stephen a. smith, a quieter, blacker jim rome

stephen a. smith is getting his own tv show on espn2. for those of you who don't know, stephen a. smith is basketball columnist for the philadelphia inquirer. but you probably know him better as espn's tough talking, outspoken basketball analyst. you know, the black guy who is going a little bit bald and talks like he's malcolm x. i for one am looking forward to this show that he calls, "a cross between O'Reilly, Oprah and Larry (King)." he's definitely one of those love him or hate him type of guys. what i've found interesting in the coverage of his new show is that they're all working in something about his nickname, "screamin a. smith," which smith says he finds insulting. i'm inclined to agree.

he may be very outspoken and he may speak his opinions in a way that may completely discount people, but i don't really think he screams. like i said before, he talks like malcolm x, but even when he gets into an argument with bill walton, i feel like he is able to keep his cool pretty well without raising his voice, unlike walton (not that i am criticizing walton for doing so, i love him for it actually). sure he can be overdramatic, but that does not mean he is screaming. anyways, my guess is that he gets his reputation for screaming simply because he's black. i bet the reasoning is that just becuase a black guy has strong opinions, it means he's irrational and not capable of having an intelligent discussion and therefore he must be screaming his opinion. of course, this is racist. smith is a really good baksetball analyst. he's not the best there ever was, but he certainly is not the worst. and in fact, he's getting to the point where he's well known enough around the league that he is starting to get information before other media outlets. anyways, the point is, if you hate his style than fine, just don't say he's not knowledgeable and don't say he's screaming.

anyways, these sports talk shows on espn and fox tv are always kinduva tricky proposition. between jim rome's show, the whole around the horn mess, and PTI it just seems like none of the talk shows that are centered around a personality are just not that good? have any of you seen the I, Max show, starring max kellerman? now you want to talk about someone who screams all the time...anyways, it should be interesting to see how the show does, especially in light of the fact that rome's show has seen to have disappeared once hge moved from fox to espn. i'm actually pretty hopeful about smith's show, cuz i do think he brings more to the table than a tone of voice. just like rome does. although rome certainly has a distincive speech pattern, if you can get past that, it turns out he usually has some pretty good things to say. just like stephen a. smith. not to mention that smith, like me, isn't afraid to talk about race and the role that it plays in sports.


on cnnsi.com. they have one of those click through galleries that they're calling "terrell owens, uncensored". when i clicked through it i was expecting to find a bunch of quotes of owens spouting off about really dumb things and being a general jackass. however, when i flipped through it, there were only two quotes out of the twelve that i thought were really out of line or dumb things to say (accusing jeff garcia of being gay and saying that he's better than randy moss. sorry t.o., you're great, but you're no randy moss). again, it just seems we villify terrell owens more than we should. don't get me wrong, he can be a real sorry sonuvabitch, but i just have to wonder why so much attention is focused on his holdout.

¡ no habla a-hole!

according to this story, an umpire told a little league team that it couldn't speak spanish during a game. here's the quote from the little league spokesman, lance van auken:
It appears the umpire was concerned that the coach or manager may have been using a language other than English ... to communicate potentially 'illegal' instructions to his players.
perhaps he thought that the coach was instructing his players to hit the retarded kid in the head (see previous post). also, why in the world does a little league have a spokesman. i'm going to appoint myself the official spokesman of my fantasy baseball league.

anyways, the coach that was speaking spanish was only instructing his pitcher to try to pick off the runner on base, something that other teams do via hand signals. it seems to me that there's really not that much difference in using hand signals and spanish other than the spanish language is much more open to being stolen than hand signals, since many more people know spanish than they do this particular team's hand signals.

anyways, i know it's just a little league game, but there's simply no defending the actions of the umpire. according to the article,van auken claims that it was just an honest mistake and no disciplinary action against the umpire will be taken. but if you ask me, he's only half right. it was an honest racist mistake, and that at the very least, the umpire should be required to take spanish classes before he can umpire a game for kids again.

p.s. it would have been a good gag if the crowd started chanting
"¡ déjelos...ju...gar!"


youth sports sorriness

stuff like this makes me think that maybe we just shouldn't let kids play sports at all. actually, it makes me think that adults shouldn't be allowed to have any part of kids' sports. remember kids, this is me, one of the most cynical a-holes out there, and i still can't get over how sorry this guy is.

this does not apply to terrell owens

as i mentioned in the previous post, there are several high profile players holding out of their respective nfl training camps in hopes of a better contract. one of those players that was holding out was javon walker of the green bay packers. apparently, however, he's reported to camp and though not happy with his contract, seems ready to get the season going. none of this is really interesting to me. what is interesting is that at a recent shareholders meeting for the green bay packers, all of the shareholders supported not renegotiating walker's salary. for those of you who don't know, green bay is the only publicly owned NFL team. i think technically it's owned by the city of green bay, but they have this goofy thing where joe fan can purchase a share, like a piece of stock, and then claim part ownership of the packers. of course, no real ownership rights are given to you as a fan, but the franchise indulges you once a year with a faux-stockholder meeting. yeah it's pretty stupid, but so is wisconsin.

anyways, let's pretend that we're stockholders in a regular company, and one of our vice presidents is asking for a raise. this vice president had an incredible year last year. he accounted for over 20% of your net profits. this vice president also has accounted for over 16% of the profits realized from a market that is recognized as the most important market by the industry. this person is also very young and has a lot of potential to continue to keep contributing in this manner. sure, your company didn't beat all of the competitors, but overall, it was a pretty successful year. wouldn't you want to keep this person happy at all costs?

