The comments and discussions related to “Fahrenheit 9/11” are flying all over the place, and I had a few random thoughts I just thought I’d toss out there- and some of them may surprise you. Here we go:
- A few of you commented and e-mailed that I spent my entire review commenting on the political aspects of the film, while not concentrating enough on the film cinematically. I have no big complaints about it aesthetically, and it certainly dealt with subjects about which I care, so I wasn’t bored. But I found the factual distortions and moral vacuity so troublesome that I had trouble seeing past it. Just one man’s opinion, I suppose.
- Some have called “F-9/11” “anti-American.” While I would certainly ascribe that label to Moore himself- based on this David Brooks column, especially- I give Moore a pass in that regard in relation to ‘Fahrenheit,’ as he was pretty careful to confine his hatred to Bush, his cronies, and their corporate/Saudi allies. He also, as far as we know, didn’t stage any scenes this time. This is more than I can say for “Bowling For Columbine,” which concluded with the generally offensive notion that the problem with America is all those damn Americans.
However, I have more trouble forgiving Moore’s essential neutrality in regards to Bin Laden, Saddam, etc- a pretty indefensible position, if you ask me.
- That said, ‘Fahrenheit,’ for the most part, avoids some of the more loathsome tactics of the anti-War on Terror left. For instance, Moore doesn’t use words like “fascist” or “police state” or “Hitler.” In fact, I could actually picture a left-wing critique of “F 9/11,” accusing Moore of not being vigilant enough- by paying next to no attention to post-9/11 Muslim detainees, and by confining his anti-Patriot Act section to that story about the guy at the gym who was questioned and released by the FBI.
- Sullivan, and others at TNR, have already written about the moral bankruptcy of the general center-left consensus on ‘Fahrenheit,’ i.e., “Moore may be full of shit on many things, but he’s right overall, so we’ll let it slide.” This is, oddly enough, the defense many center-righties have for Bush himself, but that’s not my point.
I had a discussion with Jeremy yesterday in which he compared Moore to a “liberal Rush Limbaugh.” I replied that yes, the comparison is valid, but comparing Moore to Limbaugh is no defense of the filmmaker- really, it’s more of an indictment. My problem is that Moore –by using facts selectively only when they stick up for his side- is basically a pundit, yet the reception to his films has elevated him, undeservedly, to something far above that. Because really, Moore deserves an Oscar and Palme d’Or about as much as Sean Hannity deserves a National Book Award.
And then there's the whole "it's not a documentary if it's biased" argument, which I also don't buy. I'm more partial to the "it's not a documentary if facts are made up" line.
- Here’s a side-by-side comparison of various critics who praised ‘Fahrenheit’ to the skies but bashed “The Passion.” Of course, it includes just one line of each review, so we don’t always know the contexts. And besides, some critics (like Roger Ebert) loved both, while others (such as myself) hated both.
- Bush's approval rating is down to an all-time low of 42 percent, just a few days after the release of a virulently anti-Bush movie. Moore's influence is reaching uncharted territory- he may soon have to register as a 527. (And no, that's not a crack about his weight).
- One other surprisingly nice thing I have to say about ‘Fahrenheit’: it wasn’t even the worst liberal-leaning political documentary I saw last weekend. That (dis)honor goes to Nickolas Perry and Harry Thomason's Clinton apologia “The Hunting of the President”- and I even agreed with its assertions more than I did Moore’s.
THOTP is just about the most unsubtle documentary I’ve ever seen- utilizing the laughably awful device of repeatedly cutting to old stock footage, so that when an interviewee refers to Ken Starr’s “fishing expedition,” we’re treated to shots of a guy in a boat, fishing. Whenever Clinton’s womanizing is discussed, we get footage of Bettie Page-style ‘40s strippers. Just two hours of that sort of nonsense.
There’s nothing new in the movie that won’t be familiar to anyone who followed the news throughout the ‘90s, and ‘Hunting’ also makes extensive use of conservative-turned-liberal writer David Brock, making me realize that a documentary about Brock’s life would be about a thousand times more interesting than this one. Thumbs down.
- Anyway, enough about Mike. I'm about ready to go see "Spider-man," how 'bout you?
"In a current Playgirl.com poll of the Sexiest News Anchor on network or cable news, Sean Hannity has opened up a huge lead. We know why that is- Alan Colmes keeps voting for him."
-Keith Olbermann, currently tied for second in the poll (with Anderson Cooper), on "Countdown."
New York Press columnist Matt Taibbi goes after Christopher Hitchens' instant-classic smackdown of "Fahrenheit 9/11"- except he doesn't really, because Taibbi's piece doesn't really address what Hitchens wrote it all.
Instead, he rips Hitch for "hypocrisy," because he called Moore cowardly. which has to be wrong, because you see, all journalists are cowardly, especially those who accept their paychecks from corporations- and since Hitchens wrote the piece for Slate, which is owned by Microsoft, he's somehow compromised.
Say what? First of all, has Taibbi ever seen Slate before? If his thesis is that Hitchens was somehow pressured by conservative Microsoft overlords, he'll have a tough time explaining away the rest of Slate's political content, nearly all of which is anti-Bush. And while I don't disagree with Taibbi's point that many journalists are cowardly, Hitchens, clearly, is not- he's reported from war zones all over the world, something I certainly can't say for Matt.
But just when we expect Taibbi to defend Moore and his film, we get this:
"Michael Moore may be an ass, and impossible to like as a public figure, and a little loose with the facts, and greedy, and a shameless panderer. But he wouldn't be necessary if even one percent of the rest of us had any balls at all."
Taibbi can be good- he's done some funny work for NYP, and I count myself a big fan of his "Sports Crime Blotter" comedy column in sister paper New York Sports Express. But too often his political writing falls into either self-righteous pontificating or Maureen Dowd-style imaginery dialogue. I would've liked to have seen a legitimate rebuttal to the Hitchens rant, but this sure isn't it.
The Washington Post series concludes with a look at how Beelzebud and Orioles owner Peter Angelos are conspiring to keep our national pastime out of our nation’s capital. Will baseball do the right thing and put the Expos where they belong (in DC)?
Maybe they will, if Peter Gammons is to believed;
[Expos general manager ] Omar Minaya had inquiries on Brad Wilkerson, and refused to talk, figuring he wants every possible good player in Washington next season.
Is Petey trying to tell us something?
"Yet director Irwin Winkler, who proved with Guilty by Suspicion, Night and the City, The Net and Life as a House that he has no business directing movies, thinks he's being hip by imitating the travesty style of Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge!... He might be the worst director working today. (Actually, no one's worse than Luhrmann, but a Luhrmann clone deserves jail time.)"
-Armond White, reviewing "De-Lovely" in New York Press.
Longtime Minnesota Timberwolf Sam Mitchell has been named head coach of the Toronto Raptors. Mitchell was on the Wolves’ inaugural team in ’89, and becomes the second original Wolf to become an NBA head coach. I’ve got a hunch Mitchell will be much better than the first one (Sidney Lowe)- but why doesn’t some team give Pooh Richardson a shot?
Sheila’s as disappointed as I am by this season of “Six Feet Under.” I personally thought Sunday’s episode was much better than the previous one, but it’s still not the same show it used to be.
But we both plan to keep watching…
My 1500-word review of "Fahrenheit 9/11" is online here.
That I first arrived in New York as a resident. In the interest of historical context, it's also the day Elian Gonzalez went back to Cuba.
But living in a free country and all, I'm willing to guess I've had a better four years than he has.
In the second part of the Washington Post's three-part series, read all about how Bud Selig prevented the Montreal Expos' necessary move to the DC area in 1998, and later engineered a very possibly illegal deal that flipped the ownership of that team, the Marlins, and the Red Sox.
The only funny part is a quote from Florida State Sen. Kendrick Meek, who you may remember from the 2000 recount battle, comparing the commissioner to "Johnny Soprano."
For the first time in my lifetime, Iraq is ruled by Iraqis not of the Ba'ath Party. End the occupation? Check.
I saw it Saturday night, and judging by talking to friends, just about everyone in America saw it as well- enough people, indeed, for it to hit #1 at the domestic box office. My full review will be posted tomorrow night, but in the meantime here's an excerpt:
It's entertaining at times and heartbreaking at others, and political opponents of Moore (myself included) are likely to have fun taking it apart point by point. But propaganda, alas, it remains. In the end, "Fahrenheit 9/11" is both a highly demagogic and highly dishonest piece of work, full of the same irrational fearmongering that Moore so claims to despise. And it's very clear that its Palme d'Or, and all its subsequent acclaim, has come not despite these facts, but rather because of them.
And no, in case you were wondering, Paul is not actually dead.
This is great. A few months old, but great nonetheless.
Ted Rall has thrown a hissy fit because Michael Moore didn't invite him to the premiere of "Fahrenheit 9/11." What, was Moore afraid Ted would draw an illegible cartoon about it or something?
1. Take five books off your bookshelf. 2. Book No. 1 -- first sentence. 3. Book No. 2 -- last sentence on page fifty. 4. Book No. 3 -- second sentence on page one hundred. 5. Book No. 4 -- next to the last sentence on page one hundred fifty. 6. Book No. 5 -- final sentence of the book. 7. Make the five sentences into a paragraph.
For many people, crises like global recession, terrorist threats to the United States, and the escalating war in the Middle East have been strong motivators to take a good hard look at the role of faith in their lives. His father was Joe Mankiewicz, who directed classics like "All About Eve," and his uncle was Herman J., who wrote "Citizen Kane." The major league scouting bureau lists Stanley at five-foot-seven and 155 pounds, but that's wildly generous. The only question, he emphasized, was: "What does the U.S. intend to do about the Arab military threat"? It's just that maybe, someday, some of those things may involve working with a foreign country.
So as you can tell, I read lots of books about war in the Middle East, Hollywood, and baseball.
The RNC should really be ashamed of this ad, which tosses together a bunch of yelling liberals (Al Gore, Howard Dean, Michael Moore, even Dick Gephardt), also splicing in that MoveOn.org ad that compared Bush to Hitler, and posits that these are "the faces of John Kerry's Democratic Party."
Now, the big headline from most coverage of the ad has been that it "used Hitler," although really it was using an entry from a contest sponsored by MoveOn.org. Just a few problems with the ad's reasoning:
-Michael Moore is not a Democrat, and has not said that he's supporting Kerry.
-MoveOn.org, while a left-wing organization, is not officially affiliated with either Kerry's campaign, or with the national Democratic party; in fact, the "Hitler" ad was created months before Kerry was named the nominee.
-Gore and Dean are merely raising their voices, while Dick Gephardt is shown, in a normal, non-screaming register, calling Bush a "miserable failure." People give screaming, negative speeches on the floor of Congress every single day- since when was passion a political crime?
I'm not here to defend Moore, Gore, Dean, or MoveOn- as readers of this blog know, I've had few positive things to say about any of the above. But the fact is, this ad was out of bounds in many different ways.
The Washington Post, in the first piece of a continuing series, goes after Bud Selig for the shady way in which he got Miller Park built in Milwaukee, and the effect it may have on DC's own hopes to get major league baseball back.
I think it was Gleeman who suggested that Michael Moore turn his attention from Bush to Bud for his next film; that's one I might actually enjoy. Because if Dubya loses, Moore will officially be out of things to be mad about. Marketable ones, anyway; he could always go back to his Clinton-era anti-corporate screeds/quickly canceled TV shows.
Against my better judgment, I’m going to see “Fahrenheit 9/11” tomorrow, and I should have a full review posted by the end of the weekend. I’ve had way too much fun mocking this movie to not actually see it.
I was invited to see the film Saturday night with some friends/future neighbors from the Upper West Side, but I had to decline, for one simple reason: It would have been 10 people- who my friend Ben called an “echo-chamber” of Air America-listening Bush-haters- and me, a left-of-center Democrat who doesn’t care much for Bush but finds Michael Moore considerably more appalling. I didn’t exactly relish the idea of being the focal point of a 10-on-1 argument in the theater lobby after the movie.
