Saturday, December 28, 2002

ADMIRATION: Saw Adaptation last night at the new Bridge "cinema de lux" theatre in University City -- which, in and of itself, merits comment at some point, but not now.

There is much to admire about Adaptation -- the inventiveness of the script, the performances, and just the sheer technical achievement of getting two Nicholas Cages into the same frame. This is a terrific concept for a movie -- a movie that both attacks and consciously adheres to the conventions of Hollywood filmmaking, showing why certain stories are both unadaptable to narrative filmmaking yet adapting this one just the same, decrying the inability of a movie to convey cinematically the sheer beauty of an orchid while nevertheless finding a way to celebrate it.

It is, on one level, a delicious mobius strip. But that's its problem as well -- I was so enraptured by the movie-within-and-above-the-movie that I was seeing that I was unable to connect on any emotional level with the characters within the movie. The whole enterprise left me cold. I just didn't care about what I was seeing, because I was too busy deconstructing its own self-deconstruction. I was anticipating its own moves even before the script called your attention to it -- the level of self-referentialism almost forbids you from making any other kind of attachment to the movie but a purely intellectual one.

Being John Malkovich, the last film by the Spike Jonze/Charlie Kaufman duo, was also a colossal mindfuck, but it was one of a different sort: its discursions on the nature of identity had a depth and feeling to them that this movie didn't. You cared about the characters in that film, and you wanted to see how things ended up -- because, unlike Adaptation, the movie allowed you to lose yourself in the cinematic experience as opposed to making you self-conscious and feel complicit in the act of watching an artificial creation adapted, more-or-less, from a real-life book.

Adaptation shreds the wall between truth and fiction. It will likely make you question any movie you see from this point forward that it alleged to have a basis in reality, and will help you see the narrative conventions being used to make you care about the characters and give you the emotional reactions that a good movie does. Real life just isn't structured the way satisfying fiction or film is, which isn't to say that it's not interesting: of course it is, and the movie makes a big point of saying this. It recognizes the futility of just trying to make a nice movie about flowers, so instead it makes one about the futility of making a nice movie about flowers, only it does so by, well, I can't give away the third act. That's not fair. But I can say that its way of calling attention to itself puts the viewer on an impossible tightrope. Either you passively watch the movie oblivious to everything it's underlining in terms of its adherence to formal conventions, and enjoy it for the goofy, unexpected romp which follows; or you remain cognizant of all that and appreciate the movie, but never escape from the experience of knowing that You Are Watching A Movie.

I mean, gosh, it's all really interesting. It really is. I admired the heck out of what they were trying to do here. It just didn't work completely for me -- or, maybe, it did, and I responded in exactly the way it was intended. Who knows?

Would you like to know more? I can only commend to you Janet Malcolm's book The Crime of Sheila McGouch, about the impossibility of arranging real-life narratives to be courtroom-plausible. It's an absolute favorite of mine, and if you find this stuff interesting, start there.
PILING ON: I'm probably going to hell for this, a hell in which I'll have to watch this movie, but, okay, here's Part III:

Philadelphia Inquirer: The result is an epic turkey, in a league with this year's Swept Away, that must be seen to be believed. . . . Concentrating on the music instead of the dialogue gave me time to ruminate on why the gentle, rubber-faced comic felt compelled to play a puppet-boy who constantly lies and is constantly forgiven. Was his purpose in adapting this classic Italian tale to make a parable about the infantile behavior of moviemakers?

Newark Star-Ledger: Yes, Mommy, I know why "Pinocchio's" nose is growing. But why is he going bald? The beloved Roberto Benigni pushes his fortuna too far with a live-action adaptation likely to disperse his American following as quickly as "Life is Beautiful" recruited it. It's not pretty to see a grown man cry, and whimper and whine and simper, even if he's playing a madcap puppet idiotically described by everyone as resembling a little boy. And especially not a sallow, balding, desiccated fellow inching into late-middle age. . . . Maybe there's an unreported Italian tradition of employing long-in-the-tooth comedians as Pinocchio, akin to casting small, dynamic women as Peter Pan. If there is no such tradition, this movie won't start one.

