The worst football year for the state of Minnesota ended tonight, when the Gophers blew leads of 21 and 31 points, in losing the Insight Bowl to Texas Tech in overtime. After the Gophers went into the locker room with a 28-7 lead, I turned the game off to watch a movie; when the movie ended it was a three-point game, soon won by the Red Raiders with a touchdown. Ugh.
Fire the coach. Fire the athletic director. These guys make Brad Childress look like Vince Lombardi.
UPDATE: Apparently, someone was listening to me: Coach Glen Mason has been fired.
News Item: Saddam executed by hanging
I've never been more pro-death penalty in my life.
Barry Zito has signed the most lucrative contract for a baseball pitcher in history, signing with the Giants for seven years and $126 million.
Zito's a very good pitcher, no question. But there's no way he's worth that much money. He's not one of the five best pitchers in baseball, or even the ten best. And, the signing doesn't exactly fit in with the Giants' strategy so far this year, which is to replace last year's 35-year-old free agents, with this year's, in the process putting together a lineup in which the youngest regular is 31.
I predict they're trying to dump him within three years- see, "Rangers, A-Rod"- and he'll be a Met after all.
This whole situation also concerns me because it'll make it a lot harder for the Twins to keep Johan Santana, who is a significantly better pitcher than Zito is (despite losing to him in Game 1 of the ALDS.) If Zito is worth $126m, what's Johan worth? $150m? The odds of him being on the mound when the new park opens in 2010 just got a lot longer.
Matt Taibbi, author of the Boston Phoenix's excellent column that examines the week in sports crime, has celebrated the biggest year in his field yet by coming up with a new points system:
All arrests involving assaults against women score a minimum of 50 points. All assaults of men by women, provided deadly force is not used, score minus 50 points, although arrests involving women who throw cell phones at men are annoying, not funny, and score positive points. If you attack your wife or girlfriend by ramming her with a car — think Victor Riley — that’s a minimum 75 points. If you actually hit her, that’s 85. If your children are in the car, that’s 90 points. If anyone else’s children are in the car, that’s also 90 points. Maximum scores of 100 are rare, the last one being Rae Carruth. O.J. was a 99; he lost one point only because a big chunk of his sizable fee went to Barry Scheck and therefore indirectly went to Scheck’s Innocence Project. You don’t get points off for getting away with it.By that rationale, the 2006 Bengals are the highest-scoring team in NFL history.
Philadelphia right now is experiencing something even worse than a quarterback controversy: a quarterback's mom controversy.
Donovan McNabb's mother, Wilma, who is known for her appearances in her son's Chunky Soup commercials, drew some fire this week for a blog post on McNabb's website, when she shared her feelings on her son's current predicament, which has him sitting injured while Jeff Garcia leads the team to the playoffs. Wilma writes:
Yes, now we have solidly beat the Cowboys with my son and without him. But I can hear you asking, mama McNabb what are you really thinking? Well here it is, the real deal. It's kind of bitter sweet for me as my son, the quarterback sits out on injured reserved watching the game during his rehab. I polled my family too and they feel the same. We want our team to win and even go to the Superbowl and win it in Miami especially if they continue to play as they have. But oh oh, if they win the Superbowl without my son, what would be the real outcome with the fans? Will they crucify him? Maybe, then the trade talks would begin. Off season madness, worse than last year's fiasco.Yes, I know this sounds bad, and it plays into every stereotype the McNabb haters have about him being a mama's boy. But the fact is, this reaction is the only natural one that you could expect anyone to have- of course he's happy that the team's winning, and of course he'd prefer to be playing himself.
Eagles fans should be happy that they've won four in a row with Garcia, and that they're headed to the playoffs and possibly a division title. Of all the horrible things players have done off the field in the NFL this year, McNabb's mom writing a blog post is pretty tame.
UPDATE: Garry Cobb, the Eagles player-turned-local talk show host, has some interesting thoughts on the matter:
McNabb has one of the highest winning percentages of any quarterback in NFL history, yet if you were to listen to much of local talk radio you would think he was a bust. McNabb has won more playoff games than any signal caller in team history and it's not even close. This is the quandary of his predicament. I've come to the realization that it's not really about football it's about personality, this city doesn't like Donovan McNabb and will never like Donovan McNabb even if he wins a Super Bowl. It was that way with Mike Schmidt and it's that way with McNabb. Although Pete Rose was not truly a Philadelphian and he's really a scumbag with no moral compass, Philly prefers Rose over Schmidt, any day of the week. That's just the truth.And that's the problem: As long as Philly fans reject every star athlete who isn't a "Philly guy," the teams here are going to have a hard time ever winning.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune, the newspaper I grew up reading, has been sold to a New York-based private equity partnership. The purchase price, $530 million, is about half what McClatchey paid for the paper in 1998.
No word yet on any layoffs or anything, but I think Sid Hartman might want to think about taking a retirement package.
"At this point, 2Pac has been dead so long that he's less a contemporary rapper than a historical figure like Jesus or Abraham Lincoln, neither of whom have released new albums in quite some time. Granted, Pac's Life isn't quite as inessential as previous Least Essential fixtures The Rose That Grew From Concrete Volume 2 (a second disc of music inspired by 2Pac's poetry) and 2003's remix collection Nu-Mixx Klazzics but a half-ass "2Pac Karaoke" vibe nevertheless reigns as guests like Papoose, Keyshia Cole, and Chamillionaire "collaborate" with an icon who's been dead longer than they've been around."- The Onion AV Club, on their highly entertaining list of the Least-Essential Albums of 2006. Who's #1? K-Fed, of course.
Fred Dicker, the New York Post's longtime Albany correspondent, has a delicious column today on Gov. George Pataki that's a classic of the on-the-way-out-the-door-fuck-you genre. Ouch ouch ouch. Imagine the ones reporters will write about Bush when he leaves office.
There's only one Twins fan alive who would be mourning Brad Radke's recent retirement, hear from a friend that Radke appeared on "The Howard Stern Show" in 1997, dig the tape out of his personal archive, listen to it, and post a lengthy, hilarious recap of it on his blog. Ladies and gentlemen, Aaron Gleeman!
News Item: Vikings' Smoot Breaks Jaw in Car Accident
He better not have been "pulling an Eddie Griffin."
