Monday, February 28, 2005

What do I know? -- Oscar edition

Let me begin with my speech. Thanks to Pete and Matt, who instant-messaged with me during virtually the entire broadcast. I wouldn't have made it through without you guys. Of course, maybe I would've gotten up and done something more productive. But thanks, anyway.

Here are the awards that should've been passed out last night. (Sorry, no pictures. You'll have to take my word on these. Or play with Google.)

Sharon Osbourne Look-Alike: Drew Barrymore.

Just Shave Your Head: Adam Duritz of Counting Crows, whose head looks more like a pineapple each year. How long has he been trying to work those white-man dreads?

Oh-God-I-Wish-It-Was-True: Robin Williams walking out with his mouth covered. Man, I wish. Robin, you used to be funny, now you’re insufferable. Please, Robin, shut up.

Should Do That More Often: Chris Rock at the Magic Johnson Theater, asking filmgoers if they've seen any of the Best Picture contenders. Obviously, the Oscars were out of touch by not handing any nominations to White Chicks.

Sorry, You Guys Really Don't Matter: Nominees for several awards - Best Makeup, Best Costume Design, and the short film categories - had to stay in their seats. (One guy pretended to fall asleep, which was funny.) Then the poor schmucks who won had to make their speeches from the back of the theater. They couldn't even go on stage for possibly the crowning achievement in their careers?

Best Cleavage: Salma Hayek. I have no idea which awards she presented and, quite frankly, I don't care. Was anyone else even on stage with Salma? I couldn't see anything else. Muy caliente!

Can't Take a Joke (or Sticking Up For His Buddy): Sean Penn, who felt the need to address Chris Rock's "Who is Jude Law?" joke while presenting the Best Actress award. Rock zinged back (sort of) after the commercial break. Maybe we'll be talking about the Rock-Penn feud for years to come. Or not.

Dressing For the Starship Enterprise: Samuel L. Jackson.

Getting More Bored as the Show Goes On: Chris Rock. Think he'll be invited back to host again? Oh well. He can do much better than the Oscars, anyway.

And here's how I did on my Oscar picks. Hey, my mom cares, okay?

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
My pick: Jamie Foxx
Actual winner: Morgan Freeman

• The man gets a (much deserved) standing ovation from the audience and gives one of the shortest Oscar speeches I've ever heard. Dude, I think they would've let you talk longer if you wanted to. You're Morgan Freeman!

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
My pick: Cate Blanchett
Actual winner: Cate Blanchett

• I think Blanchett would get my "Best Dressed" award too. She looked great. (And I'm not a fan of yellow.) She might be the best actress working today, too.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
My pick: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Actual winner: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

• Charlie Kaufman could get this award every time he starts typing.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
My pick: Sideways
Actual winner: Sideways

• Too bad that's the only award it could get. Not a big enough movie, I guess.

BEST ACTRESS
My pick: Hilary Swank
Actual winner: Hilary Swank

• She shouted down the orchestra, who tried to play her offstage. And not in a I'll-stand-up-here-as-long-as-I-want snit, like Julia Roberts.

BEST ACTOR
My pick: Don Cheadle
Actual winner: Jamie Foxx

• Really, what the #$%@ was I thinking? That was the lock of the year. And he had the best acceptance speech too; it was funny and touching, without being embarrassing. (Okay, the guy who won for Best Song and sang his speech probably made the best speech.)

BEST DIRECTOR
My pick: Martin Scorcese
Actual winner: Clint Eastwood

• Not much to say, other than I feel bad for Martin Scorsese. He'll eventually get one of those Lifetime Achievement awards, I'm sure. You wouldn't have gone wrong either way. But ol' Marty has to be wondering what he has to do to get one of those golden boys.

BEST PICTURE
My pick: Million Dollar Baby
Actual winner: Million Dollar Baby

• Why did Bernie and Roz Focker get to present this one? Do we like them that much? Again, not much to say about this one, other than Eastwood has become one of the great American filmmakers. (David Poland points out that he's directed 4 of the last 8 acting award winners within the past year. How about that?)

Okay, I think that does it for Oscar talk. How many of you even watched the show?

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Derek Jeter = Rated X?

I'm a midwesterner, not an east coaster, but as a baseball fan, I've often enjoyed the rivalry between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. I think the national sports media sometimes pays too much attention to these two teams, but it's hard to argue its significance on Major League Baseball over the years (especially the last 2-3 seasons).

And I've witnessed the passion of this rivalry first-hand. Last year, I caught a game at Yankee Stadium and watched a guy who was brave (or dumb) enough to wear a Red Sox shirt get mercilessly taunted by Yankee fans in his section. (The game was against the Chicago White Sox, by the way.) On the way to the subway afterwards, I passed an older gentleman waiting outside a bar, wearing a Red Sox cap, who had a Yankee fan scream "1918!" (the last year the Red Sox won the World Series before winning last year) at him.

It can be ugly. But the latest example of Yankees-Red Sox feuding is hilarious. Or it could've been, had it not been nipped in the bud. The basketball/hockey arena in Boston, previously named the FleetCenter, is undergoing a name change due to Bank of America acquiring Fleet. (Corporate blah-de-blah, I know.) While a new name is being negotiated, the owners of the arena decided to auction off one-day naming rights through eBay, with proceeds going to charity.

So Kerry Konrad, a New York attorney, thought it would be funny to tweak his Harvard classmates (and Red Sox fans) by ponying up $2,325 to name the arena "DerekJeterCenter," after the Yankees shortstop. Hey, he put up the money. And it was going to a good cause, so Boston fans would have to deal with it for one day, right?

Not so fast, my friend.

"We decided that all the names had to be rated G, and this name was determined to be obscene and vulgar," said the president and chief executive of the FleetCenter, Richard A. Krezwick (hopefully, with tongue-in-cheek). "We were afraid of the volume of phone calls bogging down our switchboard, the number of e-mails clogging our portal and the potential graffiti on the side of our building."

But there's a happy ending to the story. Konrad enlisted his ex-college roommate (and Red Sox fan) to contribute an additional $6,275 toward a 8,600 bid (86 years since the Red Sox had won the World Series - get it?) and the name JimmyFundCenter, for a Boston cancer charity.

The Red Sox and Yankees open the 2005 baseball season at Yankee Stadium on April 3, kids.

This also gives me an opportunity to plug a fun blog I recently discovered, Blue Cats & Red Sox, written by "a Bostonian at the University of Michigan." Check it out - she has some really funny rants on baseball. (How many friggin' Red Sox blogs exist, by the way? Tigers fans, let's unite and get our voices out there. Geez.)

Looking askance at 'Sideways'

As much as I enjoyed 'Sideways,' I'm willing to admit that it may be a bit of a male fantasy. Sally Quinn of the Washington Post definitely thinks so:

"Imagine, if you can, a movie about two unattractive, gross women slobs going on a week-long spree and ending up with Brad Pitt and Ben Affleck. Imagine that becoming a hit, nominated for five Academy Awards, acclaimed by critics."

Line this up next to A.O. Scott's contention that 'Sideways' is overrated and critics loved it because they saw themselves in Paul Giamatti's character.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Straight guys watch the Oscars, don't they?

Chris Rock apparently ruffled some feathers by supposedly saying to The Drudge Report that straight men don't watch the Oscars. You can click on the link and judge for yourself (and I think you should consider the source), but I'm not sure that's exactly what the man said. In his remarks, Rock did ask, "What straight black man sits there and watches the Oscars?" I'd love to conduct a survey on that, but there aren't that many black people in Iowa.

Rock also said, "Nothing against people who aren't straight, but what straight guy that you know cares?" However, that was in response to the question, "What will you be wearing to the show?" I actually don't care what Chris Rock will be wearing on Sunday night, so I guess I can remain secure in my masculinity.

