"Well, you know I... I never got to bat in the major leagues. I would have liked to have had that chance. Just once. To stare down a big league pitcher. To stare him down, and just as he goes into his windup, wink. Make him think you know something he doesn't. That's what I wish for. Chance to squint at a sky so blue that it hurts your eyes just to look at it. To feel the tingling in your arm as you connect with the ball. To run the bases - stretch a double into a triple, and flop face-first into third, wrap your arms around the bag. That's my wish, Ray Kinsella. That's my wish. And is there enough magic out there in the moonlight to make this dream come true?"Today is the 100th anniversary of the lone major league appearance of Archibald "Moonlight" Graham of the 1905 New York Giants.
The centennial will be celebrated tonight at the Metrodome. Meanwhile, the Red Sox played at home this afternoon- I really, really hope they flashed Graham's career stat line on the Fenway scoreboard at some point during the game.
“To suggest someone watch 'The Andy Milonakis Show' would also require suggesting the use of mind-altering drugs or alcohol. Having watched a tape of the premiere episode, airing 9:30 p.m. Sunday on MTV, being under the influence is about the only way I can see someone sitting through a full show... is a stretch, but Milonakis might be funnier if seen after an hours-long bender."–Richard Huff of the New York Daily News, continually returning to the same theme while reviewing the new show. I haven't seen it yet, but will be sure to weigh in when I do.
And speaking of MTV shows- the Iraq war veteran girl's slamming of Michael Moore on "Real World: Austin" last night was my favorite RW moment in years. Probably since the Vegas season.
I'm generally happy with the T-Wolves' choice of Rashard McCants tonight in the NBA draft. He's got talent, but also baggage- but that baggage wasn't enough to stop Carolina from winning the championship last year. And besides- what with years of having good records and/or forfeiting choices due to the Joe Smith incident, this was literally the Wolves' first draft pick of consequence since Wally Szczerbiak in '99.
I won't write too much about the draft (because Simmons does it better- I wonder what kind of hotel suite he rented for this year's diary). But I thought it was good that the draft for once emphasized winning college players, as opposed to unproven high schoolers and foreign players.
And is it just me, or did Jay Bilas describe literally every single player drafted as "long"? "Long" is the new "upside." That's why they pay Mel Kiper the big bucks for the NFL draft- he actually provides analysis- and sometimes even uses multi-syllable words.
UPDATE: Simmons diarizes:
"Here's my McCants question – everyone was writing that his stock was dropping as teams kept doing background checks on him. Well, what were they finding? Did he kill a litter of puppies? Did he appear in a snuff film? Or was it something as innocent as "His favorite movie is 'Scarface'"?Other than that, the highlight is the writer who thought Portland would draft Carlton Dotson.
Monday, June 27, 6:00 PM: My team, The Masking Agents, successfully completes a trade for Pirates pitcher Oliver Perez.
Monday, June 27, 9:00 PM: The Pirates place Perez on the 15-day disabled list after he breaks his toe, from having kicked a laundry basket in the clubhouse. I'd had no idea Kevin Brown was his mentor.
Not only that, but I'd gotten this far in the season without a single pitching injury. "Hey," said the league rival who traded him to me, "at least he doesn't need Tommy John surgery." No, more like Toe Nash surgery.
New York Times: “Making the Brutal F.D.R. Unsentimentally Humane”
At first I thought the Times, in a news story, was for some reason impugning the reputation of one of our greatest presidents. Then I realized they were talking about F.D.R. Drive.
I'm laughing at him right now. And these people too.
HBO took exactly four weeks to give up on its Monday expansion idea, announcing today that it's moving "Six Feet Under" back to Sundays on July 10. As a result, "Entourage" and "The Comeback" will each be pushed back an hour. 'Comeback' is lucky- on any other network, it would already have been canceled.
The response to last week's list has been overwhelming, due in part to very generous links from GorillaMask, Double Viking, Large Regular, Paul Katcher, and numerous other blogs and messages boards. The links have easily made this the most-read post in this blog's history, and I’ve shattered all records for visits and page views by the day, week, and month.
A few notes inspired by the comments:
- “Forrest Gump” takes place all over the country (DC, etc.), in addition to Vietnam, so it does not meet the 2/3rds threshold for Alabama. As for “Citizen Kane,” it too takes place all over the country. Don’t you think I would’ve picked it if it were eligible?
- I absolutely, positively, swear to everyone reading this: except for the first scene, “Fargo” was set entirely in Minnesota, with the majority of the film taking place in suburban Minneapolis. I know this as well as I know the sun will come up tomorrow. And sorry to pick on NoDak, but “Ulee’s Gold” didn’t take place there either (it was in the Florida panhandle.)
- There’s all sorts of debate over where “The Shawshank Redemption” was set, but I consider it irrelevant to this discussion because one, I’m not a huge fan of the film, and two, the geographical location tends to be unimportant in a movie set almost entirely in a prison or mental hospital. “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” was omitted for the latter reason.
- One that is certainly ineligible based on my criteria- “From Here to Eternity” took place (and was made) before Hawaii became a state. So “Blue Crush” is the new choice, but only because “Hawaii 5-0” was never made into a movie, and neither was the Wayne Gretzky-starring SNL sketch “Waikiki Hockey.”
- “Donnie Darko,” ostensibly set in the Virginia suburbs, was indeed better than “Remember the Titans,” but if you buy the Salon.com explanation, it was actually set in the “tangent universe,” and not in the actual state of Virginia, and therefore doesn’t count.
- I’m ashamed that I didn’t think of “South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut” for Colorado, or “Say Anything” for Washington state. I'll adjust the latter- trading one Cameron Crowe film for another- but not the former: “BLU” loses points for being animated.
- “The Deer Hunter” has been suggested for Pennsylvania, though I suppose there’s some debate over whether it was set in Western PA or Eastern Ohio- and besides, I’d say more than a third of it is set in Vietnam. As for “Full Metal Jacket,” about two thirds of it is in Vietnam, making it not eligible for South Carolina.
- One reader suggested “Ghost Dad” as the best film ever set in Washington state. Makes me wonder where “Leonard Part 6” took place. As for those who picked “Life of David Gale” for Texas and “The Postman” for Oregon- very funny.
- I love “Animal House” as much as anyone- it was released the day I was born, so how could I not?- but I left it off the list because its geographical location is unimportant. Also, no one seems to be able to figure out exactly where it was set. And besides, there’s college partying of that sort going on in every state, why restrict it to one?
- My favorite comment, of which I got several versions- “I disagree with your choice, but I can’t think of anything better. Damn, [my state]sucks.” People said this about Utah, Missouri, North Dakota, Virginia…
Screw you, Roy Moore.
Wanting to actually meet Brooks and the girls in person rather than merely look at pictures of them beside my writing on the SportsByBrooks site, I went Thursday night to New York's first-ever SBB "gig," a trivia contest hosted by Brooks, a man who has mastered the wonderful profession of talking sports while traveling the country with an entourage of beautiful women. And while I didn't enter the contest, I can say with confidence that I knew the answer to every question.
Anyway, a good time was had by all at Thursday's event. Here's a description of the evening by Paul Katcher; stay tuned for more pictures.
I saw it on Friday- a generally strong effort, though it took awhile to get going at the beginning. Christian Bale was the most convincing Batman by far, and for once the effects contributed to the movie rather than detracting.
Katie Holmes? Not as bad as everyone says, and absolutely no worse than Uma Thurman in "Batman & Robin." Still, this whole Cruise thing has forever ruined her for me.
All in all, better than each of the Joel Schumacher films, but not as good as either of the Tim Burton efforts.
And speaking of Burton- I'd been dreading his "Willy Wonka" remake, but judging by the trailer, it looks incredible. And coming off his masterpiece "Big Fish," I trust Burton can do something well with the material. Even with non-suspendered Oompa-Loompas.
Yesterday, on a 90-degree day, one city played host, at the same time, to both a Billy Graham crusade (attended by 90,000 people) and a gay pride parade (attended by "thousands"), and the two events coexisted without incident. Only in America.
My latest SportsByBrooks update is online here. And yes, I will be at tonight's "gig" at Overlook Lounge (225 East 44th St.) tonight at 8, so if you can stop staring at the girls for a minute, stop and say hi.
