Saturday, October 07, 2006

Art Review: 'Cimabue at the Frick'

At the Frick, Another Reunion for Long-Lost Siblings

The New York Times
Published: October 7, 2006

“Cimabue and Early Italian Devotional Painting”runs through Dec. 31 at the Frick Collection, 1 East 70th Street, Manhattan; (212) 288-0700.

Things happen when talent travels. So it was in New York in the late 1930’s and early 40’s, when the Surrealists fled war-torn Europe and helped speed the development of Abstract Expressionism. Or even in the 1590’s, when the Japanese overlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi, on the warpath in Korea, forcibly relocated whole villages of Korean potters to Japan, ensuring his country’s greatness in ceramics.

And so it was, too, sometime in 12th- or 13th-century Florence, when, according to Giorgio Vasari, the city fathers, distressed by an evident dearth of gifted local painters, summoned artists trained in the Byzantine style, and their presence contributed to the early stages of the Italian Renaissance. That at least is how it looks in “Cimabue and Early Italian Devotional Painting,” a jewel-box exhibition at the Frick Collection, organized by Holly Flora, a former curatorial fellow at the Frick and now curator at the Museum of Biblical Art in Manhattan.

Cimabue (about 1240-1302) is one of the Big Three — with Duccio and Giotto — who laid the groundwork for the early Italian Renaissance. His name is as weighty as it is mysterious, partly because so few of his works survive. This tiny exhibition makes his greatness crystal clear. At its center are two small works newly attributed to him, “The Flagellation of Christ,” which the Frick acquired in 1950, and “The Virgin and Child Enthroned With Two Angels,” a recently discovered work that is now in the collection of the National Gallery in London.

The Cimabues are teamed with four other small works, all from local museums. But there is plenty to look at, not the least because each involves multiple images. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has lent a triptych by a Florentine contemporary of Cimabue, known only as the Magdalen Master, and a diptych by Pacino di Bonaguida, a younger follower, also represented by four images on vellum from the Morgan Library and Museum.

The Met has also sent over a beautiful little reliquary diptych whose images are reverse glass paintings in gold and black. They all fit perfectly into the Frick’s small Cabinet Gallery, which is, aptly, the size of a private chapel.

The ensemble conspires to give us a narrow, concentrated view of a turning point in art and religion. It pinpoints a time when the use of Gothic gold was dwindling, one-point perspective was imminent, and artists were approaching a greater range of subjects with a greater degree of naturalism. A more personal kind of worship was on the rise too, one that encouraged the faithful to re-experience the suffering of Jesus’ life less as a path to heaven than to humility on earth. This suffering had to be made real, which is where naturalism came in.

The Frick show is the culmination of a series of recent events that unfolded at a dizzying rate. Previously unknown to scholars, “The Virgin and Child Enthroned” emerged in 2000 from a British private collection, headed for auction. Inklings that it might be a Cimabue quickly emerged. The panel was brought to New York for a side-by-side inspection with the Frick’s similarly small “Flagellation,” where its Cimabue-ness firmed up, as did that of the Frick panel, whose attribution had been cloudy for decades. (Caught between pro-Cimabue and pro-Duccio camps, each led by prominent scholars, the Frick had until recently diplomatically stuck with “Tuscan School” since 1968.)

The two little panels matched in wood and paint composition, in the little pinpricks in their gold backgrounds (defining halos), in their nearly identical measurements. Even the hinge marks and the intermittent red borders agreed. Most important, they were stylistically of a piece, so much so that it seemed likely that they were from the same altarpiece.

Suddenly the world had not one but two new widely agreed-upon Cimabue panels, pushing to six, or maybe eight, a number that had previously hovered between four and six. “The Virgin and Child” was diverted from auction with help from the British government, partly in lieu of estate taxes. Over the last two years the panels have been reunited in exhibitions in London and Pisa, and now it is New York’s turn. It seems doubtful that they will be together again anytime soon.

So savor their mutually illuminating beauty and commonalities while you can, starting with the noticeably sad, noble, carefully shadowed faces of the enthroned Madonna and the adult Jesus, who both look directly toward the viewer, full of tragic foreknowledge. Take in the delicate gestures of flanking figures, whether the angels beside the Virgin’s throne, or the two whip-wielding tormentors in “The Flagellation.”

There are telling details, like the foliate carvings on the Virgin’s throne and the balustrade in the middle ground of “The Flagellation,” or the transparent textiles; the one on which the Virgin sits foretells the one serving as Jesus’ loincloth in “The Flagellation.”

Other garments add atmosphere: the skillfully diaphanous angels’ robes, bordered in a white-on-black-on red geometric pattern, have a regularity that is as reassuring as the asymmetry of the tormentors’ bright clothes is not.

In both these paintings Cimabue zeroes in on an emotional instant that seems to encompass real time, as Giotto did after him. The angels touch the throne as if gently sliding it forward like a gift; the tormentors are prepared to strike.

But the more abstract, shared majesty of space and scale is just as important, as is the way the central figure commands each panel, anchored to something greater that is both worldly and not. In “The Flagellation,” the column to which Jesus is tied bisects the panel from top to bottom. The chassis of the Madonna’s throne is an arching empty hemisphere, suggesting both a basilica and the globe.

The Magdalen Master’s triptych and di Bonaguida’s diptych provide a fascinating before and after for the Cimabues. You may have come across the triptych in the medieval galleries at the Met, but probably not displayed so close-up, or so well lighted. Suggesting an artist made giddy by the attractions of Byzantine formality and the possibilities of naturalism, it is packed with pictorial and narrative events.

The triptych centers on a Madonna and Child Enthroned, surrounded by smaller scenes that culminate in a depiction of Christ in Majesty. He sits before a handsomely striped mandorla edged by an undulating, ribbonlike pink band; both motifs evoke the Ravenna mosaics. The Last Supper, with Judas in a black halo, includes an extraordinarily elaborate repast, including several detailed renderings of knives. A flagellation scene features a tautly twisted white column. In short, this painting is a blast, stoked by a palette limited to gold, white, pink, red and a (by now) blackish blue.

Di Bonaguida’s relatively sedate diptych mainly shows how quickly Cimabue’s influence spread. Yet he comes very close to the master’s emotional and compositional clarity in the works on vellum here. The Morgan manuscript, “Scenes From the Life of Christ,” is without a text. It is temporarily unbound, which is why you can see four images at once. Each image fills a page: a Flagellation, a Mocking of Christ, a Crucifixion and a Lamentation.

The colors are eye-poppingly fresh, especially a nearly fluorescent orange that is distributed judiciously among shades of blue, green and pink — except in the Crucifixion scene, where its absence seems appropriate. Throughout, the figures have a wonderful, slightly rubbery liveliness and stubby, comic-book hands. In the last image the mountains that rise behind the mourners are pale green and pronged; they echo the beseeching hands of the Mary Magdalen.

Together these works highlight the radical simplicity and directness of Cimabue’s art, without letting it completely steal the show.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Kathleen Parker: Abortion Chic

[I appreciate Ms. Parker's thoughtful approach to this issue...warning: plot spoiler ahead...Ms. Parker is "relunctantly pro-choice"...I do not hold with that position...I am a wild-eyed pro-lifer. That being said, Ms. Parker takes a much more compassionate approach to this issue than the vast majority of those who describe themselves as "pro-choice". - jtf]

October 06, 2006
The Orlando Sentinel
Kathleen Parker

WASHINGTON -- As public relations campaigns go, proudly proclaiming "We Had Abortions'' probably isn't going to win any Addy awards.

Such is the gist of Ms. Magazine's current campaign to thwart trends toward curtailment of abortion. The Oct. 10 issue of the feminist magazine features a cover story titled "We Had Abortions,'' as well as a petition signed by thousands of women who, well, have had abortions.
And who are not one bit sorry.

The campaign was organized to put a woman's face on abortion, as Ms. Magazine publisher Eleanor Smeal put it, and as a counterpunch to pro-life testimonials from women who regretted their abortions.

The fact that many women feel shame, guilt and loss -- and are willing to say so -- has created a snag in the fabric of pro-choice arguments that focus only on the technical aspect of abortion.
On Wednesday, Smeal told MSNBC's Tucker Carlson that abortion is "a medical procedure, that's obvious.''

Actually, it's not obvious. Abortion certainly involves medical personnel and equipment, but the result is something more than merely medical. It is also human -- or more to the point -- inhuman.

To put an accurate face on abortion would require something that strict pro-choicers refuse to acknowledge: That abortion really has three faces -- that of the mother, the father, and that of the ... what do we call it? Fetus is so South Park these days. How about the quirky "products of conception from your termination''?

That's how hospital administrators a few years ago in Glasgow, Scotland, labeled the post-abortion remains from Nicola McManus, who had induced the miscarriage of her nine-week-old "baby,'' as I prefer to call it, upon taking the RU486 "abortion pill.''

McManus was startled to discover the remains in a jar resting on a shelf in her hospital room. Her outrage at the careless hospital staff brought tears and the sort of statement Ms. & Co. prefer not to hear: "Women need more counseling before abortions, not less,'' said McManus. "I will never get over what happened to me.''

A nine-week-old fetus, for the record, has a heartbeat, a closed circulatory system, a respiratory system, eyes, ears and brain function. She can't go shopping yet, but she can squint, swallow, move her tongue and make a fist. She is not, in other words, "just a clump of cells.''