But I'm glad he's hosting the Oscars; he's an exceptional comedian who will make what can be a boring telecast funny and worthy of next-day discussion. He'll probably make a few people squirm in their seats at the Kodak Theater, and I can't wait to see that.

Here's who I think will win the "big awards" on Sunday. Let me look into my crystal ball... actually, it's an empty jar of peanut butter. I should get to the grocery store so I don't go through withdrawal this weekend...

BEST PICTURE
Million Dollar Baby

● It might not be as flashy as The Aviator, but it's the most compelling story with the best performances. And it makes you feel something, which is something a good movie should do. It's not a perfect film (a few story details are sketchy and some of the characters are one-dimensional), but I think it's the best of the five Best Picture nominees. I also think it's a film that people will still be talking about 20 years from now. It could've been made in any decade and mattered.

BEST DIRECTOR
Martin Scorcese - The Aviator

● So if I think Million Dollar Baby is the best film, why don't I think Clint Eastwood will win this award? Because Martin Scorsese will win this as a de facto lifetime achievement award, making up for awards he probably should've won for Raging Bull or Goodfellas. He's a brilliant filmmaker who deserves to be recognized for his work. This sort of tactic is what leads some to think the Oscars are bull$#!%, but it's not like Scorsese isn't a worthy winner - especially when he made a really good movie.

BEST ACTOR
Don Cheadle - Hotel Rwanda

● This is my go-out-on-a-limb pick. Jamie Foxx will probably win for playing Ray Charles, and I'm not saying he shouldn't because he did a great job. But I just can't shake a hunch that Cheadle might win. Hotel Rwanda was a powerful movie, with a story that echoes current events, and Cheadle pushes it all right into your chest with his performance. (But I might be a little biased, since this movie is really fresh in my mind right now.)

BEST ACTRESS
Hilary Swank - Million Dollar Baby

● I've only seen two of the five nominees, so I'm a little shaky on this category. But if Million Dollar Baby is the best movie, it's because of Swank. If you don't care what happens to her character, if you don't identify with her struggle to make something of her life and rise above her upbringing and social standing, then this movie doesn't matter. But it does matter.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Jamie Foxx - Collateral

● Here's where Jamie Foxx gets his Oscar. Collateral could've been a bad movie, with Tom Cruise chewing up scenery as he plays the bad guy. But Foxx makes it a good movie because he makes you care what happens to his character. Like many of us, he's a guy who has dreams, but is stuck in the grind of his daily life. Foxx makes you wonder what you'd do if you found yourself in the same situation as his character. And he makes it believable.

(Having said that, Morgan Freeman will probably win for his part in Million Dollar Baby and receive some long overdue recognition for his career.)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Cate Blanchett - The Aviator

● In playing Katherine Hepburn, Blanchett veers dangerously close to caricature, but she doesn't take it too far. You can see how Howard Hughes was intoxicated by Hepburn's personality and presence when Blanchett comes into the movie and takes it over. To me, the scenes between those two are the best part of The Aviator. Underneath all the drama, Blanchett shows Hepburn as someone who cares deeply for a man, yet knows he's tortured by something he won't ever be able to conquer. I would've watched a two-hour movie about that relationship alone.

And in the categories that only I and a handful of fellow writing nerds care about, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind will win the BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY award and Sideways will get BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY. Those movies deserve more than one trophy, but I guess you take what you can get.

Okay, no more Oscar talk for at least a year. We'll return to your regularly scheduled blog Monday. (Or maybe tomorrow.)

EDIT (4:15 pm): Wait a minute, I reserve the right to make fun of the Oscars while I'm watching them and comment on them Monday. So maybe one more Oscar post.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Chasing Oscar, part 2

I've been meaning to write more about the Academy Award nominations since they were announced, but other topics rose to the top of the blogging list. So with the Oscars show coming up this Sunday, I'd better get to it. (Hopefully, you enjoyed posts about chic toilets rather than my trip to see Finding Neverland and my intentions to see Hotel Rwanda.)

But something that's really been bugging me is the belly-aching over a couple of the Best Picture nominees. For instance, an article in last Sunday's New York Times focused on the criticism Sideways has been receiving from alcohol treatment therapists and counselors. Yes, really. Apparently, some of these professionals think the film glosses over the fact that Paul Giamatti's character (Miles) is an alcoholic and casts his subsequent behavior in an acceptable (and comedic) light.

I don't know about you guys, but in the movie I saw, Miles is indeed portrayed as having a drinking problem, someone who drowns his sorrows - sometimes subtly, sometimes obviously - in pinot noir. If audiences choose not to acknowledge that part of the story, it's not the filmmakers' fault. And to say they had a responsibility to show the consequences of alcoholism not only implies an agenda where one doesn't exist, but also completely misunderstands how storytelling works. Alexander Payne didn't set out to make that movie. If people like Polly McCall, a therapist quoted in the Times article, want to see that kind of film, that kind of story, they should make one themselves.

The same applies to the disapproval recently thrown at Million Dollar Baby because of choices made by the two main characters toward the end of the film. I hesitate to say exactly what the debate is about, since it gives away a key story point that I think people should see for themselves and I don't want to ruin the movie for anyone. (Go see it, for #@$%'s sake!)

Part of the complaint, by the way, is directed at film critics. Some people think they should tell audiences what happens in the story so that audiences know what to expect and can choose whether or not to see it. I would think anyone who loves and respects film - and I assume that includes most film reviewers - would prefer not to spoil a movie for audiences and ruin the effect that a filmmaker was trying to accomplish. The job of a film critic is to review a film on its artistic merits, not make moral judgments for audiences. If a critic chooses to reveal what happens in a film to warn people who might be offended, then that's a decision he or she can make. But a critic isn't under an obligation to pass along such information.

Here's what Roger Ebert has to say on the subject. Tim Rutten feels differently in the Los Angeles Times.

But back to the debate over the film's morality: Certain advocacy groups and right-wing commentators say that the decision made by Clint Eastwood's character amounts to an endorsement of that action by the filmmakers. Does a political agenda have to be attached to everything?

If a story depicts a character doing something that people might disagree with, it doesn't mean the storyteller supports that particular action or philosophy. The story involves what that character would do, not necessarily what the reader or viewer would do. Writers and filmmakers (the good ones, anyway) try to create believable characters and build narratives around them that make sense. And I'll argue that a good story might compel audiences to disagree with what they're seeing or reading. It should put a question in your mind after you're done with the experience.

I'm going to make a shameless plea for comments today. If you've made it through this whole rant (and thank you for reading, if you did), I'd really like to know what you think - even if this is something you don't really care about. (If you do, here's another essay by Jim Emerson.) You don't need a Blogger account to leave a comment, and though I'd prefer you do, you don't have to leave your name either. Thank you.

Okay - Oscar predictions tomorrow! Who's having an Oscar party?

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Death and disappointment in Colorado

Of all the obituaries and appreciations I've seen of Hunter S. Thompson over the past two days - and you could spend an entire day reading through all of them - this one from writer Warren Ellis seems the most heartfelt to me. It's not necessarily a flattering portrayal, but Ellis obviously admired Thompson and is disappointed in one of his writing heroes. Here's a clip:

"But how you leave the stage is at least as important as how you enter it. And he left it alone in a kitchen with a .45, dying in – and wouldn’t it be nice if it were the last time these words were typed together? – dying in fear, and loathing."

Henry Allen also seemed to get inside Thompson's head pretty well (if such a thing is possible) in his piece for the Washington Post. For a more conventional tribute, check out what Sean has to say over at Security!

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Help for the Army?

Yesterday, I noted that the Army was having trouble attracting recruits. Maybe those wacky British have come up with a solution. According to today's New York Times, the Royal Navy is actively recruiting gays. That could work, right? Hey, don't go getting married here, but go ahead and join the military. (Maybe "Jeff Gannon" could lead the charge.)

Better yet, I think Top Gun could still be used as an effective recruiting tool. As we all know, but some are reluctant to admit, that movie is swimming in homosexual subtext.

