Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Trick (!) or Treat?

And now, in honor of Halloween, a truly frightening image ...

... Paris Hilton reading a book.

The fact that the book is Sun Tzu's The Art of War is just a bone-chilling bonus. And no, I don't know what it all means.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia ... (or, Curtains for Cross?)

Will, o Lord, will there ever be a time when celebrities learn the benefits of keeping their homemade porn under lock and key? (Or maybe, just maybe, not making it at all, or at least destroying it outright once they're, er, done with it?) But then, what would the tabloids or other assorted sleazebuckets do with their time? Still, after the sordid examples of Pamela Anderson, Paris Hilton, Jamie Foxx or Colin Ferrell (or, way back, Rob Lowe - or way, waaaaay back, Jayne Kennedy), you would think that the stars would have gotten the lesson that the nudie pics or film that you make for your own consumption could easily fall into the hands of someone with, say, questionable ethics.

(I'm not counting those stars, usually of the D-or-below-list, who enthusiastically take part in their own debauchery becoming public fodder, usually for profit and profit. And why are those usually the people we don't want to see naked like Tom Sizemore or Screech from Saved by the Bell. Huh?)

But I digress.

The latest victim of the lost porn syndrome is Marcia Cross, the redheaded beauty who plays the painfully neat and repressed Bree Hodge on Desperate Housewives. Bree, of course, would never have naked photos of herself lying around the homestead on Wisteria Lane. Or if she did, she certainly wouldn't have accidentally thrown them in the garbage, potentially for all to see. But that's all fantasy, folks. In real life, Cross or her new husband, Tom Mahoney, or someone in their employ or otherwise seems to have done just that.

According to the New York Daily News (story can be accessed via the above subject line), more than 200 photos of Cross are now in the hands of one David Hans Schmidt, a peddler of celebrity smut of all kinds - some procured legitimately, and some not so much. Not all of the photos are of the R-rated variety, but apparently enough are to get Cross' attention. Among the shots are those of Cross showering outside in the altogether, and Schmidt has quite conveniently said of the flame-haired actress that "the carpet does match the curtains."

Lovely. Class like that is in such short supply these days.

Cross wants her photos back, but Schmidt says that, since they were indeed in the trash, the pictures are no longer hers. And there's probably some validity to his argument, since cops often will wade through a suspect's refuse for evidence and get to keep it on those very grounds. Schmidt, to his "credit," has offered to sell them back to Cross, but apparently his price was too high for Marcia's people, and now the chance of them seeing the light of day are pretty good.

In my mind, both sides have screwed this up, beyond the obvious. Schmidt should have published them or sold them immediately, not allowing Cross to even know about what was going on until it was too late. And in any other situation, Cross should have beaten Schmidt to the punch by making a quickie deal with Playboy.com for a fresh batch of nude shots, thus circumventing Schmidt's unsavory business. (She's pregnant with twins, though, so that option was probably not viable - even if she had even thought seriously about doing it.) So now we're going through this nasty business.

Don't get me wrong - I for one would love to see Marcia Cross nude. But on her terms, not because some glorified pimp is trying to make some blood money off of somebody's mistake. Maybe the up side is that this will finally scare celebs into keeping the skin trade among themselves.

Then again, Paris Hilton still walks the earth.

Note: Of course Schmidt has his own Web site. You'll have to look it up yourself, but I love his stern warning that he will turn in any "snuff film producers and agents" who try to do business with him. Glad to know he cares.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Detroit Tigers fans couldn't leave well enough alone ...

I blame the 1985 Chicago Bears for this.

(with apologies to Justin Timberlake, like he cares ...)

Tigers Back (click at your own risk)

"I announce to you a great joy! We have a Pope!"

OK, it's not a new Pope. It's a new manager for the Chicago Cubs. But in Cubdom, the anointment of a new sucker, er, field boss is a big deal, an almost holy event. Of course, that's because the event often resembles a human sacrifice. But this time may be different, because Lou Piniella has come to town, and he has not been a guy who suffers fools or crappy players lightly during his managerial career, which has included stints with the Yankees (and George Steinbrenner), Reds, Mariners and Devil Rays. The fact that he actually has a World Series ring (he won with Cincinnati in 1990) is a very big deal. So is the fact that he is no wallflower, that he has a reputation as a take-charge manager who's not above getting into the face of a slacking player or a irascible umpire.

