Monday, December 31, 2007

2007: The Year in Rebuke, er, Review

My confidential sources inform me that at midnight tonight, 2007 ends forever. What's more, it will be immediately followed by another year, 2008. Astonishing, I know.

Seriously, this is the time in which we are told to look back at the previous 12 months - because where we've been can say a lot about where we are going. But maybe for this one time - again - looking back may be hazardous to our health. Don't believe me?

















Yeah ... that about sums it up. But don't worry, kids ... next year we'll make some more!

Monday, December 24, 2007

The wind cries Santa ...

It was 75 degrees in Los Angeles on Christmas Eve, but we paid for the balmy weather with sustained winds that reminded me of the tornadic activity back home. Don't believe me? See below:

So you think you're having a crappy Christmas?

I thought I was ... until I heard that the Chicago Bulls fired head coach Scott Skiles today - Christmas Eve! I mean, sure, the team has had a very disappointing start, but it's not like they've sucked for years. The Bulls have made the playoffs for three years in a row, a peak for the post-Jordan years. And, what, the team was still going to be bad on December 26, so they couldn't have waited two more days?

How Scroogy!

Friday, December 21, 2007

This story makes me sick ...

This morning, as I awoke to another sunrise in Los Angeles and another story about Jamie Lynn Spears still being pregnant, I also awoke to another reality: that I am the living result of an "experiment". At least, that's what the CIGNA insurance company thinks. The "experiment" line was the rationale that they took to deny a Los Angeles family coverage of the liver transplant that their daughter, 17-year-old Nataline Sarkisyan, needed to save her life. Nataline was a leukemia patient who underwent a bone-marrow transplant from her brother, but a complication led to a lung infection and, eventually, liver failure. But CIGNA denied the Sarkisyans' request for coverage for the procedure, saying that the operation was, yeah, experimental.

As Nataline lay in a medically induced coma at UCLA Medical Center, a large rally in front of CIGNA's L.A. headquarters was staged yesterday to convince the behemoth to reverse their decision - and, miracle of miracle, it works. The family got word at the rally that CIGNA would cover the surgery after all, though even then they couched their words as if they were doing the Sarkisyans a favor - the favor the clan had paid for with premiums, by the way. But only hours after that, Nataline took a turn for the worse and died before she could go under the knife.

In their statement approving the transplant, CIGNA said that their "hearts go out to Nataline and her family as they endure this terrible ordeal". Now that she's dead, CIGNA isn't saying anything so far - probably in anticipation of the inevitable lawsuit - so no word on where their hearts are now. We know where their livers aren't.

Look, there are differences between my situation and Nataline's. I didn't have cancer, for one. But I was on death's door - hell, death was knocking hard and using a chainsaw to cut the door open. At the time I was double-covered by my parents' dual insurance policies, and still the bill was as long as a Russian novel. They fought us over paying for a medical jet that would transport me to Omaha for the transplant, claiming that they could just load my comatose ass onto a commercial flight. And that was almost 20 years ago. Who knew how long the "experiment" would last - or what hoops we would have to go through if I had the transplant today - or, God forbid, need another one someday?

This is not a political blog for the most part. But if you ever needed any proof that the health-care system in this country is irretrievably broken, just look at the corpse of Nataline Sarkisyan. Seventeen years old. Dead because of a corporate decision. Several candidates on both sides tell us that it's our responsibility to be insured in order to fix the problem. But if the insurance company doesn't do its job, then why bother?

UPDATE: Here is the Los Angeles Times' take on the situation.

UPDATE 2: The Sarkisyans have hired a big-time lawyer and may be going after more than a lawsuit. Murder and/or manslaughter charges may be filed. A message is about to be sent, and how.

Monday, December 17, 2007

His s*** don't stink!


Congratulations go out from this blog to Kaka, the Brazilian soccer player who has won Player of the Year honors from FIFA, also known as the European football folks. And a double congrats to Kaka for avoiding finishing No. 2 in the vote. That would have really been a crapper.

P.S. In Argentina, "kaka" is slang for the male genitalia. Just wanted to share.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Just as long as there are no upskirts ...


In an apparent indication that Pope Benedict XVI realizes that he's no John Paul II, the Vatican has brought in a consultant, legendary Italian director Franco Zeffirelli, to work on the Pontiff's image. Zeffirelli thinks that Benedict's image isn't happy and that his wardrobe is too flashy, but admits that John Paul is a hard act to follow:

"Coming after a pope as telegenic as John Paul II is a difficult task."

No crap, Sherlock. And you never say JPII needing any help in conveying his image - well, maybe except for the time he toured with 2 Live Crew. But that mash-up ended badly in a clash over who ate all of the green M&Ms at the craft services table.

Meanwhile, Zeffirelli, who directed Romeo and Juliet and Jesus of Nazareth, also will help the Vatican by "defending the faith in cinema" - which means making sure those who make so-called Christian-themed movies know exactly what they're doing. In commenting on that, Zeffirelli threw Mel Gibson - who starred in the director's 1990 rendition of Hamlet - under the missionary bus:

"You have to pay attention, as shown by the fallout from Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ which irreversibly harmed the memory of millions of people."

Yeah, that sounds like a thumbs-down to me. Wonder what Franco thinks of The Golden Compass. Not to mention Bad Santa, the third-greatest Christmas movie ever!

Friday, December 14, 2007

(Definitely not) silent after all these years ...

Even though I'm a fan, I'll be the first one to admit that Tori Amos is an acquired taste of a musician. She can be quirky as hell, but no one can deny her talents as a singer, a pianist and a songwriter. And her core audience is as loyal as they come. And now we know, thanks to the concert clip below, that Amos is also a badass motherf*****. Just watch as she performs the song "Code Red" (from her most recent album, American Doll Posse) during a show in San Diego two nights ago. Her performance is fierce, but that's nothing compare to what she does to the two bimbettes chatting amongst themselves in the front row. If you're in a hurry, fast forward the clip to about 2:25 into the song.

'

If the girls were annoying enough for Amos to react the ways she did (and comments from those who were there seem to confirm as much), then you can't really blame her for what she did. In fact, Laurence Fishburne once stopped a Broadway performance midstream to chastise an audience member who answered their ringing cell phone and took the call. Even church services aren't immune to the plague that is short-attention span theater.

Actually, the chicks probably got off easy. If they had been doing that during a Phil Spector concert, dude probably would have put a cap in their butts.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Jodie Foster, in or out? CNN helpfully clears things up for us ...


This just in: Jodie Foster is gay. A lesbian. Prefers the company of the fairer sex.

How do I know this? 'Cause CNN says it's so. Go to CNN.com and peruse the links on the home page. There is says, in bold blue text, "Jodie Foster publicly thanks gay partner."

Click on that link, and you'll get this helpful and informative video about why they can say Jodie Foster is so gay.

Now, it's true that Foster did, at an awards ceremony last week, publicly thank the woman considered by many to be her longtime companion (as they used to say in the '80s), Cyndey Bernard. And yes, many clues point to the fact that Foster and Bernard are more than just chums, most notably that Foster's two sons each have "Bernard" as a middle name. And maybe, just maybe, Foster's declaration of affection last week marks her subtle way of coming out. But is CNN going to far by stating that Foster thanked her "gay partner"?

And, most important of all, why the hell do we care? Indeed, why am I writing this blog post?

Yeah, why am I writing this blog post? Never mind, move along. Ooooh, Led Zeppelin concert clubs below!

Ike spiked ...

Ike Turner, America's favorite rock-and-roll pioneer-slash-unrepentant wife beater, left us yesterday at the age of 76. This post is not to rehash the many peaks and valley's of Mr. Turner's appearance on Earth, but to applaud our friends at the New York Post for yet another subtle turn of phrase in their headline to Ike's obit.

