by John Walters

Starting Five

The War On Truth

After a three-year legal battle, The Washington Post finally obtains military documents that show that U.S. officials constantly lied about the U.S. “making progress” in the war in Afghanistan. Whom were we fighting again, by the way? And why?

So if you’ve been worried that the 21st century did not have its own Pentagon Papers story, worry no longer.

Of course, keeping America at war is good business for politicians who are looking to bring MIC jobs to their districts, or ex-politicians who are on the boards of such companies, or for demagogues who can secure votes by persuading Americans that there is an existential threat when actually the real threat is a government that is not honest with its own populace. But…whatevs!

Soft Ban On Russia

Following a hearing in which the evidence was just as plain as the quid pro quo transcript of the Zelensky call, the World Anti-Doping Agency has banned Russia from all global competitions for the next four years. That includes the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, and the 2022 Winter Olympics in whatever place on Earth is still cold.

The problem, as we see it: Russia is banned but Russian athletes are not. That’s like telling the Houston Astros they can’t compete as the Astros next season but that the same players can go out and play as long as they don’t wear Astros gear. If WADA and the world sports community truly wanted to send a message, it would ban all Russian athletes for the next quadrennial.

Because here’s the thing: Vlad Putin doesn’t give a rat’s ass about your finger-wagging. He just wants to win. So as long as Russia can still have Russian athletes competing in these prestigious events, then if they win, he’ll still be able to derive satisfaction from it. You can’t win if you’re not in the game.

Shark Thank

Love this video. All living creatures understand pain. And cruelty. This who inflict it on others for no reason other than their own personal aggrandizement deserve a very, very, very uncomfortable place in hell. This woman is a saint.

Blow Up

A volcanic eruption on White Island (funny, that’s what I’d always called Nantucket) in the Bay of Plenty, just off the coast of New Zealand’s northern land mass, has erased signs of life on the tiny island. At least five are dead and a dozen to two dozen more are missing.

Five Films: 1970

1.) Patton: George C. Scott’s opening monologue, delivered before an American flag that literally splashes across the entire screen, is an iconic film moment. We also love when Scott as the title character growls, “Rommel…you magnificent bastard. I read your book!” A deserving Best Picture winner in a thin year. 2. M*A*S*H: Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould are Hawkeye and Trapper in the film, based on Richard Hooker’s fantastic novel, that inspired the TV series. Director Robert Altman’s signature style of having actors say their dialogue over one another, which is more realistic but also more confusing for the audience, was not yet a signature style when he displayed it here. 3. Five Easy Pieces: Jack Nicholson’s second big role in as many years and the first real clue that audiences will get that he can be a real bastard on screen if he wants to be, but you cannot take your eyes off him. 4. Airport: The suspense film that kick-started a franchise that inspired a parody so on the nose that it killed the franchise. I’ve always been more terrified of airports than of sharks, by the way. 5. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls: Written by Russ Meyer and Roger Ebert (yes, him), here is a musical melodramaabout an all-girl rock band trying to make it in LA. Lots of groovy gals and guys and tight dresses doing the late Sixties L.A. scene. Campy.


by John Walters

The Day The Sixties Died

Altamont. A dusty vacant lot of a speedway that the Rolling Stones got use of on the cheap (as in, for free) for a hastily arranged free concert, the real purpose of which to lay down concert footage for an up close-and-personal film of their latest conquest of the U.S. (it’s eerie how similar, minus the murder, U2’s Rattle and Hum would be 20 years later).

The concert involved less planning than a Friendsgiving meal at your buddy’s apartment in Bushwick. There were no water stations, few latrines, no dedicated medical staff and, of course, the Hell’s Angels were paid in $500 of beer to provide security. The scene was so disorganized and brewing with hostility that local favorites The Grateful Dead, who had been booked to play, refused to take the stage.

This is a fascinating article about what went down that day and why….

The moment. Hunter, in lime green, is stabbed in the neck from behind by a Hell’s Angel

What would happen is that 18 year-old Meredith Hunter, a black student who’d shown up at the show with his white girlfriend, would be stabbed to death by a Hell’s Angel as the Stones were performing. There’s a chance that Hunter would’ve survived, but the one chopper that was on site had been reserved for the Stones’ getaway back to San Francisco and the pilot never got the authorization from the band’s manager to use it.