But can Piniella do what no manager has been able to in nearly a century - bring a World Championship to the North Side of Chicago. Lou thinks he can, and so do I. In fact, I'm going to go out on a limb - the kind of limb that long-suffering Cubs fans often fall off of, but what the hell.

The Chicago Cubs will be World Series champions by 2008.

Ha!, you exclaim as milk or soup or some liquid shoots out of your nose while you laugh uncontrollably. And, sure, I could be wrong - again - about this. But I say this for two reasons.

1) Piniella, knowing the Tribune Company's reputation for stinginess, made the big bosses swear on their portfolios that they would give him carte blanche when it came to pursuing the players he deems necessary to pursue the National League pennant and beyond. And if he's not satisfied, he'll walk in New York minute. Because Piniella doesn't need the Cubs. His legacy as one of the top managers of the past 20 years is secure. Bringing a world title to the Cubs would be the perfect icing, but it isn't his end-all be-all.

2) There's very recent precedent for a manager joining a team in a rut or one that just blows and turning things around in short fashion. In fact, the last three World Series champs had just that situation:

2003: Florida Marlins, managed by Jack McKeon, who joined the team that May after a sub-.500 start.

2004: Boston Red Sox, managed by Terry Francona, his first year with the club.

2005: Chicago White Sox, managed by Ozzie Guillen, his second year with the club.

Throw in this year's World Series-bound Detroit Tigers, run by Jim Leyland (his first year there), and you have a trend. So, I say, why not Lou Piniella and the Cubs?

One thing is clear: Anyone who's involved with a World Series champion Cubs team will be a god in the Windy City for life. And if you stop believing, you stop living. So I will stick with my prediction, and you can throw it in my face if I'm wrong.

If I'm wrong.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The best of times, the worst of times ...

The sports world, of course, is not immune to the highs and lows of human experience that we deal with on a day-to-day basis. And it's not especially uncommon for a great story and a sad or stupid story to take place in sports in the same day, even within hours of each other. Indeed, that's what most sports fans call "Saturday." And this past Saturday was no exception, though the chasm between the two events in question was especially vast this time around. On the one end of the spectrum, you had the ultimate (though not, perhaps, final) triumph of the Detroit Tigers, The Artists Formerly Known as the Doormats of the American League, as they clinched the pennant and a trip to the World Series in a form that can only be described as "cinematic." And at the other end - the dark, dank end - there was the savage and idiotic mid-game brawl between the football teams representing the University of Miami and Florida International University.

First, the brawl. Nobody who is a fan or even an occasional observer of the college football game is unfamiliar with the reputation of the University of Miami Hurricanes. Or should I say, reputations. For football - excellence, with five national championships, two Heisman Trophy winners and countless NFL players produced. For everything else - sleaze, with many arrests and convictions amongst the players over the years, in addition to scandals that have prompted NCAA investigations and penalties and overall thuggish behavior. Much of that black cloud over the program had dissipated over the years thanks to the efforts of former coach Butch Davis and his successor, current coach Larry Coker. But two things have happened this season: signs of the old times have slowly crept back into the Miami culture and - truthfully, even worse in the eyes of many a Miami booster or administration - the team lost some luster on the field, with a current record of 4-2, shaky by Hurricane standards.

That fourth win, a 35-0 pasting of the "powerhouse" Florida International (currently 0-7) squad, is where the current troubles took place. There had been the usual trash-talking between teams, and a questionable late hit by an FIU player. But the fun really began early in the third quarter. After catching a touchdown pass early in the third quarter, making the score a hardly-imposing 13-0, the Miami receiver pointed to the FIU bench and bowed to the crowd in the Orange Bowl. The very next play, the kicking of the extra point, an FIU player tackled the Miami place holder and punched him. Things quickly escalated after than, with both benches emptying and even local police unable to calm things down for several minutes. (By the way, the cops were sponsoring an event at the game that night called - I shit you not - "Join a Team, Not a Gang Day.")

