Monthly Archives: December 2004

Auld Lang Syne

I was walking through Times Square last night and I started thinking “this is weird- why is it so much more crowded here than usual?” Then I remembered- oh yea, this is where they drop the ball on New Years’ Eve.
So I guess I’m a real New Yorker now- for the first 20 years of my life that was the only thing I associated with Times Square. Now, it’s just “that area between my office and my gym.”
Happy new year everybody, and thank you so much for reading me this year.

The (Third Annual) 35 Most Shameful Events of 2004

In no particular order:
– Pete Rose, after years of denials, admits to betting on baseball; Barry Bonds, after years of denials, admits to using steroids; the Boston Red Sox, after years of denials, win the World Series.
– In a PR disaster for the ages, a Manhattan nightspot called AZ tosses out an entire contingent of bloggers during a Blogger Bash; coincidentally, AZ closes just two weeks later.
– Janet Jackson’s breast is inadvertently exposed during the Super Bowl halftime show; this somehow becomes the most talked-about news story of the first half of the year, and kicks off a wave of outrageous, censorious fines by Michael Powell’s FCC.
– Former pro wrestler Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake sets off a bioterror scare in a Boston subway station- his current place of employment- when a bag of white powder is mistakenly identified as anthrax. The powder, police later discover, was merely Beefcake’s cocaine.
– A culture of serial rape is revealed in the University of Colorado football program- but it’s still not enough to cost coach Gary Barnett his job.
– Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi claims that his noticeable off-season weight loss was due to his “cutting out fast food”; leaked testimony later reveals years of steroid use by the slugger, who then becomes persona non grata in New York.
– A Brandeis University student who arrives at a Purim costume party dressed as Jesus Christ is assaulted by a partygoer; the “Jesus” student, in his defense, states that he dresses as a blockbuster movie character each year, and had been Spider-man the previous Purim.
– In hockey, the three biggest stories of the year are the near-decapitation of one player by another in a game, the murder-for-hire plot by a player against his agent, and the lockout that will likely cancel the season.
– Howard Dean’s promising presidential campaign ends with one simple “YEAAAAGH.”
– Baseball commissioner Bud Selig attempts (unsuccessfully) to put Spider-man’s likeness on each stadium’s bases; later, he inexplicably has his contract extended through 2009.
– Also extended through ’09: Jay Leno.
– Widespread torture is revealed at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison; a conservative consensus quickly emerges that the biggest tragedy of all was that the New York Times put it on the front page too many times.
– Village Voice theater critic Michael Feingold calls for Republicans to be “exterminated.”
– Smart liberals who should know better see- and praise- Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11.”
– Muhammad Ali is asked to throw out the first pitch at the baseball All-Star Game, even though his advanced Parkinson’s Disease has rendered him unable to throw, and even though he never played baseball.
– On his hit rap single “Why,” Jadakiss asks, “why did Bush knock down the towers?”
– Ricky Williams announces his retirement from football a month before the season starts in order to travel the Earth and smoke pot; he periodically re-surfaces throughout the season to tease a return before quitting for good.
– Capitol Hill staffer Jessica Cutler starts a blog in which she details her various sexual adventures in DC; a Washington Post Magazine story a few months later, ludicrously, attempts to paint Cutler as some sort of feminist pioneer.
– Dan Rather puts a story on the air using likely forged documents that question President Bush’s National Guard service; the fallout leads to Rather’s early retirement.
– Paris Hilton and Jessica Simpson, inexplicably, continue to be celebrities.
– Writer Michelle Malkin releases a book in which she defends the internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II; she later goes on “Hardball” and spreads the meme that John Kerry purposely wounded himself in Vietnam.
– Yusaf Islam, formerly known as ‘70s folk singer Cat Stevens, in detained on a flight when authorities determine that he’s on a government terrorist watch list; his music nonetheless continues to be sung around campfires at Jewish summer camps across America.
– The expected week-long tabloid/TV celebration of the ten-year anniversary of the O.J. Simpson murders is knocked out of the box by the passing that week of Ronald Reagan.
– Roger Clemens ends a sworn retirement to return (and win the Cy Young Award) with the Astros; he also gets ejected from his son’s Little League game, and leaves his team hanging once again as the year ends.
– Bill O’Reilly is sued as part of a bizarre sex scandal, in which a former underling alleges he attempted to initiate phone sex while using both a vibrator and fantasies involving “falafel.”
– The Lakers dynasty comes to an end when Kobe Bryant, after months of flying to games after hearings in his rape case, forces Shaquille O’Neal and Phil Jackson out of town.
– Vladimir Putin all but crushes the nascent hopes of democracy in Russia- and tries unsuccessfully to do the same in Ukraine for good measure.
– The name of journalist and former intern Alexandra Polier surfaces, falsely, as an ex-mistress of John Kerry.
– The once-great ESPN devolves into a 24-hour scream-a-thon for the likes of Woody Paige, Stephen A. Smith, and Sean Salisbury.
– The presidential campaign is largely waged as a proxy debate over the Vietnam war, which ended 30 years prior.
– The Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons get into a 15-minute brawl that spills into the stands and results in the suspensions and arrests of several players.
– Oklahoma Senate candidate Tom Coburn says “lesbianism is running rampant” in the state’s public schools; he wins his Senate race by a comfortable margin.
– Yankee Gary Sheffield- the month after the Yankees blow a 3-0 lead to the Red Sox and he’s implicated in the BALCO scandal- is victim of a blackmail plot involving a sex tape of Sheffield’s wife and notorious R&B singer R. Kelly. The tape is “more than 10 years old”; Mrs. Sheffield is 28.
– Timberwolf Latrell Sprewell rejects a three-year, $21 million contract offer, retorting, “I’ve gotta feed my family.” Incredibly, it places a distant second among shameful events for Sprewell’s career.
– And at 2 AM on the final night of the Republican National Convention, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog visits an MSNBC debate panel, during which actor Ron Silver engages Triumph in an argument about war, peace, and the 1940 election- temporarily forgetting that Triumph is a sock puppet.

