Tuesday, October 31, 2006

I Got A Nikon Camera. I Love To Take Photographs.

These were taken at a Halloween Carnival at the church last Sunday night. The girl immediately above this text is trying to shoot a free throw. I love this picture.

Monday, October 30, 2006

We'll Not See His Likes Again.

Arnold "Red" Auerbach, the legendary-and for once the use of the word is appropriate-coach of the Boston Celtics died last weekend.

The obituary that ran in Sunday's New York Times is below:


Sunday, October 29, 2006

My Sunday Feeling

Being the civic-minded person that I am, I serve on the Board of Directors of a non-profit humanitarian organization here in Little rock. Like most non-profits, we are forced to host frequent social events in order to raise money. Well, "forced" is too strong a word. One of the reasons we do these deals is because they are popular. Most people wouldn't attend just for the cause itself. They like to get out and throw their money around, maybe pick up a couple of adult beverages. If they can assist their fellow man in the process, so much the better.

We have an inordinate number of artistic types on our Board and so we do art shows at a local restaurant about once every 6 months or so. We did one last Thursday, and being the Patron of the Arts that I am, I dutifully attended.

My companion and I got our food and drinks and sat looking at the paintings on the wall as we ate. The first thing I noticed about the paintings was that they were for the most part huge and that they were all surrounded by gilt-edged, ornate frames more suitable for a museum piece than for the average stuff we sell at our fund-raisers.

The second thing I noticed was that, well, none of them were very good.

Now, I do not have a critical eye. My level of erudition, while not especially trustworthy, is at least more sophisticated than " I don't know art but I know what I like." Neither am I apt to burst out laughing while exclaiming " You call that art? My 9 year old nephew can paint better than that!" But that doesn't exactly make me the second coming of Vincent Price. (In addition to starring in numerous creepy movies, Vincent Price was a highly regarded art critic and collector. You didn't know that, did you?)

Since I don't trust my eye, and since I consider myself to be a fair minded person of manifest good will, I leaned over and asked J, " Is it just me? Or is this stuff really bad?"

" No." she said. " You're right. This stuff is awful. Look at the piece behind you."

I turned and found myself regarding an oil painting depicting the launch of the Space Shuttle. I kid you not.

" What is wrong with that painting?" she whispered.

" Other than the fact that it exists?"

" Yes. Look at the sky. It's dark. Do they launch the Space Shuttle at night?"

Sure enough, the artist had the damn thing bravely piercing a horizon of purple and black. I mean, that's just stupid.

"What does she want for this?" I asked.

" Oh Lord." she gasped, looking at the price list. " That one goes for $6500."

" What?!?!?!" I exclaimed in a voice loud enough to cause heads to turn my direction.

She just shrugged and handed me the list. The prices went from the $6500 nocturnal depiction of the Space Shuttle (perhaps priced thusly for patriotic reasons) to relatively reasonable pieces that went for around $400.

But I wouldn't have given you 5 bucks for any of them. The color scheme for anything other than the Southwestern landscapes was primarily pastels, mostly blue. After 30 minutes, I kept fighting the urge to go home and see if there was a UCLA game on TV. The perspectives were all blown. There was a dreadful painting of an American Indian on a horse. The mountain range behind the subject was rendered so incompetently it looked as if he could lean up against it. One's view of a landscape in another piece was distracted by the fact that the legs of the arch you looked through were not the same size. It was if one side had acquired polio during construction.

And on and on. It was just the worst stuff you could ever see. I wouldn't put this junk in a Motel 6. And she wanted top dollar!

While I was standing there with my mouth open, my phone buzzed. It was PM checking in from the West Coast.

"How's your event?" he asked.

" Let me get outside so I can talk." I whispered by way of reply.

" Uh-oh." he said laughing.

" This is the worst goddamn art I have ever seen." I said once I stepped outside. " My nephew can paint better than this."

OK. So I said it. But he can.

" You know, " he said. "You seem to see that a lot at these affairs. I wonder why that is?"


