Saturday, December 21, 2002

BARE-FRISTED RACE BAITING? Josh Marshall sees a low-level problem with the following Bill Frist quote from his 1994 campaign, during his first Senate campaign, attempting to smear his Democratic incumbent foe:
"[Jim Sasser is] sending Tennessee money to Washington, to Marion Barry ... While I've been transplanting lungs and hearts to heal Tennesseans, Jim Sasser has been transplanting Tennesseans' wallets to Washington, home of Marion Barry."

Marshall properly notes, in response: "Marion Barry, as I said in the post, was a rotten mayor. Corrupt, drug-using, the list goes on and on. And one can't get into a situation where one can never criticize a black politician for fear of being tarred as using a racial code word. But look at the line and tell me what on earth this had to do with a Senate race in Tennessee. I think the answer is obvious: nothing."

Well, sure, but I think he's missing something: Marion Barry wasn't even D.C.'s mayor in 1994. Sharon Pratt Kelly was. Barry had been out of the mayor's office since the beginning of 1991, and was not elected mayor again until November 8 of that year, the same day as Frist's election. For the prior two years, Barry was a member of D.C.'s City Council, however.

So Frist was attacking Sasser for someone who wasn't even mayor at the time? Who was just a member of a weak city council? And even instead of attacking Sasser for sending funds to D.C.'s then-current ineffective mayor (who herself happens to be black), Frist reached back four years to remind Tennessee voters of D.C.'s former mayor, the crackhead. If the slam seemed tenuous before, I think it's even worse now.

Senate Majority Leader Arlen Specter. It's only a matter of time.

Friday, December 20, 2002

IN LIEU OF A THOUSAND WORDS: Enjoy this vintage picture of current 76ers head coach Larry Brown, via the Remember The ABA website:

Have a good night. Go Sixers!
PLEADING IGNORANCE: Howard Bashman asks:
Should one write: (1) "Last week the defendant plead guilty to assault"; (2) "Last week the defendant pleaded guilty to assault"; or (3) "Last week the defendant pled guilty to assault"?

My practice has always been to make the meaning as unambiguous as possible. In written form, choice (1) is horribly ambiguous, and choice (3), to my eyes at least, looks weird. It just does, and I know it's probably an irrational, visceral reaction. It just doesn't look like a whole word. Moreover, (2) is completely risk-free as to meaning, so why not just write "pleaded" and be done with it?

But that's written. In spoken form, I'll always go with choice (3), "pled". When spoken, it sounds right: "he pled guilty", whereas "he pleaded guilty" intrinsically (again, my ears) sounds like a wasted, pretentious syllable.

Next witness?

Thursday, December 19, 2002

ED, CAN I HAVE A TIMPANI? Here's the new scoreboard:
Howard Bashman: 400,000
Adam Bonin: 1,000

We'll catch up by the year 2076, easy.
SIMPLY AMAZING: What is there to say about The Amazing Race finale for those who didn't watch it?

Only that good reality tv reveals character, and TAR does it better than any other show by placing characters in familiar settings, and not hermetically sealed bubbles. Many of us know what it's like to travel while fatigued, to have to deal with foreign cultures . . . to find a cab in an American downtown.

This episode alone saw the teams traverse Vietnam, fly from Hanoi to Tokyo to Honolulu (to Kauai and back), then to Seattle for the final set of tasks. Was it dramatic? Yes. Exciting? Hell yeah. Emotionally satisfying? Surprisingly (given the outcome), yes.

Florinka Pesenti and Zach Behr (both Vassar '01) were the central dramatic arc of the whole episode -- essentially, Flo had a complete emotional and physical breakdown, almost quit the race several times, including in middle-of-nowhere Vietnam, and the two hours centered around Zach's friendly encouragement and resourcefulness that kept them in the race. He did everything humanly possible and then some -- taking breaks, slowing the pace, calmly reassuring his friend to stay focused and keep trying.

She did. After falling 2 1/2 hours behind by the end of the first half of the episode, they caught up to the other teams in Hanoi, kept the pace in Honolulu and Kauai, and by the luck of a cab in downtown Seattle, they won.

To that, there has been considerable backlash on the discussion boards, centering around how underserving Flo was given how many times she almost quit the race and how annoying she was to watch. The amount of venom directed towards her is pretty obscene.

Good drama reveals character, but even more, it allows for characters to change, grow and develop. What made this episode so compelling was that Flo and Zach turned the corner and found their strength, that even nasty, hardened Ian apologized for the way he had treated his wife Teri and how much he appreciated and admired her during the race.

Plain and simple, this was television at its best -- a great travelogue, plus a great study of human emotions. Surprising, thrilling, revealing, and most of all, entertaining, and there's nothing wrong with a little entertainment now and then.

The Amazing Race 4 begins airing on Wednesday, February 26. Check your local listings.
WAS SANDY KOUFAX GAY? That appears to be the necessary implication of this blind item in today's Page Six:
WHICH Hall of Fame baseball hero cooperated with a best-selling biography only because the author promised to keep it secret that he is gay? The author kept her word, but big mouths at the publishing house can't keep from flapping.