San Francisco Chronicle: "Pinocchio" is punishment for the moviegoer. Given that Miramax made a killing off Benigni's "Life Is Beautiful," the studio's dumping of "Pinocchio" may seem shabby and ungrateful. After seeing the movie, however, its decision is clearly the kindest possible move, short of shelving the movie altogether.

In the interest of equal time, if anyone finds a favorable review, please know that I will run it. I owe Benigni that much.

Friday, December 27, 2002

And then nothing turned itself inside-out: Tonight on Larry King Live -- Larry King and James Lipton, host of Bravo's Inside the Actor's Studio, compete in the finals of the Ass-Kisser Of The Year tournament. 2001's winner, Vanity Fair's Dominick Dunne, will be on hand to award the trophy.

edited to add: Here's the transcript. In addition to kissing each other's asses, look at the Double Smoochy they put on Robin Williams here:

KING: Back to Robin Williams. There are critics -- and I guess you read them -- who seem to be angry at him for doing movies, like, where he plays the good doctor or the sad movie or the prison camp in the Holocaust. Do you criticize him for doing that? Sentimental...

LIPTON: I criticize those critics. The reason being that they're doing one of the worst things that ever can be done to an actor, which is to say, Look, you do what we like you to do or else. Cary Grant spent an entire career being light-hearted and suscient and a wonderful leading man. He tried once in his career to do a serious part and they excoriated him and he never went back to it the rest of his career.

KING: Brando told me the best ones -- actors are risk takers. They will take the shot.

LIPTON: Absolutely.

KING: Right?

MORE ON PINOCCHIO: As promised. No, it doesn't get any better:
Associated Press: Apparently unhappy with his efforts to dub his character into English with his own voice, Benigni fired himself at the last minute and hired American actor Breckin Meyer, whose voice work as Pinocchio takes the form of a nattering, whiny, supremely annoying monologue. He talks to himself frequently, but even when he's talking to someone else he sounds like he's the only one in the room.

Why did Benigni think this was a good idea? Beyond that, why did he think anything about his deadly live-action version of "Pinocchio" was a good idea? Using the creative freedom afforded to him by "Life is Beautiful," Benigni has massacred a children's classic

Baltimore Sun: For one thing, there's Benigni in the title role. It is very hard to accept as a child a man of 50 who does nothing to hide his receding hairline or his height. It's also tough to accept him as a puppet: There is nothing especially puppetlike in his appearance or in the way he moves. Couldn't Benigni, a gifted clown elsewhere, at least have drawn a couple of lines down the sides of his mouth to indicate a hinge? Or something?

Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Here's a simple rule for Oscar-winning actors: If you're going to make yourself look like a complete idiot for a movie, you should at least get a few laughs for your trouble. Roberto Benigni, in his little clown's pajamas and his little cone hat, certainly looks like an idiot in his new live-action version of Pinocchio. He does not, however, get any laughs.

The Globe And Mail: [A] Pinocchio with 5-o'clock shadow and tufts of arm hair poking out from under the sleeves of his puppet costume [] borders on creepy.... For grownup Canadian viewers who prefer watching their foreign films with subtitles, the dubbed version of Pinocchio also presents the annoying distraction of using well-known voices, namely, Glenn Close (the Blue Fairy), Regis Philbin (the Ringmaster) and John Cleese (the Cricket). It was hilarious hearing Cleese's voice as a gorilla in Disney's live-action comedy George of the Jungle, but it is decidedly odd -- and not in an amusing Monty Python way -- hearing his familiar British cadence emanating from a balding Italian actor with antennae on his head.

If there's more, I'll keep 'em coming.
CORRECTION: A reader points out that Woodrow Wilson was born in Virginia. Also, Missouri, home of Harry Truman, kinda-sorta-seceded -- but not really, and I don't really see Missouri -- or Truman -- as Southern. Your mileage may vary.