There is a an art gallery down the street from my house here in the People's Republic of Hillcrest. I stopped by yesterday to see if there was the artistic equivalent of a sex-offender registry. I felt that I duty to report what I had seen.

" Oh, you see this all the time." said D, the co-owner. " My theory is that some of these folks are basically in it to launder money."

All at once the light bulb in my head came on. He went on.

"Most of these artists are women who stay at home while their husbands work. They tend to have their own little network of bad artists. Here's how I think it works.

When one of the husbands comes into some money that he doesn't want to pay taxes on, they buy a piece of art from someone in the network. Once the money has cooled off, the purchaser of the piece of art buys a piece from the other guy's wife. And there they go, buying and selling this junk, mostly to each other.

They also do these charitable things where they invite the network to attend along with the general public. The network either buys a few pieces or runs the bidding up. They put these big honking prices on them because the higher the price the bigger the charitable donation they can write off."

OK. So that would explain the $6500 dollar piece that couldn't fetch a "B" grade from a 7th grade art teacher. But why the expensive frames? They must've cost a fortune.

" Nah. When you got bad art, the rule of thumb is: either you make it red or you put it in a fancy frame." D said. " You can buy frames for next to nothing in Mexico or off of the Internet if you know where to look. So you get your fancy faux frame, you stick your faux painting in there, you place a price tag on it only an idiot would pay and-poof!-you're an artist. Happens all the time. Now, that's only my theory. I can't prove any of this. But there has to be some reason other than the art that drives the economics. This is a crazy business but it's not that crazy."

I've heard crazier explanations for phenomena before. Wife gets to stay home and justify the inordinate amount of time she devotes to her hobby. Husband gets a way to cool off the money he won betting the NFL or the cash he made on the side doing an off-the-books radiator job.

Now I don't know if last week's artist is in a network of hacks like D was talking about or not. Hell, for all I know she may be an important regional artist and I am a complete Philistine. I have no reason to believe that there was anything going on the other night that wasn't on the up and up.

However, I do know that you can learn something new every day if you are open to the prospect. I also know that there are reasons for phenomena and then there are real reasons.

And I am pretty sure that none of those paintings got sold, charity or no.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Dispatch From The Field

The following gay banter took place on the Instant Messenger earlier this week.

Elvis: Jeff Skilling caught 24 years from the Judge today. It ain't enough.

tmfw: And he'll do every minute of it in the Federal system.

Elvis: Good. It's too good for him.

tmfw: You know, Skilling's 52. I turn 51 this week. I was looking over my 401k the other night. While I'm doing OK, but I sometimes wonder how things might have been if I had chose a more lucrative line of work. But then again, I'm not looking at spending the rest of my life in prison.

Elvis: You do have that in your favor.

tmfw: Wonder if Skilling would trade places with me?

Elvis: In a New York second.

tmfw: Yep.

Elvis: BTW...you probably have more $ in your 401k than I do.

tmfw: No way! You made a zillion dollars practicing law.

Elvis: Yes, but I have 2 more ex-wives than you do. But for my unfortunate habit of engaging in matrimony, I would be a wealthy man.

tmfw: So basically, I am better off than you and Jeff Skilling.

Elvis: Y. But it's a low bar.

tmfw: I'll take what I can get at this stage. Hey, I gotta go. " Monday Night Football" is coming on.

Elvis: Glad to see you are still challenging yourself w/rigorous intellectual pursuits despite the advancing years.

tmfw: Bye.

Elvis: cya!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

My Sunday Feeling

Editorial Comment: This was written a year ago upon the suggestion of a local editor with whom I had done business who wanted me to write something about my feelings on turning 50. I somehow got her new e-mail address wrong and she never got the submission back when she was interested in running it. She said, " Oh well. Maybe we will use it when your birthday rolls around again next year." However, she retired a couple of months ago and the guy that replaced her on an interim basis never responded to the e-mails we both wrote him about the subject.

You don't have to hit me upside the head with a brick.

