The noms came out this morning and... well, I have less to complain about than any year in recent memory. A few thoughts:
- I can't remember the last time there was a Best Picture race where I didn't despise a single movie. I really liked "Munich," "Brokeback Mountain," and "Good Night, and Good Luck," and didn't see "Capote." And while I don't think "Crash" was even one of the 50 best movies of 2005, I didn't hate it either.
Still, the films undoubtedly have a liberal tilt. As Warren Bell said on the Corner today, "What does it say about Hollywood when the least left-wing movie nominated for Best Picture is about Truman Capote?"
- Newsweek this week ran a panel discussion of five "brave" directors (Clooney, Haggis, Lee, Miller, and Spielberg), discussing the political daring of their films. Then, whaddya know- all five of their films are up for the Best Picture, and the five of them are nominated for Best Director- the first time in memory that the two categories matched completely.
- Best Actor is pretty much between Philip Seymour Hoffman and Heath Ledger. I kind of feel sorry for Ledger, his last ten movies all got bad reviews, and his next ten probably will too- only the reviews will all mention that he was "so much better in the gay movie." Hoffman, who is a considerably better actor and has played gay and/or drag characters numerous times, will have no such problem.
- Best Actress is Reese Witherspoon's, no question. Probably because neither myself nor anyone I know has seen any of the other four films.
- I had no idea William Hurt was even still a working actor, so I'm happy he got his first Oscar nomination in about two decades. It'll be amusing if George Clooney wins for the generally awful "Syriana," where he looked just like Christopher Hitchens.
- "Syriana" and the "Constant Gardener" both had horribly nonsensical screenplays, so I have no idea why either was nominated. And how hard could "Crash" have been to write, when you're imagining a Los Angeles with only two dozen people? And wasn't about half the dialogue in "Good Night, and Good Luck" lifted directly from transcripts of actual broadcasts?
- The nomination of the pro-terrorism "Paradise Now" in the foreign film category is apropos, the week Hamas took power. But I thought Palestinian films weren't eligible for the category, since Palestine isn't a country?
- The song "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp," from "Hustle & Flow," is up for Best Original Song. And you thought it was weird when Eminem won an Oscar, when Martin Scorsese still hasn't.
- In a great year for documentaries, I was glad to see "Murderball" in there, along with the amazing Newark-set political doc "Street Fight." The crazily overrated "March of the Penguins" will win, of course, and strange to see no Holocaust-related films nominated at all.
- Sorry to see "Chronicles of Narnia" all but shut out, except for in technical categories. It was better than "King Kong" in every way- including at the box office- so hopefully it'll collect some trophies.
Like most NFL fans I found myself with nothing to do for the football bye-week weekend, so Becca and I filled the time by seeing six movies, between Thursday and Sunday. Brief reviews of all:
- "Something New" was a very cute buppie romance, not quite as good as "The Best Man," but still quite charming nonetheless. Really, "Jungle Fever," minus the controversy, and with the races reversed. A highlight? Who shows up in the final five minutes but Cliff Clavin himself, John Ratzenberger!
- With "The Constant Gardener," I renew my objection to "Syriana"- it's a "political" movie made for no reason but to flatter liberal, anti-corporate prejudices, with its "conspiracy" exaggerated to make the corporate villains considerably more cartoonishly evil than they ever could be in real life. And not only that, but the plot is pretty much solved in the first 45 minutes and the film just treads water the rest of the way. Ross Douthat had the best take:
Unfortunately, the conspiracy at the heart of the story makes absolutely no sense at all... we're supposed to believe (spoiler alert!) that a major drug company wants to win approval for a drug that kills one in ten people who take it - without doing anything to actually, you know, fix the drug so it doesn't kill quite so many people. Perhaps I'm missing something, but even if the evil company managed to use their bogus Kenyan tests to get FDA approval, it wouldn't take long for someone in the U.S. or Europe to notice that the drug was, well, killing one in ten people who took it. At which point there would be a massive, massive lawsuit, which would destroy the company forever, and probably land a large number of people in jail.The incredibly gorgeous Rachel Weisz has been the saving grace of numerous mediocre movies, but not this time.
- For a more realistic look at corporate evil, check out the now Oscar-nominated documentary "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room." For those of us who had trouble understanding the extremely complex Enron scandal, the film stands as a definitive, easy-to-understand account of the events- without descending into political agitprop, as every other doc seems to do these days. Now I just want to see similar treatments for the Valerie Plame case and the Jack Abramoff scandal.
- "Junebug" was decent enough, buoyed by a great, Oscar-nominated performance from Amy Adams. Just don't watch it with a big group on a Saturday night, like I did. They'll all lose interest very, very quickly.
- About two years too late, we caught "Super Size Me" on TV on Sunday. A funny premise, sure, but kind of undercut by the fact that, yea, it's kind of obvious that eating three meals a day at McDonalds isn't exactly good for you. Morgan Spurlock is likable enough, but the taint of Michael Moore's influence was so vile- especially in its ever-present ha-ha-look-at-the-fat-hicks sneer- that it all but overwhelmed the film.
- And finally, a rainy Sunday led us to the theater for a matinee of "Match Point." A damn good thriller, and a hell of a lot better than the crap Woody Allen's been turning out for the past decade or so. Not even any subtle Brandeis references, nor any other New York or Jewish stuff whatsoever. The only complaint- Allen already made the same film, when it was called "Crimes and Misdemeanors," and did it much better the first time.
More coming next week, when their Netflix replacements arrive.
For the past few weeks the communal e-mail account at the newspaper where I work has been getting frequent e-mails from a gentleman, Bill Downs, who refers himself as a "fart expert." Whenever any event is going on- whether it's Thanksgiving, Christmas, or the Super Bowl- Fartman comes forward to offer himself as an expert on gas and its prevention, free to be quoted in news stories. He even started a blog, called Trafon ("No Fart" spelled backwards).
I've never called him and no one else at my paper has either, but today the Philadelphia Inquirer's Blinq blog gave him a plug. At least Daniel Rubin gave the post a funny headline ("Roughing the Passer.")
Jeffrey McCall of the Indianapolis Star has written a column that I'm very glad somebody wrote. In it, he asked why the press even bothers to pay attention when entertainers say stupid things about politics. Why is it news? Why even put it out there, when all such coverage does is feed into the Fox News outrage machine? I'm still waiting for a convincing explanation of why I'm supposed to care what Harry Belafonte thinks about Bush.
"This deal totally shifts the balance of power in the East. Now we can add the Celtics to the list of teams that UConn could beat."-Charles Barkley, on the recent Wolves-Celtics trade. I assume he's talking about the UConn womens' team.
This blog was down for the better part of the last 24 hours due to a disk space problem that has thankfully been corrected, thanks to the excellent tech-support people over at Hosting Matters. New posts are below, with more to come later.
Another great episode. Jack wailing away on the Joe Scarborough-like presidential aide was a highlight, for sure. But a couple of holes: First of all, wasn't the whole reason Jack faked his own death because the Chinese government was after him? Shouldn't that come up again at some point, since the Chinese presumably still want him?
And secondly, we knew Logan was a wuss, but when he went along with Walt's plot (if even for only a few minutes), didn't that constitute treason, or at the very least an impeachable offense? I mean, the White House chief of staff knowingly aided a terrorist plot- and the biggest real-life political scandal in recent years was the Valerie Plame leak?
For the horrid-looking "Date Movie": "From Two of the Six Writers of 'Scary Movie.' Does this mean it'll only suck one-third as much? It'll only have one-third as many Wayans brothers?
