Opnions, Etc. 01.28.04

In Memoriam:  Jack Paar, who revitalized the late-night talk show concept and championed and promoted some of the most important entertainers of our time.  Thank you.

In Memoriam II:  Elroy Hirsch.  No, I’m not old enough to have seen Crazy Legs in action, so get off of that shit right now.  However, American football wouldn’t have been the same without him, and for that, I’m grateful.  Plus he played in Chicago before going to the NFL.  So there.

In Memoriam III:  Rick Majerus’ career.  College basketball won’t be the same after this year ends without its equivalent of Santa Claus.  Too bad a bum ticker took him down.

Well, it’s a busy week, at least a busy Tuesday and Wednesday.  I’ve got a few big topics to discuss, including my Academy Awards picks and reactions to New Hampshire.  Plus, another whine about me losing what’s left of my youth.  So, while I’m waiting for that Royal Rumble torrent to get completed, let’s get on with it…

THE PIMP SECTION

Memo to Anderson:  As a good Chicagoan, I couldn’t stand Mariotti until Around the Horn.  Now, I think he’s great.  If Sports Reporters didn’t exist, I’d say f*ck Noo Yawk Kellerman, transfer Paige and Mariotti to PTI, and expand PTI to an hour.

Cameron f*cks up in a minor way by not being au courant with his UConn femme hoopsters.  No Diana Taurasi?  And Ali’s IBM commercial appearance has already appeared.  What I’d really like to see from one of those commercials is Ali smacking the living shit out of some of the Linux elitists that make Slashdot an impossible read.

Monroe brings us another on-the-spot report from Neptune.  I posit to him this fact:  no gay couple could have been worse than my adoptive parents were.  And in that situation, I wish that abortion was an option.

Answer this:  Does Baxley always get a pimp from me because he’s a great writer, or just because he happens to have the Wednesday column in Games?  Read him and find out.  And speaking of Slashdot, the readers there showed how much they joined the fruit-loop brigade by coming up with incredibly convoluted conspiracy theories that SCO itself created Novarg/MyDoom.

I’d also like to give a shout-out to the First Couple of the IWC, Marvelous Martin and Sharon Austin, two great columnists.  So when the hell are you going to make an honest woman out of her, Martin?  Sharon tells me that no date’s been set yet.  Yeah, keep dragging your ass.  My recommendation, Sharon, is that you go full-bore Lysistrata on him until that time.  And I’m right on you concerning Jeff Hardy.

And that brings me to the biggest media whore of all, PFC Jeremy Fuckin’ Botter.  Gets interviewed by the Guardian last week, and now CBS wants to do an interview with him about his site and blogs.  Jesus Christ, is there nothing this man won’t do for a little attention?  He’ll get himself shot, let me assure you.  As for the other thing you mentioned, JJ, I’ll think about it for right now.  Get back to me on it.  As for RR, as I said above, there’s a torrent at www.suprnova.org listed for it, and you can use ‘Raza to grab it.

FIRST IN THE NATION

John Kerry is getting the most mileage out of high-thirty-percent results than anyone since Bill Clinton.  But considering where he was a month ago, when he was fifteen or more points behind Howard Dean, his results in New Hampshire are miraculous.  Of course, everyone’s saying the real test is yet to come with Super Tuesday coming up.  Bullshit.  The real test for Kerry was New Hampshire.  They love rewarding off-beat candidates there, especially on the Demo side of the aisle.  Look at 1968; Gene McCarthy didn’t win, but his unexpected, incredibly-strong showing caused LBJ to go into retirement.  In 1972, McGoo’s strength prior to the primary caused Ed Muskie, campaigning on what for him was essentially home ground (like Dean and Kerry, for that matter), to have an emotional breakdown during a speech, an event which helped torpedo him when he was the “establishment” candidate and the fave to take on Nixon.  Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton ended up repeating that cycle.  An “establishment” candidate has a tough time in New Hampshire, and Kerry’s performance was outstanding and encouraging to those of us who’ve supported him for a while.

