Sunday, January 31, 2010

Rip Torn Finds a Creepy Way to Take Out a Loan

Here, a polite sailor explains that Rip Torn cannot get drunk and steal the USS Philadelphia

I don't have a clue as to what happened here, but it's either tragic or hilarious--take your pick:

Actor Elmore "Rip" Torn has been charged with breaking into a Connecticut bank and carrying a loaded handgun while intoxicated.

State police say the 78-year-old Salisbury resident was arrested Friday night after police found him inside the Litchfield Bancorp with a loaded revolver.

The "Men in Black" actor has been taken into custody and charged with first-degree burglary, third-degree criminal mischief, carrying a firearm while intoxicated, first-degree trespassing and possession of firearm without a permit. He is being held on $100,000 bond and is scheduled to appear Monday in Bantam Superior Court.

Last year, Torn was given probation in a Connecticut drunken driving case and granted permission to enter an alcohol education program. He also has two previous drunken driving arrests in New York.

I hope that, when I'm 78, my badassery is as legendary as this, but not so much with the legal jeopardy and all that, okay? Also, what is up with the link between male actors and their appearances on the sitcom 30 Rock? First Alec Baldwin, then Tracy Morgan, now Rip Torn.

Just saying.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Nobody Owns a Catchphrase

Really, NFL. Running out of cash or something?

Who owns "Who Dat?"

Some T-shirt makers are asking that question after they were hit with cease-and-desist letters from the NFL demanding that they stop selling shirts with the traditional cheer of New Orleans Saints fans.

The National Football League says the shirts infringe on a legal trademark it owns. Separately, two brothers and longtime Saints fans claim they own the phrase, which was around before the long-downtrodden team's inception in 1966.

The league said Friday it's not trying to exclude all uses of Who Dat and the fleur-de-lis logo -- just when either is used in combination with other Saints trademarks, like their fleur-de-lis logo and uniform designs.

The NFL owns the fleur-de-lis now? Good luck winning that argument.

It never ceases to amaze me how corporate sports can ruin the fun of a community that is basking in the glow of a sports team and the success it is having. Of course a few hucksters are going to make some coin off pirated or knockoff shirts. Who cares? It's been that way forever. The surest sign that your team is accomplishing something is when the little roadside booths pop up selling jerseys to the bandwagon lameasses.

Real fans already have their gear. Let a few clowns make some running around money.

Friday, January 29, 2010

A Starbury No More

I had no idea things had gotten this bad for Stephon Marbury:
His New York fans may have deserted him, but Stephon Marbury is already winning new friends in this grimy coal city in northern China.

"Ma Bu Li," as he is now known, on Wednesday began an unlikely career with the Taiyuan Shanxi Zhongyu Professional Basketball Club, one of the worst teams in the league. He is the biggest National Basketball Association star ever to have played professional basketball in China.

Back home, Mr. Marbury's run-ins with coaches and teammates at the New York Knicks and other teams battered his reputation. After terminating his contract in New York early last year, Mr. Marbury played briefly for the Boston Celtics, and according to Zhongyu, he accepted an offer to move to China after he didn't get a satisfactory offer in the NBA.

But his falling out with the Knicks was not publicized as much in China as it has been in the U.S. Though die-hard Chinese fans say they are aware he has had less playing time in recent years, Mr. Marbury's reputation as a top-notch point guard is still relatively untarnished here.

The 32-year-old posted a greeting to Chinese fans on his blog Tuesday, attracting more than 4,000 subscribers within hours. One user posting under the name JohnLee7125 wrote a response to Mr. Marbury that said: "I think you can do better in China, because we love you."

Mr. Marbury is hardly a China hand. "I really didn't know that much about China other than what I've seen on TV" about Chinese NBA star Yao Ming, Mr. Marbury told reporters Tuesday night when he arrived at his hotel. "I thought this was the right place to be."

Once Marbury gets himself situated, he should be fine. All he has to do is pass and remember to praise his teammates and everything will be gravy for him. The rest of the world will move on, and I highly doubt whether he will ever play in the NBA again.

Enough With the Jessica Simpson Bashing

Jessica Simpson

Okay, okay--the poor young lady tooted:

A source tells Us Weekly that Jessica Simpson had a, ahem, windy moment during a business meeting for her denim line in late January. "While one of the executives was speaking in a room full of five people, Jessica let out a very loud fart," says the insider.

"Her mother [Tina Simpson] was there, and it prompted her to turn around and yell, 'Jessica!' The tension was extreme. No one knew what to say."

It wasn't Simpson's first brush with public flatulence: She famously cut loose on an episode of Newlyweds, telling then-husband Nick Lachey, "You love my stinky ass," and professed her fondness for between-the-sheets poots (a.k.a. Dutch ovens) to a radio station in 2008.

There's way too much information packed into that little piece, but all I can say is this--everyone passes wind. The only way it becomes a story is when someone wants to take a shot at someone for being bloated and uncouth. And this poor young lady deserves better.

Dutch ovens?

Well, perhaps she has this one coming to her. After this? We can give her a pass.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Who Really Owns the Lorton Meteorite?

Even though I’m not a lawyer, I’ve been sued enough times that I certainly feel like I could be one. I’ve been in several trials, including one that actually sent me to prison. That lawyer was a good friend, and he did his best, but, as they say in the funny papers—I should have hired a better mouthpiece.

There are now lawyers who are going to get into the dispute over who owns the meteorite that fell into a doctor’s office in Lorton, Virginia:

Today’s episode of Everybody’s Favorite Meteorite brings the nation disturbing news: That spunky bit of chondrite that plummeted into a Lorton doctors’ office on Jan. 18, delighting an international audience with news of its fireball entrance, may not go on to a spot of glory in the Smithsonian, after all.

The doctors who were nearly bonked on the head by the thing when it came plummeting from the asteroid belt into Examining Room No. 2 in the Williamsburg Square Family Practice, gave it to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. In return, Smithsonian officials planned to give them $5,000 in appreciation. The doctors, Marc Gallini and Frank Ciampi, planned to donate the money to earthquake relief efforts in Haiti. The Smithsonian planned to put the meteorite on prominent display and study it as a 4.5 billion-year-old postcard from the formation of the solar system.

“We knew meteorite hunters would offer them something for it, and we wanted to be competitive,” said Linda Welzenbach, the meteorite collections manager at the Smithsonian.

But in an extraterrestrial soap opera still unfolding, the landlords of the Virginia building that houses the doctors’ office now say they are the rightful owners of the meteorite. Museum officials said the landlords informed them, midday Thursday, that they were coming to take the stone out of the Smithsonian by sundown.

You heard that right—the landlords are going to try to take ownership of the meteorite.

