Monday, October 31, 2005

Playing Doctor

Nurse Aguilera and Dr. Bratman: Hard to believe I went to summer camp with this dude. But before you get too jealous, take a gander at the girl without all the shellac on her face.

Happy Halloween: Some Fun With Eli Manning's Drunk Picture...

There's Something About Eli

Squeal like a pig, Eli...

We'll always have Paris, Eli...

What is your major malfunction, Private Manning?

What's Up, Doc?

Hockey's back, and I'm sure you haven't noticed.

It's a sport for the die-hard fans. All this expansion and new rules and talk of courting the casual fan and making it more TV-friendly doesn't impress me. Hockey should be a cult sport. For Canadians and beer-drinking yahoos from Detroit and Philadelphia.

As a Devil fan, I've seen some of the best hockey in recent years. A disciplined, defense-first passionate bunch. But even with three Stanley Cups , the best goalie in the league and the best general manager in any sport, the greatest joy of watching New Jersey isn't on the ice or in the front office. It's play-by-play announcer Mike "Doc" Emerick.

In a single period of a recent game, I was able to compile the following list of uniquely precise terms he used to describe the movement of the puck:


If not for whistled stops in the action, I’m sure there would have been more.

Doc quite simply is the best in his profession. In any sport. The pace and unpredictability of hockey play-by-play make it the most demanding of all such jobs and Emerick leaves all others in the dust.

With his unfaltering command, presence and a seemingly endless supply of descriptive words and phrases at his disposal, he could provide eyesight to the blind. His polish and professionalism offer a solid foundation for welcome insight offered by the folksy delivery of partner Glenn “Chico” Resch.

Doc is eminently aware of the moment. His voice rises in tense times of exciting games and doesn’t pander to the audience with false enthusiasm during choppy play in a 0-0 tilt against The Thrashers. Unlike ESPN’s Stanley Cup voice Gary Thorne, every goal isn’t delivered with the animation of a double-overtime Cup winner.

And all of this is packaged in the honest, sincere delight with which he delivers every broadcast. “Hope you’re enjoying the game at home tonight—we sure are,” he often says with an audible smirk. And when you stop to think about the timing of these statements and the smile that certainly accompanies them, he clearly is paying more than lip service. He is paying humble respect and gratitude to the fortune and gifts that permit him to make a living doing something he loves.

And Devils fans couldn’t be luckier. Though I'm sure you haven't noticed.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Fart Attack!

Beware, Washingtonian TV news reporter. You never know when to expect a run-by farting.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Top Five Worst Food Items

Welcome to my vomitorium:

5. Cured Deli Meat - Corned beef, pastrami, salami, kippered herring. It's all evil, evil, evil. Meat that is actually meant for human consumption doesn't need to be salted and soaked in brine to make it appetizing. Give me a sliced turkey sandwhich. At least I can imagine that meat having once appeared on an animal.

4. Gefilte Fish/Chopped Liver - Oh, those crazy Jews and their inedible ethnic food. Give them points for matzoh ball soup (which doesn't exactly have a taste, though a nice mushy texture which only belongs in a soup). But explain to me the allure of gelatenous food that looks like something the cat left in his dish. And that smell...I can't even think of an analogy for something so ungodly. You would think the Chosen People could choose something better to eat.

3. ______ Salad - Fill in the blank. Egg salad, seafood salad, tuna salad, chicken salad, macaroni salad. If it appears behind a glassed-in counter at a deli, it is just wrong. There is a reason these delis need to quarantine the stuff from the customers. It smells and looks like a pile of scraps someone swept off the floor in an elementary school cafeteria and covered with vile, creamy crap (see #2).

2. Mayonaise - Completely worthless, stinky gunk. Take a healthy sandwich and add dollups of vomit-inducing putird fat. Why not just order a rotting lard sandwhich? And 2a: Mustard - No reason to subject any sandwhich or hot dog to a bright yellow condiment that triggers a gag reflex just thinking about it.

1. Canned Tuna Fish - Seriously, what is the deal here? I love tuna sushi or a grilled tuna steak. But the watery crap that comes out of these cans and the mush that results when you pour mayonaise on it for a sandwich that smells like a girl's panties when she has a yeast infection...I mean, ew. Here's a hint: tuna fish should never be served with an ice cream scoop.

Friday, October 21, 2005

DeLay's Mug Shot: I'm Going to Disneyland!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Cover Story

The American Society of Magazine Editors select the Top 40 magazine covers of the past 40 years.

What? Nothing from TV Guide?

Monday, October 17, 2005

Press Your Luck, You Moron

Game Show Monday!

Check out this classic clip from "Press Your Luck" in which an unemployed air conditioning repairman and ice cream truck driver memorized the sequence of the flashing board to rack up $110,000 on 35 consecutive spins.

And on the other side of success is this dude, who couldn't answer a simple $300 grammar question on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," even after 75% of the audience gave him the answer and he called his English teacher mother-in-law.