Lots of interesting comments/e-mail lately, so let’s get right to it:
First of all, on the movie list- thanks for the great response. And yes, I know that “Seabiscuit” wasn’t set in Kentucky but rather Northern California, so the list has been amended to give the Bluegrass State to the Bill Murray comedy classic “Stripes,” which was filmed and partially set in Louisville, and is ten times better than “Seabiscuit” anyway.
And no, “Kentucky Fried Movie” was not set in Kentucky.
The biggest debates seem to be New York (“Godfather”? “Annie Hall”? “Goodfellas”?); California (“Chinatown”? “L.A. Confidential”?), Indiana (“Hoosiers”? “Knute Rockne: All-American”? “Rudy”?), and Rhode Island. And I never realized how much people hate “Outside Providence.” Almost every Farrelly Brothers film is at partially set in Rhode Island, though I don’t think any of them meet the two-thirds threshold.
In addition, there are several states that have been settings for TV shows better than the best movie: Alaska ("Northern Exposure"); Massachusetts ("Cheers"); Ohio ("Family Ties"); and Washington ("Twin Peaks"). And "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" was probably better than any Minnesota movie, at least until "Fargo" came along.
Q: How could New Jersey's selection have been anything other than Clerks?
A: Put it this way: If Kevin Smith, in addition to working in a video store for years and maxing out all his mother’s credit cards to finish his film, had produced “Clerks” as a thinly veiled allegory of his having named names before the House Un-American Activities Committee, then yes, “Clerks” would’ve been a better movie than “On the Waterfront.” But he didn’t, so it wasn’t.
I mean, you’d think Silent Bob would take the Fifth, right?
Q: Every day I find somebody else to be jealous of. So far today it's two, and I haven't even had lunch yet...
A: Hey, I’m just writing for some sports website- Jim has had stuff in the Wall Street Journal. ‘Cause the SBB Girls may be great to look at, but they don’t hold a candle to Peggy Noonan and Dorothy Rabinowitz.
On my meeting with Paul Begala in Washington, DBrooks writes:
Q: Paul Begala is an unmitigated ass. While I am not in any way a violent person, Begala is one of a very few people that I would dearly love to punch in the face. His comments about your sister are illuminating. He can be charming and/or engaging, but often in the service of his own dark design---and based on falsehood. He exemplifies what is wrong with reasoned political discourse in our country. He is a political operative, which is somewhere below a prostitute.
A: That may be true, but keep in mind: Begala was speaking to a bipartisan, but largely Republican crowd, and the general theme of his speech was that both parties essentially want what’s best for America. Could you imagine Sean Hannity going to a Democrat-leaning function and giving that speech?
On the subject of nerds being better lovers, “A” writes:
Q: I disagree majorly! Two words: CRISCO KID!
Meanwhle, LilB commented that day that:
Q: I've been to Pittsburgh twice. the second time I was at an event with Monica Lewinsky. (well, not *with* per se - it was Tuggie's graduation.)
A: And oddly enough, “Crisco Kid” and “Tuggie” are the same person. But I won’t say who, nor will I reveal the etymology of either nickname.
I posted last week on Bad News Brown’s new career as a mall security guard, which is pretty scary considering that he had a considerable enough beer gut even back in his prime as a wrestler 15 years ago, so it’s hard to imagine his physique now. Big Stupid Tommy writes:
Q: I mean, he was 260, 270 easy then. Imagine a 350, 400 pound guy wearing nothing but black underwear and wrestling boots wandering into Waldenbooks, brandishing a billy club, and saying "Sir, you need to come with me." Without even knowing it, I think we may have stumbled onto one of my worst nightmares.
A: Hulk Hogan’s got a new VH1 show; Bad News works at the mall. Could you have predicted that in 1990?
And finally, on the Hillary Clinton/Clifford the Big Red Dog photo op, Bill writes:
Q: “I'm hearing Ed Klein is planning to write a book exposing the secret life of Clifford.”
A: Well, we've all heard the explosive but unproven allegations about how Clifford: raped his wife to conceive his daughter; didn't shower for years during or after law school; is "a woman of the ultra-Left"; is a lesbian; has, like, Nixon, used FBI files against his enemies; failed utterly to implement health care reform; and always wanted to be an astronaut.
But besides that, no, I've heard nothing.
Well, we know which side the PBS characters are on in the public-funding debate… I’ve been a fan of Clifford’s since before I knew who Hillary was, so I like him as veep- though he is a few feet taller than her, that could be a problem.
"Mr. Bush seems to be governing as though he were on a permanent campaign - much like Bill Clinton did. But Bill Clinton was on a permanent presidential campaign. Mr. Bush seems to be governing as if he were on a permanent primary campaign against John McCain in South Carolina."-Thomas Friedman, explaining the failure, thus far, of Bush’s second term. But I thought it was all Michael Jackson’s fault…
It's late, yes, but my review of “Star Wars: Episode III” is online here, at IOFilm.com. And sadly, this issue was not dealt with in the film, likely rendering the “is it wispy” question forever unanswered.
SFU- it's been better this year. Not as great as the early days of the series, but a marked improvement over last season's debacle. But judging by the ratings so far this year, not many others think so. (Great, Onion-like headline in the Chicago Tribune: "HBO Discovers It May Be TV After All").
My favorite part of last night's episode: as Claire and Billy celebrated in their apartment after Billy's shopping spree, I recognized the music playing in the background- for it was the same ditty from that Capital One credit card commercial a few years ago with the monkeys stealing the interest money and going on a spending spree. I didn't know the name of the song - it goes "AYE AYE AYE! AYEAYEAYEAYE!"- until I checked the music credits: it's called (yes) "Monkey Man," and it's by The Specials.
And apparently Capital One's interest-stealing monkeys are still hiding somewhere: in an earlier scene of the episode, Claire's credit card was declined.
Not since David Cronenberg's “Crash” has a movie about cars been as sex-obsessed as the allegedly wholesome Disney live-action vehicle Herbie: Fully Loaded, in spite of Lindsay Lohan's PG-13-rated breasts being digitally reduced to a G. Anything set in the world of gearshifts and grinding cylinders can't really avoid it, but something about the ripe Lohan coming of age among aggressive alpha-males seems inappropriate, even before the creepy innuendo slips in. Then there's randy old Herbie, whose cutesy-poo affection for a spanking-new yellow VW bug turns a little too adult when his antenna salutes in attention. The family-friendly joke seems to be "Look, kids, those cars want to fuck!".- Scott Tobias, The Onion AV Club.
Yes, the makers of the film really did digitally reduce Lohan’s breasts, believing them too "raunchy" for a childrens' movie. Now, it's sad enough that some studio exec/censor is hostile enough to sexuality that he/she believes that breasts by their very nature are raunchy- much less in a movie where supposedly cars want to have sex with each other.
But what's even sadder is that Lindsay apparently liked it so much that she saw it fit to reduce them herself, along with the rest of her body, to the point where she now resembles a "blond skeleton," to borrow a Simmons phrase.
Oh well, we'll always have "Mean Girls"...
If you follow the press, especially on conservative blogs, you probably hear an awful lot about “arrogance” among “media elites,” and such characters deciding that rules don’t apply to them. And while that indictment (while flawed) does contain some grain of truth, it’s rare to see it displayed in black and white, as it was this week- though not the way you might think.
In the American press, you don’t get much more “elite” than Sid Hartman. The sports columnist has written for the Star Tribune for more than six decades, and appeared locally on television and radio for almost as long. But in recent years, Sid has not only slipped noticeably, but he’s gotten more obnoxious than ever in his old age. Hell, Sid’s probably the only man alive who had someone else (Pat Reusse) ghost-write his autobiography, even though he is himself a writer.
The latest Sid brouhaha is given the Romenesko headline “Strib Columnist Says Ethics Rules Should Be Different For Him,*” and is the first instance I can ever remember of a journalist (or any other professional, for that matter) getting caught in an ethical blunder, and essentially saying, “I’m more important than everyone else, so the rules should apply differently to me.” Then again, Sid didn’t have the longetivity excuse back in the ‘50s, when he basically ran the basketball operations of the Minneapolis Lakers from the Strib newsroom, while simultaneously covering the team.