Sooooooo, since it is a timely subject, and since I really don't have anything else to write about and since I have a cold, here it is. I hope you enjoy it.

I have to admit that they got me good. I never saw it coming. My little brother John told me that every Friday night was Rib Night out at his country club. He invited me and my friend Joan to come eat ribs in honor of my 50th birthday. So I showed up, big dumb me, precisely at 7:30 at the Club, anticipating nothing more than free barbecueue and whiskey. I had no more taken two steps into what I had assumed would be a buffet room full of half-drunk golfers when about 25 of my closest friends jumped out from the corners of the room.. I could not have been more shocked if Martians had invaded as cameras went off around me and I struggled to regain my bearings.

I am not one that surprises easily; I confess that I am far too controlling to allow for that nonsense. I am also too suspicious-it is part of my charm-so for my three brothers to put one over on me-with the assistance of numerous of my friends and relatives says a lot. One, it means that they lie a whole lot more than I anticipated. And two, it shows that I am nowhere near as smart as I think I am. Guys that ordinarily could not be trusted with a wet match kept me none the wiser as to my fate while they traded telephone calls and e-mails behind my back for three months in planning this august occasion.

You have to understand. I wouldn't go across a county line to see me. So I am humbled that old classmates from as far away as California and Louisiana and a writer friend from Arizona gave up the time and money to do what I'm not sure that I would do for myself. I guess they wanted to see if they could induce cardiac arrest in me, which partially explained the presence in the room of a board certified cardiologist. As if that weren't enough, my cellphone went off on cue bearing calls from the other co-conspirators that could not attend. And though the photographs taken may not reveal it, as I do not have the habit of smiling when my picture is being taken, my heart was full of a happiness that I cannot describe. Like I said, they got me but good.

Oh, what a night. What a wonderful, wonderful night.

Ours is a vulgar and brutish age. We receive information about our politics and our religion through sound bytes in much the same way we learn about new cars and light beer. Everything is prepackaged and sterilized. Only during such narcissistic times could life coaches not only make a living but some of them are so successful they have opened second offices. Self-congratulation and navel-gazing is epidemic. We whine and complain about perceived slights as if we are entitled to a pain-free existence. As if we do not live in the temporal. I hate this about the present age.

But you know? Maybe we are not entitled to happiness. Or maybe we are or some of us just don't know how to go about it and have quit looking. (I am not one of those people, in case you are wondering.) The sportswriter Mike Lupica says that you deserve what you get with some people. You can also get what you do not deserve. I know that I do not deserve to have such wonderful friends, to have such a great family. I did not deserve such a fun night. I do not deserve any of this. And I thank the God who lent me both my breath and this one night.

The late journalist Marjorie Williams, who frequently wrote of her struggle with terminal cancer said in one of her essays: "Only a moral idiot could feel entitled, in the midst of life, to a complete exemption from bad fortune." I have been lucky the last 50 years. Like everybody else, I have had my ups and my downs. Like everybody else, I wish that I could have some "do-overs" here and there. I have loved and have been loved. I have hurt and have been hurt. Some times have been easier than others. I wish that I could undo lingering misunderstandings and resentment. I wish I could sit down with certain people and say, like Prufrock, "That is not what I meant at all. That is not it at all." I also know I am no different from anybody else in this regard.

But on the balance, I have absolutely no room to complain. No room whatsoever. I have my health and there's a roof over my head. I have always enjoyed steady employment and the financial security that it brings.

I do not take any of this for granted. While I may be a moral idiot, I am not a complete idiot. I have enough of my mother-who saw a bear in every window- in me to guard against that. While I am not as bad as she is, I know that things can change and that random laughing chance can rise up at any time and strike me down much as it did my father back in our backyard one cold winter day in December some 30 years ago. Random laughing chance left a widow with four sons in its wake on that day. It can happen. So while I am not as overprotective as my mother and while I may not see bears in the window I've seen enough in my 50 years to sometimes recognize the pawprints on the glass from the night before. I am not a complete idiot. I know that life is as fragile and painful as it is exquisite.