New Brunswick Girls Gone Wild

Nothing like spending the night in a crowded, sweaty New Brunswick nightclub for a story about women baring their breasts. Not as fun as it might sound, actually.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Top Five Burt Reynolds Films

5. The Cannonball Run
4. Smokey and the Bandit
3. The Longest Yard
2. Boogie Nights
1. Deliverance

Um. Actually, this would be better titled "The Only Five Good Burt Reynolds Films." Though I'm partial to Stroker Ace and Cop & 1/2.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Jesus Hates The Yankees

Here's a little something to get that Yankee fan in your family this holiday season.

Yes, I know. I'm a fair-weather Mets fan who hates the Yankees even more than I like baseball. But that's what makes this time of year oh, so special.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Mayors and Marigolds

The mayor of Highland Park cavorts with the governor of Alabma and Bill Clinton in the Gulf Region. Why? Good question.

And this is a silly Saturday assignment, but read closely and you will be rewarded by my ability to make lemons out of Kool-Aid.

Friday, October 07, 2005

The Many Shades of Ira Sachs

From the October issue of The Independent:

The Many Shades of Ira Sachs
A Writer/Director as Colorful as his Characters

Ira Sachs won’t let me watch him bum cigarettes.

We’ve spoken for hours—about what it was like to grow up gay and Jewish in Memphis, the benefits of 15 years with the same therapist, and how it feels to have his 68-year-old father date 20-year-old women.

Sachs, eager for a smoke before noon, also shamelessly volunteers that although he bums five or six cigarettes a day, he won’t succumb to the temptation to buy a pack. And no, he doesn’t consider this habit to be bad karma. “I get good interactions,” he says, noting that when people say no, it provides helpful negative reinforcement.

But just as I’m ready to watch him carefully select the right benefactor outside of his lower Manhattan office, he politely shoos me away.

“It’s personal,” he says. “It’s like masturbation.”

Filmmaking, however, is decidedly collaborative, even for a writer-director like Sachs.

With Forty Shades of Blue, which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance this year and sees a limited US release this month, Sachs formed the original idea in solitude but then gathered an army to execute it. His army fought some internal battles along the way and even broke apart in one instance, but as Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld has said, you go to war with the army you’ve got, not the army you wish you had. And Sachs came through with an artistic victory.

Forty Shades of Blue tells the story of Laura, a Russian woman played by Dina Korzun, who has married and had a child with Alan, an older man and legendary Memphis music producer played with gruff warmth by Rip Torn. Sparked by the return of Alan’s petulant, married son (Darren E. Burrows), Laura grapples with the realization that her life has drifted into a rhythm that she can’t really dance to. Alan can be charming, sentimental and tender. Or boorish, insensitive and unfaithful. Her life is comfortable, but her spirit is restless.

Sachs always wanted to make a movie about a character who is familiar yet rarely the focus in most mainstream films. “I wanted to look at a woman who’s usually on the periphery, in the shadow of a powerful masculine man,” Sachs says, his tightly-trimmed beard and gold-rimmed glasses revealing an easy, brainy power of his own. “Turn the camera on her and ask who she is. Let’s just follow her; forget Dustin Hoffman [in 1978’s Straight Time, for instance]—let’s follow Theresa Russell.”

Sachs also chose to set his story in Memphis, the city of his youth and location of his first feature film, The Delta (1996). But most of the writing for Forty Shades fell to friend and co-collaborator Michael Rohatyn—a first time screenwriter and musician who scored the music for The Delta , as well as for Rebecca Miller’s films Angela (1995), Personal Velocity (2002), and The Ballad of Jack and Rose (2005).

The relationship between Sachs and Rohatyn became prickly—more Sid and Nancy than Ron and Nancy (without the heroin and knives, of course) during the seven years of re-writes and attempts to secure financing.

“Any director who continues to work has to learn that’s part of the job,” Sachs says, speaking of skirmishes with meddling financers. “Ultimately, if you make a compromise, that’s a disservice—you haven’t been a good director, haven’t navigated the waters well. Having control and facilitating control is what directing is. I got to make exactly the kind of film I wanted to make.”

But when asked about his current relationship with Rohatyn, Sachs flashes a nervous grin and plays the “if-I-don’t-have-something-nice-to-say-I-won’t-say-anything-at-all” card. “As a collaborator, I sort of felt I was writing it for him, but not so much with him,” Rohatyn says of Sachs. “He would carefully read it and give his notes on it, and we would argue those notes. Then whenever he would leave, I would let him do what he wants.”

But there was no denying Sachs’s film knowledge and talent. “Ira taught me about movies,” Rohatyn says. “He has incredible taste and is really the most sophisticated cineaste that I’ve ever met. He would send me to look at movies by these directors, like Maurice Pialat, which was like listening to The Beatles for the first time. And then to try to write a movie like that — Forty Shades of Blue winds up being something I’m very proud of and a great tribute to Ira.”