Bryan Curtis in Slate has a wonderful smackdown of the crowds at art-house movies, and agrees that such people are even more annoying and bothersome than multiplex audiences. The best part:
Lately, the New York art houses have been beset by stealth diners. Strange, because many art houses now have gourmet cafes that offer vanilla bean cake and, in the case of New York's IFC Center, organic popcorn topped with truffle butter. But art-house patrons, more so than multiplexers, prefer bringing their own. As soon as the lights dim, a loud collective unwrapping begins, signaling a furtive meal that will last through the opening reels of the movie and end, somewhat dramatically, with a loud crunching of paper. Instead of the smell of buttery popcorn, the art-house aroma is one of contraband sashimi and Whole Foods takeout. Harris Dew, a programmer at the IFC Center, reports encountering high levels of raw carrots and celery: "It's not an odor you expect in a movie theater, and it's kind of disconcerting." The munching seems to reflect a sense of entitlement, a snobbery that says if you're smart enough to select the right kind of movie, then you should be able to act however you want when you get there.Yes, it's a stereotype. But sometimes stereotypes are true.
Absolutely terrible to hear that ABC "World News Tonight" anchor Bob Woodruff and his cameraman Doug Vogt were both seriously injured in Iraq over the weekend. Always awful to see that happen to journalists covering war, especially now that we have seen another videotape of captured reporter Jill Carroll.
News Item: Isiah Rider Arrested For Kidnapping.
When Jeff Reardon was pinched for armed robbery, that was genuinely shocking. This? Not so much. Probably because Reardon was never arrested for kicking a woman at the Mall of America.
Ever wonder what it would be like if the Klan suddenly became the majority party in Congress*? We're about to see that in the Palestinian Authority, as Hamas decisively won Palestinian legislative elections yesterday. For those who have argued for years that most average Palestinians aren't really extremists, aren't really Islamists, and don't really support terrorism, this week's events are a bit of a setback.
Expect to see a spectacular meltdown in international support for the Palestinian cause, and (almost certainly) no Palestinian state in the foreseeable future. I mean, is there any precident for this, a full-on terrorist organization winning a free-and-fair democratic election?
*Look on the bright side: I can't imagine the Klan would have had anything to do with Jack Abramoff.
My faith in my Minnesota Timberwolves is deteriorating rapidly:
The Boston Celtics have reportedly made a deal to send Ricky Davis, along with Marcus Banks, Mark Blount, Justin Reed and two future draft picks, to the Minnesota T-Wolves for Wally Szczerbiak, Michael Olowokandi and Dwayne JonesWay to trade your (second) best player for a lunatic (Davis) and one of the worst centers in the league (Blount), who is 'Kandi, only with four times the contract length. I can't tell you how excited I am to have the Marko Jaric-to-Mark Blount combination in place through 2010.
Last week I said 'Kandi for Blount was like trading syphillis for gonorrhea. Instead, they've traded syphillis, along with some healthy cells, for gonorrhea, herpes, cancer, and two STDs to be named later.
UPDATE: Which trade is worse- Kandi for Blount, or Fatah for Hamas?
Here's my newest New York Press column, where I break down the title games and Super Bowl.
I went to the Sixers-Kings game at the Wachovia Center last night with the girlfriend and the co-workers, and had a great time, as Philly defeated Sacramento. A few highlights:
- I made my NBA arena scoreboard debut, as I was asked to participate in a Sixers trivia contest during the first timeout of the second quarter. Even though my opponent in the contest spent several minutes hitting on the hostess, attempting to bribe her, and looking at the answers, I still managed to eke out a tie, winning Polish water ices for everyone in my row.
- The game fell thick into the on-again/off-again Ron Artest/Peja Stojakovic trade, as the trade was announced yesterday afternoon but rescinded shortly before game time, so while Artest hadn't come to town yet either way, Stojakovic was kept sequestered at the team hotel, so neither played in the game. As a result, the Kings gave major minutes to Kevin Martin, Jason Hart, and a couple of other guys I'd never before heard of. (The trade is now apparently back on).
- Mike Bibby (who had 44 points) played for the first time against his father, Henry, recently hired by the Sixers as an assistant coach, and the long-estranged father and son are apparently back on speaking teams. So there were no chants of "your son hates you."
- A real highlight- Sixers bench player Lee Nailon was arrested Tuesday afternoon and charged with domestic assault and harassment. Someone working at the arena was apparently napping, because during the second quarter a PSA featuring Nailon was played on the scoreboard- then hastily removed, mid-sentence. Reminded me of the time, when I worked for a sports publisher in New York, that I stood in NBA headquarters and watched editors take Jason Kidd off the cover of Hoop magazine, after he was arrested for hitting his wife.
- A bunch of players for the Phillies showed up at the game and were asked to participate in a free-throw shooting contest. Kind of ugly when Ryan Howard and Aaron Rowand each missed their first five shots (and were roundly booed), but in a possible omen for things to come, new closer Tom Gordon hit four straight.
- As for the game itself, Chris Webber was able to best his former teammates, as the Sixers won 109-103, in front of a slightly larger and more enthusiastic crowd than I'm used to seeing at the games.
News Item: Isiah Thomas Sued For Sexual Harassment
Luckily for Isiah, "salary cap harassment" is not a crime.
The Buffalo Beast has published their annual "50 Most Loathsome Americans" list, which is always a great read; the very deserving Pat Robertson is #1. Other than a leftward tilt that omits lots and lots of loathsome lefty Americans, and the fact that some people are way too low, I highly recommend reading it. Highlights:
- Michelle Malkin is "a curious case of racial Stockholm syndrome with a palpable lust for violent ideological oppression and displays of imperial power."
- Rita Cosby is the "unholy pastiche of fearmongering and celebrity ringworm with the brain of a moth, the integrity of a tapeworm, and the appearance and larynx of a sugar-addicted, glass-eating drag queen."
- Paris Hilton's 'continued success as a celebrity famous for nothing, despite the eerie resemblance she bears to the inbred banjoist from Deliverance and a lack of talent so profound that others become duller as they approach her, indicates that something is fundamentally wrong with humanity."
- "If Jesus Christ were alive today, Catholic League president Bill Donohue would regularly call him a faggot in casual conversation."
- On R. Kelly, "even his good songs all seem to be about fucking underage girls."
Yes, Mr. Drummond has re-surfaced. Conrad Bain was interviewed yesterday on WYSP's "Kidd Chris Show," where he said he is retired from acting and has become a writer of screenplays. Bain, who must be pushing 80 by now, seemed confused about why all of the questions were about the Gordon Jump/bike shop molestation episode.
After he hung up, Chris and gang jumped into a bit called "Telephone Jihad," in which callers were invited to destroy their telephones in creative ways, while vaguely Middle Eastern-sounding music played.
ESPN's Michael Smith (the Boston Globe/"Around the Horn" Michael Smith) has an excellent piece on the often contentious subject of minority hiring in NFL coaching. It's reasoned, fair, and totally bereft of conspiracy-mongering- and while he acknowledges the league still has a ways to go, Smith points out that minority coaches have come quite a distance as well. Great stuff. Scoop Jackson wouldn't like it.
"To the degree that we brook no dissent within the Democratic Party, and demand fealty to the one, ‘true’ progressive vision for the country, we risk the very thoughtfulness and openness to new ideas that are required to move this country forward. When we lash out at those who share our fundamental values because they have not met the criteria of every single item on our progressive ‘checklist,’ then we are essentially preventing them from thinking in new ways about problems. We are tying them up in a straightjacket and forcing them into a conversation only with the converted. Beyond that, by applying such tests, we are hamstringing our ability to build a majority. We won’t be able to transform the country with such a polarized electorate.”U.S. Senator Barack Obama, quoted in the American Prospect- and he wrote that in a discussion with the Daily Kos! One of the two of them should be the future of the Democratic Party, and I'm not talking about Kos.
Actor Chris Penn, perhaps best known for playing Nice Guy Eddie in "Reservoir Dogs," and also for being the brother of Sean Penn and Michael Penn, was found dead last night at the age of 43. Sorry to hear it, he was a highlight of lots of great movies. There's even a bar, Nice Guy Eddie's, on Houston Street in the East Village.
