Thursday, October 29, 2009

Why Can't the Yankees Win One Lousy Game After Their Taxpayer Bailout?

There is a series of games being played right now between two professional baseball teams, The Philadelphia Phillies, and the New York Yankees. The series is to determine the best team in the world, which is why it's called "The World Series." Tickets are apparently hard to come by; so much so that a woman apparently might have offered to have sex with someone in exchange for them:
A 43-year-old Pennsylvania woman was busted today for allegedly posting an Internet ad offering sex in exchange for World Series tickets, authorities said.

Police in the Philadelphia suburb of Bensalem claim Susan Finkelstein placed an ad on the Web site Craigslist, saying she was a die-hard Phillies fan and buxom blonde in desperate need of two ducats, police said.
The Associated Press reported that an undercover cop responded to the ad on Monday night.

That's when, police said, Finkelstein offered to perform various sex acts in exchange for the tickets between the Phillies and the Yankees.

"She was willing to do anything, she said," Bucks County public safety director Fred Harran told Philadelphia's KYW Newsradio. "And she told the officers that she would engage in sexual activity with two individuals for two tickets."
So titilating! Fred Harran probably doesn't often get to say such naughty things in his official capacity as "Bucks County public safety director." Clearly, this woman was a depraved menace and needed to be removed from the streets.

Which is why I'm so glad that there are policemen surfing Craigslist looking for strange. Ads, I mean.

Susan Finkelstein only wanted to screw one person to watch a baseball game. The team owners and government officials screw over all of us.

That of course is a very minor misuse of taxpayer money. It pales in comparison with the horrific and mortifying waste of resources that is the stadium in which the New York Yankees play their little game:

The Yankees' new stadium is now the most expensive ever even imagined, coming in at a staggering $2.3 billion. That includes its attendant parking garages and replacement parkland, but even the stadium construction budget alone is incredible, now standing at $1.56 billion.

Of that, the public - city, state, and federal taxpayers - are now covering just shy of $1.2 billion, by far the largest stadium subsidy ever. In fact, even discounting the $417 million in property-tax breaks (if you're inclined to agree with Lieber), it's still the largest stadium subsidy ever. The Yankees, meanwhile, would be on the hook for just $670 million, after counting property-tax breaks.
We're in a recession right now, right? And city, state, and federal (emphasis added because apparently we're all Yankees fans now) are paying $1.2 billion with a b to subsidize a single private business? Well, at least that money the government gave away to the Yankees is paying dividends in other ways, such as driving fans to spend their money on other businesses around the new stadium?

Whether you like them or not, you helped pay for the Yankees' new stadium.

Of course not:

But the gleaming ballpark, home to a World Series in its opening year, is pushing local businesses into the shadows.

The new stadium sprouted just a block from the House that Ruth Built, which is in the process of being taken down. However that one block, with an accompanying shift in pedestrian traffic, has made a difference, area business owners say. So has the stadium itself, with its greatly expanded food and retail options, as well as the overall economic downturn.

"We had high expectations with the new stadium and everything," said Concourse Card Shop manager Nicolas Castillo. But so far? It's "a lot worse," he said, with business down more than 50 percent.

At Yankee Tavern, where the floor is tiled to look like Yankee pinstripes, business is off about 20 percent, said owner Joe Bastone. The economy in general has played a role, he said, adding he's glad the new stadium is at least in the same neighborhood.

"It's bringing some business, even though there's more competition because of the new stadium," he said.

The $1.5 billion house that George Steinbrenner built offers quite a lot besides a baseball game for those who can afford the tickets. There are three team stores, an art gallery, a collectibles boutique, a Hard Rock Cafe, a NYY Steak, a Bleachers Cafe and Tommy Bahama's Bar. Food options run the gamut from pizza to hot dogs to sushi and other Asian-inspired foods. There's even a museum, telling the Yankees' story.

The new stadium is not the "house that George Steinbrenner built," it's the "house that you and I built." And it's not just Yankee stadium. It's just about every motherf*cking stadium in America.

In Indianapolis, with the Colts, where the team only paid about $52 million for its new $700 million stadium, and pays about $250,000 a year on rent. In New Orleans, the Saints are actually paying negative rent to play in the Superdome (couldn't New Orleans really use that money?). In Florida, Miami-Dade County Commissioners just approved spending over $300 million in taxpayer money for a new stadium for the Marlins.

It goes on and on, depressingly so.

Do you like Alex Rodriguez? You should; you're helping to pay his salary. And he's making a hell of a lot more than anyone at AIG ever did.

Why are professional sports teams given so much public money? Our national debt has hit an all-time high. Unemployment is soaring. Thousands of people are out protesting bailout bonuses. Who is protesting the exploitation of taxpayers-- even those who aren't sports fans themselves-- who have to pay to subsidize the f*cking New York Yankees?

By the way-- what did taxpayers get for their more than $1 billion? Well, the Yankees lost the first game of the "World Series". After a massive bailout, the team can't even win one lousy game? Why isn't Congress going after the Yankees board the way they're going after GM? I'm sure there are plenty of sports fans in Congress who could suggest some excellent trades. Why aren't there thousands of protesters outside Yankee stadium?

George Steinbrenner gives us the thumb's up with one hand, while with his other hand he is picking your pocket. He's too big to fail.

Yankees logo source.
Alex Rodriguez pic source.
George Steinbrenner pic source.
Susan Finkelstein pic source.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Metaphorical Masturbation and Bestiality in Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven"

Many people think that a piece of literature, such as a book or a short story, cannot be scary. These people are being stupid, of course. For instance, the book Arsole Fantüme, Gentleman Immoralist, is quite scary. It is the scariest piece of literature ever conceived. That’s just one example; there are others, but I don’t have time to name them now.

These same people also think, “Well, a poem definitely can’t be scary. With all that rhyming and what have you, it’s more geared toward getting ladies to sleep with you than sending chills up and down your spine (unless those ‘chills’ are erotic in nature).” Ordinarily I would agree with this assessment, no matter how stupid it is (and it is stupid), but in this case I have to disagree because it is just plain wrong. There is such a thing as a “scary poem,” and just in time for Halloween I am finally getting around to analyzing it. The poem is one of the most famous of all time, “The Raven,” by Edgar Allan Poe.

First, here is the poem:

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore--
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
"'Tis some visiter," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door--
Only this and nothing more."

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;--vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow--sorrow for the lost Lenore--
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore--
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me--filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
"'Tis some visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door--
Some late visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door;
This it is and nothing more."

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
"Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you"--here I opened wide the door--
Darkness there and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "Lenore?"
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Lenore!"--
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my sour within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping something louder than before.
"Surely," said I, "surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is and this mystery explore--
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;--
'Tis the wind and nothing more.