Gerald Ford, the 38th president of the United States, died tonight at the age of 93. Of course, he was distinguished public servent for many decades, who helped restore integrity to the presidency after Watergate. But since I was born after he left office, all I'm thinking about right now is this SNL sketch from 1996, with Tom Brokaw pre-recording every possible news event before his vacation, including all the possible causes of death for Ford.
Yes, I know I keep referring to SNL parodies whenever celebrities from the '70s pass away. But you just know that everyone for the next few days is going to keep referring to Chevy Chase and the Christmas tree.
The annual Village Voice film critics' poll has left the Voice, along with most of its critics, and taken up residence at Indiewire.com. The winner was the obscure Romanian film "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu," which I haven't seen, and I don't think I know anyone who's seen it, either. The only ones in the top ten that I have seen, in fact, are "The Departed" and "United 93" (both are in my top ten, too.) The comments are always a good read; check 'em out if you're a film buff and you've got an hour or so to kill.
Slate's excellent Ad Report Card column has published a year-end round-up of the worst ads. I agree with most, although it omits a few obvious ones- most notably, "Head On Apply Directly to the Forehead" and, of course, "This is Our Country." I'm also thrilled that I don't have to see that awful "Screaming Kids" spot again for a whole year.
I also really hate two more that are ubiquitous during football games: "It's the Mirrors," and that dumb-ass Dunkin Donuts spot where the people sing about how they don't know if the Starbucks drink sizes are in French or Italian- "perhaps Fre-talian." Like "Grande Frappucino" is that fucking hard to say.
The worst of the year, of course, is "Brown and Bubbly," but at least it never ran again after the Super Bowl.
I've gotta go with this piece of so-called genius from the wondrous bottom-feeder Debbie Schlussel, titled "Barack Hussein Obama: Once a Muslim, Always a Muslim." Perfectly accurate, except for the part about Obama being... never a Muslim.
Check out Schlussel's blog for other genius rants, like the one where she claims neither Mitt Romney nor Sam Brownback is sufficiently conservative for the Republican presidential nomination. And the one about how Festivus is a "stupid, secular holiday."
Pioneer Press: Raiders Willing to Trade Moss Back to Vikings
Yes, I realize this rumor comes from the same gossip column that suggests the Gophers hire Larry Brown, so I'm not giving it much veracity. But Zygi, please: Don't even think about it.
Yes, the Human Fund really exists! So, be sure to make lots of donations, in the names of everyone you know.
I hope everyone had an excellent Christmas/Jewish Christmas; we certainly had a wonderful time going out for Chinese food and then watching Eagles-Cowboys. The weird timing of the game (5 p.m.) made a movie this year impossible; Becca and I instead went and saw "The Pursuit of Happyness" (quite good) the night before.
The Chinese-for-Jews-on-Christmas is a tradition I love, and this year I got the best fortune cookie fortune imaginable: "God will give you everything that you want." But in the post-game press conference, when Bill Parcells responded to a tough reporter's question by saying "I'm not going to enumerate because you guys would have to send out for Chinese food," was he referring to the reporters being Jews?
A month ago, you may remember, the majority of fans of the Eagles were calling for Andy Reid to be fired, or at the very least for the team to be blown up and a new nucleus built. But that was before they won four games in a row, capped off by yesterday's convincing win over the Cowboys. The win gave the Iggles sole possession of first place in the NFC East, and a divisional record on the year of 5-1.
The best part? T.O. was a non-factor once again, catching only two passes. So he's now been humiliated this year twice, in two different games, by both Eagles QBs whom he sabotaged in previous years (Garcia and McNabb.) I hope next year he loses to whichever team Bledsoe's on.
I look at how the election of one Muslim to Congress has driven various right-wingers into complete apoplexy, in this week's North Star column.
The Godfather of Soul James Brown died on Sunday at the age of 73. The bulk of Brown's career was before my time, so I know him primarily for three things: for getting legions of white people to sing "Say It Loud- I'm Black and I'm Proud," for that hilarious mugshot, and for his impersonation by Eddie Murphy on SNL, which Murphy essentially reprised nearly 25 years later, in a performance that will probably win an Oscar.
I'd like to wish you and yours a Happy Festivus.
The only reason it took me two days to post about Thursday night's monstrosity of a Vikings-Packers game is that I'm still in shock. Did both teams really play that badly? Did the Vikings really only get three first downs in the entire game? Did they really drop all those passes? Did they really lead 7-6 with two minutes left, despite playing possibly the worst game on offense I've ever seen an NFL team play? And you've gotta love Fred Smoot, using more of his legendary good judgment in doing the Lambeau Leap.
How do you finish, a year later, with a worse record than Mike Tice had? And here I had some excitement about Tarvaris Jackson- the kid stunk, as Pat Reusse wrote.
There's a great piece in the current New Republic about a potential complication in Mitt Romney's run as the conservative candidate in the '08 Republican presidential primary: His administration was a bit too gay-friendly for their comfort.
For instance, Romney appointed numerous gays and lesbians, endowed a Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth and, perhaps most damning of all:
Romney's Department of Education distributed a publication, The Little Black Book: Queer in the 21st Century, that includes the following practical information: "There is little risk of STD infection and no risk of HIV infection from playing with pee."All of this comes from a dossier being distributed by a conservative activist named Brian Camenker, who is based in, you guessed it, Waltham, Mass.
I also remember these pro-gay papers being an issue when a previous GOP governor of Massachusetts, Paul Cellucci, was nominated as ambassador to Canada, and some conservative activist went on "Hannity & Colmes" and screamed, "dammit Alan, you're the one who's defending fisting!"
This anti-Zach Braff riff is one of the funniest things I've read all year. And I like Braff.
I don't really want to root for either of them, but I've gotta give the edge to Rosie- it's sort of silly for Trump to be judging anyone on their moral terpitude - and even sillier for him to make fun of someone's looks.
Reminds me of the great joke by comic Rich Vos: "The reason he puts his name on his buildings is so that the banks will know which ones to take back."
Katherine Kersten, the Star Tribune's resident Christian conservative, calls for a truce in the War on Christmas, which at this point is being fought by Bill O'Reilly and absolutely no one else. (I particularly like his theory that "the left is angry" about this, using Danny DeVito drunk appearance on "The View" as Exhibit A. I think, after the election, the left is actually pretty happy these days.)