Keep staying classy, Post guys.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What a pig ...

This is Bobby Petrino. He's a football coach - a successful one, for the most part. He was a major success at the University of Louisville, going 41-9 in his four years there and raising the Cardinals to a powerhouse in the NCAAs, after decades of being known as just a basketball school. He took that record to the NFL, signing a lucrative deal with the Atlanta Falcons prior to this season.

Bobby Petrino is a football coach.

He's also, as of last night, a coward and a quitter.

That's because Petrino's tenure as Falcons head coach also ended last night, abruptly, precisely 13 games into his NFL career. In fact, it ended less than 24 hours after he had led his team against the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football. Hours before that game, Petrino had told his boss, Falcons owner Arthur Blank, that he was with Atlanta for the long haul, despite the fact that the team had gone through a dismal season, a season that was doomed from the beginning after Michael Vick, their dazzling star quarterback, blew his career and his life by becoming the mastermind of a dogfighting ring and getting caught doing it. No, he told Blank, he had no desire to jump ship for the open job at the University of Arkansas, despite rumblings that Blank had heard in the background.

The next day, in the aftermath of the Falcons' 34-14 loss to the Saints - and Petrino's challenge to his players to ask themselves how they could improve the 3-10 team - the coach called Blank to tell him he was done. That night, he was at a press conference in Arkansas to accept the Razorbacks' coaching position.

How did he tell his former Falcon players? With a form letter hung in their lockers. It might as well have said "So long, suckers!" And just like that, Michael Vick - who was sentenced to 23 months in federal prison the morning of Petrino's last game with the Falcons - was no longer the most notorious person in Atlanta. At least for the time being.

We hear so much about how pro athletes aren't loyal anymore to their teams, their fan bases - that they're in it only for themselves and not the greater good of their respective franchises. But it's just as bad, maybe worse, when coaches pull the same act. Petrino is a doctrinaire coach, one based in discipline. He clashed with veterans on the Falcons, even cutting a popular and still effective lineman during the team's bye week as if to make a point about who was boss. He outlawed loud talking during team dinners. It was his prerogative to set team rules, as it is for any head coach - but Petrino seemed incapable of dealing with his players as men of respect. And then there was the absence of Vick, the talented QB Petrino was brought in to work with, to harness his skills into a form that would deliver those long-desired Super Bowl titles to Atlanta. The moment he was busted for the dogfighting, their season was effectively over. Petrino may have been dealt a bum hand, but he was being paid handsomely for it ($24 million over five years), and there was no reason not to suspect that he could right the boat next year, maybe the year after that.

Instead, he bailed out before his first year was even done, after effectively lying to his owner, his players and virtually everybody else in Georgia.

The Falcon players have condemned Petrino as a quitter and a coward and as less than a man, and why shouldn't they? After all, if one of them had pulled this act, the first person to blast them would have been Bobby Petrino. Blank says he feels "betrayed" by the move and also is pissed at Arkansas, whom he says didn't have permission to speak to Petrino. Almost everyone in the NFL family has blasted Petrino. Meanwhile, Arkansas apologists are speaking. "Forget everything you hear out of Atlanta," wrote Wally Hall in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

Yeah, Wally, remember that in two years when Petrino bails on Arkansas' ass to coach a larger NCAA program.

Falcons strong safety Lawyer Milloy may have said it best when summing up the sudden departure of his former coach. "This league is for real men," he said. "And I think he realized that he doesn't belong in it." At this point, I'm not sure what league Petrino belongs in. It surely isn't one I would be interested in watching.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Masterpiece Theatre now X-rated ...


Gillian Anderson has just been announced as the new host of PBS' Masterpiece Theater - or at least one of the hosts for this coming season, which promises to be a fun one (see the AP article regarding such). An interesting choice, especially since Anderson is the first Masterpiece host who can choose which accent she will use from segment to segment. Will she be American Gillian or British Gillian? That should be a ratings booster!

A whole lotta love last night ...

At the risk of doing something, er, illegal, I thought I would liven things up here by giving all of you cool cats who didn't have the good fortune of being in London last night for the long-awaited Led Zeppelin reunion gig a taste of what you - and I - missed. So kick back, pull out that dusty bottle of Jack Daniels (in honor of Mr. Bonham) and ride back with us to those days of yesteryear when men were men, women were women, and rock bands consistently blew the roof off the joint. (And praise God for the gift of YouTube.)

In order of set list:

"Good Times Bad Times" (the very first song on the very first Zeppelin album - fitting start to the concert, don't you think?)



"Stairway to Heaven" (or, as Robert Plant calls it, "that damn wedding song")



"Kashmir"



Encore No. 1 - "Whole Lotta Love" (not including, sadly, Rachel Dratch on the cello)

Note: Look at all the bald spots in the audience - classic!



Encore No. 2 - "Rock and Roll" (not including, happily, any Cadillac imagery)

Note: Sorry for the crappy sound on this one.



There was more, much more, but those are the only complete songs I could find on YouTube at the present moment. Still, you get the idea. This should tide you over until the world tour. (What?)

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Idle hands ...

When do you know your blog hasn't been updated in, like, forever? When your own mother complains about why you haven't posted anything new in more than two months!

So I guess it's time I got off my duff (do the young ones still call it that?) and tried - forced myself, even - to keep things current. So, in the tradition of Ashley Judd in Someone Like You (see the film to know what I'm talking about), I'm blowing the dust off of this joint. I hope to be able to entertain the two or three of you who read this blog regularly in the past. And if I can double my audience, all the better.

Hi, Mom!!! :)

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Say it again ... loud and not so proud ...

Wait till next year (one more time).
Ninety-nine years and counting ...





P.S.: Tsunami!!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Perspective (aka "Tsunami!")

Well, my beloved Chicago Cubs have dropped the first two games of their National League Division Series to the Arizona Diamondbacks, and done it in listless fashion. They will return to the friendly confines of Wrigley Field with their backs against the wall, needing to win three straight games to keep alive their dream of nipping their World Series futility streak in the bud before it reaches the century mark - literally. And it's yet another salvo in the ongoing pain and suffering that is being a Cubs fan. At least there's been no cataclysmic, scratch-your-head event like the goat, the black cat or the Bartman to drive us members of Cubs Nation up the freaking wall. But there's always Saturday.

So I'm not a happy camper right now. The optimism that was brimming over my soul on Friday night, when the Cubs clinched the playoffs, is at a low ebb right now. But things could always be worse, as my dear friend Beth has shown me this week, as she's dealt with the hospitalization of both her parents with grace and strength. Sure, she's stressed out of her gourd, but that's to be expected. Beth is one of my best friends and, more often than not, one of my heroes - not just because she's a brilliant writer (see the link to her blog to your right), an excellent conversationalist and has fantastic eyes that can melt the largest glacier on Earth. (Boy, did that sound lame.) She rocks because she keeps my world in perspective. Whenever I get down on myself for some inane reason, she only has to pull one word out of her extensive vocabulary - "tsumani". It's a simple premise, that whatever your deal is, at least your home and existence haven't been wiped out by a massive tidal wave. But more often than not, it knocks me back into the real world. It's to the point that Beth doesn't even have to say it to me - I say it for her and then promptly pipe down, looking at the landscape of my life with open eyes.

