IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Tweet Me Right

Starting Five

They’re Cheating Again

Like true PATRIOTS, New England was caught doing something it’s not allowed to be doing: filming the Bengals’ sideline last Sunday—they had a media credential based on a flimsy “Do Your Job” web series that is an in-house Pats production—in advance of yesterday’s game with the Bengals, which they won.

If you’re noticing a pattern here—the Zelensky call, the Cadets’ white power sign, this video—you’re right. People who have tremendous leverage and who have no real reason to cheat (or smear) to advance their cause are still doing so. Why? Because it’s inherent in their nature and because, deep down, they’ve always gotten away with it so what makes them think they won’t get away with it now?

And you can toss Harvey Weinstein into that mix as well.

The beauty of the Patriots’ video is that it’s so evident that they’re trying to get video of how the Bengals’ sideline operation works. And it’s hilarious because you could lock Bill Belichick in the janitor’s closet in Foxboro all week and the Patriots are still going to crush the Bengals. So why do it? Because that’s who Bill Belichick is. That’s who Donald Trump is. They don’t NEED to cheat, but cheating is in their DNA and they’ve always gotten away with it. Even when found out, the punishment never fits the crime.

And you’ll note, if you watch the Fox NFL Sunday crew, that establishment guys Jimmy Johnson and Terry Bradshaw say they “can’t imagine” the Patriots doing something like this. Why not, guys? They’ve done it before. And last time I looked they’ve won THREE Super Bowls since the original Spygate back in 2007. What’s the disincentive again?

As for the Cadets’ flashing the white power symbol at the Army-Navy game, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt in the sense that they’re 18-22 years old, live in an extremely isolated (and white) community and probably don’t fully comprehend the gravity of what they’re doing. We were all young and stupid and in college once. At least I know that I was.

But I won’t give them the benefit of the doubt of not knowing what that symbol means. They absolutely know. And they know it’s getting on TV behind Rece Davis. And they probably know they’re doing it directly behind the back of a black student.

I once had a math teacher who was a West Point alum. And he spoke glowingly of his experience. But I remember what this man, Mike Gilligan, used to tell us 8th graders: that he could be a standout cadet for three-plus years but if he was caught looking at another student’s exam, no matter how minuscule the test or how great his GPA or any other mitigating circumstance, he’d be off post that same day. “It only takes a few seconds of bad judgment,” Iron Mike Gilligan told us, “to ruin the character you’ve taken years to establish.”

And that’s what happened on Saturday in Philadelphia. A few bad seconds of judgment. Those two cadets, I’m sorry, should be expelled.

PK Championships

Both Georgetown (men) and Stanford (women) won the NCAA Soccer championship this weekend in matches that went to penalty kicks. The Hoyas defeated Virginia and Cardinal knocked off might UNC. Our favorite moment was Stanford keeper Katie Meyer sending back a weak sauce shot during the PKs. Above.

Manhattan Is Joe’s Borough

Saturday night was an evening for a pair of comeback kids in football: LSU’s Joe Burrow and the town of Newtown, Connecticut. The former won the Heisman Trophy only two seasons after transferring from Ohio State because he wasn’t good enough to start (related: the dude who beat him out, Dwayne Haskins, now starts for the Washington Redskins and the dude who succeeded Haskins, Justin Fields, was a Heisman finalist who has thrown 40 touchdown passes and just one interception this season. Fields himself transferred from Georgia because he could not beat out Jake Fromm.

Fields and Burrow may just face off in the national championship game on January 13th.

Burrow, by the way, has thrown 48 touchdown passes against six interceptions.

Burrow went to high school in Athens, Ohio, which would be, if it were shown on this map, due north of Huntington and slightly southeast of Columbus. We mention this because if you were to make Wheeling the locus point, you’d have three of the legendary college football Joes having been raised within a 150-mile radius: Joe Burrow (143 miles southwest), Joe Montana (Monongahela, Pa., 58 miles due east) and Joe Namath, (Beaver Falls, 74 miles north).

