Saturday, April 30, 2005

Compare and Contrast

manifesto

The New York Times has a story today that shouldn't be so surprising. Titled, Pentagon Says Iraq Effort Limits Ability to Fight Other Conflicts, which is pretty self-explanatory:
[]Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, informed Congress in a classified report that major combat operations elsewhere in the world, should they be necessary, would probably be more protracted and produce higher American and foreign civilian casualties because of the commitment of Pentagon resources in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Although this seems kind of surprising in light of something I heard last week:
Q Do you feel that the number of troops that you've kept there is limiting your options elsewhere in the world? Just today you had the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency say that he was now concerned that the North Koreans, for example, could put a weapon, a nuclear weapon on a missile that could reach Japan or beyond. Do you feel, as you are confronting these problems, the number of troops you've left tied up in Iraq is limiting your options to go beyond the diplomatic solutions that you described for North Korea and Iran?

THE PRESIDENT: No, I appreciate that question. The person to ask that to, the person I ask that to, at least, is to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, my top military advisor. I say, do you feel that we've limited our capacity to deal with other problems because of our troop levels in Iraq? And the answer is, no, he doesn't feel we're limited. He feels like we've got plenty of capacity.


Of course the military believes these answers are entirely consistent. Sure.

But only if it stays dry...

SPORTING GOODS

This afternoon it's a battle for the ages as we get to see the following pitching matchup at Yankee Stadium:

Bush vs. Wang

This is a family site so I won't insert pun here.

Get it? Insert?

Heh.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Shopping Spree?

SPORTING GOODS

The other day, I was listening to a disgruntled Yankee fan on WFAN. Obviously sensitive to all the derision the Yankees have been receiving for their pitiful start, he tried to turn the tables and said that since the Mets have the highest payroll in the NL, they should be the ones who are embarrassed. Now, I'm not even going to bother arguing with someone about the difference between having a team payroll of $105 million and $206 million. But it did get me thinking that the Mets sure are spending a lot for a team that, at best, is a probably not much more than a Wild Card contender. (And that may even be a stretch since they play in arguably the best division in baseball. The NL Wild Card team may have a better record than the NL division winner.)

When I checked the Met salaries, I noticed something interesting. After the great Mike Piazza finishes up his contract, the Mets are going to shed more than $16 million. That would drop them from 1st in the NL to 5th. And we all know the Mets are in a "win now" mentality, so I highly doubt they are going to stay that low. They're going to take that money and throw it towards new players, especially a new catcher. I now throw it to Darlucky and Chill to inform us which potential free agents we can expect the Mets to try and sign.

p.s. The Yankees suck.

The World According to George W. Bush

Trump Beats Bush!

MANIFESTO

From today's New York Times:

The president's aides had intended to begin the (news conference) at 8:30 Eastern Daylight Time, which - had NBC covered it live - would have delayed the start of Mr. Trump's "Apprentice" show at 9 o'clock, something the network was loath to do.

After lobbying by NBC executives, the White House announced that it had agreed to move the president's starting time to 8 o'clock. That enabled NBC to show the president live while protecting Mr. Trump at 9 and the start of the highly-rated "E.R." show at 10.

At first I found this troubling, but then I realized Bush's "news conference" was nothing more than an informercial anyway. The White House is lucky the networks didn't air it at two in the morning right before Ron Popeil.

Terrorists in Pinstripe Suits

MANIFESTO

From Roger Ebert's ***1/2 review of the new documentary Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room:

The most shocking material in the film involves the fact that Enron cynically and knowingly created the phony California energy crisis. There was never a shortage of power in California. Using tape recordings of Enron traders on the phone with California power plants, the film chillingly overhears them asking plant managers to "get a little creative" in shutting down plants for "repairs." Between 30 percent and 50 percent of California's energy industry was shut down by Enron a great deal of the time, and up to 76 percent at one point, as the company drove the price of electricity higher by nine times...

...Strange, that there has not been more anger over the Enron scandals. The cost was incalculable, not only in lives lost during the power crisis, but in treasure: The state of California is suing for $6 billion in refunds for energy overcharges collected during the phony crisis. If the crisis had been created by Al Qaeda, if terrorists had shut down half of California's power plants, consider how we would regard these same events. (Emphasis mine)
Of course, he is absolutely right. But no one in our White House will ever do anything about it.

Charade

MANIFESTO

This started as a comment on Chill's State of the Union post but got a little out of control so I've decided to let it fly on its own.

I don't know why they even have these stupid press conferences with Bush. He NEVER answers the question he is asked and without the benefit of a follow up, the inquiring reporter can do nothing but sit there and stew. I especially like how he kept saying he had no idea why there was such and poisoned partisan atmosphere in Washington and how disappointed he is about it. Give me a break. And when someone asked about the lawsuit brought by the largest teacher union challenging No Child Left Behind, he said in an aw shucks sort of way "I haven't read the lawsuit, I'm not a lawyer." I literally dropped my fork on that one. I don't even know why I bother to try and stay informed. The whole thing is the biggest insult to my intelligence I've ever seen.

Missing: Pretty White Woman

manifesto

Isn't there national news that is a little more important than this story about a missing woman in Georgia. Social Security's proposed destruction, 11 bombs killing at least 24 in Iraq? Anything else, perhaps. Yet this poor missing woman is currently the headline on CNN.com. I'm sorry CNN but just because another pretty white woman went missing, and foul play is likely, doesn't mean it is a top story. I can see CNN execs slobbering all over themselves hoping/wishing for another Laci Peterson trial. Dear lord, CNN, you are a news organization for a nation. Start acting like it.

NOTE: I have nothing but sympathy for the family of Laci Peterson and this family in Georgia. I deplore that CNN uses these tragedies to create "human interest" stories to pander for ratings. Yes, people love these types of stories because they are inherently interesting and easily relatable. Therefore, they get higher ratings than straight news. But last I checked CNN stood for Cable News Network. If CNN would like to enter the "reality TV" business, fine, but whatever journalistic integrity it has is slowly (quickly) being diminished. Right now, its bears a closer resemblance to the reconstituted "A Current Affair" than it does to a news network.

State of the Union

manifesto

Is it more a commentary on the state of American culture, or the recent decline in popularity of the President, that no network would broadcast the President's press conference last night past 9:00? Not even Fox, which went on to show two episodes of the Simple Life.

Discuss.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Consumption

MANIFESTO

I think this picture says more about what is wrong with this country than a thousand blogs ever could. (Now if she were just holding a Big Mac...)

UPDATE: This is a very interesting article about how environmentalists are teaming up with conservatives to try and reduce our country's dependence on foreign oil. The tree-huggers want to save the Earth and the hawks want to stop giving the Middle East so much money to sponsor terror.

Los Angeles, Mexico

MANIFESTO

There are some billboards for a Spanish language news program in L.A. that say “Los Angeles, CA MEXICO” and anti-immigration folks have gone crazy and are spitting mad. They consider the ad "offensive" and a "slap in the face" to Americans. Peter Amundson, a volunteer with the California Republican Assembly says "this is almost a poster-board for illegal immigration."

Now, I'm not really affected by the immigration issue, but it is always funny to me that right-wingers constantly feel insulted by this or that. Jesus, get a grip people. Life is too short to let this kind of stuff bother you. It's a freakin' billboard. It seems to me they are saying a lot of Mexicans live in the Los Angeles area and they may like to watch their news in Spanish. Jeesy, Chreesy, these isolationist nutters are five scoops of crazy.

Time for a New Set of Headphones

WHATEVER

Apparently, theft on the subway is up and the biggest culprit is your iPod. According to the MTA, 50 have been stolen from riders so far this years, up from zero in the same period last year. The M.O. of the thieves copies that of purse-snatchers from the 70s: They wait until the doors are just about to close, grab it, and leave you stuck on the train. The MTA is recommending people to switch from the famous white ear buds to a more generic pair. They're also telling people to keep your iPod inside your pocket or purse.

Thanks dude, but what and I supposed to do when my shuffle hits "Hey Ya!" for the billionth time?

Finger on the Pulse

manifesto

Man, does Eliot Spitzer have his finger on the pulse of the populace or what. Today, he decided to go after a major spyware and adware company. According to the AP:
"Spyware and adware are more than an annoyance," Spitzer said. "These fraudulent programs foul machines, undermine productivity and in many cases frustrate consumers' efforts to remove them from their computers. These issues can serve to be a hindrance to the growth of e-commerce."

Now, a couple of months ago I would have been really glad to hear this, but since my conversion to Mac, I no longer have this problem. The only question for me is whether I should throw down $100 for Tiger.

No, really?

manifesto

From CNN:
Former CIA Director George Tenet said he regretted assuring President Bush in 2002 that he had "slam dunk" evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

"Those were the two dumbest words I ever said," Tenet told about 1,300 people at a Kutztown University forum Wednesday.

