sam's notes

notes on government, sports and popular culture

Monday, January 31, 2005

While we're on the subject of Medved and movies.....

Even though I'm an Eastwood fan, I haven't seen "Million Dollar Baby," and I probably won't since I frankly don't have the time to go to the movies.

But I'm aware of the controversy surrounding the movie and the surprise plot twist that mainstream critics refuse to reveal.

But now the issue is being addressed now that there's a real possibility "Million Dollar Baby" could sweep the Oscars. Medved revealed the plot twist in general terms, insisting that moviegoers should know what's in store for them before they pay good money to see it, while Susan Wloszczyna addresses the issue in USA Today.

Now comes this no-holes-barred review from Alex Wayne, a fellow Eastwood fan who not only bucks mainstream critics by writing the "movie sucks ass," but also gives away the plot twist lock, stock and smoking barrel.

Check out Alex's review; he's only trying to save you a few bucks.

Here's a brief review of Medved's Right Turns, as a warm-up for a lengthier print review:

The book, a memoir of Medved's journey from liberal war protester to conservative movie reviewer and pop culture commentator, is a quick read. If you listened to Medved's radio show, you know he has a sense of humor, and it shows in his writing style.

He begins with his paternal grandmother's exhaustive journey to America from her native Russia. She first embarked on the journey on the eve of World War I, and made it as far as the Austrian border when war broke out. It would be another 11 years before she was finally reunited with her husband, after which they were blessed with the birth of Medved's father, David.

Though a brilliant student, Michael Medved had no defined goal in life and was ambivalent about higher education. He ended up at Yale, at the height of anti-war sentiment on college campuses. While at Yale, he encountered a number of now-famous political figures, including John F. Kerry:

"I vividly remember every detail of our meeting: with JFK seated behind a desk in his dorm room like a putative president wearing a powder blue shirt with immaculate white collar and cuffs, a royal blue tie with white polka dots, and his hands crossed authoritatively on the desk in front of him. He droned on in portentious tones and at appalling length about how the Liberal Party and PU (Yale Political Union) would enrich our lives..."

...and Hillary Clinton, with whom he developed a friendship until he ran into her with her new boyfriend:

"I hated to see that because I couldn't shake my stubborn conviction that that my pal Hillary — with her unpretentious kindness, innate class and decency — deserved better than the slippery manipulations of the Arkansas Traveler."

After leading a protest against ROTC offerings at Yale, attending its law school briefly and working on the campaign of a liberal Senatorial candidate, Medved returned to California (where he grew up, after spending his early childhood in his native Philadelphia), where he was essentially rudderless for a brief time. He worked in a record store and tried to break into the advertising industry, where the only job he could find was working for a slick African-American "executive" who wrangled the Oakland police department account to promote its minority hiring efforts.

It was on ride-alongs with Oakland police officers- many of them black — when the former war protester gained respect for cops on the street:

"Like everyone else I knew, I had instinctively dismissed 'law and order' politicians as racist demagogues who exploited the public appetite for simplistic solutions and denied the one obvious, unquestionable truth: that we could only reduce crime if society addressed its 'root' causes. Watching Bay Area cops risking life and health to stop criminal activity every night blew this nitwit nostrum to smithereens."

Medved's next move was to become a professor of creative writing, but his only interview was at the University of Wisconsin - Stout, Midwestern redneck town. There was a catch in the interview process: If they didn't offer him the job, the university had to pay his way back to California. If they offered him the job and he rejected it, then he had to pay his own way back. His account of the interview process- and his extreme effort to flunk the interview- were hilarious.

Moving along, Medved dabbled in screenwriting before duel book projects put him onto the national scene: "Whatever Happened to the Class of '65?" and "The Fifty Worst Movies of All Time," which cemented his credentials as a movie critic and led to his long-time gig on "Sneak Previews."

Medved's exposure to the shallow liberalism of Hollywood celebrities and executives was another major factor in his conservative conversion. Through his Jewish faith, he developed a friendship with Barbra Streisand, who invited him to give a talk to a group of her Hollywood friends about his book " The Shadow Presidents," a history of presidential top aides.

Through his research, Medved gained considerable respect for men like Bob Haldeman and Dick Cheney, who served as top aides to Presidents Nixon and Ford, respectively. Medved tried to focus on the deeper, less partisian history of his subject.

But his audience persisted in asking questions about Nixon, Ford and Reagan and

"It became clear what they wanted to hear: stories that could confirm their most cherished liberal prejudices, to lend support to their bedrock conviction that all conservatives amounted to dimwitted, bigoted boobs."

As his stature grew, Medved took the film industry head-on, saying Hollywood has lost touch with America. Of course, he points to the large number of R-rated movies filled with sex and violence as indication of that cultural divide.

