Who and The Velvet Underground. But lately they've really been scraping the bottom of the barrel of the MCA catalogue- reaching a nadir today when, during a visit to Tunes, I came across Twentieth Century Masters: Semisonic. Yes, St. Louis Park High School's own Semisonic, the most successful musical act to come out of my alma mater since Peter Himmelman, had a pretty major hit back in '98 with "Closing Time." But that was their one and only hit, and apparently every new beginning has indeed come from some other beginning's end, as the beginning of Semisonic's stardom has come to an end. And the end has too.
OSAMA'S BIN LOVIN': They say Osama Bin Laden's never in the news anymore, but he did make it into New York Press this week. That paper's dreadful new sex columnist "Dategirl," an Amy Sohn/Dan Savage wannabe who until now has spent most of her columns telling any heterosexual male who writes in that he's really gay, wrote her column last week on offbeat crushes readers have had on celebrities. Included is the following utterance by a friend of DateGirl, about Osama Bin Laden:
The thought of [Osama's] rough treatment in a cave while his seven wives looked on disdainfully gave me shower-nozzle masturbation material for weeks.
Yuk. I don't even want to ponder the issues a woman must have to make her be sexually attracted to Osama, though the column does mention this woman's mother had a crush on Moammar Qaddafi in the '80s. This, to me, is much more offensive than anything the Dixie Chicks, Sean Penn, or Susan Sarandon have ever said.
MOVE, BITCH!: I'm still in the midst of moving, so blogging will be light throughout the weekend. Check back Monday for my musings on why the Minnesota Vikings are run by imbeciles, why Bin Laden isn't sexy, and why U-HAUL is the worst corporation in America (if Enron and Microsoft had a child...)
And while the "Washington Tunes" poll ended in a three-way tie, I went with hometown advantage, and gave the nod to Hoboken's own Frank Sinatra.
CREED ISN'T GOOD: My latest New York Press Daily Billboard piece is up, and it's an expansion of my earlier post on the fans who are suing the dreadful band Creed. Also in the Press this week- an excellent smackdown of the Village Voice and their not-so-progressive policy of suing small newspapers all across the country that dare to call themselves the anything-"Voice." It's written by Managing Editor Alexander Zaitchick and he even gets some supportive quotes from Nat Hentoff, of all people.
It's nice to see the Press shitting once again on the sanctimonious Voice; isn't that what it's there for in the first place?
LEAVING SO SOON, BUD?: The good news: Bud Selig, this blog's public enemy #1, announced this week that he's stepping down from his job as the commissioner of baseball. The bad news: he's not giving up the job until December. Of 2006. You sure that's enough time, Bud? Then again, an almost-four-year grace period before retirement is nothing for the man who spent six years as "Acting Commissioner For Life."
Selig will depart the game upon conclusion of the labor agreement that was signed last summer, meaning two things: 1) If, as usually happens, the end of the agreement results in a work stoppage, it won't be Bud's problem, and 2) Last year's agreement called for a moratorium on contraction until after the 2006 season- meaning Bud will still be left with a two-month window in which to whack the Twins and/or Expos should he so choose.
Meanwhile Jayson Stark, in his column today, says that this year's All-Star Game is likely to be "more competitive" than in recent years- yea, maybe this year there will actually be a winner.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "The BBC criticizing our media for not being 'impartial' is like Divine calling RuPaul out for being 'too gay.'" -Emily Jones, today.
HELP ME HERE:
I will abide by the winner. This poll, by the way, is named after my favorite record store in New Jersey. Not that that's saying much...
AND ALSO: The results are in for the "Rush to Poll," and the winner with six votes of Best Catchphrase of the War is "Decapitation Strike," narrowly beating out "Shock and Awe" and "The French Suck." Makes sense; I guess "The French Suck" is more a universal catchphrase, in wartime AND peacetime.
MINNY WATCH: ESPN.com's Daily Quickie today completes a five-day week in which they erroneously referred to my home state as "Minny" every single day. Though it was a week in which the Wolves won two consecutive playoff games against the Lakers, and the Wild won its first-ever playoff series against Colorado. And two weeks ago, the Gophers won the national championship in hockey after getting the Minny Treatment from Page 2- apparently, we've got a reverse-curse on our hands. So I hearby drop my objection to "Minny"- but only for the Quickie.
(Yes, I know the Twins have lost 6 straight. But that's only 'cause the Quickie hasn't mentioned them!)
BEST RECENT WEB-SEARCHES-GONE-WRONG: All of these, somehow, led people here, and I'm purposely ignoring illicit searches for Jessica Lynch, Diana Taurasi, etc. Perverts.
10."Post op transsexual" (Google)
9. "Hoboken Manslaughter" (Ask Jeeves)
8. "Silver Radio Stand" (Yahoo- nope, I've never hosted a radio show, sorry).
7. "Power Silver" (Naver.com- that's more like it- even if it is in Korean).
6. "Rebecca Lobo + Steve Rushin" (Google- I come up first on this one- did no one else write about it?)
5. "Playoff Pictures on Allen Iverson" (Google- you mean his tattoos?)
4. "Baghdad Bob Avalanche Photo" (Google- the Avs had Baghdad Bob on the team? No wonder they lost to Minnesota!)
3. "Triumph Insult Dog War Protestors" (Google- they did a bit with Triumph taunting anti-war protesters? Cool!)
2. "No Nude Pornography" (Google; Huh? What's the point then?)
1. "Jehuda Reinharz scandal" (Google- Huh? Is the president of Brandeis in some kind of trouble I don't know about?)
UPDATE: One more good search today, from Yahoo: "Pictures of Tall WNBA Players With Short NBA Players." That one could keep a team of women's studies professors happy for a very long time.
BET NOW HE WISHES HE HAD DEFECTED: Funny-nose-glasses and all, former Iraqi foreign minister Tariq Aziz has been captured and is now in US custody.
DAMN: I was all set to post that last year's "7 Days of Passover, 7 Suicide Bombings" had given way to this year's "7 Days of Passover, 0 Suicide Bombings," and how great it was that things in Israel seem to finally be settling down when, of course, some vile Palestinian bomber had to ruin it. A suicide bombing in Kfar Saba (where I've been) this morning killed a security guard and wounded 13 others. Just when we thought progress was being made, with Yasser Arafat finally agreeing to abdicate power, now this happens.
It's up to you, Abu Mazen: reign those bastards in.
THEY FIGHT! THEY FIGHT! THEY FIGHT THEY FIGHT THEY FIGHT!: ESPN.com has a top ten list up today of the best baseball brawls of all time. The 1965 John Roseboro-Juan Marichal fight takes #1 and while it's certainly deserving, the list altogether omits my all-time favorite fight in non-wrestling sports history: August 4, 1993, when Robin Ventura butted heads with Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan.
In the bottom of the fifth inning of a game at Texas' old Arlington Stadium, then-White Sox third baseman Ventura was plunked with a 90-plus mile-per-hour fastball from baseball's all-time leader in both strikeouts and no-hitters, and decided to charge the mound- despite the fact that Ryan was then 46 years old and in his 25th major league season. It could've been really ugly, but as soon as Ventura reached the mound Ryan grabbed him in a headlock and proceded to give him a noogie; eventually, once both benches emptied, order was restored; it took nearly a decade and multiple postseason heroics for Ventura to finally live it down that he'd gotten his ass kicked by a 46-year-old man.
And I know it was in the minors, but ESPN also neglects to include the oft-repeated clip of former Red Sox farmhand Izzy Alcantara taking on all comers Terminator-like.
Goes to show that over at the New York Post, the only thing that trumps right-wing ideology is pure sexual libertinism. Though regardless of where you stand on the whole Dixie Chicks controversy, you've got to admit the above was a damn good idea.
My take: it's awful what's happened to them, since all they did (all one of them did) was criticize the president- it wasn't like they denounced the United States or something. Other people have done- and will continue to do- a lot worse. The comparisons to Jane Fonda are ludicrous, and I speak as someone who doesn't even really like their music. Ditto the "Bull Durham" Hall of Fame thing- how exactly does criticism of the president "put our troops in danger?"
Hopefully the EW cover will open some closed minds- but please, Robbins and Sarandon, do NOT respond by doing the same thing yourselves!
A WHOLE LOTT OF NONSENSE: Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum this week pulled a Trent Lott- although the outcome in this case is likely to be different because of the double standard in which stupid gay-related comments have a much different threshold than stupid, racially insensitive comments. The third-ranking Republican in the US Senate is on hot water over the remarks- and were it up to me, it'd be twice as hot.
Santorum, in an interview with an AP reporter on the subject of the case about to go before the Supreme Court that may strike down Texas' sodomy law, compared consensual homosexual sex between adults with incest, child molestation, beastiality, and a variety of other offenses- and also argued that the states should be allowed to forcibly prevent people from committing sodomy.
It's moments like this which make me reiterate my stance that no matter who much I flirt with neocon-ism on various issues, I will never, ever, EVER become a Republican. I can't in good conscience be on the same side as the pro-Confederate flag people, the pro-segregation people, the Christian Right people, and the gays-are-going-to-hell people. Many in the blogosphere have pointed out that while all kinds of Americans were pulled rightward by the War on Terror and the war in Iraq, stuff like Santorum-slamming-the-homos is liable to bring 'em all back.
I wondered all day how Fox News would manage to spin this, and in prime time I got my answer: Bill O'Reilly used his talking points memo and two interviews to trash the straw man known as "the witchhunters," who are supposedly more to blame for this mess than Santorum himself. And Sean Hannity (unchallenged, as usual, by Alan Colmes) used the bullshit, nonsensical argument that Santorum and every other Republican on Earth must forever be absolved from any controversial statement, just because Robert Byrd was in the Klan. Didn't Hannity learn the hard way when he used the same argument, unsuccessfully, as one of the world's last defenders of Trent Lott?
