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December 2005 Archives

December 29, 2005

New York Times covers the drunken antics of NYC's unwashed "journalists"

In what might be the least relevant, most arrogant bit of fake reporting ever, the Times today has an article called "Beer by the Barrel, Stories by the Scoop", about how some journalists for other (read: lesser) New York daily papers sometimes like to leave work, go to a bar, drink, and, get this--talk to other journalists about work.

"At the crime scene, reporters compete ruthlessly for exclusive information, hunting and hoarding the juiciest quotation, the grittiest fact and the bloodiest narrative - anything to land a story on the front page. But after deadline, many of them head to a bar, declare a truce and order enough beer to douse the daily dose of horror. An eavesdropper can sample the next day's headlines, along with details too gory to print."

Too gory for your delicate sensibilities, elite NY Times readers! The rest of the article suggests that these ragtag hacks are just a bunch of bloodthirsty boozehounds who swap the most salacious details about recent murders, crimes, and hit-and-runs for their own sick pleasure. They refer to a Daily News reporter talking to his colleagues: "You have not adequately covered a homicide, he tells rookies, if your shoes are not wet with the victim's blood."

Well, my word! Rest assured that the Times reporter was at the 11th Street bar with these reprehensible sleaze-peddlers only to give Times readers a glimpse into the gritty, dangerous world of papers that cost under $1.

And what do these irresponsible drunks do after they're done guzzling liquor and obsessing over the victims of sex crimes? They "spilled out into the street for a noisy 4 a.m. snowball fight", no doubt violating noise ordinances.

December 22, 2005

And then, for a brief moment, everyone forgot about the transit strike

Rings around uranus

Thank you, MSNBC copywriters, for not disgracing the noble concept of public service.

December 21, 2005

Shocking directors

Spike Lee and Woody Allen

Since I think we're now down to two making a trend, I want to point out a couple of movie trailers now playing in theaters. Every time I've seen these trailers they have elicited murmurs of shock among the audience when, at the end of the trailer, the director's name is flashed, and it's a name the audience was obviously not expecting to see.

Case 1: Match Point [trailer]

Jonathan Rhys-Meyers plays an Irish tennis player who marries sweet rich Emily Mortimer. They are happy until Jonathan R-M meets Scarlett Johansson at an art gallery, memorably says to her, "Say your phone number. Please," then engages in an affair with her through several fleshy explosions of hyper-plump lips colliding, all of which inevitably leads to tearful phone calls, refusal to leave the rich wife, threats from Scarlett to reveal all to Emily, sexual obsession, and other stuff common to psychosexual thrillers and movies about the messy urges of greed and lust.

Then on the screen flashes: Match Point, From Director Woody Allen

Crowd:[whispering loudly] "Woody Allen!" " Woody Allen!"

Case 2: Inside Man [trailer]

Clive Owen plays a bank robber who we see going through the motions of an intricate-looking bank heist. Or is he? Denzel Washington is a local detective trying to get the hostages out, until Jodie Foster arrives (in what might be her most delicious role ever) and is a ball-busting icy fed who starts muscling her way into the case, implying that it involves security issues over Denzel's head. Meanwhile, Clive Owen is making his hostages wear identical jumpsuits and generally dressing them up in modified hazmat getups. Political intrigue? Biochemical warfare? Who knows where this gripping crime thriller will lead us?

Then on the screen with the credits: Directed by Spike Lee

Crowd: [whispering loudly] "Spike Lee!" "Spike Lee!"

I was part of the loudly whispering crowd the first time I saw the trailers too. Now it's just fun to watch the crowd react in exactly the same way every single time.

Most Curious Transit Strike Marketing Tie-In

Luxury transit strike gifts

I'd think the more obvious product would be the NYC Taxi-shaped cookie basket.