Aaron Gleeman is running a countdown of the 40 best Minnesota Twins ever, check it out here. At #40 is Randy Bush, who seemed to hit a home run at every game I ever went to, and still holds the major league record for most home runs by a player with the same last name as the president. And at #39 is Scott Erickson; for some reason Aaron does not mention Erickson's prodigious mullet.
In honor of tonight's great "24" episode, here's a list of 30 Jack Bauer facts. Note: the list is even more fun if you change every mention of "Jack Bauer" to "Bill Brasky."
WPHT, Philly's right-leaning "Big Talker" AM station, recently re-shuffled its nighttime lineup, banishing former drivetime host Dom Giordano to late nights and Bill O'Reilly to even later. In their place they've got Boston-based talker Jay Severin, who I listened to for the first time tonight.
Severin started with a familiar rant about how the Democrats can't be trusted on national security. But then he used a couple of examples that weren't quite so familiar. First, he told us about a moment during the 1987 Iran-Contra hearings, in which then-Senator Al Gore was questioning Oliver North and asked why North had spent government money on a security system for his home. North replied that it was because his family had been threatened by the world's most dangerous terrorist- Osama Bin Laden. Gore replied that he had never heard of Bin Laden.
His next example concerned a bus bombing that took place in Israel in 1986, in which Palestinian terrorists blew up a bus, and were subsequently captured by the Israelis. The ringleader of the attack was later released, at the behest of President Clinton. His name? Mohammad Atta.
I heard all this and thought it sounded a bit odd. For one thing, Osama Bin Laden wasn't known internationally as a terrorist until several years after the time of the Iran Contra affair. As for Atta, he's not a Palestinian, and why would Clinton be responsible for the release of a terrorist in the custody of Israel? And even more strangely, I follow this sort of thing pretty closely, and I had never heard either story.
I got my answer when I checked Snopes after I got home- both stories are long-ago-disproven internet hoaxes. Here's the North one; here's the Atta one. The Snopes entry for North even includes a statement from Ollie himself disavowing the story. Now, I know talk radio isn't exactly known for its 100% fidelity to factual accuracy- but did no one working for Severin's show have even an inkling that maybe this stuff sounded fishy? Besides, I'm looking forward to the next time Jay bashes "MSM" for "getting the facts wrong."
It's Steelers-Seahawks, indeed. Should be a great one; more analysis to come.
Also, here's my New York Press column from last week.
"The West Wing" has been canceled and will air its final episode this May, NBC said yesterday. This strikes me as a sensible decision- the show is clearly going out on a high note (after falling to absurd depths two years ago), which television shows rarely do these days.
No, not Limbaugh... The Wall Street Journal ran an editorial this morning on the recent Supreme Court decision on abortion and gave it the sub-hed "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice."
Fans of prog rock will recognize those words as coming from the lyrics of the '70s anthem "Freewill," by Rush. And while it may seem strange for a conservative editorial page to be endorsing lyrics coming from "progressive" rock, Rush at the time was deep in their Ayn Rand phase, so perhaps it's not so incongruous after all.
The Yonkers bartender, who drew notoriety in 2002 when he assaulted then-Yankee David Wells at a diner on the Upper East Side at 3:00 in the morning, is back in the news, because he will return to jail to serve the remainder in his sentence stemming from that case. He had been released pending appeal of the convention, which was denied.
Graziosa had previously been on probation for "fondling a 21-year-old woman who fell asleep during a New Year's party in a Yonkers house." Funny, when the guy in "Dead Poets Society" did that, it was considered cute.
As for Wells, after the Red Sox spent the entire offseason trying unsuccessfuly to trade him, he is currently listed as #7 on Boston's starting pitching depth chart, after Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett, Matt Clement, Bronson Arroyo, Tim Wakefield, and Jon "Paps" Papelbon.
It'll be Seattle and Pittsburgh, squaring off in Detroit on February 5. You heard it here first.
Saw last year's thriller "Red Eye" from Netflix last night- and I highly recommend it. It's a tense thriller that wastes no time and comes in at a lean 90 minutes. My favorite part- you hate the villain (Cillian Murphy) and want him to be humiliated- and in the third act he is, again and again. Even though it turns into "Home Alone" and the heroine spends the last 15 minutes assaulting the villain with various household objects. See this movie.
"The latest Wolves rumor I'm hearing... is that the T-Wolves will deal Michael Olowokandi to the Celtics for Mark BlountTrading 'Kandi for Blount is like trading syphillis for gonorrhea."-This blog, January 18.
"Rumors from Minneapolis say that the Wolves are exploring the possibility of trading former No. 1 overall pick Michael Olowokandi to your Celtics for the legendary Mark Blount. That's like trading herpes for syphilis!"-Minneapolis reader Ben Kennedy, in Bill Simmons' mailbag today.
Then again, I suppose we were both ripping off David Mamet's famous line about Frank Rich and Ben Brantley.
UPDATE: Oops, that link doesn't make the joke clear. Mamet once said that Rich and Brantley are "the syphillis and gonorrhea of the theater world." Rich, for his part, since since spread to the op-ed page, where he is now the HPV of the political pundit class.
Fake outrage doesn't get faker than this: Senate majority leader Harry Reid is "under fire" from "activists" because supposedly made a comment critical of Sen. Rick Santorum that Santorum's aides are calling a vicious racial slur.
The comment? "Having Sen. Santorum talk about reform is like having John Gotti talk about doing something about organized crime. He's one of the problems."
Why is it offensive? You guessed it: the Sons of Italy are upset that Reid's conflation of Gotti to Santorum "shows a profound lack of respect for a Senate colleague as well as the nation's estimated 26 million law-abiding Italian-Americans," because Santorum is "the highest-ranking Italian-American in the Senate."
There's so much wrong with this it's hard to know where to start. First of all, who knew Santorum was Italian-American? I didn't, you didn't, and I'm guessing Reid didn't either. Secondly, why should Italian-Americans be offended by a shot at John Gotti, one of the most notorious criminals and mass murderers in American history? Thirdly, how could anyone possibly think that the generally mild-mannered Santorum with being compared to a mobster? And fourth, I don't remember the Sons having such a problem with Rick being "disrespectful" when he compared homosexuals to people who have sex with dogs.
It was ridiculous when Al D'Amato construed Senate opponent Bob Abrams' description of him as a "fascist" as some sort of reference to Mussolini, but somehow this is about ten times worse. No reasonable person could possibly be outraged by this, so spare us the righteous indignation, please.
This text was sent around to various newspapers, including mine, today. Let us all hope that this brave journalist can be freed from the captivity of the subhuman vermin who are now holding her.
The Boston Phoenix's Mark Jurkowitz wonders why any liberal would ever go on "The O'Reilly Factor," which I've often wondered myself. Expect O'Reilly to weigh in tonight with an "expose" about the "vicious broadside" from the critic, plus the addition of the Phoenix to his show's "do not buy/do not advertise" blacklist of newspapers.
He criticized O'Reilly! What an outrage!
I like the new ESPN. It's easier to navigate, and there's no more of that uncollapsible ad that hangs over the front and blocks most of the site for a few seconds. Quite a step up from the previous edition, though I'm sure I'll stop noticing the difference within a few days.