The video of the fight is, unfortunately, a sight to behold. Players on both teams acting like madman, launching themselves at each other, swinging helmets like they were clubs and stomping on each other with metal cleats. It makes you proud to be a human being.

The good news is that everyone involved was wearing a big number on their chest and back, which makes the penalty phase quite easy to sort out. The bad news is that the penalties, so far, suck. Between the two programs, 31 players, including 13 from Miami, have been suspended for - one game. Yeah, that's it, one stinking game. Oh, and that game, against perennial also-ran Duke, is a virtually walk-over even for a so-so Hurricane team. The only person who seems guarantee to lose his job is Lamar Thomas, the color commentator for the Hurricane TV broadcasting team and a former Hurricane himself from the "glory" days. He sure did add color to the melee by encouraging the Miami players for defending "our house" and expressing a desire to "go down the elevator to get in that thing." (For an illuminating view of Thomas' resume, click here.) As for Coker, already under fire, he's still around, but will likely get axed - not for this, but for not measuring up to elite Hurricane standards. Meaning wins and losses, not conduct becoming student-athletes.

I'd make this simple - everyone involved with the brawl, on both sides, is out for the year. If you used your helmet or cleats as a weapon, you're gone - from the team, and from the school. And we're handing your ass to the authorities, and they can determine whether charges should be filed. And if the administrations of either Miami or FIU don't do this, then they're gone as well. 'Cause college football isn't a right, boys and girls. It's a privilege. And just like other privileges, it can be revoked.

Plain and simple, the Miami brawl was a bastardization of sports. Which makes it all the more important that fans could turn to the Detroit Tigers as if it was a cleansing shower from the filth of the violence. The three-run homer that Tiger outfielder Magglio Ordonez blasted into the Michigan sky Saturday night - his second of the game, no less - did more than send the Tigers to the World Series for the first time in 22 years, on the very day back in 1984 that Kirk Gibson hit two home runs to clinch the whole enchilada for Detroit. It did more than remove the yoke of failure from a team and a fan base that had suffered through 13 straight losing seasons, including a near-record 119 losses just three years ago. In true Ruthian fashion, Ordonez's blast also made for a very special 11th birthday for his son, Magglio Jr. Before the game, the father - who had been struggling during the playoffs - had promised the son that he would hit a home run to mark the day of his birth. Instead, he hit two. The first tied the game against the Oakland Athletics. The second propelled Motown into baseball ecstasy and made a little boy's day.

You can't make up shit like this up. And, on a day when the worst of sports was all too visible, the sight of Magglio Ordonez with the biggest smile on his face, with his beloved son stuck to his side, made even the most jaded fan remember why they liked sports in the first place.

BTW: Lamar Thomas is on ESPN Radio right now and, sadly, is not apologizing for his comments - not really, anyway. Have fun getting a new broadcasting job, sport.

UPDATE: [3:14 p.m.] Miami has extended the suspension of sophomore safety Anthony Reddick, who used his helmet as a weapon, to indefinite status, and Florida International has kicked two of its suspended players off the team and also has made the suspensions of its other 16 penalized players indefinite. That's a start.

UPDATE 2: [3:27 p.m.] Lamar Thomas has officially been relieved of his duties as the color commentator for the University of Miami's football broadcasts on TV. Must have been something he said ...

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm ...

What you are looking at is the construction of an igloo of chocolate, the centerpiece of the Eurochocolate festival that just started in Perugia, Italy. Yeah, a chocolate igloo - made of nearly four tons of the stuff, mostly in the form of 10 kg bricks of dark chocolate.

Er ... I'm a bit too distracted to talk now, so just click the subject line to read up about Eurochocolate. And then I dare you not to go buy a Hersheys bar afterwards.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Cat fancy ...

