COMING HOME: I'm leaving tonight to head back to New York after visiting "Minny" for the last five days. Highlights have included generally avoiding the ridiculously cold weather, visiting family and friends, going to see T-Wolves and Wild, both of whom lost.
The Wolves looked especially weak on Wednesday night, as Latrell Sprewell failed to perform against his former teammates and Minnesota fell to the Knicks. Then again, there's not much they could do, what with Wally Sczcerbiak, Michael Olowokandi, and Troy Hudson all out with injuries- even Dancin' Mark Madsen missed the game, necessitating the ugly spectacle of Fred Hoiberg playing the entire second quarter.
I did see Jesse Ventura at the game, as he sat by himself for the entire first half before his notoriously hard-partying son Tyrel joined him at the half. Tyrel did not, however, "[leave] behind liquor bottles, damaged furnishings and vomit for the staff to clean up," as he once did at the governor's mansion.
While no politicians showed up, Friday's Wild game, at least, had the spectacle of the famous Mascot All-Star Game during the first intermission, despite Minny's 2-1 loss to San Jose. With a giant Subway sandwich in goal, the two teams once again skated to a scoreless tie, with the highlight being Charlie the Tuna's tackle of Twins mascot TC Bear to prevent a late score.
That ruled, as did XCel Energy Center itself. And the "State of Hockey" song kicks ass too. The Wild even have a Finnish player by the name of Annti Laaksonen, whose name is remarkably similar to the drug Rush Limbaugh was accused of using. Alas, Laaksonen's position on the ice? Left wing.
Oh, and this year's Turkey of the Year, after "the most feeble nine-victory season in Big Ten history," is Minnesota football coach Glen Mason.
That's all; more when I return to the Big Apple.
TWO STEPS FORWARD... The Jewish newspaper the Forward last week unveiled its annual Forward 50, or the 50 most influential American Jews. Topping the list for the second straight year was Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense seen by most as the principal architect of the Iraq war.
Rounding out the top five were Reform movement head rabbi Eric Yoffie, ADL honcho Abraham Foxman, Hannah Rosenthal of the Jewish Council on Public Affairs, and World Trade Center architect Daniel Libeskind.
Also listed, among those frequently mentioned here, were Joseph Lieberman, Barney Frank, Eric Cantor, Alan Dershowitz, Michael Lerner, Daniel Pipes, Douglas Rushkoff, Jon Stewart, and Debra Messing; the 50 had three Brandeisians that I know of: Yoffie, Messing, and Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Among those conspicuous by their absence from the list: Goldberg, Al Franken, Sarah Silverman, Theo Epstein, Heeb editrix Jenn Bleyer, Jay Fiedler, Ron Silver, David Paymer, and Ron Jeremy.
REAL WORLD NIGHTMARE: Less than a week after the completion of "The Real World:Paris," which may have been the most boring season in the history of the series (quick- name five things that happened), the unfortunate news was reported the other night that a woman was allegedly raped in the house of the next "Real World" season, in San Diego.
Neither the alleged victim or perpetrator is a member of the cast but both are supposedly acquaintances of the current Real Worlders, though if guilty the perp certainly goes in the pantheon of all-time dumbest criminals for choosing to rape a woman in a house full of cameras.
No idea about whether or not the show will continue to be taped, or whether the alleged rape will be talked about when the show airs; it probably can't air until the matter is adjudicated. Though when angry hipsters in Chicago loudly protested the filming of a "Real World" season in the Wicker Park section of that city a few years ago, that was left out of the episodes.
In other other Real World news, Jeff Nussbaum, the former Tom Daschle staffer and brother of RW legend Cara Nussbaum-Kahn, is the co-author of James Carville's new book, "Had Enough."
WELCOME TO BOSTON:
Pitcher Curt Schilling today agreed to a three-year contract to join the Boston Red Sox, and thus become the best #2 starter in Bosox history. At this point, there is little question that on paper, the Red Sox are ahead of the Yankees.
Look at that photo- doesn't it look like the guy on the left should be the general manager, and the guy on the right the player who just signed the contract? Not often you see a 28-year-old GM sign a 37-year-old player.
But if Schilling had refused the trade, would Theo have broken all the furniture in his house?
PACINO... DeNIRO... PAYMER: I'm really looking forward to this new ABC crime drama "Line of Fire," which debuts next week and looks like it has a chance to rise above the rest of the "Sopranos" rip-offs from the last few years. The twists are many- it's set in Richmond, Virginia (will there be a Meryl Yourish cameo?), the FBI is personified by ex-"24" wife Leslie Hope and former "ER" babe Leslie Bibb (but apparently not Leslie Nielson), and the mob boss is portrayed by David Paymer, who has had a very similar career as a character actor as James Gandolfini did prior to 'Sopranos.' Paymer as a badass- it might just be as satisfying as Kevin Pollak's thug character turn in "The Usual Suspects."
It certainly sounds intriguing. But then, "Skin" sounded intriguing too, and we all know what happened there.
THE DIRRRRTY DIET: Us Weekly this week, for those dying to know, gives us the "skinny" on "How Christina [Aguilera] Lost the Weight," complete with two seemingly identical photos of the sickly-looking "sexy" siren.
While I am certainly proud of Xtina that she was able to drop from 90 pounds all the way back down to 80, I fear Miss Aguilera may be a bit passe, considering that US has relegated her to second-banana on the cover to that other anorexic young "hottie" with no discernable talent, Paris Hilton.
Expect a Christina sex tape to surface before Christmas, though as Triumph the Insult Comic Dog said of her MTV videos, "it's like watching porn, except the music's not as good."
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "That's certainly something I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving. It's been an amazing year: getting rid of Trent Lott, Saddam Hussein and Howell Raines is about as good as it gets. But the right to marry? I can barely believe my luck." -Andrew Sullivan, in his "Daily Dish" e-mail.
MORE TROUBLE FOR ANN: We've got our latest Easterbrook-like debate over whether something someone wrote is or isn't anti-Semitic- and this time the "someone" is none other than leggy conservative pundit Ann Coulter. In her latest column, in which she lambastes the entire Democratic presidential field for having the temerity both to have suffered deaths in the family and to have Jewish ancestors, Coultergeist fires off the following:
In addition to having a number of family deaths among them, the Democrats' other big idea -- too nuanced for a bumper sticker -- is that many of them have Jewish ancestry. There's Joe Lieberman: Always Jewish. Wesley Clark: Found Out His Father Was Jewish in College. John Kerry: Jewish Since He Began Presidential Fund-Raising. Howard Dean: Married to a Jew. Al Sharpton: Circumcised. Even Hillary Clinton claimed to have unearthed some evidence that she was a Jew -- along with the long lost evidence that she was a Yankees fan. And that, boys and girls, is how the Jews survived thousands of years of persecution: by being susceptible to pandering.
LEDE OF THE YEAR: From the AP:
REISTERSTOWN, Md. - A naked man who was shot in the back showed up at the home of retired Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken on Thanksgiving night and pleaded for help, police said.-
AT THE MOVIES: I'll be back with more blogging from the Frozen Tundra (aka The State of Hockey) later tonight, but first, my two latest movie reviews: "The Matrix Revolutions" at IOFilm.com, and "Shattered Glass" at Hot Movie Ticket.
The latter is highly recommended; the former, not so much.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT, RE: RACISM AT BRANDEIS: From Harvey Silverglate and Alan Kors' indispensable book "The Shadow University":
It was the tenth year of [Sheldon Hackney of UPenn's] presidency, and he obsessed about race relations throughout. If some halfwit- whether racist or provocateur- scribbled an epithet on a stairwell, the campus would gratify the miscreant by acting as if a fascist night had descended. During freshman orientations, students were taught at "diversity education" seminars to perceive the campus as a hotbed of racism.
UPDATE: The student who made the offending flier last week has apologized.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's a great Justice op-ed, deservedly mocking those who walked out on the recent Daniel Pipes speech as "left-wing fascists."
A FAIR AND BALANCED REVIEW OF THE FRANKEN BOOK: Looking for a book to read for the four-hour train ride back from Boston last weekend, I stopped into the book store at Boston's South Station and settled on "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them," the somewhat controversial new political humor book by Al Franken. After finishing the first half in one sitting and the rest a few days later, I can say that while I've got quite a few objections, I'm glad I read it.
I've got a bit of a mixed relationship to Franken and his work. He's from where I'm from (St. Louis Park, MN), I once met him at a Twins game and found him to be quite a friendly guy, I've enjoyed a great deal of the stuff he wrote and performed on "Saturday Night Live," and absolutely loved his 1996 book "Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot."
But on the other hand, my politics have moved rightward as his have lurched leftward, and it's hard to dispute that Franken's humor these days has a mere fraction of the bite his '70s SNL stuff did- much of which certainly has to do with his split with longtime writing partner Tom Davis. And I also find his tactic of rebutting the "shrill and mean-spirited" tactics of conservatives by being shrill and mean-spirited himself a tad hypocritical. But at any rate, I was sympathetic to Franken during Bill O'Reilly's hysterical lawsuit against him (writing about it here), and so I figured I'd give his book a shot.
The book starts out with all the easy, deserving targets (O'Reilly, Coulter, Bernard Goldberg, Fox News), winning most of the battles decisively and gleefully tearing their arguments to shreds. On the more difficult stuff, however, Franken punts- he devotes short, unconvincing chapters to the Iraq war and the 2000 election, and has just about nothing to say about either the Democratic presidential field or the current crisis in the Democratic party over the role of liberalism in the War on Terror. Franken's "issue" chapters, as a rule, don’t ring nearly as true as his shots at various celebrity pundits.
In addition, his chapter on the infamous Paul Wellstone memorial service, while honorable in exposing some of the excesses of the right-wing reaction, leaves out a few major details as well, including Iowa Senator Tom Harkin leading the crowd in a chant of "We Will Win!"
Franken also borrows a trick from his enemies on the right by misdefining everything- mistakes in speech, flip-flops, jokes, or deniability-maintaining spin- as "lies." It's dishonest, and only serves to make Franken look hypocritical. Especially since he stretches the truth quite a bit himself, in using every one of those tactics.
In addition, the author includes a laugh-free sequel to the Limbaugh book's most tedious chapter, "Operation Chickenhawk," as well as a generally unfunny cartoon about "Supply Side Jesus." For every joke that kills about 6 or 7 fall flat; Franken also borrows from Peter Vecsey the awful-writer tic of writing long paragraphs that start out factual-sounding but end with lame joke punchlines. Which is the book's biggest weakness- Franken shifts between joking and complete seriousness more or less at will.
There are some highlights, however, such as a faux visit by Franken and his "son" to Bob Jones University, the author's challenge of masculinity-espousing conservative pundit Rich Lowry to a fight, and the entire chapter devoted to exposing the fraud that is "Hannity & Colmes." The author even puts Colmes' name in a smaller typeface, and jokes that his autobiography should've been called "Back to You Sean: The Alan Colmes Story."
If you can get past the absurdity of a book-length polemic arguing that liberalism is always right, Franken's book is all right. "Lies and the Lying Liars" is hardly for hardcore lefties only, which is what separates it, say, from the latest Michael Moore screed. If you're looking for an easy read with a few laughs about the last few years of American politics, it's for you, providing you're willing to take everything with a grain of salt. If what you want is serious, academic analysis of why "Bush is a moron, na na na na na!"; I direct you instead to Paul Krugman.
A FOOTNOTE: I discovered at the end of the book that among Franken's team of researchers was Steve Rabin, a classmate of mine at Brandeis and one of my roommates senior year (us, and Donald Fehr's son). Steve, now at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, wrote his senior thesis as a refutation of the "liberal media bias" theory, thus beating both Franken and Eric Alterman to the topic by almost four years.
SHELLING OUT FOR SCHILLING: The surprising news broke yesterday that the Boston Red Sox are just one waived no-trade-clause away from acquiring Curt Schilling from the Arizona Diamondbacks, in order to add a second likely future Hall-of-Famer to their starting rotation. And while the hated Yankees were prepared to part with budding superstar second baseman Alfonso Soriano for Schilling, all the Sox have to give up is middling pitcher Casey Fossum and a trio of prospects who I've never heard of.
Then again, last time the Sox had Schilling he was one such prospect- traded along with Brady Anderson to Baltimore for pitcher Mike Boddicker in 1988, in what was only the second-worst trade the Red Sox made in the '80s (after the Jeff Bagwell deal). Being able to undo that mistake, in addition to the depth, makes it worth it for Boston to give Schilling the additional two years that he wants; in the deal, Fossum and the minor leaguers would go to the sorry, no-account Milwaukee Brewers, who would then surrender their lone good player, Richie Sexson, to the D-Backs. The trade is also presumably contingent on the Sox naming Terry Francona their new manager, but that was likely to happen anyway.
Tony Kornheiser said on PTI last night that after the Red Sox came within inches of beating the Yankees in the ALCS, by virtue of the retirement of Roger Clemens and now the Schilling signing, the Red Sox are at this point ahead of them. I tend to agree.
For the latest on the Schilling situation, keep checking back with the noted baseball expert Friendster Peter Gammons.
AND SPEAKING OF HALL OF FAME PITCHERS: Milwaukee Braves legend Warren Spahn, baseball's all-time winningest left-handed pitcher, died yesterday at the age of 84. I saw Spahn at the Hall of Fame inductions in 2001 and he didn't look to be in the best of health; but I give him credit for hanging on for another two and a half years.