But he frames his argument not so much in the context of the damage to the national psyche these movies do; his argument is the movie industry simply isn't giving the public what they want.

He cites box office stats: G-rated movies consistently perform better at the box office. By the way, his theory was supported by two economic scholars who did a study that concluded that "R-rated movies are dominated by G, PG and PG-13 movies in all three dimensions of revenues, costs, return on production cost and profits." So the film industry's insistence on turning out R-rated motion pictures is not just bad from a taste standpoint, but from a business standpoint as well.

Anyway, that's just a sampling of the 400-odd-page book. Right Turns is a good read. I recommend it.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

As Greensboro figures out what to do with War Memorial Stadium, Durham wonders what to do with Durham Athletic Park:

"The city of Durham hopes to decide this year with to do with DAP. Will the city follow the path of Daytona Beach, FLa., which renovated the Jackie Robinson Ballpark and created an adjacent museum that focuses on athletes who broke barriers? Will it make the DAP a mulit-purpose facility that can accommodate celebrations of everything from baseball to beer? Or will it try something totally unexpected, such as the motocross competitions staged these days at a remodeled stadium in Anaheim, Calif.?"

Saturday, January 29, 2005

I realize this is old news, but I got around to watching Monster last night. If, by chance, you haven't seen it, here's my brief review.

It wasn't my first choice because I was worried it would be depressing and violent. And it was, to a certain degree, but fortunately the story moves along pretty quickly. Charlize Theron's performance as a redneck hooker-turned lesbian hits the nail on the head. With the help of prosthetics, she made Aileen repulsive, yet in different scenes and camera angles you could see the real Charlize showing through, thus making making Aileen seem more attractive and sympathetic.

I thought I recognized the actor playing Aileen's best buddy Tom, an old, bearded gray-haired guy. The credits confirmed my hunch: Bruce Dern.

I'd say it's worth it.

The word for the day is snow- It'll be falling outside while Commissioner Alston is talking about it inside — in Chapel Hill.

Friday, January 28, 2005

The N&R follows up on possible delays to Northeast Park due to questions over the architect's contract.

As I reported last week, the discussion on this matter at the county commissioners' meeting was painful to sit through. I understand what the the commissioners were trying to do: Save the taxpayers some money and improve the bidding process for bond money. The RFQ process probably does shut out a lot of competent contractors who can put a park together at a good price.

So the solution would be to go ahead and approve the contract with TIFF so work could begin on Northeast Park but dictate that future contracts for bond money will awarded based on a traditional bid process. With the parks bond that passed last election, the county should be awarding quite a few contracts in the near future. Besides, just how much money could the commissioners expect to save on this particular contract?

But that was too simple. Now the contract is being rebid, and nobody knows when Northeast Park will open.

Then again, just how crucial is it that Northeast Park open this year?

Something's in the water in Wake County. Maybe that's my problem- too much uranium.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

ACC Hoops gets a bit of recognition.

Planning his life after racing: Jeff Gordon is co-hosting "Live with Regis and Kelly."

Interesting morning. At 4:30a, I awoke to the sound of the toilet backing up...and up....and up......

Didn't know what to do. Didn't want to call an emergency plumber, so I waited until 6a and called my guy, who made it over by 8. He checked the sewer valve, and when he pulled the cover off, the crude bubbled. So he called city water resources, who came out and plunged the sewer line. The city guy said call water resources any time of the day or night if similar problems occur......

Scrubbing and mopping the bathroom, I felt kind of like Anthony Perkins in "Psycho."

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

I went to the Greensboro MPO meeting this afternoon. Guilford County's non-attainment for particulate matter was discussed between an official with the N.C. Division of Air Quality and the MPO board, which is made up of, along with staff members, city councilmen Robbie Perkins and Sandy Carmany.

Mind you, Guilford's particulate levels are mainly the result of the easterly air flow from Davidson County's particulate levels, which NCDAQ recognized as a nonattainment area (along with only Catawba County).

Right now, there are two choices for local leaders: Wait and see if levels of particulate matter comes down by the end of the year, at which point NCDAQ would "request expeditious redesignation back to attainment," or file a lawsuit against the EPA.

MPO members discussed the meeting (which I did not attend) at the Chamber of Commerce yesterday among government and business leaders which really drove home the economic development impacts of such a designation. Companies possibly looking to relocate to Guilford County take a nonattainment designation into consideration.

Perkins suggested that government entities get together ASAP to file a lawsuit, which has a March 5 deadline.

"This is a typical example of government trying to protect us from ourselves and killing us while they do it," Perkins said. "This is devastating to the economic development of this region."

"If you get this non-attainment level, it's like a big red X," Carmany said.