Ah, kittens. Lovable, adorable little balls of fluff. Even those who are allergic to them, who may even hate the grown-up versions, usually manage to find a soft spot for the cuddly critters.

Wade Pilloud, a school principal in the small Minnesota town of Indus, says he loves kittens too. Has even raised them for a living, and owns two cats himself, he also says. That's why he shot two kittens on the property of the school he works at.

Or, rather, worked at. Pilloud resigned after word got out of his shooting spree, and he may face firearm charges for what he said was a humane act. Seems that the young kittens' mommy had been killed by an animal trap. The babies, he says, were starving.

For the parents of some of the school's students, that rationale wasn't good enough. They raised safety concerns, and the fact that some of the kids heard the gunshots probably didn't help either. So Pilloud is out of a job and maybe, eventually, his freedom.

I have a question. Did it ever go through Pilloud's mind that the best remedy for hungry kittens may not have been a bullet between the eyes, but rather - and I'm just wondering out loud - SOME MILK???!

Some people should not be allowed around our children. Or our cats.

Note: None of the kittens in these pictures were shot or otherwise harmed. At least, not that I know of.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Who is the real leader of the free world?

Let's put it this way - who's the only guy you know who can hang out with President Bush and Oprah Winfrey - in the same freakin' day?

His aura and power and grace is almost enough to make us forgive that lousy haircut. Almost.

"I didn't do nothin' I have regrets about."

Folks, if you want to begin your Friday the 13th like I always do - seething mad - click on the subject line for the story of Mark Downs, a not-so-mild-mannered T-ball coach out of Fayette County, Pennsylvania, who has just been sentenced to prison for offering one of his players, aged 8, $25 to injure a 9-year-old autistic teammate so that Downs wouldn't have to play him.

Yeah, you read that correctly. The subject line, in fact, is the quote Downs (by the way, a father of four - think about that one for a minute) gave to the press as he was being led away to prisons in handcuffs. "I didn't do nothin' I have regrets about." Lovely.

The price for Downs' crimes? Up to six years in prison. Considering the code in most of these facilities about felons who hurt children, I'm thinking Downs' time behind bars won't be especially pleasant, especially considering the inanity of the crime. Boo hoo for him.

(Note: The story behind the subject line is from last month; I'm still looking for a current article on the wires about the sentencing again. Also, maybe, a photo of this tool so you can spit on him.)

UPDATE: Here is an article about the actual sentencing of Downs. Some in the media have questioned the severity of the sentence against him, that probation or maybe community service with the autistic may have been a better punishment for him. Keep in mind, though, that Downs most likely had the chance to plead guilty to something to avoid a trial. He may have had a chance to be a man, and if so, he apprently declined. He'll learn what it's like to be a man in jail.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Two games for the price of one ... oh, never mind!

Despite the name of this blog and the obsessive nature of the Chicago Cubs fan who operates it, baseball has not been a common topic at this tiny piece of Internet real estate. A lot of that "neglect" may be because of the current state of the Cubs baseball club, which didn't exactly play to impress this past season. (Translation: They sucked. Hard.) But baseball comes today because this particular day is maybe the dumbest on the season's calendar. That's because tonight the Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics will play each other in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series, which will begin at about 8 p.m. (ET) tonight - at the same time that Game 1 of the National League Championship Series between the New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals will commence.

This is at least the third year in a row that there will be this one-night overlap of the two LCS matchups, where baseball audiences will have to choose which game to follow. In some cases, the choice will be made for them. Fox, which owns the exclusive contract to both the LCS and the resulting World Series, will air one game on its over-the-air network and the other on its FX cable channel. Which game gets the broadcast slot will depend on the region, so for those cable-less households - and they do still exist - they'll be out of luck if, say, they live in Oakland but are die-hard Mets fans.