The post-polling surveys helped reinforce what I’ve been saying for a while.  Everyone knows that the main reason I’m supporting Kerry is that he’s the most electable candidate.  A third of all voters polled said that this factor was the most important quality for a Demo candidate, and half of those people voted for Kerry.  Of course, Kerry’s strong on most of the other issues, but New Hampshire voters recognized what Iowa voters did, and that’s the fact that Dean can’t be elected President, period.  The point this year is get the Junta out of Washington.  All else is secondary.  Yes, there’s an aspect of Churchill’s famous saying about making a deal with the Devil in re allying with Stalin, but realpolitik rules at this point.

And so now the focus shifts to Super Tuesday.  Can Edwards take advantage of the Southern states and get himself into the picture?  Will Clark find the support that’s been lacking?  Who will take advantage of Missouri being open season now that Gephardt’s begged off of an endorsement?  The fun is just starting.

As to another issue that we’re going to start talking about soon, Semi-Regular James Lawson seems to be giving up the ghost for his candidate and bringing up the issue of Veep…

As I have said in a previous e-mail, I am a Lieberman supporter.  I want him to be the next presidential candidate, but after reading his
book “An Amazing Adventure” I have come to realize that he would be better suited as John Kerry’s VP running mate.  Mainly for the same
reasons that Al Gore chose Lieberman as his VP running mate.  He can pull the moderate demos and undecided voters in, plus provides a
counter-balance for any arguments that Kerry is too liberal.  Of course, if this is only if Kerry gives Lieberman the same freedom that Gore gave him in 2000.  Unless you think Kerry has already chosen his VP nominee.


No, I don’t think Kerry has chosen his Veep candidate yet.  However, I’m damn certain that it won’t be Joe Lieberman.  Lieberman doesn’t have the strength that you think he does, something he proved in New Hampshire.  Also, Kerry is a more moderate Demo than Gore, and he doesn’t need any help appealing to the moderate wing of the party.  Also, Kerry’s more of a traditionalist.  Choosing Lieberman as a running mate would violate the traditional balance that presidential candidates used to select running mates (the tradition wasn’t destroyed by Clinton/Gore, just wounded a bit).  Kerry and Lieberman are both from the Senate (and with the Senate essentially up in the air, Demos won’t want to risk the chance of two Senators being in the race).  They both are Easterners.  They both appeal to the same part of the electorate (urban, more affluent voters).  With Lieberman, he’s not covering his bases very well.  It’s just not a good fit.  Wesley Clark would be a better fit, but I think Kerry’s going to go off the board for this one.  Gephardt’s a possibility, but it’d better not be someone like Nancy Pelosi, which would throw the election right back into the Junta’s corner.

AND THE OSCAR(TM) GOES TO…

Well, the Academy Award nominations are out, and I’m going to chime in with my predictions in the six major categories.  I decided not to do this last year because of the fact that I went 3 of 6 three years ago and 2 of 6 two years ago, and my ego was somewhat dented.  However, this year seems like a much more obvious proposition, so I have little to risk other than complete insanity on the part of Academy voters.  You want other predictions?  The guys in Movies will have them up soon, so go over there and read to your rancid little heart’s content.  Here’s my stab:

Best Picture:

Your nominees:

Return of the King
Lost In Translation
Master and Commander
Mystic River
Seabiscuit


“A heartwarming story of dysfunctional men and the horse that brought them together” isn’t Best Picture material, and Gary Ross didn’t get the Best Director ding, shoved out in favor of Fernando Meirelles, so this nag finishes out of the money.  Clint already has a statue for Best Picture on his mantle.  They just honored a Russell Crowe historical epic three years ago.  Therefore, it comes down to Translation and King.  Now that it’s over, the reality of what Peter Jackson and his crew did is starting to sink in:  they were able to adapt a set of books that Hollywood has been trying to figure out how to do properly for over a half-century, and did it incredibly well.  Plus, King has the most nominations, a decent if not infallible guide to the eventual winner.  Translation was terrific, but it’s going to lose out both here and in another category to what was a truly superior film and very satisfying viewing experience.