In the fullness of time, when I am bent with age-if I am spared at all- and I am sitting in a rocking chair on the porch at the old folk's home, I hope to derive comfort in the certain knowledge that I had a pretty good run all things considered. And I will seek refuge in the memory of a wonderous and holy night back in October of 2005 that was filled with such joy. Please God, permit me that much. Although I did not deserve any of it, permit me to always have that one night,in the company of all of those people that I love, and I can die a happy man.

Please. Let me keep that one night.

Friday, October 20, 2006

"He may have in retrospect seemed a little troubled."

Thus spake the landlord of one Zackery Bowen (no relation) who threw himself off of a hotel rooftop in the French Quarter not far from an apartment where he had killed his girlfriend in a most wanton, gruesome and desecrating manner about a week before.

What he did to that girl was beyond horrible. It is enough to make a member of Al-Qaeda puke. It has shocked a city that thought it was beyond shock.

No shit he was "a little troubled."

Go to the jump for the details. Warning: This is incomprehensibly ghastly stuff. Do not go there if you have a weak stomach or are prone to nightmares. I'm not kidding.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Sports Page

I started to write about the brawl that broke out during last Saturday's Miami-Florida International game. I probably will later on.

But I thought the piece by Bill Simmons-ESPN's Sports Guy-on this being the Year of the Loon in sports was absolutely priceless. And I provide the link to it below as a public service to my dozens of readers.

Hey, Singleaxis! If you are out there, let us know what you think! I found the comparison between crazy teammates and crazy girlfriends particularly apt, having had considerable exposure to both in my checkered career.


Sunday, October 15, 2006

My Sunday Feeling

At a certain point along our journey through this vale of tears every person runs across somebody who is more damn trouble than they are worth. If you are fortunate, your interaction with such a person will be on a superficial level such as the person in the office who does no meaningful work and bitches incessantly whenever he or she is called upon to actually to move their leaden asses.

If you are not so fortunate, maybe you live next door to that person, or worse, coach or teach that person's child. If your luck is particularly abysmal, you might wake up one day to discover that you have been sleeping next to a person that is more trouble than he or she is worth.

Which brings us to Jennifer Wilbanks, the winsome doe-eyed thing on the left. If ever there was a person who was the textbook example of somebody who is way more trouble than she is possibly worth it is she. It will be recalled that about this time last year, she faked her own kidnapping so as to avoid her wedding day, thereby earning the moniker "The Runaway Bride."

Faithful readers of this space might recall my friend J. J is not only good and wise but being herself from Georgia, she possesses unique insight into the goddamned infernal headache-inducing mystery known as Southern womanhood. When the hoax was revealed and Jennifer was returned to the Peach State, J said of Jennifer's fiancee, " He's lucky. It's not every day that life gives you this kind of 'head's-up.' Trust me. That girl is crazy."

Not flighty. Not high-strung. Not overwrought. Crazy.

Well, if the jilted fiancee thought he was shed of her he was sadly mistaken. Because being crazy as she undoubtedly is, Jennifer sees nothing remotely venal or ridiculous about suing the poor bastard for half of the wedding presents, half of the value of the marital home from which she vamoosed, and half of the 500k he allegedly got for selling what she refers to as "her" story to a production company. If you happen to have a gall-o-meter at your home you might want to check it after you read this. Bet it is in the red zone.

But not all craziness is acquired. Some people are sufficiently crazy that they jump through hoops to not only borrow certain trouble but to create a scenario in which they risk all manner of trouble of the worst sort.

My excellent friend Jenny is about to pull her hair out over the antics of her starry-eyed friend whom I will refer to as Mary. About 4 months ago, Mary met a man who had recently moved to our fair city from another state. Jenny says he is a nice looking man who seems to be a gentleman. This is a good thing because one thing led to another and they started dating. 2 things led to 2 others and, lo and behold, they became engaged. Some people work faster than others.

