In a series of telephone and e-mail interviews this week, Fumo opened up about his feelings. Better buckle up for this:Like, wow.
"I always think of the Jews and others who were forced into the Nazi concentration camps for doing absolutely nothing. So many times bad things happen to good people and the only way to survive is to look forward not backward."
Friday, August 14, 2009
Thursday, August 13, 2009
The great No. 26 combined speed, strength and athleticism to such a degree that many of those who were around him in the early days of his career are still in awe of how good he was, as this late-June story from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reveals.
Woodson's career brings back a few distinct memories:
1) Video footage on the news every night of him hurdling somewhere in Europe during his rookie-year holdout in 1987.
2) The fumble he forced and recovered that led to the game-winning field goal to beat the Houston Oilers on the road in overtime in the 1989 playoffs.
3) The way he'd take risks and sometimes get beat deep, which was OK because more often than not he'd also jump a route a make a play.
4) Barry Sanders making a cut and forcing Woodson to tear the ACL in his right knee on the Three Rivers Stadium
concrete turf in the 1995 season opener. He would later return for Super Bowl XXX against the Cowboys -- still the only player to come back from such an injury in the same season -- only to have Michael Irvin joke that Woodson would have to cover "the human Autobahn." And, at one point, after Woodson broke up a pass intended for Irvin, he promptly stood in front of Irvin and pointed at the knee. Which was just awesome.
5) His departure after the 1996 season. Eagles fans chagrined over Brian Dawkins, I know how you feel.
6) His finally winning a ring with the Baltimore Ravens in 2000. Wait. I wish I didn't remember that.
Hats off, Rod, the first post-70s Steeler to get into the Hall. For an additional stroll down memory lane, Steel Curtain Rising has published an excellent recap of Woodson's best moments as a Steeler here.
Now, can we do something about getting Dick LeBeau's and Dermontti Dawson's busts into Canton?
Monday, August 10, 2009
"The governing commerical calculus these days," according to A.O. Scott, a film critic for The New York Times, "seems to be that dudes want smut, ladies want weddings, and a picture (like "The Hangover," say) that delivers both will make the audience happy and the studios rich."
Love stories, after all, usually work out, at least according to the standard contrivances of most romantic comedies. But in real life, stories about love often do not work, and such candor is precisely what makes (500) Days a delightfully brave departure from the norm. We learn almost right away that the "love story" we are about to see is doomed, so what we're left with is "a story about love" that proceeds to provide the process of its slow demise in all its messy, mangled, gut-wrenching glory.
And that process -- our knowing the end, but not the means -- is part of what makes 500 Days work so well. The story of Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel) and Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is not told chronologically, but rather with a narrative that deftly cuts back-and-forth through various high and low points in their time together. "The structure," as Ross Douthat writes in National Review, "fits with the way failed relationships are remembered -- not as a long descent from joy to sorrow, but as a jumble of competing memories, all of them potent, none of them lost."
Webb's other gimmicks -- a silly musical scene, characters occasionally talking directly to the camera, a fantastic split-screen sequence in which the lines of "Expectation" and "Reality" are clearly demarcated -- further feed our interest even though we're well aware that the conclusion is pre-ordained. As the film plays out, the subtle clues pointing to what's "wrong" begin to pile up, even if it's not obvious that they should: Tom and Summer seem perfect together, but something's just not right, and it never will be. She's just not that into him, to invert another recent Hollywood storyline.
Visually, the film provides a new way of looking at the urban beauty of Los Angeles that is also not what we're used to seeing on-screen. And then there's Tom and Summer, who more or less (though not entirely) fit the template for the quirky, quasi-hipster couples who have come along recently in films like Juno and Garden State: He's the skinny boy with the cool clothes, the occasional awkwardness and the creative passion he's either afraid or unwilling to take a risk for; she's got that achingly adorable look, that style and flair that never seems to cease, that awesome knack for doing something -- anything -- that brings a smile just when a smile seems to be needed most.
