Archive for the ‘Elsewhere’ Category

Where everybody majors in being offended

April 19, 2009

We now live in a nation where everybody majors in being offended. Me too, some days. It’s our national character; the Great American Petulant Pout. And it comes because we take our cues from the media of our choice, which focuses on demonizing the other side. I think I’m going to quit paying attention, and I think this may be the most godly stance I can take. Turn if off. Start thinking for yourself.

Andy Whitman

A mall with a baseball field in the middle

April 17, 2009

It’s unclear whether Yankee Stadium wants to be a ballpark with killer amenities or a mall with a baseball field in the middle. The inside of the stadium is freakishly loyal to its predecessor, like twins who look identical but are actually fraternal. The differences are ornamental, and because of its classic look, the initial thought is: Really, $1.5 billion? And you didn’t reinvent the baseball stadium like Camden Yards in 1993? The toilet seats are definitely gold-plated, right?

One trip around the concourse, and suddenly the cost makes more sense. It is a sea of goods, the free market through a Yankee kaleidoscope, a study in old-fashioned gluttony. It is a cheesesteak line 50 people deep, and a beer garden serving 14 sudsy favorites, and pink foam fingers next to pink hats with flowers alongside pink hats with glitter-covered NY logos.

Jeff Passan

16 million girls

April 17, 2009

Sixteen million girls are missing in China. And now we know what happened to them: They were aborted because they weren’t boys.

A study published last week in the British Medical Journal, based on a survey of nearly 5 million Chinese children and teenagers, bares the gruesome numbers. Worldwide, the number of boys born per 100 girls ranges from 103 to 107. (The numbers later equalize due to higher male mortality.) Among Chinese children born from 1985 to 1989, the number of boys per 100 girls was 108, close to normal. But among those born from 2000 to 2004, the number rose to 124. The authors conclude that as of 2005, “males under the age of 20 exceeded females by more than 32 million.”

William Saletan

British football in the ’80s

April 15, 2009

To attend a match in that time was not the sanitised theme park that many Premier League clubs now aspire to. Fans who chose the terraces sometimes had to be prepared to stand for hours before games so as to make sure they got in. Access to toilet facilities were limited on big-match days, giving rise to many a story about fans feeling the warm, wet and deeply unpleasant sensation of being urinated on. When goals were scored or in other moments of high excitement, fans found themselves catapulted forward and back, up and down, steep and often decaying terraces. You would rarely end a match where you started to watch it. Take a look at videos of games from the era and view the swelling sea of humanity as a goal goes in. You don’t get that at the Emirates for your £65. It looked dangerous. It felt dangerous. It eventually proved deadly.

Another facet of the era was the fencing in of supporters. Hooliganism’s growth in the early 1970s had led clubs to construct high and forbidding fences, caging fans in to prevent them from storming the pitch. As a result, fans were often given a poor view of the games, having to watch the action through tiny grids of metal. Should an emergency occur, they were penned in to face their fate as panic set in.

John Brewin

Today, of course, is the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, a dark day in the history of British football when 96 Liverpool supporters were crushed to death in Sheffield.

Never happened

April 14, 2009

They weren’t goths or loners.

The two teenagers who killed 13 people and themselves at suburban Denver’s Columbine High School 10 years ago next week weren’t in the “Trenchcoat Mafia,” disaffected videogamers who wore cowboy dusters. The killings ignited a national debate over bullying, but the record now shows Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold hadn’t been bullied — in fact, they had bragged in diaries about picking on freshmen and “fags.”

Their rampage put schools on alert for “enemies lists” made by troubled students, but the enemies on their list had graduated from Columbine a year earlier. Contrary to early reports, Harris and Klebold weren’t on antidepressant medication and didn’t target jocks, blacks or Christians, police now say, citing the killers’ journals and witness accounts. That story about a student being shot in the head after she said she believed in God? Never happened, the FBI says now.

A decade after Harris and Klebold made Columbine a synonym for rage, new information — including several books that analyze the tragedy through diaries, e-mails, appointment books, videotape, police affidavits and interviews with witnesses, friends and survivors — indicate that much of what the public has been told about the shootings is wrong.

Greg Toppo

$20,000 rock star vacation

April 14, 2009

Something tells me the 19-year-old who spent $20,000 to hang out with a rock star for a week wasn’t exactly spending money he saved up delivering pizzas or working the register at Target.

I wonder if the reporter even bothered to ask where he got the money. Or better yet, whether it was his mom or dad’s name on the check.

A senseless end to a rapid maturation

April 10, 2009

At 22, he was growing so fast. And now he is gone in an instant — the victim of some idiot on a Southern California street.

The alleged perpetrator of the hit-and-run drunken-driving crime that killed Nick (Adenhart) coincidentally was 22, too. But that is a young fellow going nowhere. The opposite of Nick, a perfect name for the kid who beat time.

A 14th-round draft choice, Nick came along so fast he was starting the third game of the season for the Angels, heavy favorites in the American League West. Nick was one of the youngest pitchers in the major leagues. At 22 and a rookie, he threw six shutout innings Thursday night, only hours before he was killed on the road in nearby Fullerton, Calif., the victim of a senseless crime. (A senseless crime that led to the arrest of that 22-year-old from Riverside, Calif., who plowed into Nick’s car, killing three innocent victims, critically injuring a fourth and bringing untold heartache to all those who knew and loved the victims.)

Jon Heyman

A Kiwi pop primer

April 9, 2009

There was something magical going on long before Peter Jackson transformed the rugged wilderness of New Zealand into Middle Earth. In the early 1980s, Dunedin music impresario Roger Shepherd founded Flying Nun Records. The rest is history, although it’s history that is surprisingly little known in the U.S. Perhaps it’s time to change that. Because from the mid ’80s through the early ’90s, Flying Nun Records put out the best music on the planet. And yes, I’m looking at you, Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder.

Andy Whitman

MJ’s curveball, 15 years later

April 8, 2009

It was Tom Cruise doing dinner theater, Chris Rock performing at open-mike night and Justin Timberlake singing in the church choir. And yet it was none of those things, because when Michael Jordan announced in February 1994, just weeks before his 31st birthday, that he would attempt a career as a baseball player, it was a move so unheard of, so controversial, so odd, there was almost nothing with which to compare it. The greatest basketball player who ever lived, and one of the most famous people on the planet, was opting for a completely different outlet for his competitive fire.

Ted Keith

Howard the fail

April 7, 2009

Failure goes by many names. Waterloo. The Edsel. The ’62 Mets. Joey. These disasters can fairly be called upon to convey calamity on a large scale. But some reputations for failure are undeserved. Here’s one: Howard the Duck, a synonym for artistic and financial disaster since the premiere of a little-loved movie in late-summer 1986. Released with great fanfare and rejected emphatically by critics and audiences alike, Howard the Duck quickly became a favorite target of late-night comics (and even, in one episode, The Golden Girls). It wasn’t available on DVD until last month.

Howard the Duck, the movie, is as bad as you’ve heard. Actually, it’s worse. But its failings as a film have overshadowed the frequently brilliant 1970s comic book that inspired it. Using only the most superficial elements of its source material while discarding most of what made the comic interesting, the film serves as a textbook example of how to turn something into nothing.

Keith Phipps