Female author, baseball hero . . .yup. Koufax was married twice, but has no children.

Is it any of our business? Of course not. But if it is true, it just goes to double and triple the admiration so many of us have for all that he accomplished.

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

AMAZINGEST FINALE EVIR: West Coast people, you still have time. I'll save all discussion until the morning.
AND A REMINDER: If you are not watching the two-hour finale of The Amazing Race tonight, you will likely be depriving yourself of one of the entertainment highlights of the year.

The show is far-and-away the class act of "reality tv", as it calls on teams to exhibit smarts, stamina and real-world skills, and does not reward catty comments, physical beauty or the ability to play office politics. It's all about the race, and what a race it's been. From the Everglades to Mexico to Portugal to Switzerland to Malaysia and Vietnam, this year's race has featured some great, gripping drama. Oh yeah -- and it's fun, too.

What's more, you've got until 9pm tonight (8pm central) to read all of TWoP's brilliant recaps of the episodes so far. Your shorthand on tonight's remaining teams:
Kenny and Gerard: Our heroes. The lovable, funny middle-aged brothers. Kenny's gay, Gerard's a married father. They have wits and great airport skills, but have been horribly indecisive at times.
Flo and Zach: Twenty-something friends from NYC. She's a non-stop ball of angst and complaint, he's as laid back as can be. Not that he doesn't care -- he's just tired of dealing with her nonsense. Together, he'll drag her to the finish line.
Teri and Ian: Team Evil. They're an older married couple, but he's a bossy, mean s.o.b., especially to his wife, who claims they still function well as a team anyway. And they do: it's the furthest a 50+ team has ever gotten in the race. They don't make a lot of mistakes.

Twelve teams started. Three remain. Watch and enjoy.
MORE BEST-OF: The best New York media gossip of 2002, courtesy of Sridhar Pappu of the New York Observer. Including:
Best Recycling of Killed Material from Own Magazine: Tina Brown. Not long after Talk shut up, Ms. Brown told The New York Times: "I have been swimming in a howling sea of schadenfreude for the past three years." Where’d she get such a sparkling bon mot? Maybe her own pages: Talk’s unpublished last issue featured an interview with Courtney Love, in which the rocker was quoted complaining about her "three years swimming in a howling sea of schadenfreude."
PAGING DR. ROSS: I don't know why I found this Page Six item so amusing:

HIS dinner companion Rande Gerber turned beet red, but George Clooney played it cool Saturday night at Downtown Cipriani when a trashy-looking Russian woman reminded him of their brief tryst.

Clooney, Gerber and pals were chowing down at the crowded restaurant when the woman approached and announced in a throaty voice, "Remember me, George? We spent four hours together." "Sure, baby, sure," Clooney replied. "Where was it then?" she quizzed. "Um, New York," Clooney replied - to which she shook her head and clucked, "You're a very bad boy."

As diners nearby tried not to burst out laughing, Clooney placated the interloper and deflected her attempts to arrange another rendezvous.

"I'll say this for him," a diner who witnessed the incident told PAGE SIX's Jared Paul Stern, "he has b-s of steel."

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

ESSENTIAL READING: Thousands of music albums are produced each year -- some good, many bad, but few so completely useless as to merit the scorn of the Onion A.V. Club's. As regular a December appearance as the New York Times' "who died?" issue and irrelevant college football bowl games, the Onion's annual awards for the least essential albums of the year are now online. Among the highlights:

Through The Looking Glass

Who's that reproducing the riddims of Bob Marley's classic "Could You Be Loved" at the opening of Through The Looking Glass? Why, it's Toto, the blowsy '80s standby known for such hits as "Africa" and "Rosanna"! For those who love Steely Dan, Stevie Wonder, Elvis Costello, and Bob Dylan but are constantly complaining that their songs could be more Totofied, Through The Looking Glass is as good as it gets. Everyone else should panic and flee, trampling loved ones if necessary.

Still online for your time-wasting pleasure are the 2001, 2000 and much-beloved least essential albums of the 90's awards. Snark-o-rama, indeed.
THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING: Thank you, Gary Condit, for suing Vanity Fair writer Dominick Dunne for defamation. You may read the complaint here.

Now let's suppose everything Condit is claiming is true: that Dunne "has attained a high level of credibility with the American public" (par. 8); that Condit was not under police suspicion for Levy's murder, which may have been tied to a Middle Eastern Embassy sex ring (par. 20) or Condit's motorcycle friends (par. 25); that Dunne said such things in front of people people like Gore Vidal, Anjelica Houston and fashion designer Adolfo (various); and that Condit "had no involvement whatsoever in the disappearance and murder of Ms. Levy and has no knowledge of how she was abducted and murdered" (par. 34 -- but who said she was abducted, necessarily?)

Suppose all that is true, and that as a result Condit has suffered "stress, emotional distress, mental pain and suffering and adverse physical consequences" (par. 42); "public hatred, contempt and ridicule" (par. 43); and a "permanent" impairment of his ability to obtain or hold a job (par. 44). It still begs the question: why sue?