Of the three, Burrow is the only one to have won the Heisman.

The other comeback story? Newtown, whose high school won its first state championship in 27 seasons on this play. Newtown, of course, is where the Sandy Hook school is located, and the Nighthawks won the LL Class state championship seven years to the day after the Sandy Hook Massacre that claimed 32 lives. Those students who perished would be in 8th grade right now.

Newtown defeated Darien (note: these are two very, very wealthy towns) when quarterback Jack Street found wideout Riley Ward on this 36-yard flag route with the score tied 7-7 on the game’s final play. It all happened in a heavy fog, which made it all the more surreal.

Here’s Jeff Jacobs, the bard of Connecticut sportswriting, on the moment.

ScarJo Nails The Monologue

Here’s the funniest monologue of the SNL season, delivered by host Scarlett Johansson, thus far because the show pokes fun at itself and the stuff those of us who still follow it somewhat closely say about it: i.e., that Colin Jost, great guy and all, can afford to quit this job any day he likes; that Mikey Day and Alex Moffatt are basically indistinguishable from one another as the vanilla milquetoast white guys in the cast; that Pete Davidson basically gets his own rules, kind of like Dennis Rodman on the ’96 Bulls.

The Cold Open was the best of the season, too (and devoid of all the celeb cameos which often get in the way) and smart in all the ways the best SNL opens were. Solid material, and Kenan Thompson got all the best lines (“Colin Kaepernick, you move in mysterious ways”).

Five Films: 1975

  1. Jaws: You’re going to need a bigger theater. This was the first time in my life I ever saw lines of people outside a theater waiting to see a movie. Lines that snaked around the side of the building. Steven Spielberg’s classic really was the first summer blockbuster film, from whence all others sprang. Few, if any, have lived up to its greatness. 2. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest: Jack Nicholson and a couple of actors who’d go on to greater name recognition on a sitcom called Taxi in a couple of years. Seeds of The Shawshank Redemption here, but with a darker ending. 3. Night Moves: Saw this Gene Hackman film noir for the first time last winter, I think, and I can’t believe I’d never heard of it before. Absolutely loved it. It’s kind of like an extended episode of The Rockford Files with Hackman as an L.A.-based P.I. With a young and barely legal Melanie Griffith. 4. The Return Of The Pink Panther: Our favorite from the PP series. “Does your dog bite?” “No.” (Dog bites Clouseau). “I thought you said your dog didn’t bite.” “That’s not my dog.” 5. Three Days Of The Condor: Bob Redford and Faye Dunaway in a CIA spy thriller with a delicious premise. A covert unit that reads current fiction in hopes of gleaning actual insidious plots gets a little too close to the truth in one of their reports. Redford goes out on a deli run and when he returns he finds his entire unit gunned down. So he goes into hiding where he just happens to be taken in by one of the world’s most beautiful women. Being AWOL is such a drag.

Worth noting: Monty Python and the Holy Grail and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Far fewer people have actually sat through the entirety of either film than those who claim to love them. But the high points here (“I’m not dead yet!”) are pretty darn high.

A few films I’ve never actually seen that probably belong on this list: Dog Day Afternoon, Barry Lyndon, Nashville and The Man Who Would Be King. Some day (or night).

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Tweet Me Right

Starting Five

Taylor at 30

Musical artist of the decade Taylor Swift turns 30 today. What do we do with this information? How do we process it? Do we go see Cats just to view her in kitty body suit? Do we rank her songs? Exes?

I dunno.

Anyway, there it is. We still think “Love Story” is her best song followed closely by “Tim McGraw,” both tunes that she wrote and released before her 19th birthday. But who are we to judge?

There definitely is no one quite like her in pop music the past decade. She’s always had an old soul, even as she tries to conform to certain contemporary ideals. This moment, from SNL in 2013, captures a lot of her charm:

Heady Lamar

Granted, Lamar Jackson was only facing the Jets (and the quarterback chosen 29 selections ahead of him in the 2018 NFL draft), but the Baltimore Ravens quarterback threw a career-high five touchdown passes in leading his team to a tenth consecutive victory, 42-21. Baltimore clinched the AFC North and now sports a 12-2 record.