Pondering over a turkey sandwich

So if deaths happen in threes, who's next? Arthur Miller died just over a week ago, and Hunter S. Thompson committed suicide this week. Should a lot of older writers be making sure to avoid black cats, not walk over cracks in sidewalks, etc.? Should, say, Norman Mailer lock himself in his house for the next couple of weeks to outlast the jinx?

Paradise for writing nerds

One of my favorite things about living in Iowa City is the number of authors who visit to promote their books and read their work. In my two years here, I've been able to meet some of my favorite writers, including Jonathan Lethem, Dave Eggers, Jeffrey Eugenides, James Ellroy, and Denis Johnson. I know if I lived in a big city, I could probably see all of these writers, and probably many more. But in a rather small, midwestern college town, this seems particularly special.

The Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa brings in a lot of writers, many of whom studied in the program. (It's the reason I moved here too. I'd love to come back someday and revel in my glory.) Whenever a graduate comes back to read from a novel he or she was very likely working on while studying here, it's an exciting moment. Well, at least for us writers.



Last night at Prairie Lights bookstore, Curtis Sittenfeld read from her debut novel, Prep. (Rather than try to describe the novel - of which I've only read 10 pages - here's a description from her website. Okay, it's about a girl who leaves Indiana to attend prep school in Massachusetts.) Sittenfeld's a writer I've admired for some time, due to her essays in Salon, the Washington Post, and the New York Times. (I wrote an entry about a hilarious essay she wrote for the Times Book Review almost two months ago. Go on, search those archives; I won't mind.) Prep is currently #11 on the Times Best-Seller List, and it's been in stores for just over a month. Not bad.

The reading was also part of the "Live from Prairie Lights" series on radio station WSUI, which means Sittenfeld had the pleasure of being interviewed by the bizarre Julie Englander, who asked insightful questions such as what was it like having a name that many perceive as a man's name. Englander also asked Sittenfeld to compare the prep school experience to public school. But since Sittenfeld attended prep school, not public school, she really couldn't answer the question. One would think Englander might've realized that before asking. But I digress...

Sittenfeld apparently made a lot of friends during her time in Iowa City because I was standing in line behind every single one of them while waiting to get my book signed. Considering everyone else was getting a hug and a 5-10 minute reunion, I was a little disappointed when I only received an autograph. But I got to tell her that she should make her agent shop around a collection of her nonfiction work. She seemed to think I'd be the only one who'd read it, but I doubt it. (Sittenfeld was either too modest to tell me that most of those articles and essays are on her website or she'd forgotten about it.)

How often do you get to chat with someone whose work you really admire? On nights like this, I don't regret moving to Iowa City at all.

Monday, February 21, 2005

The Comely Commode

With recent bathroom-related posts by fellow bloggers Gary and Heather, I was inspired to throw in my own two cents. I read this in Friday's USA Today and knew sitting on the can would never be the same again. All the cool, chic people will soon be doing their business in style with this $3,000 hatbox toilet from Kohler.


Just in case you have to go while wearing pumps and a dress

"There's no reason why a toilet can't evolve beyond what it's looked like for the last 100 years," said Mike Chandler, vice president of marketing for Kohler.

Exactly, Mike. And thanks to you and your company for looking at the same ol' toilet we've all been using for decades and thinking, "Hey, we can do better." Just look at how stylish that thing is, with no tank. (Where the hell will we now put our magazines or boxes of tissue?)

Even better, the seat is ergonomically designed with "pressure mapping" that conforms to the bottom and back of the legs. No more uncomfortable seats for us, people. Now, it'll form around your butt just like your favorite armchair. (Wouldn't that make you less likely to offer your toilet to someone else? "Hey man, don't ruin my butt mold - I finally got that thing just right!")

New Yorkers will get all the fun first. So if they like it, I guess the rest of us will get to join in too. Maybe Gary or Mis Hooz will shell out for the new can and let us know how it works. You thought the line to the bathroom was long at parties before - wait'll you get one of these.

Imagine that

According to this Washington Post article, the Army is having trouble enlisting new recruits. Gee, I wonder why that is? I guess people watch the news, after all. Or maybe the Army needs cooler commercials, like the Marines have.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Stick my thumbs in my eyes

I should've gone to sleep. I could've gotten drunk, so I would've passed out. But no, since I'm not falling asleep, I'm flipping through TV channels, which on a late Saturday night is a sure invitation to find crap. Oh, I found it: "Gastineau Girls" on E! I shouldn't even link to it. Just the possibility that I might somehow spread this dreck to others upsets me.

I've spent the last half hour watching two women - a mother and daughter - who have no discernable ability, other than to spend money, whine about the fact that they need to meet men who can give them more of it, and thus tart themselves up trying to find such men.

The mother just complained that she lives a lifestyle that requires lots of money. "It takes a fortune," she said. It might take a fortune to lobotomize this $#!@ out of my brain.

How boring are these two morons? The show needs a narrator, some doofus who's apparently a doorman, to try and give this pile of nothing some kind of story. Mom attempts to find a job, but realizes all she's ever done is live off her looks and rich people's money. Daughter wants to move out, but realizes rent requires money. Ian should pour alcohol directly into his eyes, pull the sheets over his head, and go to sleep. I should've known better, I should've known better...

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Snooze, I lose

This is what I get for waiting, for choosing to be "busy" today, "running errands," instead of posting this entry. (I also feel sheepish about my low-key Saturday because a trio of my fellow bloggers - John, Gary, and Heather - were apparently starting a new breakfast club by going into work this morning. But hey, I got up early too... so I could gaze at Campbell Brown on "Weekend Today.")

So anyway, I was ready to write about something Mis Hooz sent me on Thursday called "The Somerville Gates," a witty little parody of "The Gates" by an artist in Somerville, MA.

© Hargo 2005


No reason that New York and Central Park has to hog all of the fun with "nightmare, cheesy, poorly-spaced, garish, ugly glow-in-the-dark orange things," as Keith Olbermann called them.

But the New York Times ran a story about "The Somerville Gates" today, so I don't look nearly as clever as I would've 24 hours ago. And if I can't make myself look clever, then dammit, I'll pout. And whine about it here. Or hope that you read me instead of the Times.

Here's what party-pooper Sarah Boxer wrote.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Are you #@$%ing kidding me?

Just caught this on the rerun of Countdown with Keith Olbermann - Apparently, the Looney Tunes are too old and musty for the kids today, so Warner Bros. animation has decided to update some of the best cartoons ever made into, well, this:

from nypost.com

Bugs Bunny has become "Buzz Bunny." Jesus, I can barely type that without pinching my nose and doing another shot of whiskey. He's the star of "Loonatics," which will be part of the Kids' WB Saturday morning lineup in the fall. Yes - "Loonatics." They're descendants of the old Looney Tunes, engaging in superpowered hijinks and hilarity 700 years in the future.

I'm not a guy who automatically thinks everything was better in the old days. The WB came up with some hilarious new cartoons in the '90s (not what I mean by "the old days") with Animaniacs and Pinky & the Brain. Those shows didn't pander down to kids, try to be cool, and presumably give them what they want.

Here's a quote from Sander Schwartz, president of Warner Bros. Animation: "This is a kids show intended for kids today who are growing up in the Internet age, an age of technology, an age of hip, cool animation, and something that we hope will resonate with that age group."

Kids, you're smarter than this. Right now, I wish I had an Elmer Fudd shotgun pointed at my face.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Lack of sleep has made me cranky

I just read this from the New York Times: Mr. $240,000 Payday himself, Armstrong Williams, complained to Anne Kornblut that he's been ridiculed because "the liberal elite despise black conservatives."

"I am a conservative who does not know his place," he continued. "If I were white, they wouldn't care."

Sure, Armstrong - it has nothing to do with the fact that you accepted $240,000 from the Department of Education to shill for No Child Left Behind. It's not because that exposed you as a fraud.