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he,
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door--
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door--
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then the ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
"Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou," I said, "art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore--
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning--little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door--
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as "Nevermore."

But the Raven, sitting lonely on that placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if its soul in that one word he did outpour
Nothing farther then he uttered; not a feather then he fluttered--
Till I scarcely more than muttered: "Other friends have flown before--
On the morrow he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before."
Then the bird said "Nevermore."

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore--
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of 'Never--nevermore.'"

But the Raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore--
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking "Nevermore."

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
"Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee--by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite--respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil!--prophet still, if bird or devil!--
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate, yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted--
On this home by Horror haunted--tell me truly, I implore--
Is there--is there balm in Gilead?--tell me--tell me, I implore!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil!--prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us--by that God we both adore--
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore--
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore."
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!" I shrieked, upstarting--
"Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul has spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!--quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadows on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted--nevermore!

The first thing that most scholars recognize about this poem is its length. It is over 1,000 words long! (And some of those “words” aren’t even words-- seriously, “upstarting”? Please.) This is before they read it. Once they finally get around to reading it, scholars then notice just how truly terrifying it is, despite the fact that it contains a rhyme scheme, rhythm, and exclamation points-- in other words, all the familiar trappings of the classic “poem.”

But, as we shall see, the genius of the poem is that it exploits the traditional erotic elements of the poem to create something that is quite terrifying and horrific.

“The Raven” tells the harrowing tale of a man who talks to a bird. That is a quite fanciful idea, and one that has inspired many romantic and even comical notions, such as the story of “Dr. Doolittle,” and “Tweetie Pie.” But here, the author lets us know right in the first line that his intentions are the exact opposite of comical. First of all, it’s midnight, and funny things don’t happen at midnight. Nor do comforting things. People typically engage in the coital act around that time, but the narrator is not doing that. He is “pondering,” which is a poetical way of saying “thinking,” but his usage of the word “pondered” as opposed to “thought” invokes the word “ponderous,” which gives the idea of the thinking being burdensome, because the author is burdened by his thoughts, which are ponderous. Also, he is weak and weary, so we get the idea that he has been weary by activity, perhaps even the ponderous activity of thinking very hard about something burdensome.

He’s been made tired by his examination of literature (“quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore”). Speaking as someone who is right this very minute writing an explication of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic poem “The Raven,” I totally understand what he means! This is difficult, and it’s making me feel “weak and weary,” and I’m only on the second line. Imagine if I’m still doing this at midnight! I’m going to be all like, “What a ponderous night it’s been!”

Understandably, the narrator starts to nod off, and he thinks he hears something, but then he convinces himself that it’s just the wind. He is so tired, in fact, that he rhymes “rapping at my chamber door” with “tapping at my chamber door,” which is arguably the laziest line in all of literature. But the author has the narrator make the rhyme on purpose, because the narrator’s feeling so “weak and weary.” We know the author is capable of doing actual rhymes that aren’t so lazy, because he has already written a lot of other poems that don’t have such lazy lines. But here, the narrator is tired.

In the next stanza we’re told that this weakness and weariness occurred in a cold December. As if we needed to be told that it was in a cold month! But remember-- the narrator is trying to impart to the reader a sense of his ponderous weariness, so he has to reiterate things. We also learn that he was doing all of his studying of classic literature so as to take his mind off the fact that his girlfriend is dead. In this stanza, he rhymes “Lenore” with “Lenore,” which is just as lazy as his “chamber door” rhymes in the previous stanza (see above), but the reader gets the sense that he is still tired and sad, and will cut him some slack because the rest of the poem is so good and scary.

Finally, in the next stanza, we get some sex! “Purple curtain” is clearly a euphemism for the folds of a woman’s vagina. Thinking of his lost Lenore’s vagina thrills him, and he probably thinks about her tender embrace, and the shuddering of his body’s skin against hers, as he presses himself into that warm and wet purple curtain betwixt her legs (see, I can get poetical, too). The reader feels really good for the narrator in this case, on account of we know that he got some at some point, even if he’s not getting some right now, and is stuck reading some boring old books.

Anyway, he starts to feel guilty, remembering how he used to have coitus with Lenore. He has an erection (“stood”), but to keep from masturbating (“to still the beating”), he decides to fixate on the sound he heard not from the curtain, which is vaginal, but from the door, which is the opposite of vaginal. This causes the narrator to use another lazy rhyme, but in this case it’s because he’s distracted by his boner.

But as so often happens when a guy gets a boner at midnight and there’s no strange around, eventually the narrator ends up pleasuring himself. There is nothing wrong with that; it’s natural, and everyone does it, especially when there’s purple curtains in the room. (Most scholars agree that if Poe were alive and writing this poem today, he would probably substitute “internet pornography” for “purple curtains.”) The fourth and fifth stanzas talk about the narrator’s masturbating, and he climaxes by whispering the word “Lenore,” and then when he ejaculates, it almost as if his member is whispering back to him the same word, “Lenore.”

By now the reader realizes that the narrator is having a conversation with his own penis, which clearly denotes a mind that is, while not necessarily deranged, certainly not completely well. I mean, masturbating is fine, everyone does it, and everyone talks to his penis now and then, too-- it sometimes needs encouragement-- but having it answer back is really, really weird.

Now that he’s ejaculated, he is drowsy. Poe leaves it up to us to decide whether or not the narrator falls asleep, as most men do when they’ve spent their seed, or if he literally does turn his attention away from the door and back toward the windows (the same windows behind the purple curtains!). Given the fact that he is dreaming of Lenore’s vagina, I would tend to agree with most scholars that it is the former, although I cannot remember which is the former and which the latter, and I do not want to go back and re-read my previous sentence. Given the fact that the narrator mentions “flirting” in the next stanza, I think we all know where his mind’s at, anyway.

Finally, the Raven of the title makes its appearance. It is a bold move to wait seven full stanzas before introducing the main character of your poem, and ordinarily I would be against it, but in this case it works because the narrator did not waste those six stanzas; he set the mood, and masturbated. That takes a lot of energy. And now that he has relaxed a little bit, we get some comedy, as the Raven walks into the room. We think, “Maybe it’s just a man in a Raven suit,” which would be hilarious, if this crazy guy who’s just pleasured himself opens his window and in walks some guy dressed as a bird (I like to imagine the Raven suit being a chicken suit painted black-- have you ever tried to buy a raven suit? they don’t even make them!); but then the Raven perches (as a bird would) on a bust of Pallas above the chamber door. No man could do that, unless the “bust of Pallas” was gigantic! I admit that would be funny, but it is improbable, and as we’ve already seen so far, this is a poem that deals earnestly with the traumas of real life. Still, it would be funny to watch a man in a black-painted chicken costume trying to climb up the side of a giant bust of Pallas! (By the way, do you know who Pallas was? Because I don’t.)