You can see here how close Hunter was to the stage and, with that suit, he kinda stood out. As he was being harassed by the HA, he at last had had enough and was pulling out a gun that he had in his waistband. Not a smart move.

Later that night at a San Francisco hotel, Mick hooked up with Michelle Phillips.

Coupled with the Manson family murders four months earlier, it’s safe to say that the Sixties’ counterculture movement ended, at least symbolically, on this night.

The band lineup that day, by the way, was epic and Bay Area-tinged: Santana, Jefferson Airplane, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, the Grateful Dead (canceled) and the Rolling Stones.

Five Films: 1969

It was the year of the buddy film, although none of the buddies seemed to fare two well for it in the long run.

  1. Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid: A Western buddy film that is funny and charming and, at the end, tragic while at the same time being oddly heroic. If there are two more handsome and at the same time likable buddies ever found than Newman and Redford, we’d like to see it. 2. Easy Rider: Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper embark on a cross-country motorcycle odyssey from L.A. to La. and along the way encounter an unforgettable Jack Nicholson. 3. True Grit: John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn in the role that at last won him his long overdue Oscar. With Glen Campbell, Robert Duvall and, again, Dennis Hopper. 4. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service: Some people will tell you that this, despite George Lazenby in the role of 007, is their favorite James Bond film. I may be one of them. Stick around ’til the final scene. You won’t forget it. 5. Midnight Cowboy: Yet another buddy film starring Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman on the loose in New York City. If I can’t make it there, I’ll be on a bus out of town.

Fondly remembered but not in the top five: The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, Hello Dolly, A Boy Named Charlie Brown.


by John Walters

Starting Five

Bad Santa

Today marks the start of the two-day Krampus Festival in Austria. In central European folklore, Krampus is a half-man, half-goat creature who punishes bad children and man do we need one on this side of the Atlantic.

A Millennial Christmas Carol

This came to us yesterday. You know this scene from Dickens’ “The Christmas Carol,” where mean old Ebenezer Scrooge wakes up on Christmas morning and realizes that he is still alive. We decided to put a 21st-century spin on it:

“Oh, boy, (blah blah blah), fetch the prize turkey from the poulterer and bring it to Bob Cratchett…”

(the turkey arrives at the Cratchett home where Bob’s wife and his kids have some questions):

“Is this a free range turkey?”

Was it cooked in peanut oil because I’m allergic?”

Dad, I thought this was going to be a vegan Christmas.”

“Listen, pops, tell ‘Okay, Boomer’ over there to stop disrespecting my juice cleanse. Just return the bird and tell Mr. Scrooge to Venmo us the money.”

Duke Or Earl

First, you have to get past the idea of GOP Congressman Matt Gaetz being offended by someone being mean and crass. But, yeah, Professor Karlan, while making a valid point, needlessly scored a hit on the one member of the Trump family who, for all intents and purposes, is innocent. And it undermined her testimony.

Friend of the blog Moose, who is Canadian and thus is able, like prime minister Trudeau, to laugh at America from afar, suggested that if only Professor Karlan had invoked a hypothetical son, “Earl,” or even suggested president Trump could name his dog “Duke” but not name him one, things would have gone much smoother for all involved.

Deer In The Highlights

The Milwaukee Bucks won again last night, a 127-103 blowout at Detroit. That’s 13 in a row for Milwaukee, who are now tied with the Lakers for the lead’s best record at 19-3. Anyone ready for a Giannis versus LeBron NBA Finals?

Giannis, the reigning MVP, is your early 2020 MVP leader: 2nd in the NBA in scoring and fourth in rebounding. The Bucks are gonna roll over the Eastern Conference this season if everyone remains healthy.

By the way, the Bucks have Kyle Korver on their roster, who like LeBron entered the NBA in 2003. I believe only Vince Carter, who is an alien, and perhaps Jamal Crawford, have been in the league longer.

The Lakers also won last night but LeBron’s blatant uncalled palming violation is all that I will remember.

Batman And A Joker

This, from comic Hasan Minhaj, is both funny and educational. I mean, think about it, should a super hero really have a butler?