The theory was a leading justification for the war in Iraq.

Such weapons were never found.

For those of us who heard him speak at graduation in 2000, I might say that this might be an overstatement. The "7 Tenets of Success" was pretty dumb. Not unnecessarily leading to the loss of tens of thousands of lives dumb, but dumb nonetheless.

"What an excellent day for an exorcism"

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

I heard of deleted scenes, but a deleted movie?

That's what we're finally going to be able to see on May 20th when Dominion: A Prequel to The Exorcist is finally given a limited release in theaters. You may remember a terrible film from last year called Exorcist: The Beginning. It was the story of a young Father Merrin (who would later be the exorcist in The Exorcist, played by Max von Sydow) and his first encounter with the Devil. Exorcist: The Beginning had the superb Stellan Skarsgaard playing Merrin and was directed by the loathsome Renny Harlin. It had a budget of $50 million and earned just shy of that at the box office (though it did well internationally and on DVD.) What people may not know is that it was basically a remake of itself.

Right after The Sixth Sense hit it big in 1999, horror movies were all the rage. And it wasn't just shlockmeisters getting in on the action, serious filmmakers like Paul Schrader were pulled in. Schrader is perhaps best known for writing Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver but he is also an accomplished director in his own right. He tends to make films about bad people doing bad things and trying to find redemption. (I've never been the biggest fan, but critics like him, particularly Affliction starring Nick Nolte.) But the idea of someone like him doing a horror film is very interesting. He wrote a film about a young Father Merrin losing his faith after witnessing the atrocities of World War II and finding them again when he is faces the Devil in Egypt in 1947. The movie was given a $30 million budget, shot, edited, scored, CG-ed, and summarily dumped.

The studio honchos decided there weren't enough scares, it was too serious, etc. and fired Schrader. This in and of itself is not completely unusual. But instead of hiring someone to reshoot some new scenes to punch it up, they hired Renny Harlin, put up $50 million more and reshot the entire movie. With a few exceptions, the same cast went back to the same sets and made a "scarier" version of the same movie. (I'm not sure if they were paid for one movie or two.) It was released last year to both audience and critical indifference and is now easily obtainable for purchase in the "previously viewed" section of you local video store.

But people covering the industry kept whispering about Schrader's version. Was it any good? Was it an unseen masterpiece? They finally got there chance to see last month and a film festival in Europe and, lo and behold, it works. It is not a masterpiece, but it is a solid piece of filmmaking that explores a crisis of faith and the search for redemption within the constructs of a horror film. (That description also fits the original classic The Exorcist.) And hell, since there is a buck to be made, they are finally going to release it here in the States.

I am very excited to see this new film and curious to see Harlin's remake. Anyone interested in how a director's vision shapes a movie should see both versions. These movies are going to be studied in film for generations to come. Too bad they are releasing Schrader's version against another prequel, Star Wars: Episode III.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Bad day

SPORTING GOODS

The Red Sox lost again last night, their 4th out of the last 5, and have now lost consecutive series to the Devil Rays and the Orioles.

Keith Foulke and Alan Embree continued to show that they have no ability to get anybody out right now. Keith Foulke is not fooling anyone with his changeup, and if his changeup is not working and his control is off, then his fastball is just a big meatball.

Curt Schilling is going on the DL, joining David Wells. With Wade Miller pitching in Pawtucket tonight, I'm not even sure who the 5th starter is, with John Halama now in the rotation as the 4th starter. Yeesh.

The lineup is hitting a bit (although Bellhorn, Mueller, Millar, Renteria - aka the whole infield - is still slumping). But with no starting pitching and no relief pitching, we may see a lot more games like last night before the Sox right the ship.

And lastly, the rain today meant no listening to the game, and no Sox game at all until Friday. Considering all the factors above, maybe that is a good thing.

Lighter moments from the Bush Presidency

manifesto

Whatever happened to the Bush plan to:

Go to Mars;

Change the Iraqi flag?

Moneyball

SPORTING GOODS

The New York Times has a good Q&A with Michael Lewis, author of Moneyball.

It is amazing to see, despite all the ney-saying by "traditional" baseball people, how much these ideas have been embraced by the teams around the league.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Does anybody have a question for ME?

SPORTING GOODS

I absolutely do, Mr. Randolph. Thanks for asking.

Mr. Randolph could you explain to me just what the hell you were thinking when you pulled a double switch in the top of the 6th inning on Sunday, taking David Wright out of the game when you were already down by 5 runs and runners still on the bases?

This is absolutely the biggest coaching blunder of the young season. In order to win the game the Mets needed runs. And Willie takes out of the game a strong bat in the middle of the order, knowing that that spot necessarily had to hit again, and knowing that if they had any chance of winning the game that spot would have to come up with an important at bat.

So Willie takes a hitter out of the game, one without any comparable replacement on the bench, in order to get a hitter in the 9 hole for the bottom of the inning. Sorry Willie, but what exactly did you accomplish? You could have brought in Aybar, as you did, and pulled him after his 2/3 of an inning for a pinch hitter, saved Wright in the 6 hole, and put in a new pitcher.

Were you trying to save the bullpen? That makes even less sense. The Mets needed runs. Taking a competent bat out of the lineup so you could pinch hit later with a weaker hitter in what would have to be an important at-bat if you had any chance of winning is ludicrous. All the more so, given the fact that Willie had to use two pitchers before he even got back to the 6 spot in the order.

Here's a little hint for a lifetime A.L. guy. The double switch is saved for late in the game when the player being removed is unlikely to hit again, or is a poor hitter in the first place. The Top of the Sixth inning most certainly does not qualify as late in the game.

I now regret that Willie learned how to execute a double-switch. Little did I realize when he botched the procedure in the second game how lucky Mets fans were. Those were the days.

A Good Villain

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

Previously a fan of Survivor, I've moved onto Amazing Race this year. Although I might get some debate on this concept, I think it's good reality TV. This year, one of teams includes Rob & Amber of Survivor fame. He's "Boston Rob" who tormented everyone in Survivor season 4 and she competed in the second season, but won the Survivor All-Stars (they also fell in love on the show which is kind of gross when you consider that there wasn't a tooth brush in site for weeks--eewww!). This is my first season watching Amazing Race, but I get the impression that previously people fought their own teammate, but no one really messed with the other teams. Well, that's just not much fun. Rob and Amber have definitely shaken things up and have become the team I love to hate. They aren't making friends, but they are making good tv. Here's a great article about the conniving pair (Thanks, Sergio).

Blessing in da skies

SPORTING GOODS

A sad day for Dartmouth as the Sports Guy has picked his new intern, and the finalist from the Big Green ended up in third place.

Of course, maybe he realized that the job really wasn't that great, or maybe he really did just have a couple of off weeks after dominating the competition. But really, this is just an excuse to link to his former a cappella group's website, which is also my former a cappella group, and give everyone a much needed laugh during the workday.

Click here, then on multimedia on the right, then the music video.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Letterman

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

I love David Letterman, but every once in a while Letterman and his writers just mail in the monologue. (Actually, this happens a lot more than I would care to admit.) Often, they set up a joke and then miss a great punchline for something more pedestrian. Tonight the set-up is about how lifelike the wax dolls are at Madame Toussaud's Wax Museum. "They are so life-like the Michael Jackson wax figure looks fake." That was tonight's final joke.

My attempt: they are so life-like, only those 18 and older are allowed to see the Michael Jackson wax figure.

Crash

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

No, not the David Cronenberg crap-fest. The new movie by Paul Haggis, the man who wrote the screenplay for Million Dollar Baby. I just saw a commercial and it looks like a pretty good movie in the mold of Grand Canyon. I love Grand Canyon, even if it is a long in the tooth at points. Great acting, poignant story. Crash looks like the most promising movie I've heard of in weeks, if not months. Check out the trailer here.

To steal Sergio's phrase, I'd watch Don Cheadle read the phone book. Now I just have to see Hotel Rwanda.

Opens May 6.

Magnificent Bastards

MANIFESTO

The Magnificent Bastards, or Company E of the Marine Corps, just came home from Iraq and the New York Times has the story.

It is an amazing story and a tragic story, amazing to hear the lengths these soldiers have gone to protect themselves in Iraq. From cardboard cut-out soldiers to make it seem like they have more support than they really do, to the all too common stories of scrap metal in lieu of much needed, and promised, armor. Just absolutely amazing.

Obviously, the tragedy is self-evident.

The RadCons constantly berate the mainstream media for the lack of positive stories out of Iraq. I doubt the RadCons would consider this a positive story, but I can't think of anything more positive. This is an inspiring story of men and women who will do whatever their country asks of them, and whatever it takes to protect themselves.