Thursday, December 26, 2002

GEORGE ALLEN, HERE'S YOUR SISTER SOULJAH MOMENT: The Sons of Confederate Veterans have announced their opposition to a statue of Abraham Lincoln and his son Tad to be dedicated in April 2003 at the Civil War Vistors Center in Richmond, VA. Lincoln and his son had visited the city days before the war's end, and the Richmond-based United States Historical Society felt it was worth commemorating.

According to the AP dispatch, "The Sons of Confederate Veterans view the Lincoln statue as "a slap in the face of a lot of brave men and women who went through four years of unbelievable hell fighting an invasion of Virginia led by President Lincoln," Brag Bowling, the SCV Virginia commander, said Thursday."

Or, if you look at, home of the Dixie Daily News, we see a link to the news item, with the description: "A Statue of Lincoln To Be Placed in Richmond - How disgusting and maybe next we will have one of Sherman in Atlanta or of Hitler in Tel Aviv. We urge Southerners to organize, e-mail the sponsors to stop this heritage and cultural outrage!" Or, via the same website, this cartoon for more on what they think about Lincoln.

Why all the outrage? According to Civil War scholar Edward C. Smith, director of the American Studies program at American University, "To the best of my knowledge there is no public statuary that commemorates Lincoln anywhere in the South. Therefore, the only image that Southerners see of Lincoln is on our national currency: the one cent penny and the five dollar bill."

Smith may have inadvertantly hit the nail on the head two years ago in a speech supporting the concept of a Lincoln statue in Richmond:
At some point in time, and it still may be too soon, a sculptured statue of Lincoln should be erected in Richmond. If that should ever happen, the war would finally be over.

For most of us, of course, the war ended in April 1865. And if there are still people walking around claiming that it's not really over -- not after Reconstruction, not after Brown v. Board of Education, not after the civil rights movement and the laws passed in the 1960s, not after Lyndon Johnson (the first Southerner elected President since Zachary Taylor in 1848) spearheaded the passage of those laws from the Senate and the Presidency, not even after South Carolina's multiracial Hootie and the Blowfish won the 1996 Grammys for Best New Artist and Best Pop Vocal Performance (Duo or Group) . . . well, I don't know that a statue's going to make everyone all hunky and dory all of a sudden, but it's a necessary start. It will be interesting to see how the South's conservative politicians line up on this issue, whether pro-statue, against, or, as I'd expect, silent.

The current UPI article has a bit more on Smith and this controversy.
SHOWGIRLS? IS IT THAT BAD? Fans of this website (yes, all three of you) know that I'm a big fan of bad reviews. Well, god bless Roberto Benigni, because his Pinocchio was quietly dropped into theaters yesterday, and the reviews are trickling in:
The New York Times: The voice-overs [ ] are so sloppy you might feel as if you're watching a 1978 Hong Kong action picture: the dubbed mouths of the Italian cast are probably still moving an hour after the film is over... I guess Geppetto doesn't get out much, because his idea of a child is a 40-ish man with a receding hairline, pancake makeup and 5 o'clock shadow: the Pinocchio he fashions is Mr. Benigni. . . . a picture that is mostly a desert of strangeness, a movie so bad that it quickly enters the pantheon of wreckage that includes "Battlefield Earth" and "Showgirls."

Mr. Benigni's decision [to play Pinocchio] makes this "Pinocchio" as believable as Diana Ross playing Dorothy in "The Wiz" or Matthew McConaughey portraying a college graduate in "Contact".

New York Observer: This gluttonous overdose of whimsy cries out for animation, but when the nursery-book action is played out by real people in tacky costumes from a Macy’s parade, it loses its magic fast. It’s unusual to see so many people making fools of themselves at the same time. Lethal for kids and an unspeakable insult to adults, this unreleasable fiasco is a torture for all.

Slant Magazine: It's like watching an ass put on a blue suit--there's still an ass underneath.

As more reviews come, I'll try to post them here.
ABOUT ABOUT SCHMIDT: Perhaps they should have called the movie About Jack, because, really, that's the central dynamic of the movie.