I agree with Kersten's recommendations, but first I think we need to hear the report of the Christmas Study Group (aka the Scrooge/Liebowitz Commission.)
Check out the best Thomas Friedman column in quite awhile, on hard-and-fast rules for understanding the Middle East. I just wish he'd written it three or four years ago.
Adam of Things Thrown Five Minutes Ago makes an excellent point about "Rocky Balboa," even though he hasn't seen it:
"Based on the reviews, isn't it clear that what Sylvester Stallone is doing with Rocky Balboa is the exact same thing as what Kevin Smith did with Clerks II? After years of failure at doing anything else, just take your most popular characters, bring them back to where they started, and make a warm, nostalgic movie that both seeks to resurrect the thrills of the original while overtly questioning (and ultimately justifying) why these characters were worth rooting for one more time, given their age. (Only, in Stallone's case, presumably with fewer dick jokes.)""Clerks II," at least, didn't spend half of its running time rehashing scenes, moments and lines from the first film.
Great story out of New York: a stockbroker who happens to be the son of the late Giants owner Wellington Mara went into work on Monday and was razzed by a rival trader who roots for the Eagles, after Philly beat the Giants on Sunday. So Mara responded the way any fan would- by attacking the man on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Even better is the account in the New York Post, in which various former Giants players talk about how great it was that their ex-owner's son assaulted another man. Ex-Giants receiver Phil McConkey chimes in that the problem with the actual Giants players is that they don't do that sort of thing often enough. But hey, it's the NBA that's too violent, right?
I'm just surprised Mara didn't respond to the Eagle fan with the usual Giant fan method, which is to point out the Giants' two Super Bowl victories, to Philly's zero.
Ever since Allen Iverson was traded to Denver last week from Philadelphia, ESPN has claimed that they in fact broke the story. Not so, says the Philadelphia Inquirer's David Aldridge- he claims he was the one who broke it and deserves attribution. He's right- I first heard of the trade from an Aldridge-bylined story on Philly.com, and ESPN did not yet have it up at the time.
Complicating matters: Aldridge, of course, used to work for ESPN, while ESPN's #1 basketball guy, Stephen A. Smith, writes his weekly column for the Inquirer. Of course, Smith is only nominally an Inquirer columnist at this point, since he hosts five-day-a-week TV and radio shows from New York, and has been known to dictate his column on his Blackberry during breaks of his TV show.
December 21, 2006: It's the first time in history that a liberal journalist (Marty Kaplan of the Huffington Post) has openly wished for a military coup in the United States. Um, if what you're asking for is a return to civil liberties and no more torture, a American military junta is probably the last thing you want.
I didn't think it was possible for someone to say something dumber than Dennis Prager's "Ellison shouldn't be allowed to swear on the Koran" argument, but a Congressman from
North Carolina Virginia has topped him. Virgil Goode, a Republican, wrote a letter to constituents warning them that if they don't back his plan for tougher immigration restrictions, "there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran."
Ellison's election, of course, has a whole lot to do with immigration. He migrated to Minnesota from... Michigan.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations has demanded an apology. You've gotta be pretty dim to come out on the wrong side of an issue from CAIR, but Goode has managed it.
Here's David Weigel on Hit & Run, taking apart a bizarre quote from Dick Morris that Barack Obama "has never introduced a bill and never been important":
"This is both weird and inaccurate. Weird because Morris only exists to attack the Clintons and battle Hillary's presidential bid. He's written three books on the subject. If her bid collapsed, so would he, like an assassin choking down the cynanide capsule once the bullet sinks into the Generalissimo's brain. Inaccurate because, well Obama has introduced bills. Beyond what Media Matters lists, Obama co-sponsored, with Tom Coburn, a transparency bill that would let voters see every earmark their representatives inserted into a spending package. That right there is more impressive (to me) than anything John Kerry or John Edwards ever passed. And I'd bet it has more salience with voters than the mushy warmongering and video game bashing of the former First Lady."Another reason to back Obamamania: if Hillary goes away, so does Dick!
I wish to God that debate had happened a decade ago, when I was there. And any 'deis student who goes to that and roots for Carter should be ashamed of themself.
I saw it last night. The film works as a nostalgia trip, and absolutely on no other level whatsoever. A laughably weak script that Stallone probably wrote in three or four days, a lackluster villain, and the fact that WE'RE WATCHING A 60-YEAR-OLD MAN FIGHT! are among the biggest pitfalls.
But you know what? It's a lot of fun hearing the music, and seeing the montage and the steps again. It's worth seeing if you're a Rocky fan, but years from now they'll never be any reason to watch this, when the original, III, and IV are available.
It's official: Allen Iverson is no longer a 76er. The Answer was traded today to the Denver Nuggets for point guard Andre Miller, forward Joe Smith, and two first round draft picks next year.
The Sixers certainly didn't get equal value. But the getting the two picks was huge, as was Smith's expiring contract. I don't expect the Sixers to be good again at any time in the foreseeable future, but at least they took a step in that direction by getting the picks. Now they just need to get someone other than Billy King to make them.
DC News Station: Marion Barry Arrested Again, This Time for Suspended License.
My favorite part is the "previous stories" section of the web site, all of which are other stories of Barry arrests/failed drug tests from this year alone. He's been arrested so many times in 2006 that he should be playing for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Pat Buchanan: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Should've Been Person of the Year
Why wasn't Pat at the conference in Tehran? His invitation must've gotten lost in the mail.
The Vikings, coming off Sunday's pretty-much-season-ending loss to the Jets, will start Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback against the Packers on Thursday, bringing the second Brad Johnson era in Minnesota to a close. And to think- a few months ago, the Vikings were actually chided for not giving the 38-year-old Johnson an extension. The growing Garcia-over-McNabb chorus in Philly should take note.
I like the move to start Jackson. The team's going nowhere, so we may as well see where the rookie can take them. I can imagine him going into next year in a training camp battle with a veteran (probably Garcia, Jake Plummer, Brian Griese, or Trent Dilfer), and taking over as starter in mid-'07 after that guy falters.
And, as you may have noticed from those NFL Network ads, the game may be Brett Favre's last start in Green Bay. Hopefully Jackson can make this game memorable for a reason other than that.
