Simon Dumenco of AdAge, in making a list of those who need to apologize:
Blockbuster -- fresh in my mind because of its current TV commercial campaign -- for continuing to market its online rental service as a better alternative to Netflix, when in fact Blockbuster routinely condescends to its customers by offering censored versions of films. Like, if you rent the indie classic “Y tu Mamá También” from Blockbusters in certain parts of the country, Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna don’t kiss at the end. I suppose that means that before “Capote” can hit Blockbuster’s shelves, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s dialogue will be have to be redubbed by James Earl Jones.
There was an interesting story last week- in the Duke student newspaper, of all places- summing up a new study which states that:
many film critics, faced with far too many movies to write about, tend to avoid writing reviews of bad films that they’ve seen. At the same time, a few critics, faced with the same overwhelming choice, tend to avoid reviewing good movies that they’ve watched.As a critic, I can see how flawed this study seems. For one thing, most critics are constrained from reviewing every movie- either they must share the load with a colleague, or are otherwise limited to reviewing only one movie a week. Then there's all the movies that aren't reviewed because they're not screened for critics.
As a result, moviegoers might infer the likely opinions of their favorite reviewers, even when those critics don’t actually write about a movie. The study will appear in the June 2006 issue of the journal Quantitative Marketing & Economics.
In my case, I can tell you that the majority of my reviews are positive, because I'm allowed to choose which movies to see/review, and therefore I tend to avoid movies that I think I'm not going to like. The other dynamic at work is that it's both a lot easier and a lot more fun to write negative reviews than positive ones, and it's also more fun to read them. Roger Ebert's popular book "I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie" is Exhibit A in that respect- and speaking of Ebert, he wrote a letter to Romanesko, also taking issue with the study.
This high school basketball video is one of the more amazing things you'll ever see. Chances of this story being made into a "Rudy"-like Disney movie within two years are about 1000 out of a 1000. I mean, it's the Hosea Crittenden thing, times about a million.
News Item: Hall of Famer Carl Eller Arrested for DUI
Speaking of Canton enshrinees, I briefly interviewed Steelers Hall of Famer-turned-gubernatorial candidate Lynn Swann at a fundraiser Sunday morning, and I wanted to rib him about his Steelers having won two Super Bowls against my Vikings in the '70s. But I couldn't find the right words, so I just asked him about the Dubai Ports World deal, or whether he'd read last week's SI piece about his candidacy (he hadn't.)
Washington Post: Cohen Slips to Silver
By the way, does the Japanese gold medalist remind anyone else of that SNL sketch "The Arakawa Group," the "MacLaughlin Group" parody from that brief period in the mid-'90s when everyone thought Japan was about to take over America?
"They'd boo me if my first warm-up pitch wasn't 100 miles per hour."- Phillie-turned-Met Billy Wagner, on his often-contentious relationship with the Philadelphia fans. Hey, if they're going to give him unwarranted abuse, what's wrong with returning it?
The Village Voice has a piece this week on the kooks who make up the "9/11 Truth Movement," those who provide various conspiracy theories and other alternative histories to the "official version" of the events of the terror attack.
I'd been expecting a total puff piece, but reporter Jarrett Murphy does show some healthy skepticism. There are, after all, some howlers here- for instance, the idea that the planes that hit the towers were really a "hologram," that the planes fired missiles immediately prior to impact, or (my personal favorite) that the attacks were part of "a plot to rid the world of 4 billion people in order to reduce demand for petroleum." (Wouldn't the death of 4 billion people cause the world economy to instantly collapse completely? That wouldn't exactly be good for the oil companies, would it?)
The most unbelievable part of the 9/11 conspiracy theories, of course, is something I learned from my Brandeis professor Jerry Cohen: widespread conspiracy theories tend to be false, because the more time passes, the more likely it is that a co-conspirator will either make a mistake, or tell all. In the 9/11 "conspiracy," neither ever happened. In fact, the "9/11 Truth" theories directly contradict the same people's general opinion of the Bush Administration's incompetence. If Bush and Co. are too stupid to handle Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, and everyone else, how were they able to pull off the 9/11 plot, with 100% success, with no leaks whatsoever in the ensuing five years?
Jack Shafer of Slate has a side-splitting "photo essay" on the prevalence of vacuous blond women on cable news, led by the worst of them all, "Hurricane" Rita Cosby. The highlight:
Blond hair may have already passed as a sexual signifier on news networks. The new blond is lips, specifically what people inside the industry call "Fox lips," and they are worn by Fox's Laurie Dhue, Fox's Gretchen Carlson, and MSNBC's Rita Cosby, three top blondes. Achieved in the makeup room in a procedure that sounds one step this side of cosmetic surgery, I'm told that powder, pencil, and paint can turn even the weakest mouth into a juicy vagina dentata.Yes, Cosby is so talentless, and so fixated on reporting on frivolous garbage, that she's more dangerous to the news business than 200 Bill O'Reillys.
How big are Fox lips? When Rita Cosby switched from Fox to MSNBC, a construction crane was called in to move hers, which resemble a pair of oily, red eels mating angrily.
UPDATE: Speaking of which, this Dubai ports kerfuffle has so re-ordered the usual sides of partisan bickering that the following exchange actually took place tonight on O'Reilly's show:
Rep. Peter King: You and the Washington Post are all alike.
O'Reilly: You and Maureen Dowd are all alike.
James Lileks, pretty much summing up my position on the United Arab Emirates port security scandal:
"I’m not worried that some evil emir is putting a pinky to his monocled eye, and saying Mwah! at last I have them where I want them! I’m worried about the guy who’s three steps down the management branch handing off a job to a brother who trusts some guys who have some sympathies with some guys who hang around some rather energetic fellows who attend that one mosque where the guy talks about jihad 24/7, and somehow someone gets a job somewhere that makes it easier for something to happen.
That’s a lot of ifs and maybes. But I don’t want any ifs and maybes. You can't eliminate them all, of course, but I would rather we had a system devoted to worrying about ifs and maybes instead of adopting an official policy of Whatever."