And also passing away in the last week was Eloise Pohlad, wife of Twins owner Carl, who died at the age of 86. While I've never had many nice things to say about her husband, Eloise was by all accounts a wonderful matriarch for the franchise. And I'll never forget the sight of her and her husband embracing, in their living room, as they watched the Twins clinch the 1987 AL West championship.
NO HILL IN '04: It's official: contrary to popular belief and conjecture, Hillary Clinton is NOT running for president. The Junior Senator from New York missed the filing deadline for the New Hampshire primary late last week, putting to rest months of rumors and conspiracy theories (including a whole book) alleging that the former First Lady had long been pursuing a nefarious plot to run for president. As though the tentative aspirations of a senator from a major state choosing to run for president is somehow a "ruthless agenda."
Al Sharpton's decision to run for president- now there's a nefarious agenda.
PLEASED TO MEET ME: As I mentioned before, it's going to be damn cold when I'm in Minnesota. How will I cope? Easy- I'll take the skyway.
PROBLEMS WITH THE "SEX TYPE THING"?: The Stone Temple Pilots have broken up; I would've guessed that they had broken up three or four years ago.
TMQ@NFL: Gregg Easterbrook's Tuesday Morning Quarterback column finally has a new home- NFL.com. The column will debut there later today.
UPDATE: Here it is. And new logo too!
TRAIN KEPT ROLLIN':
Yesterday afternoon I took the PATH from Hoboken to the World Trade Center, to mark the first day of train service since September 11. And while I was merely expecting to enjoy the symbolic value of such an excursion, the train ride was, improbably, an amazing experience.
As my train emerged from the Hudson River tunnel and pulled into the station (and daylight), I realized for the first time I was in Ground Zero- indeed, the temporary PATH terminal was built in one corner of the actual WTC pit. And while I knew this going in, nothing prepared me for the actual sight of actually being right there- the closest I had been was the viewing platform, which was nearly two blocks away.
The temporary station itself was quite impressive as well- adorned with famous quotes from New Yorkers, and also retaining much of the feel of the original WTC PATH station, including the large escalators. And I also love that it opens into the "neighborhood," which for the first time since before 9/11 actually felt "alive."
With more interest groups than one can even imagine (the city, the state, the architects, the leaseholders, the unions, the victims' families, and the general public, to name a few) fighting over what exactly should happen to the World Trade Center site, I fear it could be years before any substantial development is able to begin, and even decades before anything is completed. But kudos to everyone who made this new PATH station happen- not only has it made an easier commute to the city for thousands of New Jersey residents, but it- along with the impossibly swift 7-month Ground Zero cleanup- shows what's possible when people put their heads together. Let's hope the aforementioned groups can learn from the example.
Here's more from Jeff Jarvis, who knows the area well.
NPR TO POOP ON: Not content to merely feud with Eminem, Triumph the Insult Comic dog has jumped headfirst into the Al Franken/Bill O'Reilly fracas, appearing on NPR's "Fresh Air," the same show that O'Reilly stormed off of a few weeks ago after host Terry Gross' questions were too tough.
But rather than walk out, America's Foremost Insult Comic Dog merely pooped on the floor of Gross' studio. If only Mr. Factor had had the class and integrity to do the same…
"JOKE 'EM IF THEY CAN'T TAKE A FUCK": The Vodkapundit, Stephen Green, has a great post, extrapolated from a recent Instapundit post about the most recent David Brooks column; Green takes issue with Brooks' contention that there's something wrong with liking sex if you're single.
That last line reminds me of Maggie Gyllenhaal telling her brother to "go suck a fuck," in the first scene of "Donnie Darko." Which also reminds me- I'm very much on the fence about whether or not to go see this new "Mona Lisa Smile" movie. On the one hand, it's a total chick flick, about Julia Roberts (whom I despise) teaching at Wellesley. On the other hand, it's got Kirsten Dunst, AND Julia Stiles, AND the aforementioned Maggie Gyllenhaal- three members of the Modern Megababe Hall-of-Fame. If Rachel Weisz were in it too, then it would be a certain "yes," but as of now I'm 50/50.
IN MOURNING: Unfortunate news from the world of basketball: Nets center Alonzo Mourning will retire from the NBA, in order to fight his ongoing battle with kidney disease. Mourning had already missed two years, including last year, prior to signing a four-year contract with the Nets prior to this season. Jason Collins will likely replace Mourning as New Jersey's starting center.
And compounding the bad news for 7-foot centers who dominated basketball in the early-mid '90s, Bill Cartwright has been fired as coach of the Chicago Bulls.
IT'S TURKEY TIME! GOBBLE! GOBBLE!: (Expect to see that headline, eluding to "Gigli," quite a bit in the next week).
Anyway, I'm heading on Wednesday to Minnesota for the seventh straight Thanksgiving- no, in 25 years I've never had Thanksgiving anywhere else.
This year, according to Weather.com, is gonna be a cold one, with temperatures topping out at 44 degrees on Friday. But don't worry, I'm going to be spending quite a bit of time indoors, including at T-Wolves and Wild games on Wednesday and Friday.
And speaking of Minnesota sports, the annual Turkey of the Year award will be given out by Star Tribune columnist Patrick Reusse on Turkey Day morning, and considering what a banner year it's been for Minny sports, it's hard to tell who the front-runner is. Last year Reusse chickened out, bypassing obvious winner Kirby Puckett to give the award to Wolves executive Kevin McHale and coach Flip Saunders. Kirby could technically get it for this year (as his trial took place in '03), but I've got to go with Bud Selig as my pick.
Interesting Turkey notes- no one has ever won twice, the trophy was re-christened "The Herschel" at the end of Mr. Walker's disastrous Vikings tenure in 1990, and J.R. Rider was named Turkey of the Millennium in 1999.
O/U 812: The funniest story in the NFL this week (other than the league's most loathsome player, Keyshawn Johnson, finally being put in his place)? The early-afternoon game between the Baltimore Ravens and Seattle Seahawks was expected to be a low-scoring, defensive clash, and oddsmakers placed the over/under at 36.5. The final score? Seahawks 44, Ravens 41, in overtime, falling just a half-point short of overtaking the over by 50 points- almost certainly an all-time NFL record.
Even better than that? Due to the longstanding effort by the league, the networks, and media to pretend gambling on its games doesn't exist, this historic event went completely unreported.
WHAT PC WROUGHT: According to an AP story, 25% of American college students- and more than 10% of top administrators- are unable to name any of the protections afforded to Americans by the First Amendment. Can't say that's much of a surprise, after the last few years of "the right to not be offended" trumping everything that's in the actual constitution.
Hat tip to Campus Press Notes.
VILLAGE VOICE FULL SPLITS, CONT'D: "Israel's most ardent supporters in the U.S. are fighting back, but there are even cracks there. Last week two politically conservative U.S. groups, the Anti-Defamation League and the Zionist Organization of America, attacked Secretary of State Colin Powell for his approving remarks about the latest peace plan, the so-called Geneva Accord." -James Ridgeway, The Village Voice. The ADL is "politically conservative?" Since when? Just because they support Israel and oppose anti-Semitism? Ridgeway, apparently, considers such views to be "right-wing." Remember when supporting Israel was considered a "liberal cause"? Not anymore, apparently...
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "No, I have not seen the Paris Hilton sex tape. If I wanted to watch a skeleton getting pounded, I'd rent Jason and the Argonauts." -Blogger Jim Treacher. I agree- I think Paris looks like the illegitimate daughter of Ann Coulter and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.
SHINING PATH: While I can't get too excited about any of the WTC memorial designs that were unveiled yesterday, I can get excited about this: The World Trade Center PATH train station, closed since it was destroyed on September 11, will re-open for business on Sunday, the first segment of the WTC site to open to the public. One of the most powerful moments of the post-9/11 period was when a nearly intact PATH car was pulled from the wreckage; now, months or even years before anyone thought it possible, PATH cars will pull in and out of the station once again.
Even though I don't have anywhere to be in the city on Sunday, I'll think I'll be taking a train there anyway.
"YES, OSWALD ALONE KILLED KENNEDY:" I'm not normally one to praise the journalistic skills of Peter Jennings, but the special he hosted last night on the Kennedy assassination was quite an achievement- a dismantling, bit by bit, of the entire case that a widespread conspiracy killed the president of the United States 40 years ago tomorrow. Best of all is the takedown of the brilliantly made but nevertheless fraudulent 1991 movie directed by Oliver Stone.
Much of the best stuff from the special is reproduced on ABC News' website, including an amazing 3D animation of the assassination; for more, read the essay (which shares this post's name) by noted JFK expert Jerry Cohen, excerpted here.
And here's Gregg Easterbrook:
This morning a New York Times reflection on the Kennedy assassination refers to the rifle Lee Harvey Oswald used "to kill the president, according to official accounts." Please. Forty years and countless investigations later, we can believe that Oswald was the one who did it. All lingering doubts were erased by the 1994 book Case Closed by Gerald Posner.
POST-CODE HOLLYWOOD: Congrats to my college film professor Thomas Doherty, who this week received a $25,000 grant from the motion picture Academy so that he may produce a monograph on Joseph Breen, the head of the notorious Hollywood Production Code office in the '30s and '40s. Doherty tells the Boston Globe that when he receives his award from the Academy, he'd like to "snog Halle Berry," much like Adrian Brody did last year. Wouldn't we all…
AND YOU THOUGHT JACKIE CHRISTIE WAS A NIGHTMARE: I think we have a new Worst Sports Spouse/Groupie Ever. According to ESPN.com, police in Arizona investigating the murder of former Red Sox prospect Dernell Stenson are looking into the possibility that Stenson's ex-girlfriend may have been involved. Police say the woman once text-messaged a death threat to the player, as well as doing all this:
Friends and family confirmed to the newspaper that she harassed Stenson across several states over an 18-month period, saying at various times that she was pregnant, miscarried his child, was pregnant again and miscarried again… At one point, Stenson's agent told the newspaper, the woman faked her death to try to force the ballplayer to call her.Yikes. But why would he call her if he thought she was dead? Then there's that text message:
U better pray I never see you U again. I swear Dernell U R worth a Murder charge 4 & that is all U R worth."She may not be responsible for the murder, 'cause it did just sound like a random carjacking. But still, my message to the woman: U R a psycho.
AND SPEAKING OF THE CHRISTIES: There's a new article about our favorite purse-designing couple in the Sacramento Bee. It includes supportive quotes from Chris Webber and other players, and like the Newt Gingrich quote on the back of Alan Colmes' book, the reporter probably has no idea that they're sarcastic.
I'M TOO SEXY FOR THIS MAGAZINE: Johnny Depp has been anointed the latest "Sexiest Man Alive" by People Magazine. I think next year, just to shake things up, People should give the SMA award to someone more unconventional- like, say, Steve Buscemi. Or perhaps Christopher Walken. Or the guy who played Brian Krakow on "My So Called Life."
IT'S NOT TV… AT LEAST NOT THIS YEAR: When I did my Top Ten TV Shows of the Year last year, I ranked "Curb Your Enthusiasm" #1 and "The Sopranos" #2. Of course, neither will make the list this year, because HBO hasn't broadcast an original episode of either show in 2003.
But have no fear, fans of quality television: the network announced this week that 'Curb' will return for the first of ten new episodes on January 4; 'Sopranos' will air its fifth-season premiere on March 7- possibly the first show in the television history to air five seasons in six years.
Don't wait up, however, for the return of "K Street"…
STORY THAT'S NOT QUITE AS SCARY AS THE HEADLINE SAYS: "Worldwide Extinction Blamed on Asteroid." –The AP. So what if it was 251 million years ago, as opposed to today?
NOT A GOOD WEEK FOR PHIL SPECTOR: First the Beatles release their de-Spectorized version of "Let It Be," then he gets charged with murder.
Oh well, at least he's having a better week than the guy who owns the Lennon-McCartney catalogue.
BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY:A Brandeis senior named Eliezer Schwartz passed away over the weekend, in what has from various published reports been described as a drug-fueled accident and a suicide. Condolences go to Schwartz's family; his older brother Moe was at Brandeis with me.
This, along with Mary Jagoda's passing, reminds us just how unimportant all this PC/anti-PC nonsense really is…
TROUBLE WITH BRANDEIS: I was just about to declare a moratorium on Brandeis-related posts, knowing that most of my readers didn’t go there and don't necessarily care about the day-to-day goings-on at my alma mater. But a couple of events this week bear commenting on, as it appears a virtual pro-PC vs. anti-PC civil war is about to break out on campus, if it hasn't already.
Sometime this week, some idiot placed a flier on campus which stated the following:
There are 6.5 million Muslim-Americans in the United States comprised of African-Americans, and last night they all did your mom. Twice. Did you know that? Creating awareness: one thought at a time.
Much like the Passner quote, the flier is factually and grammatically incorrect, on top of being viciously racist, as well as not the slightest bit funny. And it's hard to imagine anything more noxious than stereotyping blacks as rapists. The flier is supposed to be a parody of the Senate's "One thought at a time" campaign, but not a particularly funny or effective one.
I don't know what this dumbass was thinking, but he's clearly not helping his own cause by pursuing this course of action, because all he's likely to do is help prove the point of the PC zealots that there's an "institutionally racist atmosphere on campus," make it look as though those opposed to the strong-arming of the "tolerance" advocates are in fact vicious racists, and subsequently inch Brandeis closer and closer to Speech Code-land. Follow Josh for more on this.
The group claiming responsibility for the flier is called, for what it's worth, "the Mad Tea Party." No idea what that is, but they do share a name with a North Carolina-based folk-pop duo.
