Saturday, April 5, 2003

ONLY THE STRONG: Want to know who wins the fairly entertaining current edition of Survivor?

Numerous press sources are reporting that an offshore gambling website taking wagers on Survivor has determined that several CBS employees had placed early, lucrative winning bets on the winners of the past two series, and had wagered heavily again on this season's winner. The bets have been disallowed. You can, however, still wager [potential spoiler - highlight text to reveal] on the gender of the ultimate survivor, which strongly suggests that the two finalists are of opposite genders -- in other words, no Heidi/Jenna finale. [/spoiler]

If you'd like to read an article about the gambling scandal with no spoilers as to who the CBS insiders bet on, click here. If you want to know who the insiders believe the final two are, however, this WaPo article tells all.

Friday, April 4, 2003

WANG FACING HARD TIME: Following up on a previous story, Taiwan native Suo-Sou Wang, age 29, was convicted today after a two day trial in Michigan on charges of practicing medicine without a license and related offenses.

Wang faces up to four years in prison for his unlicensed creation of Rocky Mountain oysters, so to speak, and I'm sure he will be given a wide berth by his fellow inmates.

Via Obscure Store.
STILL MORE ON THE NYT WEDDINGS PAGE: Reader Anna Moody sent me a link to a great 1997 article by David Brooks on the history of the Times' wedding announcements.

Like America itself, Brooks explains, the page has evolved from chronicling a WASP elite based on lineage to a cognitive elite based on merit and accomplishment. Brooks notes:
Episcopalians and Jews serve as tracer elements that mark the transformation from an elite based on blood to an elite based on education and brains. It's hard to track cleanly the decline of New York's Episcopalian elite and the succession of the city's Jews, because until recently Jewish weddings held on Sunday were reported separately, in the Times's Monday edition (observant Jews don't wed on Saturday, and the Times, treating weddings as news events, long would not write about them until they had occurred). Still, by looking at the raw numbers, you can see the basic trend. In the spring of 1957, 55 percent of the couples featured on the Sunday wedding page were Episcopalians. Other Protestants constituted 31 percent of the weddings, and Catholics were 14 percent. In 1977, 48 percent of the weddings were Episcopalian. Catholic weddings made up 21 percent of those listed. Jews made their appearance at 12 percent. Other Protestants were 15 percent, and non-religious ceremonies registered on the scale at 4 percent. On the wedding pages of the winter and spring of 1997, by contrast, 40 percent of the ceremonies are Jewish, only 17 percent are Episcopalian, 15 percent are Catholic, 13 percent are other Protestant, and 15 percent are non-religious or non-denominational.

Can magna graduates marry summas? (I did.) Can predators marry nurturers? If you start a chain of erotic car washes, will the Times report on your wedding?

Brooks addresses all this and more in a well-researched, comprehensive piece, which you can read via this link.
NEXT TIME IT'S A NON-ELIMINATION LEG, HIRE PHIL KEOGHAN: The Chicago Sun-Times' Phil Rosenthal was not amused with this week's American Idol bait-and-switch:
What a brilliant plan: Cheat us out of two hours in our busy schedules, force us to listen to these wannabes mangle a selection of disco tunes, persuade us to call and text message our votes, entice us to sit through product placement ads for Coca-Cola and AT&T with the promise of a result and then tell us to come back next week when the votes might actually count.

Makes you want to switch to Pepsi and U.S. Cellular.

There was some lip service about how this week's "Idol" vote will be averaged with next week's vote. But that's a sham.

Keep reading here.
TAKING MARX SERIOUSLY: My alma mater has gone Marxist. Well, sorta.

Amherst College has just named Anthony (Tony) W. Marx, professor and director of undergraduate studies in political science at Columbia University, as its 18th president.