well that's basically what the scenario is with walker, who accounted for 21% of the packers' total yards and 16% of their touchdowns. and yet, none of the "stockholders" think he should make any more money. imagine if i went to a microsoft stockholders meeting and said, "you know, i know because of bill gates we have a virtually monopoly on the OS market, but i just don't think he she be given a raise. if he wants to go to another company, then fine, let him go." doesn't make a whole lot of sense does it? what makes even more bizarre is that these fans don't really have any real stake other than their rooting interests. the way i see it, i would want my owners to pay whatever it takes to keep my best players here.

of course inevitably, i have to ask if these people would be saying the same thing if brett favre, the great whitey hope, were asking for a raise. we would never know, but i just wonder if white athletes who hold out get villified in the same way as black athletes who holdout. for example, philip rivers held out of camp, and i don't remember chargers' fan saying that they should just let philip rivers sit out his whole career.

of course, this kind of analysis only makes sense if white and black athletes were as equally likely to hold out, and i'm not sure that's the case. from my own (admittedly poor) memory, i think that there are a lot more black athletes who hold out (not including draft picks, which is just a whole other animal). in any case, if this is true, then that can mean one of two things. 1) black athletes are more likely to demand higher compensation, or 2) black athletes are more likely to have contracts that do not reflect true market value. and since the first supposition is somewhat racist, i'm going to go with number 2. not go number 2 mind you, go with number 2 (heehee!). anyways, the concept of fair market value is obviously an extremely subjective one, but we've seen this in the regular workplace, people of color not getting equal pay for equal work. why do we think it would be different in the world of sports?

you guys don't deserve someone as good as javon walker.


return of the sports blogger

it just occurred to me that i haven't really blogged on any sports things in quite a while. part of it is that it is a relatively dead time of the year for sports. with baseball the only major sport in season, the sports pages in newspapers are usually pretty thin this time of year. thank god for fantasy baseball. anyways, training camp is around the corner, and i'm gearing up for the football season and that's got me pretty fired up. as much as i like blogging about pop culture, i think i'm going to make a conscious effort the next few weeks to really blog more about sports. don't get me wrong, i'll still keep you updated on the usual stuff, but i am really feeling a need to get back to my roots. so let's go ahead and get on with this edition of sports quick hits. buckle up kids, cuz i'm going to try and cover a lot of ground here.

1) i've been an avid espn.com reader for a long time. 1997 is when i first discovered it and i think it's pretty safe to say that i've never gone more than a week without being there. after all, i think it's safe to say that they are the premier website when it comes to sports news and analysis. one of my favorite writers on the website was peter gammons, the premier baseball writer in america. imagine my dismay when a few days ago, i clicked on the peter gammons story that was featured on the front page, only to find out that his column is now part of espn.com's insider subscription program. espn.com has slowly but surely been phasing many regular features on their site into this insider program which i would have to pay 40 dollars to access. i was mildly upset when they moved the chat transcripts over to this part. i was really upset when they moved sabermetrician rob neyer's column to this part of the site. i was livid when they moved over jayson stark's column to the insider program. and now quite frankly, with gammons gone, i have absolutely no reason to go to the espn baseball website. none whatsoever. the only column that you can read for free now is crappy old timer syndrome journalist tim kurkjian's column, whose latest column is about joe dimaggio's hitting streak.

i hope that this is not indicative of a larger trend. i've always wondered out loud how websites make money via advertising revenue. after all, it seems that internet ads are much easier to ignore than tv or radio ads. however, i've also noticed that espn's website has crammed more ads than ever onto its site. whenever you would click on a story or a feature, whatever it is that you were looking for used to be on the next page. if the story was long, you'd just have to scroll down further to keep reading. however, recently, they (along with cnnsi.com) have shifted to multi-page formats for their stories. meaning, instead of just scrolling down, you have to click on a "continue to part 2 of 4" link at the bottom of the page to go to the next page of the story. clearly, the point of this is to be able to try to get more advertising on its website. which as i've stated before, seems to be a really dumb idea since very few people ever click on the ads. in any case, it really pisses me off that rather than choose one strategy to make money they've are doing both at the same time. first they charge you to see their content, then they bombard you with ads while you are going through their website.

yet in another curious move, espn's fantasy football is now free. obviously they to stop charging since everyone knows you can play fantasy sports for free over at yahoo. it seemed to me that espn.com used to be a really good website that drew in readers because it was able to provide quality content. i feel like over the past two years, there has been a change in philosophy in which they run their site according to the market. i guess i really can't grip too much since i've gotten all of this stuff for free all this time, but it seems to me that in the quest to move the site to a higher profitability, they're ruining it. so i just wanted to send out a big f-you d-bag to the people out in bristol for alienating its core audience with its money-grubbing shenanigans. the only thing on espn.com worth reading now is bill simmons. if they move him, then i'm completely out.

2) i've already gone on record as saying that lance armstrong is probably on something even though he hasn't gotten caught. but we're all too busy worshipping him for winning his 7th and final tour de france. while i don't discount the monumental nature of the feat, as junichi over at pop licks reminds us, let's not forget that he dumped his wife who supported him through cancer and took care of his children while he was winning the first 5 tour de france's, for a rather mediocre looking rock star. horse face? is anyone with me on this one?

3) all this talk of baseball and cycling is moot anyways, since football season is about to start. there's plenty of really interesting story lines from the return of ricky williams to the several high profile holdouts, most notably terrell owens. everyone is bemoaning what an a-hole t.o. is being for demanding a bigger contract so soon into his most recent one. now don't get me wrong, i'm one of those people who is just tired of t.o.'s antics and think he is a baby. however, this piece on espn.com (i know, i know) makes a good points about how quick we are to criticize players for holding out for more money, when owners in effect make similar demands of their players all the time. after all, they constantly cut players so that they don't have to pay them, make under-performing veterans restructure their salaries to make them more cap friendly, etc, yet no one calls the mara family or lamar hunt a bunch of greedy rich white guys. if you think about it, who contributes the most to the success of any sport? the players do of course, so it makes sense to me that they should reap the biggest part of any profits realized by their performance.

