Archive for April, 2007

The Fourth Hand

April 18, 2007

I just finished reading John Irving’s The Fourth Hand. While it is worth noting that I have previously read both The World According to Garp and A Prayer for Owen Meany, found each to be better than The Fourth Hand, and recommend that you read both, The Fourth Hand is especially significant today–two days after the Virginia Tech shooting.

The Fourth Hand is a story that follows a cad of a television field reporter who loses his left hand to an Indian circus lion while on an assignment. The reporter, Patrick Wallingford, later falls in love with the widow of his hand transplant donor. The book has fewer layers than Garp or A Prayer for Owen Meany, and is without the adroit literary architecture present in most of Irving’s work. However, its commentary on the era of sensationalist ‘all-news-networks’ and their exploitation of national tragedies is particularly pertinent this week.

The following is from a Facebook group, posted by a news outlet on Monday:

“Hi everyone. My name is Karen Park. I am working with Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) in New York City. We are looking for (korean) people from VT who knew Mr. Cho personally, had a class with him, was his roommate in previous years, etc…

We would also like to know if anybody has any photographs or video clips of him or with him. We are interested in only showing his face and so we will blot out the faces of other people in the photographs.

Lastly, if anyone is willing to do a brief on-camera interview with one of our correspondents in Virginia or a telephone interview, please call us immediately…”

On Monday night, Brian Williams did the NBC Nightly News broadcast from the Hokie campus in Blacksburg. Tucker Carlson, MSNBC’s chief political pundit, was also there. Hoards of reporters have descended on Blacksburg, looking for the “he kept to himself” sound bytes and B-roll of the hysterical, sobbing friends of victims; ESPN is reporting on the canceled Hokie spring game and how the ‘innocence’ of college sports will bring us back together. Even the all-sports-news network struck gold:

“you realize there are 32 people who aren’t walking down to the football game.”

In The Fourth Hand, Wallingford is at the anchor desk the week of JFK Jr’s plane crash over Martha’s Vineyard. He curses both the local news and all-news networks for taking telephoto shots of the victims’ friends and family, and the networks’ proclivity to stretch a tragic story into a multi-week feeding frenzy. Wallingford would chastise Brian Williams for his reporting with all the gravitas and feigned verisimilitude of having been in the classroom with the victims, and the way the press will scrutinize the writings of Cho Seung-Hui and opine that someone should have seen it coming.

The Fourth Hand is about a man who loses his hand and finds his soul. Needless to say, it is a work of fiction. Our aggressive all-news culture will ride the Virginia Tech story like they did Imus and Duke and Anna Nicole Smith; they will be relentless. There are 28,000 students at Virginia Tech and, by the end of this week, each will have been solicited for an on-camera interview, photographs of Cho Seung-Hui and more information about the thirty-two victims.

On the fourth or fifth day of non-stop reporting following Kennedy’s plane crash, Wallingford sits in the anchor’s chair watching—with millions of viewers worldwide—a network montage of Kennedy Jr.’s life. The montage ends—with the image of John-John saluting his father’s funeral procession—and the camera is back on Wallingford. In lieu of his usual signoff (“Goodnight, Doris. Goodnight, my little Otto.”) Wallingford says, “Let’s hope that’s the end of it.”

Week in Review: Duke, Imus, Oden, Grindhouse et., al.

April 15, 2007

My mom wrote me this week to say the following (notice how I leave in the praise):

“I love your blog – you write so well. I am impressed, but you are still a little rough on the Duke lacrosse players. Yes, they may have done a stupid thing, but they have certainly paid the price in more ways than you can imagine.”

The Duke Lacrosse case is very complicated, and in attempting to write about it, I–like a whole bevy of mainstream press–gave it shorter shrift than it deserved. In my defense, I was responding to a sensationalist editorial that equated the Duke players and Rutgers Women. I object to this comparison. I stand by my opinion that these two stories have absolutely nothing in common; the news cannot resist the ratings orgy that is born out of combining two unrelated, yet equally incendiary tabloids; and the Rutgers Women did not verbally abuse a stripper with racially charged vitriol.

I will write a little more about Imus in a moment, but first I want to clear up any misunderstanding of my position on the Duke case. Nifong, everyone knows, is an idiot. He charged headlong into a veritable bear-trap, having no evidence on which to found his case; and he knew it. Notwithstanding Nifong’s gross incompetence in holistically bungling this case, it is worth noting that, given any other prosecutor in America, the events would have unfolded similarly. As long as District Attorney is an elected position, officeholders will pursue cases with attack-dog zeal. The system needs to be fixed in more ways than one, but, across the board, the line between civil service and campaigning is long gone.

