Saturday, April 12, 2003

HOW COULD THEY JUST LET HIM WALK AWAY? American Idol contender Corey Clark, whose ear-splitting "Against All Odds" was perhaps the worst finals performance in American Idol's brief history (well, it's a tie with Josh Gracin's "Celebration" while his fellow Marines were fighting in Iraq), is now complaining that he was unfairly booted from the show when his arrest for assaulting his little sister was revealed by
"They say they kicked me off because I didn't tell them about the arrest," said Corey. "The only reason I didn't tell them about the arrest was because I knew I didn't do anything. So they're trying to make it out to be like I'm a liar and stuff like that."

Well, he did lie when asked about prior arrests, and as far as his claims of unfair treatment, let's review:
Corey Clark: resisting arrest, battery upon his sister, and criminal restraint. If convicted of the charges, Clark faces a maximum of a year in prison on two of the misdemeanors, and a max of six months on the third count.
Frenchie Davis: never charged with breaking any laws, but alleged to have posed nude for a legal Internet website (while over the age of 18) catering to the fantasies of men looking for teenage girls. Two months later, no such pictures have ever been published.

Did the performer voluntarily reveal the allegations to the show's producers?
Corey Clark: No.
Frenchie Davis: Yes.

Was the performer charged with an actual crime with a victim?
Corey Clark: Yes.
Frenchie Davis: No.

Did the performer ever appear on stage in a fugly nipple shirt?
Corey Clark: Yes.
Frenchie Davis: No.

Was the performer's elimination from the show ever acknowledged on air?
Corey Clark: Yes.
Frenchie Davis: No.

Upon elimination, did the performer have an on-air opportunity to explain the charges and thank his/her fans?
Corey Clark: Yes.
Frenchie Davis: No.

Some day, there will be justice.

Friday, April 11, 2003

THACH: Legendary Philadelphia public servant Thacher Longstreth passed away today at the age of 83. A lifelong Republican, Longstreth dedicated his career to the people of Philadelphia, serving for the last twenty-four years as a City Councilman.

I met Thach back in 1993. I was a senior in college, the only male student in an Urban Politics course at Mt. Holyoke (itself a story worth telling another day). We were assigned to do final papers, and I chose to write about City Council's efforts in 1993 to create a Police Advisory Commission where victims of police misconduct could have their grievances heard and investigated by an independent body.

The initial bill, spearheaded by Councilman Michael Nutter, passed Council by a 9-6 margin, with Longstreth among those in opposition. Mayor Rendell, under pressure from the Fraternal Order of Police, vetoed the bill. One additional Councilman would have to switch for Rendell's veto to be overturned.

Never before during Rendell's reign had a veto of his been overturned, and none would be in the six years that followed. But in 1993, Thacher Longstreth -- Republican WASP patrician, guaranteed a Council seat for life because of the Charter's requirement that at least two at-large Councilmen be of the minority party, a man beholden to no constituency, and certainly not the city's African-American or Latino communities -- Thach changed his mind, and voted to establish the Commission.

I wanted to understand why.

So during Thanksgiving break that year, I headed home to Philadelphia. I sat down with Councilman Michael Nutter, who spearheaded the legislation, as well as the chief of staff of Councilman Brian O'Neill, a chief opponent, both of whom gave me some insight.

And then it was noon, and time to meet with Councilman Longstreth. We met in the Council's main chamber, sat in the chairs, and just talked. As it turned out, I knew his granddaughter, who was two years behind me at Amherst and the star of the women's volleyball team. (Thach himself was 6' 6").

I was hoping for 10-15 minutes of his time. As it turned out, I got an hour and a half.

And why did he change his vote? I wish I had a copy of that paper handy so I could quote him directly -- it's somewhere in storage at my mom's. But the message was clear, and I remember it clearly to this day:
He just thought it was the right thing to do.

Yes, Philadelphia's City Council functioned as the deliberative body all legislatures are meant to be. Longstreth explained that Councilman Nutter and others had convinced him that the establishment of the Commission was something that mattered deeply to the City's minority residents, especially in the post-Rodney King era, that it would help them feel more connected to the City in which they lived. It would help restore their faith in government as a place from which good things could happen, and even though these were people whose votes Longstreth neither sought nor needed, he took their feelings and interests seriously.