Mary's intended has a license to practice law in the state from whence he came. Supposedly, he moved to Arkansas to take care of his ailing Mother, a not completely ridiculous story on its face. However, Jenny, being the suspicious sort that she is, asked Mary if Prince Charming had been actively looking for a job now that he is here in Little Rock. Mary allowed as how he had applied for a job selling shoes at a local department store.

Now, there is dignity in labor and there is nothing remotely wrong with selling shoes for a living. Indeed, when I retire, I may embark upon a second career as well. Maybe I will be a teacher or a journalist. I hope to be in a position to do something other than practice law if I want to. Having said that, I doubt that I will want to sell shoes. Suffice it to say, this choice of vocations raised any of a number of red flags for ol' Jen.

Since I am a little better at computer stuff than she is, Jenny asked if I would do some checking around. Which I did- and Bingo!- I am stunned to report that Prince Charming had his license suspended for about 7 years based on 14 separate complaints from former clients of his from back where he used to live. To his credit, he managed to get it back just prior to his move here. But this would explain why Mary's intended hasn't applied for a license here in Arkansas where they would ask certain troubling questions about his former life that are not likely to present themselves in the shoe department.

After I gave Jenny the news, she happened to get a call from Mary. Seems they have set a date, got a preacher and secured the services of a caterer. Jenny told her that they, like, reeeeeeallllllly needed to talk. No word on whether that talk has occurred yet or not.

Now, Mary is not a stupid woman. She owns a thriving business. She lives in a beautiful house that is probably worth 5 times what she owes against it. And yet, she is going to marry a man she has known for only 4 months. Jen says he did tell Mary that he didn't want to practice law again because of " a problem" back in his old state. Which is one way of referring to being under a period of suspension I suppose. But evidently, she didn't press him on it.

Or maybe she did. Maybe she doesn't care. Maybe she is so lonely that she thinks this is her last best chance to be with someone.

Which is sad beyond words.

Jenny says that she will insist that Mary get Prince to sign a pre-nuptial agreement, or in the alternative, to run for the hills if he won't sign it. It sounds like to me she is in too far over her head to listen to sense at this point. Otherwise sane people can do completely insane things. It happens. There is nothing you can do for the person who is bound and determined to go over a cliff'.

While some people are more trouble than they are possibly worth, some folks go out of their way to bring trouble upon themselves. Here's hoping that Mary is able to avoid a lightning strike. Here's hoping that Prince has got his troubles behind him and that he has no judgments following him around. Here's hoping that he gets the job at the shoe department.

Suffice it to say, J is pretty disgusted by the litigation back home in Georgia.

" This lawsuit is completely ridiculous." she said.

" Sounds like it to me." I allowed.

"Of course it is," she said, looking over her glasses. "Why, everybody knows that you are supposed to return the gifts if the wedding doesn't take place."

She was serious.

Like the lady said. Ridiculous.

Which is just another way of acknowledging that some people are way more trouble than they are possibly worth.

Saturday, October 14, 2006


The link below is to "The Sandbox" which is a blog run over on the Doonesbury.com site. It is written by folks serving over in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is pretty powerful stuff.

We all ought to read these posts. Because as BD's buddy Ray said in last Sunday's strip, "It's your war too, America!"


Here We Go.........

Patterns. We all have them. Some of them are more benign than others.

Terrell Owens....he's gots him some major patterns. This is a virtual replay of the diva shit he pulled with the Eagles that got him fired.

Stay tuned....Next thing you know he'll go off on Drew Bledsoe on the sidelines.


Friday, October 13, 2006

Local Knowledge


This is the link to a story in today's New York Times about the plane crash that killed New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidel along with Tyler Stanger, his flight instructor. According to the article, practically every local aviation person interviewed said that the route they were flying over the East River is too dangerous. Not too long ago, I flew over the very area where this disaster occurred only I was in a commercial airliner way above the city at the time. Like everyone that regards New York from above I was amazed at the density of the urban landscape below. Indeed, one of the pilots interviewed for this piece referred to flying at low altitude in that environment as like unto "flying in a box canyon."