Meanwhile, this Minnesota sports fan has a list of holiday wishes, nearly all of which I share. He also shares the shocking-but-true statistic that the last time a Minnesota team won a playoff game was on January 9, 2005- when the Vikings beat the Packers in the Randy Moss mooning game. Doesn't that feel like it happened five years ago?
Gordon Edes has provided a fascinating minute-by-minute of the Red Sox/Matsuzaka negotiations, in the Boston Globe. Check it out, as it's one of the best sportswriting pieces I've read this year.
Posts like this make me want to start again. In it, whoever is writing the blog these days goes after a silly New York Sun op-ed by Alicia Colon which blames - you guessed it- Matt Drudge for standing at the vanguard of liberal media lies. Come on Alicia, just because he's gay doesn't mean he's liberal.
Also, due to a new deadline, look for the new column on Monday each week, as opposed to Tuesday or Wednesday.
This morning's New York Post post front page takes Big Apple chauvinism to a new level:
See, they found the climber on Mount Hood who died- but the hunt is really for the Brooklyn guy. I guess the guy who's not from New York just isn't quite as important. I can understand wanting to keep it local, but please.
It's hard out there for a New Republic writer. Ryan Lizza worked for months on a profile of Mark Warner, and was just about to turn it when Warner announced he wasn't running for president. Then, Michelle Cottle wrote a long profile of Evan Bayh in this week's issue of the same magazine- and right after it went to press, Bayh too bowed out of the race. Lizza retooled his into a "why Warner didn't run" postmortum, whereas Cottle's ran as is.
Expect TNR to be really, really cautious about assigning an Obama profile...
There was another huge NBA brawl the other night, this time pitting the New York Knicks against the Denver Nuggets, with the focal players being Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith, Gary Coleman lookalike Nate Robinson, Mardy Collins, and Jared Jefferies. Today, the league handed down 47 games in suspensions, including 15 for Carmelo (the league's leading scorer), and 10 each for Robinson and Smith.
On these sorts of things, I tend to come down on the side that yes, the players involved deserve to be suspended, but it's not the horrible pox on humanity that many scolding sportswriters believe it is. I agree with Ben Mathis Lilley's' great Slate piece (re-run today) which argued that the famous Auburn Hills melee wasn't the NBA's Black Sox Scandal- it was its Disco Demolition Night.
The brawl was the main topic of conversation for today's Bill Simmons chat; see the posters all compete with Bill to provide the best anti-Isiah jokes.
UPDATE: An additional thought: it's been rumored that Denver is the most likely landing spot for the still-not-traded Allen Iverson. But after Saturday, I can imagine the Nuggets are scrambling to explain to their season ticket holders that no, the players aren't really a bunch of thugs. Bringing in Iverson, the man who essentially brought hip-hop/cornrows/tattoo culture to the NBA, may not exactly jibe with such efforts on their part.
SNL has produced its first true masterpiece bit of the year: this note-perfect parody of Color Me Badd-era boy bands, from one who knows the terrain:
Brilliant, or totally solipsistic? I'm still trying to decide.
Evan Bayh has announced he's not running for president in 2008, because he found his chances of winning "too remote." It's a shame, as I may very well have supported him, although I suppose his presidential dreams have been crushed under the weight of Obama-mania.
I went the other night to the "Holiday Comedy Spectacular on Ice," the annual comedy show put on by WYSP's hilarious "Kidd Chris Show." And let's just say it's the first comedy show I've ever been to in which more than half the comedians were booed off the stage mid-act.
It was a fun event, and several of the comics - especially Bob Levy, Chris McDevitt, and Ed McGonigal - were actually quite funny. But the crowd was so rowdy and hostile that they made the typical Philly sports audience look downright lucid by comparison. Even the evening's headliner, Colin Quinn, was booed off the stage and had a beer thrown at him.
Still, this may have been the highlight of the evening.
Atlanta Falcons coach Jim Mora now says he was "joking" when he said the other day that his "dream job" is to coach at the University of Washington. Incidentally, then-Vikings coach Mike Tice last year talked about leaving the Vikes to take the exact same job. Neither, though, is expected to ever get it. And if Mora is looking for an ex-NFL coach to emulate besides his father, Tice is hardly the most advisable choice.
Jeff Pearlman, the reporter who wrote that famous profile of John Rocker in Sports Illustrated in 1999, when he quoted Rocker as saying all sorts of salty, un-PC things about various races and nationalities, has come out swinging on ESPN.com, after Rocker gave an interview in he slandered Pearlman as a "liberal New York Jew." He is all of those things, but I think Jeff's beef was with Rocker's tone.
I won't say any more, because at this point, there's really no discernable reason for John Rocker to ever be in the news again.
The excellent blog Regret the Error has come out with its annual list of the best corrections, apologies, and other contrition from various U.S. newspapers in the last year. Here's my favorite, from the Chicago Tribune:
"An editorial in Friday’s paper incorrectly stated that Florida Cresswell, a candidate for state representative in the 28th District, was convicted in 1999 of battery and stealing Tupperware. In fact he was convicted of stealing a battery from a van as well as Tupperware that was inside the van."First runnerup, I'd say, is the hockey boxscore that reported that the Senators were "outshit" (as opposed to outshot) by the Sabres.
But somehow, the list completely omits the Kerry Wood labrum/labia gaffe, which was probably my favorite of the last five years.
It's official: Re-runs of the first four seasons of "The Wire" will begin running on BET January 10, with a three-day marathon. I know I've gotten a few of you to give this show a shot, but if you haven't yet, this is the best chance yet.
"There’s a preposterous plot twist every five minutes, a muddled point (even a good German hasn’t got a chance against the evil villains in the American government), and the ending—replete with a propeller, a rainy airport runway and Mr. Clooney in another trench coat—is stolen right out of the final four minutes of Michael Curtiz’s Casablanca. None of it makes any sense, and even the black-and-white newsreel footage of ravaged war zones and the faces of the decimated German people is boring. You lose sleep thinking of all the ways The Good German goes wrong. Where is Hitler? Where are the tanks? Where is the famous overhead Warner Brothers lighting and Max Steiner music? And where is Major Clark Gable now that we need him?"- Rex Reed, in the New York Observer, eviscerating this awful film.
