Just prior to this year’s draft — very classy move by Commissioner Silver with the Isaiah Austin pick last night — Phil Jackson pulls the trigger on a long-awaited Knicks overhaul, sending Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to Dallas for Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Shane Larkin, Wayne Ellington, and two second round draft picks, which later became Cleananthony Early and Thanasis Antetokounmpo.
I always liked Chandler — Felton, er, didn’t really pan out — but it definitely seems like time to completely hit the reset button on the franchise.
Same goes for Carmelo Anthony. It’d be great if the Knicks could keep him, but, were I in his shoes, I’d sign with Chicago or Dallas too. The Knicks are now in full rebuilding mode with an untested coach. The Bulls and Mavs have more pieces to really make a run at a championship right now. So no harm, no foul, ‘Melo — Do what ya gotta do.
(The bigger paycheck probably didn’t hurt either.) In any event, Carmelo will remain a Knickerbocker, and apparently even took a slight pay cut to allow for more cap space next year. We’re gonna need it – Unless the league has forgotten how to defend the triangle, the Knicks still look to have at least another year of waiting before we’re even a second-round contender in the playoffs. Still, good to have Melo aboard for the long haul.
In a powerful piece for Buzzfeed, Steve Kandell, who lost his sister on 9/11, journeys through the new 9/11 museum and gift shop. “This tchotchke store — this building, this experience — is nothing more than the logical endpoint for our most reliably commodifiable national tragedy. If you want to bring a coffee table book full of photos of cadaver dogs sniffing through smoking rubble back home to wherever you’re from, hey, that’s great.”
In his first significant move as Team President, Phil Jackson fires Mike Woodson and the entire Knicks coaching staff after the team fails — again — to make the playoffs. (Woodson did lead them there last year, but it ended badly in the second round.) Yeah, unfortunately for Woodson, it did seem to be the time.
That reminds me: I’ve once again neglected to write up this year’s playoff bracket here. But, since the Knicks have been terribad all season, I haven’t been keeping up with the league much this year. Suffice to say, I hope we see an more interesting finals than Heat-Thunder or Heat-Spurs. And here’s to better luck in 2015, although I’m not terribly enthused with the idea of head coach Steve Kerr.
In its second installment, Slate’s new must-read series If It Happened There — which covers US events like our media covers other countries — chronicles the end of Michael Bloomberg’s tenure as mayor. “Bloomberg has made no secret of his ambitions for higher office, though experts believe he has limited appeal in America’s less-developed but politically influential agricultural regions, where powerful armed groups have bristled at his suggestions for limiting their access to advanced weaponry and munitions.”
After crafting a similar look for London, cognitive psychologist and map enthusiast reimagines the New York City subway system in circles. “Rather than emphasize straight lines, clean angles, and geographical accuracy, Roberts’ maps embody a more nuanced approach to mapping, one that combines aesthetics with usability.” Well, it looks nice…but I’m quite fond of “geographical accuracy” in maps as well.
It may not have the detail of Lego Hogwarts, but pretty cool nonetheless: A life-size Lego X-Wing is unveiled in Times Square. “The model…has a wingspan of 44 feet and comes complete with R2-D2 and a full range of sound effects…[It] was made with 5,335,200 Lego bricks. That, according to Lego, makes it the largest model ever built, eclipsing the Lego robot at the Mall of America by some 2 million bricks.”
It was a terrible day ten years ago, to be sure. But, I’m with Paul Krugman and The Onion. The horrors of that day can’t justifiy away torture, wars-of-choice, or any of the other ugly facets of the the low, dishonest decade that has followed.
As breaking over the weekend, the Coens’ next project may well be a look at the sixties folk scene in Greenwich Village, based on the life of Dave Von Ronk — above, with Dylan and Suze Rotolo — and his memoirs, The Mayor of McDougal Street. He shouldn’t overpower the story, but I do hope Jack Rollins get his due.
“At any rate, this was a terrible accident; 147 young people, they were all young men and women, were killed, lost their lives and a number of others were badly injured…This made a terrible impression on the people of the State of New York. I can’t begin to tell you how disturbed the people were everywhere. It was as though we had all done something wrong. It shouldn’t have been. We were sorry. Mea culpa! Mea culpa! We didn’t want it that way. We hadn’t intended to have 147 girls and boys killed in a factory. It was a terrible thing for the people of the City of New York and the State of New York to face.” — Frances Perkins
I meant to post on this a few weeks ago, but busy-ness conspired against it: 100 years ago last month, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory burned to the ground. And ultimately, from its ashes, a New Deal — something the Scott Walkers and Paul Ryans of the world might should consider.
To make this dynamic duo happen, we had to give up Felton, streaky scorers Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler, 7-foot prospect Timofey Mozgov, X-factor-gone-bust Anthony Randolph, the ghost of Eddy Curry, some future draft picks and some cash…For the record, I am totally ok with all of this.