4) now for some regular sports talk and some more hatin' on the patriots. i know to never bet against belechick, but i feel like this may be the beginning of the end for the pats. refusing to pay ty law may be more costly than they think. last year when they let lawyer milloy go, it wasn't that bad a deal since they had another stud in law manning the secondary. now they've lost both of their studs and they have two guys under 6 feet having to cover receivers. losing fellow arizona wildcat teddy brusci for the season certainly isn't going to help either. obviously the pats are extremely picky about who they pay, after all the gave tom brady a big contract, and they gave corey dillon one as well. but defense has been their calling card and the main reason for their success. their offense is decent, but it doesn't inspire fear in other teams like that defense did. richard seymoure, their other stud is probably going to need a big payday to be made happy towards the end of the season. with all of these factors, i just don't know how anyone can say that their defense is going to be as good as it has been the past three years. i'm not saying their going to be 9-7 or anything, but keeping together a championship team is going to be a difficult task for the belichick-pioli braintrust. i guess we'll see right away as new england faces randy moss and the raiders in week 1 (the extremely early line according to vegas.com is NE at -7.5).

4) these are the future bets that i've made so far this season

a) new england (+130) over indy ($30 to win $39) - this is one of those matchup bets, and i basically took the patriots to have a better season record at the end of the season. the way i figure it, although the patriots aren't going to be nearly as good as they've been in the past, peyton still can't win in new england, and he still can't win a big game. i haven't been feeling good about this bet lately, but at the same time, i love betting against peyton.

b) falcons over (+145), 9 ($20 to win $49) - this is a wins line bet. in other words, i'm betting that atlanta will win at least 10 games this season. with the way things are in philly this year, i'm pretty sure that atlanta is going to be the class of the nfc. the way i figure it, they had a great defense last year, and they went out and their receiving corps can only get better from their sorry state last year. and let's not forget who's throwing to them, one ron mexico, perhaps you've heard of him. it's a good thing for the falcons' center that you can't get herpes from someone touching your balls.

c) falcons to win the superbowl, 10-1 ($10 to pay $110) - this seemed like the only real good value bet. the patriots and the eagles weren't getting much over 6-1. what ever happened to parity?

d) chargers over (+130), 9 ($10 to win $13) - again, i'm betting that the chargers will win at least 10 games. i really like this bet, because i really do feel that the chargers aren't getting the respect, and i feel that one of the big reasons that they played well last year was that same kind of no respect chip on their shoulder. with brees still not locked up to a long term contract, he still has something to prove. gates is basically the best tight end in the league, and you figure that ladanian, who should be the first pick in everyone's fantasy draft this year will have another great year. i was a little skeptical at first about the chargers having a good year, but i'm actually feeling good about this bet these days.

e) redskins under (+110), 7 ($20 to pay $42) - here i'm betting the skins to win less than 7 games. i love this bet. off the field troubles for their defense. patrick ramsey who is incredibly overrated as their qb, and clinton portis who was exposed last year. it all adds up to a third place finish in the nfc east to me.

f) cowboys to win the superbowl 18-1 ($10 to pay $190) - and people always accuse me of being a bad fan.

5) seriously, is there any question about what a sorry sonuvabitch larry brown is? i have a pretty good feeling that his time in new york will more resemble his time as the los angeles clippers coach than it will his time as pistons coach. stephon marbury huh? good luck with all that.

ok, that's all for now, like i said, look for more sports blogging in the next coming weeks.

new pop life radio show mp3 available for download

you can now download the mp3 of the july 26, 2005 broadcast of the pop life radio show at the pop life radio show blog/podcast. enjoy!


the ragin' asian reviews murderball

i was originally slated to go see march of the penguins yesterday, but mg was able to steer our group into a complete 180 and we ended up seeing a completely different kind of documentary, murderball. instead of seeing extremely cute penguins doing extremely cute things, we saw extremely uncute quadraplegics doing extremely uncute things. for those of you who haven't heard about this movie, it follows the trials and tribulations of the US quadraplegic rugby team.

this film, while probably viewed by most as a documentary on people in wheelchairs, actually ends up playing out more like a sports documentary. i suppose that there are going to parallels between these two stories. in sports documentaries, the athlete or athletic team overcomes some kind of adversity to achieve some kind of athletic or moral victory, which i guess is how you might view coming to terms with being confined to a wheelchair. however, the film did manage to not be overly cheesy in portraying these guys as people in a pitiable way. in other words, i think that the film makers did a pretty decent job of not turning this into a jerry's kids telethon. in fact, kb, who was also there, commented that she was largely unsympathetic at all to several of the characters.

while i'm glad that this didn't tug at the heart strings, i also kinda felt that was the weakness of the movie. it never went in-depth enough into any of the characters. for example, there's this one scene where one of the athletes invites the person who put him in the wheelchair (via car accident, a horrific sounding one at that) to see him play in the paralympics in greece. however, all we see is when they finally meet after being estranged for so many years and they hug. that's it. there's no interview footage with either of them, which is something that i think could have been really interesting (real quick, i have to confess, i was hoping for a reenactment of the leif garrett behind the music when he talks to that guy that he put in a wheelchair for the first time in over a decade. i still contend that this was one of the greatest 10 television moments of all time).

i suppose it's a lose lose situation. you really can't get to delve into the psyche of a person who can no longer walk without being a little sentimental about it, but then when you're sentimental you risk being trite and sappy, and even worse, exploitive. another problem that the film maker had to deal with is that the movie was not long enough to really spend time with any of the characters. overall, the movie was interesting and a little bit inspiring without being too sappy, but it definitely left me wanting for more. final grade: B-.

2 more things about the movie
1) i'm not sure how accurate this is, there are very few people of color involved in this culture, and almost no women.

