Friday, December 22, 2006

 

Announcement & Open Thread

As a special gift to my loyal readers, your humble host will be somewhat sparse next week. Not completely absent, but I'm trying to get some work done on a broader piece. So in my stead (Ed will still be around to provide NFL coverage), I've asked iconoclastic contributor Madscribe to step up and toss a few mad bon mots into the RT stew. on issues of music and pop-culture, circa late-70s and early-80s, Madscribe and I are twin sons of different mothers.

I expect you all to give MS exactly the same respect and deference you've given me (poor guy).

Anyway, Madscribe will show up on Tuesday.

I may drop a few cogent points here and there over the weekend.

If you've got time -- in between last-minute shopping and wrapping -- toss a few Christmas-related thots down here.

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Mi Space-a, Si Space-a

My colleague Mandy Stadtmiller (winner of the "Funniest Reporter in New York" contest a few weeks back) shares her "Seven Days of MySpace" holiday fable!

It's a keeper!

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Early Christmas In Durham

Rape charges against Duke lacrosse players dropped.

Wouldn't be a bad time to start impeachment proceedings against District Attorney Mike Nifong. Here's a nice nugget further emphasizing his mishandling of the case:

"It's highly coincidental," [defense attorney Joseph] Cheshire said, that the charges are being dropped a week after the director of a private DNA testing lab acknowledged that he initially, with Nifong's knowledge, withheld from the defense test results showing none of the players' DNA was found on or in the accuser's body.

Cripes. Any high school student who's grown up with Law & Order knows the rules about sharing evidence with the defense.

Outrageous level of misconduct.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

 

Americans Taking The Jobs Of Those That Took The Jobs...

...Americans "won't do."

Immigration agents clear out undocumented workers at a Colorado meat-processing plant. Legal workers line up to fill the vacancies:
The line of applicants hoping to fill jobs vacated by undocumented workers taken away by immigration agents at the Swift & Co. meat-processing plant earlier this week was out the door Thursday.

Among them was Derrick Stegall, who carefully filled out paperwork he hoped would get him an interview and eventually land him a job as a slaughterer. Two of his friends had been taken away by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and he felt compelled to fill their rubber boots.

"Luckily, they had no wives or family they left behind. But it was still sad. They left their apartments filled with all their stuff. I took two dogs one of them had. The other guy had a cat I gave to my sister," he said.

Puts the immigration debate in a slightly different context, eh?

(Hat tip to RT Commenter Bill.)


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How Ziggy Met Bing

The behind-the-scenes story of how a modern-day Christmas classic came to be (and how it almost didn't).

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Pick the NFL Winners - Week 16

As usual, we are not picking the Thursday game, so everyone has time to get their picks in before Saturday. But aside from a few cheeseheads and Tarvaris Jackson's mother, does anyone really care about the game between the Packers and Vikings? I think not.

All for pride, no money.

Here are the picks from last week's co-winner, yours truly (my picks in red):

Kansas City at Oakland: The Raiders proved last week that they are mailing it in.
Baltimore at Pittsburgh: The only issue here is whether the Ravens decide to coast into the playoffs. All things being equal (and they never are), the Ravens should win easily.
Carolina at Atlanta: The last time these teams met, Steve Smith was not playing. This could get ugly.
Chicago at Detroit: Da Bears should be able to sleepwalk to a victory in this one.
Indianapolis at Houston: The scheduling gods are brutal. Forcing the Texans to play the Colts twice in a year?
New England at Jacksonville: While I still think New England is better than Jacksonville, the Jags have a tendency to upset better teams (and then lose to a lousy team next week).
New Orleans at N.Y. Giants: Remember after Hurricane Katrina, when the Saints played their "home game" against the Giants, in the Meadowlands? I wonder if that memory of that will get the Saints up for this game.
Tampa Bay at Cleveland: If you have to watch a game between two teams not going to the playoffs, this is the one to watch. Whichever one of these teams wins is the one to watch for improvement next year.
Tennessee at Buffalo: The battle of the also-rans.
Washington at St. Louis: This is a pick-em.
Arizona at San Francisco: The only reason to watch this game is Frank Gore. Aside from LT, Gore is the best running back in the NFL.
Cincinnati at Denver: If you can only watch one game this weekend, I recommend this one. Well, maybe the Philly-Dallas game too.
San Diego at Seattle: Will Phil Rivers show up, or does it even matter? With LT running the ball, the Chargers could stick a uniform on John Hadl.
Philadelphia at Dallas: Are the Eagles for real?
N.Y. Jets at Miami: Much like most people in New York, the Jets are going to Miami for Christmas.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