As ESPN’s Ian O’Connor writes, “This is a great deal for the Knicks, a greater moment for their fan base…[I]t’s one of the best trades this team has made since Eddie Donovan acquired Dave DeBusschere in 1968.” Let’s hope events bear out this sportswriterly exaggeration — The Carmelo Era at MSG begins tonight at 7:30.
True, that. Still, even after the Amar’e signing, the Knicks are looking like a seventh or eighth seed at best at the moment. And with potential X-factor Anthony Randolph starting the season hobbled, Gallinari and Felton playing inconsistently in the pre-season, and Stanford second-rounder Landry Fields starting at SG, I fear it’s not going to take too many games before we’re all just waiting for Melo all season.
(But, hey, at least right now we have a better record than the hated 0-1 Heat, who looked terrible last night against the Celtics. Booyah.)
“I can’t think of a surer way to lose both our national soul and the struggle against terrorism. Yes, Mr. Gingrich and Ms. Palin, there’s a cultural-political offensive afoot to undermine our civilization. And you’re leading it.” Slate‘s William Saletan reviews the current GOP jihad against a potential mosque near Ground Zero (not to be confused with the mosque that’s already been there for 40 years.) But, on the bright side, at least now we know not to take the ADL seriously anymore. (See, by way of contrast, J-Street’s statement.)
Well, the King’s season isn’t over yet. (Although it may be soon, if there’s another game like tonight’s 120-88 Game 5 fiasco.) Nonetheless, New York Magazine offers LeBron James a multi-part hard sell of NYC on behalf of the Knickerbockers. To my mind, their logic is irrefutable.
In surveying the recent foiled Times Square car-bomb attempt, Slate‘s Fred Kaplan makes the case for the prescience of Jane Jacobs, and explains why Dick Cheney is, yet again, wrong. (Kaplan also makes a case for security cameras which I’m less sanguine about — but, hey, two out of three ain’t bad.)
Speaking of the Times Square situation, Twitter wag pourmecoffee had some arch responses to the near-disaster: “Somebody saw something in Times Square. If Cheney were still around, he’d torture entire Lion King cast for answers,” and “When we catch this Times Square guy, I assume he will be too scary to try in New York.” Ah, Twitter.
Still, despite some quality performances throughout, Brooklyn’s Finest is not a movie I can really recommend. In its gritty street rhythms, shades-of-gray plotting, and all-star cast of dirty cops with streaks of nobility, the film clearly aspires to the greatness of The Wire. (In fact, Michael K. Williams (Omar), Hassan Johnson (Weebay), and Isiah Whitlock, Jr. (Clay Davis) are all in this movie, the latter prompting an hilarious chorus of “shheeeeeeeeeits” at my late-night showing.)
But, for all its admirable ambition, this movie ends up feeling a lot closer to Crash. Like that film (and like another considerably over-praised film of the same type, Babel), Brooklyn’s Finest tells three disconnected stories, seemingly in the hope that they might add up to more than the sum of their parts. But, other than the fact that some of these cops work in the same precinct, and all of them rather implausibly end up in the same apartment block in the climax, they don’ t really have anything to do with each other. Unlike The Wire, where actions on the street (say by Bubbles, or Herc) will reverberate through the system and have unintended consequences that affect the highest levels of the Game (say, the Mayor’s office), nothing that happens in any of these stories has any effect on the other tales being told. In other words, these dirty cop vignettes are basically stovepiped, and, as such, they’re somewhat redundant.
So, instead of one story, you get three. And, also like Crash, the writing’s pretty ham-handed in all of them. For an excellent example of this tendency, look no further than the opening minutes, as — message alert! — Vincent D’Onofrio gives an on-the-nose speel about there being no right or wrong, just “righter and wronger.” Alrighty then. (Speaking of D’Onofrio, between he, Will Patton, and the Wire guys, Brooklyn’s Finest sometimes feels like a Recovery Act-funded jobs program for cop and robber actors. I spent much of the movie half-expecting Michael Rooker to show up.)
So, with the writing dropping the ball rather egregiously, the actors involved have to carry Brooklyn’s Finest on their own for its two and a half hours. And, as it turns out, they’re mostly up to the task. As the working-class Catholic cop in desperate need of some drug money to fix his mold problem (yes, you read that right), Ethan Hawke gives a variation on his twitchy loser from Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, and is better than the material warrants. (Strangely enough, he’s also once again paired up with Brian O’Byrne.) Meanwhile, Richard Gere is miscast as the lousy, alcoholic peace officer a week out from his pension — I would’ve gone Fred Ward — but he struggles through, despite some excruciatingly embarrassing scenes involving his hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold girlfriend. (One involving fellatio, the other the Honeydrippers.)