I am, however, uninspired by the reasons that necessitate such bravery. This is all the more so given the fact that every American, whether they agree or disagree with the War, would agree that our soldiers deserve everything they need to protect themselves. Despite all the rhetoric, those in charge of taking care of our troops are still out to lunch. This is the underlying tragedy.

Happy Birthday, Al

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

Friday is was Jack, today it is Al. Al Pacino turns 65 today and it must be noted. He's been nominated for 8 Oscars, winning only once for Scent of a Woman. Hoo-ahh!!!!

Unfortunately, ever since playing Lt. Col. Frank Slade in 1993, he's developed a reputation for hystrionics that is not always fair. Since then he's been nothing short of magnificent in Heat, The Insider, Donnie Brasco, Angel in America, Insomnia, and Carlito's Way. Pretty good run and not a single Oscar nomination in the bunch. (He did win an Emmy for Angels.)

My personal favorites are from the 70s. His most famous role is as Michael Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola's Godfather films. (The first two rank at the absolute top of my All-Time list; nothing rivals them. The third one is very admirable, if not great. Thanks, Sofia.) And his two teamings with the brilliant Sidney Lumet led to Serpico and Dog Day Afternoon. His best work from the 80s is the (in)famous Scarface, directed by Brian DePalma. Yes, he is over-the-top but if you look at it as an opera, you will see what is underneath the overblown nature of the film. All in all, he is nothing short of legend.

(Now all I need is Robert Duvall, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, and Robert De Niro to blow out some birthday candles and I'll be able to sing the praises of all the greats that emerged in the 70s.)

Carnivore's Paradise

FOOD FIGHT

I finally trekked uptown to Dinosaur BBQ this weekend. For Westsiders, it's really easy to get to. For Eastsiders, it's really worth the effort. It's new and much more posh for anyone that's been to the Syracuse location. Doesn't have that authentic biker bar feel--the decorations are too new to have that even coating of grudge that comes with age--but no one really cares about that. Definitely start with the chicken wings which are a little smokey and covered in honey BBQ sauce. Dinosaur's ribs are pork, not beef, and are marinated for 24 hours before they are pit smoked and slathered with sauce. The meat practically falls off the bone. And if you're feeling poor, it's a good option. Shared a full rack of ribs with 4 sides for $22 which truly was the "sweetheart deal". I think that's one of the best NYC restaurant bargains yet and it was big enough for 3 people. Of course, the three of us weren't that controlled. We also tried the pulled pork and brisket (good competition for my KC fav, Oklahoma Joe's, that's a BBQ restaurant/gas station/liquor store), then washed that all down with more beer and a slice of peanut butter chocolate pie. So, until I go to BBQ U, have a roof deck, and/or actually plan a road trip, Dinosaur BBQ will quell the BBQ urge.

Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta

SPORTING GOODS

Even Dan Shaughnessy is feeling good enough right now to resist coming down as the wet blanket.

He points out that Boston teams have now won 12 straight playoff games: 8 by the Sox, 3 by the Patriots, and now 1 by the Celtics.

The last time the Celtics won their division, they also played the Pacers in the first round, sweeping them in 3 games.

That team's leading scorer was Reggie Lewis (R.I.P.). Second leading scorer Larry Bird only played in 45 games as his ailing back got worse and worse. Robert Parrish and Kevin McHale were still kicking around and contributing, while other key players included Kevin Gamble, Ed Pinckney, Rick Fox, and John Bagley.

Although the big 3 were still around, this certainly wasn't the legendary Celtics of the '80s, and the dark period was about to set in. The good news for this year's division champ playing the Pacers is that the age factor is not bearing down on the team; it's not now or never, just now would be nice. And surprising.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Remnants of Racism

MANIFESTO

It is amazing that restrictive covenants purporting to prevent the sale or rental of homes to blacks and other minorities still exist despite being found unenforceable over 60 years ago. It should be no surprise that some people still try to enforce these clauses. This is just another example of the simple fact that, no matter what the law is, if it isn't enforced or people choose to ignore it, the law doesn't mean a whole lot.

What is sadder is that this story touches our current Chief Justice.

1st Inning Blues

SPORTING GOODS

The Mets have given up at least one run in 12 of their first 16 (now 18) games. It is amazing that they are above .500.

UPDATE: Tom Seaver was one of the best pitchers of the 20th century. Can anybody explain why he refers to runs as "points"? This isn't basketball, Tom. Let's try to get it right.

UPDATE 2: Can we also do something about the number of people, scorekeepers included, who think that a ball has to be touched to be ruled an error? Vidro just misplayed a pop-up because of the wind and the official scorer gave a hit and RBI. Horrible. A pitcher doesn't deserve that. As the rule 10.13 states:

NOTE (2) It is not necessary that the fielder touch the ball to be charged with an error. If a ground ball goes through a fielder's legs or a pop fly falls untouched and in the scorer's judgment the fielder could have handled the ball with ordinary effort, an error shall be charged.
At some point I'll discuss my argument for a team error statistic.

New "Get Your War On"

Canibus smartiva?

Whatever

A recent report from the UK shows that the constant distraction of e-mails, text messages, and calls at work leads to a 10 point decline in IQ. This is 6 points more than the effect of smoking marijuana.

Wow, my decision to alienate my friends by ignoring e-mails seems pretty smart now. I wonder what the effect of blogging is.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Happy Birthday, Jack

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

The legendary Jack Nicholson turns 68 today. I don't think I can overrate how big a shadow Nicholson has cast over Hollywood. Far too many people dismiss his performances as him "just playing himself." Nothing could be more wrong. No one person can be Jack Torrance in The Shining, Jake Gittes in Chinatown, Randle Patrick McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, the Joker in Batman, Billy Buddusky in The Last Detail and Warren Schmidt in About Schmidt. These are all performances, brilliant ones, with far more nuance than he's often given credit. I think his star shines so bright, it blinds people to his talent.

He's been nominated for 12 Oscars, winning three. I'm particularly looking forward to his next movie, his first ever collaboration with Martin Scorsese in next year's The Departed. My personal favorite Nicholson movie/performance is Chinatown, one of the Top Five Greatest Movies Ever Made. Stunning work.

Now pitching...Tyrone Biggums

SPORTING GOODS

Is there a drug that Grant Roberts won't try?

The whole minor league steroids thing makes me wonder. It certainly proves that it takes a whole lot more than steroids to be a great player. But then the question is this: did the bunch of average AAA players who are taking steroids only become average AAA players because of the steroids? Would they be in A ball if they weren't cheating? Or do steroids not really matter that much?

I'm guessing it's more of the former than the latter, but I guess we won't know until we get a better handle on how many pros were on the juice. And it might be years before we really know that.

Update: Thanks for the memories, Grant. - Chill

Interpreting the Color

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

The Interpreter opens today and based on the reviews, it is supposed to be pretty good. Since there is nothing else out there to see, I'll probably be making a trip to the multiplex this weekend. Roger Ebert gave it a solid *** review and ended his write-up with a question:
I don't want to get Politically Correct, I know there are many white Africans, and I admire Kidman's performance. But I couldn't help wondering why her character had to be white. I imagined someone like Angela Bassett in the role, and wondered how that would have played. If you see the movie, run that through your mind.
In last week's Entertainment Weekly, the film's original writer Charles Randolph said:
I chose a white African because I felt that's a story that really hasn't been told. I think we've historically dismissed white Africans as racists. And I wanted to portray someone who loved her country... and didn't happen to be black.
Randolph's sentiment is very nice, to be sure. It also sounds like a bunch of baloney. Hollywood tests, tests, tests every movie they make to nth degree in order to miximize the number of people interested in seeing it. Studio bosses know that the bigger the star in the movie, the better chance the movie has to be a hit in theaters worldwide and, perhaps more importantly, a big seller on DVD. The reality is that there are more white stars than black. This is particularly true with women. So for the makers of The Interpreter to fall all over themselves trying to explain why their main character is white is more than a bit disingenuous. They are simply playing the game. If Halle Berry was a bigger star than Nicole Kidman (and she had agreed to star in the movie), the writers would have made the main character black. Immediately. Like over a weekend.

Roger Ebert knows this, which is why his idea of the great Angela Bassett starring in an $80 million blockbuster all the more preposterous. In a perfect world, Bassett would be a major movie star and Halle Berry would be a model that didn't talk. We don't live in that world. We don't live in a world where merit always wins out over celebrity. A more helpful suggestion by Ebert would have been to implore any readers that are truly interested in African politics depicted on film by black actors to seek out the recent masterpiece Hotel Rwanda. Otherwise he should just tell them to go see The Interpreter, eat their popcorn, and have a good time watching an above-average political thriller.

iTunes (iPod) Shuffle Friday

WHATEVER

Stealing DarLucky's idea from his old site. Let's examine iTunes's shuffle feature. What is iTunes in the mood for today? Here are the last 10 songs picked by iTunes (I've limited it to hip-hop because that is what I'm in the mood for):

My Everlovin' - Cru
Rap Song - Black Eyed Peas
Hitler Day - Public Enemy
Thingz Changed - Onyx
Rain Man - Eminem
Shock Body - Talib Kweli
Criminology - Raekwon
Greatest Mistake - Handsome Boy Modeling School
My Favorite Things - Outkast
The Future - De la Soul

Pretty good today, at least mostly good artists, if odd choices for songs.