TROUBLE WITH BRANDIS: Actor Jonathan Brandis, who starred on "Seaquest DSV," died last week, in an apparent suicide.
THAT'S THE ANTHEM, GET YOUR DAMN NETS UP: The NYSX reported last week that a mysterious fourth bidder had emerged in the fight over who will be the next owner of the New Jersey Nets. Now we know his identity: it's rapper Jay-Z. Yes, the Jigga-Man, who plans to soon retire from rap, has joined the fray, along with groups headed by Senator Jon Corzine, real estate developer Bruce Ratner, and New York Islanders owner Charles Wang.
The real issue in the bidding is where the team will go: Corzine wants to keep them in the Garden State (he wouldn't be much of a New Jersey senator if he didn't), and most likely wishes to continue to pursue the shelved arena-in-Newark plan. Wang wants to move the team to Long Island, while Ratner wants to build a new arena on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn and put the Nets there. It's unclear where J-HOVA (real name: Shawn Carter) would put the team should he win the bidding, though it's interesting to note that the proposed Brooklyn arena isn't that far from where Jay-Z grew up, and would even be assessable by the J-Z subway line.
I'm all for the Ratner/Brooklyn plan: with their woeful arena and oblivious fan base, I've long considered New Jersey unworthy of an NBA team, and how fun would it be to have two NBA teams in the five boroughs? Besides, Brooklyn hasn’t had a major-league sports franchise of its own since the Dodgers left more than 40 years ago.
But could Jay cut it as an NBA owner? I don’t see why not, although who knows if he has the money to buy a team. Also, with his rap sheet and thuggish reputation Jay's been known to occasionally get rejected by co-op boards; the other NBA owners may not be so keen on granting approval to such a sale.
Now P. Diddy's idea to buy the Knicks? That I'm all for- he can't possibly do a worse job than the Dolans have the last few years.
IT'S TIME TO POTTY: Today is World Toilet Day. But really, isn't EVERY DAY World Toilet Day?
A PRAYER FOR OWEN GLEIBERMAN: The civil war within the New York Film Critics Circle over the ban on DVD screeners- as exemplified in the feud between Armond White and Lisa Schwarzbaum- has already been well-documented. But that's nothing compared to this scandal: in the current issue of Entertainment Weekly, Schwarzbaum's co-critic Owen Gleiberman admits, in a reader Q&A, that he has never seen John Ford's "Stagecoach." What-what-WHAT? Shouldn't he have his NYFCC membership revoked, just for that?
SCORE NO MORE: The Village Voice has apparently caved in to the pressure caused by the advent of New York Sports Express, and put the kibosh on its back-of-the-book sports page, "The Score." Too bad; I always liked the stuff they put it on it, even if it was, as NYSX described it, "America's only left-wing sports page."
THIEVES IN "HIGH" PLACES: When last week's entire press run of Brandeis' Justice newspaper was mysteriously stolen, the original fear was that, in the wake of the Daniel Passner brouhaha that brought (negative) national attention to the Non-Sectarian Jewish-Sponsored University, the theft had been carried out for political purposes.
The answer, however, turned out to be even more sinister: the person who stole the newspapers was merely some asshole who did for no apparent reason- other than just to be an asshole!
But since said asshole was a duly elected member of Brandeis' esteemed Student Union Senate, he was made to go before that body and offer his resignation. The Justice's account of that Senate meeting is among the highest of unintentionally comedic moments in recent U.S. media history. I won't do a full fisking, but a few comments on the more egregious parts:
In his resignation speech, [Senator Mark] Brescia criticized the Senate for excessively emphasizing procedure and politics. "It makes me sad I'm leaving the Senate," Brescia said as he resigned. "This is a game. When it stops being fun, it's not worth doing anymore."While it's unquestionably true that any deliberative body that spends 11 hours debating about something that appeared in a newspaper column certainly does take itself too seriously, I really don't see how their punishment of an admitted thief "stops it from being fun." Assuming it was ever fun in the first place… I wonder how the city government in New York would react if Brescia decided to take off with a few thousand copies of the Post. Then again, I'd imagine the mobbed-up delivery truck drivers would want to have a word with him first.
Brescia said his decision to take the Justices "wasn't a long thought- out process. I was checking my mail and they were all sitting on the loading dock and thought this would be kind of funny if the Justice disappeared for a little while," Brescia said. "It was just a joke, a prank that I didn't give much thought to it at all actually."This, unquestionably, is the sketchiest part of the story. If we are to believe Brescia's story, it is that he saw 4,000 newspapers lying around, made the spur-of-the-moment decision to steal them, and then carried all 4,000 of them halfway across campus, with his bare hands, in broad daylight, without anyone else noticing. The 4,000-issue press run of the Justice is distributed in 40 stacks of 100 newspapers each, or perhaps it's since been modified to 80 stacks of 50 or something like that. We used to carry 2 or 3 stacks of them at a time from the loading dock to the office, and even that was heavy. We're supposed to believe that Brescia carried all 40 stacks at once? More likely, he at least brought his car around, and more likely than that, he had four or five friends helping him.
"I think it's a terrible thing," University President Jehuda Reinharz said Thursday.Nice to see Jehuda has a newfound respect for the integrity of the freedom of the campus press. 'cause a few weeks ago he was prepared to shut down the paper for the semester.
But the majority of his speech criticized the Union government, particularly the Senate. He criticized a lack of cohesiveness within the Senate, contrasting it with the cohesiveness of the Justice Editorial Board. "(The editorial board) back up their people until the end... right or wrong... and I see them as a good group of friends,"Could that have possibly been because the Justice editors, in the Passner affair, honestly believed that the editor-in-chief did nothing wrong, whereas Brescia unquestionably did something wrong? The Justice, after all, was pretty quick to throw Passner himself under the bus; Brescia's now lying there right next to him.
I don't take student government ultra-seriously," Brescia said in an interview. "I just find it's a good venue to voice my opinion." Brescia concluded his speech pointing to specific Union officials and quoting the movie "Half-Baked." "Fuck you; fuck you; you're cool; fuck you; I'm out," he said.Evidently he does not take it so seriously- and not so wittily either, since he considered it a funny idea to parody "Half Baked"'s parody of "Jerry Maguire" in his supposedly dignified resignation speech. And he delivered the "fuck you" speech in front of the entire Senate, a dean, and a university vice president- what a classy guy. Besides, perhaps his apparent reverence for "Half Baked" tells us something about his "state of mind" on the day he took the papers, huh?
Though WBRS usually airs the weekly Senate meeting from 7 p.m. until 10 p.m., this week it did not begin its live broadcast until Brescia had finished speaking. "I know a lot of the things that have to go with the legal requirements of a broadcasting station… I had alerted (WBRS) to this beforehand."I'm amused by Brescia's selective interpretation of media rules- as he claims not to be aware of the "legal requirements" that say you're not allowed to steal newspapers. Brescia may or may not be brought up on charges and/or disciplined by the university; I was originally inclined to support letting the theft slide, but his arrogance has made me think twice. Then again, we also learn from the article that he was one of the senators who was hardest on the Justice during the Passner affair, and "felt disempowered" when the Senate refused to explicitly call for the editor-in-chief's resignation. So, maybe, he decided to take matters into his own hands...
LEAST SURPRISING NEWS STORY OF THE YEAR:
Why do I get the feeling that this latest Michael Jackson pedophilia story is like Christmas in November for the New York Post?
GET IN THE 'RINGS': Reading the entire Boston Sunday Globe over the weekend, I came across a goofy little cover story in the Globe Magazine arguing that the "commercialism" of the popular "Lord of the Rings" movies has somehow "tarnished" the legacy of author J.R.R. Tolkien. Despite some interesting stuff about various feuds among Tolkien heirs, I couldn't agree less with author Ethan Gilsdorf's analysis.
Pretty much starting with a hatred of capitalism and consumerism and working his way out, Gilsdorf argues that Tolkien's "legacy" has been done a disservice by Hollywood movie versions of his works that have cost hundreds of millions, and grossed billions of dollars. Never mind that Peter Jackson's movies themselves are almost universally loved by critics, Tolkien freaks and neophytes alike, are painstakingly faithful to the source material, and have introduced millions to the 'Rings' mythology and thus driven up sales of the books. They're "commercial," and thus must be horrible and nefarious.
Demonizing the successful, and calling them "sell-outs," is of course a popular lefty and/or hipster pastime. And while I did find it a bit incongruous, say, to hear the music of The Clash (a band that recorded an album called "Sandanista!") in a commercial for the Jaguar, and a bit strange to see "The Matrix" being used to sell soft drinks and other products when it's pretty clearly an allegory about technocratic enslavement, there's nothing explicitly anti-commercial or anti-capitalistic about the LOTR mythology. Unless you think it's funny to compare Bush to the Dark Lord Sauron, but by that rationale one can pretty much use 'Rings' to back up any political viewpoint. And believe me, it's been used to argue for just about every political cause imaginable.
BIAS: No, not the Bernard Goldberg nonsense. LEN Bias. Michael Wilbon writes a great column observing that had Bias not died of a drug overdose two days after the NBA draft in 1986, he may very well have altered the course of NBA history- and yesterday would have been his 40th birthday. Unbelievable, huh?
BUD'S BOUNTY: Despite promises to stay out of the day-to-day running of the team he used to own, the Milwaukee Brewers, when he became commissioner five years ago, Bud Selig has clandestinely contributed $13 million of his own money to the team in that time period. The news comes amid a fan revolt, as current management announced plans to cut payroll down to a skeletal $30 million, for the team that is consistently among baseball's most profitable, despite not having a winning season in more than a decade.
And here's a healthy primer of Bud's lies, vis a vis the construction of Miller Park in Milwaukee. Hopefully all this will lead, very soon, to Selig's resignation.
DAVID MELECH: Here's a great interview with David Brooks in the New York Observer. Brooks is fast becoming one of my favorite columnists in America- he's a self-described conservative, yet he writes for the New York Times, calls Bill O'Reilly "an insufferable ass," and "strongly dislikes" Ann Coulter.
DEATH CAMP OF "TOLERANCE": Events unfolded at Brandeis this week (which I unfortunately missed by just a few hours) that were right out of the "South Park" episode with the same title as this post. You may remember it better as the "Lemmiwinks the gerbil" installment, but it also parodied the "tolerance camp" as a death camp in a spoof of "Schindler's List."
Back to Waltham: Daniel Pipes, the conservative Middle East scholar with two degrees from Harvard and a recent appointment to a federal think tank, spoke at Brandeis at noon Tuesday, and as soon as the speech was announced two weeks ago an ad-hoc coalition that called themselves "Hate Haters" began campaigning against Pipes and the speech (but if they "Hate Haters," doesn't that mean they are themselves haters, and we should hate them? I say "don't hate; congratulate.")
Anyway, the anti-Pipes crowd immediately began beating the drum for "tolerance"- not acceptance, not understanding, but mere tolerance. Unless of course, it was of a view with which they disagreed, in which case it not only wasn't tolerated, but could not be tolerated. It's confusing, I know... at any rate, the Tolerators held a rally that amounted to an across-campus rampage the other night, described by Dahlia of Sporadic Thoughts as mere "people shouting," and interrupting those who wished to study and/or sleep. But really, what did it matter in the short term- everyone was learning a lesson, in tolerance!
In response to this abject nonsense, I go to a true authority on the matter, Mr. Garrison:
Tolerant, but not stupid! Look, just because you have to tolerate something doesn't mean you have to approve of it! If you had to like it, it'd be called the Museum of Acceptance! [the audience looks on] "Tolerate" means you're just putting up with it! You tolerate a crying child sitting next to you on the airplane or, or you tolerate a bad cold. It can still piss you off! Jesus Tapdancing Christ!
DON'T BURN YOUR SIDDUR AWARD NOMINEE: This one goes to Kol Zimrah, the Upper West Side Jewish/musical prayer group founded under a year ago by my friend Ben Dreyfus (among others), that's profiled in the Forward this week, along with other stalwarts of the growing New York independent minyan movement (which has already begun to spread nationally.)
KZ and the others have managed to give urban Jewish practice a fresh spin, while at the same time avoiding much of the synagogue politics and other nonsense that myself, and many others, and even Doug Rushkoff (in the third of his book that I do agree with) find so distasteful. So check it out- Kol Zimrah meets this Friday at 6:30 at the Society for the Advancement of Judaism, at 15 W 86th St. in Manhattan.
THANK YOU, BOSTON: I had a wonderful time on my four-day jaunt to my college hometown. Here, some highlights:
-I spent Friday and Saturday near Harvard with my friends Mike and Dena, enjoying an excellent Shabbat dinner, an a cappella show (featuring a performance of "The Scotsman"), and a walk around Beacon Hill, the Back Bay, and Newbury St. I love being around Harvard; when I'm there I just feel smarter. (I feel the same way about Jane Galt's blog- even though she's a Penn girl!)
-Got to see my fellow Minnesota blogger and high school classmate Jeremy Wahlman as well; now a reporter in the area, we met up right after he was done rubbing elbows with the likes of Conan O'Brien and Theo Epstein at a banquet in Brookline. It should be noted that the number of video game consoles shared by Jeremy and his roommates is in the double digits, and is almost certainly a single-apartment record.
-Also enjoyed lunch with my Brandeis classmate and former Justice colleague Brian Lowe. Now an employee of the New England Patriots, Brian anchors a webcast on Patriots.com that you should definitely check out. After our lunch he headed out to Foxboro, where the Patriots beat the Cowboys 12-0 on Sunday night. After this, and after the Belichick-coached Super Bowl win, and after 7 years, isn't it now time for the New England fans to finally get over Bill Parcells?