By that same logic, the "liberal elite" must really hate chubby female white conservatives, since Maggie Gallagher was slammed for pimping President Bush's $300 million marriage initiative.

Hey, I'm just trying to help you move past this, buddy.

Is this necessary?

The story that just won't go away around here is University of Iowa basketball player Pierre Pierce, who was kicked off the team two weeks ago for intent to commit sexual abuse, burglary, criminal mischief and false imprisonment. (He was officially slapped with a felony charge of first-degree burglary on Feb. 9.) On Tuesday, Pierce met with head basketball coach Steve Alford, hoping to be reinstated. After a 15-minute meeting, Alford nixed that.

What's bugging me now, however, is that a search warrant was unsealed yesterday and a bunch of stuff was released to the media (and subsequently, the public), including an e-mail Pierce wrote to the woman he allegedly assaulted. I'm all for freedom of the press (former journalism major, remember) and releasing information into the public domain. And maybe releasing this e-mail serves some purpose - legal or otherwise - that I'm just not comprehending at 10 am after pulling a near-all nighter on a paper. But to me, it looks like the only reason newspapers, radio stations, and TV newscasts are showing and reading excerpts form this thing (and it's been everywhere in the past 24 hours) is to show how dumb this kid sounds. Considering Pierce is 21 years old and a presumed junior at the U of Iowa, I have to admit it doesn't look good. Here's a slice of what we've been seeing:

"i am truely sorry for your room and your papers I threw on the ground all i wanted to do is talk to you and you fleed, probably because you were scared and I understand but i thought for sure you would come back out but you didnt' so that made me go ballistic like never before"
Quoting an excerpt probably makes me hypocritical, considering what I just wrote. But I'm really questioning the need for this stuff to be out in the open. It seems like kicking a guy when he's down. And don't misunderstand me. Pierce deserves everything that's happened to him. He clearly has problems (especially with women), squandered every chance at redemption the university has given him, and has committed crimes he needs to be punished for. Maybe this is just part of the package. It just feels explotive to me.

Oh, just record a CD like everyone else

Would you buy a cologne based on Alan Cumming? Apparently, someone will. Last night, on "The Daily Show," while promoting that Mask sequel no one's going to see, Cumming also showed off his new fragrance. Here's a description of the scent (I think):

A sexy, fun and mischievous fragrance with top notes of: Bergamot, Black Pepper, Scotch Pine, Whiskey. Core notes of: Cigar, Heather, Douglas Fir, Rubber. Base notes of: Leather, Highland Mud, Peat Fire & White Truffle.

Wow, pepper, whiskey, cigar, leather, and mud? Isn't that what I smell like coming home from the bar on a rainy night? Or after not showering for a weekend? Maybe it's the smell of that "poof" he made as Nightcrawler in "X-Men 2."

Hmm, I just thought of something. How does "Eau de Fried Rice" sound? Hell, how does it smell? Go hang out in the alley behind a Chinese restaurant and I think you'd get the idea.

Ripped from the headlines!

Anyone catch last night's "Law & Order," with a story based on November's "basketbrawl" in Detroit between the Pistons and Indiana Pacers? (For those with hazy memories or who might be unfamiliar with the story, here's an old blog entry of mine. Evidently, a few people found it through Google searches on the fight, which is pretty cool. Hello, if you're a first-time visitor.)

So what might Ron Artest have done to John Green, if he'd found the dude's house after they traded punches in the stands? Apparently, he'd have killed the mofo. Here's the synopsis of the episode from nbc.com:


THE SIXTH MAN
10pm 2005-02-16
IT'S NO SLAM DUNK FOR PROSECUTORS WHEN TAUNTING BASKETBALL FAN FOULS OUT FOREVER -- When a loner is found strangled to death in his rent-controlled apartment, Detectives Fontana (Dennis Farina) and Green (Jesse L. Martin) focus on both the victim's gambling habit and the building's owner who wants to convert it into a co-op -- but the cops hit paydirt when they discover the dead man's nasty running feud with a spoiled pro basketball player (guest star Poncho Hodges). When the detectives find the athlete's fingerprints at the scene, prosecutors McCoy (Sam Waterston) and Borgia (Annie Parisse) must fight to keep the evidence from being tossed out on a technicality. S. Epatha Merkerson and Fred Dalton Thompson also star.

And on a sidenote, when did the show cast a new assistant district attorney- otherwise known as "the babe"? (Psst! Hey NBC! You still haven't changed the photo on the "Law & Order" website.) It's not like I don't keep tabs on what's going on. I knew all about Dennis Farina replacing Jerry Orbach. Man, you don't watch a show for a few weeks, and everything's different...

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Dog show!

Our New York correspondent, Mis Hooz, has been a busy lil' society gal this week, taking in "The Gates" on Sunday and hitting the Westminster Dog Show party scene last night. (Hey, you don't see Gawker on this. Take that, Nick Denton.)

Here's a shot of the dog show bar party, from the Mis Hooz camera phone:



The photo's a little dim, but you see the velvet rope, and you see the doggie puppet. Clearly, rip-roaring stuff. I picture the scene like a sports bar on a college football Saturday, with Spaniel fans taking up the tables in one corner, yelling at the Dachshund crowd on the other side of the room. Sometimes it gets ugly, folks. Caught in the middle, generally keeping to themselves and just trying to watch the dog show, are the Terrier boosters. Where are the Poodle people? Probably in the corner booth, with a TV to themselves, trying to avoid getting anything spilled on them.

No idea if Mis Hooz was standing on tables by the end of the night, flashing her Pointers at everyone (save your shorthaired breed jokes, pal). If so, I didn't get any photos of that.

Meanwhile, I don't think you could drag John to a dog show bar party kicking and screaming. Not a fan of the frou-frou little doggie scene. Here's his take on the show at peregrine.blog.

Scratch one off the list

Now this is the kind of thing that you want to read with your morning coffee. Japanese researchers have found that drinking coffee reduces the risk of liver cancer. So there's one I apparently don't have to worry about. Unfortunately, coffee does not decrease chances of contracting colon cancer. But I did get this news in time to cancel my scheduled coffee enema, so that's a plus.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Quadruple digits, baby!

I just noticed that the hit counter at this lil' narcissistic venture has passed the 1,000 mark. I realize a fair amount of those hits are from me checking in for comments or to make sure an entry published correctly, but to know that people are reading this is a great feeling. Back in October, I started the blog with the dopey name on a bit of a whim, thinking I would regret not at least giving it a try. It's extremely gratifying that you find this stuff interesting enough to keep coming back each day. I'm very grateful for your readership and feedback. Thank you.

And many thanks to the people who have been generous enough to pimp me up on their own blogs and websites: Clint, Libby, Yoni Cohen's college basketball blog, the BCS blog, John at peregrine.blog, the fiery raging red, and Gary at the G-Man News Stand. I appreciate anyone and everyone you've brought my way, and hope I can return the favor.

I know 1,000 is probably a small number, relative to hundreds (if not thousands) of other blogs out there, but it means something to me. I apologize for getting all Oscar acceptance speech on you, especially when I'm not wearing my Vera Wang gown. Carry on and I'll see you later.

Claiming the chili dogs

I doubt this will interest anyone outside the state of Michigan (or maybe New York), but something I read at ann arbor is overrated (a pretty good blog, despite a title I philosophically disagree with) raised my left eyebrow.

As Michiganders - or perhaps more specifically, metro Detroiters - know, "Coney Islands" are chili dogs that have somehow become a popular regional food, even though they're named after a place in New York. I realize you can get a chili dog most anywhere and in many of those places, maybe they're referred to as a Coney Island.



