I'm all moved and just about all settled, and will be back tomorrow night with stories from my last weekend in New York- including Twins-Yankees at the Stadium, Dave Matthews at Randall's Island, and OJ's Bronco on Varick St.
I'm beginning to think that Sports Illustrated football writer Michael Silver is totally unworthy of my last name. First, he wrote a stupid pro-T.O./pro-Rosenhaus column which returned, again and again, to the meme that Owens deserves a new contract because he agreed -at the Eagles' behest- to sign a medical release form before he played in the Super Bowl.
A perfectly good argument- except it's wrong. Silver's column this week carries this disclaimer:
Last week's Open Mike by Michael Silver incorrectly stated that the Philadelphia Eagles asked Terrell Owens to sign an injury waiver before Super Bowl XXXIX. The column, which went on to say that the Eagles should be obligated to renegotiate Owens's contract, was flawed because it was based on that misinformation. We regret the error.Wow. Shouldn't the #2 football writer for the nation's #1 sports magazine know a bit more about the ins and outs of this, probably the biggest running football story of the year? I couldn't imagine Peter King making a mistake like that. Also, the original column appears expunged from SI's site.
Silver goes on to refer to Edgerrin James, for some reason, as "the Martha Stewart of the NFL.' But shouldn't that be Jamal Lewis? After all, he's the one who just got out of prison.
Matt Zoller Seitz, on "The Island," the latest from the devil himself, Michael Bay:
After Armageddon, Pearl Harbor and Bad Boys 2, it goes without saying that The Island is inferior not just to Blade Runner or Minority Report, but to almost any big budget sci-fi film of the last 30 years. (Spielberg deserves partial blame for this dystopian horse apple; he sent Bay the script and lured him away from regular producer Jerry Bruckheimer to direct it.) Bay is a serial abuser of CinemaScope, and this movie's images rank with his cruddiest. Some of the most kinetically important moments are sloppily composed, cluttered with welding sparks and strobe flashes, and filmed with such absurdly long lenses that they become an objective correlative for Bay's shallowness. The Island is the kind of nine-figure monstrosity that invites critics to take turns bashing it like a piñata. To quote Slant magazine's Keith Uhlich, "I think we're far enough along in our civilization that the following can be stated with absolute authority: all Michael Bay movies are evil."...
"Bay's movies render emotional and intellectual participation unnecessary. They aren't cinema, but the opposite of cinema."
The biggest bombshell from Bob Woodward’s “The Secret Man”: on the day Deep Throat’s identity was officially revealed, Woodward and Bernstein “embraced and held each other briefly.” So maybe this “man hugs” thing is a trend, after all.
News Item: Music Execs Resign in Payola Scandal
Seriously, these days I could listen to Top 40 radio for two hours without hearing a single good song- and being subjected to 5 different plays of that awful “hey Mr. DJ” song. That’s why I’m cheering this new “Jack FM” radio format (called “Ben” in Philly), which plays an eclectic mix of music and is designed to sound like an iPod on shuffle.
There's an effort underway in Pittsburgh to preserve and possibly expand the remaining outfield wall of the old Pirates ballpark Forbes Field, which has been left standing, Western Wall-like, decades after Forbes was torn down. Standing on what is now the campus of the University of Pittsburgh (my girlfriend's alma mater), I visited the wall on my recent trip to Pittsburgh, and I wholeheartedly support the effort to keep it up.
There was a fascinating Wall Street Journal piece last week by Laurence Silberman about some recently declassified FBI files from the ‘60s, and what they revealed about various misuse of the bureau by various presidents, especially Lyndon Johnson.
In the piece is this section, which I had to read a few times in order to understand it. It concerns Bill Moyers, the LBJ aide-turned-PBS host, and a conversation he had with Silberman in 1964. Take a look:
Only a few weeks before the 1964 election, a powerful presidential assistant, Walter Jenkins, was arrested in a men's room in Washington. Evidently, the president was concerned that Barry Goldwater would use that against him in the election. Another assistant, Bill Moyers, was tasked to direct Hoover to do an investigation of Goldwater's staff to find similar evidence of homosexual activity. Mr. Moyers' memo to the FBI was in one of the files.My question: is the author implying that Moyers had misused the FBI, or that Moyers was homosexual? 'Cause blogs have interpreted it both ways.
When the press reported this, I received a call in my office from Mr. Moyers. Several of my assistants were with me. He was outraged; he claimed that this was another example of the Bureau salting its files with phony CIA memos. I was taken aback. I offered to conduct an investigation, which if his contention was correct, would lead me to publicly exonerate him. There was a pause on the line and then he said, "I was very young. How will I explain this to my children?" And then he rang off. I thought to myself that a number of the Watergate figures, some of whom the department was prosecuting, were very young, too.
Yea, somehow I get the feeling Ricky's gonna regret this:
On his first visit to the Middle East, Ricky Martin declared he will try to change negative perceptions of Arab youth in the West.Uh oh. Ironic that Ricky would take that position, 'cause I always assumed that he was part of "why they hate us."
''I have been a victim of stereotypes. I come from Latin America and to some countries, we are considered `losers,' drug traffickers, and that is not fair because that is generalizing,'' said Martin, who was born in Puerto Rico...
He said he planned to do a concert tour of the Mideast and North Africa, including Jordan and the Palestinian territories, tentatively scheduled for May 2006.
Martin, whose hits include ''She Bangs,'' ''Shake Your Bon-Bon'' and ''Livin' La Vida Loca,'' posed for photos with fans, at one point draping over his shoulders a traditional Arab kaffiyeh headscarf with the slogan ''Jerusalem Is Ours'' written in Arabic on it.
And as for being "a victim of stereotypes," I'd say Ricky has- but I'd associate that more with the ever-present gay rumors than anything racial.
The blogger known as Steve the Mildly Unwell Bastard, who has entertained audiences with funny tales of bedroom and office life alike, seems to have disappeared, having not posted to his blog since July 6. He hasn't been answering e-mails or IMs either. Not sure what's going on with that, but his commenters have some comical theories as to where he went.
