Saturday, March 7, 2009

Random Acts of YouTube

I'm not sure this was supposed to be a comedy.
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Free period (Linked Up)

Strake Jesuit wins again. One more victory this afternoon, and the undefeated Crusaders are headed to Austin for the Final Four.

On to more important things - or not. I'm not feeling all that newsy, so this will be a Linked Up with a twist. As always, these aren't necessarily arranged in any particular order:

1. Here's some bad paintings of President Obama (one pictured above), if you're interested. Thankfully, none of them involve Curious George or a fatally wounded chimp. h/t UBM.

2. You heard it here: Newt Gingrich is NOT going to run for president in 2012. Steve Benen explains why.

3. Believe it or not, the recession has impacted women in more meaningful ways than their romantic lives. No, really.

4. Ghostface Killah has a message for Rihanna:

5. Cosmically stupid yet somehow still popular: Glenn Beck. Then again, I guess the same thing could be said of Flavor Flav and Jessica Simpson. Beck will always be that morning zoo deejay to me.

6. Are people still watching Jim Cramer? For something other than entertainment? If so, why?

7. If you consider the strong precedent, 36-year-old Terrell Owens seems to running that final fade route. Unless you believe he's better than every receiver in NFL history other than Jerry Rice. And I don't.

8. If this study is true, then I almost certainly have more Facebook friends than I need.

9. Gotta love Venn Diagrams.

10. One of my favorite spots in Houston made Esquire's list of the 59 best breakfast restaurants in the country. It's hard to argue with fried chicken and waffles. Sadly enough, no place in the Tampa Bay area made the list. But I'm offering up the name of Daily Eats for consideration anyway.

11. The private search off the Gulf Coast for three missing boaters, including two NFL players, has come to a sobering end. May their families receive the peace that surpasses all understanding. It reminded me, for whatever reason, of the mysterious and very tragic disappearance at sea of former NBA player Bison Dele. Here's some background.

12. Finally, a writer catches up with retired punching bag Glass Joe, the first knockout victim of almost every kid in my generation. I'm now on a mission to find out what happened to Soda Popinsky. But here's some footage of Joe, who retired with a record of 1-100:

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Friday, March 6, 2009

Tampa Bay: 1 in 10. Michigan: worse.

Honestly, how much lower can we go?

In the Tampa Bay area, the unemployment rate reached 9.7 percent as the region has shed more than 42,000 jobs year over year.
And I've previously prattled on about how bad things are at newspapers. But really, companies in a number of fields are hemorraghing money and employees:

Job losses were widespread last month.

Construction companies eliminated 104,000 jobs. Factories axed 168,000. Retailers cut nearly 40,000. Professional and business services got rid of 180,000, with 78,000 jobs lost at temporary-help agencies. Financial companies reduced payrolls by 44,000. Leisure and hospitality firms chopped 33,000 positions.

The place feeling it the most? Michigan. By far. I really have no idea how we'll ever be able to restore that place. Continue Reading »

More bad newspaper news

My first job at a real newspaper, like the one thrown in my front yard every morning as a kid, came at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Some of the most interesting and entertaining moments in my career happened on the 3rd-floor newsroom of their downtown tower.

It was there that I covered my first football game (Fort Worth Paschal High School against some terrible Dallas school), met boxing legend Angelo Dundee and won a 3-on-3 basketball tournament at the company picnic. They even sent me - a trembling 20-year-old cub reporter - into the Dallas Cowboys' locker room, where Emmitt Smith promptly blistered me during a postgame news conference.

In all, my editors showed a faith in me and my abilities that I didn't even have in myself. I'm forever grateful.

So it's with the utmost sadness that I read this news yesterday:

We will reduce our workforce by about 12% of all employees. Please know that we did everything possible to minimize the impact of layoffs as outlined in the other expense savings plans below. Reductions will occur in virtually all areas of our operation.