Larry Summers resigned as president of Harvard the other day, and it's a damn shame. He was one of the few people in academia willing to stand up to the PC mafia, and in the process managed to win a power struggle with the charlatan professor Cornel West. All that, and he's a Democrat too- why can't he go back into politics, and show the party how it's done?
The shirts worn by “Brokeback” stars Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal are for sale on eBay as part of an auction to benefit Variety — the Children’s Charity of Southern California. As of this writing, the bidding had reached more than $20,000, according to the Los Angeles Times.Props from the gay cowboy movie are being sold to benefit children? The gay agenda continues to corrupt our children, and do it while they're young!
(Who will make this argument first- O'Reilly, or Colbert?)
According to the Smoking Gun, the 33-year-old Iowa man attempted to get his wife to sign a 4-page "Contract of Wifely Expectations" which includes, well, just read it. Let's just say the biggest schmuck named Frey on the Smoking Gun this year is no longer James.
The American snowboarders get two SI covers in a row:
There was nothing else going on this week? They couldn't have stuck Barry Bonds' ugly mug on there one more time?
Kevin Brown has retired, following a 19-year big league career. Brown quits with the all-time major-league record for most locker room inanimate objects destroyed. As I once wrote of Brown, "Throughout their careers [Brown and Gary Sheffield] have very much cultivated the “clubhouse cancer” label and Brown, in fact, represents a literal physical danger to the clubhouse itself -- no wall, water cooler, or light fixture is safe for as long as he’s around."
It was announced today that David Lee Roth will take a vacation next week from his calamitous morning radio show, and Kidd Chris and Co. will sit in, at least in Philadelphia. I'd love to hear anyone argue why this temporary switch shouldn't be a permanent one.
So, ready for some Telephone Jihad in the morning?
I'm once again getting Google searches for "Sasha Cohen nude." (I'm #2 now). I expect Thursday, when the long program takes place, to be my biggest traffic day of the year. But at least this year, unlike 2002, Sasha is no longer underage.
At the top of the Boston Globe's website:
TTN. Boston Globe subscribers: Confidential credit and bank card account information of Boston Globe and Worcester Telegram & Gazette subscribers who pay for their home delivery subscriptions by credit card was recently inadvertently disclosed on the back of slips used to label bundles of the Worcester Sunday Telegram. The bank routing information of some Telegram & Gazette subscribers who pay by automatic withdrawal may also have appeared on some of these newspaper bundle sheets.Could a mistake of that magnitude possibly have happened by accident? Yikes. I'll leave further analysis to my former colleagues at Bank Security News.
Chris Satullo, in the Philadelphia Inquirer:
"Face it, the only real value [White House press briefings] have is to provide fodder for Jon Stewart and The Daily Show. They have as much to do with real journalism as a Harlem Globetrotters game has to do with the NBA Finals.Satullo rightly points out that the right's gimmick these days is to always, no matter how badly they've screwed up, to change the subject to that of "liberal media bias." That's how Michael Medved can say with a straight face that the biggest news story of 2005 was "the media's bungled response to Hurricane Katrina." And yes, that is how they win.
And they are a trap. This absurd play-acting is all most Americans see of the practice of journalism. The setting is designed to make reporters look churlish and impotent. This bolsters the conservative view that reporters are impudent hacks, and the liberal delusion that if only reporters asked the really tough questions, W. would break down like a suspect on Law and Order, sobbing, "Yes, yes, I lied and people died!"
Since he only came back last year to avoid forfeiting his $8 million signing bonus, did you really think Ricky was committed to staying clean?
"It is a complete delusion to believe that the major source of our problem today is something called "Islamophobia." No: the problem is terrorism and tyranny propagated under the banner of Islam. Without that, no Danish cartoon could have been conceived of, let alone published. That is the real and far more blatant blasphemy. If 10,000 angry Muslims had marched in London after the bombing of a major mosque in Iraq, I'd be impressed. But they didn't. Until they do, the West has nothing to apologize for. The Muslim world needs to take the beam out of its own eye, before it removes the speck from the West's."-Andrew Sullivan.
From an AP story about the release from the hospital of Harry Whittington, the man Dick Cheney shot last week:
In Corpus Christi, Texas, the 78-year-old Whittington stood outside the hospital where he has been treated, telling reporters he was sorry for all the trouble Cheney had faced since the accidental shooting during a quail hunting trip.He was sorry? He's the one who got shot! Isn't it Cheney who should be apologizing to him, and not the other way around?
I don't normally do this, but I thought I'd reproduce here an editorial of mine that ran in the suburban newspaper that I edit, The Trend Leader. Such things won't be necessary sometime next month, when our planned website finally goes online and I'll be able to link to all my stuff from there. Anyway, here it is, reprinted from the Feb. 15 issue:
Jihad vs. the Press
By Stephen Silver, The Trend Leader
The riots that began last week all over the world in reaction to the publication in Denmark of cartoons seen as offensive to Muslims should cause considerable alarm to anyone who cares in the slightest about the future of free society.
After a newspaper in Denmark published the cartoons that depicted the Prophet Muhammad, rioters both throughout the Muslim world and in Muslim enclaves all around Europe have reacted by burning down buildings and embassies belonging to the Danish government, leading to dozens of deaths. All this for the simple crime that the government failed to prevent the cartoons' publication. Yes the rioters, manipulated and cheered on by radical clerics, are not only arguing against freedom of the press, but in favor of mandatory government censorship of all communications with which they disagree- under penalty of death. There's a word for that: fascism.
Yes, America has more than its share of religious fanatics, of all stripes. But vile as Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and James Dobson may be, I've never known any of them to burn down an embassy, nor incite anyone else to do the same. (Yes, Robertson called for the assassination of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, but that was more the ravings of a doddering old fool than a genuine call to arms).