Yes, there's the plot of the movie (Jack Nicholson plays a retired, widowed insurance executive from Omaha whose life has been a disappointment, and by the end of the movie he realizes this), but what this movie is really about is Nicholson's efforts to not be like Jack Nicholson, Movie Star. We see his Warren Schmidt suffering through things that would ordinarily make The Jack We Know And Love snarl, glare and give a pouty, sarcastic, do-you-know-who-you're-f*cking-with speech -- but instead, he is pitiable, morose, unsure of himself. As a viewer, you're caught up in this tremendous amount of tension: will Jack ever be Jack? Will he finally break free and tell people what he really thinks and wants? Will he even realize what that is?

It's a truly memorable, interesting performance. But what's bothersome about the movie was its tone: there's a level of contempt for these working-class Midwest people -- especially Schmidt's wife -- that's really off-putting. Just too many cheap laughs that the filmmakers were trying to score off some tacky, but basically decent people.

But, look: the performances are all great -- Hope Davis is engaging as Schmidt's daughter; Kathy Bates does a lot with a small part that required her to be braver than you might expect, and anytime you get to see ordinarily hunky Dermot Mulroney look like this, well, that's entertainment.

About Schmidt isn't a great movie, but it's a good and interesting one. It's certainly entertaining -- and to the extent the whole movie might just be a set-up for the money shot at the end, well, it's a hell of a money shot, and the emotions there are well-earned. Go see it.
PAGING KIM BASINGER: The "entire rustic town" of Bridgeville, CA is now for sale via EBay.

Read more about it here.

Wednesday, December 25, 2002

AND THAT MODEL PAULINA SOMEBODY: Steve Martin has some wishes for you this holiday season:
If I had one wish that I could wish this holiday season, it would be for all the children of the world to join hands and sing together in the spirit of harmony and peace.

If I had two wishes that I could wish for this holiday season, the first would be for all the children of the world to join hands and sing in the spirit of harmony and peace . . . and the second would be for $30 million a month to be given to me, tax-free in a Swiss bank account.

You know, if I had three wishes that I could make this holiday season, first, of course, would be for all the children to get together and sing . . . the second would be for the $30 million every month to me . . . and the third would be for all encompassing power over every living being thing in the entire universe.. . . .

You'll have to click here to read wishes number four and five. Or, if you like, go here and listen to Mr. Martin tell you himself.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

"IT JUST DIDN'T SEEM NECESSARY TO SAY, 'GEE, WE'D LIKE TO RECONCILE YOUR CHECKBOOK.' " Accounting fraud and financial shenanigans: it's not just for global megacorps anymore.

We've got a growing scandal at Philadelphia's Weaver's Way co-op grocery, currently undergoing a financial crisis after officials showed up at a construction loan closing only to find out that the money for the closing wasn't in the co-op's bank accounts. About $100,000 was believed missing.

Did an unscrupulous executive abscond simply with the money? Not exactly. It's worse.

As a recent Philadelphia Inquirer article put it, "The store operated essentially under a belief in the inherent goodness of mankind since it opened in 1973." Such belief, apparently, foreclosed the need for anyone to oversee or even question the co-op's finance director of the past fifteen years, Andrea "Andi" Sheaffer, while dealing with the co-op's $5,000,000 in annual sales.

Weavers Way's own investigation has determined that the co-op presently owes about $215,000 to vendors that is 30 or more days overdue, and that they have somehow accrued bank overdraft charges of $91,000, going back to April 2000. In other words, it looks to this untrained eye like this place has been bailing water from a leaking vessel for years, and no one might have realized the ship was sinking had the construction loan closing gone as planned. The co-op is now seeking $300,000 in member donations to replace missing funds and pay the co-op's debts.

Keep track of this story here via Weavers Way's Financial Crisis updates. In the meantime, be mindful of Lenin's old creed: Doveryay, no proveryay. Or, as President Reagan translated it at the 1987 INF Treaty signing -- trust, but verify.
OKAY, I SUCK: I just realized that the reason I wasn't receiving any fanmail (or hatemail) whatsoever via this blog is that, according to Hotmail, ThrowingThingsBlog (a) is not the same as, which is the address I've been using.