But in both Juno and Garden State, the love stories are a secondary concern. Juno is primarily about a teen pregnancy that's told from a female point-of-view, while Garden State -- as Douthat makes clear -- is built upon the male lead's attempts at achieving self-discovery. By contrast, in (500) Days, as Douthat writes, Tom has "been absolutely and completely destroyed by her -- and this, not his self-actualization or career awakening, is the substance of the movie and the source of its interest and appeal."
Gary Thompson of the Philadelphia Daily News writes that some critics have compared Gordon-Levitt's performance to that of a young Marlon Brando. High praise, to be sure, but Gordon-Levitt does indeed bring a genuine intensity to a role in which his character labors to understand that which seems to make no sense: He's the one who's helplessly stuck between hopeless and romantic, and he more than ably adjusts his emotions accordingly. Deschanel's Summer, by contrast, is presented as little more than an unattainable object of male affection. Other than the impact of her parents' divorce, we learn little about her apart from what she slowly begins to share with Tom, though even that amounts to very little. Some critics have chastised the film for this alleged flaw, but it in fact serves to make its point: Love is not something that can be forced, or willed into being. It's either there or it isn't, and it's often beyond the realm of reason or logic to try to justify the cold reality of that immutable truth.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Friday, July 31, 2009
Fumo: “Oh, I probably should have told her to go to the second floor, rather than do it in the basement, yes.”
Pease: “Because it’s a violation of state law for you to have your employee using state facilities, state equipment, to work on campaigns, correct?”
Fumo: “It is, it is. It’s also a violation to spit on the sidewalk, although I don’t know that it’s enforced.”
“That was a little flippant,” Fumo now concedes.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
[I]n one of those only-in-Philly political moments, Fumo was actually facing felony charges for putting "ghost employees" on the state payroll in 1978, the same year he was elected a senator. A jury of his "peers" -- i.e., regular schlubs like you and me -- voted unanimously to find Fumo guilty. But a federal judge -- one of his real peers -- threw the conviction out. Talk about foreshadowing!The entire charade is an outrage, people. And given that Harrisburg can't get a budget together (more on that in the near future), and that one longtime state senator has breathtakenly (and remorselessly) charged taxpayers to rent an office building in a business owned by him and his wife, it's all the more discouraging. Where, to borrow a tired and empty campaign cliche, is the change we can believe in? Then again, what do we expect when we'd rather have blanket coverage of Michael Jackson's death? Fact is, we deserve this, until we prove otherwise.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Saturday, August 30, 2008
And yes, Pirates fans, I'll be weighing in on the sudden, dramatic turn in the Pedro Alvarez-Scott Boras situation before the weekend is out. Stay tuned.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Love the above ad that Triumph Brewing Co. in New Hope circulated to promote last night, the final one in which smokers were permitted to light up inside the joint. A few too-serious types didn't find the ad that appealing, of course, especially the bit about kids. But whatever. You can read what I wrote about the whole deal in today's Intelligencer and Bucks County Courier Times here.
Bottom line: I'm a non-smoker, but I've never supported laws outlawing smoking in bars and restaurants, simply because there's nothing to stop a bar or restaurant from going smoke-free on its own. In other words, let the market decide. Besides, by all indications, many people will no longer patronize a bar that allows smoking, so the laws are quickly becoming superfluous. That said, if I wished to cater to smokers, why can't I? As for the puritans who justify their smoke-free stance in the name of public health, why are some private clubs and other places that don't serve a lot of food exempt from the law, according to the bottom of this Philadelphia Inquirer report? Are employees and patrons of those places somehow less affected by smoke? Talk amongst yourselves, people.