 

"Blank" Of The Year

Time magazine's decision to go with "You" as its ____ Of The Year has been the source of some commentary with many critics calling it a cop-out.

I actually appreciate the idea.

This was certainly a breakthrough for the concept of the alternative media or "Web 2.0." If you don't think so, just ask George Allen -- author of the "politically incorrect" Word of the Year. (That was, by the way the appropriate use of the word "politically incorrect." Allen used a word at a politcal event that turned out to be not just "incorrect" but as disastrous as possibly can be.)

The combination of one campaign worker with with a video camera plus YouTube and the incumbent senator from Virginia was launched into an unrecoverable death spiral. In years past, without YouTube, the clip might have been seen on the local news (if that) and been just a little blip in a lenghty campaign. Similarly, Allen's defensiveness over his Jewish heritage rippled far and wide, energizing liberal opponents and demoralizing would-be conservative supporters.

Thus, Web-driven campaigning hit a certain tipping point this year -- and influence the "real world" in a noticeable manner.

But, of course, the "real world" is more than just America -- which is why many think Time ignored the real "Person Of The Year."

Pat Buchanan votes for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (and no, not for the reasons you might think). He has a point:

[P]utting his face on Time's cover would have done a useful service, jolting America to a painful realization. Not only George Bush, but the United States, its Arab allies and Israel, had a dreadful year, as Iran emerged as first beneficiary of a war fought by this country at a cost of 25,000 dead and wounded.

.....................

Eighteen months ago, Ahmadinejad was the unknown mayor of Tehran. Today, he is the visible face of anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism, both a cause of and the personification of our failures. He has defied Bush's demand that he give up the enrichment of uranium, split the Security Council, mocked the Holocaust, called for the end of the Zionist state and the expulsion of America from the Mideast, terrified the Sunni monarchs, and united the Arab and Islamic masses behind his defiance.

His trip to the United Nations, where he ran circles around U.S. journalists, was a diplomatic triumph. And he has done it all not with military power – Iran would not last a week in an all-out war with the United States and has no defense against Israel's nuclear weapons – but with theatrics and rhetoric.

He inspires all who hate Israel and Bush's America. And, according to the Zogby polling yesterday, that is a majority which, in some once-friendly nations, is approaching near unanimity.

Ahmadinejad, a man of words without real power, is the big winner of 2006, because Bush, America and Israel were the big losers.

Why do a billion Muslims prefer Ahmadinejad to America? That is the question that needs to be addressed.

For similar reasons, George Will suggested the same thing when questioning Time's Editor-In-Chief Richard Stengel on ABC's This Week on Sunday (in an after-broadcast segment captured online in "The Green Room," Stengel admits that Ahmadinejad was the runner-up).


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RAG on NPR

Monday's News and Notes roundtable.

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Eclipsed Mooney

I went to see comedian Paul Mooney Sunday night at Caroline's on Broadway in New York.

I've seen Mooney several times before. A legend in social observational comedy, he was a close friend of and writer for Richard Pryor.

Indeed, Pryor insisted that Mooney's work be added to the regular "Saturday Night Live" stable when he hosted the show for the first time; it was the only time that SNL allowed a host to bring in his own writer. That was the episode which featured the legendary (Mooney-written) Pryor-Chevy Chase insult trade-off. Mooney went on to write for "In Living Color" and Dave Chappelle.