-On Monday I visited my alma mater for the first time in over two years, and it was great to be back- I had lunch with Josh, a leader of Brandeis' anti-Idiotarian student faction, and also got to spend some time with legendary American Studies professor Jerry Cohen, the top man on the faculty faction. I also stopped by the Justice office and got to meet a couple of the editors; the office is incredible, and a great improvement over the old two-room, windowless basement office which, to my surprise, has since been converted into the Muslim Student Association's prayer room.
-The new student center may be abominably ugly on the outside (they call it the Green Monster; but through my red/green color blind eyes it's more the Light Blue Monstrosity) but on the inside it's quite impressive and has even got a nice coffee shop. There's also a new residence hall that's called "The Village," as opposed to nearly every other building on campus that's named after rich old Jews.
-All in all, a wonderful time up in Beantown; I hope to visit again soon.
A PURSE THAT MATCHES YOUR DOUG CHRISTIE JERSEY: Just when you thought this Doug-Christie-and-his-wife nonsense couldn't get any worse, Sports Illustrated reports that they're now- swear to God- designing purses together. (the SI piece isn't online, but ESPN has the story). But hey- just because Doug isn't allowed to speak to other women, doesn't mean he can't design accessories for them.
This cannot possibly end happily. You just know eventually one of them is going to snap and murder the other…
BURN YOUR SIDDUR AWARD NOMINEE: During my trip I finally finished Douglas Rushkoff's modern-Jewish manifesto "Nothing Sacred: The Truth About Judaism," and I deliver a bit of a split verdict: about one-third of what Rushkoff writes I wholeheartedly agree with, have been saying myself for years, and am relieved someone else finally put into words. The other two-thirds, to put it kindly, I found to be complete and utter nonsense.
Which isn't to say I didn't find the book thought-provoking; I certainly did. I was encouraged to read it by a pair of articles by the author- one in the New York Times and the other in New York Press- in which he made several arguments that I'm used to making myself- that the Jewish community puts way too much emphasis on "sky is falling" scare tactics related to intermarriage and assimilation, that synagogues and federations are applying typical marketing techniques and essentially turning Judaism into a "brand," and that there's a horrible over-reliance in Jewish communities on money and fundraising. When the author repeats these arguments in the book he presents them even more forcefully and eloquently, and I applaud him for that.
It's the rest of his arguments, however, where we part company. Rushkoff's reading of Jewish history and scripture is that the main tenets of the faith are not God, Torah, and Israel, but rather (as he repeats a few dozen times) "iconoclasm, abstract monotheism, and social justice." And therefore, since most of modern Judaism rejects his interpretation of the tradition, the entire faith must be torn down and built up again- essentially, Rushkoff believes that we must destroy Judaism in order to save it.
Rushkoff's interpretations of history and scripture are questionable, to say the least, and he repeatedly argues that experts are "unanimous" or "near-unanimous" that, say, almost none of the events in the Torah actually happened as written. And there's also his anti-Zionism, as well as a disturbing disdain for any and all Orthodox Jews, whom he calls "fundamentalists," making no distinctions between Modern Orthodox Americans and radical West Bank settlers.
Rushkoff's solution is to start a new tradition known as "Open Source Judaism," of which he himself may very well be the only member. Which is probably a good thing; if Open Source Judaism ever took off it I could only imagine it would be every bit as obnoxious and self-righteous as the Open Source computer-programming movement from which it gets its name.
I merely disagree with Rushkoff on this stuff; I'm not about to subject him to the vitriol that he's already suffered from various quarters of the Blogosphere and elsewhere. So his blog will stay on my blogroll; however, in the interest of fairness and balance, here's an anti-"Nothing Sacred" fisking that's generally representative of the arguments against his book.
YOU COULD SAY I LOST MY BELIEF IN OUR POLITICIANS; THEY ALL SEEM LIKE GAME-SHOW HOSTS TO ME: I don't quote post-Police Sting lyrics often, but I do so now to prove a point: Mickey Kaus suggested recently that, rather than all nine Democratic presidential candidates fighting with each other during debates to say essentially the same thing, the Dems should switch to a new debate format- using
"modern speed-dating technology"- in which the different candidates square off one-on-one, for a few minutes at a time.
I have a better idea- why not apply the format of "The Weakest Link" (and other game/reality shows), and have one candidate be eliminated from the debate before each commercial break? Some debates the judges could decide, while others the studio/home audience votes. This way only the major candidates would be left at the end of each debate, eliminating the filler from the Sharptons and Kuciniches of the world. And people like Kerry and Clark would be kept from napping- as they have been- when presented with the threat of elimination.
This way, candidates would actually have incentive to actually do well and say smart things, rather than the pandering, ineffectual bullshit that's characterized the debates so far. They could even have one big debate each month, in which the first couple candidates eliminated would actually be required to drop out of the race.
Come on, who's with me on this?
Also- the respectable, 15-year legacy of the "Rock the Vote" campaign may have been wiped clean by the embarrassing debate they sponsored in Boston a few weeks ago. But now legendary sitcom producer Norman Lear is sponsoring an alternative called Declare Yourself- check it out; my sister was at the launch.
TASTELESS, BUT TRUE: With Sunday's 28-10 victory over the Giants, Donovan McNabb and the Eagles ran their record to 5-0 since Rush Limbaugh entered rehab. Now that Rush is out, expect the slump to resume…
A MASS-IVE VICTORY FOR GAY RIGHTS: A Massachusetts court has done the right thing and struck down a ban on gay marriages, in a move certain to piss off much of the right, but make Andrew Sullivan a very happy man. Now if only they could do something about that Big Dig thing…
A-ROD AL MVP: Alex Rodriguez was named the American League's Most Valuable Player earlier today, and some are up in arms that a player from a last place team could get the award. My reaction to that is the same is my reaction to the annual outrage about who does or doesn't make the All-Star team- who cares? In spring training next year, will anyone even remember who the MVP was? I think the prospect of Rodriguez being traded to Boston is a much more interesting story than whether the baseball writers thought he was worthy of being MVP or not.
But one reaction from the voting- when the Twins traded for Shannon Stewart in July, could anyone have even dreamed that he'd finish 4th in the balloting for MVP? Ahead of #5 David Ortiz, who the Twins let go for nothing? I don't remember seeing Bobby Kielty's name on the list…
BACK TO NEW YORK: I'm back in New York after a relaxing, fun-filled weekend in Boston with friends old and new. Regularly scheduled blogging will return tomorrow with more on Daniels Passner and Pipes, Bills Parcells and Belichick, Dougs Rushkoff and Christie, and Boston's newest Green Monster.
BOSTON: MORE THAN A FEELING: I'm leaving in about an hour to head up to Boston to see friends at Harvard, Brandeis, and elsewhere; therefore blogging will be light if not nonexistent until Monday night. And I'm taking Amtrak, not the mysterious Chinese shuttle bus. Maybe next time…
STEAL THIS PAPER: I suppose another two weeks without any more Justice drama was just a bit too much to ask. According to an e-mail from a Justice editor obtained by Jawsblog, the alleged guilty party in the recent theft of hundreds of copies of the paper was Mark Brescia, who is (surprise) a member of the Student Union Senate. Brescia admitted to the theft in his AIM away message (of which a screen capture allegedly exists); impeachment proceedings are supposedly now underway. Campus Press Notes has more.
So Daniel Passner was a student senator, and so is this guy. Nice to see the Brandeis student body are still such fine judges of character when it comes to choosing their undergraduate representatives…
SEEING RED: Last night I once again had the pleasure of meeting up with the Best Blogger in Weehawken, Sheila O'Malley, for a drink in Hoboken. We met at Busker's Bar & Grill, the latest incarnation of what used to be my favorite Hoboken bar, Miss Kitty's. Kitty's, like Dirty Frank's in Philadelphia, sounds from its name like a nudie bar but isn't, and it didn't surprise me for a second that Sheila has been to Dirty Frank's many times.
Anyway, it was wonderful to see Sheila again, and check out her blog if you haven't before. And another pleasant surprise- a visit from the Guinness Girls!
GOOD NEWS FOR YANKEE HATERS: George Steinbrenner has apparently been driven insane by losing two World Series in three years, and that's great news for fans of every other team in baseball. Not only is he considering trading 26-year-old maybe-future Hall of Famer Alfonso Soriano for the two-years-from-retirement Curt Schilling, but yesterday The Boss announced the hiring of recent convict Darryl Strawberry as a "player development instructor." Because really, it's hard to imagine a better role model for young, developing players than Darryl Strawberry.
Strawberry and Gooden, in the same front office? Can Steve Howe be far behind? Or perhaps they can go the "Brawling '86 Mets" route, and employ a new "scouting staff" of Lenny Dykstra, Ron Darling, and Tim Teufel.
THE RALL PIECE: I've been e-mailing with a few different people on this, so I figured I'd clarify a thing or two (and if I'm repeating things I already wrote in e-mails, I apologize):
Some have written that in Rall's piece (original one here, my original comments here), was more a "devil's advocate" sort of thing [yes, if Saddam is the devil, Rall is his advocate- ed.] than a serious argument in favor of the Iraqi resistance. To that I say this- if Thomas Friedman had written the exact same column, word for word, I would have had a different reaction- because Friedman often plays devil's advocate, assuming the positions of foreign factions with whom he obviously disagrees, in order to prove a larger point. We know Friedman doesn't come at things with an agenda, and he's certainly not rooting for America to lose, even when quoting someone else who does.
Ted Rall, however, doesn't get the same benefit of the doubt, simply because he's made it clear in his past columns and cartoons and television appearances that, yes, he does hate America, and does openly root for us to lose the War on Terror. He might not actually mean it, he might just want to rile up his political opponents (as soon as the piece appeared, it was denounced by every major conservative blog, which was likely the reason he wrote it in the first place). But the fact is, based on positions Rall has taken in the past, it's not hard to imagine him rooting for the neo-Baathists to defeat American soldiers in Iraq.
And besides, he claims to be speaking as an Iraqi resistance leader. If he were one, there would likely be 1) references to Allah, and 2) references to "the Jews" and/or "the Zionist cabal," and 3) positive references to Saddam. Rall uses none of the three, perhaps because he knows his argument collapses the moment he mentions Saddam's name.
He does, however, refer to "Dick Cheney's cynical oil war." Guerrilla warriors in the third world don't use phrases like "Dick Cheney's cynical guerrilla war"; cartoonists who live in Manhattan and read The Nation do.
Last year Rall finished #2 in the not-exactly-right-wing New York Press' survey of the 50 Most Loathsome New Yorkers, behind only Maxim editor Keith Blanchard and just ahead of Michael Moore, and they called him "just another self-righteous shitheel who coasts on self-created controversy and tells himself that any publicity is good publicity." Hopefully this latest nonsense will be enough to push him to #1 in next year's edition.
Instapundit has quite a bit more on this.
ELEMENTARY: Aaron Gleeman points us towards the Periodic Table of Bloggers. Pretty cool, I'd say, but for one complaint: Aaron is designated the element "silver," as its symbol is "ag," and those are his initials. Shouldn't I be the silver representative, considering it's my friggin' last name?
A MIGHTY WIND: How bad are the winds in the Northeast the last couple of days? Why, the National Weather Service came up with a graphic just for them!
Looks like the logo for an NHL expansion team...
THE PISS MAN'S HERE...: And he reports that more than 5% of Major League Baseball players tested positive for steroids this year, triggering a new testing regime that will go into effect next year and dole out fines and suspensions for anyone found to be shooting up.
And you thought it was the ball that was juiced... clearly this has been a problem for a long time, and it says something about the almost unchecked power of baseball's players union that it took until now for mandatory drug testing to become a reality (the new system was agreed to for the first time in last year's new labor agreement; players had long resisted it, even though the NFL has tested for steroids since the early '80s).
The next step is a court case being brought against a lab in California that has allegedly supplied numerous top athletes with drugs that may or may not be legal; Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi, among others, have been subpoenaed to testify. It'll be interesting to see what happens when Bonds takes the stand; like Barry, Hulk Hogan long denied using steroids throughout his career (including on a memorable "Arsenio Hall Show" appearance), but on the stand in the 1994 Vince McMahon steroid trial, Hogan was indeed forced to admit his longtime steroid abuse.
Because when even professional wrestling has tougher anti-steroid standards than baseball does, you something's not right.
THE 98 PERCENT SOLUTION: In the realm of goofy quotes by Georgia senators, I thought it would be tough to top Zell Miller's crack the other week about how Howard Dean "knows as much about the South as a dog knows about Sunday." But during the 30-hour filibuster of the Republican judicial nominees, the junior Senator from Georgia had this to say:
The Democrats note that 168 of Bush's nominees have been confirmed and only four blocked -- a 98 percent approval rating in a closely divided Senate... "If I told my wife I was faithful 98 percent of the time, she would not be happy with me," declared Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.)
So is Chambliss saying that the Democrats in Congress are bound to "honor and obey" the executive branch 100% of the time, as though the Congressional oath of office were a marriage vow? That's about one step away from arguing that the Senate Democrats should be the president's bitch- though some would say that they already are.
CLARK CAN'T: We keep hearing about how all the other generals who served with Wesley Clark can't stand him and don't want him to be president. Here's one reason why:
In an interview with Maxim that was published in the November issue, the General has this to say (not online, but quoted by blogger Rob Bernard):
In the 19th century, we were motivated by manifest destiny. In the 20th century, it was the idea that it was our duty to contain the spread of Communism and keep open the door for freedom. Today there is no substantial challenge to American ideals.