I’ve said before that ‘Fahrenheit’ is for Bush-hating lefties what “Passion of the Christ” was for Christians. And knowing what I thought of that movie, I wouldn’t want to have to have been in a post-movie discussion with 10 born-again Christians, either.
The presidential election has been pretty rancorous at the professional-wonk level all along, but lately I’ve been starting to see that political furor seep down into the general population. It’s even starting to remind me of how things were during the buildup to the war last year, when I couldn’t go anywhere for six months without getting drawn into an Iraq-related argument. (So much for that whole “Bush rushed to war, without debate” idea.)
For instance, at my friend’s birthday party last weekend a male and female across the table from one another got into a debate with each other about Iraq, media bias, and Abu Ghraib that got so heated that others had to step in and force a change of subject. A couple days later, my friend Alissa was fighting, over IM, with some guy who kept talking about how “the terrorists hate us, and I don’t blame them.” She asked for help, so I spent about a half hour feeding her lines, Cyrano de Bergerac style.
Maybe it’s just the sort of people I hang out with. But I’ve been noticing more and more of these impromptu fights all the time- and with the Moore film, the conventions, and eventually the election itself, I can only see it getting worse.
So check in Sunday for my ‘Fahrenheit’ thoughts, and in the meantime, read that Hitchens piece again. It should be handed out to people as they leave the movie, instead of those little sticks of gum.
GEEZER IN TEAMSTER-BRIBE BUST
June 25, 2004 -- An 81-year-old New Jersey man has been busted for bribing a Teamsters official to allow his non-union firm to work on the construction site of the new Time Warner building, authorities said yesterday.
SteveSilver.net has obtained an exclusive photo of the perpetrator in question:
The latest anti-Kerry meme is that a pro-Democratic group has supposedly made a practice of hiring convicted felons to knock on the doors of potential voters in swing states. Newsmax.com, everyone’s favorite fair and objective news site, calls the group “Crooks for Kerry.”
Except, a couple problems: One, the felons worked for a 527 organization called America Coming Together, which has nothing to do officially with the Kerry campaign proper. It’s embarrassing for ACT, sure, but why this should rub off on Kerry himself, I don’t see.
Secondly, campaigns’ use of criminal-types for performing menial tasks is certainly nothing new at all. When I worked on a campaign in New Jersey a few years ago our opponents made regular practice of employing local homeless crackheads to put up and take down signs, and when one made the mistake of walking by our headquarters, some of my co-workers chased him with a baseball bat.
The other nifty campaign tool I learned from that experience? That campaigns throughout the country have long employed attractive 16-year-old girls to pass out fliers on street corners to interested voters. According to my then-boss, the strategy was devised by Lee Atwater and later copied by James Carville, and has been the decisive factor in at least one presidential election.
The only man on Earth who would fly from LA to Boston just to watch the NBA draft with his dad, Bill Simmons contributes his annual NBA draft diary column. He watched it with his father and some buddies in a Ritz Carlton hotel suite- certain grist for the “Sports Guy sold out” people- and comes up with some hilarious stuff, even though nothing of note at all happened in the draft.
He did point out one hilarious thing that I noticed:
Yet another classic moment: Vitale was zoning out, not realizing he was on camera until somebody alerted him, so he jolted upright and transformed into his "Dickie V." persona in about 0.0000003 seconds. That was amazing. Somebody must have accidentally unplugged him.
What, Vitale couldn’t fly in to cover the draft? It’s not like he has anything else to do, in the middle of the eight-month college offseason.
Apparently a lesbian sex tape involving teenagers in Scarsdale is making the rounds. Uh oh. What hath Paris Hilton wrought?
I think the Protest Warrior people are my new heroes. Remind me to link up with them during the GOP convention this summer. Because since my office is three blocks from Madison Square Garden, I know I won’t be going to work that week, what with the multiple tiers and barricades meant to protect us from the rampaging anarchists.
"Next, I think Major League Baseball should put landmines in the outfield so we can all watch the outfielders explode. If you happen to go up the hill and nobody blows out his knee, then you get to hit the flagpole with your head."
Giants trainer Stan Conte, on that weird hill in Houston. Myself, I’m more partial to landmines in the commissioner’s office.
Here’s media maven, 9/11 survivor, and self-described Kerry voter Jeff Jarvis:
: “The real problem with the film, the really offensive thing about it, is that in Fahrenheit 9/11, we -- Americans from the President on down -- are portrayed [as] the bad guys. If there's something wrong about bin Laden it's that his estranged family has ties with -- cue the uh-oh music -- the Bush family. Saddam? Nothing wrong with him. No mention of torture and terror and tyranny. Moore shows scenes of Baghdad before the invasion (read: liberation) and in his weltanschauung, it's a place filled with nothing but happy, smiling, giggly, overjoyed Baghdadis. No pain and suffering there. No rape, murder, gassing, imprisoning, silencing of the citizens in these scenes…
Michael Moore did not present bin Laden and the terrorists and religious fanatics (from other lands) as the enemy who did this. No, to him, our enemy is within. To him, our enemy is us. And that's worse than stupid and sad and it's most certainly not entertaining. It's disgusting.”
Another year, another boring-ass NBA draft. No real surprises, next to no players anyone who doesn’t follow the high-school all-star game circuit have ever heard of, and ESPN’s awful on-air crew as opposed as the great TNT gang. I'd been looking forward to the draft all week, but I actually went to bed before it was over.
It used to be one of my favorite nights of the year, but not anymore. Probably because, unlike most of the years of my youth, the Wolves weren't in the lottery.
A New Jersey concert promoter is hoping to draft Bruce Springsteen to perform a concert this September 1 at Giants Stadium in New Jersey- that being at the exact same time as President Bush’s acceptance speech, right across the river at Madison Square Garden, at the Republican convention. He’s even set up a website- DraftBruce.com- advertising a “Concert for Change” on that date.
But there’s just one problem: Bruce wants no part of it.
Even though he’s been a lot more vocally Democratic as of late, a rocker as popular as Bruce was long ambiguous enough his politics that he was able to attract fans from both parties. Indeed, when lefty pundit Eric Alterman wrote a fawning biography of Springsteen four years ago, he could only speculate on the singer’s politics, and when I saw Bruce in the Meadowlands last July he gave a speech about how he’s glad his message has long appealed to people of all political persuasions. (And politicians too, apparently).
By tour’s end Bruce was of course calling for Bush’s impeachment, and now his official website is adorned with the text of an Al Gore speech. But I can’t say I blame The Boss for turning down the overtures of overzealous promoter Andrew Rasiej, who was presumptuous enough to adorn his website with Bruce’s likeness even before he had agreed to appear.
I suppose it was inevitable that Springsteen would decide not to do the concert, just as last year he rejected overtures from both Democrats and independents to run for the Senate from the Garden State.
The Star Tribune yesterday ran a piece –and, indeed, had it posted prominently on its website for most of the day- about how there are “rumors” of the return of the military draft, and that lots of young people are scared about it.
Where’d the rumors come from? “Mass e-mails and internet sites.” That’s it. Cited specifically, and debunked, was that meme from a few weeks ago about how a bill was in Congress to reinstate the draft, even though those who spread it apparently were unaware that said bill was 18 months old.
People, you can rest easy- there are no plans for a draft, and it doesn’t appear there will be for the foreseeable future. And since when were “mass e-mails and internet sites” grounds for a front-page story in a major daily newspaper? By that rationale, the Strib should be writing prominent stories, all the time, about Nigerian princes giving away money.
Tell me again why this story wasn’t killed in the planning stages?
Vh1 To Debut “I Love the ‘90s” in July.
Because, as some friend of mine joked, “I want to hear Mo Rocca's opinions on ‘Lil Penny’ commercials and Candlebox.”
“Nick Hornby is full of shit. Actually, this is unfair to shit. At least life grows from shit. In his recent half-page essay printed on the Op-Ed page of The New York Times, the lad-lit author stunned the music world with this revelation: They don't make 'em like they used to! In Hornby's sad, blinkered, midlife-crisis-as-a-lifestyle-choice world, music is only worth listening to if it reminds him of all the classic rock that made him feel funny in the tum-tum when he was 10.”
-Scott Seward, the Village Voice.
The Astros won the Carlos Beltran sweepstakes tonight, completing a three-way trade with Kansas City and Oakland. I’m happy for two reasons: the Yankees didn’t get him, and my prediction of a Boston/Houston World Series just got a little bit more likely.
Now all Houston has to do is get rid of that weird hill in center at the former Enron Field.
(Via Missives Anonymous).
Here’s embedded film critic Jonathan Foreman, in the New York Post:
"And if Moore weren't a (left-wing) version of the fat, bigoted, ignorant Americans his European friends love to mock, he'd know that prewar Iraq was ruled by a regime that had forced a sixth of its population into fearful exile, that hanged dissidents (real dissidents, not people like Susan Sontag and Tim Robbins) from meathooks and tortured them with blowtorches, and filled thousands of mass graves with the bodies of its massacred citizens."
"Similarly, Steven Spielberg's new movie about an asylum-seeker, "The Terminal," indulges in weak-willed liberal escapism by demonizing Department of Homeland Security officials just trying to do their jobs."
Also, never mind that Spielberg, along with Tom Hanks, helped raise millions of dollars for the recently completed World War II memorial, while he also made both “Saving Private Ryan” and “Band of Brothers,” two of the greatest cinematic evocations of patriotism in recent years.
Ms. Malkin: if your goal is to bash the vacuousness of Hollywood liberals, sorry: Spielberg’s not your guy. Don’t criticize what you can’t understand, indeed.
It’s Sports Guy’s World, Bill Simmons’ new home page on ESPN.com. This is great- now there’s no reason to even bother clicking on Page 2, especially their VH1-caliber polls and lists, not to mention their Sidd Finch ripoffs.
On the A train uptown in Manhattan the other night, I noticed a guy standing up near me who had the likeness of Mao Zedong stitched into his backpack. Now, it’s one thing to see misguided youth wearing Che Guevara T-shirts and the like. But Mao? The man who murdered 30 million of his fellow Chinese?
I felt like going up to the guy and quoting a certain Lennon/McCartney lyric, about what happens when you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao. But wouldn't you know it- he had a lady friend with him.
But that’s only the second-most revolting thing I’ve seen on the subway in recent weeks. One night at around 11 PM, in front of my horrified Minnesota friend Charlie and I, a woman spent an entire 15-minute PATH ride rubbing shaving cream all over her face and head. No idea why, but perhaps it’s telling that the woman looked an awful lot like the Newark crackwhore who propositioned Uncle Junior in that one “Sopranos” episode.
And speaking of Uncle Junior and look-alikes, that funny Six Flags old guy has been all over the place lately. The latest rumor: it’s actually a young person in old-guy makeup.
"I see, so we had to take out Saddam Hussein because as the communist head of Germany, he blew up the World Trade Center. And that's why we had to go to Vietnam. Vote Reagan!”
–Lewis Black, on “The Daily Show,” responding to the Club For Growth ad, which juxtaposes Bush-at-Ground-Zero and Reagan-at-the-Berlin-Wall with old Kerry testimony.
Amid the hype of the Clinton book release, we’ve heard most of the usual conservative shots at Clinton (on the womanizing, the selfishness, the lying, etc.) And that’s all good. But some on the right are seizing on a BBC interview in which the president supposedly “lost his temper” in accusing the media of taking Ken Starr’s side during the impeachment debacle.
Newsmax.com even accused Clinton of a “meltdown,” while Sean Hannity compared the interview to Al Gore’s recent lunatic speechmaking and Howard Dean’s primary-night yelling. But there’s just one problem: I watched the interview, and Clinton doesn’t even raise his voice. If that’s a meltdown, then what do we call Hannity and O’Reilly’s daily bloviations?