But more importantly, that sort of thing doesn't happen in America because we are a free society. We allow criticism, disagreement and right of the people to petition the government for a redress of grievances. And, despite what certain opponents of the current administration might say, that freedom has not been abridged, and likely never will be. This is more than we can say of the numerous failed states throughout the Muslim world, where cleptocratic monarchies and other corrupt governments have denied basic freedom to tens of millions of people, causing many of them to turn to Islamic fundamentalism, if not terrorism.
Members of Philadelphia's rather large Muslim community last week held a peaceful protest outside the offices of our sister paper, the Philadelphia Inquirer, after the Inquirer ran some of the cartoons to illustrate a story about the controversy. The editor and publisher of the paper met them outside, and the two sides had a heated, but nonetheless respectful, discussion. That's what happens in a free society in which freedom of speech and of the press are respected.
However, only a handful of American newspapers (the Inquirer, the New York Sun) have dared to publish the cartoons, in the context of explaining the riot story. CNN, whenever they discuss the story, has pixilated the cartoons in order to obscure them from audiences. Then last Tuesday the alternative weekly paper New York Press- for which I've written on and off for years- attempted to get the cartoons into that week's editions, and when the publisher refused, the paper's entire editorial board resigned in protest. Another alt-weekly, the Boston Phoenix, ran an extraordinary editorial last week in which editors admitted that the biggest reason they hadn't published the cartoons was because they feared for the safety of their staff. Editors in France, Jordan and elsewhere have been forced out of their jobs for running the cartoons, and the cartoonists themselves are reportedly in hiding.
Islam itself is not the problem. In the majority of the world it is a peaceful religion that shuns violence and is no threat whatsoever to the democratic order. And as liberal writer Spencer Ackerman recently pointed out in The New Republic, American Muslims have not turned to terrorism, primarily because the vast majority of them have found prosperity in our country and see no reason to oppose it in any way.
But that should not prevent us from seeing the truth about the most radical strains of Islam. Radical Islam is not a religion but a vile ideology that seeks to countenance -if not directly participate in- terrorism, suicide bombings, "honor killing," subjugation of women, hatred and violence towards homosexuals, and crushing of everything we in free and open society hold dear. And this includes, as we are now seeing, freedom of speech and of the press.
These lunatics are the ones who threatened the life of British author Salman Rushdie, murdered journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan and filmmaker Theo Van Gogh in the Netherlands, support the vile anti-Semitic ravings and nuclear ambitions of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and (of course) carried out the murder of 3,000 Americans on Sept. 11, 2001.
And because these fanatics hold liberal, free society as their number one enemy, no one should be more opposed to them than liberals. This is not to say that cartoons which mock the prophet Muhammad are good, or even worth defending. But a society in which they are not allowed, under penalty of death, is not one in which freedom can flourish.
Yes, it is simplistic to say that these fanatics "hate freedom." But it also happens to be true.
I'm happy to report that about 5:15 p.m. today, I finished my seven-month quest to listen to my entire iPod in alphabetical order. That's 4,687 songs, though in fairness I didn't listen to every single one of them since I was constantly adding songs throughout. The first song was "#1 Must Have" by Sleater-Kinney, and the last two were both by U2: "Zoo Station" and "Zooropa." And I admit that the latter was likely the first time I've actually listened to "Zooropa" (or anything from the album of the same name) since about 1995.
So what next? Shuffle all the time? One album at a time? Just whatever song I feel like? I'm open to suggestion.
New York Post: "MAN SHOT AT BABY SHOWER":
A baby shower turned bloody early yesterday when a gun-toting guest opened fire in a Brooklyn restaurant — hitting a Queens man who had just pulled him out of a fight over who had the better dance moves, police said.So many questions: what was a man doing at a baby shower? Why fight over dance moves? And who ever heard of a baby shower held late at night? Was the baby even there? Next time I'm at a shower I'll be sure to pick a fight over dance moves.
The festivities were winding down at the New Combination eatery in East Flatbush when Teron Smith, 28, was shot in the left side of the face at about 12:45 a.m., cops said.
"Normally, we have parties here and we keep two or three bodyguards," restaurant manager Ricardo Green said. "But we didn't think we needed that. This was a baby shower."
Because if you can't get a raise after having the worst season of your career, suffering a catastrophic injury, and then getting indicted in connection with a sex scandal, then you never can. TO may be a prick, but at least he had a semi-defensible negotiating position.
It'll be a shame to see Daunte go, especially since I was expecting him to flourish in the post-Tice era. Brad Johnson's a decent stopgap for a year or two, but let's hope that if Daunte goes, the compensation will lead to the development of a quarterback of the future, either a player or through draft picks.
From my old paper, the Justice: "Response to Vandal Must Not be Effete" I love that choice of words, even if it's most commonly associated with the man who represents Brandeis in Congress as their junior Senator.
It's a typical Brandeis story: a campus group (this time, the Christian Fellowship) had their sign vandalized- in this case the unknown vandal drew legs on the group's "Jesus Fish," and added the word "Darwin." A bit crude, perhaps, although it's sort of absurd to suggest that "intelligent design" theory is in any danger of gaining a foothold on the Brandeis campus.
The response, of course, has been to organize a candlelight vigil- which is always- ALWAYS- the solution for everything at Brandeis. I remember one month there were at least five of them. People in Waltham may often argue absurdly that "war has never solved anything," although they should also known that neither has a vigil. Anyway, columnist Matt Brown points this out and for that I give him credit.
He also tells us about how some other unknown vandals last year bastardized the sign of "B'Yahad"- the Israeli dance troupe whose name means "together" in Hebrew- and changed it so it read "B-Yach." On campus, this incident was likely treated as the equivalent of an actual rape, though off campus it's better known as "funny."
No, not Dick Cheney... reports say that actor Ray Wise, who most famously played Leland (the man who killed Laura Palmer on "Twin Peaks") will soon appear on "24" as the show's vice president character.