Andrew Sullivan, as he was with Lott, has been great on this issue- making the argument that not only were Santorum's comments offensive and bigoted- but they were unconservative. How can someone who claims to stand for "smaller government" advocate policing sexual activity inside people's homes?
KNIGHT OF THE CANNIBAL: Now that Death Row Records founder Suge Knight's days as a figure of consequence in the music industry are but a distant memory, he's needing to find different means (though not necessarily new ones, for him) of staying in the headlines.
In the sort of case that must give Bill O'Reilly wet dreams at night, Knight was recently sued in connection with the case of Antron Singleton, an aspiring rapper also known as "Big Lurch." Lurch stands accused of murdering- and then cannibalizing- a young woman by the name of Tynisha Ysais, and it's claimed in the lawsuit that Knight encouraged Singleton to engage in such behavior so that he may develop "street cred" and cultivate a "thuggish" reputation that would lead to success in the rap world. The plan backfired however, as Singleton is most likely headed to the slammer for the foreseeable future, and Knight now claims that "Big Lurch" was never signed to Death Row Records at all (Knight was subsequently dismissed from the lawsuit filed by Ysais' mother.)
Knight, who was released from prison last year, also surfaced recently as a suspect in the shooting of a member of Snoop Dogg's entourage, and announced that he's writing a tell-all autobiography. Interesting theory, that murder and cannibalism can HELP a rapper's career. After all, it didn't hurt 50 Cent that he was both shot and stabbed multiple times before he hit it big. But all Eminem has ever done is talk about controversial stuff and shared his violent fantasies, and he's certainly never eaten anyone- he only cannibalizes culture.
Speaking of Suge, my favorite question from Entertainment Weekly's recent "Great American Pop Culture Quiz":
Q: What do John Wayne and Suge Knight have in common?
A: They both have the given first name "Marion."
SYMPATHY FOR 'THE DEVIL'S': I just finished Julie Salamon's book "The Devil's Candy," the behind-the-scenes chroncile of Brian DePalma's disastrous 1991 movie version of Tom Wolfe's "Bonfire of the Vanities." It thought it was a generally well-written and well-told, I'd still put it a notch below my favorite showbiz books: Peter Biskind's "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls," Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller's "Live From New York," and the entire William Goldman canon (most notably "Adventures in the Screen Trade.")
Also, since Wolfe's 'Bonfire' is one of my favorite fiction books, every time Salamon quoted Wolfe's great prose it made me wish I were re-reading 'Bonfire' instead. For example, here's Wolfe (as quoted on p. 259 in the Salamon book) on the phenomenon of "social X-rays"- wannabe-society women who starve themselves down in order to fit in their little cocktail dresses:
You can see lamplight through their bones... while they're chattering about interiors and landscape gardening. [They're] women in their twenties or early thirties... the second, third, and fourth wives or live-in girlfriends of men over forty or fifty or sixty (or seventy), the sort of women men refer to, quite without thinking, as girls.
TOMEI NATION: My NYPress Billboard colleague Reihan Salam opines that actress Marisa Tomei is more attractive than ever- and therefore, she should be our next president. Salam confirms my long-held theory that beautiful women are the true Masters of the Universe- after all, the tyrants of the world are almost universally male- do you think they would gleefully defy a gorgeous female president the way they would Dubya? Regardless, there's no question Marisa is more deserving of the presidency than she is of her Academy Award.
I also like Reihan's idea of the establishment of a "constitutional monarchy" in the US, with "Kobe Bryant, representing black Americans, the West Coast, our nation's vigor and physical prowess, etc., as king and Natalie Portman, representing American Jewry, the East Coast, our nation's sophistication and sartorial flair, as queen." Sounds good to me, although last time Portman was cast as the queen, it didn't work out nearly as well as everyone hoped. Though I'd assume that, under Salam's plan, Queen Natalie would be constitutionally limited to one term.
CREED GREED: A group of fans of The Worst Band on Earth, Creed, are suing the bandmembers over a gig in Chicago last December in which frontman Scott Stapp appeared drunk and/or stoned, and thus was unable to sing any of the band's standards. The four fans believe Stapp's intoxicated condition amounts to a canceled show, and thus they are entitled to a refund of their money.
No word on whether the fans plan to also sue Ticketmaster, for allowing them (in an apparently drunk/high state themselves) to fork over $227 to see Creed. Because obviously, the Ticketmaster outlets in Chicago have no qualms with selling White Sox tickets to visibly inebriated fans.
BLOGS AND BEARS: I am now up to #784 in blogger NZ Bear's Blogger Ecosystem, firmly ensconsing me in the category of "Crawly Amphibians." Thanks for the links, folks!
LET'S GO WILD!: What an incredible night for Minnesota sports, the Twins' loss to Kansas City notwithstanding. Not only did the Timberwolves beat the Lakers to even their series at 1 apiece and guarantee themselves at least one more home game, but the Minnesota Wild defeated the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 in Game 7 for the first playoff series victory in franchise history. While the Wolves are still looking for their first playoff series win in their 14th season, the Wild pulled it off in Year 3.
Both games were nationally televised and began at 10PM EDT, but the hockey game ended about 90 minutes later. The Wild series itself had a very Twins-in-'91 feel to it, as almost every game was close, and both Games 6 and 7 went into overtime. The Wild will next face the Vancouver Canucks, keeping alive the possibility that the Dallas Stars could return to Minnesota for a Western Conference finals series against the Wild- just as the "old Minnesota team" is playing the "new Minnesota team" in the NBA playoffs right now.
CROSSOVER DRIBBLE: During tonight's coverage of the NBA playoffs on TNT, the network attempted to, I guess, kill two birds with one stone by running a combined promo for its two most valuable properties, basketball and "Law & Order" re-runs. In the ad, L&O star Jerry Orbach (in full character as Det. Briscoe) interrupts an outdoor pickup game by placing one of the players under arrest. Now the players in the commercial were actors and not actual NBA players, but how funny would it have been if the NBA had actually allowed a real player (say, Allen Iverson, Jason Kidd, Jayson Williams, the entire roster of the Portland Trail Blazers, etc.) to portray the arrestee? I guess that's the problem when the network's two top shows are an image-conscious sports league, and a TV show about criminals being arrested and prosecuted.
ONE LAST BIT OF BUSINESS TO ATTEND TO:
SPELLCHECK ERROR: The New York Post's Page Six this morning (not online, mercifully), mistakenly identifies '80s model Iman in a photo caption as "Imam." Interesting- I don't normally picture Islamic Imans as attractive, scantily clad women who are married to David Bowie. But hey, once the inevitable regime change occurs, I certainly wouldn't object to Iman being put in charge of Iran...
VENN DIAGRAM OF THE DAY: Via Gawker:
My favorite diagram of the sort since Rick Scaia broke down "The Clique," "The NWO," "De-Generation X," and "The Wolf-pac."
23: I was away last week and missed Michael Jordan's final NBA game, so I thought I ought to say a few words now while it's still fresh in our minds. It doesn't feel right that Michael couldn't end his career in the playoffs, fighting for another championship, but then again, I've found myself referring to Jordan's career in the past tense quite often in the last two years. I'm not going to say the Wizards comeback was the wrong thing, since Michael Jordan is Michael Jordan, and if he wants to come back at age 38 to play for a mediocre team, he has a right to, just as he had a right to retire from the NBA at the height of his powers in order to become a low-level minor-league baseball player. Though I can say I'll always remember the Game 7 shot against Utah in 1998 as the final moment of Jordan's NBA career, second comeback notwithstanding.
There's not much I can say about Michael Jordan's career that wasn't already said in David Halberstam's brilliant biography "Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made," which I believe came out in '99; I recommend anyone read that if they're looking for the last word on our generation's premire athlete. All I can say otherwise is that I'm proud that I got to see Jordan play in person on two occasions, and that's something I look forward to telling my grandchildren about (the way your grandfather may have once seen Babe Ruth).
So now that Michael Jordan's finally retiring for good, can Michael Jackson go away too?
EVERY DAY SHOULD BE A HOLIDAY: Lots of stuff to celebrate these last few days:
For Jews, Passover.
For Christians, Easter.
For Stoners, 4/20 (dude!)
For Bostonians, Patriots Day/the Boston Marathon
For Neo-Nazis, Hitler's birthday (also 4/20, dude!)
For David Koresh disciples, the Waco anniversary (4/19/'93).
For Timothy McVeigh/militia disciples, the Oklahoma City anniversary (4/19/'95).
For Michael Moore disciples, the Columbine anniversary (4/20/'99).
For Canadians (and Minnesotans), the NHL playoffs.
For "Six Feet Under" fans, the gay paintball scene (so, so classic).
For America victory,
And for Iraqis, FREEDOM!
FOOLS RUSHIN: In perhaps the most surprising celebrity wedding since Julia Roberts met Lyle Lovett, Sports Illustrated columnist Steve Rushin announced in this week's column that he recently married WNBA star Rebecca Lobo. Rushin is short (Lobo is tall), Rushin is older (Lobo is younger), and Rushin is from Minnesota (Lobo isn't). Yet despite all these differences, there's no reason to believe love can't conquer all. Mazel tov!
Oh, and speaking of women's basketball, please cut out the Google searches for "Diana Taurasi nude," as well as for "is Diana Taurasi a lesbian"? You won't find what you're looking for here, and I don't know why you'd want to look anyway.
RAMALLAH BOB: Muhammad Saaed al-Saef is likely dead, but that doesn't mean it's the end of nonsensical, head-scratching declarations by the spokesmen of Middle Eastern terrorist states. After Abu Abbas, the long-at-large terrorist responsible for the murder of Leon Klinghoffer, was arrested in Baghdad as the war was winding down, PLO spokesman Saeb Erekat almost immediately demanded that Abbas be freed, under a little-known clause of the 1993 Oslo Accords which essentially gives PLO terrorists blanket immunity for acts committed prior to the peace process.