Don Imus was fired from CBS radio this week for referring to Rutgers basketball players as, “nappy headed hos,” and I have to admit that I vehemently disagree with the decision. I find myself in the Mark Cuban camp, but without the luxury of owning my own NBA team. Cuban calls this a “tombstone for independent thinking in mainstream media.” This is the standard in media right now: if you aren’t a Miles O’Brien/Katie Couric robot, you belong on cable.

I saw the Tarantino/Rodriguez double-feature, “Grindhouse,” last night (because Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theatres wasn’t playing). It was awesome. If you saw Snakes on a Plane and enjoyed the raucous audience cheers and laughter, just imagine what the experience would have been like had SOAP been any good. Enter: Grindhouse. The movie was three and a half hours long and I would have sat around for longer.

Rodriguez’s half of the double-feature was better. A completely over-the-top zombie movie, Planet Terror is, like Jack Black from High Fidelity would say, funny and violent and the sound track kicked fuckin’ ass. And, my god, Rose McGowan is hot.

Tarantino’s film, Deathproof, had a very tough act to follow. Deathproof stars Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike, a ‘Vantage Point’ era stuntman who laments the advent of CGI and gets his jollies smashing up young women in his black Chevy Nova. Russell steals the show as a bi-polar, maniacal, occasionally likeable psychopath. My only criticism is that the set-up took too long and the picture lost its grittiness. Planet Terror had the effect of a beaten-up film reel with scratches, burns and, at one point, a complete stoppage in action while ‘management’ fixed the reel. Deathproof had a few ‘missing reels,’ but was virtually grit free. See this movie; it was awesome.

FIVE RANDOM THINGS:

  1. So, is Greg Oden going to the NBA, or is his dad that guy from The Waterboy? I can imagine the Conley/Oden family get-togethers are going to be a little awkward after Conley Sr. called out Oden Sr. in the press.
  2. Who’s the Buckeyes’ starting QB? Tressel says Boeckman for now, but the Dispatch reports that Henton is on his heels.
  3. Why does everybody love Barak Obama?
  4. Why does spell check recognize neither Barak nor Obama?
  5. Check out Jam Glue and O Horse Brown’s blog. The former is ‘remixing for the masses,’ and I’ve included one of my collaborations (with the latter mentioned O Horse Brown) below.

Remix tiny avatar Libary Love by tiny avatar TadGhostal

Great Oden’s Raven

April 14, 2007

It’s officially unofficial. One and done; Greg Oden is going to the pros–at least, according to his father, Greg Oden Sr.

Greg Oden ended the season with a very impressive National Championship performance (twenty-five points, twelve rebounds, four blocks). And, though he’ll leave college without having won the big one–my God I hate the Gators–this is absolutely the best decision for Oden.

I have a few friends–you know who you are–who think Oden would benefit from one (or three, Drew Miller) more years of College Basketball.

Quick detour: I’m watching Sportcenter right now and they are verbally fellating Urban Meyer, Florida and a couple of the school’s recruits (I guess this is my first ‘live-blogging’). Is there a single player on their roster that even approaches some semblance of coherence when speaking? It’s a whole team of Mush Mouths and Boomhauers. On the bright side, when Timmy Tebow struggles throwing the football this year (turns out, that’s a major component of the position, Tim) he can always audition to be the next GEICO caveman.

Aaaaand we’re back. Three more years, Drew? Really? Greg Oden is a seven-foot, two-hundred and seventy-five pound monster that eats scrap metal and can palm a medicine ball. If I were Oden, right now I’d be soaking in that Tony Montana golden bathtub, flanked by shoe contracts, a strung-out Michelle Pfeiffer and Manny (Conley Jr.). That’s right, I think he should go too.

Tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 2005

April 13, 2007

The NCAA rules oversight panel has officially turned back the clock. By returning clock rules to their 2005 form, the NCAA saved more than just fourteen minutes of game time; they have preserved the fourth-quarter comeback and closed a major loop-hole that allowed teams to drain the clock indefinitely on kickoffs.

In the 2006 clock experiment, the following changes were made to the previous rules:

  • The game clock was not stopped on possession changes. In close fourth quarter games, teams holding the lead drained 25 seconds from the clock before running a play, while trailing teams receiving the ball often ran out of time getting players onto the field. In one example, Arizona State punted to USC with 2:30 remaining on the clock. While this was a questionable call, the old rules would have left ASU with about 30-40 seconds, provided they stop USC from getting a first down. USC knelt the ball on each of four downs (the clock doesn’t stop after 4th down) and walked off the field.
  • The game clock began on kickoffs when the kicker touched the ball. In the most egregious example of this new game clock loop-hole, Wisconsin–hosting Penn State–drained almost 2 minutes of clock before the half when the team lined up intentionally offside on three kicks in a row. The result: 11 Wisconsin players got 3 free hits on the Penn State returner (remember, they started about 10 yards forward) and were rewarded for their penalties.

