Monday, February 27, 2006
In response to E's post.
I can think of a few that should make the list that I personally enjoyed in my lifetime:
- Jim Leyritz Homer off Mark Wohlers in Game 4 of the 1996 World Series that ruined him and started and new Yankee legacy.
- Kirby Puckett's Homer in the 10th inning of game 7 to win the 1991 World Series. I find this homer, this game and this series more interesting than Joe Carter's Walk-off shot in the 1993 series.
- Tom Watson beating Jack Nicklaus at Pebble Beach for the 1982 U.S. Open. It was one of the few times that I was ever rooting against my Dad's guy Nicklaus.
- The Patriots overcoming the Rams in the 2002 Super Bowl. I especially liked how Madden said they should sit on the ball and play for overtime and how they defied him by marching down the field and booting the ball through the uprights.
- The Pine Tar game in 1983. I was watching it live on sattelite dish. I remember that the announcers weren't sure why they were measuring Brett's bat against home plate. If you see the tape Graig Nettles celebrates by pounding his mit just moments before the ump calls Brett out and Brett storms out of the dugout. Nettles later wrote a book about that season and hated the decision to replay the game, but did say that it would in some funny way give rookie Don Mattingly a chance to extend a hit streak that this particular game ended. If he had connected, Mattingly would have had something like 28 games straight. That would have been the weirdest hitting streak on record. The whole thing resulted from Billy Martin seeing Brett's bat earlier in the series, and remembering that Thurman Munson was called out for the same violation after hitting a single in the 1970s. A bad rule no doubt, but I couldn't understand why the league office would overturn the umpires when blown calls have ruined many more significant contests.
- Pete Rose beating Cobb. It never should have been broken. How did he do it? How could anyone ever catch Rose now?
- Ripken beating another impossible record and leaving only Dimaggio's hitting streak as untouchable.
- Nolan Ryan umpteenth no-hitter. Sandy Koufax retired at 30. How could Ryan be strking out a guy per inning at the age of 45?
- Barry Bonds hitting his last legitmate homer back in 1993.
- Mark McGwire hitting his last legitmate homer in 1991.
- Bonds inviting McGwire's children to watch him break Daddy's record in 2001.
More to follow after some thought
Sunday, February 26, 2006
Several years ago I really enjoyed WORD FREAK by Stefan Fatsis. In the mood for a baseball book, I ordered Fatsis's WILD AND OUTSIDE: How a Renegade Minor League Revived the Spirit of Baseball in America's Heartland, (c)1995. WILD AND OUTSIDE was Fatsis's first book, solidly reported but tremendously dull.
The opening paragraph teased me that the Northern League, an independent pro league with teams in out of the way towns with serviceable stadiums and some baseball history like Winnipeg and Duluth, was taking shape in 1994 at just the time when the infamous strike cut short the 1994 MLB season. Hm, that sounds interesting. The final sentence says "No one, after all, owns the game more than the fans." Sentimental, nice. In between, scant mention of either promising premise.
I should have read the Acknowledgements first. Fatsis thanks journalists who introduced him to baseball people and thanks the owners of the Northern League teams. He followed the owners around with a tape recorder and notebook and the books reads that way. It's all about the business of baseball, and not in an insightful or thought-provoking way as Costas presented it in FAIR BALL; rather, with the joyless bottom-line focus of a new club owner who is trying to still love the game but is mostly concerned with gate receipts, concession sales, getting the local press off his back, and fielding a winning team.
What made WORD FREAK, an insider's look at the strange world of competitive Scrabble, so great was how Fatsis became part of the story. The hook was his foray into the varied neuroses of the players and the allure of the game itself, to which the author himself succumbed over the course of his reporting. Here he's an outsider, a reporter more concerned with fact-checking than with human interest. He's just trying to get the story, and forgetting to tell one.
Worse, he's an outsider writing to outsiders. No baseball fan needs to be told that "K" is scorekeeper notation for strikeout or that "to DL a guy" means to put him on the disabled list. Assume some knowledge on the reader's part or it isn't a baseball book.
The bottom line for me is that I don't *want* to understand the business side of minor league baseball. What I love about minor league baseball is that the business side is so far removed from the experience of the fan in the seats. Around here it's a short drive to the Reading Phillies, Harrisburg Senators or Lancaster Barnstormers. The baseball may not be as good as in Philly, but the overall experience is much more festive than a night at Citizens Bank Park, where the fan wants to care like he used to but just can't. The Reading Phillies pack the house most every night to hear some local girl sing the National Anthem, watch the ostrich-man fling hot dogs into the seats, and watch kids perform various feats of nonsense between innings. I don't want to know the owner is in the press box grinning because it looks like the rain is going to pass to the north and give him another 12 outs of concession sales, or fretting because the team bus broke down--I just want to enjoy the fun. Seeing the game through the owners' eyes was pretty depressing. As a fan, I don't want to know how tough a business baseball is. I just want to enjoy a night at the ballpark.