The problem with petitions and "I Had An Abortion'' T-shirts, such as those hawked by Planned Parenthood, is that they trivialize the deeply emotional and spiritual consequences many women suffer. They also deny girls and young women access to the nobler feminist position that knowledge is power.

We insist on informed consent for appendectomies or tooth extractions, but not abortions. As a result, American daughters now coming of age will see only the go-girl aspect of sexual freedom without the whoa-mama revelation of maternal awe.

The latter isn't learned from a textbook, but is experienced during that moment of personal reckoning when one realizes that a fetus is unequivocally a baby. My own transformative thinking -- from an unflinching pro-choicer to a disclaiming pro-lifer -- came with childbirth and motherhood.

After experiencing the humbling power of creation, it was impossible for me to view abortion as anything but the taking of a life. That is the truer lesson feminism should impart to its little sisters.

Now for the painful disclaimer I hinted at above. It begins with "Nevertheless,'' and ends with "I am reluctantly pro-choice.'' The very bottom line is that abortion ultimately is a personal decision. That said, I favor far stricter limits than most pro-choicers, beginning with "six weeks and time's up.''

I figure 42 days is enough time for a gal to figure out whether she's up for motherhood. It's not a perfect solution, but it's a sane remedy to appalling recklessness.

As I differ with pro-choicers, I also differ with pro-lifers who insist that once abortion is outlawed, hearts and minds will follow. It is more likely that abortion will continue, but will become more dangerous and even more hideous.

Hearts and minds indeed must be changed, and feminists -- if they really care about women -- should lead the charge. By showing and telling the unfiltered truth, abortion eventually will die of natural causes.

Flaunting abortion on T-shirts and petitions may make for radical fashion, but the models and signatories aren't likely to sway people in the hoped-for way. For beneath the message is a callousness that merely reiterates the lack of empathy implicit in every abortion. Likely few will be inclined to award empathy in return.

Film Review: "The Departed"

Scorsese’s Hall of Mirrors, Littered With Bloody Deceit

The New York Times
Published: October 6, 2006

There are almost as many films fighting in “The Departed” as there are guys slugging it out. First among those films is Martin Scorsese’s cubistic entertainment about men divided by power, loyalty and their own selves. Hovering above that film like a shadow is “Infernal Affairs,” the equally sleek Hong Kong assemblage on which it is based and which serves as one of its myriad doubles. And then there is the film conjured up by Jack, as in Jack Nicholson, who when not serving Mr. Scorsese’s interests with a monstrous leer all but subverts those interests with a greedy, devouring hunger.

Each Scorsese film comes freighted with so many expectations, as well as the enormity of his own legend, that it’s a wonder the director can bear the weight. Compared with his last fictional outings, the period story “Gangs of New York” and the Howard Hughes portrait “The Aviator,” this new work feels as light as a feather, or as light as any divertissement from a major filmmaker who funnels his ambitions through genre. What helps make “The Departed” at once a success and a relief isn’t that the director of “Kundun,” Mr. Scorsese’s deeply felt film about the Dalai Lama, is back on the mean streets where he belongs; what’s at stake here is the film and the filmmaking, not the director’s epic importance.

In “The Departed” the camera work and cutting feel faster, lower to the ground, more urgent than they have in his recent films. (Michael Ballhaus shot it; Thelma Schoonmaker edited.) The speed and Mr. Scorsese’s sureness of touch, particularly when it comes to carving up space with the camera, keep the plot’s hall of mirrors from becoming a distraction.

There simply isn’t time to think about the story and whether any of it makes sense, including the astonishing coincidences involving its stealth doppelgängers: Matt Damon’s Colin Sullivan, a bad guy who goes undercover in Boston as a state police officer, and Leonardo DiCaprio’s Billy Costigan, a state cop who infiltrates the underworld. Strangers to each other, Colin and Billy are brothers of a kind when it comes to Frank Costello, the gangster played by Mr. Nicholson. The evil this man does and portends is laid out with precision timing in the hair-raising opening minutes.

As the Rolling Stones wail on the soundtrack (“War, children, it’s just a shot away”), Frank moves through the shadows, his face almost entirely obscured. Dispensing Sun Tzu-like truths as if they were Pez candies, he sets his sights on little Colin Sullivan who, with eyes wide as plates, listens rapt. Frank buys the boy groceries, then leans into the girl behind the store counter, whispering something in her ear. (Her face says it’s something dirty.) Minutes later Colin (now played by Mr. Damon) has graduated from the police academy and is thanking Frank for his graduation gift. With a bag of food, the bad man has bought a soul.

Mr. Damon enters the story about the same time that Mr. Nicholson exits the shadows. Too bad he doesn’t stay there until the final credits. This Janus-like actor has long presented two faces for the camera, the jester called Jack and the actor named Nicholson. He has worn both faces for some of his famous roles, but over time he has grown fond of the outsize persona called Jack, with his shades and master-of-ceremonies sneer, and it’s hard not to think that the man has become his mask. Mr. Nicholson has some choice moments in “The Departed”: he owns the thrilling opening minutes and is persuasively unnerving in his early scenes with Billy, whom he only knows as a neighborhood loser ripe for the plucking.

But as the story twists and twists some more, Mr. Nicholson begins to mix too much Jack into his characterization. In Alexander Payne’s “About Schmidt,” he plays a man whose tamped-down disappointment meant that he had to pull the performance from deep inside; he committed to the part without the help of his sidekick persona. In “The Departed” he’s playing bigger and badder than life with engines roaring. It’s a loud, showy performance. Frank even comes equipped with a trove of gaudy accouterments: a goatee like an arrow, a leopard-print robe, a bevy of babes, a severed hand and a ridiculous fake phallus. Another actor might wear these accessories; Mr. Nicholson upstages them.

Mr. Scorsese, no wallflower himself, spends a lot of time vying for attention with his famous star. Mr. Damon and Mr. DiCaprio serve him better. Mr. Damon does some very good work as the buttoned-down gangster hiding a world of darkness behind a facade of normalcy; his boyish looks have rarely looked creepier than when Colin is eagerly doing Frank’s bidding. And Mr. DiCaprio’s own callow looks fit better with his role than they did in either “Gangs of New York” or “The Aviator.” He falls apart nicely, and in the scene in which he stands, anguished and wrung out, over the body of a fallen colleague, you see what Mr. Scorsese might have seen all along: a vulnerability that seems animal-like in its unknowing.

The role generally works to Mr. DiCaprio’s strengths since he has to keep a lid on the character and his own tendency to go overly big; even his physical performance, the way his arms and legs jangle, is more controlled. Billy melts down, but he melts slowly, his panic leaking through the cracks opened up by his escalating fear. Terrified that Frank will discover his identity, he unloads on a police shrink (Vera Farmiga, working hard to make a nothing role count), who also happens to be Colin’s girlfriend. The plot thickens, then reaches full boil among further complications, dirty dealings, blood on the floor and excellent performances from Alec Baldwin and Mark Wahlberg (as detectives), who own their every scene. As do the rest of the actors, they prove that what really counts here, in the end, isn’t the film, but all its swaggering men.

Fine as Mr. DiCaprio and Mr. Damon are, neither is strong enough to usurp memories of the actors who played the same roles in the original — Tony Leung as the good guy, Andy Lau as the bad — both of whom register with more adult assurance. That’s an observation, not an indictment. Comparisons between “Infernal Affairs” and its redo are unavoidable given how closely the screenwriter William Monahan follows the first film’s beats and scenes. But as fans of “Infernal Affairs” (and its two sequels) know well, the Hong Kong film owes an enormous debt to Mr. Scorsese, whose imprint, along with that of Michael Mann, is all over the trilogy. The Hong Kong and Hollywood action films are themselves doppelgängers of a sort, and Mr. Scorsese, himself larger than life, is one of their biggest, baddest daddies.

“The Departed” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). The language is dirty and the action bloody.


Opens today nationwide.

Directed by Martin Scorsese; written by William Monahan, based on the screenplay for the film “Infernal Affairs”; director of photography, Michael Ballhaus; edited by Thelma Schoonmaker; music by Howard Shore; production designer, Kristi Zea; produced by Brad Pitt, Brad Grey and Graham King; released by Warner Brothers Pictures. Running time: 150 minutes.

WITH: Leonardo DiCaprio (Billy Costigan), Matt Damon (Colin Sullivan), Jack Nicholson (Frank Costello), Mark Wahlberg (Dignam), Martin Sheen (Queenan), Ray Winstone (Mr. French), Vera Farmiga (Madolyn), Alec Baldwin (Ellerby) and Anthony Anderson (Brown).

Thursday, October 05, 2006

David McCormick: An African Taliban

The political situation in Somalia degenerates into a nightmare.
October 4, 2006

Thirteen years ago this week, a pitched battle erupted in Mogadishu that led to the deaths of 18 American servicemen. They had been attempting to bring a measure of stability to war-torn Somalia. The determination demonstrated by those soldiers, however, was not matched by politicians in Washington. In the face of public confusion about and congressional outrage over a mission that resulted in American bodies being dragged through the streets of a far-off capital, the Clinton administration decided within days of the battle’s end to withdraw all U.S. forces from the country.