Suck it!

WHATEVER

I have a strange fascination with the Dyson vacuums. Those commercials are so convincing that even though vacuuming is my very least favorite chore, I'm sure I want one. (Yeah, that's the problem...it's just not fun because of the crappy one I have.) However, I have even more hooked when I saw they have a new one that uses a ball vs. wheels to steer it. It tilts, it's veers, and actually picks up all the nasties on the floor. I know it's strange, but you have to see it to understand. You might not want to vacuum--only strangely compulsive people really want to do that--but it looks like fun to play with.

Revenge of the Nerds

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

My absolute favorite entertainment-related story this year is the Star Wars, Nerds Lining Up Three Months Early at the Wrong Theater in L.A, story. If you haven't heard, there is a group of George Lucas diciples lining up for Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith at the World Famous Grauman's Chinese Theater. Lining up months early has become a tradition with this particular generation of Star Wars fans ever since the release of the execrable Episode I in 1999. They try to justify themselves by saying they are raising money for charity but we all know what they are really doing is showing off to all the other Star Wars fans in the world. They want everyone to know that their light-sabers are the biggest.

Well, after a couple of weeks living on the sidewalks, they received the unsettling news that Episode III will not be playing at Grauman's but instead at a rival theater a few miles down the road. Faced with an embarrassing situation, the Nerds did my favorite thing of all. They refused to leave. So now it's been a month, the movie still is not scheduled to play at Grauman's, and like unwanted guests, they are still there. Talk about Waiting for Godot.

Funny enough, the whole debacle has actually made them Bigger Nerds than they were before. The mainstream media (CNN/AP, BBC News, The Sun) picked up on the story and now they are world famous. Howard Stern has even been getting regular reports. And still the Nerds cling to hope. They claim that there is still no decision yet about where the movie will premiere even though all parties from the two theaters and 20th Century Fox (which is distributing the film) say the deal is done.

Blogging.la has the best rundown on the whole circus and is worth a look if you like to point at crazy people and laugh at them. (Personally, I feel no guilt in doing this because the Nerds are in a situation entirely of their own making.) Sean at Blogging.la has actually spent a couple nights on line and just posted a list of 17 things he's learned from the Nerds. For my money, the best is #5:
The cops think it's funny to drive by and make Darth Vader breathing noises on their loud speakers.
Apparently, the Nerds don't like this. (I think it's awesome.)

As strange and slightly scary was for me to watch all those Catholics in the Vatican lining up for three days to see the body of Pope John Paul II, this Star Wars thing is even more bizarre. At least JPII was good at being a Catholic. George Lucas is not good at making movies. Don't the Nerds know this? Didn't they see the last two films? Have they all forgotten about Jar Jar?!?

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Darn

MANIFESTO

I was planning on taking David Brooks to task tonight for his ridiculous editorial in the NY Times. Luckily, or sadly, Michael Berube beat me to the punch.

The Constitution has nothing to do with the protection of minority rights against the whims of the majority. No Siree. Not according to Mr. Brooks.

You can get with this...

SPORTING GOODS

Quick take your pick between these two pitchers:

Pitcher A: 2-1, 4.7 innings per start, 2.30 WHIP, 10.05 ERA, ~$7m
Pitcher B: 4-0, 7.4 innings per start, 1.08 WHIP, 2.73 ERA, ~$7m

Well, Yankee fans, pitcher B is Jon Leiber, who got away while the team was busy signing pitcher A, Jaret Wright.

The only good news for the Yankees is that Wright is striking out more than 2 times as many batters as Lieber. But he is walking about 4 times as many. The winner in all this (well besides the Phillies who have a 4-0 pitcher right now), is the Red Sox. They had trouble with Lieber, and would much rather face the wild Wright, even if they couldn't get hits with runners on base when the faced him earlier this year.

Ouch

SPORTING GOODS

This looks really, really painful.

Mike Piazza missed 3 months after a very similar-looking injury back in 2003. Here's to a speedy recovery Nomah!

Update: Great reference/analysis DL, Cubs trainer says Nomar is out 2-3 months. -- Chill

DeLay the Inevitable?

MANIFESTO

Well, it looks like the Republicans have finally tired of the daily DeLay scandal surfacing through the media. So, instead, Republicans on the ethics committee have decided that they would agree to investigate DeLay, as long as Democrats agree to the ethics committee's watered-down ethics rules.

Thankfully the Dems rejected the offer. Hmm, I wonder if that would be because DeLay just recently had some of his most ardent supporters in the House put on the Ethics Committee. Or maybe it is simply because the Dems finally have the Press looking into the malfeasance of the far-Right. (Of course, CNN, where the link is from, doesn't even have this story as one of its headlines. It was, but the link was removed early this morning.) Either way, the Dems would do best to let the clock run on this one. It seems every day there is a new allegation. The longer DeLay clings to life the longer the Dems can use him as a poster boy for the modern Republican party. He'll be like Bill Clinton was for Republicans. Well, except it appears he actually is a crook.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Afternoon Munchies

Food Fight

It’s almost 3pm. Anyone else want a snack? Milk & Cookies just opened at 19 Commerce St (@ 7th Ave). They sell all the usuals (snickerdoodles, oatmeal, chocolate chip, and peanut butter), but it's much cooler than that. If you have 8 minutes (and who doesn’t?) you can pick your own mix in’s and get a custom batch. I like the focus of the one item menu and I'm happy to be the guinnea pig, but it does bring out some healthy skepticism. Rice to Riches has great rice pudding, but c'mon, it's a whole store with nothing but rice pudding. Are your cookies that good? What happens when people don't want cookies...nevermind, we all will...and now we don't have to feel guilty about it. Those love handles are healthy.

Sadly Milk & Cookies doesn't deliver, but if we’re throwing out field trip ideas, this is mine. I must know if they can beat my cookie fav, Levain Bakery. Ooo, a cookie showdown.

Limits

SPORTING GOODS

Here are a couple of interesting articles at Slate. One examines why pitchers haven't been able to consistently throw over 100 mph and the other debunks the myth of the 500-foot home run.

The Power of Nightmares, Online

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

Information Clearing House has actually posted the entire documentary in three parts, along with a complete transcript. Not sure how reliable the connection is but here is the link to part 1.

From the opening narration:
In the past, politicians promised to create a better world. They had different ways of achieving this. But their power and authority came from the optimistic visions they offered to their people. Those dreams failed. And today, people have lost faith in ideologies. Increasingly, politicians are seen simply as managers of public life. But now, they have discovered a new role that restores their power and authority. Instead of delivering dreams, politicians now promise to protect us from nightmares.
That just about sums up the last four years, doesn't it?

The Power of Nightmares

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

The Cannes Film Festival just announced the films eligible for this year's top prize but the most interesting may be one playing out of competition. It is Adam Curtis' The Power of Nightmares. It is a British-made three hour documentary about how the disparate threads of Radical Conservatism and Islamic Fundamentalism have been woven together and will undoubtably be the dominant world issue for at least the next decade. Basically, his argument is that these two sides use their hatred of each other to consolidate their own power and eliminate dissent within the ranks.

This is no Fahrenheit 911. Curtis' work is not a populist rabble-rouser like Michael Moore's (in)famous film. It is a sober indictment of how Fundamentalists of all stripes have taken the wheel and are leading all of us down a dark and winding road. The great Jeffrey Wells' Hollywood Elsewhere has a more comprehensive breakdown of the film's themes and I encourage you to read it. In the meantime, here's a sampling:
(Nightmares) says, in other words, that Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz have a lot in common with Osama bin Laden. It also says that the mythology of "Al-Qaeda" was whipped up by the Bushies, that the term wasn't even used by bin Laden until the Americans more or less coined it, and that the idea of bin Laden running a disciplined and coordinated terrorist network is a myth.
There is no release date set for Nightmares to open in the States yet but it is inevitable. I propose a Daily411 field trip to the Film Forum for the premiere.

exterminator = bugger?

MANIFESTO

The General has an excellent letter that he has sent to Tom Delay, posted on his site. It, like his entire site, is a must-read.

Man Cannot Live on Baseball Alone

FOOD FIGHT

Hmm...what the hell am I doing writing here? It's a manfest--sports, politics, and tv (well, that's even turning into politics). Food isn't an "us" vs. "them" proposition. Maybe it isn't such a strench really. We all have to eat. But maybe in my first Food Fight post I'll meet you half way.

