Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Three gone in the last 24 hours. Sidney Lumet, Don Shula and David Letterman better watch their cholesterol.

Ingmar Bergman:
The epitome of the "serious" filmmaker. He changed the psychological landscape of film. It's pointless to go into all of his achievements and the depth of his influence. There were Oscar nominations galore and universal reverence for decades. Plus he managed to hook up with Liv Ullman.
Please — forget all that. Just watch one of his movies. Pick one: Fanny and Alexander, Autumn Sonata, Cries and Whispers, The Seventh Seal for starters. Just try one.
Have I ever steered you wrong?

Bill Walsh:
He was nicknamed "The Genius" for the love of God. Walsh didn't so much break new ground but explode old creaky machines and replace them with the smooth-running highly efficient West Coast offense. Without Walsh's freak intellect and countless coaching innovations, football would be nearly unrecognizable. Walsh won 3 Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49'ers and his disciples are scattered far and wide, ensuring that Walsh's impact will be felt for decades to come.

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Tom Snyder:
He had the first late-late-night talk show and he was a true original. He changed the nature and the tone of talk television. He was the wild-card-weird-uncle who chain smoked and went stream-of-consciousness every now and then. But no one could interview like him and everyone showed up on his program sooner or later — from Ayn Rand to Charles Manson to John Lennon.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, Elvis Costello & Mos Def

My son got to pick the movie we watched last night, and for some reason (the undeniable lure of Will Ferrell for a 10 year old?) he went with Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. Now for those of you that haven't seen it (and I'll assume it's most of you except for my youngest brother Kevin), it's as bad as you probably think it is. Will Ferrell does his usual schtick, just not nearly as entertaining as say, Elf. Sacha Baron Cohen is dreadful as the gay, French NASCAR driver (it's about as funny as it sounds).

BUT... early in the film Steve Earle's "Hard Core Troubadour" pops up out of nowhere, only to be followed later in the movie by "I Feel Alright" and the bittersweet "Valentine's Day". Then Lucinda sweetly tackles on over-the-credits "Gentle on My Mind".

Elvis Costello and Mos Def? They appear, without reason or explanation, lunching at the Cohen character's palatial estate. Weird.

Skip the movie... buy the soundtrack. Or better yet, head to the nearest independent cd store and get yourself a copy of Steve Earle's I Feel Alright that contains not only the three Earle songs from the movie but also a magnificent duet with Lucinda Williams "You're Still Standin' There".

Sunday, July 22, 2007


It's never too late to discover a great movie. And a spectacular performance.

You'll find both in The Magdalene Sisters (2002).

This is one of those movies I had been intent on seeing but never quite able to negotiate it into the DVD player. Until last night.

Please don't wait as long as I did.

The Magdalene Sisters is a wrenching account — based on true stories — of life inside the barbaric Magdalene Laundries Of Ireland. Women were sent to these de facto prisons for crimes such as being raped, overtly liking boys and having a baby out of wedlock. The film explores the harrowing cruelty inside one such place — through the eyes of three inmates:

Margaret is the one who was raped. Bernadette liked flirting. Rose had a baby without being married.

Written and directed by the estimable Peter Mullan (a brilliant Scottish actor who's appeared in such films as Braveheart, My Name is Joe and Miss Julie), The Magdalene Sisters is not easy but it is riveting. On its surface, the movie is a bald indictment of the Catholic Church's treatment of women — the nuns who run the joint are either steadfastly cruel or bug-eye crazy. Some are both. The inmates are all innocent victims.

But there is more going on than a big fuck-you to the Pope and the Sisters of Mercy and all the freaky sex-starved priests out there.

(Ed. I had the Sisters of Mercy for eight years of grade-school and they weren't all that sadistic; though there was a preponderance of bad breath. Could the order not pony up for some Listerine? )

The lasting effects of sustained, indefinite abuse are explored with a gripping attention to detail and an unflinching eye.

The movie ultimately is not just an indictment of the Catholic Church — it is relevant in a searing, I-dare-you-to look-away fashion. You can't help but think about the Taliban, honor killing and ritual circumcision — especially when you realize that the last laundry in Ireland closed its doors in 1996.

Yes — 1996.

We like to believe that backward, primitive barbarism is the province of far-away, of those who are nothing like us. Clearly, it's closer to us than we think.

The Vatican denounced the movie when it was released. I couldn't possibly come up with a better reason to watch it.

The great performance?

In a film with not a false acting note, a woman named Eileen Walsh steals the show. She plays Crispina, a mentally handicapped woman interred so she won't be taken advantage of by predators. So naturally she ends up blowing the parish priest.

Walsh (she's the one on the right) is stunning. She is funny, heartbreaking and sometimes downright scary. The fact that her performance generated zero interest or attention is mind-boggling.

Or maybe its not.

This movie is a a test of wills. Let your will win — it'll be worth it.

Friday, July 20, 2007


Someone once said that 90 percent of genius is just showing up.

When it comes to family, friends, rock and roll and the St. Joe's Hawks — Trip's genius has no rival.