Jackson, with 86 yards rushing, also broke Michael Vick’s single-season rushing record for a quarterback (Vick had 1,039 for the Falcons in 2006; Jackson now has 1,108). He also wrapped up this year’s NFL MVP award. Man, do those AFC teams who chose Baker Mayfield and Darnold ahead of him—like, wayyyy ahead of him—in April of 2018 look stupid now.

That’s one Heisman Trophy winner (Mark Ingram) interviewing another…

Jerry Mandering

During yesterday’s impeachment hearings, the Republicans in the room proposed five different amendments to the articles of impeachment (things like, “Nancy Pelosi is a doo doo face”) all of which were voted down. And then chairman Jerry Nadler gaveled out shortly before midnight, before a final vote on the articles were taken, after 14 hours of convening.

The Republicans were enraged. Why? Most likely because they wanted to be able to say that the Dem-led House passed this vote “in the dead of night” and “when America was asleep” and Nadler was on to that narrative so he nipped it in the bud. Then again, Nadler is 72 and looks every one of those years and maybe he just wanted to go home to mother and tuck in to sleep.

Anyway, here’s what’s clear to us: the Republicans hate the Democrats more than they love this country. In Thursday’s arguments, they spent no time debating the facts of what president Trump did, only the criminality of it. Or they used the “you’ve been after him since before he took office” defense, which is partly true but only because, as people such as Carter Page, Mike Flynn and Paul Manafort, among others, have demonstrated, Trump has been committing treasonous offenses since before he took office.

This thread by University of Michigan law professor Barb McQade pretty much details every GOP argument and then bats it down like a kitten with a ball of yarn:

Meanwhile, I’ll save our most devoted commenter the trouble: Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, whose role is to oversee his body’s impeachment trial that will follow the House’s “Yes” vote on impeachment, has already promised that he will coordinate with White House lawyers—yes, this is like the jury foreman working behind the scenes with the defense—and that the GOP-led Senate will resoundingly strike down the impeachment resolution.

The trial is over before it began.

Again, it’s not about the Constitution with these people. It’s about remaining in power. And maybe their rationale for subverting the Constitution is as simple as, “We’ve got to do everything and anything possible if it allows us to strike down Roe vs. Wade.” It really may be that simple. But know this: If and when a Democrat occupies the White House again, these people will go HAM at him or her on every little thing and completely forget how blasé they were about presidents not being above the law at this point in history.

Marriage Bore-y

I tried. Really.

I tried watching Marriage Story last night (Netflix) and I quit with about 29 minutes left. The performances, by stars Adam Driver and Scarlett Johanssen? Outstanding. And Laura Dern‘s yoga physique or whatever she’s doing? She’s never looked better—Dern is 52—and she actually has a damn good role. The scene in which she compares mothers to Mary and fathers to God is our favorite moment in the film.

Buuuuuuuut….

…For us, this was a film made by Hollywood (as most films are) about Hollywood types who have enough disposable income—like, a lot of it—so that the poor dad is able to toss out a $10,000 retainer for his first lawyer and then move on to a $25,000 retainer for a second who charges $900 per hour, while also keeping two residences (and he’s the one who, in many ways, is the one suffering here). Is this relatable?

Dean’s going to get a Best Supporting Actress nom outta this and possibly a Soul Cycle endorsement deal

There’s one scene in court where the personal attacks are coming fast and furious from both lawyers about who inhibited whose career and the judge finally halts it and reminds them there’s a full docket in front of him and they need to move this along. And the camera pans to a gallery full of, well, regular people. It’s the one self-aware moment in the entire film. Oh yeah, most of America doesn’t have the luxury to be this self-absorbed.

Anyway, if you’ve never gotten married (“Here, Mr. Kotter!”) and were wondering about it, this film will brighten your day. I turned to an episode of Seinfeld (“Bachelor Story”). Finally, you have to wonder if Colin Jost is re-thinking this whole nuptials idea jussssst a wee bit.

p.s. We’ll eventually get around to watching the final 29 minutes. Just not this weekend.