Winner – Return of the King

Best Actor:

Your nominees:

Johnny Depp, “Pirates of the Caribbean”
Ben Kingsley, “House of Sand and Fog”
Jude Law, “Cold Mountain”
Bill Murray, “Lost in Translation”
Sean Penn, “Mystic River”


Jude Law is still thought of as a boy-toy.  This is Kingsley’s traditional once-a-decade nomination, and there are still hard feelings about him winning for Gandhi two decades ago (also, he shut out Ian McKellen, because there can only be one knighted actor per category).  I loved Depp’s performance, but it’s very, very difficult to win Best Actor for a comedic role.  That breaks it down to Penn and Murray.  Penn has now fully rehabilitated his image (unlike at the time of Dead Man Walking), in large part due to his turn for Eastwood; however, I think there’s still a bit of hostility there among the old guard.  I don’t think it’ll be enough to overcome the total play-against-type that Murray did (and Academy voters love actors who do that).  Plus, they have to honor Translation somehow.

Winner – Bill Murray

Best Actress:

Your nominees:

Keisha Castle-Hughes, “Whale Rider”
Diane Keaton, “Something’s Gotta Give”
Samantha Morton, “In America”
Charlize Theron, “Monster”
Naomi Watts, “21 Grams”


I hate handicapping the chicks.  That’s where I always break down in my predictions.  However, one factor above all looms over this category this year that makes it easy:  Keaton got naked.  At her age.  Hollywood loves that sort of thing.  If not her, it’ll be Theron.  And where the hell is Scarlett Johannson?  Yeah, she’s only 19, but her performance in Translation was as good or better than Murray’s.

Winner – Diane Keaton

Best Supporting Actor:

Your nominees:

Alec Baldwin, “The Cooler”
Benicio Del Toro, “21 Grams”
Djimon Hounsou, “In America”
Tim Robbins, “Mystic River”
Ken Watanabe, “The Last Samurai”


The hardest category to handicap this year by far.  All are deserving, but only one can win.  Dump Del Toro; he just won one three years ago.  Dump Hounsou as well; his press hasn’t been as good as the rest.  Voting for Robbins has political connotations which I’m not sure the Hollywood establishment truly feels comfortable with at this moment.  Watanabe pulled off a near-impossible trick: stealing a movie out from under the nose of one of the great movie-stealers of our time, Tom Cruise.  But Baldwin pulled off an even bigger trick:  he overcame a reputation that’s worse than Sean Penn’s, and his notices for The Cooler have been universally great.  I think that the Academy will treat his performance the same way it treated his ex’s in L.A. Confidential:  a “where did this come from?” moment that’s worthy of accolades.  By the way, Andy Serkis got jobbed.  Big-time.

Winner – Alec Baldwin

Best Supporting Actress:

Your nominees:

Shohreh Aghdashloo, “House of Sand and Fog”
Patricia Clarkson, “Pieces of April”
Marcia Gay Harden, “Mystic River”
Holly Hunter, “thirteen”
Renee Zellweger, “Cold Mountain”


Oh, yuck.  With the “honor unknowns” routine that the Academy has been going through in recent years for the Supportings, I wonder if Aghdashloo might be a slam-dunk here.  But I’m going against it and looking at the veterans (Clarkson’s career has been so off-beat that she should be happy for the nomination).  Harden and Hunter are previous winners.  Zellweger got locked out of last year’s Chicago love-fest so the Academy could throw a bone to Nicole Kidman for having put up with Cruise.  So, if you use Occam’s Razor combined with a little bit of knowledge of how the industry works, the fog clears and focus emerges…

Winner – Renee Zellweger

Best Director:

Your nominees:

Fernando Meirelles, “City of God”
Peter Jackson, “Return of the King”
Sofia Coppola, “Lost in Translation”
Peter Weir, “Master and Commander”
Clint Eastwood, “Mystic River”