According to the latest column by soon-to-be-Hall-of-Famer Peter Gammons, Tampa Bay Devil Rays general manager Chuck LeMar recently celebrated ten years at the helm of the organization. Yes, LeMar took over three years before the Rays began play, and has since presided over seven straight losing seasons, going on eight this year. In LeMar's time at the helm, the Rays are 487-744- that's right, they're 257 games under .500.
If anyone has a convincing explanation of why LeMar still has a job, I'd love to hear it. He's the Elgin Baylor of baseball, and the Devil Rays are its Clippers.
You know I love getting comments, and I have no problem with people hacking away at my opinions or even using good-natured namecalling. But a warning- if your comment crosses the line into racism or anti-Semitism- which has happened more than once of late- it will be deleted, and you will be banned.
That is all.
That announcement I hinted at last week is the following: at the end of the month (a week from today), I’ll be leaving New York after five years in order to set off for suburban Philadelphia. I’ll be living with the girlfriend, and also close to friends and family.
I’ve been visiting friends in Philadelphia at least a half-dozen times a year since the middle of college, and have always enjoyed my visits. Luckily, it was a certain special lady who finally got me to make the move.
Is it hard to leave New York? It sure is. But it was never my intention to stay forever, and I’d been thinking more and more lately that it was time to go- lots of friends of mine have left and/or moved further away, and I’d been missing out on the whole quintessential American experience of having a car and driving to work every day (which I haven’t done since high school). It’s been just over five years in the area, which I feel is just the right amount of time- I’ll always cherish my time in New York and be thankful that I had a chance to live here in my lifetime, and of course, I plan to visit early and often, for friends' birthdays, blogger bashes, and other special events.
Other advantages to living in Philly- a more raucous sports scene where I don’t hate any of the teams; close proximity at all times to Wawa; and the chance to vote against Rick Santorum next year. Besides, we’re probably only about a generation away from New York and Philly being all one big metro area anyway. And I promise to never, ever, refer to my new hometown as “The ‘Iladelph.’”
Wednesday’s my last day at Royal Media Group, and I’m sorry to say goodbye as the company continues to make great strides, and just recently celebrated its tenth anniversary. I’m still looking for a job in Philly and will be freelancing to start off, while also getting caught up on writing, reading, exercise, my Netflix queue, and sleep. We’ll also be out in California (Northern and Southern) the last week in August, so if you’re out there drop me a line.
The blog, of course, will continue more-or-less unaffected after the move, though it may be a bit slow this week.
Anyway, I appreciate so much all the wonderful friends I’ve made in my time in New York, including the wonderful blogging community. I appreciate your support of my work, and I assure you, I won’t be a stranger.
I was down in Washington on business last Thursday and Friday, and aside from repeatedly running into landmarks that were important in the Chandra Levy investigation (Tryst, Rock Creek Park, the Dupont Circle Washington Sports Club, etc.), I kept noticing Supreme Court protesters everywhere. There were “Save Roe” people right outside Union Station as soon as I got in town, and some anti-abortion group was apparently having its annual convention, independently of the Roberts nomination.
At any rate, it sort of bothers me that nobody in this country gives a rat’s ass about any political issue besides abortion. The court might not even hear another abortion case for ten more years, yet I don’t see anyone out on the streets talking about any issues the court is actually likely to rule on anytime soon. And even worse was the guy who, apparently misinformed about who the nominee is, held up a “Stop Luttig” sign.
Not that New York is immune from the craziness or anything- last night in Union Square, rival anti-Bush groups got into fisticuffs over who-knows-what, as one protester named “Jeffrey” grabbed a megaphone and started reading from the Fourth Amendment and denouncing Mayor Bloomberg, until an opponent of his grabbed a megaphone of his own and started yelling at his foe- “you suck, Jeffrey!,” until a defender of Jeffrey’s jumped up to defend him, and almost immediately started throwing punches. This devolved into a 25-man brawl of indeterminate outcome (we had to go to dinner), the highlight of which was unquestionably when one of the assembled hoodlums was about to join the fight but then paused, removed his shirt, earring, and bling, and then jumped right back in.
All of this, of course, took place in front of a large “Stop Bush” sign, in which the “S” in Bush was a swastika, and as always, everyone screamed about a “police state” even though no police were present. It was all quite reminiscent of past USQ blowouts here, here, and here.
I was going to make fun of Bernard Goldberg's stupid new book and his stupid publicity based on how he's been "attacked" (for writing a book where he takes shots at 100 people)- yet more proof about how to the right, everything is really about "liberal political media bias," even if the story has nothing to do with liberals, politics, the media, or bias.
But luckily, Jeff Jarvis got there first. That O'Reilly segment with Goldberg last week may have been the most laughable seven minutes in the Factor's history, which is really saying something.
Andrew Sullivan’s off for his annual August hiatus, and this year he’s hiring a truly impressive group of guest-bloggers, led by Mr. Savage Love himself, Dan Savage, perhaps the one man in America who has more fun making fun of Rick Santorum than Sully himself. Also guest-blogging for a week at a time- TNR’s Franklin Foer, academic Judith Apter Klinghoffer, and Times man Walter Kirn, who wrote that infamous “cunt” article in GQ a few months ago. Looking forward to it.
Ben Jones, who played Cooter on the original “Dukes of Hazzard” TV show and later served a term in Congress, has spoken out against the upcoming “Dukes” film, calling it "profanity-laced script with blatant sexual situations that mocks the good clean family values of our series." Oh yea, there was nothing sexual about the series that introduced the world to “daisy dukes.”
Thanks, Ben, but sorry- I will be seeing the movie, and I’m not about to take decency advice from a man named “Cooter.”
Though thankfully, it appears as though that expected controversy over whether or not the film’s General Lee would be adorned with the Confederate flag never actually materialized.