... We will implement a wage reduction for employees whose compensation exceeds $25,000 annually. $25,000 to $49,999 will receive a 2.5% reduction, $50,000 to $99,999 will receive a 5% reduction and over $100,000 will receive a 10% reduction.

We are also planning for a one-week unpaid furlough program in the 2nd half of 2009. We are hopeful that business will improve and we can avoid having to implement this, but we think it’s important you know it’s a possibility. If implement ed, details will be provided at a later date.

Finally, as a reminder, McClatchy announced on Feb. 5 its decision to significantly reduce operating expenses as a result of ongoing and unprecedented economic pressures and revenue declines. The company announced a freeze of the company’s pension plans and the temporary suspension of the 401(k) company match. Both take effect March 31, 2009.
Once again, my thoughts are with all the affected journalists, some of them my former colleagues and mentors. That goes for the ones who had to leave and the ones who have to stay. Continue Reading »

Late Night talk in the morning

To lead us into the weekend, how about one of my favorite - if not THE favorite - songs from The Roots? And it's a great video to boot.

Which reminds me that I'm still bugging that they're now the house band for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. It gives me a reason to watch, I suppose.

But if anything, it highlights the fact that late-night tee-vee is missing some color among its hosts. Unless you consider Jimmy Kimmel to be an honorary Negro. And I don't.

I'm not bringing up the issue to embarrass or cajole network TV executives, who I'm all but sure could care less about the ramblings of some underpaid, relatively unimportant 30-year-old writer/blogger from Tampa.

No, I raise the topic because it seems like the smart thing to do in this, ahem, post-racial America. If it's done right. Don't try this thing with someone like Finesse Mitchell, or Kenan Thompson, or even D.L. Hughley, who will apparently be looking for steady work in the coming weeks.

Thing is, you'd be looking for someone dexterous enough to carry on conversations with, say, Sean Penn and Plies and Michelle Obama. I think these sorts of jobs are best handled by professional comedians - sorry Magic Johnson, even Tommy Davidson couldn't bail you out of that stinker - but that's not a hard-and-fast rule.

Katt Williams might be a little too blue for network TV. I'm not sure Tracy Morgan would be taken seriously. David Alan Grier probably doesn't have a big enough name or the requisite, uh, flavor that I'm talking about. I don't think Aisha Tyler is funny enough but she's interesting. Maybe Steve Harvey? Dave Chappelle is probably out for obvious reasons. Jamie Foxx makes too much money doing movies and side gigs to care about something that grueling. What's Martin Lawrence doing these days? I've always like Mario Joyner. Damon Wayans? Wanda Sykes? On satellite radio, I thought DJ Cipha Sounds was hilarious. Hmmm .... Stuart Scott?
Eh. Discuss among yourselves.

As always, Chris Rock is probably the ideal guy. But he seems to enjoy his freedom. And I don't blame him.

Until then, I'll just reminisce about the only late-night host who could ever bring Q-Tip, Yo-Yo and ODB to the masses. Peep how many times they dropped "nigga" in their verses:

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Climatology with Hannity and Holtz

Most fall Saturday nights, I could usually count on Lou Holtz to ruin an entertaining day of college football with unintelligble drivel that passes for analysis on ESPN's College Football Final.

To hear him talk football - or, really, anything - these days, you would never know that Holtz was recently inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. It honestly sounds like Holtz can no longer tell a X from an O.

I never thought I'd wistfully reminisce about the Trev Alberts Era on ESPN.

But I thought I could at least comfort myself with the prospect of about seven months without hearing Holtz go through his Mr. Magoo routine. By then, I'd be so ready for the kickoff to the season that I could overlook his silliness.

Ah. I spoke too soon.

During an appearance on Sean Hannity's Fox News show, Doctor Lou suggested that global warming is a myth because ... it was cold outside that day. Really. Here's video evidence of his not-so-scientific analysis:

It's almost too moronic to merit a response. Almost. I'd like to think that Keith O handled that Tuesday.