I wasn’t going to do any normal blogging this week –in lieu of the year-end stuff- but there are a few news stories that I felt I should comment on:
– I’m just sick about this Tsumani story, as it’s hard to imagine the horrors that those people are going through- here’s a list of charities that are accepting donations. A co-worker of mine was vacationing in Thailand, but thankfully she sent word today that she’s all right.
– So, after all of the year-end celebrity-death montages and magazine features have been completed, we get three relatively major ones in four days. I’ll miss Jerry Orbach most of all, although he’ll thankfully live on forever in around-the-clock “Law & Order” re-runs all over cable. Reggie White’s passing has set off major Blogosphere debate over whether it’s right for obits to mention his virulent anti-gay comments before the Wisconsin State Legislature a few years back; I say it merits mention, along with White’s athletic greatness and off-the-field good deeds. As for Susan Sontag, my first thought upon hearing the news was whether or not Sullivan will award the customary Sontag Award next week- and my second to remember one of the better quotes from “Bull Durham.”
UPDATE: Sullivan has, in fact, re-named the Sontag Award– you guessed it- the Moore Award.
– “The Wire” concluded its third season with a brilliant finale on Sunday that would serve as a sublime coda for the series, if it is in fact canceled. But fortunately, there’s a movement afoot to prevent that, including the “Save the Wire” campaign– which (borrowing a plot from the past season) asks fans to send disposable or toy cell phones to HBO headquarters. I like that. And Matt Yglesias has been running “Wire” threads every week, which I unfortunately didn’t discover until the season was already over.
– Speaking of HBO, they’ve been re-running Season 5 of “The Sopranos” this week, and I’d forgotten just how great it was. How, exactly, did Vince Curatola not win an Emmy?
– Mike Tice had his 2005 option picked up as Vikings coach. Ugh. The Vikings are in the playoffs if they win Sunday, OR the Rams lose, OR the Panthers lose. After last year, I’m totally prepared for none of the three to happen.
– The generally authoritative Village Voice “Take 6” film critics’ poll is out, and it names “Before Sunset” as the surprise winner, followed by “Eternal Sunshine,” “Dogville,” “Sideways,” and “Goodbye Dragon Inn.” As a pleasant surprise, “Fahrenheit 9/11”- which I would’ve predicted as the winner- comes in at #25. Also in the Voice- Michael Musto’s gutbustlingly-funny year-end column.
Watch for the Shameful Events list tonight, and that’ll likely be it for me in ’04.