With the NFL recently giving EA Sports the exclusive video game rights to its players and teams for its popular Madden series, competitors of the game are having to get creative when it comes to producing market-worthy football scenarios. And not only that, they’re going way over the top…
A recent SI piece let’s us know about “Blitz: The League,” a new game from Midway that sounds about half Madden, and half “Grand Theft Auto”- combining football with such off-field elements as groupies, gambling, and drug use. Oh yea- and the Atlanta’s team quarterback is named Ron Mexico. So it should go without saying that the game’s cover features Lawrence Taylor.
But that’s nothing compared to proposed competitor game “Road to Sunday”- in which, SI says, “players must save their owner, who’s in debt to a mysterious Jamaican mobster.” That game, mercifully, has been kiboshed by its manufacturer.
I’m off to DC for a conference, so this is it for blogging until Sunday night. Tune in right around then, because I have something fairly major to announce.
Going to lunch yesterday my co-workers and I stumbled into a rally being held against Israel’s Gaza disengagement plan. The settler-surrogates were there in full orange force, as were a cabal of ultra-Orthodox anti-Zionists. I’m sure the Palestinians were too, though I didn’t see them.
The NYPD generally did a good job keeping the rival groups fenced off from one another. Ironic, considering that's what the argument is about in the first place.
I’d say I’m supportive of the plan, although I understand the arguments of the anti-disengagement side. I just feel that separation, leading to an eventual two-state solution, is the only tenable solution to the conflict.
Simmons buddy Mark Dursin gives us a rundown of all the most offensive and over-the-top angles in wrestling history, many of which involve Arab villains (Sgt. Slaughter going Iraqi; the Iron Sheik siding with him, and the new “terrorist” character, Muhammad Hassan).
An interesting sidebar (which I mentioned above in the SBB update but it deserves re-mention here). If you followed the AWA or other independent wrestling federations in the ‘80s you may remember a character by the name of Sheikh Adnan al-Khaissey, who was supposedly from Iraq, and filled the usual “evil Arab” rule. I specifically remember one AWA broadcast when, as always, the federation let owner Verne Gagne talk for 20 minutes about whatever the hell he wanted, and Adnan jumped out of the shadows and attacked him. Later the wrestler, known as “General Adnan,” had a run in the WWF, as part of “Iraqi Sgt. Slaughter”’s entourage at his Wrestlemania match against Hulk Hogan in 1991.
Adnan was an unlikely candidate to make the news this week, but he’s beaten the odds: It turns out that, unlike all those “Russian” wrestlers who turned out to really be from Arkansas, Adnan really was from Iraq, and had even gone to school with Saddam Hussein! After he was educated in the U.S., Adnan returned to his homeland, only to flee shortly after Saddam took power. There’s a great interview with Adnan on the Minneapolis talk show “Almanac,” and he’s also written a book, called “The Sheik of Baghdad.”
One more wrestling note- Yes, I’ve seen “Hogan Knows Best.” It’s all right, if unoriginal; though I’d be happier if we could see the Hulkster suddenly developing super-strength while arguing with his children, and then ending the episode with ten minutes of muscle-posing.
Agent Drew Rosenhaus, supposedly one of the more loathsome men in sports, reportedly saved a child from drowning in Florida over the weekend.
As a result, my personal view of Rosenhaus has been upgraded from “subhuman” to “slightly off-human.”
News Item: Saudi Arabia’s Prince Bandar Resigns as Ambassador
According to the New York Times, Harlem may very well elect a white city council member for the first time in several decades. Cynthia Doty is the only white candidate in the Democratic field against seven African-American opponents, leading to a potential scenario in which the seven black candidates split the black vote, thus propelling Doty to victory.
A remarkably similar electoral dichotomy, oddly enough, took place in the election of my high school’s homecoming king my senior year. There were ten candidates to be king, and something like nine of the ten were football players (that the team was winless that year, as it had been the two previous years, apparently had little to no effect on their popularity).
Anyway, the nine football players split the jock vote more or less evenly, and the 10th candidate (a theater/stoner type) was elected king. Perhaps, in a slightly more significant election, we’ll see the same thing happen uptown.
James “Scotty” Doohan is dead, at the age of 85.
What’s of more concern to Jonah Goldberg today- the Supreme Court pick, or this?
”Like all impractical solutions, anarchism isn’t as much a movement of the oppressed as it is of kids from the suburbs for whom dropping out of NYU, changing their names to “WolfWomyn” and never showering again is one more way to simultaneously say “fuck you, Dad!” and put off having to deal with adult reality for a few more years.”-Ken Mondschein, New York Press
When asked why, according to surveys, the public loathes the (liberal) press, David Brooks replied that it was "because people are idiots. The press is more honest and less salacious now than ever before." Brooks also said that “the Bush administration is even boring off the record."From a Kurt Andersen article in this week's New York Magazine.
Michael Totten tells us about a new centrist blog he’s contributing to, Donklephant, yet many of his readers just can’t believe that anyone can actually be in the center without covertly belonging to the far-left/far-right. Michael even provides a handy chart for his readers, most of whom, sadly, can’t resist the drug that is partisan hackery.
A "high-tech news show" called "The Situation Room." Is it really a good idea to fire Tucker Carlson, and then name a new show from the combined titles of two Tucker-hosted shows?
News Item: Sen. Rick Santorum's Press Secretary Announces He's Gay.
Unless Santorum's next major hire is a man who has sex with dogs, he's the worst hypocrite in the Senate.
Best studio comedy of the summer, and probably of the year- it's a DVD collection keeper, for sure. And unlike just about every other comedy of the Wilson/Vaughn/Stiller/Ferrell era, the funny cameo in the third act was not the only funny thing in the movie.
I didn't see "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" yet, but probably next weekend. But I was reminded it at work today, while proofreading an upcoming tech product guide. One software company listed its employee headcount as "zero." A software company without employees? “Who makes the software, then,” I asked in the margins, “Oompa Loompas?”
Making gay jokes about Jeter and A-Rod is juvenile, I admit. But Paul Katcher points us towards this old SI article from 1997 about the hot young shortstops new to MLB at the time- Jeter, A-Rod, Edgar Renteria, Rey Ordonez, and Alex Gonzalez. And included in it is a photo of the five players, all shirtless, that makes them look, Paul says, "like Miami Beach cabana boys." Drop that photo into the back pages of the Village Voice, and it would fit right in.