Here's John Powers of LA Weekly with the best takedown I've yet to see of George Clooney's embarrassing "Syriana":
Now that we’ve all genuflected to Clooney for backing this project, can we just admit it? Stephen Gaghan’s quasi thriller about Big Oil, American spooks and foreign policy embodies most of what stinks about today’s liberal filmmaking. First, it’s a big-star movie on a big political theme that chooses not to address the mass audience; instead, it plays at being an art film, deliberately obscuring the crucial connections it wants viewers to make and guaranteeing its own political irrelevance. Second, it serves up hokum that appeals only to the converted. I don’t care how much research Gaghan claims to have done, his script’s a grab bag of pulpy clichés, from its slithery-evil oil-company execs (I almost felt sympathy for them) to the noble Middle Eastern sheik (with the wicked brother, of course) who really, truly wants to fight evil oil companies for the good of his people. Finally, it’s mired in the liberal sense of hopelessness and futility. Gaghan treats The System as being so omnipotent that lawyers, businessmen, spies and diplomats are all reduced to ciphers without the free will to engage in moral reflection, let alone action. When Clooney’s CIA agent finally does rouse himself to act, he’s immediately post-toastied in a rocket attack so perfectly executed by his colleagues in The Company that you wonder why they didn’t just do the same to Osama.The movie was made for one reason only: to make Bush-hating liberals feel empowered.
Also, here's an Andrew Sullivan post on the "Post-PC" moment in pop culture. We really are living in a golden age of comedy, something I could not have imagined ten or even five years ago.
I saw Terrence Malick's "The New World" the other night, and I had the same reaction to Malick's previous film, "The Thin Red Line"- beautiful cinematography, but senseless storytelling. One major bright spot- the girl playing Pocahontas, Q'Orianka Kilcher (yep, Jewel's cousin) is clearly the real deal- she's got quite a future in the movies.
Most reviews I've seen so far seem to agree with my assessment, aside from Matt Zoller Seitz, who picked it as the best movie of the year. But since film critics are the most predictable of all writers, I'm going to try something when I read more reviews of the film tomorrow: since the movie is about American Indians, how many reviewers will try to tie it to the Jack Abramoff scandal? The most egregious, stretching version of the argument gets a prize.
The Onion AV Club has another of their always-classic "Dining For a Dollar" features. This time, it's the sugar-and-cheese edition.
And here's a list of the word "monkey" being collapsed into every movie title imaginable.
The biggest NBA scandal of the young season is the incident the other night in which New York Knick Antonio Davis entered the stands at the home arena of his former team, the Chicago Bulls, in order to "protect" his wife from a fan who was supposedly threatening her. Davis was suspended by the league today for five games.
I don't really have an opinion on this; I wasn't there, and only briefly saw the footage on TV. But I'm intrigued by this Deadspin analysis, including eyewitness reports that it was Mrs. Davis who started the altercation, because she was upset that a fan behind her was rooting loudly for the Bulls. (Rooting for the Bulls at the Bulls' arena? How dare he!)
Meanwhile, the abominable Jay Mariotti in his Chicago Sun-Times column blames the incident, as always, on "an arena filled with fans who have been drinking for hours." Please. I covered a high school basketball game tonight for my day-job paper, where of course no alcohol was served, and the fans of both teams showed the type of behavior that I'm used to seeing at professional and college events. One team's cheering section turned their backs en masse to the opposing team during player introductions and shouted "sucks" after every name; the other team's fans spewed vulgar invective at their foes throughout the contest, even though the first school's principal- a nun- was seated directly in front of them. Nice to see the "Philly sports attitude" has extended to far-flung suburban high schools.
Meanwhile, Scoop Jackson defends Davis. Of course he does. When was the last time Jackson criticized any sports figure for anything, other than racism?
After months of rumors to that effect, Theo Epstein has returned to the Boston Red Sox, in an "unnamed baseball operations capacity." Although since Theo has supposedly been consulting for the team for the last few months anyway, I don't see exactly what has changed.
The latest Wolves rumor I'm hearing (after the whole Wally-for-Steve Francis thing was shot down) is that the T-Wolves will deal Michael Olowokandi to the Celtics for Mark Blount, in an exchange of plodding, overpaid, and otherwise horrible centers.
I'm all for getting rid of 'Kandi, but he's got just this year left on his contract, compared to three more for Blount. Just not worth it, if you ask me.
Trading 'Kandi for Blount is like trading syphillis for gonorrhea. It's like trading death for Ugga-Bugga.
Broadcaster airs tape of American hostageNote to President Bush, and the generals in Iraq: Did you see "24" last night? If not, watch it, and then do what CTU did, right away.
CAIRO (AP) — An Arab television channel aired a silent 20-second videotape Tuesday night of hostage American reporter Jill Carroll and said an accompanying message gave the United States 72 hours to free female prisoners in Iraq or the journalist would be killed.
The tape showed the 28-year-old reporter sitting in front of a white background and speaking, but her voice could not be heard. On the tape, Carroll is pale and appears tired, and her long straight brown hair is parted in the middle and pulled back from her face.
According to an investigative piece in the Justice, Jack Abramoff over the years has donated a whopping $50 to Brandeis University, his alma mater (and mine). As a result, the 'deis likely ranks about #52,695 on the list of recipients of Casino Jack's largesse.
Should Brandeis be happy or sad about this news? On the one hand, it's a bit embarrassing that one of their most famous and wealthy alumni has given them next to nothing over the years, but the other hand, they're barely nicked by the taint of his illicit cash, and had he been a big donor they'd likely have to give back large sums of money, and they'd have to hit me up for donations 50 times a year rather than just 40.
Then again, the Non-Sectarian Jewish-Sponsored House of Social Justice tends to frown upon anyone with GOP registration, especially if they're good buddies with Tom DeLay, Grover Norquist, and Ralph Reed.
By the way, I saw an aunt of my girlfriend's over the weekend, a 'deis alum from the same time period, and asked if she had known Abramoff. She said no, but she had once worked at a law firm with (and had a crush on) Scooter Libby.
UPDATE: The New Republic's blog, The Plank, picks up the story, thanks to a mysterious loyal reader named "S.S.":
What's extra-funny here is the way school officials feel compelled to explain that they weren't influenced in any way, even by such a piddling sum... Imagine how incredibly awkward it would be if, say, the $10 million Jack Abramoff Center for Hebrew Studies were presently under construction.In that case, they'd just name it Shapiro, like the other eight buildings on campus by that name.
UPDATE II: More on Abramoff's college years, from the Boston Globe:
Long before he became a Washington lobbyist and convicted felon, he was a freshman at Brandeis University with a 1976 Mercury Cougar and a taste for blasting Queen's ''We Are The Champions" on his all-male hall.My freshman hall was the next building over, and we substituted Dave Matthews Band's "Crash" album and the "Rent" soundtrack for Queen. But the rest sounds right.
Jack Abramoff, class of '81, resident of Deroy Hall, hated David Bowie, loved ice cream, and was always up for a trip to TGI Friday's on Newbury Street. Stocky and tan, he favored sweat pants and baseball caps.
First off, the show is as good as it's ever been. Tense action, the right result, and seamless integration between old characters and new. We've got all sorts of potential for great stuff this season, whether it involves the First Lady who's twice as crazy as Teresa Heinz Kerry, or the evil presidential adviser who looks like Joe Scarborough. They set up everything brilliantly. Even Becca, who had never seen the show and normally loathes series TV, was hooked immediately.
I'm going to miss President Palmer, and even more, Michelle, who multiple commentators have pointed out looked absolutely hotter than ever immediately before her death. Tony, of course, will bounce back once again from certain death to take revenge on his wife's murderers. I just hope we haven't seen the end of Reiko Aylesworth's career.
And of course, with the movie (and Aaron Klein book) in mind, it was absolutely impossible to watch the airport terrorist/hostage standoff without thinking of what happened in Munich. The German government, indeed, was even more incompetent in their actions than President Logan. Unfortunately, Jack Bauer isn't real, and wasn't around to save the Israeli team back then. And also, I can't imagine Jack ever being wracked with doubt about any of his actions and moving to Brooklyn as a result.