According to the college's press release:
Marx is a respected teacher and an internationally recognized scholar who has written three books on nation building, particularly in South Africa, but also in the U.S., Brazil and Europe. He also has established and managed programs designed to strengthen secondary school education in the U.S. and abroad. In addition to his faculty post at Columbia, he currently serves as director of the Gates Foundation-funded Early College/High School Initiative at the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, which establishes model public high schools as partnerships between school systems and universities; and he is founder of the Columbia Urban Educators Program, a public school teacher recruitment and training partnership. He also was founder of Khanya College, a South African secondary school that helped prepare more than 1,000 black students for university.

To the surprise of some observers, the new president is neither an alum of the College (three straight non-alums), nor a woman or member of a minority group (none in the College's history). And it's quite a big step up for Marx -- his two predecessors were the president of Trinity College and the dean of Columbia University. Marx has no similar level experience.

But he's got quite a resume demonstrating caring about race and education, and seems like a cool guy. We all wish him well.

Marx succeeds Tom Gerety, who has served for the past nine years.

If anyone knows more about Marx worth sharing, email me.
ROCK MY ADIDAS, NEVER ROCK FILA: A new website to enjoy: Lucian James' American Brandstand, helpfully tracking all the brand name product placement and references in this week's top 40 hits. Nice detective work.
THE NYT AND GAY MARRIAGES: Still no response from anyone at the Times, or, really, anyone who knows anything, on the mystery of what happened to all the gay wedding announcements in the Times' Sunday Styles section?

Current scoreboard stands at Heterosexual Couples: 165, Homosexual Couples: 0 since mid-January. We'll see what this Sunday brings.

Meanwhile, this TimesStyle trivia note: when an announcement notes that the bride or groom is "a daughter/son" of Mr. and Mrs. X, that indicates the bride or groom has at least one sibling of the same sex. When it's the daughter or son, s/he doesn't.
FINAL FOUR: The patented MascotMatcher system, fresh off its .625 performance in the Sweet 16, presents the following infallible predictions for Saturday night's games:
Kansas Jayhawks v. Marquette Golden Eagles: Cousin to our national symbol, the Golden Eagles will slay and pick clean the carcass of the lesser Jayhawk. Marquette.

Texas Longhorns v. Syracuse Orangemen: the effete Dutchmen will learn that the Longhorn isn't some Amsterdam red light district amusement. Texas.

Via Charlie Glassenberg.

Thursday, April 3, 2003

THE FCC WON'T LET THEM BE: What does it take to incur the statutory maximum of a $27,500 fine from the FCC (is that all?), plus the threat of revocation of a radio station's license, for "willful violation of statutory and regulatory provisions restricting the broadcast of indecent material"?

Try this, broadcast as part of the "Deminski & Doyle Show" on Detroit's WKRK-FM on January 9, 2002, between 4:30 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.

I won't reprint it here -- follow the link if you want. I'll just note that involves alleged descriptions of the "Cleveland Steamer", "Rusty Trombone" and "Tony Danza", and no, it's not CBS's new fall lineup.

Dissenting commissioner Michael J. Copps had this to say about the show and the FCC's response:
In this case, WKRK-FM in Detroit aired some of the most vulgar and disgusting indecency that I have had the misfortune to examine since I joined the Commission. The station presented graphic descriptions of violent sexual acts against women as entertainment at a time when children likely composed a significant portion of the audience. The extreme nature of this broadcast – among the worst we have faced in the Commission’s history – and the fact that it was broadcast in the middle of the day, gives the FCC the responsibility to take serious action. I dissent from the majority’s decision because I believe that a financial slap on the wrist does not adequately reflect the seriousness of the station’s actions. To fulfill our duty under the law, we should initiate a hearing to determine whether the WKRK-FM license should be revoked.

Four additional notes:

1. As has been true since George Carlin uttered the "seven dirty words," you just can't broadcast indecency at times when children are likely to be listening. As Justice Stevens wrote in Carlin's case, "[B]roadcasting is uniquely accessible to children, even those too young to read. Although [a] written message might have been incomprehensible to a first grader, Pacifica's broadcast could have enlarged a child's vocabulary in an instant."

There's a proper time and place for these discussions, and drive-time radio just isn't appropriate. Moreover, Jen and I don't want our child-to-be asking us what a "Frothy Walrus" is.