Don't get me wrong - Beth is a great listener and gives great advice whenever I ask her for it. But it's good to have friends like her, and others in my life, who love you enough to call you on your crap when it's just that. And if nothing else, what she's gone through this week (both of her parents are back home, by the way) has shown me again how lucky I am that both of my parents are still in reasonably good health, and that I have a roof over my head and am flooded with work these days - and, yeah, even that my favorite baseball team defied the odds this season and actually made the playoffs. So if they lose on Saturday and get swept out of the post-season - hell, yeah, I'm going to be pissed and annoyed and probably grumpy for the next few days. But, you know, they'll get another chance to go all the way next year. And, God willing, I'll be around to yell at them all over again.

Tsunami, y'all.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The worm has turned ...

One down, three to go.
Rock on, Cubs ... rock on.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

It isn't over ...

... until the fat man has stopped singing.




Luciano Pavarotti (1935-2007)

Rest in peace, Maestro. And thanks for the groovy tunes.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Fit for a King ...

Thanks to my brother Ryan for remind me, via the "quote of the day" on his blog, that today is kind of a big one in the history of this nation.

His quote? It's kind of a long one. It's Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech in its entirety, as it was delivered at the end of the March on Washington 44 years ago today.

And how are we doing four-plus decades on? Not bad, considering a black man is a viable candidate for president of the United States, African-Americans have become major movie stars (and Oscar winners), and arguably the most popular person in the country is a black woman who also happens to be a billionaire-with-a-B. Then again, there are still many of us mired in poverty and unemployment, not to mention stuffed in the nation's prisons. Not to mention idiots like Michael Vick. So, there's still a way to go. I think if Dr. King were still alive today, he would be both proud and shamed at the same time.

Lots of ground covered, long way to go still - for all of us.

Keep the dream alive, guys.

Monday, August 27, 2007

To the Dogs (or, Don't Be Like Mike)


Today was Michael Vick's turn. In the tradition of such luminaries as Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, the former Atlanta Falcons quarterback became the latest celeb in 2007 to throw himself upon the mercy of public opinion. Just hours after Vick pleaded guilty to federal dogfighting charges - charges he had boastfully denied up until now, charges that he lied to the NFL commissioner, the owner of his football team and nearly everyone else about - he did his best to appear contrite and shameful in front of the press and the world.

He said all of the right things. He apologized to everyone he had misled. He said he had found God (convenient, no?) and that he would redeem himself - not as a football player, but as a human being. And he did it all without a written statement prepared by his lawyers in his hands.

And I didn't buy a word of it.

Why didn't I? What was it about Vick's words, spoken in a way that seemed unrehearsed and from the heart, that failed to touch my heart? Why do I still look upon him as a fraud, not just a felon? Maybe because the switch had been flipped too readily. How convenient for Vick to say he was sorry, that he had found religion and seen the error of his ways, now that his ass is literally on the line. His freedom is a foregone conclusion - he's going to jail, even as pundits say that today's press statement (and the inevitable TV interviews - who will get the first one? Katie? Larry? Oprah?) are part of a campaign to rehabilitate Vick's image before the judge presiding over his case sentences him in December. Word is that his lawyers are hoping to get away with probation or maybe house arrest, but that's a pipe dream. He's going away - maybe for a year, maybe longer - and not to Paris Hilton jail either. This is federal, so Vick is going to a real prison - a "Prison Break" prison, if you will, and there's no full-body tattoo that's going to get him out of this one.

More is on the line for Vick, of course. His NFL career as he knew is is done as well. He's been suspended indefinitely by Roger Goodell, the still-green commissioner of the league who already has shown himself to be a hard-ass when it comes to discipline. Vick not only participated in illegal behavior, he gambled on it as well, and gambling is the third rail of professional sports. All of the leagues are deathly afraid of the taint of gambling, of what it can lead to - the very corruption of their sports. And the leaders of said leagues will do whatever it takes to keep the stink of gambling out of their houses. Just ask Pete Rose about that one.

Vick's suspension is lifetime in everything but name. It's Goodell's call whether Vick even gets the chance to play again in the NFL - and considering Vick lied to his face about the dogfighting charges within days of apparently taking an active part in killing fighting dogs with his own hands, I doubt if the commish is inclined to let Vick back into the club for the duration. (Even if Goodell goes ahead and bans Vick for life, the QB could file for reinstatement down the line. This is a standard rule throughout most of the pro leagues - even Rose has filed, so far unsuccessfully, to get his baseball life back. It's a fact that my friend Beth finds frustratingly stupid, and we had an energetic conversation about it earlier today.) But say Goodell does tell Vick in three or four years, 'OK, you're back in.' Some team still has to give him another chance, another contract, and that's going to be a hard sell to make to the community that team is part of. An over-the-hill, convicted felon who murdered defenseless pooches with his bare hands - yeah, this is the new face of your team!

Michael Vick was the face of the NFL, let alone the Atlanta Falcons. He was the most exciting player in a decade, a running-and-gunning quarterback who ran for 1,000 yards in a season - a living video game who was a dangerous weapon on the field. He had the richest contract in league history - $130 million over 10 years. And he pissed it all away for an activity he knew was against the law. And now he wants us, suddenly, to feel that he is sorry for what he did? Uh-uh. Vick is sorry he got caught, and that isn't good enough. His "act of contrition" tour is more about saving his butt and his career more than anything else, the equivalent of another football player searching for the "real killers" and a certain starlet turning her back on partying in favor of good deeds. In other words, total crap. God may forgive Vick, but he's going to have to work a lot harder to get the rest of us to buy his latest scramble away from this trouble.

Don't drop the soap in the slammer, Mike.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

756*: The View from the Stands ...

Thanks to the emergence of the Internets and their cousins, the Google and the YouTube, events that once were the confines of the instant replay on our big TV things have now become part of our domain. And the citizen journalists were out in full force last night in San Francisco to watch Barry Bonds join the famous (and infamous) legends of baseball with his 756th home run. Here, for your watching pleasure, a sampling of the fare that was captured by You the Public in AT&T Park, from just about every angle possible. Pay particularly close attention to the very last video, which shows in vivid detail how average humans can go batshit crazy over a single baseball when the mood strikes them.













Barry Clever ...

You know what I've always liked about the New York tabloids? Their subtlety and light touch.


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

756* (Or, Can We Get On With Our Baseball Lives Now?)


And so, like so many things with baseball, with the crack of a bat, it is ended. One home run king steps aside, another takes his place. Barry Lamar Bonds, for better or worse, is the the new all-time home run leader in Major League Baseball. And, believe or not, the game of baseball did not collapse onto itself the moment Washington Nationals pitcher Mike Bacsik's fifth inning, 3-2 offering traveled 435 feet into the stands at San Francisco's AT&T Park. The game, and the games, will continue.

In many ways, Bonds' 756th blast was anti-climatic. It wasn't a matter of if he would usurp Hank Aaron's 33-year-old record, it was when. Baseball fans who couldn't stand Bonds for whatever reason - the suspicions about his alleged pharmaceutical assistance, his less-than-cordial relations with the press, the fact that he comes across as not so nice (i.e. an asshole) - had to prepare themselves for the cold, hard truth that Aaron's hold on the homer mark was finite. It had to be tempered with the realization that Bonds, physical appearance and other factors notwithstanding, is still innocent in the official eyes of baseball, having never failed a drug test. That, even if it's likely that he has stuffed steroids or human growth hormone or God knows what into his system, that he is far from alone in the annals of baseball in doing so. That the Hall of Fame is filled with less-than-savory folk, including drunkards, thieves and Klansmen, not to mention Ty Cobb, who didn't get where they were because they were nice guys. That with all of Bonds' faults, and there are plenty of them, what he was on the verge of accomplishing was still pretty damn cool.