2) i have to admit, i was giggling inappopriately several times throughout the movie. what do you expect when there's a film that features disabled people essentially beating the crap out of each other? i don't think that the film makers would deny that there is that whole elephant man appeal to the movie. however, karma always comes around, as when we left the theater, there was a kid in a wheelchair watching in the back. yeah, i'm pretty much the a-hole here.


don't be fooled by the national weather service

dust clouds, huh? try ALIENS!

maybe t. cruise was right this whole time.


the gimmicks of will and grace

there was a time when i thought that will and grace might be the funniest show on television. the dialogue was snappy, it never took itself too seriously, and the performances by megan mullaly as karen and sean hayes as jack were among the best delivered in sitcom history.

however, the past three years have seen a precipitious decline in both the quality of the show and the ratings (although it seems that the emmys disagree with at least the declining quality part, by nominating them for 15 awards). thank god this is its last season, because their latest ratings gimmick, performing the season premiere live, reeks of the desperation of a has-been's futile attempt to stay relevant. the past ten years have seen other shows use this gimmick, dating all the way back to roc (remember, the fox show with charles s. dutton), ER, and everyone loves raymond. if my memory serves me correctly, the live "event" only resulted in slight upticks in ratings, and almost no critical buzz. in other words, nobody thought that it was interesting or neat that these shows did their things live except for the hardcore fans. granted, there may be a sizable hardcore audience, but usually the shows and the networds try to position this as something that everyone should take note of, because after all, as the typical PR copy goes, "anything can happen on live tv!" but as with the examples listed above, nothing really much happens on live tv. even worse, for those of us on the west coast, it's never live because of the time zone difference. i really don't see if there's any real point in the live broadcast of the primetime television program. if any of you have any guesses, please feel free to leave them in the comments section.

anyways, what really makes this look desperate for will and grace is that it is a show that almost entirely relies on gimmicks, especially the last three seasons. the biggest gimmick that they're known for is the special guest. from imdb's cast listing, i counted 48 separate appearances by "special guest stars", and that's not counting extended appearances by people like woody harrelson and harry connick, jr., who were worked in over the course of one or more season. the occasional special guest star works every now and again, but to have outside actors come in as often as will and grace does to try and boost ratings, seems like they're trying to make up for the lack of ideas if you ask me. the special "live" episode seems like trying to create hype around a series whose ratings have been flagging since friends went off the air.

the other gimmick that i want to mention is the general concept of gayness on television. i'm not saying that gay people shouldn't be on television, but in reality, it's still something that's rather novel and often used as a novelty to drive up ratings, witness the spate of lesbian kisses on shows like roseanne, the O.C., etc, etc. will and grace it seems is portrayed as some kind of landmark for television in that it one of the first television shows to center around gay culture.

however, i don't think that it's crossed over into "pioneer" territory yet. there are still very few gay characters on television, and when they are on television, they are there to provide either scandal or to be the butt of jokes. i should briefly note that i'm only talking about non-reality network programming, obviously shows like queer eye, and the L-word are doing fine over on cable.

anyways, while i don't think that the subtext of will and grace is homophobic, i have noticed that the show relies heavily on some stereotypes of gay people (will is obsessively neat, grace, the troubled single girl, as a faghag, and jack, being flamboyant and promiscuous) that typically would be considered offensive. sure, the show provides insight into other facets of gay culture that are normally dismissed by our usual homophobic dialogue, but the show still doesn't necessarily put its use of stereotypes in context of the greater picture of a largely homophobic culture that we have here in the US. unfortunately, i don't have that many gay friends, and the ones that i do have, i don't feel like beating them down with asking them to be the spokesperson for the LGBT community. if any of my cock-loving brothers and vagina-loving sisters that are reading this have any insight, please let me know inthe comments section whether you think that will and grace is not nearly as progressive as it purports to be or whether the show is a good first step in the right direction.cuz personally, i find myself very uncomfortable with some of the types of jokes that they make. is it one of those deals where it's ok for black people to use the n-word (which i understand), but that still makes me a little uncomfortable (you know, when like you're singing along to an N.W.A. song and you don't even say the n-word when you're by yourself).

this show is about gay people? i never would have known from this publicity shot!


in defense of loverboy

it's weird. i love blogging, but there really just hasn't been much that has caught my eye in terms of things to blog about. i have been tempted to blog about the whole karl rove thing cuz it got me really riled up, but politics just ain't my bag. so instead i'll try to recreate something that i recently wrote in a letter to HK. it's pretty stupid, but i'll think you'll find it somewhat entertaining nonetheless.

here's something that i actually found on the web a while back. it's a pretty big file and it may take a couple of minutes even on broadband, but it's definitely worth it. anyways, it got me thinking about this song, everybody's working for the weekend. i've been listening to it quite a bit lately. anyways, i've been thinking that loverboy got kinduva raw deal.

i think that most people would say this song is a typical example of the kind of crappy rock music that came out of the 80s. you almost never hear the song on the radio anymore except when the adult-contemporary station plays it as part of their 80s flashback weekend. you would most definitely not hear it on a classic rock station where you might find a band like loverboy. seriously, were they any worse than cheap trick, winger, or dokken, all of which i have heard on the radio in the past two weeks.

my contention is that this is one of the great rock songs of our time. unfortunately it was a victim of circumstance. think about it. the song has a good beat, a pretty good riff, some nice guitar work, and a sentiment all of us can identify with. seriously, everybody is workin' for the weekend. and everybody does want a new romance, don't they? from these factors, it should be considered a good song. but no, what do we think of when we hear this song. all we can do is picture lead singer mike reno with the headband, the studded belt, the yellow tank top, etc...and we all we can think of is how retarded we all were in the 80s. while it may be true that we were retarded in the 80s we shouldn't punish loverboy for indulging in that excess like the rest of us. long live loverboy and the greatest song of all time, everybody's working for the weekend.