Gallini and Ciampi hustled to get a lawyer to fire off a letter to the museum, barring them from releasing the stone, pending resolution of ownership.

“The landlords intend to take it,” Gallini said. “It isn’t nice.”

Deniz Mutlu, a member of the family who owns the building, said Thursday afternoon that “it’s staying in the Smithsonian for now, and that’s all I can say.”

His brother and fellow landlord, Erol Mutlu, sent Gallini an e-mail earlier this week, politely demanding the rock be given to the family: “It’s evident that ownership is tied to the landowner. The U.S. courts have ruled that a meteorite becomes part of the land where it arrives through ‘natural cause’ and hence the property of the landowner; the notion of ‘finders keepers’ has been rejected by the Supreme Court of Oregon.”

Now, the Mutlu brothers are probably on the hook for the repairs to the building, unless the insurance covers it. Here’s a link to more than you ever wanted to know about that subject.

In essence though, it’s mean-spirited to take something that is going to be put on display, and it’s especially mean spirited when the doctors paying you rent aren’t going to profit from their find and had planned to turn the appreciation money from the Smithsonian over to Haitian Earthquake Relief. It poisons the well with ALL of your renters, not just the doctors who were renting out space.

If the meteor really might fetch $50,000, what’s that in the long run if you lose two or three renters (including, and especially the doctors) and then have a sullied reputation as a mean-spirited landlord? If you’re trying to make payments on a property or properties, and if you lose three renters, your $50,000 in meteor money is going to come back and bonk you on the head (or bite you in the rear end, as the case may be).


Privacy Rights and GPS Technology

You can’t catch me, Johnny Law

Well, score one for privacy if this can catch on everywhere else:

Police in Maryland would need a warrant before they use electronic tracking devices to monitor individuals, under legislation being discussed Thursday in a Senate Committee.

Delegate Jeff Waldstreicher, D-Montgomery, who proposed the measure, says he has learned a growing number of county police departments are placing GPS-type technology on vehicles to track suspects’ movements. He says he has “no problem with it,” but thinks a warrant should be required first since “folks generally have an expectation” that police have not attached GPS units to their vehicle.

Waldstreicher says there would be exceptions for cases when the police need to act quickly and there isn’t time for a warrant.

When they say “place” a device, do they mean sticking something under a car in order to track it? If so, why on Earth would anyone think that that is not an invasion of privacy? If you feel the need to protect yourself, jamming 1575.42 MHz isn’t difficult at all. Just get yourself one of these:

GPS Jamming Device

Are they legal? Probably not. But, if you aspire to be an outlaw, then what are we talking about here?

In any event, I don’t think Johnny Law needs to have the right to track vehicles without someone taking a peek over his shoulder. Make a judge approve such a drastic measure. If we don’t at least have some sort of judicial oversight on this, the abuse of police power will become an issue at some point. And I don’t mean that we will have cops running around putting tracking devices on the cars of their girlfriends. I think that it is a given that we will have that.

I know it will come as a shock to some people, but the police do make mistakesand the police do follow a bad tip and they do end up following, arresting, or harassing innocent people.

Mel Gibson Needs a Hit or Something More Than That

This is how you have your mug shot taken. Always smile, even if you are a bit greasy

Roger Friedman does a good job of picking apart the new project from Mel Gibson, and his apparent lack of remorse for his arrest in Malibu a few years back, and that's fine. I think Gibson needs to answer some more questions and I think he will never be able to escape what happened, although I'm not sure what his father has to do with any of it:

Mel Gibson opens in “Edge of Darkness” this Friday. It’s his first starring role since “Signs” in 2002. But a lot has changed.

Since then we’ve learned that Gibson is a racist and anti-Semite. He’s also a drunk, a liar and a philanderer. His father is a famous Holocaust denier who has a Web site explaining all his crazy beliefs. He also disavows the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church in favor of his own brand of Catholicism.On a radio show called “The Political Cesspool,” broadcast on Jan. 9, 2010, Hutton Gibson went after the late Pope John Paul II for visiting the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, for being a Russian or Communist agent and other crazy stuff.

“The whole bunch at the top,” Hutton Gibson says at 14:58 of the interview, of the current Archdiocese,  ”if they’re not outright queer, they’re supportive of it. They do nothing about the terrible things that go on among the clergy and the bishops.”

Listen to the interview here. (Thanks to blogger Adam Holland, who found the link.)

Audiences do move on, but what strikes me about this film is that it is another fetishization of violence. Mel Gibson is mad, then he hits someone, then he breaks a window, and he walks mad some more, and then he says something through his teeth, then he looks mad, and there's more violence.

Okay, but how is that entertaining? Gibson needs a hit. Barring that, he needs to work and try to restore the bond that he used to have with people who wanted to see his films. He needs to find a way to be likeable, or just exit the industry.

If people held what my father said or did against me, I'd probably hide under the blankets and have people bring me beverages and snacks.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Greg Oden Really Gets Around

I think that it is too soon to call Greg Oden a bust. He could, one day, become a very productive basketball player. Fragility is a problem, and now, so is his judgement:

Portland Trail Blazers center Greg Oden is apologizing for nude photos that have surfaced on the internet.

Oden says the pictures, taken with his cell phone and sent to a former girlfriend, were taken about 1½ years ago. A friend told the 21-year-old Tuesday morning that the pictures were making the rounds on the internet.

“I would like to apologize to everybody: Portland, the fans, the organization,” Oden told reporters at the Blazers practice facility. “It was very embarrassing.”

Oden was known to have certain issues back when he was drafted. The photo above, which is just clowning around, was taken in 2007.

Look, no matter what happens--nude photos of everyone surface on the Internet. God, there are some wild ones of me floating around out there. I have accidentally gotten nude in front of numerous surveillance cameras because I do like to swim in the nude and the Comfort Suites is really an uptight establishment anyway.

Hardly the Badass

Gary Coleman

If there's a reason why Gary Coleman decided to pose for his mugshot looking like this, I don't know what it would be.

In the first place, it could have been snapped when he was still upset. That makes the most sense to me. Shame on you, jail photographer. You should have told Gary a joke and you should have had him take off that sweatshirt.

In the second place, Gary Coleman has never really had a leg up on manipulating the media. He's always been behind that power curve.

Third, absent a lawyer or advisor or someone to mentor him, there's no one to tell him how to pose for a mugshot when you're a celebrity. He appears to still have an agent, if you read the story that I have linked above. Fat lot of good it is doing him.

This is how you pose for a mugshot:

Tom DeLay

That's how you do it. You smile. You smile like the dickens. You make it look like there's been a happy accident, and you're the happy warrior, slap-happily obliging Johnny law. Make it look like you just said gosh-darn out loud and offered someone some pie.