So, I was at a baseball game this weekend which was wonderful and also a culinary delight--hard to beat a hotdog, peanuts, and beer. However, it's a long train ride home to Manhattan on a very slow 7 train. Cue sleep and discomfort at the post-game humanity. So, we split the difference and got off at 74th St and walked about a block to Jackson Diner, Indian food mecca. In terms of ambiance it's underwhelming. It really is a big diner. The buffet is great and cheap (around $9 weekends), but we've never made it unless the game is rained out. Even so, it's a relative bargain and none of the places on 6th Street or in Curry Hill compare. Not saying that I'd treck out to Queens just for a buffet, but it's not because it isn't worth it. Just because during the spring and summer, there are enough trips out there to satisfy my cravings for samosas, naan, chicken tikka masala (disguised by what I've learned is it's Northern Indian name, chicken mahkawalla), and an incredible cashew curry.

This is by no means an undiscovered gem, but it's big enough and out of the way for most that it's not fussy, fake, or expensive. Besides, I know where you want to be this weekend. And you boys aren't really full after one hot dog, are you?

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Calling for Smoltz

SPORTING GOODS

So after a couple of blown saves, Baseball Tonight analysts are already asking if Smoltz should take over the job. People seem to be surprised that Danny Kolb, he of the 39 saves for a lousy team last year (Brewers), has already blown two saves. But with careful consideration, one could see this coming.

In 2004, Danny Kolb struck out just 21 batters in 57 innings, meaning that for every 3 saves he relied on his fielders to convert 8 of the 9 outs that he was called on to get. The reason that strikeout pitchers win is not just because they have the best stuff, it is because they minimize the number of batted balls that go into play. Three things can happen when a batted ball goes into play: the fielder can make the play, the fielder can botch the play, or the ball can fall in for a hit. Two out of three are bad. Striking out batters keeps the control in the outcome with the pitcher.

Last year, Kolb's fielders converted 75% of batted balls into outs for him. Smoltz's fielders converted much closer to the league average, or 69%. So considering Kolb rarely strikes anyone out, it would make sense that Kolb will end up with a batting average against of about 40-50 points higher this year.

What's 40-50 points? Well, looking at career numbers, that's enough to take a hitter like John Kruk and make him into Tony Gwynn.

That's good new for the rest of the NL East.

The Last Word on 24

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

I'm not sure what else there is to say. I love 24 so I forgive its flaws. If you don't like it, the flaws seem that much more glaring. It's a completely subjective thing. There is nothing I can say that will ever convince someone to like it, just like there is nothing anyone can say that will convince me to like American Idol.

(As far as the damn "football" thing goes, yes, it was just a plain black suitcase. But it was also inside a much larger case with the Presidential Seal on it that made it look Really Important.)

24 - 7

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

Here's my main problem with 24, and it has nothing to do with when the characters go to the bathroom (I always sort of assumed it was in the 17 minutes or so they don't show us on TV because of commercials), and it has nothing to do with the number of disasters both personal and professional that befall such a small group of people. These are things that I can suspend disbelief for. Hell, I'm the guy who watched Die Hard a hundred times in a summer. I can suspend disbelief with the the best of them, especially if it is for something that keeps me in suspense.

My main problem is with the use of the time effect. Even Sergio admits that some of the time elements are far-fetched. And I'll concede that I'm not as concerned with how the characters get around L.A. so quickly. (Although I will say that the character I was referring to wasn't Jack - who was legitimately in the helicopter for 20 minutes as he told Audrey - but Curtis who made it from the marina to downtown in under 10 minutes.) Individually, some of these things may seem like nit-picking but collectively they weaken the show.

The show is designed around a great gimmick, each show is one hour and is shown is real time. I didn't choose the gimmick, the writers and producers did. And they didn't choose it to make their lives miserable, they did so because it creates a great dramatic effect. Choices have to be made. Time is of the essence. Tick, tock, tick, tock, the clock never stops. Time marches forward. This allows the characters to do outrageous things, creates hightened tension over the littlest things (Dammit Edgar, check the damn CD), and puts the viewers on edge for the end of the hour. But in introducing time as a lead character, one that creates a hell of a lot of tension and drama, they can't have it both ways. They have to respect the rules they established for the show in order to keep the suspense. Too often, the show takes shortcuts to keep the gimmick alive.

The best example goes back to the "football." I never derided the fact that the camper who found the "football" would have heard of its existence, but the fact that he found a black briefcase in the middle of Air Force One wreckage and immediately knew it was the "football." (Since it is apparently always handcuffed to somebody - shouldn't there have been a body attached - or at least a pair of empty handcuffs?) There wasn't even a moment of hesitation, he knew instantly and called the police to inform them of the discovery. If you can explain how he knew what it was right away I'll drop this right now. But there is no way.

This is simply one example. But combine this with the occassional "speedy travels" of the characters, the 10 minute restraining order, and others, and you have a collection of cop-outs. The show uses the time element to create suspense and as a reason for rash decisions, but when time is inconvenient they ignore it in order to move the plot along and keep the show going and keep the suspense up, which I understand, but completely destroys the "24" element. It reminds the audience of the gimmick and, for me, destroys the drama of the show. Every time I see one of these short-cuts I remember that the gimmick is just that, a gimmick, to be used by the writers to create suspense when it is needed, but to be ignored just as easily. 24 does indeed deserve praise for its unique format, but to earn that praise it has to follow through with the format, and not use it to create suspense when it is convenient, and ignore it when it is inconvenient. Every time it ignores its own rules it becomes, quite simply, a conventional show, only with an annoying ticking clock. The show should be better than that, and from what I've heard used to be better than that.

(Finally, like I said in the original post, I'm new to the show this year, so maybe my liberal bashing argument is off. I am reminded that the Haliburton-esque company was pure evil, and the Republican, Fox News watching Prez is, indeed, a wuss.)

Without DeLay?

MANIFESTO

I'm still waiting for Chill to hammer The Hammer on his Boss Tweed-style corruption but in the meantime, here's a little taste of DeLay's beliefs from the brilliant Hendrik Hertzberg at The New Yorker:

...When asked who is to blame for “activist judges,” he was jaw-droppingly candid:

I blame Congress over the last fifty to a hundred years for not standing up and taking its responsibility given to it by the Constitution. The reason the judiciary has been able to impose a separation of church and state that’s nowhere in the Constitution is that Congress didn’t stop them. The reason we had judicial review is because Congress didn’t stop them. The reason we had a right to privacy is because Congress didn’t stop them.
So there you have it, the DeLay agenda: no separation of church and state, no judicial review, no right to privacy. Next to this, the President’s effort to repeal the New Deal social contract by phasing out Social Security is the mewing of a kitten. DeLay may stay or DeLay may go. But the real danger is not DeLay himself. It’s DeLay’s agenda. It’s his vision. It’s his “values.”

Boycott Time Warner! (Sort Of)

SPORTING GOODS

For those of you who cannot watch the Mets because of the Time Warner-Cablevision dispute, I encourage you to take action. As a Time Warner subscriber, I have only been able to watch four games all season. Two on channel 11, one at a bar, and another at Shea Stadium. It sucks.

I recently called TW to express my displeasure. They apologized to me and tried to remind me that over 60 games(!) are going to be broadcast on weekends, including all against the Yankees. They also informed me that they would be giving me a refund of $2 a month(!) for the inconvenience this has caused me. They also said they would be carrying all Met games in 2006(!) on the new Mets network.

I told them that 60 game is fine, but they are screwing me on 102. I told them that giving me a refund of $.10 for every game they don't show is borderline insulting. I told them I don't care about the new Met network next year, I only care about tonight's game. I also told them that if I could, I would switch to any other competitor. Unfortunately, in my area of Manhattan, TW holds a monopoly on cable and satellite is not an option in my building. The best I could do is cancel my HBO. It's not much, but it's $8 a month that is not going into their pockets.

If you are also affected by this fight between two mega-corporations and feel like you are being held hostage, I encourage you to call TW and let them have it. If you have something you can cancel, please do it. Or better yet, switch to another provider. RCN operates in many of the same areas of New York City as Time Warner. This has to stop.

Get Arrested

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

It may be a futile effort, and it is a little strange that Fox is running it themselves, but there is a petition site to save television's best comedy over at getarrested.com. At least we know they'll pay attention, if only to compile names of people who actually admit to watching Fox.

"God's Rottweiler"

MANIFESTO

Whoa, whoa, whoa Darlucky. You sound a little anti-Catholic there. Don't you know that in today's day and age you need to watch what you say, particularly on matters critical of Christianity? Okay, Ratzinger's not the most liberal Cardinal they could of picked, but it's not like the guy was a Nazi Youth or anything...

Oops.