Tellingly, Ira rarely refers to Forty Shades as “my film,” which shines a light on some behind-the-scenes bruised ego hubbub. But the film obviously has roots in Sachs and in Memphis. Sachs was born in Memphis in 1965 to Ira and Diane Sachs. His mother, a sociology professor at Rhodes College, divorced his father when Ira was three, then took Ira and his two older sisters on long trips to Europe, spending weeks at a time in England or a farm in France.

But it was his father who perhaps made the biggest impression on him, at least as far as Forty Shades of Blue is concerned.

“My father is a real original,” Sachs says. “One of the most original people I’ve ever known. He has very little superego; no shame or guilt. Luckily he’s not a psychopath.” Sachs smirks. When people ask Sachs’s father what church he belongs to, his father responds, “The Church of What’s Happening Now, Baby.”

The elder Ira has seven children between the ages of 8 and 43, from four different women, three of whom he married. But Sachs wants to set the record straight. “My father is a sweetheart—he has no temper, and he’s very generous,” he says. “The character in the film is not my father.”

Which isn’t to say his father isn’t a character. “I’ve always marched to the beat of a different drum,” Ira Sachs, Sr. says from his home in Park City, Utah, where he housed 11 of Ira’s cast and crew during Sundance. “Perhaps it was some inspiration for Ira to do the same.”

Perhaps, though his son, out of the closet since he was 16, has been through his own share of formative experiences. Growing up and especially as president of his temple youth group, Sachs says that he experienced more anti-Semitism than homophobia. While attending an inner-city high school, “boys would throw pennies at you.”

He tells such stories with a wry, unfazed smile, which is perhaps the result of 15 years in therapy. “I believe in the talking cure,” he says. “For me, it’s very much a part of my creative development—understanding human interaction. Good therapy helps you understand people better, and bad therapy makes you feel you are more important than you are.”

Sachs immersed himself in the children-run Memphis Children’s Theatre from sixth grade through high school. “It had the most diverse group of people I’d ever been involved with,” he says. “Black kids, white kids, rich kids, poor kids.”

He made his directing debut in high school (Our Town) and went on to direct mostly experimental theater at Yale. But it was during a semester abroad in Paris that he gained his most valuable education. “I was a lonely college student who didn’t speak too much French,” he says. “So I saw 181 movies in a three month period. I had never seen a Cassavetes film or a Fassbinder film. It was like baseball card collecting behavior.” Despite these influences, Sachs wound up modeling his style after Ken Loach, whose camera remains mostly fixed and observant, allowing the actors to own their space.

In 1992, Sachs made the short film Vaudeville, financed for $50,000 by his parents and with a few small grants. He returned to Memphis after a 10-year absence in 1994 to prepare The Delta, a personal film about a boy coming to grips with his sexuality and the unintended impact his privileged status has on someone even further outside society.

In happier times with Rohatyn, Sachs took the Forty Shades script to the Sundance Writer’s Lab, where he received guidance from Stewart Stern, who wrote the screenplays for Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and The Last Movie (1971). “It was comforting to hear people who knew more than you tell you that you were doing nothing new, and all you have to do is go back to basics and tell the story well,” Sachs says.

While the origin and intelligence of Forty Shades can be traced to Sachs and Rohatyn, its emotion oozes out of its actors: Korzun, Torn, and Burrows.

Burrows doesn’t have to dig deep to praise Sachs. “Ira has so much self-confidence, especially for a director new in his career,” he says. “There is often a fear with a new director that they hold on so tight it almost slips through their fingers, but he had complete control.”

Which isn’t to say there wasn’t conflict. Torn says: “Making a film is like a military operation. It’s not lovey-dovey all the time. Brothers can wrangle.”

Burrows applies a more positive spin. “I think Ira thrived on the tension,” he says. “It’s all a part of the creativity and the dance. Like a big ballroom dance, and if there’s just one guy telling everyone how to dance, it becomes stale.”

Choreographing his life and art from Memphis to Paris and New York, Ira Sachs seeks fresh interactions—not shrink-wrapped and uniform, but loose and unpredictable.

82 Bottles of Beer on the Ice

Hockey is back. No, really. Tell me you've noticed.

Only 81 more games until they start counting for real...

Monday, October 03, 2005

Balloon-Foot, Pootie-Poot and Turd Blossom

Isn't our president just adorable? Just check out this list of his nicknames for some of the most powerful people in the world. My favorite one is his nickname for Ted Kennedy: Senator.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

The Dredge Report

The dredging of the Raritan River begins next week and the tree huggers are up in arms. To hug fish, I imagine.

Also, Puerto Ricans in New Brunswick mourn the death of their dearly departed armored truck-robbing, FBI agent-shooting, most-wanted criminal. He shall be missed.