Monthly Archives: February 2003


NOT FEELING WELLS: In a disclosure that should be surprising to just about nobody, New York Yankees pitcher David Wells admits in his forthcoming autobiography that he was still “half-drunk” from partying the previous evening on the afternoon of May 17, 1998, when he pitched baseball’s 15th perfect game. Wells had been out the previous night at a party with the “Saturday Night Live” cast (Damn that Will Ferrell!), and pitched on two hours’ rest.
Wells boasts that he is the only one of the pitchers to throw a perfect game who “did it half-drunk, with bloodshot eyes, monster breath and a raging, skull-rattling hangover.” Wells is not, however, the first major league baseball player to pitch a no-hitter while under the influence- that would be Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis, who on June 12, 1970, somehow managed to no-hit the San Diego Padres after taking LSD.
This isn’t Wells’ first time in the news this off-season; earlier he had defended teammate Derek Jeter against occusations from owner George Steinbrenner that Jeter had been “partying too much.” The rotund pitcher also testified against the Brooklyn man who assaulted him in a diner last summer, and admitted that he had “almost died” five years ago after taking the notorious muscle stimulant Ephredra.
Pitching a perfect game while drunk is quite an achievement, I’ve gotta say. Although drunk or sober, against a Minnesota Twins lineup that included the likes of Brent Gates, Jon Shave, Alex Ochoa, and Pat Meares, I might’ve had a shot at a perfect game myself.


FILM CRITIC QUOTE OF THE DAY: “‘Daredevil’ lacks intensity. Its only frisson comes when Michael Clarke Duncan’s mug is splashed across the front page of the New York Post with the headline ‘The Real Kingpin,’ [because] the transposition of Hollywood racism is too close to what the Post does daily.” –Armond White, in New York Press. It’s funny ’cause it’s true.


THE JAIL SPECIAL: The final episode of HBO’s groundbreaking prison drama “Oz” aired on Sunday, and while the show’s sixth season had been generally lackluster, the writers and cast came up waith a finale that was as close to perfect as an “Oz” episode can get.
The show did just about the best it could in wrapping up the stories of each character. Yes, many will complain about Tobias Beecher (Lee Tergeson) ending the series without being paroled again, but I believe Beecher’s resolution was perfectly consistent with what’s happened to his character (the Job of “Oz”) for six years: “Same old story,” he said after landing again behind bars, “I get fucked in the ass.”
While the show abandoned its clever “dead prisoner narrator” cameos after six episodes (and without an appearance by the Greatest of All Time, Adebesi), it returned the focus at the end to narrating ghost Augustus Hill (the wonderful Harold Perrineau) who, more than anyone else, gave “Oz” its gravitas.
Now I’ve made it very clear in the past that I don’t make a practice of rooting for specific characters to die when I watch TV. But I made a once-in-a-lifetime exception for J.K. Simmons’ Vern Schillinger on the final “Oz”- regardless of what else happened in the episode, I was prepared to give it a positive review provided that Nazi bastard Vern met a painful, bloody end. Vern was indeed “shanked” (I’m gonna miss that word), though I practically jumped when Simmons showed up last night as a guest star on “Law & Order.”
Speaking of bloody ends (stop!), I suggest all those “Sopranos”-watchers who complain about the lack of “whackings” give “Oz” a shot, as by my count 25 different characters were killed in the eight episodes of season 6. Yet somehow Warden Leo Glynn (Ernie Hudson) was awarded a “Correctional Society Lifetime Achievement Award” in the penultimate episode. Any warden in real life who presided over 25 (mostly unsolved) prisoner deaths in eight weeks would be fired, not rewarded, but then “Oz” was never about realism. (It should go without saying, of course, that Warden Glynn was himself shanked and killed at said awards banquet).
“Oz” is, above all, an acquired taste, and I didn’t acquire it until around this time last year, when I began devouring the reruns. It’s a true triumph of writer/producer Tom Fontana’s creativity that a show that has featured such material as frequent full-frontal male nudity, spoon sodomy, and a near-complete lack of women or heterosexual romance could be so popular with such a wide cross-section of people.
So I salute an excellent show, on its passing into the night. Not only is “Oz” the best HBO show to go off the air this year (better than “Arli$$” and “Mind of the Married Man”!), but who knows how many potential criminals it scared straight. Some may give credit for the ’90s crime drop to the economy, or Rudy Giuilani, but I say it was “Oz.”


DOES ELY, MINNESOTA, NEED A FOREIGN POLICY?: I’m paraphrasing Henry Kissinger’s now-very-irrelevant pre-9/11 book “Does America Need a Foreign Policy” to illustrate the curious case of Ely, a small town (population 3700) in northeastern Minnesota that’s going through a major (?) crisis. As reported in today’s Star Tribune, Ely’s city council on February 18 passed a resolution, by a vote of 4-2, to oppose the war in Iraq. While praised by some, the resolution has caused a town-wide uproar, and led many in Ely to question the council members’ patriotism and demand their resignations- to the point that the council is considering rescinding the resolution. A town meeting held Tuesday night was attended by nearly 300 people, and the Iraq debate “pitted friend against friend,” according to the Strib account.
The question of whether or not to go to war in Iraq is a highly important one, which will affect the future of our nation like few have in recent history. The question of how the politicians in Ely, Minnesota, feel about the war is not quite so important. In a time when the US is prepared to potentially go to war without the approval of the UN Security Council, I don’t imagine the question of which side Ely, Minnesota’s city council comes down on is something that’s going to keep President Bush, Tony Blair, or Saddam Hussein up at night. Nor is the similar vote by the New York City Council, or by (God help us all) the Brandeis student body. All politics may be local, but when politicians are elected to regional offices (whether a small town city council or a student government), there’s no reason why administration of geopolitical decisions should be part of the job’s criteria.
Relax, people of Ely: even if the worst-case scenario occurs and the terrorists manage to detonate weapons of mass destruction in every major US city, Ely is far enough from Minneapolis/St. Paul to be safe.
(Damn, I hope Lileks writes about this…)