So Bonds did it, smashing that specially marked baseball into the cold Bay Area air, plunging a fan (in a Mets jersey, no less!) into his 15 minutes of fame and Bonds into immortality (again). The event was marked with delirium in Bonds' home ballpark, but also with reverence, especially when, in a surprise move, the Jumbotron played a message from Aaron himself, who showed his usual class in heartedly congratulating his successor. (Aaron himself was in a self-exile of sorts in Puerto Rico, escaping the clamor and the inevitable question he would get about whether he thought Bonds had cheated - a question that Aaron can't win for answering no matter what he says.) Then Bonds was handed a microphone by his godfather, one William Howard Hays, and Bonds did something that he very rarely does - he spoke from his heart, thanking his teammates, the San Francisco fans, even the Nationals for understanding what this moment meant to him, and finally breaking down when referencing his family and especially his late father, Bobby. At that moment of rare emotion, I thought of Bob Dole in 1996, who could never overcome the albatross of being a mean old man until the last days of his campaign against Bill Clinton when, the race already lost, he loosened up and relaxed and showed his softer side. Had Bonds been this open with the rest of us all along, I wondered, would we be so hard on him today? Would we have given him more of the benefit of the doubt?

Anyway, it's over now. Sure, Bonds will break the home-run mark with every four-bagger he hits for the rest of his career. But for now, there are bigger fish to fry. There are pennant races that are shaping up to be barnburners - including, shock upon shocks, my beloved Cubs, who are only one game out of first place in the NL Central as of today. And ESPN can let go of their Giants caravan after airing a last-place team's games for several nights in a row. And baseball, always the national pastime, can continue. Because it's bigger than one man, or even one record.

P.S. Don't feel bad for Mike Bacsik, for even as he joins Al Downing, Steve Trachsel and Ralph Branca as the footnote for a historic home run. There are pitchers in the minors who would kill for the chance to be such a footnote in the big leagues. But consider this - the moment I read the article earlier today about how Bacsik's father kept Hank Aaron from hitting his 756th home run in 1976, I knew it was going to happen tonight for Bonds. 'Cause that's how baseball works.

P.P.S. You can speculate all you want about whether Aaron should have physically been at AT&T Park tonight to see his record pass to Bonds' mantle. But Bud Selig, the commissioner of baseball, had no excuse for his absence. His contempt for Bonds - and his devotion to Aaron, his friend and former player when the slugger wrapped up his career with Selig's Milwaukee Brewers - are well-known. But sometimes you have to be bigger than the moment, and bigger than your own feelings. Worse, Selig's no-show brought back memories of when Aaron was snubbed by then-commissioner Bowie Kuhn the night he passed Babe Ruth with homer No. 715 in 1974. That faux pas stung more, but Selig not being in San Francisco was almost as unforgivable. The day he gives up his title will be a great day for baseball. He can't be gone soon enough.

P.P.P.S. ESPN reports that Selig called Bonds in the clubhouse after Bonds left the game in the sixth inning. Boo freaking hoo.

Monday, July 02, 2007

And now, some helpful words of advice to Isaiah Washington, Ann Coulter, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan's parents ...



And while you're at it, go play in traffic. Happy Monday!

(A [dis]honorable mention to Jerry Seinfeld, who advocated bee rape in recent comments of his own. Makes one pine for the heady days of Michael Richards, no? Yeah, maybe not.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Damn you, David Chase! :)

So is this what is to become of us from now on - or at least until the summer is over? Parody after parody of the already-iconic final scene of The Sopranos? If so, then maybe Paris Hilton can't get out of prison and go out partying without her underwear too soon.

Here Hillary Clinton gets into the act to decent effect (though your feelings of good will may go out the window when you find out which song she did end up choosing for her campaign tune. From Don't Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow) to this?)

The Pittsburgh Pirates, in a desparate attempt to distract fan from how god-awful the team is (again), created this handsome comedy clip that played on the Jumbotron:



One method of parody seems to be taking other famous last scenes and giving them the "David Chase" treatment. This is an alternate take on The Godfather:



And see if you can guess what this movie is:



So will there be more? All I can see is that it probably won't be long before one of the networks uses the diner scene as a way to introduce one of their new shows to the public, which would be the equivalent of a hooker wearing Mother Teresa's habit - or David Chase writing a script for According to Jim. So settle back - it's going to be a long summer. And don't stop believing!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The ’suit over the suit, Day One ...

You may not realize this, but in a courtroom in Washington, D.C., the trial of the century finally has begun. More than $50 million is on the line, not to mention the sanity reputation of a public official and the future of a business - and, by relation, a family. And it's all for the want of ... a pair of pants.

Yes, the Great Pants Lawsuit is on. As previously reported all over the world, including this very blog, Roy L. Pearson Jr., an appointed judge in the District and a dumbass, is suing the Korean-born owners of a local dry cleaning establishment over what he says was the reckless disposition of his favorite pair of suit pants. His asking price for the loss of his precious garment (and the accompanying pain and suffering) was $67 million, but he has since lowered the amount to a more reasonable $54 million. Those astronomical amounts alone made the case an international sensation as people across the globe scratched their heads and wondered if Mr. Pearson has lost his ever-loving mind. It had become a joke to just about everyone except the family Pearson is suing, the Chungs, who had come from Seoul to build for themselves a piece of the American dream, only to see it threatened by what seemed to be the willful machinations of a vindictive madman. Even if they prevail, the court costs alone may force them in to bankruptcy, even their ability to stay in the U.S. Person may be a laughing stock, but the Chungs weren't laughing.

Well, after the first day of the trial, which is covered in great detail by Washington Post columnist Marc Fisher here, I'm still laughing and seething at the same time. It is incredible to me how Pearson, who is representing himself, claims to have spent 1,400 hours of his own time preparing for this case - and has asked to be reimbursed for attorney's fees at the rate more than $400 per hour. (Excuse me ... coughgreedybastardcough.) It boggles my mind how his opening statement including the sentence, "Never before in recorded history have a group of defendants engaged in such misleading and unfair business practices" - and apparently said it with a straight face. I'm flabbergasted that, during his testimony of the horror of his pants going missing, he actually broke down in tears and abruptly left the courtroom before the judge even granted him a recess. And then there's one of Pearson's witnesses, an 89-year-old former WAC who also had problems with the Chungs' service - and went on to compare them to the Nazis.

This seems set to be a two-day trial, which means the Chungs should be able to present their defense today. The presiding judge is Judith Bartnoff; remember that name so you know where to send your hate mail if this thing goes the wrong way. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Leave the gun, bring the Walnuts ...

Going through Sopranos withdrawal already? Don't worry, 'cause there's always ... the spinoff!



OK, it's an obvious parody. But it could happen, right? (And considering the massive ratings drop-off between the Sopranos finale and the show that immediately followed it, the debut of the Next Great Series from HBO™, John from Cincinnati, maybe it had better happen, but fast.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Why come you haven't seen this movie yet?

Or maybe the better question is: In a world where films such as Norbit, Epic Movie and Kickin' It Old Skool can get wide release patterns and large amounts of studio promotion, is there any room for a genuinely funny and smart movie? Apparently not, at least in the eyes of 20th Century Fox. For while the studio gave extensive support to one of the aforementioned duds, the lame spoof Epic Movie (Rotten Tomatoes rating: 2% - that's right, two), Fox let one of the most hilarious and most insightful comedies of the decade, Mike Judge's brilliant, brutal satire Idiocracy, fester on its shelves for nearly a year before finally releasing it, nearly sight unseen, to all of seven cities and 130 screens. (By contrast, Epic Movie was released to more than 2,800 screens in its opening weekend.)