Édouard Manet chose to depict the Raven as an actual bird, not a man in a bird costume.

Anyway, whether it’s a man in a bird suit or an actual bird, the narrator thinks he’s funny (“beguiling my sad fancy into smiling”), and with real rhetorical flourish that is so full of rhythm that the reader is left dizzy and confused by what’s said, he asks the raven what his name is. The raven is apparently just as confused as the reader by the narrator’s drowsy talking, because he answers, “Nevermore.” That’s not much of a name, as the scholars who study this poem are often heard to remark. In that sense, they agree with the narrator, who is genuinely perturbed by the raven’s answer to his question.

In the next stanza, the narrator gets all worked up about the situation. Not that there’s a raven perched above his chamber door, or even that it’s speaking to him-- no, what’s really got him in a lather is that this talking raven claims his name is “Nevermore,” which is just nonsensical.

To this I would reply, “You are a character in a poem. This kind of shit happens in poems all the time.” Alas, there is no way for the reader to speak directly to a character in a poem; only through reading the poem and experiencing it for ourselves can we carry on a sort of metaphorical conversation with the author of the poem (“Poe”), the narrator (“the guy irritated with the snotty raven perched above his chamber door”), and himself (“the reader”).

Now we’re up to the tenth stanza, and the narrator is finally starting to see that the raven, while actually a real bird that is talking to him, is also a metaphor. The raven is described as “lonely,” and that is definitely a word that can be used to describe the narrator. In this case, it would probably be handy to be able to speak directly to the narrator, to warn him that that raven is about to start masturbating, since he’s obviously a metaphor for the narrator, but the reader holds his tongue for two reasons: the first reason is that you can’t speak to a character in a poem, and the second reason is that the raven might end up only metaphorically masturbating, not literally masturbating. Anyway, he hasn’t started masturbating yet (“not a feather then he fluttered”), so let’s leave it alone for now. Besides that, the narrator has already started feeling sorry for himself, passive aggressively mentioning that all his friends have left him, and this raven, his new best friend, will probably up and leave him, too, in the morning. Cue the world’s smallest violin.

Of course, if I were the raven, I would leave right then, because I can’t stand to be around someone who’s being passive aggressive. But the raven tells the narrator he’ll never leave. Kind of. It turns out that this raven might only know one word, “Nevermore.” This means the narrator can ask him anything, and get just the answer he wants. For instance, he could say to the raven, “Will I not win a million dollars in the lottery? If not, then answer with any word other than 'nevermore',” or “If I’m the most awesome poetry character ever, say the word ‘nevermore,’” and the raven will tell him what he needs to hear. And at first you think that the narrator is going to be okay with it, because he’s back to being beguiled into smiling, but then he starts talking to himself.

See, that is the problem with this guy. He’s got a talking bird (granted, it only says one word, but still), and what does he do? He starts talking to himself. He convinces himself (“link fancy unto fancy”) that the raven is actually some horrible beast and is out to get him, somehow. It had seemed so comical and caused him to smile, but now it’s all gross and scary. He starts ranting and raving about how evil the bird must be and, tellingly, about being drunk (“quaff!”). To my knowledge, having read the entire poem at least once before starting off on this explication, this is the first time in which the narrator has mentioned being drunk, but it makes sense, considering how gloomy he was at the beginning of the poem, and all of the weird language he uses in the eight, tenth, and eleventh stanzas. No one should drink alone; he should be at a pub with his friends. There should be people around who can tell him, “Hey, narrator, slow down a little bit, dude! Pretty soon you’re going to start hallucinating (hic!) about talking birds!”

Scholars have long wondered why it is that Poe waited until this stanza (I’ve lost count) to tell us that the narrator is a drunk, but Poe would probably say, “The guy is talking to a freaking bird! Do you want me to spell it out for you?” Anyway, the narrator clearly starts slurring his speech, when he starts mispronouncing the word “quote” as “quoth.” Moreover, his paranoia gets the best of him, as he continues to ascribe to the (formerly) comical raven nefarious intentions. He calls it a “prophet,” which denotes an ability to foresee something, and then he adds the epithet “thing of evil,” which denotes something that is evil. He accuses the raven of foreseeing something evilly, which is a chilling prospect, especially for someone who loves God, the way the narrator claims to.

The narrator then, apparently (he’s drunk and paranoid) accuses the raven of having sex with Lenore. At this point, the reader hopes that the bust of Pallas is big enough to support a human man in a black-painted chicken suit, because the thought of a woman having sex with an actual bird is just too horrific for words. And therein lies the chilling effect of Poe’s masterpiece. The reader is forced to imagine this “prophet,” this “thing of evil” that is an actual bird engaging in the coital act with a human woman.

Unless-- horror of horrors!-- Lenore herself was a bird, and it was the narrator who had sex with a bird!

Poe leaves the question unanswered. In fact, the question of whether it was the narrator who had sex with an animal, or Lenore who had sex with an animal, will never be answered “Nevermore.” It is this wonderful mystery of which character had animal sex that makes Edgar Allan Poe’s classic poem “The Raven” such a classic. It is also why people consider it to be so chilling, even though it is a poem that has rhythm and rhyme, and masturbation.

Edgar Allan Poe's classic poem "The Raven" frightens us because it deals with bestiality. It also deals with masturbation, drunkenness, and insanity, but those elements are not nearly so scary. He was a great author of classic literature.

See other "Notes of Classic Literature" here, here and here.

Manet illustration pic source.
Poe pic source.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Comic About Steve Phillips's Mistress's Letter to His Wife

I do not follow professional sports with any regularity. It mostly irritates me. But on occasion, a story from the world of "sports" bleeds over into my own reality (such as the disturbing tale of the stalker of the irritating sideline "reporter" Erin Andrews) and I become a little bit interested.

The story of Steve Phillips, an "analyst" for ESPN, is one such story. Apparently, this man had an affair with an assistant and, well, she did not take it very well when he (maybe) tried to end the relationship:
ESPN analyst Steve Phillips had a fling with a 22-year-old production assistant, who, after being dumped, taunted his wife with "Fatal Attraction"-like phone calls and a letter that bragged about her sexcapades with Phillips while taking pot shots at their "loveless marriage," The Post has learned.

The former Met general manager, whose tenure with the team was rocked by admissions of infidelity, confessed to his wife and local cops that he had slept with ESPN assistant Brooke Hundley several times this past summer before dumping her.
Hundley's desperate actions -- including accidentally smashing her car into a stone column while speeding away from the Phillips' home after leaving the letter -- terrified the family, according to the Wilton, Conn., police report.
Things haven't gone well for Mr. Phillips since the story broke. His wife filed for divorce, and ESPN has suspended him for a week. And my sources in the sports world tell me that the major league baseball "playoffs" are currently running. Soon, the championships, called "The World Series," will be airing. Will Mr. Phillips make it back to television in time to share his insights?
Phillips -- who admitted having multiple affairs with women while working for the Mets -- is now being sued for divorce by his 40-year-old wife, the mother of his four sons. Two months ago, Phillips deeded the family's five-bedroom, multimillion-dollar Wilton home to her.

