Monthly Archives: May 2002

THE GREATEST: Another sharp satirical

THE GREATEST: Another sharp satirical piece by the Greatest American Writer, Neal Pollack, in New York Press. If you only read one humor book this year, make sure it’s the Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature.

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HECKLER’S VETO: As the world

HECKLER’S VETO: As the world now knows, New Jersey Nets star Jason Kidd was taunted with chants of “wife beater” by fans at FleetCenter in Boston during Tuesday’s Game 4 of the Nets-Celtics series. Kidd, of course, was arrested last year for assaulting his wife Joumana, and as a result was shipped out by his former team the Phoenix Suns. While I know the chants didn’t come from any sense of moral indignation by the Celtics’ fans (after all, they were merely trying to get under Kidd’s skin), if the player had to face “wife beater” taunts at every arena in every city for the remainder of his career, I can’t say I’d be too upset. But even more disturbing are the comments by Kidd’s teammates (and coach Byron Scott) decrying the fans and more or less excusing Kidd’s behavior. Teammate Kenyon Martin, himself a notorious thug, even went so far as to say that the arrest was a part of Kidd’s “personal life” and thus “none of anyone’s business”- a very ’50s-like analysis that certainly doesn’t deserve to go unchallenged. But even more ludicrous is that some (such as ESPN) have compared the Kidd hecklers with the fan at last night’s Game 5 who heckled Paul Pierce about Pierce’s summer 2000 stabbing in a nightclub. Clearly beating one’s wife is not nearly on the same moral plane as getting stabbed- though I wouldn’t expect Nets fans to know the difference.

WHY I REFUSE TO SEE

WHY I REFUSE TO SEE “THE SUM OF ALL FEARS”: No, it’s not the casting of Ben Affleck as Jack Ryan (though I concede Ben is a bit of a step down from Harrison Ford in the gravitas department). It’s not because I don’t like the action genre, it’s not because I’m uncomfortable seeing a movie about terrorism post-9/11, and it’s not even because I don’t think it’ll be a good movie. I will not be seeing “The Sum of All Fears” because, in the process of its adaptation from the Tom Clancy novel, the gutless decision was made to replace the book’s fundamentalist Muslim terrorists with right-wing, neo-Nazi militia types. This shameless sacrifice to the false god of political correctness is so contemptuous towards the truth that such a film that grows out of it does not deserve our support.
As chronicled on the indispensable movie website Coming Attractions, “The Sum of All Fears” has been in the works as the next Jack Ryan movie almost since the release of “Clear and Present Danger” in 1994, so the producers’ decision to change the ethnicity of the villains was not as a result of 9/11. Rather, it came partly as an attempt to appease Ford (who they were still hoping to woo at the time) and partly because the Arab-American lobby made it clear that they would protest long and loud should the project go forward in the novel’s form. And for some reason Clancy, who no one ever mistook for a bleeding-heart liberal, never even lifted a finger in protest.
The event that likely caused the “Sum of All Fears” producers to blink was the release in 1999 of “The Seige,” a relatively innocuous message movie starring Denzel Washington which dared to depict Islamic terrorists striking a wave of targets in New York. And even though the film was clearly more about intolerance than terrorism, and in fact contained a clear message against stereotyping and totalitarianism (and even included an Arab-American good guy!), the Arab activists missed the point, launched a highly visable boycott, and thus significantly hurt “The Seige” at the box office. These activists, of course, had their point significantly undercut when the exact events of the movie happened in real life on September 11and I find it deeply unsettling that those activists (including the openly terror-supporting Council on American-Islamic Relations) were so much more publicly critical of the terrorism in “The Seige”‘s New York than they were of the terrorism in real-life New York.
Now more than ever we must be aware of the scourge of Islamo-fascism and the threat it poses to our world, and Hollywood can and should be encouraging this awareness. But unfortunately, political correctness must always intervene. Of course it’s wrong to assume that all Arabs and all Muslims are terrorists- but anyone who isn’t an idiot knows that, just as all non-idiots know that terrorists killing innocent people based on their perverted interpretation of the Koran is a major problem in this world, before 9/11 and afterand as Bill Maher said, “next time there’s a major terrorist attack, it’s probably not gonna be the Swedes.” The producers of “The Sum of All Fears” had a chance to take such a stand, but since they didn’t have the guts, I will not be seeing their movie.