I spoke with Laura Boothe, the NCDAQ official, and she said that trends show that air quality in North Carolina in general, and Guilford County in particular, will continue to improve. The reasons, as I've mentioned before: past legislation regarding air quality are taking effect and cars are burning cleaner.

Carmany said a sound strategy may be to go ahead and file the lawsuit as a precaution then drop it if, indeed, the county does achieve attainment levels.

New county commissioners get their first lesson on the school budget:

"The board room fell silent as Commissioners Mike Winstead, Paul Gibson and Kirk Perkins absorbed the news."

The part I found interesting was when commissioner Kay Cashion asked school superintendent Terry Grier whether or not the schools would have had discipline problems this year had commissioners funded $1 million to address those issues.

"There's no doubt in my mind, or we wouldn't have asked for the money."

I doubt it. Again, the $1 million was for, to quote other commissioners, "touchy-feely" sensitivity training for teachers. Even had the commission funded the request last year, I don't see how it would have been able to take effect for this coming school year.

No doubt the $1 million will be included in this year's school budget request. It will be interesting to see how the new commissioners react to that request.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Not so chilly paper route day.

Monday, January 24, 2005

So what did the Patriots have planned for Big Ben? Drop back and let him make his own mistakes.

Is it me, or is it a little weird to be presenting the conference championship trophy on the loser's home field? I would think the wise thing to do would be to let the victorious opponents retreat to the locker room. They did that last year when the Panthers beat the Eagles on their home field, probably figuring the Eagles fans wouldn't react very well to an on-the-field celebration. Had the Falcons won yesterday, I think they, too, would have retreated to locker room to pick up the trophy.

I remember in 2001 when the Ravens beat the Raiders at home for the AFC championship. I couldn't believe it when they presented the trophy on the field, right in front of Raiders fans, to Ravens owner Art Modell, probably the most-hated man in professional football. Raiders fans voiced their displeasure loud and clear, then a firecracker went off. Modell nearly jumped out of his suit.

The NFL, FOX, CBS, whoever, might want to think about this policy.

Weigh in, Gunkle Guru.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Day off.

But one question: What have the Patriots got planned for Big Ben?

Saturday, January 22, 2005

I read with interest the N&R article on Spencie and Marvin Love's defense of their great-grandmother, Cornelia Phillip Spencer, for whom UNC's Bell Award is named. I read more here and here, and have a couple of questions.

This is a very intriguing and complex subject, as UNC's history "is anything but simple. It's contested, contentious and full of significance for our time," said history professor Jim Leloudis.

In my mind, there are two major themes run through the story. The obvious one is what to do about the disturbing legacies of historical fugures. I'm certainly not saying that historians should not continue to dig, and that 19th-century values shouldn't be applied to 20th century standards.

But it's a difficult process. Were there any people in power in the 19th century who did not hold basic views of white supremacy? Not even Lincoln escapes, as evidenced by this statement in an 1858 debate with Stephen Douglas, pulled from The Real Lincoln:

"I have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the black and white races. There is a physical difference between the two, which, in my judgment, will probably forever forbid their living together upon the footing of perfect equality."

The other subject I find interesting is how the university functioned immediately after the Civil War. Spencer is renowned for ringing the bell after UNC "reopened after being shut down for five years under a Republican administration, which had taken it over at the end of the Civil War."

So the way I read it is the administration of a public university was bascially taken over by force. What I would be interested to know is what academic changes did the Republicans institute? How did the university function under such an administration?

Like I said, it's a very interesting and complex situation, I just felt like working it out in my head. Any smart people out there, help me out.

Friday, January 21, 2005

County commissioners, part 2

I got tired last night and gave up.

But there was also a controversial development before the board last night that adds to the urban sprawl debate. Millican Construction wanted to build 68 single-family homes and 44 multi-family townhomes on 48 acres on the the north and south sides of Trosper Road, east of Lake Brandt Road. Granted, this land is in the county and could be considered spot zoning. But Millican was willing to pay for the city sewer hook-up to area. The townhomes would be in te $250,000 price range, while the single-family homes would be in the $325,000 range.

"We feel the proposed development would be good for Guilford County," said attorney Charlie Melvin, a fixture at county commissioners' and city council meetings.

Several residents of the area opposed the project because of — you guessed it — its density. They proposed more moderate densities, to no avail.

"If there's anyone here not willing to compromise, it's Mr. Millican," one opponent said. "There's no multifamily zoning within a mile of here."

Opponents were also concerned about the amount of earth to be disturbed by the development, considering the fact that the area is located within a watershed critical area.

Yow, the commission's resident well-driller, pointed out that a development under the current zoning with wells and septic tanks would disturb more land than Millican's proposal.

"You're under less risk with this plan," he said.