And the best third of Brooklyn’s Finest involves Don Cheadle as the Departed-style cop “lost in the Game,” i.e. so deep-undercover he’s forgotten which way is up. This is not only because Cheadle is great, as per the norm, but also because he’s got the ablest supporting cast to work with — the aforementioned Will Patton as his handler, Wesley Snipes in a nod to his New Jack City days, Michael K. Williams as the anti-Omar, and a couple of scene-stealers in Hassan Johnson (who, outside of a well-placed Busta Rhymes track, has the funniest line in the movie) and Ellen Barkin (who aims to prove she has the biggest cajones in the film, by a country mile.)
Still, even tho’ I recently made the case for “actors workshop”-type movies with 44 Inch Chest, actors can only do so much. And, despite the occasional well-performed scene, Brooklyn’s Finest is just too fumbling and Haggis-y in the writing department to really warrant the time investment. Put briefly, Brooklyn’s Finest is to cop movies what Milwaukee’s Best is to beer — only a worthwhile option if you’re intentionally slumming it.
By way of the NY Times, here’s a map of what Americans are renting from Netflix. Apparently, the Fort Myers military base at zip code 22211 has radically different viewing tastes than the rest of DC, and Manhattan and Brooklyn (but not New Jersey) love them some Mad Men.
The 2009-2010 NBA Season starts tonight, and, um, the Knicks don’t look very good. (I’ve been playing them this past week in NBA 2K10, and, yeah, they’re terrible — the simulator never lies. But hope springs eternal. And, hey, maybe that new point guard Murphy can right the ship…)
“It’s worth remembering how Vincent Canby began his review on June 30, 1989, in the New York Times: ‘In all of the earnest, solemn, humorless discussions about the social and political implications of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, an essential fact tends to be overlooked: it is one terrific movie.’“
In The Root, Henry Louis Gates reflects on the 20th anniversary of Do the Right Thing, and checks in with Spike Lee on the film. “None of us back then could possibly have imagined all that has transpired for our people, and for this country, in the intervening two decades: a black prince and princess so elegantly sitting up in the White House, and their very first date was in a movie theater in 1989, watching–what else? Do the Right Thing.“
“‘You get so hard living here,” he said in a gravelly, mournful voice. ‘But pets open up that heart center. There is something about the unconditional love; they clean the blues off of you. ‘That’s their mission. That’s why a lot of New Yorkers have pets.’” The NYT reports in on the passing of Pretty Boy, stray cat and late prince of the East Village.
“On an island under military occupation at the edge of an empire, the armed forces of a global superpower detain hundreds and sometimes even thousands of allegedly unlawful combatants. The powerful nation consigns the detainees to a legal limbo, subjecting them to treatment that critics around the world decry as inhumane, unenlightened, and ultimately self-defeating. That may sound like a history of Guantanamo. Yet the year was 1776, the superpower was Great Britain, and the setting was New York City. The ‘unlawful’ combatants were American revolutionaries.”
in a mixed review of Edwin Burrows’ Forgotten Patriots, friend and Columbia prof John Witt notes “eerie” parallels between Guantanamo Bay and revolutionary-era Manhattan, and offers choice advice for President-elect Obama. “To succeed, he will have to reunite the twin American traditions of interest and idealism. They are traditions his predecessor tore apart, but they are the true legacy of the Revolution.“
In a move that will likely rival MJ’s ho-hum final years in Washington, the New York Jets sign quarterback Brett Favre from Greenbay. I’d say this was a panic move that’ll clearly backfire, but, then again, the Jets were rolling with Vinny Testaverde for a few years there, and he was older than dirt too. At any rate, NYJ are as close to a NFL team as I have in my fan arsenal, so here’s hoping it pans out.
As for NYC, on one hand, I’m really going to miss this town. The sheer energy of Gotham always puts a spring in my step, and I really enjoy that distinct New York sensation of living in the center of the hive, ever-so-slightly in the future. On the other hand, I’d be lying if I didn’t concede that this city tends to aggravate my natural Irish melancholy, particularly once you factor in the usual grad school isolation, the happenstance that many of my better friends left some time ago, and the sad fact that, romantically speaking, I got crushed here…twice. But, no hard feelings, New York. Sure, there are lingering ghosts in this city, and if I never live as alone again as I have the past two years, it’ll be soon enough. But, I still love Manhattan, and I always will, and I would definitely look forward to doing another stint here at some point, if it turns out to be in the cards.
In any case, the future — however hazy at the moment — beckons. So, I’d expect it to be quiet here over the next few days as my brother and I lug my accumulated belongings down the Eastern Seaboard. Until then, hope everyone had a relaxing and appropriately reflective Memorial Day, and I’ll be in touch on the other end. And, if you’re an NYC reader and I didn’t see ya before I left, I expect I’ll be back for visits, more often than not. (I mean, this is New York.) Until then, be safe, y’all.