If there is anyone that managed to take the N-word to creative heights, it would have to be Mooney. One can't ever sugarcoat the experience of a Mooney comedy show. It's very disturbing whether one is white or black. But, it is true social satire with a very sharp point.

Mooney recently announced that -- in the wake of the Michael Richards meltdown -- he would no longer use the word "nigger" in his act:

AP: You helped pioneer the use of the n-word in black comedy many years ago, didn't you?

Mooney: Oh yeah. I had a romance with the word. I worked with Richard Pryor using the word. It was so destructive - it was created by whites to hurt and destroy - and we were trying to defuse it, trying to desensitize people to it. We did it every chance we got, we would drive people crazy. We were very funny at it. But Richard backed off the word in the early 1980s. He went to Africa and came back and said he didn't see any n-people there. But I said, 'That's him, that's not me.' I was very much into it like an alcoholic was into (liquor).

AP: Any idea how many times you've used the word?

Mooney: Oh, honey, you can't count it! If I had a dollar for every time I used the n-word I'd be a billionaire.

.................

AP: So, what happened last week? You heard about Richards at the Laugh Factory - he was caught on tape attacking black audience members.

Mooney: I have known Michael Richards for something like 20 years. We're friends. But I heard about the tape and I said, 'That doesn't sound like a comic routine. That sounds like a breakdown.' Then I saw the tape and I had an out of body experience. It was so ugly, so horrible. I hadn't heard (the n-word) like this - from someone I knew. Suddenly, I was directly connected. I was able to look at it not just through my eyes but through the eyes of the world. I had always thought it was endearing. It's NOT. It's not an equal opportunity word. I don't want everyone running around saying it.

.......................

AP: Do you think your comedy will suffer - can you be as edgy without the shock value of the word? I mean, you've used it constantly for so long.

Mooney: I'm an n-word alcoholic and I will not be drinking from the n-bar. I will say 'black' or I will say 'African American.'

AP: Can you tell me a joke that you've told in the past with the n-word and show me how you'll change it?

Mooney: There was a white lady baking a cake for her little white son. She turned her back and he took the chocolate icing and smeared it on his face and said, "Mommy, look! I'm black!" She slaps him and says, "Don't ever do that again. Now go tell your father what you did." So the boy goes to his father and does the same thing and gets slapped again. The father sends him to his grandfather and he does it again and the grandfather slaps him, too. So the boy goes back to his mother and she says, "Well, Timmy, what have you learned today?" He says, "I learned I've only been black five minutes and I already hate white people."

AP: Ha!

Mooney: Believe me, it will get just as big a laugh. Oh yeah, honey, it's a new Mooney. And another thing - I will not be using the b-word (to refer to women) anymore either.

AP: Oh?

Mooney: I'll say 'heifer' instead. In my wildest dreams, I never thought I'd be saying this, but it's a whole new world. A new time. I can't change the past, but one person can change the future - anything can happen. I'm taking my stand.

But, for those who've seen him, the idea of an "N-word"-less Mooney show would be like Bill Maher hosting his show for the last six years -- and not mentioning George W. Bush.

It seems impossible; it is what has made him. Mooney can say that he used it likes an alcoholic, but the truth is, a Mooney show was an exegesis on one of the most controversial taboo words in American history. Seeing and hearing Mooney made one recognize the banality of the average rappers use of the word.

Now, don't get me wrong, Mooney can still be funny without using the N-word or any curse words -- as seen in this clip from his appearance on Greta Van Susteren.

However, there is more to what Mooney does than just tell jokes -- in the same way that comics such as Pryor, Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Chris Rock do more than just "tell jokes." It is observational humor about politics and social mores going beyond simple relationships and family structure.

The joke that he makes above about the kid and the chocolate cake is still funny, but it is funnier when the N-word is used. Furthermore, there are parts of his act which revolve around the power of the word -- such as, "I say 'nigger' as much as I can because it makes my teeth whiten."