Planning director Mark Kirstner said he was confident county ordinances protecting the watershed area would keep the drinking water clean.

"We do have a very clean water supply" due to those county ordinances, Kirstner said.

Then there was the issue of a city police firing range next to the property, something that drew commissioner Carolyn Coleman's concern.

"I don't think any home that's next to a firing range is compatible," she said.

What was interesting is, long after the public speaking portion ended, an older gentleman wearing a Marine jacket rose to speak. Davis, an old Marine himself, recognized him.

The gentleman said it was difficult for his wife to sleep some nights when the cops are firing automatic weapons on the range.

The fellow Marine's testimony was not enough to sway Davis, who voted for the project along with Yow, Arnold, Skip Alston and Kirk Perkins.

"This development isn't quite the boogeyman it's made out to be," Perkins said.

But the motion failed 6-5 as Mike Winstead, himself a developer, voted against it along with Trudy Wade, who was concerned about traffic, Linda Shaw, Paul Gibson, Coleman and Kay Cashion, who said she was "inclined to respect the homeowners that are already there and the investment they've made.

And, oh yeah, the county approved incentives for Comair. Yow wondered why Timco had never come to the commissioners asking for incentives, yet the board was considering giving $106,000 to its competition for workers.

"We never do anything to help what's already here," Yow said.

I have no idea where to start with tonight's county commissioners' meeting, so much went on.

I'll start out with the good stuff. The board dealt with the Dr. K. matter out in the open. Commissioner Steve Arnold, saying "our public boards need to be held accountable," made a motion to stop payment on Dr. K's $60k severance and begin recall of Board of Health members who may have acted improperly. The motion failed by a 6-5 vote, but I'm sure Scott Yost, my former Triad Business News colleague, will continue to pursue the story. Scott's a prolific writer with an outgoing personality that's perfect for dealing with these guys.

What was interesting is board chairman Bruce Davis went on the defensive, claiming the health board had "the advice of a lawyer to keep us within the law."

He also took a swipe at Yost, saying "I'm sure Mr. Hammer pays you to chase down more than one story."

Then there was the retreat in Chapel Hill. The commissioners will meet at the School of Government, which was decided by a 6-5 vote.

The legal issue was commissioners are not allowed to vote outside the county. So then the commissioners had to figure out if they could get anything done without voting.

"I've never been to a retreat with a board where we didn't take a vote," said commissioner Trudy Wade.

"I think we can accomplish some serious business without taking a vote," replied fellow commissioner Paul Gibson.

It got funny when commissioner Billy Yow, after announcing he would not be attending the retreat, brought up the touchy-feely theme introduced earlier by Arnold.

Davis came right back.

"As far as touchy feely goes, at least you won't be there to get touch and feel," he said.

The architects' contract for Northeast Park was a fiasco. The $387,000 contract with TFF of Greensboro included design for a community building, park gatehouse and future pool/bathhouse concession building complex.

Yow raised the issue of the bidding process, saying the job could probably be done with less expense to the taxpayer. County attorney Jonathan Maxwell explained the bidding process with bond money was based on RFQs,(requests for qualifications) instead of RFPs. In other words, the county gets the best qualified company, then talks price.

While he didn't totally diss the RFQ process, Arnold pointed out "We're not trying to duplicate St. Paul's Cathedral."

There seemed to be a simple solution: Maxwell pointed out that although RFQs were a state statute, the board had the power to change it to a regular bidding process. It wasn't clear if this meant for just this project or all future projects, how many businesses should make the first cut and whether or not enough minority businesses were included. A confusing round of motions and substitute motions took place.

Finally, it was worked out where a regular bidding process would begin on this particular project with the goal of including between 10 and 20 percent minority businesses.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Yes! Weekly's page 2.....dude?

Don't tell me they've already run out of pretty women in a city like Greensboro.

Here's an example of what I was talking about in this post on urban sprawl and school transportation:

N&O columnist Ruth Sheehan writes about her husband's efforts to pick their kid up after the Wake County school system cancelled classes during yesterday's brief snowstorm:

"Wednesday's my deadline day, so my husband was the one to pull the duty. He left our house in North Raleigh at 1:30 to make what is normally a 15-minute drive to Poe Elementary in Southeast Raleigh...."

Poe Elementary? A montessori magnet school.

The point I'm making is Sheehan is coosing to send her child to a school outside her neighborhood in order to get what she thinks is a better education. That's fine. That's why I say that trying to make an association between urban sprawl, school transportation and fat kids is like putting a square peg in a round hole.