Why I do what I do

What I really enjoy about the way that I blog is to meet a standard and achieve a monthly goal.

Thanks to a variety of tools, I've easy time of finding images and visual things to cue the reader. Yes, I do worry about violating a copyright when it comes to citing works, but it is never intentional, and I am always trying to stay within fair use guidelines. I think that by honestly adhering to those policies, you can avoid a lot of issues.

That said, I think you have to be prepared to take things down without any fuss, and I certainly have no problem taking something down. Hasn't happened yet, knock on wood.

The photo above is by Stephen Oachs, and I think it is fabulous. I picked it up off Tumblr, and if someone really wants to sit down and pitch a fit about copyright, then they should address the situation on Tumblr, where everything is copied, re-transmitted, reblogged and recycled. Tumblr is a great tool, but that's where, at least in my mind, any discussion about this issue could go off on a wild tangent.

Every post has to have a headline. I work hard at mine, in order to capture something different. Except for the headline to this piece, of course. Ugh, how bland.

I try to deliberately write a lede that does not resemble one that a journalist would write. I try to make it clean and quick. Simple words when possible. Grab, hold, then explain, and then explain why, with reasoning and evidence where possible.

Where possible, I keep the quoted post to a limit of three paragraphs. Visually, I think it helps to write as much, if not more, than what is cited. This is analysis and reaction, after all. This is not supposed to be the republication of the same idea with that all-encompassing lazy blogger's reaction of "indeed!" attached to it. Sometimes, you can't add much. But add value.

I always tag and categorize, and I always spell check. Then I do a gut check and re-read for common sense.

Common sense is probably the most underrated skill in blogging. You can argue all you want about something, but if it doesn't make sense in the context of the culture and times in which we live, forget it. Someone who has lived in a city their whole live cannot understand why you may have to live a completely different way in another part of the country. Someone who has never served in the military is never going to understand certain traditions or practices. Same goes for me. I don't know everything, and I always try to remember that.

Sorry, Not Interested


I'm getting a bit tired of remakes:

I have very good information from a top source that tells me another GREMLINS movie is coming to the silver screens and it will be in stereoscopic 3D! It is in the early stages with still lots of hurdles to pass, but it is being developed. This is not a 3D conversion of the original to be clear.

Seems like a good idea to me - especially in light of the GHOSTBUSTERS newswe broke on Wednesday. The original GREMLINS was directed by THE HOLE's Joe Dante, with executive producer STEVEN SPIELBERG and writer CHRIS COLUMBUS.

The story centered around a pet purchased at a curious shop in NYC's Chinatown which had some quirks, namely rapid reproduction when introduced to water (one new creature per drop of water) and turning into gremlins after midnight if they feed.

No, I really don't need to see that done all over again. The story is as old as the hills--don't mess with Mother Nature! Yawn.

If there's one thing you can count on, no one will learn the lesson of James Cameron's Avatar: steal the story of Pocahontas, come up with some great special effects, and, whatever you do, don't cast an American actor as the lead character unless it is Sigourney Weaver.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Is the NFL a Monopoly?

The National Football League exists as a monopoly--or does it? The NFL exists as a group of competitors who band together and form an entity that can be described as a monopoly--or can it?

The United States Supreme Court is having a look at the NFL and a case involving an apparel maker that was shut out of doing business with the NFL years ago. The Los Angeles Times weighs in with an editorial:

American Needle Inc. used to be one of several companies that provided souvenir sportswear for NFL teams. But it lost its franchise when the league reached an exclusive contract with Reebok in 2000 to manufacture caps bearing team logos. American Needle wants a trial to prove that the NFL is an alliance of separately owned teams subject to a federal antitrust law prohibiting monopolies and contracts or conspiracies "in restraint of trade and commerce."

The dispute has attracted unusual attention not only because of its connection to professional sports -- how many cases can be featured on both ESPN and C-SPAN? -- but also because a decision could extend beyond arrangements for the sale of caps and sweat shirts.
Players fearthe NFL's argument that it is a single economic entity could be used to prevent them from negotiating with individual teams for salaries and benefits. But that doesn't follow automatically from a decision in favor of the NFL in this case.

Can the NFL restrain trade and commerce? I would say, no, it cannot. The teams that make up the NFL are rooted in communities all over the country.

Cities and communities build roads and infrastructure to accommodate NFL teams; not just stadiums and the like. This is how an NFL team can derive enormous benefit from being in a particular location; the league, after all, has control over where a team can be located. The league can veto a franchise move if it wants to do so. That makes these teams more beholden, or as beholden, to the places where they do business as they are to the league. The NFL cannot then turn around and selectively do business with one group and shut out another. That is the definition of restraint of trade, since the NFL has team logos, likenesses, and profitable merchandise that it can use as a weapon to drive companies out of business if it uses those assets to favor one entity over another. How do you compete with someone who has the exclusive rights to Pittsburgh Steeler merchandise? If you can't tap into the huge market for jerseys and team apparel, you have a significant handicap.

The process of deciding who can, and who cannot, sell NFL merchandise comes down to "more is better" and I don't have a problem with quality standards. I think that, if you are going to manufacture NFL apparel, you should have to meet quality standards to ensure that "cheap knockoffs" don't tarnish a brand tied to the community in which it operates. It has to be open to competition and bidding, and it has to do business openly and honestly in the communities where the franchises are located.

I think there's also an issue with taxation. Specifically, if the item can be taxed, how can it be exclusively made and available from only one source? We're not talking about an exclusive item; we're talking about clothing. Can you have restraint of trade when something can be sold anywhere to anyone?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Gary Coleman Gets His Name Back Into the News

Gary Coleman

Perhaps feeling the heat after Andy Dick was arrested yesterday, Gary Coleman now has some legal issues as well:

Gary Coleman was arrested today in Santaquin, Utah, for one count of domestic assault.

It is unclear right now who the victim was, but Gossip Cop will update when more information becomes available.

This is not the first scrape with the law for Coleman, who's being held on bail.

Last July, police were called to the Coleman residence, and, in that incident, arrested his wife:

The ex-child star's bride - who is 5-feet-5 - was busted after trashing her 4-foot-8 husband's bedroom, police said.

She allegedly greeted cops in her Utah driveway with a profane tirade.

"F--- you and f--- him!" Shannon Price screamed before her arrest Wednesday night.

"You deserve this after how you treated me!" she shouted at Coleman as the "Diff'rent Strokes" star stood amidst toppled furniture, scattered DVDs and strewn clothes.

Price, 23, spent two hours in a county lockup before being released on $1,205 bond.

Police in Santaquin, Utah, were called to the home after Price - who married Coleman in August 2007 - locked her husband out of the house.