The 2004 Achievement Awards

Man of the Year: Pat Tillman, for bravely sacrificing his NFL career, to serve and die as a hero in Afghanistan.
Sportsman of the Year: Sports Illustrated got it right: The Boston Red Sox.
Entertainer of the Year: Entertainment Weekly got it right: Jon Stewart.
Eckstein Award Winner (for cool gentiles with Jewish-sounding names): David Greene, University of Georgia quarterback, who led the Bulldogs to a 9-2 season in a tough SEC, thus becoming the winningest quarterback in Division I-A history. Greene is not a Jew, though he does share both a name and position with Brendan Fraser’s character in “School Ties.”
Burn Your Siddur Award Winner (for embarrassing statements/actions by Jewish clergy):

“Call it socialistic, but I think that the notion of ‘from each according to his ability, to each according to his need’ has worked very well for Jewish communities throughout the years.”

–the president of a Westchester County (N.Y.) synagogue, giving a revisionist view of Jewish/Marxist history, in his Yom Kippur fundraising speech.
Chutzpah Award Winner: Rick Salomon, the co-star of the Paris Hilton Sex Tape, sues Hilton’s parents for slander, after they accuse him of seeking to profit from a commercial release of the tape. Then, after the suit is settled, Salomon releases a commercial version of the tape, called “One Night in Paris.”
Tabloid Front Page of the Year:

Headline of the Year: “Mob Boss ‘Louie Bagel’ Schmeared For Life” (New York Post, 1/24)
“Man Found Naked in Chimney Admits to Attempted Break-in.” (Star Tribune, 2/3)
All of Jersey is Toxic” (New York Post, 4/16)
Quote of the Year:

“If Tiger Woods called a press conference and then (a.) retired from golf, (b.) said he was gay, (c.) made several casual anti-Semitic remarks, (d.) punched a female golf reporter in the face, and then (e.) refused to comment on any of these issues (to anyone) ever again … that would be pretty shocking.”

–Chuck Klosterman, from his chat on with Bill Simmons, on 8/17.
Film Critic Quote of the Year:

“Lars [Ulrich] deserves bonus points for being shorter than his wife, and his remark that the band’s ‘in a bit of a shit sandwich’ wins the most-blatant–Spinal Tap–reference award. But he’s not nearly as lovable as his ancient Danish dad, Torben—a bucktoothed, troll-bearded ex-Wimbledon third-rounder, jazz muso, painter, poet, filmmaker, and arts journalist who looks exactly like the wizard-of-the-rings mountain man inside Led Zep’s Zoso gatefold. He’s also the only person brave enough to tell Metallica their music sucks.”

Chuck Eddy, reviewing “Metallica: Some Kind of Monster,” in the Village Voice.
Music Critic Quote of the Year:

“Nick Hornby is full of shit. Actually, this is unfair to shit. At least life grows from shit. In his recent half-page essay printed on the Op-Ed page of The New York Times, the lad-lit author stunned the music world with this revelation: They don’t make ’em like they used to! In Hornby’s sad, blinkered, midlife-crisis-as-a-lifestyle-choice world, music is only worth listening to if it reminds him of all the classic rock that made him feel funny in the tum-tum when he was 10.”

Scott Steward, the Village Voice
TV Critic Quote of the Year:

”Nicole and Jason are allegedly ex-lovers, but have such a dearth of chemistry that I dread their inevitable hookup, which will likely have the heat of naked Barbie and Ken dolls being smushed together by a bored toddler.

-Gillian Flynn, reviewing “North Shore” in Entertainment Weekly
Book Critic Quote of the Year:

“There’s an envy to Tom Wolfe’s usual run of detractors, of course, but something more than envy–a resentment, an ache, a fury: If I could write like that, a small cat snarls inside each of their heads, I’d . . . I’d change things in this rabid, racist, right-wing world. I’d zola the rich bastards until they burbled for mercy. I’d dickens the corporate polluters until they drowned themselves in their own sick sludge. I’d thackeray, I’d balzac, I’d dostoyevsky everyone who doesn’t get it–it, IT, the ineffable IT of political conscience, the mystical rightness that lets a Princeton professor be a revolutionary and, well, a Princeton professor at the same time. God–or Charles Darwin, maybe, or some freak of perverse genetics–put a sword in Tom Wolfe’s hands, and the oblivious creep won’t use it to smite the ungodly. The man doesn’t deserve his sentences. Prose belongs to us, by divine right and right of conquest. And here comes this white-suited fake dandy, this reporter, to set up camp right in the middle of it, like John Ashcroft–or Gary Bauer or, I don’t know, Elmer Gantry–buying the prettiest summer house on Martha’s Vineyard.”