This should make a lot of people feel good:

I'm reviewing Michael Medved's Right Turns for a print publication. I'll post about chapters I find interesting. Needless to say, his chapter on Yale classmate John Kerry was very interesting, but I'll show some respect on this day of all days.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

I feel compelled to respond to the N.Y. Times article on Iraq The Model since I made reference to the Baghdad brothers' blog in this post, which drew double-digit comments.

After reading the Times article twice, here's my theory. The reporter clearly undertook the assignment with the prejudice that Iraq The Model was an American front. She also betrayed her bias against the Bush administration at the end of the article, when she suggests that Ali is being genuine only when he expresses doubt about the American adminsitration, unlike his brothers Mohammed and Omar.

But unfortunately for Ms. Boxer, everything about Iraq the Model checked out. Her editors had high expectations for this story, so she's expected to produce something. The best she can do is this puff piece, and it's relegated to the Arts & Leisure section. Trust me, this happens in journalism.

But here's the question: Is it so insane to believe that, in spite of the death and destruction, many Iraqis, if not the majority, actually hold hope for the future now that they are free of Saddam Hussein? That they actually embrace freedom? That they relish their opportunity to vote? That terrorists (insurgents) are the ones standing the way of freedom?

I'd say the Times thinks so.

Now I'm going to shut up about the war for a while.

Wharton hits the nail on the head regarding yesterday's visit from Bush EPA official Geoffrey Anderson:

"What struck me about Anderson's talk was how un-regulatory it was. He started by noting how much smart growth in the US has been locally driven, and is not the result of state or federal mandates."

One other quote from Anderson, that struck a nerve with me:

"It's popular to say evil developers are doing it (contributing to urban sprawl). That's so oversimplified."

Wharton obviously took pretty good notes. I arrived late, walking into the slideshow presentation from the afternoon sunshine. It was dark in there; I couldn't see what the hell I was writing.

My thoughts:

The one place where I thought Anderson was sticking a square peg into a round hole was the relationship between childhood obesity and walking to school. He made his point effectively; he asked everyone who walked to school as a kid to raise their hands, and nearly everyone in the audience responded. Then he asked everyone whose kids walked to school to raise their hands, and one hand went up.

So the solution would be to build new schools closer to neighborhoods on tracts of land smaller than the average 20 acres. With more kids walking to school, they won't get as fat, and school transportation costs will go down.

But here's the problem we have in Guilford County: With the move toward school choice, including an emphasis on on magnet programs, parents are willingly sending their kids to schools outside their neighborhood, necessitating a bus ride or automobile transportation. That was a major cause of the school bus fiasco at the start of the year. So many kids are going to magnet schools several miles from their neighborhood. As we speak, the school system is busily refining its bus hub system to prevent those problems from happening again.

This, in my mind, is an example of how the concept of smart growth conflicts with the realities of many areas. But that said, the presentation on the whole showed that federal regulators have an open mind regarding the realities of this vast country.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Chilly paper route day.

Interesting article on nannies in today's N&R. As it happens, I've gotten hooked on Nanny 911 and, last night, Super Nanny. Psycho kids vs. worn-out parents, and the nanny comes in and whips everybody into shape in one week.

The lesson I always get: Kids are more adaptable than we give them credit for.

Monday, January 17, 2005

The debate over smart growth and urban sprawl continues.

Wharton puts out the word (I actually heard about it through Cone) about a Bush EPA official coming to town to present Greensboro with a Smart Growth Award. He'll also give a presentation, "Myths and Facts About Smart Growth Approaches to Development." Anyone care to speculate on what a Bush official has to say about smart growth?

Then there's this letter to the editor (keep scrolling) from Robin Parker, who weighs in on the article "Planners preach value of density."

Ms. Parker refers to Mayor Holliday's statement that "It scares people to death" when talk arises of condos being built nearby.

"There are valid reasons people should be scared," Ms. Parker writes. "Is there anyone in Greensboro who can't wait to have condos or townhomes in their back yard?"

But she doesn't let the other shoe drop. Is she against development altogether, or does she not care as long it's not in her back yard? I was interested to know. The problem is, if you're going to have infill development, then you're going to have to build in someone's back yard.

Which brings me to the planning and zoning commission meeting, which I watched on TV the other night. I saw the case where Betty "Lake Jeanette" Smith wants to put some attached single-family homes off New Garden Road and was requesting a zoning change.

One lady spoke out against the project, saying too many trees would be cut down. But zoning commissioner Gary Wolff reminded her that, had someone wanted to put up single-family homes, which are permitted under the current zoning, then more trees would be cut down because that type of development is not subject to the tree ordinance, as are developments with higher densities.

I'm not making light of the lady's concern for trees. I'm just highlighting the many complexities surrounding planning and zoning commissions already deal with on a regular basis. They do a good job, in my opinion.