But in Michigan, these places are everywhere, often Greek-owned, serving breakfast all day, along with Gyro sandwiches, Greek salads, etc. But the Coney Islands are the main attraction. In Detroit, the two most popular Coney Island joints are right next to each other. These chili dogs have been claimed as a local culinary treat. Maybe it's a legitimate claim; I honestly have no idea. (Hopefully, a Michigan reader can set me straight.) What I do know is that I haven't seen Coney Island restaurants anywhere outside of Michigan (I'm snobbily not counting A&Ws). Man, I'd love to have one here in Iowa.

Logic tells me they must be in New York, but maybe I didn't see any because I traveled with the vegetarian Mis Hooz. In my limited travels, I haven't seen them in Baltimore, Charleston (S.C.), Kansas City, St. Louis, San Diego, or Chicago. (Chicago has their own magnificent hot dogs, which deserve a blog entry of their own.) I'm sure they're out there (and I hope I hear about them); I'm just saying I ain't seen 'em - and yes, that's probably because I'd rather have something besides a chili dog when I'm visiting another city.

What is the point of all this? Why are you killing time around the work you're supposed to be doing, reading about friggin' chili dogs? In upstate New York, those "Coney Islands" are called "Michigans." Does this mean this kind of chili dog somehow originated in Michigan? Or were they created in New York? I know - your noodle is baking right now. Take all the time you need to digest this.

As you contemplate, here's an article by Plattsburgh, NY columnist Gordie Little, in which he tries to find the origin of "Michigans."

A midnight rant

Where the hell can I find a new pair of headphone pads? The foam is starting to wear away along the edges of my headphones, no doubt taking a beating from wrestling with the textbooks and notebooks in my bag. I'm sure I can find the answer through Google, but it was mildly aggravating when I drove to Target, thinking I could easily find some replacement pads. None were to be found. And I stared for a long time at those racks, hoping they'd somehow miraculously appear. So I tried Best Buy next. They didn't have pads either.

What the @#$%? I know I'm not the only one with this problem. And yes, I could just buy a new pair of headphones for $12. But the headphones I have now are fine. They sound great. I just want new pads, so I don't eventually have plastic rubbing against my tender little ears. I know I've purchased replacement pads before - probably even at Target or Best Buy. Is this an item that just doesn't sell, so these places don't carry them? Do I need to go to Radio Shack?

Monday, February 14, 2005

Vicariously walking through "The Gates"

I imagine most, if not all of you have heard of "The Gates," the $21 million art exhibit installed in New York's Central Park, and unfurled on Saturday morning. (Or, if you're like me, you remember hearing about it at some point a while ago, but when asked about it by someone this weekend, couldn't recall what he or she was talking about.) If not, here's the New York Times archive covering the evolution of the project, including other stories about the artists, Christo and Jeanne-Claude.



When I heard that Fried Rice Thoughts' New York correspondent, Mis Hooz, was checking out "The Gates" yesterday, I asked her if she could send me some pictures. Here's what she sent.



I think Mis Hooz did a great job, getting shots from various angles to convey the overall scope of the installation, not only how it looks as you walk the pathways, but also how it fits against the backdrop of the park and the city. I wish I could blow these up to a bigger size, but I haven't figured out how to fit larger images within the blog's frame.



If you don't have time to check out the articles, here's Jeanne-Claude's explanation of the project: "It has no purpose," she said at a press conference. "It is not a symbol. It is not a message. It is only a work of art."

Well, that didn't really help, did it? Maybe Christo can help a bit more. "This project is not involved with talk," he said. "It is real physical space. You need to spend time walking in the cold air - sunny day, rainy day, even snow. It is not necessary to talk."

Okay, guys. Thanks for that. Maybe I can try: 7,500 of these 16-foot high gates decorate 23 miles of walkways in Central Park. From each of the gates hangs a saffron-colored sheet made of pleated nylon, which can easily sway with the wind and reflect any sunlight that hits it. The exhibit will stay up for only 16 days, and after they're gone, there shouldn't be any physical memory of them. No holes were drilled into the ground, no tree limbs cut to make space.



I think this one's my favorite. It's like the curtains can't be avoided, they're in your eyeline, yet they're also a part of the park, meant to be enjoyed. Great job, Mis Hooz. Thanks for sending the pictures. I'll take any more you're willing to send.

Happy Hallmark holiday

I'd love to write something bitterly funny about Valentine's Day, but I think the G-Man News Stand has already done a fine job of it. Plus, since I have other stuff on my plate today and am in full "don't care about it" mode, I doubt I'd be much funnier than Gary. Check his stuff out; you'll almost certainly find something to make you laugh.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Saturday Night Hive

It doesn't take much to have a more interesting Saturday night than me these days, but I'm still envious of my friend Clint for what he did last night. Thankfully, he let me experience the Dirty Show in Detroit vicariously through his blog at MySpace.com. (And I think I'm better keeping a vicarious distance from something like this, anyway.) Lots of interesting photos - give it a look-see, if you're in the mood to raise an eyebrow.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Sticks and stones

If the New York Times Book Review ran essays like this more often, I might start spending $5.00 on its Sunday edition again. (But it's not just the money; it's that I take forever to get through that thing and let it pile up on my armchair week after week.) If I was ever fortunate enough to have my book reviewed by the Times, but the critic referred to me as a "jackass," I'm not sure how I'd react. On one hand, I'd have a review in the New York Times. On the other, a nation of Sunday morning readers (among them, my mother and uncle) would associate me with the word "jackass" as they were contemplating whether or not to try the crossword puzzle.

Anyway, here's how A.J. Jacobs reacted to Joe Queenan's review of his book. Hilarious.

Friday, February 11, 2005

I do enjoy a good documentary

Media synergy or amusing coincidence? Early in the week, there were new rumblings over the "Deep Throat" story, as the Watergate informant was reportedly in failing health, which could lead to his identity finally being revealed.

Now, at the end of the week, all of the major newspapers and film critics are reviewing "Inside Deep Throat," a documentary about the infamous 1972 porn film. I know it really happened, but I almost find it hard to believe that the movie had such an impact on pop culture of the time. It grossed $600 million! Anyone feel like getting into a time machine with me?

Maybe I'll call my dad, and we can have another "Deep Throat"-related chat this weekend.

Here are reviews from Roger Ebert, the New York Times's Manohla Dargis, and Slate's David Edelstein.

(By the way, I'm curious to see if including the word "porn" in this entry will lead to a higher readership this weekend. Hi folks!)

Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack

In one week, spring training for Major League Baseball teams begins in Florida and Arizona. I can hear some of you rolling your eyes. (Hey! You know you enjoyed that Yankees game last April, Mis Hooz!) And maybe this time of year is even more exciting because no one's team has lost any games yet. Optimism is the prevailing feeling.

Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post is looking forward to the return of Major League Baseball to D.C. Here's a quote from his column today, in which I think he captures some of baseball's appeal really well:

"... baseball is also the game that makes no specific demands for our attention. It is just there if we want it or need it, like comfort food. Baseball doesn't mind if we ignore it for weeks. It will be there, faithful as a dog, when we want to pick up the stats and standings to resume the tale. It's a TV entertainment and a ballpark destination, a companion to the old and a first date to the young, a nightlight for the insomniac and, once in a lifetime perhaps, a party worthy of -- in Boston's case -- a parade for over 3 million in the rain."
But it's not just a love of baseball that's getting me excited; it's the sign that spring and summer are on their way. It's knowing that I'll take a road trip (hopefully, more than one) somewhere this summer, find a ballpark (hopefully, one I've never been to before), and sit back to enjoy three hours of green grass, hot dogs, home runs, stolen bases, double plays, and "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" in the sunshine. I can't wait.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Typhoid Ian?

Did I pass my cold over to raging red? I've been covering my mouth every time I cough, washing my hands constantly, and essentially living in quarantine for the past 24 hours. But I apologize if I got you sick, red. You're looking a little pink today.