p.s. do yourself a favor and check out loverboy's official website. if nothing else, just sit through the flash intro. it's super cheesy/funny. did anyone else know that they have a guy in the band named "spider"? how did loverboy not become the biggest band ever?


the muppets don't sell out

i was on the best week ever blog and i clicked on a link to the statler and waldorf movie review show, from the balcony on movies.com. for those of you who don't remember, statler and waldorf were the two old guys that sat in the balcony of the muppet show and crack wise about how bad the show was. also, in the first muppet movie, they uttered a staple in the ragin' asian movie aphorism repertoire, "i've seen soap that leaves better film than this." anyways, during these five minute vignettes, they pseudo-review current movies.

in the first episode they review war of the worlds. and it started out with their usual schtick, but they ended up kinda giving it a positive review. for a quick moment, i was worried that the muppets had sold out and i would have to watch puppets shill for crappy movies. it made sense right? movies.com gets some of their money from the movie studios and it makes sense that they would want to make movies seem good so that people will continue to go to the movies and then continue to use movies.com. however, my fears were soon relieved in that they proceeded to skewer bewitched. it was a nice hatchet job too. a sample of their review style:

statler (the shorter one) says:
when i first heard about this film, i thought, "why make a movie version of bewitched?" and then i saw the preview for the movie and i thought, "why make a movie version of bewitched?"
waldorf (the tall one) says:
"i fell asleep before the lights in the theater went down."
zing. it's kinda old timey type humor, you know lots of puns and old guy jokes, but there's a lot of good schtick packed in the first two episodes. they really take some mean swipes at several celebrities throughout. i highly recommend.

anyways, this whole deal just strikes me as bizarre. like i said before movies.com has a vested interest in people going to see movies so it would only make sense that they would promote movies in a positive light. furthermore, movie studios have a vested interest in their stars remaining stars, so it wouldn't necessarily make sense that they would provide trailers and what not to movies.com if they're just going to make fun of them. but this is exactly what the muppets do for movies.com. don't get me wrong, it's not like they are telling people to stay away from the movie or anything, and after all, they are puppets. but i think that this flies in the face of how the movie/celebrity industry usually handles their publicity in that they do all they can to ensure that the only publicity is good publicity. witness the jude law public apology to his fiance sienna miller for cheating with his nanny (have any of you seen pictures of his nanny? what the hell was he thinking?). i doubt sincerely that any of the people who are jude law fans are now going to reconsider going to his movies now because of his indiscretions with his babysitter. the whole tom cruise thing can be seen in this light as well. everyone thinks he's crazy, yet war of the worlds is tom cruise's biggest hit yet.

anyways, if you'll indulge me and allow me to connect the muppets to the larger cultural picture, i think that the muppet movie critic thing is part of a larger trend in mainstream media not deferring to the entertainment biz, or if you prefer more sociological terms, the press, which in the past has had a dependent relationship on the institutions of the entertainment capital, are allowing a space for a more realistic and more complex consumption of entertainment products. in other words, you can think that r. kelly peed on a teenager and still think his music is great (last week, his album TP.3 debuted at #1 on the billboard charts). like i said, i think this is a part of a bigger trend in that we see this a lot online on the various entertainment gossip blogs such as the defamer, and we see it on tv on shows like the soup and best week ever, and we can hear it on the radio or via podcast on the pop life radio show (new episode available today!). in a real sense, the national enquirer was way ahead of the curve in being willing to cover celebrities in an unflattering light, with that torch being carried by basically, all of the internet.

of course, what i will call institutional media still exists, like entertainment tonight and people magazine, and they still get more access to stars and information from the entertainment industry, but it seems to me that audiences are getting smarter, as the recent book, everything bad is good for you, by stephen johnson, argues. for those of you who haven't heard, the thesis of this book is that the conventional wisdom that things like tv, video games, etc. are bad for you or represent a moral failing is incorrect. the author argues that these things in fact are more sophisticated than they used to be which is a function of the fact that audiences are more sophisticated in the way they consume these products (disclosure: i haven't read the book, but i've read a lot about the book and i'm pretty sure that's what he's getting at. any of you who've read the book, please correct me if i'm wrong on these points).

anyways, i suppose that this might be what is happening, but i think the overall tone is a little too cheery. as you can guess, my take is a little more cynical. i'm not sure it's that the sophistication of the consumers is what is helping to spur on this de-mythification of the world of the entertainment celebrity. no doubt it certainly helps, but the idea that people are more interested in involving popular culture in their worldview seems optimistic. rather, i think that people just don't care. something to the effect of "tom cruise thinks that tylenol is the same as crack? who cares, stuff gets blowed up real good in his movies." i think that this is much more likely than, "wow, cruise and speilberg really brought up some good discussion points about how the tactics of these imagined aliens are really not that different from the tactics that the bush administration is using with the war on terrorism." only pretentious (but still smart) douchebags like myself do that kind of stuff.

anyways, i'm interested to see how the mainstream entertainment industry will react if this trend of knocking their stars down a few levels continues. will they embrace the nike mantra of any publicity is good publicity? will they adapt as movies.com seems to have? will they launch a counteroffensive ala the tom cruise/scientology publicity machine has? does it even matter?

wow, that ended up being a lot longer than i thought it would, but obviously, it's something that i've been thinking about, and those crazy muppets provided me the perfect example to start writing about it. thanks for hanging with me, and if you have anything to add, by all means, please leave a comment.

if you have made it this far down in this post, here is a fun link as your reward...crazy asians...

new pop life radio show mp3 available for download

you can now download the mp3 of the july 5, 2005 broadcast of the pop life radio show at the pop life radio show blog/podcast. enjoy!