Phillips has been suspended for a week by ESPN -- which hired him in 2005 as a baseball analyst -- because of the scandal.
Following the link above will take you to links to the letter that Ms. Hundley left for Mr. Phillips's wife, and some photos of Ms. Hundley herself. I have used these to create a comic, in which the scorned mistress articulates the sentiments of the letter. Somehow, the letter feels different when you see photos of the author beside it.

Now we learn that, the day after delivering this emotional letter to Mr. Phillips's wife, Ms. Hundley had a bit of a change of heart and filed a restraining order against him.

Steve Phillips' three-night stand claimed he hounded her for sex - then threatened to get her fired if she told his wife about their trysts.

The ESPN star analyst vowed "to ruin more than my reputation," production assistant Brooke Hundley said in an Aug. 20 appeal for a restraining order against him.

Phillips, the former general manager of the Mets, warned he "could easily get me fired," Hundley wrote in her single-page affidavit.

The document was filed one day after she delivered a letter graphically detailing the affair to Phillips' wife.
This is a story that even someone who dislikes professional sports, and resents the fact that it costs me money in the form of tax breaks for stadiums, time dealing with traffic, and listening to drunken jerks pontificating on the superiority of their chosen favorite team's "stats," can appreciate. It's about a sleazy man who has had multiple affairs, who finally found a woman who decided not to let him off so easily when he tried to cast her aside.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Um, Yeah-- David Letterman Sex Tape (Question Mark?)

The National Enquirer is reporting that there might be a David Letterman "sex tape," of a sort-- captured by a surveillance camera in the Ed Sullivan Theater, where Letterman's "Late Show" films.

A studio surveillance tape reportedly caught the 62-year-old star and a much-younger female co-worker in a compromising position - and it could shatter Letterman's already troubled marriage, say sources.

You will recall that Letterman supposedly has a secret love nest inside the theater. I do not understand. Did he not realize there were security cameras in his secret bedroom? Or could he just not wait to get his co-worker into the secret bedroom? Was his ardor that undeniably strong?

Overwhelming ardor: Was an uncontrollable desire for the taste of female flesh to blame for David Letterman's (allegedly) being caught on surveillance tape engaged in amorous activities? Short answer: Probably.

In answer to my first question, the Enquirer's source said:

"Dave apparently didn't know the location of the security cameras at his Late Show studio."

I guess so! The source also said:

"It's one thing for him to have publicly admitted to having had sexual relations with some women on his staff. It's another to see him in the throes of passion with one of those women."

I for one am not interested in seeing any celebrity sex tapes. There are plenty of non-celebrity sex tapes available on the internet for easy perusal. Actually, if there were a Flannery O'Connor sex film, I would probably watch that. Back in college, I had a strange crush on her. I might check out a Samuel Johnson sex tape, as well. (No, I never had a crush on him, I'm just curious about how they had sex during the mid to late 1700s. Did they do it the same way? Have the same moves? Aren't you even a little bit curious about that?) Obviously, the chances of those happening hinge on the theoretically impossible concept of time travel, but I'm digressing here.

I actually wouldn't mind hearing an audio of David Letterman's amorous adventures. What is his "dirty talk" like? "As is so often the case, I would like to, uh, yeah, put it to you, if you don't mind having some goon put it to you... Oh, you would, would you? I am delighted to hear you say that. My response to that is, It warms my heart to hear you say that."

Or something. I'm just guessing. Interestingly, and as Mediaite has pointed out, this story from the Enquirer has made it to the front page of the Huffington Post. After all, they were right about for presidential candidate and motherf*cker John Edwards:

David Letterman appears to be reaping the rewards of the [National Enquirer]’s newfound respect — or perhaps fear factor is a better way to phrase it. No one wants to miss a story as big as John Edwards ever again, because they’ve mistakenly relegated the Enquirer to the supermarket tabloid pile.

Here is the link to the Huffington Post link to the Enquirer article. The comments at the Huffington Post are rather amusing-- most of them are of the "I-don't-care" variety. I always find it funny when someone bothers to log in and type a comment expressing their lack of interest in a story.

I find it ironic.

My former literary crush: I've gotten over it, but I had a pretty serious crush on Flannery O'Connor when I was a kid. Seriously, who wouldn't want some of that action?

Letterman pic source.
Flannery O'Connor pic source.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Your House is Not Haunted

I kind of hate Halloween. "Dressing up," being harassed by children who extort "treats" in order to prevent their attacking you, and the incessant media attention given to bulls hit like "haunted houses."

Today, MSN's homepage features a link to a video that promises to give you "tips to deal with paranormal activity & how to scare off ghosts."

Clicking on the button takes you to this page, where you are treated to a video hosted by the jerk in the photograph, Richard Felix, who is described as "an historian and paranormal investigator." Those are both so legitimate-sounding! He's also the star of a TV show called "Most Haunted," so you know he's objective.

"You know if your home is haunted," he explains, "if things start happening that are-- I suppose you could say 'paranormal.'" You know, like when you hear strange noises or see shadows. Stuff like that that defies explanation.

He then admonishes viewers to "look at the normal before you even consider the paranormal." He is the host of a show called "Most Haunted."

There is no such thing as ghosts. Your house is not haunted. You have plenty of real things to worry about right now-- recession, unemployment, medical care, the deficit, the falling value of the dollar. Give the ghosts a rest, please.

And speaking of "Most Haunted," a show which appears on the Travel Channel in the United States-- apparently, the UK version was exposed as a con:

THE TV show that has spooked millions with its footage of hauntings and poltergeists is today exposed as a fake - by one its own stars.

Resident parapsychologist Dr Ciaran O'Keeffe has sensationally lifted the lid on the ghosthunting series, Most Haunted ... and claims that the public are being deceived by "showmanship and dramatics."

He accuses the show's medium Derek Acorah of hoodwinking viewers by pretending to communicate with spirits and obtaining information about locations prior to filming.

The Mirror has also obtained unedited footage which appears to show presenter Yvette Fielding and her husband faking 'paranormal' occurrences such as ghostly bumps and knocks.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Is the Sheriff in the Balloon Boy Hoax Case Actually Chief Wiggum from The Simpsons?

The AP has a story today suggesting the sheriff in the Balloon Boy Hoax case is very dumb indeed.