So, if you had tried to send me something, get rid of the caps in the address and try again. The Management apologizes for the inconvenience. Or, as the great philosopher of our times might say, d'oh.
STRIKING OUT ON APPEAL: While Howard Bashman is out to lunch, it's up to me to fill you in on this one: the California Court of Appeal (2d Dist) has ruled that the manufacturer of the Louisville Slugger Air Attack 2 bat can be held liable for injuries caused by line drives hit off the bat.

Cal State-Northridge pitcher Andrew Sanchez suffered serious injuries after being struck in the head by a line drive hit by an Air Attack 2 aluminum bat. According to expert reports, the ball was travelling at an approximate speed of 108 miles-per-hour at his head, just 52-53 feet away, giving Sanchez only 0.32 - 0.37 seconds to react.

Sanchez sued the bat manufacturer and others, alleging that the high-tech bat had been designed in such a way that knowingly and significantly increased the risk that a pitcher would be hit by a line drive. The manufacturer countered that Sanchez assumed the risk of being hit in the head by a line drive just by being a pitcher, because, hey, these things happen in baseball. (Indeed, it happened to me once in a softball practice in law school)

What happened? Well, this is the kind of paragraph you hate to see in a court opinion when you're the defendant:
Jack Mackay, the designer of the Air Attack 2, declared that he had been a designer and tester of bats for nine years and was a paid consultant for H&B’s Louisville Slugger Division. Mackay was present when time studies were performed on the bat at a Louisville Slugger testing center. He stated that the invention allowed a batter to hit a ball at speeds in excess of that which would have given a pitcher time to avoid being hit. As a result, he opined that the Air Attack 2 substantially increased the risk of a pitcher being hit by what he termed a “come backer.” Mackay complained to his employers at the Louisville Slugger division of H&B about the increased risks of injuries, but the complaints were ignored and Marty Archer, president of the division, warned Mackay that he should not publicly discuss issues of safety.

Other valuable testimony was given by legendary Amherst baseball coach Bill Thurston, who had initiated an NCAA study which concluded that the Air Attack 2 substantially increased the risk of a pitcher being hit by a line drive, compared with the risk associated with wood bats or even earlier generations of non-wood bats.

The court reversed the grant of summary judgment, allowing Sanchez's suit to proceed to trial. You can read the court's opinion here.

For what it's worth, this wasn't the first time that Hillerich & Bradsby has been sued for the Air Attack 2. In fact, the bat seems to have caused them a lot of headaches, so to speak.
IN A WORLD . . . ONE MAN . . . : Looking for a way to waste some time?'s Movie Trailers page can keep you occupied all day, with previews of such movies as Matrix Reloaded, Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines, and the already-gone-from-theaters-but-the-trailer-was-great Comedian. (Warning: The Seabiscuit trailer is pure treacle. But good treacle. And with some of my favorite actors too, like Jeff Bridges and Chris Cooper.)
A HOLIDAY CLASSIC: From January 1990, Spy Magazine answers the question: could Santa Claus really exist?

Monday, December 23, 2002

COME FOR THE FRISTING; STAY FOR THE POP CULTURE POSTS: It's ironic that Kaus should bring me into this, since my role on this whole thing is precisely the sort of "e-mailers sending links to blogs, which eventually make it into the media" story that he first highlighted on December 17. All I did was say to myself Saturday night: "Hey, Self, was Marion Barry even mayor in 1994?", did the research, made the post on my little blog here and then emailed the link to Josh Marshall, since it was his story, anyway. I figured I was filling in a nice footnote.

It's not the first time I've played the role of feeding news to a blog -- this is just the first time I've done it (successfully) since starting my own. See here, here, here too and finally here for others. But, seriously, I'm not a newsmaker, nor do I intend to be. I'm just a small, interstitial link in the great big blogosphere, with (hopefully) a few interesting bits to pass along now and then.
FOOTNOTES: Mickey Kaus takes Josh Marshall and, by named reference, yours truly to task for continuing on this whole Bill Frist/Marion Barry story.