He shows up. He takes part. He "does it all."

And what do I think of when I reflect on Teeker galloping into geezer-dom?

The moments.

It's always the moments, isn't it?

What would life be like if Trip had not shown up?

Circumstances prohibit me from listing those moments at present but they will be coming soon.

Until then —

Happy 50th Birthday to my big brother Trip — the richest man in town.

Monday, July 16, 2007



I'm a little late with this but, frankly, no one's paying me so I have no deadline.

I can say without reservation that Kevin McClatchy is one helluva good guy.

It was ironic that I was in western PA. when the news broke that Kevin was stepping down from his job with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He and I have been linked since 1996, the year the "other" Kevin engineered the purchase of the belly-up Pirates, keeping major-league baseball in Pittsburgh and becoming the youngest owner in the league.

And before we go any further — let me reiterate, re-emphasize, magnify, bellow and beat a dead horse:
Kevin McClatchy saved baseball in Pittsburgh. Any argument to the contrary is either the 15th Iron City talking or just plain old idiot spite. So when your grandkids are hootin' and hollerin' and living and dying with every pitch as the Pirates make their triumphant return to the playoffs — keep a kind thought for the guy who allowed it to happen.


Kevin contacted me in '96 and we struck up a friendship. Without turning this into a gossip column or the McClatchy social newsletter, I'll state that Kevin has been nothing less than generous with his time, effort, sense of humor and owner's seat at PNC Park.

In '96 I was making soap opera history on Another World (Skinniest Man Ever To Make The Cover of Soap Opera Digest) and Kevin was the youngest owner in the majors. I was getting requests for charitable donations — seeing as how I owned a baseball team and had an acting job. Kevin was getting the opportunity to make jokes about that.

When he and I finally met, I sat in his office overlooking PNC Park and we just shot the shit. He is the most ego-less, pretension-free rich guy I've ever come across. He may have made his share of mistakes as owner of the Pirates but it was refreshing as hell to sit with him at a "meaningless" late-season game and watch him live and die with every pitch.

And he did. He wanted so badly to bring winning back to the Pirates.

Yeah, he wanted to raise the price of tickets after losing 100 games one year but ...
Okay, I have no explanation for that.

But he did 10,000 great things for Pittsburgh as well — and the good dwarfed the bad.

Yes, in win and losses, Kevin's tenure as owner of the Pirates was less than great.

And, yes, when you get right down to it, it's all about wins and losses.

So remember this — Kevin McClatchy, rich guy from Sacramento who could have taken any number of easier roads, came to Pittsburgh, saved the goddamn team, built a killer park, took a complete beating from assorted hack writers and hysterical radio mutants, hung in there (he's an athlete, let's not forget) then told the truth to whoever would listen and did it with a healthy dose of sly wit.

Kevin McClatchy gave the yinzers their biggest win — Pittsburgh got to keep their team.

Furthermore, Kevin is the only owner of a professional franchise that I would like to have more than one beer with.

I have no higher praise for "the man."

Now, Kev, about that tee time at your club ...

Sunday, July 15, 2007

10,000 & 50 Are Huge Numbers

I bore witness yesterday to loss 10,000 for the Phillies franchise. As I approach a half century, is there any chance I'll see another World Series, NBA or Super Bowl championship in Philadelphia in my lifetime? And don't even start with the Flyers... with hockey's current television package it ranks just below hot dog eating contests on the "real sports" list.

Should I just tell my son to forget about sports?

Help me... I need a winner. Tell me something good.

Sunday, July 8, 2007


Nothing says All-American and apple pie better than baseball... unless you live in Philadelphia, where, despite my own sworn blood oath to the Saint Joseph's University basketball team, the city's religion is unquestionably, undoubtedly, definitively the Philadelphia Eagles.

And over the last 6 months, my son has become obsessed with the NFL. Each morning brings a new inquiry - "Is Brian Westbrook good?" Yes. "How good?" He's pretty good. "Hall of Fame?". I don't think so, he'd have to have many more great years. "OK Dad." That template has been repeated often enough that we've whittled it down to this shorthand. "Jerry Rice?" Hall of Fame, buddy.

My son's NFL interest is contagious and I await each new discovery. "Dad!! The Panthers just signed David Carr to a two-year contract!" Huh? What time is it? 6:15! That's great buddy... go back to sleep. OK Dad.

Yesterday I took Sean and four friends to an autograph signing for Eagles's CB Sheldon Brown. These kids... their love is pristine. The shrieks of delight when we spotted Shedon Brown's BMW were almost as overwhelming as the awestruck silence by each child as they got their autographs, filing by reverently without so much as a word spoken or a hand shook.

I hope I haven't set my son up for years of heartbreak, but I suppose it's better to have rooted and lost than to have never rooted at all.

This year... Super Bowl, baby!!

Thursday, July 5, 2007


Satch's post got me thinking:

A very good friend of mine who has given his entire adult life to government and military service — and who is the 2nd smartest person I’ve ever known — said this to me as George Bush prepared to take office in 2001:

“If Bush didn’t have Cheney, I’d be worried. But I’ve been around Cheney. I’ve worked with him. He is smart, tough, will do what needs to be done. The right way.”