While I'm intrigued with the show's depiction of a president (Logan) who is twice as dumb and half as authoritative as George W. Bush, the act's bound to wear thin very quickly, so maybe he'll be assassinated or something and we'll get another President Palmer- Leland Palmer. Then the villain for Season 6 can be BOB.
I saw Billy Joel last night at Wachovia Center, and while I half-expected him to "perform his age," he was just as energetic and winning as when I last saw him, in Boston eight years ago. The show marked Joel's 46th Philadelphia sellout, which is three more than Bruce Springsteen (though to be fair, Bruce tours much less frequently).
For the past few months I've endlessly repeated the joke that I was going to see Billy, that is, "if he doesn't crash his car into the Wachovia Center on his way to the show." But somehow, he's still got his groove despite pushing 60. He opened with "Angry Young Man," and played a three-hour show that closed with an encore of "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant" ("Bottle of red/bottle of white/I won't be having/either one tonight") and "Piano Man." The funniest moment was when he dedicated "She's Got a Way" to his wife Katie- who wasn't born yet when the song was first released.
All in all a great show. I was worried about Billy, but he's clearly still got his groove. Which is more than I can say for the embarrassing, freakish Rolling Stones.
It's "Thank You For Smoking," Jason Reitman's satirical political comedy that I saw this morning. It's a rare treat from Hollywood- a political satire that's actually complex. Not fake-complex, like "Syriana," but actually complex in its loyalties- joyfully skewering both left and right. It's a movie about a tobacco lobbyist (Aaron Eckhardt) not afraid to make its protagonist look like a schmuck- nor to mock the self-righteous do-goodery of the anti-smoking movement. A hilarious, concise romp that confines its points into 90 minutes, without feeling rushed. See it when it comes out in March.
Jack Shafer, on common columnist pitfalls:
"Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make a newspaper columnist. Most columnists start off with a bag full of ideas and endless energy. But the job begins to weigh on even the most talented journalist. He starts writing columns about columns he's written, about his kids, or about the deaths of relatives. He composes columns as open letters to world leaders—or writes from inside their heads. He quotes cab drivers. His columns become more assertion than argument. Finally, he starts picking silly, protracted fights with other media machers."He could have added "she bitches about not having a husband," and he'd be ripping Maureen Dowd instead of Nicholas Kristof/Thomas Friedman/George Will.
The Arab "street" reminds me of Al Goldstein's old show on Manhattan Cable. Goldstein would spend most of the program naked, asking junkie strippers about their fantasies - not unlike Dick Cavett - but he'd also deliver an editorial at the end where he told some institution, event or public figure: "f--k you." Nine times out of ten, it was Manhattan Cable. But other times it would be some politician, or censor, or United Airlines for screwing up his reservations. One time it was Turkey Hill ice cream, just because Al thought that was a lousy name for ice cream.How great was "Midnight Blue"? Much funnier than Maher's show, that's for sure.
Still doubt the absurdity of "Crash"? Check out McSweeneys' take.
They were "suspended without pay." The University of Illinois may not let its student editors practice journalism, but at least it pays them.
Philadelphia fans are pissed off (what else is new?), this time about the Sixers. They're hovering around .500, attendence is in the toilet, and for the first time many fans are wondering if the team might be better off trading Future Hall of Famer Allen Iverson. The Washington Post talked to team CEO Ed Snider about the situation, and he said this:
"Philly crowds are a little spoiled, I think," Snider said. "I think they are disappointed in the overall record of the team."Oops. For a town that hasn't won a professional sports championship since 1983, a fact that's mentioned on local sports radio about 50 times a day, "spoiled" is a word that may strike some as a tad inaccurate, if not insulting.
How will Philly fans react? Did you see those riots in the Middle East and Eastern Europe last week? That was nothing.
The United States and Israel are discussing ways to destabilize the Palestinian government so that newly elected Hamas officials will fail and elections will be called again, according to Israeli officials and Western diplomats.If anybody's got a better idea for handling a government that, literally, is a terrorist organization, I'd love to hear it.
From Les Payne, of Newsday:
"Disreputable journals might well publish such images to attract attention, as Al Goldstein might publish women mating with goats. But such an image would never make the pages of the legitimate papers."Yes, exactly, I was thinking the same thing.
If Goldstein did that, and it set off riots worldwide, I would hope that every legitimate paper WOULD publish it.
For some reason, I feel like the ensuing discussion in the Oval Office must have been reminiscent of "Anchorman":
George W. Bush: Boy, that escalated quickly... I mean, that really got out of hand fast!UPDATE: In Aaron Burr's Wikipedia profile:
Donald Rumsfeld: It jumped up a notch!
George W. Bush: It did, didn't it?
Dick Cheney: Yeah, I stabbed a man in the heart!
George W. Bush: I saw that! Dick killed a guy! Did you throw a trident?
Dick Cheney: Yeah, there were horses, and a man on fire, and I killed a guy with a trident!
George W. Bush: Dick, I've been meaning to talk to you about that. You should find yourself a safehouse or a relative close by. Lay low for a while, because you're probably wanted for murder.
"In 2006, Richard Cheney, while on a hunting trip in Texas, became the second Vice President to shoot a person while in office."
Not sure how big a news story this is, but professional wrestler Chris Kanyon (formerly known as Mortis, "Champagne Kanyon," "Positively Kanyon," and simply Kanyon, announced last week that he is gay, and claims to be the first openly gay professional wrestler.
That may come as news to those familiar with Pat Patterson, the former wrestler-turned-WWE front office figure, though I suppose he's never officially come out of the closet. And that's not to mention the numerous gay-related gimmicks wrestling has churned out over the years, and the generally gay nature (costumes, rolling around with other guys, etc.) of wrestling itself. See the famous "wrestling sleaze" thread for other examples.
Margaret Wigiser, a player in the 1940s All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, was included in the recent baseball card set of Jewish baseball players- but then removed, after decendents of Ms. Wigiser revealed that she was not, in fact, Jewish.
Check out the Muhammad Dance- and do so with the satisfaction that about 100 million in the world would kill you if they knew you were doing it.