But then, you have to wonder- how stupid were the terrorists, in that not only did they not kill the hostages once they learned of the rescue attempt, but why didn't they shoot Jack? They know he's a counter-terrorist superhero who has already saved the world about a dozen times- so why keep him alive? And even worse, why wouldn't Logan and Russian president simply pretend to abandon the accord, appear to give the terrorists what they wanted, and then shoot them?
Isiah Thomas reportedly threatened Bill Simmons, while appearing yesterday as a guest on Stephen A. Smith's ESPN radio show. Thomas allegedly told Stephen A. that were he to ever meet Simmons on a street corner, "there would be a problem."
This came after Simmons has spent the last couple of years pretty regularly mocking Isiah's pathetic performance as GM of the Knicks. On the show Smith, once again displaying the sort of ignorance he seems to display as a badge of honor, then claimed he'd never heard of Simmons. Sports Guy responds here; I can't wait for the resulting Scoop Jackson column.
In terms of radio stunts on Martin Luther King Day, it wasn't nearly as offensive (or, for that matter, as funny) as the "Kidd Chris Show" bit in which a Stone Cold Steve Austin impersonator appeared (to the sounds of broken glass), and wished everyone a "Happy MiLK Day."
"Dumped by its original distributor because of its title—apparently the word "Muslim" equals instant controversy and box office death for post-9/11 movies—Albert Brooks's Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World should, instead, have been ditched for not being very funny... despite its intended goal to portray Muslims as more than simply bomb-toting terrorists, this slapdash and weak-kneed film is almost completely stripped bare of any political content, offering up a strained fish-out-of-water story colored by tepidly subversive jokes about militant Muslims and anti-Jewish sentiment."-Nick Shrager, in Slant Magazine. I saw the movie last week and it's so, so bad- it's not funny, it has nothing even remotely of interest to say, and it's a huge missed opportunity for a premise that could easily have been mined for laughs in the hands of a better comedian. Then again, a better comedian (Sacha Baron Cohen) has been mining the premise for laughs for several years with his Borat character. And Brooks actually used to be funny.
FoxSports.com's Dayn Perry has handed out off-season grades for every team in baseball, and it looks like he graded on a tough curve: Only one team (the White Sox) gets an A, along with three B-pluses, three B's, and one B-minus; the remaining 22 teams all get a C+ or worse, including everyone in the NL besides the D-Backs, Dodgers, Padres, and Brewers.
Could everyone really have done that bad, or does every player every team signed or traded for suck that much?
I think the show just broke the record for "highest ratio of preview commercials to actual episodes," previously held by the infamous Ron Silver vehicle "Skin."
A moderately funny bit on SNL's "Weekend Update" last weekend, which I confess I only saw via closed captioning on a bar TV:
They're showing the Alito hearings, and that moment when Sen. Lindsey Graham apologized to Judge Alito for some of the meaner things that the Democrats said about him. He said "I am sorry that you've had to go through this. I am sorry that your family has had to sit here and listen to this," after which Tina Fey added "I wish I could quit you!"
A mere parody of Republican ass-kissing of Alito- or a subtle reference to the longstanding (and long-denied) rumors that Graham himself is gay? Either way, it can't even begin to hold a candle to SNL's take on the Clarence Thomas hearings in '91, one of my five favorite SNL sketches of all time. And not just because Joe Biden (Kevin Nealon) addressed Long Dong Silver (Chris Rock) as "Mr. Silver."
UPDATE: I just realized: Biden has somehow overstayed his welcome in the Senate longer than Kevin Nealon overstayed his welcome on "Saturday Night Live." Though Joe's still got one more term before he surpasses Tim Meadows.
An unbelievable weekend of football yesterday and today, one that, improbably, leaves both Tom Brady and Peyton Manning on the sidelines going into the AFC championship game.
I was at a wedding this weekend and watched both Saturday games at the hotel bar; the groom ended the day Saturday a very happy Seahawks fan. Meanwhile, at the ceremony and reception today I was without both TV and cell phone access and had no idea who had won the Steelers/Colts game, although the subsequent text message from a friend that "Peyton Manning is crying like a little pussy" kind of answered the question for me.
More tomorrow and throughout the week on the improbable conference title matchups.
Wow. Just, wow. My head is still spinning. I'll wait until tomorrow to comment, out of deference to my West Coast readers.
Some brilliant satire from The Brushback:
RISTOL, CT--In a move designed to “counter the unique and often extreme viewpoints of columnist Scoop Jackson,” ESPN.com has hired a noted white supremacist to write a weekly column for its website. The racist, David T Bonham of the group White Power America, will address the issues of the day from a staunchly pro-white perspective.
ESPN.com editors said they were “very excited” about the prospect of having both Jackson and Bonham in the fold.
“We’ve had Scoop here for a while and he’s been great for us, and now we’re bringing in someone to offset his opinions,” said ESPN.com editor-in-chief John Schatz. “David Bonham will be the perfect compliment for Scoop, the yin to his yang if you will. Both men see everything in black and white, both are hysterically paranoid, and both are unabashed racists. The only difference, really, is that Scoop dresses a little better. He smells better, too, frankly.”
WWE and NBC announced this week that "Saturday Night's Main Event" will return to the network this March after a 13-year hiatus. I welcome the news that we'll once again be subject to the wrestling program that displaces "Saturday Night Live" four times a year. My only misgivings are that wrestling has slipped so far that I barely pay it any attention anymore, and that it's hard to imagine how big a deal a special wrestling card will be when there's now pay-per-views every month and four hours of new matches on cable each week. SNME was cool back when all we had were the Sunday-morning shows where the stars just crushed the scrubs.
News Item: Packers Hire Mike McCarthy as coach
Two reasons why this is baffling: McCarthy was offensive coordinator for the 49ers who, last I checked, really sucked on offense last year. And what's a team in Wisconsin doing hiring a guy named McCarthy? Isn't this like an Italian club soccer team hiring a coach named Mussolini?
At least the move helps restore the Mike population in the NFL coaching fraternity, after Sherman, Martz, and Tice were fired and Mularkey resigned. At least Holmgren and Shanahan are still alive in the playoffs.
From Deadspin, we get news that Dan Patrick, during his weekly segment with former "tag team partner" Keith Olbermann, recently had football player/turned gubernatorial candidate Lynn Swann on his ESPN radio show. To everyone's surprise, Keith decided to put his MSNBC hat on:
Around 2:20 p.m. ET last Friday, Patrick introduces Swann on the show. Patrick said (in a humorous tone) that, in light of the Swann’s prior work with ABC and Disney, he was going to have OIbermann ask Swann questions. Swann seemed to think that this was going to be lightweight question theater (he joked to Patrick that he didn’t know he’d changed to a news show). Olbermann’s first question was on the current dispute between McCain/Warner/Graham and the Bush administration on the administration appearing to disregard an act of Congress: What did Swann think about the split within the Republican party, and which side was he on? Swann spouted a non-answer and ended the answer with the statement that it wasn’t a state issue, so it didn’t really matter to the Swann campaign.It was about time some news came out of the Olbermann/Patrick re-teaming.
Olbermann, in one of the sweetest comebacks I’ve heard in a long time, responded that if Swann wanted a state question, he had one: Senator Rick Santorum is talking smack about going after federal funding for New Jersey if they won’t agree to dredge the Delaware River. What does Swann think about that? Swann was silent for four beats, then said that he had been on a bus, and he hadn’t seen the papers (even though it’s been a contentious issue for close to a month), and he really didn’t know anything about the issue Olbermann was talking about. Olbermann, very quietly and with as much polite snark as he could possibly get away with, suggested that Swann may want to make a note of that one, and threw it back to Patrick with the question, “Are you glad you wanted to do that now?”
If that happens, I might have to subscribe to the New York Post, just to read all the daily vitriol and know it's not my problem anymore.