the ragin' asian reviews crash

saw crash this past saturday. when the movie first came out about a month ago, i was pretty excited to see it as everything that i've read about it said it was a biting commentary on race in los angeles. and right after i saw the movie, i was inclined to agree. but now that i've had a few days to mull it over, i'm really not sure that this movie was good for.

crash is one of those sprawling movies with multiple plotlines that are loosely connected and that use the ensemble cast. as you might guess, nice performances were turned in by most of the actors (don cheadle, sandra bullock, ryan phillipe to name a few). but what separates the good movies of this nature from the so-so ones are the plot elements. and i didn't find any of the story lines all that compelling. so from a movie watching standpoint, it held your attention, but just barely. perhaps the director, paul haggis should have concentrated on fewer story lines to develop the characters a bit more. you never really get any sense of motivation or environmental causes for racism. really the only thing that you pull from the movie is that los angeles, with its super-diverse population has a lot of problems with racism, which is something that i think most of us knew from watching the 6:00 news on KCAL.

maybe that was the point of the movie. lots of people tend to think that the more diverse a place is, the more tolerant its people will be, we'll call it the contact theory of racial harmony. however, since this theory is based in the academic discipline of communcations, it's total crap and sloppy intellectual work. so it was good to see that myth dispelled on screen in a somewhat realistic manner. the other thing i think that maybe the movie was going for was to show that racism, in it's overt 50's form still exists and we're not nearly as close as we think. i think us sociologists tend to concentrate on racism's more subversive forms, so it was nice to see the plain old "people suck" perspective on this issue. i think a lot of people think that racism is less virulent since the overt forms are gone. and there are those who would say it is more virulent since it is more covert. this movie at least seems to partly share the perspective i do, which is that racism is doubly virulent today since it exists widely in both the overt and covert forms.

what really screwed this movie up however is that several of the plotlines end up with quasi-happy endings where the characters come to some kind of awareness of the role race plays in their lives. and since i subscribe to the "no one really cares whether or not they're racist" point of view, i think that the hollywood endings (relatively speaking) lessened the movies potential effectiveness as a real commentary on racism in the US. final grade: C+


make up blogging

i apologize for the lack of posts lately. you see last weekend, i was in vegas and didn't get back until monday morning. couple that with my 4AM start time for the pop life radio show on tuesdays and i just haven't been able to balance the sleep deficit until today. anyways, there's no real connection with the following news stories, other than i have opinions on all of them.

1) cooter from the original dukes of hazzard says "don't go see the movie" - he says that the movie is trashy and sleazy. funny how he never said anything about catherine bach's shorts when the show was on the air. it's also funny that he thought that having a confederate flag was somehow "family friendly".

2) transformers movie set to roll out in 2006 - on the 4th of july no less. yeah as a kid, i was obsessed with these things. i remember one christmas my mom got me the whole set of destructicons who all joined up to create devastator. lots of lonely hours spent playing with those babies instead of playing with other kids. anyways, it's a live action movie, executive produced by scientoligist apologist steven spielberg, which should be interesting. another movie about beings from another planet...maybe spielberg is the secret evil mastermind behind scientology? anyways, what i found most interesting in the eonline story was producer don murphy's quote
It will be GREAT, and then we will make sequel after sequel. There is no doubt that this is true.
the enthusiasm is no big deal, but letting fans know that there will be an interminable number of sequels, meaning that he will eventually just pump out extremely crappy movies that exploits these nerds obsession with the movie. and make no mistake, that's what "sequel after sequel" means. i nominate tom cruise to play bumblebee, the clearly gay yellow volkwagen autobot.

3) we're out of sugar in the house, so for my coffee, i decided to try honey. i figure if you can use it with tea, that it would work fine with coffee. my coffee tastes like dogshit.

4) the espy awards were last night, and like most sports fan, i didn't give a crap. i really wish people would stop making up award shows. does anyone care that walter ray williams was named the best bowler by espn. does anyone really think that reggie miller's final game was really the best moment. even more bogus are the sponsored awards, the under armor undeniable performance award, won by misty may and kerri walsh, and the gmc professional grade performance award won by lance armstrong (huh?). these fabricated things just really bug the shit out of me. as if espn is really interested in recognizing the best in sports. please note that they gave out awards for best bowler and best outdoor athletes (j.r. salzman, lumberjack), both sports which are televised on espn, yet there was no official award for beach volleyball, which is televised on fox sports. i just hate the disingeniousness of it all.

5) speaking of stuff that nobody cares about, pro hockey: game on, garth! i can't imagine hockey fans not coming out to see the action next season, but casual fans definitely will have better things to do with their time. i wonder if it is possible that we see a sports league go completely out of business?


new pop life radio show mp3 available for download

you can now download the mp3 of the july 5, 2005 broadcast of the pop life radio show at the pop life radio show blog/podcast. enjoy!

p.s. i've also finally updated the pop life radio show website. nothing new, but you can also download older shows there from the archives page.


steroids speculation list

lance armstrong looks set to win yet another tour de france. i know it's early, but to dominate the first climbing stage so thoroughly must be completely demoralizing to the field. it seems that this year there really isn't as much talk about the performance enhancing drugs as there has been in the past. perhaps it's because it is his last race that the european press is taking it easy on him.

you may recall that a few months ago, a former trainer implicated him in the use of steroids. of course, armstrong denies, says he's passed every test he's ever taken, blah blah blah. however, in this case, i say, if there's smoke there's fire. if there's anything we learned from balco it is that sports leagues and doping commissions are so far behind the curve when it comes to the development of performance enhancing drugs. who knows how long "the clear" had been in use before someone figured it out. who's to say that there isn't some crazy undetectable substance out there now? not to diminish armsstrong's case, but the idea that a whole country's press corps is out to get you, just doesn't make sense to me. quite frankly, armstrong has too much at stake to even risk losing a tour de france to not use performance enhancers. sorry no one's sense of fair play runs that deep.

it got me thinking of some other athletes who despite having never failed a drug test are probably dong something illegal, or at the very least against the spirit of the prohibition of performance enhancing drugs. here are three athletes who i am pretty sure are on the juice, but have been flying under the radar so far.