I am going to need to read something else before the season starts. Any suggestions?
Experts see medical ethics violations at Guantanamo - Yahoo! News
This story is quite halarious. There is nothing in the story that is different from what I wittnessed as a psychologist in the Bureau of Prisons for years. If what they are doing in Guantanamo is wrong, then every Federal Prison policy in the nation must be reevaluated.
I watched a man who refused to end a hunger strike, get strapped down into a chair, then force fed through a tube. It is indeed a horrible experience and a rough duty. But what is the alternative? Letting someone die of starvation? I guess since Terry Shivo, the left in this country consider keeping someone from starving to be "cruel." Hmmmmmmmmmmmm...
Don Knotts, who kept generations of TV audiences laughing as bumbling Deputy Barney Fife on "The Andy Griffith Show" and would-be swinger landlord Ralph Furley on "Three's Company," has died. He was 81.
Knotts, whose shy, soft-spoken manner was unlike his high-strung characters, once said he was most proud of the Fife character and doesn't mind being remembered that way.
His favorite episodes, he said, were "The Pickle Story," where Aunt Bee makes pickles no one can eat, and "Barney and the Choir," where no one can stop him from singing.
As a kid, I laughed myself silly at the Apple Dumpling Gang and Private Eyes. The Andy Griffith Show wasn't the same without him. He even had that cameo in Pleasantville.
Saturday, February 25, 2006
Bruce Willis, angered over the media's systematically negative portrayals of the war, is in talks to produce and star in a movie based on the heroic exploits of Michael Yon, a former Green Beret who maintains a blog at www.michaelyon-online.com.
Mr. Willis traveled to Iraq in 2003 and said last fall that he was "baffled to understand why the [positive] things I saw happening in Iraq are not being reported."
The forthcoming movie, Mr. Willis said, will dramatize the lives of "these guys who do what they are asked to for very little money to defend and fight for what they consider to be freedom."
Thursday, February 23, 2006
It's easy to look at every new generation and see the decline of Western Civilization. The practice tends to get a bit old. But sometiems an essayist is to astute in their observations that it's fun reading about the latest decline. Theodore Dalrymple is just such a writer:
Recently in London a correspondent of a left-liberal Dutch newspaper interviewed me, a decent, civilized sort—one of us, in short. I am sure that he brought up his children to say please and thank you, probably in several languages.
The correspondent asked me: what was wrong with tattooing, if that was how people wanted to adorn themselves?
I asked him whether he would have himself tattooed—whether he would be happy if his teenaged children had themselves tattooed—and if not, why not? After all, if he would not like it, he must have some inner objection to tattooing.
True, he said, but tattooing was not illegal. And since even I, who deprecated it, did not think that it should be illegal, there was nothing further to say about it. If tattooing was legal, it was thus of no social, moral, or cultural significance.
I tried to point out some of the cultural meanings of the vogue for tattooing. First, it was aesthetically worse than worthless. Tattoos were always kitsch, implying not only the absence of taste but the presence of dishonest emotion.
Second, the vogue represented a desperate (and rather sad) attempt on a mass scale to achieve individuality and character by means of mere adornment, which implied both intellectual vacuity and unhealthy self-absorption.
And third, it represented mass downward cultural and social aspiration, since everyone understood that tattooing had a traditional association with low social class and, above all, with aggression and criminality. It was, in effect, a visible symbol of the greatest, though totally ersatz, virtue of our time: an inclusive unwillingness to make judgments of morality or value.
But the correspondent’s premise that the legality of an act was the sole criterion by which one could or should judge it chilled me. It is a sinister premise. It makes the legislature the complete arbiter of manners and morals, and thus accords to the state quasi-totalitarian powers without the state’s ever having claimed them. The state alone decides what we have or lack permission to do: we have to make no moral decisions for ourselves, for what we have legal permission to do is also, by definition, morally acceptable.
Even worse than the correspondent’s implicitly totalitarian assumption was his lack of awareness of how societies cohere, and how social existence becomes tolerable, let alone pleasant. After all, the law does not prohibit rudeness, boorishness, and an infinity of unpleasant habits. But it is clear that if, for example, the prevalence of boorishness increases, life in society becomes more filled with friction and danger.
What I found so odd about the correspondent were his perfect manners and refined tastes. But so little confidence did he have in the value of the things that he valued that he seemed indifferent to the mechanism of their disappearance or destruction. This is the way a civilization ends: not with a bang but a whimper.
There is much to be said about the silent revolutions of apathy, but what I enjoyed most was this line -- "Tattoos were always kitsch, implying not only the absence of taste but the presence of dishonest emotion." --
It's not just that they're low class, but that like a Hallmark card, they're someone else's sentiment borrowed by the user to substitute for truth.