However, I'm feeling quite a bit better, so I don't think the rest of you have to worry about getting sick. (And thanks to those of you who posted comments and checked up on me otherwise.) I attribute my fast recovery to a tremendous amount of sleep (there's an imprint of my body pressed into the bed), Cold-eeze lozenges, lots of water, Vitamin C (lozenges, not the singer - though I'm sure she would've helped me greatly...



even if it looks like she's sitting on a whoopee cushion in this photo), Vicks VapoRub, and green tea. Oh, and since I spent most of my non-sleeping hours watching "The Wire" on DVD, I suppose it should get some credit too. (Nothing like stories of Baltimore drug wars to make you feel better.)

Thanks again for checking in today. I think I'll be back in full blogging form tomorrow, after I catch up on everything I missed yesterday.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Sick day



Sorry gang. As much as I tried to avoid it, the cold done got me. You know how it is - the head feels like it's filled with cotton. And every couple hours or so, you're amazed with what you hock up. I probably should leave it at that. Thanks for checking in, though.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Detroit? Your turn next year -- Part 2

Kind of an interesting column by Brian McCollum in today's Detroit Free Press. The consensus seems to be that Paul McCartney's Super Bowl half-time performance was boring and played it too safe. I decided to wash dishes and read in the bathroom at half-time, so I missed the show (though I do love the Beatles) and don't have an opinion on it.

With the Super Bowl in Detroit next year, McCollum wonders what sort of half-time show we'll get. The easy answer, of course, is a Motown revival. Actually, maybe it'll be disappointing if there's not a Motown-oriented half-time show in Detroit. I'm sure that's what most will expect. Plus, this would be a chance for Detroit to show off one of the few things it's celebrated for.

But is that a little too musty, maybe too nostalgic, for some people? Could Detroit do better than parade talent from its gloried past (Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Aretha Franklin) on stage? You could go more modern, but Kid Rock and Eminem aren't exactly safe choices. But you probably don't want to go too regional or too safe either - Bob Seger would start a nation-wide channel change.

Clearing the throat

My dad and I had a conversation about "Deep Throat" last night - no, not the movie, though I'm told it is involved in a funny moment in Casselberry family history. (Maybe a post for another day, my friends.) And wouldn't that have been a comfortable father-son conversation?

No, we were talking about the infamous Watergate informant. John Dean, a former White House counsel to President Nixon, wrote in the Los Angeles Times that "Deep Throat" is in failing health, which could lead to his identity finally being revealed. Dean also asserted that Bob Woodward, one of the Washington Post reporters eternally indebted to this source, is aware of this news and has informed his editors accordingly. Why? Woodward has said he'd only say who "Deep Throat" is after he's passed away. Furthermore, the obituary has already been written.

(Dean also appeared on Keith Olbermann's MSNBC show, "Countdown," last night, which is why Dad brought it up. Unfortunately, I missed the show - and its rerun - and the transcript isn't available at MSNBC's site yet. But Olbermann discussed the topic on his blog.)

Meanwhile, writer Adrian Havill wrote a letter to the Romenesko blog that claimed George H.W. Bush is "Deep Throat." His explanation is that Bush held a grudge toward Nixon for welching on a promise to make Bush his vice-presidential candidate. Considering H.W. was at Sunday's Super Bowl in apparent fine health, however, this theory seems thin.

But here's what I'm (finally) getting to: I know I'm interested in who "Deep Throat" is, but I'm a former journalism major, a media nerd, and "All the President's Men" is one of my favorite movies. But I wonder if most people my age have the same curiosity? Do others in their mid-to-late 20s or early 30s care about this story? If you do, Editor & Publisher is holding a contest to correctly guess "Deep Throat's" identity.

You'd be smiling like this too

(Paul Sancya/AP)

... if you just signed a contract for $75 million.

This could be a very good move for my Detroit Tigers. Magglio Ordonez, if healthy, is one of the best hitters in Major League Baseball. But coming off a season in which he tore ligaments and developed bone marrow edema in his left knee, such a big contract seems like a huge risk. But the Tigers appear to have covered themselves. If Ordonez misses more than 25 days of this coming season because of the knee, the Tigers can void the contract.

Over at peregrine.blog, John likes the signing too.

However, the U.S.S. Mariner says it "might be the worst free agent signing ever." I could spend the rest of the day finding other blogs criticizing this deal. Here are a few notable ones: Salt and Ice, Mr. Irrelevant, Houston's Clear Thinkers, and Bush League.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Battle of the bulge

This is an old story now, with the election three months ago. I wish I'd started my blog earlier in the fall so I could've said my piece on the subject. But at the Romenesko media blog, there's a report from FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting) that the New York Times had a story on the infamous "Bush bulge" - the strange shape visible underneath the back of President Bush's jacket during the first presidential debate - and chose to kill it, rather than run it.

from Salon.com

NASA scientist Robert Nelson examined photos from the debate and digitally enhanced them, as he'd been doing with images of Saturn's moon Titan to determine contours and craters on its surface. "It could be some type of electronic device," he told Salon.com. "It's consistent with the appearance of an electronic device worn in that manner."

Nelson initially shopped his findings around to several newspapers, including the Pasadena Star-Times, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Los Angeles Times, and each of them passed on the story, which brought him to the New York Times. The Times was interested in the story, but kept pushing it back due to more pertinent stories (such as the missing explosives in Iraq) occurring in the news. Eventually, editors decided to kill the story. Nelson then went to Salon.

But why did the New York Times decide not to run this? According to the FAIR article, the Times, due to flack from conservatives and the Bush campaign about its criticisms of the Iraq War leadership, was nervous about publishing the story so close to Election Day.

Here's what's eating me: Didn't the Times have a responsibility to run a story that could've affected the outcome of the election? Maybe it wouldn't have, in the end. But shouldn't such information have been made available to the public? Would the revelation that President Bush may have been getting answers fed to him during a debate prompted some voters to reconsider their support?

What's even more disturbing is the implication that the story may have been spiked to avoid charges of "liberal bias." That's pull-your-hair-out maddening. What's more important: kowtowing to one side or another - in a misguided concern over fairness - or releasing an arguably significant story and giving people information they should have?

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Super Bowl post-mortem

Now that was a game, even closer than I thought it'd be. Patriots 24, Eagles 21. The ending was a little ho-hum, however, because of the Eagles' seeming ineptness in running a hurry-up offense. (Well, it wasn't completely inept; they did score a touchdown to cut the margin to three points - on a great throw from McNabb to Greg Lewis.) But like the FOX announcers, I was baffled that Donovan McNabb and the Eagles' offense was taking its sweet time calling plays and moving down the field. It's like they didn't realize how little time was left in the game. Or thought their two time-outs would save them precious minutes.

McNabb also made an inexplicably boneheaded play with less than a minute left and 95 yards to go. With no receivers open down the field, McNabb settled for a short pass over the middle to his running back. Not only did the pass gain no yardage, but since it was complete, the clock kept running - a clock the Eagles couldn't stop because those last two time-outs had to be used on defense. And that sealed the game. 95 yards in 17 seconds? No way. McNabb should've thrown that ball away, settling for an incomplete pass and keeping at least another 10 seconds on the clock. It's easy for me to say, and I'm sure instinct takes over when you're in such a position, but McNabb lost his head on that play.

Maybe I'm being too hard on McNabb, but he made the mistakes when the game was on the line, and New England's Tom Brady didn't. McNabb had two interceptions, while Brady had none. And in a three-point game, that was probably the difference.

Other random thoughts:

● The Eagles' Terrell Owens was a man on the field. The man has two screws holding his broken (and badly sprained) ankle together. But Owens insisted he'd play, despite doctors telling him he was endangering his football career. Not only did Owens get on the field, he had nine catches for 122 yards. He was Philadelphia's leading receiver in the game. That was an impressive performance. Owens might be a loudmouth, but he plays and plays hard. He did everything he could to help the Eagles win the game.