Five Films: 1974

The Godfather II: As good as the first film was, this fellow Best Picture winner may be more satisfying. Certainly it clings more tightly to actual events, and what an unorthodox structure. It begins, as the first one did, at a family gala but this time on the shores of Lake Tahoe, where Clan Corleone has relocated. It ends with Michael all alone, thinking about the full family dinner table he was once part of. In gaining so much power and wealth, he has lost the most important part of his life: la famiglia. 2. Chinatown: In most any other year this superbly crafted and paced modern film noir starring Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway would win Best Picture. Forget it, Jake, it’s The Godfather, Part 2. Still, this is an incredible film. Funny, sinister, sexy and tragic. And—spoiler alert—the second great film that Dunaway appears in where she is gunned down near a 30s roadster in the final scene. Also, the dude who gives Jake that “nose job” early in the movie is none other than the film’s director, Roman Polanski. You’d think he wouldn’t want to be associated with a knife wound in L.A., but whatevs… 3. Blazing Saddles: Harrumph, harrumph, harrumph! and Young Frankenstein: Mel Brooks was writing this film for Gene Wilder as he and Wilder were filming Blazing Saddles. Did anyone have a better 1974 than these two? 4. The Conversation: The answer to that question is, Perhaps Francis Ford Coppola and John Cazale, who also teamed up in this film alongside the first film on our list. Starring Gene Hackman as a surveillance expert. Sort of ahead of its time in terms of subject matter. 5. Earthquake (In Sensurround!), The Towering Inferno and Airport ’75: Let’s use the fifth pick on our list to recognize the Disaster Film, a genre that reached its peak in 1974. Americans were not quite yet ready to see films about real-life disasters such as the Nixon presidency and Vietnam (they soon would be), so these stand-ins did the trick.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Tweet Me Right

The (still) president of the United States getting owned by a teenager…

Starting Five

Clean-Shaven, Beautiful Cole

The New York Yankees have switched to, at least for the next five years and possibly nine, a Cole-based economy. The dude from San Diego whom they drafted out of high school ten years ago but who turned them down to attend college now cost them $324 million over the next nine years (but he can opt out after five).

Gerrit Cole is going to have to shave that mange, alas, to become a “true Yankee.” Last season the 6’4″ righty was virtually unhittable from the beginning of June onward, finishing the season with a 20-5 record and leading the A.L. in strikeouts and ERA but finishing second in the Cy Young race to teammate Justin Verlander.

Here’s what’s curious: In his two seasons in Houston Cole was 35-10 with an ERA of roughly 2.65. In the two seasons before that in Pittsburgh Cole was 19-22 with an ERA above 4.00. So who are the Yanks getting?

And the sadder part for us fans is that the Yanks waved bye bye to Didi Gregorius, who was the most beloved player on the team. It says something about how special he is that Didi replaced the most popular Yankee since Mickey Mantle and in less than half a decade had fans in pinstripes asking, “Derek Who?”

He’ll be missed.

Stay Alert

There are still some heroes in the world. Here are a few we came across yesterday. To begin, Eric Swallwell (above), the Congressman from California (Dem) who goes full Clarence Darrow on the this White House lawyer’s ass. This was just like a divine 4 1/2 minutes of cross-examination.

Next up, Scott Galloway calling out the fallacy that New York needed Amazon more than vice-versa. To be clear, we’re 100% in favor of someone starting a business from his garage and becoming a bazillionaire. We’re just not into them playing “The Bachelor” so that various cities will use taxpayer money in exchange for him tossing one of them a rose.