Count Mierelles out; you don’t get Best Director without a Best Picture nod.  This is Weir’s fifth nomination as either a director or writer, and he’s never won, but I’ve learned the hard lesson:  never pick a never-won-but-great director when he’s helming a Russell Crowe historical epic (are you listening, Sir Ridley?).  I think that some of the voters are still uncomfortable with giving Eastwood this one eleven years ago (and Unforgiven was a better movie than Mystic River).  That means the fight goes down to the helmers of the top two contenders for Best Picture.  Since Director is normally given prior to the main-role acting awards, the winner here sets the tone for the rest of the evening.  Family means a lot in Hollywood, and the temptation to create the first father-daughter Best Director team might prove irresistible.  They’re going to salve their consciences by honoring Translation through Murray, though, thus enabling Jackson to obtain Precious.  King getting shut out of the acting categories for no f*cking good reason means it gets the other big ones.

Winner – Peter Jackson

So there you have it.  Check in with me after the ceremonies and see how I did.

LITTLE BOY-SAN BLUE.  HE NEEDED THE MONEY.

Okay, everyone knows how I hate Cleveland.  Well, technically, I hate Cleveland sports fans for being the whiniest bitches in the known universe, an opinion that was established by my year of listening to Cleveland sports talk radio.  So it’s incredibly satisfying to see Cleveland embroiled in a tempest-in-a-teapot that must warm Monroe’s heart.

For those of you who don’t know, let me recap.  Kazuhito Tadano is a pitcher from Japan who’s in the Cleveland minor league system right now, and it looks like the Indians might just be bringing him up in order to shore up a pitching staff that’s sorry-ass to say the least.  There’s one little skeleton, though:  when he was a college student back in the Land of the Rising Yen, Tadano made a guest appearance in an underground porn video.  No problem, right?  Not with the Doctor J sex tape floating around.  Yes, there is a problem.  The pr0n in question happens to be gay porn.

This story came out a few years ago in Japan when Tadano was still a highly-regarded prospect ready to come out in the draft (bad choice of words, really), and the reaction was kind of as expected.  The Japanese are as prudish and as kinky as Victorian English.  Word got passed around quickly that teams would be disciplined in a double-secret-probation kind of way if they drafted Tadano, and he was blackballed from Japanese baseball.  Remember, this is the same country that gave the world bukkake and hentai.  So, Tadano was forced to come to the States to ply his trade.

But the Indians knew about the tape Tadano appeared in, and there was a little bit of media attention starting to buzz around this fact, so the Indians had a press conference that, essentially, reiterated Tadano’s statements to the Japanese press at the time:  yeah, I did it for the money, but, no, I’m not gay.  All this was done in an effort to defuse what could have been an uncomfortable situation for the team and for Tadano.

There’s one problem with this scenario, though:  American sports fans are not the most tolerant of people when it comes to male players whose only “fault” is not on the playing field, but that they happen to sleep with the same gender.  We will happily accept lesbians (and some people might say that we actually expect women athletes to be lesbians), but gay men?  No.  That goes against the perception that the men who play sports are REAL men.  They can’t be turned on by other guys, can they?  What about the locker room situation?  List your favorite canard here as appropriate.

This, of course, is bullshit, but a male athlete can’t come out of the closet and be accepted unless he’s in a sport that American sports fans accept as being “girly” to begin with (see Louganis, Greg or Galindo, Rudy).  We perceive that Rush Limbaugh actually did Donovan McNabb a favor by bringing up the liberal media/black quarterback thing because it took attention off the persistent rumors that McNabb is gay.  Look at Mike Piazza and his protestations that he’s your typical Macho Italian Baseball Player like Joe DiMaggio was.  Well, Joe D may have married Marilyn Monroe, but he also drank like a fish and beat Marilyn.  On my scale, “gay” is a lot more acceptable than “drunken wife-beater” (see Austin, Steve).  And there’s enough anecdotal evidence floating around that Piazza does, indeed, switch-hit.