Judge, the Texas-based creator of prized comedic material such as the animated series Beavis and Butt-head and King of the Hill, as well as the critically acclaimed cult favorite Office Space, directed, co-wrote and co-produced Idiocracy, which is done no justice by a simple written explanation. But here's one anyway: a thoroughly average Army librarian (Luke Wilson) and a hooker (Saturday Night Live's Maya Rudolph) are selected for a military experiment aimed at preserving the best soldiers for future wars. Each is put into a hibernation pod for what is supposed to be a year. But through a series of mishaps, the pair are forgotten about and remain in stasis for five centuries. By the time Wilson and Rudolph wake up in the year 2505, the world is full of - morons. The top-rated TV show is called Ow! My Balls!, and it's about exactly what you think it is. The number-one movie is entitled Ass - 90 minutes of a man's naked ass. (It wins eight Oscars, including best screenplay.) Corporations run everything: Costcos are as big as cities and sell everything from sexual favors to law degrees. Starbucks now specialize in handjobs. A fictional sports-drink company literally has bought the FDA and FCC, and its product is so common that water is now only used in toilets - which, by the way, are combined with Lay-Z-Boys to allow for the watching of Ow! My Balls! without interruption.

That's just a taste of the highlights out heroes find in their new reality, along with the fact that, pretty much by default, Wilson is now the smartest person on Earth. Not surprisingly, that news makes his life decidedly more complicated as he adjusts to life among the impossibly stupid, though some things are the same - for example, Fox News still exists and is as popular as ever, even if it is not anchored by muscle-bound (male) and buxom (female) nimrods. Meanwhile, the resulting discoveries and misadventures of Wilson and Rudolph lead to plenty of gut-busting scenes and some clever commentary by Judge on the state of affairs in today's society. But very few people got a chance to see what was up with this movie thanks to Fox's decision to bury it in a virtual lead coffin underneath the proverbial six feet of concrete. Dump jobs of movies deemed, for whatever reason, to be commercial or critical failures aren't that uncommon in Hollywood, but this one had some feeling to it. In addition to the puny screen count (including not being screened anywhere in New York City), Fox produced no trailers or press materials for the film. So despite Judge's strong reputation and Idiocracy's overall positive reviews - that is, by the few critics able to see the movie in the first place - the movie made less than $450,000 from its theatrical run.

So what exactly happened? The honchos at Fox aren't talking, and Judge has not taken advantage of opportunities to raise hell about the mistreatment of his movie. (Some think that Idiocracy may have never been released if another director had made it - that it saw the meager light of day to appease Judge, who has made the studio millions thanks to King of the Hill.) One of the more popular theories is that Idiocracy was simply too good for its own good, that it was too effective in its skewering of contemporary culture and the dumbing down of America. (To which I would say, er, didn't the Fox brass know what they were getting into in the first place? You don't throw a director $30 million or so if you didn't already read the script, right?)

At least Fox has given Idiocracy a fairly decent push as a DVD release - there are actual clips available on the studio's home entertainment site, if you can find them - and the home version has made more than $9 million, so it is being seen. But not enough. A movie this funny and this on-point deserves as large of an audience as possible, if only to shame Rupert Murdoch and his minions for acting out the movie's central premise 500 years early through their own stupidity. So the next time you're at the video store or working on your Netflix queue, make seeing Idiocracy a priority, please. And do remember to empty your bladder before starting it up.

For more information about Idiocracy, including the aforementioned clips and several articles about its non-support, go to the film's Wikipedia page here. And a shout-out to my friend Beth for reminding me about the existence of Idiocracy after I had first heard about it last fall. Her musings about the film can be found here.

Monday, June 04, 2007

My wheel in the sky ...

Full disclosure: Despite my bashing of the rock group Journey in my previous post on Petra Haden, I in fact own a Journey greatest-hits collection and have several of their songs on my iPod. In fact, "Don't Stop Believing" is in somewhat heavy rotation on my personal soundtrack. Steve Perry is still on my crap list for the whole White Sox thing, but he can belt out a tune. Hell, I even liked his solo work.

There, I said it.

Petra-fied

On any given Monday, you can stumble upon something so completely brilliant, you can't help but smile so broadly that it looks like you swallowed an entire double fudge chocolate cake. That happened to me about 10 minutes ago.

Out here in Los Angeles there is a prominent indie-music show on one of the public radio stations each weekday morning called Morning Becomes Eclectic. I rarely listen to it mostly because the host, Nic Harcourt, can come across as a pretentious sod, but this morning the radio was still on the station because I had been listening to the NPR news. So I was only half paying attention when the first song of Harcourt's show came on. And for a second I was unclear of what I was hearing. What the heck, I thought, was Journey doing on a music program that highlighted unknown or offbeat acts? What's more, it was an old Journey song, "Don't Stop Believing," a song I had learned to hate when those damnable Chicago White Sox adopted it for their fight song during their World Series championship year in 2005. But yet - it wasn't Journey. Yeah, it was the song, but the voice singing definitely wasn't Steve Perry. And that's when I realized that what I was hearing was a cover, only it was a woman who was singing it - and, in fact, also performing every instrument, Bobby McFerrin style.

Luckily, the Morning Becomes Eclectic Web site includes an instant playlist feature, so I was quickly able to ascertain the identity of whom I was hearing. Her name is Petra Haden. She is a New York-born singer and violinist who has played with several indie bands and performed with famous acts such as Beck, Luscious Jackson, Foo Fighters and Green Day. She comes from a very musical family, including her two triplet sisters, one of whom is married to Jack Black. And she has carved herself a niche as a solo artist, but not a typical one. Haden's speciality is covering iconic songs with her whimsical and versatile voice as her sole instrument. For example, you have to hear her versions of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows" (both available for free on her Web site) to believe them. And in 2005 she released a note-for-note remake of the classic album The Who Sell Out, a recording that prompted no less than Pete Townshend himself to gush out accolades about Haden's accomplishment. "I felt like I'd received something better than a Grammy," he said to the Boston Globe about Haden's homage of an album.
According to her Web site, Haden is working on another a cappella album (I suspect that's where her version of "Don't Stop Believing" may be found) and is doing some gigs in the L.A. area. I strongly advise you to keep track of her creative output in the coming weeks and months, and see if it doesn't put a smile on your face. It may even make you appreciate Journey all over again - or at all, actually.

P.S. Haden's version of "Don't Stop Believing" can be heard on this MySpace page as part of the "various artists" CD Guilt by Association.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Barry Bonds to Hall of Fame: "Drop Dead!"

I'll say this much for Barry Bonds - he's consistent. He really seems steadfast in his determination not to give a damn about what anybody thinks of him. Now, this often can be an admirable trait, one that can serve a person well when it comes to achieving far-reaching goals and defeating the odds. Or, in the case of Bonds, it can just make you seem like a bigger A-hole.

Bonds' latest salvo comes as he comes ever closer to besting Hank Aaron's all-time home-run record. Usually in such cases, the Baseball Hall of Fame comes calling for pieces of memorabilia marking the auspicious occasion - for example, Cooperstown would probably want to display the bat Bonds used to hit homer #756, and the Giants uniform he wore in that historic game. Well, Bonds has in fact been putting aside all sorts of his personal items- bats, uniforms, even the home run balls themselves - that have been part of his infamous quest for sport's most enduring record. But as of now it's very unclear that the Hall will get any of it. Bonds recently alluded that having his items displayed for all of the world to see is not high on his agenda right. More specifically, as he told the Associated Press:

"I'm not worried bout the Hall. I take care of me."


And Barry Bonds wonders why he is one of the most despised individuals in baseball. Then again, he probably doesn't give a damn. So why should we give a damn about him or his would-be record.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The cake says it all ...