We all go through periods of trying to identify ourselves by shorthand. Clothing and hair styles change and we change with them, but tatoos linger long past a time in which they hold any context.
A person who gets a tatoo is making a bet with himself that the sentiments are timeless, because he does not intend to change. Since it's a sucker bet, we should line up as the opposition. Can you imagine the money we could make removing tatoos in say ten years?
Rush gets to the heart of the Port scandal.
Do you know when this story broke? This story broke before the Cheney story. This story's been out there longer than the Cheney story has been out there. Do you feel manipulated by the mainstream press? I told you last week, John Gambling, who is on WABC in New York, two hours prior to this program is, had Ann Compton of the White House press corps on during that whole Cheney kerfuffle, and he said, "Ann, what about this port story?"
She had no idea what it was. She had no idea what it was. All last week the media's marching orders were: "Screw Cheney! Get Cheney! Indict Cheney! Hope that Whittington dies. Make David Gregory the new pope of media, whatever," but this news has been out there long before the Cheney thing hit.
Another example of the media being a follow-the-leader game.
If Bush would say something like the quote below, I would agree with him. Instead he says nothing. He is very big on saying nothing. But I guess there is some benefit in letting your opponents do all the talking, since they can't help but expose themselves as hypocrites who will try anything for political gain. After all their crying that not all Muslims are terrorists, they don't want this deal because (i) all Muslims are terrorists, and (ii) by stating their opposition and making Bush pull out his first veto pen, if they get the port-enabled terrorist attack they've been hoping for, it can be because Bush handed over national security to Arabs. Never mind that not all Muslims are Arabs and not all Arabs are Muslims-- you're missing the point, that everything bad that has happened or could happen is Bush's fault.
The Dubai port deal could also serve to increase the depth and breadth of people-to-people contacts between America and important Muslim countries in the Reaganesque "trust but verify" mold. It is useful in this regard to remember the example of the U.S. International Military Education and Training (IMET) program, which for decades has trained foreign armies in unstable countries to stay out of politics and improved U.S. understanding of complex societies. It seems patently hypocritical that America wants democracy in the Middle East, champions capitalism and global integration, pushes for reform, transparency, and anti-corruption practices in business, and then turns around and tells those who are practicing what America preaches, Sorry, we think you folks are a bunch of terrorists, so we don't want you on our shores and don't trust you running our ports.
It is understandable that American politicians would want to seek clarifications, safeguards, and accountability on the DP World deal in honor of all those who were mercilessly murdered on that tragic September morning. But the best way to honor their memories is to use the Dubai deal as a model to build effective bridges to the Arab and Muslim world — as we did in Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan — instead of erecting barriers that reveal America's paranoia and fear about some Islamist doomsday scenario no one can predict, all the while alienating the very people we need to help raise up the Muslim world's disaffected so they are not so desperate to tear us down.
Monday, February 20, 2006
Memo from previous presidents to Bush 43:
Europe's day has passed. Couching it in gentler language does not alter the fact, no more than "unifying" a hodgepodge of weak nations makes them strong as a group.
"We are destined to be a barrier against the returns of ignorance and barbarism. Old Europe will have to lean on our shoulders, and to hobble along by our side." -Thomas Jefferson
"What a colossus shall we be." -Jefferson
"Any effort on our part to reason the world out of a belief that we are ambitious will have no other effect than to convince them that we add to our ambition hypocrisy." -John Quincy AdamsWe are the world's lone superpower, and we believe it is in the world's best interest that things remain that way. A real superpower doesn't poll other nations to see if they agree.
"Let us strive on to finish the work we are in, ... to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselvs and with all nations." -Abe LincolnWe used to understand the obvious -- that peace is achieved through force. Or as Lt. Col. Ralph Peters so perfectly put it: "Where we cannot be loved, we must be feared." The threat of force is empty without the perception that transgressors of peace will feel the might of force. Iran has to ask itself: "Do I feel lucky?" Were I they, I'd feel a lot less lucky facing Bush than facing any of his mealymouthed opponents inside and outside the party.
"In war, anything is better than indecision. We must decide." -Warrior-president U.S. GrantWith lo these many years of hindsight, the ABB crowd has still not decided what they would have done with Iraq. How could they possibly know what to do with Iran?
"There are occasional crimes committed on so vast a scale and of such peculiarOr in the words of Thoreau, "Aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something." Talk is cheap.
horror as to make us doubt whether it is not our manifest duty to endeavor at least to show our disapproval of the deed and our sympathy with those who have suffered by it... What form the action shall take must depend... upon the degree of the atrocity and upon our power to remedy it." -Teddy Roosevelt
"When properly directed, there is no people in the world not fitted for self-government." -Woodrow WilsonIf we had an intellectually honest press, they would acknowledge the racism and hypocrisy in their arguments that Arabs cannot support democracy. But we already know that they think most people other than themselves are too stupid, too feeble to succeed on their own ability.