With the help of a snowstorm, the Patriots shut down Peyton Manning and the Colts. Is there any doubt they will do the same to Roethlisberger, after his performance against the Jets? I'll go ahead and call it now- hearts will be broken in Pittsburgh.

I would say the Philadelphia-Atlanta would be easy to call as well, because you have the same situation- a dome guy playing in cold weather. But Michael Vick handed the Packers their first home playoff game two years ago. So the NFC matchup is a little tougher to call.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

I'm mentioned in N&R editor John Robinson's column.

Have I said recently what a fine newspaper they put out over there on E. Market Street?

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Thank you, JW, for helping install Halaoscan at ACC Hoops, which no doubt will have coverage of the Carolina-Wake game.

Interesting comparison and contrast between Rathergate and WMD. I got it from Patrick Eakes, who says he got it from Lex Alexander.

The chart makes it point. Fair enough, I guess. But let's take an ends-justify-the-means approach to this situation. Let's say Rather's story temporarily sticks. It does what it was intended to do: affect the outcome of the election. Kerry wins. Then, in December, it's revealed that the story is bogus. So would we see millions of Kerry supporters writhing in guilt, demanding a recall? I doubt it. And we'd still have no exit strategy in Iraq, because if Kerry had one, I never heard it, at least not in plain English.

So the search for WMD was not successful. I regret the loss of life in the process. But in that process, American soldiers and fellow coalition members uncovered an international scandal that was, to say the least, negatively affecting the lives of the Iraqi people. Was that supposed to just keep going on? I hope nobody would think so. Otherwise, international law means nothing.

For those who think this whole effort has been a waste of time, I suggest you check out Iraq The Model, where there are many interesting comments on the upcoming elections.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Bumper sticker on a jeep cruising down Elm Street:

"Sarcasm: Just another service I offer."

While we're on the subject, I'll be busy over the next couple of weeks with ACC Hoops, as well as the old-fashioned print media. Future posts will be short and sweet, with plenty of biting sarcasm and quick changes of subject.

I went to the PRSA meeting last night, where Dale Pollock, dean of the filmmaking school at the N.C. School of the Arts, was the featured speaker.

I'd scanned newspaper profiles of Pollock, but I had no idea he was a journalist before becoming a producer. He started out at a small community newspaper in California before moving on to Daily Variety and the L.A. Times, where he was nominated for a Pulitzer for a story on the Teamsters working the film industry.

Two major points: The film industry, like every other industry, is going to keep moving east, with Eastern Europe being the hotspot and China the ultimate destination.

"China will be the new filmmaking hotspot," Pollock said.

But the Piedmont, with the right marketing, "is prime to be a great location for independent filmmakers who can't afford to fly to Eastern Europe."

Tom Teepen points out that "the respected arbiters" of the CBS-National Guard matter — Republican former governor of Pennsylvania Dick Thornburgh and retired AP head Louis Boccardi — found "no political bias" in the reporting.

Fair enough. And it's certainly good enough for Teepen, who writes that CBS was "hustling to get a whiz-bang story out before competitors could beat them to it."

But Tom, why were CBS and its competitors hustling to get to this story? And are they still doing so on the eve of Bush's inauguration?

Thursday, January 13, 2005

A friend of mine shares her old People magazines with us, one of which had some pictures of Prince Harry. In light of the most recent photos,, it was refreshing to know that he was once involved in more wholesome activities, such as making out with a bikini-clad blonde on the deck of a beach house.

Here's another reason our country sucks, from Nicholas Kristoff of the N.Y. Times:

"Here's a wrenching fact: If the U.S. has an infant mortality rate as good as Cuba's, we would save an additional 2,212 American babies a year.

"Yes, Cuba's. Babies are less likely to survive in America, with a health care system that we think is the best in the world, than in impoverished and auotcratic Cuba."

How about this for a good deal: You survive childbirth in Cuba then escape to live in freedom and prosperity in America.

Stadium land battles:

Owners of a waste transfer station file a lawsuit against D.C., saying the district blocked upgrade permits to hold down the value of the land where they're going to build the Nationals' stadium.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Portland's version of Hoggard: The One True b!X.

Not quite what they wanted.......

Parents ask for $20 million, get $500,000 from Home Depot when a steel and glass door falls on their 8-year-old son.

The N&O article doesn't elaborate on exactly what injuries little Will Baker suffered, but the Durham Herald-Sun account says that little Will "allegedly suffered permanent and severe brain damage."

Lawyers for Will's parents wanted the $20 million "to compensate for what they said was a limited future for Will."

But Home Depot lawyers evidently made the case that Will suffered from learning disabilities before the accident.

Being on a jury is a difficult job. I was on a jury once, and to this day I'm not sure I made the right decision. It was very difficult to process a lot of technical information with 11 people I'd never met and wouldn't really want to.