Speaking of football, here's my New York Press column, along with a prediction of what the gimmick will be for every potential Super Bowl matchup.
I learned today of the existence of a teen anti-smoking group known as Teens Against Tobacco Use, which goes by the acronym TATU. They're not to be confused with the other group by that name, spelled t.a.t.U., which was of course the Russian lesbian teenage pop duo that burst on the scene a couple years ago. Funny that another group would use the name, especially one consisting of teenagers.
Editorial: "Silver and the Sex Predators"
No more Promised Land for you, asshole.
I'm sure I wasn't the only person who read that and assumed that "Rocky IV" star Brigitte Nielsen had passed away.
The Philadelphia Inquirer ran an all-time classic of hilarious true-crime reporting on Tuesday, a piece by staff writer Wendy Ruderman on a West Deptford, New Jersey, man who stands accused of holding women prisoner in a steel container in his backyard. The twist? In a case of either Stockholm Syndrome or drug-induced madness, the women appear to like it.
The piece's protagonist is Jerome L. Wigmore Jr., who stands accused of hosting multiple prostitutes in the steel container, sexual assaulting one of them and burning another with a blowtorch. But Wigmore and another of the women, Camden-based prostitute T.Y. "Terry Cake" Jones, describe the arrangement as more of a collaboration, which the piece describes as "an unlikely friendship between a Swastika-tattooed ex-con and black prostitute living together in an adult version of a clubhouse."
1. As if the story weren't creepy enough without Nazi undertones, Wigmore has fluorescent swastikas painted on the ceiling of the "clubhouse," as well as a soccer ball-sized swastika tatooed on his chest. But this didn't stop the African-American Jones from being his friend, or from telling the reporter "He was cool peoples to me."
2. In addition to the kidnapping and sexual assault charges, Wigmore also stands accused of "manufacturing and selling drugs out of the container."
3. Wigmore and Jones called the container "a cozy one-bedroom efficiency protected by the pit bull, Snow."
4. Wigmore read Jones Nazi literature, and said that while he had nothing against blacks or Jews, he believed "their cultures are wiping out the white race." Nothing against them, though. Yet despite all that, Wigmore told the reporter that use of the n-word is "ignorant."
5. Wigmore described the meals he produced for Jones, including Chinese takeout and Hungry Man TV dinners: "I'd wine and dine her. Breakfast in bed, man. Just like in [jail]."
6. It's not until the 20th paragraph of the piece that we learn the container was "parked" outside of the home of Wigmore's estranged wife, Betty, and her mother, Alice Boozer. I knew a guy in high school who lived in a VW Microbus outside his parents' house, but this somehow is even sleazier.
7. Wigmore would sometimes enter his wife's home in order to do laundry for himself and various prostitutes. The mother-in-law believes Wigmore "is the wrong person for my daughter," though it's hard to imagine why.
8. In reference to a second woman who had stayed in the container for a spell in June and July and later claimed Wigmore burned her with a blowtorch, he replied, "I treated her like gold, man." When the woman refused to leave, Wigmore said, "I told my wife, 'Honey, I got this chick in the container, right. She won't leave. Can you tell her to leave? Just get her out."
9. Yes, despite living in a container in the backyard with a succession of prostitutes, he still addresses his wife as "honey."
10. As the piece concludes, "citing his good looks, Wigmore said he did not have to kidnap women. 'I had girls throwing rocks at that thing at nighttime, wanting to get inside,' he said."
Wow. Just, wow. Think any of that will hold up in court?
Daniel Gross of Slate has a convincing demolition of the reasoning behind such books as Anya Kamenetz's "Generation Debt" (previously serialized in the Village Voice), which essentially argue that young adults are having a harder time living in today's economy and that they're especially screwed by the way society is set up. To which Gross says, "boo hoo," calling them the "It Sucks to Be Me" Generation.
In fact, twentysomethings are perhaps before off today than at anytime in history and besides- as I've argued before- your 20s are probably the best possible time in your life to have a crisis.
Gross, then, gets a great dig in at the author:
Look. It's tough coming out of Ivy League schools to New York and making your way in the world. The notion that you can be—and have to be—the author of your own destiny is both terrifying and exhilarating. And for those without marketable skills, who lack social and intellectual capital, the odds are indeed stacked against them. But someone like Kamenetz, who graduated from Yale in 2002, doesn't have much to kvetch about. In the press materials accompanying the book, she notes that just after she finished the first draft, her boyfriend "proposed to me on a tiny, idyllic island off the coast of Sweden." She continues: "As I write this, boxes of china and flatware, engagement gifts, sit in our living room waiting to go into storage because they just won't fit in our insanely narrow galley kitchen. We spent a whole afternoon exchanging the inevitable silver candlesticks and crystal vases, heavy artifacts of an iconic married life that still seems to have nothing to do with ours." The inevitable silver candlesticks? Too much flatware to fit in the kitchen? We should all have such problems.
And does her fiance have one of those crap temporary jobs all the drones in her generation are destined to hold forever? Not really. He's a software engineer at Google.
Now that I'm a working film critic again I got all sorts of press materials sent to me at the office, and today I received a press kit for all of Paramount Pictures' major 2005 releases. Some look good, while others more questionable (the upcoming Matthew McConaughey/Sarah Jessica Parker romance; Oliver Stone's 9/11 film).
But there was one in particular that jumped out at me as potentially good: it's called "Nacho Libre," and it's directed by Jared Hess, who also brought us "Napoleon Dynamite." Jack Black stars as "a Mexican priest who moonlights as a lucha libre wrestler to raise money for his orphanage."
Sounds to me like a non-pornographic version of "Orgazmo," right down to the director being a Mormon. Aside from the slight problem of Jack Black not being the slightest bit believable as a wrestler, a priest, or a Mexican, it sounds like a surefire winner.
On the other hand, before "Glory Road" last week I saw a preview of "The Shaggy Dog," a Disney film starring Tim Allen as a guy who turns into a dog. I've been going to movies for about 25 years, and I don't know that I've ever seen a film look more horrible on the basis of its trailer.
Now, perhaps, they can jazz up the studio audience a bit, give it more of a funky late-night feel, maybe add a band or something. Also a good idea: A new host. But hey, one step at a time.Heh.
Jon Stewart was picked to host the Oscars, the Arizona Republic says, after Billy Crystal refused offers from Academy producers in order to concentrate on his Broadway one-man show "700 Sundays." The Republic's joke:
Also, extremely unreliable sources report, doing a musical parody of Brokeback Mountain would dredge up too many awkward memories from his City Slickers days.I'd imagine it would dredge up memories of his "Soap" days. Maybe both.
Celebrity couples break up all the time, and most of the time it's no surprise. I wasn't too shocked when Brad and Jen split, and I can't imagine I will be whenever Brad and Angelina call it quits. But there was news this week of two different celebrity break-ups that absolutely shocked me.
First, I heard that Mike Myers has separated from his wife, Robin Ruzan. Now Myers, over the years, has been more doting towards his wife than just about any celebrity I can imagine, and he even based his "Linda Richman" character on Ruzan's mother. Must say I didn't see that one coming.
And despite that whole forgetting-his-name-in-the-Oscar-speech incident, I was still surprised to hear that Hilary Swank and Chad Lowe were breaking up. Of all those couples, they actually seemed authentic.
The most instantly-infamous moment of the first day of the Samuel Alito hearings was, of course, Ted Kennedy's malapropism in which he referred to the nominee as "Judge Alioto." Not quite up there with Kennedy referring to Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa as "Mike McGwire and Sammy Sooser," but pretty humorous nonetheless.
I'm yet to hear anyone make this point, but Ted was probably confusing the judge with the Alioto political dynasty in San Francisco, whose patriarch, Joseph Alioto, was mayor of San Fran from 1968 through 1976. Buildings bearing the Alioto name are all over San Francisco to this day, and my father once argued a case in which Alioto, who died in 1998, was the opposing council.