Now leave aside that the Palestinian side hasn't exactly done a great job in keeping their end of the bargain in regards to Oslo. At this particular point in history, with leading PLO benefactor Saddam Hussein deposed, suicide bombings drastically reduced, and the new "road map to peace" gaining favor among noted doves from Paul Wolfowitz to Ariel Sharon, what public statement is issued from the PLO side? They're defending a terrorist! They want him freed!
Saeb Erekat is exhibiting a lack of public relations savvy unseen since the heyday of Gary Condit.
BREAKIN': I'd like to apologize for the lack of posts in the last three days; if it makes you feel any better, I haven't been to the gym, either. I was just in Philadelphia for Passover and now I'm in the middle of moving across Hoboken, so I've been left with little time for blogging. But now I'm back, with a few thoughts on the day's events, and some other stuff too:
JUST WHEN WE WERE GETTING SICK OF GEN. BARRY McCAFFREY AND COL. DAVID HACKWORTH...: Laci Peterson emerges from the ocean, and with her Cliff Van Zandt, Geoffrey Feiger, and all the other tiresome talking heads we're all still trying to forget from the Chandra Levy and Elizabeth Smart cases. I may be one of America's foremost news junkies, but I will never stop being sick of these damn people, who never have a single new thing to say, ever. As for the crime itself, Scott Peterson's arrest proves once again the veracity of my old journalism professor John Carroll's dictum: In a murder case involving a woman, "it's always the husband."
'RAW' IS WAR: Last weekend I watched Dennis Miller's HBO special, "The Raw Feed," and I was actually surprised by how unfunny I thought it was. Miller has in recent months emerged as Hollywood's most articulate voice in support of the war in Iraq, which seemed to constitute a successful re-invention for the comic after his two-year debacle of announcing on "Monday Night Football." The HBO special, his first since leaving his Friday-night show on that network, should've been the coronation of the New Dennis Miller, for everyone who didn't see the comedian's excellent recent appearances with Matthews, O'Reilly, and (most unseen of all) Donahue. But that's not what happened: "Raw Feed" essentially consisted of 60 minutes of Republican talking points, on the war and just about everything else- and in delivering them, Miller simply forgot to be funny. He used all kinds of jokes he'd already used on the talk shows, and many more that had already been in the atrocious commercials for the special. In the entire hour I laughed, maybe, three times.
No stand-up special on HBO (or anywhere else) has come close to approaching Chris Rock's duology of "Bring the Pain" and "Bigger And Blacker," and it's not likely that any other will until Rock stops making substandard movies and comes back to stand-up. George Carlin and Robin Williams have come close in the last couple of years, and it appeared as though Miller had a chance to join them. Not this time, unfortunately.
RATINGS SPIKE: Apparently giving up on their grand scheme of shedding the Nashville Network "redneck label," The National Network (TNN) has announced that they will soon change their name to "Spike TV," and adjust their programming focus to young men specifically.
When TNN snatched the rights to the then-WWF away from the USA network in 2001, they undertook a radical re-branding, away from NASCAR/"Dukes of Hazzard" fare towards more hip programming, accompanied by the name change. Attached to the asinine "We've got POP" ad campaign, the switch apparently didn't go according to plan, even after the addition of multiple "Star Trek" series and seemingly endless replays of the "Godfather" trilogy. "Spike TV" is said to be an attempt to thwart the planned launch of the Maxim-backed Maxim Entertainment Network (MEN).
So what can we expect from "Spike TV"? Wall-to-wall Spike Lee movies? Videos directed by Spike Jonze? A "Making Of" documentary on the 1989 Elvis Costello album "Spike"? A show hosted by '80s Red Sox shortstop Spike Owen? A big push for runt-ish WWE wrestler Spike Dudley? If not, then, what? Who the hell is "Spike" supposed to be?
WOLVES THROWN TO THE WOLVES: The Minnesota Timberwolves have drawn the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs; Game 1 is Sunday. As then-Wolves announcer Kevin Harlan screamed after a Shaq drunk against Minnesota in the mid-'90s, THE ANVIL HAS JUST CRUSHED THE COYOTE.
'24' NIGHTS: Fox's "24" is rushing towards a climax even more exhilirating than last year's, with Jack Bauer racing to prove that a tape recording is inauthentic in order to prevent President David Palmer from launching a retaliatory strike against three Middle Eastern countries of indeterminate identity (at least they don't make up stupid fake names like "Kundun," the way "West Wing" does).
"24" is a great show, as long as you remember that nothing on the show will ever stand up to any scrutiny. We've already seen Jack Bauer in two plane crashes, getting shot at in almost every episode, and sitting what appeared to be a couple hundred feet away from a nuclear blast. But last week's episode contained perhaps the biggest stretch of believability so far in the series.
We already learned that National Security Adviser Roger Stanton (as well as the President's former wife) had led a conspiracy to undermine the president by allowing the bomb to escape federal oversight, and it's been hinted that members of the administration were involved with the bomb plot itself. In last week's episode, the latest plot twist was that the Vice President had assembled a majority of the cabinet in a coup attempt against the president, supposedly their right under Section 4 of the 25th Amendment.
Leave aside that that amendment is generally in place in case the president is incapacitated, or in a coma, etc. To assert that, about a year into the president's first term, the cabinet that he appointed would, on a dime, try to overthrow him is implausible, to say the least. Though not quite as unbelievable as a black man being elected president. Or, for that matter, a candidate dumping his wife mid-campaign, and still winning the election- Palmer did that too.
REAL HEADLINE THAT SOUNDS LIKE AN ONION HEADLINE: "Self Torn Between Illini, Jayhawks." Because in the end, the bidding war for the services of basketball coach Bill Self is about nothing more than Self-aggrandizement. But if he leaves, expect some large amounts of Self-consciousness and Self-loathing in Champaign/Urbana.
I SAID LOVE, SISTER, IT'S JUST A MONTH AWAY, IT'S JUST A MONTH AWAY....
HERESY!: Star Tribune columnist Patrick Reusse, who has written in Twin Cities newspapers and appeared on talk radio in the area for more than two decades, uses the word "Minny" in his column today. I say let him off with a warning, but if he ever uses the M-word in print again, he's out.
IF YOU HAD ANY DOUBTS ABOUT THE WAR ON TERROR: Saddam Hussein is out of power and likely dead, and Abu Abbas -a man who committed terroristic acts for decades and is best known for throwing an 69-year-old man in a wheelchair overboard from a cruise ship- has been captured. Give me your "Where's Osamas" and "at what costs," blah blah blah. But if you look at what's happened in the past few weeks, it's not not to conclude that we're doing something right.
And where was Abbas captured, after living there since the mid-'80s? Iraq. Ask me again: what did Iraq ever do to us?
BASEBALL HOOLIGANISM: If only they were as charming as that funny soccer streaker... on Tuesday, for the second time in as many seasons, a drunken dirtbag disguised as a Chicago White Sox fan jumped the barricade during a game against the Kansas City Royals and assaulted personnel on the field. During yesterday afternoon's game, this guy ran out onto the field and attacked first-base umpire Laz Diaz; thankfully Diaz, a former Marine, was able to subdue his attacker without much incident.
It's bad enough that this latest attack took place on the same field as last year's horrific assault on 55-year-old Royals coach Tom Gamboa by a duo of shirtless vermin who attacked him from behind. Apparently play had been stopped three other times during the game when fans ran onto the field. Clearly, things are out of control on the South Side of Chicago, and something's got to be done about it- there hasn't been this much anarchy in White Sox Nation since the days of Disco Demolition Night and Nickel Beer Night.
However, there once was a time (pre-Seles, pre-Kerrigan, and pre-Ligue, and pre-Fan Man) when running out onto the field had a more pure conotation to it. It's never been legal, but it has given us some truly great memories, in which no one got hurt. I hereby give you:
The Five Most Memorable Moments Involving Baseball Fans Running Out Onto the Field:
1. Fulton County Stadium, April 8, 1974. The moment Hank Aaron hit home run #715 to break Babe Ruth's record that had stood for a half-century, these two guys rushed the field in order to run the bases with Hank, pat him on the bank, and congratulate him. With Aaron having faced death threats in his runup to breaking the record, there was concern that the two fans mean to do him harm. But they turned out to be good guys, and are thus eternally embedded in one of the most iconic baseball images of all time.
(By the way, Hank Aaron sure looks different these days from how I remembered him).
2. Jack Murphy Stadium, April 9, 1974: Coincidentally, the day after Aaron's record-breaking home run, San Diego Padres owner and McDonalds founder Ray Kroc grabbed a public address microphone in the middle of the Padres' home opener in order to rip his team for poor play, and declared to his fans that "I suffer with you." But before Kroc could finish his rant, a lone streaker rushed across the field. The streaker part was later parodied by George Costanza on "Seinfeld."
3. Shea Stadium, October 25, 1986: In the fifth inning of Game 6 of the Mets-Red Sox World Series, Queens resident Mike Sergio floated into Shea in a giant "Let's Go Mets" parachute, landing in shallow center field. Sergio, who later got into movies and directed the 2001 gangster film "Under Hellgate Bridge" had the good foresight to parachute into what ended up being the greatest baseball game of the past 30 years.
4. Fenway Park, 2001 season. Aaron Devine, a BU undergraduate and friend of my sister, got a job as a vendor at Fenway during the 2001 season, and spent months planning something that had been his lifelong dream, yet was forbidden by the rules of his job: to set foot on the outfield grass at Fenway. Devine plotted for months, and even saw co-workers fired for doing exactly the same thing, until finally his dream came true near season's end- though not during a game (good to see someone's dream come true at Fenway for once). Devine later wrote a great memoir about the experience, which is unfortunately not online.
5. Edison International Field, August 29, 2001: As then-Yankees outfielder David Justice was returning to the dugout after being lifted for a pinch-runner in a game against the Angels, a process server acting on behalf of Justice's baby mama, Nicole Foster, ran onto the field and attempted to have Justice served with a $5 million palimony suit. The erstwhile Mr. Halle Berry just kept walking; the server was promptly arrested.