Anyway, I was curious to see what a "nigger-free" Mooney show would seem like. This was his first weekend of performances

Anyone who's seen him before can tell the difference between this Mooney and the man of yore.

As he said, he now just uses "black man" or "African-American." His famed "Nigger Wake-Up Call" routine (the moment when a 'celebrity' or 'buppie" black person suddenly realizes his true status in American society) has been replaced with a sanitized "wake-up call." Take my word for it; it doesn't have the same impact. There are parts that are still quite funny, but it sounds like one's favorite band playing a show where the guitars are slightly out of tune.

But what struck me as most tragic was that Mooney had allowed Michael Richards' "breakdown" (as Mooney refers to it) to emasculate Paul Mooney the wrathful social observer.

The commenter on all these fascinating celebrity shenanigans and their racial subtext was struck dumb when it came to the most blatant use of it publicly in decades. A has-been named Michael Richards killed the beastly Paul Mooney - and it is a tragic loss.

I am not a native-born American. I can't say that I've grown up and lived the same sort of American life that Paul Mooney has.

While I can respect this decision to stop using the word, I feel he owes it to the audience that has supported him for years to explain himself. He was the man who had elevated the word to a existential height forcing people to think about it.

Now, he doesn't even reference once -- in his act -- his decision NOT to use it? And "why?"

Indeed, he didn't even reference the Richards incident AT ALL (Oh, and despite what he said in the interview above, he did use the word "bitch"). He can talk about Nicole Richie's arrest, Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan's problems, plus various racial situations going back years -- but he can't even MENTION the Richards incident?

The worst thing a comedian can be is dishonest. And Paul Mooney was being dishonest with his audience Sunday night. And will continue to be if he chooses to not merely no longer use the "word", but even avoid discussing the incident that has forced him to make the biggest creative decision of his entire life.

Sad.

And ironic too: The man who created the "nigger wake-up call" has chosen to take a "Kramer sleeping pill."

UPDATE: BET.com's Jennifer Daniels is much harsher on Mooney and has a much lower opinion of his talent than I. However, she comes to a similar conclusion about his sincerity:

Don't get me wrong – I applaud your decision. I just question your reasons behind it.

It would be one thing if you'd have some life-changing experience, like Richard Pryor, or if you were forced to re-examine your material like Dave Chappelle, or if you had a skit that caught fire and you had White people in your face, like Chris Rock. Maybe you just needed another reason to be on television, since Chappelle's meltdown put you off the air. I guess that's as good a reason as any.
Something about a television camera in a person's face that always seems to make one have an epiphany.

But if it's one thing about Black folks, it's this: We know when someone is being less than sincere. We've had a lifetime of having to measure good intentions from dealing with White people, so we can spot a fraud amongst our own right away. You've made a rather bold resolution, just weeks before the New Year. Only time will tell if you'll stick by it – or if you ever intended to. Good luck to you if you did. God help you if you didn't.

UPDATE: Another outlet for topical humor, SNL's "Weekend Update," makes use of the "Kramer" incident in a different, but hilariously funny way. It also is more evidence that this has been one of the more consistently funny "Saturday Night Live" seasons in some time.

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Ranking the NFL - Week 15

THE ELITE
RAVENS: The Ravens got a little scare when Steve McNair got hurt. Even though they still won with Kyle Boller, it was only Cleveland they beat. If this were the playoffs, and the other team were the Chargers, Boller doesn't win.

CHARGERS: In all the LT hoopla, did anyone notice that Phil Rivers stunk up the place? Just in case you missed it, Rivers was 8-23, 97 passing yards, and 2 interceptions. That is NOT playoff caliber.

THE GOOD
BEARS: I bet Rex Grossman (339 passing yards and 2 touchdowns) wishes he could play the Buccaneers every week.

COWBOYS: The ONLY way Terrell Owens returns to Dallas next year is IF the Cowboys win the Super Bowl. This is a good team, but that is still a BIG "if".