At issue now is that Hartman participated in a fundraiser that netted $400,000 for a University of Minnesota scholarship fund. While undeniably for a good cause, Sid –who writes about UofM sports in just about every column- had a clear conflict of interest, and did not clear his participation with editors or other newspaper management.
Hartman’s response when reached by ombudsman Kate Parry? "There's nobody else who's done more for this paper. That's why it could be right for me and not for someone else. I've got a unique situation. There can be a little different rules for all I've done for this newspaper."
Has ever a more arrogant statement been spoken by an American journalist? The "crime" wasn't much, but this? Sid’s “close personal friend,” Bob Knight, had a similar attitude back in Indiana, which is why he physically assaulted his players and other students with total impunity, many times before he was fired.
I’d like to see Sid held accountable for this. Because if any other employee of the paper had done what he did- or if a star political correspondent said the same thing after illegal donations to a candidate came to light- they’d like have been fired on the spot.
(*When I saw “Strib columnist,” somehow I knew it was Sid, and not, say, Doug Grow, or James Lileks.)
I was sorry to read the news today that Karl Mueller, longtime bassist for the Minneapolis-based '90s band Soul Asylum, has passed away from cancer at the age of 41. I spent a lot of time listening to Soul Asylum in my younger days, and am glad to hear that they finished one last album prior to Mueller's passing. Karl will be missed.
For thoughts on a major league baseball milestone, the latest crazy comments from "Jurassic Carl" Everett, and the return of O.J. to big-time sports, check out my latest update on SportsByBrooks.com. Also, I'll be stopping by the SBB "gig" in Manhattan on Thursday.
So I started working on this list a few months ago, and completely forgot about it until Ben reminded me of it last week. I decided to come up with a list of the best movie ever set in each of the 50 states (plus DC). Now, the ground rules are: at least two thirds of the movie has to be set in the state, and the state has to have been a state at the time that the movie is set (which disqualifies lots of Westerns). Bonus points if the movie was actually filmed in the state, or if the specific location is important to the movie. Here we go:
The Best Movie Ever Set in Each of the 50 States:
Alabama: “Big Fish”
Alaska: “Mystery, Alaska”
Arizona: “Raising Arizona”
Arkansas: “Sling Blade”
California: “American Graffiti”
Colorado: “The Shining”
Connecticut: “The Ice Storm”
Delaware: “Dead Poets Society”
District of Columbia: “All the President’s Men”
Georgia: “Gone With the Wind”
“From Here to Eternity” "Blue Crush"
Idaho: “Napoleon Dynamite”
Illinois: “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”
Indiana: “Breaking Away”
Iowa: “Field of Dreams”
Kansas: “Paper Moon”
Louisiana: “The Apostle”
Massachusetts: “Good Will Hunting”
Maine: “The Cider House Rules”
Michigan: “Out of Sight”
Missouri: “Meet Me in St. Louis”
Mississippi: “O Brother Where Art Thou”
Montana: “A River Runs Through It”
New Hampshire: “Primary Colors”
New Jersey: “On the Waterfront”
New Mexico: "The Tao of Steve"
New York: “The Godfather”
North Carolina: “Bull Durham”
North Dakota: “Leprechaun”
Ohio: “Lolita” (Kubrick version)
Oregon: “Stand By Me”
Rhode Island: “Outside Providence”
South Carolina: “Lords of Discipline”
South Dakota: “Badlands”
Texas: “The Last Picture Show”
Utah: “SLC Punk”
Vermont: “Super Troopers”
Virginia: “Remember the Titans”
“Singles” "Say Anything..."
West Virginia: “October Sky”
Wisconsin: “American Movie”
Wyoming: "Close Encounters of the Third Kind"
- The toughest calls were New York, California, Indiana ("Breaking Away" or "Hoosiers"?) and Illinois ("Ferris Bueller" or "Blues Brothers"?) Luckily, Minnesota had only one logical choice.
- I'd never realized how many great movies were set in multiple states, foreign countries, outer space, mythical lands, or indeterminable location.
- If you're unhappy with the selection for your state (or any other), have it out in the comments. I'd like to see raucous debate about this.
I already told you about the Commenter, and his move from Michael Totten's comments section to his own blog. Now, another longtime denizen of the forum over there, Grant McEntire, has taken the plunge as well, giving us Blue Stater in Jesusland. You've gotta love a blogger who's such a perfect centrist that he's already talking about campaigning for Evan Bayh in '08.
On the occasion of the sentencing of former Adelphia CEO/Buffalo Sabres owner John Rigas to 15 years in prison on fraud and embezzlement charges, I give you what Lewis Black had to say about the case, on his "Black On Broadway" HBO special:
Father and two sons run Adelphia. It’s a cable company, and they take from the company a billion dollars. A billion. Three people. Three people. Took a billion dollars. A billion. WHAT WERE THEY GONNA DO?! START THEIR OWN SPACE PROGRAM?! “Lets send a monkey to Mars, Dad.” If that weren’t enough, they took 13 million dollars of company money, and used it to build a golf course, in their own back yard. What amazes me, is the people that work for that company and knew that they did it, that they didn’t rise up as one and slay them. I never understood why the people of France chopped off Marie Antoinette’s head. Now I fuckin GET IT.If Dennis Kozlowski ever gets convicted, remind me to post the "personal ballwasher" routine.
UPDATE: My colleague Ben Kepple informs me that Dennis Kozlowski was, in fact, convicted last Friday, apparently because unlike in his first trial, his lawyers were unable to get a crazy old lady on the jury who would vote to acquit no matter what. The verdict was announced Friday afternoon but I was already halfway to Atlantic City by then, which is why I didn't hear about it.
Anyway, here's that black routine:
I was wondering, what I would do if I had 463 million dollars. Because what these guys did was they just bought stuff. That’s what they did. They acquired things. In order to one-up each other. That’s in part why it got out of control. They bought things. How many things can you buy? How much shit do you need?... And you know what I would’ve done with that money? I would’ve hired a young girl in her early twenties. I would’ve paid her a remarkable salary, I would give her the best pension and benefits money could buy. I’d give her health insurance. And she would be, my personal, ball-washer. You know what, I can sense some of pulling away from me. And all I can tell you, is that I came a long way, just to share a dream with you. There’s nothing sexual about this. I think that if you’re an important person, and you wanna show off to other important people, what would be better, than having a woman walking in front of you rinsing and scrubbing, rinsing and scrubbing. Scrub scrub rinse rinse, scrub scrub rinse rinse. Because I am an important CEO, and my nuts should be clean. And then the other CEOs would gather, and they’d go “Who’s that?” “Who’s that? That my friends, is my very esteemed, personal ball-washer. What did you guys buy? Another car?! AHAHAHAHAHA!"
Former WWF villain Bad News Brown: Canada's toughest mall security guard. Look on the bright side though: unlike most '80s wrestlers, he's not dead, in jail, or setting off bioterror scares in the Boston subway.
I'm off to a weekend by the ocean, but stay tuned next week for more Brooks stuff, a ripping-off-Simmons mailbag, and not one but TWO Long-Gestating Pieces: that one on civility in blogs that I've been promising for months but is finally almost done, and a fun but extremely nerdish movie list. Have a good one.
The front page of the New York Post today has a somewhat blurry photo of an 11-year-old girl. Was she murdered? Nope. Kidnapped? Nuh-uh. Save someone’s life? Try again.
Bad yearbook picture? Bingo.
A Queens family is so outraged about their daughter’s unflattering yearbook photo that they’re demanding all 200 copies of the book be recalled, so that a better photo may be inserted.
"For the rest of her life, she's going to have to be ashamed of that horrible picture,” the girl’s mother said, adding that the daughter has been “crying nonstop” since the photo was published on Monday.
So many questions here: WHY is this is a front-page story? Doesn’t everyone hate their yearbook photo? Don’t most people get over such things within a day or two, or at least in time for the next year’s yearbook photo? Who, as an adult, regularly looks at their 6th grade yearbook? And isn’t putting the photo on the front-page of a newspaper about a thousand times more embarrassing for the girl than the relatively limited yearbook run? Will her parents now demand a recall of the Post?