That led to this exchange between Jeremy and myself:
Me: I don't remember Renteria being that tiny.
Him: That's what Jeter said.
I'm pleased to report that about three years after I first started working on it, a certain piece of mine has finally seen the light of day. Click over to the new Jewcy-run Jewsweek for my interview with klezmer musician Benjamin T. Laden- better known as Ben Laden.
Hugh Hewitt earlier this week had Fox Sports writer Dayn Perry on his radio show, after Perry caused a minor stir in his column when he appeared to call for the death of conservative columnist Mark Steyn. (Kind of a stupid move, considering that the average Fox sports reader, unless they’re a fan of Steyn, has probably never heard of him- or has him confused with ESPN.com's Marc Stein.)
Judging by the transcript from Hewitt's show Perry, despite his ultra-leftiness, seems to have handled himself quite well in the interview, especially considering that he’s not actually a professional political commentator. And while Hewitt certainly got the better of his foe overall, I call Perry the clear winner of this exchange:
Dayn Perry: I just find [McCain] socially much more acceptable, as far as social policies go.Expect Hewitt to immediately begin vetting his bumper-music playlist, in order to purge anything by Scissor Sisters, as well as George Michael, The Village People, Boy George, Elton John, Queen, Bob Mould, Melissa Etheridge, k.d. lang, and Clay Aiken.
Hugh Hewitt: Are you pro-choice?
DP: I'm sorry?
HH: Are you pro-choice?
DP: With restrictions, yes.
HH: And do you think John McCain is?
HH: He's not. He's pro-life. So socially, why do you think he's more acceptable?
DP: He doesn't have the contempt toward gay Americans that George Bush does.
HH: Why do you think George Bush has contempt...are you gay?
HH: Okay. Why do you think George Bush has contempt towards gay
DP: Hey, you're the one playing Scissor Sisters on your intro music, you know? I should be asking you that.
HH: Who's Scissor Sisters?
DP: I don't know. Talk to your producer. They were playing that at the gay rock...
HH: Okay, it's billboard background music. Okay, I don't know who they are. Anyway, tell me why you think George Bush has contempt for gay people.
Blogger Mac Thomason too has noticed the precipitous decline of ESPN, and has decided to chronicle it with a “tournament” called the Road From Bristol. In it, he pits the network’s most annoying personalities against one another, with biting asides. My personal favorites:
Mike Lupica: Possibly the most arrogant person ever on ESPN, which is saying something.The #1 seeds are Stephen A. Smith, Stuart Scott, Chris Berman, and Dick Vitale. But I’d pick Sean Salisbury as the favorite over all of them. As a commenter of Bill’s asked today, “Who's that NFL analyst that looks like a fetus?”
Jeff Brantley: King of the mullet people.
Jim Gray: So evil he made the country sympathize with Pete Rose.
Trev Alberts: What kind of name is "Trev", anyway?
And speaking of talentless sportscasters, the following exchange took place during last week’s episode of Bob Costas’ HBO show, when Bob was leading a panel of Mike Schmidt, Tiki Barber, and Jimmy Roberts:
Costas: “Mike, you played with both Tim McCarver and Joe Morgan. When you watch a game announced by one of them, do you actually learn anything?”
Schmidt, Barber, and Roberts, practically in unison: “Absolutely not.”
The Denver Post ran a long piece last week about “man hugs”- providing cogent analysis of the different ways men hug each other. Valuable information, for anyone who’s ever found himself in an awkward handshake/hug dilemma (and I think that’s all of us).
However, for some reason the piece leaves completely unmentioned the catchphrase “hug it out, bitch,” as popularized by Jeremy Piven’s agent character, Ari Gold, on “Entourage.” Ari, at least, was given recognition in a New York Times piece last week as one of the greatest characters in recent television history. I think next year I’m calling my fantasy football team “The AriGolds.”
At least we know, as opposed to "man dates," that "man hugs" actually do happen.
Hockey is back, after the National Hockey League and its players’ association agreed today on a new collective bargaining agreement. Reminds me of that day in April 1995 when word reached me, in Israel, that the baseball strike had finally ended.
As the deal includes a salary cap much lower than the one nearly agreed to in February, call it an unmitigated victory for the owners and commissioner Gary Bettman- that is, if they haven’t immolated the sport in the process.
NFL rookie Adam “Pacman” Jones was arrested last night on assault and vandalism charges.
That headline just wrote itself, didn’t it?
News Item: Ian Holm to play Pope John Paul II in TV biopic.
David Eckstein, released without compensation by the Angels after last season, was the National League’s starting shortstop in tonight’s All-Star Game- and Jeter didn’t play. I love it. Quite an inspirational story, especially taking into account that Eckstein’s father is in poor health.
Due most likely to Eck’s participation, I got a couple hundred Google hits tonight asking whether or not the player is Jewish. To those of you unfamiliar with the Eckstein Award, the answer is no. But to devotees of Jews-in-baseball, good news is afoot: not only is Gabe Kapler rumored to be leaving Japan in order to return to the Red Sox, but the Cubs recently called up the very Jewish Adam Greenberg to be their new starting center fielder. And I’m not alleging widespread MLB anti-Semitism or anything like that, but in Greenberg’s first major league at-bat, he was beaned in the head.
Greenberg is not related to Hall-of-Famer Hank Greenberg, although that was his grandfather’s name.
Have you seen We'reNotAfraid.com? It’s a funny, inspiring website where people all over the world can submit messages and photographs expressing their solidarity with the victims of the London terrorist attack, and reiterating that we’re, indeed, not afraid of the terrorists’ pathetic efforts.
Or, if you’re New York Times writer Sarah Boxer, this spontaneous outpouring of support and solidarity is actually “a brutish flaunting of wealth and leisure,” in which posters sharing photos of their cars and homes have turned the site into “a place where the haves of the world can show that they're not afraid of the have-nots.”