In the ensuing years, the consequences of that ignominious retreat have revealed themselves in spades. Some have simply been ignored, like the enduring humanitarian catastrophe levied on the Somali populace. Others have been disputed, such as the impression left with international terrorists that the United States would run if bloodied — a belief that undoubtedly offered some motivation for the attacks of September 11.

Unavoidable and indisputable progress, however, has been made in only the past few months by Islamic extremists, organized under the banner of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), toward the consolidation of power in Somalia. Both the ICU’s ideology and the manner in which it is seizing control are eerily reminiscent of the Taliban’s rise in Afghanistan. Should the United States and its regional allies fail to act quickly, a reincarnation of that Islamofascist regime will soon entrench itself in the Horn of Africa. The first Islamic courts emerged at the neighborhood level throughout the country — though administratively and ideologically independent of one another — in the vacuum resulting from the collapse of Siad Barre’s dictatorship in 1991. Confronted by the anarchic warlordism that followed, many Somalis freely submitted to the judicial authority of the courts and took advantage of their ability to offer basic social services. By bringing a degree of order to the lawless country, the courts’ popularity increased over the years.

In the late-1990s, a movement aimed at unifying the disparate courts in order to gain leverage in the nascent national political process began to develop under the leadership of Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys. This coalition would eventually become the ICU. Though unknown to most Western observers, Aweys had notoriously served as military commander of al-Ittihad al-Islami (AIAI) — an extremist Islamic organization that seeks to impose a strict version of sharia law on ethnic Somalis, and in parts of Ethiopia and Kenya. Among its terrorist credentials, AIAI has carried out regular attacks against Ethiopia and is linked to al Qaeda’s bombing of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam in 1998 (it is believed that elements of the ICU continue to provide shelter to the terrorists responsible for those and other attacks against Western targets).

By the early part of 2006, the level of cooperation attained by the ICU made it appear threatening enough to convince competing Mogadishu warlords — brutal enough in their own right — to partner with one another in The Alliance for Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (ARPCT). This anti-Islamist coalition, however, badly miscalculated the competence of ICU militias that fought not for money but for ideology, and whose strength was buttressed by Arab jihadis. By late summer, the ARPCT was thoroughly defeated, and the ICU has since determinedly marched from town to town, tightening its hold on the southern part of the country by acquiring the loyalty of militias in those locales — increasingly without having to fire a shot. In areas that the ICU has come to control, it has hardly attempted to disguise its vision for greater Somalia. In a Taliban-like manner, the ICU has closed cinemas and prohibited music and mixed-gender parties. It has banned civic organizations, and it has even begun to execute criminals publicly.

Following the ARPCT’s defeat, commentators heaped opprobrium on the United States for its tacit — and probably material — support of the warlords, with whom U.S. intelligence agencies had worked in the past to capture individual terrorists residing in Somalia. This line of thinking held that such posturing fueled Islamist rage and forced closer cooperation among the Islamic courts. That criticism, however, was badly misplaced.

While U.S. policy certainly bears its share of responsibility for the ascendance of the ICU, its failure lies in an unwillingness to offer greater support to anti-Islamist constituencies. In Somalia, as in many other places around the world, policymakers treated Islamofascism’s advance on the political, cultural, and social order as insignificant and/or as an internal matter not to be meddled with. As such, measures aimed at creating conditions that might have made the broader Somali population — which has historically practiced a moderate form of Islam — more antagonistic toward the ICU’s program were neglected.

Some have expressed hope that there is still time to facilitate negotiations between the ICU and the displaced Transitional Federal Government (TFG). The TFG is holding out — backed by Ethiopian troops — in the city of Baidoa, and some suggest that these two forces could be persuaded to form a unity government. The TFG, however, enjoys almost no support among Somali citizens and is propped up only by assistance from the international community. From its relative position of power, the ICU is unlikely to accept any settlement other than one that achieves its final objective, which was reiterated last June by Sheikh Aweys: “Any government we agree on would be based on the holy Koran and the teachings of our Prophet Muhammad.” It seems, then, that only a decisive blow will uproot the ICU. With pressing commitments elsewhere, the United States cannot afford to participate militarily; it is nevertheless able to make a vital contribution. By all indications, Ethiopia — not keen on Islamofascists setting up shop next door — is preparing to move against the ICU, with or without international collaboration. Therefore, the United States should work to facilitate Ethiopia’s strike and prevent the coming clash from expanding into a region-wide war.

This will involve, at least, mustering diplomatic acquiescence for Ethiopia’s battle against the ICU to ensure the campaign is not prematurely ended in the face of international pressure. More importantly, the United States must put the diplomatic handcuffs on Eritrea, the ICU’s largest patron, which might use Addis Ababa’s decision to attack the ICU as a pretext for resolving unfinished business from its border war with Ethiopia that lasted from 1998-2000 and nearly erupted again earlier this year. To complicate matters further, this conflict could embroil other East African nations, including Kenya, Sudan, and Uganda. In addition to disrupting America’s counter-terrorism activities from its 1,800-strong base in Djibouti, a regional war would likely jeopardize safe passage through the strategically important Bab el Mandeb Strait, which is one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

A mess would undoubtedly be left in the wake of the forceful destruction of the ICU, requiring a vigorous effort to rebuild Somalia that would best be led by the United States in partnership with other East African states. But these costs are acceptable in comparison to the consequences that would flow from the establishment of an African Taliban.

— David McCormack is senior associate at the Center for Security Policy, where he directs the African Security Project.

French Police Union: Muslims Are Waging Civil War Against Us

From Robert Spencer's Jihad Watch:

Remember those "civil riots" in France? The ones that Prince Al-Walid of Saudi Arabia compelled Rupert Murdoch to have Fox stop calling "Muslim riots"? The ones that the learned talking heads assured us had nothing to do with Islam? While they were receiving the most press attention they ever got, in November 2005, you could have gotten the real story here and here. You'll note that I began that second article, "Has an intifada begun in France — an all-out jihad?" It's interesting that in this piece the police union uses the same word -- intifada. Now the truth is beginning to come out in the mainstream media, almost a year after you could have read it at Jihad Watch.

"Muslims are waging civil war against us, claims police union," by David Rennie in the Telegraph, with thanks to KM:

Radical Muslims in France's housing estates are waging an undeclared "intifada" against the police, with violent clashes injuring an average of 14 officers each day. As the interior ministry said that nearly 2,500 officers had been wounded this year, a police union declared that its members were "in a state of civil war" with Muslims in the most depressed "banlieue" estates which are heavily populated by unemployed youths of north African origin.

It said the situation was so grave that it had asked the government to provide police with armoured cars to protect officers in the estates, which are becoming no-go zones.

The number of attacks has risen by a third in two years. Police representatives told the newspaper Le Figaro that the "taboo" of attacking officers on patrol has been broken.

Instead, officers – especially those patrolling in pairs or small groups – faced attacks as soon as they tried to arrest locals....

Of course, the French are reluctant to face what is happening, and many will no doubt continue to believe that more welfare benefits will solve the problem, but some seem to be more realistic:

Michel Thoomis, the secretary general of the hardline Action Police trade union, has written to Mr Sarkozy warning of an "intifada" on the estates and demanding that officers be given armoured cars in the most dangerous areas.

He said yesterday:

"We are in a state of civil war, orchestrated by radical Islamists. This is not a question of urban violence any more, it is an intifada, with stones and Molotov cocktails. You no longer see two or three youths confronting police, you see whole tower blocks emptying into the streets to set their 'comrades' free when they are arrested."

He added: "We need armoured vehicles and water cannon. They are the only things that can disperse crowds of hundreds of people who are trying to kill police and burn their vehicles."

But the state of denial also continues:

However, Gerard Demarcq, of the largest police unions, Alliance, dismissed talk of an "intifada" as representing the views of only a minority.

Mr Demarcq said that the increased attacks on officers were proof that the policy of "retaking territory" from criminal gangs was working.

Posted by Robert at 07:04 AM Comments (53) Email this entry Print this entry

Killers find roots in 'Sam's Town'

Updated 10/5/2006 1:01 AM ET
By Edna Gundersen, USA TODAY

The Killers titled their new album, Sam's Town, after an old casino on the outskirts of Las Vegas. Before the freeway was built, singer Brandon Flowers remembers the 20-mile stretch of highway connecting his home in Henderson, Nev., to Sam's place on the eastern edge of a city teeming with thrills and temptation.

"When you got to Sam's, you were almost there," he says. "I feel like that's where the band is now. We're really getting somewhere."

To say the least. On the strength of Grammy-nominated hits Mr. Brightside, Somebody Told Me and All These Things That I've Done, The Killers sold 3.1 million copies of 2004's critically hailed debut, Hot Fuss.

Sam's Town, out this week, could be on a similar course. Mojo dubs it "an action-packed blockbuster." On-the-rise single When You Were Young, which has sold 170,000 downloads so far, is "a cyclone ride of insta-nostalgia that takes in Jesus and the devil, and has a hook as big as both," Blender raves.

That song, plus This River Is Wild and For Reasons Unknown, reflects on values that have faded with passing generations, a theme that emerged as Flowers' globe-trotting instilled both a disquieting worldliness and unexpected homesickness.

A newfound appreciation for the wide open spaces of home is "one reason some songs feel like the desert and the Wild West," Flowers, 25, says. "I was always proud of where I was from, but you always think the grass is greener somewhere else. Because of David Bowie and Robert Smith, I had fantasies of England. Going there was a big eye-opener. It wasn't as mystical as I made them in my mind."