The mother, who on the basis of this article should probably be sentenced to counseling, calls the school’s handling of the matter a “coverup,” and speculates that “Who knows, one day she might be famous or have a lot of money and someone could blackmail her with that picture.” Celebrities blackmailed for large sums of money with yearbook photos- yea, happens all the time.
Guess that's the difference between the Times and Post. The Times today has a harrowing story about a girl from Queens whose family got caught up in terrorism. The Post would rather discuss the girl from Queens who doesn't look good in the yearbook.
The sad dissolution of Lindsay Lohan continues: she’s now apparently replaced Paris Hilton as Nicole Richie’s best friend. Really, you can’t get any lower than that, can you?
I’m sure they have a wonderful time roaming the lounges of LA and finding great new restaurants at which to not eat.
Which erstwhile “megababe” has fallen further in the past three months, Lohan, or Katie Holmes? Holmes may have lost her mind, but at least she still looks good.
It's official: The Timberwolves have made Dwane Casey their first new, non-interim head coach in over a decade. And whenever he gets fired, we can all say "Mighty Casey has struck out."
News came this week that “The Show,” the alleged humor column penned in Sports Illustrated by former Letterman writer Bill Scheft, is no more. Scheft, who recently got one of the more inexplicable book contracts in history to write a “best of” the column, ends it with a self-deprecating joke: “Here are the final stats: 140 columns, 2,872 jokes, 36 actual laughs.” Not self-deprecating enough, I’d say- Scheft overstates the laughs by a factor of four or five.
(Also in the last column, Scheft included this joke: “The Giants plan to retire Gaylord Perry's number in July. It'll all be part of K-Y Appreciation Day. “ At first I thought it was a gay joke, about “Gaylord,” until I remembered that Perry was notorious for doctoring baseballs. Not sure if Frank Robinson ever called him on it though).
Interestingly, we learned in last week’s issue that longtime SI golf writer Herbert Warren Wind recently passed away, and that Wind’s nephew was none other than Bill Scheft himself. Well, now we know why Bill got the column. Funny that he should suddenly lose it mere weeks after his uncle’s passing…
I'll only see it if it's 24 hours long. And Michelle's in it.
Entertainment Weekly has started a house blog. Not surprising for the magazine that was founded by Jeff Jarvis- though it gets bonus points because unlike sister publication Sports Illustrated's "Daily Blog," it actually is a blog.
And if I get a single Rocker-like e-mail attacking the "liberal media" for "demonizing" this racist and murderer, I might just have to slap somebody. And the same goes if the name "Robert Byrd" appears in the comments.
For information on the return of "Super Bowl is Gay" auteur Andy Milonakis, Sammy Sosa's boombox, the hot wives of Mets players, and why Phil Jackson is more whipped than Doug Christie, check out my latest update at SportsByBrooks.com. I'll be doing two a week (every Tuesday and Thursday) for the next three weeks.
And by the way, I'm always looking for ideas for these updates, so if you'd like to recommend anything -specifically regional or otherwise under-the-radar sports stuff- feel free to e-mail or leave a comment.
Yippie! We get to argue about this case once again! 'Cause it was so fun the first time! I was hoping by the end of the year I'd forget how to pronounce the name "Schiavo," but I guess that's too much to ask.
Brief reviews of a few movies I watched lately, from Netflix and elsewhere:
- “Hotel Rwanda” (Directed by Terry George): This harrowing docudrama about the 1994 Rwanda genocide avoids just about every pitfall of the subgenre: it doesn’t get preachy, it doesn’t make sure its heroes are white people, and it doesn’t skimp on the storytelling. A great cast, led by Don Cheadle, puts a face on the horror most of us have only read about, now tragically repeating itself just a few countries away, in Darfur.
- “Michael Moore Hates America” (Directed by Mike Wilson:) Wilson’s documentary at once bashes Moore and imitates him, as Wilson puts himself in Moore’s old “Roger & Me”-era muckraking underdog role. The narrative loses focus at times, and none of the arguments will be new to devotees of Moore-bashing, but Wilson’s pluck and charisma often redeem it.
For a film based on the vilification of a single individual, ‘Hates America’ is surprisingly civil, largely avoiding name-calling and unfair attacks. And don’t confuse this with partisan hackery- unlike the previous anti-Moore doc “Fahrenhype 9/11,” it’s not one big commercial for the Bush re-election- nor is made entirely clear that Wilson is a conservative. Because lots of liberals- such as film co-star Penn Jillette, such as me- can't stand Moore either.
- “She Hate Me” (Directed by Spike Lee): After emerging from a decade-long career funk to direct 2002’s near-masterpiece “The 25th Hour”- Hollywood’s first, and still best, depiction of the post-9/11 moment in New York- some saw the sign of a career renaissance for the Bed-Stuy auteur. Yea- not so much. “She Hate Me” is like four movies smushed into a ball, even though they don’t fit together, and none are believable or make sense on their own. We’re left with a black executive (Anthony Mackie), fired from his Enron-like corporation, who then embarks on a lucrative second career of impregnating lesbians. And don't forget the repeated tangents about Watergate...
Enough has been written about the implausibility, not to mention cruelty, of this premise, so I’ll just leave it at that- except to give Lee credit for making what’s likely to be the first and last major motion picture named after a former XFL player. That is, until they finally get around to making “The Tommy Maddox Story.”
- “Finding Neverland” (Directed by Marc Forster): Four reasons why this movie completely, utterly sucked: 1) It’s boring as hell, from beginning to end; 2) After “Shakespeare in Love,” “Topsy Turvy,” “The Hours,” and all those Merchant-Ivory films, the subgenre of “secret story of the author of a classic work” is just plain tiresome; 3) They made the most beautiful woman in movies, Kate Winslet, look like a ghost; and 4) It’s about an adult male, an acclaimed artist, who spends unnatural amounts of time with small boys, while yammering on about “Neverland.” Not the most pleasant mental image, especially these days.
How this film was nominated for Best Picture and “Eternal Sunshine” wasn’t remains a mystery for the ages.
- San Francisco 49ers 2004 Public Relations training video (Directed by Kirk Reynolds): The controversy over the team's in-house video, recently leaked to the press, resulted in the resignation of Reynolds (the team’s PR director), and now it’s been posted on Ifilm.com. And while the film was controversial for its use of racial slurs, nudity, profanity, and mocking of Mayor Gavin Newsom*, its true sins are even more grave: It’s just plain not funny.
There’s no sense whatsoever of comedic timing, and the producers seem to have misread the success of the Howard Stern show, seeing as how they apparently believe a flat comedy bit is somehow magically made funny by the presence of babelicious lesbians. The production values are abominable- they’d be laughed at by most junior-high AV clubs- and the ethnic and gay jokes aren’t much better, unless you’re a big fan of “Asian lisp” jokes (I’m not, unless they’re directed at Kim Jong-Il).
(*That’s one thing that gets me about this scandal, that even in a PC-mad city like San Francisco, “taking shots at the mayor” is somehow seen as just as offensive as racial, sexual, and ethnic barbs. Reminds me of the time in college when the student senate decided to go to war with the recklessly iconoclastic conservative student magazine, with one senator calling the magazine “racist, sexist, anti-gay, and anti-Senate.”)
It’s been said often that the video scandal is the latest sign that the 49ers have fallen from grace, going from football’s most classy organization to its least classy in just a few years. Exactly- if they’d produced an offensive in-house training video 10 years ago, it would had a MUCH higher budget.
Tonight I went down to the Battery Park area for a free outdoor concert by Arlo Guthrie, the ‘60s relic best known for such classic anthems as “City of New Orleans,” “The Motorcycle Song (Significance of the Pickle),” and of course, the epic story-song “Alice’s Restaurant.”
The performance was billed as marking the 40th anniversary of the events of the song (though it was recorded two years later); while it really says something that such a seminal event of the counterculture happened 40 YEARS AGO, I’m a big fan of the song (from both old camp sing-alongs, and its annual Thanksgiving broadcast on KQ), so I was sure not to miss it.
At first I mistakenly showed up at the wrong part of the park, where I had seen Fountains of Wayne last summer; a band was indeed playing there, but considering that the crowd consisted entirely of people in business suits, I assumed (correctly) that it wasn’t the Arlo show. Later I found the right crowd, which was dressed much more predictably, although I did see one guy wearing a Bob Jones University t-shirt- presumably ironically, but you never know.