But that "meeting of the minds" on global warming reminded me, ever so briefly, that I was terrible at science - any kind, with the exception of an astronomy course in college - throughout my academic career. If anything, my struggles gave me a deep appreciation for the pointy-heads who were actually gifted at the sciences.

Thus, what's really interesting to me is Hannity and Holtz's - and many others' - complete and utter disregard for the research of science professionals. This resistance to the idea of global warming and (mostly conservative) insistence on the potential threat of global cooling has been repeatedly and endlessly rebuffed by the actual evidence.

But when have the facts ever gotten in the way of a story on Fox News, eh?

As for Holtz, there's little evidence that he's a credible football analyst. So I can't imagine how anyone would think he has an opinion worth listening to on a show that's purportedly about politics.

Much as I hate to admit it, Dr. Lou would probably be better off giving one of his, um, pep talks. He's doing less damage that way. Continue Reading »

On the money

In case you missed it, Jon Stewart absolutely mashed CNBC and its hacktacular hosts - Santelli, Cramer, Baritromo, etc. - on last night's edition of "The Daily Show."

In fact, the entire half-hour was one of the best I've seen on TV in some time. Stewart's interview of New York Times business writer Joe Nocera was masterful.

To echo the words of John Cole, "I think I need a cigarette."

Watch and enjoy:

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Free period

My alma mater, Strake Jesuit, improved to 35-0 after a 30-point win last night in the third round of the Texas Class 5A playoffs.

Maybe I'll get to go to Austin after all.


1. The doctor treating the lone survivor of this weekend's tragic boating mishap in the Gulf Coast has invoked the words "providence" and "miracle" to describe the fact that he's still alive. I'm certainly inclined to agree. I can't even fathom the amount of mental and physical strength needed to survive in those circumstances.

2. With the impending closures of the remaining Virgin Megastores in the U.S., I may have to finally accept that music stores are dying a slow death. Which sucks. One of my favorite things to do in high school and college, when I had a little down time, was peruse the aisles of music stores. It was a great way to find something you weren't necessarily looking for. (That sentence covers a lot of ground). Now with Apple iTunes and Wal-Mart as the two largest U.S. music retailers, it's getting harder than ever to stumble into an unheard of album or unfamiliar genre of music. For obvious reasons, that's not a good thing.

3. Mostly through watching hours of reality TV and crossing paths with a few assholes, I've learned that lots of people have really terrible manners. You'd think people would know to not leave a public bathroom in a mess, or not to spit in public, or prattle on endlessly about their lives. But I guess that's not quite the case. So ... here's a list of the worst - and most common - etiquette mistakes.

4. Who'd have thought Meghan McCain (pictured above) would have a problem finding a proper suitor? I guess if she's going to completely write off men who voted for Barack Obama, she probably deserves what she gets.

5. Apropos of nothing really, I have to mention my lunch date yesterday. I went to my favorite spot in town for a Sloppy Joe omelette. When I walked through the door, a table of three elderly women saw me and nodded - I think they were impressed with the Jesuit lanyard around my neck. As the hostess came to seat me, one of the ladies asked me to sit with them. So I did. I can't say I remember their names. But they were from Indiana and Michigan. Two of them lived at a nearby retirement village. We just made general small talk. When the time came, I paid for their meal, which came out to about $17. As they left, one of the women told me "it's nice to make friends." And as someone who's generally antisocial, I have to agree.

6. I can't help myself: I really like Ludacris' new single, "Nasty Girl." I could do without a verse from Plies, though.

7. And for the record, Jeff Teague of Wake Forest is pretty awesome:

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Good hair

In light of the brief discussion the other about all that unresolved intraracial tension between Nino Brown and Kareem Akbar, I was reminded of this extremely uncomfortable scene from one of my favorite movies:

This was one of the most interesting - and colorful - takes on the complexity of color issues that persist in the colored folks community. Even when we're joking about beef, we're really not.