He was dismayed by the unfriendly reception he and his bandmates often received overseas as a result of unpopular U.S. foreign policies.

"In Europe, as soon as people heard my accent, I was treated poorly," he says. "People see us as devils, and we're getting a bad rap because of the war. I wanted to make an album that was human, that reminded people what's great about America."

He turned to his parents for inspiration.

"They're in their 60s. I was raised on the morals and values that seem to be eroding or dying now. We're going downhill, it seems to me. The work ethic has changed. My dad was a hard worker and still is at 64. People today are lazy."

He sees a similar inertia in modern rock and is puzzled when appetite and drive are viewed as unhealthy traits. After wrapping up 400 shows late last year, Flowers, guitarist David Keuning, bassist Mark Stoermer and drummer Ronnie Vannucci returned to Vegas and started recording with producers Flood and Alan Moulder.

"People are putting us down for being ambitious, and there are critics who want us to fail," Flowers says. "A lot of bands are getting cynical about hooks and lazier with lyrics and melodies."

Yet mediocrity sells, he grudgingly concedes. Paris Hilton's CD sails into the top 10 "because people feel like they had something to do with it," he says. "It's reality TV now. You get a vote on American Idol. It's upsetting, and it's hurting bands. I hate it.

"But a good song will still find its place. I knew that about Mr. Brightside. As small as we were, I knew one day a lot of people would hear it."

What may surprise fans of Hot Fuss and its British bent is Sam's Town's heartland core, the result in part of Flowers' rediscovered reverence for Bruce Springsteen.

"It was a matter of me getting older and hearing the songs differently," he says. "I heard them through a man's ears, finally. I hadn't felt like that since I fell in love with The Cars and The Smiths. It gave a new breath of life into this album. I do love Bruce, but I was listening to a lot of stuff: Dire Straits, Peter Gabriel, Tom Petty, ELO."

The Killers will tour the USA through October before heading overseas Nov. 1 for European dates, an itinerary that both excites and distresses Flowers, whose fear of flying is documented in the tune Why Do I Keep Counting?

"As soon as we hit turbulence, I instantly start praying," says Flowers, who never flew until The Killers took off. He began seeing a psychiatrist to learn relaxation techniques. "I'm never going to love to fly, but I can't freak out like I used to. I'd cramp so much that I'd be sore for days."

He happily suffers for his art when the payoff is getting on stage in a packed venue.

"We're from Vegas. The glitz, the glamour. You go into a diner or a 7-Eleven, and there are pictures of Sinatra and Elvis on the walls. Performing is in our blood."

Posted 10/4/2006 11:38 PM ET

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Film Review: "The Last King of Scotland"

An Innocent Abroad, Seduced by a Madman

The New York Times
Published: September 27, 2006

Strange to think that the flamboyantly lethal nut job Idi Amin died in Saudi Arabia just three years ago. About 80 at the time, he had fled Uganda in 1979 after murdering upwards of 300,000 souls. Larger than life physically and metaphorically, he was a former heavyweight boxing champion with a brilliant sense of leadership as a performance: as a dictator, his methods were brutally antediluvian, but his public relations cunning was consummately 20th century. Smiling into cameras, he dropped provocations like bombs: “I don’t like human flesh. It’s too salty for me.”

The queasily enjoyable new fiction film “The Last King of Scotland,” based on the novel by Giles Foden and directed by Kevin Macdonald, creates a portrait of this famous Ugandan dictator from inside the palace walls. Furiously paced, with excellent performances by Forest Whitaker as Amin and James McAvoy as the foolish Scotsman who becomes the leader’s personal physician, the film has texture, if not depth and enough intelligence to almost persuade you that it actually has something of note to say. It would make a terrific double bill with Barbet Schroeder’s mesmerizing 1974 documentary, “General Idi Amin Dada: A Self Portrait,” of which Mr. Macdonald has obviously made a close and fruitful study.

As it also happens, “The Last King of Scotland” would make an even better double bill with Stephen Frears’s forthcoming film “The Queen,” a sly peek at the current British monarch in the wake of the death of Princess Diana. (Amin once wrote milady: “Dear Liz, if you want to know a real man, come to Kampala.”) Amin was an amateur merchant of death compared with the historic British monarchy, but he absorbed the lessons of its colonial tyranny fatally well.

“The Last King of Scotland” makes the case that Amin was rational enough to understand his country’s tangled relationship with British imperialism and to inject that sociopolitical understanding into words. If this lecture feels a little too neat and contrived, well, that’s entertainment.

And how! Cannily designed to please and repulse, “The Last King of Scotland” uses a self-anointed outsider, Nicholas Garrigan (Mr. McAvoy), as its initially empathic point of entry.
Arriving in Uganda in the early 1970’s, this young doctor evinces an understandable wide-eyed enthusiasm and wonderment at the sights and sounds around him. He’s alive to his exciting new world, which the exceptional cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, who shot Danny Boyle’s “28 Days Later” and Lars von Trier’s recent films, paints in deeply saturated color. The otherworldly Fauvist palette, as well as the interludes of frenetic cutting, at times recall the Brazilian art-house exploitation flick “City of God,” though Mr. Macdonald, who has a background in documentary, proves somewhat savvier about the politics of representation.

Crucial to that savvy is the director’s vision of Amin as Dr. Frankenstein and monster both. A period fiction with a high-gloss historical finish, “The Last King of Scotland” is also a very contemporary, pointedly resonant film about blowback. That said, and despite some background filler, Mr. Macdonald isn’t interested in furnishing history lessons, and the details of Britain’s African adventures remain largely unstated. In 1888, much as it did throughout Africa and the world, the British government gathered together dozens of different ethnic groups and various kingdoms under its control, naming this new protectorate and commercial venture Uganda. Many pounds of profit later, in 1962, Britain granted Uganda its independence; the African nation has been struggling to recover ever since.

In 1971 Amin ousted Milton Obote, who had become president after tossing out the country’s king five years earlier. (Mr. Obote himself may have been responsible for half a million deaths.) “The Last King of Scotland” opens shortly after Amin has seized power, and his madness had yet to take at least visible bloom. After a brief spell working at a clinic run by a white British doctor (Adam Kotz) and his wife (a very fine, almost unrecognizable Gillian Anderson), Garrigan signs on with Amin. The Scot eagerly makes the transition from rural slum to Amin’s Kampala compound, embracing his ready-made privilege as he drinks in the general’s charisma and hungrily feeds on his praise. A master of manipulation, this Amin knows a choice morsel when one flies into his trap.

Despite his vaguely Falstaffian proportions, Mr. Whitaker doesn’t look like the man he’s playing, a point that becomes less crucial as the performance takes root. As much a seducer as a destroyer, his Amin changes moods on a dime depending on the gas percolating in his bowels or the threats on his person, real and imagined. It’s a role rich in gristle and blood, and Mr. Whitaker makes the most of it, even if the performance and the film’s essential conception of Amin never push deep or hard enough. This actor can play devious, as his brilliant turn in “The Color of Money” showed early in his career. But what you need in a film about a man who fed the corpses of his victims to the crocodiles is something more, something hateful and vile.

“The Last King of Scotland” delivers shocks worthy of the horror film it becomes. Garrigan is the kind of man who exploits his own boyishness, successfully with women, perilously with Amin, and Mr. McAvoy expertly makes the character’s naïveté seem at first appealing, then foolish and finally odious in the extreme. As a stand-in for all the white men who have unwisely and cravenly journeyed into the proverbial heart of darkness, the character effectively serves his purposes, and you shake your head, tsk-tsk, right on schedule.

Clearly, the film means this journey to be as inwardly directed as outwardly bound, though the larger message here, one that might make you blanch after you nod, is that the misery of other people makes unsettling entertainment, no matter how pretty the pictures and valuable the players.

“The Last King of Scotland” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). There is brutal violence from start to finish, including a scene of very graphic, believable-looking torture.


Opens today in New York and Los Angeles.

Directed by Kevin Macdonald; written by Peter Morgan and Jeremy Brock, based on the novel by Giles Foden; director of photography, Anthony Dod Mantle; edited by Justine Wright; music by Alex Heffes; production designer, Michael Carlin; produced by Andrea Calderwood, Lisa Bryer and Charles Steel; released by Fox Searchlight Pictures. Running time: 121 minutes.

WITH: Forest Whitaker (Idi Amin), James McAvoy (Nicholas Garrigan), Kerry Washington (Kay Amin), Simon McBurney (Stone), Gillian Anderson (Sarah Merrit) and Adam Kotz (Dr. Merrit).

Ann Coulter: Who Knew Congressman Foley Was A Closeted Democrat?

October 4, 2006

At least liberals are finally exhibiting a moral compass about something. I am sure that they'd be equally outraged if Rep. Mark Foley were a Democrat. The object lesson of Foley's inappropriate e-mails to male pages is that when a Republican congressman is caught in a sex scandal, he immediately resigns and crawls off into a hole in abject embarrassment. Democrats get snippy.

Foley didn't claim he was the victim of a “witch hunt.” He didn't whine that he was a put-upon “gay American.” He didn't stay in Congress and haughtily rebuke his critics. He didn't run for re-election. He certainly didn't claim he was “saving the Constitution.” (Although his recent discovery that he has a drinking problem has a certain Democratic ring to it.)