Why is this such a big deal? Because for many years Major League Baseball was one of the very rare league (the NFL being the other) where all playoff games were guaranteed national coverage. This could be done because of the relatively low number of contests in MLB's baseball cycle, and also because, in the cases where more than one game was played on a day, games would be played in the daytime. There was even a time, boys and girls, when World Series games were played during the day. Ask your mommies and daddies about those heady times, when they would often sneak their transistor radios into classrooms to subversively listen to the broadcasts. Or maybe they were lucky enough to have understanding teachers. One of my friends, who was a child when the Mets won their miracle World Series in 1969, told me about the thrill of having a old TV rolled into a school assembly so the kids could watch one of the WS games out in the open. (She lived in the New York region at the time, thus the special treatment. And, yeah, ’69 should have been the Cubs' year. That's another topic for another time, painful as it is.)

Alas, the days of daytime playoff baseball, at least for the LCS and World Series, are long gone, a victim of the increasing importance of the All-Mighty Dollar. Because ratings for daytime baseball are not spectacular (i.e. they suck. Hard.), The Powers That Be try to have as many games in prime-time - all of them, actually - as possible to maximize value. How this is better than the alternative, I don't know, particularly when the actual games often don't start until almost 8:30, which means that young kids - the future of the fan base, by the way - often are in bed well before the games end or even become exciting. But that's what the big bosses want, which is why we have tonight's overlap. You would think that MLB would have learned from the ill-fated 1995 season, when this freakish monstrosity called The Baseball Network rules the TV landscape and led to the entire playoff cycle being run with overlap, so that most communities only got to see one LCS. It was an universally condemned situation, which is one reason why The Baseball Network was gone in 1996.

Would it have killed MLB and Fox to have, for this one day, one of these games played under God's natural lighting? It would have been cool to have the Mets and Cardinals play in the sunshine of Queens - to have little kids and grown-ups alike playing hooky to go to the ballgame or sneak their tiny radios into the classrooms and boardrooms, or fire up their computers and listen to the streamed play-by-play. Instead, as is often the case, MLB has taken the easy - and the wrong - way out for the sake of a few bucks. Idiots.

UPDATE: God, in his position as the Ultimate Baseball Fan, has settled the schedule overlap in his own way; the Mets-Cardinals game has been postponed due to rain. So everyone watches Detroit-Oakland tonight. So there.

A Big Gulp to swallow ...

You may not know this, but I am not a fan of the Chicago White Sox baseball club. In fact, the White Sock is the natural blood enemy of the Chicago Cub - one of five blood enemies that the tiny creature of the North Side must contend with for survival. White Sox fans especially can be nasty critters, as I especially discovered during this past year, when said fans proved to be sore winners by lording their World Series triumph over their less fortunate cousins to the north.

Despite their dispositions, though, I sympathize with my baseball brethren over the increasing selling-out of the White Sox management. It was bad enough when they replaced the old Comiskey Park, one of the grande dames of baseball parks, with a new Comiskey that more resembled a strip mall than a place to play ball. Years later, that blight was made worse with the stripping of the time-honored Comiskey name in favor of a corporate logo, U.S. Cellular Field. For a few pieces of silver (actually, $68 million), one of the great names of both Chicago and baseball history was trashed, though many in the Chicagoland area have not gotten the memo and still refer to it as its Christian name. (Other call the ballpark "The Cell," a nickname that has more than one connotation if you've ever spent an April night there. A few even refer to the place as "The Joan," based on the fact that the lovingly quirky, Chicago-born actress Joan Cusack does their commercials. Never mind the fact that Joan and her brood are, for the most part, loyal Cubs fans. But I digress.)

Now comes the announcement that, starting with the 2007 season, all night games at New Comiskey will begin at 7:11 p.m. local time. This is a result of a new endorsement deal with, yes, the 7-Eleven convenience store chain, the idea being that every time the start time of the home games is announced, it's instant pub for the home of the Slurpee and Big Gulp. Now, on the surface, this isn't an entirely big deal. It's not like that's such a major shift from past history, when most White Sox games started at around 7:05 p.m. It's just so freakin' ridiculous. First of all, the price of this promotion is a mere $500,000, which won't buy a right-handed middle reliever with a sore arm these days. Second of all, it's another sign of how far sports entities will go to raise a few bucks. It's bad enough that so many stadiums have corporate names slapped onto them or that every aspect of the broadcast is sponsored. ("This crotch-scratching break is sponsored by Preparation H!") But this - this is just silly.

