Yes, Roger Clemens has agreed to return to the Astros. Bummer, I was hoping he would come back to Boston, which would have been a fascinating scenario on about 17 different levels. But it’s not over yet- how many weeks before rumors start of a deadline deal to the Yanks or Sox?
News Item: Minnesota
SenateGubernatorial Candidate Lourey Picks Ex-Viking as Running Mate
It’s Tim Baylor, who briefly played safety for the Vikes in the late ’70s before becoming a prominent Twin Cities businessman. He’s also one of the few Vikings of the last two decades with no charges of DWI, public drunkenness, Whizzinator possession, lewd conduct, or bigamy on his rap sheet. Another is Alan Page, who is a state Supreme Court justice.
And in other Vikings news, the Smootgate case is over after Smoot himself and another defendant agreed to plead guilty, robbing us of what will likely be the year’s most entertaining trial.
And Rick Spielman has been hired to replace Fran Foley as VP of player personnel. Spielman is best known as the guy who was supposed to be the power behind the throne when Dan Marino was briefly GM of the Dolphins, but at least he’s better than Foley and last year’s lack of a GM.
I’ve read tons of books lately, including three over the long weekend, as I’ve been taking great advantage of the half-price new books by order at the Strand in New York. A quick roundup:
“The K Street Gang,” by Matthew Continetti. A great book, probably the definitive account of the Jack Abramoff scandals, and how they contributed to the rotting of the soul of the current Republican Party in Congress, leading to their likely downfall. Every great story is here, and it’s told in a page-turning and often humorous way. The twist: Continetti is himself a conservative Republican, and a staff writer at the Weekly Standard. It’s a better book coming from him, and not anti-Bush lefty with an axe to grind. Continetti should take it as the ultimate compliment that Hugh Hewitt criticized the book for not showing sufficient fealty to the Republican cause. Grade: A.
“An Army of Davids,” by Glenn Reynolds. An excellent look at where we stand today in terms of markets and technology, one that does not overstate the importance of blogs to the world, and does not seem to believe that right-wing politics is the most important logical use for blogs there is.. Reynolds uses his vast knowledge about various subjects, from the blogosphere to economics to nanotechnology, although at times it appears he’s throwing things in just because he knows about them, regardless of whether they have to do with the subject at hand. Still, Reynolds is well able to translate from his usual single-paragraph blog posts to book-length form. Grade: B+
“The Schreiber Theory” by David Kipen. A very interesting yet very flawed look at American cinematic history, told from the viewpoint that it is screenwriters, not directors, who are the ultimate authors of films. It’s certainly worth listening to, and of course it’s true that writers’ contributions to cinema have always been historically underrated by director-worshipping auteurists. But Kipen makes the same mistake as Andrew Sarris and the rest of the auteur movement: he fails to acknowledge that film is an inherently collaborative medium, and how much power and influence individual contributors have is vastly different from film to film. I should mention though, that Kipen’s book is very entertaining and readable; it’s the first book in several years that I’ve read in a single sitting. Grade: B-
“On Michael Jackson,” by Margo Jefferson. This is a fascinating collection of essays, about Jacko, by Pulitzer Prize-winning NYT cultural critic Jefferson. In it, she looks at every aspect of the Jackson persona, from his family history to his musical career to his ever-changing racial and gender identities, to his recent trial and acquittal on molestation charges. The book doesn’t answer every question about elusive former King of Pop, but sheds considerably more light on him than any other writer that I’ve read. Grade: A-.
“The Mind of Bill James,” by Scott Gray. This biography of the legendary baseball statisician James is fascinating throughout, though it devotes much more time and energy to the subject’s various ideosyncracies than to straight biography, which may have been more interesting. The narrative skips around chronologically, and James at one point riffs for four pages about, of all things, the Jan-Benet Ramsey case. It’s a fine book, but a straight autobiography by James may have been more interesting. Grade: B
“The Areas of My Expertise,” by John Hodgman. I didn’t realize this until I started the book, but Hodgman is that guy who used to show up at McSweeneys readings in New York, and talk endlessly about how he’s a “former literary agent.” This, his first book, is a series of bizarre asides and weird lists, only a tiny bit of which I actually understood and appreciated. (The best part is unquestionably a list of 700 Hobo Names.) However, for most of the book I had the unfortunate feeling that the humor therein was operating on some wavelength half a world -or more- away from mine. Grade: C
“Republican Like Me,” by Harmon Leon. A truly pointless and unfunny exercise in self-indulgent hackery, which isn’t even what it promises on its own back cover. Leon gives the impression that he’s going to be “infiltrating” Republican and conservative organizations throughout the 2004 campaign, and thus “exposing” what horrible monsters these people really are. But in vignette after vignette, all Leon does is act like an idiot, while the Republicans around him play the straight man. It’s an apparent attempt to fuse “Daily Show” humor with the legacy of Hunter S. Thompson, but the book utterly fails on both accounts. I’m just wondering how Leon got Howard Stern to blurb it. Grade: F.
On the occasion of Barry Bonds’ fraudulent passing of Babe Ruth on the all-time home run list, I give you this quote from Bill Simmons last week, which is such a perfect analogy that I can’t believe I missed it myself:
“Bonds just isn’t that compelling anymore — it’s a tainted milestone, he doesn’t have any credibility, and watching him play baseball at this point is like watching Andre The Giant in the late-’80s, when he could barely move and wore those tights with the one strap over his shoulder. It’s depressing.”
At this point, I’d love to see Bonds re-enact Andre’s late-’80s series of 30-second losses to the Ultimate Warrior, with Albert Pujols standing in for the Warrior.
It was announced on today’s Kidd Chris Show on WYSP that the show’s sidekick, Open Mike, will be leaving the program this week (on the link, Mike is the generally creepy gentlemen pictured on the far right). Open Mike, who got his name from his generally failed career as a comedian at open-mike nights and once lived for a spell in a storage unit in Florida, has not as of yet lined up a new gig. It shouldn’t be a problem, since there’s always quite a large job market out there for creepy 40-year-old men who are best known for having sex with trannies and blow-up dolls, and for once having “stopped a fan with his junk.”
Attention, Colts fans: If the Cincinnati Bengals overtake you next year in their climb towards the top of the AFC elite, you can blame… Jim Mora, the coach the team fired five years ago. That’s according to this week’s SI cover story, on Carson Palmer’s injury rehab, in which the quarterback had this to say:
Stuck on crutches for eight weeks and deprived of his two favorite off-season activities, golf and pickup basketball, Palmer seethed. “I was so bored that I watched the whole [NFL] combine on TV,” he says. “At one point [former Saints and Colts coach Jim] Mora was talking about my injury and said something like, ‘He definitely won’t be back for the first game, and when he comes back he won’t be playing as well as he did before, and the team will suffer.'” Palmer felt like screaming back at the TV. “That pissed me off,” he says. “Who is this guy? Isn’t this the guy who said, ‘Playoffs? Playoffs?’ He doesn’t know me, and he doesn’t know how hard I’m going to work. I’ve used that as fuel — I keep thinking of all the naysayers who don’t believe I’ll make it back. I’m going to prove them wrong.”
Mora was a very good NFL coach, but apparently that press conference will haunt him until his dying day. Especially now that it’s on YouTube.
Former Enron CEOs Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling were both convicted today on fraud charges in connection with their company’s collapse. I hope they both rot in prison for a long, long time.