First of all, he fell for a story that was absurd on its face. There is no way anyone would believe that little piece of silver foil would have enough hot air or helium or whatever it was was supposed to be in it to displace its own weight, along with the weight of a six year-old boy. Anyone who's seen the lead balloon episode of "Mythbusters" knows enough about buoyancy to see that the balloon supposedly carrying Balloon Boy could not have held his weight.

If the sheriff had watched Mythbusters, he wouldn't look so foolish now.

So, sheriff Jim Alderden wasted a lot of time and resources going after something that was transparently ridiculous. Someone who falls for something that stupid should maybe sulk off in a corner and wait until the whole thing blows over.

Or, he could pursue charges against the family that played him for a fool.

Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden announced Sunday that he's seeking charges, including felonies, against Richard and Mayumi Heene. Alderden said the stunt two weeks in the planning was a marketing ploy by the Heenes, who met in acting school in Hollywood and have twice appeared on ABC's reality show "Wife Swap."

"We certainly know that there's a conspiracy between the husband and wife, you've probably seen some of the e-mails and some of the things on the Internet suggesting that there may be other conspirators," Alderden said.

Emphasis added because you just know how diabolical those Hollywood acting class students can be!

The "things on the Internet" refers to the Gawker article I wrote about yesterday. That is some brilliant policework on the part of sheriff Alderden. He displays even more brilliant investigative technique when he describes how he finally figured out the Heenes' cunning plan:

Alderden said investigators had an "aha" moment that the story was a hoax when Falcon turned to his father during a CNN interview Thursday and said what sounded like "you had said we did this for a show" when asked why he didn't come out of his hiding place.

So it wasn't until Balloon Boy misspoke in a CNN interview that he finally realized he'd been punked? Bear in mind-- this was long after the balloon had landed.

Once investigators got a good look at the "flying saucer" they determined that the thin mylar balloon covered with foil and held together with duct tape would not have been able to launch with the 37-pound-boy inside, according to Colorado State University physics professor Brian Jones.

Thin mylar covered in foil and held together with duct tape. That's what the balloon was made of. But that wasn't enough to give it away. No-- sheriff Alderden didn't figure out it was a hoax until Balloon Boy himself made his "you said that we did this for the show" comment.

As Chief Wiggum would say, "That's some nice work, boys."

Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden.

And remember when sheriff Alderden said that he believed the Balloon Boy incident was a "real event"? Well, that was just another example of his fantastic police work:

Alderden said they didn't question the family Friday because they wanted to keep the family's cooperation by maintaining the appearance that they believed their story. That's the same day the sheriff gave a press conference in which he said he believed the saga was a "real event." He said Sunday that those assurances were part of his effort to keep the family's trust.

Of course it was a "real event." It happened, didn't it?

Because Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden didn't put the brakes on the investigation early-- within a few minutes anyone should have been able to see that balloon couldn't hold a six year-old child-- a lot of time and money was wasted, resulting in some inconvenience.
Some flights at Denver International Airport had to be changed to a different runway, but the airport remained open during the balloon's flight, airport spokesman Chuck Cannon said Monday. Previous reports said the airport was temporarily shut down.

The National Guard provided two helicopters in an attempt to rescue the child, costing several thousand dollars. When the balloon landed without the boy, officials thought he had fallen out and began the grim search for his body.

Emphasis added to that last sentence because they kept looking for the boy even after the silly balloon made of mylar, foil, and duct tape for crying out loud actually landed.

"Officials" thought he'd fallen out of the balloon!

That's some nice work, boys.

More nice police work from sheriff Alderden: He's all but accused Richard Heene, who is I think it's safe to say a crackpot, of abusing his wife and kids.

Alderden said officials tried Saturday to persuade Mayumi Heene, 45, to go to a safe house, but she declined.

Alderden said the children were still with the parents Sunday and that child protective services had been contacted to investigate their well-being. On "Wife Swap," Heene was portrayed as erratic, at one point throwing a glass of milk on a participant on the program.

"Clearly, from all indications, Mr. Heene has somewhat of a temper," Alderden said.

That's some nice work. He saw an episode of "Wife Swap," a reality television show in which participants are encouraged to "ham it up" for the cameras, and now sheriff Alderden feels it's "clear" that "Mr. Heene has somewhat of a temper." For crying out loud, if it weren't for Gawker, Wife Swap, or CNN, this guy couldn't get anything done. Are any crimes that aren't covered in the national media ever solved in this city?

The authors of the AP article try to give him some cover, by offering more smears of Richard Heene:

Records show that police have responded to the house at least twice in the past year, including a possible domestic violence incident in February. No charges were filed.

That is the AP's crack reporting. Records show that police have "responded to the house" (did the house call the police?), but we're never told what for. Only ominously that one was "a possible domestic violence incident" (not explained) for which "no charges were filed." In other words, they got nothing.

Chief Wiggum.

But do we have any more examples of sheriff Jim Alderden's crack police work? Well, if you look around on the internet a little bit, you find that Alderden's apparently been a bit of an as shole for awhile. Get a load of this: He likes to harass bicyclists:

In one recent column on the sheriff's website, Alderden wrote: "Don't you just love this time of year, when the birds, boats and cyclists come out? Well, two out of three ain't bad."

This spring, Alderden's traffic deputies stepped up their efforts to rein in those they saw as violators -- cyclists who rode two abreast, requiring motorists to edge into oncoming lanes to avoid them.

Among those stopped in May were a pair of riders from Boulder. They said Deputy Brian Ficker told them he didn't appreciate Boulder cyclists riding in his county and told them to return there or face a ticket.
Alderden disputed their account. "It wasn't 'Get out of Dodge,' " he said. "He told them, 'This is the law. You might get away with it in Boulder County, but in Larimer County, we enforce the statutes.' "
"There's a sense of entitlement to do whatever they want: They're environmentally conscious, and everyone else is a fat pig," he said.

But the flap also revealed a division of opinion over the law.

State law permits cyclists to ride two abreast, as long as they don't impede the normal flow of traffic.

To Alderden, that meant they should move into single file if a car approached.

That's some nice work, boys.

He also used a blog he writes for the county website (BullsEye) to decry the "war on Christmas," and described the time he wasted in fighting it:

"The fact that we are even engaged in a discourse of whether Christmas trees and Christian symbols of faith should be allowed on city property is absurd. When one is sliding down a slippery slope, there comes a time to dig in your heels, grab the nearest branch, and hold on for dear life. Our country, and sadly our own community, has reached that point where people of faith and good conscience can no longer stand silently while a belligerent minority usurps our heritage and dictates how and where we express our religious freedoms. It is time to make a statement – to grab that branch, in this case a pine bough," he said.

Is this something over which a sheriff should concern himself? There's nothing better for him to be doing? There's concern over the time and resources wasted over the Balloon Boy hoax, and he's fighting the War on Christmas? Well, he could be harassing people who provide medical marijuana:

Medical marijuana – in the Colorado Constitution! What a mess.