MY KIND OF 'GUY':Can't get enough of "The Sports Guy" Bill Simmons, who rarely writes for ESPN.com anymore now that he's on the writing staff of "Jimmy Kimmel Live"? A rabid Simmons fan has created a searchable database of BSG's columns, indexed by team, player, topic, Doug Christie Jersey, etc. Check it out.
And, just in case you were afraid Sports Guy was wasting away on the Kimmel show, I recently met "The Super Bowl is Gay" auteur Andy Milonakis, and he told me that it was in fact Simmons who originally turned Kimmel on to Milonakis' website, thus leading to Andy's recent spots on the show. I guess Bill appreciated that the song doesn't mention that "the Red Sox are gay."
I'M SORRY, MISS LYNCH: Jessica Lynch, as we all know, is the heroic POW rescued in Iraq the week before last, and she is someone who undoubtedly deserves the sympathy and gratitude of a grateful nation. The internet, however, is another matter. Due to one of those odd little snafus that only Google and Blogger could make possible, I am now in position of owing Private Lynch a huge apology.
You see, on the day that Jessica was rescued in Iraq, I like most bloggers mentioned her name and talked about how wonderful it was that she escaped Iraq alive. Unfortunately, apparently I also had the word "nude" somewhere else on my blog at the time, and sure enough examination of my referral logs revealed that the pervs of the world had almost immediately begun searching for nude pictures of the ex-POW, and finding themselves at my decidedly nudity-free blog. So, perhaps foolishly, I posted a request that people perhaps not do stupid Google searches for things like "Jessica Lynch Nude."
Well that did it. My sitemeter logs started showing even more LynchPr0n-seeking searches per day, and then I figured out why: when one does a Google search of "Jessica Lynch Nude," in quotes, there is one and only one page on the entire internet that comes up as a result. You're looking at it.
This post itself is likely to result in even more such search hits- so if you're here for that purpose, welcome. And I apologize, but there are no nude photographs here of Jessica Lynch, nor Shoshana Johnson, nor Scott O'Grady, nor any other POW, nor of any other soldier, nor anyone else, for that matter. I can't imagine that any such pictures even exist; if they did, my blog certainly wouldn't be the first page to come up on Google. And most of all, if the first reaction you have to the rescue from behind enemy lines of a true American hero (a 19-year-old female, no less) is to go looking for naked pictures of her, then there's something wrong with you.
Besides, when I think of "nude Lynch pictures," my first thought is of the great lesbian sex scene in "Mulholland Drive." Yours should be too.
'LUNATIC COUNTERFACTUAL ART': Here's a loving tribute to the #1 new celebrity of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Iraqi Minister of Information Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf. "Baghdad Bob" may be the most popular cult figure to emerge from an enemy of the United States since Yakov Smirnoff.
ROY WILLIAMS LEAVES KANSAS FOR NORTH CAROLINA: Good or bad, it's still a Heel turn.
MASTER! MASTER!: To the strains of Metallica, some notes on the weekend in sports:
- Congratulations to Mike Weir, the 2003 Masters champion, both the first Canadian and first lefthander (what, not Phil Mickelson?) to take the green jacket. Though if I were Mr. Weir I'd go by "Michael," since otherwise his name sounds like "My Queer." (But wasn't "Michael Weir" the Danny DeVito character in "Get Shorty"? I'm just happy we won't have to see Hootie Johnson or Martha Burk's likeness again for the foreseeable future.
- Even more congratulations to the Minnesota Gophers hockey team, for the second year in a row the national champions. But no congratulations whatsoever are in order for the idiot fans who committed the very un-Minnesotan act of rioting in Dinkytown on Saturday night- what's wrong with you people? It's almost like you just got liberated or something- though, perhaps we should consider the possibility that Saturday's unrest had nothing to do with the hockey game, and was merely a delayed reaction to the toppling of the Jesse Ventura regime. Because you know, if Ventura had had more than four years, he would've had statues of himself everywhere- he even had one in his famous campaign commercial!
- Want a Timberwolves prediction? They'll get the fourth seed, and with it home court advantage in the first round, and they won't get stuck against the Lakers- but will still manage to lose in Round 1 for the seventh straight year. I guess their best hope is for all of the Blazers to get suspended at once, and sit out different games of the series (think Knicks-Heat, '98). Like you'd be surprised...
- So the Twins sweep the Tigers, get swept by the Blue Jays, get swept by the Yankees, and then sweep the Blue Jays? And now they're right back where they started, at .500? I wouldn't object to a Season of Sweeps, provided we win two-thirds of them. And let's not get too discouraged about the Yankees series- the Twins got crushed against the Yanks in the regular season last year too- and it didn't stop Torii from outlasting Torre in the playoffs.
LOOKS LIKE A MASTERS HEADLINE, REALLY A BASEBALL HEADLINE: "Colon Overcomes Tiger(s)" At least that's what the front page of ESPN.com says, about Bartolo vs. Detroit.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "No matter what side of the political spectrum you're on, if you are incapable of feeling at least a tiny amount of joy at watching ordinary Iraqis celebrate this, you are lost to the ideological left. And let me also add, if you are incapable of feeling badly that we even had to use force in the first place, you are ideologically lost to the right. And I would inform both of those groups to leave the room now and do not watch the program. It's like ice-skating: We throw out the high score and the low score. The rest of the people, you're welcome at the table." -Jon Stewart, the Daily Show (from Emily Jones, via Jim Treacher). Contrast that with the no-longer-funny Onion- they're the only people on Earth who could make 9/11 funny, but now they're reduced to going through the motions of unfunny, anti-Bush propaganda.
PASSOVER THOUGHT FOR THE DAY:
"I invited the Sasquatch to Seder. He said 'Don't you think I'll weird people out, what with all the fur and the big feet?'
I answered 'Nah, we're Reform.'"
-From "The Sasquatch Comes to Seder," by Rick Lupert.
SIMON SAYS: Laurence Simon, proprietor of the best-named blog in the blogosphere (Amish Tech Support) has a new home- and he's getting starting with a, shall we say, controversial contest. The comments are a riot.
RUNAWAY JERRY: Jerry Krause, the longtime general manager of the Chicago Bulls, could almost be called the Michael Moore of sports: He's a mordently obese individual who was respected and had a great deal of success early in his career, but later became a laughingstock who squandered his previous skill, while becoming fatter and fatter by the week. Krause resigned last week, supposedly for "health reasons," but more likely because the Bulls have sucked (sucketty-sucketty-sucked) in the four years since Michael Jordan's second retirement.
Here's what Sports Illustrated's Scorecard had to say: "Many Chicago players- who weren't fond of his abrasive, egotistical style- called the 5'6", 220-pound Krause 'Crumbs' for the doughnut residue often spotted on his lapels."
There's only thing wrong in that sentence- Jerry Krause only weighs 220 pounds? While there are no official listed heights and weights for GMs like there are for players, there's no way in hell Crumbs is that lithe. If Jerry Krause weighs a pound less than 300, then I'm Dennis Rodman.
SLAP-HAPPY: Here's my latest contribution to New York Press Daily Billboard, on a New York city councilwoman who mistakenly referred to an audience as "you people," thus facing the wrath of councilman and Mugabe-loving demogogue Charles Barron.
WHICH IS THE BAND AND WHICH IS THE MASTERS GUY?:
A. "Hootie's Fans Hold Heads High As Support Pours In" (Houston Chronicle, 4/10/'03)
B. "Hootie Kicks Off Winery Concerts" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 4/8/'03)
My advice to Hootie Johnson in dealing with Martha Burk? Let her cry.
GO GO GOPHERS!: The University of Minnesota's hockey team won last night's national "Frozen Four" semi-final match in overtime against Michigan, and will go on to the final Saturday against New Hampshire, in the drive to win their second straight national championship.
Now granted, I know most of you don't give a shit about college hockey. I myself haven't watched a college hockey game since the Gophers won last year's championship game. And truth be told, I couldn't name a single current Gophers player. But, like most things with MN sports, it's a matter of state pride- especially in regards to hockey, which is just as important (if not moreso) to the Land of 10,000 Lakes as college football and basketball.
Which leads me to one of my biggest pet peeves: ESPN.com's Daily Quickie today addresses the championship game as follows:
New Hampshire hockey: Play def. champ Minny for title
POLICE AND THIEVES: Remember that old '60s-era cliche that when you steal something, you're actually "liberating" it? Right now the newly freed multitudes are doing just that in Baghdad and other cities in Iraq, as they loot everything from village storefronts (bad) to Saddam Hussein's palaces (good!).
Now, when we said this was a war for "Iraqi liberation," this is NOT what we had in mind. But now that I think about it perhaps, now that the anti-war movement has sunken into self-parody (I'll see you at Sunday's post-war anti-war rally!), the liberation=stealing thing will prove the counterculture's greatest contribution of all to this war.
QUEER HORSE: One night on his show last summer, Conan O'Brien was going through that silly bit he's been doing for ten years where he has a still picture of a celebrity on a TV monitor, while Robert Smigel or someone else's moving, speaking lips are superimposed on the person's face. This time, Conan "interviewed" a variety of different sports figures who were in the news at the time, such as Mike Tyson, Shaquille O'Neal, Don King, etc. Conan's final "guest" was War Emblem, the horse who had just won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, and was going for the Triple Crown at Belmont the following Saturday. Conan asked the star racehorse about his "stud fees" in the event of a Triple Crown win, when War Emblem replied, in an over-the-top gay lisp, "I don't think so Conan!" The horse then made some off-color reference to himself as "the third-leg winner," the specific wording of which I can't recall.
It was a humorous bit, at least funny enough that I remember it almost a year later. But it took on new meaning with this week's news that the now-retired War Emblem isn't having much luck at stud. In fact, according to the ESPN story, War Emblem "apparently has little interest in the mares." Duh, I could've told you that; I guess the folks at Japan's Shadai Stallion Station, who paid $17 million for the horse last year, aren't big Conan fans.