If you want to see some of the best analysis of what’s going on in Iraq, check out this week’s issue of The New Republic. It features a veritable murderer’s row of liberals and/or non-neocons who supported the war, including several TNR writers, plus Joseph Biden, John McCain, Paul Berman, Kenneth Pollack, and even- in a rare non-Times appearance- Thomas Friedman.
The package really puts the lie to that whole Republican notion that any criticism/pessimism whatsoever about Iraq is nothing more than “left-wing Bush-hatred,” usually followed by the laughably toxic non-argument of “how dare you attack the president- WE’RE AT WAR!”
The above names run the gamet from loyal Republicans (McCain) to “liberal hawks,” and most of the arguments are variations on “the war was right, but Bush did it wrong,” or “we should’ve used the morality case, not the WMD case,” or “we should have gone through the UN.” It’s only the staff editorial that actually repudiates support for the war. Most of the essays are anti-Bush on some level, but it’s not the shrill nonsense so often favored by “the Michael Moore Community,” as Hitch delightfully dubbed them.
Since it shows that center-leftists can disagree with Bush's methods without losing sight of the fact that we’re at war with barbarians, let’s just call this week’s TNR the magazine issue that the Bush campaign doesn’t want you to read.
If you thought actress Jeri Ryan’s career was over when “Boston Public” was canceled, you’d be wrong, because she has surfaced as part of a bizarre sex scandal that may have national political implications.
Erstwhile Seven-of-Nine Ryan, as I hadn’t been aware until today, was formerly married to Jack Ryan, the former Wall Street tycoon who is currently running for the U.S. Senate in Illinois as a Republican. According to newly released court papers in connection with the Ryans’ divorce, Jack tried to force Jeri to visit “underground sex clubs,” and engage in S&M-related activities.
Will this end Ryan’s campaign? Most likely it will, and he’ll drop out in time for another Republican to replace him. A similar thing happened in the Minnesota governors’ race in 1990, when GOP nominee Jon Grunseth had to drop out following a sexual harassment scandal. His replacement, Arne Carlson, went on to win, and was himself later plagued by an ex-wife mini-scandal, when his long-ago ex-wife, local radio personality Barbara Carlson, released a tell-all autobiography in which, among other things, she revealed the governor’s pet name for his penis (“Oscar”).
It’s the most entertaining political sex scandal since Washingtonienne (remember her?) When the inevitable movie is made, Jeri can play herself, while Jack could be portrayed by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, or Ben Affleck.
Here’s NYP film critic Armond White, in a “Fahrenheit” pan in which he dubs it “Film of the Fascist Liberal”:
"To pretend that Fahrenheit 9/11 is a work of art is disingenuous. Moore himself is part of the punditocracy that, like unscrupulous politicians, solicits trite sentiment. His exploitative title doesn't measure temperature; it disgraces that sorrowful date just to inflame liberal guilt. For Moore, guilt covers everything that stemmed from Bush's election and is only eased by blame. Moore doesn't separate the election from the terrorists' attacks or from the war on Iraq. As in Bowling for Columbine, he lines up unrelated points for a domino effect of dissatisfaction. This is not historical context; it's a harangue."
Not to sound like those “Sopranos” jump-the-sharkers who I used to lampoon every week, but I objected wholeheartedly to Sunday's episode of “Six Feet Under.” I thought it felt like an episode from last year’s “West Wing”- a noticeable drop-off from what came before, in which none of the characters seemed true to themselves in the slightest.
Though it was the second episode of the season, this week’s installment was the de facto season premiere, as the previous episode had mostly served to tie up last year’s loose ends. And judging by last night, I don’t like where things are going at all.
One question: Why separate Nate from the funeral home? What can he do, rather than keep nailing single moms for the entire season? Another: I can see Rico having an affair, but becoming a stripper’s sugar daddy? Please. And finally, how was Brenda able to hear Justin Theroux masturbating when his apartment was several hundred feet away?
And worst of all, how on Earth could someone as cynical as Claire manage to be inspired by the sort of laughable performance art such as that practiced by Mena Suvari*? I know they’re hinting towards some sort of lesbian angle (like last year, with Ruth and Kathy Bates, before it was dropped all of a sudden and never picked up again); how I feel about that I’m still not sure.
But what I know I don’t like is yet another Hollywood-satire subplot. Yes, I know Alan Ball, from his years writing for “Cybill” and scripting for “American Beauty,” has things he wants to say about the movie business. I get that. But “Six Feet Under” isn’t the right show for it- the whole Catherine O’Hara arc last year was funny, but that was enough- it’s not a show about Hollywood, so why keep dragging that in when it has nothing to do with the characters?
Don’t get me wrong- I’m not about to rant about canceling my HBO if things don’t improve. I’ve been discussing this with my ardently SFU-defending cousin Jessi, an art school alum herself, after each episode, and I’m pretty sure I won’t be using the phrase “jump the shark” in reaction to even three or four more bad ones. But I can’t help but call Sunday’s effort a disappointment. And that was even before it concluded with the arrival in the mail of a box of feces.
*”American Beauty” was five years ago, and things haven’t gone well for any of the principals: Kevin Spacey’s made several flops in a row, Annette Bening’s been in nothing outside of that weird “Sopranos” cameo, Suvari and Wes Bentley have fallen off the face of the Earth, as did Thora Birch unless you count “Ghost World.” The only exceptions, oddly enough, are Chris Cooper and Allison Janney.
Last night I went to something I’d always wanted to for my four years in New York- the Monday-night film-screening series in Bryant Park. The film was “American Graffiti,” a ‘70s New Hollywood classic that starred the shockingly pubescent Ron Howard and Richard Dreyfuss. Just a perfect movie to watch under the stars, as the cars in 1962 California dovetailed perfectly with those passing on Sixth Ave. in 2004 New York.
The George Lucas haters among us (you know who you are) would be wise to remember that, 25 years before “Me say Jar Jar Binks,” George was perfectly capable of creating great characters, situations and dialogue. Not to mention that ‘Graffiti’ may have the greatest collection of pop songs ever assembled in one film.
Run down your wife with a car, as Michael Pittman did, and get suspended for three games.
Get convicted of obstruction of justice in connection with two double murders, as Ray Lewis did, and don’t get suspended at all. Say what?
So much for what I said yesterday about the Clips being “allergic to superstars.” Shaq, playing for Donald Sterling, as was rumored earlier*? I guess O’Neal in a Clippers uniform would make Jordan-as-a-Wizard look natural by comparison.
*Apologies for linking to Vescey.
You know, in the last two years I've probably read hundreds of anti-Michael Moore screeds, and I've even written a couple. But this one by Christopher Hitchens, obliterating the portly documentarian and his new film "Fahrenheit 9/11," may be the best one of all. It's hard to pick just one quote. Read the whole thing!:
"To describe this film as dishonest and demagogic would almost be to promote those terms to the level of respectability. To describe this film as a piece of crap would be to run the risk of a discourse that would never again rise above the excremental. To describe it as an exercise in facile crowd-pleasing would be too obvious. Fahrenheit 9/11 is a sinister exercise in moral frivolity, crudely disguised as an exercise in seriousness."
Against my better judgment, I'm going to see the film, for much the same reason I saw "Passion of the Christ"- it's going to be the main topic of discussion for the next week or two, and I want to be able to participate. Indeed, "Fahrenheit" is for anti-Bush lefties what Gibson's opus was for Christians; if there were such a thing (officially) as the Church of Anti-Dubya, I'm sure they'd buy blocks of tickets and send groups.
- Am I the only one who's more excited to watch the two drafts this week- the regular draft and the expansion draft- than I was to watch any two games of the NBA Finals?
- What is wrong with the Clippers? How do you trade down from #2 to #4 with only the #33 pick to show for it? I guess they're afraid Dwight Howard will turn out to be a superstar, and as we all know the Clips are allergic to superstars.
- Yao and McGrady, together? Uh oh... so much for that idea about the Wolves being favorites in the West next year.
On Friday I caught the fascinating-as-it-is-disturbing documentary “Control Room,” a look at the Arab satellite network al-Jazeera and how it covered the war in Iraq. The film, directed by the team behind the brilliant 2001 documentary “Startup.com,” certainly didn’t paint a balanced or fair picture, it was thought-provoking, and I’m glad I saw it regardless.
It’s fascinating to see how the other half lives- how that network broadcasts to the Arab world the way, say, Fox News broadcasts to America- and in the film, one of the al-J bigwigs even says he would take a job at FNC should they offer it. My other favorite scene was when an anti-war American named Jeffrey Steinberg is interviewed, and afterwards the interviewer yells at his booker- calling the interview “shit” because the subject was “some crazy activist”- a LaRouchie, I find out now. If friggin’ al-Jazeera is calling you “crazy,” you know it’s time for a re-examination of things.
The crowd at the film when I saw it audibly laughed at Bush and booed Rumsfeld whenever they appeared on screen; as is often the case when I attend any sort of middle/highbrow cultural event in New York City, I was almost certainly the only person in the room who had supported the war in Iraq.
For the opposite view of the issue, read this anti-al-Jazeera column by Ralph Peters, who doesn’t mention the film, but raises the interesting point –one I noticed- that the al-J producers tend to support a brand of Nasserite pan-Arabism that doesn’t really exist anymore anywhere in the Arab world.
According to the New York Post, outer-borough and New Jersey residents may soon to be allowed to kayak to workin Manhattan. Avid kayakers are setting up checkpoints along the Hudson and East Rivers, which may oneday allow commuters an additional option besides their cars, buses, trains, and ferries.
Not sure, however, how people are supposed to get from the pier to their office. Perhaps the idea will also include the “urban kayaking” that was once featured on “Jackass.”
All this reminds me of a conversation I once had with LilB, right after I moved to Hoboken, as we walked along the Hudson River:
Me: They’ve got kayaks over there, I’ve always wanted to take a ride in one.
LilB: You know, you could use one of those to get laid.
Me: By who? A fish?
Again underscoring the savagery of those we are fighting in the War on Terror, American Paul Johnson was beheaded by al-Qaeda thugs in Saudi Arabia on Friday. That his killers were immediately themselves killed, and that those killing them were Saudi, is only minor consolation.
May he rest in peace.
Phil Jackson resigned as coach of the L.A. Lakers on Friday, setting off a chain of events in which Kobe Bryant filed for free agency and Shaquille O’Neal demanded a trade. This is indeed looking a lot like the Bulls in ’99; perhaps LA should draft two underdeveloped high school kids, and hire Tim Floyd as coach.
Over/under on how soon a New York Post columnist demands that the Knicks fulfill their former glory by hiring Jackson as coach: Tuesday or Wednesday.
Over/under on how many times this idea is mentioned in the pages of the Post between now and the end of next season: About 500.
And one last question about this: Kobe is a free agent. His trial will likely coincide with the free agent signing period, and end sometime around the start of next year. So… will he sign with a team before his legal status has been determined? If so, will the contract contain a clause that it’s null and void in the event of a Kobe prison term? If one team offers $100 million with that clause, won’t another team try to outbid them with the same $100 million, only without the provision?
It’ll be a fun offseason- and the fact that Garnett already re-signed with the Wolves a year ago makes it even MORE fun.
I’m late to this one, but the Worst Band on Earth, Creed, announced the other week that they’re splitting up. While you’d think it would be good news that we’ll no longer be subjected to their awful, pseudo-Christian pap, in fact there’s a not-so silver lining: frontman Scott Stapp plans to go solo, the rest of the group will form a new band with a new singer- and both sides will release new albums in August. Yikes.
You know the “Seinfeld” where George’s parents split up, and he realizes it means twice as many visits? Exactly.
But in slightly better music news- Stevie Wonder will release his first new album in nearly a decade next month, and the new Wilco (which is brilliant from what I’ve heard of it) comes out Tuesday.
"What kind of time warp has a remake of the Ford Administration relic 'The Stepford Wives' opening opposite a big-screen version of 'Garfield'? Could a major motion picture of 'Webster' be far behind?"
-Keith Phipps, The Onion AV Club. I remember meeting someone (I forgot who) who shared the story of, on 9/11, walking uptown in order to reach the 59th St. Bridge, and running into Emmanuel Lewis- thereby making the most surreal day of their life more surreal by half.