The other "The Good..." movie this year, "The Good Shepherd," isn't a whole lot better, I'm afraid. Matt Damon gives a cypher's performance, opposite numerous Great Actors (DeNiro, Hurt, Turturro, Gambon, Keir Dullea and even an unrecognizable Joe Pesci.) The plot starts out promising, but soon gets bogged down in stuff we just don't care about, before making the not-so-subtle point that all the misdeeds of the CIA are the WASP establishment's fault.
I didn't think it was possible to make a boring movie about the CIA, but Bobby D has managed it.
I guess you need steroids, to win a marathon if you're not from Kenya.
She wanted to cheat the Rosie Ruiz way, but they don't have a subway in Duluth.
Who could have ever guessed that Augusto Pinochet, Lamar Hunt, and Peter Boyle would pass away the same week? I suppose I'll miss Pinochet the least, and Boyle the most - "Young Frankenstein" is a classic, and little as I watched "Everybody Loves Raymond," his work on the show was always first-right.
Hunt, meanwhile, was an NFL pioneer who helped to make the league what it is today. Though I'm not sure he really should get credit for coming up with the idea of the Super Bowl- I always assumed it was Pete Rozelle's daughter.
Last night I finally got around to watching the new "Comic Relief" special and, while I realize it's for a good cause and all, was it a disaster or what? The always-unfunny Whoopi Goldberg, a subpar Billy Crystal, and - my-GOD-was-he-annoying- Robin Williams hosted, with various comedians doing back-of-the-book material. I think Bill Maher's routine was comprised entirely of jokes that weren't good enough for his own show. And when Dane Cook appeared, I bailed out early.
Of course, it didn't help that the "comedy" was bracketed by various hyper-earnest lectures (including Whoopi telling us to "wake up" to the horrors of Katrina,) or that Crystal talked seriously about the hurricane while Williams made faux-gospel sounds ("mmm hmm! That's right!") in the background. And to top it all off, they didn't even bother to film it in New Orleans.
If you have multiple HBOs, and you watched this while the finale of "The Wire" was showing on another channel, then I'm sorry, you should really be ashamed of yourself.
For as long as women exist in the world, I have trouble believing that the Anti-Diamonds Movement will ever gain much traction.
But thankfully, as Philadelphia Weekly tells us, we've got people standing up for the cause: a Philly-based group called the African People’s Solidarity Committee- which is, you guessed it, "primarily white." Reminds me of that all-white group I saw protesting the Republican convention in 2004, who called for a "second Civil War" to free African-Americans from "continuous slavery."
PW says the APSC is handing out fliers and protesting outside the opening of the new movie "Blood Diamond." But wait- isn't "Blood Diamond" in line with their cause, in drawing attention to diamond-driven wars in Africa? Their argument is that the movie doesn't go far enough.
That's always the sign of an ineffective political movement, that they see those friendly to their cause as enemies. Kind of like the guy in my high school class who yelled at Paul Wellstone for not being sufficiently committed to the environment.
Maybe it's my juvenile sense of humor, but this made me laugh for about ten minutes when I first saw it.
Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota is in that today, and so is the Democratic majority in the Senate, after he suffered stroke-like symptoms yesterday. Should Johnson not be able to complete his term, the Republican governor of South Dakota will presumably nominate a Republican in his place, which would shift the Senate to GOP control.
Is this fair? Not really, but it's probably what the Democrats would do in a similar situation, and everyone now happy would be upset, and vice versa. What's most unfortunate is that if Johnson dies, he'll be most remembered as the guy who tipped the Senate, as opposed to as a guy who had a long career in public service.
UPDATE: No word on how Johnson is doing, but he apparently has an AVM, which if it sounds familiar, is what Nate had on "Six Feet Under."
I paraphrase James Baker himself in giving my impressions of the Iraq Study Group report, which I sat in a bookstore and read in its entirety last week (that's an hour I'd certainly like to have back.)
The report consisted of little more than soft suggestions of things that everyone would like to see happen, but are, shall we say, easier said than done. When the idea of solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a prerequisite to solving the matter at hand, you know you've got quite a dilemma on your hands. In TNR, Yoav Fromer points out the absurdity of putting the onus on Israel to solve the Iraq problem:
"Its true that, from Yitzhak Rabin through Ehud Barak, many Israeli prime ministers have agreed to settle the Syrian conflict by trading land for peace; but solidifying this as the result of any future dialogue kind of defeats the whole purpose of negotiations. After all, without any quid pro quo, what exactly are Israelis supposed to hold as leverage--falafel?... if anyone believes that the Shia and Sunnis are blowing themselves up to free Palestine or avenge the Arab defeat of 1967, they are conveniently forgetting the fact that they had been at it well before Zionism ever came into being."Not that there are any easy answers on the question of Iraq, but Baker, Hamilton, and Co. don't seem to have contributed much concrete to the debate, other than "we should try to get everyone to stop fighting."
Who would've guessed that the Red Sox would have an easier time bringing in Daisuke Matzuzaka than the Sixers would unloading Allen Iverson?
The Sox reached a deal with D-Mat earlier today, for six years and $52 million, with incentives possibly pushing the deal as high as $60 million. Yes, he's supposed to be great, the Sox have now commited over $100 million to a man who has never thrown a major league pitch.
News Item: FHM magazine folds
See if you can guess which one I was rooting for.
The House Next Door does five "mash-ups" of movie titles, my favorite being "Crash Crash":
"James Ballard (James Spader), a racist Canadian yuppie with a horned-up car crash fixation, visits Los Angeles when prejudices are at their peak. He’s quickly indoctrinated into a liberal guilt "crash" cult – led by the heavily scarred, former TV writer Vaughn (Paul Haggis) – who plan on orchestrating a massive freeway pileup to show Los Angeleans the error of their intolerant ways. With Rosanna Arquette as Shaniqua."That would've been a much better movie, and certainly more Best Picture-worthy, than either actual "Crash."
Kissing Suzy Kolber brilliantly parodies Gregg Easterbrook's Tuesday Morning Quarterback column. I assume it's accurate, since I stopped reading TMQ years ago.
The Philadelphia Newspaper Guild has reached a tentative agreement with the owners of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, averting a potential strike. Details here; doesn't sound like such a great deal for the union side.
It's that the big story is that the media is being MUCH tougher on Pinochet than they will be on Castro when he finally dies. Never mind that this idea is based entirely on conjecture (as Castro hasn't actually died yet), and that it presupposes that hypothetical disparities in the media reaction to the death of two different tyrants is somehow a bigger story than the murders and cleptocracy of those tyrants themselves.