What’s happening here is that a gang of bullies—led by a country, Saudi Arabia, where Bibles are forbidden, Christians tortured, Jews routinely labeled “apes and pigs” in the state-controlled media, and apostasy from Islam punished by death—is trying to compel a tiny democracy to live by its own theocratic rules. To succumb to pressure from this gang would simply be to invite further pressure, and lead to further concessions—not just by Denmark but by all of democratic Europe. And when they’ve tamed Europe, they’ll come after America.-Bruce Bawer, writing in The Stranger.
Today, for work, I went to a luncheon in suburban Philadelphia hosted by Ken Mehlman, the chairman of the Republican National Committee. An interesting lunch- speaking to a Latino group, Mehlman made the GOP sound as though they're at the forefront of every civil rights cause, fighting to elect the first black Pennsylvania governor (Lynn Swann). But to be fair, he did sound sincere.
Mehlman seems like a nice enough guy, and isn't nearly the disingenuous, reptilian slimeball that his predecessor Ed Gillespie was. This despite the fact that his handlers, while inviting the press to the event, all but bodyblocked reporters from speaking to Mehlman afterward.
I love my job. I can go to Wing Bowl and be surrounded by fat guys eating wings and Wingettes with laughably large breast implants, then five days later be in the same room as the national chairman of the Republican Party. And I'm on the clock for both. Is this a great country, or what?
The long-awaited "Monday Night Football" announcer shakeup was finally announced today, when ESPN revealed that Al Michaels will not participate in the telecast, nor in the network's basketball broadcasts, nor anything else on ABC, ever again. Instead, the MNF play-by-play man will be Mike "Sexual Harassment Panda" Tirico, flanked in the booth by Joe Theissman and Tony Kornheiser. Michaels, presumably, will jump to NBC to work the new Sunday night broadcast with John Madden.
Two things that perplex me here: Not nearly a big enough deal has been made about Michaels leaving ABC, the network where's worked for 30 years, and where he called the Miracle on Ice, supplying one of the two most famous calls in sports history (along with "The Giants win the pennant.") Secondly, Kornheiser's doing MNF? Doesn't he go to bed at 8 every night? How will be stay up for the late games?
CNN.com: Bush Urges End to Cartoon Violence.
As Jonah Goldberg asked, what does the president suddenly have against Itchy and Scratchy?
After about two years of wrangling and drama, the Washington D.C. Council finally approved the lease last night for a new Washington Nationals ballpark on the Anacostia River. Awesome- I can't wait to start going down there a few times a year for games. The approval came after months of negotiations, and the lease had been rejected in a vote earlier that day. Political stories are always especially difficult to keep track of when Marion Berry is prominently involved.
Come on, Minnesota: now it's your turn!
Regardless, this whole thing makes me pretty confident that the Twins will never leave Minnesota. If it took baseball and a bumbling municipal government this long (about 8 years) to get the Expos out of Montreal, into DC, and in a new stadium lease, how long will the same process take again, for a team in a city with an elaborate fan base and no relocation options to speak of? 10 years? 15?
It's "The Shining," recut to look like the trailer for a cuddly father-and-son comedy. The kicker is Peter Gabriel's "Solesbury Hill" kicking in halfway through, like it does in about half the movie trailers released these days. It's the best thing of its kind I've seen since the "Passion of the Christ"/"Walkin' on Sunshine" hybrid.
The Washington Post's Anne Applebaum, on "less attractive political undercurrents" of the Danish cartoon scandal:
Hypocrisy of the right-wing blogosphere. Remember the controversy over Newsweek and the Koran? Last year Newsweek printed an allegation about mistreatment of the Koran at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base that -- although strikingly similar to interrogation techniques actually used to intimidate Muslims at Guantanamo -- was not substantiated by an official government investigation. It hardly mattered: Abroad, Muslim politicians and clerics promoted and exaggerated the Koran story, just as they are now promoting and exaggerating the Danish cartoon story. The result was rioting and violence on a scale similar to the rioting and violence of the past week.But Applebaum, known as somewhat of a conservative, doesn't give the cultural left a pass either.
But although that controversy was every bit as manipulated as this one, self-styled U.S. "conservatives" blamed not cynical politicians and clerics but Newsweek for (accidentally) inciting violence in the Muslim world: "Newsweek lied, people died." Worse, much of the commentary implied that Newsweek was not only wrong to make a mistake (which it was) but also that the magazine was wrong to investigate the alleged misconduct of U.S. soldiers. Logically, the bloggers should now be attacking the Danish newspaper for (less accidentally) inciting violence in the Muslim world. Oddly enough, though, I've heard no cries of "Jyllands-Posten insulted, people died." The moral is: We defend press freedom if it means Danish cartoonists' right to caricature Muhammad; we don't defend press freedom if it means the mainstream media's right to investigate the U.S. government.
I completely missed it, but supposedly John McCain had a cameo on "24" last week. I always wished he was the president instead of Bush, but if he ran against Logan, he'd win with about 98% of the vote. Still, funny that the most vocal opponent of torture in all of American politics would appear on the show that all but celebrates the tactic.
Actually, McCain and Jack Bauer have a lot in common: they're both badasses, and they're both good at withstanding torture. McCain/Bauer in '08!
The film... makes clear that Israeli counterterrorism agents do not kill for glory or pleasure, or to expand an empire. Like Americans today, they fight fairly and honorably against vicious enemies who deliberately inflict horrors on civilians as a means of psychological manipulation. "Munich" depicts civilized, decent men who can--and do--give the terrorists what they have coming. Now more than ever, that's a good image for the world to see.Heather Robinson, in the Wall Street Journal, coming out of the closet as a pro-"Munich" Zionist. And all this time, I thought I was the only one.
In a bombshell announcement tonight, the New York alt weekly New York Press announced that the paper's entire editorial board has resigned, in protest of the publisher's refusal to run the controversial "Muhammad cartoons," which are currently being blamed for riots being carried out by fanatics throughout Europe and the Middle East.