Friday, August 22, 2008
It's a Steeler Planet, people. Myron Cope would be proud, no doubt.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Charlie LeDuff is a fantastic writer who has a knack for capturing the extraordinary lives of ordinary people. In 2004, he wrote a front-page story about a desert encampment of elderly drifters for The New York Times that remains a life of kings favorite for its detailed description of "a broken-down place of limited possibilities" for those who have "inherited the burden of living." LeDuff has also published a pair of books, one of which is Work and Other Sins: Life in New York City and Thereabouts, which is mostly a compilation of the "Bending Elbows" column he had written for The Times in the period before and after 9/11, plus numerous other short columns about the "fantastic nobodies" that populate New York City's streets and barrooms.
Not too long ago, LeDuff accompanied photographer Robert Frank, whom he describes as "the last human being to find anything new behind a viewfinder," to China, and he wrote about the trip for Vanity Fair. Frank's landmark book of black and white photographs, The Americans, turns 50 this year. As the 1950s gave way to the '60s, the book was considered groundbreaking for having foretold the social struggles that were to come -- a visual representation of what Jack Kerouac, in Desolation Angels, describes as "this modern America of crew cuts and sullen faces in Pontiacs." Frank commissioned Kerouac to write the book's introduction, and while LeDuff includes Kerouac's best quotes, it's worth noting that Kerouac also writes that the book captures "[t]hat crazy feeling in America when the sun is hot on the streets and the music comes out of the jukebox or from a nearby funeral." Or, as LeDuff writes:
The book became great for what it did in its time. Before Frank, the visual orientation of photographs had been straight, horizontal, vertical. The subject of the picture was always obvious. You knew what the picture was about and what it meant to say. Frank, the shadowy little man, came along and changed the angles, made graininess a virtue, obscure lighting a benefit. His pictures were messy; you weren’t sure what to feel, who or what to focus on. Perhaps more important, Frank intellectually changed photography — that is, what a photographer was supposed to look at. If Ansel Adams chose to capture the mightiness of nature, how could you argue with that? Where’s the fault in stone and sky and snow? There is no fault. And therein lies its fault. Frank snatched photography from the landscapists and the fashion portraitists and concentrated his lens on battered transvestites, women in housedresses, and sunken mouths. Life is not boulders and snow and perfume and chiffon. Life is difficult and sad and ephemeral. Life is flesh, not stone.The Vanity Fair piece is LeDuff at his finest: getting to the center of his subject, even as difficult as it might be to understand him. Frank, to put it simply, epitomizes the mad genius of the artist: the selfishness, the limitlessness of his personal life, the willingness to sacrifice almost anything for the sake of his art:
Frank said he used to stare in on [Willem] de Kooning from his apartment on East Third Street, admiring not the work so much as the artist. “The abstraction, not with the brush but with the mind,” he said. “The simple self-centered intellectual life. He had a stove and a refrigerator and an easel and he would be in his underwear studying that canvas. This appealed very much to me. He made me think to take risks in life. That, for artistic freedom, you had to fight and suffer for people to accept it.”There's so much more: from Frank's thoughts on digital photography and art school to his reminisciences (or what's left of them) of Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac to working with the Rolling Stones during the manic sessions that created the epic album Exile on Main St. But LeDuff gets to the heart of the matter after relaying what happened to Frank's children, whom the old man ackowledges he more or less ignored:
That, we both agreed, is the fantastic and fatal blessing of the American life. One can choose to be whatever one wants in America without the constraints of societal mores. One can live in Switzerland or China, but one must behave and believe as a Swiss or Chinese man is expected to. In America you might throw away those old structures and live however you choose. But if you do not replace the old structure with a new one, this freedom will explode in your face like a car battery. “So much guilt,” Frank said, rubbing his palms on his trousers. After a silence, he gave me this: “You can capture life, but you can’t control it.”The entirety of LeDuff's essay for Vanity Fair can be read here.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