Sort of like how all the girls in Hebrew school always wanted to be Queen Esther for Purim each year (foreshadowing the princesses they would later become- ed.), Madonna has now taken on that name- Esther- for herself. What a journey- she’s gone, in barely a decade, from making out with a black Jesus and developing Stigmata wounds to embracing wannabe Judaism.
So just for fun, let’s re-cast the Purim story, only with Madonna friends/lovers in each role. Here we go:
Queen Esther: Madonna
Mordecai: Guy Ritchie
Vashti: Sandra Bernhard
King Achashverosh: Warren Beatty
Haman: Sean Penn
Haman (understudy): Dennis Rodman
For more check out this blog; since the author is both a longtime Madonna fan and has been an Esther since birth, I’d imagine she’s more of an expert on the subject than I’ll ever be.
Bill Simmons, questioning all those idiot NBA analysts calling thug-turned-champion Rasheed Wallace “misunderstood.”:
“Let's say you're working on Wall Street. Every two weeks, you flip out on someone and get escorted out of the building. This happens for 10 straight years. You can't help yourself. They keep fining you, you're costing the company money ... doesn't matter. You're a lunatic. Then you change firms and keep it together for four months, just long enough for the new firm to consider signing you to an extension. Well, does that make you "misunderstood," or are you just a lunatic with a convenient on-off switch?”
It’s that whole “winning heals all wounds” rule- you don’t think ‘Sheed will go right back to being a nutcase as soon as the Pistons (or whoever he signs with) go south again?
From a Wall Street Journal editorial on anti-spam legislation:
“The Internet industry is beavering away on an e-mail authentication system that would make it harder for spammers to hide.”
In an item on Page Six this morning about the cancellation of Britney Spears’ summer tour due to a knee injury, some music industry asshole is quoted as being “concerned” that the pop star may be facing a “dramatic weight gain”:
"She is a big girl anyway," said one record industry executive. "She is prone to gaining weight and likes her junk food. Being on the tour with all of the dancing was keeping a lot of the weight off, but now that she's going to be on crutches for a while, people are worried she will balloon up."
Um, excuse me? She might be quite as thin (that is, borderline-nonexistent) as the Olsen twins or Christina Aguilera, but in what universe, and by what human standard, is Britney “a big girl”? If a female musician has to have a visible rib cage in order to get a promotional push these days, then I'm starting to understand that whole Norah Jones/no magazine covers thing a little better.
But Ms. Spears, somehow, fares better than her ex Justin Timberlake, who in a separate item later on the page is not only called “girlish” and “a fading pop footnote,” but has Cameron Diaz referred to as his “alleged girlfriend.” Ouch.
Here’s a Michele-introduced meme, and I have good stories for a few of them:
1. Where were you when you heard that Ronald Reagan died?
Standing in front of McSorely’s on E. 7th St. in Manhattan, when LilB called to tell me.
2. Where were you on September 11, 2001?
Trapped in Hoboken, just as Sheila was.
3. Where were you when you heard that Princess Diana died?
In the midst of an hours-long IM chat with my then-girlfriend.
4. Do you remember where you were when you heard Kurt Cobain had died?
Stopped into a convenience store on the way home from the airport after a week in Mexico; saw the newspaper headline.
5. Take one for The Gipper: What’s your favorite flavor of jelly bean?
Anything but black; Nat X was right.
6. Where were you when Magic Johnson announced he was retiring from the NBA due to AIDS?
I remember my dad told me, but not sure where I was.
7. Where were you when Reagan was shot?
I was only two years old, so I don’t really remember.
8.Where were you when the Challenger exploded?
I remember my mom telling me at the breakfast table.
9. Where were you when the 0J verdict was announced?
Oh, we had a TV set up in our high school newspaper office to watch it. Jeremy, who was there, commented at the time- and he was right- that “this is the defining moment of our generation. Isn’t that sad?”
Check out this video on Patriots.com (RealVideo link), narrated by my friend Brian, for some hilarious highlights of the defending Super Bowl champs trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to golf at a celebrity tournament.
Also notice the cheerleaders, behind Tom Brady, as well as several players doing their best engaged-woman impersonations when discussing their new Super Bowl rings.
NFL journeyman Sage Rosenfels, who currently has the unfortunate distinction of being only the second-best Jewish quarterback on the Miami Dolphins, recently announced that he was making himself available for personal appearances, including (especially) Bar Mitzvahs.
The announcement was so poorly received that Rosenfels was forced to come forward and say that he's only doing it to support charities connected to his disabled sister.
Athletes pocketing cash from meet-and-greet personal appearances is nothing new; four years ago my then-employer hired Boomer Esiason to mingle at a company party, and I was told his fee for the evening was only slightly lower than my salary for the year. However, such appearances have traditionally only been pulled off by athletes who have already retired.
Found via New York Sports Express' "Sports Crime Blotter" column; read the whole thing, for (among other things) some hilarious Bob Huggins-bashing.
You know the drill. Answers in the comments, no Googling
1. “I love him like a brother. David Greenglass.”
2. – “They say the smog is the reason we have such beautiful sunsets.”
- “That's what they say, huh? What a bunch of fuckin’ bullshit.”
3. “In one week, I can put a bug so far up her ass, she don't know whether to shit or wind her wristwatch.”
4. “1970 Pontiac Firebird. The car I've always wanted and now I have it. I rule!”
5.- He saved my life, you know. Thirty years ago. I was knifed at a bazaar in Calcutta, and he carried me to the hospital on his back.
- Who stabbed you?
- He did. There was a price on my head, and he was a hired assassin. Stuck me in the gut with a shiv.
Andrew Sullivan has officially announced, in a column for the gay magazine The Advocate, that he will not endorse or vote for President Bush this November, after doing both in 2000. While Sullivan has been critical of Bush for his handling of Iraq in the past year, his major reason for jumping ship is Bush’s attempt to codify anti-gay bigotry into the constitution. He reacts the way I probably would if, say, a president proposed amending the constitution to exclude Jews from citizenship.
(Openly bisexual blogger Asparagirl, an even more gung-ho Republican and Bush supporter than Andrew ever was, made a memorable, similar declaration- “Dear President Bush- today you lost my vote for president. Kisses, Asparagirl” – on the day Bush endorsed the FMA).
The nation’s leading gay conservative journalist for several years, Sullivan used to joke that half of his hate mail comes from gays berating him for being conservative, while the other half comes from conservatives berating him for being gay. He can expect much of both now, as the Advocate crowd likely chastise him for every supporting Bush/backing the War on Terror/endorsing the war in Iraq in the first place, while some of the more small-minded conservatives wonder why they need the homos on their side anyway. In fact, the latter have already started.
(Sullivan’s piece was published almost a month ago, but the righty blog/National Review folks didn’t catch wind of it until now, leading Andrew to discuss it on his blog for the first time. Not big Advocate readers, the Lucianne.com and Corner people).
Speaking of the Advocate, their other big talked-about piece these days is a Reagan anti-obit by noted playwright/ACT UP activist Larry Kramer. Titled “Adolf Reagan,” it of course compares the Gipper to Hitler, and speculates that the former president “murdered” hundreds of thousands of homosexuals (by not curing them of AIDS) because of anger that his son, Ron, Jr., is gay. Which must come as news to the young Reagan’s wife…
What bothers me about Kramer’s piece isn’t the Godwinization or the reckless unsubstantiated outing or the laughable hyperbole- all of that is old crap that I'm used to. It’s that the prose is so horribly shoddy, from start to finish, coming from a guy who’s supposed to be an accomplished playwright. Almost two weeks since Reagan died, and the left has yet to produce as brilliantly hateful an obit as the one Hunter S. Thompson wrote for Richard Nixon back in ’94.
From Josh Wolk’s “Real World: San Diego Watch” column on EW.com:
Back when Frankie was revealed to be a ''cutter,'' I wrote that such emotional problems were horribly out of place at the San Diego house of hedonism: Viewers can't be suddenly expected to get serious in a time slot they habitually spend giggling at drunk buffoonery. It would be like having an episode of ''The Simple Life'' where Paris develops lupus.I would totally watch that episode.
And speaking of Bunim/Murray’s flagship, LilB ran into some of the Real World: Philly cast members at a bar last weekend. But since he didn’t hook up with any of them, don’t expect to see Mr. WKIKYA guest-starring on the show anytime next season.
In the second most controversial play of the Twins’ season (after that weird double play in Kansas City a few weeks ago), an 11th-inning foul ball hit by second baseman Luis Rivas was mistakenly called a home run, paving the way for a 5-4 Minnesota victory in Montreal. The ball was foul by “several feet,” according to notorious Star Tribune beat writer LaVelle E. Neal III.
The noted non-slugger Rivas apparently is only able to hit home runs that are foul, which brings to mind that Garrison Keillor story about the baseball player who had the ability to hit a foul ball anywhere he wanted in the stadium, so he bopped 28 of them in a row onto the home plate umpire’s head.
Expos manager Frank Robinson went ballistic after the miscall, but the Expos’ owner was much quieter. Probably because he doesn’t exist.
“I'm beginning to think they are two sides of the same coin. The Bush-hating left would rather see America lose the war on terror than admit GWB is right. And the Bush-worshiping right would rather lose the war on terror than admit GWB is wrong.”
New York schoolchildren will now and forever be safe from “toxic urinal cakes,” thanks to a bill passed in the state legislature this week that bans such cleaning devices from the state’s schools. The new law is meant to crack down on the toxic fumes that often result from urinal cakes made from the disinfectant paradichlorobenzene. So the kids will be all right, provided they don’t eat the cakes.
The bill originally called for the toilet accoutrements to be banned statewide, but “after negotiations,” the sponsor agreed to limit the ban just to the schools. Which means that, yes, somebody must have been lobbying for toxicity in urinal cakes.
Searching the website of the Michigan state attorney general while researching a story at work today, I went through the list of initiatives that he has lately supported- i.e., cutting down on identity theft, chasing deadbeat dads, and investigating rising gas prices. But one recent accomplishment, I thought, stood out in particular:
Cox Issues Warrant for Ex-NFL Star Andre Rison May 27, 2004
LANSING – Attorney General Mike Cox announced today that a warrant has been issued for former NFL football star Andre Rison for failure to pay $94,891.22 in back child support. The Attorney General’s office has additionally asked the FBI to issue a fugitive flight warrant, typically issued when a suspect is out-of-state and considered a flight risk.
It is only decorum, and respect for the dead I suppose, which prevented the AG's office from throwing in the obligatory paragraph about how "Rison is the former husband of the late singer Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, who was arrested in 1993 for burning down Rison's Atlanta home."
As I realized earlier, today is the 13th anniversary of my Bar Mitzvah.
The NBA got what it needed tonight- a championship victory by the underdog. The Detroit Pistons are 2004 champions after beating the Lakers 4 games to 1, and Larry Brown has won his first NBA championship in a 21-year coaching career that has taken him to, seemingly, half the teams in the league.
Brown is the first coach to win championships in both college and pro basketball, while Pistons/Lightning owner Bill Davidson is, I believe, the first owner to ever win the Stanley Cup and NBA title in the same year. And yes, that woman they kept showing was Larry Brown’s wife. Not his daughter. Sort of a Brenda Warner-in-reverse kind of situation.
In other developments, soon-to-be-ex-Laker Kobe guaranteed victory tonight; but you won’t ever see him try that stunt again, whether in basketball or his trial.
Gary Payton, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Charles Barkley, and lots of other great players have never won a championship ring. But now, Darko Mlicic has.
And finally, we’re likely to now see a Lakers breakup, ala the Bulls in ’99, right down to the likely Phil Jackson resignation. Hey, I hear Tim Floyd’s looking for a job.
So congratulations, Detroit. And have a nice riot.