The 57-year-old Guthrie opened with “Alice’s Restaurant” and was sure to change a few lines to reflect these “very familiar times,” though somehow he got through the whole thing in 15 minutes, about 5 shorter than on the recorded version. Much of the crowd acted as though they hadn’t heard the song in 15 or 20 years, still laughing at “circles and arrows and a photograph on the back of each one” like they were hearing it for the first time. Then again, I could only think of my similar recent experience, which I'll be sure to mention if I ever get drafted.
Another highlight was when Arlo launched into a version of his father’s “This Land is Your Land,” stopping in the middle to give a 15-minute, spoken-word treatise on the biblical story of Joseph and his coat- “the best Dvar Torah ever,” Ben called it. At least, much better than the guy on the subway on the way back, who alternated between screaming about Jesus, and telling various people to “watch yo white ass.”
In conclusion, Arlo’s still an excellent performer- certainly better live at this point than, say, Dylan- although the drugs over the years have clearly taken their toll: after one song he exclaimed, “it’s great to hear these songs again!” (Why? They’re your songs! Haven’t you been “hearing” them for four decades?)
UPDATE: Here's Ben's version of the evening.
According to multiple sources, the new coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves will be Seattle assistant Dwane Casey. I know next to nothing about the man, but he's not P.J. Carlesimo (which is quite a great quality), and not another of the retreads allegedly considered, so I say it's not a bad choice. And since Minnesota teams tend to hang onto coaches forever, we may as well get used to him.
But regardless, I still say firing Flip Saunders was a huge mistake.
From SI.com’s “News & Rumors” column:
Daunte Culpepper was asked his reaction to ex-teammate Randy Moss' assertion that his new Raiders teammate Kerry Collins is a better overall quarterback than the Vikings' Pro Bowl QB. Culpepper smiled quizzically, then shook his head. "When I first heard that, I figured maybe Randy had fallen and bumped his head to say something that crazy," Culpepper said. "All they've got to do is look at the numbers. I mean no disrespect to Kerry Collins. I understand that (Moss) has to say something good about his quarterback. But he didn't have to say anything that crazy."It’s certainly been a better offseason for the Vikes now that our always-problematic receiver is off the team. Philly fans, take note.
UPDATE: And notice how classily Culpepper and McNabb are handling their respective situations. I bet you wouldn’t get a similar reaction in a similar situation from, say, Tim Couch, Akili Smith, or Cade McNown.
One of the greatest partnerships in sports broadcasting history is about to be renewed, as Keith Olbermann announced today that he will be joining his former SportsCenter “tag team partner,” Dan Patrick, on ESPN Radio for one hour each week.
For those of you who don’t remember “SportsCenter” before the current cavalcade of clowns took it over, Patrick and Olbermann's nightly broadcast was nothing less than an event- they brought an authority to the sports highlights that's been missing ever since. That, and their catchphrases were funny.
I know the ESPN execs hate Keith, but I'd like to hear them promote the hell out of this, since watching Dan and Keith was a formative experience for many, many sports fans of my generation. I don’t know that I’ve ever listened to more than 5 consecutive minutes of ESPN Radio, but I’m about to start.
Who’d have thought that the announced reunion of Pink Floyd would be only the second most exciting getting-back-together of this week?
Paris Hilton has vowed to “leave public life,” in two years. I’m still wondering what exactly she was doing there in the first place.
Oh- and the sex tape? First line of her obituary.
Three students in the San Francisco area have been awarded $10,000 scholarships thanks to the generosity of the Steve Silver Foundation. And while I’m quite proud of these youngsters for their achievement, I regret to say that I have nothing whatsoever to do with the this; the foundation was in fact created by the family of the late playwright Steve Silver, who wrote the musical “Beach Blanket Babylon.” I might have to go see that on my trip out to San Fran in August.
This also means that whenever I start my own foundation, I’ll need to think of another name, since “Steve Silver Foundation” is already taken.
The Culkin-based graphic is my favorite part. The Daily News used the same headline, which happens four or five times a year; last week both AM New York and the Metro used “Silver Bullet” to describe Speaker Sheldon Silver’s scuttling of the West Side stadium project.
"Now, having provided the soundtrack to many of last year's pop-culture nadirs, the Peas have moved on to jacking one of the 1990s' quintessential soundtrack moments by kicking off their new album with a song rooted in the hyper-caffeinated surf-guitar majesty of Dick Dale's "Miserlou"...-Nathan Rabin, reviewing the new album by the abominable Black Eyed Peas, in the Onion AV Club.
The album's low point in that respect would have to be "My Humps," a clamorous ditty designed as a showcase for Fergie, the group's token pop-tart. The song simultaneously rips off "Funky Cold Medina" and "Milkshake," while contributing two of the least appealing euphemisms for female body parts ever dreamed up: the aforementioned humps and "lady lumps."
Here's a great cover story by Matt Labash, the Weekly Standard's gonzo conservative, in which he speaks to a character named Dave "Mudcat" Saunders, who is attempting to shore up the Democrats' "bubba" credentials- i.e., giving them credibility with rural voters again. Read the whole thing for some great lessons about the demographics of politics; I know I trust Mudcat with the Democrats' future a lot more than I do Howard Dean, John Kerry, or Thomas Frank.
At some point, it was apparently decided that HBO would replace the departed “Sex and the City” and the on-hiatus-so-often-it-might-as-well-be “Sopranos” with sitcoms- nearly all of which, for some reason, are about Hollywood.
Now I do happen to be a huge fan of both “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (the sitcom of the decade, clearly) and the rapidly improving “Entourage.” But then there was the very weak “Unscripted” (which might have been good, had it had a script), and then “Six Feet Under” decided that it wanted to do Hollywood satire too. I don’t have a problem with Hollywood per se, I just think that there are other topics that HBO could build a high-quality series around, instead of going to the same well over and over again.
The latest entrant is “The Comeback,” a vehicle for “Friends” star Lisa Kudrow that grows entirely from a storyline bandied about but ultimately rejected in ‘Curb’’s first season (remember Larry David and Jason Alexander arguing about whether or not George Costanza was a loser?)- it’s about the former star of a mega-successful sitcom returning with another new show. “The Comeback”’s twist is that it purports to be a reality show itself, allowing it to skewer the reality genre, on top of ripping off both ‘Curb’ and “The Office.”
But the “Comeback”’s biggest mistake is that it matches the awkwardness of those shows, without delivering the laughs to match. Kudrow was always the weakest link on “Friends” anyway (was that “Smelly Cat” song supposed to be funny? I never thought so), and the new show sets the audience up to see the falsity of Hollywood through her eyes- except that we don’t buy it, because she’s even more unpleasant than her antagonists are.
In the end, “The Comeback”’s biggest mistake is that its lead character is immensely, immensely, unlikable- as is the show itself. So it should come as no surprise that Lee Siegel loves it.
Over the weekend I made my first-ever trip to Pittsburgh (or anywhere in Western Pennsylvania, for that matter). It’s a beautiful, very unique city, and the layout of it reminded me more of Jerusalem than it did any other American city. That’s probably because the entire downtown is visible from the top of a mountain (which we traversed, on the famed Duquesne Incline.)
Have you noticed that all of Pittsburgh’s sports teams (Pirates, Steelers, Penguins, Pitt, etc.) use yellow in their colors? Everything in Pittsburgh is yellow. Even the bridges. Even the traffic signs.
Downtown Pittsburgh has clearly seen better days, though there are signs of a renaissance. My favorite non-baseball site? A hot dog stand/window, situated inside a Presbyterian Church. The name of it? Hot Dogma.
Saturday night we hit PNC Park for Pirates-Devil Rays. Not exactly a marquee matchup, though PNC’s a great, great park- up there with the best of the recent new ones- better than Cincinnati, and about even with Philly. The park’s best feature is an open outfield which showcases the downtown skyline- one borrowed in the design for the still-hoped-for Twins park.
As for the game itself, we were treated to the Pirates dominating- something unheard-of since the days when Barry Bonds played for them, and was thin. The Pirates crushed the Rays 18-2, with unheralded stars like Rob Machowiak and Ryan Doumit coming up big, and even ex-Twin Michael Restovich getting a hit. And be happy, Mets fans- the first 8 of the runs (and 9 hits) were given up by alleged “phenom” Scott Kazmir.