In 1983, Democratic congressman Gerry Studds was found to have sexually propositioned House pages and actually buggered a 17-year-old male page whom he took on a trip to Portugal. The 46-year-old Studds indignantly attacked those who criticized him for what he called a “mutually voluntary, private relationship between adults.”

When the House censured Studds for his sex romp with a male page, Studds — not one to be shy about presenting his backside to a large group of men — defiantly turned his back on the House during the vote. He ran for re-election and was happily returned to office SIX more times by liberal Democratic voters in his Martha's Vineyard district. (They really liked his campaign slogan: “It's the outfit, stupid.”)

Washington Post columnist Colman McCarthy referred to Studds' affair with a teenage page as “a brief consenting homosexual relationship” and denounced Studds' detractors for engaging in a “witch hunt” against gays: “New England witch trials belong to the past, or so it is thought. This summer on Cape Cod, the reputation of Rep Gerry Studds was burned at the stake by a large number of his constituents determined to torch the congressman for his private life.”

Meanwhile, Foley is hiding in a hole someplace.

No one demanded to know why the Democrat Speaker of the House, Thomas “Tip” O'Neill, took one full decade to figure out that Studds was propositioning male pages. But now, the same Democrats who are incensed that Bush's National Security Agency was listening in on al-Qaida phone calls are incensed that Republicans were not reading a gay congressman's instant messages.

Let's run this past the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals: The suspect sent an inappropriately friendly e-mail to a teenager — oh also, we think he's gay. Can we spy on his instant messages? On a scale of 1 to 10, what are the odds that any court in the nation would have said: YOU BET! Put a tail on that guy — and a credit check, too!

When Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee found unprotected e-mails from the Democrats about their plan to oppose Miguel Estrada's judicial nomination because he was Hispanic, Democrats erupted in rage that their e-mails were being read. The Republican staffer responsible was forced to resign.

But Democrats are on their high horses because Republicans in the House did not immediately wiretap Foley's phones when they found out he was engaging in e-mail chitchat with a former page about what the kid wanted for his birthday. The Democrats say the Republicans should have done all the things Democrats won't let us do to al Qaida — solely because Foley was rumored to be gay. Maybe we could get Democrats to support the NSA wiretapping program if we tell them the terrorists are gay.

On Fox News' “Hannity and Colmes” Monday night, Democrat Bob Beckel said a gay man should be kept away from male pages the same way Willie Sutton should have been kept away from banks. “If Willie Sutton is around some place where a bank is robbed,” Beckel said, “then you're probably going to say, 'Willie, stay away from the robbery.'"

Hmmmm, let's search the memory bank. In July 2000, the New York Times “ethicist” Randy Cohen advised a reader that pulling her son out of the Cub Scouts because they exclude gay scout masters was “the ethical thing to do.” The “ethicist” explained: “Just as one is honor bound to quit an organization that excludes African-Americans, so you should withdraw from scouting as long as it rejects homosexuals.”

We need to get a rulebook from the Democrats:

Boy Scouts — As gay as you want to be.
Priests — No gays!
Democrat politicians -Proud gay Americans.
Republican politicians - Presumed guilty.
White House Press Corps - No gays, unless they hate Bush.
Active Duty U.S. Military - As gay as possible.
Men Who Date Liza Minelli - Do I have to draw you a picture, Miss Thing?

This is the very definition of political opportunism. If Republicans had decided to spy on Foley for sending overly friendly e-mails to pages, Democrats would have been screaming about a Republican witch hunt against gays. But if they don't, they're enabling a sexual predator. Talk to us Monday. Either we'll be furious that Republicans violated the man's civil rights, or we'll be furious that they didn't.

Music Review: Sam's Town by The Killers

The Killers
Sam's Town
Album Review

The Killers must have finally tired of their persona as one of the campest bands around as they have reinvented themselves far away from their foundation and mascara Hot Fuss days by revealing themselves as moustache and beard wielding cowboys hell bent on rock 'n' roll rebellion. Somewhere along the line from the bands epic debut, Brandon Flowers has realised the importance of a good show tune and their second album, Sam's Town, is full of them from the Meat Loaf/Bat 2 resonating When You Were Young to the rotting drug ranting of Uncle Johnny.

The first single to be snatched from the sure to be jumbo-platinum album is, When You Were Young, a track that's got as much balls as Mr Brightside with as much energy as Glamorous Indie Rock 'n' Roll wrapped up in as much charm and fascination as you'd like from the Las Vegas foursome. Having vanished from English radars for over a year there was always going to be a lot riding on this track to re-establish The Killers as the most essential band around and within the first 10 seconds you can't squabble their ability, and as the album unfolds you find yourself declining into the same depraved state of obsession that many people found themselves during the bands now shadowed debut.

Although the new grungy look will put off some indie-disco kids, the new Springsteen and Depeche Mode sound is stable beyond comprehension with thrice the arrangement and structure of their previous work holding together lyrics with more compassion and capability than ever before. The basic question that needs answering is; is this as good as Hot Fuss? And the answer is so undoubtedly, yes. If Hot Fuss hit the bullseye, this album has split a pin with precision as it's taken the bands raw energy, stripped it down and reassembled it into something much bigger than ever before. Sam's Town is like Hot Fuss on LSD and left in a Wacky Warehouse for a month before being taken for a spin with Evil Knievel and left to its own devices to fester. It's authority and style is equalled by its anger and tracks like Bones have a sinister flail amongst its operatic vocals that harness the darker side of Vegas as indeed the whole album does. "Don't you want to come with me, Don't you want to feel my bones on your bones, It's only natural", Brandon murmurs from behind the Monty Python crossed with Tim Burton instrumentations that gesticulate around from side to side like a pair of baseball boots in a tumble dryer.

Uncle Johnny Did Cocaine starts like a Sonic The Hedgehog theme tune and sadistically shifts into a depressing harangue like an 80s power ballad that's been left to decay in a cupboard for years without sunlight. The Killers of yesteryear would have surely made this a sarcastic song with mischievous riffs and bubbly bass lines, but with their new poise has come a will to expand their sound following on from the fascinatingly perverse Get Trashed that graced the Smile single. With, Read My Mind, Brandon has given himself some room to vocally let go and yowl in a 90s fashion while the atmospheric, end of night, track has done what it took U2 over 20 years to realize. The well oiled Disney-esk soundtrack is a mammoth show tune rather than an indie anthem showing talent throughout its glittering riffs and pumping chorus until its bittersweet closing lines, establishing The Killers as stadium rock gods instead of flouncing grunge venue hanger-ons. The albums title track, Sam's Town, is again a kitsch performance ditty that has a 'live' feel to it in the way that Midnight Show did. Based around a nightclub in Vegas, this track reminds us of where the band came from with all their showmanship and euphoric displays of command and surging vigour which is at last on show in the way it should have been from the offset.

Enterlude and Exitlude add more smoke and mirrors to the floor show of Sam's Town and despite the album not having that same under-produced Brightside indie rock 'n' roll vibe, they have moved on in the way that their fans should, excepting the fruition of a band that's shaped another top quality album. From start to finish there are few limitations and little imperfections on this album and although you could use the phrase 'over produced' you would have to say it's been well 'over produced' and each track crashes into the next with decorum, gravity and majesty and forges a new direction for The Killers who have finally given us their true work.

Alex Lee Thomson.

Click Here for The Killers, When You Were Young Audio

Mike Lupica: Derek's night has a ring to it

The New York Daily News
October 4, 2006

The captain of the Yankees, one of the most famous and popular Yankees of them all, comes out of his clubhouse in the late afternoon. Kim Jones of the YES Network, who has an appointment to interview Derek Jeter before he goes out to stretch with the rest of the Yankees, is waiting for him. Before Jones can say anything Jeter says, "I have about 92 seconds." The television lights go up, Jeter answers a couple of questions like he is going from first to third. Then he is gone, down the runway toward the Yankee dugout, bat in hand, walking fast, nearly running now. The playoffs are starting. In an October when he goes for his fifth World Series ring, this time the playoffs start with 5-for-5 from him against the Tigers.

The Yankees have not won the World Series for five years and that means Jeter, who we once thought might win World Series the way Joe DiMaggio did, hasn't won, either. He is not just the captain of the Yankees. He is their DiMaggio. It's not like everybody else has been losing for five years and he gets to be bulletproof. It doesn't work that way for Joe Torre and it doesn't work that way for the shortstop.

If Jeter could win the whole thing by himself, maybe he would have as many rings as DiMaggio by now. He does not. As much as the Yankees are going to hit teams the way they hit the Tigers a couple of times last night, lay teams out the way Ray Lewis lays out a quarterback, they are still going to need the kind of big outs they got from Scott Proctor in the top of the seventh last night, when Magglio Ordoñez was the tying run in a game the Yankees were supposed to have won already.

Proctor is supposed to be one of the guys out of Torre's bullpen who gives them seventh and eighth innings the way Nelson and Stanton once did. For all the greatness of so many Yankees, Jeter and Mo Rivera and so many others, they have won the World Series only when the whole bullpen has been great.

"You still need to pitch, you still need to catch the ball," Torre says. Jeter always says the same thing.

But if there is a game plan for these Yankees it goes like this: A little of the old magic out of the bullpen, a lot of offense. If it goes like that, the Yankees finally win again.