2. Yes, South Park covered this terrain, but that's broadcast on cable after 10pm. Okay, 9pm central, but it wasn't in this level of detail.

3. It's worth noting that the FCC makes clear today that, in the future, it may consider each indecent utterance during a program as a separate offense, and let the fines really add up. That could prove to be a real deterrent against these broadcasters.

4. Finally, these jerks in Detroit are also trying to steal the concept of Wing Bowl from its rightful home. A pox on both their houses!

(note: the FCC links all require Adobe Acrobat.)
"SCUMMY": The Hot Button's David Poland, whom I've rarely seen worked up on these issues, on American Idol and race:
I said it last time and I’ll say it again… the American Idol competition has an ugly racial element. This week, along with the scummy move of removing a competitor and not removing any contestants after putting the show’s viewers through the regular ringer, both black female contestants were in the bottom three. Virtually any objective analysis would put them both in the top half of the eight contestants. Last year, two black women singers – one of whom is now guesting on Fox’s Boston Public – were eliminated before clearly inferior performers.

I’m not a big fan of crying “race.” And I don’t know if there is a way to get more black people to watch the show or to get more white people to vote for people regardless of race. But while neither of these two young ladies seems likely to make the Top Two, they both seem to deserve the Top Five. And based on this week’s voting, it looks like both will be gone in the next three weeks.

Unfortunately, given Josh Gracin's bizarre level of support from the voters, he's probably right.

Poland's other hot story of the moment? Vin Diesel wants to play Sky Masterson in the upcoming 'Guys And Dolls' remake. Yikes.
CORRECTION: A friend just emailed me to let me know that thirty-one Canadian soldiers are currently serving in the Iraq campaign as part of Canada's exchange programs with the U.S. and Great Britain.

Not that they're happy aboot it.
THE TRUE NORTH: Baseball commissioner Bud Selig commanded that all major league teams play "God Bless America" on their public address systems during the seventh inning stretch of every team's home opener, and every Sunday game, in tribute to the servicemen and women fighting the war in Iraq.

Which is all well and good, except for the 6.67% of the league which plays its home games in Canada, a declared noncombatant, where three in five are glad to stay out of this conflict.

The good people of Toronto were not pleased by the edict. So the Jays ended up playing the version sung by that long-necked woman from Quebec, and lo and behold, the crowd approved.

In Quebec, 83% of the population similarly opposes joining in the coalition. We therefore eagerly await Montreal's home opener on April 22, when, potentially, all 200 people who bother showing up for the game will riot. (What are they gonna do, break the empty seats?)
VOTE HIM OUT, AGAIN: I regret to inform you that "Will Mega" Collins, best- (and only-)known for being booted from CBS's reality-stank Big Brother after alienating everyone with his political rants, is now a candidate for Philadelphia City Council:
A longtime community activist, the 30-year-old Mega, also known as Hiram Ashanti, would be the youngest person in City Council. He says that young people have been traditionally shut out of the political process. He’s sponsored youth conferences, breakfast programs and community health fairs in his West Philly neighborhood, and says that as councilman he would work to ensure that every Philadelphian has enough to eat, somewhere to live, and the opportunity to improve his or her life through education and meaningful jobs.

Wednesday, April 2, 2003

OUCH: The NYT's Kelefa Sanneh takes down Kelly Osbourne, live in concert:
Some fans will stop at nothing to get close to the stars they love. And last week, Kelly Osbourne found herself the victim of a particularly depraved form of celebrity stalking. . . . Friday night a few hundred devotees barged in on Ms. Osbourne at Irving Plaza, where she was doing the one thing she should be able to do without anyone watching: she was singing. Luckily, she had brought along a four-piece band, and with their help, she spent about an hour trying in vain to disperse the crowd.

. . .

There were a few moments of sheer torture, like "More Than Life Itself," which Ms. Osbourne says she wrote after her mother, Sharon, was found to have cancer. Sharon Osbourne's struggle with the disease seems to have ended in victory, but the same can't be said about her daughter's struggle with power balladry.