Third, let’s pour one out for the recently passed Paul Volcker, the 6’7″ former chairman of the Federal Reserve who left us at the age of 92 last week. Here’s an excerpt from one of his final interviews:

Spot on. Next, we have Rep. Hakeem Jefferies. Succinct and on the nose:

And finally, here’s Samantha Bee coining the apt term, “Kava-noise:”

Citizen Cane

Harvey Weinstein, who spent a Hollywood career trying to get off on sexually abusing actresses under his employ, may now get off, at least on the civil trial end of things, by promising all of them a sum total of $25 million (that will not come out of his personal funds). Really? Hell, Jeffrey Epstein got a better deal than that in lock-up than these victims are seemingly going to agree to.

And what’s up with his sudden feebleness syndrome? Or did he learn a thing or two from being around actors all these years? Is this his Willy Wonka tribute? Anyway, really hoping the victims tell him to keep the money and go to court. The criminal trial does not begin until January but one wonders how effective it will be if none of these women testify?

Wax On, Wax Off

Love this stunt by Jimmy Kimmel and the payoff, as Seth Meyers opines, is definitely worth it.

Five Films: 1973

  1. The Sting: This is the first grown-up film I remember seeing in a theater (translation: my parents couldn’t find a babysitter). I doubt I understood more than 20% of it and I was really sore at Sundance for double-crossing Butch until…well, you know. Winner, Best Picture. Sometimes Oscar gets it right. 2. The Exorcist: This remains, hands down, the scariest film I’ve ever seen. For some cruel reason it aired on television four or five years after its release and for some crueler reason my dad and mom let me watch it and that’s the first night of my life that I never actually fell asleep. If Linda Blair never did anything else—and really, has she?—she at least did this. 3. American Graffiti: The film that ushered in the hottest sitcom of the mid-Seventies (“Happy Days”) was a wonderful ode to one final night of being a teen in Modesto, Calif., in 1962. Check out the cast, so many of whom would go on to much bigger things: Richard Dreyfuss, Harrison Ford, Suzanne Somers, Ron Howard and Cindy Williams. Co-written by George Lucas, who would become the biggest thing. 4. The Wicker Man This may be our friend Mark Beech’s favorite pet cult movie and it’s easy to see why. The last five to ten minutes are devastating and to reveal why here would be to spoil it. See this one, the original, and not the watered-down Nicholas Cage version. 5. Mean Streets: The film that introduced Martin Scorcese, Robert DeNiro and Harvey Keitel to Hollywood.

So many other films from this year worth noting, but let’s begin with the most demented: The Baby. It’s a bizarre film about a southern Californian family made up of a mom, her daughters and an adult-aged son whom the women of the family have never stopped treating as if he’s a baby. And so they purposely keep him in an infantile state. Until a few of the sisters realize a grown man who cannot speak has some other uses. Absolutely twisted.

Here’s a plug for Bang The Drum Slowly (another DeNiro moment), Paper Moon, High Plains Drifter and Soylent Green (“It’s people! Soylent Green is people!”)

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Five Films: 1972

  1. The Godfather: Is Francis Ford Coppola’s story of the Corleone family the greatest film ever? Arguably, though it may not even be the better of the two Godfather films (the third installment is, much like Fredo would become to Michael, “dead to me”). As outstanding as the performances by Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, John Cazale, Talia Shire and Marlon Brando are, we’ve always thought that Alex Rocco’s one scene as the combative Moe Greene (“You don’t buy me out! I buy you out!”) is the best performance of all. 2. Deliverance: The banjos. Burt Reynolds all macho and stuff. That boy on the bridge. “Squeal like a pig.” The guys in Easy Rider were only killed, after all. This was a darker nightmare. 3. Sounder: The story of a poor black share-cropping family and the dog who makes it more special. Haven’t seen this one since I was a boy. Need to see it again. 4. The Cowboys: John Wayne plays a rancher who must lead a group of literal boys as his cow hands on a cattle drive. Bruce Dern is the black hat in this one. We’ve always loved this Western, and an aging Wayne growling at tweens is fun to behold. 5. 1776 Can you actually make a musical about the signing of the Declaration of Independence and also make it fun? Turns out you can.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

by John Walters

Starting Five

Barr: “Worst Man”

Trumped Up Charges

The Department of Justice’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, released a 400-something page report on the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia. In essence the report states that while the FBI’s investigation has flaws, there is zero evidence that the FBI or any of its employees engaged in a conspiracy to sabotage him.