1) jason giambi - many of you may remember him for his famous non-apology from the beginning of the season. so recall, he kicked ass for a long time in oakland, went to the yankees and got injured a whole lot. lost a ton of weight when baseball got more aggressive about testing. he then sucked for the whole first two months of the season. in fact sucked so much that the yankees considered sending him down to the minor leagues to work stuff out. and now all of a sudden he's hitting home runs like he used to. i could put forth a conspiracy theory that baseball wants to use giambi as posterboy for the feel good steroids story. that is, here's a guy that pretty much everyone knew was on the juice, repented and now through his own hard work has regained the magic touch. i'm sorry, it's pretty clear that the reason he kicked ass in oakland was the juice, and now we're supposed to beleive that even without the juice he's this good?

2) ray lewis - i know that's he's always kinda been the best linebacker on the planet. it's not so much that he's all buffed out or anything, but if you notice, his head seems a little bigger than it should be. the thing that tips me off is the speed in comparison to his size. if there's one thing we know to be absolutely true, is that steroids can definitely make you faster (see ben johnson). you just don't get faster as you get older, no matter how hard you work. and my early recollection of lewis is that he wasn't as fast as is now.

3) steve nash - this one's a little tougher call. it's not obvious in that he's super buff or super fast. and even then, in basketball, with the nature of gameplay and the small dimension of the playing floor, it's hard to see those differences. he's always been the kind of player he is now. all i know is that in dallas, he wore down over the course of a season. there was never a season where he played full time and that didn't happen. and then all of sudden this year he's just as sprightly in the playoffs as he was when he was at UC santa clara? also, fredo and i have both noticed that his arms are definitely more defined and cut than they used to be. also, since his face has always kinda been goofy looking, it's hard to tell if there are any changes in those features as well.

for the record, some of the people who i think it is obvious that they are juiced but haven't been "officially" caught: barry bonds, sammy sosa, marion jones, and all NFL offensive and defensive lineman.

please feel free to add to this list in the comments section.


imagine the size of the one that got away

900 lb catfish caught in thailand. it's on cnn so i guess it's true.

web fun

i ran across this today. impossible to win at, but pretty addicting nonetheless. enjoy.


the revolution will not be televised on ESPN

cnnsi.com has been doing this new thing on their webpage. it's basically a list of something or other, set to a photo album of some sort. it starts on number 25 and then you have to click "next" to go through the list. for example, with the NBA draft last week, they went through the top 25 draft busts with a picture of each of the busts doing something incompetent or sorry. my favorite is a completely uninterested dennis hopson yawning on the bench.

anyways, in honor of the fourth of july, they did a photo essay on the 25 most revolutionary athletes of all time. obviously there's no hard and fast criteria when they put together this list, so it contains athletes ranging from hank aaron to tony hawk to arnold palmer to mia hamm. for me revolution implies sudden change, and i'm not sure that hank aaron or arnold palmer changed the way the game was played or how people percieved the sport in the way that tony hawk or mia hamm did, but whatever. also included on the list were john carlos and tommie smith, the olympic sprinters who did the black power salute on the medal stand.

being a sociologist, this kind of political activity is what i usually associate with the word "revolution". going through the list, there are at least 6 athletes (carlos/smith, celtics great bill russell, NFL great jim brown, tennis star arthur ashe, women's tennis pro billie jean king, boxing legend muhammad ali) that were outspoken in their activism for social justice issued (some others on the list like curt flood might be considered as activists by some, but i think it is a lot easier to be outspoken about making a fair wage than it is to be outspoken about the vietnam war or civil rights). while many of these names are among the patron saints of their sports, you will notice that none of these athletes have played in the last 25 years. and it got me thinking, where are the social activist athletes today? there are plenty of outspoken athletes, but none of them seem to stand for progressive issues.

jp and i talked about this the other day on the pop life radio show in regards to musical acts, and how it was weird to see jay-z try and stir up support at live 8. he spent about ten seconds reinforcing the message and he did so in a completely generic way. in other words, he really didn't understand the cause he was promoting. sure he wanted to get more aid to africa, but i doubt he understood how the world bank lent these countries the money knowing that they couldn't pay it back so that they could get other concessions down the line. jp and i speculated that record companies and publicists actively discourage people from taking any kind of political stance in fear of economic reprisal from the public. although i think that this fear is unwarranted, i do think that we see a trend of more political acts being marginalized. further more, those artists that are outspoken in their political activism are subject to sanctions such as less publicity efforts, etc. i.e. wal mart not stocking records of those artists that they deem controversial.

i suspect that a similar thing is happening in sports. sports franchises just don't want to deal with any possible public relations headaches caused by million dollar athletes complaining about racism. granted many athletes such as john rocker and carl everett who aren't afraid to speak their mind, often have extremely unprogressive comments, you almost never hear of an athlete speaking out about social justice issues. the only one i can think of is a few years back, steve nash wore a "peace now" shirt during warm ups of the NBA all star game, right when the iraq war was getting geared up. if i remember correctly, very few media outlets praised him publicly for taking some kind of stand against the war.

it works both ways however. i think that several people got tired of curt schilling when he publicly supported president bush and he got some flack for that. but no one really said much when tom brady made an appearance at the state of the union adress a few years ago.