So to review: In the past few days, we've discovered that 1) The Olympics are gay, 2) the Super Bowl is gay, and 3) the winner of last year's Kentucky Derby is gay as well. Perhaps it's time for Mike Piazza and Sandy Koufax to reverse their stances and apologize to the New York Post.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Sounds like the beginning of a sequel to 'Fargo,' with [Kirby Puckett] playing the weird Asian guy, but no, sadly, it's all too true." -Ralph Wiley, on ESPN.com, with a Puckett piece that's worlds better than the Frank Deford SI version. Notwithstanding Wiley's use of the "Wayne's World"-era catchphrase "Not."
FAT CITY: Time Out New York (via Gawker) gives us a handy chart of every neighborhood in the five boroughs, and what percentage of the residents are obese. According to the survey, the thinnest neighborhoods in New York City (at under 10%) are the Upper West Side and Upper East Side of Manhattan, as well as Gramercy Park and Murray Hill, while the fattest (at 32%) are East Harlem in Manhattan and Bedford/Stuyvesant and East New York in Brooklyn.
The implication is obvious: the richest neighborhoods in the city are also the thinnest, while the poorest are the fattest. I can't think of a good sociological explanation for why, but we can glean one conclusion from the results: thinness is more likely to result from anorexia than from poverty.
MY ANSWERS TO THE MAHER QUOTES: Thanks to all who responded.
1. Religion is bad.
Disagree. Religion is good; using religion as an excuse to kill people is bad.
2. Drugs are good.
Agree/Disagree. Drugs that treat AIDS and cancer are good; crack is bad.
3. America causes cancer.
Disagree. What, people in other countries don't get cancer?
4. Longevity is less important than fun.
Disagree. What good is fun if you can't have it for a long time?
5. Young people should be discouraged from voting.
Disagree. Unless they plan to vote for Nader.
6. Stereotypes are true.
Agree, mostly. Every stereotype in history has some basis in truth, but there are always exceptions.
7. Abstinence is a perversion.
Disagree. Not quite a perversion, but still unnatural, and not very fun.
8. Bush's lies are worse than Clinton's.
I paraphrase Chris Rock: "Bush lies more, but Clinton tells the biggest lies. A Bush lie is 'I was over at Tony's house.' A Clinton lie is 'It's your baby.'"
9. There's nothing sexy about being old or pregnant.
Agree. If a pregnant and/or old woman is sexy, it's in spite of their pregnancy/oldness, not because of it.
10. September 11th changed nothing.
Strongly disagree. I used to be able to see the World Trade Center from my living room, but now I can't. That's something that changed.
11. If I had known the onset of war would add 100 points to George Bush's IQ, I would have started one.
12. Pornography stops rape.
Agree. Although I don't believe that child pornography stops child rape.
13. AIDS ribbons are stupid.
Agree. Good intentions aside, no ribbon has ever caused anyone to not die of AIDS.
14. Flag burning makes me feel patriotic.
Strongly disagree. I don't think it should be banned, but I find it hard to endorse the actual act.
15. Death is not the worst thing that can happen to you.
Having never been dead, I feel unqualified to answer this question.
16. People have too much self-esteem.
Agree. People with too much self-esteem cause most of the major problems in the world; those with too little are generally harmless to everyone besides themselves.
17. Being drunk is funny.
Agree. Though anyone who grew up in an alcoholic household may beg to differ.
18. Children are not innocent.
Agree. And anyone who's ever been a camp councilor can back me up on that one.
19. God doesn't write books.
20. Jesus wasn't a Republican.
Agree. The only political party that existed at the time was the Jews (of which Jesus was of course a member).
21. I'm for Mad Cow disease.
Disagree. Just because you're against eating meat, it doesn't mean everyone who does (and the cows themselves) deserves to die.
22. I'm against suing tobacco companies.
Not sure. While it's great to see the tobacco execs taking it in the chin, the lawsuits don't put them out of business, they reward people who knew all along that smoking was bad for them, and the primary effect of the litigation has been hundreds of millions into the pockets of lawyers.
23. Girls hate each other.
Agree. While this isn't universal, my experience is that females are capable of cruelty against one another that's exponentially greater than anything they regularly do to, or have done to them by, men.
24. No doesn't always mean no.
Agree. Wish I didn't, but I do.
25. You have to lie to stay married.
Having never been married, I feel unqualified to answer this question.
26. Womens' sports are boring.
Agree. While women's sports have done a lot of great things for a lot of people and I'm glad they exist, that doesn't mean they're the slightest bit enjoyable to watch.
27. The Olympics are gay.
What would Brian Boitano do? He'd agree that the Olympics are gay!
And not only are the Olympics gay, but the Super Bowl is Gay.
ON THE PATH TO RECOVERY: The fall of Saddam wasn't the only heartwarming development yesterday. It was announced that the Exchange Place PATH station in downtown Jersey City, closed since September 11, will re-open on June 29. And even better, an interim downtown PATH station, replacing the World Trade Center, is expected to open by year's end. New York may still be recovering even 19 months later, but little by little, we're returning to normalcy.
GO BACK TO FRANCE...: And tell them Iraq is free!
ONE MORE THOUGHT ON THE LIBERATION OF IRAQ: The beautiful image that you see directly below could never happen in America, because we're not an idolotry culture. Whatever you think of Bush (or Clinton before him) there exists not a single statue of Dubya anywhere in the continental United States.
I guess the closest thing to today's events that could ever happen in America would be if a cabal of Knicks fans tore down the statue of Michael Jordan outside the United Center in Chicago.
HAVE FUN STORMIN' THE CASTLE!: That's what hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, after a quarter-century of tyranny, are doing as we speak. God bless them all.
A LITTLE EXPERIMENT: I was thinking about maybe doing a survey to attempt to figure the political leanings of those who read this here blog, but then I figured, "why would I?" My politics certainly can't be pinned down to any one particular ideology, and I can't imagine most other peoples' can either. So here's what I'm going to do instead: I'm posting a list of 27 "controversial" statements from a monologue by Bill Maher. For each statement (either in the comments or in an e-mail) just go through and say which ones you most agree and disagree with, and why. Should you choose to tally up how many you agree/disagree with, feel free to do so.
Okay, here we go:
1. Religion is bad.
2. Drugs are good.
3. America causes cancer.
4. Longevity is less important than fun.
5. Young people should be discouraged from voting.
6. Stereotypes are true.
7. Abstinence is a perversion.
8. Bush's lies are worse than Clinton's.
9. There's nothing sexy about being old or pregnant.
10. September 11th changed nothing.
11. If I had known the onset of war would add 100 points to George Bush's IQ, I would have started one.
12. Pornography stops rape.
13. AIDS ribbons are stupid.
14. Flag burning makes me feel patriotic.
15. Death is not the worst thing that can happen to you.
16. People have too much self-esteem.
17. Being drunk is funny.
18. Children are not innocent.
19. God doesn't write books.
20. Jesus wasn't a Republican.
21. I'm for Mad Cow disease.
22. I'm against suing tobacco companies.
23. Girls hate each other.
24. No doesn't always mean no.
25. You have to lie to stay married.
26. Womens' sports are boring.
27. The Olympics are gay.
Best of luck, ladies and gentlemen; I'll post my answers tomorrow.
JAMES LILEKS QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Spellchecking this bleat, the computer choked on Uday and Qusay. Did I want the program to learn these words, in case I used them again?
No. And no."
Read the whole thing.
I AM HAPPY AS A LITTLE GIRL:
Diana Taurasi celebrates Connecticut's victory in the womens' NCAA tournament. Now is the time on "Sprockets" when we dance!
SNOWED OUT: The Yankees' 2003 home opener against the Twins, scheduled for last night, was snowed out due to last night's snowstorm; the status of tonight and Thursday's games are unknown at this point. Now I'm not one of those yahoos who cites even the most minor of snowstorms as proof of the nonexistence of global warming, but I am of the mind that snow in April, the week after summer-like weather, which causes the cancellation of baseball games, just plain sucks. Too bad the Yankees don't have a dome!*
My other beef is with the schedule: as an expatriate Twins fan on the East Coast, I was hoping for the chance to possibly see the Twins on the road this year. But unfortunately, due to the unbalanced schedule, they now play exactly one road series against each AL team not in the Central division (meaning East and West). And due to this year's interleague rotation, the Twins will play the NL West teams- unlike last year, when they played the NL East and I got to attend the first-ever Twins-Mets game at Shea. Therefore, the Twins won't be travelling to Flushing or Philly, and their one and only Yankee Stadium appearance this season is the current mid-week series (which makes it next to impossible for me to get to the Bronx for any of the games). The Twins' only Boston road trip is in May on a weekend when I can't travel, and Baltimore's too far to go just for one game, so it looks as though my only chance to see the Twins this year will be the old-fashioned way: at the Metrodome. Either that, or the unlikely event that they'll postpone last night's game until a snow-free Sunday in mid-July. I would like that.
*No, I don't really wish the Yankees had a dome. But if they did, I would be in favor of trapping them in it.
LOCK UP YOUR DAUGHTERS, LOCK UP YOUR DRUGS: Darryl Strawberry has been released from prison.
BUY THAT MAN A MILLER: Here's a bunch of great quotes from Dennis Miller, who has emerged as perhaps Hollywood's most humorous and articulate spokesmen for the pro-liberation cause. In fact, Miller appears to adhere to a not-quite-conservative politics that's shared by many in comedy and (unlike Moore/Sarandonism) by countless regular folks as well. Highly influential entertainers such as Miller, Howard Stern, "South Park"'s Trey Parker and Matt Stone, Drew Carey, and formerly Bill Maher (before he went hard-left) practice a certain fun-loving brand of neo-libertarianism that is strongly pro-American, pro-freedom of speech, pro-sexual freedom, and in defense of vulgarity, while strongly opposed to political correctness, prudery, censorship from the right or left, or fundamentalist thinking of any kind. It's an almost natural political philosophy for anyone who is generally sympathetic to social liberalism, yet strongly opposed to the coercive tactics of the far left and far right alike. It may not wash in family-values-centric electoral politics (though Jesse Ventura in a way followed it), but the success of Stern and "South Park" shows that it at least has millions of adherents, myself included.