Five Films: 1968

Another classic year in films and five is not enough. We’re still talking about these films more than half a century later. Imaginative, exploratory and existential, set against the backdrop of perhaps the most turbulent year of the American century.

  1. Planet Of The Apes: The first time I saw this, I was probably six or seven years old and was quite sure it was the coolest film I’d ever seen. It would be decades before I appreciated the allegory being laid before me. And General Irko haunted my dreams for most of the Seventies. 2. 2001: A Space Odyssey: A masterpiece, from Stanley Kubrick. I believe it was Charlton Heston, or maybe Orson Welles, who walked out of the Hollywood screening and barked to no one in particular, “I don’t know what the hell is going on in this movie!” Not an easy ride, this, but the special effects were decades ahead of their time and the overriding message well, many of us may still not be ready for it. 3. Bullitt: Steve McQueen and the first blow-your-doors-off car chase scene in film history, shot on the streets of San Francisco and Marin County. McQueen plays a San Francisco detective assigned to protect a witness whom the mob is after. 4. Night Of The Living Dead: A horror classic that feels like a documentary, shot in black-and-white and with grainy footage to make it even more creepy. Countless films, and one jumped-the-shark-a-while-ago TV series, owe everything to this movie. Oh, and spoiler alert: the black dude is the one person who escapes being trapped all night in the house surrounded by zombies only to take a bullet as he emerges from the local Ohio posse. How you like that ending, Colin Kaepernick? 5. The Thomas Crown Affair: What a hot streak Faye Dunaway was on from 1967 to 1975: Bonnie and Clyde, this, Chinatown, Three Days of the Condor, and Network. With Steve McQueen and an Oscar-winning theme song (“Windmills Of Your Mind”).

Not on the list but worth noting: Rosemary’s Baby, The Producers, Where Eagles Dare, The Lion In Winter, Oliver! Also, another movie that may have inspired a Seinfeld gag. There was a film from 1969 titled Rachel, Rachel. Remember how Dark Victory gave us Prognosis Negative?


by John Walters

Changing Of The Guard

Will we sports fans look back on the first weekend of December 2019 as a watershed moment? Will we view at as the weekend that the three great sports dynasties of the 2010s—the Alabama Crimson Tide, the Golden State Warriors and the New England Patriots—symbolically passed the torch to a still grasping field of successors?

I think so.

As you know, the Crimson Tide lost the Iron Bowl, 48-45, at Jordan-Hare Stadium last Saturday. The defeat knocks the Crimson Tide out of the College Football Playoff for the first time in the now six seasons it has been held. It also marked the most points Alabama has surrendered under Saban since 2007 and the most penalties (13) a Saban-coached Tide team has ever committed in one game. The last one being the costliest.

In the 10-year span between 2009-2018, Alabama under Nick Saban won five national championships. It ranks as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, dynastic runs by any school in the history of the sport. The Tide isn’t about to disappear, but Saban turns 69 on Halloween day next season. How many more seasons of this does he want?

The Patriots lost at Houston on Sunday night to give them, like the Tide, their second defeat of the season. It doesn’t take much imagination to notice that both of New England’s losses came on the road on a Sunday night to a team with a young and dynamic Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback who happens to be African-American. Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson are the future of the NFL and Tom Brady, legend that he is, represents its MAGA-clinging past.

Are the Pats done? Maybe not, but unless something changes they’ll have to go on the road to Baltimore (Lamar) or Kansas City (Pat Mahomes) this January for an AFC playoff game and there’s no Gronk to help in the passing game. The Pats just don’t have that much talent on offense and it’s a testament to the talents of Brady (42) and coach Bill Belichick (67), not to mention the depravity of the AFC East, that they’re even 9-2.

If the Pats go out before the Super Bowl this winter, you have to wonder how much longer either gent will remain in Foxboro. It may be time to enjoy that sunset.

Steve Kerr proves it: even the best coaches are only as good as the talent around them

Finally, there’s the Warriors. Thanks to free agency and injury, the Dubs, winners of three NBA Finals this decade (and another two might have been theirs were it not for ill-time injuries) have fallen the farthest. They have lost three games in the past six days and are currently 4-18. The Dubs are saddled with the worst record in the NBA, which is not an easy feat when you consider the New York Knicks are also in the NBA.