Coleman was last in the news, or so I believe, on the 10th of January when he was hospitalized in Los Angeles with health problems:

"Diff'rent Strokes" actor Gary Coleman is in a Los Angeles hospital after suffering what he believes was a slight seizure.

Coleman's agent, Robert Malcolm, says the 41-year-old actor was taken by ambulance to a hospital shortly after 8 a.m. Wednesday after he began feeling "fuzzy" and vomited while resting at a hotel.

Malcolm says Coleman appeared to be fine minutes later, and a CAT scan at the hospital showed no problems. He says Coleman - who has had two failed kidney transplants - will receive dialysis and remain hospitalized overnight.

No word, as of yet, on what Danny Bonaduce has been up to this weekend.

Stumbling into a Picasso

The Actor, by Pablo Picasso (photographed by “Carol” on 26 April 2007,Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

Strange, but true:

The Pablo Picasso painting “The Actor” will undergo repair work, after a woman visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art fell onto the painting and tore the canvas, according to the museum.

The museum said the Picasso work was damaged Friday when a visitor lost her balance and fell onto the unusually large 6-foot, 4-inch work.

The six-inch tear is on the lower right-hand corner of the painting, the museum said in a news release Sunday.

The museum did not provide details of the incident beyond saying the visitor fell onto the painting. Repair work should be “unobtrusive,” the museum said.

As you can see, from the photo above, it just hangs on the wall. And, why wouldn’t it? Not every Picasso is priceless, of course, but, his works do not come cheap. It’s like every other painting in every other museum, except for a few rare masterworks that are behind glass or protected in some other way by something such as—gasp—a velvet rope.

That must have caused a stir. There are numerous examples of the mentally deranged, harming works of art. Fortunately, this appears to be a no-fault accident. Isn’t this what insurance is for? No harm, no foul.

Half-Assed Father Hounded Out of Sundance

Jon Gosselin

Really, Jon Gosselin--aren't we through with you yet?

Jon Gosselin, looking like a whale out of water, took a very obvious and public stroll today in Park City, Utah, with his girlfriend of the moment, Morgan Christie.

The gruesome twosome is making sure no one misses their anticipated arrival at the Sundance Film Fest, and here's how:

"They just kept walking up and down Main Street," a poor onlooker describes. "They were holding hands, and it was pretty obvious they wanted everyone to see them. They kept walking up and down the same street over and over."

Granted, Main is where all the Sundance action goes down, but just because it's Gosselin, gotta say it's 10 times more annoying.

Jon, dressed in jeans, a black puffy coat (with puffy face to match) and signature sunglasses, pretended he didn't like the one cameraman eagerly snapping his picture a foot or so ahead of them.

"It was weird though, it looked like the guy was hired or something," our Sundance spy tells us. "It seemed like there were a few paparazzi on Main, none of whom could care less about Gosselin. But this one camera guy made sure to go wherever Jon and his girlfriend were. It looked pathetic."

I think the operative word here is "pathetic."

Gosselin has no business trying to do anything legitimate in the entertainment/infotainment/reality television world at this moment. The country burned out on him last year. Having him appear for money anywhere is simply not a viable option. I don't think his wife has much going on, either. The problem is, these people burned too hot, and no one wants to watch someone trying to be famous as they ignore their kids.

He can certainly go to Sundance just to watch the films and hobnob, but, at what level? Is he making a film? Or is he lost? Trying to find a shooting range? Looking for a job in a coffee shop?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

No Thirst For Mindless Violence

iCarly with some young man named David Archuletta

What is this iCarly thing that the kids keep telling me about? I have no idea. I can't stop watching the World War II channel. Did you know that there used to be oil in Romania? What a pity Romania isn't Saudi Arabia right now.

Anyway, Fox has a problem.

A problem with a venerable franchise that, right now, is probably worth a lot of money in syndication, not so much on nightly television:

Even the brute force of 24's Jack Bauer could not defeat the feisty teens of iCarly

The Monday, January 18 premiere of Nickelodeon's iCarly: iSaved Your Life topped the ratings for all broadcast programming in its time slot, including the season premiere of the popular Fox action/drama 24, which came in second place by 5% with 11.4 million total viewers.

iCarly follows the on-air antics and off-air adventures of three teens and one crazy older brother — Carly (Miranda Cosgrove), along with her best friends Sam (Jennette McCurdy) and Freddie (Nathan Kress) — who star in a hit webshow, and big bro Spencer (Jerry Trainor). iCarly features novel viewer interaction: fans of the show can upload their own wacky original videos to, with the chance that their creation will be worked into the television program.

In iCarly iSaved Your Life, Freddie saves Carly from an out-of-control taco truck. Because of his heroism, his three-season-long crush on Carly comes to fruition. The millions of fans who tuned in to witness Carly and Freddie’s hotly anticipated first kiss made iSaved Your Life the highest rated live-action series premiere for the Nickelodeon.

That's what they call a butt kicking.

I looked at this iCarly thing on YouTube, and I really don't get it. The kids are smarter than the adults? Check. The adults are goofy and foolish? Check. Everyone who appears on television is fresh faced and normal? Except for the occasional oddball? Check. Well, it's no where near as good as Phineas and Ferb, I'll tell you that. Perhaps that's not a fair comparison, though.

If you're Kiefer Sutherland, that has to be the thing that convinces you to stop taking the easy paychecks. Hopefully, someone with a movie offer will call. I hate to bring in the downer that is politics, but people cheered the fight against terrorism when it was okay to beat the crap out of people to get them to talk. Now that more Americans are informed about terrorism--and have stood in long lines waiting to get on planes that don't show up on time--they're a bit turned out.

Has family television made a comeback? Well, iCarly is family television for a young slice of the family that probably feels disaffected. They like shows about boys and girls who pretend to kiss after the boy saves the girl from a taco truck. If you're writing for 24 right now, ouch. Freshen that resume, sir.

Well, I don't know what to add, other than, no, 24 really was never that good. Innovative in seasons one and two perhaps, but how many people can you torture? How many times must we see that old tripe about how government bureaucrats aren't going to protect us?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Matador Barcelona

AMC Matador Barcelona 1977 Model

There’s no question—the American car is rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

The AMC Matador Barcelona was an American car. Why the hell didn’t people buy more of these?

Wait. Don’t answer that.

Now I see it.

Air America Goes Off the Air

How is it, at the height of the Obama Presidency, Air America goes off the air:

Air America, the liberal talk-radio network that helped boost the careers of Al Franken and Rachel Maddow, said Thursday that it was declaring bankruptcy and going off the air.

The company, founded in 2004 and based in New York, strove to provide left-leaning commentary and call-in programs as an alternative to such popular conservative radio talkers as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Michael Savage.