At that time, this very good friend of mine was the smartest person I’d ever known. And what he said made me breathe a little easier. I relaxed about the prospect of an inarticulate addict taking the highest office.

(Yes, I meant to type “addict.” For me "addict" is synonymous with “drunk." As a born-again Christian, George W. Bush has simply traded one addiction for another, in my completely underqualified medical/spiritual assessment. This is not to say that all born-again Christians have traded one addiction for another … just all the ones I have come across. So for the sake of a classic Irish-Catholic snap judgment — yes, without a doubt, all born-again Christians are trading up in the addiction showroom. And furthermore — any ideologue, regardless of their spiritual affiliation, political stripe or acting technique, is a kook. So there. )

Anyway, this friend of mine assured me that all would be cool with Cheney lurking the halls of power.

It is a measure of the genius gap between Smartest People I’ve Ever Known #’s 1 & 2 and the rest of us that this friend has fallen only one spot after such a monumentally dickheaded assessment.

The last thing I’m going to do is catalogue all the deceit, treachery, fleecing, spilled blood, criminal acts, public profanity and fart jokes for which Bush and Cheney are responsible.

But I will mention two things:

1. My father-in-law — a respected psychologist — told me about a study done at Duke University. The study examined — if I got everything straight — presidential behavior from the Carter administration to the present in order to explore why presidents invariably become too big for their britches and do power-mad, idiotic things. In a nutshell, it’s the “Because I think it, it is right” syndrome. There are no rules in this rarified air of unchallenged opinions. These men actually begin to believe that they can —and should — act with impunity; that they know best and everyone else can just pucker up and smooch their imperial buttocks.

This is why Bush has gone off the rails and Cheney is growing horns and cloven hooves as we speak. They believe in their own infallibility. So did Clinton and Bush the Elder. Which brings me directly to —

2. Why in the name of Nixon Weinberger Rich Libby do we even have presidential pardons?
— I will be forever in the debt of whoever can educate me as to why we allow rich, privileged men to upend the judicial system in service of bailing out their criminal, scuzball friends and covering their own asses. Why do we do that? Why do we diminish ourselves in that way?

Thank you for your cooperation in this matter.

BE PATRIOTIC (Written by Satch)

(Ed. — Satch is having technological issues so here is his July 4th offering.)

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Be Patriotic!

Hey kids!! It's the 4th of July — the day we celebrate our nations independence from the tyranny and heavy0handed rule of an authority that the populace no longer believed in or supported.

Well, that time has come again. The tyranny and heavy-handed rule of the Bush administration has once again turned it's back on the American people and circled the wagons around it's own camp.

"All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent."
— Thomas Jefferson

It's the 4th of July, do something patriotic; call the White House and tell them that you are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore ... write a letter ... do it ... make the spirit of Thomas Jefferson proud!!!

"That government is the strongest of which every man feels himself a part." — Thomas Jefferson

Do you feel that your needs and concerns are being met by the current administration?

Do you feel that those in power care about your health care plan?

You work hard and pay your taxes, do you feel that it's OK for Cheney and his friends at Halliburton to move their "corporate office" out of the USA to avoid paying taxes:


3/12/07: reports that contracting giant Halliburton is moving its corporate headquarters from the United States to the United Arab Emirates, which will help it avoid taxes and accountability from federal investigators. The company is also in the process of disposing all its ownership in the scandal-plagued KBR, "notorious for overcharging the military and serving contaminated food and water to the troops in Iraq." The article goes on to report that this isn't the first time Halliburton has used tactics to avoid accountability and restrictions.

Do you think if you shot someone you’d get in trouble? This current administration and its cronies have time and time again put themselves above the law. Do you feel that’s fair?

"Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government.” - Thomas Jefferson.

President Bush has lower approval ratings than Nixon had … so why do we let him continue?

I like reading the quotes by Jefferson. They remind me that the more things change, the more they have stayed the same. But more than that, they confirm the notion that you can be a patriot, love your country AND question its rulers. I use the word “rulers” because that is what the US has these days, rulers, not leaders.

What is so funny about peace, love and understanding?

Written by Steven Van Zandt

And the river opens for the righteous someday

I was walking with my brother
And he wondered what's on my mind
I said what I believe in my soul
Ain't what I see with my eyes
And we can't turn our backs this time

I am a patriot
And I love my county
Because my country is all I know
I want to be with my family
People who understand me
I've got nowhere else to go

And the river opens for the righteous someday

And I was talking with my sister
She looked so fine
I said, "Baby, what's on your mind?"
She said, "I want to run like the lion
Released from the cages
Released from the rages
Burning in my heart tonight"

And I ain't no communist
And I ain't no capitalist
And I ain't no socialist
And I ain't no imperialist
And I ain't no democrat
So I ain't no republican
I only know one party
And it is freedom

I am a patriot
And I love my country
Because my country is all I know

And the river opens for the righteous someday