The offense still starts with Jeter, even if he no longer leads off. It starts with him and last night it ended with him, with his fifth hit of the night, that shot over the center-field wall in the bottom of the eighth. This is the October when he hears the same "MVP" chants at the Stadium that he has been hearing for so much of the second half of the season. If big things happen again for the Yankees, if they finally move off 26 world championships with enough big innings, it is expected that Jeter is in the middle of it all. This is his team as much as Torre's. Torre's job has always been made easier because Jeter is on his team and in his clubhouse, whether he thinks taking up for A-Rod is part of his captaincy or not.

And so in Game 1 of another October for him, coming into that Game 1 with more postseason hits than any player in history, Jeter hits the ball all over the Bronx and even goes to his right and starts a double play in the top of the third that was the play of the game. His place again last night. His time of year. Biggest postseason night he's ever had, even if it's just the first.

"You always wish going into a playoff game really quick that you had something against the (opposing) team, that you didn't like their players, that you had some extra motivation," Detroit manager Jim Leyland was saying yesterday. "But you don't (with the Yankees). How can you not like Derek Jeter?"

Then Leyland watched Jeter come out of the blocks even faster than he ever had before in October. A single to left in the first inning, his first time up. A double behind Johnny Damon's infield single in the second, a run scored as the Yankees were going ahead of the Tigers, 5-0. Then came a single to right in the bottom of the fourth and then another double and another run scored as the Yankees were making it 7-3 in the bottom of the sixth. He had 142 postseason hits coming into last night. Now the number is 147. His last two at-bats of the last postseason, Game 5 against the Angels, also produced hits, before A-Rod grounded into that famous 5-4-3 double play. So make it seven in a row now.

He has produced bigger numbers than he did during this regular season, even had a bigger batting average once. He has never been more important to his team. It is why he has a chance to get the MVP award away from Justin Morneau and Frank Thomas. None of that will matter to Jeter if he doesn't win his fifth World Series ring, if there is finally a Yankee team worthy of standing with those first Yankee teams on which Jeter played.

So he got his hits last night. The Yankees hit the Tigers big and fast and loud in the third and scored more later. Scott Proctor got out of the seventh and Kyle Farnsworth got through the eighth after walking the leadoff batter. Then Mo Rivera closed things out. This is the way the Yankees used to win all the time. For one night, these were the Yankees Jeter remembers.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

T.J. Quinn: Captain and The Clipper

The New York Daily News
Sunday, September 17th, 2006

Every day the Captain walks into the clubhouse with his grande skim cappuccino from Starbucks, answers questions at his locker, goes off to the training room, takes batting practice, takes the field on a sprint ahead of the rest of the guys, plays baseball without much more emotion than an occasional pumped fist.

There is something in Derek Jeter's routine, the clean lines and the gentle strides that looks familiar to a couple of old Red Sox.

He was born to pinstripes, never grandstands, never gives voyeurs a glance within. He has the unquestioned respect of a clubhouse where players carry enough MVP and Cy Young awards to fill a wing of a museum, and the same respect from those who play against him.

The old Red Sox players remember someone else like that.

"He's got a little Joe DiMaggio in him," says Bobby Doerr, the 88-year-old Hall of Fame second baseman who came into the game a year after DiMaggio and left at the same time. "You look at a player for what he does, for what he represents. That's the awe we had with Joe D."

Jeter, Doerr says, is worthy of the mantle.

"Right now, I think he might be the best player in baseball. There's nothing he can't do, for God's sake," says the Red Sox' 86-year-old legend-in-residence Johnny Pesky, speaking New England heresy. "He's the epitome of a Yankee."

There has been a quiet search for the modern DiMaggio ever since Paul Simon wondered about Joltin' Joe's forwarding address in 1968, although Simon was singing about more than a lost ballplayer.

Red Smith, maybe the greatest of all sportswriters, laid it out in the final column of his career in January of 1982, about why he maintained his faith that he wouldn't spend the rest of his days with middling, uninspiring ballplayers: "I told myself not to worry. Some day there would be another Joe DiMaggio."

They were the last words Smith wrote. There hasn't been one since.

Jeter is playing toward what might be his first MVP award this season - both Doerr and Pesky say he deserves it - or possibly his first batting title. DiMaggio had three of the former and two of the latter, in a career that lost three years to World War II. He was also considered the greatest centerfielder anyone had seen until the emergence of Willie Mays. By that standard, the Clipper eclipses the Captain.

But those who knew DiMaggio and have seen Jeter say the comparison is legitimate.

"They have the same kind of mannerisms," Yogi Berra says. "Joe never walked to the outfield - he always ran on the field, he always ran off, just like Jeter. (Players) all looked up to Joe. Joe did everything perfect like Jeter does. I knew Jeter as he came along; he's a loner a little bit, he likes to be private. But all the girls go after him. With Joe, it was the same thing."

Frank Torre, Joe's older brother, knew DiMaggio for years and has watched Jeter since he was a rookie shortstop and Joe was a new manager in 1996.

If anything binds Jeter and DiMaggio, it is their sense of occasion.

"Some people perform at a higher level when the chips are down and that's why it's important not to look at stats," Frank Torre says. "But look at (Jeter). One of them plays they still talk about in Oakland. The flip. That's leadership taking over."

In David Halberstam's book, "Summer of '49," he writes of how Charlie Keller was awed by DiMaggio's intensity when he had to rise to a moment, such as facing Bob Feller: "You could actually see the veins and muscles in DiMaggio's neck stand out, Keller remembered."

From his home in Nantucket, Halberstam says, "I think (Jeter is) more a real leader than DiMaggio was in some senses. DiMaggio was clearly the best player of his era, but he was very aloof, so the leadership was that he was the great DiMaggio and that he always played hard and that the bigger the game, the better he played."

Jeter, ever reserved, gives the expectedly demure response when asked about the comparison.

"I've heard people say it. It's flattering anytime you hear something like that. It's kind of unfair to him, though," Jeter says, sitting in front of his locker. "I've only been here a little while."
If there are similarities, they are accidental, Jeter says. "It wasn't like I molded myself after him. You can't be something you're not or you aren't going to be believeable."

There may never be another Joe DiMaggio in the way Paul Simon and Red Smith pined for one. Elegance has been replaced by hipness, swing by hip-hop. The counterculture DiMaggio despised is rooted in the game and baseball no longer dominates the cultural landscape the way it did in the 1940s, before television was common, before cable existed, before the NFL and NBA were viable leagues. In that sense, it would be hard for Jeter, or anyone, to be larger than the game. Alex Rodriguez might have been a candidate, recognized as the best all-around player in baseball, but he has been criticized too much for having a manufactured personality. People can get too close now, and lines show up in players' faces the way they never did on newsreel footage. Jeter's mystique might come from the fact that he has guarded his privacy with the same intensity DiMaggio did.

Dom DiMaggio, now 89 and living in Southeastern Massachusetts, admires Jeter, but he isn't so quick to dub him his older brother's successor.

"For one thing, we know that Joe was extremely graceful. On the field, his every move was just as graceful as can be," Dom says. "I think Jeter is a little more, not voluntarily showy, but Jeter plays hard and it shows. Joe, everything he did, he played hard, but he did it so smoothly and gracefully it didn't appear he was doing it hard."

Part of being Joe DiMaggio meant never letting them see you sweat. Ernest Hemingway saw in DiMaggio the perfection of grace under pressure, which is why he befriended him and had Santiago, the Old Man in "Old Man and the Sea" refer to him as "the great DiMaggio."

"I never seen him slide for a ball in the five years I played with him," Berra says. "He caught everything shoulder high."

The relationships with the media were different, too. Writers were sometimes part of the inner circle at Toots Shor's and other hot spots, but they knew they were never to share their private view of DiMaggio with the rest of the world.

"We used to ride the trains together. We ate with the writers, we drank with the writers," Berra says. "It's changed a little bit."

Inside the clubhouse there were only a few reporters, not the dozens greeting Jeter and his teammates, even for an unexciting mid-week game against a second-division team.

"Joe just sat at his stool, have something to read, smoke his cigarette. Nonchalant," Berra says. "He'd be there looking around. You say, 'Hi,' he says 'Hi' to you. Them days, they didn't have it like they do now. We used to park out in the street and walk in." Now fans in the Bronx are kept 100 yards away, reduced to shouting at players who walk from the fenced-in parking lot to the stadium entrance.

What Berra sees in Jeter that reminds him of DiMaggio is the command of the clubhouse. Coming to the Yankees 60 years ago, he says, there was no question DiMaggio was in charge.

"You were a little scared of him at first. You got to know him after a little while and it's okay," Berra says.

Even Joe McCarthy, the stern manager who guided the team through much of the 1940s, had a healthy respect for DiMaggio's place."

When Joe McCarthy started a meeting of players in the clubhouse once, Joe wasn't there yet, he got there about five minutes late," Dom DiMaggio says. "(McCarthy) stopped the meeting and they waited for him, Joe had his topcoat on, his jacket, he took them off. And Joe McCarthy said, 'O.K., we'll start all over again.' Joe laughed, McCarthy laughed; they understood each other. But they knew what the deal was."

Everyone around Joe DiMaggio knew the deal. If you were loyal, he would be loyal.

"If you did something with Joe that he didn't like, that was the end of it," Dom DiMaggio says. "And the person who had done it knew that he had made a mistake, and he knew Joe was right, and he admired Joe despite the fact that Joe cut him off because he knew he made the mistake."