So Thach defied a popular mayor, defied the city's police union, and upset a lot of his natural constituents. Because it was the right thing to do.

And he didn't mind spending a hour and a half of his time the day before Thanksgiving explaining it all to some college student he had never met before and would never meet again.

That's the kind of man he was. God bless him, and may he enjoy his eternal rest in a place of peace.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

WHEN IT COMES TO RHYTHMS, QUEST IS YOUR SAVIOR: Perhaps the smoothest flowest rap act in history, A Tribe Called Quest is getting back together. I respect the hell out of influential rap acts like P.E. and Run DMC, but it's the jazz-inflected abstract Tribe that I still listen to more than any other. As they once put it, ATCQ featured "knowledge being dropped over beats" -- beats that were hard, beats that were funky, that could get you hooked like a crackhead junkie.

From "What?", off The Low End Theory:
What's Duke Ellington without that swing?
What's Alex Haley if it doesn't have Roots?
What's a weekend if you ain't knockin' boots?
What's a black nation, without black unity?
What is a child who doesn't know puberty?
What is my label when I exit boom status?
What's menage-a-trois, or, that is
What is sex when you have three people?
What are laws if they ain't fair and equal?
What's Clark Kent without a telephone booth?
What is a liquor if it ain't 80 proof?
What are the youth if they ain't rebellin'?
What's Ralph Cramden, if he ain't yellin'
at Ed Norton, what is coke snortin'?
What is position if there is no contortin'?
What is hip-hop if it doesn't have violence?
Chill for a minute, Doug E. Fresh said silence.
YES, BUT DID SHE ASK HIM ABOUT TRACING THE ALEPH BET ON ELAINE SONCINI'S NAKED ASS? Tomorrow night on 20/20, Barbara Walters interviews convicted murderer Fred Neulander.

Enjoy those last moments of attention, Rabbi. Next time I hope to read about you is to learn of your death in prison, and may it be a lonely one.
CASE CLOSED: Why hasn't the New York Times published a wedding announcement for a same-sex couple since January 19, 2003?

Because there haven't been any to publish.

After rambling about it online, I decided to just go to the source. I emailed the Times yesterday to just ask them directly (but politely, I hope) what had been going on. Their prompt response, reprinted with permission:
Dear Mr. Bonin:

You are correct in that we have not run any same sex announcements since the middle of January. We are in the business of running them, however, we haven't had any submissions in a good while. Business is starting to pick-up, however, we expect to be running some either late April, certainly have some for May, and we hope thereafter. The long and the short of it is, we can't run them unless couples submit them.


Society News Dept.

There you have it. The door remains open; couples just have to choose to walk through it.
ALL THIS, AND NO 'VENUS AND THE COWBOY' JOKE? The past ten years of Philadelphia restaurant history, expertly summarized by the Inq's Michael Klein.
CENT'ANNI! South Park celebrated its hundredth episode last night, a largely mediocre episode with Cartman going back in time to 1776 to determine what the Founding Fathers would have said about protesting the war with Iraq.

The episode was saved with a great last five minutes, when Cartman realizes that the framers wanted us to be both warlike and to protest our wars -- to be strong enough to defend ourselves, yet not look like we enjoy doing it; to be feared throughout the world, yet because of citizen protests to have the world's enmity directed at the President but not the American people -- in other words, to be able to have our cake and always eat it too. I'll post an excerpt once it comes online.

SP's breaking of the syndication barrier has prompted a number of articles this week -- six in the Hollywood Reporter, including an interview with Trey and Matt and a favorite episodes list. The New York Times has a piece on Norman Lear's current involvement with the show.

Why not take a few minutes today and watch the little five minute film that started this whole mess, The Spirit of Christmas, in which four young Colorado boys, with the help of Jesus, Santa and Brian Boitano, discover the True Meaning Of Christmas.

Wednesday, April 9, 2003

NAVELGAZING ACROSS MASSACHUSETTS: Today, the Harvard Crimson wonders: why did so many people crash our website to look at a picture of a giant snow phallus?

Do you know it took them 5400+ words to write this story?

I'll sum it up in five words:
Giant Snow Penises Are Funny.