Do I think that the initial Frist statement was problematic? Interestingly, Kaus uses the exact same word my wife did when we discussed this Saturday night on our way to dinner: synecdoche. When you think "Marion Barry" (and aren't confusing him with The Hon. Maryanne Barry or the tasty marionberry), you do tend to think of "Democratic willingness to tolerate failed, bloated urban governments for fear of offending African-American pols," as Kaus puts it.

But I think that goes too far: after all, the people of D.C. elected Barry, and it wasn't for the Congress to simply cut off all funding as a result. Moreover (research topic!), I'm not aware that Jim Sasser's subcommittee was any more generous to the District than his predecessors or successors.

[Hold that thought: I did learn (bless you, Google) that in January 1994, Congress enacted the Federal Payment Reauthorization Act of 1994, which forced the District's mayor to implement a performance management process and accountability plan (p.2). Did this matter? Did Sasser vote for it? Please email me if you find anything on this, or especially on DC appropriations in the 1980s and 1990s. There's got to be a chart or something somewhere, right?]

But, as I said, tying in Marion Barry to other Democratic politicians goes too far, because I can't ever recall Barry being embraced by Democrats nationally. Especially post-arrest, he's been treated as a pariah by the rest of the party. The analogy I'd use is this -- attacking a Democrat just because he's in the party of Marion Barry is like attacking a Republican just for being in the party of David Duke and Alan Keyes -- they're nutty rogues off the deep end of what the party actually represents. (Ted Kennedy, by contrast, is a fair-game synecdoche.)

So, end of the day, my conclusion is this: unless there's actual evidence that Jim Sasser was being particularly generous with the District, and given that Marion Barry wasn't even mayor at the time, then the Frist remark was mild race-baiting. Is it a Lott-level offense? No. But is it worth needling him for? Yeah, a little bit.
BUT THEY DON'T GIVE YOU ANY CHOICE 'CAUSE THEY THINK THAT IT'S TREASON: Jim DeRogatis, music critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, recently interviewed Dennis Wharton, senior vice president of communications for the National Association of Broadcasters, the lobbying group for the radio industry, regarding charges that radio stations have become increasingly conformist:
Q. But what he's saying is that you have a music lover, maybe somebody who's devoted 20 or 30 years of their career to being a DJ, and they are no longer able to control what they play on the air. It isn't even decided by the station's programmer, but by some national consultant, who is taking his cue from independent promoters and the major-label hype machine. That's who Petty is eulogizing in "The Last DJ."

A. Do you have specific examples of that?

Q.Yes. I've interviewed a dozen DJs in Chicago and Minneapolis on six different rock stations over the years, and they all agree with that critique. They complain about following pre-set play lists fed to them on a computer. If they deviate and play something else in a moment of inspiration, they receive a scolding memo, and sometimes they're even fined. Does "The Last DJ" really exist anywhere today besides college or public radio?

A. Yes, I think so. I don't believe they're gone. In Washington, D.C., WHFS is a tremendous alternative-rock station.

Q. But I have seen its play list, and it's almost identical, song for song, to three dozen other alt-rock stations across the country.

A. If the charge is that they're playing songs that people want to hear, guilty as charged.

Q. What Petty is questioning is what comes first, the apple or the horse? Is radio playing songs because they inspired the programmers and the DJs, or is it playing songs that are being pushed by millions of dollars of promotional money? And how can people like a song that they have never had a chance to hear?

A. I don't think the idea is to inspire DJs. I think the ideas is to inspire audiences to come back with music they want to hear.

Q. If that's so, why is this such a chronic complaint from artists, from Elvis Costello to R.E.M. to Tom Petty? When was the last great rock song written about how good radio is?

A. You're the rock critic, you tell me.

And so on. When real life starts to sound like one of my favorite SNL skits, I smile.
LITTLE THREE, BIG TROUBLE: Two members of the Wesleyan University football team were arrested Friday night after robbing a Gap at gunpoint.

And, yes, you're correct in your assumption: I wouldn't have posted this story had one of the gunmen not scored both touchdowns in Wesleyan's 14-13 win over my alma mater this year, Wesleyan's first in the series since 1993.
AND HE SHALL BE A GOOD MAN: LeBron James is that damn good.