Boxer’s piece is a gross distortion and misunderstanding of history and current events to assume that the War on Terror is somehow really about class conflict, as though multi-millionaire Osama Bin Laden were some sort of Che Guevara figure, and not the fascist that he is. It’s a disgustingly wrongheaded, almost Marxist analysis, the sort of thing I’d expect from Naomi Klein in the Nation, not in the Times.
Not only did Karl Rove leak Valerie Plame's identity, but he also dropped the satellite dish on Bo Diaz's head, according to UK Maxim editor Greg Gutfeld on the Huffington blog. Best parody of Rove-based conspiracy hysteria ever.
Sports Illustrated’s summer issue last week included a list of the “Top 25 Lost Treasures,” mostly consisting of historically significant bats, balls, trophies, and documents that have gone missing over the years. Listed first was a championship belt, presented in 1887 to Boston boxing champion John L. Sullivan, which was gold-plated and consisted of 397 diamonds. It was dubbed “The $10,000 Belt.”
Sound familiar? Over 100 years later, Vince McMahon would steal the idea, adjust it for inflation, and present Ted DiBiase with “The Million-Dollar Belt.”
According to various sources, Kevin Spacey is eyeing a sequel to “The Usual Suspects,” the greatest triumph of his career. Seeing as how nearly every character died in the original film, it ended with the perfect plot twist, and Spacey’s career has been in deep decline for six years, I’d love to hear any plausible explanation of how this idea could possibly work. This sounds like it could make “Be Cool” look like “The Godfather, Part II.”
I suppose I’d pay to see a prequel about the early life of Keyser Soze, but Spacey’s 10 years older now and couldn’t plausibly play a younger version of himself. He already tried that in “Beyond the Sea," and we all know what happened there.
ESPN’s first-ever ombudsman, George Solomon, made his debut Tuesday. Willing to take shots at specific news-value judgments on “SportsCenter,” the endless airings of the Kenny Rogers clip, and demanding corrections on incorrect stories, Solomon sounds like just the dose of honesty and professionalism that the Worldwide Leader needs. His column reads like Phil Mushnick’s, if Mushnick were less of a humorless asshole.
Solomon’s even willing to implore the panelists on “Around the Horn” to “tone it down a notch”- even though his own son is the producer of the show! I like this guy.
TNR’s Chris Orr, reviewing the DVD of “Million Dollar Baby” (SPOILERS, and yes, this bothered me too):
“Her injury isn't the result of an accident or a clean blow or any of the other common dangers that arise when two people are asked to punch one another in the face repeatedly. No, it's the result of an Evil Act by an Evil Person. Maggie's opponent, Billie the Blue Bear, is a ‘former prostitute from East Berlin [with] a reputation for being the dirtiest fighter in the ranks.’ (Those of you who thought that after Rocky IV we'd seen the last of killer commies in the ring, think again.) Judging from the excerpts we see of two of Billie's bouts, her boxing strategy seems to consist exclusively of elbowing her opponents in the face, throwing them to the canvas by their necks, and then punching them in the head while they're still on the ground. The idea that a fighter this dirty would be allowed to participate in sanctioned boxing (scratch that, women's boxing), let alone could be world champion, is ridiculous. The blow that paralyzes Maggie is, of course, a shot from behind that takes place at least ten seconds after the bell has rung. It's almost a surprise that the script didn't allow Billie to bring a tire iron into the ring.”
The first and best blog I ever read, AndrewSullivan.com, turns five years old this week. Andrew has had more influence on the culture of political blogging than anyone else, and in a fair world every political blog would leave him a note of thanks today.
Proving once again that conservatives never have any plausible explanation for anything on Earth other than ‘liberal bias,’ actress/screenwriter Govindini Murty has a piece in the LA Times purporting to explain this summer’s box office slump. And shocker- she doesn’t blame it on the general poor quality of the films, or on sunny weather, or on the widespread availability of home theater systems. Murty’s alternative culprit? You guessed it, liberal bias.
What's Murty’s evidence? A few cherry-picked quotes from various directors and screenwriters, supposedly comparing Bush to the villains in their movies. A few problems with the premise:
First, the ‘quotes’ are dubious at best: First she complains of "George Lucas implying that his latest 'Star Wars' film is intended as an anti-Bush parable about the Iraq war, in which America plays the evil empire." Lucas has never used those words, and has made it clear in interviews that the "Star Wars" saga was mapped out 30 years ago and not ‘intended’ as anything having to do with Bush. Next, Murty attributes to ‘War of the Worlds’ screenwriter David Koepp the belief that "aliens in his movie are stand-ins for the U.S military." In fact, Koepp merely stated that the film’s symbolism is in the eye of the beholder, and that "we tried consciously to never lead with the politics. That's a guaranteed way to make a piece of crap."
(Numerous other fallacies dot the piece- for instance, Murty tells us "The Passion of the Christ" was snubbed by the Oscars "because of its perceived conservatism, even though the movie saved last year's box office." ‘Passion’ was outperformed at the box office in ‘04 by both "Shrek 2" and "Spider-man 2"- is there some hidden political reason why neither was nominated for Best Picture?
Murty says that post-’Passion,’ "no studio movies have been made celebrating traditional religious faith." But, as Murty surely knows, many are in the works-most notably the big-budget adaptations of C.S. Lewis’ Christian-oriented ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ series. And Murty cites `Chris Rock’s ‘anti-Bush diatribe’ at last year’s Oscars- which barely nicked the president at all, and was probably the tamest routine of Rock’s career.)
Also, the vast majority of people who follow films have never heard these "damning" quotes, unless they’re faithful readers of conservative blogs- in which case, they’re most likely so anti-Hollywood to start with, that they probably won’t be seeing the films anyway. Indeed, Hollywood has always been left-wing, and the right has always been anti-Hollywood, and not any more so now that at any point in the past 40 years. Missing from Murty’s critique is why, exactly, this has resulted in a box office downturn this year, of all years.
And thirdly, the films Murty cites as responsible for the slump due to the perfidious political leanings of their makers- "Star Wars" and "War of the Worlds,"- have been the two biggest HITS of this summer box office season. Koepp’s quote has gotten one one-thousandth the media attention as Tom Cruise’s various exploits this summer- and somehow, neither kept audiences away from "War of the Worlds."