"As a nation, ...the best way of dealing with the few slackers or trouble makers in our midst is, first, to shame them by patriotic example." -FDRPerhaps the shame bus has left the station, but why not treat traitors like traitors? People who actively aim to sully the nation should be tried and, if convicted, punished to the limit of the law. At the very least, such endeavor would promote a meaningful discussion regarding strategic national interests, the avoidance of which leaves Bush deserving most of the criticism he receives.
"It must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures... If we falter in our leadership, we may endanger the peace of the world--and we shall surely endanger the welfare of our own nation." -Harry TrumanMaybe, maybe not, but we should discuss this like grown-ups.
"Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any bruden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty." -JFKToday's Democrats flow where the wind blows. The wind has blown them far from their moorings, and at this point, should they care to return, it's a long and arduous trek back.
"I have no doubt today that, left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will use these terrible weapons again... The best way to end that threat once and for all is with a new Iraqi government -- a government ready to live in peace with its neighbors, a government that respects the rights of its people. Bringing change in Baghdad will take time and effort." -Bill ClintonBut not his time or effort. Thank God for a president who is willing to take bold world-changing action, and let history judge.
"Politics is not a bad profession. If you succeed, there are many rewards. If you disgrace yourself, you can always write a book." -Ronald Reagan
Alan Dowd article at nationalreview.com, 2/20/06.
THE WEEK magazine, 2/17/06, p.19.
Sunday, February 19, 2006
Popular Mechanics has examined the disaster and aftermath. They debunk myths and lay out what needs to be done to prevent future episodes. Here are a couple of interesting excerpts:
MYTH: "The aftermath of Katrina will go down as one of the worst abandonments of Americans on American soil ever in U.S. history."--Aaron Broussard, president, Jefferson Parish, La., Meet the Press, NBC, Sept. 4, 2005
REALITY: Bumbling by top disaster-management officials fueled a perception of general inaction, one that was compounded by impassioned news anchors. In fact, the response to Hurricane Katrina was by far the largest--and fastest-rescue effort in U.S. history, with nearly 100,000 emergency personnel arriving on the scene within three days of the storm's landfall.
Dozens of National Guard and Coast Guard helicopters flew rescue operations that first day--some just 2 hours after Katrina hit the coast. Hoistless Army helicopters improvised rescues, carefully hovering on rooftops to pick up survivors. On the ground, "guardsmen had to chop their way through, moving trees and recreating roadways," says Jack Harrison of the National Guard. By the end of the week, 50,000 National Guard troops in the Gulf Coast region had saved 17,000 people; 4000 Coast Guard personnel saved more than 33,000.
NEXT TIME: Any fatalities are too many. Improvements hinge on building more robust communications networks and stepping up predisaster planning to better coordinate local and national resources.
MYTH: "This is a once-in-a-lifetime event."--New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin, press conference, Aug. 28, 2005
REALITY: Though many accounts portray Katrina as a storm of unprecedented magnitude, it was in fact a large, but otherwise typical, hurricane. On the 1-to-5 Saffir-Simpson scale, Katrina was a midlevel Category 3 hurricane at landfall. Its barometric pressure was 902 millibars (mb), the sixth lowest ever recorded, but higher than Wilma (882mb) and Rita (897mb), the storms that followed it. Katrina's peak sustained wind speed at landfall 55 miles south of New Orleans was 125 mph; winds in the city barely reached hurricane strength.
By contrast, when Hurricane Andrew struck the Florida coast in 1992, its sustained winds were measured at 142 mph. And meteorologists estimate that 1969's Category 5 Hurricane Camille, which followed a path close to Katrina's, packed winds as high as 200 mph. Two factors made Katrina so devastating. Its radius (the distance from the center of the storm to the point of its maximum winds, usually at the inner eye wall) was 30 miles--three times wider than Camille's. In addition, Katrina approached over the Gulf of Mexico's shallow northern shelf, generating a more powerful storm surge--the water pushed ashore by hurricanes--than systems that move across deeper waters. In Plaquemines Parish, south of New Orleans, the surge topped out at 30 ft.; in New Orleans the surge was 25 ft.--enough to overtop some of the city's floodwalls.
NEXT TIME: According to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, the Atlantic is in a cycle of heightened hurricane activity due to higher sea-surface temperatures and other factors. The cycle could last 40 years, during which time the United States can expect to be hit by dozens of Katrina-size storms. Policymakers--and coastal residents--need to start seeing hurricanes as routine weather events, not once-in-a-lifetime anomalies.