FATAL CHUTE-ING: The internationally active parachutist/prankster known as "Fan Man" has died in an apparent suicide. The body of James Miller, 39, was found last month in Alaska after he apparently hung himself while on a nature hike. Miller drew international notoriety for a series of thrill-seeking pranks in the early '90s, which included parachuting into a World Cup soccer game and onto the roof of Buckingham Palace (the latter of which got him banished from England for life). But Miller was perhaps best known for the incident in which he paraglided into the ring during the second Riddick Bowe-Evander Holyfield heavyweight title fight, in Las Vegas in 1993. That flight took place just a few months after tennis star Monica Seles was stabbed on the court in Germany by a deranged fan, which made observers fear that Miller was an assassin- therefore, both fighters' entourages spent several minutes beating the stuffings out of him as soon as he landed.
Miller, contrary to popular belief, was not the man who floated into Shea Stadium during Game 6 of the 1986 World Series in a "Let's Go Mets" parachute. That was Mike Sergio who- somewhat shockingly- also directed the 2001 film "Under Hellgate Bridge," which co-starred "Sopranos" cast members Dominic Chianese and Vincent Pastore.
ESOTERIC WEBSITE OF THE DAY: If you've been enjoying my sick, sick referral logs, you'll love Disturbing Search Requests, where you'll find such lovely queries as "Lesbian Nude Girls Go Camping" and "Soup Can Sex Blog."
ESOTERIC WEBSITE #2: It's the homepage of the worst interest group in history: Women Against Blowjobs.
SADDAM MAY VERY WELL BE DEAD: A building which may have contained Saddam, Uday, and Quasay has been bombed by coalition forces, and there's said to be a "strong chance" that Saddam is dead. Let's fuck to celebrate!
WAR IS OVER?: Every indication now is that the war is nearly won. Just goes to further prove the naysayers wrong: I love that the nearly year-long run-up to the war was a "rush," yet the actual three-week war is a "quagmire."
UPDATE: This site reports that Saddam was killed today. I'd believe it, if not for the site's previous dozen reports- which argue that Saddam was in fact killed on March 19 (the first night of the war) and has kept up the appearance of being alive by using doubles ever since.
Say it with me: It's too bad we can only kill him once.
KING OF QUEEN CITY: I just returned a few hours ago from a weekend trip to Cincinnati, my first visit back to the midwest since last Thanksgiving and my first time in Ohio in almost six years. I had a wonderful time with my friends and sampled some excellent restaurants (including the legendary ice-cream joint Graeters).
One of the highlights of the weekend was one of the first games ever held at Cincy's new stadium, The Great American Ballpark. The Reds fell to the Cubs 9-7, and while we missed Sammy Sosa's 500th home run by one day, we were on hand for something that led SportsCenter that night: the lynchpin of my fantasy team's outfield, Ken Griffey, Jr., dislocated his shoulder in the 8th (he'll be out 6-10 weeks). It's the most infamous sports moment I've witnessed live since January 15, 1997, when I watched then-Bull Dennis Rodman surprise Target Center photographer Eugene Amos with a swift, unprovoked kick to the nuts.
Still though, the stadium is incredible, and exactly what Minnesota needs. But what we don't need are the mean-spirited hecklers in left field (where we sat) who mercilessly taunted Cub Moises Alou (MOISES!) throughout the game- and their apparent ringleader was shocked mid-game when he returned with his eighth beer only to find a kid in an Alou jersey right in front of him. He said he'd gotten his beer from "Pete's Club"; I had to fight back the urge to ask if they had a casino in the back.
The final verdict? Great park, great friends, great town.
MASTURBATORY JOURNALISM: Meryl Yourish has Robert Fisk- being Fisked by- Robert Fisk! A true once-in-a-lifetime moment in the history of the blogosphere.
WORST GOOGLE SEARCH QUERY EVER: It was disturbing enough when I got a bunch of "Jessica Lynch nude" and "Sasha Cohen nude" queries. But there was one over the weekend that's even more sick: "Aafia Siddiqui nude." It's the phenomenon I know we should have seen coming: terror fetishism. And to think, it took that for a Brandeis grad to become a sex symbol...
WEATHERING THE STORM: Late last week I finally finished Kenneth Pollack's book "The Threatening Storm," and in case you haven't gathered it from my constant mentions over the last few months, the book is indispensable reading for anyone wishing to learn the military and political history of the US-Iraq conflict. Pollack, a nominal liberal who worked for the CIA and NSA in the Clinton Administration, very persuasively (and thankfully, non-ideologically) lays out the case for why regime change was the only viable option for dealing with the Iraq threat. And the biggest revelation of the book is one that puts the lie to all this "warmonger Bush" talk: for years in the Clinton Administration, there were multiple voices who believed that the best option for Iraq was taking out Saddam, yet didn't dare implement the plan because the American people wouldn't go along with it. One of the leading proponents of regime change? You guessed it, Al Gore. So if Florida had gone differently, there's a good chance we'd be in the same situation that we're in now with a post-9/11 President Gore.
Once again, if you're hoping to get a greater understanding of what's going on Iraq right now than you can get from CNN, Fox News, and the BBC put together, then I can't overstate enough how informative and authoritative a book "The Threatening Storm" is.
RIP, MIKE AND DAVID: While neither was specifically killed in combat, two great journalists (Michael Kelly and David Bloom) died over the weekend in Iraq; it still hasn't sunk in yet that either of them is actually gone. Bravely covering a dangerous and unpredictable war, the two each chose to travel halfway around the world to a war-torn desert nation when they could've just as easily remained in the comfort of a New York, DC, or Boston news room. The reporting of both men, and the men themselves, will be missed by all who knew them.
Here's my favorite column of Kelly's (one from last year making fun of "full disclosure" journalists), and here's his last, filed from Iraq on Thursday.
MOST UN-NEW YORK TIMES NEW YORK TIMES STORY OF THE YEAR: The Times ran a piece Sunday on how ex-hippie college professors are finding themselves much more radical than even their generation-younger students, some of whom are apathetic, but many more of whom actively support the war in Iraq. Brandeis, apparently, wasn't the only school that saw the absurd exercise of professors walking out of class rather than teach, while their students actually showed up wanting to learn. This shows, once and for all, that the collegiate anti-war movement has from the start been more about '60s nostalgia than any actual principle or conviction.
It's the latest indication, on the political level, of the ultimate failure of the '60s revolution: the closest thing the "tenured radicals" have had to the '60s since the real thing has turned out to be a big dud: at this point 75% of the country supports the war, we know it's not going to drag on for 15 years like Vietnam (closer to 15 days), and none of the anticipated disasters (nuclear annihilation, use of chemical weapons, attacks on Israel, retalitatory terrorist attacks in the US) have come to pass. Somehow, it actually appears that at Brandeis at least, the student body is further from left-wing unanimity in wartime than they were in peacetime. Because many, many young people all over the country, many of whom would proudly affix the word "liberal" to their names, have looked at the facts and decided that, you know, maybe getting rid of an evil, murderous tyrant like Saddam Hussein, is the right, liberal, and progressive thing to do after all.
DA ALI H SHOW: CANCELED: NBC News is reporting that British military officers have successfully killed Saddam Hussein's cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid, better known by the nickname "Chemical Ali." The Chemical Brother was best known as the mastermind behind Iraq's poison-gas attack on Kurds in Northern Iraq in 1988. On top of that, "Chemical Ali" probably had the best nickname of any foreign evildoer since the '90s-era Serbian warlord Zeljko "Arkan" Raznatovic. But the greatest of all time (albeit fictional) was "Concentration Camp Erhardt," from Ernst Lubitsch's 1944 "To Be Or Not to Be."
MY SO-CALLED 'CRISIS' It started out as a nondescript self-help book by a couple of first-time authors that turned into a bestseller, and then became a phenomenon due in part to a throwaway lyric from a John Mayer song. "Quarterlife Crisis" is the latest buzzword among people my age; a google search of the phrase turns up more than 2,200 results. Having read the book and taken in the hype over the last two years, I believe with all due respect to the authors that the "quarterlife crisis" theory is a bunch of nonsense.
The book "Quarterlife Crisis," by Alexandra Robbins and Abby Wilner, was published in the spring of 2001 on J.P. Tarcher (full disclosure: one of the authors is a friend of a friend of mine, though I've not met her). The book sold well from the start but has picked up steam as the economy has declined and more and more recent college grads have found themselves in career uncertainty- and then gained even more traction when Mayer used the phrase "must be a quarterlife crisis" in the song "Why Georgia" on his popular, Grammy-winning 2002 album "Room For Squares." The main argument of the book (and of the phenomenon surrounding it) is that people in their early 20s have "unique challenges" that need to be addressed, whether in the area of dating, careers, friendship, or otherwise, and that often recent college graduates have trouble making the transition into adult life.
My chief objection to the quarterlife crisis thesis is that just about anybody is capable of having a crisis at any particular point in their life. Sure, it's unfortunate for someone to lose their job, or get dumped by their girlfriend, or to be plagued by indecision over which city to live in or which career to pursue- but each one of these things can happen to anyone at any age. The only thing that's unique about having one in your early 20s is that it's probably the time in your life that your crisis is the least likely to actually have any consequences. And besides, ask anyone in their mid-to-late 20s which period was more traumatic- high school or post-college- and I guarantee nine people out of ten would say high school. It doesn't help, of course, that Robbins and Wilner almost exclusively interview college graduates who come from stable families and have or used to have high-paying jobs. I think a large percentage of the true quarterlife crises going on in this country involve people for whom little or none of the above apply; after all, which is a bigger crisis: the 19-year-old inner-city high school dropout who just got pregnant for the second time, or the 24-year-old Penn grad who can't decide whether to go to law school, or keep on being an investment banker?