In addition, we were treated to Hall of Famer Bill Mazeroski throwing out the first pitch, after a video played on the scoreboard of his Game 7-winning home run in the 1960 World Series. I also was at Maz's Hall of Fame induction in '01, and it was good to see him- though a few nights before the first pitch at PNC had been thrown out by legendarily wild pitcher Steve Blass who, at 63, got the ball over the plate.
Next on the ballpark tour: San Francisco in August and the ‘Dome in September; I’ll be at Twins-Yankees at the Stadium on my birthday (July 28), and I’m sure I’ll make it to Shea at some point as well. As we anxiously await the new Mets/
Olympic stadium in Flushing.
Jackson's youngest son, Blanket, could not be reached for comment.
The Jewish novelty rapper known as 50 Shekel, one of the leading lights of the “Jewish hipster” fad of a couple of years ago, has announced his conversion to the Jews For Jesus, the New York Post reports. Here’s an interview I did with Shekel in the Blueprint last year.
The Jewish blogs are all over it as well- including his high school classmate, Joe Grossberg- and they’re having it out over whether “overly critical bloggers” are to blame. This latest news upsets me, and not only because I knew about this probably six months ago and wasn’t allowed to go on the record at the time.
And finally, check out the Ju Tang Clan and their anti-Shekel dis track, “Schindler’s Fist (50 Shekels of Shame),” which promises to “skillfully deconstruct the short but truly heinous career of 50 Shekel and then [invoke] Nazi rape imagery as only Method Moyle can.” It’s all a big joke. I hope.
Much like Snoop Dogg stepping out of Dr. Dre's shadow with the "DoggyStyle" album in 1992, the commenter from Michael Totten's blog who calls himself, uh, The Commenter, has jumped into the fray with a blog of his own. Check it out; The Commenter loves to get comments.
“You don't have to be Osama bin Laden to think that only a horrible culture would produce an "entertainment" like ‘Mr. and Mrs. Smith.’ But when a bootleg of this facetious comedy does get satellite-projected to that crazy hermit in a Middle Eastern cave, he'll probably break into an "I told you so" grin.”- Armond White, all but blaming the Pitt/Jolie blockbuster for any future domestic terror attacks. Well, only if the terrorist is Jennifer Aniston.
But to be fair, White also rips into the film for exhibiting “insouciant liberal disdain for the Bush administration,” as well as its “self-hating anti-Americanism.”
Study Shows Nerds Make Better Lovers.
We interrupt this hiatus for a three-part description of my recent two-day business trip to our nation's capital:
Part I: National Paul
I was in town to cover a conference by a certain industry association, and for the Wednesday night keynote address, this group elected to bring in former Clinton White House aide and CNN co-host Paul Begala. A bit of a curious choice, especially considering that Begala a) has nothing whatsoever to do with that industry, and b) is a liberal Democrat, whereas the majority of that industry's legislative agenda is solidly Republican. But still, Begala gave a funny and memorable speech. Some highlights:
- Begala's opening statement, when he discussed how "Crossfire"'s format wasn't exactly conducive to multifaceted, nuanced political debate, was almost exactly in line with Jon Stewart's famous takedown of the program last October. Then again, I guess Begala can agree- unlike Tucker Carlson, Stewart never called him a "dick."
- He discussed how when Clinton entered office, Begala and his wife had no children, and now they have four- so Bill was an inspiration, in more ways than one. He also did a flawless Clinton impression, better than Darrell Hammond's but not as good as Phil Hartman's.
- He pointed out that America isn't that divided after all, especially since the two parties mostly agree on the big things (Chris Matthews has said this, calling it "arguing within the 40-yard lines.") He also said that the Bush White House wants what's best for America, they just go about it the wrong way- which is a lot more charitable than most partisan Democrats would view it (but probably less charitable than Alan Colmes).
- Begala, who opposed the Iraq War, nevertheless denied that we invaded Iraq for the oil. "If we wanted oil," he said, "we'd have invaded Venezuela- it's closer, the weather's better, and they have no army."
- He denied liberal bias in the media, saying that they have more of a scandal and sensationalist bias than a liberal one (see this asinine Hugh Hewitt column for the opposite view- that the liberal press "loves" Howard Dean because he always gives them scandals to write about. If that were true, the Democratic presidential nominee would be Michael Jackson.) Begala, meanwhile, didn't deny that Dean is "nuts," but defended his recent comment that the Republicans are the party of "white Christians" because, in fact, it's true.
- His predictions for '08- if Hillary runs she's the frontrunner, but he talks to her all the time and isn't sure she will. On the Republican side, he thinks the best bet is George Allen (I tend to agree there).
- I got to talk to Begala afterward, and while I didn't have the courage to ask him about either the Stewart thing or Chris Kattan's SNL impression of him ("you're a virgin, aren't you, Begala?"), I did ask him if he remembered my sister, a "Crossfire" intern a couple years ago. He said he did, but she assures me he's full of shit.
All in all a good speech by someone who's much more affable and likable in person than on TV- and I'll try not to be too resentful that he was probably paid more to give the speech than I'm making this year or next.
Part II: Nationals Tall
With nothing to do in DC on a nice night, and having looked at the MLB schedule earlier in the week, I decided to take in a Washington Nationals game. And I lucked out- as I was approaching the ticket window, three college kids told me they had an extra ticket and asked if I wanted it for $20. Great seats too- 12 rows up on the first base line. Again, a few notes:
- I'd been hoping for years that Washington would finally get a team, and judging by my first game there, it was a very good idea on MLB's part. The entire lower bowl of the stadium looked completely full, and the crowd was with the Nats on every pitch, as they beat Oakland 7-2. The crowd even stood up for the entire ninth, which I'm not used to seeing outside of World Series games. They're really the perfect fans- they've got all the passion of East Coast fans, but none of the cynicism.
- RFK's not much of a baseball stadium, but they did a decent enough job configuring it, with the crowd close to the action and large enough dimensions that not every batted ball flies out of the park. Plenty of them did though- the Nats hit three homers, all to right field, and rookie outfielder Ryan Church had three hits.
- There's a bust outside the stadium of Clark Griffith, who owned the Washington Senators for much of the first half of the 20th century. There is so such bust of his son Calvin, who moved the team to Minnesota in '61 and is thus responsible for the creation of the Twins.
- The Nats, now in first place, looked quite good- but the A's? Yecch. Doesn't seem as though that Moneyball stuff is working out so well this year. But it was still nice to see old friend Bobby Kielty get a couple of hits.
- In front of us was a 13-year-old kid, with his father, and the kid joined every one of our baseball conversations, even correcting any mistakes we made (such as when I couldn't remember who Oakland got from Atlanta for Tim Hudson). When I was 13, I was that kid.
- Speaking of which, one of my earliest baseball memories was going to a Twins game in '85 or so, and at the end looking down into the Twins dugout and seeing the utility infielder Ron Washington taking off his batting gloves. Washington is now Oakland's third base coach, so it was nice to see him again.
- And when I got back to my hotel, I turned on the TV to find that the Twins were about to beat Arizona 10-0, with Johan Santana going the distance. What a great baseball night- the only other time I'd gone to a game on a Washington trip was in '92, when my dad and I took a train trip to Camden Yards.
Part III: National Mall
- Never one to skip out on the historical side of DC while on a trip there, I decided to take a late-night walk along the Washington Mall- except I misjudged where to get off the Metro, so I ended up walking all the way from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial. Though on the way I passed by the World War II Memorial, which is absolutely breathtaking, especially at night. Then I took a walk by the reflecting pool- so strange that I could be standing somewhere that practically every single American is familiar with, yet be completely alone, at 11:00 on a Wednesday night.
And finally, reaching the Lincoln Memorial brought back one of my favorite memories, from that same trip I took with my dad. We were standing next to the Lincoln statue, when another kid and his dad came along, and had this exchange (which you'll especially appreciate if you're Jewish):
Son: What kind of a name is Abraham, anyway?I'm off to Pittsburgh- be back Monday, with more tales from the ballpark tour.
Dad: Why, it's a Christian name. Like, from the Bible.