MYTH: "They have people ... been in that frickin' Superdome for five days watching dead bodies, watching hooligans killing people, raping people."--New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Sept. 6, 2005
REALITY: Both public officials and the press passed along lurid tales of post-Katrina mayhem: shootouts in the Superdome, bodies stacked in a convention center freezer, snipers firing on rescue helicopters. And those accounts appear to have affected rescue efforts as first responders shifted resources from saving lives to protecting rescuers. In reality, although looting and other property crimes were widespread after the flooding on Monday, Aug. 29, almost none of the stories about violent crime turned out to be true. Col. Thomas Beron, the National Guard commander of Task Force Orleans, arrived at the Superdome on Aug. 29 and took command of 400 soldiers. He told PM that when the Dome's main power failed around 5 am, "it became a hot, humid, miserable place. There was some pushing, people were irritable. There was one attempted rape that the New Orleans police stopped."
The only confirmed account of a weapon discharge occurred when Louisiana Guardsman Chris Watt was jumped by an assailant and, during the chaotic arrest, accidently shot himself in the leg with his own M-16.
When the Superdome was finally cleared, six bodies were found--not the 200 speculated. Four people had died of natural causes; one was ruled a suicide, and another a drug overdose. Of the four bodies recovered at the convention center, three had died of natural causes; the fourth had sustained stab wounds.
Anarchy in the streets? "The vast majority of people [looting] were taking food and water to live," says Capt. Marlon Defillo, the New Orleans Police Department's commander of public affairs. "There were no killings, not one murder." As for sniper fire: No bullet holes were found in the fuselage of any rescue helicopter.
NEXT TIME: "Rumors are fueled by a shortage of truth," says Ted Steinberg, author of Acts of God: The Unnatural History of Natural Disasters in America. And truth was the first casualty of the information breakdown that followed the storm. Hardening communications lines (see page 3) will benefit not just first responders, but also the media. Government officials have a vital role in informing the public. Ensuring the flow of accurate information should be part of disaster planning at local, state and federal levels.
Thursday, February 16, 2006
Cheney finally addressed the incident Wednesday, but the forum in which he chose to do so -- in an exclusive interview with Fox News host Brit Hume -- quickly became another source of contention.
Fox News executives cast the scoop as the result of persistence and the growing clout of the top-rated cable news network.
But some Democrats and competing broadcasters charged that Cheney chose to speak only with Fox News because of a perception that the cable channel is sympathetic to the Republican administration. They called for the vice president to hold a news conference with the rest of the media.
"Now that he feels forced to talk, he wants to restrict the discussion to a friendly news outlet, guaranteeing no hard questions from the press corps," Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., said in a statement.
On CNN, commentator Jack Cafferty called the interview "a little bit like Bonnie interviewing Clyde. ... I mean, running over there to the Fox network -- talk about seeking a safe haven."
Now that's downright uncharitable. I don't remember CNN having such a problem when the fawning Dan Rather interviewed Bill Clinton about his memoir. We didn't see any hard hitting questions there, did we? Here's a refresher or two:
When CBS paired Rather with Connie Chung in 1993, he sought inspiration from Bill CLinton. "If we could be one-hundredth as great as you and Hillary Rodham Clinton have been in the White House, we'd take it right now and walk away winners."
"I read the book [My Life by Bill Clinton] completely. And I think it compares very favorably with Ulysses S. Grant's gold standard of presidential autobiographies." — Dan Rather on CNN's Larry King Live, June 18, 2004.
Sorry Dan. You probably read that Grant's autobiography was great, because people that love American history have said so, but his autobiography didn't deal with his presidency. It focused on his success during the Civil War.
But I'm sure Clinton's memoir would compare favorable with anything written by Nikita Khrushchev, something you probably have read.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Steelers RB Duce Staley, a week into trying to fill Jerome Bettis's shoes, is not off to a very good start.
Steelers running back Duce Staley told authorities that jewelry worth $100,000 was stolen from him during a scuffle at the entrance to a gentlemen's club near his home in South Carolina.
The incident occurred around 4 a.m. Saturday at Studio 54, about three miles from downtown Columbia, said Richland County Sheriff's Lt. Chris Cowan.
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Paramount's new specialty division has acquired worldwide rights to Participant Prods.' global-warming documentary "An Inconvenient Truth," featuring Al Gore.
Helmed by Davis Guggenheim ("Deadwood," "The First Year"), the film, which had its world premiere at last month's Sundance Film Festival, weaves the science behind the issue of global warming with the former vice president's personal history and longtime commitment to communicating the pressing need to reverse the effects of global climate change.
What's sillier, thinking man has caused the planet to warm or to think that man can stop it? In other news. . .
Residents were digging out Monday from a winter storm that dumped more than two feet of snow on some parts of the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states, forcing travelers around the country to change their plans.
More than 20 inches of snow blanketed some spots from Maryland to New England. In Central Park in New York, a record 26.9 inches of snow piled up Sunday, breaking the mark of of 26.4 inches in December 1947, the National Weather Service said.
Why doesn't Gore do something to stop the snow too?