I speak from experience: just over two years ago I both lost my job and had a long-term relationship end within the period of a few weeks. Yes, it was awful- but I realized that the situation would've been exponentially worse had it happened when I'm 35 and had children than when I was 21 and single. The quarterlife crisis myth strikes me as a way to give affluent young people who have never really suffered anything truly traumatic yet another mechanism for feeling sorry for themselves.
(The "quarterlife crisis," however, is not to be confused with legitimate depression, which really does affect many people in new situations and should certainly not be downplayed.)
While I'd review as the Robbins/Wilner book as well-intentioned but wrongheaded, I certainly wouldn't call it insulting. But that's more than I can say about a recent Star Tribune examination of the topic. Mentioning at no point that the book is two years old, reporter Kay Miller applies it to a 25-year-old native of the upscale suburb Edina. This guy finished college a few years ago, and is now living in Colorado, where he has a "lucrative consulting career," yet not not lucrative enough apparently, because for him "dating is unbelievably expensive" (who these women are that he's taking out, I don't want to know). And he's also upset that he can't afford to buy a house, but how many single 25-year-old males who aren't NBA players or leftover dotcom millionaires do you know who own their own house?
As if to underscore just how tone deaf Miller's approach to the topic is, she throws statistics at us like "roughly 400,000 people are in their 20s in the 11-county Twin Cities metropolitan area," apparently forgetting that a large percentage of those people can't even afford to go to college, let alone graduate, have a successful career, and live to complain about their pathetic social lives and other such "emptiness." And in discussing uncertainty related to sex and relationships, Miller attempts to tie our generation's differing attitudes to the advent of the birth control pill- as though the Pill had been invented two years ago and not 25 years ago.
Besides, John Mayer now has a Grammy award, both millions of records sold and millions of dollars, the adoration of legions of fans, and beautiful women falling at his feet everywhere he goes. If that's a "quarterlife crisis," then I'd love to have one myself.
WHY THE TIGERS AREN'T GRRRRRREAT: In what's likely the most comical story thus far of the nascent baseball season (and that includes the Jeter injury), the Detroit Tigers last Friday released second baseman Damion Easley, in the process eating the entire three years and $14.3 million remaining on his contract. It's the largest contract ever eaten by a major league team, breaking after less than a week the $9.5 million owed to ex-slugger Greg Vaughn by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. It should go without saying, of course, that the Devil Rays then signed Easley to a minor-league contract of which they will pay only $300,000.
The Easley affair shows us the downside of that unique phenomenon of baseball economics: the guaranteed contract. You see, unlike in football (where everything but the signing bonus is essentially fictional), all contracts in MLB are guaranteed. Meaning that if a player gets hurt, gets traded, or just plain starts to suck, he still gets his money regardless. The nadir of this is Albert Belle, who signed a five-year, $65 million contract with the Orioles prior to the 1999 season, and suffered an injury two years later that has since prevented him from playing- yet he'll still collect $13 million this year and is by far Baltimore's highest paid player. Belle would forfeit his paycheck if he were to retire, which he hasn't done, though if ever a player richly deserved to suffer a painful, career-ending injury, it's Albert Belle. (The NBA at one point had even more draconian rules, stating that a player's contract must remain on his team's salary cap even in the event of death- therefore, Reggie Lewis continued to count against Boston's salary cap for two years after he passed away. Now that the rule is no longer in effect, don't be surprised if the Celtics try to have Vin Baker killed.)
Bud Selig would have us believe that the reason the Tigers have been a non-factor for the past decade is because they're a helpless, small-market team. Bullshit. The Tigers suck because they do things like give 5 years and $30 million to Damion Easley, a player who is currently unable to crack the lineup of even the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Now maybe the Tigers are about to turn the corner, with a new-ish stadium, some good young players, and energetic new manager Alan Trammell. And after all, the Twins and A's have proven the last couple of years that it's possible to field a winning team on a budget. But the reason those teams have succeeded, more than anything else, is visionary leadership- which shows, conversely, that the reason the Tigers, Royals, Brewers, and Padres continually suck isn't because of market at all: it's because they're run by friggin' idiots.
Bud and the owners argued in last year's labor dispute that the small-market owners needed greater revenue sharing in order to "compete" with their larger-market rivals. More BS from Commissioner BS. In fact, small-market owners are the most greedy and corrupt of all, by the same logic that a slumlord is more likely to be a crook than the guy who owns luxury highrises: their job is to pimp misfortunate for their own gain. Why else would the owners adopt revenue sharing without making it illegal for them to pocket the money themselves?
THE LA TIMES GETS IT: That faked photo notwithstanding, the LAT is going cross-country to profile under-the-radar pro-Iraq-liberation voices. First they do Asparagirl, now it's Brandeis' United We Stand. Almost enough to forgive them for employing Robert Scheer.
SIDDIQUI NABBED: The Worst Brandeis Girl Ever has been caught in Pakistan.
IT's NOT EASY, BEING CHEESY: "Speaking of that, have you ever eaten enough Cheetos (as many as you want) that the 'cheese' buildup on your fingers causes you to think you're finger is a Cheeto and you almost bite off the tip of your finger? I hate when that happens." -Bill Cimino, giving us some much-needed levity in wartime.
PITCH FROM ACROSS THE ATLANTIC:
Two Minnesotans who are serving in the Army in Kuwait will throw out the first pitch for tonight's Twins home opener. Josh Tverberg and Greta Lind, both Army Reservists from the Twin Cities area, will throw the pitches at 4 AM Kuwait City time, and they'll be shown via satellite on the Metrodome's scoreboard.
The US in the war, the Twins on the field: on two continents, these two are with the winning team. Just like in '91.
NOT GUILTY, BUT NOT INNOCENT EITHER: In other Twins news, Kirby Puckett has been acquitted of all sex-assault charges in his Hennepin County trial. And while Kirby's not going to jail (the case against him never looked particularly strong anyway), the damage has clearly been done and Kirby will never be Minnesota's hero again. So forgive me if I'm not celebrating the verdict.
AND ONE MORE THING: The Twins, after sweeping the Tigers in Detroit, are 3-0 to start the season; the "leading rival" Chicago White Sox, meanwhile, are 0-3 after they were swept by the Royals in Kansas City. Oh yea, and the Braves are 0-3 too.
HOORAY FOR NAT: Village Voice columnist Nat Hentoff, one of the American left's most venerable and respected voices, a man who vociferously opposed the Vietnam War, who voted for and actively supported the campaign of Ralph Nader, who has written almost every week for the past year that Bush and Ashcroft are making America into a fascist police state, and who is known as one of the media's leading civil libertarians, has come out in support of the war in Iraq. Hentoff believes that Saddam's long record of torture and repression is so vile that he can't justify protesting his removal. Interestingly, Hentoff's column is not included in the sidebar of six pieces on the Voice's front page called "Another Bush, Another War."
Unlike most on the American far left, when Hentoff says he believes in free speech he means it for everybody: he may despise Bush just as much as his colleagues do, but he realizes that Saddam's the one who cuts out the tongues of political dissidents and forces men to watch their own wives being raped. Because really, a liberal case for war in Iraq can very easily be made; too bad Hentoff's one of the only major voices in America who seems to be making it.
JUST A HALF A MILE FROM THE RAILROAD TRACK: Via Lileks: an Iraqi allegedly joyfully shouted the following at arriving American troops:
My advice: next time you're at a party that the cops break up because of noise or, better yet, if you're a smoker in New Yorker and a "tobacco enforcement official" makes you put it out 'cause it's the law, sing a bar of
and walk out. Yes that's what it is, it's a movement. The Democracy Whiskey Sexy Massacre movement, with four-point harmony. And feeling.
MOVIE CRITIC QUOTE OF THE DAY: "If good intentions translated automatically into great art, then 'We Are the World' would sound better than 'I Heard It Through the Grapevine," Ann Landers would read better than James Joyce, and 'The Guys' would supplant 'Lawrence of Arabia.'" -Keith Phipps, reviewing 'The Guys' in The Onion AV Club.
CUBAN INVASION: In what's probably the most clever April Fools joke in sports since the Sidd Finch hoax, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban (who is known for his less-than-cordial relationship with the NBA's officiating corps) during the second quarter of Tuesday's game staged an elaborate stunt in which he had an accomplice dress up as a referree on the court- only to get into a scuffle with a supposedly enraged Cuban (here's the video clip). The operation was so deep undercover that none of the Mavericks players seemed to know that it wasn't on the level, and assistant coach Del Harris looked as though he himself needed to be restrained.
Since buying the Mavs in 1999 Cuban, a dotcom-era visionary who sold his company Broadcast.com to Yahoo for $6 billion, has lived up to the legacy put forth by Bill Veeck in the '30s and '40s- he may favor elaborate stunts, but he gets the job done: as of Wednesday, the long-moribund Mavericks have the best record in the NBA, play in a spanking-new arena, and have a sterling reputation as the team for which everybody in the NBA wants to play. If there's one thing sports (especially baseball) needs, it's a couple dozen more of Mark Cuban.
UPDATE: Here's another good one: rabid Yankee fan Paul Katcher pretends to have gotten a job with the Red Sox. Very funny.
HOBOKEN SHOOTOUT: Despite persistent, "Sopranos"-fueled rumors of continuing mob influence, my adopted hometown of Hoboken really hasn't been a major gangster haven for decades, not since the "On the Waterfront" days of the '50s. But that all changed tonight, when a high speed chase resulted in gunfire and the shooting of cops at two different intersections, one of which was merely a block from my apartment. Thankfully, both cops survived.
The trouble began a little before 8PM when a passenger getting out of a cab on Washington between Fourth and Fifth Streets refused to pay the cabbie and instead shot him in the leg. The suspect then allegedly carjacked a Ford Explorer and sped towards Jersey City, stopping to shoot at a police officer outside of a convenience store at the intersection of First and Adams, which I had jogged past about 90 minutes before (I was able to hear the gunshots from my apartment, but at first I thought they were firecrackers). The chase then continued into JC, where one of the suspects was shot and killed about a half-hour later.