Jimi Hendrix wrote this song in honor of his mommy. This is Sting's version of Little Wing in honor of his mommy. I dedicate it to my mommy, and to Nicole's mommy, and all of the other mommies celebrating today. I love you, Mom.

Monday, May 07, 2007

At least Calvin Borel won't break his leg on the racetrack ...

For much of the week that is known as the Derby Festival in Louisville, Kentucky, the focus leading up to the 133rd running of the Kentucky Derby was not the horses who would be tromping down the homestretch at Churchill Downs, but rather the famous and infamous who would be attending the Run for the Roses. (The guest list lent itself to the beginning of a bad joke: "The Queen of England, O.J. Simpson, Larry Birkhead and the Playmate of the Year walk into a bar ..." ) But once May 5 arrived, there was a horse race to run - and boy, did Elizabeth II and the other 155,000-plus in attendance see one hell of a race, as favorite Street Sense rumbled from 19th place (out of 20 horses) to win the Derby going away. And just like that, we were plunged into the speculation that has surrounded every Derby winner of the past quarter-century - can Street Sense take home the first Triple Crown championship since 1978?

Whether Street Sense can win the Preakness in two weeks remains to be seen. What is crystal clear is that horse racing has yet another great story. Only this time, the story is about the jockey, not the horse. Those who watched the Derby, whether in person or on TV, will forever remember the emotional and triumphant reaction of Street Sense's rider, Calvin Borel, as his horse crossed the finish line in front of the pack. Usually Derby-winning jockeys are happy but sedate as they do their immediate post-race interview while still on horseback. Not Borel. This 40-year-old functionally illiterate veteran from Louisiana had become a self-made millionaire through a 25-year career that includes more 4,300 victories, but he had never won the Derby despite four previous mounts in the biggest horse race in the world. Upon succeeding on the fifth try, Borel was elated beyond belief, weeping in joy and hugging everyone he could see from his horse. He even stopped on the way to the winners' circle to give Street Sense an impromptu sponge bath - a refreshment that the horse seemed to greatly appreciate. All along the way, Borel gave full credit to his four-legged companion - and to his parents, and the older brother who raised him and whom Calvin helps muck out their stables nearly every morning. On the heels of the tragedy that was Barbaro last year, it was the type of shining moment that this sport needs to remain in the spotlight.

Calvin Borel wasn't aware that the Queen was watching his proudest professional accomplishment, but he sure knows it now. Tonight he and his fiancée will be attending the white-tie state dinner for Elizabeth at the White House. That should be kind of cool for him as well.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Here comes the (dumbass) judge ...

Roy L. Pearson Jr. is a judge with the Office of Administrative Hearings in Washington D.C. He overseas legal proceedings involving several agencies, board and commissions in the District of Columbia. Before assuming the bench, Pearson was a longtime attorney who specialized in representing the poor and indigent. He is a member of several important associations in the D.C. area.

Pearson also is, to use the French tongue, an asshole.

I tried to find a photo of Roy Pearson to go along with this post, but I couldn't find any image of him anywhere online, even on his official D.C. government page. It's too bad, as I wanted to be easily identifiable to anyone who wanted to throw rotten fruit at his head. But I have a feeling that Judge Pearson is about to get more than his unfair attention. That's because the story about how the important judge is suing the Korean immigrants and their dry-cleaning business over the pair of suit pants he claims they lost. Not a big deal, you might say? Isn't that a case for small-claims court? It would be, except that Pearson is asking for a sum of money that is far beyond Judge Judy's wheel house.

Try $67 million.

Yeah, with an "m."

These Washington Post and ABC News stories explain the situation in detail, but in brief, Pearson gave the Chung family, with whom he had a checkered professional history, some of his suits to be altered in May 2005, around the time he was appointed to the bench. But one pair of pants went missing, the pants for what Pearson said was his favorite suit, the one he wanted to wear on his first day as a judge. And he was not happy. At first he just asked the Chungs for the price of the suit, about a thousand dollars. But when they said they had found the pants, Pearson apparently couldn't take yes for an answer. That's when he took matters to court.

The $67 million that he's seeking from this mom-and-pop operation is not an arbitrary number. No, he crunched the numbers and figured it out precisely. Part of the sum is the cost for him to rent a car and take his dry cleaning to another store every weekend - for the next 10 years. But that's only 15 grand. The rest comes from how he sees the consumer protection laws of the District, which includes a $1,500 fine per day for each violation. Multiply the violations by 12, the alleged violators by three (the Chungs and their adult son, a co-owner) and the days by 1,200, and you arrive at $64,800,000.

Pearson's case, most observers agree, hinges around the words "satisfaction guaranteed" and "same day service" - words that the Chungs used in advertising their business. Say, you think he wasn't satisfied about something? The Chungs have made settlement offers totaling in the low five figures, but, again, Pearson doesn't seem to be satisfied.

Oh, Pearson is representing himself in this matter. He's treating this like a class action suit and has 63 people on his witness list. But this is really just about him and his bruised ego, and quite possible about the likelihood that he has a small penis.

The story has pissed off so many people that a defense fund has been formed so those who want to donate money to the Chungs, who have defended themselves against Pearson for two years and may be on the verge of losing their livelihood, can do so. (The fund's Web site, www.customcleanersdefensefund.com, will be up and running shortly.) What's more, Pearson may be on the verge of losing his job as well, as a D.C. board is considering whether he should be reappointed to his judgeship in the wake of the horrible press this case is generating. But Pearson shows no sign of backing down as of yet, apparently oblivious as to how much of a petulant fool he looks like. (He's not talking to the press, which also shows him to be a man of bravery as well.)

It's cases like this that get those in favor of tort reform all riled up - and could screw things up down the road for the truly and justifiably aggrieved who have no course other than a lawsuit to get justice. But what's going on here isn't justice. It's sick and stupid and petty. Judge Pearson's time - indeed, all of our time - would be better served if he would put on his robes, lock himself in his office and repeatedly pound himself in the head with a brick. Might knock some common sense into himself in the process.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

UPDATE: Acting a fool at NASCAR events does have its consequences

Officials at Talladega have banned 14 debris-tossing culprits from the speedway for life for pelting Jeff Gordon's victorious automobile with beer and stuff. That is, they are you-know-what out of luck when it comes to seeing another NASCAR race in the venerable race track until their hearts stop beating and brains stop functioning, though there's every indication that the latter already has happened. The linked story explains the details, including the curious fact that the speedway has its own jail - just like the football stadium in Philadelphia. Who said that north and south are that different?

Monday, April 30, 2007

Stay classy, NASCAR fans ...


Wow, NASCAR fans really have gone out of their way to prove all of the stereotypes about them to be correct with their tempered reaction to Jeff Gordon winnning back-to-back races to tie, then pass the late Dale Earnhardt on the all-time victories list. When he won in Phoenix on April 21 to tie the Intimidator with his 76th career win, Gordon went so far as to do a victory lap while holding a flag adorned with Earnhardt's No. 3. Some in the crowd reacted by pelting Gordon's car with beer cans and other assorted flotsam, a scene that was repeated after Gordon took his 77th checkered flag at Talladega this past Sunday.

Maybe it's appropriate that these shenanigans took place around the same time that fellow Nextel Cup racer Tony Stewart accused NASCAR of being fixed like professional wrestling, because their fans are sure acting like the brainless brutes you see ringside at WWE events. It's no secret that a lot of NASCAR devotees have never taken to Gordon for a variety of reasons, among them that he's from California and doesn't have a Southern accent and can read and has all of his teeth. (OK, those last two things were just mean. Sorry.) In the wake of the fan display, several articles have pointed out that Earnhardt and Gordon were friends when Dale Sr. was alive, and that Dale Jr. - the most popular of the current drivers - condemned the anti-Gordon actions and thanked Gordon for honoring his father in Phoenix. And, of course, there's the irony that the throwing of beverages at an athlete is the same business that started the infamous NBA players-vs.-spectators brawl in Detroit a couple of years ago. Of course, Jeff Gordon is not Ron Artest, which is a good thing since driving a car into a crowd is frowned upon in most societies.