This would seem to indicate that most moviegoers couldn’t give a hoot about what the writer or director has to say about politics or religion- the only thing that will keep them out of the theater is if the star throws a phone at a hotel concierge. And most of the films this summer that have flopped have had no political component at all.
I can’t vouch for Murty’s stories of her own personal experiences pitching pro-war-on-terrorism films to Hollywood execs. But the way Hollywood works, as Murty seems to misunderstand, is that studios (all of which are owned by multi-national corporations) will make what they believe will be profitable. If that’s a 9/11 film (such as the one planned by Oliver Stone), that’s what they’ll make.
In other words, for Murty’s thesis to be true, millions of theater-goers must have heard these quotes, interpreted them exactly as Murty did, and decided, this year and no other year, that Hollywood is evil, and not worthy of their business. Either that, or they simply prefer their home theater systems, complete with no commercials or yapping teenagers. I’m going with the latter.
Just as idiot critics like Frank Rich and the entire arts team at the Village Voice see every single movie, play, and song as being Really About Bush, the dumbasses on the right continue to see anti-Bush bias around every corner and under every bed. Thus, the bipartisan circle jerk continues, in both Washington and Hollywood.
Irrespective of whatever Steven Spielberg, Tom Cruise, David Koepp, or even Dakota Fanning said in the media prior to its opening, I thought ‘War of the Worlds’ sucked. It was boring, unoriginal, unimaginative, it didn’t make me care what was going on for vast stretches, and the ending was both confusing and needlessly abrupt. And I say this as someone who loves Spielberg and normally defends him to the death- quite a disappointment.
Coming next from the Greatest Living American Director- a sure-to-be-controversial historical epic about the aftermath of the 1972 massacre of the Israeli Olympic team by Palestinian terrorists.
Now, misinformation about this film is all over the place, so it’s hard to know what to believe. The film may or may not be called ‘Vengeance,’ it may or may not be based on a book of the same name that has supposedly been discredited, and playwright Tony Kushner (he of ‘Tony Kushner’s Law’) may or may not be involved as the primary or secondary screenwriter. All else I’ve heard- including this error-riddled column by bottom-feeding hack Debbie Schlussel- should be construed as speculation, if not outright lies.
Until I know otherwise, I’m going to trust Spielberg here. While he’s certainly always been liberal, I’d never classify Spielberg as considerably left-wing- and in fact, batty critic Rob Nelson’s response to the masterpiece “Saving Private Ryan” and some of his other work has caused him to dub Spielberg “a narrow-minded peddler of conservative mythology.”
I don’t remember ever hearing Spielberg denounce Bush or the Iraq war, and considering all the work he’s done on behalf of Holocaust remembrance and other Jewish-related causes, it’s unthinkable to call him an anti-Semite or anti-Israel. He’s clearly done enough in his life and career to earn the benefit of the doubt- though I do, of course, refuse the right to revise my opinion once we know more about the film.
There was an incredibly sad story in the Star Tribune over the weekend, to which I actually have a tangential connection. From the Strib we learn of Andrew and Blanka Danacek, immigrants from the Czech Republic (then Czechoslovakia) who migrated to the United States in 1988 and settled in the Minneapolis area. Mr. Danacek, in fact, demonstrated in 1968 against the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and was jailed.
Despite having spent 15 years in this country, owning a home, and both being gainfully employed, the family is due to be deported back to the Czech Republic later this week. Why? Because the original version of their visa was obtain medical treatment for their son, Chris, who at the time was suffering from leukemia (now in remission). Now that Chris, now 26, is healthy, they must return to a homeland they’ve never known- even though they’ve been in America since before the Berlin Wall fell.
The Danaceks are, in many ways, a great American success story. Despite imaginable adversity- including the death of one of their sons in an accident, the suffering due to leukemia of their other son, on top of the unimaginable journey from the Soviet bloc to the United States. I take a personal interest in this story, as a Minnesotan, and as someone who went to high school with two of their sons: Andy, the soccer star who died tragically in 1995 at the age of 16 when he fell off a bridge, was my teammate on St. Louis Park’s cross-country ski team, as was his brother Chris, who survived leukemia and went on to graduate with distinction from Boston University.
Sign this petition to grant the Danaceks citizenship, and help prevent this horrible injustice from taking place.
Yes, the Minnesota Twins have made a mid-season move for an established veteran, for the first time in forever. True, Bret Boone may be mostly washed up, but he’s better than what they’ve been throwing out in three-fourths of the infield so far this season. Man, we’re lucky to have the wild card lead at this point.
Also, Minnesota’s government shutdown is finally over. So how about a reconsideration of that ballpark legislation, eh? The latest I’m hearing is a special session in the fall.
Brett Arends of the Boston Herald lays the smack down. As someone who deals with these clowns every day, I say, ‘A-friggin’-men.’
My latest SportsByBrooks update is online here.
The bastards attacked again today, killing around 40 people in London. I trust the Brits, though, to not capitulate. May the dead rest in peace, and not be forgotten.
See Sullivan for reactions.
Best Movies of the Half-Year: “Sin City”; “Fever Pitch"; “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,”; “Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith,”; “Batman Begins.”
Best Albums of the Half-Year: Coldplay- “X&Y”; Weezer- “Make Believe; The Hold Steady- “Separation Sunday”; Bruce Springsteen- "Devils & Dust"; Beck- “Guero."
The new entity's first issue includes a profile of the fallen rap phenom 50 Shekel.
1. NYC2012, RIP: The New York Olympic bid is dead, long live the New York Olympic bid. I'm glad it didn't happen, and I'll be happy not to hear about it anymore. And while it would've been embarrassing to lose to the French, I'm quite happy with London.