It reminds me of a passage from the late Ralph Wiley's first book of essays, "Why Black People Tend to Shout":
People of African descent here in America took a cue from more nearby sources and called their hair "bad" and "nappy." Eventually, hair had different, unofficial but quite relevant "grades," going all the way over to so-called absolutely straight hair ...

...but somehow - and you can check someone in marketing on this - straight hair ended up being called "good hair," and even "Nearer My God to Thee" hair. And, sure enough, if you went to the nearest church, temple or cathedral, usually there was the straight-haired Jesus in the stained glass, looking up beatifically, not needing so much as a single shot of Sta-Sof-Fro.

Eh, I'm sure I've been infected in some similar way, as much as I've tried to fight it. I had heard of "good hair" long before I ever considered whether or not my hair met that standard - and for the record, to me, good hair is the hair that covers your head.

I'm fortunate that I escaped childhood - and high school and college - with enough confidence to amuse myself at the mere mention of the topic. I know from personal experience, everyone else ain't so lucky. The quest for "good hair" has created a billion-dollar black hair care business and millions of insecurities.

Anyway, the clip from "School Daze" reminded me that I'm a little late to the party in mentioning this ... but Chris Rock is set to release a documentary dubbed "Good Hair." I predict lots of awkward moments and uncomfortable laughter. Like a lot of his best work.

Here's a magazine interview with Rock about the film and here's another, this one for the cameras.

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How do you like him now?

In the prescient words of DMX, "ni**as pumped you up, to watch you get beat":

A month after Michael Steele became the first African-American chairman of the Republican National Committee, key party leaders are worried that the GOP has made a costly mistake — one that will make it even harder for them to take back power from the dominant Democratic Party.

Steadily becoming a dependable punch line, Steele has brushed back Rush Limbaugh, threatened moderate Republican senators, offered the “friggin’ awesome” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal some “slum love,” called civil unions “crazy” and promised more outreach to “urban-suburban hip-hop settings” via an “off the hook” public relations

... On the organizational side, Steele does not have a chief of staff, a political director, a finance director or a communications director. Last week, one of the two men sharing the job of interim finance director was forced to resign.

... “There’s frustration that there’s no discipline, no planning,” said a well-known Republican consultant. “He’s risking being overexposed by accepting everyinterview, which makes gaffes more likely.”

Steele then responded by giving a lengthy interview with Politico. SMH.

I hate to be right on this sort of thing but, once again, this is how the GOP would have it. Republicans and conservatives have almost always engaged in the worst kinds of affirmative action, if only to provide first-hand evidence of their manifest superiority.

They never wanted a conservative version of Barack Obama. They wanted a fall guy.

P.S. And in case the DMX reference is too dated or too obscure, here's what I'm talking about. Shut Em Down, indeed.
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Random Acts of YouTube

I can't front: The feeling was hella mutual. I had a crush on all the girls. They were like an entire team of Sandra Huxtables.

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That right there could drive a sane man biz-zerk

David Simon, writer and creator of "The Wire" and "Homicide," penned a pretty devastating piece for The Washington Post about the decline of the American newspaper. Specifically, the coverage of our police departments - the lifeblood of Simon's many great works about inner-city crime:

Half-truths, obfuscations and apparent deceit -- these are the wages of a world in which newspapers, their staffs eviscerated, no longer battle at the frontiers of public information. And in a city where officials routinely plead with citizens to trust the police, where witnesses have for years been vulnerable to retaliatory violence, we now have a once-proud department's officers hiding behind anonymity that is not only arguably illegal under existing public information laws, but hypocritical as well.

There is a lot of talk nowadays about what will replace the dinosaur that is the daily newspaper. So-called citizen journalists and bloggers and media pundits have lined up to tell us that newspapers are dying but that the news business will endure, that this moment is less tragic than it is transformational.

Well, sorry, but I didn't trip over any blogger trying to find out McKissick's identity and performance history. Nor were any citizen journalists at the City Council hearing in January when police officials inflated the nature and severity of the threats against officers. And there wasn't anyone working sources in the police department to counterbalance all of the spin or omission.