Pinochet was evil, and so is Castro. Period. And I think the people that Pinochet murdered were much more worthy of our thoughts and attention than whatever the media has to say about his death. When Castro dies, and the right goes apeshit because one or two liberal journalists say nice things about him, I'll be sure to repeat the same thing.
"O Kazakhstan," the faux-national anthem that plays over the closing credits for the "Borat" movie, is on the short list of films eligible to be nominated for the Best Song Oscar. I hope it wins, but I'm still upset that "Blame Canada" lost in '99.
I look at the hysteria over the relatively benign news of Mary Cheney's pregnancy, in this week's North Star Writers Group column.
Thomas Friedman, using another great metaphor:
"Moreover, right now we are "Mr. Big" in Iraq, soaking up all the popular anger. But the minute we’re gone, Iran becomes "Mr. Big" and the age-old tensions between Iraqi Arab Shiites and Iranian Persian Shiites will surface. Iran and Moktada al-Sadr will be at each other’s throats."No, he's not really making a "Sex and the City" analogy. But I think he just gave Maureen Dowd an idea...
Does something seem a little off in the current "epidemic" of predatory sex offenders? Bill O'Reilly, Nancy Grace, and the "To Catch a Predator" people won't like this piece too much, as it shows why their calling card essentially amounts to bullshit.
Quite a performance yesterday by the Vikings against Detroit, as the unheralded backup-backup running back Artose Pinner rushed for over 100 yards and three touchdowns against his former team, to key a 30-20 victory in which the Vikes once again gave up negative rushing yards. But it was Detroit, so does it really count?
The win brings the Vikings' record to 6-7, but I'm not too optimistic about a playoff run. They're a team that does one thing- stopping the run- really, really well, and not much else. Call them the opposite of the Eagles, who would probably give up at least 100 yards on the ground to several local high school teams. But they're still a game up on the Vikings, and one back of division leader Dallas, after yesterday's pretty convincing victory over Washington. For some reason, I'm no longer hearing the calls for A.J. Feeley to replace Jeff Garcia.
The Sixers are going to trade Allen Iverson, they announced this week, after the future Hall of Fame point guard demanded a deal out of town. The team, which also tried to trade Iverson last offseason in an attempt to "change the culture," hopes to unload "The Answer" in the next few days.
Could it be to the Wolves? The Sixers would certainly love to have Randy Foye back in Philly, and a deal of him, Ricky Davis, Troy Hudson, and a draft pick would work under the Trade Machine. Other destinations could include Boston, Denver, or Golden State.
A.I. has been a subject of much polarization in Philly in the last few years, with some calling him a superstar who has never been surrounded by the right people, and others calling him a troublemaker who is himself responsible for the team's woes. I think both sides have a point- Iverson is clearly a great player, but the team can't contend in its current incarnation, and therefore they need to trade him in order to bring in much-needed parts.
Time Out New York ranks all the film critics in New York, picking the Village Voice's J. Hoberman first and Rex Reed last. I'd have put David Edelstein higher, and Manohla Dargis lower.
"Only a truly heartless partisan could watch the footage this week of George H.W. Bush sobbing in tribute to the integrity, goodness, and lost promise of his beloved Jebbie and not feel a stab of sympathy. The entire display fits so neatly into the Poor-Jeb storyline we've been following for the last six years or so: Serious, hard-working, smart, intellectually engaged younger brother sees his bright and shiny political future derailed when shallow, glad-handing, ne'er-do-well older brother swipes the brass ring first. Forget Shakespeare. This has biblical drama written all over it. Think Jacob v. Esau in reverse--only with fewer goats and a scarier materfamilias."-Michelle Cottle, in TNR. Does this mean we won't be getting a President Jeb?
Former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet has died at the age of 91. I know some are going to portray him as a heroic freedom fighter who prevented the spread of communism to his country, but Pinochet murdered many, many people in his time in power, and I therefore have quite a lot of trouble feeling bad about his death.
And I'd still take that over one more "This is Our Country."
"About the cheering/booing: It did happen. It wasn't everyone in the crowd, and it wasn't a majority of everyone, but an audible minority of the crowd did boo when Garcia stayed in the game. The people who are going all Zapruder film on the subject, claiming it was a reaction to the dastardly hit on Garcia that was being replayed on the video boards, are kidding themselves. It happened and it was lousy. This is a tough town, and that was too tough, and, well, deal with it."-Rich Hofmann, in the Philly Daily News, about last week's incident in which eager-for-A.J.-Feeley fans allegedly cheered when Jeff Garcia got hurt and booed when he stayed in the game. I was there, but I honestly couldn't tell you whether the booing really happened that way. They were booing so much that night — in a victory, mind you — that it was hard to tell what was for what. I mean, they even booed the weatherman.
The biggest surprise here: the John Birch Society still exists??? I assumed they died off at some point in the '70s.
Patrick Reusse: Minnesota Should Hire Bob Knight As Basketball Coach
How about not. I'm sure it would make Sid Hartman very happy, but not really anyone else.
Blogger No Mas, on this "Ali Rap" thing:
First of all, I’ve worked at ESPN and I know that it is the lily-whitest environment you’d ever want to be in, stultifyingly bourgeois and ratings-driven at every turn. To put it mildly, these are not risk-takers. Every borderline socio-cultural decision at ESPN is made with exceeding concern for the family values of Joe and Mary Six-Pack, lest they get offended and not tune in for the next NFL/Rolling Stones concert. A show like Ali Rap gets green-lighted because the network sees an opportunity to cash in on the lucrative universe of hip hop without any of the potentially offensive offshoots of courting that universe. Someone says something at a meeting like, “you know when it comes right down to it, Ali actually INVENTED rap,” and some bigwig says, “you know, this rap music is VERY popular these days,” and everyone in the room starts hearing the cosmic ka-ching. The next thing you know you have a big coffee table book and concomitant documentary, highly stylized and wrought with pomp and circumstance and otherwise almost entirely devoid of substance, because the whole enterprise is rooted in a highly dubious premise, the true premise being, simply, “hey, it’s Christmas time, give us your money.”Yes, exactly. But the "lily-whiteness" of ESPN hasn't stopped them from turning "SportsCenter" every night into a rap video, complete with "Scarface" references.