Ted Kennedy, most likely, remembers Alioto as the guy who gave the nominating speech for his brother Bobby's rival, Hubert H. Humphrey, at the 1968 Democratic convention.
Correction: Because of a transcription error, the Sudoku puzzle in the Globe magazine on Sunday omitted the numeral 3 from the end of row 8 in column 9, making it impossible to correctly solve the puzzle.Expect a class-action suit by some of the SD addicts who tore their hair out as a result of the Globe's gaffe.
Sonny Bunch in the Weekly Standard has written a piece that I'm glad somebody wrote- the conservative case in favor of Steven Spielberg's "Munich," arguing that just because the film's characters have remorse about their mission does not mean the film is endorsing moral relativism.
On the whole, Munich is a finely-wrought character study of the effects of war on those who have to fight it--not an apologia for terrorism. By the movie's end Avner--gaunt, pale, and aged--is sleeping in a closet because he is afraid of retribution from Palestinian operatives. His fellow agents have been killed one by one and he now lives in fear, both for himself and his family....Bunch is right, of course, that "Munich" should not be taken as absolute truth. For that I recommend Klein's book, "Striking Back."
One place where [Aaron] Klein and Spielberg would agree, however, is that, unlike the Palestinian terrorists, the Israelis took extreme lengths to ensure that innocents were not injured in their strikes. In the film, the team risks missing a target and blowing its cover to save the life of a little girl. Compare this to the Palestinian terrorists who have no problem with turning AK-47s on hogtied hostages. And then there is the deeper question of humanity: Avner understand the justness of his mission, but still struggles with the taking of life. The terrorists show no such qualms.
Jon Stewart will reportedly host the Academy Awards this March. I say it's a good choice, as Stewart is truly one of the funniest people currently alive, and did a great job hosting the Grammys and MTV Awards in past years. And while Chris Rock did an underwhelming turn in his debut as host last year, he was somewhat handcuffed by his inability to do more ribald material, Stewart's long been good at both blue and non-blue material.
All that, and he's not Whoopi Goldberg.
Reports tonight indicate that the Vikings have made their choice on a new coach, and it's Brad Childress, the offensive coordinator for the past six years for the Eagles.
A good, solid, choice, I say. A shy, unassuming, non-egomaniacal guy who's nonetheless quite media-savvy, he should be a good fit in Minnesota, a market which, aside from Tice and the parade of dumbasses who coached the Wolves in the pre-Garnett years, tends to hang onto pro coaches forever. Childress also once told TO to go fuck himself, which gives him extra points in my book.
Much of Childress' appeal, I grant you, comes from his place in the "Coaching Tree" of Bill Walsh, Mike Holmgren, and Andy Reid, the one that produced and refined the West Coast Offense. That's a better bet, if you ask me, than the expected strategy of the other seven teams with coaching vacancies, who I suspect will all hire guys just because they once shook hands with Bill Belichick 15 years ago.
He may not be proven as a head coach, but we know the Vikings are no longer coached by an imbecile, which puts them well ahead of where they were this time last week.
Will Saletan, the Slate writer who gave us 2005's Headline of the Year ("Ass Backwards: The Media's Silence About Rampant Anal Sex") does it again today: "Come Again? Testing your sperm at home." Assuming, of course, that Saletan writes all his own headlines.
UPDATE: And another! "Oral Sects: A new campaign against bloodsucking circumcision."
I'm going to delay comment on the life and legacy of Ariel Sharon until after he passes away, but I had to pass on what Andrew Sullivan had to say on the worldwide reactions to the news:
Here are the specific responses to Ariel Sharon's stroke by two leading fundamentalists in the world, Pat Robertson and Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. Julian cites them below.I'm just glad Robertson isn't working to get nuclear weapons.
"He was dividing God’s land. And I would say, Woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the E.U., the United Nations or the United States of America. God says, This land belongs to me. You better leave it alone."
"Hopefully the news that the criminal of Sabra and Shatila has joined his ancestors is final."
The difference, of course, is that only one of these maniacs is on Karl Rove's A-list rolodex.
One of the better recent Bill Simmons bits, on the amazing Texas/USC championship game the other night:
As we see the Longhorns and their fans celebrating, ABC's cameras catch Leinart and Carroll hugging and Leinart whispering the words, "God, I wish I knew how to quit you!"Too bad probably 95% of Simmons' audience didn't see "Brokeback Mountain" and had no idea what he was talking about.
"Casanova goes the extra furlong to make its womanizing Venetian hero as puppy-lovable as possible. It even keeps onscreen sex to a minimum (which is like making an Evel Knievel biopic with no bike stunts), ostentatiously praises the virtues of monogamy and reassures us that its hero isn’t a sexual compulsive, God forbid, but a man-child with lost-mommy issues who just wants to settle down with a true love forever and ever. Your mom is going to love this movie. It’s Hitch in powdered wigs."- Matt Zoller Seitz, reviewing "Casanova in New York Press, indicating that Heath Ledger's post-'Brokeback' career will once again swing into sub-mediocrity.
As for Seitz's partner, the Spielberg-loving Armond White, don't ever call him predictable- his Top Ten list has a first-place tie between "Munich" and "War of the Worlds."
My New York Press football column for the week is online here. And I also got my first-ever piece of hate mail on the column, a letter to the editor from a guy who excoriated me for reporting that Tony Dungy's son had "passed away"- I believe his exact words were "The kid didn’t 'pass away.' He died. In fact, was a suicide." (???) In other news, Tony Dungy wasn't his father. He was his dad.
My day-job newspaper got a similarly angry letter a few months ago, complaining that a TV news network had reported that a soldier had been "shot and killed" in Iraq, which was supposedly horribly offensive. Another guy responded to my "War on Christmas" editorial by calling me a "Christer." A coworker, meanwhile, last week got a letter to the editor that accused him of being "insolent." (He didn't run it.)
Hate "MSM"- you don't even need a good reason.
Since Giants pitcher Merkin Valdez failed to appear in the major leagues in 2005 and appears to no longer be such a major pitching prospect, this blog has been afforded very few opportunities of late to make fun of his name (see here for an example of the good old days). But fortunately, the New York Times Magazine ran a piece Sunday on the issue of laser vaginal rejuvenation, and assigned the article to a reporter named... Daphne Merkin. You can't make this stuff up, can you?
It's the funniest media moment related to laser vaginal surgery since 2001, when a Village Voice story on Taliban-era Afghanistan ran a photo of three burqa-clad women- with an ad right next to it featuring you-know-what (as New York Press described):
So what’s the ad that takes up the other half of the page? Laser Vaginal Rejuvenation. There’s a woman in truck-flap profile–arched back, string bikini, satin sheets–staring up at the third Afghan woman. Underneath the satin sheets you read that a board-certified gynecologist, in LA no less, will "completely re-sculpt and rejuvenate the vagina with a one-hour laser procedure." And back at the top of the ad there’s a tagline positioned directly across from the photo of the three women, with their tilted and bowed and Munch-like heads, that reads, "You won’t believe how good sex can be!"Now that they've kindly been liberated by the good old US of A, those women can, indeed believe it.
UPDATE: This merkin thing is just a gift that keeps on giving. There's actually a model/actress named Michele Merkin! And while her website consists of little more than headshots, acting credits, and other such stuff., it's still considerably more intelligent than Michelle Malkin's website.
America awoke today to the devastating news that 12 of the 13 miners trapped in West Virginia had died, even after it was reported last night- following the word of the state's governor and the president of the mining company- that the 12 had survived. Reportedly, the misrepresentation occurred when mining company officials misheard the voice of a rescue worker over a speaker phone.