I'm happy to report the news that starting today, I'm going to be contributing updates to the website SportsByBrooks.com, which was named one of the ten best sports sites on the web by Time Magazine. My first update appears today; scroll down until you see my name for thoughts on such familiar topics as Sports Guy edits, Merkin Valdez, the Philly sports talk wars, and Mitch "Blood" Green.
The updates will likely run once or twice a week. Thanks to Brooks for bringing me aboard, and to Paul Katcher for helping out as well.
And I know most of my male readers are thinking the same thing, re: the various attractive women whose photos appear on the site. Sorry, I don't know them, and have no way of introducing you. So you'll have to try on your own. Best of luck.
I'm off to DC today and tomorrow, followed by Philly and eventually Pittsburgh; updates here will likely be infrequent, but not nonexistent until Monday.
To (where else?) the New York Post:
By destroying the West Side stadium ("Dead Duck," June 7), Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and the Democrats finished what al Qaeda started on 9/11.Wow. It had been awhile since I'd heard the "If we don't do [my pet cause that has nothing to do with terrorism], the terrorists win" argument construction- I had assumed that one died out around 2002. It should have, anyway.
A politician voting to "destroy" a project that doesn't yet exist, resulting in exactly zero deaths, with the stated reason being that he'd rather concentrate on rebuilding Ground Zero? On an issue that has nothing whatsoever to do with partisian politics? A politician who, for all his faults, is an ardent Zionist and even more combative foe of terrorism? Oh yea, just like Bin Laden.
(Disclosures: I'm no relation to Sheldon Silver, and supported the West Side Stadium from its birth to its death.)
Israel vs. Palestine in the West Bank? The IRA vs. the Ulster Unionists in Belfast? Italy vs. Ireland in the '94 World Cup? That was nothing. Israel and Ireland squared off last week in a World Cup-qualifying soccer match. It's almost as though Israel beat the Palestinians, and then declared "we got winner" of The Troubles.
Indeed, the soccer game was as much a grueling, seemingly never-ending stalemate as both nations' long-running wars: the game ended in a 2-2 tie.
My full review of "Cinderella Man" is online here. And check out this interview with Russell Crowe from two weeks ago, where it is suggested that Crowe has "mellowed" since he married and fathered a child. This should come as news to that guy at the Mercer Hotel who the actor threw a phone at the other night.
Anne Bancroft has died at the age of 73. We're losing our cinema icons, one by one...
Well, Sports Guy's hilarious pre-emptive running diary of Game 7failed to accurately predict the future, as the Detroit Pistons beat the Miami Heat tonight to set up an NBA Finals between the last two champions of the league, Detroit and the San Antonio Spurs.
That's too bad, because while this has been the most boring playoffs in memory, I was really hoping we'd see a Heat-Spurs final: Shaq vs. Duncan, Wade vs. Ginobili, and all sorts of fascinating subplots. But instead, we're stuck with a bunch of guys who are been there, done that. And not only that, but the survival of the Pistons means we've gotta deal with another week of this Larry Brown nonsense.
Oh well, look for Miami to improve their supporting cast in the offseason for an ultimately successful run next year.
The final season of “Six Feet Under” got underway tonight, with an episode that was impressive, if not up to the standards of the series' early heights. With HBO seemingly burying the show- giving it next to no promotion and an unheard-of-on-the-network Monday timeslot, the SFU's already got two strikes against it, although there remains a chance, judging by the premiere, that quality will redeem the show at its end.
There’s absolutely no way to overstate just how horrible the 2004 season of “Six Feet Under” was- probably the worst single-season drop-off by a TV series since the 1992 edition of “L.A. Law.” SFU last year played as though the 13 episodes had been written by 13 different writers, none of whom had ever seen the show before. Characters behaved wildly divergently from episode to episode, and did all sorts of things untrue to their nature.
So many not-so-memorable moments (SPOILERS!): A complete abandonment of the dark humor that used to lurk below the show’s surface. The multi-episode arc involving the mailing of mysterious boxes of feces. Claire becoming a lesbian for three episodes, a plot so out-of-nowhere that “The O.C.” borrowed it. The desperate over-reliance on Hollywood satire, including a nonsensical cameo by Nicole Richie. The episode where David was kidnapped, seemingly inspired by something that would’ve happened to Tori Spelling on “90210.” And worst of all, the season-ending “shocker,” when it turned out Lisa was murdered by her brother-in-law, who then pulled off the David E. Kelley-patented murder-confession/suicide, just about the most unoriginal and hacky way imaginable to resolve a murder mystery.
With Nate finally married to Brenda, their brother and sister dating as well, and David and Keith trying to adopt, there’s an interesting framework in place for the last season; it’s only a matter of whether creator Alan Ball and his writers can get their act together. They’re off to a good start, but then again, Season 4 had a pretty good season premiere too.
Sorry, Jets fans. Looks like it’s Queens, or you’re staying in the Meadowlands. Then again, I never wanted the Olympics anyway.
The artist must create a whole character and not simply show the side of him that will most convince us of his villainy. What I find striking about much of today's political art, by contrast, is its unwillingness to make such acknowledgments. Instead of seeking to persuade--to change the minds of its viewers--it takes for granted their concurrence. It assumes that everyone in the audience is already smart enough to hate Paul Wolfowitz and Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and, above all, George W. Bush, and thus does not need to be reminded of their underlying humanity, or of the possibility, however remote, that their intentions might be good. By extension it also takes for granted that no truly creative artist could possibly think otherwise, that good art is by definition liberal (or, to use the term commonly preferred by such artists, "progressive") in its view of the world, and that only progressive thinkers are truly creative. Conservatives are generally thought too repressed or narrow-minded for creative activities.Exactly. Teachout continues:
Isn't just that [these liberal playwrights) feel no responsibility to make arguments that might prove persuasive to those who disagree with them, or at least haven't yet made up their minds. They no longer acknowledge any responsibility to their audiences. They appear to believe instead that so long as an artist thinks all the right things, he need not go to the trouble to be amusing, subtle or even interesting. All he needs do is make his characters say the right things, and he's entitled to the approval of his enlightened brethren. No one else matters.I’m not one to use blanket denunciations of “Hollywood” or the entertainment industry itself. Those people are good at what they do, and I don’t see any political disagreements I may have with them as impediments to enjoyment of their work. But when a work is that snide and condescending, it's hard not to register an objection.
Here's the always dreadful New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis, reviewing "Cinderella Man":
"To his credit, Mr. Howard does not wave the flag as vigorously as Mr. Ross, though the new film's tagline ("When America was on its knees, he brought us to our feet") prepares you for the worst. In any event, given that Mr. Howard and his writers would be hard-pressed to bend this underdog narrative to our current political nightmare, it's a good thing they don't venture down that path."What wonderful circular reasoning. In other words, "the director could've made the movie about something it has nothing to do with, but instead he didn't, so good for him." She might as well have praised Howard for not including references to the Smurfs, because they have about as much to do with "Cinderella Man" as Bush does.
And besides, regardless of your politics, it takes quite a lot of chutzpah to reference "our current political nightmare" while reviewing a movie about the Great Depression.
UPDATE: I'm not saying the movie was bad, but certain parts made me want to throw a phone at the screen. I'll link to my full review once it's posted.
Yes, the Twins can win a series with the Yankees, as "Minny" took 2 games out of 3 from Steinbrenner's boys over the weekend. Don't see why they can't do the same when they face the Yanks in the playoffs, though if things keeping going the way they are, they won't have to.
White Stripes frontman Jack White has gotten married, again, this time to a British model. Will he eventually divorce her and pretend to be her brother? His tabloid adventures and Angelina Jolie’s are starting to intersect…
Honestly, I’m about done with the White Stripes. I was into their music when I first heard it, and thought their creepy backstory was intriguing at first, but their last album was overrated as hell, the new stuff that I’ve heard isn’t much better, and their live show (which Iv’e seen twice) just plain sucks. The Strokes were always better anyway.
Hearing all week that it’s an instant classic, and having heard from more than one person that it’s “one of the best movies, ever,” I went to a screening tonight of “Cinderella Man.” And you thought “Million Dollar Baby” was an overrated, Oscar-bait boxing film…
I like Ron Howard, but this was him at his worst- too schmaltzy, no subtlety to speak of, and the fight scenes weren’t that great either. But I did like the climactic fight, and the Max Baer character- call him the Jewish Clubber Lang. My review will be up later today.