Deion Branch, not Tom Brady, won the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player award. One of the amazing things about New England's success is that their players are low-key, relative no-names even to die-hard football fans. They're not attention-grabbing stars like Terrell Owens. But Branch quietly killed with the Eagles, grabbing 11 catches for 133 yards. It was a star-making performance. It'll be interesting to see if he draws the kind of attention and commercial endorsements in the weeks following this game that Brady would've if he'd won the MVP.

● Did anyone else think the commercials were lackluster? Only two stood out to me: the Diet Pepsi ad with P-Diddy hitching a ride with a Pepsi truck driver and the CareerBuilder.com spot that had a man working with monkeys in an office. But I can't imagine morning radio shows and water cooler conversations will be talking much about the commercials this year.

(The geek in me loved that "Batman Begins" trailer, though.)

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Chasing Oscar, part 1

Andrew Sacks for The New York Times

My beloved hometown Michigan Theater got some national exposure in Thursday's New York Times. It's a beautiful theater, run as a non-profit organization, and truly one of Ann Arbor's cultural gems. Of all the things I miss from my hometown, the Michigan Theater is at the top of the list. They have great popcorn, too.

But Micheline Maynard's feature focused on the frustration faced by filmgoers who live in smaller cities, far from bigger cities and media centers, and don't get an opportunity to see all of the Academy Award contenders. And even when those films do open in wider release, it's months after they premiere in cities such as New York and Los Angeles, and then markets like Chicago or Seattle. But Ann Arbor has it better than, say, Iowa City. For example, "Sideways" just opened here last weekend - undoubtedly due to its Oscar nominations. It was originally released in October. I saw it in Ann Arbor over the Thanksgiving holiday.

I know it's a matter of dollars and cents. Studios and distributors can't afford to exhibit movies everywhere. And a lot of theaters will make more money showing "Are We There Yet?" and "Hide and Seek" than a smaller, independent film like "Vera Drake." That's simple reality. I just wish I didn't have to wait until the majority of these movies are released on DVD to see them.

I hear there's a football game tomorrow

It happened some time this morning, while I was sipping a latte and flipping through a left-behind copy of yesterday's USA Today at a nearby coffee shop. I finally got Super Bowl Fever. Now, approximately 30 hours before the big game, I can't wait to watch it. (And I mean the game, not the commercials.) The last two weeks have been torturous; I hate the extra week the NFL places between the semi-final games and the Super Bowl. It just gives the national sports media more time to write irrelevant stories about what players like to wear, what sorts of insults they're hurling back and forth, how reclusive the coaches are, what kinds of movies they like to watch, blah blah blah.

A loudmouth like Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Freddie Mitchell wouldn't have received anywhere near the attention he's gotten over the past two weeks if it weren't for all this time that needed filling. Mitchell's been flapping his yap to anyone with a camera or notepad, trying to sell himself as an important player and taunting the New England Patriots, and the story-starved media laps it up like water. How significant has Mitchell been for the Eagles? He had 22 catches in 16 games this season. That's roughly one catch a game.

Here's how I like to look at that: that's only one more catch per game than I made, and I sit on my fat ass every Sunday, watching football on TV, figuring out whether I should actually cook or order a pizza for dinner. Yet from all the attention this guy has gotten the past two weeks, you'd think he'll actually influence the outcome of the Super Bowl. He might play a part in one interesting aspect of the game: the players he's been taunting, such as Rodney Harrison, might knock him unconscious when they get the chance. Can I make a bet on that, Las Vegas?

Meanwhile, the New England Patriots just sit back, waiting to play in the game, knowing that their actions on the field will speak louder than words away from it.

I think the Patriots are going to win this game, and anyone who thinks otherwise is just trying to be daring and swim against the current. The two-week break also gives people enough time to convince themselves that anything can happen, ignoring the cold evidence they've been given over the past 20 weeks or so. I'm not saying the Eagles can't win this game. They're obviously very good, and know exactly how difficult it is to get to the Super Bowl. They won't want to squander this opportunity. And with Donovan McNabb, the Eagles have a special player who is talented enough to beat a team by himself.

But the Patriots know they can be considered one of the better teams in NFL history if they win tomorrow, and I think they want that. Their eyes are on the prize; all the other stuff like media attention and commercial endorsements doesn't matter to them.

Tom Brady will finally avenge his loss to McNabb back in 1998 when Michigan played Syracuse. (McNabb looked like one of the greatest players of all time that day.) It will be a close game, maybe coming down to yet another Adam Vinatieri game-winning field goal. Patriots 27, Eagles 20.

Another Super Bowl note: here's a column from one of the four writers who have covered every Super Bowl, the Detroit News's Jerry Green. He thinks Jacksonville's ineptness at hosting this year's game will make Detroit look better next year. I hope you're right, Jerry.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Still swimming in the deep end

After seeing a TV review of James Cameron's new documentary, "Aliens of the Deep," I was intrigued by the footage showing a variety of bizarre aquatic life, including something that looked like a large underwater curtain. (I know, great description. End of a long week.) But I did find myself wondering the same thing Bryan Curtis asks in this Slate article: When is Cameron going to make another feature film? (As opposed to a documentary.) Here's Curtis's theory on Cameron's current career path:

"What happened to James Cameron? He hasn't directed a feature since he began working on Titanic 10 years ago, delving instead into utterly safe—and utterly mediocre—documentaries. Critics have mockingly compared him to Steve Zissou, the hero of The Life Aquatic, and like Zissou, Cameron seems waylaid by a severe case of filmmaker's block. His is an unusual problem: Hollywood has polished his reputation too much. Titanic and its attendant glory lent him a Spielbergian gloss of respectability, and Cameron, a B-movie wizard who was never high on respectability, doesn't seem to know quite what to do with it. He's an auteur turned recluse—Cameron obscura."
I'm not a huge fan of Cameron's films, though I liked the first two "Terminator" movies and consider "True Lies" a guilty (very guilty) pleasure. Like many people, I detached my retinas while rolling my eyes during Cameron's "I'm the king of the world" Oscar acceptance speech. But the guy does damn interesting things in his movies, always trying to push the boundaries of filmmaking technology. And if he wants to take a break and figure out how to incorporate 3-D technology into his next movie, or wait for projection technology to catch up with him, I believe he's earned that.

Though I admire Steven Soderbergh as a director, I would've liked to see what Cameron ould've done with the remake of "Solaris." Stanislaw Lem's original novel not only detailed what was happening to the astronauts exploring the planet Solaris, he portrayed the planet itself - and I think Cameron (who was a producer on the film) could've created some compelling imagery of that.

But I agree with Curtis in that I'd like to see good directors make more films. (David Poland has an interesting take on this at The Hot Button.) My friend Pete and I got into an interesting chat about this a couple of months ago. I expressed my frustration with guys like David O. Russell and Quentin Tarantino, who make fascinating films, but take years off between projects. There's something to be said for working when inspiration strikes, but pushing yourself to find that muse is a valuable creative exercise, as well. Pete seemed to disagree with me, maybe not in spirit, but perhaps in philosophy.

Cameron's spent a lot of time looking for his next muse. It'd be nice to see him finally get out of the pool and towel off. (And maybe he has. Rumor has it he's going to adapt the Japanese manga "Battle Angel Alita" into a film.)

Thursday, February 03, 2005

The Matrix revisited

Is anyone else watching "The Matrix" on HBO right now? (HBO's running each installment of the Matrix trilogy over the next three nights.)

With the disappointing taste of the sequels - "The Matrix Reloaded" and "The Matrix Revolutions" - still in my mouth, I'd forgotten just how amazing the original "Matrix" was. The effects and fight scenes were eye-popping at the time, only looking less special because they've been imitated in virtually every action movie over the past five years. The premise of living in a world controlled by computers instantly appealed to anyone stuck in an unhappy, unfulfilling life. I hesitate to use this term, but the movie really tapped into the cultural zeitgeist.

And then, of course, there's Carrie-Anne Moss in those tight black pleather pants.



Mercy.