I came away with two questions after reading the piece.

One, if this planned excursion was well known to be so tricky why didn't somebody at Teterboro Airport back in New Jersey ask these guys, one a competent but inexperienced pilot and the other a man with experience albeit in the relatively open skies of California, if they really wanted to try such a ticklish route back when they filed their flight plan?

And two, what the hell is the FAA doing letting certain fixed-wing aircraft fly at low altitude over a densely populated urban area without requiring them to be in contact with air traffic controllers? You would think after 9/11 you wouldn't be allowed to do that.

And why is it that it always seems that it takes a tragedy such as this to get people to think about these issues?

OK. So that's three questions.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I Love The Internet

Check out the latest amusement that I posted over at our sister station strangepup.


I cannot make this stuff up.

The Amish

Thanks for the invite to write for TMFW. I'm currently working on a column regarding the Amish and their forgiving actions toward Mr. Roberts. I noted that you - great minds think alike - also wrote something on it, and also focused on something I'm featuring, the little girl offering herself up to save her friends. But the primary point of my musing lies in the question you pose at the end of your post, which in a different form asks, basically, could you face hate with love? I know if I was one of those parents I would have taken matters in my own hand and began an outlay of my own revenge and violence. Which is why I would last but a nanosecond in an Amish community and why I admire them so much.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

There Is A God

And She hates the Yankees.

"The season of blame is upon them."


The Electoral Equivalent of a Crowbar

The following joke about a topical subject appeared in the old text message inbox:

"How do you separate the men from the boys in a Republican-led Congress?"

Answer: "With a midterm election."

The link below will refer you to a piece by LA Times writer Steve Lopez on the Mark Foley affair which ran today in the local paper. Hopefully, you won't have to register w/the Times to actually read it, but it would be worth it if you do.


Five Little Girls

The country recoiled in horror again with the news that yet another madman had invaded an elementary school and had killed innocent children that were trapped inside. Only this latest attack on innocents seemed even more incomprehensible at first blush as the victims this time were 11 Amish girls. 5 of them drew their last breaths in a rural schoolhouse in Georgetown, Pennsylvania. I guess this proves that there is no safety anywhere in this world when the even Amish are no longer immune.

The killer was a milkman named Charles Roberts. He let the boys in the school go free. He then lined the girls up against the blackboard and shot them down. He then turned the gun upon himself. Thank God. The police found sexual lubricant, ropes and boards in the materiel he carried into the school, which suggests that he had planned to bind and sexually assault these babies as well. There is no evidence that he got that far. Like I said, Thank God.

One of the survivors said that Roberts told them that he was mad at God. In his suicide note there is talk of the death of a beloved child. There is talk that he had molested children himself. But he was likewise described by friends and relatives as a "good father" and "good neighbor." He kissed his children goodbye before he left for work on that day.

Based upon his last hour on this planet, it is an understatement to suggest that Roberts' outward normalcy was but a "mask of sanity" to paraphrase the psychiatric term. It is likewise an understatement to refer to Roberts in any way other than as a coward of the basest sort. Not only did he slaughter innocent children, they were the children of a good and religious people known both for their pacifism and their refusal to utilize modern technology. Roberts was not unintelligent and he was lucid if only in the tenuous sense that he had sufficient roots in reality to formulate a plan and to stick with it.

Accordingly, it is not a stretch to believe that the little schoolhouse was a target of opportunity precisely because he knew there would be no security. There would be no calls to 911, no text messages to the outside world seeking help. In short, he knew his victims were utterly and completely incapable, either philosophically or strategically, of offering any defense and that help would be slow in coming. Like I said, he was a coward of the basest sort.

And yet, just before he set about his murderous task, Charles Roberts, though undeserving of any measure of it, found himself confronted by the transcendent.

One of the slain girls was a 13 year old named Marian Fisher. Two of the survivors have testified that Marian asked that she be shot first, evidently in hopes that the little ones would be set free.