And even though we're at war right now, the Hoboken gunfire story led the late local news on both WCBS and WNBC.
BILLBOARD #1: Check out my first-ever contribution to the New York Press Daily Billboard, the daily group blog on that alt-weekly's website. In it I look at "Brandeis Jihad": the still hard-to-believe news that a former Brandeis student is wanted for links to Al-Qaeda.
AND I THOUGHT I HAD DISGUSTING REFERRAL LOGS: Sardonic Subversive's got people looking for nude figure skaters. I could understand searching for Katarina Witt, who actually is attractive and has posed nude and IS AN ADULT- but Sasha Cohen?
IF YOU WANNA BE MY GLOVER: Thanks to his new movie "Willard," actor Crispin Glover has gotten perhaps more mainstream exposure lately than at any time in his career. Best known for his role as George McFly in the first "Back to the Future," Glover has in recent years acquired quite a reputation as one of Hollywood's supreme weirdos, one that serves him well as the alienated young man who befriends a group of rats in the new film.
In recent weeks Glover has been interviewed by Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien, Entertainment Weekly, The Onion AV Club, and numerous other outlets, and in these interviews he's been asked about all of the various weirdnesses in his CV: his infamous kick to the head of David Letterman in 1987, his long-in-the-works direction of a film ("What Is It?") with an all-retarded cast, his forays into music and literature, and his belief in the need for a new "counter-cultural film movement." But one subject I've never seen touched on in any recent interview with Glover is perhaps the most fascinating of all: an essay the actor wrote in the 2000 anthology "Apocalypse Culture II" in which Glover, apparently in all seriousness, called for Steven Spielberg to be killed. Glover's beef with the all-powerful director dates back to his being cut out of "Back to the Future" Parts II and III, and he apparently objects not only to Spielberg personally, but also his "propagandist" films, to the point where he feels that humanity could be better served by the director's death:
Because I think it is possible a beautiful piece of non-lingual music could well be written by an angry victim once Steven Spielberg becomes a corpse. It could be that this angry victim of banal and ruinous propaganda will have written an anthem signaling a new era, a new thought process, a new music, and a new culture that is desperately needed in the coming days, and forevermore.
RESCUE BLUES: In one of the most welcome developments in Iraq since the war began, 19-year-old Army supply clerk Jessica Lynch has been found alive after more than a week as a POW. Lynch's disapperance was the subject of a wrenching segment on CBS' "48 Hours" last Friday in which the people of her West Virginia hometown were shown praying that one of their daughters would come home safely. And while Lynch reportedly suffered two broken legs and a broken arm before and during her captivity, she'll be coming home safely after all.
And what was the name of Lynch's West Virginia hometown? That's right, Palestine. Are there any small towns in Iraq called Tel Aviv? And if there were, would people from there be allowed to fight for Iraq? I'm guessing no to both.
I DON'T WANT TO CALL SULLIVAN A HYPOCRITE, BUT... Ever since before the war, Andy's been referring to the Iraqi regime as "the Saddamites." That's cute, I can't say I disagree with the sentiments, and I remember Bush I constantly and accidentally-on-purpose pronouncing the dictactor's first name as "Sodom." But then Sullivan turns around and pens a 4,000 word defense of legal sodomy, titling it, you guessed it, "We Are All Sodomites Now."
So let's get this straight: it's good to be a Sodomite, bad to be a Saddamite. Right?
NOT A GOOD DAY TO BE A JETER: Veteran character actor Michael Jeter died Sunday at the age of 50, while Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter will be out of action for at least a month (and possibly longer) after suffering a shoulder injury in Monday's season opener.
It should go without saying that I'm considerably more upset right now about the latter than the former.
EXHIBIT A ON WHY AMERICAN HIGHER EDUCATION SUCKS: From a profile (not online) in last week's New Yorker of loony left guru Noam Chomsky:
Chomsky's intellectual influence is still extraordinary. On an academic list of the ten most cited sources of all time (a list that includes the Bible) he ranks eighth- above Hegel and Cicero, just below Plato and Freud.
After many years, I came to the conclusion that everything [Chomsky] says is false. He will lie just for the fun of it. Every one of his arguments was tinged and coded with falseness and pretense. It was like playing chess with extra pieces. It was all fake.
GREAT APRIL FOOLS JOKE, EXCEPT IT'S TRUE: "Brandeis Alumna Wanted For Link to Al-Qaeda." Apparently Aafia Siddiqui, 31, a former grad student who published her Biology dissertation in 2001 is wanted by the feds for her alleged ties to Adnan El Shukrijumah, a Saudi who has been implicated in multiple terrorist threats. For all the universities in all the world at which one can study, she chooses Brandeis- making possible the absurd paradox that the world's first known female Al-Qaeda operative is a graduate of the Non-Sectarian Jewish-Sponsored University. I don't know about you, but I'll be careful what I say about "Brandeis girls" from now on.
And speaking of April Fools jokes, hasn't the internet pretty much killed that phenomenon? It's not like you can keep appearances up for more than a minute these days without someone Googling to find out the real facts.
IS DUBYA A SECRET MUSICAL THEATER GROUPIE?:
"Day by day we are moving closer to Baghdad. Day by day, we are moving closer to victory" -President Bush, 3/31/'03
"Day by day/Day by day/Oh Dear Lord/Three things I pray/To see thee more clearly/Love thee more dearly/Follow thee more nearly/Day by day" -Lyrics from the musical "Godspell," by Stephen Schwartz, 1971.
We always hear Bush talking about Jesus; apparently he's partial to musicals about Jesus too.
SACKED THREE TIMES: War correspondent Peter Arnett has been fired by all three of his employers (NBC News, MSNBC, and National Geographic) after he gave an interview to Iraqi state-owned television in which he praised the "determination" of Iraqi forces and stated that the US war plan had "failed."
Arnett, as anyone who was alive during the first Gulf War remembers, reported for CNN from a hotel in Baghdad along with colleagues John Holliman and Bernard Shaw, and the image of their pictures on screen against the backdrop of coalition bombing was as iconic as any from that war. Arnett was later disgraced as a journalist (and let go by CNN in 1999) after he put his name on a bogus story about use of sarin gas by US troops in Vietnam. But once it became clear the US was about to go to war in the Gulf once again, someone doubtless raised the possibility of recreating the "great TV" from the first Iraq war- and since Shaw is retired and Holliman is dead, Arnett was NBC's only remaining option. Then, after CNN's two correspondents were expelled in the opening days of the war, Arnett became the only Western television reporter in the Iraqi capital. All in all, it took a tremendous stroke of luck for Peter Arnett to get a second chance at a career in war reporting, and it took him less than two weeks to blow it.
As a journalist I respect Arnett's right to free speech, as well as his right to his opinions- but taking those opinions to Saddam Hussein's official government propaganda organ was, I feel, an act that crossed the line into what is unacceptable for a war reporter. And in cozying up to the Iraqi regime, Arnett not only came dangerously close to providing aid and comfort to the enemy, but he also committed the sin of bad journalism: clearly he should know better than to think the US plan has completely failed, or that the Iraqi people are more or less on Saddam's side.
Arnett's fall further illustrates a fierce debate that's been going on since the start of the war on what role the media should play. Many on the left have accused elements of the media (primarily Fox News Channel) of doing nothing but parroting propaganda straight from the Pentagon, while some on the right have accused elements of the media (primarily the New York Times) of spinning war news to make the war appear to not be going as well as it is, believing the reporting of bad news to somehow translate into a hatred of America and a secret wish that Saddam Hussein wins the war. Either way, it doesn't seem as though anybody's happy with the war coverage; indeed, in the last week I've heard more people complain about the television coverage than about the actual war.
As usual, I think the pure ideologues of the left and right are both full of it. Yes, it's true that the Fox News has gone totally overboard in their coverage of this war, leaping over the line into pure advoacy and making their bald-faced lie of a slogan (Fair and Balanced!) even more meaningless by the minute- and even more sadly, their ratings are likely to skyrocket since what their audience wants is unapologetic American boosterism. And CNN appears generally clueless in most phases of their coverage, whether its the smarmier-than-ever Aaron Brown, the hideous, Jew-baiting manbeast Christiane Amanpour, or Wolf Blitzer, who last Friday announced an explosion in Kuwait City, and then spent 15 minutes on the air reporting absolutely no information on who or what had caused it. But while Western reporters in Iraq are restricted (rightly) by their inability to expose future battle plans, to argue that the 400-some "embedded" reporters, who are traveling with military units around the clock, are given "no access" is nothing short of ridiculous. And don't forget, before Arnett "came out of the closet" as someone who was proud of Iraq's tough resistance, his name was frequently tossed around as one of those reporters who weren't tough enough on the US.
That said, the right-wing prejudice that anyone the slightest bit critical of the war is a vile hater of the United States of America has expanded to include anyone who second-guesses any aspect of the war plan or even reports any type of bad news. The New York Post Saturday accused the Times of wishing for America to lose the war just because they reported that Iraqi resistance has been tougher than was expected. Um, isn't that what happened? Are we supposed to think the American people are too childish to be able to handle bad news? As a journalist myself and a supporter of both the US and the war, I feel strongly that truth should be any reporter's first pursuit, even if it results in bad news that Donald Rumsfeld may not want us to hear.
I don't doubt that there are those in America who really do hope the United States loses the war (like hopefully soon-to-be-ex Columbia professor Nicolas De Genova, who said last week that he hopes the war results in "a million Mogadishus.") And Arnett's comments certainly showed that he's unworthy of being the only Western reporter in Baghdad. But let's not throw the whole mainstream media in with them. Reporting a war is a tough job, and it's wrong to let ideological blinders be the chief determinant of what is or isn't good reporting.