When I was getting ready to go to the Twins/Yankees playoff game in the Bronx last October, I was debating whether or not to wear any Twins stuff to the Stadium. I was leaning against it but my then-co-workers demurred, especially two British guys who kept pointing out that nothing the Yankee fans could do would be nearly as bad as what they had regularly experienced at the hands of soccer hooligans.
I had that in mind when I read this month’s Vanity Fair cover story about David Beckham. The story, by Steven Daly got into the various rituals in Spanish soccer, where Beckham currently plays for Real Madrid. To wit:
"In 2002, Real’s Luis Figo, a former Barcelona star returning to the city for the first time, was greeted with a shower of objects that included a full bottle of whiskey and the head of a suckling pig."What’s the point of Shea Stadium fans throwing beers at John Rocker, when they could have been tossing whole bottles of hard liquor? Rocker might have even stopped to drink it. Then there’s the signage:
"After Real suffered its first home defeat of the season, 3-0 to a middling Osasuna club, fans showed up at a training session with a banner that read, FOR YOU, WHORES AND MONEY. FOR US, INDIGNATION AND REPRESSION."Wow, that’s wordy. Too bad the wittiest sign American fans can come up with is “JETER SUCKS.”
Now that Roger Clemens’ bid for an undefeated season is kaput following last night’s loss to Mark Prior and the Cubs, my officemates and I are plotting an official hanging/toppling of the Clemens bobblehead doll that has graced our front desk since last month, a gift from a Houston-based employee of the company.
Whether it’s Red Sox fans, Yankees fans, Mets fans, or people who just plain don’t like the guy, Clemens-bashing may be the second most-unifying activity among present-day baseball fans, after Selig-bashing.
I’d offer a blow-by-blow photo re-enactment of the Saddam-statue-like toppling, but that’s really more BatGirl’s turf.
Time-Life has decided to re-activate Life Magazine after a decade-long absence, and has produced a “prototype” issue with singer Norah Jones on the cover.
This is interesting, for several reasons. Now longtime readers of this blog are familiar with my feelings on Ms. Jones: I think she’s the best thing that’s happened to American pop music in recent memory- someone who, at the age of 24, has sold more albums than anyone else in the past three years despite toiling in what has recently been among the least hip of genres. Norah won nine Grammy Awards for her debut album, and more are likely to come for the follow-up- and on top of all that, she’s one of the most beautiful women in music as well.
When it comes to time to choose the Artist of the Decade, at this point it’s between Norah and Outkast. So just one quick question: Aside from the occasional obscure music periodical, why has Norah Jones never been on the cover of any magazine?
Sure, she was written about almost everywhere when “Feels Like Home” was released a few months ago. But why has the brightest young star in American music never graced the cover of Time or Newsweek, much less Entertaiment Weekly or Rolling Stone? Have the fashion lords who choose those covers cluelessly decreed Norah ‘not pretty enough” or- even more ridiculously, and thus more likely- “not thin enough’?
Oddly enough, the picture used of Jones is the exact same one from the cover of “Come Away With Me,” and is thus three years old. They must not have had much of a budget for this “prototype”; is Time Warner cutting costs again?
ESPN.com columnist and former Sports Illustrated writer Ralph Wiley unexpectedly passed away over the weekend at the age of 52.
I’m not going to pretend Wiley was one of my favorite writers; he did some good stuff in ‘90s for Sports Illustrated (“The Illy,” as he called it), but much of his later-period ESPN writing ventured into goofy ideas and bizarre slang, such as his reference to Sam Cassell as “the Fetus Formerly Known as the Space Baby From 2001: A Space Odyssey, Sam I Am Indeed ET.”
But regardless, I should say something nice: R-Dub was always a friend to Minnesota and its fans, and appeared to be one who appreciated all things “Minny.” For instance, he once stated that “If this was Minnesota, [LeBron James]'d be a combination of Jesse the Body Ventura, Prince, Randy Moss, the Wild, the Twins, ice hockey and fishing.”
Wiley’s final piece on ESPN.com- following a column in which he ludicrously referred to Luke Walton as “White Magic”- was an enjoyable chat with “Sports Guy” Bill Simmons about the NBA playoffs. Let that and the SI stuff- and not Wiley’s bizarro column output- be R-Dub’s lasting legacy.
For the third time this year, HBO has aired an almost embarrassingly preachy left-wing film, and also caught hell for it. First came Oliver Stone’s laudatory documentary about Fidel Castro, which was so blatantly slanted towards the Cuban dictator that the network made him go back and re-film it. Then there was the ridiculous Maggie Gyllenhaal drama “Strip Search,” which tried to draw a moral equivalence between China’s gulags and America’s War on Terror; the network was so ashamed of that dud that it broadcast it with nearly no promotion whatsoever.
Now comes “Heir To An Execution,” a documentary about the Rosenberg case that was directed by the executed spy couple’s granddaughter, Ivy Meeropol. The documentary, shot in the irritating, Moore/Broomfield it’s-all-about-the-director’s-journey style, ‘Execution’ is a sad story of three generations of a family in denial- as after 50 years of lying about Julius and Ethel’s complete innocence their defenders have now been reduced to, as the New York Times put it in a generally negative review, “their shrinking claim of innocence,” that the Rosenbergs were indeed major spies but did not steal the atomic bomb.
Indeed, the Rosenberg relatives and other 80-year-old Communists interviewed in the film sound a lot like conservatives talking about Abu Ghraib- their arguments vary from “they didn’t do it,” to “maybe they did it, but it doesn’t’ matter” to “maybe they did it, but what the other side did was worse”- and none of them are the slightest bit convincing.
The 80-year-olds all describe becoming Communists as result of Depression-era poverty- yet have nothing to say about the similar starving and shortages of the 1980s-era Soviet Union- much less the hundreds of millions murdered by Communist tyranny worldwide in the 20th century.
“Heir to An Execution” is a documentary that made me long for the honesty, clarity, and subtlety of Morgan Spurlock and Michael Moore. Ignore it, and seek out the similar but vastly superior Jewish-family crime documentary “Capturing the Friedmans” instead.
University of Cincinnati basketball coach Bob Huggins has been one of college sports’ most loathsome men for decades, but it took until this week’s drunken-driving arrest for his job to be in jeopardy. If you’re looking for “sympathy” for a man whose program’s graduation rate is, as John Feinstein once joked, “a round number (0),” look elsewhere.
Dan Shanoff this morning made the obvious “[his] blood-alcohol content is higher than [his] team's graduation rate” joke; to get above that level, however, all Huggins would have had to drink would have been a sip or two of Coors Light.
Reaction has been mixed, but I really liked last night’s season premiere of “Six Feet Under.” I loved that the season began literally the morning after the previous one ended, and the David/Keith and Claire/Russell scenes were especially well done.
I am, however, dreading what’s coming: more Hollywood satire, from a show that’s not about Hollywood at all, and also a guest stretch by noted bad actress Mena Suvari. If Ball had to smuggle in an actor from “American Beauty,” why her? Why not Kevin Spacey, or at the very least Thora Birch?
I expect to do about one post a week on ‘Six Feet’; sorry, it’s not going to be an every-day topic like “Sopranos” was. Though when the SFU premiere ended with a late-night, illicit, middle-of-nowhere burial, I thought for a moment that that other HBO show had extended for another week.
Despite all the excitement that’s come out of the NBA in the decade-and-a-half since Michael Jordan’s first championship, there’s always been one thing about the league that, in my view, has held it back: the outcome of the Finals have never been in doubt. Three titles for Jordan, two for Olajuwon, three more for MJ, and two for Duncan and Robinson, bisected by another Phil Jackson three-peat, this time with the Shaq/Kobe Lakers.
That’s thirteen years, and in them not a single Finals upset, or a year in which the team with the best player didn’t win. Baseball and football have such upsets all the time- Brett Favre lost one Super Bowl, John Elway lost more than one, and the Yankees have lost the World Series to small-market NL teams two of the last three years. But those things just don’t happen in the NBA.
Until this year, that is. Barring a huge collapse, the Pistons will knock off the finally-imploding Lakers, both ending all those streaks, in addition to the end of the Western Conference’s dominance. All, if you ask me, good for the NBA. It’ll just be a bit disconcerting that after the series ends, Charles Barkley won’t have a championship ring, but Darko Mlicic will.
On Friday night I caught the hilariously offbeat high school comedy “Napoleon Dynamite,” and consider it the second best movie I’ve seen this year (after “Eternal Sunshine”), and best film I’ve ever seen that was set in rural Idaho.
The film is clearly very influenced by Wes Anderson’s work, but also finds room for all sorts of unique touches, including the delightfully original title character. The director and several of the stars are Mormon; I guess we’ve now seen the birth of the Mormon comedic sensibility.
And in one of those only-in-New-York moments, right before I saw the movie its star, Jon Heder, just happened to be standing right outside the theater, apparently having just finished a nearby promotional appearance. It’s only on about three screens in the country right now, but when “Napoleon Dynamite” comes to your city, see it.
This weekend, the Yankees and Padres squared off in an interleague series at Yankee Stadium. If you saw Vito Spatafore waiting for Finn outside, I hope you send him my regards.
Which makes me wonder something about the timeline of the last couple of “Sopranos” seasons, as well as how it all relates to baseball. We know that an entire calendar year was more or less skipped between seasons 3 and 4, as (in fictional time) Season 3 ended in January or February of 2001 (with Jackie, Jr. shot in the snow, following Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Super Bowl episodes), while Season 4 picked up awhile after September 11, even though Meadow was only starting her second year at Columbia even though nearly three years had passed since she began.
(Also, near the end of Season 4 Paulie is seen watching a Yankees game and the announcer mentions Jason Giambi, meaning it couldn’t be earlier than April 2002. Although earlier in the episode Svetlana had mentioned that her boyfriend was in Port St. Lucie for the Mets’ spring training. Maybe it was extended spring training, because Paulie’s game was pretty clearly at the Stadium, not in Tampa).
Also Adriana, at Season 5’s end, confesses to Christopher that her FBI cooperation began “about a year ago,” though it was pretty clearly closer to two years, if not longer. When Adriana is whacked, Silvio chases her into the fallen leaves, pretty clearly placing the scene in the fall.
A look at the current baseball schedule assures us that the entirety of Season 5 took place in 2004. When Tony and Johnny Sack meet outside Shea Stadium early on, Tony jokes about “getting in line early for opening day,” placing the scene in early spring of ’04. Another baseball game, Vito’s, between the Yankees and Padres, could only have happened in June of 2004 (this weekend), because that’s the only time in the six-year interleague play cycle in which the two teams play each other in the Bronx. The pool party for Carmela’s father obviously took place in the summer as well- but in the finale, when Johnny Sack’s house is raided by the FBI, there is snow on the ground. So it must be the winter in “Sopranos” universe- meaning, bizarrely, that at least part of Season 5 was set in the future.
Sorry for the digression; I’m still getting the season out of my system. But then, wouldn’t this all be so much easier if Chase and Co. took three months between seasons, instead of 16 months?
"If you're thinking about going to see "The Stepford Wives," I advise against it. Comparing this lame, sitcom-style, utterly unbelievable re-make with the sinister, subversive original is almost a case-study in the dumbing down of popular culture. It also contains the usual assumptions of the Hollywood gay-written movie: women are generally morally superior to men, and the only true heroes are career women, Jewish lefties and effeminate gay men. Please. It didn't even come close to being camp."
-Andrew Sullivan, calling the film "not gay enough." Or perhaps "too gay." I can understand Sully's complaints in reference to Tony Kushner and others, but I always thought Paul Rudnick was better than that.
"'The Simple Life's popularity signaled more of a cultural shift than I'd anticipated: Americans used to identify with ordinary people; now, apparently, an awful lot of us want Paris Hilton's credit-card limit and find ordinary people to be contemptible squares who don't understand that life is about getting away with as much you can. And don't give me that it's-just-a-TV-show whine: As usual, TV tells us more about the culture of the moment than you and I are often willing to admit."
-Ken Tucker, reviewing "Simple Life 2" in Entertainment Weekly. I don't plan to watch the show, except for the episode where Paris is thrown from- and stepped on by- a horse.