THE LIST BEHIND THE LIST BEHIND THE LIST: Men's Journal, a magazine that I don't read, has released its Top 50 Guy Movies list, and as pointed out by Dan Shanoff, the best guy movie of all time ("Swingers") was not included. And that's so not money at all...
The top three on the list are "Dirty Harry," "The Godfather," and "Scarface," which were released, respectively, in 1971, 1972, and 1983. Fine movies all, but shouldn't a list like this maybe try to, say, skew a little younger? Then again, I guess this means Men's Journal is, like GQ and Esquire, and Playboy, a "hip" magazine that's both by and for middle-aged men.
HE'S FREE: Cross-dressing real-estate heir Robert Durst, probably the most prominent American to get away with murder since OJ, is reportedly "relieved" at his acquittal by a Galveston, Texas, jury this week. In the interview with Cindy Adams, he also says he feels "great" after being found not guilty- real probing interview there, Cindy.
I don't know what scares me more- that Robert Durst is free and on the loose, or that Fred Durst is. Speaking of which:
MUSIC CRITIC QUOTE OF THE DAY: "The reasons why the demise of Limp Bizkit should be celebrated like V-E Day among those caring about music are many. It's difficult to wish ill on anyone who works hard climbing the ladder, but if karma truly exists, Durst will re-emerge in the next century as a tone deaf, one-armed accordion player."- Tony Hicks, Conta Costra Times
WHY JOHN KERRY WILL NEVER BE PRESIDENT: It's not even 2004 yet, but every indication seems to be that John Kerry's presidential campaign is dead in the water, with advisers stepping down left and right, and the junior senator from Massachusetts losing ground rapidly to Howard Dean as well as the other candidates. I'd been trying to put my finger on what exactly was wrong but yesterday, as I ordered lunch, I caught five minutes of the movie "Full Metal Jacket" on the TV in the deli, and it all hit me at once:
Pogue Colonel: Marine, what is that button on your body armor?
Private Joker: A peace symbol, sir.
Pogue Colonel: Where'd you get it?
Private Joker: I don't remember, sir.
Pogue Colonel: What is that you've got written on your helmet?
Private Joker: "Born to Kill," sir.
Pogue Colonel: You write "Born to Kill" on your helmet and you wear a peace button. What's that supposed to be, some kind of sick joke?
Private Joker: No, sir.
Pogue Colonel: You'd better get your head and your ass wired together, or I will take a giant shit on you!
Private Joker: Yes, sir.
Pogue Colonel: Now answer my question or you'll be standing tall before the man.
Private Joker: I think I was trying to suggest something about the duality of man, sir.
Pogue Colonel: The what?
Private Joker: The duality of man. The Jungian thing, sir.
Pogue Colonel: Whose side are you on, son?
Private Joker: Our side, sir.
Pogue Colonel: Don't you love your country?
Private Joker: Yes, sir.
Pogue Colonel: Then how about getting with the program? Why don't you jump on the team and come on in for the big win?
John Kerry, who I don't doubt does love his country, wanted to have it both ways in running for president- to be the war hero who turned against the (Vietnam) War, but remains proud enough of his service to mention it every time he opens his mouth. To be the staunch opponent of the Iraq war, and the "warmongering" of the Bush Administration, who nevertheless voted for the war resolution (but against the money appropriation). To attack Dean for being too anti-war, and Lieberman for being too pro-war…
Every time Kerry gives a speech, he may as well be wearing both the peace pin and the "born to kill" helmet. And instead of having it both ways, he's having it neither way- he hasn't been able to come up with any sort of coherent message, and thus his candidacy is down and out. Because not much of the American electorate buys into "the Jungian" thing- or even knows what it is. At any rate, it doesn’t appear Kerry will "come on in for the big win" anytime soon.
(A footnote: I was in the Copley Square mall in Boston when I first learned of the death of FMJ's director, Stanley Kubrick, in March of 1999. As reported in the Boston Globe earlier this year, Kerry's grandfather committed suicide in the adjacent Copley Plaza Hotel in 1921).
FOX NEWS KANGAROO COURT WATCH: On Wednesday's episode of "Hannity & Colmes," Alan Colmes was suffering from laryngitis, but instead of calling in sick he showed up on set and merely sat there and remained silent, as Hannity interviewed the guests. Not too different from any other night when Colmes is healthy, in other words…
A four-segment-long panel discussion of the Laci Peterson case took up the first 40 minutes of the show, and in addition to the two hosts featured four different simultaneous guests, including cutie legal analyst Lis Weihl. Six people, including Colmes, vying for screen time on one show? Reminded me of the baseball scene in "The Naked Gun," where the camera pans to reveal ten different announcers in a single broadcast booth, one of whom is Dr. Joyce Brothers.
TED RALL: PRO-SADDAM SWINE: Read this. An open letter to the Baathists, Islamists, and Fedayeen Saddam in Iraq, cheering them on against the American troops- and published on Veteran's Day. From the same cartoonist (not writer, cartoonist) who, among other sins, published a comic poking fun at 9/11 widows. And this guy is syndicated nationally?
They won't do it, of course, but if I were the Village Voice I would immediately fire Rall from his cartooning gig. Because if you take the "controversial comments" of Al Campanis, Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder, Trent Lott, Rush Limbaugh, Gregg Easterbook, and Daniel Passner and add them up, it still pales in comparison to the sheer disgustingness of what Rall wrote.
It's one thing to oppose the war, or to want the troops to come home. Those are defensible positions. What is not defensible is to openly root for foreign guerrillas- especially those loyal to one of the most vile dictators in history- to kill American soldiers, as well as UN officials and Red Cross workers. Rall, proudly, defends the slaughter of all three.
The best part? When Rall refers to the Iraqis who help with pro-democracy efforts as "sellouts." What a typical hipster-asshole attitude: "it's okay to support fascism, repression, rape, and murder and everything else Saddam did- just don't sell out, man!"
DON'T TELL MOM ABOUT MY BLOG!: The blogging phenomenon gets the Onion treatment. The piece is #1 at Blogdex and the Blogosphere seems to appreciate it, though I found it a tad condescending, especially the "100 regular readers" line. Are they jealous that blogs now have all the internet buzz that the Onion had three years ago and has since lost?
At any rate, my mother has known about my blog since the day I started, as do my boss, my grandma, and various co-workers of my father's. I don't really mind, but some other bloggers would- discovery by "the authorities" of their true identities could be a matter of life and death for Salam Pax or the Hasidic Rebel (the latter seems to have disappeared, so maybe he has been discovered…). And the pseudonymous "This Fish (Needs a Bicycle)" had to scour her archives for incriminating material the other week after her mother did discover her blog- which, now that I think about it, may be where the Onion got the idea.
JUSTICE DELAYED IS NOT JUSTICE DENIED: According to Jawsblog, this week's press run of the Justice has been found- and more likely than not, its initial disappearance was merely a printer or delivery delay and not outright theft.
Then again, this makes sense- to steal an entire press run of the paper would have required either a conspiracy of 30 or 40 people to take the stacks from every distribution spot on campus, or a "Sopranos"-style hijacking of the delivery truck- neither of which sounds like a particularly plausable course of action.
I'll be up at Brandeis on Monday, unfortunately missing the next issue (and the Daniel Pipes speech) by just one day.
UPDATE: According to Dahlia, there was indeed at least a partial theft of the press run, and a few hundred copies were found in a garbage bag in East Quad. She also says she knows who did it…
KEITH OLBERMANN QUOTE OF THE DAY: Here's Keith, on Tuesday night's episode of "Countdown," talking about how the questions in the recent CNN/"Rock the Vote" campaign were manipulated by producers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ALEXANDRA TRUSTMAN, STUDENT: My question for you all is-and it is not quite boxers or briefs-but Macs or P.C.s? (LAUGHTER) (END VIDEO CLIP) OLBERMANN: The student, from Brown University, Alexandra Trustman, took a lot of heat for that question. Then she explained that a CNN producer not only provided the question, but when Ms. Trustman tried to revise it into something about technology use that didn’t sound so "fake young," the producer stopped her. CNN has confirmed it and apologized for it. Next time, have them ask about those new dune buggy things. I hear the kids love those.
Of course, we know how much Keith just loves to tweak all of his former employers on the air, as he's worked in the past for CNN, ESPN, and (of course) Fox.
ONE MINUTE RECORD REVIEWS: I've gotten a lot of new CDs lately, and haven't written about hardly any of them, so I'll play Robert Christgau (except, you know, readable), and crank out a few brief reviews. Here we go:
The release of the Strokes' debut album "Is This It" two years ago ignited the "post-punk" revival and subsequently a hipster civil war that nearly caused Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood to burn to the ground. One side of the debate heralded the return to minimalist, stripped-down rock after a half-decade of Britney mousketeering; opponents seized on everything from the band's haircuts to their clothes to their status as rich boys with famous fathers to their obvious inferiority to the Ramones.
Lost amid the hype was that "Is This It" was a near-masterpiece, vying with "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" and "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" for the title of Best Album of the Decade So Far. "Room on Fire" isn't much of a departure thematically, and while it doesn’t quite measure up to its predecessor, it nonetheless represents a worthy follow-up.
Must-downloads: "Meet Me in the Bathroom," "12:51."
Coming off a three-year layoff following the best album of their career (2000's "Maroon"), this Canadian band is back with more fun pop-rock for the masses. There's less harmonizing than usual, but Page, Robertson, and Co. keep up their trademark humorous lyrics, especially on "Another Postcard." The album's tour de force is "War on Drugs"- no, it's not a heavy-handed political track, but rather a beautiful ballad in which the meaning of the title remains a mystery until the last verse. For that and "Maybe Katie," I'll forgive BNL for jumping on the unfortunate recent trend of including feeble acoustic versions of three songs as hidden tracks.
Must-downloads: "War on Drugs," "Maybe Katie"
The debut album from America's Foremost Insult Comic Dog is, like the "South Park" movie soundtrack before it, a masterful distillation of a modern comedic institution into musical comedy album form. Creator Robert Smigel and a virtual armada of Conan O'Brien writers take what was once a one-joke character and create a three-dimensional comedy album that's full of laugh-out-loud moments.
Highlights include "Cats Are C-nts" (featuring Conan himself; you'll have it in your head all day!), "Benji's Queer," and a duet with Blackwolf the Dragon Master, the Star Wars nerd from Triumph's famous "Attack of the Clones" bit who hangs around Washington Square Park in a wizard costume and uncannily resembles disgraced Times reporter Jayson Blair. There's also "I Keed, I Keed," an Eminem-style insult rap in which the dog declares that Christina Aguilera's videos are "like watching porn, except the music isn't as good."
I could do without the prank call/spoken word bits, but during a montage of quotes from live appearances, Triumph says, "Welcome to Waltham, Massachusetts- America's poophole." Proving that, yes, one of the Conan writers must be a Brandeis alum.
Must downloads: "I Keed, I Keed," "Blackwolf," "Benji's Queer," "Cats Are C-nts."
I love Luda, and his "Word of Mouf" is on the short list of my favorite rap albums of all time, but after two years (an eternity in hip-hop), "Chicken-N-Beer" is a huge disappointment. Except for on "Hip Hop Quotables," there's very little of Luda's trademark humor and wit, the skits all fall flat, and not even his long-awaited slam of Bill O'Reilly is all that funny. "Stand Up" is a much better video than song, and when the cover of the album is funnier than any of the songs, that's a problem.
Must downloads: "Hip Hop Quotables," "Hoes in My Room."
When it comes to the question of whether it was a good idea for Andre and Big Boi to record separate albums, everybody's got an opinion (even General Wesley Clark!) Mine is that both sides of the double-album are too long and chock-full of filler, as well as material that pales in comparison to much of the work Outkast has performed as a duo in the past. Besides, two and a half hours is just way too much music- and how do you get Norah Jones for a guest spot where she's barely even audible?
Still though- "Hey Ya" is a strong candidate for single of the year.
Must downloads: "Hey Ya," "The Way You Move," "Prototype."
This time Andrew's only got one song with the word "party" in the title (compared to three on his last album), but don't hold that against him- "The Wolf" is more of the '80s-influenced fun-rock we've come to expect from AWK. And yes, he's got less buzz than last time around and may be headed for quite a short career, but that doesn't mean the album doesn't kick ass. When he comes to party, he will party hard!
Must downloads: "Long Live the Party," "Make Sex," "Totally Stupid."
Unless you're a hard-core follower of the rock-crit scene, you may very well have never heard of the Scottish band Travis. But I've been a big booster of the band for awhile now- their debut "The Man Who" is just as good as everyone says, their follow-up "The Invisible Band" even better, and critics who panned it didn't know what they're talking about. They also did a memorable concert cover of Britney's "Baby One More Time."
In fact, if you were to pit Travis' first two albums against the first two of their fellow Radiohead inheritors Coldplay, I'd hand it to Travis, no question. But, I'm sorry to report, "12 Memories" is a colossal dud. The first two discs had me immediately, but I couldn't wait to toss "12 Memories" back on the shelf, what with the horrible melodies, and complete lack of any memorable lyrics or choruses whatsoever.
Then there's "The Beautiful Occupation," which may be the weakest political protest song I've ever heard- "For the beautiful occupation/The beautiful occupation/You don't need an invitation/To drop in upon a nation." Come up- that's the best they can come up with?