The esteemed website Mr. Skin.com has released his annual list of the ten best nude scenes of the year, and Salma Hayek takes the number 1 spot for her role in "Ask the Dust." (Link is work-safe.)
Of the ten the only ones I've seen are "The Notorious Bettie Page" and "The Break Up." I can't say either nude scene makes these awful films worth seeing, unfortunately, and especially not Jennifer Aniston's bony, unhealthy-looking ass.
Former Ambassador to the UN Jeanne Kirkpatrick has died at the age of 80. I'll always remember her for two things: The near-riot at Brandeis in 1994 when she was brought in to be commencement speaker, and Al Franken, in one of his books, writing a fake letter complaining that the New York Times had assigned Kirkpatrick to review his book, since she was his former lover. Kirkpatrick's response: "I have no idea what this horrible, horrible man is talking about."
I finally around to watching "An Inconvenient Truth" last night, and I must say I was intrigued and on some level convinced. It's quite an impressive presentation that Gore has put together, and I admire him for bringing this issue, in clear language, to many, many people.
What I didn't like nearly as much, however, was all the "behind the scenes" stuff in the film, all the stuff about Gore's "journey" towards taking up the issue, and everything with his reaction to the 2000 election. It's all very much "been there, done that," and besides, Gore talking about global warming is compelling. Gore himself, as politician and public figure, really isn't.
Aside from the presentation scenes, I wouldn't say the movie stands out as great filmwise, especially the horrible music and not-so-great production values. But of course, there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that it will win the Best Documentary Oscar. It's just too "correct" and "important" not to.
Do you think they'll first start trying to trade him within a year, or only two?
"It proves that, particularly in the case of Bobby, it doesn’t often matter how laughable or incompetent a movie might really be… as long as you tickle the right parts of your target audience’s ideological nether regions, even un film de Estevez will be taken seriously. I’m frankly baffled as how this flatly staged, horribly acted, made-for-cable-looking wank even made it into cinemas, besides the obvious explanation that Harvey Weinstein desperately needs an Oscar movie and if he has to move mountains and create one out of thin air, well… that’s what makes him Harvey Weinstein."-Sean Burns, on House Next Door, making fun of "Bobby," and a phenomenon that I have myself seen play out dozens of times.
News Item: Mary Cheney Pregnant.
The child will be fine, I'm sure. As long is it avoids hunting trips with grandpa...
Amid another day of crazy, CRAZY free agent signings ($40 million for Ted Lilly?), the Phillies tonight made an excellent move: they traded a prospect-turned bust (Gavin Floyd) and a prospect (Gio Gonzalez) for 17-game winner Freddy Garcia.
The trade had originally been rumored to include Aaron Rowand, but strangely the Phils have hung on to him. Instead, they gave Chicago back Gonzalez, a pretty highly-regarded prospect, and the other player the Sox got in last year's Jim Thome trade. They may miss him, but I can't think of a situation in which a player, while in the minors, was traded by Team A to Team B, and then back to Team A, and then becoming a star.
Now I'm still just waiting for that Jason-Jennings-to-the-Twins move that I really, really hope is coming.
News Item: Andy Dick Apologizes for Racial Slurs
Apparently, it was an ill-fated attempt to parody the Michael Richards incident. But at least he didn't run on stage and try to lick people, like at the recent William Shatner roast.
The ESPN article states, very charitably, that the 350-pound Thomas "doesn't have the body that normally would be linked to steroids."
Yes, the Eagles are back. I sat in the frigid Linc last night, for official confirmation. Rocky himself (Sly Stallone) was on hand for the game, and saw yet another unheralded Philly comeback.
The fans in this town have spent the last week calling for Andy Reid's head, and for Jeff Garcia to be benched in favor of a QB (A.J. Feeley) who's had one semi-good month in his entire career. So it's good to see that Reid has been un-fired, and Garcia un-benched, for the Iggles' playoff run. The finish was quite exciting, as was the communal experience of hundreds of fans screaming "you suck!" at Michael Irvin in the ESPN booth.
Kind of sad that a 6-6 team is currently in line for a playoff spot, but hey, at least they've now equaled last year's win total.
The latest trade rumor involving Manny Ramirez has the Red Sox trading the slugger to Seattle in a three-way deal. San Francisco would end up with first baseman Richie Sexson, and the Sox would acquire Seattle closer J.J. Putz and outfield prospect Adam (not Pacman) Jones.
For some reason, I just can't see the deal happening. We've all heard of Manny Being Manny, but is Red Sox Nation ready for Putz Being a Putz?
I look at the now quarter-century-old ridiculousness of the Mumia Abu-Jamal case, in this week's North Star Writers Group column.
I was at Wachovia Center last night for the Timberwolves' victory over the Sixers, in a battle of struggling NBA teams who each have one superstar and 6 or 7 awful, untradeable veterans. The Philly fans welcomed back former Villanova star Randy Foye, but there were nonetheless many, many empty seats.
It was good to see the Wolves again, as they looked pretty good, and it was even better to hear today that Kevin Garnett does not want to be traded.
But, just as I said last week that I feel like wrestling is starting to pass me by- I'm beginning to feel the same way about basketball. For some reason the game just isn't that interesting to me anymore. I think I've watched about two NBA games on TV this year, and while I always watch the playoffs, I just for some reason seem to have lost interest. Then again, it might just be because neither my hometown team now my present-town team seems to have any idea how to put an exciting team on the floor.
A study in the New York Times determines that the best fit for free agent Barry Bonds is... the Minnesota Twins.
Don't do it, Terry Ryan. Please. But luckily, Barry will recoil at the idea once he finds out that at the Metrodome, it's impossible to hit a home run into the Bay.
News Item: Pat Croce Named Commissioner of Wing Bowl
Sort of strange, I'd say, that WIP would name Croce, the acclaimed fitness guru and former president of the 76ers, to preside over its annual bacchanal of gluttony. (I covered the event last year.)
Such a job would seem to go against everything Croce stands for, as a health-and-fitness maven. And even more strangely, the previous commissioner of the event was the famously overweight former baseball umpire Eric Gregg, who died of a stroke earlier this year. So you can expect the organizers to remember Gregg in a dignified manner, before the contestants begin the wing-eating contest.