If the team has issues with its offensive line now, next season could be disastrous because [Marvel] Smith and new left guard Chris Kemoeatu will become unrestricted free agents if they remain unsigned. So, too, will Max Starks and Trai Essex, their top two backup tackles. Starting right tackle Willie Colon will become a restricted free agent. It's likely that Smith won't return if he's not signed to an extension over the next month.The Steelers have a month to talk about extending current contracts because their rule is not to renegotiate deals once the season begins. OK, fine. But clearly, there'a a problem here. Remember, the offensive line allowed their franchise quarterback to be sacked 47 times last season, plus six more times in a playoff loss to Jacksonville. That franchise quarterback was then signed to an eight-year, $102 million extension, which is good. But how are they going to protect him? For better or for worse, they let Alan Faneca, arguably the best guard they ever had, leave in free agency -- a move I was OK with, considering how much Faneca wound up getting from the Noo Yawk Jets. But in the draft, the Steelers didn't pick on offensive lineman until the fourth round, leaving them essentially to scramble with what they had, plus the addition of free agent center Justin Hartwig, who battled injuries last year with the Carolina Panthers. And now, they seem to be in no real hurry to keep anyone else, particularly tackle Marvel Smith, who should be fully recovered from the back troubles that plagued him last year. Look, I like that they picked some sure-fire skill guys in the first two rounds in Rashard Mendenhall and Limas Sweed. But considering the Murderers' Row that is their 2008 schedule, and considering the obvious holes they had (and still seem to have) up front, is there any reason to expect that this will be a playoff team? And why, after all the years of attention that was paid to molding a first-rate, smash-mouth O-line, does this team now no longer make the guys up front a priority?
OK, that's enough. Back to summertime, though I will be weighing in on the Steelers' ownership dispute/situation in the coming days. You know you can't wait.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
At Ekibastuz, any writing would be seized as contraband. So he devised a method that enabled him to retain even long sections of prose. After seeing Lithuanian Catholic prisoners fashion rosaries out of beads made from chewed bread, he asked them to make a similar chain for him, but with more beads. In his hands, each bead came to represent a passage that he would repeat to himself until he could say it without hesitation. Only then would he move on to the next bead. He later wrote that by the end of his prison term, he had committed to memory 12,000 lines in this way.Imagine.
His witness, among others, was the harrowing and frightening Gulag Archipelago, a book, at the risk of sounding pretentious, I'm honestly proud to admit I've read. Solzhenitsyn's willingness to tell the truth -- "It is within the power of writers and artists to do much more: to defeat the lie!" he said -- not only exposed the fraud that was the so-called "worker's paradise," but the totalitarian grip to which it subjected millions of people the world over for much of the 20th century. Christopher Hitchens, in his awesome-if-qualified tribute at Slate, writes:
[H]e kept on writing. The Communist Party's goons could have torn it up or confiscated or burned it -- as they did sometimes -- but he continued putting it down on paper and keeping a bottom drawer filled for posterity. This is a kind of fortitude for which we do not have any facile name. The simplest way of phrasing it is to say that Solzhenitsyn lived "as if." Barely deigning to notice the sniggering, pick-nose bullies who followed him and harassed him, he carried on "as if" he were a free citizen, "as if" he had the right to study his own country's history, "as if" there were such a thing as human dignity.David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, called him "the dominant writer of the 20th century" because of "the effect he has had on history." Born the year after the Russian Revolution, Solzhenitsyn outlived the Red Menace by nearly 17 years before dying late Sunday night at the age of 89. R.I.P.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
That said, I want to go on record with this: If the franchise is unable to sign top pick Pedro Alvarez by the Aug. 15 deadline, I hereby renounce them. They will no longer deserve my attention, or my heart. I'm serious about this. The Pirates have been woefully mismanaged for close to two decades now. As stated above, the new regime wants to develop talent in order to win, and I'm fine with that; they deserve a chance to right all the wrongs that were done before they took over. After years of drafting players they knew they could sign, the Pirates did the right thing and got the one they so obviously needed by picking Alvarez. But if they still can't buck up just to get him to report, then there will truly be no hope. There will truly be no need for them to exist as a Major League team. And there will truly be no reason for me to waste my time and energy caring about what they do. Yes, gentle reader, it's come to this: The Pittsburgh Pirates are on the clock with my heart.