It’s really a situation where one perception feeds off the other.  Athletes feel that they have to represent some ideal of masculinity, which is why you end up with guys like Shawn Kemp and numerous other NBA players leaving bastard children around like discarded candy wrappers.  The American public expects their sports figures to be an ideal of masculinity.  Perception is thus forced to meet up with reality, and that causes trauma for those sports performers who don’t fit the mold.  Look at the insecure wrestling fans who go after anyone who dare to bring up the obvious homoeroticism in wrestling.  Athletes who are gay only feel safe coming out after their playing days are over, and never has a major superstar in any American sport done it for fear of tarnishing their image.  Hence, denial is the order of the day.  That’s the sign of a f*cked-up society.

(By the way, I’m not meaning to imply that this is an American phenomenon.  I just don’t want to speak personally for any other country since I have no idea what the reaction would be out of personal experience.)

Does it really matter?  When he was still a minor league baseball player, Chuck Connors showed the world (a very, very small world considering that cinematographer, seller, and participants could be sent to the joint for doing what they did, so the film remained underground) a new meaning to the term “The Rifleman”, and did it with another guy.  Governor Ah-nuld’s nude photos are very well-known, and the demi-monde that produced those photos guaranteed that he was gay-for-pay.  Yet those don’t matter somehow.  Attitudes today are barely changed from thirty years ago, when the Weider brothers essentially blackballed one of their most famous musclemen because they caught sight of photos of the guy doing the nasty with three other men, without a woman in sight.

What the Cleveland Indians did was aggravate a problem that’s going to persist until a man who has the bravery and skill of Jackie Robinson comes out and says those two little words:  “I’m gay.”  But unlike Robinson, that difference isn’t apparent at first glance.  It’s too easy to keep the closet shut, for all concerned.

A CHILD’S GRAVEYARD OF VERSES

Last week, everyone started to fall over themselves praising Bob Keeshan upon his passing.  And they should.  During his time as a star performer, television cemeted itself as the electronic babysitter, and Captain Kangaroo was everyone’s babysitter.  Yeah, he was mine too.  I was lucky, though, in that I was just the right age to be there as Sesame Street and The Electric Company premiered.  The Captain didn’t scale very well, and people older than me didn’t have alternative programming to turn to.

In some instances.  If you were fortunate enough to grow up in Chicago, you did have other children’s programming to turn to.  And that brings me to the loss last week that hurt me a lot more than the Captain.  Ray Rayner passed away a couple days prior to the Captain.  If you weren’t lucky enough to have seen him, let me assure you of this:  he was cool (and it was incredibly unfortunate that he left the airwaves prior to WGN becoming a de facto national cable channel).  Yeah, he did the same kiddie programming stuff as all the other local kid show hosts did across the country, but the way he did it was…I can’t describe it, and it’s only partially because my neurons are starting their long process of dying off.  He never, ever seemed to talk down to kids.  For the younger kids, he could be taken at face value.  For older kids, he seemed to be winking at them, going “Yeah, we both know this is bullshit, but just play along with me and you’ll enjoy it.  Trust me.”  And we did trust him and had a great time doing it.  He was everyone’s uncle-that-you-wished-was-your-dad.

He was long retired when he passed away, but his loss struck a chord deep inside me.  It made me realize exactly what was lost when he left our screens.  It’s not only his show, but the fact that the local kids’ TV show is an endangered species at best courtesy of cable channels like Nickelodeon.  People my age from all parts of the country can engage in competitive comparison about guys like Rayner and, oh, Uncle Don, just to cite one example, and relive a little of their own childhoods (in fact, the era of local kids’ programming in Chicago lasted long enough for older kids to champion Rayner and younger ones to champion Bill Jackson, and even younger ones to champion Rich Koz).  That era vanished without me caring too much about it.  Until last week, when the man who represented that era for me was taken from us.  Now, I’m feeling that loss.

And on that note, I’ll take myself away from you for this week.  Until such time, enjoy yourselves.  And if the mail link below is still set to my long-dead Comcast account, use this instead.