Clearly, there was failure on a massive level here, and it's necessary at this juntcure to get to the bottom of it. But if you go by reaction I heard on talk radio and saw on some blogs this morning, it's just one more opportunity to bash "MSM," as though mistakes made by the media are somehow a bigger story than the fact that a dozen people are dead. The reporters weren't able to actually go into the mine to see what was happening- so they listened to the word of the government officials and mining company executives, some of whom lied directly to them. The governor, honestly, probably has to resign at this point- and I wouldn't recommend buying stock in International Coal Group anytime soon either.
For some MSM-haters the biggest story of Hurricane Katrina was not the death of hundreds of people or the destruction of a major city- it was that "MSM" incorrectly reported a few things about what was going on there. For them, at this point it's really reached a level of postmodernism- no news story is ever more important than "MSM"'s coverage of that story.
News Item: Lindsay Lohan Admits Cocaine Use, Bulimia I mean, who saw that one coming?
Oh, it's bad. So, so bad. It's a disaster on the level of "The Chevy Chase Show" or "The Magic Hour" or "Ishtar." Since Roth has never really done comedy or talk radio, whose bright idea was it to give him a comedy talk radio show? At least his West Coast counterpart, Adam Carolla, used to host the great "Loveline" radio edition.
When the Roth show dies- and I can't imagine it won't be a few months- I hope CBS Radio is smart enough to put Carolla on nationwide. Either that, or they'll give a national (or at least East Coast-wide) forum to the brilliant Kidd Chris Show, now on locally on Philly's WYSP after stints in Sacramento and San Antonio. I've been listening almost daily since it debuted in October and can honestly say it's up there with the best of the Stern show.
Blogger Yaron, of the Daily Lunch, on why "King Kong" is just like "Brokeback Mountain":
Here's the story: it's about a young woman who aspires to be in showbiz; she ends up in a rugged, semi-deserted location with a gruff, anti-social guy. The guy broods a lot and barely says more than a few words, but he's had a rough life and there's something alluring about him. The two are mistrusful of each other at first, and her attempts to entertain him fall flat, but after getting to know each other better (and fighting off some lethal animals) they develop a nice rapport; before you know it they're making googly eyes and stroking each other lovingly. She still has to deal with her "official" love interest, who's completely clueless about the relationship and a bit of an airhead to boot. Things really fall apart when he comes over to visit her, and once people get wind of the relationship it has to be destroyed. This is partly because society can't deal with things it doesn't understand, but mostly because there was realistically no other way to end the story.Doesn't he mean "woman-ape love"?
Anyway, that's my view. I predict King Kong will do for man-ape love the same thing Brokeback Mountain did for homosexuality (i.e. nothing).
I liked 'Brokeback' a lot more than 'Kong'- for one thing, it didn't stop dead in its tracks for 45 minutes so all the sheep could fight each other.
Happy new year everyone! Hope everyone enjoyed the New Years' holiday and isn't too down on being back at work this week. Anyway, a few thoughts on the week that was:
BREAST WISHES: I watched the Dick Clark new years' special, and I renew my usual Muhammad Ali objection- is it really right to drag the man out there when due to his physical condition he's clearly not up to the job? Especially considering that had Dick come out just for a couple of minutes, it could have been a wonderful, memorable moment.
Also inappropriately out, on the same special- Mariah Carey's breasts. Apparently Mariah decided to celebrate her return to musical relevance by adding a second pair of implants to her already cartoonish-looking bosom- which was the first thing my friend mentioned to me when I talked to him a few minutes later. Good lord.
FREE AT LAST, FREE AT LAST!: I am, of course, ecstatic that my favorite football team has taken a major step back towards respectability by getting rid of Mike Tice. Zygi Wilf clearly realizes that in order to win the Vikings must expunge the foul taint of Red McCombs' cheapskate ownership, and doing so means both a new coach and new GM.
Who should be the new coach? I'd be very happy with Eagles offensive coordinator Brad Childress, Bears defensive guru Ron Rivera, or Giants d-coordinator Tim Lewis, though I'm not so high on Jim Fassel. Mike Martz? Don't even think about it. Though I'm especially glad it won't be Gregg Williams, who flopped as the head man in Buffalo and was given an inexplicable $8 million contract to remain an assistant with the Redskins. As for darkhouses- how about trying to lure Jim Mora, Sr. out of retirement?
Post-Tice, I feel like the conservative movement leaders must have felt after the Harriet Miers nomination was withdrawn. I'm sure he's a nice guy, but Tice clearly never had any business being an NFL head coach. I've been real hard on the guy, but I wish him the best. And I'd absolutely love it if the Packers hired him.
BIGGEST TRADE EVER?: The baseball trade frenzy seems to have died down a bit, but if the New York Daily News is to believed it's about to be reignited in a big way, with a four-way deal under discussion that would likely be the biggest trade- in number of players, and in amount of money and impact- in baseball history.
The scenario would involve four teams- the Mets, Red Sox, Orioles, and Devil Rays. The Mets would acquire Manny Ramirez from the Sox and reliever Danys Baez from the Rays. The Sox would get Miguel Tejada from Baltimore and centerfielder Joey Gathright from the Rays. The Orioles would get shortstop Julio Lugo from Tampa, as well as pitcher Kris Benson (and possibly Matt Clement as well). And Tampa would get prospects from everyone, including Boston's Andy Marte, with pitchers Jae Seo and/or Aaron Heilman going from the Mets to the Rays, along with Kaz Matsui. Other versions of the deal have Aubrey Huff going to the Red Sox as well, or a downscaled trade in which one or two of the teams are omitted.
Does it make sense for everyone? I say it does. And while that exact scenario may not take place, I predict at least some version of it will.
THE FIGHTIN' PORTISES: In probably my favorite NFL story of the weekend (beyond the Flutie dropkick and Maurice Clarett's best Jeff Reardon impersonation), the mother of Redskins running back Clinton Portis reportedly got into an altercation with some Eagles fans in the stands at Lincoln Financial Field. After a woman in the stands poured beer on Rhonnel Hearn, Portis' mom reportedly began throwing punches, leading to the ejections of the beer throwers and a move of the Portis delegation to the Washington sideline.
Deadspin suggests, and I agree, that Portis and his mom replace Donovan and Wilma McNabb in the Chunky Soup commercials next year. Maybe they can even turn Portis' bizarre parade of costumed characters into a coherent narrative.
STEIN VS. MODO: Joel Stein has written a "humor" column in the LA Times that reminds me why no one likes him. Apparently Joel once made a crack in one of his columns that offended Maureen Dowd, leading her to publicly accuse him of sexism (if I knowingly offended the sanctimonious MoDo, I'd be thrilled, but that's just me). Then this emasculated wuss spent the next several years attempting to apologize to Maureen, who repeatedly refused his offers whether they were verbal or in the form of bottles of wine. Guess his apologies had trouble getting through the TimesSelect wall.
ABRAMOFF SINGS: Disgraced Republican super-lobbyist and Brandeis alum Jack Abramoff has plead guilty to three felony charges, and will reportedly agree to testify against members of Congress. Mark my words- this WILL be the biggest political story of 2006.
TOTTEN ON A ROLL: My friend Michael Totten is writing up a storm on his Mideast excursion. First LA Weekly ran his story about visiting Libya, and now the Wall Street Journal website carries his op-ed on democracy in Lebanon. I really hope someone gives him a book deal to write about this stuff, because it's all great.
RIP, JEWISH HIPSTERISM: The "hipster Jewish" fad is losing steam, according to the Jewish Week. Good riddance, I say- it was always a stupid, one-joke enterprise, based on the premise that merging Jewish tropes with hip-hop culture, along with repeatedly using the word "oy," is somehow transgressive and/or hilarious. Please. American Jews have enough to proud of these days without resorting to that nonsense. I especially like the description of Heeb as the "Mad Magazine of the Jewish community."