Not sure what this means for the future of my football column, but hey, the season was over anyway. Here's their letter, by editor Harry Siegel:
For all the talk of freedom of speech, only the New York Sun locally and two other papers nationally have mustered the minimal courage needed to print simple and not especially offensive editorial cartoons that have been used as a pretext for great and greatly menacing violence directed against journalists, cartoonists, humanitarian aid workers, diplomats and others who represent the basic values and obligations of Western civilization. Having been ordered at the 11th hour to pull the now-infamous Danish cartoons from an issue dedicated to them, the editorial group—consisting of myself, managing editor Tim Marchman, arts editorJonathan Leaf and one-man city hall bureau Azi Paybarah, chose instead to resign our positions.While they did a great job in their brief time and I'm sad to see them go, I'm proud of the Press guys for what they have chosen to do, and I'll certainly follow them wherever they go. It's an especially more honorable exit than the embarrassing "funny things about the Pope's death" scandal that caused the previous regime's exit.
We have no desire to be free speech martyrs, but it would have been nakedly hypocritical to avoid the same cartoons we'd criticized others for not running, cartoons that however absurdly have inspired arson, kidnapping and murder and forced cartoonists in at least two continents to go into hiding. Editors have already been forced to leave papers in Jordan and France for having run these cartoons. We have no illusions about the power of the Press (NY Press, we mean), but even on the far margins of the world-historical stage, we are not willing to side with the enemies of the values we hold dear, a free press not least among them.
A major scandal broke today that may very well be to hockey what the 2002 steroid bombshell was to baseball. Former NHL All-Star and current Phoenix assistant coach Rick Tocchet has been arrested and charged with running a multi-state, multi-million dollar gambling ring that allegedly included several NHL players, reputed mobsters, and the wife of Wayne Gretzky. In addition, reports out of Philadelphia suggest that numerous other local figures are involved, including members of the media.
On a personal note, Tocchet is Becca's favorite athlete of all time, and so she's taking this especially hard. Having lived through the Kirby Puckett scandal, I know how she feels.
Wow, this makes the Larry/Linda Wachowski thing look like just another day at the office. Hollywood director Lee Tamahori, who helmed the most recent James Bond film ("Die Another Day") as well as several "Sopranos" episodes, was arrested for solicitation in Los Angeles, for allegedly dressing as a woman and propositioning an undercover officer.
The "Vito Surprise" episode, however, was not one of those that Tamahori directed.
Headline this morning, in relation to the cartoon scandal:
No, actually, I'd say right now it's Muslims that are on the offensive, again. And while yes, some of them are on the defensive, the ones on the offensive are a considerably more significant news story.
From a dynamite TNR piece by Steven Groopman on an Air America event in which members of the crowd watched the State of the Union and hooted, hollared, and laughed whenever the president mentioned "9/11," "terror," "freedom," and "weapons of mass destruction":
This made me wonder: Why the visceral reaction to these particular formulations? The speech contained plenty of lines worthy of ridicule, and Bush certainly uses his share of dishonest conservative catchphrases ("activist judges" for instance). But spreading freedom around the world is--or should be--a paramount goal of liberalism. Meanwhile, terrorism remains a real threat to America, and a source of continuing death and destruction the world over. As for "weapons of mass destruction": A fanatical regime in Iran with a history of sponsoring terrorism and a stated desire to see Israel "wiped off the map" is well on its way to having such weapons. This is not an invention of the Republican imagination; it is reality.If my party can look at Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and George W. Bush side by side, and decide Bush is the bad guy, then no, they don't deserve to be in power.
Further illustrating the absurdity of Fox News' "Hannity & Colmes"- tonight they did a segment- titled "Is he teaching YOUR kids?" on Northwestern University engineering professor Arthur Butz, who is an active Holocaust denier. A worthy subject, for sure, but not quite so newsy, considering that Butz was hired at NU more than 30 years ago, and I think I was in 7th grade when I first heard about him.
And speaking of right-wing absurdity, I saw David Horowitz's new book- a list of "the 101 most dangerous professors in America," and Butz's name was not on the list. What, not lefty enough? Making the cut, however, was Brandeis' Gordie Fellman, who may be wrong on just about everything, but he's certainly not dangeous.
UPDATE: Mea culpa: Butz is in fact in the news because he recently praised his fellow Holocaust denier, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Butz is unspeakably vile, of course, but at least he isn't running a country.
A candidate by the name of Hitler ran in the recent Palestinian elections- and won.
I'll save full comment for my NYPress column, but glad to see that I picked both the Steelers to win, and Willie Parker to score the winning touchdown. The Steelers have great fans and they deserved to win one. Still, a game that was played, coached, and officiated terribly by just about everyone.
Not a bad year for commercials. I kept hearing this year's ads would be less sex-oriented and more violent. Which is great, because sex isn't inherently funny, but violence is. Here we go:
The five best:
1. The FedEx caveman. Short, simple, and with a great punchline. Even better, the cruelty-to-animals people can't complain because dinosaurs are extinct anyway.
2. The sheep streaker. Loved it. Almost as good as the human streaker ad from a few years ago. And here I didn't think the Clydesdales could be funny.
3. The first two Bud Light ads. The bottles hidden in the office, which soon regrets into savagery, followed by the "magic fridge" in the apartment. Great, great stuff, and even better, Cedric the Entertainer was nowhere to be found.
4. The Michelob Ultra Amber tackle spot. Like a cross between "Terry Tate: Office Linebacker" and the touch-football scenes in "Wedding Crashers."
5. Cell phone "Crime Deterrent." Love that it was actually listed as a feature.
And the five worst:
1. "Brown and Bubbly." It would be a candidate for the bottom five for Diddy's involvement alone. But use of the slogan "Brown and Bubbly"- to sell a food product really has to be one of the worst ideas in the history of advertising. Flush it, I say.