It was troubled almost from the start. The company had difficulty lining up affiliates and attracting a sizable audience. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy-court protection just 30 months after its inception and was resold to an investor group in early 2007 for $4.25 million.

Charlie Kireker, one of Air America’s principal owners and its chairman, said in a memo to employees Thursday that the company was done in by “a perfect storm” of plunging ad revenues, intense competition, high debt and poor prospects for new financing. A search for new investors, he said, has been fruitless. The company declined further comment.

It helps to actually understand the radio business before you attempt to go into it. No one at Air America understood the radio business. First and foremost, you hire professional radio talent. Then, you develop that talent. If people are buying your ideas and if they’re accepting what your talent has to say, it’s gravy from then on. All they would have had to do is copy—copy—the way successful broadcasters do business. They survive based on their talent. Can they hold the interest of someone listening? Can they speak a common language that the listeners can understand? Can they interview a guest? Can they talk about a subject with some degree of knowledge?

If not, they will fail. There are more Democrats than Republicans in this country, but no one was buying what they were selling. No one on Air America was so compelling to listen to that people would do whatever they could to hear what they had to say. Their stable of talent—God bless them—went on to do things like MSNBC and the United States Senate. At least, that’s what two of them did. Where’d the rest of them go? I have no idea. And neither does anyone else. That’s because they were nobodies, sir. Nobodies.

I hate to say this, but,  by going with amateurs, half-assed celebrities, and unhinged personalities, they wrote their own obituary long before today.

And I’ll say this until I am blue in the face: if you have nothing but contempt for middle America, guns, hunting, fishing, sports, country music, and just plain old corn pone, then that’s exactly the kind of audience you’re going to have. You’re going to attract three or four people who have nothing but contempt for a good number of Americans who listen to the radio. And, if you can’t get the people who listen to radio to listen to you because your talent can’t do anything except talk down to people and act like high and mighty jackasses, watch your business collapse into a damp heap of nothing.

Oh, and this will kick your ass, too:

In October 2006, ABC Radio Networks, then under Disney’s ABC, told its stations to black out all ads from about 90 companies that did not want to have their ads on radio stations that carried Air America Radio. The internal memo from ABC Radio Networks to its affiliates was headlined “Air America Blackout” and was addressed to the Traffic Director who handles advertising for the affiliates. The memo states, “Please be advised that Hewlett Packard has purchased schedules with ABC Radio Networks between October 30th and December 24th, 2006. Please make sure you blackout this advertiser on your station, as they do not wish it to air on any Air America affiliate.”

The memo then goes on to say, “Please see below for a complete list of all advertisers requesting that NONE of their commercials air within Air America programming.” The list includes large corporations such as Wal-Mart, General Electric, Exxon Mobil, Microsoft, Bank of America, Fed-Ex, Visa, Allstate, McDonald’s, Sony, and Johnson & Johnson. Also on the list of advertisers that did not want their commercials to be on Air America Radio were the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Postal Service.

The complete list follows:

Allstate | American Heart Association | Aventis | Avon | Bank of America | Bayer | BMW Motorcycles | Chattem products such as Capzasin penetrating rub, Gold Bond for skin care, and Gold Bond Foot Spray | Cigna | Cingular (now AT&T Mobility) | Clorox | Coke | Coty | Dean’s Morningstar Food’s | Dell | Denny’s | Discovery Channel | | Epson | | Exxon Mobil | Farmers Insurance | FedEx | Foot Action (under Foot Locker) | Frito-Lay (under PepsiCo) | General Electric | Gillette Venus (under Procter & Gamble) | Goodyear | Heineken/Amstel Light | Hershey | Hewlett Packard | Home Depot | Hormel | Hyatt | Interstate Batteries | J. C. Penney | Johnson & Johnson | Kohl’s | Levi’s | Masterfoods USA (under Mars) | McDonald’s | Men’s Frontline | MGM | Michelin | Microsoft | Morningstar | National Cattleman’s Beef | Nestle | Nissan | NYSE | Office Depot | Outdoor Life Network | Procter & Gamble products Bounty, Charmin, Febreeze, Iams Dog/Cat Foods, and Pepto-Bismol | Paramount (under Viacom) | Pepsi | Philip Morris | Pier 1 Imports | Red Lobster (Darden Restaurants) | Re/Max | REI Sporting Goods | Rent-way | Robert Half | Schering-Plough | Sherwin Williams | Sony | State Farm | Toys R Us | | True Value | United Healthcare | U.S. Navy | USPS (U.S. Postal Service) | Visa | Walgreens| Wal-Mart | Welch’s | Wrigley | Wyeth

Whoops. I forgot that. If you can’t get the United States Navy to advertise on your radio network, brother, you’re not long for this industry.

Anyway, wow. Goodbye, Air America.

Doug Glanville Explains the Steroid Era

You will not find anything more eloquent than this:
At Busch Stadium in St. Louis, there was a section deep beyond left centerfield with the retired numbers from Cardinals history on waving flags. Now, I am not sure how far away from home plate those flags were, but they were nowhere near reachable off any bat I have ever seen swung. Yet McGwire would hit them like he was playing rocket golf, or some twisted form of croquet.

I knew that what I was seeing was impossible. When you play the game long enough, you develop a sixth sense for the realm of the possible. You learn your body’s limitations (and your opponents’ bodies) in short order, because knowing is integral to your longevity. Sure, limits are pushed, but it doesn’t happen overnight. I played centerfield and had to know that when Chad Kreuter or Todd Zeile hit a ball, there was a good chance it would come off their bats with no spin, making it dance unpredictably while I was trying to catch it in the outfield. I could tell from the angle of Vladimir Guerrero’s bat and the location of the pitch when the ball was going to slice away from me. From bat-ball contact I could tell to a fine degree where a ball would end up long before I got there. As the Phillies announcers always used to say to me, “I knew right away when you had the ball in your sights, and then you would just be there.”

That’s because it was my job to be there — to know the field, the wind, the conditions so well that I could take the ball out of the equation after contact, and get to where it was supposed to be. I had all the data I needed without relying on my eyes exclusively. I could run to the spot and wait for the ball while getting into position to throw to the next base (should a runner be on base).

The first time I questioned those instincts was during a game against the Kinston Indians and Manny Ramirez in 1992. It was my first full minor league season with the Winston-Salem Spirits of the famed Carolina League. I was in centerfield and Manny hit a line drive into the gap in right-center. No problem, I thought. I’ll run at an angle and cut the ball off near the warning track. Even if can’t quite get there to catch it, maybe I can hold him to a double.