Just playing around......

What is it with kickers running their mouths? First Todd Sauerbrun, now Mike Vanderjagt, again.

Believe it or not, Vanderjagt, at 6-5 and 211 lbs, is taller than than Sauerbrun (5-11) and gives up only three pounds. But Sauerbrun's been known to dish out some punishment. Perhaps Vanderjagt's ready to put some hits on the Patriots. Otherwise, he might want to make sure he kicks the ball out of the end zone on sunday.

Everybody chill out: I just saw Armstrong Williams on TV and he thinks this is a bad idea.

Busy working on ACC Hoops Blog. Cone and I pumped ourselves up last week, and we want to deliver a quality blog.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Paper route day.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Comment from "Dylan Thomas" regarding Binker's post on Armstrong Williams:

"My question as a teacher is why doesn't everybody in the United States know about this man who should, as you so aptly point out, have a new level of hell reserved just for him and others of his ilk."

Easy, dudes.

Gate City has some interesting thoughts not only on the N&R, but Go Triad:

"It is so frou-frou, and Jerri (sic) Rowe came out and announced it as an agent of change. People don't want an entertainment weekly to be an agent of change, they want to be entertained."

There were some difficult decisions to be made this weekend- whether or not to watch ACC hoops or the playoffs. Complicating matters was the fact that I was visiting my mother, who doesn't go for sitting around and watching sports all day. So I watched and listened (while doing yard work) when I could.

I was able to catch the entire Jets-Chargers game.

The buzz going into the playoffs was the NFC's mediocrity. But thank goodness this game wasn't the best the AFC had to offer. It was the most undisciplined, poorly-coached game I think I've ever seen. Madden commented repeatedly on the game's overall sloppiness.

Where to start? The Jets were pulled offsides by a hard count on fourth-and one. The Chargers had too many men on the field for a Jets punt after a key defensive stop. Schottenheimer's unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The Jets twice had too few men on the field, and the Chargers twice didn't pick it up.
Herman Edwards having to be pulled away from his assistant coach.

Then there was Eric Barton's personal foul at the end of regulation. I know this sounds sinister, but I was pulling for the Chargers to win just so Barton would have to live with that during the offseason.

Then there was San Diego's field-goal attempt in overtime. Was anyone besides me thinking to themselves that, after three conservative running plays, the Chargers still didn't line the spot up in the center of the field?

That said, there are indeed better teams in the AFC. The Colts have a great offense, but I'm looking forward to New England going into Pittsburgh for the title game.

CBS fires four executives over the Bush-National Guard story:

Mary Mapes, producer of the report; Josh Howard, executive producer of "60 Minutes Wednesday and his top deputy Mary Murphy; and senior vp Betsy West.

Anybody's name missing from that list?

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Hoggard has some interesting stuff regarding Christmas cards sent to school board members Kris Cooke and Dot Kearns.

Jinni looks fantastic.

I'd like to extend a Happy Birthday wish to one of one of our country's greatest presidents: Richard Nixon.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

So I wake up on a Saturday, pour a cup of coffee, turn to the editorial page, and see our county described as a sprawling mess by our local daily. Makes me feel real good. I could waste valuable minutes of my weekend reacting and responding. But you know what? Screw it.

I'm eager to see TREBIC's view of the situation.

Check out these links, via our newest blogging politico, city council member Tom Phillips.

Friday, January 07, 2005

A little name-dropping.....

The Wizards beat the Sonics last night. Sonics coach Nate McMillan was my eighth-grade classmate at Ligon Junior High.

A friend gave me Steve Martin's The Pleasure of My Company. It's a very blog-like book, consisting of many short passages from the mind of the main character, Daniel Pecan Cambridge.

Daniel "observes the world from his apartment window and creates elaborate fantasies about the people he sees and about himself."

Question: What made my friend choose this book while thinking of me?

The Guilford County Board of Education is still trying to figure out what to do about discipline problems in the schools.

So the board brings in experts who tell them:

Schools need to teach values and ethics instead of just enforcing rules;

Teachers who show affection and appreciation have fewer discipline problems;

A social contract exists between students and schools: The schools will provide an education if the students agree to behave;

Suspending students does no good, because trouble students already don't want to be in school.

OK. If you want my opinion, this was a total waste of time. Every thing the experts said are beliefs that the board already holds. The experts were preaching to the choir, to use the old expression. Time and again I've sat through school board meetings where the board had the very same discussions regarding discipline. Did they bring in people to tell them what they want to hear, or is this just the dominant mentality of educators today?

Thursday, January 06, 2005

.....But here's the best idea for a blog: School superintendent Terry Grier.