The LCSO has had several high profile cases recently where we’ve investigated large scale marijuana grows. We’ve come under quite a bit of criticism for enforcing the laws against drug dealing when it comes to marijuana. The blog sites are ripping us. The people who write that stuff appear to be morons – or stoned. But I repeat myself.

Personally, I think legalizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes was a mistake. The FDA has not approved smoking marijuana for any medical condition or disease. On the contrary, they determined that there were no sound scientific studies that support the medical use of marijuana for treatment in the United Sates. The American Medical Association has not endorsed the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Nor have the legitimate medical associations.

Marijuana users are morons! Ha- that sheriff Jim Alderden could be a comedian if the whole "sheriff" thing doesn't work out. In fact there are plenty of "sound scientific studies support[ing] the medical use of marijuana for treatment in the United States."

But then, sheriff Jim Alderden is the guy who fell for the Balloon Boy hoax.

That's some nice work, boys.

UPDATE 10/20/09 @10:45 AM PST: Via Mediaite, sheriff Jim Alderden appeared on "The O'Reilly Factor" last night and came across as articulate, if mildly incompetent:

O'Reilly, proprietor of the "No Spin Zone," could have asked the sheriff why he wasn't made immediately suspicious by the fact that the mother's 911 call said that her son had gone up in a "spaceship that had launched from their backyard." He also didn't ask why the search wasn't called off as soon as they'd gotten a look at the balloon-- why couldn't they tell there was no way it could have held a six year-old boy? He didn't ask why they thought the boy might have fallen out of said balloon once the thing had landed and they'd been able to examine it up close.

He does ask him how much the sheriff's department is going "to ask them to reimburse." But he doesn't ask how much money Alderden has wasted in enforcing his interpretation of Colorado's bicycle laws, his loose interpretation of Colorado's medical marijuana laws, or fighting against the "war on Christmas."

Chief Wiggum pic source.
sheriff Alderden pic source.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Balloon Boy Hoax: Real Hoax, or Fake Hoax? And Why are People Really So Angry About it?

Gawker paid a man named Robert Thomas for his story about how he helped Richard Heene, the father of the Balloon Boy Falcon Heene, plan the Balloon Boy hoax. Mr. Thomas claims to have worked for Mr. Heene as an assistant/stenographer, keeping notes of Mr. Heene's crackpot theories and cockamamie television show ideas in the hopes of one day becoming a researcher on a show that would feature either Mr. Heene, or Mr. Heene and his family.

Of course, this raises the question that the story about the planning of the hoax is a hoax itself. Mr. Thomas is described as a "25 year-old researcher" in the Gawker article, yet another website has some information on him that suggests he's more than just that.

The story could become like Koch's snowflake, so I will drop that aspect. It's all a hoax. Life is a hoax!

The real question is, Why are people so angry about this?

The most important item from the Gawker story is the screenshot from MSNBC:

"The Place for Politics," it reads across the top of the screen. It also says, quite plainly, "6 YR-OLD BOY ALONE IN HOT AIR BALLOON OVER COLORADO". The word "allegedly" is not to be found in that caption. Something patently absurd is presented as fact by "The Place for Politics."

Where was the six year old boy to be hidden in that balloon? How did it achieve the lift necessary? I have no idea of what the "experts" were talking about while that image was displayed, but someone at MSNBC, "The Place for Politics," made the decision to announce to the world, unequivocally and in capital letters that a six year-old boy was trapped, alone and defenseless, in a runaway hot air balloon.

The Gawker article paints a rather unflattering portrait of the Balloon Boy, Falcon Heene's father, Richard Heene.

Richard ... was often driven by ego and fame. He was all about controversy, hoping to whip up something significant enough to eliminate our reality TV competitors. He wanted episodes that would shock people and maximize his exposure.

That, of course, is not unflattering. Who doesn't want to get a reality show? Who doesn't want to maximize his exposure?

The crackpot bulls hit stuff, on the other hand, is most unflattering:

But he was motivated by theories I thought were far-fetched. Like Reptilians — the idea there are alien beings that walk among us and are shape shifters, able to resemble human beings and running the upper echelon of our government. Somehow a secret government has covered all this up since the U.S. was established, and the only way to get the truth out there was to use the mainstream media to raise Richard to a status of celebrity, so he could communicate with the masses.

As the weeks progressed, his theories got more and more extreme and paranoid. A lot of it surrounded 2012, and the possibility of there being an apocalyptic moment. Richard likes to talk a lot about the possibility of the Sun erupting in a large-scale solar flare that wipes out the Earth.

Of course we need to keep in mind that the Gawker piece could be a hoax in itself. But, as one of the Gawker posters points out, Mr. Heene did have enough of an interest in "Reptilians" that he solicited information about them through a YouTube video:

(This is something that's always bothered me about conspiracy theorists. If you're genuinely worried about some secret all-powerful organization, is it really smart to go onto YouTube, or to write books about it? Aren't you just exposing yourself to their mind control-- or whatever it is they're capable of?)

Mr. Thomas claims he had the whole thing figured out by the time of the Balloon Boy's infamous "you said we did this for the show" bean spilling to "Celebrity Jeopardy" loser Wolf Blitzer:

And Falcon said, "you guys said we did this for the show." Lights went off in my head. Bells were ringing; whistles were whistling. I said, "Wow, Richard is using his children as pawns to facilitate a global media hoax that's going to give him enough publicity to temporarily attract A-list celebrity status and hopefully attract a network."

The use of the word "pawns" indicates some level of disapproval. But children are, by their very natures, "pawns." Parents provide children with guidance and orders; that's part of what raising them is all about (full disclosure: I have no human children). Is Mr. Heene's use of his children in this case (assuming everything in the Gawker story is true) any worse than the actions of Kate and Jon Gosselin? Or the parents depicted on "Toddlers & Tiaras"?

Alright, so maybe using your child as a "pawn" isn't so bad, but others were "inconvenienced":

[Richard Heene] certainly didn't consider the people that were praying for his child, and the hundreds, maybe thousands of people that were inconvenienced in pursuit of this balloon. The thousands of dollars of taxpayer money spent on things that weren't necessary.

I'm no expert on prayer-- were those prayers spent on the Balloon Boy somehow wasted? Will God later come to these people, in their hour of need, and say, "Sorry, you used up your last prayer on the Balloon Boy-- you're going to have to keep the cancer"?

As for those inconvenienced by the pursuit of the balloon; I have sympathy for the people whose crops were damaged in the landing, as noted by TMZ. For the police and rescue officials, not so much. How many "false alarms" do police respond to every year? If someone calls 911 and says, "Bigfoot just abducted my child, send help!," how many police do they send? In this case, the "false alarm" was on television-- someone should have been able to see the total absurdity of the situation, and call off the "rescue" accordingly. They did not.