Well, the ball hit part-way up the light tower, well over the fence for a home run. I could not believe my eyes. Up until that moment, I’d never seen anyone who could hit a home run to the opposite field, let alone a missile like that. It was stunning. As far as I knew, this was pure hitting ability. Ability that none of my college opponents had possessed.

Fast forward to my major league career, by which time I was a science student of the game. Ballistics, anticipation, planning — all were part of it.

Then I saw Mark McGwire and I had to adjust my eyes once again.

As before, I chalked it up at first to the evolution of baseball, even as I wondered about its legitimacy. But enhanced or not, it was happening, and I still had to figure out a way to compete. My sixth sense had tapped me on the shoulder and said, “This is not right.” But that was not evidence in a court of law. It is sort of like finding out a co-worker might be doing something shady, yet knowing that you still have to do your job. And, in the outfield, I had to do mine.

Glanville's piece is from the opinion section of the New York Times. Everyone should read it and reflect on it. The steroid era is, I hope, over. The players, the statistics, and the game itself are all tainted.

Throw out the numbers. Roger Maris, you're still the single season home run king.

Cowboy Up, Big Baby

Glen "Big Baby" Davis had an altercation with a fan in Detroit last night:

A jeering fan called Glen "Big Baby" Davis a "fat boy" and told him to lose some weight. Davis responded with an expletive. "We know what happened, and that's unacceptable," Rivers said. "It's tough when the fans are yelling that stuff at you, but you have to be stronger than that."
Had Davis gone into the stands, it would have been all over the news. Fortunately, he's a little smarter than that, but cursing at fans is nothing new. When you're on the road, and your nickname is "Big Baby," I don't see an upside to bickering with fans.

It does prove the point that NBA players are simply not allowed to be fat. It's a cardinal sin to be fat in the National Hockey League. Everywhere else? Eh, as long as you can play, who cares?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Really? You'll Part With Half?

I suppose this is generous enough:
Shaquille O'Neal has a plan to save the NBA's All-Star dunk contest: Bring back the superstars and do it for devastated Haiti.

Following Tuesday night's win over Toronto, O'Neal was asked if he would like to see teammate LeBron James participate in this year's event. That's when he offered his idea. He would like to see former dunk champion Vince Carter, Kobe Bryant and others take part along with James.

"As his manager, I will only allow 'Bron to do the dunk contest if Vince Carter comes back out," O'Neal said. "If Kobe comes back out and if another big name comes back out. If we could get a big prize and have half of the money go to the people of Haiti and the other half to the winner.

"The guys that are in it, no disrespect to them, but there won't really be any competition for LeBron. I want to see Kobe. I want to see Vince and I will allow my client to enter."

Are you sure you're ready to give up half? Maybe you ought to dial that back a little, and only give a third or a quarter to the people of Haiti. I hear they're irresponsible and they're just going to blow it anyway.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

There's Nothing Weird About Britney Spears

Britney Spears
Oh, so what?

BRITNEY SPEARS has been baffling staff at an LA hotel by impersonating Stewie from hit TV cartoon Family Guy.


Britney, who has a lengthy history of odd behaviour, has taken to trotting around the Mondrian Hotel mimicking the troublesome child, who speaks with a plummy British accent.

A source said: "Britney has developed a real fascination for Family Guy.


"She's been staying in the hotel's penthouse suite and has been watching box sets. She really likes Stewie and has been trying to copy his British accent.

"It's a bit weird, especially when she's in the gym speaking like a camp Brit."


Stewie is voiced by Family Guy's creator SETH MacFARLANE. He is obsessed with world domination and plotting to kill his own mother. Given Britney's own character flaws, perhaps her behaviour isn't that odd.

You know, the cultural ignorance of newspaper writers for The Sun is absolutely staggering. "Stewie" is nothing more than a bad Peter Lorre impression.

And Britney is fine. She's not breaking any laws by being weird, is she? As a celebrity, being weird is par for the course. What, do you think she's going to talk about current events and know where her own keys are?

The Chinese Run Away From Avatar

James Cameron, Left, and Sam Worthington, Right

I'll bet you were of the mind that there's freedom everywhere, and censorship is something out of a textbook.

Think again:

"Avatar" may be too popular for its own good in China.

The communist nation's state-run movie distributor, China Film Group, unexpectedly began pulling the blockbuster science-fiction picture from 1,628 2-D screens this week in favor of a biography of the ancient philosopher Confucius.

Paul Hanneman, co-president of international distribution for 20th Century Fox, the movie's distributor, confirmed the move, which the studio learned about Monday evening.

According to the Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily, the switch was made at the urging of propaganda officials who are concerned that "Avatar" is taking too much market share from Chinese films and drawing unwanted attention to the sensitive issue of forced evictions.

Millions of Chinese have been uprooted to make way for high-rise buildings and government infrastructure projects in the fast-growing country. In "Avatar," human colonists try to demolish the village of an alien race to obtain a precious energy source buried under it.

Does that mean that the distributor of the film will retaliate and withhold the next project from China? Does this mean a Google-like denunciation of what passes for civil discourse and public policy in China?

That's anyone's guess. But to yank a film because it is too good at getting a point across makes that film an even safer bet for huge accolades and awards. For people who believe in causes, and advocacy, it's sort of like catnip.

The Chinese Run Away From Avatar

James Cameron, Left, and Sam Worthington, Right

I'll bet you were of the mind that there's freedom everywhere, and censorship is something out of a textbook.

Think again:

"Avatar" may be too popular for its own good in China.

The communist nation's state-run movie distributor, China Film Group, unexpectedly began pulling the blockbuster science-fiction picture from 1,628 2-D screens this week in favor of a biography of the ancient philosopher Confucius.

Paul Hanneman, co-president of international distribution for 20th Century Fox, the movie's distributor, confirmed the move, which the studio learned about Monday evening.

According to the Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily, the switch was made at the urging of propaganda officials who are concerned that "Avatar" is taking too much market share from Chinese films and drawing unwanted attention to the sensitive issue of forced evictions.

Millions of Chinese have been uprooted to make way for high-rise buildings and government infrastructure projects in the fast-growing country. In "Avatar," human colonists try to demolish the village of an alien race to obtain a precious energy source buried under it.

Does that mean that the distributor of the film will retaliate and withhold the next project from China? Does this mean a Google-like denunciation of what passes for civil discourse and public policy in China?

That's anyone's guess. But to yank a film because it is too good at getting a point across makes that film an even safer bet for huge accolades and awards. For people who believe in causes, and advocacy, it's sort of like catnip.

Fighting an Insurgency Without Drones in the Philippines?