Last night's sold-out game at the Palestra between James' St. Vincent's-St. Mary's squad and Philadelphia's Strawberry Mansion High School (featuring Maureece "The Scorelord" Rice) wasn't much of a game -- SVSM led 65-25 after three periods and won 85-47 -- but as coronation and theater, it was outstanding.

James' stats for the evening don't tell you much: 26 points on 7-16 shooting (3-9 on threes, 9-11 FT), with eight rebounds, five assists and seven steals.

But seeing him in person tells you everything. At 6'8" 240lb, he's got an NBA body at the age of 17. More than that, though, he's got an NBA game. Not just the dominating presence, not just the confidence, but a court vision that enabled him to make lightning-quick passes to his teammates -- only some of whom were able to keep up with him.

Indeed, as good as his teammates are, LeBron James is wasting his time in high school. He is good enough to be in -- no, that's not strong enough, star in the NBA right now

Current NBA rules prohibit players from declaring for the draft until they turn 18 or their high school class graduates. It's silly. Sarah Hughes started skating in Nationals at the age of 13 and won her gold at the age of 16. Venus Williams turned pro at 14 and reached her first US Open women's tennis final at the age of 17 -- only to lose to 16-year-old Martina Hingis.

So what's wrong with a 17-year-old black kid from the Akron projects making his way through the NBA, when everyone else is profiting off his talent and success? I mean, look at this schedule. With games in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, North Carolina and Trenton this year, it's not like anyone else cares about his making it to class every day.

One final note: God bless Philadelphia crowds. We cheered the local underdogs early, booed them when they'd hack James on the way to the basket (which is understandable -- who wants to be the other guy in a LeBron James poster?), booed whenever someone on SVSM other than LeBron shot the ball, even booed LeBron's mom when she acted up like an Ann Iverson-in-training.

But in the fourth quarter, when the teams conspired to give us the playground style LeBron James-Maureece Rice one-on-one matchup we had wanted, a full house gave both players all the love we could. And when Maureece did a crossover dribble and broke LeBron's ankles, then popped in a jumper . . . oh, it was hoops heaven, and no one cared that Strawberry Mansion was still forty points behind.
COMPREHIZZENSIVE: Howard Bashman knew I'd be interested in this one, which he found on Colby Cosh's blog, and he was right: the Snoop Dogg Shizzolator.

Sunday, December 22, 2002

COMING ATTRACTIONS: I'm go to see LeBron James at the Palestra tonight. Just how much game can a 17-year-old have? Will let you know.
MY MONEY WAS ON COLIN POWELL: Time Magazine's Person of the Year has been announced: The Whistleblowers -- Cynthia Cooper (WorldCom), Sherron Watkins (Enron) and Coleen Rowley (FBI). An interesting, off-beat choice.
THE NEW YORK TIMES PASSES ON A LIE: In the Editorial/Opinion section, there's no such thing as a bad opinion, and anyone can legitimately say whatever s/he wants. But there are bad, demonstrably untrue facts, which no writer should be allowed to repeat.

In response to a George Vecsey column on the evils of college sports, Susan Dixon of Austin, TX was allowed to repeat the following pernicious lie on today's Sports Mailbox page:
It is also a little-known fact, but it has been shown that donations to the rest of a university go way up when it has a successful athletic program.

It's little-known because it's patently false. According to the research in James L. Shulman and William G. Bowen's comprehensive The Game of Life: College Sports and Educational Values:
First, contrary to much of the mythology about winning and giving, the study finds no relationship of any kind between won-lost records in football and general giving rates at either the Division IA private universities that operate bigtime programs or the Ivies. . . .

A parallel analysis that focuses not on participation rates but on the amounts given reveals only one significant, and somewhat puzzling, result. Improvements in Division IA football performace on a par with moving from a 50-50 record to an unbeaten season are associated with an average decline of about $135 per person in general giving per year, with no offsetting increase in athletic contributions.

The Game of Life, pp. 220-221. Moreover, focusing on men's basketball did not change the results. Id., p. 407 n.20.