It could be saying the wrong thing to the press, hot-dogging or loafing on the field, embarassing DiMaggio, being too familiar with him or breaking rules like bringing wives to the wrong occasions.

There is also some of DiMaggio's famous pride in Jeter, too.

Jeter has been known for freezing out transgressors as well, notably Rodriguez following the 2001 interview in Esquire in which he said Jeter never had to lead and wasn't as good a player.

When Ruben Rivera was caught stealing one of Jeter's gloves, it was ultimately Jeter who decided Rivera's fate, and Jeter decided Rivera should not be a Yankee.

When Jason Giambi fought to regain his teammates' respect following his all-but-explicit admission of steroid use, it was Jeter who signaled to the rest of the team that Giambi had paid his dues. On the other hand, when Rodriguez was being booed like a Bostonian at Yankee Stadium earlier this year, members of the team noticed that Jeter did not put an arm around A-Rod or tell fans that they should support their third baseman.

While Dom DiMaggio says he admires Jeter, he says it takes more than leadership or stoicism or elegance or greatness to claim his brother's legacy. It takes all of them.

"You'll get ballplayers that might have the statistics that might match Joe, but they might not match the overall person," he says.

For decades he has been hearing baseball people talk about the next Joe DiMaggio. He heard Paul Simon's song, heard Red Smith's vision that someday there would be another.

"Has there been one?" Dom DiMaggio says. "I haven't seen one come around."

For now, Jeter might come the closest.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Bob Ryan: Problem Now Oversized

The Boston Globe
October 2, 2006

Thanks to the cheaters, everyone in baseball now is presumed guilty until proven innocent.

You may be a diehard Roger Clemens fan and say you don't want to believe your guy has used performance-enhancing drugs to pitch like this into his mid-40s, but don't sit there and tell me you haven't wondered about it.

And why is that? It's because you've seen and heard too much already. You know it's possible. After all, we've seen the still-active player whose autobiography could be entitled, ``Honey, I Shrunk The MVP." We all know funky stuff's been going on.

What about Albert Pujols? Don't we all want him to be Mr. Clean? Of course, we do. But don't tell me you haven't heard people wondering out loud about him. And why? Just because. Is this fair to Albert Pujols? No. It's manifestly unfair. But, thanks to the cheaters, that's where we are.

I could go on and on. I've been asked about Big Papi this year. Do I think he's on the juice? I tell 'em, well, David Ortiz looks more like an offensive lineman than some cut, well-defined Muscle Beach kind of guy. He doesn't look any different than he did five years ago as a Twin. It wouldn't make any sense to me. But since he's hit 173 home runs and driven in 525 runs the past four years, and since we live in these, shall we say, juicy times, someone's gonna ask questions.

The newly accused all have issued their denials, naturally. Well, duh. You didn't expect Clemens to react to the report that his was one of the names -- I love this word -- "redacted" from a search warrant affidavit filed in Phoenix at the end of May in connection with the Jason Grimsley case by saying, "Hey, you got me. I loved being Roger Clemens too much to give it up, so I did what I needed to do in order to keep it going," did you?

According to, what Roger's saying is this: "I didn't see [this report], nor do I need to see it. But for the people involved, I think it's very dangerous and malicious and reckless on their part for some guys to have a document or whatever he did and supposedly put it out there with somebody else's writing on it. Grimsley never worked out with myself or Andy [Pettitte, also named] at any point. I don't know where that's coming from. When it's going to take a serious turn for me is when one of my sponsors pulls out. Then somebody's going to be responsible for that. Then my lawyers will take over from there."

(Come to think of it, where exactly is the official denial in all that Clemensese?)

Pettitte was more direct. "I haven't done anything," he said. "I've never used any drugs to enhance my performance on a baseball field before."

It's easy to pick on Grimsley, a journeyman pitcher who -- isn't it conveniently strange? -- seems to have passed through certain major league locker rooms without anyone remembering he was there. It would be nice if we had a "better" source, some people are saying.

Well, no one wanted to believe Jose Canseco when he made his own accusations a while back. Just a crazy man looking to sell books, we were told. That's what I wanted believe, anyway. Then came that dramatic March 17, 2005, session before a congressional panel, when we witnessed the embarrassing spectacle of a sobbing Mark McGwire becoming the first American to invoke the four and a half amendment, and we knew that Canseco was not the loose cannon we thought he was.

Sure, we'd always prefer air tight, credible sources. But in the real world, you take the sources you get. Sometimes you can't do any better than a narcissistic, aging slugger and a mediocre reliever who was caught receiving a shipment of human growth hormone at his home, which led to the aforementioned affidavit. It turns out Canseco was a lot more credible than we originally believed. Grimsley may turn out to be a similar investigative gold mine.

Or maybe not. But sooner or later there will be other equally flawed "sources" as this performance-enhancing-drug mess plays out to an ever-disgusted public.

The problem now, as we all know, is that anabolic steroids are no longer the big issue. The enhancement substance in question is human growth hormone, and the reason for that is baseball doesn't test for it. That would require a blood test, and for that the Players Association would have to approve a change in the existing policy. It was hard enough to get the PA hierarchy to sanction urine testing, let alone have it agree to blood testing. But the time has come.

Yes, the time has come for responsible players with clout to take the initiative in demanding full testing for human growth hormone, or anything else that requires a blood sample. Is it not in the best interests of those who really are clean (I hope I'm not naive in assuming they still make up the majority) to expose the cheats, not solely because the cheats have gained a competitive advantage, but also because the cheats have created a climate in which no good deed goes unquestioned?

I honestly believe people now expect to hear stories like this. The average baseball fan has become like the average European sports fan who has learned to live with the non stop revelations of drug chicanery involving such sports as weightlifting, wrestling, athletics (i.e. track and field), and, of course, cycling, in which no one is surprised when some champion is stripped of his (or her) crown because of proven use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Roger Clemens might be totally innocent. But since these are juicy times, and the only other pitcher who's ever thrown as hard at his age is the sainted Nolan Ryan, people can't help wondering. And Nolan Ryan? Nah, don't tell me . . .

Is this what Players Association honchos Donald Fehr and Gene Orza want for their sport? In case they don't know, that's what they've got.

Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is

Bob Klapisch: Jeter, Howard Best; Then There's Pavano

October 1, 2006
Bergen County Record

A dizzying finish to the 2006 season has made it impossible to stop, exhale and distinguish the winners from the losers. With unfinished business in both leagues, it's (almost) unfair to decide on the big-ticket items such as the MVP and Cy Young awards. But someone has to handle life's tougher chores.

To wit:

AL Most Valuable Player: Derek Jeter

Despite what David Ortiz said or implied, this coronation is bestowed on those who most greatly influence a successful team's journey to the postseason. Big Papi was great, but his Red Sox were not. Jeter, on the other hand, batted .412 in July, when the Yankees were in the midst of a pennant race, and batted a crazy .388 with runners in scoring position.
Runners-up: Johan Santana, Justin Morneau

NL Most Valuable Player: Ryan Howard

The Phillies thrilled even their cynical fan base in September, taking their pursuit of the wild-card berth until the final weekend of the regular season. For that, they can thank Howard, the National League's most prodigious home run hitter since Barry Bonds -- minus the steroids, we all presume. Think the NL wasn't scared? Howard drew 16 intentional walks in September.
Runners-up: Albert Pujols, Jose Reyes

AL Cy Young Award: Johan Santana

This is mother of all no-brainers, considering the Twins' ace led the American League in wins, strikeouts, ERA and innings. You could make an equally strong case for Santana winning the MVP, as well. The Twins won nearly 85 percent of the games Santana started; without him, they were merely a .500 team. That's the definition of invaluable.
Runners-up: Chien-Ming Wang, Roy Halladay

NL Cy Young Award: Trevor Hoffman

Plenty of qualified starters here (Brandon Webb, Chris Carpenter, among others), but we have a soft spot for the Padres' closer, who led NL relievers with a 1.92 ERA and 44 saves. Hoffman has flourished for a decade as a non-strikeout artist, relying on illusion (his change-up) over power (a sub-90 mph fastball). Hoffman is as big a reason as any for the Padres' journey to the postseason.
Runners-up: Webb, Carpenter, Carlos Zambrano

AL Rookie of the Year: Jon Papelbon

Might've blossomed into baseball's greatest closer in what eventually will be the post-Mariano Rivera era. But the Red Sox overused their 26-year-old star and will pay a heavy price. Papelbon will become a starter in 2007, leaving a huge void in Boston's bullpen. Still, there's no diminishing Papelbon's achievements: his 0.92 ERA, .167 opponents' average and 75 strikeouts in 681/3 innings were all better than Rivera's. But we'll never know if Papelbon would've come close to the great Yankee closer's career path.
Runners-up: Justin Verlander, Francisco Liriano

NL Rookie of the Year: Ryan Zimmerman

We knew there was something special about the Nationals' third baseman when he clubbed a ninth-inning home run off Billy Wagner in the third game of the season, turning what should've been a 5-4 Mets victory into an eventual 9-5 defeat. Those 110 RBI were no coincidence.
Runners-up: Dan Uggla, Hanley Ramirez, Matt Cain

AL Manager of the Year: Jim Leyland

They say it's impossible to personally motivate the professional athlete in this day and age; only money will accomplish that. Leyland disproved that theory, rallying the Tigers in a way that Alan Trammell, his predecessor and a legend in Tigers' country, could not. The 61-year-old Leyland, who spent six years in blissful retirement before returning to the dugout, proved that there's no such thing as an age gap if you're smart and fair and treat players with respect.
Runner-up: Ron Gardenhire

NL Manager of the Year: Joe Girardi

Girardi may or may not get fired in a few weeks (we're betting he's history), but not even Marlins ownership will be able to minimize the way Girardi mobilized a roster that used as many as 22 rookies. Florida lost 31 of its first 42 games, yet managed to insert itself into the wild-card race all the way into late September. And now Girardi may be forced to look for another job (probably replacing Dusty Baker in Chicago). Go figure.
Runners-up: Willie Randolph, Grady Little

AL flop of the year (team): Orioles

Guess luring Leo Mazzone away from the Braves didn't help all that much. The O's finished next to last with a 5.32 ERA.