A better analogy may be to compare Gordon to Alex Rodriguez. Both men are two athletes supremely skilled at their respective sports who nevertheless continue, through no fault of their own, to fall short in the eyes of the people who watch them. It's a toss-up who has it worse, because A-Rod has to content with the city (and the newspapers) of New York City, while Gordon only has to deal with a bunch of loud, alcohol-dipped spectators who have decided that he is the devil incarnate. It wouldn't shock me if someday Gordon, after winning a race, stops his colorful DuPont car, jumps onto the hood and yells at the 100,000 or so in the stands, a la Russell Crowe, if they are entertained. He'd just better wear his helmet when he does it.

(Full disclosure: Some of the pelters were arrested after the latest incident in accordance with NASCAR's warning against a repeat of the trouble at Phoenix. Glad to see the warning made a difference.)

Watch the video below for a taste of the great sportsmanship Gordon faced in Alabama on Sunday.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Torii Hunter picked a bad week to give up champagne ...

The bottom line is that it sucks to be Torii Hunter this week. First the Minnesota Twins' All-Star outfielder landed in hot water after it came out that, to thank the lowly Kansas City Royals for sweeping the Detroit Tigers in the last weekend of the 2006 season - thusly giving Minnesota the American League West title over Detroit- Hunter recently the Royals four bottles of champagne. What's the problem, you make ask? What's a few bottles of bubbly between players? Why not throw a bone to the Royals, who haven't have a champagne-soaked celebration since the year 5? Turns out that Hunter was in violation of an obscure baseball rule that bans such gift-giving - specifically, Rule 21-b:

"Any player or person connected with a Club who shall offer or give any gift or reward to a player or person connected with another Club for services rendered ... in defeating or attempting to defeat a competing Club ... shall be declared ineligible for not less than three years."


It appears that Hunter will not face the ultimate penalty, but most likely will be fined. So may the Royals, who returned the unopened bottles to Hunter and the Twins. (Hey, those players can afford their own Dom - well, most of them can.) Still, it's a big ouch for Hunter - but not as big as the one he got in today's game when he was hit in the mouth by a pitch. The outfielder thought briefly about charging the mound before collapsing in pain. He left the game and ended up with some stitches inside his mouth, but the last word was that all of his teeth were still intact, and he may play as early as tomorrow. But he likely won't be sipping any of his own champagne any time soon.

Oh, and who were Hunter and the Twins playing this afternoon. Why, the Kansas City Royals, of course. So much for gratitude.

Food for thought ...

* The number one R&B song in America is "Lost Without U," and it has spent 10 weeks straight at the top of the charts. It is performed by Robin Thicke - and, yeah, he's the son of the whitest man in North America, Alan Thicke. Who knew such soul existed in those genes?

* Speaking of white guys with no soul:



* Starting today, Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises in California must post warning messages stating that a chemical used to prepare their mashed and fried potatoes may cause cancer. Er, has the Colonel's troops ever thought about removing the chemical as well? "Yeah, I like my spuds with extra carcinogens - gives them a kick!"

* There's a warrant in India for Richard Gere's arrest for kissing an Indian actress in person while promoting HIV/AIDS charities in that nation. Makes you wonder what would have happened if he had eaten a Whopper while there. Seriously, though, the court that issued the warrant called the kiss "an obscene act." Strange - I would think that having 5 million Indian citizens who are HIV positive would be the larger obscenity.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The best and the brightest ...

It could be said that the word "tragedy," just like "hero," is thrown around too loosely these days, but there are times when it is very apt. Virginia Tech is an obvious example of a horrible tragedy - and so, in my mind, is the death yesterday of David Halberstam in a car accident in the Bay Area. He was 73, which counts in most books as a full life - but for Halberstam, one of the most vital writers of the last 40 years, there was so much more to do. He was one of those artists of the word who wasn't going to retire until he was six feet under - indeed, his book on the Korean War is due out later this year, and he was in San Francisco to, among other things, interview Y.A. Tittle for a tome on what may consider the greatest pro football game ever played, the 1958 NFL championship between Tittle's New York Giants and Johnny Unitas' Baltimore Colts. That we will never read what Halberstam would have written about that sports classic is its own little sadness.

Halberstam won a Pulitzer for his reportage on the Vietnam War for The New York Times in the early and mid 1960s - he was so good that John F. Kennedy unsuccessfully tried to get him kicked off his beat. He went on to write some of the best historical non-fiction of the era about Vietnam (The Best and the Brightest) and the media (The Powers That Be) and the aftermath of 9/11 (Firehouse). But he also wrote a series of acclaimed, wonderful sports books that could almost count as his hobby - his wife called them "his way to take a break" - but nevertheless were a delight to read and digest. Indeed, I have read two of Halberstam's books about baseball multiple times, and each time it's like I was reading them for the first time. Summer of ’49 is a blow-by-blow account of the 1949 American League pennant race between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, with a particular focus on Ted Williams and an injured but still noble Joe DiMaggio. Read that, and you'll know that the current Red Sox-Yankees blood feud has roots deep in the historical soil. And October 1964 (which I started reading yet again a few weeks ago) deals with the Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals as the two powerhouses rumbled and stumbled to a titanic World Series matchup in that year of transition, both in baseball and society in general. Even if you don't like baseball, I recommend both books to you as examples of some of the best sports journalism around. And it's work like that that will make you miss Halberstam all the more - though you know the first thing he'll do in heaven is demand an exclusive one-on-one with God Him/Herself.

Monday, April 16, 2007

If you need a laugh ...

... on a day that has been really, really crappy so far (just turn on the news if you don't know what I'm talking about), here's a short film for you. It features the work of a comic genius, plus Will Ferrell.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The more, the merrier ...

As reported here and at other places, Sunday is the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson crossing the color line in Major League Baseball. April 15, 1947 can with great legitimacy be called the most important date in modern sports history, if not in 20th Century American history, because the moment Robinson ran onto the the grass at Ebbets Field as a Brooklyn Dodger, everything changed - everything. And that's why the Powers That Be in MLB are allowing any player or manager who so desires to wear Robinson's previously retired number 42 for Sunday's games. It was the idea of Reds outfielder Ken Griffey Jr., who went to league officials with his personal request to wear 42 for one game. As of now, the number of players wearing 42 on Sunday has grown to more than 150, including five entire teams. You would think everyone would take pride in such a large turnout, but that wouldn't be the case. Torii Hunter, the star outfielder for the Minnesota Twins who was one of the first to jump aboard the 42 bandwagon, told USA Today that he thinks something will be lost if so many 42s are out on the diamonds of North America:

"This is supposed to be an honor, and just a handful of guys wearing the number. Now you've got entire teams wearing the number. I think we're killing the meaning. It should be special wearing Jackie's number, not just because it looks cool."


Of course, Hunter is entitled to his opinion. Of course, he's also talking out of his ass.

For one, why can wearing Jackie's number be both special and cool? A large part of me wouldn't have minded one bit if MLB had dictated that every uniformed player and manger wear 42 on Sunday. Yeah, it would have been hell on the scorekeepers (and it still will be to some extent for those handling the games with multiple 42s on the field at the same time), but so what? They'll live. It wouldn't be anything compared to the hell that Robinson went through during that first year when entire teams were conspiring against him, spewing racial invective at him during games. What he did was so special, so huge, that anything done to mark his importance to the game and beyond can and should be done, and it still wouldn't enough.