The Dubs have moved into a gleaming new venue and then they failed to bring the house band that made it all possible. Now, sure, this season’s putrid record will likely guarantee them a top 3 pick next June. But here’s the case I’ll make about that: the Splash Brothers, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, will be 32 and 30, respectively, when next season tips off. And they’re guards, not power forwards or centers. Age matters more when quickness and not size is your forte.

Love the Splash Brothers. I just don’t think we’ll ever see the likes of the mid-2010s Warriors again. That era has passed. I’d love to be wrong. But I don’t think that I am (even though Curry’s season-ending hand injury in October was probably the best thing that could’ve happened to him, in terms of career longevity).

So let’s just take a moment to realize it. The weekend of November 30-December 1 marked the end of an era. All three sports dynasties of this decade finally began to show their mortality. And I don’t think any of the three will win another championship under their present coach.

Five Films: 1967

A tremendous rebound year following ’66 with a plethora of films that stand the test of time. Here are our five:

  1. Bonnie and Clyde: This one, the pet project of Warren Beatty, would be the top film of most any year. Funny, violent and tragic all at once, it may represent the birth of New Hollywood in that it’s the first great film that looks and feels a lot more like all the films that would come after it than it does those that came before. And if for no other reason, the scene in which Warren Beatty, Gene Hackman and Gene Wilder (among others) are all sharing a joyride is a must-see cinema scene. Also, if you’ve never seen it, keep an eye out for the scene late in the film when they visit Bonnie’s family for a picnic. The woman playing Bonnie’s mom is hauntingly perfect of Depression-era Texas. She’s not an actor. She was a local who’d been watching them film and director Arthur Penn noticed her and they used her. She’s perfect. 2. The Graduate: If B&C was the year’s best film, this may have been the signature film of the Sixties in terms of capturing the sense of being lost, particularly among the young. A soundtrack from Simon & Garfunkel didn’t hurt. “Plastics.” 3. How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying: There are other musicals from this year—and this site’s top critic will probably want us to include Thoroughly Modern Millie—but this is our favorite and Robert Morse singing “I Believe In You” to his mirrored image in the executive washroom is simply superb. Forty years later Matthew Weiner would perform the ultimate in stunt-casting by inserting Morse as the patriarch of the Mad Men agency, and if you note, his character has achieved the pinnacle of success and is never seen doing an ounce of work. Not a coincidence. The entire vibe of Mad Men is inspired by this film. Also, note how Hollywood tried to somewhat duplicate this film by inserting Michael J. Fox into the Morse role 20 or so years after in a non-musical with a similar plot, The Secret Of My Success. 4. In The Heat Of The Night: When you think about the time in America when this was released, well, it’s almost impossible for those of us who didn’t live through the turbulent Sixties to appreciate the tension endemic in the film. It won Best Picture, which proves Hollywood didn’t just start being woke a few years ago. 5. Wait Until Dark: Alan Arkin is normally known for comedic roles, but he’s a charismatic villain here as he and a blind Audrey Hepburn play a game of cat-and-mouse inside her Greenwich Village apartment. Fantastic suspense here.

Close but no cigar: The Dirty Dozen, You Only Live Twice and Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner (as opposed to “The Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” which is a film I’d be more interested in watching). We’ve seen Cool Hand Luke and we just never understood why Paul Newman smashed all the parking meters in the first place, much less why he’d be dumb enough to take on George Kennedy in a fist fight. A few great scenes but not a great movie.

By the way, before we leave 1967, think about how many catchphrases this year produced: “Plastics,” already mentioned, but also “What we have here is a failure to communicate” and also “They call me ‘Mr. Tibbs.'”


by John Walters

Tweet Me Right

Starting Five

“Unfair” at Jordan-Hare

The 84th Iron Bowl from Jordan-Hare Stadium was a certifiable classic, as Auburn knocked Alabama from the college football playoff picture, 48-45. It’ll be the first year since the playoff was instituted in 2014 that the Crimson Tide, which lost twice in November, is not one of the four invitees.