-Joseph Buttom, reviewing “I Am Charlotte Simmons” in the Weekly Standard.
Theater Critic Quote of the Year:

“You’d be hard-pressed to find a show as tacky and ineptly put together as ‘The Boy From Oz,’ although Frank Wildhorn’s “Dracula” is a worthy successor… The audience, to be sure, was not diverse. Women, specifically middle-aged women from the suburbs, fell hard for Jackman. At times, the atmosphere in the Imperial Theatre resembled a bachelorette party for someone about to get married for the second time.”

Michael Reidel, in the New York Post.
Blog Critic Quote of the Year: “Reading this blog is roughly the equivalent of watching a homeless guy trying to negotiate 11 layers of dirty clothing in order to masturbate,” –Norbizness, reviewing the late, lamented Bloviating Inanities.
Photo of the Year (Via LilB):

Sports Logo of the Year (Via Jim Caple):

Best of ’04

Top Ten Films of 2004
1. “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (Michel Gondry)
2. “Spider-man 2” (Sam Raimi)
3. “Garden State” (Zach Braff)
4. “The Aviator” (Martin Scorsese)
5. “Team America: World Police” (Trey Parker)
6. “Friday Night Lights” (Peter Berg)
7. “The Incredibles” (Brad Bird)
8. “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou” (Wes Anderson)
9. “Closer” (Mike Nichols)
10. “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” (Adam McKay)
Honorable Mention: “Napoleon Dynamite,” “Mean Girls,” “The Ladykillers,” “I Heart Huckabees,” “Goodbye, Lenin!,” “The Dreamers,” “Control Room,” “Shaun of the Dead,” “Miracle,” “Saved!”
Top Ten Albums of 2004
1. Green Day- “American Idiot”
2. U2- “How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb”
3. Keane- “Hopes and Fears”
4. DJ Danger Mouse- “The Grey Album”
5. Grant Lee Phillips- “Virginia Creeper”
6. Brian Wilson- “Smile”
7. Norah Jones- “Feels Like Home”
8. “Garden State” soundtrack
9. Franz Ferdinand, self titled
10. The Walkmen, “Bows and Arrows”
Honorable Mention: Interpol, “Antics”; Modest Mouse, “Good News For People Who Love Bad News”; Starsailor, “Silence is Easy”; Kanye West, “The College Dropout”; Wilco, “A Ghost is Born”; Eminem, “Encore”; R.E.M., “Under the Sun.”
Top Ten Television Shows of 2004
1. “The Sopranos” (HBO)
2. “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” (Comedy Central)
3. “The Wire” (HBO)
4. “South Park” (Comedy Central)
5. “Chappelle’s Show” (Comedy Central)
6. “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (HBO)
7. “Rescue Me” (FX)
8. “The Shield” (FX)
9. “24” (Fox)
10. “Arrested Development (Fox)


Holidays, and/or Merry Christmas; I’ll let Jarvis and Hewitt sort out which greeting is appropriate. In the meantime, I’ll be taking the long weekend off from blogging, but stay tuned for my year-end posts next week: top-ten lists on Monday, the year-end awards on Tuesday, and the long-awaited shameful events list on Wednesday.

He Don’t Roll On Shabbos

Especially now that he’s dead.
The New York papers reported the somewhat surprising news this morning that the late Palestinian leader/terrorist Yasser Arafat invested money in the company that owned Bowlmoor Lanes, a hipster-inclined bowling alley in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village.
It sounds funny on the surface, yes, but let’s not read too much into it, or start any boycotts or anything- the business connection between the late goon and the alley was tangential at best, as a company owned by Arafat invested in another company which was tied to the company that owns Bowlmoor.
In other words, Bowlmoor didn’t know it was in bed with Arafat, and Arafat likely had never heard of Bowlmoor either, or even bowling itself. So don’t worry- Bowlmoor’s future as a hipster hangout/Bar Mitzvah distination is likely secure.
Esther has more.