While there is absolutely no doubt that Ohio State benefited from the 06 rule more than a couple times (think Illinois and Michigan) too many fourth-quarter rallys were prematurely cut off by the arbitrary desire to shorten games a half hour. Now, with the rising tide of NCAA rule reform, I expect we’ll see Notre Dame finally join a conference, the Big East removed from the BCS and a 4 team playoff instituted. Yea right.

Ted Ginn is a Monster

April 12, 2007

Ken Gordon of The Columbus Dispatch reports that, in his Wednesday private workout, Ted Ginn ran a few 40s that were not quite “Ginn-like.” That is to say, Ted Ginn ran 4.38, 4.40 and 4.41 second forty-yard dashes on his father’s stopwatch–4.4 average according to the scouts–on a sprained foot that Ginn Sr. estimated was anywhere between 75 and 80% healthy. His 4.38-forty tied Calvin Johnson for fastest among wide receivers.

I sprained my ankle 3 weeks ago and I’m not back to wearing dress shoes. Ted Ginn is running the fastest 40-yard dash among all eligible NFL entrants. This guy is a beast. If Ted Ginn were Jack Bauer, they’d have to call the show ’12.’ Superman must wear Ted Ginn pajamas. You get the drift: he’s good.

The Rams want him, but my guess is that he goes earlier. If the Vikings don’t take him, the Falcons certainly will–they love drafting Buckeyes.

Far From Exonerated

April 12, 2007

CBS Sportsline’s Mike Freeman wrote an article yesterday entitled, “Duke case shows: Hurtful stereotypes come in all colors.” In a piece certainly crafted with nothing more than ratings in mind, Freeman melds the two most incendiary race-war stories into a sensationalist, gushing amalgam.

Ok. Let me tell you why I object to this article. Notwithstanding this shameless attempt to do double-duty, reporting on both the Rutgers and Duke stories, there is a stark difference between having sexual assault charges dropped and being exonerated of moral turpitude. These guys weren’t otherwise saintly victims of circumstance. They were not simply in the wrong place at the wrong time; they live their lives in the wrong place at the wrong time doing the wrong thing.

Porn-style photos of two exotic dancers — one of whom was the accuser — emerged from cellphone camera downloads. Heated exchanges between players and dancers occurred. Racial slurs were heard. And in an ‘American Psycho’ reference, a repulsive e-mail message depicting the skinning of strippers was sent by a player, Ryan McFadyen, who, to his credit, has since apologized.

  • Selena Roberts, New York Times

These are not good people; and comparing them to the women of Rutgers is a slap in the face to an upstart program that personifies the emerging parody in Womens’ College Basketball.

But they are not rapists. Fortunately, these guys had the financial wherewithal to prove it. However, in a country where poor defendants are still given unqualified public council in death penalty cases, I won’t lose a wink of sleep over three trust-fund punks with tarnished reputations.

I have certainly veered here, but here is one last, brief observation. The news—yes, this is going to be a general, clichéd observation—has gotten way too sensationalist. That this even begins to pass for responsible journalism, “Donald Imus spews his hurtful and hateful words, using the airwaves as a verbal noose,” is an indictment of all mainstream media (doing my best Drudge impression).

I’d like to see Mike Freeman suspended for 2 weeks for over-sensationalizing two non-stories.

The Buckeye State

April 11, 2007

I have finally emerged from my Men’s-Basketball-National-Championship-induced coma. It was a grueling episode of my life; one I will not soon forget. Immediately following the game–and subsequent orgiastic Gator celebration–I began having Vietnam-like Post Traumatic Stress flashbacks to Glendale, Arizona. Glendale, for me, is like Da Nang, only less humid. Chris Leak and Joakim Noah haunted my dreams and I cursed God every minute for getting my Buckeyes through such a labyrinthine March tournament only to stand by and watch as they were ignominiously dealt another defeat at the hands of America’s dong-piece.

Wallowing in Sisyphean self-pity as ESPN played the loss over and over and over, I had two clear choices; I could O.D. on poisonous Buckeye nuts, or start writing a catch-all sports/news/opinion blog to honor the State that has caused me so much pain.

After the doctors at the poison control center were done pumping the last of the (delicious) Buckeyes from my stomach, I knew I had but one option remaining: I would begin work on a web log. Enjoy.