FRED ROGERS, 1928-2003: It was

FRED ROGERS, 1928-2003: It was just announced (at 4:30 AM EST) that the childrens’ host known to millions as Mr. Rogers has passed away at the age of 74.
Rogers’ show, from his sweaters to his shoes to the Land of Make-Believe to visitors from friends like Mr. McFeeley, was an ever-present feature of my childhood, just as it was to tens of millions of others over many generations. And with re-runs, “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” is likely to touch many more.

IT’S LIBESKIND!: On the tenth

IT’S LIBESKIND!: On the tenth anniversary of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. has chosen German Jewish architect Daniel Libeskind’s proposal for development at Ground Zero.
I don’t love Libeskind’s plan, but I do think it’s far superior to the goofy THINK proposal, and I do like that it contains the world’s largest building. I just hope that the LMDC, the city, the state, and the various developers can get their act together, and actually begin the process of construction of the buildings, a memorial, and a transit hub by this time next year.
But perhaps best of all, the choice of Libeskind’s proposal is a slap in the face to the New York Times’ obnoxious architecture critic Herbert Muschamp, who has been largely critical of the plan since the start of the process. Muschamp is the same man who infamously ripped the original proposals last fall because they “failed to address America’s troubled relationship with the world.” It’s never a good idea for a single critic (whether in film, theater, architecture, or restaurants) to have all-powerful influence in any medium, so we should all be thankful that this modern-day Bosley Crowther has for once been cut down to size.

RATHER NOT: For the “journalistic

RATHER NOT: For the “journalistic coup of the year,” the interview of Saddam Hussein by Dan Rather sure didn’t make a lot of news. Due to the ground rules of the interview (much as with an Iraqi election, Saddam’s camp essentially controlled every aspect of the process, including the tapes), Rather was able to ask virtually no tough questions and wasn’t able to challenge any of Hussein’s ludicrous assertions, from his insistance that he was “elected,” to his argument that Iraq wasn’t “defeated” in the first Gulf War, but rather chose “voluntarily” to withdraw from Kuwait.
I’m not sure if the problem was Rather’s timidity, the Iraqi restrictions, or the editing of the tape, but more time was given to Saddam’s DOA idea of a “debate” with President Bush than to discussion of gassings-of-the-Kurds or of weapons of mass destruction, and a five-minute tangent was broadcast in which the dictator interrupted his translator for disrespecting the first President Bush by failing to refer to him as “Mr. Bush.” Rather did not mention until a later on-camera narration that Saddam himself was much more disrespectful of Bush, Sr., himself, when he tried to kill him in 1993.
Just as in Rather’s previous interview with Saddam in 1990, the sitdown was a “huge get” that will ultimately prove worthless from both a journalistic and historical standpoint. And I bet it loses in the ratings to “I’m a Celebrity- Get Me Out of Here!”- it certainly won’t out-rate the Robert Blake interview that aired later that night.


CHARLES FOSTER KANE AND HIS SISTER, MEG: Normally, Roger Ebert’s Sunday “Movie Answer Man” column is the last place to look for inside info about neo-garage rock. But that’s what I got this week, when Ebert answered a letter from a reader who recently watched “Citizen Kane” with his two children, when he noticed something strange:

“Whereupon everyone bursts into a song, ‘There is a man, a certain man … ,’ after a few lines, my kids were mouthing the words. I was incredulous until they told me these were the lyrics to a song by the White Stripes, ‘The Union Forever,’ on the hit album ‘White Blood Cells.’ While the tune is utterly different, the lyrics are exactly those in the film and they are bracketed by other significant lines from the “Kane” script.

Lines from ‘Kane’ make up the entire bridge section of the song:
“There is a man/a certain man/and for the poor you may be sure/that he’ll do all he can/who is this one?/who’s favourite son?/just by his action has the traction/magnets on the run/who likes to smoke/enjoys a joke/and wouldn’t get a bit/upset if he were really broke/with wealth and fame/he’s still the same/I’ll bet you five you’re not alive/If you don’t know his name”
The song appears in its entirety to be a homage to ‘Kane’; singer Jack White even says “I’m C.F.K.” in its first verse. Now, since the Stripes gave themselves sole songwriting credit for the song, they may soon be in trouble with Warner Bros. (which owns the rights to ‘Kane’), as well as the writers’ guild, and the estates of Herman J. Mankiewicz and Orson Welles.
Funny, I thought I knew quite a bit about The Greatest Film of All Time from my Film Studies days- but I’ve been listening to that Stripes album for almost two years, and I somehow never noticed until now. Even more strangely, the letter writer, Phil Freshman, is (like me) from St. Louis Park, MN.