Has Donnie Walsh landed his first big fish? Word is NY has outbid Chicago, and the Phoenix Suns’ Mike D’Antoni is our new Knicks coach. Um…gratz? Mike D’Antoni seems like a good coach and an amiable guy, but is an offensive-minded, fast-break specialist really what we need right now? It’s really hard to envision Eddy Curry, Zack Randolph, and the gang running the floor for D’Antoni like the Suns did. And while we have many problems, and consistent offense surely ranks among them, defense is really where the Knickerbockers have stunk up the joint of late.
Well, it’s an interesting pick, if nothing else. Let’s see where it goes.
“I feel that those citizens who say that have never heard my sermons, nor do they know me. They are unfair accusations taken from sound bites…I served six years in the military. Does that make me patriotic? How many years did Cheney serve?” I haven’t watched the Sunday shows yet, but, if today’s press is any indication, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright is the big story in the news, after he delivered remarks in several venues aimed at defending himself against the recent media throng, as well as horrifying attempts by the like of George Stephanopoulos to McCarthify him on national television. (As I said here, we seem to have entirely skipped the rails when kindly ole Mike Huckabee is the biggest voice for tolerance and historical understanding in the conversation.)
At any rate, the return of Obama’s Angry Black Preacher-Man prompted tut-tuts of electoral worry from Clinton-leaning concern trolls like like Salon‘s Joan Walsh, and the usual waiting for the other-shoe-to-drop from breathless political blogs like War Room and Ben Smith. What I haven’t seen yet today, amid all the puttering from the press on the subject of Wright, is any attempt to put the Reverend’s remarks in context of this weekend’s highly dubious acquittal in the Sean Bell case. To wit, New York City cops shoot an unarmed black man and his friends 50 times and end up getting off for it, and, outside of Harlem, there’s barely a shrug, including in the news media. Meanwhile, when it comes to anything and everything involving the fates of Natalee Holloway, Laci Peterson, and any other white damsel in distress, the press drone on about it endlessly, funnelling info to us months or even years after the cases have gone cold. But, as they say, this ain’t Aruba, b**ch.
Is Rev. Wright angry? At this point, and as this weekend’s fiasco makes clear, he has every right to be. Perhaps the press and the punditocracy could investigate more thoroughly why black America may be less inclined to think well of our nation at times, rather than working themselves into yet another holier-than-thou froth about occasional intemperate remarks, and/or endlessly fretting about their potential impact on the electoral whims of the white working class. God forbid these media asshats break out of their echo chamber bubble once in awhile and do some honest-to-goodness reporting. Heck, I’d be happy just to see a few of ‘em think for themselves.
In more basketball news, it becomes official: To noone’s surprise (and to the relief of a grateful city), the Isiah Thomas era is over for the New York Knicks. “‘He will have no official title, but he will provide meaningful input,’ Walsh said during a conference call. ‘Isiah remaining a part of the franchise is important for the organization.’” Hmm. I could see a freefloating Isiah still doing considerable damage to the team, particularly if he screws up the lines of authority and/or undermines whomever our new coach turns out to be. But, I have to concede, he has been a pretty solid drafter (Camby, T-Mac, Damon Stoudamire, Lee, Balkman.) So, if Walsh wants to send him out to look at prospects, have at it…just keep him away from the bench and the locker room. Update: Walsh got the message. Apparently Isiah isn’t allowed to talk to the players.
“When the venerable Donnie Walsh arrived on Wednesday as the Knicks’ fourth president in seven years, he supplanted the least-loved incumbent since LBJ. During the four years and change of the Isiah Thomas era, the team lost more than 60 percent of its games, a ratio that got worse after Thomas added the title of head coach in 2006. Over that span, the Knicks have amassed the largest payroll (peaking at more than $160 million with luxury tax) and the third-worst record in the National Basketball Association. Never has so much been spent for so little in the world of sports. They’ve been called the worst team in the history of pro basketball, but they’re really much worse than that. These Knicks are worse than the fire-sale ’41 Phillies or the expansion ’62 Mets or the ’76 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who were perfect in their winlessness. They’re the worst of the worst because of how they’ve lost, in petulance and complacency — and with management that bulldozed any critic it could not ignore.“
But how do you really feel? New York Mag‘s Jeff Coplon comes not to praise the Isiah-era Knickerbockers but to bury them, once and for all. The piece, entitled “Absolutely, Positively the Worst Team in the History of Professional Sports,” is both exhaustive and withering in detail, and well worth a read, if you’re of the rubber-necking persuasion.
Also, in basketball news, it looks like I got a B+ this year in bracketology. Thanks mainly to picking Kansas to win it all (a lucky guess, basically), my bracket scored in the 89th percentile overall.