A professional wrestler has been fired from his commentary gig on CNBC after giving a Nazi salute during a match. Yes, you read that correctly.
John “Bradshaw” Layfield, a longtime WWE wrestler who has also carved out a lucrative second career as an investment guru on both Fox News Channel and CNBC, was fighting a match in Germany recently when, in order to get the crowd worked up for his villain character, he began using Nazi mannerisms, including the “Heil Hitler” salute. This is, apparently, a big no-no- and is even punishable by law in Germany, although Layfield was not arrested or detained.
What kind of world are we living in, when a fake wrestler who pretends to be a Nazi can’t dispense real stock tips on a real news network? But then, if he’d been pretending to be a communist, I guess the idea of dispensing stock tips would’ve been even more incongruous.
This Boston Globe column by Derrick Z. Jackson is one of the weaker anti-Reagan pieces of the week, probably because all he does, throughout, is quote Desmond Tutu continuously. He probably should’ve let Tutu write the piece himself:
Tutu continued: "In my view, the Reagan administration's support and collaboration with it is equally immoral, evil, and totally un-Christian. . . . You are either for or against apartheid and not by rhetoric. You are either in favor of evil or you are in favor of good. You are either on the side of the oppressed or on the side of the oppressor. You can't be neutral."
News Item: Hall & Oates Enter Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Wouldn’t this be like Scott Leius and Mike Pagliarulo joining the Baseball Hall of Fame?
It was reported today that Dave Chappelle is in talks to star in a big-screen biopic of- who else- Rick James. The film will be based on James’ autobiography, “Memoirs of a Superfreak.”
Chappelle’s three-act “I’m Rick James, Bitch” bit is likely the high point of American sketch comedy so far this decade. But can the impression work as a movie? That remains to be seen- best case, it’ll be the next great film comedy, but worst case, it’ll be another of those awful SNL films, a la “A Night at the Roxbury.”
All I can say is, Charlie Murphy had better get a writing credit.
I don’t normally blog about my fantasy baseball league, because I figure such things are usually of no interest whatsoever to anyone but the team owner. But since something funny happened in relation to it, I figured the story was worth sharing.
So at 6:00 this afternoon I get an e-mail alerting us that a member of my eight-team fantasy league had decided to withdraw his team, and that every player would immediately be put on waivers for anyone else to grab. Remember when the Twins almost got contracted, and they were going to have a dispersal draft? Kinda like that, except this time everyone was a free agent.
I guess I was the only one in the league still at work when the e-mail went out, so I made my move, immediately grabbing Mike Sweeney, Ken Harvey, and Jeremy Affeldt (the guy abandoning the team is apparently from Kansas City, which explains why he had so many Royals; too bad that, in a week or two, the exact same thing is going to happen to the real-life Royals).
I was having fun with this until I realized something: in greedily grabbing every available player to the disregard of everyone else in the league and patting myself on the back for it, I had become what I hate most in baseball: the Yankees. The realization was enough to make me feel sufficiently guilty, so I decided not to go ahead and sign Rodrigo Lopez. Sort of like when Steinbrenner chose not to go after Vlad Guerrero.
So if you’re in my league and reading this, a heads-up: Coco Crisp is still available.
It’s still the top news story on ESPN.com- even though not a single person in or out of the game has yet stepped forward to say “yes, I’m offended.”
Another reason we know it’s a non-story? Michael Wilbon wrote an NBA column, and didn’t even mention it.
As part of her continuing series on the plight of debt-plagued recent college graduates in New York, the Village Voice's Anya Kamenetz this week interviewed… two Brandeis girls. Hailing from the noted poverty-stricken towns of Cherry Hill, NJ and Dobbs Ferry, NY, the two recent ‘deis grads (photographed in semi-expensive-looking outfits) discuss how tough they’re expecting to have it when they make their impending move to the city. Even though- shocker, here- “neither grad has student loans.”
But even worse is “Audrey,” a non-Brandeis girl also quoted in the story, who rather than mooch off her rich parents has chosen the other approach to making it in the big city- by whoring herself to rich older guys, Jessica Cutler-style:
”The reason I don't mind getting a lot of free dinners is that, in my opinion, in New York, if you are a not-unfortunate-looking young girl, no matter how bright you are, you'll always be a piece of ass first. Besides, I just tend to be attracted to older men, and to Manhattan. In the past year I've dated a lawyer, an ad exec, and a guy who made a lot of money on the Internet. But I'm not a gold digger.”
Oh no, of course not. I wasn’t thinking that, I swear! What do you think about this one, ladies? When you first arrived in your city, did you get the impression that you would “always be a piece of ass first”?
I’ve generally been impressed with Kamenetz’s series about the current generation of college students entering an uncertain job market with mountains of debt- but she really whiffed this time. Are these really the best examples she could find of “struggling young New Yorkers”?
"Michael Moore Kicking Self For Not Filming Last 600 Trips to McDonald's."
The number one complaint of “Sopranos” jump-the-sharkers throughout the recently concluded season was that the show “never wraps up loose ends anymore!” Just as annoying as the “no one ever gets whacked anymore” argument- and just as wrong.
Here’s a post I did with one episode to go in Season 4, listing a bunch of loose ends that were still loose at the time- and guess what, nearly all of them were wrapped up either in the Season 4 finale, or in Season 5.
Guess there's a reason why the finale repeatedly featured the Van Morrison song "Glad Tidings."
The following exchange took place during a recently taped ESPN special, between announcer Jim Gray and Larry Bird, as Magic Johnson, LeBron James, and Carmelo Anthony looked on. It’s like the “If Larry Bird were black” controversy all over again- except, you know, not controversial:
Gray: "Does the NBA lack enough white superstars in your opinion?"
Bird: "Well, I think so ... I think it's good for a fan base because as we all know the majority of the fans are white America. And if you just had a couple of white guys in there, you might get them a little excited."
So maybe it was the wrong thing to say on television. But there is undoubtedly some level of truth to what he said, and all he was doing was answering Gray’s question honestly. You don’t think David Stern feels exactly the same way? If the question is, “would it be easier for the league to sell an American-born white superstar or two to their predominantly rich and white season ticket base,” the answer is “of course they would.” Because right now, as I discussed last summer, there isn’t a single such player among, probably, the 75 best players in the league.
The Bird comments may have been ill-advised, but let’s not go comparing Bird to Jimmy the Greek, Al Campanis, and Rush Limbaugh, all right? And besides, when it comes to being a white NBA superstar, no one knows the subject better than Larry Bird.
So let’s get this straight: Bird makes these comments on an ESPN broadcast. The comments are then reported- by ESPN- and the subject is the lead story on ESPN.com for nearly the entire day. They even go so far as to convene a chat session with Bill Simmons and Ralph Wiley, while all the while reminding everyone to please watch the show on ESPN Thursday night. Can you say “pseudo-event,” boys and girls?
On Conan O’Brien last night they did that “actual items” bit, and showed a coupon/ad for some digital cameras. Next to the cameras appeared a Photoshopped image of Lynndie England giving the thumbs-up, and the caption read, that’s right, “They’re Abu-Great!”
I along with everyone else thought Abu Ghraib was a shameful atrocity, and couldn’t have imagined I would ever find anything related to it to laugh about. But for some reason, “Abu Great!” made me crack up for about ten minutes straight.
The Wall Street Journal today ran an editorial about Philly mayor John Street, and gave it the headline “Philadelphia Freedom.” Isn’t it liberating to see an organ of establishment conservatism invoke a song about a openly lesbian tennis player, which was written by an openly gay male singer?
"Arguing, in the sense of attempting to convince others, seems to have gone out of fashion with everyone. I'm reduced to arguing with the radio. The distaste for political argument certainly hasn't made politics friendlier—or quieter, given the amount of shouting being done by people who think one thing at people who think the same thing."-P.J. O’Rourke, in the Atlantic Monthly, asking whether any conservative talk show has ever changed anyone’s mind. Well yes- Sean Hannity appears to have convinced Alan Colmes that the liberal position on nearly every issue is wrong.
There’s talk now that conservatives will push for Ronald Reagan’s likeness to appear on the $10 bill, in place of Alexander Hamilton. The New York Post covers this, but conspicuously leaves out the part about how, 202 years ago, the Post was founded by Hamilton. So their love for Reagan notwithstanding, wouldn’t they not want Hamilton himself to be slighted?
I say if you’re going to put a modern-day leader on currency, come up with a new denomination. The Gipper was president for eight years; why not make a new $8 bill and put him on it? And after Bill Clinton dies, he can go on the $69 bill.
According to the New York Sun, when Ronald Reagan's death was announced on Saturday, an international conference of obituary writers just happened to be going on at the same time.
Good thing they all wrote their Gipper obits 7-10 years ago.
The 30-second TV spot for "The Village," the new film by M. Night Shyamalan, uses the director's previous films as the key selling point, showing clips from "The Sixth Sense," "Unbreakable," and "Signs"- as the years the films were released- 2000, 2001, and 2002, respectively- flash on the screen.
But there's just one problem: the first two are off by a year. "Sixth Sense" came out in 1999, and "Unbreakable" in 2000; the producers got one out of three right, correctly stating that "Signs" was released in 2002.
A whole NYT magazine feature in '02 detailed the massive, time-consuming process that goes into the launching of a trailer/ad campaign for a movie, using "Signs" as an example. Apparently Night's new film didn't go into such a long process, because at no point did anyone realize that they had the friggin' release dates wrong.
"Mobsters are boring. They are among the most boring people I've ever met. They have nothing to say about anything interesting; they're shallow; ill-informed; under-educated; brutal; racist; and only inadvertently humorous. Also, they kill people and sell drugs, both of which are not funny at all. This is why I am still, five seasons later, in awe of the writing on The Sopranos... any writer who could devise compelling inner lives for such soulless and stupid people is a genius. And these writers are geniuses."
-Jeffrey Goldberg, on the final Slate roundup of the "Sopranos" season.
A few more day-two thoughts on the finale:
-The ability for a man as out-of-shape as Tony Soprano to successfully run away from a few dozen FBI agents just shows what we’ve known since the start of the series: the FBI of the “Sopranos” are the most incompetent law enforcement officials in history. Almost every one of their informers gets killed, they couldn’t get Uncle Junior convicted, their bugged lamp got stolen, and now they can’t catch a 260-pound mob boss in a suburban chase scene. I haven’t seen investigators this inept since the Chandra Levy case.
- Some have called the New-York-family-gets-pinched twist a deus ex machina, but I don’t really care- the main arc of the season and the episode (Tony and Tony) had already been wrapped up, and this was merely setting up next year. So Season 5 ends the way Season 1 did- with mass indictments preventing a final murder or two. But let’s hope the producers find a way to keep Season 5’s best character, Johnny Sack, around for the last year- but then again, the first season’s denouement marked pretty much the end of Uncle Junior’s career as an effective character.
- Nice to see the Paulie/Tony/horse painting issue dealt with again- this is what I mean when I say storylines pay off slowly but surely. And notice something- when Tony goes to throw the painting in the dumpster, behind him is a Diaco Construction truck. That’s the company owned by the father of the famous NYU pot princess.
- It was also interesting to see AJ established as some sort of junior business genius. Because aside from that one great scene with Big Pussy in season 2, the character has been both a writers' black hole and maddeningly inconsistent throughout the series- is he popular, or a dork? Is he a jock, a skater, a metalhead, a hipster? He seems to change identities almost from episode to episode- yet keeps the same girlfriend all the while.
- And after last night's Game 7 and the coming work stoppage, what do you think will return sooner: the NHL, or “The Sopranos”? But at least Sopranos ended better than hockey season- the Stanley Cup in Tampa Bay? Tampa Bay??? The Cup should never touch any bay that isn’t frozen.
Here's a great subway story, by Smitten. The saddest thing of all is that it's not the slightest bit atypical, for New York.