December 20, 2005

Union 101

Let me start by saying, I have been inconvenienced by this transit strike - and I'm one of the lucky people. Many other New Yorkers lost wages and jobs because they couldn't get to work. Others couldn't get to vital doctor's appointments or missed flights or couldn't get a babysitter, and most everyone had their lives interrupted and made much more difficult by the transport workers decision to walk off the job. Which is...the point of a strike, right?

TWU has shown New York City that unions still have power. Union membership in this country has been steadily decreasing for fifty years and is now at an all-time low. And TWU had to make a very unpopular decision this week. The decision came at a considerable cost to the Union (which was just slapped with a $1 million fine per day even though they only have a total of $3 million in assets), to their workers (who can be fined 2 days pay for every day they are out) and to their public image (holy crap, have you heard what people are saying?). Our city's cops, firefighters, and teachers have all just negotiated contracts with major givebacks. But the decision to strike came down to TWU because - well, frankly, someone had to do it.

I've been amazed by the bloodthirsty reaction of New Yorkers. People are bitching about how transit workers make plenty of money (because the figures quoted are generally those of higher-paid positions, like conductors.) People are screaming about how transit workers can retire at 55, and about how they don't have to pay for health care. People are so, so, angry at TWU. Our own mayor called them "selfish thugs," and said that they "disgrace the noble concept of public service."

If our other public employees - those same cops, firefighters and teachers - settled, why should the transit workers get more?

The answer is that they shouldn't. People across the country are losing their retirement and health benefits. 46 million Americans don't have health insurance. The Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation - which protects the few that do still have pensions - is going bankrupt. People have depended for too long on employers to provide for them. That's why people are so angry at TWU. When people argue, "why should they have what I don't have," they're absolutely right. You, too, should have health and pension benefits.

The sticking point on TWU's contract negotiation is not over wage increases. Union leaders never thought they'd get away with their proposed 24% increase over the life of the contract. The issue that caused negotiations to break down was whether new hires - employees who haven't even started working yet - should have fewer benefits and higher costs than existing workers.

Over the weekend, I watched a lot of reporters look incredulous over TWU's demands - especially when it got down to the pension benefits. "The question is," they said, "Will the transit workers accept increases for themselves, or unreasonably and stubbornly insist on the same benefits for future workers?" People. Come ON. That's Union 101! The whole point of unions is solidarity - you're not just fighting for your own sake, but to ensure that generations of future workers have the same protections.

Like I said, I have been inconvenienced by this strike. I also think that TWU's pre-Toussaint leadership mismanaged their assets into the ground, and I think Roger Toussaint is a hothead, and I certainly take issue with some of TWU's tactics. But I also applaud them for standing up when no other union in the city would and demanding rights for the next workers who come along. Transit workers keep this city running 24 hours a day. They crawl through tunnels with rats. They clean up your puke from the subway platform. They say good morning to you on the bus even if you didn't say it first. And I respect that they are demonstrating how important they are to this city. Shame on you, Michael Bloomberg. You should be shaking your finger at the MTA instead.

NYC Transit Strike: Celebrity Watch

NYC transit strike

There are plenty of sources out there for you to read about the transit strike, how New Yorkers are getting to work, and differing opinions on the validity of the strike--for example those who think workers have the right to inconvenience everyone in the city to demand fair compensation vs. Ed Koch on NPR this morning saying we should "crush the union".

So we're not going to go into all that. What we're interested in is how celebrities are affected by today's strike.

Helpfully, Reuters reports on the status of film and TV shoots scheduled for today, and how the stars are coping, particularly when shooting is planned in outer borough studios.

Jessica Alba and Hayden Christiansen are reportedly "very understanding" of some logistical difficulties in organizing their pickup vans for today's shoot at Kaufman Studios in Astoria for the upcoming film Awake. At least they don't have to stay at a Comfort Inn near the studio, where much of the crew will stay during the strike.

Also shooting today at Kaufman is "Conviction", a new series by Dick Wolf that will start on NBC in 2006, starring Stephanie March, the former ADA from "Law & Order: SVU", Eric Balfour, who was Milo on "24" and Eddie on "The O.C.", and that girl who was the con-artist prostitute on "Rescue Me".