Maybe I'll appreciate the sequels with time. I think the story and premise (not to mention the expectations of fans, critics, and academics) just got away from the Wachowski brothers. But on its own merit, "The Matrix" is still an incredible film. To me, it's easily one of the best science fiction flicks of the last 10 years.

Tipping points

What are some topics sure to ignite an argument among friends, colleagues, strangers, etc.? Politics? Surely. Religion? Almost certainly. Sports? Possibly. But a lot of us get into arguments about tipping. I know I have. Friendships have been strained. My mother began sending me to warm up the car (even in the summer) so she could leave a tip (or not leave a tip, perhaps) without me clucking my tongue over her shoulder. They say I leave too much, I say they're cheapskates. But I know it's not just me. I see you have the same arguments. I hear you bicker with your dining and drinking companions.

"15 or 20 percent? What? Only 10?"

"Dude, all they do is pour."

"She wasn't that great. She never even asked me if I wanted more water."

"It's a buffet. We get our own food."

"I don't get tipped at my job! And my job's stressful as hell! Why should I tip them?"
And so on and so on. Some feel strongly about tipping for service, others feel the opposite just as passionately. Many people don't understand how much of a waiter's wage depends on tips. Yet plenty of us wonder where the line is drawn when we see tip jars popping up seemingly everywhere. We argue ourselves into the ground, ultimately agreeing to disagree.

More gasoline was poured on the fire in yesterday's New York Times food section, with Julia Moskin's piece on waiters and restaurant staffers who complain about customers all over the web on sites and blogs such as Waiter Rant, The Stained Apron, and bitterwaitress.com, home of the Shitty Tipper Database.

This reminded me of a blog I discovered over the summer (also run by Jim Romenesko) called Starbucks Gossip. If you haven't already heard of it, there's a bunch of stuff about Starbucks's prominence in our culture, which is all fine and dandy. But the best entry was easily the one about tipping. The level of venom being hurled back and forth between baristas and customers will astound you. And amuse you. Maybe even frighten you. It's addictive reading. And there's a lot to read, man. (The page takes a while to load because of all the comments.)

The debate rages on. Here are two books on the subject: The Itty Bitty Guide to Tipping and Fodor's FYI: How to Tip.

Au revoir, Pierre

Oh, the University of Iowa campus was buzzing yesterday afternoon, with the news that men's basketball coach Steve Alford kicked his star player, Pierre Pierce, off the team. Pierce is being investigated by West Des Moines police for intent to commit sexual abuse, burglary, criminal mischief and false imprisonment. Though the alleged burglary probably would've gotten Pierce at least suspended, once the police added the charge of assault with intent to commit sexual abuse, the UI athletic department made its decision. In 2002, Pierce was arrested on a felony sexual assault charge, and later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault causing injury.

"I regret this step has become necessary, but Pierre has betrayed the trust we placed in him when he was given a second chance two years ago," Alford said in a statement released by the university. "Pierre is an excellent basketball player who will be missed by our team. But, given the circumstances, I feel this is the only appropriate response."
Though it was clearly the right thing to do, this might also result in the end of Steve Alford's career at Iowa. His basketball team got off to a blazing start, winning 12 of its first 13 games. Since then, however, Iowa has struggled against its Big Ten conference opponents, winning only three of seven games. And as Ryan Suchomel pointed out in last Sunday's Iowa City Press-Citizen, Alford was already on pretty shaky ground with Iowa. Attendance is dwindling. Players have been dismissed because of poor academics. The team fails to meet expectations. This thing with Pierce just amps up the level of disgust. (And many people thought Pierce never should've been allowed back on the team after the 2002 incident.)

Here's more on the Pierce story from the Des Moines Register and Iowa City Press-Citizen.

The Dean machine

So I missed the State of the Union address. Boy, I tried to get home after class to catch it. Really. But I had to pick up some dinner. And stop at the gas station. Oh, and when I got home, "Pardon the Interruption" was waiting for me on tape. So geez, I didn't get to watch it. Tuned in for a little bit of the Democratic response, though. And I suppose Nancy Pelosi had some interesting things to say. But you know who I would've liked to see give the official party response? Howard Dean. I don't know if the head of the Democratic National Committee would get that face time or not. But Dean is apparently the front-runner to win that job now.

I'm a little worried that he'd be a polarizing figure within the Democratic party, but I think he deserves to be one of its leading voices after bringing some spine back to the opposition. When Tom Daschle and his ilk were laying down for President Bush, Dean was the only one speaking up against the war in Iraq. Eventually, the other Democratic candidates jumped on the wagon he built. Dean also utilized innovative methods of grass roots campainging and fund-raising through the Internet. I think he still has much to offer the Democratic party, and a lot of unfinished business to take care of.

More thoughts on the State of the Union and Howard Dean (along with a bunch of other stuff) over at raging red. I just discovered her blog the other day (she's probably wondering who the new guy making all the comments is).

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Ouch, babe

©2005 Mark Tatulli

Mark Tatulli's comic strip "Heart of the City" is in "reruns" this week, and one of my all-time favorites ran yesterday. (This strip is tacked to my refrigerator.) I never did get around to writing Mr. Tatulli on behalf of Ians everywhere, but now I have a second chance to mobilize my troops. I'll show you who the dorkus is, pal.

Funny/Not Funny

• How many comic strips would you be willing to pay for? Since I don't get a newspaper (and the local ones have bad comics pages, anyway), I subscribe to comics.com and ucomics.com and get my favorite strips e-mailed to me. Maybe I'm a sucker, but I love the convenience. I like knowing that "Get Fuzzy" and "Pearls Before Swine" are waiting for me each day.

Another favorite of mine has been Michael Jantze's "The Norm," but last fall, he quit working with his syndicate and decided to go into business for himself. Or maybe more specifically, Jantze's wife appealed to fans, asking them if they'd be willing to pay for more Norm, essentially bankrolling an online version of the comic. The initial subscriber drive didn't quite meet expectations, but it was apparently close enough for Jantze to go forward and continue the strip. (Here's the story.)

$25 for a one-year subscription. At first glance, that seems a little rich for my blood. But that works out to about 7 cents a strip for the year? (Sure, I did that in my head.) That's a damn good deal, especially if you enjoy a comic strip. And I like "The Norm." It started out as sort of a "Dilbert" imitation, but eventually found its voice as a man trying to figure out who he is, what he wants from life, and trying to navigate that trail from overgrown kid to adult.

• Has anyone else watched NBC's horrible new sitcom, "Committed"? My oatmeal this morning was funnier than this dross. Annoying characters (one with a grating voice) and ridiculous story premises shoehorned into the same, boring, routine sitcom formula. Awful. It looks even worse, following an actual funny show like "Scrubs."

The fantastic four

I found this over at Jim Romensko's blog, which is an embarrassment of riches for media junkies. This is one of those stories that gets (quietly) mentioned every year, but the actual number keeps shrinking, and the longevity becomes more impressive. As a kid who wanted to be a sportswriter when he grew up, I was kind of awed by this. Only four sportswriters have covered all 38 Super Bowls: Jerry Izenberg of The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J., Edwin Pope of The Miami Herald, Jerry Green of The Detroit News, and Bob Oates of the Los Angeles Times.

I don't know if either of these guys has written a book about the experience, but one of them should. I'd read it, anyway. I'd love to see what they think about how the hype leading up to the big game has changed over the years. For instance, did any of you watch the "highlights" from Super Bowl media day yesterday on the news or ESPN? A bunch of guys trying to concoct stories, making proverbial mountains out of molehills. Actual journalists jostling for space with phoney "correspondents" from MTV, Nickelodeon, or "Entertainment Tonight." I'd go straight to the bar afterwards and ask for my own bottle of scotch.

The best stupid question at Super Bowl media day? In 1988 (Super Bowl XXII), someone asked Washington Redskins quarterback Doug Williams, "
How long have you been a black quarterback?"