NL flop of the year, (team): Braves

Only remaining question is: Will Bobby Cox be back in 2007?

AL manager on the hot seat: Buck Showalter

That's four straight years of the Rangers finishing out of the running in the Central Division, three of which have been under .500.

NL manager on the hot seat: Dusty Baker

Right there with Girardi in terms of shaky job security. The Cubs have turned into a National League joke, 30 games under .500, having been on a fast decline ever since winning the Central Division in 2003.

AL story line to watch in 2007: Manny Ramirez

Only the Red Sox' slugger knows in his heart whether he tanked the month of September with a knee injury. Regardless of how hurt Ramirez was (or wasn't), the Sox finally may have had enough. Look for Ramirez to be traded this winter.

NL story line to watch in 2007: Pedro Martinez

The more the doctors probe, the more they realize how dramatically the Mets' ace has fallen apart. From the hip, to the toe, to the calf and now the most devastating injury of all, a torn rotator cuff. It's not impossible to think we've seen the last of Pedro.

Good guy of the year: Torii Hunter.

For appointing Timii Graupe of Blairstown as the team's batboy when the Twins were in town last month. Graupe suffers from neurofibromatosis, and became such a fan of the Twins' center fielder, he changed the spelling of his name from Tim to Timii.

Weasel of the year: Carl Pavano.

Forget all the injuries and the money he's nevertheless accepted from the Yankees, the right-hander fired his agent for falling $50,000 short in the pursuit of a $40 million contract. Not only did Pavano can Scott Shapiro, he refused to pay the commission on the $39.55 million he did get from the Yankees.

* * *

By the numbers

Home run differential between Ryan Howard's output in 2005 and 2006 (going into the final weekend of the season). The record for a one-year uptick is 38, set by Davey Johnson, who hit five HRs in 1971, then blasted 43 the following season.

Fruit baskets landed on Tommy Lasorda's doorstep on Sept. 22, helping to commemorate his 79th birthday. Identical baskets were sent by 79 of his former players with a personal message from each of them. Lasorda donated the gifts to a children's hospital.

Postseason contests have been played in Yankee Stadium, tops in the big leagues. Second on the list is Fenway with 59, followed by 53 at the now-defunct Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

Players who have held the National League career home run record, the most recent of which is Barry Bonds with 734. He passed Hank Aaron's previous mark on Sept. 23.

Managers have yet to be ejected from a game this season: Willie Randolph and the A's Ken Macha.

* * *

Power rankings

1. Yankees: The greatest offensive assembly of the Joe Torre era -- and maybe beyond.
2. A's: Rich Harden is back, which is another way of saying: Beware the AL's best rotation.
3. Mets: If they lose in the first round, would the season be considered a failure?
4. Dodgers: Impressive turnaround for a franchise that was all but dead a year ago.
5. Twins: It's a one-man universe in the Metrodome: Santana and prayer for the AL Division Series.

* * *

This date in baseball

1973: In the first game of a scheduled makeup doubleheader at Wrigley Field in front of only 1,913 fans, a day after the regular season ends, the Mets beat the Cubs, 6-4, to grab the NL East flag. The Mets, who were 11½ games behind Aug. 5, nevertheless clinch in their 82nd victory, which along with the Padres in 2005 remains the lowest number of wins ever to win a title.

They said it

"My contract status, right now, I could care less about it. I might retire. I don't know. It's a big option. I'm not going to be a middle bullpen, 5 ERA guy. Either I can come back and be a dominant pitcher, or I'll take it to the house."

-- Red Sox reliever Keith Foulke, telling the Boston Globe about the possibility of retirement.

Lindsey Buckingham: "Right Out in the Spotlight and Feeling Invisible"

The New York Times
Published: October 1, 2006

Not Too Late,” the song that opens “Under the Skin,” Lindsey Buckingham’s first solo album in 14 years, begins with a surprisingly confessional verse. “Reading the paper, saw a review,” the lyric runs, “Said I was a visionary, but nobody knew/Now that’s been a problem, feeling unseen/Just like I’m living somebody’s dream.”

In rock critic circles, the term “visionary” clings to Mr. Buckingham the way “fleet-footed” defines Achilles in Homer’s “Iliad.” As singer, guitarist, songwriter and producer for Fleetwood Mac, he has garnered much of the credit for “Rumours,” the 1977 pop masterpiece that has sold close to 20 million copies in the United States alone. Even that album’s more daring follow-up, “Tusk,” widely regarded as a commercial failure for having sold a mere two million copies, won Mr. Buckingham critical admiration for his willingness to ditch a hit-making formula in favor of daring sonic experimentation.

So how is it possible for a member of one of the best-selling bands in history to feel “unseen”? Speaking by telephone from his home in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles (“not the O.J. side,” he took pains to point out), Mr. Buckingham seemed a bit chagrined.

“Much of Fleetwood Mac was a double-edged sword,” he said. “Band politics can be joyous and supportive, or competitive and sinister. For me things tended more often to fall into the latter category. Maybe that’s because I was the glue, the one putting the songs together, and yet I wasn’t necessarily the one with the political power in the group. That’s a strange place to be. But, you know, that’s my paranoid side.”

Still, paranoia is only one of the facets of Mr. Buckingham reflected on “Under the Skin,” which will be released on Tuesday, his 57th birthday. Emotionally he long ago overcame his stormy breakup with Stevie Nicks, Fleetwood Mac’s most visible star, which devastated the two of them while generating some of the band’s most gripping songs, like Mr. Buckingham’s “Go Your Own Way.”

Since his last solo album in 1992, he has married, and he is now the father of three young children. And after a decade’s absence from Fleetwood Mac (not including a performance for Bill Clinton’s 1993 inaugural festivities), Mr. Buckingham rejoined the band in 1997 for its hugely successful live album “The Dance” and has remained a member in good standing ever since.

He found the group’s last tour, which followed the release of the album “Say You Will” in 2003, especially invigorating, despite (or perhaps because of) the departure of keyboardist and songwriter Christine McVie. “I was in a really confident place,” he said. “Whatever ‘Say You Will’ turned out to be, just having done a new studio album with the band was a great thing. And as much as we missed Christine, how that translated for me is that I was able to get up there and be a guy onstage. The testosterone level was high, which was great for me. I don’t know if Stevie was real happy with it, but that’s a whole other story.”

The pleasures of his reconciliations and new beginnings run through “Under the Skin,” along with the jitters and insecurities chronicled in “Not Too Late.” Songs like “Show You How,” “It Was You” and “Shut Us Down” depict a man determined to find his dream woman and commit, despite his deep-seated fears about himself and the evanescent quality of love.

Mr. Buckingham wrote and recorded much of the album while on the road with Fleetwood Mac, which tempered his tendency to tinker in the studio. “I wanted to make songs that were a step or two above sitting in your living room playing for somebody on guitar,” he said. By Mr. Buckingham’s lush standard — his taste for densely layered melodic textures has drawn frequent comparisons to the work of his idol, Brian Wilson — “Under the Skin” is a stripped-down affair, focused intently on Mr. Buckingham’s voice and acoustic guitar. But it also features electronically treated vocals playfully chase and shadow each other, skittering bass and percussion parts, fleet guitar finger-picking and subtle orchestral coloration. The result is a kind of intensely modern folk music, candidly personal, seemingly direct songs that flirt with soul-baring and then retreat into an enveloping cocoon of sound.

“Those are probably my strong points,” Mr. Buckingham said about his production skills and his eloquent acoustic guitar playing. “I’m not the best singer, and I don’t even think of myself as a writer per se. I’m a stylist. But you can get a long way on style, so I’ll take it. I’ll work with what I got.”

Mr. Buckingham will perform six weeks of solo shows in support of “Under the Skin,” including an Oct. 10 date at Town Hall in Manhattan. Meticulous to the point of obsession, he is worried about that performance, since he will have only three warm-up shows beforehand. “My phrase of the month is, ‘New York’s going to take what they get and like it,’ ” he said, laughing ruefully. “I’m just a little frightened that we’re not going to be able to pull it off.”

Once his tour is done, Mr. Buckingham, uncharacteristically, has more than an entire album of new, more rocking songs that he wants to record and put out “in a fairly short amount of time.” And after that?

“Well, there’s Fleetwood Mac,” he said, a smile nearly audible in his voice. “I suppose I don’t have to, but they’d like to do something. And why wouldn’t I want to do that?”