The more I use email, the more I regret it. From time to time I get accused of having tone that I did not intend, which on re-reading, I can (usually) understand. The problem is that I write an email in my voice, with my tone, pitch, pace and inflection, but they read it in their voice, which may or may not line up with mine. This is why, before I send an important letter or email, I ask my wife or my assistant to read it to me aloud, so I can fix anything that doesn't play back the way I meant it to sound. I almost always need to make revisions. It can be very enlightening to hear others read your thoughts and realize how your plain meaning failed to get across.
New research confirms that email causes rampant miscommunication. In a study of email partners, Senders predicted that their tone would be correctly interpreted 80 percent of the time. Recipients believed they correctly interpreted Senders' tone 90 percent of the time. In fact, Recipients correctly interpreted Senders' tone a mere 50 percent of the time.
This explains why I make men angry and make women cry. Just what do I mean by that?
Best (recommended sport):
1. L.A. (NFL)
2. Phila (MLS)
3. Hartford (NHL)
4. Las Vegas (NBA)
5. Portland (NFL)
6. Oklahoma City (NBA)
7. Rochester NY (MLS)
8. Virginia Beach/Norfolk (NBA)
9. Northern NJ (MLB)
10. San Bernadino/Riverside (MLB)
1. Tampa/St Pete
10. Minn/St Paul
Monday, February 13, 2006
A house erroneously valued at $400 million is being blamed for budget shortfalls and possible layoffs in municipalities and school districts in northwest Indiana.
County Treasurer Jim Murphy said the home usually carried about $1,500 in property taxes; this year, it was billed $8 million.
Most local officials did not learn about the mistake until Tuesday, when 18 government taxing units were asked to return a total of $3.1 million of tax money. The city of Valparaiso and the Valparaiso Community School Corp. were asked to return $2.7 million. As a result, the school system has a $200,000 budget shortfall, and the city loses $900,000.
Officials struggled to figure out how the mistake got into the system and how it could have been prevented. City leaders said Thursday the error could cause layoffs and cost-cutting measures.
This shows how government will always eat whatever food you put in front of it, whether or not they really need it. Valparaiso will now do with less. Orlando could learn a lesson.
I've always thought the library was one of the best uses of tax money and Orlando has a great system. I paid about $40 in property taxes last year that went directly to the library system and they fine the heck out of people for late returns. The two together result in a multi-million dollar budget they can't begin to spend. Now the library is practically a blockbuster video store with a ton of DVD titles. Lately, they began stocking X-Box games. Too much money. And yet the county complains that they don't have enough money for schools.
Thursday, February 09, 2006
We have resisted the idea for a long time. But where there's a will (and a profit motive), there's a way. Is there a will? What price freedom?
Hanson: Without nuclear acquisition, a Pakistan or Iran would warrant little worry. It is no accident that top al Qaeda figures are either in Pakistan or Iran, assured that their immunity is won by reason that both of their hosts have vast oil reserves or nukes or both.
The lesson from all this is that in order to free the United States from such blackmail and dependency, we must at least try to achieve energy independence and drive down oil prices — and see that no Middle East autocracy gains nuclear weapons. Those principles, along with support for democratic reform, should be the three pillars of American foreign policy.
Monday, February 06, 2006
Ang Lee answering a question in Time Magazine:
Ang, were you surprised that "Brokeback Mountain" hasn't raised more protest from the religious right?
LEE: I didn't know they would take a position of deliberate quietness, so that they wouldn't [inadvertently] promote the movie.
So Lee went into the film with the intention of offending and is quite hurt that no one cares. Are they making these movies for the public or for each other? In short, Lee was denied his shot at martyr of the year.
Next time expect something with beasts.
Sunday, February 05, 2006
Mark Steyn has a poignant take on the matter.
Last year, a newspaper called Jyllands-Posten published several cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed, whose physical representation in art is forbidden by Islam. The cartoons aren't particularly good and they were intended to be provocative. But they had a serious point. Before coming to that, we should note that in the Western world "artists" "provoke" with the same numbing regularity as young Muslim men light up other countries' flags. When Tony-winning author Terence McNally writes a Broadway play in which Jesus has gay sex with Judas, the New York Times and Co. rush to garland him with praise for how "brave" and "challenging" he is. The rule for "brave" "transgressive" "artists" is a simple one: If you're going to be provocative, it's best to do it with people who can't be provoked.Hollywood can still muster the effort to make a film of the Joe McCarthy Era, but they can't even say word one about the murder of Theo Van Gogh.
Thus, NBC is celebrating Easter this year with a special edition of the gay sitcom "Will & Grace," in which a Christian conservative cooking-show host, played by the popular singing slattern Britney Spears, offers seasonal recipes -- "Cruci-fixin's." On the other hand, the same network, in its coverage of the global riots over the Danish cartoons, has declined to show any of the offending artwork out of "respect" for the Muslim faith.
Which means out of respect for their ability to locate the executive vice president's home in the suburbs and firebomb his garage.