Papin' Ain't Easy

MANIFESTO

An interesting profile on the new Pope, from a 2003 documentary on Ratzinger:

To some, he is the Catholic Church's intellectual salvation during a time of confusion and compromise. To others, he is an intimidating "Enforcer", punishing liberal thinkers, and keeping the Church in the Middle Ages. Certainly, in the world's largest Christian community the Pope's prefect of doctrine, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, cannot be overlooked.

Against dissent

While many theologians strive for a Catholic Church that is more open and in touch with the world around it, Ratzinger's mission is to stamp out dissent, and curb the "wild excesses" of this more tolerant era...

He has even claimed the prime position of the Church of Rome over other Christian Churches. Although he has apologised for this, he has never been so contrite about excluding liberation theologians, more progressive priests or those in favour of the ordination of women.

Charming

Personally charming, quick-witted and fluent in four languages, the Cardinal is a convincing orator. Jesuit Father Thomas Reese calls him "a delightful dialogue partner", but adds that most of the Cardinal's fellow clergy would be too worried about the prospect of excommunication to enjoy talking to him.

When Ratzinger served the Second Vatican Council for three years from 1962, he supported reform. His own background, however, perhaps sheds light on his need for a Church that stands firm against the currents of change and political shifts.

Schooled in the Nazis' power of rhetoric during his childhood in Bavaria, Ratzinger later deserted the German Army during World War II, only to be sent to a POW camp when the Allies reached his hometown.

Later, as an eminent theologian lecturing at Germany's premier faculties, he was horrified by the Marxist ideologies that punctuated campus small talk in the late 1960s.

Comedy Tournament Continues...

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Go vote!

Looks like Sergio will be pleased, as he voted for 7 of the 8 winners.

Free cone day!

WHATEVER

It's free cone day at Ben & Jerry's, don't miss it! Unless you'd rather go on a day when there isn't a 20 minute line, and just pay the 3 bucks. Even as an ice cream fanatic, I must be getting cynical in my old age, Free Cone Day used to be one of my favorite days of the year.

Bad Timing

SPORTING GOODS

So the Yankees score 13 runs in an inning the day after Steinbrenner chastizes the team. Count me in the column of people that think this is an extraordinary coincidence, but now we have every writer and sportscaster giving credit to Uncle George as if it were his words that guided the bats of the Yankees.

Unfortunately, George will think his stupid rants actually work, so we are surely going to hear some more this season. Then again, that may have been unavoidable anyway.

But as I said yesterday, it's his pitchers he should be aiming his "advice" at, and they gave up another 8 runs yesterday.

In Defense of 24 -- Spoiler Warning

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

First off, let me state my biases right at the top. I am a liberal, pro-Constitution, pro-Bill of Rights guy who thinks 24 is the best show on television. I think it is consistently the most exciting, best plotted show around. Does that mean I believe everything on the show is possible? Of course not. I hardly believe that so many disasters, both public and private, could befall the city of Los Angeles in so short a period of time and that only one man would be prepared to confront them. That being said, I am willing to suspend my disbelief. I do so because the plotting is believable enough. Can a terrorist really steal a stealth bomber to shoot down Air Force One by impersonating a pilot and cutting off his thumb to get past the security checkpoint? I have no idea. I like to think not. But I accept it on 24 because it is plausible within the context of the show. And I think it and a dozen other hair-brained schemes are plausible because nothing on the show goes exactly according to plan. Not for the terrorists and not for the heroes. They are always ad-libbing something and just getting away with it. It is like a boxing match; each takes his punches and lands a few good blows. And both will still be on their feet until the last round.

Yes, some of the time-related things on the show are far-fetched. (Although I believe that Jack was in a helicopter last night, speeding up his travel considerably.) I think anyone who harps on such minor details like these are wasting their time. If they are really bothered by it (and the inevitable "when do they go to the bathroom?" question) they should watch a more conventional show. 24 deserves praise for its unique format, not nit-picking. And I am not going to attempt to argue the legal points from last night's show with my esteemed colleague. Of course it is crap. But it was part of the terrorists' plan! Using our own laws against us makes us hate them more! And yeah, I know 99% of ACLU lawyers don't drive Jaguars. But I also know that lots of high-paid lawyers work on cases pro-bono. (I'm certain Chill will agree with me on this.) I will also definitely fight with him about the "football" bit from last week. I know about the "football." I know it is hand-cuffed to someone from the Department of Defense and holds information about the country's nuclear arsenal. Anyone who reads Tom Clancy or watches military thrillers would at least be familiar with it. How to open it on the other hand, I would have no idea.

I do admit, last night's episode featuring the "Amnesty Global" lawyer defending the terrorist was probably the weakest of the season. But not because of that storyline, simply because the entire show was missing the suspense and tension that make the best episodes of 24 so great. Hell, Jack Bauer was barely in last night's show until the end. Everything was too bogged down in internal politics (the new President, Tony and Michelle, Edgar, the court order). The only action sequence was the takedown of the guys at the pier and it was minimal and slightly boring. But I am positive it was simply the calm before the storm. There are something like six hours left and as an avid viewer of the the last three seasons, I know the endings are always breathless. Especially now that the bad guys have a warhead and the means to detonate it.

Now, putting the show through a Left/Right filter, do I think it is skewed one way or another politically? If you only watched last night's episode, you would think Rush Limbaugh was the Executive Producer. But if you are a regular viewer, you will know that 24 routinely ranges all over the political spectrum. The first three seasons featured Democrat David Palmer, first as the candidate for President, then as President, then as very popular President running for re-election. He was your perfect liberal role model. Strong, idealistic, intelligent, loyal, and a minority. He only left the show because of a scandal not of his making that had tarnished his reputation. Rather than deal with a dirty problem by fighting dirty, he simply quit and handed the White House to the Republicans. Cut to this year. The new President seemed to be a fine leader, if a touch less idealistic than Palmer. When Air Force One was shot down, the Vice President was forced to evoke the 25th Amendment and assume control. One can only assume he is a Republican as well. It is also obvious he is a complete wuss. So who is he going to turn to for advice? Ex-President David Palmer. The Democrat.

So I don't really think the show is biased one way or another. I guess I like to think of it as pragmatic. Jack always does exactly what he needs to do to save the world. Nothing more. He doesn't enjoy having to kill and torture people. In fact, it weighs on him heavily. But he does it because he does it better than anyone else. His whole character is built around this contradiction.

Does 24have characters violate the Bill of Rights for the greater good? Just about every episode. Did I root for Jack last night when he was breaking the guy's fingers? Hell yes. Does that mean I support the current real-life administration's policy at Abu Graib and Guantanamo? Absolutely not. I root for Jack because his problems are black and white while in reality they are shades of grey. On television, you just have to give dramatic license to the artists. Have you ever seen that other real-time show that deals with politics and fighting terrorists? It's called C-SPAN. It is really boring.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Latin Jay Leno

SPORTING GOODS

Check it out.

24 Sucks -- Spoiler Warning

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

So because of comments from friends and my roommate I got sucked into 24 this season. It started off okay, I even looked past some of the early scapegoating of anybody who exercised reasoned thought. At some point, I actually commented that it was one of the best shows on TV. But I realized as I kept watching that it relied on some, let's call it creative writing, in order to keep the hour an episode gimmick going.

But a few episodes back, when the Haliburton-esque company decided to protect itself by detonating an Electro-Magnetic Pulse Bomb in the middle of Los Angeles, I began to think the show was a little overreliant on the ridiculous to keep it exciting. This realization made it a little more difficult to overlook last week's plot device whereby a camper and his girlfriend find a black briefcase in the scattered remains of Air Force One, and somehow the camper immediately knows that the briefcase contains America's nuclear codes. Amazing deduction. He even knew that the briefcase had a funny name, but just couldn't remember what it was. It's "the football."

But tonight takes the cake. Let's ignore for a second that the terrorist called "Amnesty Global", a Amnesty International-ACLU-esque law firm to protect that pesky Constitutional right of Due Process and thereby thwart the government's attempt to torture an obvious terrorist into revealing much needed information. And let's ignore the fact that the "Amnesty Global" lawyer was in a $5,000 suit and drove a Jaguar (every Amnesty International/ACLU lawyer's dream I'm sure, but not quite reality). So a show on Fox makes an effort to vilify those damn Constitution-loving liberals. Par for the course, right?

But how did the writers even get to the point where they could vilify those pansy Constitution loving liberals? Well at 12:22 the terrorist-suspect was arrested. His terrorist friends, who weren't there with him, but heard the arrest on a conveniently dropped cell phone, immediately called Amnesty Global. By 12:32, a lawyer was at the detainment facility with a court order preventing the terrorist from being questioned without an attorney present. Next, the Government tried to get the judge to change his order, but he wouldn't, the Patriot Act doesn't apply, and while the government could appeal to the Circuit Court, it didn't open until 7 a.m., too late to help our heroes. Next, after the attorney has his patriotism questioned by Jack (lead bad-ass), Jack becomes the first person to think it is a bit odd that a suspect, who was arrested alone, with nobody else around, and wasn't allowed a phone call, not only got a lawyer but one who showed up in just a couple of minutes. So Jack deduces that the lawyer was hired by terrorists. Amazing.