And the taxpayer money? That sh*t is wasted every single day. Taxpayer money practically grows on trees.

In today's world, the desire for celebrity is hardly uncommon, and its pursuit is not all that unusual. Richard Heene-- a guy who might believe the world will end in 2012, or that Reptilians have taken over the US-- was able to exploit weaknesses in both human nature, and the 24-hour cable news channels, to create a shockingly successful hoax. At any point during the two hours they were covering the Balloon Boy story live, the news organizations could have put the brakes on it. They could have devoted more time to explaining, from a scientific perspective, just why it was totally improbable that a small piece of silver foil could not have carried a six year-old boy. No, the story needed to be run as it unfolded-- no time for questions!

To be fair, there apparently was some skepticism expressed by some individuals. But then again, there is this:

People are angry not because Richard Heene played them. They're angry because he was so damned successful.

Richard Heene and Falcon Heene, the Balloon Boy. A heroic crackpot who exposed the fatuity of cable news, and the boy who reached for the sky... from his attic.

Richard and Falcon Heene pic source.

"Balloon Boy" Poem

Like many people around the world, I have been captivated by the story of the Balloon Boy. Unlike many people around the world, I wasted some time writing what is arguably a quite beautiful poem about it. I hope you enjoy.

Lament for Balloon Boy

The long chase in a wheatfield ended
Amidst gasps and cries of fright--
Balloon Boy must have been upended
During that terrible flight!

For hours was watched the foil balloon,
So scarily buffeted and pasted
By winds from mouths of teevee buffoons;
The boy’s death hotly anticipated.

Balloon Boy was all along in the attic,
And the adventure nothing more than a trick!

The pronouncements and speculation
Now give way to accusations of blame
By a betrayed-feeling nation,
That now will truly never be the same.

We’re no longer innocent, thanks to this ruse,
And know not to trust the cable teevee news!

Still, let's attack the storm-chasing father
With his reality television aspirations--
And then, yes, the mother we should bother
Thinking herself the result of alien relations.

The ordeal is over, yet someone must fall
For "wasting our time," making fools of us all!

After a long day of vomitous interviews
In which was made one cryptic remark,
Now the humiliated sheriff can accuse
Of motives both criminal and dark.

“You said that we did this for the show,” he said;
And everyone knew they had all been misled!

Contributing to a minor’s delinquency,
And conspiracy, are the indictments;
We hope Balloon Boy shows more buoyancy
Than the foil that started the excitement.

Pic source.

Some Independent Verification of My Achievements

On October 14, I received an email from Princeton Premier informing me that the Astoria, NY company was considering me "for inclusion into the 2009-2010 Princeton Premier Business Leaders and Professionals Honors Edition section of the registry."

The email went on to say "[t]he 2009-2010 edition of the registry will include biographies of the world's most accomplished individuals. Recognition of this kind is an honor shared by thousands of executives and professionals throughout the world each year. Inclusion is considered by many as the single highest mark of achievement."

Well, sign me up, right? Maybe not.

If you do manage to get past the impressive array of services on offer, you will find a "terms of agreement" link that tells you all you need to know about whether you should pay any money for a Princeton Premier biography:

"Our cancellation policy states there is a non-refundable 20% processing fee which will be automatically retained on any cancellation that occurs within 24 hours of any sale. All program sales after 48 hours are final and no refunds will be issued for our service and all accompanying personalized products." So if a profile costs $100, you're still going to get stuck for $20 even if you get a case of buyer's remorse. We couldn't find a price list, though.

So it's not quite totally legitimate. My ego was bruised, but not broken by any means. I got on with my life until yesterday, when I received another email-- this one from Strathmore's Who's Who. Their email told me,

It is my pleasure to inform you that on September 10th, 2009 your information was reviewed and accepted for inclusion in the 2009/2010 edition of our registry.

Strathmore's Whos Who each year, recognizes and selects key executives, professionals and organizations in all disciplines and industries for outstanding business and professional achievements.

This recognition is shared by those who have reached a distinguished level of success in their chosen profession.

Now, maybe it was the fact that a mere two days before I received an email-- that turned out to be spam-- from another company offering much the same thing, or maybe it was the fact that they told me I was being recognized for "outstanding business and professional achievements," but right away I figured this one was a scam, too.

But just to be sure, I googled them. Because, well, there was always a chance that they were legitimate-- right?


How stupid do they think we are? The company "Salesman" and yes that is exactly what he is, a salesman, tried to tell me that they are so busy that I couldn't do my due dilligence first and then call back. It was a now or never hard close, and I could tell it was a scam. Any legit registry of who's who wouldn't charge you to be on it, nor would they tell you that you can't think it over and call them back. Wow! talk about "boiler room" sales. Don't even think about entering your information from an email link. That is just asking for trouble. Also, never, ever, ever, think that you have to buy now or forget it. Total scam.

So, just what are my "achievements"? Not much, apparently. The only people who are interested in recognizing them are email scammers trying to trick me into sending them money.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Poodle Bitch Has Almost Given Up on Project Runway

Interested parties can find Poodle Bitch's blog here.

Poodle Bitch had high hopes for "Project Runway" this season. She has always been a fan of the show, ever since she was an adorable puppy during the first season. She saw it as that rare televised reality competition where merit was rewarded. Where skill was treated with respect.

To be sure, there were designers who advanced in the program who did not deserve to do so. But always, the show managed to keep around those top skilled designers who were most deserving.

This season, however, the program seems to have gone off the rails, almost from the very first episode. There is no way, for instance, that Ari should have been sent home before Mitchell. In fact, Mitchell should have been sent home in each of the first three episodes. The fact that Poodle Bitch actually felt relief when Mitchell did not make it into the fourth episode says much about the judging this season. It has been eccentric. Poodle Bitch does not feel that there is any way that Louise, but most of all Epperson, or Shirin, should have been sent home this early. Not when Christopher, Logan, Gordana, and Althea remain.

Christopher designed something shoddy, and constructed it badly. Saying he should have gone home this week is slightly unfair; he should have gone home long before this.

The poodle companion Irina Shabayeva is so clearly ahead of everyone else that Poodle Bitch has begun to worry she will be sent home next. The only mitigating factor is that Poodle Bitch notes in the teaser for next week's episode, the program will be cut to show that Irina is to be this season's "Kenley."

Yes, in the most recent episode, Irina was called a "b*tch" by Nicholas-- who admitted Irina was a good designer. Poodle Bitch knows that Nicholas intended "the b-word" as an insult, but of course Poodle Bitch does not see it that way. Based on the teaser for next week, Irina will be the "villain" for the duration of her stay. This is rather unfortunate, but it is a television competition. The viewers, Poodle Bitch included, understand the producers can manipulate their days' worth of footage however they want to create a single episode.