bell hooks famously wrote "the personal is political". my interpretation of that is that the things that we do in everyday life, such as the movies we watch, the stars we adore, and for many, the sports that we follow are indicative of our political views and the way we want the world to be. while i definitely believe that, i am beginning to think that may be less true today than it was 10 years ago, as the corporate entities who control sports and entertainment exert considerably more pressure on the artists to not be political. it's a form of censorship if you think about it. and it is extremely unfortunate because these athletes are in a position to expose people to different perspectives since they are in the spotlight so much. two of the world's most recognizable sports stars, tiger woods and michael jordan are notorious for not having an opinion on anything except their respective sports. the thing is, they understand that if they were to say anything, they would be attacked by all sorts of people for speaking on things that they don't know about. which i've always thought is dumb. i mean we're all voting citizens, should i not say anything about politics because i'm not directly involved in it?

again, however, as is the case with jay-z, it needs to be a two way street. it's the athletes' or celebirty's responsibility to take some time to be informed about what's going on. and usually when we hear about an athlete being outspoken they are decidedly uninformed. but all the same, it's a shame that these people who have the potential to effect change, are not allowed to by the sports franchise establishment (or just don't want to, depending on what you think).

i know that this runs counter to general feeling that athletes shouldn't be viewed as role models but maybe you don't have to be a role model to be outspoken about social justice. if anything, this lack of social activist athletes is further proof of the layered discourse surrounding sports. that what happens in sports is related to the world around it.

anyways, i spent a lot of time thinking about this and i'm really interested to see what you people think. i know most of you don't leave comments, but i'm pleading with any of you who have an opinion on this thing to leave a comment. i think that this is a dialogue worth pursuing.

the ragin' asian breaks down live 8

back from oakland, which is why there hasn't been much blogging over the holiday weekend. hope everyone had a good fireworks show in their town. santa barbara's sucked because there was some accident on the barge which killed the big finale. anyways, as many of you know, the live 8 concert was this weekend. i actually didn't get to watch much of it as i was tooling about downtown with HK, but thanks to the miracle of the internet, you can watch pretty much all of the performances from the philly, london, and toronto show here. i've been through a bunch of the performances and to make up for the lack of blogging, get ready for an extra long breakdown of some notable performances.

1) coldplay was pretty uninspiring to me. which is amazing considering how many albums they've sold in the past few weeks. but this makes sense to me however, as i've always said that while they may be a pretty nice rock band, they really just don't have what it takes to be the next superband. in a little while i'll make a comparison to the world's reigning superband, U2. anyways, they did a little collaboration with richard ashcroft and they sang bittersweet symphony. i was kinda suprised. i really like that song a lot, but for whatever reason it didn't translate well live. richard ashcroft was just preening the whole time and chris martin only lent backing vocals.

2) U2 kicked ass. the highlight of course was a duet with sir paul mccartney of sargeant pepper's. sir paul even gave bono a verse to sing solo. so to compare, coldplay became the house band for a washed up indie hipster. U2 sang a verse on on one of the most recognized song in rock history with one of the most influential figures in rock history. you tell me who's more relevant.

3) the black eyes peas sounded awful. i don't know if it's just the mix that aol got but fergie sounded especially awful. i believe that the addition of fergie is one of the most worst executed moves to boost sales with a hot girl. first off, she's not hot. i've seen lots of pictures of her and you can just tell that behind the 2-inch layer of foundation and rouge, she is u-g-l-y. couple that with the now apparent fact that she can't sing, it just didn't make any sense. if they were just going to doctor someone's voice, they they should have just called a model agency and gotten a really hot woman.

4) snoop dogg was great i thought. i did think that it was extremely entertaining to watch the pasty british people trying to groove to drop it like it's hot. i know that england has it's share of urban plight, but i can't think of any thing further removed from the british experience than the long beach gangsta lifestyle.

5) r.e.m. - seriously, what's the deal with michael stipe? i tried to find a picture but the only one i could find was on the aol live 8 picture gallery (go ahead and scroll through to see stipe's picture, i promise, it's worth it). if you didn't see it, he had a blue zorro mask painted over his eyes. doesn't he already know that we already think that he's the most pretentious guy in the world? there's no need to keep trying to prove it to us.

6) motley crue - apparently, vince neil still thinks it's 1985. i gotta hand it to him, he still knows how to work the crowd, but the cheesy song intros and crowd banter just don't look good coming from an overweight guy in leather.

7) elton john sang a duet with the pete doherty, the lead singer of the infamous libertines. that pete doherty is one coked out m-fer.

8) pink floyd - that opening riff to i wish you were here sure is bitchin'.

9) i was pretty surprised by the madonna set. it was pretty strong. this is in stark contrast to her performance in the original live aid which was among the worst. i guess it's just a reminder of how far she's come.

anyways, in general, it was a pretty decent show. lots of different kinds of music and all for a good cause. however, i do think that there were a couple of things that didn't make a whole lot of sense to me. first on mtv and vh1, and then on the abc rebroadcast they showed regular commercials during the broadcast. i don't know what the situation is, but i hope to god they donated the proceeds to charity, cuz that would be pretty sorry if any of these networks made any money off of this thing.

i'm all for raising awareness, but it sounds too much like the education approach to me, as if making people aware or getting to sing some dumb online petition (don't worry, of course i signed it) is going to get george w. or vladimir putin to really consider how to address the africa problem. i doubt very much that they'll get the petition and say, "oh man, look at all these people who want us to be nicer to africa, i guess we better do something."...there did end up being a smattering of african artists incorporated into the concert which is nice, but i can't help but think that this smacks a little bit of colonialism, the benevolent whitey helping out the poor primitives in africa. i know it's not feasible, but instead of saying that we ought to forgive the debt of these nations, what we should say is that we shouldn't have been such douchebags in lending them money on such ridiculous terms in the first place. call me crazy, but i think that message would do a lot more to mobilize people.

new pop life radio show mp3 available for download

you can now download the mp3 of the july 5, 2005 broadcast of the pop life radio show at the pop life radio show blog/podcast. enjoy!