The great Twins blogger Bat-Girl just celebrated her 25th birthday by appearing on Minneapolis' local news show "Almanac," with a "JFK"-like description of the Twins' recent bizarre double play against the Royals. The segment is a wonderful conflation of live footage, blueprints, LEGOs, and the Infield Fly Rule.
One guy who’s gotta be unhappy about the timing of the Gipper’s death? That’s right, OJ Simpson. OJ was planning to use this week to make the media rounds to commemorate the tenth anniversary of his murder of his ex-wife. But after the passing of the former president, the interviews will get much less attention.
I can’t help but be reminded of the week “enjoyed” earlier this year by the other most-disgraced superstar sports figure of the late 20th century, Pete Rose. Rose decided to appear on every talk show on Earth to hype his “confessional” memoir, only to dig himself an even bigger hole than before. Expect OJ to do the same.
Christopher Hitchens has the first major anti-obit for the Gipper. No endorsement implied by the link.
Also, this blog is currently the #1 Google result for “Goodbye and Good Riddance” AND “Reagan,” because I mentioned Reagan’s name in my own anti-obituary of Strom Thurmond last year. I was, however, comparing the former president favorably to Strom, and even said that I would share positive remembrances at the time of Reagan's death.
UPDATE: Down to #5 now; I guess the San Francisco CraigsListers have been all over this.
In a meeting of the two fringe candidates who ran for president in 2000, Pat Buchanan interviews Ralph Nader in American Conservative. The interview confirms that old adage that far left and far right really aren’t all that different, as among other things the two men share a long-held aversion to the state of Israel:
RN: They’re almost all puppets. There are two sets: Congressional puppets and White House puppets. When the chief puppeteer comes to Washington, the puppets prance.
PB: Why do both sets of puppets, support the Sharon/Likud policies in the Middle East rather than the peace movement candidates and leaders in Israel?
RN: The answer to your question is that instead of focusing on how to bring a peaceful settlement, both parties concede their independent judgment to the pro-Israeli lobbies in this country because they perceive them as determining the margin in some state elections and as sources of funding.
Those damn Jews- with their damn power, influence, and money!
Nader also has a problem, apparently, with “corporate pornography.” And he calls himself a liberal? If it weren’t for corporate pornography, none of us ever would’ve heard of Sharon Stone.
According to Sports Illustrated (reg. Req.), the Arab satellite network al-Jazeera has added a sports division. The network covered the recent French Open, and while they were able to broadcast various scantily clad female players, “"But we don't do beach volleyball women," said the network's Ivan Blum. [Ivan Blum???]
Then there’s this:
There's one other line Al Jazeera Sports won't cross. With all the footage on "the other channel" of Israeli troops battling Palestinians, said producer Faris Zaki, to show Israeli players -- Harel Levy, Anna Smashnova-Pistolesi -- would be "painful. Everyone will be against us."
No, the Arab world can’t be allowed to know about Israeli athletes. Unless they’re being slaughtered, of course.
It’s the Kabbalah of the Blogosphere.
The fifth season of “The Sopranos” wrapped up tonight with a strong episode that’s certain to make the screaming hoards of the fanbase happy: there was a whacking, the resolution of numerous loose ends, and no dream sequences whatsoever.
I’ll write more tomorrow, but I felt the episode did everything a finale should- it brought together all the threads that had been important throughout the season- Tony/Tony B, Tony/Chris, Tony/Johnny, and Tony/Carmela- and satisfied them all satisfactorily. And while Season 4’s final image was music being blasted from a boat at Tony’s real estate lawyer, Season 5’s was much more apropos: Tony crawling out of the woods- like the bear that briefly replaced him- and back into what is now once again his house.
Overall, I rate the season an A-, and the second-best in the show’s history (after Season 1).
UPDATE: It's been well-established that Steve Buscemi and Marc Anthony are lookalikes. Who do you suppose had a worse day on Sunday- the guy who got his head shotgunned off, or the guy who married Jennifer Lopez?
UPDATE II: Entertainment Weekly this week did a compare-and-contrast of quotes by George W. Bush and Little Carmine. Which I guess is proof, once and for all, that the EW editors read this blog.
Ronald Reagan, the 40th president of the United States, passed away on Saturday at the age of 93. Although I was pretty much raised from birth to despise the man and much of what he stood for, I was only ten years old when he left office, and the years since have grown to appreciate much of what he did as president.
While by no means do I wish to praise every single thing Reagan did in office, I acknowledge both the brilliance of his political skills and his success in the realization of his lifelong dream of the ultimate defeat of communism. Reagan recognized, before many others did, that that system represented evil and needed to be defeated, and his part in that defeat will be his ultimate legacy.
This piece by Village Voice theater critic Michael Feingold- which, among things, calls for Republicans to be “exterminated,” has made its way around the Blogosphere the last couple days- even though it was written five months ago. Datelines, people, datelines! Didn’t we learn anything from the George Smith affair?
Smarty Jones lost the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, marking the fifth time in seven years that a horse failed to close out the Triple Crown after winning the first two races.
Horse racing is, I think we can all agree, pretty much a dying sport. The success of “Seabiscuit” notwithstanding, the only time anyone has cared about the sport the last few years has been that one week out of the year in which a horse was going for the Crown- only to dissipate once the horse loses.
Which is why I think the best thing for the sport would’ve been for the other owners, trainers, and jockeys in the Belmont to throw the race, and hand it to Smarty. No, not as any kind of gambling-related collusion; Smarty’s team wouldn’t even have to know about it. But if Smarty Jones had been allowed to win, it would have lifted the sport so much that every single person associated with it would’ve benefited in the long run.
I saw “Saved!” on Saturday and liked it- the satire of Christian youth showed just the right amount of bite, even though just about every review I read either called it offensive, or not anti-Christian enough. Not as good as "Mean Girls," but then few high school comedies are.
Still, the cast was a wonderful collection of former child stars: “Donnie Darko”’s Jena Malone, “Almost Famous”’ Patrick Fugit, “Welcome to the Dollhouse”’s Heather Matarazzo, Susan Sarandon’s daughter Eva Amurri, and last but not least Macaulay Culkin. I think the last time I saw one of his movies in the theater, it was “Home Alone 2.”
All in all, the second-greatest piece of Jesus-related mass pop culture in 2004- after the “South Park” Mel Gibson parody, and narrowly beating out both the “Left Behind” book and “The Passion of the Christ.”
The Pistons won Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Lakers tonight. I really don’t care too much about the series, as it’s hard to go from sitting on the edge of your seat when your team is involved to watching two teams where I have no partisan rooting interest.
I am rooting for the Pistons however, partially because I picked them, at the beginning of the playoffs, to beat LA in the Finals, and also because I just hate the Lakers. I mean wouldn’t you just love to see both Gary Payton and Karl Malone retire without a ring?
In the middle of my daily post-work stroll today, I stumbled into an impromptu kerfuffle in Manhattan’s Union Square that at first resembled a “Do the Right Thing”-like race riot, but later turned out to be merely a dispute between the police and some breakdancers over boombox noise that got way out of hand. But some of the people around, unsurprisingly, tried to turn it into something else entirely.
Near as I can gather from eyewitness accounts- though I was not there for the whole thing- the brouhaha began when a group of the young breakdancers who can be seen entertaining crowds in Union Square Park nearly every afternoon got into a scuffle with the cops, who were trying to get them to turn their music down. One thing led to another, and sooner or later cops were contending with dozens of angry passersby, as since it was a nice afternoon there were hundreds of people in the park.
Anyway, by the time I reached the scene there were five or six police cars and dozens of cops trying to keep the huge crowd at bay, as police literally carried two or three people into waiting police cars. People in the park (some black, some white, and some homeless of various races) were screaming epithets at the cops, and at one point about ten of them blocked one of the cop cars from leaving the park.
Of course, there was another element to the protests, in addition to the racial and economic aspects: a few of the activist types in the park decided to make the whole thing about George W. Bush, John Ashcroft, the “nascent police state,” and other such nonsense, as though the president of the United States had personally ordered the New York City police to go and arrest some breakdancers. One lunatic in particular began yelling about the “Nazi-like tactics,” and also invoked the Taliban, apparently forgetting that the breakdancers who were arrested will probably be breakdancing once again in the same park tomorrow or the day after that, while anyone attempting to breakdance in Nazi Germany or Taliban Afghanistan would likely be jailed and/or beheaded immediately.
Was it wrong for the cops to arrest a couple of breakdancers for blasting their music too loudly? Yes it probably was, and I’d imagine nearly every one of the people in the park had a good reason for doubting the good intentions of the NYPD. I’m not a big fan of Bloomberg-style “quality-of-life” policing myself, and I do find it a bit questionable that five or six cop cars were needed in order to arrest two or three people.
But come on: what happened had nothing to do with Bush whatsoever. The same thing could have happened just as easily in the Clinton/Giuliani period as during Bush/Bloomberg. I wrote last summer about stumbling into a “Stop the Police State” rally at that very same park, at which not a single person was arrested and, indeed, no police even showed up. So it should go without saying that when the anti-cop anger nearly instantly morphed into an anti-Bush/anti-“police state” protest*, the cops pretty much all just got up and left.
Tonight was a pretty ugly incident, but thankfully no one was injured or God-forbid killed. However, I’ve got a feeling that this summer’s Republican convention will be more of the same, except five days long and about a hundred times worse.
*The leader of this mini-rally immediately pulled out a megaphone and began chanting slogans; apparently the guy travels with one at all times, should the opportunity present itself for an instant protest.
The previous five were all answered within four hours. Except for “Roger Dodger,” no one got that. And yes, it was released in theaters; I saw it at the now-defunct Screening Room in TriBeCa. Anyway, here are five more.
Name the movie, in the comments, no Googling:
1. “Doing stuff is overrated. Like Hitler, he did a lot, but don't we all wish he would have stayed home and gotten stoned?"
2. “First of all, Papa Smurf didn't create Smurfette. Gargamel did. She was sent in as Gargamel's evil spy with the intention of destroying the Smurf village, but the overwhelming goodness of the Smurf way of life transformed her. And as for the whole gang-bang scenario, it just couldn't happen. Smurfs are asexual. They don't even have reproductive organs under those little white pants. That's what's so illogical, you know, about being a Smurf. What's the point of living if you don't have a dick?”
3. “He’d kill us if he got the chance.”
4. “Didn’t you see ‘Boyz N the Hood?’ Now one of us is gonna get shot.”
5. “Perhaps the love of a man and a woman doesn't amount to a hill of beans, but this is our hill, and these are our beans."
Bill Clinton’s memoir is coming out later this month, and the anti-Clinton conspiracy theory, from Dick Morris and others, has been deafening: obviously, Clinton is releasing his book now in order to screw over John Kerry. Because if Kerry wins the election, Hillary can’t run for president in ’08, and we can’t have that!.
Except I don’t buy it, for a couple of reasons. First, the reason Clinton is coming out with the book now is because Hillary’s book, which as you may remember was mega-successful, came out at around the same time last year- it’s going to be the highest-selling book of the year, and people read books in the summer. Also, if Clinton really wanted to screw Kerry over, wouldn’t he release the book in September or October? Clinton’s book will dominate the news for two weeks or so; the election isn’t for four more months.
But the biggest reason of all that I don’t believe the spin is that the two-week hype period will, in the media, will essentially entail a grand re-arguing of the Clinton legacy- and for two weeks, we’ll be in 1998 again. You see, the impeachment of Clinton for lying about sex was a low moment for the Republicans, one that made them look like sex-hating prudes; the book discussion will force them to argue that once again, which can’t help them with swing voters. And besides, the 1998 election was not a good one for the GOP.
And finally, if you buy Mickey Kaus’ theory that Kerry always improves in the polls when he steps out of the limelight for any extended period, perhaps Clinton is doing him a favor.