I can't even completely discuss the illogic in the show. Just stunning. Aside for the impossible physics of getting anywhere in L.A. in 10 minutes, can we just stipulate to the fact that you can't get a court order in 10 minutes. And, even if it was possible, would the show like to explain what type of court order you get when a suspect has yet to even be charged with a crime? Is it the one preventing torture? I thought torture was always illegal, Patriot law or not. And why is the District Court spitting out restraining orders at 12:30, but the Circuit Court is closed till 7 am. My guess is that those lazy liberal Ninth Circuit judges need to get their beauty sleep, even though there was a nuclear meltdown earlier in the day, and Air Force One had just been shot out of the sky by a Stealth Fighter (don't ask). Moreover, how dumb are the rest of the characters that they don't see something odd about a lawyer showing up for a suspect that nobody knows is arrested, except for the suspect himself?

The show ends, mercifully for its remaining viewers, with the President's advisors commenting on how the President can avoid going on TV to tell America that a nuke has been stolen because it is 1 a.m in L.A., and therefore, most of America is asleep. This on a day when Northern California was irradiated by a Nuclear meltdown and little more than an hour after Air Force One crashed in the desert, leaving the President almost dead and requiring the Vice President to assume control. I'm sure most Americans were getting a sound night's sleep and getting ready to go to work the next day.

I could go on and on. I'm all for suspension of disbelief but this is ludicrous. Just horrible.

Noooo

SPORTING GOODS

Houston's Minute Maid field has a giant Citgo sign between two light posts in left-center field. An absolute travesty.

Subtle Humor

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

Okay, so we all know that last night's Arrested Development may have been the last. For some reason, people just don't watch it even though it is clearly the best comedy TV has aired since Seinfeld. The AP has a story about its possible cancellation and it is obvious they don't watch it either.
Sunday's half-hour ended with scenes from the next episode, the one that would open the fall season. Devotees can only hope the optimism isn't misguided.
By LYNN ELBER, AP Television Writer
Actually, devotees realize that the fake teaser at the end of each show is one reasons we love the show so much. Apparently, being a "television writer" for the AP does not require you to actually watch television. It is amazing that you can make a living as a reporter and know nothing about what you are reporting. But perhaps my optimism is just misguided.

Reason - Robert Reich

MANIFESTO

Well, at least jury duty allowed me to catch up on my reading. I just finished Reason by former Clinton Labor Secretary, Robert Reich. I have to say it was an enjoyable read, even if it only reinforced many of the things that I already believed.

I think my favorite section was about the inherent unfairness of Trickle Down economics. Reich writes:

The Radcons' (Radical Conservatives) whole growth premise is wrong. They make a totem out of savings and investment. Cut taxes on savings and investment so that we'll have more capital! Allow the rich to keep more of their money so that they'll create more jobs!
Baloney.
Reich then proceeds to point out that the entirely rational thing for the rich to do with their windfall is to invest it in places where the return is going to be the greatest. Right now, that is most certainly not the United States.

Anyway, interesting read, which I suggest if you have the time, or get stuck in a room waiting for jury duty.

If you can't do the crime...

Sporting Goods

The moron who started the fracas with Sheffield at Fenway last week has lost his season tickets. The more I saw replays of the whole incident, the more I took Sheffield's side. Not that I can stand Sheff, but the fan deserved to be pummelled, so therefore it's tough to support him.

All in all, this "House" guy shouldn't have the right to sit that close to the field, so I agree with the Sox decision to let some other loudmouth have a shot at getting into the heads of opposing rightfielders. It's too bad that the guy who "smoothly" flicked his beer at Sheffield is also losing the right to go to Fenway.

Now if they can just convince everyone sitting in that row to stop trying to pick up baseballs that are in play. It's just a baseball, people - you can coach little league and get a whole case of them for free. I'll never understand why baseballs are like crack to people sitting in the front row. There's nothing sadder than someone who holds the ball up for the world to see after they've reached over to scoop up a foul ball that's on the ground in front of them. Ooh, your hand can hold objects, I can't believe it! Wait, now that you are holding up your catch for everyone to see, I guess I have to believe my own eyes!

Actually, I did think of something sadder. If they scooped up said ball with a glove that they brought to the game.

On the Rise

WHATEVER

Another fellow alum, Kos, points me to the rise of BU law in the current U.S. News Law School Rankings.

As he says it is great when your school is on the rise. Now if BU can only get a first rate facility to go along with the first rate education, the school can finally ascend to its deserved place. You're next Univ. of Minnesota - Twin Cities. Whatever. At least now my decision to take the money from BU instead of going to BC looks good in hindsight, even if it was somewhat questionable at the time.

News

MANIFESTO

Just spent the day at jury duty and it took me all of two seconds to catch up on the important news of the day. Now I know not to check my mail because the Ann Coulter Time Magazine will go directly to the garbage, just like my Mr. Bush election edition and Man of the Year edition. Combine Time's soft-ball coverage of Mr. Bush and the Right-wing, with their constant cover stories on Jesus, or the Virgin Mary, or God (which always seems centered on a Christian God...interesting) and I think Sergio is right, my subscription may have to go. I used to think that I had to read these things so I knew how the other side was thinking, but now I think there might be some utility in ignoring them altogether. At least that is what I do with Fox News and Drudge. If all the liberals stopped paging over to Drudge to see what crap he's cooked up in a day, it would bring down his site. Or at least a man can dream.

The other big story is how Lance Armstrong is going to retire after the Tour de France. Look, I admire Mr. Armstrong's courage and recovery and all that he has done for other cancer victims and survivors, but how is it a cover story on CNN that a man who competes in a sport that holds absolutely no sway over the American consciousness, except for the last day of the Tour de France, and then only when an American is going to win, ends up being the story of the day. I'd have to say slow news day, but seriously something more important has to have happened today, right, anybody?

Time Magazine? Time for a New Subscription

MANIFESTO

Time has made the execreble decision to put Right Wing Nut Job Ann Counter on the cover of its latest issue with the headline "Ms. Right." I'm not going to even bother to recount the innumerable idiotic (and hateful) things this woman has said. (Don't you wish there was a simulator that we could her and her ilk into where they could run the world like they say they want and get a chance to see the disasterous results?)

I'm more upset that a media institution like Time would even pay any attention to her. Just because people pay to lap up her bile, doesn't mean she has credibility. Have you ever seen her on Real Time with Bill Mahar? She gets her ass kicked every time, even with Mahar protecting her. I'll admit, I haven't read the story yet, but I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't even bother to fact check her past statements. They'll repeat everything she ever said about the Left and pull a "and they say..." bullshit as if they are equal in weight. If something is backed by reality, it should be considered. If it is part of the ravings of a demagogue, it should be scorned.

Star Wars XXX

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

This is hilarious. It's a scan from a Star Wars coloring book. I like to think it was an innocent mistake...

Comedy Tournament

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

Darlucky has pointed me to the Cinema Comedy tournament over at Norbizness and I am focused like a laserbeam. My first reaction is this is an awesome idea. I took a quick look at the seeding and think they did a great job. My second reaction is the fear that some newer, I-Love-the-80s type of movie is going to win over a true classic. That said, here are the remaining matches and my comments.

Monty Python's The Life of Brian vs. Animal House
Monty should win this, hands down. I've never been a real fan of the Delta House boys.

Some Like It Hot vs. Blazing Saddles
Billy Wilder's more sophisticated comedy should win over Mel Brook's fart jokes but probably won't. My biggest complaint of the whole tournament is that they chose Saddles over Young Frankenstein. YF would very likely have been my overall winner.

Modern Times vs. Dr. Strangelove
Strangelove should take this one easily. Heresy though it may be, Chaplin films lose something every year and Kubrick films get a little better. (And I'll let you in on a little secret, George C. Scott owns, not Peter Sellers.)

The Ladykillers (1955) vs. M*A*S*H
Altman in a walk.

Duck Soup vs. Caddyshack
Here is where my fear will come to fruition. The Marx Brothers are going to lose by 10 strokes to the idiots at Caddyshack. Now if you just cut out all the crap with Michael O'Keefe we'd have a real contest.

Airplane! vs. Office Space
Another possible upset though I think ZAZ will pull it out. A note to voters: Don't do it guys. I know you love Office Space. I know you love to quote it to each other. I know you giggle like little girls when they smash the fax machine. Just remember, Airplane! changed everything. It may still be funniest movie ever.