One wonders why the White Sox didn't take this idea all the way by having all day games start at 7:11 a.m. Maybe the idea of fathers waking up their sons at 4 in the morning to catch a ball game at The Joan was a bit too much.

Click the subject line to perpetuate the insanity.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Ol' Googly Eyes is back ...

Hmmm ... In the "why don't you go away already department," we have Jennifer Wilbanks, whom you may remember as the real-life "runaway bride" from last year. You know, the Georgia chick with the crazy eyes who skipped out on her fancy-schmancy wedding and faked out the entire country into thinking that she had been abducted before she turned up out West as just another bride with cold feet. Well, if you click on the subject line above, you will read about how Wilbanks is now suing her former fiance for half of the $500,000 he earned through selling his rights to the whole story to Regan Media. She's also looking for - get this- punitive damages.

Now, let's see - it was Wilbanks who jumped her own wedding, made everyone think she had been kidnapped and sexually assaulted by two unknown culprits (including a Latino man, and you know how lovely it is when we through stereotypical minorities into the mix), then was arrested for giving false information to the cops. She pleaded no contest (i.e. the wimpy way of admitting guilt) to those charges. So it was Wilbanks who admittedly broke the law. Oh, and let's also throw in that she got her 15 minutes of fame with media appearances - and that she allegedly made a cool half million through the sale of her rights to the story. (Jami Gertz is still on standby, by the way.) Oh, apparently she has used none of her proceeds to pay back the local authorities for the $40,000 or so they spent to find her bony ass, even though she really was faking the whole thing.

Seriously, can she just go away. Frankly, why am I giving her any additional pub? I'm an enabler. Great.

Frankly, if anyone should be suing anying, the ex should be suing her for pain and suffering. Or the Cookie Monster should be suing Wilbanks for stealing his act. And that's only because Marty Feldman is dead, and therefore can't sue anyone.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Another cute commercial!

Though I bet this stuff is vile. It was vile when I had to drink cough syrup as a child. Today, I just drink cough syrup for sport.

Priorities, people, priorities!

Took you long enough, Yahoo! guys. This story of most critical importance broke over three hours ago? What took you so long? Maybe you're upset about dropping the YouTube ball. Well, get over it and keep your heads in the game!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The cutest commercial ever!

If this doesn't make you smile, you're probably dead. Or have no soul. Or hate dogs, which is pretty much the same as having no soul. Unless you're allergic, and even then, it's not the dogs' fault that you're allergic to them. It's probably yours. ’Cause you're without a soul.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Safe at home ...

Around this time last year, I came home from a movie screening to the news that Rosa Parks, one of the great African American pioneers of the last century, had passed away, a long life of struggle and triumph finally over. Tonight, a similar experience, as I learned that John Jordan "Buck" O'Neil was gone at the age of 94. Buck O'Neil, one of the last of the great Negro League baseball players, may not have had the name recognition of a Rosa Parks or Jackie Robinson. But in his own way, this eloquent, literate man was just as important for the cause of civil rights as either of them. He also was the best ambassador baseball had going today.

Click on the subject line to read The New York Times' brief but excellent obituary about O'Neil. But here's my own short recollection of him: A few years ago, I had the extreme pleasure of meeting Buck O'Neil at a television press tour, where PBS was presenting a revival of sorts of some of the documentarian Ken Burns' most important works. Among these films were segments of Burns' epic Baseball, in which O'Neil, then a young pup of 82, was introduced to much of America with his colorful tales of life in the Negro Leagues. Buck regaled us reporters with more stories during the Q&A, then continued in followups with a small group of us afterwards. What I recall the most about that encounter was that this man who had more than earned the respect of anyone and everyone around him refused to answer to "Mr. O'Neil." He insisted that we call him Buck. It was that casualness, that ease with people and with his past, that I will always remember about him.

I hope Buck is enjoying the chance to run through the green outfields of heaven right now, and that he will do well in his first game alongside the likes of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig and the other greats that he was denied the chance to play with in life. I've got a feeling they're going to be impressed with this newcomer.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Lost ...