Ed Hardin's (unposted) column reminds me of the TV commercial where the guy eats a Snickers bar and becomes president.

But if cut you through Hardin's sense of humor, he's got it right: The logistics of an NCAA football playoff don't work. It's hard to sell upwards of 80,000 tickets to a football game when you don't know who the opponents will be from week to week.

Still, something's gotta give: Tuesday's Orange Bowl drew the second-worst TV rating for a BCS championship game. Playing the championship game a full three days (in this case) after New Year's Day is asking a bit much of the average college football fan's attention span. Playing the championship game the day after New Year's seemed to work pretty well. But if it were up to me (and it's not), I'd pack it in with the rest of the Jan. 1 games.

But if it were really, truly up to me, I'd just reverse course and go back to the traditional bowl alliances.

I loved the quotes from the Sierra Club's David Sullivan in this morning's N&R article on (gasp) urban sprawl.

Sullivan says at first that the Sierra Club's report on the "effects" of sprawl in Guilford County is "not adversarial; it's not pointing fingers."

Then, at the end of the article, Sullivan says:

"It took 40 to 50 years to get into this mess. It's going to take us 30 to 40 years to get out of this." Sounds pretty adversarial to me.

The chart that caught my eye was the average number of minutes to work. According to the chart, it took 16.5 minutes to get to work in Greensboro in 1980; in 2000, it took 20.4 minutes, a difference of 3.9 minutes.

Maybe it's just me, but a four-minute increase over 20 years doesn't sound that bad. Then there's the asterisk*: Those numbers include "traveling by means of private vehicles, public transportation, walking and all other forms of transportation."

Aren't those other forms of transportation going to put a time-drag on automobile travel, since it obviously takes longer to walk, ride a bike or catch the bus than it does to drive?

So with that in mind, the increase in travel time to work appears even less alarming. You guys know my mind works in mysterious ways; help me out if I'm missing the point.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

I was just thinking: Now that all the politicos are starting blogs, is it only a matter of time before county commissioners Billy Yow and Steve Arnold get in on the action?

A constructive suggestion for the N&R:

Set up its online version of letters to the editor like the Raleigh N&O, with a link to each letter. It would make it easier for readers who live for my commentary on and reaction to the letters that appear in their paper.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

ESPN's Bill Simmons is not too sure about Wade Boggs' election to the Hall of Fame:

"Trust me. I followed him in Boston for 11 years. We never thought of him the way we did George Brett or Mike Schmidt- those were franchise players. Boggs was....well, what was he?"

I know you can't keep a guy with five batting titles out of the Hall of Fame. But think about most Hall of Famers, and you can usually come with one major moment in their careers. A key hit. A clutch play. An incredible pitching performance. Brett hitting the home run off Goose Gossage in the ninth inning of the 1976 ALCS. Johnny Bench- they're so many- completing the sweep of the Yankees with two homers in the final game of the 1976 Series. Reggie Jackson hitting three homers in the 1977 World Series. Even Tony Perez, who admittedly is among the more statistically-challenged Hall of Famers, hit the big home run to put the Reds within striking distance in Game 7 of the 1975 Series

But I can't really think of a big moment for Boggs. The only memories that come to mind are him sitting in the dugout with tears in his eyes after the Red Sox lost to Mets in the '86 Series and riding the horse around Yankee Stadium when the Yanks beat the Braves in '96.

That's a good exercise for baseball fans: Pick a Hall of Famer and try to remember a major moment.

Just $500 for some touchy-feely group therapy for 11 individuals who sometimes have trouble getting along? Sounds like a deal to me.

I finally got around to reading the N.Y. Times Sunday sports section last night, and there there was an interesting article on college football coaches' salaries. Right now, eight Division 1-A football coaches make more than $2 million per year, and that number is expected to increase to between 12 and 15 by next year.

Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione believes that the $2.5 million salary for coach Bob Stoops is a bargain, considering the football program brings in $42 million, which is 70 percent of the school's entire athletic budget:

"The value is obvious. So why not apply a good business strategy? From a business standpoint, we can justify every pennt we pay Bob."

Here's the most recent list I could find of college football coaching contracts, compiled by Sports Illustrated's Mike Fish. I realize there's been some movement on the list recently, with Urban Meyer going to Florida and with Les Miles taking Nick Saban's job at LSU.

But the list gives a good overview of what college coaches are earning.

Monday, January 03, 2005

The Charlotte Observer covers the Panthers' loss from every conceivable angle.

Did I see anything no one else saw? Not really. I'll say this much for Panthers fans in attendance: Everyone was on their feet for the last four minutes of the game.

The real bummer: When I got home and read Ed Hardin's account of the game, somehow I felt like all the excitement before and during the game, not to mention the disappointment afterward, was all a big waste of time.


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