The fans who filled (or more accurately, didn't quite fill) Irving Plaza seemed satisfied, and at the end, some of then lined up to buy a copy of the album for $15, which is more than twice what it goes for at the used-CD shops downtown.

Yet, a few nights later, the WaPo loved her:
Osbourne's stage presense is so charismatic, so chipper, so gosh-darn cute, that as she bounced and shimmied around like a younger Belinda Carlisle, most in the female-strong crowd bounced and shimmied along with her, not caring that they couldn't understand a word she was saying.

Go figure.
AND ANOTHER 'AI' COMMENT: I still get 50-100 people a day coming to this website looking for topless pictures of Frenchie Davis. I have no such pictures.

In fact, so far as I know, no one does. Even now, after two months of controversy and people looking for them, these pictures have not turned up anywhere online.

Which begs the question: what was Fox afraid of? If no one can see these pictures, do they really exist at all? Was it worth kicking her off the show for something that could never actually scandalize younger fans?

Is the real answer that Frenchie was kicked off because, otherwise, the show would cease being competitive, and would merely become her coronation? Based on what we're seeing from the final twelve, how can you not wonder whether the producers decided to have a competitive show with flawed singers rather than letting true merit shine, week after week?
DISCO FEVER: My thoughts on last night's American Idol, slightly revised from a version I posted on TWoP last night:

First off, our celebrity judge, Verdine White, who played "Wind" in Earth, Wind and Fire, bore an unfortunate resemblance to one of my favorite characters in Coming To America:
You may remember him as Joe the Policeman from the "What's Goin' Down?" episode of That's My Momma! Please welcome, Jackson Heights' own, Mr. Randy Watson! Sexual Chocolate!!!

Round of applause for my band, Sexual Chocolate, they play so nice, don't you agree?

With regards to the other competitors, I'm not quite sure who was worse tonight, Rickey Smith -- who has long outlasted his welcome -- or Josh Gracin -- who offends me by his still being on the show while many Marines in his unit are already in Kuwait and my cousin (Army Reserves) isover in Basra. And he can't sing, which makes it worse.

Goat Girl was the best I've seen her tonight. She found a good place to be.

Paula was absolutely right -- Kim Caldwell sings the same song every week -- loud, occasionally growly, always consistent, but she hasn't shown us anything new since her emotional "Come To My Window" over the closing credits after her semifinal elimination. Where did that Kimberly go, and where did Paula's insight come from?

Clay? Meh. Ruuuben? Lazy again. He's got all the charisma in the world, but he's not pushing his voice. They're coasting right now, but that's because both know there's a lot of crap that has to be discarded before the real competition starts.

Two gold stars this week. Lashundra is now channelling Whitney Houston so completely that not only does she sound like her, note for note, but she's also got the crack-whore appearance down, not to mention amassing her own criminal record of minor felonies.

And Kim Locke, that's two straight weeks where you've convinced me that I didn't just like you because you dueted with Frenchie.

(That's the same Frenchie, of course, whose elimination from the show was never acknowledged on television, let alone given a chance to explain herself or thank her fans. Holy double standards, boy wonder!)

Honestly, any of the four women could be the last one standing, but it's only a matter of time before Clay Train derails in the face of Mount Ruben in the end. Clay belongs on Broadway, singing Les Miz or the "La Resistance" number when South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut makes its trip to the Great White Way.

Ruben, however, is the star.
"IT'S IN THE LAWS OF FIVE STATES. WHY IS IT SO WRONG?" Or so says Irwin Vincent O'Rourke Jr., who encouraged his 14-year-old to marry his 41-year-old mother-of-two sweetheart:

Except it's only three states, and, ugh, keep reading, because it's stuff like this that gives the South a bad name.

Via ObscureStore.
OKAY, SO THEY MISSED TWO-FOR-ONES AT JUDY'S. AND? Rittenhouse Review blogger Jim Capozolla has a problem with Philadelphia Weekly's recent 103 Things We Love About Philly issue.