"Shoot me and leave the other ones loose." Marian is quoted as having said to Roberts even as she was staring down the barrel of his gun.

"Shoot me and leave the other ones loose."

As the old hymn says, " I scarce can take it in." In the last moments of her young life, and confronted by unspeakable terror, this courageous girl offered herself up as a living sacrifice, the vehicle of her proffered bargain being merely the Sermon on the Mount and John 15:13 condensed into the earnest dialect of the Amish people.

" Shoot me and leave the other ones loose." Imagine.

Gary Roberts was buried yesterday in a family plot. The Washington Post reported that 75 Amish folks were in attendance. They have assured the family of Charles Roberts that they forgive him.

Let's not get carried away. There are no positives here. No silver linings. The good and gentle Amish people have now experienced the worst case scenario that all parents in the outside world dread everyday whenever there is news of this kind of mindless assault on kids. 5 little girls have been torn from the arms of their parents. And yes, Roberts leaves a widow and 2 orphans who will forevermore be marked with the stain of his murderous rage.

And yet. Transcendence was here as well and it appeared in the unflinchingly brave words of Marian Fisher and in the willingness of a community of friends to forgive the unforgivable.

Ask yourself. Could you forgive the man who killed somebody you loved? Would you volunteer to die to save a friend?

What would you have done?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Sports Page- The Damn Good Question Edition

According to a wire service report ran in today's Arkansas-Democrat Gazette, the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Commitee has asked the NCAA to justify its tax-exempt status.

"From the standpoint of a federal taxpayer, why should the federal government subsidize the athletic activities of educational institutions when that subsidy is being used to help pay for escalating coaches' salaries, costly chartered travel and state-of-the art athletic facilities?" asked Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Calif., in a letter sent to NCAA President Myles Brand.

The NCAA states in the returns filed with the IRS that its corporate purpose is "to maintain intercollegiate athletics as an integral part of the educational program and the athlete as an integral part of the student body."

At this point, I feel compelled to remind the reader that the above was filed under penalty of perjury. In any event, this claptrap in the filings led Rep. Thomas to ask said "Damn Good Question."

" How does playing major college football or men's basketball in a highly commercialized, profit- seeking, entertainment environment further the educational missions of your member institutions?"

I am shocked. Why, next thing you know he'll be insinuating that some churches are abusing their tax exempt status to engage in partisan politics.

In any event, you may expect the usual litany of canards in response: "Intercollegiate athletics raises the profile of the schools, increases alumni donation activity and promotes the spirit of clean competition and traditions." The fact of the matter is that big-time athletics have virtually nothing to do with the academic missions of the schools of which they are ostensibly a constituent part and it has been demonstrated that a successful athletic program does not necessarily result in increased revenue for the academic side. Indeed, for many schools, participation in Division I football while attempting to at least fake compliance with Title VIV's requirement that women be given an equal opportunity to compete in intercollegiate athletics is ruinously expensive.

But it is a hell of a deal for the top 35 or 40 schools that can manage it. They don't have to pay the players, at least not over the table. The coach's salaries are typically paid and augmented by the boosters. They get to rake in all this money from television and the sale of products such as sweatshirts and posters which are often adorned with the images of the players they don't have to pay.

And it is all tax exempt. Hell of a deal.

Maybe while Rep. Thomas is at it, he can take a stab at doing away with baseball's exemption from the anti-trust laws but I guess that would be too much to hope for.

Dr. Brand's response is due by the end of this month. I'll keep you posted.

The Funniest Rider In The History Of The Music Business

Most performers include "riders" to their contracts with a venue. Riders in performance contracts are much the same as riders to insurance policies: they provide for special requirements that cannot easily be put in the main body of the contract. In performance contracts riders are used to provide for stuff backstage and to set the technical requirements for the performance itself.