Isn't Condit aware that truth is a defense to a defamation claim, and that in order to establish that defense, he has now given Dunne (and his attorneys) free reign to conduct such discovery in order to demonstrate said defense? That, at the very least, Condit is going to be subject to a very nasty, personal, intense deposition?

It's the rare few who exit the public stage with a minimum of griping at those who did them wrong. Bill Weld and Pete Wilson come to mind as honorable men who accepted their defeats and disappeared. Then there's the Richard Nixon level -- yes, I'm going away, but don't think for a second I'm not angry about it.

And then there's the last level, with Jim Trafficant and Bud Dwyer, who have (and in Dwyer's case, quite literally) chosen to go down with guns blazing, no matter the consequences or wisdom, in massive displays of ego, self-pity and remorselessness. It's on that level where Gary Condit now resides. Congratulations.

This added note: Yes, you can find the Dwyer video on the web. A simple Google search will suffice. I was home from school that day and saw the press conference live, and have no interest in seeing it again. Probably the worst thing I'll ever see.

Monday, December 16, 2002

SQUISH! GOES THE WEASEL: Two moments from the Trent Lott interview on BET that should sink his leadership hopes. The first, Josh Marshall has already blogged about: Lott's dubious claim that he supports affirmative action, despite his many votes to the contrary. But according to the new, squeaky-clean Lott: "I'm for affirmative action and I've practiced it. I've had African Americans on my staff and other minorities, but particularly African Americans, since the mid-1970s."

Here's the other, and I wish I had the transcript to get his exact, stoopid words: he claims that the main reason he didn't support the establishment of the holiday for Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday was that -- get this -- he didn't know enough yet about the good things Dr. King did. Yeah. In 1983. News hadn't gotten out about the good stuff yet. Even though Lott grew up in America, and not on the moon. Senator Lott just didn't realize yet that Dr. King might have been a force for justice in the universe, or that the changes he brought into being were good ideas.

It would have been much more effective had he just said, "Look, I greatly respect and admire Dr. King, even though I didn't always see eye to eye with him. I didn't believe back then that we should have more federal holidays. But I didn't understand that the symbolic importance of the holiday was so great that it outweighed any monetary price that honoring Dr. King would cost, and for that, I'm sorry."

The truth. It works.

[P.S. Please, next time, someone stop me from poking around the BET message boards, okay?]

edited to add: here's the transcript:
GORDON: Let's talk about the King holiday.

LOTT: I want to talk about the King holiday. I want to go back to that. I'm not sure we in America, certainly not white America and the people in the South, fully understood who this man was; the impact he was having on the fabric of this country.

GORDON: But you certainly understood it by the time that vote came up, Senator.

LOTT: Well, but...

GORDON: You knew who Dr. King was at that point.

LOTT: I did, but I've learned a lot more since then. I want to make this point very clearly. I have a high appreciation for him being a man of peace, a man that was for nonviolence, a man that did change this country. I've made a mistake. And I would vote now for a Martin Luther King holiday.
"I THOUGHT A DARNED GOOD FART WOULD DO HIM A BIT OF GOOD." The mark of a great writer is to make you care about something you'd otherwise have little interest in. CNNSI's tennis columnist, Jon Wertheim, is one of those writers.

With that in mind, please enjoy his summary of the year in tennis, including bits like this:
After winning a marathon five-setter against Carlos Moya at the U.S. Open, Todd Martin was asked, "Where are you physically?" Martin responded: "Physically? I'm right here. Do you want to know where I am metaphysically?"
SPEAKING OF PALEO-PHILADELPHIAN TRADITIONS: Qualifying stunts for WingBowl XI have begun. Go ahead: watch a grown man named Lord of the Wings attempt to eat a quart of mayonnaise. Or, if you prefer: watch a man chug a bottle of applesauce (3lbs), plus a quart of egg nog to gain entry. All for the rights to eat a lot of wings in front of 20,000 people at 6am on the Friday before the Super Bowl. Can El Wingador win for a fourth time?

Philadelphia: oh, we're different, alright.
CHECK-A-CHING-CHING-CHING: And speaking of marching bands, today's Philadelphia Daily News contains a little bit of Mummers lore of which I was not previously aware: what happens when two string bands want the same theme?

There are those people who find Philadelphia's traditional New Years' Mummery distasteful, and now that I've lived near the Two Street Corridor and been woken on New Years' Day at 7am by the sounds of music blasted out of the back of a comic crew's beer truck (a Ryder van stacked to the top with cases of cans of cheap beer, including half-cans of Coors which were handed out -- again, at 7am -- to the 12-year-olds in the crew), and had drunk Mummers puking and peeing on my block at the end of the day (as well as saying distasteful things about my wife), well, I'm in the process of being converted to a staunch anti-Mummist position.

And it's still almost all-white. And they don't march on Broad Street anymore. But, still, what city has grown, blue-collar men spending their New Years Day dressed like this?