2. Admiral James Stockdale, one of the great heroes of the Vietnam War- a man who as a POW once mangled his own face as to not appear unscathed in an enemy propaganda video- died Tuesday at the age of 81. And THAT should be the first line of his obituary, not his disastrous stint as Ross Perot's running mate in 1992. Still, his existential question "who am I? Why am I here?" ranks as the second-greatest moment in the history of vice presidential debates.
3. Former FBI director L. Patrick Gray, a man long suspected but ultimately vindicated of being Deep Throat, died Wednesday, the exact date of the release of Bob Woodward's book about his former informant. I happen to be re-reading "All the President's Men" right now, and just last night got to the part about Gray accidentally blowing the investigation wide open during his own confirmation hearings. Gray was 88.
From a group of concerned citizens wishing to save Lindsay Lohan's life- and make her hot again, to boot- it's FeedLindsay.com.
I feel this effort has a chance to do more for the betterment of humanity than all of Live 8 put together.
In "Hit 'Em Up," his famed shot at Biggie Smalls, 2Pac famously charged that
"Lil Kim, don't fuck around with real G'sNow that Kim has been "snatched off the street" for the crime of lying to protect two of her homies, I think we can now safely say that she does, indeed, fuck around With real G’s.
Quick to snatch yo' ugly ass off tha street, so fuck peace
News Item: BMG Buys Columbia House.
The announced purchase price was a penny- and nothing more to buy, ever.
As always, scroll through the purdy girls for my latest SportsByBrooks update. You'll also have to clear a picture of in-drag Dennis Rodman this time, so I hope that's not too much trouble.
Tonight I watched an incredible documentary on PBS- it's called "Street Fight," and it chronicles the 2002 mayoral race in Newark, New Jersey, between two black candidates: four-term incumbent Sharpe James and Cory Booker, a young city councilman seeking to reform the city's corrupt, entrenched bureaucracy. Get your hands on a tape of this or catch a re-run if you can, because it's by far the most accurate portrayal of local politics I've ever seen in a film.
Over the course of the campaign, James' machine attempted to portray Booker as the following: not black enough, not really a Newarker, Jewish, a member of the KKK, gay, a Republican, and (in James' words) "far white right-wing." At one point James even went on "The Today Show" and ripped Booker as "Jewish." He's not, though to James apparently that's an insult, accurate or not. Sharpe, a real Nixon figure, also sends a squad of goons after Booker's supporters and his signs, interfering on more than one occasion with the camera of director Marshall Curry. The goon squad even appears at times to include large swaths of the Newark police department
And somehow, none of this prevented James' re-election. And since then has achieved the near-impossibility of bringing a hockey-only arena to a city with almost no white people. But Booker will return for a rematch in '06, and if he can pull it off, I can see much bigger things for him. He's the greatest hope of anyone to clean up the cesspool that is New Jersey politics.
"ON the morning after George W. Bush spoke to the nation from Fort Bragg, Americans started marching off to Steven Spielberg's "War of the Worlds." Both halves of this double feature invoked 9/11, perfectly timed for this particular holiday."-Frank Rich, from Sunday’s New York Times column. I’m convinced Rich didn’t write this column last week. He wrote it seven months ago, when he noticed a “War of the Worlds” remake on the movie release schedule and figured “hey, I can tie this to Bush!”
Every other column Rich has written in the past six years has presumably been hatched under similar circumstances.
Bob Saget on "Entourage" Sunday- Oh. My. Lord.
Have a wonderful holiday, everyone. I’ll be back Tuesday with thoughts on Live 8, the Spielberg Munich movie, the biggest bullshit baseball story of this and every year (“All-star snubs”), the best movies and albums of the half-year, and the upcoming shitstorm over the retirement of Justice O’Connor. I can’t wait for the first newspaper to accidentally call her “Sinead.”
And in the meantime, please read this, which may be the funniest blog I’ve ever seen.
My latest SportsByBrooks update is online here; to get there scroll past Paul's update, including the homoerotic photo of Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior. Call them the Jeter and A-Rod of their day (see below).
From Radar Magazine- who didn’t see this coming?:
On June 20, after a throwing error from Jeter to Rodriguez handed the Yankees a 5-4 loss to the last-place Tampa Bay Devil Rays, a TV producer says the sluggers came to blows in the clubhouse.Like much of what’s transpired in the Bronx this summer, I predicted this, last October.
“I was doing an interview in the locker room and saw them go at it,” says the source. “A-Rod walked past Jeter’s locker and mumbled something about his throw, then Jeter told him to go fuck himself and all hell broke lose. Their teammates were pulling them away from each other.”
And speaking of Yankee malcontents: Much ink has been spilled this offseason about the Terrell Owens situation. But imagine if T.O. had done what he’s doing not once, but four times, with four different teams, over the course of his career. Then he’d be Gary Sheffield.
As Buster Olney pointed out Thursday, Gary’s had quite a little racket going all throughout his 15-year, 6-team career, that youngsters would be wise to emulate: 1. If you want to be traded, slack off until the team (Brewers, Padres) gets rid of you. 2. If you don’t want to be traded, threaten to hold up the multi-player trade until your demands for a raise and contract extension from your new team (Dodgers, Braves) are met. 3. If you’re about to sign with your “dream” team (Yankees), hold up the deal the day it’s supposed to be signed, and demand more money. And 4. When that team even thinks about trading you, first talking about refusing to report to your new team, then hint that you won’t try hard- even though (unlike both instances of 2) you do NOT have a no-trade clause.
What a classy guy, that Sheff. Though thankfully, he's played for the Braves and Yankees, and will retire without winning a championship with either.
UPDATE: On the fight, LilB says:
“heh heh .... yeah "fought" in the locker room that's also what parents tell little kids dogs are doing when they are really fucking.”
UPDATE II: The Yankees today released middle relievers Mike Stanton and Paul Quantrill. Yea, that’ll get ‘em back in first place. We'll know Steinbrenner's really serious the day he cuts Tanyon Sturtze.
Some thoughts on summer TV shows:
“Six Feet Under” continued its long, slow climb back to respectability with another strong episode on Monday. For the first time, in two years, it felt like the old show again.