Islamo-Fascism now is the equivalent to communism in the 1950s. The Russians were once a scary enemy to those on the left and the right. They did exist once, actual cold war liberals, but you wouldn't know it from the history as told in Hollywood. That Bobby Kennedy was a close friend of Joe McCarthy and Joe was the godfather of Bobby’s daughter the recent governor of Maryland doesn't fit the frame very well.
Even in the early 1960s, when McCarthy was long dead, the McCarthy tactics were treated as buffoonery in MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, but communism wasn't treated lightly at all. The McCarthy character was the communist. This point is always lost on modern day critics that simply refer to the movie as an indictment on McCarthy.
See, you have to win the war to make light of those that won it. The Democrats and the media have been trying to do something similar lately. They have criticized Bush's surveillance program, because the success of it has allowed them to portray it as unnecessary. Although they won't show a simple cartoon out of fear, the Bush Administration is being alarmist or draconian or unconstitutional for having the same fear.
Unlike some puffed up Hollywood pontificators, I’ve always had respect for George Clooney. He may have a conspiratorial liberal belief system, but at least he has a sense of humor about himself. Sean Penn can’t even let the South Park guys poke fun. I tend to like Clooney movies and the Murrow one is probably well done, though I figure he won’t be treated as the buffoon like in the 1960s, but a real menace.
But one has to ask what exactly do liberals find offensive about McCarthy? If it’s his tactics, the great Mark Levin reminds us that they’re not above using those tactics themselves. If it’s the anti-communism, what did they find so endearing about the Berlin Wall? The composite answer is something like communism would have fallen on its own and some good Hollywood writers were "terrorized." Just listen to the language and you'll see they talk about screenwriters using psuedonyms the way mainstream Americans talk about flight 93.
Between the silence on Theo Van Gogh and the unwillingness of NBC to show Islam in a way they’d gladly show Christianity, you realize that what the cultural left really lacks is seriousness. Their act is one of day-to-day class clown, but we don’t always see it, because they don’t always smile.
We’ll win the war against terrorists and we’ll do so fighting the intelligencia the entire way. And once the enemy is good and beat, and the media can safely make fun of Muslims without threat of death, they’ll be making movies about how unnecessary the whole thing really was and how Bush violated civil liberties for nothing. For now though, the critics of the administration are secretly happy that Bush has the guts that they lack.
GOING IN STYLE (1979) – I remember seeing some of this movie as a kid and I don’t know why I remembered it as a comedy except that the trailers tried to paint it as one. It’s sometimes funny but more drama than anything else. Three old men George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg decide to rob a bank out of sheer boredom. All three pull off their roles well, but I was especially impressed with Burns who rose above the schmaltz of Oh God franchise among other things. To ruin the plot, Strasberg becomes ill and dies. Burns and Carney decide to give most of the money to Carney’s nephew and they take the rest to lose in Vegas. Instead of losing they come away with a bigger stack than they got out of the bank. The whole thing is handled in a very unsentimental way and I came away enjoying it for its quiet tone and interesting performances.
SPAGHETTI WEST (2005) – A documentary about Spaghetti Westerns is quite interesting when the subject is Eastwood, but wanes when they talk about Klaus Kinski and the myriad of films with the title Django. The period of filmmaking didn’t last long, but it produced a whole lot of celluloid and it influenced the American westerns that followed.
MYSTERIOUS SKIN (2004) – The movie was described as a missing time recollection and how a teenager studies UFOLOGY to learn what happened to him that day years ago when his little league game was rained out and he woke up in his basement with a bloody nose. There was also a second little leaguer that became a gay prostitute after getting a little too cozy with the baseball coach. Despite the review I read, the other kid is the one that actually dominates the film, and though I haven’t seen Brokeback Mountain, I’m sure it’s tame compared to the gratuitous graphic nature of this movie. Men come off pretty lousy in the piece; they are poor fathers, absentee fathers or pedophiles while the women are all long suffering.
THE CLEARING (2004) – Robert Redford shows up so infrequently these days you have to wonder what he looks for in a script to finally do a film. Here Redford is kidnapped in the first 5 minutes by Willem Dafoe and it’s easy to see that he isn’t a professional at such jobs. The men begin to have pretty normal conversations about their wives and their regrets and although one is rich and the other is poor, both wish they could have been better husbands. Redford has another woman on the side, but he still loves Helen Mirren the most and he comes to realize that during the snatching. The movie is told in separate action with Mirren and the kids learning things days after they happened inter cut with Redford on the day of the incident. I thought the movie was compelling enough but maybe the device of good guy/bad guy parallel lives has been done a bit too much. HEAT may have had the classic take on that issue.
ANIMAL CRACKERS (1930) – I’ve seen it countless times and I decided to start the new year with a Marx film to remind me that life is pretty great. I think it’s the best of the early talkies, because although it has the same technical limitations, and it’s nothing but a filmed version of their long-running stage play complete with Groucho’s asides, it still brings laughs in buckets. Groucho’s intro speech was my standard audition monologue for years. The “I shot an elephant in my pajamas” got a laugh every time. I don’t think it ever got me any parts, but it was fun to deliver. I auditioned for Disney once in college and one guy on the panel laughed all the way through. He must have been familiar with the movie.