In replying to a letter from a reader named Nick Zedd, who made the sadly laughable suggestion that John Kerry name Ralph Nader as his running mate, Village Voice writer Harry G. Levine responds thusly:
Zedd's letter nicely illustrates themes in the thought of stalwart Nader supporters: fantasies of political omnipotence ("simply get Kerry to . . ."); one-cause explanations (few people vote because of "Establishment Democrats"); denial of obvious political facts (like the enormous differences between fierce right-wingers and timid moderates); and loony accusations (The Village Voice wishes to punish "voices of liberal dissent"). A product of his time, Zedd neatly mirrors the logic of the Bush-Cheney administration.
Jeff Pearlman’s “The Bad Guys Won” is excerpted today on ESPN.com’s Page 2; nice to see the Worldwide Leader giving some love to an old SI hand. But in reading it, don’t you just expect every boy-those-Mets-were-crazy story to be followed with a present-day quote from Gooden or Strawberry that “cocaine’s a helluva drug”?
The CIA director is made the fall guy for all the intelligence failures of the past few years. Watch Fox News tonight and tally how many times they reference him as "Clinton appointee George Tenet."
Legendary newsman Mike Wallace caused a minor controversy over the weekend when, at ceremonies celebrating the opening of the new World War II Veterans’ Memorial, he bashed President Bush and the war in Iraq. Wallace referred to the current battle as “not a good war,” and also expressed doubts in the president’s “validity,” leading to boos.
And after that, who was it that stepped in to restore order? Why, it was the panel’s moderator- my old Brandeis film professor, Thomas Doherty! TD is a major authority on the Second World War, having taught the course “Film and Culture of the ‘40s” for many years and authored the book “Projections of War.” But unlike many, many, other profs I had, Doherty was sufficiently modest as to not assign his own book for the class.
This is a bad idea for a few reasons. One, we all saw Kurt’s career implode Week 1 of last season in Giants Stadium- so why play there full time? Secondly, putting him in along with prized rookie Eli Manning makes no sense at all: if Warner plays well, it’s a QB controversy, but they’ll have to soon get rid of him anyway. If (as is more likely) Warner plays poorly and/or gets hurt, then Manning gets tossed into the fire before he’s ready.
And perhaps worst of all: considering what a piss-poor job Kurt and his wife did handling the not-so-challenging St. Louis media, I’m not liking their chances of dealing with the Post and Daily News every day. And if Brenda ever tries to call WFAN, it’ll probably make the Unintentional Comedy Hall of Fame.
“Michael Moore is a screwed asshole, that is what I think about that case. He stole my title and changed the numbers without ever asking me for permission… he is a horrible human being. Horrible human!”-Ray Bradbury, author of “Fahrenheit 451,” upset that Fat Fat Fatty stole the name of his famous novel without permission. But then, Bradbury is probably just part of the “conspiracy” to “silence” Moore.
Seems like everybody was getting speared yesterday. A woman in Brooklyn was impaled by a 15-foot pole during a car accident, while on the opposite coast a Vallejo, California elephant trainer was gored in the chest by the tusk of his own elephant. Somewhat miraculously, both victims survived.
"'The Day After Tomorrow' is Emmerich's first film since 'The Patriot,' and it carries on his bizarre tradition from 'Independence Day' and 'Godzilla,' which celebrate American virtues while destroying the nation itself. It also carries on their tradition of not being particularly good."
-Keith Phipps, in The Onion AV Club.
Blogger and Wisconsin native Sean Hackbarth responds to my call for an invasion of Wisconsin, promising that Lambeau Field will be the cheeseheads' "last stand." That is, before we pull down the statue of Vince Lombardi.
And then, six months after the fall of Madison, emerging bearded and emaciated from a hole in the ground off I-94 will be Bud Selig.
"Now they're putting nutrition facts on water. Do they think we are that fucking stupid? Hmmm, let's see. I wonder how many calories are in water. Mmmm...Three. (looks at label). Zero. They've even got grams of fat listed. That would indicate that there is water out there with fat in it. That's what I want because that means it's the tasty water."-Lewis Black, in his most recent HBO special.
"Orthodox Jews Worry Water Isn't Kosher," -Yahoo News, today.
Along those lines, I'm very proud to still be the #1 search result on Google for "moo cow fuck milk."
"'Bergdorf Blondes' makes 'Sex and the City' resemble a carefully constructed anarcho-feminist critique of capitalist society."
-Choire Sicha, venturing off the Denton reservation to review Sykes' book in the NYT Book Review. (Via Kathryn Cramer).
As reported by an obscure website called Congress.org, "There is pending legislation in the House and Senate (twin bills: S 89 and HR 163) which will time the program's initiation so the draft can begin at early as Spring 2005- just after the 2004 presidential election."
Except, of course, it's bullshit. S 89 and HR 163 were two bills introduced by Democrats- Fritz Hollings and Charles Rangel, respectively, on January 7, 2003- 16 months ago and two months before the start of the Gulf War. They were introduced merely to prove a point and, of course, neither bill has gone anywhere since. And unless they're plotting secretly (which is of course possible), the Bush Administration has no current plans to reinstate the draft, either before or after the presidential election.
Why it's listed, today, as a "soapbox" alert- and why enough blogs have linked to it to make it the #2 story on Blogdex- remains a mystery.
"I have to concede that Jessica Simpson is the shining triumph of mediocrity. It's truly fascinating to watch a beautiful young woman performing dynamic renditions of really lousy music. Even Rolling Stone has had to give up pretending that Christina and Britney can do the same."
-J.R. Taylor, skewering Z-100's recent Zootopia concert, in New York Press. Read the whole thing- it's what might result if Triumph the Insult Comic Dog tried his hand at rock criticism.
“I could tell you that, given a week to study your father and the ways in which he ignores you, I could come up with a shtick you'd be helpless to resist."
-“I need a drink”
-“You don’t drink.”
-“Yeah, but I’ve been meaning to start.”
“And that was the last time I ever held a gun. People always thought I grew up on a farm. And I guess, in a way, I did. But I lived a lifetime before that, in those 6 weeks on the road in the winter of 1931.”
“I just checked with the guys at the Jewish house and they said that every one of our answers on the Psych test was wrong.”
-“A guy like you we used to take out back and beat with a rubber hose. Now you get to hide behind your damn unions.”
-“Chief, you know I’m not a pro-union guy.”
Alexandra Polier, the woman who in February was falsely rumored to have had an affair with John Kerry, has broken her long silence with a piece in New York magazine this week- and since she’s a journalist herself, they let her write it and do all the reporting.
Yes, it’s a fascinating account, of a woman screwed over by the worst excesses of the tabloids, the internet, and Matt Drudge. But there’s one very huge hole in the piece: Polier depicts the episode as American journalism as its worst, while in fact the mainstream media, for once, actually did everything right in handling the story.
The Kerry/Polier (non)story broke on the Drudge Report on Thursday, February 12. While it was discussed there, on talk radio, and on blogs that day and the few days after, the mainstream media completely ignored the story for an entire weekend- not even the New York Post or Fox News Channel reported on the story until the following Monday, when Kerry himself went on Don Imus’ radio show and issued an official denial.
At that point, Kerry’s acknowledgement (and denial of) the rumors made them a story that the papers and networks felt safe covering. But prior to that, columnists and television panelists- even the most anti-Kerry- practically tapdanced around the topic. On Brit Hume’s Fox show, Morton Kondracke referred to Kerry’s repeated Bush/National Guard references as “a preemptive strike against what’s to come,” while not venturing into specifics. Andrew Sullivan, that day, described going on Howard Kurtz’s CNN show, which "was a little surreal. We had to discuss why we won't mention the story that we weren't discussing.”
So really, with few-to-no exceptions, the mainstream media (for a change) did its job, and actually avoided the temptation of throwing a ratings-grabbing political sex story into round-the-clock coverage. Not that such restraint was much comfort to Miss Polier, I'm sure, as non-journalist Matt Drudge was still giving it 24-hour play.
Then again, the A-Rod-to-the-Yankees trade happened that same day as well, so perhaps the NewYorkEliteMediaOfCocktailParties were all just distracted.
At any rate, my favorite part of the Polier piece was seeing the exposure of rodent-like political operative Chris Lehane as the likely source of the leak. Hopefully this will finish off his career for good, if Kerry’s nomination didn’t do so already.
My two latest movie reviews are online: "Troy" at IOFilm.com, and "Coffee and Cigarettes" at Hot Movie Ticket. And I've got another big, LONG-in-the-works piece being published (hopefully) later this week.
According to news reports, more than one commodity has reached record price levels: milk. Yes, a gallon of milk in the New York area is now $4.43/gallon- more than twice the price of a gallon of gasoline.
Now to the neocons among us, the solution is obvious: find the country most responsible for the export of milk, and invade it. Sure, the vegans will scream “no blood for milk,” but what do they know?
Then again- there is just one little hole in that strategy- we’d be invading Wisconsin. At least it's the same shape as Iraq.
But hey, look the bright side- other countries may export the oil, but we’ve got a product that’s twice as valuable per gallon: milk. So suck on that, Saudis!
If you’re a New York Times reader, a pederast, or both, then you probably greatly enjoyed the NYT Magazine’s cover story on Sunday, which shared the shocking the news that, that’s right, teenagers like to hook up with each other! Seriously!
I don’t know whose decision it was to run this drivel, which pretty much reiterates years-old clichés while mixing in a neo-pedo vibe, all the while operating at a depth level reminiscent of “Loveline.” So it should go without saying that Dr. Drew himself is quoted in the piece.
With that and the nauseating interview with Plum Sykes, this may have been the most gag-inducing issue in NYTM history. Good thing it had a Christopher Walken profile to redeem it. Much the same way Walken himself has been the lone bright spot in bad movies throughout his career.
Spike TV announced this week that it plans to broadcast a sequel to the greatest reality show of all time, “The Joe Schmo Show.” While the first edition parodied get-rich-quick-style shows, the new version will skewer the Bachelor/Average Joe-type “romance” shows, and the entire cast will consist of actors aside from one man and one woman.
Some reality formulas, especially “Joe Millionaire,” have only worked once because the concept wasn’t reproducible. “Joe Schmo,” seeing as how it will use an entirely different deception, shouldn’t have that problem.
“If 'The Day After Tomorrow' is a condemnation of George Bush, then 'Twister' was a love story and 'Volcano' was really about race relations. But don't expect the wacky left to allow any of this to interfere with its celebration of 'The Day After Tomorrow.' So desperate are they for a club--any club--with which to beat the administration, that if Tim Burton's goofy 'Mars Attacks!' had been released this summer, they would have embraced it as a righteous condemnation of Bush's dangerous, criminal scheme to exploit the red planet.”
-Jonathan V. Last, giving a surprisingly positive review of the Gore-endorsed disaster film, in the Weekly Standard.
The most successful season in Minnesota Timberwolves history ended tonight, as the Wolves tonight lost Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals to the L.A. Lakers, thus dropping the series four games to two.
A tough loss? Certainly. But the Wolves should be proud of themselves- they won two playoff series this year, which is two more than in the previous 14 years of the franchise's history. Also, they managed to win two games against LA, one of which snapped their 17-game winning streak in elimination games, and looked better against the Lakers than the Spurs did.
With most if not all of the team returning next year, and Kevin Garnett beginning a new six-year contract, things are looking good for the franchise, especially with the Lakers- and possibly the Kings and Mavericks- breaking up their teams this offseason. As for the next round, I'll be rooting loudly for whoever comes out of the East.
"My wife and I were talking about 'Twin Peaks' the other night, wondering where everyone went, and I developed a theory: Lara Flynn Boyle ate Madgen Amchick and Audrey Horne. Cooked ‘em up and had them for a post-Black Mass dinner. But now she has grown dangerously thin again, and will need to dine on the souls of some other ingénues. I may be wrong. Feels right, though. They cast her in that role in 'Men in Black 2' for a reason, I fear.
-Lileks, in today's Bleat. I don't know who James' wife is or anything else about her, but what I do know is, whoever my wife ends up being, I want it to be someone who can have that sort of conversation. That is., someone who knows the name of the actress who played Shelley the Waitress on "Twin Peaks."