It’s the most points a Nick Saban Alabama team has surrendered since 2007, his inaugural season in Tuscaloosa. It’s also the most penalties—13—his Crimson Tide have ever allowed in one game. And it was the 13th that was the coup de grace, since it involved Auburn catching the Tide asleep at the wheel on a fourth down play in which they should’ve punted.

Go to the 2:00 minute mark

Here’s what happened. Auburn lined up to punt and Bama put in its punt return team. Then the Tigers switched the formation, putting the punter out at wide receiver and quarterback Bo Nix in the shotgun formation. Alabama switched its defense back in but returner Jaylen Waddle did not run off the field. “12 men on the field.” Penalty. First down, Auburn. Ballgame.*

*Note: The CBS cameras focused on Jaylen Waddle running on field to prepare to return the punt and thus missed Auburn changing its formation.

Now, if Bama had any timeouts left, Saban would’ve called them. But it didn’t because they’d been stopping the clock to get the ball back. Genius move by Malzahn, and yet we can see the rules committee discussing this play in the offseason and tweaking the rule. We’ll see.

Vicious Cycle

Here’s the Peloton Christmas ad that so many people are not a fan of. And here’s the first parody video below that explains why:

Page Turner

Former DOJ attorney Lisa Page finally vents—the president of the United States using her name while acting out an orgasm in front of an arena full of Minnesotans recently was the last straw—about the frustrations of what transpired in her life and how she was used as a pawn in the battle between the White House and the Department of Justice. To Molly Jong-Fast in The Daily Beast. A good read.

By the way, if my surname were Turner I’d name my kid “Paige” in hopes she became a best-selling novelist.

Distaff Meeting

Katie Nolan gathers fellow female ESPNers Cari Champion, Julie Foudy, Sarah Spain and Maria Taylor for a funny attack on misogynists. The reveal at the end of the clip is terrific.

Now, we must mention that everyone steals some in the arts and so we imagine either Nolan or one of her writers was inspired by this clip from Amy Schumer’s show just a couple of years ago (Schumer’s writers were often accused of stealing material, by the way). You be the judge.

Five Films: 1966

This grieves me. In the year of my birth, Hollywood may have had its single-worst year dating back to the talkies and extending at least until the early 2000s. At least the music was lit that year. You’ll not recognize the names of most films from this year—I did not—and so I stuck only to the ones I’ve actually seen.

  1. Born Free: “Born free, as free as the wind blows/As free as the grass grows…” My love of the wild kingdom may have started here, with Elsa and the plains of Africa. Beautiful film, beautiful title song, and I’ll never understand what could possess a human being to kill something so wonderful. True evil. 2. Batman: Lighten things up with a hilarious satire based on the archetypal comic book hero. “Some days, you just can’t get rid of a bomb.” The seeds of Airplane! are found in this film. 3. Blow-Up: We actually watched this avant-garde British film last winter, in black-and-white and in swinging London with a murder involved. Austin Powers probably loved this film. 4. The Endless Summer: Was this the first adventure sports doc or the first travel doc? Surfing was never the same after three friends traveled from California to Africa to Australia and finally the South Pacific on a whirlwind surfin’ safari. And having one of the great movie posters ever produced didn’t hurt. 5. Fantastic Voyage: An innovative idea, shrinking a medical team to inject them into the body of a critically wounded world leader in order to save him. The only problem? When you’ve got Raquel Welch in her curvaceous prime, you want to enlarge her, not shrink her.

A few other films from this year worth noting that I’ve seen: Nevada Smith (Steve McQueen), a pair of animated classics (How The Grinch Stole Christmas and It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown). Films to put on the list: Stagecoach, Grand Prix, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, A Man For All Seasons, Alfie.

Music 101

Go Where You Wanna Go

Two inordinately talented California bands comprised of male and female musicians. Each band has a married couple. The band’s very existence is threatened when infidelity occurs. In 1977 those damaged relationships led to Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way,” the first single off the band’s classic album Rumours. Ten years earlier, Michelle Phillips’ affair with band member Denny Doherty led her husband, John Phillips, the chief songwriter for The Mamas and The Papas, to pen this song.

That’s one way to get back at your wife. The story behind the song is covered in “Echo In The Canyon,” and Jakob Dylan and Jade Castrinos do a mighty fine job of covering the tune, too.