COLTS: If the Colts don't make it to the Super Bowl, and they won't, what happens? Tony Dungy gets fired. Who replaces him? Monte Kiffin, the Buccaneers defensive coordinator. It makes perfect sense. This team needs a great defensive coach, and Kiffin is one of the best. Kiffin is also the master of the "cover two" defense, which the Colts run (poorly).

BENGALS: I hate to admit it, but I found myself agreeing with Joe Theismann at the end of the Colts-Bengals game: The Bengals ran too much too early in that game. Carson Palmer seemed out of sync the entire game.

SAINTS: Just when we are ready to beatify the Saints as the best in the NFC, they go and lose to the Redskins. The Media was beating up the Colts last week for their run defense (or lack thereof), but they need to look at the Saints, after giving up 161 rushing yards to a team whose best running back is Ladell Betts.

PATRIOTS: The Texans were the proverbial bug on New England's windshield this week.

BRONCOS: Don't read too much into the fact that Jay Cutler looked better than Matt Leinart in the Broncos-Cardinals game. Remember the defenses each of them had to face.

CHIEFS: R.I.P. Lamar Hunt.

PANTHERS: The Panthers better get Jake Delhomme back soon. Their playoff chances are starting to look like an old litter box.

THE AVERAGE
STEELERS: Just when you think it is safe to be a Steelers fan, winning five of their last six...[cue the theme from "Jaws"]...they get Baltimore this week.

TITANS: Have you noticed no one is talking about Jeff Fisher being fired anymore?

EAGLES: I am beginning to wonder if the Eagles will go farther in the playoffs with Jeff Garcia instead of Donovan McNabb. This is not to say that McNabb is a bad quarterback, just that Garcia seems to run this offense just a bit more efficiently.

REDSKINS: Is this team showing us something for next year, or is their win over the Saints just a mirage?

GIANTS: They have won one out of their last six games. To you Giant fans out there, even if they manage to squeak into the playoffs, do you REALLY want to see them humiliate themselves on a playoff stage?

BILLS: Since their bye week, Buffalo has lost to two teams: Indianapolis and San Diego. They have beaten their other five opponents. But unless they can pull off an upset in the last two games against Tennessee and Baltimore, this will be as high as they go in the rankings. Until next year...

JAGUARS: Even though the Jags are firmly in the Wild Card race, I cannot say they should be. A team that is only 2-4 in their own division does not deserve a playoff berth.

DOLPHINS: Miami's combined scores from the last two weeks: 21-21. They beat New England 21-0, then lost to Buffalo 21-0.

BROWNS: The Browns-Bucs game this weekend is actually an intriguing matchup of underachieving teams with tough schedules.

JETS: This team does NOT deserve to be in the playoffs. Especially not in the AFC.

FALCONS:
Jim Mora's "joke" about leaving the Falcons to coach the University of Washington was received by Atlanta fans with a collective "don't let the door hit you on the way out".

BUCCANEERS: The scheduling gods have no mercy on the Bucs. Even when they get an easy game like Cleveland this coming weekend, they have to actually play in Cleveland. As a Raider fan, I can't stand the Bucs, but even I am starting to feel sorry for them. Sort of.

VIKINGS: You know things are bad when quarterback Tarvaris Jackson is getting playing time.

49ERS: If the 49ers win out, and the Seahawks lose their next two games, the 49ers will win the division. The Seahawks next two opponents are San Diego at home and Tampa Bay on the road. On the other hand, the 49ers should beat Arizona this week, but Denver next week will be the make or break game. I won't predict the 49ers over Denver, but I will say the 49ers deserve a playoff berth more than the underachieving Seahawks.

SEAHAWKS: This is a playoff team? I think not. They will lose their next two games to give the 49ers a shot at the playoffs.

RAMS: Steven Jackson's combined rushing and receiving stats: 370 rushing attempts plus receptions, 1916 combined yards, and 10 touchdowns. That is the end of the good news for the Rams.

THE BAD
Ok, no more comments on these teams. They are just bad. Deal with it.
PACKERS

CARDINALS
TEXANS
RAIDERS
LIONS

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