One funny thing I noticed- in the scene where Nate’s friend Todd is talking about his recent divorce, he jokes that “pretty soon, she was fucking a guy with nut cancer- she was fucking Lance Armstrong!” In the scene 20 minutes later when Todd is getting stoned, shirtless, with Claire, we can clearly see that he’s wearing one of those Lance Armstrong “Live Strong” bracelets.
“The Real World: Austin” has followed the usual pattern from the last few seasons of appearing to introduce actual interesting personalites in the first few episodes, only to inevitably abandon that later on in order to concentrate exclusively on drinking/brawling/hot tub orgies. Not the first two episodes were missing any of the above...
Among this year’s cast members are Melinda- who was described as “hot” about 15 different times in the first two episodes, but reminds me too much of Paris Hilton to hold any appeal. And she’s unfortunately monopolized both episodes, at the expense of Rachel- an Army nurse and veteran of the Iraq war.
Now leave aside the question of whether Rachel forfeited her military eligibility by making out with another girl in the hot tub the first week. I really love that we’ve reached a phase in the war on terrorism in which we’re getting actual war veterans on reality shows, alongside the sorority girls, bartenders, and aspiring actors. This happened on “The Amazing Race” last year, when a former Iraq war POW was on the show and was chastised by his bitchy ex-beauty queen wife for his “failure to commit.” We haven’t seen much of this from Rachel yet, except for a brief ripping of Michael Moore, although according to previews we’ll get more soldier/frat boy conflict later on this season.
Another highlight was that the show’s first drunken brawl took place in the first episode, when cast member Danny had his
collarbonecheekbone broken in a street fight, while being defended by blond frat boy AbeWes, an obvious closet case who really, REALLY should be more vocal about his desire to hook up with women. Seriously- he should mention it five times per episode, instead of three. Or else people might think he’s GAY, or something.
“The Andy Milonakis Show” may be the first television show in history whose appeal breaks down entirely along stoner/non-stoner lines. Obviously influenced heavily by “The Tom Green Show,” the show consists of Andy, the guy behind “The Super Bowl is Gay,” hanging around his apartment and the streets of New York doing stupid stuff, much of which involves unnatural use of food, occasionally with the assistance of Video Toaster-caliber special effects.
The bits are hit or miss –mostly miss- and nothing in the first episode comes close to the random wit of ‘Super Bowl.’ But there are some gems, such as bit with Andy using spoons to eat virtually everything in his apartment.
I met Andy a few years back and can’t believe he actually has his own show on a major network. Then again, so do Bobby Brown, Paris Hilton’s mother, and Hulk Hogan, so I guess it’s not such a big surprise after all.
Let the Kenny Rogers incident be a lesson: You can never attack every cameraman. There’s always at least one more, with a camera filming you destroying all the others. It’s always a losing battle, so it's best not to fight it.
Some athletes have trouble with the New York media. And we all know Rogers did, during his stints with both the Yankees and Mets. But who knew the Arlington, Texas media was so suffocating, to cause a man to snap completely?
SteveSilver.net, 6/27, 1 AM:
”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.”
Elizabeth Spiers, Salon.com, 6/27, 11 AM:
“This weekend, the good and holy reverend who is called Billy Graham came to Queens, N.Y., and yea, I was there. The reverend descended upon Flushing Meadows Corona Park and I beared witness whilst a few miles away my roommate Mario threweth a Gay Pride party in our West Village apartment. And, lo, the incongruity of the two events didst not surprise me out as much as I thought it wouldth. But everything else did.”Then again, it was kind of an obvious point and besides, Liz is more of a journalistic superstar than I could ever hope to be. She did start the Christopher Hitchens Drinking Club, after all.
One had a better day than the other, though not the one you'd expect... Richard Roeper- who, strangely, shares an agent with Phil Jackson- signed a new contract yesterday to remain co-host of "Ebert & Roeper" for two more years. It's a seat that Roeper- who isn't a particularly talented writer or commentator, and doesn't know a whole lot about film either- does not deserve and never has.
As for his partner, Roger got the tear-down treatment Thursday from Elbert Ventura of the New Republic. In a piece that gives Ebert quite a bit of praise both at the beginning and end, Ventura concludes that Ebert relies too much on "schtick," and treats the profession of criticism as a way of dispensing "consumer tips."
It's a provocative, but wholely unconvincing critique. Like those who bash Steven Spielberg for being too in touch with his inner child, Ventura inexplicably treats Ebert's greatest strength as a debit. Ebert's unrivaled ability to bring virtually unlimited cinematic knowledge to the layman -not to mention, his honesty- is his greatest contribution to cinematic criticism. Ebert inherited many of these attributes from Pauline Kael- so it comes as no surprise that Ventura has something negative to say about her, too.
I may not always agree with Ebert, and you could certainly make the argument that he's slipped in recent years. But he's still clearly the most authoritative- and prolific- film critic in America.
I got a $5 bill as change the other day, and on it was inscribed the URL WheresGeorge.com. I had assumed, of course, that it was some subversive way of advertising an anti-Bush site.
However, I checked it out, and the site is rather about an entirely different President George- WheresGeorge is a currency tracking site, in which one can enter the serial number of any piece of paper money, and find the path it traveled. Turned out the $5 I got had last been seen in New Hampshire in 2002.
And speaking of websites about George, I typed the following phrase to a friend today on IM:
”Dammit, I told you not to forward me stuff from MoveOn.org! I already had this conversation with my grandma, and now I’m having it with you!"
The Vikings' subpar head coach gets a $100,000 fine from the NFL over the ticking-scalping mess. You probably all saw that story a few weeks ago about the fraudulence of the fining systems in all the major sports leagues, in which most fines are reduced or waived, with some players (such as Latrell Sprewell) even coming out ahead. But in Tice's case, since he's the league's lowest-paid coach, the fine will probably make a significant dent in his income.
But of course, I'd rather he had just been fired.
Time Magazine agreed to hand over the subpoenaed notes in the Valerie Plame case; the New York Times didn’t- and has had their account of Time doing so as their lead story all day.
But hey, those evil MSMers are all in cahoots, aren’t they?