U.S. Troops in the Philippines

If you look at what the U.S. military is doing in the Philippines, you get the sense that someone has been able to figure out that you can apply successful Counterinsurgency (COIN) tactics to certain types of operations. It doesn’t work if you need large numbers, I would say. It doesn’t work if you have the Indiana National Guard kicking down huts and shooting dogs for sport. It doesn’t work if you’re firebombing suburban shanty towns. And, perhaps, it doesn’t work if you’re killing by remote control from the air.

It can work if you’re talking about a very limited operation:

It began not long after 9/11, another front in an unfolding global war on terror. A deployment of US Special Forces arrived here to train, equip, and share intelligence with Philippines troops battling Islamic militants in a lawless crossroads of Southeast Asia.

Eight years on, US and Philippine commanders can point to successes: 15 of 24 high-value targets have been captured or killed. Militants are holed up in shrinking enclaves on a chain of far-flung islands. Terror attacks on major cities, once prevalent, have fallen off dramatically.

But the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P), as the US mission of about 560 troops is called, also offers a lesson in how long it takes to uproot militant groups and the fragility of any gains in Mindanao, a violence-torn region that has seen many false dawns.

This fragility may keep US forces here for longer, trying to shepherd aid projects, plug holes in the underfunded Philippine military, and close down sanctuaries for terrorist groups with global aspirations, however atrophied by recent setbacks.

“Even though they’ve been reduced, until you can neutralize them and prevent these safe havens, the concern is that they will regenerate later on,” says Col. William Coultrup, the JSOTF-P commander, and a veteran of Special Forces operations in global hotspots.

The United States could keep 500 or 600 men deployed to the Philippines on a regular basis indefinitely. That’s a small footprint, and, according to this article from 2007, that’s by design:

When US troops arrived in the southern islands in December 2001, a decade after closing its bases in the Philippines, critics assailed the move. They predicted a return of permanent US camps in its former colony, and a repeat of the sleazy bars and clubs still surrounding its former bases near Manila.

More alarming to US ears were dire warnings of resistance from Muslims whose island communities were to be rid of militants by US-assisted Philippine troops. Observers warned that the foreign presence could inflame the situation, as well as revive memories of a bloody US military campaign in the early 1900s to subdue Muslim-inhabited Mindanao.

Today [March, 2007], these warnings mostly ring false. About 450 US soldiers are still here, based inside Philippine military command centers in Zamboanga and the nearby island of Jolo. But the expected nightlife boom hasn’t happened. Nor have militants taken the fight to the foreigners deployed here, though a US serviceman died in a bomb attack on a restaurant in 2002.

US officers say their small footprint in Mindanao, as well as a focus on joint development projects and counterinsurgency training of the Philippine Army, have smoothed their path. But further challenges lie ahead as US troop, and their Philippine counterparts who are notorious for human rights abuses, continue pursuing Muslim insurgent cells on the islands.

How did this come about?

One measure of the US approach can be found on Basilan, where US troops first deployed in 2002. At the time, the extremist group Abu Sayyaf had turned the island, a 30-minute ferry ride from Zamboanga, into a no-go zone with a string of abductions, bombings, and beheadings.

Commander Steve Kelley, a naval engineering reservist, says it was a tough mission. “It wasn’t a warm welcome,” he recalls. But humanitarian projects, including the construction of an 80- kilometer (50-mile) coastal road and a series of mobile clinics, won residents over. “It was a huge turnaround,” he says. Local officials say the improved security has restored normalcy.

Normalcy—and a small footprint. Those are important aspects of any attempt to engage in COIN and to provide relief for a people under siege.

Let me add one thing that I know will meet with criticism. In my opinion, success in the Philippines also comes with an operational decision to forgo the use of armed drones. I have found this:

Two civil-registered unarmed MQ-1s are operated by the Office of the National Security Advisor in the Philippines since 2006.

I realize that there could very well be armed Predator drones in use in the Philippines, and that I could be wrong on this. You certainly don’t hear about them, to the extent you do with Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen or Pakistan. There’s a definite effort out there to brag about the kills these aircraft make. If we were actively making kills in the Philippines, why wouldn’t we have heard about it? I think there is a definite connection between the lack of drone kills and the improved relations between the people and the United States military.

It doesn’t take much for people to become enraged at us—and one or two errant Hellfire missiles could make a huge difference for a local population. Might we have a case here where using drones would work against us, rather than for us, in terms of containing and rolling back an Islamic Fundamentalist insurgency? Are the insurgents there different from those in Afghanistan? Of course. No one would confuse an insurgent from the Philippines with a pushover, however. They have their own history, and it isn’t half bad. I am not entirely anti-drone. I’m saying that, with their heavy-handed use comes pushback. Pushback will always be there. What kind of pushback do you want?

We are having some success with a better strategic view in the Philippines; we’re not hung up on fly-by kills, body counts and strongarm tactics, apparently. Even the cows seem to like us over there.

Give the Troops the Best Equipment and Spare Me the Phony Outrage

“  In the Scouts we get great gear, but I was lucky to have an OGA guy let me borrow this great optic! It was a sad day when I had to give it back. All our guys have the 4X ACOG, Your products have saved lives!” —SFC CHAMBERS

Phony outrage abounds:

This is not helpful when we accuse others of being the ones waging a holy war.

Coded references to New Testament Bible passages about Jesus Christ are inscribed on high-powered rifle sights provided to the United States military by a Michigan company, an ABC News investigation has found.

The sights are used by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the training of Iraqi and Afghan soldiers. The maker of the sights, Trijicon, has a $660 million multi-year contract to provide up to 800,000 sights to the Marine Corps, and additional contracts to provide sights to the U.S. Army.

Trijicon was originally called Armson, and it was started in 1981. By my faulty math, that’s about twenty years before we started Holy War by invading Afghanistan.

The products made by this company were good enough to be adopted by the government. So, if the government went out and started using something that they thought was top of the line, and if the company had already been inscribing these codes on their products, then where’s the controversy?

The headline at ABC News says:

U.S. Military Weapons Inscribed With Secret ‘Jesus’ Bible Codes

That’s patently false. The sights used on the weapons have the codes; not the weapons themselves. Already you can see the journalistic malpractice up and running and the bias of the piece is self-evident. Long before there was a contract with DoD, this is how the company did things. The government accepted the products in order to give their people the best possible sights for weapons. Shouldn’t we applaud the efforts of our government to acquire top of the line equipment? These are sights for weapons; not the actual weapons themselves, by the way. Trijicon doesn’t make weapons that I can see—they just make the optical sights. In other words, they make bling for guns.

How does making bling for guns translate into proselytizing? How does that code equate to attempting to convert someone from one religion to another? The sight doesn't shoot anyone; the weapon does. And, is the implication then that a converted person won't be shot? Is that how low we've come? Is that how we think of professional soldiers now?