I especially love the fact that five whole rosters will bear 42, including Robinson's former team, the Dodgers. It's worth noting that two of the other teams that will be going all-Robinson all the time will be the St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies. At the time Robinson broke the color barrier, the Cardinals were the South's favorite baseball club, including large numbers of fans living in Jim Crow states such as Alabama and Mississippi, where the Klan thrived and blacks were third-class citizens. There was even an alleged foiled plot by several Cardinal players, including future Hall of Famer Enos Slaughter (who always denied it, to be fair) to strike the games against the Dodgers. Meanwhile, the Phillies in 1947 were led by manager Ben Chapman, a through-and-through racist who ordered his players to call Robinson a "nigger," among other things, during a game against Brooklyn just a week of Robinson joined the team. Ironically, that episode may have done more to solidify the rest of the Dodgers behind Robinson than any other event. To have both St. Louis and Philadelphia saluting Robinson's legacy six decades later speaks volumes.

The most uncomfortable part about Torii Hunter's assertion that too many players will be wearing 42 on Sunday is what he's not really saying, but is implying - that only African American players should be allowed Robinson's number. Yes, it's true that today's black players gained the most from Robinson's sacrifice - but so did the Latino players who dominate today's baseball, and so, for that matter, did the white players. The whole game is better overall thanks to what Jackie went through, as is all of society. And if a child of any color asks his parent about why there are so many 42s out on the field on Sunday, and the parent explains who Jackie Robinson was and why he's such an iconic figure - why, that's called knowledge. And that's also a job well done. So chill out, Torii, and enjoy the view on Sunday.

The players scheduled to wear Jackie Robinson's number on April 15 (as of April 13)
Arizona: Orlando Hudson, Tony Clark, Eric Byrnes, Chris Young, Scott Hairston, Bob Melvin, Lee Tinsley
Atlanta: Andruw Jones
Baltimore: Corey Patterson
Boston: Coco Crisp
Chicago Cubs: Jacque Jones, Cliff Floyd, Derrek Lee, Daryle Ward
Chicago White Sox: Jermaine Dye, Harold Baines
Cincinnati: Ken Griffey Jr.
Cleveland: Josh Barfield, C.C. Sabathia
Colorado: LaTroy Hawkins
Detroit: Gary Sheffield, Curtis Granderson, Craig Monroe, Marcus Thames, Lloyd McClendon
Florida: Dontrelle Willis
Houston: Entire roster
Kansas City: Reggie Sanders, Emil Brown
L.A. Angels: Gary Matthews Jr.
L.A. Dodgers: Entire roster
Milwaukee: Bill Hall
Minnesota: Torii Hunter, Rondell White, Jerry White
N.Y Mets: Willie Randolph1
N.Y. Yankees: Mariano Rivera2, Robinson Cano
Oakland: Milton Bradley, Shannon Stewart, Tye Waller
Philadelphia: Entire roster
Pittsburgh: Entire roster
St. Louis: Entire roster
San Francisco: Barry Bonds
San Diego: Mike Cameron
Seattle: Arthur Rhodes, Jason Ellison
Tampa Bay: Carl Crawford
Texas: Ron Washington1
Toronto: Vernon Wells, Frank Thomas, Royce Clayton, Mickey Brantley
Washington: Dmitri Young

1One of only two African American managers in Major League Baseball
2Rivera was wearing 42 at time it was retired throughout the big league, so he's grandfathered in.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

No-mas ...

The announcement that CBS has canceled the Don Imus radio program ("effective immediately, on a permanent basis," the network says in its bulletin, as if it couldn't put enough emphasis on its decision) marks the near end of what has been one of the swiftest falls from grace for a media personality in recent memory. (And remember, this is a nation that loves to tear down its darlings, for reasons both justified and not.) I say "near end" because further developments can always happen here. There's the chance that some outlet may actually hire Imus up - perhaps satellite radio, where anything and everything goes. There's the chance that Imus will send himself to character rehab a la Gibson, Richards, Washington et al. And, of course, there's the likelihood that some variant of the Imus story will end up on one of the three Law & Orders between now and the end of May sweeps - ’cause, you know, that's how they roll. Of course, Dick Wolf would have to throw in a murder or two, as well as paint the story with enough enhanced detail so as to keep the "ripped from the headlines" credo while making the episode not exactly about Imus. And who would play the character of Imus (Not Imus)? Is Rip Torn out of prison yet?

Oh, and there is one other matter that needs to be dealt with - what the hell were all of the politicians and reporters and authors and other reputable figures from both sides of the political spectrum thinking whenever they agreed to be booked on the Imus in the Morning program, knowing that their marbled-mouthed host had the reputation of spewing all sorts of hatred onto the airwaves? I mean, everyone from Dan Rather and Tim Russert to John McCain and Barack Obama had done Imus' show? Didn't their participation signify a tacit affirmation of his persona? How many of them are looking in the mirror and shaking their heads at themselves in shame - that is, when they aren't backing away from the corpse of Imus' career and (rightfully, if belatedly) condemning him for the bigot that he is? And what of CBS and MSNBC, who only canned Imus when the advertisers took their money and went home? Are the big bosses there proud of themselves for doing the right thing, or kicking themselves for doing it at least a decade too late? "Nappy headed hos" was far from the worst thing Imus ever said about someone during his years in broadcasting. And say what you will about Howard Stern, who often challenges his former colleague (and current nemesis), but at least he has never tried to sell himself as a serious radio host who was a clear destination for the best and brightest.

It's fitting, perhaps, that Imus got his comeuppance just hours after one of the great minds of the 20th century, Kurt Vonnegut, passed away - and on the 60th birthday of one of the greatest comic talents of his generation, David Letterman. Both Letterman and Vonnegut possess more class and talent in their pinky nails than Imus has in his entire decrepit body and soul. They will live on in our hearts and minds, while Imus is swept away into the landfill of obscurity. That is, until he gets a new job - or at least until L&O turns him into a victim or a suspect or whatnot.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Tainted Angel ...

As earlier reported on the blog, Jackie Robinson is important. So important that next Sunday, on the 60th anniversary of his breaking the color line in major league baseball - and 10 years after the #42 he wore with the Brooklyn Dodgers was permanently retired throughout Major League Baseball - several prominent African American players, along with the entire L.A. Dodgers roster, will resurrect the number 42 for one day. Among the black players who will sport Robinson's 42 in lieu of their regular jersey numbers are Ken Griffey Jr. (whose idea this tribute was in the first place), Barry Bonds, Derrek Lee, Gary Sheffield and Torii Hunter, along with Mets manager Willie Rudolph. Not joining them will be Angels outfield Garret Anderson, who apparently doesn't want to be a follower in this case:



"It wasn't my idea, and I'm not the type of person to jump on the bandwagon because someone else is doing something," Anderson said (to the Los Angeles Times). "If I did it just because someone else was doing it, it would seem kind of empty to me."


Er, Earth to Anderson - since you don't like to be one to jump on the bandwagon, perhaps you should report to your manager and turn in your uniform*. Because, guess what - you are on a bandwagon. You're on Jackie Robinson's bandwagon, bub. You owe your stardom and your millions to the blood and sweat that man left on the diamond. And when Barry Bonds has a better grasp on history than you do, maybe it's time for some personal re-evaluation.

Garret Anderson is a pig.

*Oh, and give back the millions you've made playing baseball while you're at it - you know, so you can be your own man.