A Minnesota sports legend- albeit one from before my time- has passed away, as former Minneapolis Lakers star George Mikan died yesterday at the age of 80. Mikan led the old Lakers to six championships, Minnesota’s last until 1987.
Mikan was named to the list of NBA’s 50 greatest players in 1996, and I always thought that list taught us something about the history of each of our sports. The NBA list was weighted heavily towards the ‘70s and later, and of the 50 players 49 (all but Pete Maravich) were alive at the time (though Wilt Chamberlain, Dave DeBusschere, and Mikan have since passed on). Meanwhile, around two thirds of baseball’s All-Century Team was dead by the time it was announced in 1999.
George Mikan was among the best of his era or any other, and will be greatly missed.
In New York this weekend or next and looking for something to do? Check out the play “The Last Little Porn Shop in Manhattan” at the HERE Art Center in Soho, which marks the New York theatrical debut of my friend Jeremy Wahlman. I saw it in Boston a few months ago, and it’s worth the trip.
The sixth and presumably final season of “The Sopranos” will debut in March 2006, nearly two years after the previous season’s finale. Thus making “Sopranos” the first series in television history to produce six seasons in eight years.
Worth the wait? Oh, I’m sure it will be. And speaking of soon-to-end HBO dramas, I’m hearing good things about the upcoming final year of “Six Feet Under.”
Shocking news out of San Francisco:
An in-house video meant to prepare San Francisco 49ers' players for dealing with the media backfired on the NFL team Wednesday after it was leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle.Club officials are talking about the video as a "terrible mistake." Then again, if a major corporation ever did something like this, they'd be tossing around phrases like "civil rights lawsuit," "class action," and "settlement in the hundreds of millions."
The 15-minute film, featuring racist jokes, lesbian soft-porn and topless blondes, features the team's public relations director, Kirk Reynolds, impersonating San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom in the mayor's office and other city scenes.
The last five books I’ve read:
“Nothing’s Sacred,” by Lewis Black. The first book by the great comic and “Daily Show” ranter isn’t just another collection of recycled standup material. Black tells stories from throughout his childhood and formative years as a comedian, and while the stories are charming and funny, Black’s style ultimately isn’t as well-suited to the page as it is to verbal expression. His colleague Jon Stewart has the same problem; I didn’t think either of his books were all that great either.
“Faithful,” by Stewart O’Nan and Stephen King. While it lags in parts, the two novelists’ diary-style telling of the 2004 Boston Red Sox season rings true all over for any true fan, and by the time memorable moments are again and again revisited, “Faithful” has clearly emerged as the definitive book about Boston’s historic championship run (at least, until we get the Simmons version). A pleasant surprise is just how delightfully vulgar King is- he refers at one point to the “oh-god-my-ass-is-on-fire Boston sports media," which sounds like something Jeff Jarvis would write.
“To Be the Man,” by Ric Flair (with Keith Elliot Greenberg). The autobiography of the Minneapolis native and pro wrestling legend is a must-read for anyone who’s followed wrestling in the past 25 years. “The Nature Boy”- still an active wrestler at the age of 55- dishes all sorts of backstage tales, giving the behind-the-scenes versions of wrestling storylines from the ‘80s and ‘90s that I still remember like they were yesterday. “To Be the Man” is up there with Mick Foley’s two autobiographies as the best books ever written about wrestling.
“Shanda: The Making and Breaking of a Self-Loathing Jew,” by Neal Karlen. Seeing as how Karlen is a Jewish guy from St. Louis Park, MN, who later moved to New York to be a writer and has long struggled with the idea of what exactly it means to be a Jew, to say that I related personally to his book would be quite an understatement. In what could a be called a Semitic version of Tony Hendra’s “Father Joe,” Karlen combats the drifting of his personal Judaism by studying with a local Hasidic rabbi, and ultimately tutors a girl for her Bat Mitzvah. A humorous and touching story.
“The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty,” by Buster Olney. I’ve never been the biggest fan of Olney’s baseball writing, and have to question the wisdom of anyone who would leave the New York Times to write for ESPN.com. But I did enjoy his deconstruction of the 1996-2001 New York Yankees dynasty, as the former Yankees beat reporter cuts back and forth between Game 7 of the 2001 World Series and various other stories from the team’s past. It’s a very unorganized and sometimes hard-to-follow structure, and it appears at times that Olney felt he had to include every interesting anecdote he ever learned as a reporter, even if it has nothing to do with the subject at hand (a tangent about Dan Duquette comes to mind particularly).
But the central thesis of the book- the Yankees have gotten away from the values of their original dynasty, and that's why it's over- is one with which I wholeheartedly agree. And most of the stories are gems, my favorite being the tale that former Yanks manager Stump Merrill once cleaned his teeth with a game-worn sock in front of several reporters. And interestingly, the former Times writer thanks Joseph Lelyveld and Bill Keller, but NOT Howell Raines. Hmm.
Up next: Ross Douthat’s “Privilege,” Jon Avlon’s “Independent Nation,” and David T. Hardy and Jason Clark’s “Michael Moore is a Big Fat Stupid White Man.” And probably a re-reading of “Hitchhiker’s Guide” at some point as well.
In today’s mailbag column Bill Simmons- or as my girlfriend calls him, “that idiot who likes ‘90210’”- ran a question, strangely, about European soccer and how the Ewing Theory affects even the English Premier League. Here’s what it says now:
They had this wunderkind, teenager Wayne Rooney who is supposed to be the next Michael Owen (let's say, equivalent to Dwyane Wade-type impact). But all this speculation of whether they are going to sell him to another team because they can't afford to pay him what he wants finally leads to his going to Manchester United, pre-Glazer.The correspondent was referring to Man U.’s recent sale to American owner Malcolm Glazer, who fans fear will soon begin selling off the team’s players. But here’s how the question was phrased when the column was first posted, at around 1:00 EDT- see if you can spot the difference:
They had this wunderkind, teenager Wayne Rooney who is supposed to be the next Michael Owen (let's say, equivalent to Dwyane Wade-type impact). But all this speculation of whether they are going to sell him to another team because they can't afford to pay him what he wants finally leads to his going to Manchester United, pre-Glazer bukkake.As I’ve documented previously (here and here), there’s a well-established pattern of edgy/controversial material appearing in Simmons columns, and then disappearing after only a couple of hours online. I’m guessing what happened here was that the column ran intact, until someone alerted Bills’ heretofore clueless editors to what exactly “bukkake” is. What, none of them listen to Stern?
TMFTML brings us Blogger-based Yo Mama jokes! My personal favorite is "Your blog is so badly written it got you your own column at the New York Press." Makes me wonder why Knipfel hasn't started blogging yet.
(Via Paul Katcher)
There's certainly one thing I've loved seeing every news story try to sneak into the story:
Washington Post: “A blend of…’deep background" -- and the title of a notorious pornographic movie.”
New York Times: “But he was rechristened by a Post editor in honor of the pornographic film of that name that was then a national sensation.”
New York Post: “Woodward, who gave Felt his nickname after the popular porn movie "Deep Throat…” (from a story with the wonderful headline “Deep Throat Coughs It Up.”)
Philadelphia Daily News: “the identity of "Deep Throat" - nicknamed for the controversial porno flick of the same era - ranked not far behind the JFK assassination…”
Marketwatch: “When Bernstein spoke at my alma mater, Stony Brook, one student stepped to a microphone and asked him [who Deep Throat was]. The room fell quiet and Bernstein said (without smiling), ‘Linda Lovelace.’”
When Lovelace spoke at my alma mater, she was not asked about Carl Bernstein.
And one more thing I noticed last night: MSNBC spent essentially its entire primetime talking about the Deep Throat revelation, with professional political junkie Chris Matthews clearly enjoying himself- he was having so much fun he probably could’ve stayed on the air talking about it for 25 hours if they’d asked him. I switched over to Fox, and O’Reilly was bitching loudly about some dead girl and how it’s somehow the ACLU’s fault, and then about the Michael Jackson case, and later about something Tom Cruise said. And they say it’s liberals who are too emotional, and too negative.