I didn't trip over a herd of hungry Sun reporters either, but that's the point. In an American city, a police officer with the authority to take human life can now do so in the shadows, while his higher-ups can claim that this is necessary not to avoid public accountability, but to mitigate against a nonexistent wave of threats. And the last remaining daily newspaper in town no longer has the manpower, the expertise or the institutional memory to challenge any of it.

Like many professions, journalism can be very insular. For that reason, I'm not quite sure how much people care about the daily shuttering and shredding at newspapers large and small across the country (to keep up with our daily dose of depression, check out this site).

But it's a problem. A big one. And blogs - even this one! - won't really be able to fill the need for a true watchdog. Continue Reading »

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Of sadness and scum

Obviously, my thoughts and prayers go out to Will Bleakley, Marquis Cooper, Corey Smith and their families. This whole ordeal sounds absolutely horrifying:

Struggling in their life jackets, they somehow managed to make it back to the boat. But the 21-foot Everglades fishing craft was upside-down. And though the men were in their 20s and strong — two played for the NFL and the others had played for USF — they couldn't right the boat.

So the four friends clung to the slick, white hull.

Hours passed. Gusts of 10, then 20 mph slapped their faces. Darkness descended.

By then, experts say, the men must have begun to lose feeling in their limbs. Their faces probably felt frozen. They likely became disoriented.

For more than 12 hours, they gripped the boat as the temperature dropped to 60 degrees and the waves climbed over 10 feet.

By Monday, only one man was left holding on.

... Dark fell Monday night without a sign of the other three men. Coast Guard crews promised to continue searching. But after two days in frigid waves, the situation was seeming bleak.

Sanchez said the Coast Guard told him that the other three football players clung to that overturned boat for 12 to 16 hours. Schuyler must have seen them all slip away.

The search for Bleakley, Cooper and Smith is going on about 45 minutes from my office. As of now, those three are presumed dead. In tragic times like these, words elude me.

Unfortunately, that's not a problem for the peanut gallery that has already taken over the comments portion of the story. Some people are just scum. Continue Reading »

Your pork. My bacon.

Which is it?

U.S. Representative Ginny Brown-Waite on Jan. 28:

“What we do not need, however, is yet another pork ridden bailout that produces few jobs, sends billions of your money to corrupt organizations like ACORN, and does nothing to put money back in the hands of American taxpayers."
Feb. 19:

None of them voted in support of President Barack Obama’s $787 billion economic stimulus package. But today, nine Republican House members from Florida joined with nine Democratic House members from the state ... in writing to the U.S. Education Secretary for a waiver so that the state may qualify for the $2.7 billion in a key funding category of the bill.

The Republicans who signed the letter were listed as Adam Putnam, Ileana Ros Lehtinen, Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Tom Rooney, Mario Diaz-Balart, Ginny Brown-Waite, Cliff Stearns, John Mica and Bill Posey.

Feb. 27:

"I think the entire Florida cattle industry would lose the gains that they've made in their research in the various breeding techniques that have resulted from some of the research," said Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, who was one of two House members from Florida who supported the omnibus measure.

The money for the cattle research facility is part of about $4.1 million Brown-Waite secured for the 5th Congressional District, which spans west-central Florida from Marion County south to portions of Pasco County. In the 2008 spending bill, she received about $6.5 million in earmarks for her district.

Admittedly, the third item isn't referring to the same pot of money. But pork is pork, right?

Or is it only pork when the money is going to someone else's district? Continue Reading »

Deep thought

Maybe Michael Steele isn't ready for primetime. Continue Reading »

What's playing in my deck

Nothing but "My Life" by Mary J. Blige:

1. Mary's Joint
2. Don't Go
3. I Love You
4. No One Else
5. Be Happy

These five songs are tracks 13 through 17 on what, to me, has to be one of the 10 best R&B albums of the previous decade. f not the absolute best. "My Life" reminds me that Puffy was once, indeed, a very talented producer.