In bad news for archconservatives and mustache enthusiasts everywhere, John Bolton has announced that he will resign as ambassador to the United Nations.
A co-worker of mine had the best malapropism I'd heard in awhile: "Did you hear Michael Bolton resigned?"
People thought Obama having the middle name "Hussein" would hurt him a bit in any 2008 bid, and some GOP consultants have even taken to calling him that. This leads into an amusing anecdote from a recent Maureen Dowd column:
"f you call Barack Obama’s office to check the spelling of his middle name, the reply comes back: “Like the dictator.”I think that's what they call "hanging a lantern on the problem."
Upon her conversion Fisher, who was the crazy redhead in "Wedding Crashers," will instantly become the world's second-hottest Jewish actress, trailing only Rachel Weisz.
What an ugly game today between the Vikings and Bears, with both quarterbacks stinking up the joint and the teams combining for 10 turnovers. The Bears ended up winning 23-13, but that won't stop non-stop calls for the benching of Rex Grossman.
And in other NFL news, Sports Illusrated's pre-season prediction of a four-way 9-7 tie in the NFC East is now officially dead, after Washington got their eighth loss today against Atlanta.
National Lampoon has put together this little piece of brilliance, turning the Kramergate fiasco into a "Seinfeld" episode. My favorite part is that they tied in all four or five times that black people were actually on "Seinfeld," except, of course, for "look to the cookie."
Slate has an in-depth interview with David Simon, the creator of the best show currently on television, "The Wire."
I haven't been blogging much about the show, mostly because I know very, very few people who watch it, and most posts I've done on it have gone comment-free. But I can say that this season has been absolutely phenomenal, and I eagerly await the finale when it comes online Sunday at midnight. I'll also probably do some kind of wrap-up after it airs.
For years I've watched "The Sopranos" and been wowed by it, only to go on blogs and boards to find at least half the watchers thought "that episode sucked." Nobody on any blog I read now has ever said that about "The Wire." In these cynical times, it's practically impossible to see such near-unanimous consensus about the quality of a pop-culture product.
Anyone surprised by this, at all?
Though he's lost many fans after being captured on video hurling racist epithets at a comedy club audience, Michael Richards has an ally: Mel Gibson. "I felt like sending Michael Richards a note," Gibson says in an interview in Entertainment Weekly's Dec. 8 issue."Torture him," huh? It all always comes back to "torture" for Mel, doesn't it?
"I feel really badly for the guy. He was obviously in a state of stress. You don't need to be inebriated to be bent out of shape. But my heart went out to the guy."
The 50-year-old actor-director added: "They'll probably torture him for a while and then let him go. I like him."
Mel's new movie, "Apocalypto," comes out Friday, and I'm seeing it Tuesday. Supposedly, it's for people who didn't think "Passion of the Christ" was violent enough.
Eagles defensive tackle Broderick Bunkley, who despite being the team's first-round draft pick in last April's draft has barely gotten on the field this year, got in some hot water last week after he missed the team's flight to Indianapolis for last Sunday's game. Bunkley caught a later flight, but was declared inactive for the game, in which the Eagles' run defense was so porous that the unheralded Joseph Addai scored four touchdowns.
Even better is Bunkley's explanation: he was late for the flight because, in accordance with team rookie-hazing custom, he was responsible for picking up lunch (chicken) for the entire team that day. It took too long, he got caught in traffic, and missed the team plane. My favorite part (from the Philadelphia Daily News):
Asked what he did with the chicken, Bunkley said, "It's still in my refrigerator. I had some yesterday.''
Hmmm. Given that the chicken was cooked Saturday, he might want to rethink that. Especially if the chicken spent the weekend in his car, at the airport.
Despite this year's disastrous Vikings season, at least they haven't been getting into as much trouble off the field as they did last year. Until last week, that is, when receiver Troy Williamson was punched in the face at a charity function. The function? A Ludacris concert. No word as to whether it was to benefit the Ludacris Foundation.
They know to avoid that sort of thing in Philly; superstar athletes here merely don't show up to charity functions at all.
Jimmy Carter has written a silly-sounding new book in which he compares Israel to apartheid South Africa and sides with the Palestinians on just about every major question in the conflict. Luckily, Alan Dershowitz has emerged to smash his arguments to smithereens.
Nice to see that a murder from 1981 is going to be a main factor in the Philadelphia mayoral race in 2006.
He outraged some Orthodox Jews by making out with Jessica Biel at a museum exhibition. Rough life, he's got.
UPDATE: Oops, I wrote Alba when I meant Biel. Like Jeter hasn't made out with both of them...
News Item: Barack Obama Meets with Ludacris.
No word on whether the rapper has any ho's in Obama's area codes.
When Steven Soderbergh's "The Good German" screened before a Director's Guild of America audience last week, it was greeted with guffaws and little applause, even though Soderbergh was himself in the audience. I saw the film today, and... let's just say, the DGA was way too kind.
The film is a gimmick - it's filmed just like a movie from 1945 - and absolutely nothing else. The plot takes about an hour to get going and even then is deadly dull, as we're given no reason to care about anything that happens. The casting is also all wrong from top to bottom, as Clooney talks like himself, and unlike anyone in any '40s movie that I've ever seen.
"The Good German" is clearly aiming to be the new "Casablanca," even borrowing its final shot from that film. But if you took "Casablanca" and subtracted the romance, action, acting, scenery, poignancy, humor, music, and everything else that makes it memorable, you'll have "The Good German," probably the emptiest "major motion picture" in memory.
I didn't think I'd ever like a Soderbergh film less than "Erin Brockovich," but life continues to surprise me every day.
To most who watched it, Danny DeVito's drunken appearance on "The View" yesterday was embarrassing for him, and pretty funny for everyone else. Except for Bill O'Reilly, whose reaction to the segment was that "liberal anger" is out of control. This was because DeVito made a few softball anti-Bush jokes during the appearance.
I think that between this and his insistence, during the O.J. debacle, that the Fox Network "has nothing to do with" Fox News, we can officially say that Bill has lost it.
The Inquirer and Daily News have extended the deadline for a possible strike, meaning there will be no pickets on Broad Street tomorrow. For more on the situation, check out Steve Volk in Philadelphia Weekly, who has owned this story so far.
He will, however, stay on as "acting commissioner" through 2015.