If anyone out there can explain to me what exactly was going on on last night's season premiere of Lost - well, you're probably full of crap, ’cause I don't think anyone knows exactly what's going on there, with the possible exception of J.J. Abrams and the other producers. And I wouldn't be surprised if they don't know exactly what they're doing.

Which is why, perhaps, it's the best drama on network television, and the Television Academy looks progressively more foolish with each airing.

(Not) Black like me ...

You may or may not be aware that a new biopic about Jackie Robinson is in the works. Already Robert Redford has been cast in the pivotal role of Branch Rickey, the taciturn general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers who chose Robinson as the perfect man to break baseball's long-standing color barrier. But the lead role has yet to be cast.

I have a great idea about the actor who could fill that part. He's versatile, he's athletic, he's an Oscar nominee. He'd be perfect for the role of Jackie Robinson.

I speak, of course, of Heath Ledger.

What's that? Ledger can't play Jackie Robinson? Why not? It's not because he's Australian, is it? What does that have to do with anything? Russell Crowe has played Americans before, as has many a foreign actor, and vice versa.

Oh, that's not it, you say. You say it's because Heath Ledger is ... white? Shame on you. How can you be so close-minded. Acting shouldn't be bound by race or color. Those days are over, right?

Absolutely right. But only to a point. A particular point, but a point nonetheless.

Of course it's ridiculous that Heath Ledger would be offered the part of Jackie Robinson. The first person to say that may very well be Ledger himself. The part of maybe the most important African American of the 20th century must be played by an actor of Negro persuasion. Just as, the next time someone does a movie on Babe Ruth or Mickey Mantle or John F. Kennedy or Albert Einstein, those characters must be played by Caucasians. It's a simple equation, a reflection on the real lives those movies would depict.

So why is it OK for Halle Berry, an Academy Award winner of exception talent (Catwoman notwithstanding) has been chosen to play Tierney Cahill, a real-life elementary school teacher who ran for Congress in the year 2000 with the assistance of her young students? Cahill, in case you haven't guessed yet, is white. Berry, of course, is not, having made history as the first African American to win the Best Actress Oscar in 2002.

My political beliefs, which I try not to voice on this blog because I don't feel it's the proper place, are nevertheless decidedly left of center. And you can tell from the picture of myself on the right that I come to this from a certain perspective. But this isn't right. Berry should have never accepted this part, even though I wouldn't doubt that she campaigned for it. How would Berry have felt if, say, Angelina Jolie had played Dorothy Dandridge instead of her or any other qualified woman of color? How would any of us had felt? And the fact that Cahill is not a household name or face is irrelevant. She's a real person. She is not black. End of discussion. Either you tell her story the right way, or you don't tell it at all.

Beth asked me why I was not pleased about this announcement. This is what I told her:

Obviously I'm all for colorblind casting, but when it comes to actual people who actually lived, you're dealing with a different reality. Namely, reality itself. If Cahill is white, then something is lost from the equation of her true-life story by casting an actress of color, no matter how talented she is. To say you're looking for the best actor, period, isn't enough when you're telling the story of someone who actually lived. It would be like casting Kevin Spacey to play Colin Powell, or Antonio Banderas to play Bill Clinton. And if those are ridiculous examples, well, that kind of makes my point in a sense.

One more thing, and I say this as a proud liberal and a proud African American - if the roles were reversed, if a white actress was cast in the role of a real-life black woman, you know there would be hell to pay.

Variety (the article in the trade about this can be accessed - for now - by clicking the subject line) quoted a source close to the production as saying that the producers wanted to find the right actress as opposed the right white actress. That's a very noble sentiment - for a fictional role and/or a fictional story. When there are actual facts involved, though, new rules apply.

Oh, and if anyone can think of a good choice to play Jackie Robinson, let me know. Frankly, I'm stumped.

P.S.: This is the real Tierney Cahill. What, Julianne Moore wasn't available? Laura Linney? Helen Hunt?