A dippy-sounding new musical called Across the Universe by Julie Taymor of The Lion King fame is shooting in Brooklyn's Steiner Studios today. The young cast features Evan Rachel Wood, and others named Martin Luther and T.V. Carpio. The producer says, "It's a musical with a lot of dancers, so they'd meet at different van pickup points in Manhattan and maybe Queens, walking 10 or 20 blocks max. In a time of crisis, everyone has to bend." Wrap up warm, Martin Luther.

Of course, even if some productions have already wrapped, the cast may still be affected by the strike. Ira & Abby: A Divorce Comedy is the latest movie by Jennifer Westfeldt, the one from Kissing Jessica Stein, and stars her, Judith Light, Frances Conroy, and Fred Willard. Though the movie finished the shoot a few hours before the strike started, producers say tonight's wrap party in the Flatiron area may be compromised.

Fred Willard: you are one of my favorite people ever, and if you need a place to stay after the party tonight, I'm sure we can work something out.

Audio and Video of Call to Strike

roger toussaint

For posterity's sake, perhaps you'd like a digital copy of TWU President Roger Toussaint calling for the general strike.

So, yeah, you can download it for your iPod, but now that there's no subway, where are you going to listen to it?

ps. If somebody could mirror these and post the location in the comments, we'd appreciate it.

These files should play on anything that can handle mpeg4 files. Download the latest version of Quicktime if you are having trouble playing them.

December 19, 2005

Judgment Calls


Spying on Americans without a warrant? Essential to our security.
Imprisoning the people who ran the supposed weapons program we supposedly went to war over? Not essential.

Cheney in Afghanistan: a photo op and a cloud of dust

Cheney and Karzai

Yesterday in Afghanistan, a newly elected parliament was inaugurated. For this historic milestone in democracy, Dick Cheney and his wife Lynne attended the parliamentary session to show America's support for the country.

"Once again, in free elections, the Afghan people have shown the world their determination to chart their own destiny," he said.

From the Washington Post: "Because of the security threat, Cheney and his wife, Lynne, arrived at the ceremony by helicopter. When the chopper landed, it kicked up a massive dust-cloud that turned the air brown and sent a group of children who had gathered to greet the vice president into a spasm of coughs."

There are also a few concerns about how much of a hand violence, threats, and bribes played in charting the destiny of the newly democratic Afghanistan. AP notes: "About half [parliament's] 249 members are regional warlords, some are Westernized refugees and others are illiterate."

December 16, 2005

NYT webmasters take a shot at cop killers

They've done this before, but whoever it is that comes up with the URLs for nytimes.com decided to take an easy shot at Lillo Brancato Jr and his thug friend who killed the cop in the Bronx the other day. The URL for a story about the pair:

mooks url

For those of you who didn't grow up watching Lillo Brancato Jr movies, a mook is defined by the Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang as "an ineffectual, foolish, or contemptible person." The word figures prominently in Mean Streets, which stars Robert De Niro, Brancato's co-star in A Bronx Tale.

December 15, 2005

Who's Older?™: Aging gay British stars

We'll always have a soft spot in our hearts for George Michael, and will play "Fastlove" and select Wham! tunes at parties from time to time, but we can't necessarily say that he's the most relevant aging star these days. He may be headed for some minor comeback in the form of a documentary movie about his life and career called George Michael: A Different Story. And his plans to attend Elton John's wedding ceremony next week apparently make the news.

Rupert Everett has never dropped off the radar entirely, though these days instead of starring in irrelevant period movies like The Importance of Being Earnest and The Ideal Husband, he's doing voiceovers in animated movies like Shrek 2 and Narnia. He's good in those Oscar Wilde costume piece remakes, and has excellent eyebrows, but we'll never forgive him for urging Madonna to record that wretched "American Pie" cover.

We're leaning heavily toward George Michael as the more appealing star, but that doesn't matter. All that matters right now is which one of them is older.