Must downloads: None, but look for that Britney cover
Rushing back into things barely a year after his debut hit (though my sister has known about him since the days of Napster 1.0), Mayer delivers a generally solid sophomore disc. Though not solid enough for me to have listened to it at all in the last month, unfortunately…
Must downloads: "Bigger Than My Body," "Daughters."
Yes, "Some Devil" has all the crap that usually drags down other-wise great DMB albums: lame falsettos, pseudo-gospel, and instrumental jams that seem to go on forever. But buried in all the muck of "Some Devil" are at least five truly great tracks, and the more I listen to the album the more I like it, and realize how superior it is to every DMB studio album since at least "Crash." On hand on two tracks in Phish frontman Trey Anastasio, but in order to prevent jam-band Armageddon, he merely plays guitar and contributes no vocals.
Look at it this way- if your favorite DMB album is "Everyday," you'll like "Some Devil." If it's "Busted Stuff," you probably won't.
Must downloads: "Trouble," "Oh," "Baby," "So Damn Lucky."
STOLEN JUSTICE: In a repeat of the sort of anti-First Amendment garbage that's become all-too-common on college campuses in recent years, the entire press run of the latest issue of the Justice was stolen on Tuesday night. (Hat tip to Jawsblog)
It's uncertain why or by whom, and I'm sure we can look forward to a thorough investigation from Reinharz and Co. We don't know if this has anything to do with the Passner brouhaha, although it's worth noting that there was no such theft of the issue in which the original Passner quote appeared.
One possibility- in a front-page article about a forum the BBSO held last week, the "n-word" actually appears in the Justice, which it did not in Passner's offending article. This week, the word comes up in the context of Randall Kennedy's best-selling book "Nigger," which was discussed at the forum. Kennedy, a Harvard professor who is black, wrote the book as a history and study of the word; the comedian Dick Gregory gave the same title to his autobiography, he said, so he could tell his children that anyone who called them by the word was merely promoting his book.
The inclusion of the word in the article is in perfect context and thus is completely defensible, as any reasonable person can see; then again, we know we can't count on college activists to be reasonable. There's similar trouble on campus now because a group called the "Brandeis Coalition For Tolerance" is getting ready to not tolerate an upcoming speech by conservative Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes.
A similar campus media theft incident at Brandeis happened five years ago, when hundreds of copies of the right-wing journal Freedom Magazine were tossed in a dumpster by a member of the student senate who never apologized, and was not forced to resign his Senate seat. Freedom was later defunded after several bordering-on-illegal stunts which included publishing the home address and phone number of the Student Union President. Several senators memorably lambasted the magazine as "racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, and anti-Senate," and another challenged the magazine's publisher to a fight.
BLOOD OF ABRAHAM: Yesterday at work I wrote a story about energy secretary Spencer Abraham and the new appointments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; somehow, I was able to resist the temptation to mention this.
TROUBLE IN WEST CHESTER: I've been loving this new "Viva La Bam" show on MTV, the "Jackass" spinoff featuring the fun antics of Bam Margera who, despite several years as a professional skater and multiple endorsement, movie, and television deals, for some reason still lives with his parents in suburban Philadelphia.
[Maybe because he paid for the house. And maybe that's why they let him get away with humiliating them on national television every week-ed.]
Some of Margera's neighbors in Chester County, PA, however, aren't taking too kindly to some of the recent pranks by Bam and his CKY (Camp Kill Yourself) crew. Several residents of a local apartment complex have complained that the show's crew has illegally commandeered several rooms in the complex to use as production offices, and the show later staged a stunt in which Margera's Hummer pushed a Pontiac Vibe through the building's sliding door, after which Bam and two of his CKY cohorts were arrested on charges of criminal mischief. Police confiscated the tapes.
This followed an incident in which Bloodhound Gang guitarist Jared Hennegan was arrested for lewd and disorderly conduct after urinating from the third floor of a local parking garage into a cup being held by several crew members (I C-U-P, indeed). And on the episode that aired Sunday Margera was served with a $600 citation after a stunt in which Bam startled his parents by having an elephant march onto their property during a family reunion.
No word on what the Chester County folks thought about the Don't Feed Phil campaign...
JUST LIKE HITLER, CONT'D: Billionaire financier George Soros announced Tuesday that he is donating $5 million to the left wing website MoveOn.org, aimed at what he now considers his "life's mission"- defeating George W. Bush in next year's election. Campaign finance rules prevent gifts of that size from going to specific candidates, hence the donation to a mere website.
I'm not against donations of that size, and while Soros is certainly free to support (or oppose) whatever candidate he chooses, I had a bit of a problem with his explanation of why, which was a blatant violation of Godwin's Law:
“When I hear Bush say, ‘You’re either with us or against us,’ it reminds me of the Germans.” It conjures up memories, he said, of Nazi slogans on the walls, Der Feind Hort mit (The enemy is listening): “My experiences under Nazi and Soviet rule have sensitised me,” he said.
HE'S BACK!: Gregg Easterbrook's Tuesday Morning Quarterback column is back, and the football gods have rejoiced.
SAVING LYNCH'S PRIVATES: Yes, I know that's a horrible headline, but it's the only logical one...
For all you perverts who clogged up my referral logs with "Jessica Lynch nude" Google searches just about every day of the Iraq war, today's your lucky day, because it was announced that not only do topless photos of Lynch exist, but due to the efforts of bottom-feeding scuzzball Larry Flynt, the photos may soon be published. This comes during the week of both a movie and book about the wounded soldier, as well as interviews with Katie Couric and others; the whole nude pictures thing was apparently not part of the plan.
If this proves anything, it's that Larry Flynt is the biggest asshole on the planet, spreading nude photos of a legitimate war hero and openly doing so for partisan political reasons. Flynt has spent a lifetime merely pretending to be a national hero; hopefully this latest action will underscore just how much he isn't.
Still though, how ironic it is that on the same day, nude images emerge of both America's most honorable 20-year-old female (Lynch), as well as its least honorable 20-year-old female (Paris Hilton).
IT'S GARRY SHANDLING'S WIRETAP: There's an interesting article in today's New York Times about mysterious wiretaps being used to record conversations of several celebrities, including Garry Shandling, which were carried out by a Hollywood gadfly who may have connections to super-lawyer Bert Fields.
Even more strangely, one of the reporters who worked on the story is Lowell Bergman, the former "60 Minutes" producer who was played by Al Pacino in the movie "The Insider." Do we know that Pacino isn't involved with this? And when Bergman calls sources now, do they demand he do some of the Pacino-isms from the movie? "IT'S NOT THE GODDAMMNED POINT WHETHER YOU TELL THE TRUTH OR NOT!"
Still, wiretaps on big stars in Hollywood... can't the governor do something about this?
WEINKAUF AWARD NOMINEE: Our latest award goes to film, music, art, television, and other critics who manage to stretch whatever it is they're talking about into Bush-bashing, even if the topic has nothing to do with politics whatsoever. The award is named after Dallas Observer movie critic Gregory Weinkauf, who last year saw it fit to call the president of the United States "a retarded monkey"- in his review of "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets."
(Apparently inordinately fond of the phrase "retarded monkey," Weinkauf also used it in reference to Forrest Gump, in his 2000 review of "Cast Away." At least Forrest was actually retarded, albeit not a monkey).
Anyway, this week's winner is Village Voice theater critic Michael Feingold, a common offender who, in reviewing the "Wizard of Oz"-derived musical comedy "Wicked," has this to say (in the opening paragraph!):
Granted, American society as a whole seems to have been heading in the same direction, from the wonder and optimism exemplified in Baum's beloved book to the disaster and disillusion brought on by the White House's current infestation of unwinged monkeys.
Is he saying the Iraqis are the monkeys? Or the soldiers? Who knows... all I can say is, next time "Sesame Street Live" comes to town, I just know Feingold or J. Hoberman's gonna find some anti-Bush political subtext.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Interestingly enough, Bill Walton called Orlando forward Drew Gooden "Dwight" Gooden right before the game started. Don't get down on the big guy, though. It's easy to get them confused. They're both the same age, the same height, and they play the same sport. Oh, and they're both white." -Adam Sivitz, in New York Sports Express, lambasting the poor quality of announcing in the NBA thus far this season.
MOORE-ON: Michael J. Totten has a great post up about our favorite obese, anti-American documentary filmmaker, who recently asked a German newspaper how it can be possible that "such an ignorant people [America] leads the world?" And he said this to the Germans?
This adds to my long-held theory, buttressed by Moore's ludicrously overpraised film "Bowling For Columbine," that this guy has nothing but contempt for his own country- especially the blue-collar Americans he's long claimed to represent. He also says "just a handful can speak a language other than English." Hasn't he ever heard of Spanish-speaking immigrants? Or does Moore not consider them to be "the American people"?
FILM CRITIC QUOTE OF THE DAY: "The long action sequences in the [Matrix] sequels have no point at all, which the Wachowskis try to compensate for by drawing them out and cramming them with more digital bad guys. One result of this is that 'Reloaded' contains the most spectacular chase scene that you will ever check your voice mail during."- Matt Feeney, Slate. Indeed, when I saw 'Revolutions' a guy a few rows behind me answered his cell phone- on the fifth ring- and talked on it for about 30 seconds until a woman who must've been half way across the theater screamed, "I can't fuckin' believe it! You're talking on the fuckin' phone!"
COVERAGE: Last night I finally got through Sports Illustrated's "50 Years of Covers" issue, reading it (ha!) cover-to-cover in one sitting. Here, after a lifetime of SI reading, are my all-time favorites:
DIVEST THIS!: Hey, remember that anti-Israel conference that was supposed to happen at Rutgers, until the national Palestinian Solidarity Movement got fed up with Little Red Kaffiyah Hood's antics and moved it to Ohio State? Well, it took place last weekend, and attendance was in the low hundreds, compared with 10,000 who signed a petition protesting the gathering. The conference's #1 demand? Divestment from Israel by colleges. Number of colleges in the United States who have actually divested from Israel since this "movement" began? That'd be zero, and that'd be staying that way.
Besides, I knew no one at Ohio State would care about such a contrivance, not with the Michigan game just two weeks away. Because don't forget: the Buckeyes and Wolverines have been fighting each other about twice as long as the Israelis and Palestinians have- and I can see peace coming to the Big Ten before it arrives in the Middle East.
DO THE JEWS CONTROL "THE MATRIX"?: This weekend I watched all three "Matrix" films in the space of 36 hours- viewing my VHS copy of the original, renting the DVD of "Reloaded," and then seeing "Revolutions" on the big screen. I actually liked the third film more than most people did- it wasn't nearly as exciting or groundbreaking as the original, but there was some incredible action, the ending was completely incomprehensible but not unsatisfying, and unlike the first sequel, it didn't merely consist of one long speech after another.
One interesting thing I noticed- about five minutes into the film, when the crewmembers on the ship are running a search of the Matrix for Neo, one of them says, after he doesn't show up, "we've got bupkus." Yes, actual Yiddish, in the Matrix! Along with Neo being a neocon, and Zion being populated with Zionists, this strengthens my theory of the Jewishness of the Matrix.
Weaknesses in the theory? A Christian messiah, the presence of the not-so-pro-Israel Cornel West, and their ship being named after Nebuchadnezzer. the Babylonian king who destroyed the first Temple in the year 586 B.C.E.
A full review will be forthcoming later this week...
DO THE JEWS CONTROL "THE WEST WING"?: We've all heard the stories about how the Jews have complete control over Hollywood, the media, international finance, and every other institution you can possibly think of. But did you know that we also rule "The West Wing"?
No, not the one in the "real" White House (though some would argue that the Jews have control of that one, too). Now, normally when that show is called "propaganda," it's by conservatives who don't like its liberal slant. But according to a BlogCritics troll by the name of Nick Kabban, the show is actually used by "the Jews" to spread Zionist propaganda to the masses. Attached at the bottom of my "West Wing" review from September of 2002, the not-so-intelligent Mr. Kabban has this to say (my response follows):
Regarding what 'Richard' wrote above me about anti-Arab sentiment in the West Wing, that is so true! And then again, what can you expect from a series which is so blatantly Jewish oriented/controlled. A Jewish creator, Aaron Sorkin, Richard Schiff (Ziegler), and Josh also playing a Jewish character, and now this new guy Will Bailey who took over from Sam Seaborn! All Jews, I mean, if I didn't know better, I'd say this show was set in Israel! For God's sake, how more obvious can it be? The West Wing is nothing more than Jewish bias and propoganda[sic], no wonder there are so many anti-Arab themes and sentiments. Not a single recurring Arab character has there been [sic] in the show!!!! I didn't buy the Season 3 opening episode for 9/11 as nothing more than a pathetic attempt by the creator to try reduce Anti-Arab sentiments. Huh, Season 3, and this rubbish 'Qumar' pretend terrorist nation, give me a break! I know one thing for sure, I will never watch the West Wing again and be brain washed by this Jewish rubbish.
Dear Mr. Kabban:
I wanted to thank you for reading and responding to my "West Wing" preview from last year. For you to seek out and reply to a post that was written 14 months ago shows that you have a true passion about the topic, and for that I give you credit. And while it's possible and maybe even probable that you're a troll who typed this as a joke and/or to get a reaction, I am for the purposes of responding going to give you the benefit of the doubt that you actually wrote this in all seriousness.
First of all, I find it interesting that of all the works of pop culture that you would call "Jewish oriented/controlled," you would pick "The West Wing," a show that has rarely, if ever, touched on issues related to Jewishness at all. Why not "Seinfeld"? Or perhaps something from the ouvre of Woody Allen or even Steven Spielberg? If you absolutely must play the "Jews control Hollywood" card, you can do a lot better than this.