Just one problem: the man at the top of the Department of Justice, William Barr, isn’t happy with this conclusion. Now he’s suggesting someone investigate this report. In other words, come back with a different conclusion this time. Or you’ll have to do it over yet again.

William Barr is a very dangerous man. He’s that worst of combinations: a man who is well-educated but also arrogant enough to believe that the ends always justify the means. When a man who has sworn to protect the Constitution and is the top prosecutor in the nation decides that the Constitution and laws don’t count if they get in the way of preserving a great, Christian (read: White) nation, well, then, we’ve got a problem.

Donald Trump is just stupid and vile. William Barr is smart, calculating and impervious to truth. We’ve got trouble.

Black Is Beautiful

On Sunday night Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa was crowned Miss Universe. The reigning Miss Universe, Miss USA (Cheslie Tryst) and Miss America (Nia Franklin) are all black. Missy Misdemeanor Elliott? Also black. Ms. Jackson, to whom I’m sorry? Also black.

Miss World remains Courtney Love, though.

Megan Too Movement

In 2019 41 year-old Tom Brady won another Super Bowl and 43 year-old Tiger Woods won another Masters and who was named Sports Illustrated‘s Sportsperson of the Year? Well, fittingly, U.SA. Women’s World Cup soccer dynamo Megan Rapinoe.

Sue Bird’s partner not only lit up France with her goals but she also spoke out against injustice and repression of all types. France hasn’t seen a female this fearless since Joan of Arc.

Yes, We Have No Banana

Priceless art doesn’t just grow on trees, you know, but then bananas are not priceless and they do go on trees. So even this duct-taped banana exhibit by Mauricio Cattelan on display at Art Basel in Miami last weekend was valued at $120,000, can you really blame patron and fellow artist David Datuna for finding its appeal and devouring it?

Datuna announced, just before his first bite, that he was creating “performance art” by eating the fruit. And he wasn’t wrong. Datuna was escorted off the premises but not charged with any crime.

Five Films: 1971

Bottoms up!
  1. The Last Picture Show: Call it recency bias if you will. I saw this for the first time just last month and while I was all set to put the No. 2 film on this list in this slot, I really believe Peter Bogdonavich’s film is more timeless. And beautiful, in a tragic way. Shot in black-and-white, this is the story of the slow death of a small Texas town, Aralene, seen through the lens of a pair of high school buddies circa 1950. But it’s about more than that. It’s about the death of community in America itself, as folks isolate themselves in their homes watching TV instead of going to the movies or the pool halls, etc. Ben Johnson and Cloris Leachman won Oscars here in supporting roles, both well-deserved. Also, it has The Dude. 2. The French Connection: Winner for Best Picture, Best Director (William Friedkin) and Best Actor (Gene Hackman), it also features the most bad-ass care chase scene to date in film. As someone who grew up near New York City at this time, I don’t think I know of another film, not even Mean Streets, that gets early Seventies New York City so accurately. 3. Dirty Harry: “So what’s it gonna be, punk? Do you feel lucky?” Clint Eastwood at his very best in a film that was inspired by the real-life Zodiac Killer events. 4. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: The role Gene Wilder was born to play. We are the music makers and we are the dreamers of dreams. 5. Harold and Maude: An eccentric tale, a love story between a lost teen and a charismatic octogenarian who meet while attending funerals of strangers. With a soundtrack courtesy of Cat Stevens. Your favorite liberal arts major who orders exotic teas on-line will list this among his or her five favorite films.

A Clockwork Orange would make all the critics’ lists, and maybe yours, too. I last saw it in 1983 and just don’t remember all that much except that it kinda reminds me of Trainspotting? We should probably also mention McCabe & Mrs. Miller (never saw it), Bedknobs and Broomsticks (haven’t seen in 46 years), Fiddler On The Roof and Play Misty For Me.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

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.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

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.

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

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?

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

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.'”

IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

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.