2. Jessica Simpson for Pizza Hut. Like she's eaten a pizza in the last five years.
3. "The Whopperettes." A lot of people liked this one, but I thought it was creepy, especially with "The King" hovering nearby. And yes, the King scares me ten times more than he used to, now that I've met Howard Eskin in person.
4. "The Beer Institute." Only because they had every nationalilty on Earth say their version of "Cheers"- except for a disturbing lack of "L'Chaim."
5. The Gillette Fusion. Not that it was a bad ad, I just love that the Onion's "Fuck it, we're going to five blades" parody has actually come true.
Friday morning I got to experience one of Philly's most popular cultural events: the 14th annual Wing Bowl. The annual wing-eating contest, sponsored by WIP, has become a local insitution, for its twin celebrations of gluttony and debauchery. It's also held at 6 in the morning on the Friday before the Super Bowl, meaning much of the crowd had been drinking in the parking lot for the entire night. I was there covering the event for my day-job paper, and here are a few highlights:
- Professional eater Joey Chestnut came away with the victory, setting a new Wing Bowl record by eating 173 wings (or, 100 more wings than Barry Bonds hit home runs in 2001). The biggest fan favorite, however, was 61-year-old Rich "The Locust" Lefevre, who was accompanied by his same-age wife, also a skinny, professional competitive eater. The Locust seemed to be greatly enjoying himself, especially since the two Wingettes on either side of him had breasts that weighed more than he did.
- Indeed, this year's Wing Bowl may have set another new record: the most silicone ever collected in one room at once. Not only were there the Wingettes, but each contender had his own entourage of additional scantily-clad women, especially since several of them were sponsored by local strip clubs. Then there were the women in the crowd flashing throughout the day, and the scoreboard kept cutting away from them at the last minute. Becca (along as my official photographer) at one point pointed at one of the Wingettes and said she thought maybe her breasts were fake. "Yea," I said, "and that one, that one, and that one." Some of those girls made Mariah Carey look downright natural by comparison.
- All the WIP personalites were there live, and I also got to meet five-time former champion El Wingador, whose real name (oddly enough) is Bill Simmons. Seemed like a nice guy to me, though I didn't get to ask him if he knows the other Bill Simmons.
- One of the contenders, known as "Dr. Slob," was an old friend of Becca's sister, so I talked to him before and after. He was able to eat 113 wings, which would have placed him fourth, but was disqualified shortly after the bell under the "you heave, you leave" rule. He still smelled like vomit when I interviewed him later.
All in all, a fun event. And much better-executed by the competitors than the Super Bowl was.
Went to the Philadelphia Soul Arena Football League game Sunday afternoon, when they beat the Los Angeles Avengers. The game was lots of fun and we could actually hear the players speaking from our seats, and we even got to see the team's owner, Bon Jovi, perform at half time. And Richie Sambora seemed to be fine, despite announcing his separation from one of the world's leading beautiful women only days earlier.
When I told my dad I was going he expressed shock that the AFL is even still in business, likely remembering the disastrous, one-season run of the Minnesota Fighting Pike in 1996. We went to the home opener and a mascot, who was repelling down from the roof of the arena, got stuck halfway down, and they had to delay the start of the game while they hoisted him back up.
Arenaball is indeed an oddity, but it's a fun oddity, and it's caught on in football-mad Philly especially, where they sell out most games.
I'm swamped at work, but more to come later on the Wing Bowl, the Super Bowl, and the best and worst commercials. A preview: whoever thought "Brown and Bubbly" was a good slogan for selling soda should not only be fired, they should be shot.
Weird NBA trade last week: the Knicks traded Antonio Davis to Toronto for Jalen Rose, and a first-round pick. Why's it weird? Because to get Rose from Chicago two years ago, the Raptors traded... Antonio Davis. Though to be fair, that was two general managers ago for the Raptors. And even stranger, Davis may soon be released by the Raptors, so that he can go back to... Chicago, where his wife recently made news by getting into an altercation with a fan.
Help me, folks- is there any precedent, in any sport, for the same two players to be traded for each other twice?
I'm generally happy with this year's Pro Football Hall of Fame class. Reggie White and Troy Aikman were shoo-ins, and despite that whole wife-beating thing I'm happy to see Warren Moon get recognized too. I'm also happy for John Madden, and Harry Carson, even if he was the one who popularized that stupid "throw Gatorade on the coach" fad. Unfortunately, I've never heard of Rayfield Wright.
And no, I'm not the slightest bit sorry that Michael Irvin didn't get in. I was literally laughing at the "non Hall of Famer" when he did the pre-game show.
Did Brandeis just hire a known terrorist as a professor? Stephen Schwartz checks it out.
My favorite part of the infamous McNabb interview is Donovan's take on the Owens/Rosenhaus "next question" press conference:
"I thought it was 'The Dave Chappelle Show' all over again. 'I'm sorry Charlie Murphy.' The first apology, that was to the organization and I was just thrown in there. 'If I offended Donovan in any way …' Instead of that, you could have just told me. Come talk to me. The second apology, it went from Dave Chappelle to Kings of Comedy. Stand-up, hardcore. He read his speech and then Drew took over the press conference on the front lawn.Terrell Owens makes Rick James look like Wayne Brady.
The McNabb bashers continue to have a field day, because Donovan dared to actually defend himself. My favorite argument is that McNabb is "taking away from the festivities of Super Bowl Week." Please. Like anyone gives a shit about the stupid Jerremy Stevens/Joey Porter pissing contest, or any of the other hype-filled nonsense other than the game itself.
I'm going to Wing Bowl tomorrow, and will be sure to have some great stories tomorrow.