PETER THE GREAT: While I

PETER THE GREAT: While I still can’t justify his replacement of Prince Andrew as author of the TRB column, Peter Beinart checks in this week with another highly impressive New Republic piece, this one related to the recent re-election of Newark Mayor Sharpe James. Beinart’s politics correspond very much with mine- he’s a committed Democrat who’s nonetheless unafraid to criticize his party or follow ideologues when they deserve it, which is often. Especially this week, as Beinart indicts the Democrats for caring less about racial equality than about winning elections in predominantly black areas, as evidenced by the New Jersey Democratic party support of incumbent James against reform-minded Councilman Cory Booker (also black and also a Democrat), which included a promise by Governor Jim McGreevey to build a new basketball/hockey arena in downtown Newark should James be re-elected a proposal quickly pulled off the table days after the election. (Full disclosure: I worked for McGreevey’s campaign last year, though not in Newark).
BARAK SHOW: A must-read interview with Ehud Barak in the New York Review of Books, conducted by popular Israeli historian Benny Morris. Barak comes off as quite a sympathetic figure, and has certainly handled himself better publicly in recent months than Sharon or Netanyahu has. If you want to know all you need to know about what happened at Camp David to lead to the current violence, look no further than this interview.
ANOTHER TWINS UPDATE: According to a faithful reader (my dad, actually), the Twins stadium package passed last week isn’t nearly as airtight as it appears- and in fact, there’s less than a 50/50 shot that anything will come of it at all. Better get crackin’, guys- it may require a new owner, and even more creative financing, but please- make this thing happen!
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Memo to Jose Canseco: Before you write a book, you have to have read one.” Providence Journalist sportswriter Bill Reynolds.
AND SPEAKING OF BASEBALL AND STEROIDS…: Ken Caminiti, the San Diego Padres third baseman who won the National League MVP Award in 1998 and later fell out of baseball in a cocaine- and alcohol-induced stupor, has admitted in this week’s Sports Illustrated that he was in fact on steroids throughout his MVP season, and that use of the drugs is prevalent throughout major league baseball. If nothing else, this news takes away much of the luster from one of the great baseball anecdotes of recent years: when Caminiti, prior to a game in early ’98, was in the locker room with an IV in his arm, he found out the game was about to start, pulled out the IV, wolfed down a Snickers bar, and then went out and hit two home runs. Caminiti subsequently got a Snickers endorsement deal out of it, but I guess it wasn’t the Snickers after all.
BLUEPRINT PIECE: My article on the “Wizards of Wit” event is online here, in pdf format, in The Blueprint. It’s a Manhattan Jewish monthly, not to be confused with the Democratic Leadership Council magazine (or Jay-Z album) of the same name.

MULTIPLE CHOICE: The Bush Administration’s

MULTIPLE CHOICE: The Bush Administration’s near-nonstop pronouncements that “there will be another attack, and it’s only a matter of time” are: A) a transparent attempt to deflect attention from last week’s “What Bush Knew” stories; B) a transparent attempt to cover their asses if there is in fact another attack; C) a defeatist, Bud Selig-like act of self-sabotage aimed at minimizing their own successes in order to make the enemy look even worse; D) hypocritical, in saying that “there will be an attack, possibly nuclear” out of one side of the mouth while saying “we must not live in fear” out of the other; or E) all of the above.
I had nary a negative word to say about Bush, Dick and Rummy between 9/11 and May 1, but my how things change.
“CRAZIES FROM BROOKLYN”: After years of PLO-sympathizing rants from awful Israel correspondent Alisa Solomon, The Village Voice has made a rare honorable editorial decision in turning the Israel beat over to Sylvana Foa, who now writes the much more balanced “Letter From Israel” column. Foa this week observes that a large segment of the West Bank settlement population (which she sees as a key impediment to the peace process) consists of Brooklyn natives, some of whom are the most militant Jews on Earth. In addition to so many of the modern-day settlers, she writes, historical figures such as Jewish Defense League founder Meir Kahane and Hebron mosque gunman Baruch Goldstein were also born and educated in the Borough of Churches, as it’s ironically called. But Foa is even more critical of the Palestinian side, writing of their propensity to “add zeroes to their casuality totals.”
“YOU’RE THE BITCH, BITCH!” Nope, it’s not Jerry Springer, it’s MediaBistro. The indispensible journalism job-search website runs a regular feature called the “Bitch Box,” in which employees of big media companies are invited to share complaints about their employers, the NYC media culture, etc. One particularly angry Hearst Magazines staffer posted a 15-point memo berating her unbearable bosses. While the memo has been taken down from MB, it was tracked down by the Hearst bigs, and the beleaguered Editorial Assistant was summarily fired.
WIN TWINS!: I know my coverage has been a bit Twins-heavy in recent days, and for that I apologize- but first the stadium bill passes and now this: On Saturday, the first-place Twins defeated the Anaheim Angels 4-1, for their 26th victory of the season, and their first against a team with a winning record. Let me repeat that: the Twins, who are a first-place club, beat a team with a winning record for the first time this year on May 25, in the ninth week of the season. This truly says something about the unbalanced schedule, and about how much the American League Central Division sucks- and it’s also gotta be some sort of record.
WALLACE GETS SHOT: This “Mike Piazza Is(n’t) Gay” story is bound to be remembered as one of the most entertaining news events of the year- one of those happenings that should be a one-day story but instead continues for days and weeks. The latest drama: New York Post sports columnist Wallace Matthews tried to write a column critical of gossip colleague Neal Travis for breaking the “Mike is gay” story, had the column killed by his superiors, and thus quit/was fired. Matthews, who will continue to be employed by the MSG network and ESPN Radio, will certainly be missed in the pages of the Post, especially compared to such other section columnists as TV critic/sanctimonious blowhard Phil Mushnick and NBA beat writer Peter Vecsey, whose writing style can only be compared unfavorably to that of a bad Catskills comic. Matthews, who wrote mostly about basketball and boxing, must be admired for taking a stand, even if it’s against a publication not exactly known for its journalistic integrity.
AND NOW THE MOMENT YOU’VE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR…: Live, in ASCII: The Death of Jar-Jar Binks!