Which leads to Poodle Bitch's main problem with the show this year. The producers-- who, according to the program's disclaimer, have a hand in judging decisions-- have been far too visible an influence on the judges. Clearly, Mitchell was kept around for dramatic purposes. Logan was kept last week, while Epperson sent home, to protect the "distracting" dynamic between him and Carol Hannah. Shirin was sent home this week to maintain gender equality. There is no other explanation.

True to form, Logan presented an outfit designed with seemingly no one in mind (no one real, anyway), and stitched it together as if he were lacking opposable thumbs. But the woodland sprite girl Carol Hannah finds him "distracting," so he must be kept on the show.

That said, Poodle Bitch has been utterly mystified by Althea's continued presence. She has done nothing of interest, and has indeed created a couple of quite egregious outfits. Moreover, the producers have found very little footage of her to use the last couple of weeks. One would be forgiven for thinking Althea had already been sent home.

Poodle Bitch is happy to note that she is not the only one to notice the problems with this season. The ratings have taken a serious tumble since the first episode's high.

One factor is that "Runway" has run headfirst into the start of the broadcast fall season, whereas its final Bravo round aired during the summer. Still, "Runway" usually climbs as the finale draws closer no matter what time of year it airs.

Poodle Bitch believes an even more important explanation for the show's continued decline in fortunes is that it has lost sight of what it was. A competition based mostly upon merit. Yes, one or two instigators would get judged less harshly, but the producers' manipulations were always more subtle than they've been this year. The fan base for this show does not come to it for "Flavor of Love" style dramatics. We want to see fantastic garments created by talented designers. Especially this late in the competition. Keeping Mitchell for three episodes was our first sign, but we could only suspect. Sending home Epperson and then Shirin two weeks in a row made it obvious. The producers were trying to make "Project Runway" a different program. Perhaps this was because of the move to Lifetime, or the move to Los Angeles, but whatever the reason, they are losing viewers who are unlikely to return.

As a viewer, it is difficult to take the show seriously anymore. Clearly the producers and judges do not.

Clearly not Shirin's finest moment (and to be fair to her, she was not helped by her sourpuss model), but this rather eclectic look was miles ahead of both Christopher and Logan.

Designs photographs source.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Let's Celebrate the Balloon Boy-- A Real American Hero

The Balloon Boy, Falcon Heene, is a hero not only because he has a much cooler name than I. He's a hero because he managed to punk several major news organizations, most especially CNN, tricking them into providing hours of live coverage of f*cking balloon floating through the air.

Now, today I'm watching CNN and they have wall to wall coverage of the kid who was believed to have gotten into the balloon and was flying thousands of feet above the ground in an invention that his dad had created. For two hours, CNN followed the silver balloon in the air and called on experts who spoke on the possibility of the direction of the balloon and where the kid might have been hiding. It was high drama.

The Balloon Boy, Falcon Heene (it's too bad his nickname and his real name are both so awesome, and I must use both when referring to him) was actually hiding out in a box in his attic, the whole time:

Within an hour Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden reported that the 6-year-old boy has been found alive at his home. "He was found in a box in the attic above the garage," the sheriff said.

Brilliant! One daring six year-old boy tricked at least one major news organization into devoting (i.e., wasting) hours of time covering a non-story.

Did CNN not learn anything from Nena's "99 Red Balloons"?

Of course, CNN is the same network that employs a host who was creamed on "Celebrity Jeopardy!". It's also the same network that "fact checked" a Saturday Night Live skit. It's also the same network that inaccurately attributed a disturbing quote to radio personality Rush Limbaugh (are you kidding me? they couldn't find a real disturbing quote to use?). And of course, most damning of all, it's the same network that continues to employ, for some mystifying reason, Larry King.

And who can forget this classic prank call:

We need more Balloon Boys. We need pranksters to expose just how bankrupt and pathetic are our news organizations. They must be undermined at every turn, because they are calcified and they cannot be trusted. They let their desire for a "story," in particular a story that verifies their own preconceptions or touches on their own fears, overwhelm their ability to check their facts.

We can't trust them with the Balloon Boy story. We can't trust them at all.

The Balloon Boy, Falcon Heene, is a real American hero.

And now, after the fact, after millions of Americans watched in-- what? Horror at what might happen to the poor Balloon Boy? Anticipation at what might happen?-- now CNN's "Celebrity Jeopardy!" loser Wolf Blitzer is on the case:

Go after the kid, Wolf! Don't let little six year-old Balloon Boy Falcon Heene, who had spent his day being interviewed by multiple television programs, get away with that half answer. Use that same zeal with which you "fact checked" a comedy skit on Saturday Night Live to go after a six year-old kid. Way to go, Wolf!

It's not possible he's pranking you again, is it? It's not possible that six year-old Balloon Boy Falcon Heene is that much smarter than you- that he could throw out one little off-hand, cryptic, and joking comment about it being "for the show," and you would pounce on it?

"We're just thrilled that Falcon is alive and well and your family is together- we watched all of this play out during the course of several hours and I've got to tell you personally as a reporter who reported that he was alive and well, it was a thrilling moment for me because you know I was really, really worried that I would have to report something very, very different and I was just grateful that he was just fine."

Wolf, I do not believe you. If you were truly worried, why then did you show the buffeting and rocking in the wind of the balloon that you feared contained the Balloon Boy?

The balloon was seen tilting to one side and being tossed back and forth in the wind. Then the balloon appeared to start deflating on one side.

TV news choppers circled the device, trying to follow it as it floated and dropped in the breeze. One estimate said the device was travelling at about 40km/hr at one stage.

Truly, Wolf, you were concerned for the Balloon Boy, Falcon Heene's, safety.

BONUS: Another Howard Stern-related classic prank call; the "I See OJ" call to ABC just after the OJ Simpson white Ford Bronco chase:

And, because I was thinking about it, here is the press conference given by Peter Berdovsky and Sean Stevens, the two artists arrested after law enforcement officials went batsh*t crazy mad over Aqua Teen Hunger Force promotional art. The art itself was not a hoax-- how could anyone have anticipated that Boston would be so full of jackasses who would think that LED art were terrorist devices?-- but the press conference they gave following their release was a classic. Watch the frustration of the "journalists" when neither Berdovsky nor Stevens seems to be taking the matter "seriously":

In fact, they took it as seriously as they should have.

Balloon Boy pic source.

More of "If Barack Obama Wrote the Comic Strip Ziggy"

Once again (see here and here), I took quotes from speeches and interviews given by the current president, Barack Obama, and put them into "Ziggy" comic strips. The results are sometimes hilarious, sometimes strange, and always strangely hilarious. To me.

The sources for all of the quotes can be found by following these links.