So, like another Philadelphia-area blogger I'm familiar with, Jim blogged and has now written a letter to PW expressing his disgrunt:
Interesting list. Very interesting list. Very straight list, too.


It's a valid concern. But what I want to know is, Jim, what else should've been on the list?

I'll spot you Judy's, Chumley and Carlota Movie Nights and Robert Drake's Q'Zine on WXPN. What else?

Tuesday, April 1, 2003

NOT LISTED: DIVORCED PARENTS' TAP: The Museum of Hoaxes presents The Top 100 April Fools Day Hoaxes of All Time.
MEET ME TONIGHT AT THE TRUMP TAJ MAHAL: As reported today by Backstreets Magazine:
With Bob Dylan's "Love Sick" now heard in commercials for Victoria's Secret, Springsteen has finally chosen, after decades of holding out, to follow suit. "As always, Bob paved the way," Springsteen said while strumming an acoustic guitar. "He really took that leap. The Beatles and Nike: not their fault. With Sting and the Jaguar thing, yeah, y'know, that's Sting. But with Bob gettin' out there, I'll be damned if I'm gonna stay off the gravy train." First up is "The Rising" for Verizon; watch for Carnival Cruise Lines' "Waitin' on a Sunny Day" spot this summer.

Monday, March 31, 2003


At 10pm, South Park -- yes, that South Park, has come out of the gates running with two wickedly funny episodes to open the spring season, "Cancelled" and "Krazy Kripples". Yes, there's still the usual share of fart jokes and other coarse, scatological humor, but as with the best SP episodes (which, in truth, are rarely more than half of them), there's a good level of sharp satire going on in this quiet mountain town. Yes, actual ideas in a poorly-animated show about foul-mouthed eight year olds.

"Cancelled" had the kids discovering that our home planet was just the set for a reality show concocting by aliens who thought it would be amusing to see how people of different races would interact. But since life on Earth was getting boring, the aliens were set to cancel the show -- and the planet -- until the kids convinced the aliens that if they gave our world time, we would become even more outrageous and violent than ever before. It was good, smart, sustained humor, riffing off the classic "Cartman Gets An Anal Probe" episode from season one but integrating in some nice jokes on our own reality tv-drenched culture.

Now, that was good, but "Krazy Kripples" was even better. Or worse. I'll just describe the episode and state that it's a matter of taste. We learn that Christopher Reeve has gradually regained the use of his legs by sucking out the stem cells from aborted fetuses, to much public acclaim. But Jimmy and Timmy are jealous that Reeve has been getting so much attention, because they've been crippled for life while Reeve only recently became crippled. So Jimmy and Timmy start a new club, "The Crips", for only the hardcore true Crips, which is all well and good, until they meet another club in Denver, also called the Crips -- yeah, those Crips, and....

It's a wonderfully offensive episode. We were cringing and cracking up at the same time. It was not for everyone, but, man, it was good -- skating over the edge of good taste in such a way that even when it went overboard, you were glad people as bright as Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Norman Lear were the ones piloting the ship. Too much comedy these days is safe -- it's one of the criticisms levelled repeatedly against Chris Rock's new movie -- so I'm glad to support something that's willing to alienate large blocks of people.

Then, at 10:30 pm comes Chapelle's Show. Dave Chappelle, featured as Conspiracy Brother in Undercover Brother, has this laid back, nasal way of communicating indignation in this fast-paced sketch show. Almost all the skits have something to do with race, and while they don't all work, a lot of them do, from film and television parodies (Roots, The Matrix) to "Wu Tang Financial" and "Redman Potty Fresh". Chappelle's an angry, funny man, and I'm glad he's got this chance.

Watch some clips and judge for yourself.