This morning's spin through the '90s reminds me that I'm still selfishly peeved at her husband, Martin Kendu Isaacs. Somehow, he's been able to rid Mary of all the blues and melancholy that once made her such a great artist.

These days, though I'm happy for her newfound peace and happiness, I can barely stand to listen to any of her songs. I always feel like something or someone is missing. Maybe it's K-Ci Hailey.

On another (somewhat) related note, "My Life" was the first compact disc that I ever owned - I was holding it down for cassette tapes until the bitter end. I got it from a Wherehouse Music in Houston, where a couple of the guys at the register let me and my homeboys know they were "offering" 4 CDs for $20. I ended up leaving the store with "My Life," Boyz II Men's "II", TLC's "CrazySexyCool" and R. Kelly's "12 Play." No sales tax included.

This was only 14 years ago. Sigh. Continue Reading »

Monday, March 2, 2009

Porn in the USA

Whether you use the right hand or the left, everyone seems to like online porn:

Eight of the top 10 pornography consuming states gave their electoral votes to John McCain in last year's presidential election – Florida and Hawaii were the exceptions. While six out of the lowest 10 favoured Barack Obama.

Church-goers bought less online porn on Sundays – a 1% increase in a postal code's religious attendance was associated with a 0.1% drop in subscriptions that day. However, expenditures on other days of the week brought them in line with the rest of the country, Edelman finds.

Residents of 27 states that passed laws banning gay marriages boasted 11% more porn subscribers than states that don't explicitly restrict gay marriage.

Not sure there's much to add here, other than I've always refrained for making too many judgments about what people do in their bedrooms - or with their laptops - lest I be judged by the same standard.

Speaking of which, Sen. "Diaper" David Vitter of Louisiana could find himself challenged by adult film star Stormy Daniels in his re-election bid next year. More about her potential bid for the Senate can be found here.

Oh, the delicious irony!
Continue Reading »

More Black History: When Light Skin was In

Since we're two days into March, it would be real easy to forget about Black History Month.

Not me!

Actually, this is a bit of black history that I hadn't thought about much until I caught a re-run of "New Jack City" on BET the other night. Specifically, I realized that I had totally lost track of Christopher "Don't Wake Me" Williams over the past 15 or so years.

Seems like he's doing OK, working the chitlin' circuit for black musicals and such. But I had always wondered if his, uh, promising R&B career took a hit because of longtime rumors that he once struck then-girlfriend Halle Berry so hard that she lost much of the hearing in her right ear (pay attention, Chris Brown).

Anyway, Williams has denied this accusation for a number of years and has apparently suggested that Halle was referring to Wesley Snipes - and we wonder why Nino never liked him anyway. But here's video of Williams with more of the same (minus the Snipes references):

Continue Reading »

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Free period

I dare not get too excited about what's happening back in Houston. A childhood spent rooting for the Oilers has taught me well.

Nevertheless, my alma mater, Strake Jesuit, improved to 34-0 after a 12-point win last night in the third-round of the Texas Class 5A playoffs. Some actual-factuals from the game - a rather sparse write-up, if you ask me - can be found here.

Sounds like the Crusaders threw a blanket over McDonald's All-American and Oklahoma signee Tommy Mason-Griffin (nice crossover at :37).

If Strake can win three more games this week, I might actually have an interesting decision to make. I have always promised myself that if Strake advanced to the Final Four of the state tournament, I would withstand Hell or high water to get to Austin.
But things are a bit more complicated when your paycheck doesn't go quite as far, you have to ask for time off from work and under the best circumstances, a round-trip ticket will cost more than $400.

One way or another, I'd like to have a decision to make after next weekend.
Continue Reading »

Not fulfilling the dream

Speaking of Tea (Bag) Parties (NSFW):

Like school on a Sunday, these dudes have no class. Nice beat, though. Continue Reading »