Seriously though- because two of the ten principal cast members on "West Wing"- none of whom, mind you, are the president, vice-president, secretary of state, or White House chief of staff- are Jewish, that means the show is "Jewish bias and propoganda [sic]"? And what, exactly, is "Jewish bias"? Since all us Jews think alike, we must all have all the same biases, right? Would you prefer that a show attempting to depict the White House, or for that matter the White House itself, restrict Jews from taking part?
And besides, how many times in the four-plus-year history of the show has the Israeli-Palestinian conflict even come up in plot lines? Two, maybe three? And you'll also be interested to know that "West Wing"'s all-powerful "Jewish creator," Aaron Sorkin, has left the show and been replaced by John Wells, who is about as Jewish as David Wells.
You refer to the "rubbish 'Qumar' pretend terrorist nation." Would you have preferred the creators of the show use a non-pretend terrorist nation, such as, say, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, etc. etc.? Because where in the world could Aaron Sorkin have possibly gotten the idea that an Islamic fundamentalist government would support terrorist acts against American civilian targets? Your guess is as good as mine...
I think the fact that you see an evil, nefarious Jewish conspiracy that doesn't exist in "the West Wing"- and possibly other places, and most likely in all places- says a lot more about you than it does about that show or anyone involved with it. It says either that you're an idiot whose feeble mind isn't capable of comprehending even simple mainstream network television, or that you're merely a hateful bigot who is scared to death of any and all Jewish people, especially those who are smarter, more successful, and more powerful than you. More likely than not, you are both.
Stephen J. Silver.
Member since 1978, International Jewish Banking Conspiracy.
TMQ AND HARVEY: With Gregg Easterbrook's Tuesday Morning Quarterback column returning, on FootballOutsiders.com, next Tuesday, TMQ and Miramax chairman Harvey Weinstein have buried the hatchet. Weinstein, one of the Hollywood moguls who Easterbrook wrote "is a Jewish executive who worships money above all else," has accepted the writer's apology, according to the Daily News' Lloyd Grove.
Weinstein's letter to Easterbrook ends with the line ""As Claude Rains said to Bogart (in a film I'm sure you liked, made by a Jewish executive), this could be the start of a beautiful relationship." Except the actual "Casablanca" quote to which he refers is "the beginning of a beautiful friendship," not "start of a beautiful relationship." And Bogart says it to Rains, not the other way around. Nice to see the friggin' chairman of Miramax has such great knowledge of one of the most beloved films of all time.
DON'T KNOW WHO TO VOTE FOR?: Slate presents Whack-a-Pol! It says I should support John Edwards, which I would never do, but it's worth a try regardless.
WHAT A KROC: It was announced yesterday that Joan Kroc, the late San Diego Padres owner and widow of McDonalds founder Ray Kroc, bequeathed $200 million to National Public Radio upon her recent death. The sudden windfall is twice NPR's operating budget for last year, and a spokesperson says they haven't yet decided what to spend it on.
Now what the late Mrs. Kroc chose to do with her vast fortune is of course no one's business but her own (she also left $50 million to Notre Dame). But of all the charitable organizations that could've possibly used that money, the first one that came to mind was NPR?
At any rate, it's my hope that rather than spend the money on more of the usual anti-Israel propaganda, they give a really, really big raise to Sarah Vowell. And what the hell- Garrison Keillor can have some too.
FISKING HARRY KNOWLES: James Lileks takes down the "Ain't It Cool" proprietor, in discussing "Matrix Revolutions." I had been wondering why I stopped reading Knowles years ago, and Lileks reminds me why: among other sins, Harry compares Agent Smith to both "Communism" and "a Born-Again Christian type," in the same paragraph.
"THE SCARLET R:" Former Justice editor-in-chief Michaela May, who was my assistant and succeeded me as Arts Editor, has written a truly great letter to the editor of the Waltham News Tribune (scroll down to the second one) about the Passner affair. Money graf:
Brandeis cowered to public opinion, bringing [President Jehuda] Reinharz to demand the resignation of two Justice editors, including an editor-in-chief who had been serving a mere two weeks. Reinharz demanded the pair resign from the so-called independent student newspaper, under the threat that the university would cease their operations - changing their locks and shutting off their phones. The president was willing sacrifice The Justice, its reputation, its contribution to the university and the students on it - whether or not they were to blame -- for the sake of the university's public image.
SWEPT AWAY: Five football coaches at Mepham High School on Long Island were fired yesterday, in connection with a hazing incident in which several players were sodomized with broomsticks and other objects by upperclassmen during a team trip to Pennsylvania.
Three players will be charged with multiple felonies; the team had already forfeited all of its remaining games this season, and Thursday's decision means the coaches won't return next year. And just like the students at Indiana University rallying around Bobby Knight when that violent sociopath was fired for physically attacking a student, much of the school is defending the coaches and calling it an "injustice" that they were fired. Please.
And adding insult to injury: On Halloween night I saw a couple of assholes walking around Hoboken costumed as Mepham football players, complete with makeshift Mepham jerseys and broomsticks in each hand.
KILLING JOKE: Paul Krassner, in his latest New York Press column, lists a few unfortunate Americans who have been tossed in jail for talking/joking about killing the president. Fair enough, but Krassner ludicrously calls this a sympton of "our nation's gallop towards a police state," and quotes a reporter as saying:
Almost daily, someone informs me that he is scared of openly expressing his views. Even those who do dare to speak out do so in hushed tones, fearful of what ears might overhear. In the politically charged atmosphere that exists in America today, having the wrong person hear criticism of the government can lead to trouble.
DOWN WITH TERRY: Andrew Sullivan asks the question that I've had on my mind for awhile: what the hell is Terry McAuliffe still doing as the chairman of the DNC? The party has just had one disaster after another ever since he took over, whether its the midterm election losses, the three (and possibly four) lost governorships this year alone, the complete lack of any coherent party message whatsoever, not to mention the total failure to gain any political traction at all from a consistantly bad economy for the entire Bush Administration thus far.
And besides, isn't DNC chairman usually a one-year job anyway? Has McAuliffe been so excellent that they have to keep him around for almost four?
GAME 8: A judge in Boston has scheduled a hearing Friday to determine whether Yankees Jeff Nelson and Karim Garcia will stand trial for their part in the bullpen brawl at Fenway Park during Game 3 of the ALCS. The two may be charged with assault on Fenway groundskeeper Paul Williams, who appeared in the New York bullpen just an hour or so after the soon-to-be-legendary Martinez-Zimmer scuffle, from which no charges have emerged.
If you ask me, this prosecution is to the Yanks-Sox ALCS as "Rambo" was to the Vietnam War. The lengthy, impossibly difficult battle is over, we lost, and everyone feels horrible about it. So just as Stallone went back to Vietnam to essentially re-fight the war, let's try to make ourselves feel better by re-fighting the ALCS, this time in court!
Besides, what was our mistake in Vietnam? We left them in too long.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Can I also use this space to interject one more thing about P. Diddy's marathon run? After scoring with J. Lo and serving up sloppy seconds to Ben Affleck, does one really need to run 26.2 miles to prove he can accomplish anything? I mean, 35,000 people ran that damn race. How many people have had sex with J. Lo? A thousand? Maybe two thousand? I'd say that's more of an accomplishment." –Blogger Paul Katcher
THE OTHER DANIEL P.: This oughtta calm things down at Brandeis... According to Josh at Jawsblog, a campus pro-Israel group will in two weeks host a talk by the controversial Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes, on "Middle East Crises- A Review of the Bidding."
An e-mail posted to Josh's blog warns that "the amount of hatred at Brandeis is about to increase to a much higher degree." As opposed to increasing to a much lower degree? Jeez- is there something about being a student activist that makes people utterly unable to spell, capitalize correctly, or use complete and gramatically correct sentences? And yes, the amount of hatred may very well increase as a result of Pipes appearing- but it'll be directed at him, not from him.
Pipes is quite a ways to my right, and I don't agree with a lot of what he has to say about the Mideast and other issues. But when I've read him he's always been perfectly clear in his message that when it comes to terrorism coming from the Islamic world, "militant Islam is the problem; moderate Islam is the solution." And let's not forget, Pipes' speech is sponsored by a student club, and not by the university itself.
Those who disagree with him would be wise to attend the speech, listen to what he has to say, and then challenge him (I'd imagine there'll be a Q&A period). And next time there's a major terrorist attack carried out by Islamic terrorists in United States, Israel, Iraq, I look forward to these same activists reacting with just as much outrage as they are now to a mere speech.
MORE ON PASSNER: Meanwhile, the Boston Globe has another wrap-up story on the Passner/Justice scandal, as does the Jewish Telegraph Agency. Not much news in either, except for an explanation in the Globe from Passner's friend on where the anti-Baker quote came from, and a statement from the Brandeis flack to the JTA that Brandeis' Jewish population is "about 50%." While no real figures are kept, I always thought it was two-thirds.
The Globe and JTA pieces also deliver a split decision on whether the leader of the BBSO is a man named Justin Moore, or a woman named Justine.
THE PATH OF THE "RIGHTEOUS" MAN: Bobby Hatfield of the Righteous Brothers died yesterday at the age of 63. Condolences to his "brother" Bill Medley, as well as his real family.
HIS FATHER IS NO LONGER THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY: On the day my Tribute to Ron Silver is included on WizBangBlog's Carnival of the Vanities, Ron's show "Skin" has been canceled by Fox. Hopefully this means that wretched "mainstreaming of porn" fad is coming to an end.
LITTLE DAVE: Congratulations to David Letterman, who this week became a father for the first time when his longtime girlfriend gave birth to a baby boy. And also to his "Late Night" successor Conan O'Brien, who also became a father this month despite being nearly 20 years younger than Letterman.
STADIUM GAMES, REVISITED: Minnesota Gov. Tim "Paul Henty" Pawlenty is gearing up to revisit the state's long-running sports facilities battle, becoming the third governor in the last decade to take a crack at it; mega sports booster Arne Carlson whiffed throughout the '90s (though he did manage to prevent the T-Wolves from leaving in '94), while his successor Jesse Ventura had other sports ventures on his mind during his singular term in office. St. Paul's XCel Energy Center was built and the NHL Minnesota Wild lured during Ventura's tenure, but credit for both has long gone, justified or not, to then-St. Paul mayor Norm Coleman.
The latest battle, to be waged when the legislative session begins in February, breaks down like this: three teams (the Twins, Vikings, and University of Minnesota Gophers football team) want to escape their current home, the only-22-years-old-yet-very-obsolete Metrodome, all to play in new, outdoor facilities. In addition, Minneapolis and St. Paul are fighting each other for the right to house the Twins, with suburb Bloomington (home of the airport and the Mall of America) emerging as a darkhorse third candidate; both Twin Cities are in the market for the Vikings, as is far-flung suburb Blaine. And the Gophers would love a new stadium on the U of M campus in Minneapolis, but it's unlikely that the state would pay for three, especially since the Vikings and Gophers each only play about ten home games per year. Then there's the question of who pays for it, with previous schemes having included cigarette taxes, expansion of gambling, increased taxes on profits from Indian-owned casinos, a bizarre "gift" of 49% of the team to the state, and player salary surcharges, which may be the dumbest idea in the history of stadium financing.
The Twins and Vikings can't share because the way stadium construction works these days, field shapes and sightlines are radically different for the two sports, and therefore the multi-purpose stadium is dead. The Vikings and Gophers could share, but an idea to do just that fell apart last year because the Vikings wanted 30,000 more seats than the Gophers did. They also would have to agree on whether the seats would be purple or maroon and gold, and that's a whole other headache.
If it were up to me, the Twins would get a new ballpark, while the Vikings would not. The Twins need the park to survive financially long-term, and in order to compete with their richer rivals by retaining their best players. The Vikings have neither problem- with the NFL's socialistic revenue system, they're in no financial trouble whatsoever and, judging by their 6-2 record, first place position, and nine-figure contracts recently handed out to Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss, are doing just fine on the field as well. A Twins stadium would save the team, while the Vikings stadium would change nothing except make owner Red McCombs just a little bit richer. (And yes, I know the same is true of Carl Pohlad. But by the time a new Twins ballpark is built, he very likely will have long since keeled over).
Besides- indoor baseball is blasphemy, while there's nothing particularly grotesque about indoor football. In fact, I sort of like the Metrodome as a football stadium. And if the Vikings move outdoors, they'll have to completely alter their personality and become a cold-weather team- a transition that could take years. For the first few seasons it would be like playing the Packers twice on the road every year.
As for locations, if two stadiums must be built, put the Twins in Minneapolis (preferably on the Mississippi), and the Vikings and Gophers together on the campus of the "U." And if the Gophers decide not to take part, what the hell- put a new Vikings stadium in Bloomington next to the Mall- it'll honor the franchise's heritage, as the original Metropolitan Stadium was on the same plot of land where the Mega-Mall now stands. I'm against the idea of putting the Twins that close to the airport- and anyone who's ever been to Shea Stadium knows why- but football crowds are generally loud enough to drown out the noise.
The Vikings in Blaine? Please- that would make about as much sense as a New York NFL team playing its games in East Rutherford, NJ.
And I have no new ideas on financing, 'cause that's for the legislators to decide, but one request- don't mess with the tribes. Haven't they suffered enough? No, the American Indians in Minnesota are not "Chief Doug Smith"-like casino opportunists, but rather real Native Americans who have legitimate political power, unlike Cruz Bustamante's sycophants out in California. Carlson made that mistake- once even meeting with tribal leaders in a room in the governors' mansion that was adorned with a painting of an Indian massacre- Pawlenty would be wise not to repeat it.