(Did You Know: You probably first saw Chappelle in Mel Brooks' Robin Hood movie as Ahchoo. Yes, "We didn't land on Sherwood Forest! Sherwood Forest landed on us!" was a nineteen-year-old Dave Chapelle.)
WELL, HE DIDN'T POSE NUDE, AND HE DIDN'T STEAL ANYTHING: No, American Idol finalist Corey Clark has been arrested for something that's actually, legitimately horrifying: he beat up his 15-year-old sister last October. Oh, yeah: and he's been sued for passing bad checks.

Bring back Frenchie. C'mon. It's the only thing that stands in the way of a Ruben-Clay-Kimberly final three.
OPENING DAY: Let The Scorebard get you started with twenty-nine team preview limericks (and one haiku). Here's three:
Philadelphia Phillies

With Thome and Millwood and Bell,
There's no excuse not to do well.
For if they play poorly,
I can say surely
That Bowa will give them some hell.

St. Louis Cardinals

With Izzy and Edmonds and Drew
Hurt and replaced by a crew
Of Palmeiro, Marrero,
Kline and Fassero,
It's tricky to guess how they'll do.

Cleveland Indians

Add talent, a new generation,
To a veteran hitting foundation
Of Burks and Vizquel--
Oh, wait! What's that smell?
The stench of the starting rotation!

In this blog's humble opinion, fyi, there's no better blog for catching up on the most interesting baseball news, analysis and discussion of the day than Clutch Hits, a Baseball Primer production.

Sunday, March 30, 2003

TIL DEATH DO US PART, OR, AT LEAST, UNTIL HOWELL RAINES CHANGES HIS MIND: Back in August 2002, the New York Times made its much-pubicized decision to start printing announcements of same-sex commitment ceremonies in what we here at Bonin-Weiner HQ generally refer to as "The Section", with same criteria — "the newsworthiness and accomplishments of the couples and their families" — which had been applied to its other announcements. (The submission guidelines are here.)

And so, in September 2002, the announcements came, once per week -- each gay couple more fabulous, more accomplished than the next -- the first couple, Daniel Gross and Steven Goldstein, had lobbied the Times for inclusion -- one, a Fulbright scholoar now Vice President at GE Capital, the other a co-campaign manager in U.S. Senator Jon Corzine's 2000 election race and former attorney for the U.S. House Judiciary Committee. The next couple, both women, was comprised of the physician in charge of the emergency room at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital and the emergency room’s attending psychiatrist.

The power couples kept coming. Clearly, the Times wanted you to be hit over the head with the notion that Gay People Can Be Just As Accomplished As Everyone Else, And Sometimes, More So. Nothing wrong with that message, even if it meant excluding (perhaps) some more terrestrial gay couples just to make a point.

But now it's late March, and today, there were no same-sex commitment ceremony announcements in the Times. There were none last week either, or the week before that -- not one in March at all, across five different Sundays.

February, the month of Valentine's Day? None.

Indeed, if my extensive search is right (and Jen and I have been tracking this informally for weeks anyway), the Times hasn't run a same-sex announcement since January 19, 2003. In the ten following weeks, there have been 165 male-female couples, zero same-sex. And I want to know why.

In bluntest terms, this is either an input or output problem -- either gay announcements aren't being submitted anymore, or they are, and they're not being printed. As to why, I'm in pure hypothesis territory. Here's a few:

1. The barrier has been broken, and gay couples no longer feel the need to be validated by inclusion in The Times, and are no longer submitting announcements. (Intriguing.)

2. Gay couples, for whatever reason, just don't get married during the winter doldrums. Come springtime, they'll return. (Doubtful.)

3. The Times has higher standards for gay couples than straight couples, and those couples submitting announcements over the past few months just aren't meeting those initially-set higher standards. (Possible.)

4. The Times changed its mind. (Doubtful, but with each passing week, more likely.)

Are Jen and I the only people who've noticed what's been going on? Anyone else with a theory? Please email me if you've got any insight, hypotheses, or valid explanations as to this odd, odd absence. (If you're from the Times, even better. All responses kept as anonymously as you'd like them to be kept.)
"PHILADELPHIA IS GETTING A GOOD MAN." Meet Jim Thome, ours for the next six years at the bargain price of $85 million.