Moreover, people like seeing pictures of humping snowmen. Yeah, go ahead, click on this picture of a "snowjob" while you're at it. You know you want to.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the Bay State (well, not the ass end beyond the edge of civilization, but far enough west), my alma mater seems to be all in a tizzy because of a front page piece in Saturday's New York Times that reported on the divide between faculty and students on The War. In short, wrote Karen Zernike, while faculty members are actively protesting, Amherst students are mostly apathetic, and many support the war.

Well, gosh, golly, gee, you'd have thought that they had decided to put on the play Caligula in a campus religious space again or something, because the NYT piece has prompted a flood of responses in this week's student newspaper: one news article, three letters to the editor and a staff editorial quibbling about the coverage -- all this in a week when the College named a new President.

Yes, instead of welcoming Tony Marx, here's what an editorial board on which I once sat has to say:
Finally, Zernike doesn’t understand the source of the perceived silence of students. This war is only a few weeks old and we are a generation of students who are unfamiliar with a protest culture. We have been taught to think through our views before proclaiming them loudly to the world, and thinking about the war is what many of us are still doing.

Yeah, because when hundreds of us were organizing and marching against Gulf War I back in January 1991 (yes, even before it started), or taking over campus buildings in protest of the College's lack of progress on affirmative action issues, or mobilizing to block the use of student funds to support anti-Semitic speakers both on- and off-campus, well, those were the 1990s, and this is a whole new generation.

(Which doesn't explain the thousands of college students organized and protesting at other campuses, but like the viewbook says, This Is Amherst.)

By the time these students are done thinking about the war, it'll be over.
SOMETIMES A CIGAR IS JUST A CIGAR: And sometimes, seeing a giant phallic symbol fall to the ground really does symbolize the end of a regime:

Whatever one may have thought of our entry into this war, and the plausibility of the reasons offered for doing so, this is a very good day for the people of Iraq. May there be many more.
MY BUDDY, THE RAPIST: Bill "The Sports Guy" Summons has had his fun with Mike Tyson over the years, whether covering his loss to Lennox Lewis, giving him a '96' on the Unintentional Comedy Scale for saying "I guess I'll fade into Bolivian" after the fight, or suggesting "When Animals Attack Mike Tyson" for a new Fox reality tv show.

Then, last week, as part of his work for Jimmy Kimmel Live, he got to meet Tyson. And his pigeons. Read about it here.

Tuesday, April 8, 2003

205 > 919: My instanalysis of the American Idol final eight:

Clay: There's a lot more emotion in the song ("At This Moment", Billy Vera and the Beaters, from that Family Ties episode) than what he brought out -- the whole falsetto ending that he didn't sing. Meh.

Kim Locke, Trenyce: Two different takes on Celine Dion. Kim made it her own, and it rocked. That thief Lashundra did another impression instead of singing the song with her own voice. It's a great talent to be able to impersonate Whitney and Celine, but it doesn't make you a singer in your own right. Also, drop the spirit fingers. Please.

Josh: Fine performance, wrong show. Nashville Star is Saturday nights at 10p. Go trade places with Brandon Silveira.

Carmen: Sang Blondie's "Call Me." Here's 35 cents. Call your mom instead, and tell her you're not going to be the American Idol. I can't listen to her without thinking of the Stevie Nicks/goat bashing on the "Osama Bin Laden Has Farty Pants" episode of South Park. The song requires a dirty-girl sound, leading to...

Kim Caldwell: who should've sang Blondie instead. Instead, she did a Bryan Adams song derided as "that codependent shit" on NS, and rightfully so.

Rickey Smith: Does it matter? He ain't beating Clay or Ruben, who...

Ruben: Thank you for picking a great song for your voice -- "Kiss And Say Goodbye" by the Manhattans. Finally snapped out of his laziness. Smooth. Wonderful. Still looks like a coronation.
SUNDAZED TO THE CORE: I didn't bother covering the Aaron Eckhart-Hilary Swank action thriller The Core when it came out. Yes, it contains a former Academy Award winner, which is Factor #1 in locating bad movies whose trashing is worth covering, but the movie is what it is: a preposterous Blowing Shit Up movie with a sense of humor about itself. If that sort of thing is your bag, go see it, but if not, avoid. Simple enough.

Did I say preposterous? Maybe I shouldn't have.

North County (CA) Times reviewer Jeff Pack said the movie had "a preposterous plot, cliched characters, and silly special effects" in his March 27 review. Nothing that anyone else hadn't said about the film.

But according to the film's producer, David Foster, the man responsible for putting Ringo Starr in Caveman and two Short Circuit movies (with Fisher Stevens playing an Indian scientist), Pack went too far. In a Letter to the Editor of the newpaper, Foster wrote:
When I read that "The Core" suffers from "a preposterous plot, cliched characters, and silly special effects," I realized Pack didn't do his homework. If he had checked with your science editor or searched the real core online, he would have found out that many geophysicists and deep earth scientists believe we will be down there soon enough.

Two Ph.D.s from Cal Tech/Jet Propulsion Laboratory, one Ph.D. from the University of California, and one Ph.D. from the University of British Columbia laid out the science for us so that it would be real. If Pack thinks our plot is preposterous, then our team of geophysicists are all wrong, which I seriously believe is not the case. If Pack was alive and well in the '50s and '60s, he probably would have said we'd never walk on the moon or land on Mars. He might even have called those two monumental events preposterous as well.

The characters in our film were shaped by the scientists referred to above. They're all well-known and highly respected in their field and helped the writers, the director, and the actors so they'd behave like real scientists do today. We also had three astronauts as technical advisors work with the rest of our cast. One was Col. Susan Helms, of the Air Force and NASA who guided Hilary Swank. In other words, we took great pains to be accurate in our technology, science, and behavior. So, I guess real scientists and real astronauts are cliched, according to Pack.

I leave it to you readers to determine how realistic a film can be if it relies on the existence of a new metal named "Unobtanium", has people walking around the earth's core with pressure coming down on them at 800,000 pounds per square inch, and casts Hillary Swank as a brilliant astronaut.

edited to add: How bad is the science in the movie? Check out this essay on, via Andy Lloyd of Pathetic Earthlings.
MASCOTMATCHER IS TITLE IX COMPLIANT: And Charlie is ready with his prediction for tonight's NCAA Women's Division I Basketball Championship:
University of Connecticut Lady Huskies vs. University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers: the Bitches from the Nutmeg State will tear the willing Tennesseens limb from limb, like a piece of seal jerky after a long sled ride. Connecticut.
USED FOR MILITARY PORPOISES: Would you like to know more about the United States Navy Marine Mammal Program, previously addressed on this very page?

Click here for the program's official website, and here for a good feature piece in yesterday's WaPo:
The specially trained Atlantic bottlenose dolphins are the seafaring equivalent of bomb-sniffing dogs. Working with a human diver team and an unmanned underwater vehicle, they use biological echolocation sonar -- which sounds like clicking to humans -- to locate mines at great distances and in dark waters. They're far more effective at it than human divers.

"They have a substantially greater capability to view large areas and filter out rocks and bathtubs and junk to find only the thing you are looking for," says [Tom LaPuzza, Navy public affairs officer for the Marine Mammal Program].

The dolphins are usually fitted with cameras to transmit underwater scenes to their handlers to further eliminate false alarms. When they find a mine, they report back to the boat and go to the "I've found something" rubber ball dangling from the front; the "nothing's out there" ball dangles from the back. Their handlers then decide whether to send the dolphin back to mark near the mine with a small float so human divers can blow up the mine.

However, the dolphins have not been trained to kill. Yet.

(Yes, I know that's a sea lion. They also do underwater search missions.)
FEVER FOR THE FLAVA: Want to dress like American Idol's Ruben Studdard?

Go right ahead and order a '205' jersey.
HOW SWEET THE SOUNDS: Congratulations to Nashville Sounds pitcher John Wasdin, formerly of the Boston Red Sox, on pitching a perfect game last night in Pacific Coast League action against the Albuquerque Isotopes.

Wasdin threw 15 strikeouts in the outing, measuring 102 in the game score computations.

This was only the second perfect game in the 100-year history of the Triple-A PCL. According to catcher Humberto Cota, “It was one of those nights that to me personally was fun, knowing that whatever I called and whatever I put down there, he was going to throw it for a strike."
SO I'VE BEEN SPENDING TIME ON FARK.COM LATELY: From the current "Album covers gone wrong" thread:

Enjoy. My favorite is probably the Prince LoveSexy spoof, which for reasons of taste I'll just link to here rather than post.

Monday, April 7, 2003

FOX NEWS THROUGH HISTORY: God bless for this gem of Photoshop work.
SIX DAYS TO GO: I may well be the only person in America who felt this way, but I was really happy for the return of the BK Italian Chicken sandwich.

Growing up, I just loved the sandwich -- oval bun, overly sweet tomato sauce; stretchy, bland cheese; salty breading and indeterminate chicken content -- and I've hit the BK at Suburban Station 3-4 times in the two weeks since its reintroduction. I've been a happy young man.

But now, in preparation for writing this entry, I've learned some sad news. Come April 13, the sandwich is no more. Like Frosty the Snowman, Cooper River Salmon or tv's The Amazing Race, some great things can only be made available for limited periods before they are forced to depart us, only to make them appreciate their beauty that much more in their absence.

The BK Italian Chicken Sandwich is such an ideal form. Cherish it, savor it while you can.
DOESN'T EVERYONE KNOW WHO FRAU BLÜCHER IS? I probably should be embarrassed about this, but I'm not.

The current issue of Entertainment Weekly has as its cover story The Great American Pop Culture Quiz -- one hundred questions to determine one's level of knowledge of the useless. Questions were things like "What was the password Matthew Broderick used in WarGames to access the NORAD mainframe?" and "Name all 11 places that hosted a 'Real World' series" (I forgot New Orleans).

Now, on the quiz, scored from 40-59 were considered decent, 60-79 were damn good, and 80+ was the savant range.

I got an 86.

Man, did I waste time during the 70s, 80s, 90s and into the new millennium. I'm just glad these efforts finally have been recognized. Some day, someone who matters is going to ask me who killed Laura Palmer, and I'll be right there with the answer, and some damn fine coffee on the side.
YOUR HEART SKIPS A BEAT: For readers of a certain age (like, mine, plus or minus five years), VH-1's new VH-1 Goes Inside: Showtime at the Apollo special is absolutely mandatory viewing. It is the hip-hop complement to VH-1's fantastic I Love The 80's series, a wonderful piece of insta-stalgia for those of us who remember a time not so long ago when every rap performer had a crew of backup dancers and everything Naughty by Nature released went platinum.

I don't want to spoil too many of the delights of the Apollo special, but here's some of the stories you'll see:
--the time a 13-year-old Lauryn Hill got booed off the stage for botching Smokey Robinson's "Who's Lovin' You?" on Amateur Night.

--the night Chuck D of Public Enemy had to perform solo because Flavor Flav got arrested earlier that day.

--R. Kelly prancing around the stage with an "18 and Over" sign during one of his I-want-to-hump-everyone songs, in the time before The Troubles.

--Digital Underground appearing in disguise as "The Unknown Rappers", and, yes, Tupac's there too.

--Just SLAM! (slam!), duh duh duh, duh duh duh, let the boys be boys!

--a piece on that crazy lady who always sat in the front row and tried to hug every performer.

--Cameo appearances by such not-quite-forgotten stars as Speech (Arrested Development), Kid (of -and-Play) fame (with a full afro now), Taylor Dayne, Living Colour's Corey Glover, Heavy D, Treach and Kris Kross, who will in fact make you want to jump, jump.

It's VH-1, so it's re-airing a lot this week, starting tonight at 10:30pm. Do catch it.

Sunday, April 6, 2003

ASSUMING THE RISK: Great essay by my friend Andy Lloyd on Saddam Hussein, Tupac Amaru, and the obligations of liberators towards just treatment of those holding groups (or a nation) hostage, this morning on Pathetic Earthlings.
ELEVEN STRAIGHT WEEKS: Twenty-two couples celebrating their vows this weekend had their ceremonies announced in today's NYT Styles section.

For the eleventh consecutive week, not one of these couples was gay, despite the Times' declared openness towards publishing such announcements. Heck, there's even an article about gay couples divorcing in today's section. But no gay marriages.

There's even Viacom magnate Sumner Redstone's marriage to schoolteacher Paula Fortunato in today's section (though, curiously, not in the online edition), a May-to-sometime-next-March wedding at which Tony Bennett will perform, but no gay marriages.

For those keeping score (like me), starting with the January 26, 2003 issue the totals are one hundred eighty-seven heterosexual couples, zero homosexual couples.

Click here for more from me on the subject, plus scroll down on this page for a few tidbits. Up next week: pre-Passover celebrations.

[P.S. What do you get for a 79-year-old billionaire who has everything? Apparently, All Clad cookware.]