I'll be following this throughout the winter, and if you're interested in the topic a whole book has been written about the history of sports facilities construction in Minnesota- and it's by the same Strib writer who wrote the afore-linked story.
And in other new stadium news, the World Champion Florida Marlins have announced that if the city of Miami builds them a new ballpark like they want, they will re-christen themselves the "Miami Marlins." Yea, 'cause their fan base isn't small enough already, they have to break it down even further.
ANOTHER GREAT INSTITUTION REACHES ITS ALL-TIME NADIR: Al Sharpton will host "Saturday Night Live" on December 6.
JUSTICE UPDATE: There's more on the scandal in the 11/4 issue, including an apology by Passner and a letter of resignation from sports editor Rob Siegel.
There's also a goofy letter to the editor arguing that since this is the second racial "incident" in two years (actually three), the administration needs to take "more drastic action," without going into specifics. Honestly, if there'd been two incidents of racial violence, or two murders, in that amount of time I'd certainly agree. But two incidents of hate speech, in a three year period, on a campus of 3,000 students? If you ask me, that's not too bad a record.
Then again, in that same period there have been at least two student deaths, which I'd say are quite a bit more troublesome than the other "incidents."
Meanwhile, Campus Press Notes reports that Jehuda Reinharz and the rest of the administration have now reaffirmed the Justice's autonomy, and are now retroactively claiming that they would not have prevented the paper from publishing had editor Stephen Heyman not stepped down, in quite a shameless bit of revisionist history. Easy for Jeduda & Co. to say, now that they're no longer under the gun of a threatened race riot.
THE MATRIX REJECTED: The Weekly Standard's Jonathan V. Last, who previously wrote an essay claiming that the Empire were actually the good guys in "Star Wars," now reports that "The Matrix Revolutions" sucks. Not surprising- going into this year "Reloaded" was the movie I was most looking forward to, but was so underwhelmed that I may very well wait for the video on "Revolutions."
KOSHER SCOOP JACKSONS, CONT'D: The new political buzzword is "Norm Coleman Republicans"- as described in a recent Forward article, NCRs are youngish Jews who run for political office as GOPers on a socially moderate, strong-national security, and staunchly pro-Israel platform. Examples given include Coleman himself, defeated Philadelphia mayoral candidate Sam Katz, Virginia Congressman Eric Cantor, and various candidates for state legislative and city council offices throughout the country.
I've been saying for a long time that a sizable new constituency has recently come together among young Jewish Americans who maintain their long-held liberal social views yet have become increasingly hawkish on national security matters. This has been the result of several events- September 11, the Iraq war, terrorism in Israel, and the rise of anti-Semitism on the American left, on campus and elsewhere. The new constituency- "Kosher Scoop Jacksons," I call it- describes myself and the majority of my Jewish friends; while like Scoop himself most of us have remained Democrats and expect to stay that way, it's undeniable that the phenomenon of Jews in my generation moving rightward is a very real one.
The party affiliation is one difference among many between Kosher Scoops and Coleman Republicans; according to the article, the NCR label describes actual candidates as opposed to a civilian voting bloc. And besides, it's sort of absurd to see Norm Coleman described as the quintessential "Republican Jew," when he's been a Republican for about half a decade and, since he was once photographed with a Christmas tree in his living room, his Jewish credentials aren't exactly stellar either.
JACK RABBIT SLIM'S LIVES: Earlier this evening, I went to the local Johnny Rocket's to pick up a bite to eat, when I saw something quite interesting: In a sight that was a bit incongruous in the '50s-themed diner, a quartet of teenagers was sitting in one of the booths, and on the counter next to one of the mini-jukeboxes one of them had placed a laptop. And on that laptop played a complete, flawless, but obviously downloaded copy of "Kill Bill: Volume 1." Specifically, the scene in which Lucy Liu beheads the guy at the conference table.
Now perhaps it's fitting that, in a homage to the '50s diner scene in "Pulp Fiction," these kids would be enjoying a Quentin Tarantino movie at Johnny Rocket's. But regardless, I don't know which was the bigger ethical faux pas- illegal piracy of the movie, or the decision to watch it while out to dinner at a restaurant.
HAPPY BLOGOVERSARY: Fightin' With Grabes turns 1 year old today. So go congratulate the only Jew named "John Paul" in the whole Blogosphere!
ONLY IN AMERICA DEPT.: "In Defense of P. Diddy"- a Wall Street Journal editorial.
SPORTS GUY SMILEY: Matthew at the Sardonic Subversive pays tribute to The Sports Guy, Bill Simmons, calling him "the cultural icon of males 18-34," and summing up my feelings perfectly:
It's a shame such a mind gets wasted with Kimmel, where a man with all the buzz is on a show with none of it.
I don't know what the problem is- we all know how hilarious Simmons is, as well as some of the other 'Kimmel' writers (including the guy who created "Mystery Science Theater 3000"), but I've never been able to get through more than five minutes of Kimmel's show, or for that matter the new ESPN2 morning show "Cold Pizza" (on which Simmons sometimes appears). I like that Kimmel has on certain people (such as Kaiju, and the "Super Bowl is Gay" guy) who no one else would think to book, but regardless- the first year of the show confirms my theory that there's an extremely finite amount of talented television comedy writers out there these days- and most, if not all of them, work for "The Daily Show."
At any rate, I get the distinct impression that both "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and "Cold Pizza" are the types of shows that Simmons would be tearing to shreds if he weren't involved with them.
AND YOUR LITTLE DOG TOO: Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, who is as we all know America's Foremost Insult Comic Dog, will make a rare personal appearance tonight at the Times Square Virgin Megastore, marking the release of his new album, "Come Poop With Me." I'm debating whether or not to go- on the one hand I've been a Triumph fan for years and I'd love to see him in the flesh, along with creator Robert Smigel. But on the other hand, am I really about to go into the city and wait in line for the chance to meet a friggin' sock puppet?
(The press release also includes a phone number and e-mail address for Triumph's publicist, for those seeking to "interview" the make-believe puppet. It was bad enough when, in my Justice days, I used to get frequent calls from Pauly Shore's publicist; could you imagine waking up every morning knowing that your biggest client is a sock puppet dog?)
POOPED ON BY THE PINK PAGES: Triumph and Smigel are profiled in the New York Observer.
THE JUSTICE LETTERS: The Passner story seems to be just about over so I don't expect to write much more about it (unless there's any news of note in tomorrow's Justice, which is certainly possible).
I finally read the 23 letters to the editor and was generally unimpressed- pretty much the same thing over and over again, with just about every letter writer bashing Passner, with some defending the Justice and some not. There didn't appear to be a single letter from any member of the BBSO or any other ICC-affiliated group, as they apparently decided to "speak with one voice," and submit the front-page "Unbreakable" manifesto as their collective response.
A few things worth commenting on in the letters: nice to see responses from not one but both of my assistants from my Arts Editor days (one of whom went on to become EIC); both expressed shame that Passner's remark was included but defended the integrity of the paper. One former editor who was from before my time, although I have met him once or twice, made the somewhat nonsensical argument that Passner shouldn't be "held accountable" because the words were his friend's and not his and he didn't endorse them, as though it weren't his decision to include them in the column. And two students do something that people used to all the time when I was at 'deis- they write a letter that's merely a creatively re-worded version of a certain sociology professor's pacifist manifesto.
Two different students- one of them borderline-illiterate, apparently- dispense with the racial angle altogether and merely attack Passner for being wrong on the baseball, which he certainly was. But there's one very valid point I didn't see made by anyone, which has been the first thing most non-Brandeis people I've showed it to have noticed: Passner's quote was not only racist and counterfactual, but it's also totally nonsensical: "a PhD in [n-word]"? Is there any form of slang anywhere in the English language in which that makes even the slightest bit of sense?
In fact, I think that might be Exhibit A for the case that the responsible Justice editors aren't actually racist: Assume for a moment that the Justice editors were racist conspirators, and it was their intention to publish a racially charged attack on Dusty Baker: wouldn't they at least have altered the quote to make it grammatically correct?
WHAT'S NEXT IN WALTHAM?: Elsewhere, the minutes of the Student Senate meeting that took place in the middle of this have been posted. Among suggestions brought up by Senators and guests are:
-That the Justice's funding be reduced/revoked.
-That the Justice be assigned a faculty adviser with final say over the editorial content of the paper.
-That a Union Judiciary case be brought against the Justice (for what reason remains unclear).
It should go without saying that the words "freedom of the press" were not uttered a single time, in the nearly 11-hour meeting.
I guess my concern at this point is that my beloved alma mater is about to turn into the sort of collegiate police state depicted in the book "The Shadow University." Because if this affair had happened at Penn, Berkeley, Brown, or Michigan, not only would the Justice have been immediately defunded and/or dechartered, but Passner and at least some of the editors would've been brought up on charges and possibly even expelled from school. I'm very afraid that the next demands from the BBSO and its backing faculty members will be the imposition of a similar system at Brandeis- and we know President Reinharz will summarily roll over in that event.
I do know that if the day ever comes when Brandeis adopts a speech code, I will never again donate a single dollar, and will try to convince every other alum I know to do the same. To borrow a ubiquitous cliche, it's not what Justice Louis Brandeis would've wanted. To borrow another: "we pay $30,000 a year for this?"
JELLY, OR SYR'P?:
FAKE OUTRAGE WATCH: As anyone following the Democratic presidential primaries (and that's not most people) now knows, Howard Dean got himself into a bit of trouble with something he said the other day- and no, I'm not talking about the "metrosexual" crack.
Dean, in an interview over the weekend with an Iowa newspaper, stated that "I still want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks." The line was a variation on one Dean has often used throughout the campaign, only substituting "Confederate flags" for "gun racks" as the pickup-truck accoutrement of choice for his mythical country bumpkins.
It's a textbook case of a political gaffe- telling the truth by accident. Because as much as Dean's core audience of Northeastern elites might hate it, no, Dean can't win a general election without the support of at least a few of the Confederate flag and gun rack people. After all Al Gore, who had a reputation of being anti-gun despite soft-pedaling the issue during the 2000 campaign, didn't win a single Southern state, even though he is himself a Southerner.
The rest of the candidates, of course, went into "how dare you!" mode, led by John Kerry, who called the comment "unconscionable." Bullshit. Kerry isn't "outraged" that Dean said that; in fact, he couldn't be more thrilled. It gives him a club with which to beat Dean for the rest of the campaign, even though I doubt this will be more than two- or -three-day story.
Then again, Kerry gave up a little bit of credibility in his comments, as his further slam of Dean on the gun issue came while the senator was on a pheasant-hunting expedition with reporters.
UPDATE: Democratic Senator from Georgia (and Bush supporter) Zell Miller on Dean's comment: "[Dean] knows about as much about the South as a hog knows about Sunday."
FROZEN TUNDRA: Today was Minnesota's first snowfall of the year; on the other hand, I just returned from a jog along the Hudson River in a t-shirt and shorts.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Obviously, Manny [Ramirez] doesn't fit in the Twins plans as they are currently constructed. But at least once per week I hear this argument:
1. The only entity richer than [Twins owner Carl] Pohlad is god.
2. They'll be meeting soon.
3. Pohlad should write a blank check to get whatever the hell the Twins need. He owes it to us."
-John "TwinsGeek" Bonnes, arguing in favor of an increased payroll for the Minnesota Twins, 'cause their aged owner has billions lying around and not enough time to spend it. I agree- and he should toss in a new stadium too.
John also delves into what economists refer to as "the winner's curse"- which is, I suppose, doubly true in the Red Sox' case.
FASTER THAN A FLAMING THUMBTACK: Gregg Easterbrook says to "expect an announcement soon" about the official return of the Tuesday Morning Quarterback column. So keep an eye on his blog, and FootballOutsiders.
IMITATION/FLATTERY DEPARTMENT: Just like all the best film directors, seems like all the best bloggers are in the habit of stealing from one another. Here's James Lileks, from Thursday:
You know how Howard Dean could get my respect? By calling for a one-time surcharge on the income tax of the top quintile, earrmarked specificially for Afghan and Iraqi charities, and administered by non-UN groups. "Hey! We're a rich nation," he could say. "God knows I'm a rich man. I spend more on shoes than most third-worlders spend on shelter. We spend more on dog food than Afghans spend on education. Would it kill us to part with a double sawbuck and kick-start the good stuff? We can't make a difference everywhere but we have an obligation now to make a difference here. C'mon. Dig deep."
And here's Andrew Sullivan:
If I were running as a Democrat this year (ha ha ha), here's what I'd say: "President Bush, thank you for taking the first bold steps in the war on terror. But you have become too polarizing a figure at home, and especially abroad, to win the battle we now wage for the hearts and minds of the world, especially the young Arab world... to pay for the Iraq project, we are going to rescind the tax cuts for the very richest Americans. Blah blah blah... "
And the likeliest nominee, Howard Dean, would be able to make this case with the least persuasiveness."
WESLEY COOK VS. FAT FAT FATTY: Adding to my argument that many on the left loathe Michael Moore just as much as the right does, I give you this, from the website of something called the "Anarchist People of Color":
Ewuare Osayande, political activist and author of Black Anti-Ballistic Missives: Resisting War/Resisting Racism "will address how Academy Award Winner Michael Moore's recently published remarks questioning the innocence of political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal is typical of the racism and chauvinism of the white left."