The inscriptions themselves talk about “light” and seeing things—which is what the sights do. In other words, someone is making a connection between what the thing does and the Bible. Doesn’t this company have that right? I suppose you could say that they do, when it comes to products for personal or private use and that they do not for items sold to the United States Government. I’m relieved however, that our government is basing its decision to use these sights upon performance, and not upon whether or not someone stamped a code on the side that refers to a Bible verse, but actually is not the Bible verse itself.

People can say what they will, but I don’t see the controversy. I see the opportunity for phony outrage. Chick-fil-A isn’t open on Sundays, but, when I was in Chick-fil-A, I saw a soldier from Walter Reed Army Medical Center in there in his regular uniform. Does that mean that the soldier endorses the decision by the Christian owner of Chick-fil-A that he will close on Sundays, and that he will then take up the Holy Crusade against the Islamic fundamentalists who are denied chicken sammiches on Sundays? Do you see how ridiculous we can get?

Oh, and, I have it on good authority you can have a Bible when you join the military. If you can actually have the Bible, why are you not able to have a weapon with a sight on it that has a code alluding to a Bible verse? I don't understand that. What is, and what is not cool beans? Is it proselytizing, which is banned? Or is it just a code alluding to a Bible verse stamped on something? And, is that code really

Don’t we have bigger fish to fry?

I’ve added a PDF file of one of the company’s products. There’s nothing in the publication, that I can see, that relates to these codes or religion in general. If there is, I cannot find it. It’s just the way they do things. If that’s unacceptable for people, fine. I accept their dissent on the matter. I don’t want a soldier to go into battle with anything substandard. I want them to go into battle with the best of the best. When the government bends over backwards to ensure they’re going into battle with the best equipment, I really don’t care if the gear is slapped with crosses, the Star of David, Ganesha, Jesus icons, or a big picture of Pat Robertson. Slap it on there. Make some money.

If the company were dedicated to carrying out a religious crusade and the Christian destruction of the Muslim world, why wouldn’t that be in their marketing plan? If there really is all of this bias, why aren’t they bragging about it?

After all—our troops are in Muslim countries (whatever those are) and they’re shooting people. Does it really matter whats stamped on the sight of the gun that is blowing them away? Isn’t the act of blowing them away bad enough? It’s suddenly okay that we’re blowing them away if there’s no obscure code stamped on the sight?

I do have a blog, you know...

Posted via web from An American Lion is on Posterous

Monday, January 18, 2010

Hey, You Have the Wrong Guy

Ever gotten an E-mail like this?
To: cantseeshitxxxxx
From: daniel3@xxxx
Subject: Oakley Ad Website
Date: Tue, 22 Dec 2009 13:31:04 -0600

Hi Stacy,

Can you forward this to Dr. Street?

Thank you and Happy Holidays.

The website is:

the username is: xxxx
the password is: xxxx

The problem stems from the fact that I've had the same hotmail account for over 13 years. I was there first.

However, there's now someone with a similar name who works as an eye doctor. And I am constantly being barraged with the man's personal correspondence. I've been sent pornographic pictures from his "frat buddies." I've been sent his personal mortgage information. I've been sent marketing inquiries, like the one above. I've politely ignored them or declined or informed the person in question, but it has really gotten annoying lately.

My response to the above:

I am not Doctor Street. You have the wrong e-mail address for Doctor Street.

What professional in the world of marketing, eye care, and the like uses an e-mail address of "cantseeshit1" for corresponding with an eye doctor?

Don't bother answering.

I guess that's a wild world, that whole vision and marketing thing.

They're Having an Awards Show...

Christina Hendricks, 2010 Golden Globes

This year, they're talking up causes and charity:

On the red carpet, the earthquake in Haiti and rain over Los Angeles dampened the Golden Globes Sunday evening.

Dresses were as glamorous as ever, but the talk was less about the competition and more about the relief efforts under way in Haiti.

"It does feel strange to dress up and play fantasy, but I'm glad we are talking about it," said Kyra Sedgwick, nominated for a fifth time as best actress in a TV drama for "The Closer."

Sedgwick's husband, Kevin Bacon, used his CNN red carpet interview to ask fans to make donations to the Haitian relief funds through his personal Web site.

"Honestly, I've never seen anything like it," Bacon said. "The images are so devastating. I am hopeful and inspired by the way most people are coming together and rallying around it."

Christina Hendricks

British comic Ricky Gervais, who is hosting the 67th Golden Globes show, said "someone much more important than me" will address the Haiti tragedy during the NBC telecast.

Actress Olivia Wilde, who was already involved in supporting an orphanage and three schools in Haiti, said her Golden Globe dress and several others will be auctioned off with "100 percent of the money going to a local program in Haiti."

"It's my way of turning all this fashion madness into something positive," Wilde said.

George Clooney, up for a best actor award for his film "Up in the Air," will host a telethon on Friday to raise money for the devastated island nation.

Kudos to the celebrities. Occasionally, they do get it right.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Taking the Train Between Sarajevo and Belgrade

On board the train

Normalization comes back to the Balkans, slowly:

Starting on Dec. 19, citizens of Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia could travel to European Unioncountries without visas for the first time since the collapse of Yugoslavia. Serbia, until recently an international pariah, applied for European Union membership a few days later. Reacceptance into the Western fold looks closer for the region than it has in years. But the region — like the train line itself — is by no means normal or fully integrated. In the fragmented territory of the former Yugoslavia, the train journey now requires four different locomotives from four separate railway companies, two passport checks and more than eight hours to journey about 300 miles.

That fragmentation plays out politically: the unresolved issue of gaining worldwide recognition of Kosovo’s independence remains both an impediment and a source of agitation, while the rise of nationalism ahead of this fall’s general election in Bosnia and Herzegovina has meant increasing divisiveness and even fear of renewed violence here.

“What is of the most concern for me is that for the first time in years, this political tension seems to be influencing and affecting the general public,” said Srecko Latal, an analyst on Bosnia and Herzegovina with the International Crisis Group, a nonprofit organization that aims to prevent deadly conflicts. “It’s a good thing that this choo-choo train is running between Sarajevo and Belgrade again, but I’m not sure very many passengers will be on it until the issues in the Balkans are resolved.”

The Balkan issues are far from solved, even though we have had relative calm for the better part of the last decade. Normalized relations, exchanges of goods, a little diplomacy here and there—these are all things that can bring back populations, economies, and peace. The tinder box that is this region can always ignite again in a shooting war—that is always a possibility when you’re dealing with the Balkans. The entire region is one shooting war away from the stone age and a return to the barter system. 

What you can have until something like that occurs is a nominally stable economy. I would worry about someone who steps in and says that he will make the trains run on time. They don’t really have to run on time. Simply running works, too.