+LOVE ACTUALLY (2004) – WHEN HARRY MET SALLY was a clever and unique film when it debuted in 1989, but it spawned so many half-assed imitators and created such an obnoxious sub genre that I have little patience for what Americans do with romantic comedies. In fact, I think that the resurgence of witty teen comedies is a direct result of creative minds tired of the adult genre. A minor teen comedy like TEN THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU was more interesting than any romantic movie comedy that Meg Ryan has made since 1989. One romantic comedy that I liked was the Julia Roberts vehicle, NOTTING HILL. I don’t know whether it was the mostly British cast or just the fact that it didn’t try to be too cute. And now the British film, LOVE ACTUALLY takes the British version of these films one step further. It was one of the best films of 2004 and I’ve seen it twice again this month and it just plain works on every level. It finds a very honest way to deal with the subject using humor, sadness and even some sentimentality. It also helps that the cast is amazing, using about half the British actors any American could name, and some you recognize and can’t name. A few interesting Americans show up too. Like any movie with a big cast, there is a little too much of people running into one another randomly in a big town like London, but I can forgive SHORT CUTS ands MAGNOLIA for this so why not forgive this worthwhile effort too.
PIE IN THE SKY (1995) – I had no business watching this movie except that it came on when I was writing email and it had a couple of laughs and I wound up seeing too much of it to turn it off. Josh Charles stars as a guy obsessed with the traffic and his idol, John Goodman, the traffic reporter on the radio. He meets Anne Heche during college and although they have a decent spark, they lose touch until a few years later when he happens to run into her in a Los Angeles diner. The audience gets to wait around for Josh to have his big shot as traffic reporter and reconciliation with Heche. Films shown on TV are a great study of the economics of time. Why is it that we’re more likely to sit and watch something on TV, when we wouldn’t watch the same thing on DVD if it sat right in front of us? Or why is it that we’ll be held captive by some movie that comes on that we enjoy when we own the same DVD and never bother to put it in? I don’t fall victim to it as much as some I know, but now that we have HBO again, I notice that it happens with greater frequency than I would have predicted. I won’t sit and watch films on commercial networks no matter how much I like them, but I know many that will wade through the commercials instead of putting in the same DVD.
THE GREAT RAID (2005) – A war movie based on real events that lacks the rightwing Rambo heroism or the leftwing cynicism and gore. It’s simply about a group of American soldiers tasked with liberating a Japanese prisoner of war camp. The men in the camp are leftover from the Bataan death march years earlier and if disease doesn’t kill the last 500 of them, then the Japanese will probably execute them as they retreat in order to leave no war crimes witnesses. The mission holds no strategic value, but saving the men is the right thing to do. The value of honor is summed up when Benjamin Bratt tells James Franco that the mission is the most important thing any of them will ever do in their lives. Success will lead to an inner glory that the men will carry with them forever. It has a quiet sort of tone and a slow pace, the kind you might expect for a movie made for HBO. It could have been 20 minutes shorter maybe, and the subplot of the beautiful woman in the underground helping the prisoners is too movieish, but the characters mostly seem like real people. And if you consider it an ode to the old fashioned 40s era war movies, then it’s downright restrained.
+WAGES OF FEAR (1952) French film and winner of the Cannes film Festival. A group of streets bums are given the task of taking some explosives to an oil field over bumpy terrain. They’ll be risking their lives but making so much money they can’t pass up the offer. Theirs great suspense and more challenges along the way than one screenwriter generally imagines realistically. We even get the pining French girl for our hero to return too.
OCEANS 12 (2004) – It’s been on a lot this month and although preposterous it’s so much fun that I keep on in the background. Like the first, the music is good all the way through and the dialogue delivery funny in a dry sort of way. The Clooney/Pitt banter is always fun and the little things with Bruce Willis showing up and the Sixth Sense jokes are worthwhile too.
Thursday, February 02, 2006
One more reason why Peggy Noonan is the sexiest woman in politics. She can sum it all up in one paragraph:
There was only one unforgettable moment, and that was in a cutaway shot, of Hillary Clinton, who simply must do something about her face. When the president joked that two people his father loves are turning 60 this year, himself and Bill Clinton--why does he think constant references to that relationship work for him?--it was Mrs. Clinton's job to look mildly amused, or pleasant, or relatively friendly, or nonhostile. Mrs. Clinton has two natural looks, the first being a dull and sated cynicism, the second the bright-eyed throaty chuckler who greets visiting rubes from Utica. The camera caught the first; by the time she realized she was the shot, she apparently didn't feel she could morph into the second. This canniest of politicians still cannot fake benignity.