The Village Voice's annual Pazz & Jop music critics' poll- all 60 pages of it- was one big Weinkauf-arama- the critics who participated might be shocked to discover that there were actually songs written and released in 2005 that were not about George W. Bush, and can't be interpreted as such either. But one bizarre quote stood out above all others, from critic Max Berry:
"It was no surprise when U2 began performing "One" during the Katrina concert. But after Bono finished the first verse, the song went places it had never been before. Emerging from the shadows at the back and bringing the kind of comfort you only get from someone you've missed more than you realized, Mary J. Blige looked into the camera and asked—-her voice thick with a thousand others, all hard as fists—"Did I disappoint you?" With that she unlocked a rage in the song that Bono—even Johnny Cash—never got to. A verse later, the series of questions about forgiveness and raising the dead and playing Jesus made the song's unnamed "you" plain as day. Because these weren't questions anymore, they were indictments. And Mary was sending them directly to George's door."Gotta love that a song released in 1990- and written by the conspicuously non-Bush-bashing Bono- is more Really About Bush than everything that came out all year.
As for the poll itself, Kanye West swept the album and single polls. I liked the Spoon album more, but I can't complain.
"At the highest levels of sport, art and business, confidence merely makes you normal.-Chuck Klosterman, on the Super Bowl blog, wondering why athletes are all so sensitive. Good question.
In order to be exceptionally unstoppable, you also need to be psychologically immature; you need to be like a 12-year-old girl on Myspace.com."
Uh oh- the two Super Bowl teams' attempts to not give the other side any "bulletin board material" appear to have failed as, Seahawks tight end Jerramy Stevens said yesterday of Jerome Bettis that "It's a heartwarming story and all that, but it will be a sad day when he leaves without that trophy."
When Stevens, in 2000, was driving drunk and crashed his car into a nursing home, that was presumably "a sad day" as well.
Donovan McNabb has broken his long silence on the matter of his feud with Terrell Owens and the Eagles' disastrous 2005 season- blaming the incidents on Owens' horrible behavior and compared his Brett Favre comments to "black-on-black crime"- and the Philly sports fan base couldn't be more pissed off at him.
It makes me shake my head, really. Not only has McNabb broken the monotony of an especially boring Super Bowl week, but he's finally spoken out against a psychotic former teammate who was clearly in the wrong all along. But what's the reaction been in Philly? "He's not a leader!" "He should just forget about this and move on!" "He's the one who choked last year!," even though he played hurt for half the year. And there's always some shot taken at the Chunky Soup commercials, which really is the last refuge of scoundrels. As Inquirer columnist Phil Sheridan pointed out last week,
That's the fatal flaw in the McNabb bashers' argument...The fact that people have to twist facts, omit whole seasons and certain performances and narrowly define "big game" to shoot down McNabb simply serves to prove how weak their argument is. As I've said roughly 15 million times, it is perfectly reasonable to critique and analyze McNabb's performance. But to dismiss the positive out of some strange need to belittle the guy is just ridiculous. It's sad. Put another way: If someone mentions his Campbell's soup endorsement deal, he doesn't have a clue.There's a lot of hatred for Donovan around here, and all of it is more or less equally irrational. There are white fans who, consciously or not, will never trust McNabb because they can't trust a black quarterback. There are black fans who dislike McNabb because they think he's an Uncle Tom. There are those who think McNabb can't be trusted because he runs too much, and others who dislike him because he doesn't run as much as he used to. I'm not seeing these groups represent all or even most Eagles fans, but they do represent way too many of them.
Then there are those ripping McNabb for "holding old grudges," which is amusing considering many of these talk-show callers rip McNabb, during the same call, for screwing up the Tampa Bay game three years ago. Please. Holding old grudges is what Philly fans do.
The fans in this town should be down on their knees thanking Donovan McNabb for all of the glory that he's brought a franchise that was completely, unequivocally in the shitter prior to his arrival. But instead, they've ripped him, for no reason, literally since the moment he was drafted. McNabb seems destined to join Mike Schmidt, Charles Barkley, Randall Cunningham, and countless other great Philly athletes whose careers in this city were marred by irrational fan hatred.
I make my Super Bowl pick in this week's New York Press column.
On Buster Olney's ESPN.com blog today, after Buster was discussing which MLB teams have had the longest relationships with specific radio stations, came a curious reminder from a familiar name:
If I am correct, WCCO has been broadcasting the Twins since their move to Minnesota, with Herb Carneal calling games for over 40 years.Could this be the same Pedro Munoz who was an outfielder for the Twins in the early '90s, reaching double figures in homers four years in a row before seemingly disappearing into thin air? I was such a Munoz booster that I used "Pedro" as my name in 9th grade Spanish class. I'll be curious to see whether he makes Gleeman's list of the Top 50 Twins.
-Pedro Munoz, Shoreview, Minn.
And speaking of our subject: Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro is running for governor. Will he have "Vote For Petro" shirts made, or is he an idiot?
Former major league infielder Carlos Martinez died last week in his native Venezuela, at the age of 40. Martinez was responsible for one of the more entertaining moments in baseball history: It was Martinez who, on May 26, 1993, hit the ball that bounced off Jose Canseco's head and into the stands for a home run.
To Saddam Hussein, for forever trumping the old definition of Chutzpah ("killing your mother and father, and begging mercy because you're an orphan.") Saddam has asked that the judge in his trial, Raouf Rasheed Abdel-Rahman, be disqualified because... he's from a town against which Saddam once carried out a poison gas attack. No justice, no peace!
Ross Douthat finally saw "Crash" and, well, it seems like he liked it even less than I did:
I complain a lot about agitprop and the politics of art on this site, but it's usually because I feel like a movie like The Constant Gardener or Syriana represents a squandered opportunity, a case of talented people using their gifts in the service of thin ideas and simplistic worldviews. A movie like Crash, though, is objectionable on an entirely different level. It's a message movie with nothing to say, an allegory that only refers to itself, a numbing exercise in bad faith set in a world where everyone spews implausible dialogue about race and gets involved in improbable racially-charged incidents all the time because . . . well, that's what the movie's about. The result is a self-serious propaganda film that browbeats the audience to advance the most banal ideas imaginable, or no ideas at all - like Triumph of the Will for Unitarians.I agree with one of Ross' commenters- "Crash" made the same point, much more longwindedly and less convincingly- as the "Avenue Q" song "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist."