Monday, February 26, 2007

Al Gore: Eco-Hog

If the eco-nuts gain any more traction--if the notion of what we, as individuals, must give up to keep the Statue of Liberty from standing hip-deep in the Atlantic Ocean--stories like this are going to gain more and more currency as time goes by.

Already, stories circulate of those Priuses (you know, those pet cars millionaire celebrities own, the ones parked out back behind the Humvee and the Escalade) driving to LAX, and to at least eighty private jets fueled and ready for take-off.

This is a piece with John Edwards' ugly-ass McMansion. Do these people know the depths of self-parody they've fallen?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Final Oscar thoughts

This was the all-timer in dreariness. By the end, DeGeneres was trying as desperately for laughs as a pre-Deano Jerry Lewis working the early show at Moe’s I-95 Supper Club. Wait–someone in the band smokes dope? Bob Hope wouldn’t have attempted that 35 years ago.

A movie I actually liked a lot won. One of the best six directors of the past hundred years FINALLY won. And yet the thing staggered toward the finish line and fell over face-first.

I saw Clint Eastwood yawning. He wasn’t alone.

Live-blogging at the Oscars

Opening monologue. Degeneres bombs. "And Al Gore, who the American people did select . . ." Christ. What next, Enron jokes?

First guy to get played off: the technical guy for Pan's Labyrinth . . . just so we could go back for more Degeneres humor. This is turning into a dreary evening. And why didn't they award a best-supporting actor or actress award early, just to liven things up?

Will Smith's kid and Little Miss Sunshine himself . . . award for the shorts! Ha ha ha ha ha. Oh, brother.

Dinner break.

Alan Arkin wins--good for him. LMS's consolation prize?

Oh, now DeGeneres interviews Wahlberg right after Wahlberg lost. Yipes.

Now, the Gore song.

1. Nice, being lectured about cardon emissions by the Gulfstream crowd.

2. That stuff in the back is, flat-out political advocacy. “Elect leaders” who do this and that.

3. Gore and DiCaprio. I’m going to go idle my car in my parking lot for a half-hour.

Writer's montage isn't bad.

Hanks and Mirren for Best Adapted Screenplay. NOW can we get rolling here?

And the winner is: William Monahan . . . for translating Infernal Affairs into English.

Ahhh, I wanted Cohen to win.

DeGeneres with an Oscar caddie. Smiles.

DeGeneres asks Spielberg for a second take. OK. That's three laughs in ninety minutes.

Almost ten now. Posted this haiku on Irish Trojan:

Seinfeld presents doc
Await inevitable
Gore getting restless

And Gore wins. Says, "My fellow Americans . . ." thus cancelling out his funny moment earlier.

Oh, God . . . ten o'clock, and we haven't gotten to the roll call of the dead.

Ten twenty-five, and nothing yet.

An Inconvenient Truth has just won two more Oscars than Manhattan did.

Thanks to Helen Mirren for being the only winner not requiring a) a script, or b) a stammer.

DeGeneres just resorted to a "the band smokes dope" joke. 1971 just called for his puinch line.

Forrest Whitacker reads, but he's all right.

Scrosese wins: "Can you double-check the envelope?" The Departed is not one of his best five films, but this is how things go.

Clint Eastwood, caught yawning.

Diane Keaton, sputtering and stammering and channeling Annie Hall.

And The Departed, your Best Picture.

Good for Scorsese. But a dreary evening.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

DJ RIP

There are many teams I have admired and cheered for. Before I turned 35, there were three teams I had loved: Joe Torre's Yankees, Larry Bird's Celtics, and--right at the end--Jake Plummer's 1996 Arizona State Sun Devils. (Since then there have been Tom Brady's Patriots and Pete Carroll's Trojans, who between the Patriots' last defeat in 2002 and the Vince Bowl in 2006, played a total of one hundred and eleven consecutive games without a loss of lasting significance. Another story, though.)

I read today of the death of Dennis Johnson, Celtic guard, point guard for (no quibbling, please) The Greatest Basketball Team Of All Time, the 1986 Boston Celtics; co-author of The Greatest Play of All Time, the lay-up that followed Larry Bird's steal of Isiah Thomas's in-bound in the waning seconds of Game 5 of the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals. Bill Simmons, who was there (of course) has an account that distills better than any other the sheer miraculous nature of the play. About seven things had to go right, and did. I've probably seen that play 50 times--more than Bucky Dent scraping one over the Monster, more than The Band is On the Field, more than Leyritz v. Wohlers ("to the track, to the wall, we are tied!"), more than Leinart's audible on Fourth and Nine (more memorable than the Bush Push a minute later)--and, like few things in sports, it always surprises me when it happens.

For many Celtic fans, 1987 consolation season was more memorable that the 1986 season, for many reasons. 1986 was a coronation, a run-away-and-hide year where the Celtics lost one game all year at home and so demoralized the Rockets in Game 6 to win the championship that my two brothers, mother and father and I were toasting their victory with three minutes to go in the game. (You would have to know my family, and its bone-deep superstitions, to know how unthinkable this usually is.) In contrast, 1987 was a year-long street fight, in which the team tried to overcome the loss, one after the other, of Len Bias to death, Bill Walton to a broken shin, Scott Wedman to a ripped-up ankle, and Jerry Sichting to a shooting slump that lasted, basically, until the end of his career.

Never has a defending champion gone through a season with a weaker bench. And never has a team boasted a better starting five, that marvelous band: Bird, Kevin, Chief, DJ, Ainge. And even then the pain did not stop. McHale was on his way to MVP runner-up (no way Magic wasn't going to win it that year) when he broke his foot, decided to play through it, and was never the same again. Parish hurt his foot and played on a limp, Ainge had knee and elbow injuires. Only DJ and Bird survived essentially intact.

The Celtics survived a seven-game scare from Milwaukee, and then a seven-game war with Detroit that ranks better than all but a few finals (New York-LA 1970, Boston-LA 1984, and . . . uh, that's about it). After both teams held serve after two games, providing the way for a best of three, Game 5 was decided by Bird Steals the Ball, an moment so dramatic it overshadowed what happened earlier in the game--namely, Robert Parish decking Bill Laimbeer and getting a no-call in the balance. Game 6 (for which Parish was suspended--coincidentally in a game he probably would have missed anyway with his ankle, and didn't the Pistons scream about that) was a case of the Celtics breaking out to the lead, then giving it up when their starters ran out of gas. (There was a lot of that after 1986.) All of this set the stage for Game 7, which I saw on a black-and-white TV at a friend's house in Long Island City, having come East to visit my presumptive graduate school. I remember the tension before Game 7 as unbearable--the closest any other sport has come close to a really big college football game--and the entire contest seemed to turn on every posession, every shot, every rebound, every (as the Celtics had no bench that year) foul.

I'm exhausted right now thinking about that game. I'm convinced to this day that Larry Bird had decided beforehand to play all 48 minutes, which he did. In any case, he was the author of Boston's walk-it-up play that allowed the Boston starters to grab a few seconds of rest before running the play.

What else? With a tie at the end of the third quarter, starting Detroit forward Adrian Dantley and supersub Vinnie Johnson dove for a loose ball and clattered skulls. Dantley was wheeled off the court on a stretcher and Vinnie Johnson mostly spent the fourth quarter with an ice bag on his head, and went scoreless thereafter. The dagger was near the end, Danny Ainge's fall-away three-pointer that game at the tail end of four consecutive Celtic offensive rebounds. Love those fifth chances. And it was over.

This was the game that gave rise to Zeke's post-game "overrated Bird" comment (Bird's line that game: 48 minutes, 38 points, 20 rebounds--overrated, sure), to the Detroit-Boston hatred that persisted until Boston became so bad (thank you, M.L. Carr) it no longer mattered. And the series overshadowed the the fact that the Celtics--without Bias, without Wedman, without Walton, with McHale on a broken foot and Robert Parish limping on a bad ankle--still pushed the Magic-Kareem-Worthy-Scott-Green Lakers to six games, and lost a series they would have won had it not been for Magic's junior sky hook (which would have been obliterated by Bird's subsequent shot, which missed winning the game by two millionths of an inch. But all credit to the Lakers. They were killers).

Anyway, DJ, who Simmons writes, will someday be in the Hall of Fame, is gone. And--again, as Simmons says--if I was never a part of of his life, I am happy to say that he was a part of mine.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

A-Rod needs his own Don Imus

To say this:

A-Rod. Please stop it. Please stop talking. Take batting practice. Take fielding practice. Run on a treadmill. Anything.

This isn't helping, I don't care what anyone says.

Probably the best . . . .

. . . commentary on the current DC standoff is Todd Linberg's in the Washington Times.

No one has put it better than this:

Opposition to Mr. Bush's Iraq policy is now the organizing principle of the Democratic Party, much as a personal and visceral opposition to Bill Clinton became the organizing principle of the Republican Congress in the 1990s. In both cases, it verges on obsession. In both cases, many of those who are caught up in it know better. But they aren't the masters of the passion emanating from the party's grass roots; they are its servants. It will find an outlet through them.
The question will always be this: What's next? First, a non-binding House resolution. Next, an attempt to derail the surge through conditions on funding. After that, what? I don't know, but, and this is the point, there will be something.
Mr. Bush said at his news conference last week that it doesn't matter so much what he or anyone else says now; it's a question of what kind of results Gen. Petraeus can achieve on the ground. In one sense, I suppose, that's true, in that if Gen. Petraeus is unable to make a dramatic improvement in the security situation in Baghdad, Washington rhetoric will be no substitute.
But suppose, for purpose of argument, that Gen. Petraeus does get results. Suppose the surge works and Baghdad becomes and remains fairly calm. What happens then? Do Democrats rethink their opposition to the war? Do they conclude that they were wrong to oppose the surge? Do they join with the president in a renewed effort to support the political process in Iraq and speed reconstruction efforts there? Do they turn off the grass roots sentiment that swept them back to the congressional majority, telling their most vocal supporters that they need to simmer down so that the party can play a constructive role on a serious question of national security?
In two words, no way. This opposition is fully vested in its position. If Baghdad remains insecure, it's time to bring the troops home, and if Baghdad becomes more secure, it's time to bring the troops home. That's because it's time to bring the troops home. National security policy is no longer the property of the specialists in the subject in the Democratic Party; it belongs to the grassroots. The exquisitely pained position of Hillary Clinton, who made herself into one of those national security specialists, is illustrative of the current moment.


Bingo.

Friday, February 16, 2007

What I Always Say

Via NRO's new feature, Planet Gore:

Weather vs. Climate [Jay Richards]

The Center for American Progress has just released a report explaining the difference between weather and climate. The gist of the report is that you can't detect large-scale global warming merely by observing local weather. You may find yourself stuck in a blizzard, for instance, but you can still be darned sure we're causing catastrophic global warming: "The chaotic nature of weather means that no conclusion about climate can ever be drawn from a single data point, hot or cold." OK, but then why don't the global warming Chicken Littles ever make this point when we're having a heat wave?

Best four words in the English language

"Pitchers and catchers report"

Oh, and Mike Mussina, of all people, smacks around Carl "bruised buttocks" Pavano.

The season will be interesting.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

True New York Times Headlines of the past

"MacMillan Reports Signs Of New Ice Age" (Sept. 18, 1924)

"America In Longest Warm Spell Since 1776: Temperature Line Records A 25-Year Rise" (March 27, 1933)

"Major Cooling Widely Considered To Be Inevitable" (May 21, 1975)

Via Steyn, who--using the Kyotophiles' own math--writes:

"Climate change" isn't like predicting Italian coalition politics. There are only two options, so, whichever one predicts, one has a 50 percent chance of being right. The planet will always be either warming or cooling.

By now you're probably scoffing: Oh, come on, Steyn, what kind of sophisticated analysis is that? It doesn't just go up or down, it could sorta more-or-less stay pretty much where it is.

Very true. In the course of the 20th century, the planet's temperature supposedly increased by 0.7 degrees Celsius, which (for those of you who want it to sound scarier) is a smidgeonette over 1 degree Fahrenheit. Is that kinda sorta staying the same or is it a dramatic warming trend?

And is nought-point-seven of an uptick worth wrecking the global economy over? Sure, say John Kerry and Al Gore, suddenly retrospectively hot for Kyoto ratification. But, had America and Australia signed on to Kyoto, and had Canada and Europe complied with it instead of just pretending to, by 2050 the treaty would have reduced global warming by 0.07C: a figure that would be statistically undectectable within annual climate variation. And, in return for this meaningless gesture, American GDP in 2010 would be lower by $97 billion to $397 billion -- and those are the U.S. Energy Information Administration's somewhat optimistic models.

And now Jerry Mahlman of the National Center for Atmospheric Research says "it might take another 30 Kyotos" to halt global warming: 30 x $397 billion is . . . er, too many zeroes for my calculator.

So, faced with a degree rise in temperature, we could destroy the planet's economy, technology, communications and prosperity. And ruin the lives of millions of people.

Or we could do what man does best: adapt.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Letter of intent day

As expected, by closing the deal on a number of verbals, USC zooms past Florida to claim the number-one recruiting class in the country.

Chief stud: Running back . . . Joe . . . Mc . . . Knight.

Like it a lot.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Astronut

The latest here.

There is not much to add, except that in this corner of Texas--the Interstate 45 corridor, running from Houston through Clearlake, past NASA Road 1 on down to Galveston and the Gulf--the news is being taken almost as a family tragedy, as if watching a favorite uncle being led away in handcuffs.

On either side of this fifty-mile stretch of freeway, where the best and the brightest of the space program walk among us, astronauts are revered more than soldiers, and soldiers are plenty revered.

Bad things that happen to the space program hit plenty of people around on a personal, a gut, level. A speech professor at my college worked for NASA for years, knew all the crew of the Challenger that exploded, including Christa McAuliffe. He was working at a classroom at the Space Station when it happened, leading a group of visiting students through a closed-circuit broadcast of the blast-off, when the shuttle exploded and, a minute later, a group of NASA personnel quietly led the children out of the classroom and on to the buses. It was this professor who told me what many people suspected: that the crew was killed not by the explosion but by the nine-mile fall to the water off the Cape; when the capsule hit the surface, the impact shattered the crews' spinal cords, killing them instantly.

This farce is nowhere near as tragic as that awful day. But, believe me, it has hit home.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Enough already!

Check back with me in twenty years.

But it is my sense that "global warming" is the biggest fraud perpetuated upon Americans in my lifetime. I have lived through "the population bomb"--thirty years on, earthlings have the greatest access to food, shelter, clothing, fuel, and medical care in any time in human history. I have lived through "global freezing"--remember those stories, of armadillos heading south from Nebraska to Texas? I have survived "50 million HIV positive Americans by 1990"--that sage piece of wisdom delivered on "Oprah."

Someone help me out here. Wasn't there a thing called, oh, I don't know, The Ice Age? Can we all agree it's warmer now than then, not entirely the fauly of SUVs?

Been down one time. Been down two times. Won't get fooled again.

The two greatest columnists in the English language, George Will and Mark Steyn, weigh in.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

"Can you hear me in the back? Because I can hear you."

The above words were said not by my soon-to-be nine year-old niece's substitute teacher, but by Dennis Kucinich at a DNC meeting at which the Dem presidential candidates were given the chance to "introduce themselves."

As Dana Milbank writes, the candidates were given six minutes to speak and were allowed to have supporters bring no more than 100 signs into the hall. What actually transpired was 1) Every single candidate went at least double the allotted time, and 2) Hillary Clinton's supporters violated the sign limitation most egregiously, bringing in at least 300 HILLARY! posters.

Well, I'm convinced.

More or less representative of this bunch was Chris Dodd, summarized thus by Milbank:

Dodd, in his Phil Donohue hairdo, opened by noting that "sometimes, the introductions go on longer than my remarks." Not this time. He went on about Bill Clinton, Franklin Roosevelt and his 2-year-old daughter. At 10 minutes, he offered what could have been a rousing finale: "We're not going to take fear for an answer any longer in America."

During the applause, Dean stood up and attempted to reclaim the microphone. But Dodd wouldn't budge. As the timekeeper raised the red "TIME" sign repeatedly over the next 10 minutes, Dodd quickened his pace and added phrases such as "Let me also add here quickly."


Leaving aside that Milbank does not know how to spell "Donahue." It is well to remember that Bill Clinton gave the worst speech in the history of the world, non-Fidel Castro division, when he placed Michael Dukakis's name in nomination, in Atlanta in 1988. It was then that a rule of thumb was born: if your biggest applause line includes, "Let me conclude . . ." you're in trouble.

And, if reference to the above quote by Kucinich, if the audience takes advantage of your speaking time to visit the bathroom and return cell phone calls . . .

I always wonder about these events. First, do these candidates believe that length is a product of status? Second, they think they're saying anything new, or anything revelatory? Take gun control. I know as I sit here that, whether Hillary or Obama or whoever, when asked about guns a year hence, will say, We must get guns out of the hands of criminals while repecting the rights of hunters and sportsmen . . . Just as We must maintain the security of our borders without disrupting the rights of our citizens. Just as (if applicable) I voted for the war based on the faulty intelligence. Blah blah blah.

And third, don't they think briefer speeches might garner them some favorable press, even the thanks of a grateful constituency? I remember at the 1980 Republican Convention, the last with anything you might call real drama, George Bush the elder was given twenty minutes of speaking time on the third, the nominating, night. He spoke for ten minutes, waved, and was gone. Walter Cronkite nearly fell out of his chair. Speak for less time then alloted? Did that just happen?

Some hours later, Ronald Reagan tapped Bush as his running mate. And a Bush has been on a national ticket in six of the past seven elections.

Did brevity lead to the Vice Presidency? No, not directly; call it good karma.

Fourth, don't any of the candidates know that the greatest speech ever by a sitting President was ten sentences long?

NFL to priest: Drop dead

A church in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn has invited a group of youngsters (by which I think they mean "boys") to a pre-game Mass tomorrow, after which the priest and congregation will retire to the basement to watch the Super Bowl on a 42-inch LCD television. After the game, the TV will be raffled off, and the proceeds (past the cost of the TV) donated to various church youth functions.

Not so fast, says the NFL, whose lawyers sent the (offending?) priest a letter demanding he cease and desist.

No, I'm not kidding. Apparently the NFL's lawyers are too concerned that too many clusters of too many people assembling to watch the game (as opposed to being at home, watching it in their livings rooms) will adversely affect the Nielsen ratings for the show, which would harm the rates the televising network could charge, which in turn would, down the road, harm the rights fees the league could charge for televising the game. In that spirit, the NFL has taken it upon itself to forbid the showing of the Super Bowl for any money a) to large groups in venues not usually used for the watching of football, and b) on screens larger than 55 inches.

So: no churches. No Kiwanis dining rooms. But sports bars are okay. (Incidentally, I recall their being some trouble about sports bars showing too many games, or not paying rights fees, or something. As I remember, the NFL threatened to get tough, the bars threatened a nationwide boycott of Budweiser, which pays a zillion dollars in ads fees to networks during NFL games. End of story.)

This kind of overreaching reminds me of how vigorous the NFL goes to protect the trademark of the name, "Super Bowl," so much so that the subsitute names merchants use in hawking their wares ("Big Game," "Super Game") have become a running joke. How long before the subsitutions are thought to be actionable?

Already the NFL, sensing a PR nightmare for serving Fr. Flanagans across the country, is starting the backpeddle.

Incidentally, I have found a trick that makes watching NFL football a bit more bearable. It is a trick I had heard of, but never thought to employ until now.

It's this: Unless the day's fare is a match-up of two unfamiliar teams and is a game I have been waiting for all week . . . I never watch any pre-game shows whatsoever.

The single pre-game show I have seen in a month was CBS's, before the New England-San Diego playoff game, just to get some insight on the Chargers' blitzing, which was brought to me by splendidly intelligent Jason Taylor of the Dolphins. Taylor's statement about Tom Brady--"He's one quarterback you can't pressure by getting close to him; he only feels pressure when you knock him down"--was something I had noticed all season, but hadn't put into words quite as well. But beyond that one time, nothing, natta. Don't want to hear the picks, don't want to hear the fake laughs, don't want to hear who's got something to prove. During the week after the Pats-Chargers game, I stayed away from all TVs on the assumption that there was nothing new anyone had to say about the Patriots and Colts. The game itself was marvelous and heartbreaking and I don't think I missed a thing.

(Now post-game shows are another matter; I don't mind watching someone comment on something that actually happened that day.)

Tomorrow? Colts? Bears? Wake me up at twenty past five, Central time.