Usually, they are interesting if only to provide a glimpse into the mandarin proclivities of people in the music business. Follow the link below to read the rider to a contract for a performance by the legendary Iggy Pop and the Stooges which was written by one of his techies and obtained by the good people at The Smoking Gun. This one is unusual in that, unlike most contract documents, it is screamingly funny.

It is hilarious even if you don't know the first thing about lights and sound equipment.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

That's Our Defense?

Years ago, my little brother John got into a fight in the dorm. It was quite the brawl. He was hauled up in front of the Judicial Board at Hendrix. Hendrix is not the kind of place that is amused by that sort of thing.

He thought that someone in the dorm that he attacked had stolen something from his off-campus apartment. And so he went room-to-room in search of his stuff. And he clocked about 5 guys until cooler heads hauled him off.

I was just back in town from law school. I got the call from Hendrix. In those days Hendrix was the kind of place where the campus minister called you at times like these. I got the call instead of Mother. I also got the call from John.

" What possessed you to start a one man riot?" I asked.

" Hey man," he said. " I was drunk."

" That's our defense?" I asked.

As most of the known political universe knows, Congressman Mark Foley-Republican of Florida, got caught sending sexually explicit IMs to a young boy Congressional page.

Since then his mouthpiece has announced that his client is gay.

That's our defense? I know lots of gay folks. I don't any pedophiles, gay or straight.

His mouthpiece has announced that Foley's an alcoholic.

That's our defense? I don't know any alchies that routinely hit on minors. In fact, and not to make an invidious comparison, I know more gay folks than I know bad alchies. And none of them hit on kids.

His mouthpiece said he was abused as a child by a man of the cloth.

That's our defense? Mouthpiece also refused to name the clergyman or the church. Hello? Mouthpiece's client had better goddamn name whoever it allegedly is.

And get this: " There was absolutely no inappropriate sexual contact with any minor."

That's our defense? Like there's any possible appropriate sexual contact with a kid?

I'm a drunk? I'm gay? I've been abused ( though I won't name who abused me?) I didn't do any inappropriate sexual contact?

That's our defense? That's our defense?

Oh please.....

Hot on the heels of his cri de ego book "My Confession," the inevitable interview with former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey is in this month's GQ. And can be found at the jump below:


The interview is remarkable for no other reason than it confirms that McGreevey is nothing more than a preening narcissist who is capable only of speaking in ersatz 12 Step psychobabble (he's addicted not to sex or booze but to the adoration of others. No lie. He actually said that shit.)

When asked about the harm his secretly gay lifestyle caused his wife Dina he responds thusly:

" The punishment is the sin itself," he says. " The act itself is the punishment, and that's the basic moral violation. If you're not integrated, if you maintain two worlds, if you're not aligned with your higher power, it becomes all to easy to fracture. And I, ironically, paid the ultimate price for it."

See? Not his fault. He wasn't integrated, that's all. And ironically he's the one that paid the price for it!

I haven't had to listen to bullshit like this in at least a year in a half. And the memory of certain of those insane conversations in another lifetime made me want to sew my eyes shut about halfway through Jeanne Marie Laskas's otherwise excellent interview.

Maybe I'm being unfair but I don't think so. Read it for yourself. Leave me a comment.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

My Fall Movie Preview

From the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:

The reasons for doing a fall movie preview are obvious — people are interested in a season when, as Dustin Hoffman once put it, “all the good movies come out.” But your friendly neighborhood movie critic has reasons to tread carefully — a lot of the films mentioned below are still in post-production, which means that not only have we not seen them, but they haven’t even been completely realized yet. Any speculation about the merits of unseen films is just so much flibber-flabber based on artistic reputation and unreliable buzz. Schedules are likely to change. Look for movies in limited release to open in Little Rock anywhere from a week to two months after the scheduled date and understand some films might be delayed until next year (or never released here ). Titles could change. Movies we’ve not heard of could surface. We can’t predict the future (and if we could we wouldn’t be slaving away over a hot disc drive all day, trying to determine when Volver is likely to show up here ). But we have our ideas, our prejudices and our sources. And so, it’s once again into the fray.