Annie Hall v. Hollywood Shuffle
How the hell did Hollywood Shuffle make this tourney? I can barely remember a single joke. Annie Hall is an All-timer. Brilliant.

South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut v. Raising Arizona
Absolutely the toughest battle of all but the baby wins by a nose
.

Assuming I have the brackets right, I'm predicting Life of Brian, Dr. Strangelove, Airplane!, and Raising Arizona to make the Final Four with Airplane! beating Strangelove in a squeaker. Hard to complain with that. Well done, gentlemen.

Rock the Vote

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

I'll leave it up to Sergio and Chill to comment on the remaining matchups (and since we missed the nomination process and the first round we're not really able to complain about that), but in the meantime go vote in the Cinema Comedy tournament over at Norbizness.

Patriot's Day

Sporting Goods

Patriot's Day, the celebration of the shot heard round the world, doesn't actually happen until tomorrow, but one of the best local sports days of the year happens today in Boston in honor of the Massachusetts holiday. The Boston Marathon starts in a minute or two, and the Red Sox play their annual 11am baseball game today at Fenway.

I used to love the Patriot's Day game at Fenway, because it happened during April Vacation and I got to attend a few times in the early 90s. As the Red Sox became a tougher ticket, and I lost my April vacations to adulthood, the game ultimately made the transition to something I would follow online at work. Now if I can just convince my boss and our clients not to have any conference calls from 11 to 2:30, thanks to the magic of MLB radio, I'll be all set.

Kicking & Crashing

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

The Legacy of Old School lives on. It may seem from my earlier post that I only like high-brow classic films, but I love a good comedy as much as the next guy. Tod Phillips' Old School is one of my all-time favorites and is significant for resurrecting the career of Vince Vaughn and showing the true potential of Will Ferrell. This summer, these two alums each star in new comedies, and both look absolutely hilarious.

Vince teams up with Owen Wilson in The Wedding Crashers and Will takes on little league soccer in Kicking & Screaming. Judging by the trailers for each, my expectations are going to be almost impossibly high.

The makers of Crashers were exactly right in making Wilson the sincere one that falls for the girl and Vaughn as the sarcastic one who is tortured by the clinger. (I almost shudder to think if the roles were reversed and Vaughn was the one falling in love. Any laughs created would certainly be unintentional.) Vaughn's greatest asset, and the source of his most memorable moments, are his little asides. One of my favorites is from Old School when, dressed as a clown for his kid's birthday party, he tells a pledge to put the head to his costume back on. "You don't see me breaking the fourth wall," he says. Brilliant.

Ferrell's strength is his explosive comic rage. The best part of the K&S trailer is at the end. Weaing power sunglasses, he orders one of the parents to take a lap. Looking at his stopwatch, he yells after him: "Faster!" This is the joke I'm going to be looking forward to the most. And the fact that Robert Duvall plays his father puts it over the top for me. Duvall is probably the best actor working today and the friction he is sure to develop with Will is sure to be priceless.

Focus the rage

Sporting Goods

George Steinbrenner is at it again, mouthing off about how he doesn't pay his players to lose and demanding that Joe Torre come to the rescue.

Besides the fact that publishing Steinbrenner's rantings at this point is equivalent to the New York Times publishing the doomsday predictions of the guy on 43rd and 11th who wears his underwear outside his pants while playing static on his boombox all day long, George really needs to be a bit more specific in his anger.

You can see more on the Yankees lineup and where it might improve here, but the bottom line is that the Yankees have given up more runs than any team in the majors besides the Colorado Rockies. In their 8 losses, the least amount of runs they allowed was 7. So instead of saying that all of his $200m in salaried employees are underperforming, perhaps he could be more specific and effective if he focused on the 11 or 12 guys who are throwing batting practice every day.

And while he called out Joe Torre by name, I have to think that it is the pitching coach, Mel Stottlemyre, who is on the hot-seat.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

It just looks better on TV

SPORTING GOODS

What is my favorite part about these expanded MLB standings. No, not the Mets dramatic comeback. Check out the NL, under TURF. That's right, all zeros. There is no more artificial turf in the National League. Something is right with the world.

And, for fun, use the comments to tell me the reference in the Subject.

Can I vote Kerr(e)y Again?

MANIFESTO

According to NY1 and the Times, it seems I may be able to vote Kerry again, or at least Kerrey. The former Democratic Senator from Nebraska is considering taking a run at Mr. Bloomberg, my fellow alum.

I can say that, with the exception of Mr. Bloomberg's Gestapo tactics during the Republican national convention, I respect some of the things he has done for the city. I figured I would vote for him if the NY Dems decided to re-run any of the candidates from the last election, but now, there might be a race.

Of course, Mr. Kerrey has expressed some support for the Bush Social Security privitization non-plan, while Mr. Bloomberg calls it the fraud and bamboozle it is. So this could be the first time in my voting life that I actually have to make a tough choice. I don't know if the fact that I've never made a tough choice in almost 8 years of voting is amazing or sad. At least I won't be writing in my father's name like I used to when Darth Sidious, aka Joe Lieberman, ran unopposed. When will the CT-Dems find a strong Primary challenger? I'm looking at you Mr. Newman. 80 year old Senator, whatever, c'mon, give it a shot.

Arrested Development

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

So it is officially unofficially over. I did everything I could think of. I told every person I know, but still nobody watched Arrested Development. Tonight, unless Fox chooses to keep a show on the air that is critically acclaimed, instead of following the advertising dollar (Fat Chance!), Arrested Development ended its brilliant two year run.

Luckily for all of you, the first season is already on DVD and I expect the second season will be too. So this won't lead to another couple of years of me lamenting the lack of the show on DVD, like Newsradio, a show that only grows funnier in memory. It's been two years since I saw my last episode... They should have AA for this withdrawal.

Get Your War On

MANIFESTO

Because I don't think enough people pay attention to this great site.

Crap vs. Classics

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

In the past, I would feel a literal compulsion to watch every major movie to come out, no matter how bad I knew it would be. I've actually paid to see pieces of crap like The Mummy, Tomb Raider, Gone in 60 Seconds and Con Air just because they were big movies and were on the cover of Entertainment Weekly. Lately, I've become far more selective. I no longer feel the need to consume all the garbage Hollywood puts out. If I stop and try, I can exert a certain amount of self-control and seek out only the movies that I have a genuine interest in and/or ones that receive glowing reviews. This evolution has happened in the last year or so. I've been thinking alot about this lately and finally discovered the movie that was my tipping point.

Thank you Michael Bay. A strange sentiment, to be sure. Certainly the most successful hack-director working today, Bay's Bad Boys II must surely rank as one of the worst, if not the worst, movie I've ever seen. I saw it last summer on DVD after purchasing it previously-viewed, sight-unseen. The store was having a special, buy 3 get one free kind of deal and it was the free one. I figured it was worth the risk buying it without ever having seen it since it was, after all, "the free one."

It turned out I was very wrong. There was something of value missing from my equation: my time. Two and a half hours of non-stop nihilism and sound effects is not actually free. I could have been doing a dozen other things instead of putting more coin in Bay's pocket. Hell, I could have watched any other movie and it would have been a better use of time. From then on, I've tried to quit the hackiest Hollywood offerings cold turkey.

I remember working at a video store while in high school and marvelling how people would come in and only rent from the "New Release" section (which was usually empty) instead of taking something from the "Classic" section which was always full. Why would they rent something like The Addams Family when they could go home instead with Dr. Strangelove? They know Kubrick is better than Sonnenfeld. Always. But they still do the wrong thing the majority of the time. Looking in the mirror later I realized I was just as guilty as the people I would mock from behind the counter. Anyone who watches Bad Boys II undoubtably must come to this conclusion.

I think there are two reasons I would watch this dreck. One, I would feel a kind of ownership with current movie stars. I feel closer to Will Smith because I remember when he was on Fresh Prince and now he's a big star. It's like I grew up with him. Thus, someone like Cary Grant feels like someone else's movie star because he made his classics before I was born.

The second reason comes down to the damn watercooler. I would watch crap instead of classics because I wanted to be able to talk to people about it. Or tell them I had seen it and they could say, "oh, I want to see that too." I would be afraid of being out of the loop. Pretty lame excuse, I know. But completely honest.

Which brings me, ultimately, to my point. I haven't stopped watching movies, I've just tried like hell to watch better stuff. I haven't even stopped watching Michael Bay movies. (I rewatched my old-school Criterion Laserdisc of The Rock a few months ago after returning from a trip to San Francisco and it still kicks ass. It's becoming clear that Bay probably will never make a movie better than his sophomore effort.) I've just gone back and tried to fill in a few blanks in my viewing. More Kurasawa, more film noir, a little Olivier. Sure, it doesn't give me much to talk about around the proverbial watercooler, but I sure feel better about myself. Mom and Dad were right all along, kids. Eat your vegetables.